Table of Contents
The First Heaven, the Moon: Spirits who, having taken Sacred Vows, were forced to violate them. The Lunar Spots.
O Ye, who in some pretty little boat,
Eager to listen, have been following
Behind my ship, that singing sails along,
Turn back to look again upon your shores;
Do not put out to sea, lest peradventure,
In losing me, you might yourselves be lost.
The sea I sail has never yet been passed;
Minerva breathes, and pilots me Apollo,
And Muses nine point out to me the Bears.
Ye other few who have the neck uplifted
Betimes to th' bread of Angels upon which
One liveth here and grows not sated by it,
Well may you launch upon the deep salt-sea
Your vessel, keeping still my wake before you
Upon the water that grows smooth again.
Those glorious ones who unto Colchos passed
Were not so wonder-struck as you shall be,
When Jason they beheld a ploughman made!
The con-created and perpetual thirst
For the realm deiform did bear us on,
As swift almost as ye the heavens behold.
Upward gazed Beatrice, and I at her;
And in such space perchance as strikes a bolt
And flies, and from the notch unlocks itself,
Arrived I saw me where a wondrous thing
Drew to itself my sight; and therefore she
From whom no care of mine could be concealed,
Towards me turning, blithe as beautiful,
Said unto me: "Fix gratefully thy mind
On God, who unto the first star has brought us."
It seemed to me a cloud encompassed us,
Luminous, dense, consolidate and bright
As adamant on which the sun is striking.
Into itself did the eternal pearl
Receive us, even as water doth receive
A ray of light, remaining still unbroken.
If I was body, (and we here conceive not
How one dimension tolerates another,
Which needs must be if body enter body,)
More the desire should be enkindled in us
That essence to behold, wherein is seen
How God and our own nature were united.
There will be seen what we receive by faith,
Not demonstrated, but self-evident
In guise of the first truth that man believes.
I made reply: "Madonna, as devoutly
As most I can do I give thanks to Him
Who has removed me from the mortal world.
But tell me what the dusky spots may be
Upon this body, which below on earth
Make people tell that fabulous tale of Cain?"
Somewhat she smiled; and then, "If the opinion
Of mortals be erroneous," she said,
"Where'er the key of sense doth not unlock,
Certes, the shafts of wonder should not pierce thee
Now, forasmuch as, following the senses,
Thou seest that the reason has short wings.
But tell me what thou think'st of it thyself."
And I: "What seems to us up here diverse,
Is caused, I think, by bodies rare and dense."
And she: "Right truly shalt thou see immersed
In error thy belief, if well thou hearest
The argument that I shall make against it.
Lights many the eighth sphere displays to you
Which in their quality and quantity
May noted be of aspects different.
If this were caused by rare and dense alone,
One only virtue would there be in all
Or more or less diffused, or equally.
Virtues diverse must be perforce the fruits
Of formal principles; and these, save one,
Of course would by thy reasoning be destroyed.
Besides, if rarity were of this dimness
The cause thou askest, either through and through
This planet thus attenuate were of matter,
Or else, as in a body is apportioned
The fat and lean, so in like manner this
Would in its volume interchange the leaves.
Were it the former, in the sun's eclipse
It would be manifest by the shining through
Of light, as through aught tenuous interfused.
This is not so; hence we must scan the other,
And if it chance the other I demolish,
Then falsified will thy opinion be.
But if this rarity go not through and through,
There needs must be a limit, beyond which
Its contrary prevents the further passing,
And thence the foreign radiance is reflected,
Even as a colour cometh back from glass,
The which behind itself concealeth lead.
Now thou wilt say the sunbeam shows itself
More dimly there than in the other parts,
By being there reflected farther back.
From this reply experiment will free thee
If e'er thou try it, which is wont to be
The fountain to the rivers of your arts.
Three mirrors shalt thou take, and two remove
Alike from thee, the other more remote
Between the former two shall meet thine eyes.
Turned towards these, cause that behind thy back
Be placed a light, illuming the three mirrors
And coming back to thee by all reflected.
Though in its quantity be not so ample
The image most remote, there shalt thou see
How it perforce is equally resplendent.
Now, as beneath the touches of warm rays
Naked the subject of the snow remains
Both of its former colour and its cold,
Thee thus remaining in thy intellect,
Will I inform with such a living light,
That it shall tremble in its aspect to thee.
Within the heaven of the divine repose
Revolves a body, in whose virtue lies
The being of whatever it contains.
The following heaven, that has so many eyes,
Divides this being by essences diverse,
Distinguished from it, and by it contained.
The other spheres, by various differences,
All the distinctions which they have within them
Dispose unto their ends and their effects.
Thus do these organs of the world proceed,
As thou perceivest now, from grade to grade;
Since from above they take, and act beneath.
Observe me well, how through this place I come
Unto the truth thou wishest, that hereafter
Thou mayst alone know how to keep the ford
The power and motion of the holy spheres,
As from the artisan the hammer's craft,
Forth from the blessed motors must proceed.
The heaven, which lights so manifold make fair,
From the Intelligence profound, which turns it,
The image takes, and makes of it a seal.
And even as the soul within your dust
Through members different and accommodated
To faculties diverse expands itself,
So likewise this Intelligence diffuses
Its virtue multiplied among the stars.
Itself revolving on its unity.
Virtue diverse doth a diverse alloyage
Make with the precious body that it quickens,
In which, as life in you, it is combined.
From the glad nature whence it is derived,
The mingled virtue through the body shines,
Even as gladness through the living pupil.
From this proceeds whate'er from light to light
Appeareth different, not from dense and rare:
This is the formal principle that produces,
According to its goodness, dark and bright."