Table of Contents

The Radiant Wheel. St. Peter examines Dante on Faith.

"O company elect to the great supper

Of the Lamb benedight, who feedeth you

So that for ever full is your desire,

If by the grace of God this man foretaste

Something of that which falleth from your table,

Or ever death prescribe to him the time,

Direct your mind to his immense desire,

And him somewhat bedew; ye drinking are

For ever at the fount whence comes his thought."

Thus Beatrice; and those souls beatified

Transformed themselves to spheres on steadfast poles,

Flaming intensely in the guise of comets.

And as the wheels in works of horologes

Revolve so that the first to the beholder

Motionless seems, and the last one to fly,

So in like manner did those carols, dancing

In different measure, of their affluence

Give me the gauge, as they were swift or slow.

From that one which I noted of most beauty

Beheld I issue forth a fire so happy

That none it left there of a greater brightness;

And around Beatrice three several times

It whirled itself with so divine a song,

My fantasy repeats it not to me;

Therefore the pen skips, and I write it not,

Since our imagination for such folds,

Much more our speech, is of a tint too glaring.

"O holy sister mine, who us implorest

With such devotion, by thine ardent love

Thou dost unbind me from that beautiful sphere!"

Thereafter, having stopped, the blessed fire

Unto my Lady did direct its breath,

Which spake in fashion as I here have said.

And she: "O light eterne of the great man

To whom our Lord delivered up the keys

He carried down of this miraculous joy,

This one examine on points light and grave,

As good beseemeth thee, about the Faith

By means of which thou on the sea didst walk.

If he love well, and hope well, and believe,

From thee 'tis hid not; for thou hast thy sight

There where depicted everything is seen.

But since this kingdom has made citizens

By means of the true Faith, to glorify it

'Tis well he have the chance to speak thereof."

As baccalaureate arms himself, and speaks not

Until the master doth propose the question,

To argue it, and not to terminate it,

So did I arm myself with every reason,

While she was speaking, that I might be ready

For such a questioner and such profession.

"Say, thou good Christian; manifest thyself;

What is the Faith?" Whereat I raised my brow

Unto that light wherefrom was this breathed forth.

Then turned I round to Beatrice, and she

Prompt signals made to me that I should pour

The water forth from my internal fountain.

"May grace, that suffers me to make confession,"

Began I, "to the great centurion,

Cause my conceptions all to be explicit!"

And I continued: "As the truthful pen,

Father, of thy dear brother wrote of it,

Who put with thee Rome into the good way,

Faith is the substance of the things we hope for,

And evidence of those that are not seen;

And this appears to me its quiddity."

Then heard I: "Very rightly thou perceivest,

If well thou understandest why he placed it

With substances and then with evidences."

And I thereafterward: "The things profound,

That here vouchsafe to me their apparition,

Unto all eyes below are so concealed,

That they exist there only in belief,

Upon the which is founded the high hope,

And hence it takes the nature of a substance.

And it behoveth us from this belief

To reason without having other sight,

And hence it has the nature of evidence."

Then heard I: "If whatever is acquired

Below by doctrine were thus understood,

No sophist's subtlety would there find place."

Thus was breathed forth from that enkindled love;

Then added: "Very well has been gone over

Already of this coin the alloy and weight;

But tell me if thou hast it in thy purse?"

And I: "Yes, both so shining and so round

That in its stamp there is no peradventure."

Thereafter issued from the light profound

That there resplendent was: "This precious jewel,

Upon the which is every virtue founded,

Whence hadst thou it?" And I: "The large outpouring

Of Holy Spirit, which has been diffused

Upon the ancient parchments and the new,

A syllogism is, which proved it to me

With such acuteness, that, compared therewith,

All demonstration seems to me obtuse."

And then I heard: "The ancient and the new

Postulates, that to thee are so conclusive,

Why dost thou take them for the word divine?"

And I: "The proofs, which show the truth to me,

Are the works subsequent, whereunto Nature

Ne'er heated iron yet, nor anvil beat."

'Twas answered me: "Say, who assureth thee

That those works ever were? the thing itself

That must be proved, nought else to thee affirms it."

"Were the world to Christianity converted,"

I said, "withouten miracles, this one

Is such, the rest are not its hundredth part;

Because that poor and fasting thou didst enter

Into the field to sow there the good plant,

Which was a vine and has become a thorn!"

This being finished, the high, holy Court

Resounded through the spheres, "One God we praise!"

In melody that there above is chanted.

And then that Baron, who from branch to branch,

Examining, had thus conducted me,

Till the extremest leaves we were approaching,

Again began: "The Grace that dallying

Plays with thine intellect thy mouth has opened,

Up to this point, as it should opened be,

So that I do approve what forth emerged;

But now thou must express what thou believest,

And whence to thy belief it was presented."

"O holy father, spirit who beholdest

What thou believedst so that thou o'ercamest,

Towards the sepulchre, more youthful feet,"

Began I, "thou dost wish me in this place

The form to manifest of my prompt belief,

And likewise thou the cause thereof demandest.

And I respond: In one God I believe,

Sole and eterne, who moveth all the heavens

With love and with desire, himself unmoved;

And of such faith not only have I proofs

Physical and metaphysical, but gives them

Likewise the truth that from this place rains down

Through Moses, through the Prophets and the Psalms,

Through the Evangel, and through you, who wrote

After the fiery Spirit sanctified you;

In Persons three eterne believe, and these

One essence I believe, so one and trine

They bear conjunction both with 'sunt' and 'est.'

With the profound condition and divine

Which now I touch upon, doth stamp my mind

Ofttimes the doctrine evangelical.

This the beginning is, this is the spark

Which afterwards dilates to vivid flame,

And, like a star in heaven, is sparkling in me."

Even as a lord who hears what pleaseth him

His servant straight embraces, gratulating

For the good news as soon as he is silent;

So, giving me its benediction, singing,

Three times encircled me, when I was silent,

The apostolic light, at whose command

I spoken had, in speaking I so pleased him.