Paradiso -- Canto X

The Sun, Saint Thomas Aquinas







9 At the spring equinox the sun lies in Ares and from this point (l. 13) the ecliptic crosses the celestial equator, causing the signs of the zodiac to slant and increase their virtue or influence on earth. Dante and Beatrice are rising into the fourth sphere of the sun, reserved for theologians.














34 At this point Dante enters the sphere of the sun.





















67 Latona’s daughter Diana is goddess of the moon.










82 This is Thomas Aquinas (1226-1274), the Dominican "Angelic Doctor" who wrote, among many other works, the Summa Theologica which powerfully influenced Dante’s thinking and later Western thought.








98 Albertus Magnus (1193-1280) taught theology at Cologne and Paris; Aquinas was his student at Cologne.


104 Gratian, a twelfth-century scholar from Chiusi, contributed to the harmonization of church and civil law.

107 Peter Lombard (d. 1160) compiled a systematic study called the Sententiae for Christian doctrine; it became a standard text-book on the subject.

109 The fifth teacher is King Solomon, son of David, known as the author of the Book of Wisdom and the Song of Songs.


115 Dionysius the Areopagite, mentioned in Acts 17:34, was thought to be the author of the influential work On the Celestial Hierarchy.

118 This defender is either Paulus Orosius, fifth-century historian, or Marius Victorinus, fourth century translator of Plato and theologian.

124 Boethius (d. 525), Roman senator executed by Theodoric, wrote the important dialogue On the Consolation of Philosophy while in prison. His body is buried in Saint Peter Cieldauro in Pavia (l. 128).


131 Isidore (d. 636), bishop of Seville, authored the encyclopedic Etymologies. Bede (d. 735), an English monk, wrote the Ecclesiastical History and other works. Richard of Saint Victor (d. 1173), another English monk and a mystic, is the author of the treatise On Contemplation.

137 Siger (d. 1283?) lectured at the University of Paris on the rue du Fouarre (Straw Street, now the Rue Dante). His defense of Averrhoism met with Aquinas’ opposition and he was twice charged with heresy.

          Contemplating his Son with the Love
          Which One and Other endlessly breathe out,
          The primal and ineffable Power
          Made everything that spins through mind or space
5        With such design that he who considers it
          Cannot exist without some taste of God.
          Lift up your eyes then, reader, here with me
          To the high spheres, straight to that region where
          One motion of the sun strikes on the other.
10       And begin there to gaze gladly on the art
          Of that Master who in himself so loves it
          That his eye never wanders from his work.
          Observe how, from this point, the circle which
          Obliquely bears the planets branches off
15       To satisfy the world that calls to them.
          For if their path had not been slanted so,
          Much of the heavens' influence would be lost,
          And almost all their power dead on earth.
          And if the path swerved farther or less far
20       From the straight course, the order of the world
          Would in the sky and on the land be lessened.
          Now, reader, remain seated at your table,
          Reflecting on what here has been a foretaste,
          That you may feel delight before you tire.
25       I set the feast for you: now feed yourself,
          Because the subject matter I inscribe
          Takes all of my attention to itself.
          The mightiest minister of nature, which
          Imprints the world with power from the sky
30       And measures time for us with beams of light,
          Conjoining with the point that I have mentioned,
          Went circling onward throughout all the spirals
          In which he rises earlier each day.
          And I was with him. But of my ascent
35       I was no more aware than is a person
          Conscious of a thought before it comes.
          Beatrice it is who guides me in this way
          From good to better with such swiftness that
          Her act does not extend itself in time.
40       How luminous that must be of itself
          Which shone within the sun where I went in
          To be revealed by light and not by color!
          Though I should call on talent, skill, and practice
          I could not find the words to picture it:
45       But may you still believe — and crave to see it!
          If our imaginations fall far short
          Of such a height, no wonder, for our eyes
          Have never seen a light to match the sun’s.
          Such, here, was the fourth family of the high
50       Father who forever fills them, showing how
          He breathes the Spirit and begets the Son.
          And Beatrice began, "Give thanks! Give thanks
          To this Sun of the Angels through whose grace
          You have been lifted to the sun of sense!"
55       Never was heart of mortal so disposed
          To its devotion, nor ready to surrender
          Itself to God with its full gratitude
          Than mine was when she spoke these words to me.
          And all my love so set itself on Him
60       That Beatrice in oblivion was eclipsed.
          Not the least displeased, she smiled so that
          The splendor of her smiling eyes splintered
          My singleness of mind in many pieces.
          I saw many living and surpassing lights
65       Surround us in the center of a crown
          With voices sweeter than their looks were bright.
          We sometimes see the daughter of Latona
          So cinctured when the saturated air
          Holds the threads of light that make her girdle.
70       In the courts of heaven from which I have come
          Are myriad jewels so dear and beautiful
          They cannot be transported from that kingdom.
          It was of them these radiances sang.
          Whoever wears no wings to fly up there
75       Must wait for news from those whose tongues are tied.
          When, singing in this way, those flaming suns
          Three times had circled round about us both,
          Like stars rotating close to the fixed poles,
          They looked like ladies pausing in the dance
80       To listen to the music silently
          Until they catch up to the tune anew.
          And inside one I heard begin, "Because
          The beam of grace by which true love is lit
          And which increases afterward with loving
85       "Shines so much more abundantly in you
          That it leads you up along the stairway
          Which none steps down except to mount again,
          "Whoever should refuse to quench your thirst
          With the wine from his flask would be no freer
90       Than water stopped from flowing to the sea.
          "You want to know who these bright blossoms are,
          Flowering this garland which girds lovingly
          Round this fair lady who strengthens you for heaven.
          "I was a lamb and of the holy flock
95       That Dominic leads out along the way
          Where fattening is good, unless they stray.
          "Beside me on the right is one who was
          My brother and my master, Albert of
          Cologne, and I am Thomas of Aquinas.
100     "So if you would be sure of all the others,
          Come, let your eyesight follow on my words
          By circling all about this blessed wreath.
          "That fire flashing next breaks from the smile
          Of Gratian who served both the courts of law
105     So perfectly that Paradise is pleased.
          "The nearest one to ornament our choir
          Was Peter Lombard who, like the poor widow,
          Presented all his treasure to Holy Church.
          "The fifth light, and the loveliest among us,
110      Breathes with such love that the whole world below
          Hungers to learn something new about it.
          "Within it is the lofty mind, endowed
          With wisdom so profound, if truth be truth,
          No second ever rose with such wide vision.
115     "See at its side the shining of that candle
          Which in the flesh down there discerned most deeply
          The nature and the ministry of angels.
          "In the next tiny flickering flame there smiles
          That same defender of the Christian ages
120     Whose discourse proved so useful to Augustine.
          "If you have followed now with your mind’s eye
          From light to light the sequence of my praises,
          You thirst already to know about the eighth.
          "Within, for having seen that all is good,
125     The sainted soul, who shows the world’s deceit
          To all who listen well to him, rejoices.
          "The body from which this soul was driven out
          Rests down in Cieldauro, and he is come
          From martyrdom and exile to this peace.
130      "See, flashing further on, the burning breath
          Of Isidore, of Bede, and of that Richard
          Who was more than a man in contemplation.
          "The one from whom your gaze turns back to me
          Is the glow of a soul in whose grave thoughts
135     The coming of his death appeared too slow.
          "It is the neverending light of Siger
          Who, lecturing at the rue du Fouarre,
          Demonstrated enviable truths."
          Then, like a clock that chimes us at the hour
140     When the Bride of God rises to sing
          Her matins to her Spouse to make him love her,
          With one part pulling and the other pushing,
          Sounding ding-dong with notes so dulcet that
          The true-devoted spirit swells with love,
145      Just so I saw the wheel of glory rotate
          And answer voice to voice with harmony
          And sweetness that can never be conceived
          Except where joyfulness is everlasting.
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