Paradiso -- Canto XX

The Eagle’s Eye, Divine Grace



























37 King David was the author of the book of Psalms, inspired by the Holy Spirit.



44 For an account of the Emperor Trajan, see Purgatorio X, l. 73, and note.



51 Hezekiah, king of Israel, prayed and had his life prolonged for fifteen years (see 2 Kings 20:1-6).


55 Another reference to the "Donation of Constantine" to Pope Sylvester I. See Inferno XIX, note 115



61 William II, king of Naples and Sicily (1166-1189), was Norman and known as the Good for his just reign.

63 Charles II of Anjou and Frederick II of Sicily are again rebuked (see Canto XIX, l. 127 and l. 131, with notes).

68 Ripheus is a Trojan hero killed in the sack of Troy whom Virgil praises in the Aeneid II (426-428).





















100-108 Trajan and Ripheus are the fifth and sixth spirits. Ripheus is said by Dante to have believed in Christ to come as Trajan (brought back to life) believed in Christ after the crucifixion.
















127 The three ladies are Faith, Hope, and Charity.

          When he who lights up our whole world comes down
          Out of our hemisphere, so that the day
          In all directions fades away to dark,
          The sky, which he alone inflamed before,
5         All of a sudden shows itself once more
          With many lights lit by his single blaze:
          So this shift in the sky came to my mind
          When the sign of the world and of its leaders
          Fell back to silence with its blessed beak,
10       Because, of all those living luminaries,
          Shining more brightly, each began to sing
          Hymns that have slipped out of my memory.
          O dulcet love, whose mantle is a smile,
          How glowingly you sounded in those flutes,
15       Filled only with the breath of saintly thoughts!
          When all the precious and pellucid stones
          With which I saw the sixth star all bejeweled
          Had stilled the chiming of those angelic bells,
          I seemed to hear the murmuring of a river
20       Clearly coursing down from rock to rock,
          Attesting to the richness of its source.
          And as the notes resounding from the lute
          Take shape within its neck, and as the wind
          Sounds at the opening of the bagpipe it inflates,
25       So, with no further time spent idly waiting,
          That murmuring whisper of the eagle rose
          Up through the neck, as if the neck were hollow.
          There it turned to a voice, and through the beak
          It issued in the form of words, such words
30       As the heart on which I wrote them waited for.
          "That part in me which can see in earthly eagles
          And can endure the sun," the voice began,
          "There steadfastly you must now fix your gaze.
          "For of the fires from which I take shape,
35       Those with which the eye glitters in my head
          Are the chief souls within all of their ranks.
          "The one shining in the middle as the pupil
          Was the singer of the Holy Spirit,
          Who took the ark about from town to town.
40       "Now he knows here the merit of his song:
          How much of it resulted from his talent,
          By the reward proportionate to it.
          "Of those five that make up my eyebrow’s arch,
          The one who is the nearest to my beak
45       Gave comfort to the widow for her son.
          "Now he knows the dear price men have to pay
          Not to follow Christ, by his experience
          Of this sweet life and of its opposite.
          "And he who follows on the upper arc
50       Of the circumference of which I speak
          Has put off death by his true penitence.
          "Now he knows that the everlasting judgment
          Remains unchanged, when worthy prayer on earth
          Makes what should be today take place tomorrow.
55      "The next who follows, to give way to the shepherd,
          With good intentions that bore rotten fruit,
          Removed to Greece, taking the laws and me.
          "Now he knows how the evil that arose
          From his good action does not harm him here,
60      Although the world be devastated by it.
          "The fourth you see within the lower arc
          Was William, for whom that land goes in mourning
          That weeps for Charles and Frederick yet alive.
           "Now he knows how an upright king is loved
65       In heaven, as he still makes evident
          By the effulgent likeness of his glory.
          "Who would believe down in the erring world
          That Ripheus the Trojan was the fifth
          Of the saintly splendors in that circle?
70       "Now he knows much about the grace of God
          That your world cannot see, although his sight
          May not make out the bottom of the sea."
          Just like the lark that soars into the air,
          First singing and then silent in contentment
75       With the last sweetness sated by its song,
          So seemed to me the image stamped out sharply
          By the eternal Pleasure, through whose will
          All things become what they are in their being.
          And though my questioning showed through me there
80       Like colors shining through the coated glass,
          I could not bear to wait in silence longer,
          But from my lips burst, "How can these things be?"
          Forced out by the sheer pressure of its weight.
          At that I saw a feast of flashing lights.
85       And right then, not to hold me in suspense
          And wonder, its eye burning ever brighter,
          The blessed emblem answered me again:
          "I see that you believe these things because
          I tell you about them, but you do not see how,
90       So that they stay concealed while still believed.
          "You act like one who clearly apprehends
          A thing by name, but cannot grasp its essence
          Unless it is explained by someone else.
          "The kingdom of heaven suffers violence
95       From all the fervent love and living hope
          Which vanquishes the will of the Most High:
          "Not in the way men vanquish other men;
          It conquers because His will lets it conquer,
          And, vanquished, vanquishes with its own kindness.
100      "The first and the fifth spirits of my brow
          Make you amazed, since you perceive the region
          Of the angels here adorned with them.
          "They quit their bodies not as you think, pagans,
          But Christians with firm faith, one in the feet
105      To be pierced, the other, that were pierced.
          "For one returned to flesh and bones from hell
          Where no one ever can regain goodwill,
          And that was the reward of living hope:
          "Of living hope that rendered powerful
110      Prayers offered up to God to raise him new
          So that his will be able to be moved.
          "The glorious soul of whom I speak, come back
          For a short period to his own body,
          Believed in Him who has the power to help:
115     "Believing, he burst out in such a blaze
          Of the true love that at his second death
          He was worthy to be welcomed to this mirth.
          "The other, by the grace that wells up from
          So deep a fountain that no creature yet
120      Has ever cast eyes down to its first wave,
          "Placed all his love on earth in doing right;
          And God, from grace to grace, so opened up
          His eyes to our redemption still to come
          "That he believed in Christ, and from then on
125     Would not endure the stench of paganism,
          And for it he reproved those perverse people.
          "The three ladies at the chariot’s right wheel
          (You saw them) sponsored him in baptism
          A thousand years before baptismal rites.
130     "O predestination, how far removed
          Your root lies from the eyesight of those people
          Who do not see the First Cause as a whole!
          "And, mortals, show restraint in making judgments,
          For even we who look on God himself
135      Do not yet know all those who are elect.
          "And such a failing is a sweet thing to us,
          Since in this good is our own good refined,
          That what God wills is what we will as well."
          So, thanks to that divine emblazoned form,
140     There I received this soothing medicine
          To clear my eyes of their shortsightedness.
          And as a skillful lutanist can make
          The strings vibrate in tune with a skilled singer
          And in this way add pleasure to the song,
145     So, I remember, while the eagle spoke,
          I saw the two blest lights together move,
          Just as the eyelids blink with one accord,
          Causing their flames to quiver to the words.
arrowleft_anie.gif (690 bytes) return to Paradiso XIX


go to Paradiso XXI arrowright_anie.gif (691 bytes)