Paradiso -- Canto XXVI

Saint John, Examination of Love









12 Ananias restored the sight of the blinded Paul (Acts 9:17-18).

13 Saint John examines the pilgrim on love: its possession, intensity, and sources; Dante begins his response.















38 Dante here cites Aristotle, perhaps to his Metaphysics.


42 The line echoes God’s words to Moses in Exodus 33:19.

43-45 See John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word." Others take the "proclamation" here to refer to Revelation 1:8. "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end."




53 John the Evangelist is symbolized by an eagle.




















83 The first soul is Adam, who will answer Dante’s questions about the Garden of Eden.
























120 Dante calculates that the human race is 6,498 years old in 1300: Adam lived 930 years and spent 4,302 years in Limbo; it has been 1,266 years since the crucifixion (see Inferno XXI, l. 113).

125 Nimrod again is the leader responsible for the confusion of tongues by attempting to regain heaven through the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:2-9). See Inferno XXXI, l. 77.





135 Adam states that God's original name was "I" (Jah>Jahweh) and then "El" (Elohim) in Hebrew.



142 Adam spent little more than six hours in Eden.

          While I stayed fearful for my dazzled sight,
          There issued out of the effulgent flame
          That blinded it, a breath that made me listen
          As it declared, "Until you can regain
5        The sight which you have lost in seeing me,
          You well would compensate for it by speaking.
          "Begin then, and tell at what mark your soul
          Is aimed — and you may rest assured your sight
          Is only clouded over and not lost,
10       "Because the lady who conducts you through
          This holy place has in her look that power
          The hand of Ananias once possessed."
          I said, "When it shall please her, soon or late,
          Let help come to the eyes which were the gates
15       She entered with the fire still burning in me.
          "The good which brings contentment to the court
          Is Alpha and Omega of all the scriptures
          Love reads to me with soft or louder tones."
          The same voice that had freed me from the fear
20       Of my blinding by this sudden dazzlement
          Returned me to my wish to speak again
          When it said, "Surely you must sift this matter
          With a much finer sieve, and you must tell:
          Who made you aim your bow at such a target?"
25       And I: "By reasons of philosophy,
          And by authority derived from heaven,
          Love of this sort must stamp its seal on me,
          "Because the good, so far as it is understood
          As such, enkindles love, and it does so the more,
30       The more goodness it contains within itself.
          "To the Essence, then, which is so excellent
          That every good outside of it is nothing
          Except a ray of its own radiance,
          "The mind of all those who discern the truth,
35       On which this proof of reason is established,
          Must move, in love more than to any other.
          "This truth is made plain to my mind by him
          Who demonstrates to me the primal loving
          Of all the sempiternal substances.
40       "The truthful Author’s voice reveals it where,
          In speaking of himself, he says to Moses,
          ‘I will make all my good pass in your sight.’
          "You show it to me too in the beginning
          Of your great gospel which, more than the other
45       Tidings, tells earth the mystery of heaven."
          And I heard, "Through human intellect
          And through authorities agreeing with it,
          Let the highest of your loves look up to God.
          "But tell me too if you feel other cords
50       Draw you toward Him, that you may so declare
          How many teeth this love has sunk in you."
          I could not fail to find the holy purpose
          Of the eagle of Christ — rather, I discerned
          The direction he’d have my profession take.
55       Again, then, I began, "All of those things
          With teeth to make the heart to turn to God
          Have fastened all together in my love:
          "The being of the world and my own being,
          The death that he endured that I might live,
60       And the reward the faithful (like me) hope for,
          "Fused with the living knowledge that I spoke of,
          Have hauled me from the sea of wrongful love
          And set me on the shore of love set straight.
          "As for the leaves that leaf out the whole garden
65       Of the eternal gardener, I love each one
          In measure as it grows in goodness from him."
          As soon as I grew still a most sweet song
          Resounded through the heavens, and my lady
          Sang with the others, "Holy, Holy, Holy!"
70       And as a shaft of sunlight shatters sleep
          When the spirit of one’s eyesight runs to meet
          The radiance that spreads from lid to lid,
          And one who wakes up shrinks from what he sees,
          His mind befuddled by the sudden rousing,
75       Until his judgment comes to help him out,
          So Beatrice scattered every speck away
          From my eyes with the beaming of her own
          Which shone back down a thousand miles and more,
          So that I now saw better than before,
80       And almost thunderstruck I questioned her
          About a fourth light that I saw with us.
          And my lady said, "Within those rays
          The first soul the first Power ever made
          Gazes lovingly upon its Maker."
85       Just as a bough that bends its twig-tips down
          With passing breezes and then lifts itself
          By its own power to spring up again,
          So I stood bowed with wonder while she spoke,
          And then the wish to speak that burned in me
90       Raised up my self-assurance once again,
          And I began, "O fruit, the only one
          Produced already ripe, O ancient father
          To whom each bride is daughter and daughter-in-law,
          "Devoutly as I may I beg of you
95       To speak to me: you see my willingness,
          And I — to hear you sooner — say no more."
          An animal at times beneath its wrappings
          So wriggles that it makes its feelings plain
          Because the wraps respond to all its movements:
100      In the same way, that first soul made it clear
          To me — right through its covering — just how
          Elatedly it came to do my pleasure.
          With that it breathed, "Without my being told
          By you, I seize your wish more lucidly
105      Than you grasp anything you hold for certain,
          "Because I see it in the truthful mirror
          That fashions a reflection of all else
          While nothing may reflect the mirror back.
          "You wish to hear how long it is since God
110      Placed me in that lofty garden, where
          This lady readied you for these high stairs,
          "And how long my eyes gladdened at their sight,
          And the real reason for His mighty anger,
          And the language that I framed and then employed.
115      "Now not the tasting of the tree, my son,
          Itself was reason for so long an exile,
          But only the overreaching of the mark.
          "The place from which your lady drew out Virgil,
          There I longed for this company throughout
120      Four thousand three hundred and two sun-years,
          "And while on earth I saw the sun return
          Nine hundred thirty times to all the lights
          Cast by the zodiac along its path.
          "The tongue that I had spoken was extinct
125      Even before those people of Nimrod’s tried
          Completing their unfinishable task,
          "Because no work of reason has endured
          Forever, due to human inclination
          Which changes with the shifting of the skies.
130     "The fact that mortals speak is nature’s doing,
          But whether you speak this or that, nature
          Then leaves to you to follow your own bent.
          "Before I went down to the pains of hell
          The highest Good from whom comes all the joy
135      That clothes me was called 'I' upon the earth,
          "And later was named ‘El’: and that must be,
          For mortal ways are like the leaves on branches:
          They fall away and then another forms.
          "On the mountain rising highest from the sea
140      I lived in innocence and, later, guilt,
          From the first hour to that which follows next
          "(When the sun changes quarter) after the sixth."
arrowleft_anie.gif (690 bytes) return to Paradiso XXV


go to Paradiso XXVII arrowright_anie.gif (691 bytes)