Paradiso -- Canto XXVII

Saint Peter on the Church, the Primum Mobile

 

Notes.

 

 

 

 

 

10 The four torches are Adam, Peter, James, and John. Peter had approached Dante first (l. 11).

14 If Jupiter and Mars were birds then the white planet would be red and the red white.

 

 

 

 

22 Boniface VIII has usurped Peter’s place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

35 Again, the poet recalls the darkness and earthquake at the time of the crucifixion.

 

 

41 Saints Linus (d. 79?) and Cletus (d. 90?) were the first successors of Saint Peter and died martyrs.

 

44 Sixtus I (d. 125), Pius I (d. 154?), Calixtus I (d. 222), and Urban I (d. 230) were popes who were known to be martyrs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

58 Pope John XXII (1316-1334) came from Cahors, a city in southern France noted for usury. Clement V (1305-1314) was from Gascony, a region famous for greed and avarice.

61 Scipio Africanus the Elder defeated Hannibal in 202 B. C. and by his victory saved Rome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

80 The wayfarer gazes back on earth to find that six hours have gone by and that the meridian has passed from over Jerusalem to over Gibraltar. From this lofty vantage he traces the western journey of Ulysses from the Mediterranean almost to Mount Purgatory (Inferno XXVI, ll. 90-142) and all but glimpses the eastern shore of Phoenicia where Europa mounted the back of Jupiter disguised as a bull (Metamorphoses II, 833-875).

 

 

 

 

 

 

98  Leda’s nest is the constellation Gemini (the twins of Leda: Castor and Pollux) where Dante has visited the sphere of the stars.

99 The ninth heaven is the Primum Mobile, the sphere of pure motion, without stars, mover of all below it. The Empyrean, the Mind of God, alone lies above, surrounding this final sphere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

136 The daughter is probably Circe, child of the sun and temptress of mankind.

 

 

142 The Julian calendar, because of a slight miscalculation, gained a fraction of time each year: over centuries this accumulated time would have pushed January into spring.

          "Glory to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!"
          The whole of paradise at once poured forth,
          So sweet a song I felt inebriated.
 
          What I saw seemed to me to be a smile
5         Of the universe, so that my intoxication
          Came over me from hearing and from sight.
 
          O gladness! O ineffable elation!
          O life entirely filled with love and peace!
          O riches, free from every other longing!
 
10       Before my eyes stood the four burning torches,
          And that splendor which had approached me first
          Began to blaze more brilliantly than all.
 
          And it became in its appearance such
          As Jupiter would look if he and Mars
15       Were birds and had exchanged each other’s feathers.
 
          The providence which there assigns to each
          Its services and functions had imposed
          Silence on the blest choir on every side,
 
          When I heard, "If I now change my color,
20       Do not be surprised, for as I speak
          You shall see all these souls change color too.
 
          "The man who down on earth usurps my place,
          My place, the place which at this time is vacant
          Within the sight of the true Son of God,
 
25       "Has made my burial-place a sewer for
          Blood and filth so rank the Evil One
          Who fell from here delights himself down there."
 
          That color which at evening and at daybreak
          Paints clouds in sunlight from the far horizon
30       I then saw cover over the whole heaven.
 
          And as a modest woman who will stay
          Self-assured, but at another’s failing
          Becomes upset while only hearing of it,
 
          So Beatrice changed her looks, and such was once,
35       As I believe, the eclipse in the sky
          At the hour when the highest Power suffered.
 
          Then he continued talking in a voice
          So wholly different from its former self
          That his appearance could not have changed as much:
 
40       "The spouse of Christ was not reared on my blood
          Or on the blood of Linus and of Cletus
          That she might be employed for gaining gold,
 
          "But for the gaining of this happy life
          Have Sixtus, Pius, Calixtus and Urban,
45       Shed their blood after shedding many tears.
 
          "It never was our purpose that one part
          Of the Christian people should sit on the right
          Of our successors, and others on the left;
 
          "Nor that the keys entrusted to my keeping
50       Should have become the emblem on a banner
          Borne into battle against baptized brethren;
 
          "Nor that I should be stamped upon a seal
          For selling false and venal privileges:
          For these things I blush red and flare up often.
 
55       "Rapacious wolves disguised in shepherds’ clothing
          Are seen from here on high in all the pastures.
          O watch of God, why do you lie unstirred?
 
          "Men of Cahors and Gascony make ready
          To drink our blood: O wonderful beginning,
60       To what a worthless ending must you fall!
 
          "But the high providence which, with Scipio,
          Guarded for Rome the glory of the world,
          As I conceive, will quickly come to help.
 
          "And you, my son, who by your mortal weight
65       Must once more go below, open your mouth,
          And do not hide what I have not kept hidden!"
 
          Just as our atmosphere, at the season when
          The horn of heaven’s goat abuts the sun,
          Drops snowflakes downward with its frozen mists,
 
70       So I saw then the upper air adorned,
          Snowflaking upward with triumphant mists
          That for a while had stayed on with us there.
 
          My eyes kept tracking their appearances
          And tracked them till the space between became
75       So vast that it prevented passing onward.
 
          At that my lady, finding my sight freed
          From staring upward, said to me, "Bend down
          Your gaze, and look how far you have spun around!"
 
          From the hour when I’d looked down earlier,
80       I saw that I had turned through the whole arc
          Of the first zone from midpoint to its end:
 
          So far off, past Cadiz, I saw the mad
          Course of Ulysses and, nearer to the shore,
          Where Europa proved herself so sweet to carry.
 
85       And still more of this little threshing-floor
          Would have been shown to me, but that the sun
          Outran me, a sign or more, beneath my feet.
 
          My mind in love, which always lovingly
          Attends my lady, more than ever burned
90       To have my eyes return to look in hers:
 
          And if nature or art ever fashioned lures
          To catch the eyes so to possess the mind,
          In human flesh or in its portraiture,
 
          All of these charms combined would seem as nothing
95       Beside the divine delight that beamed on me
          When I turned myself to her smiling face.
 
          And the power that her look bestowed on me
          Plucked me out of Leda’s lovely nest
          And hurled me to the swiftest of the heavens.
 
100      The regions of this quickest highest heaven
          Are all so uniform I cannot tell
          Which spot among them Beatrice chose for me.
 
          But she, who saw my longing, started speaking,
          Smiling the while with such deep happiness
105      That God seemed shining in her face for joy:
 
          "The nature of the universe which holds
          The center still and whirls the spheres around it
          Takes from this region here its starting-point.
 
          "And here this heaven has no other where
110      Than in God’s mind, where there flames up the love
          That spins it, and the power it pours down.
 
          "Light and love enclose it in one circle
          As it does all the rest, and this enclosing
          He alone who circles it can comprehend.
 
115      "Its motion is not measured by another’s,
          But this sphere sets the others into motion,
          As ten is factored into five and two.
 
          "And how time hides its roots in such a planter
          While spreading down its leaves to other spheres
120      Should now be plainly evident to you.
 
          "O greed, you submerge mortals in your depths
          So far below that no one has the power
          To raise his eyes above the surging waves!
 
          "The will blooms vigorously in human beings,
125      But then the endless, drenching downpour changes
          The healthy plums into infested fruit.
 
          "Faith and innocence are only found
          In little children; then both fly away
          Before the cheeks begin to sprout with whiskers.
 
130      "Someone, while still a lisping infant, fasts,
          But later, when his tongue is loosed for speech,
          Swallows all sorts of food through all of Lent.
 
          "Another lisper loves and listens to
          His mother, but later, when his speech flows free,
135      He only longs to see her dead and buried.
 
          "So she, the lovely daughter of the Sun,
          At the first glance of him who brings the day
          And leaves the evening, turns her white skin black.
 
          "You, that you may not be surprised at this,
140      Think how on earth there is no one to govern,
          So that the human family goes astray.
 
          "But before January drops from winter
          By one day lost in every hundred years
          Below, these towering spheres shall so beam out
 
145      "That a turnabout in season, long expected,
          Shall spin the ships around from stern to prow
          So that the fleet will run in a straight course,
 
          "And wholesome fruit shall follow from the blossoms."
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