1 Dante compares his ascent to the Empyrean
to dawn on earth. An hour before sunrise, it is noon six thousand miles to the east and
already the stars begin to fade. The handmaid of the sun is dawn (l. 7).
43 The pilgrim will see the
host of angels and the host of the redeemed in their glorified bodies. They are
first pictured as sparks (angels) and flowers (saints).
106 One ray of God's eternal
light strikes the round surface of the Primum Mobile and sets the whole
universal cycle in motion.
117 For the image of the
circular rose where all the blessed are seated, see the Introduction to
137 Henry VII of Luxemburg, emperor of the
Holy Roman Empire (1303-1313), embodied before his death the hopes that Dante fostered for
a united Italy and peace-abiding Europe.
142 Clement V encouraged Henry VII to
settle affairs in Italy and in 1312 shifted his support to Henrys enemies. Clement
died in 1314, and the poet predicts that he shall fall to the pocket of the simoniacal
popes to cram down his predecessor Boniface VIII who came from the town of Anagni
thousand miles or so away from us
blazes, and this world already slopes
shadow to an almost level bed,
the midheaven high above us starts
- 5 To change in such a way that here and there
star fades out of view from this abyss.
as the brightest handmaid of the sun
closer, heaven then puts out its lights
by one, till the loveliest has faded:
- 10 No differently, the triumph that forever
round the Point that overmastered me
seems enclosed by that which it encloses
by little vanished from my sight,
that my loving and my seeing nothing
- 15 Forced me to turn my eyes once more to Beatrice.
what I have said up to now about her
all rolled in a single hymn of praise,
would not serve to take this final turn.
beauty that I saw transcends all measure
- 20 Not only past our reach, but I believe
its Maker can enjoy it all.
this pass I admit myself defeated
than all comic or all tragic poets
ever quelled by some point of their theme.
- 25 For as the sun confounds the feeblest sight,
the remembrance of her fresh sweet smile
my memory from my sense of self.
the first day on which I saw her face
this lifetime, until that sight of her,
- 30 My song has never stopped from following her.
now must my pursuit cease following
beauty further in my poetry,
any artist come to his full limit.
- So I
leave her to nobler heralding
- 35 Than the sounding of my trumpet which here draws
arduous subject-matter to a close.
gesture and voice of an accomplished leader
began again, "Out from the largest body
have come to this heaven of pure light:
- 40 "Light of the intellect, light full of love,
of true good, love full of joyousness,
surpassing every sweetness.
you shall see both hosts of paradise,
one arrayed in that embodiment
- 45 Which you shall witness on the judgment day."
like a sudden lightning flash that scatters
power of vision so that it deprives
eye of its sight of the sharpest objects,
round about me shone a living light
- 50 Which left me wrapped in such a dazzling veil
nothing else was visible to me.
the love which makes this heaven restful
all to itself with a like welcome,
hold the candle ready for the flame."
- 55 No
sooner did I take in these few words
inwardly I understood that I
rising high above my human powers.
- And I
was so inflamed with the new vision
however luminous the light
- 60 My eyes could have withstood the sight of it.
- And I
saw a light flowing like a river
with amber waves between two banks
painted by spellbinding spring.
out this river shot up living sparks
- 65 That dropped on every side into the blossoms,
rubies in a setting of pure gold.
as if intoxicated by the fragrance,
dove once more into the wondrous flood,
as one sank, another spark shot out.
- 70 "The
flame of high desire driving you
gain more knowledge of what you see here
me the more the more it surges.
first you are required to drink this water
your burning thirst can be relieved."
These words the sun of my eyes said to me,
added, "The river and the topazes
in and out the smiling flowers
shadow-prelude of their reality.
that these blooms are unripe in themselves,
- 80 But the defect comes from within yourself
you do not yet have sight set so high."
baby, after waking later than
usual hour, ever makes a rush
sudden with its face toward mothers milk,
- 85 As I made then when I bent down to drink
wave that flows there for our betterment,
make still better mirrors of my eyes.
even as the eaves that edge my eyelids
of it, so it seemed to change its shape
- 90 From running lengthwise to revolving round.
as the people hidden under masks
different from the way they looked before
they doff the disguises that concealed them,
so the flowers and the sparks now changed
- 95 Before me into grander festivals,
that I saw both courts of heaven open.
splendor of God through which I saw the high
of the true kingdom, grant me the power
tell how I was witness to this vision!
- 100 Light shines above which renders visible
Creator to the creature who discovers
peace found only in our seeing Him.
this light stretches out into a circle
spreads so wide that its circumference
- 105 Would make too large a cincture for the sun.
whole expanse is fashioned by the ray
from the top of the first-moved
from which it takes its might and motion.
as a hillside is mirrored in a lake
- 110 Below, as if to look on its own beauty
it is lush with flowers and fresh grass,
so, above the light and round and round,
from more than a thousand tiers,
- I saw
all those of us who have returned there.
- 115 And if the lowest rank holds in its row
large a light, how vast is the expanse
this rose in its farthest-reaching petals!
sight was not lost in its breadth and height,
grasped the fullness of that happiness
- 120 In all its distance and intensity.
near and far add nothing, nor subtract,
where God governs without mediation
laws of nature have no further bearing.
the yellow of that timeless rose
- 125 Which rises row on row and spreads and breathes
of praise to the spring-renewing Sun,
drew me, hushed and bent on speaking,
told me, "Look with wonder on those robed
white how countless is that congregation!
- 130 "See how wide is the circuit of our city!
how filled are our seats that so few people
now on are expected to come here!
on that proud chair where you fix your eyes
glimpse the crown already placed above it,
- 135 Before you partake of this wedding feast,
sit the soul an emperors on earth
lofty Henry, who will come to set
straight before her time is ready.
greed which grips you all within its spell
- 140 Has made you like the little child who dies
hunger while he drives away his nurse.
then the pontiff of the Holy See
openly and secretly, be someone
will not walk with him along one road.
- 145 "But God wont keep him in the sacred office
long, because he shall be shoved below
Simon Magus squirms for his deserts,
cram still deeper that man from Anagni."