Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Chapter 20: The Eagle’s Eye

The sun that fills our eyes with daily light
            curves upward through the sky and down again
            then passes underground and it is night               3

when multitudes of galaxies appear.
            This change from one to many brilliances
            happened when, ceasing speech, that single voice 6

became a mighty choir singing a hymn.
            At times, O love, you’re only seen in smiles.
            How glorious you sounded in that song!               9

I cannot now recall that harmony  
            of holy thought, but noticed when the gems
            enriching the sixth sphere altered their tune,          12

became a murmuring of waters like
            many clear streams trickling from rock to rock.
            As a lute’s plucked strings resonate, I heard          15

murmurs climb the bird’s hollow neck until
            articulate within the beak again
            they spoke these words my heart hungered to hear:18

“Look closely to the part of me that sees!
            Of all the fires I use to make my form
            these sparkling in my head are surely best               21

The pupil of my eye was he whose Psalms
            truly proclaim news of the Holy Ghost.
            He brought the Ark home to Jerusalem.                  24

Five others make my eyebrow’s arch. Trajan
            is beside my beak. To the poor widow
            who lost her son he was most just, and yet              27

damned as an infidel. Gregory’s prayers
            lifted him from Hell so he knows full well
the state of those with Jesus and without.                30

Hezekiah next, whose true repentance
            after divine reproof prolonged his life.
            He knows eternal decrees are unchanged                33
on Earth when the right prayers extend our days.
            Next, Constantine who went east, became Greek,
            christened the Roman Empire, giving Rome            36

to the popes. Though these deeds redeemed his soul
            too many have been ruined by the last.
See good King William on my sloping brow,          39

mourned by Naples and Sicily. These weep
            under his brother Charles, son Frederick.
            His shining shows that Heaven loves the just.          42

Who in the erring world below believes
that in this sphere of perfect governors               
pagan Ripheus is fifth guiding light?                        45                        
Virgil called him most just of Trojan kings.                        
His soul knew more of Divine Grace than most,
though none have sight that penetrate the whole.     48

Then suddenly the great bird seemed a lark                                      
soaring and singing up the face of space
to hover silently, sweetly content,                             51

a perfect image of eternal joy                                                            
whose will allows all things that are to be.
In my perplexity I felt like glass                                54

that cannot see the colour staining it.                                                 
Failing to wait for wisdom I cried out,
            “How CAN that be?” provoking a great storm,        57

a revelry of vivid flashing light.                                                             
With even brighter eye the bird replied,
            “You see the things I show, not what they are!        60

Like those who know the names of many things,
you cannot grasp their substances unless
            many more words are said. Strong Hope and Love  63

you met in earthly paradise with Faith.      
Faith, Hope and Love occupy Heaven, not
            like men invading men: Heaven invites                    66

good to be part of it. You are amazed                                          
to see in me a Jew and Pagan king,
            but death revealed their souls were Christian.           69
Their faith in Hope and Love had been so strong
            they never doubted justice could prevail
on Earth as it prevails in Paradise.                            72

They prayed for that, and so for them it did.
            We, close to God, don’t know all His elect –
cannot know all He knows. This ignorance              75

refines us. We have always more to learn.”
            This eagle’s teaching brought me to accept
my ignorance, pride’s sweetest medicine,                 78

and as he spoke each star around his eyes
            dancingly twinkled, almost seemed to play
            a fine orchestral symphony of sound

to emphasize all he was moved to say.                                 82

to emphasize all he was moved to say.                                                       82


CHAPTER 19: The Eagle Speaks

In front of me appeared with open wings
            that great bird made of congregated souls,
            each a wee ruby with a star inside.                     3

What I tell now no tongue has ever told
            and none has written down. No one before
            ever conceived of such a splendid thing.            6

I saw and heard the beak begin to speak,
            say I and mine while meaning we and ours.
            “For being just and merciful,” it said,                 9

“I once possessed a glory none surpassed.
            Though rulers praise my memory on earth
            none have continued my great story there.”      12

I cried, “ O everlasting fruit of bliss,
            you represent a Justice higher still,
            yet you reflect it pure and know my mind.        15

Please feed the hunger that has famished me.
            How keen I am to hear you end the doubt
            upsetting my digestion many years.”                 18

Like an unhooded falcon flapping wings
            and preening them in readiness for flight
            so did that unity of noble souls,                         21

then it spoke out: “Turning his compasses
            to draw the ring that holds all space and time,
            the Universal Architect made no part                24

of the diversity within its bounds
            greater than His creating Mind and Word.
            As proof, the foremost intellect He made,         27

thinking itself His equal, would not wait
            to be ripened by His gift of light. Pride –
            overweening pride led Satan to rebel,               30

expel himself from height of Paradise.
            All natures less than God are far too small
            to measure the Eternal Infinite.                          33
Each thought is one ray of the Divine Mind
            but none can comprehend all other rays
            except by basking in their plenitude.                 36

Believe that ignorance and sin obscure
            most things you cannot understand. You think,
            Indians live who never heard Christ’s name,     39
yet guided by straight reason, do no wrong,
            like some born before God was crucified.
            What justice can condemn such souls to Hell?  42

That thought came when you could not see beyond
            the hills around your town, so could not know
            anything about those in Asia                             45

more than a thousand miles away, or guess
            how God will deal with them. His Gospel tells
            everything a good soul needs to know              48

for living sinlessly. Thinking further
can show His wonders for your admiration.
Apparent contradictions in His schemes           51

come by speculation further knowledge
            will solve, either before or after death.
            They cannot blight an honest Christian life.”   54

That glowing heraldry that spread respect
            for Roman government over the globe
            soared round above my head, as mother stork  57

will fly in circles over a young chick
            gazing lovingly up from the warm nest
            where it has just been fed. The eagle sang        60

a hymn whose words I did not know, then said,
            “Just as my song is meaningless to you,
            God’s justice is beyond men’s reasoning.          63

None rise up here who have not faith in Christ
            before or since they nailed Him to that tree,
            but now we hear too many cry, Christ! Christ!  66

who on Judgment Day will be deeper damned 
than Africans who never heard His name.
What will Asians think when they hear read out 69
the deeds of Christian kings? How Prague was made
            a wilderness by Emperor Albert?
            How the French King, debasing currency,           72

brought poverty to both banks of the Seine?
            There shall be seen arrogance maddening
            English and Scots who battle constantly              75

across the border nature built for them.
            They will hear about Naples’ crippled king,
            his single virtue and his thousand sins;                78

know too why crimes of the Sicilian king
            must be described in shorthand, to save space,
and how they have dishonoured good King        81      

William, their noble relative. Kings of
            Norway and Portugal seem just as bad
            as he of Serbia whose forged coins spread          84

distrust of Venice’s minted silver
            O Happy Hungary if Martell’s son
saves you from such misrule! Happy Navarre     87

if mountains protect you from the French
and their king’s foul stench! And you can see how
miserable Cyprus is, like all states

of islands that have Frenchmen as their mates!”             94


CHAPTER 18: From Mars to Jupiter

My ancestor, reflecting Paradise,
            seemed in a pleasant dwam. I, blending thoughts
            bitter and sweet, grew gradually calm.                 3

My guide leading me Godward said, “Time now
to change your mind. Think, I am leading you                                                    
to He who heals the pains of every wrong.”        6

I turned toward her lovely voice and saw
            more love within her eyes than I can tell,
            not just because I distrust words I use,                 9

but all I felt in Heaven has grown dim.     
            I only knew, gazing on Beatrice,
            this was the only thing I wished to do                12

when, smiling she said, “Hear your good Grandsire!
            Learn that my eyes don’t hold all Paradise.”
As strong emotion will transform a face             15

new brilliance in my Grandsire’s vivid light
            told me that there was more he wished to say.
            “In this fifth sphere the tree with living top        18

is always fruitful, never sheds its leaves,
            which are heroic spirits from the earth.
            Your verses must be brightened by their fame.  21

Watch the crossbeam on which our Saviour hung.
            Each soul I name will glow like lightning there.”
            When he said, “Joshua,” the lightning flashed,  24

nor did I hear the word before the light.
            As he said, “Maccabaeus,” one light spun
            fast as a top whipped into ecstasy.                      27

My eyes pursued like falcons in their flight
Charlemagne, Roland, Robert Guiscard,
Renuard the Saracen Crusader,                         30

Duke Godfrey King of Jerusalem and
            William of Orange. Other fighting saints
            also drew my attention through the cross,          33
and then my Grandsire swooped back up to join 
            these mighty glories in their harmonies.
            Looking back to Beatrice for a sign                   36      

of what came next, I saw her eyes so clear,                                              
so joyful, she surpassed in loveliness
            even herself before. I felt as free                        39

as man in whom virtue and wisdom grew,                                               
or a good woman freed from wrongful shame.
            We swung in wider arcs among white lights     42

of the vaster, higher sphere called Jupiter.                                                           
            Language commanded in this temperate star,
since words make shared love possible              45

for folk not brutes. Good Latin was the speech                                        
of this sixth planet, used by the Roman
            Empire, Catholic Church, Law, Sciences.         48

I saw lights soaring like great flocks of bird                                  
and forming shapes that, flowing through themselves,
            became the letters of the alphabet.                     51

In swathes of living light they shaped a D,                                                           
            then I, then L. Singing and soaring they
            suddenly ceased flight. Silence ensued.              54
O sacred Pegasus! You Christian steed                                                                 
that raises humble souls to genius,
            you true imagination that creates                        57

vigour and unity in men and states!                                              
Let me spell out the letters, one by one,
            as they appeared, and so pronounce their sense. 60

I read DILIGITE JUSTITIAM                                                          
            QUI JUDICATIS TERRAM, words which mean
Love justice, you who judge the earth! Lights then 63

congregated within that final M,
            making all Jupiter a galaxy
            of gold and silver jewels. After, between                66

 the two sharp summits of the M I saw
            thousands of other lights descend, settle
and sing (I think) of God convening them.             69
Like sparks that leap from burning log when kicked
– sparks in which fools see auguries – these lights,
            both large and small, rose up between those peaks.72

When each had settled in its place I saw
the shape of an enormous eagle’s head,
sides of the M its downward sweeping wings,       75

a shape designed by He who taught each bird
            the way to build a nest. These blesséd souls        
by movements made a lily’s shape appear              78

within the eagle’s breast. O splendid star!
            How many and how bright the gems of light                               
making it plain justice is consequence                    81

of the high Paradise You decorate.
            I pray the Mind that started everything                                       
will mend the Papacy broken in two.                     84

From there comes the black smoke that dims Your beams
            and leads Christians astray. You must be                                     
angered once again to see Your temple                  87

built by martyrs, changed to a den of thieves
where Salvation is bought and sold by popes                  
who, rather than make war with spear and sword, 90

make it by refusing the Holy Bread
            meant for all Christened souls, to those they call             
foes in battles to seize and tax more land.              93

You Popes who write now only to condemn,
            start believing that Saint Peter, also
Apostle Paul are not finally dead.                          96

Well may you say, “My heart belongs to John,
             the saint whose head Salome once danced off.
             Forget the Fisherman, forget Paul too!                                         

Give me gold coins stamped with the Baptist John!”        100