DANTE'S SUBLIME COMEDY: PARADISE: Chapter 31
CHAPTER 31: Heavenly Hosts
The host of blesséd souls redeemed by Christ
formed round me like a rose. The angel host
made first by God to fly and see and sing 3
the glory of His goodness, visited
the many-petaled rose like bees in blooms,
their faces living flames, their wings pure gold, 6
the rest whiter than snow. Their intercourse
with the redeemed maintained ardour and peace,
nor did their flight hide anyone from view. 9
Light here permitted no obscurity.
I saw this joyful commune richly thronged
with folk of ancient times and new whose sight 12
and love combined in one continuum.
O three-fold light seen in a single point
and satisfying all beholding you, 15
look down upon this storm-torn earth below!
Barbaric Goths were struck dumb when they saw
Rome and her temples. How then did I feel 18
coming from human to divine? From time
to eternity? From foul Florence to
a people just and sane? Imagine my 21
bewilderment. Between that and gladness
I was content to say nothing. Silence
seemed best. Like a pilgrim who stands refreshed 24
in a kirk he had vowed to reach, and means
to tell folk about at home, I stared up,
down and around me, seeing everywhere 27
faces of happiness and charity
lit by Another’s light and their own smiles,
each movement showing graceful dignity. 30
One thing I had to do: see Beatrice.
An old man suddenly confronted me.
His robe was white, his aspect fatherly. 33
“O where is she?” I cried. He kindly said,
“Beatrice sent me here. Direct your eyes
up to the highest tier. Count three rings down. 36
See her upon the throne she so deserves.”
I looked, and saw that now she wore a crown
made from eternal light’s reflected rays. 39
Distance between my eyes and Beatrice
was greater from the sky where thunder rolls
to the sea’s deepest floor. I did not care. 42
Her image was not dimmed by things between.
I prayed, “O Lady who restored my hope,
walking through Hell to save my soul, all I 45
have learned as due to your virtue and grace.
Let me keep the goodness you made in me
till death sets free a soul that, with God’s help, 48
still pleases you.” This was my wee prayer.
Although so far away she smiled at me,
then turned to contemplate eternal light. 51
The old saint said, “divine love brings me here
to help end your pilgrimage. Send again
your eyes flying round this place. Seeing more 54
will prepare them for higher radiance.
The Queen of Heaven is here to help us.
Bernard, her faithful servant, is my name.” 57
As one who comes from far away to see
the veil of our Veronica, will think
O Jesus Christ my very God, was this 60
the face you wore on earth? I gazed upon
the Abbot of Clairvaux, saint who founded
monasteries, so rich in charities 63
that the Mother of God in a vision
appeared to him. He read my mind and said,
“You child of grace, stop gazing at your feet! 66
to know that joyful state look higher up,
see Mary on her throne!” and so I did.
Just as the dawn horizon’s eastern part. 69
Outshines the western where the sun goes down
I felt as if my eyes climbed up from out
a valley to a mountaintop at dawn. 72
On the highest verge of the rose I saw
a brilliant zone of light, though on each side
no soul was less distinct, and in that zone 75
a thousand angels played with outspread wings.
Smiling upon their sport and songs was She
whose beauty gives delight to all the saints. 78
Were I as rich in words as visioning
I still could not try hinting at the joy
filling me at this sight. When Bernard saw 81
the vision warming him now shone on me,
we exchanged a smile before he, turning,
looked back devotedly on Her he loved.
we stood together sharing that delight. 84