The Vision of Paradise, Complete

- By Dante Alighieri
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Dante Alighieri (Italian: [ˈdante aliˈɡjɛːri]), probably baptized Durante di Alighiero degli Alighieri[note 1] and often referred to simply as Dante (/ˈdɑːnteɪ, ˈdænteɪ, ˈdænti/,[2][3] also US: /ˈdɑːnti/;[4] c. 1265 – 1321), was an Italian poet, writer and philosopher.[5] His Divine Comedy, originally called Comedìa (modern Italian: Commedia) and later christened Divina by Giovanni Boccaccio,[6] is widely considered one of the most important poems of the Middle Ages and the greatest literary work in the Italian language.[7][8] Dante is known for establishing the use of the vernacular in literature at a time when most poetry was written in Latin, making it accessible only to the most educated readers. His De vulgari eloquentia (On Eloquence in the Vernacular) was one of the first scholarly defenses of the vernacular. His use of the Tuscan dialect for works such as The New Life (1295) and Divine Comedy helped establish the modern-day standardized Italian language. His work set a precedent that important Italian writers such as Petrarch and Boccaccio would later follow.
Let him, who would conceive what now I saw, Imagine (and retain the image firm, As mountain rock, the whilst he hears me speak), Of stars fifteen, from midst the ethereal host Selected, that, with lively ray serene, O'ercome the massiest air: thereto imagine The wain, that, in the bosom of our sky, Spins ever on its axle night and day, With the bright summit of that horn which swells Due from the pole, round which the first wheel rolls, T' have rang'd themselves in fashion of two signs In heav'n, such as Ariadne made, When death's chill seized her; and that one of them Did compass in the other's beam; and both In such sort whirl around, that each should tend With opposite motion and, conceiving thus, Of that true constellation, and the dance Twofold, that circled me, he shall attain As 't were the shadow; for things there as much Surpass our usage, as the swiftest heav'n Is swifter than the Chiana. There was sung No Bacchus, and no Io Paean, but Three Persons in the Godhead, and in one Substance that nature and the human join'd.
The song fulfill'd its measure; and to us Those saintly lights attended, happier made At each new minist'ring. Then silence brake, Amid th' accordant sons of Deity, That luminary, in which the wondrous life Of the meek man of God was told to me; And thus it spake: "One ear o' th' harvest thresh'd, And its grain safely stor'd, sweet charity Invites me with the other to like toil.
"Thou know'st, that in the bosom, whence the rib Was ta'en to fashion that fair cheek, whose taste All the world pays for, and in that, which pierc'd By the keen lance, both after and before Such satisfaction offer'd, as outweighs Each evil in the scale, whate'er of light To human nature is allow'd, must all Have by his virtue been infus'd, who form'd Both one and other: and thou thence admir'st In that I told thee, of beatitudes A second, there is none, to his enclos'd In the fifth radiance. Open now thine eyes To what I answer thee; and thou shalt see Thy deeming and my saying meet in truth, As centre in the round. That which dies not, And that which can die, are but each the beam Of that idea, which our Soverign Sire Engendereth loving; for that lively light, Which passeth from his brightness; not disjoin'd From him, nor from his love triune with them, Doth, through his bounty, congregate itself, Mirror'd, as 't were in new existences, Itself unalterable and ever one.
"Descending hence unto the lowest powers, Its energy so sinks, at last it makes But brief contingencies: for so I name Things generated, which the heav'nly orbs Moving, with seed or without seed, produce. Their wax, and that which molds it, differ much: And thence with lustre, more or less, it shows Th' ideal stamp impress: so that one tree According to his kind, hath better fruit, And worse: and, at your birth, ye, mortal men, Are in your talents various. Were the wax Molded with nice exactness, and the heav'n In its disposing influence supreme, The lustre of the seal should be complete: But nature renders it imperfect ever, Resembling thus the artist in her work, Whose faultering hand is faithless to his skill. Howe'er, if love itself dispose, and mark The primal virtue, kindling with bright view, There all perfection is vouchsafed; and such The clay was made, accomplish'd with each gift, That life can teem with; such the burden fill'd The virgin's bosom: so that I commend Thy judgment, that the human nature ne'er Was or can be, such as in them it was.
"Did I advance no further than this point, 'How then had he no peer?' thou might'st reply. But, that what now appears not, may appear Right plainly, ponder, who he was, and what (When he was bidden 'Ask' ), the motive sway'd To his requesting. I have spoken thus, That thou mayst see, he was a king, who ask'd For wisdom, to the end he might be king Sufficient: not the number to search out Of the celestial movers; or to know, If necessary with contingent e'er Have made necessity; or whether that Be granted, that first motion is; or if Of the mid circle can, by art, be made Triangle with each corner, blunt or sharp.
"Whence, noting that, which I have said, and this, Thou kingly prudence and that ken mayst learn, At which the dart of my intention aims. And, marking clearly, that I told thee, 'Risen,' Thou shalt discern it only hath respect To kings, of whom are many, and the good Are rare. With this distinction take my words; And they may well consist with that which thou Of the first human father dost believe, And of our well-beloved. And let this Henceforth be led unto thy feet, to make Thee slow in motion, as a weary man, Both to the 'yea' and to the 'nay' thou seest not. For he among the fools is down full low, Whose affirmation, or denial, is Without distinction, in each case alike Since it befalls, that in most instances Current opinion leads to false: and then Affection bends the judgment to her ply.
"Much more than vainly doth he loose from shore, Since he returns not such as he set forth, Who fishes for the truth and wanteth skill. And open proofs of this unto the world Have been afforded in Parmenides, Melissus, Bryso, and the crowd beside, Who journey'd on, and knew not whither: so did Sabellius, Arius, and the other fools, Who, like to scymitars, reflected back The scripture-image, by distortion marr'd.
Let not the people be too swift to judge, As one who reckons on the blades in field, Or ere the crop be ripe. For I have seen The thorn frown rudely all the winter long And after bear the rose upon its top; And bark, that all the way across the sea Ran straight and speedy, perish at the last, E'en in the haven's mouth seeing one steal, Another brine, his offering to the priest, Let not Dame Birtha and Sir Martin thence Into heav'n's counsels deem that they can pry: For one of these may rise, the other fall."

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Word Lists:

Beatitude : supreme blessedness

Luminary : a person who inspires or influences others, especially one prominent in a particular sphere

Distortion : the action of distorting or the state of being distorted

Unalterable : not able to be changed

Axle : a rod or spindle (either fixed or rotating) passing through the center of a wheel or group of wheels

Affirmation : the action or process of affirming something or being affirmed

Primal : relating to an early stage in evolutionary development; primeval

Outweigh : be heavier than

Brine : water strongly impregnated with salt

Saintly : very holy or virtuous

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