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Dante: "The Central Man of All the World"
Dante's Paradiso
by Slattery, John T.


Of Dante's trilogy the Paradiso is truly his "medieval miracle of song," the supreme achievement of his genius. Here the poetry of the sublime reaches its highest point—the summit on which Dante is a lonely and unchallenged figure. "No uninspired hand," says Cardinal Manning, "has ever written thoughts so high in words, so resplendent, as the last stanza of the Divina Commedia." It was said of St. Thomas: "Post Summam Thomæ nihil restat nisi lumen gloriæ." It may be said of Dante: "Post Dantis Paradisum nihil restat nisi visio Dei." ("After Dante's Paradiso nothing remains but the vision of God.")

Shelley's tribute to the supremacy of Dante's Heaven is no less beautiful: "Dante's apotheosis of Beatrice and the gradations of his own love and her loveliness by which, as by steps, he feigns himself to have ascended to the throne of the Supreme Cause, is the most glorious imagination of modern poetry."

Ruskin says: "Every line of the Paradiso is full of the most exquisite and spiritual expressions of Christian truths and the poem is only less read than the Inferno because it requires far greater attention and perhaps, for its full enjoyment, a holier heart."

That Dante's Inferno is more popular reading than his Paradiso is due to the fact that evil and its consequences offer to the artist richer material for dramatic fascination and to the reader more lively interest in characters intensely human, than does the less sensational story of the Elects finding peace and happiness in a realm transcending the experiences of human nature. Dante's Purgatorio also finds a wider circle of readers because his penitents, suffering, struggling and aspiring, like people upon earth, have more human traits and exhibit more human interest than the saints confirmed in grace against human weakness.

Another reason for lesser interest manifested in this part of the Divina Commedia is the difficulty and obscurity of the Paradiso. It is not easy reading, because it requires study, repetition, concentration, meditation, qualities absent from the art of reading as it prevails today. If we ever have time to look at a book, the habit of skimming with inattentive rapidity so urges us onward that we find ourselves flitting from page to page, from chapter to chapter, panting and uninstructed. And if we belong to the bookless majority who have no time to read, we rush to the moving picture theatre to get our mental pabulum—often a season's best seller—boiled down, served in rapid-fire order and bolted in the twinkling of an eye. For all such Dante's Paradiso is an intellectual as well as a spiritual impossibility and the poet begs such not to follow him on his voyage to the eternal kingdom.
"Oh ye who in some pretty little boat
Eager to listen, have been following
Behind my ship, that singing sails along,
Turn back to look again upon your shores;
In losing me, you might yourselves be lost.
The sea I sail has never yet been passed.
Minerva breathes, and pilots me Apollo,
And Muses nine point out to me the Bears.
Ye other few, who have the neck uplifted
Betimes to th' bread of Angels upon which
One liveth here and grows not sated by it,
Well may you launch upon the deep salt-sea
Your vessel, keeping still my wake before you
Upon the water that grows smooth again.
Those glorious ones who unto Colchos passed
Were not so wonder-struck as you shall be,
When Jason they beheld a ploughman made."
	(II, 1.)
The song which Dante sings in the Paradiso is the eternal happiness of man in vision, love and enjoyment united to his Creator. In preparation for this final consummation the poet, as he ascends to the Empyrean, gives a most beautiful epitome of the principal mysteries of religion and of some of the tenets of scholastic philosophy, treating especially the Fall of Man, Predestination, Free Will, the Redemption, the Immortality of the Soul and the theory of Human Knowledge. Allegorically considered, the poem is a veil, under which we see the ideal life of man upon earth, exercising virtue and gaining virtue's rewards.

To exhibit man's supreme, happiness in the next life, the Christian poet, insisting that his purpose is the inculcation of truth, both to save and to adorn the soul, must base his theme upon the doctrines of the Church. The definition of some of those dogmas Dante anticipated. All may be summed up in the following statement:

"It is of Catholic faith that the souls of the blessed see God directly and face to face and this vision is Supernatural; that there are degrees of this vision, corresponding to the merits of the elect; that to see God in His Essence, the intellect is supernaturally perfected; that the Beatific Vision is not deferred to the Day of Judgment, but is possessed at once after death but the Just, in whom there is no stain of sin or who have no temporal punishment to be expiated; and, furthermore, that all human beings at the end of the world will arise with their own bodies."

How will the poet bring home those incomprehensible truths to his readers? He has to treat a subject wholly transcendent and supernatural. Though his vision be celestial, his langauge must be terrestrial. He must visualize states of the soul which are alien to the eyes of the body and translate into terms of the senses things which are wholly non-sensuous. Dante is aware that no poet ever essayed that feat before: "The sea I sail has never yet been passed." (1, 8.) He knows, also, that shoals and rocks, seemingly impassable and a sea which may engulf his genius, are before him. "It is no coastwise voyage for a little barque, this sea through which the intrepid prow goes cleaving nor for a pilot who would spare himself." (XXIII, 67.)

And yet he will attempt the impossible, he will endeavor to sing not of the scenes but of the states of suprasensible spiritual joys—joys which Bishop Norris says "are without example, above experience and beyond imagination, for which the whole creation wants a comparison, we an apprehension and even the word of God, a revelation." Conscious of all that, Dante confesses the impotency of speech, the inadequacy of memory, the helplessness of imagination for the task to which he sets himself. He tells us that the sublime songs of the elect "have lapsed and fallen out of my memory"—"that to represent and transhumanize in words impossible were." (I, 71.)
"And what was the sun wherein I entered,
Apparent, not by color, but by light
I, though I call on genius, art and practice
Cannot so tell that it could be imagined."
	(X, 41.)
So by the very nature of the subject visualization can be only partial—only "the shadow of the blessed realm," can be shown. But what human nature can do, even if its feat seems solitary and unique, Dante has accomplished in a failure which constitutes the most wonderful achievement in the domain of the sublime in literature, an achievement leaving us with a sense of his own ineffable bliss and of the inexpressible joys of the Elect—an achievement which came to pass, say some readers, because his poem is an account of a supernatural vision—and Dante hints that he thinks he was so favored, or because it is a work to which both heaven and earth have set their hand, showing him, as Emerson observes, "all imagination," or, as James Russell Lowell says, "The highest spiritual nature which has expressed itself in rhythmical form."

There are two methods of representing man's supreme happiness, relative and absolute: one is to depict nature at her best, untouched by sin, and to show man free from every defect and blemish, in the full perfection of his being. Naturally the imagery in this case is the imagery born of finite human experiences. The other method describes, as we said, not scenes of happiness but transcendent conditions of the soul as it is brought into ultimate communion with Supreme Goodness—the finite possessing and enjoying the Infinite. Here the human mind, let us repeat it, finds earthly images powerless to translate its thought, for it hath not entered into the heart of man to conceive the glory of the spiritual world. These two methods Dante follows successively.

His Eden on the summit of Purgatory is literally the earthly Paradise of Adam and Eve. It is pictured in moving imagery as man's "native country of delights," a "lofty garden" of ineffable loveliness, high above all the physical and moral disturbances of earth, its waters, its winds, its flowers and its music all coming from supernatural sources, its bliss springing from the perfect harmony of man's animal, intellectual and spiritual powers in full and perfect accord with reason. It is Paradise Regained by man's climbing the mountain of Purgatory, and its significance is understood if we remember that Dante would teach us that the present life can be made dual, a life worth while in itself, full of service and godliness as well as a preparation for the unending life of Heaven.

For Dante there must be, also, the Celestial Paradise where man's supernatural destiny will be realized in joys which the eye has not seen and in music which the ear has not heard. His Paradiso has been called the Ten Heavens, but in reality there is in his plan only one Heaven, the Empyrean, the abode of the angels, of the blessed spirits and of God. It is high above the planets and the stars, beyond time and space. The Church has never answered the question: Where is Heaven? Theologians, however, have put forth various opinions. "Some say," writes Father Honthein, that "Heaven is everywhere, as God is everywhere, the blessed being free to move freely in every part of the universe while still remaining with God and seeing Him everywhere." Others hold that Heaven is "a special place with definite limits. Naturally this place is held to exist, not within the earth, but in accordance with the expressions of Scripture, 'without and beyond its limits.'" (Cath. Encycl., VII, 170.)

According to Dante's conception, Heaven, being non-spatial and non-temporal, is not a place but a state of spiritual life. As an aid in depicting that state he makes use of a unique literary device. He poetically creates nine Heavens, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, the Fixed Stars, the Primum Mobile or First Movement. These, according to the Ptolemaic system which our poet follows, are concentric with the earth, around which as their center they revolve, while the earth remains fixed and motionless. The motion of each of these nine spheres, originally coming from the Primum Mobile, is communicated to it by the love of the angelic guardians, a literal application of the common saying that "love makes the world go around."

As a poetic fiction necessary for him to enter finally the true Heaven Dante is required to pass through these nine spheres, the fiction being used by him as an artist to declare the glories of the heavens and as a teacher to inculcate doctrines for the instruction and edification of mankind. In each of the nine Heavens groups of the blessed are represented as coming to meet him "as he returns to God as to the port whence (he) set out when (he) first entered upon the sea of this life."

This peerless rhetorical figure is explained in the Banquet, where he says: "As his fellow-citizens come forth to meet him who returns from a long journey even before he enters the gates of his city; so to the noble soul come forth the citizens of the eternal Life." This apparition of the blessed spirits to greet the mystic traveller as he mounts from sphere to sphere has several advantages: "it peoples with hosts of spirits, the immense lonely spaces through which the journey lies"; it affords the poet the opportunity of asking them "many things which have great utility and delight"; it finally gives him a sensible sign of the degree of beatitude which they possess in that realm of many mansions where each is rewarded according to his merit and capacity, the capacity of each spirit being in proportion to its degree of knowledge and love. This is stressed by the poet's representing the apparitions first as faint yet beautiful outlines of human features, then as ascent is made to the other Heavens, the spirits make themselves known by increasing manifestations of light so dazzling finally that the splendor would blind Dante if his vision were not divinely adapted to its supernatural needs.

The inequalities of bliss are also symbolized by the sphere in which the spirits appear to him; those in the sphere of the moon, e.g., are less favored than those in the Heaven of Mercury. The inequality of merit, and therefore of reward, is also declared by the difference in both the quickness of the spirits' movement and their clearness of vision into the essence of God. The Empyrean, it is worth while repeating, is the only true Paradise, the nine Heavens being only myths or poetic devices. If spirits are seen there, they have come forth only from the Empyrean and will quickly return there after preparing the poet for the eternal Light of Light.

The materials out of which Dante constructs his Paradiso are not, as we are already aware, fantastic images such as he employed for the first two parts of the Divina Commedia, but are things of the spirit, viz., knowledge, beauty, faith, love, joy; and he is aided in making visible those invisible entities of the spiritual life by such intangible things as sound, motion and light.

Light, indeed, is one of the leading elements in the Paradiso. The poem begins with a reference to the light of God's glory, and its last line speaks of "the Love which moves the Sun and the other stars." And between this beginning and this end in thirty-three cantiche light is represented not only by degrees of increasing intensity and variety of unlocked for movements but as surrounding the spirits, living flames, and constituting, symbolically, the beatitude of Heaven.

Dean Church, in his classic essay on Dante, has a beautiful paragraph that here calls for quotation: "Light in general is his special and chosen source of poetic beauty. No poet that we know has shown such singular sensibility to its varied appearances.... Light everywhere—in the sky and earth and sea—in the stars, the flames, the lamp, the gems—broken in the water, reflected from the mirror, transmitted through the glass, or colored through the edge of the fractured emerald—dimmed in the mist. The halo, the deep water—streaming through the rent cloud, glowing in the coal, quivering in the lightning, flashing in the topaz and the ruby, veiled behind the pure alabaster, mellowed and clouding itself in the pearl-light contrasted with shadow, shading off and copying itself in the double rainbow like voice and echo—light seen within light—light from every source and in all its shapes illuminates, irradiates, gives glory to the Commedia.... And when he (Dante) rises beyond the regions of earthly day, light, simple and unalloyed, unshadowed and eternal, lifts the creations of his thought above all affinity to time and matter; light never fails him, as the expression of the gradations of bliss; never reappears the same, never refuses the new shapes of his invention, never becomes confused or dim, though it is seldom thrown into distinct figure and still more seldom colored."

In making light such a central feature of Heaven and symbolically in identifying light with God and the angels and the blessed, Dante is only expressing—but expressing beautifully and supremely—the thought which pagan oracles proclaimed and Holy Writ and the Church made known. From the earliest ages the sun which vivifies and illuminates the world was regarded by many nations as the symbol of the Deity—and by still other nations it was adored. The psalmist, addressing God, says: "Thou art clothed with light as with a garment." (Ps., CIII, 2.) St. Paul declares that the Lord of Lords "inhabiteth light inaccessible." (1 Tim., VI, 16.) The Seer of Patmos tells us that the heavenly Jerusalem has no need of the light of the sun and the moon to shine upon it, "for the glory of God hath enlightened it and the Lamb is the lamp thereof." (Apoc., XX, 23.) "I am the light of the world," declares Christ, and with that revelation ringing in his ears the Beloved Disciple does not hesitate to say: "and this is the declaration which we have heard—that God is light." (I John, I, 5.) In narrating his vision of Heaven, Ezechial compares the light emanating from and enveloping the Deity, to fire. "I saw the likeness as of the appearance of fire, as the appearance of brightness." (XXIV, 17.) Moses on the mountain saw the Lord in the midst of fire, and on another mountain Christ, "the brightness of his Father's glory was transfigured before his apostles and his face did shine as the Sun and his garments became shining or glittering." (Matt., XVII, 2.) Small wonder then that the Nicaean creed declares that Christ is "God of God, Light of light." Not only with God, but with His saints is the idea of visible light intimately associated. The prophet Daniel tells us that "They that are learned shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that instruct many unto justice, as stars to all eternity." (XII, 3.) And it is Christ Himself who says: "Then shall the just shine as the sun, in the kingdom of their Father." (Matt., XIII, 43.)

In using such a subtle, dazzling element as light so generally and in such countless varieties throughout his Paradiso, Dante is exposed to the danger of palling his readers with brightness and making them lose interest in things glorious and supernal. But the genius of the man saves the artist. By a conception of matchless beauty he binds the light of heaven to the human, making the smile in the eye of his beloved guide, Beatrice, express his own personal heaven, in the light that enters his mind and the ardor which quickens his heart. As he mounts with her the stairway of the heavens leading to the Eternal Palace and his motion is brought about simply by his gazing into her eyes, she makes known to him by her increasing brightness both his own mounting knowledge and his ascent nearer the Empyrean.

As Dante represents the increase of light and love deepening and expanding in him as he rises empyreanward all by the loved smile of his beloved Beatrice, it is well that we bear in mind the significance of the symbolism as expounded by the poet in his Banquet. (III, 15.) Beatrice being Revelation or Wisdom made known to the world, "in her face appear things that tell of the pleasures of Paradise and ... the place wherein this appears is in her eyes and her smile. And here it should be known that the eyes of Wisdom are the two demonstrations by which is seen the truth most certainly; and her smile is her persuasion by which is shown forth the interior light of Wisdom under some veil; and in these two things is felt the highest pleasure of beatitude, which is the greatest good of Paradise."

Beatrice—Revealed Truth—remains the poet's guide until he comes to behold the Beatific Vision. Then, no longer needed, she withdraws in favor of the contemplative St. Bernard as guide, just as Virgil had withdrawn when he was powerless and when Beatrice was needed.

The question here presents itself: In what does Dante place the happiness of Heaven? Does he paint such a Heaven that it shows principally the rectifications of the inequalities of this life—a Heaven of such happiness, e.g., that the poor will love poverty or be resigned to it in the hope of possessing the riches of this Eternity? Is Dante's Heaven one in which happiness is so alluring that innocence will gladly submit to calumny and faith will lovingly welcome the sword or stake, in the certain confidence of gaining unending glory or bliss? The Paradiso does reward poverty, crown innocence, glorify martyrdom, but it was never intended to be an account of what takes place in the real Heaven, or to be a description of the particular acts of goodness which win Heaven for the soul, or a rapturous picture appealing to the emotions of the believer and alluring him from earth.

Does Dante place the happiness of Heaven in the bliss and glorification of family reunion?

He is too good a theologian to place the essential happiness of Heaven merely in the joy of family reunion. He does not ignore that feature of eternity, but he does not stress it, because temperamentally he is moved less by sentiment of family and ties of friendship than by his curiosity for knowledge, by his yearnings to behold Eternal Wisdom. Only once does he mention Heaven as the state of reunion of families and friends, and that is when he comments upon the action of the twenty-three spirits in the Heaven of the Sun, in expressing their agreement with Soloman's discourse as to the participation which the human body will have, after the Resurrection in the glories of Paradise:
"So ready and so cordial an Amen
Follow'd from either choir, as plainly spoke
Desire of their dead bodies; yet perchance
Not for themselves, but for their kindred dear,
Mothers and sires and those whom best they loved,
Ere they were made imperishable flames."
	(XIV, 65.)

For Dante, Heaven must be the beatitude of the intellect and that primarily by the intellect's having an intuition full of joy in the Divine Essence, and secondly by its possessing full light on all those vexatious problems and mysteries which baffle us in this life.
"Well I perceive that never sated is
Our intellect unless Truth illumines it,
Beyond which nothing true expands itself.
It rests therein, as wild beast in his lair
When it attains it and it can attain it."
	(IV, 125.)
In insisting upon the power of the mind to know the truth and to find perfect happiness in the supernatural act of beholding God face to face, Dante is not in agreement with Pragmatism, Hegelianism and the "new Realist" theory—all which make truth elusive to the mind; but he is in full accord with the teaching of the Catholic Church, which defends the rights of reason holding, e.g., that "by the natural light of reason God can be known with certainty, by means of created things" (Vatican Council), and proclaiming that "all the saints in Heaven have seen and do see the Divine Essence by direct intuition and face to face in such wise that nothing created intervenes as an object of vision; ... that the Divine Essence presents itself to their immediate gaze, unveiled, clearly and openly; that in this vision they enjoy the Divine Essence, and in virtue of this vision and this enjoyment they are truly blessed and possess eternal life and eternal rest." (Benedict XII, Cath. Encycl., VII, 171.)

It is interesting to see how Dante's Master, St. Thomas Aquinas, demonstrates the proposition that the beatitude of man consists in the vision of the Divine Essence. With his usual lucidity of thought he writes: "The last and perfect happiness of man cannot be otherwise than in the vision of the Divine Essence. In evidence of this statement two points are to be considered: first, that man is not perfectly happy so long as there remains anything for him to desire and seek; secondly, that the perfection of every power is determined by the nature of its object. Now the object of the intellect is the essence of a thing; hence the intellect attains to perfection so far as it knows the Essence of what is before it. And therefore, when a man knows an effect and knows that it has a cause, there is in him an outstanding natural desire of knowing the essence of the cause. If, therefore, a human intellect knows the essence of a created effect without knowing aught of God beyond the fact of His existence, the perfection of that intellect does not yet adequately reach the First Cause, but the intellect has an outstanding natural desire of searching into the said Cause; hence it is not yet perfectly happy. For perfect happiness, therefore, it is necesary that the intellect shall reach as far as the very essence of the First Cause." (Rickaby, Aquinas Ethicus I, 2 q., 3 a, 8.)

This masterly exposition is after all only the philosophical development of what every Catholic child learns from one of the first questions of the little Catechism: "Why did God make you? God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this life, and to be happy with Him forever in the next." With the satisfaction of the intellect's boundless yearning for knowledge attained by intuition of the Essence of God, a consummation that will somewhat deify us—"Who shall be made like to him, because we shall see him as he is" (I John, III, 2.), the happiness of man will be primarily intellectual, being as Dante beautifully says: "Light intellectual full of love, love of the true good, full of joy, joy that transcendeth all sweetness." (XXX, 40.)

His Heaven, then, is no Nirvana, for each spirit will for eternity have its individuality, and its activity will be unremitting in seeing God face to face—a vision that will cause the spirit increasing wonder in an act that will have no flagging nor satiety. "What, after all, is Heaven," says Bulwer Lytton, "but a transition from dim guesses to the fullness of wisdom, from ignorance to knowledge, but knowledge of what order?" To that exclamation of the nineteenth century writer the medieval seer answers with conviction that the summum bonum is to be found only in the intellect's attaining Truth.

Let us now join Dante in his mystic journey to the Heavenly Kingdom. We left him after three days and three nights in Purgatory, standing with Beatrice on the summit of the mountain in the Earthly Paradise, where he remained six hours. At noon he begins his ascent through space, a feat accomplished by Beatrice's looking up to the Heavens and by Dante's fixing his eyes upon her. At once his human nature is supposed to take on agility, the supernatural quality which makes the body independent of space, and he begins to rise with incomprehensible velocity. Though they are travelling without conscious movement at the rate of 84,000 miles a second, there is time for Dante's mind to operate in desire to know how he can ascend counter to gravitation and for Beatrice to discourse upon the law—Dante's invention—of universal (material and spiritual) gravitation.
"The newness of the sound and the great light
Kindled in me a longing for their cause
Never before with such acuteness felt.
And she began: 'Thou makest thyself so dull
With false imagining, that thou sees not
What thou wouldst see if thou hadst shaken it off.
Thou are not upon earth as thou believest;
But lightning, fleeing its appropriate site,
Ne'er ran as thou, who thitherward returnest.'"
	(I, 88.)
She explains the order established by Providence by force of which created beings seek their natural habitat, earthly things being attracted downward, spiritual entities being drawn upward irresistibly if they do not oppose this innate inclination to good. "It is as natural for a man purged of all evil to ascend to God," she declares, "as it is for a stream from a mountain height to fall into a valley."

Very shortly after this, the first stage of the celestial journey is reached. "Direct thy mind to God in gratitude," she said, "who hath united us with the first star." "Me seemed a cloud enveloped us, shining dense, firm and polished like a diamond smitten by the sun. Within itself the eternal pearl received us, as water doth receive a ray of light, though still itself uncleft." This is the Heaven of the Moon, the planet farthest removed from the Empyrean and therefore the sphere where not only motion but also beatitude are least in the heavenly bodies. The sphere of the Moon, indeed with those of Mercury and of Venus, is held by Dante's cosmography to be within the shadow cast by the earth. Consequently, the spirits in those three lowest Heavens are represented as less perfect than those in the higher spheres, because in the moral sense the shadow of earth fell upon their lives making them imperfect through inconstancy, vain glory or unlawful love.

In the Heaven of the Moon a long disquisition is carried on by Beatrice in explanation of Dante's question as to why there are spots on the moon. It is very likely that this matter of apparent irrelevance in the heavenly realms is introduced here at the very first stage of the ascent to give the poet the opportunity of proclaiming that the first thing one must learn in his passage heavenward—even if this is to be understood in an allegorical sense—is that the laws of the laboratory are not the rationale of the heavenly world and that to employ them to explain the supernal is to violate the very science of these laws, in an application of scope to which in their very nature they protest. This point of seeing natural causes for the unexplainable phenomenon of Heaven and especially of relying upon the testimony of the senses is soon brought out by Beatrice reproving Dante for thinking that the spirits whom he now sees are only reflections of the human face:
"Marvel thou not," she said to me, "because
I smile at this thy puerile conceit,
Since on the truth it trusts not yet its foot,
But turns thee, as 'tis wont, on emptiness.
True substances are these which thou beholdest,
Here relegate for breaking of some vow.
Therefore speak with them, listen and believe."
	(III, 25.)
So directed, the poet gazes again upon the faint forms appearing like reflections seen in a plate of glass or in a dark, shallow pool. These, the first spirits he meets, are apparitions in human form. In the other spheres all that he will see of the souls will be the light which envelopes them and which seemingly is identified with them, but here he sees beautiful women divinely glorious even in their dim outline, who as nuns had violated their vow of perpetual chastity. In the Inferno the poet, to lead the reprobate soul to speak to him, promised earthly fame; in Purgatorio there was the offer of intercessory prayer, here in the first Heaven there is only an appeal to the charity which inflames the spirit. All eagerness, Dante now addresses the spirit, who appears most desirous to converse with him. This is Piccarda, kinswoman of his wife and sister of his friend Forese (Purg. XXIII, 40), a Poor Clare nun, who was compelled by her brother, Corse, to leave her convent and marry Rossellino della Tosa in the expectation that the marriage would promote a political alliance. So sacrificed, the young virgin sister of lofty ideals and delicate spiritual sensibility, experienced unhappiness, the intensity of which is revealed by the ellipsis contained in the magic line: "And God doth know what my life became." Dante addresses Piccarda:
"'O well-created spirit, who in the rays
Of life eternal dost the sweetness taste
Which being untasted ne'er is comprehended,
Grateful 'twill be to me, if thou content me
Both with thy name and with your destiny.'
Whereat, she promptly and with laughing eyes:
'Our charity doth never shut the doors
Against a just desire, except as she
Who wills that all her court be like herself.
I was a virgin sister in the world;
And if thy mind doth contemplate me well,
The being more fair will not conceal me from thee,
But thou shalt recognize I am Piccarda,
Who, stationed here among these other blessed,
Myself am blessed in the lowest sphere.
All our affections, that alone inflamed
Are in the pleasure of the Holy Ghost,
Rejoice at being of his order formed;
And this allotment, which appears so low,
Therefore is given us, because our vows
Have been neglected and in some part void.'
Whence I to her: 'In your miraculous aspects
There shines I know not what of the divine,
Which doth transform you from our first conceptions.
Therefore I was not swift in my remembrance;
But what thou tellest me now aids me so,
That the refiguring is easier to me.'"
 (III, 37.)
Dante, you recall, had found the souls in Purgatory contented with their lot, though they were enduring great suffering; in Heaven he is eager to learn in the very beginning whether the Elect are satisfied with the decree which awards to them happiness in unequal measure. So he asks Piccarda whether she and the other spirits in this lowest sphere are not eager for a higher place. The answer is one of the most touching and beautiful passages in the poem, summing up in language of radiant gladness the law of Heaven that in "God's will is our peace," words which Gladstone says "appear to have an unexpressible majesty of truth about them, to be almost as if they were spoken from the very mouth of God."
"'But tell me, ye who in this place are happy,
Are you desirous of a higher place,
To see more or to make yourselves more friends?'
First, with those other shades, she smiled a little;
Thereafter answered me so full of gladness,
She seemed to burn in the first fire of love:
'Brother, our will is quieted by virtue
Of charity, that makes us wish alone
For what we have, nor gives us thirst for more.
If to be more exalted we aspired,
Discordant would our aspirations be
Unto the will of Him who here secludes us;
Which thou-shalt see finds no place in these circles,
If being in charity is needful here,
And if thou lookest well into its nature;
Nay 'tis essential to this blest existence
To keep itself within the will divine,
Whereby our very wishes are made one;
So that, as we are station above station
Throughout this realm, to all the realm 'tis pleasing,
As to the King, who makes His will our will.
And His will is our peace; this is the sea
To which is moving onward whatsoever
It doth create, and all that nature makes.'
Then it was clear to me how everywhere
In Heaven is Paradise, although the grace
Of good supreme there rain not in one measure."
	(III, 64.)
Piccarda then tells the moving story of her life, how as a girl she entered the order of St. Clare, only to be torn from the nunnery and given into marriage.
"A perfect life and merit high in Heaven
A lady o'er us," said she, "by whose rule
Down in your world they vest and veil themselves,
That until death they may both watch and sleep
Beside that Spouse who every vow accepts
Which charity conformeth to his pleasure.
To follow her, in girlhood from the world
I fled, and in her habit shut myself,
And pledged me to the pathway of her sect.
Then men accustomed unto evil more
Than unto good, from the sweet cloister tore me;
God knows what afterward my life became."
	(III, 97.)
Certain questions interesting to a seeker of truth grow out of Piccarda's statement and these Beatrice proceeds to solve for the edification of Dante. The first question asks whether in the assignment to the lowest sphere of souls who violated their vows, there is divine Justice; the second concerns Plato's teaching that souls really come from the stars and return thither; the third is about the loss of merit through coercion of the will, as exemplified in the case of Piccarda. The solution of these difficulties need not detain us if only we remember Dante's view that "the theories maintained by him in the Heaven of the Moon are intended to manifest," as Gardner and Scartazzini point out, "the moral freedom of man and to show that no external thing can interfere with the soul that is bent upon attaining the end for which God has destined it."

To the next Heaven, the sphere of Mercury, Beatrice and Dante soar more swiftly than an arrow attains its mark while the bow is still vibrating. Increasing in loveliness as she ascends, Beatrice, in the second realm, radiates such splendor that Mercury itself, apart from its own light, gains such glory from her that it seems to glitter or smile from very gladness.
"My lady there so joyful I beheld
As unto the brightness of that heaven she entered
More luminous thereat the planet grew,
And if the star itself was changed and smiled
What became I who by my nature am
Exceeding mutable in every guise?"
	(V, 97.)
Greeting the travellers, more than a thousand spirits joyfully exclaim: "Lo, one who shall increase our loves!" The Saints in Mercury thus testify to their delight that one (Dante) has come to be the fresh object of their love, just as it is said that "there shall be joy before the angels of God upon one sinner doing penance." (Luke XV, 10.) These splendors in Mercury are the souls of those in whose virtue there was the alloy of ambition and vainglory—a combination, according to Dante, which makes "the rays of true love less vividly mount upwards." The poet is addressed by a spirit who bids him ask any question he will and Beatrice confirms the invitation. "Speak, speak with confidence and trust them even as gods." All eagerness for knowledge, Dante inquires of the friendly splendor who he is and why he is in this particular Heaven.

The story told by the spirit of Emperor Justinian is a brief sketch of his own life, with reference to his conversion from heresy by Pope Agapetus, to the victories of his general, Belisarius, and to his own great work of the codification of the Roman law. He then traces the history of Rome from the time of Æneas to the thirteenth century, bent upon showing that the Roman Empire, as a world-power over governments and peoples, is divine in its institution and providentially protected in its course. Two facts are adduced in crowning proof of this audacious statement, viz., Christ's choosing to be born and to be registered as a subject of Cæsar and His crucifixion under Tiberius, acting through Pontius Pilate as the divinely constituted instrument of eternal justice exercised by the Heavenly Father against His Son, at once the victim of sin and its atonement.

Dante enlarges on this point in his Monarchia. "If the Roman Empire did not exist by right, the sin of Adam was not punished in Christ.... If, therefore, Christ had not suffered by the sentence of a regular judge, the penalty would not have been properly punished; and none could be a regular judge who had not jurisdiction over all mankind, for all mankind was punished in the flesh of Christ, who 'hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows,' as said the prophet Isaias. And if the Roman Empire had not existed by right, Tiberius Cæsar, whose vicar was Pontius Pilate, would not have had jurisdiction over all mankind." To us both the argument and its conclusion are wholly indefensible. It seems indeed a mockery and a blasphemy to attribute to such a monster as Tiberius Cæsar glory because Christ was crucified in his reign. Dante's words, however, as spoken by Justinian, leave no room for doubt that the poet was convinced that all the ancient celebrity of Rome was insignificant as compared to the glory that would come to it because it would carry out the crucifixion of Christ.
"But what the standard that has made me speak
Achieved before, and after should achieve
Throughout the mortal realm that lies beneath,
Becometh in appearance mean and dim
If in the hand of the third Cæsar seen
With an eye unclouded and affection pure
Because the living Justice that inspires me
Granted it, in the hand of him I speak of
The glory of doing vengence for its wrath."
	(VI, 82.)
Shining among the splendors of Mercury is a spirit who, though he was not a lawmaker like Justinian, attained earthly renown by arranging the marriages of four Kings. Known by the name of Romeo, a word meaning a pilgrim of Rome, this man came a stranger to the Court of Raymond Berenger, Court of Provence, multiplied the income without lessening the grandeur of his master and brought about the marriages to royalty of the four daughters of the household—Margaret to St. Louis of France, Eleanor to Henry III of England, Sanzia to Richard, Earl of Cornwall (brother of Henry III), elected King of the Romans, Beatrice to Charles of Anjou, later by Papal investiture, King of Naples. Charged by jealous barons with having wasted his master's goods, Romeo established his innocence and then departed as he came, on a mule and with a pilgrim's staff. From affluence he goes a-begging and this is so much like Dante's own case that the poet's sympathy goes out to the calumniated man, and he says with touching simplicity:
"If the world could know the heart he had
In begging bit by bit his livelihood,
Though much it laud him, it would laud him more."
 (VI, 140.)
Justinian's words as to the crucifixion of Christ suggest to Dante this question: Why was man's redemption effected by the death of Christ upon the Cross rather than by some other mode? Investing the argumentative propositions of St. Thomas with poetic beauty, Dante shows that while God might have freely pardoned man without exacting any satisfaction, on the hypothesis that He had chosen to restore mankind to His favor and at the same time to require full satisfaction as a condition of pardon and deliverance, there was only one way for the accomplishment of this reconciliation and that was by the atonement of One who was both God and Man. For sin, inasmuch as it is an act against the Infinite Being, requires a satisfaction of infinite value. Man being finite is incapable of adequately making such satisfaction. But the Word was made flesh that by His atonement on the Cross Mercy would be declared and Justice would be satisfied.

"Your nature, when it sinned in its totality in its first seed, from these dignities, even as from Paradise, was parted; nor might they be recovered, if thou look right keenly, by any way save passing one or the other of these fords: either that God, of his sole courtesy, should have remitted; or that man should of himself have given satisfaction for his folly. Man had not power, within his own boundaries, even to render satisfaction, since he might not go in humbleness by after-obedience so deep down as in disobedience he had framed to exalt himself on high; and this is the cause why from the power to render satisfaction by himself man was shut off. Wherefore needs must God with his own ways reinstate man in his unmaimed life, I mean with one way or with both the two. But because the doer's deed is the more gracious the more it doth present us of the heart's goodness whence it issued, the divine Goodness which doth stamp the world, deigned to proceed on all his ways to lift you up again; nor between the last night and the first day was, nor shall be, so lofty and august a progress made on one or on the other, for more generous was God in giving of himself to make man able to uplift himself again, than had he only of himself granted remission; and all other modes fell short of justice, except the Son of God had humbled him to become flesh." (VII, 85.)

From Mercury to Venus the ascent has been so rapid that Dante is unaware that he has reached the third Heaven until he sees the greater loveliness of Beatrice represented by her greater radiance. As ascent is made heavenward it will also be found that the spirits are seen not as human faces, as was the case in the Heaven of the Moon, but as lights increasing in intensity and manifesting a movement of greater speed to the accompaniment of diverse music. It is necessary to keep in mind this plan of the poet lest thinking the lovely lights, and lovely sounds and lovely movements are only terms descriptive of physical, though impalpable phenomena, we lose the deep and beautiful symbolism that is the magic secret of the seraphic poesy of the Paradiso. Of the brilliancy and movement of the spirits of the Sphere of Venus—spirits who in this life failed in Christian ideals because of their amours, Dante says, and his description is that of an expert musician distinguishing between the singing of one who sustains the main-theme and that of other voices rising and falling in subordination to the principal melody:
"And as within a flame a spark is seen,
And as within a voice discerned,
When one is steadfast, and one comes and goes,
Within that light beheld I other lamps
Move in a circle, speeding more and less,
Methinks in a measure of their inward vision.
From a cold cloud descended never winds,
Or visible or not, so rapidly
They would not laggard and impeded seem
To any one who had those lights divine
Seen come towards us, leaving the gyration
Begun at first in the high Seraphim.
And behind those that most in front appeared
Sounded 'Osanna!' so that never since
To hear again was I without desire.
Then unto us more nearly one approached,
And it alone began: 'We all are ready
Unto thy pleasure, that thou joy in us.
We turn around with the celestial Princes,
One gyre and one gyration and one thirst,
To whom thou in the world didst say,
"Ye who, intelligent, the third heaven are moving;"
And are so full of love, to pleasure thee
A little quiet will not be less sweet.'"
	(VIII, 16.)
The speaker discloses himself to be Charles Martel, once titular King of Hungary, who on the occasion of a nineteen days' visit to Florence, formed an intimate friendship with the poet. For the latter's edification the spirit expounds the problem: Why from the same parents, children grow up different in disposition, talent and career, a problem just as interesting to the twentieth as the thirteenth century. We account for the difference according to the principles of variation, heredity and environment, but to stellar influence intent upon securing the fulfillment of the law of individuality, was the difference attributed by the medieval mind, which regarded the stars and planets not as soulless spheres, but as orbs palpitating with the life of angelic intelligences and radiating their influence upon the people of the earth.

Hence it was held that the Heavens affected the diversity of the characters of children who otherwise would be cut out the exact pattern of their parents. "The begotten nature would ever take a course like its begetters, did not divine provision overrule." (VIII, 136.) The necessity for diversity in man's life is deduced from the fact that in society men are providentially destined for different vocations. "Wherefore is one born Solon (a legislator), another Xerxes (a soldier), another Melchisedech (a priest), and the man who soaring through the welkin lost his son." (Daedalus, the typical mechanician.) But stellar influence always controlled by man's free will is often ignored, especially when we put into the sanctuary one who should be on the battle field and when we gave a throne to him whose right place is in the pulpit.
"And if the world below would fix its mind
On the foundation which is laid by nature,
Pursuing that, 't would have the people good.
But you into religion wrench aside
Him who was born to gird him with the sword,
And make a king of him who is for sermons;
Therefore your footsteps wander from the road."
	(VIII, 142.)
The next four spheres being beyond the earth's shadow are for spirits whose virtue was undimmed by human infirmity and whose place in eternal life is consequently one of greater vision and bliss. In the first of these higher spheres, the Sphere of the Sun, the fourth Heaven, Dante sees the spirits of great theologians and others who loved wisdom—great teachers of men. Around him and Beatrice, as their center, twelve of them appear in one circle and twelve in another, while behind those dazzling splendors of spirits are other vivid lights probably representing authors whom the poet had not read or comprehended or symbolizing the men of science, the lovers of wisdom, who in the future by their discoveries would add to our knowledge of truth. As one of the basic truths of Revelation is the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, here in the Heaven of the Doctors the dogma is made prominent by special frequency of reference and symbolism. The Creation, as an act of the Three Divine Persons, is mentioned in lines of exquisite grace:
"Looking into His Son with all the Love
Which each of them eternally breathes forth
The primal and unutterable Power
Whate'er before the mind or eye revolves
With so much order made, there can be none
Who thus beholds, without enjoying it."
	(X, 1.)
Not only by thought, but by dancing, is the same truth expressed: "those burning suns round about us whirled themselves three times." (X, 76.) Again in song they proclaim the mystery of the Holy Trinity:
"The One and Two and Three who ever liveth
And reigneth ever in Three and Two and One
Not circumscribed and all circumscribing
Three several times was chanted by each one
Among those spirits, with such melody
That for all merit it were just reward."
	(XIV, 27.)
In this Heaven we hear the eulogy of St. Francis of Assisi pronounced by a Dominican and the praises of St. Dominic sung by a Franciscan—consummate art that is an indirect invitation to the two orders of monks upon earth to avoid jealousy and to practice mutual respect. It has been said that these narratives give us the essence of what constitutes true biography, viz., a picture of the spiritual element in man drawn in such words as ever to command the understanding and elicit the respect of the reader of every period. The first speaker is St. Thomas Aquinas, and his reference to the mystical marriage of St. Francis and Lady Poverty will be the better understood if we have before the mind's eye Giotto's painting which hangs over the tomb of the founder of the Franciscans. The figures in the pictures are described by Gardiner (Ten Heavens, p. 113): Christ, standing upon a rock, unites St. Francis to his chosen bride, who is haggard and careworn, clothed in ragged and patched garments, barefooted and girded with a cord. Roses and lilies spring up behind her and encircle her head; she wears the aureole and has wings, though weak; but thorns and briars are around her feet. Hope and Love are her bridesmaids; Hope clothed in green with uplifted hand and Love with flame-colored flowers and holding a burning heart. A dog is barking at the Bride and boys are assaulting her with sticks and stones, but all around are bands of angelic witnesses, their flowing raiment and mighty wings glowing with rainbow hues. In these days when money seems the ideal of thousands, Poverty, whose mystical appeal is so glowingly painted, still speaks to great numbers of men and women who give up material comforts and ease to embrace as monks and nuns the state of voluntary poverty. Let us now hear how St. Thomas recounts the life and work of St. Francis of Assisi:
"He was not yet much distant from his rising,
When his good influence 'gan to bless the earth.
A dame, to whom one openeth pleasure's gate
More than to death, was 'gainst his father's will,
His stripling choice; and he did make her his,
Before the spiritual court, by nuptial bonds,
And in his father's sight: from day to day,
Then loved her more devoutly. She, bereaved
Of her first husband, slighted and obscure,
Thousand and hundred years and more, remain'd
Without a single suitor, till he came.
There concord and glad looks, wonder and love,
And sweet regard gave birth to holy thoughts,
So much that venerable Bernard first
Did bare his feet, and, in pursuit of peace
So heavenly, ran, yet deem'd his footing slow.
O hidden riches! O prolific good!
Egidius bares him next, and next Sylvester,
And follow, both, the bridegroom: so the bride
Can please them. Thenceforth goes he on his way
The father and the master, with his spouse,
And with that family, whom now the cord
Girt humbly: nor did abjectness of heart
Weigh down his eyelids, for that he was son
Of Pietro Bernardone, and by men
In wondrous sort despised. But royally
His hard intention he to Innocent
Set forth; and, from him, first received the seal
On his religion. Then, when numerous flock'd
The tribe of lowly ones, that traced his steps,
Whose marvelous life deservedly were sung
In heights empyreal; through Honorius' hand
A second crown, to deck their Guardian's virtues,
Was by the eternal Spirit inwreathed: and when
He had, through thirst of martyrdom, stood up
In the proud Soldan's presence, and there preach'd
Christ and his followers, but found the race
Unripen'd for conversion; back once more
He hasted (not to intermit his toil),
And reap'd Ausonian lands. On the hard rock,
'Twixt Arno and the Tiber, he from Christ
Took the last signet, which his limbs two years
Did carry. Then, the season come that he,
Who to such good had destined him, was pleased
To advance him to the meed, which he had earn'd
By his self-humbling; to his brotherhood,
As their just heritage, he gave in charge
His dearest lady: and enjoin'd their love
And faith to her; and, from her bosom, will'd
His goodly spirit should move forth, returning
To its appointed kingdom; nor would have
His body laid upon another bier."
	(XI, 55.)
At the conclusion of this discourse the spirits in both circles, arranged like the concentric circles of a double rainbow, express their joy by a gyrating dance and song.

If St. Francis was "a sun upon the world," St. Dominic is shown by the next speaker, St. Bonaventure, to be "a splendor of cherubic delight." "In happy Callaroga was born the passionate lover of the Christian faith, the holy champion, gentle to his own, and without mercy to his enemies. As soon as his soul had been created it was so replete with energy that, within his mother's womb, it made her a prophetess. When the pledges for his baptism had been given at the sacred font, and he and Faith had become one, dowering each other with salvation, the lady who had given assent for him, beheld in her sleep the wonderful fruit which would one day come of him, and of his heirs. He was named Dominic. I speak of him as the husbandman whom Christ chose to assist Him with His garden. Of a truth did he seem Christ's messenger and friend, for the very first inclination which he manifested was to follow the first percept which Christ gave. Not for the world, love of which at present makes men toil, but for love of the true manna, did he, in short while, become a mighty teacher, such that he set about pruning the vineyard of the church, which soon runs wild if the vinedresser be negligent.

"From the Papal chair which, in former days, was more generous to the righteous poor, not because it has grown degenerate in itself, but because of the degeneracy of him who sits upon it, Dominic begged not to be allowed to dispense to the poor only two or three where six was due, nor sought the first vacant benefice, the tithes of which belong to God's poor. He begged rather for leave to fight against the erring world in behalf of the seed of true faith, four and twenty plants of which encircle you. Then, armed with doctrine and firm determination, together with the sanction of the Papacy, he issued forth like a torrent from on high, and on heretics his onslaught smote with greatest force where was most resistance. Afterward, from him there burst forth various streams by which the Catholic garden is watered so that the plants in it are becoming vigorous." (XII, 48.)

Transported into the Heaven of Mars Dante is made aware of his ascent thither only by the glow of the ruddy planet, so different from the white sheen of the sun. At once he beholds a spectacle far more marvelous than the circles of dancing lights he has just seen. It fills him with such wonder and bliss that he falls into an ecstasy and only after that does he look into the eyes of Beatrice, now more lovely than ever. What is the new marvel? A starry cross traversing the sphere—a cross, the arms and body of which, each like a Milky Way, are made up of dazzling lights of the souls of those who laid down their lives for the Faith. On the Cross is flashed the blood red image of the Crucified, likewise formed by glowing stars, the souls of Christian warriors. Not stationary do the splendors remain, but through the glittering mass they dart to and fro like motes in a sunbeam that finds its way through a shutter or screen. With eyes amazed the poet now hears such a wondrous melody that he says: "I was so much enamoured therewith that up to this point there had not been anything which bound me with fetters of such delight." (XIV, 128.)

The names of some of the spirits forming the Stellar Cross are made known to the poet—Joshua and Judas Maccabaeus, the intrepid heroes of the Old Testament, the Christian Knights, Charlemagne and Orlando the Paladin, William of Aquitaine and Rainouart, Godfrey de Bouillon, conqueror of Jerusalem, Robert Guiscard, military executor of Pope Hildebrande.

Darting along the arm of the Stellar Cross and coming to its foot is a splendor who greets Dante with warm affection. This is the spirit of his great-great-grandfather, Cacciaguida, who sings the glory of ancient Florence the better to describe the deterioration of the city in Dante's day and to censure its people for their civil feuds, corruption and opposition to the Imperial Eagle. Then at Dante's request the crusader spirit interprets for his descendant the various predictions made to the latter during his passage through Hell and Purgatory. Evil days will come upon him (it must be remembered that this prophecy by Cacciaguida is supposed to occur a year or two before Dante's exile), he will be exiled from Florence and will become a homeless wanderer.

Let him, however, write his poem and declare his vision, no matter if offense will be taken by the high ones of the earth. He, having a prophet's work to do, must speak with all the boldness of a prophet without fear or dissimulation. The words, while assuring the poet of the sweetness of everlasting fame, bring to his mind, also, the bitterness of the injustice of his exile and suffering, and apparently he harbors the thought of vengeance upon his enemies. Beatrice, however, checks his resentment, assuring him that she, so near to God, will assist him—a most beautiful passage showing the relations between her and the poet, whether the words are taken literally as exhibiting her as his intercessor before the throne of the Most High, or allegorically considered as declaring that Revealed Truth takes from man the desire of vengeance and places his case in the hands of Him who has said: "Vengeance is mine, I will repay." For Dante's spiritual perfection his lovely guide bids him not simply look into her her eyes (allegorically meaning not merely to contemplate theological truth) but follow the example of men sturdy of faith and valiant of deed. The passage here follows:
"Now was alone rejoicing in its word
That soul beatified, and I was tasting
My own, the bitter tempering with the sweet,
And the Lady who to God was leading me
Said: 'Change thy thought; consider that I am
Near unto Him who every wrong disburdens.'
Unto the loving accents of my comfort
I turned me round, and then what love I saw
Within those holy eyes I here relinquish
Not only that my language I distrust,
But that my mind cannot return so far
Above itself, unless another guide it.
Thus much upon that point can I repeat.
That, her again beholding, my affection
From every other longing was released.
While the eternal pleasure, which direct
Rayed upon Beatrice, from her fair face
Contented me with its reflected aspect,
Conquering me with the radiance of a smile
She said to me, 'Turn thee about and listen;
Not in mine eyes alone is Paradise.
Here are blessed spirits that below, ere yet
They came to Heaven, were of such great renown
That every Muse therewith would affluent be
Therefore look thou upon the cross' horns.'"
	(XVIII, 4.)
Now rising to Jupiter, where appear the spirits of those who upon earth in a signal manner loved and rightly administered justice, Dante isgain made aware of his uplifting by the increased beauty of Beatrice, by the new light different from that of ruddy Mars, which envelopes him and by the perception of his own increase of virtue and power. Here the poet has recourse to a most ingenious system of symbols to give variety to his descriptions and doctrine, and so to sustain the interest of the reader. Many hundreds of the souls of the just appear as golden lights and so group themselves as to spell against the glowing white background of the light of the planet, the maxim from the Book of Wisdom: "Diligite justitiam qui judicatis terram" (Love justice ye who judge the earth.) Then fade away all the letters except the last one, the M of terram, M, symbol of Monarchy, and that M stands out in general outline somewhat like the Florentine lily, the armorial sign of Florence. And now other golden lights come from the Empyrean and transform the M into the figure of an eagle, the bird of Jove, with outstretched wings. But the marvel is only partly revealed, for soon the Eagle speaks and its voice, though made up of a thousand voices of the Just, comes forth a single sound, like a single heat that comes from many brands or the one odor that is exhaled from many flowers.

What a startling spectacle it must have been to the mind of the thirteenth century, used to candles as the ordinary means of illumination, to have visualized before it the blessed spirits in the light of Heaven, dancing, whirling, circling in perfect harmony and making more formal designs to express their bliss by the rapidity of their rhythmical movements! Even though exquisitely quaint as the picture may appear to us, it has been executed so reverently that criticism has rarely if ever attacked this conception of our poet. With light as his principal material to make known to us the joys of Heaven, he has to paint everything in high light, using no shadows and he solves his artistic problem by the variety of his "splendors" and by the deep symbolism of their action. His nine Heavens are not meant to be a picture true to reality of what the Souls in Heaven are doing. These nine Heavens, as we said before, are only myths to which from the Empyrean come forth the Elect in condescension to Dante's sense-bound faculties, in order to symbolize certain truths. So in this sixth sphere the poet would teach us that the Heaven of Jupiter represents justice on earth and on the screen of this sphere he would put forth by means of the Imperial Eagle the arguments he has already advanced in his Monarchia that the Roman Empire is divine in its origin—that only from such an institution can human justice proceed from civil government. He represents unity coming from the Roman Empire by his showing to us the unison with which all the splendors of the Eagle speak in a voice blended as one sound—clearly also an allegory for the Guelf forces to become an integral part of the Universal Monarchy.

Justice is the quality which this Heaven symbolizes and the Eagle reads in Dante's mind a doubt against the operation of justice and proceeds to dispel it.
"For saidst thou: 'Born a man is on the shore
Of Indus, and is none who there can speak
Of Christ, nor who can read, nor who can write;
And all his inclinations and his actions
Are good, so far as human reason sees,
Without a sin in life or in discourse:
He dieth unbaptized and without faith;
Where is this justice that condemneth him?
Where is his fault, if he do not believe?'"
	(XIX, 70.)
The question is answered both directly and indirectly. The exclusion of the virtuous pagan from Heaven is assumed to be an act of injustice "but who art thou who wouldst set upon the seat to judge at a thousand miles away with the short sight that carries but a span?" (XIX, 79.) As our very idea of justice comes from God all just and all wise, that thought ought to assure us that not even the virtuous heathen will be excluded from Heaven. Faith indeed is required for salvation, but many having faith will be condemned, while many seemingly without it will be admitted into Heaven.
"But look thou, many crying are, 'Christ, Christ'!
Who at the judgment will be far less near
To him than some shall be who knew not Christ.
Such Christians shall the Ethiop condemn
When the two companies shall be divided,
The one forever rich, the other poor."
	(XIX, 106.)
The indirect answer to Dante's objection as to the exclusion of the virtuous heathen from Heaven is given by the poet speaking through the beak of the Eagle and showing in this Heaven as one of the lights of the Eagle itself, the soul of Rhipeus mentioned by Æneas "as above all others the most just among the Trojans and the strictest observer of right." "So now," says Benvenuto, the fourteenth century lecturer on Dante, "our author fitly introduces a pagan infidel in the person of Rhipeus, of whose salvation there would seem the very slightest chance of all; by reason of the time, so many centuries before the advent of Christ; by reason of the place, for he was of Troy where exceeding pride was then paramount; by reason of the sect, for he was a pagan and gentile, not a Jew. Briefly then our author wishes us to gather from this fiction—this conclusion,—that even such a pagan of whose salvation no one hoped, is capable of salvation."

In the Heaven of Saturn, Beatrice tells the poet that she does not smile out of regard for his human vision not powerful enough to sustain her excess of beauty. The lovely symphonies of Paradise are also silent for the same reason. This in effect is a poetical way of saying that the bliss and glory in Saturn are greater than any beatitude in the lower spheres.

This seventh Heaven is the Heaven where appear saints distinguished for contemplation, the principle representatives being St. Peter Damian and St. Benedict. The latter wrote a treatise in which he likened the rule of his order to a ladder having twelve rungs by means of which the mystic might mount to Heaven. The second rung in that ladder is silence. If Dante was familiar with the Benedictine treatise, the significance of silence in Saturn is at once suggested. The figure of a ladder is a very common one in mystical theology, which borrows the conception from the experience of Jacob (Gen. XXVIII, 12). "And he saw in his sleep a ladder standing upon the earth and the top thereof touching heaven, the angels also of God ascending and descending." To symbolize the truth that Heaven is to be reached through the Church by means of the contemplation of eternal things Dante now shows us the Golden Ladder, down which gleam so many radiant spirits that it seems as if all the stars of Heaven are approaching.
"Colored like gold, on which the sunshine gleams,
A stairway I beheld to such a height
Uplifted, that mine eye pursued it not.
Likewise beheld I down the steps descending
So many splendors, that I thought each light
That in the heaven appears was there diffused."
	(XXI, 28.)
In the Heaven of the Fixed Stars the triumph of Christ gladdens the wondering eyes of the poet:

"Behold the hosts of Christ's triumphal march and all the fruit harvested by the rolling of these spheres."

At these words of Beatrice Dante turns and beholds all the saints seen in the other spheres and many other spirits gathered round the God-man to praise Him for the Redemption and Atonement. Christ here reveals Himself in the form of a gorgeous Sun surrounded by those countless spirits, appearing as lights or flowers. Apparently the poet gets just a momentary glimpse of the glorified humanity of the Saviour. The direct rays of the divine splendor cannot long be endured, so, in condescension to Dante's weakness of vision, a cloudy screen permits the poet to sustain the Vision now irradiating its light on the living, spiritual flowers.
"Saw I, above the myriad of lamps,
A sun that one and all of them enkindled,
E'en as our own doth the supernal sights,
And through the living light transparent shone
The lucent substance so intensely clear
Into my sight, that I sustained it not.
'O Beatrice, thou gentle guide and dear!'
To me she said: 'What overmasters thee
A virtue is from which naught shields itself.
There are the wisdom and the omnipotence
That ope the thoroughfares 'twixt heaven and earth
For which there erst had been so long a yearning.'"
	(XXIII, 28.)
After Christ withdraws to the Empyrean the poet finds that he has been so much strengthened and enlightened by the Vision that increased power of sight is given to him again to behold the smile of his guide. She says to him:
"Open thine eyes and look at what I am
Thou has beheld such things, that strong enough
Hast thou become to tolerate my smile."
	(XXIII, 46.)
He continues in ecstasy to gaze upon her surpassing beauty until she bids him look upon the "meadow of flowers," the angels and saints:
"Why doth my face so much enamor thee,
That to the garden fair thou turnest not,
Which under the rays of Christ is blossoming?
There is the Rose in which the Word Divine
Became incarnate; there the lilies are
By whose perfume the good way was discovered."
	(XXIII, 70.)
The lilies are the apostles, the Rose the Blessed Virgin Mary. "Mary," says Cardinal Newman, "is the most beautiful flower that ever was seen in the spiritual world. She is the Queen of spiritual flowers and therefore she is called Rose, for the rose is fitly called of all flowers that most beautiful." Dante says: "The name of the fair flower that I e'er invoke morning and night utterly enthralled my soul to gaze upon the greater fire." Now with joy the poet sees the coronation by the spirits of Mary, Mystical Rose, and then his eyes follow her as she mounts to the Empyrean in the wake of her divine Son while the gleaming saints sing her praises in the Regina Coeli.

The eight Heavens through which the poet has come, have been so many stages of preparation for the final vision of Paradise. His eyes have been gradually gaining strength by gazing upon miracles of light and beauty and by seeing truth embodied in many representative forms to fit him finally to see God in His Essence. Before that consummation, however, one more preparatory vision is necessary. The poet must first see the symbolic image of God. "What!" you may exclaim, "will Dante be audacious enough to attempt to picture the Invisible Himself? Granted that 'he is all wings and pure imagination' can he hope to image the Incomprehensible Being 'who only hath immortality and inhabiteth light inaccessible, whom no man hath seen nor can see?' (I Tim. VI, 16). Will he not defeat his purpose by employing a symbol circumscribing Him who is beyond circumscription?" But the genius of Dante does not fail him in his daring undertaking, and this is the more remarkable because instead of selecting as a symbol something infinitely large, he choses something atomically small. In the ninth Heaven surrounded by the nine orders of pure spirits God is represented "as an indivisible atomic Point radiating light and symbolizing the unity of the Divinity as a fitting prelude to the more intimate vision of the Blessed Trinity which will be vouchsafed in the Empyrean." "A Point I saw that darted light so sharp no lid unclosing may bear up against its keenness. On that Point depend the heavens and the whole of nature" (XXXVIII, 16).

On the appropriateness of this symbol Ozanam makes this interesting comment: "God reveals Himself as necessarily indivisible and consequently incapable of having ascribed to Him the abstraction of quantity and quality by which we know creatures: indefinable, because every definition is an analysis which decomposes the subject defined; incomparable because there are no terms to institute a comparison; so that one may say, giving the words an oblique meaning, that He is infinitely little, that He is nothing. But on the other hand, that which is without extension, moves without resistance; that which is not to be grasped, cannot be contained; that which can be enclosed within no limits, either actual or logical is by that very fact limitless. The infinitely little is then also the infinitely great and we may say that it is all." The indivisible atomic Point of intensest light as a symbol of God is indeed a sublime conception of faith and genius that appeals equally to the child, the philosopher and the mystic.

The supreme thing still necessary for the consummation of Dante's pilgrimage is the Beatific Vision of God. That occurs in the Empyrean where symbol gives way to reality, where the Elect are seen no longer in forms veiled in light but in the glorified semblance of their earthly bodies, where contemplation gives direct vision of God in His essence. How will the poet, while still in the flesh, endure this vision of the Infinite, Incomprehensible Eternal God? Prepared as he has been by the experiences of the nine Heavens, he has still further need of supernatural assistance. That is now given to him by means of a flash wrapping him in a garment of light, which blinds him and then illuminates his sight and intellect and enables him to see a more complete foreshadowing of truth dissolving into Divine Wisdom.

The spectacle he now beholds, perhaps suggested to the poet by the passage from the Apocalypse (XXII, 1). "And he showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb,"—the spectacle which now presents itself is that of a river of light flowing between two banks of flowers and vivid with darting sparks. The river represents illuminating grace, the sparks angels, the flowers saints. This river of light wherein are reflected the Elect, as verdure and flowers on a hillside are mirrored in a limpid stream at its foot, is poetically represented as having the effect of a sacrament. It bestows grace and that grace called lumen gloriae, light of glory, endowing the soul with a faculty beyond its natural needs or merits, so disposes the soul that it becomes deiform and is rendered capable of immediate intuition of the Divine Essence.
"There is a light above, which visible
Makes the Creator unto every creature
Who only in beholding Him, has peace."
 (XXX, 100.)
Beatrice tells Dante that he must drink his fill of the stupendous splendor by gazing intently on the river of pure light, so that he may be able to contemplate the whole unveiled glory and then see God directly.

As Dante gazes on the illuminating stream it undergoes a marvelous transformation, taking the form of a Rose the center of which is a sea of radiance.
"And even as the penthouse of mine eyelids
Drank of it, it forthwith appeared to me
Out of its length to be transformed to round.
Then as a folk who have been under masks
Seem other than before, if they divest
The semblance not their own they disappeared in,
Thus into greater pomp were changed for me
The flowerets and the sparks, so that I saw
Both of the Courts of Heaven made manifest."
	(XXX, 87.)
The two courts of Heaven, angels and saints, are made manifest in the Rose which spreads out like a vast amphitheatre the lowest circle of which is wider than the circumference of the sun. Above the center of the Rose as the Point of light, is God in all His glory and love, adored in blissful raptures by the saints who form the petals of the heavenly flower. Angels with faces aflame, in white garments and with golden wings fly down to the petals as bees to flowers, bringing God's blessings to the saints and fly back to God as bees to their hive, carrying the adoration of the Elect.

Beatrice leads the poet into the center of the Heavenly Rose.
"Into the yellow of the Rose Eternal
That spreads, and multiplies, and breathes an odor
Of praise unto the ever-vernal Sun,
As one who silent is and fain would speak,
Me Beatrice drew on, and said: 'Behold
Of the white stoles how vast the convent is!
Behold how vast the circuit of our city!
Behold our seats so filled to overflowing,
That here henceforward are few people wanting!'"
	(XXX, 124.)
While Dante gazes on the supernatural spectacle Beatrice slips away to take her place the third seat below the throne of the Blessed Virgin. As his guide she has led him to the highest Heaven and has instructed him in all that concerns God and His attributes. Her mission as Revelation or Divine Science being finished, she withdraws and sends St. Bernard to bring the poet into intimate union with the Godhead.
"The general form of Paradise already
My glance had comprehended as a whole,
In no part hitherto remaining fixed,
And round I turned me with rekindled wish
My lady to interrogate of things
Concerning which my mind was in suspense.
One thing I meant, another answered me;
I thought I should see Beatrice, and saw
An Old Man habited like the glorious people.
O'er flowing was he in his eyes and cheeks
With joy benign, in attitude of pity
As to a tender father is becoming.
And 'She, where is she?' instantly I said;
Whence he: 'To put an end to thy desire,
Me Beatrice hath sent from mine own place.
And if thou lookest up to the third round
Of the first rank, again shalt thou behold her
Upon the throne her merits have assigned her.'
Without reply I lifted up mine eyes,
And saw her, as she made herself a crown
Reflecting from herself the eternal rays.
Not from that region which the highest thunders
Is any mortal eye so far removed,
In whatsoever sea it deepest sinks,
As there from Beatrice my sight; but this
Was nothing unto me; because her image
Descended not to me by medium blurred."
	(XXXI, 52.)
St. Bernard, the mystic, celebrating the Blessed Virgin's praises in a marvelous outburst of song, unsurpassed for lyrical beauty, beseeches her intercession that Dante may see God face to face.
"Now doth this man, who from the lowest depth
Of the universe as far as here has seen
One after one the spiritual lives,
Supplicate thee through grace for so much power
That with his eyes he may uplift himself
Higher towards the uttermost salvation.
And I, who never burned for my own seeing
More than I do for his, all of my prayers
Proffer to thee, and pray they come not short,
That thou wouldst scatter from him every cloud
Of his mortality so with thy prayers,
That the Chief Pleasure be to him displayed.
Still farther do I pray thee, Queen, who canst
Whate'er thou wilt, that sound thou mayst preserve
After so great a vision his affections.
Let thy protection conquer human movements;
See Beatrice and all the blessed ones
My prayers to second clasp their hands to thee!
The eyes beloved and revered of God,
Fastened upon the speaker, showed to us
How grateful unto her are prayers devout;
Then unto the Eternal Light they turned,
On which it is not credible could be
By any creature bent an eye so clear."
	(XXXIII, 22.)
The prayer is granted. "My vision becoming undimmed, more and more entered the beam of light which in itself is Truth." (XXXIII, 52.) The veil is removed. He gazes into the limitless depths of the Divinity. He enjoys the Beatific Vision.

First he sees by immediate intuition the Divine Essence in its creative power, the examplar of all substances, modes and accidents united in harmony and love; then he beholds the Creator Himself and all the divine perfections and all the eternal plans of God. Clear to the poet now is the truth of the mystery of the Blessed Trinity unveiled in circles of light like rainbows of green, white and red of equal circumference, the Second being as it were the splendor of the First and the Third emanating from the two others. Unravelled also is the mystery of the two natures human and divine, in the divine person of Christ seen in human form in the second luminous circle. But the Vision is so far above the poet's memory to retain or his speech to express that he cannot find words to make intelligible the splendor he beholds or the rapture he experiences.

"Oh grace abounding, wherein I presumed to fix my look on the eternal light so long that I consumed my sight thereon! Within its depths I saw ingathered, bound by love in one volume, the scattered leaves of all the universe; substance and accidents and their relations, as though together fused, after such fashion that what I tell of is one simple flame.

"In the profound and shining being of the deep light appeared to me three circles, of three colours and one magnitude; one by the second as Iris by Iris seemed reflected, and the third seemed a fire breathed equally from one and from the other. Oh, but how scant the utterance, and how faint, to my conceit! and it, to what I saw, is such that it sufficeth not to call it little. O light eternal who only in thyself abidest, only thyself dost understand, and to thyself, self-understood, self-understanding, turnest love and smiling! That circling which appeared in thee to be conceived as a reflected light, by mine eyes scanned some little, in itself, of its own colour, seemed to be painted with our effigy, and thereat my sight was all committed to it.

"To the high fantasy here power failed; but already my desire and will were rolled—even as a wheel that moveth equally—by the Love that moves the sun and the other stars." (XXXIII, 82.)

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