Verse > Harvard Classics > Dante Alighieri > The Divine Comedy
Dante Alighieri (1265–1321).  The Divine Comedy.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Canto X
ARGUMENT.—Their next ascent carries them into the sun, which is the fourth heaven. Here they are encompassed with a wreath of blessed spirits, twelve in number. Thomas Aquinas, who is one of these, declares the names and endowments of the rest.
LOOKING into His First-Born with the Love,
Which breathes from both eternal, the first Might
Ineffable, wherever eye or mind
Can roam, hath in such order all disposed,
As none may see and fail to enjoy. Raise, then,        5
O reader! to the lofty wheels, with me,
Thy ken directed to the point, 1 whereat
One motion strikes on the other. There begin
Thy wonder of the mighty Architect,
Who loves His work so inwardly, His eye        10
Doth ever watch it. See, how thence oblique 2
Brancheth the circle, where the planets roll
To pour their wished influence on the world;
Whose path not bending thus, in Heaven above 3
Much virtue would be lost, and here on earth        15
All power well-nigh extinct; or, from direct
Were its departure distant more or less,
I’ the universal order, great defect
Must, both in Heaven and here beneath, ensue.
  Now rest thee, reader! on thy bench, and muse        20
Anticipative of the feast to come
So shall delight make thee not feel thy toil.
Lo! I have set before thee; for thyself
Feed now: the matter I indite, henceforth
Demands entire my thought. Join’d with the part, 4        25
Which late we told of, the great minister 5
Of nature that upon the world imprints
The virtue of the Heaven, and doles out
Time for us with his beam, went circling on
Along the spires, 6 where 7 each hour sooner comes;        30
And I was with him, weetless of ascent,
But as a man,  8 that weets his thought, ere thinking.
  For Beatrice, she who passeth on
So suddenly from good to better, time
Counts not the act, oh then how great must needs        35
Have been her brightness! What there was i’ th’ sun,
(Where I had enter’d,) not through change of hue,
But light transparent—did I summon up
Genius, art, practice—I might not so speak,
It should be e’er imagined: yet believed        40
It may be, and the sight be justly craved.
And if our fantasy fail of such height,
What marvel, since no eye above the sun
Hath ever travel’d? Such are they dwell here,
Fourth family 9 of the Omnipotent Sire,        45
Who of His Spirit and of His Offspring 10 shows;
And holds them still enraptured with the view.
And thus to me Beatrice: “Thank, oh thank
The Sun of Angels, Him, who by His grace
To this perceptible hath lifted thee.”        50
  Never was heart in such devotion bound,
And with complacency so absolute
Disposed to render up itself to God,
As mine was at those words: and so entire
The love for Him, that held me, it eclipsed        55
Beatrice in oblivion. Nought displeased
Was she, but smiled thereat so joyously,
That of her laughing eyes the radiance brake
And scatter’d my collected mind abroad.
  Then saw I a bright band, in liveliness        60
Surpassing, who themselves did make the crown,
And us their centre: yet more sweet in voice,
Than, in their visage, beaming. Cinctured thus,
Sometime Latona’s daughter we behold,
When the impregnate air retains the thread        65
That weaves her zone. In the celestial court,
Whence I return, are many jewels found,
So dear and beautiful, they cannot brook
Transporting from that realm: and of these lights
Such was the song. 11 Who doth not prune his wing        70
To soar up thither, let him 12 look from thence
For tidings from the dumb. When, singing thus,
Those burning suns had circled round us thrice,
As nearest stars around the fixed pole;
Then seem’d they like to ladies, from the dance        75
Not ceasing, but suspense, in silent pause,
Listening, till they have caught the strain anew:
Suspended so they stood: and, from within,
Thus heard I one, who spake: “Since with its beam
The Grace, whence true love lighteth first his flame,        80
That after doth increase by loving, shines
So multiplied in thee, it leads thee up
Along this ladder, down whose hallow’d steps
None e’er descend, and mount them not again;
Who from his phial should refuse thee wine        85
To slake thy thirst, no less constrained 13 were,
Than water flowing not unto the sea.
Thou fain wouldst hear, what plants are these, that bloom
In the bright garland, which, admiring, girds
This fair dame round, who strengthens thee for Heaven.        90
I, then, 14 was of the lambs, that Dominic
Leads, for his saintly flock, along the way
Where well they thrive, not swoln with vanity.
He, nearest on my right hand, brother was,
And master to me: Albert of Cologne 15        95
Is this; and, of Aquinum, Thomas 16 I.
If thou of all the rest wouldst be assured,
Let thine eye, waiting on the words I speak,
In circuit journey round the blessed wreath.
That next resplendence issues from the smile        100
Of Gratian, 17 who to either forum 18 lent
Such help, as favour wins in Paradise.
The other, nearest, who adorns our quire,
Was Peter, 19 he that with the widow gave
To holy Church his treasure. The fifth light, 20        105
Goodliest of all, is by such love inspired,
That all your world craves tidings of his doom. 21
Within, there is a lofty light, endow’d
With sapience so profound, if truth be truth,
That with a ken of such wide amplitude        110
No second hath arisen. Next behold
That taper’s radiance, 22 to whose view was shown,
Clearliest, the nature and the ministry
Angelical, while yet in flesh it dwelt.
In the other little light serenely smiles        115
That pleader 23 for the Christian temples, he,
Who did provide Augustin of his lore.
Now, if thy mind’s eye pass from light to light,
Upon my praises following, of the eighth 24
Thy thirst is next. The saintly soul, that shows        120
The world’s deceitfulness, to all who hear him,
Is, with the sight of all the good that is,
Blest there. The limbs, whence it was driven, lie
Down in Cieldauro; 25 and from martyrdom
And exile came it here. Lo! further on,        125
Where flames the arduous spirit of Isidore; 26
Of Bede; 27 and Richard, 28 more than man, erewhile,
In deep discernment. Lastly this, from whom
Thy look on me reverteth, was the beam
Of one, whose spirit, on high musings bent,        130
Rebuked the lingering tardiness of death.
It is the eternal light of Sigebert 29
Who ’scaped not envy, when of truth he argued,
Reading in the straw-litter’d street.”  30 Forthwith,
As clock, that calleth up the spouse of God 31        135
To win her Bridegroom’s love at matin’s hour,
Each part of other fitly drawn and urged,
Sends out a tinkling sound, of note so sweet,
Affection springs in well-disposed breast;
Thus saw I move the glorious wheel; thus heard        140
Voice answering voice, so musical and soft,
It can be known but where day endless shines.
Note 1. To that part of heaven where the equinoctial circle and the Zodiac intersect each other, where the common motion of the heavens from east to west may be said to strike with greatest force against the motion proper to the planets, and this repercussion, as it were, is here the strongest, because the velocity of each is increased to the utmost by their respective distances from the poles. [back]
Note 2. “Oblique.” The Zodiac. [back]
Note 3. If the planets did not preserve that order in which they move, they would not receive nor transmit their due influences; and if the Zodiac were not thus oblique; if toward the north it either passed or went short of the tropic of Cancer, or else toward the south it passed, or went short of the tropic of Capricorn, it would not divide the seasons as it now does. [back]
Note 4. The intersection of the equinoctial circle and the Zodiac. [back]
Note 5. “Minister.” The sun. [back]
Note 6. According to Dante, as the earth is motionless, the sun passes by a spiral motion, from one tropic to another. [back]
Note 7. “Where.” In which the sun rises earlier every day after the vernal equinox. [back]
Note 8. “But as a man.” That is, he was quite insensible of it. [back]
Note 9. “Fourth family.” The inhabitants of the sun, the fourth planet. [back]
Note 10. The procession of the third and the generation of the second person in the Trinity. [back]
Note 11. The song of these spirits was like a jewel so highly prized that the exportation of it is prohibited by law. [back]
Note 12. Let him not expect intelligence of that place, for it surpasses direction. [back]
Note 13. “The rivers might as easily cease to flow toward the sea, as we could deny thee thy request.” [back]
Note 14. “I was of the Dominican order.” [back]
Note 15. Albertus Magnus was born at Laugingen, in Thuringia, in 1193, and studied at Paris and at Padua; at the latter place he entered into the Dominican order. He then taught theology in various parts of Germany, and particularly at Cologne. Thomas Aquinas was his favorite pupil In 1260 he reluctantly accepted the bishopric of Ratisbon, and in two years after resigned it, and returned to his cell in Cologne, where the remainder of his life was passed in superintending the school, and in composing his voluminous works on divinity and natural science. He died in 1280. [back]
Note 16. Thomas Aquinas, of whom Bucer is reported to have said, “Take but Thomas away, and I will overturn the Church of Rome:; and whom Hooker terms “the greatest among the school divines”—(“Eccl. Pol.” b. iii. section 9), was born of noble parents, who anxiously but vainly endeavored to divert him from a life of celibacy and study. He died in 1274, at the age of forty-seven. [back]
Note 17. “Gratian.” Gratian, a Benedictine monk belonging to the convent of St. Felix and Nabor, at Bologna, and by birth a Tuscan, composed, about the year 1130, for the use of the schools, an abridgement or epitome of canon law, drawn from the letters of the pontiffs, the decrees of councils and the writings of the ancient doctors. [back]
Note 18. “To either forum.” By reconciling the civil with the canon law. [back]
Note 19. “Peter.” Pietro Lombardo was of obscure origin, nor is the place of his birth in Lombardy ascertained. With a recommendation from the Bishop of Lucca to St. Bernard, he went into France to continue his studies; and for that purpose remained some time at Rheims, whence he proceeded to Paris. Here his reputation was so great that Philip, brother of Louis VII, being chosen Bishop of Paris, resigned that dignity to Pietro, whose pupil he had been. He held his bishopric only one year, and died 1160. His “Liber Sententiarum” is highly esteemed. It contains a system of scholastic theology, much more complete than any which had been yet seen. [back]
Note 20. “The fifth light.” Solomon. [back]
Note 21. “His doom.” It was a common question, it seems, whether Solomon were saved or no. [back]
Note 22. St. Dionysius, the Areopagite. “The famous Grecian fanatic, who gave himself out for Dionysius the Areopagite, disciple of St. Paul, and who, under the protection of this venerable name, gave laws and instructions to those that were desirous of raising their souls above all human things, in order to unite them to their great source by sublime contemplation, lived most probably in the fourth century.” Maclaine’s Mosheim. [back]
Note 23. “That pleader.” In the fifth century, Paulus Orosius “acquired a considerable degree of reputation by the history he wrote to refute the cavils of the Pagans against Christianity, and by his books against the Pelagians and Priscillianists.” Ibid. [back]
Note 24. Boëtius, whose book “de Consolatione Philosophiæ,” excited so much attention during the Middle Ages, was born about 470. “In 524 he was cruelly put to death by Theodoric, either on real or pretended suspicion of his being engaged in a conspiracy.” Della Lett. Ital. [back]
Note 25. “Cieldauro.” Boëtius was buried at Pavia, in the monastery of St. Pietro in Ciel d’Oro. [back]
Note 26. He was Archbishop of Seville during forty years, and died in 635. [back]
Note 27. “Bede.” Bede, whose virtues obtained him the appellation of the Venerable, was born in 672, at Wearmouth and Jarrow in the bishopric of Durham, and died at Jarrow in 735. Invited to Rome by Pope Sergius I, he preferred passing almost the whole of his life in the seclusion of a monastery. [back]
Note 28. Richard of St. Victor, a native either of Scotland or Ireland, was canon and prior of the monastery of that name at Paris; and died in 1173. “He was at the head of the Mystics in this century; and his treatise, entitled the “Mystical Ark,” which contains as it were the marrow of this kind of theology, was received with the greatest avidity.” Maclaine’s Mosheim. [back]
Note 29. A monk of the Abbey of Gemblours, in high repute at the end of the eleventh, and beginning of the twelfth century. [back]
Note 30. The name of a street in Paris; the “Rue de Fouarre.” [back]
Note 31. The Church. [back]


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