Paradisio

Thou art not on earth as thou believest; Lightning from its sphere falling never matched The speed which thou, returning there, achievest.
Canto 1 lines 91-93


Standing in the earthly paradise atop Mount Purgatory, Beatrice turns to look into the sun. Dante follows her example, and finds that they have risen from the earth into the heavens.


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Turning to me, as blithe as beauteous;
"Lift up to God," said she, "thy grateful sense,
Who with the first star now uniteth us."
Canto 2 lines 28-30


Dante and Beatrice rise beyond the sphere of fire at the edge of the atmosphere and enter the heaven of the Moon. Beatrice describes the transmission of the light of God through the heavens and explains the markings on the Moon.


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But men more apt for ill than good arose
To snatch me out from the sweet cloister's fold,
And what my life thenceforth became, God knows.
Canto 3 lines 106-108


Those who were inconstant to their vows reside in the heaven of the Moon. Dante meets Piccarda dei Donati, the sister of a friend of his, a nun who was pressured to leave her convent and marry.


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Between two dishes, equally attractive
And near to him, a free man, I suppose,
Would starve to death before his teeth got active.
Canto 4 lines 1-3


Dante is perplexed as to which of his questions he should ask first. Beatrice, seeing his mind, intervenes and answers his questions about the ultimate dwellings of the blessed souls and also about the role of free will in sin.


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Let not men take vows lightly; keep your oath,
But not with stubborn wall-eyed foolishness,
As Jephthah pledged his first-met, and kept troth.
Canto 5 lines 64-66


Beatrice further explains the nature of vows before they rise toward the second heaven, the sphere of Mercury.


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A hundred and a hundred years and more
The bird of God on Europe's last confine
Dwelt near the hills that taught it first to soar.
Canto 6 lines 4-6


explanation


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So that, in error sore, mankind on earth
Lay sic for many an age, till from above
God's Word came down and, as it pleased His worth,
This nature, from its Author thus strayed-off,
Did in one person with Himself unite,
By the sole act of His eternal love.
Canto 7 lines 28-33


Beatrice answers Dante's questions about the Redemption and goes on further to expound on the natures of bodies, souls, and angels.


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The leftward river-bank that's washed by Rhone,
Before he's joined with the Sorgue, acknowleged me
Its lord to come, when time should claim its own.
Canto 8 lines 58-60


The heaven of Venus is inhabited by the lovers. Dante meets his friend, Charles Martel, who had been crowned king of Hungary at a young age but died before he could come into his role as the ruler of Naples and Provence.


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For she promoted that first glory attained
by Joshua in the Holy Land - alack!
Now by this Pope forgotten and disdained.
Canto 9 lines 124-126


Dante talks with spirits who inhabit the heaven of Venus, who discuss events in Italy and the importance of love. He learns that Rahab, who helped the spies sent by Joshua in the conquest of the Holy Land, is among the spirits there.


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That's the eternal light of Sigier, who,
lecturing down in Straw Street, hammered homebr> Invidious truths, as logic taught him to.
Canto 10 lines 136-138


The heaven of the Sun is occupied by those spirits known for their wisdom. Saint Thomas Aquinas identifies the various scholars and teachers to Dante.


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And when, urged on by thirst for martyrdom,
He had preached Christ and his blest company
In the Soldan's proud presence.
Canto 11 lines 100-102


Saint Thomas Aquinas relates the events of Saint Francis' life, including his commitment to poverty, the foundation of the Franciscan order and his travels during the Fifth Crusade.


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Dominic was his name, whose work and worth
I publish, as the husbandman whom Christ
Called to His garden to help till the earth.
Canto 12 lines 70-72


Saint Bonaventure relates the events of Saint Dominic's life, including his love of learning, the foundation of the Dominican order and his arguments against heresy.


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Sabellius, too, and Arius - every fool
That e'er distorted Scripture, as a sword
Distorts straight faces into fanciful.
Canto 13 lines 127-129


The circle of souls sing praises to God, expounding on his triune nature and the combination of human and divine natures in Christ. Thomas warns against heresies, comparing the distortion of scripture to the distorted reflection seen in the curved surface of a sword.


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But whoso takes his cross and follows Christ
Will pardon me this gap in my narration
When, lightening through Heav'n's brightening, he sees Christ
Canto 14 lines 106-108


Beatrice and Dante rise to the heaven of Mars, where Dante is granted a brief vision of Christ.


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There was I reft by the vile Saracen
From this deceitful world whose vanities
Win many souls and ruin all they win;
And came from martyrdom unto this peace.
Canto 15 lines 145-148


The heaven of Mars is inhabited by the martyrs and other warriors of God. Dante meets Cacciaguida, his great-great-grandfather who was killed during the Second Crusade.


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It were healthier
To have such fold for neighbours than let lie
Within your gates that stinking mongrel cur
D'aguglio; and that Signa, swift to find
Pickings and jobs, the sharp-eyed trafficker!
Canto 16 lines 53-57


Cacciaguida speaks of the Florence of his lifetime, and denounces how it has fallen in Dante's day.


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Thou shalt by sharp experience be aware
How salt the bread of strangers is, how hard
The up and down of someone else's stair.
Canto 17 lines 58-60


Cacciaguida prophesies Dante's exile from Florence, but still encourages him to write his epic poem.


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But thou wilt answer: "I who only crave
For him who chose to dwell alone, and then
Was danced away into a martyr's grave,
Know naught of all your Pauls and Fishermen!"
Canto 18 lines 133-136


Dante rises to the sixth heaven, the sphere of Jupiter, where he meets the souls of the just rulers. Dante denounces Pope John XXII as an unjust ruler, claiming that he is more interested in gold pieces (stamped with the image of John the Baptist) than with the teachings of the Apostles.


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For 'Here's a man', thou saidst, 'born of some breed
On indus' bank, where there is none to tell
Of Christ, and none to write, and none to read.'
Canto 19 lines 70-72


Dante asks the spirits of the just rulers about the problem of the 'righteous heathen', whether someone who lived a blameless life outside the influence of the teaching of the Gospel could enter Heaven.


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Midmost, as 'twere the pupil, burns that spark
Which was the minstrel of the Holy Spirit,
And once from town to town bare forth the ark.
Canto 20 lines 37-39


Dante learns the identities of the spirits in the sixth heaven, including that of King David.


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Thereon I saw descend from bar to bar
Splendours so numerous I thought the sky
Had poured from heaven the light of every star.
Canto 21 lines 31-33


In the sphere of Saturn Dante sees a ladder rising upwards towards the Primum Mobile. The seventh heaven is occupied by the comtemplatives. Peter Damian comes down to teach Dante about this portion of Paradise.


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So with my vision I went traversing
The seven planets till this globe I saw,
Whereat I smiled, it seemed so poor a thing.
Canto 22 lines 133-135


After meeting Saint Benedict, Dante ascends the ladder to the heaven of the fixed stars, the Stellatum. Beatrice encourages him to look downward along the course of his journey.


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Then she: "Behold Christ's hosts in triumph! Thou
Mayst see the fruit all garnered here above
Which 'neath these circling stars matured ere now."
Canto 23 lines 19-21


Looking up, Dante is given a brief glimpse of Christ, Mary and the Apostles


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The Baron who had led me with his priming
From branch to branch, by questioning, so high,
That to the topmost fronds we now were climbing.
Canto 24 lines 115-117


Before Dante can rise higher, he must be tested. First Beatrice asks Saint Peter to examine Dante in questions of faith. Question by question, Peter leads Dante to the highest understanding.


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With altered voice, with altered fleece to-day
I shall return, a poet, at my font
Of Baptism to take the crown of bay.
Canto 25 lines 7-9


Next Dante is examined in questions of hope by Saint James. He expresses his hope that one day he will return from his exile and be recognized as a poet in Florence.


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And through the garden of the world I rove,
Enamoured of its leaves in measure solely
As God the Gardener nurtures them above.
Canto 26 lines 64-66


Finally Dante is examined in questions of love by Saint John. After he has been judged worthy in questions of the three theological virtues, Adam joins the three Apostles and tells Dante about Eden and the Fall.


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Rapacious wolves in sheherds' garb behold
In every pasture! Lord, why dost Thou blink
Such slaughter of the lambs within Thy fold?
Canto 27 lines 55-57


After Dante joins with the blessed souls in singing praise to God, Peter denounces false priests and the current Pope. After looking down towards the earth once more, Dante and Beatrice ascend to the Primum Mobile.


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When Dionysius with ardent zest
Pondered these orders of angelic bliss,
He named them in this way, the true and best;
Canto 28 lines 130-132


Beatrice points out to Dante the movements of the angels and describes their orders, as identified by Dionysius, the first Bishop of Athens.


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Though in his writings Saint Jerome insisted
Ere the remaining universe was known
Through countless aeons Angels had existed,
The truth I tell in many texts is shown.
Canto 29 lines 37-40


Beatrice addresses Dante's questions about the creation, the angels, and Lucifer's rebellion.


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"But of these waters thou must drink," so spake
Mine eyes' own sun, whose light their solace is,
"Before so great a thirst as thine thou slake."
Canto 30 lines 73-75


As Dante enters the Empyrean, he first sees it as flowers on the banks of a river of light. Then his vision is transformed and he sees that the souls of the blessed are seated on thrones contemplating a light in the center.


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Such was my prayer and she, so distant fled,
It seemed, did smile and look on me once more,
Then to the eternal fountain turned her head.
Canto 31 lines 91-93


Beatrice leaves Dante and returns to her place among the souls of the blessed. Saint Bernard comes to lead Dante to his final revelation.


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Throne after throne, will greet they vision if
It keep with me as, naming them, I go
Down through the rose, proceeding leaf by leaf.
Canto 32 lines 13-15


Dante sees the blessed souls seated on thrones, eternally contemplating the glory of God.


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Make strong my tounge that in its words may burn
One single spark of all Thy glory's light
For future generations to discern.
Canto 33 lines 70-72


Dante finally sees God in all His glory. Overwhelmed, he wakes from his vision of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven, and prepares to put down what he has learned in his epic poem.


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