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Chapter 24 The Radiant Wheel. St. Peter examines Dante on Faith.

  • "O company elect to the great supper
  • Of the Lamb benedight, who feedeth you
  • So that for ever full is your desire,
  • If by the grace of God this man foretaste
  • Something of that which falleth from your table,
  • Or ever death prescribe to him the time,
  • Direct your mind to his immense desire,
  • And him somewhat bedew; ye drinking are
  • For ever at the fount whence comes his thought."
  • Thus Beatrice; and those souls beatified
  • Transformed themselves to spheres on steadfast poles,
  • Flaming intensely in the guise of comets.
  • And as the wheels in works of horologes
  • Revolve so that the first to the beholder
  • Motionless seems, and the last one to fly,
  • So in like manner did those carols, dancing
  • In different measure, of their affluence
  • Give me the gauge, as they were swift or slow.
  • From that one which I noted of most beauty
  • Beheld I issue forth a fire so happy
  • That none it left there of a greater brightness;
  • And around Beatrice three several times
  • It whirled itself with so divine a song,
  • My fantasy repeats it not to me;
  • Therefore the pen skips, and I write it not,
  • Since our imagination for such folds,
  • Much more our speech, is of a tint too glaring.
  • "O holy sister mine, who us implorest
  • With such devotion, by thine ardent love
  • Thou dost unbind me from that beautiful sphere!"
  • Thereafter, having stopped, the blessed fire
  • Unto my Lady did direct its breath,
  • Which spake in fashion as I here have said.
  • And she: "O light eterne of the great man
  • To whom our Lord delivered up the keys
  • He carried down of this miraculous joy,
  • This one examine on points light and grave,
  • As good beseemeth thee, about the Faith
  • By means of which thou on the sea didst walk.
  • If he love well, and hope well, and believe,
  • From thee 'tis hid not; for thou hast thy sight
  • There where depicted everything is seen.
  • But since this kingdom has made citizens
  • By means of the true Faith, to glorify it
  • 'Tis well he have the chance to speak thereof."
  • As baccalaureate arms himself, and speaks not
  • Until the master doth propose the question,
  • To argue it, and not to terminate it,
  • So did I arm myself with every reason,
  • While she was speaking, that I might be ready
  • For such a questioner and such profession.
  • "Say, thou good Christian; manifest thyself;
  • What is the Faith?" Whereat I raised my brow
  • Unto that light wherefrom was this breathed forth.
  • Then turned I round to Beatrice, and she
  • Prompt signals made to me that I should pour
  • The water forth from my internal fountain.
  • "May grace, that suffers me to make confession,"
  • Began I, "to the great centurion,
  • Cause my conceptions all to be explicit!"
  • And I continued: "As the truthful pen,
  • Father, of thy dear brother wrote of it,
  • Who put with thee Rome into the good way,
  • Faith is the substance of the things we hope for,
  • And evidence of those that are not seen;
  • And this appears to me its quiddity."
  • Then heard I: "Very rightly thou perceivest,
  • If well thou understandest why he placed it
  • With substances and then with evidences."
  • And I thereafterward: "The things profound,
  • That here vouchsafe to me their apparition,
  • Unto all eyes below are so concealed,
  • That they exist there only in belief,
  • Upon the which is founded the high hope,
  • And hence it takes the nature of a substance.
  • And it behoveth us from this belief
  • To reason without having other sight,
  • And hence it has the nature of evidence."
  • Then heard I: "If whatever is acquired
  • Below by doctrine were thus understood,
  • No sophist's subtlety would there find place."
  • Thus was breathed forth from that enkindled love;
  • Then added: "Very well has been gone over
  • Already of this coin the alloy and weight;
  • But tell me if thou hast it in thy purse?"
  • And I: "Yes, both so shining and so round
  • That in its stamp there is no peradventure."
  • Thereafter issued from the light profound
  • That there resplendent was: "This precious jewel,
  • Upon the which is every virtue founded,
  • Whence hadst thou it?" And I: "The large outpouring
  • Of Holy Spirit, which has been diffused
  • Upon the ancient parchments and the new,
  • A syllogism is, which proved it to me
  • With such acuteness, that, compared therewith,
  • All demonstration seems to me obtuse."
  • And then I heard: "The ancient and the new
  • Postulates, that to thee are so conclusive,
  • Why dost thou take them for the word divine?"
  • And I: "The proofs, which show the truth to me,
  • Are the works subsequent, whereunto Nature
  • Ne'er heated iron yet, nor anvil beat."
  • 'Twas answered me: "Say, who assureth thee
  • That those works ever were? the thing itself
  • That must be proved, nought else to thee affirms it."
  • "Were the world to Christianity converted,"
  • I said, "withouten miracles, this one
  • Is such, the rest are not its hundredth part;
  • Because that poor and fasting thou didst enter
  • Into the field to sow there the good plant,
  • Which was a vine and has become a thorn!"
  • This being finished, the high, holy Court
  • Resounded through the spheres, "One God we praise!"
  • In melody that there above is chanted.
  • And then that Baron, who from branch to branch,
  • Examining, had thus conducted me,
  • Till the extremest leaves we were approaching,
  • Again began: "The Grace that dallying
  • Plays with thine intellect thy mouth has opened,
  • Up to this point, as it should opened be,
  • So that I do approve what forth emerged;
  • But now thou must express what thou believest,
  • And whence to thy belief it was presented."
  • "O holy father, spirit who beholdest
  • What thou believedst so that thou o'ercamest,
  • Towards the sepulchre, more youthful feet,"
  • Began I, "thou dost wish me in this place
  • The form to manifest of my prompt belief,
  • And likewise thou the cause thereof demandest.
  • And I respond: In one God I believe,
  • Sole and eterne, who moveth all the heavens
  • With love and with desire, himself unmoved;
  • And of such faith not only have I proofs
  • Physical and metaphysical, but gives them
  • Likewise the truth that from this place rains down
  • Through Moses, through the Prophets and the Psalms,
  • Through the Evangel, and through you, who wrote
  • After the fiery Spirit sanctified you;
  • In Persons three eterne believe, and these
  • One essence I believe, so one and trine
  • They bear conjunction both with 'sunt' and 'est.'
  • With the profound condition and divine
  • Which now I touch upon, doth stamp my mind
  • Ofttimes the doctrine evangelical.
  • This the beginning is, this is the spark
  • Which afterwards dilates to vivid flame,
  • And, like a star in heaven, is sparkling in me."
  • Even as a lord who hears what pleaseth him
  • His servant straight embraces, gratulating
  • For the good news as soon as he is silent;
  • So, giving me its benediction, singing,
  • Three times encircled me, when I was silent,
  • The apostolic light, at whose command
  • I spoken had, in speaking I so pleased him.