Thus Beatrice. And those joyful spirits
transformed themselves to rings around fixed poles,
circling, like blazing comets, in their brightness.

And as wheels in the movements of a clock
turn in such a way that, to an observer,
the innermost seems standing still, the outermost to fly,

just so those dancers in their circling,
moving to a different measure, fast or slow,
let me gauge their wealth of gladness.

From the dancer I made out to be most precious
I saw come forth a flame so full of joy
that not one there produced a greater brightness.

Three times it circled Beatrice,
its song so filled with heavenly delight
my phantasy cannot repeat it.

And so my pen skips and I do not write it,
for our imagination is too crude, as is our speech,
to paint the subtler colors of the folds of bliss.

‘O my holy sister, who pray to us
with such devotion, by the ardor of your love
you draw me forth from that fair circle.’

Once the blessèd fire had come to rest,
for my lady it breathed forth these words,
just as here I’ve set them down.

And she: ‘O everlasting light of that great man
with whom our Lord did leave the keys,
which He brought down from this astounding joy,

‘test this man as you see fit on points,
both minor and essential, about the faith
by which you walked upon the sea.

‘Whether his love is just, and just his hope and faith,
is not concealed from you because your sight
can reach the place where all things are revealed.

‘But since this realm elects its citizens
by measure of true faith, it surely is his lot
to speak of it, that he may praise its glory.’

Just as the bachelor arms himself and does not speak
while the master is setting forth the question –
for discussion, not for final disposition –

– Dante Alighieri. Paradiso, Canto XXIV, lines 10-48

translated by Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander

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