Beatrice: Revelation of Love!                                                       

By Abe Van Luik, abevanluik@thoughtsandplaces.org.

Explanation and Introduction---

This is a further exploration of the relationship between Love and the Divine. It is
an expansion on my uploaded discussion called " Sexuality, Spirituality, and
Ecstacy," which in turn was an explanation of a tale woven into an upload called
" Personal Discoveries in the Land of Troubadours and Cathars."

In " Sexuality, Spirituality, and Ecstacy" I cited Dante Alighieri's idealized love for
Beatrice as the highest expression of Courtly Love, a historical and social
phenomenon discussed in that upload. Since that upload was made available,
several questions have been asked in the Compuserve message strings discussing it.

Those questions led me to run back to the library to look for answers.

I am really glad to have been made to do so, because re-reading Dante's " Divine
Comedy" has been a very stirring experience because I see now with very different
eyes than I had when I read this work for a college course, so it was like reading it
for the first time all over again. The part of the poem that stands out as an " I
never knew that" was how much Dante's revelation of Divinity was mediated by
Beatrice! As a college youth I was more apparently more interested in the facts of
what Dante saw than I was in the mediatrix that opened his eyes to see, which is
now my interest.

This is exciting stuff in its own right, but also in the context of my prior two
uploads because in " Sexuality, Spirituality, and Ecstacy" I cited Dante Alighieri's
book " Vita Nuova," which foreshadows the visions of Beatrice in the " Divine
Comedy." And the tale which I tried to defend in that upload was the tale of two
lovers stopping their approach because the attraction between them threatens to
kill them, by stopping they open up a passage into the Divine world and taste a
Love greater than they were anticipating in the flesh. That tale occurs as a minor
part of the upload " Personal Discoveries in the Land of Troubadours and Cathars."
To an extent, I now believe that tale is vindicated by a closely parallel occurrence
in the " Divine Comedy!"

A Business Aside---

Some business needs to be taken care of, namely references:

Dante Alighieri's " Vita Nuova," Mark Musa translator and commentor (Indiana
University Press, Bloomington 1973). This is the source of cites from this work.

" The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, Hell, Purgatory, Paradise" Translated by
Henry F. Cary with introduction and notes. The Harvard Classics, Charles W.
Elliot, Editor (P.F. Collier & Son Co., New York, 1937 [ 62nd printing 1969]). I
found this to be the more pleasing of the two sources for its poetic translation and
its guiding notes. However, poetic and communicative sometimes clash when
taking words out of context, so citations of text are actually taken from another,
more easy to understand (to me) translation:

" The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri," translated by Charles Eliot Norton
(William Benton, Publisher, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., Chicago, 1952 [26th
printing 1984]), published with editorial advice of the faculties of the University of
Chicago.

Biographical Questions---

Dante lived from 1265 to 1321. He was married and had a daughter and two sons.
He was born in Florence but ran afoul of the factions fighting there and was
sentenced to death when the opposing faction took control of the city, he fled into
exile, and ended his life at Ravenna where two of his children lived. He was an
esteemed poet and teacher in his lifetime. His education came about largely be self
study, perhaps, and his readings of the poetry of France and Provence, which no
doubt introduced him to the style and concepts of Courtly Love.

In keeping with the rules of Courtly Love, Dante set his heart and soul on
practicing idealized love aimed at Beatrice, a lady about his age he first met at age
9, saw again at age 18, and thereafter attempted to contact with his poetry and see
when he could, which was not often and never in a truly personal encounter. She
was married also, a fact never mentioned by Dante in the grand style of Courtly
Love which saw the marriage relationship as something done on the civil level and
true love as something done on the spiritual level, the level of the soul. This
system of Courtly Love is the subject of my upload called " Sexuality, Spirituality,
and Ecstacy," if it is of further interest.

Meeting Beatrice! ---

To introduce the role of Beatrice in the " Divine Comedy" I need to repeat a few
verses and observations from my " Sexuality (etc.)" upload. (By the way, the
" Divine Comedy" is not a " comedy" in the modern sense of the word at all, the
word at that time just meant it to be a tale with a happy ending, it is not a tragedy,
in other words -- the Divine Drama would be more fitting in my opinion, although
there certainly are sarcastic and sardonic observations in the work that make one
smile wryly.)

There are two times that Dante sees Beatrice in a procession, in public. One time
he is smiled at and acknowledged by her, and . . . " she turned her eyes to where I
was standing faint-hearted and, with that indescribable graciousness for which
today she is rewarded in the eternal life, she greeted me so miraculously that I
seemed at that moment to behold the entire range of possible bliss." (Ch. III of
Vita Nuova).

At another time she fails to acknowledge his presence and he is quite crushed
inside and becomes temporarily depressed until Love, the God Love, helps him to
grow up in terms of his conceptions of love and where his soul's needs can be met.
Both of these occurrences are alluded to again in the " Divine Comedy."

Obviously the Divine is already apparent in Dante's description of the yet mortal
Beatrice whose soul he adores from afar with the most pure conceptions of love he
is capable of at this youthful time in his life. Beatrice, Dante sees, already has
cosmic import, she is an instrument in the hands of God for blessing the earth:

. . . God does have something new in mind for earth. . . .
. . . She is the best that Nature can achieve . . . .
. . . her eyes, wherever she may choose to look,
send forth their spirits radiant with love
to strike the eyes of anyone they meet,
and penetrate until they find the heart.
You will see Love depicted on her face,
there where no one dares hold his gaze too long. (Ch. XIX of the Vita Nuova)

This theme of mere, sinful mortals not being able to hold her gaze for long is
repeated in several steps in the " Divine Comedy." It is also in the development of
this theme that I believe a rough parallel exists for the little sub-story in my
" Personal Discoveries (etc.)" upload.

Dante's last chapter (XLII of the Vita Nuova) says simply that " there came to me
a miraculous vision in which I saw things that made me resolve to say no more
about this blessed one until I would be capable of writing about her in a nobler
way. . . . I hope to write of her that which has never been written of any other
woman. And then may it please the One who is the lord of graciousness that my
soul ascend to behold the glory of its lady, that is, of that blessed Beatrice, who in
glory contemplates the countenance of the One 'who is through all ages blessed.'"

As I re-read the " Divine Comedy" I realized that this unsatisfactory way to end a
book, a real spiritual cliff-hanger, was but an allusion to his masterpiece under
construction at least in his mind, the " Divine Comedy."

Beatrice as Dante's Revelator in the " Divine Comedy" ---

Part 1. Hell:

Understandably, as Dante descends into Hell, and finds his return blocked by a she-
leopard, he fears and wishes to get out of there. Even as his heart is made
exceedingly glad at being met by the great poet Virgil, who declares he will be his
guide through hell, the roughness of the way discourages Dante and he wants to
quit the journey.

Virgil hints at a happy ending if Dante will just follow him, and all except Dante
would detect Beatrice in this statement {Canto I, in lines 112-136}" And then thou
shalt see those who are contented in the fire, because they hope to come, whenever
it may be, to the blessed folk to whom if thou wouldst then ascend, there will be a
soul more worthy than I for that. With her I will leave thee at my departure " . . . .

The fearsome nature of hell has stolen Dante's courage, his heart, despite this
promise. But then Virgil's spirit, or shade, explains something to Dante that puts
his courage right back into him:

Canto II [line] 43: " If I have rightly understood thy speech," replied that shade of
the magnanimous one, " thy soul is hurt by cowardice, which often-times
encumbers a man so that it turns him back from honorable enterprise, as false
seeing does a beast when it shies. In order that thou loose thee from this fear I will
tell thee why I came, and what I heard at the first moment that I grieved for thee. I
was among those who are suspended, and a Lady blessed and beautiful called me,
such that I besought her to command. Her eyes were more shining than the star,
and she began to say to me sweet and clear, with angelic voice, in her speech:
58 " '0 courteous Mantuan soul! of whom the fame yet lasts in the world, and shall
last so long as motion continues, my friend, and not of fortune, is so hindered on
his road upon the desert hillside that he has turned for fear, and I am afraid,
through that which I have heard of him in heaven, lest he be already so astray that I
may have risen late to his succor. Now do thou move, and with thy ornate speech
and with whatever is needful for his deliverance, assist him so that I may be
consoled thereby. I am Beatrice who make thee go. I come from a place whither I
desire to return. Love moved me, that makes me speak. When I shall be before my
Lord, I will often praise thee to Him.'"

Virgil makes good on his charge from Beatrice and his words have the desired
effect, he explains how he was visited right here in hell by Beatrice and was
compelled into action by seeing {line 115 paragraph}" her lucent eyes:" now truly
knowing Beatrice is with him in spirit, and is looking out for him, Dante moves
like a new man into the rough paths of hell, with his guide explaining to him what
he sees.

Part II. Purgatory:

As Virgil finally leads Dante out of hell and into purgatory, they are challenged by
a sentry who wants to know how a denizen of hell and a living person came to be
at his gate. Of particular interest here is Virgil's invocation of their heavenly guide
to allow them passage {Purgatory, Canto I, paragraph begins with line 49}:

" Of myself I came not a Lady descended from Heaven, by reason of whose
prayers I succored this man with my company." Virgil then errs by flattering the
guard with how much his love in earth life loved him, and the guard rebukes the
poet's attempted flattery: " if a Lady of Heaven move and direct thee, as thou
sayest, there is no need of flatteries it may well suffice thee that thou ask me for
her sake. Go then, and see thou gird this one with a smooth rush, and that thou
wash his face so that thou cleanse it from all stain, for it were not befitting to go
with eye dimmed by any cloud before the first minister that is of those of Para-

dise."

They begin an arduous climb of the mountain of Paradise, and see much along the
way. Virgil at one point, when Dante says he doubts some explanation of Virgil's
of something seen, Virgil answers {Canto VI, paragraph of line 34}: " in regard to
matter of doubt so deep decide thou not, unless she tell it thee, who shall be a light
between the truth and the understanding. I know not if thou understandest I speak
of Beatrice thou shalt see her above, smiling and happy, upon the summit of this
mountain." This puts Beatrice in a revelator's position. Dante was so enthused at
hearing this he gets anxious to move on up the mountain and Virgil has to talk him
out of doing so, there is a path and time laid out to give him the experiences he is
to have on his way up.

Finally, as if beholding a magical sunrise, Beatrice appears! {Canto XXX, begin
line 22}

" I have seen ere now at the beginning of the day the eastern region all rosy, and
the rest of heaven beautiful with fair clear sky, and the face of the sun rising
shaded, so that through the tempering of vapors the eye sustained it a long while
thus within a cloud of flowers, which was ascending from the angelic hands and
falling down again within and without, a lady, with wreath of olive over a white
veil, appeared to me, robed with the color of living flame under a green mantle.
And my spirit which now for so long a time had not been broken down, trembling
with awe at her presence, without having more knowledge by the eyes, through
occult virtue that proceeded from her, felt the great potency of ancient love."

Note the allusion to how he had felt in her presence as a youth. But the allegory
goes on and changes, and Virgil, as he foretold, vanished as every sense but sight
told him his Beatrice was finally in his presence:

40. " Soon as the lofty virtue smote my sight, which already had transfixed me ere
I was out of boyhood, I turned me to the left, with the confidence with which the
little child runs to his mother when he is frightened, or when he is troubled, to say
to Virgil: 'Less than a drachm of blood remains in me that does not tremble I
recognize the signals of the ancient flame.' But Virgil had left us deprived of
himself Virgil, sweetest Father Virgil, to whom for my salvation I gave me. Nor
did all which the ancient mother lost avail unto my cheeks, cleansed with dew, that
they should not turn dark again with tears."

To his lament Beatrice answers in an ominous tone: 55. " Dante, though Virgil he
gone away, weep not yet, weep not yet, for by another sword thou needst must
weep." Beatrice has a bone to pick with Dante, it appears, a bone to do with his
unfaithfulness his attempting to select another to replace her, more than once.
Beatrice's words (still Canto XXX, 121):

" Some time did I sustain him with my face showing my youthful eyes to him, I led
him with me turned in right direction. So soon as I was on the threshold of my
second age, and had changed life, he took himself from me, and gave himself to
others. When I had risen from flesh to spirit, and beauty and virtue were increased
in me, I was less dear and less pleasing to him and he turned his step along a way
not true, following false images of good, which pay no promise in full. Nor did it
avail me to obtain inspirations with which, both in dream and otherwise, I called
him back so little did he heed them. So low he fell that all means for his salvation
were already short, save showing him the lost people. For this I visited the gate of
the dead, and to him, who has conducted him up hither, my prayers were borne
with weeping. The high decree of God would be broken, if Lethe should be
passed, and such viand should be tasted, without some sort of repentance which
may pour forth tears."

Her blasting of Dante continues: {Canto XXXI, 1}" '0 THOU, who art on the
farther side of the sacred river," turning her speech to me with the point, which
only with the edge had seemed to me keen, she began anew, going on without
delay, " Say, say, if this is true to so heavy a charge thine own confession must
needs be conjoined." My faculties were so confused that the voice moved, and
became extinct before it had been released from its organs. A little while she
waited, then said: " What thinkest thou? Reply to me for the sad memories in thee
are not yet injured by the water." Confusion and fear mingled together forced such
a " Yes" from out my mouth, that the eyes were needed for the hearing of it."

This exchange of accusation and confession continues in a very dramatic tone ans
is well worth reading for its sheer force of concepts and words. At one point
Dante observes {88}: " Such self-conviction stung my heart that I fell overcome
and what I then became she knows who afforded me the cause." His genuine
repentance is accepted and he is enveloped in the arms of a beautiful lady, one of
three nymphs, handmaidens to Beatrice, who wash him clean and prepare him to
finally behold Beatrice with his eyes.

{127}" While, full of awe and glad, my soul was tasting that food which, sating in
itself, causes longing for itself, the other three, showing themselves of the loftier
order in their bearing, came forward dancing to their angelic carol. 'Turn, Beatrice,
turn thy holy eyes,' was their song, 'upon thy faithful one, who to see thee has
taken so many steps. Of thy grace do us the grace that thou unveil to him thy
mouth, so that he may discern the second beauty which thou dost conceal.'"

Dante keeps the anticipation of this face to face meeting high {Canto XXXII, 1}:
" So fixed and intent were my eyes to relieve their ten years' thirst, that my other
senses were all extinct: and they themselves, on one side and the other, had a wall
of indifference, so did the holy smile draw them to itself with the ancient net when
perforce my sight was turned toward my left by those goddesses, because I heard
from them a 'Too fixedly.' And the condition which exists for seeing, in eyes but
just now smitten by the sun, caused me to be for a while without sight. But when
my vision reshaped itself to the lesser sensation (the lesser, in respect to the great
one wherefrom by force I had removed myself), I saw that the glorious army had
wheeled its right flank, and was returning with the sun and with the seven flames in
its face."

In other words, he had gazed too intently and when the moment long awaited
came he had to avert his gaze. So was this not to be the occasion of satisfying his
ten year's desire after all? No, the point was that to gaze into her eyes was not his
place, it was her place to slowly introduce him to her splendor and not his to take.
He wasn't capable of withstanding it, yet. So little moments of being with Beatrice
now begin to occur that slowly lead to the further purification of Dante in
preparation for the full revelation of Beatrice.

He has already, as part of this preparation, been immersed in the holy waters of
Lethe. Then he is allowed to converse with Beatrice, sitting at her feet and careful
to give his " mind and eyes where she willed." {end of paragraph 100}She then
takes the initiative to look him, momentarily, in the eye {Canto XXXIII, 1}:

. . . " behind her, by a sign only, she placed me, and the Lady, and the Sage who
had remained. Thus she moved on and I do not think her tenth step had been set
upon the ground, when with her eyes she smote mine, and with tranquil aspect said
to me: 'Come more forward, so that if I speak with thee, thou mayest be well
placed for listening to me." After instructing her listeners she instructs a
handmaiden to lead Dante to the stream Eunoe and have him drink to " revive his
lifeless power." {mid-paragraph from 115}After Dante has tasted this he observes
{142}: " I returned from the most holy wave, reanimate, even as new plants
renewed with new foliage, pure and disposed to mount unto the stars."

Dante is now ready to be escorted into Paradise. His Beatrice escorts him into and
through the seven heavens, all the while revealing more of herself and the nature of
the Divine.

Part III. Paradise:

Beatrice shares some of her ability to see the glories of heaven, and it transforms
Dante to see as she sees from a human into as it were a consort of the Divine.
{Canto I, mid-paragraph from 38}. . ." I saw Beatrice turned to her left side, and
gazing upon the sun: never did eagle so fix himself upon it. And even as a second
ray is wont to issue from the first, and mount upward again, like a pilgrim who
wishes to return so from her action, infused through the eyes into my imagination,
mine was made, and I fixed my eyes upon the sun beyond our wont. Much is
permitted there which here is not permitted to our faculties, by virtue of the place
made for the human race as its proper seat. Not long did I endure it, nor so little
that I did not see it sparkle round about, like iron that issues boiling from the fire.
And on a sudden, day seemed to be added to day, as if He who has the power had
adorned the heaven with another sun."


{64}" Beatrice was standing with her eyes wholly fixed on the eternal wheels, and
on her I fixed my eyes from there above removed. Looking at her I inwardly
became such as Glaucus became on tasting of the grass which made him consort in
the sea of the other gods. Transhumanizing cannot be signified in words therefore
let the example suffice him for whom grace reserves the experience."

Dante asks some questions and is gently and smilingly rebuked this time for having
his mind still on earth. Then he asks if he can transcend the light bodies he sees in
this first heaven and move higher still, and Beatrice, {94}" after a pitying sigh,
directed her eyes toward me, with that look which a mother turns on her delirious
child, and she began" to explain the nature of the universe and all its beings and
how they remain in the places ordained for them. She explains many things to
Dante that are quite beside the thread we are attempting to follow here, but well
worth reading for a look into the cosmology of Dante's place and time.

The next time there is a personal exchange between the two is at the end of Canto
IV {end of paragraph at 118}: " This invites me, this gives me assurance, Lady,
with reverence to question you of another truth which is obscure to me. I wish to
know if man can so make satisfaction to you for defective vows with other goods,
that in your scales they may not be light?"
{139}" Beatrice looked at me with eves so divine, full of the sparks of love, that
my power, vanquished, turned its back, and I almost lost myself with eyes cast
down."
{Canto V, 1}" If I flame upon thee in the heat of love. beyond the measure that is
seen on earth, so that I vanquish the valor of thine eyes, marvel not, for it proceeds
from perfect vision, which, according as it apprehends, so does it move its foot to
the apprehended good. I see clearly how already in thy intellect is shining the
eternal light. which, only seen, always enkindles love: and if any other thing seduce
your love, it is naught but some vestige of that light, ill-recognized, which therein
shines through. Thou wishest to know if for an unfulfilled vow so much can be
paid with other service as may secure the soul from suit."

The answer is convoluted and seems to be " no" but it doesn't matter since Dante
has repented and been cleansed. Dante and Beatrice now move into the second
heaven {85}:

" And as an arrow that hits the mark before the bowstring is quiet, so we ran into
the second realm. Here I saw my lady so joyous as she entered into the light of
that heaven, that the planet itself became the brighter for it. And if the star was
changed and smiled, what did I become, who even by my nature am transmutable
in every wise!"

Beatrice and Dante move from heaven to heaven, with Dante learning much. At
the fifth heaven {Canto XIV, 67}: " And lo! round about, of a uniform brightness,
arose a lustre, beyond that which was there, like an horizon, which is growing
bright. And as at rise of early evening new appearances begin in the heavens, so
that the sight seems and seems not true, it seemed to me that there I began to see
new subsistences, and a circle forming outside the other two circumferences. 0 true
sparkling of the Holy Spirit! how sudden and glowing it became to my eyes,
which, vanquished, endured it not! But Beatrice showed herself to me so beautiful
and smiling that it must be left among those sights which followed not my
memory."
{82}" Therefrom my eyes regained power to raise themselves again, and I saw
myself, alone with my Lady, translated to more exalted salvation. That I was more
uplifted I perceived clearly by the fiery smile of the star, which seemed to me
ruddier than its wont. With all my heart and with that speech which is one in all
men, I made to God a holocaust such as was befitting to the new grace and the
ardor of the sacrifice was not yet exhausted in my breast before I knew that
offering had been accepted and propitious for with such a glow and such a
ruddiness splendors appeared to me within two rays, that I said: " 0 Helios, who
dost so adorn them!"

Finally, Dante is able to comprehend the glory of Beatrice, prepared by his own
exaltation. He prays thanks and instantly receives signs of his prayer of
thanksgiving, his sacrifice, being accepted. Dante has truly come a long way!

But he still requires correction and further training. And in this loving rebuke it
almost seems there is a foreshadowing of the teacher getting ready to launch her
pupil {Canto XVIII, 1}: . . . " that Lady who was leading me to God said: 'Change
thy thought think that I am near to Him who lightens the burden of every wrong.'
I turned me round at the loving sound of my Comfort, and what love I then saw in
the holy eyes, I here leave it not only because I distrust my own speech, but
because of the memory which cannot return so far above itself, unless another
guide it. Thus much of that moment can I recount, that, again beholding her, my
affection was free from every other desire."
{16}" While the Eternal Pleasure, which was raying directly upon Beatrice, was
contenting me with its second aspect from her fair face, vanquishing me with the
light of a smile, she said to me: " Turn thee, and listen, for not only in my eyes is
Paradise."

The translation by Cary has here what seems to me more intimate: " These eyes are
not thy only Paradise." Dante wonders what comes next, and {154}" turned me
round to my right side to see in Beatrice my duty signified either by speech or by
act, and I saw her eyes so clear, so joyous, that her semblance surpassed her other
and her latest wont. And even as, through feeling more delight in doing well, a
man from day to day becomes aware that his virtue makes advance, so I, seeing
that miracle more adorned, became aware that my circling round together with the
heaven had increased its arc." They are moving into the sixth heaven.

Entering the seventh heaven has Dante again looking upon Beatrice's face, and
another warning sounds {Canto XXI, 1}: " Already were my eyes fixed again upon
the countenance of my Lady, and my mind with them, and from every other intent
it was withdrawn: and she was not smiling, but: 'If I should smile,' she began to
me, 'thou wouldst become such as Semele was when she became ashes: for my
beauty, which along the stairs of the eternal palace is kindled the more, as thou
hast seen, the higher the ascent, is so resplendent that, were it not tempered, at its
effulgence thy mortal power would be as a bough shattered by thunder. We are
lifted to the seventh splendor, which beneath the breast of the burning Lion now
radiates downward mingled with his strength. Fix thy mind behind thine eyes, and
make of them mirrors for the figure which in this mirror shall be apparent to
thee.'"
{19}" He who should know what was the pasture of my sight in her blessed
aspect, when I transferred me to another care, would know, by counterpoising one
side with the other, how pleasing it was to me to obey my celestial escort."

Cary translates the last verse in a footnote more loosely as: " My pleasure was as
great in complying with her will, as in beholding her countenance." That helps!

Dante is approached by an individual filled with love, and as he notices there is no
music in this heaven from its plentiful birds he asks this personage about this
strange silence. The answer {34}is that it is withheld from him for his protection:
" " Thou hast thy hearing mortal, as thy sight," it replied to me " therefore no song
is here for the same reason that Beatrice has no smile."

But as Dante goes upward in the heavens he finds glories that he cannot behold,
but that Beatrice's glory he is finally capable of beholding, but not describing
(shades of the close of the " Vita Nuova" ): {Canto XXIII, 19}" And Beatrice said:
'Behold the hosts of the Triumph of Christ, and all the fruit harvested by the
revolution of these spheres.' It seemed to me her face was all aflame, and her eyes
were so full of joy that I must needs pass on without description."
{25}" As in the clear skies at the full moon Trivia smiles among the eternal
nymphs who paint the heaven through all its depths, I saw, above thousands of
lamps, a Sun that was enkindling each and all of them, as ours kindles the supernal
shows and through its living light the lucent Substance gleamed so bright upon my
face that I sustained it not."
{34}" Oh Beatrice, sweet guide and dear!"
{35}" She said to me: 'That which overcomes thee is a virtue against which
naught defends itself. Here is the Wisdom and the Power that opened the roads
between heaven and earth, for which there erst had been such long desire.'"
{46}" 'Open thine eyes and look on what I am thou hast seen things such as thou
art become able to sustain my smile.' I was as one who comes to himself from a
forgotten vision and endeavors in vain to bring it back to mind, when I heard this
invitation, worthy of such gratitude that it is never to be effaced from the book
which records the past. If now all those tongues which Polyhymnia and her sisters
made most rich with their sweetest milk should sound to aid me, it would not
come to a thousandth of the truth in singing the holy smile and how it lighted up
the holy face. And thus, depicting Paradise, the consecrated poem must needs
make a leap, even as one who finds his way cut off. But whoso should consider the
ponderous theme and the mortal shoulder which is laden therewith would not
blame it if under this it tremble. It is no voyage for a little barque, this which my
venturous prow goes cleaving, nor for a pilot who would spare himself."

Even as Beatrice announces his ability and watches him partake, she sounds the
gentlest of warnings: it is time for Dante to reach higher:
{70}" Why does my face so enamour thee that thou turnest not to the fair garden
which blossoms beneath the rays of Christ? Here is the Rose, in which the Divine
Word became flesh: here are the lilies by whose odor the good way was taken."
{76}" Thus Beatrice: and I, who to her counsels was wholly ready, again gave
myself up to the battle of the feeble brows." (Cary translates " the strife of aching
vision," either way it acknowledges imperfection of motive even yet in Dante.)

This continuing attempt to see Beatrice when there are other glories to be seen is
freely admitted as late as the time of transport into the ninth heaven, as told in
Canto XXVII {88}: " My enamoured mind, that ever pays court to my Lady, was
more than ever burning to bring back my eyes to her. And if nature or art has made
bait in human flesh or in paintings of it, to catch the eyes in order to possess the
mind, all united would seem naught compared to the divine pleasure which shone
upon me when I turned me to her smiling face. And the virtue which that look
vouchsafed to me, tore me from the fair nest of Leda, and impelled me to the
swiftest heaven."

In preparation for his coming theophany, Dante's eyes must be strengthened
further, and of course this allows him to see his Beatrice yet more clearly, followed
by a vision of Divine glory that again blinds him {Canto XXX, 1): . . ." my seeing
nothing and my love constrained me to turn with my eyes to Beatrice. If what has
been said of her so far as here were all included in a single praise, it would be little
to furnish forth this turn. The beauty which I saw transcends measure not only
beyond our reach, but surely I believe that its Maker alone can enjoy it all."
{22}" By this pass I concede myself vanquished more than ever comic or tragic
poet was overcome by crisis of his theme. For as the sun does to the sight which
trembles most, even so remembrance of the sweet smile deprives my memory of its
very self. From the first day when in this life I saw her face, until this sight, the
following with my song has not been cut off for me, but now needs must my
pursuit desist from further following her beauty in my verse, as at his utmost every
artist."
{34}" Such, as I leave her for a greater heralding than that of my trumpet, which is
bringing its arduous theme to a close, with act and voice of a leader whose talk is
accomplished she began again: 'We have issued forth from the greatest body to the
Heaven which is pure light: light intellectual full of love, love of true good full of
joy, joy which transcends every sweetness. Here thou shalt see the one and the
other soldiery of Paradise and the one in those aspects which thou shalt see at the
Last Judgment."
{46}" As a sudden flash which scatters the spirits of the sight so that it deprives
the eye of the action of the strongest objects so did a vivid light shine round about
me, leaving me swathed with such a veil of its own effulgence that nothing was
visible to me."

Dante overcomes even this blindness, however {82}: " There is no babe who so
hastily springs with face toward the milk, if he awake much later than his wont, as
I did, to make yet better mirrors of my eyes, stooping to the wave which flows in
order that we may be bettered in it. And even as the eaves of my eyelids drank of
it, so it seemed to me from its length to have become round. Then as folk who
have been under masks, who seem other than before, if they divest themselves of
the semblance not their own wherein they disappeared, in such wise for me the
flowers and the sparks were changed into greater festival, so that I saw both the
Courts of Heaven made manifest."

This new vision makes Dante implore God to give him the power to write what he
sees {97}" splendor of God, through which I saw the high triumph of the true
kingdom, give to me power to tell how I saw it!"

Although Dante seems to now have the desire to keep his gaze where it belongs,
on God's glory rather than Beatrice's, his guide is taking no chances because this
tendency of Dante to keep his eyes on Beatrice endangers his ability to
contemplate and experience the glory of God in the highest heaven. So Beatrice
seemingly plays a trick on Dante, and as he realizes he is approaching the Divine,
she disappears! St. Bernard of Clairvaux suddenly becomes his guide. To assuage
his initial panic, the Saint explains Beatrice's reason, and he is allowed to see her
one last time. This last time completes the longing expressed as far back as the
" Vita Nuova" for her acknowledging smile {Canto XXXI, 52}" My look had now
comprehended the general form of Paradise as a whole, and on no part had my
sight as yet been fixed and I turned me with rekindled wish to ask my Lady about
things as to which my mind was in suspense. One thing I purposed, and another
answered me I was thinking to see Beatrice, and I saw an old man, robed like the
people in glory. His eyes and his cheeks were overspread with benignant joy, his
mien kindly such as befits a tender father. And: 'Where is she?' on a sudden said
I."
{65}" Whereon he: 'To terminate thy desire, Beatrice urged me from my place,
and if thou lookest up to the third circle from the highest rank, thou wilt again see
her upon the throne which her merits have allotted to her-' Without answering I
lifted up my eyes, and saw her as she had made for herself a crown reflecting from
herself the eternal rays. From that region which thunders highest up no mortal eye
is so far distant, in whatsoever sea it lets itself sink deepest, as there from Beatrice
was my sight. But this was naught to me, for her image did not descend to me
blurred by aught between."
{79}" '0 Lady, in whom my hope is strong, and who, for my salvation, didst
endure to leave thy footprints in Hell, of all those things which l have seen through
thy power and through thy goodness, I recognize the grace and the virtue. Thou
hast drawn me from servitude to liberty by all those ways, by all the modes
whereby thou hadst the power to do it. Guard thou in me thine own magnificence
so that my soul, which thou hast made whole, may, pleasing to thee. be unloosed
from the body.' Thus I prayed and she, so distant, as it seemed, smiled and looked
at me then turned to the eternal fountain."

Having been thus reassured of Beatrice's love and approval, but deprived of the
opportunity to take his attention off the glory of God, Dante now follows the
advice of his new guide toward his theophany, wherein he sees the Holy Trinity's
glorious Light, the Love that moves stars {Canto XXXIII, 142}:
{Canto XXXI, 94}" And the holy old man said: 'In order that thou mayst
complete perfectly thy journey, for which end prayer and holy love sent me, fly
with thine eyes through this garden for seeing it will prepare thy look to mount
further through the divine radiance. And the Queen of Heaven, for whom I burn
wholly with love, will grant us every grace, because I am her faithful Bernard.'"
{Canto XXXIII, 97}" Thus my mind, wholly rapt, was gazing fixed, motionless,
and intent, and ever with gazing grew enkindled. In that Light one becomes such
that it is impossible he should ever consent to turn himself from it for other sight
because the Good which is the object of the will is all collected in it, and outside of
it that is defective which is perfect there."
{106}" Now will my speech fall more short, even in respect to that which I
remember, than that of an infant who still bathes his tongue at the breast. Not
because more than one simple semblance was in the Living Light wherein I was
gazing, which is always such as it was before but through my sight, which was
growing strong in me as I looked, one sole appearance, as I myself changed, was
altering itself to me."
{115}" Within the profound and clear subsistence of the lofty Light appeared to
me three circles of three colors and of one dimension: and one seemed reflected by
the other as Iris by Iris, and the third seemed fire which from the one and from the
other is equally breathed forth."
{121}" 0 how inadequate is speech, and how feeble toward my conception! and
this toward what I saw is such that it suffices not to call it little."

What Does It All Mean?---

What it means to me is that Dante had an inner vision of the relation between love,
Love, and the Divine. As a devotee of Courtly Love he affixed his infantile
notions of this relation upon a young woman he was hardly acquainted with. As
he grew older it was the deepening of the Divine underpinnings of Love that
spiritually matured him. He couched that experience and vision in the theology
and history and notions of his day, and actually added to those notions through his
revelations from Beatrice. That doesn't invalidate the core substance of his vision.
The substance is that he was actually saved from an ordinary life of human
contradiction, failure, wrongheaded allegiances, and other effects stemming from
spiritual blindness. His salvation came by the hand of Love, mediated by the spirit
of his idealized love, Beatrice. She caused him to be cleansed and purified and
brought into a higher state of being that was needed to allow him to experience
and see Love in its majesty and at its very Source.

I believe this world-class poet, as Dante is often called, explains a basic truth
toward which humanity instinctively reaches but knowledge of which it seldom
achieves: Love is God, and love between humans can aid in the approaching of
Love, the achievement of the Divine in mortals.

What Does Any of This Have to Do With My Previous Two Uploads?---

I hinted at the things Dante makes plain here. I hinted at the Divine power that
may be stored between lovers as between the blades of an electric capacitor. I also
hinted at the healing power of love in many types of relationships outside the
sexual, such as family and friends of all types.

With respect to lovers, I hinted at the controlling of that power of attraction to
allow access to new worlds, whether inside or outside ourselves is not important.
In this collection from the " Divine Comedy" Dante's love for Beatrice, and her
love in return, do all these very things! Dante thinks he has accidentally stumbled
into the afterworlds, but Beatrice has it planned out for him so that his greatest
desire may be fulfilled. Dante believes that desire is for his Beatrice, initially.
Slowly but surely Beatrice yields her love to him, but on her own terms. In that
process she spiritually heals and cleanses him, and prepares him, and then brings
him almost into the very presence of the Holy Trinity's Love, which is its Power.

I am in awe of Dante's vision. It moves me deeply even though its embedded
theology I do not share belief in. The descriptions of the structures of the heavens
that are passed through also do not make me think of them as real. To me the
Divine Love, and the various states of the many souls described in the whole
poem, have value as allegories of the variety of the human condition, and
especially point to the universal need for a healing Love to descend among us. All
of us need a Love connection, a Beatrice-like personage that can guide us into a
higher state of Being and Loving.

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