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Suited in strict and wondrous harmony."
As when the north blows from his milder cheek
Musing awhile I stood : and she, who saw
72. By means of this beautiful figure, Dante 18,446,744,073,709,551,615. The meaning here says Beatrice has cleared his mind from all is that the number of angels is infinite. doubts.
95. They can = their power to approach God 81. Cirque = circle.
is in proportion to their power to understand 85. Allusion to the story of the inventor of him. chess, who, when the King of Persia asked what 108. In the spring the sun is in Aries (Ram), reward he desired, answered, a grain of wheat and hence the latter is not seen at night. In for the first square of the chessboard, double autumn, however, the sun is in Libra, and Aries, that number for the second, and so on for the 180° distant, rises on the horizon after sunset. rest of the squares. This gives the number The meaning here is that spring is eternal.
Transmitted, hierarchy of gods, for aye
Beatrice beholds, in the mirror of divine truth, some doubts which had entered the
mind of Dante. These she resolves; and then digresses into a vehement reprehension of certain theologians and preachers in those days, whose ignorance or avarice induced them to substitute their own inventions for the pure word of the Gospel.
No longer, than what time Latona's twins
117. The angels look up to the point of for a brief moment, described by Dante as lastdivine light, and also down to the orders below ing only so long as the sun and moon (Latona's them. In the former case they aspire toward twins), being in opposite signs of the zodiac God, in the latter they draw those below toward (Libra and Aries), and so having the same him, so that all tend toward the point.
horizon, hang poised, as it were, in the hand of 121. Dionysius and Gregory the Great both the zenith. wrote concerning the celestial hierarchy. Dante 2. Fleecy star = Montone = Ram = Aries. says the latter is wrong and the former right, 5. Verge = orizzonte = horizon. because he learned it from St. Paul eye-wit 6. Part the nice level = si dilibra = break ness). Cf. 2 Cor. xii. 2.
their equilibrium. 1. Beatrice stopped speaking, and was silent
Sat painted on her cheek; and her fixed gaze
9. Point = God.
= man. These were all created at the same 11. Dante's desire to know how the universe time. was created is known to Beatrice without his 26. The bow three-corded = the three pertelling her, for she has seen it in the mind of sons of the Divinity, Father, Son, and Holy God.
Spirit. Dante always refers to them as all being 13. The meaning here is, that God did not, present in the act of creation. See Hell, üü. 5, 6. to give himself pleasure, create the universe; And as ray, etc. As one cannot distinbut this latter is an emanation of his eternal guish the moment when a ray of light enters love and goodness.
glass, etc., from the moment it issues there17. Time and space begin only with the crea- from, so no distinction of time can be made in tion.
the creation of angels, nature, and man. 19. New natures = nuovi amori = new 31. At the instant of their creation they had loves, i.e. the different kinds of created things. their various stations and functions assigned
20. Nor can we say that before the creation them. God was inactive, for since time only began 32. Those highest = the angels, in the then, there can be no such things as before or Empyrean. after.
33. Mere power = pura potenzia = passive 23. “And the spirit of God moved upon the matter, subject to the influence of the heavens. face of the waters." Gen. i. 2.
34. Lowest = on earth, below the moon. 24. “Forma e materia congiunte e purette.” In the midst = between the Empyrean and
In this line Dante gives concisely the differ- the earth. ent kinds of creation: (1) Pure form -- angels; 35. The heavens, both passive and active, (2) pure matter = the material substance of moved by the angels (intelligences) and them. natural phenomena; (3) mixed form and matterselves exerting influence. Cf. Par. ii. 120 ff.
Long tract of ages by the angels past,
36. St. Jerome had said that the angels were immediately after the creation, in the time necescreated long before the universe. Beatrice says sary to count twenty. Cf. Convito, ii. 6. this is not true, as is proved by many passages 51. “Turbd il suggetto dei vostri elementi,” of the Bible, i.e. Ecclesiasticus xviii. 1, and “Disturbed the (earth which is) subject to the Gen. i. 1.
elements.” 40. “But holy men of God spake as they 52. Task = to revolve about the divine were moved by the Holy Ghost.” 2 Peter i. 21. point.
43. As elsewhere, Dante says here that reason 55. Lapse = revolt. and revelation both show us the truth. The func- 56. Lucifer. tion of the angels is to revolve the heavens; 57. “ Da tutti i pesi del mondo costretto," hence it is not reasonable to suppose the former“ Constrained by all the weights of the world,” to be created without their perfection, i.e. the i.e. in the centre of the earth, which is the centre function of revolving the heavens.
of gravity. Cf. Hell, xxxiv. 105. 48. Triple question = when, where, and 58. The cause of Lucifer's fall was pride; the how the angels had been created.
chief virtue of the faithful angels is humility 49. Beatrice tells of the rebellion of Lucifer before God. and his followers, which took place almost
And gaze'thy fill. But, since thou hast on earth
« Know thou, that, from the first, these substances,
“So that men, thus at variance with the truth,
70. Men taught that the angels had under- our own day might ponder on these words with standing, will, and memory. Beatrice says this profit. is false, for as the angels gaze and have always 96. They forget the sacredness of the Bible gazed into the mirror of God's mind, they see spread abroad through the world by the blood of all things past, present, and future, and hence the martyrs. have no need of memory
103. To illustrate this vain ingenuity of exe87. This false teaching is done by two classes gesis, Beatrice brings up the passage, Matt. of men: those who believe their errors to be the xxvii. 45: “Now from the sixth hour there was truth, and those who do not believe what they darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour." teach. The latter are most guilty and repre- One interpreter says the moon moved back on hensible.
her path in order to interpose herself between 89. Beatrice takes occasion to rebuke the the sun and earth; another says the light dark. vanity of preachers and theologians, who, led ened of itself. Beatrice takes sides with neither by love of applause, and eager to appear brill- of these, but says that all such efforts are vain iant and ingenious," wrest the Scriptures” to and useless: it is sufficient to know the fact
eir own uses. Many sensational preachers of stated by Scripture.