Believing Is Not Seeing

We are in the heaven of the fixed stars, which the pilgrim entered at verse 111 of Paradiso 22, and now Dante will be examined on the three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity. His examiners are the three referred to in the verse “quante Iesù ai tre fe’ più carezza”: “the three Jesus favored above the rest” (Par. 25.33). In other words, his examiners are the three major apostles: Saint Peter will examine Dante on faith; Saint James will examine Dante on hope; and Saint John will examine Dante on charity, aka love.

Paradiso 24 is devoted to the examination on the first of the theological virtues, faith. Here, in sharp contrast to Paradiso 23, the discourse is logical, linear, and scholastic to the point of being legalistic. As I noted in The Undivine Comedy, Paradiso 24 is the only canto in the poem to contain both the verb “silogizzar” (77) and the noun “silogismo” (94), neither used disparagingly.[1]

If the textual emblem for Paradiso 23 is the phrase circulata melodia, the textual emblem for Paradiso 24 is the adverb “differente- / mente” (Par. 24.16-17). The second and final presence of the adverb differentemente in the Commedia (the first is in Paradiso 4.35) also constitutes the poem’s only instance of a single word divided by enjambment between two verses. Here Dante turns enjambment away from its unifying function in Gabriel’s song and focuses instead on the trope’s divisive properties, performing the concept of difference in “differente- / mente”’s very appearance. He thus signals the discursive shift away from the mystical circularity of Paradiso 23.

Another indicator of the discursive shift toward a more linear and rational style is the famous simile of the bachelor student who prepares himself for questioning. As compared to the similes of Paradiso 23, which engage the reader affectively in such a way as to impress a feeling, rather than to tell a story, the simile of the baccialier is quintessentially non-lyric. It belongs to the narrative mode and in fact constitutes in itself a little narrative, a brief but recognizable story with a logical structure:

Sì come il baccialier s’arma e non parla
fin che ’l maestro la question propone,
per approvarla, non per terminarla, 
così m’armava io d’ogne ragione	
mentre ch’ella dicea, per esser presto
a tal querente e a tal professione. 		(Par. 24.46-51)
Just as the bachelor candidate must arm
himself and does not speak until the master
submits the question for discussion—not
for settlement—so while she spoke I armed
myself with all my arguments, preparing
for such a questioner and such professing.

Logical structure is everywhere apparent in Paradiso 24, which proceeds clearly and rigorously from point to point; Dante wants to exemplify a syllogistic form of reasoning that manages to be precise and yet untainted by sophistry.

How fascinating that this logical and rationalistic canto is devoted to a demonstration of faith!

In Paradiso 24 Dante adopts the language of reason, indeed the language of scholastic argumentation, thus compelling us to think about the dialectic between faith and logic. By proceeding rationally and logically, he finds an extremely effective way to make us think about faith: the essence of faith is the capacity to believe without proof, without the evidence of logic or syllogistic reasoning.

Dante prepares himself to be tested by Saint Peter in the way that the baccialier prepares to be questioned by the maestro (46-48, cited above). The questions posed by Saint Peter are, first, “what is faith?” (53), and, second, “do you possess it?” (85).

The first question is put quite stirringly, requiring the pilgrim to “make himself manifest”: «Di’, buon Cristiano, fatti manifesto: / fede che è?» (Good Christian, speak, show yourself clearly: what is faith? [Par. 24.52-53]). Dante offers as his authority Saint Peter’s “dear brother” (62), Saint Paul.

The definition of faith is from Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1):

fede è sustanza di cose sperate
e argomento de le non parventi;
e questa pare a me sua quiditate. 		(Par. 24.64-66)
faith is the substance of the things we hope for 
and is the evidence of things not seen;
and this I take to be its quiddity.

In other words, Dante has created a marvelous chiasmus between his form and his content, his signum and his res. The signum of Paradiso 24 is reasoned argument and syllogistic logic, the tools that lead to understanding and to intellectual “sight”, but the res of Paradiso 24 is faith, which consists precisely of believing without benefit of sight.

For the rationalist, “seeing is believing”. For the person of faith, belief is possible without rational proof, without seeing. Indeed, the essence of faith, defined as “the evidence of things not seen”, is believing without seeing.

A thematic of textuality and truth, a probing of what constitutes true textuality, runs through the examination canti. Broached by Paradiso 23’s redefinition of the Commedia as a “sacrato poema” (Par. 23.62), the theme is picked up by the reference in Paradiso 24 to Saint Paul as the “veracious pen” (“verace stilo” [Par. 24.61]) and continues in an investigation of the basis of the Bible’s own textual authority.

Why, comes the startling question, does the pilgrim hold the Old and New Testaments to be truly divine speech?

Io udi’ poi: «L’antica e la novella
proposizion che così ti conchiude,
perché l'hai tu per divina favella?»		 (Par. 24.97-99)
I heard: “The premises of old and new 
impelling your conclusion—why do you
hold these to be the speech of God?”

The pilgrim’s reply is that the proof of the Bible’s truth lies in the “works that followed” (“l’opere seguite” [101]), in other words, in the miracles that confirm the truth of the biblical accounts. But Saint Peter continues an analysis that leaves very little to be taken on faith, pointing out the circularity of the pilgrim’s argument: the only source for the truth of the miracles is the same biblical textuality whose truth he is trying to prove. Peter’s language is the language of Aristotelian logic:

Risposto fummi: «Di’, chi t’assicura
che quell’opere fosser? Quel medesmo
che vuol provarsi, non altri, il ti giura». 		(Par. 24.103-05)
“Say, who assures you that those works were real?”
came the reply. “The very thing that needs
proof—no thing else—attests these works to you.”

Saint Peter is pointing to the logical fallacy of petitio principi, where the conclusion that one is attempting to prove is included in the initial premise of the argument. As Saint Peter cogently says: you can’t use the miracles recounted in the Bible to prove the truth of the Bible when our only guarantee of the truth of those miracles is the very Bible whose truth we are trying to prove. I find this passage incredibly moving, for in it Dante dramatizes why faith is a “leap” for a person constituted as he is: a man committed to reason and to following the path of reason as far as it will go, a man who is completely aware of the inherent logical frailty of all guarantees of divine truth. For such a man, faith is an achievement. Dante resolves the syllogistic stalemate on Biblical truth by bringing in God, Whose presence in history in the form of Christianity is declared to be so great a miracle that none other is needed (106-11). But, as with Dante’s challenge to God’s injustice toward the man born on the banks of the Indus in Paradiso 19, so here, too, what counts is the frank and open airing of a problem that few would acknowledge.

When the pilgrim is asked, earlier in the canto, if he possesses faith, the language is economic, material, and quotidian. Saint Peter’s characterization of faith as “moneta” and query as to whether Dante has it “in his purse” have a homespun quality that seem very far from the ratiocinative syllogisms we associate with Paradiso 24. Drawing on the many passages in the Commedia in which the faulty minting of coins is a hallmark of civic corruption (see for instance Inferno 30 and Purgatorio 6), here Dante imagines his own faith as a coin whose alloy, weight, and stamp cannot be placed in doubt:

«Assai bene è trascorsa
d’esta moneta già la lega e ’l peso; 
ma dimmi se tu l’hai ne la tua borsa».
Ond’io: «Sì ho, sì lucida e sì tonda,
che nel suo conio nulla mi s’inforsa».		 (Par. 24.83-87)
“Now this coin is well-examined,
and now we know its alloy and its weight.
But tell me: do you have it in your purse?”
And I: “Indeed I do—so bright and round
that nothing in its stamp leads me to doubt.”

By the end of Paradiso 24, where ratio and intellect are so valued as to put the veracity of the Bible itself into discussion, we are in a position to understand somewhat better why Dante would think of his faith as a treasured coin, “so bright and so round” and so safely nestled in his “purse”: faith is a very impressive coin indeed when it is so dearly bought.

 

[1] The noun silogismo appears also in Paradiso 11.2, where it is used in the plural, while the verb silogizzar is used of Sigier of Brabant in Paradiso 10.138.

Coordinated Reading

Coordinated Reading: The Undivine Comedy, Chapter 10, “The Sacred Poem is Forced to Jump: Closure and the Poetics of Enjambment,” pp. 229-31.

Recommended Citation

Barolini, Teodolinda. “Paradiso 24: Believing Is Not Seeing.” Commento Baroliniano, Digital Dante. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2017. https://digitaldante.columbia.edu/dante/divine-comedy/paradiso/paradiso-24/

About the Commento

1«O sodalizio eletto a la gran cena
2del benedetto Agnello, il qual vi ciba
3sì, che la vostra voglia è sempre piena,

4se per grazia di Dio questi preliba
5di quel che cade de la vostra mensa,
6prima che morte tempo li prescriba,

7ponete mente a l’affezione immensa
8e roratelo alquanto: voi bevete
9sempre del fonte onde vien quel ch’ei pensa».

10Così Beatrice; e quelle anime liete
11si fero spere sopra fissi poli,
12fiammando, a volte, a guisa di comete.

13E come cerchi in tempra d’orïuoli
14si giran sì, che ’l primo a chi pon mente
15quïeto pare, e l’ultimo che voli;

16così quelle carole, differente-
17mente danzando, de la sua ricchezza
18mi facieno stimar, veloci e lente.

19Di quella ch’io notai di più carezza
20vid’ ïo uscire un foco sì felice,
21che nullo vi lasciò di più chiarezza;

22e tre fïate intorno di Beatrice
23si volse con un canto tanto divo,
24che la mia fantasia nol mi ridice.

25Però salta la penna e non lo scrivo:
26ché l’imagine nostra a cotai pieghe,
27non che ’l parlare, è troppo color vivo.

28«O santa suora mia che sì ne prieghe
29divota, per lo tuo ardente affetto
30da quella bella spera mi disleghe».

31Poscia fermato, il foco benedetto
32a la mia donna dirizzò lo spiro,
33che favellò così com’ i’ ho detto.

34Ed ella: «O luce etterna del gran viro
35a cui Nostro Segnor lasciò le chiavi,
36ch’ei portò giù, di questo gaudio miro,

37tenta costui di punti lievi e gravi,
38come ti piace, intorno de la fede,
39per la qual tu su per lo mare andavi.

40S’elli ama bene e bene spera e crede,
41non t’è occulto, perché ’l viso hai quivi
42dov’ ogne cosa dipinta si vede;

43ma perché questo regno ha fatto civi
44per la verace fede, a glorïarla,
45di lei parlare è ben ch’a lui arrivi».

46Sì come il baccialier s’arma e non parla
47fin che ’l maestro la question propone,
48per approvarla, non per terminarla,

49così m’armava io d’ogne ragione
50mentre ch’ella dicea, per esser presto
51a tal querente e a tal professione.

52«Dì, buon Cristiano, fatti manifesto:
53fede che è?». Ond’ io levai la fronte
54in quella luce onde spirava questo;

55poi mi volsi a Beatrice, ed essa pronte
56sembianze femmi perch’ ïo spandessi
57l’acqua di fuor del mio interno fonte.

58«La Grazia che mi dà ch’io mi confessi»,
59comincia’ io, «da l’alto primipilo,
60faccia li miei concetti bene espressi».

61E seguitai: «Come ’l verace stilo
62ne scrisse, padre, del tuo caro frate
63che mise teco Roma nel buon filo,

64fede è sustanza di cose sperate
65e argomento de le non parventi;
66e questa pare a me sua quiditate».

67Allora udi’: «Dirittamente senti,
68se bene intendi perché la ripuose
69tra le sustanze, e poi tra li argomenti».

70E io appresso: «Le profonde cose
71che mi largiscon qui la lor parvenza,
72a li occhi di là giù son sì ascose,

73che l’esser loro v’è in sola credenza,
74sopra la qual si fonda l’alta spene;
75e però di sustanza prende intenza.

76E da questa credenza ci convene
77silogizzar, sanz’ avere altra vista:
78però intenza d’argomento tene».

79Allora udi’: «Se quantunque s’acquista
80giù per dottrina, fosse così ’nteso,
81non lì avria loco ingegno di sofista».

82Così spirò di quello amore acceso;
83indi soggiunse: «Assai bene è trascorsa
84d’esta moneta già la lega e ’l peso;

85ma dimmi se tu l’hai ne la tua borsa».
86Ond’ io: «Sì ho, sì lucida e sì tonda,
87che nel suo conio nulla mi s’inforsa».

88Appresso uscì de la luce profonda
89che lì splendeva: «Questa cara gioia
90sopra la quale ogne virtù si fonda,

91onde ti venne?». E io: «La larga ploia
92de lo Spirito Santo, ch’è diffusa
93in su le vecchie e ’n su le nuove cuoia,

94è silogismo che la m’ha conchiusa
95acutamente sì, che ’nverso d’ella
96ogne dimostrazion mi pare ottusa».

97Io udi’ poi: «L’antica e la novella
98proposizion che così ti conchiude,
99perché l’hai tu per divina favella?».

100E io: «La prova che ’l ver mi dischiude,
101son l’opere seguite, a che natura
102non scalda ferro mai né batte incude».

103Risposto fummi: «Dì, chi t’assicura
104che quell’ opere fosser? Quel medesmo
105che vuol provarsi, non altri, il ti giura».

106«Se ’l mondo si rivolse al cristianesmo»,
107diss’ io, «sanza miracoli, quest’ uno
108è tal, che li altri non sono il centesmo:

109ché tu intrasti povero e digiuno
110in campo, a seminar la buona pianta
111che fu già vite e ora è fatta pruno».

112Finito questo, l’alta corte santa
113risonò per le spere un ‘Dio laudamo’
114ne la melode che là sù si canta.

115E quel baron che sì di ramo in ramo,
116essaminando, già tratto m’avea,
117che a l’ultime fronde appressavamo,

118ricominciò: «La Grazia, che donnea
119con la tua mente, la bocca t’aperse
120infino a qui come aprir si dovea,

121sì ch’io approvo ciò che fuori emerse;
122ma or convien espremer quel che credi,
123e onde a la credenza tua s’offerse».

124«O santo padre, e spirito che vedi
125ciò che credesti sì, che tu vincesti
126ver’ lo sepulcro più giovani piedi»,

127comincia’ io, «tu vuo’ ch’io manifesti
128la forma qui del pronto creder mio,
129e anche la cagion di lui chiedesti.

130E io rispondo: Io credo in uno Dio
131solo ed etterno, che tutto ’l ciel move,
132non moto, con amore e con disio;

133e a tal creder non ho io pur prove
134fisice e metafisice, ma dalmi
135anche la verità che quinci piove

136per Moïsè, per profeti e per salmi,
137per l’Evangelio e per voi che scriveste
138poi che l’ardente Spirto vi fé almi;

139e credo in tre persone etterne, e queste
140credo una essenza sì una e sì trina,
141che soffera congiunto ‘sono’ ed ‘este’.

142De la profonda condizion divina
143ch’io tocco mo, la mente mi sigilla
144più volte l’evangelica dottrina.

145Quest’ è ’l principio, quest’ è la favilla
146che si dilata in fiamma poi vivace,
147e come stella in cielo in me scintilla».

148Come ’l segnor ch’ascolta quel che i piace,
149da indi abbraccia il servo, gratulando
150per la novella, tosto ch’el si tace;

151così, benedicendomi cantando,
152tre volte cinse me, sì com’ io tacqui,
153l’appostolico lume al cui comando

154io avea detto: sì nel dir li piacqui!

“O fellowship that has been chosen for
the Blessed Lamb’s great supper, where He feeds
you so as always to fulfill your need,

since by the grace of God, this man receives
foretaste of something fallen from your table
before death has assigned his time its limit,

direct your mind to his immense desire,
quench him somewhat: you who forever drink
from that Source which his thought and longing seek.”

So Beatrice; and these delighted souls
formed companies of spheres around fixed poles,
flaming as they revolved, as comets glow.

And just as, in a clock’s machinery,
to one who watches them, the wheels turn so
that, while the first wheel seems to rest, the last

wheel flies; so did those circling dancers—as
they danced to different measures, swift and slow—
make me a judge of what their riches were.

From that sphere which I noted as most precious,
I saw a flame come forth with so much gladness
that none it left behind had greater brightness;

and that flame whirled three times round Beatrice
while singing so divine a song that my
imagination cannot shape it for me.

My pen leaps over it; I do not write:
our fantasy and, all the more so, speech
are far too gross for painting folds so deep.

“O you who pray to us with such devotion—
my holy sister—with your warm affection,
you have released me from that lovely sphere.”

So, after he had stopped his motion, did
the blessed flame breathe forth unto my lady;
and what he said I have reported here.

She answered: “O eternal light of that
great man to whom our Lord bequeathed the keys
of this astonishing gladness—the keys

He bore to earth—do test this man concerning
the faith by which you walked upon the sea;
ask him points light and grave, just as you please.

That he loves well and hopes well and has faith
is not concealed from you: you see that Place
where everything that happens is displayed.

But since this realm has gained its citizens
through the true faith, it rightly falls to him
to speak of faith, that he may glorify it.”

Just as the bachelor candidate must arm
himself and does not speak until the master
submits the question for discussion—not

for settlement—so while she spoke I armed
myself with all my arguments, preparing
for such a questioner and such professing.

On hearing that light breathe, “Good Christian, speak,
show yourself clearly: what is faith?” I raised
my brow, then turned to Beatrice, whose glance

immediately signaled me to let
the waters of my inner source pour forth.
Then I: “So may the Grace that grants to me

to make confession to the Chief Centurion
permit my thoughts to find their fit expression”;
and followed, “Father, as the truthful pen

of your dear brother wrote—that brother who,
with you, set Rome upon the righteous road—
faith is the substance of the things we hope for

and is the evidence of things not seen;
and this I take to be its quiddity.”
And then I heard: “You understand precisely,

if it is fully clear to you why he
has first placed faith among the substances
and then defines it as an evidence.”

I next: “The deep things that on me bestow
their image here, are hid from sight below,
so that their being lies in faith alone,

and on that faith the highest hope is founded;
and thus it is that faith is called a substance.
And it is from this faith that we must reason,

deducing what we can from syllogisms,
without our being able to see more:
thus faith is also called an evidence.”

And then I heard: “If all one learns below
as doctrine were so understood, there would
be no place for the sophist’s cleverness.”

This speech was breathed from that enkindled love.
He added: “Now this coin is well—examined,
and now we know its alloy and its weight.

But tell me: do you have it in your purse?”
And I: “Indeed I do—so bright and round
that nothing in its stamp leads me to doubt.”

Next, from the deep light gleaming there, I heard:
“What is the origin of the dear gem
that comes to you, the gem on which all virtues

are founded?” I: “The Holy Ghost’s abundant
rain poured upon the parchments old and new;
that is the syllogism that has proved

with such persuasiveness that faith has truth—
when set beside that argument, all other
demonstrations seem to me obtuse.”

I heard: “The premises of old and new
impelling your conclusion—why do you
hold these to be the speech of God?” And I:

“The proof revealing truth to me relies
on acts that happened; for such miracles,
nature can heat no iron, beat no anvil.”

“Say, who assures you that those works were real?”
came the reply. “The very thing that needs
proof—no thing else—attests these works to you.”

I said: “If without miracles the world
was turned to Christianity, that is
so great a miracle that all the rest

are not its hundredth part: for you were poor
and hungry when you found the field and sowed
the good plant—once a vine and now a thorn.”

This done, the high and holy court resounded
throughout its spheres with “Te Deum laudamus,”
sung with the melody they use on high.

Then he who had examined me, that baron
who led me on from branch to branch so that
we now were drawing close to the last leaves,

began again: “That Grace which—lovingly—
directs your mind, until this point has taught
you how to find the seemly words for thought,

so that I do approve what you brought forth;
but now you must declare what you believe
and what gave you the faith that you receive.”

“O holy father, soul who now can see
what you believed with such intensity
that, to His tomb, you outran younger feet,”

I then began, “you would have me tell plainly
the form of my unhesitating faith,
and also ask me to declare its source.

I answer: I believe in one God—sole,
eternal—He who, motionless, moves all
the heavens with His love and love for Him;

for this belief I have not only proofs
both physical and metaphysical;
I also have the truth that here rains down

through Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms
and through the Gospels and through you who wrote
words given to you by the Holy Ghost.

And I believe in three Eternal Persons,
and these I do believe to be one essence,
so single and threefold as to allow

both is and are. Of this profound condition
of God that I have touched on, Gospel teaching
has often set the imprint on my mind.

This is the origin, this is the spark
that then extends into a vivid flame
and, like a star in heaven, glows in me.”

Just as the lord who listens to his servant’s
announcement, then, as soon as he is silent,
embraces him, both glad with the good news,

so did the apostolic light at whose
command I had replied, while blessing me
and singing, then encircle me three times:

the speech I spoke had brought him such delight.

“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.

“O fellowship that has been chosen for
the Blessed Lamb’s great supper, where He feeds
you so as always to fulfill your need,

since by the grace of God, this man receives
foretaste of something fallen from your table
before death has assigned his time its limit,

direct your mind to his immense desire,
quench him somewhat: you who forever drink
from that Source which his thought and longing seek.”

So Beatrice; and these delighted souls
formed companies of spheres around fixed poles,
flaming as they revolved, as comets glow.

And just as, in a clock’s machinery,
to one who watches them, the wheels turn so
that, while the first wheel seems to rest, the last

wheel flies; so did those circling dancers—as
they danced to different measures, swift and slow—
make me a judge of what their riches were.

From that sphere which I noted as most precious,
I saw a flame come forth with so much gladness
that none it left behind had greater brightness;

and that flame whirled three times round Beatrice
while singing so divine a song that my
imagination cannot shape it for me.

My pen leaps over it; I do not write:
our fantasy and, all the more so, speech
are far too gross for painting folds so deep.

“O you who pray to us with such devotion—
my holy sister—with your warm affection,
you have released me from that lovely sphere.”

So, after he had stopped his motion, did
the blessed flame breathe forth unto my lady;
and what he said I have reported here.

She answered: “O eternal light of that
great man to whom our Lord bequeathed the keys
of this astonishing gladness—the keys

He bore to earth—do test this man concerning
the faith by which you walked upon the sea;
ask him points light and grave, just as you please.

That he loves well and hopes well and has faith
is not concealed from you: you see that Place
where everything that happens is displayed.

But since this realm has gained its citizens
through the true faith, it rightly falls to him
to speak of faith, that he may glorify it.”

Just as the bachelor candidate must arm
himself and does not speak until the master
submits the question for discussion—not

for settlement—so while she spoke I armed
myself with all my arguments, preparing
for such a questioner and such professing.

On hearing that light breathe, “Good Christian, speak,
show yourself clearly: what is faith?” I raised
my brow, then turned to Beatrice, whose glance

immediately signaled me to let
the waters of my inner source pour forth.
Then I: “So may the Grace that grants to me

to make confession to the Chief Centurion
permit my thoughts to find their fit expression”;
and followed, “Father, as the truthful pen

of your dear brother wrote—that brother who,
with you, set Rome upon the righteous road—
faith is the substance of the things we hope for

and is the evidence of things not seen;
and this I take to be its quiddity.”
And then I heard: “You understand precisely,

if it is fully clear to you why he
has first placed faith among the substances
and then defines it as an evidence.”

I next: “The deep things that on me bestow
their image here, are hid from sight below,
so that their being lies in faith alone,

and on that faith the highest hope is founded;
and thus it is that faith is called a substance.
And it is from this faith that we must reason,

deducing what we can from syllogisms,
without our being able to see more:
thus faith is also called an evidence.”

And then I heard: “If all one learns below
as doctrine were so understood, there would
be no place for the sophist’s cleverness.”

This speech was breathed from that enkindled love.
He added: “Now this coin is well—examined,
and now we know its alloy and its weight.

But tell me: do you have it in your purse?”
And I: “Indeed I do—so bright and round
that nothing in its stamp leads me to doubt.”

Next, from the deep light gleaming there, I heard:
“What is the origin of the dear gem
that comes to you, the gem on which all virtues

are founded?” I: “The Holy Ghost’s abundant
rain poured upon the parchments old and new;
that is the syllogism that has proved

with such persuasiveness that faith has truth—
when set beside that argument, all other
demonstrations seem to me obtuse.”

I heard: “The premises of old and new
impelling your conclusion—why do you
hold these to be the speech of God?” And I:

“The proof revealing truth to me relies
on acts that happened; for such miracles,
nature can heat no iron, beat no anvil.”

“Say, who assures you that those works were real?”
came the reply. “The very thing that needs
proof—no thing else—attests these works to you.”

I said: “If without miracles the world
was turned to Christianity, that is
so great a miracle that all the rest

are not its hundredth part: for you were poor
and hungry when you found the field and sowed
the good plant—once a vine and now a thorn.”

This done, the high and holy court resounded
throughout its spheres with “Te Deum laudamus,”
sung with the melody they use on high.

Then he who had examined me, that baron
who led me on from branch to branch so that
we now were drawing close to the last leaves,

began again: “That Grace which—lovingly—
directs your mind, until this point has taught
you how to find the seemly words for thought,

so that I do approve what you brought forth;
but now you must declare what you believe
and what gave you the faith that you receive.”

“O holy father, soul who now can see
what you believed with such intensity
that, to His tomb, you outran younger feet,”

I then began, “you would have me tell plainly
the form of my unhesitating faith,
and also ask me to declare its source.

I answer: I believe in one God—sole,
eternal—He who, motionless, moves all
the heavens with His love and love for Him;

for this belief I have not only proofs
both physical and metaphysical;
I also have the truth that here rains down

through Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms
and through the Gospels and through you who wrote
words given to you by the Holy Ghost.

And I believe in three Eternal Persons,
and these I do believe to be one essence,
so single and threefold as to allow

both is and are. Of this profound condition
of God that I have touched on, Gospel teaching
has often set the imprint on my mind.

This is the origin, this is the spark
that then extends into a vivid flame
and, like a star in heaven, glows in me.”

Just as the lord who listens to his servant’s
announcement, then, as soon as he is silent,
embraces him, both glad with the good news,

so did the apostolic light at whose
command I had replied, while blessing me
and singing, then encircle me three times:

the speech I spoke had brought him such delight.

“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.