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by Dante Alighieri

Paradiso Paradise Canto X: (Fourth Heaven: Sphere of the Sun) Summary

  • Dante urges us to lift our eyes to the stars and see God's incredible art, the orbit of the planets. He then tells us that unless these orbits were just so, the entire universe would go out of wack.
  • Dante rises to the fourth sphere of the Sun without even realizing it.
  • Dante notices that Beatrice flies (with him) so swiftly that they arrive in a new sphere after only a moment.
  • And, Dante says, the souls in the Sun are so beautiful, I can't even describe them.
  • Beatrice orders Dante to thank God for lifting him into the Sun, and Dante obeys gladly. In fact, he gets so lost in his happy prayers that even his thoughts of Beatrice are "eclipsed" by God.
  • In the Sun, Dante sees many souls form a crown around him and Beatrice.
  • They're so pretty that Dante compares them to the halo formed around the Moon on a misty night.
  • The souls start singing and dancing in circles around our two pilgrims.
  • After completing three circles, they suddenly fall silent, and one soul comes forward.
  • He flatters Dante. Since you shine with the light of God, he sings, anyone who doesn't fulfill your every wish should be punished.
  • He paraphrases Dante's question: Who is dancing around me?
  • The soul starts by introducing himself as one of the "holy flock / that Dominic leads where one may fatten well if he does not stray off." In English, it means he's in the Dominican order. His name is Thomas of Aquinas.
  • Now let's introduce the dancers: Albert of Cologne (a fellow student of St. Dominic), Gratian (who helped develop law), Peter Lombard (a professor of theology), the revered King Solomon (who was thought to have composed the Biblical Song of Songs), Dionysius the Areopagite (writer of De coelestia Hierarchia), and Paulus Orosius (a Spanish historian).
  • But there's more: Boethius (a medieval philosopher) who was martyred and came to Heaven, St. Isidore of Seville (who wrote an encyclopedia), Venerable the Bede (the father of English history), Richard of St. Victor (a renowned mystic), and Siger de Brabant (a proponent of the Averroist interpretation of Aristotle) are all in this fourth ring of Heaven.
  • After introductions, the spirits start singing and dancing again. Dante compares them to the Bride of God (the Church) singing matins (morning prayers) to Christ at dawn.

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