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by Dante Alighieri

Paradiso Paradise Canto XXVI: (Eighth Heaven: Sphere of the Fixed Stars) Summary

  • Through the scary darkness, Dante hears St. John's voice telling him that he'd better just talk his way through this one, until he can see again.
  • St. John assures him of this. Beatrice, he says, can cure you of your blindness. But first, tell me what you wish for.
  • Realizing this is another examination, Dante answers that he, like everyone here, desires God's love.
  • In his blindness, Dante can somehow feel St. John's annoyance with his answer, which manifests itself as a burst of light. St. John growls, telling Dante he's got to be more specific than that. Dante must reveal who directed his love towards God.
  • He answers that he himself did. As a human being, he says he has God's love imprinted in him, and because he tries to be virtuous, that love turns toward God. He continues that anyone who is good cannot help but love God. Dante asserts that God himself confirmed this when he told Moses, "I shall show you all goodness."
  • Furthermore, Dante claims that St. John himself agrees in his Gospel, where he celebrates the mystery of Heaven, Christ Incarnate.
  • St. John confirms Dante's answer but presses him further, asking if there are any other reasons he loves God.
  • Dante knows what he wants to hear: I love God because He created the world, because Christ died so that I might live, and because He gives me hope of reaching Heaven. I love God in the proper proportion, which He allotted to me.
  • This must be the correct answer, because the whole company bursts out into song, singing about the four animals of the Apocalypse.
  • A miracle occurs. Dante sees a glimmer of light, then more light, and then so much that he almost goes blind as he regains his sight. He realizes as he gazes at the wonderful world that he can see better than he did before.
  • Dante realizes that a fourth soul has joined them.
  • Beatrice, reading Dante's mind, tells him who the new guy is; he's the "first soul / ever created by the Primal Force." That's right, it's Adam himself.
  • Confused, then inspired by Beatrice's words, Dante turns to Adam and begs him to speak. Dante knows that Adam knows what Dante wants, so Dante asks Adam why he won't just answer him.
  • Adam confirms this by saying that he can indeed see Dante's mind reflected in the perfect mirror that is God's mind, but which no mirror can reflect perfectly. He summarizes Dante's four questions: How long has it been since Adam was in Eden? How long did he stay in Eden? What was the true cause of God's anger? What language did Adam speak?
  • Adam wastes no time in answering, but takes the third one first: God wasn't angry because Adam ate of the forbidden fruit, but because he trespassed the boundary God had set for him. Adam hasn't seen Eden for 6498 years.The language he spoke is long dead. According to Adam, nothing that man makes—including language—lasts very long. Adam continues, saying that Heaven gave man the ability to speak, but God doesn't care what language a person chooses. However, in Adam's language God was called I; the next language called him El.
  • Finally, Adam responds that he lived in Eden for seven hours.

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