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Paradiso

Paradiso


Summary

Paradiso Paradise Canto XXX: (Tenth Heaven: the Empyrean) Summary Page 1

  • Dante takes us back to Earth, where he describes the constellations as seen from the ground during the sunrise. He takes us through the travel of each star as it gives way to the dawn.
  • Only here do we realize that Dante is making a comparison between the disappearance of stars and the gradual disappearance of the Point from his sight as he and Beatrice ascend to the Empyrean.
  • When he can see nothing more of the Point, Dante turns again to Beatrice. Beatrice is beautiful. So stunning that Dante admits instantaneous defeat; he cannot capture her beauty in language. In fact, her beauty is so striking that her image won't even remain in his memory long enough to record it. But enough of that, Dante thinks.
  • Beatrice speaks, telling Dante that they have reached the highest heaven, one of pure light, intellect, and love. Here, Dante will find "both ranks of Paradise," the angels and the blessed souls. Best of all, he'll get to see the Virgin Mary in her completeness, clothed in both her body and soul.
  • Dante is suddenly enveloped in the living light of the Empyrean and its effect is like lightning on man's sight – blinding. Dante can see very little in this brilliance.
  • Beatrice's voice penetrates his light-suffused blindness and tells him that this is the way the Empyrean welcomes all its souls, to prepare man's soul for the ultimate light.
  • Suddenly, Dante realizes he's floating, and with this new sensation he sees a dazzling sight.
  • As if he's caught in a beautiful painting, Dante sees a river of reddish-gold light flowing between two flowered riverbanks. Out of the odd-colored water, sparks are rising and falling, some settling on the flowers and having the color of rubies set into gold, others plunging back into the water, as if to drink.
  • Beatrice's voice comes again. She tells Dante she approves of his desire to see more of this intoxicating sight, but that first – to slake his thirst – he should drink from the river. Then she adds that everything Dante is seeing – the rivers, gems, flowers – is but a shadow of its true self. Dante must learn to see better if he wants to perceive things for what they really are.
  • So Dante hurries to the river, hoping to drink from it to better his sight. As he bathes his eyes in the brilliance, the river itself seems to change before his eyes.
  • It is no longer straight, but round, and all the flowers and gems come into focus; they are really the two hosts of Heaven – the angels and the blessed saints sitting in Heaven's court.
  • Overwhelmed by the sight, Dante prays to God to let him keep the memory of what he's seeing.
  • Up above, a huge dome of light illuminates everything below.
  • As he gazes at it, Dante realizes that he's seeing the endpoint of a single ray of light, coming from God himself and reflected from the top of the Primum Mobile. This single ray of God's light powers the entire universe.
  • And at the top of the dome, which acts as a mirror, Dante sees the entire Celestial Rose with its hosts reflected, like a pretty hill reflected by a pool at its base.
  • Then Dante turns his eyes to the Rose itself and reaps the fruit of his perfected vision. He realizes that he can see everything no matter how near or far away.
  • Beatrice leads Dante into the rose, which blooms under the endless light of the sun (which is God). She boasts about how many people there are, how big this city is, how few seats there are left for the blessed.
  • Dante notices one empty seat with a crown fixed above it. Beatrice explains that this seat is saved for Henry VIII of Luxembourg who "shall / show Italy the righteous way – but when / she is unready."
  • (Quick history lesson: Henry VIII was the man Dante believed would unite Italy and take the crown of the Holy Roman Empire to bring peace to Europe. After being crowned king of Germany and being given papal sanction to come quell the quarreling factions in Italy, Henry VIII made Dante's hopes soar. But his victory was short-lived. He could not stop the warring Italian parties. He did eventually gain the emperor's crown, but was not sanctioned by Pope Clement V and eventually died in battle.)
  • Beatrice continues, scolding Italy for driving away Henry, like a starving child who drives away his nurse. She talks about Pope Clement V's betrayal of Henry and promises Dante that God will take his vengeance and cast Clement into Hell, where he will replace Pope Boniface III in the Third Pouch of the Eighth Circle, reserved for simonists.

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