Friday, October 02, 2015

parad 6

Dante in the Empyrean Drinking at the River of Light

Object 101 of William Blake's Illustrations of Dante

From Paradiso XXX 61-99:
No sooner to my list’ning ear had come
The brief assurance, than I understood
New virtue into me infus’d, and sight
Kindled afresh, with vigour to sustain
Excess of light, however pure. I look’d;
And in the likeness of a river saw
Light flowing, from whose amber-seeming waves
Flash’d up effulgence, as they glided on
’Twixt banks, on either side, painted with spring,
Incredible how fair; and, from the tide,
There ever and anon, outstarting, flew
Sparkles instinct with life; and in the flow’rs
Did set them, like to rubies chas’d in gold;
Then, as if drunk with odors, plung’d again
Into the wondrous flood; from which, as one
Re’enter’d, still another rose.

Wiki Commons
Dante in the Empyrean Drinking at the River of Light

Classics and the Western Canon discussion


"THE GREAT THEME is drawing to a close. Here in the Empyrean, Beatrice is at last at home, her beauty made perfect, and Dante utters a lofty PRAISE OF BEATRICE. Beatrice promises Dante a VISION OF BOTH HOSTS OF PARADISE. He is blinded by a new radiance, hears a voice announce that he shall be given new powers, and immediately he sees a VISION OF A RIVER OF LIGHT. As in the Terrestrial Paradise, he is commanded to drink. No sooner is his face submerged in the water than the vision grows circular and re-forms as a VISION OF THE MYSTIC ROSE.


The transcendant and inexpressible beauty of Beatrice: When the light of God and of the angels has vanished from his view, Dante turns to look once more at Beatrice. He finds her so transfigured that all he has ever said till now in praise of her would be inadequate to express her beauty at this moment. In this solemn and deeply moving image, Dante conveys, in the allegory, that only God can fully know and fully comprehend the beauty and truth of the most sublime doctrines of theology. In the story, Beatrice is about to return to her throne in the Empyrean and no mortal can express the glory of a blessed spirit, for it is derived from the vision of God.

The Empyrean: Beyond the nine spheres which circle the earth, contained within no space, and beyond time, is the Empyrean, the abode of God, the angels, and the saints. To this place, or state of being, Dante has now come. But first his eyes are dazzled by the light which swathes him. Once again he is blinded and this second temporary death of the eyesight, giving birth to the final vision of Paradise, is taken by some commentators to be an allegory of death itself. No living being can see God; therefore, if the vision is to be made credible, something analagous to the separating of the soul from the body must take place. It seems more probable that the kindling of his new sight is a further symbol of the Thomist doctrine that the state of blessedness is reached by means of vision, whence comes the love of the soul for God, and, from such love, joy that transcends all delight.

The River of Light: By a succession of images, Dante seeks to convey the gradualness of his approach to the ultimate vision. His first sight of the Empyrean is symbolical, a foreshadowing of the truth which he will behold. The river, flowing from an infinite height, symbolizes divine grace poured forth upon creation. The flowers on the banks are the souls of the redeemed, the living sparks represent the angels who minister grace to the souls. Dante has first to drink, with his eyes, of the river of grace. As he does so, its contours change and he sees it as a circular sea of light. This is said by most commentators to symbolize the light of glory which proceeds from the Divine Essence. In the story, Dante learns that it is reflected from the convex surface of the Primum Mobile, to which it gives that life and potency which is distributed by the angels to the stellar heaven and the planetary spheres and so, ultimately, to the earth and to mankind.

The White Rose: The circle of light, which is the light of God’s glory, forms the yellow of the vast white rose which Dante next beholds. Its petals rising in more than a thousand tiers are the thrones of the blessed, whom Dante can perceive despite the distance, for he is now beyond the limitations of time and space. The rose in mediaeval literature was the symbol of earthly love; Dante’s white rose is the symbol of divine love."

1 comment:

G. E. Gallas said...

Hello Larry:

I just stumbled across your blog and think it's amazing! You clearly have an immense passion for Blake and his work that I truly admire.

I thought you might be interested in my graphic novel "The Poet and the Flea" about Blake and The Ghost of a Flea. I have decided to self-publish/print the first volume, and am using Kickstarter as a way for everyone to preorder. Please check it out here:

Keep up the wonderful work!

Best regards,

G. E.