Sin and Redemption

Translated by Henry Francis Cary Selections from “The Divine Comedy” Paradise: Canto VII. WHAT I have heard, Is plain, thou say’st: but wherefore God this way For our redemption chose, eludes my search. “Brother! no eye of man not perfected, Nor fully ripened in the flame of love, May fathom this decree. It is a mark, In sooth, much aimed at, and but little kenned: And I will therefore show thee why such way Was worthiest. The celestial love, that spurns All envying in its bounty, in itself With such effulgence blazeth, as sends forth All beauteous things eternal. What distils Immediate thence, no end of being knows; Bearing its seal immutably imprest. Whatever thence immediate falls, is free, Free wholly, uncontrollable by power Of each thing new: by such conformity More grateful to its author, whose bright beams, Though all partake their shining, yet in those Are liveliest, which resemble him the most. These tokens of pre-eminence on man Largely bestowed, if any of them fail, He needs must forfeit his nobility, No longer stainless. Sin alone is that, Which doth disfranchise him, and make unlike To the chief good; for that its light in him Is darkened. And to dignity thus lost Is no return; unless, where guilt makes void, He for ill pleasure pay with equal pain. Your nature, which entirely in its seed Transgressed, from these distinctions fell, no less Than from its state in Paradise; nor means Found on recovery (search all methods out As strictly as thou may) save one of these, The only fords were left through which to wade: Either, that God had of his courtesy Released him merely; or else, man himself For his own folly by himself atoned. “Fix now thine eye, intently as thou canst, On the everlasting counsel; and explore, Instructed by my words, the dread abyss. “Man in himself had ever lacked the means Of satisfaction, for he could not stoop Obeying, in humility so low, As high, he, disobeying, thought to soar: And, for this reason, he had vainly tried, Out of his own sufficiency, to pay The rigid satisfaction. Then behoved That God should by his own ways lead him back Unto the life, from whence he fell, restored: By both his ways, I mean, or one alone. But since the deed is ever prized the more, The more the doer’s good intent appears; Goodness celestial, whose broad signature Is on the universe, of all its ways To raise ye up, was fain to leave out none. Nor aught so vast or so magnificent, Either for him who gave or who received, Between the last night and the primal day, Was or can be. For God more bounty showed, Giving himself to make man capable Of his return to life, than had the terms Been mere and unconditional release. And for his justice, every method else Were all too scant, had not the Son of God Humbled himself to put on mortal flesh.”

1285
Sub Title: 
VIII. Selections from “The Divine Comedy”

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