Dante's Cosmic Vision in Paradise
Within a single volume, bounded by love Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)
I saw the scattered leaves of all the universe
Substance and accidents, and their relations,
As though together fused in such a way
That what I speak of is a single light.
The universal form of this commingling
I think I saw, for when I tell of it
My heart rejoice so much the more...
How powerless is speech how weak, compared
To my conception, which itself is trifling
Beside the mighty vision that I saw!
O Light Eternal, in Thyself contained!
Thou only know Thyself, and in Thyself
Both known and knowing, smile on Thyself!
That very circle which appeared in Thee,
Conceived as but reflection of a light,
When I had gazed on it awhile, now seemed
To bear the image of a human face
Within itself, of its own coloring
Wherefore my sight was wholly fixed on it.
Like a geometer, who will attempt
With all his power and mind to square the circle
Yet cannot find the principle he needs:
Just so was I, at that phenomenon.
I wished to see how image joined to ring,
And how the one found place within the other.
Too feeble for such flights were my own wings;
But by a lightning flash my mind was struck
And thus came the fulfilment of my wish.
My power now failed that phantasy sublime;
My will and my desire were both revolved,
As in a wheel in even motion driven,
By Love, which moves the sun and other stars.
Paradiso, XXXIII.85-93, 121-145 (1321)