Masterpieces of

World Literature


 

(CONTENTS)


 

 

 




 

 

 

 

 



Dante Alighieri


Andrea del Castagno
Mural of Dante in the Uffizi Gallery
 c. 1450.
 

 

see also:

Dante Alighieri "The Divine Comedy"
      
(Illustrations by G. Dore, W. Blake, S. Dali)

Dante (Illustrations by Botticelli)

 


The Divine Comedy

Translated by
James Finn Cotter
 

 
 

 


PARADISO

 

 

 

 

 

Canto I

 

          The glory of Him who sets all things in motion
          Cleaves through the universe, and it flames again
          In different places with a different force.
 
          I have been to that heaven where His light
5        Beams brightest and seen things that none, returning,
          Has the knowledge or the power to repeat,
 
          Because, as it draws near to its desire,
          Our intellect sinks down to such a depth
          That memory cannot trace its way back there.
 
10       Nevertheless, whatever I could treasure
          Up in my mind about that sacred kingdom
          Shall now become the subject of my song.
 
          O good Apollo, for this final task,
          Make me such a vessel of your virtues
15       I may deserve the gift of your dear laurel.
 
          So far, one summit of Parnassus was
          Enough for me, but now I need both peaks
          On entering the arena that remains.
 
          Come into my breast and breathe in me
20       As you did when you drew Marsyas out
          From the sheath of his own living flesh.
 
          O divine power, but lend yourself to me
          So I may show the shadow of that blessed
          Kingdom which is embedded in my brain,
 
25       You’ll see me come to your beloved tree,
          And crown me then with those same laurel leaves
          Of which this theme and you shall make me worthy.
 
          So few times, father, is any laurel gathered
          For the triumph of a caesar or a poet —
30       Through sin and shame of human willfulness —
 
          That the Peneian branch should sprout deep joy
          To the rejoicing Delphic deity
          When it inspires anyone with longing.
 
          A little spark is followed by huge fires:
35       Perhaps, after me, prayers will be so raised
          With stronger voices that Cyrrha may respond.
 
          The lamp of the universe rises for mortals
          Through various passages, but from that point
          Which joins four circles with three crosses
 
40       It comes out on a more propitious course,
          With happier stars to temper and seal tight
          The wax of the world more molded to its imprint.
 
          Almost at this outset day had broken there
          And evening here, and all that hemisphere
45       Was whitening while this other side grew dark,
 
          When I saw Beatrice turned to her left hand
          And looking straight into the sun: never
          Had an eagle so fixed his sight upon it!
 
          And as a second ray will break out from
50       The reflection of the first and soar up again,
          Just like a pilgrim yearning to return,
 
          So by her action, streaming through my eyes
          Into my imagination, my act took shape:
          Past mortal might my eyes stared at the sun.
 
55       Much is permitted to our faculties there
          That’s not permitted here, thanks to the place
          Made for the human race as its true dwelling.
 
          I did not long endure it, yet not so brief
          But that I noticed sparks blaze all about,
60       Like iron brought out molten from the forge.
 
          And at once it seemed that day was added to
          The day, as if He who has the power to do so
          Had decked the heavens with another sun.
 
          Beatrice stood with her eyes riveted
65       Wholly on the eternal spheres, while I
          Fixed my eyes, drawn from the sky, on hers.
 
          So gazing on her I inwardly became
          Like Glaucus when he tasted of the grass
          Which made him consort of the other sea-gods.
 
70       This passing-beyond-the human cannot be
          Expressed in words; let the example then
          Serve him to whom grace grants the experience.
 
          If I were only that soul in me which you
          Created last, O Love that rules the heavens,
75      You know, who lifted me up with your light.
 
          When that revolving, which you make unending
          By longing for you, captured my attention
          With the harmony you tune and modulate,
 
          So much of heaven then seemed to me aflame
80       With fire from the sun that rain or river
          Never formed a lake that spread so wide.
 
          The strangeness of the sound and the bright light
          Inflamed in me an ardor to know their cause,
          Sharper than I had ever felt before.
 
85       Then she, who saw me as I see myself,
          To still my agitated mind, opened
          Her lips before I opened mine to ask,
 
          And she began, "You make yourself so dull
          With false imaginings that you don’t notice
90       What you would see if you could shake them off.
 
          "You are not now on earth, as you believe;
          But lightning, fleeing its place on high, never
          Plummeted faster than you rise up to yours."
 
          If I was stripped of my first puzzlement
95       By these brief words which she flashed by her smile,
          I now grew more entangled with new doubts,
 
          And I said, "You have set my mind at rest
          On one deep wonder, but now I wonder how
          I here can pass up through these airy bodies."
 
100     After a sigh of pity at these words,
          She turned her eyes toward me with the look
          A mother might give to a delirious child,
 
          And she began, "All things that are have order
          Among themselves, and it is this their form
105      That makes the universe a mirror of God.
 
          "In this the higher creatures see the stamp
          Of the eternal power, which is the goal
          For which the rule I mentioned has been made.
 
          "In the order that I describe, all natures
110      Arrange themselves by different destinations,
          In varying nearness to their single Source.
 
          "This is the cause they move to different harbors
          On the great sea of being, and each one
          Has instinct given it to bear it on.
 
115     "This one draws fire upward toward the moon,
          This is the force that moves in mortal hearts,
          This binds the earth together and makes it one.
 
          "This bow shoots at the mark not only for
          Created things that lack intelligence
120      But for those who have intellect and love.
 
          "The Providence that sets all this in order
          With its light makes that heaven always still
          Within which whirls the fastest-moving sphere,
 
          "And to it now, as to a destined spot,
125      The power of that bowstring bears us on,
          Aiming what it propels at a glad target.
 
          "It is true that as the form all too often
          Does not respond to the intent of art,
          Since the material is deaf to summons,
 
130     "So sometimes the creature wanders from its course,
          For even though impelled toward the target,
          It has the power to swerve some other way
 
          "(Just as fire from a cloud can be observed
          To fall downward), if its first impulse,
135      Lured by false pleasure, bend it to the earth.
 
          "If I judge rightly, you should no more marvel
          At your ascent than at a stream that falls
          From the top of a mountain to the bottom.
 
          "The wonder would be if, when freed of hindrance,
140      You should have settled down and stayed below,
          As though a live flame on the earth kept still."
 
          With that she turned her gaze once more to heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto II

 

          O you who are seated in your little skiffs,
          Zealous to listen, following in the wake
          Behind my ship that singing plows her way,
 
          Turn back to look again on your own shores:
5         Don’t put out on the high seas, for, perhaps,
          In losing me you may run far adrift!
 
          The flood I take was never coursed before.
          Minerva blows, Apollo pilots me,
          And the nine Muses point me out the Bears.
 
10       You other few who stretched your necks on high
          In time to taste the bread of angels which
          People here feed on, but never have their fill,
 
          You well may put your boat out on the deep
          By staying in the furrow of my wake
15       Before the water flows back smooth again.
 
          Those glorious men who sailed the sea to Colchis,
          When they saw Jason turned into a plowman,
          Were not as thunderstruck as you shall be.
 
          The inborn, boundless thirst for that kingdom
20       Created in God’s image swept us onward
          Almost as swiftly as the skies you see.
 
          Beatrice gazed upward and I gazed on her;
          And in the time perhaps it takes an arrow
          To strike the bull’s-eye, fly, and leave the bow,
 
25       I saw myself arrived at a thing of wonder
          Which drew my sight to it, and therefore she
          From whom my close concerns could not be hidden
 
          Turned toward me, as glad as she was lovely,
          And said, "Direct your mind with thanks to God
30       Who here has made us one with the first star."
 
          I thought we were enveloped in a cloud,
          Shining, solid, dense, and highly polished
          As a diamond struck by the sun would be.
 
          The timeless pearl took us inside itself
35       In the same way that water can receive
          A ray of light while it remains intact.
 
          If I was body (and here we can’t conceive
          How one dimension can contain another,
          Which has to be when body enters body),
 
40       All the more should longing then inflame us
          To see that Essence in which we may see
          How our own nature and God join in one.
 
          There shall be seen what we now hold by faith:
          Not proven to us, but known on its own,
45       Like the first truths believed by human beings.
 
          I answered, "My lady, with the best devotion
          That I can summon, I here give thanks to Him
          Who has raised me up out of the mortal world.
 
          "But tell me what those dark traces are
50       Upon this body, which down there on earth
          Cause people to tell stories about Cain?"
 
          She smiled a little, and then said to me,
          "If the opinion of men errs in matters
          Which the key of our senses won’t unlock,
 
55       "Surely wonder’s arrows should not pierce you
          From this point on, since even when you follow
          The senses, you see that reason’s wings fall short.
 
          "But tell me what you think to be the cause?"
          And I: "What differences here appear to us
60       I think result from rare and denser bodies."
 
          And she: "Surely you’ll see that your thinking
          Is sunk in falsehood, if you listen well
          To the argument that I shall give against it.
 
          "The eighth sphere shows to you a myriad
65       Of lights which by intensity and number
          Are manifestly different in appearance.
 
          "If ‘rare and dense’ alone could have caused
          All this, one single power, more or less
          Allotted equally, would be in all.
 
70       "These different powers have to be the fruits
          Of formal principles which, with one exception,
          Would by your way of thinking be destroyed.
 
          "Again, were rarity the reason for
          The dark you ask about, either this planet
75       Would lack material from place to place,
 
          "Or else, just as the lean and fat are layered
          Throughout the body, so its density
          Would alternate like pages in a book.
 
          "The first, if it were true, would be made plain
80       In the sun’s eclipse, by light shining through,
          As when it strikes rare bodies of all sorts.
 
          "This is not so: we must then view the other
          Alternative, and if I prove that wrong,
          Your theory will be shown to be untrue.
 
85       "For if rare matter does not riddle through,
          There must be a limit where the opposite
          Density prevents its passing farther;
 
          "And so the sun’s rays would be reflected back,
          Just as the color glances off the mirror
90       That has lead backing to seal it from behind.
 
          "Now you will say that the ray shows up dimmer
          On one place than on other areas
          Since it’s reflected there from farther back.
 
          "From this objection — should you care to try —
95       You can be set free by experiment
          Which is the source for the rivers of your arts.
 
          "Take up three mirrors, and set two of them
          Equally far from you, and farther still
          Let the third meet your eyes between the two.
 
100      "Facing toward them, have a light placed at
          Your back, so that it shines in the three mirrors
          And comes to you reflected in them all.
 
          "Although the farther image may not look
          As large to you, you will observe that there
105      It shines with equal brightness as the others.
 
          "Now, as beneath the strokes of warming sunbeams
          The undersurface of the snow lies bare
          Both of its former color and its coldness,
 
          "So, with your intellect swept bare,
110      I will inform you with light so alive
          That it will shimmer as you look on it.
 
          "Deep in the heaven of divine peace
          There whirls a body in whose power rests
          The being of all things that it contains.
 
115      "The heaven after it, with brilliant stars,
          Distributes this being to different essences,
          Distinct from it and yet contained within it.
 
          "The other circles by various degrees
          Dispose the separate powers in themselves
120      To their own proper ends and propagation.
 
          "These organs of the universe proceed,
          As you now see, from grade to grade, obtaining
          Their power from above and acting downward.
 
          "Pay close attention now to how I travel
125     Through this passage to the truth you long for,
          So that you’ll learn to cross the ford alone.
 
          "The motion and the power of sacred spheres
          Must be inspired by angelic movers,
          Just as the hammer’s art is by the smith.
 
130      "And that heaven which myriad lights make lovely
          Takes its image from the deep Mind that turns it
          And of that image makes itself the seal.
 
          "And as the soul within this dust of yours
          Has been diffused throughout the different members
135     To suit each one to some distinctive function,
 
          "So the Intelligence deals out its goodness
          By multiplying itself among the stars
          As it revolves on its own unity.
 
          "Varying power makes up various mixtures
140     With the precious bodies which it enlivens
          And in which it is bound like life in you.
 
          "Because of the glad nature from which it flows,
          This mingled power shines out through the body
          As gladness does in the eye’s lively pupil.
 
145     "From this power comes the apparent difference
          Between light and light, not from dense and rare:
          This is the formal principle which produces,
 
          "In proportion to its goodness, the dark and bright."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto III

 

          That sun which first inflamed my breast with love
          Uncovered for me, with proof and refutation,
          The sweet-shining features of the lovely truth.
 
          And I, to confess myself corrected and
5        Convinced, so far as was required, raised
          My head up high to make my words sound clear.
 
          But there appeared a vision which held me bound
          So tightly to itself, to look at it,
          That I gave no more thought to my confession.
 
10       As through transparent sheets of polished glass
          Or within crystal-clear and quiet water
          That’s not so deep its bottom is opaque,
 
          The outlines of our faces show so faintly
          That even a pearl set on a white forehead
15       Reflects no less readily in our eyes:
 
          So I saw many faces bent to speak
          And fell into the error opposite
          To that which made Narcissus love the fountain.
 
          The instant I became aware of them,
20       Imagining that they were mirrored faces,
          I turned my eyes to make out whose they were.
 
          But I saw nothing. So I looked again
          Straight into the light of my sweet guide
          Whose holy eyes were shining as she smiled.
 
25       "Do not wonder," she said, "that I smile
          At your childish thinking, since as yet
          You do not trust your foot to rest on truth,
 
          "But step, as usual, on empty space.
          These are true substances that you perceive,
30       Located here for failing in their vows.
 
          "Speak with them, then, and listen and believe,
          Because the truthful light that fills them up
          Will not let them avert their steps from it."
 
          And I directed myself to the shade
35       Who seemed most bent on talking, and began
          Like one confused by overwhelming longing:
 
          "O well-created spirit who in the beams
          Of the eternal life savor the sweetness
          Which is never understood till it is tasted,
 
40       "What pleasure would it give me if you would
          Content me with your name and destiny!"
          Quick, and with smiling eyes, she answered this,
 
          "Our lovingkindness does not lock the door
          To a just wish, no more than does the Love
45       Which wills that all its court resemble it.
 
          "I was a virgin sister in the world,
          And if you probe your memory with patience,
          My being more beautiful won’t hide me from you,
 
          "But you will recognize I am Piccarda,
50       Who, placed here with these other blessed souls,
          Find blessedness within the slowest sphere.
 
          "Our hearts’ affections, which are set on fire
          Only in the Holy Spirit’s pleasure,
          Rejoice to be conformed to his design.
 
55       "And this selected spot, which seems so lowly,
          Is given us because of the neglect
          Or some manner of omission of our vows."
 
          I then told her, "In your wondrous faces
          Something divine shines forth which changes you
60       From the memory of former days —
 
          "Therefore I was not swift in placing you,
          But now what you have told me helps me so
          That I more readily recall your features.
 
          "But tell me: you who are so happy here,
65       Have you a yearning for a higher place,
          To see more and to make yourselves more loving?"
 
          First with those other shades she faintly smiled,
          Then answered with such gladness that she seemed
          To burn with the initial flame of love,
 
70       "Brother, the power of love becalms our wills
          And makes us wish for only what we have
          And whets our thirst for nothing more than that.
 
          "Were we to long for some more lofty height,
          Then our desires would be discordant with
75       The will of Him who has assigned us here.
 
          "Such strife, you see, has no place in these spheres
          Since to exist in love is here required,
          If you will truly ponder on love’s nature.
 
          "No, it’s the essence of this blessed existence
80       To hold ourselves within the will of God
          Through which our own wills are made one with His:
 
          "So, how we dwell from threshold up to threshold
          Throughout this kingdom gladdens the whole kingdom
          And the King, too, who wills in us what He wills.
 
85       "For in His will is our peace. It is the sea
          To which all things existing flow, both those
          His will creates and those that nature makes."
 
          Clear was it then to me how everywhere
          In heaven is paradise, although the grace
90       Of the highest good rains not alike on all.
 
          Yet as it happens when we have been sated
          With one food, but still hanker for another:
          We pass this up with thanks and ask for that,
 
          So I behaved with gestures and with words,
95       To learn from her what was the web in which
          She had not drawn the shuttle to the end.
 
          "Perfect life and high worth," she said, "enshrine
          In a higher heaven a lady by whose rule
          In your world women take the robe and veil,
 
100      "That until death they there may wake and sleep
          Beside the Bridegroom who receives each vow
          Which love conforms to fit His will and pleasure.
 
          "From out the world I fled to follow her
          While yet a young girl, and I donned her habit
105     And pledged to walk the pathway of her order.
 
          "Then men, more used to wickedness than good,
          Abducted me by force from the sweet cloister,
          And God knows what my life became thereafter.
 
          "This other splendor who shows herself to you
110      At my right side and who is all aglow
          With the illumination of our sphere
 
          "Knows what I say of me is true for her:
          She was a sister, and also from her head
          The shadow of the sacred veil was ripped.
 
115     "Yet, when against her will and correct custom
          She was turned back again into the world,
          She never stripped the veil from off her heart.
 
          "This is the light of that mighty Constance
          Who by the second blast of Swabia
120      Bore the third and final son of power."
 
          So she addressed me, and then began to sing
          Ave Maria, and singing, disappeared,
          Just like a solid weight down through deep water.
 
          My gazing eyes, which followed her as far
125     As possible, when she was lost from view,
          Turned to the target of my deeper longing,
 
          And their attention wholly turned to Beatrice;
          But she blazed out so brightly on my gaze
          That at first my sight could not endure it;
 
130     And this made me the slower with my questions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto IV

 

          Between two equidistant and delicious foods
          A man with a free choice would starve to death
          Before he might bring either to his mouth;
 
          So would a lamb stand still between the cravings
5        Of two fierce wolves, in equal fear of both;
          So would a hound stand still between two deer.
 
          I don’t then blame myself if I kept silent,
          Pulled equally in both ways by my doubts,
          Nor, since it had to be, do I praise myself.
 
10       I held my peace, but my desire was painted
          Upon my face, together with my question,
          In warmer colors than if framed in words.
 
          Beatrice now did what Daniel once had done
          When he freed Nebuchadnezzar from the wrath
15       Which had caused him to be unjustly cruel,
 
          And she said, "I clearly see how this and that
          Desire draws you so that your eagerness
          Entangles itself and then it cannot breathe.
 
          "You reason: ‘If the will remains resolved,
20       By what right does another’s violence
          Reduce the measure of my full reward?’
 
          "Again you are thrown into doubt because
          The souls seem to return up to the stars
          In accordance with the doctrine taught by Plato.
 
25       "These are the questions that weigh equally
          Upon your will: and so I shall first treat
          The one that is most poisonous for you.
 
          "The seraphim who are closest to God,
          Moses, Samuel, and either John —
30       Choose whom you will — and even Mary
 
          "Do not have their seats in any other heaven
          Than do these spirits who appeared to you,
          Nor have they more or fewer years in being,
 
          "But all make the first circle beautiful,
35       And yet share the sweet life in different ways
          By feeling the eternal breath diversely.
 
          "They show themselves here, not because this sphere
          Is assigned to them, but to give a sign
          Of this celestial state which is least lofty.
 
40       "So must the human mind be spoken to,
          Since only through the senses can it grasp
          What then is fitted to the intellect.
 
          "That is the reason Scripture condescends
          To your capacity, attributing
45       Feet and hands to God, without meaning it;
 
          "And Holy Church represents for you
          With human features Gabriel and Michael
          And the one who made Tobit’s vision sound.
 
          "What Timaeus argues about the soul
50       Does not resemble what we witness here,
          Since he seems to take what he says as truth.
 
          "He states the soul returns to its own star,
          Believing it to have been cut from it
          When nature gave it to be the body’s form.
 
55       "But his opinion may be at variance
          With what his words express, and should be taken
          To have a meaning not for us to scorn.
 
          "If he means that the honor and the blame of
          Their influence returns to their gyrations,
60       Perhaps his bow has hit upon some truth.
 
          "This principle, misunderstood, once so
          Misled almost the whole world that it strayed
          In naming Jove and Mercury and Mars.
 
          "The other doubt disturbing you is less
65       Poisonous because its malice could not
          Lead you somewhere else away from me.
 
          "For our justice to appear unjust
          In eyes of mortal men is argument
          For faith and not for wicked heresy.
 
70       "But since your intelligence is capable
          Of fully penetrating to this truth,
          I will content you, just as you desire.
 
          "If it be violence when the sufferer
          Contributes nothing to what forces him,
75       These souls had no excuse on that account.
 
          "For will that is unwilling can’t be quenched,
          But stands as nature does within the flame
          Though violence twist it in a thousand ways.
 
          "For should it bend itself much or little,
80       If follows force: as did these souls when they
          Had power to escape back to the cloister.
 
          "If their will had remained perfectly whole,
          Like that which held Saint Lawrence on the grill
          And made Mucius hold his hand in the fire,
 
85       "It would have urged them back, no sooner freed,
          Along the road where they were dragged away,
          But such a steadfast will is all too rare.
 
          "And by my words, if you have garnered them
          As you should do, the argument is quashed
90       That would have many more times troubled you.
 
          "But now before your path another pass
          Confronts your eyes, so strait that by yourself
          You would not get through without growing weary.
 
          "I have for certain impressed on your mind
95       That the souls in bliss can never lie
          Since they are always close to the First Truth;
 
          "And then you could learn later from Piccarda
          That Constance kept up her love for the veil,
          So that in this she seems to contradict me.
 
100     "Often before, brother, it has happened
          That men unwillingly, to flee from danger,
          Have done things that they ought not to have done:
 
          "Like Alcmaeon who, at his father’s bidding,
          Took his own mother’s life and, so as not
105     To fail in piety, was pitiless.
 
          "At this point I want you to understand
          That force mingles with the will, and they
          So act that there is no excuse for wrongs.
 
          "Absolute will does not agree to wrong,
110      But out of fear that, by withholding, worse
          Trouble may befall, the will consents.
 
          "So when Piccarda spoke about this matter,
          She meant the absolute will, and I the other,
          So that what both of us said was the truth."
 
115      Such rippling issued from the sacred stream
          Out of the fountain from which all truth wells up,
          Such that it calmed one longing and the other.
 
          "O loved of the First Lover, O divine one,"
          I said then, "you whose speech flows over me
120     And warms me so that more and more I live,
 
          "Not all the depth of my love is sufficient
          To give you grace for grace in my return:
          But may the One who sees and can — make answer.
 
          "I clearly see our intellect may never
125      Be sated unless that Truth shines upon it
          Beyond which no truth has a further range.
 
          "In that it rests, like a wild beast in its den,
          The instant it has reached it — and reach it can,
          Otherwise all longing would be futile.
 
130     "For this cause questions spring up like new shoots
          At the foot of truth, and this it is in nature
          That drives us to the heights from ridge to ridge.
 
          "This urge invites me, this emboldens me,
          Lady, to question you with reverence
135     About another truth obscure to me.
 
          "I want to know, can people compensate
          For broken vows with other goods, so as
          Not to weigh too lightly in your scales?"
 
          Beatrice looked at me with eyes so filled
140     With sparks of love and so heavenly
          That my powers, overwhelmed, broke loose,
 
          And, eyes cast down, I almost lost myself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto V

 

          "If I flame on you in the warmth of love
          Beyond the measure witnessed in the world
          And so overwhelm the power of your eyes,
 
          "Do not wonder, for this light proceeds
5         From perfect vision which, as it apprehends,
          So moves its steps to apprehended good.
 
          "I plainly see how in your intellect
          Already shines eternal radiance
          Which, once seen, alone and always kindles love.
 
10       "And should another good seduce your love,
          It only is some vestige of this light,
          Misunderstood, which still shines through within.
 
          "You wish to know if with some other service
          Such reckoning can be paid for unkept vows
15       That would secure the soul from further suits."
 
          So Beatrice began this canto and, like someone
          Who will not pause to interrupt a speech,
          Continued in this way her sacred discourse:
 
          "The greatest gift God’s generosity
20       Made in creating and the most conformed
          To his own goodness — what he prizes most —
 
          "Is freedom of the will, and with this gift
          The creatures with intelligence — they all
          And they alone — have been and are endowed.
 
25       "Now, if you reason from this, you will see
          The high value of the vow, if it be such
          That God gives his consent when you consent.
 
          "For in the compact between God and humans,
          This treasure of the will which I describe
30       Becomes the sacrifice by its own free act.
 
          "What can you render then in restitution?
          If you think to make good use of your offering,
          You wish to do good with ill-gotten gains.
 
          "You now have been assured as to the main point,
35       But since here Holy Church grants dispensations,
          And seems to contradict the truth I’ve shown you,
 
          "You’ll have to sit at table a while longer
          Because the tough food which you have been taking
          Requires further aid for your digestion.
 
40       "Open your mind to what I shall reveal
          To you, and keep it there, for to have heard
          Without retention does not make for knowledge.
 
          "The essence of this sacrifice involves,
          First, the matter of which it is made,
45       And second, the nature of the final compact.
 
          "This second never can be canceled out,
          Except by being kept, and on this point
          My preceding speech was so precise.
 
          "To offer sacrifices was prescribed,
50       Then, for the Hebrews, although what was offered,
          As you must know, might sometimes be exchanged.
 
          "The other part, which you know as the matter,
          May in fact be such that there’s no fault
          If it should be replaced with other matter.
 
55       "But let none shift the weight upon his shoulder
          At his own judgment, till he first has turned
          The lock with both the gold and silver keys.
 
          "And let him think of every change as folly,
          Unless the thing that he takes up contains,
60       As six does four, the thing that he laid down.
 
          "So then, whatever thing through its own worth
          Weighs so much that it would tip any scale
          Can never be made good by other outlay.
 
          "Let mortals never make their vows too lightly.
65       Be loyal, but also be not blurry-eyed,
          As Jephthah was in his first offering,
 
          "Who better would have cried out, ‘I’ve done wrong!’
          Than, keeping to his vow, do worse. And you’ll find
          As big a dolt the great lord of the Greeks
 
70       "Whose Iphigenia wept to be fair of face
          And made both wise and foolish weep for her
          On hearing such cruel rituals recounted.
 
          "Christians, be serious in taking action:
          Do not be like a feather to every wind,
75       Nor think that every water cleanses you.
 
          "You have the New and the Old Testament
          And the Shepherd of the Church to guide you:
          Let this be all you need for your salvation.
 
          "If sorry greed shout anything else at you,
80       Be men, do not be senseless sheep, so that
          The Jew among you not laugh at you in scorn.
 
          "Do not be like the lamb that strolls away
          From its mother’s milk and, silly and wanton,
          Fights with itself for its own fun and frolic!"
 
85       What Beatrice said to me I here write down.
          Then, all in longing, she turned toward that point
          Where the whole universe is most alive.
 
          Her quietness and her transfigured look
          Made my inquiring mind lapse into silence
90       While it already planned new questionings.
 
          And like an arrow that strikes at the target
          Even before the bowcord becomes still,
          So we sped on into the second kingdom.
 
          Here I saw my lady so full of gladness
95       When she gave herself into the heaven’s light
          That the planet itself now glowed more brightly.
 
          And if the star was so transformed and smiled,
          What then did I become who by my nature
          Am subject to fresh changes of all sorts?
 
100     As in a fish-pond that is clear and tranquil,
          The fish draw to what drops down from the outside,
          Believing it to be some food to feed on,
 
          So I did see more than a thousand splendors
          Drawing toward us, and in each I heard,
105     "Look, someone comes who shall augment our love!"
 
          And when each one in turn came up to us,
          We saw each shade was filled with happiness
          By the bright glow that burst out from within.
 
          Imagine, reader, if what I now begin
110     Went no further on, how you would feel
          An anguished hunger to know more about them,
 
          And you will see, all on your own, how I
          Hungered to hear more of their condition
          The moment they were shown before my eyes.
 
115     "O happy-born, to whom grace freely grants
          Sight of the thrones of everlasting triumph
          Before you are released from earthly warfare,
 
          "We are inflamed by the illumination
          Reaching through all heaven: if you seek then
120     Enlightenment from us, take what you please!"
 
          These words were said to me by one of those
          Gracious spirits. And Beatrice: "Speak, speak
          Safely, and trust in them as you would gods!"
 
          "I plainly see how you nest in your light
125      And that you draw it out from your own eyes
          Because light sparkles in them when you smile,
 
          "But I do not know who you are, nor why
          You, worthy spirit, have your rank in this sphere
          Which rays of sunlight veil from mortal sight,"
 
130     This words I said as I turned toward the light
          Which first had spoken to me, and at that
          It beamed out much more brightly than before.
 
          Just as the sun which by excessive light
          Conceals itself when heat has all consumed
135     The thickly mantling mists that moderate it,
 
          So by increasing joy that holy figure
          Hid itself from me in its own radiance,
          And hidden fast in this way, answered me
 
          In the manner which my next canto sings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto VI

 

          "After Constantine turned back the eagle
          Against the course of heaven which it followed
          Behind the man of old who wed Lavinia,
 
          "The bird of God two hundred years and more
5        Stayed on at Europe’s utmost boundary,
          Near to the mountains from which it first flew.
 
          "And there it ruled the world beneath the shadow
          Of its sacred wings, from hand to hand, until
          With the succeeding changes it came to me.
 
10       "Caesar I was, Justinian I am,
          Who, by will of the First Love that I feel,
          Rid the laws of what was gross and empty.
 
          "Before I set my whole mind to this work,
          I held Christ had one nature and not two,
15       And in that faith I was content to rest.
 
          "But blessed Agapetus, who was then
          The supreme shepherd, by his warning words
          Directed me back to the one true faith.
 
          "I believed him, and what he held on faith
20       I now view quite as clearly as you see
          How contradictions are both false and true.
 
          "So soon as I set my steps with the Church,
          It pleased God by his grace to inspire in me
          The high task to which I wholly gave myself.
 
25       "I gave my arms to Belisarius
          Who was so joined to the right hand of heaven
          That I took it for a sign to let mine rest.
 
          "Here, then, my answer ends to your first question.
          Certain details in my reply, however,
30       Require me to add on something more,
 
          "So that you may perceive with how much right
          Men strove against the sacrosanct ensign,
          Both those usurping it and those opposing.
 
          "You see what power made the eagle worthy
35       Of reverence, beginning from the hour
          When Pallas died to give it sovereignty.
 
          "You know it made its home in Alba for
          Three hundred years and more, till at the end
          Three heroes fought against three others for it.
 
40      "You know what it achieved through seven kings,
          From the Sabine women’s wrong to Lucretia’s woe,
          While conquering the countries round about.
 
          "You know what it accomplished when borne by
          The noble Romans battling Brennus, Pyrrus,
45       And the rest, the lords and their alliances.
 
          "Then came Torquatus, Quinctius named for
          His wild curly locks, the Decii and Fabii
          Who won the fame which I am glad to honor.
 
          "It cast down to the ground the pride of Arabs
50       Who followed Hannibal across the Alps’
          Rocky crags from which you, Po, cascade.
 
          "Beneath it Scipio and Pompey triumphed
          While still young men; and to that hill, below
          Which you were born, it showed its cruelty.
 
55       "Then, near the time when all of heaven willed
          To bring the world back to a state of peace,
          Caesar took it up at Rome’s command.
 
          "And what it worked from Var up to the Rhine
          Was witnessed by the Isere, Loire, and Seine,
60       And all the valleys whose streams fill the Rhone.
 
          "What it worked next after it left Ravenna
          And leaped the Rubicon was such a flight
          That neither tongue nor pen might follow it.
 
          "Around it wheeled the legions into Spain,
65       Then to Durazzo; and it struck Pharsalia
          So sharply that the hot Nile felt the blow.
 
          "Once more it saw Antandros and the Simois
          From which it set forth, and where Hector lies;
          Then, to Ptolemy’s grief, it soared again.
 
70       "From there, like a thunderbolt, it fell on Juba,
          And afterward it turned back to your west
          Where it had heard the blast of Pompey’s trumpet.
 
          "For what it wrought with its succeeding keeper,
          Brutus and Cassius howl in deepest hell,
75       And Modena and Perugia wailed for it.
 
          "Weeping still is tearful Cleopatra
          Who, fleeing its attack, snatched from the asp,
          Instead of it, a dark and instant death.
 
          "With this Augustus it reached the Red Sea shore;
80       With him it spread such peace throughout the world
          That the temple of Janus was locked shut.
 
          "But what that standard which stirs me to speak
          Had done before and afterwards would do
          Throughout the mortal kingdom subject to it
 
85       "Seems insignificant and shadowy
          When, with a clear eye and with pure affection,
          You mark it in the hand of the third Caesar,
 
          "Because the living Justice which breathes in me
          Gave it the glory, in the hand I’ve mentioned,
90       Of taking vengeance for the wrath of heaven.
 
          "Now wonder at what I unfold for you:
          It later sped with Titus to wreck vengeance
          Upon the vengeance of the sin of old.
 
          "And, lastly, when the Lombard tooth bit down
95       On Holy Church, beneath the eagle’s wings
          Charlemagne through conquest brought her aid.
 
          "Now you can judge the likes of those whom I
          Accused just now, and of their sins and failings
          Which are the reason for all your misfortunes.
 
100     "One side opposes to the public standard
          The yellow lilies; the other claims the eagle,
          So that it’s hard to see which sins the most.
 
          "Let the Ghibellines, let them ply their arts
          Under another emblem, for they follow
105     This standard ill in severing justice from it.
 
          "And let the new Charles with his Guelphs not try
          To strike it down, but let him dread the talons
          That have stripped off the skins of stronger lions.
 
          "Sons, many times before this, have wept for
110     Their father’s sins; and let him not believe
          That God will change his coat of arms for lilies!
 
          "This little star is spangled with the spirits
          Of those who strove for good but aimed their actions
          In order to acquire fame and honor.
 
115     "And when desires deviate off course
          In that direction, the rays of their true love
          Must rise on upward with less living force.
 
          "But equal measuring of our rewards
          With our merits is part of our delight,
120     Since we see them as neither less nor greater.
 
          "In this way living Justice has so sweetened
          Our own affections that they never can
          Be bent aside to any wickedness.
 
          "Assorted voices make sweet melody:
125     And so the varied ranking of our lives
          Renders sweet harmony among these gyres.
 
          "Within this present pearl shines the light
          Of Romeo, whose beautiful and noble
          Endeavor was so churlishly rewarded.
 
130     "But the Provençals who worked against him
          Have no last laugh, for he takes an evil path
          Who harms himself through the good deeds of others.
 
          "Four daughters, and each one of them a queen,
          Had Raymond Berenger, and this was managed
135      By Romeo, a low-born man and pilgrim.
 
          "But then crooked words caused Berenger to ask
          A reckoning of this just man who had ever
          Returned in payment to him twelve for ten.
 
          "At that point he departed, poor and old,
140      And if the world could know the heart he had
          When begging his livelihood crust by crust,
 
          "Much as it praises him, it would praise him more."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto VII

 

          "Hosanna to the holy Lord of Hosts,
          Relighting by your brightness from above
          The blissful burning fires of these kingdoms!"
 
          So, now revolving to this melody,
5        That substance who had spoken I saw sing
          While over him the twofold light redoubled.
 
          And he and others moved in their one dance,
          And, like the swiftest sparks arising upward,
          With sudden distance veiled themselves from me.
 
10       I stood in doubt, and said, "Tell her, tell her!"
          Within myself I said, "Tell her, my lady
          Who slakes my thirst with her sweet drops of dew!"
 
          But that awe which is mistress of me wholly,
          By the mere sound of her name’s Be and ice,
15       Bowed me down like someone drowsing off.
 
          Just for a short while Beatrice left me so,
          And she began, beaming a smile on me
          To make a man staked in the fire happy,
 
          "If I, who cannot err, have judged correctly,
20       Your thoughts have been set pondering on how
          A just vengeance could be avenged with justice,
 
          "But I will quickly free your mind from doubt;
          And listen carefully, because my words
          Make you a present of important teachings.
 
25       "Since he would bear for his own good no curb
          Upon his willpower, that man who was unborn,
          Damning himself, damned all his progeny.
 
          "As a result the human race below
          Lay sick for many centuries in grave error
30       Until it pleased the Word of God to come
 
          "Down where he joined in person with himself,
          By the sheer act of his eternal love,
          The nature that had wandered from its Maker.
 
          "Now turn your gaze to what I now disclose:
35       This nature which was thus joined to its Maker
          Was, when it was created, pure and good,
 
          "But through itself it had been driven out
          Of paradise, because it turned aside
          From the way of the truth and from its life.
 
40       "The penalty inflicted by the cross —
          If measured by the nature so assumed —
          Never struck at anyone more justly.
 
          "Likewise, there never was a greater wrong,
          If we look to the person suffering it,
45       In whom that other nature was bound up.
 
          "From this one act, then, different things resulted,
          For one same death pleased both God and the Jews,
          And with it the earth shook and heaven opened.
 
          "It should no longer now seem hard to you
50       On hearing it declared that a just vengeance
          Was afterward avenged by court of justice.
 
          "But now I see your mind is tangled up
          With thought on thought into a knot from which
          It awaits release with deep-felt longing.
 
55       "You say, ‘I make out clearly what I hear,
          But why God willed this as the only way
          Of our redemption is still hidden from me.’
 
          "This edict, brother, has been buried from
          The eyes of everyone whose understanding
60       Is not matured within the flames of love.
 
          "Nevertheless, since there are many who
          Aim at this mark and few who sight it rightly,
          I shall explain why that way was most fitting.
 
          "Divine Goodness, which spurns from itself
65       All envy, burning in itself, so sparkles
          That it reveals all the eternal beauties.
 
          "Whatever is distilled immediately
          From it is everlasting, since, once sealed,
          Its imprint never can be wiped away.
 
70       "Whatever is poured down immediately
          From it is wholly free, since Goodness is
          Not subject to the power of changing things.
 
          "The sacred Flame which shoots its rays through all
          Is most alive in what is most like Goodness
75       And most pleased by what most resembles it.
 
          "Human beings have the advantage of
          All these endowments, but if they fail in one
          They must fall down from their nobility.
 
          "Sin alone can rob them of their birthright
80       And render them unlike the highest Good
          So that they beam less brightly in its light.
 
          "They never can recoup their innocence
          Unless they fill up what faults emptied out
          By paying for bad pleasures with just pains.
 
85       "Your nature when it had sinned totally
          In its first seed was reft of that innocence
          Just as it was deprived of paradise.
 
          "Nor could it win them back, if you consider
          The matter carefully, by any other way
90       Except by passing one of these two fords:
 
          "Either that God, by graciousness alone,
          Granted forgiveness, or that by himself
          Man should make satisfaction for his folly.
 
          "Now fix your eyes intently on the abyss
95       Of the eternal Wisdom — fasten them
          As tightly as you can to what I say.
 
          "Bound by his limits, man could never make
          Enough amends, because he was not able
          By afterwards obeying, to humbly bend
 
100     "As low as he'd mount high by disobeying:
          This is the reason why man was shut off
          From being able to make amends himself.
 
          "It was needed, then, for God in his own ways
          Of mercy and of justice to give man back
105      Full life — I mean by one way or by both.
 
          "But since a deed is more prized by the doer
          The more it manifests to others’ eyes
          The goodness of the heart from which it springs,
 
          "The divine Goodness which imprints its seal
110     Upon the world was pleased to move ahead
          By its own ways to raise you up once more.
 
          "Between the final night and the first day
          There has not been nor will there be so mighty
          And magnificent an act by either way.
 
115     "For God, by giving himself to make man able
          To raise himself again, was more generous
          Than if he only had remitted sin;
 
          "And all the other means would have been short
          Of justice, if the Son of God had not
120      Humbled himself to be a human being.
 
          "Now, to fulfill exactly all your longings,
          I turn back to explain a certain passage
          To enable you to see it as I do.
 
          "You say, ‘I see the water, I see the fire,
125     The air, the earth, and all their combinations
          Fall to corruption and last but a brief while:
 
          " ‘And yet these things were creatures: for this cause,
          If what you said of them were really true,
          They ought to be secure from such corruption.’
 
130     "The angels, brother, and the pure clear country
          Where you are now, may be said to be created
          Just as they are, in their entire being.
 
          "But the elements which you have named to me
          And all the things that are compounded from them
135     Receive their forms from some created power.
 
          "Created was the matter that they have;
          Created was the power informing them
          Within these stars which whirl about their way.
 
          "The rays and motion of the holy lights
140     Draw out from its compounded potency
          The soul of every animal and plant.
 
          "But the sovereign Largesse breathes your life
          Directly, and makes it so in love with him
          That always afterward it longs for him.
 
145     "And from this reasoning you can further prove
          Your resurrection, if you would reflect
          On how the human body was made then
 
          "When the first parents were both formed by him."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto VIII

 

          Time was, the world, at its own risk, believed
          That Venus, the beautiful Cyprian, whirling
          In the third epicycle, rayed down love’s madness.
 
          For this the folk of old in their old errors
5         Not only offered homage up to her
          With sacrifices and with votive cries,
 
          But also honored Cupid and Dione,
          One as her son, the other as her mother,
          And they claimed he had sat in Dido’s lap.
 
10       And so from her with whom I start this canto
          They took the name of that star the sun woos,
          Now at dawn’s nape and now at evening’s brow.
 
          I had no sense of rising into it,
          But I was sure of being there when I
15       Perceived my lady grown more beautiful.
 
          And as we see a spark within a flame
          Or as a voice sounds in a voice when one
          Holds steady while the other comes and goes,
 
          So I saw in that light those other lanterns
20       Revolving fast or slowly in a circle,
          Depending, I think, on their inner vision.
 
          Winds, whether visible or not, have never
          Swept down from ice-cold clouds so swiftly that
          They would not seem impeded or too slow
 
25       To one who had observed the heavenly lights
          Speeding toward us, leaving behind the circling
          Begun first by the lofty seraphim.
 
          And from the midst of those appearing foremost
          Hosanna sounded in such strains that I
30       Have always craved to hear it once again.
 
          Then one came closer to us and, alone,
          Began, "We all are ready here to do
          Your pleasure, that you may rejoice in us.
 
          "With one circle, one circling, and one thirst,
35       We here swirl round with the celestial princes
          To whom you once, when in the world, had said,
 
          " ‘You whose intellect moves the third heaven.’
          We are so full of love that, if it please you,
          A moment’s silence will be no less sweet."
 
40       After my eyes had reverently lifted
          To my lady, and she had made them sure
          And satisfied that she gave her consent,
 
          They turned back to the light that promised such
          Abundance, and in words stamped with profound
45       Affection I called out, "Tell me who you are!"
 
          And how the light in size and splendor swelled
          I saw through the new joy which now was added
          To all its former joys when I said this.
 
          So changed, it spoke, "The world held me below
50       But a brief time, and had it been prolonged
          Much evil that shall be would not have happened.
 
          "My joyousness, which beams round about me,
          Keeps me concealed from you and holds me hidden
          Just like a worm all wrapped up in its silk.
 
55       "You loved me much, and had good reason to,
          For had I stayed down there, I would have shown
          My love for you could yield more than mere leaves.
 
          "The left bank of the land bathed by the Rhone,
          Below where it has mingled with the Sorgue,
60       Expected me in time to be its lord,
 
          "As did the corner of Ausonia, which
          Bari, Gaeta, and Catona border,
          From which the Tronto and Verde flow seaward.
 
          "Upon my forehead there already glittered
65       The crown of that land which the Danube waters
          Once it has left behind its German shores.
 
          "And the fair Trinacria, which is blackened —
          Between Pachynus and Pelorus, there on
          The gulf that is most lashed by the east wind —
 
70       "Not by Typhoeus but by rising sulphur,
          Would even now have looked to have its kings
          Descended through me down from Charles and Rudolph,
 
          "Had not bad governance, which ever cuts
          The hearts of subject people to the quick,
75       Moved Palermo to shout out, ‘Die! Let them die!’
 
          "And had my brother seen these things beforehand,
          By now he’d shun the greedy poverty
          Of Catalonia lest it bring him trouble.
 
          "For it is really necessary that he
80       Or someone else provide, so that no load
          Be further added to his laden ship.
 
          "His nature — stingy offspring of a lavish
          Forebear — would need a following of knights
          Who have no care for filling up their coffers!"
 
85       "Since I believe that the deep-seated joy
          Which now these words of yours pour into me
          Is seen by you, my lord, just as I see it
 
          "Where every good has its end and beginning,
          It is most welcome, and I hold this dear,
90       That you discern it as you gaze on God.
 
          "You’ve made me joyful — but explain to me,
          Because in speaking you have raised this doubt,
          How is it sweet seed can bear bitter fruit?"
 
          So I asked him, and he told me, "If I can
95       Show you one truth, then you will hold your face
          Toward what you ask as now you hold your back.
 
          "The Good, which rotates and contents the whole
          Kingdom that you climb, makes its providence
          To be a power in these brilliant bodies;
 
100     "And in the Mind, which is itself perfection,
          There is provision not only for these natures
          But also, in them all, for their well-being;
 
          "So that whatever flies off from this bow
          Falls readily to its determined target,
105     Just like an arrow aimed right at the mark.
 
          "Were this not so, the heavens where you walk
          Would so bring into being their effects
          That they would not be works of art but ruins.
 
          "That cannot be, unless the intellects
110     That move these stars be lacking — lacking too
          The First Intellect by making them imperfect.
 
          "Would you have more light shed upon this truth?"
          And I: "No — I see it is impossible
          That nature tire of doing what is needed."
 
115     Then he once more: "Now say, should men not lead
          A civic life on earth, would they be worse?"
          "Yes," I replied, "and here I need no proof."
 
          "And could they lead it, unless people down
          Below live differently with different duties?
120     Not if what your master writes is true."
 
          By close deduction he had reached this point;
          Then he concluded, "The roots of what you do
          Must, then, be variously sprung, so that
 
          "This one is born Solon, that one Xerxes,
125     One is Melchizedek, and yet another
          He who flew through the air and lost his son.
 
          "Circling celestial nature sets its seal
          On mortal wax, performing its art well,
          But making no distinction between houses.
 
130     "So from the seed of birth, it happens, Esau
          And Jacob differ, and Quirinus comes from
          So base a father, he’s ascribed to Mars!
 
          "Begotten nature would always take the path
          Which its begetters followed, were it not
135     That divine providence rules otherwise.
 
          "Now what was once behind you is before you:
          But that you may know I rejoice in you,
          I want to cloak you with this corollary.
 
          "Forever Nature, should she find that fortune
140     Is out of tune with her, like any seed
          Out of its climate, comes to a bad end.
 
          "And if the world down there would pay attention
          To the foundation Nature herself lays,
          And built on that, then people would be better.
 
145     "But you force into the religious life
          One born to bear a sword, and crown a king
          Someone far more suited to preach sermons:
 
          "That’s how your footprints ramble off the road!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto IX

 

          Lovely Clemence, when your Charles had shed
          Light in my mind, he told me of the plots
          That would defraud his offspring; then he added,
 
          "Keep silent, and allow the years to roll":
5           So I can say no more than that real tears
          Shall follow on the damage done against you.
 
          And now the life within that holy light
          Had turned it once more to the sun that fills it,
          As to that Good which is the wealth of all.
 
10       Ah, misguided souls and impious creatures
          Who turn your hearts away from such a Good,
          Lifting your faces up to vanity!
 
          But look! another of those splendors came
          Toward me and, growing brighter outwardly,
15       Showed me a sign of wishing to please me.
 
          The eyes of Beatrice, firmly fixed on me
          As they had been before, gave me assurance
          Of her own dear assent to my desire.
 
          "Come, blessed spirit," I said, "let me have
20       A speedy answer to my wish, and proof
          That I can mirror in you what I think."
 
          At that the light, which was still new to me,
          Out of the depth from which welled up its song,
          Went on as one delighted to do favors:
 
25       "In evil Italy there lies a region
          Which runs between the Rialto and the springs
          Of both the Brenta and Piave rivers.
 
          "A hill looms there (it is not very high)
          From which there once came down a firebrand
30       That waged a huge assault against the country.
 
          "From one same root both he and I sprang up.
          Cunizza I was called, and I blaze here
          Because the light of this star conquered me.
 
          "Yet happily I here forgive myself
35       The reason for my lot, nor does it grieve me,
          Although this may seem strange to common people.
 
          "This brilliant and beloved jewel who
          Stands closest to me in this heaven of ours
          Left lofty fame behind: before it dies
 
40       "Five times this century shall have passed away.
          See how man should make himself so excellent
          That his first life might leave life after it!
 
          "And today’s crowd, enclosed by the Adige
          And Tagliamento, have no thought of this,
45       And, though they are whipped hard, do not repent.
 
          "But soon it shall befall that Padua
          At the marsh, since people shun their duty,
          Will stain the waters red that wash Vicenza.
 
          "And where the Sile and Cagnano join
50       One plays the lord and holds his head up high
          While all the time the net is laid to catch him.
 
          "Feltro shall yet moan for the treachery
          Of its besotted shepherd — a crime so shameful
          That for the like none went to Malta prison.
 
55       "Huge would be the bucket that could hold
          The blood of the Ferrarans: whoever had
          To weigh it ounce by ounce would be worn out!
 
          "This vat the generous priest shall offer up
          To prove himself a supporter of his party:
60       Such gifts befit the country’s way of living!
 
          "Up there are mirrors — you could call them Thrones —
          From which in judgment God beams down on us
          So that we think it good to say these things."
 
          Here she grew still and had, I thought, the likeness
65       Of turning now to other things by wheeling
          Where she took up the place she’d left behind.
 
          The other bliss, whom I already knew
          To be beloved, became before my sight
          A sparkling ruby struck by rays of sunlight.
 
70       Through their rejoicing, souls gain brilliance there
          On high, as here a smile gains light, but below
          Shades darken outwardly as minds grow sad.
 
          "God sees all, and your sight sinks into his,"
          I said, "blissful spirit, and for this reason
75       No wish may hide itself away from you.
 
          "Why does your voice, then, making heaven glad
          Forever with the song of these blest flames
          Which make themselves, with their six wings, a cowl,
 
          "Not fulfill the longing which I feel?
80       I surely would not wait for you to ask
          Were I in your mind as you are in mine."
 
          "The largest valley in which water spreads
          Out from the sea that girdles all the world,"
          He then began to speak these words to me —
 
85       "Stretches its opposing shores so far
          Counter to the sun’s course that its zenith
          Lies where at first the sun formed its horizon.
 
          "I had my dwelling on that valley’s shore,
          Between Ebro and Macra whose short course
90       Divides the Tuscans from the Genoese.
 
          "With almost the same sunset and same sunrise
          Stand Bougie and the city I am from,
          Which once made its port warm with its own blood.
 
          "Folco I was called then by the people
95       Who knew my name, and this heaven having once
          Signed me at my birth now bears my signal.
 
          "For Belus’s daughter Dido did not burn,
          In wronging both Sychaeus and Creusa,
          More than I burned, before my locks were clipped;
 
100     "Nor the girl from Rhodope when beguiled
          By Demophoon, nor Hercules himself
          When he enshrined Iole in his heart.
 
          "But here we don’t repent; instead, we smile,
          Not for the fault, which never comes to mind,
105     But for the Power that ordered and foresaw.
 
          "Here we look wondering at the art that love
          Makes beautiful, and find the good through which
          The world below turns to the world above.
 
          "And that you may take with you all your longings,
110      Which have been born within this sphere, fulfilled,
          I am obliged to go on with my discourse.
 
          "You want to know who is within this light
          Which glitters in this manner next to me,
          Just like a sunbeam on the crystal water.
 
115     "Now you should know that Rahab rests inside
          And that, as soon as she joined with our order,
          She sealed it in the loftiest degree.
 
          "She was swept upward through this heaven, where
          The shadow-cone of your earth casts its point,
120      Before any other soul, by Christ in triumph.
 
          "It was most fitting to leave her in a heaven
          To be a palm of the high victory
          Won by his one and by his other palm,
 
          "Because she lent her help to Joshua
125      With his first glory in the Holy Land —
          That little touches the Pope’s memory.
 
          "Your city, which was planted by the One
          Who first turned his back upon his Maker and
          Whose envy has provoked so many tears,
 
130      "Produces and spreads far the cursed flower
          Which caused the sheep and lambs to go astray
          Because it changed the shepherd to a wolf.
 
          "This is why the Gospel and Great Doctors
          Are tossed aside, and only the Decretals
135     Are studied, as their scribbled margins show.
 
          "On them the pope and cardinals pore intently
          And never turn their thoughts to Nazareth
          Where Gabriel unfolded wide his wings.
 
          "The Vatican, however, and the other
140      Choice parts of Rome which are the burial ground
          Of the brave soldiery that followed Peter
 
          "Will soon be freed from this adultery."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto X

 

          Contemplating his Son with the Love
          Which One and Other endlessly breathe out,
          The primal and ineffable Power
 
          Made everything that spins through mind or space
5        With such design that he who considers it
          Cannot exist without some taste of God.
 
          Lift up your eyes then, reader, here with me
          To the high spheres, straight to that region where
          One motion of the sun strikes on the other.
 
10       And begin there to gaze gladly on the art
          Of that Master who in himself so loves it
          That his eye never wanders from his work.
 
          Observe how, from this point, the circle which
          Obliquely bears the planets branches off
15       To satisfy the world that calls to them.
 
          For if their path had not been slanted so,
          Much of the heavens' influence would be lost,
          And almost all their power dead on earth.
 
          And if the path swerved farther or less far
20       From the straight course, the order of the world
          Would in the sky and on the land be lessened.
 
          Now, reader, remain seated at your table,
          Reflecting on what here has been a foretaste,
          That you may feel delight before you tire.
 
25       I set the feast for you: now feed yourself,
          Because the subject matter I inscribe
          Takes all of my attention to itself.
 
          The mightiest minister of nature, which
          Imprints the world with power from the sky
30       And measures time for us with beams of light,
 
          Conjoining with the point that I have mentioned,
          Went circling onward throughout all the spirals
          In which he rises earlier each day.
 
          And I was with him. But of my ascent
35       I was no more aware than is a person
          Conscious of a thought before it comes.
 
          Beatrice it is who guides me in this way
          From good to better with such swiftness that
          Her act does not extend itself in time.
 
40       How luminous that must be of itself
          Which shone within the sun where I went in
          To be revealed by light and not by color!
 
          Though I should call on talent, skill, and practice
          I could not find the words to picture it:
45       But may you still believe — and crave to see it!
 
          If our imaginations fall far short
          Of such a height, no wonder, for our eyes
          Have never seen a light to match the sun’s.
 
          Such, here, was the fourth family of the high
50       Father who forever fills them, showing how
          He breathes the Spirit and begets the Son.
 
          And Beatrice began, "Give thanks! Give thanks
          To this Sun of the Angels through whose grace
          You have been lifted to the sun of sense!"
 
55       Never was heart of mortal so disposed
          To its devotion, nor ready to surrender
          Itself to God with its full gratitude
 
          Than mine was when she spoke these words to me.
          And all my love so set itself on Him
60       That Beatrice in oblivion was eclipsed.
 
          Not the least displeased, she smiled so that
          The splendor of her smiling eyes splintered
          My singleness of mind in many pieces.
 
          I saw many living and surpassing lights
65       Surround us in the center of a crown
          With voices sweeter than their looks were bright.
 
          We sometimes see the daughter of Latona
          So cinctured when the saturated air
          Holds the threads of light that make her girdle.
 
70       In the courts of heaven from which I have come
          Are myriad jewels so dear and beautiful
          They cannot be transported from that kingdom.
 
          It was of them these radiances sang.
          Whoever wears no wings to fly up there
75       Must wait for news from those whose tongues are tied.
 
          When, singing in this way, those flaming suns
          Three times had circled round about us both,
          Like stars rotating close to the fixed poles,
 
          They looked like ladies pausing in the dance
80       To listen to the music silently
          Until they catch up to the tune anew.
 
          And inside one I heard begin, "Because
          The beam of grace by which true love is lit
          And which increases afterward with loving
 
85       "Shines so much more abundantly in you
          That it leads you up along the stairway
          Which none steps down except to mount again,
 
          "Whoever should refuse to quench your thirst
          With the wine from his flask would be no freer
90       Than water stopped from flowing to the sea.
 
          "You want to know who these bright blossoms are,
          Flowering this garland which girds lovingly
          Round this fair lady who strengthens you for heaven.
 
          "I was a lamb and of the holy flock
95       That Dominic leads out along the way
          Where fattening is good, unless they stray.
 
          "Beside me on the right is one who was
          My brother and my master, Albert of
          Cologne, and I am Thomas of Aquinas.
 
100     "So if you would be sure of all the others,
          Come, let your eyesight follow on my words
          By circling all about this blessed wreath.
 
          "That fire flashing next breaks from the smile
          Of Gratian who served both the courts of law
105     So perfectly that Paradise is pleased.
 
          "The nearest one to ornament our choir
          Was Peter Lombard who, like the poor widow,
          Presented all his treasure to Holy Church.
 
          "The fifth light, and the loveliest among us,
110      Breathes with such love that the whole world below
          Hungers to learn something new about it.
 
          "Within it is the lofty mind, endowed
          With wisdom so profound, if truth be truth,
          No second ever rose with such wide vision.
 
115     "See at its side the shining of that candle
          Which in the flesh down there discerned most deeply
          The nature and the ministry of angels.
 
          "In the next tiny flickering flame there smiles
          That same defender of the Christian ages
120     Whose discourse proved so useful to Augustine.
 
          "If you have followed now with your mind’s eye
          From light to light the sequence of my praises,
          You thirst already to know about the eighth.
 
          "Within, for having seen that all is good,
125     The sainted soul, who shows the world’s deceit
          To all who listen well to him, rejoices.
 
          "The body from which this soul was driven out
          Rests down in Cieldauro, and he is come
          From martyrdom and exile to this peace.
 
130      "See, flashing further on, the burning breath
          Of Isidore, of Bede, and of that Richard
          Who was more than a man in contemplation.
 
          "The one from whom your gaze turns back to me
          Is the glow of a soul in whose grave thoughts
135     The coming of his death appeared too slow.
 
          "It is the neverending light of Siger
          Who, lecturing at the rue du Fouarre,
          Demonstrated enviable truths."
 
          Then, like a clock that chimes us at the hour
140     When the Bride of God rises to sing
          Her matins to her Spouse to make him love her,
 
          With one part pulling and the other pushing,
          Sounding ding-dong with notes so dulcet that
          The true-devoted spirit swells with love,
 
145      Just so I saw the wheel of glory rotate
          And answer voice to voice with harmony
          And sweetness that can never be conceived
 
          Except where joyfulness is everlasting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XI

 

          O senseless the concerns of mortal men!
          How empty are the reasonings that force you
          To flap your wings and plunge in downward flight!
 
          Here one pursues the law, there medicine;
5        Another hurries off into the priesthood,
          And one would rule by fraud or violence!
 
          This one looks to theft and that to business;
          Another, caught in pleasures of the flesh,
          Wears himself out; one lolls in idleness;
 
10       While I, delivered from all these concerns,
          Am high in heaven now with Beatrice,
          Made welcome in the glory of the blessed.
 
          When each one of the spirits had come round
          To that point of the circle that he’d left,
15       Each rested like a candle in its stand.
 
          And I heard from within that radiance
          Which first addressed me — all the while it smiled
          And grew still brighter — a voice begin to say,
 
          "Just as in turn I glitter with these rays,
20       So, staring into the Eternal Light,
          I know your thoughts and why you’re thinking them.
 
          "You’re puzzled and would like me to explain
          My words in open and explicit language
          Aimed at the level of your comprehension,
 
25       "When I just said, ‘Where fattening is good,’
          And also this: ‘No second ever rose’;
          And here a clear distinction must be made.
 
          "The Providence that rules over the world
          With counsel in which all created sight
30       Is overcome before it plumb the depths—
 
          "So that the Bride of him who with loud cries
          Had married her with his own blessed blood
          Might move ahead to meet with her Beloved,
 
          "Confident in herself and true to him—
35       Sent for her benefit two princes who
          On this side and on that would be her guides:
 
          "The one was all seraphic in his ardor,
          The other for his wisdom was on earth
          An iridescence of cherubic light.
 
40       "Of one I shall speak, for in praising one—
          Whichever’s chosen — I will praise them both,
          Because their labors led to one same goal.
 
          "Between Topino and the stream that pours
          Down from the hill picked by the blest Ubaldo,
45       A fertile slope slants from a soaring mountain
 
          "Which makes Perugia feel the cold and heat
          Through Porta Sole; and for their heavy yoke
          Gualdo and Nocera weep behind it.
 
          "From this slope, where its steepness tapers off,
50       A sun has risen up into the world,
          Just as it sometimes rises from the Ganges.
 
          "Let no one, then, who seeks to name this place
          Speak of Assisi, a word that is too meager,
          But of the East, if he would talk correctly.
 
55       "He was as yet not too far from his dawning
          When he began to make the earth feel fairly
          Strengthened by the power of his virtue;
 
          "For he, while still a youth, rushed into battle
          Against his father for a lady to whom,
60       Like death, no one unlocks the door with pleasure.
 
          "And in the presence of his spiritual court
          Before his father he was wedded to her,
          And after, day by day, loved her more deeply.
 
          "She, for eleven hundred years and more
65       Bereft of her first husband, scorned, obscure,
          Was left without a wooer till he came.
 
          "Nor was it any help to her to hear
          That he who frightened the whole world found her,
          With Amyclas, unruffled by his voice.
 
70       "Nor was there help in having been so steadfast
          And fearless that, when Mary stayed below,
          She mounted up with Christ high on the cross.
 
          "But not to go on speaking too obscurely,
          Now, from this point, take Francis and Poverty
75       To be the lovers in my long description.
 
          "Their harmony and look of happiness
          Made love and wonderment and tender glances
          The wellspring of inspired holy thoughts,
 
          "So that the venerable Bernard first
80       Took off his shoes and ran for such full peace,
          And in his running thought himself too slow.
 
          "Oh unknown wealthiness! oh fruitful good!
          Egidius goes barefoot, Silvester too,
          Behind the groom, the bride so pleases them!
 
85       "This father and this master then departs
          With his dear lady and their family
          Already cinctured with the lowly cord:
 
          "No shame of heart made him bow down his head
          For being Pietro Bernardone’s son,
90       Nor for appearing wondrously despised,
 
          "But royally he revealed his stern resolve
          To Innocent, and he received from him
          The first seal of approval for his Order.
 
          "After a poor multitude had swelled
95       Behind this man whose miracle-making life
          Were better sung with hymns in heaven’s glory,
 
          "The Eternal Spirit through Honorius
          Encircled then the sacred purposes
          Of the chief shepherd with a second crown.
 
100     "And after that, in thirst for martyrdom,
          Before the haughty presence of the Sultan,
          He preached Christ Jesus and his followers;
 
          "And when he found the people too unripe
          To be converted — not to waste his efforts—
105      He returned to harvest the Italian fields.
 
          "Then on a harsh crag between Tiber and Arno
          He received from Christ the last imprinted seal
          Which for two years he bore upon his limbs.
 
          "When He who’d chosen him for such great good
110     Was pleased to draw him up to the reward
          Which he had earned by making himself little,
 
          "To his brothers as to his rightful heirs
          He recommended his most precious lady
          And ordered them to love her faithfully;
 
115      "And from her bosom the illustrious soul
          Chose to depart, returning to the kingdom,
          And for his body wished no other bier.
 
          "Reflect now what he was who was a worthy
          Colleague to him for keeping Peter’s bark
120     Straight on its course across the open sea.
 
          "And such was Dominic, our patriarch:
          So you can see that he who follows him
          As he commands transports a priceless cargo.
 
          "But now his flock has grown so greedy for
125     New tastes in food that it is only found
          Scattered throughout the pasture wilderness.
 
          "The farther from him his sheep stray afield,
          Remote and vagabond, the emptier
          Of milk are they, returning to the fold.
 
130     "Some sheep there are indeed that, fearing danger,
          Keep close to the shepherd, but they are so few
          That little cloth can make up all their cowls!
 
          "Now, if my words have not been indistinct,
          If you have listened to them with attention,
135     And if you call to mind what I have said,
 
          "Your wish to know is partially fulfilled
          For you will see just how the tree is hacked,
          And you will see the meaning of the charge:
 
          " ‘Where fattening is good, unless they stray.’ "

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XII

 

          The instant that the blessed flame had taken
          To speak this final word, the sacred millstone
          Started its rotation once again;
 
          And it had not yet turned completely when
5        A second circle closed around the first,
          Motion matched with motion, song with song:
 
          Song that surpassed in those sweet-sounding pipes
          The music of our Muses or our Sirens
          Much as a ray surpasses its reflection.
 
10       Just as, across the thinned-out clouds two rainbows,
          Parallel and alike in color, bend
          When Juno gives the order to her handmaid —
 
          The outer band formed by the inner one:
          The way the words were of the wandering nymph
15       Whom love consumed as sunlight consumes vapors —
 
          And let the people on earth forecast how,
          Through the covenant God made with Noah,
          Never again shall the world be flooded.
 
          Two garlands of sempiternal roses
20       Revolved around us, and in this manner too
          The outer circling answered to the inner.
 
          Now when the dance and all high festival
          Of singing and flaming scintillation
          Of light with light in gentleness and gladness
 
25       At the same moment and with one accord
          Had ended, like the eyes at pleasure’s prompting
          Compelled in unison to close and open,
 
          Out of the heart of one of these new lights
          There stirred a voice which made me like the needle
30       In a compass turning to the North Star:
 
          It began, "The love that makes me beautiful
          Draws me to speak about the other leader
          For whose sake mine is so well spoken of.
 
          "It’s fitting to bring one in with the other
35       That, where they waged war toward one common goal,
          Their glory likewise may shine out together.
 
          "Christ’s army, which had cost so dear to arm
          Afresh, was marching on behind the standard
          With slow and straggling steps and scanty numbers,
 
40       "When the one Emperor who reigns forever
          Provided for his troops who were in peril
          Through grace alone, not through their worthiness,
 
          "And, as you heard, to help his Bride he sent
          Two champions who by their words and actions
45        Rallied the people who had gone astray.
 
          "In that region where the West Wind rises
          Sweetly to open up the leaves in bud
          Which Europe sees herself dressed in anew —
 
          "Not too far from the crashing of the waves
50       Behind which, after his long course, the sun
          Sometimes conceals himself from everyone,
 
          "There lies the fortunate Calaroga
          Beneath the safeguard of the mighty shield
          Which bears the lion sovereign and subdued.
 
55       "Within this town was born the ardent lover
          Of Christian faith, the holy athlete,
          Kind to his friends and cruel to his foes.
 
          "His mind, as soon as it had been created,
          So filled with living virtue that he made,
60       From in the womb, his mother prophesy.
 
          "When he and Faith exchanged their marriage vows
          Before the sacred fountain where for dowry
          They pledged each other mutual salvation,
 
          "The lady who had acted as his sponsor
65       Saw in a dream the wonder-working fruit
          Which was to come from him and from his heirs.
 
          "And that his name might show his real self,
          A spirit from here went to christen him
          With the possessive of Him whose he would be:
 
70       "Dominic he was called, and I speak of him
          As of the husbandman whom Christ has chosen
          To help him in the tilling of his garden.
 
          "Clearly he seemed Christ’s messenger and friend,
          For the first love made manifest in him
75       Was after the first counsel that Christ gave.
 
          "Many times his nurse discovered him
          Quiet and awake upon the ground,
          As if to say, ‘It is for this I came.’
 
          "Oh his father — truly happy Felix!
80       Oh his mother — truly graced Joanna,
          If the roots of their names mean what men say.
 
          "Not for the world for whose sake men now toil,
          Aping the Ostian and Thaddeus,
          But only out of love of the true manna,
 
85       "In short time he became so great a teacher
          That he began to labor round the vineyard
          Which turns gray if the dresser shirks his work.
 
          "And of the Seat which once was kindlier
          To the devoted poor — not in itself
90       Degraded, but in him who’s seated there —
 
          "He did not ask to keep half of his payments,
          Nor for the funds of the first vacancy,
          Nor for the tithes belonging to God’s poor,
 
          "But for permission to fight the errant world
95       In defense of the seed from which there sprang
          The twenty-four plants that surround you here.
 
          "Then both with doctrine and determination,
          In the apostolic office he set out,
          Like a torrent gushing from a lofty vein;
 
100     "And his force struck the stocks of heresy
          With the most vehemence in those enclaves
          Where the resistance was most obstinate.
 
          "From him there flowed out those divergent streams
          With which the Catholic garden is so watered
105      That its small trees have a more vigorous life.
 
          "If such was one wheel of the chariot
          In which the Holy Church defends herself
          And in the field puts down her civil strife,
 
          "The excellence of the other wheel which Thomas
110     Extolled so courteously before I came
          Surely must be evident to you.
 
          "But the track taken by the topmost part
          Of that wheel’s rim has now been so abandoned
          That there is mold where once there was hard crust.
 
115     "His household, which marched out straight ahead
          With their feet in his footprints, so turns round
          That their toes come down where the heel has been.
 
          "And soon there shall be seen what sort of harvest
          Bad tillage causes, when the tare complains
120     Of being thrown out from the granary bin.
 
          "I say, however, should one search our volume
          Leaf by leaf, he might still find a page
          On which he’d read, ‘I am what I was always.’
 
          "But not from Acquasparta or Casale
125     Shall that page come, for one ignores the text,
          The other reads tight strictures into it.
 
          "I am the living soul of Bonaventure
          From Bagnorea, who in high office
          Always put the temporal cares behind.
 
130     "Here are Illuminato and Augustine,
          Who were among the first poor barefoot brothers
          Who with the cord made themselves friends of God.
 
          "Hugh of Saint Victor is here with them as well,
          And Peter Comestor and Peter of Spain
135     Who down on earth sheds light in his twelve books.
 
          "Nathan the prophet, Anselm, Chrysostom
          The metropolitan, and that Donatus
          Who stooped to put his hand to the art of grammar.
 
          "Here is Rabanus, and beside me beams
140      Joachim, the abbot of Calabria
          Who was endowed with a prophetic spirit.
 
          "The glowing courtesy of Brother Thomas
          And his well-advised discourse have moved me
          To celebrate so fine a paladin,
 
145     "And with me it has moved this company."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XIII

 

 

          Imagine, if you really want to grasp
          What I now saw — and hold on to the image
          Firm as a rock while I am speaking here —
 
          Fifteen stars which in the different quarters
5         Liven up the sky with such sharp brightness
          That they pierce all the thickness in the air;
 
          Imagine that Great Bear which on the breast
          Of heaven rests all night and day, so that
          It does not vanish with the turning pole;
 
10       Imagine also the mouth of that Horn
          Which starts at one end of the axle star
          Around which the first wheeling daily rotates;
 
          Imagine all these patterning out two signs
          In heaven, like the constellation of King Minos’ daughter
15       Formed when she felt the chill of death upon her,
 
          One circle with its rays inside the other,
          And both so spinning round the center that
          One should turn first and after that the other:
 
          Then you will glimpse some shadow of the real
20       Constellation and the double dance
          Revolving on the spot where I was standing.
 
          For it’s as far from our experience
          As the motion of the highest swiftest heaven
          Outspeeds the sluggish flow of the Chiana.
 
25       They sang no Paean there nor hymn to Bacchus,
          But to Three Persons in the Godhead’s nature,
          And God and human nature in one Person.
 
          The song and circling ran to their full measure,
          And then those holy lights attended to us,
30       Happy to pass from caring to new care.
 
          Then the light in which the wondrous life
          Of the poor man of God was told to me
          Shattered the silence of these souls in concord,
 
          And said, "Since one sheaf has been beaten out,
35       And all its grain is garnered at this time,
          Sweet love now bids me to thresh out the other.
 
          "You believe that, in the breast from which
          The rib was pulled to shape her lovely cheek
          Whose palate all the world has paid for dearly,
 
40       "And in the breast which, pierced so by the lance,
          Before and after made such satisfaction
          That it outweighs all evil in the scale,
 
          "In both, all of the light that human nature
          May possess has been infused in full
45       By that Power that formed one breast and the other.
 
          "You ponder, therefore, what I have said above
          When I told how the excellence enclosed
          Within the fifth light never had a second.
 
          "Now open your eyes wide to what I answer
50       And you will see your thinking and my speaking
          Become in truth the center of a circle.
 
          "Those things that die and those that cannot die
          Are but the splendor of the one Idea
          Which in his love our Father has begotten;
 
55       "For the same living Light which so streams from
          The lucent Source that it is never parted
          From it or from the Love which makes them Three
 
          "Through its own goodness focuses its rays
          In nine existences like nine reflections,
60       Itself eternally remaining One.
 
          "From there to the remotest potencies
          Light falls from act to act until it comes
          To make now only brief contingencies.
 
          "By these contingencies I understand
65       The generated things produced by seeds
          Or, if without seeds, by the moving heavens.
 
          "The wax of these things and what molds the wax
          Are not the same, and so the ideal stamp
          Shines through it more or less transparently.
 
70        "So it happens that trees of the same species
          Bear better or worse fruit, and that by birth
          Human beings have diverse endowments.
 
          "If the wax were molded to perfection,
          And were the heavens at the height of power,
75       The light through the whole seal would be apparent,
 
          "But nature always gives imperfectly,
          Working in the same way as the artist
          Whose hand shakes in the practice of his art.
 
          "But if warm Love disposes and imprints
80       The clear-cut vision of the primal Power,
          Complete perfection is accomplished there.
 
          "So clay was once made suitable to form
          The full perfection of a living man,
          So was the virgin made to be with child.
 
85       "I give approval, then, to your opinion
          That human nature never was nor shall be
          As perfect as it was in those two persons.
 
          "Now if I went no further than this point,
          You might well start to ask, ‘How is it then
90       This other one is said to have no equal?’
 
          "But to make plain what still is not apparent,
          Consider who he was and what moved him
          To his request when God said, ‘Choose your gift.’
 
          "I’ve spoken like this so you’ll plainly see
95       He was a king who chose the gift of wisdom
          In order to be worthy of his kingship
 
          "And not to know the number of the moving
          Angels here above, nor if necessity
          With a condition ever proved necessity,
 
100     "Nor if there is prime motion, nor if one can
          Construct a triangle in a semicircle
          So that it has no right angle inside.
 
          "It follows, if you note what I have said,
          That kingly prudence is the matchless vision
105     At which my arrow of intention strikes.
 
          "And if you turn your sharp-eyed sight to ‘rose,’
          You will see it refers only to kings,
          Of whom there are many, but the good are rare.
 
          "Take my words on him with this distinction
110      And they are in accord with your belief
           Regarding the first father and our Beloved.
 
          "And let my words be lead weights to your feet,
          To slow you, like a weary man, from hastening
          To the yes or no of what you do not see.
 
115     "For he is well placed low among the fools
          Who, whether in affirming or denying,
          Does not distinguish one case from the other.
 
          "For often it occurs that one’s opinion,
          When quickly formed, leans in the wrong direction,
120     And vanity then binds the intellect.
 
          "It is far worse than vain to quit the shore
          To fish for truth and not possess the skill,
          Since one returns worse off than when he left.
 
          "And here, Parmenides, Melissus, Bryson,
125      And many more who went they knew not where
          Are open proof of this folly to the world,
 
          "As are Sabellius and Arius,
          And those fools who to Scripture were like swords
          Mirroring straight faces with distortion.
 
130     "Again, let people not be too secure
          In how they judge, like someone who would count
          The ears of corn before the field is ripe.
 
          "For I have seen first, all the winter through,
          The briar show itself barbed and unbending,
135      And then upon its stem it bears a rose.
 
          "And I have seen a ship sail swift and straight
          Over the vast sea, through her entire course,
          To sink at last while entering the harbor.
 
          "Let every Dick and Jane not think, if they
140      See someone steal and someone make an offering
          That they observe them with divine omniscience,
 
          "For the thief may rise up, and the donor fall."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XIV

 

          From center to rim and rim to center, water
          Inside a round bowl moves, depending on
          Whether it’s struck from outside or within.
 
          So this image all of a sudden dropped
5        Into my mind, just as the glorious
          Life of Thomas fell back into silence,
 
          Because of the resemblance which arose
          Between this speech of his and that of Beatrice
          Who was pleased to begin by following him:
 
10       "This man still needs, although he will not tell you
          Either by his talk or yet in thought,
          To probe another truth down to its root.
           
          "Tell him if the light with which your substance
          Breaks into blossoms shall remain with you
15       Eternally, just as it now exists;
 
          "And if the light remains, then tell him how,
          When you are once again made visible,
          It’s possible it will not hurt your sight."
 
          As when those dancing in a ring, urged on
20       And drawn by more delight, from time to time
          Gladden their gestures and lift up their voices,
 
          So at that eager and devout petition
          The saintly circles in their gay gyrations
          And marvelous melodies displayed new joy.
 
25       Whoever grieves because we must die here
          To live above has never witnessed there
          The sweet refreshment of the endless shower.
 
          The One and Two and Three that lives forever
          And ever reigns in Three and Two and One,
30       Uncircumscribed and circumscribing all,
 
          Three times was sung by each one of the spirits
          Of those two rings, with such a melody
          As would be fit reward for every merit.
 
          And I heard in the most resplendent light
35       Of the smaller circle a voice as modest,
          Perhaps, as was the angel’s voice to Mary,
 
          Replying, "As long as the festival
          Of paradise shall last, so long our love
          Shall radiate around us like a robe.
 
40       "Its brightness is proportioned to our fervor,
          Our fervor to our vision, in the measure
          That each possesses grace beyond his merit.
 
          "When our flesh, made glorious and holy,
          Shall clothe us once again, our persons then
45        Will be more welcome being all complete.
 
          "For whatever unearned light the Highest Good
          Freely bestows on us will be increased —
          Light which enables us to look on him,
 
          "So that for us our vision must increase,
50       Our fervor increase kindled by the vision,
          Our splendor increase coming from the fervor.
 
          "But as a coal in giving off its flame
          Outshines the fire with its burning glow,
          And in this way keeps its apparent shape,
 
55       "So this effulgence now encircling us
          Shall be outshone in brilliance by the flesh
          Which all this while lies buried in the ground.
 
          "Nor will so bright a light cause us fatigue,
          Since the organs of our bodies will be strong
60       To everything that can bring us delight."
 
          So ready and alert to cry Amen
          One chorus and the other seemed to me
          That clearly they desired their dead bodies,
 
          Not only for themselves but for their mothers,
65       Their fathers, and the others dear to them
          Before their flesh became eternal flame.
 
          And look! a lustre of steady brightness rose
          Around about, beyond the shining there,
          Like a horizon growing ever lighter.
 
70       And as at the first rise of early evening
          New objects start to show up in the sky,
          So that their sight seems, and does not seem, real,
 
          I thought I there began to see new beings
          Approaching to form still another circle
75       Outside the other two’s circumferences.
 
          O the true sparkle of the Holy Spirit!
          How suddenly full of glory it became
          Before my eyes which, beaten, could not bear it!
 
          But Beatrice showed herself to me so smiling
80       And so beautiful that I must leave it there
          Among the sights beyond my memory.
 
          From this, my eyes recovered strength to raise
          Themselves once more: I saw myself translated
          Alone with my lady to a higher bliss.
 
85       I clearly grasped that I had risen farther
          By the glittering smile of the next planet
          Which I found ruddier than usual.
 
          With all my heart, and in the tongue which sounds
          The same in all, I gave God a burnt offering
90       To thank him for this gift of his new grace.
 
          Nor had the burning of this sacrifice
          Yet ended in my breast when I knew that
          My offering had been favorably accepted
 
          Because, with such a glow of ruby red,
95       Splendors so shone before me in two rays
          I cried, "O Helios who adorns them brightly!"
 
          Just as the Milky Way, pricked out by greater
          And lesser lights, gleams so from pole to pole
          That even the wisest minds are thunderstruck,
 
100     So constellated, in the depths of Mars
          Those two beams formed the venerable sign
          Which the crossed quadrant lines made in a circle.
 
          Here now my memory outruns my talent,
          For Christ flamed from that cross with such a flash
105     That I can find no pattern fit for it.
 
          But he who takes his cross to follow Christ
          Will pardon me for what I leave untold
          When he looks at Christ gleaming in that dawn.
 
          From tip to tip, between the top and bottom,
110     Light-rays were moving, brightly glittering
          As they all met together and passed by:
 
          So here on earth we see the motes of dust
          Drift straight or slanting, swift or slow of motion,
          Changing in appearance, long or little,
 
115     Sifting through the sunbeams sometimes streaking
          Through the shaded rooms which men have built
          With skill and talent for their own protection.
 
          And as a harp or viol that is strung
          With many cords for harmony chimes sweetly
120     On ears that cannot catch the melody,
 
          So from the lights appearing to me there,
          A music swelled throughout the cross and held me
          Enraptured though I could not tell the hymn.
 
          I firmly marked it was a song of praise
125     Because "Rise up," and "Conquer" came to me
          As one who hears but does not understand.
 
          I was so moved with loving by this strain
          That nothing until then that I had felt
          Had bound my being with such dulcet fetters.
 
130     Perhaps these words of mine appear too daring,
          Seeming to slight the bliss of those bright eyes
          In which my longing gaze finds its repose.
 
          But one who considers how the living seals
          Of every beauty grow with their ascent,
135     And how I there had not yet turned to them,
 
          He may excuse me of my self-accusation
          So that I can excuse myself, and see
          I speak the truth, for holy joy’s not lost
 
          By growing ever purer as one rises.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XV

 

          Gracious will — in which true-breathing love
          Always reveals itself, as evil greed
          Resolves itself into a grudging will—
 
          Hushed to silence the sweet-sounding lyre
5        And stilled the sacred strings that the right hand
          Of heaven either slackens or sets tight.
 
          How shall these beings be deaf to just prayers
          Who, to prompt me in my petitioning them,
          With one accord fell mute and left their music?
 
10       Rightly should he endlessly lament
          Who, for the love of what does not endure
          Forever, robs himself of that true love.
 
          As through the quiet cloudless evening sky
          There shoots from time to time a sudden flame,
15       Shifting the eyes that had stared steadily,
 
          And it seems that a star is changing place,
          Except that where it flares no star is missing
          And that it lasts for only a short instant:
 
          So from the right-hand tip down to the foot
20       Of that bright cross there darted out a star
          Of the resplendent constellation’s circle.
 
          Nor did that jewel tumble from its ribbon,
          But ran its course along the radial line
          And looked like fire seen through alabaster.
 
25       With like affection did Anchises’ shade
          Reach out (if we may trust our greatest muse)
          When, in Elysium, he saw his son.
 
          "O blood of mine! O overbrimming grace
          Of God! For whom was ever heaven’s gate
30       Thrown open twice, as it has been for you?"
 
          So spoke that light, and I gave it my attention.
          Then I turned my gaze once more to my lady
          And I was awestruck on one side and the other
 
          Since her eyes were ablaze with such a smile
35       That I thought with my eyes I’d touched the limit
              Of all my grace and all my paradise.
 
          Then, a pure joy for listening and for sight,
          The spirit added to his earlier words
          Things past my grasp, his speech was so profound.
 
40       Nor did he hide his sense from me by choice,
          But of necessity, because his thoughts
          Were far above the mark of mortal mind.
 
          But when the bow of his burning affection
          Was so relaxed that what he said flew downward
45       Toward the target of our intellect,
 
          This was the first thing that I understood:
          "Blessed are you, both Three and One, who show
          Such favor to the seed of my descendants."
 
          And he went on, "You have assuaged, my son,
50       Within this light through which I speak to you,
          The long and cherished hunger which derived
 
          "From reading the great book where black and white
          Are never changed: for this I give her thanks
          Who clothed you with the wings for this high flight.
 
55       "For you believe that your thoughts flow to me
          From Him who is the First, as five and six,
          If one is known, derive from unity.
 
          "And, therefore, who I am and why I seem
          To you more joyful than the other spirits
60       In this gay throng, you do not ask of me.
 
          "And you believe the truth, for least and greatest
          In this life always gaze into that mirror
          Where you reveal your thoughts before you think.
 
          "But that the holy love in which I watch
65       With ceaseless vision, and which makes me thirst
          With sweet desire, may sooner be fulfilled,
 
          "Let your own voice, assured and bold and glad,
          Ring out your will, ring out your heart’s desire,
          To which my answer is already ordered!"
 
70       I turned to Beatrice, and before I spoke
          She heard me, and she smiled me her assent
          Which made the wings of my desire grow.
 
          Then I began, "Love and intelligence,
          When the First Equality appeared to you,
75       Became in all of you equally balanced
 
          "Because the Sun that illumined and warmed you
          Has such equality of heat and light
          That all analogies fall short of it.
 
          "But mortal wishes and abilities,
80       For reasons that are evident to you,
          Do not have equal feathers in their wings.
 
          "I who am mortal feel myself in this same
          Imbalance, so that only with my heart
          May I give thanks for your paternal welcome.
 
85       "I do, however, beg you, living topaz
          That flames within this precious diadem,
          To satisfy my longing with your name."
 
          "O leaf of mine, in whom I found my pleasure
          Only awaiting you: I was your root."
90       In this way he began his answer to me,
 
          Then said, "The man from whom your family name
          Comes down, and who a hundred years or more
          Had trudged around the first ledge of the mountain,
 
          "Was my son, and your own grandfather’s father.
95       Surely it is right that you should shorten
          By your good works his long laborious trial.
 
          "Florence within her ancient rounded walls
          From which she still hears tierce and nones toll out
          Lived in peace, her people chaste and sober.
 
100     "There were no necklaces, no coronets,
          No lace-embroidered gowns, no silken girdles,
          Meant to be looked at rather than the person.
 
          "Nor did the daughter at her birth yet cause
          Fear to her father, for her age and dowry
105     Had not run to excesses either way.
 
          "No houses stood vacated by their families.
          No Sardanapalus had yet arrived
          To show what can be acted in one’s chamber.
 
          "Not yet had Montemalo been surpassed
110     By your Uccellatoio which in rising,
          Passed it, so shall it pass it in its fall.
 
          "I saw Bellincione Berti belted
          In simple bone and leather, while his wife
          Stepped from her mirror with her face unpainted.
 
115     "I saw the lords of Nerli and of Vecchio
          Content to wear a coat of plain-dressed skins,
          And their wives ply the spindle and the flax.
 
          "O happy women, each of them assured
          Of her own burial spot, and none abandoned
120     Yet in her bed because of trips to France!
 
          "One kept a constant watch to mind the cradle
          And soothingly employed that infant speech
          Fathers and mothers first delight in using.
 
          "Another, as she drew threads from the distaff,
125     Would tell her family household the old stories
          Concerning Troy and Rome and Fiesole.
 
          "Then Lapo Salterello and Cianghella
          Would have been held as strange a marvel as
          Are Cincinnatus and Cornelia now.
 
130     "To such a restful and a lovely life
          Among the citizens, to such a loyal
          Community, to such a cordial home,
 
          "Mary presented me, called by loud prayers:
          And I became, in your old baptistery,
135     At once a Christian and a Cacciaguida.
 
          "Moronto and Eliseo were my brothers;
          My wife came from the valley of the Po,
          And from that place your surname is derived.
 
          "I later served the Emperor Conrad,
140     And with his knighthood he invested me,
          So highly I won favor by good deeds.
 
          "I followed him to fight against the evil
          Religion of those people who usurp,
          By your shepherd’s negligence, your rightful lands.
 
145     "There finally falling to that filthy horde,
          I gained release from that deceitful world,
          The love of which debases many souls,
 
          "And to this peace I came from martyrdom."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XVI

 

          O our inept nobility of blood!
          If you make people glory in you here
          On earth where our affections grow infirm,
 
          I shall no longer be surprised at it,
5        Since there where appetite is not contorted,
          I mean in heaven, I too gloried in you!
 
          Plainly you are a mantle that soon shrinks,
          So that, if cloth's not let out day by day,
          Time will go round and round you with his scissors!
 
10       With formal "You" which was first used in Rome
          And which her offspring hardly favor now,
          I once again began to choose my words
 
          When Beatrice, who stood slightly to one side,
          Smiled, and seemed to me like her who coughed
15       At the first fault they tell of Guinevere.
 
          "You are my father," was my opening word;
          "You give me my full confidence to speak;
          You so raise me I am more than myself.
 
          "So many streams fill up my mind with joy
20       That now my mind rejoices in itself
          That it can bear this gladness and not burst.
 
          "Tell me then, dear root from which I spring,
          Who were your forefathers and what the years
          Which were recorded in your early youth?
 
25        "Tell me of the sheepfold of Saint John,
          How large the flock was then and who the folk
          Within it worthy of the highest places?"
 
          As at the breathing of the winds a coal
          Quickens into flame, so did I see
30       That light glow brighter with my reverent words.
 
          And as it grew still lovelier to my eyes,
          So with a sweeter and a softer voice,
          But not in today’s idiom, he said,
 
          "From that day whereon Ave was first uttered
35       Unto that birth when my now sainted mother
          Was lightened of me with whom she had been ladened,
 
          "This fiery planet came five hundred times
          And fourscore to the Lion to rekindle
          Its radiance beneath the burning paw.
 
40       "My forebears and I had our birthplace there
          Where those who run within your annual race
          First reach the farthest parish of the city.
 
          "Thus much to hear suffices for my forebears;
          For who they were and whence they hither came,
45       Silence is more honorable than speech.
 
          "All those fit to bear arms who at that time
          Were present there between Mars and the Baptist
          Were but the fifth of those who now are living.
 
          "But then the citizenry, whose blood now mixes
50       With Campi and Certaldo and Figline,
          Ran pure down to the lowest artisan.
 
          "O how much better were it that those folk
          Of whom I speak were neighbors and you shared
          Galluzzo and Trespiano for your boundaries
 
55      "Than to have them within and bear the stench
          Of Aguglione’s boor and Signa’s churl
          Whose eye by now is keen for bartering!
 
          "For had the folk who in this world are most
          Degenerate not been a stepmother to Caesar
60       But, like a mother, been kindly toward her son,
 
          "Then one who has become a Florentine
          And trafficker and trader would have lived
          At Simifonti where his grandsire begged.
 
          "The counts would still possess Montemurlo,
65       The Cerchi would be in Acone parish,
          And the Buondelmonti still in Valdigreve.
 
          "Confusion of its persons has been ever
          The prime source of malignance to the city,
          As an excess of food is to the body.
 
70       "And a blind bull falls to the ground more headlong
          Than the blind lamb, and frequently one sword
          Cuts more deeply and oftener than five.
 
          "If you consider Luni and Orbisaglia,
          How they have perished and how after them
75       Chiusi and Senigallia now follow,
 
          "No longer will you find it strange or hard
          To hear how families finally come to fail
          When even cities meet a fatal end.
 
          "All things pertaining to you have their death,
80       As have yourselves, but some conceal their end
          By lasting long, whereas your lives are short.
 
          "And as the wheeling of the moon in heaven
          Veils and unveils the shore unceasingly,
          In such a manner Fortune deals with Florence;
 
85       "Wherefore it should appear no wondrous matter,
          What I shall tell of the great Florentines
          Whose reputation is obscured by time.
 
          "I saw the Ughi and the Catellini,
          Filippi, Greci, Ormanni, Alberichi,
90       Illustrious families, already in decline.
 
          "And I saw too, as grand as they were ancient,
          Dell’Arca with Della Sannella — also
          Soldanieri, Ardinghi, and Bostichi.
 
          "Above the gate which at the present time
95       Is laden with new felony so heavy
          That jettison will soon drift from the ship,
 
          "The Ravignani lived, from whom descended
          Count Guido and whoever since that day
          Has taken the high name of Bellincione.
 
100     "Already Della Pressa knew the way
          To rule, and Galigaio had already
          The gilded hilt and pommel in his house.
 
          "Great was the vair of Pigli arms already,
          Sacchetti, Giuochi, Fifanti, and Barucci,
105     Galli, and those who blush for the false bushel.
 
          "The stock whence the Calfucci sprang was great
          Already, and the Sizii and Arrigucci
          Were raised already to the curule chairs.
 
          "O what grand men I saw who are now ruined
110     By their own pride! Lamberti’s globes of gold
          Festooning Florence in all her mighty feats!
 
          "So did the fathers of the Visdomini
          Who, when a vacancy comes in your church,
          Fatten by stalling in the consistory.
 
115     "The overweening breed that plays the dragon
          To one who runs off, but to one who shows
          His teeth — or purse — is docile as a lamb
 
          "Were on the rise already, but so low
          That Ubertin Donato was not pleased
120     To have his father-in-law make them his kin.
 
          "Already Caponsacco had come down
          To the market from Fiesole; then Giuda
          And Infangato were good citizens.
 
          "One thing I tell, incredible but true:
125     You entered the small circuit of old walls
          Through a gate named for the Della Pera.
 
          "Each one who bears the handsome coat of arms
          Of the great Baron whose name and whose renown
          The feastday of Saint Thomas keeps alive
 
130     "Had knighthood from him and its privilege,
          Though he who borders those arms now with gold
          This day is siding with the multitude.
 
          "There the Gualterotti and Importuni dwelt
          Already, and the Borgo would be quiet still
135     If they had rid themselves of their new neighbors.
 
          "The house from which your weeping has its birth,
          The Amidei, in their just resentment
          Slaying you and ending your glad life,
 
          "Was honored for itself and for its consorts.
140      O Buondelmonte, how ill of you to fly
          From plighted troth at promptings of another!
 
          "Many who now mourn would have rejoiced
          If God had thrown you to the Ema river
          The first day you arrived before the city!
 
145      "But it was fitting, in her final peace,
          That Florence should then sacrifice a victim
          Unto the broken stone which guards the bridge.
 
          "With all these folk and all the others with them
          I saw Florence in such assured repose
  150    That she still had no reason to lament.
 
          "With all these folk I saw her populace:
          So glorious, so righteous, that the lily
          Had never hung reversed upon the lance,
 
          "Nor yet been dyed vermilion by division."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XVII

 

          Like him who came to Clymene to learn
          If what he heard against himself were true,
          Who still makes fathers cautious toward their sons,
 
          Such was I and such was I seen to be
5        Both by Beatrice and by the holy lamp
          That changed its place before to meet with me.
 
          With that my lady said to me, "Send forth
          The flame of your desire so that it may
          Come clearly printed with its inner stamp.
 
10       "Not that our knowledge ever will increase
          By what you say, but that you may learn how
          To tell your thirst, and someone give you drink."
 
          "O my dear root, who raise yourself so high
          That, as our mind can grasp, a triangle
15       Cannot contain two obtuse angles in it,
 
          "So do you see contingent things before
          They come to be themselves, with your deep gazing
          Upon the Point to which all time is present,
 
          "While I was in the company of Virgil
20       High on the mountain that heals many souls,
          And while I climbed down through the world of death,
 
          "Foreboding words were said to me concerning
          My future life, although I feel myself
          So squarely set to face the blows of chance
 
25       "That I willingly would be content to hear
          What fortune now draws near for me, because
          An arrow seen beforehand has less shock."
 
          I spoke this answer to that same bright light
          That previously had spoken to me, and so,
30       As Beatrice wished, my own wish was confessed.
 
          Not in dark sayings, with which foolish people
          Of old were once ensnared, before the Lamb
          Of God who takes away our sins was slain,
 
          But in clear words and with exact discourse
35       That fatherly love made his reply to me,
          Contained in and shown out of his own smile:
 
          "Contingency, which does not stretch beyond
          The meager volume of your world of matter,
          Is fully pictured in the eternal vision;
 
40       "Yet thence it takes on no necessity,
          No more than would a ship which sails downstream
          Depend upon the eyes which mirror it;
 
          "And thence, as to the ear sweet harmony
          Comes from an organ, to my sight the time
45       Comes that already waits in store for you.
 
          "As Hippolytus was driven out of Athens
          Through the treachery and spite of his stepmother,
          So you are destined to depart from Florence.
 
          "Thus it was willed and thus already plotted,
50       And soon it shall be done by him who plans it
          There where Christ every day is bought and sold.
 
          "The common cry, as is the wont, will blame
          The injured party, but the vengeance which
          The truth demands will witness to the truth.
 
55       "You shall leave everything most dearly loved:
          This is the first one of the arrows which
          The bow of exile is prepared to shoot.
 
          "You shall discover how salty is the savor
          Of someone else’s bread, and how hard the way
60       To come down and climb up another’s stairs.
 
          "And what will weigh down on your shoulders most
          Will be the bad and brainless company
          With whom you shall fall down into this ditch.
 
          "For all shall turn ungrateful, all insane
          And impious against you, but soon after
65       Their brows, and not your own, shall blush for it.
 
          "Their own behavior will prove their brutishness,
          So that it shall enhance your reputation
          To have become a party to yourself.
 
70       "First refuge and first place of rest for you
          Shall be in the great Lombard’s courtesy,
          Who bears the sacred bird perched on the ladder
 
          "And who shall hold you in such kind regard
          That between you, in contrast with the others,
75       The granting will be first and asking last.
 
          "With him you shall see one who at his birth
          Was so imprinted by this star of strength
          That men will take note of his noble deeds.
 
          "Not yet have folk observed his worthiness
80       By reason of his age: these wheeling spheres
          Have only for nine years revolved around him.
 
          "But ere the Gascon cons high-riding Henry,
          Some sparks of virtue shall show forth in him
          By hard work and by caring naught for money.
 
85       "His bounty shall be so widespread hereafter
          That the tongues, even of his enemies,
          Will not be able to keep still about him.
 
          "Look you to him and his beneficence.
          Through him shall many folk find change of fortune,
90       Rich men and beggars shifting their positions.
 
          "And you shall bear this written in your mind
          Of him, but tell it not..." — and he told things
          Beyond belief of those who witness them.
 
          Then added, "Son, these are the glossaries
95       On what was told to you: behold the snares
          Concealed by a few circlings of the sun!
 
          "Yet be not envious against your neighbors,
          For your life shall extend much longer than
          The punishment of their perniciousness."
 
100     When this saintly soul showed by his silence
          That he had set the woof across the warp
          Which I had held in readiness for him,
 
          I ventured, like someone who seeks advice,
          In his confusion, from another person
105     Who sees and wills straightforwardly and loves:
 
          "I clearly see, my father, how time spurs
          Toward me to strike me such a blow as falls
          The heaviest on him who heeds it least.
 
          "So it is well I arm myself with foresight,
110     That if the dearest place be taken from me,
          I’ll not lose all the others, through my verse.
 
          "Down in that endlessly cruel world below
          And on that mountain from whose lovely summit
          The eyes of my own lady lifted me,
 
115      "And afterward, from light to light, through heaven,
          I have learned things which, if I repeat them,
          Will give a bitter taste to many people.
 
          "Yet, should I be a timid friend to truth,
          I fear I will not live among those who
120     Shall call this present time the ancient past."
 
          The light in which the treasure I had found
          Kept smiling started to flash out at first,
          Just like a golden mirror in the sun;
 
          Then he replied, "A conscience overclouded
125     Either with its own or others’ shame
          Will certainly feel that your speech is harsh.
 
          "But nonetheless — all falsehood set aside —
          Show plainly everything that you have seen:
          Then let them scratch wherever it may itch!
 
130     "For though your voice be bitter at first smack,
          Yet later on when it has been digested,
          It shall leave vital nourishment behind.
 
          "This cry of yours shall strike as does the wind
          Which hits against the highest peaks the hardest,
135     And that shall be no petty proof of honor.
 
          "Therefore you have been shown within these spheres,
          Upon the mountain, and in the woeful valley,
          Only the souls of those known for their fame.
 
          "For the mind of the listener never rests
140     And will not build its faith on an example
          Whose roots remain unknown or undiscovered,
 
          "Nor on any other proof that is not lucid."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XVIII

 

          By now that blissful mirror only brightened
          At his own thoughts, and I too tasted mine,
          Tempering the bitter with the sweet,
 
          When the lady who was leading me to God
5        Said, "Shift your thoughts and think on how I am
          Near Him who lifts the burden of all wrongs."
 
          I turned around at the melodious sound
          Of my soul’s comfort, and what love I saw
          Then in those saintly eyes I leave unsaid:
 
10       Not only do I distrust my own speech,
          But memory cannot turn back so far
          Above itself, unless Another guide it.
 
          This much I can recount about that moment,
          That while I looked upon her my affection
15       Was liberated from all other longing,
 
          While the eternal joy that rayed straight down
          On Beatrice filled me with contentment in
          The lovely eyes with their reflected joy.
 
          She overwhelmed me with light from her smile,
20       And said to me, "Turn around and listen,
          For paradise is not just in my eyes."
 
          As here on earth one sometimes notices
          Affection in a look that is so striking
          That the whole soul is swept up in one glance,
 
25       So in the flaming of that holy brilliance
          To which I turned I recognized in him
          The wish to talk to me a short time longer.
 
          He spoke, "In this, the fifth tier of the tree
          Which takes life from the top and which bears fruit
30       Forever and which never sheds its leaves,
 
          "Bloom blessed spirits who, before they came
          To heaven, had below such wide renown
          That any muse would find a wealth in them.
 
          "Gaze, therefore, on the bright horns of the cross,
35        And he whom I shall name there will flash forth
          Swift as the fire of lightning from a cloud."
 
          I saw a light streak out along the cross
          The instant Joshua was named aloud,
          Nor did I catch the sound before the motion.
 
40       And at the name of the high Maccabee
          I saw leap out another spinning light —
          Elation was the whip that spun that top!
 
          Two more I followed with my craving sight
          When Charlemagne and Roland were called out,
45       As the eye tracks the falcon in its flight.
 
          William of Orange next, and Renouart,
          And then Duke Godfrey, drew my eager gaze
          Along that cross, and Robert Guiscard too.
 
          Then moving and mingling with the other lights,
50       The soul who’d spoken to me let me hear
          His art among the singers of that heaven.
 
          I turned around once more to my right side
          To see in Beatrice what I ought to do
          By giving me a sign in word or gesture,
 
55       And I saw her eyes light so joyfully,
          So clearly, that her likeness now outshone
          All it had been till then, even the latest.
 
          And as a man, through feeling more delight
          In doing good, from day to day becomes
60       Aware that he advances in his virtue,
 
          Even so was I aware my circling round
          With heaven went in ever widening arcs
          When I perceived her wonder still more dazzling.
 
          And like the change that comes on in a moment
65       In a fair-skinned lady, when her face is free
          From the burden of its bashfulness,
 
          Such was the change for my eyes when I turned,
          Because of the soft whiteness of the sixth
          Star which enfolded me within itself.
 
70       I saw the Jovial torch within its cresset
          Shoot sparks of love that had its dwelling there,
          Patterning out our language to my eyes.
 
          And as birds, risen from a river bank,
          As though rejoicing in their pasture, fly
75       Now in a circle, now in one long line,
 
          So in those lights were holy creatures singing
          While they were flying, and in their figures
          Formed letters: now D, now I, and now L.
 
          At first they moved in rhythm with their song,
80       But then, as they became one of those letters,
          They stopped for a brief interval in silence.
 
          O Pegasean goddess, you give glory
          To the talented and offer them long life
          Which by your aid they give to kingdoms, cities,
 
85       Shed your light on me that I may set forth
          These figures as I have conceived their shape,
          And let your power show through these few verses!
 
          In five times seven vowels and consonants
          They then displayed themselves, and I took note
90       Of characters that I seemed to see spoken.
 
          DILIGITE JUSTITIAM were the first
          Verb and noun of all depicted there;
          QUI JUDICATIS TERRAM were the last.
 
          After, they formed the M of the fifth word,
95       Which stayed so placed that Jupiter appeared
          Silvery behind that spot stitched out with gold.
 
          And I saw other lights descend to where
          The top of the M rose, and come to rest
          There, singing, I believe, the Good that draws them.
 
100     Then, as innumerable sparks fly up
          With a striking blow at burning logs
          (From this the foolish try to tell their fortunes),
 
          More than a thousand lights appeared to rise
          From there and soar, some higher and some lower,
105     To where the Sun that kindles them appoints.
 
          And when each one had nestled in its place,
          I saw the head and shoulders of an eagle
          Presented in the patterned points of flame.
 
          He who paints there has no need of a guide:
110     He guides Himself, and from Him has derived
          That instinctive power that builds nests.
 
          The rest of the blest souls who seemed at first
          Content to form a lily on the M
          With a slight movement finished the design.
 
115     O dulcet star! how numerous and bright
          The gems that made it clear to me our justice
          Comes from the heaven which you so bejewel!
 
          Therefore I pray the Mind in which begin
          Your motion and your power to attend
120      To where the smoke that blocks your rays arises,
 
          So that once more he may be angry with
          The buying and the selling in the temple
          Whose walls were built by miracles and martyrs.
 
          O soldiery of heaven on whom I gaze,
125      Pray for all who stray from the straight path
          By following bad example down on earth!
 
          Men used to make war at one time with swords,
          But now they make it by taking here and there
          The bread the kindly Father keeps from no one.
 
130     But you, who inscribe only to cross out,
          Recall that Paul and Peter, who died for
          The vineyard you lay waste, are still alive!
 
          You may well say, "I have so set my passion
          On him who wished to live alone and who
135      For a girl’s dance was dragged to martyrdom
 
          "That I don’t know the Fisherman or Paul."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XIX

 

          Before me now with outspread wings appeared
          The gorgeous image which those weaving souls,
          Delighting in their sweet enjoyment, made.
 
          Each one of them seemed like a little ruby
5         In which the sun’s rays burst with such bright flame
          That it reflected light straight to my eyes.
 
          And what I now am called on to recount
          Never has voice spoken nor ink written,
          Nor has imagination ever grasped it.
 
10       For I saw and I heard the beak speak up
          And sound out with its voice both I and Mine
          When really it intended We and Our.
 
          "For being just and dutiful," it began,
          "I am exalted to that height of glory
15       Which no desire is able to outreach,
 
          "While, there on earth, I left a memory
          Which even evildoers wish to praise,
          Although they do not follow its example."
 
          As many embers make one single heat,
20       So many loves sound out one single voice
          Which issues from one image of them all.
 
          Then I addressed them, "O perennial flowers
          Of everlasting happiness! you cause
          All your perfumes to seem to me one scent!
 
25       "Breathe out and free me from the mighty fast
          That for too long has kept me hungering,
          Finding no food on earth to ease the pain.
 
          "I know well that if there are other kingdoms
          Which here in heaven mirror God’s high justice,
30       Yours does not reflect it through a veil.
 
          "You know how eagerly I ready myself
          To listen, and you know the question which
          From days of old has made me fast with doubt."
 
          Just as a falcon, slipping from its hood,
35       Rears and shakes its head and flaps its wings,
          Showing its spirit, making itself handsome,
 
          So I saw move that banner which was woven
          With praises for the grace of God, with songs
          Such as they know who there rejoice on high.
 
40       The voice began then, "He who turned his compass
          Around the limits of the world, and in it
          Marked out much that is hidden and revealed,
 
          "Could not so stamp his power on the whole
          Universe, but that his Word must still
45       Remain in infinite superiority.
 
          "The proof of this is in that first proud angel
          Who was the pinnacle of every creature
          And who fell unripe, not waiting for the light:
 
          "So we can see that every lesser nature
50       Is too slight a container for that Good
          Which is self-measuring and limitless.
 
          "Your vision, then, which of necessity
          Is only one of the rays of the Mind
          Which permeates all things with plenitude,
 
55       "Can never, by its nature, lack the power
          But that it should perceive its origin
          Is far beyond all that occurs to it.
 
          "The sight, then, that is granted to your world
          May penetrate within eternal justice
60       No further than the eye into the sea.
 
          "Though from the shore the eye can see the bottom,
          It does not see it on the open sea;
          Yet it is there, but hidden in the depths.
 
          "Light is not light unless it come from that
65       Serene and cloudless Source: else it is darkness,
          The shadow and the poison of our flesh.
 
          "Now then, the hiding-place, which has concealed
          From you the living justice you so often
          Called into question, lies well open to you.
 
70       "For you would say, ‘A man’s born on the bank
          Along the Indus, and no one is there
          Who ever speaks or reads or writes of Christ.
 
          " ‘Yet everything he wills or does is good,
          So far as human reason can perceive,
75       Without a sin in living or in speaking.
 
          " ‘Unbaptized he dies, and without faith.
          Where is the justice that condemns this man?
          What is his fault if he does not believe?’
 
          "Now who are you to sit upon the seat
80       Of judgment at a thousand miles away
          When your short sight sees just a foot ahead?
 
          "Surely, were Scriptures not set over you
          As guide, for him who would split hairs with me
          There would be wondrous chance for questioning.
 
85       "O animals of earth, O gross of mind!
          Good in itself, the primal Will has never
          Moved from itself which is the highest Good.
 
          "All in accord with it is just, and no
          Created good draws this Will to itself
90       Unless, by raying down, the Will directs it."
 
          Just as the stork wheels round above her nest
          After she has fed her young their food,
          And as each bird she fed looks up at her,
 
          So did the blessed emblem turn, and so
95       I lifted up my eyes, while it, impelled
          By many inspirations, moved its wings.
 
          Wheeling it sang, and said, "As are my notes
          To you who do not comprehend them, such
          Is the eternal judgment to you mortals."
 
100      After the Holy Spirit’s glowing flames
          Had quieted, the voice still in the ensign
          Which made the Romans awesome to the world
 
          Began again, "None ever mounted to
          This kingdom who did not believe in Christ,
105     Before or since he was nailed to the tree.
 
          "But mark this: many who cry out ‘Christ, Christ,’
          Will be less close to him on Judgment Day
          Than someone who may not have known of Christ.
 
          "The Ethiopian shall damn such Christians
110      When the two companies shall be divided,
          One rich forever and the other poor.
 
          "What will the Persian then say to your kings
          When they shall see the volume opened wide
          In which their infamies are all recorded?
 
115      "There shall be seen among the deeds of Albert
          One act which soon will set the pen in motion,
          By which the realm of Prague will turn a desert.
 
          "There shall be seen the grief brought on the Seine
          By that man who will counterfeit the coinage
120     And whom the blow of a wild boar will kill.
 
          "There shall be seen the pride that sharpens thirst
          And makes the Scot and Englishman so mad
          That neither one can stay within his borders.
 
          "Seen too shall be the lusting and soft living
125      Of both kings of Bohemia and Spain,
          Who never knew courageousness or wished to.
 
          "Seen too the Cripple of Jerusalem
          Whose goodness is enough to dot an i,
          While his misdeeds would fill an alphabet.
 
130      "Seen too shall be the greed and cowardice
          Of him who was the ward of Fire Island
          On which Anchises ended his long life.
 
          "And to help you discern his paltriness,
          His record shall be written with few letters
135     Which will note down a great deal in small space.
 
          "And the foul acts of his uncle and his brother,
          Which heaped shame on so famed a lineage
          And on two crowns, shall be made plain to all.
 
          "And both kings of Norway and of Portugal
140      Shall be known there, and seen the lord of Rascia
          Who conned the coins of Venice to his loss.
 
          "O happy Hungary, if she can preserve
          Herself from more mishandling! O happy Navarre,
          If she can make herself a mountain stronghold!
 
145     "And all should credit that, in pledge of this,
          Already Nicosia and Famagosta
          Complain and wail because their beast of burden
 
          "Will not break off from the rest of the herd."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XX

 

          When he who lights up our whole world comes down
          Out of our hemisphere, so that the day
          In all directions fades away to dark,
 
          The sky, which he alone inflamed before,
5         All of a sudden shows itself once more
          With many lights lit by his single blaze:
 
          So this shift in the sky came to my mind
          When the sign of the world and of its leaders
          Fell back to silence with its blessed beak,
 
10       Because, of all those living luminaries,
          Shining more brightly, each began to sing
          Hymns that have slipped out of my memory.
 
          O dulcet love, whose mantle is a smile,
          How glowingly you sounded in those flutes,
15       Filled only with the breath of saintly thoughts!
 
          When all the precious and pellucid stones
          With which I saw the sixth star all bejeweled
          Had stilled the chiming of those angelic bells,
 
          I seemed to hear the murmuring of a river
20       Clearly coursing down from rock to rock,
          Attesting to the richness of its source.
 
          And as the notes resounding from the lute
          Take shape within its neck, and as the wind
          Sounds at the opening of the bagpipe it inflates,
 
25       So, with no further time spent idly waiting,
          That murmuring whisper of the eagle rose
          Up through the neck, as if the neck were hollow.
 
          There it turned to a voice, and through the beak
          It issued in the form of words, such words
30       As the heart on which I wrote them waited for.
 
          "That part in me which can see in earthly eagles
          And can endure the sun," the voice began,
          "There steadfastly you must now fix your gaze.
 
          "For of the fires from which I take shape,
35       Those with which the eye glitters in my head
          Are the chief souls within all of their ranks.
 
          "The one shining in the middle as the pupil
          Was the singer of the Holy Spirit,
          Who took the ark about from town to town.
 
40       "Now he knows here the merit of his song:
          How much of it resulted from his talent,
          By the reward proportionate to it.
 
          "Of those five that make up my eyebrow’s arch,
          The one who is the nearest to my beak
45       Gave comfort to the widow for her son.
 
          "Now he knows the dear price men have to pay
          Not to follow Christ, by his experience
          Of this sweet life and of its opposite.
 
          "And he who follows on the upper arc
50       Of the circumference of which I speak
          Has put off death by his true penitence.
 
          "Now he knows that the everlasting judgment
          Remains unchanged, when worthy prayer on earth
          Makes what should be today take place tomorrow.
 
55      "The next who follows, to give way to the shepherd,
          With good intentions that bore rotten fruit,
          Removed to Greece, taking the laws and me.
 
          "Now he knows how the evil that arose
          From his good action does not harm him here,
60      Although the world be devastated by it.
 
          "The fourth you see within the lower arc
          Was William, for whom that land goes in mourning
          That weeps for Charles and Frederick yet alive.
 
           "Now he knows how an upright king is loved
65       In heaven, as he still makes evident
          By the effulgent likeness of his glory.
 
          "Who would believe down in the erring world
          That Ripheus the Trojan was the fifth
          Of the saintly splendors in that circle?
 
70       "Now he knows much about the grace of God
          That your world cannot see, although his sight
          May not make out the bottom of the sea."
 
          Just like the lark that soars into the air,
          First singing and then silent in contentment
75       With the last sweetness sated by its song,
 
          So seemed to me the image stamped out sharply
          By the eternal Pleasure, through whose will
          All things become what they are in their being.
 
          And though my questioning showed through me there
80       Like colors shining through the coated glass,
          I could not bear to wait in silence longer,
 
          But from my lips burst, "How can these things be?"
          Forced out by the sheer pressure of its weight.
          At that I saw a feast of flashing lights.
 
85       And right then, not to hold me in suspense
          And wonder, its eye burning ever brighter,
          The blessed emblem answered me again:
 
          "I see that you believe these things because
          I tell you about them, but you do not see how,
90       So that they stay concealed while still believed.
 
          "You act like one who clearly apprehends
          A thing by name, but cannot grasp its essence
          Unless it is explained by someone else.
 
          "The kingdom of heaven suffers violence
95       From all the fervent love and living hope
          Which vanquishes the will of the Most High:
 
          "Not in the way men vanquish other men;
          It conquers because His will lets it conquer,
          And, vanquished, vanquishes with its own kindness.
 
100      "The first and the fifth spirits of my brow
          Make you amazed, since you perceive the region
          Of the angels here adorned with them.
 
          "They quit their bodies not as you think, pagans,
          But Christians with firm faith, one in the feet
105      To be pierced, the other, that were pierced.
 
          "For one returned to flesh and bones from hell
          Where no one ever can regain goodwill,
          And that was the reward of living hope:
 
          "Of living hope that rendered powerful
110      Prayers offered up to God to raise him new
          So that his will be able to be moved.
 
          "The glorious soul of whom I speak, come back
          For a short period to his own body,
          Believed in Him who has the power to help:
 
115     "Believing, he burst out in such a blaze
          Of the true love that at his second death
          He was worthy to be welcomed to this mirth.
 
          "The other, by the grace that wells up from
          So deep a fountain that no creature yet
120      Has ever cast eyes down to its first wave,
 
          "Placed all his love on earth in doing right;
          And God, from grace to grace, so opened up
          His eyes to our redemption still to come
 
          "That he believed in Christ, and from then on
125     Would not endure the stench of paganism,
          And for it he reproved those perverse people.
 
          "The three ladies at the chariot’s right wheel
          (You saw them) sponsored him in baptism
          A thousand years before baptismal rites.
 
130     "O predestination, how far removed
          Your root lies from the eyesight of those people
          Who do not see the First Cause as a whole!
 
          "And, mortals, show restraint in making judgments,
          For even we who look on God himself
135      Do not yet know all those who are elect.
 
          "And such a failing is a sweet thing to us,
          Since in this good is our own good refined,
          That what God wills is what we will as well."
 
          So, thanks to that divine emblazoned form,
140     There I received this soothing medicine
          To clear my eyes of their shortsightedness.
 
          And as a skillful lutanist can make
          The strings vibrate in tune with a skilled singer
          And in this way add pleasure to the song,
 
145     So, I remember, while the eagle spoke,
          I saw the two blest lights together move,
          Just as the eyelids blink with one accord,
 
          Causing their flames to quiver to the words.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XXI

 

          By now my eyes fixed once more on the face
          Of my own lady, and with them my mind,
          And it withdrew from every other thought.
 
          She did not smile, but, "If I were to smile,"
5         She said to me, "why then you would become
          Like Semele when she turned into ashes,
 
          "Because my beauty which, as you have seen,
          All up the steps of the eternal palace
          Is more inflamed the higher we ascend
 
10       "So burns that, if it were not tempered here,
          Your mortal powers would shatter at its flash,
          Just like a branch struck by a lightning bolt.
 
          "We have wafted upward to the seventh splendor
          Which underneath the burning Lion’s breast
15       Beams down below now mingling might with might.
 
          "Fasten your mind on where your eyes are fixed
          And make them mirrors for the figure which
          Within this mirror shall be shown to you."
 
          Whoever will recall how gladly I
20       Pastured my sight upon her blissful face,
          When I now turned my thoughts to a new field,
 
          Shall know how deep the joy that I then felt,
          In so obeying my celestial guide,
          By balancing one side and then the other.
 
25       Within the crystal, circling round the world,
          That bears the name of its beloved leader
          During whose rule all wickedness lay dead,
 
          I saw a ladder, glimmering like gold
          Lit by a sunbeam, running up so high
30       That my sight could not trace it to the top.
 
          I saw so many splendors stepping down
          On all its rungs that I thought every star
          In heaven was cascading down from it,
 
          And just as jackdaws at the break of day
35       Through natural instinct fly about together
          In order to warm up their frigid feathers,
 
          Then some, without returning, soar away,
          Some wheel around to where they started off,
          While others stay on circling in the sky:
 
40       Such flights, it seemed to me, the sparkling swarm
          Which gathered all together now performed,
          As soon as it had touched a certain rung.
 
          The soul that halted closest to us both
          Became so bright that I said in my thought,
45       "I clearly see the love you signal me.
 
          "But she from whom I await the how and when
          Of speech and silence, holds her peace, so I,
          Against my wishes, do well not to question."
 
          At this, then, she, who saw my silent caution
50       In her vision of Him who sees all things,
          Observed to me, "Set free your fervent wish."
 
          And I began, "No merit of my own
          Will make me worthy of your answering me,
          But for her sake who lets me question you,
 
55       "O blessed life that lies concealed inside
          Your own elation, please reveal to me
          The reason you are placed so close to me,
 
          "And tell me why within this wheeling sphere
          The sweet symphony of paradise is silent,
60       Which through the spheres below sounds so devoutly."
 
          "You have the sight and hearing of a mortal,"
          He answered me; "there is no singing here
          For the same reason Beatrice has not smiled.
 
          "Down on the holy ladder’s rungs I stepped
65       So far to offer you warm-hearted welcome
          With my talk and the light that mantles me:
 
          "It was not stronger love that made me swifter,
          For love as strong or stronger burns up there,
          As all these flaming stars declare to you,
 
70       "But the high charity which makes us prompt
          To serve the wisdom governing the world
          Assigns us to our place as you perceive."
 
          "I plainly see," I said, "O sacred lamp,
          How liberal love is ample in this court
75       For following eternal providence,
 
          "But this is what seems hard for me to grasp:
          Why you alone of all your company
          Were so selected to perform this office."
 
          I scarcely finished saying this last word
80       When, using its own center as an axis,
          The light went whirling round like a fast millstone.
 
          The love from in that midpoint then replied,
          "Divine light comes to focus here on me
          By piercing through the beams embracing me:
 
85       "Its power, fusing with my sight, uplifts
          My soul so high above itself, I see
          The Supreme Being from which it flows out.
 
          "From this sight comes the joy with which I flame,
          For as my seeing sharpens, so I match
90       The sharpness of my flame to equal it.
 
          "But that soul who in heaven burns the brightest,
          That seraph with his eye most fixed on God,
          Could not resolve the question you have asked,
 
          "For what you seek lies hidden down so deep
95       In the abyss of the eternal bidding,
          It is cut off from all created vision.
 
          "And when you go back to the mortal world,
          Take this news with you, that none may presume
          To move his feet toward so profound a goal.
 
100     "The mind is light here, on earth it is smoke.
          Consider, then, how it can do down there
          What it cannot do up here with heaven’s help."
 
          His words put such a limit on me that
          I left the question and withdrew myself
105      So far as to ask humbly who he was.
 
          "Between the coasts of Italy and not
          Too distant from your homeland, peaks rise up
          So high that thunder sounds far lower down
 
          "And form a hump that is called Catria,
110      Beneath which lies a sacred hermitage
          Once wholly given over to pure worship."
 
          So he began to speak to me a third time,
          Then added, "In that cloister I became
          So steadfast in the service of our God
 
115     "That with food seasoned just with olive-juice
          Lightheartedly I bore both heat and cold,
          Content with thoughtful prayers of contemplation.
 
          "That monastery used to yield a harvest
          Of rich abundance to these heavens — now,
120     How bare it has become must soon be shown!
 
          "I was, in that place, Peter Damian,
          And Peter the Sinner, in the Abbey of
          Our Lady on the Adriatic shore.
 
          "Little was left me of my mortal life
125      When I was called and forced to wear the hat
          That’s always handed down from bad to worse.
 
          "Cephas once came, and came the mighty vessel
          The Holy Spirit chose, barefoot and lean,
          Eating their food at any wayside inn.
 
130      "Now modern pastors need people to prop
          Their heavy bodies, on this side and on that,
          With one to lead and one to hold their trains.
 
          "They spread out their fur mantles on their palfreys
          So that two beasts trot on beneath one hide.
135     O patience, that you put up with so much!"
 
          With these words I saw more flames stepping down
          From rung to rung and whirling while they came,
          And every whirl intensified their beauty.
 
          They flocked around this spirit and stood still
140     And lifted up a shout so deep in sound
          That nothing heard on earth resembles it.
 
          The thunder dashed me so, I could not grasp it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XXII

 

          Struck with amazement, I turned to my guide,
          Like a small child that always runs back where
          The person it trusts most is to be found.
 
          And she, like a mother who is quick to calm
5         Her pale and panting son with her soft voice
          Which often reassures him, said to me,
 
          "Do you not know that you are now in heaven?
          Do you not know that heaven is all holy,
          And that what is done here springs from true zeal?
 
10       "Now you can comprehend how they by song
          And I by smiling would have changed your soul,
          When just this shout has moved you so profoundly.
 
          "By this cry, had you understood their prayers,
          You might have known already of the vengeance
15       Which you shall see down there before you die.
 
          "The sword of heaven does not cut in haste
          Nor strike too late, except in the opinion
          Of those who wait in fear or longing for it.
 
          "But turn now to the others gathered here,
20       For you will notice many famous spirits,
          If you direct your gaze as I instruct you."
 
          Just as she pleased, I turned my eyes and saw
          A hundred little spheres which all together
          Made themselves beautiful with rays they shared.
 
25       I stood as someone curbing in himself
          The prick of his desire, who does not dare
          To question, he so dreads to overdo.
 
          And the most brilliant and magnificent
          Of those bright pearls came forward from its cluster
30       To make content my wish concerning it.
 
          Then I heard from within it, "Could you see,
          As I can see, the love that burns among us,
          You would have found expression for your thoughts.
 
          "But that more waiting may not hold you from
35       Your goal on high, I will make my response,
          Just to the thought that you keep to yourself.
 
          "The mountain on whose slope Cassino lies,
          Was, on its summit, visited of old
          By a deluded and perverted people,
 
40       "And I am he who was the first to carry
          Up there the name of Him who brought to earth
          The truth that lifts us up so loftily,
 
          "And such abundant grace shone down on me
          That I led the surrounding towns away
45       From impious cults which have seduced the world.
 
          "These other flames were all contemplatives
          Enkindled by the heat which brings to birth
          The sanctifying flowers and their fruits.
 
          "Here is Macarius, here is Romualdus,
50       Here are my brothers who kept steadfast hearts
          And planted their feet within the cloister walls."
 
          And I told him, "The affection you display
          In speaking to me, and the kindliness
          That I observe in every glowing spirit,
 
55       "Have made my confidence spread as the sun
          Opens the rose when it becomes full-blown
          And its heart swells with fresh capacity.
 
          "I therefore beg you, father, to assure me,
          If I am able to obtain such grace,
60       That I may look upon your unveiled figure."
 
          He then said, "Brother, your exalted longing
          Shall be fulfilled up in the final sphere
          Where mine and all desires are fulfilled.
 
          "There every wish is perfect, ripe, and whole.
65        There only, in that highest point of heaven,
          Is every part where it has always rested.
 
          "That sphere is not in space, it has no pole,
          And our bright ladder reaches up to it
          So far that it must vanish from your view.
 
70      "The patriarch Jacob saw it stretching
          To its top rung, when it appeared to him
          Thronged full of angels pressing up and down.
 
          "But no one now lifts his foot from the ground
          To climb it, and my rule is left there like
75       Waste scraps of paper to be tossed aside.
 
          "The walls which formerly enclosed an abbey
          Now house a den of thieves, and the monks’ cowls
          Are sacks stuffed to the brim with rotten flour.
 
          "But even heavy usury violates less
80       Against God’s pleasure than the tempting fruit
          That makes the hearts of monks so mad for it,
 
          "For what the Church possesses is for all
          The people who request it in God’s name,
          Not for relations or others who are worse.
 
85       "The flesh of mortal creatures is so soft
          That good beginnings on earth will not last
          From seeding of the oak to acorn-bearing.
 
          "Peter began his movement without gold
          Or silver; I mine, with prayers and fasting;
90       Francis his, with pure humility:
 
          "And if you look at each of their beginnings,
          And then look back again to where it strayed,
          You will see that the white has turned to black.
 
          "Yet, Jordan driven back against its course
95       And the Red Sea divided, when God willed,
          Would be less wondrous sights than help is here."
 
          These words he said to me, and then rejoined
          His company, and the company closed ranks.
          Then like a whirlwind they were all swooped up.
 
100      My own sweet lady, simply with a sign,
          Thrust me on up the ladder after them,
          My nature was so vanquished by her power.
 
          Never on earth, where we descend and climb
          By nature’s law, has motion been so rapid
105     That it could be compared to my winged flight.
 
          As I hope, reader, to return to that
          Solemn triumph for whose sake I often
          Weep for my sins and beat my breast in sorrow:
 
          You could not put your finger in the fire
110      And pull it out as swiftly as I saw
          The sign that trails the Bull and stood inside it.
 
          O stars of glory, O light teeming full
          With mighty power from which I obtain
          All of whatever talent I may have,
 
115      Rising with you and setting with you was
          The Sun that is father of all mortal life,
          When first I felt the air of Tuscany,
 
          And when the grace was granted then to me
          To enter the high sphere that wheels you round,
120     Your region was the one assigned to me!
 
          To you my soul devotedly now sighs
          That she may gain the influencing power
          For the hard pass which draws her to itself.
           
          "You are so close now to the final solace,"
125      Beatrice began, "that it is necessary
          For your eyes to be vigilant and clear.
 
          "And so, before you go in any farther,
          Look down and see how vast a universe
          I have already set beneath your feet,
 
130     "So that your heart, rejoicing to the full,
          May present itself to the triumphant throng
          Which comes with joy through this ethereal zone."
 
          I traveled back in gazing down through all
          The seven spheres, and then I saw this globe
135      So paltry that I smiled at its appearance.
 
          And that opinion I approve as best
          Which holds the earth as least, and he whose thought
          Is elsewhere may be named as truly upright.
 
          I saw the daughter of Latona glowing
140     Without that shadow which was once the reason
          Why I believed that she was rare and dense.
 
          I there sustained the bright face of your son,
          Hyperion; and, Maia and Dione,
          I saw your children circling close to him.
 
145     Then I observed Jove’s tempering between
          His son and father, and I clearly saw
          The variations they make in their orbits.
 
          And all the seven spheres displayed to me
          How grand they are and how swift in their motion
150     And how apart in distance from each other.
 
          As I revolved with the eternal Twins,
          I saw revealed from hills to river outlets
          The threshing-floor that makes us so ferocious.
 
          Then my eyes turned back to the eyes of beauty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XXIII

 

          Just as the bird that, in the friendly leaves,
          Has sat upon the nest of her sweet chicks
          Throughout the night that hides all things from us,
 
          And, so that she can see their eager looks
5        When she has found the food to feed them with
          (For she takes pleasure in her toiling hard),
 
          Anticipates the day on an open branch
          And in the glow of love awaits the sun
          With her sight fastened for the break of day:
 
10       So my lady stood, attentive and erect,
          Turning toward the quarter of the sky
          Beneath which the sun travels with less haste,
 
          And so I, seeing her alert and longing,
          Became like one who in his wish would have
15       More than he has, but is content to hope.
 
          Yet time was brief between the when and when,
          The when’s, I mean, of waiting and of seeing
          The sky increase with more and more resplendence.
 
          And Beatrice cried, "Look on the glittering legions
20       Of Christ in triumph and on all the fruit
          Harvested by the turning of these spheres!"
 
          Her face seemed all aflame as I gazed on her,
          And her eyes looked so full of ecstasy
          That I must pass this by without description.
 
25       As at the full moon in the calm clear sky,
          Trivia smiles among the immortal nymphs
          That paint the scene of heaven to its heights,
 
          I saw, above a million burning lamps,
          A Sun that kindled every one of them
30       As our sun lights the stars we glimpse on high;
 
          And through its living light the shining Substance
          Glowed out so brightly down upon my gaze
          That my eyes dazzled and could not endure it.
 
          O Beatrice, my sweet and cherished guide!
35       You said to me, "What overwhelms you here
          Is a power for which there is no defense:
 
          "In this One is the wisdom and the power
          That opened up the path from earth to heaven
          For which the men of old had yearned so long."
 
40       Just as lightning bursts out from a cloud
          Because it so expands it has no room left,
          And crashes to the ground against its nature,
 
          Just so my mind, becoming more enlarged
          At this rich banquet, broke free from itself,
45       And cannot now recall what it became.
 
          "Open your eyes and look at what I am,
          For you have seen such things that you are able
          Now to withstand the vision of my smile!"
 
          I was like one who wakes up from a dream
50       That he has half forgotten and who strives
          Without success to bring it back to mind
 
          When I heard this directive, so deserving
          Of gratitude that it can never be
          Blotted from the book that pens the past.
 
55       If all those tongues should sound to aid me now
          Which Polyhymnia and her sister muses
          Made all the richer with their sweetest milk,
 
          It would not touch a thousandth of the truth
          In singing of her saintly smile and how
60       It lighted up her saintly countenance.
 
          And so, in my depicting paradise,
          This sacred poem is forced to take a leap,
          Like someone who finds his path blocked before him.
 
          Whoever marks this weighty theme, however,
65       And the mortal shoulders loaded down with it,
          Will not blame if they quake beneath the burden.
 
          This is no voyage for a little skiff,
          This course my daring prow cuts as it sails,
          Nor for a helmsman sparing himself pains!
 
70       "Why are you so enamored with my face
          You do not turn to see the lovely garden
          Full blossoming beneath the beams of Christ?
 
          "Here is the Rose in whom the Word of God
          Took on our flesh, and here are all the lilies
75       Whose fragrance pointed out the true straight road."
 
          So Beatrice; and I, all in readiness
          For her command, prepared myself once more
          To struggle to lift up my feeble eyelids.
 
          As in a ray of sunlight pouring purely
80       Down through a rifted cloud, my eyes in shadow
          Have sometimes seen a shining field of flowers,
 
          So I saw there a myriad host of splendors
          Lit brightly from above by blazing rays,
          Although I could not see the source of brilliance.
 
85       O gracious Power that stamps them all with light,
          You raised yourself on high to make room there
          For my eyes which were powerless to look!
 
          The name of the lovely Flower I call on,
          Morning and evening, focused all my mind
90       As I fixed my gaze on the brightest Flame.
 
          And when both of my eyes had seen depicted
          The size and brilliance of the living Star
          That conquers there as down below she conquered,
 
          I saw come down from heaven a bright torch
95       That shaped a circlet like a diadem
          Girdling her and wheeling round about her.
 
          The sweetest-sounding melody on earth,
          Which draws the soul the closest to its strains,
          Would seem to be a thunder-shattered cloud
 
100      Compared to the tuned music of the lyre
          That crowns the most beautiful of sapphires
          By which the brightest heaven is bejeweled.
 
          "I am angelic love who wheel around
          The exalted gaiety breathed from the womb
105      Which was the inn of all the world’s desire;
 
          "And, Lady of Heaven, I will wheel until
          You follow your Son to the highest sphere
          To make it more divine by entering it!"
 
          In this way the encircling melody
110      Came to a close, and all the other lights
          Rang out with echoes of the name of Mary.
 
          The royal mantle which enfolds the orbits
          Of all the worlds, most burning and most living
          Within the breath of God and in his ways,
 
115      Withdrew its inner shore so far above us
          That any sight of it, from where I stood,
          As yet remained impossible for me.
 
          My eyes did not possess the power, then,
          To follow the crowned Flame in upward flight
120      As she soared into heaven toward her Son.
 
          And as an infant, after taking milk,
          Stretches out its arms toward its mother,
          Because the soul burns to express itself,
 
          Each radiance reached upward with its flame,
125      So that the deep affection which they felt
          For Mary was revealed to me in full.
 
          Then they remained there, still within my sight,
          Singing Regina Coeli with such sweet voices
          That my delight in it has never left me.
 
130      O how abundant is the harvest heaped
          In those rich storage-bins of souls who were,
          While down on earth, the sowers of good seed!
 
          Here they live rejoicing in the treasure
          Which they have won with tears shed in their exile
135      In Babylon where they held gold in scorn.
 
          Here lives, triumphant in his victory,
          Beneath the exalted Son of God and Mary,
          With those of the ancient and new covenants,
 
          He who holds the keys of all this glory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XXIV

 

          "O fellowship called to the lavish supper
          Of the blest Lamb who feeds you with such food
          That you are always filled with what you want,
 
          "Since by the grace of God this man receives
5        A foretaste of what falls from your full table
          Before death sets a limit to his lifetime,
 
          "Open your mind to his tremendous craving
          And sprinkle him with dew: you drink forever
          Out of the fountain from which his thinking flows."
 
10       So Beatrice; and those elated spirits
          Formed themselves in spheres around fixed poles,
          Flashing out like comets while they whirled.
 
          And as wheels turn within the works of clocks,
          So that the largest seems, to the observer,
15       To stand still while the smallest seems to fly,
 
          Just so those singing rings, to different measures
          Dancing in swift circles and in slow,
          Enabled me to judge their wealth of joy.
 
          From the one I observed to be the richest
20       I saw burst out a flame so joyful that
          None ever shone with sharper brilliancy.
 
          And three times it revolved around Beatrice
          With so divine a song, there is no way
          For my imagination to record it:
 
25       So my pen leaps ahead and shall write nothing,
          Since our imagining, as well as speech,
          Is much too bright to color in such shades.
 
          "O my holy sister who so devoutly
          Do pray to us, by your own burning love
30      You loosen me from out that lovely sphere!"
 
          When it had stopped, that fire of blessedness
          Breathed out these words directly to my lady,
          Exactly as I have repeated them.
 
          And she: "O eternal light of the great man
35       To whom Our Lord entrusted the same keys
          Of wondrous gladness that he brought below,
 
          "Examine this man on the main and minor
          Points of the faith, just as it pleases you:
          That faith which let you walk upon the sea.
 
40       "If he loves well and hopes well and believes,
          It is not hidden from you, since you set
          Your sights on where all things are seen reflected.
 
          "But as this kingdom gained its citizens
          By the true faith, it is good for its glory
45       That he should have the chance to tell of it."
 
          Much as the graduate readies his defense
          And keeps still till his mentor puts the question,
          To offer proof and not to settle it:
 
          So I made myself ready with every reason
50       While she was speaking, that I be prepared
          For such a questioner and such profession.
 
          "Tell me, good Christian, give your declaration:
          What is faith?" With that I raised my forehead
          Up to the light from which these words breathed out.
 
55       I turned to Beatrice then, and she straightway
          Showed me a sign that I should pour the water
          Out of the inward spring that welled up in me.
 
          "May the grace which grants me," I began,
          "To make confession to the chief commander
60       Result in my thoughts being rightly stated!"
 
          And I went on, "Just as the truthful pen
          Of your dear brother wrote about it, father,
          Who, with you, once put Rome on the right road:
 
          "Faith is the substance of things that are hoped for
65       And the evidence of things that are not seen,
          And this appears to me to be its essence."
 
          Then I heard, "Your perception is correct,
          If you clearly follow why he placed it first
          With substance and then with evidence."
 
70       And I in my response: "The profound things
          That here permit me to catch sight of them
          Are so concealed away from eyes down there
 
          "That they exist there only in belief,
          On which the height of hope is firmly founded;
75       And therefore it is called a basic substance.
 
          "And we must start our reasoning with belief,
          Without our seeing any more than that;
          And therefore it is known as evidence."
 
          Then I heard, "If all that is held below
80       As doctrine were so understood by others,
          There would be no place left for clever sophists."
 
          Those words were breathed out from the burning love
          That then continued, "You have studied soundly,
          For now, the weight and content of this coinage,
 
85       "But tell me: have you such coin in your purse?"
          To that I: "Yes, I do: so round, so shining,
          That I do not have doubts about its minting."
 
          Then from the deep light that was blazing there
          These words rang out to me: "This precious jewel
90       And this foundation stone of every virtue,
 
          "Whence did it come to you?" And I: "The streaming
          Rain of the Holy Spirit that pours down
          On pages of the ancient and new Book
 
          "Makes such a sharp conclusive syllogism,
95       It proved to me that, by comparison,
          All other demonstrations seem abstruse."
 
          Then I heard, "These ancient and new propositions
          Which draw you in this way to your conclusion,
          Why do you take them as divinely written?"
 
100     And I: "The proof that shows the truth to me
          Is in the works that followed: nature never
          For such wonders heated iron nor beat anvil."
 
          In answer to me: "Tell me, who assures you
          There are such works? The Truth that must be proved
105     — And nothing else — asserts that they were so."
 
          "If without miracles the whole world turned
          To Christianity," I said, "that miracle
          A hundred times is greater than the rest:
 
          "For poor and fasting you went in the field
110     To sow the good seed of the plant that once
          Had been a vine and now’s become a bramble."
 
          This ended, through the spheres the saintly court
          On high resounded "Te Deum," praising God
          With melodies such as they sing up there.
 
115      And that lord-baron, who examining me
          From branch to branch had drawn me on until
          Already we approached the topmost leaves,
 
          Again began, "The Grace, which with your mind
          Keeps up a dialogue of love, till now
120     Has opened so your lips to right responses
 
          "That I approve what has poured out of them;
          But now you must proclaim what you believe,
          And whence these truths came to you for belief."
 
          "O holy father, spirit who now sees
125     What you believed so strongly, you outran
          Up to the tomb feet younger than your own,"
 
          I then began, "you want me here to show
          The form of my unhesitating faith,
          And you have also asked to know its cause.
 
130     "And I reply: I believe in one God,
          Sole and eternal, who, himself unmoving,
          Moves all the heavens by love and desire.
 
          "And for this faith I have not only proofs
          From physics and from metaphysic theory,
135     But also from the truth that rains down to me
 
          "Through Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms,
          Through the Evangelists and through all of you
          Who wrote inspired by the Spirit’s fire.
 
140     "And I believe in three eternal Persons:
          These I believe one essence, one and three,
          So that at once both are and is agree.
 
          "So many times the teaching of the Gospels
          Stamps upon my mind the mystery
          Of the divinity I now describe.
 
145      "This is the beginning, this the spark
          That then spreads out into a living flame
          And shines within me like a star in heaven."
 
          Just as a master, hearing a report
          That pleases him and gladdened by the news,
150     Embraces his servant as soon as he falls silent,
 
          So, singing joyous blessings down on me,
          The apostolic light, at whose command
          I had confessed, three times wound around me
 
          When I grew still, my speech had pleased him so!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XXV

 

          If it ever happens that this sacred poem
          To which earth and heaven have so set their hands
          That it has left me lean through these long years
 
          Conquers the cruelty that keeps me from
5         The lovely sheepfold where I slept, a lamb,
          An enemy to wolves that raided it,
 
          Now with a different voice, with different fleece,
          I shall return a poet, and be crowned
          At the same font in which I was baptized,
 
10       For there I entered in the faith that makes
          Souls known to God; and after, for its sake,
          Peter wreathed three times around my forehead.
 
          Right then a light sped toward us from the ring
          From which had issued forth the same first-fruit
15       Of all the vicars whom Christ left on earth.
 
          At that my lady, filled with happiness,
          Cried out to me, "Look! look! And see the baron
          For whose sake, down there, pilgrims seek Galicia."
 
          As when a dove alights down by its mate,
20       And one pours out affection on the other,
          Circling round and cooing all the while,
 
          So I saw one exalted prince of glory
          Made welcome by the other, while they praised
          The food which nourishes them there on high.
 
25       But after these glad greetings had been given,
          Each one in silence stopped in front of me,
          So blazing that my sight was wholly vanquished.
 
          Then, smiling brightly, Beatrice said to him,
          "Illustrious spirit, who has chronicled
30       The liberality of our high court,
 
          "Let hope resound upon this height: you know
          How often you personified that virtue
          When Jesus showed more honor to you three."
 
          "Lift up your head and reassure yourself,
35       For what mounts up here from the mortal world
          Must come to ripening within our rays."
 
          The second fire gave me this assurance.
          With that I raised my eyes unto the mountains
          Whose mighty weight had first bent down my lids.
 
40       "Since by his grace our Emperor wills that
          Before your death you so come face to face
          With his peers here in his most private hall
 
          "That, through your seeing the truth of this court,
          You now may strengthen in yourself and others
45       The hope that leads to love of good on earth:
 
          "Tell what is hope, and how it blossomed up
          Within your mind, and tell where you received it."
          The second light continued in this vein.
 
          And she who in her lovingkindness guided
50       The feathers of my wings on that high flight
          Anticipated my response like this:
 
          "There is no child of the Church Militant
          More full of hope than he, and this is written
          There in the Sun which beams on all our hosts.
 
55       "So he has been allowed to take this journey
          From Egypt to Jerusalem, for seeing,
          Before he finished military service,
 
          "The other two points that you raised above
          (Not for your knowledge but that he report
60       What lavish pleasure you take in this virtue),
 
          "I leave to him, for they will not be hard
          Nor cause for boasting: let him answer then,
          And may the grace of God help him reply!"
 
          Just as the pupil, who is prompt and willing
65       To show he knows the subject, answers the teacher
          To prove to him that he is worth high marks,
 
          "Hope," I said, "is the sure expectation
          Of future glory, and it is produced
          By divine grace and by preceding merit.
 
70       "This light descends to me from many stars,
          But it was first distilled into my heart
          By the leading singer of the leading Lord.
 
          " ‘Let them have hope in Thee who know Thy name,’
          He says in his inspired psalm, and who,
75       If he has my faith, does not know the song?
 
          "You afterwards instilled it into me
          Through your Epistle, along with his instilling,
          So I am drenched and rain your dew on others."
 
          While I was speaking, suddenly a flash
80       Within the living bosom of the fire
          Trembled repeatedly like lightning;
 
          Then it breathed out, "The love that burns in me
          Still for that virtue which had followed me
          Up to the palm and time to quit the field
 
85       "Wills that I breathe once more, for your delight,
          These words to you, and so it is my pleasure
          For you to tell what hope holds promised to you."
 
          And I: "The new and ancient Scriptures give
          A symbol in the souls God made his friends,
90       And this symbol points the meaning out to me:
 
          "Isaiah says that each soul shall be dressed
          With double garments in his own country,
          And his own country is this same sweet life.
 
          "Your brother, too, is even more explicit,
95       Where he treats of the souls in their white robes,
          In setting forth this revelation to us."
 
          First, as these words were coming to an end,
          "Let them find hope in Thee," rang out above us,
          And to it all the choirs around re-echoed.
 
100      Next, one light among the rings flashed out
          So bright that if the Crab had one such star
          Winter would have a month of total daylight.
 
          And as a happy girl will rise and run
          To join the dance — not out of vanity,
105      But only to do honor to the bride,
 
          So I saw the effulgent splendor come
          Up to the two now reeling to the notes
          In perfect keeping with their burning love.
 
          It joined there in the singing and the spinning,
110     And, motionless and silent as a bride,
          My lady kept her eyes attached to them.
 
          "This one is he who lay upon the breast
          Of our true Pelican, and who was chosen
          From on the cross to take up the great duty."
 
115      So spoke my lady, but no more after
          Than before saying these words did she shift
          Her gaze away from where she fixed attention.
 
          Just like the man who stares and strains to see
          The sun when it is partially eclipsed
120      And who through peering comes to lose his sight,
 
          So I became on seeing that last flame
          Till this was said: "Why do you blind yourself
          To look for something that has no place here?
 
          "My body is still earth within the earth
125      And will remain there with the rest until
          Our number equals the eternal tally.
 
          "Only those two lights who have ascended
          Wear their two robes here in the blessed cloister,
          And this word you shall bring back to your world."
 
130      While this voice spoke, the flaming gyre grew still,
          Together with the sweet mixed harmony
          Made by the singing of the three-part breathing,
 
          As, in avoiding danger or fatigue,
          The oars that up to now sliced through the water
135     Stop all at once right when the whistle blows.
 
          Ah! how deep was the disturbance in my mind
          When I turned once again to gaze on Beatrice
          And found I could not see her — even though
 
          I stood close to her in the world of bliss.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XXVI

 

          While I stayed fearful for my dazzled sight,
          There issued out of the effulgent flame
          That blinded it, a breath that made me listen
 
          As it declared, "Until you can regain
5        The sight which you have lost in seeing me,
          You well would compensate for it by speaking.
 
          "Begin then, and tell at what mark your soul
          Is aimed — and you may rest assured your sight
          Is only clouded over and not lost,
 
10       "Because the lady who conducts you through
          This holy place has in her look that power
          The hand of Ananias once possessed."
 
          I said, "When it shall please her, soon or late,
          Let help come to the eyes which were the gates
15       She entered with the fire still burning in me.
 
          "The good which brings contentment to the court
          Is Alpha and Omega of all the scriptures
          Love reads to me with soft or louder tones."
 
          The same voice that had freed me from the fear
20       Of my blinding by this sudden dazzlement
          Returned me to my wish to speak again
 
          When it said, "Surely you must sift this matter
          With a much finer sieve, and you must tell:
          Who made you aim your bow at such a target?"
 
25       And I: "By reasons of philosophy,
          And by authority derived from heaven,
          Love of this sort must stamp its seal on me,
 
          "Because the good, so far as it is understood
          As such, enkindles love, and it does so the more,
30       The more goodness it contains within itself.
 
          "To the Essence, then, which is so excellent
          That every good outside of it is nothing
          Except a ray of its own radiance,
 
          "The mind of all those who discern the truth,
35       On which this proof of reason is established,
          Must move, in love more than to any other.
 
          "This truth is made plain to my mind by him
          Who demonstrates to me the primal loving
          Of all the sempiternal substances.
 
40       "The truthful Author’s voice reveals it where,
          In speaking of himself, he says to Moses,
          ‘I will make all my good pass in your sight.’
 
          "You show it to me too in the beginning
          Of your great gospel which, more than the other
45       Tidings, tells earth the mystery of heaven."
 
          And I heard, "Through human intellect
          And through authorities agreeing with it,
          Let the highest of your loves look up to God.
 
          "But tell me too if you feel other cords
50       Draw you toward Him, that you may so declare
          How many teeth this love has sunk in you."
 
          I could not fail to find the holy purpose
          Of the eagle of Christ — rather, I discerned
          The direction he’d have my profession take.
 
55       Again, then, I began, "All of those things
          With teeth to make the heart to turn to God
          Have fastened all together in my love:
 
          "The being of the world and my own being,
          The death that he endured that I might live,
60       And the reward the faithful (like me) hope for,
 
          "Fused with the living knowledge that I spoke of,
          Have hauled me from the sea of wrongful love
          And set me on the shore of love set straight.
 
          "As for the leaves that leaf out the whole garden
65       Of the eternal gardener, I love each one
          In measure as it grows in goodness from him."
 
          As soon as I grew still a most sweet song
          Resounded through the heavens, and my lady
          Sang with the others, "Holy, Holy, Holy!"
 
70       And as a shaft of sunlight shatters sleep
          When the spirit of one’s eyesight runs to meet
          The radiance that spreads from lid to lid,
 
          And one who wakes up shrinks from what he sees,
          His mind befuddled by the sudden rousing,
75       Until his judgment comes to help him out,
 
          So Beatrice scattered every speck away
          From my eyes with the beaming of her own
          Which shone back down a thousand miles and more,
 
          So that I now saw better than before,
80       And almost thunderstruck I questioned her
          About a fourth light that I saw with us.
 
          And my lady said, "Within those rays
          The first soul the first Power ever made
          Gazes lovingly upon its Maker."
 
85       Just as a bough that bends its twig-tips down
          With passing breezes and then lifts itself
          By its own power to spring up again,
 
          So I stood bowed with wonder while she spoke,
          And then the wish to speak that burned in me
90       Raised up my self-assurance once again,
 
          And I began, "O fruit, the only one
          Produced already ripe, O ancient father
          To whom each bride is daughter and daughter-in-law,
 
          "Devoutly as I may I beg of you
95       To speak to me: you see my willingness,
          And I — to hear you sooner — say no more."
 
          An animal at times beneath its wrappings
          So wriggles that it makes its feelings plain
          Because the wraps respond to all its movements:
 
100      In the same way, that first soul made it clear
          To me — right through its covering — just how
          Elatedly it came to do my pleasure.
          With that it breathed, "Without my being told
          By you, I seize your wish more lucidly
105      Than you grasp anything you hold for certain,
          "Because I see it in the truthful mirror
          That fashions a reflection of all else
          While nothing may reflect the mirror back.
 
          "You wish to hear how long it is since God
110      Placed me in that lofty garden, where
          This lady readied you for these high stairs,
 
          "And how long my eyes gladdened at their sight,
          And the real reason for His mighty anger,
          And the language that I framed and then employed.
 
115      "Now not the tasting of the tree, my son,
          Itself was reason for so long an exile,
          But only the overreaching of the mark.
 
          "The place from which your lady drew out Virgil,
          There I longed for this company throughout
120      Four thousand three hundred and two sun-years,
 
          "And while on earth I saw the sun return
          Nine hundred thirty times to all the lights
          Cast by the zodiac along its path.
 
          "The tongue that I had spoken was extinct
125      Even before those people of Nimrod’s tried
          Completing their unfinishable task,
 
          "Because no work of reason has endured
          Forever, due to human inclination
          Which changes with the shifting of the skies.
 
130     "The fact that mortals speak is nature’s doing,
          But whether you speak this or that, nature
          Then leaves to you to follow your own bent.
 
          "Before I went down to the pains of hell
          The highest Good from whom comes all the joy
135      That clothes me was called 'I' upon the earth,
 
          "And later was named ‘El’: and that must be,
          For mortal ways are like the leaves on branches:
          They fall away and then another forms.
 
          "On the mountain rising highest from the sea
140      I lived in innocence and, later, guilt,
          From the first hour to that which follows next
 
          "(When the sun changes quarter) after the sixth."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XXVII

 

          "Glory to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!"
          The whole of paradise at once poured forth,
          So sweet a song I felt inebriated.
 
          What I saw seemed to me to be a smile
5         Of the universe, so that my intoxication
          Came over me from hearing and from sight.
 
          O gladness! O ineffable elation!
          O life entirely filled with love and peace!
          O riches, free from every other longing!
 
10       Before my eyes stood the four burning torches,
          And that splendor which had approached me first
          Began to blaze more brilliantly than all.
 
          And it became in its appearance such
          As Jupiter would look if he and Mars
15       Were birds and had exchanged each other’s feathers.
 
          The providence which there assigns to each
          Its services and functions had imposed
          Silence on the blest choir on every side,
 
          When I heard, "If I now change my color,
20       Do not be surprised, for as I speak
          You shall see all these souls change color too.
 
          "The man who down on earth usurps my place,
          My place, the place which at this time is vacant
          Within the sight of the true Son of God,
 
25       "Has made my burial-place a sewer for
          Blood and filth so rank the Evil One
          Who fell from here delights himself down there."
 
          That color which at evening and at daybreak
          Paints clouds in sunlight from the far horizon
30       I then saw cover over the whole heaven.
 
          And as a modest woman who will stay
          Self-assured, but at another’s failing
          Becomes upset while only hearing of it,
 
          So Beatrice changed her looks, and such was once,
35       As I believe, the eclipse in the sky
          At the hour when the highest Power suffered.
 
          Then he continued talking in a voice
          So wholly different from its former self
          That his appearance could not have changed as much:
 
40       "The spouse of Christ was not reared on my blood
          Or on the blood of Linus and of Cletus
          That she might be employed for gaining gold,
 
          "But for the gaining of this happy life
          Have Sixtus, Pius, Calixtus and Urban,
45       Shed their blood after shedding many tears.
 
          "It never was our purpose that one part
          Of the Christian people should sit on the right
          Of our successors, and others on the left;
 
          "Nor that the keys entrusted to my keeping
50       Should have become the emblem on a banner
          Borne into battle against baptized brethren;
 
          "Nor that I should be stamped upon a seal
          For selling false and venal privileges:
          For these things I blush red and flare up often.
 
55       "Rapacious wolves disguised in shepherds’ clothing
          Are seen from here on high in all the pastures.
          O watch of God, why do you lie unstirred?
 
          "Men of Cahors and Gascony make ready
          To drink our blood: O wonderful beginning,
60       To what a worthless ending must you fall!
 
          "But the high providence which, with Scipio,
          Guarded for Rome the glory of the world,
          As I conceive, will quickly come to help.
 
          "And you, my son, who by your mortal weight
65       Must once more go below, open your mouth,
          And do not hide what I have not kept hidden!"
 
          Just as our atmosphere, at the season when
          The horn of heaven’s goat abuts the sun,
          Drops snowflakes downward with its frozen mists,
 
70       So I saw then the upper air adorned,
          Snowflaking upward with triumphant mists
          That for a while had stayed on with us there.
 
          My eyes kept tracking their appearances
          And tracked them till the space between became
75       So vast that it prevented passing onward.
 
          At that my lady, finding my sight freed
          From staring upward, said to me, "Bend down
          Your gaze, and look how far you have spun around!"
 
          From the hour when I’d looked down earlier,
80       I saw that I had turned through the whole arc
          Of the first zone from midpoint to its end:
 
          So far off, past Cadiz, I saw the mad
          Course of Ulysses and, nearer to the shore,
          Where Europa proved herself so sweet to carry.
 
85       And still more of this little threshing-floor
          Would have been shown to me, but that the sun
          Outran me, a sign or more, beneath my feet.
 
          My mind in love, which always lovingly
          Attends my lady, more than ever burned
90       To have my eyes return to look in hers:
 
          And if nature or art ever fashioned lures
          To catch the eyes so to possess the mind,
          In human flesh or in its portraiture,
 
          All of these charms combined would seem as nothing
95       Beside the divine delight that beamed on me
          When I turned myself to her smiling face.
 
          And the power that her look bestowed on me
          Plucked me out of Leda’s lovely nest
          And hurled me to the swiftest of the heavens.
 
100      The regions of this quickest highest heaven
          Are all so uniform I cannot tell
          Which spot among them Beatrice chose for me.
 
          But she, who saw my longing, started speaking,
          Smiling the while with such deep happiness
105      That God seemed shining in her face for joy:
 
          "The nature of the universe which holds
          The center still and whirls the spheres around it
          Takes from this region here its starting-point.
 
          "And here this heaven has no other where
110      Than in God’s mind, where there flames up the love
          That spins it, and the power it pours down.
 
          "Light and love enclose it in one circle
          As it does all the rest, and this enclosing
          He alone who circles it can comprehend.
 
115      "Its motion is not measured by another’s,
          But this sphere sets the others into motion,
          As ten is factored into five and two.
 
          "And how time hides its roots in such a planter
          While spreading down its leaves to other spheres
120      Should now be plainly evident to you.
 
          "O greed, you submerge mortals in your depths
          So far below that no one has the power
          To raise his eyes above the surging waves!
 
          "The will blooms vigorously in human beings,
125      But then the endless, drenching downpour changes
          The healthy plums into infested fruit.
 
          "Faith and innocence are only found
          In little children; then both fly away
          Before the cheeks begin to sprout with whiskers.
 
130      "Someone, while still a lisping infant, fasts,
          But later, when his tongue is loosed for speech,
          Swallows all sorts of food through all of Lent.
 
          "Another lisper loves and listens to
          His mother, but later, when his speech flows free,
135      He only longs to see her dead and buried.
 
          "So she, the lovely daughter of the Sun,
          At the first glance of him who brings the day
          And leaves the evening, turns her white skin black.
 
          "You, that you may not be surprised at this,
140      Think how on earth there is no one to govern,
          So that the human family goes astray.
 
          "But before January drops from winter
          By one day lost in every hundred years
          Below, these towering spheres shall so beam out
 
145      "That a turnabout in season, long expected,
          Shall spin the ships around from stern to prow
          So that the fleet will run in a straight course,
 
          "And wholesome fruit shall follow from the blossoms."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XXVIII

 

          When she who makes my mind imparadised
          Had told me of the truth that goes against
          The present life of miserable mortals —
 
          As someone who can notice in a mirror
5        A candle’s flame when it is lit behind him
          Before he has a sight or thought of it,
 
          And turns around to see if what the mirror
          Tells him is true, and sees that it agrees
          With it as notes are sung to music’s measure —
 
10       Even so I acted, as I well remember,
          While gazing into the bright eyes of beauty
          With which Love wove the cord to capture me.
 
          And when I turned, my eyes were greeted with
          What shines within that whirling sphere whenever
15       Someone intently stares into its spiral:
 
          I saw a Point that radiated light
          So sharply that the eyelids which it flares on
          Must close because of its intensity.
 
          Whatever star looks smallest from the earth
20       Would look more like a moon if placed beside it,
          As star is set next to another star.
 
          Perhaps as close a halo seems to circle
          The starlight radiance that paints it there
          Around the thickest mists surrounding it,
 
25       As close a ring of fire spun about
          The Point so fast that it would have outstripped
          The motion orbiting the world most swiftly.
 
          And this sphere was encircled by another,
          That by a third, and the third by a fourth,
30       The fourth by a fifth, the fifth then by a sixth.
 
          The seventh followed, by now spread so wide
          That the whole arc of Juno’s messenger
          Would be too narrow to encompass it.
 
          So too the eighth and ninth, and each of them
35       Revolved more slowly in proportion to
          The number of turns distant from the center.
 
          And that sphere which spun nearest the pure Spark
          Shone with the clearest flame because, I think,
          It partakes most in its essential truth.
 
40       My lady, who saw that I was rapt
          In deep suspense, then said, "Upon this Point
          Hang all the heavens and the whole of nature.
 
          "Look at that circle closest linked to it
          And understand its motion is so rapid
45       Because of burning love which spurs it on."
 
          And I told her, "If the universe were set
          Within the order I see in these whorls,
          I would be happy with what’s put before me.
 
          "But in the universe seen by our senses
50       The revolutions are the more divine
          The more remotely they lie from the center.
 
          "So if my longing is to reach its end
          In this amazing temple of the angels
          Where all the walls are only love and light,
 
55       "Then I must hear a further explanation
          On why the pattern and its copy differ,
          For, contemplating it, I make no headway."
 
          "If your fingers fail to untie this tight knot,
          It comes as no surprise, so difficult
60       Has it become by its not being tried."
 
          So said my lady; then she went straight on,
          "Take what I tell you — if you would be happy —
          And sharpen up your mind concerning it.
 
          "Materially, the spheres are wide or narrow
65       Depending on degrees of more or less
          Power that flows down through all their parts.
 
          "A greater power must work greater good:
          The greater body holds a greater good
          If it possesses equally perfect parts.
 
70       "This circle, then, that sweeps along with it
          The rest of all creation, corresponds
          To the circle that knows most and loves the most.
 
          "If then you take your measure by the power,
          Not the resemblance, of the substances
75       That here appear to you within these circles,
 
          "You will observe an awesome correspondence
          Of greater power to more and smaller to less
          Between each heaven and its Intelligence."
 
          Just as our hemisphere of air remains
80       Serene and splendid when Boreas blows
          The northeast breezes from his gentler cheeks,
 
          And with these breezes clears and wafts away
          The overhanging mists, so that the sky
          Smiles on us with the beauties of each quarter,
 
85       So I became the moment that my lady
          Bestowed on me her crystal-clear reply
          That like a star in heaven shone with truth.
 
          And after she had finished with her speaking,
          The circles all around began to sparkle,
90       Like red-hot iron shooting off bright sparks.
 
          Each sparkle stayed within its fiery ring,
          So many that their number runs to more
          Millions than the redoubling of the chessboard.
 
          From choir to choir I heard Hosannah sung
95       To the Still Point that holds them fast forever
          To that one spot where they have always been.
 
          And she who saw the hesitating thoughts
          Within my mind then said, "The first two circles
          Have shown you Seraphim and Cherubim.
 
100      "They swing so swiftly in their inner loops
          The more to liken themselves to the Point;
          The more they can, the loftier their vision.
 
          "Those other loves that whirl in the next circle
          Are called the Thrones of Gazing-on-the-Godhead,
105      Since they bring the first triad to a close.
 
          "And you must know that they are all elated
          In measure as their sight probes to the depths
          Of that truth in which every mind finds rest.
 
          "From this we see the state of blessedness
110      Is founded first upon the act of seeing
          And not upon the love that follows on it.
 
          "And their reward, to which grace and goodwill
          Give birth, is measure of their seeing: so,
          Their ranks unfold themselves from grade to grade.
 
115      "The second triad, flowering in this way
          During this unending springtime which
          No nightly Aries may despoil with autumn,
 
          "Unceasingly in birdsong sings Hosannah
          With triple melodies that warble from
120      The three degrees of bliss that form the triad.
 
          "The following divinities are found
          Within this hierarchy: first, Dominions;
          Then, Virtues; and the third ones there are Powers.
 
          "Next to the last, dance Principalities
125      And there Archangels whirl in the last round,
          The whole wide ring is where the Angels play.
 
          "These orders all gaze upward and pour out
          Their power downward, so that all of them
          Are drawn — and they all draw in turn — toward God.
 
130      "And Dionysius with such deep desire
          Gave himself up to contemplate these orders
          That he named them and their ranks as I do.
 
          "But Gregory would later disagree,
          Until the time he opened up his eyes
135      In this heaven and smiled at his mistake.
 
          "And if on earth such secret truths are uttered
          By a mere mortal, I would not have you marvel,
          For Paul who saw it up here told him this
 
          "And many other truths about these circles."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XXIX

 

          When the two children of Latona, poised
          One in the Ram, the other in the Scales,
          Wear the horizon as a single sash,
 
5         As long as from the time the zenith holds them
          In balance till, unbalanced, one and other
          Slip from the sash by changing hemispheres,
 
          Just so long, with a smile traced on her face,
          Beatrice was silent, gazing steadfastly
          Upon the Point which overmastered me.
 
10       Then she began, "I tell, and do not ask,
          What you want most to hear, since I have seen it
          Where every where and every when are focused.
 
          "Not for the gain of some good for Himself —
          Something that cannot be — but that his splendor
15       Might say in its resplendence, ‘I exist,’
 
          "In his eternity outside of time,
          Outside all other limits, as he pleased,
          Eternal Love then opened in new loves.
 
          "Nor did he lie as if asleep before,
20       For there was no before or after when
          The Spirit of God moved upon the waters.
 
          "Pure form and matter and the two combined
          Came into being which was wholly flawless,
          Like three arrows shot from a three-stringed bow.
 
25       "And as in glass, in amber, or in crystal
          A ray so flashes that there is no pause
          Between its falling and its filling all,
 
          "So the threefold effect beamed from its Lord
          And flamed into its being all at once,
30       With no distinctions about its beginning.
 
          "Within that action, order was created
          For these existences, and at the summit
          Of the whole world were those made in pure act.
 
          "Pure potency held down the lowest place;
35       At midpoint, potency and act were tied
          So tightly they can never be unknotted.
 
          "Jerome described the angels in his writings
          Being created a vast span of ages
          Before the rest of the universe was made;
 
40       "But the scribes of the Holy Spirit write
          On many pages the truth I tell to you,
          And you shall see it if you look out sharply.
 
          "And reason, partially, discerns the truth,
          Which would not grant that those with power to move
45       Should for long fail to act on their perfection.
 
          "Now you know where and when and how these loves
          Have been created, so that three of the flames
          Of your desire already are snuffed out.
 
          "More quickly than it takes to count to twenty,
50       A number of the angels thundered down
          And crashed into your elemental bedrock.
 
          "The rest remained and introduced the art
          Of circling, as you see, with such deep rapture
          That they will never cease from whirling round.
 
55       "The root-cause of the fall was the accursed
          Pride of that One whom you saw for yourself
          Crushed by the whole weight of the universe.
 
          "Those you see here had the humility
          To recognize that they come from that Goodness
60       Which makes them fit for such intelligence.
 
          "By this response their vision was exalted
          Through illuminating grace and through their merit,
          So that they have a full and steadfast will.
 
          "And I do not want you in doubt, but certain,
65       That to receive grace is a source of merit
          To the extent that love is open to it.
 
          "Now, if you have absorbed what I have said,
          You here may contemplate without more help
          A great deal that regards this congregation.
 
70       "But since they teach in your schools down on earth
          That the angelic nature is possessed
          Of understanding, memory, and will,
 
          "I shall speak on, that you may clearly see
          The simple truth which is confused below
75       By the equivocation in such teaching.
 
          "These beings, since they first found happiness
          In the face of God, have never turned their eyes
          Away from his, from which no sight is hid,
 
          "So that their sight is never interrupted
80       By a new object, and they have no need
          Of remembering through disconnected thoughts.
 
          "So people down there dream while wide awake,
          Believing or not believing they speak the truth,
          But there is more blame for the unbeliever.
 
85       "You mortals do not walk along one track
          In your philosophy: your love of show
          And thinking of it lead you far astray.
 
          "Yet even this fault meets with less displeasure
          Up here in heaven than when the Holy Scripture
90       Is set aside or when it is perverted.
 
          "There they forget how dear the cost in blood
          To sow it in the world, and how deep here
          The joy in one who humbly keeps the word.
 
          "Each tries to show off and plies his inventions,
95       And these are put in sermons by the preachers;
          Meanwhile the Gospel lapses into silence.
 
          "One claims that while Christ suffered on the cross,
          The moon turned backward and stood in the way
          So that the sunlight could not shine on earth,
 
100      "But he lies, for the light concealed itself
          On its own, so that the eclipse took place
          For Spaniards, Indians, as well as Jews.
 
          "There flourish fewer Jacks and Jills in Florence
          Than fables like these bandied left and right
105      Out from the pulpits all the livelong year.
 
          "On this account the poor sheep that know nothing
          Come back from pasture, having fed on wind;
          And not to see the harm does not excuse them.
 
          "Christ did not say to his first company,
110      ‘Go and preach empty nonsense to the world!’
          Instead he offered them the true foundation.
 
          "And that alone so sounded on their lips
          That in their fight to light the flame of faith
          They took the Gospel for their shield and lance.
 
115      "Now men go forth to preach with jokes and clowning,
          And as long as they scrape up a good laugh,
          Their hoods swell up, and nothing more is asked.
 
          "But up their sleeves and cowls nests such a bird
          That if the rabble spied it they would know
120      In whom they put their trust for these fake pardons.
 
          "Such follies flourish on earth from these frauds
          That with no proof or testimonials
          The people flock to every sort of promise.
 
          "On these deceits St. Anthony’s pig grows fat,
125      And many more who are far bigger pigs,
          Paying with play-money and phony coinage.
 
          "But we have wandered off our way enough:
          Now turn yourself once more to the straight path,
          To make the journey shorten with the time.
 
130      "Angelic nature stretches up the scale
          So high in number that there is no speech
          Or human concept that can reach that height.
 
          "And if you look at what has been revealed
          By Daniel, you will see that in his thousands
135      There is no number that is definite.
 
          "The primal Light that beams down through them all
          Each one receives in just as many ways
          As there are splendors that merge with the Light.
 
          "Then, since the act of loving follows that
140      Of knowing, so the sweetness of their love
          Diversely glows in them as bright or dim.
 
          "See now the height and breadth of the eternal
          Goodness, for it has fashioned of itself
          Myriad mirrors where it separately shines,
 
145     "Remaining, as at first, One in itself."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XXX

 

          Six thousand miles or so away from us
          Noon blazes, and this world already slopes
          Its shadow to an almost level bed,
 
          When the midheaven high above us starts
5        To change in such a way that here and there
          A star fades out of view from this abyss.
 
          And as the brightest handmaid of the sun
          Comes closer, heaven then puts out its lights
          One by one, till the loveliest has faded:
 
10       No differently, the triumph that forever
          Plays round the Point that overmastered me
          And seems enclosed by that which it encloses
 
          Little by little vanished from my sight,
          So that my loving and my seeing nothing
15       Forced me to turn my eyes once more to Beatrice.
 
          If what I have said up to now about her
          Were all rolled in a single hymn of praise,
          It would not serve to take this final turn.
 
          The beauty that I saw transcends all measure
20       Not only past our reach, but I believe
          Only its Maker can enjoy it all.
 
          At this pass I admit myself defeated
          More than all comic or all tragic poets
          Were ever quelled by some point of their theme.
 
25       For as the sun confounds the feeblest sight,
          So the remembrance of her fresh sweet smile
          Severs my memory from my sense of self.
 
          From the first day on which I saw her face
          In this lifetime, until that sight of her,
30       My song has never stopped from following her.
 
          But now must my pursuit cease following
          Her beauty further in my poetry,
          Like any artist come to his full limit.
 
          So I leave her to nobler heralding
35       Than the sounding of my trumpet which here draws
          Its arduous subject-matter to a close.
 
          With gesture and voice of an accomplished leader
          She began again, "Out from the largest body
          We have come to this heaven of pure light:
 
40       "Light of the intellect, light full of love,
          Love of true good, love full of joyousness,
          Joyfulness surpassing every sweetness.
 
          "Here you shall see both hosts of paradise,
          The one arrayed in that embodiment
45        Which you shall witness on the judgment day."
 
          Just like a sudden lightning flash that scatters
          The power of vision so that it deprives
          The eye of its sight of the sharpest objects,
 
          So round about me shone a living light
50       Which left me wrapped in such a dazzling veil
          That nothing else was visible to me.
 
          "Always the love which makes this heaven restful
          Receives all to itself with a like welcome,
          To hold the candle ready for the flame."
 
55       No sooner did I take in these few words
          Than inwardly I understood that I
          Was rising high above my human powers.
 
          And I was so inflamed with the new vision
          That — however luminous the light —
60       My eyes could have withstood the sight of it.
 
          And I saw a light flowing like a river
          Glowing with amber waves between two banks
          Brilliantly painted by spellbinding spring.
 
          From out this river shot up living sparks
65       That dropped on every side into the blossoms,
          Like rubies in a setting of pure gold.
 
          Then, as if intoxicated by the fragrance,
          They dove once more into the wondrous flood,
          And as one sank, another spark shot out.
 
70       "The flame of high desire driving you
          To gain more knowledge of what you see here
          Pleases me the more the more it surges.
 
          "But first you are required to drink this water
          Before your burning thirst can be relieved."
75       These words the sun of my eyes said to me,
 
          Then added, "The river and the topazes
          Streaming in and out the smiling flowers
          Are shadow-prelude of their reality.
 
          "Not that these blooms are unripe in themselves,
80       But the defect comes from within yourself
          That you do not yet have sight set so high."
 
          No baby, after waking later than
          The usual hour, ever makes a rush
          So sudden with its face toward mother’s milk,
 
85       As I made then when I bent down to drink
          The wave that flows there for our betterment,
          To make still better mirrors of my eyes.
 
          And even as the eaves that edge my eyelids
          Drank of it, so it seemed to change its shape
90       From running lengthwise to revolving round.
 
          Then, as the people hidden under masks
          Look different from the way they looked before
          When they doff the disguises that concealed them,
 
          Just so the flowers and the sparks now changed
95       Before me into grander festivals,
          So that I saw both courts of heaven open.
 
          O splendor of God through which I saw the high
          Triumph of the true kingdom, grant me the power
          To tell how I was witness to this vision!
 
100      Light shines above which renders visible
          The Creator to the creature who discovers
          The peace found only in our seeing Him.
 
          And this light stretches out into a circle
          Which spreads so wide that its circumference
105      Would make too large a cincture for the sun.
 
          The whole expanse is