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The Divine Comedy, Volume 3, Paradise [Paradiso] by Dante Aligheri

Part 3 out of 4

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that it may no more presume to move its feet toward such a goal.
The mind which shines here, on earth is smoky; wherefore consider
how there below it can do that which it cannot do though Heaven
assume it."

[1] Assigns its part to each spirit.

[2] With the Divine light.

So did its words prescribe to me, that I left the question, and
drew me back to ask it humbly who it was. "Between the two
shores of Italy, and not very distant from thy native land, rise
rocks so lofty that the thunders sound far lower down,
and they make a height which is called Catria, beneath which a
hermitage is consecrated which is wont to be devoted to worship
only."[1] Thus it began again to me with its third speech, and
then, continuing, it said, "Here in the service of God I became
so steadfast, that, with food of olive juice alone, lightly I
used to pass the heats and frosts, content in contemplative
thoughts. That cloister was wont to render in abundance to these
heavens; and now it is become so empty as needs must soon be
revealed. In that place I was Peter Damian,[2] and Peter a sinner
had I been in the house of Our Lady on the Adriatic shore.[3]
Little of mortal life was remaining for me, when I was sought for
and dragged to that hat[4] which ever is passed down from bad to
worse. Cephas[5] came, and the great vessel of the Holy
Spirit[6] came, lean and barefoot, taking the food of whatsoever
inn. Now the modern pastors require one to hold them up on this
side and that, and one to lead them, so heavy are they, and one
to support them behind. They cover their palfreys with their
mantles, so that two beasts go under one skin. O Patience, that
endurest so much!" At this voice I saw more flamelets from step
to step descending and revolving, and each revolution made them
more beautiful. Round about this one they came, and stopped, and
uttered a cry of such deep sound that here could be none like it,
nor did I understand it, the thunder so overcame me.

[1] Catria is a high offshoot to the east from the chain of the
Apennines, between Urbino and Gubbio. Far up on its side lies the
monastery of Santa Croce di Fouts Avellana, belonging to the
order of the Camaldulensians.

[2] A famous doctor of the Church in the eleventh century. He
was for many years abbot of the Monastery of Fonte Avellana.

[3] These last words are obscure, and have given occasion to much
discussion, after which they remain no clearer than before. The
house of Our Lady on the Adriatic shore is supposed to be the
monastery of Santa Maria in Porto, near Ravenna.

[4] He was made cardinal in 1058, and died in 1072.

[5] St. Peter. See John, i. 42.

[6] St. Paul. "He is a chosen vessel unto me."--Acts, ix. 15.

CANTO XXII. Beatrice reassures Dante.--St. Benedict appears.--He
tells of the founding of his Order, and of the falling away of
its brethren. Beatrice and Dante ascend to the Starry Heaven.--
The constellation of the Twins.--Sight of the Earth.

Oppressed with amazement, I turned me to my Guide, like a little
child who runs back always thither where he most confides. And
she, like a mother who quickly succors her pale and breathless
son with her voice, which is wont to reassure him, said to me, 11
Knowest thou not, that thou art in Heaven? and knowest thou not
that Heaven is all holy, and whatever is done here comes from
good zeal? How the song would have transformed thee, and I by
smiling, thou canst now conceive, since the cry has moved thee so
much; in which, if thou hadst understood its prayers, already
would be known to thee the vengeance which thou shalt see before
thou diest. The sword of here on high cuts not in haste, nor
slow, save to the seeming of him who, desiring, or fearing,
awaits it. But turn thee round now toward the others, for many
illustrious spirits thou shalt see, if, as I say, thou dost lead
back thy look."

As it pleased her I directed my eyes, and saw a hundred little
spheres, which together were becoming more beautiful with mutual
rays. I was standing as one who within himself represses the
point of his desire, and attempts not to ask, he so fears the
too-much. And the largest and the most luculent of those pearls
came forward to make of its own accord my wish content. Then
within it I heard, "If thou couldst see, as I do, the charity
which burns among us, thy thoughts would be expressed. But that
thou through waiting mayst not delay thy high end, I will make
answer to thee, even to the thought concerning which thou art so

"That mountain[1] on whose slope Cassino is, was of old
frequented on its summit by the deluded and illdisposed people,
and I am be who first carried up thither the name of Him
who brought to earth the truth which so high exalts us: and such
grace shone upon me that I drew away the surrounding villages
from the impious worship which seduced the world. These other
fires were all contemplative men, kindled by that heat which
brings to birth holy flowers and fruits. Here is Macarius,[2]
here is Romuald,[3] here are my brothers, who within the
cloisters fixed their feet, and held a steadfast heart." And I to
him, "The affection which thou displayest in speaking with me,
and the good semblance which I see and note in all your ardors,
have so expanded my confidence as the sun does the rose, when she
becomes open so much as she has power to be. Therefore I pray
thee, and do thou, father, assure me if I have power to receive
so much grace, that I may see thee with uncovered shape." Whereon
he, "Brother, thy high desire shall be fulfilled in the last
sphere, where are fulfilled all others and my own. There perfect,
mature, and whole is every desire; in that alone is every part
there where it always was: for it is not in space, and hath not
poles; and our stairway reaches up to it, wherefore thus from thy
sight it conceals itself. Far up as there the patriarch Jacob saw
it stretch its topmost part when it appeared to him so laden with
Angels. But now no one lifts his feet from earth to ascend it;
and my Rule is remaining as waste of paper. The walls, which used
to be an abbey, have become caves; and the cowls are sacks full
of bad meal. But heavy usury is not gathered in so greatly
against the pleasure of God, as that fruit which makes the heart
of monks so foolish. For whatsoever the Church guards is all for
the folk that ask it in God's name, not for one's kindred, or for
another more vile. The flesh of mortals is so soft that a good
beginning suffices not below from the springing of the oak to the
forming of the acorn. Peter began without gold and without
silver, and I with prayers and with fasting, and Francis in
humility his convent; and if thou lookest at the source of each,
and then lookest again whither it has run, thou wilt see dark
made of the white. Truly, Jordan turned back, and the sea fleeing
when God willed, were more marvellous to behold than succor

[1] Monte Cassino, in the Kingdom of Naples, on which a temple of
Apollo had stood, was chosen by St. Benedict (480-543) as his
abode, and became the site of the most famous monastery of his

[2] The Egyptian anchorite of the fourth century.

[3] The founder of the order of Camaldoli; he died in 1027.

[4] Were God now to interpose to correct the evils of the
Church, the marvel would be less than that of the miracles of
old, and therefore his interposition may be hoped for.

Thus he said to me, and then drew back to his company, and the
company closed up; then like a whirlwind all gathered itself

The sweet Lady urged me behind them, with only a sign, up over
that stairway; so did her virtue overcome my nature. But never
here below, where one mounts and descends naturally, was there
motion so rapid that it could be compared unto my wing. So may I
return, Reader, to that devout triumph, for the sake of which I
often bewail my sins and beat my breast, thou hadst not so
quickly drawn out and put thy finger in the fire as I saw the
sign which follows the Bull,[1] and was within it.

[1] The sign of the Gemini, or Twins, in the Heaven of the Fixed

O glorious stars, O light impregnate with great virtue, from
which I acknowledge all my genius, whatever it may be; with you
was born and with you was hiding himself he who is father of
every mortal life, when I first felt the Tuscan air;[1] and then,
when the grace was bestowed on me of entrance within the lofty
wheel which turns you, your region was allotted to me. To you my
soul now devoutly sighs to acquire virtue for the difficult pass
which draws her to itself.

[1] At the time of Dante's birth the sun was in the sign of the

"Thou art so near the ultimate salvation," began Beatrice, "that
thou oughtest to have thine eyes clear and sharp. And
therefore ere thou further enterest it, look back downward, and
see how great a world I have already set beneath thy feet, in
order that thy heart, so far as it is able, may present itself
joyous to the triumphant crowd which comes glad through this
round aether." With my sight I returned through each and all the
seven spheres, and saw this globe such that I smiled at its mean
semblance; and that counsel I approve as best which holds it of
least account; and he who thinks of other things may be called
truly worthy. I saw the daughter of Latona enkindled without that
shadow which had been the cause why I once believed her rare and
dense. The aspect of thy son, Hyperion, here I endured, and I saw
how Maia and Dione[1] move around and near him. Then appeared to
me the temperateness of Jove, between his father and his son,[2]
and then was clear to me the variation which they make in their
places. And all the seven were displayed to me,[[how great they
are and how swift they are, and how they are in distant houses.
While I was revolving with the eternal Twins, the little
threshing-floor[3] which makes us so fierce all appeared to me,
from its hills to its harbors.

[1] The mothers of Venus and Mercury, by whose names these
planets are designated.

[2] Saturn and Mars.

[3] The inhabited earth.

Then I turned back my eyes to the beautiful eyes.

CANTO XXIII. The Triumph of Christ.

As the bird, among the beloved leaves, reposing on the nest of
her sweet brood through the night which hides things from us,
who, in order to see their longed-for looks and to find the food
wherewith she may feed them, in which heavy toils are pleasing to
her, anticipates the time upon the open twig, and with ardent
affection awaits the sun, fixedly looking till the dawn may
break; thus my Lady was standing erect and attentive, turned
toward the region beneath which the sun shows least haste;[1] so
that I, seeing her rapt and eager, became such as he who in
desire should wish for something, and in hope is satisfied. But
short while was there between one and the other WHEN: that of my
awaiting, I mean, and of my seeing the heavens become brighter
and brighter. And Beatrice said, "Behold the hosts of the triumph
of Christ, and all the fruit harvested by the revolution of these
spheres."[2] It seemed to me her face was all aflame, and her
eyes were so full of joy that I must needs pass it over without

[1] The meridian.

[2] By the beneficent influences of the planets.

As in the clear skies at the full moon Trivia[1] smiles among
the eternal nymphs who paint the heaven through all its depths, I
saw, above myriads of lights, a Sun that was enkindling each and
all of them, as ours kindles the supernal shows;[2] and through
its living light the lucent Substance[3] shone so bright upon my
face that I sustained it not.

[1] An appellation of Diana, and hence of the moon.

[2] According to the belief, referred to at the opening of the
twentieth Canto, that the sun was the source of the light of the

[3] Christ in his glorified body.

O Beatrice, sweet guide and dear!

She said to me, "That which overcomes thee is a power from
which naught defends itself. Here is the Wisdom and the Power
that opened the roads between heaven and earth, for which there
had already been such long desire."

As fire from a cloud unlocks itself by dilating, so that it is
not contained therein, and against its own nature falls down to
earth, so my mind, becoming greater amid those feasts, issued
from itself; and what it became cannot remember.

"Open thine eyes and look at what I am; thou hast seen things
such that thou art become able to sustain my smile." I was as one
who awakes from a forgotten dream and endeavors in vain to bring
it back again to memory, when I heard this invitation, worthy of
such gratitude that it is never effaced from the book which
records the past. If now all those tongues which Polyhymnia and
her sisters made most fat with their sweetest milk should sound
to aid me, one would not come to a thousandth of the truth in
singing the holy smile and how it made the holy face resplendent.
And thus in depicting Paradise the consecrated poem needs must
make a leap, even as one who finds his way cut off. But whoso
should consider the ponderous theme and the mortal shoulder which
therewith is laden would not blame it if under this it tremble.
It is no coasting voyage for a little barque, this which the
intrepid prow goes cleaving, nor for a pilot who would spare

"Why doth my face so enamour thee that thou turnest not to the
fair garden which beneath the rays of Christ is blossoming? Here
is the rose,[1] in which the Divine Word became flesh: here are
the lilies[2] by whose odor the good way was taken." Thus
Beatrice, and I, who to her counsel was wholly prompt, again
betook me unto the battle of the feeble brows.

[1] The Virgin.

[2] The Apostles and Saints. The image is derived from St. Paul
(2 Corinthians, ii. 14): "Now thanks be unto God, which always
causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour
of his knowledge by us in every place." In the Vulgate the words
are, "odorem notitiae suae manifestat per nos."

As my eyes, covered with a shadow, have ere now seen a meadow of
flowers in a sunbeam which streamed bright through a rifted
cloud, so saw I many throngs of splendors flashed-upon from
above with burning rays, without seeing the source of the gleams.
O benignant Power which so dost impress them, upwards didst thou
exalt thyself to bestow space there for my eyes, which were

[1] The eyes of Dante, powerless to endure the sight of the
glorified body of Christ, when that is withdrawn on high, are
able to look upon those whom the light of Christ illumines.

The name of the fair flower which I ever invoke both morning and
evening, wholly constrained my mind to gaze upon the greater
fire.[1] And when the form and the glory of the living star,
which up. there surpasses as here below it surpassed, were
depicted in both my eyes, through the mid heavens a torch, formed
in a circle in fashion of a crown, descended, and engirt it, and
revolved around it. Whatever melody sounds sweetest here below,
and to itself most draws the soul, would seem a cloud which, rent
apart, thunders, compared with the sound of that lyre wherewith
was crowned the beauteous sapphire by which the brightest Heaven
is ensapphired. "I am angelic Love, and I circle round the lofty
joy which breathes from the bosom which was the hostelry of our
desire; and I shall circle, Lady of Heaven, while thou shalt
follow thy Son and make the supreme sphere more divine because
thou enterest it." Thus the circling melody sealed itself up, and
all the other lights made resound the name of Mary.

[1] The Virgin,--Rosa mistica,--the brightest of all the host
that remained.

The royal mantle[1] of all the volumes[2] of the world, which is
most fervid and most quickened in the breath of God and in His
ways, had its inner shore so distant above us that sight of it,
there where I was, did not yet appear to me. Therefore my eyes
had not the power to follow the incoronate flame, which mounted
upward following her own seed. And as a little child which, when
it has taken the milk, stretches its arms toward its mother,
through the spirit that flames up outwardly, each of these white
splendors stretched upward with its summit, so that the deep
aflection which they had for Mary was manifest to me. Then they
remained there in ray sight, singing "Regina coeli " so sweetly
that never has the delight departed from me. Oh how great is the
plenty that is heaped up in those most rich chests which were
good laborers in sowing here below! Here they live and enjoy the
treasure that was acquired while weeping in the exile of Babylon,
where the gold was left aside.[3] Here triumphs, under the high
Son of God and of Mary, in his victory, both with the ancient and
with the new council, he who holds the keys of such glory.[4]

[l] The Primum Mobile, the ninth Heaven, which revolves around
all the others.

[2] The revolving spheres.

[3] Despising the treasures of the world, in the Babylonish exile
of this life, they laid up for themselves treasures in Heaven.

[4] St. Peter.

CANTO XXIV. St. Peter examines Dante concerning Faith, and
approves his answer.

"O company elect to the great supper of the blessed Lamb, who
feeds you so that your desire is always full, since by grace of
God this man foretastes of that which falls from your table,
before death prescribes the time for him, give heed to his
immense longing, and bedew him a little; ye drink ever of the
fount whence comes that which he ponders." Thus Beatrice; and
those glad souls made themselves spheres upon fixed poles,
flaming brightly in manner of comets. And as wheels within the
fittings of clocks revolve, so that to him who gives heed the
first seems quiet, and the last to fly, so these carols,[1]
differently dancing, swift and slow, enabled me to estimate their

[1] A carol was a dance with song; here used for the souls who
composed the carols, the difference in whose speed gave to Dante
the gauge of their respective blessedness.

From that which I noted of greatest beauty, I saw issue a fire so
happy that it left there none of greater brightness; and three
times it revolved round Beatrice with a song so divine that my
fancy repeats it not to me; therefore the pen makes a leap, and I
write it not, for our imagination, much more our speech, is of
too vivid color[1] for such folds. "O holy sister mine, who so
devoutly prayest to us, by thy ardent affection thou unbindest me
from that beautiful sphere:" after it had stopped, the blessed
fire directed to my Lady its breath, which spoke thus as I have
said. And she, "O light eternal of the great man to whom our
Lord left the keys, which he bore below, of this marvellous joy,
test this man on points light and grave, as pleases thee,
concerning the Faith, through which thou didst walk upon the sea.
If he loves rightly, and hopes rightly, and believes, it is
hidden not from thee, for thou hast thy sight there where
everything--@is seen depicted. But since this realm has made
citizens by the true faith, it is well that to glorify it speech
of it should fall to him."[2]

[1] The figure is a little obscure; pieghe, "folds," is a
rhyme-word; the meaning seems to be that as folds cannot be
painted properly with bright hues, so our imagination and our
speech are not delicate enough for conceiving and depicting such
exquisite delights.

[2] The meaning seems to be,--Thou knowest that he has true
faith, but because by its means one becomes a citizen of this
realm, it is well that he should celebrate it.

Even as, until the master propounds the question, the bachelor
speaks not, and arms himself in order to adduce the proof, not to
decide it, so, while she was speaking, I was arming me with every
reason, in order to be ready for such a questioner, and for such
a profession.

"Say thou, good Christian, declare thyself; Faith,--what is it?"
Whereon I raised my brow to that light whence this was breathed
out. Then I turned to Beatrice, and she made prompt signals to me
that I should pour the water forth from my internal fount. "May
the Grace," began I, "which grants to me that I confess myself to
the high captain, cause my conceptions to be expressed."[1] And I
went on, "As the veracious pen, Father, of thy dear brother (who
with thee set Rome on the good track) wrote of it, Faith is the
substance of things hoped for, and evidence of things not
seen:[2] and this appears to me its essence." Then I heard,
"Rightly dost thou think, if thou understandest well why he
placed it among the substances, and then among the evidences."
And I thereon: "The deep things which grant unto me here the
sight of themselves, are so hidden to eyes below that
there their existence is in belief alone, upon which the
high hope is founded, and therefore it takes the
designation of substance; and from this belief we needs
must syllogize, without having other sight, wherefore it
receives the designation of evidence."[3] Then I heard, "If
whatever is acquired below for doctrine, were so
understood, the wit of sophist would have no place
there." Thus was breathed forth from that enkindled love;
then it added, "Very well have the alloy and the weight of
this coin been now run through, but tell me if thou hast it
in thy purse?" And I, "Yes, I have it so shining and so
round that in its stamp nothing is uncertain to me." Then
issued from the deep light which was shining there, "This
precious jewel, whereon every virtue is founded, whence came it
to thee?" And I, "The abundant rain of the Heavenly Spirit, which
is diffused over the Old and over the New parchments, is a
syllogism[4] which has proved it to me so acutely that in
comparison with it every demonstration seems to me obtuse." I
heard then, "The Old and the New proposition[5] which are so
conclusive to thee,--why dost thou hold them for divine speech?"
And I, "The proofs which disclose the truth to me are the
works[6] that followed, for which nature never heated iron, nor
beat anvil." It was replied to me, "Say, what assures thee that
these works were? The very thing itself which requires to be
proved, naught else, affirms it to thee." "If the world were
converted to Christianity," said I, "without miracles, this alone
is such that the others are not the hundredth part; for thou
didst enter poor and fasting into the field to sow the good
plant, which once was a vine and now has become a thornbush."

[1] May it enable me to express clearly my conceptions.

[2] Hebrews, xi, 1.

[3] The argument is as follows: The things of the spiritual world
having no visible existence upon earth, the hope of blessedness
rests only on belief unsupported by material proof; this belief
is Faith, and since on it alone are the high hopes founded, it is
properly called their substance, that is, their essential
quality. And since all our reasoning concerning spiritual things
must be drawn not from visible things, but from the convictions
of Faith, our faith is also properly called evidence.

[4] The evidence afforded by the Old and the New Testament that
they are inspired by the Holy Spirit, makes their teachings in
regard to matters of faith conclusive.

[5] The two premises of the syllogism.

[6] The miracles.

This ended, the high holy Court resounded through the spheres a
"We praise God," in the melody which thereabove is sung.

And that Baron who thus from branch to branch, examining, had now
drawn me on, so that to the last leaves we were approaching,
began again: "The Grace that dallies with thy mind has opened thy
mouth up to this point as it should be opened, so that I approve
that which has issued forth, but now there is need to express
what thou believest, and wbence it has been offered to thy
belief." "O holy father, spirit who seest that which thou so
believedst that thou, toward the sepulchre, didst outdo younger
feet,"[1] began I, "thou wishest that I should declare here the
form of my ready belief, and also thou inquirest the cause of it.
And I answer: I believe in one God, sole and eternal, who,
unmoved, moves all the Heavens with love and with desire; and for
such belief have I not only proofs physical and metaphysical, but
that truth also gives it to me which hence rains down through
Moses, through Prophets, and through Psalms, through the Gospel,
and through you who wrote after the fiery Spirit made you holy.
And I believe in three Eternal Persons, and these I believe one
essence, so one and so threefold that it will admit to be
conjoined with ARE and IS. Of the profound divine condition on
which I touch, the evangelic doctrine ofttimes sets the seal upon
my mind. This is the beginning; this is the spark which
afterwards dilates to vivid flame, and like a star in heaven
scintillates within me."

[1] "The other disciple did outrun Peter," but Peter first "went
into the sepulchre." See John, xx. 4-6.

Even as a lord who hears what pleases him, thereon, rejoicing in
the news, embraces his servant, soon as he is silent, thus,
blessing me as he sang, the apostolic light, at whose command I
had spoken, thrice encircled me when I was silent; so had I
pleased him in my speech.

CANTO XXV. St. James examines Dante concerning Hope.--St. John
appears,with a brightness so dazzling as to deprive Dante, for
the time, of sight.

If it ever happen that the sacred poem to which both heaven and
earth have set their hand, so that it has made me lean for many
years, sbould overcome the cruelty which bars me out of the fair
sheep-fold, where a lamb I slept, an enemy to the wolves that
give it war, then with other voice, with other fleece, Poet will
I return, and on the font of my baptism will I take the crown;
because there I entered into the faith which makes the souls
known to God, and afterward. Peter, for its sake, thus encircled
my brow.

Then a light moved toward us from that sphere whence the
first-fruit which Christ left of His vicars had issued. And my
Lady, full of gladness, said to me, "Look, look! behold the Baron
for whose sake Galicia is visited there below."[1]

[1] It was believed that St. James, the brother of St. John, was
buried at Compostella, in the Spanish province of Galicia. His
shrine was one of the chief objects of pilgrimage during the
Middle Ages.

Even as when the dove alights near his companion, and one,
turning and cooing, displays its affection to the other, so by
the one great Prince glorious I saw the other greeted, praising
the food which feasts them thereabove. But after their
gratulation was completed, silent coram me,[1] each stopped, so
ignited that it overcame my sight. Smiling, then Beatrice said,
"Illustrious life, by whom the largess of our basilica has been
written,[2] do thou make Hope resound upon this height; thou
knowest that thou dost represent it as many times as Jesus to the
three displayed most brightness."[3] "Lift up thy head and make
thyself assured; for that which comes up here from the mortal
world needs must be ripened in our rays." This comfort from the
second fire came to me; whereon I lifted up my eyes unto the
mountains which bent them down before with too great weight.

[1] "Before me." Here, as sometimes elsewhere, it is not evident
why Dante uses Latin words.

[2] The reference is to the Epistle of James, which Dante,
falling into a common error, attributes to St. James the Greater.
The special words be had in mind may have been: " God, that
giveth to all men liberally," i. 5; and " Every good gift and
every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father
of lights," i. 17. By "basilica" is meant the court or church of

[3] Peter, James, and John, were chosen by their Master to be
present at the raising of the daughter of Jairus, and to witness
his Transfiguration. Peter personifying Faith, John personifying
Love, it was natural to take James as the personification of

"Since, through grace, our Emperor wills that thou, before thy
death, come face to face with his Counts in the most secret hall,
so that, having seen the truth of this Court, thou mayest
therewith confirm in thyself and others the Hope which there
below rightly enamours, say what it is, and how thy mind is
flowering with it, and say whence it came to thee;" thus further
did the second light proceed. And that compassionate one, who
guided the feathers of my wings to such high flight, thus in the
reply anticipated me.[1] "The Church militant has not any son
with more hope, as is written in the Sun which irradiates all our
band; therefore it is conceded to him, that from Egypt be should
come to Jerusalem to see, ere the warfare be at end for him. The
other two points which are asked not for sake of knowing, but
that he may report how greatly this virtue is pleasing to thee,
to him I leave, for they will not be difficult to him, nor of
vainglory, and let him answer to this, and may the grace of God
accord this to him."

[1] Beatrice answers the question to which the reply, had it been
left to Dante, might seem to involve self-praise.

As a disciple who follows his teacher, prompt and willing, in
that wherein he is expert, so that his worth may be disclosed:
said I, "is a sure expectation of future glory, which
divine grace produces, and preceding merit.[1] From many stars
this light comes to me, but be instilled it first into my heart
who was the supreme singer[2] of the supreme Leader. Sperent in
te,[3] 'who know thy name,' he says in his Theody,[4] and who
knows it not, if he has my faith? Thou afterwards didst instil it
into me with his instillation in thy Epistle, so that I am full,
and upon others shower down again your rain."

[1] These words are taken directly from Peter Lombard (Liber
Sententiarum, iii. 26). Love is the merit which precedes Hope.

[2] David.

[3] "They will hope in thee." See Psalm ix. 10.

[4] Divine song.

While I was speaking, within the living bosom of that burning a
flash was trembling, sudden and intense, in the manner of
lightning. Then it breathed, "The love wherewith I still glow
toward the virtue which followed me far as the palm, and to the
issue of the field, wills that breathe anew to thee, that thou
delight in it; and it is my pleasure, that thou tell that which
Hope promises to thee." And I, "The new and the old Scriptures
set up the sign, and it points this out to me. Of the souls whom
God hath made his friends, Isaiah says that each shall be clothed
in his own land with a double garment,[1] and his own land is
sweet life. And thy brother, far more explicitly, there where he
treats of the white robes, makes manifest to us this

[1] "Therefore in their land they shall possess the double"
--(Isaiah, 1xi. 7); the double vesture of the glorified natural
body and of the spiritual body.

[2] Revelation, vii.

And first, close on the end of these words, "Sperent in te" was
heard from above us, to which all the carols made answer. Then
among them a light became so bright that, if the Crab had one
such crystal, winter would have a month of one sole day.[1] And
as a glad maiden rises and goes and enters in the dance, only to
do honor to the new bride, and not for any fault,[2] so saw I the
brightened splendor come to the two who were turning in a wheel,
such as was befitting to their ardent love. It set itself there
into the song and into the measure, and my Lady kept her gaze
upon them, even as a bride, silent and motionless. "This is he
who lay upon the breast of our Pelican,[3] and from upon the
cross this one was chosen to the great office."[4] Thus my Lady,
nor yet moved she her look from its fixed attention after than
before these words of hers. As is he who gazes and endeavors to
see the sun eclipsed a little, who through seeing becomes
sightless, so did I become in respect to that last fire, till it
was said, "Why dost thou dazzle thyself in order to see a thing
which has no place here?[5] On earth my body is earth; and it
will be there with the others until our number corresponds with
the eternal purpose.[6] With their two garments in the blessed
cloister are those two lights alone which ascended:[7] and this
thou shalt carry back unto your world."

[1] If Cancer, which rises at sunset in early winter, had a star
as bright as this, the night would be light as day.

[2] Not for vanity, or love of, display.

[3] A common type of Christ during the Middle Ages, because of
the popular belief that the pelican killed its brood, and then
revived them with its blood.

[4] "Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother!"--John,
xix. 27.

[5] Dante seeks to see whether St. John is present in body as
well as soul; his curiosity having its source in the words of the
Gospel: "Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I
come, what is that to thee? . . . Then went this saying abroad
among the brethren, that that disciple should not die."--John,
xxi. 22, 23.

[6] Till the predestined number of the elect is complete.

[7] Jesus and Mary, who had been seen to ascend. See Canto

At this word the flaming gyre became quiet, together with the
sweet mingling that was made of the sound of the trinal breath,
even as, at ceasing of fatigue or danger, the oars, erst driven
through the water, all stop at the sound of a whistle.
Ah! how greatly was I disturbed in mind, when I turned to see
Beatrice, at not being able to see her, although I was near her,
and in the happy world.

CANTO XXVI. St. John examines Dante concerning Love.--Dante's
sight restored.--Adam appears, and answers questions put to him
by Dante.

While I was apprehensive because of my quenched sight, a breath
which made me attentive issued from the effulgent flame that
quenched it, saying, "While thou art regaining the sense of
sight which thou hast consumed on me, it is well that thou make
up for it by discourse. Begin then, and tell whereto thy soul is
aimed, and make thy reckoning that sight is in thee bewildered
and not dead; because the Lady who conducts thee through this
divine region has in her look the virtue which the band of
Ananias had."[1] I said, "According to her pleasure, or soon or
late, let the cure come to the eyes which were gates when she
entered with the fire wherewith I ever burn! The Good which makes
this court content is Alpha and Omega of whatsoever writing Love
reads to me, either low or loud." That same voice which had taken
from me fear of the sudden dazzling, laid on me the charge to
further, and said, "Surely with a finer sieve it behoves thee to
it behoves thee to tell who directed thy bow to such a target."
And I,
"By philosophic arguments and by authority that hence descends,
such love
must needs be impressed on me; for the good, so far as it is
good, in
proportion as it is understood, kindles love; and so much the
greater as the more of goodness it includes within itself.
Therefore, to the Essence (wherein is such supremacy that every
good which is found outside of It is naught else than a beam of
Its own radiance), more than to any other, the mind of every one
who discerns the truth on which this argument is founded must
needs be moved in love.[2] Such truth to my intelligence he makes
plain, who demonstrates to me the first love of all the
sempiternal substances.[3] The voice of the true Author makes it
plain who, speaking of Himself, says to Moses, 'I will make thee
see all goodness.'[4] Thou, too, makest it plain to me, beginning
the lofty proclamation which there below, above all other trump,
declares the secret of this place on high."[5] And I heard, "By
human understanding, and by authorities concordant with it, thy
sovran love looks unto God; but say, further, if thou feelest
other cords draw thee towards Him, so that thou mayest declare
with how many teeth this love bites thee."

[1] Acts ix.

[2] The argument is,--Whatever is good kindles love for itself;
the greater the good the greater the love; God is the supreme
good and therefore the chief object of love.

[3] It is doubtful to whom Dante here refers. The first love of
immortal creatures is for their own First Cause.

[4] "I will make all my goodness pass before thee."--Exodus,
xxxiii, 19.

[5] "God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God,
and God in him."--1 John, iv. 16.

The holy intention of the Eagle of Christ was not latent to me;
rather I perceived whither he wished to lead my profession;
therefore, I
began again: "All those bitings which can make the heart turn to
God have
been concurrent unto my charity;[1] for the existence of the
world, and
my own existence, the death that He endured that I may live, and
which all the faithful hope even as I do, together with the
living knowledge, have drawn me from the sea of perverted love,
and have
set me on the shore of the right. The leaves, wherewith all the
garden of
the Eternal Gardener is enleaved, I love in proportion as good is
unto them from Him."

[1] Have concurred to inspire me with love of God.

Soon as I was silent a most sweet song resounded through the
heavens, and my Lady said with the rest, "Holy, Holy, Holy."

And as at a keen light sleep is broken by the spirit of sight,
which runs to the splendor that goes from coat to coat,[1] and he
awakes shrinks from what he sees, so confused is his sudden
until his judgment comes to his aid; thus Beatrice chased away
every mote
from my eyes with the radiance of her own, which were resplendent
than a thousand miles; so that I then saw better than before;
and, as it were amazed, I asked about a fourth light which I saw
with us. And my Lady, "Within those rays the first soul which
the First Power ever created gazes with joy upon its creator."

[1] The spirit of the sight runs to meet the light which flashes
through the successive coats of the eye.

As the bough that bends its top at passing of the wind, and then
lifts itself by its own virtue which raises it, so did I, in
amazement, the while she was speaking; and then a desire to
speak, wherewith I was burning, gave me again assurance, and I
began, "O Apple, that alone wast produced mature, O ancient
Father, to whom every bride is daughter and daughter-in-law,
devoutly as I can, I supplicate thee that thou speak to me; thou
seest my wish, and in order to hear thee quickly, I do not tell

Sometimes an animal, which is covered up, so stirs, that his
desire must needs become apparent through the corresponding
movement which that which wraps him makes; and in like manner the
first soul made evident to me, through its covering, how gladly
it came to do me pleasure. Then it breathed, "Without its being
uttered to me by thee, I better discern thy wish, than thou
whatever thing is most certain to thee; because I see it in the
truthful mirror which makes of Itself a likeness of other tbings,
while nothing makes for It a likeness of Itself.[1] Thou wouldst
hear how long it is since God placed me in the lofty garden where
this Lady disposed thee for so long a stairway; and how long it
was a delight to my eyes; and the proper cause of the great
wrath; and the idiom which I used and which I made. Now, my son,
the tasting of the tree was not by itself the cause of so long an
exile, but only the overpassing of the bound. There whence thy
Lady moved Virgil, I longed for this assembly during four
thousand three hundred and two revolutions of the sun; and while
I was on earth I saw him return to all the lights of his path
nine hundred and thirty times. The tongue which I spoke was all
extinct long before the people of Nimrod attempted their
unaccomplishable work; for never was any product of the
reason (because of human liking, which alters, following the
heavens) durable for ever.[2] A natural action it is for man to
speak; but, thus or thus, nature then leaves for you to do
according as it pleases you. Before I descended to the infernal
anguish, the Supreme Good, whence comes the gladness that swathes
me, was on earth called I; EL it was called afterwards;[3] and
that must needs be,[4] for the custom of mortals is as a leaf on
a branch, which goes away and another comes. On the mountain
which rises highest from the wave I was, with pure life and
sinful, from the first hour to that which, when the sun changes
quadrant, follows the sixth hour."[5]

[1] All things are seen in God as if reflected in a mirror; but
nothing can reflect an image of God. "In the eternal Idea, as in
a glass, the works of God are more perfectly seen than in
themselves. . . . But it is impossible for a thing created to
represent that which is increated."--John Norton, The Orthodox
Evangelist, 1554, p. 332.

[2] Speech, a product of human reason, changes according to the
pleasure of main, which alters from time to time under the
influence of the heavens.

[3] God was known in the primitive language by the sacred and
mystical symbol I or J, the Hebrew letter Jod; afterwards by the
term El: the first answering to Jehovah, the second to Elohim.

[4] Such change in the name was inevitable, because of the
changing customs of thought and speech.

[5] Adam's stay in the Earthly Paradise on the summit of the
mount of Purgatory was thus a little more than six hours; the sun
changes quadrant with every six hours.

CANTO XXVII. Denunciation by St. Peter of his degenerate
successors.--Dante gazes upon the Earth.--Ascent of Beatrice and
Dante to the Crystalline Heaven.--Its nature.--Beatrice rebukes
the covetousness of mortals.

"To the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit be glory," all
Paradise began, so that the sweet song was inebriating me. That
which I was seeing seemed to me a smile of the Universe; for
my inebriation was entering through the hearing and through the
sight. O joy! O ineffable gladness! O life entire of love and of
peace! O riches secure, without longing![1]

[1] Which leave nothing for desire.

Before my eyes the four torches were standing enkindled, and that
had come first began to make itself more vivid, and in its
semblance be
came such as Jove would become, if be and Mars were birds, and
interchange feathers.[1] The Providence which here apportions
turn and
office, had imposed silence on the blessed choir on every
side, when I heard, "If I change color, marvel not; for, while I
thou shalt see all these change color. He who on earth usurps my
my place, my place, which is vacant in the presence of the Son of
has made of my burial-place a sewer of blood and of stench,
wherewith the
Perverse One who fell from here above, below there is placated."

[1] The pure white light becoming red.

With that color which, by reason of the opposite sun, paints the
cloud at evening and at morning, I then saw the whole Heaven
overspread. And like a modest lady who abides sure of herself,
and at the fault of another, in bearing of it only, becomes
timid, even thus did Beatrice change countenance; and such
eclipse I believe there was in heaven when the Supreme Power

Then his words proceeded, in a voice so transmuted from itself
that his countenance was not more changed; "The Bride of Christ
was not nurtured on my blood, on that of Linus and of Cletus, to
be employed for acquist of gold; but for acquist of this glad
life Sixtus and Pius and Calixtus and Urban[1] shed their blood
after much weeping. It was not our intention that part of the
Christian people should sit on the right hand of our successors,
and part on the other; nor that the keys which were conceded to
me should become a sign upon a banner which should fight against
those who are baptized;[2] nor that I should be a figure on a
seal to venal and mendacious privileges, whereat I often redden
and flash. In garb of shepherd, rapacious wolves are seen from
here-above over all the pastures: O defence of God, why dost thou
yet lie
still! To drink our blood Cahorsines and Gascons are making
ready:[3] O
good beginning, to what vile end behoves it that thou fall! But
the high
Providence which with Scipio defended for Rome the glory of the
will succor speedily, as I conceive. And thou, son, who because
of thy
mortal weight wilt again return below, open thy mouth, and
conceal not
that which I conceal not."

[1] Early Popes martyred for the faith.

[2] A reference to the war which Boniface VIII. waged against the
Colonnesi. See Inferno, Canto XXVII.

[3] John XXII., who came to the Papacy in 1316, was a native of
Cahors; his immediate predecessor, Clement V., 1305-1314, was a
Gascon. The passage is one of those which shows that this portion
of the poem was in hand during the last years of Dante's life.

[4] In midwinter, when the sun is in Capricorn.

Even as our air snows down flakes of frozen vapors, when the horn
of the Goat of heaven touches the sun,[1] so, upward, I saw the
aether become adorned, and flaked with the triumphant vapors[2]
that had made sojourn there with us. My sight was following their
semblances, and followed, till the intermediate space by its
pre. vented it from passing further onward. Whereon my Lady, who
saw me
disengaged from upward heeding, said to me, "Cast down thy sight,
look how thou hast revolved."

[1] The spirits.

Since the hour when I had first looked, I saw that I had moved
through the whole are which the first climate makes from its
middle to its end;[1] so that I saw beyond Cadiz the mad track of
Ulysses, and near on this side the shore[2] on which Europa
became a sweet burden. And more of the site of this little
threshing-floor would have been discovered to me, but the sun was
proceeding beneath my feet, a sign and more removed.[3]

[1] From Dante's first look downward from the Heavens, at the end
of Canto XXII, to the present moment, he had moved over the arc
which the first climate describes from its middle to its end. The
old geographers divided the earth into seven zones, called
climates, by circles parallel to the equator. The first climate
extended twenty degrees to the north of the equator. The sign of
the Gemini, in which Dante was revolving in the Heaven of the
Fixed Stars, is in the zone of the Heavens corresponding to the
first climate. As each climate extended on the habitable
hemisphere for one hundred and eighty degrees, the arc from its
middle to its end would be of ninety degrees, comprised between
Jerusalem and Cadiz, and the time required for passing through it
would be six hours, one fourth of the diurnal revolution of the

[2] The shore of Phoenicia, whence Europa was carried off by

[3] The Sun in Aries was separated by Taurus from Gemini; hence
not all of the hemisphere of the earth seen from Gemini was
illuminated by the sun, which was some three hours in advance.

My enamoured mind, that ever dallies with my Lady, was more than
ever burning to bring back my eyes to her. And if nature has made
bait in human flesh, or art in its paintings, to catch the eyes
in order to possess the mind, all united would seem naught
compared to the divine pleasure which shone upon me when I turned
me to her smiling face. And the virtue with which the look
indulged me, tore me from the fair nest of Leda,[1] and impelled
me to the swiftest heaven.[2]

[1] From Gemini, the constellation of Castor and Pollux, the twin
sons of Leda.

[2] The Primum Mobile, or Crystalline Heaven.

Its parts, most living and lofty, are so uniform that I cannot
tell which of them Beatrice chose for a place for me. But she,
who saw my desire, began, smiling so glad that God seemed to
rejoice in her countenance, "The nature of the world[1] which
quiets the centre, and moves all the rest around it, begins here
as from its, starting-point. And this heaven has no other Where
than the Divine Mind, in which the love that revolves it is
kindled, and the virtue which it rains down. Light and love
enclose it with one circle, even as this does the others, and of
cincture He who girds it is the sole Intelligence.[2] The motion
of this
heaven is not marked out by another, but the others are measured by this, even as ten by a half and by a fifth.[3] And how time can
hold its roots in such a flower-pot, and in the others its
leaves, may now be manifest to thee.

[1] The world of the revolving Heavens.

[2] The Angelic Intelligences move the lower Heavens, but of the
Empyrean God himself is the immediate governor.

[3] The reversal of magnitudes makes this image obscure. The
motion of the Crystalline Heaven, the swiftest of all, determines
the slower motions of the Heavens below it, and divides them; as
five and two divide ten. The fixed unit of time is the day which
is established by the revolution of the Primum Mobile.

"O covetousness,[1] which whelms mortals beneath thee, so that no
one has power to withdraw his eyes from out thy waves! Well.
blossoms the will in men, but the continual rain converts the
true plums
into wildings. Faith and innocence are found only in children;
then both
fly away ere yet the cheeks are covered. One, so long as he
fasts, who afterward, when his tongue is loosed, devours whatever
under whatever moon; and one, while stammering, loves his mother
listens to her, who, when speech is perfect, desires then to see
buried. So the skin of the fair daughter of him who brings
morning and
leaves evening, white in its first aspect, becomes black.[2] Do
thou, in
order that thou make not marvel, reflect that on earth there is
no one
who governs; wherefore the human family is gone astray. But ere
be all un-wintered by that hundredth part which is down there
neglected,[3] these supernal circles shall so roar that the storm
is so long awaited shall turn the sterns round to where the prows
are, so
that the fleet shall run straight, and true fruit shall come
after the flower."

[1] The connection of the ideas presented in what precedes with
this denunciation of covetousness, or selfishness, is not at
first apparent. But the transition is not unnatural, from the
consideration of the Heaven which pours down Divine influence, to
the thought of the engrossment of men in the pursuit of their
selfish and transitory ends, in which they are blinded to
heavenly and eternal good.

[2] Both the order of the words and the meaning of this sentence
axe obscure.

[3] Before January falls in spring, owing to the lack of
correctness in the calendar, by which the year is lengthened by
about a day in each century. It is as if the poet said,--Before
a thousand years shall pass; meaning,--Within short while.

CANTO XXVIII. The Heavenly Hierarchy.

After she who imparadises my mind had disclosed the truth counter
to the present life of wretched mortals, as he, who is lighted by
a candle from behind, sees its flame in a mirror before he has it
in sight or in thought, and turns round to see if the glass tell
him the truth, and sees that it accords with it as the note with
its measure;[1] I thus my memory recollects that I did, looking
into the beautiful eyes, wherewith Love made the cord to ensnare
me.[2] And when I turned, and mine were touched by that which is
apparent in that revolving sphere whenever one gazes fixedly on
its gyration, I saw a Point which was raying out light so keen
that the sight on which it blazes must needs close because of its
intense keenness. And whatso star seems smallest here would seem
a moon if placed beside it, as star with star is placed. Perhaps
as near as a halo seems to girdle the light which paints it, when
the vapor that bears it is most dense, at such distance round the
Point a circle of fire was whirling so swiftly that it would have
surpased that motion which with most speed girds the world; and
this was by another circumcinct, and that by the third, and the
third then by the fourth, by the fifth the fourth, and then by
the sixth the fifth. Thereon the seventh followed, so spread now
in compass that the messenger of Juno entire[3] would be narrow
to contain it. So the eighth and the ninth; and each was moving
more slowly, according as it was in number more distant from the
first.[4] And that one had the clearest flame from which the Pure
Spark was least distant; I believe because it partakes more of
It. My Lady, who saw me deeply suspense in doubt, said, "On that
Point Heaven and all nature are dependent. Gaze on that circle
which is most conjoined to It, and know that its motion is so
swift because of the burning love whereby it is spurred." And I
to her, "If the world were set in the order which I see in those
wheels, that which is propounded to me would have satisfied me;
but in the world of sense the revolutions may be seen so much the
more divine as they are more remote from the centre.[5] Wherefore
if my desire is to have end in this marvellous and angelic
temple, which has for confine only love and light, I need yet to
hear why the example and the exemplar go not in one fashion,
because I by myself contemplate this in vain." "If thy fingers
are insufficient for such a knot, it is no wonder, so hard has it
become through not being tried." Thus my Lady; then she said,
"Take that which I shall tell thee, if thou wouldest be
satisfied, and make subtle thy wit about it. The corporeal
circles[6] are wide and narrow according to the more or less of
virtue which is spread through all their parts. Greater goodness
must make greater welfare; the greater body, if it has its parts
equally complete, contains greater welfare. Hence this one,[7]
which sweeps along with itself all the rest of the universe,
corresponds to the circle[8] which loves most, and knows most.
Therefore, if thou compassest thy measure round the virtue, not
round the seeming of the substances which appear circular to
thee, thou wilt see in each heaven a marvellous agreement with
its Intelligence, of greater to more and of smaller to less."[9]

[1] As the note of the song with the measure of the verse.

[2] The eyes of Beatrice reflected, as a mirror, the light which
shone from God.

[3] The full circle of Iris, or the rainbow.

[4] These circles of fire are the nine orders of Angels.

[5] The planetary spheres partake more of the divine nature, and
move more swiftly, in proportion to their distance from the
earth, their centre.

[6] The planetary spheres.

[7] The ninth sphere.

[8] Of the angelic hierarchy.

[9] The greater heaven corresponds to the angelic circle of the
Intelligences which love God most and know most of Him; the
smaller to that of those which love and know least.

As the hemisphere of the air remains splendid and serene when
Boreas blows from that cheek wherewith he is mildest,[1] whereby
the mist which first troubled it is cleared and dissolved, so
that the heaven smiles to us with the beauties of all its flock,
so I became after my Lady had provided me with her clear answer,
and, like a star in heaven, the truth was seen.

[1] When Boreas blows the north wind more from the west than from
the east.

And after her words had stopped, not otherwise does molten iron
throw out sparks than the circles sparkled. Every scintillation
followed its flame,[1] and they were so many that their number,
was of more thousands than the doubling of the chess. I heard
Hosaimah sung from choir to choir to the fixed Point that holds
them, and will forever hold them, at the Ubi[2] in which they
have ever been. And she, who saw the dubious thoughts within my
mind, said, "The first circles have shown to thee the Seraphim
and the Cherubim. Thus swiftly they follow their own bonds,[3] in
order to liken themselves to the Point so far as they can, and
they can so far as they are exalted to see. Those other loves,
which go round about them, are called Thrones of the divine
aspect, because they terminated the first triad.[4] And thou
shouldst know that all have delight in proportion as their vision
penetrates into the True in which every understanding is at rest.
Hence may be seen how beatitude is founded on the act which sees,
not on that which loves, which follows after. And merit, which
grace and good will bring forth, is the measure of this seeing;
thus is the progress from grade to grade.

[1] The innumerable sparks each moved in accord with the gyration
of its flaming circle. The doubling of the chess alludes to the
story that the inventor of the game asked, as his reward from the
King of Persia, a grain of wheat for the first square of the
board, two for the second, and so on to the last or sixty-fourth
square. The number reached by this process of duplication extends
to twenty figures.

[2] The WHERE, the appointed place.

[3] The course of their respective circles to which they are

[4] "Throni elevantur ad hoc quod Deum familiariter in seipsis
recipiant."--Summa Theol., I, cviii. 6.

"The next triad that thus buds in this sempiternal spring which
the nightly Aries despoils not,[1] perpetually sing their spring
song of Hosannah with three melodies, which sound in the three
orders of joy wherewith it is threefold. In this hierarchy are
the three Divinities, first Dominations, and then the Virtues;
the third order is of Powers. Then, in the two penultimate
dances, the Principalities and Archangels circle; the last is
wholly of Angelic sports. These orders are all upward gazing, and
downward prevail, so that toward God they all are drawn, and they
all draw. And Dionysius[2] with such great desire set himself to
contemplate these orders, that he named and divided them, as I.
But Gregory[3] afterward separated from him; wherefore, so soon
as he opened his eyes in this Heaven, he smiled at himself. And
if a mortal proffered on earth so much of secret truth, I would
not have thee wonder, for he who saw it hereabove[4] disclosed it
to him, with much else of the truth of these circles."

[1] At the autumnal equinox, the time of frosts, Aries is the
sign in which the night rises.

[2] The Areopagite. See Canto X.

[3] The Pope, St. Gregory, who differs slightly from Dionysius in
his arrangement of the Heavenly host.

[4] St. Paul, supposed to have communicated to his disciple the
knowledge which he gained when caught up to Heaven. See 2 Cor.,
xii. 2.

CANTO XXIX. Discourse of Beatrice concerning the creation and
nature of the Angels.--She reproves the presumption and
foolishness of preachers.

When both the children of Latona, covered by the Ram and by the
Scales, together make a zone of the horizon,[1] as long as from
the moment the zenith holds them in balance, till one and the
other, changing their hemisphere, are unbalanced from that
girdle, soloing, with her countenance painted with a smile, was
Beatrice silent, looking fixedly upon the Point which had
overcome me. Then she began: "I speak, and I ask not what thou
wishest to hear, for I have seen it where every WHERE and every
WHEN are centred. Not for the gain of good unto Himself, which
cannot be, but that His splendor might, in resplendence, say,
Subsisto; in His own eternity, outside of time, outside of every
other limit, as pleased Him, the Eternal Love disclosed Himself
in new loves. Nor before, as if inert, did He lie; for the going
forth of God upon these waters had proceeded neither before nor
after.[2] Form and matter, conjoined and simple, came forth to
existence which had no defect, as three arrows from a
three-stringed bow; and as in glass, in amber, or in crystal a
ray shines so that there is no interval between its coining and
its complete existence, so the triform effect[3] rayed forth from
its Lord into its. existence all at once, without discrimination
of beginning. Order was concreate, and established for the
substances, and those were top of the world in which pure act was
produced.[4] Pure potency held the lowest part;[5] in the middle
such a bond unites potency with act, that it is never unbound.[6]
Jerome has written to you of the Angels, created a long tract of
centuries before the rest of the world was made. But this
truth[7] is written on many pages by the writers of the that Holy
Spirit: and thou wilt thyself discover it, if thou watchest well
for it; and even the reason sees it somewhat, for it would not
admit that the motors could be so long without their
perfection.[8] Now thou knowest where and when these loves were
elected, and how; so that three flames of thy desire are already

[1] When at the spring equinox, the sun being in the sign of
Aries or the Ram, and the moon in that of Libra or the Scales,
opposite to each other on the horizon, the one just rising and
the other setting, they seem as if held for a moment in a balance
which hangs from the zenith.

[2] In eternity there is no before or after; time had no
existence till the creation, and has relevancy only to created

[3] Pure form, pure matter, and form conjoined with matter.

[4] The substances created purely active, to exercise action upon
others, were the angels.

[5] The substances purely passive, capable potentially only of
submitting to the action of others, are the material things
without intelligence.

[6] The substances in which potency and act are united are the
creatures endowed with bodies and souls.

[7] The truth here set forth (contrary to Jerome's assertion),
the creation of the Angels was contemporaneous with that of the
creation of the rest of the Universe of which they were the

[8] Without scope for their action as movers of the spheres.

One would not reach to twenty, in counting, so quickly as a part
of the Angels disturbed the subject of your elements.[1] The rest
remained and began this art which thou beboldest, with such great
delight that they never cease from circling. The origin of the
fall was the accursed pride of him whom thou hast seen opprest by
all the weights of the world. Those whom thou seest here were
modest in grateful recognition of the goodness which had made
them ready for intelligence so great; wherefore their vision was
exalted with illuminant grace and with their merit, so that they
have full and steadfast will. And I wish that thou doubt not, but
be certain, that to receive grace is meritorious in proportion as
the affection is open to it.

[1] The earth.

"Henceforth, if my words have been harvested, thou canst
contemplate sufficiently round about this consistory without
other assistance. But because on earth it is taught in your
schools that the angelic nature is such that it understands, and
remembers, and wills, I will speak further, in order that thou
mayest see the truth pure, which there below is mixed, through
the equivocation in such like teaching. These substances, from
the time that they were glad in the face of God, have not turned
their sight from it, from which nothing is concealed. Therefore
they have not their vision interrupted by a new object, and
therefore do not need because of divided thought to recollect.[1]
So that there below men dream when not asleep, believing and not
believing to speak truth; but in the one is more fault and more
shame.[2] Ye below go not along one path in philosophizing; so
much do the love of appearance[3] and the thought of it transport
you; and yet this is endured hereabove with less indignation than
when the divine Scripture is set aside, or when it is perverted.
Men think not there how much blood it costs to sow it in the
world, and how much he pleases who humbly keeps close to its
side. Every one strives for appearance, and makes his own
inventions, and those are discoursed of by the preachers, and the
Gospel is silent. One says that the moon turned back at the
passion of Christ and interposed herself, so that the light of
the sun reached not down; and others that the light hid itself of
its own accord, so that this eclipse answered for the Spaniards
and for the Indians as well as for the Jews. Florence hath not so
many Lapi and Bindi[4] as there are fables such as these shouted
the year long from the pulpits, on every side; so that the poor
flocks, who have no knowledge, return from the pasture fed with
wind; and not seeing the harm does not excuse them. Christ did
not say to his first company, 'Go, and preach idle stories to
the world,' but he gave to them the true foundation; and that
alone sounded in their cheeks, so that in the battle for kindling
of the faith they made shield and lance of the Gospel. Now men go
forth to preach with jests and with buffooneries, and provided
only there is a good laugh the cowl puffs up, and nothing more is
required. But such a bird is nesting in the tail of the hood,
that if the crowd should see it, they would see the pardon in
which they confide; through which such great folly has grown on
earth, that, without proof of any testimony, men would flock to
every indulgence. On this the pig of St. Antony fattens, and
others also, who are far more pigs, paying with money that has no
stamp of coinage.

[1] The angels, looking always upon God, to whom all things are
present, have no need of memory.

[2] Many of the doctrines of men on earth axe like dreams,
because they have no foundation in truth; and while some honestly
believe in them, there are others, who, though not believing,
still teach these doctrines as truth.

[3] Of making a good show.

[4] Common nicknames in Florence; Lapo is from Jacopo, Bindo from

"But because we have digressed enough, turn back thine eyes now
toward the straight path, so that the way be shortened with the
time. This nature[1] so extends in number, that never was there
speech or mortal concept that could go so far. And if thou
considerest that which is revealed by Daniel thou wilt see that
in his thousands[2] a determinate number is concealed. The primal
light that irradiates it all is received in it by as many modes
as are the splendors with which the light pairs itself.[3]
Wherefore, since the affection follows upon the act[4] that
conceives, in this nature the sweetness of love diversely glows
and warms. Behold now the height and the breadth of the Eternal
Goodness, since it has made for itself so many mirrors on which
it is broken, One in itself remaining as before."

[1] The Angels.

[2] "Thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand
times ten thousand stood before him."--Daniel, vii. 10.

[3] No two angels are precisely alike in their vision of God.

[4] Since love follows on knowledge through vision.

CANTO XXX. Ascent to the Empyrean.--The River of Light.--The
celestial Rose.--The seat of Henry VII.--The last words of

The sixth hour is glowing perhaps six thousand miles distant from
us, and this world now inclines its shadow almost to a level bed,
when the mid heaven, deep above us, begins to become such that
some one star loses its show so far as to this depth;[1] and as
the brightest handmaid of the sun comes farther on, so the heaven
is closed from light to light, even to the most beautiful. Not
otherwise the Triumph, that plays forever round the Point which
vanquished me, seeming enclosed by that which it encloses, little
by little to my sight was extinguished;[2] wherefore my seeing
nothing, and my love constrained me to turn with my eyes to
Beatrice. If what has been said of her so far as here were all
included in a single praise, it would be little to furnish out
this turn. The beauty which I saw transcends measure not only by
us, but truly I believe that its Maker alone can enjoy it all.

[1] When it is noon,--the sixth hour,--six thousand miles away
from us to the east, it is about daybreak where we are; the
shadow of the earth lies in the plane of vision, and with the
growing light the stars one after another become invisible at
this depth, that is, to one on earth.

[2] Losing itself in the light which streams from the Divine

By this pass I concede myself vanquished more than ever comic or
tragic poet was overcome by crisis of his theme. For as the sun
does to the sight which trembles most, even so remembrance of the
sweet smile deprives my mind of its very self. From the first day
that I saw her face in this life, even to this look, the
following with my song has not been interrupted for me, but now
needs must my pursuit desist from further following her beauty in
my verse, as at his utmost every artist.

Such, as I leave her to a greater heralding than that of my
trumpet, which is bringing its arduous theme to a close, with act
and voice of a trusty leader she began again. "We have issued
forth from the greatest body[1] to the Heaven[2] which is pure
light: light intellectual full of love, love of true good, full
of joy; joy which transcends every sweetness. Here thou shalt see
one and the other host of Paradise;[3] and the one in those
aspects which thou shalt see at the Last Judgment."

[1] The Primum Mobile, the greatest of the material spheres of
the universe.

[2] The Empyrean.

[3] The spirits of the redeemed who fought against the
temptations of the world, and the good angels who fought against
the rebellious; and here the souls in bliss will be seen in their
bodily shapes.

As a sudden flash which scatters the spirits of the sight so that
it deprives the eye of the action of the strongest objects,[1]
thus a vivid light shone round about me, and left me swathed with
such a veil of its own effulgence that nothing was visible to me.

1] So that the clearest objects produce no effect upon the eye.

"The Love which quieteth this Heaven always welcomes to itself
with such a salutation, in order to make the candle ready for its
flame." No sooner had these brief words come within me than I
comprehended that I was surmounting above my own power; and I
rekindled me with a new vision, such that no light is so pure
that my eyes had not sustained it. And I saw light in form of a
river, bright with effulgence, between two banks painted with a
marvellous spring. Out of this stream were issuing living sparks,
and on every side were setting themselves in the flowers, like
rubies which gold encompasses. Then, as if inebriated by the
odors, they plunged again into the wonderful flood, and as one
was entering another was issuing forth.

"The high desire which now inflames and urges thee to have
concerning that which thou seest, Pleases me the more the more it
but thou must needs drink of this water before so great a thirst,
in thee
be slaked." Thus the Sun of my eyes said to me; thereon she
added, "The
stream, and the topazes which enter and issue, and the smiling of
herbage, are foreshadowing prefaces of their truth;[1] not that
things are in themselves immature,[2] but there is defect on thy
part who hast not yet vision so lofty."

[1] The stream, the sparks, the flowers are not such in reality
as they seem to be; they are but images foreshadowing the truth.

[2] The things show themselves as they are, but the eyes cannot
yet see them correctly.

There is no babe who so hastily springs with face toward the
milk, if he awake much later than his wont, as I did, to make
better mirrors yet of my eyes, stooping to the wave which flows
in order that one may be bettered in it. And even as the eaves of
my eyelids drank of it, so it seemed to me from its length to
become round. Then as folk who have been under masks, who seem
other than before, if they divest themselves of the semblance not
their own in which they disappeared, thus for me the flowers and
the sparks were changed into greater festival, so that I saw both
the Courts of Heaven manifest.

O splendor of God, by means of which I saw the high triumph of
the true kingdom, give me power to tell how I saw it!

Light is thereabove which makes the Creator visible to that
creature which has its peace only in seeing Him; and it is
extended in a circular figure so far that its circumference would
be too wide a girdle for the sun. Its whole appearance is made of
a ray reflected from the summit of the First Moving Heaven,[1]
which therefrom takes its life and potency. And as a hill mirrors
itself in water at its base, as if to see itself adorned, rich as
it is with verdure and with flowers, so ranged above the light,
round and round about, on more than a thousand seats, I saw
mirrored all who of us have returned on high. And if the lowest
row gather within itself so great a light, how vast is the spread
of this rose in its outermost leaves! My sight lost not itself in
the breadth and in the height, but took in all the quantity and
the quality of that joy. There near and far nor add nor take
away; for where God immediately governs the natural law is of no

[1] The Primum Mobile.

Into the yellow of the sempiternal rose, which spreads wide,
rises in steps, and is redolent with odor of praise unto the Sun
that makes perpetual spring, Beatrice, like one who is silent and
wishes to speak, drew me, and said, "Behold, how vast is the
convent of the white stoles![1] See our city, how wide its
circuit! See our benches so full that few people are now awaited
here. On that great seat, on which thou holdest thine eye because
of the crown which already is set above it, ere thou suppest at
this wedding feast will sit the soul (which below will be
imperial) of the high Henry who, to set Italy straight, will come
ere she is ready.[2] The blind cupidity which bewitches you has
made you like the little child who dies of hunger, and drives
away his nurse. And such a one will then be prefect in the divine
forum that openly or covertly he will not go with him along one
road;[3] but short while thereafter shall he be endured by God in
the holy office; for he shall be thrust down for his deserts,
there where Simon Magus is, and shall make him of Anagna go

[1] "He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white
raiment."--Revelation, iii. 5.

[2] Henry VII., Emperor 1308, crowned at Milan 1311, died 1313.

[3] The Pope Clement V. ostensibly supported the Emperor Henry
VII. in his Italian expedition, but secretly manoeuvred against
him. He died in 1314, eight months after the death of Henry.
Beatrice here condemns him to the third bolgia of the eighth
circle of Hell, whither he was to follow Boniface VIII.,--him of
Anagna,--and push him deeper in the hole where the simoniacal
Popes were punished, Cf. Hell, XIX.

CANTO XXXI. The Rose of Paradise.--St. Bernard.--Prayer to
Beatrice.--The glory of the Blessed Virgin.

In form then of a pure white rose the holy host was shown to me,
which, in His own blood, Christ made His bride. But the other,[1]
which, flying, sees and sings the glory of Him who enamours it,
and the goodness which made it so great, like a swarm of bees
which one while are among the flowers and anon return to the
place where their work gets its savor, were descending into the
great flower which is adorned with so many leaves, and thence
rising up again to where their love always abides. Their faces
all were of living flame, and their wings of gold, and the rest
so white that no snow reaches that extreme. When they descended
into the flower, from bench to bench, they imparted somewhat of
the peace and of the ardor which they acquired as they fanned
their sides. Nor did the interposing of such a flying plenitude
between what was above and the flower impede the sight and the
splendor; for the divine light penetrates through the universe,
according as it is worthy, so that naught can be an obstacle to
it. This secure and joyous realm, thronged with aneient and with
modern folk, had all its look and love upon one mark.

[1] The angelic host.

O Trinal Light, which in a single star, scintillating on their
sight, so satisfies them, look down here upon our tempest!

If the Barbarians, coming from a region such that every day it is
covered by Helice,[1] revolving with her son of whom she is fond,
when they beheld Rome and her arduous work, were wonderstruck,
what time Lateran rose above mortal things,[2] I, who to the
divine from the human, to the eternal from the temporal, had
come, and from Florence to a people just and sane, with what
amazement must I have been full! Surely what with it and the joy
I was well pleased not to hear, and to stand mute. And as a
pilgrim who is refreshed in the temple of his vow in looking
round, and hopes now to report how it was, so, journeying through
the living light, I carried my eyes over the ranks, now up, now
down, and now circling about. I saw faces persuasive to love,
beautified by the light of Another and by their own smile, and
actions ornate with every dignity.

[1] The nymph Callisto or Helice bore to Zeus a son, Arcas; she
was metamorphosed by Hera into a bear, and then transferred to
Heaven by Jupiter as the constellation of the Great Bear, while
her son was changed into the constellation of Aretophylax or
Bootes. In the far north these constellations remain always above
the horizon.

[2] When Rome was mistress of the world, and the Lateran the seat
of imperial or papal power.

My look had now comprehended the general form of Paradise as a
whole, and on no part yet my sight was fixed; and I turned me
with re-enkindled wish to ask my Lady about things concerning
which my mind was in suspense. One thing I was meaning, and
another answered me; I was thinking to see Beatrice, and I saw an
old man, robed like the people in glory. His eyes and his cheeks
were overspread with benignant joy, in pious mien such as befits
a tender father. And, "Where is she?" on a sudden said I. Whereon
he, "To terminate thy desire, Beatrice urged me from my place,
and if thou lookest up to the third circle from the highest step,
thou wilt again see her upon the throne which her merits have
allotted to her." Without answering I lifted up my eyes, and saw
her as she made for herself a crown, reflecting from herself the
eternal rays. From that region which thunders highest up no
mortal eye is so far distant, in whatsoever sea it loses itself
the lowest,[1] as there from Beatrice was my sight. But this was
naught to me, for her image did not descend to me blurred by
aught between.

[1] From the highest region of the air to the lowest depth of the

"O Lady, in whom my hope is strong, and who, for my salvation,
didst endure to leave thy footprints in Hell, of all those things
which I have seen, I recognize by thy power and by thy goodness
the grace and the virtue. Thou hast drawn me from servitude to
liberty by all those ways, by all the modes whereby thou hadst
the power to do this. Guard thou in me thine own magnificence so
that my soul, which thou hast made whole, may, pleasing to thee,
be unloosed from the body." Thus I prayed; and she, so distant,
smiled, as it seemed, and looked at me; then turned to the
eternal fountain.

And the holy old man, "In order that thou mayest complete
perfectly," he said, "thy journey, whereto prayer and holy love
sent me, fly with thy eyes through this garden; for seeing it
will prepare thy look to mount further through the divine
radiance. And the Queen of Heaven, for whom I burn wholly with
love, will grant us every grace, because I am her faithful

[1] St. Bernard, to whom, because of his fervent devotion to her,
the Blessed Virgin had deigned to show herself during his life.

As is he who comes perchance from Croatia to see our Veronica,[1]
who is not satisfied by its ancient fame, but says in thought,
while it is shown, "My Lord Jesus Christ, true God, now was your
semblance like to this?" such was I, gazing on the living charity
of him who, in this world, in contemplation, tasted of that

[1] The likeness of the Saviour miraculously impressed upon the
kerchief presented to him by a holy woman, on his way to Calvary,
wherewith to wipe the sweat and dust from his face, and now
religiously preserved at Rome, and shown at St. Peter's, on
certain holydays.

"Son of Grace, this glad existence," began he, "will not be known
to thee holding thine eyes only below here at the bottom, but
look on the circles even to the most remote, until thou seest
upon her seat the Queen to whom this realm is subject and
devoted." I lifted up my eyes; and as at morning the eastern
parts of the horizon surpass that where the sun declines, thus,
as if going with my eyes from valley to mountain, I saw a part on
the extreme verge vanquishing in light all the other front. And
even as there where the pole which Phaeton guided ill is
awaited,[1] the flame is brighter, and on this side and that the
light grows less, so that pacific oriflamme was vivid at the
middle, and on each side in equal measure the flame slackened.
And at that mid part I saw more than a thousand jubilant Angels
with wings outspread, each distinct both in brightness and in
act. I saw there, smiling at their sports and at their songs, a
Beauty[2] which was joy in the eyes of all the other saints. And
if I had such wealth in speech as in imagining, I should. not
dare to attempt the least of its delightfulness. Bernard, when he
saw my eyes fixed and intent upon its warm glow, turned his own
with such affection to it, that he made mine more ardent to gaze

[1] Where the chariot of the sun is about to rise.

[2] The Virgin.

CANTO XXXII. St. Bernard describes the order of the Rose, and
points out many of the Saints.--The children in Paradise.--The
angelic festival.--The patricians of the Court of Heaven.

Fixed in affection upon his Delight, that contemplator freely
assumed the office of a teacher, and began these holy words: "The
wound which Mary closed up and anointed, she who is so beautiful
at her feet is she who opened it and who pierced it. Beneath her,
in the order which the third seats make, sits Rachel with
Beatrice, as thou seest. Sara, Rebecca, Judith, and she[1] who
was great-grandmother of the singer who, through sorrow for his
sin, said Miserere mei,[2] thou mayest see thus from step to step
in gradation downward, as with the name of each I go downward
through the rose from leaf to leaf. And from the seventh row
downwards, even as down to it, Hebrew women follow in succession,
dividing all the tresses of the flower; because these are the
wall by which the sacred stairways are separated according to the
look which faith turned on Christ. On this side, where the flower
is mature with all its leaves, are seated those who believed in
Christ about to come. On the other side, where the semicircles
are broken by empty spaces, are those who turned their faces on
Christ already come.[3] And as on this side the glorious seat of
the Lady of Heaven, and the other seats below it, make so great a
division, thus, opposite, does that of the great John, who, ever
holy, endured the desert and martyrdom, and then Hell for two
years;[4] and beneath him Francis and Benedict and Augustine and
others are allotted thfis to divide, far down as here from circle
to circle. Now behold the high divine foresight; for one and the
other aspect of the faith will fill this garden equally. And know
that downwards from the row which midway cleaves[5] the two
divisions, they are seated for no merit of their own, but for
that of others, under certain conditions; for all these are
spirits absolved ere they had true election. Well canst thou
perceive it by their looks, and also by their childish voices, if
thou lookest well upon them and if thou listenest to them. Now
thou art perplexed, and in perplexity art silent; but I will
loose for thee the strong bond in which thy subtile thoughts
fetter thee.[6] Within the amplitude of this realm a casual point
can have no place,[7] any more than sadness, or thirst, or
hunger; for whatever thou seest is established by eternal law, so
that here the ring answers exactly to the finger. And therefore
this folk,[8] hastened to true life, is not sine causa more and
less excellent here among itself. The King through whom this
realm reposes in such great love and in such great delight that
no will is venturesome for more, creating all the minds in His
own glad aspect, diversely endows with grace according to His own
pleasure; and here let the fact suffice.[9] And this is expressly
and clearly noted for you in the Holy Scripture in those twins
who, while within their mother, had their anger roused.[10]
Therefore, according to the color of the hair of such grace,[11]
it behoves the highest light befittingly to crown them. Without,
then, merit from their modes of Efe, they are placed in different
grades, differing only in their primary keenness of vision.[12]
Thus in the fresh centuries the faith of parents alone sufficed,
together with innocence, to secure salvation. After the first
ages were, complete, it was needful for males with their innocent
plumage to acquire virtue through circumcision. But after the
time of grace had come, without perfect baptism in Christ, such
minocence was kept there below.

[1] Ruth.

[2] "Have mercy upon me."--Psalm li. 1.

[3] The circle of the Rose is divided in two equal parts. In the
one half, the saints of the Old Dispensation, who believed in
Christ about to come, are seated. The benches of this half are
full. In the other half, the benches of which are not yet quite
full, sit the redeemed of the New Dispensation who have believed
on Christ already come. On one side the line of division between
the semicircles is made by the Hebrew women from the Virgin Mary
downwards; on the opposite side the line is made by St. John
Baptist and other saints who had rendered special service to
Christ and his Church. The lower tiers of seats all round are
occupied by children elect to bliss.

[4] The two years from the death of John to the death of Christ
and his descent to Hell, to draw from the limbus patrum the souls
predestined to salvation.

[5] Horizontally.

[6] The perplexity was, How can there be difference of merit in
the innocent, assigning them to different seats in Paradise?

[7] No least thing can here be matter of chance.

[8] This childish folk.

[9] Without attempt to account for it, to seek the wherefore of
the will of God.

[10] Jacob and Esau. See Genesis, xxv. 22.

[11] The crown of light and the station in Paradise axe allotted
according to the diversity in the endowment of grace, which is
like the diversity in the color of the hair of men.

[12] In capacity to see God.

"Look now upon the face which most resembles Christ, for only its
brightness can prepare thee to see Christ."

I saw raining upon her such great joy borne in the holy minds
created to fly across through that height, that whatsoever I had
seen before had not rapt me with such great admiration, nor shown
to me such likeness to God. And that love which had first
descended there, in front of her spread wide his wings, singing
"Ave, Maria, gratia plena." The blessed Court responded to the
divine song from all parts, so that every countenance became
thereby serener.

"O holy Father, who for me submittest to be below here, leaving
the sweet place in which thou sittest through eternal allotment,
who is that Angel who with such jubilee looks into the eyes of
our Queen, so enamoured that he seems of fire?" Thus I again
had recourse to the teaching of him who was made beautiful by
Mary, as the morning star by the sun. And he to me, "Confidence
and grace as much as there can be in Angel and in soul, axe all
in him, and so we would have it be, for he it is who bore the
palm down to Mary, when the Son of God willed to load Himself
with our burden.

"But come now with thine eyes, as I shall go on speaking, and
note the great patricians of this most just and pious empire.
Those two who sit there above, most happy through being nearest
to the Empress, are, as it were, the two roots of this rose. He
who on the left is close to her is the Father through whose rash
taste the human race tastes so much bitterness. On the right thou
seest that ancient Father of Holy Church, to whom Christ
entrusted the keys of this lovely flower. And he who saw before
his death all the heavy times of the beautiful bride, who was won
with the lance and with the nails, sits at his side; and
alongside the other rests that leader, under whom the ingrate,
fickle and stubborn people lived on manna. Opposite Peter thou
seest Anna sitting, so content to gaze upon her daughter, that
she moves not her eyes while singing Hosannah; and opposite the
eldest father of a family sits Lucia, who moved thy Lady, when
thou didst bend thy brow to rush downward.

"But because the time flies which holds thee slumbering,[1] here
will we make a stop, like a good tailor who makes the gown
according as he has cloth, and we will direct our eyes to the
First Love, so that, looking towards Him, thou mayst penetrate so
far as is possible through His effulgence. Truly, lest perchance,
moving thy wings, thou go backward, believing to advance, it is
needful that grace be obtained by prayer; grace from her who has
the power to aid thee; and do thou follow me with thy affection
so that thy heart depart not from my speech."

[1] This is the single passage in which Dante implies that his
vision is of the nature of a dream.

And he began this holy supplication.

CANTO XXXIII. Prayer to the Virgin.--The Beatific Vision.--The
Ultimate Salvation.

"Virgin Mother, daughter of thine own Son, humble and exalted
more than any creature, fixed term of the eternal counsel, thou
art she who didst so ennoble human nature that its own Maker
disdained not to become His own making. Within thy womb was
rekindled the Love through whose warmth this flower has thus
blossomed in the eternal peace. Here thou art to us the noonday
torch of charity, and below, among mortals, thou art the living
fount of hope. Lady, thou art so great, and so availest, that
whoso wishes grace, and has not recourse to thee, wishes his
desire to fly without wings. Thy benignity not only succors him
who asks, but oftentimes freely foreruns the asking. In thee
mercy, in thee pity, in thee magnificence, in thee whatever of
goodness is in any creature, are united. Now doth this man, who,
from the lowest abyss of the universe, far even as here, has seen
one by one the lives of spirits, supplicate thee, through grace,
for virtue such that he may be able with his eyes to uplift
himself higher toward the Ultimate Salvation. And I, who never
for my own vision burned more than I do for his, proffer to thee
all my prayers, and pray that they be not scant, that with thy
prayers thou wouldest dissipate for him every cloud of his
mortality, so that the Supreme Pleasure may be displayed to him.
Further I pray thee, Queen, who canst whatso thou wilt, that,
after so great a vision, thou wouldest preserve his affections
sound. May thy guardianship vanquish human impulses. Behold
Beatrice with all the Blessed for my prayers clasp their hands to

[1] In the Second Nun's Tale Chaucer has rendered, with great
beauty, the larger part of this prayer.

The eyes beloved and revered by God, fixed on the speaker, showed
to us how pleasing unto her are devout prayers. Then to the
Eternal Light were they directed, on which it is not to be
believed that eye so clear is turned by any creature.

And I, who to the end of all desires was approaching, even as I
ought, ended within myself the ardor of my longing.[1] Bernard
was beckoning to me, and was smiling, that I should look upward;
but I was already, of my own accord, such as he wished; for my
sight, becoming pure, was entering more and more through the
radiance of the lofty Light which of itself is true.

[1] The ardor of longing ceased, as was natural, in the
consummation and enjoyment of desire.

Thenceforward my vision was greater than our speech, which yields
to such a sight, and the memory yields to such excess.[1]

[1] Vague words! but ah, how hard to frame
In matter-moulded forms of speech,
Or ev'n for intellect to reach
Thro' memory that which I became."
--In Memoriam, XCV.

As is he who dreaming sees, and after the dream the passion
remains imprinted, and the rest returns not to the mind, such am
I; for my vision almost wholly fails, while the sweetness that
was born of it yet distils within my heart. Thus the snow is by
the sun unsealed; thus on the wind, in the light leaves, was lost
the saying of the Sibyl.

O Supreme Light, that so high upliftest Thyself from mortal
conceptions, re-lend a little to my mind of what Thou didst
appear, and make my tongue so powerful that it may be able to
leave one single spark of Thy glory for the future people; for,
by returning somewhat to my memory and by sounding a little in
these verses, more of Thy victory shall be conceived.

I think that by the keenness of the living ray which I endured, I
should have been bewildered if my eyes had been averted from it.
And it comes to my mind that for this reason I was the more hardy
to sustain so much, that I joined my look unto the Infinite

O abundant Grace, whereby I presumed to fix my eyes through the
Eternal Light so far that there I consumed my sight!

In its depth I saw that whatsoever is dispersed through the
universe is there included, bound with love in one volume;
substance and accidents and their modes, fused together, as it
were, in such wise, that that of which I speak is one simple
Light. The universal form of this knot[1] I believe that I saw,
because in saying this I feel that I more at large rejoice. One
instant only is greater oblivion for me than five and twenty
centuries to the emprise which made Neptune wonder at the shadow
of Argo.[2]

[1] This union of substance and accident and their modes; the
unity of creation in the Creator.

[2] The mysteries of God vanish in an instant from memory, but
the larger joy felt in recording them is proof that they were

Thus my mind, wholly rapt, was gazing fixed, motionless, and
intent, and ever with gazing grew enkindled. In that Light one
becomes such that it is impossible he should ever consent to turn
himself from it for other sight; because the Good which is the
object of the will is all collected in it, and outside of it that

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