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  • 1308-1321
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Than five. Mark Luni, Urbisaglia mark, How they are gone, and after them how go Chiusi and Sinigaglia; and ‘t will seem
No longer new or strange to thee to hear, That families fail, when cities have their end. All things, that appertain t’ ye, like yourselves, Are mortal: but mortality in some
Ye mark not, they endure so long, and you Pass by so suddenly. And as the moon
Doth, by the rolling of her heav’nly sphere, Hide and reveal the strand unceasingly;
So fortune deals with Florence. Hence admire not At what of them I tell thee, whose renown Time covers, the first Florentines. I saw The Ughi, Catilini and Filippi,
The Alberichi, Greci and Ormanni,
Now in their wane, illustrious citizens: And great as ancient, of Sannella him,
With him of Arca saw, and Soldanieri And Ardinghi, and Bostichi. At the poop, That now is laden with new felony,
So cumb’rous it may speedily sink the bark, The Ravignani sat, of whom is sprung
The County Guido, and whoso hath since His title from the fam’d Bellincione ta’en. Fair governance was yet an art well priz’d By him of Pressa: Galigaio show’d
The gilded hilt and pommel, in his house. The column, cloth’d with verrey, still was seen Unshaken: the Sacchetti still were great, Giouchi, Sifanti, Galli and Barucci,
With them who blush to hear the bushel nam’d. Of the Calfucci still the branchy trunk
Was in its strength: and to the curule chairs Sizii and Arigucci yet were drawn.
How mighty them I saw, whom since their pride Hath undone! and in all her goodly deeds Florence was by the bullets of bright gold O’erflourish’d. Such the sires of those, who now, As surely as your church is vacant, flock Into her consistory, and at leisure
There stall them and grow fat. The o’erweening brood, That plays the dragon after him that flees, But unto such, as turn and show the tooth, Ay or the purse, is gentle as a lamb,
Was on its rise, but yet so slight esteem’d, That Ubertino of Donati grudg’d
His father-in-law should yoke him to its tribe. Already Caponsacco had descended
Into the mart from Fesole: and Giuda And Infangato were good citizens.
A thing incredible I tell, tho’ true: The gateway, named from those of Pera, led Into the narrow circuit of your walls.
Each one, who bears the sightly quarterings Of the great Baron (he whose name and worth The festival of Thomas still revives)
His knighthood and his privilege retain’d; Albeit one, who borders them With gold,
This day is mingled with the common herd. In Borgo yet the Gualterotti dwelt,
And Importuni: well for its repose
Had it still lack’d of newer neighbourhood. The house, from whence your tears have had their spring, Through the just anger that hath murder’d ye And put a period to your gladsome days,
Was honour’d, it, and those consorted with it. O Buondelmonte! what ill counseling
Prevail’d on thee to break the plighted bond Many, who now are weeping, would rejoice, Had God to Ema giv’n thee, the first time Thou near our city cam’st. But so was doom’d: On that maim’d stone set up to guard the bridge, At thy last peace, the victim, Florence! fell. With these and others like to them, I saw Florence in such assur’d tranquility,
She had no cause at which to grieve: with these Saw her so glorious and so just, that ne’er The lily from the lance had hung reverse, Or through division been with vermeil dyed.”

CANTO XVII

Such as the youth, who came to Clymene To certify himself of that reproach,
Which had been fasten’d on him, (he whose end Still makes the fathers chary to their sons, E’en such was I; nor unobserv’d was such Of Beatrice, and that saintly lamp,
Who had erewhile for me his station mov’d; When thus by lady: “Give thy wish free vent, That it may issue, bearing true report
Of the mind’s impress; not that aught thy words May to our knowledge add, but to the end, That thou mayst use thyself to own thy thirst And men may mingle for thee when they hear.” “O plant! from whence I spring! rever’d and lov’d! Who soar’st so high a pitch, thou seest as clear, As earthly thought determines two obtuse In one triangle not contain’d, so clear
Dost see contingencies, ere in themselves Existent, looking at the point whereto
All times are present, I, the whilst I scal’d With Virgil the soul purifying mount,
And visited the nether world of woe, Touching my future destiny have heard
Words grievous, though I feel me on all sides Well squar’d to fortune’s blows. Therefore my will Were satisfied to know the lot awaits me, The arrow, seen beforehand, slacks its flight.” So said I to the brightness, which erewhile To me had spoken, and my will declar’d,
As Beatrice will’d, explicitly.
Nor with oracular response obscure, Such, as or ere the Lamb of God was slain, Beguil’d the credulous nations; but, in terms Precise and unambiguous lore, replied
The spirit of paternal love, enshrin’d, Yet in his smile apparent; and thus spake: “Contingency, unfolded not to view
Upon the tablet of your mortal mold, Is all depictur’d in the’ eternal sight; But hence deriveth not necessity,
More then the tall ship, hurried down the flood, Doth from the vision, that reflects the scene. From thence, as to the ear sweet harmony From organ comes, so comes before mine eye The time prepar’d for thee. Such as driv’n out From Athens, by his cruel stepdame’s wiles, Hippolytus departed, such must thou
Depart from Florence. This they wish, and this Contrive, and will ere long effectuate, there, Where gainful merchandize is made of Christ, Throughout the livelong day. The common cry, Will, as ‘t is ever wont, affix the blame Unto the party injur’d: but the truth
Shall, in the vengeance it dispenseth, find A faithful witness. Thou shall leave each thing Belov’d most dearly: this is the first shaft Shot from the bow of exile. Thou shalt prove How salt the savour is of other’s bread, How hard the passage to descend and climb By other’s stairs, But that shall gall thee most Will he the worthless and vile company,
With whom thou must be thrown into these straits. For all ungrateful, impious all and mad, Shall turn ‘gainst thee: but in a little while Theirs and not thine shall be the crimson’d brow Their course shall so evince their brutishness T’ have ta’en thy stand apart shall well become thee. “First refuge thou must find, first place of rest, In the great Lombard’s courtesy, who bears Upon the ladder perch’d the sacred bird. He shall behold thee with such kind regard, That ‘twixt ye two, the contrary to that Which falls ‘twixt other men, the granting shall Forerun the asking. With him shalt thou see That mortal, who was at his birth impress So strongly from this star, that of his deeds The nations shall take note. His unripe age Yet holds him from observance; for these wheels Only nine years have compass him about.
But, ere the Gascon practice on great Harry, Sparkles of virtue shall shoot forth in him, In equal scorn of labours and of gold.
His bounty shall be spread abroad so widely, As not to let the tongues e’en of his foes Be idle in its praise. Look thou to him
And his beneficence: for he shall cause Reversal of their lot to many people,
Rich men and beggars interchanging fortunes. And thou shalt bear this written in thy soul Of him, but tell it not; “and things he told Incredible to those who witness them;
Then added: “So interpret thou, my son, What hath been told thee.–Lo! the ambushment That a few circling seasons hide for thee! Yet envy not thy neighbours: time extends Thy span beyond their treason’s chastisement.” Soon, as the saintly spirit, by his silence, Had shown the web, which I had streteh’d for him Upon the warp, was woven, I began,
As one, who in perplexity desires
Counsel of other, wise, benign and friendly: “My father! well I mark how time spurs on Toward me, ready to inflict the blow,
Which falls most heavily on him, who most Abandoned himself. Therefore ‘t is good
I should forecast, that driven from the place Most dear to me, I may not lose myself
All others by my song. Down through the world Of infinite mourning, and along the mount From whose fair height my lady’s eyes did lift me, And after through this heav’n from light to light, Have I learnt that, which if I tell again, It may with many woefully disrelish;
And, if I am a timid friend to truth, I fear my life may perish among those,
To whom these days shall be of ancient date.” The brightness, where enclos’d the treasure smil’d, Which I had found there, first shone glisteningly, Like to a golden mirror in the sun;
Next answer’d: “Conscience, dimm’d or by its own Or other’s shame, will feel thy saying sharp. Thou, notwithstanding, all deceit remov’d, See the whole vision be made manifest.
And let them wince who have their withers wrung. What though, when tasted first, thy voice shall prove Unwelcome, on digestion it will turn
To vital nourishment. The cry thou raisest, Shall, as the wind doth, smite the proudest summits; Which is of honour no light argument,
For this there only have been shown to thee, Throughout these orbs, the mountain, and the deep, Spirits, whom fame hath note of. For the mind Of him, who hears, is loth to acquiesce
And fix its faith, unless the instance brought Be palpable, and proof apparent urge.”

CANTO XVIII

Now in his word, sole, ruminating, joy’d That blessed spirit; and I fed on mine,
Tempting the sweet with bitter: she meanwhile, Who led me unto God, admonish’d: “Muse
On other thoughts: bethink thee, that near Him I dwell, who recompenseth every wrong.”
At the sweet sounds of comfort straight I turn’d; And, in the saintly eyes what love was seen, I leave in silence here: nor through distrust Of my words only, but that to such bliss The mind remounts not without aid. Thus much Yet may I speak; that, as I gaz’d on her, Affection found no room for other wish.
While the everlasting pleasure, that did full On Beatrice shine, with second view
From her fair countenance my gladden’d soul Contented; vanquishing me with a beam
Of her soft smile, she spake: “Turn thee, and list. These eyes are not thy only Paradise.”
As here we sometimes in the looks may see Th’ affection mark’d, when that its sway hath ta’en The spirit wholly; thus the hallow’d light, To whom I turn’d, flashing, bewray’d its will To talk yet further with me, and began:
“On this fifth lodgment of the tree, whose life Is from its top, whose fruit is ever fair And leaf unwith’ring, blessed spirits abide, That were below, ere they arriv’d in heav’n, So mighty in renown, as every muse
Might grace her triumph with them. On the horns Look therefore of the cross: he, whom I name, Shall there enact, as doth 1n summer cloud Its nimble fire.” Along the cross I saw, At the repeated name of Joshua,
A splendour gliding; nor, the word was said, Ere it was done: then, at the naming saw Of the great Maccabee, another move
With whirling speed; and gladness was the scourge Unto that top. The next for Charlemagne
And for the peer Orlando, two my gaze Pursued, intently, as the eye pursues
A falcon flying. Last, along the cross, William, and Renard, and Duke Godfrey drew My ken, and Robert Guiscard. And the soul, Who spake with me among the other lights Did move away, and mix; and with the choir Of heav’nly songsters prov’d his tuneful skill. To Beatrice on my right l bent,
Looking for intimation or by word
Or act, what next behoov’d; and did descry Such mere effulgence in her eyes, such joy, It past all former wont. And, as by sense Of new delight, the man, who perseveres
In good deeds doth perceive from day to day His virtue growing; I e’en thus perceiv’d Of my ascent, together with the heav’n
The circuit widen’d, noting the increase Of beauty in that wonder. Like the change In a brief moment on some maiden’s cheek, Which from its fairness doth discharge the weight Of pudency, that stain’d it; such in her, And to mine eyes so sudden was the change, Through silvery whiteness of that temperate star, Whose sixth orb now enfolded us. I saw,
Within that Jovial cresset, the clear sparks Of love, that reign’d there, fashion to my view Our language. And as birds, from river banks Arisen, now in round, now lengthen’d troop, Array them in their flight, greeting, as seems, Their new-found pastures; so, within the lights, The saintly creatures flying, sang, and made Now D. now I. now L. figur’d I’ th’ air. First, singing, to their notes they mov’d, then one Becoming of these signs, a little while
Did rest them, and were mute. O nymph divine Of Pegasean race! whose souls, which thou Inspir’st, mak’st glorious and long-liv’d, as they Cities and realms by thee! thou with thyself Inform me; that I may set forth the shapes, As fancy doth present them. Be thy power Display’d in this brief song. The characters, Vocal and consonant, were five-fold seven. In order each, as they appear’d, I mark’d. Diligite Justitiam, the first,
Both verb and noun all blazon’d; and the extreme Qui judicatis terram. In the M.
Of the fifth word they held their station, Making the star seem silver streak’d with gold. And on the summit of the M. I saw
Descending other lights, that rested there, Singing, methinks, their bliss and primal good. Then, as at shaking of a lighted brand,
Sparkles innumerable on all sides
Rise scatter’d, source of augury to th’ unwise; Thus more than thousand twinkling lustres hence Seem’d reascending, and a higher pitch
Some mounting, and some less; e’en as the sun, Which kindleth them, decreed. And when each one Had settled in his place, the head and neck Then saw I of an eagle, lively
Grav’d in that streaky fire. Who painteth there, Hath none to guide him; of himself he guides; And every line and texture of the nest
Doth own from him the virtue, fashions it. The other bright beatitude, that seem’d
Erewhile, with lilied crowning, well content To over-canopy the M. mov’d forth,
Following gently the impress of the bird. Sweet star! what glorious and thick-studded gems Declar’d to me our justice on the earth
To be the effluence of that heav’n, which thou, Thyself a costly jewel, dost inlay!
Therefore I pray the Sovran Mind, from whom Thy motion and thy virtue are begun,
That he would look from whence the fog doth rise, To vitiate thy beam: so that once more
He may put forth his hand ‘gainst such, as drive Their traffic in that sanctuary, whose walls With miracles and martyrdoms were built. Ye host of heaven! whose glory I survey l O beg ye grace for those, that are on earth All after ill example gone astray.
War once had for its instrument the sword: But now ‘t is made, taking the bread away Which the good Father locks from none. –And thou, That writes but to cancel, think, that they, Who for the vineyard, which thou wastest, died, Peter and Paul live yet, and mark thy doings. Thou hast good cause to cry, “My heart so cleaves To him, that liv’d in solitude remote,
And from the wilds was dragg’d to martyrdom, I wist not of the fisherman nor Paul.”

CANTO XIX

Before my sight appear’d, with open wings, The beauteous image, in fruition sweet
Gladdening the thronged spirits. Each did seem A little ruby, whereon so intense
The sun-beam glow’d that to mine eyes it came In clear refraction. And that, which next Befalls me to portray, voice hath not utter’d, Nor hath ink written, nor in fantasy
Was e’er conceiv’d. For I beheld and heard The beak discourse; and, what intention form’d Of many, singly as of one express,
Beginning: “For that I was just and piteous, l am exalted to this height of glory,
The which no wish exceeds: and there on earth Have I my memory left, e’en by the bad
Commended, while they leave its course untrod.” Thus is one heat from many embers felt, As in that image many were the loves,
And one the voice, that issued from them all. Whence I address them: “O perennial flowers Of gladness everlasting! that exhale
In single breath your odours manifold! Breathe now; and let the hunger be appeas’d, That with great craving long hath held my soul, Finding no food on earth. This well I know, That if there be in heav’n a realm, that shows In faithful mirror the celestial Justice, Yours without veil reflects it. Ye discern The heed, wherewith I do prepare myself
To hearken; ye the doubt that urges me With such inveterate craving.” Straight I saw, Like to a falcon issuing from the hood,
That rears his head, and claps him with his wings, His beauty and his eagerness bewraying.
So saw I move that stately sign, with praise Of grace divine inwoven and high song
Of inexpressive joy. “He,” it began, “Who turn’d his compass on the world’s extreme, And in that space so variously hath wrought, Both openly, and in secret, in such wise Could not through all the universe display Impression of his glory, that the Word
Of his omniscience should not still remain In infinite excess. In proof whereof,
He first through pride supplanted, who was sum Of each created being, waited not
For light celestial, and abortive fell. Whence needs each lesser nature is but scant Receptacle unto that Good, which knows
No limit, measur’d by itself alone. Therefore your sight, of th’ omnipresent Mind A single beam, its origin must own
Surpassing far its utmost potency.
The ken, your world is gifted with, descends In th’ everlasting Justice as low down,
As eye doth in the sea; which though it mark The bottom from the shore, in the wide main Discerns it not; and ne’ertheless it is, But hidden through its deepness. Light is none, Save that which cometh from the pure serene Of ne’er disturbed ether: for the rest,
‘Tis darkness all, or shadow of the flesh, Or else its poison. Here confess reveal’d That covert, which hath hidden from thy search The living justice, of the which thou mad’st Such frequent question; for thou saidst–‘A man Is born on Indus’ banks, and none is there Who speaks of Christ, nor who doth read nor write, And all his inclinations and his acts,
As far as human reason sees, are good, And he offendeth not in word or deed.
But unbaptiz’d he dies, and void of faith. Where is the justice that condemns him? where His blame, if he believeth not?’–What then, And who art thou, that on the stool wouldst sit To judge at distance of a thousand miles With the short-sighted vision of a span? To him, who subtilizes thus with me,
There would assuredly be room for doubt Even to wonder, did not the safe word
Of scripture hold supreme authority. “O animals of clay! O spirits gross I The primal will, that in itself is good, Hath from itself, the chief Good, ne’er been mov’d. Justice consists in consonance with it,
Derivable by no created good,
Whose very cause depends upon its beam.” As on her nest the stork, that turns about Unto her young, whom lately she hath fed, While they with upward eyes do look on her; So lifted I my gaze; and bending so
The ever-blessed image wav’d its wings, Lab’ring with such deep counsel. Wheeling round It warbled, and did say: “As are my notes To thee, who understand’st them not, such is Th’ eternal judgment unto mortal ken.”
Then still abiding in that ensign rang’d, Wherewith the Romans over-awed the world, Those burning splendours of the Holy Spirit Took up the strain; and thus it spake again: “None ever hath ascended to this realm,
Who hath not a believer been in Christ, Either before or after the blest limbs
Were nail’d upon the wood. But lo! of those Who call ‘Christ, Christ,’ there shall be many found, In judgment, further off from him by far, Than such, to whom his name was never known. Christians like these the Ethiop shall condemn: When that the two assemblages shall part; One rich eternally, the other poor.
“What may the Persians say unto your kings, When they shall see that volume, in the which All their dispraise is written, spread to view? There amidst Albert’s works shall that be read, Which will give speedy motion to the pen, When Prague shall mourn her desolated realm. There shall be read the woe, that he doth work With his adulterate money on the Seine,
Who by the tusk will perish: there be read The thirsting pride, that maketh fool alike The English and Scot, impatient of their bound. There shall be seen the Spaniard’s luxury, The delicate living there of the Bohemian, Who still to worth has been a willing stranger. The halter of Jerusalem shall see
A unit for his virtue, for his vices No less a mark than million. He, who guards The isle of fire by old Anchises honour’d Shall find his avarice there and cowardice; And better to denote his littleness,
The writing must be letters maim’d, that speak Much in a narrow space. All there shall know His uncle and his brother’s filthy doings, Who so renown’d a nation and two crowns
Have bastardized. And they, of Portugal And Norway, there shall be expos’d with him Of Ratza, who hath counterfeited ill
The coin of Venice. O blest Hungary! If thou no longer patiently abid’st
Thy ill-entreating! and, O blest Navarre! If with thy mountainous girdle thou wouldst arm thee In earnest of that day, e’en now are heard Wailings and groans in Famagosta’s streets And Nicosia’s, grudging at their beast,
Who keepeth even footing with the rest.”

CANTO XX

When, disappearing, from our hemisphere, The world’s enlightener vanishes, and day On all sides wasteth, suddenly the sky,
Erewhile irradiate only with his beam, Is yet again unfolded, putting forth
Innumerable lights wherein one shines. Of such vicissitude in heaven I thought, As the great sign, that marshaleth the world And the world’s leaders, in the blessed beak Was silent; for that all those living lights, Waxing in splendour, burst forth into songs, Such as from memory glide and fall away. Sweet love! that dost apparel thee in smiles, How lustrous was thy semblance in those sparkles, Which merely are from holy thoughts inspir’d! After the precious and bright beaming stones, That did ingem the sixth light, ceas’d the chiming Of their angelic bells; methought I heard The murmuring of a river, that doth fall From rock to rock transpicuous, making known The richness of his spring-head: and as sound Of cistern, at the fret-board, or of pipe, Is, at the wind-hole, modulate and tun’d; Thus up the neck, as it were hollow, rose That murmuring of the eagle, and forthwith Voice there assum’d, and thence along the beak Issued in form of words, such as my heart Did look for, on whose tables I inscrib’d them. “The part in me, that sees, and bears the sun,, In mortal eagles,” it began, “must now
Be noted steadfastly: for of the fires, That figure me, those, glittering in mine eye, Are chief of all the greatest. This, that shines Midmost for pupil, was the same, who sang The Holy Spirit’s song, and bare about
The ark from town to town; now doth he know The merit of his soul-impassion’d strains By their well-fitted guerdon. Of the five, That make the circle of the vision, he
Who to the beak is nearest, comforted The widow for her son: now doth he know
How dear he costeth not to follow Christ, Both from experience of this pleasant life, And of its opposite. He next, who follows In the circumference, for the over arch, By true repenting slack’d the pace of death: Now knoweth he, that the degrees of heav’n Alter not, when through pious prayer below Today’s is made tomorrow’s destiny.
The other following, with the laws and me, To yield the shepherd room, pass’d o’er to Greece, From good intent producing evil fruit:
Now knoweth he, how all the ill, deriv’d From his well doing, doth not helm him aught, Though it have brought destruction on the world. That, which thou seest in the under bow, Was William, whom that land bewails, which weeps For Charles and Frederick living: now he knows How well is lov’d in heav’n the righteous king, Which he betokens by his radiant seeming. Who in the erring world beneath would deem, That Trojan Ripheus in this round was set Fifth of the saintly splendours? now he knows Enough of that, which the world cannot see, The grace divine, albeit e’en his sight
Reach not its utmost depth.” Like to the lark, That warbling in the air expatiates long, Then, trilling out his last sweet melody, Drops satiate with the sweetness; such appear’d That image stampt by the’ everlasting pleasure, Which fashions like itself all lovely things. I, though my doubting were as manifest, As is through glass the hue that mantles it, In silence waited not: for to my lips
“What things are these?” involuntary rush’d, And forc’d a passage out: whereat I mark’d A sudden lightening and new revelry.
The eye was kindled: and the blessed sign No more to keep me wond’ring and suspense, Replied: “I see that thou believ’st these things, Because I tell them, but discern’st not how; So that thy knowledge waits not on thy faith: As one who knows the name of thing by rote, But is a stranger to its properties,
Till other’s tongue reveal them. Fervent love And lively hope with violence assail
The kingdom of the heavens, and overcome The will of the Most high; not in such sort As man prevails o’er man; but conquers it, Because ‘t is willing to be conquer’d, still, Though conquer’d, by its mercy conquering. “Those, in the eye who live the first and fifth, Cause thee to marvel, in that thou behold’st The region of the angels deck’d with them. They quitted not their bodies, as thou deem’st, Gentiles but Christians, in firm rooted faith, This of the feet in future to be pierc’d, That of feet nail’d already to the cross. One from the barrier of the dark abyss,
Where never any with good will returns, Came back unto his bones. Of lively hope Such was the meed; of lively hope, that wing’d The prayers sent up to God for his release, And put power into them to bend his will. The glorious Spirit, of whom I speak to thee, A little while returning to the flesh,
Believ’d in him, who had the means to help, And, in believing, nourish’d such a flame Of holy love, that at the second death
He was made sharer in our gamesome mirth. The other, through the riches of that grace, Which from so deep a fountain doth distil, As never eye created saw its rising,
Plac’d all his love below on just and right: Wherefore of grace God op’d in him the eye To the redemption of mankind to come;
Wherein believing, he endur’d no more The filth of paganism, and for their ways Rebuk’d the stubborn nations. The three nymphs, Whom at the right wheel thou beheldst advancing, Were sponsors for him more than thousand years Before baptizing. O how far remov’d,
Predestination! is thy root from such As see not the First cause entire: and ye, O mortal men! be wary how ye judge:
For we, who see our Maker, know not yet The number of the chosen: and esteem
Such scantiness of knowledge our delight: For all our good is in that primal good
Concentrate, and God’s will and ours are one.” So, by that form divine, was giv’n to me Sweet medicine to clear and strengthen sight, And, as one handling skillfully the harp, Attendant on some skilful songster’s voice Bids the chords vibrate, and therein the song Acquires more pleasure; so, the whilst it spake, It doth remember me, that I beheld
The pair of blessed luminaries move. Like the accordant twinkling of two eyes, Their beamy circlets, dancing to the sounds.

CANTO XXI

Again mine eyes were fix’d on Beatrice, And with mine eyes my soul, that in her looks Found all contentment. Yet no smile she wore And, “Did I smile,” quoth she, “thou wouldst be straight Like Semele when into ashes turn’d:
For, mounting these eternal palace-stairs, My beauty, which the loftier it climbs,
As thou hast noted, still doth kindle more, So shines, that, were no temp’ring interpos’d, Thy mortal puissance would from its rays Shrink, as the leaf doth from the thunderbolt. Into the seventh splendour are we wafted, That underneath the burning lion’s breast Beams, in this hour, commingled with his might, Thy mind be with thine eyes: and in them mirror’d The shape, which in this mirror shall be shown.” Whoso can deem, how fondly I had fed
My sight upon her blissful countenance, May know, when to new thoughts I chang’d, what joy To do the bidding of my heav’nly guide:
In equal balance poising either weight. Within the crystal, which records the name, (As its remoter circle girds the world)
Of that lov’d monarch, in whose happy reign No ill had power to harm, I saw rear’d up, In colour like to sun-illumin’d gold.
A ladder, which my ken pursued in vain, So lofty was the summit; down whose steps I saw the splendours in such multitude
Descending, ev’ry light in heav’n, methought, Was shed thence. As the rooks, at dawn of day Bestirring them to dry their feathers chill, Some speed their way a-field, and homeward some, Returning, cross their flight, while some abide And wheel around their airy lodge; so seem’d That glitterance, wafted on alternate wing, As upon certain stair it met, and clash’d Its shining. And one ling’ring near us, wax’d So bright, that in my thought: said: “The love, Which this betokens me, admits no doubt.” Unwillingly from question I refrain,
To her, by whom my silence and my speech Are order’d, looking for a sign: whence she, Who in the sight of Him, that seeth all, Saw wherefore I was silent, prompted me
T’ indulge the fervent wish; and I began: “I am not worthy, of my own desert,
That thou shouldst answer me; but for her sake, Who hath vouchsaf’d my asking, spirit blest! That in thy joy art shrouded! say the cause, Which bringeth thee so near: and wherefore, say, Doth the sweet symphony of Paradise
Keep silence here, pervading with such sounds Of rapt devotion ev’ry lower sphere?”
“Mortal art thou in hearing as in sight;” Was the reply: “and what forbade the smile Of Beatrice interrupts our song.
Only to yield thee gladness of my voice, And of the light that vests me, I thus far Descend these hallow’d steps: not that more love Invites me; for lo! there aloft, as much Or more of love is witness’d in those flames: But such my lot by charity assign’d,
That makes us ready servants, as thou seest, To execute the counsel of the Highest.
“That in this court,” said I, “O sacred lamp! Love no compulsion needs, but follows free Th’ eternal Providence, I well discern:
This harder find to deem, why of thy peers Thou only to this office wert foredoom’d.” I had not ended, when, like rapid mill,
Upon its centre whirl’d the light; and then The love, that did inhabit there, replied: “Splendour eternal, piercing through these folds, Its virtue to my vision knits, and thus
Supported, lifts me so above myself, That on the sov’ran essence, which it wells from, I have the power to gaze: and hence the joy, Wherewith I sparkle, equaling with my blaze The keenness of my sight. But not the soul, That is in heav’n most lustrous, nor the seraph That hath his eyes most fix’d on God, shall solve What thou hast ask’d: for in th’ abyss it lies Of th’ everlasting statute sunk so low,
That no created ken may fathom it.
And, to the mortal world when thou return’st, Be this reported; that none henceforth dare Direct his footsteps to so dread a bourn. The mind, that here is radiant, on the earth Is wrapt in mist. Look then if she may do, Below, what passeth her ability,
When she is ta’en to heav’n.” By words like these Admonish’d, I the question urg’d no more; And of the spirit humbly sued alone
T’ instruct me of its state. “‘Twixt either shore Of Italy, nor distant from thy land,
A stony ridge ariseth, in such sort, The thunder doth not lift his voice so high, They call it Catria: at whose foot a cell Is sacred to the lonely Eremite,
For worship set apart and holy rites.” A third time thus it spake; then added: “There So firmly to God’s service I adher’d,
That with no costlier viands than the juice Of olives, easily I pass’d the heats
Of summer and the winter frosts, content In heav’n-ward musings. Rich were the returns And fertile, which that cloister once was us’d To render to these heavens: now ‘t is fall’n Into a waste so empty, that ere long
Detection must lay bare its vanity
Pietro Damiano there was I y-clept: Pietro the sinner, when before I dwelt
Beside the Adriatic, in the house
Of our blest Lady. Near upon my close Of mortal life, through much importuning I was constrain’d to wear the hat that still From bad to worse it shifted.–Cephas came; He came, who was the Holy Spirit’s vessel, Barefoot and lean, eating their bread, as chanc’d, At the first table. Modern Shepherd’s need Those who on either hand may prop and lead them, So burly are they grown: and from behind Others to hoist them. Down the palfrey’s sides Spread their broad mantles, so as both the beasts Are cover’d with one skin. O patience! thou That lookst on this and doth endure so long.” I at those accents saw the splendours down From step to step alight, and wheel, and wax, Each circuiting, more beautiful. Round this They came, and stay’d them; uttered them a shout So loud, it hath no likeness here: nor I Wist what it spake, so deaf’ning was the thunder.

CANTO XXII

Astounded, to the guardian of my steps I turn’d me, like the chill, who always runs Thither for succour, where he trusteth most, And she was like the mother, who her son Beholding pale and breathless, with her voice Soothes him, and he is cheer’d; for thus she spake, Soothing me: “Know’st not thou, thou art in heav’n? And know’st not thou, whatever is in heav’n, Is holy, and that nothing there is done
But is done zealously and well? Deem now, What change in thee the song, and what my smile had wrought, since thus the shout had pow’r to move thee. In which couldst thou have understood their prayers, The vengeance were already known to thee, Which thou must witness ere thy mortal hour, The sword of heav’n is not in haste to smite, Nor yet doth linger, save unto his seeming, Who in desire or fear doth look for it.
But elsewhere now l bid thee turn thy view; So shalt thou many a famous spirit behold.” Mine eyes directing, as she will’d, I saw A hundred little spheres, that fairer grew By interchange of splendour. I remain’d, As one, who fearful of o’er-much presuming, Abates in him the keenness of desire,
Nor dares to question, when amid those pearls, One largest and most lustrous onward drew, That it might yield contentment to my wish; And from within it these the sounds I heard. “If thou, like me, beheldst the charity That burns amongst us, what thy mind conceives, Were utter’d. But that, ere the lofty bound Thou reach, expectance may not weary thee, I will make answer even to the thought,
Which thou hast such respect of. In old days, That mountain, at whose side Cassino rests, Was on its height frequented by a race
Deceived and ill dispos’d: and I it was, Who thither carried first the name of Him, Who brought the soul-subliming truth to man. And such a speeding grace shone over me, That from their impious worship I reclaim’d The dwellers round about, who with the world Were in delusion lost. These other flames, The spirits of men contemplative, were all Enliven’d by that warmth, whose kindly force Gives birth to flowers and fruits of holiness. Here is Macarius; Romoaldo here:
And here my brethren, who their steps refrain’d Within the cloisters, and held firm their heart.” I answ’ring, thus; “Thy gentle words and kind, And this the cheerful semblance, I behold Not unobservant, beaming in ye all,
Have rais’d assurance in me, wakening it Full-blossom’d in my bosom, as a rose
Before the sun, when the consummate flower Has spread to utmost amplitude. Of thee
Therefore entreat I, father! to declare If I may gain such favour, as to gaze
Upon thine image, by no covering veil’d.” “Brother!” he thus rejoin’d, “in the last sphere Expect completion of thy lofty aim,
For there on each desire completion waits, And there on mine: where every aim is found Perfect, entire, and for fulfillment ripe. There all things are as they have ever been: For space is none to bound, nor pole divides, Our ladder reaches even to that clime,
And so at giddy distance mocks thy view. Thither the Patriarch Jacob saw it stretch Its topmost round, when it appear’d to him With angels laden. But to mount it now
None lifts his foot from earth: and hence my rule Is left a profitless stain upon the leaves; The walls, for abbey rear’d, turned into dens, The cowls to sacks choak’d up with musty meal. Foul usury doth not more lift itself
Against God’s pleasure, than that fruit which makes The hearts of monks so wanton: for whate’er Is in the church’s keeping, all pertains. To such, as sue for heav’n’s sweet sake, and not To those who in respect of kindred claim, Or on more vile allowance. Mortal flesh
Is grown so dainty, good beginnings last not From the oak’s birth, unto the acorn’s setting. His convent Peter founded without gold
Or silver; I with pray’rs and fasting mine; And Francis his in meek humility.
And if thou note the point, whence each proceeds, Then look what it hath err’d to, thou shalt find The white grown murky. Jordan was turn’d back; And a less wonder, then the refluent sea, May at God’s pleasure work amendment here.” So saying, to his assembly back he drew: And they together cluster’d into one,
Then all roll’d upward like an eddying wind. The sweet dame beckon’d me to follow them: And, by that influence only, so prevail’d Over my nature, that no natural motion,
Ascending or descending here below, Had, as I mounted, with my pennon vied.
So, reader, as my hope is to return Unto the holy triumph, for the which
I ofttimes wail my sins, and smite my breast, Thou hadst been longer drawing out and thrusting Thy finger in the fire, than I was, ere
The sign, that followeth Taurus, I beheld, And enter’d its precinct. O glorious stars! O light impregnate with exceeding virtue! To whom whate’er of genius lifteth me
Above the vulgar, grateful I refer; With ye the parent of all mortal life
Arose and set, when I did first inhale The Tuscan air; and afterward, when grace Vouchsaf’d me entrance to the lofty wheel That in its orb impels ye, fate decreed
My passage at your clime. To you my soul Devoutly sighs, for virtue even now
To meet the hard emprize that draws me on. “Thou art so near the sum of blessedness,” Said Beatrice, “that behooves thy ken
Be vigilant and clear. And, to this end, Or even thou advance thee further, hence Look downward, and contemplate, what a world Already stretched under our feet there lies: So as thy heart may, in its blithest mood, Present itself to the triumphal throng,
Which through the’ etherial concave comes rejoicing.” I straight obey’d; and with mine eye return’d Through all the seven spheres, and saw this globe So pitiful of semblance, that perforce
It moved my smiles: and him in truth I hold For wisest, who esteems it least: whose thoughts Elsewhere are fix’d, him worthiest call and best. I saw the daughter of Latona shine
Without the shadow, whereof late I deem’d That dense and rare were cause. Here I sustain’d The visage, Hyperion! of thy sun;
And mark’d, how near him with their circle, round Move Maia and Dione; here discern’d
Jove’s tempering ‘twixt his sire and son; and hence Their changes and their various aspects
Distinctly scann’d. Nor might I not descry Of all the seven, how bulky each, how swift; Nor of their several distances not learn. This petty area (o’er the which we stride So fiercely), as along the eternal twins I wound my way, appear’d before me all,
Forth from the havens stretch’d unto the hills. Then to the beauteous eyes mine eyes return’d.

CANTO XXIII

E’en as the bird, who midst the leafy bower Has, in her nest, sat darkling through the night, With her sweet brood, impatient to descry Their wished looks, and to bring home their food, In the fond quest unconscious of her toil: She, of the time prevenient, on the spray, That overhangs their couch, with wakeful gaze Expects the sun; nor ever, till the dawn, Removeth from the east her eager ken;
So stood the dame erect, and bent her glance Wistfully on that region, where the sun
Abateth most his speed; that, seeing her Suspense and wand’ring, I became as one, In whom desire is waken’d, and the hope
Of somewhat new to come fills with delight. Short space ensued; I was not held, I say, Long in expectance, when I saw the heav’n Wax more and more resplendent; and, “Behold,” Cried Beatrice, “the triumphal hosts
Of Christ, and all the harvest reap’d at length Of thy ascending up these spheres.” Meseem’d, That, while she spake her image all did burn, And in her eyes such fullness was of joy, And I am fain to pass unconstrued by.
As in the calm full moon, when Trivia smiles, In peerless beauty, ‘mid th’ eternal nympus, That paint through all its gulfs the blue profound In bright pre-eminence so saw I there,
O’er million lamps a sun, from whom all drew Their radiance as from ours the starry train: And through the living light so lustrous glow’d The substance, that my ken endur’d it not. O Beatrice! sweet and precious guide! Who cheer’d me with her comfortable words! “Against the virtue, that o’erpow’reth thee, Avails not to resist. Here is the might, And here the wisdom, which did open lay
The path, that had been yearned for so long, Betwixt the heav’n and earth.” Like to the fire, That, in a cloud imprison’d doth break out Expansive, so that from its womb enlarg’d, It falleth against nature to the ground; Thus in that heav’nly banqueting my soul Outgrew herself; and, in the transport lost. Holds now remembrance none of what she was. “Ope thou thine eyes, and mark me: thou hast seen Things, that empower thee to sustain my smile.” I was as one, when a forgotten dream
Doth come across him, and he strives in vain To shape it in his fantasy again,
Whenas that gracious boon was proffer’d me, Which never may be cancel’d from the book, Wherein the past is written. Now were all Those tongues to sound, that have on sweetest milk Of Polyhymnia and her sisters fed
And fatten’d, not with all their help to boot, Unto the thousandth parcel of the truth, My song might shadow forth that saintly smile, flow merely in her saintly looks it wrought. And with such figuring of Paradise
The sacred strain must leap, like one, that meets A sudden interruption to his road.
But he, who thinks how ponderous the theme, And that ‘t is lain upon a mortal shoulder, May pardon, if it tremble with the burden. The track, our ventrous keel must furrow, brooks No unribb’d pinnace, no self-sparing pilot. “Why doth my face,” said Beatrice, “thus Enamour thee, as that thou dost not turn Unto the beautiful garden, blossoming
Beneath the rays of Christ? Here is the rose, Wherein the word divine was made incarnate; And here the lilies, by whose odour known The way of life was follow’d.” Prompt I heard Her bidding, and encounter once again
The strife of aching vision. As erewhile, Through glance of sunlight, stream’d through broken cloud, Mine eyes a flower-besprinkled mead have seen, Though veil’d themselves in shade; so saw I there Legions of splendours, on whom burning rays Shed lightnings from above, yet saw I not The fountain whence they flow’d. O gracious virtue! Thou, whose broad stamp is on them, higher up Thou didst exalt thy glory to give room
To my o’erlabour’d sight: when at the name Of that fair flower, whom duly I invoke
Both morn and eve, my soul, with all her might Collected, on the goodliest ardour fix’d. And, as the bright dimensions of the star In heav’n excelling, as once here on earth Were, in my eyeballs lively portray’d,
Lo! from within the sky a cresset fell, Circling in fashion of a diadem,
And girt the star, and hov’ring round it wheel’d. Whatever melody sounds sweetest here, And draws the spirit most unto itself,
Might seem a rent cloud when it grates the thunder, Compar’d unto the sounding of that lyre, Wherewith the goodliest sapphire, that inlays The floor of heav’n, was crown’d. ” Angelic Love I am, who thus with hov’ring flight enwheel The lofty rapture from that womb inspir’d, Where our desire did dwell: and round thee so, Lady of Heav’n! will hover; long as thou Thy Son shalt follow, and diviner joy
Shall from thy presence gild the highest sphere.” Such close was to the circling melody: And, as it ended, all the other lights
Took up the strain, and echoed Mary’s name. The robe, that with its regal folds enwraps The world, and with the nearer breath of God Doth burn and quiver, held so far retir’d Its inner hem and skirting over us,
That yet no glimmer of its majesty
Had stream’d unto me: therefore were mine eyes Unequal to pursue the crowned flame,
That rose and sought its natal seed of fire; And like to babe, that stretches forth its arms For very eagerness towards the breast,
After the milk is taken; so outstretch’d Their wavy summits all the fervent band, Through zealous love to Mary: then in view There halted, and “Regina Coeli ” sang
So sweetly, the delight hath left me never. O what o’erflowing plenty is up-pil’d In those rich-laden coffers, which below Sow’d the good seed, whose harvest now they keep. Here are the treasures tasted, that with tears Were in the Babylonian exile won,
When gold had fail’d them. Here in synod high Of ancient council with the new conven’d, Under the Son of Mary and of God,
Victorious he his mighty triumph holds, To whom the keys of glory were assign’d.

CANTO XXIV

“O ye! in chosen fellowship advanc’d
To the great supper of the blessed Lamb, Whereon who feeds hath every wish fulfill’d! If to this man through God’s grace be vouchsaf’d Foretaste of that, which from your table falls, Or ever death his fated term prescribe;
Be ye not heedless of his urgent will; But may some influence of your sacred dews Sprinkle him. Of the fount ye alway drink, Whence flows what most he craves.” Beatrice spake, And the rejoicing spirits, like to spheres On firm-set poles revolving, trail’d a blaze Of comet splendour; and as wheels, that wind Their circles in the horologe, so work
The stated rounds, that to th’ observant eye The first seems still, and, as it flew, the last; E’en thus their carols weaving variously, They by the measure pac’d, or swift, or slow, Made me to rate the riches of their joy. From that, which I did note in beauty most Excelling, saw I issue forth a flame
So bright, as none was left more goodly there. Round Beatrice thrice it wheel’d about,
With so divine a song, that fancy’s ear Records it not; and the pen passeth on
And leaves a blank: for that our mortal speech, Nor e’en the inward shaping of the brain, Hath colours fine enough to trace such folds. “O saintly sister mine! thy prayer devout Is with so vehement affection urg’d,
Thou dost unbind me from that beauteous sphere.” Such were the accents towards my lady breath’d From that blest ardour, soon as it was stay’d: To whom she thus: “O everlasting light
Of him, within whose mighty grasp our Lord Did leave the keys, which of this wondrous bliss He bare below! tent this man, as thou wilt, With lighter probe or deep, touching the faith, By the which thou didst on the billows walk. If he in love, in hope, and in belief,
Be steadfast, is not hid from thee: for thou Hast there thy ken, where all things are beheld In liveliest portraiture. But since true faith Has peopled this fair realm with citizens, Meet is, that to exalt its glory more,
Thou in his audience shouldst thereof discourse.” Like to the bachelor, who arms himself, And speaks not, till the master have propos’d The question, to approve, and not to end it; So I, in silence, arm’d me, while she spake, Summoning up each argument to aid;
As was behooveful for such questioner, And such profession: “As good Christian ought, Declare thee, What is faith?” Whereat I rais’d My forehead to the light, whence this had breath’d, Then turn’d to Beatrice, and in her looks Approval met, that from their inmost fount I should unlock the waters. “May the grace, That giveth me the captain of the church For confessor,” said I, “vouchsafe to me Apt utterance for my thoughts!” then added: “Sire! E’en as set down by the unerring style
Of thy dear brother, who with thee conspir’d To bring Rome in unto the way of life,
Faith of things hop’d is substance, and the proof Of things not seen; and herein doth consist Methinks its essence,”–” Rightly hast thou deem’d,” Was answer’d: “if thou well discern, why first He hath defin’d it, substance, and then proof.” “The deep things,” I replied, “which here I scan Distinctly, are below from mortal eye
So hidden, they have in belief alone Their being, on which credence hope sublime Is built; and therefore substance it intends. And inasmuch as we must needs infer
From such belief our reasoning, all respect To other view excluded, hence of proof
Th’ intention is deriv’d.” Forthwith I heard: “If thus, whate’er by learning men attain, Were understood, the sophist would want room To exercise his wit.” So breath’d the flame Of love: then added: “Current is the coin Thou utter’st, both in weight and in alloy. But tell me, if thou hast it in thy purse.” “Even so glittering and so round,” said I, “I not a whit misdoubt of its assay.”
Next issued from the deep imbosom’d splendour: “Say, whence the costly jewel, on the which Is founded every virtue, came to thee.”
“The flood,” I answer’d, “from the Spirit of God Rain’d down upon the ancient bond and new,– Here is the reas’ning, that convinceth me So feelingly, each argument beside
Seems blunt and forceless in comparison.” Then heard I: “Wherefore holdest thou that each, The elder proposition and the new,
Which so persuade thee, are the voice of heav’n?” “The works, that follow’d, evidence their truth; ” I answer’d: “Nature did not make for these The iron hot, or on her anvil mould them.” “Who voucheth to thee of the works themselves, Was the reply, “that they in very deed
Are that they purport? None hath sworn so to thee.” “That all the world,” said I, “should have bee turn’d To Christian, and no miracle been wrought, Would in itself be such a miracle,
The rest were not an hundredth part so great. E’en thou wentst forth in poverty and hunger To set the goodly plant, that from the vine, It once was, now is grown unsightly bramble.” That ended, through the high celestial court Resounded all the spheres. “Praise we one God!” In song of most unearthly melody.
And when that Worthy thus, from branch to branch, Examining, had led me, that we now
Approach’d the topmost bough, he straight resum’d; “The grace, that holds sweet dalliance with thy soul, So far discreetly hath thy lips unclos’d That, whatsoe’er has past them, I commend. Behooves thee to express, what thou believ’st, The next, and whereon thy belief hath grown.” “O saintly sire and spirit!” I began, “Who seest that, which thou didst so believe, As to outstrip feet younger than thine own, Toward the sepulchre? thy will is here,
That I the tenour of my creed unfold; And thou the cause of it hast likewise ask’d. And I reply: I in one God believe,
One sole eternal Godhead, of whose love All heav’n is mov’d, himself unmov’d the while. Nor demonstration physical alone,
Or more intelligential and abstruse, Persuades me to this faith; but from that truth It cometh to me rather, which is shed
Through Moses, the rapt Prophets, and the Psalms. The Gospel, and that ye yourselves did write, When ye were gifted of the Holy Ghost.
In three eternal Persons I believe, Essence threefold and one, mysterious league Of union absolute, which, many a time,
The word of gospel lore upon my mind Imprints: and from this germ, this firstling spark, The lively flame dilates, and like heav’n’s star Doth glitter in me.” As the master hears, Well pleas’d, and then enfoldeth in his arms The servant, who hath joyful tidings brought, And having told the errand keeps his peace; Thus benediction uttering with song
Soon as my peace I held, compass’d me thrice The apostolic radiance, whose behest
Had op’d lips; so well their answer pleas’d.

CANTO XXV

If e’er the sacred poem that hath made Both heav’n and earth copartners in its toil, And with lean abstinence, through many a year, Faded my brow, be destin’d to prevail
Over the cruelty, which bars me forth Of the fair sheep-fold, where a sleeping lamb The wolves set on and fain had worried me, With other voice and fleece of other grain I shall forthwith return, and, standing up At my baptismal font, shall claim the wreath Due to the poet’s temples: for I there
First enter’d on the faith which maketh souls Acceptable to God: and, for its sake,
Peter had then circled my forehead thus. Next from the squadron, whence had issued forth The first fruit of Christ’s vicars on the earth, Toward us mov’d a light, at view whereof My Lady, full of gladness, spake to me:
“Lo! lo! behold the peer of mickle might, That makes Falicia throng’d with visitants!” As when the ring-dove by his mate alights, In circles each about the other wheels,
And murmuring cooes his fondness; thus saw I One, of the other great and glorious prince, With kindly greeting hail’d, extolling both Their heavenly banqueting; but when an end Was to their gratulation, silent, each,
Before me sat they down, so burning bright, I could not look upon them. Smiling then, Beatrice spake: “O life in glory shrin’d!” Who didst the largess of our kingly court Set down with faithful pen! let now thy voice Of hope the praises in this height resound. For thou, who figur’st them in shapes, as clear, As Jesus stood before thee, well can’st speak them.” “Lift up thy head, and be thou strong in trust: For that, which hither from the mortal world Arriveth, must be ripen’d in our beam.”
Such cheering accents from the second flame Assur’d me; and mine eyes I lifted up
Unto the mountains that had bow’d them late With over-heavy burden. “Sith our Liege
Wills of his grace that thou, or ere thy death, In the most secret council, with his lords Shouldst be confronted, so that having view’d The glories of our court, thou mayst therewith Thyself, and all who hear, invigorate
With hope, that leads to blissful end; declare, What is that hope, how it doth flourish in thee, And whence thou hadst it?” Thus proceeding still, The second light: and she, whose gentle love My soaring pennons in that lofty flight
Escorted, thus preventing me, rejoin’d: Among her sons, not one more full of hope, Hath the church militant: so ‘t is of him Recorded in the sun, whose liberal orb
Enlighteneth all our tribe: and ere his term Of warfare, hence permitted he is come,
From Egypt to Jerusalem, to see.
The other points, both which thou hast inquir’d, Not for more knowledge, but that he may tell How dear thou holdst the virtue, these to him Leave I; for he may answer thee with ease, And without boasting, so God give him grace.” Like to the scholar, practis’d in his task, Who, willing to give proof of diligence, Seconds his teacher gladly, “Hope,” said I, “Is of the joy to come a sure expectance, Th’ effect of grace divine and merit preceding. This light from many a star visits my heart, But flow’d to me the first from him, who sang The songs of the Supreme, himself supreme Among his tuneful brethren. ‘Let all hope In thee,’ so speak his anthem, ‘who have known Thy name;’ and with my faith who know not that? From thee, the next, distilling from his spring, In thine epistle, fell on me the drops
So plenteously, that I on others shower The influence of their dew.” Whileas I spake, A lamping, as of quick and vollied lightning, Within the bosom of that mighty sheen,
Play’d tremulous; then forth these accents breath’d: “Love for the virtue which attended me
E’en to the palm, and issuing from the field, Glows vigorous yet within me, and inspires To ask of thee, whom also it delights;
What promise thou from hope in chief dost win.” “Both scriptures, new and ancient,” I reply’d; “Propose the mark (which even now I view) For souls belov’d of God. Isaias saith,
That, in their own land, each one must be clad In twofold vesture; and their proper lands this delicious life. In terms more full,
And clearer far, thy brother hath set forth This revelation to us, where he tells
Of the white raiment destin’d to the saints.” And, as the words were ending, from above, “They hope in thee,” first heard we cried: whereto Answer’d the carols all. Amidst them next, A light of so clear amplitude emerg’d,
That winter’s month were but a single day, Were such a crystal in the Cancer’s sign. Like as a virgin riseth up, and goes, And enters on the mazes of the dance,
Though gay, yet innocent of worse intent, Than to do fitting honour to the bride;
So I beheld the new effulgence come Unto the other two, who in a ring
Wheel’d, as became their rapture. In the dance And in the song it mingled. And the dame Held on them fix’d her looks: e’en as the spouse Silent and moveless. “This is he, who lay Upon the bosom of our pelican:
This he, into whose keeping from the cross The mighty charge was given.” Thus she spake, Yet therefore naught the more remov’d her Sight From marking them, or ere her words began, Or when they clos’d. As he, who looks intent, And strives with searching ken, how he may see The sun in his eclipse, and, through desire Of seeing, loseth power of sight: so I
Peer’d on that last resplendence, while I heard: “Why dazzlest thou thine eyes in seeking that, Which here abides not? Earth my body is, In earth: and shall be, with the rest, so long, As till our number equal the decree
Of the Most High. The two that have ascended, In this our blessed cloister, shine alone With the two garments. So report below.” As when, for ease of labour, or to shun Suspected peril at a whistle’s breath,
The oars, erewhile dash’d frequent in the wave, All rest; the flamy circle at that voice So rested, and the mingling sound was still, Which from the trinal band soft-breathing rose. I turn’d, but ah! how trembled in my thought, When, looking at my side again to see
Beatrice, I descried her not, although Not distant, on the happy coast she stood.

CANTO XXVI

With dazzled eyes, whilst wond’ring I remain’d, Forth of the beamy flame which dazzled me, Issued a breath, that in attention mute
Detain’d me; and these words it spake: “‘T were well, That, long as till thy vision, on my form O’erspent, regain its virtue, with discourse Thou compensate the brief delay. Say then, Beginning, to what point thy soul aspires: And meanwhile rest assur’d, that sight in thee Is but o’erpowered a space, not wholly quench’d: Since thy fair guide and lovely, in her look Hath potency, the like to that which dwelt In Ananias’ hand.” I answering thus:
“Be to mine eyes the remedy or late Or early, at her pleasure; for they were The gates, at which she enter’d, and did light Her never dying fire. My wishes here
Are centered; in this palace is the weal, That Alpha and Omega, is to all
The lessons love can read me.” Yet again The voice which had dispers’d my fear, when daz’d With that excess, to converse urg’d, and spake: “Behooves thee sift more narrowly thy terms, And say, who level’d at this scope thy bow.” “Philosophy,” said I, ”hath arguments, And this place hath authority enough
‘T’ imprint in me such love: for, of constraint, Good, inasmuch as we perceive the good,
Kindles our love, and in degree the more, As it comprises more of goodness in ‘t.
The essence then, where such advantage is, That each good, found without it, is naught else But of his light the beam, must needs attract The soul of each one, loving, who the truth Discerns, on which this proof is built. Such truth Learn I from him, who shows me the first love Of all intelligential substances
Eternal: from his voice I learn, whose word Is truth, that of himself to Moses saith, ‘I will make all my good before thee pass.’ Lastly from thee I learn, who chief proclaim’st, E’en at the outset of thy heralding,
In mortal ears the mystery of heav’n.” “Through human wisdom, and th’ authority Therewith agreeing,” heard I answer’d, “keep The choicest of thy love for God. But say, If thou yet other cords within thee feel’st That draw thee towards him; so that thou report How many are the fangs, with which this love Is grappled to thy soul.” I did not miss, To what intent the eagle of our Lord
Had pointed his demand; yea noted well Th’ avowal, which he led to; and resum’d: “All grappling bonds, that knit the heart to God, Confederate to make fast our clarity.
The being of the world, and mine own being, The death which he endur’d that I should live, And that, which all the faithful hope, as I do, To the foremention’d lively knowledge join’d, Have from the sea of ill love sav’d my bark, And on the coast secur’d it of the right. As for the leaves, that in the garden bloom, My love for them is great, as is the good Dealt by th’ eternal hand, that tends them all.” I ended, and therewith a song most sweet Rang through the spheres; and “Holy, holy, holy,” Accordant with the rest my lady sang.
And as a sleep is broken and dispers’d Through sharp encounter of the nimble light, With the eye’s spirit running forth to meet The ray, from membrane on to the membrane urg’d; And the upstartled wight loathes that be sees; So, at his sudden waking, he misdeems
Of all around him, till assurance waits On better judgment: thus the saintly came Drove from before mine eyes the motes away, With the resplendence of her own, that cast Their brightness downward, thousand miles below. Whence I my vision, clearer shall before, Recover’d; and, well nigh astounded, ask’d Of a fourth light, that now with us I saw. And Beatrice: “The first diving soul, That ever the first virtue fram’d, admires Within these rays his Maker.” Like the leaf, That bows its lithe top till the blast is blown; By its own virtue rear’d then stands aloof; So I, the whilst she said, awe-stricken bow’d. Then eagerness to speak embolden’d me;
And I began: “O fruit! that wast alone Mature, when first engender’d! Ancient father! That doubly seest in every wedded bride
Thy daughter by affinity and blood! Devoutly as I may, I pray thee hold
Converse with me: my will thou seest; and I, More speedily to hear thee, tell it not ” It chanceth oft some animal bewrays,
Through the sleek cov’ring of his furry coat. The fondness, that stirs in him and conforms His outside seeming to the cheer within: And in like guise was Adam’s spirit mov’d To joyous mood, that through the covering shone, Transparent, when to pleasure me it spake: “No need thy will be told, which I untold Better discern, than thou whatever thing Thou holdst most certain: for that will I see In Him, who is truth’s mirror, and Himself Parhelion unto all things, and naught else To him. This wouldst thou hear; how long since God Plac’d me high garden, from whose hounds She led me up in this ladder, steep and long; What space endur’d my season of delight; Whence truly sprang the wrath that banish’d me; And what the language, which I spake and fram’d Not that I tasted of the tree, my son,
Was in itself the cause of that exile, But only my transgressing of the mark
Assign’d me. There, whence at thy lady’s hest The Mantuan mov’d him, still was I debarr’d This council, till the sun had made complete, Four thousand and three hundred rounds and twice, His annual journey; and, through every light In his broad pathway, saw I him return,
Thousand save sev’nty times, the whilst I dwelt Upon the earth. The language I did use
Was worn away, or ever Nimrod’s race Their unaccomplishable work began.
For naught, that man inclines to, ere was lasting, Left by his reason free, and variable,
As is the sky that sways him. That he speaks, Is nature’s prompting: whether thus or thus, She leaves to you, as ye do most affect it. Ere I descended into hell’s abyss,
El was the name on earth of the Chief Good, Whose joy enfolds me: Eli then ‘t was call’d And so beseemeth: for, in mortals, use
Is as the leaf upon the bough; that goes, And other comes instead. Upon the mount
Most high above the waters, all my life, Both innocent and guilty, did but reach
From the first hour, to that which cometh next (As the sun changes quarter), to the sixth.

CANTO XXVII

Then “Glory to the Father, to the Son, And to the Holy Spirit,” rang aloud
Throughout all Paradise, that with the song My spirit reel’d, so passing sweet the strain: And what I saw was equal ecstasy;
One universal smile it seem’d of all things, Joy past compare, gladness unutterable,
Imperishable life of peace and love, Exhaustless riches and unmeasur’d bliss. Before mine eyes stood the four torches lit; And that, which first had come, began to wax In brightness, and in semblance such became, As Jove might be, if he and Mars were birds, And interchang’d their plumes. Silence ensued, Through the blest quire, by Him, who here appoints Vicissitude of ministry, enjoin’d;
When thus I heard: “Wonder not, if my hue Be chang’d; for, while I speak, these shalt thou see All in like manner change with me. My place He who usurps on earth (my place, ay, mine, Which in the presence of the Son of God
Is void), the same hath made my cemetery A common sewer of puddle and of blood:
The more below his triumph, who from hence Malignant fell.” Such colour, as the sun, At eve or morning, paints and adverse cloud, Then saw I sprinkled over all the sky.
And as th’ unblemish’d dame, who in herself Secure of censure, yet at bare report
Of other’s failing, shrinks with maiden fear; So Beatrice in her semblance chang’d:
And such eclipse in heav’n methinks was seen, When the Most Holy suffer’d. Then the words Proceeded, with voice, alter’d from itself So clean, the semblance did not alter more. “Not to this end was Christ’s spouse with my blood, With that of Linus, and of Cletus fed:
That she might serve for purchase of base gold: But for the purchase of this happy life
Did Sextus, Pius, and Callixtus bleed, And Urban, they, whose doom was not without Much weeping seal’d. No purpose was of our That on the right hand of our successors Part of the Christian people should be set, And part upon their left; nor that the keys, Which were vouchsaf’d me, should for ensign serve Unto the banners, that do levy war
On the baptiz’d: nor I, for sigil-mark Set upon sold and lying privileges;
Which makes me oft to bicker and turn red. In shepherd’s clothing greedy wolves below Range wide o’er all the pastures. Arm of God! Why longer sleepst thou? Caorsines and Gascona Prepare to quaff our blood. O good beginning To what a vile conclusion must thou stoop! But the high providence, which did defend Through Scipio the world’s glory unto Rome, Will not delay its succour: and thou, son, Who through thy mortal weight shall yet again Return below, open thy lips, nor hide
What is by me not hidden.” As a Hood Of frozen vapours streams adown the air, What time the she-goat with her skiey horn Touches the sun; so saw I there stream wide The vapours, who with us had linger’d late And with glad triumph deck th’ ethereal cope. Onward my sight their semblances pursued; So far pursued, as till the space between From its reach sever’d them: whereat the guide Celestial, marking me no more intent
On upward gazing, said, “Look down and see What circuit thou hast compass’d.” From the hour When I before had cast my view beneath,
All the first region overpast I saw, Which from the midmost to the bound’ry winds; That onward thence from Gades I beheld
The unwise passage of Laertes’ son, And hitherward the shore, where thou, Europa! Mad’st thee a joyful burden: and yet more Of this dim spot had seen, but that the sun, A constellation off and more, had ta’en
His progress in the zodiac underneath. Then by the spirit, that doth never leave Its amorous dalliance with my lady’s looks, Back with redoubled ardour were mine eyes Led unto her: and from her radiant smiles, Whenas I turn’d me, pleasure so divine
Did lighten on me, that whatever bait Or art or nature in the human flesh,
Or in its limn’d resemblance, can combine Through greedy eyes to take the soul withal, Were to her beauty nothing. Its boon influence From the fair nest of Leda rapt me forth, And wafted on into the swiftest heav’n.
What place for entrance Beatrice chose, I may not say, so uniform was all,
Liveliest and loftiest. She my secret wish Divin’d; and with such gladness, that God’s love Seem’d from her visage shining, thus began: “Here is the goal, whence motion on his race Starts; motionless the centre, and the rest All mov’d around. Except the soul divine, Place in this heav’n is none, the soul divine, Wherein the love, which ruleth o’er its orb, Is kindled, and the virtue that it sheds; One circle, light and love, enclasping it, As this doth clasp the others; and to Him, Who draws the bound, its limit only known. Measur’d itself by none, it doth divide
Motion to all, counted unto them forth, As by the fifth or half ye count forth ten. The vase, wherein time’s roots are plung’d, thou seest, Look elsewhere for the leaves. O mortal lust! That canst not lift thy head above the waves Which whelm and sink thee down! The will in man Bears goodly blossoms; but its ruddy promise Is, by the dripping of perpetual rain,
Made mere abortion: faith and innocence Are met with but in babes, each taking leave Ere cheeks with down are sprinkled; he, that fasts, While yet a stammerer, with his tongue let loose Gluts every food alike in every moon.
One yet a babbler, loves and listens to His mother; but no sooner hath free use
Of speech, than he doth wish her in her grave. So suddenly doth the fair child of him,
Whose welcome is the morn and eve his parting, To negro blackness change her virgin white. “Thou, to abate thy wonder, note that none Bears rule in earth, and its frail family Are therefore wand’rers. Yet before the date, When through the hundredth in his reck’ning drops Pale January must be shor’d aside
From winter’s calendar, these heav’nly spheres Shall roar so loud, that fortune shall be fain To turn the poop, where she hath now the prow; So that the fleet run onward; and true fruit, Expected long, shall crown at last the bloom!”

CANTO XXVIII

So she who doth imparadise my soul,
Had drawn the veil from off our pleasant life, And bar’d the truth of poor mortality;
When lo! as one who, in a mirror, spies The shining of a flambeau at his back,
Lit sudden ore he deem of its approach, And turneth to resolve him, if the glass Have told him true, and sees the record faithful As note is to its metre; even thus,
I well remember, did befall to me,
Looking upon the beauteous eyes, whence love Had made the leash to take me. As I turn’d; And that, which, in their circles, none who spies, Can miss of, in itself apparent, struck
On mine; a point I saw, that darted light So sharp, no lid, unclosing, may bear up Against its keenness. The least star we view From hence, had seem’d a moon, set by its side, As star by side of star. And so far off, Perchance, as is the halo from the light Which paints it, when most dense the vapour spreads, There wheel’d about the point a circle of fire, More rapid than the motion, which first girds The world. Then, circle after circle, round Enring’d each other; till the seventh reach’d Circumference so ample, that its bow,
Within the span of Juno’s messenger, lied scarce been held entire. Beyond the sev’nth, Follow’d yet other two. And every one,
As more in number distant from the first, Was tardier in motion; and that glow’d
With flame most pure, that to the sparkle’ of truth Was nearest, as partaking most, methinks, Of its reality. The guide belov’d
Saw me in anxious thought suspense, and spake: “Heav’n, and all nature, hangs upon that point. The circle thereto most conjoin’d observe; And know, that by intenser love its course Is to this swiftness wing’d. “To whom I thus: “It were enough; nor should I further seek, Had I but witness’d order, in the world
Appointed, such as in these wheels is seen. But in the sensible world such diff’rence is, That is each round shows more divinity,
As each is wider from the centre. Hence, If in this wondrous and angelic temple,
That hath for confine only light and love, My wish may have completion I must know, Wherefore such disagreement is between
Th’ exemplar and its copy: for myself, Contemplating, I fail to pierce the cause.” “It is no marvel, if thy fingers foil’d Do leave the knot untied: so hard ‘t is grown For want of tenting.” Thus she said: “But take,” She added, “if thou wish thy cure, my words, And entertain them subtly. Every orb
Corporeal, doth proportion its extent Unto the virtue through its parts diffus’d. The greater blessedness preserves the more. The greater is the body (if all parts
Share equally) the more is to preserve. Therefore the circle, whose swift course enwheels The universal frame answers to that,
Which is supreme in knowledge and in love Thus by the virtue, not the seeming, breadth Of substance, measure, thou shalt see the heav’ns, Each to the’ intelligence that ruleth it, Greater to more, and smaller unto less,
Suited in strict and wondrous harmony.” As when the sturdy north blows from his cheek A blast, that scours the sky, forthwith our air, Clear’d of the rack, that hung on it before, Glitters; and, With his beauties all unveil’d, The firmament looks forth serene, and smiles; Such was my cheer, when Beatrice drove
With clear reply the shadows back, and truth Was manifested, as a star in heaven.
And when the words were ended, not unlike To iron in the furnace, every cirque
Ebullient shot forth scintillating fires: And every sparkle shivering to new blaze, In number did outmillion the account
Reduplicate upon the chequer’d board. Then heard I echoing on from choir to choir, “Hosanna,” to the fixed point, that holds, And shall for ever hold them to their place, From everlasting, irremovable.
Musing awhile I stood: and she, who saw by inward meditations, thus began:
“In the first circles, they, whom thou beheldst, Are seraphim and cherubim. Thus swift
Follow their hoops, in likeness to the point, Near as they can, approaching; and they can The more, the loftier their vision. Those, That round them fleet, gazing the Godhead next, Are thrones; in whom the first trine ends. And all Are blessed, even as their sight descends Deeper into the truth, wherein rest is
For every mind. Thus happiness hath root In seeing, not in loving, which of sight Is aftergrowth. And of the seeing such
The meed, as unto each in due degree Grace and good-will their measure have assign’d. The other trine, that with still opening buds In this eternal springtide blossom fair, Fearless of bruising from the nightly ram, Breathe up in warbled melodies threefold Hosannas blending ever, from the three
Transmitted. hierarchy of gods, for aye Rejoicing, dominations first, next then
Virtues, and powers the third. The next to whom Are princedoms and archangels, with glad round To tread their festal ring; and last the band Angelical, disporting in their sphere.
All, as they circle in their orders, look Aloft, and downward with such sway prevail, That all with mutual impulse tend to God. These once a mortal view beheld. Desire
In Dionysius so intently wrought,
That he, as I have done rang’d them; and nam’d Their orders, marshal’d in his thought. From him Dissentient, one refus’d his sacred read. But soon as in this heav’n his doubting eyes Were open’d, Gregory at his error smil’d Nor marvel, that a denizen of earth
Should scan such secret truth; for he had learnt Both this and much beside of these our orbs, From an eye-witness to heav’n’s mysteries.”

CANTO XXIX

No longer than what time Latona’s twins Cover’d of Libra and the fleecy star,
Together both, girding the’ horizon hang, In even balance from the zenith pois’d,
Till from that verge, each, changing hemisphere, Part the nice level; e’en so brief a space Did Beatrice’s silence hold. A smile
Bat painted on her cheek; and her fix’d gaze Bent on the point, at which my vision fail’d: When thus her words resuming she began:
“I speak, nor what thou wouldst inquire demand; For I have mark’d it, where all time and place Are present. Not for increase to himself Of good, which may not be increas’d, but forth To manifest his glory by its beams,
Inhabiting his own eternity,
Beyond time’s limit or what bound soe’er To circumscribe his being, as he will’d, Into new natures, like unto himself,
Eternal Love unfolded. Nor before,
As if in dull inaction torpid lay.
For not in process of before or aft Upon these waters mov’d the Spirit of God. Simple and mix’d, both form and substance, forth To perfect being started, like three darts Shot from a bow three-corded. And as ray In crystal, glass, and amber, shines entire, E’en at the moment of its issuing; thus
Did, from th’ eternal Sovran, beam entire His threefold operation, at one act
Produc’d coeval. Yet in order each
Created his due station knew: those highest, Who pure intelligence were made: mere power The lowest: in the midst, bound with strict league, Intelligence and power, unsever’d bond.
Long tract of ages by the angels past, Ere the creating of another world,
Describ’d on Jerome’s pages thou hast seen. But that what I disclose to thee is true, Those penmen, whom the Holy Spirit mov’d In many a passage of their sacred book
Attest; as thou by diligent search shalt find And reason in some sort discerns the same, Who scarce would grant the heav’nly ministers Of their perfection void, so long a space. Thus when and where these spirits of love were made, Thou know’st, and how: and knowing hast allay’d Thy thirst, which from the triple question rose. Ere one had reckon’d twenty, e’en so soon Part of the angels fell: and in their fall Confusion to your elements ensued.
The others kept their station: and this task, Whereon thou lookst, began with such delight, That they surcease not ever, day nor night, Their circling. Of that fatal lapse the cause Was the curst pride of him, whom thou hast seen Pent with the world’s incumbrance. Those, whom here Thou seest, were lowly to confess themselves Of his free bounty, who had made them apt For ministries so high: therefore their views Were by enlight’ning grace and their own merit Exalted; so that in their will confirm’d They stand, nor feel to fall. For do not doubt, But to receive the grace, which heav’n vouchsafes, Is meritorious, even as the soul
With prompt affection welcometh the guest. Now, without further help, if with good heed My words thy mind have treasur’d, thou henceforth This consistory round about mayst scan,
And gaze thy fill. But since thou hast on earth Heard vain disputers, reasoners in the schools, Canvas the’ angelic nature, and dispute
Its powers of apprehension, memory, choice; Therefore, ‘t is well thou take from me the truth, Pure and without disguise, which they below, Equivocating, darken and perplex.
“Know thou, that, from the first, these substances, Rejoicing in the countenance of God,
Have held unceasingly their view, intent Upon the glorious vision, from the which Naught absent is nor hid: where then no change Of newness with succession interrupts,
Remembrance there needs none to gather up Divided thought and images remote
“So that men, thus at variance with the truth Dream, though their eyes be open; reckless some Of error; others well aware they err,
To whom more guilt and shame are justly due. Each the known track of sage philosophy
Deserts, and has a byway of his own: So much the restless eagerness to shine
And love of singularity prevail.
Yet this, offensive as it is, provokes Heav’n’s anger less, than when the book of God Is forc’d to yield to man’s authority,
Or from its straightness warp’d: no reck’ning made What blood the sowing of it in the world Has cost; what favour for himself he wins, Who meekly clings to it. The aim of all
Is how to shine: e’en they, whose office is To preach the Gospel, let the gospel sleep, And pass their own inventions off instead. One tells, how at Christ’s suffering the wan moon Bent back her steps, and shadow’d o’er the sun With intervenient disk, as she withdrew: Another, how the light shrouded itself
Within its tabernacle, and left dark The Spaniard and the Indian, with the Jew. Such fables Florence in her pulpit hears, Bandied about more frequent, than the names Of Bindi and of Lapi in her streets.
The sheep, meanwhile, poor witless ones, return From pasture, fed with wind: and what avails For their excuse, they do not see their harm? Christ said not to his first conventicle, ‘Go forth and preach impostures to the world,’ But gave them truth to build on; and the sound Was mighty on their lips; nor needed they, Beside the gospel, other spear or shield, To aid them in their warfare for the faith. The preacher now provides himself with store Of jests and gibes; and, so there be no lack Of laughter, while he vents them, his big cowl Distends, and he has won the meed he sought: Could but the vulgar catch a glimpse the while Of that dark bird which nestles in his hood, They scarce would wait to hear the blessing said. Which now the dotards hold in such esteem, That every counterfeit, who spreads abroad The hands of holy promise, finds a throng Of credulous fools beneath. Saint Anthony Fattens with this his swine, and others worse Than swine, who diet at his lazy board,
Paying with unstamp’d metal for their fare. “But (for we far have wander’d) let us seek The forward path again; so as the way
Be shorten’d with the time. No mortal tongue Nor thought of man hath ever reach’d so far, That of these natures he might count the tribes. What Daniel of their thousands hath reveal’d With finite number infinite conceals.
The fountain at whose source these drink their beams, With light supplies them in as many modes, As there are splendours, that it shines on: each According to the virtue it conceives,
Differing in love and sweet affection. Look then how lofty and how huge in breadth The’ eternal might, which, broken and dispers’d Over such countless mirrors, yet remains Whole in itself and one, as at the first.”

CANTO XXX

Noon’s fervid hour perchance six thousand miles From hence is distant; and the shadowy cone Almost to level on our earth declines;
When from the midmost of this blue abyss By turns some star is to our vision lost. And straightway as the handmaid of the sun Puts forth her radiant brow, all, light by light, Fade, and the spangled firmament shuts in, E’en to the loveliest of the glittering throng. Thus vanish’d gradually from my sight
The triumph, which plays ever round the point, That overcame me, seeming (for it did)
Engirt by that it girdeth. Wherefore love, With loss of other object, forc’d me bend Mine eyes on Beatrice once again.
If all, that hitherto is told of her, Were in one praise concluded, ‘t were too weak To furnish out this turn. Mine eyes did look On beauty, such, as I believe in sooth,
Not merely to exceed our human, but, That save its Maker, none can to the full Enjoy it. At this point o’erpower’d I fail, Unequal to my theme, as never bard
Of buskin or of sock hath fail’d before. For, as the sun doth to the feeblest sight, E’en so remembrance of that witching smile Hath dispossess my spirit of itself.
Not from that day, when on this earth I first Beheld her charms, up to that view of them, Have I with song applausive ever ceas’d
To follow, but not follow them no more; My course here bounded, as each artist’s is, When it doth touch the limit of his skill. She (such as I bequeath her to the bruit