Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867)/Volume 2/Canto 33

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"Deus venerunt gentes," alternating
   Now three, now four, melodious psalmody
   The maidens in the midst of tears began;

And Beatrice, compassionate and sighing,
   Listened to them with such a countenance,
   That scarce more changed was Mary at the cross.

But when the other virgins place had given
   For her to speak, uprisen to her feet
   With colour as of fire, she made response:

"'Modicum, et non videbitis me;
   Et iterum,' my sisters predilect,
   'Modicum, et vos videbitis me.'"

Then all the seven in front of her she placed;
   And after her, by beckoning only, moved
   Me and the lady and the sage who stayed.

So she moved onward; and I do not think
   That her tenth step was placed upon the ground,
   When with her eyes upon mine eyes she smote,

And with a tranquil aspect, "Come more quickly,"
   To me she said, "that, if I speak with thee,
   To listen to me thou mayst be well placed."

As soon as I was with her as I should be,
   She said to me: "Why, brother, dost thou not
   Venture to question now, in coming with me?"

As unto those who are too reverential,
   Speaking in presence of superiors,
   Who drag no living utterance to their teeth,

It me befell, that without perfect sound
   Began I: "My necessity, Madonna,
   You know, and that which thereunto is good."

And she to me: "Of fear and bashfulness
   Henceforward I will have thee strip thyself,
   So that thou speak no more as one who dreams.

Know that the vessel which the serpent broke
   Was, and is not; but let him who is guilty
   Think that God's vengeance does not fear a sop.

Without an heir shall not for ever be
   The Eagle that left his plumes upon the car,
   Whence it became a monster, then a prey;

For verily I see, and hence narrate it,
   The stars already near to bring the time,
   From every hindrance safe, and every bar,

Within which a Five-hundred, Ten, and Five,
   One sent from God, shall slay the thievish woman
   And that same giant who is sinning with her.

And peradventure my dark utterance,
   Like Themis and the Sphinx, may less persuade thee,
   Since, in their mode, it clouds the intellect;

But soon the facts shall be the Naiades
   Who shall this difficult enigma solve,
   Without destruction of the flocks and harvests.

Note thou; and even as by me are uttered
   These words, so teach them unto those who live
   That life which is a running unto death;

And bear in mind, whene'er thou writest them,
   Not to conceal what thou hast seen the plant,
   That twice already has been pillaged here.

Whoever pillages or shatters it,
   With blasphemy of deed offendeth God,
   Who made it holy for his use alone.

For biting that, in pain and in desire
   Five thousand years and more the first-born soul
   Craved Him, who punished in himself the bite.

Thy genius slumbers, if it deem it not
   For special reason so pre-eminent
   In height, and so inverted in its summit.

And if thy vain imaginings had not been
   Water of Elsa round about thy mind,
   And Pyramus to the mulberry, their pleasure,

Thou by so many circumstances only
   The justice of the interdict of God
   Morally in the tree wouldst recognize.

But since I see thee in thine intellect
   Converted into stone and stained with sin,
   So that the light of my discourse doth daze thee,

I will too, if not written, at least painted,
   Thou bear it back within thee, for the reason
   That cinct with palm the pilgrim's staff is borne."

And I: "As by a signet is the wax
   Which does not change the figure stamped upon it,
   My brain is now imprinted by yourself.

But wherefore so beyond my power of sight
   Soars your desirable discourse, that aye
   The more I strive, so much the more I lose it?"

"That thou mayst recognize," she said, "the school
   Which thou hast followed, and mayst see how far
   Its doctrine follows after my discourse,

And mayst behold your path from the divine
   Distant as far as separated is
   From earth the heaven that highest hastens on."

Whence her I answered: "I do not remember
   That ever I estranged myself from you,
   Nor have I conscience of it that reproves me."

"And if thou art not able to remember,"
   Smiling she answered, "recollect thee now
   That thou this very day hast drunk of Lethe;

And if from smoke a fire may be inferred,
   Such an oblivion clearly demonstrates
   Some error in thy will elsewhere intent.

Truly from this time forward shall my words
   Be naked, so far as it is befitting
   To lay them open unto thy rude gaze."

And more coruscant and with slower steps
   The sun was holding the meridian circle,
   Which, with the point of view, shifts here and there

When halted (as he cometh to a halt,
   Who goes before a squadron as its escort,
   If something new he find upon his way)

The ladies seven at a dark shadow's edge,
   Such as, beneath green leaves and branches black,
   The Alp upon its frigid border wears.

In front of them the Tigris and Euphrates
   Methought I saw forth issue from one fountain,
   And slowly part, like friends, from one another.

"O light, O glory of the human race!
   What stream is this which here unfolds itself
   From out one source, and from itself withdraws?"

For such a prayer, 'twas said unto me, "Pray
   Matilda that she tell thee;" and here answered,
   As one does who doth free himself from blame,

The beautiful lady: "This and other things
   Were told to him by me; and sure I am
   The water of Lethe has not hid them from him."

And Beatrice: "Perhaps a greater care,
   Which oftentimes our memory takes away,
   Has made the vision of his mind obscure.

But Eunoe behold, that yonder rises;
   Lead him to it, and, as thou art accustomed,
   Revive again the half-dead virtue in him."

Like gentle soul, that maketh no excuse,
   But makes its own will of another's will
   As soon as by a sign it is disclosed,

Even so, when she had taken hold of me,
   The beautiful lady moved, and unto Statius
   Said, in her womanly manner, "Come with him."

If, Reader, I possessed a longer space
   For writing it, I yet would sing in part
   Of the sweet draught that ne'er would satiate me;

But inasmuch as full are all the leaves
   Made ready for this second canticle,
   The curb of art no farther lets me go.

From the most holy water I returned
   Regenerate, in the manner of new trees
   That are renewed with a new foliage,

Pure and disposed to mount unto the stars.