Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867)/Volume 3/Canto 17

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As came to Clymene, to be made certain
   Of that which he had heard against himself,
   He who makes fathers chary still to children,

Even such was I, and such was I perceived
   By Beatrice and by the holy light
   That first on my account had changed its place.

Therefore my Lady said to me: "Send forth
   The flame of thy desire, so that it issue
   Imprinted well with the internal stamp;

Not that our knowledge may be greater made
   By speech of thine, but to accustom thee
   To tell thy thirst, that we may give thee drink."

"O my beloved tree, (that so dost lift thee,
   That even as minds terrestrial perceive
   No triangle containeth two obtuse,

So thou beholdest the contingent things
   Ere in themselves they are, fixing thine eyes
   Upon the point in which all times are present,)

While I was with Virgilius conjoined
   Upon the mountain that the souls doth heal,
   And when descending into the dead world,

Were spoken to me of my future life
   Some grievous words; although I feel myself
   In sooth foursquare against the blows of chance.

On this account my wish would be content
   To hear what fortune is approaching me,
   Because foreseen an arrow comes more slowly."

Thus did I say unto that selfsame light
   That unto me had spoken before; and even
   As Beatrice willed was my own will confessed.

Not in vague phrase, in which the foolish folk
   Ensnared themselves of old, ere yet was slain
   The Lamb of God who taketh sins away,

But with clear words and unambiguous
   Language responded that paternal love,
   Hid and revealed by its own proper smile:

"Contingency, that outside of the volume
   Of your materiality extends not,
   Is all depicted in the eternal aspect.

Necessity however thence it takes not,
   Except as from the eye, in which 'tis mirrored,
   A ship that with the current down descends.

From thence, e'en as there cometh to the ear
   Sweet harmony from an organ, comes in sight
   To me the time that is preparing for thee.

As forth from Athens went Hippolytus,
   By reason of his step-dame false and cruel,
   So thou from Florence must perforce depart.

Already this is willed, and this is sought for;
   And soon it shall be done by him who thinks it,
   Where every day the Christ is bought and sold.

The blame shall follow the offended party
   In outcry as is usual; but the vengeance
   Shall witness to the truth that doth dispense it.

Thou shalt abandon everything beloved
   Most tenderly, and this the arrow is
   Which first the bow of banishment shoots forth.

Thou shalt have proof how savoureth of salt
   The bread of others, and how hard a road
   The going down and up another's stairs.

And that which most shall weigh upon thy shoulders
   Will be the bad and foolish company
   With which into this valley thou shalt fall;

For all ingrate, all mad and impious
   Will they become against thee; but soon after
   They, and not thou, shall have the forehead scarlet.

Of their bestiality their own proceedings
   Shall furnish proof; so 'twill be well for thee
   A party to have made thee by thyself.

Thine earliest refuge and thine earliest inn
   Shall be the mighty Lombard's courtesy,
   Who on the Ladder bears the holy bird,

Who such benign regard shall have for thee
   That 'twixt you twain, in doing and in asking,
   That shall be first which is with others last.

With him shalt thou see one who at his birth
   Has by this star of strength been so impressed,
   That notable shall his achievements be.

Not yet the people are aware of him
   Through his young age, since only nine years yet
   Around about him have these wheels revolved.

But ere the Gascon cheat the noble Henry,
   Some sparkles of his virtue shall appear
   In caring not for silver nor for toil.

So recognized shall his magnificence
   Become hereafter, that his enemies
   Will not have power to keep mute tongues about it.

On him rely, and on his benefits;
   By him shall many people be transformed,
   Changing condition rich and mendicant;

And written in thy mind thou hence shalt bear
   Of him, but shalt not say it"--and things said he
   Incredible to those who shall be present.

Then added: "Son, these are the commentaries
   On what was said to thee; behold the snares
   That are concealed behind few revolutions;

Yet would I not thy neighbours thou shouldst envy,
   Because thy life into the future reaches
   Beyond the punishment of their perfidies."

When by its silence showed that sainted soul
   That it had finished putting in the woof
   Into that web which I had given it warped,

Began I, even as he who yearneth after,
   Being in doubt, some counsel from a person
   Who seeth, and uprightly wills, and loves:

"Well see I, father mine, how spurreth on
   The time towards me such a blow to deal me
   As heaviest is to him who most gives way.

Therefore with foresight it is well I arm me,
   That, if the dearest place be taken from me,
   I may not lose the others by my songs.

Down through the world of infinite bitterness,
   And o'er the mountain, from whose beauteous summit
   The eyes of my own Lady lifted me,

And afterward through heaven from light to light,
   I have learned that which, if I tell again,
   Will be a savour of strong herbs to many.

And if I am a timid friend to truth,
   I fear lest I may lose my life with those
   Who will hereafter call this time the olden."

The light in which was smiling my own treasure
   Which there I had discovered, flashed at first
   As in the sunshine doth a golden mirror;

Then made reply: "A conscience overcast
   Or with its own or with another's shame,
   Will taste forsooth the tartness of thy word;

But ne'ertheless, all falsehood laid aside,
   Make manifest thy vision utterly,
   And let them scratch wherever is the itch;

For if thine utterance shall offensive be
   At the first taste, a vital nutriment
   'Twill leave thereafter, when it is digested.

This cry of thine shall do as doth the wind,
   Which smiteth most the most exalted summits,
   And that is no slight argument of honour.

Therefore are shown to thee within these wheels,
   Upon the mount and in the dolorous valley,
   Only the souls that unto fame are known;

Because the spirit of the hearer rests not,
   Nor doth confirm its faith by an example
   Which has the root of it unknown and hidden,

Or other reason that is not apparent."