Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867)/Volume 3/Canto 30

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Perchance six thousand miles remote from us
   Is glowing the sixth hour, and now this world
   Inclines its shadow almost to a level,

When the mid-heaven begins to make itself
   So deep to us, that here and there a star
   Ceases to shine so far down as this depth,

And as advances bright exceedingly
   The handmaid of the sun, the heaven is closed
   Light after light to the most beautiful;

Not otherwise the Triumph, which for ever
   Plays round about the point that vanquished me,
   Seeming enclosed by what itself encloses,

Little by little from my vision faded;
   Whereat to turn mine eyes on Beatrice
   My seeing nothing and my love constrained me.

If what has hitherto been said of her
   Were all concluded in a single praise,
   Scant would it be to serve the present turn.

Not only does the beauty I beheld
   Transcend ourselves, but truly I believe
   Its Maker only may enjoy it all.

Vanquished do I confess me by this passage
   More than by problem of his theme was ever
   O'ercome the comic or the tragic poet;

For as the sun the sight that trembles most,
   Even so the memory of that sweet smile
   My mind depriveth of its very self.

From the first day that I beheld her face
   In this life, to the moment of this look,
   The sequence of my song has ne'er been severed;

But now perforce this sequence must desist
   From following her beauty with my verse,
   As every artist at his uttermost.

Such as I leave her to a greater fame
   Than any of my trumpet, which is bringing
   Its arduous matter to a final close,

With voice and gesture of a perfect leader
   She recommenced: "We from the greatest body
   Have issued to the heaven that is pure light;

Light intellectual replete with love,
   Love of true good replete with ecstasy,
   Ecstasy that transcendeth every sweetness.

Here shalt thou see the one host and the other
   Of Paradise, and one in the same aspects
   Which at the final judgment thou shalt see."

Even as a sudden lightning that disperses
   The visual spirits, so that it deprives
   The eye of impress from the strongest objects,

Thus round about me flashed a living light,
   And left me swathed around with such a veil
   Of its effulgence, that I nothing saw.

"Ever the Love which quieteth this heaven
   Welcomes into itself with such salute,
   To make the candle ready for its flame."

No sooner had within me these brief words
   An entrance found, than I perceived myself
   To be uplifted over my own power,

And I with vision new rekindled me,
   Such that no light whatever is so pure
   But that mine eyes were fortified against it.

And light I saw in fashion of a river
   Fulvid with its effulgence, 'twixt two banks
   Depicted with an admirable Spring.

Out of this river issued living sparks,
   And on all sides sank down into the flowers,
   Like unto rubies that are set in gold;

And then, as if inebriate with the odours,
   They plunged again into the wondrous torrent,
   And as one entered issued forth another.

"The high desire, that now inflames and moves thee
   To have intelligence of what thou seest,
   Pleaseth me all the more, the more it swells.

But of this water it behoves thee drink
   Before so great a thirst in thee be slaked."
   Thus said to me the sunshine of mine eyes;

And added: "The river and the topazes
   Going in and out, and the laughing of the herbage,
   Are of their truth foreshadowing prefaces;

Not that these things are difficult in themselves,
   But the deficiency is on thy side,
   For yet thou hast not vision so exalted."

There is no babe that leaps so suddenly
   With face towards the milk, if he awake
   Much later than his usual custom is,

As I did, that I might make better mirrors
   Still of mine eyes, down stooping to the wave
   Which flows that we therein be better made.

And even as the penthouse of mine eyelids
   Drank of it, it forthwith appeared to me
   Out of its length to be transformed to round.

Then as a folk who have been under masks
   Seem other than before, if they divest
   The semblance not their own they disappeared in,

Thus into greater pomp were changed for me
   The flowerets and the sparks, so that I saw
   Both of the Courts of Heaven made manifest.

O splendour of God! by means of which I saw
   The lofty triumph of the realm veracious,
   Give me the power to say how it I saw!

There is a light above, which visible
   Makes the Creator unto every creature,
   Who only in beholding Him has peace,

And it expands itself in circular form
   To such extent, that its circumference
   Would be too large a girdle for the sun.

The semblance of it is all made of rays
   Reflected from the top of Primal Motion,
   Which takes therefrom vitality and power.

And as a hill in water at its base
   Mirrors itself, as if to see its beauty
   When affluent most in verdure and in flowers,

So, ranged aloft all round about the light,
   Mirrored I saw in more ranks than a thousand
   All who above there have from us returned.

And if the lowest row collect within it
   So great a light, how vast the amplitude
   Is of this Rose in its extremest leaves!

My vision in the vastness and the height
   Lost not itself, but comprehended all
   The quantity and quality of that gladness.

There near and far nor add nor take away;
   For there where God immediately doth govern,
   The natural law in naught is relevant.

Into the yellow of the Rose Eternal
   That spreads, and multiplies, and breathes an odour
   Of praise unto the ever-vernal Sun,

As one who silent is and fain would speak,
   Me Beatrice drew on, and said: "Behold
   Of the white stoles how vast the convent is!

Behold how vast the circuit of our city!
   Behold our seats so filled to overflowing,
   That here henceforward are few people wanting!

On that great throne whereon thine eyes are fixed
   For the crown's sake already placed upon it,
   Before thou suppest at this wedding feast

Shall sit the soul (that is to be Augustus
   On earth) of noble Henry, who shall come
   To redress Italy ere she be ready.

Blind covetousness, that casts its spell upon you,
   Has made you like unto the little child,
   Who dies of hunger and drives off the nurse.

And in the sacred forum then shall be
   A Prefect such, that openly or covert
   On the same road he will not walk with him.

But long of God he will not be endured
   In holy office; he shall be thrust down
   Where Simon Magus is for his deserts,

And make him of Alagna lower go!"