Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867)/Volume 3/Canto 1

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The glory of Him who moveth everything
   Doth penetrate the universe, and shine
   In one part more and in another less.

Within that heaven which most his light receives
   Was I, and things beheld which to repeat
   Nor knows, nor can, who from above descends;

Because in drawing near to its desire
   Our intellect ingulphs itself so far,
   That after it the memory cannot go.

Truly whatever of the holy realm
   I had the power to treasure in my mind
   Shall now become the subject of my song.

O good Apollo, for this last emprise
   Make of me such a vessel of thy power
   As giving the beloved laurel asks!

One summit of Parnassus hitherto
   Has been enough for me, but now with both
   I needs must enter the arena left.

Enter into my bosom, thou, and breathe
   As at the time when Marsyas thou didst draw
   Out of the scabbard of those limbs of his.

O power divine, lend'st thou thyself to me
   So that the shadow of the blessed realm
   Stamped in my brain I can make manifest,

Thou'lt see me come unto thy darling tree,
   And crown myself thereafter with those leaves
   Of which the theme and thou shall make me worthy.

So seldom, Father, do we gather them
   For triumph or of Caesar or of Poet,
   (The fault and shame of human inclinations,)

That the Peneian foliage should bring forth
   Joy to the joyous Delphic deity,
   When any one it makes to thirst for it.

A little spark is followed by great flame;
   Perchance with better voices after me
   Shall prayer be made that Cyrrha may respond!

To mortal men by passages diverse
   Uprises the world's lamp; but by that one
   Which circles four uniteth with three crosses,

With better course and with a better star
   Conjoined it issues, and the mundane wax
   Tempers and stamps more after its own fashion.

Almost that passage had made morning there
   And evening here, and there was wholly white
   That hemisphere, and black the other part,

When Beatrice towards the left-hand side
   I saw turned round, and gazing at the sun;
   Never did eagle fasten so upon it!

And even as a second ray is wont
   To issue from the first and reascend,
   Like to a pilgrim who would fain return,

Thus of her action, through the eyes infused
   In my imagination, mine I made,
   And sunward fixed mine eyes beyond our wont.

There much is lawful which is here unlawful
   Unto our powers, by virtue of the place
   Made for the human species as its own.

Not long I bore it, nor so little while
   But I beheld it sparkle round about
   Like iron that comes molten from the fire;

And suddenly it seemed that day to day
   Was added, as if He who has the power
   Had with another sun the heaven adorned.

With eyes upon the everlasting wheels
   Stood Beatrice all intent, and I, on her
   Fixing my vision from above removed,

Such at her aspect inwardly became
   As Glaucus, tasting of the herb that made him
   Peer of the other gods beneath the sea.

To represent transhumanise in words
   Impossible were; the example, then, suffice
   Him for whom Grace the experience reserves.

If I was merely what of me thou newly
   Createdst, Love who governest the heaven,
   Thou knowest, who didst lift me with thy light!

When now the wheel, which thou dost make eternal
   Desiring thee, made me attentive to it
   By harmony thou dost modulate and measure,

Then seemed to me so much of heaven enkindled
   By the sun's flame, that neither rain nor river
   E'er made a lake so widely spread abroad.

The newness of the sound and the great light
   Kindled in me a longing for their cause,
   Never before with such acuteness felt;

Whence she, who saw me as I saw myself,
   To quiet in me my perturbed mind,
   Opened her mouth, ere I did mine to ask,

And she began: "Thou makest thyself so dull
   With false imagining, that thou seest not
   What thou wouldst see if thou hadst shaken it off.

Thou art not upon earth, as thou believest;
   But lightning, fleeing its appropriate site,
   Ne'er ran as thou, who thitherward returnest."

If of my former doubt I was divested
   By these brief little words more smiled than spoken,
   I in a new one was the more ensnared;

And said: "Already did I rest content
   From great amazement; but am now amazed
   In what way I transcend these bodies light."

Whereupon she, after a pitying sigh,
   Her eyes directed tow'rds me with that look
   A mother casts on a delirious child;

And she began: "All things whate'er they be
   Have order among themselves, and this is form,
   That makes the universe resemble God.

Here do the higher creatures see the footprints
   Of the Eternal Power, which is the end
   Whereto is made the law already mentioned.

In the order that I speak of are inclined
   All natures, by their destinies diverse,
   More or less near unto their origin;

Hence they move onward unto ports diverse
   O'er the great sea of being; and each one
   With instinct given it which bears it on.

This bears away the fire towards the moon;
   This is in mortal hearts the motive power
   This binds together and unites the earth.

Nor only the created things that are
   Without intelligence this bow shoots forth,
   But those that have both intellect and love.

The Providence that regulates all this
   Makes with its light the heaven forever quiet,
   Wherein that turns which has the greatest haste.

And thither now, as to a site decreed,
   Bears us away the virtue of that cord
   Which aims its arrows at a joyous mark.

True is it, that as oftentimes the form
   Accords not with the intention of the art,
   Because in answering is matter deaf,

So likewise from this course doth deviate
   Sometimes the creature, who the power possesses,
   Though thus impelled, to swerve some other way,

(In the same wise as one may see the fire
   Fall from a cloud,) if the first impetus
   Earthward is wrested by some false delight.

Thou shouldst not wonder more, if well I judge,
   At thine ascent, than at a rivulet
   From some high mount descending to the lowland.

Marvel it would be in thee, if deprived
   Of hindrance, thou wert seated down below,
   As if on earth the living fire were quiet."

Thereat she heavenward turned again her face.