Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867)/Volume 3/Canto 31

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Dante Alighieri14732The Divine ComedyVol. III. (Paradiso), Canto XXXI.1867Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In fashion then as of a snow-white rose
   Displayed itself to me the saintly host,
   Whom Christ in his own blood had made his bride,

But the other host, that flying sees and sings
   The glory of Him who doth enamour it,
   And the goodness that created it so noble,

Even as a swarm of bees, that sinks in flowers
   One moment, and the next returns again
   To where its labour is to sweetness turned,

Sank into the great flower, that is adorned
   With leaves so many, and thence reascended
   To where its love abideth evermore.

Their faces had they all of living flame,
   And wings of gold, and all the rest so white
   No snow unto that limit doth attain.

From bench to bench, into the flower descending,
   They carried something of the peace and ardour
   Which by the fanning of their flanks they won.

Nor did the interposing 'twixt the flower
   And what was o'er it of such plenitude
   Of flying shapes impede the sight and splendour;

Because the light divine so penetrates
   The universe, according to its merit,
   That naught can be an obstacle against it.

This realm secure and full of gladsomeness,
   Crowded with ancient people and with modern,
   Unto one mark had all its look and love.

O Trinal Light, that in a single star
   Sparkling upon their sight so satisfies them,
   Look down upon our tempest here below!

If the barbarians, coming from some region
   That every day by Helice is covered,
   Revolving with her son whom she delights in,

Beholding Rome and all her noble works,
   Were wonder-struck, what time the Lateran
   Above all mortal things was eminent,--

I who to the divine had from the human,
   From time unto eternity, had come,
   From Florence to a people just and sane,

With what amazement must I have been filled!
   Truly between this and the joy, it was
   My pleasure not to hear, and to be mute.

And as a pilgrim who delighteth him
   In gazing round the temple of his vow,
   And hopes some day to retell how it was,

So through the living light my way pursuing
   Directed I mine eyes o'er all the ranks,
   Now up, now down, and now all round about.

Faces I saw of charity persuasive,
   Embellished by His light and their own smile,
   And attitudes adorned with every grace.

The general form of Paradise already
   My glance had comprehended as a whole,
   In no part hitherto remaining fixed,

And round I turned me with rekindled wish
   My Lady to interrogate of things
   Concerning which my mind was in suspense.

One thing I meant, another answered me;
   I thought I should see Beatrice, and saw
   An Old Man habited like the glorious people.

O'erflowing was he in his eyes and cheeks
   With joy benign, in attitude of pity
   As to a tender father is becoming.

And "She, where is she?" instantly I said;
   Whence he: "To put an end to thy desire,
   Me Beatrice hath sent from mine own place.

And if thou lookest up to the third round
   Of the first rank, again shalt thou behold her
   Upon the throne her merits have assigned her."

Without reply I lifted up mine eyes,
   And saw her, as she made herself a crown
   Reflecting from herself the eternal rays.

Not from that region which the highest thunders
   Is any mortal eye so far removed,
   In whatsoever sea it deepest sinks,

As there from Beatrice my sight; but this
   Was nothing unto me; because her image
   Descended not to me by medium blurred.

"O Lady, thou in whom my hope is strong,
   And who for my salvation didst endure
   In Hell to leave the imprint of thy feet,

Of whatsoever things I have beheld,
   As coming from thy power and from thy goodness
   I recognise the virtue and the grace.

Thou from a slave hast brought me unto freedom,
   By all those ways, by all the expedients,
   Whereby thou hadst the power of doing it.

Preserve towards me thy magnificence,
   So that this soul of mine, which thou hast healed,
   Pleasing to thee be loosened from the body."

Thus I implored; and she, so far away,
   Smiled, as it seemed, and looked once more at me;
   Then unto the eternal fountain turned.

And said the Old Man holy: "That thou mayst
   Accomplish perfectly thy journeying,
   Whereunto prayer and holy love have sent me,

Fly with thine eyes all round about this garden;
   For seeing it will discipline thy sight
   Farther to mount along the ray divine.

And she, the Queen of Heaven, for whom I burn
   Wholly with love, will grant us every grace,
   Because that I her faithful Bernard am."

As he who peradventure from Croatia
   Cometh to gaze at our Veronica,
   Who through its ancient fame is never sated,

But says in thought, the while it is displayed,
   "My Lord, Christ Jesus, God of very God,
   Now was your semblance made like unto this?"

Even such was I while gazing at the living
   Charity of the man, who in this world
   By contemplation tasted of that peace.

"Thou son of grace, this jocund life," began he,
   "Will not be known to thee by keeping ever
   Thine eyes below here on the lowest place;

But mark the circles to the most remote,
   Until thou shalt behold enthroned the Queen
   To whom this realm is subject and devoted."

I lifted up mine eyes, and as at morn
   The oriental part of the horizon
   Surpasses that wherein the sun goes down,

Thus, as if going with mine eyes from vale
   To mount, I saw a part in the remoteness
   Surpass in splendour all the other front.

And even as there where we await the pole
   That Phaeton drove badly, blazes more
   The light, and is on either side diminished,

So likewise that pacific oriflamme
   Gleamed brightest in the centre, and each side
   In equal measure did the flame abate.

And at that centre, with their wings expanded,
   More than a thousand jubilant Angels saw I,
   Each differing in effulgence and in kind.

I saw there at their sports and at their songs
   A beauty smiling, which the gladness was
   Within the eyes of all the other saints;

And if I had in speaking as much wealth
   As in imagining, I should not dare
   To attempt the smallest part of its delight.

Bernard, as soon as he beheld mine eyes
   Fixed and intent upon its fervid fervour,
   His own with such affection turned to her

That it made mine more ardent to behold.