Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867)/Volume 3/Canto 33

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Dante Alighieri14734The Divine ComedyVol. III. (Paradiso), Canto XXXIII.1867Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"Thou Virgin Mother, daughter of thy Son,
   Humble and high beyond all other creature,
   The limit fixed of the eternal counsel,

Thou art the one who such nobility
   To human nature gave, that its Creator
   Did not disdain to make himself its creature.

Within thy womb rekindled was the love,
   By heat of which in the eternal peace
   After such wise this flower has germinated.

Here unto us thou art a noonday torch
   Of charity, and below there among mortals
   Thou art the living fountain-head of hope.

Lady, thou art so great, and so prevailing,
   That he who wishes grace, nor runs to thee,
   His aspirations without wings would fly.

Not only thy benignity gives succour
   To him who asketh it, but oftentimes
   Forerunneth of its own accord the asking.

In thee compassion is, in thee is pity,
   In thee magnificence; in thee unites
   Whate'er of goodness is in any creature.

Now doth this man, who from the lowest depth
   Of the universe as far as here has seen
   One after one the spiritual lives,

Supplicate thee through grace for so much power
   That with his eyes he may uplift himself
   Higher towards the uttermost salvation.

And I, who never burned for my own seeing
   More than I do for his, all of my prayers
   Proffer to thee, and pray they come not short,

That thou wouldst scatter from him every cloud
   Of his mortality so with thy prayers,
   That the Chief Pleasure be to him displayed.

Still farther do I pray thee, Queen, who canst
   Whate'er thou wilt, that sound thou mayst preserve
   After so great a vision his affections.

Let thy protection conquer human movements;
   See Beatrice and all the blessed ones
   My prayers to second clasp their hands to thee!"

The eyes beloved and revered of God,
   Fastened upon the speaker, showed to us
   How grateful unto her are prayers devout;

Then unto the Eternal Light they turned,
   On which it is not credible could be
   By any creature bent an eye so clear.

And I, who to the end of all desires
   Was now approaching, even as I ought
   The ardour of desire within me ended.

Bernard was beckoning unto me, and smiling,
   That I should upward look; but I already
   Was of my own accord such as he wished;

Because my sight, becoming purified,
   Was entering more and more into the ray
   Of the High Light which of itself is true.

From that time forward what I saw was greater
   Than our discourse, that to such vision yields,
   And yields the memory unto such excess.

Even as he is who seeth in a dream,
   And after dreaming the imprinted passion
   Remains, and to his mind the rest returns not,

Even such am I, for almost utterly
   Ceases my vision, and distilleth yet
   Within my heart the sweetness born of it;

Even thus the snow is in the sun unsealed,
   Even thus upon the wind in the light leaves
   Were the soothsayings of the Sibyl lost.

O Light Supreme, that dost so far uplift thee
   From the conceits of mortals, to my mind
   Of what thou didst appear re-lend a little,

And make my tongue of so great puissance,
   That but a single sparkle of thy glory
   It may bequeath unto the future people;

For by returning to my memory somewhat,
   And by a little sounding in these verses,
   More of thy victory shall be conceived!

I think the keenness of the living ray
   Which I endured would have bewildered me,
   If but mine eyes had been averted from it;

And I remember that I was more bold
   On this account to bear, so that I joined
   My aspect with the Glory Infinite.

O grace abundant, by which I presumed
   To fix my sight upon the Light Eternal,
   So that the seeing I consumed therein!

I saw that in its depth far down is lying
   Bound up with love together in one volume,
   What through the universe in leaves is scattered;

Substance, and accident, and their operations,
   All interfused together in such wise
   That what I speak of is one simple light.

The universal fashion of this knot
   Methinks I saw, since more abundantly
   In saying this I feel that I rejoice.

One moment is more lethargy to me,
   Than five and twenty centuries to the emprise
   That startled Neptune with the shade of Argo!

My mind in this wise wholly in suspense,
   Steadfast, immovable, attentive gazed,
   And evermore with gazing grew enkindled.

In presence of that light one such becomes,
   That to withdraw therefrom for other prospect
   It is impossible he e'er consent;

Because the good, which object is of will,
   Is gathered all in this, and out of it
   That is defective which is perfect there.

Shorter henceforward will my language fall
   Of what I yet remember, than an infant's
   Who still his tongue doth moisten at the breast.

Not because more than one unmingled semblance
   Was in the living light on which I looked,
   For it is always what it was before;

But through the sight, that fortified itself
   In me by looking, one appearance only
   To me was ever changing as I changed.

Within the deep and luminous subsistence
   Of the High Light appeared to me three circles,
   Of threefold colour and of one dimension,

And by the second seemed the first reflected
   As Iris is by Iris, and the third
   Seemed fire that equally from both is breathed.

O how all speech is feeble and falls short
   Of my conceit, and this to what I saw
   Is such, 'tis not enough to call it little!

O Light Eterne, sole in thyself that dwellest,
   Sole knowest thyself, and, known unto thyself
   And knowing, lovest and smilest on thyself!

That circulation, which being thus conceived
   Appeared in thee as a reflected light,
   When somewhat contemplated by mine eyes,

Within itself, of its own very colour
   Seemed to me painted with our effigy,
   Wherefore my sight was all absorbed therein.

As the geometrician, who endeavours
   To square the circle, and discovers not,
   By taking thought, the principle he wants,

Even such was I at that new apparition;
   I wished to see how the image to the circle
   Conformed itself, and how it there finds place;

But my own wings were not enough for this,
   Had it not been that then my mind there smote
   A flash of lightning, wherein came its wish.

Here vigour failed the lofty fantasy:
   But now was turning my desire and will,
   Even as a wheel that equally is moved,

The Love which moves the sun and the other stars.