Paradiso: Canto VI
Constantine the eagle turned
the course of heaven, which it had followed
Behind the ancient who Lavinia took,
Two hundred years
and more the bird of God
the extreme of Europe held itself,
Near to the mountains whence it issued first;
And under shadow of
the sacred plumes
governed there the world from hand to hand,
And, changing thus, upon mine own alighted.
Caesar I was, and
by the will of primal Love I feel,
Took from the laws the useless and redundant;
And ere unto the
work I was attent,
nature to exist in Christ, not more,
Believed, and with such faith was I contented.
Agapetus, he who was
supreme pastor, to the faith sincere
Pointed me out the way by words of his.
Him I believed, and
what was his assertion
now see clearly, even as thou seest
Each contradiction to be false and true.
As soon as with the
Church I moved my feet,
in his grace it pleased with this high task
To inspire me, and I gave me wholly to it,
And to my
Belisarius I commended
arms, to which was heaven's right hand so joined
It was a signal that I should repose.
Now here to the
first question terminates
answer; but the character thereof
Constrains me to continue with a sequel,
In order that thou
see with how great reason
move against the standard sacrosanct,
Both who appropriate and who oppose it.
Behold how great a
power has made it worthy
reverence, beginning from the hour
When Pallas died to give it sovereignty.
Thou knowest it
made in Alba its abode
hundred years and upward, till at last
The three to three fought for it yet again.
Thou knowest what
it achieved from Sabine wrong
to Lucretia's sorrow, in seven kings
O'ercoming round about the neighboring nations;
Thou knowest what
it achieved, borne by the Romans
against Brennus, against Pyrrhus,
Against the other princes and confederates.
and Quinctius, who from locks
was named, Decii and Fabii,
Received the fame I willingly embalm;
It struck to earth
the pride of the Arabians,
following Hannibal, had passed across
The Alpine ridges, Po, from which thou glidest;
triumphed while they yet were young
and Scipio, and to the hill
Beneath which thou wast born it bitter seemed;
Then, near unto the
time when heaven had willed
bring the whole world to its mood serene,
Did Caesar by the will of Rome assume it.
What it achieved
from Var unto the Rhine,
beheld and Saone, beheld the Seine,
And every valley whence the Rhone is filled;
What it achieved
when it had left Ravenna,
leaped the Rubicon, was such a flight
That neither tongue nor pen could follow it.
Round towards Spain
it wheeled its legions; then
Durazzo, and Pharsalia smote
That to the calid Nile was felt the pain.
Antandros and the
Simois, whence it started,
saw again, and there where Hector lies,
And ill for Ptolemy then roused itself.
From thence it came
like lightning upon Juba;
wheeled itself again into your West,
Where the Pompeian clarion it heard.
From what it
wrought with the next standard-bearer
and Cassius howl in Hell together,
And Modena and Perugia dolent were;
Still doth the
mournful Cleopatra weep
thereof, who, fleeing from before it,
Took from the adder sudden and black death.
With him it ran
even to the Red Sea shore;
him it placed the world in so great peace,
That unto Janus was his temple closed.
But what the
standard that has made me speak
before, and after should achieve
Throughout the mortal realm that lies beneath it,
appearance mean and dim,
in the hand of the third Caesar seen
With eye unclouded and affection pure,
Because the living
Justice that inspires me
it, in the hand of him I speak of,
The glory of doing vengeance for its wrath.
Now here attend to
what I answer thee;
it ran with Titus to do vengeance
Upon the vengeance of the ancient sin.
And when the tooth
of Lombardy had bitten
Holy Church, then underneath its wings
Did Charlemagne victorious succor her.
Now hast thou power
to judge of such as those
I accused above, and of their crimes,
Which are the cause of all your miseries.
To the public
standard one the yellow lilies
the other claims it for a party,
So that 'tis hard to see which sins the most.
Let, let the
Ghibellines ply their handicraft
some other standard; for this ever
Ill follows he who it and justice parts.
And let not this
new Charles e'er strike it down,
and his Guelfs, but let him fear the talons
That from a nobler lion stripped the fell.
the sons have wept
father's crime; and let him not believe
That God will change His scutcheon for the lilies.
This little planet
doth adorn itself
the good spirits that have active been,
That fame and honour might come after them;
And whensoever the
desires mount thither,
deviating, must perforce the rays
Of the true love less vividly mount upward.
commensuration of our wages
our desert is portion of our joy,
Because we see them neither less nor greater.
Herein doth living
Justice sweeten so
in us, that for evermore
It cannot warp to any iniquity.
Voices diverse make
up sweet melodies;
in this life of ours the seats diverse
Render sweet harmony among these spheres;
And in the compass
of this present pearl
the sheen of Romeo, of whom
The grand and beauteous work was ill rewarded.
But the Provencals
who against him wrought,
have not laughed, and therefore ill goes he
Who makes his hurt of the good deeds of others.
Four daughters, and
each one of them a queen,
Raymond Berenger, and this for him
Did Romeo, a poor man and a pilgrim;
And then malicious
words incited him
summon to a reckoning this just man,
Who rendered to him seven and five for ten.
Then he departed
poor and stricken in years,
if the world could know the heart he had,
In begging bit by bit his livelihood,
Though much it laud
him, it would laud him more."