Paradiso: Canto XX
When he who all the
of our hemisphere so far descends
That on all sides the daylight is consumed,
The heaven, that
erst by him alone was kindled,
suddenly reveal itself again
By many lights, wherein is one resplendent.
And came into my
mind this act of heaven,
the ensign of the world and of its leaders
Had silent in the blessed beak become;
living luminaries all,
far more luminous, did songs begin
Lapsing and falling from my memory.
O gentle Love, that
with a smile dost cloak thee,
ardent in those sparks didst thou appear,
That had the breath alone of holy thoughts!
After the precious
and pellucid crystals,
which begemmed the sixth light I beheld,
Silence imposed on the angelic bells,
I seemed to hear
the murmuring of a river
clear descendeth down from rock to rock,
Showing the affluence of its mountain-top.
And as the sound
upon the cithern's neck
its form, and as upon the vent
Of rustic pipe the wind that enters it,
Even thus, relieved
from the delay of waiting,
murmuring of the eagle mounted up
Along its neck, as if it had been hollow.
There it became a
voice, and issued thence
out its beak, in such a form of words
As the heart waited for wherein I wrote them.
"The part in me
which sees and bears the sun
mortal eagles," it began to me,
"Now fixedly must needs be looked upon;
For of the fires of
which I make my figure,
whence the eye doth sparkle in my head
Of all their orders the supremest are.
He who is shining
in the midst as pupil
once the singer of the Holy Spirit,
Who bore the ark from city unto city;
Now knoweth he the
merit of his song,
so far as effect of his own counsel,
By the reward which is commensurate.
Of five, that make
a circle for my brow,
that approacheth nearest to my beak
Did the poor widow for her son console;
Now knoweth he how
dearly it doth cost
following Christ, by the experience
Of this sweet life and of its opposite.
He who comes next
in the circumference
which I speak, upon its highest arc,
Did death postpone by penitence sincere;
Now knoweth he that
the eternal judgment
no change, albeit worthy prayer
Maketh below to-morrow of to-day.
The next who
follows, with the laws and me,
the good intent that bore bad fruit
Became a Greek by ceding to the pastor;
Now knoweth he how
all the ill deduced
his good action is not harmful to him,
Although the world thereby may be destroyed.
And he, whom in the
downward arc thou seest,
was, whom the same land deplores
That weepeth Charles and Frederick yet alive;
Now knoweth he how
heaven enamoured is
a just king; and in the outward show
Of his effulgence he reveals it still.
Who would believe,
down in the errant world,
e'er the Trojan Ripheus in this round
Could be the fifth one of the holy lights?
Now knoweth he
enough of what the world
not the power to see of grace divine,
Although his sight may not discern the bottom."
Like as a lark that
in the air expatiates,
singing and then silent with content
Of the last sweetness that doth satisfy her,
Such seemed to me
the image of the imprint
the eternal pleasure, by whose will
Doth everything become the thing it is.
to my doubt I was
glass is to the colour that invests it,
To wait the time in silence it endured not,
But forth from out
my mouth, "What things are these?"
with the force of its own weight;
Whereat I saw great joy of coruscation.
eye still more enkindled
blessed standard made to me reply,
To keep me not in wonderment suspended:
"I see that thou
believest in these things
I say them, but thou seest not how;
So that, although believed in, they are hidden.
Thou doest as he
doth who a thing by name
apprehendeth, but its quiddity
Cannot perceive, unless another show it.
fervent love, and from that living hope
That overcometh the Divine volition;
Not in the guise
that man o'ercometh man,
conquers it because it will be conquered,
And conquered conquers by benignity.
The first life of
the eyebrow and the fifth
thee astonishment, because with them
Thou seest the region of the angels painted.
They passed not
from their bodies, as thou thinkest,
but Christians in the steadfast faith
Of feet that were to suffer and had suffered.
For one from Hell,
where no one e'er turns back
good will, returned unto his bones,
And that of living hope was the reward,--
Of living hope,
that placed its efficacy
prayers to God made to resuscitate him,
So that 'twere possible to move his will.
The glorious soul
concerning which I speak,
to the flesh, where brief its stay,
Believed in Him who had the power to aid it;
And, in believing,
kindled to such fire
genuine love, that at the second death
Worthy it was to come unto this joy.
The other one,
through grace, that from so deep
fountain wells that never hath the eye
Of any creature reached its primal wave,
Set all his love
below on righteousness;
from grace to grace did God unclose
His eye to our redemption yet to be,
Whence he believed
therein, and suffered not
that day forth the stench of paganism,
And he reproved therefor the folk perverse.
three, whom at the right-hand wheel
didst behold, were unto him for baptism
More than a thousand years before baptizing.
predestination, how remote
root is from the aspect of all those
Who the First Cause do not behold entire!
And you, O mortals!
hold yourselves restrained
judging; for ourselves, who look on God,
We do not know as yet all the elect;
And sweet to us is
such a deprivation,
our good in this good is made perfect,
That whatsoe'er God wills, we also will."
After this manner
by that shape divine,
make clear in me my short-sightedness,
Was given to me a pleasant medicine;
And as good singer
a good lutanist
with vibrations of the chords,
Whereby more pleasantness the song acquires,
So, while it spake,
do I remember me
I beheld both of those blessed lights,
Even as the winking of the eyes concords,
Moving unto the
words their little flames.