Paradiso: Canto XXIII
Even as a bird,
'mid the beloved leaves,
upon the nest of her sweet brood
Throughout the night, that hideth all things from us,
Who, that she may
behold their longed-for looks
find the food wherewith to nourish them,
In which, to her, grave labours grateful are,
time on open spray
with an ardent longing waits the sun,
Gazing intent as soon as breaks the dawn:
Even thus my Lady
standing was, erect
vigilant, turned round towards the zone
Underneath which the sun displays less haste;
So that beholding
her distraught and wistful,
I became as he is who desiring
For something yearns, and hoping is appeased.
But brief the space
from one When to the other;
my awaiting, say I, and the seeing
The welkin grow resplendent more and more.
exclaimed: "Behold the hosts
Christ's triumphal march, and all the fruit
Harvested by the rolling of these spheres!"
It seemed to me her
face was all aflame;
eyes she had so full of ecstasy
That I must needs pass on without describing.
As when in nights
serene of the full moon
Trivia among the nymphs eternal
Who paint the firmament through all its gulfs,
Saw I, above the
myriads of lamps,
Sun that one and all of them enkindled,
E'en as our own doth the supernal sights,
And through the
living light transparent shone
lucent substance so intensely clear
Into my sight, that I sustained it not.
O Beatrice, thou
gentle guide and dear!
me she said: "What overmasters thee
A virtue is from which naught shields itself.
There are the
wisdom and the omnipotence
oped the thoroughfares 'twixt heaven and earth,
For which there erst had been so long a yearning."
As fire from out a
cloud unlocks itself,
so it finds not room therein,
And down, against its nature, falls to earth,
So did my mind,
among those aliments
larger, issue from itself,
And that which it became cannot remember.
"Open thine eyes,
and look at what I am:
hast beheld such things, that strong enough
Hast thou become to tolerate my smile."
I was as one who
still retains the feeling
a forgotten vision, and endeavours
In vain to bring it back into his mind,
When I this
invitation heard, deserving
so much gratitude, it never fades
Out of the book that chronicles the past.
If at this moment
sounded all the tongues
Polyhymnia and her sisters made
Most lubrical with their delicious milk,
To aid me, to a
thousandth of the truth
would not reach, singing the holy smile
And how the holy aspect it illumed.
sacred poem must perforce leap over,
Even as a man who finds his way cut off;
But whoso thinketh
of the ponderous theme,
of the mortal shoulder laden with it,
Should blame it not, if under this it tremble.
It is no passage
for a little boat
which goes cleaving the audacious prow,
Nor for a pilot who would spare himself.
"Why doth my face
so much enamour thee,
to the garden fair thou turnest not,
Which under the rays of Christ is blossoming?
There is the Rose
in which the Word Divine
incarnate; there the lilies are
By whose perfume the good way was discovered."
Thus Beatrice; and
I, who to her counsels
wholly ready, once again betook me
Unto the battle of the feeble brows.
As in the sunshine,
that unsullied streams
fractured cloud, ere now a meadow of flowers
Mine eyes with shadow covered o'er have seen,
So troops of
splendours manifold I saw
from above with burning rays,
Beholding not the source of the effulgence.
O power benignant
that dost so imprint them!
didst exalt thyself to give more scope
There to mine eyes, that were not strong enough.
The name of that
fair flower I e'er invoke
and evening utterly enthralled
My soul to gaze upon the greater fire.
And when in both
mine eyes depicted were
glory and greatness of the living star
Which there excelleth, as it here excelled,
Athwart the heavens
a little torch descended
in a circle like a coronal,
And cinctured it, and whirled itself about it.
most sweetly soundeth
earth, and to itself most draws the soul,
Would seem a cloud that, rent asunder, thunders,
Compared unto the
sounding of that lyre
was crowned the sapphire beautiful,
Which gives the clearest heaven its sapphire hue.
"I am Angelic Love,
that circle round
joy sublime which breathes from out the womb
That was the hostelry of our Desire;
And I shall circle,
Lady of Heaven, while
followest thy Son, and mak'st diviner
The sphere supreme, because thou enterest there."
Thus did the
itself up; and all the other lights
Were making to resound the name of Mary.
The regal mantle of
the volumes all
that world, which most fervid is and living
With breath of God and with his works and ways,
Extended over us
its inner border,
very distant, that the semblance of it
There where I was not yet appeared to me.
Therefore mine eyes
did not possess the power
following the incoronated flame,
Which mounted upward near to its own seed.
And as a little
child, that towards its mother
its arms, when it the milk has taken,
Through impulse kindled into outward flame,
Each of those
gleams of whiteness upward reached
with its summit, that the deep affection
They had for Mary was revealed to me.
remained there in my sight,
coeli' singing with such sweetness,
That ne'er from me has the delight departed.
O, what exuberance
is garnered up
those richest coffers, which had been
Good husbandmen for sowing here below!
There they enjoy
and live upon the treasure
was acquired while weeping in the exile
Of Babylon, wherein the gold was left.
beneath the exalted Son
God and Mary, in his victory,
Both with the ancient council and the new,
He who doth keep
the keys of such a glory.