The Divine Comedy: Paradise, by Dante Alighieri

CANTO XII

Soon as its final word the blessed flame

Had rais’d for utterance, straight the holy mill

Began to wheel, nor yet had once revolv’d,

Or ere another, circling, compass’d it,

Motion to motion, song to song, conjoining,

Song, that as much our muses doth excel,

Our Sirens with their tuneful pipes, as ray

Of primal splendour doth its faint reflex.

As when, if Juno bid her handmaid forth,

Two arches parallel, and trick’d alike,

Span the thin cloud, the outer taking birth

From that within (in manner of that voice

Whom love did melt away, as sun the mist),

And they who gaze, presageful call to mind

The compact, made with Noah, of the world

No more to be o’erflow’d; about us thus

Of sempiternal roses, bending, wreath’d

Those garlands twain, and to the innermost

E’en thus th’ external answered. When the footing,

And other great festivity, of song,

And radiance, light with light accordant, each

Jocund and blythe, had at their pleasure still’d

(E’en as the eyes by quick volition mov’d,

Are shut and rais’d together), from the heart

Of one amongst the new lights mov’d a voice,

That made me seem like needle to the star,

In turning to its whereabout, and thus

Began: “The love, that makes me beautiful,

Prompts me to tell of th’ other guide, for whom

Such good of mine is spoken. Where one is,

The other worthily should also be;

That as their warfare was alike, alike

Should be their glory. Slow, and full of doubt,

And with thin ranks, after its banner mov’d

The army of Christ (which it so clearly cost

To reappoint), when its imperial Head,

Who reigneth ever, for the drooping host

Did make provision, thorough grace alone,

And not through its deserving. As thou heard’st,

Two champions to the succour of his spouse

He sent, who by their deeds and words might join

Again his scatter’d people. In that clime,

Where springs the pleasant west-wind to unfold

The fresh leaves, with which Europe sees herself

New-garmented; nor from those billows far,

Beyond whose chiding, after weary course,

The sun doth sometimes hide him, safe abides

The happy Callaroga, under guard

Of the great shield, wherein the lion lies

Subjected and supreme. And there was born

The loving million of the Christian faith,

The hollow’d wrestler, gentle to his own,

And to his enemies terrible. So replete

His soul with lively virtue, that when first

Created, even in the mother’s womb,

It prophesied. When, at the sacred font,

The spousals were complete ’twixt faith and him,

Where pledge of mutual safety was exchang’d,

The dame, who was his surety, in her sleep

Beheld the wondrous fruit, that was from him

And from his heirs to issue. And that such

He might be construed, as indeed he was,

She was inspir’d to name him of his owner,

Whose he was wholly, and so call’d him Dominic.

And I speak of him, as the labourer,

Whom Christ in his own garden chose to be

His help-mate. Messenger he seem’d, and friend

Fast-knit to Christ; and the first love he show’d,

Was after the first counsel that Christ gave.

Many a time his nurse, at entering found

That he had ris’n in silence, and was prostrate,

As who should say, “My errand was for this.”

O happy father! Felix rightly nam’d!

O favour’d mother! rightly nam’d Joanna!

If that do mean, as men interpret it.

Not for the world’s sake, for which now they pore

Upon Ostiense and Taddeo’s page,

But for the real manna, soon he grew

Mighty in learning, and did set himself

To go about the vineyard, that soon turns

To wan and wither’d, if not tended well:

And from the sea (whose bounty to the just

And needy is gone by, not through its fault,

But his who fills it basely, he besought,

No dispensation for commuted wrong,

Nor the first vacant fortune, nor the tenth),

That to God’s paupers rightly appertain,

But, ’gainst an erring and degenerate world,

Licence to fight, in favour of that seed,

From which the twice twelve cions gird thee round.

Then, with sage doctrine and good will to help,

Forth on his great apostleship he far’d,

Like torrent bursting from a lofty vein;

And, dashing ’gainst the stocks of heresy,

Smote fiercest, where resistance was most stout.

Thence many rivulets have since been turn’d,

Over the garden Catholic to lead

Their living waters, and have fed its plants.

“If such one wheel of that two-yoked car,

Wherein the holy church defended her,

And rode triumphant through the civil broil.

Thou canst not doubt its fellow’s excellence,

Which Thomas, ere my coming, hath declar’d

So courteously unto thee. But the track,

Which its smooth fellies made, is now deserted:

That mouldy mother is where late were lees.

His family, that wont to trace his path,

Turn backward, and invert their steps; erelong

To rue the gathering in of their ill crop,

When the rejected tares in vain shall ask

Admittance to the barn. I question not

But he, who search’d our volume, leaf by leaf,

Might still find page with this inscription on’t,

‘I am as I was wont.’ Yet such were not

From Acquasparta nor Casale, whence

Of those, who come to meddle with the text,

One stretches and another cramps its rule.

Bonaventura’s life in me behold,

From Bagnororegio, one, who in discharge

Of my great offices still laid aside

All sinister aim. Illuminato here,

And Agostino join me: two they were,

Among the first of those barefooted meek ones,

Who sought God’s friendship in the cord: with them

Hugues of Saint Victor, Pietro Mangiadore,

And he of Spain in his twelve volumes shining,

Nathan the prophet, Metropolitan

Chrysostom, and Anselmo, and, who deign’d

To put his hand to the first art, Donatus.

Raban is here: and at my side there shines

Calabria’s abbot, Joachim, endow’d

With soul prophetic. The bright courtesy

Of friar Thomas, and his goodly lore,

Have mov’d me to the blazon of a peer

So worthy, and with me have mov’d this throng.”

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 15:58