The Divine Comedy: Paradise, by Dante Alighieri

CANTO XIV

From centre to the circle, and so back

From circle to the centre, water moves

In the round chalice, even as the blow

Impels it, inwardly, or from without.

Such was the image glanc’d into my mind,

As the great spirit of Aquinum ceas’d;

And Beatrice after him her words

Resum’d alternate: “Need there is (tho’ yet

He tells it to you not in words, nor e’en

In thought) that he should fathom to its depth

Another mystery. Tell him, if the light,

Wherewith your substance blooms, shall stay with you

Eternally, as now: and, if it doth,

How, when ye shall regain your visible forms,

The sight may without harm endure the change,

That also tell.” As those, who in a ring

Tread the light measure, in their fitful mirth

Raise loud the voice, and spring with gladder bound;

Thus, at the hearing of that pious suit,

The saintly circles in their tourneying

And wond’rous note attested new delight.

Whoso laments, that we must doff this garb

Of frail mortality, thenceforth to live

Immortally above, he hath not seen

The sweet refreshing, of that heav’nly shower.

Him, who lives ever, and for ever reigns

In mystic union of the Three in One,

Unbounded, bounding all, each spirit thrice

Sang, with such melody, as but to hear

For highest merit were an ample meed.

And from the lesser orb the goodliest light,

With gentle voice and mild, such as perhaps

The angel’s once to Mary, thus replied:

“Long as the joy of Paradise shall last,

Our love shall shine around that raiment, bright,

As fervent; fervent, as in vision blest;

And that as far in blessedness exceeding,

As it hath grave beyond its virtue great.

Our shape, regarmented with glorious weeds

Of saintly flesh, must, being thus entire,

Show yet more gracious. Therefore shall increase,

Whate’er of light, gratuitous, imparts

The Supreme Good; light, ministering aid,

The better disclose his glory: whence

The vision needs increasing, much increase

The fervour, which it kindles; and that too

The ray, that comes from it. But as the greed

Which gives out flame, yet it its whiteness shines

More lively than that, and so preserves

Its proper semblance; thus this circling sphere

Of splendour, shall to view less radiant seem,

Than shall our fleshly robe, which yonder earth

Now covers. Nor will such excess of light

O’erpower us, in corporeal organs made

Firm, and susceptible of all delight.”

So ready and so cordial an “Amen,”

Followed from either choir, as plainly spoke

Desire of their dead bodies; yet perchance

Not for themselves, but for their kindred dear,

Mothers and sires, and those whom best they lov’d,

Ere they were made imperishable flame.

And lo! forthwith there rose up round about

A lustre over that already there,

Of equal clearness, like the brightening up

Of the horizon. As at an evening hour

Of twilight, new appearances through heav’n

Peer with faint glimmer, doubtfully descried;

So there new substances, methought began

To rise in view; and round the other twain

Enwheeling, sweep their ampler circuit wide.

O gentle glitter of eternal beam!

With what a such whiteness did it flow,

O’erpowering vision in me! But so fair,

So passing lovely, Beatrice show’d,

Mind cannot follow it, nor words express

Her infinite sweetness. Thence mine eyes regain’d

Power to look up, and I beheld myself,

Sole with my lady, to more lofty bliss

Translated: for the star, with warmer smile

Impurpled, well denoted our ascent.

With all the heart, and with that tongue which speaks

The same in all, an holocaust I made

To God, befitting the new grace vouchsaf’d.

And from my bosom had not yet upsteam’d

The fuming of that incense, when I knew

The rite accepted. With such mighty sheen

And mantling crimson, in two listed rays

The splendours shot before me, that I cried,

“God of Sabaoth! that does prank them thus!”

As leads the galaxy from pole to pole,

Distinguish’d into greater lights and less,

Its pathway, which the wisest fail to spell;

So thickly studded, in the depth of Mars,

Those rays describ’d the venerable sign,

That quadrants in the round conjoining frame.

Here memory mocks the toil of genius. Christ

Beam’d on that cross; and pattern fails me now.

But whoso takes his cross, and follows Christ

Will pardon me for that I leave untold,

When in the flecker’d dawning he shall spy

The glitterance of Christ. From horn to horn,

And ’tween the summit and the base did move

Lights, scintillating, as they met and pass’d.

Thus oft are seen, with ever-changeful glance,

Straight or athwart, now rapid and now slow,

The atomies of bodies, long or short,

To move along the sunbeam, whose slant line

Checkers the shadow, interpos’d by art

Against the noontide heat. And as the chime

Of minstrel music, dulcimer, and help

With many strings, a pleasant dining makes

To him, who heareth not distinct the note;

So from the lights, which there appear’d to me,

Gather’d along the cross a melody,

That, indistinctly heard, with ravishment

Possess’d me. Yet I mark’d it was a hymn

Of lofty praises; for there came to me

“Arise and conquer,” as to one who hears

And comprehends not. Me such ecstasy

O’ercame, that never till that hour was thing

That held me in so sweet imprisonment.

Perhaps my saying over bold appears,

Accounting less the pleasure of those eyes,

Whereon to look fulfilleth all desire.

But he, who is aware those living seals

Of every beauty work with quicker force,

The higher they are ris’n; and that there

I had not turn’d me to them; he may well

Excuse me that, whereof in my excuse

I do accuse me, and may own my truth;

That holy pleasure here not yet reveal’d,

Which grows in transport as we mount aloof.

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