The Divine Comedy: Paradise, by Dante Alighieri

CANTO XVIII

CANTO XVIII

Now in his word, sole, ruminating, joy’d

That blessed spirit; and I fed on mine,

Tempting the sweet with bitter: she meanwhile,

Who led me unto God, admonish’d: “Muse

On other thoughts: bethink thee, that near Him

I dwell, who recompenseth every wrong.”

At the sweet sounds of comfort straight I turn’d;

And, in the saintly eyes what love was seen,

I leave in silence here: nor through distrust

Of my words only, but that to such bliss

The mind remounts not without aid. Thus much

Yet may I speak; that, as I gaz’d on her,

Affection found no room for other wish.

While the everlasting pleasure, that did full

On Beatrice shine, with second view

From her fair countenance my gladden’d soul

Contented; vanquishing me with a beam

Of her soft smile, she spake: “Turn thee, and list.

These eyes are not thy only Paradise.”

As here we sometimes in the looks may see

Th’ affection mark’d, when that its sway hath ta’en

The spirit wholly; thus the hallow’d light,

To whom I turn’d, flashing, bewray’d its will

To talk yet further with me, and began:

“On this fifth lodgment of the tree, whose life

Is from its top, whose fruit is ever fair

And leaf unwith’ring, blessed spirits abide,

That were below, ere they arriv’d in heav’n,

So mighty in renown, as every muse

Might grace her triumph with them. On the horns

Look therefore of the cross: he, whom I name,

Shall there enact, as doth in summer cloud

Its nimble fire.” Along the cross I saw,

At the repeated name of Joshua,

A splendour gliding; nor, the word was said,

Ere it was done: then, at the naming saw

Of the great Maccabee, another move

With whirling speed; and gladness was the scourge

Unto that top. The next for Charlemagne

And for the peer Orlando, two my gaze

Pursued, intently, as the eye pursues

A falcon flying. Last, along the cross,

William, and Renard, and Duke Godfrey drew

My ken, and Robert Guiscard. And the soul,

Who spake with me among the other lights

Did move away, and mix; and with the choir

Of heav’nly songsters prov’d his tuneful skill.

To Beatrice on my right I bent,

Looking for intimation or by word

Or act, what next behoov’d; and did descry

Such mere effulgence in her eyes, such joy,

It past all former wont. And, as by sense

Of new delight, the man, who perseveres

In good deeds doth perceive from day to day

His virtue growing; I e’en thus perceiv’d

Of my ascent, together with the heav’n

The circuit widen’d, noting the increase

Of beauty in that wonder. Like the change

In a brief moment on some maiden’s cheek,

Which from its fairness doth discharge the weight

Of pudency, that stain’d it; such in her,

And to mine eyes so sudden was the change,

Through silvery whiteness of that temperate star,

Whose sixth orb now enfolded us. I saw,

Within that Jovial cresset, the clear sparks

Of love, that reign’d there, fashion to my view

Our language. And as birds, from river banks

Arisen, now in round, now lengthen’d troop,

Array them in their flight, greeting, as seems,

Their new-found pastures; so, within the lights,

The saintly creatures flying, sang, and made

Now D. now I. now L. figur’d i’ th’ air.

First, singing, to their notes they mov’d, then one

Becoming of these signs, a little while

Did rest them, and were mute. O nymph divine

Of Pegasean race! whose souls, which thou

Inspir’st, mak’st glorious and long-liv’d, as they

Cities and realms by thee! thou with thyself

Inform me; that I may set forth the shapes,

As fancy doth present them. Be thy power

Display’d in this brief song. The characters,

Vocal and consonant, were five-fold seven.

In order each, as they appear’d, I mark’d.

Diligite Justitiam, the first,

Both verb and noun all blazon’d; and the extreme

Qui judicatis terram. In the M.

Of the fifth word they held their station,

Making the star seem silver streak’d with gold.

And on the summit of the M. I saw

Descending other lights, that rested there,

Singing, methinks, their bliss and primal good.

Then, as at shaking of a lighted brand,

Sparkles innumerable on all sides

Rise scatter’d, source of augury to th’ unwise;

Thus more than thousand twinkling lustres hence

Seem’d reascending, and a higher pitch

Some mounting, and some less; e’en as the sun,

Which kindleth them, decreed. And when each one

Had settled in his place, the head and neck

Then saw I of an eagle, lively

Grav’d in that streaky fire. Who painteth there,

Hath none to guide him; of himself he guides;

And every line and texture of the nest

Doth own from him the virtue, fashions it.

The other bright beatitude, that seem’d

Erewhile, with lilied crowning, well content

To over-canopy the M. mov’d forth,

Following gently the impress of the bird.

Sweet star! what glorious and thick-studded gems

Declar’d to me our justice on the earth

To be the effluence of that heav’n, which thou,

Thyself a costly jewel, dost inlay!

Therefore I pray the Sovran Mind, from whom

Thy motion and thy virtue are begun,

That he would look from whence the fog doth rise,

To vitiate thy beam: so that once more

He may put forth his hand ’gainst such, as drive

Their traffic in that sanctuary, whose walls

With miracles and martyrdoms were built.

Ye host of heaven! whose glory I survey!

O beg ye grace for those, that are on earth

All after ill example gone astray.

War once had for its instrument the sword:

But now ’t is made, taking the bread away

Which the good Father locks from none. — And thou,

That writes but to cancel, think, that they,

Who for the vineyard, which thou wastest, died,

Peter and Paul live yet, and mark thy doings.

Thou hast good cause to cry, “My heart so cleaves

To him, that liv’d in solitude remote,

And from the wilds was dragg’d to martyrdom,

I wist not of the fisherman nor Paul.”

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