The Divine Comedy: Paradise, by Dante Alighieri

CANTO XXVI

With dazzled eyes, whilst wond’ring I remain’d,

Forth of the beamy flame which dazzled me,

Issued a breath, that in attention mute

Detain’d me; and these words it spake: “’T were well,

That, long as till thy vision, on my form

O’erspent, regain its virtue, with discourse

Thou compensate the brief delay. Say then,

Beginning, to what point thy soul aspires:

And meanwhile rest assur’d, that sight in thee

Is but o’erpowered a space, not wholly quench’d:

Since thy fair guide and lovely, in her look

Hath potency, the like to that which dwelt

In Ananias’ hand.” I answering thus:

“Be to mine eyes the remedy or late

Or early, at her pleasure; for they were

The gates, at which she enter’d, and did light

Her never dying fire. My wishes here

Are centered; in this palace is the weal,

That Alpha and Omega, is to all

The lessons love can read me.” Yet again

The voice which had dispers’d my fear, when daz’d

With that excess, to converse urg’d, and spake:

“Behooves thee sift more narrowly thy terms,

And say, who level’d at this scope thy bow.”

“Philosophy,” said I, “hath arguments,

And this place hath authority enough

T’imprint in me such love: for, of constraint,

Good, inasmuch as we perceive the good,

Kindles our love, and in degree the more,

As it comprises more of goodness in ’t.

The essence then, where such advantage is,

That each good, found without it, is naught else

But of his light the beam, must needs attract

The soul of each one, loving, who the truth

Discerns, on which this proof is built. Such truth

Learn I from him, who shows me the first love

Of all intelligential substances

Eternal: from his voice I learn, whose word

Is truth, that of himself to Moses saith,

‘I will make all my good before thee pass.’

Lastly from thee I learn, who chief proclaim’st,

E’en at the outset of thy heralding,

In mortal ears the mystery of heav’n.”

“Through human wisdom, and th’ authority

Therewith agreeing,” heard I answer’d, “keep

The choicest of thy love for God. But say,

If thou yet other cords within thee feel’st

That draw thee towards him; so that thou report

How many are the fangs, with which this love

Is grappled to thy soul.” I did not miss,

To what intent the eagle of our Lord

Had pointed his demand; yea noted well

Th’ avowal, which he led to; and resum’d:

“All grappling bonds, that knit the heart to God,

Confederate to make fast our clarity.

The being of the world, and mine own being,

The death which he endur’d that I should live,

And that, which all the faithful hope, as I do,

To the foremention’d lively knowledge join’d,

Have from the sea of ill love sav’d my bark,

And on the coast secur’d it of the right.

As for the leaves, that in the garden bloom,

My love for them is great, as is the good

Dealt by th’ eternal hand, that tends them all.”

I ended, and therewith a song most sweet

Rang through the spheres; and “Holy, holy, holy,”

Accordant with the rest my lady sang.

And as a sleep is broken and dispers’d

Through sharp encounter of the nimble light,

With the eye’s spirit running forth to meet

The ray, from membrane on to the membrane urg’d;

And the upstartled wight loathes that he sees;

So, at his sudden waking, he misdeems

Of all around him, till assurance waits

On better judgment: thus the saintly came

Drove from before mine eyes the motes away,

With the resplendence of her own, that cast

Their brightness downward, thousand miles below.

Whence I my vision, clearer shall before,

Recover’d; and, well nigh astounded, ask’d

Of a fourth light, that now with us I saw.

And Beatrice: “The first diving soul,

That ever the first virtue fram’d, admires

Within these rays his Maker.” Like the leaf,

That bows its lithe top till the blast is blown;

By its own virtue rear’d then stands aloof;

So I, the whilst she said, awe-stricken bow’d.

Then eagerness to speak embolden’d me;

And I began: “O fruit! that wast alone

Mature, when first engender’d! Ancient father!

That doubly seest in every wedded bride

Thy daughter by affinity and blood!

Devoutly as I may, I pray thee hold

Converse with me: my will thou seest; and I,

More speedily to hear thee, tell it not.”

It chanceth oft some animal bewrays,

Through the sleek cov’ring of his furry coat.

The fondness, that stirs in him and conforms

His outside seeming to the cheer within:

And in like guise was Adam’s spirit mov’d

To joyous mood, that through the covering shone,

Transparent, when to pleasure me it spake:

“No need thy will be told, which I untold

Better discern, than thou whatever thing

Thou holdst most certain: for that will I see

In Him, who is truth’s mirror, and Himself

Parhelion unto all things, and naught else

To him. This wouldst thou hear; how long since God

Plac’d me high garden, from whose hounds

She led me up in this ladder, steep and long;

What space endur’d my season of delight;

Whence truly sprang the wrath that banish’d me;

And what the language, which I spake and fram’d

Not that I tasted of the tree, my son,

Was in itself the cause of that exile,

But only my transgressing of the mark

Assign’d me. There, whence at thy lady’s hest

The Mantuan mov’d him, still was I debarr’d

This council, till the sun had made complete,

Four thousand and three hundred rounds and twice,

His annual journey; and, through every light

In his broad pathway, saw I him return,

Thousand save sev’nty times, the whilst I dwelt

Upon the earth. The language I did use

Was worn away, or ever Nimrod’s race

Their unaccomplishable work began.

For naught, that man inclines to, ere was lasting,

Left by his reason free, and variable,

As is the sky that sways him. That he speaks,

Is nature’s prompting: whether thus or thus,

She leaves to you, as ye do most affect it.

Ere I descended into hell’s abyss,

El was the name on earth of the Chief Good,

Whose joy enfolds me: Eli then ’t was call’d

And so beseemeth: for, in mortals, use

Is as the leaf upon the bough; that goes,

And other comes instead. Upon the mount

Most high above the waters, all my life,

Both innocent and guilty, did but reach

From the first hour, to that which cometh next

(As the sun changes quarter), to the sixth.”

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