The Divine Comedy: Paradise, by Dante Alighieri

CANTO XXVII

Then “Glory to the Father, to the Son,

And to the Holy Spirit,” rang aloud

Throughout all Paradise, that with the song

My spirit reel’d, so passing sweet the strain:

And what I saw was equal ecstasy;

One universal smile it seem’d of all things,

Joy past compare, gladness unutterable,

Imperishable life of peace and love,

Exhaustless riches and unmeasur’d bliss.

Before mine eyes stood the four torches lit;

And that, which first had come, began to wax

In brightness, and in semblance such became,

As Jove might be, if he and Mars were birds,

And interchang’d their plumes. Silence ensued,

Through the blest quire, by Him, who here appoints

Vicissitude of ministry, enjoin’d;

When thus I heard: “Wonder not, if my hue

Be chang’d; for, while I speak, these shalt thou see

All in like manner change with me. My place

He who usurps on earth (my place, ay, mine,

Which in the presence of the Son of God

Is void), the same hath made my cemetery

A common sewer of puddle and of blood:

The more below his triumph, who from hence

Malignant fell.” Such colour, as the sun,

At eve or morning, paints an adverse cloud,

Then saw I sprinkled over all the sky.

And as th’ unblemish’d dame, who in herself

Secure of censure, yet at bare report

Of other’s failing, shrinks with maiden fear;

So Beatrice in her semblance chang’d:

And such eclipse in heav’n methinks was seen,

When the Most Holy suffer’d. Then the words

Proceeded, with voice, alter’d from itself

So clean, the semblance did not alter more.

“Not to this end was Christ’s spouse with my blood,

With that of Linus, and of Cletus fed:

That she might serve for purchase of base gold:

But for the purchase of this happy life

Did Sextus, Pius, and Callixtus bleed,

And Urban, they, whose doom was not without

Much weeping seal’d. No purpose was of our

That on the right hand of our successors

Part of the Christian people should be set,

And part upon their left; nor that the keys,

Which were vouchsaf’d me, should for ensign serve

Unto the banners, that do levy war

On the baptiz’d: nor I, for sigil-mark

Set upon sold and lying privileges;

Which makes me oft to bicker and turn red.

In shepherd’s clothing greedy wolves below

Range wide o’er all the pastures. Arm of God!

Why longer sleepst thou? Caorsines and Gascona

Prepare to quaff our blood. O good beginning

To what a vile conclusion must thou stoop!

But the high providence, which did defend

Through Scipio the world’s glory unto Rome,

Will not delay its succour: and thou, son,

Who through thy mortal weight shall yet again

Return below, open thy lips, nor hide

What is by me not hidden.” As a Hood

Of frozen vapours streams adown the air,

What time the she-goat with her skiey horn

Touches the sun; so saw I there stream wide

The vapours, who with us had linger’d late

And with glad triumph deck th’ ethereal cope.

Onward my sight their semblances pursued;

So far pursued, as till the space between

From its reach sever’d them: whereat the guide

Celestial, marking me no more intent

On upward gazing, said, “Look down and see

What circuit thou hast compass’d.” From the hour

When I before had cast my view beneath,

All the first region overpast I saw,

Which from the midmost to the bound’ry winds;

That onward thence from Gades I beheld

The unwise passage of Laertes’ son,

And hitherward the shore, where thou, Europa!

Mad’st thee a joyful burden: and yet more

Of this dim spot had seen, but that the sun,

A constellation off and more, had ta’en

His progress in the zodiac underneath.

Then by the spirit, that doth never leave

Its amorous dalliance with my lady’s looks,

Back with redoubled ardour were mine eyes

Led unto her: and from her radiant smiles,

Whenas I turn’d me, pleasure so divine

Did lighten on me, that whatever bait

Or art or nature in the human flesh,

Or in its limn’d resemblance, can combine

Through greedy eyes to take the soul withal,

Were to her beauty nothing. Its boon influence

From the fair nest of Leda rapt me forth,

And wafted on into the swiftest heav’n.

What place for entrance Beatrice chose,

I may not say, so uniform was all,

Liveliest and loftiest. She my secret wish

Divin’d; and with such gladness, that God’s love

Seem’d from her visage shining, thus began:

“Here is the goal, whence motion on his race

Starts; motionless the centre, and the rest

All mov’d around. Except the soul divine,

Place in this heav’n is none, the soul divine,

Wherein the love, which ruleth o’er its orb,

Is kindled, and the virtue that it sheds;

One circle, light and love, enclasping it,

As this doth clasp the others; and to Him,

Who draws the bound, its limit only known.

Measur’d itself by none, it doth divide

Motion to all, counted unto them forth,

As by the fifth or half ye count forth ten.

The vase, wherein time’s roots are plung’d, thou seest,

Look elsewhere for the leaves. O mortal lust!

That canst not lift thy head above the waves

Which whelm and sink thee down! The will in man

Bears goodly blossoms; but its ruddy promise

Is, by the dripping of perpetual rain,

Made mere abortion: faith and innocence

Are met with but in babes, each taking leave

Ere cheeks with down are sprinkled; he, that fasts,

While yet a stammerer, with his tongue let loose

Gluts every food alike in every moon.

One yet a babbler, loves and listens to

His mother; but no sooner hath free use

Of speech, than he doth wish her in her grave.

So suddenly doth the fair child of him,

Whose welcome is the morn and eve his parting,

To negro blackness change her virgin white.

“Thou, to abate thy wonder, note that none

Bears rule in earth, and its frail family

Are therefore wand’rers. Yet before the date,

When through the hundredth in his reck’ning drops

Pale January must be shor’d aside

From winter’s calendar, these heav’nly spheres

Shall roar so loud, that fortune shall be fain

To turn the poop, where she hath now the prow;

So that the fleet run onward; and true fruit,

Expected long, shall crown at last the bloom!”

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