The Divine Comedy: Paradise, by Dante Alighieri

CANTO XXX

Noon’s fervid hour perchance six thousand miles

From hence is distant; and the shadowy cone

Almost to level on our earth declines;

When from the midmost of this blue abyss

By turns some star is to our vision lost.

And straightway as the handmaid of the sun

Puts forth her radiant brow, all, light by light,

Fade, and the spangled firmament shuts in,

E’en to the loveliest of the glittering throng.

Thus vanish’d gradually from my sight

The triumph, which plays ever round the point,

That overcame me, seeming (for it did)

Engirt by that it girdeth. Wherefore love,

With loss of other object, forc’d me bend

Mine eyes on Beatrice once again.

If all, that hitherto is told of her,

Were in one praise concluded, ’t were too weak

To furnish out this turn. Mine eyes did look

On beauty, such, as I believe in sooth,

Not merely to exceed our human, but,

That save its Maker, none can to the full

Enjoy it. At this point o’erpower’d I fail,

Unequal to my theme, as never bard

Of buskin or of sock hath fail’d before.

For, as the sun doth to the feeblest sight,

E’en so remembrance of that witching smile

Hath dispossess my spirit of itself.

Not from that day, when on this earth I first

Beheld her charms, up to that view of them,

Have I with song applausive ever ceas’d

To follow, but not follow them no more;

My course here bounded, as each artist’s is,

When it doth touch the limit of his skill.

She (such as I bequeath her to the bruit

Of louder trump than mine, which hasteneth on,

Urging its arduous matter to the close),

Her words resum’d, in gesture and in voice

Resembling one accustom’d to command:

“Forth from the last corporeal are we come

Into the heav’n, that is unbodied light,

Light intellectual replete with love,

Love of true happiness replete with joy,

Joy, that transcends all sweetness of delight.

Here shalt thou look on either mighty host

Of Paradise; and one in that array,

Which in the final judgment thou shalt see.”

As when the lightning, in a sudden spleen

Unfolded, dashes from the blinding eyes

The visive spirits dazzled and bedimm’d;

So, round about me, fulminating streams

Of living radiance play’d, and left me swath’d

And veil’d in dense impenetrable blaze.

Such weal is in the love, that stills this heav’n;

For its own flame the torch this fitting ever!

No sooner to my list’ning ear had come

The brief assurance, than I understood

New virtue into me infus’d, and sight

Kindled afresh, with vigour to sustain

Excess of light, however pure. I look’d;

And in the likeness of a river saw

Light flowing, from whose amber-seeming waves

Flash’d up effulgence, as they glided on

’Twixt banks, on either side, painted with spring,

Incredible how fair; and, from the tide,

There ever and anon, outstarting, flew

Sparkles instinct with life; and in the flow’rs

Did set them, like to rubies chas’d in gold;

Then, as if drunk with odors, plung’d again

Into the wondrous flood; from which, as one

Re’enter’d, still another rose. “The thirst

Of knowledge high, whereby thou art inflam’d,

To search the meaning of what here thou seest,

The more it warms thee, pleases me the more.

But first behooves thee of this water drink,

Or ere that longing be allay’d.” So spake

The day-star of mine eyes; then thus subjoin’d:

“This stream, and these, forth issuing from its gulf,

And diving back, a living topaz each,

With all this laughter on its bloomy shores,

Are but a preface, shadowy of the truth

They emblem: not that, in themselves, the things

Are crude; but on thy part is the defect,

For that thy views not yet aspire so high.”

Never did babe, that had outslept his wont,

Rush, with such eager straining, to the milk,

As I toward the water, bending me,

To make the better mirrors of mine eyes

In the refining wave; and, as the eaves

Of mine eyelids did drink of it, forthwith

Seem’d it unto me turn’d from length to round,

Then as a troop of maskers, when they put

Their vizors off, look other than before,

The counterfeited semblance thrown aside;

So into greater jubilee were chang’d

Those flowers and sparkles, and distinct I saw

Before me either court of heav’n displac’d.

O prime enlightener! thou who crav’st me strength

On the high triumph of thy realm to gaze!

Grant virtue now to utter what I kenn’d,

There is in heav’n a light, whose goodly shine

Makes the Creator visible to all

Created, that in seeing him alone

Have peace; and in a circle spreads so far,

That the circumference were too loose a zone

To girdle in the sun. All is one beam,

Reflected from the summit of the first,

That moves, which being hence and vigour takes,

And as some cliff, that from the bottom eyes

Its image mirror’d in the crystal flood,

As if ’t admire its brave appareling

Of verdure and of flowers: so, round about,

Eyeing the light, on more than million thrones,

Stood, eminent, whatever from our earth

Has to the skies return’d. How wide the leaves

Extended to their utmost of this rose,

Whose lowest step embosoms such a space

Of ample radiance! Yet, nor amplitude

Nor height impeded, but my view with ease

Took in the full dimensions of that joy.

Near or remote, what there avails, where God

Immediate rules, and Nature, awed, suspends

Her sway? Into the yellow of the rose

Perennial, which in bright expansiveness,

Lays forth its gradual blooming, redolent

Of praises to the never-wint’ring sun,

As one, who fain would speak yet holds his peace,

Beatrice led me; and, “Behold,” she said,

“This fair assemblage! stoles of snowy white

How numberless! The city, where we dwell,

Behold how vast! and these our seats so throng’d

Few now are wanting here! In that proud stall,

On which, the crown, already o’er its state

Suspended, holds thine eyes — or ere thyself

Mayst at the wedding sup, — shall rest the soul

Of the great Harry, he who, by the world

Augustas hail’d, to Italy must come,

Before her day be ripe. But ye are sick,

And in your tetchy wantonness as blind,

As is the bantling, that of hunger dies,

And drives away the nurse. Nor may it be,

That he, who in the sacred forum sways,

Openly or in secret, shall with him

Accordant walk: Whom God will not endure

I’ th’ holy office long; but thrust him down

To Simon Magus, where Magna’s priest

Will sink beneath him: such will be his meed.”

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