1265-1321 Dante Alighieri.

The Vision : or, Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, of Dante Alighieri online

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Was tardier in motion ; and that glow'd

With flame most pure, that to the sparkle' of truth

Was nearest, as }»artalving most, methinks,

Of its reality. The guide belov'd

Saw me in anxious thought suspense, and spake : 35

" Heav'n, and all nature, hangs upon that point.

The circle thereto most conjoin'd observe ;

And know, that by intenser love its course

Is to this swiftness wing'd." To whom I thus :

" It were enough ; nor should I further seek, 40

Flad I but witness'd order, in the world

Appointed, such as in these wheels is seen.

But in the sensible world such diff'rence is,

That is each round shows more divinity,

As each is wider from the centre. Hence, 45

If in this Avondrous and angelic temple,

That hath for confine only light and love,

]\Iy wish may have completion I must know.

Wherefore such disagreement is between

Th' exemplar and its copy : for myself, 50

Contemplating, I fail to pierce the cause."

" It is no marvel, if thy fingers foil'd
Do leave the knot untied : so hard't is grown
For want of tenting." Thus she said : " But take,"
She added, " if thou Avish thy cure, my Avords, 55

And entertain them subtly. Every orb
Cor])oreal, doth proportion its extent
Unto the virtue through its parts diffus'd.
The greater blessedness preserves the more.
The greater is the body (if all parts 60

t'ARADISE. 341

Share equally) the more is to preserve.

Therefore the circle, whose swift course en wheels

Tlie universal frame answers to that,

Which is supreme in knowle(li:;o and in love

Thus by the virtue, not the seeming breadth 65

Of substance, measure, thou shalt see the heav'ns,

I Each to the' intelligence that ruletli it,

j Greater to more, and smaller unto less,
Suited in strict and wondrous harmony."

As when the sturdy north blows from his cheek 70

i A blast, that scours the sky, forthwith our air,

( Clear'd of the rack, that hung on it before,
Glitters ; and, with his beauties all unveil'd,
The firmament looks forth serene, and smiles;
Such was my cheer, when Beatrice drove 75

I With clear reply the shadows back, and truth

! Was manifested, as a star in heaven.

{ And when the words were ended, not unlike

I To iron in the furnace, every cirque

I Ebullient shot forth scintillating fires : 80

I And every sparkle shivering to new blaze,

; In number did outmillion the account

' Reduplicate u])on the chequer'd board.

Then heard I echoing on from choir to choir,

[ " Hosanna," to the fixed point, fliat holds, 85

; And shall for ever hold them to their place.
From everlasting, irremovable.

; Musing awhile I stood : and she, who saw

My inward meditations, thus began :
" In the first circles, they, whom thou beheldst, 90

Are seraphim and cherubim. Thus swift

■ Follow their hoops, in likeness to the point,
Near as they can, approaching; and they can
The more, the loftier their vision. Those,
That round them fleet, gazing the Godhead next, 95

Are thrones ; in whom the first trine ends. And all
Are blessed, even as their sight descends
Deeper into the truth, wherein rest is
For every mind. Thus happiness hath root
In seeing, not in loA ing, which of sight 100


Is uftcrgrowtli. And of ll\c seeing such

Tlie meed, as unto each in due degree

Grace and good-will their measure liave assign'd.

The other trine, that with still opening buds

In this eternal springtide blossom fair, 106

Fearless of bruising from the nightly ram,

Breathe up in warbled melodies threefold

Ilosannas blending ever, from the three

Transmitted, hierarchy of gods, for aye

Rejoicing, dominations first, next then 110

Virtues, and powers the third. The next to whom

Are princedoms and archangels, with glad round

To tread their festal ring; and hast tlie band

Angelical, disporting in their sphere.

All, as they circle in their orders, look 115

Aloft, and downward with such sway prevail,

That all with mutual impulse tend to God.

These once a mortal view beheld. Desire

In Dionysius so intently wrought,

That he, as I have done rang'd them ; and nam'd 120

Their orders, marshal'd in his thought. From him

Dissentient, one ref us'd his sacred read.

But soon as in this heav'n his doubting eyes

Were open'd, Gregory at his error smil'd

Nor marvel, that a denizen of earth 125

Should scan such secret truth ; for he had learnt

Both this and much beside of these our orbs,

From an eye-witness to heav'n's mysteries."


No longer than what time Latona's twins

Cover'd of Libra and the fleecy star.

Together both, girding the' horizon hang,

In even balance from the zenith pois'd.

Till from that verge, each, changing hemisphere,

Part the nice level ; e'en so brief a space

Did Beatrice's silence hold. A smile

Sat painted on her cheek ; and her fix'd gaze


Bent on the point, nt wliicli my vision f.ail'd :

When thus her words resuming- slie began : 10

" I speak, nor M'liat tliou wouhlst inquire demand ;

For I have mark'd it, wliere all time :Mid place

Are pi'esent. Not for increase to himself

Of good, which may not be increas'd, but forth

To manifest his glory by its beams, 16

Inhabiting his own eternity,

Beyond time's limit or what bound soe'er

To circumscribe his being, as he will'd,

Into new natures, like unto himself,

Eternal Love unfolded. Nor before, 20

As if in dull inaction torpid lay.

For not in process of before or aft

Upon these waters mov'd the Spirit of God.

Simple and mix'd, both form and substance, forth

To perfect being started, like three darts 25

Shot from a bow three-corded. And as ray

In crystal, glass, and amber, shines entire,

E'en at the moment of its issuing ; thus

Did, from th' eternal Sovran, beam entire

His threefold operation, at one act 30

Produc'd coeval. Yet in order each

Created his due station knew : those highest.

Who pure intelligence w^ere made : mere power

The lowest : in the midst, bound with strict league,

Intelligence and power, unsever'd bond. 35

Long tract of ages by the angels past.

Ere the creating of another world,

Describ'd on Jerome's pages thou hast seen.

But that what I disclose to thee is true.

Those penmen, whom the Holy Spirit mov'd 40

In many a passage of their sacred book

Attest ; as thou by diligent search shalt find

And reason in some sort discerns the same.

Who scarce would grant the heav'nly ministers

Of their perfection void, so long a space. 45

Thus when and Avhere these s]iirits of love were made,

Thou know'st, and how : and knowing hast allay'd

Thy thirst, which from the trij^le question rose.



Krc one liad rcckon'd twenty, e'en so soon

P:u-t of tlie angels fell : and in their fall 50

Confusion to your elements ensued.

The others kept thek- station : and this task,

Whereon thou lookst, began with such delight,

That they surcease not ever, day nor night.

Their circling. Of that fatal lapse the cause 05

Was the curst pride of him, whom thou hast seen

Pent with the world's incumbrance. Those, whom here

Thou seest, were lowly to confess themselves

Of his free bounty, who had made them apt

For ministries so high : therefore their views GO

Were by enlight'ning grace and their own merit

Exalted ; so that in their will confirm'd

Tiiey stand, nor fear to fall. For do not doubt.

But to receive the grace, which heav'n vouchsafes,

Is meritorious, even as the soul 05

With prompt affection Avelcometh the guest.

Kow, without further help, if with good heed

]\Iy words thy mind have treasur'd, thou henceforth

This consistory round about mayst scan.

And gaze thy fill. But since thou hast on earth 70

Pleard vain disputers, reasoners in the schools,

Canvas the' angelic nature, and dispute

Its powers of apprehension, memory, choice ;

Therefore, 't is well thou take from me the truth,

Pure and without disguise, which they below, 75

Equivocating, darken and perplex.

" Know thou, that, from the first, these substances,
Rejoicing in the countenance of God,
Have held unceasingly their view, intent
Upon the glorious vision, from the which 80

Naught absent is nor hid : Avhere then no change
Of newness with succeesion interruiJts,
Peniembrance there needs none to gather up
Divided thought and images remote.

" So tliat men, thus at variance with the truth 85

Dream, though their eyes be open ; reckless some
Of error ; others well aware they err.
To whom more guilt and shame are justly due.


Each tlie known track of sai^e pliilosophy

Deserts, and lias a l)yway of l)is own : 90

80 inucli tlie restless eaj^crness to shine

And love of singularity prevail. #

Yet this, offensive as it is, provokes

Ileav'n's anger less, than when the book of God

Is forc'd to yield to man's authority, 95

Or from its sti'aightness Avarp'd : no reck'ning made

What blood the sowing of it in tlie world

Has cost ; what favour for himself he wins,

Who meekly clings to it. The aim of all

Is how to shine : e'en they, whose office is 100

To preach the Gospel, let the gospel sleep,

And pass their own inventions off instead.

One tells, how at Christ's suffering the wan moon

Bent back her steps, and shadow'd o'er the sun

With intervenient disk, as she -withdrew : 105

Another, how the light shrouded itself

Within its tabernacle, and left dark

The Spaniard and the Indian, with the Jew.

Such fables Florence in her pulpit hears.

Bandied about more frequent, than the names 110

Of Bindi and of Lapi in her streets.

The sheep, meanwhile, poor witless ones, return

From pasture, fed with wind : and what avails

For their excuse, they do not see their harm ?

Christ said not to his first conventicle, 115

' Go forth and preach impostures to the world,'

But gave them truth to build on ; and the sound

Was mighty on their lips; nor needed they,

Beside the gospel, other spear or shield.

To aid them in their warfare for the faith. 120

''file ])reacher now provides himself with store

Of jests and gibes ; and, so there be no lack

Of laughter, while he Agents them, his big cowl

Distends, and he has won the meed he sought :

Could but the vulgar catch a glimpse the while 125

Of that dark bird which nestles in his hood,

They scarce would wait to hear the blessing said.

Which now the dotards lioM in such esteem,


346 rARAmsE.

That ovory coiintorfoit, who spronrls a1)roafl

The hands of holy ]iroinise, finds n throng 130

Of credulous fools beneath. Haint Anthony

Fattens with this liis swine, and others worse

Than swine, wlio diet at his lazy board,

Paying with unstamp'd metal for their fare.

" ])ut (for we far have wander'd) let us seek - 135

The forward path again ; so as the way
Be shorten'd with the time. No mortal tongue
Nor thought of man hath ever reach'd so far,
That of these natures he might count the tribes.
What Daniel of their thousands hath reveal'd 140

With finite number infinite conceals.
The fountain at whose source these drink their beams,
With light sujiplies them in as many modes,
As there are splendours, that it shines on : each
According to the virtue it conceives, 145

Differing in love and sweet affection.
Look then how lofty and how huge in breadth
The' eternal might, which, broken and disjjers'd
Over such countless mirrors, yet remains
Whole in itself and one, as at the first." 150


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. 5

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 gi-adually from my sight 10

The triumph, which plays ever round the jDoint,

That overcame me, seeming (for it did)

Engirt by that it girdeth. Wherefore love,

With loss of other object, forc'd me bend.


Mine c-yos on TJoatrice once agnin. 15

If all, that hitherto is told of her,
Were in one piaise 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, 20

That save its Maker, none can to the full
Enjoy it. At this ]ioint 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, 25

E'en so remembrance of that witching smile
Hath dispossest 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 ap]ilausive ever ceas'd 30

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, 35

Urging its arduous matter to the close),
Her words resum'd, in gesture and in voice
Resembling one accustom'd to command :
" Foi'th from the last corporeal are we come
Into the heav'n, that is unbodied light, 40

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, 45

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 60

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 !

348 I'AllADTSE.

No sooner to my list'nin<]f oar had come 55

The brief assurance, than I understood
New virtue into me infus'd, and sit:;lit
Kindled afresh, with vigour to sustain
Excess of liglit, liowever j)ure. I look'd ;
And in tlie likeness of a river saw CO

]jight flowing, fi'om whoso amber-seeming waves
Flash'd up effidgence, as they glided on
'Twixt baid<s, on either side, i)ainted with spring,
Incredible liow fair; and, from the tide,
There ever and anon, outstarting, flow 65

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; fi-om which, as one
Re'enter'd, still another rose. "The thirst 70

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 behoves thee of this water drink,
Or ere that longing be allay'd." So spake 75

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 80

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, Avith such eager straining, to the milk, 85

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 mo turn'd from length to round. 90

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



Tliosc flowers nnd sparkles, and distinct I saw 05

Before me either court of lieav'n dis])lay'd.

O prime enlightcner ! thou wlio gav'st mc strength
On the hii,di 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 100

Makes the Creator visible to all
Created, that in seeing him alone
Have peace ; and in a circle spreads so far,
That the circumf'rence were too loose a zone
To girdle in the sun. All is one beam, 105

lletlected 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 110

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, 115

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, Avhere God 120

Immediate rules, and Nature, awed, suspends
Her sway? Into the yellow of the rose
Perennial, which in bright expansiveness,
Lays foi-th its gradual blooming, redolent
Of j)raises to the never-wint'ring sun, 125

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,
Bohold how vast ! and these our seats so throng'd 130
Few now are wanting here ! In that proud stall,
On wliich, the crown, already o'er its state
Susj)ended, holds thine eyes — or ere thyself
JVlayst at the wedding sup, — shall rest the soul



Of tlic great Harry, lie who, by the world 135

Augustus hail'd, to Italy mustcoinc,

Before her day be rii)e. 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, 140

That he, who in the sacred forum sways.

Openly or in secret, shall with him

Accordant walk : v/hom God will not endure

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

To Simon Magus, where Alagna's priest 145

Will sink beneath him : such Avill be his meed."


In fashion, as a snow-white rose, lay then

Before my view the saintly multitude.

Which in his own blood Christ espous'd. Meanwhile

That other host, that soar aloft to gaze

And celebrate his glory, whom they love,

Hover'd around ; and, like a troop of bees,

Amid the vernal sweets alighting now.

Now, clustering, where their fragrant labour glows,

Flew downward to the mighty flow^'r, or rose

From the redundant petals, streaming back

Unto the steadfast dwelling of their joy.

Faces had they of flame, and wings of gold ;

The rest was whiter than the driven snow.

And as they flitted down into the flower,

From range to range, fanning their plumy loins,

Whisper'd the pea'.-e and ardour, which they won

From that soft winnowing. Shadow none, the vast

Interposition of such numerous flight

Cast, from above, upon the flower, or view

Obstructed aught. For, through the universe, 20

Wherever merited, celestial light

Glides freely, and no obstacle prevents.

All there, who reign in safety and in bliss,
Ages long past or new, on one sole mark




Their love and vision fix'd. O trinal beam 25

Of individual star, that channst them tlius,
Vouchsafe one glance to gild our storm below !

If the grim brood, from Arctic shores that roaio'd,
(Where Helice, forever, as she wheels,
Sparkles a mother's fondness on her son) 30 i

Stood in mute wonder 'mid the works of Rome,
Wlien to their view the Latcran arose
In greatness more than earthly ; I, who then ,

From human to divine had past, from time
Unto eternity, and out of Florence 85

To justice and to truth, how might I choose
But marvel too ? 'Twixt gladness and amaze,
In sooth no will had I to utter aught.
Or hear. And, as a pilgrim, when he rests
Within the temple of his vow, looks round 40

In breathless awe, and hopes some time to tell
Of all its goodly state : e'en so mine eyes
Coiirs'd up and down along the living light,
Now low, and now aloft, and now around,
Visiting every step. Looks I beheld, 45

Where charity in soft persuasion sat.
Smiles from within and radiance from above,
And in each gesture grace and honour high.

So rov'd my ken, and its general form
All Paradise survey'd : when round I turn'd 50

With purpose of my lady to inquire
Once more of things, that held my thought suspense,
But answer found from other than I ween'd ;
For, Beatrice, when I thought to see,
I saw instead a senior, at my side, 55

Kob'd, as the rest, in glory. Joy benign
Glow'd in his eye, and o'er his clieek diffus'd,
With gestures such as spake a father's love.
And, " Whither is she vanish'd ? " straight I ask'd.

" By Beatrice summon'd," he replied, 60

"I come to aid thy wish. Looking aloft
To the third circle from the highest, there
Behold her on the throne, Avherein her merit
Hath plac'd her." Answering not, mine eyes I rais'd,


And saw licr, wlicre aloof she sat, lier brow 65

A wreath reflecting of eternal beams.

Not from the centre of the sea so far

Unto the region of the highest thunder,

As was my ken from hers ; and yet tlie form

Came through that medium down, unniix'd and pure, 70

" O Lady ! thou in whom my hojies have rest !
Who, for my safety, hast not scorn'd, in hell
To leave the traces of thy footsteps raark'd !
For all mine eyes liave seen, I, to thy power
And goodness, virtue owe and grace. Of slave, 75

Thou hast to freedom brought me ; and no means,
For my deliverance ajit, hast left untried.
Thy liberal bounty still toward me keep.
That, when my spirit, v/hich thou madest whole,
Is loosee'd from this body, it may find 80

Favour with thee." So I my suit preferr'd :
And she, so distant, as appear'd, look'd down.
And smil'd ; then tow'rds th' eternal fountain turn'd.

And thus the senior, holy and rever'd :
" That thou at length mayst hajipily conclude 85

Thy voyage (to which end I was despatch'd,
By supplication raov'd and holy love)
Let thy upsoaring vision range, at large,
This garden through : for so, by ray divine
Kindled, thy ken a higher flight shall mount ; 90

And from heav'n's queen, whom fervent I adore.
All gracious aid befriend us ; for that I
Am her own faithful Bernard." Like a wight,
Who haply from Croatia wends to see
Our Veronica, and the while 't is shown, 95

Hangs over it with never-sated gaze.
And, all that he hath heard revolving, saith
Unto himself in thought : "And didst thou look
E'en thus, O Jesus, my true Lord and God ?
And was this semblance thine ?" So gaz'd I then 100
Adoring ; for the charity of him.
Who mushig, in the world that peace enjoy'd.
Stood livelily before me. " Child of grace ! "
Thus he began : " thou shalt not knowledge gain

iiiiiiiin, ,111. ^^ — , .^^-.a^.- : . rt^ nil irniinrjtitii

PAllAOISE. 353

Of this glad being, if thine eyes are held 105

Still in this dej)th below. But search around

The circles, to the furthest, till thou spy

Seated in state, the queen, that of this realm

Is sovran." Straight mine eyes I rais'd ; and bright,

As, at the birth of morn, the eastern clime 310

Above th' horizon, where the sun declines ;

So to mine eyes, that upward, as from vale

To moxnitain sped, at th' extreme bound, a part

Excell'd in lustre all the front oppos'd.

And as the glow burns ruddiest o'er the wave, 115

That waits the sloping beam, which Phaeton

111 kncAV to guide, and on each part the light

Diminish'd fades, intensest in the midst ;

So burn'd the peaceful oriflamb, and slack'd

On every side the living flame decay'd. 120

And in that midst their sportive pennons wav'd

Thousands of angels ; in resplendence each

Distinct, and quaint adornment. At their glee

And carol, smil'd the Lovely One of heav'n,

That joy was in the eyes of all the blest. 126

Had I a tongue in eloquence as rich,
As is the colouring in fancy's loom,
'T were all too poor to utter the least part
Of that enchantment. When he saw mine eyes
Intent on her, that charm'd him, Bernard gaz'd 130

With so exceeding fondness, as infus'd
Ardour into my breast, unfelt before.


Freely the sage, though wrapt in musings high,
Assum'd the teacher's j)art, and mild began :
" The wound, that INfary clos'd, she o])en'd first,
Who sits so beautiful at Mary's feet.
The third in order, underneath hei', lo !
Rachel with Beatrice. Sarah next,
Judith, Rebecca, and the gleaner maid,
Meek ancestress of him, who sang the songs



Of sore ropontancc in liis sorrowful mood.
All, as I name them, down from leaf to leaf, 10

Ai"e in gradation throned on the rose.
And frum the seventh step, successively,
Adown the breathing tresses of the flow'r

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