The Divine Comedy

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The tenth heaven, or empyrean. the river of light. the two courts of heaven. the white rose of paradise. the great throne.

Perchance six thousand miles remote from us

Is glowing the sixth hour, and now this world

Inclines its shadow almost to a level,

When the mid-heaven begins to make itself

So deep to us, that here and there a star

Ceases to shine so far down as this depth,

And as advances bright exceedingly

The handmaid of the sun, the heaven is closed

Light after light to the most beautiful;

Not otherwise the Triumph, which for ever

Plays round about the point that vanquished me,

Seeming enclosed by what itself encloses,

Little by little from my vision faded;

Whereat to turn mine eyes on Beatrice

My seeing nothing and my love constrained me.

If what has hitherto been said of her

Were all concluded in a single praise,

Scant would it be to serve the present turn.

Not only does the beauty I beheld

Transcend ourselves, but truly I believe

Its Maker only may enjoy it all.

Vanquished do I confess me by this passage

More than by problem of his theme was ever

O'ercome the comic or the tragic poet;

For as the sun the sight that trembles most,

Even so the memory of that sweet smile

My mind depriveth of its very self.

From the first day that I beheld her face

In this life, to the moment of this look,

The sequence of my song has ne'er been severed;

But now perforce this sequence must desist

From following her beauty with my verse,

As every artist at his uttermost.

Such as I leave her to a greater fame

Than any of my trumpet, which is bringing

Its arduous matter to a final close,

With voice and gesture of a perfect leader

She recommenced: "We from the greatest body

Have issued to the heaven that is pure light;

Light intellectual replete with love,

Love of true good replete with ecstasy,

Ecstasy that transcendeth every sweetness.

Here shalt thou see the one host and the other

Of Paradise, and one in the same aspects

Which at the final judgment thou shalt see."

Even as a sudden lightning that disperses

The visual spirits, so that it deprives

The eye of impress from the strongest objects,

Thus round about me flashed a living light,

And left me swathed around with such a veil

Of its effulgence, that I nothing saw.

"Ever the Love which quieteth this heaven

Welcomes into itself with such salute,

To make the candle ready for its flame."

No sooner had within me these brief words

An entrance found, than I perceived myself

To be uplifted over my own power,

And I with vision new rekindled me,

Such that no light whatever is so pure

But that mine eyes were fortified against it.

And light I saw in fashion of a river

Fulvid with its effulgence, 'twixt two banks

Depicted with an admirable Spring.

Out of this river issued living sparks,

And on all sides sank down into the flowers,

Like unto rubies that are set in gold;

And then, as if inebriate with the odours,

They plunged again into the wondrous torrent,

And as one entered issued forth another.

"The high desire, that now inflames and moves thee

To have intelligence of what thou seest,

Pleaseth me all the more, the more it swells.

But of this water it behoves thee drink

Before so great a thirst in thee be slaked."

Thus said to me the sunshine of mine eyes;

And added: "The river and the topazes

Going in and out, and the laughing of the herbage,

Are of their truth foreshadowing prefaces;

Not that these things are difficult in themselves,

But the deficiency is on thy side,

For yet thou hast not vision so exalted."

There is no babe that leaps so suddenly

With face towards the milk, if he awake

Much later than his usual custom is,

As I did, that I might make better mirrors

Still of mine eyes, down stooping to the wave

Which flows that we therein be better made.

And even as the penthouse of mine eyelids

Drank of it, it forthwith appeared to me

Out of its length to be transformed to round.

Then as a folk who have been under masks

Seem other than before, if they divest

The semblance not their own they disappeared in,

Thus into greater pomp were changed for me

The flowerets and the sparks, so that I saw

Both of the Courts of Heaven made manifest.

O splendour of God! by means of which I saw

The lofty triumph of the realm veracious,

Give me the power to say how it I saw!

There is a light above, which visible

Makes the Creator unto every creature,

Who only in beholding Him has peace,

And it expands itself in circular form

To such extent, that its circumference

Would be too large a girdle for the sun.

The semblance of it is all made of rays

Reflected from the top of Primal Motion,

Which takes therefrom vitality and power.

And as a hill in water at its base

Mirrors itself, as if to see its beauty

When affluent most in verdure and in flowers,

So, ranged aloft all round about the light,

Mirrored I saw in more ranks than a thousand

All who above there have from us returned.

And if the lowest row collect within it

So great a light, how vast the amplitude

Is of this Rose in its extremest leaves!

My vision in the vastness and the height

Lost not itself, but comprehended all

The quantity and quality of that gladness.

There near and far nor add nor take away;

For there where God immediately doth govern,

The natural law in naught is relevant.

Into the yellow of the Rose Eternal

That spreads, and multiplies, and breathes an odour

Of praise unto the ever-vernal Sun,

As one who silent is and fain would speak,

Me Beatrice drew on, and said: "Behold

Of the white stoles how vast the convent is!

Behold how vast the circuit of our city!

Behold our seats so filled to overflowing,

That here henceforward are few people wanting!

On that great throne whereon thine eyes are fixed

For the crown's sake already placed upon it,

Before thou suppest at this wedding feast

Shall sit the soul (that is to be Augustus

On earth) of noble Henry, who shall come

To redress Italy ere she be ready.

Blind covetousness, that casts its spell upon you,

Has made you like unto the little child,

Who dies of hunger and drives off the nurse.

And in the sacred forum then shall be

A Prefect such, that openly or covert

On the same road he will not walk with him.

But long of God he will not be endured

In holy office; he shall be thrust down

Where Simon Magus is for his deserts,

And make him of Alagna lower go!"

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