When he who sheddeth light on all the world
so far below our hemisphere descends,
that daylight fades away on every side,
the sky, once lighted up by him alone,
is quickly rendered visible again
by many lights, whereof one only shines;
and I this happening in the sky recalled,
when silent in the blessèd beak became
the Standard of the world and of its leaders;
for, brighter far,
those living lights commenced
songs which have fled and fallen from my mind.
O thou sweet Love, that with a smile dost cloak thee,
how ardent in those flutes didst thou appear,
whose only breath was that of holy thoughts!
After those precious and pellucid jewels
wherewith I saw the sixth great light engemmed,
had brought to silence their angelic chimes,
I seemed to hear the murmur of a brook,
which, flowing limpid down from rock to rock,
reveals the abundance of its mountain-springs.
And as a sound takes from a cittern's neck
its form, even as the air that enters it
doth from the vent-hole of a shepherd's pipe,
so, all delay of waiting laid aside,
that murmur of the Eagle mounted up
along its neck, as if it hollow were.
A voice it there became, and through its beak
it issued forth in words, such as the heart
whereon I wrote them down, was longing for.
"That part of me which sees, and braves the sun,
in mortal eagles," it began again,
"must now be looked upon attentively,
for of the fires wherewith I shape me, those
wherewith the eye is sparkling in my head,
the highest are of all their ordered grades.
He that as pupil in the middle shines,
was once the singer of the Holy Spirit,
who bore the Ark about from town to town;
he now knows how deserving was his song,
so far as it resulted from his will,
by the reward proportioned to its merit.
Of five that make a circle for my brow,
the spirit nearest to my beak was he,
who comforted the widow for her son;
he now knows by his personal experience
of this sweet life and of its opposite,
how dear it costs one not to follow Christ.
In the circumference of which I speak,
he that comes next upon the rising arc,
delayed his death by genuine repentance;
he now knows that Eternal Justice brooks
no change, whenever worthy prayers below
to-morrow's make of that which was today's.
The one who follows, with the laws and me,
with good intentions which produced bad fruits,
made himself Greek by ceding to the Shepherd;
he now knows that the ill, from his good deed
derived, is not a cause of harm to him,
although thereby the world may be destroyed.
He whom thou seest in the downward arc,
the William was, for whom that country mourns,
which weeps because its Charles and Frederick live;
he now knows how Heaven loves a righteous king,
and by his splendor's glow
reveals it still.
Who in the erring world below would think
that Rìpheus the Trojan was the fifth
among the holy lights which form this curve?
He now knows many of the things the world
is impotent to see in Grace Divine,
although his sight discerneth not its depths.
Like a young lark which, as it soars through space,
first sings, and then is silent, satisfied
with the last sweetness which contented her;
such seemed to me the image of the seal
of that Eternal Pleasure, by whose will
each thing becometh what it is. And though,
with reference to my doubt, up there I was,
as glass is to the color which it clothes,
it could not bear to bide its time in silence;
but by the very force of its own weight
urged from my mouth the words, "What things are these?"
whereat I saw a glorious feast of sparkling.
Thereafter, with its eye the more enkindled,
the blessèd Sign, in order not to keep me
in wondering suspense, replied to me:
"I see that thou believest all these things,
because I say them, but dost not see how;
and therefore, though believed in, they are hidden.
Thou dost as one who fully knows a thing
by name, but cannot see just what it is,
unless another make it manifest.
Regnum Coelorum suffers violence
from burning love, and from a living hope,
which vanquishes the Will Divine; though not
as man o'ercometh man, but conquers it
because it willeth to be overcome;
and so, though vanquished, by its goodness wins.
The first life in the eyebrow, and the fifth
cause thee to be amazed, because therewith
thou see'st the region of the Angels painted.
They did not issue Gentiles from their bodies,
as thou dost think, but Christians, with firm faith,
one in the Feet that were to suffer, one,
in those that had. For one, to claim his bones,
came back from Hell, where no one ever wills
the good again; and this was the reward
of living hope; of living hope which put
its trust in prayers addressed to God to raise him,
that thus his will might have a chance to act.
The glorious soul I speak of, when the flesh
had been regained, wherein he stayed not long,
believed in Him, who had the power to help him;
and through belief so warmed to genuine love,
that he was worthy at his second death
to come to this festivity. The other,
through grace from so profound a spring distilled,
that never hath the eye of any creature
reached its first wave, set all his love below
on righteousness; hence God, from grace to grace,
to our redemption which is still to be,
opened his eyes; he hence believed in it,
and afterward endured no more the stench
of Paganism; and for it he rebuked
those who perverted were. And those three Ladies
thou sawest at the right wheel of the Car,
in lieu of baptism, were as sponsors for him
more than a thousand years ere baptism was.
O thou Predestination, how remote
are thy foundations from the sight of those
who do not see the First Cause as a whole!
And ye, O mortals, keep yourselves in check,
when judging men; for we, who God behold,
know not as yet all those that are elect;
and pleasant is such ignorance to us,
because our good is in this good refined,
that what is willed by God, we also will."
Thus, then, by that divinely pictured image,
to make the shortness of my vision clear,
a pleasant medicine was granted me.
And as a skillful cithern player makes
the string's vibrations follow a good singer,
whereby the song acquires more power to please;
even so, while it was speaking, I recall
that both those blessèd lights I then beheld,
as when, in winking, eyes concordant are,
moving their flamelets to the Eagle's words.