And now mine eyes upon my Lady's face
were fixed again, and therewithal my mind,
which from all other objects had withdrawn.
Nor was she smiling then; but: "Should I smile,"
she said, addressing me, "like Sèmelë
wouldst thou become, when she to ashes turned;
because my beauty, which along the stairs
of this eternal palace brighter burns,
as thou hast seen, the higher we ascend,
is so resplendent that thy mortal strength
at its effulgence, were it not restrained,
would be as is a bough which lightning rends.
Up to the seventh splendor we are raised,
which now beneath the burning Lion's breast
is raying downward mingled with his strength.
Intently fix thy mind behind thine eyes,
and cause them to be mirrors of the figure
which in this mirror will appear to thee."
He that should know what, in the blessèd face,
the nature of my vision's pasture was,
when I transferred me to another care,
would know, since one
was outweighed by the other,
how gladly I obeyed my heavenly Guide.
Within the crystal which, as round the world
it whirls, bears its illustrious leader's name,
under whose rule all wickedness lay dead,
colored like gold whereon a sun-beam shone,
a Ladder I beheld, which so high up
ascended, that my eye pursued it not.
I saw, moreover, coming down its steps
so many glowing splendors, that I thought
that every star seen shining in the sky
had been poured out of it. And even as daws,
as is their natural wont, when day begins,
together move to warm their chilly plumes;
and then without returning some fly off,
and some go back to whence they started first,
while others, whirling in a circle, stay;
such was, it seemed to me, the fashion here
within the sparkling throng which came together,
whene'er they met upon a certain round;
and that which nearest to me there remained,
became so bright, that in my thoughts I said:
"I clearly see the love thou showest me."
But she, whence I await the how and when
of silence and of speech, keeps still; hence I,
against my will, do well by asking naught.
She, thereupon, who in the sight of Him
who seeth everything, my silence saw,
said unto me: "Appease thy warm desire!"
And I began: "My merit doth not make me
worthy of thy reply; but, for the sake
of her who granteth me the right to ask,
make known to me, blest life that art concealed
in thine own joy, the cause which draweth thee
so closely to my side; and tell me why
that gentle symphony of Paradise
is silent in this wheel, which down below
sounds so devoutly through the other spheres."
"Thy hearing is as mortal as thy sight;"
it answered me; "there is no singing here
because of that which hinders Beatrice
from smiling. Down the holy Ladder's steps
have I so far descended, but to give thee
a welcome with my words and with the light
which mantles me; nor hath a greater love
caused me to be more ready; for as much
or more love burns up yonder, as those flames
reveal to thee; but that great charity
which makes us ready servants of the Counsel
which rules the world, allots here, as thou seest."
"I well perceive, O holy lamp," said I,
"hòw that free love is in this court enough
for following the Eternal Providence;
but this is what seems hard for me to see,
why thou alone among thy consorts here
predestinated wert for just this task."
No sooner had I come to my last word,
than, like a rapid millstone whirling round,
the light had of its middle made its center;
and then the love within it answered me:
"Piercing the light wherein I'm here embosomed,
a ray of light divine upon me falls,
whose virtue, as it mingles with my sight,
so lifts me o'er myself, that I behold
that Highest Essence whence it emanates.
Hence comes the joy with which I'm flaming now,
for with my sight, as far as it is clear,
I equalize the clearness of my flame.
And yet the most enlightened soul in Heaven,
the Seraph who hath eyes most fixed on God,
would not avail to satisfy thy question;
for what thou askest plumbeth so the depths
of God's eternal statute, that from all
created vision it is cut away.
And to the mortal world, on thy return,
carry this charge, that it presume no more
to move its feet toward such a distant goal.
The mind which shineth here, on earth is smoky;
consider, hence, how it can do down there
what, though assumed to Heaven, it cannot do."
So all-conclusive were his words to me,
that, giving up the question, I confined me
to asking humbly of him who he was.
"'Tween Italy's two seashores cliffs arise,
not very far from thine own native place,
so high, that thunders peal much lower down;
and form a lofty ridge called Càtria,
'neath which a hermitage is consecrate,
whose wont to worship only gives it up."
He thus began for me his third address,
and then, continuing, said: "To serving God
I there became so steadfastly devoted,
that, feeding upon olive juice alone,
I readily endured both heat and cold,
and was with thoughts contemplative content.
That cloister's wont it was to yield these heavens
abundant fruit; but it hath now become
so empty, that its state must soon be known.
In that place I was known as Peter Damian;
and Sinning Peter in Our Lady's House
I was, upon the Adriatic shore.
But little mortal life remained to me,
when I was sought, and forced to take the hat,
which always passes on from bad to worse.
Lean and barefooted Cephas came, and then,
the Holy Spirit's mighty Vessel came,
eating the food of any hostelry;
our modern shepherds now on either side
need help to prop them, help - they weigh so much! -
to guide, and help to hold them up behind.
They cover so their palfreys with their cloaks,
that two beasts walk beneath a single hide.
O Patience, that dost tolerate so much!"
More flamelets at these words I saw descend
from step to step, and whirl; and every whirl
caused each of them to grow more beautiful;
and round this flame they came, and having stopped,
uttered so deep a cry, that none could here
resemble it; nor did I understand
its words; its thunder overcame me so.