After the truth against the present life
of wretched mortals had been shown to me
by her who lifts my mind to Paradise,
as in a mirror he perceives its flame,
who from behind is lighted by a torch,
before he has it in his sight or thought,
and turns around to notice if the glass
have told the truth, and sees that it accords
therewith, as with its music's time a song;
so likewise now my memory recalls
that I did, as I gazed in those fair eyes,
whence Love had made a cord to capture me.
And as I turned around, and mine were touched
by that which in that sphere becomes apparent,
whene'er one looks intently at its center,
a Point I saw, which rays out light so keen
that eyes which it enkindles needs must close
by reason of its great intensity;
and any star that from down here seems smallest,
would seem to be a moon, if set beside it,
as at each other's side the stars are set.
Perhaps as near as e'er a halo seems
to gird the light around, which colors it,
when densest is the air which gives it form;
a ring of fire was whirling round the Point
so swiftly, that it would have overcome
the motion which most quickly girds the world;
and by another this was girt around,
that by a third, as this one by a fourth,
then by a fifth the fourth, and by a sixth
the fifth. The seventh came next, outside of these
so widely spread, that Juno's messenger,
full circled, were too narrow to contain it.
Like these the eighth ring and the ninth; and each
more slowly moved, as in its order's number
it whirled at greater distance from the first;
and that one had the clearest flame of all,
whence the Pure Spark least distant was, because,
I think, it most in-truths itself therein.
My Lady, who profoundly lost in thought
beheld me, said to me: "On yonder Point
Heaven and the whole of Nature are dependent.
Look at the circle most conjoined to It;
and know thou that it moves so rapidly
because spurred onward by its burning love."
And I to her: "If ordered were the world
as I perceive it is in yonder wheels,
what is before me set had sated me;
but in the world of sense all revolutions
may be perceived to be the more divine
as from the center they are more remote;
hence, if my longing is to be appeased
in this mirific and angelic temple,
whose only boundaries are light and love,
't is fit that I hear further why the example
and its exemplar do not correspond;
for by myself I think on this in vain."
"No wonder is it, if for such a knot
thy fingers insufficient are, so hard
hath it become, through lack of being tried!"
My Lady thus; she then continued: "Take
what I shall tell thee, wouldst thou sated be;
and on it subtly concentrate thy mind.
The embodied circles wide or narrow are,
according to the more or less of virtue
distributed through all their several parts.
A greater goodness makes for greater weal;
a greater body greater weal bespeaks,
if all its parts are perfect equally.
Hence that which with itself sweeps onward all
the universe remaining, corresponds
to yonder circle which most loves and knows.
If, then, thou stretch thy measure round the virtue,
not round the appearance, of the substances
which seem arranged in circles to thy sight,
thou 'lt see a marvelous conformity
of more to larger and of less to smaller,
in every heaven, to its Intelligence."
Even as the hemisphere of air remains
resplendent and serene, when Boreas blows
out of the cheek, from which he mildest proves,
whereby the fog which troubled it before,
is cleansed and cleared, until the welkin smiles
upon us with the charms of all its wards;
even such did I become, when once my Lady
had with her clear reply provided me,
and, like a star in heaven, the truth was seen.
And when her words had ceased, not otherwise
doth iron when still boiling scintillate,
than yonder circles sparkled. Every spark
followed its Kindler; and so many were they,
that their whole number far more thousands counts,
than ever did the doubling of the chess.
From choir to choir I heard Hosanna sung
to that Fixed Point which holds them at the 'where,'
and ever will, where they have always been.
And she who in my mind my doubtful thoughts
was seeing, said: "The primal rings have shown
the Seraphs to thee, and the Cherubim.
Thus swiftly do they heed their bonds, to make them
as like the Point as may be, and as like It
they can be, as their vision is sublime.
Those other loves that round about them move,
Thrones of the Countenance Divine are called,
and for this reason end the primal triad.
And thou shouldst know that all of them are happy,
according as their vision plumbs the Truth,
wherein all understanding is at rest.
From this it may be seen how blessedness
is founded on the faculty which sees,
and not on that which loves and follows after;
the measure of this vision is the merit,
which both of Grace and of good will is born;
such, then, is their advance from grade to grade.
The second triad which, like that above,
produces buds in this eternal spring,
whose foliage no nocturnal Aries spoils,
sings endlessly its vernal song of praise
to three sweet melodies, which sound in three
orders of joy, wherewith it trines itself.
Three goddesses are in that hierarchy;
the Dominations first, the Virtues next;
the third one is the Order of the Powers.
Then, in the last two dancing choirs but one,
with Principalities Archangels whirl;
the last is wholly of Angelic Joys.
All these Angelic orders upward look,
and downward so prevail, that all to God
attracted are, and all in turn attract.
And Dionysius with such great desire
gave himself up to contemplate these orders,
that he both named and graded them as I;
but with him, later, Gregory disagreed,
and hence, as soon as ever in this heaven
he oped his eyes, at his own self he smiled.
Nor would I have thee wonder that on earth
a mortal should disclose a truth so secret,
for he who saw it here, revealed it to him,
with many other truths about these rings."