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Dante Alighieri - La Divina Commedia - Paradiso
Courtney Langdon - The Divine Comedy

The Empyrean. GOD. St. Bernard's Prayer to Mary
The Vision of God. Ultimate Salvation

"O Virgin Mother, Daughter of thy Son,
humbler and loftier than any creature,
eternal counsel's predetermined goal,
thou art the one that such nobility
didst lend to human nature, that its Maker
scorned not to make Himself what He had made.
Within thy womb rekindled was the Love,
through whose warm influence in the eternal Peace
this Flower hath blossomed thus. Here unto us
thou art a noonday torch of Charity;
and down below 'mong mortal men, thou art
a living fount of Hope. Lady, so great
thou art, and hast such worth, that one who longs
for Grace, and unto thee hath not recourse,
wingless would wish to have his longing fly.
Not only doth thy Kindliness give help
to him that asketh it, but many times
it freely runs ahead of his request.
In thee is Mercy, Pity is in thee,
in thee Magnificence, and all there is
of Goodness in a creature meets in thee.

Now doth this man, who from the lowest drain
of the Universe hath one by one beheld,
as far as here, the forms of spirit-life,
beseech thee, of thy grace, for so much strength
that with his eyes he may uplift himself
toward Ultimate Salvation higher still.
And I, who never for mine own sight burned
more than I do for his, offer thee all
my prayers, and pray that they be not too poor,
that thou with thy prayers so dissolve each cloud
of his mortality, that unto him
the Highest Pleasure may unfold Itself.
And furthermore, I pray to thee, O Queen,
who canst whate'er thou wilt, that, after such
a sight, thou keep all his affections sound.
His human promptings let thy care defeat;
see with how many blest ones Beatrice
is clasping for my prayers her hands to thee!"

The eyes belovèd and revered by God,
intent on him who prayed, revealed to us
how grateful unto her are earnest prayers.
Thence they addressed them to the Eternal Light,
wherein it may not be believed the eye
of any creature finds so clear a way.

And I, who to the End of all desires
was drawing near, within me, as I ought,
brought to its goal the ardor of desire.

Bernard was smiling, and was making signs
for me to look on high; but, as he wished,
I was already of mine own accord;
because my sight, as purer it became,
was penetrating more and more the radiance
of that High Light, which of Itself is true.

From this time onward greater was my sight
than is our speech, which yields to such a vision,
and memory also yields to such excess.

And such as he, who seeth in a dream,
and after it, the imprinted feeling stays,
while all the rest returns not to his mind;
even such am I; for almost wholly fades
my vision, yet the sweetness which was born
of it is dripping still into my heart.

Even thus the snow is in the sun dissolved;
even thus the Sibyl's oracles, inscribed
on flying leaves, were lost adown the wind.

O Light Supreme, that dost uplift Thyself
so far from mortal thought, relend my mind
a little of what Thou didst seem to be,
and cause my tongue to be so powerful,
that of Thy Glory it may leave at least
a spark unto the people still to come;
for to my mem'ry if it but a while
return, and speak a little in these lines,
more of Thy Victory will be conceived.

I think the keenness of the living Ray
which I endured would have confounded me,
if from it I had turned away mine eyes.
And I recall that I, because of this,
the bolder was to bear it, till I made
my vision one with Value Infinite.

O the abundant Grace, whereby I dared
to pierce the Light Eternal with my gaze,
until I had therein exhausted sight!

I saw that far within its depths there lies,
by Love together in one volume bound,
that which in leaves lies scattered through the world;
substance and accident, and modes thereof,
fused, as it were, in such a way, that that,
whereof I speak, is but One Simple Light.

This union's general form I think I saw,
since, saying so, I feel that I the more
rejoice. Of more forgetfulness for me
one moment is, than centuries twenty-five
are for the enterprise which once caused Neptune
to wonder at the shadow Argo cast.

My mind, thus wholly in suspense, was gazing
steadfast and motionless, and all intent,
and, gazing, grew enkindled more and more.

Such in that Light doth one at last become,
that one can never possibly consent
to turn therefrom for any other sight;
because the Good, which is the will's real object,
is therein wholly gathered, and, outside,
that is defective which is perfect there.

Ev'n as to what I do remember, mine
will now be shorter than an infant's speech,
who at the breast still bathes his tongue. 'T was not
that there was other than a simple semblance
within the Living Light wherein I gazed,
which always is what It hath been before;
but through my sight, which in me, as I looked,
was gathering strength, because I changed, one sole
appearance underwent a change for me.

Within the Lofty Light's profound and clear
subsistence there appeared to me three Rings,
of threefold color and of one content;
and one, as Rainbow is by Rainbow, seemed
reflected by the other, while the third
seemed like a Fire breathed equally from both.

Oh, how, to my conception, short and weak
is speech! And this, to what I saw, is such,
that it is not enough to call it small.

O Light Eternal, that alone dost dwell
within Thyself, alone dost understand
Thyself, and love and smile upon Thyself,
Self-understanding and Self-understood!

That Circle which appeared to be conceived
within Thyself as a Reflected Light,
when somewhat contemplated by mine eyes,
within Itself, of Its own very color,
to me seemed painted with our Human Form;
whence wholly set upon It was my gaze.

Like the geometer, who gives himself
wholly to measuring the circle, nor,
by thinking, finds the principle he needs;
ev'n such was I at that new sight. I wished
to see how to the Ring the Image there
conformed Itself, and found therein a place;
but mine own wings were not enough for this;
had not my mind been smitten by a flash
of light, wherein what it was willing came.

Here power failed my high imagining;
but, like a smoothly moving wheel, that Love
was now revolving my desire and will,
which moves the sun and all the other stars.

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