Reader, remind thyself, if e'er a fog
o'ertook thee on a mountain, one through which
thou couldst not see in any other way
than moles do through the membrane o'er their eyes,
how, when the damp, thick mists begin to thin,
the sun's orb feebly pierces them; and quickly
will thine imagination come to see
how I first saw the sun again, which now
was at its setting. Thus, as I mine own
was matching with my Teacher's trusty steps,
from such a cloud I came into the beams,
already dead upon the shores below.
O thou Imagination, which at times
dost steal us so from outer things, that though
a thousand trumpets blow, one hears them not,
what moveth thee, if sense contribute naught?
A light which takes in Heaven its form impels thee,
freely, or by a Will which sends it down.
The vision of her cruelty, who changed
her form into the bird, which most delights
in song, appeared in my imagination;
and hereupon my mind was so shut up
within itself, that nothing that was then
received by it, came to it from without.
Then into my high fantasy there rained
one crucified, contemptuous and proud
in aspect, and as such he met his death.
Around him were the great Ahasuerus,
Esther his wife, and righteous Mordecai,
who so whole-hearted was in word and deed.
And as this picture of its own accord
broke up, as doth a bubble when it lacks
the water it was formed withal; a maid
rose in my vision next, who bitterly
was weeping, and was saying: "Why, O Queen,
didst thou through anger wish to be no more?"
Lavinia not to lose, thyself hast slain;
and now hast lost me! Mother, this is I,
who, ere I mourn another's loss, mourn thine."
As sleep is broken, when unwonted light
strikes closed eyes suddenly, and, being broken,
quivers before it wholly dies away;
ev'n so did my imagining break up,
as soon as on my face there smote a light
brighter by far than we are wont to see.
I turned around to notice where I was,
when lo, a voice which said: "The ascent is here,"
from every other interest turned my mind;
and made my will so eager to behold
the speaker, that, when such, it never rests
until it sees its object face to face.
But as before the sun, which whelms our eyes,
and veils its figure, through excess of light,
so likewise here my visual powers failed.
"A godlike spirit this, who, though unasked,
is pointing out to us our upward path,
and with his own light is himself concealing.
With us he deals as one would with himself;
for he that waits till asked, when seeing need,
inclines already meanly to refuse.
To such a bidding let us now accord
our feet, and try to climb ere darkness come;
for later one could not, till day returned."
Thus said my Leader then, and I with him
turned toward a flight of stairs our feet; and I,
when on its first step, near me felt, as 't were,
the motion of a wing, and on my face
a fanning, while a voice said: "Blessèd are
the Peaceful, who are free from evil wrath!"
So high above us now were those last beams
which by the night are followed, that the stars
were coming out on many sides. And "O
my strength, why dost thou fade away so fast?"
I to myself was saying, for a truce,
I felt, was set the powers of my legs.
We now were where the flight of stairs went up
no further, and as motionless we were,
as is a vessel when the shore is reached;
and for a while I waited to find out
if aught upon the new ring could be heard;
then, toward my Teacher turning round, I said:
"Say, my dear Father, what offense is purged
in this ring, here where now we are? Although
our feet keep still, let not thy talking cease."
And he to me: "The love of good, when scant
of what it should have been, is here atoned;
here beats again the ill-retarded oar.
But now, in order that thou understand
more clearly still, turn thou thy mind to me,
and some good fruit thou 'lt gather from our stay.
Neither Creator," he began, "nor creature
was e'er devoid of either innate love,
or that which conscious is; and this thou knowst.
The innate love is always free from error;
but the other kind can err through evil aim,
or through deficient, or excessive strength.
While well directed toward the primal goods,
and toward the secondary self-restrained,
it cannot be the cause of sinful pleasure;
but when it turns toward evil things, or runs
to good, with more or less zeal than it ought,
the creature then against his Maker works.
From this, then, thou canst understand that love
must be the seed in you of every virtue,
and every deed that merits punishment.
And now, since love can never turn its face
from its own subject's welfare, from self-hate
all are secure; and since one cannot think
of any self as being from the First
divided, and existing of itself,
all hearts are thus debarred from hating Him.
It follows, that, if I in arguing
judge well, one's neighbor's is the harm one loves,
and this is born in three ways in your clay.
There 's he, who on the abasement of his neighbor
his hope of rising sets, and only longs
that from his greatness he may be brought low;
and he, who fears the loss of power, favor,
renown and honor, should another rise,
and grieves so, that he loves the contrary;
then he, who by injustice seems so shamed,
that greedy he becometh for revenge;
and such must needs prepare for others' harm.
This triform love is wept for here below;
but now I 'd have thee hear about the other,
which runs to love in a corrupted way.
All apprehend confusedly a good
wherein the mind can rest, and long for it;
and therefore every one attempts to reach it.
If slothful be the love impelling you
to see or win it, after just repentance,
this present cornice tortures you for that.
Another good there is, which never makes
man happy; it is not real happiness,
nor the Good Essence, fruit and root of all
that 's good. The love that yields too much to that,
is wept for in three rings above us here;
but why it 's reckoned threefold I say not,
that thou mayst seek the reason for thyself."