As when he sends his earliest quivering beams
where his Creator shed his blood, while Ebro
'neath lofty Libra falls, and Ganges' waves
are being scalded by the heat of noon,
so stood the sun; daylight was, hence, departing,
when God's glad Messenger appeared to us.
Outside the flames upon the bank he stood,
and, in a voice far clearer than is ours
was singing: "Blessèd are the pure in heart!"
"No further may ye go, ye holy souls,
until the fire have burned you; enter it,
and be not deaf unto the song beyond!"
he told us next, when we were near to him;
hence I, on hearing him, became like one
who in the grave is laid. Clasping my hands
together, over them I bowed, and watched
the fire, while vivid images I formed
of human bodies I had once seen burned.
Toward me my kindly Escorts turned around;
and Virgil said to me: "There may, my son,
be pain here, but not death. Recall to mind,
recall to mind! . . . if even on Geryon's back
I safely led thee, what shall I do now,
that nearer God I am? Assuredly believe
that, if within the center of this flame
thou shouldst for ev'n a thousand years remain,
it could not make thee lose a single hair;
and if, perchance, thou think that I deceive thee,
draw near to it, and make thyself believe
with thine own hands upon thy garment's hem.
Lay now aside, lay now aside all fear!
Turn round toward me, and come ahead, assured!"
And yet, though 'gainst my conscience, I moved not.
On seeing me still motionless and firm,
somewhat disturbed, he said: "Now see, my son;
this wall remains 'tween Beatrice and thee."
As Pyramus, when dying, at the name
of Thisbe, oped his eyes, and looked at her,
what time the mulberry became vermilion;
ev'n so, my stubbornness becoming weak,
I turned to my wiser Leader, when I heard
the name that ever wells up in my heart.
Thereat he shook his head, and said: "What 's this?
Do we on this side wish to stay?" then smiled,
as one does at a child an apple wins.
Then, entering the fire in front of me,
Statius he begged to come behind, who erst
had over a long road divided us.
When once inside, I would have thrown myself,
that I might cool me, into boiling glass,
so without measure was the burning there.
My tender Father, to encourage me,
talked, as we moved, of Beatrice alone,
and said: "I seem to see her eyes already."
A voice that sang upon the further side,
was guiding us; and we, on it alone
intent, came forth to where the ascent began.
"Ye blessèd of my Father, come!" was said
within a light there, such that I thereby
was overcome, and could not look at it.
"The sun is setting, and the evening comes;"
it added, "tarry not, but hasten on,
while yet the western sky has not grown dark."
Straight upward went the pathway through the rock
in such direction, that in front of me
I cut the low sun's rays; not many stairs
had we yet tried, when I and my wise Leaders
were, by my shadow's vanishing, aware
that back of us the sun had gone to rest.
And ere in all of its unmeasured range
the horizon had assumed one single tone,
and night had everywhere diffused itself,
each of a step had made himself a bed;
because the nature of the Mount deprived us
rather of power to climb than of desire.
Like goats which, swift of foot and wanton once
when on the mountain heights, ere being fed,
grow tamely quiet when they ruminate,
all silent in the shade, while yet the sun
is hot, and guarded by a herd who leans
upon his staff, and serves them as he leans;
and like the shepherd in the open living,
who calmly spends the night beside his flock,
and keepeth watch lest some wild animal
should scatter it; ev'n such all three of us
were then, I like a goat, and they like shepherds,
by the high rock hemmed in on either side.
But little of the outer world could there
be seen; but through that little I perceived
the stars more bright and larger than their wont.
While I was ruminating thus, and thus
was gazing at them, sleep o'ertook me; sleep,
which oft receiveth news of future things
before they are. At that same hour, methinks,
when Cytherèa, who, it seems, e'er burns
with fires of love, beamed first upon the Mount
from out the East, dreaming I seemed to see
a Lady, young and fair, who, gathering flowers,
was walking through a field, and as she sang,
said: "Know, who asks my name, that I am Leah,
and that I move my lovely hands about
to make myself a wreath. To please myself
when at my mirror, I adorn me here;
but never doth my sister Rachel leave
her looking-glass, but sits there all day long.
Her pleasure is to see her lovely eyes,
as mine is to adorn me with my hands;
seeing contenteth her, and doing, me."
And now, before the splendid beams of dawn,
which rise with greater thanks from travelers,
as, coming home, they lodge less far away,
the shades of night were fleeing everywhere,
and with them sleep; hence I arose and saw
that my great Teachers had already risen.
"That pleasant fruit, which on so many boughs
the care of men is ever looking for,
shall give thine every hunger peace today."
These were the very words which Virgil used,
when turned toward me; and never were there gifts,
which in their sweetness could have equaled these.
Such longing upon longing overcame me
to be above, that at each step thereafter,
I felt my pinions growing for the flight.
When all the stairway had beneath us passed,
and we were standing on its topmost step,
on me then Virgil fixed his eyes, and said:
"The temporal and the eternal fire, my son,
thou now hast seen, and to a place art come,
where I can, of myself, no further see.
I 've brought thee here by genius and by art;
henceforth as leader thine own pleasure take;
forth art thou from both steep and narrow paths.
Behold the sun there shining on thy brow;
behold the tender grass, the flowers and shrubs,
which here the soil yields of itself alone.
Until in happiness those lovely eyes
appear, which, weeping, made me come to thee,
thou mayst be seated, or among them walk.
From me expect no further word or sign.
Free, right and sound is thine own will, and wrong
were not to act according to its hest;
hence o'er thyself I crown and mitre thee."