"O God, the heathen folk are come," now three,
now four, alternately, and shedding tears,
the Ladies a sweet psalmody began;
and Beatrice with sighs of sympathy
was listening to their words with such a look,
that Mary at the cross changed little more.
But when the other maids had given way
that she might speak, she rose upon her feet,
and, colored with the hue of fire, replied;
"A little while, and ye shall not behold me;
and then again, belovŤd sisters mine,
a little while, and me ye shall behold."
All seven she thereupon before her placed,
and, merely by a nod, behind her moved
me and the Lady, and the Sage who stayed.
She thus was going on, nor do I think
her tenth step had been set upon the ground,
when with her eyes she forcibly met mine;
then with a tranquil face she said to me:
"More quickly come, that, if I speak to thee,
for listening to me thou mayst be well placed."
As soon as I was with her as I ought,
she said to me: "Why, brother, dost not venture
to question me, now that thou comest with me?"
As unto those who show excessive reverence,
when speaking in the presence of their elders,
and therefore draw no clear voice to their teeth,
to me it happed that with imperfect tones
"Madonna," I began, "my welfare's needs
you know, and that which may be good for it."
And she to me: "From fear and bashfulness
I wish thee now to extricate thyself,
that thou mayst speak no more like one who dreams.
Know that the Vessel which the Serpent broke,
was, and is not; but let whose fault it is,
believe God's vengeance fears not human sops.
Nor shall the Eagle heirless for all time
remain, who left his feathers on the Car,
whence monstrous it became, and then a prey;
for I see well, and therefore tell it, stars
now near, and from all checks and obstacles
secure, which for us shall a time obtain,
within which a Five Hundred Ten and Five,
sent forth by God, shall kill the female Thief,
and that great Giant who with her is guilty.
And my prediction, which is dark, perhaps,
as Themis and the Sphinx, persuades thee less,
because, as theirs did, it beclouds thy mind;
but facts will soon become the Naiades,
which shall this difficult enigma solve,
without the loss of either sheep or grain.
Give heed; and ev'n as uttered by myself,
see that thou teach these words of mine to those
that live the life which is a race toward death;
and bear in mind, when thou art writing them,
not to conceal in what state thou hast seen
the Tree, which twice now hath been here despoiled.
Whoever robs or teareth that apart,
with blasphemy of deed offendeth God,
who for His own use only made it holy.
For biting it, in pain and in desire
the first soul longed for Him five thousand years
and more, who punished in Himself the bite.
Thy mind is sleeping, if it deemeth not
that for a special cause it soars so high,
and at its summit so inverted is.
And if the vain thoughts which surround thy mind
had not been Elsa water, and their pleasure
as to the mulberry a Pyramus,
thou, by so many circumstances only,
wouldst in the interdict upon the Tree
see morally God's Justice. But, since made
of stone I see thee in thine understanding,
and, being petrified, so dark in mind
that thou art blinded by my speech's light,
I also, if not written, wish that painted,
at least, thou bear it in thee, for the reason
the pilgrim's staff is carried wreathed with palm."
And I: "As sealing-wax, which changes not
the shape imprinted on it by the seal,
so likewise is my brain now stamped by you.
But why so far above my mental sight
are your desired words now flying up,
it loses them the more, the more it strives?"
"That thou," she said, "mayst thus appraise the school
which thou hast followed, and perceive how able
its teaching is to carry out my word;
and also see that your ways are removed
as far from the divine, as e'er the heaven
which speeds most high is distant from the earth."
Whence her I answered: "I do not recall
that I have e'er estranged myself from you,
nor am I conscious of remorse therefor."
"And if thou canst not call it to thy mind,"
she answered with a smile, "remember now
that this same day thou hast of Lethe drunk;
and if from smoke a fire may be inferred,
this thy forgetfulness but clearly proves
a fault in thy desire intent elsewhere.
Truly my words shall naked be henceforth,
as much at least as it shall needful seem
to make them clear to thine untutored sight."
Both more refulgent and with slower steps
the sun was holding now the noonday circle,
which, with each point of view, moves here and there;
when, even as he, who as a leader goes
ahead of people, stops, if something new
he find upon his path, the Ladies seven
stopped at a death-pale shadow's edge,
like that which 'neath green leaves and darkling boughs
the Alps cast o'er their icy mountain-streams.
In front of them I seemed to see Euphrates
and Tigris from one fountain issue forth,
and from each other slowly part as friends.
"O Light and Glory of the human race,
what stream is this which from one source unfolds,
and then from its own self itself withdraws?"
In answer to this question I was told:
"Pray that Matelda tell thee." Whereupon,
like one who frees himself from blame, replied
the lovely Lady: "This, with other things,
hath he been told by me; and I am sure
that Lethe's water hath not hid it from him."
And Beatrice: "Perhaps a greater care
which oft deprives one's memory of its power,
hath made the vision of his mind's eye dark.
But EunoŽ behold, which yonder now
is flowing forth; conduct him to its bank,
and, as thou 'rt wont, revive his lifeless power."
Even as a noble soul makes no excuse,
but to another's will its own conforms,
as soon as e'er by outward signs disclosed;
even so, when she had taken hold of me,
the lovely Lady moved, and then to Statius
said with a lady's manner: "Come with him."
If, Reader, I had now more space for writing,
I'd sing, at least in part, of that sweet drink,
which never would have satisfied my thirst;
but inasmuch as filled are all the pages
planned warp-like for this second Canticle,
no further doth art's bridle let me go.
From that most holy water I returned
made young again, as new trees are in spring,
when with new foliage they renew themselves,
pure, and disposed to rise up to the stars.