Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867)/Volume 3/Canto 14

From centre unto rim, from rim to centre,
   In a round vase the water moves itself,
   As from without 'tis struck or from within.

Into my mind upon a sudden dropped
   What I am saying, at the moment when
   Silent became the glorious life of Thomas,

Because of the resemblance that was born
   Of his discourse and that of Beatrice,
   Whom, after him, it pleased thus to begin:

"This man has need (and does not tell you so,
   Nor with the voice, nor even in his thought)
   Of going to the root of one truth more.

Declare unto him if the light wherewith
   Blossoms your substance shall remain with you
   Eternally the same that it is now;

And if it do remain, say in what manner,
   After ye are again made visible,
   It can be that it injure not your sight."

As by a greater gladness urged and drawn
   They who are dancing in a ring sometimes
   Uplift their voices and their motions quicken;

So, at that orison devout and prompt,
   The holy circles a new joy displayed
   In their revolving and their wondrous song.

Whoso lamenteth him that here we die
   That we may live above, has never there
   Seen the refreshment of the eternal rain.

The One and Two and Three who ever liveth,
   And reigneth ever in Three and Two and One,
   Not circumscribed and all things circumscribing,

Three several times was chanted by each one
   Among those spirits, with such melody
   That for all merit it were just reward;

And, in the lustre most divine of all
   The lesser ring, I heard a modest voice,
   Such as perhaps the Angel's was to Mary,

Answer: "As long as the festivity
   Of Paradise shall be, so long our love
   Shall radiate round about us such a vesture.

Its brightness is proportioned to the ardour,
   The ardour to the vision; and the vision
   Equals what grace it has above its worth.

When, glorious and sanctified, our flesh
   Is reassumed, then shall our persons be
   More pleasing by their being all complete;

For will increase whate'er bestows on us
   Of light gratuitous the Good Supreme,
   Light which enables us to look on Him;

Therefore the vision must perforce increase,
   Increase the ardour which from that is kindled,
   Increase the radiance which from this proceeds.

But even as a coal that sends forth flame,
   And by its vivid whiteness overpowers it
   So that its own appearance it maintains,

Thus the effulgence that surrounds us now
   Shall be o'erpowered in aspect by the flesh,
   Which still to-day the earth doth cover up;

Nor can so great a splendour weary us,
   For strong will be the organs of the body
   To everything which hath the power to please us."

So sudden and alert appeared to me
   Both one and the other choir to say Amen,
   That well they showed desire for their dead bodies;

Nor sole for them perhaps, but for the mothers,
   The fathers, and the rest who had been dear
   Or ever they became eternal flames.

And lo! all round about of equal brightness
   Arose a lustre over what was there,
   Like an horizon that is clearing up.

And as at rise of early eve begin
   Along the welkin new appearances,
   So that the sight seems real and unreal,

It seemed to me that new subsistences
   Began there to be seen, and make a circle
   Outside the other two circumferences.

O very sparkling of the Holy Spirit,
   How sudden and incandescent it became
   Unto mine eyes, that vanquished bore it not!

But Beatrice so beautiful and smiling
   Appeared to me, that with the other sights
   That followed not my memory I must leave her.

Then to uplift themselves mine eyes resumed
   The power, and I beheld myself translated
   To higher salvation with my Lady only.

Well was I ware that I was more uplifted
   By the enkindled smiling of the star,
   That seemed to me more ruddy than its wont.

With all my heart, and in that dialect
   Which is the same in all, such holocaust
   To God I made as the new grace beseemed;

And not yet from my bosom was exhausted
   The ardour of sacrifice, before I knew
   This offering was accepted and auspicious;

For with so great a lustre and so red
   Splendours appeared to me in twofold rays,
   I said: "O Helios who dost so adorn them!"

Even as distinct with less and greater lights
   Glimmers between the two poles of the world
   The Galaxy that maketh wise men doubt,

Thus constellated in the depths of Mars,
   Those rays described the venerable sign
   That quadrants joining in a circle make.

Here doth my memory overcome my genius;
   For on that cross as levin gleamed forth Christ,
   So that I cannot find ensample worthy;

But he who takes his cross and follows Christ
   Again will pardon me what I omit,
   Seeing in that aurora lighten Christ.

From horn to horn, and 'twixt the top and base,
   Lights were in motion, brightly scintillating
   As they together met and passed each other;

Thus level and aslant and swift and slow
   We here behold, renewing still the sight,
   The particles of bodies long and short,

Across the sunbeam move, wherewith is listed
   Sometimes the shade, which for their own defence
   People with cunning and with art contrive.

And as a lute and harp, accordant strung
   With many strings, a dulcet tinkling make
   To him by whom the notes are not distinguished,

So from the lights that there to me appeared
   Upgathered through the cross a melody,
   Which rapt me, not distinguishing the hymn.

Well was I ware it was of lofty laud,
   Because there came to me, "Arise and conquer!"
   As unto him who hears and comprehends not.

So much enamoured I became therewith,
   That until then there was not anything
   That e'er had fettered me with such sweet bonds.

Perhaps my word appears somewhat too bold,
   Postponing the delight of those fair eyes,
   Into which gazing my desire has rest;

But who bethinks him that the living seals
   Of every beauty grow in power ascending,
   And that I there had not turned round to those,

Can me excuse, if I myself accuse
   To excuse myself, and see that I speak truly:
   For here the holy joy is not disclosed,

Because ascending it becomes more pure.