Canto XXXIII

 

"Thou Virgin Mother, daughter of thy Son,

  Humble and high beyond all other creature,

  The limit fixed of the eternal counsel,

 

Thou art the one who such nobility

5  To human nature gave, that its Creator

  Did not disdain to make himself its creature.

 

Within thy womb rekindled was the love,

  By heat of which in the eternal peace

  After such wise this flower has germinated.

 

10Here unto us thou art a noonday torch

  Of charity, and below there among mortals

  Thou art the living fountain-head of hope.

 

Lady, thou art so great, and so prevailing,

  That he who wishes grace, nor runs to thee,

15  His aspirations without wings would fly.

 

Not only thy benignity gives succour

  To him who asketh it, but oftentimes

  Forerunneth of its own accord the asking.

 

In thee compassion is, in thee is pity,

20  In thee magnificence; in thee unites

  Whate'er of goodness is in any creature.

 

Now doth this man, who from the lowest depth

  Of the universe as far as here has seen

  One after one the spiritual lives,

 

25Supplicate thee through grace for so much power

  That with his eyes he may uplift himself

  Higher towards the uttermost salvation.

 

And I, who never burned for my own seeing

  More than I do for his, all of my prayers

30  Proffer to thee, and pray they come not short,

 

That thou wouldst scatter from him every cloud

  Of his mortality so with thy prayers,

  That the Chief Pleasure be to him displayed.

 

Still farther do I pray thee, Queen, who canst

35  Whate'er thou wilt, that sound thou mayst preserve

  After so great a vision his affections.

 

Let thy protection conquer human movements;

  See Beatrice and all the blessed ones

  My prayers to second clasp their hands to thee!"

 

40The eyes beloved and revered of God,

  Fastened upon the speaker, showed to us

  How grateful unto her are prayers devout;

 

Then unto the Eternal Light they turned,

  On which it is not credible could be

45  By any creature bent an eye so clear.

 

And I, who to the end of all desires

  Was now approaching, even as I ought

  The ardour of desire within me ended.

 

Bernard was beckoning unto me, and smiling,

50  That I should upward look; but I already

  Was of my own accord such as he wished;

 

Because my sight, becoming purified,

  Was entering more and more into the ray

  Of the High Light which of itself is true.

 

55From that time forward what I saw was greater

  Than our discourse, that to such vision yields,

  And yields the memory unto such excess.

 

Even as he is who seeth in a dream,

  And after dreaming the imprinted passion

60  Remains, and to his mind the rest returns not,

 

Even such am I, for almost utterly

  Ceases my vision, and distilleth yet

  Within my heart the sweetness born of it;

 

Even thus the snow is in the sun unsealed,

65  Even thus upon the wind in the light leaves

  Were the soothsayings of the Sibyl lost.

 

O Light Supreme, that dost so far uplift thee

  From the conceits of mortals, to my mind

  Of what thou didst appear re-lend a little,

 

70And make my tongue of so great puissance,

  That but a single sparkle of thy glory

  It may bequeath unto the future people;

 

For by returning to my memory somewhat,

  And by a little sounding in these verses,

75  More of thy victory shall be conceived!

 

I think the keenness of the living ray

  Which I endured would have bewildered me,

  If but mine eyes had been averted from it;

 

And I remember that I was more bold

80  On this account to bear, so that I joined

  My aspect with the Glory Infinite.

 

O grace abundant, by which I presumed

  To fix my sight upon the Light Eternal,

  So that the seeing I consumed therein!

 

85I saw that in its depth far down is lying

  Bound up with love together in one volume,

  What through the universe in leaves is scattered;

 

Substance, and accident, and their operations,

  All interfused together in such wise

90  That what I speak of is one simple light.

 

The universal fashion of this knot

  Methinks I saw, since more abundantly

  In saying this I feel that I rejoice.

 

One moment is more lethargy to me,

95  Than five and twenty centuries to the emprise

  That startled Neptune with the shade of Argo!

 

My mind in this wise wholly in suspense,

  Steadfast, immovable, attentive gazed,

  And evermore with gazing grew enkindled.

 

100In presence of that light one such becomes,

  That to withdraw therefrom for other prospect

  It is impossible he e'er consent;

 

Because the good, which object is of will,

  Is gathered all in this, and out of it

105  That is defective which is perfect there.

 

Shorter henceforward will my language fall

  Of what I yet remember, than an infant's

  Who still his tongue doth moisten at the breast.

 

Not because more than one unmingled semblance

110  Was in the living light on which I looked,

  For it is always what it was before;

 

But through the sight, that fortified itself

  In me by looking, one appearance only

  To me was ever changing as I changed.

 

115Within the deep and luminous subsistence

  Of the High Light appeared to me three circles,

  Of threefold colour and of one dimension,

 

And by the second seemed the first reflected

  As Iris is by Iris, and the third

120  Seemed fire that equally from both is breathed.

 

O how all speech is feeble and falls short

  Of my conceit, and this to what I saw

  Is such, 'tis not enough to call it little!

 

O Light Eterne, sole in thyself that dwellest,

125  Sole knowest thyself, and, known unto thyself

  And knowing, lovest and smilest on thyself!

 

That circulation, which being thus conceived

  Appeared in thee as a reflected light,

  When somewhat contemplated by mine eyes,

 

130Within itself, of its own very colour

  Seemed to me painted with our effigy,

  Wherefore my sight was all absorbed therein.

 

As the geometrician, who endeavours

  To square the circle, and discovers not,

135  By taking thought, the principle he wants,

 

Even such was I at that new apparition;

  I wished to see how the image to the circle

  Conformed itself, and how it there finds place;

 

But my own wings were not enough for this,

140  Had it not been that then my mind there smote

  A flash of lightning, wherein came its wish.

 

Here vigour failed the lofty fantasy:

  But now was turning my desire and will,

  Even as a wheel that equally is moved,

 

145The Love which moves the sun and the other stars.