Canto I


The glory of Him who moveth everything

  Doth penetrate the universe, and shine

  In one part more and in another less.


Within that heaven which most his light receives

5  Was I, and things beheld which to repeat

  Nor knows, nor can, who from above descends;


Because in drawing near to its desire

  Our intellect ingulphs itself so far,

  That after it the memory cannot go.


10Truly whatever of the holy realm

  I had the power to treasure in my mind

  Shall now become the subject of my song.


O good Apollo, for this last emprise

  Make of me such a vessel of thy power

15  As giving the beloved laurel asks!


One summit of Parnassus hitherto

  Has been enough for me, but now with both

  I needs must enter the arena left.


Enter into my bosom, thou, and breathe

20  As at the time when Marsyas thou didst draw

  Out of the scabbard of those limbs of his.


O power divine, lend'st thou thyself to me

  So that the shadow of the blessed realm

  Stamped in my brain I can make manifest,


25Thou'lt see me come unto thy darling tree,

  And crown myself thereafter with those leaves

  Of which the theme and thou shall make me worthy.


So seldom, Father, do we gather them

  For triumph or of Caesar or of Poet,

30  (The fault and shame of human inclinations,)


That the Peneian foliage should bring forth

  Joy to the joyous Delphic deity,

  When any one it makes to thirst for it.


A little spark is followed by great flame;

35  Perchance with better voices after me

  Shall prayer be made that Cyrrha may respond!


To mortal men by passages diverse

  Uprises the world's lamp; but by that one

  Which circles four uniteth with three crosses,


40With better course and with a better star

  Conjoined it issues, and the mundane wax

  Tempers and stamps more after its own fashion.


Almost that passage had made morning there

  And evening here, and there was wholly white

45  That hemisphere, and black the other part,


When Beatrice towards the left-hand side

  I saw turned round, and gazing at the sun;

  Never did eagle fasten so upon it!


And even as a second ray is wont

50  To issue from the first and reascend,

  Like to a pilgrim who would fain return,


Thus of her action, through the eyes infused

  In my imagination, mine I made,

  And sunward fixed mine eyes beyond our wont.


55There much is lawful which is here unlawful

  Unto our powers, by virtue of the place

  Made for the human species as its own.


Not long I bore it, nor so little while

  But I beheld it sparkle round about

60  Like iron that comes molten from the fire;


And suddenly it seemed that day to day

  Was added, as if He who has the power

  Had with another sun the heaven adorned.


With eyes upon the everlasting wheels

65  Stood Beatrice all intent, and I, on her

  Fixing my vision from above removed,


Such at her aspect inwardly became

  As Glaucus, tasting of the herb that made him

  Peer of the other gods beneath the sea.


70To represent transhumanise in words

  Impossible were; the example, then, suffice

  Him for whom Grace the experience reserves.


If I was merely what of me thou newly

  Createdst, Love who governest the heaven,

75  Thou knowest, who didst lift me with thy light!


When now the wheel, which thou dost make eternal

  Desiring thee, made me attentive to it

  By harmony thou dost modulate and measure,


Then seemed to me so much of heaven enkindled

80  By the sun's flame, that neither rain nor river

  E'er made a lake so widely spread abroad.


The newness of the sound and the great light

  Kindled in me a longing for their cause,

  Never before with such acuteness felt;


85Whence she, who saw me as I saw myself,

  To quiet in me my perturbed mind,

  Opened her mouth, ere I did mine to ask,


And she began: "Thou makest thyself so dull

  With false imagining, that thou seest not

90  What thou wouldst see if thou hadst shaken it off.


Thou art not upon earth, as thou believest;

  But lightning, fleeing its appropriate site,

  Ne'er ran as thou, who thitherward returnest."


If of my former doubt I was divested

95  By these brief little words more smiled than spoken,

  I in a new one was the more ensnared;


And said: "Already did I rest content

  From great amazement; but am now amazed

  In what way I transcend these bodies light."


100Whereupon she, after a pitying sigh,

  Her eyes directed tow'rds me with that look

  A mother casts on a delirious child;


And she began: "All things whate'er they be

  Have order among themselves, and this is form,

105  That makes the universe resemble God.


Here do the higher creatures see the footprints

  Of the Eternal Power, which is the end

  Whereto is made the law already mentioned.


In the order that I speak of are inclined

110  All natures, by their destinies diverse,

  More or less near unto their origin;


Hence they move onward unto ports diverse

  O'er the great sea of being; and each one

  With instinct given it which bears it on.


115This bears away the fire towards the moon;

  This is in mortal hearts the motive power

  This binds together and unites the earth.


Nor only the created things that are

  Without intelligence this bow shoots forth,

120  But those that have both intellect and love.


The Providence that regulates all this

  Makes with its light the heaven forever quiet,

  Wherein that turns which has the greatest haste.


And thither now, as to a site decreed,

125  Bears us away the virtue of that cord

  Which aims its arrows at a joyous mark.


True is it, that as oftentimes the form

  Accords not with the intention of the art,

  Because in answering is matter deaf,


130So likewise from this course doth deviate

  Sometimes the creature, who the power possesses,

  Though thus impelled, to swerve some other way,


(In the same wise as one may see the fire

  Fall from a cloud,) if the first impetus

135  Earthward is wrested by some false delight.


Thou shouldst not wonder more, if well I judge,

  At thine ascent, than at a rivulet

  From some high mount descending to the lowland.


Marvel it would be in thee, if deprived

140  Of hindrance, thou wert seated down below,

  As if on earth the living fire were quiet."


Thereat she heavenward turned again her face.