Canto II


O Ye, who in some pretty little boat,

  Eager to listen, have been following

  Behind my ship, that singing sails along,


Turn back to look again upon your shores;

5  Do not put out to sea, lest peradventure,

  In losing me, you might yourselves be lost.


The sea I sail has never yet been passed;

  Minerva breathes, and pilots me Apollo,

  And Muses nine point out to me the Bears.


10Ye other few who have the neck uplifted

  Betimes to th' bread of Angels upon which

  One liveth here and grows not sated by it,


Well may you launch upon the deep salt-sea

  Your vessel, keeping still my wake before you

15  Upon the water that grows smooth again.


Those glorious ones who unto Colchos passed

  Were not so wonder-struck as you shall be,

  When Jason they beheld a ploughman made!


The con-created and perpetual thirst

20  For the realm deiform did bear us on,

  As swift almost as ye the heavens behold.


Upward gazed Beatrice, and I at her;

  And in such space perchance as strikes a bolt

  And flies, and from the notch unlocks itself,


25Arrived I saw me where a wondrous thing

  Drew to itself my sight; and therefore she

  From whom no care of mine could be concealed,


Towards me turning, blithe as beautiful,

  Said unto me: "Fix gratefully thy mind

30  On God, who unto the first star has brought us."


It seemed to me a cloud encompassed us,

  Luminous, dense, consolidate and bright

  As adamant on which the sun is striking.


Into itself did the eternal pearl

35  Receive us, even as water doth receive

  A ray of light, remaining still unbroken.


If I was body, (and we here conceive not

  How one dimension tolerates another,

  Which needs must be if body enter body,)


40More the desire should be enkindled in us

  That essence to behold, wherein is seen

  How God and our own nature were united.


There will be seen what we receive by faith,

  Not demonstrated, but self-evident

45  In guise of the first truth that man believes.


I made reply: "Madonna, as devoutly

  As most I can do I give thanks to Him

  Who has removed me from the mortal world.


But tell me what the dusky spots may be

50  Upon this body, which below on earth

  Make people tell that fabulous tale of Cain?"


Somewhat she smiled; and then, "If the opinion

  Of mortals be erroneous," she said,

  "Where'er the key of sense doth not unlock,


55Certes, the shafts of wonder should not pierce thee

  Now, forasmuch as, following the senses,

  Thou seest that the reason has short wings.


But tell me what thou think'st of it thyself."

  And I: "What seems to us up here diverse,

60  Is caused, I think, by bodies rare and dense."


And she: "Right truly shalt thou see immersed

  In error thy belief, if well thou hearest

  The argument that I shall make against it.


Lights many the eighth sphere displays to you

65  Which in their quality and quantity

  May noted be of aspects different.


If this were caused by rare and dense alone,

  One only virtue would there be in all

  Or more or less diffused, or equally.


70Virtues diverse must be perforce the fruits

  Of formal principles; and these, save one,

  Of course would by thy reasoning be destroyed.


Besides, if rarity were of this dimness

  The cause thou askest, either through and through

75  This planet thus attenuate were of matter,


Or else, as in a body is apportioned

  The fat and lean, so in like manner this

  Would in its volume interchange the leaves.


Were it the former, in the sun's eclipse

80  It would be manifest by the shining through

  Of light, as through aught tenuous interfused.


This is not so; hence we must scan the other,

  And if it chance the other I demolish,

  Then falsified will thy opinion be.


85But if this rarity go not through and through,

  There needs must be a limit, beyond which

  Its contrary prevents the further passing,


And thence the foreign radiance is reflected,

  Even as a colour cometh back from glass,

90  The which behind itself concealeth lead.


Now thou wilt say the sunbeam shows itself

  More dimly there than in the other parts,

  By being there reflected farther back.


From this reply experiment will free thee

95  If e'er thou try it, which is wont to be

  The fountain to the rivers of your arts.


Three mirrors shalt thou take, and two remove

  Alike from thee, the other more remote

  Between the former two shall meet thine eyes.


100Turned towards these, cause that behind thy back

  Be placed a light, illuming the three mirrors

  And coming back to thee by all reflected.


Though in its quantity be not so ample

  The image most remote, there shalt thou see

105  How it perforce is equally resplendent.


Now, as beneath the touches of warm rays

  Naked the subject of the snow remains

  Both of its former colour and its cold,


Thee thus remaining in thy intellect,

110  Will I inform with such a living light,

  That it shall tremble in its aspect to thee.


Within the heaven of the divine repose

  Revolves a body, in whose virtue lies

  The being of whatever it contains.


115The following heaven, that has so many eyes,

  Divides this being by essences diverse,

  Distinguished from it, and by it contained.


The other spheres, by various differences,

  All the distinctions which they have within them

120  Dispose unto their ends and their effects.


Thus do these organs of the world proceed,

  As thou perceivest now, from grade to grade;

  Since from above they take, and act beneath.


Observe me well, how through this place I come

125  Unto the truth thou wishest, that hereafter

  Thou mayst alone know how to keep the ford


The power and motion of the holy spheres,

  As from the artisan the hammer's craft,

  Forth from the blessed motors must proceed.


130The heaven, which lights so manifold make fair,

  From the Intelligence profound, which turns it,

  The image takes, and makes of it a seal.


And even as the soul within your dust

  Through members different and accommodated

135  To faculties diverse expands itself,


So likewise this Intelligence diffuses

  Its virtue multiplied among the stars.

  Itself revolving on its unity.


Virtue diverse doth a diverse alloyage

140  Make with the precious body that it quickens,

  In which, as life in you, it is combined.


From the glad nature whence it is derived,

  The mingled virtue through the body shines,

  Even as gladness through the living pupil.


145From this proceeds whate'er from light to light

  Appeareth different, not from dense and rare:

  This is the formal principle that produces,


According to its goodness, dark and bright."