Canto VIII


The world used in its peril to believe

  That the fair Cypria delirious love

  Rayed out, in the third epicycle turning;


Wherefore not only unto her paid honour

5  Of sacrifices and of votive cry

  The ancient nations in the ancient error,


But both Dione honoured they and Cupid,

  That as her mother, this one as her son,

  And said that he had sat in Dido's lap;


10And they from her, whence I beginning take,

  Took the denomination of the star

  That woos the sun, now following, now in front.


I was not ware of our ascending to it;

  But of our being in it gave full faith

15  My Lady whom I saw more beauteous grow.


And as within a flame a spark is seen,

  And as within a voice a voice discerned,

  When one is steadfast, and one comes and goes,


Within that light beheld I other lamps

20  Move in a circle, speeding more and less,

  Methinks in measure of their inward vision.


From a cold cloud descended never winds,

  Or visible or not, so rapidly

  They would not laggard and impeded seem


25To any one who had those lights divine

  Seen come towards us, leaving the gyration

  Begun at first in the high Seraphim.


And behind those that most in front appeared

  Sounded "Osanna!" so that never since

30  To hear again was I without desire.


Then unto us more nearly one approached,

  And it alone began: "We all are ready

  Unto thy pleasure, that thou joy in us.


We turn around with the celestial Princes,

35  One gyre and one gyration and one thirst,

  To whom thou in the world of old didst say,


'Ye who, intelligent, the third heaven are moving;'

  And are so full of love, to pleasure thee

  A little quiet will not be less sweet."


40After these eyes of mine themselves had offered

  Unto my Lady reverently, and she

  Content and certain of herself had made them,


Back to the light they turned, which so great promise

  Made of itself, and "Say, who art thou?" was

45  My voice, imprinted with a great affection.


O how and how much I beheld it grow

  With the new joy that superadded was

  Unto its joys, as soon as I had spoken!


Thus changed, it said to me: "The world possessed me

50  Short time below; and, if it had been more,

  Much evil will be which would not have been.


My gladness keepeth me concealed from thee,

  Which rayeth round about me, and doth hide me

  Like as a creature swathed in its own silk.


55Much didst thou love me, and thou hadst good reason;

  For had I been below, I should have shown thee

  Somewhat beyond the foliage of my love.


That left-hand margin, which doth bathe itself

  In Rhone, when it is mingled with the Sorgue,

60  Me for its lord awaited in due time,


And that horn of Ausonia, which is towned

  With Bari, with Gaeta and Catona,

  Whence Tronto and Verde in the sea disgorge.


Already flashed upon my brow the crown

65  Of that dominion which the Danube waters

  After the German borders it abandons;


And beautiful Trinacria, that is murky

  'Twixt Pachino and Peloro, (on the gulf

  Which greatest scath from Eurus doth receive,)


70Not through Typhoeus, but through nascent sulphur,

  Would have awaited her own monarchs still,

  Through me from Charles descended and from Rudolph,


If evil lordship, that exasperates ever

  The subject populations, had not moved

75  Palermo to the outcry of 'Death! death!'


And if my brother could but this foresee,

  The greedy poverty of Catalonia

  Straight would he flee, that it might not molest him;


For verily 'tis needful to provide,

80  Through him or other, so that on his bark

  Already freighted no more freight be placed.


His nature, which from liberal covetous

  Descended, such a soldiery would need

  As should not care for hoarding in a chest."


85"Because I do believe the lofty joy

  Thy speech infuses into me, my Lord,

  Where every good thing doth begin and end


Thou seest as I see it, the more grateful

  Is it to me; and this too hold I dear,

90  That gazing upon God thou dost discern it.


Glad hast thou made me; so make clear to me,

  Since speaking thou hast stirred me up to doubt,

  How from sweet seed can bitter issue forth."


This I to him; and he to me: "If I

95  Can show to thee a truth, to what thou askest

  Thy face thou'lt hold as thou dost hold thy back.


The Good which all the realm thou art ascending

  Turns and contents, maketh its providence

  To be a power within these bodies vast;


100And not alone the natures are foreseen

  Within the mind that in itself is perfect,

  But they together with their preservation.


For whatsoever thing this bow shoots forth

  Falls foreordained unto an end foreseen,

105  Even as a shaft directed to its mark.


If that were not, the heaven which thou dost walk

  Would in such manner its effects produce,

  That they no longer would be arts, but ruins.


This cannot be, if the Intelligences

110  That keep these stars in motion are not maimed,

  And maimed the First that has not made them perfect.


Wilt thou this truth have clearer made to thee?"

  And I: "Not so; for 'tis impossible

  That nature tire, I see, in what is needful."


115Whence he again: "Now say, would it be worse

  For men on earth were they not citizens?"

  "Yes," I replied; "and here I ask no reason."


"And can they be so, if below they live not

  Diversely unto offices diverse?

120  No, if your master writeth well for you."


So came he with deductions to this point;

  Then he concluded: "Therefore it behoves

  The roots of your effects to be diverse.


Hence one is Solon born, another Xerxes,

125  Another Melchisedec, and another he

  Who, flying through the air, his son did lose.


Revolving Nature, which a signet is

  To mortal wax, doth practise well her art,

  But not one inn distinguish from another;


130Thence happens it that Esau differeth

  In seed from Jacob; and Quirinus comes

  From sire so vile that he is given to Mars.


A generated nature its own way

  Would always make like its progenitors,

135  If Providence divine were not triumphant.


Now that which was behind thee is before thee;

  But that thou know that I with thee am pleased,

  With a corollary will I mantle thee.


Evermore nature, if it fortune find

140  Discordant to it, like each other seed

  Out of its region, maketh evil thrift;


And if the world below would fix its mind

  On the foundation which is laid by nature,

  Pursuing that, 'twould have the people good.


145But you unto religion wrench aside

  Him who was born to gird him with the sword,

  And make a king of him who is for sermons;


Therefore your footsteps wander from the road."