Canto XVII


As came to Clymene, to be made certain

  Of that which he had heard against himself,

  He who makes fathers chary still to children,


Even such was I, and such was I perceived

5  By Beatrice and by the holy light

  That first on my account had changed its place.


Therefore my Lady said to me: "Send forth

  The flame of thy desire, so that it issue

  Imprinted well with the internal stamp;


10Not that our knowledge may be greater made

  By speech of thine, but to accustom thee

  To tell thy thirst, that we may give thee drink."


"O my beloved tree, (that so dost lift thee,

  That even as minds terrestrial perceive

15  No triangle containeth two obtuse,


So thou beholdest the contingent things

  Ere in themselves they are, fixing thine eyes

  Upon the point in which all times are present,)


While I was with Virgilius conjoined

20  Upon the mountain that the souls doth heal,

  And when descending into the dead world,


Were spoken to me of my future life

  Some grievous words; although I feel myself

  In sooth foursquare against the blows of chance.


25On this account my wish would be content

  To hear what fortune is approaching me,

  Because foreseen an arrow comes more slowly."


Thus did I say unto that selfsame light

  That unto me had spoken before; and even

30  As Beatrice willed was my own will confessed.


Not in vague phrase, in which the foolish folk

  Ensnared themselves of old, ere yet was slain

  The Lamb of God who taketh sins away,


But with clear words and unambiguous

35  Language responded that paternal love,

  Hid and revealed by its own proper smile:


"Contingency, that outside of the volume

  Of your materiality extends not,

  Is all depicted in the eternal aspect.


40Necessity however thence it takes not,

  Except as from the eye, in which 'tis mirrored,

  A ship that with the current down descends.


From thence, e'en as there cometh to the ear

  Sweet harmony from an organ, comes in sight

45  To me the time that is preparing for thee.


As forth from Athens went Hippolytus,

  By reason of his step-dame false and cruel,

  So thou from Florence must perforce depart.


Already this is willed, and this is sought for;

50  And soon it shall be done by him who thinks it,

  Where every day the Christ is bought and sold.


The blame shall follow the offended party

  In outcry as is usual; but the vengeance

  Shall witness to the truth that doth dispense it.


55Thou shalt abandon everything beloved

  Most tenderly, and this the arrow is

  Which first the bow of banishment shoots forth.


Thou shalt have proof how savoureth of salt

  The bread of others, and how hard a road

60  The going down and up another's stairs.


And that which most shall weigh upon thy shoulders

  Will be the bad and foolish company

  With which into this valley thou shalt fall;


For all ingrate, all mad and impious

65  Will they become against thee; but soon after

  They, and not thou, shall have the forehead scarlet.


Of their bestiality their own proceedings

  Shall furnish proof; so 'twill be well for thee

  A party to have made thee by thyself.


70Thine earliest refuge and thine earliest inn

  Shall be the mighty Lombard's courtesy,

  Who on the Ladder bears the holy bird,


Who such benign regard shall have for thee

  That 'twixt you twain, in doing and in asking,

75  That shall be first which is with others last.


With him shalt thou see one who at his birth

  Has by this star of strength been so impressed,

  That notable shall his achievements be.


Not yet the people are aware of him

80  Through his young age, since only nine years yet

  Around about him have these wheels revolved.


But ere the Gascon cheat the noble Henry,

  Some sparkles of his virtue shall appear

  In caring not for silver nor for toil.


85So recognized shall his magnificence

  Become hereafter, that his enemies

  Will not have power to keep mute tongues about it.


On him rely, and on his benefits;

  By him shall many people be transformed,

90  Changing condition rich and mendicant;


And written in thy mind thou hence shalt bear

  Of him, but shalt not say it" — and things said he

  Incredible to those who shall be present.


Then added: "Son, these are the commentaries

95  On what was said to thee; behold the snares

  That are concealed behind few revolutions;


Yet would I not thy neighbours thou shouldst envy,

  Because thy life into the future reaches

  Beyond the punishment of their perfidies."


100When by its silence showed that sainted soul

  That it had finished putting in the woof

  Into that web which I had given it warped,


Began I, even as he who yearneth after,

  Being in doubt, some counsel from a person

105  Who seeth, and uprightly wills, and loves:


"Well see I, father mine, how spurreth on

  The time towards me such a blow to deal me

  As heaviest is to him who most gives way.


Therefore with foresight it is well I arm me,

110  That, if the dearest place be taken from me,

  I may not lose the others by my songs.


Down through the world of infinite bitterness,

  And o'er the mountain, from whose beauteous summit

  The eyes of my own Lady lifted me,


115And afterward through heaven from light to light,

  I have learned that which, if I tell again,

  Will be a savour of strong herbs to many.


And if I am a timid friend to truth,

  I fear lest I may lose my life with those

120  Who will hereafter call this time the olden."


The light in which was smiling my own treasure

  Which there I had discovered, flashed at first

  As in the sunshine doth a golden mirror;


Then made reply: "A conscience overcast

125  Or with its own or with another's shame,

  Will taste forsooth the tartness of thy word;


But ne'ertheless, all falsehood laid aside,

  Make manifest thy vision utterly,

  And let them scratch wherever is the itch;


130For if thine utterance shall offensive be

  At the first taste, a vital nutriment

  'Twill leave thereafter, when it is digested.


This cry of thine shall do as doth the wind,

  Which smiteth most the most exalted summits,

135  And that is no slight argument of honour.


Therefore are shown to thee within these wheels,

  Upon the mount and in the dolorous valley,

  Only the souls that unto fame are known;


Because the spirit of the hearer rests not,

140  Nor doth confirm its faith by an example

  Which has the root of it unknown and hidden,


Or other reason that is not apparent."