Canto XX


When he who all the world illuminates

  Out of our hemisphere so far descends

  That on all sides the daylight is consumed,


The heaven, that erst by him alone was kindled,

5  Doth suddenly reveal itself again

  By many lights, wherein is one resplendent.


And came into my mind this act of heaven,

  When the ensign of the world and of its leaders

  Had silent in the blessed beak become;


10Because those living luminaries all,

  By far more luminous, did songs begin

  Lapsing and falling from my memory.


O gentle Love, that with a smile dost cloak thee,

  How ardent in those sparks didst thou appear,

15  That had the breath alone of holy thoughts!


After the precious and pellucid crystals,

  With which begemmed the sixth light I beheld,

  Silence imposed on the angelic bells,


I seemed to hear the murmuring of a river

20  That clear descendeth down from rock to rock,

  Showing the affluence of its mountain-top.


And as the sound upon the cithern's neck

  Taketh its form, and as upon the vent

  Of rustic pipe the wind that enters it,


25Even thus, relieved from the delay of waiting,

  That murmuring of the eagle mounted up

  Along its neck, as if it had been hollow.


There it became a voice, and issued thence

  From out its beak, in such a form of words

30  As the heart waited for wherein I wrote them.


"The part in me which sees and bears the sun

  In mortal eagles," it began to me,

  "Now fixedly must needs be looked upon;


For of the fires of which I make my figure,

35  Those whence the eye doth sparkle in my head

  Of all their orders the supremest are.


He who is shining in the midst as pupil

  Was once the singer of the Holy Spirit,

  Who bore the ark from city unto city;


40Now knoweth he the merit of his song,

  In so far as effect of his own counsel,

  By the reward which is commensurate.


Of five, that make a circle for my brow,

  He that approacheth nearest to my beak

45  Did the poor widow for her son console;


Now knoweth he how dearly it doth cost

  Not following Christ, by the experience

  Of this sweet life and of its opposite.


He who comes next in the circumference

50  Of which I speak, upon its highest arc,

  Did death postpone by penitence sincere;


Now knoweth he that the eternal judgment

  Suffers no change, albeit worthy prayer

  Maketh below to-morrow of to-day.


55The next who follows, with the laws and me,

  Under the good intent that bore bad fruit

  Became a Greek by ceding to the pastor;


Now knoweth he how all the ill deduced

  From his good action is not harmful to him,

60  Although the world thereby may be destroyed.


And he, whom in the downward arc thou seest,

  Guglielmo was, whom the same land deplores

  That weepeth Charles and Frederick yet alive;


Now knoweth he how heaven enamoured is

65  With a just king; and in the outward show

  Of his effulgence he reveals it still.


Who would believe, down in the errant world,

  That e'er the Trojan Ripheus in this round

  Could be the fifth one of the holy lights?


70Now knoweth he enough of what the world

  Has not the power to see of grace divine,

  Although his sight may not discern the bottom."


Like as a lark that in the air expatiates,

  First singing and then silent with content

75  Of the last sweetness that doth satisfy her,


Such seemed to me the image of the imprint

  Of the eternal pleasure, by whose will

  Doth everything become the thing it is.


And notwithstanding to my doubt I was

80  As glass is to the colour that invests it,

  To wait the time in silence it endured not,


But forth from out my mouth, "What things are these?"

  Extorted with the force of its own weight;

  Whereat I saw great joy of coruscation.


85Thereafterward with eye still more enkindled

  The blessed standard made to me reply,

  To keep me not in wonderment suspended:


"I see that thou believest in these things

  Because I say them, but thou seest not how;

90  So that, although believed in, they are hidden.


Thou doest as he doth who a thing by name

  Well apprehendeth, but its quiddity

  Cannot perceive, unless another show it.


Regnum coelorum suffereth violence

95  From fervent love, and from that living hope

  That overcometh the Divine volition;


Not in the guise that man o'ercometh man,

  But conquers it because it will be conquered,

  And conquered conquers by benignity.


100The first life of the eyebrow and the fifth

  Cause thee astonishment, because with them

  Thou seest the region of the angels painted.


They passed not from their bodies, as thou thinkest,

  Gentiles, but Christians in the steadfast faith

105  Of feet that were to suffer and had suffered.


For one from Hell, where no one e'er turns back

  Unto good will, returned unto his bones,

  And that of living hope was the reward, -


Of living hope, that placed its efficacy

110  In prayers to God made to resuscitate him,

  So that 'twere possible to move his will.


The glorious soul concerning which I speak,

  Returning to the flesh, where brief its stay,

  Believed in Him who had the power to aid it;


115And, in believing, kindled to such fire

  Of genuine love, that at the second death

  Worthy it was to come unto this joy.


The other one, through grace, that from so deep

  A fountain wells that never hath the eye

120  Of any creature reached its primal wave,


Set all his love below on righteousness;

  Wherefore from grace to grace did God unclose

  His eye to our redemption yet to be,


Whence he believed therein, and suffered not

125  From that day forth the stench of paganism,

  And he reproved therefor the folk perverse.


Those Maidens three, whom at the right-hand wheel

  Thou didst behold, were unto him for baptism

  More than a thousand years before baptizing.


130O thou predestination, how remote

  Thy root is from the aspect of all those

  Who the First Cause do not behold entire!


And you, O mortals! hold yourselves restrained

  In judging; for ourselves, who look on God,

135  We do not know as yet all the elect;


And sweet to us is such a deprivation,

  Because our good in this good is made perfect,

  That whatsoe'er God wills, we also will."


After this manner by that shape divine,

140  To make clear in me my short-sightedness,

  Was given to me a pleasant medicine;


And as good singer a good lutanist

  Accompanies with vibrations of the chords,

  Whereby more pleasantness the song acquires,


145So, while it spake, do I remember me

  That I beheld both of those blessed lights,

  Even as the winking of the eyes concords,


Moving unto the words their little flames.