Canto XXIII

 

Even as a bird, 'mid the beloved leaves,

  Quiet upon the nest of her sweet brood

  Throughout the night, that hideth all things from us,

 

Who, that she may behold their longed-for looks

5  And find the food wherewith to nourish them,

  In which, to her, grave labours grateful are,

 

Anticipates the time on open spray

  And with an ardent longing waits the sun,

  Gazing intent as soon as breaks the dawn:

 

10Even thus my Lady standing was, erect

  And vigilant, turned round towards the zone

  Underneath which the sun displays less haste;

 

So that beholding her distraught and wistful,

  Such I became as he is who desiring

15  For something yearns, and hoping is appeased.

 

But brief the space from one When to the other;

  Of my awaiting, say I, and the seeing

  The welkin grow resplendent more and more.

 

And Beatrice exclaimed: "Behold the hosts

20  Of Christ's triumphal march, and all the fruit

  Harvested by the rolling of these spheres!"

 

It seemed to me her face was all aflame;

  And eyes she had so full of ecstasy

  That I must needs pass on without describing.

 

25As when in nights serene of the full moon

  Smiles Trivia among the nymphs eternal

  Who paint the firmament through all its gulfs,

 

Saw I, above the myriads of lamps,

  A Sun that one and all of them enkindled,

30  E'en as our own doth the supernal sights,

 

And through the living light transparent shone

  The lucent substance so intensely clear

  Into my sight, that I sustained it not.

 

O Beatrice, thou gentle guide and dear!

35  To me she said: "What overmasters thee

  A virtue is from which naught shields itself.

 

There are the wisdom and the omnipotence

  That oped the thoroughfares 'twixt heaven and earth,

  For which there erst had been so long a yearning."

 

40As fire from out a cloud unlocks itself,

  Dilating so it finds not room therein,

  And down, against its nature, falls to earth,

 

So did my mind, among those aliments

  Becoming larger, issue from itself,

45  And that which it became cannot remember.

 

"Open thine eyes, and look at what I am:

  Thou hast beheld such things, that strong enough

  Hast thou become to tolerate my smile."

 

I was as one who still retains the feeling

50  Of a forgotten vision, and endeavours

  In vain to bring it back into his mind,

 

When I this invitation heard, deserving

  Of so much gratitude, it never fades

  Out of the book that chronicles the past.

 

55If at this moment sounded all the tongues

  That Polyhymnia and her sisters made

  Most lubrical with their delicious milk,

 

To aid me, to a thousandth of the truth

  It would not reach, singing the holy smile

60  And how the holy aspect it illumed.

 

And therefore, representing Paradise,

  The sacred poem must perforce leap over,

  Even as a man who finds his way cut off;

 

But whoso thinketh of the ponderous theme,

65  And of the mortal shoulder laden with it,

  Should blame it not, if under this it tremble.

 

It is no passage for a little boat

  This which goes cleaving the audacious prow,

  Nor for a pilot who would spare himself.

 

70"Why doth my face so much enamour thee,

  That to the garden fair thou turnest not,

  Which under the rays of Christ is blossoming?

 

There is the Rose in which the Word Divine

  Became incarnate; there the lilies are

75  By whose perfume the good way was discovered."

 

Thus Beatrice; and I, who to her counsels

  Was wholly ready, once again betook me

  Unto the battle of the feeble brows.

 

As in the sunshine, that unsullied streams

80  Through fractured cloud, ere now a meadow of flowers

  Mine eyes with shadow covered o'er have seen,

 

So troops of splendours manifold I saw

  Illumined from above with burning rays,

  Beholding not the source of the effulgence.

 

85O power benignant that dost so imprint them!

  Thou didst exalt thyself to give more scope

  There to mine eyes, that were not strong enough.

 

The name of that fair flower I e'er invoke

  Morning and evening utterly enthralled

90  My soul to gaze upon the greater fire.

 

And when in both mine eyes depicted were

  The glory and greatness of the living star

  Which there excelleth, as it here excelled,

 

Athwart the heavens a little torch descended

95  Formed in a circle like a coronal,

  And cinctured it, and whirled itself about it.

 

Whatever melody most sweetly soundeth

  On earth, and to itself most draws the soul,

  Would seem a cloud that, rent asunder, thunders,

 

100Compared unto the sounding of that lyre

  Wherewith was crowned the sapphire beautiful,

  Which gives the clearest heaven its sapphire hue.

 

"I am Angelic Love, that circle round

  The joy sublime which breathes from out the womb

105  That was the hostelry of our Desire;

 

And I shall circle, Lady of Heaven, while

  Thou followest thy Son, and mak'st diviner

  The sphere supreme, because thou enterest there."

 

Thus did the circulated melody

110  Seal itself up; and all the other lights

  Were making to resound the name of Mary.

 

The regal mantle of the volumes all

  Of that world, which most fervid is and living

  With breath of God and with his works and ways,

 

115Extended over us its inner border,

  So very distant, that the semblance of it

  There where I was not yet appeared to me.

 

Therefore mine eyes did not possess the power

  Of following the incoronated flame,

120  Which mounted upward near to its own seed.

 

And as a little child, that towards its mother

  Stretches its arms, when it the milk has taken,

  Through impulse kindled into outward flame,

 

Each of those gleams of whiteness upward reached

125  So with its summit, that the deep affection

  They had for Mary was revealed to me.

 

Thereafter they remained there in my sight,

  Regina coeli singing with such sweetness,

  That ne'er from me has the delight departed.

 

130O, what exuberance is garnered up

  Within those richest coffers, which had been

  Good husbandmen for sowing here below!

 

There they enjoy and live upon the treasure

  Which was acquired while weeping in the exile

135  Of Babylon, wherein the gold was left.

 

There triumpheth, beneath the exalted Son

  Of God and Mary, in his victory,

  Both with the ancient council and the new,

 

He who doth keep the keys of such a glory.