Canto XXIV

 

"O company elect to the great supper

  Of the Lamb benedight, who feedeth you

  So that for ever full is your desire,

 

If by the grace of God this man foretaste

5  Something of that which falleth from your table,

  Or ever death prescribe to him the time,

 

Direct your mind to his immense desire,

  And him somewhat bedew; ye drinking are

  For ever at the fount whence comes his thought."

 

10Thus Beatrice; and those souls beatified

  Transformed themselves to spheres on steadfast poles,

  Flaming intensely in the guise of comets.

 

And as the wheels in works of horologes

  Revolve so that the first to the beholder

15  Motionless seems, and the last one to fly,

 

So in like manner did those carols, dancing

  In different measure, of their affluence

  Give me the gauge, as they were swift or slow.

 

From that one which I noted of most beauty

20  Beheld I issue forth a fire so happy

  That none it left there of a greater brightness;

 

And around Beatrice three several times

  It whirled itself with so divine a song,

  My fantasy repeats it not to me;

 

25Therefore the pen skips, and I write it not,

  Since our imagination for such folds,

  Much more our speech, is of a tint too glaring.

 

"O holy sister mine, who us implorest

  With such devotion, by thine ardent love

30  Thou dost unbind me from that beautiful sphere!"

 

Thereafter, having stopped, the blessed fire

  Unto my Lady did direct its breath,

  Which spake in fashion as I here have said.

 

And she: "O light eterne of the great man

35  To whom our Lord delivered up the keys

  He carried down of this miraculous joy,

 

This one examine on points light and grave,

  As good beseemeth thee, about the Faith

  By means of which thou on the sea didst walk.

 

40If he love well, and hope well, and believe,

  From thee 'tis hid not; for thou hast thy sight

  There where depicted everything is seen.

 

But since this kingdom has made citizens

  By means of the true Faith, to glorify it

45  'Tis well he have the chance to speak thereof."

 

As baccalaureate arms himself, and speaks not

  Until the master doth propose the question,

  To argue it, and not to terminate it,

 

So did I arm myself with every reason,

50  While she was speaking, that I might be ready

  For such a questioner and such profession.

 

"Say, thou good Christian; manifest thyself;

  What is the Faith?" Whereat I raised my brow

  Unto that light wherefrom was this breathed forth.

 

55Then turned I round to Beatrice, and she

  Prompt signals made to me that I should pour

  The water forth from my internal fountain.

 

"May grace, that suffers me to make confession,"

  Began I, "to the great centurion,

60  Cause my conceptions all to be explicit!"

 

And I continued: "As the truthful pen,

  Father, of thy dear brother wrote of it,

  Who put with thee Rome into the good way,

 

Faith is the substance of the things we hope for,

65  And evidence of those that are not seen;

  And this appears to me its quiddity."

 

Then heard I: "Very rightly thou perceivest,

  If well thou understandest why he placed it

  With substances and then with evidences."

 

70And I thereafterward: "The things profound,

  That here vouchsafe to me their apparition,

  Unto all eyes below are so concealed,

 

That they exist there only in belief,

  Upon the which is founded the high hope,

75  And hence it takes the nature of a substance.

 

And it behoveth us from this belief

  To reason without having other sight,

  And hence it has the nature of evidence."

 

Then heard I: "If whatever is acquired

80  Below by doctrine were thus understood,

  No sophist's subtlety would there find place."

 

Thus was breathed forth from that enkindled love;

  Then added: "Very well has been gone over

  Already of this coin the alloy and weight;

 

85But tell me if thou hast it in thy purse?"

  And I: "Yes, both so shining and so round

  That in its stamp there is no peradventure."

 

Thereafter issued from the light profound

  That there resplendent was: "This precious jewel,

90  Upon the which is every virtue founded,

 

Whence hadst thou it?" And I: "The large outpouring

  Of Holy Spirit, which has been diffused

  Upon the ancient parchments and the new,

 

A syllogism is, which proved it to me

95  With such acuteness, that, compared therewith,

  All demonstration seems to me obtuse."

 

And then I heard: "The ancient and the new

  Postulates, that to thee are so conclusive,

  Why dost thou take them for the word divine?"

 

100And I: "The proofs, which show the truth to me,

  Are the works subsequent, whereunto Nature

  Ne'er heated iron yet, nor anvil beat."

 

'Twas answered me: "Say, who assureth thee

  That those works ever were? the thing itself

105  That must be proved, nought else to thee affirms it."

 

"Were the world to Christianity converted,"

  I said, "withouten miracles, this one

  Is such, the rest are not its hundredth part;

 

Because that poor and fasting thou didst enter

110  Into the field to sow there the good plant,

  Which was a vine and has become a thorn!"

 

This being finished, the high, holy Court

  Resounded through the spheres, "One God we praise!"

  In melody that there above is chanted.

 

115And then that Baron, who from branch to branch,

  Examining, had thus conducted me,

  Till the extremest leaves we were approaching,

 

Again began: "The Grace that dallying

  Plays with thine intellect thy mouth has opened,

120  Up to this point, as it should opened be,

 

So that I do approve what forth emerged;

  But now thou must express what thou believest,

  And whence to thy belief it was presented."

 

"O holy father, spirit who beholdest

125  What thou believedst so that thou o'ercamest,

  Towards the sepulchre, more youthful feet,"

 

Began I, "thou dost wish me in this place

  The form to manifest of my prompt belief,

  And likewise thou the cause thereof demandest.

 

130And I respond: In one God I believe,

  Sole and eterne, who moveth all the heavens

  With love and with desire, himself unmoved;

 

And of such faith not only have I proofs

  Physical and metaphysical, but gives them

135  Likewise the truth that from this place rains down

 

Through Moses, through the Prophets and the Psalms,

  Through the Evangel, and through you, who wrote

  After the fiery Spirit sanctified you;

 

In Persons three eterne believe, and these

140  One essence I believe, so one and trine

  They bear conjunction both with sunt and est.

 

With the profound condition and divine

  Which now I touch upon, doth stamp my mind

  Ofttimes the doctrine evangelical.

 

145This the beginning is, this is the spark

  Which afterwards dilates to vivid flame,

  And, like a star in heaven, is sparkling in me."

 

Even as a lord who hears what pleaseth him

  His servant straight embraces, gratulating

150  For the good news as soon as he is silent;

 

So, giving me its benediction, singing,

  Three times encircled me, when I was silent,

  The apostolic light, at whose command

 

I spoken had, in speaking I so pleased him.