Canto XXVIII

 

After the truth against the present life

  Of miserable mortals was unfolded

  By her who doth imparadise my mind,

 

As in a looking-glass a taper's flame

5  He sees who from behind is lighted by it,

  Before he has it in his sight or thought,

 

And turns him round to see if so the glass

  Tell him the truth, and sees that it accords

  Therewith as doth a music with its metre,

 

10In similar wise my memory recollecteth

  That I did, looking into those fair eyes,

  Of which Love made the springes to ensnare me.

 

And as I turned me round, and mine were touched

  By that which is apparent in that volume,

15  Whenever on its gyre we gaze intent,

 

A point beheld I, that was raying out

  Light so acute, the sight which it enkindles

  Must close perforce before such great acuteness.

 

And whatsoever star seems smallest here

20  Would seem to be a moon, if placed beside it.

  As one star with another star is placed.

 

Perhaps at such a distance as appears

  A halo cincturing the light that paints it,

  When densest is the vapour that sustains it,

 

25Thus distant round the point a circle of fire

  So swiftly whirled, that it would have surpassed

  Whatever motion soonest girds the world;

 

And this was by another circumcinct,

  That by a third, the third then by a fourth,

30  By a fifth the fourth, and then by a sixth the fifth;

 

The seventh followed thereupon in width

  So ample now, that Juno's messenger

  Entire would be too narrow to contain it.

 

Even so the eighth and ninth; and every one

35  More slowly moved, according as it was

  In number distant farther from the first.

 

And that one had its flame most crystalline

  From which less distant was the stainless spark,

  I think because more with its truth imbued.

 

40My Lady, who in my anxiety

  Beheld me much perplexed, said: "From that point

  Dependent is the heaven and nature all.

 

Behold that circle most conjoined to it,

  And know thou, that its motion is so swift

45  Through burning love whereby it is spurred on."

 

And I to her: "If the world were arranged

  In the order which I see in yonder wheels,

  What's set before me would have satisfied me;

 

But in the world of sense we can perceive

50  That evermore the circles are diviner

  As they are from the centre more remote

 

Wherefore if my desire is to be ended

  In this miraculous and angelic temple,

  That has for confines only love and light,

 

55To hear behoves me still how the example

  And the exemplar go not in one fashion,

  Since for myself in vain I contemplate it."

 

"If thine own fingers unto such a knot

  Be insufficient, it is no great wonder,

60  So hard hath it become for want of trying."

 

My Lady thus; then said she: "Do thou take

  What I shall tell thee, if thou wouldst be sated,

  And exercise on that thy subtlety.

 

The circles corporal are wide and narrow

65  According to the more or less of virtue

  Which is distributed through all their parts.

 

The greater goodness works the greater weal,

  The greater weal the greater body holds,

  If perfect equally are all its parts.

 

70Therefore this one which sweeps along with it

  The universe sublime, doth correspond

  Unto the circle which most loves and knows.

 

On which account, if thou unto the virtue

  Apply thy measure, not to the appearance

75  Of substances that unto thee seem round,

 

Thou wilt behold a marvellous agreement,

  Of more to greater, and of less to smaller,

  In every heaven, with its Intelligence."

 

Even as remaineth splendid and serene

80  The hemisphere of air, when Boreas

  Is blowing from that cheek where he is mildest,

 

Because is purified and resolved the rack

  That erst disturbed it, till the welkin laughs

  With all the beauties of its pageantry;

 

85Thus did I likewise, after that my Lady

  Had me provided with her clear response,

  And like a star in heaven the truth was seen.

 

And soon as to a stop her words had come,

  Not otherwise does iron scintillate

90  When molten, than those circles scintillated.

 

Their coruscation all the sparks repeated,

  And they so many were, their number makes

  More millions than the doubling of the chess.

 

I heard them sing hosanna choir by choir

95  To the fixed point which holds them at the Ubi,

  And ever will, where they have ever been.

 

And she, who saw the dubious meditations

  Within my mind, "The primal circles," said,

  "Have shown thee Seraphim and Cherubim.

 

100Thus rapidly they follow their own bonds,

  To be as like the point as most they can,

  And can as far as they are high in vision.

 

Those other Loves, that round about them go,

  Thrones of the countenance divine are called,

105  Because they terminate the primal Triad.

 

And thou shouldst know that they all have delight

  As much as their own vision penetrates

  The Truth, in which all intellect finds rest.

 

From this it may be seen how blessedness

110  Is founded in the faculty which sees,

  And not in that which loves, and follows next;

 

And of this seeing merit is the measure,

  Which is brought forth by grace, and by good will;

  Thus on from grade to grade doth it proceed.

 

115The second Triad, which is germinating

  In such wise in this sempiternal spring,

  That no nocturnal Aries despoils,

 

Perpetually hosanna warbles forth

  With threefold melody, that sounds in three

120  Orders of joy, with which it is intrined.

 

The three Divine are in this hierarchy,

  First the Dominions, and the Virtues next;

  And the third order is that of the Powers.

 

Then in the dances twain penultimate

125  The Principalities and Archangels wheel;

  The last is wholly of angelic sports.

 

These orders upward all of them are gazing,

  And downward so prevail, that unto God

  They all attracted are and all attract.

 

130And Dionysius with so great desire

  To contemplate these Orders set himself,

  He named them and distinguished them as I do.

 

But Gregory afterwards dissented from him;

  Wherefore, as soon as he unclosed his eyes

135  Within this heaven, he at himself did smile.

 

And if so much of secret truth a mortal

  Proffered on earth, I would not have thee marvel,

  For he who saw it here revealed it to him,

 

With much more of the truth about these circles."