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Chapter 1 The Ascent to the First Heaven. The Sphere of Fire.

  • The glory of Him who moveth everything
  • Doth penetrate the universe, and shine
  • In one part more and in another less.
  • Within that heaven which most his light receives
  • Was I, and things beheld which to repeat
  • Nor knows, nor can, who from above descends;
  • Because in drawing near to its desire
  • Our intellect ingulphs itself so far,
  • That after it the memory cannot go.
  • Truly whatever of the holy realm
  • I had the power to treasure in my mind
  • Shall now become the subject of my song.
  • O good Apollo, for this last emprise
  • Make of me such a vessel of thy power
  • As giving the beloved laurel asks!
  • One summit of Parnassus hitherto
  • Has been enough for me, but now with both
  • I needs must enter the arena left.
  • Enter into my bosom, thou, and breathe
  • As at the time when Marsyas thou didst draw
  • Out of the scabbard of those limbs of his.
  • O power divine, lend'st thou thyself to me
  • So that the shadow of the blessed realm
  • Stamped in my brain I can make manifest,
  • Thou'lt see me come unto thy darling tree,
  • And crown myself thereafter with those leaves
  • Of which the theme and thou shall make me worthy.
  • So seldom, Father, do we gather them
  • For triumph or of Caesar or of Poet,
  • (The fault and shame of human inclinations,)
  • That the Peneian foliage should bring forth
  • Joy to the joyous Delphic deity,
  • When any one it makes to thirst for it.
  • A little spark is followed by great flame;
  • Perchance with better voices after me
  • Shall prayer be made that Cyrrha may respond!
  • To mortal men by passages diverse
  • Uprises the world's lamp; but by that one
  • Which circles four uniteth with three crosses,
  • With better course and with a better star
  • Conjoined it issues, and the mundane wax
  • Tempers and stamps more after its own fashion.
  • Almost that passage had made morning there
  • And evening here, and there was wholly white
  • That hemisphere, and black the other part,
  • When Beatrice towards the left-hand side
  • I saw turned round, and gazing at the sun;
  • Never did eagle fasten so upon it!
  • And even as a second ray is wont
  • To issue from the first and reascend,
  • Like to a pilgrim who would fain return,
  • Thus of her action, through the eyes infused
  • In my imagination, mine I made,
  • And sunward fixed mine eyes beyond our wont.
  • There much is lawful which is here unlawful
  • Unto our powers, by virtue of the place
  • Made for the human species as its own.
  • Not long I bore it, nor so little while
  • But I beheld it sparkle round about
  • Like iron that comes molten from the fire;
  • And suddenly it seemed that day to day
  • Was added, as if He who has the power
  • Had with another sun the heaven adorned.
  • With eyes upon the everlasting wheels
  • Stood Beatrice all intent, and I, on her
  • Fixing my vision from above removed,
  • Such at her aspect inwardly became
  • As Glaucus, tasting of the herb that made him
  • Peer of the other gods beneath the sea.
  • To represent transhumanise in words
  • Impossible were; the example, then, suffice
  • Him for whom Grace the experience reserves.
  • If I was merely what of me thou newly
  • Createdst, Love who governest the heaven,
  • Thou knowest, who didst lift me with thy light!
  • When now the wheel, which thou dost make eternal
  • Desiring thee, made me attentive to it
  • By harmony thou dost modulate and measure,
  • Then seemed to me so much of heaven enkindled
  • By the sun's flame, that neither rain nor river
  • E'er made a lake so widely spread abroad.
  • The newness of the sound and the great light
  • Kindled in me a longing for their cause,
  • Never before with such acuteness felt;
  • Whence she, who saw me as I saw myself,
  • To quiet in me my perturbed mind,
  • Opened her mouth, ere I did mine to ask,
  • And she began: "Thou makest thyself so dull
  • With false imagining, that thou seest not
  • What thou wouldst see if thou hadst shaken it off.
  • Thou art not upon earth, as thou believest;
  • But lightning, fleeing its appropriate site,
  • Ne'er ran as thou, who thitherward returnest."
  • If of my former doubt I was divested
  • By these brief little words more smiled than spoken,
  • I in a new one was the more ensnared;
  • And said: "Already did I rest content
  • From great amazement; but am now amazed
  • In what way I transcend these bodies light."
  • Whereupon she, after a pitying sigh,
  • Her eyes directed tow'rds me with that look
  • A mother casts on a delirious child;
  • And she began: "All things whate'er they be
  • Have order among themselves, and this is form,
  • That makes the universe resemble God.
  • Here do the higher creatures see the footprints
  • Of the Eternal Power, which is the end
  • Whereto is made the law already mentioned.
  • In the order that I speak of are inclined
  • All natures, by their destinies diverse,
  • More or less near unto their origin;
  • Hence they move onward unto ports diverse
  • O'er the great sea of being; and each one
  • With instinct given it which bears it on.
  • This bears away the fire towards the moon;
  • This is in mortal hearts the motive power
  • This binds together and unites the earth.
  • Nor only the created things that are
  • Without intelligence this bow shoots forth,
  • But those that have both intellect and love.
  • The Providence that regulates all this
  • Makes with its light the heaven forever quiet,
  • Wherein that turns which has the greatest haste.
  • And thither now, as to a site decreed,
  • Bears us away the virtue of that cord
  • Which aims its arrows at a joyous mark.
  • True is it, that as oftentimes the form
  • Accords not with the intention of the art,
  • Because in answering is matter deaf,
  • So likewise from this course doth deviate
  • Sometimes the creature, who the power possesses,
  • Though thus impelled, to swerve some other way,
  • (In the same wise as one may see the fire
  • Fall from a cloud,) if the first impetus
  • Earthward is wrested by some false delight.
  • Thou shouldst not wonder more, if well I judge,
  • At thine ascent, than at a rivulet
  • From some high mount descending to the lowland.
  • Marvel it would be in thee, if deprived
  • Of hindrance, thou wert seated down below,
  • As if on earth the living fire were quiet."
  • Thereat she heavenward turned again her face.