Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 11 St. Thomas recounts the Life of St. Francis. Lament over th_tate of the Dominican Order.

  • O Thou insensate care of mortal men,
  • How inconclusive are the syllogisms
  • That make thee beat thy wings in downward flight!
  • One after laws and one to aphorisms
  • Was going, and one following the priesthood,
  • And one to reign by force or sophistry,
  • And one in theft, and one in state affairs,
  • One in the pleasures of the flesh involved
  • Wearied himself, one gave himself to ease;
  • When I, from all these things emancipate,
  • With Beatrice above there in the Heavens
  • With such exceeding glory was received!
  • When each one had returned unto that point
  • Within the circle where it was before,
  • It stood as in a candlestick a candle;
  • And from within the effulgence which at first
  • Had spoken unto me, I heard begin
  • Smiling while it more luminous became:
  • "Even as I am kindled in its ray,
  • So, looking into the Eternal Light,
  • The occasion of thy thoughts I apprehend.
  • Thou doubtest, and wouldst have me to resift
  • In language so extended and so open
  • My speech, that to thy sense it may be plain,
  • Where just before I said, 'where well one fattens,'
  • And where I said, 'there never rose a second;'
  • And here 'tis needful we distinguish well.
  • The Providence, which governeth the world
  • With counsel, wherein all created vision
  • Is vanquished ere it reach unto the bottom,
  • (So that towards her own Beloved might go
  • The bride of Him who, uttering a loud cry,
  • Espoused her with his consecrated blood,
  • Self-confident and unto Him more faithful,)
  • Two Princes did ordain in her behoof,
  • Which on this side and that might be her guide.
  • The one was all seraphical in ardour;
  • The other by his wisdom upon earth
  • A splendour was of light cherubical.
  • One will I speak of, for of both is spoken
  • In praising one, whichever may be taken,
  • Because unto one end their labours were.
  • Between Tupino and the stream that falls
  • Down from the hill elect of blessed Ubald,
  • A fertile slope of lofty mountain hangs,
  • From which Perugia feels the cold and heat
  • Through Porta Sole, and behind it weep
  • Gualdo and Nocera their grievous yoke.
  • From out that slope, there where it breaketh most
  • Its steepness, rose upon the world a sun
  • As this one does sometimes from out the Ganges;
  • Therefore let him who speaketh of that place,
  • Say not Ascesi, for he would say little,
  • But Orient, if he properly would speak.
  • He was not yet far distant from his rising
  • Before he had begun to make the earth
  • Some comfort from his mighty virtue feel.
  • For he in youth his father's wrath incurred
  • For certain Dame, to whom, as unto death,
  • The gate of pleasure no one doth unlock;
  • And was before his spiritual court
  • 'Et coram patre' unto her united;
  • Then day by day more fervently he loved her.
  • She, reft of her first husband, scorned, obscure,
  • One thousand and one hundred years and more,
  • Waited without a suitor till he came.
  • Naught it availed to hear, that with Amyclas
  • Found her unmoved at sounding of his voice
  • He who struck terror into all the world;
  • Naught it availed being constant and undaunted,
  • So that, when Mary still remained below,
  • She mounted up with Christ upon the cross.
  • But that too darkly I may not proceed,
  • Francis and Poverty for these two lovers
  • Take thou henceforward in my speech diffuse.
  • Their concord and their joyous semblances,
  • The love, the wonder, and the sweet regard,
  • They made to be the cause of holy thoughts;
  • So much so that the venerable Bernard
  • First bared his feet, and after so great peace
  • Ran, and, in running, thought himself too slow.
  • O wealth unknown! O veritable good!
  • Giles bares his feet, and bares his feet Sylvester
  • Behind the bridegroom, so doth please the bride!
  • Then goes his way that father and that master,
  • He and his Lady and that family
  • Which now was girding on the humble cord;
  • Nor cowardice of heart weighed down his brow
  • At being son of Peter Bernardone,
  • Nor for appearing marvellously scorned;
  • But regally his hard determination
  • To Innocent he opened, and from him
  • Received the primal seal upon his Order.
  • After the people mendicant increased
  • Behind this man, whose admirable life
  • Better in glory of the heavens were sung,
  • Incoronated with a second crown
  • Was through Honorius by the Eternal Spirit
  • The holy purpose of this Archimandrite.
  • And when he had, through thirst of martyrdom,
  • In the proud presence of the Sultan preached
  • Christ and the others who came after him,
  • And, finding for conversion too unripe
  • The folk, and not to tarry there in vain,
  • Returned to fruit of the Italic grass,
  • On the rude rock 'twixt Tiber and the Arno
  • From Christ did he receive the final seal,
  • Which during two whole years his members bore.
  • When He, who chose him unto so much good,
  • Was pleased to draw him up to the reward
  • That he had merited by being lowly,
  • Unto his friars, as to the rightful heirs,
  • His most dear Lady did he recommend,
  • And bade that they should love her faithfully;
  • And from her bosom the illustrious soul
  • Wished to depart, returning to its realm,
  • And for its body wished no other bier.
  • Think now what man was he, who was a fit
  • Companion over the high seas to keep
  • The bark of Peter to its proper bearings.
  • And this man was our Patriarch; hence whoever
  • Doth follow him as he commands can see
  • That he is laden with good merchandise.
  • But for new pasturage his flock has grown
  • So greedy, that it is impossible
  • They be not scattered over fields diverse;
  • And in proportion as his sheep remote
  • And vagabond go farther off from him,
  • More void of milk return they to the fold.
  • Verily some there are that fear a hurt,
  • And keep close to the shepherd; but so few,
  • That little cloth doth furnish forth their hoods.
  • Now if my utterance be not indistinct,
  • If thine own hearing hath attentive been,
  • If thou recall to mind what I have said,
  • In part contented shall thy wishes be;
  • For thou shalt see the plant that's chipped away,
  • And the rebuke that lieth in the words,
  • 'Where well one fattens, if he strayeth not.'"