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Chapter 20 The Eagle praises the Righteous Kings of old. Benevolence of th_ivine Will.

  • When he who all the world illuminates
  • Out of our hemisphere so far descends
  • That on all sides the daylight is consumed,
  • The heaven, that erst by him alone was kindled,
  • Doth suddenly reveal itself again
  • By many lights, wherein is one resplendent.
  • And came into my mind this act of heaven,
  • When the ensign of the world and of its leaders
  • Had silent in the blessed beak become;
  • Because those living luminaries all,
  • By far more luminous, did songs begin
  • Lapsing and falling from my memory.
  • O gentle Love, that with a smile dost cloak thee,
  • How ardent in those sparks didst thou appear,
  • That had the breath alone of holy thoughts!
  • After the precious and pellucid crystals,
  • With which begemmed the sixth light I beheld,
  • Silence imposed on the angelic bells,
  • I seemed to hear the murmuring of a river
  • That clear descendeth down from rock to rock,
  • Showing the affluence of its mountain-top.
  • And as the sound upon the cithern's neck
  • Taketh its form, and as upon the vent
  • Of rustic pipe the wind that enters it,
  • Even thus, relieved from the delay of waiting,
  • That murmuring of the eagle mounted up
  • Along its neck, as if it had been hollow.
  • There it became a voice, and issued thence
  • From out its beak, in such a form of words
  • As the heart waited for wherein I wrote them.
  • "The part in me which sees and bears the sun
  • In mortal eagles," it began to me,
  • "Now fixedly must needs be looked upon;
  • For of the fires of which I make my figure,
  • Those whence the eye doth sparkle in my head
  • Of all their orders the supremest are.
  • He who is shining in the midst as pupil
  • Was once the singer of the Holy Spirit,
  • Who bore the ark from city unto city;
  • Now knoweth he the merit of his song,
  • In so far as effect of his own counsel,
  • By the reward which is commensurate.
  • Of five, that make a circle for my brow,
  • He that approacheth nearest to my beak
  • Did the poor widow for her son console;
  • Now knoweth he how dearly it doth cost
  • Not following Christ, by the experience
  • Of this sweet life and of its opposite.
  • He who comes next in the circumference
  • Of which I speak, upon its highest arc,
  • Did death postpone by penitence sincere;
  • Now knoweth he that the eternal judgment
  • Suffers no change, albeit worthy prayer
  • Maketh below to-morrow of to-day.
  • The next who follows, with the laws and me,
  • Under the good intent that bore bad fruit
  • Became a Greek by ceding to the pastor;
  • Now knoweth he how all the ill deduced
  • From his good action is not harmful to him,
  • Although the world thereby may be destroyed.
  • And he, whom in the downward arc thou seest,
  • Guglielmo was, whom the same land deplores
  • That weepeth Charles and Frederick yet alive;
  • Now knoweth he how heaven enamoured is
  • With a just king; and in the outward show
  • Of his effulgence he reveals it still.
  • Who would believe, down in the errant world,
  • That e'er the Trojan Ripheus in this round
  • Could be the fifth one of the holy lights?
  • Now knoweth he enough of what the world
  • Has not the power to see of grace divine,
  • Although his sight may not discern the bottom."
  • Like as a lark that in the air expatiates,
  • First singing and then silent with content
  • Of the last sweetness that doth satisfy her,
  • Such seemed to me the image of the imprint
  • Of the eternal pleasure, by whose will
  • Doth everything become the thing it is.
  • And notwithstanding to my doubt I was
  • As glass is to the colour that invests it,
  • To wait the time in silence it endured not,
  • But forth from out my mouth, "What things are these?"
  • Extorted with the force of its own weight;
  • Whereat I saw great joy of coruscation.
  • Thereafterward with eye still more enkindled
  • The blessed standard made to me reply,
  • To keep me not in wonderment suspended:
  • "I see that thou believest in these things
  • Because I say them, but thou seest not how;
  • So that, although believed in, they are hidden.
  • Thou doest as he doth who a thing by name
  • Well apprehendeth, but its quiddity
  • Cannot perceive, unless another show it.
  • 'Regnum coelorum' suffereth violence
  • From fervent love, and from that living hope
  • That overcometh the Divine volition;
  • Not in the guise that man o'ercometh man,
  • But conquers it because it will be conquered,
  • And conquered conquers by benignity.
  • The first life of the eyebrow and the fifth
  • Cause thee astonishment, because with them
  • Thou seest the region of the angels painted.
  • They passed not from their bodies, as thou thinkest,
  • Gentiles, but Christians in the steadfast faith
  • Of feet that were to suffer and had suffered.
  • For one from Hell, where no one e'er turns back
  • Unto good will, returned unto his bones,
  • And that of living hope was the reward,—
  • Of living hope, that placed its efficacy
  • In prayers to God made to resuscitate him,
  • So that 'twere possible to move his will.
  • The glorious soul concerning which I speak,
  • Returning to the flesh, where brief its stay,
  • Believed in Him who had the power to aid it;
  • And, in believing, kindled to such fire
  • Of genuine love, that at the second death
  • Worthy it was to come unto this joy.
  • The other one, through grace, that from so deep
  • A fountain wells that never hath the eye
  • Of any creature reached its primal wave,
  • Set all his love below on righteousness;
  • Wherefore from grace to grace did God unclose
  • His eye to our redemption yet to be,
  • Whence he believed therein, and suffered not
  • From that day forth the stench of paganism,
  • And he reproved therefor the folk perverse.
  • Those Maidens three, whom at the right-hand wheel
  • Thou didst behold, were unto him for baptism
  • More than a thousand years before baptizing.
  • O thou predestination, how remote
  • Thy root is from the aspect of all those
  • Who the First Cause do not behold entire!
  • And you, O mortals! hold yourselves restrained
  • In judging; for ourselves, who look on God,
  • We do not know as yet all the elect;
  • And sweet to us is such a deprivation,
  • Because our good in this good is made perfect,
  • That whatsoe'er God wills, we also will."
  • After this manner by that shape divine,
  • To make clear in me my short-sightedness,
  • Was given to me a pleasant medicine;
  • And as good singer a good lutanist
  • Accompanies with vibrations of the chords,
  • Whereby more pleasantness the song acquires,
  • So, while it spake, do I remember me
  • That I beheld both of those blessed lights,
  • Even as the winking of the eyes concords,
  • Moving unto the words their little flames.