Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 21 The Seventh Heaven, Saturn: The Contemplative. The Celestia_tairway. St. Peter Damiano. His Invectives against the Luxury of th_relates.

  • Already on my Lady's face mine eyes
  • Again were fastened, and with these my mind,
  • And from all other purpose was withdrawn;
  • And she smiled not; but "If I were to smile,"
  • She unto me began, "thou wouldst become
  • Like Semele, when she was turned to ashes.
  • Because my beauty, that along the stairs
  • Of the eternal palace more enkindles,
  • As thou hast seen, the farther we ascend,
  • If it were tempered not, is so resplendent
  • That all thy mortal power in its effulgence
  • Would seem a leaflet that the thunder crushes.
  • We are uplifted to the seventh splendour,
  • That underneath the burning Lion's breast
  • Now radiates downward mingled with his power.
  • Fix in direction of thine eyes the mind,
  • And make of them a mirror for the figure
  • That in this mirror shall appear to thee."
  • He who could know what was the pasturage
  • My sight had in that blessed countenance,
  • When I transferred me to another care,
  • Would recognize how grateful was to me
  • Obedience unto my celestial escort,
  • By counterpoising one side with the other.
  • Within the crystal which, around the world
  • Revolving, bears the name of its dear leader,
  • Under whom every wickedness lay dead,
  • Coloured like gold, on which the sunshine gleams,
  • A stairway I beheld to such a height
  • Uplifted, that mine eye pursued it not.
  • Likewise beheld I down the steps descending
  • So many splendours, that I thought each light
  • That in the heaven appears was there diffused.
  • And as accordant with their natural custom
  • The rooks together at the break of day
  • Bestir themselves to warm their feathers cold;
  • Then some of them fly off without return,
  • Others come back to where they started from,
  • And others, wheeling round, still keep at home;
  • Such fashion it appeared to me was there
  • Within the sparkling that together came,
  • As soon as on a certain step it struck,
  • And that which nearest unto us remained
  • Became so clear, that in my thought I said,
  • "Well I perceive the love thou showest me;
  • But she, from whom I wait the how and when
  • Of speech and silence, standeth still; whence I
  • Against desire do well if I ask not."
  • She thereupon, who saw my silentness
  • In the sight of Him who seeth everything,
  • Said unto me, "Let loose thy warm desire."
  • And I began: "No merit of my own
  • Renders me worthy of response from thee;
  • But for her sake who granteth me the asking,
  • Thou blessed life that dost remain concealed
  • In thy beatitude, make known to me
  • The cause which draweth thee so near my side;
  • And tell me why is silent in this wheel
  • The dulcet symphony of Paradise,
  • That through the rest below sounds so devoutly."
  • "Thou hast thy hearing mortal as thy sight,"
  • It answer made to me; "they sing not here,
  • For the same cause that Beatrice has not smiled.
  • Thus far adown the holy stairway's steps
  • Have I descended but to give thee welcome
  • With words, and with the light that mantles me;
  • Nor did more love cause me to be more ready,
  • For love as much and more up there is burning,
  • As doth the flaming manifest to thee.
  • But the high charity, that makes us servants
  • Prompt to the counsel which controls the world,
  • Allotteth here, even as thou dost observe."
  • "I see full well," said I, "O sacred lamp!
  • How love unfettered in this court sufficeth
  • To follow the eternal Providence;
  • But this is what seems hard for me to see,
  • Wherefore predestinate wast thou alone
  • Unto this office from among thy consorts."
  • No sooner had I come to the last word,
  • Than of its middle made the light a centre,
  • Whirling itself about like a swift millstone.
  • When answer made the love that was therein:
  • "On me directed is a light divine,
  • Piercing through this in which I am embosomed,
  • Of which the virtue with my sight conjoined
  • Lifts me above myself so far, I see
  • The supreme essence from which this is drawn.
  • Hence comes the joyfulness with which I flame,
  • For to my sight, as far as it is clear,
  • The clearness of the flame I equal make.
  • But that soul in the heaven which is most pure,
  • That seraph which his eye on God most fixes,
  • Could this demand of thine not satisfy;
  • Because so deeply sinks in the abyss
  • Of the eternal statute what thou askest,
  • From all created sight it is cut off.
  • And to the mortal world, when thou returnest,
  • This carry back, that it may not presume
  • Longer tow'rd such a goal to move its feet.
  • The mind, that shineth here, on earth doth smoke;
  • From this observe how can it do below
  • That which it cannot though the heaven assume it?"
  • Such limit did its words prescribe to me,
  • The question I relinquished, and restricted
  • Myself to ask it humbly who it was.
  • "Between two shores of Italy rise cliffs,
  • And not far distant from thy native place,
  • So high, the thunders far below them sound,
  • And form a ridge that Catria is called,
  • 'Neath which is consecrate a hermitage
  • Wont to be dedicate to worship only."
  • Thus unto me the third speech recommenced,
  • And then, continuing, it said: "Therein
  • Unto God's service I became so steadfast,
  • That feeding only on the juice of olives
  • Lightly I passed away the heats and frosts,
  • Contented in my thoughts contemplative.
  • That cloister used to render to these heavens
  • Abundantly, and now is empty grown,
  • So that perforce it soon must be revealed.
  • I in that place was Peter Damiano;
  • And Peter the Sinner was I in the house
  • Of Our Lady on the Adriatic shore.
  • Little of mortal life remained to me,
  • When I was called and dragged forth to the hat
  • Which shifteth evermore from bad to worse.
  • Came Cephas, and the mighty Vessel came
  • Of the Holy Spirit, meagre and barefooted,
  • Taking the food of any hostelry.
  • Now some one to support them on each side
  • The modern shepherds need, and some to lead them,
  • So heavy are they, and to hold their trains.
  • They cover up their palfreys with their cloaks,
  • So that two beasts go underneath one skin;
  • O Patience, that dost tolerate so much!"
  • At this voice saw I many little flames
  • From step to step descending and revolving,
  • And every revolution made them fairer.
  • Round about this one came they and stood still,
  • And a cry uttered of so loud a sound,
  • It here could find no parallel, nor I
  • Distinguished it, the thunder so o'ercame me.