Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 23 The Triumph of Christ. The Virgin Mary. The Apostles. Gabriel.

  • Even as a bird, 'mid the beloved leaves,
  • Quiet upon the nest of her sweet brood
  • Throughout the night, that hideth all things from us,
  • Who, that she may behold their longed-for looks
  • And find the food wherewith to nourish them,
  • In which, to her, grave labours grateful are,
  • Anticipates the time on open spray
  • And with an ardent longing waits the sun,
  • Gazing intent as soon as breaks the dawn:
  • Even thus my Lady standing was, erect
  • And vigilant, turned round towards the zone
  • Underneath which the sun displays less haste;
  • So that beholding her distraught and wistful,
  • Such I became as he is who desiring
  • For something yearns, and hoping is appeased.
  • But brief the space from one When to the other;
  • Of my awaiting, say I, and the seeing
  • The welkin grow resplendent more and more.
  • And Beatrice exclaimed: "Behold the hosts
  • Of Christ's triumphal march, and all the fruit
  • Harvested by the rolling of these spheres!"
  • It seemed to me her face was all aflame;
  • And eyes she had so full of ecstasy
  • That I must needs pass on without describing.
  • As when in nights serene of the full moon
  • Smiles Trivia among the nymphs eternal
  • Who paint the firmament through all its gulfs,
  • Saw I, above the myriads of lamps,
  • A Sun that one and all of them enkindled,
  • E'en as our own doth the supernal sights,
  • And through the living light transparent shone
  • The lucent substance so intensely clear
  • Into my sight, that I sustained it not.
  • O Beatrice, thou gentle guide and dear!
  • To me she said: "What overmasters thee
  • A virtue is from which naught shields itself.
  • There are the wisdom and the omnipotence
  • That oped the thoroughfares 'twixt heaven and earth,
  • For which there erst had been so long a yearning."
  • As fire from out a cloud unlocks itself,
  • Dilating so it finds not room therein,
  • And down, against its nature, falls to earth,
  • So did my mind, among those aliments
  • Becoming larger, issue from itself,
  • And that which it became cannot remember.
  • "Open thine eyes, and look at what I am:
  • Thou hast beheld such things, that strong enough
  • Hast thou become to tolerate my smile."
  • I was as one who still retains the feeling
  • Of a forgotten vision, and endeavours
  • In vain to bring it back into his mind,
  • When I this invitation heard, deserving
  • Of so much gratitude, it never fades
  • Out of the book that chronicles the past.
  • If at this moment sounded all the tongues
  • That Polyhymnia and her sisters made
  • Most lubrical with their delicious milk,
  • To aid me, to a thousandth of the truth
  • It would not reach, singing the holy smile
  • And how the holy aspect it illumed.
  • And therefore, representing Paradise,
  • The sacred poem must perforce leap over,
  • Even as a man who finds his way cut off;
  • But whoso thinketh of the ponderous theme,
  • And of the mortal shoulder laden with it,
  • Should blame it not, if under this it tremble.
  • It is no passage for a little boat
  • This which goes cleaving the audacious prow,
  • Nor for a pilot who would spare himself.
  • "Why doth my face so much enamour thee,
  • That to the garden fair thou turnest not,
  • Which under the rays of Christ is blossoming?
  • There is the Rose in which the Word Divine
  • Became incarnate; there the lilies are
  • By whose perfume the good way was discovered."
  • Thus Beatrice; and I, who to her counsels
  • Was wholly ready, once again betook me
  • Unto the battle of the feeble brows.
  • As in the sunshine, that unsullied streams
  • Through fractured cloud, ere now a meadow of flowers
  • Mine eyes with shadow covered o'er have seen,
  • So troops of splendours manifold I saw
  • Illumined from above with burning rays,
  • Beholding not the source of the effulgence.
  • O power benignant that dost so imprint them!
  • Thou didst exalt thyself to give more scope
  • There to mine eyes, that were not strong enough.
  • The name of that fair flower I e'er invoke
  • Morning and evening utterly enthralled
  • My soul to gaze upon the greater fire.
  • And when in both mine eyes depicted were
  • The glory and greatness of the living star
  • Which there excelleth, as it here excelled,
  • Athwart the heavens a little torch descended
  • Formed in a circle like a coronal,
  • And cinctured it, and whirled itself about it.
  • Whatever melody most sweetly soundeth
  • On earth, and to itself most draws the soul,
  • Would seem a cloud that, rent asunder, thunders,
  • Compared unto the sounding of that lyre
  • Wherewith was crowned the sapphire beautiful,
  • Which gives the clearest heaven its sapphire hue.
  • "I am Angelic Love, that circle round
  • The joy sublime which breathes from out the womb
  • That was the hostelry of our Desire;
  • And I shall circle, Lady of Heaven, while
  • Thou followest thy Son, and mak'st diviner
  • The sphere supreme, because thou enterest there."
  • Thus did the circulated melody
  • Seal itself up; and all the other lights
  • Were making to resound the name of Mary.
  • The regal mantle of the volumes all
  • Of that world, which most fervid is and living
  • With breath of God and with his works and ways,
  • Extended over us its inner border,
  • So very distant, that the semblance of it
  • There where I was not yet appeared to me.
  • Therefore mine eyes did not possess the power
  • Of following the incoronated flame,
  • Which mounted upward near to its own seed.
  • And as a little child, that towards its mother
  • Stretches its arms, when it the milk has taken,
  • Through impulse kindled into outward flame,
  • Each of those gleams of whiteness upward reached
  • So with its summit, that the deep affection
  • They had for Mary was revealed to me.
  • Thereafter they remained there in my sight,
  • 'Regina coeli' singing with such sweetness,
  • That ne'er from me has the delight departed.
  • O, what exuberance is garnered up
  • Within those richest coffers, which had been
  • Good husbandmen for sowing here below!
  • There they enjoy and live upon the treasure
  • Which was acquired while weeping in the exile
  • Of Babylon, wherein the gold was left.
  • There triumpheth, beneath the exalted Son
  • Of God and Mary, in his victory,
  • Both with the ancient council and the new,
  • He who doth keep the keys of such a glory.