Canto I

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   The glory of Him who moveth everything
2   Doth penetrate the universe, and shine
3   In one part more and in another less.
 
4   Within that heaven which most his light receives
5   Was I, and things beheld which to repeat
6   Nor knows, nor can, who from above descends;
 
7   Because in drawing near to its desire
8   Our intellect ingulphs itself so far,
9   That after it the memory cannot go.
 
10   Truly whatever of the holy realm
11   I had the power to treasure in my mind
12   Shall now become the subject of my song.
 
13   O good Apollo, for this last emprise
14   Make of me such a vessel of thy power
15   As giving the beloved laurel asks!
 
16   One summit of Parnassus hitherto
17   Has been enough for me, but now with both
18   I needs must enter the arena left.
 
19   Enter into my bosom, thou, and breathe
20   As at the time when Marsyas thou didst draw
21   Out of the scabbard of those limbs of his.
 
22   O power divine, lend’st thou thyself to me
23   So that the shadow of the blessed realm
24   Stamped in my brain I can make manifest,
 
25   ‘Thou’lt see me come unto thy darling tree,
26   And crown myself thereafter with those leaves
27   Of which the theme and thou shall make me worthy.
 
28   So seldom, Father, do we gather them
29   For triumph or of Caesar or of Poet,
30   (The fault and shame of human inclinations,)
 
31   That the Peneian foliage should bring forth
32   Joy to the joyous Delphic deity,
33   When any one it makes to thirst for it.
 
34   A little spark is followed by great flame;
35   Perchance with better voices after me
36   Shall prayer be made that Cyrrha may respond!
 
37   To mortal men by passages diverse
38   Uprises the world’s lamp; but by that one
39   Which circles four uniteth with three crosses,
 
40   With better course and with a better star
41   Conjoined it issues, and the mundane wax
42   Tempers and stamps more after its own fashion.
 
43   Almost that passage had made morning there
44   And evening here, and there was wholly white
45   That hemisphere, and black the other part,
 
46   When Beatrice towards the left-hand side
47   I saw turned round, and gazing at the sun;
48   Never did eagle fasten so upon it!
 
49   And even as a second ray is wont
50   To issue from the first and reascend,
51   Like to a pilgrim who would fain return,
 
52   Thus of her action, through the eyes infused
53   In my imagination, mine I made,
54   And sunward fixed mine eyes beyond our wont.
 
55   There much is lawful which is here unlawful
56   Unto our powers, by virtue of the place
57   Made for the human species as its own.
 
58   Not long I bore it, nor so little while
59   But I beheld it sparkle round about
60   Like iron that comes molten from the fire;
 
61   And suddenly it seemed that day to day
62   Was added, as if He who has the power
63   Had with another sun the heaven adorned.
 
64   With eyes upon the everlasting wheels
65   Stood Beatrice all intent, and I, on her
66   Fixing my vision from above removed,
 
67   Such at her aspect inwardly became
68   As Glaucus, tasting of the herb that made him
69   Peer of the other gods beneath the sea.
 
70   To represent transhumanise in words
71   Impossible were; the example, then, suffice
72   Him for whom Grace the experience reserves.
 
73   If I was merely what of me thou newly
74   Createdst, Love who governest the heaven,
75   Thou knowest. who didst lift me with thy light!
 
76   When now the wheel, which thou dost make eternal
77   Desiring thee, made me attentive to it
78   By harmony thou dost modulate and measure,
 
79   Then seemed to me so much of heaven enkindled
80   By the sun’s flame, that neither rain nor river
81   E’er made a lake so widely spread abroad.
 
82   The newness of the sound and the great light
83   Kindled in me a longing for their cause,
84   Never before with such acuteness felt;
 
85   Whence she, who saw me as I saw myself,
86   To quiet in me my perturbed mind,
87   Opened her mouth, ere I did mine to ask,
 
88   And she began: Thou makest thyself so dull
89   With false imagining, that thou seest not
90   What thou wouldst see if thou hadst shaken it
 
91   Thou art not upon earth, as thou believest;
92   But lightning, fleeing its appropriate site,
93   Ne’er ran as thou, who thitherward returnest.
 
94   If of my former doubt I was divested
95   By these brief little words more smiled than spoken,
96   I in a new one was the more ensnared;
 
97   And said: Already did I rest content
98   From great amazement; but am now amazed
99   In what way I transcend these bodies light.
 
100   Whereupon she, after a pitying sigh,
101   Her eyes directed tow’rds me with that look
102   A mother casts on a delirious child;
 
103   And she began: All things whate’er they be
104   Have order among themselves, and this is form,
105   That makes the universe resemble God.
 
106   Here do the higher creatures see the footprints
107   Of the Eternal Power, which is the end
108   Whereto is made the law already mentioned.
 
109   In the order that I speak of are inclined
110   All natures, by their destinies diverse,
111   More or less near unto their origin;
 
112   Hence they move onward unto ports diverse
113   O’er the great sea of being; and each one
114   With instinct given it which bears it on.
 
115   This bears away the fire towards the moon;
116   This is in mortal hearts the motive power
117   This binds together and unites the earth.
 
118   Nor only the created things that are
119   Without intelligence this bow shoots forth,
120   But those that have both intellect and love.
 
121   The Providence that regulates all this
122   Makes with its light the heaven forever quiet,
123   Wherein that turns which has the greatest haste.
 
124   And thither now, as to a site decreed,
125   Bears us away the virtue of that cord
126   Which aims its arrows at a joyous mark.
 
127   True is it, that as oftentimes the form
128   Accords not with the intention of the art,
129   Because in answering is matter deaf,
 
130   So likewise from this course doth deviate
131   Sometimes the creature, who the power possesses,
132   -Though thus impelled, to swerve some other way,
 
133   (In the same wise as one may see the fire
134   Fall from a cloud,) if the first impetus
135   Earthward is wrested by some false delight.
 
136   Thou shouldst not wonder more, if well I judge,
137   At thine ascent. than at a rivulet
138   From some high mount descending to the lowland.
 
139   Marvel it would be in thee, if deprived
140   Of hindrance, thou wert seated down below,
141   As if on earth the living fire were quiet.
 
142   Thereat she heavenward turned again her face.