Canto II

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   O YE, who in some pretty little boat,
2   Eager to listen, have been following
3   Behind my ship, that singing sails along,
4   Turn back to look again upon your shores;
5   Do not put out to sea, lest peradventure,
6   In losing me, you might yourselves be lost.
7   The sea I sail has never yet been passed;
8   Minerva breathes, and pilots me Apollo,
9   And Muses nine point out to me the Bears.
10   Ye other few who have the neck uplifted
11   Betimes to th’ bread of Angels upon which
12   One liveth here and grows not sated by it,
13   Well may you launch upon the deep salt-sea
14   Your vessel, keeping still my wake before you
15   Upon the water that grows smooth again.
16   Those glorious ones who unto Colchos passed
17   Were not so wonder-struck as you shall be,
18   When Jason they beheld a ploughman made!
19   The con-created and perpetual thirst
20   For the realm deiform did bear us on,
21   As swift almost as ye the heavens behold.
22   Upward gazed Beatrice, and I at her;
23   And in such space perchance as strikes a bolt
24   And flies, and from the notch unlocks itself,
25   Arrived I saw me where a wondrous thing
26   Drew to itself my sight; and therefore she
27   From whom no care of mine could be concealed,
28   Towards me turning, blithe as beautiful,
29   Said unto me: Fix gratefully thy mind
30   On God, who unto the first star has brought us.
31   It seemed to me a cloud encompassed us,
32   Luminous, dense, consolidate and bright
33   As adamant on which the sun is striking.
34   Into itself did the eternal pearl
35   Receive us, even as water doth receive
36   A ray of light, remaining still unbroken.
37   If I was body, (and we here conceive not
38   How one dimension tolerates another,
39   Which needs must be if body enter body,)
40   More the desire should be enkindled in us
41   That essence to behold, wherein is seen
42   How God and our own nature were united.
43   There will be seen what we receive by faith,
44   Not demonstrated, but self-evident
45   In guise of the first truth that man believes.
46   I made reply: Madonna, as devoutly
47   As most I can do I give thanks to Him
48   Who has removed me from the mortal world.
49   But tell me what the dusky spots may be
50   Upon this body, which below on earth
51   Make people tell that fabulous tale of Cain?
52   Somewhat she smiled; and then,If the opinion
53   Of mortals be erroneous, she said,
54   Where’er the key of sense doth not unlock,
55   Certes, the shafts of wonder should not pierce thee
56   Now, forasmuch as, following the senses,
57   Thou seest that the reason has short wings.
58   But tell me what thou think’st of it thyself.
59   And I: What seems to us up here diverse,
60   Is caused, I think, by bodies rare and dense.
61   And she: Right truly shalt thou see immersed
62   In error thy belief, if well thou hearest
63   The argument that I shall make against it.
64   Lights many the eighth sphere displays to you
65   Which in their quality and quantity
66   May noted be of aspects different.
67   If this were caused by rare and dense alone,
68   One only virtue would there be in all
69   Or more or less diffused, or equally.
70   Virtues diverse must be perforce the fruits
71   Of formal principles; and these, save one,
72   Of course would by thy reasoning be destroyed.
73   Besides, if rarity were of this dimness
74   The cause thou askest, either through and through
75   This planet thus attenuate were of matter,
76   Or else, as in a body is apportioned
77   The fat and lean, so in like manner this
78   Would in its volume interchange the leaves.
79   Were it the former, in the sun’s eclipse
80   It would be manifest by the shining through,
81   Of light, as through aught tenuous interfused.
82   This is not so; hence we must scan the other,
83   And if it chance the other I demolish,
84   Then falsified will thy opinion be.
85   But if this rarity go not through and through,
86   There needs must be a limit, beyond which
87   Its contrary prevents the further passing,
88   And thence the foreign radiance is reflected,
89   Even as a colour cometh back from glass,
90   The which behind itself concealeth lead.
91   Now thou wilt say the sunbeam shows itself
92   More dimly there than in the other parts,
93   By being there reflected farther back.
94   From this reply experiment will free thee
95   If e’er thou try it, which is wont to be
96   The fountain to the rivers of your arts.
97   Three mirrors shalt thou take, and two remove
98   Alike from thee, the other more remote
99   Between the former two shall meet thine eyes.
100   Turned towards these, cause that behind thy back
101   Be placed a light, illuming the three mirrors
102   And coming back to thee by all reflected.
103   Though in its quantity be not so ample
104   The image most remote, there shalt thou see
105   How it perforce is equally resplendent.
106   Now, as beneath the touches of warm rays
107   Naked the subject of the snow remains
108   Both of its former colour and its cold,
109   Thee thus remaining in thy intellect,
110   Will I inform with such a living light,
111   That it shall tremble in its aspect to thee.
112   Within the heaven of the divine repose
113   Revolves a body, in whose virtue lies
114   The being of whatever it contains.
115   The following heaven, that has so many eyes,
116   Divides this being by essences diverse,
117   Distinguished from it, and by it contained.
118   The other spheres, by various differences,
119   All the distinctions which they have within them
120   Dispose unto their ends and their effects.
121   Thus do these organs of the world proceed,
122   As thou perceivest now, from grade to grade
123   Since from above they take, and act beneath
124   Observe me well, how through this place I come
125   Unto the truth thou wishest, that hereafter
126   Thou mayst alone know how to keep the ford
127   The power and motion of the holy spheres,
128   As from the artisan the hammer’s craft,
129   Forth from the blessed motors must proceed.
130   The heaven, which lights so manifold make fair,
131   From the Intelligence profound, which turns it.
132   The image takes, and makes of it a seal.
133   And even as the soul within your dust
134   Through members different and accommodated
135   To faculties diverse expands itself,
136   So likewise this Intelligence diffuses
137   Its virtue multiplied among the stars.
138   Itself revolving on its unity.
139   Virtue diverse doth a diverse alloyage
140   Make with the precious body that it quickens,
141   In which, as life in you, it is combined.
142   From the glad nature whence it is derived,
143   The mingled virtue through the body shines,
144   Even as gladness through the living pupil.
145   From this proceeds whate’er from light to light
146   Appeareth different, not from dense and rare:
147   This is the formal principle that produces,
148   According to its goodness, dark and bright.