Canto XI

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   O THOU insensate care of mortal men,
2   How inconclusive are the syllogisms
3   That make thee beat thy wings in downward flight!
4   One after laws and one to aphorisms
5   Was going, and one following the priesthood,
6   And one to reign by force or sophistry,
7   And one in theft, and one in state affairs,
8   One in the pleasures of the flesh involved
9   Wearied himself, one gave himself to ease;
10   When I, from all these things emancipate,
11   With Beatrice above there in the Heavens
12   With such exceeding glory was received!
13   When each one had returned unto that point
14   Within the circle where it was before,
15   It stood as in a candlestick a candle;
16   And from within the effulgence which at first
17   Had spoken unto me, I heard begin
18   Smiling while it more luminous became:
19   Even as I am kindled in its ray,
20   So, looking into the Eternal Light,
21   The occasion of thy thoughts I apprehend.
22   Thou doubtest, and wouldst have me to resift
23   In language so extended and so open
24   My speech, that to thy sense it may be plain,
25   Where just before I said,’where well one fattens,’
26   And where I said,’there never rose a second';
27   And here ’tis needful we distinguish well.
28   The Providence, which governeth the world
29   With counsel, wherein all created vision
30   Is vanquished ere it reach unto the bottom,
31   (So that towards her own Beloved might go
32   The bride of Him who, uttering a loud cry,
33   Espoused her with his consecrated blood,
34   Self-confident and unto Him more faithful,)
35   Two Princes did ordain in her behoof,
36   Which on this side and that might be her guide.
37   The one was all seraphical in ardour;
38   The other by his wisdom upon earth
39   A splendour was of light cherubical.
40   One will I speak of, for of both is spoken
41   In praising one, whichever may be taken,
42   Because unto one end their labours were.
43   Between Tupino and the stream that falls
44   Down from the hill elect of blessed Ubald,
45   A fertile slope of lofty mountain hangs,
46   From which Perugia feels the cold and heat
47   Through Porta Sole, and behind it weep
48   Gualdo and Nocera their grievous yoke.
49   From out that slope, there where it breaketh most
50   Its steepness, rose upon the world a sunso
51   As this one does sometimes from out the Ganges;
52   Therefore let him who speaketh of that place,
53   Say not Ascesi, for he would say little,
54   But Orient, if he properly would speak.
55   He was not yet far distant from his rising
56   Before he had begun to make the earth
57   Some comfort from his mighty virtue feel.
58   For he in youth his father’s wrath incurred
59   For certain Dame, to whom, as unto death,
60   The gate of pleasure no one doth unlock;
61   And was before his spiritual court
62   Et coram patre unto her united;
63   Then day by day more fervently he loved her.
64   She, reft of her first husband, scorned, obscure,
65   One thousand and one hundred years and more,
66   Waited without a suitor till he came.
67   Naught it availed to hear, that with Amyclas
68   Found her unmoved at sounding of his voice
69   He who struck terror into all the world;
70   Naught it availed being constant and undaunted,
71   So that, when Mary still remained below,
72   She mounted up with Christ upon the cross?
73   But that too darkly I may not proceed,
74   Francis and Poverty for these two lovers
75   Take thou henceforward in my speech diffuse.
76   Their concord and their joyous semblances,
77   The love, the wonder, and the sweet regard,
78   They made to be the cause of holy thoughts;
79   So much so that the venerable Bernard
80   First bared his feet, and after so great peace
81   Ran, and, in running, thought himself too slow.
82   O wealth unknown ! O veritable good!
83   Giles bares his feet, and bares his feet Sylvester
84   Behind the bridegroom, so doth please the bride!
85   Then goes his way that father and that master,
86   He and his Lady and that family
87   Which now was girding on the humble cord;
88   Nor cowardice of heart weighed down his blow
89   At being son of Peter Bernardone,
90   Nor for appearing marvellously scorned;
91   But regally his hard determination
92   To Innocent he opened, and from him
93   Received the primal seal upon his Order.
94   After the people mendicant increased
95   Behind this man, whose admirable life
96   Better in glory of the heavens were sung,
97   Incoronated with a second crown
98   Was through Honorius by the Eternal Spirit
99   The holy purpose of this Archimandrite.
100   And when he had, through thirst of martyrdom,
101   In the proud presence of the Sultan preached
102   Christ and the others who came after him,
103   And, finding for conversion too unripe
104   The folk, and not to tarry there in vain,
105   Returned to fruit of the Italic grass,
106   On the rude rock ‘twixt Tiber and the Arno
107   From Christ did he receive the final seal,
108   Which during two whole years his members bore.
109   When He, who chose him unto so much good,
110   Was pleased to draw him up to the reward
111   That he had merited by being lowly,
112   Unto his friars, as to the rightful heirs,
113   His most dear Lady did he recommend,
114   And bade that they should love her faithfully;
115   And from her bosom the illustrious soul
116   Wished to depart, returning to its realm,
117   And for its body wished no other bier.
118   Think now what man was he, who was a fit
119   Companion over the high seas to keep
120   The bark of Peter to its proper bearings.
121   And this man was our Patriarch; hence whoever
122   Doth follow him as he commands can see
123   That he is laden with good merchandise.
124   But for new pasturage his flock has grown
125   So greedy, that it is impossible
126   They be not scattered over fields diverse;
127   And in proportion as his sheep remote
128   And vagabond go farther off from him,
129   More void of milk return they to the fold.
130   Verily me there are that fear a hurt,
131   And keep close to the shepherd; but so few,
132   That little cloth doth furnish forth their hoods.
133   Now if my utterance be not indistinct,
134   If thine own hearing hath attentive been,
135   If thou recall to mind what I have said,
136   In part contented shall thy wishes be;
137   For thou shalt see the plant that’s chipped away,
138   And the rebuke that lieth in the words,
139   ‘Where well one fattens, if he strayeth not.’