Canto XIV

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   FROM centre unto rim, from rim to centre,
2   In a round vase the water moves itself,
3   As from without ’tis struck or from within.
 
4   Into my mind upon a sudden dropped
5   What I am saying, at the moment when
6   Silent became the glorious life of Thomas,
 
7   Because of the resemblance that was born
8   Of his discourse and that of Beatrice,
9   Whom, after him, it pleased thus to begin:
 
10   This man has need (and does not tell you so,
11   Nor with the voice, nor even in his thought)
12   Of going to the root of one truth more.
 
13   Declare unto him if the light wherewith
14   Blossoms your substance shall remain with you
15   Eternally the same that it is now;
 
16   And if it do remain, say in what manner,
17   After ye are again made visible,
18   It can be that it injure not your sight.’
 
19   As by a greater gladness urged and drawn
20   They who are dancing in a ring sometimes
21   Uplift their voices and their motions quicken;
 
22   So, at that orison devout and prompt,
23   The holy circles a new joy displayed
24   In their revolving and their wondrous song.
 
25   Whoso lamenteth him that here we die
26   That we may live above, has never there
27   Seen the refreshment of the eternal rain.
 
28   The One and Two and Three who ever liveth,
29   And reigneth ever in Three and Two and One,
30   Not circumscribed and all things circumscribing,
 
31   Three several times was chanted by each one
32   Among those spirits, with such melody
33   That for all merit it were just reward;
 
34   And, in the lustre most divine of all
35   The lesser ring, I heard a modest voice,
36   Such as perhaps the Angel’s was to Mary,
 
37   Answer: As long as the festivity
38   Of Paradise shall be, so long our love
39   Shall radiate round about us such a vesture.
 
40   Its brightness is proportioned to the ardour,
41   The ardour to the vision; and the vision
42   Equals what grace it has above its worth.
 
43   When, glorious and sanctified, our flesh
44   Is reassumed, then shall our persons be
45   More pleasing by their being all complete;
 
46   For will increase whate’er bestows on us
47   Of light gratuitous the Good Supreme,
48   Light which enables us to look on Him;
 
49   Therefore the vision must perforce increase,
50   Increase the ardour which from that is kindled,
51   Increase the radiance which from this proceeds.
 
52   But even as a coal that sends forth flame,
53   And by its vivid whiteness overpowers it
54   So that its own appearance it maintains,
 
55   Thus the effulgence that surrounds us now
56   Shall be o’erpowered in aspect by the flesh,
57   Which still to-day the earth doth cover up;
 
58   Nor can so great a splendour weary us,
59   For strong will be the organs of the body
60   To everything which hath the power to please us.
 
61   So sudden and alert appeared to me
62   Both one and the other choir to say Amen,
63   That well they showed desire for their dead bodies;
 
64   Nor sole for them perhaps, but for the mothers,
65   The fathers, and the rest who had been dear
66   Or ever they became eternal flames.
 
67   And lo! all round about of equal brightness
68   Arose a lustre over what was there,
69   Like an horizon that is clearing up.
 
70   And as at rise of early eve begin
71   Along the welkin new appearances,
72   So that the sight seems real and unreal,
 
73   It seemed to me that new subsistences
74   Began there to be seen, and make a circle
75   Outside the other two circumferences.
 
76   O very sparkling of the Holy Spirit,
77   How sudden and incandescent it became
78   Unto mine eyes. that vanquished bore it not!
 
79   But Beatrice so beautiful and smiling
80   Appeared to me, that with the other sights
81   That followed not my memory I must leave her.
 
82   Then to uplift themselves mine eyes resumed
83   The power, and I beheld myself translated
84   To higher salvation with my Lady only.
 
85   Well was I ware that I was more uplifted
86   By the enkindled smiling of the star,
87   That seemed to me more ruddy than its wont.
 
88   With all my heart, and in that dialect
89   Which is the same in all, such holocaust
90   To God I made as the new grace beseemed;
 
91   And not yet from my bosom was exhausted
92   The ardour of sacrifice, before I knew
93   This offering was accepted and auspicious;
 
94   For with so great a lustre and so red
95   Splendours appeared to me in twofold rays,
96   I said: O Helios who dost so adorn them!
 
97   Even as distinct with less and greater lights
98   Glimmers between the two poles of the world
99   The Galaxy that maketh wise men doubt,
 
100   Thus constellated in the depths of Mars,
101   Those rays described the venerable sign
102   That quadrants joining in a circle make.
 
103   Here doth my memory overcome my genius;
104   For on that cross as levin gleamed forth Christ,
105   So that I cannot find ensample worthy;
 
106   But he who takes his cross and follows Christ
107   Again will pardon me what I omit,
108   Seeing in that aurora lighten Christ.
 
109   From horn to horn, and ‘twixt the top and base,
110   Lights were in motion, brightly scintillating
111   As they together met and passed each other;
 
112   Thus level and aslant and swift and slow
113   We here behold, renewing still the sight,
114   The particles of bodies long and short,
 
115   Across the sunbeam move, wherewith is listed
116   Sometimes the shade, which for their own defence
117   People with cunning and with art contrive.
 
118   And as a lute and harp, accordant strung
119   With many strings, a dulcet tinkling make
120   To him by whom the notes are not distinguished,
 
121   So from the lights that there to me appeared
122   Upgathered through the cross a melody,
123   Which rapt me, not distinguishing the hymn.
 
124   Well was I ware it was of lofty laud,
125   Because there came to me, Arise and conquer!
126   As unto him who hears and comprehends not.
 
127   So much enamoured I became therewith,
128   That until then there was not anything
129   That e’er had fettered me with such sweet bonds.
 
130   Perhaps my word appears somewhat too bold,
131   Postponing the delight of those fair eyes,
132   Into which gazing my desire has rest;
 
133   But who bethinks him that the living seals
134   Of every beauty grow in power ascending,
135   And that I there had not turned round to those,
 
136   Can me excuse, if I myself accuse
137   To excuse myself, and see that I speak truly:
138   For here the holy joy is not disclosed,
 
139   Because ascending it becomes more pure.