Canto XIX

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   APPEARED before me with its wings outspread
2   The beautiful image that in sweet fruition
3   Made jubilant the interwoven souls;
 
4   Appeared a little ruby each, wherein
5   Ray of the sun was burning so enkindled
6   That each into mine eyes refracted it.
 
7   And what it now behoves me to retrace
8   Nor voice has e’er reported, nor ink written,
9   Nor was by fantasy e’er comprehended;
 
10   For speak I saw, and likewise heard, the beak,
11   And utter with its voice both I and My,
12   When in conception it was We and Our.
 
13   And it began: Being just and merciful
14   Am I exalted here unto that glory
15   Which cannot be exceeded by desire;
 
16   And upon earth I left my memory
17   Such, that the evil-minded people there
18   Commend it, but continue not the story.
 
19   So doth a single heat from many embers
20   Make itself felt, even as from many loves
21   Issued a single sound from out that image.
 
22   Whence I thereafter: O perpetual flowers
23   Of the eternal joy, that only one
24   Make me perceive your odours manifold,
 
25   Exhaling, break within me the great fast
26   Which a long season has in hunger held me,
27   Not finding for it any food on earth.
 
28   Well do I know, that if in heaven its mirror
29   Justice Divine another realm doth make,
30   Yours apprehends it not through any veil.
 
31   You know how I attentively address me
32   To listen; and you know what is the doubt
33   That is in me so very old a fast.
 
34   Even as a falcon issuing from his hood,
35   Doth move his head, and with his wings applaud him
36   Showing desire, and making himself fine,
 
37   Saw I become that standard, which of lauds
38   Was interwoven of the grace divine,
39   With such songs as he knows who there rejoices.
 
40   Then it began: He who a compass turned
41   On the world’s outer verge, and who within it
42   Devised so much occult and manifest,
 
43   Could not the impress of his power so make
44   On all the universe, as that his Word
45   Should not remain in infinite excess.
 
46   And this makes certain that the first proud being,
47   Who was the paragon of every creature,
48   By not awaiting light fell immature.
 
49   And hence appears it, that each minor nature
50   Is scant receptacle unto that good
51   Which has no end, and by itself is measured.
 
52   In consequence our vision, which perforce
53   Must be some ray of that intelligence
54   With which all things whatever are replete,
 
55   Cannot in its own nature be so potent,
56   That it shall not its origin discern
57   Far beyond that which is apparent to it.
 
58   Therefore into the justice sempiternal
59   The power of vision that y our world receives,
60   As eye into the ocean, penetrates;
 
61   Which, though it see the bottom near the shore,
62   Upon the deep perceives it not, and yet
63   ‘Tis there, but it is hidden by the depth.
 
64   There is no light but comes from the serene
65   That never is o’ercast, nay, it is darkness
66   Or shadow of the flesh, or else its poison.
 
67   Amply to thee is opened now the cavern
68   Which has concealed from thee the living justice
69   Of which thou mad’st such frequent questioning.
 
70   For saidst thou:’Born a man is on the shore
71   Of Indus, and is none who there can speak
72   Of Christ, nor who can read, nor who can write;
 
73   And all his inclinations and his actions
74   Are good, so far as human reason sees,
75   Without a sin in life or in discourse:
 
76   He dieth unbaptised and without faith;
77   Where is this justice that condemneth him?
78   Where is his fault, if he do not believe?’
 
79   Now who art thou, that on the bench wouldst sit
80   In judgment at a thousand miles away,
81   With the short vision of a single span?
 
82   Truly to him who with me subtilizes,
83   If so the Scripture were not over you,
84   For doubting there were marvellous occasion.
 
85   O animals terrene, O stolid minds,
86   The primal will, that in itself is good,
87   Ne’er from itself, the Good Supreme, has moved.
 
88   So much is just as is accordant with it;
89   No good created draws it to itself,
90   But it, by raying forth, occasions that.
 
91   Even as above her nest goes circling round
92   The stork when she has fed her little ones,
93   And he who has been fed looks up at her,
 
94   So lifted I my brows, and even such
95   Became the blessed image, which its wings
96   Was moving, by so many counsels urged.
 
97   Circling around it sang, and said: As are
98   My notes to thee, who dost not comprehend them,
99   Such is the eternal judgment to you mortals.
 
100   Those lucent splendours of the Holy Spirit
101   Grew quiet then, but still within the standard
102   That made the Romans reverend to the world.
 
103   It recommenced: Unto this kingdom never
104   Ascended one who had not faith in Christ,
105   Before or since he to the tree was nailed.
 
106   But look thou, many crying are, ‘Christ, Christ!’
107   Who at the judgment shall be far less near
108   To him than some shall be who knew not Christ.
 
109   Such Christians shall the Ethiop condemn
110   When the two companies shall be divided,
111   The one for ever rich, the other poor.
 
112   What to your kings may not the Persians say,
113   When they that volume opened shall behold
114   In which are written down all their dispraises?
 
115   There shall be seen, among the deeds of Albert,
116   That which ere long shall set the pen in motion,
117   For which the realm of Prague shall be deserted.
 
118   There shall be seen the woe that on the Seine
119   He brings by falsifying of the coin,
120   Who by the blow of a wild boar shall die.
 
121   There shall be seen the pride that causes thirst,
122   Which makes the Scot and Englishman so mad
123   That they within their boundaries cannot rest;
 
124   Be seen the luxury and effeminate life
125   Of him of Spain, and the Bohemian,
126   Who valour never knew and never wished;
 
127   Be seen the Cripple of Jerusalem,
128   His goodness represented by an I,
129   While the reverse an M shall represent;
 
130   Be seen the avarice and poltroonery
131   Of him who guards the Island of the Fire,
132   Wherein Anchises finished his long life;
 
133   And to declare how pitiful he is
134   Shall be his record in contracted letters
135   Which shall make note of much in little space.
 
136   And shall appear to each one the foul deeds
137   Of uncle and of brother who a nation
138   So famous have dishonoured, and two crowns.
 
139   And he of Portugal and he of Norway
140   Shall there be known, and he of Rascia too,
141   Who saw in evil hour the coin of Venice.
 
142   O happy Hungary, if she let herself
143   Be wronged no farther ! and Navarre the happy,
144   If with the hills that gird her she be armed!
 
145   And each one may believe that now, as hansel
146   Thereof, do Nicosia and Famagosta
147   Lament and rage because of their own beast,
 
148   Who from the others’ flank departeth not.