Canto XV

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   A WILL benign, in which reveals itself
2   Ever the love that righteously inspires,
3   As in the iniquitous, cupidity,
 
4   Silence imposed upon that dulcet Iyre,
5   And quieted the consecrated chords,
6   That Heaven’s right hand doth tighten and relax
 
7   How unto just entreaties shall be deaf
8   Those substances, which, to give me desire
9   Of praying them, with one accord grew silent?
 
10   ‘Tis well that without end he should lament,
11   Who for the love of thing that doth not last
12   Eternally despoils him of that love!
 
13   As through the pure and tranquil evening air
14   There shoots from time to time a sudden fire,
15   Moving the eyes that steadfast were before,
 
16   And seems to be a star that changeth place,
17   Except that in the part where it is kindled
18   Nothing is missed, and this endureth little;
 
19   So from the horn that to the right extends
20   Unto that cross’s foot there ran a star
21   Out of the constellation shining there;
 
22   Nor was the gem dissevered from its ribbon,
23   But down the radiant fillet ran along,
24   So that fire seemed it behind alabaster.
 
25   Thus piteous did Anchises’ shade reach forward,
26   If any faith our greatest Muse deserve,
27   When in Elysium he his son perceived.
 
28   O sanguis meus, O super infusa
29   Gratia Dei, sicut tibi, cui
30   Bis unquam Coeli janua reclusa?
 
31   Thus that effulgence; whence I gave it heed;
32   Then round unto my Lady turned my sight,
33   And on this side and that was stupefied;
 
34   For in her eyes was burning such a smile
35   That with mine own methought I touched the bottom
36   Both of my grace and of my Paradise!
 
37   Then, pleasant to the hearing and the sight,
38   The spirit joined to its beginning things
39   I understood not, so profound it spake;
 
40   Nor did it hide itself from me by choice,
41   But by necessity; for its conception
42   Above the mark of mortals set itself
 
43   And when the bow of burning sympathy
44   Was so far slackened, that its speech descended
45   Towards the mark of our intelligence,
 
46   The first thing that was understood by me
47   Was Benedight be Thou, O Trine and One,
48   Who hast unto my seed so courteous been!
 
49   And it continued: Hunger long and grateful,
50   Drawn from the reading of the mighty volume
51   Wherein is never changed the white nor dark,
 
52   Thou hast appeased, my son, within this light
53   In which I speak to thee, by grace of her
54   Who to this lofty flight with plumage clothed thee.
 
55   Thou thinkest that to me thy thought doth pass
56   From Him who is the first, as from the unit,
57   If that be known, ray out the five and six;
 
58   And therefore who I am thou askest not,
59   And why I seem more joyous unto thee
60   Than any other of this gladsome crowd.
 
61   Thou think’st the truth; because the small and great
62   Of this existence look into the mirror
63   Wherein, before thou think’st, thy thought thou showest.
 
64   But that the sacred love, in which I watch
65   With sight perpetual, and which makes me thirst
66   With sweet desire, may better be fulfilled,
 
67   Now let thy voice secure and frank and glad
68   Proclaim the wishes, the desire proclaim,
69   To which my answer is decreed already.
 
70   To Beatrice I turned me, and she heard
71   Before I spake, and smiled to me a sign,
72   That made the wings of my desire increase;
 
73   Then in this wise began I: Love and knowledge,
74   When on you dawned the first Equality,
75   Of the same weight for each of you became;
 
76   For in the Sun, which lighted you and burned
77   With heat and radiance, they so equal are,
78   That all similitudes are insufficient.
 
79   But among mortals will and argument,
80   For reason that to you is manifest,
81   Diversely feathered in their pinions are.
 
82   Whence I, who mortal am, feel in myself
83   This inequality; so give not thanks
84   Save in my heart, for this paternal welcome.
 
85   Truly do I entreat thee, living topaz!
86   Set in this precious jewel as a gem,
87   That thou wilt satisfy me with thy name.
 
88   O leaf of mine, in whom I pleasure took
89   E’en while awaiting, I was thine own root!
90   Such a beginning he in answer made me
 
91   Then said to me: That one from whom is named
92   Thy race, and who a hundred years and more
93   Has circled round the mount on the first cornice,
 
94   A son of mine and thy great-grandsire was;
95   Well it behoves thee that the long fatigue
96   Thou shouldst for him make shorter with thy works.
 
97   Florence, within the ancient boundary
98   From which she taketh still her tierce and nones,
99   Abode in quiet, temperate and chaste.
 
100   No golden chain she had, nor coronal,
101   Nor ladies shod with sandal shoon, nor girdle
102   That caught the eye more than the person did.
 
103   Not yet the daughter at her birth struck fear
104   Into the father, for the time and dower
105   Did not o’errun this side or that the measure.
 
106   No houses had she void of families,
107   Not yet had thither come Sardanapalus
108   To show what in a chamber can be done;
 
109   Not yet surpassed had Montemalo been
110   By your Uccellatojo, which surpassed
111   Shall in its downfall be as in its rise.
 
112   Bellincion Berti saw I go begirt
113   With leather and with bone, and from the mirror
114   His dame depart without a painted face;
 
115   And him of Nerli saw, and him of Vecchio,
116   Contented with their simple suits of buff
117   And with the spindle and the flax their dame
 
118   O fortunate women ! and each one was certain
119   Of her own burial-place, and none as yet
120   For sake of France was in her bed deserted.
 
121   One o’er the cradle kept her studious watch,
122   And in her lullaby the language used
123   That first delights the fathers and the mothers;
 
124   Another, drawing tresses from her distaff,
125   Told o’er among her family the tales
126   Of Trojans and of Fesole and Rome.
 
127   As great a marvel then would have been held
128   A Lapo Salterello, a Cianghella,
129   As Cincinnatus or Cornelia now.
 
130   To such a quiet, such a beautiful
131   Life of the citizen, to such a safe
132   Community, and to so sweet an inn,
 
133   Did Mary give me, with loud cries invoked,
134   And in your ancient Baptistery at once
135   Christian and Cacciaguida I became.
 
136   Moronto was my brother, and Eliseo;
137   From Val di Pado came to me my wife,
138   And from that place thy surname was derived.
 
139   r followed afterward the Emperor Conrad,
140   And he begirt me of his chivalry,
141   So much I pleased him with my noble deeds.
 
142   I followed in his train against that law’s
143   Iniquity, whose people doth usurp
144   Your just possession, through your Pastor’s fault
 
145   There by that execrable race was I
146   Released from bonds of the fallacious world,
147   The love of which defileth many souls,
 
148   And came from martyrdom unto this peace.