Canto XXIV

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   O COMPANY elect to the great supper
2   Of the Lamb benedight, who feedeth you
3   So that for ever full is your desire,
 
4   If by the grace of God this man foretaste
5   Something of that which falleth from your table,
6   Or ever death prescribe to him the time,
 
7   Direct your mind to his immense desire,
8   And him somewhat bedew j ye drinking are
9   For ever at the fount whence comes his thought.
 
10   Thus Beatrice; and those souls beatified
11   Transformed themselves to spheres on steadfast poles,
12   Flaming intensely in the guise of comets.
 
13   And as the wheels in works of horologes
14   Revolve so that the first to the beholder
15   Motionless seems, and the last one to fly,
 
16   So in like manner did those carols, dancing
17   In different measure, of their affluence
18   Give me the gauge, as they were swift or slow.
 
19   From that one which I noted of most beauty
20   Beheld I issue forth a fire so happy
21   That none it left there of a greater brightness;
 
22   And around Beatrice three several times
23   It whirled itself with so divine a song,
24   My fantasy repeats it not to me;
 
25   Therefore the pen skips, and I write it not,
26   Since our imagination for such folds,
27   Much more our speech, is of a tint too glaring.
 
28   O holy sister mine, who us implorest
29   With such devotion, by thine ardent love
30   Thou dost unbind me from that beautiful sphere!
 
31   Thereafter, having stopped, the blessed fire
32   Unto my Lady did direct its breath,
33   Which spake in fashion as I here have said.
 
34   And she: O light eterne of the great man
35   To whom our Lord delivered up the keys
36   He carried down of this miraculous joy,
 
37   This one examine on points light and grave,
38   As good beseemeth thee, about the Faith
39   By means of which thou on the sea didst walk.
 
40   If he love well, and hope well, and believe
41   From thee ’tis hid not; for thou hast thy sight
42   There where depicted everything is seen.
 
43   But since this kingdom has made citizens
44   By means of the true Faith, to glorify it
45   ‘Tis well he have the chance to speak thereof.
 
46   As baccalaureate arms himself, and speaks not
47   Until the master doth propose the question,
48   To argue it, and not to terminate it,
 
49   So did I arm myself with every reason,
50   While she was speaking, that I might be ready
51   For such a questioner and such profession.
 
52   Say, thou good Christian; manifest thyself;
53   What is the Faith ? Whereat I raised my brow
54   Unto that light wherefrom was this breathed forth.
 
55   Then turned I round to Beatrice, and she
56   Prompt signals made to me that I should pour
57   The water forth from my internal fountain.
 
58   May grace,that suffers me to make confession,
59   Began I,to the great centurion,
60   Cause my conceptions all to be explicit!
 
61   And I continued: As the truthful pen,
62   Father, of thy dear brother wrote of it,
63   Who put with thee Rome into the good way,
 
64   Faith is the substance of the things we hope for,
65   And evidence of those that are not seen;
66   And this appears to me its quiddity.
 
67   Then heard I: Very rightly thou perceivest,
68   If well thou understandest why he placed it
69   With substances and then with evidences.
 
70   And I thereafterward: The things profound,
71   That here vouchsafe to me their apparition,
72   Unto all eyes below are so concealed,
 
73   That they exist there only in belief,
74   Upon the which is founded the high hope,
75   And hence it takes the nature of a substance.
 
76   And it behoveth us from this belief
77   To reason without having other sight,
78   And hence it has the nature of evidence.
 
79   Then heard I: If whatever is acquired
80   Below by doctrine were thus understood,
81   No sophist’s subtlety would there find place.
 
82   Thus was breathed forth from that enkindled love;
83   Then added: Very well has been gone over
84   Already of this coin the alloy and weight;
 
85   But tell me if thou hast it in thy purse?
86   And I: Yes, both so shining and so round
87   That in its stamp there is no peradventure.
 
88   Thereafter issued from the light profound
89   That there resplendent was: This precious jewel,
90   Upon the which is every virtue founded,
 
91   Whence hadst thou it? And I: The large outpouring
92   Of Holy Spirit, which has been diffused
93   Upon the ancient parchments and the new,
 
94   A syllogism is, which proved it to me
95   With such acuteness, that, compared therewith,
96   All demonstration seems to me obtuse.
 
97   And then I heard: The ancient and the new
98   Postulates, that to thee are so conclusive,
99   Why dost thou take them for the word divine?
 
100   And I: The proofs, which show the truth to me,
101   Are the works subsequent, whereunto Nature
102   Ne’er heated iron yet, nor anvil beat.
 
103   ‘Twas answered me: Say, who assureth thee
104   That those works ever were ? the thing itself
105   That must be proved, nought else to thee affirms it.
 
106   Were the world to Christianity converted,
107   I said, withouten miracles, this one
108   Is such, the rest are not its hundredth part;
 
109   Because that poor and fasting thou didst enter
110   Into the field to sow there the good plant,
111   Which was a vine and has become a thorn!
 
112   This being finished, the high, holy Court
113   Resounded through the spheres, One God we praise!
114   In melody that there above is chanted.
 
115   And then that Baron, who from branch to branch,
116   Examining, had thus conducted me,
117   Till the extremest leaves we were approaching,
 
118   Again began: The Grace that dallying
119   Plays with thine intellect thy mouth has opened,
120   Up to this point, as it should opened be,
 
121   So that I do approve what forth emerged;
122   But now thou must express what thou believest,
123   And whence to thy belief it was presented.
 
124   O holy father, spirit who beholdest
125   What thou believedst so that thou o’ercamest,
126   Towards the sepulchre, more youthful feet,
 
127   Began I,thou dost wish me in this place
128   The form to manifest of my prompt belief,
129   And likewise thou the cause thereof demandest.
 
130   And I respond: In one God I believe,
131   Sole and eterne, who moveth all the heavens
132   With love and with desire, himself unmoved;
 
133   And of such faith not only have I proofs
134   Physical and metaphysical, but gives them
135   Likewise the truth that from this place rains down
 
136   Through Moses, through the Prophets and the Psalms,
137   Through the Evangel, and through you, who wrote
138   After the fiery Spirit sanctified you;
 
139   In Persons three eterne believe, and these
140   One essence I believe, so one and trine
141   They bear conjunction both with sunt and est.
 
142   With the profound condition and divine
143   Which now I touch upon, doth stamp my mind
144   Ofttimes the doctrine evangelical.
 
145   This the beginning is, this is the spark
146   Which afterwards dilates to vivid flame,
147   And, like a star in heaven, is sparkling in me.
 
148   Even as a lord who hears what pleaseth him
149   His servant straight embraces, gratulating
150   For the good news as soon as he is silent;
 
151   So, giving me its benediction, singing,
152   Three times encircled me, when I was silent,
153   The apostolic light, at whose command
 
154   I spoken had, in speaking I so pleased him.