Canto XXIX

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   AT what time both the children of Latona,
2   Surmounted by the Ram and by the Scales,
3   Together make a zone of the horizon,
4   As long as from the time the zenith holds them
5   In equipoise, till from that girdle both
6   Changing their hemisphere disturb the balance,
7   So long, her face depicted with a smile,
8   Did Beatrice keep silence while she gazed
9   Fixedly at the point which had o’ercome me.
10   Then she began: I say, and I ask not
11   What thou dost wish to hear, for I have seen it
12   Where centres every When and every Ubi.
13   Not to acquire some good unto himself,
14   Which is impossible, but that his splendour
15   In its resplendency may say, ‘ Subsisto,’
16   In his eternity outside of time,
17   Outside all other limits, as it pleased him,
18   Into new Loves the Eternal Love unfolded.
19   Nor as if torpid did he lie before;
20   For neither after nor before proceeded
21   The going forth of God upon these waters.
22   Matter and Form unmingled and conjoined
23   Came into being that had no defect,
24   E’en as three arrows from a three-stringed bow.
25   And as in glass, m amber, or in crystal
26   A sunbeam flashes so, that from its coming
27   To its full being is no interval
28   So from its Lord did the triform effect
29   Ray forth into its being all together,
30   Without discrimination of beginning.
31   Order was con-created and constructed
32   In substances, and summit of the world
33   Were those wherein the pure act was produced.
34   Pure potentiality held the lowest part;
35   Midway bound potentiality with act
36   Such bond that it shall never be unbound.
37   Jerome has written unto you of angels
38   Created a long lapse of centuries
39   Or ever yet the other world was made;
40   But written is this truth in many places
41   By writers of the Holy Ghost, and thou
42   Shalt see it. if thou lookest well thereat
43   And even reason seeth it somewhat,
44   For it would not concede that for so long
45   Could be the motors without their perfection.
46   Now dost thou know both where and when these Loves
47   Created were, and how; so that extinct
48   In thy desire already are three fires.
49   Nor could one reach, in counting, unto twenty
50   So swiftly, as a portion of these angelsso
51   Disturbed the subject of your elements.
52   The rest remained, and they began this art
53   Which thou discernest, with so great delight
54   That never from their circling do they cease.
55   The occasion of the fall was the accursed
56   Presumption of that One, whom thou hast seen
57   By all the burden of the world constrained.
58   Those whom thou here beholdest modest were
59   To recognise themselves as of that goodness
60   Which made them apt for so much understanding;
61   On which account their vision was exalted
62   By the enlightening grace and their own merit,
63   So that they have a full and steadfast will.
64   I would not have thee doubt, but certain be,
65   ‘Tis meritorious to receive this grace,
66   According as the affection opens to it.
67   Now round about in this consistory
68   Much mayst thou contemplate, if these my words
69   Be gathered up, without all further aid.
70   But since upon the earth, throughout your schools,
71   They teach that such is the angelic nature
72   That it doth hear, and recollect, and will,
73   More will I say, th,at thou mayst see unmixed
74   The truth that is confounded there below,
75   Equivocating in such like prelections.
76   These substances, since in God’s countenance
77   They jocund were, turned not away their sight
78   From that wherefrom not anything is hidden;
79   Hence they have not their vision intercepted
80   By object new, and hence they do not need
81   To recollect, through interrupted thought.
82   So that below, not sleeping, people dream,
83   Believing they speak truth, and not believing;
84   And in the last is greater sin and shame.
85   Below you do not journey by one path
86   Philosophising; so transporteth you
87   Love of appearance and the thought thereof.
88   And even this above here is endured
89   With less disdain, than when is set aside
90   The Holy Writ, or when it is distorted.
91   They think not there how much of blood it costs
92   To sow it in the world, and how he pleases
93   Who in humility keeps close to it.
94   Each striveth for appearance, and doth make
95   His own inventions; and these treated are
96   By preachers, and the Evangel holds its peace.
97   One sayeth that the moon did backward turn,
98   In the Passion of Christ, and interpose herself
99   So that the sunlight reached not down below;
100   And lies; for of its own accord the light
101   Hid itself; whence to Spaniards and to Indians,
102   As to the Jews, did such eclipse respond.
103   Florence has not so many Lapi and Bindi
104   As fables such as these, that every year
105   Are shouted from the pulpit back and forth,
106   In such wise that the lambs, who do not know,
107   Come back from pasture fed upon the wind,
108   And not to see the harm doth not excuse them.
109   Christ did not to his first disciples say,
110   ‘Go forth, and to the world preach idle tales,’
111   But unto them a true foundation gave;
112   And this so loudly sounded from their lips,
113   That, in the warfare to enkindle Faith,
114   They made of the Evangel shields and lances.
115   Now men go forth with jests and drolleries
116   To preach, and if but well the people laugh,
117   The hood puffs out, and nothing more is asked.
118   But in the cowl there nestles such a bird,
119   That, if the common people were to see it,
120   They would perceive what pardons they confide in.
121   For which so great on earth has grown the folly,
122   That, without proof of any testimony,
123   To each indulgence they would flock together.
124   By this Saint Anthony his pig doth fatten,
125   And many others, who are worse than pigs,
126   Paying in money without mark of coinage.
127   But since we have digressed abundantly,
128   Turn back thine eyes forthwith to the right path,
129   So that the way be shortened with the time.
130   This nature doth so multiply itself
131   ln numbers, that there never yet was speech
132   Nor mortal fancy that can go so far.
133   And if thou notest that which is revealed
134   By Daniel, thou wilt see that in his thousands
135   Number determinate is kept concealed.
136   The primal light, that all irradiates it,
137   By modes as many is received therein
138   As are the splendours wherewith it is mated.
139   Hence, inasmuch as on the act conceptive
140   The affection followeth, of love the sweetness
141   Therein diversely fervid is or tepid.
142   The height behold now and the amplitude
143   Of the eternal power, since it hath made
144   Itself so many mirrors, where ’tis broken,
145   One in itself remaining as before.