Canto XXVIII

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   After the truth against the present life
2   Of miserable mortals was unfolded
3   By her who doth imparadise my mind,
 
4   As in a looking-glass a taper’s flame
5   He sees who from behind is lighted by it,
6   Before he has it in his sight or thought,
 
7   And turns him round to see if so the glass
8   Tell him the truth, and sees that it accords
9   Therewith as doth a music with its metre,
 
10   In similar wise my memory recollecteth
11   That I did. looking into those fair eyes,
12   Of which Love made the springes to ensnare me.
 
13   And as I turned me round, and mine were touched
14   By that which is apparent in that volume,
15   Whenever on its gyre we gaze intent,
 
16   A point beheld I, that was raying out
17   Light so acute, the sight which it enkindles
18   Must close perforce before such great acuteness.
 
19   And whatsoever star seems smallest here
20   Would seem to be a moon, if placed beside it.
21   As one star with another star is placed.
 
22   Perhaps at such a distance as appears
23   A halo cincturing the light that paints it,
24   When densest is the vapour that sustains it,
 
25   Thus distant round the point a circle of fire
26   So swiftly whirled, that it would have surpassed
27   Whatever motion soonest girds the world;
 
28   And this was by another circumcinct,
29   That by a third, the third then by a fourth,
30   By a fifth the fourth, and then by a sixth the fifth;
 
31   The seventh followed thereupon in width
32   So ample now, that Juno’s messenger
33   Entire would be too narrow to contain it.
 
34   Even so the eighth and ninth; and every one
35   More slowly moved, according as it was
36   In number distant farther from the first.
 
37   And that one had its flame most crystalline
38   From which less distant was the stainless spark,
39   I think because more with its truth imbued.
 
40   MyLady,who in my anxiety
41   Beheld me much perplexed, said: From that point
42   Dependent is the heaven and nature all.
 
43   Behold that circle most conjoined to it,
44   And know thou, that its motion is so swift
45   Through burning love whereby it is spurred on.
 
46   And I to her: If the world were arranged
47   In the order which I see in yonder wheels,
48   What’s set before me would have satisfied me;
 
49   But in the world of sense we can perceive
50   That evermore the circles are diviner
51   As they are from the centre more remote
 
52   Wherefore if my desire is to be ended
53   In this miraculous and angelic temple,
54   That has for confines only love and light,
 
55   To hear behoves me still how the example
56   And the exemplar go not in one fashion,
57   Since for myself in vain I contemplate it.
 
58   If thine own fingers unto such a knot
59   Re insufficient. it is no great wonder,
60   So hard hath it become for want of trying.
 
61   My Lady thus; then said she: Do thou take
62   What I shall tell thee, if thou wouldst be sated,
63   And exercise on that thy subtlety.
 
64   The circles corporal are wide and narrow
65   According to the more or less of virtue
66   Which is distributed through all their parts.
 
67   The greater goodness works the greater weal,
68   The greater weal the greater body holds,
69   If perfect equally are all its parts.
 
70   Therefore this one which sweeps along with it
71   The universe sublime, doth correspond
72   Unto the circle which most loves and knows.
 
73   On which account, if thou unto the virtue
74   Apply thy measure, not to the appearance
75   Of substances that unto thee seem round,
 
76   Thou wilt behold a marvellous agreement,
77   Of more to greater, and of less to smaller,
78   In every heaven, with its Intelligence.
 
79   Even as remaineth splendid and serene
80   The hemisphere of air, when Boreas
81   Is blowing from that cheek where he is mildest,
 
82   Because is purified and resolved the rack
83   That erst disturbed it, till the welkin laughs
84   With all the beauties of its pageantry;
 
85   Thus did I likewise, after that my Lady
86   Had me provided with her clear response,
87   And like a star in heaven the truth was seen.
 
88   And soon as to a stop her words had come,
89   Not otherwise does iron scintillate
90   When molten, than those circles scintillated.
 
91   Their coruscation all the sparks repeated,
92   And they so many were, their number makes
93   More millions than the doubling of the chess.
 
94   I heard them sing hosanna choir by choir
95   To the fixed point which holds them at the Ubi,
96   And ever will, where they have ever been.
 
97   And she, who saw the dubious meditations
98   Within my mind, The primal circles, said,
99   Have shown thee Seraphim and Cherubim.
 
100   Thus rapidly they follow their own bonds,
101   To be as like the point as most they can,
102   And can as far as they are high in vision.
 
103   Those other Loves, that round about them go,
104   Thrones of the countenance divine are called,
105   Because they terminate the primal Triad.
 
106   And thou shouldst know that they all have delight
107   As much as their own vision penetrates
108   The Truth, in which all intellect finds rest.
 
109   From this it may be seen how blessedness
110   Is founded in the faculty which sees,
111   And not in that which loves, and follows next;
 
112   And of this seeing merit is the measure,
113   Which is brought forth by grace, and by good will;
114   Thus on from grade to grade doth it proceed.
 
115   The second Triad, which is germinating
116   In such wise in this sempiternal spring,
117   That no nocturnal Aries despoils,
 
118   Perpetually hosanna warbles forth
119   With threefold melody, that sounds in three
120   Orders of joy, with which it is intrined.
 
121   The three Divine are in this hierarchy,
122   First the Dominions, and the Virtues next;
123   And the third order is that of the Powers.
 
124   Then in the dances twain penultimate
125   The Principalities and Archangels wheel;
126   The last is wholly of angelic sports.
 
127   These orders upward all of them are gazing,
128   And downward so prevail, that unto God
129   They all attracted are and all attract.
 
130   And Dionysius with so great desire
131   To contemplate these Orders set himself
132   He named them and distinguished them as I do.
 
133   But Gregory afterwards dissented from him;
134   Wherefore, as soon as he unclosed his eyes
135   Within this heaven, he at himself did smile.
 
136   And if so much of secret truth a mortal
137   Proffered on earth, I would not have thee marvel,
138   For he who saw it here revealed it to him,
 
139   With much more of the truth about these circles.