Canto XV

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   As much as ‘twixt the close of the third hour
2   And dawn of day appeareth of that sphere
3   Which aye in fashion of a child is playing,
 
4   So much it now appeared, towards the night,
5   Was of his course remaining to the sun;
6   There it was evening, and ’twas midnight here;
 
7   And the rays smote the middle of our faces,
8   Because by us the mount was so encircled,
9   That straight towards the west we now were going
 
10   When I perceived my forehead overpowered
11   Beneath the splendour far more than at first,
12   And stupor were to me the things unknown,
 
13   Whereat towards the summit of my brow
14   I raised my hands, and made myself the visor
15   Which the excessive glare diminishes.
 
16   As when from off the water, or a mirror,
17   The sunbeam leaps unto the opposite side,
18   Ascending upward in the selfsame measure
 
19   That it descends, and deviates as far
20   From falling of a stone in line direct,
21   (As demonstrate experiment and art,)
 
22   So it appeared to me that by a light
23   Refracted there before me I was smitten;
24   On which account my sight was swift to flee.
 
25   What is that, Father sweet, from which I cannot
26   So fully screen my sight that it avail me,
27   Said I, and seems towards us to be moving?
 
28   Marvel thou not, if dazzle thee as yet
29   The family of heaven,he answered me;
30   An angel ’tis, who comes to invite us upward.
 
31   Soon will it be, that to behold these things
32   Shall not be grievous, but delightful to thee
33   As much as nature fashioned thee to feel.
 
34   When we had reached the Angel benedight,
35   With joyful voice he said: Here enter in
36   To stairway far less steep than are the others.
 
37   We mounting were, already thence departed,
38   And Beati misericordes was
39   Behind us sung, Rejoice, thou that o’ercomest!
 
40   My Master and myself, we two alone
41   Were going upward, and I thought, in going,
42   Some profit to acquire from words of his;
 
43   And I to him directed me, thus asking:
44   What did the spirit of Romagna mean,
45   Mentioning interdict and partnership?
 
46   Whence he to me: Of his own greatest failing
47   He knows the harm; and therefore wonder not
48   If he reprove us, that we less may rue it
 
49   Because are thither pointed your desires
50   Where by companionship each share is lessened,
51   Envy doth ply the bellows to your sighs.
 
52   But if the love of the supernal sphere
53   Should upwardly direct your aspiration,
54   There would not be that fear within your breast;
 
55   For there, as much the more as one says Our,
56   So much the more of good each one possesses,
57   And more of charity in that cloister burns.
 
58   I am more hungering to be satisfied,
59   I said, than if I had before been silent,
60   And more of doubt within my mind I gather.
 
61   How can it be, that boon distributed
62   The more possessors can more wealthy make
63   Therein, than if by few it be possessed?
 
64   And he to me: Because thou fixest still
65   Thy mind entirely upon earthly things,
66   Thou pluckest darkness from the very light.
 
67   That goodness infinite and ineffable
68   Which is above there, runneth unto love,
69   As to a lucid body comes the sunbeam.
 
70   So much it gives itself as it finds ardour,
71   So that as far as charity extends,
72   O’er it increases the eternal valour.
 
73   And the more people thitherward aspire,
74   More are there to love well, and more they love there,
75   And, as a mirror, one reflects the other.
 
76   And if my reasoning appease thee not,
77   Thou shalt see Beatrice; and she will fully
78   Take from thee this and every other longing.
 
79   Endeavour, then, that soon may be extinct,
80   As are the two already, the five wounds
81   That close themselves again by being painful.
 
82   Even as I wished to say,Thou dost appease me,
83   I saw that I had reached another circle,
84   So that my eager eyes made me keep silence.
 
85   There it appeared to me that in a vision
86   Ecstatic on a sudden I was rapt,
87   And in a temple many persons saw;
 
88   And at the door a woman, with the sweet
89   Behaviour of a mother, saying: Son,
90   Why in this manner hast thou dealt with us?
 
91   Lo, sorrowing, thy father and myself
92   Were seeking for thee ;–and as here she cease
93   That which appeared at first had disappeared.
 
94   Then I beheld another with those waters
95   Adown her cheeks which grief distils whenever
96   From great disdain of others it is born,
 
97   And saying: If of that city thou art lord,
98   For whose name was such strife among the gods
99   And whence doth every science scintillate,
 
100   Avenge thyself on those audacious arms
101   That clasped our daughter,O Pisistratus,
102   And the lord seemed to me benign and mild
 
103   To answer her with aspect temperate:
104   What shall we do to those who wish us ill,
105   If he who loves us be by us condemned?
 
106   Then saw I people hot in fire of wrath,
107   With stones a young man slaying, clamorously
108   Still crying to each other, Kill him ! kill him!
 
109   And him I saw bow down, because of death
110   That weighed already on him, to the earth,
111   But of his eyes made ever gates to heaven,
 
112   Imploring the high Lord, in so great strife,
113   That he would pardon those his persecutors,
114   With such an aspect as unlocks compassion.
 
115   Soon as my soul had outwardly returned
116   To things external to it which are true,
117   Did I my not false errors recognize.
 
118   My Leader, who could see me bear myself
119   Like to a man that rouses him from sleep,
120   Exclaimed: What ails thee, that thou canst not stand?
 
121   But hast been coming more than half a league
122   Veiling thine eyes, and with thy legs entangled
123   In guise of one whom wine or sleep subdues?’
 
124   O my sweet Father, if thou listen to me,
125   I’ll tell thee, said I, what appeared to me,
126   When thus from me my legs were ta’en away.
 
127   And he: If thou shouldst have a hundred masks
128   Upon thy face, from me would not be shut
129   Thy cogitations, howsoever small.
 
130   What thou hast seen was that thou mayst not fail
131   To ope thy heart unto the waters of peace
132   Which from the eternal fountain are diffused.
 
133   I did not ask, ‘What ails thee?’ as he does
134   Who only looketh with the eyes that see not
135   When of the soul bereft the body lies,
 
136   But asked it to give vigour to thy feet;
137   Thus must we needs urge on the sluggards, slow
138   To use their wakefulness when it returns.
 
139   We passed along, athwart the twilight peering
140   Forward as far as ever eye could stretch
141   Against the sunbeams serotine and lucent;
 
142   And lo ! by slow degrees a smoke approached
143   In our direction, sombre as the night,
144   Nor was there place to hide one’s self therefrom.
 
145   This of our eyes and the pure air bereft us.