Canto XVIII

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   AN end had put unto his reasoning
2   The lofty Teacher, and attent was looking
3   Into my face, if I appeared content;
 
4   And I, whom a new thirst still goaded on,
5   Without was mute, and said within: Perchance
6   The too much questioning I make annoys him.
 
7   But that true Father, who had comprehended
8   The timid wish, that opened not itself,
9   By speaking gave me hardihood to speak.
 
10   Whence I: My sight is, Master, vivified
11   So in thy light, that clearly I discern
12   Whate’er thy speech importeth or describe –
 
13   Therefore I thee entreat, sweet Father dear,
14   To teach me love, to which thou dost refer
15   Every good action and its contrary.
 
16   Direct,he said, towards me the keen eyes
17   Of intellect, and clear will be to thee
18   The error,of the blind, who would be leaders
 
19   The soul, which is created apt to love,
20   Is mobile unto everything that pleases,
21   Soon as by pleasure she is waked to action.
 
22   Your apprehension from some real thing
23   An image draws, and in yourselves displays it
24   So that it makes the soul turn unto it.
 
25   And if, when turned, towards it she incline,
26   Love is that inclination; it is nature,
27   Which is by pleasure bound in you anew
 
28   Then even as the fire doth upward move
29   By its own form, which to ascend is born,
30   Where longest in its matter it endures,
 
31   So comes the captive soul into desire,
32   Which is a motion spiritual, and ne’er rests
33   Until she doth enjoy the thing beloved.
 
34   Now may apparent be to thee how hidden
35   The truth is from those people, who aver
36   All love is in itself a laudable thing,
 
37   Because its matter may perchance appear
38   Aye to be good; but yet not each impression
39   Is good, albeit good may be the wax.
 
40   Thy words, and my sequacious intellect,
41   I answered him, have love revealed to me;
42   But that has made me more impregned with doubt;
 
43   For if love from without be offered us,
44   And with another foot the soul go not,
45   If right or wrong she go, ’tis not her merit.
 
46   And he to me: What reason seeth here,
47   Myself can tell thee; beyond that await
48   ForBeatricesince ’tis a work ..f faith.
 
49   Every substantial form, that segregate
50   From matter is, and with it is united,
51   Specific power has in itself collected,
 
52   Which without act is not perceptible,
53   Nor shows itself except by its effect,
54   As life does in a plant by the green leaves.
 
55   But still, whence cometh the intelligence
56   Of the first notions, man is ignorant,
57   And the affection for the first allurements,
 
58   Which are in you as instinct in the bee
59   To make its honey; and this first desire
60   Merit of praise or blame containeth not.
 
61   Now, that to this all others may be gathered,
62   Innate within you is the power that counsels,
63   And it should keep the threshold of assent.
 
64   This is the principle, from which is taken
65   Occasion of desert in you, according
66   As good and guilty loves it takes and winnows.
 
67   Those who,. in reasoning, to the bottom went,
68   Were of this innate liberty aware,
69   Therefore bequeathed they Ethics to the world.
 
70   Supposing, then, that from necessity
71   Springs every love that is within you kindled,
72   Within yourselves the power is to restrain it.
 
73   The noble virtue Beatrice understands
74   By the free will; and therefore see that thou
75   Bear it in mind, if she should speak of it.
 
76   The moon, belated almost unto midnight,
77   Now made the stars appear to us more rare,
78   Formed like a bucket, that is all ablaze,
 
79   And counter to the heavens ran through those paths
80   Which the sun sets aflame, when he of Rome
81   Sees it ‘twixt Sardes and Corsicans go down;
 
82   And that patrician shade, for whom is named
83   Pietola more than any Mantuan town,
84   Had laid aside the burden of my lading;
 
85   Whence I, who reason manifest and plain
86   In answer to my questions had received,
87   Stood like a my in drowsy reverie.
 
88   But taken from me was this drowsiness
89   Suddenly by a people, that behind
90   Our backs already had come round to us.
 
91   And as, of old, Ismenus and Asopus
92   Beside them saw at night the rush and throng,
93   If but the Thebans were in need of Bacchus,
 
94   So they along that circle curve their step,
95   From what I saw of those approaching us,
96   Who by good-will and righteous love are ridden.
 
97   Full soon they were upon us, because running
98   Moved onward all that mighty multitude,
99   And two in the advance cried out, lamenting,
 
100   Mary in haste unto the mountain ran,
101   And Caesar, that he might subdue Ilerda,
102   Thrust at Marseilles, and then ran into Spain.
 
103   Quick ! quick ! so that the time may not be lost
104   By little love! forthwith the others cried,
105   For ardour in well-doing freshens grace!
 
106   O folk, in whom an eager fervour now
107   Supplies perhaps delay and negligence,
108   Put by you in well-doing, through lukewarmness,
 
109   This one who lives, and truly I lie not,
110   Would fain go up, if but the sun relight us;
111   So tell us where the passage nearest is.
 
112   These were the words of him who was my Guide;
113   And some one of those spirits said: Come on
114   Behind us, and the opening shalt thou find;
 
115   So full of longing are we to move onward,
116   That stay we cannot; therefore pardon us,
117   If thou for churlishness our justice take.
 
118   I was San Zeno’s Abbot at Verona,
119   Under the empire of good Barbarossa,
120   Of whom still sorrowing Milan holds discourse
 
121   And he has one foot in the grave already,
122   Who shall erelong lament that monastery,
123   And sorry be of having there had power,
 
124   Because his son, in his whole body sick,
125   And worse in mind, and who was evil-born,
126   He put into the place of its true pastor.
 
127   If more he said, or silent was, I know not
128   He had already passed so far beyond us;
129   But this I heard, and to retain it pleased me.
 
130   And he who was in every need my succour
131   Said: Turn thee hitherward; See two Of them
132   Come fastening upon slothfulness their teeth.
 
133   In rear Of all they shouted: Sooner Were
134   The people dead to whom the Sea was opened,
135   Than their inheritors the Jordan saw;
 
136   And those who the fatigue did not endure
137   Unto the issue, With Anchises’ son,
138   Themselves to life withouten glory offered.
 
139   Then When from us so separated were
140   Those shades, that they no longer could be seen,
141   Within me a new thought did entrance find,
 
142   Whence others many and diverse Were born
143   And so I lapsed from One into another
144   That in a reverie mine eyes I closed,
 
145   And meditation into dream transmuted.