Canto XXX

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   WHEN the Septentrion of the highest heaven
2   (Which never either setting knew or rising,
3   Nor veil of other cloud than that of sin,
 
4   And which made every one therein aware
5   Of his own duty, as the lower makes
6   Whoever turns the helm to come to port)
 
7   Motionless halted, the veracious people,
8   That came at first between it and the Griffin,
9   Turned themselves to the car, as to their peace.
 
10   And one of them, as if by Heaven commissioned,
11   Singing, Veni, sponsa, de Libano
12   Shouted three times, and all the others after.
 
13   Even as the Blessed at the final summons
14   Shall rise up quickened each one from his cavern,
15   Uplifting light the reinvested flesh.
 
16   So upon that celestial chariot
17   A hundred rose ad vocem tanti senis,
18   Ministers and messengers of life eternal.
 
19   They all were saying, Benedictus qui venis,
20   And, scattering flowers above and round about,
21   Manibus o date lilia plenis.
 
22   Ere now have I beheld, as day began,
23   The eastern hemisphere all tinged with rose,
24   And the other heaven with fair serene adorned;
 
25   And the sun’s face, uprising, overshadowed
26   So that by tempering influence of vapours
27   For a long interval the eye sustained it;
 
28   Thus in the bosom of a cloud of flowers
29   Which from those hands angelical ascended,
30   And downward fell again inside and out,
 
31   Over her snow-white veil with olive cinct
32   Appeared a lady under a green mantle,
33   Vested in colour of the living flame.
 
34   And my own spirit, that already now
35   So long a time had been, that in her presence
36   Trembling with awe it had not stood abashed,
 
37   Without more knowledge having by mine eyes,
38   Through occult virtue that from her proceeded
39   Of ancient love the mighty influence felt.
 
40   As soon as on my vision smote the power
41   Sublime, that had already pierced me through
42   Ere from my boyhood I had yet come forth,
 
43   To the left hand I turned with that reliance
44   With which the little child runs to his mother,
45   When he has fear, or when he is afflicted,
 
46   To say unto Virgilius: Not a drachm
47   Of blood remains in me, that does not tremble;
48   I know the traces of the ancient flame.
 
49   But us Virgilius of himself deprived
50   Had left, Virgilius, sweetest of all fathers,
51   Virgilius, to whom I for safety gave me:
 
52   Nor whatsoever lost the ancient mother
53   Availed my cheeks now purified from dew,
54   That weeping they should not again be darkened.
 
55   Dante, because Virgilius has departed
56   Do not weep yet, do not weep yet awhile;
57   For by another sword thou need’st must weep.
 
58   E’en as an admiral, who on poop and prow
59   Comes to behold the people that are working
60   In other ships. and cheers them to well-doing,
 
61   Upon the left hand border of the car,
62   When at the sound I turned of my own name,
63   Which of necessity is here recorded,
 
64   I saw the Lady, who erewhile appeared
65   Veiled underneath the angelic festival,
66   Direct her eyes to me across the river.
 
67   Although the veil, that from her head descended,
68   Encircled with the foliage of Minerva,
69   Did not permit her to appear distinctly,
 
70   In attitude still royal]y majestic
71   Continued she, like unto one who speaks,
72   And keeps his warmest utterance in reserve:
 
73   Look at me well; in sooth I’m Beatrice!
74   How didst thou deign to come unto the Mountain?
75   Didst thou not know that man is happy here?
 
76   Mine eyes fell downward into the clear fountain,
77   But, seeing myself therein, I sought the grass,
78   So great a shame did weigh my forehead down.
 
79   As to the son the mother seems superb,
80   So she appeared to me; for somewhat bitter
81   Tasteth the savour of severe compassion.
 
82   Silent became she, and the Angels sang
83   Suddenly, In te, Domine, speravi:
84   But beyond pedes meos did not pass.
 
85   Even as the snow among the living rafters
86   Upon the back of Italy congeals,
87   Blown on and drifted by Sclavonian winds,
 
88   And then, dissolving, trickles through itself
89   Whene’er the land that loses shadow breathes,
90   So that it seems a fire that melts a taper;
 
91   E’en thus was I without a tear or sigh,
92   Before the song of those who sing for ever
93   After the music of the eternal spheres.
 
94   But when I heard in their sweet melodies
95   Compassion for me, more than had they said,
96   O wherefore, lady, dost thou thus upbraid him?
 
97   The ice, that was about my heart congealed,
98   To air and water changed, and in my anguish
99   Through mouth and eyes came gushing from my breast.
 
100   She, on the right-hand border of the car
101   Still firmly standing, to those holy beings
102   Thus her discourse directed afterwards:
 
103   Ye keep your watch in the eternal day,
104   So that nor night nor sleep can steal from you
105   One step the ages make upon their path;
 
106   Therefore my answer is with greater care,
107   That he may hear me who is weeping yonder,
108   So that the sin and dole be of one measure.
 
109   Not only by the work of those great wheels,
110   That destine every seed unto some end,
111   According as the stars are in conjunction,
 
112   But by the largess of celestial graces,
113   Which have such lofty vapours for their rain
114   That near to them our sight approaches not,
 
115   Such had this man become in his new life
116   Potentially, that every righteous habit
117   Would have made admirable proof in him;
 
118   But so much more malignant and more savage
119   Becomes the land untilled and with bad seed,
120   The more good earthly vigour it possesses.
 
121   Some time did I sustain him with my look;
122   Revealing unto him my youthful eyes,
123   I led him with me turned in the right way.
 
124   As soon as ever of my second age
125   I was upon the threshold and changed life,
126   Himself from me he took and gave to others.
 
127   When from the flesh to spirit I ascended,
128   And beauty and virtue were in me increased,
129   I was to him less dear and less delightful;
 
130   And into ways untrue he turned his steps,
131   Pursuing the false images of good,
132   That never any promises fulfil;
 
133   Nor prayer for inspiration me availed,
134   By means of which in dreams and otherwise
135   I called him back, so little did he heed them.
 
136   So low he fell, that all appliances
137   For his salvation were already short,
138   Save showing him the people of perdition.
 
139   For this I visited the gates of death,
140   And unto him, who so far up has led him,
141   My intercessions were with weeping borne.
 
142   God’s lofty fiat would be violated,
143   If Lethe should be passed, and if such viands
144   Should tasted be, withouten any scot
 
145   Of penitence that gushes forth in tears.