Canto XXXIII

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   Deus venerunt gentes, alternating
2   Now three, now four, melodious psalmody
3   The maidens in the midst of tears began;
 
4   And Beatrice, compassionate and sighing,
5   Listened to them with such a countenance,
6   That scarce more changed was Mary at the cross.
 
7   But when the other virgins place had given
8   For her to speak, uprisen to her feet
9   With colour as of fire, she made response:
 
10   Modicum, et non videbitis me;
11   Et iterum, my sisters predilect,
12   Modicum, et vos videbitis me.
 
13   Then all the seven in front of her she placed;
14   And after her, by beckoning only, moved
15   Me and the lady and the sage who stayed.
 
16   So she moved onward; and I do not think
17   That her tenth step was placed upon the ground,
18   When with her eyes upon mine eyes she smote,
 
19   And with a tranquil aspect,Come more quickly,
20   To me she said, that, if I speak with thee,
21   To listen to me thou mayst be well placed.
 
22   As soon as I was with her as I should be,
23   She said to me: Why, brother, dost thou not
24   Venture to question now, in coming with me?
 
25   As unto those who are too reverential,
26   Speaking in presence of superiors,
27   Who drag no living utterance to their teeth,
 
28   It me befell, that without perfect sound
29   Began I: My necessity, Madonna,
30   You know, and that which thereunto is good.
 
31   And she to me: Of fear and bashfulness
32   Henceforward I will have thee strip thyself,
33   So that thou speak no more as one who dreams.
 
34   Know that the vessel which the serpent broke
35   Was, and is not; but let him who is guilty
36   Think that God’s vengeance does not fear a sop.
 
37   Without an heir shall not for ever be
38   The Eagle that left his plumes upon the car,
39   Whence it became a monster, then a prey;
 
40   For verily I see, and hence narrate it,
41   The stars already near to bring the time,
42   From every hindrance safe, and every bar,
 
43   Within which a Five-hundred, Ten, and Five,
44   One sent from God, shall slay the thievish woman
45   And that same giant who is sinning with her.
 
46   And peradventure my dark utterance,
47   Like Themis and the Sphinx, may less persuade thee,
48   Since, in their mode, it clouds the intellect;
 
49   But soon the facts shall be the Naiades
50   Who shall this difficult enigma solve,
51   Without destruction of the flocks and harvests.
 
52   Note thou; and even as by me are uttered
53   These words, so teach them unto those who live
54   That life which is a running unto death;
 
55   And bear in mind, whene’er thou writest them,
56   Not to conceal what thou hast seen the plant,
57   That twice already has been pillaged here.
 
58   Whoever pillages or shatters it,
59   With blasphemy of deed offendeth God,
60   Who made it holy for his use alone.
 
61   For biting that, in pain and in desire
62   Five thousand years and more the first-born soul
63   Craved Him, who punished in himself the bite.
 
64   Thy genius slumbers, if it deem it not
65   For special reason so pre-eminent
66   In height, and so inverted in its summit
 
67   And if thy vain imaginings had not been
68   Water of Elsa round about thy mind,
69   And Pyramus to the mulberry, their pleasure,
 
70   Thou by so many circumstances only
71   The justice of the interdict of God
72   Morally in the tree wouldst recognize.
 
73   But since I see thee in thine intellect
74   Converted into stone and stained with sin,
75   So that the light of my discourse doth daze thee,
 
76   I will too, if not written, at least painted,
77   Thou bear it back within thee, for the reason
78   That cinct with palm the pilgrim’s staff is borne.
 
79   And I: As by a signet is the wax
80   Which does not change the figure stamped upon it,
81   My brain is now imprinted by yourself
 
82   But wherefore so beyond my power of sight
83   Soars your desirable discourse, that aye
84   The more I strive, so much the more I lose it?
 
85   That thou mayst recognize, she said, the school
86   Which thou hast followed, and mayst see how far
87   Its doctrine follows after my discourse,
 
88   And mayst behold your path from the divine
89   Distant as far as separated is
90   From earth the heaven that highest hastens on.
 
91   Whence her I answered: I do not remember
92   That ever I estranged myself from you,
93   Nor have I conscience of it that reproves me.
 
94   And if thou art not able to remember,
95   Smiling she answered, recollect thee now
96   That thou this very day hast drunk of Lethe;
 
97   And if from smoke a fire may be inferred,
98   Such an oblivion clearly demonstrates
99   Some error in thy will elsewhere intent.
 
100   Truly from this time forward shall my words
101   Be naked, so far as it is befitting
102   To lay them open unto thy rude gaze.
 
103   And more coruscant and with slower steps
104   The sun was holding the meridian circle,
105   Which, with the point of view, shifts here and there
 
106   When halted (as he cometh to a halt,
107   Who goes before a squadron as its escort,
108   If something new he find upon his way)
 
109   The ladies seven at a dark shadow’s edge,
110   Such as, beneath green leaves and branches black,
111   The Alp upon its frigid border wears.
 
112   In front of them the Tigris and Euphrates
113   Methought I saw forth issue from one fountain,
114   And slowly part, like friends, from one another.
 
115   O light, O glory of the human race!
116   What stream is this which here unfolds itself
117   From out one source, and from itself withdraws?
 
118   For such a prayer, ’twas said unto me, Pray
119   Matilda that she tell thee; and here answered,
120   As one does who doth free himself from blame,
 
121   The beautiful lady: This and other things
122   Were told to him by me; and sure I am
123   The water of Lethe has not hid them from him.
 
124   And Beatrice: Perhaps a greater care,
125   Which oftentimes our memory takes away,
126   Has made the vision of his mind obscure.
 
127   But Eunoe behold, that yonder rises;
128   Lead him to it, and, as thou art accustomed,
129   Revive again the half-dead virtue in him.
 
130   Like gentle soul. that maketh no excuse,
131   But makes its own will of another’s will
132   As soon as by a sign it is disclosed,
 
133   Even so, when she had taken hold of me,
134   The beautiful lady moved, and unto Statius
135   Said, in her womanly manner, Come with him.
 
136   If, Reader, I possessed a longer space
137   For writing it, I yet would sing in part
138   Of the sweet draught that ne’er would satiate me;
 
139   But inasmuch as full are all the leaves
140   Made ready for this second canticle,
141   The curb of art no farther lets me go.
 
142   From the most holy water I returned
143   Regenerate, in the manner of new trees
144   That are renewed with a new foliage,
 
145   Pure and disposed to mount unto the stars.