The Divine Comedy: Paradiso: Canto XXIII

Paradiso: Canto XXIII

 Even as a bird, 'mid the beloved leaves, Quiet upon the nest of her sweet brood Throughout the night, that hideth all things from us, 
Who, that she may behold their longed-for looks And find the food wherewith to nourish them, In which, to her, grave labours grateful are, 
Anticipates the time on open spray And with an ardent longing waits the sun, Gazing intent as soon as breaks the dawn: 
Even thus my Lady standing was, erect And vigilant, turned round towards the zone Underneath which the sun displays less haste; 
So that beholding her distraught and wistful, Such I became as he is who desiring For something yearns, and hoping is appeased. 
But brief the space from one When to the other; Of my awaiting, say I, and the seeing The welkin grow resplendent more and more. 
And Beatrice exclaimed: "Behold the hosts Of Christ's triumphal march, and all the fruit Harvested by the rolling of these spheres!" 
It seemed to me her face was all aflame; And eyes she had so full of ecstasy That I must needs pass on without describing. 
As when in nights serene of the full moon Smiles Trivia among the nymphs eternal Who paint the firmament through all its gulfs, 
Saw I, above the myriads of lamps, A Sun that one and all of them enkindled, E'en as our own doth the supernal sights, 
And through the living light transparent shone The lucent substance so intensely clear Into my sight, that I sustained it not. 
O Beatrice, thou gentle guide and dear! To me she said: "What overmasters thee A virtue is from which naught shields itself. 
There are the wisdom and the omnipotence That oped the thoroughfares 'twixt heaven and earth, For which there erst had been so long a yearning." 
As fire from out a cloud unlocks itself, Dilating so it finds not room therein, And down, against its nature, falls to earth, 
So did my mind, among those aliments Becoming larger, issue from itself, And that which it became cannot remember. 
"Open thine eyes, and look at what I am: Thou hast beheld such things, that strong enough Hast thou become to tolerate my smile." 
I was as one who still retains the feeling Of a forgotten vision, and endeavours In vain to bring it back into his mind, 
When I this invitation heard, deserving Of so much gratitude, it never fades Out of the book that chronicles the past. 
If at this moment sounded all the tongues That Polyhymnia and her sisters made Most lubrical with their delicious milk, 
To aid me, to a thousandth of the truth It would not reach, singing the holy smile And how the holy aspect it illumed. 
And therefore, representing Paradise, The sacred poem must perforce leap over, Even as a man who finds his way cut off; 
But whoso thinketh of the ponderous theme, And of the mortal shoulder laden with it, Should blame it not, if under this it tremble. 
It is no passage for a little boat This which goes cleaving the audacious prow, Nor for a pilot who would spare himself. 
"Why doth my face so much enamour thee, That to the garden fair thou turnest not, Which under the rays of Christ is blossoming? 
There is the Rose in which the Word Divine Became incarnate; there the lilies are By whose perfume the good way was discovered." 
Thus Beatrice; and I, who to her counsels Was wholly ready, once again betook me Unto the battle of the feeble brows. 
As in the sunshine, that unsullied streams Through fractured cloud, ere now a meadow of flowers Mine eyes with shadow covered o'er have seen, 
So troops of splendours manifold I saw Illumined from above with burning rays, Beholding not the source of the effulgence. 
O power benignant that dost so imprint them! Thou didst exalt thyself to give more scope There to mine eyes, that were not strong enough. 
The name of that fair flower I e'er invoke Morning and evening utterly enthralled My soul to gaze upon the greater fire. 
And when in both mine eyes depicted were The glory and greatness of the living star Which there excelleth, as it here excelled, 
Athwart the heavens a little torch descended Formed in a circle like a coronal, And cinctured it, and whirled itself about it. 
Whatever melody most sweetly soundeth On earth, and to itself most draws the soul, Would seem a cloud that, rent asunder, thunders, 
Compared unto the sounding of that lyre Wherewith was crowned the sapphire beautiful, Which gives the clearest heaven its sapphire hue. 
"I am Angelic Love, that circle round The joy sublime which breathes from out the womb That was the hostelry of our Desire; 
And I shall circle, Lady of Heaven, while Thou followest thy Son, and mak'st diviner The sphere supreme, because thou enterest there." 
Thus did the circulated melody Seal itself up; and all the other lights Were making to resound the name of Mary. 
The regal mantle of the volumes all Of that world, which most fervid is and living With breath of God and with his works and ways, 
Extended over us its inner border, So very distant, that the semblance of it There where I was not yet appeared to me. 
Therefore mine eyes did not possess the power Of following the incoronated flame, Which mounted upward near to its own seed. 
And as a little child, that towards its mother Stretches its arms, when it the milk has taken, Through impulse kindled into outward flame, 
Each of those gleams of whiteness upward reached So with its summit, that the deep affection They had for Mary was revealed to me. 
Thereafter they remained there in my sight, 'Regina coeli' singing with such sweetness, That ne'er from me has the delight departed. 
O, what exuberance is garnered up Within those richest coffers, which had been Good husbandmen for sowing here below! 
There they enjoy and live upon the treasure Which was acquired while weeping in the exile Of Babylon, wherein the gold was left. 
There triumpheth, beneath the exalted Son Of God and Mary, in his victory, Both with the ancient council and the new, 
He who doth keep the keys of such a glory.