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Paradiso: Canto XXIX

 At what time both the children of Latona,   Surmounted by the Ram and by the Scales,   Together make a zone of the horizon, 
As long as from the time the zenith holds them   In equipoise, till from that girdle both   Changing their hemisphere disturb the balance, 
So long, her face depicted with a smile,   Did Beatrice keep silence while she gazed   Fixedly at the point which had o'ercome me. 
Then she began: "I say, and I ask not   What thou dost wish to hear, for I have seen it   Where centres every When and every 'Ubi.' 
Not to acquire some good unto himself,   Which is impossible, but that his splendour   In its resplendency may say, 'Subsisto,' 
In his eternity outside of time,   Outside all other limits, as it pleased him,   Into new Loves the Eternal Love unfolded. 
Nor as if torpid did he lie before;   For neither after nor before proceeded   The going forth of God upon these waters. 
Matter and Form unmingled and conjoined   Came into being that had no defect,   E'en as three arrows from a three-stringed bow. 
And as in glass, in amber, or in crystal   A sunbeam flashes so, that from its coming   To its full being is no interval, 
So from its Lord did the triform effect   Ray forth into its being all together,   Without discrimination of beginning. 
Order was con-created and constructed   In substances, and summit of the world   Were those wherein the pure act was produced. 
Pure potentiality held the lowest part;   Midway bound potentiality with act   Such bond that it shall never be unbound. 
Jerome has written unto you of angels   Created a long lapse of centuries   Or ever yet the other world was made; 
But written is this truth in many places   By writers of the Holy Ghost, and thou   Shalt see it, if thou lookest well thereat. 
And even reason seeth it somewhat,   For it would not concede that for so long   Could be the motors without their perfection. 
Now dost thou know both where and when these Loves   Created were, and how; so that extinct   In thy desire already are three fires. 
Nor could one reach, in counting, unto twenty   So swiftly, as a portion of these angels   Disturbed the subject of your elements. 
The rest remained, and they began this art   Which thou discernest, with so great delight   That never from their circling do they cease. 
The occasion of the fall was the accursed   Presumption of that One, whom thou hast seen   By all the burden of the world constrained. 
Those whom thou here beholdest modest were   To recognise themselves as of that goodness   Which made them apt for so much understanding; 
On which account their vision was exalted   By the enlightening grace and their own merit,   So that they have a full and steadfast will. 
I would not have thee doubt, but certain be,   'Tis meritorious to receive this grace,   According as the affection opens to it. 
Now round about in this consistory   Much mayst thou contemplate, if these my words   Be gathered up, without all further aid. 
But since upon the earth, throughout your schools,   They teach that such is the angelic nature   That it doth hear, and recollect, and will, 
More will I say, that thou mayst see unmixed   The truth that is confounded there below,   Equivocating in such like prelections. 
These substances, since in God's countenance   They jocund were, turned not away their sight   From that wherefrom not anything is hidden; 
Hence they have not their vision intercepted   By object new, and hence they do not need   To recollect, through interrupted thought. 
So that below, not sleeping, people dream,   Believing they speak truth, and not believing;   And in the last is greater sin and shame. 
Below you do not journey by one path   Philosophising; so transporteth you   Love of appearance and the thought thereof. 
And even this above here is endured   With less disdain, than when is set aside   The Holy Writ, or when it is distorted. 
They think not there how much of blood it costs   To sow it in the world, and how he pleases   Who in humility keeps close to it. 
Each striveth for appearance, and doth make   His own inventions; and these treated are   By preachers, and the Evangel holds its peace. 
One sayeth that the moon did backward turn,   In the Passion of Christ, and interpose herself   So that the sunlight reached not down below; 
And lies; for of its own accord the light   Hid itself; whence to Spaniards and to Indians,   As to the Jews, did such eclipse respond. 
Florence has not so many Lapi and Bindi   As fables such as these, that every year   Are shouted from the pulpit back and forth, 
In such wise that the lambs, who do not know,   Come back from pasture fed upon the wind,   And not to see the harm doth not excuse them. 
Christ did not to his first disciples say,   'Go forth, and to the world preach idle tales,'   But unto them a true foundation gave; 
And this so loudly sounded from their lips,   That, in the warfare to enkindle Faith,   They made of the Evangel shields and lances. 
Now men go forth with jests and drolleries   To preach, and if but well the people laugh,   The hood puffs out, and nothing more is asked. 
But in the cowl there nestles such a bird,   That, if the common people were to see it,   They would perceive what pardons they confide in, 
For which so great on earth has grown the folly,   That, without proof of any testimony,   To each indulgence they would flock together. 
By this Saint Anthony his pig doth fatten,   And many others, who are worse than pigs,   Paying in money without mark of coinage. 
But since we have digressed abundantly,   Turn back thine eyes forthwith to the right path,   So that the way be shortened with the time. 
This nature doth so multiply itself   In numbers, that there never yet was speech   Nor mortal fancy that can go so far. 
And if thou notest that which is revealed   By Daniel, thou wilt see that in his thousands   Number determinate is kept concealed. 
The primal light, that all irradiates it,   By modes as many is received therein,   As are the splendours wherewith it is mated. 
Hence, inasmuch as on the act conceptive   The affection followeth, of love the sweetness   Therein diversely fervid is or tepid. 
The height behold now and the amplitude   Of the eternal power, since it hath made   Itself so many mirrors, where 'tis broken, 
One in itself remaining as before."