Phantasmagoria

Paradiso 30 opens by conflating time and space.

To understand the passage that opens Paradiso 30, we have to begin with a premise that allows us to measure time by measuring space: if the moon is 6,000 miles away, then sunrise must be 900 miles—about 1 hour—distant.

We can thereby take the opening passage of Paradiso 30, verses 1-15, to mean the following: As at about 1 hour before sunrise, the stars disappear one by one before the arrival of the sun, so (verses 10 and following) the angelic choirs faded away from my sight, leaving only Beatrice.

The last section of this opening is a simile, which compares the disappearance of the stars from the night sky before dawn to the disappearance of the angelic hierarchies around the point at their center from Dante’s field of vision. In other words, the vision of the universe that was presented in Paradiso 28, the vision of the angelic hierarchies as circles around a blazing point, fades away. The result is, in a reprise of the dynamic that has moved the “plot” of Paradiso so many times before, that the pilgrim’s eyes return to Beatrice:

Non altrimenti il triunfo che lude
sempre dintorno al punto che mi vinse,
parendo inchiuso da quel ch’elli ’nchiude,
a poco a poco al mio veder si stinse:
per che tornar con li occhi a Beatrice 
nulla vedere e amor mi costrinse.	 (Par. 30.10-15)
So did the triumph that forever plays 
around the Point that overcame me (Point
that seems enclosed by that which It encloses)
fade gradually from my sight, so that
my seeing nothing else—and love—compelled
my eyes to turn again to Beatrice.

However, in a sign that we are reaching the end of this great voyage, on this occasion the return of the pilgrim’s eyes to Beatrice is not followed by her articulation of the dubbio that concerns him, or by her explanation of something that he has seen.

Rather, the poem jumps, and Dante here records his great final tribute to Beatrice, a very long and significant metapoetic passage that covers 20 verses (16-36) and that eventually modulates into Beatrice’s beginning to speak in verse 38.

Paradiso 30 is in many ways like the visionary canto Paradiso 23; both canti are rehearsals for the absolute finale, Paradiso 33. The metapoetic passage of canto 30 is reminiscent of the metapoetic passage in canto 23, where the poet first announces that “convien saltar lo sacrato poema, / come chi trova suo cammin riciso” (the sacred poem has to leap across, as does a man who finds his path cut off [Par. 23.62-63]). Similarly in Paradiso 30 the poet announces the cutting off of the narrative line that he has been following up to now, using a Latinism for “cut”, “preciso”, that rhymes with and is etymologically related to the earlier “riciso” in Paradiso 23.

From the first day that he saw her face until this moment, his song has prevailed, his pursuit of it has never been cut off. But, as earlier it behooved him to jump, now it behooves him to desist altogether in his poetic pursuit, in “il seguire al mio cantar” (30), his songful segueing. Where before he wrote “convien saltar lo sacrato poema” (Par. 23.62), now he writes “ma or convien che mio seguir desista” (but now I must desist from this pursuit [Par. 30.31]).

It is this sense of the ending that tinges these verses with an anxiety that was not present earlier, and that expresses itself in the double seguire: the insistence on the line, the long narrative path that extends back to the furthest recesses of the poet’s past, all the way back to the Vita Nuova and its “stilo de la sua loda”, echoed here in the “loda” of verse 17. In order to convey its compelling concern with textuality’s telesthetic linearity, encoded into the repeated infino a (up to the point that), the passage is best cited in full. I have put in bold words that most emphasize the sense of the ending:

Se quanto infino a qui di lei si dice
fosse conchiuso tutto in una loda,
poca sarebbe a fornir questa vice.
La bellezza ch’io vidi si trasmoda
non pur di là da noi, ma certo io credo
che solo il suo fattor tutta la goda.
Da questo passo vinto mi concedo
più che già mai da punto di suo tema
soprato fosse comico o tragedo:
ché, come sole in viso che più trema,
così lo rimembrar del dolce riso
la mente mia da me medesmo scema.
Dal primo giorno ch’i’ vidi il suo viso
in questa vita, infino a questa vista,
non m’è il seguire al mio cantar preciso;
ma or convien che mio seguir desista
più dietro a sua bellezza, poetando,
come a l’ultimo suo ciascuno artista.
Cotal qual io la lascio a maggior bando
che quel de la mia tuba, che deduce
l’ardüa sua matera terminando . . .          (Par. 30.16-36)
If that which has been said of her so far
were all contained within a single praise,
it would be much too scant to serve me now.
The loveliness I saw surpassed not only
our human measure—and I think that, surely,
only its Maker can enjoy it fully.
I yield: I am defeated at this passage
more than a comic or a tragic poet
has ever been by a barrier in his theme;
for like the sun that strikes the frailest eyes,
so does the memory of her sweet smile 
deprive me of the use of my own mind.
From that first day when, in this life, I saw
her face, until I had this vision, no
thing ever cut the sequence of my song,
but now I must desist from this pursuit,
in verses, of her loveliness, just as 
each artist who has reached his limit must.
So she, in beauty (as I leave her to
a herald that is greater than my trumpet,
which nears the end of its hard theme) . . .

Much as the Commedia is the story of what Dante saw, it is also the story of the recounting of what Dante saw. And, although we have felt the arduousness of that recounting before—for instance in the acknowledgement at the beginning of Paradiso 25 that this poem has “made me lean through these long years”—never have we felt the longue durée of Dante’s heroic feat as in these verses of Paradiso 30.

After the poet’s interruption, Beatrice begins to speak and announces that they have left behind the Primum Mobile, the “maggior corpo” (matter’s largest sphere [39]), and have entered the “heaven that is pure light” (39). Her words are an extraordinary example of interwoven language, a miniaturized and distilled version of the Occitan technique of coblas capfinidas, in which the last word of a strophe is picked up in the first word of the next strophe. Here the last word of a verse becomes the first word of the next verse, spelling out luce/luce/amore/amore/letizia/letizia in a golden skein of shimmery language:

con atto e voce di spedito duce
ricominciò: «Noi siamo usciti fore
del maggior corpo al ciel ch’è pura luce:
luce intellettual, piena d’amore;
amor di vero ben, pien di letizia; 
letizia che trascende ogne dolzore.»	 (Par. 30.37-42)
and with the bearing of a guide whose work is done,
she began again: “From matter's largest sphere,
we now have reached the heaven of pure light,
light of the intellect, light filled with love,
love of true good, love filled with happiness,
a happiness surpassing every sweetness.”

Attenuating the hierarchy of intellect over love that was imposed in Paradiso 28, these verses are a graphic and aural incarnation of head-tailed circularity, a textual Alpha and Omega that gathers the ongoing spiral of terza rima into a net of verbal unity.

Beatrice now tells the pilgrim that here he will see both courts of heaven, one angelic and one human, and that he will see the latter, the blessed men and women of the “human court”, in the forms that they will possess at the Last Judgment. The stipulation that he is vouchsafed to see “l’una in quelli aspetti / che tu vedrai a l’ultima giustizia” (one of them wearing that same aspect which you will see again at Judgment Day [Par. 30.44-45]) is remarkable. Dante is here imagining that his vision will have a fullness beyond what is conceded to the blessed themselves before the end of time. Thus, the wish that the pilgrim expressed to Saint Benedict in Paradiso 22, where he begs “ch’io / ti veggia con imagine scoverta” (to let me see, unveiled, your human face [Par. 22.59-60]), will be fulfilled. Nor does Saint Benedict’s solemn promise of Paradiso 22.61-63 refer, as some puzzled commentators have suggested, just to himself.

What follows would be much easier to show you as a film of phantasmagoric visions, rather than to paraphrase in words. But Dante makes the effort to try to put what he saw into words, so let us try to follow him.

Dante sees, he says; he experiences wave after wave of visionary input. Hence the triple rhyme on “vidi”—“I saw”—in verses 95, 97, 99. Triple rhymes constitute a severe break with the ongoing rhythm of terza rima, and are very rare: there are three sets of Cristo rhymes in Paradiso, and the deeply sarcastic rhyme on ammenda in the political diatribe against the royal house of France in Purgatorio 20 (verses 65, 67, and 69).

And so the sacred poem is forced to jump. A triple rhyme is itself a stasis in the rhyme-scheme of the poem that creates a rupture in the narrative line, forcing the poem to jump, “as one who finds his path cut off.” Paradiso 30 does just that, jumping not from simile to simile in the mode of Paradiso 23 but from vision to vision. The pilgrim sees “umbriferi prefazi” of the truth (shadowy prefaces [78]), and the text leaps from one vision to the next, recording some preface of these prefaces of what the pilgrim saw.

The pilgrim is swathed by a living light that gives him a power beyond his own (49-51), kindling in him the ability to see the Empyrean in a sequence of dissolving images. He sees light in the form of a river whose banks are clothed in gemlike flowers, whose effulgence emits living sparks coursing between its shores and its depths:

e vidi lume in forma di rivera
fulvido di fulgore, intra due rive
dipinte di mirabil primavera.  		(Par. 30.61-63)
and I saw light that took a river’s form—
light flashing, reddish-gold, between two banks
painted with wonderful spring flowerings.

After the pilgrim rushes to the river’s banks like an infant desiring milk and drinks of it with his lashes (two imagistic replays of Paradiso 23, another visionary canto), the river appears to him transformed from a length into a circle:

e sì come di lei bevve la gronda 
de le palpebre mie, così mi parve
di sua lunghezza divenuta tonda.  	(Par. 30.88-90)
But as my eyelids’ eaves drank of that wave,
it seemed to me that it had changed its shape:
no longer straight, that flow now formed a round.

Now the pilgrim sees the two courts of heaven made manifest, the sparks appearing as angels and the flowers as saints:

così mi si cambiaro in maggior feste
li fiori e le faville, sì ch’io vidi
ambo le corti del ciel manifeste.  	(Par. 30.94-96)
so were the flowers and the sparks transformed,
changing to such festivity before me
that I saw—clearly—both of Heaven’s courts.

An apostrophe interrupts, an exclamatory tercet in which the poet prays to the divine light itself for the power of language to express what he saw:

O isplendor di Dio, per cu’ io vidi
l’alto trïunfo del regno verace,
dammi virtù a dir com’ïo il vidi! 	 (Par. 30.97-99)
O radiance of God, through which I saw
the noble triumph of the true realm, give
to me the power to speak of what I saw!

The narrator resumes: the light is distended in a circular shape (“in circular figura” [103]), around which rise the many tiers—more than a thousand (“più di mille soglie” [113])—that seat the blessed. The whole is compared to a hillside mirrored in water at its base: “E come clivo in acqua di suo imo / si specchia” (And as a hill is mirrored in waters at its base [109–10]). In the next terzina the image of a hill, expressed through simile, “jumps,” becoming the vision of a rose, which is introduced without even the warning or preparation of a preceding come: suddenly the “clivo” of verse 109 has become, in verse 117, “questa rosa” (this rose). The rose is repeated— “Nel giallo de la rosa sempiterna” (Into the yellow of the eternal Rose [124])—before yielding in turn to the final vision, that of a city: “Vedi nostra città quant’ella gira” (See how much space our city’s circuit spans! [130]). The words “nostra città” signal the transition, by way of the empty throne that awaits Henry VII, into the political invective that closes Paradiso 30.

Beatrice’s last words deal with Dante’s grandiose political vision. Henry VII’s throne in paradise awaits him (he died in 1313), because “he shall show Italy the righteous way—but when she is unready”: “a drizzare Italia / verrà in prima ch’ella sia disposta” (137-38). The future tense of the verb venire, “verrà” in verse 138, placed at the beginning of the verse, is reminiscent of the prophecy of the veltro in Inferno 1: “infin che ’l veltro / verrà” (until the Greyhound arrives [Inf. 1.101-02]).

Italy is “unready” for the arrival of the Emperor in part because of the machinations of the Pope, who does everything possible to thwart Henry VII. Dante is referring in verses 142-48 to Pope Clement V, mentioned in Inferno 19, in the treatment of simony.

Beatrice’s last words in Paradiso 30, which are her last words in the Commedia, remark that Clement will not long be on the papal throne, because he will soon be in the bolgia where Simon Magus pays for his sins. Once arrived in the bolgia of simony, Clement will force “the one from Anagni” deeper into the earth:

Ma poco poi sarà da Dio sofferto
nel santo officio; ch’el sarà detruso
là dove Simon mago è per suo merto, 
e farà quel d’Alagna intrar più giuso. 		(Par. 30.145-48)
But God will not endure him long within 
the holy ministry: he shall be cast 
down there, where Simon Magus pays; he shall
force the Anagnine deeper in his hole.

To me, even more stunning than Beatrice concluding her ministry by referring to Boniface VIII (who was born in Anagni, here “Alagna”) is that she concludes by intratextually buttressing the veracity of the vision of the Commedia. Her words very precisely characterize the punishment of the simonists as described in Inferno 19, where we learn that the sinners are stuck headfirst into holes, and pushed further down when someone new comes along. The intratextual moment is vertiginous, as this visionary canto ends with a very specific vision from the landscape of lower hell, as witnessed and recorded by the author of the Commedia.

Coordinated Reading

Coordinated Reading: The Undivine Comedy, Chapter 10, “The Sacred Poem Is Forced to Jump: Closure and the Poetics of Enjambment,” pp. 241-45.

Recommended Citation

Barolini, Teodolinda. “Paradiso 30: Phantasmagoria.” Commento Baroliniano, Digital Dante. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2017. https://digitaldante.columbia.edu/dante/divine-comedy/paradiso/paradiso-30/

About the Commento

1Forse semilia miglia di lontano
2ci ferve l’ora sesta, e questo mondo
3china già l’ombra quasi al letto piano,

4quando ’l mezzo del cielo, a noi profondo,
5comincia a farsi tal, ch’alcuna stella
6perde il parere infino a questo fondo;

7e come vien la chiarissima ancella
8del sol più oltre, così ’l ciel si chiude
9di vista in vista infino a la più bella.

10Non altrimenti il trïunfo che lude
11sempre dintorno al punto che mi vinse,
12parendo inchiuso da quel ch’elli ’nchiude,

13a poco a poco al mio veder si stinse:
14per che tornar con li occhi a Bëatrice
15nulla vedere e amor mi costrinse.

16Se quanto infino a qui di lei si dice
17fosse conchiuso tutto in una loda,
18poca sarebbe a fornir questa vice.

19La bellezza ch’io vidi si trasmoda
20non pur di là da noi, ma certo io credo
21che solo il suo fattor tutta la goda.

22Da questo passo vinto mi concedo
23più che già mai da punto di suo tema
24soprato fosse comico o tragedo:

25ché, come sole in viso che più trema,
26così lo rimembrar del dolce riso
27la mente mia da me medesmo scema.

28Dal primo giorno ch’i’ vidi il suo viso
29in questa vita, infino a questa vista,
30non m’è il seguire al mio cantar preciso;

31ma or convien che mio seguir desista
32più dietro a sua bellezza, poetando,
33come a l’ultimo suo ciascuno artista.

34Cotal qual io lascio a maggior bando
35che quel de la mia tuba, che deduce
36l’ardüa sua matera terminando,

37con atto e voce di spedito duce
38ricominciò: «Noi siamo usciti fore
39del maggior corpo al ciel ch’è pura luce:

40luce intellettüal, piena d’amore;
41amor di vero ben, pien di letizia;
42letizia che trascende ogne dolzore.

43Qui vederai l’una e l’altra milizia
44di paradiso, e l’una in quelli aspetti
45che tu vedrai a l’ultima giustizia».

46Come sùbito lampo che discetti
47li spiriti visivi, sì che priva
48da l’atto l’occhio di più forti obietti,

49così mi circunfulse luce viva,
50e lasciommi fasciato di tal velo
51del suo fulgor, che nulla m’appariva.

52«Sempre l’amor che queta questo cielo
53accoglie in sé con sì fatta salute,
54per far disposto a sua fiamma il candelo».

55Non fur più tosto dentro a me venute
56queste parole brievi, ch’io compresi
57me sormontar di sopr’ a mia virtute;

58e di novella vista mi raccesi
59tale, che nulla luce è tanto mera,
60che li occhi miei non si fosser difesi;

61e vidi lume in forma di rivera
62fulvido di fulgore, intra due rive
63dipinte di mirabil primavera.

64Di tal fiumana uscian faville vive,
65e d’ogne parte si mettien ne’ fiori,
66quasi rubin che oro circunscrive;

67poi, come inebrïate da li odori,
68riprofondavan sé nel miro gurge,
69e s’una intrava, un’altra n’uscia fori.

70«L’alto disio che mo t’infiamma e urge,
71d’aver notizia di ciò che tu vei,
72tanto mi piace più quanto più turge;

73ma di quest’ acqua convien che tu bei
74prima che tanta sete in te si sazi»:
75così mi disse il sol de li occhi miei.

76Anche soggiunse: «Il fiume e li topazi
77ch’entrano ed escono e ’l rider de l’erbe
78son di lor vero umbriferi prefazi.

79Non che da sé sian queste cose acerbe;
80ma è difetto da la parte tua,
81che non hai viste ancor tanto superbe».

82Non è fantin che sì sùbito rua
83col volto verso il latte, se si svegli
84molto tardato da l’usanza sua,

85come fec’ io, per far migliori spegli
86ancor de li occhi, chinandomi a l’onda
87che si deriva perché vi s’immegli;

88e sì come di lei bevve la gronda
89de le palpebre mie, così mi parve
90di sua lunghezza divenuta tonda.

91Poi, come gente stata sotto larve,
92che pare altro che prima, se si sveste
93la sembianza non süa in che disparve,

94così mi si cambiaro in maggior feste
95li fiori e le faville, sì ch’io vidi
96ambo le corti del ciel manifeste.

97O isplendor di Dio, per cu’ io vidi
98l’alto trïunfo del regno verace,
99dammi virtù a dir com’ ïo il vidi!

100Lume è là sù che visibile face
101lo creatore a quella creatura
102che solo in lui vedere ha la sua pace.

103E’ si distende in circular figura,
104in tanto che la sua circunferenza
105sarebbe al sol troppo larga cintura.

106Fassi di raggio tutta sua parvenza
107reflesso al sommo del mobile primo,
108che prende quindi vivere e potenza.

109E come clivo in acqua di suo imo
110si specchia, quasi per vedersi addorno,
111quando è nel verde e ne’ fioretti opimo,

112sì, soprastando al lume intorno intorno,
113vidi specchiarsi in più di mille soglie
114quanto di noi là sù fatto ha ritorno.

115E se l’infimo grado in sé raccoglie
116sì grande lume, quanta è la larghezza
117di questa rosa ne l’estreme foglie!

118La vista mia ne l’ampio e ne l’altezza
119non si smarriva, ma tutto prendeva
120il quanto e ’l quale di quella allegrezza.

121Presso e lontano, lì, né pon né leva:
122ché dove Dio sanza mezzo governa,
123la legge natural nulla rileva.

124Nel giallo de la rosa sempiterna,
125che si digrada e dilata e redole
126odor di lode al sol che sempre verna,

127qual è colui che tace e dicer vole,
128mi trasse Bëatrice, e disse: «Mira
129quanto è ’l convento de le bianche stole!

130Vedi nostra città quant’ ella gira;
131vedi li nostri scanni sì ripieni,
132che poca gente più ci si disira.

133E ’n quel gran seggio a che tu li occhi tieni
134per la corona che già v’è sù posta,
135prima che tu a queste nozze ceni,

136sederà l’alma, che fia giù agosta,
137de l’alto Arrigo, ch’a drizzare Italia
138verrà in prima ch’ella sia disposta.

139La cieca cupidigia che v’ammalia
140simili fatti v’ha al fantolino
141che muor per fame e caccia via la balia.

142E fia prefetto nel foro divino
143allora tal, che palese e coverto
144non anderà con lui per un cammino.

145Ma poco poi sarà da Dio sofferto
146nel santo officio; ch’el sarà detruso
147là dove Simon mago è per suo merto,

148e farà quel d’Alagna intrar più giuso».

Perhaps six thousand miles away from us,
the sixth hour burns, and now our world inclines
its shadow to an almost level bed,

so that the span of heaven high above
begins to alter so, that some stars are
no longer to be seen from our deep earth;

and as the brightest handmaid of the sun
advances, heaven shuts off, one by one,
its lights, until the loveliest is gone.

So did the triumph that forever plays
around the Point that overcame me (Point
that seems enclosed by that which It encloses)

fade gradually from my sight, so that
my seeing nothing else—and love—compelled
my eyes to turn again to Beatrice.

If that which has been said of her so far
were all contained within a single praise,
it would be much too scant to serve me now.

The loveliness I saw surpassed not only
our human measure—and I think that, surely,
only its Maker can enjoy it fully.

I yield: I am defeated at this passage
more than a comic or a tragic poet
has ever been by a barrier in his theme;

for like the sun that strikes the frailest eyes,
so does the memory of her sweet smile
deprive me of the use of my own mind.

From that first day when, in this life, I saw
her face, until I had this vision, no
thing ever cut the sequence of my song,

but now I must desist from this pursuit,
in verses, of her loveliness, just as
each artist who has reached his limit must.

So she, in beauty (as I leave her to
a herald that is greater than my trumpet,
which nears the end of its hard theme), with voice

and bearing of a guide whose work is done,
began again: “From matter’s largest sphere,
we now have reached the heaven of pure light,

light of the intellect, light filled with love,
love of true good, love filled with happiness,
a happiness surpassing every sweetness.

Here you will see both ranks of Paradise
and see one of them wearing that same aspect
which you will see again at Judgment Day.”

Like sudden lightning scattering the spirits
of sight so that the eye is then too weak
to act on other things it would perceive,

such was the living light encircling me,
leaving me so enveloped by its veil
of radiance that I could see no thing.

“The Love that calms this heaven always welcomes
into Itself with such a salutation,
to make the candle ready for its flame.”

No sooner had these few words entered me
than I became aware that I was rising
beyond the power that was mine; and such

new vision kindled me again, that even
the purest light would not have been so bright
as to defeat my eyes, deny my sight;

and I saw light that took a river’s form—
light flashing, reddish—gold, between two banks
painted with wonderful spring flowerings.

Out of that stream there issued living sparks,
which settled on the flowers on all sides,
like rubies set in gold; and then, as if

intoxicated with the odors, they
again plunged into the amazing flood:
as one spark sank, another spark emerged.

“The high desire that now inflames, incites,
you to grasp mentally the things you see,
pleases me more as it swells more; but first,

that you may satisfy your mighty thirst,
you must drink of these waters.” So did she
who is the sun of my eyes speak to me.

She added this: “The river and the gems
of topaz entering and leaving, and
the grasses’ laughter—these are shadowy

prefaces of their truth; not that these things
are lacking in themselves; the defect lies
in you, whose sight is not yet that sublime.”

No infant who awakes long after his
usual hour would turn his face toward milk
as quickly as I hurried toward that stream;

to make still finer mirrors of my eyes,
I bent down toward the waters which flow there
that we, in them, may find our betterment.

But as my eyelids’ eaves drank of that wave,
it seemed to me that it had changed its shape:
no longer straight, that flow now formed a round.

Then, just as maskers, when they set aside
the borrowed likenesses in which they hide,
seem to be other than they were before,

so were the flowers and the sparks transformed,
changing to such festivity before me
that I saw—clearly—both of Heaven’s courts.

O radiance of God, through which I saw
the noble triumph of the true realm, give
to me the power to speak of what I saw!

Above, on high, there is a light that makes
apparent the Creator to the creature
whose only peace lies in his seeing Him.

The shape which that light takes as it expands
is circular, and its circumference
would be too great a girdle for the sun.

All that one sees of it derives from one
light—ray reflected from the summit of
the Primum Mobile, which from it draws

power and life. And as a hill is mirrored
in waters at its base, as if to see
itself—when rich with grass and flowers—graced,

so, in a thousand tiers that towered above
the light, encircling it, I saw, mirrored,
all of us who have won return above.

And if the lowest rank ingathers such
vast light, then what must be the measure of
this Rose where it has reached its highest leaves!

Within that breadth and height I did not find
my vision gone astray, for it took in
that joy in all its quality and kind.

There, near and far do not subtract or add;
for where God governs with no mediator,
no thing depends upon the laws of nature.

Into the yellow of the eternal Rose
that slopes and stretches and diffuses fragrance
of praise unto the Sun of endless spring,

now Beatrice drew me as one who, though
he would speak out, is silent. And she said:
“See how great is this council of white robes!

See how much space our city’s circuit spans!
See how our seated ranks are now so full
that little room is left for any more!

And in that seat on which your eyes are fixed
because a crown already waits above it,
before you join this wedding feast, shall sit

the soul of noble Henry, he who is,
on earth, to be imperial; he shall
show Italy the righteous way—but when

she is unready. The blind greediness
bewitching you, has made you like the child
who dies of hunger and drives off his nurse.

And in the holy forum such shall be
the Prefect then, that either openly
or secretly he will not walk with Henry.

But God will not endure him long within
the holy ministry: he shall be cast
down there, where Simon Magus pays; he shall

force the Anagnine deeper in his hole.”

PERCHANCE six thousand miles remote from us
Is glowing the sixth hour, and now this world
Inclines its shadow almost to a level,

When the mid—heaven begins to make itself
So deep to us, that here and there a star
Ceases to shine so far down as this depth,

And as advances bright exceedingly
The handmaid of the sun, the heaven is closed
Light after light to the most beautiful;

Not otherwise the Triumph, which for ever
Plays round about the point that vanquished me,
Seeming enclosed by what itself encloses,

Little by little from my vision faded;
Whereat to turn mine eyes on Beatrice
My seeing nothing and my love constrained me.

If what has hitherto been said of her
Were all concluded in a single praise,
Scant would it be to serve the present turn.

Not only does the beauty I beheld
Transcend ourselves, but truly I believe
Its Maker only may enjoy it all.

Vanquished do I confess me by this passage
More than by problem of his theme was ever
O’ercome the comic or the tragic poet;

For as the sun the sight that trembles most,
Even so the memory of that sweet smile
My mind depriveth of its very self.

From the first day that I beheld her face
In this life, to the moment of this look,
The sequence of my song has ne’er been severed;

But now perforce this sequence must desist
From following her beauty with my verse,
As every artist at his uttermost.

Such as I leave her to a greater fame
Than any of my trumpet, which is bringing
Its arduous matter to a final close,

With voice and gesture of a perfect leader
She recommenced: “We from the greatest body
Have issued to the heaven that is pure light;

Light intellectual replete with love,
Love of true good replete with ecstasy,
Ecstasy that transcendeth every sweetness.

Here shalt thou see the one host and the other
Of Paradise, and one in the same aspects
Which at the final judgment thou shalt see.”

Even as a sudden lightning that disperses
The visual spirits, so that it deprives
The eye of impress from the strongest objects

Thus round about me flashed a living light,
And left me swathed around with such a veil
Of its effulgence, that I nothing saw.

‘ Ever the Love which quieteth this heaven
Welcomes into itself with such salute,
To make the candle ready for its flame.”

No sooner had within me these brief words
An entrance found, than I perceived myself
To be uplifted over my own power,

And I with vision new rekindled me,
Such that no light whatever is so pure
But that mine eyes were fortified against it.

And light I saw in fashion of a river
Fulvid with its effulgence, ‘twixt two banks
Depicted with an admirable Spring.

Out of this river issued living sparks,
And on all sides sank down into the flowers,
Like unto rubies that are set in gold;

And then, as if inebriate with the odours,
They plunged again into the wondrous torrent,
And as one entered issued forth another.

“The high desire, that now inflames and moves thee
To have intelligence of what thou seest,
Pleaseth me all the more, the more it swells.

But of this water it behoves thee drink
Before so great a thirst in thee be slaked.”
Thus said to me the sunshine of mine eyes;

And added: “The river and the topazes
Going in and out, and the laughing of the herbage.
Are of their truth foreshadowing prefaces;

Not that these things are difficult in themselves,
But the deficiency is on thy side,
For yet thou hast not vision so exalted.”

There is no babe that leaps so suddenly
With face towards the milk, if he awake
Much later than his usual custom is,

As I did, that I might make better mirrors
Still of mine eyes, down stooping to the wave
Which flows that we therein be better made.

And even as”the penthouse of mine eyelids
Drank of it, it forthwith appeared to me
Out of its length to be transformed to round.

Then as a folk who have been under masks
Seem other than before, if they divest
The semblance not their own they disappeared in,

Thus into greater pomp were changed for me
The flowerets and the sparks, so that I saw
Both of the Courts of Heaven made manifest.

O splendour of God! by means of which I saw
The lofty triumph of the realm veracious,
Give me the power to say how it I saw!

There is a light above, which visible
Makes the Creator unto every creature,
Who only in beholding Him has peace,

And it expands itself in circular form
To such extent, that its circumference
Would be too large a girdle for the sun.

The semblance of it is all made of rays
Reflected from the top of Primal Motion,
Which takes therefrom vitality and power

And as a hill in water at its base
Mirrors itself, as if to see its beauty
When affluent most in verdure and in flowers,

So, ranged aloft all round about the light,
Mirrored I saw in more ranks than a thousand
All who above there have from us returned

And if the lowest row collect within it
So great a light, how vast the amplitude
Is of this Rose in its extremest leaves!

My vision in the vastness and the height
Lost not itself, but comprehended all
The quantity and quality of that gladness.

There near and far nor ad.d nor take away;
For there where God immediately doth govern,
The natural law in naught is relevant.

Into the yellow of the Rose Eternal
That spreads, and multiplies, and breathes an odour
Of praise unto the ever—vernal Sun

As one who silent is and fain would speak,
Me Beatrice drew on, and said: “Behold
Of the white stoles how vast the convent is!

Behold how vast the circuit of our city!
Behold our seats so filled to overflowing,
That here henceforward are few people wanting!

On that great throne whereon thine eyes are fixed
For the crown’s sake already placed upon it,
Before thou suppest at this wedding feast

Shall sit the soul (that is to be Augustus
On earth) of noble Henry, who shall come
To redress Italy ere she be ready.

Blind covetousness, that casts its spell upon you,
Has made you like unto the little child,
Who dies of hunger and drives off the nurse.

And in the sacred forum then shall be
A Prefect such, that openly or covert
On the same road he will not walk with him.

But long of God he will not be endured
In holy office; he shall be thrust down
Where Simon Magus is for his deserts,

And make him of Alagna lower go!”

Perhaps six thousand miles away from us,
the sixth hour burns, and now our world inclines
its shadow to an almost level bed,

so that the span of heaven high above
begins to alter so, that some stars are
no longer to be seen from our deep earth;

and as the brightest handmaid of the sun
advances, heaven shuts off, one by one,
its lights, until the loveliest is gone.

So did the triumph that forever plays
around the Point that overcame me (Point
that seems enclosed by that which It encloses)

fade gradually from my sight, so that
my seeing nothing else—and love—compelled
my eyes to turn again to Beatrice.

If that which has been said of her so far
were all contained within a single praise,
it would be much too scant to serve me now.

The loveliness I saw surpassed not only
our human measure—and I think that, surely,
only its Maker can enjoy it fully.

I yield: I am defeated at this passage
more than a comic or a tragic poet
has ever been by a barrier in his theme;

for like the sun that strikes the frailest eyes,
so does the memory of her sweet smile
deprive me of the use of my own mind.

From that first day when, in this life, I saw
her face, until I had this vision, no
thing ever cut the sequence of my song,

but now I must desist from this pursuit,
in verses, of her loveliness, just as
each artist who has reached his limit must.

So she, in beauty (as I leave her to
a herald that is greater than my trumpet,
which nears the end of its hard theme), with voice

and bearing of a guide whose work is done,
began again: “From matter’s largest sphere,
we now have reached the heaven of pure light,

light of the intellect, light filled with love,
love of true good, love filled with happiness,
a happiness surpassing every sweetness.

Here you will see both ranks of Paradise
and see one of them wearing that same aspect
which you will see again at Judgment Day.”

Like sudden lightning scattering the spirits
of sight so that the eye is then too weak
to act on other things it would perceive,

such was the living light encircling me,
leaving me so enveloped by its veil
of radiance that I could see no thing.

“The Love that calms this heaven always welcomes
into Itself with such a salutation,
to make the candle ready for its flame.”

No sooner had these few words entered me
than I became aware that I was rising
beyond the power that was mine; and such

new vision kindled me again, that even
the purest light would not have been so bright
as to defeat my eyes, deny my sight;

and I saw light that took a river’s form—
light flashing, reddish—gold, between two banks
painted with wonderful spring flowerings.

Out of that stream there issued living sparks,
which settled on the flowers on all sides,
like rubies set in gold; and then, as if

intoxicated with the odors, they
again plunged into the amazing flood:
as one spark sank, another spark emerged.

“The high desire that now inflames, incites,
you to grasp mentally the things you see,
pleases me more as it swells more; but first,

that you may satisfy your mighty thirst,
you must drink of these waters.” So did she
who is the sun of my eyes speak to me.

She added this: “The river and the gems
of topaz entering and leaving, and
the grasses’ laughter—these are shadowy

prefaces of their truth; not that these things
are lacking in themselves; the defect lies
in you, whose sight is not yet that sublime.”

No infant who awakes long after his
usual hour would turn his face toward milk
as quickly as I hurried toward that stream;

to make still finer mirrors of my eyes,
I bent down toward the waters which flow there
that we, in them, may find our betterment.

But as my eyelids’ eaves drank of that wave,
it seemed to me that it had changed its shape:
no longer straight, that flow now formed a round.

Then, just as maskers, when they set aside
the borrowed likenesses in which they hide,
seem to be other than they were before,

so were the flowers and the sparks transformed,
changing to such festivity before me
that I saw—clearly—both of Heaven’s courts.

O radiance of God, through which I saw
the noble triumph of the true realm, give
to me the power to speak of what I saw!

Above, on high, there is a light that makes
apparent the Creator to the creature
whose only peace lies in his seeing Him.

The shape which that light takes as it expands
is circular, and its circumference
would be too great a girdle for the sun.

All that one sees of it derives from one
light—ray reflected from the summit of
the Primum Mobile, which from it draws

power and life. And as a hill is mirrored
in waters at its base, as if to see
itself—when rich with grass and flowers—graced,

so, in a thousand tiers that towered above
the light, encircling it, I saw, mirrored,
all of us who have won return above.

And if the lowest rank ingathers such
vast light, then what must be the measure of
this Rose where it has reached its highest leaves!

Within that breadth and height I did not find
my vision gone astray, for it took in
that joy in all its quality and kind.

There, near and far do not subtract or add;
for where God governs with no mediator,
no thing depends upon the laws of nature.

Into the yellow of the eternal Rose
that slopes and stretches and diffuses fragrance
of praise unto the Sun of endless spring,

now Beatrice drew me as one who, though
he would speak out, is silent. And she said:
“See how great is this council of white robes!

See how much space our city’s circuit spans!
See how our seated ranks are now so full
that little room is left for any more!

And in that seat on which your eyes are fixed
because a crown already waits above it,
before you join this wedding feast, shall sit

the soul of noble Henry, he who is,
on earth, to be imperial; he shall
show Italy the righteous way—but when

she is unready. The blind greediness
bewitching you, has made you like the child
who dies of hunger and drives off his nurse.

And in the holy forum such shall be
the Prefect then, that either openly
or secretly he will not walk with Henry.

But God will not endure him long within
the holy ministry: he shall be cast
down there, where Simon Magus pays; he shall

force the Anagnine deeper in his hole.”

PERCHANCE six thousand miles remote from us
Is glowing the sixth hour, and now this world
Inclines its shadow almost to a level,

When the mid—heaven begins to make itself
So deep to us, that here and there a star
Ceases to shine so far down as this depth,

And as advances bright exceedingly
The handmaid of the sun, the heaven is closed
Light after light to the most beautiful;

Not otherwise the Triumph, which for ever
Plays round about the point that vanquished me,
Seeming enclosed by what itself encloses,

Little by little from my vision faded;
Whereat to turn mine eyes on Beatrice
My seeing nothing and my love constrained me.

If what has hitherto been said of her
Were all concluded in a single praise,
Scant would it be to serve the present turn.

Not only does the beauty I beheld
Transcend ourselves, but truly I believe
Its Maker only may enjoy it all.

Vanquished do I confess me by this passage
More than by problem of his theme was ever
O’ercome the comic or the tragic poet;

For as the sun the sight that trembles most,
Even so the memory of that sweet smile
My mind depriveth of its very self.

From the first day that I beheld her face
In this life, to the moment of this look,
The sequence of my song has ne’er been severed;

But now perforce this sequence must desist
From following her beauty with my verse,
As every artist at his uttermost.

Such as I leave her to a greater fame
Than any of my trumpet, which is bringing
Its arduous matter to a final close,

With voice and gesture of a perfect leader
She recommenced: “We from the greatest body
Have issued to the heaven that is pure light;

Light intellectual replete with love,
Love of true good replete with ecstasy,
Ecstasy that transcendeth every sweetness.

Here shalt thou see the one host and the other
Of Paradise, and one in the same aspects
Which at the final judgment thou shalt see.”

Even as a sudden lightning that disperses
The visual spirits, so that it deprives
The eye of impress from the strongest objects

Thus round about me flashed a living light,
And left me swathed around with such a veil
Of its effulgence, that I nothing saw.

‘ Ever the Love which quieteth this heaven
Welcomes into itself with such salute,
To make the candle ready for its flame.”

No sooner had within me these brief words
An entrance found, than I perceived myself
To be uplifted over my own power,

And I with vision new rekindled me,
Such that no light whatever is so pure
But that mine eyes were fortified against it.

And light I saw in fashion of a river
Fulvid with its effulgence, ‘twixt two banks
Depicted with an admirable Spring.

Out of this river issued living sparks,
And on all sides sank down into the flowers,
Like unto rubies that are set in gold;

And then, as if inebriate with the odours,
They plunged again into the wondrous torrent,
And as one entered issued forth another.

“The high desire, that now inflames and moves thee
To have intelligence of what thou seest,
Pleaseth me all the more, the more it swells.

But of this water it behoves thee drink
Before so great a thirst in thee be slaked.”
Thus said to me the sunshine of mine eyes;

And added: “The river and the topazes
Going in and out, and the laughing of the herbage.
Are of their truth foreshadowing prefaces;

Not that these things are difficult in themselves,
But the deficiency is on thy side,
For yet thou hast not vision so exalted.”

There is no babe that leaps so suddenly
With face towards the milk, if he awake
Much later than his usual custom is,

As I did, that I might make better mirrors
Still of mine eyes, down stooping to the wave
Which flows that we therein be better made.

And even as”the penthouse of mine eyelids
Drank of it, it forthwith appeared to me
Out of its length to be transformed to round.

Then as a folk who have been under masks
Seem other than before, if they divest
The semblance not their own they disappeared in,

Thus into greater pomp were changed for me
The flowerets and the sparks, so that I saw
Both of the Courts of Heaven made manifest.

O splendour of God! by means of which I saw
The lofty triumph of the realm veracious,
Give me the power to say how it I saw!

There is a light above, which visible
Makes the Creator unto every creature,
Who only in beholding Him has peace,

And it expands itself in circular form
To such extent, that its circumference
Would be too large a girdle for the sun.

The semblance of it is all made of rays
Reflected from the top of Primal Motion,
Which takes therefrom vitality and power

And as a hill in water at its base
Mirrors itself, as if to see its beauty
When affluent most in verdure and in flowers,

So, ranged aloft all round about the light,
Mirrored I saw in more ranks than a thousand
All who above there have from us returned

And if the lowest row collect within it
So great a light, how vast the amplitude
Is of this Rose in its extremest leaves!

My vision in the vastness and the height
Lost not itself, but comprehended all
The quantity and quality of that gladness.

There near and far nor ad.d nor take away;
For there where God immediately doth govern,
The natural law in naught is relevant.

Into the yellow of the Rose Eternal
That spreads, and multiplies, and breathes an odour
Of praise unto the ever—vernal Sun

As one who silent is and fain would speak,
Me Beatrice drew on, and said: “Behold
Of the white stoles how vast the convent is!

Behold how vast the circuit of our city!
Behold our seats so filled to overflowing,
That here henceforward are few people wanting!

On that great throne whereon thine eyes are fixed
For the crown’s sake already placed upon it,
Before thou suppest at this wedding feast

Shall sit the soul (that is to be Augustus
On earth) of noble Henry, who shall come
To redress Italy ere she be ready.

Blind covetousness, that casts its spell upon you,
Has made you like unto the little child,
Who dies of hunger and drives off the nurse.

And in the sacred forum then shall be
A Prefect such, that openly or covert
On the same road he will not walk with him.

But long of God he will not be endured
In holy office; he shall be thrust down
Where Simon Magus is for his deserts,

And make him of Alagna lower go!”