The Ultimate Family Romance

In Paradiso 30 the pilgrim experiences visions that transition from a river banked with springtime flora to a verdant amphitheater to a redolent rose to a celestial Jerusalem: the poet’s representational phantasmagoria slide from one image to another in a classic example of the Paradiso’s jumping discourse. And yet, as cued by the political theme that provides Beatrice her last speech, Paradiso 30 as a whole displays a mixed mode, in which the language of difference coexists with the language of mystical unity.

In The Undivine Comedy, I write about the Paradiso’s two textual modes: one (the backbone of the Commedia) is discursive, logical, linear, intellective, governed by difference and distinction; the other is “lyrical”, anti-narrative, non-discursive, non-linear, affective, metaphoric, chiasmic, enjambed, governed by the (ultimately impossible) attempt to thwart difference and to create the linguistic effect of unity. In Chapter 7 of The Undivine Comedy, “Nonfalse Errors and the True Dreams of the Evangelist,” I show, à propos the dreams of Purgatorio, how the percentage of the lyrical style begins to increase within the overall texture of the poem as it proceeds (pp. 163-65). The three chapters devoted to Paradiso spell out the rising admixture of the lyrical mode—what in the last chapter of The Undivine Comedy I call the enjambed mode—within the third cantica.

Paradiso 23 is probably the Paradiso’s most purely affective and lyrical canto, a circulata melodia, to adopt the language of the canto itself. But not even Paradiso 23 belongs completely to one mode.

Below you will find a diagram of Paradiso 30-33 that parses the final four canti in terms of their oscillations between the two textual modes. It is an old class handout, which predates The Undivine Comedy of 1992 (I still use Roman numerals for the canto numbers, rather than Arabic numerals), but it is still useful as a way of visualizing the narrative shifts at the end of the poem.

As the diagram shows, Paradiso 30 is to a great degree written in the lyrical style: it is dense with metaphoric language—the pilgrim drinks with his eyes from the river of light, the rose is redolent with the perfume of praise—although it veers away from lyricism at the end. Paradiso 31 and 32, while having lyrical moments (canto 32 has fewer such than canto 31), constitute instead a final attempt to bring order and discursivity to the representation of paradise.

A final point in this preamble regards narrative structure. Looking back over the titles of the Introductions to the canti of Paradiso, you will see that the title of Paradiso 21 is “The Beginning of the End”. For reasons that I discuss in the Introduction to Paradiso 21, I place the beginning of the end of the Commedia in the heaven of Saturn, the seventh heaven. Structurally, the beginning of the end includes the great narrative block of the eighth heaven, the heaven of the fixed stars: this heaven commences toward the end of Paradiso 22 and concludes about two-thirds of the way through Paradiso 27, and it is bookended by the two Orphic moments of looking back at earth.

In these canti, as elsewhere, there is a principle of narrative variatio at work: linguistic unity, very hard to sustain, is always a poetic explosion (as in Paradiso 23) that is preceded and followed by a return to discursivity and difference.

We can apply these same categories to the last six canti of the Paradiso. With regard to the formal disposition of Paradiso’s final six canti, we have hitherto noted a 2 + 4 arrangement: two canti constituting, geographically, the Primum Mobile (Paradiso 28-29); and four canti constituting, geographically, the Empyrean (Paradiso 30-33).

From the point of view of alternations in narrative mode, however, we can view the same six canti as forming a 3 + 3 arrangement: two canti in the discursive mode (Paradiso 28-29), followed by one anti-narrative canto (Paradiso 30); and again, two canti in the discursive mode (Paradiso 31-32), followed by a final lyrical explosion (Paradiso 33).

In both sets of three canti each (set 1=Paradiso 28-30 and set 2=Paradiso 31-33), the logical/discursive/intellective canti set the stage for the explosions of unity that follow, a unity that can best be achieved—in the non-unified medium of language—negatively: by not doing what has just been done, by rejecting the discourse that is privileged in the canti of difference. In other words, Paradiso 28-29 enable Paradiso 30 to be forged as the antithesis of themselves, and likewise, Paradiso 31-32 prepare for the poem’s finale. The pattern in the two sets is basically the same, with the proviso that while Paradiso 28-29 move from more difference in canto 28 to less in canto 29, Paradiso 31-32 move from less difference in canto 31 to more in canto 32, the better to offset canto 33.

***

The intellective stamp of Paradiso 31 is evident from its opening verse, from the strong metrical beat that falls on the verse’s centerpiece, the intellectualizing “dunque” that mediates between “In forma” on the one hand and “di candida rosa” on the other. A word that has over the centuries been earmarked for use by teachers and scholars, the sublime dunque of Paradiso 31.1 hastens the passage from Paradiso 30’s lyrical rose redolent of praise to the more prosaic rose of Paradiso 31 and 32: a categorized and hierarchical rose, whose form is to be explained, unfolded, shorn of all mystery.

“In forma dunque di candida rosa” (So, in the shape of that white rose” [Par. 31.1]) declares the narrator, at the same time announcing the explanatory and didactic functions of these canti, whose duty is to explore the shape and content of paradise. These canti encompass the form of paradise—the “forma general di paradiso” as it will later be called (Par. 31.52)—in the language of formal exposition.

As compared to Paradiso 33’s metaphoric vision of the universe bound by love in one volume, a vision wherein the poet thinks he saw, because he still feels, the universal form of things, in Paradiso 31 and 32 the poet’s task is not to feel the form of things so much as to explain, describe, and, as much as possible, divulge. In these canti, and especially in Paradiso 32, his task is to reason why: not to try to communicate a private and trans-rational emotion but to sustain a rational, discursive, and public inquest into the forma general di paradiso.

In the same way that the transition from Paradiso 23 (mystical, visionary, lyrical) to Paradiso 24 (discursive, analytical, narrativized) finds its emblem in the transition from the lush affective similes of canto 23 to the narrative simile of the bachelor student in canto 24, so the lush metaphors of Paradiso 30 give way, in Paradiso 31, to the narrativized simile of the barbarians who come to Rome and are amazed at the Lateran and the other monuments of the imperial city:

Se i barbari, venendo da tal plaga
che ciascun giorno d’Elice si cuopra,
rotante col suo figlio ond’ella è vaga, 
veggendo Roma e l’ardua sua opra, 
stupefaciensi, quando Laterano 
a le cose mortali andò di sopra; 
io, che al divino da l’umano,
a l’etterno dal tempo era venuto,
e di Fiorenza in popol giusto e sano
di che stupor dovea esser compiuto!		 (Par. 31.31-40)
If the Barbarians, when they came from
a region that is covered every day
by Helice, who wheels with her loved son, 
were, seeing Rome and her vast works, struck dumb
(when, of all mortal things, the Lateran
was the most eminent), then what amazement
must have filled me when I to the divine
came from the human, to eternity from time,
and to a people just and sane, from Florence came!

The simile of the barbarians opens into the breathtaking description of the pilgrim’s amazement at his experience. Three transitions render the pilgrim’s experience of paradise, one more effective than the next: he has come to the divine from the human, to eternity from time, and—reversing directionality, and importing a proper name (like the previous “Laterano”) into the string of abstract nouns, we arrive at the stunningly localized third transition—from Florence to a people who are just and sane.

Dante-pilgrim, like (in another simile) a pilgrim who has reached the temple that he has vowed to reach, now participates in a visual tour of the rose, “passeggiando” with his eyes through the living light:

E quasi peregrin che si ricrea
nel tempio del suo voto riguardando,
e spera già ridir com’ello stea, 
su per la viva luce passeggiando,
menava io li occhi per li gradi,
mo sù, mo giù e mo recirculando. 		(Par. 31.43-48)
And as a pilgrim, in the temple he
had vowed to reach, renews himself—he looks
and hopes he can describe what it was like—
so did I journey through the living light,
guiding my eyes, from rank to rank, along
a path now up, now down, now circling round.

While Dante is taking in “the general form of paradise” (“La forma general di paradiso” [Par. 31.52]), he is surprised by the unexpected change of his guide. He turns to share his experience with Beatrice (as, on a similar occasion in Purgatorio 30, he turns to share his experience with Virgilio), but where he expected to see “the one”, instead he sees “another” (“Uno intendea, e altro mi rispuose” [58]). The other is an old man, Saint Bernard:

Uno intendea, e altro mi rispuose: 	
credea veder Beatrice e vidi un sene
vestito con le genti gloriose.  			(Par. 31.58-60)
Where I expected her, another answered: 
I thought I should see Beatrice, and saw an
elder dressed like those who are in glory.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a noted twelfth-century French mystic, points to Beatrice in her celestial throne (69) and—after the pilgrim speaks a farewell prayer of thanks to his beloved—he invites Dante to complete his quest by continuing his “eye tour” of the rose, “flying with your eyes through this garden” (verse 97):

E ’l santo sene: «Acciò che tu assommi 
perfettamente», disse, «il tuo cammino,
a che priego e amor santo mandommi,
vola con li occhi per questo giardino;
ché veder lui t’acconcerà lo sguardo
più al montar per lo raggio divino.»		 (Par. 31.94-99)
And he, the holy elder, said: “That you
may consummate your journey perfectly—
for this, both prayer and holy love have sent me
to help you—let your sight fly round this garden;
by gazing so, your vision will be made
more ready to ascend through God's own ray.”

What accounts for the substitution of Beatrice by Bernard? The answer, which surely has many facets and dimensions, must include some reference to the family romance that Dante constitutes in the pages of the Commedia and thus to the roles of age and gender within that “family” of protagonists. This moment in Paradiso 31 is the second occasion in which there has been a substitution involving old/male and young/female: the first such occasion, deeply painful, occurs in Purgatorio 30, when the pilgrim is for the nonce so wounded by the loss of Virgilio that he does not take pleasure in the arrival of Beatrice. This second substitution involves no pain, only mild surprise, and the directionality of the substitution is reversed, as now Dante puts the old and male Bernard in the place of the young and female Beatrice. One reason for this, in effect stated by Bernard in his characterization of himself, is that the eros brought to the equation by the relationship of Dante and Beatrice would now be misplaced. Hence, for reasons that transcend personality, almost as birth order in a family is said to do, the “one” must now be replaced by “the other:” “Uno intendea, e altro mi rispuose” (Par. 31.58). In fact, a male guide and intercessor is now de rigeur, for the eros required at this junction must be directed not by Dante toward his female guide, but by a male guide toward a female intercessor. This is the ultimate intercessor, Mary, whose devotee Bernard declares himself to be:

E la regina del cielo, ond’io ardo
tutto d’amor, ne farà ogne grazia,
però ch’i’ sono il suo fedel Bernardo.		 (Par. 31.100-02)
The Queen of Heaven, for whom I am all 
aflame with love, will grant us every grace:
I am her faithful Bernard.

Here the language of courtly love is used by Bernard for Mary, indicating that the language of courtly love of Dante for Beatrice has been transposed: a new female intercessor has taken the place of the localized, historicized, indeed Florentine intercessor (“di Fiorenza in popol giusto e sano”!), who has guided Dante from the time of the Vita Nuova till now.

The simile of the Croatian pilgrim who has come to Rome to view the Veronica (103-08) continues the evocation of geographical places and actual journeys and heightens the sense of a long and arduous journey that has been successfully brought to completion. Moreover, the recounting in direct discourse of the Croatian pilgrim’s thoughts as he faces the icon gives dramatic shape not only to his own mini-narrative but to the enveloping narrative of the Commedia’s pilgrim, who is nearing the point at which he too may hope to see Christ’s face.

Will there be an anthropomorphized divinity at the end of this pilgrimage? The expectation is duly raised by the simile of the Croatian pilgrim, who simply and affectingly asks himself:

Segnor mio Iesù Cristo, Dio verace,
or fu sì fatta la sembianza vostra?		 (Par. 31.107-08)
O my Lord Jesus Christ, true God, was then
Your image like the image I see now?

The family romance continues, in the idea of Christ’s face, and in that of his mother, whose face—as Saint Bernard tells Dante in the next canto—most resembles the face of Christ: “Riguarda omai ne la faccia che a Cristo / più si somiglia” (Look now upon the face that is most like the face of Christ [Par. 32.85-86]).

The new intercessor, Christ’s mother, is the queen of heaven, and Paradiso 31 ends with Dante’s attempt to lift his gaze toward the extreme radiance of that flame.

dante2

Coordinated Reading

Coordinated Reading: The Undivine Comedy, Chapter 10, “The Sacred Poem Is Forced to Jump: Closure and the Poetics of Enjambment,” pp. 245-51.

Recommended Citation

Barolini, Teodolinda. “Paradiso 31: The Ultimate Family Romance.” Commento Baroliniano, Digital Dante. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2017. https://digitaldante.columbia.edu/dante/divine-comedy/paradiso/paradiso-31/

About the Commento

1In forma dunque di candida rosa
2mi si mostrava la milizia santa
3che nel suo sangue Cristo fece sposa;

4ma l’altra, che volando vede e canta
5la gloria di colui che la ’nnamora
6e la bontà che la fece cotanta,

7sì come schiera d’ape che s’infiora
8una fïata e una si ritorna
9là dove suo laboro s’insapora,

10nel gran fior discendeva che s’addorna
11di tante foglie, e quindi risaliva
12là dove ’l süo amor sempre soggiorna.

13Le facce tutte avean di fiamma viva
14e l’ali d’oro, e l’altro tanto bianco,
15che nulla neve a quel termine arriva.

16Quando scendean nel fior, di banco in banco
17porgevan de la pace e de l’ardore
18ch’elli acquistavan ventilando il fianco.

19Né l’interporsi tra ’l disopra e ’l fiore
20di tanta moltitudine volante
21impediva la vista e lo splendore:

22ché la luce divina è penetrante
23per l’universo secondo ch’è degno,
24sì che nulla le puote essere ostante.

25Questo sicuro e gaudïoso regno,
26frequente in gente antica e in novella,
27viso e amore avea tutto ad un segno.

28O trina luce che ’n unica stella
29scintillando a lor vista, sì li appaga!
30guarda qua giuso a la nostra procella!

31Se i barbari, venendo da tal plaga
32che ciascun giorno d’Elice si cuopra,
33rotante col suo figlio ond’ ella è vaga,

34veggendo Roma e l’ardüa sua opra,
35stupefaciensi, quando Laterano
36a le cose mortali andò di sopra;

37ïo, che al divino da l’umano,
38a l’etterno dal tempo era venuto,
39e di Fiorenza in popol giusto e sano,

40di che stupor dovea esser compiuto!
41Certo tra esso e ’l gaudio mi facea
42libito non udire e starmi muto.

43E quasi peregrin che si ricrea
44nel tempio del suo voto riguardando,
45e spera già ridir com’ ello stea,

46su per la viva luce passeggiando,
47menava ïo li occhi per li gradi,
48mo sù, mo giù e mo recirculando.

49Vedëa visi a carità süadi,
50d’altrui lume fregiati e di suo riso,
51e atti ornati di tutte onestadi.

52La forma general di paradiso
53già tutta mïo sguardo avea compresa,
54in nulla parte ancor fermato fiso;

55e volgeami con voglia rïaccesa
56per domandar la mia donna di cose
57di che la mente mia era sospesa.

58Uno intendëa, e altro mi rispuose:
59credea veder Beatrice e vidi un sene
60vestito con le genti glorïose.

61Diffuso era per li occhi e per le gene
62di benigna letizia, in atto pio
63quale a tenero padre si convene.

64E «Ov’ è ella?», sùbito diss’ io.
65Ond’ elli: «A terminar lo tuo disiro
66mosse Beatrice me del loco mio;

67e se riguardi sù nel terzo giro
68dal sommo grado, tu la rivedrai
69nel trono che suoi merti le sortiro».

70Sanza risponder, li occhi sù levai,
71e vidi lei che si facea corona
72reflettendo da sé li etterni rai.

73Da quella regïon che più sù tona
74occhio mortale alcun tanto non dista,
75qualunque in mare più giù s’abbandona,

76quanto lì da Beatrice la mia vista;
77ma nulla mi facea, ché süa effige
78non discendëa a me per mezzo mista.

79«O donna in cui la mia speranza vige,
80e che soffristi per la mia salute
81in inferno lasciar le tue vestige,

82di tante cose quant’ i’ ho vedute,
83dal tuo podere e da la tua bontate
84riconosco la grazia e la virtute.

85Tu m’hai di servo tratto a libertate
86per tutte quelle vie, per tutt’ i modi
87che di ciò fare avei la potestate.

88La tua magnificenza in me custodi,
89sì che l’anima mia, che fatt’ hai sana,
90piacente a te dal corpo si disnodi».

91Così orai; e quella, sì lontana
92come parea, sorrise e riguardommi;
93poi si tornò a l’etterna fontana.

94E ’l santo sene: «Acciò che tu assommi
95perfettamente», disse, «il tuo cammino,
96a che priego e amor santo mandommi,

97vola con li occhi per questo giardino;
98ché veder lui t’acconcerà lo sguardo
99più al montar per lo raggio divino.

100E la regina del cielo, ond’ ïo ardo
101tutto d’amor, ne farà ogne grazia,
102però ch’i’ sono il suo fedel Bernardo».

103Qual è colui che forse di Croazia
104viene a veder la Veronica nostra,
105che per l’antica fame non sen sazia,

106ma dice nel pensier, fin che si mostra:
107‘Segnor mio Iesù Cristo, Dio verace,
108or fu sì fatta la sembianza vostra?’;

109tal era io mirando la vivace
110carità di colui che ’n questo mondo,
111contemplando, gustò di quella pace.

112«Figliuol di grazia, quest’ esser giocondo»,
113cominciò elli, «non ti sarà noto,
114tenendo li occhi pur qua giù al fondo;

115ma guarda i cerchi infino al più remoto,
116tanto che veggi seder la regina
117cui questo regno è suddito e devoto».

118Io levai li occhi; e come da mattina
119la parte orïental de l’orizzonte
120soverchia quella dove ’l sol declina,

121così, quasi di valle andando a monte
122con li occhi, vidi parte ne lo stremo
123vincer di lume tutta l’altra fronte.

124E come quivi ove s’aspetta il temo
125che mal guidò Fetonte, più s’infiamma,
126e quinci e quindi il lume si fa scemo,

127così quella pacifica oriafiamma
128nel mezzo s’avvivava, e d’ogne parte
129per igual modo allentava la fiamma;

130e a quel mezzo, con le penne sparte,
131vid’ io più di mille angeli festanti,
132ciascun distinto di fulgore e d’arte.

133Vidi a lor giochi quivi e a lor canti
134ridere una bellezza, che letizia
135era ne li occhi a tutti li altri santi;

136e s’io avessi in dir tanta divizia
137quanta ad imaginar, non ardirei
138lo minimo tentar di sua delizia.

139Bernardo, come vide li occhi miei
140nel caldo suo caler fissi e attenti,
141li suoi con tanto affetto volse a lei,

142che ’ miei di rimirar fé più ardenti.

So, in the shape of that white Rose, the holy
legion was shown to me—the host that Christ,
with His own blood, had taken as His bride.

The other host, which, flying, sees and sings
the glory of the One who draws its love,
and that goodness which granted it such glory,

just like a swarm of bees that, at one moment,
enters the flowers and, at another, turns
back to that labor which yields such sweet savor,

descended into that vast flower graced
with many petals, then again rose up
to the eternal dwelling of its love.

Their faces were all living flame; their wings
were gold; and for the rest, their white was so
intense, no snow can match the white they showed.

When they climbed down into that flowering Rose,
from rank to rank, they shared that peace and ardor
which they had gained, with wings that fanned their sides.

Nor did so vast a throng in flight, although
it interposed between the candid Rose
and light above, obstruct the sight or splendor,

because the light of God so penetrates
the universe according to the worth
of every part, that no thing can impede it.

This confident and joyous kingdom, thronged
with people of both new and ancient times,
turned all its sight and ardor to one mark.

O threefold Light that, in a single star
sparkling into their eyes, contents them so,
look down and see our tempest here below!

If the Barbarians, when they came from
a region that is covered every day
by Helice, who wheels with her loved son,

were, seeing Rome and her vast works, struck dumb
(when, of all mortal things, the Lateran
was the most eminent), then what amazement

must have filled me when I to the divine
came from the human, to eternity
from time, and to a people just and sane

from Florence came! And certainly, between
the wonder and the joy, it must have been
welcome to me to hear and speak nothing.

And as a pilgrim, in the temple he
had vowed to reach, renews himself—he looks
and hopes he can describe what it was like—

so did I journey through the living light,
guiding my eyes, from rank to rank, along
a path now up, now down, now circling round.

There I saw faces given up to love—
graced with Another’s light and their own smile—
and movements graced with every dignity.

By now my gaze had taken in the whole
of Paradise—its form in general—
but without looking hard at any part;

and I, my will rekindled, turning toward
my lady, was prepared to ask about
those matters that inclined my mind to doubt.

Where I expected her, another answered:
I thought I should see Beatrice, and saw
an elder dressed like those who are in glory.

His gracious gladness filled his eyes, suffused
his cheeks; his manner had that kindliness
which suits a tender father. “Where is she?”

I asked him instantly. And he replied:
“That all your longings may be satisfied,
Beatrice urged me from my place. If you

look up and to the circle that is third
from that rank which is highest, you will see
her on the throne her merits have assigned her.”

I, without answering, then looked on high
and saw that round her now a crown took shape
as she reflected the eternal rays.

No mortal eye, not even one that plunged
into deep seas, would be so distant from
that region where the highest thunder forms,

as—there—my sight was far from Beatrice;
but distance was no hindrance, for her semblance
reached me—undimmed by any thing between.

“O lady, you in whom my hope gains strength,
you who, for my salvation, have allowed
your footsteps to be left in Hell, in all

the things that I have seen, I recognize
the grace and benefit that I, depending
upon your power and goodness, have received.

You drew me out from slavery to freedom
by all those paths, by all those means that were
within your power. Do, in me, preserve

your generosity, so that my soul,
which you have healed, when it is set loose from
my body, be a soul that you will welcome.”

So did I pray. And she, however far
away she seemed, smiled, and she looked at me.
Then she turned back to the eternal fountain.

And he, the holy elder, said: “That you
may consummate your journey perfectly—
for this, both prayer and holy love have sent me

to help you—let your sight fly round this garden;
by gazing so, your vision will be made
more ready to ascend through God’s own ray.

The Queen of Heaven, for whom I am all
aflame with love, will grant us every grace:
I am her faithful Bernard.” Just as one

who, from Croatia perhaps, has come
to visit our Veronica—one whose
old hunger is not sated, who, as long

as it is shown, repeats these words in thought:
“O my Lord Jesus Christ, true God, was then
Your image like the image I see now?”—

such was I as I watched the living love
of him who, in this world, in contemplation,
tasted that peace. And he said: “Son of grace,

you will not come to know this joyous state
if your eyes only look down at the base;
but look upon the circles, look at those

that sit in a position more remote,
until you see upon her seat the Queen
to whom this realm is subject and devoted.”

I lifted up my eyes; and as, at morning,
the eastern side of the horizon shows
more splendor than the side where the sun sets,

so, as if climbing with my eyes from valley
to summit, I saw one part of the farthest
rank of the Rose more bright than all the rest.

And as, on earth, the point where we await
the shaft that Phaethon had misguided glows
brightest, while, to each side, the light shades off,

so did the peaceful oriflamme appear
brightest at its midpoint, so did its flame,
on each side, taper off at equal pace.

I saw, around that midpoint, festive angels—
more than a thousand—with their wings outspread;
each was distinct in splendor and in skill.

And there I saw a loveliness that when
it smiled at the angelic songs and games
made glad the eyes of all the other saints.

And even if my speech were rich as my
imagination is, I should not try
to tell the very least of her delights.

Bernard—when he had seen my eyes intent,
fixed on the object of his burning fervor—
turned his own eyes to her with such affection

that he made mine gaze still more ardently.

IN fashion then as of a snow—white rose
Displayed itself to me the saintly host,
Whom Christ in his own blood had made his bride,

But the other host, that flying sees and sings
The glory of Him who doth enamour it,
And the goodness that created it so noble,

Even as a swarm of bees, that sinks in flowers
One moment, and the next returns again
To where its labour is to sweetness turned,

Sank into the great flower, that is adorned
With leaves so many, and thence reascended
To where its love abideth evermore.

Their faces had they all of living flame,
And wings of gold, and all the rest so white
No snow unto that limit doth attain.

From bench to bench, into the flower descending,
They carried something of the peace and ardour
Which by the fanning of their flanks they won.

Nor did the interposing ‘twixt the flower
And what was o’er it of such plenitude
Of flying shapes impede the sight and splendour;

Because the light divine so penetrates
The universe, according to its merit,
That naught can be an obstacle against it.

This realm secure and full of gladsomeness,
Crowded with ancient people and with modern,
Unto one mark had all its look and love.

O Trinal Light, that in a single star
Sparkling upon their sight so satisfies them,
Look down upon our tempest here below!

If the barbarians, coming from some region
That every day by Helice is covered,
Revolving with her son whom she delights in,

Beholding Rome and all her noble works,
Were wonder—struck, what time the Lateran
Above all mortal things was eminent,—

I who to the divine had from the human,
From time unto eternity, had come,
From Florence to a people just and sane,

With what amazement must I have been filled!
Truly between this and the joy, it was
My pleasure not to hear, and to be mute.

And as a pilgrim who delighteth him
In gazing round the temple of his vow,
And hopes some day to retell how it was,

So through the living light my way pursuing
Directed I mine eyes o’er all the ranks,
Now up, now down, and now all round about.

Faces I saw of charity persuasive,
Embellished by His light and their own smile,
And attitudes adorned with every grace.

The general form of Paradise already
My glance had comprehended as a whole,
In no part hitherto remaining fixed,

And round I turned me with rekindled wish
My Lady to interrogate of things
Concerning which my mind was in suspense.

One thing I meant, another answered me;
I thought I should see Beatrice, and saw
An Old Man habited like the glorious people.

O’erflowing was he in his eyes and cheeks
With joy benign, in attitude of pity
As to a tender father is becoming.

And “She, where is she ?” instantly I said;
Whence he: “To put an end to thy desire,
Me Beatrice hath sent from mine own place.

And if thou lookest up to the third round
Of the first rank, again shalt thou behold her
Upon the throne her merits have assigned her.”

Without reply I lifted up mine eyes,
And saw her, as she made herself a crown
Reflecting from herself the eternal rays.

Not from that region which the highest thunders
Is any mortal eye so far removed,
In whatsoever sea it deepest sinks,

As there from Beatrice my sight; but this
Was nothing unto me; because her image
Descended not to me by medium blurred.

“O Lady, thou in whom my hope is strong,
And who for my salvation didst endure
In Hell to leave the imprint of thy feet,

Of whatsoever things I have beheld,
As coming from thy power and from thy goodness
I recognise the virtue and the grace.

Thou from a slave hast brought me unto freedom,
By all those ways, by all the expedients,
Whereby thou hadst the power of doing it.

Preserve towards me thy magnificence,
So that this soul of mine, which thou hast healed,
Pleasing to thee be loosened from the body.”

Thus I implored ; and she, so far away,
Smiled, as it seemed, and looked once more at me
Then unto the eternal fountain turned.

And said the Old Man holy: “That thou mayst
Accomplish perfectly thy journeying,
Whereunto prayer and holy love have sent me,

Fly with thine eyes all round about this garden
For seeing it will discipline thy sight
Farther to mount along the ray divine.

And she, the Queen of Heaven, for whom I burn
Wholly with love, will grant us every grace,
Because that I her faithful Bernard am.”

As he who peradventure from Croatia
Cometh to gaze at our Veronica,
Who through its ancient fame is never sated,

But says in thought, the while it is displayed,
“My Lord, Christ Jesus, God of very God,
Now was your semblance made like unto this ?”

Even such was I while gazing at the living
Charity of the man, who in this world
By contemplation tasted of that peace.

“Thou son of grace, this jocund life,” began he,
“Will not be known to thee by keeping ever
Thine eyes below here on the lowest place

But mark the circles to the most remote,
Until thou shalt behold enthroned the Queen
To whom this realm is subject and devoted.”

I lifted up mine eyes, and as at morn
The oriental part of the horizon
Surpasses that wherein the sun goes down,

Thus, as if going with mine eyes from vale
To mount, I saw a part in the remoteness
Surpass in splendour all the other front.

And even as there where we await the pole
That Phaeton drove badly, blazes more
The light, and is on either side diminished,

So likewise that pacific oriflamme
Gleamed brightest in the centre, and each side
In equal measure did the flame abate.

And at that centre, with their wings expanded,
More than a thousand jubilant Angels saw I,
Each differing in effulgence and in kind.

I saw there at their sports and at their songs
A beauty smiling, which the gladness was
Within the eyes of all the other saints

And if I had in speaking as much wealth
As in imagining, I should not dare
To attempt the smallest part of its delight

Bernard, as soon as he beheld mine eyes
Fixed and intent upon its fervid fervour,
His own with such affection turned to her

That it made mine more ardent to behold.

So, in the shape of that white Rose, the holy
legion was shown to me—the host that Christ,
with His own blood, had taken as His bride.

The other host, which, flying, sees and sings
the glory of the One who draws its love,
and that goodness which granted it such glory,

just like a swarm of bees that, at one moment,
enters the flowers and, at another, turns
back to that labor which yields such sweet savor,

descended into that vast flower graced
with many petals, then again rose up
to the eternal dwelling of its love.

Their faces were all living flame; their wings
were gold; and for the rest, their white was so
intense, no snow can match the white they showed.

When they climbed down into that flowering Rose,
from rank to rank, they shared that peace and ardor
which they had gained, with wings that fanned their sides.

Nor did so vast a throng in flight, although
it interposed between the candid Rose
and light above, obstruct the sight or splendor,

because the light of God so penetrates
the universe according to the worth
of every part, that no thing can impede it.

This confident and joyous kingdom, thronged
with people of both new and ancient times,
turned all its sight and ardor to one mark.

O threefold Light that, in a single star
sparkling into their eyes, contents them so,
look down and see our tempest here below!

If the Barbarians, when they came from
a region that is covered every day
by Helice, who wheels with her loved son,

were, seeing Rome and her vast works, struck dumb
(when, of all mortal things, the Lateran
was the most eminent), then what amazement

must have filled me when I to the divine
came from the human, to eternity
from time, and to a people just and sane

from Florence came! And certainly, between
the wonder and the joy, it must have been
welcome to me to hear and speak nothing.

And as a pilgrim, in the temple he
had vowed to reach, renews himself—he looks
and hopes he can describe what it was like—

so did I journey through the living light,
guiding my eyes, from rank to rank, along
a path now up, now down, now circling round.

There I saw faces given up to love—
graced with Another’s light and their own smile—
and movements graced with every dignity.

By now my gaze had taken in the whole
of Paradise—its form in general—
but without looking hard at any part;

and I, my will rekindled, turning toward
my lady, was prepared to ask about
those matters that inclined my mind to doubt.

Where I expected her, another answered:
I thought I should see Beatrice, and saw
an elder dressed like those who are in glory.

His gracious gladness filled his eyes, suffused
his cheeks; his manner had that kindliness
which suits a tender father. “Where is she?”

I asked him instantly. And he replied:
“That all your longings may be satisfied,
Beatrice urged me from my place. If you

look up and to the circle that is third
from that rank which is highest, you will see
her on the throne her merits have assigned her.”

I, without answering, then looked on high
and saw that round her now a crown took shape
as she reflected the eternal rays.

No mortal eye, not even one that plunged
into deep seas, would be so distant from
that region where the highest thunder forms,

as—there—my sight was far from Beatrice;
but distance was no hindrance, for her semblance
reached me—undimmed by any thing between.

“O lady, you in whom my hope gains strength,
you who, for my salvation, have allowed
your footsteps to be left in Hell, in all

the things that I have seen, I recognize
the grace and benefit that I, depending
upon your power and goodness, have received.

You drew me out from slavery to freedom
by all those paths, by all those means that were
within your power. Do, in me, preserve

your generosity, so that my soul,
which you have healed, when it is set loose from
my body, be a soul that you will welcome.”

So did I pray. And she, however far
away she seemed, smiled, and she looked at me.
Then she turned back to the eternal fountain.

And he, the holy elder, said: “That you
may consummate your journey perfectly—
for this, both prayer and holy love have sent me

to help you—let your sight fly round this garden;
by gazing so, your vision will be made
more ready to ascend through God’s own ray.

The Queen of Heaven, for whom I am all
aflame with love, will grant us every grace:
I am her faithful Bernard.” Just as one

who, from Croatia perhaps, has come
to visit our Veronica—one whose
old hunger is not sated, who, as long

as it is shown, repeats these words in thought:
“O my Lord Jesus Christ, true God, was then
Your image like the image I see now?”—

such was I as I watched the living love
of him who, in this world, in contemplation,
tasted that peace. And he said: “Son of grace,

you will not come to know this joyous state
if your eyes only look down at the base;
but look upon the circles, look at those

that sit in a position more remote,
until you see upon her seat the Queen
to whom this realm is subject and devoted.”

I lifted up my eyes; and as, at morning,
the eastern side of the horizon shows
more splendor than the side where the sun sets,

so, as if climbing with my eyes from valley
to summit, I saw one part of the farthest
rank of the Rose more bright than all the rest.

And as, on earth, the point where we await
the shaft that Phaethon had misguided glows
brightest, while, to each side, the light shades off,

so did the peaceful oriflamme appear
brightest at its midpoint, so did its flame,
on each side, taper off at equal pace.

I saw, around that midpoint, festive angels—
more than a thousand—with their wings outspread;
each was distinct in splendor and in skill.

And there I saw a loveliness that when
it smiled at the angelic songs and games
made glad the eyes of all the other saints.

And even if my speech were rich as my
imagination is, I should not try
to tell the very least of her delights.

Bernard—when he had seen my eyes intent,
fixed on the object of his burning fervor—
turned his own eyes to her with such affection

that he made mine gaze still more ardently.

IN fashion then as of a snow—white rose
Displayed itself to me the saintly host,
Whom Christ in his own blood had made his bride,

But the other host, that flying sees and sings
The glory of Him who doth enamour it,
And the goodness that created it so noble,

Even as a swarm of bees, that sinks in flowers
One moment, and the next returns again
To where its labour is to sweetness turned,

Sank into the great flower, that is adorned
With leaves so many, and thence reascended
To where its love abideth evermore.

Their faces had they all of living flame,
And wings of gold, and all the rest so white
No snow unto that limit doth attain.

From bench to bench, into the flower descending,
They carried something of the peace and ardour
Which by the fanning of their flanks they won.

Nor did the interposing ‘twixt the flower
And what was o’er it of such plenitude
Of flying shapes impede the sight and splendour;

Because the light divine so penetrates
The universe, according to its merit,
That naught can be an obstacle against it.

This realm secure and full of gladsomeness,
Crowded with ancient people and with modern,
Unto one mark had all its look and love.

O Trinal Light, that in a single star
Sparkling upon their sight so satisfies them,
Look down upon our tempest here below!

If the barbarians, coming from some region
That every day by Helice is covered,
Revolving with her son whom she delights in,

Beholding Rome and all her noble works,
Were wonder—struck, what time the Lateran
Above all mortal things was eminent,—

I who to the divine had from the human,
From time unto eternity, had come,
From Florence to a people just and sane,

With what amazement must I have been filled!
Truly between this and the joy, it was
My pleasure not to hear, and to be mute.

And as a pilgrim who delighteth him
In gazing round the temple of his vow,
And hopes some day to retell how it was,

So through the living light my way pursuing
Directed I mine eyes o’er all the ranks,
Now up, now down, and now all round about.

Faces I saw of charity persuasive,
Embellished by His light and their own smile,
And attitudes adorned with every grace.

The general form of Paradise already
My glance had comprehended as a whole,
In no part hitherto remaining fixed,

And round I turned me with rekindled wish
My Lady to interrogate of things
Concerning which my mind was in suspense.

One thing I meant, another answered me;
I thought I should see Beatrice, and saw
An Old Man habited like the glorious people.

O’erflowing was he in his eyes and cheeks
With joy benign, in attitude of pity
As to a tender father is becoming.

And “She, where is she ?” instantly I said;
Whence he: “To put an end to thy desire,
Me Beatrice hath sent from mine own place.

And if thou lookest up to the third round
Of the first rank, again shalt thou behold her
Upon the throne her merits have assigned her.”

Without reply I lifted up mine eyes,
And saw her, as she made herself a crown
Reflecting from herself the eternal rays.

Not from that region which the highest thunders
Is any mortal eye so far removed,
In whatsoever sea it deepest sinks,

As there from Beatrice my sight; but this
Was nothing unto me; because her image
Descended not to me by medium blurred.

“O Lady, thou in whom my hope is strong,
And who for my salvation didst endure
In Hell to leave the imprint of thy feet,

Of whatsoever things I have beheld,
As coming from thy power and from thy goodness
I recognise the virtue and the grace.

Thou from a slave hast brought me unto freedom,
By all those ways, by all the expedients,
Whereby thou hadst the power of doing it.

Preserve towards me thy magnificence,
So that this soul of mine, which thou hast healed,
Pleasing to thee be loosened from the body.”

Thus I implored ; and she, so far away,
Smiled, as it seemed, and looked once more at me
Then unto the eternal fountain turned.

And said the Old Man holy: “That thou mayst
Accomplish perfectly thy journeying,
Whereunto prayer and holy love have sent me,

Fly with thine eyes all round about this garden
For seeing it will discipline thy sight
Farther to mount along the ray divine.

And she, the Queen of Heaven, for whom I burn
Wholly with love, will grant us every grace,
Because that I her faithful Bernard am.”

As he who peradventure from Croatia
Cometh to gaze at our Veronica,
Who through its ancient fame is never sated,

But says in thought, the while it is displayed,
“My Lord, Christ Jesus, God of very God,
Now was your semblance made like unto this ?”

Even such was I while gazing at the living
Charity of the man, who in this world
By contemplation tasted of that peace.

“Thou son of grace, this jocund life,” began he,
“Will not be known to thee by keeping ever
Thine eyes below here on the lowest place

But mark the circles to the most remote,
Until thou shalt behold enthroned the Queen
To whom this realm is subject and devoted.”

I lifted up mine eyes, and as at morn
The oriental part of the horizon
Surpasses that wherein the sun goes down,

Thus, as if going with mine eyes from vale
To mount, I saw a part in the remoteness
Surpass in splendour all the other front.

And even as there where we await the pole
That Phaeton drove badly, blazes more
The light, and is on either side diminished,

So likewise that pacific oriflamme
Gleamed brightest in the centre, and each side
In equal measure did the flame abate.

And at that centre, with their wings expanded,
More than a thousand jubilant Angels saw I,
Each differing in effulgence and in kind.

I saw there at their sports and at their songs
A beauty smiling, which the gladness was
Within the eyes of all the other saints

And if I had in speaking as much wealth
As in imagining, I should not dare
To attempt the smallest part of its delight

Bernard, as soon as he beheld mine eyes
Fixed and intent upon its fervid fervour,
His own with such affection turned to her

That it made mine more ardent to behold.