Poetry of Dante Alighieri
The Divine Comedy - Paradiso

Paradiso: Canto XXIII

Even as a bird, 'mid the beloved leaves,
  Quiet upon the nest of her sweet brood
  Throughout the night, that hideth all things from us,

Who, that she may behold their longed-for looks
  And find the food wherewith to nourish them,
  In which, to her, grave labours grateful are,

Anticipates the time on open spray
  And with an ardent longing waits the sun,
  Gazing intent as soon as breaks the dawn:

Even thus my Lady standing was, erect
  And vigilant, turned round towards the zone
  Underneath which the sun displays less haste;

So that beholding her distraught and wistful,
  Such I became as he is who desiring
  For something yearns, and hoping is appeased.

But brief the space from one When to the other;
  Of my awaiting, say I, and the seeing
  The welkin grow resplendent more and more.

And Beatrice exclaimed: "Behold the hosts
  Of Christ's triumphal march, and all the fruit
  Harvested by the rolling of these spheres!"

It seemed to me her face was all aflame;
  And eyes she had so full of ecstasy
  That I must needs pass on without describing.

As when in nights serene of the full moon
  Smiles Trivia among the nymphs eternal
  Who paint the firmament through all its gulfs,

Saw I, above the myriads of lamps,
  A Sun that one and all of them enkindled,
  E'en as our own doth the supernal sights,

And through the living light transparent shone
  The lucent substance so intensely clear
  Into my sight, that I sustained it not.

O Beatrice, thou gentle guide and dear!
  To me she said: "What overmasters thee
  A virtue is from which naught shields itself.

There are the wisdom and the omnipotence
  That oped the thoroughfares 'twixt heaven and earth,
  For which there erst had been so long a yearning."

As fire from out a cloud unlocks itself,
  Dilating so it finds not room therein,
  And down, against its nature, falls to earth,

So did my mind, among those aliments
  Becoming larger, issue from itself,
  And that which it became cannot remember.

"Open thine eyes, and look at what I am:
  Thou hast beheld such things, that strong enough
  Hast thou become to tolerate my smile."

I was as one who still retains the feeling
  Of a forgotten vision, and endeavours
  In vain to bring it back into his mind,

When I this invitation heard, deserving
  Of so much gratitude, it never fades
  Out of the book that chronicles the past.

If at this moment sounded all the tongues
  That Polyhymnia and her sisters made
  Most lubrical with their delicious milk,

To aid me, to a thousandth of the truth
  It would not reach, singing the holy smile
  And how the holy aspect it illumed.

And therefore, representing Paradise,
  The sacred poem must perforce leap over,
  Even as a man who finds his way cut off;

But whoso thinketh of the ponderous theme,
  And of the mortal shoulder laden with it,
  Should blame it not, if under this it tremble.

It is no passage for a little boat
  This which goes cleaving the audacious prow,
  Nor for a pilot who would spare himself.

"Why doth my face so much enamour thee,
  That to the garden fair thou turnest not,
  Which under the rays of Christ is blossoming?

There is the Rose in which the Word Divine
  Became incarnate; there the lilies are
  By whose perfume the good way was discovered."

Thus Beatrice; and I, who to her counsels
  Was wholly ready, once again betook me
  Unto the battle of the feeble brows.

As in the sunshine, that unsullied streams
  Through fractured cloud, ere now a meadow of flowers
  Mine eyes with shadow covered o'er have seen,

So troops of splendours manifold I saw
  Illumined from above with burning rays,
  Beholding not the source of the effulgence.

O power benignant that dost so imprint them!
  Thou didst exalt thyself to give more scope
  There to mine eyes, that were not strong enough.

The name of that fair flower I e'er invoke
  Morning and evening utterly enthralled
  My soul to gaze upon the greater fire.

And when in both mine eyes depicted were
  The glory and greatness of the living star
  Which there excelleth, as it here excelled,

Athwart the heavens a little torch descended
  Formed in a circle like a coronal,
  And cinctured it, and whirled itself about it.

Whatever melody most sweetly soundeth
  On earth, and to itself most draws the soul,
  Would seem a cloud that, rent asunder, thunders,

Compared unto the sounding of that lyre
  Wherewith was crowned the sapphire beautiful,
  Which gives the clearest heaven its sapphire hue.

"I am Angelic Love, that circle round
  The joy sublime which breathes from out the womb
  That was the hostelry of our Desire;

And I shall circle, Lady of Heaven, while
  Thou followest thy Son, and mak'st diviner
  The sphere supreme, because thou enterest there."

Thus did the circulated melody
  Seal itself up; and all the other lights
  Were making to resound the name of Mary.

The regal mantle of the volumes all
  Of that world, which most fervid is and living
  With breath of God and with his works and ways,

Extended over us its inner border,
  So very distant, that the semblance of it
  There where I was not yet appeared to me.

Therefore mine eyes did not possess the power
  Of following the incoronated flame,
  Which mounted upward near to its own seed.

And as a little child, that towards its mother
  Stretches its arms, when it the milk has taken,
  Through impulse kindled into outward flame,

Each of those gleams of whiteness upward reached
  So with its summit, that the deep affection
  They had for Mary was revealed to me.

Thereafter they remained there in my sight,
  'Regina coeli' singing with such sweetness,
  That ne'er from me has the delight departed.

O, what exuberance is garnered up
  Within those richest coffers, which had been
  Good husbandmen for sowing here below!

There they enjoy and live upon the treasure
  Which was acquired while weeping in the exile
  Of Babylon, wherein the gold was left.

There triumpheth, beneath the exalted Son
  Of God and Mary, in his victory,
  Both with the ancient council and the new,

He who doth keep the keys of such a glory.