Page images
PDF
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

With intervenient disk, as she withdrew :
Another, how the light shrouded itself
Within its tabernacle, and left dark
The Spaniard, and the Indian, with the Jew.
Such fables Florence in her pulpit hears,
Bandied about more frequent, than the names
Of Bindi and of Lapi in her streets.
The sheep, meanwhile, poor witless ones, return
From pasture, fed with wind : and what avails
For their excuse, they do not see their harm?
Christ said not to his first conventicle,
•Go forth and preach impostures to the world,'
But gave them truth to build on; and the sound
Was mighty on their lips : nor needed they,
Beside the Gospel, other spear or shield,
To aid them in their warfare for the faith.
The preacher now provides himself with store
Of jests and gibes ; and, so there be no lack
Of laughter, while he vents them, his big cowl
Distends, and he has won the meed he sought :
Could but the vulgar catch a glimpse the while
Of that dark bird which nestles in his hood,
They scarce would wait to hear the blessing said,
Which now the dotards hold in such esteem,
That every counterfeit, who spreads abroad
The hands of holy promise, finds a throng
Of credulous fools beneath. Saint Anthony
Fattens with this his swine, and others worse
Than swine, who diet at his lazy board,
Paying with unstamped metal for their fare.

But (for we far have wandered) let us seek
The forward path again; so as the way

125

130

135

108. Spain is 90° west of Jerusalem (accord

“ Vederebbe ing to Dante) and the Ganges 90° east. The La perdonanza di che si confida." names of the inhabitants of these places are used “Would see what kind of pardon (indulgences) to indicate the different parts of the world. they trust in,” i.e. would see how useless such

111. Names then very common in Florence. pardon was, being suggested by the devil and Bindi = diminutive of Ildebrando, and Lapi of not God. Jacopo. Cf. Ger. Heinz und Kunz.

129. Rebukes folly of buying indulgences, 112. So Milton, Lycidas,

a folly so universal that even false priests can “The hungry sheep look up and are not fed, enrich themselves. But swoln with wind and the rank mist they 131. An Egyptian hermit (251-356); not to draw,

be confused with St. Anthony of Padua. Used Rot inwardly."

here for priest in general. 114. Ignorance is no excuse for sin.

132. They not only feed their own bodies 115. Conventicle = the apostles.

well, but feed also their concubines, illegitimate 123. Cowl distends = he is puffed up. children, etc.

126. Bird = Satan. Hood is not quite accu 134. False indulgences. rate for becchetto = point of the hood.

135. All the preceding has been a digression. 127. Not a correct translation. The origi- Beatrice now returns to the subject of angels nal, –

and says their number is countless.

Be shortened with the time. No mortal tongue,
Nor thought of man, hath ever reached so far,
That of these natures he might count the tribes.
What Daniel of their thousands hath revealed,
With finite number, infinite conceals.
The fountain, at whose source these drink their beams,
With light supplies them in as many modes,
As there are splendors that it shines on : each
According to the virtue it conceives,
Differing in love and sweet affection.
Look then how lofty and how huge in breadth
The eternal might, which, broken and dispersed
Over such countless mirrors, yet remains
Whole in itself and one, as at the first."

CANTO XXX.

ARGUMENT.

Dante is taken up with Beatrice into the Empyrean; and there having his sight strength

ened by her aid, and by the virtue derived from looking on the river of light, he sees the triumph of the angels and of the souls of the Blessed.

Noon's fervid hour perchance.six thousand miles
From hence is distant; and the shadowy cone
Almost to level on our earth declines;
When, from the midmost of this blue abyss,
By turns some star is to our vision lost.
And straightway as the handmaid of the sun
Puts forth her radiant brow, all, light by light,
Fade ; and the spangled firmament shuts in,
E’en to the loveliest of the glittering throng.
Thus vanished gradually from my sight
The triumph, which plays ever round the point,
That overcame me, seeming (for it did)
Engirt by that it girdeth. Wherefore love,
With loss of other object, forced me bend
Mine eyes on Beatrice once again.

140. “Thousand thousands ministered unto be noon six thousand miles off (approximately), him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood and the shadow cast by the rising sun is almost before him." Daniel vii. 10.

level. 143. God fills them in different degrees with 6. Handmaid = dawn. his glory, according to their order.

11. Triumph = the celestial hierarchy. 1. To describe the gradual fading away of 13. The point which seemed included by the

scribes the fading angels really surrounds them. God is at once of the stars at sunrise. In any place on the the centre and the circumference of the uniearth when the dawn is about to break, it must verse.

If all, that hitherto is told of her,
Were in one praise concluded, 't were too weak
To furnish out this turn. Mine eyes did look
On beauty, such, as I believe in sooth,
Not merely to exceed our human; but,
That save its Maker, none can to the full
Enjoy it. At this point o'erpowered I fail;
Unequal to my theme; as never bard
Of buskin or of sock hath failed before.
For as the sun doth to the feeblest sight,
E'en so remembrance of that witching smile
Hath dispossest my spirit of itself.
Not from that day, when on this earth I first
Beheld her charms, up to that view of them,
Have I with song applausive ever ceased
To follow; but now follow them no more;
My course here bounded, as each artist's is,
When it doth touch the limit of his skill.
She (such as I bequeath her to the bruit
Of louder trump than mine, which hasteneth on
Urging its arduous matter to the close)
Her words resumed, in gesture and in voice
Resembling one accustomed to command:
“ Forth from the last corporeal are we come
Into the heaven, that is unbodied light;
Light intellectual, replete with love;
Love of true happiness, replete with joy;
Joy, that transcends all sweetness of delight.
Here shalt thou look on either mighty host
Of Paradise; and one in that array,
Which in the final judgment thou shalt see.”

As when the lightning, in a sudden spleen
Unfolded, dashes from the blinding eyes
The visive spirits, dazzled and bedimmed;
So, round about me, fulminating streams
Of living radiance played, and left me swathed

20. This supreme increase of beauty indicates 35. Trump = song of the Divine Comedy, Dante's ascent to the Empyrean.

which is now drawing to a close. 24. A rhetorical translation of the simple 39. Last corporeal = maggior corpo= the original,

greatest body, i.e. the Primum Mobile, which “Soprato fosse comico o tragedo," is the outermost limit of the material universe. “Both tragic and comic poets would have been The Empyrean, being purely spiritual, has overcome,” i.e. would be unequal to the task neither space nor time, but only light and love. of discussing this theme.

44. The angels and the Blessed. 28. Cf. New Life, $ 1.

45. One = the Blessed, appearing as in the 30. Dante has sung the praises of Beatrice body with which, however, they shall actually in the New Life, in Par. xiv. 74; xviii. 8 ff.; be clothed only after the Last Judgment. xxiii. 22, etc.

47. Spleen= lampor flash of lightning. 34. Bruit = bando = heralding; here = the 50. He is now in the Empyrean, the heaven sound of the Poet's trumpet.

of light.

And veiled in dense impenetrable blaze.
“ Such weal is in the love, that stills this heaven;
For its own flame the torch thus fitting ever."

No sooner to my listening ear had come
The brief assurance, than I understood
New virtue into me infused, and sight
Kindled afresh, with vigor to sustain
Excess of light however pure. I looked ;
And, in the likeness of a river, saw
Light flowing, from whose amber-seeming waves
Flashed up effulgence, as they glided on
'Twixt banks, on either side, painted with spring,
Incredible how fair : and, from the tide,
There ever and anon, outstarting, flew
Sparkles instinct with life; and in the flowers
Did set them, like to rubies chased in gold :
Then, as if drunk with odors, plunged again
Into the wondrous flood; from which, as one
Re-entered, still another rose. "The thirst
Of knowledge high, whereby thou art inflamed,
To search the meaning of what here thou seest,
The more it warms thee, pleases me the more.
But first behoves thee of this water drink,
Or e'er that longing be allayed.” So spake
The day-star of mine eyes : then thus subjoined:
“ This stream; and these, forth issuing from its gulf,
And diving back, a living topaz each;
With all this laughter on its bloomy shores;
Are but a preface, shadowy of the truth
They emblem: not that, in themselves, the things
Are crude; but on thy part is the defect,
For that thy views not yet aspire so high."

Never did babe that had outslept his wont,
Rush, with such eager straining, to the milk,
As I toward the water; bending me,
To make the better mirrors of mine eyes
In the refining wave: and as the eaves
Of mine eyelids did drink of it, forthwith

53. Beatrice speaks and says that God, who “ Underneath a bright sea flowed fills the Empyrean with light and love, prepares

Of jasper or of liquid pearl.” the soul (torch) entering it to receive the vision

Milton, P. L. iii. 518. of his glory.

78. Topaz = the sparkles (in line 66) = the 6o. In this magnificent passage Dante de- angels. scribes the glory of God as a river of light with 79. Laughter = rider dell erbe = smiling flowery banks. Later it changes to a round of the flowers, i.e. of the souls of the Blessed. lake, surrounded by the seats of the Blessed in 82. Dante's sight is not strong enough to see the shape of a rose. Cf. “And he shewed me the angels and the Blessed (sparkles and flowers) a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, in their true shape. This he does later (line 95). proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb." Rev. xxii. I.

Seemed it unto me turned from length to round.
Then as a troop of maskers, when they put
Their vizors off, look other than before;
The counterfeited semblance thrown aside :
So into greater jubilee were changed
Those flowers and sparkles; and distinct I saw,
Before me, either court of heaven displayed.

O prime enlightener! thou who gavest me strength
On the high triumph of thy realm to gaze;
Grant virtue now to utter what I kenned.

There is in heaven a light, whose goodly shine
Makes the Creator visible to all
Created, that in seeing him alone
Have peace; and in a circle spreads so far,
That the circumference were to loose a zone
To girdle in the sun. All is one beam,
Reflected from the summit of the first,
That moves, which being hence and vigor takes.
And as some cliff, that from the bottom eyes
His image mirrored in the crystal flood,
As if to admire his brave apparelling
Of verdure and of flowers; so, round about,
Eying the light, no more than million thrones,
Stood, eminent, whatever from our earth
Has to the skies returned. How wide the leaves,
Extended to their utmost, of this rose,
Whose lowest step embosoms such a space
Of ample radiance! Yet, nor amplitude
Nor height impeded, but my view with ease
Took in the full dimensions of that joy.
Near or remote, what there avails, where God
Immediate rules, and Nature, awed, suspends
Her sway? Into the yellow of the rose
Perennial, which, in bright expansiveness,
Lays forth its gradual blooming, redolent
Of praises to the never-wintering sun,
As one, who fain would speak yet holds his peace,
Beatrice led me; and, “ Behold," she said,
“ This fair assemblage; stoles of snowy white,
How numberless. The city, where we dwell,

96. See line 44.

112. Thrones = seats. 97. O prime enlightener = 0 isplendor di 113. The souls of the saved. Dio=0 splendor of God!

120. There is no space in the Empyrean. 100. The Lake of Light around which the 122. Yellow = the circular lake of light, Blessed are seated,- so numerous that the lowest which is like the yellow heart of the rose. row is larger than the circumference of the sun. 125. In Heaven eternal spring abides. 108.

“A lake, That to the fringed bank with myrtle crowned Her crystal mirror holds."

Milton, P. L. iv. 261.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »