|III - xiii|
|Let him imagine, who would rightly seize|
what I saw now-and let him while I speak
retain that image like a steadfast rock-
|in heaven's different parts, those fifteen stars|
that quicken heaven with such radiance
as to undo the air's opacities;
|let him imagine, too, that Wain which stays|
within our heaven's bosom night and day,
so that its turning never leaves our sight;
|let him imagine those two stars that form|
the mouth of that Horn which begins atop
the axle round which the first wheel revolves;
|then see these join to form two signs in heaven-|
just like the constellation that was shaped
by Minos'daughter when she felt death's chill-
|two signs with corresponding radii,|
revolving so that one sign moves in one
direction, and the other in a second;
|and he will have a shadow-as it were-|
of the true constellation, the double dance
that circled round the point where I was standing:
|a shadow-since its truth exceeds our senses,|
just as the swiftest of all heavens is
more swift than the Chiana's sluggishness.
|They sang no Bacchus there, they sang no Paean,|
but sang three Persons in the divine nature,
and in one Person the divine and human.
|The singing and the dance fulfilled their measure;|
and then those holy lights gave heed to us,
rejoicing as they turned from task to task.
|The silence of the blessed fellowship|
was broken by the very light from which
I heard the wondrous life of God's poor man;
|that light said: "Since one stalk is threshed, and since|
its grain is in the granary already,
sweet love leads me to thresh the other stalk.
|You think that any light which human nature|
can rightfully possess was all infused
by that Force which had shaped both of these two:
|the one out of whose chest was drawn the rib|
from which was formed the lovely cheek whose palate
was then to prove so costly to the world;
|and One whose chest was transfixed by the lance,|
who satisfied all past and future sins,
outweighing them upon the scales of justice.
|Therefore you wondered at my words when I-|
before-said that no other ever vied
with that great soul enclosed in the fifth light.
|Now let your eyes hold fast to my reply,|
and you will see: truth centers both my speech
and your belief, just like a circle's center.
|Both that which never dies and that which dies|
are only the reflected light of that
Idea which our Sire, with Love, begets;
|because the living Light that pours out so|
from Its bright Source that It does not disjoin
from It or from the Love intrined with them,
|through Its own goodness gathers up Its rays|
within nine essences, as in a mirror,
Itself eternally remaining One.
|From there, from act to act, light then descends|
down to the last potentialities,
where it is such that it engenders nothing
|but brief contingent things, by which I mean|
the generated things the moving heavens
bring into being, with or without seed.
|The wax of such things and what shapes that wax|
are not immutable; and thus, beneath
idea's stamp, light shines through more or less.
|Thus it can be that, in the selfsame species,|
some trees bear better fruit and some bear worse,
and men are born with different temperaments.
|For were the wax appropriately readied,|
and were the heaven's power at its height,
the brightness of the seal would show completely;
|but Nature always works defectively-|
she passes on that light much like an artist
who knows his craft but has a hand that trembles.
|Yet where the ardent Love prepares and stamps|
the lucid Vision of the primal Power,
a being then acquires complete perfection.
|In that way, earth was once made worthy of|
the full perfection of a living being;
thus was the Virgin made to be with child.
|So that I do approve of the opinion|
you hold: that human nature never was
nor shall be what it was in those two persons.
|Now if I said no more beyond this point,|
your words might well begin, 'How is it, then,
with your assertion of his matchless vision?'
|But so that the obscure can be made plain,|
consider who he was, what was the cause
of his request when he was told, 'Do ask.'
|My words did not prevent your seeing clearly|
that it was as a king that he had asked
for wisdom that would serve his royal task-
|and not to know the number of the angels|
on high or, if combined with a contingent,
necesse ever can produce necesse,
|or si est dare primum motum esse,|
or if, within a semicircle, one
can draw a triangle with no right angle.
|Thus, if you note both what I said and say,|
by 'matchless vision' it is kingly prudence
my arrow of intention means to strike;
|and if you turn clear eyes to that word 'rose,'|
you'll see that it referred to kings alone-
kings, who are many, and the good are rare.
|Take what I said with this distinction then;|
in that way it accords with what you thought
of the first father and of our Beloved.
|And let this weigh as lead to slow your steps,|
to make you move as would a weary man
to yes or no when you do not see clearly:
|whether he would affirm or would deny,|
he who decides without distinguishing
must be among the most obtuse of men;
|opinion-hasty-often can incline|
to the wrong side, and then affection for
one's own opinion binds, confines the mind.
|Far worse than uselessly he leaves the shore|
(more full of error than he was before)
who fishes for the truth but lacks the art.
|Of this, Parmenides, Melissus, Bryson,|
are clear proofs to the world, and many others
who went their way but knew not where it went;
|so did Sabellius and Arius|
and other fools-like concave blades that mirror-
who rendered crooked the straight face of Scriptures.
|So, too, let men not be too confident |
in judging-witness those who, in the field,
would count the ears before the corn is ripe;
|for I have seen, all winter through, the brier|
display itself as stiff and obstinate,
and later, on its summit, bear the rose;
|and once I saw a ship sail straight and swift|
through all its voyaging across the sea,
then perish at the end, at harbor entry.
|Let not Dame Bertha or Master Martin think|
that they have shared God's Counsel when they see
one rob and see another who donates:
|the last may fall, the other may be saved."|