2 The saintly soldiery is the glorified
elect in heaven; the other host, the angels (l. 4).
32 Helice is the nymph changed into a bear
that then became the Great Bear or Big Dipper constellation. Her son Arcas turned into the
Little Bear or Dipper.
36 The Lateran was the old
papal palace, said to have been presented to Pope Sylvester by Emperor
102 Saint Bernard (1090-1153), abbot of
Clairvaux, mystic, author, reformer, preacher of the Second Crusade, led the revival of
the Benedictine Cistercian Order and was a strong advocate of devotion to the Virgin Mary.
104 The Veronica (vera icona or
"true image") was the cloth which a holy woman was said to have put to the face
of Jesus on his way to Calvary. Pilgrims came from far away places like Croatia (l. 103)
to view the relic when exhibited at Saint Peters in Rome.
125 The chariot of Phaethon, son of Apollo,
is the sun.
127 The red and gold oriflamme of the kings
of France would, it was promised, protect all who marched under its standard.
in the pattern of a pure white rose
shown to me the saintly soldiery
Christ has made his bride with his own blood.
the other host who, flying, see and sing
- 5 The glory of him who fills them with his love
the goodness that made them magnificent
like a swarm of bees, alight in flowers
one instant and in the next returning
where their toil attains its fragrant taste
- 10 Flew downward into that vast flower, fringed
myriad petals, and rising up from it
back to where their love forever rests.
faces all glowed with a living flame;
wings were gold, and their whole form so white
- 15 That no snow ever rivaled such pure whiteness.
they dove to the flower, row on row,
spread some portion of the love and peace
they won when they waved their wings on high.
did the flight of such a multitude
- 20 Coming between the upper light and flower
out the vision and the sea of splendor.
the divine light through the universe
penetrates in measure to its worth
there is nothing to stand in the way.
- 25 This jubilant and ever-restful kingdom,
with people of old and modern times,
gaze and love all focused on one goal.
threefold Light which, in a single star
upon their sight, so pleases them,
- 30 Look down here on our storms that rage on earth!
the barbarians, come from the North
day by day is spanned by Helice,
with her son on whom she dotes,
struck with wonder when they sighted Rome
- 35 And her high-towering buildings, at the time
Lateran surpassed all mortal works,
who had come out of our human life
the divine, from time to the eternal,
Florence to a just and wholesome people
- 40 What was the wonder which welled up in me!
truth, what with my stupor and my joy,
happily heard nothing and stood silent.
like a pilgrim who gains back his strength
gazing round the church he vowed to visit
- 45 And now hopes to tell once more how it looked,
passing upward through the living light,
guided my eyes all along the tiers,
up, now down, and now recircling round.
I saw faces given all to love,
- 50 Bright with Anothers light and their own smiles,
gestures touched with grace and dignity.
gaze had swept and taken in by now
pattern overall of paradise,
my sight yet pausing at one spot,
- 55 When I turned with my will inflamed anew
ask my lady questions on those matters
still kept my mind hanging in suspense.
thing I sought, another answered me:
thought I would see Beatrice, but instead
- 60 I saw an old man, clothed like those in glory.
eyes and cheeks shone with a friendly gladness,
all his gestures showed such lovingkindness
- As is
suited to a tenderhearted father.
is she?" I immediately asked.
- 65 He then: "To finish and fulfill your longings
moved me to step down from my place.
if you look up you will see her still
the third circle from the topmost tier
the throne her merits left for her."
- 70 Without replying, I raised up my eyes
saw her fashion for herself a crown,
she reflected the eternal rays.
mortal eye, though plunged into the depths
the sea, could be as far away
- 75 From that point in the sky that thunders highest
- As my
sight there was distant from Beatrice.
made no difference to me, since her likeness
me unblurred by anything between.
lady in whom all my hope is steadfast
- 80 And who for my salvation did endure
leave your footprints on the soil of hell,
here acknowledge that the grace and power
all the many sights that I have seen
to me through your influence and bounty.
- 85 "You have drawn me from slavery into freedom
all those roads and by all those resources
you had in your power to employ.
your munificence toward me,
that my soul, which you have now made whole,
- 90 May be loosed from my body pleasing you."
was my prayer. And she, so far away
she appeared, looked down on me and smiled;
turned back to the everlasting fountain.
saintly old man said, "To make sure you
- 95 Complete your journey perfectly the end
prayer and holy love sent me here for
on the wings of your eyes through this garden,
seeing it will make your gaze more ready
mount up through the godly radiance.
- 100 "The Queen of heaven, for whom I am all
with love, will grant us every grace,
I am her faithful servant Bernard."
someone who has come, say, from Croatia
look on our Veronica, and cannot,
- 105 From his old craving for it, see enough,
in his thoughts says, while it is exposed,
Lord Jesus Christ, true God and Savior,
this your face then as you once appeared?"
- I was
like that while I stayed gazing on
- 110 The living love of him who in this world,
contemplation, tasted of that peace.
child of grace, how shall you ever know
joyous being," he began, "if you
your eyes only down here at its base?
- 115 "Look on the circles to the farthest off
you see seated on her throne the Queen
whom this kingdom is devoutly subject."
lifted up my eyes. And as at daybreak
eastern reaches of the skys horizon
- 120 Outshine the region of the setting sun,
as though passing with my eyes from valley
mountain, I saw a point on the topmost rim
the whole circumference in light.
as the point glows brightest where we wait for
- 125 The chariot-pole that Phaethon steered so badly,
on this side and that the light grows dim,
the gold oriflamme of peace flared up
the center, and on either side
flame in equal measure flickered down.
- 130 And at the midpoint, with their wings spread wide,
- I saw
more than a thousand angels dancing,
one distinct in fulgence and in function.
- I saw
there, smiling at their sports and songs,
Beauty who was happiness to see
- 135 For all the eyes of all the other saints.
even if I had a wealth of words
match imagination, I would not dare
try to tell the least of her enchantment.
when he saw my eyes intent
- 140 And fixed on her whose fire fired him,
his own eyes to her with such warm love
he made mine more burning in their gazing.