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They all were saying: “Benedictus qui venis,"
Even as the snow, among the living rafters
Confusion and dismay, together mingled,
Three Cantos of Dante's Paradiso.
Dante is with Beatrice in the eighth circle, that of the fixed stars. She is gazing
upwards, watching for the descent of the Triumph of Christ.
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;
And find the nourishment wherewith to feed them,
In which, to her, grave labours grateful are,
And with an ardent longing waits the sun,
Gazing intent, as soon as breaks the dawn :
And vigilant, turned round towards the zone
Underneath which the sun displays least haste; *
Such I became as he is, who desiring
For something yearns, and hoping is appeased.
From my awaiting, say I, to the seeing
The welkin grow resplendent more and more.
Of the triumphant Christ, and all the fruit
Harvested by the rolling of these spheres !”+
That I must needs pass on without describing.
Smiles Trivia among the nymphs eternal
Who paint the heaven through all its hollow cope,
A sun that one and all of them enkindled,
E'en as our own does the supernal stars. I
And through the living light transparent shone * Under the meridian, or at noon, the shadows being shorter, move slower, and there. fore the sun seems less in haste. + By the beneficent influences of the stars. The old belief that the stars were fed by the light of the sun. So Milton :
“Hither, as to their fountain, other stars
Repair, and in their golden urns draw light." Here the stars are souls, the sun is Christ.
The lucent substance so intensely clear
Into my sight, that I could not sustain it.
A virtue is which no one can resist.
That oped the thoroughfares 'twixt heaven and earth,
For which there erst had been so long a yearning."
Dilating so it finds not room therein,
And down against its nature, falls to earth,
Becoming larger, issue from itself,
And what became of it 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.”
In vain to bring it back into his mind,
Of so much gratitude, it never fades
Out of the book that chronicles the past.
That Polyhymnia and her sisters made
It would not reach, singing the holy smile,
And how the holy aspect it illumined.
The sacred poem must perforce leap over,
Even as a man who finds his way cut off.
And of the mortal shoulder that sustains it,
Should blame it not, if under this it trembles.
This which goes cleaving the audacious prow,
Nor for a pilot who would spare himself.
That to the garden fair thou turnest not,
Which under the rays of Christ is blossoming ?
Became incarnate; there the lilies are
By whose perfume the good way was selected.”
Was wholly ready, once again betook me
* Beatrice speaks.
+ The rose is the Virgin Mary Rosa Mundi, Rosa mystica; the lilies are the Apostles and other saints.
Unto the battle of the feeble brows.*
Through fractured cloud, ere now a meadow of flowers
Refulgent from above with burning rays,
Beholding not the source of the effulgence.
Thou didst exalt thyselft to give more scope
There to the eyes, that were not strong enough.
The glory and greatness of the living star
Which conquers there, as here below it conquered,
Formed in a circle like a coronal,
And cinctured it, and whirled itself about it.
On earth, and to itself most draws the soul,
Would seem a cloud that, rent asunder, thunders,
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 bosom
That was the hostelry of our Desire :
Thou followest thy Son, and mak'st diviner
The sphere supreme, because thou enterest it."
Seal itself up; and all the other lights
Were making resonant 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,
So very distant, that its outward show,
There where I was, not yet appeared to me.
* The struggle between his eyes and the light.
Christ reascends, that Dante's dazzled eyes, too feeble to bear the light of His presence, may behold the splendours around him.
The greater fire is the Virgin Mary, greater than any of those remaining. She is the living star, surpassing in brightness all other saints in heaven, as she did here on earth; Stella Maris, Stella Matutina.
8 The Angel Gabriel, or Angelic Love.
Christ, the Desire of the nations. # The regal mantle of all the volumes, or rolling orbs, of the world is the crystalline heaven, or Primum Mobile, which infolds all the others like a mantle.
Of following the incoronated flame,
Which had ascended near to its own seed.*
Extends its arms, when it the milk has taken,
Through impulse kindled into outward flame,
So with its summit, that the deep affection
They had for Mary was revealed to me.
Regina Cæli singing with such sweetness,
In those resplendent coffers, which had been
For sowing here below good husbandmen!
IWhich was acquired while weeping in the exile
Of God and Mary, in his victory,
Both with the ancient council and the new,
“ O COMPANY elect to the Great Supper
Of the Lamb glorified, who feedeth you,
So that for ever full is your desire,
Of whatsoever falleth from your table,
Or ever death prescribes to him the time,
And him somewhat bedew; ye drinking are
For ever from the fount whence comes his thought."
Flaming intensely in the guise of comets.
Revolve so that the first to the beholder
Motionless seems, and the last one to fly,
In different measure, by their affluence
The Virgin ascends to her Son.
Easter hymn to the Virgin. Caring not for gold in the Babylonian exile of this life, they laid up treasures in the other.
$ St. Peter, keeper of the keys, with the holy men of the Old and New Testament. i Hunger and thirst after things divine.
The Grace of God. ** The carolwas a dance as well as a song.