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They all were saying: “Benedictus qui venis,"
And scattering flowers above and round about,
Manibus o date lilia plenis.'
I once beheld, at the approach of day,
The orient sky all stained with roseate hues,
And the other heaven with light serene adorned,
And the sun's face uprising, overshadowed,
So that, by temperate influence of vapours,
The eye sustained his aspect for long while;
Thus in the bosom of a cloud of flowers,
Which from those hands angelic were thrown up,
And now descended inside and without
With a crown of olive o'er a snow-white veil,
Appeared a lady, under a green mantle,
Vested in colours of the living flame.

Even as the snow, among the living rafters
Upon the back of Italy, congeals,
Blown on and beaten by Sclavonian winds,
And then dissolving, filters through itself,
Whene'er the land, that loses shadow, breathes,
Like as a taper melts before a fire,
Even such I was, without a sigh or tear,
Before the song of those who chime for ever
After the chiming of the eternal spheres;
But when I heard in those sweet melodies
Compassion for me, more than they had said,
“O wherefore, lady, dost thou thus consume him?:)
The ice that was about my heart congealed,
To air and water changed, and, in my anguish,
Through lips and eyes came gushing from my breast.

Confusion and dismay, together mingled,
Forced such a feeble “ Yes!” out of my mouth,
To understand it one had need of sight.
Even as a cross-bow breaks, when 'tis discharged,
Too tensely drawn the bow-string and the bow,
And with less force the arrow hits the nark;
So I gave way beneath this heavy burden,
Gushing forth into bitter tears and sighs,
And the voice, fainting, flagged upon its passage.

Three Cantos of Dante's Paradiso.

CANTO XXIII.

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;
Who, that she may behold their longed-for looks,

And find the nourishment wherewith to feed 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 least haste; *
So that beholding her distraught and eager,

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;

From my awaiting, say I, to the seeing

The welkin grow resplendent more and more.
And Beatrice exclaimed: “Behold the hosts

Of the triumphant Christ, and all the fruit

Harvested by the rolling of these spheres !”+
It seemed to me her face was all on flame;
And eyes she had so full of ecstacy

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 heaven through all its hollow cope,
Saw I, above the myriads of lamps,

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.
O Beatrice, my gentle guide and dear!
She said to me: “That which o'ermasters thee

A virtue is which no one can resist.
There are the wisdom and 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 itself discharges,

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 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.”
I was as one who still retains the feeling
Of a forgotten dream, and who 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 illumined.
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 that sustains it,

Should blame it not, if under this it trembles.
It is no passage for a little boat

This which goes cleaving the audacious prow,

Nor for a pilot who would spare himself.
“ Why does 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 selected.”
Thus Beatrice; and I, who to her counsels

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.*
As in a sunbeam, that unbroken passes

Through fractured cloud, ere now a meadow of flowers
Mine eyes with shadow covered have beheld,
So I beheld the multitudinous splendours

Refulgent from above with burning rays,

Beholding not the source of the effulgence.
O thou benignant power that so imprint'st them!

Thou didst exalt thyselft to give more scope

There to the 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. I
And when in both mine eyes depicted were

The glory and greatness of the living star

Which conquers there, as here below it conquered,
Athwart the heavens descended a bright sheen

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 bosom

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 it."
Thus did the circulated melody

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,
Extended over us its inner curve,

So very distant, that its outward show,

There where I was, not yet appeared to me.
Therefore mine eyes did not possess the power

* 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.
ii Sapphire is the colour in which the old painters arrayed the Virgin.

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.*
And as a little child, that towards its mother

Extends its arms, when it the milk has taken,

Through impulse kindled into outward flame,
Each of those gleams of light did upward stretch

So with its summit, that the deep affection

They had for Mary was revealed to me.
Thereafter they remained there in my sight,

Regina Cæli singing with such sweetness,
That ne'er from me has the delight departed.
Oh, what exuberance is garnered up.

In those resplendent coffers, which had been

For sowing here below good husbandmen!
There they enjoy and live upon the treasure

IWhich 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 story.

CANTO XXIV.

“ O COMPANY elect to the Great Supper

Of the Lamb glorified, who feedeth you,

So that for ever full is your desire,
If by the grace of God this man foretastes

Of whatsoever falleth from your table,

Or ever death prescribes to him the time,
Direct your mind to his immense desire,l)

And him somewhat bedew; ye drinking are

For ever from the fount whence comes his thought."
Thus Beatrice; and those enraptured spirits
Made themselves spheres around their steadfast poles;

Flaming intensely in the guise of comets.
And as the wheels in works of horologes

Revolve so that the first to the beholder

Motionless seems, and the last one to fly,
So in like manner did those carols, dancing**

In different measure, by their affluence
Make me esteem them either swift or slow.

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.

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