The Divine Comedy
Table of Contents
Catalogue of Titles
Logos Virtual Library
The Divine Comedy
Translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Soon as the blessed flame had taken up|
The final word to give it utterance,
Began the holy millstone to revolve,
And in its gyre had not turned wholly round,
Before another in a ring enclosed it,
And motion joined to motion, song to song;
Song that as greatly doth transcend our Muses,
Our Sirens, in those dulcet clarions,
As primal splendour that which is reflected.
And as are spanned athwart a tender cloud
Two rainbows parallel and like in colour,
When Juno to her handmaid gives command,
(The one without born of the one within,
Like to the speaking of that vagrant one
Whom love consumed as doth the sun the vapours,)
And make the people here, through covenant
God set with Noah, presageful of the world
That shall no more be covered with a flood,
In such wise of those sempiternal roses
The garlands twain encompassed us about,
And thus the outer to the inner answered.
After the dance, and other grand rejoicings,
Both of the singing, and the flaming forth
Effulgence with effulgence blithe and tender,
Together, at once, with one accord had stopped,
(Even as the eyes, that, as volition moves them,
Must needs together shut and lift themselves,)
Out of the heart of one of the new lights
There came a voice, that needle to the star
Made me appear in turning thitherward.
And it began: The love that makes me fair
Draws me to speak about the other leader,
By whom so well is spoken here of mine.
Tis right, where one is, to bring in the other,
That, as they were united in their warfare,
Together likewise may their glory shine.
The soldiery of Christ, which it had cost
So dear to arm again, behind the standard
Moved slow and doubtful and in numbers few,
When the Emperor who reigneth evermore
Provided for the host that was in peril,
Through grace alone and not that it was worthy;
And, as was said, he to his Bride brought succour
With champions twain, at whose deed, at whose word
The straggling people were together drawn.
Within that region where the sweet west wind
Rises to open the new leaves, wherewith
Europe is seen to clothe herself afresh,
Not far off from the beating of the waves,
Behind which in his long career the sun
Sometimes conceals himself from every man,
Is situate the fortunate Calahorra,
Under protection of the mighty shield
In which the Lion subject is and sovereign.
Therein was born the amorous paramour
Of Christian Faith, the athlete consecrate,
Kind to his own and cruel to his foes;
And when it was created was his mind
Replete with such a living energy,
That in his mother her it made prophetic.
As soon as the espousals were complete
Between him and the Faith at holy font,
Where they with mutual safety dowered each other,
The woman, who for him had given assent,
Saw in a dream the admirable fruit
That issue would from him and from his heirs;
And that he might be construed as he was,
A spirit from this place went forth to name him
With His possessive whose he wholly was.
Dominic was he called; and him I speak of
Even as of the husbandman whom Christ
Elected to his garden to assist him.
Envoy and servant sooth he seemed of Christ,
For the first love made manifest in him
Was the first counsel that was given by Christ.
Silent and wakeful many a time was he
Discovered by his nurse upon the ground,
As if he would have said, For this I came.
O thou his father, Felix verily!
O thou his mother, verily Joanna,
If this, interpreted, means as is said!
Not for the world which people toil for now
In following Ostiense and Taddeo,
But through his longing after the true manna,
He in short time became so great a teacher,
That he began to go about the vineyard,
Which fadeth soon, if faithless be the dresser;
And of the See, (that once was more benignant
Unto the righteous poor, not through itself,
But him who sits there and degenerates,)
Not to dispense or two or three for six,
Not any fortune of first vacancy,
Non decimas quae sunt pauperum Dei,
He asked for, but against the errant world
Permission to do battle for the seed,
Of which these four and twenty plants surround thee.
Then with the doctrine and the will together,
With office apostolical he moved,
Like torrent which some lofty vein out-presses;
And in among the shoots heretical
His impetus with greater fury smote,
Wherever the resistance was the greatest.
Of him were made thereafter divers runnels,
Whereby the garden catholic is watered,
So that more living its plantations stand.
If such the one wheel of the Biga was,
In which the Holy Church itself defended
And in the field its civic battle won,
Truly full manifest should be to thee
The excellence of the other, unto whom
Thomas so courteous was before my coming.
But still the orbit, which the highest part
Of its circumference made, is derelict,
So that the mould is where was once the crust.
His family, that had straight forward moved
With feet upon his footprints, are turned round
So that they set the point upon the heel.
And soon aware they will be of the harvest
Of this bad husbandry, when shall the tares
Complain the granary is taken from them.
Yet say I, he who searcheth leaf by leaf
Our volume through, would still some page discover
Where he could read, I am as I am wont.
Twill not be from Casal nor Acquasparta,
From whence come such unto the written word
That one avoids it, and the other narrows.
Bonaventura of Bagnoregios life
Am I, who always in great offices
Postponed considerations sinister.
Here are Illuminato and Agostino,
Who of the first barefooted beggars were
That with the cord the friends of God became.
Hugh of Saint Victor is among them here,
And Peter Mangiador, and Peter of Spain,
Who down below in volumes twelve is shining;
Nathan the seer, and metropolitan
Chrysostom, and Anselmus, and Donatus
Who deigned to lay his hand to the first art;
Here is Rabanus, and beside me here
Shines the Calabrian Abbot Joachim,
He with the spirit of prophecy endowed.
To celebrate so great a paladin
Have moved me the impassioned courtesy
And the discreet discourses of Friar Thomas,
And with me they have moved this company.