DANTE'S SUBLIME COMEDY: PARADISE: Chapter 33
CHAPTER 33: Prayer and Answer
“O Virgin Mother, daughter of your son!
Lowly, yet raised higher than anyone!
goal of all human striving, you are she 3
ennobling humanity, because He
who made mankind chose to be made by you.
The love that was rekindled in your womb 6
had warmth enough to let this Heaven bloom
in endless peace where you are now our sun
always at height of noon. To the souls here 9
you are incarnate charity, to those on earth
a well of living hope. Lady so great
that those seeking Grace without your aid 12
may as well aspire to fly without wings.
Your kindness not only aids those who ask;
sometimes it anticipates our prayer. 15
Your mercy, pity, generosity
unite in all the good that people need.
This man was sent up from the depths of Hell, 18
seeing the lives of spirits, one by one,
and now he begs your kindness for the strength
to bear salvation’s last enlightenment. 21
I never sought that vision for myself
yet join my plea with his to strengthen it.
I pray you, clean his sight off mortal stains 24
making his vision fit for such delight,
and afterwards I pray that you will keep
his heart pure – curb his human appetite. 27
Many more Heavenly souls share in this
prayer of mine, including Beatrice.”
The eyes God loved and his son reverenced 30
fixed on the supplicant and plainly showed
she loved devoted prayer, then she looked
to the fixed point of light that only she 33
could penetrate with undimmed eye. By now
I had reached the end of all desire,
did not want another thing, but Bernard 36
with a smile told me to look up. I did
and found my sight, now purified, entered
the lofty beam which is the one true light. 39
and from that time I parted company
with memory and speech. It seemed a dream
of passion that remains when dreamers wake 42
yet can’t recall visions inspiring them.
That has become my state. Only a few
sweet drops stayed in my memory of it. 45
The rest is lost as tears are lost in rain
or thaw washes away footsteps in snow.
O light supreme, more than conceivable 48
by mortal mind, grant mine again some part
of what you let me see, and give my tongue
some power to leave a gleam of glory 51
for my readers yet to come. Please give back
a little to my memory, lending
these words force to convey your victory. 54
So piercing was the splendour of that ray
I am convinced that had I looked away
even an instant, it had blinded me, 57
but I sustained it till my looking reached
the central goodness. Bless abounding Grace!
You let me dare to face infinite light 60
so long that my whole mind was lost in You!
The scattered pages of the universe
were in that deepness, with its substances, 63
its accidents, connections, unified
and bound by love into a single book.
God by His light creates complexity, 66
yet all appeared one good grand simple shape
in writing which I feel my joy expand!
One moment gazing on that light seemed more 69
than the twenty five centuries of years
since Argonauts launched the first sailing ship.
I could not look elsewhere. Exactly there 72
I saw the objects of all will. What is
outside it is defective: all within
perfectly made. Dear reader, know these words 75
tell even less of what I can recall
than if my infant tongue still sucked a breast.
The living light remained the same, but I 78
began to change. My strengthened sight saw more,
for in the profound clear ground of light
appeared three circles, different colours, 81
the same size. Two reflected each other
as rainbows do, the third took fire from them.
This blethering, alas, cannot convey 84
what things I saw in that Eternal Light
fulfilling, knowing, loving its sweet self
in one reflecting, circling Trinity, 87
for as my eyes dwelled there I seemed to see
a human form. Like the geometer
battering his brain in vain to see how 90
circle could be squared, I tried to think or feel
how such an image could eternally
persist in light. The wings of my fancy 93
could not fly so far until, in a flash,
I saw desire and will resembled now
a finely balanced wheel being turned by
love that moves the sun and every star. 97