Table of Contents

The Laurel Crown. St. James examines Dante on Hope. Dante's Blindness.

If e'er it happen that the Poem Sacred,

To which both heaven and earth have set their hand,

So that it many a year hath made me lean,

O'ercome the cruelty that bars me out

From the fair sheepfold, where a lamb I slumbered,

An enemy to the wolves that war upon it,

With other voice forthwith, with other fleece

Poet will I return, and at my font

Baptismal will I take the laurel crown;

Because into the Faith that maketh known

All souls to God there entered I, and then

Peter for her sake thus my brow encircled.

Thereafterward towards us moved a light

Out of that band whence issued the first-fruits

Which of his vicars Christ behind him left,

And then my Lady, full of ecstasy,

Said unto me: "Look, look! behold the Baron

For whom below Galicia is frequented."

In the same way as, when a dove alights

Near his companion, both of them pour forth,

Circling about and murmuring, their affection,

So one beheld I by the other grand

Prince glorified to be with welcome greeted,

Lauding the food that there above is eaten.

But when their gratulations were complete,

Silently 'coram me' each one stood still,

So incandescent it o'ercame my sight.

Smiling thereafterwards, said Beatrice:

"Illustrious life, by whom the benefactions

Of our Basilica have been described,

Make Hope resound within this altitude;

Thou knowest as oft thou dost personify it

As Jesus to the three gave greater clearness."—

"Lift up thy head, and make thyself assured;

For what comes hither from the mortal world

Must needs be ripened in our radiance."

This comfort came to me from the second fire;

Wherefore mine eyes I lifted to the hills,

Which bent them down before with too great weight.

"Since, through his grace, our Emperor wills that thou

Shouldst find thee face to face, before thy death,

In the most secret chamber, with his Counts,

So that, the truth beholden of this court,

Hope, which below there rightfully enamours,

Thereby thou strengthen in thyself and others,

Say what it is, and how is flowering with it

Thy mind, and say from whence it came to thee."

Thus did the second light again continue.

And the Compassionate, who piloted

The plumage of my wings in such high flight,

Did in reply anticipate me thus:

"No child whatever the Church Militant

Of greater hope possesses, as is written

In that Sun which irradiates all our band;

Therefore it is conceded him from Egypt

To come into Jerusalem to see,

Or ever yet his warfare be completed.

The two remaining points, that not for knowledge

Have been demanded, but that he report

How much this virtue unto thee is pleasing,

To him I leave; for hard he will not find them,

Nor of self-praise; and let him answer them;

And may the grace of God in this assist him!"

As a disciple, who his teacher follows,

Ready and willing, where he is expert,

That his proficiency may be displayed,

"Hope," said I, "is the certain expectation

Of future glory, which is the effect

Of grace divine and merit precedent.

From many stars this light comes unto me;

But he instilled it first into my heart

Who was chief singer unto the chief captain.

'Sperent in te,' in the high Theody

He sayeth, 'those who know thy name;' and who

Knoweth it not, if he my faith possess?

Thou didst instil me, then, with his instilling

In the Epistle, so that I am full,

And upon others rain again your rain."

While I was speaking, in the living bosom

Of that combustion quivered an effulgence,

Sudden and frequent, in the guise of lightning;

Then breathed: "The love wherewith I am inflamed

Towards the virtue still which followed me

Unto the palm and issue of the field,

Wills that I breathe to thee that thou delight

In her; and grateful to me is thy telling

Whatever things Hope promises to thee."

And I: "The ancient Scriptures and the new

The mark establish, and this shows it me,

Of all the souls whom God hath made his friends.

Isaiah saith, that each one garmented

In his own land shall be with twofold garments,

And his own land is this delightful life.

Thy brother, too, far more explicitly,

There where he treateth of the robes of white,

This revelation manifests to us."

And first, and near the ending of these words,

"Sperent in te" from over us was heard,

To which responsive answered all the carols.

Thereafterward a light among them brightened,

So that, if Cancer one such crystal had,

Winter would have a month of one sole day.

And as uprises, goes, and enters the dance

A winsome maiden, only to do honour

To the new bride, and not from any failing,

Even thus did I behold the brightened splendour

Approach the two, who in a wheel revolved

As was beseeming to their ardent love.

Into the song and music there it entered;

And fixed on them my Lady kept her look,

Even as a bride silent and motionless.

"This is the one who lay upon the breast

Of him our Pelican; and this is he

To the great office from the cross elected."

My Lady thus; but therefore none the more

Did move her sight from its attentive gaze

Before or afterward these words of hers.

Even as a man who gazes, and endeavours

To see the eclipsing of the sun a little,

And who, by seeing, sightless doth become,

So I became before that latest fire,

While it was said, "Why dost thou daze thyself

To see a thing which here hath no existence?

Earth in the earth my body is, and shall be

With all the others there, until our number

With the eternal proposition tallies.

With the two garments in the blessed cloister

Are the two lights alone that have ascended:

And this shalt thou take back into your world."

And at this utterance the flaming circle

Grew quiet, with the dulcet intermingling

Of sound that by the trinal breath was made,

As to escape from danger or fatigue

The oars that erst were in the water beaten

Are all suspended at a whistle's sound.

Ah, how much in my mind was I disturbed,

When I turned round to look on Beatrice,

That her I could not see, although I was

Close at her side and in the Happy World!