Just as at night the seven stars we call
The Plough and
Charlie’s Wain and The Great Bear
guide all good
steersmen on the salt sea plain, 3
so three great Christian virtues: Faith, Hope,
Courage, Wisdom, Justice, Temperance
virtues Pagans recognize) create 6
to eyes not blinded by the fog of sin,
candelabrum holding seven flames
light our way on earth to God above. 9
After it halted, all the twenty four
white robed, leaf crowned prophets in between
and griffin, turned toward the car 12
with smiling faces, blissfully serene.
one inspired by Heaven, sang three times,
O come, my bride, to me from Lebanon. 15
The others joined their melody to his
blesséd souls on Resurrection Day,
by the clang of the last trump to sing 18
hosannas with rejuvenated tongue.
the great sound I saw above the car
hundred angel messengers appear 21
sang, Blesséd is she who comes, and
O give her lilies with full hands. They
and around flowers of every kind. 24
I once saw in the dawning of a day
rosy eastern sky, clear blue above,
low white mist so gently veiled the sun, 27
my eyes could linger on its perfect sphere.
in the cloud of blooms from angel hands
whirled and fell inside the car and out, 30
a lady came, with olive garland crowned
white veil, misting a green dress through which
loveliness shone like a living flame. 33
I had not felt the awe now filling me
many years. I had first felt it when
child of nine, I met another child 36
I loved unselfishly, and so knew then
press of adult care made me forget –
love can be and ought to be divine. 39
The goddess now reminded me of this.
turned to Virgil in my sore distress
a child turns to mother in a fright 42
meaning to say, “I tremble with despair –
can I make my treachery come right?”
was not there. Virgil, my dearest friend, 45
the good guide who had led me safe through
washed my cheeks with dew to make me fit
climb so close to my salvation 48
had vanished. Gone. I wept, then heard a
weep now, Dante. You must shed more tears
worse than loss of Virgil’s company.” 51
Hearing my name I turned and saw her stand
within the car,
speaking across the stream
admirals commanding fleets address 54
a sailor, from a flagship’s highest deck.
descending from her head, held there
olive-wreath-sprays from Minerva’s tree 57
did not allow a clear view of her face,
and yet the
regal way she spoke conveyed
harshness was restrained by tenderness. 60
“Look well at me. I am your Beatrice.
How dare you
come so high? Did you not know
paradise was made for happiness?” 63
Ashamed, I stared down into the pure
saw my glum face
reflected; turned away.
pity has for me a bitter taste. 66
She spoke no further as the angels sang
the psalm that
starts, My hope is in the Lord,
with, You give freedom to my feet. 69
They seemed to say, “Lady, why blame him
Heavenly compassion warmed and thawed
ice that had
bound my heart. This flowed away 72
like candlewax in flame, or frozen snow
packed hard by
northern blasts between the firs
upon the Apennines
(Italy’s spine) 75
melts in warm breezes out of Africa.
who had never so profoundly grieved,
from my eyes and mouth, water and sighs. 78
They proved my agony was honesty.
upright in her car my lady said,
spirits living in eternal day 81
know well why he’s to blame, and only asked
let him hear me make his falseness plain.
needs his grief to equal guilt, 84
sorrow to balance his dead weight of sin.
starry wheels that turn the universe
folk bring gifts from God to splendid ends, 87
but only through their will. He had great
care they would have yielded splendid fruit,
in good soil foul weeds may also sprout. 90
Our childhood love preserved his innocence.
adolescence brought new friends, but sight
my young eyes at times still kept him right. 93
When twenty-five I died and was reborn
purity, while his acquaintances
his will, because he now pursued 96
visions of good that could not be made
dreams and memories I called him back.
did not heed, sank low till Heaven 99
for his salvation. Only showing him
the wholly lost
in Hell could save his soul;
and so I went to
Limbo, found t 102
who led him here where I will be his guide,
I must guide him to a greater height
poetry may show to folk on earth 105
the architecture of eternity.
the decrees of Heaven will be undone
he not first washed clean in Lethe’s stream.
The strongest tears must pay his entrance