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St. Benedict. His Lamentation over the Corruption of Monks. The Eighth Heaven, the Fixed Stars.

Oppressed with stupor, I unto my guide

Turned like a little child who always runs

For refuge there where he confideth most;

And she, even as a mother who straightway

Gives comfort to her pale and breathless boy

With voice whose wont it is to reassure him,

Said to me: "Knowest thou not thou art in heaven,

And knowest thou not that heaven is holy all

And what is done here cometh from good zeal?

After what wise the singing would have changed thee

And I by smiling, thou canst now imagine,

Since that the cry has startled thee so much,

In which if thou hadst understood its prayers

Already would be known to thee the vengeance

Which thou shalt look upon before thou diest.

The sword above here smiteth not in haste

Nor tardily, howe'er it seem to him

Who fearing or desiring waits for it.

But turn thee round towards the others now,

For very illustrious spirits shalt thou see,

If thou thy sight directest as I say."

As it seemed good to her mine eyes I turned,

And saw a hundred spherules that together

With mutual rays each other more embellished.

I stood as one who in himself represses

The point of his desire, and ventures not

To question, he so feareth the too much.

And now the largest and most luculent

Among those pearls came forward, that it might

Make my desire concerning it content.

Within it then I heard: "If thou couldst see

Even as myself the charity that burns

Among us, thy conceits would be expressed;

But, that by waiting thou mayst not come late

To the high end, I will make answer even

Unto the thought of which thou art so chary.

That mountain on whose slope Cassino stands

Was frequented of old upon its summit

By a deluded folk and ill-disposed;

And I am he who first up thither bore

The name of Him who brought upon the earth

The truth that so much sublimateth us.

And such abundant grace upon me shone

That all the neighbouring towns I drew away

From the impious worship that seduced the world.

These other fires, each one of them, were men

Contemplative, enkindled by that heat

Which maketh holy flowers and fruits spring up.

Here is Macarius, here is Romualdus,

Here are my brethren, who within the cloisters

Their footsteps stayed and kept a steadfast heart."

And I to him: "The affection which thou showest

Speaking with me, and the good countenance

Which I behold and note in all your ardours,

In me have so my confidence dilated

As the sun doth the rose, when it becomes

As far unfolded as it hath the power.

Therefore I pray, and thou assure me, father,

If I may so much grace receive, that I

May thee behold with countenance unveiled."

He thereupon: "Brother, thy high desire

In the remotest sphere shall be fulfilled,

Where are fulfilled all others and my own.

There perfect is, and ripened, and complete,

Every desire; within that one alone

Is every part where it has always been;

For it is not in space, nor turns on poles,

And unto it our stairway reaches up,

Whence thus from out thy sight it steals away.

Up to that height the Patriarch Jacob saw it

Extending its supernal part, what time

So thronged with angels it appeared to him.

But to ascend it now no one uplifts

His feet from off the earth, and now my Rule

Below remaineth for mere waste of paper.

The walls that used of old to be an Abbey

Are changed to dens of robbers, and the cowls

Are sacks filled full of miserable flour.

But heavy usury is not taken up

So much against God's pleasure as that fruit

Which maketh so insane the heart of monks;

For whatsoever hath the Church in keeping

Is for the folk that ask it in God's name,

Not for one's kindred or for something worse.

The flesh of mortals is so very soft,

That good beginnings down below suffice not

From springing of the oak to bearing acorns.

Peter began with neither gold nor silver,

And I with orison and abstinence,

And Francis with humility his convent.

And if thou lookest at each one's beginning,

And then regardest whither he has run,

Thou shalt behold the white changed into brown.

In verity the Jordan backward turned,

And the sea's fleeing, when God willed were more

A wonder to behold, than succour here."

Thus unto me he said; and then withdrew

To his own band, and the band closed together;

Then like a whirlwind all was upward rapt.

The gentle Lady urged me on behind them

Up o'er that stairway by a single sign,

So did her virtue overcome my nature;

Nor here below, where one goes up and down

By natural law, was motion e'er so swift

That it could be compared unto my wing.

Reader, as I may unto that devout

Triumph return, on whose account I often

For my transgressions weep and beat my breast,—

Thou hadst not thrust thy finger in the fire

And drawn it out again, before I saw

The sign that follows Taurus, and was in it.

O glorious stars, O light impregnated

With mighty virtue, from which I acknowledge

All of my genius, whatsoe'er it be,

With you was born, and hid himself with you,

He who is father of all mortal life,

When first I tasted of the Tuscan air;

And then when grace was freely given to me

To enter the high wheel which turns you round,

Your region was allotted unto me.

To you devoutly at this hour my soul

Is sighing, that it virtue may acquire

For the stern pass that draws it to itself.

"Thou art so near unto the last salvation,"

Thus Beatrice began, "thou oughtest now

To have thine eves unclouded and acute;

And therefore, ere thou enter farther in,

Look down once more, and see how vast a world

Thou hast already put beneath thy feet;

So that thy heart, as jocund as it may,

Present itself to the triumphant throng

That comes rejoicing through this rounded ether."

I with my sight returned through one and all

The sevenfold spheres, and I beheld this globe

Such that I smiled at its ignoble semblance;

And that opinion I approve as best

Which doth account it least; and he who thinks

Of something else may truly be called just.

I saw the daughter of Latona shining

Without that shadow, which to me was cause

That once I had believed her rare and dense.

The aspect of thy son, Hyperion,

Here I sustained, and saw how move themselves

Around and near him Maia and Dione.

Thence there appeared the temperateness of Jove

'Twixt son and father, and to me was clear

The change that of their whereabout they make;

And all the seven made manifest to me

How great they are, and eke how swift they are,

And how they are in distant habitations.

The threshing-floor that maketh us so proud,

To me revolving with the eternal Twins,

Was all apparent made from hill to harbour!

Then to the beauteous eyes mine eyes I turned.