Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IV. The Higher Life
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IV. The Higher Life.  1904.
 
VIII. Selections from “The Divine Comedy”
The Saints in Glory
Dante Alighieri (1265–1321)
 
Translated by Henry Francis Cary

Selections from “The Divine Comedy”
Paradise: Canto XXXI.

IN fashion, as a snow-white rose, lay then
Before my view the saintly multitude,
Which is his own blood Christ espoused. Meanwhile,
That other host, that soar aloft to gaze
And celebrate his glory, whom they love,        5
Hovered around; and, like a troop of bees,
Amid the vernal sweets alighting now,
Now, clustering, where their fragrant labor glows,
Flew downward to the mighty flower, or rose
From the redundant petals, streaming back        10
Unto the steadfast dwelling of their joy.
Faces had they of flame, and wings of gold:
The rest was whiter than the driven snow;
And, as they flitted down into the flower,
From range to range, fanning their plumy loins,        15
Whispered the peace and ardor, which they won
From that soft winnowing. Shadow none, the vast
Interposition of such numerous flight
Cast, from above, upon the flower, or view
Obstructed aught. For, through the universe,        20
Wherever merited, celestial light
Glides freely, and no obstacle prevents.
  All there, who reign in safety and in bliss,
Ages long past or new, on one sole mark
Their love and vision fixed. O trinal beam        25
Of individual star, that charm’st them thus!
Vouchsafe one glance to gild our storm below.
  If the grim brood, from Arctic shores that roamed
(Where Helice forever, as she wheels,
Sparkles a mother’s fondness on her son),        30
Stood in mute wonder mid the works of Rome,
When to their view the Lateran arose
In greatness more than earthly; I, who then
From human to divine had passed, from time
Unto eternity, and out of Florence        35
To justice and to truth, how might I chuse
But marvel too? ’Twixt gladness and amaze,
In sooth, no will had I to utter aught,
Or hear. And, as a pilgrim, when he rests
Within the temple of his vow, looks round        40
In breathless awe, and hopes some time to tell
Of all its goodly state; e’en so mine eyes
Coursed up and down along the living light,
Now low, and now aloft, and now around,
Visiting every step. Looks I beheld,        45
Where charity in soft persuasion sat;
Smiles from within, and radiance from above;
And, in each gesture, grace and honor high.
  So roved my ken, and in its general form
All Paradise surveyed.        50
 
 
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