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 Canto XXIV
      St. Peter examines Dante touching Faith, and is contented with his
 "O Ye! in chosen fellowship advanced
 To the great supper of the blessed Lamb,
 Whereon who feeds hath every wish fulfill'd;
 If to this man through God's grace be vouchsafed
 Foretaste of that, which from your table falls,
 Or ever death his fated term prescribe;
 Be ye not heedless of his urgent will:
 But may some influence of your sacred dews
 Sprinkle him. Of the fount ye always drink,
 Whence flows what most he craves." Beatrice spake;
 And the rejoicing spirits, like to spheres
 On firm - set poles revolving, trail'd a blaze
 Of comet splendour: and as wheels, that wind
 Their circles in the horologe, so work
 The stated rounds, that to the observant eye
 The first seems still, and as it flew, the last;
 E'en thus their carols weaving variously,
 They, by the measure paced, or swift, or slow,
 Made me to rate the riches of their joy.
 From that, which I did note in beauty most
 Excelling, saw I issue forth a flame
 So bright, as none was left more goodly there.
 Round Beatrice thrice it wheel'd about,
 With so divine a song, that fancy's ear
 Records it not; and the pen passeth on,
 And leaves a blank: for that our mortal speech,
 Nor e'en the inward shaping of the brain,
 Hath colours fine enough to trace such folds.
 "O saintly sister mine! thy prayer devout
 Is with so vehement affection urged,
 Thou dost unbind me from that beauteous sphere."
 Such were the accents towards my lady breathed
 From that blest ardour, soon as it was stay'd;
 To whom she thus: "O everlasting light
 Of him, within whose mighty grasp our Lord
 Did leave the keys, which of this wondrous bliss
 He bare below! tent this man as thou wilt,
 With lighter probe or deep, touching the faith,
 By the which thou didst on the billows walk.
 If he in love, in hope, and in belief,
 Be steadfast, is not hid from thee: for thou
 Hast there thy ken, where all things are beheld
 In liveliest portraiture. But since true faith
 Has peopled this fair realm with citizens;
 Meet is, that to exalt its glory more,
 Thou, in his audience, shouldst thereof discourse."
 Like to the bachelor, who arms himself,
 And speaks not, till the master have proposed
 The question, to approve, and not to end it;
 So I, in silence, arm'd me, while she spake,
 Summoning up each argument to aid;
 As was behoveful for such questioner,
 And such profession: "As good Christian ought,
 Declare thee, what is faith?" Whereat I raised
 My forehead to the light, whence this had breathed;
 Then turn'd to Beatrice; and in her looks
 Approval met, that from their inmost fount
 I should unlock the waters. "May the grace,
 That giveth me the captain of the Church
 For confessor," said I, "vouchsafe to me
 Apt utterance for my thoughts;" then added: "Sire!
 E'en as set down by the unerring style
 Of thy dear brother, who with thee conspired
 To bring Rome in unto the way of life,
 Faith of things hoped is substance, and the proof
 Of things not see; and herein doth consist
 Methinks its essence." - "Rightly hast thou deem'd,"
 Was answer'd; "if thou well discern, why first
 He hath defined it substance, and then proof."
 "The deep things," I replied, "which here I scan
 Distinctly, are below from mortal eye
 So hidden, they have in belief alone
 Their being; on which credence, hope sublime
 Is built: and, therefore substance, it intends.
 And inasmuch as we must needs infer
 From such belief our reasoning, all respect
 To other view excluded; hence of proof
 The intention is derived." Forthwith I heard:
 "If thus, whate'er by learning men attain,
 Were understood; the sophist would want room
 To exercise his wit." So breathed the flame
 Of love; then added: "Current is the coin
 Thou utter'st, both in weight and in alloy.
 But tell me, if thou hast it in thy purse."
 "Even so glittering and so round," said I,
 "I not a whit misdoubt of its assay."
 Next issued from the deep - imbosom'd splendour:
 "Say, whence the costly jewel, on the which
 Is founded every virtue, came to thee."
 "The flood," I answer'd, "from the Spirit of God
 Rain'd down upon the ancient bond and new,[1] -
 Here is the reasoning that convinceth me
 So feelingly, each argument beside
 Seems blunt and forceless in comparison."
 Then heard I: "Wherefore holdest thou that each,
 The elder proposition and the new,
 Which so persuade thee, are the voice of Heaven?"
 [1: "The ancient bond and new." The Old and New Testaments.]
 "The works, that follow'd, evidence their truth,"
 I answer'd: "Nature did not make for these
 The iron hot, or on her anvil mould them."
 "Who voucheth to thee of the works themselves,"
 Was the reply, "that they in very deed
 Are that they purport? None hath sworn so to thee."
 "That all the world," said I, "should have been turn'd
 To Christian, and no miracle been wrought,
 Would in itself be such a miracle,
 The rest were not an hundredth part so great.
 E'en thou went'st forth in poverty and hunger
 To set the goodly plant, that, from the vine
 It once was, now is grown unsightly bramble."
 That ended, through the high celestial court
 Resounded all the spheres, "Praise we one God!"
 In song of most unearthly melody.
 And when that Worthy[2] thus, from branch to branch,
 Examining, had led me, that we now
 Approach'd the topmost bough; he straight resumed:
 "The grace, that holds sweet dalliance with thy soul
 So far discreetly hath thy lips unclosed;
 That, whatsoe'er has past them, I commend.
 Behoves thee to express, what thou believest,
 The next; and, whereon, thy belief hath grown."
 [2: "Quel Baron." In the next Canto, St. James is called "Barone." So
 in Boccaccio, G. vi. N. 10, we find "Baron Messer Santo Antonio."]
 "O saintly sire and spirit!" I began,
 "Who seest that, which thou didst so believe,
 As to outstrip feet younger than thine own,
 Toward the sepulchre; thy will is here,
 That I the tenour of my creed unfold;
 And thou, the cause of it, hast likewise ask'd.
 And I reply: I in one God believe;
 One sole eternal Godhead, of whose love
 All Heaven is moved, Himself unmoved the while.
 Nor demonstration physical alone,
 Or more intelligential and abstruse,
 Persuades me to this faith: but from that truth
 It cometh to me rather, which is shed
 Through Moses; the rapt Prophets; and the Psalms;
 The Gospel; and what ye yourselves did write,
 When ye were gifted of the Holy Ghost.
  three eternal Persons I believe;
 Essence threefold and one; mysterious league
 Of union absolute, which, many a time,
 The word of gospel lore upon my mind
 Imprints: and from this germ, this firstling spark
 The lively flame dilates; and, like Heaven's star,
 Doth glitter in me." As the master hears,
 Well pleased, and then enfoldeth in his arms
 The servant, who hath joyful tidings brought,
 And having told the errand keeps his peace;
 Thus benediction uttering with song,
 Soon as my peace I held, compass'd me thrice
 The apostolic radiance, whose behest
 Had oped my lips: so well their answer pleased.