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 Canto XXIX
      Beatrice beholds, in the mirror of divine truth, some doubts which had
 entered the mind of Dante. These she resolves; and then digresses into a
 vehement reprehension of certain theologians and preachers in those days,
 whose ignorance or avarice induced them to substitute their own inventions for
 the pure word of the Gospel.
 No longer, than what time Latona's twins
 Cover'd of Libra and the fleecy star,
 Together both, girding the horizon hang;
 In even balance, from the zenith poised;
 Till from that verge, each, changing hemisphere,
 Part the nice level; e'en so brief a space
 Did Beatrice's silence hold. A smile
 Sat painted on her cheek; and her fix'd gaze
 Bent on the point, at which my vision fail'd:
 When thus, her words resuming, she began:
 "I speak, nor what thou wouldst inquire demand;
 For I have mark'd it, where all time and place
 Are present. Not for increase to Himself
 Of good, which may not be increased, but forth
 To manifest His glory by its beams;
 Inhabiting His own eternity,
 Beyond time's limit or what bound soe'er
 To circumscribe His being; as He will'd,
 Into new natures, like unto Himself,
 Eternal Love unfolded. Nor before,
 As if in dull inaction, torpid, lay.
 For, not in process of before or aft,
 Upon these waters moved the Spirit of God.
 Simple and mix'd, both form and substance, forth
 To perfect being started, like three darts
 Shot from a bow three - corded. And as ray
 In crystal, glass, and amber, shines entire,
 E'en at the moment of its issuing; thus
 Did, from the eternal Sovran, beam entire
 His threefold operation, at one act
 Produced coeval. Yet, in order, each
 Created his due station knew: those highest,
 Who pure intelligence were made; mere power,
 The lowest; in the midst, bound with strict league,
 Intelligence and power, unsever'd bond.
 Long tract of ages by the Angels past,
 Ere the creating of another world,
 Described on Jerome's pages,[1] thou hast seen.
 But that what I disclose to thee is true,
 Those penmen,[2] whom the Holy Spirit moved
 In many a passage of their sacred book,
 Attest; as thou by diligent search shalt find:
 And reason,[3] in some sort, discerns the same,
 Who scarce would grant the heavenly ministers,
 Of their perfection void, so long a space.
 Thus when and where these spirits of love were made,
 Thou know'st, and how: and, knowing, hast allay'd
 Thy thirst, which from the triple question[4] rose.
 Ere one had reckon'd twenty, e'en so soon,
 Part of the Angels fell: and in their fall,
 Confusion to your elements ensued.
 The others kept their station: and this task,
 Whereon thou look'st, began, with such delight,
 That they surcease not ever, day nor night,
 Their circling. Of that fatal lapse the cause
 Was the curst pride of him, whom thou hast seen
 Pent with the world's incumbrance. Those, whom here
 Thou seest, were lowly to confess themselves
 Of His free bounty, who had made them apt
 For ministeries so high: therefore their views
 Were, by enlightening grace and their own merit,
 Exalted; so that in their will confirm'd
 They stand, nor fear to fall. For do not doubt,
 But to receive the grace, which Heaven vouchsafes,
 [1: Jerome had described the Angels as created long before the rest
 of the universe; an opinion which Thomas Aquinas controverted.]
 [2: As in Gen. i. I, and Eccles. xviii. I.]
 [3: "Reason." The heavenly ministers ("motori") would have existed to
 no purpose if they had been created before the corporeal world, which they
 were to govern.]
 [4: He had wished to know where, when, and how the Angels had been
 created, and these three questions had been resolved.]
 Is meritorious, even as the soul
 With prompt affection welcometh the guest.
 Now, without further help, if with good heed
 My words thy mind have treasured, thou henceforth
 This consistory round about mayst scan,
 And gaze thy fill. But, since thou hast on earth
 Heard vain disputers, reasoners in the schools,
 Canvass the angelic nature, and dispute
 Its powers of apprehension, memory, choice;
 Therefore, 'tis well thou take from me the truth,
 Pure and without disguise; which they below,
 Equivocating, darken and perplex.
 "Know thou, that, from the first, these substances,
 Rejoicing in the countenance of God,
 Have held unceasingly their view, intent
 Upon the glorious vision, from the which
 Nought absent is nor hid: where then no change
 Of newness, with succession, interrupts,
 Remembrance, there, needs none to gather up
 Divided thought and images remote.
 "So that men, thus at variance with the truth,
 Dream, though their eyes be open; reckless some
 Of error; others well aware they err,
 To whom more guilt and shame are justly due.
 Each the known track of sage philosophy
 Deserts, and has a bye - way of his own:
 So much the restless eagerness to shine,
 And love of singularity prevail.
 Yet this, offensive as it is, provokes
 Heaven's anger less, than when the Book of God
 Is forced to yield to man's authority,
 Or from its straightness warp'd: no reckoning made
 What blood the sowing of it in the world
 Has cost; what favour for himself he wins,
 Who meekly clings to it. The aim of all
 Is how to shine: e'en they, whose office is
 To preach the Gospel, let the Gospel sleep,
 And pass their own inventions off instead.
 One tells, how at Christ's suffering the wan moon
 Bent back her steps, and shadow'd o'er the sun
 With intervenient disk, as she withdrew:
 Another, how the light shrouded itself
 Within its tabernacle, and left dark
 The Spaniard, and the Indian, with the Jew.
 Such fables Florence in her pulpit hears,
 Bandied about more frequent, than the names
 Of Bindi and of Lapi[5] in her streets.
 The sheep, meanwhile, poor witless ones, return
 From pasture, fed with wind: and what avails
 For their excuse, they do not see their harm?
 Christ said not to His first conventicle,
 'Go forth and preach impostures to the world,'
 But gave them truth to build on; and the sound
 Was mighty on their lips: nor needed they,
 Beside the Gospel, other spear or shield,
 To aid them in their warfare for the faith.
 The preacher now provides himself with store
 Of jests and gibes; and, so there be no lack
 Of laughter, while he vents them, his big cowl
 Distends, and he has won the meed he sought:
 Could but the vulgar catch a glimpse the while
 Of that dark bird which nestles in his hood,
 They scarce would wait to hear the blessing said,
 Which now the dotards hold in such esteem,
 That every counterfeit, who spreads abroad
 The hands of holy promise, finds a throng
 Of credulous fools beneath. Saint Anthony
 Fattens with this his swine,[6] and others worse
 Than swine, who diet at his lazy board,
 Paying with unstampt metal[7] for their fare,
 [5: Common names at Florence.]
 [6: On the sale of these blessings, the brothers of St. Anthony
 supported themselves and their paramours. From behind the swine of St.
 Anthony, our Poet levels a blow at Boniface VIII, from whom, in 1297, they
 obtained the privileges of an independent congregation.]
 [7: With false indulgences.]
 "But (for we far have wander'd) let us seek
 The forward path again; so as the way
 Be shorten'd with the time. No mortal tongue,
 Nor thought of man, hath ever reach'd so far,
 That of these natures he might count the tribes.
 What Daniel[8] of their thousands hath reveal'd,
 [8: "Daniel." "Thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten
 thousand times ten thousand stood before him" - Dan. vii. 10.]
 With finite number, infinite conceals.
 The fountain, at whose source these drink their beams,
 With light supplies them in as many modes,
 As there are splendours that it shines on: each
 According to the virtue it conceives,
 Differing in love and sweet affection.
 Look then how lofty and how huge in breadth
 The eternal Might, which, broken and dispersed
 Over such countless mirrors, yet remains
 Whole in itself and one, as at the first."