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      St. Bernard supplicates the Virgin Mary that Dante may have grace given
 him to contemplate the brightness of the Divine Majesty, which is accordingly
 granted; and Dante then himself prays to God for ability to show forth some
 part of the celestial glory in his writings. Lastly, he is admitted to a
 glimpse of the great mystery; the Trinity, and the Union of Man with God.
 "O Virgin Mother, daughter of thy Son!
 Created beings all in lowliness
 Surpassing, as in height above them all;
 Term by the eternal counsel pre - ordain'd;
 Ennobler of thy nature, so advanced
 In thee, that its great Maker did not scorn,
 To make Himself his own creation;
 For in thy womb rekindling shone the love
 Reveal'd, whose genial influence makes now
 This flower to germin in eternal peace:
 Here thou to us, of charity and love,
 Art, as the noon - day torch; and art, beneath,
 To mortal men, of hope a living spring.
 So mighty art thou, Lady, and so great,
 That he, who grace desireth, and comes not
 To thee for aidance, fain would have desire
 Fly without wings. Not only him, who asks,
 Thy bounty succours; but doth freely oft
 Forerun the asking. Whatsoe'er may be
 Of excellence in creature, pity mild,
 Relenting mercy, large munificence,
 Are all combined in thee. Here kneeleth one,
 Who of all spirits hath review'd the state,
 From the world's lowest gap unto this height.
 Suppliant to thee he kneels, imploring grace
 For virtue yet more high, to lift his ken
 Toward the bliss supreme. And I, who ne'er
 Coveted sight, more fondly, for myself,
 Than now for him, my prayers to thee prefer,
 (And pray they be not scant), that thou wouldst
 Each cloud of his mortality away, [drive
 Through thine own prayers, that on the sovran joy
 Unveil'd he gaze. This yet, I pray thee, Queen,
 Who canst do what thou wilt; that in him thou
 Wouldst, after all he hath beheld, preserve
 Affection sound, and human passions quell.
 Lo! where, with Beatrice, many a saint
 Stretch their clasp'd hands, in furtherance of my suit."
 The eyes, that Heaven with love and awe regards,
 Fix'd on the suitor, witness'd, how benign
 She looks on pious prayers: then fasten'd they
 On the everlasting light, wherein no eye
 Of creature, as may well be thought, so far
 Can travel inward. I, meanwhile, who drew
 Near to the limit, where all wishes end,
 The ardour of my wish (for so behoved)
 Ended within me. Beckoning smiled the sage,
 That I should look aloft: but, ere he bade,
 Already of myself aloft I look'd;
 For visual strength, refining more and more,
 Bare me into the ray authentical
 Of sovran light. Thenceforward, what I saw,
 Was not for words to speak, nor memory's self
 To stand against such outrage on her skill.
 As one, who from a dream awaken'd, straight,
 All he hath seen forgets; yet still retains
 Impression of the feeling in his dream;
 E'en such am I: for all the vision dies,
 As 'twere, away; and yet the sense of sweet,
 That sprang from it, still trickles in my heart.
 Thus in the sun - thaw is the snow unseal'd;
 Thus in the winds on flitting leaves was lost
 The Sibyl's sentence. O eternal beam! [soar?]
 (Whose height what reach of mortal thought may
 Yield me again some little particle
 Of what Thou then appearedst; give my tongue
 Power, but to leave one sparkle of Thy glory,
 Unto the race to come, that shall not lose
 Thy triumph wholly, if Thou waken aught
 Of memory in me, and endure to hear
 The record sound in this unequal strain.
 Such keenness from the living ray I met,
 That, if mine eyes had turn'd away, methinks,
 I had been lost; but, so embolden'd, on
 I pass'd, as I remember, till my view
 Hover'd the brink of dread infinitude.
 O grace, unenvying of Thy boon! that gavest
 Boldness to fix so earnestly my ken
 On the everlasting splendour, that I look'd,
 While sight was unconsumed, and, in that depth,
 Saw in one volume clasp'd of love, whate'er
 The universe unfolds; all properties
 Of substance and of accident, beheld,
 Compounded, yet one individual light
 The whole. And of such bond methinks I saw
 The universal form; for that whene'er
 I do but speak of it, my soul dilates
 Beyond her proper self; and, till I speak,
 One moment seems a longer lethargy,
 Than five - and - twenty ages had appear'd
 To that emprize, that first made Neptune wonder
 At Argo's shadow darkening on his flood.
 With fixed heed, suspense and motionless,
 Wondering I gazed; and admiration still
 Was kindled as I gazed. It may not be,
 That one, who looks upon that light, can turn
 To other object, willingly, his view.
 For all the good, that will may covet, there
 Is summ'd; and all, elsewhere defective found,
 Complete. My tongue shall utter now, no more
 E'en what remembrance keeps, than could the babe's
 That yet is moisten'd at his mother's breast.
 Not that the semblance of the living light
 Was changed, (that ever as at first remain'd),
 But that my vision quickening, in that sole
 Appearance, still new miracles descried,
 And toil'd me with the change. In that abyss
 Of radiance, clear and lofty, seem'd, methought,
 Three orbs of triple hue, clipt in one bound:[1]
 And, from another, one reflected seem'd,
 [1: "Three orbs of triple hue, clipt in one bound." The Trinity. This
 passage may be compared to what Plato, in his second Epistle, enigmatically
 says of a first, second, and third, and of the impossibility that the human
 soul should attain to what it desires to know of them, by means of anything
 akin to itself.]
 As rainbow is from rainbow: and the third
 Seem'd fire, breathed equally from both. O speech!
 How feeble and how faint art thou, to give
 Conception birth. Yet this to what I saw
 Is less than little. O eternal Light!
 Sole in Thyself that dwell'st; and of Thyself
 Sole understood, past, present, or to come;
 Thou smiledst, on that circling,[2] which in Thee
 Seem'd as reflected splendour, while I mused;
 For I therein, methought, in its own hue
 Beheld our image painted: steadfastly
 I therefore pored upon the view. As one,
 Who versed in geometric lore, would fain
 Measure the circle; and, though pondering long
 And deeply, that beginning, which he needs,
 Finds not: e'en such was I, intent to scan
 The novel wonder, and trace out the form,
 How to the circle fitted, and therein
 How placed: but the flight was not for my wing;
 Had not a flash darted athwart my mind,
 And, in the spleen, unfolded what it sought.
 [2: "That circling." The second of the circles, "Light of Light," in
 which he dimly beheld the mystery of the Incarnation.]
 Here vigour fail'd the towering fantasy:
 But yet the will roll'd onward, like a wheel
 In even motion, by the Love impell'd,
 That moves the sun in Heaven and all the stars.