For these are a partition wall, whereby
The sacred stairs are sever’d, as the faith
In Christ divides them. On this part, where blooms
Each leaf in full maturity, are set
Such as in Christ, or ere he came, believ’d.
On th’ other, where an intersected space
Yet shows the semicircle void, abide
All they, who look’d to Christ already come.
And as our Lady on her glorious stool,
And they who on their stools beneath her sit,
This way distinction make: e’en so on his,
The mighty Baptist that way marks the line
(He who endur’d the desert and the pains
Of martyrdom, and for two years of hell,
Yet still continued holy), and beneath,
Augustin, Francis, Benedict, and the rest,
Thus far from round to round. So heav’n’s decree
Forecasts, this garden equally to fill.
With faith in either view, past or to come,
Learn too, that downward from the step, which cleaves
Midway the twain compartments, none there are
Who place obtain for merit of their own,
But have through others’ merit been advanc’d,
On set conditions: spirits all releas’d,
Ere for themselves they had the power to choose.
And, if thou mark and listen to them well,
Their childish looks and voice declare as much.
“Here, silent as thou art, I know thy doubt;
And gladly will I loose the knot, wherein
Thy subtle thoughts have bound thee. From this realm
Excluded, chalice no entrance here may find,
No more shall hunger, thirst, or sorrow can.
A law immutable hath establish’d all;
Nor is there aught thou seest, that doth not fit,
Exactly, as the finger to the ring.
It is not therefore without cause, that these,
O’erspeedy comers to immortal life,
Are different in their shares of excellence.
Our Sovran Lord—that settleth this estate
In love and in delight so absolute,
That wish can dare no further—every soul,
Created in his joyous sight to dwell,
With grace at pleasure variously endows.
And for a proof th’ effect may well suffice.
And ’t is moreover most expressly mark’d
In holy scripture, where the twins are said
To, have struggled in the womb. Therefore, as grace
Inweaves the coronet, so every brow
Weareth its proper hue of orient light.
And merely in respect to his prime gift,
Not in reward of meritorious deed,
Hath each his several degree assign’d.
In early times with their own innocence
More was not wanting, than the parents’ faith,
To save them: those first ages past, behoov’d
That circumcision in the males should imp
The flight of innocent wings: but since the day
Of grace hath come, without baptismal rites
In Christ accomplish’d, innocence herself
Must linger yet below. Now raise thy view
Unto the visage most resembling Christ:
For, in her splendour only, shalt thou win
The pow’r to look on him.” Forthwith