Mine eye, that far as it was capable,
Pursued her, when in dimness she was lost,
Turn’d to the mark where greater want impell’d,
And bent on Beatrice all its gaze.
But she as light’ning beam’d upon my looks:
So that the sight sustain’d it not at first.
Whence I to question her became less prompt.
Between two kinds of food, both equally
Remote and tempting, first a man might die
Of hunger, ere he one could freely choose.
E’en so would stand a lamb between the maw
Of two fierce wolves, in dread of both alike:
E’en so between two deer a dog would stand,
Wherefore, if I was silent, fault nor praise
I to myself impute, by equal doubts
Held in suspense, since of necessity
It happen’d. Silent was I, yet desire
Was painted in my looks; and thus I spake
My wish more earnestly than language could.
As Daniel, when the haughty king he freed
From ire, that spurr’d him on to deeds unjust
And violent; so look’d Beatrice then.
“Well I discern,” she thus her words address’d,
“How contrary desires each way constrain thee,
So that thy anxious thought is in itself
Bound up and stifled, nor breathes freely forth.
Thou arguest; if the good intent remain;
What reason that another’s violence
Should stint the measure of my fair desert?
“Cause too thou findst for doubt, in that it seems,
That spirits to the stars, as Plato deem’d,
Return. These are the questions which thy will
Urge equally; and therefore I the first
Of that will treat which hath the more of gall.
Of seraphim he who is most ensky’d,
Moses and Samuel, and either John,
Choose which thou wilt, nor even Mary’s self,
Have not in any other heav’n their seats,
Than have those spirits which so late thou saw’st;
Nor more or fewer years exist; but all
Make the first circle beauteous, diversely
Partaking of sweet life, as more or less
Afflation of eternal bliss pervades them.
Here were they shown thee, not that fate assigns
This for their sphere, but for a sign to thee
Of that celestial furthest from the height.
Thus needs, that ye may apprehend, we speak:
Since from things sensible alone ye learn
That, which digested rightly after turns
To intellectual. For no other cause
The scripture, condescending graciously
To your perception, hands and feet to God
Attributes, nor so means: and holy church
Doth represent with human countenance
Gabriel, and Michael, and him who made
Tobias whole. Unlike what here thou seest,
The judgment of Timaeus, who affirms
Each soul restor’d to its particular star,
Believing it to have been taken thence,
When nature gave it to inform her mold:
Since to appearance his intention is
E’en what his words declare: or else to