Seated in state, the queen, that of this realm
Is sovran.” Straight mine eyes I rais’d; and bright,
As, at the birth of morn, the eastern clime
Above th’ horizon, where the sun declines;
To mine eyes, that upward, as from vale
To mountain sped, at th’ extreme bound, a part
Excell’d in lustre all the front oppos’d.
And as the glow burns ruddiest o’er the wave,
That waits the sloping beam, which Phaeton
Ill knew to guide, and on each part the light
Diminish’d fades, intensest in the midst;
So burn’d the peaceful oriflamb, and slack’d
On every side the living flame decay’d.
And in that midst their sportive pennons wav’d
Thousands of angels; in resplendence each
Distinct, and quaint adornment. At their glee
And carol, smil’d the Lovely One of heav’n,
That joy was in the eyes of all the blest.
Had I a tongue in eloquence as rich,
As is the colouring in fancy’s loom,
’T were all too poor to utter the least part
Of that enchantment. When he saw mine eyes
Intent on her, that charm’d him, Bernard gaz’d
With so exceeding fondness, as infus’d
Ardour into my breast, unfelt before.
Freely the sage, though wrapt in musings high,
Assum’d the teacher’s part, and mild began:
“The wound, that Mary clos’d, she open’d first,
Who sits so beautiful at Mary’s feet.
The third in order, underneath her, lo!
Rachel with Beatrice. Sarah next,
Judith, Rebecca, and the gleaner maid,
Meek ancestress of him, who sang the songs
Of sore repentance in his sorrowful mood.
All, as I name them, down from deaf to leaf,
Are in gradation throned on the rose.
And from the seventh step, successively,
Adown the breathing tresses of the flow’r
Still doth the file of Hebrew dames proceed.
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,