What exactly did Dante
see and attempt to relate
to us in poetic verse?
The Final Vision
Because my sight,
becoming crystal clear,
Was piercing deeper and deeper
through the rays
Of that deep Light
which in itself is true.
O highest Light, lifted up so far
Above all mortal thinking, lend my mind,
Once more, a little of what you were like,
Substance and accidents and their relations
I saw as though they fused in such a way
That what I say is but a gleam of light.
In the profound and shining-clear Existence
Of the deep Light appeared to me three circles
Of one dimension and three different colors.
Just so was I on seeing this new vision
I wanted to see how our image fuses
Into the circle and finds its place in it,
- "Virgin mother, daughter of your Son,
- Humbler and higher than all other creatures,
- Fixed aim and goal of the eternal plan,
- "You are the one who lifted human nature
- 5 To such nobility that its own Maker
- Did not disdain to be made of its making.
- "Within your womb was lit once more the flame
- Of that love through whose warmth this flower opened
- To its full bloom in everlasting peace.
- 10 "To us up here you are the torch of noon
- Blazing with love, and for the mortals down there
- You are the living fountainhead of hope.
- "Lady, you are so highly placed and helpful,
- Whoever seeks grace and does not call on you
- 15 Wants his desires to fly up without wings.
- "Your loving heart not only offers aid
- To those who ask for it, but oftentimes
- Free-handedly anticipates the asking.
- "In you is mercy, in you largeheartedness,
- 20 In you compassion, and in you is found
- Whatever good exists in any creature.
- "Now this man who from down the deepest pit
- Of the whole universe up to this point
- Has seen the lives of spirits, one by one,
- 25 "Begs by your grace that you will give him strength
- To enable him to rise on with his eyes
- Still higher to the summit of salvation.
- "And I, who never burned for my own vision
- More than I burn for his, pour out to you
- 30 All of my prayers, and pray they be sufficient
- "For you to scatter from him by your prayers
- Every last cloud of his mortality
- That he may see revealed the highest Pleasure.
- "I pray you also, Queen, for you can do
- 35 Whatever you will, that after he has seen
- This vision, you keep his affections wholesome.
- "Watch and restrain his human impulses:
- See Beatrice with so many blessed spirits
- Clasping their hands to join me in this prayer."
- 40 The eyes God loves and reverences the most,
- Fastened upon this praying saint, displayed
- How deeply she is pleased by devout prayer.
- Then her eyes turned to the eternal Light
- Into whose depth we may believe the eyes
- 45 Of no other creature penetrates more clearly.
- And I, now drawing closer to the end
- Of every longing, lifted to that end,
- Just as I should, the flame of all my longing.
- Bernard gave me a signal and a smile
- 50 To look straight up, but by myself already
- I was intent as he would have me be,
- Because my sight, becoming crystal clear,
- Was piercing deeper and deeper through the rays
- Of that deep Light which in itself is true.
- 55 From that point on, my power to see was stronger
- Than speech that fails before such sights can show,
- As memory falls short of the beyond.
- As someone who while dreaming sees a vision
- And, after he has dreamed, the feeling stays
- 60 Impressed, but all the rest slips from his mind,
- I am like that, for almost all my seeing
- Now falls away, but sweetness sprung from it
- Still drips down, drop by drop, into my heart.
- So is the snow unsealed beneath the sunlight;
- 65 So were the sayings of the Sibyl upon
- The light leaves left to drift off in the wind.
- O highest Light, lifted up so far
- Above all mortal thinking, lend my mind,
- Once more, a little of what you were like,
- 70 And grant my tongue such powerful expression
- That it may leave behind a single spark
- Of glory for a people still to come.
- For by returning some spark to my mind
- 75 And sounding out a little in these lines,
- Your triumph shall be thought of more profoundly.
- I think I would have been lost in a daze
- With the dazzling I endured from that live beam
- If my eyes once had turned away from it.
- I remember I grew bolder for this reason
- 80 In bearing up with it, until I merged
- My gazing with the infinite Goodness.
- O grace abounding, by which I have dared
- To fix my eyes through the eternal Light
- So deeply that my sight was spent in it!
- 85 Within its depths I saw gathered together,
- Bound by love into a single volume,
- Leaves that lie scattered through the universe.
- Substance and accidents and their relations
- I saw as though they fused in such a way
- 90 That what I say is but a gleam of light.
- The universal pattern of this knot
- I believe I saw, because in telling this,
- I feel my gladness growing ever larger.
- One moment made more slip my memory than
- 95 Twenty-five centuries reft from the adventure
- That awed Neptune with the shadow of the Argo.
- So my mind, held in absolute suspense,
- Was staring fixed, intent, and motionless,
- And by its staring grew the more inflamed.
- 100 Within that Light a person is so changed
- It is impossible to give consent
- Ever to turn from it to other sights
- Because the Good, the object of the will,
- Is gathered all in it, and out of it
- 105 The thing that there is perfect has some flaw.
- Now shall my telling of what I remember
- Fall far below the babbling of a baby
- Still bathing its tongue at the mother’s breast.
- Not that there is more than a single semblance
- 110 Within that living Light on which I looked
- And which is always what it was before,
- But by the sight that gathered strength in me
- As I gazed on, what was One in appearance
- Was altering for me as I was changing.
- 115 In the profound and shining-clear Existence
- Of the deep Light appeared to me three circles
- Of one dimension and three different colors.
- One seemed to be reflected by the other,
- Rainbow by rainbow, while the third seemed fire
- 120 Breathed equally from one and from the other.
- O how pale now is language and how paltry
- For my conception! And for what I saw
- My words are not enough to call them meager.
- O everlasting Light, you dwell alone
- 125 In yourself, know yourself alone, and known
- And knowing, love and smile upon yourself!
- That middle circle which appeared in you
- To be conceived as a reflected light,
- After my eyes had studied it a while,
- 130 Within itself and in its coloring
- Seemed to be painted with our human likeness
- So that my eyes were wholly focused on it.
- As the geometer who sets himself
- To square the circle and who cannot find,
- 135 For all his thought, the principle he needs,
- Just so was I on seeing this new vision
- I wanted to see how our image fuses
- Into the circle and finds its place in it,
- Yet my wings were not meant for such a flight —
- 140 Except that then my mind was struck by lightning
- Through which my longing was at last fulfilled.
- Here powers failed my high imagination:
- But by now my desire and will were turned,
- Like a balanced wheel rotated evenly,
- 145 By the Love that moves the sun and the other stars.
Sincerely yours in Jesus through Mary,
Become like Jesus
Live for the Triune God
Seek the Light of Our Lord Jesus Christ
See you on the High Ground!
* - J.M.J. + O.B.T. + M.G.R. stands for:
Jesus, Mary and Joseph;
O Beata Trinitas;
St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. Raphael