Dante Alighieri

(1265 - 1321 / Florence / Italy)

O Intelligence Moving The Third Heaven


O Intelligences moving the third heaven,
the reasons heed that from my heart come forth,
so new, it seems, that no one else should know.
The heaven set in motion by your worth,
beings in gentleness created even,
keeps my existence in its present woe,
so that to speak of what I feel and know
means to converse most worthily with you:
I beg you, then, to listen to me well.
Of something in me new I now will tell—
how grief and sadness this my soul subdue,
and how a contradiction from afar
speaks through the rays descending from your star.

A thought of loveliness seems now to be
life to my ailing heart: it used to fly
oft to the very presence of your Sire;
and there a glorious Lady sitting high
it also saw, who spoke so pleasingly,
my soul would say “Up there dwells my desire.”
Now one appears, which I in dread admire
a mighty lord that makes it flee away,
so mighty, terror from my heart outflows.
To me he brings a lady very close,
and “Who salvation seeks,” I hear him say,
“let him but gaze into this lady’s eyes,
if he can suffer agony of sighs.”

Such is the contradiction, it can slay
the humble thought that is still telling me
of a fair angel up in heaven crowned.
My soul bemoans its present misery,
saying, “Unhappy me! How fast away
went he, in whom I had some solace found!”
And of my eyes it says, with mournful sound,
“When was it such a lady pierced their sight?
Why did they fail to see me in her guise?
I said, ‘Oh, surely, in this lady’s eyes
the one must dwell who kills my peers with fright.’
To no avail I warned them (Oh, my dread!),
but look at her they did, and I fell dead.”

“Oh, no, not dead, you are bewildered much,
O my poor soul, so pained and grieving so,”
replies a loving spirit, kind and sweet,
“For the fair woman, that you feel and know,
has changed your life so quickly and so much,
you now are trembling in your vile defeat.
Look how humility and mercy meet
in one so wise and gentle in her height:
so call her Lady, as by now you must.
And you will see, if steadfast is your trust,
such lofty miracles, such full delight,
you’ll say, ‘O Love, true lord, do as you please:
here is your humble handmaid on her knees.’”

My song, I do believe that those are few
who can unravel your most hidden sense,
so intricate and mighty is your wit.
Therefore, if by some fate or circumstance
you stray and venture among people who
seem not completely to have fathomed it,
oh, then, I pray, console yourself a bit,
and say, O lovely latest song, to them,
“Notice, at least, how beautiful I am!”

Submitted: Thursday, April 08, 2010

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