Singing the way a lady sings in love,
      she continued, after saying the last word,
      "Blessèd are they whose sins are covered,"

and like the nymphs who once wandered alone
      through the shadows of the forest, one
      longing to see, one avoiding the sun

then she went, against the flow of the river,
      walking along the bank, and I went with her,
      following her small steps with my own small steps.

We had not taken a hundred steps between us
      when the banks turned to the right as one,
      so that I was facing the east again.

And we had not gone far in that direction
      when the lady turned around toward me
      saying, "My brother, look and listen."

And all at once there was a shining
      that raced through the great forest on all sides
      making me wonder whether it was lightning,

but whereas lightning is gone as swiftly
      as it comes, this stayed, shining brighter and brighter,
      and in my mind I was saying, "What can this be?"

And running through the luminous air was
      a sweet melody, so that a good zeal
      led me to blame Eve for her recklessness,

that there, where the earth and heaven obeyed,
      a woman, alone, and who had just been made,
      could not bear to be veiled by anything.

If she had only stayed devoutly under
      her own, I could have tasted these pleasures
      beyond words earlier, and for longer.

While I walked on among so many
      first-fruits of eternal happiness,
      enraptured, and longing for still greater joys,

before us, the air under the green boughs
      came to be like a fire blazing
      and we could hear that the sweet sound was singing.

Oh, most holy virgins, if I have endured
      fasting, cold, and vigils for you ever,
      need drives me now to ask for the reward.

Now is the time for Helicon to brim over
      and Urania to help me with her choir
      to put into verse things hard to hold in thought.

A little farther, seven golden trees
      appeared as an illusion the long space
      gave rise to, that was still between us,

but when I had come so near to them that
      the common object which deceives the sense
      lost none of its features because of distance,

the faculty that nourishes the discourse
      of reason saw that they were candlesticks
      and heard "Hosanna" in the singing voices.

Above us flamed the beautiful panoply,
      far brighter than the moon in the clear sky
      at midnight in the middle of the month.

Full of wonder, I turned around toward
      the good Virgil, and he answered
      with a look as amazed as my own.

Then I turned my face to the high things again
      moving so slowly in our direction
      that newly wed brides would have overtaken them.

The lady scolded me: "Why are you so
      intent on the living lights that you pay no
      attention to what there is behind them?"

Then I saw people coming after them
      as after their leaders; they were dressed in white
      and here there was never whiteness like that.

The water held my image on my left
      and like a mirror showed me my own left
      in a reflection, when I looked at it.

When I was at a point along the bank
      where my distance from them was only
      the river’s width, I stood still, the better to see,

and I saw the flames moving ahead, leaving
      the air painted behind them, and they
      looked the way pennons do, streaming

so that overhead was striped with seven
      bands, in all the colors which the sun
      makes his bow from, and Delia her girdle.

Those standards went back farther than I
      could see, and to my mind there seemed to be
      ten paces between the outer ones.

Under a sky as beautiful as I
      have said came four and twenty elders, and they
      walked two by two, wearing crowns of lilies.

All of them were singing, "Blessèd are you
      among the daughters of Adam, and to
      all eternity may your beauty be blessed."

After the flowers and other tender growth
      opposite to me on the other shore
      were without those elect people once more,

in the way star succeeds star in heaven
      four animals came following them, each one
      wearing green leaves made into a crown.

Each one of them was winged with six wings,
      the feathers full of eyes, and Argo’s eyes,
      if they were living, would be like those.

I will not waste more rhymes describing their
      forms, reader, for I am pressed by another
      demand that does not leave me scope for this,

but read Ezekiel who portrays them as
      he saw them, out of the cold places
      coming with wind and cloud and fire,

and as in his pages you will find them
      so were they here, all except for the wings,
      where John is with me and departs from him.

The space in the middle of these four contained
      a two-wheeled triumphal chariot
      with the neck of a griffon drawing it:

he stretched one wing and the other upward
      between the middle streamer and the three and three
      so that he did not cut or damage any.

They rose so high that they were out of sight.
      The bird parts of him were made of gold
      and the rest of him, mingled with red, was white.

Not only did Rome with so fine a chariot
      never rejoice Africanus nor even Augustus,
      but that of the sun would be poor beside it,

that of the sun which, leaving its track, was
      burned up at the devout prayer of the earth
      when Jove secretly acted with justice.

Beside the right wheel, dancing in a ring,
      came three ladies; one of them so red
      that in a fire she would not be noted,

another was as though her flesh and bone
      were made of emeralds; the third one
      seemed to be snow that only then had fallen.

and it seemed they were led now by the white,
      now by the red, the others taking
      their pace, slowing and quickening, from her song.

On the left there were four, making a festival,
      dressed in purple, following the lead
      of the one who had three eyes in her head.

Behind the whole knot that I have portrayed
      I saw two old men, different in dress
      but equally vulnerable and dignified.

One showed that he was among the descendants
      of that supreme Hippocrates, whom nature
      formed for those creatures who are dearest to her.

The other showed the opposite intent,
      with a sword so sharp and shining that
      on the other side of the river I was frightened.

Then I saw four of humble appearance
      and behind all of them an old man alone
      came in his sleep, with a sharp countenance.

And these seven were like the group who led,
      in their garments, except that they had
      no garlands of lilies around their heads

but instead roses and other red flowers.
      One would have sworn, from a little distance,
      that from the eyebrows up they were on fire.

And when the chariot was across from me
      a sound of thunder was heard and that noble company
      seemed forbidden to go any farther,

stopping there with the banners before them.