An aside, or: O somma luce


Where are you? Dazzled, drunken my soul grows faint
And dark with so much gladness; for even now
I listened while, too rich in golden
Sounds, the enrapturing youth, the sun-god

Intoned his evening hymn on a heavenly lyre;
All round the hills and forests re-echoed it,
Though far from here — to pious nations
Who still revere him — by now he's journeyed.

--ode by Friedrich Hölderlin, 1797-99, Selected Poems & Fragments (Penguin, 1998), p.17.

O eternal Light, abiding in yourself alone,
knowing yourself alone, and, known to yourself,
and knowing, loving and smiling on yourself!
That circling which, thus conceived,
appeared in you as light's reflection,
once my eyes had gazed on it a while, seemed,
within itself and in its very color,
to be painted with our likeness,
so that my sight was all absorbed in it.

Like the geometer who fully applies himself
to square the circle and, for all his thought,
cannot discover the principle he lacks,
such was I at that strange new sight.
I tried to see how the image fit the circle
and how it found its where in it.
But my wings had not sufficed for that
had not my mind been struck by a bolt
of lightning that granted what I asked.
Here my exalted vision lost its power.
But now my will and my desire, like wheels revolving
with an even motion, were turning with
the Love that moves the sun and all the other stars.

--Dante, Paradiso XXXIII, 124-145.