And just as Mars, when it is overcome
by the invading mists of dawn, glows red
above the waters’ plain, low in the west,
so there appeared to me—and may I see it
again—a light that crossed the sea: so swift,
there is no flight of bird to equal it.
When, for a moment, I’d withdrawn my eyes
that I might ask a question of my guide,
I saw that light again, larger, more bright.
Then, to each side of it, I saw a whiteness,
though I did not know what that whiteness was;
below, another whiteness slowly showed.
My master did not say a word before
the whitenesses first seen appeared as wings;
but then, when he had recognized the helmsman,
he cried: “Bend, bend your knees: behold the angel
of God, and join your hands; from this point on,
this is the kind of minister you’ll meet.
See how much scorn he has for human means;
he’d have no other sail than his own wings
and use no oar between such distant shores.
See how he holds his wings, pointing to Heaven,
piercing the air with his eternal pinions,
which do not change as mortal plumage does.”
Then he—that bird divine—as he drew closer
and closer to us, seemed to gain in brightness,
so that my eyes could not endure his nearness,
and I was forced to lower them; and he
came on to shore with boat so light, so quick
that nowhere did the water swallow it.
The helmsman sent from Heaven, at the stern,
seemed to have blessedness inscribed upon him;
more than a hundred spirits sat within.