The Divine Comedy: Paradise, by Dante Alighieri

CANTO III

That sun, which erst with love my bosom warm’d

Had of fair truth unveil’d the sweet aspect,

By proof of right, and of the false reproof;

And I, to own myself convinc’d and free

Of doubt, as much as needed, rais’d my head

Erect for speech. But soon a sight appear’d,

Which, so intent to mark it, held me fix’d,

That of confession I no longer thought.

As through translucent and smooth glass, or wave

Clear and unmov’d, and flowing not so deep

As that its bed is dark, the shape returns

So faint of our impictur’d lineaments,

That on white forehead set a pearl as strong

Comes to the eye: such saw I many a face,

All stretch’d to speak, from whence I straight conceiv’d

Delusion opposite to that, which rais’d

Between the man and fountain, amorous flame.

Sudden, as I perceiv’d them, deeming these

Reflected semblances to see of whom

They were, I turn’d mine eyes, and nothing saw;

Then turn’d them back, directed on the light

Of my sweet guide, who smiling shot forth beams

From her celestial eyes. “Wonder not thou,”

She cry’d, “at this my smiling, when I see

Thy childish judgment; since not yet on truth

It rests the foot, but, as it still is wont,

Makes thee fall back in unsound vacancy.

True substances are these, which thou behold’st,

Hither through failure of their vow exil’d.

But speak thou with them; listen, and believe,

That the true light, which fills them with desire,

Permits not from its beams their feet to stray.”

Straight to the shadow which for converse seem’d

Most earnest, I addressed me, and began,

As one by over-eagerness perplex’d:

“O spirit, born for joy! who in the rays

Of life eternal, of that sweetness know’st

The flavour, which, not tasted, passes far

All apprehension, me it well would please,

If thou wouldst tell me of thy name, and this

Your station here.” Whence she, with kindness prompt,

And eyes glist’ning with smiles: “Our charity,

To any wish by justice introduc’d,

Bars not the door, no more than she above,

Who would have all her court be like herself.

I was a virgin sister in the earth;

And if thy mind observe me well, this form,

With such addition grac’d of loveliness,

Will not conceal me long, but thou wilt know

Piccarda, in the tardiest sphere thus plac’d,

Here ’mid these other blessed also blest.

Our hearts, whose high affections burn alone

With pleasure, from the Holy Spirit conceiv’d,

Admitted to his order dwell in joy.

And this condition, which appears so low,

Is for this cause assign’d us, that our vows

Were in some part neglected and made void.”

Whence I to her replied: “Something divine

Beams in your countenance, wond’rous fair,

From former knowledge quite transmuting you.

Therefore to recollect was I so slow.

But what thou sayst hath to my memory

Given now such aid, that to retrace your forms

Is easier. Yet inform me, ye, who here

Are happy, long ye for a higher place

More to behold, and more in love to dwell?”

She with those other spirits gently smil’d,

Then answer’d with such gladness, that she seem’d

With love’s first flame to glow: “Brother! our will

Is in composure settled by the power

Of charity, who makes us will alone

What we possess, and nought beyond desire;

If we should wish to be exalted more,

Then must our wishes jar with the high will

Of him, who sets us here, which in these orbs

Thou wilt confess not possible, if here

To be in charity must needs befall,

And if her nature well thou contemplate.

Rather it is inherent in this state

Of blessedness, to keep ourselves within

The divine will, by which our wills with his

Are one. So that as we from step to step

Are plac’d throughout this kingdom, pleases all,

E’en as our King, who in us plants his will;

And in his will is our tranquillity;

It is the mighty ocean, whither tends

Whatever it creates and nature makes.”

Then saw I clearly how each spot in heav’n

Is Paradise, though with like gracious dew

The supreme virtue show’r not over all.

But as it chances, if one sort of food

Hath satiated, and of another still

The appetite remains, that this is ask’d,

And thanks for that return’d; e’en so did I

In word and motion, bent from her to learn

What web it was, through which she had not drawn

The shuttle to its point. She thus began:

“Exalted worth and perfectness of life

The Lady higher up enshrine in heaven,

By whose pure laws upon your nether earth

The robe and veil they wear, to that intent,

That e’en till death they may keep watch or sleep

With their great bridegroom, who accepts each vow,

Which to his gracious pleasure love conforms.

from the world, to follow her, when young

Escap’d; and, in her vesture mantling me,

Made promise of the way her sect enjoins.

Thereafter men, for ill than good more apt,

Forth snatch’d me from the pleasant cloister’s pale.

God knows how after that my life was fram’d.

This other splendid shape, which thou beholdst

At my right side, burning with all the light

Of this our orb, what of myself I tell

May to herself apply. From her, like me

A sister, with like violence were torn

The saintly folds, that shaded her fair brows.

E’en when she to the world again was brought

In spite of her own will and better wont,

Yet not for that the bosom’s inward veil

Did she renounce. This is the luminary

Of mighty Constance, who from that loud blast,

Which blew the second over Suabia’s realm,

That power produc’d, which was the third and last.”

She ceas’d from further talk, and then began

“Ave Maria” singing, and with that song

Vanish’d, as heavy substance through deep wave.

Mine eye, that far as it was capable,

Pursued her, when in dimness she was lost,

Turn’d to the mark where greater want impell’d,

And bent on Beatrice all its gaze.

But she as light’ning beam’d upon my looks:

So that the sight sustain’d it not at first.

Whence I to question her became less prompt.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 15:58