Dante Alighieri - La Divina Commedia - Paradiso
Courtney Langdon - The Divine Comedy

The First Heaven. The Moon. Reflected Happiness
Inconstant Spirits who failed to keep their Vows

That sun which erst had warmed my heart with love,
by proving and refuting, had revealed
to me the pleasing face of lovely truth;
and I, in order to confess myself
corrected and assured, lifted my head
as high as utterance of assent required.

But, that I might behold it, there appeared
a sight, which to itself so closely held me,
that my confession I remembered not.

Even as from polished or transparent glasses,
or waters clear and still, but not so deep,
that wholly lost to vision is their bed,
the features of our faces are returned
so faintly, that upon a pallid brow
a pearl comes no less faintly to our eyes;
thus saw I many a face that longed to speak;
I therefore ran into the fault opposed
to that which kindled love 'tween man and fount.

As soon as I became aware of them,
supposing they were mirrored images,
to find out whose they were, I turned mine eyes;
and seeing nothing, back again I turned them
straight on into the light of my sweet Guide,
whose holy eyes were glowing as she smiled.

"Be not surprised" she said, "that I should smile
at what is childish in thy present thought,
since on the truth it trusts not yet its foot,
but, as its wont is, turneth thee in vain.
Real substances are these whom thou perceivest,
assigned here for a vow not wholly kept.
Speak to them, then, and hear them, and believe;
for from Itself the True Light which contents them,
permits them not to turn their feet away."

And I addressed me to the shade which seemed
most eager to converse, and I began,
like one confounded by too great desire:

"O well-created spirit, that in rays
of life eternal dost that sweetness taste,
which never is, untasted, understood,
't will grateful be to me, if thou content me
with thine own name, and thy companions' lot."

Hence promptly and with laughing eyes she said:
"Not otherwise doth our love lock its doors
against a just desire, than that Love doth,
who wills that all His court be like Himself.
A virgin sister was I in the world;
and if within itself thy mind look well,
my being fairer will not hide me from thee,
but thou wilt recognize that I 'm Piccarda,
who, placed here with these other blessèd ones,
am happy in the slowest moving sphere.
Our wishes, which are only set on fire
by that which is the Holy Spirit's pleasure,
rejoice in that our joy was willed by Him.
And this allotment, which appears so low,
is therefore giv'n to us, because our vows
neglected were, and not completely kept."

Hence I to her: "In these your wondrous faces
there shines I know not what that is divine,
which from your old appearance changes you;
hence in remembering you I was not quick;
but what thou now dost tell me helps me so,
that I more easily recall thy face.
But, tell me, ye who here so happy are,
are ye desirous of a higher place,
that ye may see more friends, or make you more?"

First with those other shades she smiled a little,
and then replied to me so joyously,
that she appeared to burn with love's first fire:

"Brother, love's virtue sets our will at rest,
and makes us wish for only what we have,
and doth not make us thirsty for aught else.
If higher we desired to be, our wishes
would be discordant with the will of Him,
who here discerneth us, which, thou wilt see,
can in these circles not occur, if love
be necessary to existence here,
and if love's nature thou consider well.
Nay more, essential to this blessèd life
it is, that we should be within the Will
Divine, whereby our wills become one will;
and so, even as we are, from grade to grade
throughout this Realm, to all the Realm is pleasing,
as to its King, who in His Will in-wills us;
and His Will is our Peace; and that
the Ocean is, whereunto moveth all
that It creates, and all that Nature makes."

Clear was it then to me that every where
in Heaven is Paradise, and yet the Grace
of Good Supreme rains there in many ways.

But as it happens that, if one food sate,
and longing for another still remain,
for one we ask, and one decline with thanks;
even thus with word and act did I, to learn
from her what was the nature of the web,
whose shuttle she drew not unto its end.

"High worth and perfect life in-heaven" she said,
"a lady higher up here, in whose rule
the robe and veil are worn, that, till death come,
both watch and sleep they may beside that Spouse,
who every vow accepts, which love conforms
to that which pleases Him. To follow her,
when I was but a girl I fled the world,
and in her habit clothing me, I promised
that I would keep within her order's path.
Thereafter men more used to ill than good,
out of that pleasant cloister dragged me forth,
and God knows what my life was after that.

This other splendor also, which reveals
itself to thee upon my right, and glows
with all the radiance of this sphere of ours,
takes to herself what of myself I say;
a nun she was, and likewise from her head
the shadow of the sacred veils was torn.
But when she, too, was brought back to the world
against her wishes and against good usage,
she never from the heart's veil freed herself.
This is the splendor of the great Costanza,
who by the second Wind of Swabia gave
the third and final Power birth." She thus
addressed me, and thereat 'Ave, Maria'
began to sing, and, singing, disappeared,
as through deep water heavy objects do.

Mine eyes which followed after her as far
as it was possible, on losing her,
back to the mark of greater longing turned,
and unto Beatrice reverted wholly;
but she so flashed upon me, as I gazed,
that first my sight endured it not; and this
the slower made me in my questioning.

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