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

The First Heaven. The Moon. The Second Heaven. Mercury
The Happiness of Beneficent Activity. Ambitious Spirits

"If in the heat of love I flame on thee
beyond the measure which is seen on earth,
and vanquish thus the power of thine eyes,
wonder thou not thereat, for this proceeds
from perfect sight, which, as it sees, directs
its feet to penetrate the good perceived.
I clearly see that in thine intellect
the Light Eternal is already shining,
which, if but seen, always enkindles love;
and if aught else seduce the love of men,
't is nothing but some vestige of that Light,
which there, ill-recognized, is shining through.
Thou now wouldst know if for an unkept vow,
one could with other service pay enough,
'gainst prosecution to ensure the soul."

'T was thus that Beatrice began this canto;
and ev'n as one who cuts not short his speech,
her holy argument continued thus:

"The greatest gift which, of His bounty, God
bestowed, when He created, and the nearest
like His own Goodness, and the one most prized
by Him, was Freedom of the Will,
wherewith all creatures with intelligence,
and they alone, both were and are endowed.
Now, if from this thou argue, thou 'lt perceive
a vow's high value, if so made it be,
that God gives His consent, when thou giv'st thine;
for when this pact is closed 'tween God and man
a sacrifice is made of this great treasure,
whereof I speak, and made by its own act.
What, then, in compensation can be given?
In thinking thou canst use thine offering well,
good wouldst thou do with wrongly gotten gain.

On the chief question thou art now informed;
but since in this thing Holy Church exempts,
which seems against the truth I showed to thee,
a little longer must thou sit at table,
because the solid food which thou hast taken,
requires for thy digestion further help.
Open thy mind to what I now reveal,
and fix it therewithin; for having heard
without retaining doth not knowledge make.

In the essence of this sacrifice two things
combine; one, that whereof the sacrifice
is made; the other is the pact itself.
This last can never cancelled be, except
by being kept; and very definite
concerning this is what was said above.
The Hebrews, therefore, were alone compelled
to make an offering, though their offer might,
in some events, be changed, as thou must know.
The other, which thou knowest as its matter,
may well be such, that there will be no sin,
if for some other matter it be changed.

But at his own free will let no one shift
the burden he has placed upon his back,
unless the white and yellow Keys are turned;
and let him deem all permutations foolish,
unless the thing abandoned be contained
in that which is assumed, as four in six.
Whatever, then, weighs by its worth so much,
that it can cause all scales to tip, can not,
by any other spending, be made good.

Let mortals not act lightly with their vows!
Be faithful, and in this thing be not thoughtless,
as Jephthah was, when offering up 'the first,'
who should have said: 'I wrongly did,' than keep
his vow, and so do worse; and thou mayst deem
as impious that great leader of the Greeks,
because of whom Iphigenža mourned
for her fair face, and for herself made fools
and wise men weep, who heard of such a rite.

Ye Christians, be more serious when ye act!
Be not like feathers in all winds, nor think
that any water will avail to cleanse you!

Ye have the Testaments, both Old and New,
to guide you, and the Shepherd of the Church;
let this for your salvation be enough.
If evil greed should teach you otherwise,
be men, and not like undiscerning sheep,
that in your midst no Jew may laugh at you.
Nor do as doth a little lamb, that leaves
its mother's milk, and like a wanton fool,
against itself for its own pleasure fights."

Thus Beatrice to me, even as I write;
then full of eagerness she turned in that
direction, where the world is most alive.
Her silence and her change of countenance
silence imposed upon my eager mind,
which had ahead of it new questions now.

Then as an arrow doth, which strikes the mark,
before the bowstring is at rest, even so
did we speed on into the second realm.

So joyous did I see my Lady there,
as into that heaven's light she entered, that,
because of it, the planet brighter grew.
And if the star was changed and smiled, what, then,
did I become, who, by my very nature,
in all ways am susceptible of change!

As in a fishpond which is still and clear,
the fish draw near to that which from without
so cometh, that they take it for their food;
I thus saw far more than a thousand splendors
approaching us, and there was heard in each:
"Lo, here is one, who shall increase our loves."
And as each one came up to me, the shade
was seen replete with joy within the bright
effulgence issuing from its midst.

Think, Reader, if what here is entered on
should not proceed, how full of pain would be
thy craving to know more; and by thyself
thou 'lt see how great was my desire to hear
from these, about the state of their existence,
as soon as to mine eyes they were revealed.

"O well-born spirit, to whom Grace permits
to see the thrones of Heaven's eternal triumph,
Ťre thy life militant be left behind,
we by the light throughout all Heaven diffused
are kindled; hence, wouldst thou inform thyself
respecting us, be sated at thy will."

Thus was it said to me by one of those
kind spirits; and by Beatrice: "Speak, speak,
with freedom, and, as thou wouldst gods, believe!"

"I clearly see how thou in thine own light
dost nest thyself, and from thine eyes dost flash it,
they beam so radiantly, when thou dost smile;
but who thou art I know not, nor why thou,
deserving soul, hast that sphere's grade, which veils
itself from mortals with another's rays."

Thus I, when I had turned me toward the light
which had addressed me first; far brighter then
it made itself than it had been before.

As doth the sun, which by exceeding splendor
itself conceals itself, whene'er its heat
has gnawed away the tempering of dense mists;
so by increase of joy that holy form
in its own radiance hid itself from me;
and, wholly thus wrapped up, in such a way
replied to me, as sings the following song.

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