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

The Third Heaven. Venus. The Happiness of Love
The Spirits of Lovers

The world was at its peril wont to think
that, in the third of epicycles circling,
fair Cypria beamed her sensual love abroad;
the ancient peoples, therefore, in their ancient
error, with sacrifice and votive cry,
honored not her alone, but with Diňne
Cupid as well, the former as her mother,
the latter as her son; and used to say
that he had sat of old in Dido's lap;
and took from her, from whom I here begin,
the name-word of the star, at which the sun
looks fondly, now behind, and now in front.

Of our ascending to it I was not
aware; but that we in it were, my Lady,
whom grown more fair I saw, assured me fully.
And then, as in a flame a spark is seen,
and as within a voice a voice is heard,
when one remains and the other goes and comes;
so I in that light other lamps beheld,
whirling with greater speed or less, I think,
according to each lamp's eternal vision.

Out of cold clouds there ne'er descended winds,
or visible or not, so swiftly moving,
that they would not appear restrained and slow
to one who had perceived those lights divine
draw near to us, when they had ceased the circling,
among the exalted Seraphs first begun.
And in the foremost to appear, "Hosanna"
resounded so, that I have never since
lacked the desire of hearing it again.

One then drew nearer to us, and alone
began: "We all are ready at thy pleasure,
that thou mayst have thy joy of all of us.
In one ring, with one circling and one thirst,
we with the heavenly Principalities
revolve, to whom once from the world thou saidst:
'Ye who the third heaven by your knowledge move;'
and we 're so full of love, that, thee to please,
a little quiet will not seem less sweet."

After mine eyes had toward my Lady turned
with reverent questioning, and she herself
had with herself contented and assured them,
back toward the light they turned, which of itself
had made such promise, and "Who are ye, say?"
was what I voiced with great affection toned.

And how much greater did I see it grow,
in size and quality, with that new joy,
which, when I spoke, was added to its joys!

Grown thus, it said to me: "The world below
had me not long; but had it done so longer,
much evil that will be, would not have been.
The gladness which around me radiates,
and, like a creature by its own silk swathed,
conceals me here, now keeps me hidden from thee.
Much didst thou love me, and good cause hadst thou
therefor; since, had I been on earth, much more
would I have shown thee than the leaves of love.

That left-hand bank, which by the Rhone is washed,
just after it has mingled with the Sorgue,
looked in due time to have me as its lord;
as did the Ausonian horn, which is with Bari,
Gačta and Crotona towned, and whence
the Tronto and Verde pour into the sea.
Upon my brow already blazed the crown
of that land which the Danube irrigates,
when it abandons its Germanic banks;
and fair Trinacria, which grows dark with smoke
between Pachynus' and Pelorus' capes
over the gulf which Eurus vexes most,
not through Typhočus, but through nascent sulphur,
would still be waiting for its kings, through me
from Charles and Rudolph sprung,
had not ill rule,
which always angers subject peoples, stirred
Palermo to the point of shouting: "Die!"
And did my brother but foresee this now,
the greedy poverty would he avoid
of Catalonia, that it harm him not;
for verily provision must be made
by him, or by another, that no load
be further laid upon his burdened bark.
His nature, which descended mean from one
which liberal was, would such retainers need,
as would not care to fill their coffers up.

"Since I, my lord, believe the joy profound
thy speech infuses in me, is by thee
perceived, where every good thing both begins
and ends, as I perceive it, all the more
grateful it is; and I am also glad
that this thou see'st by looking up at God.
As thou hast made me happy, make it clear,
for thou hast moved me by thy words to doubt,
how out of sweet seed bitter seed can spring."

This I to him; and he: "If I can show
a truth to thee, to that which thou dost ask
thou 'lt hold thy face, as thou dost now thy back.

The Good which turns and sateth all the Realm
through which thou mountest, makes His providence
a power within these mighty bodies here;
and not alone are natures in that Mind
foreseen, which of Its own self perfect is,
but they themselves, and with them their well-being;
hence, all this bow shoots forth falls predisposed
unto an end foreseen, as would an arrow
aimed at its destined mark. Were this not so,
the heaven through which thou now art journeying,
in such a way would its effects produce,
that ruins they would be, not works of art;
nor can this be, unless the Intellects
which move these stars are faulty, and the First,
who failed to make them perfect, faulty, too.
Wouldst have this truth become more white for thee?"

And I: "No, truly, for I see that Nature,
in what is needful, cannot get fatigued."

Then he: "Now say: would it be worse on earth
for man, if he were not a citizen?"

"Yes," I replied, "nor do I here ask why."

"And can he be, unless men there below
in different ways for different functions live?
No, if thereon your teacher writeth well."

So far he came, deducing thus; then closed:
"Because of this the roots of your effects
must different be; hence one is Solon born,
Xerxes another, and Melchisedech
another, and another he, who lost his son
while flying through the air. Revolving Nature,
which is a seal to mortal wax, performs
her function well, but no distinction makes
'tween one and any other dwelling-place.
It hence results that Esau in his seed
differs from Jacob, while Quirinus comes
from such a common father, that ascribed
to Mars he is. A generated nature,
unless divine foresight prevailed, would always
follow along its generators' path.
Now that which was behind thee is before;
but that thou know that thou dost give me pleasure,
I 'd have a corollary mantle thee.

Nature, whene'er she finds a destiny
discordant with her, like all other seed
in soil unsuited to it, always fails;
and if the world down there but set its mind
upon the basal plan which Nature lays,
and followed it, 't would have its people good.
But to religion ye now wrest aside
one that is born to gird him with a sword;
and make a king of one that 's fit to preach;
the course ye take is, therefore, off the road."

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