Divine Comedy - Paradise

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[1] Within the motionless sphere of the Empyrean revolves that of the Primum Mobile, from whose virtue, communicated to it from the Empyrean, all the inferior spheres contained within it derive their special mode of being.

[2] The heaven of the Fixed Stars.

[3] Through the planets, called essences because each has a specific mode of being.

[4] "The rays of the heavens are the way by which their virtue descends to the things below."--Convito, ii. 7.

[5] Which moves the heavens.

[6] The brightness of the stars comes from the joy which radiates through them.

[7] From the divers virtue making divers alloy.

CANTO III. The Heaven of the Moon.--Spirits whose vows had been broken.--Piccarda Donati.--The Empress Constance.

That sun which first had heated my breast with love, proving and refuting, had uncovered to me the sweet aspect of fair truth; and I, in order to confess myself corrected and assured so far as was needful, raised my head more erect to speak. But a vision appeared which held me to itself so close in order to be seen, that of my confession I remembered not.

As through transparent and polished glasses, or through clear and tranquil waters, not so deep that their bed be lost, the lineaments of our faces return so feebly that a pearl on a white brow comes not less readily to our eyes, so I saw many faces eager to speak; wherefore I ran into the error contrary to that which kindled love between the man and the fountain.[1] Suddenly, even as I became aware of them, supposing them mirrored semblances, I turned my eyes to see of whom they were; and I saw nothing; and I turned them forward again, straight into the light of the sweet guide who, smiling, was glowing in her holy eyes. "Wonder not because I smile," she said to me, "at thy puerile thought, since thy foot trusts itself not yet upon the truth, but turns thee, as it is wont, to emptiness. True substances are these which thou seest, here relegated through failure in their vows. Therefore speak with them, and hear, and believe; for the veracious light which satisfies them allows them not to turn their feet from itself."

[1] Narcissus conceived the image to be a true face; Dante takes the real faces to be mirrored semblances.

And I directed me to the shade that seemed most eager to speak, and I began, even like a man whom too strong wish confuses, "O well-created spirit, who in the rays of life eternal tastest the sweetness, which untasted never is understood, it will be gracious to me, if thou contentest me with thy name, and with your destiny." Whereon she promptly, and with smiling eyes, "Our charity locks not its door to a just wish, more than that which wills that all its court be like itself. I was in the world a virgin sister,[1] and if thy mind well regards, my being more beautiful will not conceal me from thee; but thou wilt recognize that I am Piccarda,[2] who, placed here with these other blessed Ones, am blessed in the slowest sphere. Our affections, which are inflamed only in the pleasure of the Holy Spirit, rejoice in being formed according to His order;[3] and this allotment, which appears so low, is forsooth given to us, because our vows were neglected or void in some part." Whereon I to her, In your marvellous aspects there shines I know not what divine which transmutes you from our first conceptions; therefore I was not swift in remembering; but now that which you say to me assists me, so that refiguring is plainer to me. But tell me, ye who are happy here, do ye desire a highher place, in order to see more, or to make yourselves more friends?" With those other shades she first smiled a little; then answered me so glad, that she seemed to burn in the first fire of love, "Brother, virtue of charity[4] quiets our will, and makes us wish only for that which we have, and for aught else makes us not thirsty. Should we desire to be higher up, our desires would be discordant with the will of Him who assigns us to this place, which thou wilt see is not possible in these circles, if to be in charity is here necesse,[5] and if its nature thou dost well consider. Nay, it is essential to this blessed existence to hold ourselves within the divine will, whereby our very wills are made one. So that as we are, from stage to stage throughout this realm, to all the realm is pleasing, as to the King who inwills us with His will. And His will is our peace; it is that sea whereunto is moving all that which It creates and which nature makes."

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