Paradiso: Canto III
That Sun, which
erst with love my bosom warmed,
beauteous truth had unto me discovered,
By proving and reproving, the sweet aspect.
And, that I might
confess myself convinced
confident, so far as was befitting,
I lifted more erect my head to speak.
But there appeared
a vision, which withdrew me
close to it, in order to be seen,
That my confession I remembered not.
Such as through
polished and transparent glass,
waters crystalline and undisturbed,
But not so deep as that their bed be lost,
Come back again the
outlines of our faces
feeble, that a pearl on forehead white
Comes not less speedily unto our eyes;
Such saw I many
faces prompt to speak,
that I ran in error opposite
To that which kindled love 'twixt man and fountain.
As soon as I became
aware of them,
them as mirrored semblances,
To see of whom they were, mine eyes I turned,
And nothing saw,
and once more turned them forward
into the light of my sweet Guide,
Who smiling kindled in her holy eyes.
"Marvel thou not,"
she said to me, "because
smile at this thy puerile conceit,
Since on the truth it trusts not yet its foot,
But turns thee, as
'tis wont, on emptiness.
substances are these which thou beholdest,
Here relegate for breaking of some vow.
with them, listen and believe;
the true light, which giveth peace to them,
Permits them not to turn from it their feet."
And I unto the
shade that seemed most wishful
speak directed me, and I began,
As one whom too great eagerness bewilders:
spirit, who in the rays
life eternal dost the sweetness taste
Which being untasted ne'er is comprehended,
Grateful 'twill be
to me, if thou content me
with thy name and with your destiny."
Whereat she promptly and with laughing eyes:
"Our charity doth
never shut the doors
a just desire, except as one
Who wills that all her court be like herself.
I was a virgin
sister in the world;
if thy mind doth contemplate me well,
The being more fair will not conceal me from thee,
But thou shalt
recognise I am Piccarda,
stationed here among these other blessed,
Myself am blessed in the slowest sphere.
All our affections,
that alone inflamed
in the pleasure of the Holy Ghost,
Rejoice at being of his order formed;
And this allotment,
which appears so low,
is given us, because our vows
Have been neglected and in some part void."
Whence I to her:
"In your miraculous aspects
shines I know not what of the divine,
Which doth transform you from our first conceptions.
Therefore I was not
swift in my remembrance;
what thou tellest me now aids me so,
That the refiguring is easier to me.
But tell me, ye who
in this place are happy,
you desirous of a higher place,
To see more or to make yourselves more friends?"
First with those
other shades she smiled a little;
answered me so full of gladness,
She seemed to burn in the first fire of love:
"Brother, our will
is quieted by virtue
charity, that makes us wish alone
For what we have, nor gives us thirst for more.
If to be more
exalted we aspired,
would our aspirations be
Unto the will of Him who here secludes us;
Which thou shalt
see finds no place in these circles,
being in charity is needful here,
And if thou lookest well into its nature;
Nay, 'tis essential
to this blest existence
keep itself within the will divine,
Whereby our very wishes are made one;
So that, as we are
station above station
this realm, to all the realm 'tis pleasing,
As to the King, who makes his will our will.
And his will is our
peace; this is the sea
which is moving onward whatsoever
It doth create, and all that nature makes."
Then it was clear
to me how everywhere
heaven is Paradise, although the grace
Of good supreme there rain not in one measure.
But as it comes to
pass, if one food sates,
for another still remains the longing,
We ask for this, and that decline with thanks,
E'en thus did I;
with gesture and with word,
learn from her what was the web wherein
She did not ply the shuttle to the end.
"A perfect life and
merit high in-heaven
lady o'er us," said she, "by whose rule
Down in your world they vest and veil themselves,
That until death
they may both watch and sleep
that Spouse who every vow accepts
Which charity conformeth to his pleasure.
To follow her, in
girlhood from the world
fled, and in her habit shut myself,
And pledged me to the pathway of her sect.
Then men accustomed
unto evil more
unto good, from the sweet cloister tore me;
God knows what afterward my life became.
splendour, which to thee reveals
on my right side, and is enkindled
With all the illumination of our sphere,
What of myself I
say applies to her;
nun was she, and likewise from her head
Was ta'en the shadow of the sacred wimple.
But when she too
was to the world returned
her wishes and against good usage,
Of the heart's veil she never was divested.
Of great Costanza
this is the effulgence,
from the second wind of Suabia
Brought forth the third and latest puissance."
Thus unto me she
spake, and then began
Maria" singing, and in singing
Vanished, as through deep water something heavy.
My sight, that
followed her as long a time
it was possible, when it had lost her
Turned round unto the mark of more desire,
And wholly unto
she such lightnings flashed into mine eyes,
That at the first my sight endured it not;
And this in
questioning more backward made me.