Front Page Titles (by Subject) PARADISO IV - The Divine Comedy, vol. 3 (Paradiso) (English trans.)
PARADISO IV - Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, vol. 3 (Paradiso) (English trans.) 
The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri. The Italian Text with a Translation in English Blank Verse and a Commentary by Courtney Langdon, Vol. 3 Paradiso (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1921).
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The First Heaven. The Moon. Reflected Happiness
Inconstant Spirits who failed to keep their Vows
- A free man, ’tween two viands equally
- attractive and removed, would die of hunger,
- before he carried either to his teeth;
- thus would a lamb, between the ravenings
- of two fierce wolves, keep fearing each alike;
- thus would a dog remain between two does.
- Hence, by my doubts impelled in equal measure,
- if I was silent, I reproach me not,
- nor do I praise, since thus it had to be.
- I held my peace; but my desire was painted
- upon my face, and far more warmly thus
- I asked, than had it been by uttered speech.
- Hence Beatrice did ev’n as Daniel once,
- when in Nebuchadnezzar he appeased
- the wrath, which had unjustly made him cruel;
- and “Clearly do I see” she said, “how both
- thy wishes so attract thee, that thy thought
- is so self-bound, that it is not expressed.
- Thou arguest thus: ‘If my good will endure,
- why doth the violence of others cause
- the measure of my merit to be less?’
- Again it gives thee cause for doubt, that souls
- seem to return unto the stars again,
- according to the opinion Plato held.
- These are the questions which upon thy will
- are thrusting equally; I’ll hence deal first
- with that one which hath most of venom for thee.
- Of all the Seraphs he who most in-Gods
- himself, or Moses, Samuel, or, I say,
- whichever John thou choose, or even Mary,
- have in no other heaven their seats, than have
- those spirits which appeared to thee just now,
- nor for their being more or fewer years;
- but all make beautiful the highest sphere,
- and each in different ways enjoys sweet life,
- through feeling more and less the Eternal Breath.
- They did not here reveal themselves, because
- this special sphere had been allotted them,
- but to express the lowest heavenly state.
- Thus must one speak to your intelligence,
- since only from sense-objects can it learn
- what it thereafter fits for understanding.
- Because of this the Scriptures condescend
- to your capacity, and feet and hands
- ascribe to God, and yet mean something else;
- and Holy Church in human form presents
- Gabriel and Michael to you, and the other,
- who to Tobias once restored his health.
- That which Timaeus teaches of the soul
- is not like that which one up here beholds,
- for, as he says it, so he seems to mean.
- He says that each soul to its star returns,
- because he thinks that it was severed thence,
- when Nature granted it as form; and yet
- his doctrine is, perhaps, of other guise,
- than what his words imply, and may possess
- a meaning which is not to be despised.
- In case he mean that to these wheel-like spheres
- returns their influence’s praise or blame,
- his bow may hit, perhaps, upon a truth.
- This principle, ill understood, once turned
- nigh all the world awry, so that, in naming
- Jove, Mercury and Mars, it went astray.
- The other doubt whereby thy mind is stirred,
- less venom hath, because its harmfulness
- could not conduct thee elsewhere from my side.
- That this our Justice should appear to be
- unjust in the eyes of mortals, argues faith,
- and not heretical depravity.
- But here, because your human understanding
- can penetrate this truth with ease, I’ll now,
- as thou desirest, render thee content.
- If violence it be, when he who suffers
- contributes naught to him who uses force,
- these souls were not excused because of that;
- for will, unless it willeth, is not quenched,
- but acts as Nature acts in fire, though turned
- a thousand times aside by violence;
- for, whether it be bent or much or little,
- it yieldeth to the force; and so did these,
- when able to regain the holy place.
- For if their will had been as absolute
- as that which held Lorenzo on his grate,
- or that which to his hand made Mutius cruel,
- it would, as soon as freed, have urged them back
- along the road o’er which they once were dragged;
- but wills as firm as that are very rare!
- And by these words, if thou hast gathered them,
- as it behooved thee to, that doubt is quashed,
- which often would have troubled thee again.
- But now athwart thine eyes another pass
- appears, one such, that from it by thyself
- thou wouldst not issue, but wouldst weary first.
- I surely have instilled this in thy mind,
- that spirits who are happy could not lie,
- since such are always near the Primal Truth;
- yet from Piccarda thou mayst next have heard
- that Constance for the veil retained her love;
- she, therefore, seems to contradict me here.
- Oft hath it happened, brother, heretofore,
- that, to escape from danger, one has done,
- against one’s will, what was not right to do;
- as, at his father’s hest, Alcmaeon did,
- who impious made himself, his mother killing,
- in order not to fail in piety.
- In such a case I’d have thee think that force
- mingles with will, and that they so behave,
- that sinful actions cannot be excused.
- Absolute will consenteth not to wrong,
- but in so far consenteth, as it fears,
- unless it yield, to be more greatly harmed.
- Hence, when Piccarda puts the matter thus,
- she means it of the will that ’s absolute,
- and of the other I; hence both speak true.
- Such was the rippling of the holy stream,
- which issued from the Fount whence every truth
- derives; and such, it set both doubts at rest.
- “O thou belovèd of the Primal Lover,
- O goddess,” said I then, “whose speech both warms
- and inundates me so, that more and more
- it quickens me with life, not deep enough
- is mỳ love to return thee grace for grace;
- but let Who sees and can, provide for this.
- I well see that our mind is never sated,
- unless it be illumined by the Truth,
- outside of which no truth extends. Therein
- it rests, as doth a wild beast in its lair,
- as soon as it attains it; and it can
- attain it; else would all desires be vain.
- Hence like a shoot doubt rises at the foot
- of truth; and this is Nature, which from height
- to height impels us toward the mountain’s top.
- This biddeth me, and this assurance gives me,
- Lady, with reverence to inquire of you
- about another truth that ’s dark to me.
- I wish to know if one can so content you
- for broken vows by means of other things,
- that these shall not prove light upon your scales.”
- Then Beatrice looked at me with her eyes
- filled so divinely with the sparks of love,
- that, overcome, my vision turned in flight,
- and I with bowed eyes almost lost myself.