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Chapter 3 Piccarda Donati and the Empress Constance.

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