Wednesday, March 18, 2015

DANTE'S SUBLIME COMEDY: PARADISE: Chapter 3


CHAPTER 3: In the Moon


She who, sunlike, first warmed my breast with love
            deserved both gratitude for that reply
            and for correcting me. Raising my eyes,               3

surprise expelled my thanks. I thought she stood
            beside a dusty glass that mirrored folk
            so faintly that a pearl on a pale brow                    6

was not more dim. They seemed to beckon me.
            Narcissus loved reflections of himself
            so gazed in front. To see these folk more clear     9

I looked behind myself, and none were there.
            Turning again to my sweet smiling guide
            I heard her say, “Funny, the childish way            12

you do not trust your eyes in Paradise!
            These beings by my side are real although
            lowest in Heaven for breaking holy vows.           15

Question them. Hear. Believe. They shine in truth
            and never more will truth depart from them.”
I faced the shade that seemed most keen to speak 18

and almost stammering with eagerness
            declared, “O spirit made for blessedness,
who dwells in sweetness of this radiance,            21

will you be kind enough to let me know
            your name and circumstance?” Both eagerly,
and cheerfully she said, “We can’t refuse            24

kindness to those who only want what’s right
because at our great height above the earth                               
all are like God in this. On earth I was                27

your friend Forese’s sister, Piccarba,
forced to wed someone who I did not love.                                              
Soon after I was dead. My fairer face                 30

is why you do not recognize me now.”
“Piccarba! Yes I know you,” I declared,                                         
“although at first the glory in your face              33
  
half-blinded, dazed, distracted me. But say,
            is not a higher sphere what you desire?
In higher places you’d be held more dear.”        36

She smiled a bit (as did the other shades)
            then answered me so gladly that she seemed
in the first fires of love. “Brother, our wills        39
                  
are tuned by charity – by love itself.
            We thirst for what we have, and nothing more.   
Our wills are now identical with His                 42

who keeps all things in perfect harmony –
            earth, planets, stars, up to the outermost                         
circumference of all, which is Himself.             45

Any in Paradise who craved for more
            (and once before this craving did occur)
would strike a discord through our bliss and  sever  48

charity from necessity, and thus
destroy the harmony of Paradise.
God’s will is the creative sea in which              51

we live and move. Sharing it is our peace.”
I now knew why the bliss of Paradise
            is everywhere in Heaven –  each soul               54

is needed by the whole domain, although
God is not always equally in all.
            Yet in my body my imperfect will                    57

still craved more water from her well of truth.
The pure cloth of the life she’d tried to weave
            was slashed before the fabric was complete.    60

I begged Piccarba to explain. Said she,
            “A perfect love of Christ allowed Saint Clare
            to teach the vows by which a lady may           63

put on the bridal veil and marry Him.
            Just such a nun was I who left the world
            to join the Poor Clare’s sisterhood. Alas,          66

greedy relations came, dragged me away.
            God knew my sufferings. Upon my right,
            shining with all the splendour of the moon      69      

 is one whose plight was mine. Raped from cloister,
            keeping bridal veil over her heart, she
            is Constance, heiress to the Swabian throne,   72
           
mother of Europe’s Holy potentate
            who should have been the Roman Emperor.”
Piccarba, singing Ave Maria,                         75
                              
sank from my eyes into deeper light like                                      
stone in pond. I looked to Beatrice who
            increased so vividly upon my sight,

questioning her was more than I could do.                79
             

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