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 Canto V
      The question proposed in the last Canto is answered. Dante ascends with
 Beatrice to the planet Mercury, which is the second heaven; and here he finds
 a multitude of spirits, one of whom offers to satisfy him of anything he may
 desire to know from them.
 "If beyond earthly wont,[1] the flame of love
 Illume me, so that I o'ercome thy power
 Of vision, marvel not: but learn the cause
 In that perfection of the sight, which, soon
 As apprehending, hasteneth on to reach
 The good it apprehends. I well discern,
 How in thine intellect already shines
 The light eternal, which to view alone
 Ne'er fails to kindle love; and if aught else
 Your love seduces, 'tis but that it shows
 Some ill - mark'd vestige of that primal beam.
 [1: "If beyond earthly wont." Dante having been unable to sustain the
 splendor of Beatrice, as we have seen at the end of the last Canto, she tells
 him to attribute her increase of brightness to the place in which they were.]
 "This wouldst thou know: if failure of the vow
 By other service may be so supplied,
 As from self - question to assure the soul."
 Thus she her words, not heedless of my wish,
 Began; and thus, as one who breaks not off
 Discourse, continued in her saintly strain.
 "Supreme of gifts,[2] which God, creating, gave
 Of His free bounty, sign most evident
 Of goodness, and in His account most prized
 Was liberty of will; the boon, wherewith
 All intellectual creatures, and them sole,
 He hath endow'd. Hence now thou mayst infer
 Of what high worth the vow, which so is framed
 That when man offers, God well - pleased accepts:
 For in the compact between God and him,
 This treasure, such as I describe it to thee,
 He makes the victim; and of his own act.
 What compensation therefore may he find?
 If that, whereof thou hast oblation made,
 By using well thou think'st to consecrate,
 Thou wouldst of theft do charitable deed.
 Thus I resolve thee of the greater point.
 [2: "Supreme of gifts." So in the "De Monarchia," lib. i. pp. 107 and
 108. "If then the judgment altogether move the appetite, and is in no wise
 prevented by it, it is free. But if the judgment be moved by the appetite in
 any way preventing it, it cannot be free: because it acts not of itself, but
 is led captive by another. And hence it is that brutes cannot have free
 judgment, because their judgments are always prevented by appetite. And hence
 it may also appear manifest that intellectual substances, whose wills are
 immutable, and likewise souls separated from the body, and departing from it
 well and holily, lose not the liberty of choice on account of the immutability
 of the will, but retain it most perfectly and powerfully. This being
 discerned, it is again plain that this liberty, or principle of all our
 liberty, is the greatest good conferred on human nature by God; because by
 this very thing we are here made happy, as men; by this we are elsewhere
 happy, as divine beings."]
 "But forasmuch as holy Church, herein
 Dispensing, seems to contradict the truth
 I have discover'd to thee, yet behoves
 Thou rest a little longer at the board,
 Ere the crude aliment which thou hast ta'en,
 Digested fitly, to nutrition turn.
 Open thy mind to what I now unfold;
 And give it inward keeping. Knowledge comes
 Of learning well retain'd, unfruitful else.
 "This sacrifice, in essence, of two things
 Consisteth: one is that, whereof 'tis made;
 The covenant, the other[3]. For the last,
 [3: The one, the substance of the vow, as of a single life, or of
 keeping fast; the other, the compact.]
 It ne'er is cancel'd, if not kept: and hence
 I spake, erewhile, so strictly of its force.
 For this it was enjoin'd the Israelites[4], [change
 Though leave were given them, as thou know'st, to
 The offering, still to offer. The other part,
 The matter and the substance of the vow,
 May well be such, as that, without offence,
 It may for other substance be exchanged.
 But, at his own discretion, none may shift
 The burden on his shoulders; unreleased
 By either key,[5] the yellow and the white.
 Nor deem of any change, as less than vain,
 If the last bond[6] be not within the new
 Included, as the quatre in the six.
 No satisfaction therefore can be paid
 For what so precious in the balance weighs,
 That all in counterpoise must kick the beam.
 Take then no vow at random: ta'en, with faith
 Preserve it; yet not bent, as Jephthah once,
 Blindly to execute a rash resolve,
 Whom better it had suited to exclaim,
 'I have done ill,' than to redeem his pledge
 By doing worse: or, not unlike to him
 In folly, that great leader of the Greeks;
 Whence, on the altar, Iphigenia mourn'd
 Her virgin beauty, and hath since made mourn
 Both wise and simple, even all, who hear
 Of so fell sacrifice. Be ye more staid,
 O Christians! not, like feather, by each wind
 Removable; nor think to cleanse yourselves
 In every water. Either testament,
 The old and new, is yours: and for your guide,
 The shepherd of the Church. Let this suffice
 To save you. When by evil lust enticed,
 Remember ye be men, not senseless beasts;
 Nor let the Jew, who dwelleth in your streets,
 Hold you in mockery. Be not, as the lamb,
 That, fickle wanton, leaves its mother's milk,
 [4: See Lev. c. xii. and xxvii.]
 [5: Purgatory, Canto ix. 108.]
 [6: If the thing substituted be not more precious than the thing
 To dally with itself in idle play."
 Such were the words that Beatrice spake:
 These ended, to that region, where the world
 Is liveliest, full of fond desire she turn'd.
 Though mainly prompt new question to propose,
 Her silence and changed look did keep me dumb.
 And as the arrow, ere the cord is still,
 Leapeth unto its mark; so on we sped
 Into the second realm. There I beheld
 The dame, so joyous, enter, that the orb
 Grew brighter at her smiles; and, if the star
 Were moved to gladness, what then was my cheer,
 Whom nature hath made apt for every change!
 As in a quiet and clear lake the fish,
 If aught approach them from without, do draw
 Toward it, deeming it their food; so drew
 Full more than thousand splendours toward us;
 And in each one was heard: "Lo! one arrived
 To multiply our loves!" and as each came,
 The shadow, streaming forth effulgence new,
 Witness'd augmented joy. Here, Reader! think,
 If thou didst miss the sequel of my tale,
 To know the rest how sorely thou wouldst crave;
 And thou shalt see what vehement desire
 Possess'd me, soon as these had met my view,
 To know their state. "O born in happy hour!
 Thou, to whom grace vouchsafes, or e'er thy close
 Of fleshly warfare, to behold the thrones
 Of that eternal triumph; know, to us
 The light communicated, which through Heaven
 Expatiates without bound. Therefore, if aught
 Thou of our beams wouldst borrow for thine aid,
 Spare not; and, of our radiance, take thy fill."
 Thus of those piteous spirits one bespake me;
 And Beatrice next: "Say on; and trust
 As unto gods." - "How in the light supreme
 Thou harbour'st, and from thence the virtue bring'st,
 That, sparkling in thine eyes, denotes thy joy,
 I mark; but, who thou art, am still to seek;
 Or wherefore, worthy spirit! for thy lot
 This sphere[7] assign'd, that oft from mortal ken
 Is veil'd by other's beams." I said; and turn'd
 Toward the lustre, that with greeting kind
 Erewhile had hail'd me. Forthwith, brighter far
 Than erst, it wax'd: and, as himself the sun
 Hides through excess of light, when his warm gaze[8]
 Hath on the mantle of thick vapours prey'd;
 Within its proper ray the saintly shape
 Was, through increase of gladness, thus conceal'd;
 And, shrouded so in splendour, answer'd me,
 E'en as the tenour of my song declares.
 [7: "This sphere." The planet Mercury, which being nearest to the
 sun, is oftenest hidden by that luminary.]
 [8: "When his warm gaze." When the sun has dried up the vapors that
 shaded his brightness.]