Enlighten’d, beyond which no truth may roam,
Our mind can satisfy her thirst to know:
Therein she resteth, e’en as in his lair
The wild beast, soon as she hath reach’d that bound,
And she hath power to reach it; else desire
Were given to no end. And thence doth doubt
Spring, like a shoot, around the stock of truth;
And it is nature which from height to height
On to the summit prompts us. This invites,
This doth assure me, lady, rev’rently
To ask thee of other truth, that yet
Is dark to me. I fain would know, if man
By other works well done may so supply
The failure of his vows, that in your scale
They lack not weight.” I spake; and on me straight
Beatrice look’d with eyes that shot forth sparks
Of love celestial in such copious stream,
That, virtue sinking in me overpower’d,
I turn’d, and downward bent confus’d my sight.
“If beyond earthly wont, 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, ’t is but that it shows
Some ill-mark’d vestige of that primal beam.
“This would’st 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, which God creating gave
Of his free bounty, sign most evident
Of goodness, and in his account most priz’d,
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 fram’d
That when man offers, God well-pleas’d 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 would’st of theft do charitable deed.
Thus I resolve thee of the greater point.
“But forasmuch as holy church, herein
Dispensing, seems to contradict the truth
I have discover’d to thee, yet behooves
Thou rest a little longer at the board,
Ere the crude aliment, which thou hast taken,
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.