Canto 5 - Moving into the Sphere of Mercury

Free will is God's most precious gift to Man. Beatrice makes this clear to Dante and from this truth stems a whole new world of realisation to the poet:-

"The greatest gift that our bounteous Lord
bestowed as the Creator, in creating,
the gift He cherishes the most, the one

most like Himself, was freedom of the will.
All creatures with intelligence, and they
alone, were so endowed both then and now.

Dante wants to know about the breaking of vows and Beatrice's reply indicates that we are clearly moving into sacred territory. She explains that in making a vow two things are involved: the promised act that is vowed and the "solemn nature of the pact" itself. A vow can be broken if it is replaced by another vow that surpasses it "just as the number six contains the number 4". But there are vows, nevertheless, that cannot be broken. So her advice is:-

Christians, beware of rushing into vows.
Do not be like a feather in the wind,
or think that every water washes clean!

You have the Testaments, the Old and the New;
as guide you have the Shepherd of the church:
they should be all you need to save your soul.

Mercury (represented by the writer Samuel Beckett)

While they have been talking they have moved up into the second realm, the Sphere of Mercury. Here Dante notes that the souls are bathed in light and Beatrice urges him to speak to them, which he does:-

"I see how you have made yourself a nest
of your own light and how those rays of light
pour from your eyes that dazzle when you smile….."