The Divine Comedy
The Vision of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise:

Dante Alighieri

Translated by The Rev. H. F. Cary, M.A.

Illustrated by Gustave Dore

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Last updated Wednesday, December 17, 2014 at 13:07.

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Table of Contents


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O’er better waves to speed her rapid course

The light bark of my genius lifts the sail,

Well pleas’d to leave so cruel sea behind;

And of that second region will I sing,

In which the human spirit from sinful blot

Is purg’d, and for ascent to Heaven prepares.

Here, O ye hallow’d Nine! for in your train

I follow, here the deadened strain revive;

Nor let Calliope refuse to sound

A somewhat higher song, of that loud tone,

Which when the wretched birds of chattering note

Had heard, they of forgiveness lost all hope.

Sweet hue of eastern sapphire, that was spread

O’er the serene aspect of the pure air,

High up as the first circle, to mine eyes

Unwonted joy renew’d, soon as I ’scap’d

Forth from the atmosphere of deadly gloom,

That had mine eyes and bosom fill’d with grief.

The radiant planet, that to love invites,

Made all the orient laugh, and veil’d beneath

The Pisces’ light, that in his escort came.

To the right hand I turn’d, and fix’d my mind

On the’ other pole attentive, where I saw

Four stars ne’er seen before save by the ken

Of our first parents. Heaven of their rays

Seem’d joyous. O thou northern site, bereft

Indeed, and widow’d, since of these depriv’d!

As from this view I had desisted, straight

Turning a little tow’rds the other pole,

There from whence now the wain had disappear’d,

I saw an old man standing by my side

Alone, so worthy of rev’rence in his look,

That ne’er from son to father more was ow’d.

Low down his beard and mix’d with hoary white

Descended, like his locks, which parting fell

Upon his breast in double fold. The beams

Of those four luminaries on his face

So brightly shone, and with such radiance clear

Deck’d it, that I beheld him as the sun.

“Say who are ye, that stemming the blind stream,

Forth from th’ eternal prison-house have fled?”

He spoke and moved those venerable plumes.

“Who hath conducted, or with lantern sure

Lights you emerging from the depth of night,

That makes the infernal valley ever black?

Are the firm statutes of the dread abyss

Broken, or in high heaven new laws ordain’d,

That thus, condemn’d, ye to my caves approach?”

My guide, then laying hold on me, by words

And intimations given with hand and head,

Made my bent knees and eye submissive pay

Due reverence; then thus to him replied.

“Not of myself I come; a Dame from heaven

Descending, had besought me in my charge

To bring. But since thy will implies, that more

Our true condition I unfold at large,

Mine is not to deny thee thy request.

This mortal ne’er hath seen the farthest gloom.

But erring by his folly had approach’d

So near, that little space was left to turn.

Then, as before I told, I was dispatch’d

To work his rescue, and no way remain’d

Save this which I have ta’en. I have display’d

Before him all the regions of the bad;

And purpose now those spirits to display,

That under thy command are purg’d from sin.

How I have brought him would be long to say.

From high descends the virtue, by whose aid

I to thy sight and hearing him have led.

Now may our coming please thee. In the search

Of liberty he journeys: that how dear

They know, who for her sake have life refus’d.

Thou knowest, to whom death for her was sweet

In Utica, where thou didst leave those weeds,

That in the last great day will shine so bright.

For us the’ eternal edicts are unmov’d:

He breathes, and I am free of Minos’ power,

Abiding in that circle where the eyes

Of thy chaste Marcia beam, who still in look

Prays thee, O hallow’d spirit! to own her shine.

Then by her love we’ implore thee, let us pass

Through thy sev’n regions; for which best thanks

I for thy favour will to her return,

If mention there below thou not disdain.”

“Marcia so pleasing in my sight was found,”

He then to him rejoin’d, “while I was there,

That all she ask’d me I was fain to grant.

Now that beyond the’ accursed stream she dwells,

She may no longer move me, by that law,

Which was ordain’d me, when I issued thence.

Not so, if Dame from heaven, as thou sayst,

Moves and directs thee; then no flattery needs.

Enough for me that in her name thou ask.

Go therefore now: and with a slender reed

See that thou duly gird him, and his face

Lave, till all sordid stain thou wipe from thence.

For not with eye, by any cloud obscur’d,

Would it be seemly before him to come,

Who stands the foremost minister in heaven.

This islet all around, there far beneath,

Where the wave beats it, on the oozy bed

Produces store of reeds. No other plant,

Cover’d with leaves, or harden’d in its stalk,

There lives, not bending to the water’s sway.

After, this way return not; but the sun

Will show you, that now rises, where to take

The mountain in its easiest ascent.”

He disappear’d; and I myself uprais’d

Speechless, and to my guide retiring close,

Toward him turn’d mine eyes. He thus began;

“My son! observant thou my steps pursue.

We must retreat to rearward, for that way

The champain to its low extreme declines.”

The dawn had chas’d the matin hour of prime,

Which deaf before it, so that from afar

I spy’d the trembling of the ocean stream.

We travers’d the deserted plain, as one

Who, wander’d from his track, thinks every step

Trodden in vain till he regain the path.

When we had come, where yet the tender dew

Strove with the sun, and in a place, where fresh

The wind breath’d o’er it, while it slowly dried;

Both hands extended on the watery grass

My master plac’d, in graceful act and kind.

Whence I of his intent before appriz’d,

Stretch’d out to him my cheeks suffus’d with tears.

There to my visage he anew restor’d

That hue, which the dun shades of hell conceal’d.

Then on the solitary shore arriv’d,

That never sailing on its waters saw

Man, that could after measure back his course,

He girt me in such manner as had pleas’d

Him who instructed, and O, strange to tell!

As he selected every humble plant,

Wherever one was pluck’d, another there

Resembling, straightway in its place arose.


Now had the sun to that horizon reach’d,

That covers, with the most exalted point

Of its meridian circle, Salem’s walls,

And night, that opposite to him her orb

Sounds, from the stream of Ganges issued forth,

Holding the scales, that from her hands are dropp’d

When she reigns highest: so that where I was,

Aurora’s white and vermeil-tinctur’d cheek

To orange turn’d as she in age increas’d.

Meanwhile we linger’d by the water’s brink,

Like men, who, musing on their road, in thought

Journey, while motionless the body rests.

When lo! as near upon the hour of dawn,

Through the thick vapours Mars with fiery beam

Glares down in west, over the ocean floor;

So seem’d, what once again I hope to view,

A light so swiftly coming through the sea,

No winged course might equal its career.

From which when for a space I had withdrawn

Thine eyes, to make inquiry of my guide,

Again I look’d and saw it grown in size

And brightness: thou on either side appear’d

Something, but what I knew not of bright hue,

And by degrees from underneath it came

Another. My preceptor silent yet

Stood, while the brightness, that we first discern’d,

Open’d the form of wings: then when he knew

The pilot, cried aloud, “Down, down; bend low

Thy knees; behold God’s angel: fold thy hands:

Now shalt thou see true Ministers indeed.

Lo how all human means he sets at naught!

So that nor oar he needs, nor other sail

Except his wings, between such distant shores.

Lo how straight up to heaven he holds them rear’d,

Winnowing the air with those eternal plumes,

That not like mortal hairs fall off or change!”

As more and more toward us came, more bright

Appear’d the bird of God, nor could the eye

Endure his splendor near: I mine bent down.

He drove ashore in a small bark so swift

And light, that in its course no wave it drank.

The heav’nly steersman at the prow was seen,

Visibly written blessed in his looks.

Within a hundred spirits and more there sat.

“In Exitu Israel de Aegypto;”

All with one voice together sang, with what

In the remainder of that hymn is writ.

Then soon as with the sign of holy cross

He bless’d them, they at once leap’d out on land,

The swiftly as he came return’d. The crew,

There left, appear’d astounded with the place,

Gazing around as one who sees new sights.

From every side the sun darted his beams,

And with his arrowy radiance from mid heav’n

Had chas’d the Capricorn, when that strange tribe

Lifting their eyes towards us: If ye know,

Declare what path will Lead us to the mount.”

Them Virgil answer’d. “Ye suppose perchance

Us well acquainted with this place: but here,

We, as yourselves, are strangers. Not long erst

We came, before you but a little space,

By other road so rough and hard, that now

The’ ascent will seem to us as play.” The spirits,

Who from my breathing had perceiv’d I liv’d,

Grew pale with wonder. As the multitude

Flock round a herald, sent with olive branch,

To hear what news he brings, and in their haste

Tread one another down, e’en so at sight

Of me those happy spirits were fix’d, each one

Forgetful of its errand, to depart,

Where cleans’d from sin, it might be made all fair.

Then one I saw darting before the rest

With such fond ardour to embrace me, I

To do the like was mov’d. O shadows vain

Except in outward semblance! thrice my hands

I clasp’d behind it, they as oft return’d

Empty into my breast again. Surprise

I needs must think was painted in my looks,

For that the shadow smil’d and backward drew.

To follow it I hasten’d, but with voice

Of sweetness it enjoin’d me to desist.

Then who it was I knew, and pray’d of it,

To talk with me, it would a little pause.

It answered: “Thee as in my mortal frame

I lov’d, so loos’d forth it I love thee still,

And therefore pause; but why walkest thou here?”

“Not without purpose once more to return,

Thou find’st me, my Casella, where I am

Journeying this way;” I said, “but how of thee

Hath so much time been lost?” He answer’d straight:

“No outrage hath been done to me, if he

Who when and whom he chooses takes, me oft

This passage hath denied, since of just will

His will he makes. These three months past indeed,

He, whose chose to enter, with free leave

Hath taken; whence I wand’ring by the shore

Where Tyber’s wave grows salt, of him gain’d kind

Admittance, at that river’s mouth, tow’rd which

His wings are pointed, for there always throng

All such as not to Archeron descend.”

Then I: “If new laws have not quite destroy’d

Memory and use of that sweet song of love,

That while all my cares had power to ’swage;

Please thee with it a little to console

My spirit, that incumber’d with its frame,

Travelling so far, of pain is overcome.”

“Love that discourses in my thoughts.” He then

Began in such soft accents, that within

The sweetness thrills me yet. My gentle guide

And all who came with him, so well were pleas’d,

That seem’d naught else might in their thoughts have room.

Fast fix’d in mute attention to his notes

We stood, when lo! that old man venerable

Exclaiming, “How is this, ye tardy spirits?

What negligence detains you loit’ring here?

Run to the mountain to cast off those scales,

That from your eyes the sight of God conceal.”

As a wild flock of pigeons, to their food

Collected, blade or tares, without their pride

Accustom’d, and in still and quiet sort,

If aught alarm them, suddenly desert

Their meal, assail’d by more important care;

So I that new-come troop beheld, the song

Deserting, hasten to the mountain’s side,

As one who goes yet where he tends knows not.

Nor with less hurried step did we depart.


Them sudden flight had scatter’d over the plain,

Turn’d tow’rds the mountain, whither reason’s voice

Drives us; I to my faithful company

Adhering, left it not. For how of him

Depriv’d, might I have sped, or who beside

Would o’er the mountainous tract have led my steps

He with the bitter pang of self-remorse

Seem’d smitten. O clear conscience and upright

How doth a little fling wound thee sore!

Soon as his feet desisted (slack’ning pace),

From haste, that mars all decency of act,

My mind, that in itself before was wrapt,

Its thoughts expanded, as with joy restor’d:

And full against the steep ascent I set

My face, where highest to heav’n its top o’erflows.

The sun, that flar’d behind, with ruddy beam

Before my form was broken; for in me

His rays resistance met. I turn’d aside

With fear of being left, when I beheld

Only before myself the ground obscur’d.

When thus my solace, turning him around,

Bespake me kindly: “Why distrustest thou?

Believ’st not I am with thee, thy sure guide?

It now is evening there, where buried lies

The body, in which I cast a shade, remov’d

To Naples from Brundusium’s wall. Nor thou

Marvel, if before me no shadow fall,

More than that in the sky element

One ray obstructs not other. To endure

Torments of heat and cold extreme, like frames

That virtue hath dispos’d, which how it works

Wills not to us should be reveal’d. Insane

Who hopes, our reason may that space explore,

Which holds three persons in one substance knit.

Seek not the wherefore, race of human kind;

Could ye have seen the whole, no need had been

For Mary to bring forth. Moreover ye

Have seen such men desiring fruitlessly;

To whose desires repose would have been giv’n,

That now but serve them for eternal grief.

I speak of Plato, and the Stagyrite,

And others many more.” And then he bent

Downwards his forehead, and in troubled mood

Broke off his speech. Meanwhile we had arriv’d

Far as the mountain’s foot, and there the rock

Found of so steep ascent, that nimblest steps

To climb it had been vain. The most remote

Most wild untrodden path, in all the tract

’Twixt Lerice and Turbia were to this

A ladder easy’ and open of access.

“Who knows on which hand now the steep declines?”

My master said and paus’d, “so that he may

Ascend, who journeys without aid of wine,?”

And while with looks directed to the ground

The meaning of the pathway he explor’d,

And I gaz’d upward round the stony height,

Of spirits, that toward us mov’d their steps,

Yet moving seem’d not, they so slow approach’d.

I thus my guide address’d: “Upraise thine eyes,

Lo that way some, of whom thou may’st obtain

Counsel, if of thyself thou find’st it not!”

Straightway he look’d, and with free speech replied:

“Let us tend thither: they but softly come.

And thou be firm in hope, my son belov’d.”

Now was that people distant far in space

A thousand paces behind ours, as much

As at a throw the nervous arm could fling,

When all drew backward on the messy crags

Of the steep bank, and firmly stood unmov’d

As one who walks in doubt might stand to look.

“O spirits perfect! O already chosen!”

Virgil to them began, “by that blest peace,

Which, as I deem, is for you all prepar’d,

Instruct us where the mountain low declines,

So that attempt to mount it be not vain.

For who knows most, him loss of time most grieves.”

As sheep, that step from forth their fold, by one,

Or pairs, or three at once; meanwhile the rest

Stand fearfully, bending the eye and nose

To ground, and what the foremost does, that do

The others, gath’ring round her, if she stops,

Simple and quiet, nor the cause discern;

So saw I moving to advance the first,

Who of that fortunate crew were at the head,

Of modest mien and graceful in their gait.

When they before me had beheld the light

From my right side fall broken on the ground,

So that the shadow reach’d the cave, they stopp’d

And somewhat back retir’d: the same did all,

Who follow’d, though unweeting of the cause

“Unask’d of you, yet freely I confess,

This is a human body which ye see.

That the sun’s light is broken on the ground,

Marvel not: but believe, that not without

Virtue deriv’d from Heaven, we to climb

Over this wall aspire.” So them bespake

My master; and that virtuous tribe rejoin’d;

“ Turn, and before you there the entrance lies,”

Making a signal to us with bent hands.

Then of them one began. “Whoe’er thou art,

Who journey’st thus this way, thy visage turn,

Think if me elsewhere thou hast ever seen.”

I tow’rds him turn’d, and with fix’d eye beheld.

Comely, and fair, and gentle of aspect,

He seem’d, but on one brow a gash was mark’d.

When humbly I disclaim’d to have beheld

Him ever: “Now behold!” he said, and show’d

High on his breast a wound: then smiling spake.

“I am Manfredi, grandson to the Queen

Costanza: whence I pray thee, when return’d,

To my fair daughter go, the parent glad

Of Aragonia and Sicilia’s pride;

And of the truth inform her, if of me

Aught else be told. When by two mortal blows

My frame was shatter’d, I betook myself

Weeping to him, who of free will forgives.

My sins were horrible; but so wide arms

Hath goodness infinite, that it receives

All who turn to it. Had this text divine

Been of Cosenza’s shepherd better scann’d,

Who then by Clement on my hunt was set,

Yet at the bridge’s head my bones had lain,

Near Benevento, by the heavy mole

Protected; but the rain now drenches them,

And the wind drives, out of the kingdom’s bounds,

Far as the stream of Verde, where, with lights

Extinguish’d, he remov’d them from their bed.

Yet by their curse we are not so destroy’d,

But that the eternal love may turn, while hope

Retains her verdant blossoms. True it is,

That such one as in contumacy dies

Against the holy church, though he repent,

Must wander thirty-fold for all the time

In his presumption past; if such decree

Be not by prayers of good men shorter made

Look therefore if thou canst advance my bliss;

Revealing to my good Costanza, how

Thou hast beheld me, and beside the terms

Laid on me of that interdict; for here

By means of those below much profit comes.”


When by sensations of delight or pain,

That any of our faculties hath seiz’d,

Entire the soul collects herself, it seems

She is intent upon that power alone,

And thus the error is disprov’d which holds

The soul not singly lighted in the breast.

And therefore when as aught is heard or seen,

That firmly keeps the soul toward it turn’d,

Time passes, and a man perceives it not.

For that, whereby he hearken, is one power,

Another that, which the whole spirit hash;

This is as it were bound, while that is free.

This found I true by proof, hearing that spirit

And wond’ring; for full fifty steps aloft

The sun had measur’d unobserv’d of me,

When we arriv’d where all with one accord

The spirits shouted, “Here is what ye ask.”

A larger aperture ofttimes is stopp’d

With forked stake of thorn by villager,

When the ripe grape imbrowns, than was the path,

By which my guide, and I behind him close,

Ascended solitary, when that troop

Departing left us. On Sanleo’s road

Who journeys, or to Noli low descends,

Or mounts Bismantua’s height, must use his feet;

But here a man had need to fly, I mean

With the swift wing and plumes of high desire,

Conducted by his aid, who gave me hope,

And with light furnish’d to direct my way.

We through the broken rock ascended, close

Pent on each side, while underneath the ground

Ask’d help of hands and feet. When we arriv’d

Near on the highest ridge of the steep bank,

Where the plain level open’d I exclaim’d,

“O master! say which way can we proceed?”

He answer’d, “Let no step of thine recede.

Behind me gain the mountain, till to us

Some practis’d guide appear.” That eminence

Was lofty that no eye might reach its point,

And the side proudly rising, more than line

From the mid quadrant to the centre drawn.

I wearied thus began: “Parent belov’d!

Turn, and behold how I remain alone,

If thou stay not.” — “My son!” He straight reply’d,

“Thus far put forth thy strength; “and to a track

Pointed, that, on this side projecting, round

Circles the hill. His words so spurr’d me on,

That I behind him clamb’ring, forc’d myself,

Till my feet press’d the circuit plain beneath.

There both together seated, turn’d we round

To eastward, whence was our ascent: and oft

Many beside have with delight look’d back.

First on the nether shores I turn’d my eyes,

Then rais’d them to the sun, and wond’ring mark’d

That from the left it smote us. Soon perceiv’d

That Poet sage how at the car of light

Amaz’d I stood, where ’twixt us and the north

Its course it enter’d. Whence he thus to me:

“Were Leda’s offspring now in company

Of that broad mirror, that high up and low

Imparts his light beneath, thou might’st behold

The ruddy zodiac nearer to the bears

Wheel, if its ancient course it not forsook.

How that may be if thou would’st think; within

Pond’ring, imagine Sion with this mount

Plac’d on the earth, so that to both be one

Horizon, and two hemispheres apart,

Where lies the path that Phaeton ill knew

To guide his erring chariot: thou wilt see

How of necessity by this on one

He passes, while by that on the’ other side,

If with clear view shine intellect attend.”

“Of truth, kind teacher!” I exclaim’d, “so clear

Aught saw I never, as I now discern

Where seem’d my ken to fail, that the mid orb

Of the supernal motion (which in terms

Of art is called the Equator, and remains

Ever between the sun and winter) for the cause

Thou hast assign’d, from hence toward the north

Departs, when those who in the Hebrew land

Inhabit, see it tow’rds the warmer part.

But if it please thee, I would gladly know,

How far we have to journey: for the hill

Mounts higher, than this sight of mine can mount.”

He thus to me: “Such is this steep ascent,

That it is ever difficult at first,

But, more a man proceeds, less evil grows.

When pleasant it shall seem to thee, so much

That upward going shall be easy to thee.

As in a vessel to go down the tide,

Then of this path thou wilt have reach’d the end.

There hope to rest thee from thy toil. No more

I answer, and thus far for certain know.”

As he his words had spoken, near to us

A voice there sounded: “Yet ye first perchance

May to repose you by constraint be led.”

At sound thereof each turn’d, and on the left

A huge stone we beheld, of which nor I

Nor he before was ware. Thither we drew,

find there were some, who in the shady place

Behind the rock were standing, as a man

Thru’ idleness might stand. Among them one,

Who seem’d to me much wearied, sat him down,

And with his arms did fold his knees about,

Holding his face between them downward bent.

“Sweet Sir!” I cry’d, “behold that man, who shows

Himself more idle, than if laziness

Were sister to him.” Straight he turn’d to us,

And, o’er the thigh lifting his face, observ’d,

Then in these accents spake: “Up then, proceed

Thou valiant one.” Straight who it was I knew;

Nor could the pain I felt (for want of breath

Still somewhat urg’d me) hinder my approach.

And when I came to him, he scarce his head

Uplifted, saying “Well hast thou discern’d,

How from the left the sun his chariot leads.”

His lazy acts and broken words my lips

To laughter somewhat mov’d; when I began:

“Belacqua, now for thee I grieve no more.

But tell, why thou art seated upright there?

Waitest thou escort to conduct thee hence?

Or blame I only shine accustom’d ways?”

Then he: “My brother, of what use to mount,

When to my suffering would not let me pass

The bird of God, who at the portal sits?

Behooves so long that heav’n first bear me round

Without its limits, as in life it bore,

Because I to the end repentant Sighs

Delay’d, if prayer do not aid me first,

That riseth up from heart which lives in grace.

What other kind avails, not heard in heaven?"’

Before me now the Poet up the mount

Ascending, cried: “Haste thee, for see the sun

Has touch’d the point meridian, and the night

Now covers with her foot Marocco’s shore.”


Now had I left those spirits, and pursued

The steps of my Conductor, when beheld

Pointing the finger at me one exclaim’d:

“See how it seems as if the light not shone

From the left hand of him beneath, and he,

As living, seems to be led on.” Mine eyes

I at that sound reverting, saw them gaze

Through wonder first at me, and then at me

And the light broken underneath, by turns.

“Why are thy thoughts thus riveted?” my guide

Exclaim’d, “that thou hast slack’d thy pace? or how

Imports it thee, what thing is whisper’d here?

Come after me, and to their babblings leave

The crowd. Be as a tower, that, firmly set,

Shakes not its top for any blast that blows!

He, in whose bosom thought on thought shoots out,

Still of his aim is wide, in that the one

Sicklies and wastes to nought the other’s strength.”

What other could I answer save “I come?”

I said it, somewhat with that colour ting’d

Which ofttimes pardon meriteth for man.

Meanwhile traverse along the hill there came,

A little way before us, some who sang

The “Miserere” in responsive Strains.

When they perceiv’d that through my body I

Gave way not for the rays to pass, their song

Straight to a long and hoarse exclaim they chang’d;

And two of them, in guise of messengers,

Ran on to meet us, and inquiring ask’d:

Of your condition we would gladly learn.”

To them my guide. “Ye may return, and bear

Tidings to them who sent you, that his frame

Is real flesh. If, as I deem, to view

His shade they paus’d, enough is answer’d them.

Him let them honour, they may prize him well.”

Ne’er saw I fiery vapours with such speed

Cut through the serene air at fall of night,

Nor August’s clouds athwart the setting sun,

That upward these did not in shorter space

Return; and, there arriving, with the rest

Wheel back on us, as with loose rein a troop.

“Many,” exclaim’d the bard, “are these, who throng

Around us: to petition thee they come.

Go therefore on, and listen as thou go’st.”

“O spirit! who go’st on to blessedness

With the same limbs, that clad thee at thy birth.”

Shouting they came, “a little rest thy step.

Look if thou any one amongst our tribe

Hast e’er beheld, that tidings of him there

Thou mayst report. Ah, wherefore go’st thou on?

Ah wherefore tarriest thou not? We all

By violence died, and to our latest hour

Were sinners, but then warn’d by light from heav’n,

So that, repenting and forgiving, we

Did issue out of life at peace with God,

Who with desire to see him fills our heart.”

Then I: “The visages of all I scan

Yet none of ye remember. But if aught,

That I can do, may please you, gentle spirits!

Speak; and I will perform it, by that peace,

Which on the steps of guide so excellent

Following from world to world intent I seek.”

In answer he began: “None here distrusts

Thy kindness, though not promis’d with an oath;

So as the will fail not for want of power.

Whence I, who sole before the others speak,

Entreat thee, if thou ever see that land,

Which lies between Romagna and the realm

Of Charles, that of thy courtesy thou pray

Those who inhabit Fano, that for me

Their adorations duly be put up,

By which I may purge off my grievous sins.

From thence I came. But the deep passages,

Whence issued out the blood wherein I dwelt,

Upon my bosom in Antenor’s land

Were made, where to be more secure I thought.

The author of the deed was Este’s prince,

Who, more than right could warrant, with his wrath

Pursued me. Had I towards Mira fled,

When overta’en at Oriaco, still

Might I have breath’d. But to the marsh I sped,

And in the mire and rushes tangled there

Fell, and beheld my life-blood float the plain.”

Then said another: “Ah! so may the wish,

That takes thee o’er the mountain, be fulfill’d,

As thou shalt graciously give aid to mine.

Of Montefeltro I; Buonconte I:

Giovanna nor none else have care for me,

Sorrowing with these I therefore go.” I thus:

“From Campaldino’s field what force or chance

Drew thee, that ne’er thy sepulture was known?”

“Oh!” answer’d he, “at Casentino’s foot

A stream there courseth, nam’d Archiano, sprung

In Apennine above the Hermit’s seat.

E’en where its name is cancel’d, there came I,

Pierc’d in the heart, fleeing away on foot,

And bloodying the plain. Here sight and speech

Fail’d me, and finishing with Mary’s name

I fell, and tenantless my flesh remain’d.

I will report the truth; which thou again0

Tell to the living. Me God’s angel took,

Whilst he of hell exclaim’d: “O thou from heav’n!

Say wherefore hast thou robb’d me? Thou of him

Th’ eternal portion bear’st with thee away

For one poor tear that he deprives me of.

But of the other, other rule I make.”

“Thou knowest how in the atmosphere collects

That vapour dank, returning into water,

Soon as it mounts where cold condenses it.

That evil will, which in his intellect

Still follows evil, came, and rais’d the wind

And smoky mist, by virtue of the power

Given by his nature. Thence the valley, soon

As day was spent, he cover’d o’er with cloud

From Pratomagno to the mountain range,

And stretch’d the sky above, so that the air

Impregnate chang’d to water. Fell the rain,

And to the fosses came all that the land

Contain’d not; and, as mightiest streams are wont,

To the great river with such headlong sweep

Rush’d, that nought stay’d its course. My stiffen’d frame

Laid at his mouth the fell Archiano found,

And dash’d it into Arno, from my breast

Loos’ning the cross, that of myself I made

When overcome with pain. He hurl’d me on,

Along the banks and bottom of his course;

Then in his muddy spoils encircling wrapt.”

“Ah! when thou to the world shalt be return’d,

And rested after thy long road,” so spake

Next the third spirit; “then remember me.

I once was Pia. Sienna gave me life,

Maremma took it from me. That he knows,

Who me with jewell’d ring had first espous’d.”


When from their game of dice men separate,

He, who hath lost, remains in sadness fix’d,

Revolving in his mind, what luckless throws

He cast: but meanwhile all the company

Go with the other; one before him runs,

And one behind his mantle twitches, one

Fast by his side bids him remember him.

He stops not; and each one, to whom his hand

Is stretch’d, well knows he bids him stand aside;

And thus he from the press defends himself.

E’en such was I in that close-crowding throng;

And turning so my face around to all,

And promising, I ’scap’d from it with pains.

Here of Arezzo him I saw, who fell

By Ghino’s cruel arm; and him beside,

Who in his chase was swallow’d by the stream.

Here Frederic Novello, with his hand

Stretch’d forth, entreated; and of Pisa he,

Who put the good Marzuco to such proof

Of constancy. Count Orso I beheld;

And from its frame a soul dismiss’d for spite

And envy, as it said, but for no crime:

I speak of Peter de la Brosse; and here,

While she yet lives, that Lady of Brabant

Let her beware; lest for so false a deed

She herd with worse than these. When I was freed

From all those spirits, who pray’d for others’ prayers

To hasten on their state of blessedness;

Straight I began: “O thou, my luminary!

It seems expressly in thy text denied,

That heaven’s supreme decree can never bend

To supplication; yet with this design

Do these entreat. Can then their hope be vain,

Or is thy saying not to me reveal’d?”

He thus to me: “Both what I write is plain,

And these deceiv’d not in their hope, if well

Thy mind consider, that the sacred height

Of judgment doth not stoop, because love’s flame

In a short moment all fulfils, which he

Who sojourns here, in right should satisfy.

Besides, when I this point concluded thus,

By praying no defect could be supplied;

Because the pray’r had none access to God.

Yet in this deep suspicion rest thou not

Contented unless she assure thee so,

Who betwixt truth and mind infuses light.

I know not if thou take me right; I mean

Beatrice. Her thou shalt behold above,

Upon this mountain’s crown, fair seat of joy.”

Then I: “Sir! let us mend our speed; for now

I tire not as before; and lo! the hill

Stretches its shadow far.” He answer’d thus:

“Our progress with this day shall be as much

As we may now dispatch; but otherwise

Than thou supposest is the truth. For there

Thou canst not be, ere thou once more behold

Him back returning, who behind the steep

Is now so hidden, that as erst his beam

Thou dost not break. But lo! a spirit there

Stands solitary, and toward us looks:

It will instruct us in the speediest way.”

We soon approach’d it. O thou Lombard spirit!

How didst thou stand, in high abstracted mood,

Scarce moving with slow dignity thine eyes!

It spoke not aught, but let us onward pass,

Eyeing us as a lion on his watch.

I3ut Virgil with entreaty mild advanc’d,

Requesting it to show the best ascent.

It answer to his question none return’d,

But of our country and our kind of life

Demanded. When my courteous guide began,

“Mantua,” the solitary shadow quick

Rose towards us from the place in which it stood,

And cry’d, “Mantuan! I am thy countryman

Sordello.” Each the other then embrac’d.

Ah slavish Italy! thou inn of grief,

Vessel without a pilot in loud storm,

Lady no longer of fair provinces,

But brothel-house impure! this gentle spirit,

Ev’n from the Pleasant sound of his dear land

Was prompt to greet a fellow citizen

With such glad cheer; while now thy living ones

In thee abide not without war; and one

Malicious gnaws another, ay of those

Whom the same wall and the same moat contains,

Seek, wretched one! around thy sea-coasts wide;

Then homeward to thy bosom turn, and mark

If any part of the sweet peace enjoy.

What boots it, that thy reins Justinian’s hand

Befitted, if thy saddle be unpress’d?

Nought doth he now but aggravate thy shame.

Ah people! thou obedient still shouldst live,

And in the saddle let thy Caesar sit,

If well thou marked’st that which God commands

Look how that beast to felness hath relaps’d

From having lost correction of the spur,

Since to the bridle thou hast set thine hand,

O German Albert! who abandon’st her,

That is grown savage and unmanageable,

When thou should’st clasp her flanks with forked heels.

Just judgment from the stars fall on thy blood!

And be it strange and manifest to all!

Such as may strike thy successor with dread!

For that thy sire and thou have suffer’d thus,

Through greediness of yonder realms detain’d,

The garden of the empire to run waste.

Come see the Capulets and Montagues,

The Philippeschi and Monaldi! man

Who car’st for nought! those sunk in grief, and these

With dire suspicion rack’d. Come, cruel one!

Come and behold the’ oppression of the nobles,

And mark their injuries: and thou mayst see.

What safety Santafiore can supply.

Come and behold thy Rome, who calls on thee,

Desolate widow! day and night with moans:

“My Caesar, why dost thou desert my side?”

Come and behold what love among thy people:

And if no pity touches thee for us,

Come and blush for thine own report. For me,

If it be lawful, O Almighty Power,

Who wast in earth for our sakes crucified!

Are thy just eyes turn’d elsewhere? or is this

A preparation in the wond’rous depth

Of thy sage counsel made, for some good end,

Entirely from our reach of thought cut off?

So are the’ Italian cities all o’erthrong’d

With tyrants, and a great Marcellus made

Of every petty factious villager.

My Florence! thou mayst well remain unmov’d

At this digression, which affects not thee:

Thanks to thy people, who so wisely speed.

Many have justice in their heart, that long

Waiteth for counsel to direct the bow,

Or ere it dart unto its aim: but shine

Have it on their lip’s edge. Many refuse

To bear the common burdens: readier thine

Answer uneall’d, and cry, “Behold I stoop!”

Make thyself glad, for thou hast reason now,

Thou wealthy! thou at peace! thou wisdom-fraught!

Facts best witness if I speak the truth.

Athens and Lacedaemon, who of old

Enacted laws, for civil arts renown’d,

Made little progress in improving life

Tow’rds thee, who usest such nice subtlety,

That to the middle of November scarce

Reaches the thread thou in October weav’st.

How many times, within thy memory,

Customs, and laws, and coins, and offices

Have been by thee renew’d, and people chang’d!

If thou remember’st well and can’st see clear,

Thou wilt perceive thyself like a sick wretch,

Who finds no rest upon her down, hut oft

Shifting her side, short respite seeks from pain.


After their courteous greetings joyfully

Sev’n times exchang’d, Sordello backward drew

Exclaiming, “Who are ye?” “Before this mount

By spirits worthy of ascent to God

Was sought, my bones had by Octavius’ care

Been buried. I am Virgil, for no sin

Depriv’d of heav’n, except for lack of faith.”

So answer’d him in few my gentle guide.

As one, who aught before him suddenly

Beholding, whence his wonder riseth, cries

“It is yet is not,” wav’ring in belief;

Such he appear’d; then downward bent his eyes,

And drawing near with reverential step,

Caught him, where of mean estate might clasp

His lord. “Glory of Latium!” he exclaim’d,

“In whom our tongue its utmost power display’d!

Boast of my honor’d birth-place! what desert

Of mine, what favour rather undeserv’d,

Shows thee to me? If I to hear that voice

Am worthy, say if from below thou com’st

And from what cloister’s pale?” — “Through every orb

Of that sad region,” he reply’d, “thus far

Am I arriv’d, by heav’nly influence led

And with such aid I come. There is a place

There underneath, not made by torments sad,

But by dun shades alone; where mourning’s voice

Sounds not of anguish sharp, but breathes in sighs.

There I with little innocents abide,

Who by death’s fangs were bitten, ere exempt

From human taint. There I with those abide,

Who the three holy virtues put not on,

But understood the rest, and without blame

Follow’d them all. But if thou know’st and canst,

Direct us, how we soonest may arrive,

Where Purgatory its true beginning takes.”

He answer’d thus: “We have no certain place

Assign’d us: upwards I may go or round,

Far as I can, I join thee for thy guide.

But thou beholdest now how day declines:

And upwards to proceed by night, our power

Excels: therefore it may be well to choose

A place of pleasant sojourn. To the right

Some spirits sit apart retir’d. If thou

Consentest, I to these will lead thy steps:

And thou wilt know them, not without delight.”

“How chances this?” was answer’d; “who so wish’d

To ascend by night, would he be thence debarr’d

By other, or through his own weakness fail?”

The good Sordello then, along the ground

Trailing his finger, spoke: “Only this line

Thou shalt not overpass, soon as the sun

Hath disappear’d; not that aught else impedes

Thy going upwards, save the shades of night.

These with the wont of power perplex the will.

With them thou haply mightst return beneath,

Or to and fro around the mountain’s side

Wander, while day is in the horizon shut.”

My master straight, as wond’ring at his speech,

Exclaim’d: “Then lead us quickly, where thou sayst,

That, while we stay, we may enjoy delight.”

A little space we were remov’d from thence,

When I perceiv’d the mountain hollow’d out.

Ev’n as large valleys hollow’d out on earth,

“That way,” the’ escorting spirit cried, “we go,

Where in a bosom the high bank recedes:

And thou await renewal of the day.”

Betwixt the steep and plain a crooked path

Led us traverse into the ridge’s side,

Where more than half the sloping edge expires.

Refulgent gold, and silver thrice refin’d,

And scarlet grain and ceruse, Indian wood

Of lucid dye serene, fresh emeralds

But newly broken, by the herbs and flowers

Plac’d in that fair recess, in color all

Had been surpass’d, as great surpasses less.

Nor nature only there lavish’d her hues,

But of the sweetness of a thousand smells

A rare and undistinguish’d fragrance made.

“Salve Regina,” on the grass and flowers

Here chanting I beheld those spirits sit

Who not beyond the valley could be seen.

“Before the west’ring sun sink to his bed,”

Began the Mantuan, who our steps had turn’d,

“’Mid those desires not that I lead ye on.

For from this eminence ye shall discern

Better the acts and visages of all,

Than in the nether vale among them mix’d.

He, who sits high above the rest, and seems

To have neglected that he should have done,

And to the others’ song moves not his lip,

The Emperor Rodolph call, who might have heal’d

The wounds whereof fair Italy hath died,

So that by others she revives but slowly,

He, who with kindly visage comforts him,

Sway’d in that country, where the water springs,

That Moldaw’s river to the Elbe, and Elbe

Rolls to the ocean: Ottocar his name:

Who in his swaddling clothes was of more worth

Than Winceslaus his son, a bearded man,

Pamper’d with rank luxuriousness and ease.

And that one with the nose depress, who close

In counsel seems with him of gentle look,

Flying expir’d, with’ring the lily’s flower.

Look there how he doth knock against his breast!

The other ye behold, who for his cheek

Makes of one hand a couch, with frequent sighs.

They are the father and the father-in-law

Of Gallia’s bane: his vicious life they know

And foul; thence comes the grief that rends them thus.

“He, so robust of limb, who measure keeps

In song, with him of feature prominent,

With ev’ry virtue bore his girdle brac’d.

And if that stripling who behinds him sits,

King after him had liv’d, his virtue then

From vessel to like vessel had been pour’d;

Which may not of the other heirs be said.

By James and Frederick his realms are held;

Neither the better heritage obtains.

Rarely into the branches of the tree

Doth human worth mount up; and so ordains

He who bestows it, that as his free gift

It may be call’d. To Charles my words apply

No less than to his brother in the song;

Which Pouille and Provence now with grief confess.

So much that plant degenerates from its seed,

As more than Beatrice and Margaret

Costanza still boasts of her valorous spouse.

“Behold the king of simple life and plain,

Harry of England, sitting there alone:

He through his branches better issue spreads.

“That one, who on the ground beneath the rest

Sits lowest, yet his gaze directs aloft,

Us William, that brave Marquis, for whose cause

The deed of Alexandria and his war

Makes Conferrat and Canavese weep.”


Now was the hour that wakens fond desire

In men at sea, and melts their thoughtful heart,

Who in the morn have bid sweet friends farewell,

And pilgrim newly on his road with love

Thrills, if he hear the vesper bell from far,

That seems to mourn for the expiring day:

When I, no longer taking heed to hear

Began, with wonder, from those spirits to mark

One risen from its seat, which with its hand

Audience implor’d. Both palms it join’d and rais’d,

Fixing its steadfast gaze towards the east,

As telling God, “I care for naught beside.”

“Te Lucis Ante,” so devoutly then

Came from its lip, and in so soft a strain,

That all my sense in ravishment was lost.

And the rest after, softly and devout,

Follow’d through all the hymn, with upward gaze

Directed to the bright supernal wheels.

Here, reader! for the truth makes thine eyes keen:

For of so subtle texture is this veil,

That thou with ease mayst pass it through unmark’d.

I saw that gentle band silently next

Look up, as if in expectation held,

Pale and in lowly guise; and from on high

I saw forth issuing descend beneath

Two angels with two flame-illumin’d swords,

Broken and mutilated at their points.

Green as the tender leaves but newly born,

Their vesture was, the which by wings as green

Beaten, they drew behind them, fann’d in air.

A little over us one took his stand,

The other lighted on the’ Opposing hill,

So that the troop were in the midst contain’d.

Well I descried the whiteness on their heads;

But in their visages the dazzled eye

Was lost, as faculty that by too much

Is overpower’d. “From Mary’s bosom both

Are come,” exclaim’d Sordello, “as a guard

Over the vale, ganst him, who hither tends,

The serpent.” Whence, not knowing by which path

He came, I turn’d me round, and closely press’d,

All frozen, to my leader’s trusted side.

Sordello paus’d not: “To the valley now

(For it is time) let us descend; and hold

Converse with those great shadows: haply much

Their sight may please ye.” Only three steps down

Methinks I measur’d, ere I was beneath,

And noted one who look’d as with desire

To know me. Time was now that air arrow dim;

Yet not so dim, that ’twixt his eyes and mine

It clear’d not up what was conceal’d before.

Mutually tow’rds each other we advanc’d.

Nino, thou courteous judge! what joy I felt,

When I perceiv’d thou wert not with the bad!

No salutation kind on either part

Was left unsaid. He then inquir’d: “How long

Since thou arrived’st at the mountain’s foot,

Over the distant waves?” — “O!” answer’d I,

“Through the sad seats of woe this morn I came,

And still in my first life, thus journeying on,

The other strive to gain.” Soon as they heard

My words, he and Sordello backward drew,

As suddenly amaz’d. To Virgil one,

The other to a spirit turn’d, who near

Was seated, crying: “Conrad! up with speed:

Come, see what of his grace high God hath will’d.”

Then turning round to me: “By that rare mark

Of honour which thou ow’st to him, who hides

So deeply his first cause, it hath no ford,

When thou shalt he beyond the vast of waves.

Tell my Giovanna, that for me she call

There, where reply to innocence is made.

Her mother, I believe, loves me no more;

Since she has chang’d the white and wimpled folds,

Which she is doom’d once more with grief to wish.

By her it easily may be perceiv’d,

How long in women lasts the flame of love,

If sight and touch do not relume it oft.

For her so fair a burial will not make

The viper which calls Milan to the field,

As had been made by shrill Gallura’s bird.”

He spoke, and in his visage took the stamp

Of that right seal, which with due temperature

Glows in the bosom. My insatiate eyes

Meanwhile to heav’n had travel’d, even there

Where the bright stars are slowest, as a wheel

Nearest the axle; when my guide inquir’d:

“What there aloft, my son, has caught thy gaze?”

I answer’d: “The three torches, with which here

The pole is all on fire. “He then to me:

“The four resplendent stars, thou saw’st this morn

Are there beneath, and these ris’n in their stead.”

While yet he spoke. Sordello to himself

Drew him, and cry’d: “Lo there our enemy!”

And with his hand pointed that way to look.

Along the side, where barrier none arose

Around the little vale, a serpent lay,

Such haply as gave Eve the bitter food.

Between the grass and flowers, the evil snake

Came on, reverting oft his lifted head;

And, as a beast that smoothes its polish’d coat,

Licking his hack. I saw not, nor can tell,

How those celestial falcons from their seat

Mov’d, but in motion each one well descried,

Hearing the air cut by their verdant plumes.

The serpent fled; and to their stations back

The angels up return’d with equal flight.

The Spirit (who to Nino, when he call’d,

Had come), from viewing me with fixed ken,

Through all that conflict, loosen’d not his sight.

“So may the lamp, which leads thee up on high,

Find, in thy destin’d lot, of wax so much,

As may suffice thee to the enamel’s height.”

It thus began: “If any certain news

Of Valdimagra and the neighbour part

Thou know’st, tell me, who once was mighty there

They call’d me Conrad Malaspina, not

That old one, but from him I sprang. The love

I bore my people is now here refin’d.”

“In your dominions,” I answer’d, “ne’er was I.

But through all Europe where do those men dwell,

To whom their glory is not manifest?

The fame, that honours your illustrious house,

Proclaims the nobles and proclaims the land;

So that he knows it who was never there.

I swear to you, so may my upward route

Prosper! your honour’d nation not impairs

The value of her coffer and her sword.

Nature and use give her such privilege,

That while the world is twisted from his course

By a bad head, she only walks aright,

And has the evil way in scorn.” He then:

“Now pass thee on: sev’n times the tired sun

Revisits not the couch, which with four feet

The forked Aries covers, ere that kind

Opinion shall be nail’d into thy brain

With stronger nails than other’s speech can drive,

If the sure course of judgment be not stay’d.”


Now the fair consort of Tithonus old,

Arisen from her mate’s beloved arms,

Look’d palely o’er the eastern cliff: her brow,

Lucent with jewels, glitter’d, set in sign

Of that chill animal, who with his train

Smites fearful nations: and where then we were,

Two steps of her ascent the night had past,

And now the third was closing up its wing,

When I, who had so much of Adam with me,

Sank down upon the grass, o’ercome with sleep,

There where all five were seated. In that hour,

When near the dawn the swallow her sad lay,

Rememb’ring haply ancient grief, renews,

And with our minds more wand’rers from the flesh,

And less by thought restrain’d are, as ’t were, full

Of holy divination in their dreams,

Then in a vision did I seem to view

A golden-feather’d eagle in the sky,

With open wings, and hov’ring for descent,

And I was in that place, methought, from whence

Young Ganymede, from his associates ’reft,

Was snatch’d aloft to the high consistory.

“Perhaps,” thought I within me, “here alone

He strikes his quarry, and elsewhere disdains

To pounce upon the prey.” Therewith, it seem’d,

A little wheeling in his airy tour

Terrible as the lightning rush’d he down,

And snatch’d me upward even to the fire.

There both, I thought, the eagle and myself

Did burn; and so intense th’ imagin’d flames,

That needs my sleep was broken off. As erst

Achilles shook himself, and round him roll’d

His waken’d eyeballs wond’ring where he was,

Whenas his mother had from Chiron fled

To Scyros, with him sleeping in her arms;

E’en thus I shook me, soon as from my face

The slumber parted, turning deadly pale,

Like one ice-struck with dread. Solo at my side

My comfort stood: and the bright sun was now

More than two hours aloft: and to the sea

My looks were turn’d. “Fear not,” my master cried,

“Assur’d we are at happy point. Thy strength

Shrink not, but rise dilated. Thou art come

To Purgatory now. Lo! there the cliff

That circling bounds it! Lo! the entrance there,

Where it doth seem disparted! Ere the dawn

Usher’d the daylight, when thy wearied soul

Slept in thee, o’er the flowery vale beneath

A lady came, and thus bespake me: “I

Am Lucia. Suffer me to take this man,

Who slumbers. Easier so his way shall speed.”

Sordello and the other gentle shapes

Tarrying, she bare thee up: and, as day shone,

This summit reach’d: and I pursued her steps.

Here did she place thee. First her lovely eyes

That open entrance show’d me; then at once

She vanish’d with thy sleep.” Like one, whose doubts

Are chas’d by certainty, and terror turn’d

To comfort on discovery of the truth,

Such was the change in me: and as my guide

Beheld me fearless, up along the cliff

He mov’d, and I behind him, towards the height.

Reader! thou markest how my theme doth rise,

Nor wonder therefore, if more artfully

I prop the structure! Nearer now we drew,

Arriv’d’ whence in that part, where first a breach

As of a wall appear’d, I could descry

A portal, and three steps beneath, that led

For inlet there, of different colour each,

And one who watch’d, but spake not yet a word.

As more and more mine eye did stretch its view,

I mark’d him seated on the highest step,

In visage such, as past my power to bear.

Grasp’d in his hand a naked sword, glanc’d back

The rays so toward me, that I oft in vain

My sight directed. “Speak from whence ye stand:”

He cried: “What would ye? Where is your escort?

Take heed your coming upward harm ye not.”

“A heavenly dame, not skilless of these things,”

Replied the’ instructor, “told us, even now,

‘Pass that way: here the gate is.” — “And may she

Befriending prosper your ascent,” resum’d

The courteous keeper of the gate: “Come then

Before our steps.” We straightway thither came.

The lowest stair was marble white so smooth

And polish’d, that therein my mirror’d form

Distinct I saw. The next of hue more dark

Than sablest grain, a rough and singed block,

Crack’d lengthwise and across. The third, that lay

Massy above, seem’d porphyry, that flam’d

Red as the life-blood spouting from a vein.

On this God’s angel either foot sustain’d,

Upon the threshold seated, which appear’d

A rock of diamond. Up the trinal steps

My leader cheerily drew me. “Ask,” said he,

“With humble heart, that he unbar the bolt.”

Piously at his holy feet devolv’d

I cast me, praying him for pity’s sake

That he would open to me: but first fell

Thrice on my bosom prostrate. Seven times0

The letter, that denotes the inward stain,

He on my forehead with the blunted point

Of his drawn sword inscrib’d. And “Look,” he cried,

“When enter’d, that thou wash these scars away.”

Ashes, or earth ta’en dry out of the ground,

Were of one colour with the robe he wore.

From underneath that vestment forth he drew

Two keys of metal twain: the one was gold,

Its fellow silver. With the pallid first,

And next the burnish’d, he so ply’d the gate,

As to content me well. “Whenever one

Faileth of these, that in the keyhole straight

It turn not, to this alley then expect

Access in vain.” Such were the words he spake.

“One is more precious: but the other needs

Skill and sagacity, large share of each,

Ere its good task to disengage the knot

Be worthily perform’d. From Peter these

I hold, of him instructed, that I err

Rather in opening than in keeping fast;

So but the suppliant at my feet implore.”

Then of that hallow’d gate he thrust the door,

Exclaiming, “Enter, but this warning hear:

He forth again departs who looks behind.”

As in the hinges of that sacred ward

The swivels turn’d, sonorous metal strong,

Harsh was the grating; nor so surlily

Roar’d the Tarpeian, when by force bereft

Of good Metellus, thenceforth from his loss

To leanness doom’d. Attentively I turn’d,

List’ning the thunder, that first issued forth;

And “We praise thee, O God,” methought I heard

In accents blended with sweet melody.

The strains came o’er mine ear, e’en as the sound

Of choral voices, that in solemn chant

With organ mingle, and, now high and clear,

Come swelling, now float indistinct away.


When we had passed the threshold of the gate

(Which the soul’s ill affection doth disuse,

Making the crooked seem the straighter path),

I heard its closing sound. Had mine eyes turn’d,

For that offence what plea might have avail’d?

We mounted up the riven rock, that wound

On either side alternate, as the wave

Flies and advances. “Here some little art

Behooves us,” said my leader, “that our steps

Observe the varying flexure of the path.”

Thus we so slowly sped, that with cleft orb

The moon once more o’erhangs her wat’ry couch,

Ere we that strait have threaded. But when free

We came and open, where the mount above

One solid mass retires, I spent, with toil,

And both, uncertain of the way, we stood,

Upon a plain more lonesome, than the roads

That traverse desert wilds. From whence the brink

Borders upon vacuity, to foot

Of the steep bank, that rises still, the space

Had measur’d thrice the stature of a man:

And, distant as mine eye could wing its flight,

To leftward now and now to right dispatch’d,

That cornice equal in extent appear’d.

Not yet our feet had on that summit mov’d,

When I discover’d that the bank around,

Whose proud uprising all ascent denied,

Was marble white, and so exactly wrought

With quaintest sculpture, that not there alone

Had Polycletus, but e’en nature’s self

Been sham’d. The angel who came down to earth

With tidings of the peace so many years

Wept for in vain, that op’d the heavenly gates

From their long interdict) before us seem’d,

In a sweet act, so sculptur’d to the life,

He look’d no silent image. One had sworn

He had said, “Hail!” for she was imag’d there,

By whom the key did open to God’s love,

And in her act as sensibly impress

That word, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord,”

As figure seal’d on wax. “Fix not thy mind

On one place only,” said the guide belov’d,

Who had me near him on that part where lies

The heart of man. My sight forthwith I turn’d

And mark’d, behind the virgin mother’s form,

Upon that side, where he, that mov’d me, stood,

Another story graven on the rock.

I passed athwart the bard, and drew me near,

That it might stand more aptly for my view.

There in the self-same marble were engrav’d

The cart and kine, drawing the sacred ark,

That from unbidden office awes mankind.

Before it came much people; and the whole

Parted in seven quires. One sense cried, “Nay,”

Another, “Yes, they sing.” Like doubt arose

Betwixt the eye and smell, from the curl’d fume

Of incense breathing up the well-wrought toil.

Preceding the blest vessel, onward came

With light dance leaping, girt in humble guise,

Sweet Israel’s harper: in that hap he seem’d

Less and yet more than kingly. Opposite,

At a great palace, from the lattice forth

Look’d Michol, like a lady full of scorn

And sorrow. To behold the tablet next,

Which at the hack of Michol whitely shone,

I mov’d me. There was storied on the rock

The’ exalted glory of the Roman prince,

Whose mighty worth mov’d Gregory to earn

His mighty conquest, Trajan th’ Emperor.

A widow at his bridle stood, attir’d

In tears and mourning. Round about them troop’d

Full throng of knights, and overhead in gold

The eagles floated, struggling with the wind.

The wretch appear’d amid all these to say:

“Grant vengeance, sire! for, woe beshrew this heart

My son is murder’d.” He replying seem’d;

“Wait now till I return.” And she, as one

Made hasty by her grief; “O sire, if thou

Dost not return?” — “Where I am, who then is,

May right thee.” — “ What to thee is other’s good,

If thou neglect thy own?” — “Now comfort thee,”

At length he answers. “It beseemeth well

My duty be perform’d, ere I move hence:

So justice wills; and pity bids me stay.”

He, whose ken nothing new surveys, produc’d

That visible speaking, new to us and strange

The like not found on earth. Fondly I gaz’d

Upon those patterns of meek humbleness,

Shapes yet more precious for their artist’s sake,

When “Lo,” the poet whisper’d, “where this way

(But slack their pace), a multitude advance.

These to the lofty steps shall guide us on.”

Mine eyes, though bent on view of novel sights

Their lov’d allurement, were not slow to turn.

Reader! I would not that amaz’d thou miss

Of thy good purpose, hearing how just God

Decrees our debts be cancel’d. Ponder not

The form of suff’ring. Think on what succeeds,

Think that at worst beyond the mighty doom

It cannot pass. “Instructor,” I began,

“What I see hither tending, bears no trace

Of human semblance, nor of aught beside

That my foil’d sight can guess.” He answering thus:

“So courb’d to earth, beneath their heavy teems

Of torment stoop they, that mine eye at first

Struggled as thine. But look intently thither,

An disentangle with thy lab’ring view,

What underneath those stones approacheth: now,

E’en now, mayst thou discern the pangs of each.”

Christians and proud! O poor and wretched ones!

That feeble in the mind’s eye, lean your trust

Upon unstaid perverseness! Know ye not

That we are worms, yet made at last to form

The winged insect, imp’d with angel plumes

That to heaven’s justice unobstructed soars?

Why buoy ye up aloft your unfleg’d souls?

Abortive then and shapeless ye remain,

Like the untimely embryon of a worm!

As, to support incumbent floor or roof,

For corbel is a figure sometimes seen,

That crumples up its knees unto its breast,

With the feign’d posture stirring ruth unfeign’d

In the beholder’s fancy; so I saw

These fashion’d, when I noted well their guise.

Each, as his back was laden, came indeed

Or more or less contract; but it appear’d

As he, who show’d most patience in his look,

Wailing exclaim’d: “I can endure no more.”


O thou Almighty Father, who dost make

The heavens thy dwelling, not in bounds confin’d,

But that with love intenser there thou view’st

Thy primal effluence, hallow’d be thy name:

Join each created being to extol

Thy might, for worthy humblest thanks and praise

Is thy blest Spirit. May thy kingdom’s peace

Come unto us; for we, unless it come,

With all our striving thither tend in vain.

As of their will the angels unto thee

Tender meet sacrifice, circling thy throne

With loud hosannas, so of theirs be done

By saintly men on earth. Grant us this day

Our daily manna, without which he roams

Through this rough desert retrograde, who most

Toils to advance his steps. As we to each

Pardon the evil done us, pardon thou

Benign, and of our merit take no count.

’Gainst the old adversary prove thou not

Our virtue easily subdu’d; but free

From his incitements and defeat his wiles.

This last petition, dearest Lord! is made

Not for ourselves, since that were needless now,

But for their sakes who after us remain.”

Thus for themselves and us good speed imploring,

Those spirits went beneath a weight like that

We sometimes feel in dreams, all, sore beset,

But with unequal anguish, wearied all,

Round the first circuit, purging as they go,

The world’s gross darkness off: In our behalf

If there vows still be offer’d, what can here

For them be vow’d and done by such, whose wills

Have root of goodness in them? Well beseems

That we should help them wash away the stains

They carried hence, that so made pure and light,

They may spring upward to the starry spheres.

“Ah! so may mercy-temper’d justice rid

Your burdens speedily, that ye have power

To stretch your wing, which e’en to your desire

Shall lift you, as ye show us on which hand

Toward the ladder leads the shortest way.

And if there be more passages than one,

Instruct us of that easiest to ascend;

For this man who comes with me, and bears yet

The charge of fleshly raiment Adam left him,

Despite his better will but slowly mounts.”

From whom the answer came unto these words,

Which my guide spake, appear’d not; but ’twas said

“Along the bank to rightward come with us,

And ye shall find a pass that mocks not toil

Of living man to climb: and were it not

That I am hinder’d by the rock, wherewith

This arrogant neck is tam’d, whence needs I stoop

My visage to the ground, him, who yet lives,

Whose name thou speak’st not him I fain would view.

To mark if e’er I knew him? and to crave

His pity for the fardel that I bear.

I was of Latiun, of a Tuscan horn

A mighty one: Aldobranlesco’s name

My sire’s, I know not if ye e’er have heard.

My old blood and forefathers’ gallant deeds

Made me so haughty, that I clean forgot

The common mother, and to such excess,

Wax’d in my scorn of all men, that I fell,

Fell therefore; by what fate Sienna’s sons,

Each child in Campagnatico, can tell.

I am Omberto; not me only pride

Hath injur’d, but my kindred all involv’d

In mischief with her. Here my lot ordains

Under this weight to groan, till I appease

God’s angry justice, since I did it not

Amongst the living, here amongst the dead.”

List’ning I bent my visage down: and one

(Not he who spake) twisted beneath the weight

That urg’d him, saw me, knew me straight, and call’d,

Holding his eyes With difficulty fix’d

Intent upon me, stooping as I went

Companion of their way. “O!” I exclaim’d,

“Art thou not Oderigi, art not thou

Agobbio’s glory, glory of that art

Which they of Paris call the limmer’s skill?”

“Brother!” said he, “with tints that gayer smile,

Bolognian Franco’s pencil lines the leaves.

His all the honour now; mine borrow’d light.

In truth I had not been thus courteous to him,

The whilst I liv’d, through eagerness of zeal

For that pre-eminence my heart was bent on.

Here of such pride the forfeiture is paid.

Nor were I even here; if, able still

To sin, I had not turn’d me unto God.

O powers of man! how vain your glory, nipp’d

E’en in its height of verdure, if an age

Less bright succeed not! Cimabue thought

To lord it over painting’s field; and now

The cry is Giotto’s, and his name eclips’d.

Thus hath one Guido from the other snatch’d

The letter’d prize: and he perhaps is born,

Who shall drive either from their nest. The noise

Of worldly fame is but a blast of wind,

That blows from divers points, and shifts its name

Shifting the point it blows from. Shalt thou more

Live in the mouths of mankind, if thy flesh

Part shrivel’d from thee, than if thou hadst died,

Before the coral and the pap were left,

Or ere some thousand years have passed? and that

Is, to eternity compar’d, a space,

Briefer than is the twinkling of an eye

To the heaven’s slowest orb. He there who treads

So leisurely before me, far and wide

Through Tuscany resounded once; and now

Is in Sienna scarce with whispers nam’d:

There was he sov’reign, when destruction caught

The madd’ning rage of Florence, in that day

Proud as she now is loathsome. Your renown

Is as the herb, whose hue doth come and go,

And his might withers it, by whom it sprang

Crude from the lap of earth.” I thus to him:

“True are thy sayings: to my heart they breathe

The kindly spirit of meekness, and allay

What tumours rankle there. But who is he

Of whom thou spak’st but now?” — “This,” he replied,

“Is Provenzano. He is here, because

He reach’d, with grasp presumptuous, at the sway

Of all Sienna. Thus he still hath gone,

Thus goeth never-resting, since he died.

Such is th’ acquittance render’d back of him,

Who, beyond measure, dar’d on earth.” I then:

“If soul that to the verge of life delays

Repentance, linger in that lower space,

Nor hither mount, unless good prayers befriend,

How chanc’d admittance was vouchsaf’d to him?”

“When at his glory’s topmost height,” said he,

“Respect of dignity all cast aside,

Freely He fix’d him on Sienna’s plain,

A suitor to redeem his suff’ring friend,

Who languish’d in the prison-house of Charles,

Nor for his sake refus’d through every vein

To tremble. More I will not say; and dark,

I know, my words are, but thy neighbours soon

Shall help thee to a comment on the text.

This is the work, that from these limits freed him.”


With equal pace as oxen in the yoke,

I with that laden spirit journey’d on

Long as the mild instructor suffer’d me;

But when he bade me quit him, and proceed

(For “here,” said he, “behooves with sail and oars

Each man, as best he may, push on his bark”),

Upright, as one dispos’d for speed, I rais’d

My body, still in thought submissive bow’d.

I now my leader’s track not loth pursued;

And each had shown how light we far’d along

When thus he warn’d me: “Bend thine eyesight down:

For thou to ease the way shall find it good

To ruminate the bed beneath thy feet.”

As in memorial of the buried, drawn

Upon earth-level tombs, the sculptur’d form

Of what was once, appears (at sight whereof

Tears often stream forth by remembrance wak’d,

Whose sacred stings the piteous only feel),

So saw I there, but with more curious skill

Of portraiture o’erwrought, whate’er of space

From forth the mountain stretches. On one part

Him I beheld, above all creatures erst

Created noblest, light’ning fall from heaven:

On th’ other side with bolt celestial pierc’d

Briareus: cumb’ring earth he lay through dint

Of mortal ice-stroke. The Thymbraean god

With Mars, I saw, and Pallas, round their sire,

Arm’d still, and gazing on the giant’s limbs

Strewn o’er th’ ethereal field. Nimrod I saw:

At foot of the stupendous work he stood,

As if bewilder’d, looking on the crowd

Leagued in his proud attempt on Sennaar’s plain.

O Niobe! in what a trance of woe

Thee I beheld, upon that highway drawn,

Sev’n sons on either side thee slain! O Saul!

How ghastly didst thou look! on thine own sword

Expiring in Gilboa, from that hour

Ne’er visited with rain from heav’n or dew!

O fond Arachne! thee I also saw

Half spider now in anguish crawling up

Th’ unfinish’d web thou weaved’st to thy bane!

O Rehoboam! here thy shape doth seem

Louring no more defiance! but fear-smote

With none to chase him in his chariot whirl’d.

Was shown beside upon the solid floor

How dear Alcmaeon forc’d his mother rate

That ornament in evil hour receiv’d:

How in the temple on Sennacherib fell

His sons, and how a corpse they left him there.

Was shown the scath and cruel mangling made

By Tomyris on Cyrus, when she cried:

“Blood thou didst thirst for, take thy fill of blood!”

Was shown how routed in the battle fled

Th’ Assyrians, Holofernes slain, and e’en

The relics of the carnage. Troy I mark’d

In ashes and in caverns. Oh! how fall’n,

How abject, Ilion, was thy semblance there!

What master of the pencil or the style

Had trac’d the shades and lines, that might have made

The subtlest workman wonder? Dead the dead,

The living seem’d alive; with clearer view

His eye beheld not who beheld the truth,

Than mine what I did tread on, while I went

Low bending. Now swell out; and with stiff necks

Pass on, ye sons of Eve! veil not your looks,

Lest they descry the evil of your path!

I noted not (so busied was my thought)

How much we now had circled of the mount,

And of his course yet more the sun had spent,

When he, who with still wakeful caution went,

Admonish’d: “Raise thou up thy head: for know

Time is not now for slow suspense. Behold

That way an angel hasting towards us! Lo

Where duly the sixth handmaid doth return

From service on the day. Wear thou in look

And gesture seemly grace of reverent awe,

That gladly he may forward us aloft.

Consider that this day ne’er dawns again.”

Time’s loss he had so often warn’d me ’gainst,

I could not miss the scope at which he aim’d.

The goodly shape approach’d us, snowy white

In vesture, and with visage casting streams

Of tremulous lustre like the matin star.

His arms he open’d, then his wings; and spake:

“Onward: the steps, behold! are near; and now

Th’ ascent is without difficulty gain’d.”

A scanty few are they, who when they hear

Such tidings, hasten. O ye race of men

Though born to soar, why suffer ye a wind

So slight to baffle ye? He led us on

Where the rock parted; here against my front

Did beat his wings, then promis’d I should fare

In safety on my way. As to ascend

That steep, upon whose brow the chapel stands

(O’er Rubaconte, looking lordly down

On the well-guided city,) up the right

Th’ impetuous rise is broken by the steps

Carv’d in that old and simple age, when still

The registry and label rested safe;

Thus is th’ acclivity reliev’d, which here

Precipitous from the other circuit falls:

But on each hand the tall cliff presses close.

As ent’ring there we turn’d, voices, in strain

Ineffable, sang: “Blessed are the poor

In spirit.” Ah how far unlike to these

The straits of hell; here songs to usher us,

There shrieks of woe! We climb the holy stairs:

And lighter to myself by far I seem’d

Than on the plain before, whence thus I spake:

“Say, master, of what heavy thing have I

Been lighten’d, that scarce aught the sense of toil

Affects me journeying?” He in few replied:

“When sin’s broad characters, that yet remain

Upon thy temples, though well nigh effac’d,

Shall be, as one is, all clean razed out,

Then shall thy feet by heartiness of will

Be so o’ercome, they not alone shall feel

No sense of labour, but delight much more

Shall wait them urg’d along their upward way.”

Then like to one, upon whose head is plac’d

Somewhat he deems not of but from the becks

Of others as they pass him by; his hand

Lends therefore help to’ assure him, searches, finds,

And well performs such office as the eye

Wants power to execute: so stretching forth

The fingers of my right hand, did I find

Six only of the letters, which his sword

Who bare the keys had trac’d upon my brow.

The leader, as he mark’d mine action, smil’d.


We reach’d the summit of the scale, and stood

Upon the second buttress of that mount

Which healeth him who climbs. A cornice there,

Like to the former, girdles round the hill;

Save that its arch with sweep less ample bends.

Shadow nor image there is seen; all smooth

The rampart and the path, reflecting nought

But the rock’s sullen hue. “If here we wait

For some to question,” said the bard, “I fear

Our choice may haply meet too long delay.”

Then fixedly upon the sun his eyes

He fastn’d, made his right the central point

From whence to move, and turn’d the left aside.

“O pleasant light, my confidence and hope,

Conduct us thou,” he cried, “on this new way,

Where now I venture, leading to the bourn

We seek. The universal world to thee

Owes warmth and lustre. If no other cause

Forbid, thy beams should ever be our guide.”

Far, as is measur’d for a mile on earth,

In brief space had we journey’d; such prompt will

Impell’d; and towards us flying, now were heard

Spirits invisible, who courteously

Unto love’s table bade the welcome guest.

The voice, that first? flew by, call’d forth aloud,

“They have no wine; “ so on behind us past,

Those sounds reiterating, nor yet lost

In the faint distance, when another came

Crying, “I am Orestes,” and alike

Wing’d its fleet way. “Oh father!” I exclaim’d,

“What tongues are these?” and as I question’d, lo!

A third exclaiming, “Love ye those have wrong’d you.”

“This circuit,” said my teacher, “knots the scourge

For envy, and the cords are therefore drawn

By charity’s correcting hand. The curb

Is of a harsher sound, as thou shalt hear

(If I deem rightly), ere thou reach the pass,

Where pardon sets them free. But fix thine eyes

Intently through the air, and thou shalt see

A multitude before thee seated, each

Along the shelving grot.” Then more than erst

I op’d my eyes, before me view’d, and saw

Shadows with garments dark as was the rock;

And when we pass’d a little forth, I heard

A crying, “Blessed Mary! pray for us,

Michael and Peter! all ye saintly host!”

I do not think there walks on earth this day

Man so remorseless, that he hath not yearn’d

With pity at the sight that next I saw.

Mine eyes a load of sorrow teemed, when now

I stood so near them, that their semblances

Came clearly to my view. Of sackcloth vile

Their cov’ring seem’d; and on his shoulder one

Did stay another, leaning, and all lean’d

Against the cliff. E’en thus the blind and poor,

Near the confessionals, to crave an alms,

Stand, each his head upon his fellow’s sunk,

So most to stir compassion, not by sound

Of words alone, but that, which moves not less,

The sight of mis’ry. And as never beam

Of noonday visiteth the eyeless man,

E’en so was heav’n a niggard unto these

Of his fair light; for, through the orbs of all,

A thread of wire, impiercing, knits them up,

As for the taming of a haggard hawk.

It were a wrong, methought, to pass and look

On others, yet myself the while unseen.

To my sage counsel therefore did I turn.

He knew the meaning of the mute appeal,

Nor waited for my questioning, but said:

“Speak; and be brief, be subtle in thy words.”

On that part of the cornice, whence no rim

Engarlands its steep fall, did Virgil come;

On the’ other side me were the spirits, their cheeks

Bathing devout with penitential tears,

That through the dread impalement forc’d a way.

I turn’d me to them, and “O shades!” said I,

“Assur’d that to your eyes unveil’d shall shine

The lofty light, sole object of your wish,

So may heaven’s grace clear whatsoe’er of foam

Floats turbid on the conscience, that thenceforth

The stream of mind roll limpid from its source,

As ye declare (for so shall ye impart

A boon I dearly prize) if any soul

Of Latium dwell among ye; and perchance

That soul may profit, if I learn so much.”

“My brother, we are each one citizens

Of one true city. Any thou wouldst say,

Who lived a stranger in Italia’s land.”

So heard I answering, as appeal’d, a voice

That onward came some space from whence I stood.

A spirit I noted, in whose look was mark’d

Expectance. Ask ye how? The chin was rais’d

As in one reft of sight. “Spirit,” said I,

“Who for thy rise are tutoring (if thou be

That which didst answer to me,) or by place

Or name, disclose thyself, that I may know thee.”

“I was,” it answer’d, “of Sienna: here

I cleanse away with these the evil life,

Soliciting with tears that He, who is,

Vouchsafe him to us. Though Sapia nam’d

In sapience I excell’d not, gladder far

Of others’ hurt, than of the good befell me.

That thou mayst own I now deceive thee not,

Hear, if my folly were not as I speak it.

When now my years slop’d waning down the arch,

It so bechanc’d, my fellow citizens

Near Colle met their enemies in the field,

And I pray’d God to grant what He had will’d.

There were they vanquish’d, and betook themselves

Unto the bitter passages of flight.

I mark’d the hunt, and waxing out of bounds

In gladness, lifted up my shameless brow,

And like the merlin cheated by a gleam,

Cried, “It is over. Heav’n! I fear thee not.”

Upon my verge of life I wish’d for peace

With God; nor repentance had supplied

What I did lack of duty, were it not

The hermit Piero, touch’d with charity,

In his devout orisons thought on me.

But who art thou that question’st of our state,

Who go’st to my belief, with lids unclos’d,

And breathest in thy talk?” — “Mine eyes,” said I,

“May yet be here ta’en from me; but not long;

For they have not offended grievously

With envious glances. But the woe beneath

Urges my soul with more exceeding dread.

That nether load already weighs me down.”

She thus: “Who then amongst us here aloft

Hath brought thee, if thou weenest to return?”

“He,” answer’d I, “who standeth mute beside me.

I live: of me ask therefore, chosen spirit,

If thou desire I yonder yet should move

For thee my mortal feet.” — “Oh!” she replied,

“This is so strange a thing, it is great sign

That God doth love thee. Therefore with thy prayer

Sometime assist me: and by that I crave,

Which most thou covetest, that if thy feet

E’er tread on Tuscan soil, thou save my fame

Amongst my kindred. Them shalt thou behold

With that vain multitude, who set their hope

On Telamone’s haven, there to fail

Confounded, more shall when the fancied stream

They sought of Dian call’d: but they who lead

Their navies, more than ruin’d hopes shall mourn.”


“Say who is he around our mountain winds,

Or ever death has prun’d his wing for flight,

That opes his eyes and covers them at will?”

“I know not who he is, but know thus much

He comes not singly. Do thou ask of him,

For thou art nearer to him, and take heed

Accost him gently, so that he may speak.”

Thus on the right two Spirits bending each

Toward the other, talk’d of me, then both

Addressing me, their faces backward lean’d,

And thus the one began: “O soul, who yet

Pent in the body, tendest towards the sky!

For charity, we pray thee’ comfort us,

Recounting whence thou com’st, and who thou art:

For thou dost make us at the favour shown thee

Marvel, as at a thing that ne’er hath been.”

“There stretches through the midst of Tuscany,

I straight began: “a brooklet, whose well-head

Springs up in Falterona, with his race

Not satisfied, when he some hundred miles

Hath measur’d. From his banks bring, I this frame.

To tell you who I am were words misspent:

For yet my name scarce sounds on rumour’s lip.”

“If well I do incorp’rate with my thought

The meaning of thy speech,” said he, who first

Addrest me, “thou dost speak of Arno’s wave.”

To whom the other: “Why hath he conceal’d

The title of that river, as a man

Doth of some horrible thing?” The spirit, who

Thereof was question’d, did acquit him thus:

“I know not: but ’tis fitting well the name

Should perish of that vale; for from the source

Where teems so plenteously the Alpine steep

Maim’d of Pelorus, (that doth scarcely pass

Beyond that limit,) even to the point

Whereunto ocean is restor’d, what heaven

Drains from th’ exhaustless store for all earth’s streams,

Throughout the space is virtue worried down,

As ’twere a snake, by all, for mortal foe,

Or through disastrous influence on the place,

Or else distortion of misguided wills,

That custom goads to evil: whence in those,

The dwellers in that miserable vale,

Nature is so transform’d, it seems as they

Had shar’d of Circe’s feeding. ’Midst brute swine,

Worthier of acorns than of other food

Created for man’s use, he shapeth first

His obscure way; then, sloping onward, finds

Curs, snarlers more in spite than power, from whom

He turns with scorn aside: still journeying down,

By how much more the curst and luckless foss

Swells out to largeness, e’en so much it finds

Dogs turning into wolves. Descending still

Through yet more hollow eddies, next he meets

A race of foxes, so replete with craft,

They do not fear that skill can master it.

Nor will I cease because my words are heard

By other ears than thine. It shall be well

For this man, if he keep in memory

What from no erring Spirit I reveal.

Lo! I behold thy grandson, that becomes

A hunter of those wolves, upon the shore

Of the fierce stream, and cows them all with dread:

Their flesh yet living sets he up to sale,

Then like an aged beast to slaughter dooms.

Many of life he reaves, himself of worth

And goodly estimation. Smear’d with gore

Mark how he issues from the rueful wood,

Leaving such havoc, that in thousand years

It spreads not to prime lustihood again.”

As one, who tidings hears of woe to come,

Changes his looks perturb’d, from whate’er part

The peril grasp him, so beheld I change

That spirit, who had turn’d to listen, struck

With sadness, soon as he had caught the word.

His visage and the other’s speech did raise

Desire in me to know the names of both,

whereof with meek entreaty I inquir’d.

The shade, who late addrest me, thus resum’d:

“Thy wish imports that I vouchsafe to do

For thy sake what thou wilt not do for mine.

But since God’s will is that so largely shine

His grace in thee, I will be liberal too.

Guido of Duca know then that I am.

Envy so parch’d my blood, that had I seen

A fellow man made joyous, thou hadst mark’d

A livid paleness overspread my cheek.

Such harvest reap I of the seed I sow’d.

O man, why place thy heart where there doth need

Exclusion of participants in good?

This is Rinieri’s spirit, this the boast

And honour of the house of Calboli,

Where of his worth no heritage remains.

Nor his the only blood, that hath been stript

(’twixt Po, the mount, the Reno, and the shore,)

Of all that truth or fancy asks for bliss;

But in those limits such a growth has sprung

Of rank and venom’d roots, as long would mock

Slow culture’s toil. Where is good Lizio? where

Manardi, Traversalo, and Carpigna?

O bastard slips of old Romagna’s line!

When in Bologna the low artisan,

And in Faenza yon Bernardin sprouts,

A gentle cyon from ignoble stem.

Wonder not, Tuscan, if thou see me weep,

When I recall to mind those once lov’d names,

Guido of Prata, and of Azzo him

That dwelt with you; Tignoso and his troop,

With Traversaro’s house and Anastagio s,

(Each race disherited) and beside these,

The ladies and the knights, the toils and ease,

That witch’d us into love and courtesy;

Where now such malice reigns in recreant hearts.

O Brettinoro! wherefore tarriest still,

Since forth of thee thy family hath gone,

And many, hating evil, join’d their steps?

Well doeth he, that bids his lineage cease,

Bagnacavallo; Castracaro ill,

And Conio worse, who care to propagate

A race of Counties from such blood as theirs.

Well shall ye also do, Pagani, then

When from amongst you tries your demon child.

Not so, howe’er, that henceforth there remain

True proof of what ye were. O Hugolin!

Thou sprung of Fantolini’s line! thy name

Is safe, since none is look’d for after thee

To cloud its lustre, warping from thy stock.

But, Tuscan, go thy ways; for now I take

Far more delight in weeping than in words.

Such pity for your sakes hath wrung my heart.”

We knew those gentle spirits at parting heard

Our steps. Their silence therefore of our way

Assur’d us. Soon as we had quitted them,

Advancing onward, lo! a voice that seem’d

Like vollied light’ning, when it rives the air,

Met us, and shouted, “Whosoever finds

Will slay me,” then fled from us, as the bolt

Lanc’d sudden from a downward-rushing cloud.

When it had giv’n short truce unto our hearing,

Behold the other with a crash as loud

As the quick-following thunder: “Mark in me

Aglauros turn’d to rock.” I at the sound

Retreating drew more closely to my guide.

Now in mute stillness rested all the air:

And thus he spake: “There was the galling bit.

But your old enemy so baits his hook,

He drags you eager to him. Hence nor curb

Avails you, nor reclaiming call. Heav’n calls

And round about you wheeling courts your gaze

With everlasting beauties. Yet your eye

Turns with fond doting still upon the earth.

Therefore He smites you who discerneth all.”


As much as ’twixt the third hour’s close and dawn,

Appeareth of heav’n’s sphere, that ever whirls

As restless as an infant in his play,

So much appear’d remaining to the sun

Of his slope journey towards the western goal.

Evening was there, and here the noon of night;

and full upon our forehead smote the beams.

For round the mountain, circling, so our path

Had led us, that toward the sun-set now

Direct we journey’d: when I felt a weight

Of more exceeding splendour, than before,

Press on my front. The cause unknown, amaze

Possess’d me, and both hands against my brow

Lifting, I interpos’d them, as a screen,

That of its gorgeous superflux of light

Clipp’d the diminish’d orb. As when the ray,

Striking On water or the surface clear

Of mirror, leaps unto the opposite part,

Ascending at a glance, e’en as it fell,

(And so much differs from the stone, that falls

Through equal space, as practice skill hath shown;

Thus with refracted light before me seemed

The ground there smitten; whence in sudden haste

My sight recoil’d. “What is this, sire belov’d!

’Gainst which I strive to shield the sight in vain?”

Cried I, “and which towards us moving seems?”

“Marvel not, if the family of heav’n,”

He answer’d, “yet with dazzling radiance dim

Thy sense it is a messenger who comes,

Inviting man’s ascent. Such sights ere long,

Not grievous, shall impart to thee delight,

As thy perception is by nature wrought

Up to their pitch.” The blessed angel, soon

As we had reach’d him, hail’d us with glad voice:

“Here enter on a ladder far less steep

Than ye have yet encounter’d.” We forthwith

Ascending, heard behind us chanted sweet,

“Blessed the merciful,” and “happy thou!

That conquer’st.” Lonely each, my guide and I

Pursued our upward way; and as we went,

Some profit from his words I hop’d to win,

And thus of him inquiring, fram’d my speech:

“What meant Romagna’s spirit, when he spake

Of bliss exclusive with no partner shar’d?”

He straight replied: “No wonder, since he knows,

What sorrow waits on his own worst defect,

If he chide others, that they less may mourn.

Because ye point your wishes at a mark,

Where, by communion of possessors, part

Is lessen’d, envy bloweth up the sighs of men.

No fear of that might touch ye, if the love

Of higher sphere exalted your desire.

For there, by how much more they call it ours,

So much propriety of each in good

Increases more, and heighten’d charity

Wraps that fair cloister in a brighter flame.”

“Now lack I satisfaction more,” said I,

“Than if thou hadst been silent at the first,

And doubt more gathers on my lab’ring thought.

How can it chance, that good distributed,

The many, that possess it, makes more rich,

Than if ’t were shar’d by few?” He answering thus:

“Thy mind, reverting still to things of earth,

Strikes darkness from true light. The highest good

Unlimited, ineffable, doth so speed

To love, as beam to lucid body darts,

Giving as much of ardour as it finds.

The sempiternal effluence streams abroad

Spreading, wherever charity extends.

So that the more aspirants to that bliss

Are multiplied, more good is there to love,

And more is lov’d; as mirrors, that reflect,

Each unto other, propagated light.

If these my words avail not to allay

Thy thirsting, Beatrice thou shalt see,

Who of this want, and of all else thou hast,

Shall rid thee to the full. Provide but thou

That from thy temples may be soon eras’d,

E’en as the two already, those five scars,

That when they pain thee worst, then kindliest heal,”

“Thou,” I had said, “content’st me,” when I saw

The other round was gain’d, and wond’ring eyes

Did keep me mute. There suddenly I seem’d

By an ecstatic vision wrapt away;

And in a temple saw, methought, a crowd

Of many persons; and at th’ entrance stood

A dame, whose sweet demeanour did express

A mother’s love, who said, “Child! why hast thou

Dealt with us thus? Behold thy sire and I

Sorrowing have sought thee;” and so held her peace,

And straight the vision fled. A female next

Appear’d before me, down whose visage cours’d

Those waters, that grief forces out from one

By deep resentment stung, who seem’d to say:

“If thou, Pisistratus, be lord indeed

Over this city, nam’d with such debate

Of adverse gods, and whence each science sparkles,

Avenge thee of those arms, whose bold embrace

Hath clasp’d our daughter; “and to fuel, meseem’d,

Benign and meek, with visage undisturb’d,

Her sovran spake: “How shall we those requite,

Who wish us evil, if we thus condemn

The man that loves us?” After that I saw

A multitude, in fury burning, slay

With stones a stripling youth, and shout amain

“Destroy, destroy: “and him I saw, who bow’d

Heavy with death unto the ground, yet made

His eyes, unfolded upward, gates to heav’n,

Praying forgiveness of th’ Almighty Sire,

Amidst that cruel conflict, on his foes,

With looks, that With compassion to their aim.

Soon as my spirit, from her airy flight

Returning, sought again the things, whose truth

Depends not on her shaping, I observ’d

How she had rov’d to no unreal scenes

Meanwhile the leader, who might see I mov’d,

As one, who struggles to shake off his sleep,

Exclaim’d: “What ails thee, that thou canst not hold

Thy footing firm, but more than half a league

Hast travel’d with clos’d eyes and tott’ring gait,

Like to a man by wine or sleep o’ercharg’d?”

“Beloved father! so thou deign,” said I,

“To listen, I will tell thee what appear’d

Before me, when so fail’d my sinking steps.”

He thus: “Not if thy Countenance were mask’d

With hundred vizards, could a thought of thine

How small soe’er, elude me. What thou saw’st

Was shown, that freely thou mightst ope thy heart

To the waters of peace, that flow diffus’d

From their eternal fountain. I not ask’d,

What ails thee? for such cause as he doth, who

Looks only with that eye which sees no more,

When spiritless the body lies; but ask’d,

To give fresh vigour to thy foot. Such goads

The slow and loit’ring need; that they be found

Not wanting, when their hour of watch returns.”

So on we journey’d through the evening sky

Gazing intent, far onward, as our eyes

With level view could stretch against the bright

Vespertine ray: and lo! by slow degrees

Gath’ring, a fog made tow’rds us, dark as night.

There was no room for ’scaping; and that mist

Bereft us, both of sight and the pure air.


Hell’s dunnest gloom, or night unlustrous, dark,

Of every planes ’reft, and pall’d in clouds,

Did never spread before the sight a veil

In thickness like that fog, nor to the sense

So palpable and gross. Ent’ring its shade,

Mine eye endured not with unclosed lids;

Which marking, near me drew the faithful guide,

Offering me his shoulder for a stay.

As the blind man behind his leader walks,

Lest he should err, or stumble unawares

On what might harm him, or perhaps destroy,

I journey’d through that bitter air and foul,

Still list’ning to my escort’s warning voice,

“Look that from me thou part not.” Straight I heard

Voices, and each one seem’d to pray for peace,

And for compassion, to the Lamb of God

That taketh sins away. Their prelude still

Was “Agnus Dei,” and through all the choir,

One voice, one measure ran, that perfect seem’d

The concord of their song. “Are these I hear

Spirits, O master?” I exclaim’d; and he:

“Thou aim’st aright: these loose the bonds of wrath.”

“Now who art thou, that through our smoke dost cleave?

And speak’st of us, as thou thyself e’en yet

Dividest time by calends?” So one voice

Bespake me; whence my master said: “Reply;

And ask, if upward hence the passage lead.”

“O being! who dost make thee pure, to stand

Beautiful once more in thy Maker’s sight!

Along with me: and thou shalt hear and wonder.”

Thus I, whereto the spirit answering spake:

“Long as ’t is lawful for me, shall my steps

Follow on thine; and since the cloudy smoke

Forbids the seeing, hearing in its stead

Shall keep us join’d.” I then forthwith began

“Yet in my mortal swathing, I ascend

To higher regions, and am hither come

Through the fearful agony of hell.

And, if so largely God hath doled his grace,

That, clean beside all modern precedent,

He wills me to behold his kingly state,

From me conceal not who thou wast, ere death

Had loos’d thee; but instruct me: and instruct

If rightly to the pass I tend; thy words

The way directing as a safe escort.”

“I was of Lombardy, and Marco call’d:

Not inexperienc’d of the world, that worth

I still affected, from which all have turn’d

The nerveless bow aside. Thy course tends right

Unto the summit:” and, replying thus,

He added, “I beseech thee pray for me,

When thou shalt come aloft.” And I to him:

“Accept my faith for pledge I will perform

What thou requirest. Yet one doubt remains,

That wrings me sorely, if I solve it not,

Singly before it urg’d me, doubled now

By thine opinion, when I couple that

With one elsewhere declar’d, each strength’ning other.

The world indeed is even so forlorn

Of all good as thou speak’st it and so swarms

With every evil. Yet, beseech thee, point

The cause out to me, that myself may see,

And unto others show it: for in heaven

One places it, and one on earth below.”

Then heaving forth a deep and audible sigh,

“Brother!” he thus began, “the world is blind;

And thou in truth com’st from it. Ye, who live,

Do so each cause refer to heav’n above,

E’en as its motion of necessity

Drew with it all that moves. If this were so,

Free choice in you were none; nor justice would

There should be joy for virtue, woe for ill.

Your movements have their primal bent from heaven;

Not all; yet said I all; what then ensues?

Light have ye still to follow evil or good,

And of the will free power, which, if it stand

Firm and unwearied in Heav’n’s first assay,

Conquers at last, so it be cherish’d well,

Triumphant over all. To mightier force,

To better nature subject, ye abide

Free, not constrain’d by that, which forms in you

The reasoning mind uninfluenc’d of the stars.

If then the present race of mankind err,

Seek in yourselves the cause, and find it there.

Herein thou shalt confess me no false spy.

“Forth from his plastic hand, who charm’d beholds

Her image ere she yet exist, the soul

Comes like a babe, that wantons sportively

Weeping and laughing in its wayward moods,

As artless and as ignorant of aught,

Save that her Maker being one who dwells

With gladness ever, willingly she turns

To whate’er yields her joy. Of some slight good

The flavour soon she tastes; and, snar’d by that,

With fondness she pursues it, if no guide

Recall, no rein direct her wand’ring course.

Hence it behov’d, the law should be a curb;

A sovereign hence behov’d, whose piercing view

Might mark at least the fortress and main tower

Of the true city. Laws indeed there are:

But who is he observes them? None; not he,

Who goes before, the shepherd of the flock,

Who chews the cud but doth not cleave the hoof.

Therefore the multitude, who see their guide

Strike at the very good they covet most,

Feed there and look no further. Thus the cause

Is not corrupted nature in yourselves,

But ill-conducting, that hath turn’d the world

To evil. Rome, that turn’d it unto good,

Was wont to boast two suns, whose several beams

Cast light on either way, the world’s and God’s.

One since hath quench’d the other; and the sword

Is grafted on the crook; and so conjoin’d

Each must perforce decline to worse, unaw’d

By fear of other. If thou doubt me, mark

The blade: each herb is judg’d of by its seed.

That land, through which Adice and the Po

Their waters roll, was once the residence

Of courtesy and velour, ere the day,

That frown’d on Frederick; now secure may pass

Those limits, whosoe’er hath left, for shame,

To talk with good men, or come near their haunts.

Three aged ones are still found there, in whom

The old time chides the new: these deem it long

Ere God restore them to a better world:

The good Gherardo, of Palazzo he

Conrad, and Guido of Castello, nam’d

In Gallic phrase more fitly the plain Lombard.

On this at last conclude. The church of Rome,

Mixing two governments that ill assort,

Hath miss’d her footing, fall’n into the mire,

And there herself and burden much defil’d.”

“O Marco!” I replied, shine arguments

Convince me: and the cause I now discern

Why of the heritage no portion came

To Levi’s offspring. But resolve me this

Who that Gherardo is, that as thou sayst

Is left a sample of the perish’d race,

And for rebuke to this untoward age?”

“Either thy words,” said he, “deceive; or else

Are meant to try me; that thou, speaking Tuscan,

Appear’st not to have heard of good Gherado;

The sole addition that, by which I know him;

Unless I borrow’d from his daughter Gaia

Another name to grace him. God be with you.

I bear you company no more. Behold

The dawn with white ray glimm’ring through the mist.

I must away — the angel comes — ere he

Appear.” He said, and would not hear me more.


Call to remembrance, reader, if thou e’er

Hast, on a mountain top, been ta’en by cloud,

Through which thou saw’st no better, than the mole

Doth through opacous membrane; then, whene’er

The wat’ry vapours dense began to melt

Into thin air, how faintly the sun’s sphere

Seem’d wading through them; so thy nimble thought

May image, how at first I re-beheld

The sun, that bedward now his couch o’erhung.

Thus with my leader’s feet still equaling pace

From forth that cloud I came, when now expir’d

The parting beams from off the nether shores.

O quick and forgetive power! that sometimes dost

So rob us of ourselves, we take no mark

Though round about us thousand trumpets clang!

What moves thee, if the senses stir not? Light

Kindled in heav’n, spontaneous, self-inform’d,

Or likelier gliding down with swift illapse

By will divine. Portray’d before me came

The traces of her dire impiety,

Whose form was chang’d into the bird, that most

Delights itself in song: and here my mind

Was inwardly so wrapt, it gave no place

To aught that ask’d admittance from without.

Next shower’d into my fantasy a shape

As of one crucified, whose visage spake

Fell rancour, malice deep, wherein he died;

And round him Ahasuerus the great king,

Esther his bride, and Mordecai the just,

Blameless in word and deed. As of itself

That unsubstantial coinage of the brain

Burst, like a bubble, Which the water fails

That fed it; in my vision straight uprose

A damsel weeping loud, and cried, “O queen!

O mother! wherefore has intemperate ire

Driv’n thee to loath thy being? Not to lose

Lavinia, desp’rate thou hast slain thyself.

Now hast thou lost me. I am she, whose tears

Mourn, ere I fall, a mother’s timeless end.”

E’en as a sleep breaks off, if suddenly

New radiance strike upon the closed lids,

The broken slumber quivering ere it dies;

Thus from before me sunk that imagery

Vanishing, soon as on my face there struck

The light, outshining far our earthly beam.

As round I turn’d me to survey what place

I had arriv’d at, “Here ye mount,” exclaim’d

A voice, that other purpose left me none,

Save will so eager to behold who spake,

I could not choose but gaze. As ’fore the sun,

That weighs our vision down, and veils his form

In light transcendent, thus my virtue fail’d

Unequal. “This is Spirit from above,

Who marshals us our upward way, unsought;

And in his own light shrouds him;. As a man

Doth for himself, so now is done for us.

For whoso waits imploring, yet sees need

Of his prompt aidance, sets himself prepar’d

For blunt denial, ere the suit be made.

Refuse we not to lend a ready foot

At such inviting: haste we to ascend,

Before it darken: for we may not then,

Till morn again return.” So spake my guide;

And to one ladder both address’d our steps;

And the first stair approaching, I perceiv’d

Near me as ’twere the waving of a wing,

That fann’d my face and whisper’d: “Blessed they

The peacemakers: they know not evil wrath.”

Now to such height above our heads were rais’d

The last beams, follow’d close by hooded night,

That many a star on all sides through the gloom

Shone out. “Why partest from me, O my strength?”

So with myself I commun’d; for I felt

My o’ertoil’d sinews slacken. We had reach’d

The summit, and were fix’d like to a bark

Arriv’d at land. And waiting a short space,

If aught should meet mine ear in that new round,

Then to my guide I turn’d, and said: “Lov’d sire!

Declare what guilt is on this circle purg’d.

If our feet rest, no need thy speech should pause.”

He thus to me: “The love of good, whate’er

Wanted of just proportion, here fulfils.

Here plies afresh the oar, that loiter’d ill.

But that thou mayst yet clearlier understand,

Give ear unto my words, and thou shalt cull

Some fruit may please thee well, from this delay.

“Creator, nor created being, ne’er,

My son,” he thus began, “was without love,

Or natural, or the free spirit’s growth.

Thou hast not that to learn. The natural still

Is without error; but the other swerves,

If on ill object bent, or through excess

Of vigour, or defect. While e’er it seeks

The primal blessings, or with measure due

Th’ inferior, no delight, that flows from it,

Partakes of ill. But let it warp to evil,

Or with more ardour than behooves, or less.

Pursue the good, the thing created then

Works ’gainst its Maker. Hence thou must infer

That love is germin of each virtue in ye,

And of each act no less, that merits pain.

Now since it may not be, but love intend

The welfare mainly of the thing it loves,

All from self-hatred are secure; and since

No being can be thought t’ exist apart

And independent of the first, a bar

Of equal force restrains from hating that.

“Grant the distinction just; and it remains

The’ evil must be another’s, which is lov’d.

Three ways such love is gender’d in your clay.

There is who hopes (his neighbour’s worth deprest,)

Preeminence himself, and coverts hence

For his own greatness that another fall.

There is who so much fears the loss of power,

Fame, favour, glory (should his fellow mount

Above him), and so sickens at the thought,

He loves their opposite: and there is he,

Whom wrong or insult seems to gall and shame

That he doth thirst for vengeance, and such needs

Must doat on other’s evil. Here beneath

This threefold love is mourn’d. Of th’ other sort

Be now instructed, that which follows good

But with disorder’d and irregular course.

“All indistinctly apprehend a bliss

On which the soul may rest, the hearts of all

Yearn after it, and to that wished bourn

All therefore strive to tend. If ye behold

Or seek it with a love remiss and lax,

This cornice after just repenting lays

Its penal torment on ye. Other good

There is, where man finds not his happiness:

It is not true fruition, not that blest

Essence, of every good the branch and root.

The love too lavishly bestow’d on this,

Along three circles over us, is mourn’d.

Account of that division tripartite

Expect not, fitter for thine own research.


The teacher ended, and his high discourse

Concluding, earnest in my looks inquir’d

If I appear’d content; and I, whom still

Unsated thirst to hear him urg’d, was mute,

Mute outwardly, yet inwardly I said:

“Perchance my too much questioning offends

But he, true father, mark’d the secret wish

By diffidence restrain’d, and speaking, gave

Me boldness thus to speak: “Master, my Sight

Gathers so lively virtue from thy beams,

That all, thy words convey, distinct is seen.

Wherefore I pray thee, father, whom this heart

Holds dearest! thou wouldst deign by proof t’ unfold

That love, from which as from their source thou bring’st

All good deeds and their opposite.” He then:

“To what I now disclose be thy clear ken

Directed, and thou plainly shalt behold

How much those blind have err’d, who make themselves

The guides of men. The soul, created apt

To love, moves versatile which way soe’er

Aught pleasing prompts her, soon as she is wak’d

By pleasure into act. Of substance true

Your apprehension forms its counterfeit,

And in you the ideal shape presenting

Attracts the soul’s regard. If she, thus drawn,

incline toward it, love is that inclining,

And a new nature knit by pleasure in ye.

Then as the fire points up, and mounting seeks

His birth-place and his lasting seat, e’en thus

Enters the captive soul into desire,

Which is a spiritual motion, that ne’er rests

Before enjoyment of the thing it loves.

Enough to show thee, how the truth from those

Is hidden, who aver all love a thing

Praise-worthy in itself: although perhaps

Its substance seem still good. Yet if the wax

Be good, it follows not th’ impression must.”

“What love is,” I return’d, “thy words, O guide!

And my own docile mind, reveal. Yet thence

New doubts have sprung. For from without if love

Be offer’d to us, and the spirit knows

No other footing, tend she right or wrong,

Is no desert of hers.” He answering thus:

“What reason here discovers I have power

To show thee: that which lies beyond, expect

From Beatrice, faith not reason’s task.

Spirit, substantial form, with matter join’d

Not in confusion mix’d, hath in itself

Specific virtue of that union born,

Which is not felt except it work, nor prov’d

But through effect, as vegetable life

By the green leaf. From whence his intellect

Deduced its primal notices of things,

Man therefore knows not, or his appetites

Their first affections; such in you, as zeal

In bees to gather honey; at the first,

Volition, meriting nor blame nor praise.

But o’er each lower faculty supreme,

That as she list are summon’d to her bar,

Ye have that virtue in you, whose just voice

Uttereth counsel, and whose word should keep

The threshold of assent. Here is the source,

Whence cause of merit in you is deriv’d,

E’en as the affections good or ill she takes,

Or severs, winnow’d as the chaff. Those men

Who reas’ning went to depth profoundest, mark’d

That innate freedom, and were thence induc’d

To leave their moral teaching to the world.

Grant then, that from necessity arise

All love that glows within you; to dismiss

Or harbour it, the pow’r is in yourselves.

Remember, Beatrice, in her style,

Denominates free choice by eminence

The noble virtue, if in talk with thee

She touch upon that theme.” The moon, well nigh

To midnight hour belated, made the stars

Appear to wink and fade; and her broad disk

Seem’d like a crag on fire, as up the vault

That course she journey’d, which the sun then warms,

When they of Rome behold him at his set.

Betwixt Sardinia and the Corsic isle.

And now the weight, that hung upon my thought,

Was lighten’d by the aid of that clear spirit,

Who raiseth Andes above Mantua’s name.

I therefore, when my questions had obtain’d

Solution plain and ample, stood as one

Musing in dreary slumber; but not long

Slumber’d; for suddenly a multitude,

The steep already turning, from behind,

Rush’d on. With fury and like random rout,

As echoing on their shores at midnight heard

Ismenus and Asopus, for his Thebes

If Bacchus’ help were needed; so came these

Tumultuous, curving each his rapid step,

By eagerness impell’d of holy love.

Soon they o’ertook us; with such swiftness mov’d

The mighty crowd. Two spirits at their head

Cried weeping; “Blessed Mary sought with haste

The hilly region. Caesar to subdue

Ilerda, darted in Marseilles his sting,

And flew to Spain.” — “Oh tarry not: away;”

The others shouted; “let not time be lost

Through slackness of affection. Hearty zeal

To serve reanimates celestial grace.”

“O ye, in whom intenser fervency

Haply supplies, where lukewarm erst ye fail’d,

Slow or neglectful, to absolve your part

Of good and virtuous, this man, who yet lives,

(Credit my tale, though strange) desires t’ ascend,

So morning rise to light us. Therefore say

Which hand leads nearest to the rifted rock?”

So spake my guide, to whom a shade return’d:

“Come after us, and thou shalt find the cleft.

We may not linger: such resistless will

Speeds our unwearied course. Vouchsafe us then

Thy pardon, if our duty seem to thee

Discourteous rudeness. In Verona I

Was abbot of San Zeno, when the hand

Of Barbarossa grasp’d Imperial sway,

That name, ne’er utter’d without tears in Milan.

And there is he, hath one foot in his grave,

Who for that monastery ere long shall weep,

Ruing his power misus’d: for that his son,

Of body ill compact, and worse in mind,

And born in evil, he hath set in place

Of its true pastor.” Whether more he spake,

Or here was mute, I know not: he had sped

E’en now so far beyond us. Yet thus much

I heard, and in rememb’rance treasur’d it.

He then, who never fail’d me at my need,

Cried, “Hither turn. Lo! two with sharp remorse

Chiding their sin!” In rear of all the troop

These shouted: “First they died, to whom the sea

Open’d, or ever Jordan saw his heirs:

And they, who with Aeneas to the end

Endur’d not suffering, for their portion chose

Life without glory.” Soon as they had fled

Past reach of sight, new thought within me rose

By others follow’d fast, and each unlike

Its fellow: till led on from thought to thought,

And pleasur’d with the fleeting train, mine eye

Was clos’d, and meditation chang’d to dream.


It was the hour, when of diurnal heat

No reliques chafe the cold beams of the moon,

O’erpower’d by earth, or planetary sway

Of Saturn; and the geomancer sees

His Greater Fortune up the east ascend,

Where gray dawn checkers first the shadowy cone;

When ’fore me in my dream a woman’s shape

There came, with lips that stammer’d, eyes aslant,

Distorted feet, hands maim’d, and colour pale.

I look’d upon her; and as sunshine cheers

Limbs numb’d by nightly cold, e’en thus my look

Unloos’d her tongue, next in brief space her form

Decrepit rais’d erect, and faded face

With love’s own hue illum’d. Recov’ring speech

She forthwith warbling such a strain began,

That I, how loth soe’er, could scarce have held

Attention from the song. “I,” thus she sang,

“I am the Siren, she, whom mariners

On the wide sea are wilder’d when they hear:

Such fulness of delight the list’ner feels.

I from his course Ulysses by my lay

Enchanted drew. Whoe’er frequents me once

Parts seldom; so I charm him, and his heart

Contented knows no void.” Or ere her mouth

Was clos’d, to shame her at her side appear’d

A dame of semblance holy. With stern voice

She utter’d; “Say, O Virgil, who is this?”

Which hearing, he approach’d, with eyes still bent

Toward that goodly presence: th’ other seiz’d her,

And, her robes tearing, open’d her before,

And show’d the belly to me, whence a smell,

Exhaling loathsome, wak’d me. Round I turn’d

Mine eyes, and thus the teacher: “At the least

Three times my voice hath call’d thee. Rise, begone.

Let us the opening find where thou mayst pass.”

I straightway rose. Now day, pour’d down from high,

Fill’d all the circuits of the sacred mount;

And, as we journey’d, on our shoulder smote

The early ray. I follow’d, stooping low

My forehead, as a man, o’ercharg’d with thought,

Who bends him to the likeness of an arch,

That midway spans the flood; when thus I heard,

“Come, enter here,” in tone so soft and mild,

As never met the ear on mortal strand.

With swan-like wings dispread and pointing up,

Who thus had spoken marshal’d us along,

Where each side of the solid masonry

The sloping, walls retir’d; then mov’d his plumes,

And fanning us, affirm’d that those, who mourn,

Are blessed, for that comfort shall be theirs.

“What aileth thee, that still thou look’st to earth?”

Began my leader; while th’ angelic shape

A little over us his station took.

“New vision,” I replied, “hath rais’d in me

8urmisings strange and anxious doubts, whereon

My soul intent allows no other thought

Or room or entrance. — “Hast thou seen,” said he,

“That old enchantress, her, whose wiles alone

The spirits o’er us weep for? Hast thou seen

How man may free him of her bonds? Enough.

Let thy heels spurn the earth, and thy rais’d ken

Fix on the lure, which heav’n’s eternal King

Whirls in the rolling spheres.” As on his feet

The falcon first looks down, then to the sky

Turns, and forth stretches eager for the food,

That woos him thither; so the call I heard,

So onward, far as the dividing rock

Gave way, I journey’d, till the plain was reach’d.

On the fifth circle when I stood at large,

A race appear’d before me, on the ground

All downward lying prone and weeping sore.

“My soul hath cleaved to the dust,” I heard

With sighs so deep, they well nigh choak’d the words.

“O ye elect of God, whose penal woes

Both hope and justice mitigate, direct

Tow’rds the steep rising our uncertain way.”

“If ye approach secure from this our doom,

Prostration — and would urge your course with speed,

See that ye still to rightward keep the brink.”

So them the bard besought; and such the words,

Beyond us some short space, in answer came.

I noted what remain’d yet hidden from them:

Thence to my liege’s eyes mine eyes I bent,

And he, forthwith interpreting their suit,

Beckon’d his glad assent. Free then to act,

As pleas’d me, I drew near, and took my stand

O‘er that shade, whose words I late had mark’d.

And, “Spirit!” I said, “in whom repentant tears

Mature that blessed hour, when thou with God

Shalt find acceptance, for a while suspend

For me that mightier care. Say who thou wast,

Why thus ye grovel on your bellies prone,

And if in aught ye wish my service there,

Whence living I am come.” He answering spake

“The cause why Heav’n our back toward his cope

Reverses, shalt thou know: but me know first

The successor of Peter, and the name

And title of my lineage from that stream,

That’ twixt Chiaveri and Siestri draws

His limpid waters through the lowly glen.

A month and little more by proof I learnt,

With what a weight that robe of sov’reignty

Upon his shoulder rests, who from the mire

Would guard it: that each other fardel seems

But feathers in the balance. Late, alas!

Was my conversion: but when I became

Rome’s pastor, I discern’d at once the dream

And cozenage of life, saw that the heart

Rested not there, and yet no prouder height

Lur’d on the climber: wherefore, of that life

No more enamour’d, in my bosom love

Of purer being kindled. For till then

I was a soul in misery, alienate

From God, and covetous of all earthly things;

Now, as thou seest, here punish’d for my doting.

Such cleansing from the taint of avarice

Do spirits converted need. This mount inflicts

No direr penalty. E’en as our eyes

Fasten’d below, nor e’er to loftier clime

Were lifted, thus hath justice level’d us

Here on the earth. As avarice quench’d our love

Of good, without which is no working, thus

Here justice holds us prison’d, hand and foot

Chain’d down and bound, while heaven’s just Lord shall please.

So long to tarry motionless outstretch’d.”

My knees I stoop’d, and would have spoke; but he,

Ere my beginning, by his ear perceiv’d

I did him reverence; and “What cause,” said he,

“Hath bow’d thee thus!” — “ Compunction,” I rejoin’d.

“And inward awe of your high dignity.”

“Up,” he exclaim’d, “brother! upon thy feet

Arise: err not: thy fellow servant I,

(Thine and all others’) of one Sovran Power.

If thou hast ever mark’d those holy sounds

Of gospel truth, ’nor shall be given ill marriage,’

Thou mayst discern the reasons of my speech.

Go thy ways now; and linger here no more.

Thy tarrying is a let unto the tears,

With which I hasten that whereof thou spak’st.

I have on earth a kinswoman; her name

Alagia, worthy in herself, so ill

Example of our house corrupt her not:

And she is all remaineth of me there.”


Ill strives the will, ’gainst will more wise that strives

His pleasure therefore to mine own preferr’d,

I drew the sponge yet thirsty from the wave.

Onward I mov’d: he also onward mov’d,

Who led me, coasting still, wherever place

Along the rock was vacant, as a man

Walks near the battlements on narrow wall.

For those on th’ other part, who drop by drop

Wring out their all-infecting malady,

Too closely press the verge. Accurst be thou!

Inveterate wolf! whose gorge ingluts more prey,

Than every beast beside, yet is not fill’d!

So bottomless thy maw! — Ye spheres of heaven!

To whom there are, as seems, who attribute

All change in mortal state, when is the day

Of his appearing, for whom fate reserves

To chase her hence? — With wary steps and slow

We pass’d; and I attentive to the shades,

Whom piteously I heard lament and wail;

And, ’midst the wailing, one before us heard

Cry out “O blessed Virgin!” as a dame

In the sharp pangs of childbed; and “How poor

Thou wast,” it added, “witness that low roof

Where thou didst lay thy sacred burden down.

O good Fabricius! thou didst virtue choose

With poverty, before great wealth with vice.”

The words so pleas’d me, that desire to know

The spirit, from whose lip they seem’d to come,

Did draw me onward. Yet it spake the gift

Of Nicholas, which on the maidens he

Bounteous bestow’d, to save their youthful prime

Unblemish’d. “Spirit! who dost speak of deeds

So worthy, tell me who thou was,” I said,

“And why thou dost with single voice renew

Memorial of such praise. That boon vouchsaf’d

Haply shall meet reward; if I return

To finish the Short pilgrimage of life,

Still speeding to its close on restless wing.”

“I,” answer’d he, “will tell thee, not for hell,

Which thence I look for; but that in thyself

Grace so exceeding shines, before thy time

Of mortal dissolution. I was root

Of that ill plant, whose shade such poison sheds

O’er all the Christian land, that seldom thence

Good fruit is gather’d. Vengeance soon should come,

Had Ghent and Douay, Lille and Bruges power;

And vengeance I of heav’n’s great Judge implore.

Hugh Capet was I high: from me descend

The Philips and the Louis, of whom France

Newly is govern’d; born of one, who ply’d

The slaughterer’s trade at Paris. When the race

Of ancient kings had vanish’d (all save one

Wrapt up in sable weeds) within my gripe

I found the reins of empire, and such powers

Of new acquirement, with full store of friends,

That soon the widow’d circlet of the crown

Was girt upon the temples of my son,

He, from whose bones th’ anointed race begins.

Till the great dower of Provence had remov’d

The stains, that yet obscur’d our lowly blood,

Its sway indeed was narrow, but howe’er

It wrought no evil: there, with force and lies,

Began its rapine; after, for amends,

Poitou it seiz’d, Navarre and Gascony.

To Italy came Charles, and for amends

Young Conradine an innocent victim slew,

And sent th’ angelic teacher back to heav’n,

Still for amends. I see the time at hand,

That forth from France invites another Charles

To make himself and kindred better known.

Unarm’d he issues, saving with that lance,

Which the arch-traitor tilted with; and that

He carries with so home a thrust, as rives

The bowels of poor Florence. No increase

Of territory hence, but sin and shame

Shall be his guerdon, and so much the more

As he more lightly deems of such foul wrong.

I see the other, who a prisoner late

Had steps on shore, exposing to the mart

His daughter, whom he bargains for, as do

The Corsairs for their slaves. O avarice!

What canst thou more, who hast subdued our blood

So wholly to thyself, they feel no care

Of their own flesh? To hide with direr guilt

Past ill and future, lo! the flower-de-luce

Enters Alagna! in his Vicar Christ

Himself a captive, and his mockery

Acted again! Lo! to his holy lip

The vinegar and gall once more applied!

And he ’twixt living robbers doom’d to bleed!

Lo! the new Pilate, of whose cruelty

Such violence cannot fill the measure up,

With no degree to sanction, pushes on

Into the temple his yet eager sails!

“O sovran Master! when shall I rejoice

To see the vengeance, which thy wrath well-pleas’d

In secret silence broods? — While daylight lasts,

So long what thou didst hear of her, sole spouse

Of the Great Spirit, and on which thou turn’dst

To me for comment, is the general theme

Of all our prayers: but when it darkens, then

A different strain we utter, then record

Pygmalion, whom his gluttonous thirst of gold

Made traitor, robber, parricide: the woes

Of Midas, which his greedy wish ensued,

Mark’d for derision to all future times:

And the fond Achan, how he stole the prey,

That yet he seems by Joshua’s ire pursued.

Sapphira with her husband next, we blame;

And praise the forefeet, that with furious ramp

Spurn’d Heliodorus. All the mountain round

Rings with the infamy of Thracia’s king,

Who slew his Phrygian charge: and last a shout

Ascends: “Declare, O Crassus! for thou know’st,

The flavour of thy gold.” The voice of each

Now high now low, as each his impulse prompts,

Is led through many a pitch, acute or grave.

Therefore, not singly, I erewhile rehears’d

That blessedness we tell of in the day:

But near me none beside his accent rais’d.”

From him we now had parted, and essay’d

With utmost efforts to surmount the way,

When I did feel, as nodding to its fall,

The mountain tremble; whence an icy chill

Seiz’d on me, as on one to death convey’d.

So shook not Delos, when Latona there

Couch’d to bring forth the twin-born eyes of heaven.

Forthwith from every side a shout arose

So vehement, that suddenly my guide

Drew near, and cried: “Doubt not, while I conduct thee.”

“Glory!” all shouted (such the sounds mine ear

Gather’d from those, who near me swell’d the sounds)

“Glory in the highest be to God.” We stood

Immovably suspended, like to those,

The shepherds, who first heard in Bethlehem’s field

That song: till ceas’d the trembling, and the song

Was ended: then our hallow’d path resum’d,

Eying the prostrate shadows, who renew’d

Their custom’d mourning. Never in my breast

Did ignorance so struggle with desire

Of knowledge, if my memory do not err,

As in that moment; nor through haste dar’d I

To question, nor myself could aught discern,

So on I far’d in thoughtfulness and dread.


The natural thirst, ne’er quench’d but from the well,

Whereof the woman of Samaria crav’d,

Excited: haste along the cumber’d path,

After my guide, impell’d; and pity mov’d

My bosom for the ’vengeful deed, though just.

When lo! even as Luke relates, that Christ

Appear’d unto the two upon their way,

New-risen from his vaulted grave; to us

A shade appear’d, and after us approach’d,

Contemplating the crowd beneath its feet.

We were not ware of it; so first it spake,

Saying, “God give you peace, my brethren!” then

Sudden we turn’d: and Virgil such salute,

As fitted that kind greeting, gave, and cried:

“Peace in the blessed council be thy lot

Awarded by that righteous court, which me

To everlasting banishment exiles!”

“How!” he exclaim’d, nor from his speed meanwhile

Desisting, “If that ye be spirits, whom God

Vouchsafes not room above, who up the height

Has been thus far your guide?” To whom the bard:

“If thou observe the tokens, which this man

Trac’d by the finger of the angel bears,

’Tis plain that in the kingdom of the just

He needs must share. But sithence she, whose wheel

Spins day and night, for him not yet had drawn

That yarn, which, on the fatal distaff pil’d,

Clotho apportions to each wight that breathes,

His soul, that sister is to mine and thine,

Not of herself could mount, for not like ours

Her ken: whence I, from forth the ample gulf

Of hell was ta’en, to lead him, and will lead

Far as my lore avails. But, if thou know,

Instruct us for what cause, the mount erewhile

Thus shook and trembled: wherefore all at once

Seem’d shouting, even from his wave-wash’d foot.”

That questioning so tallied with my wish,

The thirst did feel abatement of its edge

E’en from expectance. He forthwith replied,

“In its devotion nought irregular

This mount can witness, or by punctual rule

Unsanction’d; here from every change exempt.

Other than that, which heaven in itself

Doth of itself receive, no influence

Can reach us. Tempest none, shower, hail or snow,

Hoar frost or dewy moistness, higher falls

Than that brief scale of threefold steps: thick clouds

Nor scudding rack are ever seen: swift glance

Ne’er lightens, nor Thaumantian Iris gleams,

That yonder often shift on each side heav’n.

Vapour adust doth never mount above

The highest of the trinal stairs, whereon

Peter’s vicegerent stands. Lower perchance,

With various motion rock’d, trembles the soil:

But here, through wind in earth’s deep hollow pent,

I know not how, yet never trembled: then

Trembles, when any spirit feels itself

So purified, that it may rise, or move

For rising, and such loud acclaim ensues.

Purification by the will alone

Is prov’d, that free to change society

Seizes the soul rejoicing in her will.

Desire of bliss is present from the first;

But strong propension hinders, to that wish

By the just ordinance of heav’n oppos’d;

Propension now as eager to fulfil

Th’ allotted torment, as erewhile to sin.

And I who in this punishment had lain

Five hundred years and more, but now have felt

Free wish for happier clime. Therefore thou felt’st

The mountain tremble, and the spirits devout

Heard’st, over all his limits, utter praise

To that liege Lord, whom I entreat their joy

To hasten.” Thus he spake: and since the draught

Is grateful ever as the thirst is keen,

No words may speak my fullness of content.

“Now,” said the instructor sage, “I see the net

That takes ye here, and how the toils are loos’d,

Why rocks the mountain and why ye rejoice.

Vouchsafe, that from thy lips I next may learn,

Who on the earth thou wast, and wherefore here

So many an age wert prostrate.” — “In that time,

When the good Titus, with Heav’n’s King to help,

Aveng’d those piteous gashes, whence the blood

By Judas sold did issue, with the name

Most lasting and most honour’d there was I

Abundantly renown’d,” the shade reply’d,

“Not yet with faith endued. So passing sweet

My vocal Spirit, from Tolosa, Rome

To herself drew me, where I merited

A myrtle garland to inwreathe my brow.

Statius they name me still. Of Thebes I sang,

And next of great Achilles: but i’ th’ way

Fell with the second burthen. Of my flame

Those sparkles were the seeds, which I deriv’d

From the bright fountain of celestial fire

That feeds unnumber’d lamps, the song I mean

Which sounds Aeneas’ wand’rings: that the breast

I hung at, that the nurse, from whom my veins

Drank inspiration: whose authority

Was ever sacred with me. To have liv’d

Coeval with the Mantuan, I would bide

The revolution of another sun

Beyond my stated years in banishment.”

The Mantuan, when he heard him, turn’d to me,

And holding silence: by his countenance

Enjoin’d me silence but the power which wills,

Bears not supreme control: laughter and tears

Follow so closely on the passion prompts them,

They wait not for the motions of the will

In natures most sincere. I did but smile,

As one who winks; and thereupon the shade

Broke off, and peer’d into mine eyes, where best

Our looks interpret. “So to good event

Mayst thou conduct such great emprize,” he cried,

“Say, why across thy visage beam’d, but now,

The lightning of a smile!” On either part

Now am I straiten’d; one conjures me speak,

Th’ other to silence binds me: whence a sigh

I utter, and the sigh is heard. “Speak on; ”

The teacher cried; “and do not fear to speak,

But tell him what so earnestly he asks.”

Whereon I thus: “Perchance, O ancient spirit!

Thou marvel’st at my smiling. There is room

For yet more wonder. He who guides my ken

On high, he is that Mantuan, led by whom

Thou didst presume of men arid gods to sing.

If other cause thou deem’dst for which I smil’d,

Leave it as not the true one; and believe

Those words, thou spak’st of him, indeed the cause.”

Now down he bent t’ embrace my teacher’s feet;

But he forbade him: “Brother! do it not:

Thou art a shadow, and behold’st a shade.”

He rising answer’d thus: “Now hast thou prov’d

The force and ardour of the love I bear thee,

When I forget we are but things of air,

And as a substance treat an empty shade.”


Now we had left the angel, who had turn’d

To the sixth circle our ascending step,

One gash from off my forehead raz’d: while they,

Whose wishes tend to justice, shouted forth:

“Blessed!” and ended with, “I thirst:” and I,

More nimble than along the other straits,

So journey’d, that, without the sense of toil,

I follow’d upward the swift-footed shades;

When Virgil thus began: “Let its pure flame

From virtue flow, and love can never fail

To warm another’s bosom’ so the light

Shine manifestly forth. Hence from that hour,

When ’mongst us in the purlieus of the deep,

Came down the spirit of Aquinum’s hard,

Who told of thine affection, my good will

Hath been for thee of quality as strong

As ever link’d itself to one not seen.

Therefore these stairs will now seem short to me.

But tell me: and if too secure I loose

The rein with a friend’s license, as a friend

Forgive me, and speak now as with a friend:

How chanc’d it covetous desire could find

Place in that bosom, ’midst such ample store

Of wisdom, as thy zeal had treasur’d there?”

First somewhat mov’d to laughter by his words,

Statius replied: “Each syllable of thine

Is a dear pledge of love. Things oft appear

That minister false matters to our doubts,

When their true causes are remov’d from sight.

Thy question doth assure me, thou believ’st

I was on earth a covetous man, perhaps

Because thou found’st me in that circle plac’d.

Know then I was too wide of avarice:

And e’en for that excess, thousands of moons

Have wax’d and wan’d upon my sufferings.

And were it not that I with heedful care

Noted where thou exclaim’st as if in ire

With human nature, ’Why, thou cursed thirst

Of gold! dost not with juster measure guide

The appetite of mortals?’ I had met

The fierce encounter of the voluble rock.

Then was I ware that with too ample wing

The hands may haste to lavishment, and turn’d,

As from my other evil, so from this

In penitence. How many from their grave

Shall with shorn locks arise, who living, aye

And at life’s last extreme, of this offence,

Through ignorance, did not repent. And know,

The fault which lies direct from any sin

In level opposition, here With that

Wastes its green rankness on one common heap.

Therefore if I have been with those, who wail

Their avarice, to cleanse me, through reverse

Of their transgression, such hath been my lot.”

To whom the sovran of the pastoral song:

“While thou didst sing that cruel warfare wag’d

By the twin sorrow of Jocasta’s womb,

From thy discourse with Clio there, it seems

As faith had not been shine: without the which

Good deeds suffice not. And if so, what sun

Rose on thee, or what candle pierc’d the dark

That thou didst after see to hoist the sail,

And follow, where the fisherman had led?”

He answering thus: “By thee conducted first,

I enter’d the Parnassian grots, and quaff’d

Of the clear spring; illumin’d first by thee

Open’d mine eyes to God. Thou didst, as one,

Who, journeying through the darkness, hears a light

Behind, that profits not himself, but makes

His followers wise, when thou exclaimedst, ’Lo!

A renovated world! Justice return’d!

Times of primeval innocence restor’d!

And a new race descended from above!’

Poet and Christian both to thee I owed.

That thou mayst mark more clearly what I trace,

My hand shall stretch forth to inform the lines

With livelier colouring. Soon o’er all the world,

By messengers from heav’n, the true belief

Teem’d now prolific, and that word of thine

Accordant, to the new instructors chim’d.

Induc’d by which agreement, I was wont

Resort to them; and soon their sanctity

So won upon me, that, Domitian’s rage

Pursuing them, I mix’d my tears with theirs,

And, while on earth I stay’d, still succour’d them;

And their most righteous customs made me scorn

All sects besides. Before I led the Greeks

In tuneful fiction, to the streams of Thebes,

I was baptiz’d; but secretly, through fear,

Remain’d a Christian, and conform’d long time

To Pagan rites. Five centuries and more,

T for that lukewarmness was fain to pace

Round the fourth circle. Thou then, who hast rais’d

The covering, which did hide such blessing from me,

Whilst much of this ascent is yet to climb,

Say, if thou know, where our old Terence bides,

Caecilius, Plautus, Varro: if condemn’d

They dwell, and in what province of the deep.”

“These,” said my guide, “with Persius and myself,

And others many more, are with that Greek,

Of mortals, the most cherish’d by the Nine,

In the first ward of darkness. There ofttimes

We of that mount hold converse, on whose top

For aye our nurses live. We have the bard

Of Pella, and the Teian, Agatho,

Simonides, and many a Grecian else

Ingarlanded with laurel. Of thy train

Antigone is there, Deiphile,

Argia, and as sorrowful as erst

Ismene, and who show’d Langia’s wave:

Deidamia with her sisters there,

And blind Tiresias’ daughter, and the bride

Sea-born of Peleus.” Either poet now

Was silent, and no longer by th’ ascent

Or the steep walls obstructed, round them cast

Inquiring eyes. Four handmaids of the day

Had finish’d now their office, and the fifth

Was at the chariot-beam, directing still

Its balmy point aloof, when thus my guide:

“Methinks, it well behooves us to the brink

Bend the right shoulder’ circuiting the mount,

As we have ever us’d.” So custom there

Was usher to the road, the which we chose

Less doubtful, as that worthy shade complied.

They on before me went; I sole pursued,

List’ning their speech, that to my thoughts convey’d

Mysterious lessons of sweet poesy.

But soon they ceas’d; for midway of the road

A tree we found, with goodly fruitage hung,

And pleasant to the smell: and as a fir

Upward from bough to bough less ample spreads,

So downward this less ample spread, that none.

Methinks, aloft may climb. Upon the side,

That clos’d our path, a liquid crystal fell

From the steep rock, and through the sprays above

Stream’d showering. With associate step the bards

Drew near the plant; and from amidst the leaves

A voice was heard: “Ye shall be chary of me;”

And after added: “Mary took more thought

For joy and honour of the nuptial feast,

Than for herself who answers now for you.

The women of old Rome were satisfied

With water for their beverage. Daniel fed

On pulse, and wisdom gain’d. The primal age

Was beautiful as gold; and hunger then

Made acorns tasteful, thirst each rivulet

Run nectar. Honey and locusts were the food,

Whereon the Baptist in the wilderness

Fed, and that eminence of glory reach’d

And greatness, which the’ Evangelist records.”


On the green leaf mine eyes were fix’d, like his

Who throws away his days in idle chase

Of the diminutive, when thus I heard

The more than father warn me: “Son! our time

Asks thriftier using. Linger not: away.”

Thereat my face and steps at once I turn’d

Toward the sages, by whose converse cheer’d

I journey’d on, and felt no toil: and lo!

A sound of weeping and a song: “My lips,

O Lord!” and these so mingled, it gave birth

To pleasure and to pain. “O Sire, belov’d!

Say what is this I hear?” Thus I inquir’d.

“Spirits,” said he, “who as they go, perchance,

Their debt of duty pay.” As on their road

The thoughtful pilgrims, overtaking some

Not known unto them, turn to them, and look,

But stay not; thus, approaching from behind

With speedier motion, eyed us, as they pass’d,

A crowd of spirits, silent and devout.

The eyes of each were dark and hollow: pale

Their visage, and so lean withal, the bones

Stood staring thro’ the skin. I do not think

Thus dry and meagre Erisicthon show’d,

When pinc’ed by sharp-set famine to the quick.

“Lo!” to myself I mus’d, “the race, who lost

Jerusalem, when Mary with dire beak

Prey’d on her child.” The sockets seem’d as rings,

From which the gems were drops. Who reads the name

Of man upon his forehead, there the M

Had trac’d most plainly. Who would deem, that scent

Of water and an apple, could have prov’d

Powerful to generate such pining want,

Not knowing how it wrought? While now I stood

Wond’ring what thus could waste them (for the cause

Of their gaunt hollowness and scaly rind

Appear’d not) lo! a spirit turn’d his eyes

In their deep-sunken cell, and fasten’d then

On me, then cried with vehemence aloud:

“What grace is this vouchsaf’d me?” By his looks

I ne’er had recogniz’d him: but the voice

Brought to my knowledge what his cheer conceal’d.

Remembrance of his alter’d lineaments

Was kindled from that spark; and I agniz’d

The visage of Forese. “Ah! respect

This wan and leprous wither’d skin,” thus he

Suppliant implor’d, “this macerated flesh.

Speak to me truly of thyself. And who

Are those twain spirits, that escort thee there?

Be it not said thou Scorn’st to talk with me.”

“That face of thine,” I answer’d him, “which dead

I once bewail’d, disposes me not less

For weeping, when I see It thus transform’d.

Say then, by Heav’n, what blasts ye thus? The whilst

I wonder, ask not Speech from me: unapt

Is he to speak, whom other will employs.

He thus: “The water and tee plant we pass’d,

Virtue possesses, by th’ eternal will

Infus’d, the which so pines me. Every spirit,

Whose song bewails his gluttony indulg’d

Too grossly, here in hunger and in thirst

Is purified. The odour, which the fruit,

And spray, that showers upon the verdure, breathe,

Inflames us with desire to feed and drink.

Nor once alone encompassing our route

We come to add fresh fuel to the pain:

Pain, said I? solace rather: for that will

To the tree leads us, by which Christ was led

To call Elias, joyful when he paid

Our ransom from his vein.” I answering thus:

“Forese! from that day, in which the world

For better life thou changedst, not five years

Have circled. If the power of sinning more

Were first concluded in thee, ere thou knew’st

That kindly grief, which re-espouses us

To God, how hither art thou come so soon?

I thought to find thee lower, there, where time

Is recompense for time.” He straight replied:

“To drink up the sweet wormwood of affliction

I have been brought thus early by the tears

Stream’d down my Nella’s cheeks. Her prayers devout,

Her sighs have drawn me from the coast, where oft

Expectance lingers, and have set me free

From th’ other circles. In the sight of God

So much the dearer is my widow priz’d,

She whom I lov’d so fondly, as she ranks

More singly eminent for virtuous deeds.

The tract most barb’rous of Sardinia’s isle,

Hath dames more chaste and modester by far

Than that wherein I left her. O sweet brother!

What wouldst thou have me say? A time to come

Stands full within my view, to which this hour

Shall not be counted of an ancient date,

When from the pulpit shall be loudly warn’d

Th’ unblushing dames of Florence, lest they bare

Unkerchief’d bosoms to the common gaze.

What savage women hath the world e’er seen,

What Saracens, for whom there needed scourge

Of spiritual or other discipline,

To force them walk with cov’ring on their limbs!

But did they see, the shameless ones, that Heav’n

Wafts on swift wing toward them, while I speak,

Their mouths were op’d for howling: they shall taste

Of Borrow (unless foresight cheat me here)

Or ere the cheek of him be cloth’d with down

Who is now rock’d with lullaby asleep.

Ah! now, my brother, hide thyself no more,

Thou seest how not I alone but all

Gaze, where thou veil’st the intercepted sun.”

Whence I replied: “If thou recall to mind

What we were once together, even yet

Remembrance of those days may grieve thee sore.

That I forsook that life, was due to him

Who there precedes me, some few evenings past,

When she was round, who shines with sister lamp

To his, that glisters yonder,” and I show’d

The sun. “Tis he, who through profoundest night

Of he true dead has brought me, with this flesh

As true, that follows. From that gloom the aid

Of his sure comfort drew me on to climb,

And climbing wind along this mountain-steep,

Which rectifies in you whate’er the world

Made crooked and deprav’d I have his word,

That he will bear me company as far

As till I come where Beatrice dwells:

But there must leave me. Virgil is that spirit,

Who thus hath promis’d,” and I pointed to him;

“The other is that shade, for whom so late

Your realm, as he arose, exulting shook

Through every pendent cliff and rocky bound.”


Our journey was not slacken’d by our talk,

Nor yet our talk by journeying. Still we spake,

And urg’d our travel stoutly, like a ship

When the wind sits astern. The shadowy forms,

That seem’d things dead and dead again, drew in

At their deep-delved orbs rare wonder of me,

Perceiving I had life; and I my words

Continued, and thus spake; “He journeys up

Perhaps more tardily then else he would,

For others’ sake. But tell me, if thou know’st,

Where is Piccarda? Tell me, if I see

Any of mark, among this multitude,

Who eye me thus.” — “My sister (she for whom,

’Twixt beautiful and good I cannot say

Which name was fitter ) wears e’en now her crown,

And triumphs in Olympus.” Saying this,

He added: “Since spare diet hath so worn

Our semblance out, ’t is lawful here to name

Each one . This,” and his finger then he rais’d,

“Is Buonaggiuna, — Buonaggiuna, he

Of Lucca: and that face beyond him, pierc’d

Unto a leaner fineness than the rest,

Had keeping of the church: he was of Tours,

And purges by wan abstinence away

Bolsena’s eels and cups of muscadel.”

He show’d me many others, one by one,

And all, as they were nam’d, seem’d well content;

For no dark gesture I discern’d in any.

I saw through hunger Ubaldino grind

His teeth on emptiness; and Boniface,

That wav’d the crozier o’er a num’rous flock.

I saw the Marquis, who tad time erewhile

To swill at Forli with less drought, yet so

Was one ne’er sated. I howe’er, like him,

That gazing ’midst a crowd, singles out one,

So singled him of Lucca; for methought

Was none amongst them took such note of me.

Somewhat I heard him whisper of Gentucca:

The sound was indistinct, and murmur’d there,

Where justice, that so strips them, fix’d her sting.

“Spirit!” said I, “it seems as thou wouldst fain

Speak with me. Let me hear thee. Mutual wish

To converse prompts, which let us both indulge.”

He, answ’ring, straight began: “Woman is born,

Whose brow no wimple shades yet, that shall make

My city please thee, blame it as they may.

Go then with this forewarning. If aught false

My whisper too implied, th’ event shall tell

But say, if of a truth I see the man

Of that new lay th’ inventor, which begins

With ’Ladies, ye that con the lore of love’.”

To whom I thus: “Count of me but as one

Who am the scribe of love; that, when he breathes,

Take up my pen, and, as he dictates, write.”

“Brother!” said he, “the hind’rance which once held

The notary with Guittone and myself,

Short of that new and sweeter style I hear,

Is now disclos’d. I see how ye your plumes

Stretch, as th’ inditer guides them; which, no question,

Ours did not. He that seeks a grace beyond,

Sees not the distance parts one style from other.”

And, as contented, here he held his peace.

Like as the bird, that winter near the Nile,

In squared regiment direct their course,

Then stretch themselves in file for speedier flight;

Thus all the tribe of spirits, as they turn’d

Their visage, faster deaf, nimble alike

Through leanness and desire. And as a man,

Tir’d With the motion of a trotting steed,

Slacks pace, and stays behind his company,

Till his o’erbreathed lungs keep temperate time;

E’en so Forese let that holy crew

Proceed, behind them lingering at my side,

And saying: “When shall I again behold thee?”

“How long my life may last,” said I, “I know not;

This know, how soon soever I return,

My wishes will before me have arriv’d.

Sithence the place, where I am set to live,

Is, day by day, more scoop’d of all its good,

And dismal ruin seems to threaten it.”

“Go now,” he cried: “lo! he, whose guilt is most,

Passes before my vision, dragg’d at heels

Of an infuriate beast. Toward the vale,

Where guilt hath no redemption, on it speeds,

Each step increasing swiftness on the last;

Until a blow it strikes, that leaveth him

A corse most vilely shatter’d. No long space

Those wheels have yet to roll” (therewith his eyes

Look’d up to heav’n) “ere thou shalt plainly see

That which my words may not more plainly tell.

I quit thee: time is precious here: I lose

Too much, thus measuring my pace with shine.”

As from a troop of well-rank’d chivalry

One knight, more enterprising than the rest,

Pricks forth at gallop, eager to display

His prowess in the first encounter prov’d

So parted he from us with lengthen’d strides,

And left me on the way with those twain spirits,

Who were such mighty marshals of the world.

When he beyond us had so fled mine eyes

No nearer reach’d him, than my thought his words,

The branches of another fruit, thick hung,

And blooming fresh, appear’d. E’en as our steps

Turn’d thither, not far off it rose to view.

Beneath it were a multitude, that rais’d

Their hands, and shouted forth I know not What

Unto the boughs; like greedy and fond brats,

That beg, and answer none obtain from him,

Of whom they beg; but more to draw them on,

He at arm’s length the object of their wish

Above them holds aloft, and hides it not.

At length, as undeceiv’d they went their way:

And we approach the tree, who vows and tears

Sue to in vain, the mighty tree. “Pass on,

And come not near. Stands higher up the wood,

Whereof Eve tasted, and from it was ta’en

this plant.” Such sounds from midst the thickets came.

Whence I, with either bard, close to the side

That rose, pass’d forth beyond. “Remember,” next

We heard, “those noblest creatures of the clouds,

How they their twofold bosoms overgorg’d

Oppos’d in fight to Theseus: call to mind

The Hebrews, how effeminate they stoop’d

To ease their thirst; whence Gideon’s ranks were thinn’d,

As he to Midian march’d adown the hills.”

Thus near one border coasting, still we heard

The sins of gluttony, with woe erewhile

Reguerdon’d. Then along the lonely path,

Once more at large, full thousand paces on

We travel’d, each contemplative and mute.

“Why pensive journey thus ye three alone?”

Thus suddenly a voice exclaim’d: whereat

I shook, as doth a scar’d and paltry beast;

Then rais’d my head to look from whence it came.

Was ne’er, in furnace, glass, or metal seen

So bright and glowing red, as was the shape

I now beheld. “If ye desire to mount,”

He cried, “here must ye turn. This way he goes,

Who goes in quest of peace.” His countenance

Had dazzled me; and to my guides I fac’d

Backward, like one who walks, as sound directs.

As when, to harbinger the dawn, springs up

On freshen’d wing the air of May, and breathes

Of fragrance, all impregn’d with herb and flowers,

E’en such a wind I felt upon my front

Blow gently, and the moving of a wing

Perceiv’d, that moving shed ambrosial smell;

And then a voice: “Blessed are they, whom grace

Doth so illume, that appetite in them

Exhaleth no inordinate desire,

Still hung’ring as the rule of temperance wills.”


It was an hour, when he who climbs, had need

To walk uncrippled: for the sun had now

To Taurus the meridian circle left,

And to the Scorpion left the night. As one

That makes no pause, but presses on his road,

Whate’er betide him, if some urgent need

Impel: so enter’d we upon our way,

One before other; for, but singly, none

That steep and narrow scale admits to climb.

E’en as the young stork lifteth up his wing

Through wish to fly, yet ventures not to quit

The nest, and drops it; so in me desire

Of questioning my guide arose, and fell,

Arriving even to the act, that marks

A man prepar’d for speech. Him all our haste

Restrain’d not, but thus spake the sire belov’d:

Fear not to speed the shaft, that on thy lip

Stands trembling for its flight.” Encourag’d thus

I straight began: “How there can leanness come,

Where is no want of nourishment to feed?”

“If thou,” he answer’d, “hadst remember’d thee,

How Meleager with the wasting brand

Wasted alike, by equal fires consm’d,

This would not trouble thee: and hadst thou thought,

How in the mirror your reflected form

With mimic motion vibrates, what now seems

Hard, had appear’d no harder than the pulp

Of summer fruit mature. But that thy will

In certainty may find its full repose,

Lo Statius here! on him I call, and pray

That he would now be healer of thy wound.”

“If in thy presence I unfold to him

The secrets of heaven’s vengeance, let me plead

Thine own injunction, to exculpate me.”

So Statius answer’d, and forthwith began:

“Attend my words, O son, and in thy mind

Receive them: so shall they be light to clear

The doubt thou offer’st. Blood, concocted well,

Which by the thirsty veins is ne’er imbib’d,

And rests as food superfluous, to be ta’en

From the replenish’d table, in the heart

Derives effectual virtue, that informs

The several human limbs, as being that,

Which passes through the veins itself to make them.

Yet more concocted it descends, where shame

Forbids to mention: and from thence distils

In natural vessel on another’s blood.

Then each unite together, one dispos’d

T’ endure, to act the other, through meet frame

Of its recipient mould: that being reach’d,

It ’gins to work, coagulating first;

Then vivifies what its own substance caus’d

To bear. With animation now indued,

The active virtue (differing from a plant

No further, than that this is on the way

And at its limit that) continues yet

To operate, that now it moves, and feels,

As sea sponge clinging to the rock: and there

Assumes th’ organic powers its seed convey’d.

‘This is the period, son! at which the virtue,

That from the generating heart proceeds,

Is pliant and expansive; for each limb

Is in the heart by forgeful nature plann’d.

How babe of animal becomes, remains

For thy consid’ring. At this point, more wise,

Than thou hast err’d, making the soul disjoin’d

From passive intellect, because he saw

No organ for the latter’s use assign’d.

“Open thy bosom to the truth that comes.

Know soon as in the embryo, to the brain,

Articulation is complete, then turns

The primal Mover with a smile of joy

On such great work of nature, and imbreathes

New spirit replete with virtue, that what here

Active it finds, to its own substance draws,

And forms an individual soul, that lives,

And feels, and bends reflective on itself.

And that thou less mayst marvel at the word,

Mark the sun’s heat, how that to wine doth change,

Mix’d with the moisture filter’d through the vine.

“When Lachesis hath spun the thread, the soul

Takes with her both the human and divine,

Memory, intelligence, and will, in act

Far keener than before, the other powers

Inactive all and mute. No pause allow’d,

In wond’rous sort self-moving, to one strand

Of those, where the departed roam, she falls,

Here learns her destin’d path. Soon as the place

Receives her, round the plastic virtue beams,

Distinct as in the living limbs before:

And as the air, when saturate with showers,

The casual beam refracting, decks itself

With many a hue; so here the ambient air

Weareth that form, which influence of the soul

Imprints on it; and like the flame, that where

The fire moves, thither follows, so henceforth

The new form on the spirit follows still:

Hence hath it semblance, and is shadow call’d,

With each sense even to the sight endued:

Hence speech is ours, hence laughter, tears, and sighs

Which thou mayst oft have witness’d on the mount

Th’ obedient shadow fails not to present

Whatever varying passion moves within us.

And this the cause of what thou marvel’st at.”

Now the last flexure of our way we reach’d,

And to the right hand turning, other care

Awaits us. Here the rocky precipice

Hurls forth redundant flames, and from the rim

A blast upblown, with forcible rebuff

Driveth them back, sequester’d from its bound.

Behoov’d us, one by one, along the side,

That border’d on the void, to pass; and I

Fear’d on one hand the fire, on th’ other fear’d

Headlong to fall: when thus th’ instructor warn’d:

“Strict rein must in this place direct the eyes.

A little swerving and the way is lost.”

Then from the bosom of the burning mass,

“O God of mercy!” heard I sung; and felt

No less desire to turn. And when I saw

Spirits along the flame proceeding, I

Between their footsteps and mine own was fain

To share by turns my view. At the hymn’s close

They shouted loud, “I do not know a man;”

Then in low voice again took up the strain,

Which once more ended, “To the wood,” they cried,

“Ran Dian, and drave forth Callisto, stung

With Cytherea’s poison:” then return’d

Unto their song; then marry a pair extoll’d,

Who liv’d in virtue chastely, and the bands

Of wedded love. Nor from that task, I ween,

Surcease they; whilesoe’er the scorching fire

Enclasps them. Of such skill appliance needs

To medicine the wound, that healeth last.


While singly thus along the rim we walk’d,

Oft the good master warn’d me: “Look thou well.

Avail it that I caution thee.” The sun

Now all the western clime irradiate chang’d

From azure tinct to white; and, as I pass’d,

My passing shadow made the umber’d flame

Burn ruddier. At so strange a sight I mark’d

That many a spirit marvel’d on his way.

This bred occasion first to speak of me,

“He seems,” said they, “no insubstantial frame:”

Then to obtain what certainty they might,

Stretch’d towards me, careful not to overpass

The burning pale. “O thou, who followest

The others, haply not more slow than they,

But mov’d by rev’rence, answer me, who burn

In thirst and fire: nor I alone, but these

All for thine answer do more thirst, than doth

Indian or Aethiop for the cooling stream.

Tell us, how is it that thou mak’st thyself

A wall against the sun, as thou not yet

Into th’ inextricable toils of death

Hadst enter’d?” Thus spake one, and I had straight

Declar’d me, if attention had not turn’d

To new appearance. Meeting these, there came,

Midway the burning path, a crowd, on whom

Earnestly gazing, from each part I view

The shadows all press forward, sev’rally

Each snatch a hasty kiss, and then away.

E’en so the emmets, ’mid their dusky troops,

Peer closely one at other, to spy out

Their mutual road perchance, and how they thrive.

That friendly greeting parted, ere dispatch

Of the first onward step, from either tribe

Loud clamour rises: those, who newly come,

Shout Sodom and Gomorrah!” these, “The cow

Pasiphae enter’d, that the beast she woo’d

Might rush unto her luxury.” Then as cranes,

That part towards the Riphaean mountains fly,

Part towards the Lybic sands, these to avoid

The ice, and those the sun; so hasteth off

One crowd, advances th’ other; and resume

Their first song weeping, and their several shout.

Again drew near my side the very same,

Who had erewhile besought me, and their looks

Mark’d eagerness to listen. I, who twice

Their will had noted, spake: “O spirits secure,

Whene’er the time may be, of peaceful end!

My limbs, nor crude, nor in mature old age,

Have I left yonder: here they bear me, fed

With blood, and sinew-strung. That I no more

May live in blindness, hence I tend aloft.

There is a dame on high, who wind for us

This grace, by which my mortal through your realm

I bear. But may your utmost wish soon meet

Such full fruition, that the orb of heaven,

Fullest of love, and of most ample space,

Receive you, as ye tell (upon my page

Henceforth to stand recorded) who ye are,

And what this multitude, that at your backs

Have past behind us.” As one, mountain-bred,

Rugged and clownish, if some city’s walls

He chance to enter, round him stares agape,

Confounded and struck dumb; e’en such appear’d

Each spirit. But when rid of that amaze,

(Not long the inmate of a noble heart)

He, who before had question’d, thus resum’d:

“O blessed, who, for death preparing, tak’st

Experience of our limits, in thy bark!

Their crime, who not with us proceed, was that,

For which, as he did triumph, Caesar heard

The snout of ’queen,’ to taunt him. Hence their cry

Of ’Sodom,’ as they parted, to rebuke

Themselves, and aid the burning by their shame.

Our sinning was Hermaphrodite: but we,

Because the law of human kind we broke,

Following like beasts our vile concupiscence,

Hence parting from them, to our own disgrace

Record the name of her, by whom the beast

In bestial tire was acted. Now our deeds

Thou know’st, and how we sinn’d. If thou by name

Wouldst haply know us, time permits not now

To tell so much, nor can I. Of myself

Learn what thou wishest. Guinicelli I,

Who having truly sorrow’d ere my last,

Already cleanse me.” With such pious joy,

As the two sons upon their mother gaz’d

From sad Lycurgus rescu’d, such my joy

(Save that I more represt it) when I heard

From his own lips the name of him pronounc’d,

Who was a father to me, and to those

My betters, who have ever us’d the sweet

And pleasant rhymes of love. So nought I heard

Nor spake, but long time thoughtfully I went,

Gazing on him; and, only for the fire,

Approach’d not nearer. When my eyes were fed

By looking on him, with such solemn pledge,

As forces credence, I devoted me

Unto his service wholly. In reply

He thus bespake me: “What from thee I hear

Is grav’d so deeply on my mind, the waves

Of Lethe shall not wash it off, nor make

A whit less lively. But as now thy oath

Has seal’d the truth, declare what cause impels

That love, which both thy looks and speech bewray.”

“Those dulcet lays,” I answer’d, “which, as long

As of our tongue the beauty does not fade,

Shall make us love the very ink that trac’d them.”

“Brother!” he cried, and pointed at a shade

Before him, “there is one, whose mother speech

Doth owe to him a fairer ornament.

He in love ditties and the tales of prose

Without a rival stands, and lets the fools

Talk on, who think the songster of Limoges

O’ertops him. Rumour and the popular voice

They look to more than truth, and so confirm

Opinion, ere by art or reason taught.

Thus many of the elder time cried up

Guittone, giving him the prize, till truth

By strength of numbers vanquish’d. If thou own

So ample privilege, as to have gain’d

Free entrance to the cloister, whereof Christ

Is Abbot of the college, say to him

One paternoster for me, far as needs

For dwellers in this world, where power to sin

No longer tempts us.” Haply to make way

For one, that follow’d next, when that was said,

He vanish’d through the fire, as through the wave

A fish, that glances diving to the deep.

I, to the spirit he had shown me, drew

A little onward, and besought his name,

For which my heart, I said, kept gracious room.

He frankly thus began: “Thy courtesy

So wins on me, I have nor power nor will

To hide me. I am Arnault; and with songs,

Sorely lamenting for my folly past,

Thorough this ford of fire I wade, and see

The day, I hope for, smiling in my view.

I pray ye by the worth that guides ye up

Unto the summit of the scale, in time

Remember ye my suff’rings.” With such words

He disappear’d in the refining flame.


Now was the sun so station’d, as when first

His early radiance quivers on the heights,

Where stream’d his Maker’s blood, while Libra hangs

Above Hesperian Ebro, and new fires

Meridian flash on Ganges’ yellow tide.

So day was sinking, when the’ angel of God

Appear’d before us. Joy was in his mien.

Forth of the flame he stood upon the brink,

And with a voice, whose lively clearness far

Surpass’d our human, “Blessed are the pure

In heart,” he Sang: then near him as we came,

“Go ye not further, holy spirits!” he cried,

“Ere the fire pierce you: enter in; and list

Attentive to the song ye hear from thence.”

I, when I heard his saying, was as one

Laid in the grave. My hands together clasp’d,

And upward stretching, on the fire I look’d,

And busy fancy conjur’d up the forms

Erewhile beheld alive consum’d in flames.

Th’ escorting spirits turn’d with gentle looks

Toward me, and the Mantuan spake: “My son,

Here torment thou mayst feel, but canst not death.

Remember thee, remember thee, if I

Safe e’en on Geryon brought thee: now I come

More near to God, wilt thou not trust me now?

Of this be sure: though in its womb that flame

A thousand years contain’d thee, from thy head

No hair should perish. If thou doubt my truth,

Approach, and with thy hands thy vesture’s hem

Stretch forth, and for thyself confirm belief.

Lay now all fear, O lay all fear aside.

Turn hither, and come onward undismay’d.”

I still, though conscience urg’d’ no step advanc’d.

When still he saw me fix’d and obstinate,

Somewhat disturb’d he cried: “Mark now, my son,

From Beatrice thou art by this wall

Divided.” As at Thisbe’s name the eye

Of Pyramus was open’d (when life ebb’d

Fast from his veins), and took one parting glance,

While vermeil dyed the mulberry; thus I turn’d

To my sage guide, relenting, when I heard

The name, that springs forever in my breast.

He shook his forehead; and, “How long,” he said,

“Linger we now?” then smil’d, as one would smile

Upon a child, that eyes the fruit and yields.

Into the fire before me then he walk’d;

And Statius, who erewhile no little space

Had parted us, he pray’d to come behind.

I would have cast me into molten glass

To cool me, when I enter’d; so intense

Rag’d the conflagrant mass. The sire belov’d,

To comfort me, as he proceeded, still

Of Beatrice talk’d. “Her eyes,” saith he,

“E’en now I seem to view.” From the other side

A voice, that sang, did guide us, and the voice

Following, with heedful ear, we issued forth,

There where the path led upward. “Come,” we heard,

“Come, blessed of my Father.” Such the sounds,

That hail’d us from within a light, which shone

So radiant, I could not endure the view.

“The sun,” it added, “hastes: and evening comes.

Delay not: ere the western sky is hung

With blackness, strive ye for the pass.” Our way

Upright within the rock arose, and fac’d

Such part of heav’n, that from before my steps

The beams were shrouded of the sinking sun.

Nor many stairs were overpass, when now

By fading of the shadow we perceiv’d

The sun behind us couch’d: and ere one face

Of darkness o’er its measureless expanse

Involv’d th’ horizon, and the night her lot

Held individual, each of us had made

A stair his pallet: not that will, but power,

Had fail’d us, by the nature of that mount

Forbidden further travel. As the goats,

That late have skipp’d and wanton’d rapidly

Upon the craggy cliffs, ere they had ta’en

Their supper on the herb, now silent lie

And ruminate beneath the umbrage brown,

While noonday rages; and the goatherd leans

Upon his staff, and leaning watches them:

And as the swain, that lodges out all night

In quiet by his flock, lest beast of prey

Disperse them; even so all three abode,

I as a goat and as the shepherds they,

Close pent on either side by shelving rock.

A little glimpse of sky was seen above;

Yet by that little I beheld the stars

In magnitude and rustle shining forth

With more than wonted glory. As I lay,

Gazing on them, and in that fit of musing,

Sleep overcame me, sleep, that bringeth oft

Tidings of future hap. About the hour,

As I believe, when Venus from the east

First lighten’d on the mountain, she whose orb

Seems always glowing with the fire of love,

A lady young and beautiful, I dream’d,

Was passing o’er a lea; and, as she came,

Methought I saw her ever and anon

Bending to cull the flowers; and thus she sang:

“Know ye, whoever of my name would ask,

That I am Leah: for my brow to weave

A garland, these fair hands unwearied ply.

To please me at the crystal mirror, here

I deck me. But my sister Rachel, she

Before her glass abides the livelong day,

Her radiant eyes beholding, charm’d no less,

Than I with this delightful task. Her joy

In contemplation, as in labour mine.”

And now as glimm’ring dawn appear’d, that breaks

More welcome to the pilgrim still, as he

Sojourns less distant on his homeward way,

Darkness from all sides fled, and with it fled

My slumber; whence I rose and saw my guide

Already risen. “That delicious fruit,

Which through so many a branch the zealous care

Of mortals roams in quest of, shall this day

Appease thy hunger.” Such the words I heard

From Virgil’s lip; and never greeting heard

So pleasant as the sounds. Within me straight

Desire so grew upon desire to mount,

Thenceforward at each step I felt the wings

Increasing for my flight. When we had run

O’er all the ladder to its topmost round,

As there we stood, on me the Mantuan fix’d

His eyes, and thus he spake: “Both fires, my son,

The temporal and eternal, thou hast seen,

And art arriv’d, where of itself my ken

No further reaches. I with skill and art

Thus far have drawn thee. Now thy pleasure take

For guide. Thou hast o’ercome the steeper way,

O’ercome the straighter. Lo! the sun, that darts

His beam upon thy forehead! lo! the herb,

The arboreta and flowers, which of itself

This land pours forth profuse! Till those bright eyes

With gladness come, which, weeping, made me haste

To succour thee, thou mayst or seat thee down,

Or wander where thou wilt. Expect no more

Sanction of warning voice or sign from me,

Free of thy own arbitrement to choose,

Discreet, judicious. To distrust thy sense

Were henceforth error. I invest thee then

With crown and mitre, sovereign o’er thyself.”


Through that celestial forest, whose thick shade

With lively greenness the new-springing day

Attemper’d, eager now to roam, and search

Its limits round, forthwith I left the bank,

Along the champain leisurely my way

Pursuing, o’er the ground, that on all sides

Delicious odour breath’d. A pleasant air,

That intermitted never, never veer’d,

Smote on my temples, gently, as a wind

Of softest influence: at which the sprays,

Obedient all, lean’d trembling to that part

Where first the holy mountain casts his shade,

Yet were not so disorder’d, but that still

Upon their top the feather’d quiristers

Applied their wonted art, and with full joy

Welcom’d those hours of prime, and warbled shrill

Amid the leaves, that to their jocund lays

inept tenor; even as from branch to branch,

Along the piney forests on the shore

Of Chiassi, rolls the gath’ring melody,

When Eolus hath from his cavern loos’d

The dripping south. Already had my steps,

Though slow, so far into that ancient wood

Transported me, I could not ken the place

Where I had enter’d, when behold! my path

Was bounded by a rill, which to the left

With little rippling waters bent the grass,

That issued from its brink. On earth no wave

How clean soe’er, that would not seem to have

Some mixture in itself, compar’d with this,

Transpicuous, clear; yet darkly on it roll’d,

Darkly beneath perpetual gloom, which ne’er

Admits or sun or moon light there to shine.

My feet advanc’d not; but my wond’ring eyes

Pass’d onward, o’er the streamlet, to survey

The tender May-bloom, flush’d through many a hue,

In prodigal variety: and there,

As object, rising suddenly to view,

That from our bosom every thought beside

With the rare marvel chases, I beheld

A lady all alone, who, singing, went,

And culling flower from flower, wherewith her way

Was all o’er painted. “Lady beautiful!

Thou, who (if looks, that use to speak the heart,

Are worthy of our trust), with love’s own beam

Dost warm thee,” thus to her my speech I fram’d:

“Ah! please thee hither towards the streamlet bend

Thy steps so near, that I may list thy song.

Beholding thee and this fair place, methinks,

I call to mind where wander’d and how look’d

Proserpine, in that season, when her child

The mother lost, and she the bloomy spring.”

As when a lady, turning in the dance,

Doth foot it featly, and advances scarce

One step before the other to the ground;

Over the yellow and vermilion flowers

Thus turn’d she at my suit, most maiden-like,

Valing her sober eyes, and came so near,

That I distinctly caught the dulcet sound.

Arriving where the limped waters now

Lav’d the green sward, her eyes she deign’d to raise,

That shot such splendour on me, as I ween

Ne’er glanced from Cytherea’s, when her son

Had sped his keenest weapon to her heart.

Upon the opposite bank she stood and smil’d

through her graceful fingers shifted still

The intermingling dyes, which without seed

That lofty land unbosoms. By the stream

Three paces only were we sunder’d: yet

The Hellespont, where Xerxes pass’d it o’er,

(A curb for ever to the pride of man)

Was by Leander not more hateful held

For floating, with inhospitable wave

’Twixt Sestus and Abydos, than by me

That flood, because it gave no passage thence.

“Strangers ye come, and haply in this place,

That cradled human nature in its birth,

Wond’ring, ye not without suspicion view

My smiles: but that sweet strain of psalmody,

’Thou, Lord! hast made me glad,’ will give ye light,

Which may uncloud your minds. And thou, who stand’st

The foremost, and didst make thy suit to me,

Say if aught else thou wish to hear: for I

Came prompt to answer every doubt of thine.”

She spake; and I replied: “l know not how

To reconcile this wave and rustling sound

Of forest leaves, with what I late have heard

Of opposite report.” She answering thus:

“I will unfold the cause, whence that proceeds,

Which makes thee wonder; and so purge the cloud

That hath enwraps thee. The First Good, whose joy

Is only in himself, created man

For happiness, and gave this goodly place,

His pledge and earnest of eternal peace.

Favour’d thus highly, through his own defect

He fell, and here made short sojourn; he fell,

And, for the bitterness of sorrow, chang’d

Laughter unblam’d and ever-new delight.

That vapours none, exhal’d from earth beneath,

Or from the waters (which, wherever heat

Attracts them, follow), might ascend thus far

To vex man’s peaceful state, this mountain rose

So high toward the heav’n, nor fears the rage

0f elements contending, from that part

Exempted, where the gate his limit bars.

Because the circumambient air throughout

With its first impulse circles still, unless

Aught interpose to cheek or thwart its course;

Upon the summit, which on every side

To visitation of th’ impassive air

Is open, doth that motion strike, and makes

Beneath its sway th’ umbrageous wood resound:

And in the shaken plant such power resides,

That it impregnates with its efficacy

The voyaging breeze, upon whose subtle plume

That wafted flies abroad; and th’ other land

Receiving (as ’t is worthy in itself,

Or in the clime, that warms it), doth conceive,

And from its womb produces many a tree

Of various virtue. This when thou hast heard,

The marvel ceases, if in yonder earth

Some plant without apparent seed be found

To fix its fibrous stem. And further learn,

That with prolific foison of all seeds,

This holy plain is fill’d, and in itself

Bears fruit that ne’er was pluck’d on other soil.

“The water, thou behold’st, springs not from vein,

As stream, that intermittently repairs

And spends his pulse of life, but issues forth

From fountain, solid, undecaying, sure;

And by the will omnific, full supply

Feeds whatsoe’er On either side it pours;

On this devolv’d with power to take away

Remembrance of offence, on that to bring

Remembrance back of every good deed done.

From whence its name of Lethe on this part;

On th’ other Eunoe: both of which must first

Be tasted ere it work; the last exceeding

All flavours else. Albeit thy thirst may now

Be well contented, if I here break off,

No more revealing: yet a corollary

I freely give beside: nor deem my words

Less grateful to thee, if they somewhat pass

The stretch of promise. They, whose verse of yore

The golden age recorded and its bliss,

On the Parnassian mountain, of this place

Perhaps had dream’d. Here was man guiltless, here

Perpetual spring and every fruit, and this

The far-fam’d nectar.” Turning to the bards,

When she had ceas’d, I noted in their looks

A smile at her conclusion; then my face

Again directed to the lovely dame.


Singing, as if enamour’d, she resum’d

And clos’d the song, with “Blessed they whose sins

Are cover’d.” Like the wood-nymphs then, that tripp’d

Singly across the sylvan shadows, one

Eager to view and one to ’scape the sun,

So mov’d she on, against the current, up

The verdant rivage. I, her mincing step

Observing, with as tardy step pursued.

Between us not an hundred paces trod,

The bank, on each side bending equally,

Gave me to face the orient. Nor our way

Far onward brought us, when to me at once

She turn’d, and cried: “My brother! look and hearken.”

And lo! a sudden lustre ran across

Through the great forest on all parts, so bright

I doubted whether lightning were abroad;

But that expiring ever in the spleen,

That doth unfold it, and this during still

And waxing still in splendor, made me question

What it might be: and a sweet melody

Ran through the luminous air. Then did I chide

With warrantable zeal the hardihood

Of our first parent, for that there were earth

Stood in obedience to the heav’ns, she only,

Woman, the creature of an hour, endur’d not

Restraint of any veil: which had she borne

Devoutly, joys, ineffable as these,

Had from the first, and long time since, been mine.

While through that wilderness of primy sweets

That never fade, suspense I walk’d, and yet

Expectant of beatitude more high,

Before us, like a blazing fire, the air

Under the green boughs glow’d; and, for a song,

Distinct the sound of melody was heard.

O ye thrice holy virgins! for your sakes

If e’er I suffer’d hunger, cold and watching,

Occasion calls on me to crave your bounty.

Now through my breast let Helicon his stream

Pour copious; and Urania with her choir

Arise to aid me: while the verse unfolds

Things that do almost mock the grasp of thought.

Onward a space, what seem’d seven trees of gold,

The intervening distance to mine eye

Falsely presented; but when I was come

So near them, that no lineament was lost

Of those, with which a doubtful object, seen

Remotely, plays on the misdeeming sense,

Then did the faculty, that ministers

Discourse to reason, these for tapers of gold

Distinguish, and it th’ singing trace the sound

“Hosanna.” Above, their beauteous garniture

Flam’d with more ample lustre, than the moon

Through cloudless sky at midnight in her full.

I turn’d me full of wonder to my guide;

And he did answer with a countenance

Charg’d with no less amazement: whence my view

Reverted to those lofty things, which came

So slowly moving towards us, that the bride

Would have outstript them on her bridal day.

The lady called aloud: “Why thus yet burns

Affection in thee for these living, lights,

And dost not look on that which follows them?”

I straightway mark’d a tribe behind them walk,

As if attendant on their leaders, cloth’d

With raiment of such whiteness, as on earth

Was never. On my left, the wat’ry gleam

Borrow’d, and gave me back, when there I look’d.

As in a mirror, my left side portray’d.

When I had chosen on the river’s edge

Such station, that the distance of the stream

Alone did separate me; there I stay’d

My steps for clearer prospect, and beheld

The flames go onward, leaving, as they went,

The air behind them painted as with trail

Of liveliest pencils! so distinct were mark’d

All those sev’n listed colours, whence the sun

Maketh his bow, and Cynthia her zone.

These streaming gonfalons did flow beyond

My vision; and ten paces, as I guess,

Parted the outermost. Beneath a sky

So beautiful, came foul and-twenty elders,

By two and two, with flower-de-luces crown’d.

All sang one song: “Blessed be thou among

The daughters of Adam! and thy loveliness

Blessed for ever!” After that the flowers,

And the fresh herblets, on the opposite brink,

Were free from that elected race; as light

In heav’n doth second light, came after them

Four animals, each crown’d with verdurous leaf.

With six wings each was plum’d, the plumage full

Of eyes, and th’ eyes of Argus would be such,

Were they endued with life. Reader, more rhymes

Will not waste in shadowing forth their form:

For other need no straitens, that in this

I may not give my bounty room. But read

Ezekiel; for he paints them, from the north

How he beheld them come by Chebar’s flood,

In whirlwind, cloud and fire; and even such

As thou shalt find them character’d by him,

Here were they; save as to the pennons; there,

From him departing, John accords with me.

The space, surrounded by the four, enclos’d

A car triumphal: on two wheels it came

Drawn at a Gryphon’s neck; and he above

Stretch’d either wing uplifted, ’tween the midst

And the three listed hues, on each side three;

So that the wings did cleave or injure none;

And out of sight they rose. The members, far

As he was bird, were golden; white the rest

With vermeil intervein’d. So beautiful

A car in Rome ne’er grac’d Augustus pomp,

Or Africanus’: e’en the sun’s itself

Were poor to this, that chariot of the sun

Erroneous, which in blazing ruin fell

At Tellus’ pray’r devout, by the just doom

Mysterious of all-seeing Jove. Three nymphs

,k the right wheel, came circling in smooth dance;

The one so ruddy, that her form had scarce

Been known within a furnace of clear flame:

The next did look, as if the flesh and bones

Were emerald: snow new-fallen seem’d the third.

Now seem’d the white to lead, the ruddy now;

And from her song who led, the others took

Their treasure, swift or slow. At th’ other wheel,

A band quaternion, each in purple clad,

Advanc’d with festal step, as of them one

The rest conducted, one, upon whose front

Three eyes were seen. In rear of all this group,

Two old men I beheld, dissimilar

In raiment, but in port and gesture like,

Solid and mainly grave; of whom the one

Did show himself some favour’d counsellor

Of the great Coan, him, whom nature made

To serve the costliest creature of her tribe.

His fellow mark’d an opposite intent,

Bearing a sword, whose glitterance and keen edge,

E’en as I view’d it with the flood between,

Appall’d me. Next four others I beheld,

Of humble seeming: and, behind them all,

One single old man, sleeping, as he came,

With a shrewd visage. And these seven, each

Like the first troop were habited, hut wore

No braid of lilies on their temples wreath’d.

Rather with roses and each vermeil flower,

A sight, but little distant, might have sworn,

That they were all on fire above their brow.

Whenas the car was o’er against me, straight.

Was heard a thund’ring, at whose voice it seem’d

The chosen multitude were stay’d; for there,

With the first ensigns, made they solemn halt.


Soon as the polar light, which never knows

Setting nor rising, nor the shadowy veil

Of other cloud than sin, fair ornament

Of the first heav’n, to duty each one there

Safely convoying, as that lower doth

The steersman to his port, stood firmly fix’d;

Forthwith the saintly tribe, who in the van

Between the Gryphon and its radiance came,

Did turn them to the car, as to their rest:

And one, as if commission’d from above,

In holy chant thrice shorted forth aloud:

“Come, spouse, from Libanus!” and all the rest

Took up the song — At the last audit so

The blest shall rise, from forth his cavern each

Uplifting lightly his new-vested flesh,

As, on the sacred litter, at the voice

Authoritative of that elder, sprang

A hundred ministers and messengers

Of life eternal. “Blessed thou! who com’st!”

And, “O,” they cried, “from full hands scatter ye

Unwith’ring lilies;” and, so saying, cast

Flowers over head and round them on all sides.

I have beheld, ere now, at break of day,

The eastern clime all roseate, and the sky

Oppos’d, one deep and beautiful serene,

And the sun’s face so shaded, and with mists

Attemper’d at lids rising, that the eye

Long while endur’d the sight: thus in a cloud

Of flowers, that from those hands angelic rose,

And down, within and outside of the car,

Fell showering, in white veil with olive wreath’d,

A virgin in my view appear’d, beneath

Green mantle, rob’d in hue of living flame:

And o’er my Spirit, that in former days

Within her presence had abode so long,

No shudd’ring terror crept. Mine eyes no more

Had knowledge of her; yet there mov’d from her

A hidden virtue, at whose touch awak’d,

The power of ancient love was strong within me.

No sooner on my vision streaming, smote

The heav’nly influence, which years past, and e’en

In childhood, thrill’d me, than towards Virgil I

Turn’d me to leftward, panting, like a babe,

That flees for refuge to his mother’s breast,

If aught have terrified or work’d him woe:

And would have cried: “There is no dram of blood,

That doth not quiver in me. The old flame

Throws out clear tokens of reviving fire:”

But Virgil had bereav’d us of himself,

Virgil, my best-lov’d father; Virgil, he

To whom I gave me up for safety: nor,

All, our prime mother lost, avail’d to save

My undew’d cheeks from blur of soiling tears.

“Dante, weep not, that Virgil leaves thee: nay,

Weep thou not yet: behooves thee feel the edge

Of other sword, and thou shalt weep for that.”

As to the prow or stern, some admiral

Paces the deck, inspiriting his crew,

When ’mid the sail-yards all hands ply aloof;

Thus on the left side of the car I saw,

(Turning me at the sound of mine own name,

Which here I am compell’d to register)

The virgin station’d, who before appeared

Veil’d in that festive shower angelical.

Towards me, across the stream, she bent her eyes;

Though from her brow the veil descending, bound

With foliage of Minerva, suffer’d not

That I beheld her clearly; then with act

Full royal, still insulting o’er her thrall,

Added, as one, who speaking keepeth back

The bitterest saying, to conclude the speech:

“Observe me well. I am, in sooth, I am

Beatrice. What! and hast thou deign’d at last

Approach the mountain? knewest not, O man!

Thy happiness is whole?” Down fell mine eyes

On the clear fount, but there, myself espying,

Recoil’d, and sought the greensward: such a weight

Of shame was on my forehead. With a mien

Of that stern majesty, which doth surround

mother’s presence to her awe-struck child,

She look’d; a flavour of such bitterness

Was mingled in her pity. There her words

Brake off, and suddenly the angels sang:

“In thee, O gracious Lord, my hope hath been:”

But went no farther than, “Thou Lord, hast set

My feet in ample room.” As snow, that lies

Amidst the living rafters on the back

Of Italy congeal’d when drifted high

And closely pil’d by rough Sclavonian blasts,

Breathe but the land whereon no shadow falls,

And straightway melting it distils away,

Like a fire-wasted taper: thus was I,

Without a sigh or tear, or ever these

Did sing, that with the chiming of heav’n’s sphere,

Still in their warbling chime: but when the strain

Of dulcet symphony, express’d for me

Their soft compassion, more than could the words

“Virgin, why so consum’st him?” then the ice,

Congeal’d about my bosom, turn’d itself

To spirit and water, and with anguish forth

Gush’d through the lips and eyelids from the heart.

Upon the chariot’s right edge still she stood,

Immovable, and thus address’d her words

To those bright semblances with pity touch’d:

“Ye in th’ eternal day your vigils keep,

So that nor night nor slumber, with close stealth,

Conveys from you a single step in all

The goings on of life: thence with more heed

I shape mine answer, for his ear intended,

Who there stands weeping, that the sorrow now

May equal the transgression. Not alone

Through operation of the mighty orbs,

That mark each seed to some predestin’d aim,

As with aspect or fortunate or ill

The constellations meet, but through benign

Largess of heav’nly graces, which rain down

From such a height, as mocks our vision, this man

Was in the freshness of his being, such,

So gifted virtually, that in him

All better habits wond’rously had thriv’d.

The more of kindly strength is in the soil,

So much doth evil seed and lack of culture

Mar it the more, and make it run to wildness.

These looks sometime upheld him; for I show’d

My youthful eyes, and led him by their light

In upright walking. Soon as I had reach’d

The threshold of my second age, and chang’d

My mortal for immortal, then he left me,

And gave himself to others. When from flesh

To spirit I had risen, and increase

Of beauty and of virtue circled me,

I was less dear to him, and valued less.

His steps were turn’d into deceitful ways,

Following false images of good, that make

No promise perfect. Nor avail’d me aught

To sue for inspirations, with the which,

I, both in dreams of night, and otherwise,

Did call him back; of them so little reck’d him,

Such depth he fell, that all device was short

Of his preserving, save that he should view

The children of perdition. To this end

I visited the purlieus of the dead:

And one, who hath conducted him thus high,

Receiv’d my supplications urg’d with weeping.

It were a breaking of God’s high decree,

If Lethe should be past, and such food tasted

Without the cost of some repentant tear.”


“O Thou!” her words she thus without delay

Resuming, turn’d their point on me, to whom

They but with lateral edge seem’d harsh before,

“Say thou, who stand’st beyond the holy stream,

If this be true. A charge so grievous needs

Thine own avowal.” On my faculty

Such strange amazement hung, the voice expir’d

Imperfect, ere its organs gave it birth.

A little space refraining, then she spake:

“What dost thou muse on? Answer me. The wave

On thy remembrances of evil yet

Hath done no injury.” A mingled sense

Of fear and of confusion, from my lips

Did such a “Yea “ produce, as needed help

Of vision to interpret. As when breaks

In act to be discharg’d, a cross-bow bent

Beyond its pitch, both nerve and bow o’erstretch’d,

The flagging weapon feebly hits the mark;

Thus, tears and sighs forth gushing, did I burst

Beneath the heavy load, and thus my voice

Was slacken’d on its way. She straight began:

“When my desire invited thee to love

The good, which sets a bound to our aspirings,

What bar of thwarting foss or linked chain

Did meet thee, that thou so should’st quit the hope

Of further progress, or what bait of ease

Or promise of allurement led thee on

Elsewhere, that thou elsewhere should’st rather wait?”

A bitter sigh I drew, then scarce found voice

To answer, hardly to these sounds my lips

Gave utterance, wailing: “Thy fair looks withdrawn,

Things present, with deceitful pleasures, turn’d

My steps aside.” She answering spake: “Hadst thou

Been silent, or denied what thou avow’st,

Thou hadst not hid thy sin the more: such eye

Observes it. But whene’er the sinner’s cheek

Breaks forth into the precious-streaming tears

Of self-accusing, in our court the wheel

Of justice doth run counter to the edge.

Howe’er that thou may’st profit by thy shame

For errors past, and that henceforth more strength

May arm thee, when thou hear’st the Siren-voice,

Lay thou aside the motive to this grief,

And lend attentive ear, while I unfold

How opposite a way my buried flesh

Should have impell’d thee. Never didst thou spy

In art or nature aught so passing sweet,

As were the limbs, that in their beauteous frame

Enclos’d me, and are scatter’d now in dust.

If sweetest thing thus fail’d thee with my death,

What, afterward, of mortal should thy wish

Have tempted? When thou first hadst felt the dart

Of perishable things, in my departing

For better realms, thy wing thou should’st have prun’d

To follow me, and never stoop’d again

To ’bide a second blow for a slight girl,

Or other gaud as transient and as vain.

The new and inexperienc’d bird awaits,

Twice it may be, or thrice, the fowler’s aim;

But in the sight of one, whose plumes are full,

In vain the net is spread, the arrow wing’d.”

I stood, as children silent and asham’d

Stand, list’ning, with their eyes upon the earth,

Acknowledging their fault and self-condemn’d.

And she resum’d: “If, but to hear thus pains thee,

Raise thou thy beard, and lo! what sight shall do!”

With less reluctance yields a sturdy holm,

Rent from its fibers by a blast, that blows

From off the pole, or from Iarbas’ land,

Than I at her behest my visage rais’d:

And thus the face denoting by the beard,

I mark’d the secret sting her words convey’d.

No sooner lifted I mine aspect up,

Than downward sunk that vision I beheld

Of goodly creatures vanish; and mine eyes

Yet unassur’d and wavering, bent their light

On Beatrice. Towards the animal,

Who joins two natures in one form, she turn’d,

And, even under shadow of her veil,

And parted by the verdant rill, that flow’d

Between, in loveliness appear’d as much

Her former self surpassing, as on earth

All others she surpass’d. Remorseful goads

Shot sudden through me. Each thing else, the more

Its love had late beguil’d me, now the more

I Was loathsome. On my heart so keenly smote

The bitter consciousness, that on the ground

O’erpower’d I fell: and what my state was then,

She knows who was the cause. When now my strength

Flow’d back, returning outward from the heart,

The lady, whom alone I first had seen,

I found above me. “Loose me not,” she cried:

“Loose not thy hold;” and lo! had dragg’d me high

As to my neck into the stream, while she,

Still as she drew me after, swept along,

Swift as a shuttle, bounding o’er the wave.

The blessed shore approaching then was heard

So sweetly, “Tu asperges me,” that I

May not remember, much less tell the sound.

The beauteous dame, her arms expanding, clasp’d

My temples, and immerg’d me, where ’t was fit

The wave should drench me: and thence raising up,

Within the fourfold dance of lovely nymphs

Presented me so lav’d, and with their arm

They each did cover me. “Here are we nymphs,

And in the heav’n are stars. Or ever earth

Was visited of Beatrice, we

Appointed for her handmaids, tended on her.

We to her eyes will lead thee; but the light

Of gladness that is in them, well to scan,

Those yonder three, of deeper ken than ours,

Thy sight shall quicken.” Thus began their song;

And then they led me to the Gryphon’s breast,

While, turn’d toward us, Beatrice stood.

“Spare not thy vision. We have stationed thee

Before the emeralds, whence love erewhile

Hath drawn his weapons on thee. “As they spake,

A thousand fervent wishes riveted

Mine eyes upon her beaming eyes, that stood

Still fix’d toward the Gryphon motionless.

As the sun strikes a mirror, even thus

Within those orbs the twofold being, shone,

For ever varying, in one figure now

Reflected, now in other. Reader! muse

How wond’rous in my sight it seem’d to mark

A thing, albeit steadfast in itself,

Yet in its imag’d semblance mutable.

Full of amaze, and joyous, while my soul

Fed on the viand, whereof still desire

Grows with satiety, the other three

With gesture, that declar’d a loftier line,

Advanc’d: to their own carol on they came

Dancing in festive ring angelical.

“Turn, Beatrice!” was their song: “O turn

Thy saintly sight on this thy faithful one,

Who to behold thee many a wearisome pace

Hath measur’d. Gracious at our pray’r vouchsafe

Unveil to him thy cheeks: that he may mark

Thy second beauty, now conceal’d.” O splendour!

O sacred light eternal! who is he

So pale with musing in Pierian shades,

Or with that fount so lavishly imbued,

Whose spirit should not fail him in th’ essay

To represent thee such as thou didst seem,

When under cope of the still-chiming heaven

Thou gav’st to open air thy charms reveal’d.


Mine eyes with such an eager coveting,

Were bent to rid them of their ten years’ thirst,

No other sense was waking: and e’en they

Were fenc’d on either side from heed of aught;

So tangled in its custom’d toils that smile

Of saintly brightness drew me to itself,

When forcibly toward the left my sight

The sacred virgins turn’d; for from their lips

I heard the warning sounds: “Too fix’d a gaze!”

Awhile my vision labor’d; as when late

Upon the’ o’erstrained eyes the sun hath smote:

But soon to lesser object, as the view

Was now recover’d (lesser in respect

To that excess of sensible, whence late

I had perforce been sunder’d) on their right

I mark’d that glorious army wheel, and turn,

Against the sun and sev’nfold lights, their front.

As when, their bucklers for protection rais’d,

A well-rang’d troop, with portly banners curl’d,

Wheel circling, ere the whole can change their ground:

E’en thus the goodly regiment of heav’n

Proceeding, all did pass us, ere the car

Had slop’d his beam. Attendant at the wheels

The damsels turn’d; and on the Gryphon mov’d

The sacred burden, with a pace so smooth,

No feather on him trembled. The fair dame

Who through the wave had drawn me, companied

By Statius and myself, pursued the wheel,

Whose orbit, rolling, mark’d a lesser arch.

Through the high wood, now void (the more her blame,

Who by the serpent was beguil’d) I past

With step in cadence to the harmony

Angelic. Onward had we mov’d, as far

Perchance as arrow at three several flights

Full wing’d had sped, when from her station down

Descended Beatrice. With one voice

All murmur’d “Adam,” circling next a plant

Despoil’d of flowers and leaf on every bough.

Its tresses, spreading more as more they rose,

Were such, as ’midst their forest wilds for height

The Indians might have gaz’d at. “Blessed thou!

Gryphon, whose beak hath never pluck’d that tree

Pleasant to taste: for hence the appetite

Was warp’d to evil.” Round the stately trunk

Thus shouted forth the rest, to whom return’d

The animal twice-gender’d: “Yea: for so

The generation of the just are sav’d.”

And turning to the chariot-pole, to foot

He drew it of the widow’d branch, and bound

There left unto the stock whereon it grew.

As when large floods of radiance from above

Stream, with that radiance mingled, which ascends

Next after setting of the scaly sign,

Our plants then burgeon, and each wears anew

His wonted colours, ere the sun have yok’d

Beneath another star his flamy steeds;

Thus putting forth a hue, more faint than rose,

And deeper than the violet, was renew’d

The plant, erewhile in all its branches bare.

Unearthly was the hymn, which then arose.

I understood it not, nor to the end

Endur’d the harmony. Had I the skill

To pencil forth, how clos’d th’ unpitying eyes

Slumb’ring, when Syrinx warbled, (eyes that paid

So dearly for their watching,) then like painter,

That with a model paints, I might design

The manner of my falling into sleep.

But feign who will the slumber cunningly;

I pass it by to when I wak’d, and tell

How suddenly a flash of splendour rent

The curtain of my sleep, and one cries out:

“Arise, what dost thou?” As the chosen three,

On Tabor’s mount, admitted to behold

The blossoming of that fair tree, whose fruit

Is coveted of angels, and doth make

Perpetual feast in heaven, to themselves

Returning at the word, whence deeper sleeps

Were broken, that they their tribe diminish’d saw,

Both Moses and Elias gone, and chang’d

The stole their master wore: thus to myself

Returning, over me beheld I stand

The piteous one, who cross the stream had brought

My steps. “And where,” all doubting, I exclaim’d,

“Is Beatrice?” — “See her,” she replied,

“Beneath the fresh leaf seated on its root.

Behold th’ associate choir that circles her.

The others, with a melody more sweet

And more profound, journeying to higher realms,

Upon the Gryphon tend.” If there her words

Were clos’d, I know not; but mine eyes had now

Ta’en view of her, by whom all other thoughts

Were barr’d admittance. On the very ground

Alone she sat, as she had there been left

A guard upon the wain, which I beheld

Bound to the twyform beast. The seven nymphs

Did make themselves a cloister round about her,

And in their hands upheld those lights secure

From blast septentrion and the gusty south.

“A little while thou shalt be forester here:

And citizen shalt be forever with me,

Of that true Rome, wherein Christ dwells a Roman

To profit the misguided world, keep now

Thine eyes upon the car; and what thou seest,

Take heed thou write, returning to that place.”

Thus Beatrice: at whose feet inclin’d

Devout, at her behest, my thought and eyes,

I, as she bade, directed. Never fire,

With so swift motion, forth a stormy cloud

Leap’d downward from the welkin’s farthest bound,

As I beheld the bird of Jove descending

Pounce on the tree, and, as he rush’d, the rind,

Disparting crush beneath him, buds much more

And leaflets. On the car with all his might

He struck, whence, staggering like a ship, it reel’d,

At random driv’n, to starboard now, o’ercome,

And now to larboard, by the vaulting waves.

Next springing up into the chariot’s womb

A fox I saw, with hunger seeming pin’d

Of all good food. But, for his ugly sins

The saintly maid rebuking him, away

Scamp’ring he turn’d, fast as his hide-bound corpse

Would bear him. Next, from whence before he came,

I saw the eagle dart into the hull

O’ th’ car, and leave it with his feathers lin’d;

And then a voice, like that which issues forth

From heart with sorrow riv’d, did issue forth

From heav’n, and, “O poor bark of mine!” it cried,

“How badly art thou freighted!” Then, it seem’d,

That the earth open’d between either wheel,

And I beheld a dragon issue thence,

That through the chariot fix’d his forked train;

And like a wasp that draggeth back the sting,

So drawing forth his baleful train, he dragg’d

Part of the bottom forth, and went his way

Exulting. What remain’d, as lively turf

With green herb, so did clothe itself with plumes,

Which haply had with purpose chaste and kind

Been offer’d; and therewith were cloth’d the wheels,

Both one and other, and the beam, so quickly

A sigh were not breath’d sooner. Thus transform’d,

The holy structure, through its several parts,

Did put forth heads, three on the beam, and one

On every side; the first like oxen horn’d,

But with a single horn upon their front

The four. Like monster sight hath never seen.

O’er it methought there sat, secure as rock

On mountain’s lofty top, a shameless whore,

Whose ken rov’d loosely round her. At her side,

As ’t were that none might bear her off, I saw

A giant stand; and ever, and anon

They mingled kisses. But, her lustful eyes

Chancing on me to wander, that fell minion

Scourg’d her from head to foot all o’er; then full

Of jealousy, and fierce with rage, unloos’d

The monster, and dragg’d on, so far across

The forest, that from me its shades alone

Shielded the harlot and the new-form’d brute.


“The heathen, Lord! are come!” responsive thus,

The trinal now, and now the virgin band

Quaternion, their sweet psalmody began,

Weeping; and Beatrice listen’d, sad

And sighing, to the song’, in such a mood,

That Mary, as she stood beside the cross,

Was scarce more chang’d. But when they gave her place

To speak, then, risen upright on her feet,

She, with a colour glowing bright as fire,

Did answer: “Yet a little while, and ye

Shall see me not; and, my beloved sisters,

Again a little while, and ye shall see me.”

Before her then she marshall’d all the seven,

And, beck’ning only motion’d me, the dame,

And that remaining sage, to follow her.

So on she pass’d; and had not set, I ween,

Her tenth step to the ground, when with mine eyes

Her eyes encounter’d; and, with visage mild,

“So mend thy pace,” she cried, “that if my words

Address thee, thou mayst still be aptly plac’d

To hear them.” Soon as duly to her side

I now had hasten’d: “Brother!” she began,

“Why mak’st thou no attempt at questioning,

As thus we walk together?” Like to those

Who, speaking with too reverent an awe

Before their betters, draw not forth the voice

Alive unto their lips, befell me shell

That I in sounds imperfect thus began:

“Lady! what I have need of, that thou know’st,

And what will suit my need.” She answering thus:

“Of fearfulness and shame, I will, that thou

Henceforth do rid thee: that thou speak no more,

As one who dreams. Thus far be taught of me:

The vessel, which thou saw’st the serpent break,

Was and is not: let him, who hath the blame,

Hope not to scare God’s vengeance with a sop.

Without an heir for ever shall not be

That eagle, he, who left the chariot plum’d,

Which monster made it first and next a prey.

Plainly I view, and therefore speak, the stars

E’en now approaching, whose conjunction, free

From all impediment and bar, brings on

A season, in the which, one sent from God,

(Five hundred, five, and ten, do mark him out)

That foul one, and th’ accomplice of her guilt,

The giant, both shall slay. And if perchance

My saying, dark as Themis or as Sphinx,

Fail to persuade thee, (since like them it foils

The intellect with blindness) yet ere long

Events shall be the Naiads, that will solve

This knotty riddle, and no damage light

On flock or field. Take heed; and as these words

By me are utter’d, teach them even so

To those who live that life, which is a race

To death: and when thou writ’st them, keep in mind

Not to conceal how thou hast seen the plant,

That twice hath now been spoil’d. This whoso robs,

This whoso plucks, with blasphemy of deed

Sins against God, who for his use alone

Creating hallow’d it. For taste of this,

In pain and in desire, five thousand years

And upward, the first soul did yearn for him,

Who punish’d in himself the fatal gust.

“Thy reason slumbers, if it deem this height

And summit thus inverted of the plant,

Without due cause: and were not vainer thoughts,

As Elsa’s numbing waters, to thy soul,

And their fond pleasures had not dyed it dark

As Pyramus the mulberry, thou hadst seen,

In such momentous circumstance alone,

God’s equal justice morally implied

In the forbidden tree. But since I mark thee

In understanding harden’d into stone,

And, to that hardness, spotted too and stain’d,

So that thine eye is dazzled at my word,

I will, that, if not written, yet at least

Painted thou take it in thee, for the cause,

That one brings home his staff inwreath’d with palm.

“I thus: “As wax by seal, that changeth not

Its impress, now is stamp’d my brain by thee.

But wherefore soars thy wish’d-for speech so high

Beyond my sight, that loses it the more,

The more it strains to reach it?” — “To the end

That thou mayst know,” she answer’d straight, “the school,

That thou hast follow’d; and how far behind,

When following my discourse, its learning halts:

And mayst behold your art, from the divine

As distant, as the disagreement is

’Twixt earth and heaven’s most high and rapturous orb.”

“I not remember,” I replied, “that e’er

I was estrang’d from thee, nor for such fault

Doth conscience chide me.” Smiling she return’d:

“If thou canst, not remember, call to mind

How lately thou hast drunk of Lethe’s wave;

And, sure as smoke doth indicate a flame,

In that forgetfulness itself conclude

Blame from thy alienated will incurr’d.

From henceforth verily my words shall be

As naked as will suit them to appear

In thy unpractis’d view.” More sparkling now,

And with retarded course the sun possess’d

The circle of mid-day, that varies still

As th’ aspect varies of each several clime,

When, as one, sent in vaward of a troop

For escort, pauses, if perchance he spy

Vestige of somewhat strange and rare: so paus’d

The sev’nfold band, arriving at the verge

Of a dun umbrage hoar, such as is seen,

Beneath green leaves and gloomy branches, oft

To overbrow a bleak and alpine cliff.

And, where they stood, before them, as it seem’d,

Tigris and Euphrates both beheld,

Forth from one fountain issue; and, like friends,

Linger at parting. “O enlight’ning beam!

O glory of our kind! beseech thee say

What water this, which from one source deriv’d

Itself removes to distance from itself?”

To such entreaty answer thus was made:

“Entreat Matilda, that she teach thee this.”

And here, as one, who clears himself of blame

Imputed, the fair dame return’d: “Of me

He this and more hath learnt; and I am safe

That Lethe’s water hath not hid it from him.”

And Beatrice: “Some more pressing care

That oft the memory ’reeves, perchance hath made

His mind’s eye dark. But lo! where Eunoe cows!

Lead thither; and, as thou art wont, revive

His fainting virtue.” As a courteous spirit,

That proffers no excuses, but as soon

As he hath token of another’s will,

Makes it his own; when she had ta’en me, thus

The lovely maiden mov’d her on, and call’d

To Statius with an air most lady-like:

“Come thou with him.” Were further space allow’d,

Then, Reader, might I sing, though but in part,

That beverage, with whose sweetness I had ne’er

Been sated. But, since all the leaves are full,

Appointed for this second strain, mine art

With warning bridle checks me. I return’d

From the most holy wave, regenerate,

If ’en as new plants renew’d with foliage new,

Pure and made apt for mounting to the stars.

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University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005