Produced by David Widger
HELL, PURGATORY, AND PARADISE
BY DANTE ALIGHIERI
THE REV. H. F. CARY
Cantos 11 – 18
“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 himnd 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! imbue 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! 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 firstlew 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! 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! 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 Liziohere 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 theeor 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.