Produced by David Widger
HELL, PURGATORY, AND PARADISE
BY DANTE ALIGHIERI
THE REV. H. F. CARY
Cantos 19 – 25
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 Surmisings 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 and 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 Iolace 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 consum’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.