1265-1321 Dante Alighieri.

Ad astra; being selections from the Divine comedy of Dante; online

. (page 1 of 2)
Online Library1265-1321 Dante AlighieriAd astra; being selections from the Divine comedy of Dante; → online text (page 1 of 2)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook



$C 534 5flT



A. F. Morrison

GIFT o:p



The Forest of Life

The Gate of Hell

The Noble Castle of Philosophy

Francesca and Paolo


The City of Unbelief

The Angel at the Gate of Dis

The Harpies' Wood


In the Arsenal

The Phcenix

The Fate of Ulysses

The Return to Earth


The Shores of Purgatory

The Celestial Pilot



The Happy Valley


The Guardians of the Valley

The Ihree Steps of Contrition,

Penance, and Absolution
The Sculptures on the Wall
Pater Noster
Vana Gloria

The Angel of Peace

The Smoky Land

The New-made Soul


The Night's Rest

Action and Contemplation

Virgil's Farewell

The River of Regeneration

The Lady of the Flowers

The Procession of the Church




The Ascent to Paradise



Ancient Florence

The Prophecy of Dante's Exile

Vera Fides

The Planets

The Golden Stairway

Rosa rosarum

The Holy City

The White Rose of Paradise

Beatrice's Farewell


Ave Maria

The Beatific Vision


MIDWAY upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.
Ah me ! how hard a thing it is to say

What was this forest savage, rough, and stem,
Which in the very thought renews the fear.
So bitter is it, death is little more.

" nPHROUGH me the way is to the city dolent ;
1 Through me the way is to eternal dole ;
Through me the way among the people lost.
Justice incited my sublime Creator ;

Created me divine Omnipotence,

The highest Wisdom and the primal Love.
Before me there were no created things,

Only eterne, and 1 eternal last.

All hope abandon, ye who enter in ! "
These words in sombre colour 1 beheld

Written upon the summit of a gate.

WE came unto a noble castle's foot,
Seven times encompassed with lofty walk,

Defended round by a fair rivulet ;
This we passed over even as firm ground ;

Through portals seven I entered with these Sages ;

We came into a meadow of fresh verdure.
People were there with solemn eyes and slow,

Of great authority in their countenance ;

They spake but seldom, and with gentle voices.
Thus we withdrew ourselves upon one side

Into an opening luminous and lofty,

So that they all of them were visible.
There opposite, upon the green enamel.

Were pointed out to me the mighty spirits,

Whom to have seen I felt myself exalted.
I saw Electra with companions many,

'Mongst whom I saw both Hector and /Eneas,

Cesar in armour with gerfalcon eyes ;
! saw that Brutus who drove Tarquin forth,

Lucretia, Julia, Marcia and Cornelia,

And saw alone, apart, the Saladin.
When I had lifted up my brows a little,

The Master I beheld of those who know.

Sit with his philosophic family.
All gaze upon him, and all do him honour.

There I beheld both Socrates and Plato,

Who nearer him before the others stand ;

I cannot all of them portray in full,

Because so drives me onward the long theme,
That many times the word comes short of fact.

The sixfold company in two divides ;

Another way my sapient Guide conducts me
Forth from the quiet to the air that trembles ;

And to a place 1 come where nothing shines.

And as the cranes go chanting forth their lays,

Malcing in air a long line of themselves,

So saw 1 coming, uttering lamentations,
Shadows borne onward by the aforesaid stress.

Helen 1 saw, for whom so many ruthless

Seasons revolved ; and saw the great Achilles,
Who at the last hour combated with Love.
Paris 1 saw, Tristan ; and more than a thousand

Shades did he name and point out with his finger
Whom Love had separated from our life.
After that I had listened to my Teacher,
Naming the dames of eld and cavaliers.
Pity prevailed, and 1 was nigh bewildered.
And 1 began : " O Poet, willingly

Speak would 1 to those two, who go together,
And seem upon the wind to be so light."
And he to me : " Thou 'It mark, when they shall be
Nearer to us ; and then do thou implore them
By love which leadeth them, and they will come."
Soon as the wind in our direction sways them.
My voice uplift 1 : " O ye weary souls !
Come speak to us, if no one interdicts it."
As turtle-doves, called onward by desire,

With open and steady wings to the sweet nest
Fly through the air by their volition borne,
So came they from the band where Dido is.
Approaching us athwart the air malign.
So strong was the affectionate appeal.
" O living creature gracious and benignant.
Who visiting goest through the purple air,
Us, who have stained the worid incarnadine,
If were the King of the Universe our friend,

We would pray unto Him to give thee peace.
Since thou hast pity on our woe perverse.
Of what it pleases thee to hear or speak,

That will we hear, and we will speak to you.
While silent is the wind, as it is now.

Sitteth the city, wherein 1 was bom.

Upon the sea-shore where the Po descends
To rest in peace with all his retinue.

Love, that on gentle heart doth swiftly seize,
Seized this man for the person beautiful
That was ta'en from me, and still the mode offends me.

Love, that exempts no one beloved from loving.
Seized me with pleasure of this man so strongly.
That, as thou seest, it doth not yet desert me ;

Love has conducted us unto one death ;

Calna waiteth him who quenched our life ! "
These words were borne along from them to us.

As soon as 1 had heard those souls tormented,
1 bowed my face, and so long held it down
Until the Poet said to me : " What thinkest ? "

When 1 made answer, I began : " Alas !

How many pleasant thoughts, how much desire,
Conducted these unto the dolorous pass."

Then unto them 1 turned me, and 1 spake.
And 1 began : " Thine agonies, Francesca,
Sad and compassionate to weeping make me.

But tell me, at the time of those sweet sighs.

By what and in what manner Love conceded.
That you should know your dubious desires ? "

And she to me : " There is no greater sorrow
Than to be mindful of the happy time
In misery, and that thy Teacher knows.

But, if to recognise the earliest root

Of love in us thou hast so great desire,
I will do even as he who weeps and speaks.

One day we reading were for our delight

Of Launcelot, how Love did him enthrall.
Alone we were and without any fear.

Full many a time our eyes together drew

That reading, and drove the colour from our faces ;
But one point only was it that o'ercame us.

Whenas we read of the much-longed-for smile
Being by such a noble lover kissed.
This one, who ne'er from me shall be divided.

Kissed me upon the mouth all palpitating.

Galeotto was the book and he who wrote it.

That day no farther did we read therein."
And all the while one spirit uttered this.

The other one did weep so, that, for pity,

I swooned away as if I had been dying.
And fell, even as a dead body falls.

Now will 1 have thee learn my judgment of her.

He whose omniscience everything transcends

The heavens created, and gave who should guide them,
That every part to every part may shine,

Distributing the light in equal measure ;

He in like manner to the mundane splendours
Ordained a general ministress and guide,

That she might change at times the empty treasures
From race to race, from one blood to another.
Beyond resistance of all human wisdom.

Therefore one people triumphs, and another
Languishes, in pursuance of her judgment,
Which hidden is, as in the grass a serpent.

Your knowledge has no counterstand against her ;
She makes provision, judges, and pursues
Her governance, as theirs the other gods.

Her permutations have not any truce ;
Necessity makes her precipitate,
So often Cometh who his turn obtains.

And this is she who is so crucified

Even by those who ought to give her praise,
Giving her blame amiss, and bad repute.

But she is blissful, and she hears it not ;

Among the other primal creatures gladsome
She turns her sphere, and blissful she rejoices.'

AND now there came across the tur-
bid waves
The clangour of a sound with terror

Because of which both of the mar-
gins trembled ;
Not otherwise it was than of a wind
Impetuous on account of adverse

That smites the forest, and, without
Tlie branches rends, beats down, and
bears away ;
Right onward, laden with dust, it

goes superb.
And puts to flight the wild beasts
and the shepherds.
More than a thousand ruined souls 1 saw.
Thus fleeing from before one who
on foot

Was passing o'er the Styx with soles unwet.

From off his face he fanned that unctuous air,
Waving his left hand oft in front of him,
And only with that anguish seemed he weary.

Well I perceived one sent from Heaven was he,
And to the Master turned ; and he made sign
That I should quiet stand, and bow tjefore him

Ah I how disdainful he appeared to me !

He reached the gate, and with a little rod
He opened it, for there was no resistance.

Then he returned along the miry road.

And spake no word to us, but had the look
Of one whom other care constrains and goads.

Broad wings have they, and necks and faces human,
And feet with claws, and their great bellies fledged ;
They make lament upon the wondrous trees.
I heard on all sides lamentations uttered,

And person none beheld I who might make them.
Whence, utterly bewildered, 1 stood still.
I think he thought that 1 perhaps might think

So many voices issued through those trunks
From people who concealed themselves for us ;
Therefore the Master said : " If thou break off
Some little spray from any of these trees.
The thoughts thou hast will wholly be made vain."
Then stretched 1 forth my hand a little forward.

And plucked a branchlet off from a great thorn ;
And the trunk cried : " Why dost thou mangle me ? '
After it had become embrowned with blood.

It recommenced its cry : " Why dost thou rend me ?
Hast thou no spirit of pity whatsoever ?
Men once we were, and now are changed to trees."

FROM bridge to bridge thus, speaking other things
Of which my comedy cares not to sing,
We came along, and held the summit, when
We halted to behold another fissure

Of Malebolge and vain laments ;

And 1 beheld it marvellously dark,
As in the Arsenal of the Venetians

Boils in the winter the tenacious pitch

To smear their unsound vessels o'er again,
For sail they cannot ; and instead thereof

One makes his vessel new, and one recaulks

The ribs of that which many a voyage has made ,
One hammers at the prow, one at the stem ;

This one makes oars, and that one cordage twists ;

Another mends the mainsail and the mizzen.

■ ^-> ^ a.A.'!:i>\ .V s^v^-'^yj^TTr



EVEN thus by the great sages 't is con-
The phcenix dies, and then is born

When it approaches its five-hundredth
year ;
On herb and grain it feeds not in its life,
But only on tears of incense and

And nard and myrrh are its last, wind-


THE* rATE*W*0r*m*VLY5SE5


THEN of the antique flame the greater horn,
Murmuring, began to wave itself about
Even as a flame doth which the wind fatigues.

Thereafterward, the summit to and fro

Moving as if it were the tongue that spake.
It uttered forth a voice, and said : " When 1

From Circe had departed, who concealed me

More than a year there near unto Gagta,
Or ever yet ^neas named it so.

Nor fondness for my son, nor reverence

For my old father, nor the due affection
Which joyous should have made Penelope,

Could overcome within me the desire

I had to be experienced of the world,
And of the vice and virtue of mankind ;

But I put forth on the high open sea

With one sole ship, and that small company
By which I never had deserted been.

Both of the shores I saw as far as Spain,

Far as Morocco, and the isle of Sardes,
And the others which that sea bathes round

I and my company were old and slow

When at that narrow passage we arrived
Where Hercules his landmarks set as signals.

That man no farther onward should adventure.

On the right hand Ivhind me left I Seville,
And on the other already had left Ceuta.

' O brothers, who amid a hundred thousand

Perils,' 1 said, ' have come unto the West,
To this so inconsiderable vigil

Which is remaining of your senses still.

Be ye unwilling to deny the knowledge,
Following the sun, of the unpeopled world.

Consider ye the seed from which ye sprang ;

Ye were not made to live like unto brutes,
But for pursuit of virtue and of knowledge.'

So eager did 1 render my companions,

With this brief exhortation, for the voyage,
That then I hardly could have held them back.

And having turned our stem unto the morning.

We of the oars made wings for our mad flight.
Evermore gaining on the larboard side.

Already all the stars of the other pole

The night beheld, and ours so very low
It did not rise above the ocean floor.

Five times rekindled and as many quenched

Had been the splendour underneath the moon,
Since we had entered into the deep pass.

When there appeared to us a mountain, dim

From distance, and it seemed to me so high
As 1 had never any one beheld.

Joyful were we, and soon it turned to weeping ;
For out of the new land a whirlwind rose.
And smote upon the fore part of the ship.

Three times it made her whirl with all the waters.
At the fourth time it made the stern uplift.
And the prow downward go, as pleased Another,

Until the sea above us closed again."






TO run o'er better waters hoists its sail
The little vessel of my genius now,
That leaves behind itself a sea so
cruel ;
And of that second kingdom will I sing
Wherein the human spirit doth

purge itself,
And to ascend to heaven becometh
Sweet colour of the oriental sapphire
That was upgathered in the cloud-
less aspect
Of the pure air, as far as the first
Unto mine eyes did recommence delight
Soon as 1 issued forth from the dead

Which had with sadness filled mine
eyes and breast.


The beauteous planet that to love incites
Was making all the orient to laugh,
Veiling the Fishes that were in her escort.

To the right hand I turned and fixed my mind
Upon the other pole, and saw four stars
Ne'er seen before save by the primal people.
The dawn was vanquishing the matin hour
Which fled before it, so that from afar
I recognised the trembling of the sea.

Little by little there came forth another.
My master yet had uttered not a word

While the first whiteness into wings unfolded ;

But when he clearly recognised the pilot,
He cried : " Make haste, make haste, to bow the knee !

Behold the Angel of God ! fold thou thy hands !

Henceforward shalt thou see such officers !
See how he scorneth human arguments,

So that nor oar he wants, nor other sail

Than his own wings, between so distant shores.
See how he holds them pointed up to heaven.

Fanning the air with those eternal pinions.

That do not moult themselves like mortal hair ! "
Then as still nearer and more near us came

The Bird Divine, more radiant he appeared,

So that near by the eye could not endure him.
But down I cast it ; and he came to shore

With a small vessel, very swift and light.

So that the water swallowed naught thereof.
Upon the stern stood the Celestial Pilot ;

Beatitude seemed written in his face.

And more than a hundred spirits sat within.
" In exitu Israel de i^gypto 1 "

They chanted all together in one voice.

With whatso in that psalm is after written.
Then made he sign of holy rood upon them.

Whereat all cast themselves upon the shore.

And he departed swiftly as he came.


AND one of them began: " Whoe'er thou
Thus going turn tliine eyes, consider well
if e'er thou saw me in the other world."
1 turned me tow'rds him, and looked at him
closely ;
Blond was he, beautiful, and of noble

But one of his eyebrows had a blow
When with humility I had disclaimed

E'er having seen him, "Now behold!"

he said,
And showed me high upon his breast a
Then said he with a smile : " I am Manfredi."

The Indian wood resplendent and serene,
Fresh emerald the moment it is broken

By herbage and by flowers within that hollow

Planted, each one in colour would be vanquished,
As by its greater vanquished is the less.

Nor in that place had nature painted only,

But of the sweetness of a thousand odours
Made there a mingled fragrance and unknown.

"Salve Regina," on the green and flowers
There seated, singing, spirits 1 beheld,
Which were not visible outside the valley.

^iO ^rkiriqj

TWAS now the hour that tumeth back desire
In those who sail the sea, and melts the heart,
The day they 've said to their sweet friends farewell.
And the new pilgrim penetrates with love,
If he doth hear from far away a bell
That seemeth to deplore the dying day.

1SAW that army of the gentle-born
Thereafterward in silence upward gaze,
As if in expectation, pale and humble ;
And from on high come forth and down
I saw two Angels with two flaming

Truncated and deprived of their points.
Green as the little leaflets just now bom
Their garments were, which, by their

verdant pinions
Beaten and blown abroad, they trailed
One just above us came to take his station,
And one descended to the opposite

So that the people were contained be-
tween them.
Clearly in them discerned 1 the blond head ;
But in their faces was the eye bewil-
As faculty confounded by excess.
" From Mary's bosom both of them have
Sordello said, " as guardians of the

Along the three stairs upward with good will
Did my Conductor draw me saying : " Ask
Humbly that he the fastening may undo."

Devoutly at the holy feet 1 cast me,

For mercy's sake besought that he would open,
But first upon my breast three times 1 smote.

And when upon their hinges were turned round
The swivels of that consecrated gate.
Which are of metal, massive and sonorous.

At the first thunder-peal 1 turned attentive.

And " Te Deum laudamus " seemed to hear
In voices mingled with sweet melody.

Exactly such an image rendered me

That which I heard, as we are wont to catch,
When people singing with the organ stand ;

For now we hear, and now hear not, the words.


HEN I perceived the embankment
round about
To be of marble white, and so adorned
With sculptures, that not only Poly-

But Nature's self, had there been put to
The Angel, who came down to earth with tidings
Of peace, that had been wept for many a year.
And opened Heaven from its long interdict.
In front of us appeared so truthfully

There sculptured in a gracious attitude.
He did not seem an image that is silent.
One would have swoni that he was saying " Ave ; '
For she was there in effigy portrayed
Who turned the key to ope the exalted love,
And in her mien this language had impressed,
" Ecce ancilla Dei," as distinctly
As any figure stamps itself in wax.

I moved my feet from where 1 had been standing,
To examine near at hand another story.
Which after Michal glimmered white upon me.

There the high glory of the Roman Prince
Was chronicled, whose great beneficence
Moved Gregory to his great victory ;

'T is of the Emperor Trajan I am speaking ;
And a poor widow at his bridle stood.
In attitude of weeping and of grief.

Around about him seemed it thronged and full
Of cavaliers, and the eagles in the gold
Above them visibly in the wind were moving.

The wretched woman in the midst of these

Seemed to be saying : " Give me vengeance, Lord,
For my dead son, for whom my heart is breaking."

And he to answer her : " Now wait until

I shall return." And she : " My Lord," like one
In whom grief is impatient, " shouldst thou not

Return." And he : " Who shall be where I am

Will give it thee." And she •. *' Good deed of others
What boots it thee, if thou neglect thine own ? "

Whence he : " Now comfort thee, for it behoves me
That ! discharge my duty ere 1 move ;
Justice so wills and pity doth retain me."

Whoe'er of pencil master was or stile.

That could portray the shades and traits which there
Would cause each subtile genius to admire .'

Dead seemed the dead ; the living seemed alive !


Withouten which in this rough wilderness
Backward goes he who toils most to advance.

And even as we the trespass we have suffered
Pardon in one another, pardon thou
Benignly, and regard not our desert.

Our virtue, which is easily o'ercome,

Put not to proof with the old Adversary,
But thou from him who spurs it so, deliver.

This last petition verily, dear Lord,

Not for ourselves is made, who need it not.

But for their sake who have remained behind us.'



O," ASKED 1 him, " art thou not Oderisi,
Agobbio's honour, and honour of that art
Which is in Paris called illuminating ? "

" Brother," said he, " more laughing are the leaves
Touched by the brush of Franco Bolognese ;
All his the honour now, and mine in part.

In sooth I had not been so courteous

While 1 was living, for the great desire
Of excellence, on which my heart was bent.

Here of such pride is paid the forfeiture ;
And yet 1 should not be here were it not
That, having power to sin, I turned to GOD.

O thou vain glory of the human powers,

How little green upon thy summit lingers,
if 't be not followed by an age of grossness !

In painting Cimabue thought that he

Should hold the field, now Giotto has the cry,
So that the other's fame is growing dim.

So has one Guido from the other taken

The glory of our tongue, and he perchance

Is born, who from the nest shall chase them both.

Naught is this mundane rumour but a breath

Of wind, that comes now this way and now that
And changes name, because it changes side."


)WARDS us came the being beautiful
Vested in white, and in his countenance
Such as appears the tremulous morning star.
His arms he opened, and opened then his wings ;

" Come," said he, " near at hand here are the steps,

This way goes he who goeth after peace."

His aspect had bereft me of my sight.

So that I turned me back unto my Teacher,
Like one who goeth as his hearing guides him.

And as the harbinger of early dawn

The air of May doth move and breathe out fragrance,
Impregnate all with herbage and with flowers,

So did 1 feel a breeze strike in the midst

My front, and felt the moving of the plumes
That breathed around an odour of ambrosia.

WE passed along, athwart the twilight peering
Forward as far as ever eye could stretch
Against the sunbeams serotine and lucent ;
And, lo ! by slow degrees a smoke approached
In our direction, sombre as the night.
Nor was there place to hide one's self therefrom.
This of our eyes and the pure air bereft us.

Darkness of hell, and of a night deprived
Of every planet under a poor sky,
As much as may be tenebrous with cloud,

Ne'er made unto my sight so thick a veil.

As did that smoke which there enveloped us,
Nor to the feeling of so rough a texture.

Voices I heard, and every one appeared

To supplicate for peace and misericord

The Lamb of God who takes away our sins.

Still " Agnus Dei " their exordium was ;

One word there was in all and metre one.
So that all harmony appeared among them.

Remember, Reader, if e'er in the Alps

A mist o'ertook thee, through which thou couldst sec
Not otherwise than through its membrane mole,

How, when the vapours humid and condensed
Begin to dissipate themselves, the sphere
Of the sun feebly enters in among them.

And thy imagination will be swift

In coming to perceive how I re-saw
The sun at first, that was already setting.

Thus, to the faithful footsteps of my Master

Mating mine own, I issued from that cloud

To rays already dead on the low shores.

" f N days when the good Titus, with the aid
1 Of the supremest King, avenged the wounds

Whence issued forth the blood by Judas sold,
Under the name that most endures and honours,

Was I on earth," that spirit made reply,

" Greatly renowned, but not with faith as yet.
My vocal spirit was so sweet that Rome

Me, a Thoulousian, drew unto herself,

Where 1 deserved to deck my brows with myrtle.
Statius the people name me still on earth ;

1 sang of Thebes, and then of great Achilles ;

But on the way fell with my second burden.


Online Library1265-1321 Dante AlighieriAd astra; being selections from the Divine comedy of Dante; → online text (page 1 of 2)