1265-1321 Dante Alighieri.

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Then art thou near unto thy pathway's end ;
There from thy labour look to find repose.

I know that this is true, but say no more.'
And this word uttered, not far off addressed

Me thus a voice : ' It may be that before
That pass, thou wilt have need to sit and rest.'

At sound thereof we both looked round, and there
Beheld a huge rock, close to our left hand,

Whereof till now we had not been aware.
Thither we toiled, and in its shade a band

Behind it stood with a neglectful air,
As men in idleness are wont to stand.


And one was seated, hanging down his face
Between his knees, which he with If nguid limb,

Looking exhausted, held in his embrace.
' O my sweet Seignior !' I exclaimed, 'note him !

Lazier-looking than had laziness been
His sister-born.' Turning towards us, at length



He gazed, slow lifting o'er his thigh his chin,
And drawled, ' Go up, then, thou who hast such strength,

I knew who that was then ; and though the ascent
Had made me pant somewhat, I kept my pace,

Spite of short breath ; close up to him I went,
And he droned forth, scarce lifting up his face,

' Hast thou found out yet how the Sun this way
O'er thy left shoulder doth his chariot guide ?'

His sloth, and what few words he had to say,
Made me smile slightly, and I thus replied :

' No more, Belacqua, do I mourn thy fate ;
But tell me wherefore in this place I see

Thee sitting thus ? Dost thou for escort wait,
Or has thy old slow habit seized on thee ? '

And he ' brother ! what boots it to climb ?
God's Angel sitting at the gate denies

Me way to penance until so much time
Be past as living I beheld the skies.

Outside I must remain here for the crime
Of dallying to the last my contrite sighs,

Unless I happily some help derive
From the pure prayer ascending from a heart

That lives in grace : a prayer not thus alive
Heaven doth not hear : what aid can such impart ?'


Now before me the Poet up the height
Began to climb, saying, ' Come on, for o'er

This hill's meridian hangs the Sun, and Night
Sets foot already on Morocco's shore.'



ALREADY parted from those shades, I went

Following the footsteps of my Guide, when one
Behind me towards my form his finger bent,

Exclaiming, ' See ! no ray falls from the sun
To the left hand of him that walks below !

And sure ! he moveth like a living man.'
Mine eyes I turned, at hearing him say so,

And saw them with a gaze all wonder scan
Now me, still me, and now the broken light

My body caused. The Master then to me :
' Why let thy wonder keep thee from the height

To drag so slowly ? what concerns it thee
What here is whispered ? only follow thou

After my steps, and let the crowd talk on :
Stand like a tower, firm-based, that will not bow

Its head to breath of winds that soon are gone.
The man o'er whose thought second thought hath sway,

Wide of his mark is ever sure to miss,
Because one force the other wears away.'


What could I answer but ' I come ' to this ?
I said it something sprinkled with the hue

Which, in less faults, excuseth one from blame.
Meanwhile across the mountain-side there drew,

Just in our front, a train that as they came
Sang Miserere, verse by verse. When they

Observed my form, and noticed that I gave
No passage through me to the solar ray,

Into a long hoarse ' !' they changed their stave ;
And two, as envoys, ran up with demand,

' In what condition is it that ye go ? '
And my Lord said, ' Return ye to the band

Who sent you towards us, and give them to know
This body is true flesh. If they delayed

At sight, I deem so, of the shadow here,
Thereby sufficient answer shall be made :

Him let them reverence, it may prove dear/

I never saw a meteor dart so quick

Through the serene at midnight, or a gleam

Of lightning flash at sunset, through a thick

Piled August cloud, but these would faster seem

As they retreated ; having joined the rest,

Back like an unreined troop towards us they sped.

' This throng is large by whom we thus are pressed,


And come to implore of thee,' the Poet said ;
' Therefore keep on, and as thou mov'st attend.'

' O soul who travellest, with the very frame

Which thou wert born with, to thy blessed end,
Stay thy step somewhat I' crying thus they came.

' Look if among us any thou dost know,
That thou of him to earth ruayst tidings bear.

Stay, wilt thou not ? ah ! wherefore must thou go ?
We to our dying hour were sinners there ;

And all were slain ; but at the murderous blow,
Warned us an instant light that flashed from heaven,

And all from life did peacefully depart,
Contrite, forgiving, and by Him forgiven,

To look on Whom such longing yearns our heart.'
1 None do I recognise/ I answered, ' even

Scanning your faces with mine utmost art ;
But whatsoe'er, ye blessed souls, I may

To give you comfort, speak, and I will do ;
Yea, by that peace which leads me on my way

From world to world such guidance to pursue.'


' Without such protestation,' one replied,
' Unless thy will a want of power defeat,


In thy kind offices we all confide ;

Whence I, sole speaking before these, entreat
If thou mayst e'er the territory see

That lies betwixt Romagna and the seat *
Where Charles hath sway, that thou so courteous be

As to implore the men in Fano's town
To put up prayers there earnestly for me

That I may purge the sins that weigh me down.
There I was born ; but those deep wounds of mine

Through which my life-blood issued, I received
Among the children of Antenor's line, t

Where most secure my person I believed ;
'Twas through that lord of Este I was sped

Who past all justice had me in his hate.
O'ertak'n at Oriaco, had I fled

Towards Mira, still where breath is I might wait.
But to the marsh I made my way instead,

And there, entangled in the cany brake
And mire, I fell, and on the ground saw spread,

From mine own veins outpoured, a living lake.'

* The Marquisate or March of Ancona was then governed by Charles of
Valois, who held Naples.

t That is, in the territory of Padua, founded, as the student will remember
by the Trojan Antenor, whose tomb is shown in Padua to this day.



Here spake another ; ' may that desire

So be fulfilled which to the lofty Mount
Conducts thy feet as thou shalt bring me nigher

To mine by thy good prayers. I am the Count
Buonconte ; Montefeltro's lord was I.

Giovanna cares not, no one cares for me ;
Therefore with these I go dejectedly/

And I to him : ' What violence took thee,
Or chance of war, from Campaldino then

So far that none e'er knew thy burial-place ?'
'0,' answered he, ' above the hermit's glen *

A stream, whose course is Casentino's base,
Springs in the Apennine, Archiano called ;

There, where that name is lost in Arno's flood,
Exhausted I arrived, footsore and galled,

Pierced in my throat, painting the plain with blood.
Here my sight failed me and I fell ; the last

Word that I spake was Mary's name, and then
From my deserted flesh the spirit passed.

The truth I tell now, tell to living men ;

* That is to say, the hermitage of the Camaldolites in Miltou's VaU'ombrosa.


God's Angel took me, but that fiend of Hell

Screamed out : ' Ha ! thou from heaven, why robb'st

thou me ?
His soul thou get'st for one small tear that fell,

But of this offal other work I'll see.'
Thou know'st how vapours gathering in the air

Mount to the cold and there condensed distil
Back into water. That Bad Will which ne'er

Seeks aught but evil joined his evil will,
With intellect, and, from the great force given

By his fell nature, moved the mist and wind,
And o'er the valley drew the darkened heaven,

Covering it with clouds as day declined
From Pratomagno far as the great chain,*

So that the o'erburdened air to water turned ;
Then the floods fell, and every rivulet's vein

Swelled with the superflux the soaked earth spurned.
When to large streams the mingling torrents grew,

Down to the royal river with such force
They rushed that no restraint their fury knew.

Here fierce Archiano found my frozen corse
Stretched at its mouth, and into Arno's wave

Dashed it and loosened from my breast the sign,

* Far as to the Upper Apennines.


Which when mine anguish mastered me I gave,
Of holy cross with my crossed arms : in fine,

O'er bed and bank my form the streamlet drave
Whirling, and with its own clay covered mine.'


' stay ! when thou shalt walk the world once more,

And have repose from that long way of thine,'
Said the third spirit, following those before,

* Remember Pia ! for that name was mine :
Sienna gave me birth : Maremma's fen

Was my undoing : he knows that full well
Who ringed my finger with his gem and then,

After espousal, took me there to dwell.'



WHEN from the game of hazard men depart,

The loser stays, and, casting o'er his throws,
Learns a hard lesson with a heavy heart !

While with the winner all the assembly goes :
One runs before, one plucks his robe behind,

But he delays not, though beside his way
Another comrade calls himself to mind :

And every one perceives that he would say :
' Press me no more ! ' to whom he lifts his hand,

And by so doing keeps the crowd at bay ;
Such I was, freeing me from that dense band,

To this arid that one bending my survey,
And promising to answer each demand.

Here was that Aretine whose lethal wound
The savage hands of Ghin' di Tacco made ;

Also that knight who in pursuit was drowned.

Here with stretched palms Frederic Novello prayed,


The Pisan, too, at whose defeat his sire,

Good old Marzucco, showed a strength sublime.
I saw Count Orso, and that soul whom dire

Envy and spite, but no committed crime,
Tore from his mortal frame, as he declared ;

Pierre de la Brosse I mean ; so, while she may,
Be that bad woman of Brabant prepared

Lest she go join a far worse flock than they.

When I had freed me from the gathering press

Of shadows praying still that others' prayers
Might hasten forward their own blessedness,

I thus began : ' Thy page, my Light ! declares
Expressly, in one text, that Heaven's decree

To no beseeching bendeth.* Yet this race
Prays with such purpose : will their praying be

Without avail ? or have I in that place
Misread thy word ? ' He answered : ' It is gross

And plain to reason : no fallacious hope
Is theirs, if thy sound mind consider close ;

The topmost height of judgment doth not slope,
Because love's fire may instantly complete

The penance due from one of these ; but where

* ' Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.' VIRG. sEn. vi. 376.


I closed that point with words which you repeat,

A gulf betwixt the Most High was and prayer :
No praying there could cover past defect.

Yet verily, in so profound a doubt
Rest not, till she who, 'twixt thine intellect

And truth, shall be thy light, herself speak out.
Dost understand me? Beatris I mean :

Thou shalt behold her in a loftier place,
This mountain summit, smiling and serene/

' Good Guide,' said I, ' then let us mend our pace,
I feel no more my weariness : o'er us

The mountain shadow grows and hides mine own.
' We will go forward ' he gave answer thus

' Far as we can, ere this day's light be gone ;
But thy thought wanders from the fact. That height

Ere thou canst gain, thou shalt behold the day's
Re turning orb, who now so hides his light

Behind the hill that thou break'st not his rays ;
But yonder look ! one spirit, all alone,

By itself stationed, bends toward us his gaze :
The readiest passage will by him be shown.'

We came up tow'rds it : O proud Lombard soul !
How thou didst wait, in thy disdain unstirred,
And thy majestic eyes didst slowly roll !



Meanwhile to us it never uttered word,
But let us move, just giving us a glance,

Like as a lion looks in his repose.
Then Virgil, making a more near advance,

Prayed him to show us where the mountain rose
With easier slope, and still that soul replied

Nothing to his demand ; but question made
About life, and our country. My sweet Guide

Began to answer : ' Mantua ' and the shade
From where it had been, separate from his band,

All rapt in self, sprang up towards him in haste.
Saying : ' Mantuan, I am of thy land,

I am Sordello.' And the twain embraced.

Ah slavish Italy ! thou common inn

For woe to lodge at ! without pilot, thou
Ship in great tempest ! not what thou hast been,

Lady of provinces, but brothel now !
That gentle soul so quickly, at the dear

Sound that recalled his country, forward came
To grace his townsman with a greeting here ;

And now thy living children, to their shame,
Are all at war, and they who dwell most near

Prey, each on each, with moat and wall the same ?
Search, wretched ! search all round thine either coast,


And then look inland, in thy bosom, see
If peace in any part of thee thou know'st !

What though Justinian made new reins for thee,
What boots it if the saddle remain void ?

Without his mending thy disgrace were less.
And ye tribe that ought to be employed

In your devotions, and let Caesar press
The seat of Caesar, if God's word you heed,

See, since your hand hath on the bridle been,
How wanton grown and wicked is the steed,

Through want from you of the spur's discipline.
O German Albert ! who abandonest

Her now run wild, unchecked by curb of thine,
When thou shouldst ride herwith thy heels hard-pressed;

May heaven's just judgment light upon thy line,
And be it something strange, and manifest,

To make him tremble that comes after thee,
Because, for lust of barren fiefs out there, ""

Thou and thy Father have not shamed to see
The empire's garden desolate and bare.

Come see the Capulets and Montagues,
Monaldi and Filippeschi, thou being

Without concern ! these wan with fears, and those

* In Germany.


Already crushed : come sate thyself with seeing,

Thou cruel man, the outrage that is done
To thy best blood, and make their bruises well !

And thou shalt see, too, thou cold looker-on,
Santafiore's lords how safe they dwell.

Come see thy Rome that mourning all alone
Weepeth, a widow, calling day and night,

Why, my Caesar, dost thou leave thine own ?
Come see what love there how all hearts unite !

And if no pity move thee at our moan
Blush for thy fame beholding such a sight.

And, lawful if I speak, most high Jove,
Who wast for our sakes crucified on earth,

Are thy just eyes who watchest men above
Turned elsewhere ? Or is this before the birth

Of some great good a preparation hid
From us in the abyss of thy intent,

That all the Italian towns are tyrant-rid,
And every clown that comes on faction bent

Makes as much clamour as Marcellus did ?

My Florence ! well may'st thou remain content
At this digression ; it concerns not thee,

Thanks to thy people, great in argument !
Many with justice in their hearts there be


Who stay the shaft lest, coming to the bow

Without discretion, it might err ; but they
On their lips wear it. Many men are slow

To serve the state, and turn from place away ;
Thy people do not every one bends low,

Crying before he's called for : 'I obey.'
Now make thee joyful, who may'st triumph well ;

Thou who art rich so wise ! and so at peace !
If I speak true in this, let the truth tell.

Athens and Sparta, that raised civil Greece
To such a height, and framed the ancient laws,

Towards the well-ordered life made small beginning
Compared with thee, whose legislation draws

Threads out so fine that thy October spinning
Comes before mid-November to a pause.

How many times hast thou renewed thy men,
Yea, within days that in thy memory dwell,

And changed thy laws and offices, and then
Customs and coins ! if thou remember well

Thou wilt behold thyself, unless quite blind,
Like a sick woman, restless, that in vain

Seeks on her pillow some repose to find,
And turns and turns as 'twere to parry pain.



THREE times and four these greetings, glad and free,

Had been repeated, when Bordello's shade
Drew from embrace, and said : ' Now, who are ye ?'

And thereupon my Guide this answer made :
* Ere to this mountain those just souls, to whom

Heavenward to climb was given, had guided been,
My bones Octavian gathered to the tomb.

Virgil I am, and for none other sin
But want of faith was I from heaven shut out.'

Like one who suddenly before him sees
Something that wakes his wonder, whence, in doubt,

He says, It is not; then believing, 'Tis!
Sordello stood, then back to him without

Lifting his eyelids, turned and clasped his knees.
' glory of the Latin race ! ' he cried,

' Through whom to such a height our language rose,
Oh ! of my birthplace everlasting pride,

What merit or grace on me thy sight bestows "?


Tell me, unless to hear thee is denied,

Com'st thou from hell, or where hast thou repose 1 '


He to this answered : ' Grace from heaven moved me,

And leads me still : the circles every one
Of sorrow's kingdom have I trod to thee.

My sight is barred from that supernal Sun,
Whom I knew late, and thou desir'st to see,

Not for I did, but for I left undone.
A place below there is where no groans rise

From torment, sad alone with want of light,
Where the lament sounds not like moan, but sighs.

The little innocents whom Death's fell bite
Snatched, ere their sin was purified, are there :

And there I dwell with guiltless ones that still
The three most holy virtues did not wear,

Though all the rest they knew, and did fulfil.
But if thou knowest, and may'st us apprise,

Tell us how we most speedily may find
Where Purgatory's actual entrance lies.' *

* ' La dove '1 Purgatorio ha dritto inizio.'



' We have/ he answered, ' no set place assigned ;
Around and upward I am free to stray ;

My guidance far as I may go I lend :
But see how fast already fails the day !

And in the night none ever can ascend :
Best, then, we think of some good resting-place.

Some souls there be, removed here to the right,
Whom, if thou wilt, I'll show thee face to face,

And thou shalt know them not without delight.'
' How then/ said Virgil, ' should a soul aspire

To climb by night, would other check be found?
Or his own weakness hinder his desire ?'

And good Sordello drew along the ground
His finger, saying : ' Look ! not even this line

May'st thou pass over when the sun hath gone :
Not that aught else, though, would thy power confine,

Save want of light, from journeying upwards on :
Darkness makes impotent thy will. By night

One may go back again, and grope below,
And, while the horizon shuts the day from sight,

Wander about the hillside to and fro/
My Master then, as 'twere in wonder spake :


' Now lead us thitherward where thou hast said,
That we in lingering shall such pleasure take/

Nor had we forward far advanced our tread,
When I perceived that on the mountain-side

A valley opened, just like valleys here.
' We will go forward,' said our shadowy guide,

' Where on the slope yon hollow doth appear ;
There let us wait the dawning of the day/

'Twixt steep and level went a winding path
Which led us where the vale-side dies away

Till less than half its height the margin hath.

Gold and fine silver, ceruse, cochineal,

India's rich wood, heaven's lucid blue serene,
Or glow that emeralds freshly broke reveal,

Had all been vanquished by the varied sheen
Of this bright valley set with shrubs and flowers,

As less by greater. Nor had Nature there
Only in painting spent herself, but showers

Of odours manifold made sweet the air
With one strange mingling of confused perfume,

And there new spirits chanting, I descried,
' Salve Regina ! ' seated on the bloom

And verdure sheltered by the dingle side.



' Ere yon low sun shall nestle in his bed '

(Began the Mantuan who had brought us here),
' Desire not down among them to be led ;

You better will observe how they appear,
Both face and action, from this bank, instead

Of mixing with them in the dale. That one
Who sits the highest, looking, 'mid the throng,

As though some duty he had left undone,
Who moves his lips not with the rest in song,

Was Rodolph, Emperor, he who might have healed
Those wounds which Italy have so far spent

That slow relief all other helpers yield.
The other, that on soothing him seems bent,

Once ruled the region whence those waters are
Which Moldau bears to Elbe, and Elbe the sea.

His name was Ottocar, and better far,
Yea, in his very swaddling-robe, was he

Than Vincislaus, his big-bearded son
Whom luxury and ease have made so gross.

And he of slender nose, who, with the one
So bland of aspect, seems in consult close,

Died flying, and in dust his lilies laid.


Look ! how he beats the breast he cannot calm :

Mark too his mate there sighing, who hath made
For his pale cheek a pillow of his palm !

One is the Father of that pest of France,
Father-in-law the other : well they know

His lewd, base life ! this misery is the lance
That to the core cuts either of them so.

And he so stout of limb, in unison
Singing with him there of the manly nose,

Of every virtue put the girdle on ;
And if that youth behind him in repose

Had after him reigned in his Father's stead,
Virtue from vase to vase had been well poured,

Which of the other heirs may not be said.
Frederic and James now o'er those kingdoms lord,

In whom that better heritage lies dead.
Rarely doth human goodness rise again

Through the tree's branches : He hath willed it so
Who gives this boon of excellence, that men

Should ask of Him who can alone bestow.'
' Not more these words of mine at Peter glance

Than him he sings with (of the large nose there)
Whose loss Apulia mourneth, and Provence,

So ill the tree doth with its stock compare !
Even so much more of her good lord his wife


Constance yet vaunts herself, than Margaret may,
Or Beatris. That king of simplest life,

Harry of England, seated there survey
All by himself : his branches are more blest !

The one who sits there with uplifted gaze
Among the group, but lower than the rest,

Is Marquis William, in whose cause the frays
Of Alexandria have with grief oppressed

Both Monferrato and the Canavese/



'TwAS now the hour that brings to men at sea,

Who in the morn have bid sweet friends farewell,
Fond thoughts and longing back with them to be ;

And thrills the pilgrim with a tender spell
Of love, if haply, new upon his way,

He faintly hear a chime from some far bell,
That seems to mourn the dying of the day ;

When I forbore my listening faculty
To mark one spirit uprisen amid the band,

Who joined both palms and lifted them on high
(First having claimed attention with his hand)

And towards the Orient bent so fixed an eye
As 'twere he said, ' My God ! on thee alone

My longing rests.' Then from his lips there came
* Te lucis ante,' so devout of tone,

So sweet, my mind was ravished by the same :
The others next, full sweetly and devout,

Fixing their gaze on the supernal wheels,
Followed him chanting the whole Psalm throughout.



Now, reader, to the truth my verse conceals
Make sharp thy vision ; subtle is the veil,

So fine 'twere easily passed through unseen.
I saw that gentle army, meek and pale, "

Silently gazing upward with a mien
As of expectancy, and from on high

Beheld two angels with two swords descend
Which flamed with fire, but, as I could descry,

They bare no points, being broken at the end.
Green robes, in hue more delicate than spring's

Tender new leaves, they trailed behind and fanned
With gentle beating of their verdant wings.

One, coming near, just over us took stand,
Down to th' opponent bank the other sped,

So that the spirits were between them grouped.
Full well could I discern each flaxen head ;

But in their faces mine eyes' virtue drooped,
As 'twere confounded by excess and dead.

* From Mary's bosom thay have both come here,'
Sordello said ' this valley to protect

Against the serpent that will soon appear : '
Whence I, unknowing which way to expect


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