1265-1321 Dante Alighieri.

The Vision : or, Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, of Dante Alighieri online

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I clipp'd him round the neck, for so he bade ; 65

And noting time and place, he, when the wings
Enough were oi)'d, cauglit fast the shaggy sides,
And down from ])ile to pile descending stepp'd
Between the thick fell and the jagged ice.

Soon as he reach'd the point, whereat the thigh 70
Upon the swelling of the haunches turns,
My leader there with pain and struggling hard
Turn'd round his head, where his feet stood before.
And grappled at the fell, as one who mounts,
Tliat into hell methought we turn'd again. 75

" Expect that by such stairs as these," thus sj^ake

!The teacher, ])anting like a man forespent,
" We must depart from evil so extreme."
Then at a rocky opening issued forth,
I And plac'd me on a brink to sit, next join'd 80

With wary step my side. I rais'd mine eyes,
; Believing that I Lucifer shoiild see

Where he Avas lately left, but saw him now
I With legs held upward. Let the grosser sort,
I Who see not what the point was I had pass'd, 85

I Bethink them if sore toil oppress'd me then.
" Arise," my master cried, " upon thy feet.
The way is long, and much ^lncouth the road ;
And now within one hour and half of noon
The sun returns." It was no palace-hall 90

Lofty and luminous wherein we stood,-
But natural dungeon where ill footing was
And scant supply of light. " Ere from th' abyss

120 HELL.

1 scp'rate," tlius when risen I began,

"My guide! vouchsafe few words to set nie free 95

From error's tliraldom, Wliere is now the iceV

IIow standeth lie in posture thus revers'd ?

And liow from eve to morn in space so brief

Ifatli tlie sun made his transit?" lie in few

Thus answering s])a]<e : "Tliou deemest thou art still 100

On til' other side the centre, where I grasp'd

Th' abhorred worm, that boreth through the worhl.

Thou wast on tli' other side, so long as I

Descended ; when I turn'd, thou didst o'erpass

That point, to which from ev'ry part is dragg'd 105

All heavy substance. Thou art now arriv'd

Under the hemisphere opposed to that,

Which the great continent doth overspread,

And underneath whose canopy expir'd

Tlie Man, that was born sinless, and so liv'd. 110

Thy feet are planted on the smallest sphere.

Whose other aspect is Judecca. Morn

Here rises, when there evening sets : and he.

Whose shaggy pile was scal'd, yet standeth fix'd.

As at the first. On this part he fell down 115

From heav'n ; and th' earth, here prominent before.

Through fear of him did veil her with the sea,

And to our hemis])here retir'd. Perchance

To shun him Avas the vacant s])ace left here

By what of firm land on this side appears, 120

Tiiat sprang aloof." There is a place beneath.

From Belzebub as distant, as extends

Tlie vaulted tomb, discover'd not by sight,

But by the sound of brooklet, that descends

This way along the hollow of a rock, 125

Which, as it winds with no preci])itous course,

The Avave hath eaten. By that hidden way

My g;uide and I did enter, to return

To the fair Avorld : and heedless of repose

We climb'd, he first, I following his steps, 130

Till on our view the beautiful lights of heav'n

Dnwn'd through a circular o]HMiing in the cave :

'i'hcnce issuiuir we ai-'aiu l)eheld the stars



O'er better waves to speed her rajiid coiirse

The liglit bark of my genius lifts tlie sail,

Well pleas'd to leave so cruel sea behind ;

And of that second region will I sing,

In }vhicli the human s])irit from sinful blot 5

Is ])urg'd, and for ascent to Heaven prepares.

Here, O ye hallow'd Nine ! for in your train
I follow, here the dcaden'd strain revive ;
Nor let Callio])e refuse to sound

A somewhat higher song, of that loud tone, 10

Which when the wi-etched birds of chattering note

I Had heard, they of forgiveness lost all hope.

{ Sweet hue of eastern sapphire, that was spread

* O'er the serene aspect of the pure air,

High up as the first circle, to mine eyes 15

Unwonted joy renew'd, soon as I 'scap'd
Forth from the atmosphere of deadly gloom,
That had mine eyes and bosom fill'd with grief.
The radiant ]»lanet, that to love invites,

!Made all the orient laugh, and veil'd beneath 20

Tlie Pisces' light, that in his escort came.
To the right hand I turn'd, and fix'd my mind
\ On the' other pole attentive, where I saw
I Four stars ne'er seen before save by the ken
I Of our first parents. Heaven of their rays 25

I Seem'd joyous. O thou northern site, bereft
Indeed, and widow'd, since of these depriv'd !



As from tliis view I liad desisted, straight
Turning a little tow'rds the other ]H)]e,
There from whence now tlie wain liad disap2)ear'd, 30
I saw an old man standing by my side
Alone, so worthy of rev'rence in his look,
That ne'er from 8on to father more was ow'd.
Low doM'ii liis beard and mix'd with lioary white
Descended, like liis locks, which parting fell 35

Ui^on his breast in double fold. The beams
Of those four luminaries on his face
So brightly shone, and with such radiance clear
Deck'd it, that I beheld him as the sun.

"Say who are ye, that stemming the blind stream, 40
Forth from th' eternal prison-house have fled ? "
He spoke and moved those venerable plumes.
" Who hath conducted, or with lantern sure
Lights you emerging from the depth of night,
That makes the infernal valley ever black ? 45

Are the firm statutes of the dread abyss
Broken, or in high heaven new laws ordain'd,
That thus, condemn'd, ye to my caves approach?"

My guide, then laying hold on me, by words
And intimations given with hand and head, 60

Made my bent knees and eye siibmissive pay
Due reverence ; then thus to him replied.

" Not of myself I come ; a Dame from heaven
Descending, him besought me in my charge
To bring. But since thy will implies, that more 55

Our true condition I unfold at large,
Mine is not to deny thee thy request.
This mortal ne'er hatli seen the farthest gloom.
But erring by his folly had approach'd
So near, that little space was left to turn. 60

Then, as before I told, I was dispatch'd
To work his rescue ; and no way remain'd
Save this which I have ta'en. I have display'd
Before him all the regions of the bad ;
And pur])Ose now those spirits to display, 65

That under tliy command are purg'd from sin.
How I have brought him would be long to say.


From higli descends the virtue, by whose aid

I to tliy siglit and lieariug liiin liave h.:'d.

Now may our coming })le:vse thee. In the search 70

Of liberty he journeys : that how dear

They know, who for her sake liave life refus'd.

Thou knowest, to whom death for her was sweet

In Utica, where thou didst leave those weeds,

That in the last great day will shine so bright. 75

For us the' eternal edicts are unmov'd:

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

Abiding in that circle where the eyea

Of thy chaste Marcia beam, who still in look

Prays thee, O hallow'd spirit! to own her thine. 80

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

Through thy sev'n regions ; for which best thanks

I for thy favour will to her return,

If mention there below thou not disdain."

" Marcia so pleasing in my sight was found," 85

He then to him rejoin'd, " while I was there,
That all she ask'd mc I was fain to grant.
Now that beyond the' accursed stream she dwells,
She may no longer move me, by that law,
Which was ordain'd me, when I issued thence. 90

Not so, if Dame from heaven, as thou sayst.
Moves and directs thee ; then no flattery needs.
Enough for me that in her name thou ask.
Go therefore now : and with a slender reed
See that thou duly gird him, and his face 95

Lave, till all sordid stain thou wipe from thence.
For not with eye, by any cloud obscur'd,
Would it be seemly before him to come.
Who stands the foremost minister in heaven.
This islet all around, there far beneath, 100

Where the wave beats it, on the o.)zy bed
Produces store of reeds. No other plant,
Cover'd with leaves, or harden'd in its stalk,
There lives, not bending to the water's sway.
After, this way return not ; but the sun 105

Will show you, that now rises, where to take
The mountain in its easiest ascent."

124 puiJOATonY.

He disapponrM ; and I niysolf u])rais'd
Speecliless, and to my guide retiring close,
Toward liim tiirii'd mine eyes. lie thus began ; 110

" My son ! observant thou my ste])S pursue.
We must retreat to rearward, for tliat way
Tlie cliampain to its low extreme declines."

The dawn had chas'd the matin hour of prime,
Which fled before it, so that from afar 115

I S])y'd the trembling of the ocean stream.

We travers'd the deserted plain, as one
Who, wander'd from his track, thinks every step
Trodden in vain till he regain the ])ath.

When we had come, where yet the tender dew 120
Strove with the sun, and in a j)lace, where fresh
The wind breath'd o'er it, while it slowly dried ;
Both hands extended on the watery grass
My master plac'd, in graceful act and kmd.
Whence I of his intent before appriz'd, 125

Stretch'd out to him my cheeks suffus'd wiih tears.
There to my visage he anew restor'd
That hue, which the dun shades of hell conceal'd.

Then on the solitary shore arriv'd,
That never sailing on its waters saw 130

]\Ian, that could after measure back his course,
lie girt me in such manner as had pleas'd
Ilim wlio instructed, and O, strange to tell !
As he selected every humble plant.

Wherever one was pluck'd, another there 135

Kesembling, straightway in its place arose.


Now had the sun to that horizon reach'd,

That covers, with the most exalted point

Of its meridian circle, Salem's walls,

And night, that opposite to him her orb

Rounds, from the stream of Ganges issued forth,

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

When she reiefns hio;hest : so that where I was,


Aurora's white and vernieil-tinctur'd cheek
To orange turn'd as she in age incrcas'd.

Meanwhile we linger'd by the water's brink, 10

Like men, wlio, musing on their road, in thought
Journey, wliile motionless the body rests.
When lo ! as near upon the hour of dawn.
Through the thick vapours Mars with fiery beam
Glares down in west, over the ocean floor ; 15

So seem'd, what once again I hope to view,
A light so swiftly coming through the sea,
No winged course might equal its career.
From which when for a space I had withdrawn
Mine eyes, to make inquiry of my guide, 20

Again I look'd and saw it grown in size
And brightness : then on either side aj^pear'd
Something, but what I knew. not of bright hue,
And by degrees from underneath it came
Another. JVIy preceptor silent yet 25

Stood, while the brightness, that we first discerned,
Open'd the form of wings : then when he knew
The pilot, cried aloud, " Down, down ; bend low
Thy knees ; behold God's angel : fold thy hands :
Now shalt thou see true Ministers indeed. 30

Lo how all human means he sets at nought !
So that nor oar he needs, nor other sail
Except his wings, between such distant shores.
Lo how straight up to heav'n he holds them rear'd,
Winnowing the air with those eternal plumes, 35

That not like mortal hairs fall off or change ! "

As more and more toward us came, more bright
Appear'd the bird of God, nor could the eye
Endure his splendour near : I mine bent down.
He drove ashore in a small bark so swift 40

And light, that in its course no wave it drank.
The heav'nly steersman at the prow Avas seen.
Visibly written blessed in his looks.
Within a hundred spirits and more there sat.
" In Exitu Israel de ^^gyjito." 45

All with one voice together sang, with what
In the remainder of that hymn is writ.


Then soon as with the sign of holy cross

He bless'd them, they at once leaj)Vl out on land,

He swiftty as he came return'd. The crew, 50

There left, ajjpear'd astounded with the place,

Gazing around as one who sees new sights.

From every side the sun darted his beams,
And with his arrowy radiance from mid heav'n
Had chas'd the Capricorn, when that strange tribe 55
Lifting their eyes towards us ; " If ye know.
Declare what path will lead us to the mount."

Them Virgil answer'd. " Ye suppose perchance
Us well acquainted with this place : but here.
We, as yourselves, are strangers. Not long erst 60

We came, before you but a little space,
By other road so rough and hard, that now
The' ascent will seem to us as play." The spirits,
Who from my breathing had perceiv'd I liv'd,
Grew pale with wonder. As the multitude 65

Flock round a herald, sent with olive branch,
To hear what news he brings, and in their haste
Tread one another down, e'en so at siglit
Of me those happy spirits were fix'd, each one
Forgetful of its errand, to depart, 70

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

Then one I saw darting before the rest
With such fond ardour to embrace me, I
To do the like was mov'd. O shadows vain
Exce})t in outward semblance ! thrice my hands 75

I clasp'd behind it, they as oft return'd
Em])ty into my breast again. Surprise
I needs must think was painted in my looks.
For that the shadow smil'd and backward drew.
To follow it I hasten'd, but with voice 80

Of sweetness it enjoin'd me to desist.
Then who it was I knew, and pray'd of it,
To talk with me, it Avould a little pause.
It answer'd : " Thee as in my mortal frame
I lov'd, so loos'd from it I love thee still, 85

And therefore pause; but why Avalkest thou here?"
" Not without ])urpose once more to return,


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

Journeying tliis way ; " I said, " but how of tlioe

Hath so much time been lost?" He answer'd straight :

" No outrage hath been done to me, if he 91

Who Avhen and whom he chooses takes, me oft

This passage hath denied, since of just will

His will he makes. These three months past indeed,

He, whoso chose to enter, with free leave 95

Hath taken ; whence I wand'ring by the shore

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

Admittance, at that rivei-'s mouth, tow'rd which

His wings are pointed, for there always thi'ong

All such as not to Archeron descend." 100

Then I : "If new laws have not quite destroy'd
Memory and use of that sweet song of love.
That whilom all my cares had power to 'swage;
Please thee with it a little to console

My spirit, that incumber'd with its frame, 105

Travelling so far, of pain is overcome."

" Love that discourses in my thoughts." He then
Began in such soft accents, that within
The sweetness thrills me yet. My gentle guide
And all who came with him, so well were pleas'd, 110
That seem'd nought else might in their thoughts have

Fast fix'd in mute attention to his notes
We stood, when lo ! that old man venerable
Exclaiming, " How is this, ye tardy spirits ?
What negligence detains you loit'ring here ? 115

Run to tlie mountain to cast off those scales,
That from your eyes the sight of God conceal."

As a v/ild flock of pigeons, to their food
Collected, blade or tares, without their pride
Accustom'd, and in still and quiet sort, 120

If aught alarm them, suddenly desert
Their meal, assail'd by more im])ortant care ;
So I that new-come troop beheld, the song
Deserting, hasten to the mountain's side,
As one who goes yet where he tends knows not. 125

Nor with less hurried step did we depart.




Them sudden lliglit had scatter'd o'er the pL'iin,

Turu'd tow'rds the mountain, wliitlier reason's voice

Drives us ; I to my faithful company

Adliering, left it not. For how of him

Depriv'd, mio;ht I have sped, or wlio beside 5

Would o'er Uic mountainous tract have led my steps ?

He with the bitter pang of self-remorse

Secm'd smitten. O clear conscience and upright

How doth a little failing wound tliee sore !

Soon as his feet desisted (slack'ning pace), 10

From haste, that mars all decency of act.

My mind, that in itself before was wrapt.

Its thoughts expanded, as with joy restor'd :

And full against the steep ascent I set

My face, where highest to heav'n its top o'erflows. 15

The sun, that flar'd behind, witli ruddy beana

Before my form Avas broken ; for in me

His rays resistance met. I turn'd aside

With fear of being left, when I beheld

Only before myself the ground obscur'd. 20

When thus my solace, turning him around,

Bespake me kindly : " Why distrustest thou ?

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

It now is evening there, where buried lies

Tlie body, in which I cast a shade, remov'd 25

To Naples from Brundusium's wall. Nor thou

IMarvel, if before me no shadow fall.

More than that in the skiey element

One ray obstructs not other. To endure

Torments of heat and cold extreme, like frames 30

That virtue hath dispos'd, which how it works

Wills not to us should be reveal'd. Insane

Who hopes, our reason may that space ex])lore,

Which holds three persons in one substance knit.

Seek not the wherefore, race of human kind ; 35

Could ye have seen the whole, no need had been

For Mary to bring forth. Moreover ye

Have seen such men desiring fruitlessly ;


To whose (Icsirrs repose v/ould have been giv'n,

Tlint now but serve them for eternnl grief. 40

I speak of Plato, and tlie Stagyrite,

And others many more." And then he bent

Downwards liis forehead, and in troubled mood

Broke off his sjiecch. Meanwhile we liad arriv'd

Far as the mountain's foot, and there the rock 45

Found of so steep ascent, that nimblest steps

To climb it had been vain. The most remote

Most wild untrodden path, in all the tract

'TAvixt Lcrice and Turbia were to this

A ladder easy' and open of access. 50

" Who knows on which hand now the steej) declines?"
My master said and paus'd, "so that he may
Ascend, who journeys without aid of wing? "
And while with looks directed to the ground
The meaning of the pathway he explor'd, 55

And I gaz'd ujnvard round the stony lieight,
On the left hand apjtearVl to us a troop
Of spirits, that toward i;s mov'd their steps.
Yet moving seem'd not, they so slow aj)proach'd. j

I thus my guide address'd : " Upraise thine eyes, 60 I
Lo that way some, of whom thou niay'st obtain >

Counsel, if of thyself thou find'st it not ! " \

Straightway he look'd, and with free speech replied : I
" Let us tend thitlier : they but softly oome. ;

And thou be firm in hope, my son belov'd." 65

Now was that peo])le distant far in space }

A thousand paces behind ours, as much |

As at a throw the nervous arm could fling, j

When all drew l»ackward on the massy crags |

Of the steep bank, and fn-ndy stood unmov'd 70 |

As one who walks in doubt might stand to look. I

" O spirits perfect ! O already chosen ! " |

Virgil to them began, "by tliat Idlest peace, \

W^hich, as I deem, is for you all prepar'd, |

Instruct us where the mountain lov/ declines, 75 '

So that attempt to mount it be not vain.
For wdio knows most, liim h<ss of time most grieves." j

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


Or pairs, or tlirec at once; incanwliile the rest

Stand fearfully, bendinj^ the eye and nose 80

To ground, and what the foremost does, that do

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

Simple and quiet, nor the cause discern ;

So saw I moving to advance the first.

Who of that fortunate crew were at the head, 85

Of modest mien and graceful in their gait.

When they before me had beheld the light

From my right side fall broken on the ground.

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

And somewhat back retir'd : the same did all, 90

Who follow'd, though unweeting of the cause.

" Unask'd of you, yet freely I confess,
This is a human body which ye sec.
That the sun's light is broken on the ground,
Marvel not : but believe, that not without 95

Virtue deriv'd from Heaven, we to climb
Over this wall asjnre." So them bespake
My master; and that virtuous tribe rejoin'd;
" Turn, and before you there the entrance lies,"
Making a signal to us wdth bent hands. 100

Then of them one began. " Whoe'er thou art.
Who journey'st thus this way, thy visage tui-n.
Think if me elsewhere thou hast ever seen."

I tow'rds him turn'd, and with fix'd eye beheld.
Comely, and fair, and gentle of aspect, 105

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

When humbly I disclaim'd to have beheld
Him ever : " Now behold I " he said, and show'd
High on his breast a wound : then smiling spake.

" I am Manfredi, grandson to the Queen 110

Costanza : whence I pray thee, when return'd,
To my fair daughter go, the parent glad
Of Aragonia and Sicilia's pride ;
And of the trutli inform her, if of me
Auglit else be told. When by two mortal blows 115
My frame was shatter'd, I betook myself
Weeping to him, who of free will forgives.
My sins were horrible ; but so wide arms


Hath goodness infinite, that it receives

All who turn to it. Had this text divine V20

Been of Cosenza's shepherd better scann'd,

Who then by Clement cm my hunt was set,

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

Near Benevento, by the heavy mole

Protected ; but the rain now drenches them, 125

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

Far as the stream of Verde, where, ^\'ith lights

Extinguish'd, he remov'd them from theii- bed.

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

But that the eternal love may turn, while hope 130

Retains her verdant blossoms. True it is,

That such one as in contumacy dies

Against the holy church, though he repent,

Must wander thirty-fold for all the time

In his presumption past ; if such decree 135

Be not by prayers of good men shorter made.

Look therefore if thou canst advance my bliss ;

Kevealing to my good Costanza, hoAV

Thou hast beheld me, and beside the terms

Laid on me of that interdict ; for here 140

By means of those below much profit comes."


When by sensations of delight or pain,
That any of our faculties hath seiz'd,
Entire the soul collects herself, it seems
She is intent upon that power alone.

And thus the erroui* is disprov'd which holds 5

The soul not singly lighted in the breast.
And therefore when as aught is heard or seen,
That firmly keeps the soul toward it turn'd,
Time passes, and a man perceives it not.
Fo]- that, Avhereby we heai-ken, is one power, 10

Another that, which the whole sjdrit liath ;
This is as it were bound, while tliat is free.
This found I true by ])roof, hearing that spirit


Ami woiurriiio- ; for full fifty steps aloft

'JMie Klin had iiicasui-'d uiiobKervM of me, 15

When we arriv'd where all with one accord

The spirits shouted, " Here is what ye ask."

A larger aperture ofttinies is stojip'd
AVith forked stake of thorn by villager,
When the ripe grape indjrowns, than was tlie [)ath, 20
JJy which iny guide, and I behind him close,
Ascended solitaiy, when that troop
De])arting left us. On Saideo's road
Who journeys, or to Noli low descends.
Or mounts Bismantua's height, must use his feet; 25

But here a man had need to fly, I mean
With the swift wing and plumes of high desire,
Conducted by liis aid, who gave me hope,
And with light furnish'd to direct my way.

We through the broken rock ascended, close 30

Pent on each side, while underneath the ground
AskVl help of hands and feet. When we arriv'd
Near on the highest I'idge of the stce]i bank,
Where the plain level open'd I exclaim'd,
"O master ! say which way can we ])roceed?" o5

He answer'd, " Let no stej) of thine recede.
Behind me gain the mountain, till to us
Some ])ractis'd guide appear." That eminence
Was lofty that no eye might reach its point,
And the side proudly rising, more than line 40

From the mid quadrant to the centre drawn.
I wearied thus began : " Parent belov'd !
Turn, and behold how I remain alone,
If thou stay not." — " My son ! " he straight reply'd,
" Thus far put forth thy strength ; " and to a track 45
Pointed, that, on this side projecting, round
C-irclcs the liill. His words so spurr'd me on,
That I behind him clamb'ring, forc'd myself,
Till my feet pressed the circuit plain beneath.
There both together seated, turn'd we round 50

To eastward, whence was our ascent : and oft
Many beside have with delight look'd back.

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

punoATORY. inn

Then vaisM them to tlic sun, and woiKl'i-ing inarkM

That from tlie left it smote us. Soon perceivM 55

That Poet sage how at tlie car of liu'Iit

Amaz'd I stood, where 'twixt us aiul tlie nortli

Its course it enter'd. Wlience he tlius to nie :

" Were Leda's offsprino" now in company

Of that hroad mirror, that high up and h)W GO

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