1265-1321 Dante Alighieri.

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

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Is overpower'd. " Fi-om INfary's bosom both
Are come," exclaim'd Sordello, "as a guard



Ovei' the vnlo, gniiist liiin, wlio liithcr tends,

Tlie seriient." Wlicnce, not knowinu; by wliich [lutli 40

lie cnme, I tuvn'd nie round, and closely 2)ress'd,

All frozen, to my leader's trusted side.

Sordello paus'd not: "To the valley now
(For it is time) let us descend ; and hold
Converse with those great shadows : hajily mneh 45

Their sight may please ye." Only three steps down
]Methinks I measur'd, ere I was beneath.
And noted one who look'd as Avith desire
To know me. Time was now that air grew dim ;
Yet not so dim, that 'twixt his eyes and mine 50

It clear'd not up what was conceal'd before.
Mutually tow'rds each other we advanc'd.
Nino, thou courteous judge ! what joy I felt,
When I perceiv'd thou wert not with the bad!

No salutation kind on either part 55

Was left unsaid. Tie then inqnir'd : " How long
Since thou arrived'st at the mountain's foot,
Over the distant waves ?" — " O ! " answer'd I,
" Through the sad seats of woe this morn I came,
And still in my first life, thus journeying on, GO

The other strive to gain." Soon as they heard
]My words, he and Sordello backward drew,
As suddenly amaz'd. To Virgil one,
The other to a spirit turn'd, who near
Was seated, crying : " Conrad ! up with sjieed : 65

Come, see what of his grace high God hath will'd."
Then turning round to me : " By that rare mark
Of honour whicli thou ow'st to him, who hides
So deeply his first cause, it hath no ford.
When thou shalt be beyond the vast of waves. 70

Tell my Giovanna, that for me she call
There, where reply to innocence is made.
Her mother, I believe, loves me no more ;
Since she has chang'd the white and whimpled folds,
Which she is doom'd once more with grief to wish. 75
By her it easily may be j^erceiv'd.
How long in woman lasts the flame of love,
If sight and touch do not rehime it oft.


For her so fair n biii-ial will not make

The viper Avhich calls Mibui to the liehl, 80

As liad been made by shrill Gallura's bird."

T[e spoke, and in his visa2;e took the stamp
Of that right seal, which with due temperature
Glows in the bosom. My insatiate eyes
Meanwhile to heav'n had travel'd, even there 85

Where tlie brit^'ht stars are slowest, as a Avheel
Nearest the axle ; when my guide inquir'd :
"What there ah_)ft, my son, has caught thy gaze ? "

I answer'd: "The three torches, with which here
The pole is all on fire." He then to me : 90

" The four resplendent stars, thou saw'st this morn
Are there beneath, and these ris'n in their stead."

While yet he spoke, Sordello to himself
Drew him, and cry'd : " Lo there our enemy ! "
And with his hand ])ointed that way to look. 95

Along the side, where barrier none arose
Around the little vale, a serpent lay.
Such haply as gave Eve the bitter food.
Between the grass and flowers, the evil snake
Came on, reverting oft his lifted head ; 100

And, as a beast that smooths its polish'd coat,
Licking his back. I saw not, nor can tell,
How those celestial falcons from their seat
Mov'd, but in motion each one vv'ell descried,
Hearing the air cut by their verdant plumes. 105

The serpent fled ; and to their stations back
The angels up return'd with equal flight.

The spirit (who to Nino, when he call'd.
Had come), from viewing me with fixed ken,
Through all that conflict, loosen'd not his sight. 110

" So may the lamp, which leads thee up on high, j

Find, in thy destin'd lot, of wax so much.
As may suffice thee to the enamel's height."
It thus began : " If any certain news
Of Valdimagra and the neighbour part 115

Tliou know'st, tell me, who once was mighty there.
They call'd me Conrad Malasinna, not
That old one, but from him I si)rang. The love


I l)oro my people is now lierc rofiiiM."

" In your dominions," I answer'd, " ne'er was I. 120
But througli aH Europe wliere do those men dwell,
To whom their glory is not manifest ?
The fame, that honours your illustrious house,
Proclaims the nobles and proclaims the land ;
So tliat he knows it who was never there. 125

I swear to you, so may my upward route
Prosper ! your honour'd nation not impairs
The value of her coffer and her sword.
Nature and use giA^e her such privilege,
That while the world is twisted from his course 130

By a had head, slie only walks aright,
And has the evil way in scorn." lie then :
"Now pass thee on : sev'n times the tired sun
Revisits not the couch, which with four feet
The forked Aries covers, ere that kind 135

0])iniou shall he nail'd into thy brain
With stronger nails tlian other's speech can drive,
If the sure course of judgment be not stay'd."


Now the fair consort of Tithonus old,

Arisen from her mate's beloved arms,

Look'd ])alely o'er the eastern cliff : her brow,

Lucent with jewels, glitter'd, set in sign

Of that chill animal, who Avith his train 5

Smites fearful nations : and where then we Avero,

Two steps of her ascent the night had past.

And now the third Avas closing up its wing.

When I, Avho had so much of Adam Avith me,-

Sank down upon the grass, o'ercome with sleep, 10

There Avhere all five were seated. In that hour,

When near the dawn the swallow her sad lay,

Kememb'iing haply ancient grief, renews.

And with our minds more wand'rers from the flesh,

And less by tliought restrain'd, are, as 't Avere, full 15 ^

Of holy divination in their dreams, i

Then in a vision did I seem to view


A sxolden-feritlierM oaijlo in tlie sky,

AVitli ()])cn winsi's, nii<l liov'rincf for descent,

And 1 was in tlmt place, metlionglit, from whence 20

Young Ganymede, from Ids associates 'reft,

Was snatcli'd aloft to the higli consistory,

" Perhaps," thought I within me, "here alone

He strikes his quarry, and elsewhere disdains

To ])Ounce npon the prey." Therewitli, it seem'd, 25

A little -wheeling in Ids airy tour

Terrible as the lightning rush'd he down.

And snatcli'd me upward even to the fire.

There both, I thought, the eagle and myself

Di<l burn ; and so intense th' imagin'd flames, 30

That needs my sleep was broken off. As erst

Achilles shook himself, and round him roll'd

Plis waken'd eyeballs wond'ring where he was,

Whenas his mother had from Chiron fled

To Scyros, with him sleeping in her arms ; 35

E'en thus I shook me, soon as from my face

The slumber parted, turning deadly pale,

Like one ice-struck with dread. Sole at my side

My comfort stood : and the bright sun was now

More than two hours aloft : and to the sea 40

My looks -were turn'd. " Fear not," my master cried,

" Assur'd we are at happy point. Thy strength

Shriidv not, but rise dilated. Thou art come

To Purgatory now. Lo ! there the cliff

That circling bounds it ! Lo ! the entrance there, 45

Where it doth seem disparted ! Ere the dawn

Usher'd the daylight, when thy wearied soul

Sle]it in thee, o'er the flowery vale beneath

A lady came, and thus bespake me : 'I

Am Lucia. Suffer me to take this man, 50

Who slumbers. Easier so his way shall speed.'

Sordello and the other gentle shapes

Tarrying, she bare thee up : and, as day shone,

This summit reach'd ; and I pursued her steps.

Here did she place thee. First her lovely eyes 55

That open entrance show'd me ; tlien at once

She vanisli'd with thy sleep." Like one, whose doubts


Arc chas'd by certainty, and terror tiirn'd

To comfort on discovery of tlie trutli,

Such was the change in me : and as my guide 60

Beheld me fearless, up along the cliff

He mov'd, and I behind him, towards the height.

Reader ! thou markest how my tlieme doth rise,
Nor wonder therefore, if more artfully
I prop the structure ! Nearer now we drew, 65

Arriv'd, whence in that part, where first a breach
As of a wall a]>])ear'd, I could descry
A portal, and three steps beneath, that led
For inlet there, of different colour each,
And one who watch'd, but spake not yet a word. 70

As more and more mine eye did stretch its view,
I mark'd him seated on the highest step.
In visage such, as past my power to bear.
GrasjVd in his hand a naked sword, glanc'd back
The rays so toward me, that I oft in vain 75

My sight directed. " Speak from whence ye stand : "
He cried : " What would ye? Where is your escort?
Take heed your coming upward harm ye not."

" A heavenly dame, not skilless of these things,"
Replied the' instructor, " iMcl us, even now, 80

' Pass that way : here the gate is.'" — "And may she
Befriending prosper your ascent," resum'd
The courteous keeper of the gate : " Come then
Before our steps." We straightway thither came.

The lowest stair Avas marble white, so smooth 85

And polish'd, that therein my mirror'd form
Distinct I saw. Tlie next of hue more dark
Tlian sablest grain, a rough and singed block,
Crack'd lengthwise and across. The third, that lay
Massy above, seem'd porphyry, that flam'd 90

Red as the life-blood sjiouting from a vein.
On this God's angel either foot sustain'd,
Upon the threshold seated, which appear'd
A rock of diamond. Up the trinal steps
My leader chcerly drew me. " Ask," said he, 95

" With humble heart, that he unbar the bolt."

Piously at his holy feet devolv'd


I cast mo, pniyinG^ liim for pity's sake

Tliut lie would open to me : Imt tii'st fell

Thrice o)i my Losom i)rosti-:ite. Sevoi limes 100

'J^iie letter, that denotes the inward staiii,

lie on my forehead Mith the ])lunted jioint

Of his drawn sword inscrib'd. And " Look," he cried,

"When enterVl, tliat thou Mash tliese seai\s away."

Ashes, or earth ta'en dry out of the ground, 105

Were of one colour with the rohe he Avoi-e.
From underneath that vestment forth he drew
Two keys of metal t^-ain : the one was gold,
Its fellow silver. With the ])allid first.
And next the burnish'd, he so ply'd the gate, 110

As to content me Avell. "Whenever one
Faileth of these, that in the keyhole straight
It turn not, to this alley then expect
Access in vain." Such Avere the words he s])ake.
"One is more precious : but the other needs 115

Skill and sagacity, large share of each,
Ere its good task to disengage the knot
lie worthily ])erform'd. From Peter these
I hold, of him instructed, that I err

llather in opening than in keeflng fast ; 120

So but the suppliant at my feet im])lore."

Then of that halloAv'd gate he thi-ust the door,
I]xclaiming, " Enter, but this warning hear :
IFe forth again de])arts who looks behind."

As in the hinges of that sacred ward 125

The swivels turn'd, sonorous metal strong,
TIarsh was the grating ; nor so surlily
IJoai-'d the Tarpeian, Avhen by force bereft
Of good Metellus, thenceforth from his loss
To leanness doom'd. Attentively I turn'd, 130

List'ning the thunder, that first issued forth ;
And " We praise thee, O God," methouglit I heard
In accents blended with sweet melody.
""J'lie strains came o'er mine ear, e'en as the sound
Of choral voices, that in solemn chant 135

With organ mingle, and, now high and clear,
Come swelling, now lloat indistinct away.



WiTEX we had passed the (hreslioM of the gate

(Which tlie soiil's ill affection doth disuse,

Making the crooked seem the straighter path),

I lieard its closing sound. ITad mine eyes turn'd,

For that offence what plea )night have avail'd ? 5

We mounted up the riven rock, that wound
On either side alternate, as the wave
Flies and advances. " Here some little art
Behoves us," said my leader, " that our steps
Observe the varying flexure of the path." 10

Thus Ave so slowly sped, that with cleft orb
The moon once more o'erhangs her wat'ry couch,
Ere we that strait have threaded. But when free
We came and open, where the mount above
One solid mass retires, I spent, with toil, 15

And both, uncertain of the Avay, we stood.
Upon a plain more lonesome, than the roads
That traverse desert wilds. From whence the brink
Borders upon vacuity, to foot

Of the steep bank, that rises still, the space 20

Had measur'd thrice the stature of a man :
And, distant as mine eye could wing its flight,
To leftward now and now to right dispatch'd.
That cornice equal in extent aj)pear'd.

Not yet our feet had on that summit mov'd, 25

When I diseover'd that the bank around,
Whose proud uprising all ascent denied,
Was marble white, and so exactly wrought
With quaintest sculpture, that not there alone
Had Polycletus, but e'en nature's self 30

Bt-'cn sham'd. The angel (who came down to earth
With tidings of the peace so many years
Wept for in vain, that oped the lieavenly gates
From their long interdict) before us seera'd,
In a sweet act, so scul])tur'd to the life, 35

He look'd no silent image. One had sworn
He had said " Hail ! " for she was imag'd there,
By whom the key did open to God's love,


And in her net as Rcnsibly imprest

That word, "P.eliold the"handinaid of the Lord,' 40

As fig-ure seal'd on wax. " Fix not thy mind

On one ])lace only," said tlie guide beh)v'd,

Who liad me near liim on tliat })art where lies

The heart of man. My siglit forthwith I turn'd

And mark'd, behind the virgin mother's form, 45

U]>on that side, where he, tliat mov'd me, stood,

Another story graven on the rock.

I past athwart the bard, and drew me near,
That it might stand more aptly for my view.
There in the self-same marble were engrav'd 60

The cart and kine, drawing the sacred ark,
That from unbidden office awes mankind.
Before it came much people ; and the whole
Parted in seven quires. One sense cried " Nay,"
Another, " Yes, they sing." Like doubt arose 55

Betwixt the eye and smell, from the curl'd fume
Of incense breathing up the well-wrought toil,
Pi-eceding the blest vessel, onward came
With light dance leaping, girt in humble guise,
Sweet Israel's harper: in that bap he seem'd 60

Less and yet more than kingly. Opposite,
At a great ])alace, from the lattice forth
Look'd Michol, like a lady full of scorn
And sorrow. To behold the tablet next,
Which at the back of JMichol whitely shone, 65

I mov'd me. There was storied on the rock
The' exalted glory of the Roman prince,
Whose mighty worth mov'd Gregory to earn
His mighty conquest, Trajan th' Emperor.
A widow at his bridle stood, attir'd 70

In tears and mourning. Round about them troop'd
Full throng of knights, and overhead in gold
The eagles floated, struggling with the wind.
The wretch appear'd amid all these to say :
" Grant vengeance, sire ! for, woe beshrew this heart !
My son is murder'd." Lie replying seem'd ; 75

" Wait now till I return." And she, as one
Made hasty by her grief: "O sire, if thou



Dost not roturn?" — " Wliorc I nm, wlio then is,

May rio-lit thee." — " Wliat to tliee is otlier's good, 80

If thou neolect thy own?" — "Now comfort thee,"

At lengtli he answers. "It beseenieth well

My duty he pcrforni'd, ere I move hence :

So justice wills; and ]>ity Lids me stay."

lie, whose ken nothing new surveys, produc'd 85

That visible speaking, new to us and strange.
The like not found on earth. Fondly I gaz'cl
Upon those patterns of meek humbleness.
Shapes yet more precious for their artist's sake,
When "Lo," the jioet Avhisper'd, " wliere this way 90
(But slack their jiace), a multitude advance.
These to the lofty steps shall guide us on."

Mine eyes, though bent on view of novel sights
Their lov'd allurement, were not slow to turn.

Reader! I would not that amaz'd thou miss 95 I

Of thy good pui-pose, hearing how just God
Decrees our debts be eancel'd. Ponder not |

The form of suff'ring. Think on Avhat succeeds, |

Think that at worst beyond the mighty doom I

It cannot pass. " Instructor," I began, 100 I

"What I see hither tending, bears no trace s

Of Imman semblance, nor of aught beside I

That my foil'd sight can guess." He answering thus : |

" So courb'd to earth, beneath their heavy teems I

Of torment stoop they, that mine eye at first 105 \

Struggled as thine. But look intently thither,
And disentangle with thy lab'ring view.
What underneath those stones approacheth : now.
E'en now, may'st thou discern the pangs of each."

Christians and j^roud ! O poor and wretched ones ! 110
That feeble in the mind's eye, lean your trust
Upon unstaid perverseness ! Know ye not
That we are worms, yet made at last to form.
The winged insect, imp'd with angel plumes
That to heaven's justice unobsti-ucted soars ? 115

Why buoy ye up aloft your unfledg'd souls ?
Abortive then and shapeless ye remain,
Like the untimely embryou of a worm !

156 runoATORv.

As, to support iiicmnbeiit floor or roof,
For corl)el is n lio-m-e sometimes seen, 120

That crum])les up its knees unto its breast,
Willi tlie feiti-nM ])oslure stirrinjj; ruth unfeign'd
In the beholder's fancy ; so I saw
These fashion'd, when I noted well their guise.

Each, as his back was laden, came indeed 125

Or more or less contract ; Ijut it appear'd
As he, who show'd most ])atience in his look,
Wailincf exclaini'd : " I can endure no more."


" O THOU Almighty Father, who dost make

The heavens thy dwelling, not in bounds confin'd,

But that with love intenser there thou vicw'st

Thy primal effluence, hallow'd be thy name :

Join each created being to extol 5

Thy might, for worthy humblest thanks and praise

Is thy blest Spirit. May thy kingdom's peace

Come unto us ; for we, unless it come.

With all our striving thither tend in vain.

As of their will the angels unto thee 10

Tender meet sacrifice, circling thy throne

With loud liosannas, so of theirs be done

By saintly men on earth. Grant us this day

Our daily manna, without which he roams

Through this rough desert retrograde, who most '15

Toils to advance his steps. As we to each

Pardon the evil done us, pardon thou

Benign, and of our merit take no count.

'Gainst the old adversary prove thou not

Our virtue easily subdu'd ; but free 20

From his incitements and defeat his wiles.

This last jietition, dearest Lord ! is made

Not for ourselves, since that were needless now,

But for their sakes who after us remain."

Thus for themselves and us good s))eed imploi-ing, 25
Those spirits went beneath a weight like that


VVe somctimps feel in d reams, all, sovc beset,

But witli uuoqual aiio'uisli, wearied all,

Round til*? first circuit, ])urging, as they go,

The wovl'i's gross darkness off. In our behoof 30

If thej-o vows still be offer'd, what can liere

For tVi'im be vow'd and done by such, whose wills

Hav. root of goodness in them '? Well beseems

Thi^t wQ should heljD them wash away tlie stains

They carried hence, that so, made ])urc and light, 35

TSiey may spring upward to the starry S])heres.

*■' Ah ! so may mercy-temper'd justice rid
Your burdens speedily, that ye have power
To stretch your wing, wliich e'en to your desire
Shall lift you, as ye show us on which hand 40

Toward the ladder leads the shortest way.
And if there be more ])assages than one,
Instruct us of that easiest to ascend ;
For this man who comes with me, and l)ears yet
TUe charge of fleshly raiment Adam left him, 45

Despite his better will but slowly mounts."
From whom the answer came unto these words,
Which ray guide spake, appear'd not ; but 'twas said
" Along the bank to rightward come Avith us.
And ye shall find a pass that mocks not toil 50

Of living man to climb : and were it not
That I am hinder'd by the rock, wherewith
This arrogant neck is tam'd, whence needs I stoop
My visage to the ground, hira, who yet lives.
Whose name thou speak'st not him I fain would

view, 55

To mark if e'er I knew hira, and to crave
His pity for the fardel that I bear.
I was of Latiuni, of a Tuscan born
A mighty one : Aldobrandesco's name
My sire's, I know not if ye e'er have heard. 60

My old blood and forefathers' gallant deeds
Made me so haughty, that I clean forgot
Tiie common mother, and to such excess,
Wax'd in ray scorn of all men, that I fell,
Fell therefore ; by what fate Sienna's sons, 65


Eucli cliild ill Canipnc^natico, can tell.

I am Oinl)orto; not mo only pride

Ilatli injur'd, but my kindred all involv'd

In mischief with her. Here my lot ordains

Under this weight to groan, till I appease 70

God's angry justice, since 1 did it not

Amongst the living, here amongst the dead."

List'ning I bent my visage down : and one
(Not he who spake) twisted beneath the weight
That urg'd him, saw me, knew me straight, and callM, 75
Holding his eyes with difficulty lix'd
Intent upon me, stooping as I went
Companion of their way. " O ! " I exclaim'd,
*' Art thou not Oderigi, art not thou

Agobbio's ijlory, glory of that art 80

Which they of Paris call the limner's skill ? "

"Brother! " said he, " with tints that gayer smile,
Bolognian Franco's pencil lines the leaves.
His all the honour now ; mine borrow'd light.
In truth I had not been thus courteous to him, 85

The whilst I liv'd, through eagerness of zeal
For that pre-eminence my heart was bent on.
Here of such pride the forfeiture is paid.
Nor Avere I even here ; if, able still

To sin, I had not turn'd me unto God. 90

O powers of man ! how vain your glory, nipp'd
E'en in its height of verdure, if an age
Less bright succeed not ! Cimabue thought
To lord it over painting's field ; and now
The cry is Giotto's, and his name eclips'd. 95

Thus hath one Guido from the other snatch'd
The letter'd prize : and he perhaps is born.
Who shall dri\e either from their nest. The noise
Of worldly fame is but a blast of wind,
That blows from divers jjoints, and shifts its name 100
Shifting the point it blows from. Shalt thou more
Live in the mouths of mankind, if thy flesh
Part shrivel'd from thee, than if thou hadst died,
Before the coral and the pap were left.
Or ere some thousand years have past ? and that 105

purctAtory 159

Is, to (iternity comparVl, a space,

Briefer tlian is the twinklinj^ of an eye

To tlie lieaven's slowest orb. lie tliore wlio treads

So leisurely before me, far and wide

Throiioh Tuscany resounded once ; and now 110

Is in Sienna scarce with whis])ers nani'd :

There Avas he sov'reign, when destruction caught

The madd'ning rage of Florence, in that day

Proud as she now is loathsome. Your renown

Is as the herb, Avhose hue doth come and go, 115

And his might 'withers it, by whom it sprang

Crude from the lap of earth." I thus to him :

" True are thy sayings : to my heart they breathe

The kindly spirit of meekness, and allay

What tumours rankle there. But who is he 120

Of whom thou spak'st but now ? " — " This," he replied,

" Is Provenzano. He is here, because

He reach'd, with grasp presumjituous, at the sway

Of all Sienna. Thus he still hath gone.

Thus goeth ncA^er-resting, since lie died. 125

Such is th' acquittance ronder'd back of him,

Who, beyond measure, dar'd on earth." I then :

" If soul that to the verge of life delays

Repentance, linger in that lower space,

Nor hither mount, unless good prayers befriend, 130

How chanc'd admittance was vouchsaf'd to him ? "

" When at his glory's to])most height," said he,
" Respect of dignity all cast aside.
Freely he fix'd him on Sienna's plain,
A suitor to redeem his suff'ring tViend, 135

Who languisli'd in the prison-house of Charles,
Nor for his sake refus'd through every vein
To tremble. More I will not say ; and dark,
I know, my words are, but thy neighbours soon
Shall help thee to a comment on the text. 140

This is the work, that from these limits freed him."



With equal pace as oxen in the yoke,

I witli that laden spirit journey'd on

Long as the mihl instructor sufferM me;

But wlien lie bade me quit him, and proceed

(For " here," said he, " behoves witli sail and oars 5

Each man, as best he may, pusli on liis bark"),

Ul)rio;ht, as one dispos'd for speed, 1 rais'd

My body, still in thought submissive bow'd.

I now my leader's track not loth ])ursued;
And each had sliown how light we far'd along 10

When thus he warn'd me : " Bend thine eyesight

down :
For thou to ease the way shall find it good
To ruminate the bed beneath thy feet."

As in memorial of the buried, drawn
Upon earth-level tombs, the sculptur'd form 15

Of what was once, appears (at sight Avhereof
Tears often stream forth by remembrance wak'd,
Whose sacred stings the piteous OTily feel).
So saw I there, but with more curious skill
Of portraiture o'erwrought, whate'er of space 20

From forth the mountain stretches. On one i^art
Him I beheld, above all creatures erst

Online Library1265-1321 Dante AlighieriThe Vision : or, Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, of Dante Alighieri → online text (page 12 of 37)