1265-1321 Dante Alighieri.

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

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Created noblest, light'ning fall from heaven :
On th' other side with bolt celestial pierc'd
Briareus : cumb'ring earth he lay through dint 25

Of mortal ice-stroke. The Thymbrrean god
With Mars, I saw, and Pallas, round their sire,
Arm'd still, and gazing on the giant's Umbs
Strewn o'er th' ethereal field. Nimrod I saw :
At foot of the stupendous work he stood, 30

As if bewilder'd, looking on the crowd
Leagued in his proud attempt on Sennaar's plain.

O Niobe ! in what a trance of woe
Thee I beheld, upon that highway drawn,
Sev'n sons on either side thee slain ! O Saul ! 36

How ghastly did-^t thou look ! on thine own sword
Expiring in Gilboa, from that hour


Ne'er visited witli v:iin from lieav'u or dew !

O fond Aracline ! thee I also saw
ITulf s])ider now in anguisli eniwliiicf uj) 40

Th' unfiuish'd wel) tliou weaved'st to thy bane !

Kehoboani ! here thy shai)e doth seeni
Louring no more defiance ! but fear-smote
With none to cliase him in his chariot whirl'd.

Was shown beside upon t!ie solid floor 45

How dear Alcmteon forc'd his mother rate
That ornament in evil hour receiv'd :
How in the temple on Sennacherib fell
His sons, and how a corpse they left him there.
Was shown the scatli and cruel mangling made 50

Bv Tomvris on Cyi'us, when she cried :
" Blood thou didsit thirst for, take thy fill of blood! "
Was shown how routed in the battle fled
Th' Assyrians, Holofernes slain, and e'en
The relics of the carnage. Troy I mark'd 65

In ashes and in caverns. Oh ! how fall'n,
How abject, Ilion, -wns thy semblance there !

What master of the pencil or the style
Had trac'd the shades and lines, that might have

The subtlest workman wonder ? Dead the dead, 60

The living seeni'd alive ; with clearer view
His eye beheld not Avho beheld the truth,
Than mine what I did tread on, while I went
Low bending. Now swell out ; and with stiff necks '

Pass on, ye sons of Eve 1 vale not your looks, 65

Lest they descry the evil of your path ! :

1 noted not (so busied was my thought) |
How much we now had circled of the mount, 5
And of his course yet more the sun had spent, j.
When he, who with still wakeful caution went, 70 ;i
Admonish'd : " Baise thou up thy head : for know ..
Time is not now for slow sus])ense. Behold |
That Avay an angel hasting towards us ! Lo ;
Where duly the sixth handmaid doth return

From service on the day. Wear thou in look 75

And gesture seemly grace of reverent awe, |

11 g


That gladly he may forward us aloft.
Consider that this day ne'er dawns again."

Time's loss he liad so often warn'd me 'g.'iinst,
I could not miss the scope at which he aini'd. 80

The goodly shape approach'd us, snowy white
In vesture, and with visage casting streams
Of tremulous lustre like tlie matin star.
Ilis arms he open'd, then his wings ; and spake :
" Onward : the steps, behold ! are near ; and noAV 85

Th' ascent is without difficulty gain'd."

A scanty few are they, who when they liear
Such tidings, hasten. O ye race of men
Though born to soar, Avhy suffer ye a wind
So slight to baffle ye ? Pie led us on " 90

Where the rock parted ; here against my front
Did beat his wings, then promis'd I should fare
In safety on my way. As to ascend
That steep, upon whose brow the chapel stands
(O'er Rubaconte, looking lordly down 96

On the well-guided city,) up the right
Th' impetuous rise is broken by the steps
Carv'd in that old and simple age, when still
The registry and label rested safe ;

Thus is th' acclivity reliev'd, which here 100

Precipitous from the other circuit falls :
But on each hand the tall cliff presses close.

As ent'ring there we turn'd, voices, in strain
Ineffable, sang : " Blessed are the poor
In spirit." Ah how far unlike to these 105

The straits of hell ; here songs to usher us,
There shrieks of woe ! We climb the holy stairs :
And lighter to myself by far I seem'd
Than on the plain before, whence thus I spake :
" Say, master, of what heavy thing have I 110

Been lighten'd, that scarce aught the sense of toil
Affects me journeying ? " He in few replied :
" When sin's broad characters, that yet remain
U])on thy temples, though well nigh effac'd,
Shall be, as one is, all clean razed out, 116

Then shall thy feet by heartiness of will


Be so o'erconie, tliey not alone shall feel
No sense of labour, but delight much more
Shall wait them urg'd along their upward Avay."

Then like to one, upon whose head is ])lacVl 120

Somewhat he deems not of but from the becks
Of others as the}' pass him by ; his hand
Lends therefore helji to' assure him, searches, finds.
And well performs such office as the eye
Wants power to execute : so stretching forth 125

The fingers of my right hand, did I find
Six only of the letters, which his sword
Who bare the keys had trac'd upon my brow.
The leader, as he mark'd mine action, smil'd.


We reach'd the summit of the scale, and stood

Upon the second buttress of that mount

Which healeth him who climbs. A cornice there,

Like to the former, girdles round the hill ;

Save that its arch with sweep less ample bends. 5

Shadow nor image there is seen ; all smooth
The rampart and the path, reflecting nought
But the rock's sullen hue. " If here wo wait
For some to question," said the bard, " I fear
Our choice may haply meet too long delay." 10

Then fixedly upon the sun his eyes
He fasten'd, made his right the central point
From whence to move, and turn'd the left aside.
"O pleasant light, my confidence and hoi:)e,
Conduct us thou," he cried, "on this new Avay, 15

Where now I venture, leading to the bourn
We seek. The universal worki to thee
Owes warmth and lustre. If no other cause
Forbid, thy beams should ever be our guide."

Far, as is measur'd for a mile on earth, 20

In brief space had we journey'd ; such ]>rompt will
Impeird ; and towards us flying, now were heard
Spirits invisible^, who courteously


Unto love's table bade the welcome guest.

Tlie voice, that first flew by, callM fortli aloud, 25

"They have no wine ; " so on behind us past,

Those sounds reiterating, nor yet lost

In the faint distance, when another came

Crying, " I am Orestes," and alike

Wing'd its fleet way. " Oh father ! " I cxclaim'd, 30

"What tongues are these?" and as I question'd, lo !

A third exclaiming, "Love ye those have wrong'd you."

" This circuit," said my teacher, " knots the scourge
For envy, and the cords are therefore drawn
By charity's correcting hand. The curb 35

Is of a harsher sound, as thou shalt hear
(If I deem rightly), ere thou reach the pass.
Where pardon sets them free. But fix thine eyes
Intently through the air, and thou shalt see
A multitude before thee seated, each 40

Along the shelving grot." Then more than erst
I op'd my eyes, before me view'd, and saw
Shadows with garments dark as was the rock;
And when we pass'd a little forth, I heard
A crying, " Blessed Mary ! pray for us, 45

Michael and Peter ! all ye saintly host ! "

I do not think there walks on earth this day
Man so remorseless, that he had not yearn'd
With pity at the sight that next I saw.
Mine eyes a load of sorrow teem'd, when now 50

I stood so near them, that their semblances
Came clearly to my view. Of sackcloth vile
Their cov'ring seem'd ; and on his shoulder one
Did stay another, leaning, and all lean'd
Against the cliff. E'en thus the blind and poor, 55

Near the confessionals, to crave an alms,
Stand, each his head upon his fellow's sunk.
So most to stir compassion, not by sound
Of words alone, but that, which moves not less,
The sight of mis'ry. And as never beam 60

Of noonday visiteth the eyeless man,
E'en so was heav'n a niggard unto these
Of his fair light ; for, through the orbs of all,

riTUGATonv. 1G5

A thread of wire, ini])ier(;iiig, knits tliem up,

As for tlic taming of a haggard hawk. 65

It were a wrong, niethonght, to {)ass and look
On others, yet myself tlie wliile unseen.
To my sage counsel thei-efore did I turn.
He knew the meaning of the mute apjieal,
Nor waited for my questioning, but said: 70

" Speak ; and be brief, be subtile in thy words."

On that part of the cornice, wlience no rim
Engarlands its steep fall, did Virgil come;
On the' other side me were tlio sjiirits, their cheeks
Bathing devout with penitential tears, 75

That through the dread impalement fore'd a Avay.

I turn'd me to them, and " O shades ! " said I,
" Assur'd that to your eyes unveil'd shall shine
The lofty light, sole object of your wish.
So may heaven's grace clear whatsoe'er of foam 80

Floats turbid on the conscience, that thenceforth
The stream of mind roll limpid from its source,
As ye declare (for so shall ye impart
A boon I dearly prize) if any soul

Of Latium dwell among ye ; and perchance 85

That soul may profit, if I learn so much."

" My brother, we are each one citizens
Of one true city. Any thou wouldst say,
Who lived a stranger in Italia's land."

So heard I answering, as ap])ear'd, a voice 90

That onward came some space from Avhence I stood.

A spirit I noted, in whose look was mark'd
Ex])ectance. Ask ye how ? The chin was rais'd
As in one reft of siglit. " Spirit," said I,
" Who for thy rise are tutoring (if thou be 95

That which didst answer to me,) or by place
Or name, disclose thj-self, that I may know thee."

"I was," it answer'd, " of Sienna : here
1 cleanse away with these the evil life,
Soliciting with tears that He, who is, 100

Vouchsafe him to us. Though Sapia nam'd
In sapience I excell'd not, gladdei' far
Of others' hurt, than of the good befell me.



Tliat thou niayst own I now deceive thee not,

Hear, if my folly were not as I speak it. 105

When now my years slo])'d waning down the arch,

It so beclianc'd, my fellow citizens

Near Colle met their enemies in the field,

And I pray'd God to grant what He had will'd.

There were they vanquish'd, and betook themselves 110

Unto the bitter passnges of flight.

I mark'd the hunt, and waxing out of bounds

In gladness, lifted up my shameless brow.

And like the merlin cheated by a gleam,

Cried, 'It is over. Heav'n ! I fear thee not.' 115

Upon my verge of life I wish'd for peace

With God ; nor yet repentance had supplied

What I did lack of duty, were it not

The hermit Piero, touch'd with charity,

In his devout oraisons thought on me. 120

But who art thou that question'st of our state,

Who go'st to my belief, with lids unclos'd.

And breathest in thy talk?" — "Mine e^^es," said I,

" May yet be here ta'en from me ; but not long ;

For they have not offended grievously 125

With envious glances. But the woe beneath

Urges my soul with more exceeding dread.

That nether load already weighs me down,"

She thus : " Who then amongst us here aloft
Hath brought thee, if thou weenest to return?" 130

" He," answer'd I, " M'ho standeth mute beside me.
I live : of me ask therefore, chosen spirit.
If thoii desire I yonder yet should move
For thee my mortal feet." — " Oh ! " she replied,
"This is so strange a thing, it is great sign 135

That God doth love thee. Therefore with tliy prayer
Sometime assist me : and by that I crave.
Which most thou covetest, tliat if thy feet
E'er tread on Tuscan soil, thou save my fame
Amongst my kindred. Them shalt thou behold 140

With that vain multitude, who set their hope
On Telamone's haven, there to fail
Confounded, more than when the fancied stream

iM'uoATt^nv. 167

Tliey sougjit of Diaii oallM : hut tlicy wlio lead

Their navies, more tliaii niiuM liojies sliall mourn." 145


" Sat who is he around our mountain winds,
Or ever deatli has prun'd his wing for flight,
That opes his eyes and covers them at will ? "

" I know not who he is, but know thus much •
lie comes not singly. Do thou ask of him, 5

For thou art nearer to him, and take heed
Accost him gently, so that he may speak."

Thus on the right two spirits bending each
Toward the other, talk'd of me, then both
Addressing me, their faces backward lean'd, 10

And thus the one began : " O soul, who yet
Pent in the body, tendest towards the sky !
For cliarity, we pray tliee, comfort us.
Recounting whence thou com'st, and who thou art :
For thou dost make us at the favour shown thee 15

Marvel, as at a thing that ne'er hath been."

" There stretches through the midst of Tuscany,
I straight began : " a brooklet, Avhose well-head
Springs up in Falterona, with his race
Not satisfied, when he some hundred miles 20

Hath measur'd. From his banks bring I this frame.
To tell you who I am were words misspent :
For yet my name scarce sounds on rumour's lip."

" If well I do incorp'rate with my thought
The meaning of thy speech," said he, who first li5

Addrest me, " thoii dost speak of Arno's wave."

To whom the otlier : " Why hath he conceal'd
The title of that river, as a man
Doth of some horrible thing '? " The spirit, wlio
Thereof was question'd, did acquit him thus : 30

" I know not : but 'tis fitting Avell the name
Should perish of that A^ale ; for from the source
AVhere teems so j)leiiteously the Aljnne steep
Maim'd of Pelorus, (that doth scarcely 2)ass


Beyond tliat limit,) even to tlic point 35

Whereunto ocean is restor'tl, wliat heaven
Drains from th' exliaustless store for all earth's streams,
Thronghout the s|)ace is virtue worried down,
As 'twere a snake, by all, for mortal foe.
Or through disastrous influence on the j3lace, 40

Or else distortion of misguided wills.
That custom goads to evil : whence in those,
The dwellers in that miserable vale.
Nature is so transform'd, it seems as they
Had shar'd of Circe's feeding. 'Midst brute swine, 45
Worthier of acorns than of other food
Created for man's use, he shapeth first
His obscure Avay ; then, sloj)ing onward, finds
Curs, snarlers more in spite than power, from whom
He turns Avith scorn aside : still journeying down, 50

By how much more the curst and luckless foss
Swells out to largeness, e'en so much it finds
Dogs turning into wolves. Descending still
Through yet more hollow eddies, next he meets
A race of foxes, so reijlete Avith craft, 55

They do not fear that skill can master it.
Nor will I cease because my Avords are heard
! By other ears than thine. It shall be Avell
For this man, if he keep in memory

What from no erring spirit I reveal. 60

Lo ! I behold thy grandson, that becomes
A hunter of those wolves, upon the shore
Of the fierce stream, and cows them all Avith dread :
Their flesh yet living sets he up to sale.
Then like an aged beast to slaughter dooms. 65

Many of life he reaA'^es, himself of Avorth
And goodly estimation. Smear'd with gore
Mark how he issues from the rueful wood.
Leaving such havoc, that in thousand years
It spreads not to i)rime lustihood again." 70

As one, Avho tidings hears of woe to come.
Changes his looks jterturb'd, from Avhate'er part
The peril grasp him, so behcTd I cliange
That spirit, who liad turn'd to listen, struck

rURGATOIlY. 101)

With sadness, soon as lie had caught tlie word. 75

His visage and the other's speecli did raise

Desire in me to know the names of l)otli,

Wliereof with meek entreaty I iuquir'd.

Tlie shade, who kite addrest me, thus resum'd:

" Thy wish imports, tliat I vouclisafe to do 80

For thy sake wliat thou wilt not do for mine.

But since God's will is that so largely shine

His <'Tace in thee, I will be liberal too.

Guido of Duca know then that I am.

Envy so parch'd my blood, that liad I seen 85

A fellow man made joyous, tliou hadst mark'd

A livid paleness overspread my cheek.

Such harvest reap I of the seed I sow'd.

O man, why place thy heart where there doth need

Exclusion of partici])ants in good ? 90

This is Rinieri's s])irit, this the boast

And honour of the house of Calboli,

Wliere of his worth no heritage remains.

Nor his the only blood, that hath been stript

('Twixt Po, the mount, the Reno and the shore,) 95

Of all that truth or fancy asks for bliss ;

But in those limits such a growth has sprung

Of rank and venom'd roots, as long would mock

Slow culture's toil. Where is good Lizio? where

IManardi, Traversaro, and Carpigna? 100

O bastard slips of old Romagna's line!

When in Bologna the low artisan,

And in Facnza yon Bernardin sprouts,

A gentle cyon from ignoble stem.

Wonder not, Tuscan, if thou see me Aveep, 105

When I recall to mind those once lov'd names,

Guido of Pi-ata, and of Azzo him

Tliat dwelt with you ; Tignoso and his troop,

With Traversaro's house and Anastngio's,

(Each race disherited) and beside these, 110

The ladies and the knights, the toils and ease,

That wntch'd us into love and courtesy ;

Where now sucli malice reigns in recreant hearts.

O Brettinoro ! wherefoi-e tarriest still,


Since forth of tlioe tliy fmnily liulli gone, 115

And many, lialing evil, join'd tlieir stej)S?

Well doeth he, tliat bids his lineage cease,

JBagnacavallo ; Casti'acaro ill.

And Conio worse, Avho care to propagate

A race of Counties fi-oni such blood as theirs. 120

Well shall ye also do, Pagani, then

When from amongst you hies your demon child.

Not so, howe'er, that henceforth there remain

True j)roof of Avhat ye were. O Hugolin !

Thou sprung of Fantolini's line ! thy name 125

Is safe, since none is look'd for after thee

To cloud its lustre, warping from thy stock.

But, Tuscan, go thy ways ; for now I take

Far more delight in wee]>ing than in words.

Such pity for your sakes hath wrung my heart." 130

We knew those gentle spirits at parting heard
Our steps. Their silence therefore of our way
Assur'd us. Soon as we had quitted them.
Advancing onward, lo ! a voice that seem'd
Like vollied light'ning, when it rives the air, 135

Met us, and shouted, " Whosoever finds
Will slay me," then fled from us, as the bolt
Lanc'd sudden from a downward-rushing cloud.
When it had giv'n short truce unto our hearing,
Behold the other with a crash as loud 140

As the quick-following thunder : " Mark in me
Aglauros turn'd to rock." I at the sound
Retreating drcAV more closely to my guide.

Now in mute stillness rested all the air :
And thus he spake : "There was the galling bit. 145

But your old enemy so baits his hook.
He drags you eager to him. Hence nor curb
Avails you, nor reclaiming call. Heav'n calls
And round about you wheeling courts your gaze
With everlasting beauties. Yet your eye 150

Turns with fond doting still upon the earth.
Therefore He smites you who discerneth all."




As much as 'twixt the third liour's close and dawn,

Appearcth of lieav'n's sphere, that ever whirls

As restless as an infant in his play,

So much appear'd reniainino; to tlie sun

Of his slope journey towards the western goal. 5

Evening was there, and here the noon of night ;
And fidl upon our forehead smote the beams.
For round the mountain, circling, so our path
Had led us, that toward the sun-set now
Direct we journey'd : when I felt a weight 10

Of more exceeding splendour, than before,
Press on my front. The cause unknown, amaze
Possess'd me, and both hands against my brows
Lifting, I interpos'd them, as a screen,
That of its gorgeous superflux of light 16

Clipp'd the diminish'd orb. As when the ray,
Striking on water or the surface clear
Of mirror, leaps unto the opposite ])art,
Ascending at a glance, e'en as it fell,

(And so much differs from the stone, that falls 20

Through equal space, as ]u-actice skill hath shown ;)
Thus with refracted lioht before me seemed
The ground there smitten ; whence in sudden haste
My sight recoil'd. " What is this, sire belov'd !
'Gainst which I strive to shield the sight in vain ? " 25
Cried I, " and which toAvards us moving seems? "

" Marvel not, if the family of heav'n,"
He answer'd, " yet with dazzling radiance dim
Thy sense. It is a messenger who comes.
Inviting man's ascent. Such sights ere long, 3U

Not grievous, shall impart to thee delight,
As thy perception is by nature wrought
Up to their pitch." The blessed angel, soon
As Ave had reach'd him, hail'd us with glad voice :
" Here enter on a ladder far less steep 35

Than ye haA-e yet encounter'd." We forthwith
Ascending, heard beliind us chanted sweet,
"Blessed the merciful," and " Happy thou !


Tliat conqucr'st." Lonely oacli, my guide and I
Pursued our upward way; and as we went, 40

Some proiit from liis words I hoj)'d to win,
And tlius of liini incjuirini;-, fram'd my speecli:
"What meant IJomaona's sjjirit, wlien lie spake
Of bliss exelusive with no partner shar'd ?"

lie straight replied : "No wonder, since lie knows, 45
What sorrow waits on his own worst defect,
If he chide others, that they less may mourn.
Because ye point your Avishes at a mark.
Where, by communion of possessors, part
Is lessen'd, envy bloweth up the sighs of men. 50

No fear of that might touch ye, if the love
Of higher si>here exalted your desire.
For there, by how much more they call it ovrs^
So much propriety of each in good

Encreases more, and heighten'd charity 55

Wraps that fair cloister in a brighter flame."

"Now lack I satisfaction more," said I,
" Than if thou hadst been silent at the first.
And doubt more gathers on my lab'ring thought.
How can it chance, tliat good distributed, 60

The man}', that possess it, makes more rich,
Than if't were shar'd by few ? " He answering thus :
" Thy mind, reverting still to things of earth,
Strikes darkness from true light. The highest good
Unlimited, ineffable, doth so speed 65

To love, as beam to lucid body darts,
Giving as much of ardour as it finds.
The sem])iternal effluence streams abroad
Spreading, wherever charity extends.
So that the more aspirants to that bliss 70

Are multi])lied, more good is there to love,
And more is lov'd ; as mirrors, that reflect,
Each unto other, propagated light.
If these my words avail not to allay

Thy thirsting, Beatrice thou shalt see, 75

Who of this want, and of all else thou hast,
Shall lid thee to the full. Provide but thou,
'J'hat fi'om thy temples may be soon eras'd,

rUUGATOllY. 173

E'en as the two already, tliose five scars,

That when they pain thee worst, tlien kindliest lieal," 80

"Thou," I had said, "eontent'st me," when 1 saw
The other round was 2:ainM, aiul woiid'ring eyes
Did keep me mute. There suddenly I sceni'd
By an ecsatic vision wrapt away ;

And in a temple saw, niethought, a crowd 85

Of many persons ; and at th' entrance stood
A dame, whose sweet demeanour did ex])ress
A mother's love, Avho said, " Child ! why hast thou
Dealt with us thus ? Behold thy sire and I
Sorrowing have sought thee ; " and so held her peace, 90
And straight the vision fled, A female next
A])pear'd before me, down wliose visage cours'd
Those waters, that grief forces out from one
By deep resentment stung, who seem'd to say :
" If thou, Pisistratus, he lord indeed 95

Over this city, nam'd with such debate
Of adverse gods, and whence each science sparkles,
Avenge thee of those arms, whose bold embrace
Hath clasp'd our daughter ; " and to hei-, meseem'd,
Benign and meek, with visage undisturb'd, 100

Her sovran spake : " How shall we those requite,
Who Avish us evil, if we thus condemn
The man that loves us ? " After that I saw
A multitude, in fury burning, slay
With stones a stripling youth, and shout amain 105

I " Destroy, destroy : " and him I saw, Avho bow'd

I Heavy with death unto the ground, yet made !

f His eyes, unfolded upward, gates to heav'n,
Praying forgiveness of th' Almighty Sire,
Amidst that cruel conflict, on his foes, 110

With looks, that win compassion to their aim.

Soon as my s])irit, from her airy flight
Returning, sought again the things, whose truth
Depends not on her shaping, I observ'd
How she had rov'd to no unreal scenes. 115

Meanwhile the leader, who might see Imov'd,
As one, who struggles to shake off his sleep,

, Exclahn'd : " What ails thee, that thou canst not hold


Thy footin<T firm, but more than lialf a lonpic

Hast travoi'd witli clos'd eyes and tott'i-ini^ uait, 120

Like to a man by wine or sleep o'erclinr<f'd ?"

" Beloved father ! so thou deiu^n," said I,
"To listen, I Avill tell thee Avhat ai)])ear'<l
Befoi-e me, when so fail'd my sinkinir steps."

He thus : "Not if thy countenanee were inask'd 125
With iiundred vizards, could a thoui^ht of thine
How small soe'er, elude me. What thou saw'st
Was shown, that freely thou mightst o])e thy heart
To tl)e waters of ])eace, that flow diffus'd

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