1265-1321 Dante Alighieri.

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

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Fi-om their eternal fountain. I not ask'd, 130

What ails thee? for such cause as he doth, who
Looks only with that eye which sees no more,
When spiritless the body lies ; but ask'd,
To give fresh vigour to thy foot. Such goads
The slow and loit'ring need ; that they be found 135

Not wanting, when their hour of watch returns."

So on "\ve journey'd through the evening sky
Gazing intent, far onward, as our eyes
With level view could stretch against the bright
Ves])ertine ray : and lo ! by slow degrees 140

Gath'ring, a fog made tow'rds us, dark as night.
There was no room for 'scaping ; and that mist
Bereft us, both of sight and the pure air.


Hell's dunnest gloom, or night unlustrous, dark,

Of every planet 'reft, and pall'd in clouds,

Did never spread before the sight a veil

Li thickness like that fog, nor to the sense

So paljDable and gross. Ent'ring its shade, 5

Mine eye endured not with unclosed lids ;

Which marking, near me drew the faitiiful guide,

Offering me his shoulder for a stay.

As the blind man behind his leader walks.
Lest he should err, or stumble iTnawares 10

On what might harm liim, or ])erhaps destroy,


I journej'd tlirough tliat bitter air and foul,

Still list'niiigj to my escort's warnino' voice,

"Look that from me thou part not." Straight I heard

Voices, and each one seem'd to pray for peace, 15

And for com]iassion, to the Lamb of God

That taketh sins away. Their prelude still

Was " Agnus Dei," and through all tlie choir.

One voice, one measure ran, that perfect seem'd

The concord of their song. " Are these I hear 20

Spirits, O master ? " I exclaini'd ; and he :

" Thou aim'st aright : these loose the bonds of wrath."

"Now Avho art thou, that through our smoke dost
cleave ?
And speak'st of us, as thou thyself e'en yet
Dividest time by calends'?" So one voice 25

Bespake me ; whence my master said : " Reply ;
And ask, if upward hence the passage lead."

" O being ! who dost make thee pure, to stand
Beautiful once more in thy Maker's sight !
Along with me : and thou shalt hear and wonder." 30
Thus I, whereto the spirit answering spake :
" Long as 't is lawful for me, shall my steps
Follow on thine ; and since the cloudy smoke
Forbids the seeing, hearing in its stead
Shall keep us join'd." I then forthwith began : 35

" Yet in my mortal swathing, I ascend
To higher regions, and am hither come
Through the fearful agony of hell.
And, if so largely God hath doled his grace,
That, clean beside all modern ])recedent, 40

He wills me to behold his kingly state,
From me conceal not who thou wast, ere death
Had loos'd thee ; but instruct me: and instruct
If rightly to the pass I tend ; thy words
The way directing as a safe escort." 45

" I Avas of Lorabardy, and Marco call'd :
Not inexperienc'd of the world, that worth
I still affected, from which all have turn'd
The nerveless bow aside. Thy course tends right
Unto the summit : " and, rcjtlying thus, 50


ITo added, " I boscecli tliee pray for mo,

When thou slialt come aloft." And I to lilm :

" Acce])t my faith for jtlcclge I will perform

What thou requirest. Yet one doubt remains,

That wrinu:s me sorely, if I solve it not, 55

Sini>"ly before it ui'ijf'd me, doubled now

By thine oj)iiiion, when I couple that

With one elsewhere declar'd, each strength'ning olliei-.

The world indeed is even so forlorn

Of all good as thou s])eak'st it, and so swarms 60

With every evil. Yet, beseech thee, point

The cause out to me, that myself may see.

And unto others show it : for in heaven

One places it, and one on earth below."

Then heaving forth a deep and audible sigli, 65

" Brother ! " he thus began, " the world is blind ;
And thou in truth com'st from it. Yc, who live,
Do so eacli cause refer to heav'n above,
E'en as its motion of necessity

Drew with it all that moves. If this were so, 70

Free choice in you were none ; nor justice Avould I

There should be joy for virtue, woe for ill.
Your movements have their primal bent from heaven ;
Not all ; yet said I all ; what tlien ensues?
Light have ye still to follow evil or good, 75

And of the will free power, which, if it stand
Firm and unwearied in Heav'n's first assay.
Conquers at last, so it be clierish'd well,
Triumphant over all. To mightier force,
To better nature subject, yo abide 80

Free, not conscrain'd by that, wliicli forms in you
The reasoning mind uninfluenc'd of the stars.
If then the present race of mankind err,
Seek in yourselves the cause, and find it there.
Herein thou shalt confess me no false spy. 85

" Forth from his ])lastic hand, who charni'd beholds
Her image ere she yet exist, the soul
Comes like a babe, that wantons sportively
Weeping and laughing in its wayward moods,
As artless and as ignorant of aught, 90


Save tliat licr Maker beiiio; one who dwells

Willi gladness ever, williiioiy she turns

To whatc'er yields her joy. Of some slight, good

Tlie Havour soon slie tastes ; and, snar'd by that,

With fondness she })ursues it, if no guide 95

Kecall, no rein direct her wand'ring course.

Hence it behov'd, the law should be a curb ;

A sovereign hence behov'd, whose piercing view

• Might mark at least the fortress and main tower

I Of the true city. Laws indeed there are : 100

But who is he observes them ? None ; not he,
j Who goes before, the shepherd of the flock,
1 Who chews the cud but doth not cleave the hoof.
I Therefore the multitude, who see their guide

i Strike at the very good they covet most, 105

Feed there and look no further. Thus the cause
, Is not corrupted nature in yourselves,
'i But ill-couducting, that hath turn'd the world
, To evil. Home, that turn'd ii unto good,
i Was wont to boast two suns, whose several beams IK'
j Cast light on either way, the w^orld's and God's.
I One since hath quench'd the other ; and the sword
j Is grafted on the crook; and so conjoin'd

• Each must perforce decline to worse, unaw'd
By fear of other. If thou doubt me, mark 115
The blade : each herb is judg'd of by its seed.
That land, through which Adice and the Po
Their waters roll, was once the residence
Of courtesy and valour, ere the day.

That fro^^n'd on Frederick ; now secure may pass 120
Those limits, whosoe'er hath left, for shame.
To talk with good men, or come near their haunts.
Three aged ones are still found there, in whom
The old time chides the new : these deem it long
Ere God restore thein to a better world : 125

The good Gherardo, of Palazzo he
Conrad, and Guido of Castello, nam'd
In Gallic ])hrase more fitly the plain Lombard.
On this at last conclude. The church of Rome,
Mixing two governments that ill assort, 130



TIath iiiiss'd licr footing, fall'n into the mire,
And tlicre liersclf and burden nmcli detil'd."

" {) JMarco !" I replied, thine arguments
Convince me: and the cause I now discern
Wliy of the heritage no portion came 135

To Levi's offs])ring. But resolve me tliis:
AVho that Gherardo is, that as thou sayst
Is left a sample of the perisli'd race.
And for I'ebuke to this untoward age ?"

"Either thy words," said he, " deceive ; or else 140
Are meant to try me ; that tliou, speaking Tuscan,
Appear'st not to have heard of good Gherardo ;
The sole addition that, by which I know him ;
Unless I borrow'd from his daughter Gaia
Another name to grace him. God be with you. 145

I bear you corap)any no more. Behold
The dawn with white ray glimm'ring through the mist.
I must away — the angel comes — ere he
I Appear." He said, and would not hear me more.


I Oall to remembrance, reader, if thon e'er
I Hast, on a mountain top, been ta'en by cloud,
I Through which thou saw'st no better, than the mole
I Doth through opacous membrane ; then, whene'er
1 The watry vaj^ours dense began to melt 5

Into thin air, how faintly the sun's sjihere
Seem'd wading through them ; so thy nimble thought
May image, how at iii'st I rebcheld
The. sun, that bedward now his couch o'erhung.

I Thus Avith my leader's feet still equaling j^ace 10

From forth that cloud I came, when now expir'd
Tlie parting beams from off the nether shores.

O quick and forgetive power ! that sometimes dost
So rob us of ourselves, Ave take no mark
Though round about us thousand trumpets clang ! 15

What moves thee, if the senses stir not ? Light
Kindled in heav'n, spontaneous, self-inform'd.


Or likelier gliding down with swift illapse

By will divine. Porti-ay'd before nie came

The traces of her dire impiety, 20

Whose form was chang'd into the bird, that must

Delights itself in song: and here my mind

Was inwardly so wrapt, it gave no place

To anght that ask'd admittance from without.

Next shower'd into my fantasy a shai')e 25

As of one crucified, whose visage spake
Fell rancour, malice deep, wherein he died ;
And roTTud him Ahasuerus the great king,
Esther his bride, and Mordecai the just,
Blameless in word and deed. As of itself 30

That unsubstantial coinage of the brain
Burst, like a bubble, when the water fails
That fed it ; in my vision straight uprose
A damsel weeping loud, and cried, "O queeu !

mother ! wherefore has intemperate ire o5
Driv'n thee to loath thy being ? Not to lose

Lavinia, dcsp'rate thoi; hast shiin thyself.
Now hast thou lost me. I am she, whose tears
Mourn, ere I fall, a mother's timeless end."

E'en as a sleep breaks off, if suddenly 40

New radiance strike upon the closed lids,
The broken slumber quivering ere it dies;
Thus from before me sunk that imagery
Vanishing, soon as on my face there struck
The light, outshining far our earthly beam. 45

A-! round I turn'd me to survey what place

1 had arriv'd at, " Here ye mount," exclaim'd
A voice, that other pur])ose left me none,
Save will so eager to behold who spake,

I could not choose but gaze. As 'fore the sun, 50

That weighs our vision down, and veils his form

In light transcendent, thus my virtue fail'd

Unequal. " This is Spirit from above.

Who marshals us our upward way, unsought ;

And in his own light shrouds him. As a man 55

Doth for himself, so now is done for tis.

For whoso waits im])loring, yet sees need


Of liis prompt aidance, sets himself ])repar'd

For blunt denial, ere the suit be made.

liefuse we not to lend a ready foot 60

At such inviting : haste we to ascend,

Before it darken : for we may not then.

Till morn again return," So spake my guide ;

And to one ladder both address'd our steps ; \

And the first stair a])proaching, I })erceiv'd C5 |

Near me as 'twere the waving of a wing,

That fann'd my face and whisper'd : " Blessed they

The i^eacemakers : they know not evil wrath."

Now to such height above our heads were rais'd
The last beams, follow'd close by hooded night, 70

That many a star on all sides through the gloom
Shone out. " Why partest from me, O my strength ?"
So with myself I commun'd ; for I felt
My o'ertoil'd sinewB slacken. We had reach'd
The summit, and Avere fix'd like to a bark 75

Arriv'd at land. And waiting a short space.
If aught should meet mine ear in that new round,
Then to my guide I turn'd, and said : " Lov'd sire !
Declare Avhat guilt is on this circle purg'd.
If our feet rest, no need thy speech should pause." 80

lie thus to me : " The love of good, whate'er
Wanted of just proportion, here fulfils.
Here plies afresh the oar, that loiter'd ill.
But that thou mayst yet clearlier understand,
Give ear unto my words, and thou shalt cull oO

Some fruit may please thee well, from this delay.

" Creator, nor created being, ne'er.
My son," he thus began, " was ^vithout love,
Or natural, or the free spirit's gi-owth.
Thou hast not that to learn. The natural still 90

Is without error ; but the other swerves,
If on ill object bent, or through excess
Of vigour, or defect. While e'er it seeks
The primal blessings, or with measure due
Th' inferior, no deliglit, that flows from it, 95

Partakes of ill. But let it warp to evil.
Or with more ardour than behoves, or less,


Pursue the good, tlie tiling created llien
\ Works 'gainst its Maker. Hence tliou must infer
I That love is gerniin of each virtue in ye, 100

\ And of each act no less, that merits j)ain.
: !N"ow since it may not be, but love intend
i The welfare mainly of the thing it loves,
I All from self-hatred are secure ; and since
I No being can be thought t' exist apart 105

I And independent of the first, a bar
f Of equal force restrains from hating that.
\ "Grant the distinction just ; and it remains

i The' evil must be another's, which is lov'd.

Three ways such love is gender'd in your clay. J 10

I There is who hopes (his neighbour's worth deprest,)
j Preeminence himself, and coverts hence
I For his OAvn greatness that another fall.
[ There is who so much fears the loss of power,
I Fame, favour, glory (should his fellow mount 115

f Above him), and so sickens at the thought,
I He loves their op]iosite : and there is he,
[ Whom wrong or insult seems to gall and shame
I That he doth thirst for A-engeance, and such needs
1^ Must doat on other's evil. Here beneath 120

^ This threefold love is mourn'd. Of th' other sort
( Be now instructed, that which follows good
[ But with disorder'd and irregular course.
\ "All indistinctly apprehend a bliss

I On which the soul may rest, the hearts of all 125

1 Yearn after it, and to that wished bourn

All therefore strive to tend. If ye behold
I Or seek it Avith a love remiss and lax.

This cornice after just reiDcnting lays
[ Its penal torment on ye. Other good 130

[ There is, Avhere man finds not his happiness:
\ It is not true fruition, not that blest

Essence, of every good the branch and root.

The love too lavishly bestow'd on this,

Along three circles over us, is mourn'd. . 135

Account of that division tripartite

Expect not, fitter for thine own research."




TiiK tc'iK'licr cii(k'(l,:ni(l his lii^li discourse

CoiKjluding, earnest in my looks inqiiir'd

If I n])i)ear'd content; and I, wlioni still

Unsated thirst to hear him nrg'd, was mute,

Mute outwardly, yet inwardly I said : 6

" Perchance my too much questioning offends,

Ijut he, true father, mark'd the seci'et wish

By dilhdence restrain'd, and si)eaking gave

Me boldness thus to S])eak : " Master, my sight

Gathers so lively virtue from thy beams, 10

That all, tliy words convey, distinct is seen.

Wherefore I jiray thee, father, Avhom this lieart

Holds dearest ! thou wouldst deign by proof t' unfold

That love, from which as from their source thou bring'st

All good deeds and their opposite." He then : 15

" To what I now disclose be thy clear ken

Directed, and thou plainly shalt behold

I How much those blind have err'd, who make themselves
The guides of men. The soul, created apt
To love, moves versatile which way soe'er 20

I Aught pleasing prompts her, soon as she is wak'd

I By pleasure into act. Of substance true

\ Your appi'ehension forms its counterfeit,

I And in you the ideal shape presenting

I Attracts the soul's regard. If she, thus drawn, 25

\ Incline toward it, love is that inclining,

I And a new nature knit by pleasure in ye.

j Then as the fire points up, and mounting seeks

I His birth-place and his lasting seat, e'en thus

Enters the captive soul into desire, 30

Which is a spiritual motion, that ne'er rests

Before enjoyment of the thing it loves.

Enough to show thee, how the truth from those

Is hidden, who aver all love a thing

Praise-worthy in itself : although perhaps 35

Its substance seem still good. Yet if the wax

Be good, it follows not th' impression must."

"What love is," I return'd, "thy words, O guide!

ruRGATOur. 183

And my own clocilc mind, reveal. Yet tlicncc

N(nv doubts have sprung. For from without if love

Be offer'd to us, and the spirit knows 40

No other footing, tend she right or wrong,

Is no desert of hers." He answering thus :

" What reason here discovers I havG power

To show thee : that whicli lies beyond, expect 45

From Beatrice, faith not reason's task.

Spirit, substantial form, with matter join'd

Not in confusion mix'd, hath in itself

Specific virtue of that union born.

Which is not felt except it work, nor jjrov'd 50

But through effect, as vegetable life

By the green leaf. From whence his intellect

Deduced its primal notices of things,

Man therefore knows not, or his ap]ietites

Tlieir first affections ; such in you, as zeal 55

In bees to gather honey ; at the first.

Volition, meriting nor blame nor praise.

But o'er each lower faculty supreme,

That as she list are summon'd to her bar.

Ye have that virtue in you, whose just voice 60

Uttereth counsel, and whose word should keep

The threshold of assent. Here is the source,

Whence cause of merit in you is deriv'd,

E'en as the affections good or ill she takes.

Or severs, winnow'd as the chaff. Those men 65

Who reas'ning went to depth profoundest, mark'd

That innate freedom, and were thence induc'd

To leave their moral teaching to the world.

Grant then, that from necessity arise

All love that glows within you ; to dismiss 70

Or harbour it, tlie jiow'r is in yourselves.

Remember, Beatrice, in her style,

Denominates free choice by eminence

The noble virtue, if in talk with thee

She touch upon that theme." The moon, well nigh 75

To midnight hour belated, made the stars

A))pear to wink and fade; and her broad disk

Seem'd like a crag on fire, as up the vault


Tliiit coui-sc slio jouriicyM, wIi'r-]! Hk^ sim then u'nrms,

Wlicii tlicy oi' IkOine beliold liiin :it his set. 80

Ik'lwixt Sardinia and the Corsic isle.

And now the weiglit, tluit liung upon my tliouglit,

Was lighten'd by the aid of tl)at clear s]>irit,

Who raiseth Andes above Mantua's name.

I therefore, when my questions had obtain'd 85

Solution plain and amjile, stood ag one

Musing in dreamy slumber; but not long

Slumber'd ; for suddenly a multitude,

The steep already turning from behind,

JIush'd on. With fui-y and like random rout, 90

As echoing on tlieiv sliores at midnight heard

Ismenus and Asojmis, for his Thebes

It" Bacchus' hel}) were needed; so came these

Tumultuous, curving each his rapid step,

By eagerness impell'd of holy love. 05

Soon they o'ertook us ; with such swiftness mov'd
The mighty crowd. Two spirits at their head
Cried weeping ; " Blessed Mary sought with haste
The hilly region. C»sar to subdue

Ilerda, darted in Marseilles his sting, 100

And flew to Spain." — " Oh tarry not : away ; "
The others shouted ; " let not time be lost
Through slackness of affection. Hearty zeal
To serve reanimates celestial grace."

" O ye, in whom intenser fervency 105

Haply supplies, where lukewarm erst ye fail'd,
Slow or neglectful, to absolve your part

(Of good and virtuous, this man, who yet lives,
(Credit my tale, though strange) desires t' ascend,
So morning rise to light us. Therefore say 110

Which hand leads nearest to the rifted rock?"

I So spake my guide, to whom a shade return'd :

" Come after us, and thou shalt find the cleft.
We may not linger : such resistless will
I Si)eeds our unwearied course. Vouchsafe us then 115
[ Tliy jiardon, if our duty seem to thee
[, Discourteous I'udeness. In Verona I
I \Vi;s abbot of San Zeno, when the hand

ruTirrATORT. 185

Of Baibarossa grasp'd In)|)Ci'inl sway,

That name, ne'er utter'd witliout tears in Milan. lUO

And tliere is he, hath one foot in liis grave,

Who for that monastery ere long sliall weep,

lining liis power niisus'd : for that his son,

Of body ill comjiact, and Avorsc in mind.

And born in evil, he hath set in ]>lace 125

Of its trne pastor." Whether more he spake,

Or liere was mute, I know not : he had sped

E'en now so far beyond us. Yet thus much

I heard, and in rememb'rance treasur'd it.

He then, who never fail'd me at my need, 130

Cried, " Hither turn. Lo ! two with sharp remorse
Chiding their sin ! " In rear of all the troop
These shouted : " First they died, to Avhom the sea
Open'd, or ever Jordan saw his heirs :
And they, who with iEneas to the end 135

Endur'd not suffering, for their portion chose
Life without glory." Soon as they liad fled
Past reach of sight, new thought within me rose
By others follow'd fast, and each unlike
Its fellow : till led on from thought to thought, 140

And pleasnr'd with the fleeting train, mine eye
Was clos'd, and meditation chang'd to dream.


It was the hour, when of diurnal heat

No reliques chafe the cold beams of the moon,

O'erpower'd by earth, or ])lanetary sway

Of Saturn ; and the geomancer sees

His Greater Fortune up the east ascend, 5

Where grey dawn checkers first the shadowy cone ;

When 'fore me in my dream a woman's shape

Thei-e came, with lips that stammer'd, eyes aslant,

Distorted feet, hands maim'd, and colour pale.

I look'd upon her ; and as sunshine cheers If

I Limbs numb'd by nightly cold, e'en thus my look
I Unloos'd her tongue, next in brief space her form

l^i> rirnoATOTiY,

I)ocvoj>it raisM croct, niul faded face

Willi love's own line illuiii'd. Recov'i'iiig speech

She forthwith warhliiig such n strain betian, 15

That I, how loth soe'er, could scarce have held

Attention from the song. '"I," thus she sang,

" I am the Syren, she, whom mariners

On the wide sea are wilder'd when they hear :

Such fulness of delight the list'ner feels. 20

I from his course Ulysses by my lay

Enchanted drew. Whoe'er frequents me once

Parts seldom ; so I charm him, and liis heart

Contented knows no void." Or ere lier mouth

Was clos'd, to shame her at her side appear'd 25

A dame of semblance holy. With stern voice

She utter'd ; " Say, O Virgil, Avho is this ? "

Which hearing, he approach'd, with eyes still bent

Toward that goodly ])resence : th' other seiz'd her,

And, her robes tearing, open'd her before, 30

And show'd the belly to me, whence a smell.

Exhaling loathsome, wak'd me. Round I turn'd

Mine eyes, and thus the teacher : " At the least

Three times my voice hatli call'd thee. Rise, begone.

Let us the opening find where thou mayst pass." 35

I straightway rose. Now day, pour'd down from high,
Fill'd all the circuits of the sacred mount ;
And, as we journey'd, on our shoulder smote
The early ray. I follow'd, stooping low
My forehead, as a man, o'ercharg'd with thought, 40

Who bends Isim to the likeness of an arch.
That midway spans the flood; when thus I heard,
" Come, enter here," in tone so soft and mild.
As never met the ear on mortal strand.

With sw^an-like wings dispread and pointing up, 45
Who thus had spoken marshal'd us along.
Where each side of the solid masonry
The sloping walls retir'd ; then mov'd his plumes,
And fanning us, affirm'd that those, who mourn.
Are blessed, for that comfort shall be theirs. 50

" What aileth thee, that still thou look'st to earth?"
Began my leader ; while th' angelic shape

puu<;AT(~)iiY. 187

A little over us his station took,

"New vision," I replied, "hath raisM in me
Surniisings strange and anxious doubts, whereon 55

My soul intent allows no other thought
Or room or entrance. — " ITast thou seen," said lie,
"That old enchantress, her, whose wiles alone
Tlie spirits o'er us weep for ? Hast thou seen
How man may free him of her bonds? Enough. GO

Let thy heels spurn the earth, and thy rais'd ken
Fix on the lure, Avhich heav'n's eternal King
Whirls in the rolling sjdieres." As on his feet
The falcon first looks down, then to the sky
Turns, and forth stretches eager for the food, i5

That wooes him thither ; so the call I heard,
So onward, far as the dividing rock
Gave Avay, I journey'd, till the plain was reach'd.

On the fifth circle when I stood at large,
A race api)ear'd before-me, on the ground 70

All downward lying prone and wee])ing sore,
"My soul liatli cleaved to the dust," I heard
With sighs so deep, they Avell nigh choak'd the words,
" ye elect of God, whose penal woes
Both hope and justice mitigate, direct 75

Tow'rds the steep rising our uncertain way."

" If ye approach secure from this our doom.
Prostration — and would urge your course with speeo.
See that ye still to rightward keep the brink."

So them the bard besought ; and such the words, 80
Beyond us some short space, in answer came.

I noted what remain'd yet hidden from them :
Thence to my liege's eyes mine eyes I bent,
Aiul he, forthwith interpreting their suit,
Beckon'd his glad assent.. Free then to act, 85

As pleas'd me, I drew near, and took my stand

Online Library1265-1321 Dante AlighieriThe Vision : or, Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, of Dante Alighieri → online text (page 14 of 37)