1265-1321 Dante Alighieri.

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

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Over that shade, whose words I late had mark'd.
And, " Sp.irit ! " I said, " in whom repentant tears
Mature that blessed hour, when thou with God
Shalt find acceptance, for a while suspend 90

For me that mightier care. Say who thou wast,
Why thus ye grovel on your bellies prone,


And it" in fiuii'lit. yc wish my sci'vicc tlu'i'c,

Whence liviiii!; I niii coine." lie answering sj^nkc :

"The cause why lleav'n our back toward his co])e 95

Reverses, slmlt tliou know : hut mc know iirst

The successor of Peter, and the name

And title of my lineage from that stream,

That 'twixt Chiaveri and Siestri draws

His lim])id waters through the lowly glen. 100

A month and little more by ])roof I learnt,

With what a weight that robe of sov'reignty

Upon his shoulder rests, who from the mire

Would guard it : that each other fardel seems

But feathers hi the balance. Late, alas ! 105

Was my conversion : but when I became

Rome's pastor, I discern'd at once the dream

And cozenage of life, saw that the heart

Rested not there, and yet no prouder height

Lur'd on the climber : wherefore, of that life 110

No more enamoured, in my bosom love

Of purer being kindled. For till then

I was a soul in misery, alienate

From God, and covetous of all earthly things ;

Now, as thou seest, here punish'd for my doting. 115

Such cleansing from the taint of avarice

Do spii'its converted need. This mount inflicts

No direr penalty. E'en as our eyes

Fasten 'd below, nor e'er to loftier clime

Were lifted, thus hath justice level'd us 120

Here on the earth. As avarice quench'd our love

Of good, without which is no working, thus

Here justice holds us prison'd, hand and foot

Chain'd down and bound, while heaven's just Lord shall

So long to tarry motionless outstretch'd." 125

My knees I stoop'd, and would have spoke ; but he,
Ere my beginning, by his ear perceiv'd
I did him reverence; and "What cause," said he,
"Hath bow'd thee thus ! " — " Compunction," I rejoin'd.
" And inward awe of your high dignity." I'iO

" Up," he exclaim'd, " brother ! upon thy feet


Arise : orr not : thy fellow servant I,

(Tliiue and all others') of one Sovran Power.

If thou hast ever niark'd those holy sounds

Of gospel truth, ' nor shall be giv'n in marriage,' 135

Thou niayst discern the reasons of my si)eech.

Go thy ways now ; and linger here no more.

Thy tarrying is a let unto the tears,

With which I hasten that whereof thou spak'st.

I have on earth a kinswoman ; her name i-iO

Alagia, worthy in herself, so ill

Example of our house corrupt her not :

And she is all remaineth of me there."


Ill strives the will, 'gainst will more wise that strives :
His pleasure therefore to mine own preferr'd,
I drew the sponge yet thirsty from the wave.

Onward I mov'd : he also onward mov'd,
Who led me, coasting still, wherever place 5

Along the rock Avas vacant, as a man
Walks near the battlements on narrow wall.
For those on tli' other part, who drop by drop
Wring out their all-infecting malady.
Too closely j)ress the verge. Accurst be thou ! 10

Inveterate wolf ! whose gorge ingluts more prey,
Than every beast beside, yet is not fill'd !
So bottomless thy maw ! — Ye spheres of heaven !
To whom there are, as seems, Avho attribute
All change in mortal state, when is the day 1.5

Of his appearing, for whom fate reserves
To chase her hence ? — With wary steps and slow
We pass'd ; and I attentive to the shades,
Whom piteously I heard lament and wail ;
And, 'midst the wailing, one before us heard 20

Cry out " O blessed Virgin ! " as a dame
In the sharp pangs of childbed ; and " How poor
Thou wast," it added, " witness that low roof
Where thou didst lay thy sacred burden down.
O good Fabricius ! thou didst virtue choose 25


With poverty, before ,<>'reat Avealth with vice."

Tlie words so pleas'd me, that desire to know
The spirit, from whose lip tliey seem'd to come,
Did draw me onward. Yet it spake the gift
Of Nicholas, which on the maidens he 30

Bounteous hestow'd, to save their youthful prime
TJnblemish'd. " Spirit ! who dost speak of deeds
So worthy, tell me who thou wast," I said,
" And why thou dost with single voice renew
Memorial of such praise. That boon vouchsaf'd 35

Ha]ily shall meet reward ; if I return
To finish the short pilgrimage of life,
Still S])eeding to its close on restless Aving."

" I," answer'd he, " will tell thee, not for help,
Which thence I look for ; but that in thyself 40

Grace so exceeding shines, before thy time
Of mortal dissolution. I was root
Of that ill plant, whose shade such poison sheds
O'er all the Christian land, that seldom thence
Good fruit is gather'd. Vengeance soon should come, 45
Had Ghent and Douay, Lille and Bruges power ;
And vengeance I of heav'n's great Judge implore.
Hugh Capet was I hight : from me descend
The Philips and the Louis, of whom France
Newly is govern'd ; born of one, who ply'd 50

The slaughterer's trade at Paris. When the race
Of ancient kings had vanish'd (all save one
Wrapt up in sable weeds) within my gripe
I found the reins of em])ire, and such powers
Of new acquirement, with full store of friends, 55

That soon the widow'd circlet of the crown
Was girt ujion the temples of my son.
He, from Avhose bones th' anointed race begins.
Till the great dower of Provence had remov'd
The stains, that yet obscur'd our lowly blood, 60

Its sway indeed Avas narrow, but howe'er
It wrought no evil : there, with force and lies.
Began its rapine ; after, for amends,
Poitou it seiz'd, Navarre and Gascony.
To Italy came Charles, and for amends 65


Young Conradinc an innocent victim slew,

And sent th' angelic teacher back to heav'n,

Still for amends. I see the time at hand,

That forth from France invites another Charles

To make himself and kindred better known. 70

ITnarm'd he issues, saving Avith that lance.

Which the arch-traitor tilted with ; and that

lie carries with so home a thrust, as rives

The bowels of poor Florence. No increase

Of territory hence, but sin and shame 75

Shall be his guerdon, and so much the more

As he more lightly deems of such foul wrong.

I see the other, who a prisoner late

Plad stept on shore, exposing to the mart

His daughter, whom he bargains for, as do 80

The Corsairs for their slaves. O avarice !

What canst thou more, Avho hast subdued our blood

So wholly to thyself, they feel no care

Of their own flesh ? To h.ide with direr guilt

Past ill and future, lo ! the flower-de-luce 85

Enters Alagna ! in his Vicar Christ

Himself a ca]>tive, and his mockery

Acted again ! Lo ! to his holy lip

The vinegar and gall once more applied !

And he 'twixt living robbers doom'd to bleed ! 90

Lo ! the ncAV Pilate, of whose cruelty

Such violence cannot fill the measure up,

With no degree to sanction, pushes on

Into the temple his yet eager sails !

" O sovran Master ! when shall I rejoice 95

To see the vengeance, Avhich thy wrath well-plcas'd
In secret silehce broods? — While daylight lasts,
So long what thou didst hear of her, sole spouse
Of the Great Spirit, and on which thou turn'dst
To me for comment, is the general theme 100

Of all our prayers : but when it darkens, then
A different strain we utter, then record
Pygmalion, ndioni his gluttonous thirst of gold
Made traitor, robber, parricide : the woes
Of Midas, which his greedy wish ensued, 105



IMark'd for derision to :ill future times:

And the fond Aehan, how ho stole tlie prey,

That yet lie seems by Joshua's ire pursued.

tSa]»])hira with her husband next we blame ;

And praise the forefeet, that with furious ramp 110

Spurn'd Ileliodorus. All the mountain round

Rings with the infamy of Thracia's king,

Who slew his Phrygian charge : and last a shout

Ascends : ' Declare, O Crassus ! for thou know'st,

The flavour of thy gold.' The voice of each 115

Now high now low, as each his impulse ])rompts,

Is led through many a jiitch, acute or grave.

Therefore, not singly, I erewhile rehears'd

That blessedness we tell of in the day :

But near me none beside liis accent rais'd." 120

From him we now had parted, and essay'd
With utmost efforts to surmount the way,
Wlien I did feel, as nodding to its fall,
The mountain tremble ; whence an icy chill
Seiz'd on mo, as on one to death convey'd, 125

So shook not Delos, when Latona there
Couch'd to bring forth the twin-born eyes of heaven.

Forthwith from every side a shout arose
So vehement, that suddenly my guide
Drew near, and cried: "Doubt not, while I conduct

thee." ^ 130

" Glory ! " all shouted (such the sounds mine ear
Gather'd from those, who near me swell'd the sounds)
" Glory in the highest bo to God." We stood
Immovably suspended, like to those.

The shepherds, who first heard in Bethlehem's field 135
That song: till ceas'd the trembling, and the song
Was ended : then our hallow'd ]mtli resum'd,
Eying the prostrate shadows, who renew'd 1

Their custoni'd mourning. Never in my breast
Did ignorance so struggle with desire 140 ,.

Of knowledge, if my memory do not err.
As in that moment ; nor through haste dar'd I
To question, nor myself could aught discern,
So on I far'd in thoughtfulness and dread.

-.^-^^^-.r^i^^i^i::^^^.^ —-' .l i,. ■.ii-W- rifff i 'lil -V

rumiAToRV. 193


T;iK natural thirst, ne'er quencli'd but from the well,

Whereof the woman of Samaria crav'd,

Excited : liastc along the cumbcr'd path,

After my guide, impellVl ; and jiity mov'd

jNfy bosom for the 'vengeful deed, tliough just. 8

When lo ! even as Luke relates, that Christ

A])pear'd unto the two upon their way,

New-risen from his vaulted grave ; to us

A sJiade appear'd, and after us ajiproach'd,

Contemplating the crowd beneath its feet. 10

We were not ware of it ; so first it spake.

Saying, " God give you peace, my brethren ! " then.

Sudden we turn'd : and Virgil such salute,

As fitted that kind greeting, gave, and cried :

" Peace in the blessed council be thy lot 15

Awarded by that righteous court, which me

To everlasting banishment exiles ! "

" How ! " he exclaim'd, nor from his speed meanwhile
Desisting, " If that ye be spirits, whom God
Vouchsafes not room above, who n]i the height 20

Has been thus far your guide ? " To whom the bard :
" If thou observe the tokens, which this man
Trac'd by the finger of the angel bears,
'Tis plain that in the kingdom of the just
He needs must share. But sithence she, whose Avheel 25
S]nns day and night, for him not yet had drawn
That yarn, which, on the fatal distaff pil'd,
Clotho ap])ortions to each wught that breathes,
His soul, that sister is to mine and tljine.
Not of herself could mount, for not like ours 30

Her ken : whence I, from forth the ample gulf
Of hell was ta'en, to lead him, and will lead -
Far as my lore avails. But, if thou know.
Instruct us for what cause, the mount erewhile
Thus shook and trembled : wherefore all at once 35

Seem'd shouting, even from his "w ave-wash'd foot."

That questioning so tallied with my wish,
The thirst did feel abatement of its edge

194 I'UKtiATOJlV.

E'en from expectance. lie forlliwitli i-eplied :

" In its devotion nought irregular 40

This mount can witness, or by punctual rule

UnsanctionVl ; here from every change exempt.

Other than that, M'hich heaven in itself

Doth of itself receiA'e, no influence

Can reach us. Tempest none, shower, hail or snow, 45

Hoar frost or dewy moistness, liigher falls

Than that brief scale of threefold ste])s : thick clouds

Nor scudding rack are ever seen : swift glance

Ne'er lightens, nor Thaumantian Iris gleams,

That yonder often shift on each side heav'n, 50

Vapour adust doth never mount above

The highest of the trinal stairs, whereon

Peter's vicegerent stands. Lower perchance,

With various motion rock'd, trembles the soil :

But here, through wind in earth's deep hollow pent, 55

I know not how, yet never trembled : then

Trembles, when any spirit feels itself

So purified, that it may rise, or move

For rising, and such loud acclaim ensues.

Purification by the will alone 60

Is prov'd, that free to change society

Seizes the soul rejoicing in her will.

Desire of bliss is present from the first ;

But strong joropension hinders, to that wish

By the just ordinance of heav'n opj^os'd ; 65

Propension now as eager to fulfil

Th' allotted torment, as erewhile to sin.

And I who in this punishment had lain

Five hundred years and more, but now have felt

Free wnsh for happier clime. Therefore thou felt'st 70

The mountain tremble, and the sjnrits devout

Heard'st, over all his limits, utter praise

To that liege Lord, whom I entreat their joy

To hasten." Thus he spake : and since the draught

Is grateful ever as the thirst is keen, 75

No words may speak my fulness of content.

"Now," said the instructor sage, " I see the net
That takes ye here, and how the toils are loos'd,


Why rocks tlie mountain and -why ye rejoice.

Vouchsafe, tliat from tliy lips I next may learn, 80

AVlio on tlie eartli tliou wast, and wlierei'ore here

So many an age wert jirostrate." — "In tliat time,

Wlien the good Titus, witli Heav'n's King to lielp,

Aveng'd tliose piteous gashes, wlience tlie blood

By Judas sold did issue, with the name 85

Most lasting and most honour'd there was I

Abundantly renown'd," the shade re])ly'd,

"Not yet with faitli endued. So passing sweet

My vocal spirit, from Tolosa, Eome

To herself drew me, where I merited 90

A myrtle garland to inwreathe my brow.

Statins they name me still. Of Thebes I sang,

And next of great Achilles : but i' th' way

Fell with the second burthen. Of my flame

Those sparkles were the seeds, which I deriv'd 95

From the bright fountain of celestial fire

That feeds unnumber'd lamps, the song I mean

Which sounds ^Eneas' wand'rings : that the breast

I hung at, that the nurse, from wJiom my veins

Drank inspiration : whose authority 100

Was ever sacred with me. To have liv'd

Coeval Avith the Mantuan, I would bide

The revolution of another sun

Beyond my stated years in banishment."

The Mantuan, when he heard him, turn'd to me, 105
And holding silence : by his countenance
Enjoin'd me silence but the powei- Avhich wills,
Bears not supreme control : laughter and tears
Follow so closely on the passion prompits them,
They wait not for the motions of the will 110

In natures most sincere. I did but smile.
As one who winks; and thereupon the sliade
Ijroke off, and peer'cl into mine eyes, where best
Our looks inter])ret. " So to good event
Mayst thou conduct such great em])rize," he cried, 115
" Say, why across thy visage beam'd, but now,
The lightning of a smile ! " On either part
Now am I straitenM ; one conjures me speak,


Tir oLlier to silence binds me : whence a sigh

I utter, and the sigh is lieard. " Speak on ; " 120

The teacher cried ; " and do not fear to speak,

]>ut tell him what so earnestly he asks."

Whereon I thus : "Perchance, O ancient spirit!

Thou marvel'st at my smiling. There is i-oom

For yet more wonder. He who guides my ken liiu

On high, he is that Mantuan, led by whom

Thou didst presume of men and gods to sing.

If other cause thou deem'dst for which I smil'd,

Leave it as not the true one ; and believe

Those words, thou spak'st of him, indeed the cause." 180

Now down he bent t' embrace my teacher's feet ;
But he forbade him : " Brother! do it not :
Thou art a shadow, and behold'st a shade."
He rising answer'd thus : " Now hast thou prov'd
The force and ardour of the love I bear thee, 135

When I forget we are but things of air.
And as a substance treat an emj^ty shade."


Now we had left the angel, who had turn'd

To the sixth circle our ascending step.

One gash from off my forehead raz'd : while they,

Whose wishes tend to justice, shouted forth :

" Blessed ! " and ended with, " I thirst : " and I, 6

More nimble than along the other straits.

So journey'd, that, without the sense of toil,

I follow'd upward the swift-footed shades ;

When Yii'gil thus began : " Let its pure flame

From virtue flow, and love can never fail 10

To warm another's bosom, so the light

Shine manifestly forth. Hence, from that hour,

When 'mongst us in the purlieus of the deep,

Came down the spirit of Aquinum's bard.

Who told of thine affection, my good will 15

Hath been for thee of quality as strong

As ever link'd itself to one not seen.

Therefore these stall's will now seem short to me.


But tell mo : mid if too secure I loose

The rein with a friend's license, as a friend 20

Forgive me, and sjteak now as with a frieiid:

How chanc'd it covetous desire could find

Place in that bosom, 'midst such ample store

Of wisdom, as thy zeal had treasur'd there?"

First somewhat mov'd to laughter by his words, 25
Statins rej)lied : "Each syllable of thine
Is a dear ])ledge of love. Things oft a])pear
That uiinister false matters to our doubts,
When their true causes are remov'd from sight.
Thy question doth assure me, thou believ'st 30

I was on earth a covetous man, perhaps
Because thou found'st me in that circle ])lac'd.
Know then I was too wide of avarice :
And e'en for that excess, thousands of moons
Have Avax'd and wan'd upon my sufferings. 35

And Avere it not that I with heedful care
Noted where thou exclaim'st as if in ire
With Inunan nature, ' Why, thou cursed thirst
Of gold ! dost not with juster measure gi;ide
The appetite of mortals ? ' I had met 40

The fierce encounter of the voluble rock.
Then was I Avare that with too ample wing
The hands may haste to lavishment, and turn'd,
As from my other evil, so from this

In penitence. How many from their grave 45

Shall with shorn locks arise, Avho living, aye
And at life's last extreme, of this offence,
Tlu'ough ignorance, did not repent. And know,
The fault which lies direct from any sin
In level o])position, here with that 50

Wastes its green rankness on one common heap.
Therefore if I have been with those, who wail
Their avarice, to cleanse me, through reverse
Of their transgression, such hath been my lot."

To whom tiie sovran of the pastoral song : 55

"While thou didst sing that cruel warfare wa^'d
By the twin sori'ow of .Jocasta's womb,
From thy discourse with Clio thei'c, it seeius


As faitli liad not bccMi lliiiic : without the which

Good deeds suffice not. And if so, what sun CO

Rose on thee, or what candle pierc'd tlie dark

That thou didst after see to hoist the sail.

And follow, where tlie fisherman had led?"

He answerini:; thus : "By thee conducted first,
I enter'd the Parnassian grots, and quaff'd 65

Of tlie clear spring; illumin'd first by thee
Open'd mine eyes to God. Thou didst, as one,
Who, journeying through the darkness, bears a light
Behind, that profits not himself, but makes
His followers wise, when thou exclaimedst, ' Lo ! 70

A renovated world ! Justice return'd !
Times of primeval innocence restor'd !
And a new race descended from above!'
Poet and Christian both to thee I owed.
That thou mayst mark more clearly what I trace, 75

My hand shall stretch forth to inform the lines
With livelier colouring. Soon o'er all the world,
By messengers from heav'n, the true belief
Teem'd now prolific, and that word of thine
Ac(;ordant, to the new instructors chim'd. 80

Induc'd by which agreement, I was wont
Resort to them ; and soon their sanctity
So won u]ion me, that, Domitian's rage
Pursuing them, I mix'd my tears with theirs.
And, while on earth I stay'd, still succour'd them ; 85
And their most righteous customs made me scorn
All sects besides. Before I led the Greeks,
In tuneful fiction, to the streams of Thebes,
I was baptiz'd ; but secretly, through fear,
Remain'd a Christian, and conform'd long time 90

To Pagan rites. Five centuries and more,
I for that lukewarmness was fain to pace
Round the fourth circle. Thou then, who hast rais'd
The covering, which did hide such blessing from me.
Whilst much of this ascent is yet to climb, 95

Say, if thou know, where our old Terence bides,
Caecilius, Plautus, Varro : if condemn'd
They dwell, and in what province of the deep."


" Tliose," said my guide, "witli Persius and myself,

And others many more, are witli tliiit Greek, 100

Of mortals, the most chei-ish'd by the Nine,

In the first ward of darkness. There ofttimes

We of tliat mount hold converse, on whose top

For aye our nurses live. We have the bard

Of Pella, and the Teian, Agatho, 105

Simonides, and many a Grecian else

Ingarlanded with laurel. Of thy train

Antigone is there, Deiphile,

Argia, and as sorrowful as erst

Ismene, and who show'd Langia's wave : 110

Deidamia with her sisters there.

And blind Tiresias' daughter, and the bride

Sea-born of Peleus." Either poet now

Was silent, and. no longer by th' ascent

Or the steep walls obstructed, round them cast 115

Inquiring eyes. Four handmaids of the day

Had finish'd now their office, and the fifth

Was at the chariot-beam, directing still

Its balmy point aloof, when thus my guide :

"Methinks, it well behoves us to the brink 120

Bend the right shoulder, circuiting the mount,

As we have ever us'd." So custom there

Was usher to the road, the which we chose

Less doubtful, as that worthy shade complied.

They on before me went ; I sole pursued, 125

List'ning their speech, that to my thoughts convey'd
Mysterious lessons of sweet poesy.
But soon they ceas'd ; for midway of the road
A tree we found, with goodly fi-uitage hung,
And pleasant to the smell: and as a fir l.'JO

UpAvard from bough to bough less am])le S];reads,
So downward this less ample sjiread, that none,
Methinks, aloft may climb. Upon the side,
That clos'd our path, a liquid crystal fell
From the steep rock, and through the sprays above 1.35
Stream'd showering. With associate step the bards
DrcAV near the plant ; and from amidst the leaves
A voice was heard : " Ye shall be chary of me ; "


And after .1(1(10(1 : " Mary took more thought

For joy and liononr of tlie nuptial feast, 140

Than for herself who answers now for you.

The women of old Koine were satisiied

With water for their beverage. Daniel fed

On pulse, and wisdom gain'd. The primal age

Was beautiful as gold ; and hunger then 145

Made aeorns tasteful, thirst eaeh rivulet

Kun nectar. Honey and locusts M'ere the food,

Whereon the Baptist in the wilderness

Fed, and that eminence of glory reach'd

And greatness, which the' Evangelist records." 150


On the green leaf mine eyes were fix'd, like his

Who throws away his days in idle chase

Of the diminutive, when thus I heard

The more than father warn me : "Son ! our time

Asks thriftier using. Linger not : away." 5

Thereat my face and steps at once I turn'd
Toward the sages, by whose converse cheer'd
I journey'd on, and felt no toil : and lo !
A sound of weeping and a song : " My lips,
O Lord ! " and these so mingled, it gave birth IC

To pleasure and to pain. "O Sire, belov'd !
Say Avhat is this I hear ? " Thus I inquir'd.

" Spirits," said he, " who as they go, perchance,
Their debt of duty pay." As on their road
The thoughtful pilgrims, overtaking some 15

Not known unto them, turn to them, and look,
But stay not ; thus, approaching from behind
With speedier motion, eyed us, as they pass'd,
A crowd of spirits, silent and devout.
The eyes of each were dark and hollow : pale 20

Their visage, and so lean withal, the bones
Stood staring thro' the skin. I do not think
"^I'lius dry and meagre Erisicthon show'd.
When })inc'hd by sharp-set famine to the quick.


" Lo ! " to myself I mus'd, " the race, who lost 25

Jenisalem, when Mary with dire beak
Prey'd on her cliild." The sockets seeni'd as rings,
From Avhich the gems were dropt. Who reads tlie

Of man n])on his forehead, there tlie M
Had trac'd most plainly. Who would deem, that scent
Of water and an ap])le, could have prov'd 31

Powerful to generate such pining want,
Not knowing how it Avrought ? While now I stood
Wond'ring what thus could waste them (for the cause
Of their gaunt hollowness and scaly rind 35

Appear'd not) lo ! a spirit turn'd his eyes
In their dee})-sunken cell, and fasten'd them
On me, then cried with vehemence aloud :
"What grace is this vouchsaf'd me?" By his looks
I ne'er had recogniz'd him : but tlie voice 4G

Brought to my knowledge Avhat his cheer conceal'd.

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