1265-1321 Dante Alighieri.

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

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Toward me, and the Mantuan spake : " My son,
Here torment thou mayst feel, but canst not death.
Kemember thee, remember thee, if I
Safe e'en on Geryon brought thee : now I come
More near to God, w^lt thou not trust me now ? 25

Of this be sure: though in its womb that flame
A thousand years contain'd thee, from thy head
No hair should perish. If thou doubt my truth, 1

A]j]»roach, and Avith thy hands thy vesture's hem
Stretch forth, and for thyself confirm belief. 30

Lay now all fear, O lay all fear aside.
Turn hither, and come onward undismay'd."
1 still, though conscience urg'd, no step advanc'd.

When still he saw me fix'd and obstinate,
Somewhat disturb'd he cried : " Mark now, my son, 35
From Beatrice thou art by this wall
Divided." As at Thisbe's name the eye
Of Pyramus was open'd (when life ebb'd
Fast from his veins), and took one parting glance.
While vermeil dyed the mulberry ; thus I turn'd 40

To my sage guide, relenting, when I heard
The name, that springs for ever in my breast.

He shook his forehead ; and, " How long," he said,
"Linger we now?" then smil'd, as one would smile
Upon a child, that eyes the fruit and yields. 45

Into the fire before me then he walk'd ;
And Statins, who erewhile no little space
Had parted us, he pray'd to come behind.

I w^ould have cast me into molten glass
To cool me, when I enter'd ; so intense 50

Rag'd the conflagrant mass. The sire belov'd.
To comfort me, as he ])roceeded, still
Of Beatrice talk'd. " Her eyes," saith he.


" E'en now I seem to view." From the otlicr side

A voice, thiit sang, did guide iis, and the \oice 55

Following, with lieedful ear, we issued forth.

There wdiere tl)e path led upward. "Come," we lieard,

" Come, blessed of my Father." Such the so\uuls,

Tliat liail'd us from within a light, wliich shone

So radiant, I could not endure the view. GO

"The sun," it added, "hastes: and evening comes.

Delay not : ere the western sky is hung

With blackness, strive ye for the pass." Our way

Upright within the rock arose, and fac'd

Such part of heav'n, tliat from before my steps 65

The beams were sl\rouded of the sinking sun.

Nor many staii-s were overpast, when now
By fading of the shadow we perceiv'd
The sun behind us couch'd : and ere one face
Of darkness o'er its measureless expanse 70

Involv'd th' horizon, and the night her lot
Held individual, each of us had made
A stair his pallet : not that will, but 2>ower,
Had fail'd us, by the nature of that mount
Forlndden further travel. As the goats, 75

That late have skipp'd and wanton'd rapidly
Upon the craggy cliffs, ere they had ta'en
Their supper on the herb, now silent lie
And ruminate beneath the umbrage brown,
AVhile noon-day rages; and the goatherd leans 80

Ui>on his staff, and leaning watches them :
And as the swain, that lodges out all night
In quiet by his flock, lest beast of prey
Disperse them ; even so all three abode,
I as a goat and as the shepherds they, 85

Close pent on either side by shelving rock.

A little glimpse of sky was seen above ;
Yet by that little I beheld the stars
In magnitude and lustre shining forth
Witli more than wonted glory. As I lay, 90

G;'.zing on them, and in that fit of musing,
Sleep overcame me, sleep, that bringeth oft
Tidings of future haj). About the hour,

rUllGATORY. 217

As I believe, when Venus front the east

First ligliten'd on the mountain, she wliosc orb 95

Seems alway glowing with the lire of love,

A lady young and beautiful, I dream'd,

\Vas i)assing o'er a lea ; and, as she came,

Methought I saw her ever and anon

Bending to cull the flowers ; and thus she sang : 100

" Know ye, whoever of my name would ask.

That I am Leah : for my brow to weave

A gaidand, these fair hands unwearied ply.

To please me at the crystal mirror, here

I deck me. But my sister Rachel, she 105

Before iier glass abides the livelong day,

Iler radiant eyes beholding, charm'd no less,

Than I with this delightful task. Her joy

In contemplation, as in labour mine."

And now as glimm'ring dawn appear'd, that breaks 110
More welcome to the pilgrim still, as he
Sojourns less distant on his homeward way,
Darkness from all sides fled, and vrith it fled
JMy slumber ; whence I rose and saw my guide
Already risen. " That delicious fruit, 115

Which through so many a branch the zealous care
Of mortals roams in quest of, shall this day
Appease thy hunger." Such the words I heard
From Virgil's lip ; and never greeting lieard
So pleasant as the sounds. Within me straight 120

Desire so grew upon desire to mount,
Thenceforward at each step I felt the Avings
Increasing for my flight. When we had run
O'er all the ladder to its topmost round,
As there we stood, on me the Mantuan fix'd 125

His eyes, and thus he spake : " Both fires, my son,
The temporal and eternal, thou hast seen,
And art arriv'd, where of itself my ken
No further reaches. I with skill and art
Thus fur have drawn thee. Now thy pleasure take 130
For guide. Tliou hast o'ercome the steeper way,
O'ercome the straighter. Lo ! the sun, that darts
His beam upon thy forehead ! lo ! the herb,

lilS PUhT.ATOllY.

Tlie arborcts and flowers, wliicli of itself 134

This land pours forth i)rofnsc ! Till those bright eyes

Witli ghidncss come, which, wee])ing, made me haste

'J'o succour tliee, thou niayst or seat thee down,

Or wander where thou wilt. Expect no more

Sanction of warning voice or sign from me,

Free of thy own arbitrement to choose, 140

])iscreet, judicious. To distrust thy sense

Were henceforth error. I invest thee then

With crown and mitre, sovereign o'er thyself."


Through that celestial forest, whose thick shade

With lively greenness the new-springing day

Attemper'd, eager now to roam, and search

Its limits round, forthwith I left the bank,

Along the champain leisurely my way 6

Pursuing, o'er the grovmd, that on all sides

Delicious odour breath'd. A pleasant air,

That intermitted never, never veer'd.

Smote on my temples, gently, as a wind

Of softest influence : at wliich the sprays, 10

Obedient all, leau'd trembling to that part

Where first the holy mountain casts his shade,

Yet were not so disordcr'd, but that still

Upon their top the feather'd quiristers

A]iplied their wonted art, and with full joy 15

Welcom'd those hours of prime, and warbled shrill

Amid the leaves, that to their jocund lays

Kept tenor ; even as from branch to branch.

Along the piny forests on tlie shore

01 Cliiassi, rolls the gath'i-ing melody, 20

When Eolus hath from his cavern loos'd

The dripping south. Already had my steps,

Tliough slow, so far into that ancient wood

Transported me, I could not ken the place

Where I had enter'd, when behold ! my path 25

Was bounded by a rill, which to the left


With little rippling waters bent the grass,

Tliat issued from its brink. On eartli no wave

How clean soe'er, that would not seem to have

Some mixture in itself, compar'd with this, 30

Transpicuous, clear ; yet darkly on it roll'd.

Darkly beneath perpetual gloom, which ne^er

Admits or sun or moon light thei'e to shine.

My feet advanc'd not ; out my wond'ring eyes
Passed onward, o'er the streamlet, to survey 35

The tender May-bloom, flush'd through many a hue,
In prodigal variety : and there,
As object, rising suddenly to view.
That from our bosom every thought beside
With the rare marvel chases, I beheld 40

A lady all alone, who, singing, went.
And culling flower from flower, wherewith her way
Was all o'er painted. " Lady beautiful !
Thou, who (if looks, that use to speak the heart,
Are Avorthy of our trust), with love's own beam 45

Dost warm thee," thus to her my speech I frani'd :
" Ah ! please thee hither towards the streamlet bend
Thy steps so near, that I iiiay list thy song.
Beholding thee and this fair place, metliinks,
I call to mind where wander'd and how look'd 50

Proserpine, in that season, when her child
The mother lost, and she the bloomy spring."

As when a lady, turning in the dance,
Doth foot it featly, and advances scarce
One step before the other to the ground ; -65

0\-er the yellow and vermilion floAvers
Tiuis turn'd she at my suit, most maiden-like,
Valing her sober eyes, and came so near.
That I distinctly cauglit the dulcet sound.
Arriving where the limped waters now 60

La^'d the green SAvard, her eyes she deign'd to raise;
That shot such splendour on me, as I Aveen
Ne'er glanced from Cytherea's, when her son
Had sped his keenest Aveapon to her heart.
Upon the opposite bank she stood and smil'd ; 65

As through her graceful fingers shifted still

220 ruijOATORv,

The intermingling flyes, Avliicli witliout seed

That lofty l:ind unbosoms. By tlie stream

Three paces only were we sundcr'd : yet,

The Hellespont, where Xerxes pass'd it o'er, 70

(A curb for ever to the pride of man)

Was by Leander not more hateful held

For floating, with iidios])itable wave

'Twixt Sestus and Abydos, than by me

That flood, because it gave no passage thence. 75

" Strangers ye come, and haply in this place,
That cradled human nature in its birth,
Won ..'ring, ye not without suspicion view
My smiles : but that sweet strain of psahnody,
' Thou, Lord ! hast made me glad,' will give ye light, 80
Which may uncloud your minds. And thou, who stand'st
The foremost, and didst make thy suit to me,
Say if aught else thou wish to hear : for I
Came promjjt to answer every doubt of thine."

She spake ; and I replied : " I know not how 85

To reconcile this wave and rustling sound
Of forest leaves, with what I late have heard
Of opposite report." She answering thus :
"I will unfold the cause, whence that ])roceeds,
Which makes thee wonder ; and so purge the cloud 90
That hath enwrapt thee. The First Good, whose joy
Is only in himself, created man
For happiness, and gave this goodly j^lace.
His ])ledge and earnest of eternal peace.
Favour'd thus highly, through his own defect 95

He fell, and here made short sojourn ; he fell.
And, for the bitterness of sorrow, chang'd
L;iughter unblam'd and ever-new delight.
That vapours none, exhal'd from earth beneath.
Or from the waters (which, Avherever heat 100

Attracts them, follow), might ascend thus far
To vex man's peaceful state, this mountain rose
So high toward the heav'n, nor fears the rage
Of elements contending, from that part
Exempted, where the gate his limit bars. 105

Because the circumambient air throughout


Willi its first iin])ulse circles still, unless

Auglit iiiter])ose to check or thwart its course;

Ul>oii the summit, which on every side

To visitation of tl)' imjuissive air 110

Is open, cloth that motion strike, and makes

Beneath its sway th' umbrageous wood resound:

And in the sliakcn plant such power resides,

That it im])reguates with its eiiicacy

The voyaging breeze, upon whose subtle plume 115

That Avafted flies abi'oad ; and th' other land

Receiving (as 't is worthy in itself,

Or in the clime, that warms it), doth conceive,*

And from its womb produces many a tree

Of various virtue. This when thou hast heard, 120

The marvel ceases, if in yonder earth

Some plant without ai)parent seed be found

To fix its fibrous stem. And further learn,

That Avith prolific foison of all seeds.

This holy plain is fill'd, and in itself 125

Bears fruit that ne' er was pluck'd on other soil.

" The water, thou behold'st, springs not from vein,
As stream, that intermittently repairs
And spends his j^ulse of life, but issues forth
From fountain, solid, undecaying, sure ; 130

And by the will omnific, full supply
Feeds whatsoe'er on either side it pours ;
On this devolv'd with power to take away
Remembrance of offence, on that to bring
Remembrance back of every good deed done. 135

From whence its name of Lethe on this part ;
On th' other Eunoe : both of which must first
Be tasted ere it work.; the last exceeding
All flavours else. Albeit thy thirst may now
Be Avell contented, if I here break off, 140

No more revealing : yet a corollary
I freely give beside : nor deem my w^ords
Less grateful to thee, if they somewhat pass
The stretch of promise. TJiey, whose verse of yore
The golden age recorded and its bliss, 1-45

On the Pai'iiassian mountain, of this place

222 ruuGAToiiY.

Perhaps had dream'd. Here was man guiltless, here

Perpetual spring and every fruit, and this

The far-fam'd nectar." Turning to the bards,

When she had ceas'd, I noted in their looks 150

A smile at her conclusion ; then my face

Again directed to the lovely dame.


Singing, as if enamour'd, she resum'd

And clos'ci the song, with " Blessed they whose sins

Are cover'd." Like the wood-nymphs then, that tripp'd

Singly across the sylvan shadows, one

Eager to view and one to 'scape the sun, 5

So mov'd she on, against the current, up

The verdant rivage. I, her mincing step

Observing, with as tardy step pursued.

Between us not an hundred paces trod,
The bank, on each side bending equally, 10

Gave me to face the orient. Nor our way
Far onward brought us, .wlien to me at once
She turn'd, and cried : " My brother ! look and hearken."
And lo ! a sudden lustre ran across

Through the great forest on all parts, so bright 15

I doubted Avhether lightning were abroad ;
But that expiring ever in the spleen.
That doth unfold it, and this during: still
And waxing still in splendor, made me question
What it might be : and a sweet melody 20

Ran throug-Ii the luminous air. Then did I chide
With warrantable zeal the hardihood
Of our first parent, for that there were earth
Stood in obedience to the heav'ns, she only,
Woman, the creature of an hour, endur'd not 25

Restraint of any veil : which had she borne
Devoutly, joys, ineffable as these.
Had from ithe first, and long time since, been mine.

While through that wilderness of primy sweets
That never fade, suspense I walk'd, and yet 30


Ex])ectant of beatitude more high,

Before us, Hke a bhizing fire, the air

Under the green bouglis glow'd ; and, for a song,

Distinct the sound of melody was lieard.

ye thrice holy virgins ! for your sakes 35
If e'er I suffer'd hunger, cold and watching,

Occasion calls on me to crave your bounty.

Now through my breast let Helicon* his stream

Pour copious ; and Urania with her choir

Arise to aid me : while the verse unfolds 40

Things that do almost mock the grasp of thought.

Onward a space, Avhat seem'd seven trees of gold,
The intervening distance to mine eye
Falsely presented ; but when I was come
So near them, that no lineament was lost 45

Of those, with which a doubtful object, seen
Remotely, plays on the misdeeming sense,
Then did the faculty, that ministers
Discourse to reason, these for tapers of gold
Distinguish, and i' th' singing trace the sound 50

" Hosanna." Above, their beauteous garniture
Flam'd Avith more ample lustre, than the moon
Through cloudless sky at midnight in her full.

1 turn'd me full of wonder to my guide ;

And he did answer with a countenance 55

Charg'd with no less amazement : Avhence my view
Keverted to those lofty things, which came
So slowly moving towards us, that the bride
Would have outstrijit them on her bridal day.

The lady called abou'd : " Why thus yet burns 60

Affection in thee for these living lights,
And dost not look on that which follows them? "

I straightway mark'd a tribe behind them walk,
As if attendant on their leaders, cloth'd
With raiment of such whiteness, as on earth 65

Was never. On my left, the wat'ry gleam
Borrow'd, and gave me back, when there I look'd.
As in a mirror, my left side portray'd.

When I had chosen on the river's edge
Such station, that the distance of the stream 70


Alone (lid separutc me ; there I stay'd

My steps for clearer prospect, and beheld

The lianics go onward, leaving, as they went,

The air beliind tlieiu painted as with trail

Of liveliest ])encils ! so distinct were mark'd 75

All those sev'n listed colours, wlience the sun

IMaketh his bow, and Cynthia her zone.

These streaming gonfalons did flow beyond

My vision ; and ten paces, as I guess,

Parted the outermost. Beneath a sky 80

So beautiful, came four-and-twenty elders.

By two and two, with flower-de-luces croAvn'd.

All sang one song : " Blessed be thou among

The daughters of Adam ! and thy loveliness

Blessed for ever ! " After that the flowers, 85

And the fresh herblets, on the opj)osite brink,

Were free from that elected race ; as light

In heav'n doth second light, came after them

Four animals, each crown'd with verdurous leaf.

With six wings each was plum'd, the plumage full 90

Of eyes, and th' eyes of Argus would be such.

Were they endued with life. Reader, more rhymes

I will not waste in shadowing forth their form :

For other need no straitens, that in this

I may not give my bounty room. But read 95

Ezekiel ; for he j^aints them, from the north

How he beheld them come by Chebar's flood,

In wliirlwind, cloud and Are ; and even such

As thou shalt find them character'd by him,

Here were they; save as to the pennons ; there, 100

From him departing, John accords with me.

The space, surrounded by the four, enolos'd
A car triumphal : on two wheels it came
Drawn at a Gryphon's neck ; and he above
Stretch'd either wing uplifted, 'tween the midst 105

And the three listed hues, on each side three ;
So that the wings did cleave or injure none ;
And out of sight they rose. The members, far
As he was bird, were golden ; white the rest
With vermeil iutervein'd. So beautiful 110

.^ '■-'- '— - 11 r — T[-—ffl— -"■"•■ ■—■^^"-'■-■''■^'''^


A car in Rome ne\M- grac'd Augustiis pomp,

Or Africamis' : e'en the sun's itself

Were poor to this, that cliariot of the sun

Erroneous, Avhich in blazing ruin fell

At Tellus' pray'r devout, by the just doom 115

I Mysterious of all- seeing Jove. Three nymphs

At the right wheel, came circling in smooth dance ;

Tlie one so ruddy, that her form had scarce

Been known within a furnace of clear flame :
j The next did look, as if the flesh and bones 120

i Were emerald : snow new-fallen seem'd the third.

Now seem'd the white to lead, the ruddy now ;
I And from her song who led, the others took

Their measure, swift or slow. At th' other wheel,
I A band quaternion, each in purple clad, 125

S Advanc'd witli festal step, as of them one
I The rest conducted, one, upon whose front
I Three eyes were seen. In rear of all this groupe,
\ Two old men I beheld, dissimilar

\ In raiment, but in port and gesture like, 130

I Solid and mainly grave ; of whom the one
I Did bhow himself some favour'd counsellor
j Of the great Coan, him, whom nature made
J To serve the costliest creature of her tribe.
I His fellow mark'd an opposite intent, 135

\ Bearing a sword, whose glitterance and keen edge,
i E'en as I view'd it with the flood between,
I A])pall'd me. Next four others I beheld.

Of humble seeming : and, behind them all,
\ ()ne single old man, sleeping as he came, 140

\ With a shrewd visage. And these seven, each

Like the first troop were habited, but wore

No braid of lilies on their temples wreath'd.

Rather with roses and each vermeil flower,

A sight, but little distant, might have sworn, 145

That they were all on fire above their brow.
I Whenas the car was o'er against me, straight

] Was heard a thund'ring, at whose voice it seem'd
i The chosen multitude were stay'd ; for there,
i With the fii'st C'e;si<rns, made thev S(;lemn halt. 150



SooN" as the polar liglit, which never knows

Setting nor rising, nor the shadowy veil

Of other cloud than sin, fair ornament

Of tlie first heav'n, to duty each one there

Safely convoying, as that lower doth 6

The steersman to his port, stood firmly fix'd ;

Forthwith the saintly tribe, who in the van

Between the Gryphon and its radiance came,

Did turn them to the car, as to their rest :

And one, as if commission'd from above, 10

In holy chant thrice shouted forth aloud :

" Come, spouse, from Libanus ! " and all the rest

Took up the song. — At the last audit so

The blest shall rise, from forth his cavern each

Uplifting lightly his new-vested flesh, 15

As, on the sacred litter, at the voice

Authoritative of that elder, sprang

A hundred ministers and messengers

Of life eternal. " Blessed thoii ! who com'st ! "

And, "O," they cried, "from full hands scatter ye 20

Uuwith'ring lilies ; " and, so saying, cast

Flowers over head and round them on all sides.

I have beheld, ere now, at break of day,
The eastern clime all roseate, and the sky
OjDpos'd, one deep and beautiful serene, 25

And the sun's face so shaded, and with mists
Attemper'd at his rising, that the eye
Long while endur'd the sight : thus in a cloud
Of flowers, that from those hands angelic rose.
And down, within and outside of the car, 30

Fell showering, in white veil wnth olive wreath'd,
A virgin in my view appear'd, beneath
Green mantle, rob'd in hue of living flame :
And o'er my spirit, that in former days
Within her presence had abode so long, 35

No shudd'ring terror crept. Mine eyes no more
Had knowledge of her; yet there mov'd from her
A hidden virtue, at whose touch awak'd,


The power of ancient love was slroiig witliin nie.

No sooner on my vision .streaming, smote 40

Tlie lieav'nly intliience, which years })a8t, and e'en
In chihlhood, thrill'd me, tlian towards Virgil I
Turn'd me to leftward, ])anting, like a babe,
That flees for refnge to his mother's breast,
If auglit have terrified or work'd him woe: 45

And would have cried : "There is no dram of blood,
That dotli not quiver in me. The old flame
Throws out clear tokens of reviving fire ; "
But Virgil had bereav'd us of himself,
Virgil, my best-lov'd father; Virgil, he 50

To whom I gave me w]) for safety : nor.
All, our prime mother lost, avail'd to save
My undew'd cheeks from blur of soiling tears.

" Dante, weep not, that Virgil leaves thee : nay,
Weep thou not yet : behoves thee feel the edge 55

Of other sword, and thou shalt weep for that."

As to tlie prow or stern, some admiral
Paces the deck, inspiriting his crew.
When 'mid the sail-yards all hands ply aloof ;
Thus on the left side of the car I saw, 60

(Turning me at the sound of mine own name,
Which here I am compell'd to register)
Tlie virgin station'd, who before appeared
Veil'd in that festive shower angelical.

Towards me, across the stream, she bent lier eyes; 65
Though from her brow the veil descending, bound
With foliage of Minerva, suffer'd not
That I beheld her clearly ; then with act
Full royal, still insulting o'er her thrall.
Added, as one, who speaking keepeth back 70

The bitterest saying, to conclude the speech :
" Observe me well. I am, in sooth, I am
Beatrice. What ! and hast thou deign'd at last
Approach the mountain? Knewest not, O man !
Thy happiness is here ?" Down fell mine eyes 75

On the clear fount, but there, myself espying,
Recoil'd, and sought the greensward : such a weight
Of shame was on my forehead. With a mien


Of tliat stern majesty, which dotli surround

A mother's presence to her awe-struck cliild, 80

Slie look'd ; a flavour of sucli bitterness

Was mingled in lier pity. There her words

Brake off, and suddenly the angels sang :

" In thee, O gracious Lord, my hope hath been : "

But went no farther than, " Thou Lord, hast set 85

My feet in ample room." As snow, that lies

Amidst the living rafters on the back

Of Italy congeal'd when drifted high

And closely pil'd by rough Sclavonian blasts,

Breathe but the land wliereon no shadow falls. 90

And straightway melting it distils away,

Like a fire-wasted taper : thus was I,

Witliout a sigh or tear, or ever these

Did sing, that with the chiming of heav'n's sphere,

Still in their warbling chime : but when the strain 95

Of dulcet symphony, express'd for me

Their soft comjiassion, more than could the words

" Virgin, why so consum'st him ?" then the ice,

Congeal'd about my bosom, turn'd itself

To spirit and water, and with anguish forth 100

Gush'd through the lips and eyelids from the heart.

Upon the chariot's right edge still she stood,
Immovable, and thus address'd her words
To those bright semblances with pity touch'd :
"Ye in th' eternal day your vigils keep, 105

So that nor night nor slumber, with close stealth,
Conveys from you a single step in all
The goings on of life : thence with more heed

Online Library1265-1321 Dante AlighieriThe Vision : or, Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, of Dante Alighieri → online text (page 17 of 37)