1265-1321 Dante Alighieri.

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

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I shape mine answer, for his car intended.
Who there stands weeping, that the sorrow now 110

May equal the transgression. Not alone
Through operation of the mighty orbs.
That mark each seed to some predestin'd aim,
As with aspect or fortunate or ill

The constellations meet, but through benign 115

Largess of heav'nly graces, Avhich rain down
From such a height, as mocks our vision, this man
Was in the freshness of liis being, such,


So qifled virtunlly, tliat in him

All better li.'ibits woud'rously l>ad thrivM. 120

The more of kindly strength is in the soil,

So mucli doth evil seed and lack of culture

JNIar it tlie more, and make it run to wildne.ss.

These looks sometime upheld him ; for I sliow'd

JNIy youthful eyes, and led liim by tlieir liglit 12;")

In upright walking. Soon as I had i-eachM

The threshold of my second age, and chang'd

JNIy mortal for immortal, then he left me.

And gave"himself to others. When from liesli

To spirit I had risen, and increase 1.30

Of beauty and of virtue circled me,

I was less dear to him, and valued less.

His steps were turn'd into deceitful ways,

Following false images of good, that make

No promise perfect. Nor avaiJ'd me aught 135

To sue for inspirations, with the which,

I, both in dreams of night, and otherwise,

Did call him back ; of them so little reck'd him.

Such depth he fell, that all device was short

Of his preserving, save that he should view 140

The childi-en of perdition. To this end

I visited the purlieus of the dead :

And one, who hath conducted him thus high,

Receiv'd my supj'lications urg'd with weeping.

It were a breaking of C4od's high decree, 145

If Lethe should be past, and such food tasted

Without the cost of some repentant tear."


" O THOU ! " her words she thus without delay
Resuming, turn'd their point on me, to whom
They but with lateral edge seem'd harsh before,
" Say thou, who stand'st beyond the holy stream,
If this be true. A charge so grievous needs
Thine own avowal." On my faculty
Such strange amazement hung, the voice expir'd


Iin])crfect, ere its oro;aiis c:ave it birtli.

A little space refraining, tlien she spake :
"What dost thou muse on ? Answer me. The wave
On thy remembrances of evil yet 11

Hath done no injury." A mingled sense
Of fear and of confusion, from my lips
Did sucli a " Yea " produce, as needed help
Of vision to interpret. As when breaks 15

In act to be discharg'd, a cross-bow bent
Beyond its pitch, both nerve and bow o'erstretch'd,
The flagging weapon feebly hits the mark ;
Thus, tears and sighs forth gushing, did I burst
Beneath the heavy load, and thus my voice 20

Was slacken'd on its way. She straight began :
" When my desire invited thee to love
The good, which sets a bound to our aspirings,
What bar of thwarting foss or linked chain
Did meet thee, that thou so should'st quit the hope
Of further progress, or what bait of ease 26

Or promise of allurement led thee on
Elsewhere, that thou elsewhere should'st rather wait ? "

A bitter sigh I drew, then scarce found voice
To answer, hardly to these sounds my lips 30

Gave utterance, wailing : " Thy fair looks AvithdraAvn,
Things present, with deceitful pleasures, turn'd
My ste]>s aside." She answering spake : " Iladst thou
Been silent, or denied what thou avow'st.
Thou hadst not hid thy sin the more : such eye 35

Observes it. But v^'hene'er the sinner's cheek
Breaks forth into the precious-streaming tears
Of self-accusing, in our court the wheel
Of justice doth run counter to the edge.
Howe'er that thou may'st profit by thy shame 40

For errors past, and that henceforth more strength
May arm thee, when thou hear'st the Syren-voice,
Lay thou aside the motive to tliis grief,
And lend attentive ear, while I unfold
How opposite a way my buried flesh 45

Should have impell'd thee. Never didst thou spy
In art or nature aught so j^assing sweet,


As were the limbs, tliat in their beauteous frame

Enclos'd me, and are scatter'd now in dust.

If sweetest thing thus fail'd thee with my death, 50

What, afterward, of mortal sliould thy wish

Have tempted? Wlien thou first hadst felt the dart

Of perishable things, in my departing

For better realms, thy wing thou should'st have })run'd

To follow me, and never stoop'd again 55

To 'bide a second blow for a slight girl,

Or other gaud as transient and as vain.

The new and inexperienc'd bird awaits.

Twice it may be, or thrice, the fowler's aim ;

But in the sight of one, whose plumes are full, 60

Id vain the net is spread, the arrow wing'd."

I stood, as children silent and asham'd
Stand, list'ning, with their eyes upon the earth,
Acknowledging their fault and self-condemn 'd.
And she resuni'd : " If, but to hear thus pains thee, 65
Raise thou thy beard, and lo ! what sight shall do ! "

With less reluctance yields a stvirdy holm,
Rent from its fibres by a blast, that blows
From off the pole, or from larbas' land,
Than I at her behest my visage rais'd : 70

And thus the face denoting by the beard,
I mai'k'd the secret sting her words convey'd.

No sooner lifted I mine aspect up.
Than downward sunk that vision I beheld
Of goodly creatures vanish ; and mine eyes 75

Yet unassur'd and wavering, bent their light
On Beatrice. Towards the animal,
Who joins two natures in one form, she turn'd.
And, even imder shadow of her veil,

And parted by the verdant rill, that flow'd 80

Between, in loveliness appear'd as much
Her former self surpassing, as on earth
All others she surpass'd. Remorseful goads
Shot sudden through me. Each thing else, the more
Its love had late beguil'd me, now the more 85

Was loathsome. On my heart so keenly smote
The bitter consciousness, that on the ground



O'crpower'd I fell : .ind what my state was then,

She knows who was the cavise. When now my strengtli

Flow'cl back, returning outward from the heart, 90

The lady, Avliom alone I first had seen,

I found above me. "Loose me not," she cried :

"Loose not thy hold ; " and lo ! had dragg'd me high

As to my neck into tbe stream, while she,

Still as she drew me after, swept along, " 95

Swift as a shuttle, bounding o'er the wave.

The blessed shore approaching then was heard
So sweetly, " Tu asperges me," that I
May not remember, much less tell the sound.

The beauteous dame, her arms expanding, clasp'd
My temples, and inmierg'd me, where 't was fit 101

The wave should drench me : and thence raising up,
Within the fourfold dance of lovely nymjihs
Presented me so lav'd, and with their arm
They each did cover me. " Here are we nymphs, 105
And in the heav'n are stars. Or ever earth
Was visited of Beatrice, we
Appointed for her handmaids, tended on her.
We to her eyes will lead thee ; but the light
Of gladness that is in them, Avell to scan, 110

Those yonder three, of deeper ken than ours.
Thy sight shall quicken." Thus began their song;
And then they led me to the Gryphon's breast.
While, turn'd toward us, Beatrice stood.
" Spare not thy vision. We have stationed thee 11 f)
Before the emeralds, whence love erewhile
ITath drawn his weapons on thee." As they spake,
A thousand fervent wishes rivited
Mine eyes upon her beaming eyes, that stood
Still fix'd toward the Gryphon montionless. 120

As the sun strikes a mirroi", even thus
Within those orbs the twyfold being shone,
For ever varying, in one figure now
Reflected, now in other. Reader ! muse
How wond'rous in my sight it seem'd to mark 125

A thing, albeit steadfast in itself,
Vet in its imag'd semblance mutable.


rURGATOTlY. '283

Full of amaze, and joyous, wliile my soul
Fed on the viand, -wliereof still desire
Grows with satiety, the other three 130

With gesture, that declar'd a loftier line,
Advane'd : to tlieir own carol on they came
Dancing in festive ring angelical.

" Turn, Beatrice ! " was tlieir song : " O turn
Thy saintly sight on this thy faithful one, lo5

Who to behold thee many a wearisome pace
Hath measur'd. Gracious at our pray'r vouchsafe
Unveil to him thy cheeks: that he may mark
Thy second beauty, now conceal'd." O splendour!
O sacred light eternal ! Avho is he 140

So pale with musing in Pierian shades,
Or with that fount so lavishly imbued,
Whose spirit should not fail him in th' essay
To represent thee such as thou didst seem,
When under coj»e of the still-chiming heaven 145

Thou gav'st to open air thy charms reveal'd ?


Mine eyes with such an eager coveting,

Were bent to rid them of their ten years' thirst,

No other sense Avas waking : and e'en they

Were fenc'd on either side from heed of aught ;

So tangled in its custom'd toils that smile f)

Of saintly brightness drew me to itself,

When forcibly toward the left my sight

The sacred virgins turn'd ; for from their lij^s

I heard the warning sounds : " Too fix'd a gaze ! "

Awhile my vision labor'd ; as when late 10

U])on the' o'erstrained eyes the sun hath smote :
But soon to lesser object, as the view
Was now recover'd (lesser in resjiect
To that excess of sensible, whence late
I had perforce been sunder'd) on their right 15

I mark'd that glorious army wheel, and turn,
Against the sun and sev'nfold lights, their front.


As wlien, tlieir bucklers for protection raisM,

A well-r;iii_2;'<l troop, witli portly banners ciirl'd,

Wheel circling, ere the whole can change their ground :

E'en thus the goodly regiment of heav'n 21

Proceeding, all did pass us, ere the car

Had slop'd his beam. Attendant at the wheels

The damsels turn'd ; and on the Gryphon mov'd

The sacred burden, with a pace so smooth, 25

No feather on him trembled. The fair dame

Who through the wave had drawn me, companied

By Statins and myself, pursued the wheel,

Whose orbit, rolling, mark'd a lesser arch.

Through the high wood, now void (the more her
blame, 30

Who by the serpent was beguil'd) I past
With step in cadence to the harmony
Angelic, Onward had we mov'd, as far
Perchance as arrow at three several flights
Full wing'd had sped, when from her station down 35
Descended Beatrice. With one voice
All murmur'd " Adam," circling next a plant
Despoil'd of flowers and leaf on every bough.
Its tresses, spreading more as more they rose,
Were such, as 'midst their forest wilds for height 40

The Indians might have gaz'd at. " Blessed thou !
Gryphon, whose beak hath never pluck'd that tree
Pleasant to taste : for hence the appetite
Was warp'd to evil." Round the stately trunk
Thus shouted forth the rest, to whom return'd 45

The animal twice-gender'd : " Yea : for so
The generation of the just are sav'd."
And turning to the chariot-pole, to foot
He drew it of the widow'd branch, and bound
There left unto the stock whereon it grew. 50

As when large floods of radiance from above
Stream, with that radiance mingled, which ascends
Next after setting of the scaly sign,
Our plants then burgein, and each wears anew
His wonted colours, ere the sun have yok'd 55

Beneath another star his flamy steeds ;


Tlius ]Mitting fortli a liuo, more faint than rose,
And deeper than the violet, was renew'd
The plant, erewhile in all its branches bare.

Uneartlily was the hymn, wliich then arose. 60

I understood it not, nor to the end
Endur'd the harmony. Had I tlie skill
To pencil fortli, how clos'd tli' unjjitying eyes
Slumb'ring, when Syrinx warbled, (eyes that paid
So dearly for their watching,) then like ])ainter, 65

That with a model paints, I might design
The manner of my falling into sleep.
But feign who will the slumber cunningly;
I pass it by to when I wak'd, and tell
How suddenly a flash of splendour rent 70

The curtain of my sleep, and one cries out :
" Arise, what dost thou ? " As the chosen three,
On Tabor's mount, admitted to behold
The blossoming of that fair tree, Avhose fruit
Is coveted of angels, and doth make 75

Perpetual feast in heaven, to themselves
Returning at the word, whence deeper sleej'ts
Were broken, that they their tribe dimiuish'd saw,
Both Moses and Elias gone, and chang'd
The stole tlieir master wore : thus to myself 80

Returning, over me beheld I stand
The piteous one, who cross the stream had bi'ouglit
Mv steps. " And where," all doubting, I exclaim'd,
" Is Beatrice ? "— " See her," she replied,
" Beneath the fresh leaf seated on its root. 8-^

Behold th' associate choir that circles her.
The others, with a melody more sweet
And more profound, journeying to higher realms,
Upon the Gry]ihon tend." If there lier words
Were clos'd, I know not ; but mine eyes had now 00

Ta'en view of her, by whom all other thoughts
Were barr'd admittance. On the very ground
Alone she sat, as she had there been left
A guard upon the wain, which I beheld
Bound to the twyform beast. The seven nymphs 95

Did make themselves a cloister round about her,

286 pinir.ATouY. '

And in tlieir Imnds iijilield tliosc liij^lits secure
From blast septentrion iuid the gusty south.

"A little wliile thou shalt be forester here :
And citizen shalt be for ever with me, 100

Of that true Home, whei-ein Clirist dwells a Roman.
To ])rofit the misguided world, keep now
Thine eyes upon the car ; and what thou secst,
Take heed thou Avrite, returning to that place."

Thus Beatrice : at whose feet inclin'd 105

Devout, at her behest, my thought and eyes,
I, as she bade, directed. Never fire,
With so swift motion, forth a stormy cloud
Leap'd downward from the Avelkin's farthest bound,
As I beheld the bird of Jove descending 110

Pounce on the tree, and, as he rush'd, the rind.
Disparting crush beneath him, buds much more
And leaflets. On the car with all his might
He struck, whence, staggering like a ship, it reel'd,
At random driv'n, to starboard now, o'ercome, 11-5

And now to larboard, by the vaulting waves.

Next si)ringing up into the chariot's womb
A fox I saw, with hunger seeming })in'd
Of all good food. But, for his ugly sins
The saintly maid rebuking him, away 120

Scamp'ring lie turn'd, fast as his hide-bound corpse
Would bear him. Next, from Avhence before he came,
I saw the eagle dart into the hull
O' til' car, and leave it with his feathers lin'd ;
And then a voice, like that which issues forth 11^5

P^rom heart with sorrow riv'd, did issue forth
From heav'n, and, " O poor bark of mine !" it cried,
" How badly art thou freighted ! " Then, it seem'd.
That the earth open'd between either wlieel,
And I beheld a dragon issue thence, loO

That through the chariot fix'd his forked train ;
And like a wasp that draggeth back the sting,
So drawing forth his baleful train, he dragg'd
Part of the bottom forth, and went his Avay
Exulting. What remnin'd, as lively turf 135

With green herb, so did clothe itself with plumes,


Whicli liaply had witli i)iir|)ose chaste and kind

Ut'L'u offerM ; ;viid tliorewith were cloth'd tlio wheels,

Both one and other, and the beam, so quickly,

A sigh were not breath'd sooner. Thus transform'd, 140

The holy structure, through its several parts,

Did put forth heads, three on the beam, and one

On every side ; the first like oxen horn'd,

I>ut with a single horn upon their front

The four. Like monster sight hath never seen. 145

O'er it methought there sat, secure as rock

On mountain's lofty top, a shameless whore.

Whose ken rov'd loosely round her. At her side.

As 't were that none might bear her off, I saw

A giant stand ; and evci- and anon 150

They mingled kisses. But, her lustful eyes

Chancing on me to wander, that fell minion

Scourg'd her from head to foot all o'er ; then full

Of jealousy, and fierce with rage, unloos'd

The monster, and di-agg'd on, so far across 155

The forest, that from me its shades alone

Shielded the harlot and the uew-form'd brute.


" The heathen. Lord ! are come ! " responsive thus,

The trinal now, and now the virgin band

Quaternion, their sweet psalmody began,

Weeping; and Beatrice listen'd, sad

And sighing, to the song, in such a mood, 5

That Mary, as she stood beside the cross,

Was scarce more chang'd. But when they gave her

To speak, then, risen upright on her feet.
She, with a colour glowing bright as fire,
Did answer : " Yet a little while, and ye 10

Shall see me not ; and, my beloved sisters,
Again a little while, and ye shall see me."
Before her then she marshall'd all the seven,


And, beck'niiio; only niotion'd nie, tlie dame,

And that remaining .saire, to follow her. 15

So on she pass'd ; and had not set, I Aveen,
Her tenth step to the gronnd, when with mine eyes
Her eyes encounter'd ; and, with visage mild,
" So mend thy pace," she cried, " that if my words
Address thee, thou mayst still be aptly plac'd 20

To hear them." Soon as duly to her side
I now had hasten'd : " Brother ! " she began,
" Why mak'st thou no attempt at questioning,
As thus we Avalk together ? " Like to those
Wlio, speaking with too reverent an awe 25

Before their betters, draw not forth the voice
Alive unto their lips, befel me then
That I in sounds imperfect thus began :
"Lady! Avhat I have need of, that thou know'st,
And what will suit my need." She answering thus :
" Of tearfulness and shame, I will, that thou 30

Henceforth do rid thee : that thou s])eak no more,
As one Avho dreams. Thus far be taught of me :
The vessel, which thou saw'st the serpent break.
Was and is not : let him, who hath the blame, 35

Ho])e not to scare God's vengeance with a sop.
Without an heir for ever shall not be
That eagle, he, who left the chariot plum'd.
Which monster made it first and next a prey.
Plainly I view, and therefore s])eak, the stars 40

E'en now approaching, whose conjunction, free
From all impediment and bar, brings on
A season, in the which, oile sent from God,
(Five hundred, five, and ten, do mark liim out)
That foul one, and th' accom]>lice of her guilt, 45

The giant, both shall slay. And if perchance
My saying, dark as Themis or as Sphinx,
Fail to persuade thee, (since like them it foils
The intellect with blindness) yet ere long-
Events shall be the NnTads, that will solve 50
This knotty riddle, and no damage light
On flock or field. Take heed ; and as these words
By me are utter'd, teach them even so


To those ■\vho live iliat life, whicli is a race

To death : and when thou writ'st them, keep in mind 55

jNot to conceal how thou hast seen tiie ])lant,

Tliat twice hath now been spoil'd. This whoso robs,

This Avhoso plucks, with bl;\,si)hemy of deed

Sins against God, who for his use alone

Creating hallow'd it. For taste of this, 60

In pain and in desire, five thousand years

And upAvard, the fii'st soul did yearn for him,

Who punish'd in himself the fatal gust.

" Thy reason slumbers, if it deem this height
And summit thus inverted of the plant, 05

Without due cause : and were not vainer thoughts,
As Elsa's numbing waters, to thy soul,
And their fond pleasures had not dyed it dark
As Py ramus the mulberry, thou hadst seen,
In such momentous circumstance alone, 70

God's equal justice morally im])lied
In the forbidden tree. But since I mark thee
In understanding harden'd into stone.
And, to that hardness, spotted too and stain'd,
So that thine eye is dazzled at ray word, 75

I will, that, if not written, yet at least
Painted thou take it in thee, for the cause.
That one brings home his staff inwreath'd with palm."

I thus : " As wax by seal, that changeth not
Its impress, now is stamj^'d my brain b}^ thee. 80

But wherefore soars thy Avish'd-for speech so high
Beyond my sight, that loses it the more.
The more it strains to reach it? " — " To the end
That thou mayst know," she answer'd straight, " tlie

That thou hast follow'd ; and how far behind, 85

When following my discourse, its learning halts :
And mayst behold your art, from the divine
As distant, as the disagreement is
' Twixt earth and heaven's most high and rapturous orb."

" I not remember," I replied, " that e'er 90

I was estrang'd from thee, nor for such fault
Doth conscience chide me." Smiling she return'd:

240 runGATORv.

" If thou canst not rcmoinber, call to mind

IIow lately thou hast drunk of Lethe's wave ;

7\nd, sure as smoke (h)th indicate a llame, 95

In that forgetfuluess itself conclnde

lilanie from thy alienated will incurr'd.

From henceforth verily my words shall be
\ As naked as will suit them to ai^peai-

I In thy unpractis'd view." More sparkling now, 109

I And with retarded course the sun possess'd
( The circle of mid-day, that varies still
j As th' aspect varies of each several clime,
j When, as one, sent in vaward of a troop
I For escort, pauses, if perchance he spy 105

• Vestige of somewhat strange and rare : so paus'd
\ The sev'nfold hand, arriving at the verge

Of a dun umbrage hoar, such as is seen,
} Beneath green leaves and gloomy branches, oft
I To overbrow a bleak and alpine cliff. 110

I And, where they stood, before them, as it seem'd,
I I Tigris and Eu])hrates both beheld,
I Forth from one fountain issue ; and, like friends,

Linger at parting. " O enlight'ning beam !
I O glory of our kind ! beseech thee say 115

I What water this, which from one source deriv'd
I Itself removes to distance from itself ? "
\ To such entreaty answer thus was made :

I " Entreat Matilda, that she teach thee this."

And here, as one, who clears himself of blame 120

Imputed, the fair dame return'd : " Of me
I He this and more hath learnt ; and I am safe

That Lethe's water hath not hid it from liim."
j And Beatrice : " Some more pressing care

\ That oft the memory 'reaves, perchance hath made 125
; His mind's eye dark. But lo ! where Eunoe flows !
I Lead thither ; and, as thou art wont, revive
I His fainting virtue." As a coui'teous spirit,
i That proffers no excuses, but as soon
I As he hath token of another's will, 130

; Makes it his own ; when she had ta'en me, thus
\ The lovely maiden niov'd her on, and call'd


To Statins witli rin uir most lady-like :
" Come thou witli him." Were further space allow'd,
Then, Reader, might I sing, though but in part, 185

That beverage, with Mdiose sweetness I had ne'er
Been sated. But, since all the leaves are full,
Ap])ointed for this second strain, mine art
With warning bridle checks me. I return'd
From the most holy wave, regenerate, 140

E'en as new ])lants renew'd with foliage new,
Pure and made apt for mounting to the stars.




His glory, by whose miglit all things are iiiov'd,

Pierces the universe, and in one part

Sheds more res])lendence, elsewliere less. In heav'n,

Tliat largeliest of his light partakes, was I,

Witness of things, which to relate again 5

Sur])asseth power of him who comes from thence ;

For that, so near approaching its desire

Our intellect is to such depth absorb'd,

Tliat memory cannot follow. Nathless all,

That in my thoughts I of that sacred realm 10

Could store, shall now be matter of my song.

Benign Apollo ! this last labour aid,
And make me such a vessel of thy worth,
As thy own laurel claims of me belov'd.
Thus far hath one of steep Parnassus' brows 15

iSufiic'd me ; henceforth there is need of both
For my remaining enterprise. Do thou
Enter into my bosom, and there breathe
So, as when Marsyas by thy hand was dragg'd
Forth from Ids limbs unshcath'd. O power divine ! 20
If thou to me of thine impart so much.
That of that hap])y realm the shadow'd form
Trac'd in my thoughts I may set forth to view,
Tliou shalt behold me of thy favour'd tree
Come to the foot, and crown myself with leaves; 25



For to tliat honour lliou, mid my liigli (heme

Will fit me. If but seldom, mighty Sire !

To grace liis triumj)h gathers theuce a wreath

Ciesar or bard (luore shame for liuman wills

Deprav'd) joy to the Delphic god must spring 30

From the Pierian foliage, when one breast

Is witli such thirst insjnr'd. From a small spark

(ireat flame hath risen : after me percliance

Otliers with better voice may pray, and gain

From the Cirrhrean city answer kind. 35

Through divers passages, the world's bright lamp
Rises to mortals, but through that Avhich joins
Four circles with the threefold cross, in best
Course, and in happiest constellation set
He comes, and to the worldly wax best gives 40

Its temper and impression. Morning there,
Here eve was by almost such passage made ;
And whiteness had o'ersjiread that heinisphere,
Blackness the other part ; when to the left
I saw Beatrice tuni'd, and on the sun 45

Online Library1265-1321 Dante AlighieriThe Vision : or, Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, of Dante Alighieri → online text (page 18 of 37)