1265-1321 Dante Alighieri.

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

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Gazing, as never eagle fix'd his ken.
As from the first a second beam is wont
To issue, and reflected upwards rise.
E'en as a pilgrim bent on his return.
So of her act, that through the eyesight pass'd 50

Into my fancy, mine was form'd ; and straight,
Beyond our mortal wont, I fix'd mine eyes
Upon the sun. Much is allow'd us there.
That here exceeds our pow'r ; thanks to the place
Made for the dwelling of the human kind. 55

I suffer'd it not long, and yet so long
That I beheld it bick'ring sparks around,
As iron that comes boiling from the fire.
And suddenly upon the day ap])ear'd
A day new-ris'n, as he, \vho hath the power, 60

Had with another sun bedeck'd the sky.

Her eyes fast fix'd on the eternal wheels,
Beatrice stood unmov'd ; and I with ken
Fix'd upon her, from upward gaze remov'd,
At her aspect, such inwardly became 65


As Glaiicus, wlieii lie tasted of tlic herb,

Tlint made liim peer among tlic ocean gods ;

Words may not tell of that transhunian change :

And therefore let the example serve, though weak.

For those whom grace hath better i)roof in store. 70

If I were only Avhat thou didst create,
Tlien newly, Love ! by whom tlie hcav'n is rul'd,
Tliou know'st, who by tliy light didst bear me up.
Whenas the Avheel Avliich thou dost ever guide,
Desired Spirit ! with its harmony 75

Temper'd of thee and measur'd, charm'd mine ear,
Then seem'd to me so much of heav'u to blaze
With the sun's flame, that rain or flood ne'er made
A lake so broad. The newness of the sound.
And that great light, inflam'd me with desire, 80

Keener than e'er was felt, to know their cause.

Whence she who saw me, clearly as myself,
To calm my troubled mind, before I ask'd,
Open'd her lips, and gracious thus began :
" With false imagination thou thyself 85

Mak'st dull, so that thou seest not the thing.
Which thou hadst seen, liad that been shaken off.
Thou art not on the earth as thou believ'st ;
For light'ning scap'd from its own proper place
Ne'er ran, as thou hast hither now return'd." 90

Although divested of my first-rais'd doubt.
By those brief words, accomj^anied with smiles,
Yet in new doubt was I entangled more.
And said: "Already satisfied, I rest

From admiration deep, but now admire 95

How I above those lighter bodies rise,"

Whence, after utt'rance of a piteous sigh.
She tow'rds me bent her eyes, with such a look,
As on her frenzied child a mother casts ;
Then thus beo-an : " Among themselves all things 100
Have order; and from hence the form, which makes
The universe resemble God. In this
The higher creatures see the printed stepkS
Of that eternal worth, which is the end
Whither the line is drawn. All natures lean, 105

pAKAnisE. 245

In this tlicir order, diversely, some more,

Some less apiiroacliiiig to their i)rimal source.

Thus tliey to different liaA'ens are niov'd on

Tlirough the vast sea of being, and each one

With instinct giv'n, that bears it in its course; 110

Tliis to the lunar sphere directs the fire,

Tliis prompts the hearts of mortal animals,

This the brute earth together knits, and binds.

Nor only creatures, void of intellect,

Are aim'd at by this bow; but even those, 115

That have intelligence and love, are pierc'd.

That Providence, who so well orders all,

With her own light makes ever calm the lioaven,

In which the substance, that hath greatest S2)eed,

Is turn'd : and thither now, as to our seat 120

Predestin'd, we are carried by the force

Of that strong cord, that never looses dart,

But at fair aim and glad. Yet is it true,

That as ofttimes but ill accords the form

To the design of art, through sluggishness 125

Of unrejilying matter, so this course

Is sometimes quitted by the creature, who

Hath power, directed thus, to bend elsewhere;

As from a cloud the fire is seen to fall.

From its original imjiulse warp'd, to earth, 130

By vicious fondness. Thou no more admire

Thy soaring, (if I rightly deem,) than lapse

Of torrent down'vvards from a mountain's height.

There Avould in thee for wonder be more cause,

If, free of hind'rance, thou hadst fix'd thyself 135

Below, like fire unmoving on the earth."

So said, she turn'd toward the heav'n her face.


All ye, who in small bark have following sail'd,
Eager to listen, on the' advent'rous track
Of my proud keel, that singing cuts its way.
Backward return with speed, and your own shores


Revisit, nor put out to open sea, 5

Where losing nie, perclinnce ye may remain

Bewilder'd in deep maze. The way I pass

Ne'er yet was run : Minerva breatlies the gale,

Apollo guides me, and another Nine

To my rapt sight the arctic beams reveal, 10

Ye other few, who have outstretch'd the neck

Timely for food of angels, on which here

They live, yet never know satiety,

Through the deep brine ye fearless may put out

Your vessel, marking well the furrow broad 15

Before you in the wave, that on both sides

Equal returns. Those, glorious, who pass'd o'er

To Colchos, wonder'd not as ye will do,

When they saw Jason following the plough.

The increate perpetual thirst, that draws 20

Toward the realm of God's own form, bore us
Swift almost as the heaven ye behold.

Beatrice upward gaz'd, and I on her,
And in such space as on the notch a dart
Is plac'd, then loosen'd flies, I saw myself 25

Arriv'd, where ^vond'rous thing engag'd my sight.
Whence she, to whom no work of mine was hid.
Turning to me, with as])ect glad as fair,
Bespake me : " Gratefully direct thy mind
To God, through whom to this first star we come." 30

Me seem'd as if a cloud had cover'd us.
Translucent, solid, firm, and polish'd bright,
Like adamant, Avhicli the sun's beam had smit.
Within itself the ever-during pearl

Receiv'd us, as the wave a ray of light 35

Receives, and rests unbroken. If I then
Was of corporeal frame, and it ti-anscend
Our weaker thought, how one dimension thus
Another could endure, which needs must be
If body enter body, how much more 40

Must the desire inflame us to belrold
That essence, which discovers by what means
God and our nature join'd ! There will be seen
That which we hold through faith, not shown by proof.


But in itself iiitclliuil)!)' pliiin, 45

E'en us the truth that uiiui at first believes.

I answered : " Lady ! I with thouglits devout,
Such as I best can iVanie, give tlianks to llini,
Who hath remov'd me from the mortal world.
But tell, I pray thee, whence the gloomy s])ots 50

U))on this body, Avliich below on earth
Give rise to talk of Cain in fabling quaint?"

She somewhat smil'd, tlien sj)ake : " If mortals err
In their opinion, when the key of sense
Unlocks not, surely wonder's weapon keen 55

Ought not to pierce thee ; since thou find'st, the wings
Of reason to ])ursue tlie senses' flight
Are sliort. But what thy own thouglit is, declare."

Then I : " What various here above a])pears,
Is caus'd, I deem, by bodies dense or rare." 60

She then resum'd : "Thou certainly wilt see
In falsehood tliy belief o'erwhelm'd, if well
Thou listen to the arguments, which I
Shall bring to face it. The eighth sphere displays
Numberless liglits, the Mdiich in kind and size 65

May be remark'd of different aspects ;
If rare or dense of that were cause alone,
One single virtue then would be in all.
Alike distributed, or more, or less.

Different virtues needs must be the fruits 70

Of formal principles, and these, save one,
Will by thy reasoning be destroy'd. Beside,
If rarity were of that dusk the cause,
Which thou inquirest, either in some part
That planet must throughout be void, nor fed 75

AVitli its own matter ; or, as bodies share
Their fat and leanness, in like manner this
Must in its volume change the leaves. The first,
If it were true, had through the sun's eclipse
Been manifested, by transparency 80

Of light, as through aught rare beside effus'd.
But this is not. Therefore remains to see
The other cause : and if the other fall,
Erroneous so must prove what seem'd to thee.


If not from side to side tliis rarity 85

Pass tliroiigl), there needs must Ijg a limil, wlience

Its contrary no furtlicr lets it pass.

And hence tlie beam, that from Avithout ])rooecds,

]\[u8t be pour'd back, as colour comes, tlirough glass

Reflected, Avhich behind it lead conceals. 90

Now Avilt thou say, that there of murkier hue

Than in the other ])art the ray is shown,

]>y being thence refracted farther back.

From this perplexity will free thee soon

Exi)erience, if thereof thou trial make, 95

The fountain Avhence your arts derive their streams.

Three mirrors shalt thou take, and two remove

From thee alike, and more remote the third.

Betwixt the former pair, shall meet thine eyes ;

Then turn'ct toward them, cause behind thy back 100

A light to stand, that on the three shall shine,

And thus reflected come to thee from all.

Though that beheld most distant do not stretch

A space so ample, yet in brightness thou

Will own it equalling the rest. But now, 105

As under snow the ground, if the warm ray

Smites it, remains dismantled of the hue

And cold, that cover'd it before, so thee,

Dismantled in thy mind, I will inform

With light so lively, that the tremulous beam 110

Sliall quiver where it falls. Within the heaven,

Whei-e peace divine inhabits, circles round

A body, in whose virtue lies the being

Of all that it contains. The following heaven,

That hath so many lights, this being divides, 115

Through different essences, from it distinct.

And yet contain'd within it. The' other orbs

Their separate distinctions variously

Dispose, for their own seed and produce apt.

Thus do these organs of the world proceed, 120

As thou beholdest now, from step to step,

Thcii- influences from above deriving.

And thence transmitting downwards. Mark me well,

Ifow through this passage to the truth I ford,


The truth thou lov'st, that tliou hencefortli alone, 125
May'st know to keep the shallows, safe, untold.
" The virtue' and motion of the sacred orbs.
As mallet by the workman's hand, must needs
By blessed movers be ins})ir'd. This heaven,
Made beauteous by so many luminaries, 130

From the deep spirit, that moves its cii'cling sphere,
Its image takes an impress as a seal :
And as the soul, that dwells within your dust.
Through members different, yet together form'd.
In different pow'rs resolves itself; e'en so 135

The intellectual efficacy' unfolds
Its goodness multiplied througliout the stars ;
On its own unity revolving still.
Different virtue com])act dift'erent

IVIakes with the precious body it enlivens, 1-40

With Avhich it knits, as life in you is knit.
From its original nature full of joy.
The virtue mingled through the body shines.
As joy through pupil of the living eye.
From lience proceeds, that which from light to light
Seems different, and not from dense or rare. I-IG

This is the formal cause, that generates
Proportion'd to its power, the dusk or clear."


That sun, which erst with love my bosom warm'd

Had of fair truth unveil'd the sweet asjject.

By ])roof of right, and of the false reproof;

And I, to own myself convinc'd and free

Of doubt, as much as needed, rais'd my head. 5

Erect for speech. But soon a sight a]'»pear'd,

Which, so intent to mark it, held me fix'd.

That of confession I no longer thought.

As through translucent and smooth glass, or wave
Clear and unmov'd, and flowing not so deep 10

As that its bed is dark, the shape returns
So faint of our impictur'd lineaments,


That oil wliito forehead set a pearl as strong
Comes to tlie eye : such saw I many a face,
All stretch'cl to speak, from whence I straight con-
ceiv'd 15

Delusion opposite to that, which rais'd
Between the man and fountain, amorous flame.

Sudden, as I ])erceiv'd them, deeming these
Reflected semblances, to see of whom
They were, I turu'd mine eyes, and nothing saw; 20

Then turn'd them back, directed on the liglit
Of my sweet guide, Avho smiling shot forth beams
From her celestial eyes. "Wonder not thou,"
She cry'd, " at tliis my smiling, when I see
Thy childish judgment ; since not yet on truth 25

It rests the foot, but, as it still is wont,
Makes thee fall back in unsound vacancy.
True substances are these, which thou behold'st.
Hither through failure of their vow exil'd.
But speak thou with them ; listen, and believe, 30

That the true light, which fills them with desire.
Permits not from its beams their feet to stray."

Straight to the shadow which for converse seem'd
Most earnest, I addressed me, and began,
As one by over-eagerness perplex'd : 35

" O spirit, born for joy ! who in the rays
Of life eternal, of that sweetness knoAv'st
The flavour, which, not tasted, passes far
All apprehension, me it well would please.
If thou wouldst tell me of thy name, and this 40

Your station here." Whence she, with kindness j^rompt,
And eyes glist'ring with smiles : " Our charity,
To any Avish by justice introduc'd.
Bars not the door, no more than she above.
Who Avould have all her court be like herself. 45

I was a virgin sister in the earth ;
And if thy mind observe me well, this form,
AVith such addition grac'd of loveliness.
Will not conceal me long, but thou wilt know
Piccarda, in the tardiest sphere thus plac'd, 50

Here 'mid these other blessed also blest.


Our hearts, whose higli affections burn alone

With jileasure, from the Holy Spirit conceiv'tl,

Admitted to his order dwell in joy.

And this condition, which appears so low, 56

Is for this cause assign'd us, that our vows

Were in some part neglected and made void."

Whence I to her replied : " Something divine
Beams in your countenance, wond'rous fair,
From former knowledge quite transmuting you. 60

Therefore to recollect was I so slow.
But what thou sayst hath to my memory
Given now such aid, that to retrace your forms
Is easier. Yet inform me, ye, who here
Are ha])py, long ye for a higher place 65

More to behold, and more in love to dwell ? "

She with those other spirits gently smil'd,
Then answer'd wdth such gladness, that she seem'd
With love's first flame to glow : " Brother! our will
Is in composure settled by the power 70

Of charity, who makes us will alone
What we possess, and nought beyond desire ;
If we should wish to be exalted more.
Then must our wishes jar with the high will
Of him, who sets us here, which in these orbs 75

Thou wilt confess not possible, if here
To be in charity miist needs befal.
And if her nature well thou contemplate.
Rather it is inherent in this state

Of blessedness, to keep ourselves within 80

The divine will, by which our wills with his
Are one. So that as we from step to step
Are plac'd tin-oughout this kingdom, pleases all,
E'en as our King, who in us plants his will ;
And in his will is our tranquillity ; 86

It is the mighty ocean, whither tends
Whatever it creates and nature makes."

Then saw I clearly hoAv each spot in heav'n
Is Paradise, though witli like gracious dew
The supreme virtue show'r not over all. 90

But as it chances, if one sort of food

252 rARADlSE.

Hath satiated, and of another still

Tlie a])petite remains, that this is ask'd,

And thanks for that return'd ; e'en so did I

In word and motion, bent from her to learn 95

What web it was, through which she had not drawn

Tlie shuttle to its point. She thus began :

" Exalted worth and perfectness of life

The Lady liigher up inshrine in heaven,

By whose pure laws ujion your nether earth 100

The robe and veil they wear, to that intent,

That e'en till death they may keep watch or sleep

With their great bridegroom, who accejjts each vow,

Which to his gracious pleasure love conforms.

I from the world, to follow her, when young 105

Escap'd ; and, in her vesture mantling me,

Made promise of the way her sect enjoins.

Thereafter men, for ill than good more apt,

Forth snatch'd me irofn the pleasant cloister's pale.

God knoAvs how after that my life Avas fram'd. 110

This other splendid shape, which thou beholdst

At my right side, burning with all the light

Of this our orb, what of myself I tell

May to herself apply. From her, like me

A sister, with like violence were torn 115

The saintly folds, that shaded her fair brows.

E'en when she to the world again was brought

In spite of lier own will and better wont.

Yet not for that the bosom's inward veil

Did she renounce. This is the luminary 120

Of mighty Constance, who from that loud blast,

Which blew the second over Suabia's realm.

That power produc'd, which was tlie third and last."

She ceas'd from further talk, and tlien began
" Ave Maria" singing, and with that song 125

Vanish'd, as heavy substance through deep wave.

Mine eye, that far as it was capable.
Pursued her, when in dimness she was lost,
Turn'd to the mark where greater want impell'd,
And bent on Beatrice all its gaze. 130

But she as light'ning beam'd upon my looks :


So th.it tlie sight sustnin'd it not at first.
Whence I to question lier became less prompt.


Between two kinds of food, botli equally

Remote and tempting, first a man might die

Of hunger, ere lie one could freely choose.

E'en so would stand a lamb between the maw

Of two fierce wolves, in dread of both alike : 5

E'en so between two deer a dog would stand,

Wlierefore, if I was silent, fault nor i:)raise

I to myself impute, by equal doubts

Held in suspense, since of necessity

It happen'd. Silent was I, yet desire 10

Was painted in my looks; and thus I spake

My wish more earnestly than language could.

\s Daniel, when the haughty king he freed
From ire, that spurr'd him on to deeds unjust
And violent ; so look'd Beatrice then. 15

" Well I discern," she thus her words address'd,
" How contrary desires each way constrain thee,
So that thy anxious thought is in itself
Bound up and stifled, nor breathes freely forth.
Thou arguest ; if the good intent remain ; 20

What reason that another's violence
Should stint the measure of my fair desert ?

" Cause too thou findst for doubt, in that it seems,
That spirits to the stars, as Plato deem'd.
Return. These are the questions which thy will 25

Urge equally ; and therefore I the first
Of that will treat which hath the more of gall.
Of seraphim he who is most ensky'd,
Moses and Samuel, and either John,

Choose which thou wilt, nor even Mary's self, 30

Have not in any other heav'n their seats,
Than have those spirits which so late thou saw'st ;
Nor more or fewer years exist ; but all
Make the first circle beauteous, diversly

254 1'ai:ai)Isk.

Partaking of swoct life, as move or less 35

Afflalion of eternal bliss pervades them.

Here were lliey shown thee, not that fate assigns

This for their spliere, but for a sign to thee

Of that celestial furthest from the height.

Thus needs, that ye may apprehend, we speak: 40

Since from tilings sensil»le alone ye learn

'i'liat, which digested 7-ightly after turns

To intellectual. For no othei' cause

The scripture, condesceiuling graciously

To your perception, hands and feet to God 45

Attributes, nor so means : and holy church

Doth represent with human countenance

Gabriel, and Michael, and him Avho made

Tobias whole. Unlike what here thou seest,

The judgment of Tima3us, who afKrms 50

Each soul restor'd to its particular star,

Believing it to have been taken thence,

When nature gave it to inform her mold :

Since to appearance his intention is

E'en what his words declare : or else to shun 55

Derision, haply thus he hath disguis'd

His true ojnnion. If his meaning be.

That to the influencing of these orbs revert

The honour and the lilame in human acts.

Perchance he doth not wholly miss the truth. 60

This ])rinciple, not understood aright,

Erewhile perverted well nigh all the world ;

So that it fell to fabled names of Jove,

And Mercury, and Mars. That other doubt,

Which moves thee, is less harmful ; for it brings 65

Ko ]ieril of removing thee from me.

"That, to the eye of man, our justice seems
Unjust, is argument for faith, and not
For heretic declension. To the end

This truth may stand more clearly in your view, 70

1 will content thee even to thy wish,

" If violence be, Avhen that wdiich suffers, nought
Consents to that which forceth, not for this
These spirits stood exculpate. For the will,


Tliat wills not, still survives iinqueiicliM, and doth 75

As natui-e doth in tiro, tho' vioh'iiec

Wrest it a thousand times ; for, if it yield

Or more or less, so far it follows force.

And thus did these, whom tliey had power to seek

The hallow'd place again. In them, liad will 80

Been perfect, such as once upon the bars

Held Laurence firm, or wrought in Screvola

To his own hand remorseless, to the path,

AVhence they Avere drawn, their ste])s had hasten'd back,

When liberty return'd : but in too few 85

Resolve so stedfast dwells. And by these words

If duly weigh'd, that argument is void.

Which oft might have perplex'd thee still. But now

Another question thwarts thee, wliich to solve

Might try thy patience without better aid. 90

I have, no doubt, instill'd into thy mind.

That blessed spirit may not lie ; since near

The source of primal truth it dwells for aye:

And thou might'st after of Piccarda learn

That Constance held affection to the veil ; 95

So that she seems to contradict me here.

Not seldom, brother, it hath chanc'd for men

To do what they had gladly left undone,

Yet to shun peril they have done amiss :

E'en as Alcrajcon, at his father's suit 100

Slew his own mother, so made pitiless

Not to lose pity. On this point bethink thee,

That force and will are blended in such wise

As not to make the' offence excusable.

Al)solutc will agrees not to the Avrong, 105

But inasmuch as there is fear of woe

From non-compliance, it agrees. Of will

Thus absolute Piccarda spake, and I

Ot' th' other; so that both have truly said."

Such was the flow of that pure rill, that Avell'd 110
From forth the fountain of all truth ; and such
The rest, that to my wond'ring thouglits I found.

"O thou of primal love the ]irinie delight!
Goddess ! " I straight reply'd, " whose lively words


Still slicd now lieat find vigour through my soul ! 115

Affection fails me to requite thy grace

With equal -sum of gratitude : be his

To recompense, who sees and can reward thee.

Well I discern, that by that truth alone

Enlighten'd, beyond which no truth may roam, 120

Our mind can satisfy her thirst to know :

Therein slic rcsteth, e'en as in his lair

The wild beast, soon as she hath reach'd that bound,

And she hath jiower to reach it ; else desire

Were gi\en to no end. And thence doth doubt 125

S]n-ing, like a shoot, around the stock of truth ;

And it is nature which from height to height

On to the summit prompts us. This invites,

This doth assure me, lady, rev'rently

To ask thee of other truth, that yet 130

Is dark to me. I fain would know, if man

By other works well done may so siipply

The failure of his vows, that in your scale

They lack not weight." I spake ; and on me straight

Beatrice look'd with eyes, that shot forth sparks 135

Of love celestial in such copious stream,

That, virtue sinking in me overpowered,

I turn'd, and downward bent conf us'd my sight.


" If beyond, earthly wont, the flame of love
Illume me, sw that I o'ercome thy power
Of vision, marvel not : but learn the cause
In that perfection of the sight, which soon
As apprehending, hastenetli on to reach 6

The good it ajiprehends. I well discern,
Plow in thine intellect already shines
The light eternal, which to view alone
Ne'er fails to kindle love ; and if aught else
ISTour love seduces, 't is but that it shows 10

Some ill-mark'd vestige of that ]u-inial beam.
" This would'st thou know, if failure of the vow


By otlier .?c'r\i(X' may be so i>u])]»lied,
As from SL'Il"-(|uestioii to assure the soul."

Thus she lier words, not lieedless of my wish, 15

Began ; and thus, as one wlio breaks not off
Discourse, continued in lier saintly strain.
/'Supreme of gilts, which (ilod creating gave
\)f his free bounty, sign most evident
Of goodness, and in iiis account most ])riz'd, 20

Was liberty of will, the boon Avherewith
All intellectual creatures, and them sole
He hath endow'd. Hence now thou mayst infer
Of what high worth the vow, which so is fram'd
That when man offers, God well-pleas'd accepts; 25

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