1265-1321 Dante Alighieri.

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

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Were only. From his bounds Heaven drove them forth,
Not to impair his lustre, nor tlie depth
Of Hell receives them, lest th' accursed -tribe 40

Should glory thence with exultation vain."

I then : " Master ! what doth aggrieve them thus,
That they lament so loud ? " He straight replied :
" That will I tell thee biiefly. These of deathr
No hope may entertain : and their blind life 45

So meanly passes, that all other lots
They envy. Fame of them the world hath none,
Nor suffers ; mercy and justice scorn them both.
Speak not of them, but look, and pass them by."

And I, wlio straightway look'd, beheld a flag, 50

Whicli whirling ran around so rapidly,
'Tlu'.t it no pause obtain'd : and followiaig came
Such a long train of spirits, I should ne'er
Have thought, that death so many had despoil'd.

When some of these I recogniz'd, I saw 55

And knew the shade of him, who to base fear
Yielding, abjur'd his high estate. Forthwith
I understood for certnni this the tribe
Of those ill spirits both to God displeasing
And to his foes. These wretches, who ne'er lived, 60
Went on in nakedness, and s6rely stung
J^y was])S and hoi'uets, which bedew'd their cliceks

10 HELL.

With l)loo(l, thai, mix'd witli tears dropp'd to their feet,
And by disgustful worms wns gather'd there.

Tlieu looking farther onwards I beheld 65

A throng vipon the shore of a great stream :
Whereat I thus: " Sir ! grant me now to know
Whom here we view, and whence im^^ell'd tliey seem
So eager to pass o'er, as I discern

Through the blear light? " He thus to me in few : 70
" This shalt thou know, soon as our steps arrive
Beside the woeful tide of Acheron."

Then with eyes downward cast and fill'd with shame,
Fearing my words offensive to his ear.
Till we had reach'd the river, I from speech 75

Abstain'd. And lo ! toward us in a bark
Comes on an old man hoary white with eld,
Crying, " Woe to you wicked si^irits ! hope not
Ever to see the sky again. I come

To take you to the other shore across, 80

Into eternal darkness, there to dwell
In fierce heat and in ice. And thou, who there
Standest, live spirit ! get thee hence, and leave
These who are dead." But soon as he beheld
I left them not, " By other way," said he, 85

" By other haven shalt thou come to shore,
Not by this passage ; thee a nimbler boat
Must carry." Then to him thus spake my guide:
" Charon ! thyself torment not : so 't is will'd.
Where will and power are one : ask thou no more." 90

Straiijclitway in silence fell the shaggy cheeks
Of him the boatman o'er the livid lake.
Around whose eyes glar'd wheeling flames. Meanwhile
Those spirits, faint and naked, color chang'd.
And gnash'd their teeth, soon as the cruel words 95

They heard. God and their pai-ents they blasphem'd,
The human kind, the place, tlie time, and seed
That did engender them and give them birth.

Then all together sorely wailing drew
To the curs'd strand, that every man must pass 100

Who fears not God. Charon, demoniac form,
With eyes (Jf burning coal, collects them all.

HRLL. 11

Bcck'iiing, and eacli, that lingers, witli liis oar

Strikes. As fall off the light aiitumnal leaves,

One still another following, till tlie l)Ough 105

Strews all its honours on the earth beneath ;

E'en in like manner Adam's evil brood

Cast themselves one by one down from the shore,

Each at a beck, as falcon at his caU.

Thus go they over through the umber'd. wave, 110

And ever they on the opposing bank
Be landed, on this side another throng
Still gathers. " Son," thus spake the courteous guide,
" Those, who die subject to the wrath of God,
All here together come from every clime, 115

And to o'erpass the river are not loth :
For so heaven's justice goads them on, that fear
Is turn'd into desire. Hence ne'er hath past
Good spirit. If of thee Charon complain.
Now mayst thou know the import of his words." 120

This said, the gloomy region trembling shook
So terribly, that yet with clammy dews
Fear chills my brow. The sad earth gave a blast.
That, lightening, shot forth a vermilion flame.
Which all my senses conquer'd quite, and I 125

Down dropp'd, as one with sudden slumber seiz'd.


Broke the deep slumber in my brain a crash
Of heavy thunder, that I shook myself.
As one by main force rous'd. Riseit upright,
My rested eyes I mov'd around, and search'd
With fixed ken to know what place it was, 5

Wherein I stood. For certain on the brink
I found me of the lamentable vale,
The dread abyss, that joins a thund'rous sound
Of plaints innumerable. Dark and deep.
And thick Avdth clouds o'erspread, mine eye in vain 10
Explor'd its bottom, nor could aught discern.
" Now let us to the blind world there beneath

12 iii:r,i,.

Descend ; " the bard began all ])ale of look :
"I go the first, and thou slialt follow next."

Then I liis alterM hue ]»ercei\ing, thus : 15

" How may I sj)eed, it' thou yieldest to di'cad,
Who still art wont to comfort mc in doubt ? "

He then : " The anguish of that race below
With pity stains my cheek, which thou f(n- feai
jMistakest. Let us on. Our length of way 20

Urges to haste." Onward, this said, he mov'd ;
And ent'ring led me with him on the bounds
Of the first circle, that surrounds th' abyss.
Here, as mine ear could note, no plaint was heard
Except of sighs, that made th' eternal air 25

Tremble, not caus'd by tortures, but from grief
Felt by those multitudes, many and vast.
Of men, women, and infants. Then to me
The gentle guide : " Inquir'st thou not what spirits
Are these, which thou beholdest ? Ere thou pass 80

Farther, I would thou know, that these of sin
Were blameless; and if aught they merited,
It profits not, since baptism was not theirs,
The portal to thy faith. If they before
The Gospel liv'd, they serv'd not God aright ; 35

And among such am I. For these defects,
And for no other evil, we are lost ;
Only so far afflicted, that we live
Desiring without hope." So grief assail'd.
My heart at hearing this, for well I knew 40

Suspended in that Limbo many a soul
Of mighty Avorth. " O tell me, sire rever'd !
Tell me, my master ! " I began through wish
Of full assurance in that holy faith.

Which vanquishes all error ; " say, did e'er 45

Any, or through his own or other's merit.
Come forth from thence, who afterward was blest?"

Piercing the secret purport of ray speech,
lie answer'd : " I was new to that estate,
When I beheld a puissant one arrive 50

Amongst us, with victorious trophy crown'd.
Hl' forth the f^hade of our first parent drew.


Abt'l his C'liild, and Noah righteous man,

Of Moses hiwgiver for faith approv'd,

Of patriarch Abraham, and David king, 55

Israel with liis sire and with liis sons,

Nor witliout Racliel whom so hard lie won,

And others many more, M'hom he to bliss

Exalted. Before these, be thou assur'd,

No spirit of human kind was ever sav'd." 60

We, while he spake, ceas'd not our onward road,
Still ])assing through the wood ; for so I name
Tliose spirits thick beset. We were not far
On this side from the summit, when I kenn'd
A flame, that o'er the darken'd hemisphere 65

Prevailing sliin'd. Yet we a little S])ace
Were distant, not so far but I in ])art
Discover'd, that n tribe in honour high
That place posscss'd. " O thou, who every art
And science valu'st ! who are these, that boast 70

Such honour, separate from all the rest ? "

He answer'd : " The renown of their great nanxes
That echoes tlirough your world above, acquires
Favour in heaven, which holds them thus advanc'd."
Meantime a voice I heard : " Honour the bard 75

Sublime ! his shade returns that left us late ! "
No sooner ceas'd the sound, than I beheld
Four mighty spirits tOAvard us bend their steps.
Of semblance neither sorrowful nor glad.

When thus my master kind began : " Mark him, 80
Who in his right hand bears that falchion keen,
The other three preceding, as their lord.
This is that Homer, of all bards supreme :
Fhiccus the next in satire's vein excelling;
The tliird is Naso ; Lucan is the last. 85

Because they all that appellation own,
With which the voice singly accosted me,
Honouring they greet me thus, and well they judge."

So I belield united the bright school
Of him the monarch of sublimest song, 90

That o'er the others like an eagle soars.

When they together short discourse had held,

14 HELL.

They turn'd to me, witli Siilulation kind

Beck'ning me ; at tlie Avliieh my master smil'd :

Nor was this all ; but greater honour still 95

They gave me, for they made me of their tribe ;

And I was sixth amid so learn'd a band.

Far as the lummous beacon on we pass'd
Speaking of matters, then befitting well
To speak, now fitter left untold. At foot 100

Of a magnificent castle we arriv'd,
Seven times with lofty walls begirt, and round
Defended by a pleasant stream. O'er this
As o'er dry land we pass'd. Next through seven gates
I with those sages enter'd, and we came 105

Into a mead with lively verdure fresh.

There dwelt a race, who slow their eyes around
Majestically mov'd, and in their port
Bore eminent authority ; they spake
Seldom, but all their words were tuneful sweet. 110

We to one side retir'd, into a place
Open and bright and lofty, Avhence each one
Stood manifest to view. Incontinent
There on the green enamel of the plain
Were shown me the great spirits, by whose sight 115
I am exalted in my own esteem.

Electra tliere I saw accompanied
By many, among whom Hector I knew,
Anchises' pious son, and with hawk's eye
Caesar all arm'd, and by Camilla there 120

Penthesilea. On the other side
Old King Latinus, seated by his child
Lavinia, and that Brutus I beheld.
Who Tarquin chas'd, Lucretia, Cato's wife
Marcia, with Julia and Cornelia there; 125

And sole ai)art retir'd, the Soldan fierce.

Then when a little more I rais'd my brow,
I spied the master of tlie sapient throng,
Seated amid the philosophic train.

Him all admire, all pay him rev'rence due. 130

There Socrates and Plato both I mark'd,
Nearest to him in rank ; Democritus,

HELL, 15

Wlio sets the world at chance, Diogenes,

With Heraclitus, and Empedocles,

And Anaxa^-oras, and Thales sage, 135

Zeno, and Dioscorides Avell read

In natnre's secret lore. Orj)heus I mark'd

And Linus, Tully and moral Seneca,

Euclid and Ptolemy, Hippocrates,

Galcnus, Avicen, and him who made 140

That commentary vast, Averroes.

Of all to speak at full were vain attempt ;
For my wide theme so urges, tliat ofttimes
My words fall short of what bechanc'd. In two
The six associates part. Another way 145

My sage guide leads me, from that air serene,
Into a climate ever vex'd with storms :
And to a part I come Avhere no light shines.


From the first circle I descended thus

Down to the second, which a lesser space

Embracing, so much more of grief contains

Provoking bitter moans. There Minos stands

Grinning with ghastly feature : he, of all 5

Who enter, strict examining the crimes,

Gives sentence, and dismisses them beneath.

According as he foldeth him around :

For when before him comes th' ill-fated soul.

It all confesses ; and that judge severe 10

Of sins, considering what place in hell

Siiits the transgression, with his tail so oft

Himself encircles, as degrees beneath

He dooms it t(i>. descend. Before him stand

Alway a num'rous throng; and in his turn 15

Each one to judgment passing, speaks, and. hears

His fate, thence downward to his dwelling hurl'd.

" O thou ! who to this residence of woe
Approachest ? " when he saw me coming, cried
Minos, relinquishing his dread employ, 20

16 II1CI.T>.

" Look liow thou outer here ; beware in wlioin

'J^hou place tliy trust ; let not the entrance broad

Deceive thee to thy harm." To him my g-tiide :

"• Wherefore exelaimest? Iliiulor not his way

IJy destiny ajijiointed ; so 'tis will'd 25

Where will and power are one. Ask thou no more."

Now 'giu the rueful wailings to be heard.
Now am I come Avhere many a plaining voice
Smites on mine ear. Into a place I came
Where light w^as silent all. Bellowing there groan'd 30
A noise as of a sea in tempest torn
By warring winds. The stormy blast of hell
With restless fury drives the spirits on
^Vhirl'd round and dash'd amain with sore annoy.
When they arrive before the ruinous sweep, 35

There shrieks are heard, there lamentations, moans.
And blasphemies 'gainst the good Power in heaven.

I understood that to this torment sad
The carnal sinners are condcmn'd, in whoni
Reason by lust is sway'd. As in large troops 40

And multitudinous, when winter reigns,
The starlings on their wings are borne abroad ;
So bears the tyrannous gust those evil souls.
On this side and on that, above, below.
It drives them : hope of rest to solace them 45

Is none, nor e'en of milder pang. As cranes,
'Chanting their dol'rous notes, traverse the sky,
Stretch'd out in long array : so I beheld
Spirits, who came loud wailing, hurried on
By their dire doom. Then I: "Instructor! who 50

Are these, by the black air so scourg'd ? " — " The first
'Mong those, of whom thou question'st," he replied,
" O'er many tongues was emj)ress. She in vice
Of luxury was so shameless, that she matte
Liking be lawful by ])romu]g''d decree, 55

To clear the blame slie had herself incurr'd.
This is Semiramis, of whom 'tis writ.
That she succeeded Ninus her espous'd ;
And held the land, which now the Soldan rules.
The next in amoi'ous furv slew herself, 60

HELL. 17

And to SiclK'us' nshos broke her faith:
'I'heii follows Cleopatra, lustful queen."

There markVl I Helen, for whose sake so long
The time was fraught with evil ; there the great
Achilles, who with love fought to the end. 05

Paris I saw, and Tristan ; and beside
A thousand niore he show'd me, and by name
Pointed them ont, whom love bereav'd of life.

When I had heard my sage instructor name
Those dames and knights of antique days, o'erpower'd 70
By i)ity, well-nigh in amaze my mind
Was lost ; and I began : "Bard! willingly
I would address those two together coming.
Which seem so light before the wind." He thus :
" Note thou, Avhen nearer they to us ap]»roach. 75

Then by that love which carries them along.
Entreat ; and they will come." Soon as the Avind
Sway'd them toward us, I thus fram'd my speech :
" O wearied spii-its ! come, and hold discourse
With us, if by none else restrain'd." As doves 80

By fond desire invited, on wide wings
And firm, to their sweet nest returning home.
Cleave the air, wafted by their will along ;
Thus issu'd from that troop, where Dido ranks,
They through the ill air speeding; with such force 85
My cry jjrevail'd by strong affection urg'd.

" O gracious creature and benign ! who go'st
Visiting, through this element obscure.
Us, who the world with bloody stain imbru'd ;
If for a friend the King of all we own'd, 90

Our pray'r to him should for thy peace arise,
Since thou hast pity on our evil plight.
Of whatsoe'er to hear or to discourse
It pleases thee, that Avill we hear, of that
Freely with thee discourse, while e'er the wind, 35

As now, is mute. The land, that gave me birth,
Is situate on the coast, where Po descends
To rest in ocean with his sequent streams.

"Love, that in gentle heart is quickly learnt,
Entangled him by that fair form, from me 100


18 IlKLL.

Ta'en in siicli ci-uel sort, as gi'ievcs me slill:

Love, tliat dciiial takes from none belov'd,

Cauglit me with jdeasiiig Jiini so passing well,

Tliat, as tliou scc'st, he yet deserts me not.

Love brought us to one death : Caina Avaits 105

Tlie soul, Avho sj)ilt our life." Such were their words ;

At hearing which downward I bent my looks.

And held them there so long, that the bard cried :

" What art thou pond'j-ingV " I in answer thus :

"Alas! by what sweet thoughts, what fond desire 110

Must they at length to that ill i)ass have reach'd!"

Then turning, I to them my speech address'd.
And thus began : " Francesca ! your sad fate
Evejr to tears my grief and |)ity moves.
But tell me ; in the time of your sweet sighs, 115

By what, and how love granted, that ye knew
Your yet uncertain wishes?" She rejdied:
"No greater grief than to remember days
Of joy, when mis'ry is at hand ! That kens
Thy learn'd instructor. Yet so eagerly 120

If thou art bent to know the primal root.
From whence our love gat being, I will do.
As one. Mho weeps and tells his tale. One day
For our delight we read of Lancelot,
How him love thrall'd. Alone we Averc, and no 125

Suspicion near us. Ofttimes by that reading
Our eyes were drawn together, and the hue
Fled from our alter'd cheek. But at one point
Alone Ave fell. When of that smile Ave read,
The Avished smile, rapturously kiss'd 130

By one so deep in love, then he, Avho ne'er
. From me shall separate, at once my lips
All trembling kiss'd. The book and Avriter both
Were love's purveyors. Li its leaves that day
We read no more." While thus one spirit spake, 135
The other Avail'd so sorely, that heart-struck
I through compassion fainting, seem'd not far
From death, and like a corpse fell to the ground.

HELL. 19


My sense reviviiifj^, tliat erewhilc li;ul droopM

Witli pity for the kindred shades, wlienee grief

Overcame me wholly, straight around I see

New torments, new tormented souls, which way

Soe'er I move, or turn, or bend my sight. 5

In the third circle I aii'ive, of sliow'rs

Ceaseless, accursed, l^eavy, and cold, unchang'd

For ever, both in kind and in degree.

Large hail, discolour'd water, sleety flaw

Through the dun midnight air stream'd down amain : 10

Stank all the land whereon that tempest fell.

Cerberus, cruel monster, fierce and strange,
Thi'ough his wide threefold throat barks as a dog
Over the multitude immers'd beneath.
His eyes glare crinison, black his unctuous beard, 15

His belly large, and claw'd the hands, with which
He tears the spirits, flays them, and their limbs
Piecemeal disparts. ITowling there spread, as curs,
Under the rainy deluge, with one side
The other screening, oft they roll them round, 20

A wretched, godless crew. When that great worm
Descried us, savage Cerberus, he op'd
His jaws, and the fangs show'd us; not a limb
Of him but trembled. Then my guide, his palms
Expanding on the ground, thence filled with earth 25
Rais'd them, and cast it in his ravenous maw.
E'en as a dog, that yelling bays for food
His keeper, when the morsel comes, lets fall
His fury, bent alone with eager haste
To swallow it ; so dropp'd tlie loathsome cheeks 30

Of demon Cerberus, who thund'ring stuns
The spirits, that they for deafness wish in vain.

We, o'er the shades thrown prostrate by the brunt
Of the heavy tempest passing, set our feet
Upon their emptiness, that substance seem'd. 35

They all along the earth extended lay
Save one, that sudden rais'd himself to sit,
Soon as that way he saw us pass. " O thou ! "


IIo cried, "wlio tlirougli tlic infernal sliadcs art led,

Own, if again thou know'st ine. Thou wast frani'd 40

Or ere my frame was broken." I replied :

"The anguish thou endur'st })erchance so takes

Thy form from my remembrance, that it seems

As if I saw thee never. But inform

Me who thou art, that in a place so sad 45 '

Art set, and in such torment, that although

Other be greater, more disgustful none

Can be imagin'd." He in answer thus :

" Thy city heap'd with envy to the brim,

Ay that the measure overflows its bounds, 60

Held me in brighter days. Ye citizens

"Were wont to name me Ciacco. For the sin

Of glutt'ny, damned vice, beneath this rain,

E'en as thou see'st, I Avith fatigue am worn ;

Nor I sole spirit in this woe : all these 55

Have by like crime incurr'd like })unisliment."

No more he said, and I my speech resum'd :
" Ciacco ! thy dire affliction grieves me much.
Even to tears. But tell me, if thou knoAv'st,
What shall at length befall the citizens 60

Of the divided city; whether any just one
Inhabit there : and tell me of the cause.
Whence jarring discord hath assail'd it thus ? "

He then : " After long striving they Avill come
To blood ; and the wild party from the woods 65

Will chase the other with much injury forth.
Then it behoves, that this must fall, within
Three solar circles ; and the other rise
By borrow'd force of one, who under shore
Now rests. It shall a long space hold aloof 70

Its forehead, keeping under heavy Aveiglit
The other oppress'd, indignant at the load,
And grieving sore. The just are two in number,
But they neglected. Av'rice, envy, pride.
Three fatal, sparks, have set the hearts of all 75

On fire." Here ceas'd the lamentable sound ;
And I continu'd thus : " Still would I learn
More from thee, farther parley still entreat.

HELL. iii

Of Ffivinata fiiifl Togghinio say,

Tliey who so well dcserv'd, of Giacopo, 80

Arrigo, Mosca, and tlio rest, wlio bent

Their minds on Av^orkiiig good. Oh ! tell me Avherc

They bide, and to their knowledge let me come.

For I am press'd with keen desire to hear,

If heaven's sweet cup or poisonous drug of hell 85

Be to their lip assign'd." He answer'd straight :

" These are yet blacker spirits. Various crimes

Have sunk them deeper in the dark abyss.

If thou so far descendest, thou mayst see tliem.

But to the pleasant world when thou return'st, 90

Of me make mention, I entreat thee, there.

No more I tell thee, answer thee no more."

This said, his fixed eyes he turn'd askance,
A little ey'd me, then bent down his head.
And 'midst his blind conipaiiions with it fell. 95

When thus my guide : "No more his bed he leaves,
Ere the last angel-trumpet blow. The Power
Adverse to these shall then in glory come,
Each one forthwith to his sad tomb repair,
Resume his fie^hly vesture and his form, 100

And liear the eternal doom re-echoing rend
The vault." So pass'd we through tliat mixture foul
Of spirits and rain, with tardy steps; meanwhile
Touching, though slightly, on the life to come.
For thus^I quostion'd : "Shall these tortures. Sir ! 105
When the great sentence passes, be increas'd,
Or mitigated, or as uow severe?"

lie then : " Consult thy knowledge ; that decides
That as each thing to more perfection grows.
It feels more sensibly both good and i)ain. 110

Though ne'er to true ])erfection may arrive
TJiis race accurs'd, yet neai-er tlien than now
They shall appi'oach it." Coini)assing that path
Circuitous we journeyed, and discourse
JNlucli more than I i-elate between us j)ass'd : 115

Till at the ))oint, whence the ste])S led below,
Arriv'd, there iMutus, the great foe, we found.

i»? HELL.


" An me ! O Satan ! Satan ! " loud exclaim'd

Pliitus, in accent hoarse of wild alarm :

And the kind sage, Avliom no event sur])ris'd,

To comfort me thus spake : "Let not thy fear

Harm thee, for power in him, be sure, is none 5

To hinder down this rock thy safe descent."

Then to that swoln lip turning, " Peace! " he cried,

" Curs'd wolf ! thy fury inward on thyself

Prey, and consume thee ! Through the dark profound

Not without cause he passes. So 't is will'd 10

On high, there where the great Archangel }iour'd

Heav'n's vengeance on the first adulterer proud."

As sails full spread and bellying with the wind
Drop suddenly collapsVl, if the mast split;
So to the ground down dropp'd the cruel fiend. 15

Thus we, descending to the fourth steep ledge,
Gain'd on the dismal shore, that all the woe
Hems in of all the universe. Ah me !
Almighty Justice ! in what store thou heap'st
New pains, new troubles, as I here beheld ! 20

Wherefore doth fault of ours bring us to this ?

E'en as a billow, on Charybdis rising.
Against encounter'd billow dashing breaks ;
Such is the dance this wretched race must lead,
Whom more than elsewhere numerous here I found, 25
From one side and the other, with loud voice,
Both roll'd on weights by main force of their breasts,
Then smote togetlier, and each one forthwith
Roll'd them back A'oluble, turning again.
Exclaiming these, "Why boldest thou so fast?" 30

Those answering, " And why castest thou away ? "
So still repeating their despiteful song,
They to the opposite point on either hand
Travers'd the horrid circle : then arriv'd.
Both turn'd them round, and through the middle space
Conflicting met again. At sight whereof 36

I, stung with grief, thus spake : " O say, my guide !
What race is this ? Were these, whose heads are shorn,

iiEr,T,. 23

On our left Imnd, all sep'rute to the clmrch ? "

He str:iii,^lit rejilied : "In their first life tlieso all 40
In mind were so distorted, that they made,
According to due measure, of their wealth,

Online Library1265-1321 Dante AlighieriThe Vision : or, Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, of Dante Alighieri → online text (page 2 of 37)