1265-1321 Dante Alighieri.

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

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For in the comi)act between God and him,
This treasure, such as I describe it to thee,
lie makes the victim, and of his own act.
What compensation therefore may he find? ^

If that, whereof thou hast oblation made, 30

By using well thou think'st to consecrate,
Thou would'st of theft do charitable deed.
Thus I resolve thee of the greater ])oint.

" But forasmuch as holy church, herein
Dispensing, seems to contradict the truth 35

I have discover'd to thee, yet behoves
Thou rest a little longer at the board.
Ere the crude aliment, which thou hast ta'en,
Digested fitly to nutrition turn.

0]jen tliy mind to what I now unfold, 40

And give it inward keeping. Knowledge comes
Of learning well retain'd, unfruitful else.

" This sacrifice in essence of two things
Consisteth ; one is tliat, whereof 't is made.
The covenant the other. For the last, 45

It ne'er is cancell'd if not kejit : and hence
I sjiakc erewhile so strictly of its force.
For this it was enjoin'd the Israelites,
Though leave were giv'n them, as thou know'st, to

The offering, still to offer. Th' other part, 50

1'he matter and the substance of the vow,



May well be suoli, to that without offence

It may for otiicr sulistanoc be exchaiig'd.

But al his own discretion none may .shift

The burden on his sholders, unreleas'd 65

By either key, tlie yellow and the Avhite.

Nor tleem of any change, as less than vain,

If the last bond be not within the neAV

Included, as the quatre in tlie six.

No satisfaction therefore can be paid 60

For what so jtrecious in the balance weighs,

That all in counterpoise must kick the beam.

Take then no vow at random : ta'en, with faith

Preserve it ; yet not bent, as Jephthah once,

Blindly to execute a rash resolve, 65

Whom better it had suited to exclaim,

' I have done ill,' than to redeem his pledge

By doing worse ■ or, not unlike to him

In folly, that great leader of the Greeks :

Whence, on the alter, Iphigenia mourn'd 70

Her virgin beauty, and hath since made mourn

Both wise and simple, even all, who hear

Of so fell sacrifice. Be ye more staid,

O Christians, not, like feather, by each wind

Removeable : nor think to cleanse ourselves 75

In every water. Either testament.

The old and new, is yours: and for your guide

The shepherd of the church. Let this suffice

To save you. When by evil lust entic'd,

Remember ye be men, not senseless beasts ; 80

Nor let the Jew, who dwelleth in your streets,

Hold you in mock'ry. Be not, as the lamb.

That, fickle wanton, leaves its mother's milk, „

To dally with itself in idle i>lay." ^

Such were the words that Beatrice spake : 85

These ended, to that region, where the world
Is liveliest, full of fond desire she turn'd.

Though mainly prompt new question to propose,
Her silence and chang'd look did keep me dumb.
And as the arrow, ere the cord is still, 90

Leaj)eth unto its mavk ; so on we sped


Into the second realm. There I helickl

The dame, so joyous, enter, tliat tlie orb

Grew brighter at lier smiles ; and, if the star

Were mov'd to gladness, what then was my cheer, 95

Whom nature hath made apt for every change !

As in a quiet and clear lake the tish.
If aught approach them from without, do draw
Towards it, deeming it their food; so drew
Full more than thousand s])lendours towards us, lUO

And in each one was heard : " Lo ! one arriv'd
To multi})ly our loves ! " and as each came
The shadow, streaming forth effulgence new,
Witness'd augmented joy. Here, reader ! think,
If thou didst miss the sequel of my tale, 105

To know the rest how sorely thou wouldst crave ;
And thou shalt see what vehement desire
Possess'd me, as soon as tliese had met my view,
To know their state. " O born in hapi)y hour !
Thou to whom grace vouchsafes, or ere thy close 110
Of fleshly warfare, to behold the thrones
Of that eternal triumph, know to us
The light communicated, which through heaven
Expatiates without bound. Therefore, if aught
Thou of our beams wouldst borrow for thine aid, 115
Spare not ; and of our radiance take thy fill."

Thus of those piteous spirits one bespake me ;
And Beatrice next : " Say on ; and trust
As unto gods ! " — " How in the light su})reme
Thou harbour'st, and from thence the virtue bring'st.
That, sparkling in thine eyes, denotes thy joy, 121

I mark; but, who thou art, am still to seek ;
Or wherefore, worthy spirit ! for thy lot
This sphere assign'd, tliat oft from mortal ken
Is veil'd by others' beams." I said, and turn'd 125

Toward the lustre, that with greeting kind
Erewhile had hail'd me. Forthwith brighter far
Than erst, it wax'd : and, as himself the sun
Hides through excess of light, when his warm gaze
Hath on the mantle of thick vapours prey'd ; 130

Within its proper ray the sauitly shape


Was, lliroug-li iiiorcase of uladnt'ss, thus conceal'd;
And, shrouded so in splendour answcr'd nie,
E'en as tlic tcnour of my s(jiig declares.


" Aftek tliat Constantino the eagle turn'd

Against the motions of the heav'n, that roll'd.

Consenting with its course, when he of yore,

Lavinia's spouse, M^as leader of the flight,

A hundred years twice told and more, his seat 5

At Euroj^e's extreme point, the bii"d of Jove

Held, near the mountains, whence he issued first.

There under shadow of his sacred plumes

Swaying the world, till through successive hands ^

To mine he came devolv'd. Caesar I was, 10

And am Justinian ; destin'd by the will

Of that prime love, whose influence I feel.

From vain excess to clear th' incumber'd laws.

Or ere that work engag'd me, I did hold

Christ's nature merely human, with such faith 15 j

Contented. But the blessed Agapete,

Who was chief shepherd, he with warning voice

To the true faith recall'd me. I believ'd

His words : and w'hat he taught, now plainly see,

As thou in every contradiction seest 20

The true and false opipos'd. Soon as my feet

Were to the church reclaim'd, to my great task,

By inspiration of God's grace impell'd,

I gave me wholly, and consign'd mine arms

To Belisarius, with whom heaven's right hand 25

Was link'd in such conjointment, 't was a sign

That I should rest. To thy first question thus

I sha])e mine answer, which were ended here,

But that its tendency doth promjtt perforce

To some addition ; that thou well mayst mark 30

What reason on each side they have to plead,

By whom that holiest banner is withstood.

Both who pretend its power and who oppose.



" Boginning from tlmt hour, wlicn Pallas died
To give it rule, behold the valorous deeds 35

Have made it worthy reverence. Not unknowu
To thee, how for three hundred years and more
It dwelt in Alba, up to those fell lists
Where for its sake were met the rival three ;
Nor aught unknown to thee, which it achiev'd 40

Down to the Sabines' wrong to Lucrece' woe,
Witli its sev'n kings conqn'ring the nation round ;
Nor all it wrought, by Roman worthies borne
'Gainst Brennus and th' Epirot prince, and hosts
Of single chiefs, or states in league combin'd 45

Of social warfare ; hence Torquatus stern,
And Quintius nam'd of his neglected locks,
The Decii, and the Fabii hence acquir'd
Their fame, which I with duteous zeal embalm.
By it the pride of Arab hordes Avas quell'd, 50

When they led on by Hannibal o'erpass'd
The Al]Mne rocks, wlience glide thy currents, Po !
Beneath its guidance, in their prime of days
Sci])io and Pompey triumph'd ; and that hill,
Under Avhose summit thou didst see the light, 55

Rued its stern bearing. After, near the hour.
When heav'n was minded that o'er all the world
His own deep calm should brood, to Cffisar's hand
Did Rome consign it ; and what then it -wrought
From Var unto the Rhine, saw Isere's flood, CO

Saw Loire and Seine, and every vale, that fills
The torrent Rhone, What after that it wrouglit,
When froni Ravenna it came forth, and Icap'd
The Rubicon, was of so bold a flight,
That tongue nor pen may follow it. Tow'rds Spain 65
It wheel'd its bands, then tow'rd Dyrrachium smote,
And on Pharsalia with so fierce a ]ilunge,
E'en the warm Nile was conscious to the pang;
Its native shores Antandros, and the streams
Of Simois revisited, and there 70

Wliere Hector lies ; then ill for Ptolemy
His pennons sliook again ; lightning thence fell
On Juba ; and the next upon your west.


At souihI of tlic l^oiniK'inn truni]), rftuniM.

'' Wli.'it full()\\ iiio- ;uh1 in its next l)o:irer's gripe 75
It wrought, is now by Cassias and Brutus
BarkM off in lioll, and by Perugia's sons
And Modena's was inourn'd. Ileiice weei^etli still
Sad Cleo])atra, who, ]nirsued by it.

Took from tlie adder black and sudden death. 80

With him it ran e'en to the Red Sea coast ;
With him compos'd the world to such a peace,
That of his temi)le Janus barr'd the door,

" But all the mighty standard yet had wrought,
And was a]t]winted to perforjii thereafter, 85

Throughout the mortal kingdom whicli it sway'd,
Falls in a])])earance dwindled and obscur'd,
If one with steady eye and perfect tliouglit
On th.e third Cassar look ; for to his hands,
The living Justice, in whose breath I move, 90

Committed glory, e'en into his hands.
To execute the vengeance of its wrath.

"Hear now and wonder at what next I tell.
After with Titus it was sent to wreak
Vengeance for vengeance of the ancient sin, 95

And, when the Lond^ard tooth, with fangs impure,
Did gore the bosom of the holy church.
Under its wungs victorious, Charlemagne
Sped to her rescue. Judge then for thyself
Of those, whom I erewhile accus'd to thee, 100

What they are, and how grievous their offending.
Who are the cause of all your ills. The one
Against the universal ensign rears
The yellow lilies, and with partial aim
That to himself the other arrogates : 105

So that 't is hard to see which more offends.
Be yours, ye Ghibellines, to veil your arts
Beneath another standard : ill is this
Follow'd of liim, who severs it and justice :
And let not with his Guelphs the new-crown'd Charles 110
Assail it, but those talons hold in dread,
Which from a lion of more lofty port
Have rent the casing. Many a time ere now


TI10 sons hnve for the sire's transi^ression wfiilM ;

Nor let him trust the fond belief, that lienv'n 115

Will truck its armour for his liliefl shield.

" This little star is furnisli'd with good spirits,
Whose mortal lives were busied to that end,
That honour and renown might wait on them :
And, when desires thus err in their intention, 120

True love must needs ascend with slacker beam.
But it is part of our delight, to measure
Our wages with the merit ; and admire
The close proportion. Hence doth heav'nly justice
Temper so evenly affection in us, 125

It ne'er can warp to any wrongfulness.
Of diverse voices is sweet music made :
So in our life the different degrees
Render sweet harmony among these Avheels.

"Within the pearl, that now encloseth lis, 130

Shines Romeo's light, whose goodly deed and fair
Met ill acceptance. But the Proven9als,
That were liis foes, have little cause for mirth.
Ill shapes that man his course, who makes his wrong
Of other's worth. Four daughters were there born 135
To Raymond Berenger, and every one
Became a queen ; and this for him did Romeo,
Though of mean state and from a foreign land.
Yet envious tongues incited him to ask
A reckoning of that just one, who return'd 140

Twelve fold to him for ten. Aged and poor
He parted thence : and if the world did know
The heart lie had, begging his life by morsels,
'T would deem the praise, it yields him, scantly dealt."


" HosANNA Sanctus Deus Sabaoth

Superillustrans claritate tua

Felices ignes horum malahoth ! "

Thus chaunting saw I turn that substance bright

With fourfold lustre to its orb again,


Revolving; and the rest unto their dance
Willi it niov'd also ; and like swiftest sparks,
In sudden distance from my siy;ht were veil'd.

Me doubt possess'd, and "Speak," it wliis))er'd mo,
" S]teak, sj^eak unto thy lady, that slie quench 10

Tliy thirst with dro])S of sweetness," Yet blank awe,
Which lords it o'er me, even at the sound
Of Beatrice's name, did bow me down
As one in slumber held. Not long that mood
Beatrice suffer'd : she, with such a smile, 15

As might have made one blest amid the flames,
Beaming u])on me, thus her words began :
" Thou in thy thought art pond'ring (as I deem.
And what I deem is truth) how just revenge
Could be with justice punish'd : from which doubt 20
I soon will free thee ; so thou mark my %vords ;
For they of weighty matter shall possess thee.

" That man, who was unborn, himself condemn'd.
And, in himself, all, who since him have liv'd.
His offspring : whence, below, the human kind 25

Lay sick in grievous error many an age;
Until it pleas'd the Word of God to come
Amongst them down, to his own person joining
The nature, from its Maker far estrang'd,
By the mere act of his eternal love. 30

Contemplate here the wonder I imfold.
The nature with its Maker thus conjoin'd.
Created first was blameless, pure and good ;
But through itself alone was di'iven forth
From Paradise, because it had eschew'd 85

The way of truth and life, to evil turn'd.
Ne'er then was penalty so just as that
Inflicted by the cross, if thou regard
The nature in assumption doom'd : ne'er wrong
So great, in reference to him, who took 40

Such nature on him, and endur'd the doom,
God therefore and the Jews one sentence pleased :
So different effects flow'd from one act,
And heav'n was open'd, though the earth did quake.
Co\int it not hard henceforth, when thou dost hear 45



j That a just vengeance was by righteous court

I Justly reveng'd. But yet I see thy mind

By tliouglit on thouglit arising sore perplex'd,

J And Avitli liow velienient desire it asks

Sohition of the maze. What I have hoard, 50

Is ])hiin, tliou sayst : hut wliorefore God this Avay
Foi" our redemption chose, ehides my search,

"Brotlier ! no eye of man not perfected,
Nor fully ri])en'd in the flame of love.
May fathom tliis decree. It is a mark, 65

In sooth, much nim'd at, and but little kenn'd :
And I will therefore show thee why such way
Was worthiest. The celestial love, tliat spurns
All envying in its bounty, in itself

With such effulgence blazeth, as sends forth 60

All beauteous things eternal. What distils
Immediate thence, no end of being knows,
Bearing its seal immutably impress'd.
Whatever thence immediate falls, is free,
Free Avholly, uncontrollable by ])ower 65

Of each thing new : by such conformity
More grateful to its autlior, whose bright beams,
Tlioiigh all partake their shining, yet in those
Are liveliest, which resemble him the most.
These tokens of pre-eminence on man 70

Largely bestow'd, if any of them fail.
Tie needs must forfeit his nobility.
No longer stainless. Sin alone is that.
Which doth disfranchise him, and make unlike
To the chief good ; for that its light in him 75

Is darken'd. And to dignity thus lost
Is no return ; unless, where guilt makes void,
He for ill pleasure pay with equal pain.
Your nature, which entirely in its seed
Trangress'd, from these distinctions fell, no less 80

Than from its state in Paradise ; nor means
Found of recovery (search all methods out
As strickly as thou may) save one of these.
The only fords were left through which to wade,
Eitlier that (l<>d had of his courtesy 85


RelcnsM liini morcly, or else man liimself
For his own folly by himself aton'd.

" Fix now thine eye, intently :is thou canst,
On th' evei-lasting counsel, and explore,
Instructed by my words, the dread abyss. 90

" Man in himself had ever lack'd the nieana
Of satisfaction, for he could not stoop
01)eying:, in humility so low,
As high he, disobeying, thought to soar:
And for this reason he had vainly tried 95

Out of his own sufficiency to pay
The rigid satisfaction. Then behov'd
That God should by his own ways lead him back
Unto the life, from whence he fell, restor'd :
By both his ways, I mean, or one alone. 100

But since the deed is ever priz'd the more,
The more the doer's good intent appears.
Goodness celestial, whose broad signature
Is on the universe, of all its ways

To raise ye up, w^as fain to leave out none. 105

Nor aught so vast or so magnificent.
Either for him who gave or who receiv'd,
Between the last niglit and the ]>rimal day.
Was or can be. For God more bounty show'd,
Giving himself to make man ca|>able 110

Of his return to life, than had the terms
Been mere and unconditional release.
And for his justice, every method else
Were all too scant, had not the Son of God
Humbled himself to put on mortal flesh. 115

" Now, to fulfil each wish of thine, remains
I somewhat further to thy view unfold.
That thou mayst see as clearly as myself.

" I see, thou saj'^st, the air, the fire I see,
The earth and water, and all things of them 120

Compounded, to corrujjtion turn, and soon
Dissolve. Yet these were also things create,
Because, if what w^ere told me, had been true
They from corruption had been therefore free.

" The angels, O my brother ! and this clime 125


Wlieroin thou art, impassible and jHire,

I call ci-eated, as indeed tbey are

In their whole being. But the elements,

Which thou Jiast nam'd, and what of them is made,

Are by created virtue' inform'd : create 130

Their substance, and create the' informing virtue

In these bright stars, that round them circling move

The soul of every brute and of each plant.

The ray and motion of the sacred lights.

With complex poteiicy attract and tui-n. 135

But this our life tlie' eternal good inspires

Immediate, and enamours of itself ;

So that our wishes rest for ever here.

" And hence thou mayst by inference conclude
Our resurrection certain, if thy mind 140

Consider how the human flesh was fram'd,
When both our parents at the first were made."


The woidd was in its day of peril dark

Wont to believe the dotage of fond love

From tlie fair Cyprian deity, wlio rolls

In her third epicycle, shed on men

By stream of potent radiance : therefore they 6

Of elder time, in their old error blind,

Not her alone with sacrifice ador'd

And invocation, but like honours paid

To Cupid and Dione, deem'd of them

Her mother, and her son, him whom they feign 'd 10

To sit in Dido's bosom : and from her,

Whom I have sung preluding, borrow'd they

The appellation of that star, which views

Now obvious, and now averse, the sun.

I was not ware that I was wafted up 15

Into its orb ; but the new loveliness
"J'hat grac'd my lady, gave me ample proof
That we had enter'd there. And as in flame
A s])arkle is distinct, or voice in voice

268 rARAPisr*:.

DisocniM, wlicn one its even tenour keeps, 20

The other comes and £!;oes ; so in that light
I otiier linninai'ies saw, tliat coursM
In circling motion, rapid more or less,
As their eternal })hasis each impels.

Never was blast from vapour charged with cold, 25
Whether invisible to eye or no,
Descended with such speed, it Inid not seem'd
To linger in dull tardiness, comj)ar'd
To those celestial lights, that tow'rds ns came,
Leaving the circuit of their joyous ring, 30

Conducted by the lofty seraj)liim.
And after them, who in the van appear'd,
Such an Hosanna sounded, as hath left
Desire, ne'er since extinct in me, to hear
Kenew'd the strain. Then parting from the rest 35

One near us drew, and sole began : " We all
Are ready at thy pleasure, well dispos'd
To do thee gentle service. We are they,
To whom thou in the world erewhile didst sing
' O ye ! whose intellectual ministry 40

Moves the third heaven ! ' and in one orb we roll,
One motion, one impulse, with those who rule
Princedoms in heaven ; yet are of love so full,
That to ])lease thee 't will be as sweet to rest."

After mine eyes had with meek reverence 45

Sought the celestial guide, and were by her
Assur'd, they turn'd again unto the light
Who had so lai'gely promis'd, and ^^'ith voice
That bare the lively pressure of my zeal,
" Tell who ye are," I cried. Fortlnvith it grew 50

In size and splendour, through augmented joy ;
And thus it answer'd : " A short date below
The Avorld possess'd me. Had the time been more,
Much evil, that will come, had never chanc'd.
My gladness hides thee from me, which doth shine 55
Around, and shroud me, as an animal
In its own silk unswath'd. Thou lov'dst me well,
And had'st good cause; for had my sojourning
Been longer on the earth, the love I bare thee

I'AliADlSK. 2G9

Had put forth more than hlossoiiis. 'Hu' left biiiik, GO

That llhone, when he hatli niixVl witli .Sui'ga, hives.

In me its lord expected, and that horn

Of fair Ausonia, with its borouglis old,

Bari, and Croton, and Gaeta i^il'd,

From where the Trento disembogues liis waves, C5

With Verde mingled, to the salt sea-liood.

Already on my temples beam'd th(! crown,

Wliich gave me sov'reignty over the land

B}^ Danube wash'd, whenas he strays beyond

The limits of his German shores. The realm, 70

"Where, on tlie gulf by stormy Eurus lash'd.

Betwixt Pelorus and Pachynian lieights,

The beautiful Trinacria lies in gloom

(Not through Typhoeus, but the vap'ry cloud

Bituminous upsteam'd), that too did look 75 |

To have its sceptre wielded by a race

Of monarchs, sprung through me from Charles and

Rodolph ; ^

Had not ill lording which doth spirit u]^ |

The people ever, in Palermo rais'd I

The shout of ' death,' re-echo'd loud and long. 80 |

Had but my brother's foresight kenn'd as much, 1

He had been wai'ier that the greedy want I

Of Catalonia miglit not work his bale. I

And truly need there is, that he forecast, I

Or other for him, lest more freight be laid 85 \

On his already over-laden bark. I

Nature in him, from bounty fall'n to thrift, \

Woidd ask the guard of braver arms, than such I

As only care to have their coffers fill'd."

"My liege, it doth enhance the joy thy words 90 1

Infuse into me, mighty as it is, \

To think my gladness manifest to thee, }

As to myself, who own it, when thou lookst
Into the source and limit of all gotnl.

There, where thou markest that which Ihou dost speak, 05
Thence priz'd of me the more. Glad thou hast made me.
Now make intelligent, clearing the doubt
Thy speech hath raised in me ; for much I muse,


How bitter can spring up, when sweet is sown."

I thus inquiring ; lie forthwith replied : 100

" If I have i)ower to show one trutli, soon that
Shall face thee, which thy questioning declares
Behind thee now conceard. The Good, that guides
And blessed makes this realm, which thou dost mount.
Ordains its providence to be the virtue 105

In these great bodies : nor th' all perfect Mind
Upholds their nature merely, but in them
Their energy to save : for nought, that lies
"Within the range of that unerring bow,
But is as level with the destin'd aim, 110

As ever mark to arrow's point 023])os'd.
Were it not thus, these heavens, thou dost visit,
Would their effect so work, it would not be
Art, but destruction ; and this may not chance.
If th' intellectual powers, that move these stars, 115

Fail not, or who, first faulty made them fail.
Wilt thou this truth more clearly evidenc'd ? "

To whom I thus : " It is enough : no fear,
I see, lest nature in her^part should tire."

He straight rejoin'd: "Say, were it worse for man, 120
If he liv'd not in fellowship on earth?"

" Yea," answer'd I ; " nor here a reason needs."

" And may that be, if diffeixMit estates
Grow not of different duties in your life?
Consult your teacher, and he tells you ' no.' " 125

Thus did he come, deducing to this point,
And then concluded : " For this cause behoves,
The roots, from whence your operations come.
Must differ. Therefore one is Solon born ;
Another, Xerxes; and Melchisidec 130

A third; and he a fourth, whose airy voynge
Cost him his son. In her circuitous course,
Nature, that is the seal to mortal wax.
Doth well her art, but no distinctions owns
'Twixt one or other household. Hence befals 135

That Esau is so wide of Jacob : hence
Quirinus of so b:ise a father springs,
He dates from Mars his lineatife. Were it not


That providence celestial overrul'd,

Nature, in generation, must the ])ath 140

Trac'd by the generator, still pursue

Unswervingly. Thus place I in thy sight

That, which was late behind thee. ]>ut, in sign

Of more affection for thee, 't is my will

Thou wear this corollary. Nature ever 145

Online Library1265-1321 Dante AlighieriThe Vision : or, Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, of Dante Alighieri → online text (page 20 of 37)