1265-1321 Dante Alighieri.

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

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Of those, who come to meddle with the text,
One stretches and another cramps its rule.
Bonaventura's life in me behold,


From Bngiiororogio, one, who in discharge

Of my Ljrcat offices still laid aside 120

All sinister aim. Illiiminato here,

And Agostino join me : two they were,

Among the first of those barefooted meek ones,

Who sought God's friendsliij) in the cord : with tlieni

Ilugues of Saint Victor, Pietro Mangiadore, 125

And lie of Spain in his twelve volumes shining,

Nathan the prophet, Metropolitan

Chrysostom, and Anselmo, and, who deign'd

To put his hand to the first art, Donatus.

Raban is here : and at my side there shines 130

Calabria's abbot, Joachim, endow'd

With soul prophetic. The bright courtesy

Of friar Thomas, and his goodly lore.

Have mov'd me to the blazon of a peer

iSo worthy, and with me have mov'd this throng." lo5


Let him, who would conceive what now I saw,

Imagine (and retain the image firm.

As mountain rock, the whilst he hears me speak),

Of stars fifteen, from midst the ethereal host

Selected, that, with lively ray serene, 5

O'ercome the massiest air : thereto imagine

The wain, that, in the bosom of our sky,

Si)ins ever on its axle night and day.

With the bright summit of that horn which swells

Due from the pole, round which the first wheel rolls, 10

T' have rang'd themselves in fashion of two signs

In heav'n, such as Ariadne made.

When death's chill seized her ; and that one of them

Did compass in the other's beam ; and both

In such sort Avhirl around, that each should tend 15

With opposite motion : and, conceiving thus.

Of that true constellation, and the dance

Twofold, that circled me, he shall attain

As 't were the shadow ; for things there as much

286 PA K A DISK.

Surpass our usage, ns tlie swiftest heav'n 2^

Is swifter than the Chiana. There was sung

No Bacchus, and no lo Pasan, but

Three Persons in the Godhead, and in one

Substance that nature and the liuman join'd.

The song fultill'd its measure ; and to us 25

Those saintly liglits attended, liappier made
At each new minist'ring. Then silence brake,
Amid th' accordant sons of Deity,
That luminary, in which the wondrous life
Of the meek man of God was told to me ; 30

And thus it spake : " One ear o' th' harvest thresh'd,
And its grain safely stor'd, sweet charity
Invites me Avith the other to like toil.

" Thou know'st, that in the bosom, whence tlie rib
Was ta'en to fashion that fair cheek, whose taste 35

All the world pays for, and in that, which pierc'd
By the keen lance, both after and before
Such satisfaction offer'd, as outweighs
Each evil in the scale, whate'er of light
To human nature is allow'd, must all 40

Have by his virtue been infus'd, who form'd
Both one and other : and thou thence admir'st
In that I told thee, of beatitudes
A second, there is none, to his enclos'd
In the fifth radiance. Open now thine eyes 45

To what I answer thee ; and thou shalt see
Thy deeming and my saying meet in truth,
As centre in the round. Tliat which dies not.
And that which can die, are but each the beam
Of that idea, which our Sovereign Sire 50

Engendereth loving ; for that lively light.
Which passeth from lus brightness, not disjoin'd
From him, nor fi'om his love triune with them,
Doth, through his bounty, congregate itself,
Mirror'd, as 't were in new existences, 55

Itself unalterable and ever one,

"Descending hence unto the lowest powers,
Its energy so sinks, at last it makes
But brief conting;encies : for so I name


Thinc^s exonerated, wlucli the heav'nly orbs 60

Movinu;, with seed or Avitliout seed, ])n)duce.

Their wax, and that which molds it, differ much :

And tlicnce Avith lustre, more or less, it shows

Th' ideal stamj) imprest : so that one tree

According to his kind, hath better fruit, 65

And worse : and, at you birth, ye, mortal men,

Are in your talents various. |Were the Avax

Molded with nice exactness, and the heav'n

In its disposing influence supreme,

The lustre of the seal should be complete : 70

But nature renders it imperfect ever,

Resembling thus the artist in her Avork,

Whose faultering hand is faithless to his skill.

Howe'er, if love itself dispose, and mark

The primal virtue, kindling with bright view, 75

There all perfection is vouchsafed ; and such

The clay was made, accomplish'd with each gift,

That life can teem with ; such the burden fili'd

The virgin's bosom : so that I commend

Thy judgment, that the human nature ne'er 80

Was or can be, such as in them it was. 5

" Did I advance no further than this point,
* How then had be no peer ? ' thou might'st reply.
But, that what now appears not, may appear
Right plainly, ponder, who he was, and Avhat 85

(When he was bidden ' Ask '), the motive sway'd
To his requesting. I have spoken thus,
That thou mayst see, he was a king, who ask'd
For wisdom, to the end he might be king
SufKcient : not the number to search out 90

Of the celestial movers ; or to know,
If necessary with contingent e'er
Have made necessity ; or whether that
Be granted, that first motion is ; or if
Of the mid circle can, by art, be made 95

Triangle with each corner, blunt or sharp.

"Whence, noting that, which I have said, and this,
Thou kingly prudence and that ken mayst learn,
At which the dart of my intention aims.


And, inMi-kiiiu; clearly, that I told thee, 'Risen,' 100

Tliou shalt discern it only liath respect

To kings, of whom are many, and the good

Are rare. With this distinction take my words ;

And they may well consist with that which thou

Of the first human father dost believe, 105

And of our well-beloved. And let this

Henceforth be led unto thy feet, to make

Thee slow in motion, as a weary man.

Both to the ' yea ' and to the ' nay ' thou seost not.

For he among the fools is down full low, 110

Whose affirmation, or denial, is

Without distinction, in each case alike

Since it befals, that in most instances

Current opinion leads to false : and then

Affection bends the judgment to lier ply. 115

"Much more than vainly doth he loose from shore,
Since he returns not such as he set fortli.
Who fishes for the truth and wanteth skill.
And ojicn proofs of this vinto the world
Have been afforded in Parraenides, 120

Melissus, Bryso, and the crowd beside,
Who journey'd on, and knew not whither: so did
Sabellius, Arius, and the other fools,
Who, like to scymitars, reflected back
The scripture-image, by distortion marr'd. 125

"Let not the people be too swift to jndgc,
As one who reckons on the blades in field.
Or ere the crop be ripe. For I have seen
Tlie thorn frown rudely all the winter long
And after bear the rose upon its top ; 130

And bark, that all the way across the sea
Ran straight and speedy, perish at the last,
E'en in the haven's mouth. Seeing one steal.
Another bring his offering to the priest.
Let not Dame Birtha and Sir Martin thence 135

Into heav'n's counsels deem that they can pry :
For one of these may rise, the other fall."



P'kom conti'C' to tlie circle, and so back

From circle to the ccnti-e, water moves

In the round chalice, even as the blow

Im]>els it, inwardly, or from without.

Such was the image glanc'd into my mind, 5

As the great s])irit of Aqninum ccas'd ;

And Beatrice after him her words

Resuni'd alternate : "Need there is (the' yet

He tells it to you not in words, nor e'en

In thought) that he should fathom to its depth 10

Another mystery. Tell him, if the light.

Wherewith your substance blooms, shall stay with you

Eternally, as now : and, if it doth,

How, when ye shall regain your visible forms.

The sight may without harm endure the change, 15

Tliat also tell." As those, who in a ring

Tread the light measure, in their fitful mirth

liaise loud the voice, and spring with gladder bound ;

Thus, at the hearing of that pious suit,

The saintly circles in their tourneying 20

And wond'rous note attested new delight.

Whoso laments, that we must doff this garb
Of frail mortality, thenceforth to live
Immortally above, he hath not seen
The sweet refreshing of that heav'nly shower. 25

Him, wlio lives ever, and for ever reigns
In mystic union of the Three in One,
Unbounded, bounding all, each spirit thrice
Sang, with such melody, as but to hear
For highest merit were an ample meed. 30

And from the lesser orb the goodliest light,
With gentle voice and mild, such as perhaps
The angel's once to Mary, thus re))lied :
"Long as the joy of Paradise shall last.
Our love shall shine around that raiment, bright, 35

As fervent ; fervent, as in vision blest ;
And that as far in blessedness exceeding,
As it hath grave beyond its virtue great,



Our sba]io, regarmentcd witli glorious weeds

Of saintly flesh, must, being thus entire, 40

Show yet moi-c gracious. Therefore shall increase,

AVhate'er of light, gi-atuitous, ini])arts

The Supreme Good ; light, niinistei-ing aid,

The better disclose his glory : whence

The vision needs increasing, much increase 45

The fervour, which it kindles ; and that too

The ray, tiiat comes from it. But as the gieed

Which gives out flame, yet it its whiteness shines

More livelily than that, and so preserves

Its proper semblance ; thus this circling sphere 50

Of splendour, shall to view less radiant seem,

Than shall our fleshly robe, which yonder earth

Now covers. Nor will such excess of light

O'erpower us, in corporeal organs made

Firm, and susceptible of all delight." 55

So ready and so cordial an " Amen,"
Followed from eitlier clioir, as plainly spoke
Desire of their dead bodies ; yet ])erchance
Not for themselves, but for their kindred dear.
Mothers and sires, and those whom best they lov'd, GO
Ere they wei'e made imperishable flame.

And lo ! forthwitli there rose up round about
A kistre over that already there.
Of equal clearness, like the brightening up
Of the liorizon. As at evening hour 65

Of twilight, new appearances through heav'n
Peer with faint glimmer, doubtfully descried ;
So there new substances, methought began
To rise in view ; and round the other twain
Enwheeling, sweep their ampler circuit wide. 70

O genuine glitter of eternal Beam !
With what a sudden whiteness did it flow,
O'erpowering ^•ision in me ! But so fair,
So passing lovely, Beatrice show'd.

Mind cannot follow it, nor words express 75

Her infinite sweetness. Thence mine eyes regain'd
Power to look up, and I beheld myself,
Sole witli my lady, to more lofty bliss



Translated : for the star, with wanner sniile
Impurpled, well (lenoterl our ascent. 80

Witli all the heart, and witli that tongue which sj)eak3
The same in all, an holocaust I made
To God, befitting the new grace vouchsaf d.
And from my bosom had not yet upsteam'd
The fuming of that incense, when I knew 85

The rite accepted. With such mighty slieen
And mantling crimson, in two listed rays
The splendours shot before me, that I cried,
" God of Sabaoth ! that does i)rank them thus ! "

As leads the galaxy from pole to pole, UU

Distinguish'd into greater lights and less,
Its pathway, which the wisest fail to spell ;
So thickly studded, in the depth of Mars,
Those rays describ'd the venerable sign.
That quadrants in the round conjoining frame. 95

Here memory mocks the toil of genius. Christ
Beam'd on that cross ; and pattern fails me now.
But whoso takes his cross, and follows Christ
Will pardon me for that I leave untold,
When in the flecker'd dawning be sliall spy 100

The glitterance of Christ. From horn to horn,
And 'tween the summit and the base did move
Lights, scintillating, as they met and pass'd.
Thus oft are seen, with ever-changeful glance,
Straight or athwart, now rapid and now slow, 105

The atomies of bodies, long or short.
To move along the sunbeam, whose slant line
Checkers the shadow, interpos'd by art
Against the noontide heat. And as the chime
Of minstrel music, dulcimer, and harp 110

With many strings, a pleasant dining makes
To him, who heareth not distinct tlie note ;
So from the lights, whicli there appear'd to me,
Gather'd along the cross a melody,

That, indistinctly heard, with ravishment 115

Pussess'd rae. Yet I mark'd it was a liymn
Of lofty ])raises ; for there came to me
" Arise and conquer," as to one wlio hears


And coniprolicnds not. Me sucli ecstasy
O'crcnnie, that never till tliat liour was thing 120

That held me in so sweet iniprisoninent.
Ferliaps my saying over bold appears,
Accounting less the ])leasure of those eyes,
AVliereon to look fullilleth all desire.

But he, who is aware those living seals 125

Of every beauty work with quicker force,
The higiier they are ris'n ; and that there
I had not turn'd me to them ; he may well
Excuse me that, Avhereof in my excuse
I do accuse me, and may own my truth ; 130

That holy i)leasure here not yet reveal'd,
Which grows in transport as we mount aloof.


True love, that ever shows itself as clear

In kindness, as loose appetite in wrong.

Silenced that lyre harmonious, and still'd

The sacred chords, that are by heav'n's right hand

Unwound and tighten'd. How to righteous prayers 5

Should they not hearken, who, to give me will

For praying, in accordance thus were mute?

He hath in sooth good cause for endless grief.

Who, for the love of thing that lasteth not.

Despoils himself for ever of that love. 10

As oft along the still and pure serene,
At nightfall, glides a sudden trail of fire,
Attracting with involuntary heed
The eye to follow it, erewhile at rest.
And seems some star that shifted place in heav'n, 15

Only that, whence it kindles, none is lost.
And it is soon extinct ; thus from the horn,
That on the dexter of the cross extends,
Down to its foot, one luminary ran

From mid the cluster shone there; yet no gem 20

Drop])'d from its foil ; and through the beamy list
Like fianie in alabaster, glow'd its course.


So forward strctcliM liim (if of credenoo nuglit
Our greater muse may claim) the pious ghost
Of old Anchises, iu the' Elysiau bower, 25

When he perceiv'd his son. " O thou, my blood!

most exceeding grace divine ! to whom.
As now to thee, liath twice the heav'nly gate
J^een e'er unclos'd ? " so spake the light ; whence 1
Turn'd me toward him ; then unto my dame 30
JMy sight directed, and on either side

Amazement waited me ; for in her eyes

Was lighted such a smile, I thought that mine

Had div'd unto the bottom of my grace

And of my bliss in Paradise. Forthwith 35

To hearing and to sight grateful alike,

The spirit to his proem added things

1 understood not, so profound he spake ;
Yet not of choice but through necessity

Mysterious ; for his high conception scar'd 40

Beyond the mark of mortals. When the flight

Of holy transport had so spent its rage.

That nearer to the level of our thought

The speech descended, the first sounds I heard

Were, " Blest be thou, Triunal Deity ! 45

That hast such favour in my seed vouchsaf'd ! "

Then follow'd : " No unpleasant thirst, tho' long,

Wliicli took me reading in the sacred book.

Whose leaves or Avhite or dusky never change,

Thou hast allay'd, my son, within this light, 50

From whence my voice thou hear'st ; more thanks to her.

Who for such lofty mounting has with plumes

Begirt thee. Thou dost deem thy thouglits to me

From Him transmitted, Avho is first of all.

E'en as all numbers ray from unity ; 55

And therefore dost not ask me who I am,

Or why to thee more joyous I appear.

Than any other in this gladsome throng.

The truth is as thou deem'st ; for in this life

Both less and greater in that mirror look, 60

In which thy thoughts, or ere thou think'st, arc shown.

l)ut, that the love, wliicli kee|)s me w akcf iil ever,


Urging with sacred thirst of sweet desire,

May be conteiuled fully, let thy voice,

Fearless, and fi-ank and jocund, utter forth 65

Thy will distinctly, utter forth the wish,

"VVhereto my ready answer stands decreed."

I turn'd me to Beatrice ; and she heard
Ere I had sjioken, smiling an assent,

That to my will gave wings ; and I began : 70

" To each among your tribe, what time ye kenn'd
The nature, in whom naught imequal dwells.
Wisdom and love were in one measure dealt ;
For that they are so equal in t'le sun.
From whence ye drew your radiance and your heat, 75
As makes all likeness scant. But will and means,
In mortals, for the cause ye well discern.
With unlike wings are fledge. A mortal I
Experience inequality like this.

And therefore give no thanks, but in the heart, 80

For thy paternal greeting. This howe'er
I pray thee, living topaz ! that ingemm'st
This precious jewel, let me hear thy name."

" I am thy root, O leaf ! whom to expect
Even, hath pleas'd me:" thus the prompt reply 85

Prefacing, next it added ; "he, of whom
Thy kindred appellation comes, and who,
These hundred years and more, on its first ledge
Hath circuited the mountain, was my son
And thy great grandsire. Well befits, his long 90

Endurance should be shorten'd by thy deeds.

" Florence, within her ancient limit-mark,
Which calls her still to matin prayers and noon,
Was chaste and sober, and abode in peace.
She had no armlets and no head-tires then, 95

No purfled dames, no zone, that caught the eye
More than the person did. Time was not yet.
When at his daughter's birth the sire grew pale,
For fear the age and dowry should exceed
On each side just proportion. House was none 100

Void of its family ; nor yet had come
Sardanapalus, to exhibit feats


Of clinniher prowess. Montoinalo yet

O'er our suburban turret rose; as much

To be surpast in fall, as in its rising. 105

I saw Bellincion Berti walk abroad

In leathern girdle and a clasp of bone;

And, with no artful colouring on her cheeks,

TTis lady leave tlie glass. The sons T saw

Of Nerli and of Vecchio well content llU

With unrob'd jerkin ; and their good dames handling

The spindle and the flax; O happy they!

Each sure of burial in her native land,

And none left desolate a-bed for France !

One wak'd to tend the cradle, hushing it 115

With sounds tliat luU'd the parent's infancy:

Another, with her maidens, drawing off

The tresses from the distaff, lectur'd them

Old tales of Troy and Fesole and Rome.

A Salterello and Cianghella we 120

Had held as strange a marvel, as ye would

A Cincinnatus or Cornelia now.

" In such compos'd and seemly fellowship,
Such faithful and such fair equality,

In so sweet household, Mary at my birth 125

BestoAv'd me, call'd on with loud cries ; and there
In your old baptistery, I was made
Christian at once and Cacciaguida ; as were
My brethren, Eliseo and Moro7ito.

" From Valdipado came to me my spouse, 130

And hence thy surname grew. I follow'd then
The Emperor Conrad ; and his knighthood he
Did gird on me ; in such good part he took
My valiant service. After him I went
To testify against that evil law, 135

Whose people, by the shei)herd's fault, possess
Your right, usurjjing. There, by that foul crew
Was I releas'd from the deceitful world.
Whose base affection many a spirit soils,
And from the martyrdom came to this peace." 140



SLiGnr respect of man's nohility!

1 never sliall accouiiL it iiiai-velloiis,
Tliatour infirm affection liere below

Thou mov'st to boastinj^, Avlien I could not chuse,

E'en in that region of unwar]>'d desire, 6

In heav'n itself, but make my vaunt in thee!

Yet cloak thou art soon shorten'd, for that time,

Unless thou be eked out from day to day,

Goes round thee with his shears. Resuming tlien

With greeting such, as Home, was first to bear, 10

But since hath disaccustom'd I began ;

And Beatrice, that a little space

Was sever'd, smil'd reminding me of her.

Whose cough embolden'd (as the story holds)

To first offence the doubting Guenever. 15

"You are my sire," said I, " you give me heart
Freely to speak my thought : above myself
You raise me. Through so many streams with joy
My soul is fill'd, that gladness wells from it ;
So that it bears the miglity tide, and bursts not. 20

Say then, my honour'd stem ! what ancestors
Where those you sprang from, and what years were mai-k'd
In your first childhood V Tell me of the fold.
That hath Saint John for guardian, what was then
Its state, and who in it were highest seated ?" '25

As embers, at the breathing of the wind.
Their iiame enliven, so that light I saw
Shine at my blandishments ; and, as it grew
More fair to look on, so with voice more sweet,
Yet not in this our modern phrase, forthrvith 30

It answer'd : "From the day, when it was said
' Hail Virgin ! ' to the throes, by which my mother,
Who now is sainted, lighten'd her of me
Whom she was heavy with, this tire had come,
Five huiulred fifty times and thrice, its beams 35

To reilumine underneath the foot
Of its own lion. They, of whom I sprang,
And I, had there our birth-])lace, where the last


PAKAorsE. 297

Partition of our city first is reach'd

By liiiii, tliat runs lu'r annual game. Thus much 40

Suffice of my forefathers : who they Avere,

And whence they liitlier came, more honourable

It is to pass in'silence than to tell.

All those, who in that time were there from Mars

Until tlie Baptist, fit to carry arms, 45

Were but the fifth of them this clay alive.

But then the citizen's blood, that now is mix'd

From Campi and Certaldo and Fighine,

Ran purely through the last mechanic's veins.

O how much better were it, that these people 50

Were neighbours to you, and that at Gallnzzo

And at Trespiano, ye should have your bound'ry,

Than to have them Avithin, and bear the stench

Of Aguglione's hiiul, and Signa's, him.

That hath his eye already keen for bart'ring ! 55

Had not the peo})le, which of all the world

Degenerates most, been stepdame unto Caisar,

But, as a mother, gracious to her son ;

Such one, as hath become a Florentine,

And trades and tralRcs, had been turn'd adrift GO

To Simifonte, where liis grandsire i)ly'd

The beggar's craft. The Conti were possess'd

Of Montemurlo still : the Cerchi still

Were in Acoue's parish ; nor had haply

From Yaldigrieve past the Buondelmonti. 65

The city's malady hath ever source

In the confusion of its jkm-sous, as

The body's, in variety of food :

And the blind bull falls with a steeper plunge,

Than the blind lamb ; and oftentimes one sword 70

Doth more and better execution.

Than five. Mark Luni, Urbisaglia mark,

How they are gone, and after them how go

Chiusi and Sinigaglia; and 't will seem

No longer new or strange to thee to hear, 75

Tiiat families fail, Avhen cities have their end.

All things, that appertain t' ye, like yourselves,

Ai'c mortal : but mortalitv in some

298 PAR, A DIRE.

Ye mark not, tlicy endure so long, and you

]*ass })y so suddenly. And as the moon 80

Dotli, i)y the rolling of her heav'nly sphere,

Hide and reveal the strand unceasingly;

So fortune deals with Floi-ence. Hence admire not

At what of them I tell thee, whose renow^i

Time covers, the first Florentines. I saw 85

The Ughi, Catilini and Filippi,

The Alberichi, Greci and Ormanni,

Now in their wane, illustrious citizens :

And great as ancient, of Sannella him,

With him of Area saw, and Soldanieri 90

And Ardinghi' and Bostichi. At the poop,

That now^ is laden with new felony.

So cumb'rous it may speedily sink the bark,

The Ravignani sat, of whom is sprung

The County Guido, and whoso hath since 95

His title from the fam'd Bellincion ta'en.

Fair governance was yet an art well priz'd

By him of Pressa : Galigaio show'd

The gilded hilt and pommel, in his house.

The column, cloth'd with verrey, still was seen 100

Unshaken : the Sacchetti still were great,

Giouchi, Sifanti, Galli and Barucci,

With them who blush to hear the bushel nam'd.

Of the Calfucci still the branchy trunk

Was in its strength : and to the curule chairs 105

Sizii and Arigucci yet were drawn.

How mighty them I saw, whom since their pride

Hath undone ! and in all her goodly deeds

Florence was by the bullets of bright gold

O'erflourish'd. Such the sires of those, who now, 110

As surely as your church is vacant, flock

Into her consistory, and at leisure

There stall them and grow fat. The o'erweening brood.

That plays the dragon after him that flees,

But unto such, as turn and show the tooth, 115

Ay or the purse, is gentle as a lamb.

Was on its rise, but yet so slight esteem'd,

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