1265-1321 Dante Alighieri.

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

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He hath defin'd it, substance, and then ])roof."

" The deep things," I replied, " which here I scan 70
Distinctly, are below from mortal eye
So hidden, they liave in belief alone
Their being, on which credence hope sublime
Is built ; and therefore substance it intends.
And inasmuch as we must needs infer 75

From such belief our reasoning, all respect
To otlier view excluded, hence of j^roof
Th' intention is deriv'd." Forthwith I heard :
" If thus, whate'er by learning men attain.
Were understood, the sophist would want room 80

To exercise his Avit." So breath'd the flame
Of love : then added : " Current is the coin
Thou ntter'st, botli in weight and in alloy.
But tell me, if thou hast it in thy purse."

" Even so glittering and so round," said I, 85

" T not a whit misdoubt of its assay."


Next issued from the deep imbosom'd splendour:
" Say, whence the costly jewel, on the which
Is founded every virtue, came to thee."
"The Hood," I answer'd, "from the Spirit of God 90

Rain'd down upon the ancient bond and new, —
Here is the reas'ning, that convinceth me
So feelingly, each argument beside
Seems blunt and forceless in comparison."
Then heard I : " Wherefore boldest thou that each, 95
The elder proposition and the new,
Which so persuade thee, are the voice of heav'n ? "

" The works, that follow'd, evidence their truth ; "
I answer'd : "Nature did not make for these
The iron hot, or on her anvil mould them." 100

" Who voucheth to thee of the works themselves,
Was the reply, " that they in very deed
Are that they purport ? None hath sworn so to thee."
" That all the world," said I, " should have been
To Christian, and no miracle been Avrought, 105

AYould in itself be such a miracle.
The rest were not an hundredth part so great.
E'en thou wentst forth in poverty and hunger
To set the goodly plant, that from the vine,
It once was, now is grown unsightly bramble." 110

That ended, through the higli celestial court
Resounded all the spheres. "Praise we one God ! "
In song of most unearthly melody.
And wlien that Worthy thus, from branch to branch,
Examining, had led me, that we now 115

Ap])roach'd the topmost bough, he straight resum'd ;
" Tlie grace, that holds sweet dalliance with thy soul,
So far discreetly hath tliy lips unclos'd
That, whatsoe'er has past them, I commend.
Behoves thee to express, what thou believ'st, 120

The next, and whereon thy belief hath grown."

" O saintly sire and spirit ! " I began,
"Who seest that, which thou didst so believe,
As to outstrip feet younger than thine own,
Toward the sepulchre ? thy will is here, 125

i 328 I'AKADISE.

Tliat I tliG tcnour of my creed unfold ;
And thou tlie cause of it hast likewise ask'd.
And I reply : I in one God believe,
One sole eternal Godhead, of Avhose love

i All heav'n is niov'd, himself unmov'd the while. 130

I Nor demonstration ])hysical alone,

I Or more intelligential and a))struse,

f Persuades me to this faith ; but from that truth
It Cometh to me rather, which is shed
Through Moses, the rapt Prophets, and the Psalms. 135
The Gospel, and that ye yourselves did write.
When ye were gifted of the Holy Ghost.
In three eternal Persons I believe.
Essence threefold and one, mysterious league
Of union absolute, which, many a time, 140

The word of gospel lore upon my mind
Imprints : and from this germ, this firstling spark,
The lively flame dilates, and like heav'n's star
Doth glitter in me." As the master hears,
Well pleas'd, and then enfoldeth in his arms 145

The servant, who hath joyful tidings brought,
And having told the errand keeps his peace ;
Thus benediction uttering with song
Soon as my peace I held, compass'd me thrice
The apostolic radiance, whose behest 150

I Had op'd lips ; so well their answer pleas'd.


If e'er the sacred poem that hath made

Both heav'n and earth copartners in its toil.

And with lean abstinence, through many a year,

Faded my brow, be destin'd to prevail

Over the cruelty, which bai's me forth 5

Of the fair sheep-fold, where a sleeping lamb

The wolves set on and fain had worried me,

With other voice and fleece of other grain

I shall forthwith return, and, standing up

At my baptismal font, shall claim the wreath 10



Due to the poet's temj^les : for I there
First enter'd on the faith which niaketh souls
Acceptable to God : and, for its sake,
Peter had then circled my forehead thus.

Next from the squadron, whence had issued forth 15
Tlie first fruit of Christ's vicars on the earth,
Toward us mov'd a light, at view whereof
My Lady, full of gladness, spake to me :
" Lo ! lo ! behold the peer of mickle might,
That makes Falicia throng'd with visitants ! " 20

As when the ring-dove by his mate alights,
In circles each about the other wheels.
And murmuring cooes his fondness ; thus saw I
One, of the other great and glorious prince,
With kindly greeting hail'd ; extolling both 25

Their heavenly banqueting; but Avhen an end
Was to their gratulation, silent, each,
Before me sat they down, so burning bright,
I could not look upon them. Smiling then,
Beatrice spake : " O life in glory shrin'd ! 30

Who didst the largess of our kingly court
Set down with faithful pen ! let now thy voice
Of hope the praises in this height resound.
For thou, who figur'st them in shapes, as clear.
As Jesus stood before thee, well can'st speak them." 35

" Lift up thy head : and be thou strong in trust:
For that, which hither from the mortal Avorld
Arriveth, must be ripen'd in our beam."

Such cheering accents from the second flame
Assur'd me ; and mine eyes I lifted up 40

Unto the mountains that had bow'd them late
With over-heavy burden. " Sith our Liege
Wills of his grace, that thou, or ere tliy death,
In the most secret council, with his lords
Shouldst be confronted, so that having view'd 45

The glories of our court, thou mayst therewith i

Thyself, and all who hear, invigorate 1

With liope, that leads to blissful end ; declare, I

What is that hope, how it doth flourish in thee, \

And whence thou hadst it?" Thus proceeding still, 50


The second lit:^1it : and she, whose gentle love j

My sonring pennons in that lofty fliy'lit

Escorted, tlius jn-eventing me, rejoin'd :

" Among her sons, not one more fnll of liope,

Hath the churcli militant : so 't is of him 55

Recorded in the sun, whose liberal orb

Enlighteneth all onr tribe : and ere his terra

Of warfare, hence permitted he is come,

From Egypt to Jerusalem, to see.

The other points, both which thou hast inquir'd, 60

Not for more knowledge, but that he may tell

How dear thou holdst the virtue, these to him

Leave I ; for he may answer thee with ease,

And without boasting, so God give him grace."

Like to the scholar, practis'd in his task, 65

Who, willing to give proof of diligence,

Seconds his teacher gladly, " Hope," said I,

" Is of the joy to come a sure expectance.

Th' effect of grace divine and merit preceding.

This light from many a star visits my heart, 70

But How'd to me the first from him, who sang

The songs of the Supreme, himself suj)reme

Among his tuneful brethren. ' Let all hope

In thee,' so speak his anthem, ' who have known

Thy name ;' and with my faith who know not that ? 75

From thee, the next, distilling from his spring, ;

In thine epistle, fell on me the drops i

So plenteously, that I on others shower

The influence of their dew." Whileas I spake, i

A lamping, as of quick and vollied lightning, 80 |

Within the bosom of that mighty sheen, I

Play'd tremulous ; then forth these accents breath'd : |

" Love for the virtue which attended me j

E'en to the palm, and issuing from the field, |

Glows vigorous yet within me, and inspires 85 «

To ask of thee, whom also it delights ; \

What promise thou from hojie in chief dost win."

"Both scriptures, new and ancient," I re])ly'd,
" Propose the mark (which even now I view)
For souls belov'd of God. Isaias saith, 90 ',




'Tlint, in their own land, each one must l)e clad

In twofold vesture;' and tlicir jM-ojjer land

Is this delicious life. In terms more full,

And clearer far, thy brother hath set forth

This revelation to us, where ho tells 95

Of the Avhite raiment destin'd to the saints."

And, as the words were ending, from ahove,

" They hope in thee," first heard we cried : whereto

Answer'd the carols all. Amidst them next,

A light of so clear am])litude cmerg'd, 100

That M-inter's month were but a single day,

Were such a crystal in the Cancer's sign.

Like as a virgin riseth uj), and goes.
And enters on the mazes of the dance,
Though gay, yet innocent of worse intent, 105

Than to do fitting honour to the bride ;
So I beheld the new effulgence come
Unto the other two, who in a ring
"VVheel'd, as became their rapture. In the dance
And in the song it mingled. And the dame 110

Held on them fix'd her looks : e'en as the spouse
Silent and moveless. "This is he, who lay
Upon the bosom of our pelican :
This he, into whose keeping from the cross
The mighty charge was given." Thus she spake, 115
Yet therefore naught the more remov'd her sight
From marking them, or ere her words began.
Or when they clos'd. As he, who looks intent.
And strives with searching ken, how he may see
The sun in his eclipse, and, through desire liiO

Of seeing, loseth power of sight : so I
Peer'd on that last resplendence, while I heard :
" Why dazzlest thou thine ej-es in seeking that,
Whicii here abides not ? Earth my body is.
In earth: and shall be, with the rest, so long, 125

As till our number equal the decree
Of the Most High. The two that have ascended,
In this our blessed cloister, shine alone
With the two garments. So report below."

As when, for ease of labour, or to shun 130


Suspected peril at a wliistlo's l)i-eatli,

The oars, erewliile dasliM fre(|ueut in the wave,

All rest ; the ilamy ciicle at tliat voice

So rested, and the minnlini^ sound was still,

Which from the triual hand soft-breathini;- i-ose. 135

I turn'd, but ah ! how trembled in my thouy;ht,

When, looking at my side again to see

Beatrice, I descried her not, although

Not distant, on the happy coast she stood.


With dazzled eyes, Avhilst wond'ring I remain'd,

Forth of the beamy flame which dazzled me,

Issued a breath, that in attention mute

Detain'd me; and these words it sjxake : " 'Twere well,

That, long as till thy vision, on my form 5

O'erspent, regain its virtue, Avith discourse

Thou comi)ensate the brief delay.' Say then,

Beginning, to what point thy soul ns])ires :

And meanwhile rest assur'd, that sight in thee

Is but o'erpowcred a space, not wholly quench'd : 10

Since thy fair guide and lovely, in her look

Hath potency, the like to that which dwelt

In Ananias' hand." I answering thus :

" Be to mine eyes the remedy or late

Or early, at her pleasure ; for they were 15

The gates, at which she enter'd, and did light

Her never-dying fire. My wishes hei-e

Are centred ; in this palace is the weal,

That Alpha and Omega, is to all

The lessons love can read me." Yet again 20

The voice which had dispers'd my fear, when daz'd

With that excess, to converse urg'd, and spake :

"Behoves thee sift more narrowly thy terms,

And say, who level'd at this scope thy bow."

"Philosophy," said I, " hath arguments, 25

And this place hath authority enough
'T' imprint in ]iic such love : for, of constraint,


Good, inasmuch as we perceive the goorl,

Kindles our love, and in degree the more,

As it comprises more of goodness in 't. 30

The essence then, where such advantage is.

That each good, found without it, is naught else

But of his light the beam, must needs attract

The soul of each one, loving, who tlie truth

Discerns, on which this ])roof is built. Such truth 35

Learn I from him, who shows me the first love

Of all intelligential substances

Eternal : from his voice I learn, whose word

Is truth, that of himself to Moses saith,

' I will make all my good before thee pass.' 40

Lastly from thee I learn, who chief proclaim'st, ;

E'en at the outset of thy heralding, (

In mortal ears the mystery of heav'n." i|

" Through human wisdom, and tli' authority |

Therewith agreeing," heard I answer'd, " keep 45 I

The choicest of thy love for God. But say, |

If thou yet other cords within thee feel'st |

That draw tliee towards him ; so that thou report i

How many are the fangs, w5t,]i which this love |

Is grappled to thy soul." 1 iid not miss, 50 '

To what intent the eagle of our Lord |

Had pointed his demand ; yea noted well c

Th' avowal, which he led to ; and resum'd : -

" All grappling bonds, that knit the heart to God,
Confederate to make fast our charity. 55

The being of the world, and mine own being, \

The death which He endur'd that I sliould live, \

And that, which all the faithful hope, as I do, !

To the foremcntiou'd lively knowledge join'd, 1

Have from the sea of ill love sav'd my bark, 60 I

And on the coast secur'd it of the right. I

As for the leaves, that in the garden bloom,
My love for them is great, as is the good |

Dealt by th' eternal hand, that tends them all." I

I ended, and therewith a song most sweet 65 j

Rang through the sjjheres ; and " Holy, holy, holy," I

Accordant with the rest my lady sang.


And as a sleep is bvolcen and (lisj)crs'd
i Tlirouo;]i sliarj) encounter of tlie nimble li!j;lit,
I With tlic eye's spirit running forth to meet 70

Tlic ray, from membrane on to the membrane urgM ;

And the upstartled wight loathes that he sees;

So, at his sudden waking, he misdeems

Of all around him, till assurance waits

On better judgment : thus the saintly dame 75

])rove from before mine eyes the motes away,

With the res])lendence of her own, that cast

Their brightness downward, thousand miles below.

Whence I my vision, clearer than before,

Recover'd ; and, well nigh astounded, ask'd 80

Of a fourth light, that now with us I saw.
! And Beatrice : " The first living soul,

: That ever the first virtue fram'd, admires

Within these rays his Maker." Like the leaf,
i That bows its lithe top till the blast is blown ; 85

By its own virtue rear'd then stands aloof ;
I So I, the whilst she said, awe-stricken bow'd.
I Then eagerness to speak embolden'd me ;
i And I began : " O fruit ! that wast alone

Mature, when first engender'd ! Ancient father ! DO

That doubly seest in every wedded bride
t Thy daughter by afiinity and blood !
1 Devoutly as I may, I pray thee hold
I Converse with me: my will thou seest; and I,
I More speedily to hear thee, tell it not." 95

\ It chanceth oft some animal bewrays,
i Through the sleek cov'ring of his furry coat.
I The fondness, that stii-s in him and conforms
j His outside seeming to the cheer within :
) And in like guise was Adam's spirit mov'd 100

; To joyous mood, that through the covering shone,
j Transparent, when to pleasure me it sjjake :

"No need thy will be told, which I untold
I Better discern, than thou whatever thing
i Thou holdst most certain : for that will I see 105

In Him, Avho is ti-uth's mii'ror, and Himself
i Parhelion unto all things, and naught else


To Hiiri. This wouldst thou liear; liow \oug since God

Plac'd me high garden, from Avhose bounds

She led me nj) in tliis hidder, steep and long; IK

What space endur'd my season of delight;

Whence truly sprang the wrath that banish'd me ;

And what the language, "svliich I S])ake and frani'd

Not that I tasted of the tree, my son,

Was in itself the cause of that exile, 115

But only my transgressing of the mark

Assign'd me. There, whence at thy lady's hest

The Mantuan mov'd liim, still Avas Idebarr'd

This council, till the sun had made com])lete.

Four thousand and three hundred rounds and twice,

His annual journey ; and, through every light 121

In his broad pathway, saw I him return.

Thousand save sev'nty times, the whilst I dwelt

Upon the earth. The language I did use

Was Avorn away, or ever Nimrod's race 125

Their unaccomplishable work began.

For naught, that man inclines to, ere was lasting,

Left by his reason free, and variable.

As is the sky that sways him. That he speaks,

Is nature's prompting: whether thus or thus, 130

She leaves to you, as ye do most affect it.

Ere I descended into liell's abyss.

El was the name on earth of the Chief Good,

Whose joy enfolds me : Eli then 't was call'd •

And so beseeraeth : for, in mortals, use 135

Is as the leaf upon the bough ; that goes,

And other comes instead. Upon the mount

Most high above tlie waters, all my life.

Both innocent and guilty, did but reach

From the first hour, to that which comech next 140

(As the sun changes quarter), to the sixth.


Then " Glory to the Father, to the Sod, |

And to the Holy Si)ii-it," rang aloud j


TIirou2;hout all Paradise, that with tho song
My s])irit i-oelM, so passini^ sweet the strain:
And wliat I saw was equal ecstasy ; 5

; One universal smile it seeni'd of all things,
I J*'y P'lst compare, gladness unutterable,
I In;]ierishable life of peace and love,
1 Exiuiustless riches and unmeasur'd bliss.
1; Before mine eves stood the four torches lit : 10

i And that, which first had come, began to wax
j; In brightness, and in semblance such became,
I As Jove might be, if he and Mars were birds,
And interchang'd their plumes. Silence ensued,
Through the blest quire, by Him, who here appoints 15
Vicissitude of ministry, enjoin'd ;
When thus I heard : " Wonder not, if my hue
Be chang'd ; for, while I speak, these shalt thou see
All in like manner change with me. My place
He who usurps on earth (my place, ay, mine, 20

Which in the presence of the Son of God
Is void}, the same hath made my cemetery
A common sewer of puddle and of blood :
The more below his triumnh, who from hence
Malignant fell." Such colour, as the sun, 25

At eve or morning, paints and adverse cloud,
Then saw I sprinkled over all the sky.
I And as th' unblemish'd dame, who in herself
I Secure of censure, yet at bare report
I Of other's failing, shrinks with maiden fear ; ■ 30

I So Beatrice in her semblance chang'd :
I And such eclipse in heav'a methinks was seen,
I When the Most Holy suffer'd. Then the words
Proceeded, with voice, alter'd from itself
So clean, the semblance did not alter more, 35

? "Not to this end was Christ's spouse with my blood,
I With that of Linus, and of Cletus fed :
: That she might serve for purchase of base gold :
I But for the purchase of this happy life
I Did Sextus, Pius, and Callixtus bleed, 40

I And Urban, they, whose doom was not Avithout
I Much weeping seal'd. No purpose was of ours.



That oil tlu! ri^lit Iiaiid of our successors
I'art of the Christian jieoplc should be set,
And ])art u))on their left ; nor that the keys, 45

Which were vouelisafd me, should for ensign serve
Unto the banners, that do levy war
On the baptiz'd : nor I, for sigil-raark
Set upon sold and lying privileges ;

Which makes me oft to bicker and tui'n red. 50

In shepherd's clothing greedy wolves below
Range wide o'er all the pastures. Arm of God !
Why longer sleepst thou ? Caorsines and Gascons
Prepare to quaff our blood. O good beginning
To what a vile conclusion must thou stooji! 55

But the high providence, which did defend
j Through Scipio the world's glory unto Rome,
I Will not delay its succour : and thou, son,

AVho througli thy mortal weight shall yet again
Return below, open thy lips, nor hide 6U

AVhat is by me not hidden." As a flood
Of frozen va])Ours streams adown tlie air,
What time the she-goat with her skiey horn
i Touches the sun ; so saw I there stream wide

The vapours, who with us had linger'd late 65

And with glad triumph deck th' etherial cope.
Onward my sight their semblances pursued;
So far pursued, as till the space between
P^rom its reach sever'd them : whereat the guide
Celestial, marking me no more intent 70

On upward gazing, said, " Look down and see
What circuit thou hast compass'd." From the hour
When I before had cast ray view beneath,
All the first region overpast I saw,

Which from the midmost to the bound'ry winds ; 75

That onward thence from Gades I beheld
The unwise passage of Laertes' son,
And hitherward the shore, where thou, Europa I
IVIad'st thee a joyful burden : and yet more
Of this dim spot had seen, but that the sun, 80

A constellation off and more, had ta'ea
Ilis progress in the zodiac underneath.



Then by the spirit, that dotlt never leave
Its amorous (hilliance with my lady's looks,
Back -with redoubled ardour were mine eyes 85

Led unto her : and from her radiant smiles,
Whenas I turn'd me, pleasure so divine
Did lighten on me, that whatever bait
Or art or nature in the human flesh,

Or in its limn'd resemblance, can combine 90

Through greedy eyes to take the soul withal,
Were to her beauty nothing. Its boon influence
From the fair nest of Leda rapt me forth,
And wafted on into the swiftest heav'n.

What place for entrance Beatrice chose, 95

I may not say, so uniform was all,
Liveliest and loftiest. She my secret wish
Divin'd ; and with such gladness, that God's love
Seem'd from her visage shining, thus began :
" Here is the goal, whence motion on his race 100

Starts ; motionless the centre, and the rest
All mov'd around. Except the soul divine.
Place in this heav'n is none, the soul divine,
Wherein the love, which ruleth o'er its orb.
Is kindled, and the virtue that it sheds ; 105

One circle, light and love, enclasping it,
As this doth clasp the others ; and to Him,
Who draws the bound, its limit only known.
Measur'd itself by none, it doth divide
Motion to all, counted unto them forth, 110

As by the fifth or half ye count forth ten.
The vase, wherein time's roots are jilung'd, thou seest,
Look elsewhei'e for the leaves. O mortal lust !
That canst not lift thy head above the waves
Which whelm and sink thee down ! The will in man 115
Bears goodly blossoms ; but its ruddy promise
Is, by the dripping of ]>erpetual rain,
Made mere abortion : faith and innocence
Are met with but in babes, each taking leave
Ere cheeks with down are sjn-inkled ; he, that fasts, 120
While yet a stammerer, with his tongue let loose
Gluts every food alike in every moon.



One yet a babbler, loves and listens to

His mother ; but no sooner hath free use

Of speech, than he cloth wish her in her grave. 125

So suddenly doth the fair child of him,

Whose Avelcome is the morn and eve his parting,

To negro blackness change her virgin white.

" Thou, to abate thy wonder, note that none
Bears rule in earth, and its frail family 130

Are therefore wand'rers. Yet before the date,
"When through the hundredth in his reck'ning dropt
Pale January must be shov'd aside
From winter's calendar, these heav'nly spheres
Shall roar so loud, that fortune shall be fain 135

To turn the poop, where she hath now the prow ;
So that the fleet run onward ; and true fruit,
Expected long, shall crown at last the bloom ! "


So she who doth imparadise my soul,

Had drawn the veil from off our present life,

And bar'd the truth of poor mortality ;

"When lo ! as one who, in a mirror, spies

The shining of a flambeau at his back, 6

Lit sudden ere he deem of its approach,

And turneth to resolve him, if the glass

Have told him true, and sees the record faithful

As note is to its metre ; even thus,

I well remember, did befal to me, 10

Looking upon the beauteous eyes, whence love

Had made the leash to take me. As I turn'd ;

And that, Avhich, in their circles, none who spies,

Can miss of, in itself apparent, struck

On mine ; a point I saw, that darted light 15

So sharp, no lid, imclosing, may bear up

Against its keenness. The least star we view

From hence, had seem'd a moon, set by its side,

As star by side of star. And so far off,

Perchance, as is the halo from the light, 20


Wliicli i)aints it, Avhcn most dense tlie vapour spreads,

"J^here wlicelM about the point a cn-cle of lire,

More raj)!*! tlian the motion, whieli first girds

The world. Then, circle after circle, round

Enring'd each other ; till the seventh reach'd 25

Circumference so ample, that its bow,

Within the span of Juno's messenger.

Had scarce been held entire. Beyond the sev'nth,

Follow'd yet other two. And every one,

As more in number distant from the first, 30

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