The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Divine Comedy, Volume 2, Purgatory

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Title: The Divine Comedy, Volume 2, Purgatory

Author: Dante Alighieri

Translator: Charles Eliot Norton

Release date: December 1, 1999 [eBook #1996]
Most recently updated: July 16, 2022

Language: English

Credits: Dianne Bean


The Divine Comedy of Dante Aligheri

Translated by Charles Eliot Norton


Invocation to the Muses.—Dawn of Easter on the shore of Purgatory.—The Four Stars.—Cato.—The cleansing of Dante from the stains of Hell.

Sunrise.—The Poets on the shore.—Coming of a boat, guided by an angel, bearing souls to Purgatory.—Their landing.—Casella and his song.—Cato hurries the souls to the mountain.

Ante-Purgatory.—Souls of those who have died in contumacy of the Church.—Manfred.

Ante-Purgatory.—Ascent to a shelf of the mountain.—The negligent, who postponed repentance to the last hour—Belacqua.

Ante-Purgatory.—Spirits who had delayed repentance, and met with death by violence, but died repentant.—Jacopo del Cassero.—Buonconte da Montefeltro.—Via de’ Tolomei.

Ante-Purgatory.—More spirits who had deferred repentance till they were overtaken by a violent death.—Efficacy of prayer.—Sordello.—Apostrophe to Italy.

Virgil makes himself known to Sordello.—Sordello leads the Poets to the Valley of the Princes who have been negligent of salvation.—He points them out by name.

Valley of the Princes.—Two Guardian Angels.—Nino Visconti.—The Serpent.—Corrado Malaspina.

Slumber and Dream of Dante.—The Eagle.—Lucia.—The Gate of Purgatory.—The Angelic Gatekeeper.—Seven P’s inscribed on Dante’s Forehead.—Entrance to the First Ledge.

First Ledge the Proud.—Examples of humility sculptured on the Rock.

First Ledge: the Proud.—Prayer.—Omberto Aldobrandeschi.—Oderisi d’ Agubbio.—Provinzan Salvani.

First Ledge: the Proud.—Examples of the punishment of Pride graven on the pavement.—Meeting with an Angel who removes one of the P’s.—Ascent to the Second Ledge.

Second Ledge: the Envious.—Examples of Love.—The Shades in haircloth, and with sealed eyes.—Sapla of Siena.

Second Ledge: the Envious.—Guido del Duca.—Rinieri de’ Calboli.—Examples of the punishment of Envy.

Second Ledge: the Envious.—An Angel removes the second P from Dante’s forehead.—Discourse concerning the Sharing of Good.—Ascent to the Third Ledge: the Wrathful.—Examples of Forbearance seen in Vision.

Third Ledge: the Wrathful.—Marco Lombardo.—His discourse on Free Will, and the Corruption of the World.

Third Ledge: the Wrathful.—Issue from the Smoke.—Vision of examples of Anger—Ascent to the Fourth Ledge, where Sloth is purged—Second Nightfall—Virgil explains how Love is the root of Virtue and of Sin.

Fourth Ledge: the Slothful.—Discourse of Virgil on Love and Free Will.—Throng of Spirits running in haste to redeem their Sin.—The Abbot of San Zeno.—Dante falls asleep.

Fourth Ledge: the Slothful.—Dante dreams of the Siren—The Angel of the Pass.—Ascent to the Fifth Ledge.—Pope Adrian V.

Fifth Ledge: the Avaricious.—The Spirits celebrate examples of Poverty and Bounty.—Hugh Capet.—His discourse on his descendants.—Trembling of the Mountain.

Fifth Ledge: the Avaricious.—Statius.—Cause of the trembling of the Mountain.—Statius does honor to Virgil.

Ascent to the Sixth Ledge—Discourse of Statius and Virgil.—Entrance to the Ledge: the Gluttonous.—The Mystic Tree.—Examples of Temperance.

Sixth Ledge the Gluttonous.—Forese Donati.—Nella.—Rebuke of the women of Florence.

Sixth Ledge: the Gluttonous.—Forese Donati.—Bonagiunta of Lucca.—Pope Martin IV.—Ubaldin dalla Pila.—Bonifazio.—Messer Marchese.—Prophecy of Bonagiunta concerning Gentucca, and of Forese concerning Corso de’ Donati.—Second Mystic Tree.—The Angel of the Pass.

Ascent to the Seventh Ledge.—Discourse of Statius on generation, the infusion of the Soul into the body, and the corporeal semblance of Souls after death.—The Seventh Ledge:the Lustful.—The mode of their Purification.

Seventh Ledge: the Lustful.—Sinners in the fire, going in opposite directions.—Guido Guinicelli.—Arnaut Daniel.

Seventh Ledge: the Lustful.—Passage through the Flames.—Stairway in the rock.—Night upon the stairs.—Dream of Dante.—Morning.—Ascent to the Earthly Paradise.—Last words of Virgil.

The Earthly Paradise.—The Forest.—A Lady gathering flowers on the bank of a little stream.—Discourse with her concerning the nature of the place.

The Earthly Paradise.—Mystic Procession or Triumph of the Church.

The Earthly Paradise.—Beatrice appears.—Departure of Virgil.—Reproof of Dante by Beatrice.

The Earthly Paradise.—Reproachful discourse of Beatrice, and confession of Dante.—Passage of Lethe.—Appeal of the Virtues to Beatrice.—Her Unveiling.

The Earthly Paradise.—Return of the Triumphal procession.—The Chariot bound to the Mystic Tree.—Sleep of Dante.—His waking to find the Triumph departed.—Transformation of the Chariot.—The Harlot and the Giant.

The Earthly Paradise.—Prophecy of Beatrice concerning one who shall restore the Empire.—Her discourse with Dante.—The river Eunoe.—Dante drinks of it, and is fit to ascend to Heaven.



Invocation to the Muses.—Dawn of Easter on the shore of Purgatory.—The Four Stars.—Cato.—The cleansing of Dante from the stains of Hell.

To run over better waters the little vessel of my genius now hoists its sails, and leaves behind itself a sea so cruel; and I will sing of that second realm where the human spirit is purified and becomes worthy to ascend to heaven.

But here let dead poesy rise again, O holy Muses, since yours I am, and here let Calliope somewhat mount up, accompanying my song with that sound of which the wretched Picae felt the stroke such that they despaired of pardon.[1]

[1] The nine daughters of Pieros, king of Emathia, who, contending in song with the Muses, were for their presumption changed to magpies.

A sweet color of oriental sapphire, which was gathering in the serene aspect of the sky, pure even to the first circle,[1] renewed delight to my eyes soon as I issued forth from the dead air that had afflicted my eyes and my breast. The fair planet which incites to love was making all the Orient to smile, veiling the Fishes that were in her train.[2] I turned me to the right hand, and fixed my mind upon the other pole, and saw four stars never seen save by the first people.[3] The heavens appeared to rejoice in their flamelets. O widowed northern region, since thou art deprived of beholding these!

[1] By “the first circle,” Dante seems to mean the horizon.

[2] At the spring equinox Venus is in the sign of the Pisces, which immediately precedes that of Aries, in which is the Sun. The time indicated is therefore an hour or more before sunrise on Easter morning, April 10.

When I had withdrawn from regarding them, turning me a little to the other pole, there whence the Wain had already disappeared, I saw close to me an old man alone, worthy in look of so much reverence that no son owes more unto his father.[1] He wore a long beard and mingled with white hair, like his locks, of which a double list fell upon his breast. The rays of the four holy stars so adorned his face with light, that I saw him, as if the sun had been in front.

[1] These stars are the symbols of the four Cardinal Virtues,—Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude, and Justice,—the virtues of active life, sufficient to guide men in the right path, but not to bring them to Paradise. By the first people arc probably meant Adam and Eve, who from the terrestrial Paradise, on the summit of the Mount of Purgatory, had seen these stars, visible only from the Southern hemisphere. According to the geography of the time Asia and Africa lay north of the equator, so that even to their inhabitants these stars were invisible. Possibly the meaning is that these stars, symbolizing the cardinal virtues, had been visible only in the golden age.

This old man, as soon appears, is the younger Cato, and the office here given to him of warden of the souls in the outer region of Purgatory was suggested by the position assigned to him by Virgil in the Aeneid, viii. 670. “Secretosque pios, his dantem jura Catonem.”

It has been objected to Virgil’s thus putting him in Elysium, that as a suicide his place was in the Mourning Fields. A similar objection may be made to Dante’s separating him from the other suicides in the seventh circle of Hell (Canto XIII.). “But,” says Conington, “Virgil did not aim at perfect consistency. It was enough for him that Cato was one who from his character in life might be justly conceived of as lawgiver to the dead.” So Dante, using Cato as an allegoric figure, regards him as one who, before the coming of Christ, practised the virtues which are required to liberate the soul from sin, and who, as be says in the De Monarchia (ii. 5), “that he might kindle the love of liberty in the world, showed how precious it was, by preferring death with liberty to life without it.” This liberty is the type of that spiritual freedom which Dante is seeking, and which, being the perfect conformity of the human will to the will of God, is the aim and fruition of nil redeemed souls.

In the region of Purgatory outside the gate, the souls have not yet attained this freedom; they are on the way to it, and Cato is allegorically fit to warn and spur them on.

“Who are ye that counter to the blind stream have fled from the eternal prison?” said he, moving those venerable plumes. “Who has guided you? Or who was a lamp to you, issuing forth from the deep night that ever makes the infernal valley black? Are the laws of the abyss thus broken? or is a new design changed in heaven that, being damned, ye come unto my rocks?”

My Leader then took hold of me, and with words, and with hands, and with signs, made my legs and my brow reverent. Then he answered him, “Of myself I came not; a Lady descended from Heaven, through whose prayers I succored this man with my company. But since it is thy will that more of our condition be unfolded to thee as it truly is, mine cannot be that to thee this be denied. This man has not seen his last evening, but through his folly was so near thereto that very little time there was to turn. Even as I have said, I was sent to him to rescue him, and there was no other way than this, along which I have set myself. I have shown to him all the guilty people; and now I intend to show him those spirits that purge themselves under thy ward. How I have led him, it would be long to tell thee; from on high descends power that aids me to conduct him to see thee and to hear thee. Now may it please thee to approve his coming. He goes seeking liberty, which is so dear, as he knows who for her refuses life. Thou knowest it, for death for her sake was not hitter to thee in Utica, where thou didst leave the garment that on the great day shall he so bright. The eternal edicts are not violated by us, for this one is alive, and Minos does not bind me; but I am of the circle where are the chaste eyes of thy Marcia, who in her look still prays thee, O holy breast, that for thine own thou hold her. For her love, then, incline thyself to us; let us go on through thy seven realms.[1] Thanks unto thee will I carry back to her, if to be mentioned there below thou deign.”

[1] The seven circles of Purgatory.

“Marcia so pleased my eyes while I was on earth,” said he then, “that whatsoever grace she wished from me I did it; now, that on the other side of the evil stream she dwells, she can no more move me, by that law which was made when thence I issued forth.[1] But if a Lady of heaven move and direct thee, as thou sayest, there is no need of flattery; suffice it fully to thee that for her sake thou askest me. Go then, and see thou gird this one with a smooth rush, and that thou wash his face so that thou remove all sully from it, for it were not befitting to go with eye overcast by any cloud before the first minister that is of those of Paradise. This little island, round about at its base, down there yonder where the wave heats it, bears rushes upon its soft ooze. No plant of other kind, that might put forth leaf or grow hard, can there have life, because it yields not to the shocks. Thereafter let not your return be this way; the Sun which now is rising will show you to take the mountain by easier ascent.”

[1] The law that the redeemed cannot be touched by other than heavenly affections.

So he disappeared, and I rose up, without speaking, and drew me close to my Leader, and turned my eyes to him. He began, “Son, follow my steps; let us turn back, for this plain slopes that way to its low limits.”

The dawn was vanquishing the matin hour which fled before it, so that from afar I discerned the trembling of the sea. We set forth over the solitary plain like a man who turns unto the road which he has lost, and, till he come to it, seems to himself to go in vain. When we were where the dew contends with the sun, and, through being in a place where there is shade, is little dissipated, my Master softly placed both his hands outspread upon the grass. Whereon I, who perceived his design, stretched toward him my tear-stained cheeks. Here he wholly uncovered that color of mine which hell had hidden on me.[1]

[1] Allegorically, when the soul has entered upon the way of purification Reason, with the dew of repentance, washes off the stain of sin, and girds the spirit with humility.

We came, then, to the desert shore that never saw navigate its waters one who afterwards had experience of return. Here he girt me, even as pleased the other. O marvel! that such as he plucked the humble plant, it instantly sprang up again there whence he tore it.[1]

[1] The goods of the spirit are not diminished by appropriation.


Sunrise.—The Poets on the shore.—Coming of a boat, guided by an angel, bearing souls to Purgatory.—Their landing.—Casella and his song.—Cato hurries the souls to the mountain.

Now had the sun reached the horizon whose meridian circle covers Jerusalem with its highest point; and the night which circles opposite to it was issuing forth from Ganges with the Scales that fall from her hand when she exceeds;[1] so that where I was the white and red cheeks of the beautiful Aurora by too much age were becoming orange.

[1] Purgatory and Jerusalem are antipodal, and in one direction the Ganges or India was arbitrarily assumed to be their common horizon. The night is here taken as the point of the Heavens opposite the sun, and the sun being in Aries, the night is in Libra. When night exceeds, that is, at the autumnal equinox, when the night becomes longer than the day, the Scales may be said to drop from her hand, since the sun enters Libra.

We were still alongside the sea, like folk who are thinking of their road, who go in heart and linger in body; and lo! as, at approach of the morning, through the dense vapors Mars glows ruddy, down in the west above the ocean floor, such appeared to me,—so may I again behold it!—a light along the sea coming so swiftly that no flight equals its motion. From which when I had a little withdrawn my eye to ask my Leader, again I saw it, brighter become and larger. Then on each side of it appeared to me a something, I know not what, white, and beneath, little by little, another came forth from it. My Master still said not a word, until the first white things showed themselves wings; then, When he clearly recognized the pilot, he cried out, “Mind, mind, thou bend thy knees. Lo! the Angel of God: fold thy hands; henceforth shalt thou see such officials. See how he scorns human means, so that he wills not oar, or other sail than his own wings between such distant shores. See, how he holds them straight toward heaven, stroking the air with his eternal feathers that are not changed like mortal hair.”

Then, as nearer and nearer toward us came the Bird Divine, the brighter he appeared; so that near by my eye endured him not, but I bent it down: and he came on to the shore with a small vessel, very swift and light so that the water swallowed naught of it. At the stern stood the Celestial Pilot, such that if but described he would make blessed; and more than a hundred spirits sat within. “In exitu Israel de Egypto”[1] they all were singing together with one voice, with whatso of that psalm is after written. Then he made the sign of holy cross upon them; whereon they all threw themselves upon the strand; and he went away swift as he had come.

1 “When Israel went out of Egypt.” Psalm cxiv.

The crowd which remained there seemed strange to the place, gazing round about like him who of new things makes essay. On all sides the Sun, who had with his bright arrows chased from midheaven the Capricorn,[1] was shooting forth the day, when the new people raised their brow toward us, saying to us, “If ye know, show us the way to go unto the mountain.” And Virgil answered, “Ye believe, perchance, that we are acquainted with this place, but we are pilgrims even as ye are. Just now we came, a little before you, by another way, which was so rough and difficult that the ascent henceforth will seem play to us.

[1] When Aries, in which the Sun was rising, is on the horizon, Capricorn is at the zenith.

The souls who had become aware concerning me by my breathing, that I was still alive, marvelling became deadly pale. And as to a messenger who bears an olive branch the folk press to hear news, and no one shows himself shy of crowding, so, at the sight of me, those fortunate souls stopped still, all of them, as if forgetting to go to make themselves fair.

I saw one of them drawing forward to embrace me with so great affection that it moved me to do the like. O shades empty save in aspect! Three times behind it I clasped my hands and as oft returned with them unto my breast. With marvel, I believe, I painted me; wherefore the shade smiled and drew back, and I, following it, pressed forward, Gently it said, that I should pause; then I knew who it was, and I prayed it that to speak with me it would stop a little. It replied to me, “So as I loved thee in the mortal body, so loosed from it I love thee; therefore I stop; but wherefore goest thou?”

“Casella mine, in order to return another time to this place where I am, do I make this journey,” said I, “but from thee how has so much time been taken?”[1]

[1] “How has thy coming hither been delayed so long since thy death?”

And he to me, “No wrong has been done me if he[1] who takes both when and whom it pleases him ofttimes hath denied to me this passage; for of a just will[2] his own is made. Truly for three months he has taken with all peace whoso has wished to enter. Wherefore I who was now turned to the seashore where the water of Tiber grows salt was benignantly received by him.[3] To that outlet has he now turned his wing, because always those assemble there who towards Acheron do not descend.”

[1] The Celestial Pilot.

[2] That is, of the Divine Will; but there is no explanation of the motive of the delay.

[3] The Tiber is the local symbol of the Church of Rome, from whose bosom those who die at peace with her pass to Purgatory. The Jubilee, proclaimed by Boniface VIII., had begun at Christmas, 1299, so that for three months now the Celestial Pilot had received graciously all who had taken advantage of it to gain remission of their sins.

And I, “If a new law take not from thee memory or practice of the song of love which was wont to quiet in me all my longings, may it please thee therewith somewhat to comfort my soul, which coming hither with its body is so wearied.”

“Love which in my mind discourseth with me,”[1] began he then so sweetly that the sweetness still within me sounds.[2] My Master, and I, and that folk who were with him, appeared so content as if naught else could touch the mind of any.

[1] The first verse of a canzone by Dante; the canzone is the second of those upon which he comments in his Convito.

[2] Every English reader recalls Milton’s Sonnet to Mr. Henry Lawes:—
“Dante shall give Fame leave to set thee higher
  Than his Casella, whom he woo’d to sing,
   Met in the milder shades of purgatory.”

Nothing is known of Casella beyond what is implied in Dante’s affectionate record of their meeting.

We were all fixed and attentive to his notes; and lo! the venerable old man crying, “What is this, ye laggard spirits? What negligence, what stay is this? Run to the mountain to strip off the slough that lets not God be manifest to you.”

As, when gathering grain or tare, the doves assembled at their feeding, quiet, without display of their accustomed pride, if aught appear of which they are afraid, suddenly let the food alone, because they are assailed by a greater care, so I saw that fresh troop leave the song, and go towards the hill-side, like one that goes but knows not where he may come out. Nor was our departure less speedy.


Ante-Purgatory.—Souls of those who have died in contumacy of the Church.—Manfred.

Inasmuch as the sudden flight had scattered them over the plain, turned to the mount whereto reason spurs us, I drew me close to my trusty companion. And how should I without him have run? Who would have drawn me up over the mountain? He seemed to me of his own self remorseful. O conscience, upright and stainless, how bitter a sting to thee is little fault!

When his feet left the haste that takes the seemliness from every act, my mind, which at first had been restrained, let loose its attention, as though eager, and I turned my face unto the hill that towards the heaven rises highest from the sea. The sun, which behind was flaming ruddy, was broken in front of me by the figure that the staying of its rays upon me formed. When I saw the ground darkened only in front of me, I turned me to my side with fear of being abandoned: and my Comfort, wholly turning to me, began to say, “Why dost thou still distrust? Dost thou not believe me with thee, and that I guide thee? It is now evening there where the body is buried within which I cast a shadow; Naples holds it, and from Brundusium it is taken; if now in front of me there is no shadow, marvel not more than at the heavens of which one hinders not the other’s radiance. To suffer torments, both hot and cold, bodies like this the Power ordains, which wills not that how it acts be revealed to us. Mad is he who hopes that our reason can traverse the infinite way which One Substance in Three Persons holds. Be content, human race, with the quia;[1]; for if ye had been able to see everything, need had not been for Mary to hear child: and ye have seen desiring fruitlessly men such [2] that their desire would have been quieted, which is given them eternally for a grief. I speak of Aristotle and of Plato, and of many others;” and here he bowed his front, and said no more, and remained disturbed.

[1] Quic is used here, as often in mediaeval Latin, for quod. The meaning is, Be content to know that the thing is, seek not to know WHY or HOW—propter quid—it is as it is.

[2] If human knowledge sufficed.

We had come, meanwhile, to the foot of the mountain; here we found the rock so steep, that there the legs would be agile in vain. Between Lerici and Turbia[1] the most deserted, the most secluded way is a stair easy and open, compared with that. “Now who knows on which hand the hillside slopes,” said my Master, staying his step, “so that he can ascend who goeth without wings?”

[1] Lerici on the Gulf of Spezzia, and Turbia, just above Monaco, are at the two ends of the Riviera; between them the mountains rise steeply from the shore, along which in Dante’s time there was no road.

And while he was holding his face low, questioning his mind about the road, and I was looking up around the rock, on the left hand appeared to me a company of souls who were moving their feet towards us, and seemed not, so slowly were they coming. “Lift,” said I to the Master, “thine eyes, lo! on this side who will give us counsel, if thou from thyself canst not have it.” He looked at them, and with air of relief, answered, “Let us go thither, for they come slowly, and do thou confirm thy hope, sweet son.

That people was still as far, I mean after a thousand steps of ours, as a good thrower would cast with his hand, when they all pressed up to the hard masses of the high bank, and stood still and close, as one who goes in doubt stops to look.[1] “O ye who have made good ends, O spirits already elect,” Virgil began, “by that peace which I believe is awaited by you all, tell us, where the mountain lies so that the going up is possible; for to lose time is most displeasing to him who knows most.”

[1] They stopped, surprised, at seeing Virgil and Dante advancing to the left, against the rule in Purgatory, where the course is always to the right, symbolizing progress in good. In Hell the contrary rule holds.

As the sheep come forth from the fold by ones, and twos, and threes, and the others stand timid, holding eye and muzzle to the ground; and what the first does the others also do, huddling themselves to her if she stop, silly and quiet, and wherefore know not; so I saw then moving to approach, the head of that fortunate flock, modest in face and dignified in gait.

When those in front saw the light broken on the ground at my right side, so that the shadow fell from me on the cliff, they stopped, and drew somewhat back; and all the rest who were coming behind, not knowing why, did just the same. “Without your asking, I confess to you that this is a human body which you see, whereby the light of the sun on the ground is cleft. Marvel not thereat, but believe that not without power that comes from heaven he seeks to surmount this wall.” Thus the Master:and that worthy people said, “Turn, enter in advance, then;” with the backs of their hands making sign. And one of them began, “Whoever thou art, turn thy face as thou thus goest; consider if in the world thou didst ever see me?” I turned me toward him, and looked at him fixedly: blond he was, and beautiful, and of gentle aspect, but a blow had divided one of his eyebrows.

When I had humbly disclaimed having ever seen him, he said, “Now look!” and he showed me a wound at the top of his breast. Then he said, smiling, “I am Manfred,[1] grandson of the Empress Constance; wherefore I pray thee, that when thou returnest, thou go to my beautiful daughter,[2] mother of the honor of Sicily and of Aragon, and tell to her the truth if aught else be told. After I had my body broken by two mortal stabs, I rendered myself, weeping, to Him who pardons willingly. Horrible were my sins, but the Infinite Goodness has such wide arms that it takes whatever turns to it. If the Pastor of Cosenza,[3] who was set on the hunt of me by Clement, had then rightly read this page in God, the bones of my body would still be at the head of the bridge near Benevento, under the guard of the heavy cairn. Now the rain bathes them, and the wind moves them forth from the kingdom, almost along the Verde, whither he transferred them with extinguished light.[4] By their [5] malediction the Eternal Love is not so lost that it cannot return, while hope hath speck of green. True is it, that whoso dies in contumacy of Holy Church, though he repent him at the end, needs must stay outside[6] upon this bank thirtyfold the whole time that he has been in his presumption,[7] if such decree become not shorter through good prayers. See now if thou canst make me glad, revealing to my good Constance how thou hast seen me, and also this prohibition,[8] for here through those on earth much is gained.”

[1] The natural son of the Emperor Frederick II. He was born in 1231; in 1258 he was crowned King of Sicily. In 1263 Charles of Anjou was called by Pope Urban IV. to contend against him, and in 1266 Manfred was killed at the battle of Benevento.

[2] Constance, the daughter of Manfred, was married to Peter of Aragon. She had three sons, Alphonso, James, and Frederick. Alphonso succeeded his father in Aragon, and James in Sicily, but after the death of Alphonso James became King of Aragon. and Frederick King of Sicily. Manfred naturally speaks favorably of them, but Dante himself thought ill of James and Frederick. See Canto VII., towards the end.

[3] The Archbishop of Cosenza, at command of the Pope, Clement IV., took the body of Manfred from his grave near Benevento, and threw it unburied, as the body of one excommunicated, on the bank of the Verde.

[4] Not with candles burning as in proper funeral rites.

[5] That is, of Pope or Bishop.

[6] Outside the gate of Purgatory.

[7] This seems to be a doctrine peculiar to Dante. The value of the prayers of the good on earth in shortening the period of suffering of the souls in Purgatory is more than once referred to by him, as well as the virtue of the intercession of the souls in Purgatory for the benefit of the living. [8] The prohibition of entering within Purgatory.


Ante-Purgatory.—Ascent to a shelf of the mountain.—The negligent, who postponed repentance to the last hour.—Belacqua.

When through delights, or through pains which some power of ours may experience, the soul is all concentrated thereon, it seems that to no other faculty it may attend; and this is counter to the error which believes that one soul above another is kindled in us.[1] And therefore, when a thing is heard or seen, which may hold the soul intently turned to it, the time passes, and the man observes it not: for one faculty is that which listens, and another is that which keeps the soul entire; the latter is as it were bound, and the former is loosed.

[1] Were it true that, as according to the Platonists, there were more than one soul in man, he might give attention to two things at once. But when one faculty is free and called into activity, the rest of the soul is as it were bound in inaction.

Of this had I true experience, hearing that spirit and wondering; for full fifty degrees had the sun ascended,[1] and I had not noticed it, when we came where those souls all together cried out to us, “Here is what you ask.”

[1] It was now about nine o’clock A. M.

A larger opening the man of the farm often hedges up with a forkful of his thorns, when the grape grows dark, than was the passage through which my Leader and I behind ascended alone, when the troop departed from us. One goes to Sanleo, and descends to Noli, one mounts up Bismantova[1] to its peak, with only the feet; but here it behoves that one fly, I mean with the swift wings and with the feathers of great desire, behind that guide who gave me hope and made a light for me. We ascended in through the broken rock, and on each side the border pressed on us, and the ground beneath required both feet and hands.

[1] These all are places difficult of access.

When we were upon the upper edge of the high bank on the open slope, “My Master,” said I, “what way shall we take?” And he to me, “Let no step of thine fall back, always win up the mountain behind me, till some sage guide appear for us.”

The summit was so high it surpassed the sight and the side steeper far than a line from the mid quadrant to the centre.[1] I was weary, when I began, “O sweet Father, turn and regard howl remain alone if thou dost not stop.” “My son,” said he, “far as here drag thyself,” pointing me to a ledge a little above, which on that side circles all the hill. His words so spurred me, that I forced myself, scrambling after him, until the belt was beneath my feet. There we both sat down, turning to the east, whence we had ascended, for to look back is wont to encourage one. I first turned my eyes to the low shores, then I raised them to the sun, and wondered that on the left we were struck by it. The Poet perceived clearly that I was standing all bewildered at the chariot of the light, where between us and Aquilo,[2] it was entering. Whereupon he to me, “If Castor and Pollux were in company with that mirror [3] which up and down guides with its light, thou wouldst see the ruddy Zodiac revolving still closer to the Bears, if it went not out of its old road.[4] How that may be, if thou wishest to be able to think, collected in thyself imagine Zion and this mountain to stand upon the earth so that both have one sole horizon, and different hemispheres; then thou wilt see that the road which Phaethon, to his harm, knew not how to drive, must needs pass on the one side of this mountain, and on the other side of that, if thy intelligence right clearly heeds.” “Surely, my Master,” said I, “never yet saw I so clearly, as I now discern there where my wit seemed deficient; for the mid-circle of the supernal motion, which is called Equator in a certain art,[4] and which always remains between the sun and the winter, for the reason that thou tellest, from here departs toward the north, while the Hebrews saw it toward the warm region. But, if it please thee, willingly I would know how far we have to go, for the hill rises higher than my eyes can rise.” And he to me, “This mountain is such, that ever at the beginning below it is hard, and the higher one goes the less it hurts; therefore when it shall seem so pleasant to thee that the going up will be easy to thee as going down the current in a vessel, then wilt thou be at the end of this path; there repose from toil await: no more I answer, and this I know for true.”

[1] A steeper inclination than that of an angle of forty-five degrees.

[2] The North.

[3] The brightness of the sun is the reflection of the Divine light.

[4] If the sun were in the sign of the Gemini instead of being in Aries it would make the Zodiac ruddy still farther to the north. In Purgatory the sun being seen from south of the equator is on the left hand, while at Jerusalem, in the northern hemisphere, it is seen on the right.

[5] Astronomy.

And when he had said his word, a voice near by sounded, “Perchance thou wilt be first constrained to sit.” At the sound of it each of us turned, and we saw at the left a great stone which neither he nor I before had noticed. Thither we drew; and there were persons who were staying in the shadow behind the rock, as one through indolence sets himself to stay. And one of them, who seemed to me weary, was seated, and was clasping his knees, holding his face down low between them. “O sweet my Lord,” said I, “look at him who shows himself more indolent than if sloth were his sister.” Then that one turned to us and gave heed, moving his look only up along his thigh, and said, “Now go up thou, for thou art valiant.” I recognized then who he was, and that effort which was still quickening my breath a little hindered not my going to him, and after I had reached him, he scarce raised his head, saying, “Hast thou clearly seen how the sun over thy left shoulder drives his chariot?”

His slothful acts and his short words moved my lips a little to a smile, then I began, “Belacqua,[1] I do not grieve for thee now,[2] but tell me why just here thou art seated? awaitest thou a guide, or has only thy wonted mood recaptured thee?” And he, “Brother, what imports the going up? For the bird of God that sitteth at the gate would not let me go to the torments. It first behoves that heaven circle around me outside the gate, as long as it did in life, because I delayed good sighs until the end; unless the prayer first aid me which rises up from a heart that lives in grace: what avails the other which is not heard in heaven?”

[1] Belacqua, according to Benvenuto da Imola, was a Florentine, a maker of citherns and other musical instruments; he carved with great care the necks and heads of his citherns, and sometimes he played on them. Dante, because of his love of music, had been well acquainted with him.

[2] He had feared lest Belacqua might be in Hell.

And now the Poet in front of me was ascending, and he said, “Come on now: thou seest that the meridian is touched by the sun, and on the shore the night now covers with her foot Morocco.”


Ante-Purgatory.—Spirits who had delayed repentance, and met with death by violence, but died repentant.—Jacopo del Cassero.—Buonconte da Montefeltro—Via de’ Tolomei.

I had now parted from those shades, and was following the footsteps of my Leader, when behind me, pointing his finger, one cried out, “Look, the ray seems not to shine on the left hand of that lower one, and as if alive he seems to hear himself.” I turned my eyes at the sound of these words, and I saw them watching, for marvel, only me, only me, and the light which was broken.

“Why is thy mind so hampered,” said the Master, “that thou slackenest thy going? What matters to thee that which here is whispered? Come after me, and let the people talk. Stand as a tower firm, that never wags its top for blowing of the winds; for always the man in whom thought on thought wells up removes from himself his aim, for the force of one weakens the other.” What could I answer, save “I come”? I said it, overspread somewhat with the color, which, at times, makes a man worthy of pardon.

And meanwhile across upon the mountain side, a little in front of us, were coming people, singing “Miserere,” verse by verse. When they observed that I gave not place for passage of the rays through my body, they changed their song into a long and hoarse “Oh!” and two of them, in form of messengers, ran to meet us, and asked of us, “Of your condition make us cognizant.” And my Master, “Ye can go back, and report to them who sent you, that the body of this one is true flesh. If, as I suppose, they stopped because of seeing his shadow, enough is answered them; let them do him honor and he may he dear to them.”

Never did I see enkindled vapors at early night so swiftly cleave the clear sky, nor at set of sun the clouds of August, that these did not return up in less time; and, arrived there, they, with the others, gave a turn toward us, like a troop that runs without curb. “These folk that press to us are many, and they come to pray thee,” said the Poet; “wherefore still go on, and in going listen.” “O soul,” they came crying, “that goest to be happy with those limbs with which thou wast born, a little stay thy step; look if thou hast ever seen any one of us, so that thou mayest carry news of him to earth. Ah, why dost thou go on? Ah, why dost thou not stop? We were of old all done to death by violence, and sinners up to the last hour; then light from Heaven made us mindful, so that both penitent and pardoning we issued forth from life, at peace with God, who fills our hearts with the desire to see him.” And I, “Although I gaze upon your faces, not one I recognize; but if aught that I can do be pleasing to you, spirits wellborn,[1] speak ye, and I will do it by that peace which makes me, following the feet of such a guide, seek for itself from world to world.” And one began, “Each of us trusts in thy good turn without thy swearing it, provided want of power cut not off the will; wherefore I, who alone before the others speak, pray thee, if ever thou see that land that sits between Romagna and the land of Charles,[2] that thou be courteous to me with thy prayers in Fano, so that for me good orisons be made, whereby I may purge away my grave offences. Thence was I; but the deep wounds, wherefrom issued the blood in which I had my seat,[3] were given me in the bosom of the Endoneuria,[4] there where I thought to be most secure; he of Este had it done, who held me in wrath far beyond what justice willed. But if I had fled toward Mira,[5] when I was overtaken at Oriaco, I should still be yonder where men breathe. I ran to the marsh, and the reeds and the mire hampered me so that I fell, and there I saw a lake made by my veins upon the ground.”

[1] Elect from birth to the joys of Paradise, in contrast with the ill-born, the miscreants of Hell.

[2] The March of Ancona, between the Romagna and the kingdom of Naples, then held by Charles II. of Anjou. It is Jacopo del Cassero who speaks. He was a noted and valiant member of the leading Guelph family in Fano. On his way to take the place of Podesta of Milan, in 1298, he was assassinated by the minions of Azzo VIII. of Este, whom he had offended.

[3] The life of all flesh is the blood thereof.” Levit., xvii. 14. Or, according to the Vulgate, “Anima carnis in sanguine est.”

[4] That is to say, in the territory of the Paduans, whose city was reputed to have been founded by Antenor.

[5] Mira is a little settlement on the bank of one of the canals of the Brenta. Why flight thither would have been safe is mere matter of conjecture.

Then said another, “Ah! so may that desire be fulfilled which draws thee to the high mountain, with good piety help thou mine. I was of Montefeltro, and am Buonconte.[1] Joan or any other has no care for me, wherefore I go among these with downcast front.” And I to him, “What violence, or what chance so carried thee astray from Campaldino,[2] that thy burial place was never known?” “Oh!” replied he, “at foot of the Casentino crosses a stream, named the Archiano, which rises in the Apennine above the Hermitage.[3] Where its proper name becomes vain[4] I arrived, pierced in the throat, flying on foot, and bloodying the plain. Here I lost my sight, and I ended my speech with the name of Mary, and here I fell, and my flesh remained alone. I will tell the truth, and do thou repeat it among the living. The Angel of God took me, and he of Hell cried out, “O thou from Heaven, why dost thou rob me?[5] Thou bearest away for thyself the eternal part of him for one little tear which takes him from me; but of the rest I will make other disposal.” Thou knowest well how in the air is condensed that moist vapor which turns to water soon as it rises where the cold seizes it. He joined that evil will, which seeketh only evil, with intelligence, and moved the mist and the wind by the power that his own nature gave. Then when the day was spent he covered the valley with cloud, from Pratomagno to the great chain, and made the frost above so intense that the pregnant air was turned to water. The rain fell, and to the gullies came of it what the earth did not endure, and as it gathered in great streams it rushed so swiftly towards the royal river that nothing held it back. The robust Archiano found my frozen body near its outlet, and pushed it into the Arno, and loosed on my breast the cross which I made of myself when the pain overcame me. It rolled me along its banks, and along its bottom, then with its spoil it covered and girt me.”

[1] Son of Count Guido da Montefeltro, the treacherous counsellor who had told his story to Dante in Hell, Canto XXVII. Joan was his wife.

[2] The battle of Campaldino, in which Dante himself, perhaps, took part, was fought on the 11th of June, 1289, between the Florentine Guelphs and the Ghibellines of Arezzo. Buonconte was the captain of the Aretines. Campaldino is a little plain in the upper valley of the Arno.

[3] The convent of the Calmaldoli, founded by St. Romualdo of Ravenna, in 1012.

[4] Being lost at its junction with the Arno.

[5] St. Francis and one of the black Cherubim had had a similar contention, as will be remembered, over the soul of Buonconte’s father.

“Ah! when thou shalt have returned unto the world, and rested from the long journey,” the third spirit followed on the second, “be mindful of me, who am Pia.[1] Siena made me, Maremma unmade me; he knows it who with his gem ringed me, betrothed before.”

[1] This sad Pia is supposed to have belonged to the Sienese family of the Tolomei, and to have been the wife of Nello or Paganello de’ Pannocchieschi, who was reported to have had her put to death in his stronghold of Pietra in the Tuscan Maremma. Her fate seems the more pitiable that she does not pray Dante to seek for her the prayers of any living person. The last words of Pia are obscure, and are interpreted variously. Possibly the “betrothed before” hints at a source of jealousy as the motive of her murder.


Ante-Purgatory.—More spirits who had deferred repentance till they were overtaken by a violent death.—Efficacy of prayer.—Sordello.—Apostrophe to Italy.

When a game of dice is broken up, he who loses remains sorrowful, repeating the throws, and, saddened, learns; with the other all the folk go along; one goes before and one plucks him from behind, and at his side one brings himself to mind. He does not stop; listens to one and the other the man to whom he reaches forth his hand presses on him no longer, and thus from the throng he defends himself. Such was I in that dense crowd, turning my face to them this way and that; and, promising, I loosed myself from them.

Here was the Aretine,[1] who from the fierce arms of Ghin di Tacco had his death; and the other who was drowned when running in pursuit. Here Federigo Novello [2] was praying with hands outstretched, and he of Pisa, who made the good Marzucco seem strong.[3] I saw Count Orso; and the soul divided from its body by spite and by envy, as it said, and not for fault committed, Pierre do la Brosse,[5] I mean; and here let the Lady of Brabant take forethought, while she is on earth, so that for this she be not of the worse flock.

[1] The Aretine was Messer Benincasa da Laterina, a learned judge, who had condemned to death for their crimes two relatives of Ghin di Tacco, the most famous freebooter of the day, whose headquarters were between Siena and Rome. Some time after, Messer Benincasa sitting as judge in Rome, Ghino entered the city with a band of his followers, made his way to the tribunal, slew Benincasa, and escaped unharmed.

[2] Another Aretine, of the Tarlati family, concerning whose death the early commentators are at variance. Benvenuto da Imola says that, hotly pursuing his enemies, his horse carried him into a marsh, from which he could not extricate himself, so that his foes turned upon him and slew him with their arrows.

[3] Federigo, son of the Count Guido Novello, of the circumstances of whose death, said to have taken place in 1291, nothing certain is known. Benvenuto says, he was multum probus, a good youth, and therefore Dante mentions him.

[4] Of him of Pisa different stories are told. Benvenuto says, “I have heard from the good Boccaccio, whom I trust more than the others, that Marzucco was a good man of the city of Pisa, whose son was beheaded by order of Count Ugolino, the tyrant, who commanded that his body should remain unburied. In the evening his father went to the Count, as a stranger unconcerned in the matter, and, without tears or other sign of grief, said, ‘Surely, my lord, it would be to your honor that that poor body should be buried, and not left cruelly as food for dogs.’ Then the Count, recognizing him, said astonished, ‘Go, your patience overcomes my obduracy,’ and immediately Marzucco went and buried his son.”

[5] Of Count Orso nothing is known with certainty.

[6] Pierre de is Brosse was chamberlain and confidant of Philip the Bold of France. He lost the king’s favor, and charges of wrong-doing being brought against him he was hung. It was reported that his death was brought about through jealousy by Mary of Brabant, the second wife of Philip. She lived till 1321, so that Dante’s warning may have reached her ears.

When I was free from each and all those shades who prayed only that some one else should pray, so that their becoming holy may be speeded, I began, “It seems that thou deniest to me, O Light of mine, expressly, in a certain text, that orison can bend decree of Heaven, and this folk pray only for this,—shall then their hope be vain? or is thy saying not rightly clear to me?[1]

[1] Virgil represents Palinurus as begging to be allowed to cross the Styx, while his body was still unburied and without due funeral rites. To this petition the Sibyl answers:—Desine fata Deum flecti sperare precando:—Cease to hope that the decrees of the gods can be changed by prayer.”—Aeneid, vi. 376.

And he to me, “My writing is plain, and the hope of these is not fallacious, if well it is regarded with sound mind; for top of judgment vails not itself because a fire of love may, in one instant, fulfil that which he who is stationed here must satisfy. And there where I affirmed this proposition, defect was not amended by a prayer, because the prayer was disjoined from God. But truly in regard to so deep a doubt decide thou not, unless she tell thee who shall be a light between the truth and the understanding.[1] I know not if thou understandest; I speak of Beatrice. Thou shalt see her above, smiling and happy, upon the summit of this mountain.”

[1] The question, being one that relates to the Divine will, cannot be answered with full assurance by human reason.

And I, “My lord, let us go on with greater speed, for now I mu not weary as before; and behold now how the bill casts its shadow.” “We will go forward with this day,” he answered, “as much further as we shall yet be able; but the fact is of other form than thou supposest. Before thou art there-above thou wilt see him return, who is now hidden by the hill-side so that thou dost not make his rays to break. But see there a soul which seated all alone is looking toward us; it will point out to us the speediest way.” We came to it. O Lombard soul, how lofty and scornful wast thou; and in the movement of thine eyes grave and slow! It said not anything to us, but let us go on, looking only in manner of a lion when he couches. Virgil, however, drew near to it, praying that it would show to us the best ascent; and it answered not to his request, but of our country and life it asked us. And the sweet Leader began, “Mantua,”—and the shade, all in itself recluse, rose toward him from the place where erst it was, saying, “O Mantuan, I am Sordello of thy city,”[1]—and they embraced each other.

[1] Sordello, who lived early in the thirteenth century, was of the family of the Visconti of Mantua. He left his native land and gave up his native tongue to live and write as a troubadour in Provence, but his fame belonged to Italy.

Ah, servile Italy, hostel of grief! ship without pilot in great tempest! not lady of provinces, but a brothel! that gentle soul was so ready, only at the sweet sound of his native land, to give glad welcome here unto his fellow-citizen: and now in thee thy living men exist not without war, and of those whom one wall and one moat shut in one doth gnaw the other. Search, wretched one, around the shores, thy seaboard, and then look within thy bosom, if any part in thee enjoyeth peace! What avails it that for thee Justinian should mend the bridle, if the saddle be empty? Without this, the shame would be less. Ah folk,[1] that oughtest to be devout and let Caesar sit in the saddle, if thou rightly understandest what God notes for thee! Look how fell this wild beast has become, through not being corrected by the spurs, since thou didst put thy hand upon the bridle. O German Albert, who abandonest her who has become untamed and savage, and oughtest to bestride her saddle-bows, may a just judgment from the stars fall upon thy blood, and may it be strange and manifest, so that thy successor may have fear of it! [2] For thou and thy father, retained up there by greed, have suffered the garden of the empire to become desert. Come thou to see Montecchi and Cappelletti, Monaldi and Filippeschi,[3] thou man without care: those already wretched, and these in dread. Come, cruel one, come, and see the distress of thy nobility, and cure their hurts; and thou shalt see Santafiora[4] how safe it is. Come to see thy Rome, that weeps, widowed and alone, and day and night cries, “My Caesar, wherefore dost thou not keep me company?” Come to see the people, how loving it is; and, if no pity for us move thee, come to be shamed by thine own renown! And if it be lawful for me, O Supreme Jove that wast on earth crucified for us, are thy just eyes turned aside elsewhere? Or is it preparation, that in the abyss of thy counsel thou art making for some good utterly cut off from our perception? For the cities of Italy are all full of tyrants, and every churl that comes playing the partisan becomes a Marcellus?[5]

[1] The Church-folk, the clergy, for whom God has ordained,—“Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s.”

[2] Albert of Hapsburg, son of the Emperor Rudolph, was elected King of the Romans in 1298, but like his father never went to Italy to he crowned. He was murdered by his nephew, John, called the parricide, in 1308, at Konigsfelden. The successor of Albert was Henry VII. of Luxemborg, who came to Italy in 1311, was crowned at Rome in 1312, and died at Buonconvento the next year. His death ended the hopes of Dante.

[3] Famous families, the first two of Verona, the last two of Orvieto, at enmity with each other in their respective cities,—types of a common condition.

[4]The Counts of Santafiora were once the most powerful Ghibelline nobles in the Sienese territory. Their power had declined since the Hohenstaufen Emperors had been succeeded by the Hapsburgs, and they were now subjected to the Guelphs of Siena.

[5] That is, a hitter opponent of the empire, as the Consul M. Claudius Marcellus was of Caesar.

My Florence! surely thou mayst be content with this digression, which toucheth thee not, thanks to thy people that for itself takes heed. Many have justice at heart but shoot slowly, in order not to come without counsel to the bow; but thy people has it on the edge of its lips. Many reject the common burden, but thy people, eager, replies without being called on, and cries, “I load myself.” Now be thou glad, for thou hast truly wherefore: thou rich, thou in peace, thou wise. If I speak the truth, the result hides it not. Athens and Lacedaemon, that made the ancient laws and were so civilized, made toward living well a little sign, compared with thee that makest such finespun provisions, that to mid November reaches not, what thou in October spinnest. How often in the time that thou rememberest, law, money, office, and custom, hast thou changed, and renewed thy members! And if thou mind thee well and see the light, thou wilt see thyself resembling a sick woman, who cannot find repose upon the feathers, but with her tossing seeks to relieve her pain.


Virgil makes himself known to Sordello.—Sordello leads the Poets to the Valley of the Princes who have been negligent of salvation.—He points them out by name.

After the becoming and glad salutations had been repeated three and four times, Sordello drew back and said, “Ye, who are ye?” “Before the souls worthy to ascend to God were turned unto this mountain, my bones had been buried by Octavian; I am Virgil, and for no other sin did I lose heaven, but for not having faith,” thus then replied my Leader.

As is he who suddenly sees a thing before him whereat he marvels, and doth and doth not believe, saying, “It is, it is not,”—so seemed that shade, and then he bent down his brow, and humbly turned again toward him and embraced him where the inferior takes hold.

“O glory of the Latins,” said he, “through whom our language showed what it could do, O honor eternal of the place wherefrom I was, what merit or what grace shows thee to me? If I am worthy to hear thy words, tell me if thou comest from Hell, and from what cloister.” “Through all the circles of the realm of woe,” replied he to him, “am I come hither; Power of Heaven moved me, and with it I come. Not by doing, but by not doing have I lost the sight of the high Sun whom thou desirest, and who by me was known late. A place there is below not sad with torments but with darkness only, where the lamentations sound not as wailings, but are sighs; there stay I with the little innocents bitten by the teeth of death before they were exempt from human sin; there stay I with those who were not vested with the three holy virtues, and without vice knew the others and followed all of them.[1] But if thou knowest and canst, give us some direction whereby we may come more speedily there where Purgatory has its true beginning.” He replied, “A certain place is not set for us; it is permitted me to go upward and around; so far as I can go I join myself to thee as guide. But see how already the day declines, and to go up by night is not possible; therefore it is well to think of some fair sojourn. There are souls here on the right apart; if thou consentest to me I will lead thee to them, and not without delight will they be known to thee.” “How is this?” was answered, “he who might wish to ascend by night, would he be hindered by another, or would he not be able to ascend?” And the good Sordello drew his finger on the ground, saying, “See, only this line thou couldst not pass after set of sun; not because aught else save the nocturnal darkness would give hindrance to going up; that hampers the will with impotence.[2] One could, indeed, in it[3] turn downward and walk the hillside wandering around, while the horizon holds the day shut up.” Then my Lord, as if wondering, said, “Lead us, then, there where thou sayest one may have delight while waiting.”

[1] The virtuous Heathen did not possess the so-called theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity; but they practiced the four cardinal virtues of Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude and Justice.

[2] The allegory is plain: the soul can mount the steep of purification only when illuminated by the Sun of Divine Grace.

[3] In the darkness.

Little way had we gone from that place, when I perceived that the mountain was hollowed out in like fashion as the valleys hollow them here on earth. “Yonder,” said that shade, “will we go, where the hillside makes a lap of itself, and there will we await the new day.” Between steep and level was a winding path that led us into a side of the dale, where more than by half the edge dies away. Gold and fine silver, and scarlet and white, Indian wood lucid and clear,[1] fresh emerald at the instant it is split, would each be vanquished in color by the herbage and by the flowers set within that valley, as by its greater the less is vanquished. Nature had not only painted there, but with sweetness of a thousand odors she made there one unknown and blended.

[1] The blue of indigo.

Upon the green and upon the flowers I saw souls who, because of the valley, were not visible from without, seated here singing “Salve regina.” [1] “Before the lessening sun sinks to his nest,” began the Mantuan who had turned us thither, “desire not that among these I guide you. From this bank ye will better become acquainted with the acts and countenances of all of them, than received among them on the level below. He who sits highest and has the semblance of having neglected what he should have done, and who moves not his mouth to the others’ songs, was Rudolph the Emperor, who might have healed the wounds that have slain Italy, so that slowly by another she is revived.[2] The next, who in appearance comforts him, ruled the land where the water rises that Moldau bears to Elbe, and Elbe to the sea. Ottocar was his name,[3] and in his swaddling clothes he was better far than bearded Wenceslaus, his son, whom luxury and idleness feed.[4] And that small-nosed one, who seems close in counsel with him who has so benign an aspect, died in flight and disflowering the lily;[5] look there how he beats his breast. See the next who, sighing, has made a bed for his cheek with his hand.[6] Father and father-in-law are they of the harm of France; they know his vicious and foul life, and thence comes the grief that so pierces them. He who looks so large-limbed,[7] and who accords in singing with him of the masculine nose,[8] wore girt the cord of every worth, and if the youth that is sitting behind him had followed him as king, truly had worth gone from vase to vase, which cannot be said of the other heirs: James and Frederick hold the realms; [9] the better heritage no one possesses. Rarely doth human goodness rise through the branches, and this He wills who gives it, in order that it may be asked from Him. To the large-nosed one also my words apply not less than to the other, Peter, who is singing with him; wherefore Apulia and Provence are grieving now.[10] The plant is as inferior to its seed, as, more than Beatrice and Margaret, Constance still boasts of her husband.[11] See the King of the simple life sitting there alone, Henry of England; he in his branches hath a better issue.[12] That one who lowest among them sits on the ground, looking upward, is William the marquis,[13] for whom Alessandria and her war make Montferrat and the Canavese mourn.”

[1] The beginning of a Church hymn to the Virgin, sung after
vespers, of which the first verses are:—
 Salve, Regina, mater misericordiae!
  Vita, dulcedo et spes nostra, salve!
  Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevae;
  Ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes
  In hac lacrymarum valle.

[2] The neglect of Italy by the Emperor Rudolph (see the preceding Canto) was not to be repaired by the vain efforts of Henry VII.

[3] Ottocar, King of Bohemia and Duke of Austria, had been slain in battle against Rudolph, on the Marchfeld by the Donau, in 1278; “whereby Austria fell to Rudolph.” See Carlyle’s Frederick the Great, book ii. ch. 7.

[4] Dante repeats his harsh judgment of Wenceslaus in the nineteenth Canto of Paradise. His first wife was the daughter of Rudolph of Hapsburg. He died in 1305.

[5] This is Philip the Bold of France, 1270-1285. Having invaded Catalonia, in a war with Peter the Third of Aragon, he was driven back, and died on the retreat at Perpignan.

[6] Henry of Navarre, the brother of Thibault, the poet-king (Hell, Canto XXII.). His daughter Joan married Philip the Fair, “the harm of France,” the son of Philip the Bold.

[7] Peter of Aragon (died 1285), the husband of Constance, daughter of Manfred (see Canto III.); the youth who is seated behind him is his son Alphonso, who died in 1291.

[8] Charles of Anjou.

[9] The kingdoms of Aragon and Sicily; both James and Frederick were living when Dante thus wrote of them. The “better heritage” was the virtue of their father.

[10] Apulia and Provence were grieving under the rule of Charles II., the degenerate son of Charles of Anjou, who died in 1309.

[11] The meaning is doubtful; perhaps it is, that the children of Charles of Anjou and of Peter of Aragon are as inferior to their fathers, as Charles himself, the husband first of Beatrice of Provence and then of Margaret of Nevers, was inferior to Peter, the husband of Constance.

[12] Henry III., father of Edward I.

[13] William Spadalunga was Marquis of Montferrat and Canavese, the Piedmontese highlands and plain north of the Po. He was Imperial vicar, and the bead of the Ghibellines in this region. In a war with the Guelphs, who had risen in revolt in 1290, he was taken captive at Alessandria, and for two years, till his death, was kept in an iron cage. Dante refers to him in the Convito, iv. 11, as “the good marquis of Montferrat.”


Valley of the Princes.—Two Guardian Angels.—Kino Visconti.—The Serpent.—Corrado Malaspina.

It was now the hour that turns back desire in those that sail the sea, and softens their hearts, the day when they have said to their sweet friends farewell, and which pierces the new pilgrim with love, if he hears from afar a bell that seems to deplore the dying day,—when I began to render hearing vain, and to look at one of the souls who, uprisen, besought attention with its hand. It joined and raised both its palms, fixing its eyes toward the orient, as if it said to God, “For aught else I care not.” “Te lucis ante”[1] so devoutly issued from his mouth and with such sweet notes that it made me issue forth from my own mind. And then the others sweetly and devoutly accompanied it through all the hymn to the end, having their eyes upon the supernal wheels. Here, reader, sharpen well thine eyes for the truth, for the veil is now indeed so thin that surely passing through within is easy.[2]

[1] The opening words of a hymn sung at Complines, the last service of the day:

 Te locis ante terminum,
  Rerom Creator poscimus,
  Ut tus pro clementia
  Sis presul et custodia:—

“Before the close of light, we pray thee, O Creator, that through thy clemency, thou be our watch and guard.”

[2] The allegory seems to be, that the soul which has entered upon the way of repentance and purification, but which is not yet securely advanced therein, is still exposed to temptation, especially when the light of the supernal grace does not shine directly upon it. But if the soul have steadfast purpose to resist temptation, and seek aid from God, that aid will not be wanting. The prayer of the Church which is recited after the hymn just cited has these words: “Visit, we pray thee, O Lord, this abode, and drive far from it the snares of the enemy. Let thy holy Angels bide in it, and guard us in peace.” Pallid with self distrust, humble with the sense of need, the soul awaits the fulfilment of its prayer. The angels are clad in green, the symbolic color of hope. Their swords are truncated, because needed only for defence.

I saw that army of the gentle-born silently thereafter gazing upward as if in expectation, pallid and humble; and I saw issuing from on high and descending two angels, with two fiery swords truncated and deprived of their points. Green as leaflets just now born were their garments, which, beaten and blown by their green pinions, they trailed behind. One came to stand a little above us, and the other descended on the opposite bank, so that the people were contained between them. I clearly discerned in them their blond heads, but on their faces the eye was dazzled, as a faculty which is confounded by excess. “Both come from the bosom of Mary,” said Sordello, “for guard of the valley, because of the serpent that will come straightway.” Whereat I, who knew not by what path, turned me round, and all chilled drew me close to the trusty shoulders.

And Sordello again, “Now let us go down into the valley among the great shades, and we will speak to them; well pleasing will it be to them to see you.” Only three steps I think I had descended and I was below; and I saw one who was gazing only at me as if he wished to know me. It was now the time when the air was darkening, but not so that between his eyes and mine it did not reveal that which it locked up before.[1] Towards me he moved, and I moved towards him. Gentle Judge Nino,[2] how much it pleased me when I saw that thou wast not among the damned! No fair salutation was silent between us; then he asked, “How long is it since thou camest to the foot of the mountain across the far waters?”

[1] It was not yet so dark that recognition of one near at hand was difficult, though at a distance it had been impossible.

[2] Nino (Ugolino) de’ Visconti of Pisa was the grandson of Count Ugolino, and as the leader of the Pisan Guelphs became his bitter opponent. Sardinia was under the dominion of Pisa, and was divided into four districts, each of which was governed by one of the Pisan nobles, under the title of Judge. Nino had held the judicature of Gallura, where Frate Gomita (see Hell, Canto XXII.) had been his vicar. Nino died in 1296.

“Oh,” said I to him, “from within the dismal places I came this morning, and I am in the first life, albeit in going thus, I may gain the other.” And when my answer was heard, Sordello[1] and he drew themselves back like folk suddenly bewildered, the one to Virgil, and the other turned to one who was seated there, crying, “Up, Corrado,[2] come to see what God through grace hath willed.” Then, turning to me, “By that singular gratitude thou owest unto Him who so hides His own first wherefore[3] that there is no ford to it, when thou shalt be beyond the wide waves, say to my Joan, that for me she cry there where answer is given to the innocent. I do not think her mother[4] loves me longer, since she changed her white wimples,[5] which she, wretched, needs must desire again. Through her easily enough is comprehended how long the fire of love lasts in woman, if eye or touch does not often rekindle it. The viper[6] which leads afield the Milanese will not make for her so fair a sepulture as the cock of Gallura would have done.” Thus he said, marked in his aspect with the stamp of that upright zeal which in due measure glows in the heart.

[1] The sun was already hidden behind the mountain when Virgil and Dante came upon Sordello. Sordello had not therefore seen that Dante cast a shadow, and being absorbed in discourse with Virgil had not observed that Dante breathed as a living man.

[2] Corrado, of the great Guelph family of the Malaspina, lords of the Lunigiana, a wide district between Genoa and Pisa.

[3] The reason of that which He wills.

[4] Her mother was Beatrice d’ Este, who, in 1300, married Galeazzo de’ Visconti of Milan.

[5] The white veil or wimple and black garments were worn by widows. The prophecy that she must needs wish for her white wimple again seems merely to rest on Nino’s disapproval of her second marriage.

[6] The viper was the cognizance of the Visconti of Milan.

My greedy eyes were going ever to the sky, ever there where the stars are slowest, even as a wheel nearest the axle. And my Leader, “Son, at what lookest thou up there?” And I to him, “At those three torches with which the pole on this side is all aflame.” [1] And he to me, “The four bright stars which thou sawest this morning are low on the other side, and these are risen where those were.”

[1] These three stars are supposed to symbolize the theological virtues,—faith. hope, and charity, whose light shines when the four virtues of active life grow dim in night.

As he was speaking, lo! Sordello drew him to himself, saying, “See there our adversary,” and pointed his finger that he should look thither. At that part where the little valley has no barrier was a snake, perhaps such as gave to Eve the bitter food. Through the grass and the flowers came the evil trail, turning from time to time its head to its back, licking like a beast that sleeks itself. I did not see, and therefore cannot tell how the celestial falcons moved, but I saw well both one and the other in motion. Hearing the air cleft by their green wings the serpent fled, and the angels wheeled about, up to their stations flying back alike.

The shade which had drawn close to the Judge when he exclaimed, through all that assault had not for a moment loosed its gaze from me. “So may the light that leadeth thee on high find in thine own free-will so much wax as is needed up to the enamelled summit,”[1] it began, “if thou knowest true news of Valdimacra[2] or of the neighboring region, tell it to me, for formerly I was great there. I was called Corrado Malaspina; I am not the ancient,[3] but from him I am descended; to mine own I bore the love which here is refined.” “Oh,” said I to him, “through your lands I have never been, but where doth man dwell in all Europe that they are not renowned? The fame that honoreth your house proclaims its lords, proclaims its district, so that he knows of them who never yet was there; and I swear to you, so may I go above, that your honored race doth not despoil itself of the praise of the purse and of the sword. Custom and nature so privilege it that though the guilty head turn the world awry, alone it goes right and scorns the evil road.”[4] And he, “Now go, for the sun shall not lie seven times in the bed that the Ram covers and bestrides with all four feet,[5] before this courteous opinion will be nailed in the middle of thy head with greater nails than the speech of another, if course of judgment be not arrested.”

[1] So may illuminating grace find the disposition in thee requisite for the support of its light, until thou shalt arrive at the summit of the Mountain, the earthly Paradise enamelled with perpetual flowers.

[2] A part of the Lunigiana.

[3] The old Corrado Malaspina was the husband of Constance, the sister of King Manfred. He died about the middle of the thirteenth century. The second Corrado was his grandson.

[4] This magnificent eulogy of the land and the family of Malaspina is Dante’s return for the hospitality which, in 1306, he received from the Marquis Moroello and other members of the house.

[5] Seven years shall not pass, the sun being at this time in the sign of the Ram.


Slumber and Dream of Dante.—The Eagle.—Lucia.—The Gate of Purgatory.—The Angelic Gatekeeper.—Seven P’s inscribed on Dante’s Forehead.—Entrance to the First Ledge.

The concubine of old Tithonus was now gleaming white on the balcony of the orient, forth from the arms of her sweet friend; her forehead was lucent with gems set in the shape of the cold animal that strikes people with its tail.[1] And in the place where we were the night had taken two of the steps with which she ascends, and the third was already bending down its wings, when I, who had somewhat of Adam with me, overcome by sleep, reclined upon the grass, there where all five of us were seated.

[1] By the concubine of old Tithonus, Dante seems to have intended the lunar Aurora, in distinction from the proper wife of Tithonus, Aurora, who precedes the rising Sun, and the meaning of these verses is that “ the Aurora before moonrise was lighting up the eastern sky, the brilliant stars of the sign Scorpio were on the horizon, and, finally, it was shortly after 8.30 P.M.” (Moore.) “The steps with which the night ascends” are the six hours of the first half of the night, from 6 P.M. to midnight.

At the hour near the morning when the little swallow begins her sad lays,[1] perchance in memory of her former woes, and when our mind, more a wanderer from the flesh and less captive to the thought, is in its visions almost divine,[2] in dream it seemed to me that I saw poised in the sky an eagle with feathers of gold, with wings widespread, and intent to stoop. And it seemed to me that I was there[3] where his own people were abandoned by Ganymede, when he was rapt to the supreme consistory. In myself I thought, “Perhaps this bird strikes only here through wont, and perhaps from other place disdains to carry anyone upward in his feet.” Then it seemed to me that, having wheeled a little, it descended terrible as a thunderbolt, and snatched me upwards far as the fire.[4] There it seemed that it and I burned, and the imagined fire so scorched that of necessity the sleep was broken.

[1] The allusion is to the tragic story of Progne and Philomela, turned the one into a swallow, the other into a nightingale. Dante found the tale in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Book vi.

[2] Dante passes three nights in Purgatory, and each night his sleep is terminated by a dream towards the hour of dawn, the time when, according to the belief of classical antiquity, the visions of dreams are symbolic and prophetic. (Moore.)

[3] Mt. Ida.

[4] The sphere of fire by which, according to the mediaeval cosmography, the sphere of the air was surrounded.

Not otherwise Achilles shook himself,—turning around his awakened eyes, and not knowing where he was, when his mother from Chiron to Scyros stole him away, sleeping in her arms, thither whence afterwards the Greeks withdrew him,[1]—than I started, as from my face sleep fled away; and I became pale, even as a man frightened turns to ice. At my side was my Comforter only, and the sun was now more than two hours high,[2] and my face was turned toward the sea. “Have no fear,” said my Lord; “be reassured, for we are at a good point; restrain not, but increase all thy force. Thou art now arrived at Purgatory; see there the cliff that closes it around; see the entrance, there where it appears divided. A while ago in the dawn that precedes the day, when thy soul was sleeping within thee, upon the flowers wherewith the place down yonder is adorned, came a lady, and said, “I am Lucia; let me take this one who is sleeping; thus will I assist him along his way.’ Sordello remained, and the other gentle forms: she took thee, and when the day was bright, she came upward, and I along her footprints. Here she laid thee down: and first her beautiful eyes showed me that open entrance; then she and slumber went away together.” Like a man that in perplexity is reassured, and that alters his fear to confidence after the truth is disclosed to him, did I change; and when my Leader saw me without solicitude, up along the cliff he moved on, and I behind, toward the height.

[1] Statius, in the first book of the Achilleid, tells how Thetis, to prevent Achilles from going to the siege of Troy, bore him sleeping away from his instructor, the centaur Chiron, and carried him to the court of King Lycomedes, on the Island of Scyros, where, though concealed in women’s garments, Ulysses and Diomed discovered him. Statius relates how wonderstruck Achilles was when on awaking he found himself at Scyros: Quae loca? qui fluctus? ubi Pelion? onmia versa Atque ignota videt, dubitatque agnoscere matrem—249-50.

[2] The morning of Easter Monday.

[3] Lucia seems to be here the symbol of assisting grace, the gratia operans of the school-men. It was she who was called upon by the Virgin (Hell, Canto II.) to aid Dante when he was astray in the wood, and who had moved Beatrice to go to his succor.

Reader, thou seest well how I exalt my theme, and therefore marvel not if with more art I reenforce it.[1]

[1] These words may be intended to call attention to the doctrine which underlies the imagery of the verse.

The entrance within the gate of Purgatory is the assurance of justification, which is the change of the soul from a state of sin to a state of justice or righteousness. Justification itself consists, according to St. Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica, Prima Secundae, quaest. cxiii. art. 6 and 8), of four parts: first, the infusion of grace; second, the turning of the free will to God through faith; third, the turning of the free will against sin; fourth, the remission of sin. It must be accompanied by the sacrament of penance, which consists of contrition, confession, and satisfaction by works of righteousness.

Outside the gate of Purgatory justification cannot be complete. The souls in the Ante-Purgatory typify those who have entered on the way towards justification, but have not yet attained it. They undergo a period of mortification to sin, of deliberation, as St. Thomas Aquinas says: “Contingit autem quandoque quod praecedit aliqua deliberatio quae non est do substantia justificationis sed via in justificationem.” Summa Theol., l. c. art. 7.

We drew near to it, and reached such place that there, where at first there seemed to me a rift, like a cleft which divides a wall, I saw a gate, and three steps beneath for going to it of divers colors, and a gatekeeper who as yet said not a word. And as I opened my eye there more and more, I saw him sitting on the upper step, such in his face that I endured it not.[1] And he had in his hand a naked sword, which so reflected the rays toward us that I often raised my sight in vain. “Tell it from there, what would ye?” began he to say; “where is the guide? Beware lest the coming up be harmful to you.” [2] “A lady from Heaven with these things acquainted,” replied my Master to him, “only just now said to us, ‘Go thither, here is the gate.’” “And may she speed your progress in good,” began again the courteous gatekeeper, “come forward then unto our steps.”

[1] The angel at the gate appears to be the type of the priest who administers absolution.

[2] Unless grace has been infused into the heart it is a sin to present one’s self as ready for the sacrament.

Thither we came to the first great stair; it was of white marble so polished and smooth that I mirrored myself in it as I appear. The second, of deeper hue than perse, was of a rough and scorched stone, cracked lengthwise and athwart. The third, which above lies massy, seemed to me of porphyry as flaming red as blood that spirts forth from a vein. Upon this the Angel of God held both his feet, seated upon the threshold that seemed to me stone of adamant.[1] Up over the three steps my Leader drew me with good will, saying, “Beg humbly that he undo the lock.” Devoutly I threw myself at the holy feet; I besought for mercy’s sake that he would open for me; but first upon my breast I struck three times.[2] Seven P’s upon my forehead he inscribed with the point of his sword,[3] and “See that thou wash these wounds when thou art within,” he said.

[1] The first step is the symbol of confession, the second of contrition, the third of satisfaction; the threshold of adamant may perhaps signify the authority of the Church.

[2] Three times, in penitence for sins in thought, in word, and in deed.

[3] The seven P’s stand for the seven so-called mortal sins,—Peccati, not specific acts, but the evil dispositions of the soul from which all evil deeds spring,—pride, envy, anger, sloth (accidia), avarice, gluttony, and lust. After justification these dispositions which already have been overcome, must be utterly removed from the soul.

Ashes or earth dug out dry would be of one color with his vestment, and from beneath that he drew two keys. One was of gold and the other was of silver; first with the white and then with the yellow he so did to the door, that I was content.[1] “Whenever one of these keys fails, and turns not rightly in the lock,” said he to us, “this passage doth not open. More precious is one[2] but the other requires much art and wit before it unlocks, because it is the one that disentangles the knot. From Peter I hold them; and he told me to err rather in opening than in keeping shut, if but the people prostrate themselves at my feet.” Then he pushed the valve of the sacred gate, saying, “Enter, but I give you warning that whoso looks behind returns outside.”[3] And when the pivots of that sacred portal, which are of metal, sonorous and strong, were turned within their hinges, Tarpeia roared not so loud nor showed herself so harsh, when the good Metellus was taken from her, whereby she afterwards remained lean.[4]

[1] The golden key is typical of the power to open, and the silver of the knowledge to whom to open.

[2] The gold, more precious because the power of absolution was purchased by the death of the Saviour.

[3] For he who returns to his sins loses the Divine Grace.

[4] This roaring of the gate may, perhaps, be intended to enforce the last words of the angel, and may symbolize the voices of his own sins as the sinner turns his back on them. When Caesar forced the doors of the temple of Saturn on the Tarpeian rock, in order to lay hands on the sacred treasure of Rome, he was resisted by the tribune Metellus.

I turned away attentive to the first tone,[1] and it seemed to me I heard “Te Deum laudamus”[2] in voices mingled with sweet sound. That which I heard gave me just such an impression as we are wont to receive when people stand singing with an organ, and the words now are, now are not caught.

[1] The first sound within Purgatory.

[2] Words appropriate to the entrance of a sinner that repenteth.


First Ledge: the Proud.—Examples of Humility sculptured on the Rock.

When we were within the threshold of the gate, which the souls’ wrong love[1] disuses, because it makes the crooked way seem straight, I heard by its resounding that it was closed again. And, if I had turned my eyes to it, what excuse would have been befitting for the fault?

[1] It is Dante’s doctrine that love is the motive of every act; rightly directed, of good deeds; perverted, of evil. See Canto XVII.

We were ascending through a cloven rock, which moved on one side and on the other, even as the wave retreats and approaches. “Here must be used a little art,” began my Leader, “in keeping close, now here, now there to the side which recedes.”[1] And this made our progress so slow that the waning disk of the moon regained its bed to go to rest, before we had come forth from that needle’s eye. But when we were free and open above, where the mountain backward withdraws,[2] I weary, and both uncertain of our way, we stopped upon a level more solitary than roads through deserts. The space from its edge, where it borders the void, to the foot of the high bank which rises only, a human body would measure in three lengths; and as far as my eye could stretch its wings, now on the left and now on the right side, such did this cornice seem to me. Thereon our feet had not yet moved when I perceived that bank round about, which, being perpendicular, allowed no ascent, to be of white marble and adorned with such carvings, that not Polycletus merely but Nature would be put to shame there.

[1] The path was a narrow, steep zigzag, which, as it receded on one side and the other, afforded the better foothold.

[2] Leaving an open space, the first ledge of Purgatory.

The Angel who came to earth with the announcement of the peace, wept for for many years, which opened Heaven from its long interdict, appeared before us here carved in a sweet attitude so truly that he did not seem an image that is silent. One would have sworn that he was saying “Ave;” for there was she imaged who turned the key to open the exalted love. And in her action she had these words impressed, “Ecce ancilla Dei!”[1] as exactly as a shape is sealed in wax.

[1] “Behold the handmaid of the Lord!”

“Keep not thy mind only on one place,” said the sweet Master, who had me on that side where people have their heart. Wherefore I moved my eyes and saw behind Mary, upon that side where he was who was moving me, another story displayed upon the rock; whereupon I passed Virgil and drew near so that it might be set before my eyes. There in the very marble was carved the cart and the oxen drawing the holy ark, because of which men fear an office not given in charge.[1] In front appeared people; and all of them, divided in seven choirs, of two of my senses made the one say “NO,” the other “YES, THEY ARE SINGING.”[2] In like manner, by the smoke of the incense that was imaged there, mine eyes and nose were made in YES and NO discordant. There, preceding the blessed vessel, dancing, girt up, was the humble Psalmist, and more and less than king was he in that proceeding. Opposite, figured at a window of a great palace, Michal was looking on even as a lady scornful and troubled.[3]

[1] “And they set the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house.. . and Uzzah and Ahio drave the new cart….and when they came to Nachon’s threshing-floor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.” 2 Samuel, vi. 4-7.

[2] The hearing said “No,” the sight said “Yes.”

[3] “So David went and brought up the ark of God… into the city of David with gladness. And when they that bare the ark of the Lord had gone six paces he sacrificed oxen and fatlings. And David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet. And as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal, Saul’s daughter, looked through a window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.” 2 Samuel, vi. 12-16.

I moved my feet from the place where I was standing to look from near at another story which behind Michal was shining white on me. Here was storied the high glory of the Roman prince, whose worth incited Gregory to his great victory:[1] I speak of Trajan the emperor; and a poor widow was at his bridle in attitude of weeping and of grief. Round about him there seemed a press and throng of knights, and the eagles in the gold above him to the sight were moving in the wind. The wretched woman among all these seemed to be saying, “Lord, do vengeance for me for my son who is slain, whereat I am broken-hearted.” And he to answer her, “Now wait till I return;” and she, “My Lord,”—like one in whom grief is hasty,—“if thou return not?” And he, “He who shall be where I am will do it for thee.” And she, “What will the good deed of another be to thee if thou art mindless of thine own?” Whereon he, “Now comfort thee; for it behoves that I discharge my own duty ere I go; justice requires it, and pity constrains me.” He who hath never seen new thing [2] had produced that visible speech, novel to us, since on earth it is not found.

[1] This legend of Trajan had great vogue during the Middle Ages. It was believed that Pope Gregory the Great interceded for him, praying that he might be delivered from Hell; “then God because of these prayers drew that soul from pain and put it into glory.” This was Gregory’s great victory. See Paradise, XX., p. 131.

[2] God, to whom nothing can be new.

While I was delighting me with regarding the images of such great humilities, and for their Maker’s sake dear to behold, “Lo, on this side many people, but they make few steps,” murmured the Poet. “They will put us on the way to the high stairs.” My eyes that were intent on looking in order to see novelties whereof they are fain, in turning toward him were not slow.

I would not, indeed, Reader, that thou be dismayed at thy good purpose, through hearing how God wills that the debt be paid. Attend not to the form of the suffering; think on what follows; think that at worst beyond the Great Judgment it cannot go!

I began, “Master, that which I see moving toward us, seems to me not persons, but what I know not, my look is so in vain.” And he to me, “The heavy condition of their torment so presses them to earth, that mine own eyes at first had contention with it. But look fixedly there, and disentangle with thy sight that which cometh beneath those stones; now thou canst discern how each is smitten.”

O proud Christians, wretched weary ones, who, diseased in vision of the mind, have confidence in backward steps, are ye not aware that we are worms born to form the angelic butterfly which flies unto judgment without defence? Why doth your mind float up aloft, since ye are as it were defective insects, even as a worm in which formation fails?

As sometimes for support of ceiling or roof, by way of corbel, a figure is seen joining its knees to its breast, which out of its unreality makes a real pang rise in him who sees it, thus fashioned saw I these when I gave good heed. True it is that they were more or less contracted according as they had more or less upon their backs; and he who had most patience in his looks, weeping, appeared to say, “I can no more.”


First Ledge: the Proud.—Prayer.—Omberto Aldobrandeschi.—Oderisi d’ Agubbio.—Provinzan Salvani.

“O our Father who art in Heaven, not circumscribed, but through the greater love which to the first effects on high Thou hast,[1] praised be Thy name and Thy power by every creature, even as it is befitting to render thanks to Thy sweet effluence. May the peace of Thy Kingdom come towards us, for we to it cannot of ourselves, if it come not, with all our striving. As of their will Thine angels, singing Hosanna, make sacrifice to Thee, so may men make of theirs. Give us this day the daily manna, without which through this rough desert he backward goes, who toils most to go on. And as we pardon every one for the wrong that we have suffered, even do Thou, benignant, pardon and regard not our desert. Our virtue which is easily overcome put not to proof with the old adversary, but deliver from him who so spurs it. This last prayer, dear Lord, truly is not made for ourselves, for it is not needful, but for those who behind us have remained.”

[1] Not circumscribed by Heaven, but having Thy seat there because of the love Thou bearest to the first effects—the angels, and the heavens—of Thyself the First Cause.

Thus praying for themselves and us good speed, those souls were going under the weight, like that of which one sometimes dreams, unequally in anguish, all of them round and round, and weary, along the first cornice, purging away the mists of the world. If good they ask for us always there, what can here be said and done for them by those who have a good root for their will? Truly we ought to aid them to wash away the marks which they bore hence, so that pure and light they may go forth unto the starry wheels.

“Ah! so may justice and pity unburden you speedily that ye may be able to move the wing, which according to your desire may lift you, show on which hand is the shortest way towards the stair; and if there is more than one pass, point out to us that which least steeply slopes; for this man who comes with me, because of the load of the flesh of Adam wherewith he is clothed, is chary against his will of mounting up.” It was not manifest from whom came the words which they returned to these that he whom I was following had spoken, but it was said, “To the right hand along the bank come ye with us, and ye will find the pass possible for a living person to ascend. And if I were not hindered by the stone which tames my proud neck, wherefore I needs must carry my face low, I would look at that one who is still alive and is not named, to see if I know him, and to make him pitiful of this burden. I was Italian, and born of a great Tuscan; Guglielmo Aldobrandesco was my father: I know not if his name was ever with you.[1] The ancient blood and the gallant deeds of my ancestors made me so arrogant that, not thinking on the common mother, I held every man in scorn to such extreme that I died therefor, as the Sienese know, and every child in Campagnatico knows it. I am Omberto: and not only unto me Pride doth harm, for all my kinsfolk bath she dragged with her into calamity; and here must I heap this weight on her account till God be satisfied,—here among the dead, since I did it not among the living.”

[1] The Aldobrandeschi were the counts of Santa Fiore (see Canto VI.) in the Sienese Maremma. Little is known of them, but that they were in constant feud with Siena. The one who speaks was murdered in his own stronghold of Campagnatico, in 1259.

Listening, I bent down my face; and one of them, not he who was speaking, twisted himself under the weight that hampers him; and he saw me, and recognized me and called out, keeping his eyes with effort fixed on me, who was going along all stooping with him.[1] “Oh,” said I to him, “art thou not Oderisi, the honor of Gubbio, and the honor of that art which in Paris is called illumination?” “Brother,” said he, “more smiling are the leaves that Franco of Bologna pencils; the honor is now all his, and mine in part.[2] Truly I should not have been so courteous while I lived, because of the great desire of excelling whereon my heart was intent. Of such pride here is paid the fee; and yet I should not be here, were it not that, still having power to sin, I turned me unto God. Oh vainglory of human powers! how little lasts the green upon the top, if it be not followed by dull ages.[3] Cimabue thought to hold the field in painting, and now Giotto has the cry, so that the fame of him is obscured. In like manner one Guido hath taken from the other the glory of the language; and he perhaps is born who shall drive both one and the other from the nest.[4] Worldly renown is naught but a breath of wind, which now comes hence and now comes thence, and changes name because it changes quarter. What more fame shalt thou have, if thou strippest old flesh from thee, than if thou hadst died ere thou hadst left the pap and the chink,[5] before a thousand years have passed?—which is a shorter space compared to the eternal than a movement of the eyelids to the circle that is slowest turned in Heaven. With him who takes so little of the road in front of me, all Tuscany resounded, and now he scarce is lisped of in Siena, where he was lord when the Florentine rage was destroyed,[6] which at that time was proud, as now it is prostitute. Your reputation is color of grass that comes and goes, and he[7] discolors it through whom it came up fresh from the earth.” And I to him, “Thy true speech brings good humility to my heart, and thou allayest a great swelling in me; but who is he of whom thou now wast speaking?” “He is,” he answered, “Provinzan Salvani;[8] and he is here, because he was presumptuous in bringing all Siena to his hands. He has gone thus—and he goes without repose—ever since he died: such money doth he pay in satisfaction, who is on earth too daring.” And I, “If that spirit who awaits the verge of life ere he repents abides there below, and unless good prayer further him ascends not hither, ere as much time pass us he lived, how has this coining been granted unto him?” “When he was living most renowned,” said he, “laying aside all shame, of his own accord he planted himself in the Campo of Siena,[9] and there, to draw his friend from the punishment he was enduring in the prison of Charles, brought himself to tremble in every vein. More I will not say, and I know that I speak darkly; but little time will pass, before thy neighbors will so act that thou wilt he able to gloss it.[10] This deed released him from those limits.”[11]

[1] This stooping is the symbol of Dante’s consciousness of pride as his own besetting sin.

[2] Oderisi of Gubbio and Franco of Bologna were both eminent in the art called miniare in Italian, enluminer in French.

[3] Ages in which no progress is made.

[4] The first Guido is doubtless Guido Guinicelli, whom Dante calls (see Canto XXVI.) his master; the other probably Dante’s friend, Guido Cavalcanti.

[5] Dante’s words are pappo and dindi, childish terms for “bread” and “money.”

[6] The mad Florentine people were utterly cast down in 1260, at the battle of Montaperti.

[7] The sun.

[8] Provinzano Salvani was one of the chief supporters of the Ghibelline cause in Tuscany. He was a man of great qualities and capacity, but proud and presumptuous. Defeated and taken prisoner at the battle of Colle, in 1269, he was beheaded.

[9] The Campo of Siena is her chief public square and marketplace, set round with palaces. The friend of Provinzano is said by the old commentators to have fought for Conradin against Charles of Anjou, and, being taken captive, to have been condemned to death. His ransom was fixed at ten thousand florins. Provinzano, not being able to pay this sum from his own means, took his seat in the Campo and humiliated himself to beg of the passers-by.

[10] The meaning of the dark words seems to be: Exile and poverty will compel thee to beg, and begging to tremble in every vein.

[11] This deed of humility and charity released him from the necessity of tarrying outside the gate of Purgatory.


First Ledge: the Proud.—Examples of the punishment of Pride graven on the pavement.—Meeting with an Angel who removes one of the P’s.—Ascent to the Second Ledge.

Side by side, like oxen who go yoked, I went on with that burdened spirit so long as the sweet Pedagogue allowed it; but when he said, “Leave him, and come on, for here it is well that, both with sail and oars, each as much as he can should urge his bark,” I straitened up my body again, as is required for walking, although my thoughts remained both bowed down and abated.

I was moving on, and following willingly the steps of my Master, and both now were showing how light we were, when he said to me, “Turn thine eyes downward; it will be well for thee, in order to solace the way, to look upon the bed of thy footprints.” As above the buried, so that there may be memory of them, their tombs in earth bear inscribed that which they were before,—whence oftentimes is weeping for them there, through the pricking of remembrance, which only to the pious gives the spur,—so saw I figured there, but of better semblance in respect of skill, all that for pathway juts out from the mountain.

I saw him who was created more noble than any other creature,[1] down from heaven with lightning flash descending, at one side.

[1] Lucifer.

I saw Briareus[1] transfixed by the celestial bolt, lying at the other side, heavy upon the earth in mortal chill. I saw Thymbraeus,[2] I saw Pallas and Mars, still armed, around their father, gazing at the scattered limbs of the giants.

[1] Examples from classic and biblical mythology alternate.

[2] Apollo, so called from his temple at Thymbra, not far from Troy, where Achilles is said to have slain Paris. Virgil (Georgics, iv. 323) uses this epithet.

I saw Nimrod at the foot of his great toil, as if bewildered, and gazing at the people who in Shinar had with him been proud.

O Niobe! with what grieving eyes did I see thee portrayed upon the road between thy seven and seven children slain!

O Saul! how on thine own sword here didst thou appear dead on Gilboa, that after felt not rain or dew![1]

[1] I Samuel, xxxi. 4, and 2 Samuel, i. 24.

O mad Arachne,[1] so I saw thee already half spider, wretched on the shreds of the work that to thy harm by thee was made!

[1] Changed to a spider by Athena, whom she had challenged to a trial of skill at the loom.

O Rehoboam! here thine image seems not now to threaten, but full of fear, a chariot bears it away before any one pursues it.[1]

[1] 1 Kings, xii. 13-18.

The hard pavement showed also how Alcmaeon made the ill-fated ornament seem costly to his mother.[1]

[1] Amphiaraus, the soothsayer, foreseeing his own death if he went to the Theban war, hid himself to avoid being forced to go. His wife, Eriphyle, bribed by a golden necklace, betrayed his hiding-place, and was killed by her son Alcmaeon, for thus bringing about his father’s death.

It showed how his sons threw themselves upon Sennacherib within the temple, and how they left him there dead.[1]

[1] 2 Kings, xix. 37.

It showed the ruin and the cruel slaughter that Tomyris wrought, when she said to Cyrus, “For blood thou hast thirsted, and with blood I fill thee.”

[1] Herodotus (i. 214) tells how Tomyris, Queen of the Massagetae, having defeated and slain Cyrus, filled a skin full of human blood, and plunged his head in it with words such as Dante reports, and which he derived from Orosius, Histor. ii. 7.

It showed how the Assyrians fled in rout after Holofernes was killed, and also the remainder of the punishment.[1]

[1] Judith, xv. 1.

I saw Troy in ashes, and in caverns. O Ilion! how cast down and abject the image which is there discerned showed thee!

What master has there been of pencil or of style that could draw the shadows and the lines which there would make every subtile genius wonder? Dead the dead, and the living seemed alive. He who saw the truth saw not better than I all that I trod on while I went bent down.—Now be ye proud, and go with haughty look, ye sons of Eve, and bend not down your face so that ye may see your evil path!

More of the mountain had now been circled by us, and of the sun’s course far more spent, than my mind, not disengaged, was aware, when he, who always in advance attent was going on, began, “Lift up thy head; there is no more time for going thus abstracted. See there an Angel, who is hastening to come toward us: see how from the service of the day the sixth hand-maiden returns.[1] With reverence adorn thine acts and thy face so that he may delight to direct us upward. Think that this day never dawns again.”

[1] The sixth hour of the day is coming to its end, near noon.

I was well used to his admonition ever to lose no time, so that on that theme he could not speak to me obscurely.

To us came the beautiful creature, clothed in white, and in his face such as seems the tremulous morning star. Its arms it opened, and then it opened its wings; it said, “Come: here at hand are the steps, and easily henceforth one ascends. To this invitation very few come. O human race, born to fly upward, why before a little wind dost thou so fall?”

He led us to where the rock was cut; here he struck his wings across my forehead,[1] then promised me secure progress.

[1] Removing the first P that the Angel of the Gate had incised on Dante’s brow.

As on the right hand, in going up the mountain,[1] where sits the church that dominates her the well-guided[2] city above Rubaconte,[3] the bold flight of the ascent is broken by the stairs, which were made in an age when the record and the stave were secure,[4] in like manner, the bank which falls here very steeply from the next round is slackened; but on this side and that the high rock grazes.[5] As we turned our persons thither, voices sang “Beati pauperes spiritu”[6] in such wise that speech could not tell it. Ah, how different are these passes from those of Hell! for here through songs one enters, and there below through fierce lamentings.

[1] The hill of San Miniato, above Florence.

[2] Ironical.

[3] The upper bridge at Florence across the Arno, named after Messer Rubaconte di Mandella, podesta of Florence, who laid the first stone of it in 1237; now called the Ponte alle Grazie, after a little chapel built upon it in 1471, and dedicated to Our Lady of Grace.

[4] In the good old time when men were honest. In 1299 one Messer Niccola Acciaioli, in order to conceal a fraudulent transaction, had a leaf torn out from the public notorial record; and about the same time an officer in charge of the revenue from salt, for the sake of private gain, measured the salt he received with an honest measure, but that which he sold with a measure diminished by the removal of a stave.

[5] The stairway is so narrow.

[6] “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” As Dante passes from each round of Purgatory, an angel removes the P which denotes the special sin there purged away. And the removal is accompanied with the words of one of the Beatitudes.

Now we were mounting up over the holy stairs, and it seemed to me I was far more light than I had seemed on the plain before. Whereon I, “Master, say, what heavy thing has been lifted from me, so that almost no weariness is felt by me as I go on?” He answered, “When the P’s that almost extinct[1] still remain on thy countenance shall be, as one is, quite erased, thy feet will be so conquered by good will that not only they will not feel fatigue, but it will be delight to them to be urged up.” Then I did like those who are going with something on their head, unknown by them unless the signs of others make them suspect; wherefore the hand assists to ascertain, and seeks and finds, and performs that office which cannot be accomplished by the sight; and with the fingers of my right hand outspread, I found only six those letters which he of the keys had encised upon my temples: looking at which my Leader smiled.

[1] Almost extinct, because, as St. Thomas Aquinas says, “Pride by which we are chiefly turned from God is the first and the origin of all sins.” He adds, “Pride is said to be the beginning of every sin, not because every single sin has its source in pride, but because every kind of sin is born of pride.” Summa Theol., II. 2, quaest. 162, art. 7.


Second Ledge the Envious.—Examples of Love.—The Shades in haircloth, and with sealed eyes.—Sapia of Siena.

We were at the top of the stairway, where the mountain, ascent of which frees one from ill, is the second time cut back. There a cornice binds the hill round about, in like manner as the first, except that its arc bends more quickly. No shadow is there, nor mark which is apparent [1] so that the bank appears smooth and so the path, with the livid color of the stone.

[1] No sculptured or engraved scenes.

“If to enquire one waits here for people,” said the Poet, “I fear that perhaps our choice will have too much delay.” Then he set his eyes fixedly upon the sun, made of his right side the centre for his movement, and turned the left part of himself. “O sweet light, with confidence in which I enter on the new road, do thou lead us on it,” he said, “as there is need for leading here within. Thou warmest the world, thou shinest upon it; if other reason prompt not to the contrary, thy rays ought ever to be guides.”

As far as here on earth is counted for a mile, so far had we now gone there, in little time because of ready will; and towards us were heard to fly, not however seen, spirits uttering courteous invitations to the table of love. The first voice that passed flying, “Virum non habent,”[1] loudly said, and went on behind us reiterating it. And before it had become quite inaudible through distance, another passed by, crying, “I am Orestes,” [2] and also did not stay. “O Father,” said I, “what voices are these?” and even as I was asking, lo! the third, saying, “Love them from whom ye have had wrong.” And the good Master: “This circle scourges the sin of envy, and therefore from love are drawn the cords of the scourge. The curb must be of the opposite sound; I think that thou wilt hear it before thou arrivest at the pass of pardon.[3] But fix thine eyes very fixedly through the air, and thou wilt see in front of us people sitting, and each is seated against the rock.” Then more than before I opened my eyes; I looked in front of me, and saw shades with cloaks in color not different from the stone. And when we were a little further forward, I heard them crying, “Mary, pray for us!” crying, “Michael,” and “Peter,” and all the Saints.

[1] “They have no wine.”—John ii. 3. The words of Mary at the wedding feast of Cana, symbolic of a kindness that is a rebuke of envy.

[2] The words of Pylades, before Aegisthus, when contending with Orestes to be put to death in his stead.

[3] At the stair to the third ledge, at the foot of which stands the angel who cancels the sin of envy.

I do not believe there goes on earth to-day a man so hard that he had not been pricked by compassion at that which I then saw. For when I had approached so near to them that their actions came surely to me, tears were drawn from my eyes by heavy grief. They seemed to me covered with coarse haircloth, and one supported the other with his shoulders, and all were supported by the bank. Thus the blind, who lack subsistence, stand at pardons[1] to beg for what they need, and one bows his head upon another, so that pity may quickly be moved in others, not only by the sound of the words, but by the sight which implores no less. And as to the blind the sun profits not, so to the shades, there where I was now speaking, the light of Heaven wills not to make largess of itself; for a wire of iron pierces and sews up the eyelids of all; even as is done to a wild sparrow-hawk, because it stays not quiet.

[1] On occasion of special indulgences the beggars gather at the door of churches frequented by those who seek the pardons to be obtained within.

It seemed to me I was doing outrage as I went on, seeing others, not myself being seen, wherefore I turned me to my sage Counsel; well did he know what the dumb wished to say, and therefore waited not my asking, but said, “Speak, and be brief and to the point.”

Virgil was coming with me on that side of the cornice from which one may fall, because it is encircled by no rim. On the other side of me were the devout shades, that through the horrible stitches were pressing out the tears so that they bathed their cheeks. I turned me to them, and, “O folk secure,” I began, “of seeing the lofty light which alone your desire holds in its care, may grace speedily dissolve the scum of your consciences so that the stream of memory through them may descend clear,[1] tell me, for it will be gracious and dear to me, if there be a soul here among you that is Latin, and perhaps it will be good for him if I learn it.” “O my brother, each is a citizen of one true city,[2] but thou meanest, who lived in Italy while a pilgrim.”[3] This it seemed to me to hear for answer somewhat further on than where I was standing; wherefore I made myself heard still more that way. Among the others I saw a shade that was expectant in look; and, if any one should wish to ask, How?—like a blind man it was lifting up its chin. “Spirit,” said I, “that humblest thyself in order to ascend, if thou art that one which answered me, make thyself known to me either by place or by name.” “I was a Sienese,” it answered, “and with these others I cleanse here my guilty life, weeping to Him that He grant Himself to us. Sapient I was not, although I was called Sapia, and I was far more glad of others’ harm than of my own good fortune. And that thou mayst not believe that I deceive thee, bear if I was foolish as I tell thee. The arch of my years already descending, my fellow-citizens were joined in battle near to Colle[4] with their adversaries, and I prayed God for that which He willed. They were routed there, and turned into the bitter passes of flight; and I, seeing the pursuit, experienced a joy unmatched by any other; so much that I turned upward my audacious face, crying out to God, ‘Now no more I fear thee;’ as the blackbird doth because of a little fair weather. At the very end of my life I desired peace with God; and even yet my debt would not be lessened by penitence,[5] had it not been that Pier Pettinagno,[6] who out of charity was sorry for me, held me in memory in his holy prayers. But thou, who art thou that goest asking of our conditions, and bearest thine eyes loose as I think, and breathing dost speak?” “My eyes,” said I, “will yet be taken from me here but a little time, for small is the offence committed through their being turned with envy. Far greater is the fear, with which my soul is in suspense, of the torment beneath, and already the load down there weighs upon me. And she to me, “Who then hath led thee here up among us, if thou thinkest to return below?” And I, “This one who is with me, and says not a word: and I am alive; and therefore ask of me, spirit elect, if thou wouldst that I should yet move for thee on earth my mortal feet.” “Oh, this is so strange a thing to hear,” she replied, “that it is great sign that God loves thee; therefore assist me sometimes with thy prayer. And I beseech thee, by that which thou most desirest, if ever thou tread the earth of Tuscany, that with my kindred thou restore my fame. Thou wilt see them among that vain people which hopes in Talamone,[7] and will waste more hope there, than in finding the Diana[8] but the admirals will stake the most there.[9]

[1] Being purified from sin they will retain no memory of it.

[2] “Fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.”—Ephesians, ii. 19.

[3] “For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.”—Hebrews, xiii. 14.

[4] This was the battle in 1259, in which the Florentines routed die Sienese Ghibellines, at whose head was Provenzan Salvani. who was slain. See Canto XI.

[5] I should not yet within Purgatory have diminished my debt of expiation, but, because I delayed repentance till the hour of Death, I should still be outside the gate.

[6] A poor comb-dealer, a man of kind heart, honest dealings, and good deeds, and still remembered for them in Siena. He died in 1289.

[7] A little port on the coast of Tuscany, on which the Sienese wasted toil and money in the vain hope that by strengthening and enlarging it they could make themselves rivals at sea of the Pisans and Genoese.

[8] A subterranean stream supposed to flow beneath the city.

[9] Of these last words the meaning is obscure.


Second Ledge: the Envious—Guido del Duca.—Rinieri de’ Calboli.—Examples of the punishment of Envy.

“Who is this that circles our mountain ere death have given him flight, and opens and shuts his eyes at his own will?”[1] “I know not who he is, but I know that he is not alone. Do thou, who art nearer to him, ask him; and sweetly, so that he may speak, accost him.” Thus two spirits, leaning one to the other, discoursed of me there on the right hand, then turned up their faces to speak to me. And one of them said, “O soul that still fixed in thy body goest on toward heaven, for charity console us, and tell us whence thou comest, and who thou art; for thou makest us so marvel at this thy grace, as needs must a thing that never was before.” And I, “Through mid Tuscany there wanders a little stream, that has its rise on Falterona,[2] and a hundred miles of coarse does not suffice it. From thereupon I bring this body. To tell you who I am would be to speak in vain, for my name as yet makes no great sound.” “If I grasp aright thy meaning with my understanding,” then replied to me he who had spoken first, “thou speakest of the Arno.” And the other said to him, “Why did he conceal the name of that river, even as one does of horrible things?” And the shade of whom this was asked, delivered itself thus, “I know not, but truly it is fit that the name of such a valley perish, for from its source (where the rugged mountain chain, from which Pelorus[3] is cut off, is so teeming that in few places it passes beyond that mark), far as there where it gives back in restoration that which heaven dries up of the sea (wherefrom the rivers have what flows in them), virtue is driven away as an enemy by all men, like a snake, either through misfortune of the place, or through evil habit that incites them. Wherefore the inhabitants of the wretched valley have so changed their nature that it seems as though Circe had had them in her feeding. Among foul hogs,[4] more fit for acorns than for other food made for human use, it first directs its poor path. Then, coming down, it finds curs more snarling, than their power warrants,[5] and at them disdainfully it twists its muzzle.[6] It goes on falling, and the more it swells so much the more the accursed and ill-fated ditch finds the dogs becoming wolves.[7] Descending then through many hollow gulfs, it finds foxes[8] so full of fraud, that they fear not that wit may entrap them. Nor will I leave to speak though another hear me: and well it will be for this one if hereafter he mind him of that which a true spirit discloses to me.

[1] These words are spoken by Guido del Duca, who is answered by Rinieri de’ Calboli; both of them from the Romagna.

[2] One of the highest of the Tuscan Apennines.

[3] The north-eastern promontory of Sicily.

[4] The people of the Casentino, the upper valley of the Arno.

[5] The Aretines.

[6] Turning westward.

[7] The wolves of Florence.

[8] The Pisans.

“I see thy grandson,[1] who becomes hunter of those wolves upon the bank of the fierce stream, and terrifies them all. He sells their flesh,[2] it being yet alive; then he slays them, like an old wild beast; many of life, himself of honor he deprives. Bloody he comes forth from the dismal wood;[3] he leaves it such, that from now for a thousand years, in its primal state it is not rewooded.” As at the announcement of grievous ills, the face of him who listens is disturbed, from whatsoever side the danger may assail him, so I saw the other soul, that was turned to hear, become disturbed and sad, when it had gathered to itself the words.

[1] Fulcieri da Calvoli, so named by Villani (viii. 69), “a fierce and cruel man,” was made podesta of Florence in 1302. He put to death many of the White Guelphs, and banished more of them.

[2] Bribed by the opposite party.

[3] Florence, spoiled and undone.

The speech of one and the look of the other made me wishful to know their names, and I made request for it, mixed with prayers. Wherefore the spirit which first had spoken to me began again, “Thou wishest that I abase myself in doing that for thee which thou wilt not do for me; but since God wills that such great grace of His shine through in thee, I will not be chary to thee; therefore know that I am Guido del Duca. My blood was so inflamed with envy, that had I seen a man becoming joyful, thou wouldst have seen me overspread with livid hue. Of my sowing I reap this straw. O human race, why dost thou set thy heart there where is need of exclusion of companionship?

“This one is Rinier; this is the glory and the honor of the house of Calboli,[1] where no one since has made himself heir of his worth. And between the Po and the mountain,[2] and the sea[3] and the Reno,[4] not his blood alone has become stripped of the good required for truth and for delight; for within these limits the ground is so full of poisonous stocks, that slowly would they now die out through cultivation. Where is the good Lizio, and Arrigo Manardi, Pier Traversaro, and Guido di Carpigna? O men of Romagna turned to bastards! When in Bologna will a Fabbro take root again? When in Faenza a Bernardin di Fosco, the noble scion of a mean plant? Marvel not, Tuscan, if I weep, when I remember with Guido da Prata, Ugolin d’ Azzo who lived with us, Federico Tignoso and his company, the house of Traversara, and the Anastagi, (both the one race and the other is without heir), the ladies and the cavaliers, the toils and the pleasures for which love and courtesy inspired our will, there where hearts have become so wicked. O Brettinoro! why dost thou not flee away, since thy family hath gone, and many people, in order not to be guilty? Well doth Bagnacaval that gets no more sons; and ill doth Castrocaro, and worse Conio that takes most trouble to beget such counts. Well will the Pagani do when their Demon shall go from them;[6] yet not so that a pure report of them can ever remain. O Ugolin de’ Fantolin! thy name is secure, since one who, degenerating, can make it dark is no longer awaited. But go thy way, Tuscan, now; for now it pleases me far more to weep than to speak, so much hath our discourse wrung my mind.”

[1] A noble Guelph family of Forli.

[2] The Apennines.

[3] The Adriatic.

[4] Near Bologna.

[5] These and the others named afterwards were well-born, honorable, and courteous men in Romagna in the thirteenth century. What is known of them may be found in Benvenuto da Imola’s comment, and in that of Scartazzini.

[6] The Pagani were lords of Faenza and Imola (see Hell, Canto XXVII); the Demon was Mainardo, who died in 1302.

We knew that those dear souls heard us go; therefore by silence they made us confident of the road. After we had become alone by going on, a voice that seemed like lightning when it cleaves the air, came counter to us, saying, “Everyone that findeth me shall slay me,” [1] and fled like thunder which rolls away, if suddenly the cloud is rent. Soon as our hearing had a truce from it, lo! now another with so great a crash that it resembled thunderings in swift succession: “I am Aglauros who became a stone.”[2] And then to draw me close to the Poet, I backward and not forward took a step. Now was the air quiet on every side, and he said to me, “That was the hard curb[3] which ought to hold man within his bound; but ye take the bait, so that the hook of the old adversary draws you to him, and therefore little avails bridle or lure. Heaven calls you, and around you circles, displaying to you its eternal beauties, and your eye looks only on the ground; wherefore He who discerns everything scourges you.

[1] The words of Cain—Genesis, iv. 14.

[2] Daughter of Cecrops, changed to stone because of envy of her sister.

[3] These examples of the fatal consequences of the sin.


Second Ledge: the Envious.—An Angel removes the second P from Dante’s forehead.—Discourse concerning the Sharing of Good.—Ascent to the Third Ledge: the Wrathful.—Examples of Forbearance seen in Vision.

As much as appears, between the beginning of the day and the close of the third hour, of the sphere that ever in manner of a child is sporting, so much now, toward the evening, appeared to be remaining of his course for the sun.[1] It was vespers[2] there,[3] and here midnight; and the rays struck us across the nose,[4] because the mountain had been so circled by us that we were now going straight toward the sunset, when I felt my forehead weighed down by the splendor far more than at first, and the things not known were a wonder to me.[5] Wherefore I lifted my hands toward the top of my brows, and made for myself the visor that lessens the excess of what is seen.

[1] The sun was still some three hours from his setting. The sphere that ever is sportive like a child has been variously interpreted; perhaps Dante only meant the sphere of the heavens which by its ever varying aspect suggests the image of a playful spirit.

[2] Dante uses “vespers” as the term for the last of the four canonical divisions of the day; that is, from three to six P.M. See Convito, iv. 23. Three o’clock in Purgatory corresponds with midnight in Italy.

[3] In Italy.

[4] Full in the face.

[5] The source of this increase of brightness being unknown, it caused him astonishment.

As when from water, or from the mirror, the ray leaps to the opposite quarter, and, mounting up in like manner to that in which it descends, at equal distance departs as much from the falling of the stone,[1] as experiment and art show; so it seemed to me that I was struck by light reflected there in front of me, from which my sight was swift to fly. “What is that, sweet Father, from which I cannot screen my sight so that it avails me,” said I, “and which seems to be moving toward us?” “Marvel not if the family of Heaven still dazzle thee,” he replied to me; “it is a messenger that comes to invite men to ascend. Soon will it be that to see these things will not be grievous to thee, but will be delight to thee as great as nature fitted thee to feel.”

[1] I.e., the perpendicular, at the point of incidence.

When we had reached the blessed Angel, with a glad voice he said, “Enter ye here to a stairway far less steep than the others.”

We were mounting, already departed thence, and “Beati misericordes”[1] had been sung behind us, and “Rejoice thou that overcomest.” [2] My Master and I, we two alone, were going on upward, and I was thinking to win profit as we went from his words; and I addressed me to him, thus enquiring, “What did the spirit from Romagna mean, mentioning exclusion and companionship?”[3] Wherefore he to me, “Of his own greatest fault he knows the harm, and therefore it is not to be wondered at if he reprove it, in order that there may be less lamenting on account of it. Because your desires are directed there, where, through companionship, a share is lessened, envy moves the bellows for your sighs. But if the love of the highest sphere[4] had turned your desire on high, that fear would not be in your breast; for the more there are who there say ‘ours,’ so much the more of good doth each possess, and the more of charity burns in that cloister.”[5] “I am more hungering to be contented,” said I, “than if I had at first been silent, and more of doubt I assemble in my mind. How can it be that a good distributed makes more possessors richer with itself, than if by few it is possessed?”[6] And he to me, “Because thou fastenest thy mind only on earthly things, from true light thou gatherest darkness. That infinite and ineffable Good which is on high, runs to love even as the sunbeam comes to a lucid body. As much of itself it gives as it finds of ardor; so that how far soever charity extends, beyond it doth the eternal bounty increase. And the more the people who are intent on high the more there are for loving well, and the more love is there, and like a mirror one reflects to the other. And if my discourse appease not thy hunger, thou shalt see Beatrice, and she will fully take from thee this and every other longing. Strive only that soon may be extinct, as two already are, the five wounds that are closed up by being painful.”[7]

[1] “Blessed are the merciful.”

[2] At the passage from each round, the Angel at the foot of the stairs repeats words from the Beatitudes adapted to those purified from the sin punished upon the ledge which is being left.

[3] In the last canto, Guido del Duca had exclaimed, “O human race, why dost thou set thy heart there where companionship must needs be excluded!”

[4] The Empyrean.

[5] “Since good, the more Communicated, the more abundant grows.” Milton, Paradise Lost, v. 73.

[6] “True love in this differs from gold and clay, That to divide is not to take away.”—Shelley, Epipsychidion.

[7] The pain of contrition.

As I was about to say “Thou satisfiest me,” I saw myself arrived on the next round,[1] so that my eager eyes made me silent. There it seemed to me I was of a sudden rapt in an ecstatic vision, and saw many persons in a temple, and a lady at the entrance, with the sweet action of a mother, saying, “My son, why hast thou done thus toward us? Lo, sorrowing, thy father and I were seeking thee;” and when here she was silent, that which first appeared, disappeared.

[1] Where the sin of anger is expiated.

Then appeared to me another, with those waters down along her cheeks which grief distils when it springs from great despite toward others, and she was saying, “If thou art lord of the city about whose name was such great strife among the gods, and whence every science sparkles forth, avenge thyself on those audacious arms, that have embraced our daughter, O Pisistratus.” And the lord appeared to me, benign and mild, to answer her, with temperate look, “What shall we do to him who desires ill for us, if he who loves us is by us condemned?”[1]

[1] Dante translated this story from Valerius Maximus, Facta et dicta mem., vi. 1.

Then I saw people kindled with fire of wrath, killing a youth with stones, loudly crying to each other only, “Slay, slay.” And I saw him bowed by death, which now was weighing on him, toward the ground, but in such great strife he ever made of his eyes gates for heaven, praying to the high Lord, that He would pardon his persecutors, with that aspect which unlocks pity.[1]

[1] See Acts, vii. 55-60.

When my mind returned outwardly to the things which outside of it are true, I recognized my not false errors. My Leader, who could see me do like a man who looses himself from slumber, said, “What ails thee, that thou canst not support thyself? but art come more than a half league veiling thine eyes, and with thy legs staggering like one whom wine or slumber bends.” “O sweet Father mine, if thou harkenest to me I will tell thee,” said I, “what appeared to me when my legs were thus taken from me.” And he, “If thou hadst a hundred masks upon thy face, thy thoughts howsoever small would not be hidden from me. That which thou hast seen was in order that thou excuse not thyself from opening thy heart to the waters of peace which are poured forth from the eternal fountain. I did not ask, ‘What ails thee?’ for the reason that he does who looks only with the eye which hath no seeing when the body lies inanimate; but I asked, in order to give vigor to the foot; thus it behoves to spur the sluggards, slow to use their wakefulness when it returns.”

We were going on through the vesper time, forward intent so far as the eyes could reach against the bright evening rays; when, lo, little by little, a smoke came toward us, dark as night; iior was there place to shelter ourselves from it. This took from us our eyes and the pure air.


Third Ledge the Wrathful.—Marco Lombardo.—His discourse on Free Will, and the Corruption of the World.

Gloom of hell, or of night deprived of every planet, under a barren sky, obscured by clouds as much as it can be, never made so thick a veil to my sight nor to my feeling so harsh of tissue as that smoke which covered us there; so that my eye endured not to stay open[1] wherefore my sage and trusty Escort drew to my side and offered me his shoulder. Even as a blind man goes behind his guide, in order not to stray, and not to butt against anything that may hurt or perhaps kill him, I went along, through the bitter and foul air, listening to my Leader, who was ever saying, “Take care that thou be not cut off from me.”

[1] The gloom and the smoke symbolize the effects of anger on the soul.

I heard voices, and each appeared to be praying for peace and mercy to the Lamb of God that taketh sins away. Only “Agnus Dei[1] were their exordiums: one word there was in all, and one measure; so that among them seemed entire concord. “Are these spirits, Master, that I hear?” said I. And he to me, “Thou apprehendest truly; and they go loosening the knot of anger.” “Now who art thou that cleavest our smoke, and yet dost speak of us even as if thou didst still divide the time by calends?” [2] Thus by one voice was said: whereon my Master said, “Reply, and ask if by this way one goeth up.” And I, “O creature, that cleansest thyself in order to return beautiful unto Him who made thee, a marvel shalt thou hear if thou accompanyest me.” “I will follow thee, so far as is permitted me,” it replied, “and if the smoke allows not seeing, in its stead hearing shall keep us joined.” Then I began, “With that swathing band which death unbinds I go upward, and I came hither through the infernal anguish. And if God bath so enclosed me in His grace that He wills that I should see His court by a mode wholly out of modern usage, conceal not from me who thou wert before thy death, but tell it to me, and tell me if I am going rightly to the pass; and let thy words be our guides.” “Lombard I was, and was called Marco; the world I knew, and that worth I loved, toward which every one hath now unbent his bow. For mounting thou art going rightly.” Thus he replied, and added, “I pray thee that thou pray for me when thou shalt he above.” And I to him, “I pledge my faith to thee to do that which thou askest of me; but I am bursting inwardly with a doubt, if I free not myself of it; at first it was simple, and now it is made double by thy words which make certain to me, here as elsewhere, that wherewith I couple it.[3] The world is indeed as utterly deserted by every virtue as thou declarest to me, and with iniquity is big and covered; but I pray that thou point out to me the cause, so that I may see it, and that I may show it to others; for one sets it in the heavens, and one here below.”

[1] “The Lamb of God.”

[2] By those in the eternal world dine is not reckoned by earth divisions.

[3] The doubt was occasioned by Guido del Duca’s words (Canto XV.), in regard to the prevalence of evil in Tuscany, arising either from misfortune of the place, or through the bad habits of men. The fact of the iniquity of men was now reaffirmed by Marco Lombardo; Dante accepts the fact as certain, and his doubt is coupled with it.

A deep sigh that grief wrung into “Ay me!” he first sent forth, and then began, “Brother, the world is blind, and thou forsooth comest from it. Ye who are living refer every cause upward to the heavens only, as if they of necessity moved all things with themselves. If this were so, free will would be destroyed in you, and there would be no justice in having joy for good, and grief for evil. The heavens initiate your movements: I do not say all of them; but, supposing that I said it, light for good and for evil is given to you; and free will, which, if it endure fatigue in the first battles with the heavens, afterwards, if it be well nurtured, conquers everything. To a greater force, and to a better nature, ye, free, are subjected, and that creates the mind in you, which the heavens have not in their charge.’ Therefore if the present world goes astray, in you is the cause, in you let it be sought; and of this I will now be a true informant for thee.

[1] The soul of man is the direct creation of God, and is in immediate subjection to His power; it is not in charge of the Heavens, and its will is free to resist their mingled and imperfect influences.

“Forth from the hand of Him who delights in it ere it exist, like to a little maid who, weeping and smiling, wantons childishly, issues the simple little soul, which knows nothing, save that, proceeding from a glad Maker, it willingly turns to that which allures it. Of trivial good at first it tastes the savor; by this it is deceived and runs after it, if guide or bridle bend not its love. Wherefore it was needful to impose law as a bridle; needful to have a king who could discern at least the tower of the true city. The laws exist, but who set hand to them? Not one: because the shepherd who is in advance can ruminate, but has not his hoofs divided?[1] Wherefore the people, who see their guide only at that good[2] whereof they are greedy, feed upon that, and seek no further. Well canst thou see that the evil leading is the cause that has made the world guilty, and not nature which in you may be corrupted. Rome, which made the world good, was wont to have two Suns,[3] which made visible both one road and the other, that of the world and that of God. One has extinguished the other; and the sword is joined to the crozier; and the two together must of necessity go ill, because, being joined, one feareth not the other. If thou believest rue not, consider the grain,[4] for every herb is known by its seed.

[1] The shepherd who precedes the flock, and should lead it aright, is the Pope. A mystical interpretation of the injunction upon the children of Israel (Leviticus, xi.) in regard to clean and unclean beasts was familiar to the schoolmen. St. Augustine expounds the cloven hoof as symbolic of right conduct, because it does not easily slip, and the chewing of the cud as signifying the meditation of wisdom. Dante seems here to mean that the Pope has the true doctrine, but makes not the true use of it for his own guidance and the government of the world.

[2] Material good.

[3] Pope and Emperor.

[4] The results that follow this forced union.

“Within the land which the Adige and the Po water, valor and courtesy were wont to be found before Frederick had his quarrel;[1] now safely anyone may pass there who out of shame would cease discoursing with the good, or drawing near them. Truly three old men are still there in whom the antique age rebukes the new, and it seems late to them ere God restore them to the better life; Currado da Palazzo, and the good Gherardo,[2] and Guido da Castel, who is better named, after the manner of the French, the simple Lombard.[3]

[1] Before the Emperor Frederick II. had his quarrel with the Pope; that is, before Emperor and Pope had failed in their respective duties to each other.

[2] Gherardo da Camino, “who was noble in his life, and whose memory will always be noble,” says Dante in the Convito, iv. 14.

[3] “The French,” says Benvenuto da Linda, “call all Italians Lombards, and repute them very astute.”

“Say thou henceforth, that the Church of Rome, through confounding in itself two modes of rule,[1] falls in the mire, and defiles itself and its burden.”

[1] The spiritual and the temporal.

“O Marco mine,” said I, “thou reasonest well; and now I discern why the sons of Levi were excluded from the heritage;[1] but what Gherardo is that, who, thou sayest, remains for sample of the extinct folk, in reproach of the barbarous age?” “Either thy speech deceives me, or it is making trial of me,” he replied to me, “in that, speaking Tuscan to me, it seems that of the good Gherardo thou knowest naught. By other added name I know him not, unless I should take it from his daughter Gaia.[2] May God be with you! for further I come not with you. Behold the brightness which rays already glimmering through the smoke, and it behoves me to depart—the Angel is there—ere I appear to him.”[3] So he turned, and would not hear me more.

[1] “The Lord separated the tribe of Levi, to bear the ark of the covenant of the Lord, to stand before the Lord to minister unto him, and to bless in his name, unto this day. Wherefore Levi hath no part nor inheritance with his brethren; the Lord is his inheritance.”—Deuteronomy, x. 8-9.

[2] Famed for her virtues, says Buti; for her vices, say the Ottimo and Benvenuto.

[3] His time of purgation is not yet finished; not yet is he ready to meet the Angel of the Pass.


Third Ledge the Wrathful.—Issue from the Smoke.—Vision of examples of Anger.—Ascent to the Fourth Ledge, where Sloth is purged.—Second Nightfall.—Virgil explains how Love is the root of Virtue and of Sin.

Recall to mind, reader, if ever on the alps a cloud closed round thee, through which thou couldst not see otherwise than the mole through its skin, how, when the humid and dense vapors begin to dissipate, the ball of the sun enters feebly through them: and thy imagination will easily come to see, how at first I saw again the sun, which was already at its setting. So, matching mine to the trusty steps of my Master, I issued forth from such a cloud to rays already dead on the low shores.

O power imaginative, that dost sometimes so steal us from outward things that a man heeds it not, although around him a thousand trumpets sound, who moveth thee if the sense afford thee naught? A light, that in the heavens is formed, moveth thee by itself, or by a will that downward guides it?

[1] If the imagination is not stirred by some object of sense, it is moved by the influence of the stars, or directly by the Divine will.

In my imagination appeared the impress of the impiety of her[1] who changed her form into the bird that most delights in singing. And here was my mind so shut up within itself that from without came nothing which then might he received by it. Then rained down within my high fantasy, one crucified,[2] scornful and fierce in his look, and thus was dying. Around him were the great Ahasuerus, Esther his wife, and the just Mordecai, who was in speech and action so blameless. And when this imagination burst of itself, like a bubble for which the water fails, beneath which it was made, there rose in my vision a maiden,[3] weeping bitterly, and she was saying, “O queen, wherefore through anger hast thou willed to be naught? Thou hast killed thyself in order not to lose Lavinia: now thou hast lost me: I am she who mourns, mother, at thine, before another’s ruin.

[1] Progne or Philomela, according to one or the other version of the tragic myth, was changed into the nightingale, after her anger had led her to take cruel vengeance on Tereus.

[2] Haman, who, according to the English version, was hanged, but according to the Vulgate, was crucified—Esther, vii.

[3] Lavinia, whose mother, Amata, killed herself in a rage at hearing premature report of the death of Turnus, to whom she desired that Lavinia should be married.—Aeneid, xii. 595-607.

As sleep is broken, when of a sudden the new light strikes the closed eyes, and, broken, quivers ere it wholly dies, so my imagining fell down, soon as a light, greater by far than that to which we are accustomed, struck my face. I turned me to see where I was, when a voice said, “Here is the ascent;” which from every other object of attention removed me, and made my will so eager to behold who it was that was, speaking that it never rests till it is face to face. But, as before the sun which weighs down our sight, and by excess veils its own shape, so here my power failed. “This is a divine spirit who directs us, without our asking, on the way to go up, and with his own light conceals himself. He does for us as a man doth for himself; for he who sees the need and waits for asking, malignly sets himself already to denial. Now let us grant our feet to such an invitation; let us hasten to ascend ere it grows dark, for after, it would not be possible until the day returns.” Thus said my Guide; and I and he turned our steps to a stairway. And soon as I was on the first step, near use I felt a motion as of wings, and a fanning on my face,[1] and I heard said, “Beati pacifici,’[2] who are without ill anger.”

[1] By which the angel removes the third P from Dante’s brow.

[2] “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

Now were the last sunbeams on which the night follows so lifted above us, that the stars were appearing on many sides. “O my virtue, why dost thou so melt away?” to myself I said, for I felt the power of my legs put in truce. We had come where the stair no farther ascends, and we were stayed fast even as a ship that arrives at the shore. And I listened a little, if I might hear anything in the new circle. Then I turned to my Master, and said, “My sweet Father, say what offence is purged here in the circle where we are: if the feet are stopped, let not thy discourse stop.” And he to me, “The love of good, less than it should have been, is here restored;[1] here is plied again the ill-slackened oar. But that thou mayst still more clearly understand, turn thy mind to me, and thou shalt gather some good fruit from our delay.

[1] It is the round on which the sin of acedie, sloth, is purged away.

“Neither Creator nor creature,” began he, “son, ever was without love, either natural, or of the mind,[1] and this thou knowest. The natural is always without error; but the other may err either through an evil object, or through too much or through too little vigor. While love is directed on the primal goods, and on the second moderates itself, it cannot be the cause of ill delight. But when it is bent to evil,[2] or runs to good with more zeal, or with less, than it ought, against the Creator works his own creature. Hence thou canst comprehend that love needs must be the seed in you of every virtue, and of every action that deserves punishment.

[1] Either native in the soul, as the love of God, or determined by the choice, through free will, of some object of desire in the mind.

[2] A wrong object of desire.

“Now since love can never bend its sight from the welfare of its subject,[1] all things are safe from hatred of themselves; and since no being can be conceived of divided from the First,[2] and standing by itself, from hating Him[3] every affection is cut off. It follows, if, distinguishing, I rightly judge, that the evil which is loved is that of one s neighbor; and in three modes is this love born within your clay. There is he who hopes to excel through the abasement of his neighbor, and only longs that from his greatness he may be brought low.[4] There is he who fears loss of power, favor, honor, fame, because another rises; whereat he is so saddened that he loves the opposite.[5] And there is he who seems so outraged by injury that it makes him gluttonous of vengeance, and such a one must needs coin evil for others.[6] This triform love is lamented down below.[7]

[1] To however wrong an object love may be directed, the person always believes it to be for his own good.

[2]The source of being.

[3] God, the First Cause.

[4] This is the nature of Pride.

[5] Envy.

[6] Anger.

[7] In the three lower rounds of Purgatory.

“Now I would that thou hear of the other,—that which runs to the good in faulty measure. Every one confusedly apprehends a good[1] in which the mind may be at rest, and which it desires; wherefore every one strives to attain it. If the love be slack that draws you to see this, or to acquire it, this cornice, after just repentance, torments you therefor. Another good there is,[2] which doth not make man happy, is not happiness, is not the good essence, the root of every good fruit. The love which abandons itself too much to this[3] is lamented above us in three circles, but how it is reckoned tripartite, I am silent, in order that thou seek it for thyself.”

[1] The supreme Good.

[2] Sensual enjoyment.

[2] Resulting in the sins of avarice, gluttony, and lust.


Fourth Ledge The Slothful.—Discourse of Virgil on Love and Free Will.—Throng of Spirits running in haste to redeem their Sin.—The Abbot of San Zone.—Dante falls asleep.

The lofty Teacher had put an end to his discourse, and looked attentive on my face to see if I appeared content; and I, whom a fresh thirst already was goading, was silent outwardly, and within was saying, “Perhaps the too much questioning I make annoys him.” But that true Father, who perceived the timid wish which did not disclose itself, by speaking gave me hardihood to speak. Then I, “My sight is so vivified in thy light that I discern clearly all that thy discourse may imply or declare: therefore I pray thee, sweet Father dear, that thou demonstrate to me the love to which thou referrest every good action and its contrary.” “Direct,” he said, “toward me the keen eyes of the understanding, and the error of the blind who make themselves leaders will be manifest to thee. The mind, which is created apt to love, is mobile unto everything that pleases, soon as by pleasure it is roused to action. Your faculty of apprehension draws an image from a real existence, and within you displays it, so that it makes the mind turn to it; and if, thus turned, the mind incline toward it, that inclination is love, that inclination is nature which is bound anew in you by pleasure.[1] Then, as the fire moveth upward by its own form,[2] which is born to ascend thither where it lasts longest in its material, so the captive mind enters into longing, which is a spiritual motion, and never rests until the thing beloved makes it rejoice. Now it may be apparent to thee, how far the truth is hidden from the people who aver that every love is in itself a laudable thing; because perchance its matter appears always to be good;[3] but not every seal is good although the wax be good.”

[1] In his discourse in the preceding canto, Virgil has declared that neither the Creator nor his creatures are ever without love, either native in the soul, or proceeding from the mind. Here he explains how the mind is disposed to love by inclination to an image within itself of some object which gives it pleasure. This inclination is natural to it; or in his phrase, nature is bound anew in man by the pleasure which arouses the love. All this is a doctrine derived directly from St. Thomas Aquinas. “It is the property of every nature to have some inclination, which is a natural appetite, or love.”—Summa Theol., 1, lxxvi. i.

[2] Form is here used in its scholastic meaning. “ The active power of anything depends on its form, which is the principle of its action. Fur the form is either the nature itself of the thing, as in those which are pure form; or it is a constituent of the nature of the thing, as in those which are composed of matter and form.”—Summa Theol., 3, xiii. i. Fire by its form, or nature, seeks the sphere of fire between the ether and the moon.

[3] The object may seem desirable to the mind, without being a fit object of desire.

“Thy words, and my understanding which follows,” replied I to him, “have revealed love to me; but that has made me more full of doubt. For if love is offered to us from without, and if with other foot the soul go not, if strait or crooked she go is not her own merit.”[1] And he to me, “So much as reason seeth here can I tell thee; beyond that await still for Beatrice; for it is a work of faith. Every substantial form that is separate from matter, and is united with it,[2] has a specific virtue residing in itself which without action is not perceived, nor shows itself save by its effect, as by green leaves the life in a plant. Yet, whence the intelligence of the first cognitions comes man doth not know, nor whence the affection for the first objects of desire, which exist in you even as zeal in the bee for making honey: and this first will admits not desert of praise or blame. Now in order that to this every other may be gathered,[3] the virtue that counsels [4] is innate in you, and ought to keep the threshold of assent. This is the principle wherefrom is derived the reason of desert in you, according as it gathers in and winnows good and evil loves. Those who in reasoning went to the foundation took note of this innate liberty, wherefore they bequeathed morals[5] to the world. Assuming then that every love which is kindled within you arises of necessity, the power exists in you to restrain it. This noble virtue Beatrice calls the free will, and therefore see that thou have it in mind, if she take to speaking of it with thee.”

[1] If love be aroused in the soul by an external object, and if it be natural to the soul to love, how does she deserve praise or blame for loving?

[2] The substantial form is the soul, which is separate from matter but united with it.

[3] In order that every other will may conform with the first, that is, with the affection natural to man for the primal objects of desire.

[4] The faculty of reason, the virtue which counsels and on which free will depends, is “the specific virtue” of the soul.

[5] The rules of that morality which would have no existence were it not for freedom of the will.

The moon, belated[1] almost to midnight, shaped[2] like a bucket that is all ablaze, was making the stars appear fewer to us, and was running counter to the heavens[3] along those paths which the sun inflames, when the man of Rome sees it between Sardinia and Corsica at its setting;[4] and that gentle shade, for whom Pietola[5] is more famed than the Mantuan city, had laid down the burden of my loading:[6] wherefore I, who had harvested his open and plain discourse upon my questions, was standing like a man who, drowsy, rambles. But this drowsiness was taken from me suddenly by folk, who, behind our backs, had now come round to us. And such as was the rage and throng, which of old Ismenus and Asopus saw at night along their banks, in case the Thebans were in need of Bacchus, so, according to what I saw of them as they came, those who by good will and right love are ridden curve their steps along that circle. Soon they were upon us; because, running, all that great crowd was moving on; and two in front, weeping, were crying out, “Mary ran with haste unto the mountain [7] and Caesar, to subdue Ilerda, thrust at Marseilles, and then ran on to Spain.”[8] “Swift, swift, that time be not lost by little love,” cried the others following, “for zeal in doing well may refreshen grace.” “O people, in whom keen fervor now perhaps redeems your negligence and delay, through lukewarmness, in well-doing, this one who is alive (and surely I lie not to you) wishes to go up, soon as the sun may shine again for us; therefore tell us where is the opening near.” These words were of my Guide; and one of those spirits said: “Come thou behind us, and thou shalt find the gap. We are so filled with desire to move on that we cannot stay; therefore pardon, if thou holdest our obligation for churlishness. I was Abbot[9] of San Zeno at Verona, under the empire of the good Barbarossa, of whom Milan, still grieving, doth discourse. And he has one foot already in the grave,[10] who soon will lament on account of that monastery, and will be sorry for having had power there; because in place of its true shepherd he has put his son, ill in his whole body and worse in mind, and who was evil-born.” I know not if more he said, or if he were silent, so far beyond us he had already run by; but this I heard, and to retain it pleased me.

[1] In its rising.

[2] Gibbous, like certain buckets still in use in Italy.

[3] “These words describe the daily backing of the moon through the signs from west to east.”—Moore.

[4] These islands are invisible from Rome, but the line that runs from Rome between them is a little south of east.

[5] The modern name of Andes, the birthplace of Virgil, and therefore more famous than Mautua itself.

[6] With which I had laden him.

[7] Luke, i. 36.

[8] Examples of zeal.

[9] Unknown, save for this mention of him.

[10] Alberto della Scala, lord of Verona; he died in 1301. He had forced upon the monastery for its abbot his deformed and depraved illegitimate son.

And he who was at every need my succor said: “Turn thee this way; see two of them coming, giving a bite to sloth.” In rear of all they were saying: “The people for whom the sea was opened were dead before their heirs beheld the Jordan;[1] and those who endured not the toil even to the end with the son of Anchises,[2] offered themselves to life without glory.”

[1] Numbers, xiv. 28.

[2] But left him, to remain with Acestes in Sicily—Aeneid, v. 751.

Then when those shades were so far parted from us that they could no more be seen, a new thought set itself within me, from which many others and diverse were born; and I so strayed from one unto another that, thus wandering, I closed my eyes, and transmuted my meditation into dream.


Fourth Ledge: the Slothful—Dante dreams of the Siren.—The Angel of the Pass.—Ascent to the Fifth Ledge.—Pope Adrian V.

At the hour when the diurnal heat, vanquished by the Earth or sometimes by Saturn,[1] can warm no more the coldness of the moon,—when the geomancers see their Greater Fortune[2] in the east, rising before the dawn along a path which short while stays dark for it,—there came to me in dream[3] a woman stammering, with eyes asquint, and crooked on her feet, with hands lopped off, and pallid in her color. I gazed at her; and as the sun comforts the cold limbs which the night bennmbs, so my look made her tongue nimble, and then set her wholly straight in little while, and so colored her wan face as love requires. Then, when she had her speech thus unloosed, she began to sing, so that with difficulty should I have turned my attention from her. “I am,” she sang, “I am the sweet Siren, and the mariners in mid sea I bewitch, so full am I of pleasantness to hear. I turned Ulysses from his wandering way by my song; and whoso abides with me seldom departs, so wholly I content him.”

[1] Toward dawn, when the warmth of the preceding day is exhausted, Saturn was supposed to exert a frigid influence.

[2] “Geomancy is divination by points in the ground, or pebbles arranged in certain figures, which have peculiar names. Among these is the figure called the Fortuna Major, which by an effort of imagination can also be formed out of some of the last stars of Aquarius and some of the first of Pisces.” These are the signs that immediately precede Aries, in which the Sun now was, and the stars forming the figure of the Greater Fortune would be in the east about two hours before sunrise.

[3] The hour when this dream comes to Dante is “post mediam noctem … cum somnia vera,”—the hour in which it was commonly believed that dreams have a true meaning. The woman seen by Dante is the deceitful Siren, who symbolizes the temptation to those sins of sense from which the spirits are purified in the three upper rounds of Purgatory.

Not yet was her mouth closed when at my side a Lady[1] appeared, holy, and ready to make her confused. “O Virgil, Virgil, who is this?” she sternly said; and he came with his eyes fixed only on that modest one. She took hold of the other, and in front she opened her, rending her garments, and showed me her belly; this waked me with the stench that issued from it. I turned my eyes, and the good Virgil said, “At least three calls have I given thee; arise and come; let us find the opening through which thou mayst enter.”

[1] This lady seems to be the type of the conscience, virtus intellectualis, that calls reason to rescue the tempted soul.

Up I rose, and now were all the circles of the sacred mountain full of the high day, and we went on with the new sun at our backs. Following him, I bore my forehead like one who has it laden with thought, and makes of himself the half arch of a bridge, when I heard, “Come ye! here is the passage,” spoken in a mode soft and benign, such as is not heard in this mortal region. With open wings, which seemed of a swan, he who thus had spoken to us turned us upward between the two walls of the hard rock. He moved his feathers then, and fanned us, affirming qui lugent[1] to be blessed, for they shall have their souls mistresses of consolation.[2] “What ails thee that ever on the ground thou lookest?” my Guide began to say to me, both of us having mounted up a little from the Angel. “With such apprehension a recent vision makes me go, which bends me to itself so that I cannot from the thought withdraw me.” “Hast thou seen,” said he, “that ancient sorceress who above us henceforth is alone lamented? Hast thou seen how from her man is unbound? Let it suffice thee, and strike thy heels on the ground;[3] turn thine eyes to the lure that the eternal King whirls with the great circles.”

[1] “They that mourn.”

[2] The meaning seems to be, “they shall be possessed of comfort.” Donne (i.e.”mistresses ) is a rhyme-word, and affords an instance of a straining of the meaning compelled by the rhyme.

[3] Hasten thy steps.

Like the falcon that first looks down, then turns at the cry, and stretches forward, through desire of the food that draws him thither; such I became, and such, so far as the rock is cleft to afford a way to him who goeth up, did I go on as far as where the circling[1] is begun. When I was come forth on the fifth round, I saw people upon it who were weeping, lying upon the earth all turned downward. “Adhoesit pavimento anima mea,”[2] I heard them saying with such deep sighs that the words were hardly understood. “O elect of God, whose sufferings both justice and hope make less hard, direct us toward the high ascents.” “If ye come secure from the lying down, and wish to find the speediest way, let your right hands always be outside.” So prayed the Poet, and so a little in front was replied to us by them; wherefore I, in his speaking, marked the hidden one;[3] and then turned my eyes to my Lord, whereon he granted me, with cheerful sign, that which the look of my desire was asking for. Then when I could do with myself according to my will, I drew me above that creature whose words had first made me note him, saying, “Spirit in whom weeping matures that without which no one can turn to God, suspend a little for me thy greater care. Tell me who thou wast; and why ye have your backs turned upward; and if thou wishest that I obtain aught for thee there whence I alive set forth.” And he to me, “Thy heaven turns to itself our hinder parts thou shalt know; but first, scias quod ego fui successor Petri.[4] Between Sestri and Chiaveri[5] descends a beautiful stream,[6] and of its name the title of my race makes its top.[7] One month and little more I proved how the great mantle weighs on him who guards it from the mire, so that all other burdens seem a feather. My conversion, ah me! was tardy; but when I had become the Roman Shepherd, then I found out the lying life. I saw that there the heart was not at rest; nor was it possible to, mount higher in that life; wherefore the love of this was kindled in me. Up to that time a wretched soul and parted from God had I been, avaricious of everything; now, as thou seest, I am punished for it here. That which avarice doth is displayed here in the purgation of these converted souls, and the Mountain has no more bitter penalty.[8] Even as our eye, fixed upon earthly things, was not lifted on high, so justice here to earth has depressed it. As avarice, in which labor is lost, quenched our love for every good, so justice here holds us close, bound and captive in feet and hands; and, so long as it shall be the pleasure of the just Lord, so long shall we stay immovable and outstretched.”

[1] The level of the fifth round.

[2] “My soul cleaveth to the dust.”—Psalm cxix. 25.

[3] The face of the speaker, turned to the ground, was concealed.

[4] “Know that I was a successor of Peter.” This was the Pope Adrian V., Ottobono de’ Fieschi, who died in 1276, having been Pope for thirty-eight days.

[5] Little towns on the Genoese sea-coast.

[6] The Lavagna, from which stream the Fieschi derived their title of Counts of Lavagna.

[7] Its chief boast.

[8] Others may be greater, but none more humiliating.

I had knelt down and wished to speak; but when I began, and he became aware, only by listening, of my reverence, “What cause,” said he, “hath bent thee thus downward?” And I to him, “Because of your dignity my conscience stung me for standing.” “Straighten thy legs, and lift thee up, brother,” he replied; “err not, fellow servant of one power am I with thee and with the rest.[1] If ever thou hast understood that holy gospel sound which says neque nubent,[2] thou mayst well see why I speak thus. Now go thy way. I will not that thou longer stop; for thy stay hinders my weeping, with which I ripen that which thou hast said. A grandchild I have on earth who is named Alagia,[3] good in herself, if only our house make her not wicked by example; and she alone remains to me yonder.”[4]

[1] And I fell at His feet to worship him. And He said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant.”—Revelation xix. 10.

[2] They neither marry.”—Matthew, xxii. 80. The distinctions of earths do not exist in the spiritual world.

[3] Alagia was the wife of the Marquis Moroello Malaspina. See the close of Canto VIII. Dante had probably seen her in 1306, when he was a guest of the house, in the Lunigiana.

[4] Not that she was his only living relative, but the only one whose prayers, coming from a good heart, would avail him.


Fifth Ledge: the Avaricious.—The Spirits celebrate examples of Poverty and Bounty.—Hugh Capet.—His discourse on his descendants.—Trembling of the Mountain.

Against a better will the will fights ill: wherefore against my own pleasure, in order to please him, I drew from the water the sponge not full.

I moved on, and my Leader moved on through the space vacant only alongside of the rock, as upon a wall one goes close to the battlements. For on the other side the people, that through their eyes are pouring drop by drop the evil that possesses all the world, approach too near the edge.[1]

[1]Too close to leave a space for walking.

Accursed be thou, old she-wolf, who more than all the other beasts hast prey, because of thy hunger hollow without end! O Heaven! by whose revolution it seems that men believe conditions here below are transmuted, when will he come through whom she shall depart?[1] We were going on with slow and scanty steps, and I attentive to the shades whom I heard piteously lamenting and bewailing; and peradventure I heard in front of us one crying out, “Sweet Mary,” in his lament, even as a woman does who is in travail; and continuing, “So poor wast thou as may be seen by that inn where thou didst lay down thy holy burden.” And following this I heard, “O good Fabricius,[2] thou didst rather wish for virtue with poverty than to possess great riches with vice.” These words were so pleasing to me that I drew myself further on to have acquaintance with that spirit from whom they seemed to come. He was speaking furthermore of the largess which Nicholas[3] made to the damsels in order to conduct their youth to honor. “O soul that discoursest so well,” said I, “tell me who thou wast, and why thou alone renewest these worthy praises. Not without meed will be thy words, if I return to complete the short journey of that life which flies towards its end.” And he, “I will tell thee, not for comfort that I may expect from yonder,[4] but because such grace shineth on thee ere thou art dead. I was the root of the evil plant which so overshadows all the Christian land[5] that good fruit is rarely plucked therefrom. But if Douai, Lille, Ghent, and Bruges had power, soon would there be vengeance on it;[6] and I implore it from him who judges everything. Yonder I was called Hugh Capet: of me are born the Philips and the Louises, by whom of late times France is ruled. I was the son of a butcher of Paris.[7] When the ancient kings had all died out, save one, who had assumed the grey garb,[8] I found me with the bridle of the government of the realm fast in my hands, and with so much power recently acquired, and so full of friends, that to the widowed crown the head of my son was promoted, from whom the consecrated bones[9] of these began.

[1] The old she-wolf is avarice, the same who at the outset (Hell, Canto I.) had driven Dante back and made him lose hope of the height. The likeness of the two passages is striking.

[2] Caius Fabricius, the famous poor and incorruptible Roman consul, who refused the bribes of Pyrrhus, King of Epirus. Dante extols his worth also in the Convito, iv. 5.

[3] St. Nicholas, Bishop of Mira, who, according to the legend, knowing that owing to the poverty of their father, three maidens were exposed to the risk of leading lives of dishonor, secretly, at night, threw into the window of their house money enough to provide each with a dowry.

[4] The earth.

[5] In 1300 the descendants of Hugh Capet were ruling France, Spain, and Naples.

[6] Phillip the Fair gained possession of Flanders, by force and fraud, in 1299; but in 1802 the French were driven out of the country, after a fatal defeat at Courtrai, here dimly prophesied.

[7] Dante here follows the incorrect popular tradition.

[8] Who had become a monk. The historical reference is obscure.

[9] An ironical reference to the ceremony of consecration at the coronation of the kings.

“So long as the great dowry of Provence[1] took not the sense of shame from my race, it was little worth, but still it did not ill. Then it began its rapine with force and with falsehood; and, after, for amends,[2] Ponthieu and Normandy it took, and Gascony; Charles[3] came to Italy, and, for amends, made a victim of Conradin,[4] and then thrust Thomas[5] back to heaven for amends. A time I see, not long after this day, that draws forth another Charles[6] from France to make both himself and his the better known. Without arms he goes forth thence alone, but with the lance with which Judas jousted;[7] and that he thrusts so that he makes the paunch of Florence burst. Therefrom he will gain not land,[8] but sin and shame so much the heavier for himself, as he the lighter reckons such harm. The other,[9] who has already gone out a prisoner from his ship, I see selling his daughter, and bargaining over her, as do the corsairs with other female slaves. O Avarice, what more canst thou do with us, since thou hast so drawn my race unto thyself that it cares not for its own flesh? In order that the ill to come and that already done may seem the less, I see the fleur-de-lis entering Anagna, and in his Vicar Christ made a captive.[10] I see him being mocked a second time; I see the vinegar and the gall renewed, and between living thieves him put to death. I see the new Pilate so cruel that this does not sate him, but, without decretal, he bears his covetous sails into the Temple.[11] O my Lord, when shall I be glad in seeing thy vengeance which, concealed, makes sweet thine anger in thy secrecy?

[1] Through the marriage in 1245 of Charles of Anjou, brother of St. Louis (Louis IX.), with Beatrice, the heiress of the Count of Provence.

[2] The bitterness of Dante’s irony is explained by the part which France had played in Italian affairs.

[3] Of Anjou.

[4] The youthful grandson of Frederick II., who, striving to wrest Naples and Sicily, his hereditary possessions, from the hands of Charles of Anjou, was defeated and taken prisoner by him in 1267, and put to deaths by him in 1268. His fate excited great compassion.

[5] Charles was believed to have had St. Thomas Aquinas poisoned.

[6] Charles of Valois, brother of Philip the Fair, sent by Boniface VIII., in 1301, to Florence as peacemaker. But there he wrought great harm, and siding with the Black party, the Whites, including Dante, were driven into exile.

[7] The lance of treachery.

[8] A reference to his nickname of Senza terra, or Lackland.

[9] Charles II., son of Charles of Anjou. In 1283 he was made captive in a sea fight, by Ruggieri de Loria, the Admiral of Peter II. of Aragon. In 1300, according to common report, he sold his young daughter in marriage to the old Marquis of Este.

[10] Spite of his hostility to Boniface VIII., the worst crime of the house of France was, in Dante’s eyes, the seizure of the Pope at Anagni, in 1303, by the emissaries of Philip the Fair.

[11] The destruction of the Order of the Temple.

“What I was saying of that only bride of the Holy Spirit, and which made thee turn toward me for some gloss, is ordained for all our prayers so long as the day lasts, but when the night comes, we take up a contrary sound instead. Then we rehearse Pygmalion,[1] whom his gluttonous longing for gold made a traitor and thief and parricide; and the wretchedness of the avaricious Midas which followed on his greedy demand, at which men must always laugh. Then of the foolish Achan each one recalls how he stole the spoils, so that the anger of Joshua seems still to sting him, here.[2] Then we accuse Sapphira with her husband; we praise the kicks that Heliodorus received,[3] and in infamy Polymnestor who slew Polydorus[4] circles the Whole mountain. Finally our cry here is, ‘Crassus, tell us, for thou knowest, what is the taste of gold?’[5] At times one speaks loud, and another low, according to the affection which spurs us to speak now at a greater, now at a less pace. Therefore in the good which by day is here discoursed of, of late I was not alone, but here near by no other person lifted up his voice.”

[1] The brother of Dido, and the murderer of her husband for the sake of his riches—Aeneid, i. 353-4.

[2] Joshua, vii.

[3] For his attempt to plunder the treasury of the Temple.—2 Maccabees, iii. 25.

[4] Priam had entrusted Polydorus, his youngest son, to Polymnestor, King of Thrace, who, when the fortunes of Troy declined, slew Polydorus, that he might take possession of the treasure sent with him.

[5] Having been slain in battle with the Parthians, their king poured molten gold down his throat in derision, because of his fame as the richest of men.

We had already parted from him, and were striving to advance along the road so far as was permitted to our power, when I felt the Mountain tremble, like a thing that is falling; whereupon a chill seized me such as is wont to seize him who goes to death. Surely Delos shook not so violently, before Latona made her nest therein to give birth to the two eyes of heaven.[1] Then began on all sides such a cry that the Master drew towards me, saying: “Distrust not, while I guide thee.” “Gloria in excelsis Deo,”[2] all were saying, according to what I gathered from those near at hand whose cry it was possible to understand. We stopped, motionless and in suspense, like the shepherds who first heard that song, until the trembling ceased, and it was ended. Then we took up again our holy journey, looking at the shades that were lying on the ground, returned already to their wonted plaint. No ignorance ever with so sharp attack made me desirous of knowing—if my memory err not in this—as it seemed to me I then experienced in thought. Nor, for our haste, did I dare to ask, nor of myself could I see aught there. So I went on timid and thoughtful.

[1] Apollo and Diana, the divinities of Sun and Moon.

[2] “Glory to God in the highest.”


Fifth Ledge: the Avaricious.—Statius.—Cause of the trembling of the Mountain.—Statius does honor to Virgil.

The natural thirst,[1] which is never satisfied save with the water[2] whereof the poor woman of Samaria besought the grace, was tormenting me, and haste was goading me along the encumbered way behind my Leader, and I was grieving at the just vengeance; and lo,—as Luke writes for us that Christ, now risen forth from the sepulchral cave, appeared to the two who were on the way,—a shade appeared to us; and it was coming behind us looking at the crowd that lay at its feet: nor did we perceive it, so it spoke first saying, “My Brothers, may God give you peace!” We turned suddenly, and Virgil gave back to it the greeting which answers to that;[3] then he began: “In the assembly of the blest may the true court, which relegates me into eternal exile, place thee in peace.” “How,” said it,—and meanwhile we went on steadily,—“if ye are shades that God deigns not on high, who hath guided you so far along his stairs?” And my Teacher, “If thou regardest the marks which this one bears, and which the Angel traces, thou wilt clearly see it behoves that with the good he reign. But, because she who spinneth day and night[4] had not for him yet drawn the distaff off, which Clotho loads for each one and compacts, his soul, which is thy sister and mine, coming upwards could not come alone, because it sees not after our fashion. Wherefore I was drawn from out the ample throat of Hell to show him, and I shall show him so far on as my teaching can lead him. But tell us, if thou knowest, why just now the mountain gave such shocks, and why all seemed to cry together, even down to its moist feet.” Thus asking he shot for me through the needle’s eye of my desire, so that only with the hope my thirst became less craving.

[1] “According to that buoyant and immortal sentence with which Aristotle begins his Metaphysics, ‘All mankind naturally desire knowledge.’” Matthew Arnold, God and the Bible, cli. iv. This sentence of Aristotle is cited by Dante in the first chapter of the Convito.

[2] The living water of truth.

[3] To the salutation, “Peace be with you,” the due answer is, “And with thy spirit.”

[4] Lachesis.

The shade began: “There is nothing which without order the religion of the mountain can feel, or which can be outside its wont.[1] Free is this place from every alteration; of that which heaven receives from itself within itself there may be effect here, but of naught else;[2] because nor rain, nor hail, nor snow, nor dew, nor frost, falls higher up than the little stairway of the three short steps; clouds appear not, or thick or thin; nor lightning, nor the daughter of Thaumas[3] who yonder often changes her quarter; dry vapor[4] rises not farther up than the top of the three steps of which I spoke, where the vicar of Peter has his feet. It trembles perhaps lower down little or much; but up here it never trembles because of wind that is hidden, I know not how, in the earth. It trembles here when some soul feels itself pure, so that it rises or moves to ascend; and such a cry seconds it. Of the purity the will alone makes proof, which surprises the soul, wholly free to change its company, and helps it with the will. The soul wills at first indeed, but the inclination,—which, contrary to the will, Divine Justice sets to the torment, as erst to the sin,—allows it not.[5] And I who have lain in this pain five hundred years and more, only just now felt a free volition for a better seat. Wherefore thou didst feel the earthquake, and hear the pious spirits through the Mountain giving praise to that Lord, who—may He speed them upward soon!”

[1] The religion, the sacred rule, of the Mountain admits nothing that is not ordained and customary.

[2] Whatever happens here is occasioned only by the direct influences of the heavens.

[3] Iris = the rainbow, seen now to the west, now to the east.

[4] Dry vapor, according to Aristotle, was the source of wind and of earthquake.

[5] Until the soul is wholly purified from its sinful disposition,it desires the punishment through; which its purification is accomplished, as it had originally desired the object of its sin. But when it becomes pure, then the will possesses it to mount to Heaven, and becomes effective.

Thus he said to us, and since one enjoys drinking in proportion as the thirst is great, I could not say how much he did me good. And the sage Leader, “Now I see the net which snares you here, and how it is unmeshed; wherefore it trembles here; and for what ye rejoice together. Now who thou wast may it please thee that I know, and that from thy words I learn why for so many centuries thou hast lain here?” “At the time when the good Titus, with the aid of the Most High King, avenged the wounds wherefrom issued the blood sold by Judas, I was fatuous enough on earth with the name which lasts longest, and honors most,”[1] replied that spirit, “but not as yet with faith. So sweet was my vocal spirit, that me of Toulouse Rome drew to itself, where I deserved to adorn my temples with myrtle. Statius the people still on earth name me. I sang of Thebes, and then of the great Achilles, but I fell on the way with my second load.[2] Seed of my ardor were the sparks that warmed me of the divine flame whereby more than a thousand have been kindled; I speak of the Aeneid, which was mother to me, and was my nurse in poesy: without it I balanced not the weight of a drachm; and to have lived yonder, when Virgil lived, I would agree to one sun more than I owe for my issue from ban.”[3]

[1] The name of Poet.

[2] Statius died before completing his Achilleid.

[3] A year more in Purgatory than is due for my punishment.

These words turned Virgil to me with a look which, silent, said, “Be silent:” but the power that wills cannot do everything; for smiles and tears are such followers on the emotion from which each springs, that in the most truthful they least follow the will. I merely smiled, like a man who makes a sign; whereat the shade became silent, and looked at me in the eyes where the expression is most fixed. And it said, “So mayst thou in good complete so great a labor, why aid thy face just now display to me a flash of a smile?” Now am I caught on one side and the other: one bids me be silent, the other conjures me to speak; wherefore I sigh and am understood by my Master, and “Have no fear to speak,” he said to me, “but speak, and tell him what he asks so earnestly.” Whereon I, “Perhaps thou marvellest, ancient spirit, at the smile I gave; but I would have more wonder seize thee. This one who guides my eyes on high is that Virgil from whom thou didst derive the strength to sing of men and of the gods. If thou didst believe other cause for my smile, dismiss it as untrue, and believe it to be those words which thou saidst of him.” Already he was stooping to embrace the feet of my Leader, but he said to him, “Brother, do it not, for thou art a shade, and thou seest a shade.” And he rising, “Now canst thou comprehend the sum of the love that warms me to thee when I forget our vanity, treating the shades as if a solid thing.”[1]

[1] Sordello and Virgil (Canto VI.) embraced each other. The shades could thus express their mutual affection. Perhaps it is out of modesty that Virgil here represses Statius, and possibly there may be the under meaning that an act of reverence is not becoming from a soul redeemed, to one banned in eternal exile.


Ascent to the Sixth Ledge.—Discourse of Statius and Virgil.—Entrance to the Ledge: the Gluttonous.—The Mystic Tree.—Examples of Temperance.

Already was the Angel left behind us,—the Angel who had turned us to the sixth round,—having erased a stroke[1] from my face; and he had said to us that those who have their desire set on justice are Beati, and his words ended with sitiunt, without the rest.[2] And I, more light than through the other passes, was going on so that without any labor I was following upward the swift spirits, when Virgil began, “Love kindled by virtue always kindles another, provided that its flame appear outwardly; wherefore from the hour when amid us Juvenal descended into the limbo of Hell, and made known to me thy affection, my own good will toward thee was such that more never bound one to an unseen person; so that these stairs will now seem short to me. But tell me (and as a friend pardon me, if too great confidence let loose my rein, and as a friend now talk with me) boxy avarice could find a place within thy breast, amid wisdom so great as that wherewith through thy diligence thou wast filled?”

[1] The fifth P.

[2] The Angel had not recited all the words of the Beatitude, but only, “Blessed are they which do thirst after righteousness,” contrasting this thirst with the thirst for riches.

These words first moved Statius a little to smiling; then he replied, “Every word of thine is a dear sign to me of love. Truly oftentimes things have such appearance that they give false material for suspicion, because the true reasons lie hid. Thy question assures me of thy belief, perhaps because of that circle where I was, that I was avaricious in the other life; know then that avarice was too far removed from me, and this want of measure thousands of courses of the moon have punished. And had it not been that I set right my care, when I understood the passage where thou dost exclaim, as if indignant with human nature, “O cursed hunger of gold, to what dost thou not impel the appetite of mortals?”[1] I, rolling, should share the dismal jousts.[2] Then I perceived that the bands could spread their wings too much in spending; and I repented as well of that as of my other sins. How many shall rise with cropped hair[3] through ignorance, which during life and in the last hours prevents repentance for this sin! And know, that the vice which rebuts any sin with direct opposition,[4] together with it here dries up its verdure. Wherefore if to purify myself I have been among the people who lament their avarice, because of its contrary this has befallen me.” “Now when thou wast singing[5]the cruel strife of the twofold affliction[6] of Jocasta,” said the Singer of the Bucolic songs, “it does not appear from that which Clio touches[7] with thee there,[8] that the faith, without which good works suffice not, had yet made thee faithful. If this be so, what sun, or what candles dispersed thy darkness so that thou didst thereafter set thy sails behind the Fisherman?”[9] And he to him, “Thou first directedst me toward Parnassus to drink in its grots, and then, on the way to God, thou enlightenedst me. Thou didst like him, who goes by night, and carries the light behind him, and helps not himself, but makes the persons following him wise, when thou saidst, ‘The ages are renewed; Justice returns, and the primeval time of man, and a new progeny descends from heaven.’[10] Through thee I became a poet, through thee a Christian. But in order that thou mayst better see that which I sketch, I will stretch out my hand to color it. Already was the whole world teeming with the true belief, sown by the messengers of the eternal realm; and these words of thine touched upon just now were in harmony with the new preachers, wherefore I adopted the practice of visiting them. They came to me then appearing so holy, that, when Domitian persecuted them, not without my tears were their lamentings. And so long as I remained on earth I succored them; and their upright customs made me scorn all other sects. And before I had led the Greeks to the rivers of Thebes in my verse, I received baptism; but out of fear I was a secret Christian, for a long while making show of paganism: and this lukewarmness made me circle round the fourth circle,[11] longer than to the fourth century. Thou, therefore, that didst lift for me the covering that was hiding from me such great good as I say, while we have remainder of ascent, tell me where is our ancient Terence, Caecilius, Plautus, and Varro, if thou knowest it; tell me if they are damned, and in what region?” “They, and Persius, and I, and many others,” replied my Leader, “are with that Greek whom the Muses suckled more than any other ever, in the first girdle of the blind prison. Oftentimes we discourse of the mountain[12] that hath our nurses[13] always with itself. Euripides is there with us, and Antiphon, Simonides, Agathon, and many other Greeks who of old adorned their brows with laurel. There of thine own people[14] are seen Antigone, Deiphile, and Argia, and Ismene sad[15] even as she was. There she is seen who showed Langia;[16] there is the daughter of Tiresias and Thetis,[17] and Deidamia with her sisters.”

[1] Quid non mortalia peetora yogis,
    Auri sacra fames?
        Aeneid. iii. 56-57.

[2] I should be in Hell among the prodigals rolling heavy weights and striking them against those rolled by the avaricious. See Hell, Canto VII.

[3] A reference to the symbolic short hair of prodigals in Hell.

[4] As, for instance, avarice and prodigality.

[5] In the Thebaid.

[6] Eteocles and Polynices, the two sons of Jocasta. See Hell, Canto XXVI.

[7] On her lyre.

[8] From the general course of thy poems.

[9] St. Peter.

[10] The famous prophecy of the Cumaean Sibyl, very early applied to the coming of Christ:—
Magnus ab integro saeclorum nascitur ordo.
Jam redit et virgo, redeunt Saturnia regna:
Jam nova progenies caelo demittitur alto.—Ecloga, iv. 5-7.

[11] Where love too slack is punished.

[12] Parnassus.

[13] The Muses.

[14] The people celebrated in thy poems.

[15] Two pairs of sisters, and, of the four, Ismene, sister of Antigone, had the hardest lot.

[16] Hypsipyle, who showed the fountain Langia to Adrastus, and the other kings, when their army was perishing with thirst.

[17] Manto is the only daughter of Tiresias, who is mentioned by Statius; but Manto is in the eighth circle in Hell. See Canto XX.

Now both the poets became silent, once more intent on looking around, free from the ascent and from the walls; and four of the handmaids of the day were now remaining behind,[1] and the fifth was at the pole,[2] directing still upward its burning horn, when my Leader, “I think that it behoves us to turn our right shoulders to the outer edge, circling the Mount as we are wont to do.” Thus usage was there our guide, and we took the way with less doubt because of the assent of that worthy soul.

[1] The first four hours of the day were spent. It was between ten and eleven o’clock.

[2] Of the car.

They were going on in front, and I solitary behind, and I was listening to their speech which gave me understanding in poesy. But soon the pleasant discourse was interrupted by a tree which we found in the mid road, with apples sweet and pleasant to the smell. And as a fir-tree tapers upward from branch to branch, so downwardly did that, I think in order that no one may go up. On the side on which our way was closed, a clear water fell from the high rock and spread itself over the heaves above. The two poets approached the tree, and a voice from within the heaves cried: “Of this food ye shall have want.” Then it said, “Mary thought more, how the wedding[1] should be honorable and complete, than of her mouth,[2] which answers now for you; and the ancient Roman women were content with water for their drink; and Daniel despised food and gained wisdom. The primal age, which was beautiful as gold, with hunger made acorns savory, and with thirst every streamlet nectar. Honey and locusts were the viands that nourished the Baptist in the desert, wherefore he is in glory, and so great as by the Gospel is revealed to you.

[1] At Cana.

[2] Than of gratifying her appetite.


Sixth Ledge: the Gluttonous.—Forese Donati.—Nella.—Rebuke of the women of Florence.

While I was fixing my eyes upon the green leafage, just as he who wastes his life following the little bird is wont to do, my more than Father said to me, “Son, come on now, for the time that is assigned to us must be parcelled out more usefully.” I turned my face, and no less quickly my step after the Sages, who were speaking so that they made the going of no cost to me; and ho! a lament and song were heard, “Labia mea, Domine,”[1] in such fashion that it gave birth to delight and pain. “O sweet Father, what is that which I hear?” I began, and he, “Shades which go, perhaps loosing the knot of their debt.”

[1] “Lord, open thou my lips.”—Psalm li. 15.

Even as do pilgrims rapt in thought, who, overtaking on the road unknown folk, turn themselves to them, and stay not; so behind us, moving more quickly, coming up and passing by, a crowd of souls, silent and devout, gazed at us. Each was dark and hollow in the eyes, pallid in the face, and so wasted that the skin took its shape from the bones. I do not think that Erisichthon[1] was so dried up to utter rind by hunger, when he had most fear of it. I said to myself in thought, “Behold the people who lost Jerusalem, when Mary struck her beak into her son.”[2] The sockets of their eyes seemed rings without gems. Whoso in the face of men reads OMO,[3] would surely there have recognized the M. Who would believe that the scent of an apple, begetting longing, and that of a water, could have such mastery, if he knew not how?

[1] Punished for sacrilege by Ceres with insatiable hunger, so that at last he turned his teeth upon himself. See Ovid, Metam.,viii. 738 sqq.

[2] The story of this wretched woman is told by Josephus in his narrative of the siege of Jerusalem by Titus: De Bello Jud., vi. 3.

[3] Finding in each eye an O, and an M in the lines of the brows and nose, making the word for “man.”

I was now wondering what so famished them, the cause of their meagreness and of their wretched husk not yet being manifest, and lo! from the depths of its head, a shade turned his eyes on me, and looked fixedly, then cried out loudly, “What grace to me is this!” Never should I have recognized him by his face; but in his voice that was disclosed to me which his aspect in itself had suppressed.[1] This spark rekindled in me all my knowledge of the altered visage, and I recognized the face of Forese.[2]

[1] His voice revealed who he was, which his actual aspect concealed.

[2] Brother of the famous Corso Donati, and related to Dante, whose wife was Gemma de’ Donati.

“Ah, strive not [1] with the dry scab that discolors my skin,” he prayed, “nor with my lack of flesh, but tell me the truth about thyself; and who are these two souls, who yonder make an escort for thee: stay not thou from speaking to me.” “Thy face, which once I wept for dead, now gives me for weeping no less a grief,” replied I, “seeing it so disfigured; therefore, tell me, for God’s sake, what so despoils you; make me not speak while I am marvelling; for ill can he speak who is full of another wish.” And he to me, “From the eternal council falls a power into the water and into the plant, now left behind, whereby I become so thin. All this folk who sing weeping, because of following their appetite beyond measure, here in hunger and in thirst make themselves holy again. The odour which issues from the apple and from the spray that spreads over the verdure kindles in us desire to eat and drink. And not once only as we circle this floor is our pain renewed; I say pain, and ought to say solace, for that will leads us to the tree which led Christ gladly to say, ‘Eli,’[2] when with his blood he delivered us.” And I to him, “Forese, from that day on which thou didst change world to a better life, up to this time five years have not rolled round. If the power of sinning further had ended in thee, ere the hour supervened of the good grief that to God reweds us, how hast thou come up hither?[3] I thought to find thee still down there below, where time is made good by time.” And he to me, “My Nella with her bursting tears has brought me thus quickly to drink of the sweet wormwood of these torments. With her devout prayers and with sighs has she drawn me from the shore where one waits, and has delivered me from the other circles. So much the more dear and more beloved of God is my little widow, whom I loved so much, as she is the more solitary in good works; for the Barbagia[4] of Sardinia is far more modest in its women than the Barbagia where I left her. O sweet brother, what wouldst thou that I say? A future time is already in my sight, to which this hour will not be very old, in which from the pulpit it shall be forbidden to the brazen-faced dames of Florence to go displaying the bosom with the paps. What Barbarian, what Saracen women were there ever who required either spiritual or other discipline to make them go covered? But if the shameless ones were aware of that which the swift heaven is preparing for them, already would they have their mouths open for howling. For if foresight here deceives me not, they will be sad ere he who is now consoled with the lullaby covers his cheeks with hair. Ak brother, now no longer conceal thyself from me; thou seest that not only I but all these people are gazing there where thou dost veil the sun.” Whereon I to him: “If thou bring back to mind what thou wast with me, and what I was with thee, the present remembrance will even now be grievous. From that life he who goes before me turned me the other day, when the sister of him yonder,” and I pointed to the sun, “showed herself round. Through the deep night, from the truly dead, he has led me, with this true flesh which follows him. Thence his counsels have drawn me up, ascending and circling the mountain that sets you straight whom the world made crooked. So long he says that he will bear me company till I shall be there where Beatrice will be; there it behoves that I remain without him. Virgil is he who says thus to me,” and I pointed to him, “and this other is that shade for whom just now your realm, which from itself releases him, shook every slope.”

[1] Do not, for striving to see me through my changed look, delay to speak.

[2] Willingly to accept his suffering, even when he exclaimed, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”—Matthew, xxvii. 46.

[3] If thou didst delay repentance until thou couldst sin no more, how is it that so speedily thou hast arrived here?

[4] A mountainous district in Sardinia, inhabited by people of barbarous customs.


Sixth Ledge: the Gluttonous.—Forese Donati.—Bonagiunta of Lucca—Pope Martin IV—Ubaldin dalla Pila.—Bonifazio.—Messer Marchese.—Prophecy of Bonagiunta concerning Gentucca, and of Forese concerning Corso de’ Donati.—Second Mystic Tree.—The Angel of the Pass.

Speech made not the going, nor the going made that more slow; but, talking, we went on apace even as a ship urged by good wind. And the shades, that seemed things doubly dead, through the pits of their eyes drew in wonder at me, perceiving that I was alive.

And I, continuing my discourse, said, “He[1] goeth up perchance for another’s sake more slowly than he would do. But, tell me, if thou knowest, where is Piccarda[2] tell me if I see person of note among this folk that so gazes at me.” “My sister, who, between fair and good, was I know not which the most, triumphs rejoicing in her crown already on high Olympus.” So he said first, and then, “Here it is not forbidden to name each other, since our semblance is so milked away by the diet.[3] This,” and he pointed with his finger, “is Bonagiunta,[4] Bonagiunta of Lucca; and that face beyond him, more sharpened than the others, had the Holy Church in his arms:[5]from Tours he was; and by fasting he purges the eels of Bolsena, and the Vernaccia wine.” Many others he named to me, one by one, and at their naming all appeared content; so that for this I saw not one dark mien. For hunger using their teeth on emptiness, I saw Ubaldin dalla Pila, and Boniface,[6] who shepherded many people with his crook. I saw Messer Marchese, who once had leisure to drink at Forum with less thirst, and even so was such that he felt not sated. But as one does who looks, and then makes account more of one than of another, did I of him of Lucca, who seemed to have most cognizance of me. He was murmuring; and I know not what, save that I heard “Gentucca” there[7] where he felt the chastisement of the justice which so strips them. “O soul,” said I, “who seemest so desirous to speak with me, do so that I may hear thee, and satisfy both thyself and me by thy speech.” “A woman is born, and wears not yet the veil,”[8] he began, “who will make my city pleasant to thee, however men may blame it.[9] Thou shalt go on with this prevision: if from my murmuring thou hast received error, the true things will yet clear it up for thee. But say, if I here see him, who drew forth the new rhymes, beginning, ‘Ladies who have intelligence of Love’?”[10] And I to him, “I am one, who, when Love inspires me, notes, and in that measure which he dictates within, I go revealing.” “O brother, now I see,” said he, “the knot which held back the Notary,[11] and Guittone,[12] and me short of the sweet new style that I hear. I see clearly how your pens go on close following the dictator, which surely befell not with ours. And he who most sets himself to look further sees nothing more between one style and the other.” [13] And, as if contented, he was silent.

[1]Statius; more slowly, for the sake of remaining with Virgil.

[2] The sister of Forese, whom Dante meets in Paradise (Canto III.).

[3] Recognition by the looks being thus impossible.

[4] Bonagiunta Urbiciani; he lived and wrote in the last half of the thirteenth century.

[5] Martin IV., Pope from 1281 to 1284.

[6] Archbishop of Ravenna.

[7] Upon his lips.

[8] Of a married woman.

[9] This honorable and delightful reference to the otherwise unknown maiden, Gentucca of Lucca, has given occasion to much worthless and base comment. Dante was at Lucca during his exile, in 1314. He himself was one of those who blamed the city; see Hell, Canto XXI.

[10] The first verse of the first canzone of The New Life.

[11] The Sicilian poet, Jacopo da Lentino.

[12] Guittone d’ Arezzo, commonly called Fra Guittone, as one of the order of the Frati Gaudenti. Dante refers to him again in Canto XXVI.

[13] He who seeks for other reason does not find it.

As the birds that winter along the Nile sometimes make a flock in the air, then fly in greater haste, and go in file, so all the folk that were there, light both through leanness and through will, turning away their faces, quickened again their pace. And as the man who is weary of running lets his companions go on, and himself walks, until he vents the panting of his chest, so Forese let the holy flock pass on and came along behind, with me, saying, “When shall it be that I see thee again?” “I know not,” I replied to him, “how long I may live; but truly my return will not be so speedy, that I shall not in desire he sooner at the shore;[1] because the place where I was set to live, denudes itself more of good from day to day, and seems ordained to wretched ruin.” “Now go,” said he, “for I see him who hath most fault for this[2] dragged at the tail of a beast, toward the valley where there is no disculpation ever. The beast at every step goes faster, increasing always till it strikes him, and leaves his body vilely undone. Those wheels have not far to turn,” and he raised his eyes to heaven, “for that to become clear to thee which my speech cannot further declare. Now do thou stay behind, for time is so precious in this kingdom, that I lose too much coming thus at even pace with thee.”

[1] Of Purgatory.

[2] Corso de’ Donati, the leader of the Black Guelphs and chief cause of the evils of the city. On the 15th September, 1308, his enemies having risen against him, he was compelled to fly from Florence. Near the city he was thrown from his horse and dragged along, till he was overtaken and killed by his pursuers.

As a cavalier sometimes sets forth at a gallop from a troop which rides, and goes to win the honor of the first encounter, so he went away from us with greater strides; and I remained on the way with only those two who were such great marshals of the world.[1] And when he had entered so far before us that my eyes became such followers on him as my mind was on his words,[2] there appeared to me the laden and lusty branches of another apple-tree, and not far distant, because only then had I turned thitherward.[3] I saw people beneath it raising their hands and crying, I know not what, toward the leaves, like eager and fond little children who pray, and he they pray to answers not, hut, to make their longing very keen, holds aloft their desire, and conceals it not. Then they departed as if undeceived:[4] and now we came to the great tree that rejects so many prayers and tears. “Pass further onward, without drawing near; the tree[5] is higher up which was eaten of by Eve, and this plant has been raised from that.” Thus among the branches I know not who was speaking; wherefore Virgil and Statius and I, drawing close together, went onward along the side that rises.[6] “Be mindful,” the voice was saying, “of the accursed ones,[7] formed in the clouds, who, when glutted, strove against Theseus with their double breasts; and of the Hebrews, who, at the drinking, showed themselves soft,[8] wherefore Gideon wished them not for companions, when he went down the hills toward Midian.”

[1] “A marshal is a ruler of the court and of the army under the emperor, and should know how to command what ought to be done, as those two poets knew what it was befitting to do in the world in respect to moral and civil life.”—Buti.

[2] Could no longer follow him distinctly.

[3] In the circling course around the mountain.

[4] Having found vain the hope of reaching the fruit.

[5] The tree of knowledge, in the Earthly Paradise: Canto XXXII.

[6] On the inner side, by the wall of the mountain.

[7] The centaurs.

[8] Judges, vii. 4-7.

Thus keeping close to one of the two borders, we passed by, hearing of sins of gluttony followed, in sooth, by wretched gains. Then going at large along the lonely road, full a thousand steps and more had borne us onward, each of us in meditation without a word. “Why go ye thus in thought, ye three alone?” said a sudden voice; whereat I started as do terrified and timid beasts. I lifted up my head to see who it might be, and never were glass or metals seen so shining and ruddy in a furnace as one I saw who said, “If it please you to mount up, here must a turn be taken; this way he goes who wishes to go for peace.” His aspect had taken my sight from me, wherefore I turned me behind my teachers like one who goes according as he hears.[1] And as, harbinger of the dawn, the breeze of May stirs and smells sweet, all impregnate with the herbage and with the flowers, such a wind I felt strike upon the middle of my forehead, and clearly felt the motion of the plumes which made mime perceive the odor of ambrosia. And I heard said, “Blessed are they whom so much grace illumines, that the love of taste inspires not in their breasts too great desire, hungering always so far as is just.”[2]

[1] Blinded for the instant by the dazzling brightness of the angel,Dante drops behind his teachers, to follow them as one guided by hearing only.

[2] “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness.”—Matthew, v.6.

Dante has already cited this Beatitude (Canto XXII.), applying it to those who are purging themselves from the inordinate desire for riches; he there omits the word “hunger,” as here he omits the “and thirst.”


Ascent to the Seventh Ledge.—Discourse of Statius on generation, the infusion of the Soul into the body, and the corporeal semblance of Souls after death.—The Seventh Ledge: the Lustful.—The mode of their Purification.

It was the hour in which the ascent allowed no delay; for the meridian circle had been left by the Sun to the Bull, and by the Night to the Scorpion;[1] wherefore as the man doth who, whatever may appear to him, stops not, but goes on his way, if the goad of necessity prick him, so did we enter through the gap, one before the other, taking the stairway which by its narrowness unpairs the climbers.

[1] Taurus follows on Aries, so that the hour indicated is about 2 P.M. The Night here means the part of the Heavens opposite to the Sun.

And as the little stork that lifts its wing through will to fly, and dares not abandon the nest, and down it drops, so was I, with will to ask, kindled and quenched, coming even to the motion that he makes who proposes to speak. Nor, though our going was swift, did my sweet Father forbear, but he said, Discharge the bow of speech which up to the iron thou hast drawn.” Then I opened my mouth confidently, and began, “How can one become thin, where the need of nourishment is not felt?” “If thou hadst called to mind how Meleager was consumed by time consuming of a brand this would not be,” he said, “ so difficult to thee; and if thou hadst thought, how at your quivering your image quivers within the mirror, that which seems hard would seem easy to thee. But that thou mayst to thy pleasure be inwardly at ease, lo, here is Statius, and I call on him and pray that he be now the healer of thy wounds.” “If I explain to him the eternal view,” replied Statius, “where thou art present, let it excuse me that to thee I cannot snake denial.”[1]

[1] Here and elsewhere Statius seems to represent allegorically human philosophy enlightened by Christian teaching, dealing with questions of knowledge, not of faith.

Then he began, “If, son, thy mind regards and receives my words, they will be. for thee a light unto the ‘how,’ which thou askest.[1] The perfect blood which is never drunk by the thirsty veins, but remains like the food which thou removest from time table, takes in time heart virtue informative of all the human members; even as that blood does, which passes through the veins to become those members.[2] Digested yet again, it descends to the part whereof it is more becoming to be silent than to speak; and thence, afterwards, it drops upon another’s blood in the natural vessel. There one and the other meet together; the one ordained to be passive, and the other to be active because of the perfect place[3] wherefrom it is pressed out; and, conjoined with the former, the latter begins to operate, first by coagulating, and then by quickening that to which it gives consistency for its own material. The active virtue having become a soul, like that of a plant (in so far different that this is on the way, and that already arrived),[4] so worketh then, that now it moves and feels, as a sea-fungus doth; and then it proceeds to organize the powers of which it is the germ. Now, son, the virtue is displayed, now it is diffused, which issues from the heart of the begetter, where nature is intent on all the members.[5] But how from an animal it becomes a speaking being,[6] thou as yet seest not; this is such a point that once it made one wiser than thee to err, so that in his teaching he separated from the soul the potential intellect, because he saw no organ assumed by it.[7] Open thy heart unto the truth that is coming, and know that, so soon as in the foitus the articulation of the brain is perfect, the Primal Motor turns to it with joy over such art of nature, and inspires a new spirit replete with virtue, which draws that which it finds active there into its own substance, and makes one single soul which lives and feels and circles on itself. And that thou mayst the less wonder at this doctrine, consider the warmth of the sun which, combining with the juice that flows from the vine, becomes wine. And when Lachesis has no more thread, this soul is loosed from the flesh, and virtually bears away with itself both the human and the divine; the other faculties all of them mute,[8] but memory, understanding, and will[9] far more acute in action than before. Without staying, it falls of itself, marvelously to one of the banks.[10] Here it first knows its own roads. Soon as the place there circumscribes it, the formative virtue rays out around it in like manner, and as much as in the living members.[11] And as the air when it is full of rain becomes adorned with divers colors by another’s rays which are reflected in it, so here the neighboring air shapes itself in that form which is virtually imprinted upon it by the soul that hath stopped.[12] And then like the flamelet which follows the fire wherever it shifts, so its new form follows the spirit. Since thereafter from this it has its aspect, it is called a shade; and by this it shapes the organ for every sense even to the sight; by this we speak, and by this we laugh, by this we make the tears and the sighs, which on the mountain thou mayst have perceived. According as the desires and the other affections impress us the shade is shaped; and this is the cause of that at which thou wonderest.”

[1] The doctrine set forth by Statius in the following discourse is derived from St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol., i. 118, 119, who, in his turn, derived it from Aristotle. It is to be found, more briefly stated, in the Convito, iv. 21.

[2] A portion of the blood remains after the veins are supplied; in the heart all the blood receives the virtue by which it gives form to the various organs of the body.

[3] The heart.

[4] The vegetative soul in the plant has attained its full development, “has arrived;” in the animal is “on the way” to perfection.

[5] From the vegetative, the soul has become sensitive,—anima sensitiva.

[6] A being possessed of intellect,—the last stage in the progress of the soul, when it becomes came intellective.

[7] Averroes asserted the intellect to be impersonal and undivided in essence; not formally, but instrumentally only, united with the individual. Hence there was no personal immortality.

[8] The faculties of sense mute because their organs no longer exist.

[9]The spiritual faculties.

[10] Of Acheron or of Tiber, according as the soul is damned or saved.

[11] In this account of the formation of the bodily semblance in the spiritual realms, Statius no longer follows the doctrine of Aquinas. The conception is derived from Plato; but the form given to it is peculiar to Dante.

[12] Stopped in the place allotted to it.

And now we had come to the last circuit,[1] and turning to the right hand, we were intent upon another care. Here the bank shoots forth flame, and the ledge breathes a blast upward which drives it back, and sequesters a path from it.[2] Wherefore it was needful to go one by one along the unenclosed side; and on the one hand I was afraid of the fire, and on the other I was afraid of falling off. My Leader said, “Through this place, one must keep tight the rein upon the eyes, because for little one might go astray.” “Summae Deus clementiae,”[3] in the bosom of the great burning then I heard singing, which made me care not less to turn. And I saw spirits going through the flame; wherefore I looked at them and at my own steps, apportioning to each my sight from moment to moment. After the end of that hymn, they loudly cried: “Virum non cognosco;”[4] then began again the hymn with low voice; this finished, they cried anew, “To the wood Diana kept herself, and drove therefrom Helice,[5] who had felt the poison of Venus.” Then they turned to singing; then wives they cried out, and husbands who were chaste, as virtue and marriage enjoin upon us. And I believe this mode suffices them through all the time the fire burns them. With such cure it is needful, and with such food, that the last wound of all should be closed up.

[1] The word in the original is tortura. Benvenuto’s comment is, “nunc incipiebant torquere et flectere viam, ideo talem deflectionem appellat torturam.” Buti, on the contrary, says, “tortura cioe tormento.”

[2] Secures a safe pathway along the ledge.

[3] “God of clemency supreme,” the beginning of a hymn, sung at Matins, containing a prayer for purity.

[4] “I know not a man,” the words of Mary to the angel—Luke, i. 34.

[5] Helice, or Callisto, the nymph who bore a son to Jupiter, and, having been changed to a bear by Juno, was by Jove transferred with her child to the heavens, where they are seen as the Great and Little Bear.


Seventh Ledge: the Lustful.—Sinners in the fire, going in opposite directions.—Guido Guinicelli.—Arnaut Daniel.

While we were going on thus along the edge, one before the other, and the good Master was often saying, “Take heed! let it avail that I warn thee,” the sun was striking me on the right shoulder, and now, raying out, was changing all the west from azure to a white aspect; and with my shadow I was making the flame appear more ruddy, and only at such an indication[1] I saw many shades, as they went on, give attention. This was the occasion which gave them a beginning to speak of me, and they began to say, “He seems not a fictitious body;” then toward me, so far as they could do so, certain of them canine, always with regard not to come out where they would not be burned.

[1] At this sign that Dante’s body was that of a living man.

“O thou! who goest, not from being slower, but perhaps from reverence, behind the others, reply to me who in thirst and fire am burning. Nor to me only is thy reply of need, for all these have a greater thirst for it than Indian or Ethiop of cold water. Tell us how it is that thou makest of thyself a wall to the sun, as if thou hadst not yet entered within the net of death.” Thus spoke to me one of them; and I should now have disclosed myself, if I had not been intent on another new thing which then appeared; for through the middle of the burning road were coming people with their faces opposite to these, who made me gaze in suspense. There I see, on every side, all the shades making haste and kissing each other, without stopping, content with brief greeting. Thus within their brown band one ant touches muzzle with another, perchance to enquire their way and their fortune.

Soon as they end the friendly salutation, before the first step runs on beyond, each strives to outcry the other; the new-come folk: “Sodom and Gomorrah,” and the other, “Into the cow enters Pasiphae, that the bull may run to her lust.” Then like cranes, of whom part should fly to the Riphaean mountains,[1] and part toward the sands,[2] these shunning the frost and those the sun, one folk goes, the other comes on, and weeping they return to their first chants, and to the cry which most befits them.

[1] Mountains vaguely placed by the early geographers in the far North.

[2] The deserts of the South.

And those same who had prayed me drew near to me as before, intent in their looks to listen. I, who twice had seen their desire, began, “O souls secure of having, whenever it may he, a state of peace, neither unripe nor mature have my limbs remained yonder, but they are here with me with their blood, and with their joints. I go up in order to be no longer blind. A Lady is on high who winneth grace for us, whereby I bring my mortal part through your world. But so may your greater will soon become satisfied, in such wise that the heaven may harbor you which is full of love, and most amply spreads, tell me, in order that I may yet rule the paper for it, who are ye, and who are that crowd which goes its way behind your backs.”

Not otherwise stupefied, the mountaineer is confused, and gazing round is dumb, when rough and savage he enters the town, than each shade became in his appearance; but, after they were unburdened of their bewilderment, which in high hearts is quickly assuaged, “Blessed thou,” began again that one who first had asked me, “who of our regions dost ship experience for dying better. The people who do not come with us offended in that for which once Caesar in his triumph heard ‘Queen’ cried out against him; therefore they go off shouting ‘Sodom,’ reproving themselves as thou hast heard, and aid the burning by their shame. Our sin was hermaphrodite; but because we observed not human law, following our appetite like beasts, when we part from them, the name of her who bestialized herself in the beast-shaped planks is uttered by us, in opprobrium of ourselves. Now thou knowest our deeds, and of what we were guilty; if, perchance, thou wishest to know by name who we are, there is not time to tell, and I could not do it. I will indeed make thee short of wish about myself; I am Guido Guinicelli;[1] and now I purify myself, because I truly repented before my last hour.”

[1] Of Bologna; he was living after the middle of the thirteenth century. Of his life little is known, but some of his verses survive and justify Dante’s words concerning them.

Such as in the sorrow of Lycurgus her two sons became at seeing again their mother,[1] such I became, but I rise not so far,[2] when I heard name himself the father of me, and of my betters who ever used sweet and gracious rhymes of love; and without hearing or speaking, full of thought I went on, gazing a long time upon him; nor, for the fire, did I draw nearer to him. After I was fed with looking, I offered myself wholly ready for his service, with the affirmation that makes another believe. And he to me, “By what I hear thou leavest such trace in me, and so bright, that Lethe cannot take it away nor make it dim. But if thy words have now sworn truth, tell me what is time cause why in speech and look thou showest that thou dost hold me dear?” And I to him, “The sweet ditties of yours, which, so long as the modern fashion shall endure, will still make dear their ink.” “O brother,” said he, “this one whom I distinguish for thee with my finger,” and he pointed to a spirit in advance,[3] “was a better smith of the maternal speech. In verses of love, and prose of romances, he excelled all, and let the foolish talk who think that he of Limoges[4] surpasses him; to rumor more than to truth they turn their faces, and thus confirm their own opinion, before art or reason is listened to by them. Thus did many of old concerning Guittone,[5] from cry to cry only to him giving the prize, until the truth has prevailed with more persons. Now if thou hast such ample privilege that it he permitted thee to go unto the cloister in which Christ is abbot of the college, say for me to him one paternoster, so far as needs for us in this world where power to sin is no longer ours.”[6]

[1] “Lycurgus, King of Nemaea, enraged with Hypsipyle for leaving his infant child, who was killed by a serpent, while she was showing the river Langia to the Argives (see Canto XXII.), was about to kill her, when she was found and rescued by her own suns.”—Statius, Thebaid, v. 721 (Pollock).

[2] I was more restrained than they.

[3] Arnaut Daniel, a famous troubadour.

[4] Gerault de Berneil.

[5] Guittone d’ Arezzo (see Canto XXIV.).

[6] The words in the Lord’s Prayer, “Deliver us from temptation,” are not needed for the spirits in Purgatory.

Then, perhaps to give place to the other who was near behind him, he disappeared through the fire, even as through the water a fish going to the bottom. I moved forward a little to him who had been pointed out to me, and said, that for his name my desire was making ready a gracious place. He began graciously to say,[1] “So pleaseth me your courteous demand that I cannot, and I will not, hide me from you. I am Arnaut who weep and go singing; contrite I see my past folly, and joyful I see before me the day I hope for. Now I pray you by that virtue which guides you to the summit of the stair, at times be mindful of my pain.” Then he hid himself in the fire that refines them.

[1] The words of Daniel are in the Provencal tongue.


Seventh Ledge: the Lustful.—Passage through the Flames.—Stairway in the rock.—Night upon the stairs.—Dream of Dante.—Morning.—Ascent to the Earthly Paradise.—Last words of Virgil.

As when he darts forth his first rays there where his Maker shed His blood (Ebro falling under the lofty Scales, and the waves in the Ganges scorched by noon) so the sun was now standing;[1] so that the day was departing, when the glad Angel of God appeared to us. Outside the flame he was standing on the bank, and was singing, “Beati mundo corde,”[2] in a voice far more living than ours: then, “No one goes further, ye holy souls, if first the fire sting not; enter into it, and to the song beyond be ye not deaf,” he said to us, when we were near him. Whereat I became such, when I heard him, as is he who in the pit is put.[3] With hands clasped upwards, I stretched forward, looking at the fire, and imagining vividly human bodies I had once seen burnt. The good Escorts turned toward me, and Virgil said to me, “My son, here may be torment, but not death. Bethink thee! bethink thee! and if I even upon Geryon guided thee safe, what shall I do now that I am nearer God? Believe for certain that if within the belly of this flame thou shouldst stand full a thousand years, it could not make thee bald of one hair. And if thou perchance believest that I deceive thee, draw near to it, and make trial for thyself with fine own hands on the hem of thy garments. Put aside now, put aside every fear; turn hitherward, and come on secure.”

[1] It was near sunrise at Jerusalem, and consequently near sunset in Purgatory, midnight in Spain, and midday at the Ganges.

[2] “Blessed are the pure in heart.”

[3] Who is condemned to be buried alive.

And I still motionless and against conscience!

When he saw me still stand motionless and obdurate, he said, disturbed a little, “Now see, son, between Beatrice and thee is this wall.”

As at the name of Thisbe, Pyramus, at point of death, opened his eyelids and looked at her, what time the mulberry became vermilion, so, my obduracy becoming softened, I turned me to the wise Leader, hearing the name that in my memory is ever welling up. Whereat he nodded his head, amid said, “How! do we want to stay on this side?” then he smiled as one doth at a child who is conquered by an apple.

Then within the fire he set himself before me, praying Statius, that he would come behind, who previously, on the long road, had divided us. When I was in, into boiling glass I would have thrown myself to cool me, so without measure was the burning there. My sweet Father, to encourage me, went talking ever of Beatrice, saying, “I seem already to see her eyes. A voice was guiding us, which was singing on the other side, and we, ever attentive to it, came forth there where was the ascent. “Venite, benedicti patris mei,”[1] sounded within a light that was there such that it overcame me, and I could not look on it. “The sun departs,” it added, “and the evening comes; tarry not, but hasten your steps so long as the west grows not dark.”

[1] “Come, ye blessed of my Father.”—Matthew, xxv. 34.

The way mounted straight, through the rock, in such direction[1] that I cut off in front of me the rays of the sun which was already low. And of few stairs had we made essay ere, by the vanishing of the shadow, both I and my Sages perceived behind us the setting of the sun. And before the horizon in all its immense regions had become of one aspect, and night had all her dispensations, each of us made of a stair his bed; for the nature of the mountain took from us the power more than the delight of ascending.

[1] Toward the east.

As goats, who have been swift and wayward on the peaks ere they are fed, become tranquil as they ruminate, silent in the shade while the sun is hot, guarded by the herdsman, who on his staff is leaning and, leaning, watches them; and as the shepherd, who lodges out of doors, passes the night beside his quiet flock, watching that the wild beast may not scatter it: such were we all three then, I like a goat, and they hike shepherds, hemmed in on this side and on that by the high rock. Little of the outside could there appear, but through that little I saw the stars both brighter and larger than their wont. Thus ruminating, and thus gazing upon them, sleep overcame me, sleep which oft before a deed be done knows news thereof.

At the hour, I think, when from the east on the mountain first beamed Cytherea, who with fire of love seems always burning, I seemed in dream to see a lady, young and beautiful, going through a meadow gathering flowers, and singing she was saying, “Let him know, whoso asks my name, that I am Leah, and I go moving my fair hands around to make myself a garland. To please me at the glass here I adorn me, but my sister Rachel never withdraws from her mirror, and sits all day. She is as fain to look with her fair eyes as I to adorn me with my hands. Her seeing, and me doing, satisfies.”[1]

[1] Leah and Rachel are the types of the active and the contemplative life.

And now before the splendors which precede the dawn, and rise the more grateful unto pilgrims as in returning they lodge less remote,[1] the shadows fled away on every side, and my sleep with them; whereupon I rose, seeing my great Masters already risen. That pleasant apple which through so many branches the care of mortals goes seeking, to-day shall put in peace thy hungerings.” Virgil used words such as these toward me, and never were there gifts which could be equal in pleasure to these. Such wish upon wish came to me to be above, that at every step thereafter I felt the feathers growing for my flight.

[1] As they come nearer home.

When beneath us all the stairway had been run, and we were on the topmost step, Virgil fixed his eyes on me, and said, “The temporal fire and the eternal thou hast seen, son, and art come to a place where of myself no further onward I discern. I have brought thee here with understanding and with art; thine own pleasure now take thou for guide: forth art thou from the steep ways, forth art thou from the narrow. See there the sun, which on thy front doth shine; see the young grass, the flowers, the shrubs, which here the earth of itself alone produces. Until rejoicing come the beautiful eyes which weeping made me come to thee, thou canst sit down and thou canst go among them. Expect no more or word or sign from me. Free, upright, and sane is thine own free will, and it would be wrong not to act according to its pleasure; wherefore thee over thyself I crown and mitre.”


The Earthly Paradise.—The Forest.—A Lady gathering flowers on the bank of a little stream.—Discourse with her concerning the nature of the place.

Fain now to search within and round about the divine forest dense and living, which tempered the new day to my eyes, without longer waiting I left the bank, taking the level ground very slowly, over the soil that everywhere breathes fragrance. A sweet breeze that had no variation in itself struck me on the brow, not with heavier blow than a soft wind; at which the branches, readily trembling, all of them were bending to the quarter where the holy mountain casts its first shadow; yet not so far parted from their straightness, that the little birds among the tops would leave the practice of their every art; but with full joy singing they received the early breezes among the leaves, which kept a burden to their rhymes, such as gathers from bough to bough through the pine forest upon the shore of Chiassi, when Aeolus lets forth Sirocco.[1]

[1] The south-east wind.

Now had my show steps carried me within the ancient wood so far that I could not see back to where I had entered it: and lo, a stream took from me further progress, which toward the left with its little waves was bending the grass that sprang upon its bank. All the waters, that are purest on the earth, would seem to have some mixture in them, compared with that which hides nothing, although it moves along dusky under the perpetual shadow, which never lets the sun or moon shine there.

With feet I stayed, and with my eyes I passed to the other side of the streamlet, to gaze at the great variety of the fresh may; and there appeared to me, even as a thing appears suddenly which turns aside through wonder every other thought, a solitary lady, who was going along, singing, and culling flower from flower, wherewith all her path was painted. “Ah, fair Lady,[1] who warmest thyself in the rays of love, if I may trust to looks which are wont to be witnesses of the heart, may the will come to thee,” said I to her, “to draw forward toward this stream, so far that I can understand what thou art singing. Thou makest me remember where and what was Proserpine, at the time when her mother lost her, and she the spring.”

[1] This lady is the type of the life of virtuous activity. Her name, as appears later, is Matilda. Why this name was chosen for her, and whether she stands for any earthly personage, has been the subject of vast and still open debate.

As a lady who is dancing turns with feet close to the ground and to each other, and hardly sets foot before foot, she turned herself on the red and on the yellow flowerets toward me, not otherwise than a virgin who lowers her modest eyes, and made my prayers content, approaching so that the sweet sound came to me with its meaning. Soon as she was there where the grasses are now bathed by the waves of the fair stream, she bestowed on me the gift of lifting her eyes. I do not believe that so great a light shone beneath the lids of Venus, transfixed by her son, beyond all his custom. She was smiling upon the opposite right bank, gathering with her hands more colors which that high land brings forth without seed. The stream made us three paces apart; but the Hellespont where Xerxes passed it—a curb still on all human pride—endured not more hatred from Leander for swelling between Sestos and Abydos, than that from me because it opened not then. “Ye are new come,” she began, “and, perchance, why I smile mu this place chosen for human nature as its nest, some doubt holds you marvelling; but the psalm ‘Delectasti’[1] affords light which may uncloud your understanding.And thou who art in front, and didst pray to me, say, if else thou wouldst hear, for I came ready for every question of thine, so far as may suffice.” “The water,” said I, “and the sound of the forest, impugn within me recent faith in something that I heard contrary to this.” Whereon she, “I will tell, how from its own cause proceeds that which makes thee wonder; and I will clear away the mist which strikes thee.

[1] Psalm xcii. 4. “Delectasti me, Domine, in factura tua, et in operibus mannuum tuarum exultabo.” “For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work; I will triumph in the works of thy hands.”

“The supreme Good, which itself alone is pleasing to itself, made man good, and for good, and gave this place for earnest to him of eternal peace. Through his own default he dwelt here little while; through his own default to tears and to toil he changed honest laughter and sweet play. In order that the disturbance, which the exhalations of the water and of the earth (which follow so far as they can the heat) produce below, might not make any war on man, this mountain rose so high toward heaven, and is free from them from the point where it is locked in.[1] Now because the whole air revolves in circuit with the primal revolution,[2] if its circle be not broken by some projection, upon this height, which is wholly disengaged in the living air, this motion strikes, and makes the wood, since it is dense, resound; and the plant being struck hath such power that with its virtue it impregnates the breeze, and this then in its whirling scatters it around: and the rest of the earth, according as it is fit in itself, or through its sky, conceives and brings forth divers trees of divers virtues. It should not seem a marvel then on earth, this being heard, when some plant, without manifest seed, there takes hold. And thou must know that the holy plain where thou art is full of every seed, and has fruit in it which yonder is not gathered. The water which thou seest rises not from a vein restored by vapor which the frost condenses, like a stream that gains and loses breath, but it issues from a fountain constant and sure, which by the will of God regains as much as, open on two sides, it pours forth. On this side it descends with virtue that takes from one the memory of sin; on the other it restores that of every good deed. Here Lethe, so on the other side Eunoe it is called; and it works not if first it be not tasted on this side and on that. To all other savors this is superior.

[1] Above the level of the gate through which Purgatory is entered, as Statius has already explained (Canto XXI), the vapors of earth do not rise.

[2] With the movement given to it by the motions of the heavens.

“And, though thy thirst may be fully sated even if I disclose no more to thee, I will yet give thee a corollary for grace; nor do I think my speech may be less dear to thee, if beyond promise it enlarge itself with thee. Those who in ancient time told in poesy of the Age of Gold, and of its happy state, perchance upon Parnassus dreamed of this place: here was the root of mankind innocent; here is always spring, and every fruit; this is the nectar of which each tells.”

I turned me back then wholly to my Poets, and saw that with a smile they had heard the last sentence; then to the beautiful Lady I turned my face.


The Earthly Paradise.—Mystic Procession or Triumph of the Church.

Singing like a lady enamored, she, at the ending of her words, continued: “Beati, quorum tecta sunt peccata;”[1] and, like nymphs who were wont to go solitary through the sylvan shades, this one desiring to see and that to avoid the sun, she moved on then counter to the stream, going up along the bank, and I at even pace with her, following her little step with little. Of her steps and mine were not a hundred, when the banks both like gave a turn, in such wise that toward the east I faced again. Nor thus had our way been long, when the lady wholly turned round to me, saying, “My brother, look and listen.” And lo! a sudden lustre ran from all quarters through the great forest, so that it put me in suspect of lightning. But because the lightning ceases even as it comes, and this, hasting, became more and more resplendent, in my thought I said, “What thing is this?” And a sweet melody ran through the luminous air; whereupon a righteous zeal caused me to blame the temerity of Eve, that, there, where time earth and the heavens were obedient, the woman only, and but just now formed, did not endure to stay under any veil; under which if she had devoutly stayed I should have tasted those ineffable delights before, and for a longer time. While I was going on and such first fruits of the eternal pleasure, all enrapt, and still desirous of more joys, in front of us the air under the green branches became like a blazing fire, and the sweet sound was now heard as a song.

[1] “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven.”—Psalm xxxii. 1.

O Virgins sacrosanct, if ever hunger, cold, or vigils I have endured for you, time occasion spurs me that I claim reward therefor. Now it behoves that Helicon pour forth for me, and Urania aid me with her choir to put in verse things difficult to think.

A little further on, the long tract of space which was still between us and them presented falsely what seemed seven trees of gold. But when I had come so near to them that the common object, which deceives the sense,[1] lost not through distance any of its attributes, the power which supplies discourse to reason distinguished them as candlesticks,[2] and in the voices of the song, “Hosanna.” From above the fair array was flaming, brighter by far than the Moon in the serene of midnight, in the middle of her month. I turned me round full of wonder to the good Virgil, and he replied to me with a look charged not less with amazement. Then I turned back my face to the high things that were moving toward us so slowly they would have been outstripped by new-made brides. The lady cried to me, “Why burnest thou only thus with affection for the living lights, and lookest not at that which comes behind them?” Then saw I folk coming behind, as if after their leaders, clothed in white, and such purity there never was on earth. The water was resplendent on the left flank, and reflected to me my left side, if I looked in it, even as a mirror. When on my bank I had such position that only the stream separated me, in order to see better, I gave halt to my steps. And I saw the flamelets go forward heaving the air behind them painted, and they had the semblance of streaming pennons, so that there above it remained divided by seven stripes all in those colors whereof the sun makes his bow, and Delia her girdle.[3] These banners to the rear were longer than my sight, and according to my judgment the outermost were ten paces apart. Under so fair a sky as I describe, twenty-four elders,[4] two by two, were coming crowned with flower-de-luce. All were singing, “Blessed thou among the daughters of Adam, and blessed forever be thy beauties.”

[1] An object which has properties common to many things, so that at a distance the sight cannot distinguish its specific nature.

[2] The imagery of the Triumph of the Church here described is largely taken from this Apocalypse. “And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks.”—Revelation, i. 12. “And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.”—Id., iv. 5. “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.”—Isiah xi. 2.

[3] Delia, the moon, and her girdle the halo.

[4] “And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment.”—Revelation, iv. 4. These four and twenty elders in white raiment, and crowned with white lilies, white being the color of faith, symbolize the books of the Old Testament.

After the flowers, and the other fresh herbage opposite to me on the other bank, were free from those folk elect, even as light followeth light in heaven, came behind them four living creatures, crowned each one with green leaves. Every one was feathered with six wings, the feathers full of eyes; and the eyes of Argus were they living would be such. To describe their forms I scatter rhymes no more, Reader; for other spending constrains me so that in this I cannot be liberal. But read Ezekiel, who depicts them as he saw them coming from the cold region with wind, with cloud, and with fire; and such as thou wilt find them in his pages such were they here, save that as to the wings John is with me, and differs from him.[1]

[1] These four living creatures symbolize the Gospels. Ezekiel (i.6) describes the creatures with four wings, but in the Revelation (iv. 8) John assigns to each of them six wings: “and they were full of eyes within.” They are crowned with green, as the color of hope.

The space between these four contained a triumphal chariot upon two wheels, which by the neck of a griffon[1] came drawn along. And he stretched up one and the other of his wings between the midmost stripe, and the three and three, so that he did harm to no one of them by cleaving it. So far they rose that they were not seen. His members were of gold so far as he was bird, and the rest were white mixed with red. Not Africanus, or indeed Augustus, gladdened Rome with so beautiful a chariot; but even that of the Sun would be poor to it,—that of the Sun which, going astray,[2] was consumed at the prayer of the devout Earth, when Jove in his secrecy was just. Three ladies,[3] at the right wheel, came dancing in a circle; one so ruddy that hardly would she have been noted in the fire; the next was as if her flesh and bones had been made of emerald; the third seemed snow just fallen. And now they seemed led by the white, now by the red, and from her song the others took their step both slow and swift. On the left four[4] robed in purple made festival, following the measure of one of them who had three eyes in her head.

[1] The griffon, half eagle and half lion, represents Christ in his double nature, divine and human. The car which he draws is the Church.

[2] When driven by Phaethon.

[3] The theological virtues, Faith, Hope, and Charity, of the colors respectively appropriate to them.

[4] The four cardinal Virtues, in purple, the imperial color, typifying their rule over human conduct. Prudence has three eyes, as looking at the past, the present, and the future.

Next after all the group described, I saw two old men, unlike in dress, but like in action, both dignified and staid. The one showed himself one of the familiars of that supreme Hippocrates whom Nature made for the creatures that she holds most dear[1] the other showed the contrary care,[2] with a shining and sharp sword, such that it caused me fear on the hither side of the stream. Then I saw four humble in appearance, and behind all an old man solitary coming asleep with lively countenance.[3] And these seven were robed like the first band; but they made not a thicket of lilies round their heads, rather of roses, and of other red flowers. The sight at little distance would have sworn that all were aflame above their brows. And when the chariot was opposite to me thunder was heard, and those worthy people seemed to have further progress interdicted, stopping there with the first ensigns.

[1] The book of Acts, represented under rho type of its author, St. Luke, “the beloved physician.” Colossians, iv. 14. Man is the creature whom Nature holds dearest.

[2] The Pauline Epistles, typified by their writer, whose sword is the symbol of war and martyrdom, a contrary care to the healing of men.

[3] The four humble in appearance are personifications of the writers of the minor Epistles, followed by St. John, as the writer of the Revelation, asleep, and yet with lively countenance, because he was “in the Spirit” when he beheld his vision.


The Earthly Paradise.—Beatrice appears.—Departure of Virgil.—Reproof of Dante by Beatrice.

When the septentrion of the first heaven[1] which never setting knew, nor rising, nor veil of other cloud than sin,—and which was making every one there acquainted with his duty, as the lower[2] makes whoever turns the helm to come to port,—stopped still, the truthful people[3] who had come first between the griffon and it,[4] turned to the chariot as to their peace, and one of them, as if sent from heaven, singing, cried thrice, “Veni, sponsa, de Libano,”[5] and all the others after.

[1] The seven candlesticks, symbols of the sevenfold spirit of the Lord.

[2] The lower septentrion, or the seven stars of the Great Bear.

[3] The personifications of the truthful books of the Old Testament.

[4] The septentrion of candlesticks.

[5] “Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse.”—The Song of Solomon, iv. 8.

As time blessed at the last trump will arise swiftly, each from his tomb, singing hallelujah with recovered voice,[1] so upon the divine chariot, ad vocem tanti senis,[2] rose up a hundred ministers and messengers of life eternal. All were saying, “Benedictus, qui venis,”[3] and, scattering flowers above and around, “Manibus o date lilia plenis.”[4]

[1] “And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in Heaven, saying, Alleluia-”—Revelation, xix. 1.

[2] “At the voice of so great an elder;” these words are in Latin apparently only for the sake of the rhyme.

[3] “Blessed thou that comest.”

[4] “Oh, give lilies with full hands;” words from the Aeneid, vi. 884, sung by the angels.

I have seen ere now at the beginning of the day the eastern region all rosy, while the rest of heaven was beautiful with fair clear sky; and the face of the sun rise shaded, so that through the tempering of vapors the eye sustained it a long while. Thus within a cloud of flowers, which from the angelic hands was ascending, and falling down again within and without, a lady, with olive wreath above a white veil, appeared to me, robed with the color of living flame beneath a green mantle.[1] And my spirit that now for so long a time had not been broken down, trembling with amazement at her presence, without having more knowledge by the eyes, through occult virtue that proceeded from her, felt the great potency of ancient love.

[1] The olive is the symbol of wisdom and of peace the three colors are those of Faith, Charity, and Hope.

Soon as upon my sight the lofty virtue smote, which already had transfixed me ere I was out of boyhood, I turned me to the left with the confidence with which the little child runs to his mother when he is frightened, or when he is troubled, to say to Virgil, “Less than a drachm of blood remains in me that doth not tremble; I recognize the signals of the ancient flame,”[1]—but Virgil had left us deprived of himself; Virgil, sweetest Father, Virgil to whom I for my salvation gave me. Nor did all which the ancient mother lost[2] avail unto my cheeks, cleansed with dew,[3] that they should not turn dark again with tears.

[1] “Agnosco veteris vestigia flammae.”—Aeneid, iv. 23.

[2] All the beauty of Paradise which Eve lost.

[3] See Canto I.

“Dante, though Virgil be gone away, weep not yet, weep not yet, for it behoves thee to weep by another sword.”

Like an admiral who, on poop or on prow, comes to see the people that are serving on the other ships, and encourages them to do well, upon the left border of the chariot,—when I turned me at the sound of my own name, which of necessity is registered here,—I saw the Lady, who had first appeared to me veiled beneath the angelic festival, directing her eyes toward me across the stream although the veil, which descended from her head, circled by the leaf of Minerva, did not allow her to appear distinctly. Royally, still haughty in her mien, she went on, as one who speaks, and keeps back his warmest speech: “Look at me well: I am, indeed, I am, indeed, Beatrice. How hast thou deigned to approach the mountain? Didst thou know that man is happy here?” My eyes fell down into the clear fount; but seeing myself in it I drew them to the grass, such great shame burdened my brow. As to the son the mother seems proud, so she seemed to me; for somewhat bitter tasteth the savor of stern pity. She was silent, and the angels sang of a sudden, “In te, Domine, speravi;” but beyond “pedes meos”[1] they did not pass. Even as the snow, among the living rafters upon the back of Italy, is congealed, blown and packed by Sclavonian winds, then melting trickles through itself, if only the land that loses shadow breathe,[2] so that it seems a fire that melts the candle: so was I without tears and sighs before the song of those who time their notes after the notes of the eternal circles. But when I heard in their sweet accords their compassion for me, more than if they had said, “Lady, why dost thou so confound him?” the ice that was bound tight around my heart became breath and water, and with anguish poured from my breast through my mouth and eyes.

[1] “In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness. Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily: be thou my strong rock, for an house of defence to save me. For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me. Pull me out of the net that they have laid privily for me: for thou art my strength. Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth. I have hated them that regard lying vanities: but I trust in the Lord. I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy: for thou hast considered my trouble; thou hast known my soul in adversities. And hast not shut me up into the hand of the enemy: thou hast set my feet in a large room.”—Psalm xxxi. 1-8.

[2] If the wind blow from Africa.

She, still standing motionless on the aforesaid side of the chariot, then turned her words to those pious[1] beings thus: “Ye watch in the eternal day, so that nor night nor slumber robs from you one step the world may make along its ways; wherefore my reply is with greater care, that he who is weeping yonder may understand me, so that fault and grief may be of one measure. Not only through the working of the great wheels,[2] which direct every seed to some end according as the stars are its companions, but through largess of divine graces, which have for their rain vapors so lofty that our sight goes not near thereto,—this man was such in his new life, virtually, that every right habit would have made admirable proof in him. But so much the more malign and more savage becomes the land ill-sown and untilled, as it has more of good terrestrial vigor. Some time did I sustain him with my face; showing my youthful eyes to him I led him with me turned in right direction. So soon as I was upon the threshold of my second age, and had changed life, this one took himself from me, and gave himself to others. When from flesh to spirit I had ascended, and beauty and virtue were increased in me, I was less dear and less pleasing to him; and he turned his steps along a way not true, following false images of good, which pay no promise in full. Nor did it avail me to obtain[3] inspirations with which, both in dream and otherwise, I called him back; so little did he heed them. So low he fell that all means for his salvation were already short, save showing him the lost people. For this I visited the gate of the dead, and to him, who has conducted him up hither, my prayers were borne with weeping. The high decree of God would be broken, if Lethe should be passed, and such viands should be tasted without any scot of repentance which may pour forth tears.”

[1] Both devout and piteous.

[2] The circling heavens.

[3] Through the grace of God.


The Earthly Paradise.—Reproachful discourse of Beatrice, amid confession of Dante.—Passage of Lethe.—Appeal of the Virtues to Beatrice.—Her Unveiling.

“O thou who art on the further side of the sacred river,” turning her speech with the point to me, which only by the edge had seemed to me keen, she began anew, going on without delay, “say, say, if this is true: to so great an accusation it behoves that thine own confession be conjoined.” My power was so confused, that the voice moved, and became extinct before it could be released by its organs. A little she bore it; then she said, “What thinkest thou? Reply to me; for the sad memories in thee are not yet injured by the water.”[1] Confusion and fear together mingled forced such a “Yes” from out my mouth, that the eyes were needed for the understanding of it.

[1] Are still vivid, not yet obliterated by the water of Lethe.

As a cross-bow breaks its cord and its bow when it shoots with too great tension, and with less force the shaft hits the mark, so did I burst under that heavy load, pouring forth tears and sighs, and the voice slackened along its passage. Whereupon she to me, “Within those desires of mine[1] that were leading thee to love the Good beyond which there is nothing whereto man may aspire, what trenches running traverse, or what chains didst thou find, for which thou wert obliged thus to abandon the hope of passing onward? And what enticements, or what advantages on the brow of the others were displayed,[2] for which thou wert obliged to court them?” After the drawing of a bitter sigh, hardly had I the voice that answered, and the lips with difficulty gave it form. Weeping, I said, “The present things with their false pleasure turned my steps, soon as your face was hidden.” And she: “Hadst thou been silent, or hadst thou denied that which thou dost confess, thy fault would be not less noted, by such a Judge is it known. But when the accusation of the sin, bursts from one’s own cheek, in our court the wheel turns itself back against the edge. But yet, that thou mayst now bear shame for thy error, and that another time, hearing the Sirens, thou mayst be stronger, hay aside the seed of weeping, and listen; so shalt thou hear how in opposite direction my buried flesh ought to have moved thee. Never did nature or art present to thee pleasure such as the fair limbs wherein I was enclosed; and they are scattered in earth. And if the supreme pleasure thus failed thee through my death, what mortal thing ought then to have drawn thee into its desire? Forsooth thou oughtest, at the first arrow of things deceitful, to have risen up, following me who was no longer such. Nor should thy wings have weighed thee downward to await more blows, either girl or other vanity of so brief a use. The young little bird awaits two or three; but before the eyes of the full-fledged, the net is spread in vain, the arrow shot.”

[1] Inspired by me.

[2] The false pleasures of the world.

As children, ashamed, dumb, with eyes upon the ground, stand listening and conscience-stricken and repentant, so was I standing. And she said, “Since through hearing thou art grieved, lift up thy beard, and thou shalt receive more grief in seeing.” With less resistance is a sturdy oak uprooted by a native wind, or by one from the land of Iarbas,[1] than I raised up my chin at her command; and when by the beard she asked for my eyes, truly I recognized the venom of the argument.[2] And as my face stretched upward, my sight perceived that those primal creatures were resting from their strewing, and my eyes, still little assured, saw Beatrice turned toward the animal that is only one person in two natures.[3] Beneath her veil and beyond the stream she seemed to me more to surpass her ancient self, than she surpassed the others here when she was here. So pricked me there the nettle of repentance, that of all other things the one which most turned me aside unto its love became most hostile to me.[4]

[1] From Numidia, of which Iarbas was king.

[2] Because indicating the lack of that wisdom which should pertain to manhood.

[3] The griffon.

[4] That object which had most seduced me from the love of Beatrice was now the most hateful to me.

Such contrition stung my heart that I fell overcome; and what I then became she knows who afforded me the cause.

Then, when my heart restored my outward faculties, I saw above me the lady whom I had found alone,[1] and she was saying, “Hold me, hold me.” She had drawn me into the stream up to the throat, and dragging me behind was moving upon the water light as a shuttle. When I was near the blessed shore, “Asperges me”[2] I heard so sweetly that I cannot remember it, far less can write it. The beautiful lady opened her arms, clasped my head, and plunged me in where it behoved that I should swallow the water.[3] Then she took me, and, thus bathed, brought me within the dance of the four beautiful ones,[4] and each of them covered me with her arm. “Here we are nymphs, and in heaven we are stars: ere Beatrice had descended to the world we were ordained unto her for her handmaids. We will head thee to her eyes; but in the joyous light which is within them, the three yonder who deeper gaze shall make keen thine own.”[5] Thus singing, they began; and then to the breast of the griffon they led me with them, where Beatrice was standing turned toward us. They said, “See that thou sparest not thy sight: we have placed thee before the emeralds whence Love of old drew his arrows upon thee.” A thousand desires hotter than flame bound my eyes to the relucent eyes which only upon the griffon were standing fixed. As the sun in a mirror, not otherwise the twofold animal was gleaming therewithin, now with one, now with another mode.[6] Think, Reader, if I marvelled when I saw the thing stand quiet in itself, while in its image it was transmuting itself.

[1] Matilda.

[2] The first words of the seventh verse of the fifty-first Psalm: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

[3] The drinking of the waters of Lethe which obliterate the memory of sin.

[4] The four Cardinal Virtues.

[5] The Cardinal Virtues lead up to Theology, or the knowledge of Divine things, but the Evangelic Virtues are needed to penetrate within them.

[6] Mode of being,—the divine and the human.

While, full of amazement and glad, my soul was tasting that food which, sating of itself, causes hunger for itself, the other three, showing themselves in their bearing of loftier order, came forward dancing to their angelic melody. “Turn, Beatrice, turn thy holy eyes,” was their song, “upon thy faithful one, who to see thee has taken so many steps. For grace do us the grace that thou unveil to hum thy mouth, so that he may discern the second beauty which thou concealest.”[1]

[1] “The eyes of Wisdom are her demonstrations by which one sees the truth most surely; and her smile is her persuasions in which the interior light of Wisdom is displayed without any veil; and in these two is felt that loftiest pleasure of Beatitude, which is the chief good in Paradise.”—Convito, iii 15.

Oh splendor of living light eternal! Who hath become so pallid under the shadow of Parnassus, or hath so drunk at its cistern, that he would not seem to have his mind encumbered, trying to represent thee as thou didst appear there where in harmony the heaven overshadows thee when in the open air thou didst thyself disclose?


The Earthly Paradise.—Return of the Triumphal procession.—The Chariot bound to the Mystic Tree.—Sleep of Dante.—His waking to find the Triumph departed.—Transformation of the Chariot.—The Harlot and the Giant.

So fixed and intent were mine eyes to relieve their ten years’ thirst, that my other senses were all extinct: and they themselves, on one side and the other, had a wall of disregard, so did the holy smile draw them to itself with the old net; when perforce my sight was turned toward my left by those goddesses,[1] because I heard from them a “Too fixedly.”[2] And the condition which exists for seeing in eyes but just now smitten by the sun caused me to be some time without sight. But when the sight reshaped itself to the little (I say to the little, in respect to the great object of the sense wherefrom by force I had removed myself), I saw that the glorious army had wheeled upon its right flank, and was returning with the sun and with the seven flames in its face.

[1] The three heavenly Virtues.

[2] “Thou lookest too fixedly; thou hast yet other duties than contemplation.”

As under its shields to save itself a troop turns and wheels with its banner, before it all can change about, that soldiery of the celestial realm which was in advance had wholly gone past us before its front beam[1] had bent the chariot round. Then to the wheels the ladies returned, and the griffon moved his blessed burden, in such wise however that no feather of him shook. The beautiful lady who had drawn me at the ford, and Statius and I were following the wheel which made its orbit with the smaller arc. So walking through the lofty wood, empty through fault of her who trusted to the serpent, an angelic song set the time to our steps. Perhaps an arrow loosed from the bow had in three flights reached such a distance as we had advanced, when Beatrice descended. I heard “Adam!” murmured by all:[2] then they circled a plant despoiled of flowers and of other leafage on every bough.[3] Its branches, which so much the wider spread the higher up they are,[4] would be wondered at for height by the Indians in their woods.

[1] Its pole.

[2] In reproach of him who had in disobedience tasted of the fruit of this tree.

[3] After the sin of Adam the plant was despoiled of virtue till the coming of Christ.

[4] The branches of the tree of knowledge spread widest as they are nearest to the Divine Source of truth.

“Blessed art thou, Griffon, that thou dost not break off with thy beak of this wood sweet to the taste, since the belly is ill racked thereby.”[1] Thus around the sturdy tree the others cried; and the animal of two natures: “So is preserved the seed of all righteousness.”[2] And turning to the pole that he had drawn, he dragged it to the foot of the widowed trunk, and that which was of it[3] he left bound to it.

[1] “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”—Romans, v. 19.

[2] “That as sin had reigned unto deaths, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ, our Lord.”—Id., v. 21.

[3] This pole, the mystic type of the cross of Christ, supposed to have been made of the wood of this tree.

As our plants, when the great light falls downward mingled with that which shines behind the celestial Carp,[1] become swollen, and then renew themselves, each in its own color, ere the sun yoke his coursers under another star, so disclosing a color less than of roses and more than of violets, the plant renewed itself, which first had its boughs so bare.[2] I did not understand the hymn, and it is not sung here,[3] which that folk then sang, nor did I hear the melody to the end.

[1] In this spring, when the Sun is in Aries, the sign which follows that of the Pisces here termed the Carp.

[2] This tree, after the death of Christ, still remains this symbol of the knowledge of good and of evil, as well as this sign of obedience to the Divine Will. Its renewal with flowers and foliage seems to he the image at once of the revelation of Divine truth through Christ, and of his obedience unto death.

[3] On earth.

If I could portray how the pitiless eyes[1] sank to slumber, while hearing of Syrinx, the eyes to which too much watching cost so dear, hike a painter who paints from a model I would depict how I fell asleep; but whoso would, let him be one who can picture slumber well.[2] Therefore I pass on to when I awoke, and say that a splendor rent for me the veil of sleep, and a call, “Arise, what doest thou?”

[1] The hundred eyes of Argus, who, when watching Io, fell asleep while listening to the tale of the loves of Pan and Syrinx, and was then slain by Mercury.

[2] The sleep of Dante may signify the impotency of human reason to explain the mysteries of redemption.

As, to see some of the flowerets of the apple-tree[1] which makes the Angels greedy of its fruit,[2] and makes perpetual bridal feasts in Heaven,[3] Peter and John and James were led,[4] and being overcome, came to themselves at the word by which greater slumbers[5] were broken, and saw their band diminished alike by Moses and Elias, and the raiment of their Master changed, so I came to myself, and saw that compassionate one standing above me, who first had been conductress of my steps along the stream; and all in doubt I said, “Where is Beatrice?” And she, “Behold her under the new leafage sitting upon its root. Behold the company that surrounds her; the rest are going on high behind the griffon, with sweeter song and more profound.”[6] And if her speech was more diffuse I know not, because already in my eyes was she who from attending to aught else had closed me in. Alone she was sitting upon the bare ground, like a guard left there of the chariot which I had seen bound by the biform animal. In a circle the seven Nymphs were making of themselves an enclosure for her, with those lights in their hands that are secure from Aquilo and from Auster.[7]

[1] “As the apple-tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the suns.”—The Song of Solomon, ii. 3.

[2] The full glory of Christ in Heaven.

[3] The marriage supper of the Lamb—Revelation, xix. 9.

[4] The transfiguration—Matthew, xvii. 1-8.

[5] Those of the dead called back to life by Jesus.

[6] Christ having ascended, Beatrice, this type of Theology, is left by the chariot, the type of the Church on earth.

[7] From the north wind or the south; that is, from any earthly blast.

“Here shalt thou be short time a forester; and thou shalt be with me without end a citizen of that Rome whereof Christ is a Roman. Therefore for profit of the world that lives ill, keep now thine eyes upon the chariot; amid what thou seest, having returned to earth, mind that thou write.” Thus Beatrice; and I, who at the feet of her commands was all devout, gave my mind and my eyes where she willed.

Never with so swift a motion did fire descend from a dense cloud, when it is raining from that region which stretches most remote, as I saw the bird of Jove stoop downward through the tree, breaking the bark, as well as the flowers and new leaves; and he struck the chariot with all his force, whereat it reeled, like a ship in a tempest beaten by the waves now to starboard, now to larboard.[1] Then I saw leap into the body of the triumphal vehicle a she fox,[2] which seemed fasting from all good food; but rebuking her for her foul sins my Lady turned her to such flight as her fleshless bones allowed. Then, from there whence he had first come, I saw the eagle descend down into the ark of the chariot and leave it feathered from himself.[3] And a voice such as issues from a heart that is afflicted issued from Heaven, and thus spake, “O little bark of mine, how ill art thou laden!” Then it seemed to me that the earth opened between the two wheels, and I saw a dragon issue from it, which through the chariot upward fixed his tail: and, like a wasp that retracts its sting, drawing to himself his malign tail, drew out part of the bottom, and went wandering away.[4] That which remained covered itself again, as lively soil with grass, with the plumage, offered perhaps with sane and benign intention; and both one and the other wheel and the pole were again covered with it in such time that a sigh holds the mouth open longer.[5] Thus transformed, the holy structure put forth heads upon its parts, three upon the pole, and one on each corner. The first were horned like oxen, but the four had a single horn upon the forehead.[6] A like prodigy was never seen before. Secure, as fortress on a high mountain, there appeared to me a loose harlot sitting upon it, with eyes roving around. And, as if in order that she should not be taken from him, I saw standing at her side a giant, and some while they kissed each other. But because she turned her lustful and wandering eye on me that fierce paramour scourged her from head to foot. Then full of jealousy, and cruel with anger, he loosed the monster, and drew it through the wood so far that only of that he made a shield from me for the harlot and for the strange beast.[7]

[1] The descent and the attack of the eagle symbolize the rejection of Christianity and the persecution of the Church by the emperors.

[2] The fox denotes the early heresies.

[3] The feathering of the car is the type of the donation of Constantine,—the temporal endowment of the Church.

[4] The dragging off by the dragon of a part of the car probably figures the schism of the Greek Church in the 9th century.

[5] This new feathering signifies the fresh and growing endowments of the Church.

[6] The seven heads have been interpreted as the seven mortal sins, which grew up in the transformed church, the result of its wealth and temporal power.

[7] The harlot and the giant stand respectively for the Pope (both Boniface VIII. and him successor Clement V.) and the kings of France, especially Philip the Fair. The turning of the eyes of the harlot upon Dante seems to signify the dealings of Boniface with the Italians, which awakened the jealousy of Philip; and the dragging of the car, transformed into a monster, through the wood, so far as to hide it from the poet, may be taken as typifying the removal of the seat of the Papacy from Rome to Avignon, in 1305.


The Earthly Paradise.—Prophecy of Beatrice concerning one who shall restore the Empire.—Her discourse with Dante.—The river Eunoe.—Dante drinks of it, and is fit to ascend to Heaven.

“Deus, venerunt gentes,”[1] the ladies began, alternating, now three now four, a sweet psalmody, and weeping. And Beatrice, sighing and compassionate, was listening to them so moved that scarce more changed was Mary at the cross. But when the other virgins gave place to her to speak, risen upright upon her feet, she answered, colored like fire: “Modicum, et non videbitis me, et iterum, my beloved Sisters, Modicum, et vos videbitis me.”[2] Then she set all the seven in front of her; and behind her, by a sign only, she placed me, and the Lady, and the Sage who had stayed.[3] So she moved on; and I do not think her tenth step had been set upon the ground, when with her eyes my eyes she smote, and with tranquil aspect said to me, “Come more quickly, so that if I speak with thee, to listen to me thou mayst be well placed.” So soon as I was with her as I should be, she said to me, “Brother, why dost thou not venture to ask of me, now thou art coming with me?”

[1] Thus first words of the seventy-ninth Psalm: “O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled; they have laid Jerusalem on heaps.” The whole Psalm, picturing the actual desolation of the Church, but closing with confident prayer to the Lord to restore his people, is sung by the holy ladies.

[2] “A little while and ye shall not see me: and again, A little while and ye shall see me.”—John, xvi. 16. An answer and promise corresponding to the complaint and petition of the Psalm.

[3] The lady, Matilda, and the sage, Statius.

Even as befalls those who with excess of reverence are speaking in presence of their superiors, and drag not their voice living to the teeth,[1] it befell me that without perfect sound I began, “My Lady, you know my need, and that which is good for it.” And site to me, “From fear and from shame I wish that thou henceforth divest thyself, so that thou speak no more like a man who dreams. Know thou, that the vessel which the serpent[2] broke was, and is not;[3] but let him who is to blame therefor believe that the vengeance of God fears not sops.[4] Not for all time shall be without an heir the eagle that left its feathers on the car, whereby it became a monster, and then a prey.[5] For I see surely, and therefore I tell it, stars already close at hand, secure from every obstacle and from every hindrance, to give to us a time in which a Five hundred, Ten, and Five sent by God[6] shall slay the thievish woman[7] and that giant who with her is delinquent. And perchance my narration, dark as Themis and the Sphinx,[8] less persuades thee, because after their fashion it clouds the understanding. But soon the facts will be the Naiades[9] that shall solve this difficult enigma, without harm of flocks or of harvest. Do thou note; and even as they are borne from me, do thou so report these words to those alive with that life which is a running unto death; and have in mind when thou writest them, not to conceal what thou hast seen the plant, which now has been twice plundered here. Whoso robs that, or breaks it,[10] with blasphemy in act offends God, who only for His own use created it holy. For biting that, the first soul, in pain and in desire, five thousand years and more, longed for Him who punished on Himself the bite. Thy wit sleeps, if it deem not that for a special reason it is so high and so inverted at its top. And if thy vain thoughts had not been as water of Elsa[11] round about thy mind, and their pleasantness as Pyramus to the mulberry,[12] by so many circumstances only thou hadst recognized morally the justice of God in the interdict upon the tree. But since I see thee in thy understanding made of stone, and thus stony, dark, so that the light of my speech dazzles thee, I would yet that thou bear it hence within thee,—and if not written, at least depicted,—for the reason that the pilgrim’s staff is carried wreathed with palm.”[13] And I, “Even as by a seal wax which alters not the imprinted figure, is my brain now stamped by you. But why does your desired word fly so far above my sight, that the more it strives the more it loses it?” “In order that thou mayst know,” she said, “that school which thou hast followed, and mayst see how its doctrine can follow my word [14] and mayst see your path distant so far from the divine, as the heaven which highest hastens is remote from earth.” Whereon I replied to her, “I do not remember that I ever estranged myself from you, nor have I conscience of it that may sting me.” “And if thou canst not remember it,” smiling she replied, “now bethink thee how this day thou hast drunk of Lethe. And if from smoke fire be inferred, such oblivion clearly proves fault in thy will elsewhere intent.[15] Truly my words shall henceforth be naked so far as it shall be befitting to uncover them to thy rude sight.”

[1] Are unable to speak with distinct words.

[2] The dragon.

[3] “The beast that thou sawest was, and is not.”—Revelation, xvii. 8.

[4] According to a belief, which the old commentators report as commonly held by the Florentines, if a murderer could contrive within nine days of the murder to eat a sop of bread dipped in wine, above the grave of his victim, he would escape from the vengeance of the family of the murdered man.

[5] The meaning is that an Emperor shall come, who shall restore the Church from its captivity, and reestablish the Divine order upon earth, in rise mutually dependent and severally independent authority of Church and Empire.

[6] This prophecy is too obscure to admit of a sure interpretation. Five hundred, ten, and five, in Roman numerals, give the letters D X V; which by transposition form the word Dux, a leader.

[7] The harlot, who had no right in the car, but had stolen her place there, or, in plain words, the Popes who by corruption had secured this papal throne.

[8] Obscure as the oracles of Thiemis or the enigmas of the Sphinx.

[9] According to a misreading of a verse in Ovid’s Metam., vii. 759, the Naiades solved the riddles of the oracles, at which Themis, offended, sent forth a wild beast to ravage the flocks and fields.

[10] Robs it as Adam did, splinters it as the Emperors did.

[11] A river of Tuscany, whose waters have a petrifying quality.

[12] Darkening thy mind as the blood of Pyramus dyed the mulberry.

[13] If not clearly inscribed, at least so imprinted on the mind, that, like the palm on the pilgrim’s staff, it may be a sign of where thou hast been and of what thou hast seen.

[14] How far its doctrine is from my teaching.

[15] The having been obliged to drink of Lethe is the proof that thou hadst sin to he forgotten, and that thy will had turned thee to other things than me.

And more coruscant, and with slower steps, the sun was holding the circle of the meridian, which is set here or there according to the aspect,[1] when even as he, who goes before a troop as guide, stops if he find some strange thing on his track, the seven ladies stopped at the edge of a pale shade, such as beneath green leaves and black boughs the Alp casts over its cold streams. In front of them, it seemed to me I saw Euphrates and Tigris issue from one fountain, and, like friends, part slow from one another.

[1] Which shifts as seen from one place or another.

“O light, O glory of the human race, what water is this which here spreads from one source, and from itself withdraws itself?” To this prayer it was said to me, “Pray Matilda[1] that she tell it to thee;” and here the beautiful Lady answered, as one does who frees himself from blame, “This and other things have been told him by me; and I am sure that the water of Lethe has not hidden them from him.” And Beatrice, “Perhaps a greater care which oftentimes deprives the memory has darkened the eyes of his mind. But see Eunoe,[2] which flows forth yonder, lead him to it, and, as thou art accustomed, revive his extinct power.” As a gentle soul which makes not excuse, but makes its own will of another’s will, soon as by a sign it is outwardly disclosed, even so, when I was taken by her, the beautiful Lady moved on, and to Statius said, with manner of a lady, “Come with him.”

[1] Here for the first and only time is the beautiful Lady called by name.

[2] Eunoe, “the memory of good,” which its waters restore to the purified soul. The poetic conception of this fair stream is exclusively Dante’s own.

If I had, Reader, longer space for writing I would yet partly sing the sweet draught which never would have sated me. But, because all the leaves destined for this second canticle are full, the curb of my art lets me go no further. I returned from the most holy wave, renovated as new plants renewed with new foliage, pure and disposed to mount unto the stars.