Divine Comedy  

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"Abandon all hope, you who enter here"--Divine Comedy (1320) by Dante


"Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) is set in the Republic of Salò, the fascist rump state which was set up in the German-occupied portion of Italy in 1944. The film is divided into four segments that loosely parallel Dante's Inferno: Anteinferno, the Circle of Manias, the Circle of Feces and the Circle of Blood."--Sholem Stein


"After Guerin had witnessed the pains of purgatory, he had a display of hell itself, which, in this work, is divided into circles, precisely on the plan laid out in Dante's Inferno. Indeed, the whole of this part of the romance must have been suggested by the unearthly excursions in the Divina Commedia. Judas Iscariot, Nero, and Mahomet, act the most distinguished parts in the tragedy now under the eye of Guerin. Among others, he recognised his old friend the giant Macus, whom he had slain in Tartary, and whose fate is a warning to all who are guilty of an overgrowth, and who regale their wives and children with the flesh of Christian travellers."--History of Fiction (1814) by John Colin Dunlop


In the midway of this our mortal life
I found me in a gloomy wood
astray Gone from the path direct

--Divine Comedy (1320) by Dante

Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
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Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

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The Divine Comedy (written between 1308/1321) is a narrative poem by Dante Alighieri, widely considered the central epic poem of Italian literature and one of the greatest works of world literature.

A culmination of the medieval world-view of the afterlife, it helped establish the Tuscan dialect in which it is written as the Italian standard.

The Divine Comedy has been a source of inspiration for countless artists for almost seven centuries and there is a version by Gustave Doré.

It is especially known for its inferno.

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Plot

Written in the first person, the poem tells of Dante's journey through the three realms of the dead, lasting from the night before Good Friday to the Wednesday after Easter in the spring of 1300. The Roman poet Virgil guides him through Hell and Purgatory; Beatrice, Dante's ideal woman, guides him through Heaven. Beatrice was a Florentine woman he had met in childhood and admired from afar as a princesse lointaine in the mode of the then-fashionable courtly love tradition, which is highlighted in Dante's earlier work La Vita Nuova.


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THE DIVINE COMEDY THE VISION of HELL, PURGATORY, AND PARADISE BY DANTE ALIGHIERI TRANSLATED BY THE REV. H. F. CARY, M.A.

Illustrated by M. Gustave Doré


OR THE INFERNO CANTO I

In the midway of this our mortal life, I found me in a gloomy wood, astray Gone from the path direct: and e’en to tell It were no easy task, how savage wild That forest, how robust and rough its growth, Which to remember only, my dismay Renews, in bitterness not far from death. Yet to discourse of what there good befell, All else will I relate discover’d there. How first I enter’d it I scarce can say, Such sleepy dullness in that instant weigh’d My senses down, when the true path I left, But when a mountain’s foot I reach’d, where clos’d The valley, that had pierc’d my heart with dread, I look’d aloft, and saw his shoulders broad Already vested with that planet’s beam, Who leads all wanderers safe through every way.

Then was a little respite to the fear, That in my heart’s recesses deep had lain, All of that night, so pitifully pass’d: And as a man, with difficult short breath, Forespent with toiling, ’scap’d from sea to shore, Turns to the perilous wide waste, and stands At gaze; e’en so my spirit, that yet fail’d Struggling with terror, turn’d to view the straits, That none hath pass’d and liv’d. My weary frame After short pause recomforted, again I journey’d on over that lonely steep,


The hinder foot still firmer. Scarce the ascent Began, when, lo! a panther, nimble, light, And cover’d with a speckled skin, appear’d, Nor, when it saw me, vanish’d, rather strove To check my onward going; that ofttimes With purpose to retrace my steps I turn’d.

The hour was morning’s prime, and on his way Aloft the sun ascended with those stars, That with him rose, when Love divine first mov’d Those its fair works: so that with joyous hope All things conspir’d to fill me, the gay skin Of that swift animal, the matin dawn And the sweet season. Soon that joy was chas’d, And by new dread succeeded, when in view A lion came, ’gainst me, as it appear’d,


With his head held aloft and hunger-mad, That e’en the air was fear-struck. A she-wolf Was at his heels, who in her leanness seem’d Full of all wants, and many a land hath made Disconsolate ere now. She with such fear O’erwhelmed me, at the sight of her appall’d, That of the height all hope I lost. As one, Who with his gain elated, sees the time When all unwares is gone, he inwardly Mourns with heart-griping anguish; such was I, Haunted by that fell beast, never at peace, Who coming o’er against me, by degrees Impell’d me where the sun in silence rests.

While to the lower space with backward step I fell, my ken discern’d the form one of one, Whose voice seem’d faint through long disuse of speech. When him in that great desert I espied, “Have mercy on me!” cried I out aloud, “Spirit! or living man! what e’er thou be!”

He answer’d: “Now not man, man once I was, And born of Lombard parents, Mantuana both By country, when the power of Julius yet Was scarcely firm. At Rome my life was past Beneath the mild Augustus, in the time Of fabled deities and false. A bard Was I, and made Anchises’ upright son The subject of my song, who came from Troy, When the flames prey’d on Ilium’s haughty towers. But thou, say wherefore to such perils past Return’st thou? wherefore not this pleasant mount Ascendest, cause and source of all delight?” “And art thou then that Virgil, that well-spring, From which such copious floods of eloquence Have issued?” I with front abash’d replied. “Glory and light of all the tuneful train! May it avail me that I long with zeal Have sought thy volume, and with love immense Have conn’d it o’er. My master thou and guide! Thou he from whom alone I have deriv’d That style, which for its beauty into fame Exalts me. See the beast, from whom I fled. O save me from her, thou illustrious sage!


“For every vein and pulse throughout my frame She hath made tremble.” He, soon as he saw That I was weeping, answer’d, “Thou must needs Another way pursue, if thou wouldst ’scape From out that savage wilderness. This beast, At whom thou criest, her way will suffer none To pass, and no less hindrance makes than death: So bad and so accursed in her kind, That never sated is her ravenous will, Still after food more craving than before. To many an animal in wedlock vile She fastens, and shall yet to many more, Until that greyhound come, who shall destroy Her with sharp pain. He will not life support By earth nor its base metals, but by love, Wisdom, and virtue, and his land shall be The land ’twixt either Feltro. In his might Shall safety to Italia’s plains arise, For whose fair realm, Camilla, virgin pure, Nisus, Euryalus, and Turnus fell. He with incessant chase through every town Shall worry, until he to hell at length Restore her, thence by envy first let loose. I for thy profit pond’ring now devise, That thou mayst follow me, and I thy guide Will lead thee hence through an eternal space, Where thou shalt hear despairing shrieks, and see Spirits of old tormented, who invoke A second death; and those next view, who dwell Content in fire, for that they hope to come, Whene’er the time may be, among the blest, Into whose regions if thou then desire T’ ascend, a spirit worthier than I Must lead thee, in whose charge, when I depart, Thou shalt be left: for that Almighty King, Who reigns above, a rebel to his law, Adjudges me, and therefore hath decreed, That to his city none through me should come. He in all parts hath sway; there rules, there holds His citadel and throne. O happy those, Whom there he chooses!” I to him in few: “Bard! by that God, whom thou didst not adore, I do beseech thee (that this ill and worse I may escape) to lead me, where thou saidst, That I Saint Peter’s gate may view, and those Who as thou tell’st, are in such dismal plight.”

Onward he mov’d, I close his steps pursu’d.


CANTO II

Now was the day departing, and the air, Imbrown’d with shadows, from their toils releas’d All animals on earth; and I alone Prepar’d myself the conflict to sustain, Both of sad pity, and that perilous road, Which my unerring memory shall retrace.

O Muses! O high genius! now vouchsafe Your aid! O mind! that all I saw hast kept Safe in a written record, here thy worth And eminent endowments come to proof.

I thus began: “Bard! thou who art my guide, Consider well, if virtue be in me Sufficient, ere to this high enterprise Thou trust me. Thou hast told that Silvius’ sire, Yet cloth’d in corruptible flesh, among Th’ immortal tribes had entrance, and was there Sensible present. Yet if heaven’s great Lord, Almighty foe to ill, such favour shew’d, In contemplation of the high effect, Both what and who from him should issue forth, It seems in reason’s judgment well deserv’d: Sith he of Rome, and of Rome’s empire wide, In heaven’s empyreal height was chosen sire: Both which, if truth be spoken, were ordain’d And ’stablish’d for the holy place, where sits Who to great Peter’s sacred chair succeeds. He from this journey, in thy song renown’d, Learn’d things, that to his victory gave rise And to the papal robe. In after-times The chosen vessel also travel’d there, To bring us back assurance in that faith, Which is the entrance to salvation’s way. But I, why should I there presume? or who Permits it? not Aeneas I nor Paul. Myself I deem not worthy, and none else Will deem me. I, if on this voyage then I venture, fear it will in folly end. Thou, who art wise, better my meaning know’st, Than I can speak.” As one, who unresolves What he hath late resolv’d, and with new thoughts Changes his purpose, from his first intent Remov’d; e’en such was I on that dun coast, Wasting in thought my enterprise, at first So eagerly embrac’d. “If right thy words I scan,” replied that shade magnanimous, “Thy soul is by vile fear assail’d, which oft So overcasts a man, that he recoils From noblest resolution, like a beast At some false semblance in the twilight gloom. That from this terror thou mayst free thyself, I will instruct thee why I came, and what I heard in that same instant, when for thee Grief touch’d me first. I was among the tribe, Who rest suspended, when a dame, so blest And lovely, I besought her to command, Call’d me; her eyes were brighter than the star Of day; and she with gentle voice and soft Angelically tun’d her speech address’d: “O courteous shade of Mantua! thou whose fame Yet lives, and shall live long as nature lasts! A friend, not of my fortune but myself, On the wide desert in his road has met Hindrance so great, that he through fear has turn’d. Now much I dread lest he past help have stray’d, And I be ris’n too late for his relief, From what in heaven of him I heard. Speed now, And by thy eloquent persuasive tongue, And by all means for his deliverance meet, Assist him. So to me will comfort spring. I who now bid thee on this errand forth Am Beatrice; from a place I come.


(Note: Beatrice. I use this word, as it is pronounced in the Italian, as consisting of four syllables, of which the third is a long one.) Revisited with joy. Love brought me thence, Who prompts my speech. When in my Master’s sight I stand, thy praise to him I oft will tell.”

She then was silent, and I thus began: “O Lady! by whose influence alone, Mankind excels whatever is contain’d Within that heaven which hath the smallest orb, So thy command delights me, that to obey, If it were done already, would seem late. No need hast thou farther to speak thy will; Yet tell the reason, why thou art not loth To leave that ample space, where to return Thou burnest, for this centre here beneath.”

She then: “Since thou so deeply wouldst inquire, I will instruct thee briefly, why no dread Hinders my entrance here. Those things alone Are to be fear’d, whence evil may proceed, None else, for none are terrible beside. I am so fram’d by God, thanks to his grace! That any suff’rance of your misery Touches me not, nor flame of that fierce fire Assails me. In high heaven a blessed dame Besides, who mourns with such effectual grief That hindrance, which I send thee to remove, That God’s stern judgment to her will inclines.” To Lucia calling, her she thus bespake: “Now doth thy faithful servant need thy aid And I commend him to thee.” At her word Sped Lucia, of all cruelty the foe, And coming to the place, where I abode Seated with Rachel, her of ancient days, She thus address’d me: “Thou true praise of God! Beatrice! why is not thy succour lent To him, who so much lov’d thee, as to leave For thy sake all the multitude admires? Dost thou not hear how pitiful his wail, Nor mark the death, which in the torrent flood, Swoln mightier than a sea, him struggling holds?” Ne’er among men did any with such speed Haste to their profit, flee from their annoy, As when these words were spoken, I came here, Down from my blessed seat, trusting the force Of thy pure eloquence, which thee, and all Who well have mark’d it, into honour brings.”

“When she had ended, her bright beaming eyes Tearful she turn’d aside; whereat I felt Redoubled zeal to serve thee. As she will’d, Thus am I come: I sav’d thee from the beast, Who thy near way across the goodly mount Prevented. What is this comes o’er thee then? Why, why dost thou hang back? why in thy breast Harbour vile fear? why hast not courage there And noble daring? Since three maids so blest Thy safety plan, e’en in the court of heaven; And so much certain good my words forebode.”

As florets, by the frosty air of night Bent down and clos’d, when day has blanch’d their leaves, Rise all unfolded on their spiry stems; So was my fainting vigour new restor’d, And to my heart such kindly courage ran, That I as one undaunted soon replied: “O full of pity she, who undertook My succour! and thou kind who didst perform So soon her true behest! With such desire Thou hast dispos’d me to renew my voyage, That my first purpose fully is resum’d. Lead on: one only will is in us both. Thou art my guide, my master thou, and lord.”

So spake I; and when he had onward mov’d, I enter’d on the deep and woody way.

CANTO III “Through me you pass into the city of woe: Through me you pass into eternal pain: Through me among the people lost for aye. Justice the founder of my fabric mov’d: To rear me was the task of power divine, Supremest wisdom, and primeval love. Before me things create were none, save things Eternal, and eternal I endure.


“All hope abandon ye who enter here.”

Such characters in colour dim I mark’d Over a portal’s lofty arch inscrib’d: Whereat I thus: “Master, these words import Hard meaning.” He as one prepar’d replied: “Here thou must all distrust behind thee leave; Here be vile fear extinguish’d. We are come Where I have told thee we shall see the souls To misery doom’d, who intellectual good Have lost.” And when his hand he had stretch’d forth To mine, with pleasant looks, whence I was cheer’d, Into that secret place he led me on.

Here sighs with lamentations and loud moans Resounded through the air pierc’d by no star, That e’en I wept at entering. Various tongues, Horrible languages, outcries of woe, Accents of anger, voices deep and hoarse, With hands together smote that swell’d the sounds, Made up a tumult, that for ever whirls Round through that air with solid darkness stain’d, Like to the sand that in the whirlwind flies.

I then, with error yet encompass’d, cried: “O master! What is this I hear? What race Are these, who seem so overcome with woe?”

He thus to me: “This miserable fate Suffer the wretched souls of those, who liv’d Without or praise or blame, with that ill band Of angels mix’d, who nor rebellious prov’d Nor yet were true to God, but for themselves Were only. From his bounds Heaven drove them forth, Not to impair his lustre, nor the depth Of Hell receives them, lest th’ accursed tribe Should glory thence with exultation vain.”

I then: “Master! what doth aggrieve them thus, That they lament so loud?” He straight replied: “That will I tell thee briefly. These of death No hope may entertain: and their blind life So meanly passes, that all other lots They envy. Fame of them the world hath none, Nor suffers; mercy and justice scorn them both. Speak not of them, but look, and pass them by.”

And I, who straightway look’d, beheld a flag, Which whirling ran around so rapidly, That it no pause obtain’d: and following came Such a long train of spirits, I should ne’er Have thought, that death so many had despoil’d.

When some of these I recogniz’d, I saw And knew the shade of him, who to base fear Yielding, abjur’d his high estate. Forthwith I understood for certain this the tribe Of those ill spirits both to God displeasing And to his foes. These wretches, who ne’er lived, Went on in nakedness, and sorely stung By wasps and hornets, which bedew’d their cheeks With blood, that mix’d with tears dropp’d to their feet, And by disgustful worms was gather’d there.

Then looking farther onwards I beheld A throng upon the shore of a great stream: Whereat I thus: “Sir! grant me now to know Whom here we view, and whence impell’d they seem So eager to pass o’er, as I discern Through the blear light?” He thus to me in few: “This shalt thou know, soon as our steps arrive Beside the woeful tide of Acheron.”

Then with eyes downward cast and fill’d with shame, Fearing my words offensive to his ear, Till we had reach’d the river, I from speech Abstain’d. And lo! toward us in a bark Comes on an old man hoary white with eld,


Crying, “Woe to you wicked spirits! hope not Ever to see the sky again. I come To take you to the other shore across, Into eternal darkness, there to dwell In fierce heat and in ice. And thou, who there Standest, live spirit! get thee hence, and leave These who are dead.” But soon as he beheld I left them not, “By other way,” said he, “By other haven shalt thou come to shore, Not by this passage; thee a nimbler boat Must carry.” Then to him thus spake my guide: “Charon! thyself torment not: so ’t is will’d, Where will and power are one: ask thou no more.”

Straightway in silence fell the shaggy cheeks Of him the boatman o’er the livid lake, Around whose eyes glar’d wheeling flames. Meanwhile Those spirits, faint and naked, color chang’d, And gnash’d their teeth, soon as the cruel words They heard. God and their parents they blasphem’d, The human kind, the place, the time, and seed That did engender them and give them birth.

Then all together sorely wailing drew To the curs’d strand, that every man must pass Who fears not God. Charon, demoniac form, With eyes of burning coal, collects them all, Beck’ning, and each, that lingers, with his oar Strikes. As fall off the light autumnal leaves, One still another following, till the bough Strews all its honours on the earth beneath;


E’en in like manner Adam’s evil brood Cast themselves one by one down from the shore, Each at a beck, as falcon at his call.

Thus go they over through the umber’d wave, And ever they on the opposing bank Be landed, on this side another throng Still gathers. “Son,” thus spake the courteous guide, “Those, who die subject to the wrath of God, All here together come from every clime, And to o’erpass the river are not loth: For so heaven’s justice goads them on, that fear Is turn’d into desire. Hence ne’er hath past Good spirit. If of thee Charon complain, Now mayst thou know the import of his words.”

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

CANTO IV Broke the deep slumber in my brain a crash Of heavy thunder, that I shook myself, As one by main force rous’d. Risen upright, My rested eyes I mov’d around, and search’d With fixed ken to know what place it was, Wherein I stood. For certain on the brink I found me of the lamentable vale, The dread abyss, that joins a thund’rous sound Of plaints innumerable. Dark and deep, And thick with clouds o’erspread, mine eye in vain Explor’d its bottom, nor could aught discern.

“Now let us to the blind world there beneath Descend;” the bard began all pale of look: “I go the first, and thou shalt follow next.”

Then I his alter’d hue perceiving, thus: “How may I speed, if thou yieldest to dread, Who still art wont to comfort me in doubt?”

He then: “The anguish of that race below With pity stains my cheek, which thou for fear Mistakest. Let us on. Our length of way Urges to haste.” Onward, this said, he mov’d; And ent’ring led me with him on the bounds Of the first circle, that surrounds th’ abyss. Here, as mine ear could note, no plaint was heard Except of sighs, that made th’ eternal air Tremble, not caus’d by tortures, but from grief Felt by those multitudes, many and vast, Of men, women, and infants. Then to me The gentle guide: “Inquir’st thou not what spirits Are these, which thou beholdest? Ere thou pass Farther, I would thou know, that these of sin Were blameless; and if aught they merited, It profits not, since baptism was not theirs, The portal to thy faith. If they before The Gospel liv’d, they serv’d not God aright; And among such am I. For these defects, And for no other evil, we are lost;


“Only so far afflicted, that we live Desiring without hope.” So grief assail’d My heart at hearing this, for well I knew Suspended in that Limbo many a soul Of mighty worth. “O tell me, sire rever’d! Tell me, my master!” I began through wish Of full assurance in that holy faith, Which vanquishes all error; “say, did e’er Any, or through his own or other’s merit, Come forth from thence, whom afterward was blest?”

Piercing the secret purport of my speech, He answer’d: “I was new to that estate, When I beheld a puissant one arrive Amongst us, with victorious trophy crown’d. He forth the shade of our first parent drew, Abel his child, and Noah righteous man, Of Moses lawgiver for faith approv’d, Of patriarch Abraham, and David king, Israel with his sire and with his sons, Nor without Rachel whom so hard he won, And others many more, whom he to bliss Exalted. Before these, be thou assur’d, No spirit of human kind was ever sav’d.”

We, while he spake, ceas’d not our onward road, Still passing through the wood; for so I name Those spirits thick beset. We were not far On this side from the summit, when I kenn’d A flame, that o’er the darken’d hemisphere Prevailing shin’d. Yet we a little space Were distant, not so far but I in part Discover’d, that a tribe in honour high That place possess’d. “O thou, who every art And science valu’st! who are these, that boast Such honour, separate from all the rest?”

He answer’d: “The renown of their great names That echoes through your world above, acquires Favour in heaven, which holds them thus advanc’d.” Meantime a voice I heard: “Honour the bard Sublime! his shade returns that left us late!” No sooner ceas’d the sound, than I beheld Four mighty spirits toward us bend their steps, Of semblance neither sorrowful nor glad.

When thus my master kind began: “Mark him, Who in his right hand bears that falchion keen, The other three preceding, as their lord. This is that Homer, of all bards supreme: Flaccus the next in satire’s vein excelling; The third is Naso; Lucan is the last. Because they all that appellation own, With which the voice singly accosted me, Honouring they greet me thus, and well they judge.”


So I beheld united the bright school Of him the monarch of sublimest song, That o’er the others like an eagle soars. When they together short discourse had held, They turn’d to me, with salutation kind Beck’ning me; at the which my master smil’d: Nor was this all; but greater honour still They gave me, for they made me of their tribe; And I was sixth amid so learn’d a band.

Far as the luminous beacon on we pass’d Speaking of matters, then befitting well To speak, now fitter left untold. At foot Of a magnificent castle we arriv’d, Seven times with lofty walls begirt, and round Defended by a pleasant stream. O’er this As o’er dry land we pass’d. Next through seven gates I with those sages enter’d, and we came Into a mead with lively verdure fresh.

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

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

Electra there I saw accompanied By many, among whom Hector I knew, Anchises’ pious son, and with hawk’s eye Caesar all arm’d, and by Camilla there Penthesilea. On the other side Old King Latinus, seated by his child Lavinia, and that Brutus I beheld, Who Tarquin chas’d, Lucretia, Cato’s wife Marcia, with Julia and Cornelia there; And sole apart retir’d, the Soldan fierce.

Then when a little more I rais’d my brow, I spied the master of the sapient throng, Seated amid the philosophic train. Him all admire, all pay him rev’rence due. There Socrates and Plato both I mark’d, Nearest to him in rank; Democritus, Who sets the world at chance, Diogenes, With Heraclitus, and Empedocles, And Anaxagoras, and Thales sage, Zeno, and Dioscorides well read In nature’s secret lore. Orpheus I mark’d And Linus, Tully and moral Seneca, Euclid and Ptolemy, Hippocrates, Galenus, Avicen, and him who made That commentary vast, Averroes.

Of all to speak at full were vain attempt; For my wide theme so urges, that ofttimes My words fall short of what bechanc’d. In two The six associates part. Another way My sage guide leads me, from that air serene, Into a climate ever vex’d with storms: And to a part I come where no light shines.

CANTO V From the first circle I descended thus Down to the second, which, a lesser space Embracing, so much more of grief contains Provoking bitter moans. There, Minos stands Grinning with ghastly feature: he, of all Who enter, strict examining the crimes,


Gives sentence, and dismisses them beneath, According as he foldeth him around: For when before him comes th’ ill fated soul, It all confesses; and that judge severe Of sins, considering what place in hell Suits the transgression, with his tail so oft Himself encircles, as degrees beneath He dooms it to descend. Before him stand Always a num’rous throng; and in his turn Each one to judgment passing, speaks, and hears His fate, thence downward to his dwelling hurl’d.

“O thou! who to this residence of woe Approachest?” when he saw me coming, cried Minos, relinquishing his dread employ, “Look how thou enter here; beware in whom Thou place thy trust; let not the entrance broad Deceive thee to thy harm.” To him my guide: “Wherefore exclaimest? Hinder not his way By destiny appointed; so ’tis will’d Where will and power are one. Ask thou no more.”

Now ’gin the rueful wailings to be heard. Now am I come where many a plaining voice Smites on mine ear. Into a place I came Where light was silent all. Bellowing there groan’d A noise as of a sea in tempest torn By warring winds. The stormy blast of hell With restless fury drives the spirits on Whirl’d round and dash’d amain with sore annoy.


When they arrive before the ruinous sweep, There shrieks are heard, there lamentations, moans, And blasphemies ’gainst the good Power in heaven.

I understood that to this torment sad The carnal sinners are condemn’d, in whom Reason by lust is sway’d. As in large troops And multitudinous, when winter reigns, The starlings on their wings are borne abroad; So bears the tyrannous gust those evil souls. On this side and on that, above, below, It drives them: hope of rest to solace them Is none, nor e’en of milder pang. As cranes, Chanting their dol’rous notes, traverse the sky, Stretch’d out in long array: so I beheld Spirits, who came loud wailing, hurried on By their dire doom. Then I: “Instructor! who Are these, by the black air so scourg’d?”—“The first ’Mong those, of whom thou question’st,” he replied, “O’er many tongues was empress. She in vice Of luxury was so shameless, that she made Liking be lawful by promulg’d decree, To clear the blame she had herself incurr’d. This is Semiramis, of whom ’tis writ, That she succeeded Ninus her espous’d; And held the land, which now the Soldan rules. The next in amorous fury slew herself, And to Sicheus’ ashes broke her faith: Then follows Cleopatra, lustful queen.”

There mark’d I Helen, for whose sake so long The time was fraught with evil; there the great Achilles, who with love fought to the end. Paris I saw, and Tristan; and beside A thousand more he show’d me, and by name Pointed them out, whom love bereav’d of life.

When I had heard my sage instructor name Those dames and knights of antique days, o’erpower’d By pity, well-nigh in amaze my mind Was lost; and I began: “Bard! willingly I would address those two together coming, Which seem so light before the wind.” He thus: “Note thou, when nearer they to us approach.


“Then by that love which carries them along, Entreat; and they will come.” Soon as the wind Sway’d them toward us, I thus fram’d my speech: “O wearied spirits! come, and hold discourse With us, if by none else restrain’d.” As doves By fond desire invited, on wide wings And firm, to their sweet nest returning home, Cleave the air, wafted by their will along; Thus issu’d from that troop, where Dido ranks, They through the ill air speeding; with such force My cry prevail’d by strong affection urg’d.

“O gracious creature and benign! who go’st Visiting, through this element obscure, Us, who the world with bloody stain imbru’d; If for a friend the King of all we own’d, Our pray’r to him should for thy peace arise, Since thou hast pity on our evil plight. Of whatsoe’er to hear or to discourse It pleases thee, that will we hear, of that Freely with thee discourse, while e’er the wind, As now, is mute. The land, that gave me birth, Is situate on the coast, where Po descends To rest in ocean with his sequent streams.

“Love, that in gentle heart is quickly learnt, Entangled him by that fair form, from me Ta’en in such cruel sort, as grieves me still: Love, that denial takes from none belov’d, Caught me with pleasing him so passing well, That, as thou see’st, he yet deserts me not.


“Love brought us to one death: Caina waits The soul, who spilt our life.” Such were their words; At hearing which downward I bent my looks, And held them there so long, that the bard cried: “What art thou pond’ring?” I in answer thus: “Alas! by what sweet thoughts, what fond desire Must they at length to that ill pass have reach’d!”

Then turning, I to them my speech address’d. And thus began: “Francesca! your sad fate Even to tears my grief and pity moves. But tell me; in the time of your sweet sighs, By what, and how love granted, that ye knew Your yet uncertain wishes?” She replied: “No greater grief than to remember days Of joy, when mis’ry is at hand! That kens Thy learn’d instructor. Yet so eagerly If thou art bent to know the primal root, From whence our love gat being, I will do, As one, who weeps and tells his tale. One day For our delight we read of Lancelot, How him love thrall’d. Alone we were, and no Suspicion near us. Ofttimes by that reading Our eyes were drawn together, and the hue Fled from our alter’d cheek. But at one point Alone we fell. When of that smile we read, The wished smile, rapturously kiss’d By one so deep in love, then he, who ne’er From me shall separate, at once my lips All trembling kiss’d. The book and writer both Were love’s purveyors. In its leaves that day We read no more.” While thus one spirit spake, The other wail’d so sorely, that heartstruck I through compassion fainting, seem’d not far From death, and like a corpse fell to the ground.


CANTO VI My sense reviving, that erewhile had droop’d With pity for the kindred shades, whence grief O’ercame me wholly, straight around I see New torments, new tormented souls, which way Soe’er I move, or turn, or bend my sight. In the third circle I arrive, of show’rs Ceaseless, accursed, heavy, and cold, unchang’d For ever, both in kind and in degree. Large hail, discolour’d water, sleety flaw Through the dun midnight air stream’d down amain: Stank all the land whereon that tempest fell.

Cerberus, cruel monster, fierce and strange, Through his wide threefold throat barks as a dog Over the multitude immers’d beneath. His eyes glare crimson, black his unctuous beard, His belly large, and claw’d the hands, with which He tears the spirits, flays them, and their limbs Piecemeal disparts. Howling there spread, as curs, Under the rainy deluge, with one side The other screening, oft they roll them round, A wretched, godless crew. When that great worm Descried us, savage Cerberus, he op’d His jaws, and the fangs show’d us; not a limb Of him but trembled. Then my guide, his palms Expanding on the ground, thence filled with earth Rais’d them, and cast it in his ravenous maw.


E’en as a dog, that yelling bays for food His keeper, when the morsel comes, lets fall His fury, bent alone with eager haste To swallow it; so dropp’d the loathsome cheeks Of demon Cerberus, who thund’ring stuns The spirits, that they for deafness wish in vain.

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

They all along the earth extended lay Save one, that sudden rais’d himself to sit, Soon as that way he saw us pass. “O thou!” He cried, “who through the infernal shades art led, Own, if again thou know’st me. Thou wast fram’d Or ere my frame was broken.” I replied: “The anguish thou endur’st perchance so takes Thy form from my remembrance, that it seems As if I saw thee never. But inform Me who thou art, that in a place so sad Art set, and in such torment, that although Other be greater, more disgustful none Can be imagin’d.” He in answer thus:


“Thy city heap’d with envy to the brim, Ay that the measure overflows its bounds, Held me in brighter days. Ye citizens Were wont to name me Ciacco. For the sin Of glutt’ny, damned vice, beneath this rain, E’en as thou see’st, I with fatigue am worn; Nor I sole spirit in this woe: all these Have by like crime incurr’d like punishment.”

No more he said, and I my speech resum’d: “Ciacco! thy dire affliction grieves me much, Even to tears. But tell me, if thou know’st, What shall at length befall the citizens Of the divided city; whether any just one Inhabit there: and tell me of the cause, Whence jarring discord hath assail’d it thus?”

He then: “After long striving they will come To blood; and the wild party from the woods Will chase the other with much injury forth. Then it behoves, that this must fall, within Three solar circles; and the other rise By borrow’d force of one, who under shore Now rests. It shall a long space hold aloof Its forehead, keeping under heavy weight The other oppress’d, indignant at the load, And grieving sore. The just are two in number, But they neglected. Av’rice, envy, pride, Three fatal sparks, have set the hearts of all On fire.” Here ceas’d the lamentable sound; And I continu’d thus: “Still would I learn More from thee, farther parley still entreat. Of Farinata and Tegghiaio say, They who so well deserv’d, of Giacopo, Arrigo, Mosca, and the rest, who bent Their minds on working good. Oh! tell me where They bide, and to their knowledge let me come. For I am press’d with keen desire to hear, If heaven’s sweet cup or poisonous drug of hell Be to their lip assign’d.” He answer’d straight: “These are yet blacker spirits. Various crimes Have sunk them deeper in the dark abyss. If thou so far descendest, thou mayst see them. But to the pleasant world when thou return’st, Of me make mention, I entreat thee, there. No more I tell thee, answer thee no more.”

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

When thus my guide: “No more his bed he leaves, Ere the last angel-trumpet blow. The Power Adverse to these shall then in glory come, Each one forthwith to his sad tomb repair, Resume his fleshly vesture and his form, And hear the eternal doom re-echoing rend The vault.” So pass’d we through that mixture foul Of spirits and rain, with tardy steps; meanwhile Touching, though slightly, on the life to come. For thus I question’d: “Shall these tortures, Sir! When the great sentence passes, be increas’d, Or mitigated, or as now severe?”

He then: “Consult thy knowledge; that decides That as each thing to more perfection grows, It feels more sensibly both good and pain. Though ne’er to true perfection may arrive This race accurs’d, yet nearer then than now They shall approach it.” Compassing that path Circuitous we journeyed, and discourse Much more than I relate between us pass’d: Till at the point, where the steps led below, Arriv’d, there Plutus, the great foe, we found.

CANTO VII “Ah me! O Satan! Satan!” loud exclaim’d Plutus, in accent hoarse of wild alarm: And the kind sage, whom no event surpris’d, To comfort me thus spake: “Let not thy fear Harm thee, for power in him, be sure, is none To hinder down this rock thy safe descent.” Then to that sworn lip turning, “Peace!” he cried,


“Curs’d wolf! thy fury inward on thyself Prey, and consume thee! Through the dark profound Not without cause he passes. So ’t is will’d On high, there where the great Archangel pour’d Heav’n’s vengeance on the first adulterer proud.”

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

Thus we, descending to the fourth steep ledge, Gain’d on the dismal shore, that all the woe Hems in of all the universe. Ah me! Almighty Justice! in what store thou heap’st New pains, new troubles, as I here beheld! Wherefore doth fault of ours bring us to this?

E’en as a billow, on Charybdis rising, Against encounter’d billow dashing breaks; Such is the dance this wretched race must lead, Whom more than elsewhere numerous here I found, From one side and the other, with loud voice, Both roll’d on weights by main forge of their breasts, Then smote together, and each one forthwith Roll’d them back voluble, turning again, Exclaiming these, “Why holdest thou so fast?” Those answering, “And why castest thou away?” So still repeating their despiteful song, They to the opposite point on either hand Travers’d the horrid circle: then arriv’d, Both turn’d them round, and through the middle space Conflicting met again. At sight whereof I, stung with grief, thus spake: “O say, my guide! What race is this? Were these, whose heads are shorn, On our left hand, all sep’rate to the church?”

He straight replied: “In their first life these all In mind were so distorted, that they made, According to due measure, of their wealth, No use. This clearly from their words collect, Which they howl forth, at each extremity Arriving of the circle, where their crime Contrary in kind disparts them. To the church Were separate those, that with no hairy cowls Are crown’d, both Popes and Cardinals, o’er whom Av’rice dominion absolute maintains.”

I then: “Mid such as these some needs must be, Whom I shall recognize, that with the blot Of these foul sins were stain’d.” He answering thus: “Vain thought conceiv’st thou. That ignoble life, Which made them vile before, now makes them dark, And to all knowledge indiscernible. Forever they shall meet in this rude shock: These from the tomb with clenched grasp shall rise, Those with close-shaven locks. That ill they gave, And ill they kept, hath of the beauteous world Depriv’d, and set them at this strife, which needs No labour’d phrase of mine to set it off. Now may’st thou see, my son! how brief, how vain, The goods committed into fortune’s hands, For which the human race keep such a coil! Not all the gold, that is beneath the moon, Or ever hath been, of these toil-worn souls Might purchase rest for one.” I thus rejoin’d:


“My guide! of thee this also would I learn; This fortune, that thou speak’st of, what it is, Whose talons grasp the blessings of the world?”

He thus: “O beings blind! what ignorance Besets you? Now my judgment hear and mark. He, whose transcendent wisdom passes all, The heavens creating, gave them ruling powers To guide them, so that each part shines to each, Their light in equal distribution pour’d. By similar appointment he ordain’d Over the world’s bright images to rule Superintendence of a guiding hand And general minister, which at due time May change the empty vantages of life From race to race, from one to other’s blood, Beyond prevention of man’s wisest care: Wherefore one nation rises into sway, Another languishes, e’en as her will Decrees, from us conceal’d, as in the grass The serpent train. Against her nought avails Your utmost wisdom. She with foresight plans, Judges, and carries on her reign, as theirs The other powers divine. Her changes know None intermission: by necessity She is made swift, so frequent come who claim Succession in her favours. This is she, So execrated e’en by those, whose debt To her is rather praise; they wrongfully With blame requite her, and with evil word; But she is blessed, and for that recks not: Amidst the other primal beings glad Rolls on her sphere, and in her bliss exults. Now on our way pass we, to heavier woe Descending: for each star is falling now, That mounted at our entrance, and forbids Too long our tarrying.” We the circle cross’d To the next steep, arriving at a well, That boiling pours itself down to a foss Sluic’d from its source. Far murkier was the wave Than sablest grain: and we in company Of the inky waters, journeying by their side, Enter’d, though by a different track, beneath. Into a lake, the Stygian nam’d, expands The dismal stream, when it hath reach’d the foot Of the grey wither’d cliffs. Intent I stood To gaze, and in the marish sunk descried A miry tribe, all naked, and with looks Betok’ning rage. They with their hands alone Struck not, but with the head, the breast, the feet, Cutting each other piecemeal with their fangs.


The good instructor spake; “Now seest thou, son! The souls of those, whom anger overcame. This too for certain know, that underneath The water dwells a multitude, whose sighs Into these bubbles make the surface heave, As thine eye tells thee wheresoe’er it turn. Fix’d in the slime they say: ‘Sad once were we In the sweet air made gladsome by the sun, Carrying a foul and lazy mist within: Now in these murky settlings are we sad.’ Such dolorous strain they gurgle in their throats. But word distinct can utter none.” Our route Thus compass’d we, a segment widely stretch’d Between the dry embankment, and the core Of the loath’d pool, turning meanwhile our eyes Downward on those who gulp’d its muddy lees; Nor stopp’d, till to a tower’s low base we came.

CANTO VIII My theme pursuing, I relate that ere We reach’d the lofty turret’s base, our eyes Its height ascended, where two cressets hung We mark’d, and from afar another light Return the signal, so remote, that scarce The eye could catch its beam. I turning round To the deep source of knowledge, thus inquir’d: “Say what this means? and what that other light In answer set? what agency doth this?”

“There on the filthy waters,” he replied, “E’en now what next awaits us mayst thou see, If the marsh-gender’d fog conceal it not.”

Never was arrow from the cord dismiss’d, That ran its way so nimbly through the air, As a small bark, that through the waves I spied Toward us coming, under the sole sway Of one that ferried it, who cried aloud: “Art thou arriv’d, fell spirit?”—“Phlegyas, Phlegyas, This time thou criest in vain,” my lord replied; “No longer shalt thou have us, but while o’er The slimy pool we pass.” As one who hears Of some great wrong he hath sustain’d, whereat Inly he pines; so Phlegyas inly pin’d In his fierce ire. My guide descending stepp’d Into the skiff, and bade me enter next Close at his side; nor till my entrance seem’d The vessel freighted. Soon as both embark’d, Cutting the waves, goes on the ancient prow, More deeply than with others it is wont.


While we our course o’er the dead channel held. One drench’d in mire before me came, and said; “Who art thou, that thou comest ere thine hour?”

I answer’d: “Though I come, I tarry not; But who art thou, that art become so foul?”

“One, as thou seest, who mourn:” he straight replied.

To which I thus: “In mourning and in woe, Curs’d spirit! tarry thou. I know thee well, E’en thus in filth disguis’d.” Then stretch’d he forth Hands to the bark; whereof my teacher sage Aware, thrusting him back: “Away! down there,


“To the other dogs!” then, with his arms my neck Encircling, kiss’d my cheek, and spake: “O soul Justly disdainful! blest was she in whom Thou was conceiv’d! He in the world was one For arrogance noted; to his memory No virtue lends its lustre; even so Here is his shadow furious. There above How many now hold themselves mighty kings Who here like swine shall wallow in the mire, Leaving behind them horrible dispraise!”

I then: “Master! him fain would I behold Whelm’d in these dregs, before we quit the lake.”

He thus: “Or ever to thy view the shore Be offer’d, satisfied shall be that wish, Which well deserves completion.” Scarce his words Were ended, when I saw the miry tribes Set on him with such violence, that yet For that render I thanks to God and praise “To Filippo Argenti:” cried they all: And on himself the moody Florentine Turn’d his avenging fangs. Him here we left, Nor speak I of him more. But on mine ear Sudden a sound of lamentation smote, Whereat mine eye unbarr’d I sent abroad.

And thus the good instructor: “Now, my son! Draws near the city, that of Dis is nam’d, With its grave denizens, a mighty throng.”

I thus: “The minarets already, Sir! There certes in the valley I descry, Gleaming vermilion, as if they from fire Had issu’d.” He replied: “Eternal fire, That inward burns, shows them with ruddy flame Illum’d; as in this nether hell thou seest.”

We came within the fosses deep, that moat This region comfortless. The walls appear’d As they were fram’d of iron. We had made Wide circuit, ere a place we reach’d, where loud The mariner cried vehement: “Go forth! The entrance is here!” Upon the gates I spied More than a thousand, who of old from heaven Were hurl’d. With ireful gestures, “Who is this,” They cried, “that without death first felt, goes through The regions of the dead?” My sapient guide Made sign that he for secret parley wish’d; Whereat their angry scorn abating, thus They spake: “Come thou alone; and let him go Who hath so hardily enter’d this realm. Alone return he by his witless way; If well he know it, let him prove. For thee, Here shalt thou tarry, who through clime so dark Hast been his escort.” Now bethink thee, reader! What cheer was mine at sound of those curs’d words. I did believe I never should return.

“O my lov’d guide! who more than seven times Security hast render’d me, and drawn From peril deep, whereto I stood expos’d, Desert me not,” I cried, “in this extreme. And if our onward going be denied, Together trace we back our steps with speed.”

My liege, who thither had conducted me, Replied: “Fear not: for of our passage none Hath power to disappoint us, by such high Authority permitted. But do thou Expect me here; meanwhile thy wearied spirit Comfort, and feed with kindly hope, assur’d I will not leave thee in this lower world.”

This said, departs the sire benevolent, And quits me. Hesitating I remain At war ’twixt will and will not in my thoughts.


I could not hear what terms he offer’d them, But they conferr’d not long, for all at once To trial fled within. Clos’d were the gates By those our adversaries on the breast Of my liege lord: excluded he return’d To me with tardy steps. Upon the ground His eyes were bent, and from his brow eras’d All confidence, while thus with sighs he spake: “Who hath denied me these abodes of woe?” Then thus to me: “That I am anger’d, think No ground of terror: in this trial I Shall vanquish, use what arts they may within For hindrance. This their insolence, not new, Erewhile at gate less secret they display’d, Which still is without bolt; upon its arch Thou saw’st the deadly scroll: and even now On this side of its entrance, down the steep, Passing the circles, unescorted, comes One whose strong might can open us this land.”

CANTO IX The hue, which coward dread on my pale cheeks Imprinted, when I saw my guide turn back, Chas’d that from his which newly they had worn, And inwardly restrain’d it. He, as one Who listens, stood attentive: for his eye Not far could lead him through the sable air, And the thick-gath’ring cloud. “It yet behooves We win this fight”—thus he began—“if not— Such aid to us is offer’d.—Oh, how long Me seems it, ere the promis’d help arrive!”

I noted, how the sequel of his words Clok’d their beginning; for the last he spake Agreed not with the first. But not the less My fear was at his saying; sith I drew To import worse perchance, than that he held, His mutilated speech. “Doth ever any Into this rueful concave’s extreme depth Descend, out of the first degree, whose pain Is deprivation merely of sweet hope?”

Thus I inquiring. “Rarely,” he replied, “It chances, that among us any makes This journey, which I wend. Erewhile ’tis true Once came I here beneath, conjur’d by fell Erictho, sorceress, who compell’d the shades Back to their bodies. No long space my flesh Was naked of me, when within these walls She made me enter, to draw forth a spirit From out of Judas’ circle. Lowest place Is that of all, obscurest, and remov’d Farthest from heav’n’s all-circling orb. The road Full well I know: thou therefore rest secure. That lake, the noisome stench exhaling, round The city’ of grief encompasses, which now We may not enter without rage.” Yet more He added: but I hold it not in mind, For that mine eye toward the lofty tower Had drawn me wholly, to its burning top. Where in an instant I beheld uprisen At once three hellish furies stain’d with blood: In limb and motion feminine they seem’d; Around them greenest hydras twisting roll’d Their volumes; adders and cerastes crept Instead of hair, and their fierce temples bound.

He knowing well the miserable hags Who tend the queen of endless woe, thus spake:


“Mark thou each dire Erinnys. To the left This is Megaera; on the right hand she, Who wails, Alecto; and Tisiphone I’ th’ midst.” This said, in silence he remain’d Their breast they each one clawing tore; themselves Smote with their palms, and such shrill clamour rais’d, That to the bard I clung, suspicion-bound. “Hasten Medusa: so to adamant Him shall we change;” all looking down exclaim’d. “E’en when by Theseus’ might assail’d, we took No ill revenge.” “Turn thyself round, and keep Thy count’nance hid; for if the Gorgon dire Be shown, and thou shouldst view it, thy return Upwards would be for ever lost.” This said, Himself my gentle master turn’d me round, Nor trusted he my hands, but with his own He also hid me. Ye of intellect Sound and entire, mark well the lore conceal’d Under close texture of the mystic strain!

And now there came o’er the perturbed waves Loud-crashing, terrible, a sound that made Either shore tremble, as if of a wind Impetuous, from conflicting vapours sprung, That ’gainst some forest driving all its might, Plucks off the branches, beats them down and hurls Afar; then onward passing proudly sweeps Its whirlwind rage, while beasts and shepherds fly.

Mine eyes he loos’d, and spake: “And now direct Thy visual nerve along that ancient foam, There, thickest where the smoke ascends.” As frogs Before their foe the serpent, through the wave Ply swiftly all, till at the ground each one Lies on a heap; more than a thousand spirits Destroy’d, so saw I fleeing before one Who pass’d with unwet feet the Stygian sound. He, from his face removing the gross air, Oft his left hand forth stretch’d, and seem’d alone By that annoyance wearied. I perceiv’d That he was sent from heav’n, and to my guide Turn’d me, who signal made that I should stand Quiet, and bend to him. Ah me! how full Of noble anger seem’d he! To the gate He came, and with his wand touch’d it, whereat Open without impediment it flew.


“Outcasts of heav’n! O abject race and scorn’d!” Began he on the horrid grunsel standing, “Whence doth this wild excess of insolence Lodge in you? wherefore kick you ’gainst that will Ne’er frustrate of its end, and which so oft Hath laid on you enforcement of your pangs? What profits at the fays to but the horn? Your Cerberus, if ye remember, hence Bears still, peel’d of their hair, his throat and maw.”

This said, he turn’d back o’er the filthy way, And syllable to us spake none, but wore The semblance of a man by other care Beset, and keenly press’d, than thought of him Who in his presence stands. Then we our steps Toward that territory mov’d, secure After the hallow’d words. We unoppos’d There enter’d; and my mind eager to learn What state a fortress like to that might hold, I soon as enter’d throw mine eye around, And see on every part wide-stretching space Replete with bitter pain and torment ill.

As where Rhone stagnates on the plains of Arles, Or as at Pola, near Quarnaro’s gulf, That closes Italy and laves her bounds, The place is all thick spread with sepulchres; So was it here, save what in horror here Excell’d: for ’midst the graves were scattered flames, Wherewith intensely all throughout they burn’d, That iron for no craft there hotter needs.

Their lids all hung suspended, and beneath From them forth issu’d lamentable moans, Such as the sad and tortur’d well might raise.

I thus: “Master! say who are these, interr’d Within these vaults, of whom distinct we hear The dolorous sighs?” He answer thus return’d:


“The arch-heretics are here, accompanied By every sect their followers; and much more, Than thou believest, tombs are freighted: like With like is buried; and the monuments Are different in degrees of heat.” This said, He to the right hand turning, on we pass’d Betwixt the afflicted and the ramparts high.

CANTO X Now by a secret pathway we proceed, Between the walls, that hem the region round, And the tormented souls: my master first, I close behind his steps. “Virtue supreme!” I thus began; “who through these ample orbs In circuit lead’st me, even as thou will’st, Speak thou, and satisfy my wish. May those, Who lie within these sepulchres, be seen? Already all the lids are rais’d, and none O’er them keeps watch.” He thus in answer spake “They shall be closed all, what-time they here From Josaphat return’d shall come, and bring Their bodies, which above they now have left. The cemetery on this part obtain With Epicurus all his followers, Who with the body make the spirit die. Here therefore satisfaction shall be soon Both to the question ask’d, and to the wish, Which thou conceal’st in silence.” I replied: “I keep not, guide belov’d! from thee my heart Secreted, but to shun vain length of words, A lesson erewhile taught me by thyself.”

“O Tuscan! thou who through the city of fire Alive art passing, so discreet of speech! Here please thee stay awhile. Thy utterance Declares the place of thy nativity To be that noble land, with which perchance I too severely dealt.” Sudden that sound Forth issu’d from a vault, whereat in fear I somewhat closer to my leader’s side Approaching, he thus spake: “What dost thou? Turn. Lo, Farinata, there! who hath himself Uplifted: from his girdle upwards all Expos’d behold him.” On his face was mine Already fix’d; his breast and forehead there Erecting, seem’d as in high scorn he held E’en hell. Between the sepulchres to him My guide thrust me with fearless hands and prompt, This warning added: “See thy words be clear!”


He, soon as there I stood at the tomb’s foot, Ey’d me a space, then in disdainful mood Address’d me: “Say, what ancestors were thine?”

I, willing to obey him, straight reveal’d The whole, nor kept back aught: whence he, his brow Somewhat uplifting, cried: “Fiercely were they Adverse to me, my party, and the blood From whence I sprang: twice therefore I abroad Scatter’d them.” “Though driv’n out, yet they each time From all parts,” answer’d I, “return’d; an art Which yours have shown, they are not skill’d to learn.”

Then, peering forth from the unclosed jaw, Rose from his side a shade, high as the chin, Leaning, methought, upon its knees uprais’d. It look’d around, as eager to explore If there were other with me; but perceiving That fond imagination quench’d, with tears Thus spake: “If thou through this blind prison go’st. Led by thy lofty genius and profound, Where is my son? and wherefore not with thee?”

I straight replied: “Not of myself I come, By him, who there expects me, through this clime Conducted, whom perchance Guido thy son Had in contempt.” Already had his words And mode of punishment read me his name, Whence I so fully answer’d. He at once Exclaim’d, up starting, “How! said’st thou he HAD? No longer lives he? Strikes not on his eye The blessed daylight?” Then of some delay I made ere my reply aware, down fell Supine, not after forth appear’d he more.

Meanwhile the other, great of soul, near whom I yet was station’d, chang’d not count’nance stern, Nor mov’d the neck, nor bent his ribbed side. “And if,” continuing the first discourse, “They in this art,” he cried, “small skill have shown, That doth torment me more e’en than this bed. But not yet fifty times shall be relum’d Her aspect, who reigns here Queen of this realm, Ere thou shalt know the full weight of that art. So to the pleasant world mayst thou return, As thou shalt tell me, why in all their laws, Against my kin this people is so fell?”

“The slaughter and great havoc,” I replied, “That colour’d Arbia’s flood with crimson stain— To these impute, that in our hallow’d dome Such orisons ascend.” Sighing he shook The head, then thus resum’d: “In that affray I stood not singly, nor without just cause Assuredly should with the rest have stirr’d; But singly there I stood, when by consent Of all, Florence had to the ground been raz’d, The one who openly forbad the deed.”

“So may thy lineage find at last repose,” I thus adjur’d him, “as thou solve this knot, Which now involves my mind. If right I hear, Ye seem to view beforehand, that which time Leads with him, of the present uninform’d.”

“We view, as one who hath an evil sight,” He answer’d, “plainly, objects far remote: So much of his large spendour yet imparts The Almighty Ruler; but when they approach Or actually exist, our intellect Then wholly fails, nor of your human state Except what others bring us know we aught. Hence therefore mayst thou understand, that all Our knowledge in that instant shall expire, When on futurity the portals close.”

Then conscious of my fault, and by remorse Smitten, I added thus: “Now shalt thou say To him there fallen, that his offspring still Is to the living join’d; and bid him know, That if from answer silent I abstain’d, ’Twas that my thought was occupied intent Upon that error, which thy help hath solv’d.”

But now my master summoning me back I heard, and with more eager haste besought The spirit to inform me, who with him Partook his lot. He answer thus return’d:

“More than a thousand with me here are laid Within is Frederick, second of that name, And the Lord Cardinal, and of the rest I speak not.” He, this said, from sight withdrew. But I my steps towards the ancient bard Reverting, ruminated on the words Betokening me such ill. Onward he mov’d, And thus in going question’d: “Whence the amaze That holds thy senses wrapt?” I satisfied The inquiry, and the sage enjoin’d me straight: “Let thy safe memory store what thou hast heard To thee importing harm; and note thou this,” With his rais’d finger bidding me take heed,

“When thou shalt stand before her gracious beam, Whose bright eye all surveys, she of thy life The future tenour will to thee unfold.”

Forthwith he to the left hand turn’d his feet: We left the wall, and tow’rds the middle space Went by a path, that to a valley strikes; Which e’en thus high exhal’d its noisome steam.

CANTO XI Upon the utmost verge of a high bank, By craggy rocks environ’d round, we came, Where woes beneath more cruel yet were stow’d: And here to shun the horrible excess Of fetid exhalation, upward cast From the profound abyss, behind the lid Of a great monument we stood retir’d,


Whereon this scroll I mark’d: “I have in charge Pope Anastasius, whom Photinus drew From the right path.—Ere our descent behooves We make delay, that somewhat first the sense, To the dire breath accustom’d, afterward Regard it not.” My master thus; to whom Answering I spake: “Some compensation find That the time past not wholly lost.” He then: “Lo! how my thoughts e’en to thy wishes tend! My son! within these rocks,” he thus began, “Are three close circles in gradation plac’d, As these which now thou leav’st. Each one is full Of spirits accurs’d; but that the sight alone Hereafter may suffice thee, listen how And for what cause in durance they abide.

“Of all malicious act abhorr’d in heaven, The end is injury; and all such end Either by force or fraud works other’s woe But fraud, because of man peculiar evil, To God is more displeasing; and beneath The fraudulent are therefore doom’d to’ endure Severer pang. The violent occupy All the first circle; and because to force Three persons are obnoxious, in three rounds Each within other sep’rate is it fram’d. To God, his neighbour, and himself, by man Force may be offer’d; to himself I say And his possessions, as thou soon shalt hear At full. Death, violent death, and painful wounds Upon his neighbour he inflicts; and wastes By devastation, pillage, and the flames, His substance. Slayers, and each one that smites In malice, plund’rers, and all robbers, hence The torment undergo of the first round In different herds. Man can do violence To himself and his own blessings: and for this He in the second round must aye deplore With unavailing penitence his crime, Whoe’er deprives himself of life and light, In reckless lavishment his talent wastes, And sorrows there where he should dwell in joy. To God may force be offer’d, in the heart Denying and blaspheming his high power, And nature with her kindly law contemning. And thence the inmost round marks with its seal Sodom and Cahors, and all such as speak Contemptuously of the Godhead in their hearts.

“Fraud, that in every conscience leaves a sting, May be by man employ’d on one, whose trust He wins, or on another who withholds Strict confidence. Seems as the latter way Broke but the bond of love which Nature makes. Whence in the second circle have their nest Dissimulation, witchcraft, flatteries, Theft, falsehood, simony, all who seduce To lust, or set their honesty at pawn, With such vile scum as these. The other way Forgets both Nature’s general love, and that Which thereto added afterwards gives birth To special faith. Whence in the lesser circle, Point of the universe, dread seat of Dis, The traitor is eternally consum’d.”

I thus: “Instructor, clearly thy discourse Proceeds, distinguishing the hideous chasm And its inhabitants with skill exact. But tell me this: they of the dull, fat pool, Whom the rain beats, or whom the tempest drives, Or who with tongues so fierce conflicting meet, Wherefore within the city fire-illum’d Are not these punish’d, if God’s wrath be on them? And if it be not, wherefore in such guise Are they condemned?” He answer thus return’d: “Wherefore in dotage wanders thus thy mind, Not so accustom’d? or what other thoughts Possess it? Dwell not in thy memory The words, wherein thy ethic page describes Three dispositions adverse to Heav’n’s will, Incont’nence, malice, and mad brutishness, And how incontinence the least offends God, and least guilt incurs? If well thou note This judgment, and remember who they are, Without these walls to vain repentance doom’d, Thou shalt discern why they apart are plac’d From these fell spirits, and less wreakful pours Justice divine on them its vengeance down.”

“O Sun! who healest all imperfect sight, Thou so content’st me, when thou solv’st my doubt, That ignorance not less than knowledge charms. Yet somewhat turn thee back,” I in these words Continu’d, “where thou saidst, that usury Offends celestial Goodness; and this knot Perplex’d unravel.” He thus made reply: “Philosophy, to an attentive ear, Clearly points out, not in one part alone, How imitative nature takes her course From the celestial mind and from its art: And where her laws the Stagyrite unfolds, Not many leaves scann’d o’er, observing well Thou shalt discover, that your art on her Obsequious follows, as the learner treads In his instructor’s step, so that your art Deserves the name of second in descent From God. These two, if thou recall to mind Creation’s holy book, from the beginning Were the right source of life and excellence To human kind. But in another path The usurer walks; and Nature in herself And in her follower thus he sets at nought, Placing elsewhere his hope. But follow now My steps on forward journey bent; for now The Pisces play with undulating glance Along the horizon, and the Wain lies all O’er the north-west; and onward there a space Is our steep passage down the rocky height.”

CANTO XII The place where to descend the precipice We came, was rough as Alp, and on its verge Such object lay, as every eye would shun.

As is that ruin, which Adice’s stream On this side Trento struck, should’ring the wave, Or loos’d by earthquake or for lack of prop; For from the mountain’s summit, whence it mov’d To the low level, so the headlong rock Is shiver’d, that some passage it might give To him who from above would pass; e’en such Into the chasm was that descent: and there At point of the disparted ridge lay stretch’d The infamy of Crete, detested brood Of the feign’d heifer: and at sight of us It gnaw’d itself, as one with rage distract.


To him my guide exclaim’d: “Perchance thou deem’st The King of Athens here, who, in the world Above, thy death contriv’d. Monster! avaunt! He comes not tutor’d by thy sister’s art, But to behold your torments is he come.”

Like to a bull, that with impetuous spring Darts, at the moment when the fatal blow Hath struck him, but unable to proceed Plunges on either side; so saw I plunge The Minotaur; whereat the sage exclaim’d: “Run to the passage! while he storms, ’t is well That thou descend.” Thus down our road we took Through those dilapidated crags, that oft Mov’d underneath my feet, to weight like theirs Unus’d. I pond’ring went, and thus he spake:

“Perhaps thy thoughts are of this ruin’d steep, Guarded by the brute violence, which I Have vanquish’d now. Know then, that when I erst Hither descended to the nether hell, This rock was not yet fallen. But past doubt (If well I mark) not long ere He arrived, Who carried off from Dis the mighty spoil Of the highest circle, then through all its bounds Such trembling seiz’d the deep concave and foul, I thought the universe was thrill’d with love, Whereby, there are who deem, the world hath oft Been into chaos turn’d: and in that point, Here, and elsewhere, that old rock toppled down. But fix thine eyes beneath: the river of blood Approaches, in the which all those are steep’d, Who have by violence injur’d.” O blind lust! O foolish wrath! who so dost goad us on In the brief life, and in the eternal then Thus miserably o’erwhelm us. I beheld An ample foss, that in a bow was bent, As circling all the plain; for so my guide Had told. Between it and the rampart’s base On trail ran Centaurs, with keen arrows arm’d, As to the chase they on the earth were wont.


At seeing us descend they each one stood; And issuing from the troop, three sped with bows And missile weapons chosen first; of whom One cried from far: “Say to what pain ye come Condemn’d, who down this steep have journied? Speak From whence ye stand, or else the bow I draw.”

To whom my guide: “Our answer shall be made To Chiron, there, when nearer him we come. Ill was thy mind, thus ever quick and rash.”

Then me he touch’d, and spake: “Nessus is this, Who for the fair Deianira died, And wrought himself revenge for his own fate. He in the midst, that on his breast looks down, Is the great Chiron who Achilles nurs’d; That other Pholus, prone to wrath.” Around The foss these go by thousands, aiming shafts At whatsoever spirit dares emerge From out the blood, more than his guilt allows.


We to those beasts, that rapid strode along, Drew near, when Chiron took an arrow forth, And with the notch push’d back his shaggy beard To the cheek-bone, then his great mouth to view Exposing, to his fellows thus exclaim’d: “Are ye aware, that he who comes behind Moves what he touches? The feet of the dead Are not so wont.” My trusty guide, who now Stood near his breast, where the two natures join, Thus made reply: “He is indeed alive, And solitary so must needs by me Be shown the gloomy vale, thereto induc’d By strict necessity, not by delight. She left her joyful harpings in the sky, Who this new office to my care consign’d. He is no robber, no dark spirit I. But by that virtue, which empowers my step To treat so wild a path, grant us, I pray, One of thy band, whom we may trust secure, Who to the ford may lead us, and convey Across, him mounted on his back; for he Is not a spirit that may walk the air.”

Then on his right breast turning, Chiron thus To Nessus spake: “Return, and be their guide. And if ye chance to cross another troop, Command them keep aloof.” Onward we mov’d, The faithful escort by our side, along The border of the crimson-seething flood, Whence from those steep’d within loud shrieks arose.

Some there I mark’d, as high as to their brow Immers’d, of whom the mighty Centaur thus: “These are the souls of tyrants, who were given To blood and rapine. Here they wail aloud Their merciless wrongs. Here Alexander dwells, And Dionysius fell, who many a year Of woe wrought for fair Sicily. That brow Whereon the hair so jetty clust’ring hangs, Is Azzolino; that with flaxen locks Obizzo’ of Este, in the world destroy’d By his foul step-son.” To the bard rever’d I turned me round, and thus he spake; “Let him Be to thee now first leader, me but next To him in rank.” Then farther on a space The Centaur paus’d, near some, who at the throat Were extant from the wave; and showing us A spirit by itself apart retir’d, Exclaim’d: “He in God’s bosom smote the heart, Which yet is honour’d on the bank of Thames.”

A race I next espied, who held the head, And even all the bust above the stream. ’Midst these I many a face remember’d well. Thus shallow more and more the blood became, So that at last it but imbru’d the feet; And there our passage lay athwart the foss.

“As ever on this side the boiling wave Thou seest diminishing,” the Centaur said, “So on the other, be thou well assur’d, It lower still and lower sinks its bed, Till in that part it reuniting join, Where ’t is the lot of tyranny to mourn. There Heav’n’s stern justice lays chastising hand On Attila, who was the scourge of earth, On Sextus, and on Pyrrhus, and extracts Tears ever by the seething flood unlock’d From the Rinieri, of Corneto this, Pazzo the other nam’d, who fill’d the ways With violence and war.” This said, he turn’d, And quitting us, alone repass’d the ford.

CANTO XIII Ere Nessus yet had reach’d the other bank, We enter’d on a forest, where no track Of steps had worn a way. Not verdant there The foliage, but of dusky hue; not light The boughs and tapering, but with knares deform’d And matted thick: fruits there were none, but thorns Instead, with venom fill’d. Less sharp than these, Less intricate the brakes, wherein abide Those animals, that hate the cultur’d fields, Betwixt Corneto and Cecina’s stream.


Here the brute Harpies make their nest, the same Who from the Strophades the Trojan band Drove with dire boding of their future woe. Broad are their pennons, of the human form Their neck and count’nance, arm’d with talons keen The feet, and the huge belly fledge with wings These sit and wail on the drear mystic wood.

The kind instructor in these words began: “Ere farther thou proceed, know thou art now I’ th’ second round, and shalt be, till thou come Upon the horrid sand: look therefore well Around thee, and such things thou shalt behold, As would my speech discredit.” On all sides I heard sad plainings breathe, and none could see From whom they might have issu’d. In amaze Fast bound I stood. He, as it seem’d, believ’d, That I had thought so many voices came From some amid those thickets close conceal’d, And thus his speech resum’d: “If thou lop off A single twig from one of those ill plants, The thought thou hast conceiv’d shall vanish quite.”

Thereat a little stretching forth my hand, From a great wilding gather’d I a branch, And straight the trunk exclaim’d: “Why pluck’st thou me?”


Then as the dark blood trickled down its side, These words it added: “Wherefore tear’st me thus? Is there no touch of mercy in thy breast? Men once were we, that now are rooted here. Thy hand might well have spar’d us, had we been The souls of serpents.” As a brand yet green, That burning at one end from the other sends A groaning sound, and hisses with the wind That forces out its way, so burst at once, Forth from the broken splinter words and blood.

I, letting fall the bough, remain’d as one Assail’d by terror, and the sage replied: “If he, O injur’d spirit! could have believ’d What he hath seen but in my verse describ’d, He never against thee had stretch’d his hand. But I, because the thing surpass’d belief, Prompted him to this deed, which even now Myself I rue. But tell me, who thou wast; That, for this wrong to do thee some amends, In the upper world (for thither to return Is granted him) thy fame he may revive.”

“That pleasant word of thine,” the trunk replied “Hath so inveigled me, that I from speech Cannot refrain, wherein if I indulge A little longer, in the snare detain’d, Count it not grievous. I it was, who held Both keys to Frederick’s heart, and turn’d the wards, Opening and shutting, with a skill so sweet, That besides me, into his inmost breast Scarce any other could admittance find. The faith I bore to my high charge was such, It cost me the life-blood that warm’d my veins. The harlot, who ne’er turn’d her gloating eyes From Caesar’s household, common vice and pest Of courts, ’gainst me inflam’d the minds of all; And to Augustus they so spread the flame, That my glad honours chang’d to bitter woes. My soul, disdainful and disgusted, sought Refuge in death from scorn, and I became, Just as I was, unjust toward myself. By the new roots, which fix this stem, I swear, That never faith I broke to my liege lord, Who merited such honour; and of you, If any to the world indeed return, Clear he from wrong my memory, that lies Yet prostrate under envy’s cruel blow.”

First somewhat pausing, till the mournful words Were ended, then to me the bard began: “Lose not the time; but speak and of him ask, If more thou wish to learn.” Whence I replied: “Question thou him again of whatsoe’er Will, as thou think’st, content me; for no power Have I to ask, such pity’ is at my heart.”

He thus resum’d; “So may he do for thee Freely what thou entreatest, as thou yet Be pleas’d, imprison’d Spirit! to declare, How in these gnarled joints the soul is tied; And whether any ever from such frame Be loosen’d, if thou canst, that also tell.”

Thereat the trunk breath’d hard, and the wind soon Chang’d into sounds articulate like these;

Briefly ye shall be answer’d. “When departs The fierce soul from the body, by itself Thence torn asunder, to the seventh gulf By Minos doom’d, into the wood it falls, No place assign’d, but wheresoever chance Hurls it, there sprouting, as a grain of spelt, It rises to a sapling, growing thence A savage plant. The Harpies, on its leaves Then feeding, cause both pain and for the pain A vent to grief. We, as the rest, shall come For our own spoils, yet not so that with them We may again be clad; for what a man Takes from himself it is not just he have. Here we perforce shall drag them; and throughout The dismal glade our bodies shall be hung, Each on the wild thorn of his wretched shade.”

Attentive yet to listen to the trunk We stood, expecting farther speech, when us A noise surpris’d, as when a man perceives The wild boar and the hunt approach his place Of station’d watch, who of the beasts and boughs Loud rustling round him hears. And lo! there came Two naked, torn with briers, in headlong flight, That they before them broke each fan o’ th’ wood. “Haste now,” the foremost cried, “now haste thee death!”


The other, as seem’d, impatient of delay Exclaiming, “Lano! not so bent for speed Thy sinews, in the lists of Toppo’s field.” And then, for that perchance no longer breath Suffic’d him, of himself and of a bush One group he made. Behind them was the wood Full of black female mastiffs, gaunt and fleet, As greyhounds that have newly slipp’d the leash. On him, who squatted down, they stuck their fangs, And having rent him piecemeal bore away The tortur’d limbs. My guide then seiz’d my hand, And led me to the thicket, which in vain Mourn’d through its bleeding wounds: “O Giacomo Of Sant’ Andrea! what avails it thee,” It cried, “that of me thou hast made thy screen? For thy ill life what blame on me recoils?”

When o’er it he had paus’d, my master spake: “Say who wast thou, that at so many points Breath’st out with blood thy lamentable speech?”

He answer’d: “Oh, ye spirits: arriv’d in time To spy the shameful havoc, that from me My leaves hath sever’d thus, gather them up, And at the foot of their sad parent-tree Carefully lay them. In that city’ I dwelt, Who for the Baptist her first patron chang’d, Whence he for this shall cease not with his art To work her woe: and if there still remain’d not On Arno’s passage some faint glimpse of him, Those citizens, who rear’d once more her walls Upon the ashes left by Attila, Had labour’d without profit of their toil. I slung the fatal noose from my own roof.”

CANTO XIV Soon as the charity of native land Wrought in my bosom, I the scatter’d leaves Collected, and to him restor’d, who now Was hoarse with utt’rance. To the limit thence We came, which from the third the second round Divides, and where of justice is display’d Contrivance horrible. Things then first seen Clearlier to manifest, I tell how next A plain we reach’d, that from its sterile bed Each plant repell’d. The mournful wood waves round Its garland on all sides, as round the wood Spreads the sad foss. There, on the very edge, Our steps we stay’d. It was an area wide Of arid sand and thick, resembling most The soil that erst by Cato’s foot was trod.

Vengeance of Heav’n! Oh! how shouldst thou be fear’d By all, who read what here my eyes beheld!

Of naked spirits many a flock I saw, All weeping piteously, to different laws Subjected: for on the earth some lay supine, Some crouching close were seated, others pac’d Incessantly around; the latter tribe, More numerous, those fewer who beneath The torment lay, but louder in their grief.

O’er all the sand fell slowly wafting down Dilated flakes of fire, as flakes of snow On Alpine summit, when the wind is hush’d. As in the torrid Indian clime, the son Of Ammon saw upon his warrior band Descending, solid flames, that to the ground Came down: whence he bethought him with his troop To trample on the soil; for easier thus The vapour was extinguish’d, while alone; So fell the eternal fiery flood, wherewith The marble glow’d underneath, as under stove The viands, doubly to augment the pain.


Unceasing was the play of wretched hands, Now this, now that way glancing, to shake off The heat, still falling fresh. I thus began: “Instructor! thou who all things overcom’st, Except the hardy demons, that rush’d forth To stop our entrance at the gate, say who Is yon huge spirit, that, as seems, heeds not The burning, but lies writhen in proud scorn, As by the sultry tempest immatur’d?”

Straight he himself, who was aware I ask’d My guide of him, exclaim’d: “Such as I was When living, dead such now I am. If Jove Weary his workman out, from whom in ire He snatch’d the lightnings, that at my last day Transfix’d me, if the rest be weary out At their black smithy labouring by turns In Mongibello, while he cries aloud; “Help, help, good Mulciber!” as erst he cried In the Phlegraean warfare, and the bolts Launch he full aim’d at me with all his might, He never should enjoy a sweet revenge.”

Then thus my guide, in accent higher rais’d Than I before had heard him: “Capaneus! Thou art more punish’d, in that this thy pride Lives yet unquench’d: no torrent, save thy rage, Were to thy fury pain proportion’d full.”

Next turning round to me with milder lip He spake: “This of the seven kings was one, Who girt the Theban walls with siege, and held, As still he seems to hold, God in disdain, And sets his high omnipotence at nought. But, as I told him, his despiteful mood Is ornament well suits the breast that wears it. Follow me now; and look thou set not yet Thy foot in the hot sand, but to the wood Keep ever close.” Silently on we pass’d To where there gushes from the forest’s bound A little brook, whose crimson’d wave yet lifts My hair with horror. As the rill, that runs From Bulicame, to be portion’d out Among the sinful women; so ran this Down through the sand, its bottom and each bank Stone-built, and either margin at its side, Whereon I straight perceiv’d our passage lay.

“Of all that I have shown thee, since that gate We enter’d first, whose threshold is to none Denied, nought else so worthy of regard, As is this river, has thine eye discern’d, O’er which the flaming volley all is quench’d.”

So spake my guide; and I him thence besought, That having giv’n me appetite to know, The food he too would give, that hunger crav’d.

“In midst of ocean,” forthwith he began, “A desolate country lies, which Crete is nam’d, Under whose monarch in old times the world Liv’d pure and chaste. A mountain rises there, Call’d Ida, joyous once with leaves and streams, Deserted now like a forbidden thing. It was the spot which Rhea, Saturn’s spouse, Chose for the secret cradle of her son; And better to conceal him, drown’d in shouts His infant cries. Within the mount, upright An ancient form there stands and huge, that turns His shoulders towards Damiata, and at Rome As in his mirror looks. Of finest gold His head is shap’d, pure silver are the breast And arms; thence to the middle is of brass. And downward all beneath well-temper’d steel, Save the right foot of potter’s clay, on which Than on the other more erect he stands, Each part except the gold, is rent throughout; And from the fissure tears distil, which join’d Penetrate to that cave. They in their course Thus far precipitated down the rock Form Acheron, and Styx, and Phlegethon; Then by this straiten’d channel passing hence Beneath, e’en to the lowest depth of all, Form there Cocytus, of whose lake (thyself Shall see it) I here give thee no account.”

Then I to him: “If from our world this sluice Be thus deriv’d; wherefore to us but now Appears it at this edge?” He straight replied: “The place, thou know’st, is round; and though great part Thou have already pass’d, still to the left Descending to the nethermost, not yet Hast thou the circuit made of the whole orb. Wherefore if aught of new to us appear, It needs not bring up wonder in thy looks.”

Then I again inquir’d: “Where flow the streams Of Phlegethon and Lethe? for of one Thou tell’st not, and the other of that shower, Thou say’st, is form’d.” He answer thus return’d: “Doubtless thy questions all well pleas’d I hear. Yet the red seething wave might have resolv’d One thou proposest. Lethe thou shalt see, But not within this hollow, in the place, Whither to lave themselves the spirits go, Whose blame hath been by penitence remov’d.” He added: “Time is now we quit the wood. Look thou my steps pursue: the margins give Safe passage, unimpeded by the flames; For over them all vapour is extinct.”

CANTO XV One of the solid margins bears us now Envelop’d in the mist, that from the stream Arising, hovers o’er, and saves from fire Both piers and water. As the Flemings rear Their mound, ’twixt Ghent and Bruges, to chase back The ocean, fearing his tumultuous tide That drives toward them, or the Paduans theirs Along the Brenta, to defend their towns And castles, ere the genial warmth be felt On Chiarentana’s top; such were the mounds, So fram’d, though not in height or bulk to these Made equal, by the master, whosoe’er He was, that rais’d them here. We from the wood Were not so far remov’d, that turning round I might not have discern’d it, when we met A troop of spirits, who came beside the pier.

They each one ey’d us, as at eventide One eyes another under a new moon, And toward us sharpen’d their sight as keen, As an old tailor at his needle’s eye.

Thus narrowly explor’d by all the tribe, I was agniz’d of one, who by the skirt Caught me, and cried, “What wonder have we here!”

And I, when he to me outstretch’d his arm, Intently fix’d my ken on his parch’d looks, That although smirch’d with fire, they hinder’d not But I remember’d him; and towards his face My hand inclining, answer’d: “Sir! Brunetto!


“And art thou here?” He thus to me: “My son! Oh let it not displease thee, if Brunetto Latini but a little space with thee Turn back, and leave his fellows to proceed.”

I thus to him replied: “Much as I can, I thereto pray thee; and if thou be willing, That I here seat me with thee, I consent; His leave, with whom I journey, first obtain’d.”

“O son!” said he, “whoever of this throng One instant stops, lies then a hundred years, No fan to ventilate him, when the fire Smites sorest. Pass thou therefore on. I close Will at thy garments walk, and then rejoin My troop, who go mourning their endless doom.”

I dar’d not from the path descend to tread On equal ground with him, but held my head Bent down, as one who walks in reverent guise.

“What chance or destiny,” thus he began, “Ere the last day conducts thee here below? And who is this, that shows to thee the way?”

“There up aloft,” I answer’d, “in the life Serene, I wander’d in a valley lost, Before mine age had to its fullness reach’d. But yester-morn I left it: then once more Into that vale returning, him I met; And by this path homeward he leads me back.”

“If thou,” he answer’d, “follow but thy star, Thou canst not miss at last a glorious haven: Unless in fairer days my judgment err’d. And if my fate so early had not chanc’d, Seeing the heav’ns thus bounteous to thee, I Had gladly giv’n thee comfort in thy work. But that ungrateful and malignant race, Who in old times came down from Fesole, Ay and still smack of their rough mountain-flint, Will for thy good deeds shew thee enmity. Nor wonder; for amongst ill-savour’d crabs It suits not the sweet fig-tree lay her fruit. Old fame reports them in the world for blind, Covetous, envious, proud. Look to it well: Take heed thou cleanse thee of their ways. For thee Thy fortune hath such honour in reserve, That thou by either party shalt be crav’d With hunger keen: but be the fresh herb far From the goat’s tooth. The herd of Fesole May of themselves make litter, not touch the plant, If any such yet spring on their rank bed, In which the holy seed revives, transmitted From those true Romans, who still there remain’d, When it was made the nest of so much ill.”

“Were all my wish fulfill’d,” I straight replied, “Thou from the confines of man’s nature yet Hadst not been driven forth; for in my mind Is fix’d, and now strikes full upon my heart The dear, benign, paternal image, such As thine was, when so lately thou didst teach me The way for man to win eternity; And how I priz’d the lesson, it behooves, That, long as life endures, my tongue should speak, What of my fate thou tell’st, that write I down: And with another text to comment on For her I keep it, the celestial dame, Who will know all, if I to her arrive. This only would I have thee clearly note: That so my conscience have no plea against me; Do fortune as she list, I stand prepar’d. Not new or strange such earnest to mine ear. Speed fortune then her wheel, as likes her best, The clown his mattock; all things have their course.”

Thereat my sapient guide upon his right Turn’d himself back, then look’d at me and spake: “He listens to good purpose who takes note.”

I not the less still on my way proceed, Discoursing with Brunetto, and inquire Who are most known and chief among his tribe.

“To know of some is well;” thus he replied, “But of the rest silence may best beseem. Time would not serve us for report so long. In brief I tell thee, that all these were clerks, Men of great learning and no less renown, By one same sin polluted in the world. With them is Priscian, and Accorso’s son Francesco herds among that wretched throng: And, if the wish of so impure a blotch Possess’d thee, him thou also might’st have seen, Who by the servants’ servant was transferr’d From Arno’s seat to Bacchiglione, where His ill-strain’d nerves he left. I more would add, But must from farther speech and onward way Alike desist, for yonder I behold A mist new-risen on the sandy plain. A company, with whom I may not sort, Approaches. I commend my TREASURE to thee, Wherein I yet survive; my sole request.”

This said he turn’d, and seem’d as one of those, Who o’er Verona’s champain try their speed For the green mantle, and of them he seem’d, Not he who loses but who gains the prize.

CANTO XVI Now came I where the water’s din was heard, As down it fell into the other round, Resounding like the hum of swarming bees: When forth together issu’d from a troop, That pass’d beneath the fierce tormenting storm, Three spirits, running swift. They towards us came, And each one cried aloud, “Oh do thou stay! Whom by the fashion of thy garb we deem To be some inmate of our evil land.”

Ah me! what wounds I mark’d upon their limbs, Recent and old, inflicted by the flames! E’en the remembrance of them grieves me yet.

Attentive to their cry my teacher paus’d, And turn’d to me his visage, and then spake; “Wait now! our courtesy these merit well: And were ’t not for the nature of the place, Whence glide the fiery darts, I should have said, That haste had better suited thee than them.”

They, when we stopp’d, resum’d their ancient wail, And soon as they had reach’d us, all the three Whirl’d round together in one restless wheel. As naked champions, smear’d with slippery oil, Are wont intent to watch their place of hold And vantage, ere in closer strife they meet; Thus each one, as he wheel’d, his countenance At me directed, so that opposite The neck mov’d ever to the twinkling feet.

“If misery of this drear wilderness,” Thus one began, “added to our sad cheer And destitute, do call forth scorn on us And our entreaties, let our great renown Incline thee to inform us who thou art, That dost imprint with living feet unharm’d The soil of Hell. He, in whose track thou see’st My steps pursuing, naked though he be And reft of all, was of more high estate Than thou believest; grandchild of the chaste Gualdrada, him they Guidoguerra call’d, Who in his lifetime many a noble act Achiev’d, both by his wisdom and his sword. The other, next to me that beats the sand, Is Aldobrandi, name deserving well, In the upper world, of honour; and myself Who in this torment do partake with them, Am Rusticucci, whom, past doubt, my wife Of savage temper, more than aught beside Hath to this evil brought.” If from the fire I had been shelter’d, down amidst them straight I then had cast me, nor my guide, I deem, Would have restrain’d my going; but that fear Of the dire burning vanquish’d the desire, Which made me eager of their wish’d embrace.

I then began: “Not scorn, but grief much more, Such as long time alone can cure, your doom Fix’d deep within me, soon as this my lord Spake words, whose tenour taught me to expect That such a race, as ye are, was at hand. I am a countryman of yours, who still Affectionate have utter’d, and have heard Your deeds and names renown’d. Leaving the gall For the sweet fruit I go, that a sure guide Hath promis’d to me. But behooves, that far As to the centre first I downward tend.”

“So may long space thy spirit guide thy limbs,” He answer straight return’d; “and so thy fame Shine bright, when thou art gone; as thou shalt tell, If courtesy and valour, as they wont, Dwell in our city, or have vanish’d clean? For one amidst us late condemn’d to wail, Borsiere, yonder walking with his peers, Grieves us no little by the news he brings.”

“An upstart multitude and sudden gains, Pride and excess, O Florence! have in thee Engender’d, so that now in tears thou mourn’st!” Thus cried I with my face uprais’d, and they All three, who for an answer took my words, Look’d at each other, as men look when truth Comes to their ear. “If thou at other times,” They all at once rejoin’d, “so easily Satisfy those, who question, happy thou, Gifted with words, so apt to speak thy thought! Wherefore if thou escape this darksome clime, Returning to behold the radiant stars, When thou with pleasure shalt retrace the past, See that of us thou speak among mankind.”

This said, they broke the circle, and so swift Fled, that as pinions seem’d their nimble feet.

Not in so short a time might one have said “Amen,” as they had vanish’d. Straight my guide Pursu’d his track. I follow’d; and small space Had we pass’d onward, when the water’s sound Was now so near at hand, that we had scarce Heard one another’s speech for the loud din.

E’en as the river, that holds on its course Unmingled, from the mount of Vesulo, On the left side of Apennine, toward The east, which Acquacheta higher up They call, ere it descend into the vale, At Forli by that name no longer known, Rebellows o’er Saint Benedict, roll’d on From the Alpine summit down a precipice, Where space enough to lodge a thousand spreads; Thus downward from a craggy steep we found, That this dark wave resounded, roaring loud, So that the ear its clamour soon had stunn’d.

I had a cord that brac’d my girdle round, Wherewith I erst had thought fast bound to take The painted leopard. This when I had all Unloosen’d from me (so my master bade) I gather’d up, and stretch’d it forth to him. Then to the right he turn’d, and from the brink Standing few paces distant, cast it down Into the deep abyss. “And somewhat strange,” Thus to myself I spake, “signal so strange Betokens, which my guide with earnest eye Thus follows.” Ah! what caution must men use With those who look not at the deed alone, But spy into the thoughts with subtle skill!

“Quickly shall come,” he said, “what I expect, Thine eye discover quickly, that whereof Thy thought is dreaming.” Ever to that truth, Which but the semblance of a falsehood wears, A man, if possible, should bar his lip; Since, although blameless, he incurs reproach. But silence here were vain; and by these notes Which now I sing, reader! I swear to thee, So may they favour find to latest times! That through the gross and murky air I spied A shape come swimming up, that might have quell’d The stoutest heart with wonder, in such guise As one returns, who hath been down to loose An anchor grappled fast against some rock, Or to aught else that in the salt wave lies, Who upward springing close draws in his feet.

CANTO XVII “Lo! the fell monster with the deadly sting! Who passes mountains, breaks through fenced walls And firm embattled spears, and with his filth Taints all the world!” Thus me my guide address’d, And beckon’d him, that he should come to shore, Near to the stony causeway’s utmost edge.


Forthwith that image vile of fraud appear’d, His head and upper part expos’d on land, But laid not on the shore his bestial train. His face the semblance of a just man’s wore, So kind and gracious was its outward cheer; The rest was serpent all: two shaggy claws Reach’d to the armpits, and the back and breast, And either side, were painted o’er with nodes And orbits. Colours variegated more Nor Turks nor Tartars e’er on cloth of state With interchangeable embroidery wove, Nor spread Arachne o’er her curious loom. As ofttimes a light skiff, moor’d to the shore, Stands part in water, part upon the land; Or, as where dwells the greedy German boor, The beaver settles watching for his prey; So on the rim, that fenc’d the sand with rock, Sat perch’d the fiend of evil. In the void Glancing, his tail upturn’d its venomous fork, With sting like scorpion’s arm’d. Then thus my guide: “Now need our way must turn few steps apart, Far as to that ill beast, who couches there.”

Thereat toward the right our downward course We shap’d, and, better to escape the flame And burning marle, ten paces on the verge Proceeded. Soon as we to him arrive, A little further on mine eye beholds A tribe of spirits, seated on the sand Near the wide chasm. Forthwith my master spake: “That to the full thy knowledge may extend Of all this round contains, go now, and mark The mien these wear: but hold not long discourse. Till thou returnest, I with him meantime Will parley, that to us he may vouchsafe The aid of his strong shoulders.” Thus alone Yet forward on the extremity I pac’d Of that seventh circle, where the mournful tribe Were seated. At the eyes forth gush’d their pangs. Against the vapours and the torrid soil Alternately their shifting hands they plied. Thus use the dogs in summer still to ply Their jaws and feet by turns, when bitten sore By gnats, or flies, or gadflies swarming round.

Noting the visages of some, who lay Beneath the pelting of that dolorous fire, One of them all I knew not; but perceiv’d, That pendent from his neck each bore a pouch With colours and with emblems various mark’d, On which it seem’d as if their eye did feed.

And when amongst them looking round I came, A yellow purse I saw with azure wrought, That wore a lion’s countenance and port. Then still my sight pursuing its career, Another I beheld, than blood more red. A goose display of whiter wing than curd. And one, who bore a fat and azure swine Pictur’d on his white scrip, addressed me thus: “What dost thou in this deep? Go now and know, Since yet thou livest, that my neighbour here Vitaliano on my left shall sit. A Paduan with these Florentines am I. Ofttimes they thunder in mine ears, exclaiming ‘O haste that noble knight! he who the pouch With the three beaks will bring!’” This said, he writh’d The mouth, and loll’d the tongue out, like an ox That licks his nostrils. I, lest longer stay He ill might brook, who bade me stay not long, Backward my steps from those sad spirits turn’d.

My guide already seated on the haunch Of the fierce animal I found; and thus He me encourag’d. “Be thou stout; be bold. Down such a steep flight must we now descend! Mount thou before: for that no power the tail May have to harm thee, I will be i’ th’ midst.”

As one, who hath an ague fit so near, His nails already are turn’d blue, and he Quivers all o’er, if he but eye the shade; Such was my cheer at hearing of his words. But shame soon interpos’d her threat, who makes The servant bold in presence of his lord.

I settled me upon those shoulders huge, And would have said, but that the words to aid My purpose came not, “Look thou clasp me firm!”

But he whose succour then not first I prov’d, Soon as I mounted, in his arms aloft, Embracing, held me up, and thus he spake: “Geryon! now move thee! be thy wheeling gyres Of ample circuit, easy thy descent. Think on th’ unusual burden thou sustain’st.”

As a small vessel, back’ning out from land, Her station quits; so thence the monster loos’d, And when he felt himself at large, turn’d round There where the breast had been, his forked tail. Thus, like an eel, outstretch’d at length he steer’d, Gath’ring the air up with retractile claws.

Not greater was the dread when Phaeton The reins let drop at random, whence high heaven, Whereof signs yet appear, was wrapt in flames; Nor when ill-fated Icarus perceiv’d, By liquefaction of the scalded wax, The trusted pennons loosen’d from his loins, His sire exclaiming loud, “Ill way thou keep’st!” Than was my dread, when round me on each part The air I view’d, and other object none Save the fell beast. He slowly sailing, wheels His downward motion, unobserv’d of me, But that the wind, arising to my face, Breathes on me from below. Now on our right I heard the cataract beneath us leap With hideous crash; whence bending down to’ explore, New terror I conceiv’d at the steep plunge:


For flames I saw, and wailings smote mine ear: So that all trembling close I crouch’d my limbs, And then distinguish’d, unperceiv’d before, By the dread torments that on every side Drew nearer, how our downward course we wound.

As falcon, that hath long been on the wing, But lure nor bird hath seen, while in despair The falconer cries, “Ah me! thou stoop’st to earth!” Wearied descends, and swiftly down the sky In many an orbit wheels, then lighting sits At distance from his lord in angry mood; So Geryon lighting places us on foot Low down at base of the deep-furrow’d rock, And, of his burden there discharg’d, forthwith Sprang forward, like an arrow from the string.

CANTO XVIII There is a place within the depths of hell Call’d Malebolge, all of rock dark-stain’d With hue ferruginous, e’en as the steep That round it circling winds. Right in the midst Of that abominable region, yawns A spacious gulf profound, whereof the frame Due time shall tell. The circle, that remains, Throughout its round, between the gulf and base Of the high craggy banks, successive forms Ten trenches, in its hollow bottom sunk.

As where to guard the walls, full many a foss Begirds some stately castle, sure defence Affording to the space within, so here Were model’d these; and as like fortresses E’en from their threshold to the brink without, Are flank’d with bridges; from the rock’s low base Thus flinty paths advanc’d, that ’cross the moles And dikes, struck onward far as to the gulf, That in one bound collected cuts them off. Such was the place, wherein we found ourselves From Geryon’s back dislodg’d. The bard to left Held on his way, and I behind him mov’d.

On our right hand new misery I saw, New pains, new executioners of wrath, That swarming peopled the first chasm. Below Were naked sinners. Hitherward they came, Meeting our faces from the middle point, With us beyond but with a larger stride. E’en thus the Romans, when the year returns Of Jubilee, with better speed to rid The thronging multitudes, their means devise For such as pass the bridge; that on one side All front toward the castle, and approach Saint Peter’s fane, on th’ other towards the mount.

Each divers way along the grisly rock, Horn’d demons I beheld, with lashes huge, That on their back unmercifully smote. Ah! how they made them bound at the first stripe!


None for the second waited nor the third.

Meantime as on I pass’d, one met my sight Whom soon as view’d; “Of him,” cried I, “not yet Mine eye hath had his fill.” With fixed gaze I therefore scann’d him. Straight the teacher kind Paus’d with me, and consented I should walk Backward a space, and the tormented spirit, Who thought to hide him, bent his visage down. But it avail’d him nought; for I exclaim’d: “Thou who dost cast thy eye upon the ground, Unless thy features do belie thee much, Venedico art thou. But what brings thee Into this bitter seas’ning?” He replied: “Unwillingly I answer to thy words. But thy clear speech, that to my mind recalls The world I once inhabited, constrains me. Know then ’twas I who led fair Ghisola To do the Marquis’ will, however fame The shameful tale have bruited. Nor alone Bologna hither sendeth me to mourn Rather with us the place is so o’erthrong’d That not so many tongues this day are taught, Betwixt the Reno and Savena’s stream, To answer SIPA in their country’s phrase. And if of that securer proof thou need, Remember but our craving thirst for gold.”

Him speaking thus, a demon with his thong Struck, and exclaim’d, “Away! corrupter! here Women are none for sale.” Forthwith I join’d My escort, and few paces thence we came To where a rock forth issued from the bank. That easily ascended, to the right Upon its splinter turning, we depart From those eternal barriers. When arriv’d, Where underneath the gaping arch lets pass The scourged souls: “Pause here,” the teacher said, “And let these others miserable, now Strike on thy ken, faces not yet beheld, For that together they with us have walk’d.”

From the old bridge we ey’d the pack, who came From th’ other side towards us, like the rest, Excoriate from the lash. My gentle guide, By me unquestion’d, thus his speech resum’d: “Behold that lofty shade, who this way tends, And seems too woe-begone to drop a tear. How yet the regal aspect he retains! Jason is he, whose skill and prowess won The ram from Colchos. To the Lemnian isle His passage thither led him, when those bold And pitiless women had slain all their males. There he with tokens and fair witching words Hypsipyle beguil’d, a virgin young, Who first had all the rest herself beguil’d. Impregnated he left her there forlorn. Such is the guilt condemns him to this pain. Here too Medea’s inj’ries are avenged. All bear him company, who like deceit To his have practis’d. And thus much to know Of the first vale suffice thee, and of those Whom its keen torments urge.” Now had we come Where, crossing the next pier, the straighten’d path Bestrides its shoulders to another arch.

Hence in the second chasm we heard the ghosts, Who jibber in low melancholy sounds, With wide-stretch’d nostrils snort, and on themselves Smite with their palms. Upon the banks a scurf From the foul steam condens’d, encrusting hung, That held sharp combat with the sight and smell.

So hollow is the depth, that from no part, Save on the summit of the rocky span, Could I distinguish aught. Thus far we came; And thence I saw, within the foss below, A crowd immers’d in ordure, that appear’d Draff of the human body. There beneath Searching with eye inquisitive, I mark’d One with his head so grim’d, ’twere hard to deem, If he were clerk or layman. Loud he cried: “Why greedily thus bendest more on me, Than on these other filthy ones, thy ken?”


“Because if true my mem’ry,” I replied, “I heretofore have seen thee with dry locks, And thou Alessio art of Lucca sprung. Therefore than all the rest I scan thee more.”

Then beating on his brain these words he spake: “Me thus low down my flatteries have sunk, Wherewith I ne’er enough could glut my tongue.”

My leader thus: “A little further stretch Thy face, that thou the visage well mayst note Of that besotted, sluttish courtezan, Who there doth rend her with defiled nails, Now crouching down, now risen on her feet.


“Thais is this, the harlot, whose false lip Answer’d her doting paramour that ask’d, ‘Thankest me much!’—‘Say rather wondrously,’ And seeing this here satiate be our view.”

CANTO XIX Woe to thee, Simon Magus! woe to you, His wretched followers! who the things of God, Which should be wedded unto goodness, them, Rapacious as ye are, do prostitute For gold and silver in adultery! Now must the trumpet sound for you, since yours Is the third chasm. Upon the following vault We now had mounted, where the rock impends Directly o’er the centre of the foss.

Wisdom Supreme! how wonderful the art, Which thou dost manifest in heaven, in earth, And in the evil world, how just a meed Allotting by thy virtue unto all!

I saw the livid stone, throughout the sides And in its bottom full of apertures, All equal in their width, and circular each, Nor ample less nor larger they appear’d Than in Saint John’s fair dome of me belov’d Those fram’d to hold the pure baptismal streams, One of the which I brake, some few years past, To save a whelming infant; and be this A seal to undeceive whoever doubts The motive of my deed. From out the mouth Of every one, emerg’d a sinner’s feet And of the legs high upward as the calf The rest beneath was hid. On either foot The soles were burning, whence the flexile joints Glanc’d with such violent motion, as had snapt Asunder cords or twisted withs. As flame, Feeding on unctuous matter, glides along The surface, scarcely touching where it moves; So here, from heel to point, glided the flames.

“Master! say who is he, than all the rest Glancing in fiercer agony, on whom A ruddier flame doth prey?” I thus inquir’d.

“If thou be willing,” he replied, “that I Carry thee down, where least the slope bank falls, He of himself shall tell thee and his wrongs.”

I then: “As pleases thee to me is best. Thou art my lord; and know’st that ne’er I quit Thy will: what silence hides that knowest thou.” Thereat on the fourth pier we came, we turn’d, And on our left descended to the depth, A narrow strait and perforated close. Nor from his side my leader set me down, Till to his orifice he brought, whose limb Quiv’ring express’d his pang. “Whoe’er thou art, Sad spirit! thus revers’d, and as a stake Driv’n in the soil!” I in these words began, “If thou be able, utter forth thy voice.”


There stood I like the friar, that doth shrive A wretch for murder doom’d, who e’en when fix’d, Calleth him back, whence death awhile delays.

He shouted: “Ha! already standest there? Already standest there, O Boniface! By many a year the writing play’d me false. So early dost thou surfeit with the wealth, For which thou fearedst not in guile to take The lovely lady, and then mangle her?”

I felt as those who, piercing not the drift Of answer made them, stand as if expos’d In mockery, nor know what to reply, When Virgil thus admonish’d: “Tell him quick, I am not he, not he, whom thou believ’st.”

And I, as was enjoin’d me, straight replied.

That heard, the spirit all did wrench his feet, And sighing next in woeful accent spake: “What then of me requirest?” “If to know So much imports thee, who I am, that thou Hast therefore down the bank descended, learn That in the mighty mantle I was rob’d, And of a she-bear was indeed the son, So eager to advance my whelps, that there My having in my purse above I stow’d, And here myself. Under my head are dragg’d The rest, my predecessors in the guilt Of simony. Stretch’d at their length they lie Along an opening in the rock. ’Midst them I also low shall fall, soon as he comes, For whom I took thee, when so hastily I question’d. But already longer time Hath pass’d, since my souls kindled, and I thus Upturn’d have stood, than is his doom to stand Planted with fiery feet. For after him, One yet of deeds more ugly shall arrive, From forth the west, a shepherd without law, Fated to cover both his form and mine. He a new Jason shall be call’d, of whom In Maccabees we read; and favour such As to that priest his king indulgent show’d, Shall be of France’s monarch shown to him.”

I know not if I here too far presum’d, But in this strain I answer’d: “Tell me now, What treasures from St. Peter at the first Our Lord demanded, when he put the keys Into his charge? Surely he ask’d no more But, Follow me! Nor Peter nor the rest Or gold or silver of Matthias took, When lots were cast upon the forfeit place Of the condemned soul. Abide thou then; Thy punishment of right is merited: And look thou well to that ill-gotten coin, Which against Charles thy hardihood inspir’d. If reverence of the keys restrain’d me not, Which thou in happier time didst hold, I yet Severer speech might use. Your avarice O’ercasts the world with mourning, under foot Treading the good, and raising bad men up. Of shepherds, like to you, th’ Evangelist Was ware, when her, who sits upon the waves, With kings in filthy whoredom he beheld, She who with seven heads tower’d at her birth, And from ten horns her proof of glory drew, Long as her spouse in virtue took delight. Of gold and silver ye have made your god, Diff’ring wherein from the idolater, But he that worships one, a hundred ye? Ah, Constantine! to how much ill gave birth, Not thy conversion, but that plenteous dower, Which the first wealthy Father gain’d from thee!”

Meanwhile, as thus I sung, he, whether wrath Or conscience smote him, violent upsprang Spinning on either sole. I do believe My teacher well was pleas’d, with so compos’d A lip, he listen’d ever to the sound Of the true words I utter’d. In both arms He caught, and to his bosom lifting me Upward retrac’d the way of his descent.

Nor weary of his weight he press’d me close, Till to the summit of the rock we came, Our passage from the fourth to the fifth pier. His cherish’d burden there gently he plac’d Upon the rugged rock and steep, a path Not easy for the clamb’ring goat to mount.

Thence to my view another vale appear’d

CANTO XX And now the verse proceeds to torments new, Fit argument of this the twentieth strain Of the first song, whose awful theme records The spirits whelm’d in woe. Earnest I look’d Into the depth, that open’d to my view, Moisten’d with tears of anguish, and beheld A tribe, that came along the hollow vale, In silence weeping: such their step as walk Quires chanting solemn litanies on earth.

As on them more direct mine eye descends, Each wondrously seem’d to be revers’d At the neck-bone, so that the countenance Was from the reins averted: and because None might before him look, they were compell’d To’ advance with backward gait. Thus one perhaps Hath been by force of palsy clean transpos’d, But I ne’er saw it nor believe it so.

Now, reader! think within thyself, so God Fruit of thy reading give thee! how I long Could keep my visage dry, when I beheld Near me our form distorted in such guise, That on the hinder parts fall’n from the face The tears down-streaming roll’d. Against a rock I leant and wept, so that my guide exclaim’d: “What, and art thou too witless as the rest? Here pity most doth show herself alive, When she is dead. What guilt exceedeth his, Who with Heaven’s judgment in his passion strives? Raise up thy head, raise up, and see the man, Before whose eyes earth gap’d in Thebes, when all Cried out, ‘Amphiaraus, whither rushest? ‘Why leavest thou the war?’ He not the less Fell ruining far as to Minos down, Whose grapple none eludes. Lo! how he makes The breast his shoulders, and who once too far Before him wish’d to see, now backward looks, And treads reverse his path. Tiresias note, Who semblance chang’d, when woman he became Of male, through every limb transform’d, and then Once more behov’d him with his rod to strike The two entwining serpents, ere the plumes, That mark’d the better sex, might shoot again.

“Aruns, with more his belly facing, comes. On Luni’s mountains ’midst the marbles white, Where delves Carrara’s hind, who wons beneath, A cavern was his dwelling, whence the stars And main-sea wide in boundless view he held.

“The next, whose loosen’d tresses overspread Her bosom, which thou seest not (for each hair On that side grows) was Manto, she who search’d Through many regions, and at length her seat Fix’d in my native land, whence a short space My words detain thy audience. When her sire From life departed, and in servitude The city dedicate to Bacchus mourn’d, Long time she went a wand’rer through the world. Aloft in Italy’s delightful land A lake there lies, at foot of that proud Alp, That o’er the Tyrol locks Germania in, Its name Benacus, which a thousand rills, Methinks, and more, water between the vale Camonica and Garda and the height Of Apennine remote. There is a spot At midway of that lake, where he who bears Of Trento’s flock the past’ral staff, with him Of Brescia, and the Veronese, might each Passing that way his benediction give. A garrison of goodly site and strong Peschiera stands, to awe with front oppos’d The Bergamese and Brescian, whence the shore More slope each way descends. There, whatsoev’er Benacus’ bosom holds not, tumbling o’er Down falls, and winds a river flood beneath Through the green pastures. Soon as in his course The steam makes head, Benacus then no more They call the name, but Mincius, till at last Reaching Governo into Po he falls. Not far his course hath run, when a wide flat It finds, which overstretchmg as a marsh It covers, pestilent in summer oft. Hence journeying, the savage maiden saw ’Midst of the fen a territory waste And naked of inhabitants. To shun All human converse, here she with her slaves Plying her arts remain’d, and liv’d, and left Her body tenantless. Thenceforth the tribes, Who round were scatter’d, gath’ring to that place Assembled; for its strength was great, enclos’d On all parts by the fen. On those dead bones They rear’d themselves a city, for her sake, Calling it Mantua, who first chose the spot, Nor ask’d another omen for the name, Wherein more numerous the people dwelt, Ere Casalodi’s madness by deceit Was wrong’d of Pinamonte. If thou hear Henceforth another origin assign’d Of that my country, I forewarn thee now, That falsehood none beguile thee of the truth.”

I answer’d: “Teacher, I conclude thy words So certain, that all else shall be to me As embers lacking life. But now of these, Who here proceed, instruct me, if thou see Any that merit more especial note. For thereon is my mind alone intent.”

He straight replied: “That spirit, from whose cheek The beard sweeps o’er his shoulders brown, what time Graecia was emptied of her males, that scarce The cradles were supplied, the seer was he In Aulis, who with Calchas gave the sign When first to cut the cable. Him they nam’d Eurypilus: so sings my tragic strain, In which majestic measure well thou know’st, Who know’st it all. That other, round the loins So slender of his shape, was Michael Scot, Practis’d in ev’ry slight of magic wile.

“Guido Bonatti see: Asdente mark, Who now were willing, he had tended still The thread and cordwain; and too late repents.

“See next the wretches, who the needle left, The shuttle and the spindle, and became Diviners: baneful witcheries they wrought With images and herbs. But onward now: For now doth Cain with fork of thorns confine On either hemisphere, touching the wave Beneath the towers of Seville. Yesternight The moon was round. Thou mayst remember well: For she good service did thee in the gloom Of the deep wood.” This said, both onward mov’d.

CANTO XXI Thus we from bridge to bridge, with other talk, The which my drama cares not to rehearse, Pass’d on; and to the summit reaching, stood To view another gap, within the round Of Malebolge, other bootless pangs.

Marvelous darkness shadow’d o’er the place.

In the Venetians’ arsenal as boils Through wintry months tenacious pitch, to smear Their unsound vessels; for th’ inclement time Sea-faring men restrains, and in that while His bark one builds anew, another stops The ribs of his, that hath made many a voyage; One hammers at the prow, one at the poop; This shapeth oars, that other cables twirls, The mizen one repairs and main-sail rent So not by force of fire but art divine Boil’d here a glutinous thick mass, that round Lim’d all the shore beneath. I that beheld, But therein nought distinguish’d, save the surge, Rais’d by the boiling, in one mighty swell Heave, and by turns subsiding and fall. While there I fix’d my ken below, “Mark! mark!” my guide Exclaiming, drew me towards him from the place, Wherein I stood. I turn’d myself as one, Impatient to behold that which beheld He needs must shun, whom sudden fear unmans, That he his flight delays not for the view. Behind me I discern’d a devil black, That running, up advanc’d along the rock. Ah! what fierce cruelty his look bespake! In act how bitter did he seem, with wings Buoyant outstretch’d and feet of nimblest tread! His shoulder proudly eminent and sharp Was with a sinner charg’d; by either haunch He held him, the foot’s sinew griping fast.

“Ye of our bridge!” he cried, “keen-talon’d fiends! Lo! one of Santa Zita’s elders! Him Whelm ye beneath, while I return for more. That land hath store of such. All men are there, Except Bonturo, barterers: of ‘no’ For lucre there an ‘aye’ is quickly made.”

Him dashing down, o’er the rough rock he turn’d, Nor ever after thief a mastiff loos’d Sped with like eager haste. That other sank And forthwith writhing to the surface rose. But those dark demons, shrouded by the bridge, Cried “Here the hallow’d visage saves not: here Is other swimming than in Serchio’s wave. Wherefore if thou desire we rend thee not, Take heed thou mount not o’er the pitch.” This said, They grappled him with more than hundred hooks, And shouted: “Cover’d thou must sport thee here; So, if thou canst, in secret mayst thou filch.”


E’en thus the cook bestirs him, with his grooms, To thrust the flesh into the caldron down With flesh-hooks, that it float not on the top.

Me then my guide bespake: “Lest they descry, That thou art here, behind a craggy rock Bend low and screen thee; and whate’er of force Be offer’d me, or insult, fear thou not: For I am well advis’d, who have been erst In the like fray.” Beyond the bridge’s head Therewith he pass’d, and reaching the sixth pier, Behov’d him then a forehead terror-proof.

With storm and fury, as when dogs rush forth Upon the poor man’s back, who suddenly From whence he standeth makes his suit; so rush’d Those from beneath the arch, and against him Their weapons all they pointed. He aloud: “Be none of you outrageous: ere your time Dare seize me, come forth from amongst you one,


“Who having heard my words, decide he then If he shall tear these limbs.” They shouted loud, “Go, Malacoda!” Whereat one advanc’d, The others standing firm, and as he came, “What may this turn avail him?” he exclaim’d.

“Believ’st thou, Malacoda! I had come Thus far from all your skirmishing secure,” My teacher answered, “without will divine And destiny propitious? Pass we then For so Heaven’s pleasure is, that I should lead Another through this savage wilderness.”

Forthwith so fell his pride, that he let drop The instrument of torture at his feet, And to the rest exclaim’d: “We have no power To strike him.” Then to me my guide: “O thou! Who on the bridge among the crags dost sit Low crouching, safely now to me return.”

I rose, and towards him moved with speed: the fiends Meantime all forward drew: me terror seiz’d Lest they should break the compact they had made. Thus issuing from Caprona, once I saw Th’ infantry dreading, lest his covenant The foe should break; so close he hemm’d them round.

I to my leader’s side adher’d, mine eyes With fixt and motionless observance bent On their unkindly visage. They their hooks Protruding, one the other thus bespake: “Wilt thou I touch him on the hip?” To whom Was answer’d: “Even so; nor miss thy aim.”

But he, who was in conf’rence with my guide, Turn’d rapid round, and thus the demon spake: “Stay, stay thee, Scarmiglione!” Then to us He added: “Further footing to your step This rock affords not, shiver’d to the base Of the sixth arch. But would you still proceed, Up by this cavern go: not distant far, Another rock will yield you passage safe. Yesterday, later by five hours than now, Twelve hundred threescore years and six had fill’d The circuit of their course, since here the way Was broken. Thitherward I straight dispatch Certain of these my scouts, who shall espy If any on the surface bask. With them Go ye: for ye shall find them nothing fell. Come Alichino forth,” with that he cried, “And Calcabrina, and Cagnazzo thou! The troop of ten let Barbariccia lead. With Libicocco Draghinazzo haste, Fang’d Ciriatto, Grafflacane fierce, And Farfarello, and mad Rubicant. Search ye around the bubbling tar. For these, In safety lead them, where the other crag Uninterrupted traverses the dens.”

I then: “O master! what a sight is there! Ah! without escort, journey we alone, Which, if thou know the way, I covet not. Unless thy prudence fail thee, dost not mark How they do gnarl upon us, and their scowl Threatens us present tortures?” He replied: “I charge thee fear not: let them, as they will, Gnarl on: ’t is but in token of their spite Against the souls, who mourn in torment steep’d.”

To leftward o’er the pier they turn’d; but each Had first between his teeth prest close the tongue, Toward their leader for a signal looking, Which he with sound obscene triumphant gave.

CANTO XXII It hath been heretofore my chance to see Horsemen with martial order shifting camp, To onset sallying, or in muster rang’d, Or in retreat sometimes outstretch’d for flight; Light-armed squadrons and fleet foragers Scouring thy plains, Arezzo! have I seen, And clashing tournaments, and tilting jousts, Now with the sound of trumpets, now of bells, Tabors, or signals made from castled heights, And with inventions multiform, our own, Or introduc’d from foreign land; but ne’er To such a strange recorder I beheld, In evolution moving, horse nor foot, Nor ship, that tack’d by sign from land or star.

With the ten demons on our way we went; Ah fearful company! but in the church With saints, with gluttons at the tavern’s mess.

Still earnest on the pitch I gaz’d, to mark All things whate’er the chasm contain’d, and those Who burn’d within. As dolphins, that, in sign To mariners, heave high their arched backs, That thence forewarn’d they may advise to save Their threaten’d vessels; so, at intervals, To ease the pain his back some sinner show’d, Then hid more nimbly than the lightning glance.

E’en as the frogs, that of a wat’ry moat Stand at the brink, with the jaws only out, Their feet and of the trunk all else concealed, Thus on each part the sinners stood, but soon As Barbariccia was at hand, so they Drew back under the wave. I saw, and yet My heart doth stagger, one, that waited thus, As it befalls that oft one frog remains, While the next springs away: and Graffiacan, Who of the fiends was nearest, grappling seiz’d His clotted locks, and dragg’d him sprawling up, That he appear’d to me an otter. Each Already by their names I knew, so well When they were chosen, I observ’d, and mark’d How one the other call’d. “O Rubicant! See that his hide thou with thy talons flay,” Shouted together all the cursed crew.

Then I: “Inform thee, master! if thou may, What wretched soul is this, on whom their hand His foes have laid.” My leader to his side Approach’d, and whence he came inquir’d, to whom Was answer’d thus: “Born in Navarre’s domain My mother plac’d me in a lord’s retinue, For she had borne me to a losel vile, A spendthrift of his substance and himself. The good king Thibault after that I serv’d, To peculating here my thoughts were turn’d, Whereof I give account in this dire heat.”

Straight Ciriatto, from whose mouth a tusk Issued on either side, as from a boar, Ript him with one of these. ’Twixt evil claws The mouse had fall’n: but Barbariccia cried, Seizing him with both arms: “Stand thou apart, While I do fix him on my prong transpierc’d.” Then added, turning to my guide his face, “Inquire of him, if more thou wish to learn, Ere he again be rent.” My leader thus: “Then tell us of the partners in thy guilt; Knowest thou any sprung of Latian land Under the tar?”—“I parted,” he replied, “But now from one, who sojourn’d not far thence; So were I under shelter now with him! Nor hook nor talon then should scare me more.”—.

“Too long we suffer,” Libicocco cried, Then, darting forth a prong, seiz’d on his arm, And mangled bore away the sinewy part. Him Draghinazzo by his thighs beneath Would next have caught, whence angrily their chief, Turning on all sides round, with threat’ning brow Restrain’d them. When their strife a little ceas’d, Of him, who yet was gazing on his wound, My teacher thus without delay inquir’d: “Who was the spirit, from whom by evil hap Parting, as thou has told, thou cam’st to shore?”—

“It was the friar Gomita,” he rejoin’d, “He of Gallura, vessel of all guile, Who had his master’s enemies in hand, And us’d them so that they commend him well. Money he took, and them at large dismiss’d. So he reports: and in each other charge Committed to his keeping, play’d the part Of barterer to the height: with him doth herd The chief of Logodoro, Michel Zanche. Sardinia is a theme, whereof their tongue Is never weary. Out! alas! behold That other, how he grins! More would I say, But tremble lest he mean to maul me sore.”

Their captain then to Farfarello turning, Who roll’d his moony eyes in act to strike, Rebuk’d him thus: “Off! cursed bird! Avaunt!”—

“If ye desire to see or hear,” he thus Quaking with dread resum’d, “or Tuscan spirits Or Lombard, I will cause them to appear. Meantime let these ill talons bate their fury, So that no vengeance they may fear from them, And I, remaining in this self-same place, Will for myself but one, make sev’n appear, When my shrill whistle shall be heard; for so Our custom is to call each other up.”

Cagnazzo at that word deriding grinn’d, Then wagg’d the head and spake: “Hear his device, Mischievous as he is, to plunge him down.”

Whereto he thus, who fail’d not in rich store Of nice-wove toils; “Mischief forsooth extreme, Meant only to procure myself more woe!”

No longer Alichino then refrain’d, But thus, the rest gainsaying, him bespake: “If thou do cast thee down, I not on foot Will chase thee, but above the pitch will beat My plumes. Quit we the vantage ground, and let The bank be as a shield, that we may see If singly thou prevail against us all.”

Now, reader, of new sport expect to hear!

They each one turn’d his eyes to the other shore, He first, who was the hardest to persuade. The spirit of Navarre chose well his time, Planted his feet on land, and at one leap Escaping disappointed their resolve.

Them quick resentment stung, but him the most, Who was the cause of failure; in pursuit He therefore sped, exclaiming: “Thou art caught.”


But little it avail’d: terror outstripp’d His following flight: the other plung’d beneath, And he with upward pinion rais’d his breast: E’en thus the water-fowl, when she perceives The falcon near, dives instant down, while he Enrag’d and spent retires. That mockery In Calcabrina fury stirr’d, who flew After him, with desire of strife inflam’d; And, for the barterer had ’scap’d, so turn’d His talons on his comrade. O’er the dyke In grapple close they join’d; but the other prov’d A goshawk able to rend well his foe;


And in the boiling lake both fell. The heat Was umpire soon between them, but in vain To lift themselves they strove, so fast were glued Their pennons. Barbariccia, as the rest, That chance lamenting, four in flight dispatch’d From the other coast, with all their weapons arm’d. They, to their post on each side speedily Descending, stretch’d their hooks toward the fiends, Who flounder’d, inly burning from their scars: And we departing left them to that broil.

CANTO XXIII In silence and in solitude we went, One first, the other following his steps, As minor friars journeying on their road.

The present fray had turn’d my thoughts to muse Upon old Aesop’s fable, where he told What fate unto the mouse and frog befell. For language hath not sounds more like in sense, Than are these chances, if the origin And end of each be heedfully compar’d. And as one thought bursts from another forth, So afterward from that another sprang, Which added doubly to my former fear. For thus I reason’d: “These through us have been So foil’d, with loss and mock’ry so complete, As needs must sting them sore. If anger then Be to their evil will conjoin’d, more fell They shall pursue us, than the savage hound Snatches the leveret, panting ’twixt his jaws.”

Already I perceiv’d my hair stand all On end with terror, and look’d eager back.

“Teacher,” I thus began, “if speedily Thyself and me thou hide not, much I dread Those evil talons. Even now behind They urge us: quick imagination works So forcibly, that I already feel them.”

He answer’d: “Were I form’d of leaded glass, I should not sooner draw unto myself Thy outward image, than I now imprint That from within. This moment came thy thoughts Presented before mine, with similar act And count’nance similar, so that from both I one design have fram’d. If the right coast Incline so much, that we may thence descend Into the other chasm, we shall escape Secure from this imagined pursuit.”

He had not spoke his purpose to the end, When I from far beheld them with spread wings Approach to take us. Suddenly my guide Caught me, ev’n as a mother that from sleep Is by the noise arous’d, and near her sees The climbing fires, who snatches up her babe And flies ne’er pausing, careful more of him Than of herself, that but a single vest Clings round her limbs. Down from the jutting beach Supine he cast him, to that pendent rock, Which closes on one part the other chasm.

Never ran water with such hurrying pace Adown the tube to turn a landmill’s wheel, When nearest it approaches to the spokes, As then along that edge my master ran, Carrying me in his bosom, as a child, Not a companion. Scarcely had his feet Reach’d to the lowest of the bed beneath,


When over us the steep they reach’d; but fear In him was none; for that high Providence, Which plac’d them ministers of the fifth foss, Power of departing thence took from them all.

There in the depth we saw a painted tribe, Who pac’d with tardy steps around, and wept, Faint in appearance and o’ercome with toil. Caps had they on, with hoods, that fell low down Before their eyes, in fashion like to those Worn by the monks in Cologne. Their outside Was overlaid with gold, dazzling to view, But leaden all within, and of such weight, That Frederick’s compar’d to these were straw. Oh, everlasting wearisome attire!

We yet once more with them together turn’d To leftward, on their dismal moan intent. But by the weight oppress’d, so slowly came The fainting people, that our company Was chang’d at every movement of the step.

Whence I my guide address’d: “See that thou find Some spirit, whose name may by his deeds be known, And to that end look round thee as thou go’st.”

Then one, who understood the Tuscan voice, Cried after us aloud: “Hold in your feet, Ye who so swiftly speed through the dusk air. Perchance from me thou shalt obtain thy wish.”

Whereat my leader, turning, me bespake: “Pause, and then onward at their pace proceed.”

I staid, and saw two Spirits in whose look Impatient eagerness of mind was mark’d To overtake me; but the load they bare And narrow path retarded their approach.

Soon as arriv’d, they with an eye askance Perus’d me, but spake not: then turning each To other thus conferring said: “This one Seems, by the action of his throat, alive. And, be they dead, what privilege allows They walk unmantled by the cumbrous stole?”


Then thus to me: “Tuscan, who visitest The college of the mourning hypocrites, Disdain not to instruct us who thou art.”

“By Arno’s pleasant stream,” I thus replied, “In the great city I was bred and grew, And wear the body I have ever worn. but who are ye, from whom such mighty grief, As now I witness, courseth down your cheeks? What torment breaks forth in this bitter woe?” “Our bonnets gleaming bright with orange hue,” One of them answer’d, “are so leaden gross, That with their weight they make the balances To crack beneath them. Joyous friars we were, Bologna’s natives, Catalano I, He Loderingo nam’d, and by thy land Together taken, as men used to take A single and indifferent arbiter, To reconcile their strifes. How there we sped, Gardingo’s vicinage can best declare.”

“O friars!” I began, “your miseries—” But there brake off, for one had caught my eye, Fix’d to a cross with three stakes on the ground: He, when he saw me, writh’d himself, throughout Distorted, ruffling with deep sighs his beard. And Catalano, who thereof was ’ware,


Thus spake: “That pierced spirit, whom intent Thou view’st, was he who gave the Pharisees Counsel, that it were fitting for one man To suffer for the people. He doth lie Transverse; nor any passes, but him first Behoves make feeling trial how each weighs. In straits like this along the foss are plac’d The father of his consort, and the rest Partakers in that council, seed of ill And sorrow to the Jews.” I noted then, How Virgil gaz’d with wonder upon him, Thus abjectly extended on the cross In banishment eternal. To the friar He next his words address’d: “We pray ye tell, If so be lawful, whether on our right Lies any opening in the rock, whereby We both may issue hence, without constraint On the dark angels, that compell’d they come To lead us from this depth.” He thus replied: “Nearer than thou dost hope, there is a rock From the next circle moving, which o’ersteps Each vale of horror, save that here his cope Is shatter’d. By the ruin ye may mount: For on the side it slants, and most the height Rises below.” With head bent down awhile My leader stood, then spake: “He warn’d us ill, Who yonder hangs the sinners on his hook.”

To whom the friar: “At Bologna erst I many vices of the devil heard, Among the rest was said, ‘He is a liar, And the father of lies!’” When he had spoke, My leader with large strides proceeded on, Somewhat disturb’d with anger in his look.

I therefore left the spirits heavy laden, And following, his beloved footsteps mark’d.

CANTO XXIV In the year’s early nonage, when the sun Tempers his tresses in Aquarius’ urn, And now towards equal day the nights recede, When as the rime upon the earth puts on Her dazzling sister’s image, but not long Her milder sway endures, then riseth up The village hind, whom fails his wintry store, And looking out beholds the plain around All whiten’d, whence impatiently he smites His thighs, and to his hut returning in, There paces to and fro, wailing his lot, As a discomfited and helpless man; Then comes he forth again, and feels new hope Spring in his bosom, finding e’en thus soon The world hath chang’d its count’nance, grasps his crook, And forth to pasture drives his little flock: So me my guide dishearten’d when I saw His troubled forehead, and so speedily That ill was cur’d; for at the fallen bridge Arriving, towards me with a look as sweet, He turn’d him back, as that I first beheld At the steep mountain’s foot. Regarding well The ruin, and some counsel first maintain’d With his own thought, he open’d wide his arm And took me up. As one, who, while he works, Computes his labour’s issue, that he seems Still to foresee the effect, so lifting me Up to the summit of one peak, he fix’d His eye upon another. “Grapple that,” Said he, “but first make proof, if it be such As will sustain thee.” For one capp’d with lead This were no journey. Scarcely he, though light, And I, though onward push’d from crag to crag, Could mount. And if the precinct of this coast Were not less ample than the last, for him I know not, but my strength had surely fail’d. But Malebolge all toward the mouth Inclining of the nethermost abyss, The site of every valley hence requires, That one side upward slope, the other fall.

At length the point of our descent we reach’d From the last flag: soon as to that arriv’d, So was the breath exhausted from my lungs, I could no further, but did seat me there.

“Now needs thy best of man;” so spake my guide: “For not on downy plumes, nor under shade Of canopy reposing, fame is won, Without which whosoe’er consumes his days Leaveth such vestige of himself on earth, As smoke in air or foam upon the wave. Thou therefore rise: vanish thy weariness By the mind’s effort, in each struggle form’d To vanquish, if she suffer not the weight Of her corporeal frame to crush her down. A longer ladder yet remains to scale. From these to have escap’d sufficeth not. If well thou note me, profit by my words.”

I straightway rose, and show’d myself less spent Than I in truth did feel me. “On,” I cried, “For I am stout and fearless.” Up the rock Our way we held, more rugged than before, Narrower and steeper far to climb. From talk I ceas’d not, as we journey’d, so to seem Least faint; whereat a voice from the other foss Did issue forth, for utt’rance suited ill. Though on the arch that crosses there I stood, What were the words I knew not, but who spake Seem’d mov’d in anger. Down I stoop’d to look, But my quick eye might reach not to the depth For shrouding darkness; wherefore thus I spake: “To the next circle, Teacher, bend thy steps, And from the wall dismount we; for as hence I hear and understand not, so I see Beneath, and naught discern.”—“I answer not,” Said he, “but by the deed. To fair request Silent performance maketh best return.”

We from the bridge’s head descended, where To the eighth mound it joins, and then the chasm Opening to view, I saw a crowd within Of serpents terrible, so strange of shape And hideous, that remembrance in my veins Yet shrinks the vital current. Of her sands Let Lybia vaunt no more: if Jaculus, Pareas and Chelyder be her brood, Cenchris and Amphisboena, plagues so dire Or in such numbers swarming ne’er she shew’d, Not with all Ethiopia, and whate’er Above the Erythraean sea is spawn’d.


Amid this dread exuberance of woe Ran naked spirits wing’d with horrid fear, Nor hope had they of crevice where to hide, Or heliotrope to charm them out of view. With serpents were their hands behind them bound, Which through their reins infix’d the tail and head Twisted in folds before. And lo! on one Near to our side, darted an adder up, And, where the neck is on the shoulders tied, Transpierc’d him. Far more quickly than e’er pen Wrote O or I, he kindled, burn’d, and chang’d To ashes, all pour’d out upon the earth. When there dissolv’d he lay, the dust again Uproll’d spontaneous, and the self-same form Instant resumed. So mighty sages tell, The Arabian Phoenix, when five hundred years Have well nigh circled, dies, and springs forthwith Renascent. Blade nor herb throughout his life He tastes, but tears of frankincense alone And odorous amomum: swaths of nard And myrrh his funeral shroud. As one that falls, He knows not how, by force demoniac dragg’d To earth, or through obstruction fettering up In chains invisible the powers of man, Who, risen from his trance, gazeth around, Bewilder’d with the monstrous agony He hath endur’d, and wildly staring sighs; So stood aghast the sinner when he rose.

Oh! how severe God’s judgment, that deals out Such blows in stormy vengeance! Who he was My teacher next inquir’d, and thus in few He answer’d: “Vanni Fucci am I call’d, Not long since rained down from Tuscany To this dire gullet. Me the beastial life And not the human pleas’d, mule that I was, Who in Pistoia found my worthy den.”

I then to Virgil: “Bid him stir not hence, And ask what crime did thrust him hither: once A man I knew him choleric and bloody.”

The sinner heard and feign’d not, but towards me His mind directing and his face, wherein Was dismal shame depictur’d, thus he spake: “It grieves me more to have been caught by thee In this sad plight, which thou beholdest, than When I was taken from the other life. I have no power permitted to deny What thou inquirest.” I am doom’d thus low To dwell, for that the sacristy by me Was rifled of its goodly ornaments, And with the guilt another falsely charged. But that thou mayst not joy to see me thus, So as thou e’er shalt ’scape this darksome realm Open thine ears and hear what I forebode. Reft of the Neri first Pistoia pines, Then Florence changeth citizens and laws. From Valdimagra, drawn by wrathful Mars, A vapour rises, wrapt in turbid mists, And sharp and eager driveth on the storm With arrowy hurtling o’er Piceno’s field, Whence suddenly the cloud shall burst, and strike Each helpless Bianco prostrate to the ground. This have I told, that grief may rend thy heart.”

CANTO XXV When he had spoke, the sinner rais’d his hands Pointed in mockery, and cried: “Take them, God! I level them at thee!” From that day forth The serpents were my friends; for round his neck One of then rolling twisted, as it said, “Be silent, tongue!” Another to his arms Upgliding, tied them, riveting itself So close, it took from them the power to move.

Pistoia! Ah Pistoia! why dost doubt To turn thee into ashes, cumb’ring earth No longer, since in evil act so far Thou hast outdone thy seed? I did not mark, Through all the gloomy circles of the abyss, Spirit, that swell’d so proudly ’gainst his God, Not him, who headlong fell from Thebes. He fled, Nor utter’d more; and after him there came A centaur full of fury, shouting, “Where Where is the caitiff?” On Maremma’s marsh Swarm not the serpent tribe, as on his haunch They swarm’d, to where the human face begins. Behind his head upon the shoulders lay, With open wings, a dragon breathing fire On whomsoe’er he met. To me my guide: “Cacus is this, who underneath the rock Of Aventine spread oft a lake of blood. He, from his brethren parted, here must tread A different journey, for his fraudful theft Of the great herd, that near him stall’d; whence found His felon deeds their end, beneath the mace Of stout Alcides, that perchance laid on A hundred blows, and not the tenth was felt.”

While yet he spake, the centaur sped away: And under us three spirits came, of whom Nor I nor he was ware, till they exclaim’d; “Say who are ye?” We then brake off discourse, Intent on these alone. I knew them not; But, as it chanceth oft, befell, that one Had need to name another. “Where,” said he, “Doth Cianfa lurk?” I, for a sign my guide Should stand attentive, plac’d against my lips The finger lifted. If, O reader! now Thou be not apt to credit what I tell, No marvel; for myself do scarce allow The witness of mine eyes. But as I looked Toward them, lo! a serpent with six feet Springs forth on one, and fastens full upon him: His midmost grasp’d the belly, a forefoot Seiz’d on each arm (while deep in either cheek He flesh’d his fangs); the hinder on the thighs Were spread, ’twixt which the tail inserted curl’d Upon the reins behind. Ivy ne’er clasp’d A dodder’d oak, as round the other’s limbs The hideous monster intertwin’d his own. Then, as they both had been of burning wax, Each melted into other, mingling hues, That which was either now was seen no more. Thus up the shrinking paper, ere it burns, A brown tint glides, not turning yet to black, And the clean white expires. The other two Look’d on exclaiming: “Ah, how dost thou change, Agnello! See! Thou art nor double now,


“Nor only one.” The two heads now became One, and two figures blended in one form Appear’d, where both were lost. Of the four lengths Two arms were made: the belly and the chest The thighs and legs into such members chang’d, As never eye hath seen. Of former shape All trace was vanish’d. Two yet neither seem’d That image miscreate, and so pass’d on With tardy steps. As underneath the scourge Of the fierce dog-star, that lays bare the fields, Shifting from brake to brake, the lizard seems A flash of lightning, if he thwart the road, So toward th’ entrails of the other two Approaching seem’d, an adder all on fire, As the dark pepper-grain, livid and swart. In that part, whence our life is nourish’d first, One he transpierc’d; then down before him fell Stretch’d out. The pierced spirit look’d on him But spake not; yea stood motionless and yawn’d, As if by sleep or fev’rous fit assail’d. He ey’d the serpent, and the serpent him. One from the wound, the other from the mouth Breath’d a thick smoke, whose vap’ry columns join’d.

Lucan in mute attention now may hear, Nor thy disastrous fate, Sabellus! tell, Nor shine, Nasidius! Ovid now be mute. What if in warbling fiction he record Cadmus and Arethusa, to a snake Him chang’d, and her into a fountain clear, I envy not; for never face to face Two natures thus transmuted did he sing, Wherein both shapes were ready to assume The other’s substance. They in mutual guise So answer’d, that the serpent split his train Divided to a fork, and the pierc’d spirit Drew close his steps together, legs and thighs Compacted, that no sign of juncture soon Was visible: the tail disparted took The figure which the spirit lost, its skin Soft’ning, his indurated to a rind. The shoulders next I mark’d, that ent’ring join’d The monster’s arm-pits, whose two shorter feet So lengthen’d, as the other’s dwindling shrunk. The feet behind then twisting up became That part that man conceals, which in the wretch Was cleft in twain. While both the shadowy smoke With a new colour veils, and generates Th’ excrescent pile on one, peeling it off From th’ other body, lo! upon his feet One upright rose, and prone the other fell. Not yet their glaring and malignant lamps Were shifted, though each feature chang’d beneath. Of him who stood erect, the mounting face Retreated towards the temples, and what there Superfluous matter came, shot out in ears From the smooth cheeks, the rest, not backward dragg’d, Of its excess did shape the nose; and swell’d Into due size protuberant the lips. He, on the earth who lay, meanwhile extends His sharpen’d visage, and draws down the ears Into the head, as doth the slug his horns. His tongue continuous before and apt For utt’rance, severs; and the other’s fork Closing unites. That done the smoke was laid. The soul, transform’d into the brute, glides off, Hissing along the vale, and after him The other talking sputters; but soon turn’d His new-grown shoulders on him, and in few Thus to another spake: “Along this path Crawling, as I have done, speed Buoso now!”

So saw I fluctuate in successive change Th’ unsteady ballast of the seventh hold: And here if aught my tongue have swerv’d, events So strange may be its warrant. O’er mine eyes Confusion hung, and on my thoughts amaze.

Yet ’scap’d they not so covertly, but well I mark’d Sciancato: he alone it was Of the three first that came, who chang’d not: thou, The other’s fate, Gaville, still dost rue.

CANTO XXVI Florence exult! for thou so mightily Hast thriven, that o’er land and sea thy wings Thou beatest, and thy name spreads over hell! Among the plund’rers such the three I found Thy citizens, whence shame to me thy son, And no proud honour to thyself redounds.

But if our minds, when dreaming near the dawn, Are of the truth presageful, thou ere long Shalt feel what Prato, (not to say the rest) Would fain might come upon thee; and that chance Were in good time, if it befell thee now. Would so it were, since it must needs befall! For as time wears me, I shall grieve the more.

We from the depth departed; and my guide Remounting scal’d the flinty steps, which late We downward trac’d, and drew me up the steep. Pursuing thus our solitary way Among the crags and splinters of the rock, Sped not our feet without the help of hands.

Then sorrow seiz’d me, which e’en now revives, As my thought turns again to what I saw, And, more than I am wont, I rein and curb The powers of nature in me, lest they run Where Virtue guides not; that if aught of good My gentle star, or something better gave me, I envy not myself the precious boon.

As in that season, when the sun least veils His face that lightens all, what time the fly Gives way to the shrill gnat, the peasant then Upon some cliff reclin’d, beneath him sees Fire-flies innumerous spangling o’er the vale, Vineyard or tilth, where his day-labour lies: With flames so numberless throughout its space Shone the eighth chasm, apparent, when the depth Was to my view expos’d. As he, whose wrongs The bears aveng’d, at its departure saw Elijah’s chariot, when the steeds erect Rais’d their steep flight for heav’n; his eyes meanwhile, Straining pursu’d them, till the flame alone Upsoaring like a misty speck he kenn’d; E’en thus along the gulf moves every flame, A sinner so enfolded close in each, That none exhibits token of the theft.

Upon the bridge I forward bent to look, And grasp’d a flinty mass, or else had fall’n, Though push’d not from the height. The guide, who mark’d How I did gaze attentive, thus began:


“Within these ardours are the spirits, each Swath’d in confining fire.”—“Master, thy word,” I answer’d, “hath assur’d me; yet I deem’d Already of the truth, already wish’d To ask thee, who is in yon fire, that comes So parted at the summit, as it seem’d Ascending from that funeral pile, where lay The Theban brothers?” He replied: “Within Ulysses there and Diomede endure Their penal tortures, thus to vengeance now Together hasting, as erewhile to wrath. These in the flame with ceaseless groans deplore The ambush of the horse, that open’d wide A portal for that goodly seed to pass, Which sow’d imperial Rome; nor less the guile Lament they, whence of her Achilles ’reft Deidamia yet in death complains. And there is rued the stratagem, that Troy Of her Palladium spoil’d.”—“If they have power Of utt’rance from within these sparks,” said I, “O master! think my prayer a thousand fold In repetition urg’d, that thou vouchsafe To pause, till here the horned flame arrive. See, how toward it with desire I bend.”

He thus: “Thy prayer is worthy of much praise, And I accept it therefore: but do thou Thy tongue refrain: to question them be mine, For I divine thy wish: and they perchance, For they were Greeks, might shun discourse with thee.”

When there the flame had come, where time and place Seem’d fitting to my guide, he thus began: “O ye, who dwell two spirits in one fire! If living I of you did merit aught, Whate’er the measure were of that desert, When in the world my lofty strain I pour’d, Move ye not on, till one of you unfold In what clime death o’ertook him self-destroy’d.”

Of the old flame forthwith the greater horn Began to roll, murmuring, as a fire That labours with the wind, then to and fro Wagging the top, as a tongue uttering sounds, Threw out its voice, and spake: “When I escap’d From Circe, who beyond a circling year Had held me near Caieta, by her charms, Ere thus Aeneas yet had nam’d the shore, Nor fondness for my son, nor reverence Of my old father, nor return of love, That should have crown’d Penelope with joy, Could overcome in me the zeal I had T’ explore the world, and search the ways of life, Man’s evil and his virtue. Forth I sail’d Into the deep illimitable main, With but one bark, and the small faithful band That yet cleav’d to me. As Iberia far, Far as Morocco either shore I saw, And the Sardinian and each isle beside Which round that ocean bathes. Tardy with age Were I and my companions, when we came To the strait pass, where Hercules ordain’d The bound’ries not to be o’erstepp’d by man. The walls of Seville to my right I left, On the other hand already Ceuta past. “O brothers!” I began, “who to the west Through perils without number now have reach’d, To this the short remaining watch, that yet Our senses have to wake, refuse not proof Of the unpeopled world, following the track Of Phoebus. Call to mind from whence we sprang: Ye were not form’d to live the life of brutes But virtue to pursue and knowledge high.” With these few words I sharpen’d for the voyage The mind of my associates, that I then Could scarcely have withheld them. To the dawn Our poop we turn’d, and for the witless flight Made our oars wings, still gaining on the left. Each star of the other pole night now beheld, And ours so low, that from the ocean-floor It rose not. Five times re-illum’d, as oft Vanish’d the light from underneath the moon Since the deep way we enter’d, when from far Appear’d a mountain dim, loftiest methought Of all I e’er beheld. Joy seiz’d us straight, But soon to mourning changed. From the new land A whirlwind sprung, and at her foremost side Did strike the vessel. Thrice it whirl’d her round With all the waves, the fourth time lifted up The poop, and sank the prow: so fate decreed: And over us the booming billow clos’d.”

CANTO XVII Now upward rose the flame, and still’d its light To speak no more, and now pass’d on with leave From the mild poet gain’d, when following came Another, from whose top a sound confus’d, Forth issuing, drew our eyes that way to look.

As the Sicilian bull, that rightfully His cries first echoed, who had shap’d its mould, Did so rebellow, with the voice of him Tormented, that the brazen monster seem’d Pierc’d through with pain; thus while no way they found Nor avenue immediate through the flame, Into its language turn’d the dismal words: But soon as they had won their passage forth, Up from the point, which vibrating obey’d Their motion at the tongue, these sounds we heard: “O thou! to whom I now direct my voice! That lately didst exclaim in Lombard phrase,

‘Depart thou, I solicit thee no more,’ Though somewhat tardy I perchance arrive Let it not irk thee here to pause awhile, And with me parley: lo! it irks not me And yet I burn. If but e’en now thou fall into this blind world, from that pleasant land Of Latium, whence I draw my sum of guilt, Tell me if those, who in Romagna dwell, Have peace or war. For of the mountains there Was I, betwixt Urbino and the height, Whence Tyber first unlocks his mighty flood.”

Leaning I listen’d yet with heedful ear, When, as he touch’d my side, the leader thus: “Speak thou: he is a Latian.” My reply Was ready, and I spake without delay:

“O spirit! who art hidden here below! Never was thy Romagna without war In her proud tyrants’ bosoms, nor is now: But open war there left I none. The state, Ravenna hath maintain’d this many a year, Is steadfast. There Polenta’s eagle broods, And in his broad circumference of plume O’ershadows Cervia. The green talons grasp The land, that stood erewhile the proof so long, And pil’d in bloody heap the host of France.

“The old mastiff of Verruchio and the young, That tore Montagna in their wrath, still make, Where they are wont, an augre of their fangs.

“Lamone’s city and Santerno’s range Under the lion of the snowy lair. Inconstant partisan! that changeth sides, Or ever summer yields to winter’s frost. And she, whose flank is wash’d of Savio’s wave, As ’twixt the level and the steep she lies, Lives so ’twixt tyrant power and liberty.

“Now tell us, I entreat thee, who art thou? Be not more hard than others. In the world, So may thy name still rear its forehead high.”

Then roar’d awhile the fire, its sharpen’d point On either side wav’d, and thus breath’d at last: “If I did think, my answer were to one, Who ever could return unto the world, This flame should rest unshaken. But since ne’er, If true be told me, any from this depth Has found his upward way, I answer thee, Nor fear lest infamy record the words.

“A man of arms at first, I cloth’d me then In good Saint Francis’ girdle, hoping so T’ have made amends. And certainly my hope Had fail’d not, but that he, whom curses light on, The high priest again seduc’d me into sin. And how and wherefore listen while I tell. Long as this spirit mov’d the bones and pulp My mother gave me, less my deeds bespake The nature of the lion than the fox. All ways of winding subtlety I knew, And with such art conducted, that the sound Reach’d the world’s limit. Soon as to that part Of life I found me come, when each behoves To lower sails and gather in the lines; That which before had pleased me then I rued, And to repentance and confession turn’d; Wretch that I was! and well it had bested me! The chief of the new Pharisees meantime, Waging his warfare near the Lateran, Not with the Saracens or Jews (his foes All Christians were, nor against Acre one Had fought, nor traffic’d in the Soldan’s land), He his great charge nor sacred ministry In himself, rev’renc’d, nor in me that cord, Which us’d to mark with leanness whom it girded. As in Socrate, Constantine besought To cure his leprosy Sylvester’s aid, So me to cure the fever of his pride This man besought: my counsel to that end He ask’d: and I was silent: for his words Seem’d drunken: but forthwith he thus resum’d: “From thy heart banish fear: of all offence I hitherto absolve thee. In return, Teach me my purpose so to execute, That Penestrino cumber earth no more. Heav’n, as thou knowest, I have power to shut And open: and the keys are therefore twain, The which my predecessor meanly priz’d.”

Then, yielding to the forceful arguments, Of silence as more perilous I deem’d, And answer’d: “Father! since thou washest me Clear of that guilt wherein I now must fall, Large promise with performance scant, be sure, Shall make thee triumph in thy lofty seat.”

“When I was number’d with the dead, then came Saint Francis for me; but a cherub dark He met, who cried: “‘Wrong me not; he is mine, And must below to join the wretched crew, For the deceitful counsel which he gave. E’er since I watch’d him, hov’ring at his hair, No power can the impenitent absolve; Nor to repent and will at once consist, By contradiction absolute forbid.” Oh mis’ry! how I shook myself, when he Seiz’d me, and cried, “Thou haply thought’st me not A disputant in logic so exact.” To Minos down he bore me, and the judge Twin’d eight times round his callous back the tail, Which biting with excess of rage, he spake: ‘This is a guilty soul, that in the fire Must vanish.’ Hence perdition-doom’d I rove A prey to rankling sorrow in this garb.”

When he had thus fulfill’d his words, the flame In dolour parted, beating to and fro, And writhing its sharp horn. We onward went, I and my leader, up along the rock, Far as another arch, that overhangs The foss, wherein the penalty is paid Of those, who load them with committed sin.

CANTO XXVIII Who, e’en in words unfetter’d, might at full Tell of the wounds and blood that now I saw, Though he repeated oft the tale? No tongue So vast a theme could equal, speech and thought Both impotent alike. If in one band Collected, stood the people all, who e’er Pour’d on Apulia’s happy soil their blood, Slain by the Trojans, and in that long war When of the rings the measur’d booty made A pile so high, as Rome’s historian writes Who errs not, with the multitude, that felt The grinding force of Guiscard’s Norman steel, And those the rest, whose bones are gather’d yet At Ceperano, there where treachery Branded th’ Apulian name, or where beyond Thy walls, O Tagliacozzo, without arms The old Alardo conquer’d; and his limbs One were to show transpierc’d, another his Clean lopt away; a spectacle like this Were but a thing of nought, to the hideous sight Of the ninth chasm. A rundlet, that hath lost Its middle or side stave, gapes not so wide, As one I mark’d, torn from the chin throughout Down to the hinder passage: ’twixt the legs Dangling his entrails hung, the midriff lay Open to view, and wretched ventricle, That turns th’ englutted aliment to dross.

Whilst eagerly I fix on him my gaze, He ey’d me, with his hands laid his breast bare, And cried; “Now mark how I do rip me! lo!


“How is Mohammed mangled! before me Walks Ali weeping, from the chin his face Cleft to the forelock; and the others all Whom here thou seest, while they liv’d, did sow Scandal and schism, and therefore thus are rent. A fiend is here behind, who with his sword Hacks us thus cruelly, slivering again Each of this ream, when we have compast round The dismal way, for first our gashes close Ere we repass before him. But say who Art thou, that standest musing on the rock, Haply so lingering to delay the pain Sentenc’d upon thy crimes?”—“Him death not yet,” My guide rejoin’d, “hath overta’en, nor sin Conducts to torment; but, that he may make Full trial of your state, I who am dead Must through the depths of hell, from orb to orb, Conduct him. Trust my words, for they are true.”

More than a hundred spirits, when that they heard, Stood in the foss to mark me, through amazed, Forgetful of their pangs. “Thou, who perchance Shalt shortly view the sun, this warning thou Bear to Dolcino: bid him, if he wish not Here soon to follow me, that with good store Of food he arm him, lest impris’ning snows Yield him a victim to Novara’s power, No easy conquest else.” With foot uprais’d For stepping, spake Mohammed, on the ground Then fix’d it to depart. Another shade, Pierc’d in the throat, his nostrils mutilate E’en from beneath the eyebrows, and one ear Lopt off, who with the rest through wonder stood Gazing, before the rest advanc’d, and bar’d His wind-pipe, that without was all o’ersmear’d With crimson stain. “O thou!” said ‘he, “whom sin Condemns not, and whom erst (unless too near Resemblance do deceive me) I aloft Have seen on Latian ground, call thou to mind Piero of Medicina, if again Returning, thou behold’st the pleasant land That from Vercelli slopes to Mercabo;


“And there instruct the twain, whom Fano boasts Her worthiest sons, Guido and Angelo, That if ’t is giv’n us here to scan aright The future, they out of life’s tenement Shall be cast forth, and whelm’d under the waves Near to Cattolica, through perfidy Of a fell tyrant. ’Twixt the Cyprian isle And Balearic, ne’er hath Neptune seen An injury so foul, by pirates done Or Argive crew of old. That one-ey’d traitor (Whose realm there is a spirit here were fain His eye had still lack’d sight of) them shall bring To conf’rence with him, then so shape his end, That they shall need not ’gainst Focara’s wind Offer up vow nor pray’r.” I answering thus:

“Declare, as thou dost wish that I above May carry tidings of thee, who is he, In whom that sight doth wake such sad remembrance?”

Forthwith he laid his hand on the cheek-bone Of one, his fellow-spirit, and his jaws Expanding, cried: “Lo! this is he I wot of; He speaks not for himself: the outcast this Who overwhelm’d the doubt in Caesar’s mind, Affirming that delay to men prepar’d Was ever harmful. “Oh how terrified Methought was Curio, from whose throat was cut The tongue, which spake that hardy word. Then one Maim’d of each hand, uplifted in the gloom The bleeding stumps, that they with gory spots Sullied his face, and cried: ‘Remember thee Of Mosca, too, I who, alas! exclaim’d, “The deed once done there is an end,” that prov’d A seed of sorrow to the Tuscan race.”

I added: “Ay, and death to thine own tribe.”

Whence heaping woe on woe he hurried off, As one grief-stung to madness. But I there Still linger’d to behold the troop, and saw Things, such as I may fear without more proof To tell of, but that conscience makes me firm, The boon companion, who her strong breast-plate Buckles on him, that feels no guilt within And bids him on and fear not. Without doubt I saw, and yet it seems to pass before me, A headless trunk, that even as the rest Of the sad flock pac’d onward. By the hair It bore the sever’d member, lantern-wise Pendent in hand, which look’d at us and said,


“Woe’s me!” The spirit lighted thus himself, And two there were in one, and one in two. How that may be he knows who ordereth so.

When at the bridge’s foot direct he stood, His arm aloft he rear’d, thrusting the head Full in our view, that nearer we might hear The words, which thus it utter’d: “Now behold This grievous torment, thou, who breathing go’st To spy the dead; behold if any else Be terrible as this. And that on earth Thou mayst bear tidings of me, know that I Am Bertrand, he of Born, who gave King John The counsel mischievous. Father and son I set at mutual war. For Absalom And David more did not Ahitophel, Spurring them on maliciously to strife. For parting those so closely knit, my brain Parted, alas! I carry from its source, That in this trunk inhabits. Thus the law Of retribution fiercely works in me.”

CANTO XXIX So were mine eyes inebriate with view Of the vast multitude, whom various wounds Disfigur’d, that they long’d to stay and weep.


But Virgil rous’d me: “What yet gazest on? Wherefore doth fasten yet thy sight below Among the maim’d and miserable shades? Thou hast not shewn in any chasm beside This weakness. Know, if thou wouldst number them That two and twenty miles the valley winds Its circuit, and already is the moon Beneath our feet: the time permitted now Is short, and more not seen remains to see.”

“If thou,” I straight replied, “hadst weigh’d the cause For which I look’d, thou hadst perchance excus’d The tarrying still.” My leader part pursu’d His way, the while I follow’d, answering him, And adding thus: “Within that cave I deem, Whereon so fixedly I held my ken, There is a spirit dwells, one of my blood, Wailing the crime that costs him now so dear.”

Then spake my master: “Let thy soul no more Afflict itself for him. Direct elsewhere Its thought, and leave him. At the bridge’s foot I mark’d how he did point with menacing look At thee, and heard him by the others nam’d Geri of Bello. Thou so wholly then Wert busied with his spirit, who once rul’d The towers of Hautefort, that thou lookedst not That way, ere he was gone.”—“O guide belov’d! His violent death yet unaveng’d,” said I, “By any, who are partners in his shame, Made him contemptuous: therefore, as I think, He pass’d me speechless by; and doing so Hath made me more compassionate his fate.”

So we discours’d to where the rock first show’d The other valley, had more light been there, E’en to the lowest depth. Soon as we came O’er the last cloister in the dismal rounds Of Malebolge, and the brotherhood Were to our view expos’d, then many a dart Of sore lament assail’d me, headed all With points of thrilling pity, that I clos’d Both ears against the volley with mine hands.

As were the torment, if each lazar-house Of Valdichiana, in the sultry time ’Twixt July and September, with the isle Sardinia and Maremma’s pestilent fen, Had heap’d their maladies all in one foss Together; such was here the torment: dire The stench, as issuing steams from fester’d limbs.

We on the utmost shore of the long rock Descended still to leftward. Then my sight Was livelier to explore the depth, wherein The minister of the most mighty Lord, All-searching Justice, dooms to punishment The forgers noted on her dread record.


More rueful was it not methinks to see The nation in Aegina droop, what time Each living thing, e’en to the little worm, All fell, so full of malice was the air (And afterward, as bards of yore have told, The ancient people were restor’d anew From seed of emmets) than was here to see The spirits, that languish’d through the murky vale Up-pil’d on many a stack. Confus’d they lay, One o’er the belly, o’er the shoulders one Roll’d of another; sideling crawl’d a third Along the dismal pathway. Step by step We journey’d on, in silence looking round And list’ning those diseas’d, who strove in vain To lift their forms. Then two I mark’d, that sat Propp’d ’gainst each other, as two brazen pans Set to retain the heat. From head to foot, A tetter bark’d them round. Nor saw I e’er Groom currying so fast, for whom his lord Impatient waited, or himself perchance Tir’d with long watching, as of these each one Plied quickly his keen nails, through furiousness Of ne’er abated pruriency. The crust Came drawn from underneath in flakes, like scales Scrap’d from the bream or fish of broader mail.


“O thou, who with thy fingers rendest off Thy coat of proof,” thus spake my guide to one, “And sometimes makest tearing pincers of them, Tell me if any born of Latian land Be among these within: so may thy nails Serve thee for everlasting to this toil.”

“Both are of Latium,” weeping he replied, “Whom tortur’d thus thou seest: but who art thou That hast inquir’d of us?” To whom my guide: “One that descend with this man, who yet lives, From rock to rock, and show him hell’s abyss.”

Then started they asunder, and each turn’d Trembling toward us, with the rest, whose ear Those words redounding struck. To me my liege Address’d him: “Speak to them whate’er thou list.”

And I therewith began: “So may no time Filch your remembrance from the thoughts of men In th’ upper world, but after many suns Survive it, as ye tell me, who ye are, And of what race ye come. Your punishment, Unseemly and disgustful in its kind, Deter you not from opening thus much to me.”

“Arezzo was my dwelling,” answer’d one, “And me Albero of Sienna brought To die by fire; but that, for which I died, Leads me not here. True is in sport I told him, That I had learn’d to wing my flight in air. And he admiring much, as he was void Of wisdom, will’d me to declare to him The secret of mine art: and only hence, Because I made him not a Daedalus, Prevail’d on one suppos’d his sire to burn me. But Minos to this chasm last of the ten, For that I practis’d alchemy on earth, Has doom’d me. Him no subterfuge eludes.”

Then to the bard I spake: “Was ever race Light as Sienna’s? Sure not France herself Can show a tribe so frivolous and vain.”

The other leprous spirit heard my words, And thus return’d: “Be Stricca from this charge Exempted, he who knew so temp’rately To lay out fortune’s gifts; and Niccolo Who first the spice’s costly luxury Discover’d in that garden, where such seed Roots deepest in the soil: and be that troop Exempted, with whom Caccia of Asciano Lavish’d his vineyards and wide-spreading woods, And his rare wisdom Abbagliato show’d A spectacle for all. That thou mayst know Who seconds thee against the Siennese Thus gladly, bend this way thy sharpen’d sight, That well my face may answer to thy ken; So shalt thou see I am Capocchio’s ghost, Who forg’d transmuted metals by the power Of alchemy; and if I scan thee right, Thus needs must well remember how I aped Creative nature by my subtle art.”

CANTO XXX What time resentment burn’d in Juno’s breast For Semele against the Theban blood, As more than once in dire mischance was rued, Such fatal frenzy seiz’d on Athamas, That he his spouse beholding with a babe Laden on either arm, “Spread out,” he cried, “The meshes, that I take the lioness And the young lions at the pass:” then forth Stretch’d he his merciless talons, grasping one, One helpless innocent, Learchus nam’d, Whom swinging down he dash’d upon a rock, And with her other burden self-destroy’d The hapless mother plung’d: and when the pride Of all-presuming Troy fell from its height, By fortune overwhelm’d, and the old king With his realm perish’d, then did Hecuba, A wretch forlorn and captive, when she saw Polyxena first slaughter’d, and her son, Her Polydorus, on the wild sea-beach Next met the mourner’s view, then reft of sense Did she run barking even as a dog; Such mighty power had grief to wrench her soul. Bet ne’er the Furies or of Thebes or Troy With such fell cruelty were seen, their goads Infixing in the limbs of man or beast, As now two pale and naked ghost I saw That gnarling wildly scamper’d, like the swine Excluded from his stye. One reach’d Capocchio, And in the neck-joint sticking deep his fangs, Dragg’d him, that o’er the solid pavement rubb’d His belly stretch’d out prone. The other shape, He of Arezzo, there left trembling, spake; “That sprite of air is Schicchi; in like mood Of random mischief vents he still his spite.”


To whom I answ’ring: “Oh! as thou dost hope, The other may not flesh its jaws on thee, Be patient to inform us, who it is, Ere it speed hence.”—“That is the ancient soul Of wretched Myrrha,” he replied, “who burn’d With most unholy flame for her own sire,


“And a false shape assuming, so perform’d The deed of sin; e’en as the other there, That onward passes, dar’d to counterfeit Donati’s features, to feign’d testament The seal affixing, that himself might gain, For his own share, the lady of the herd.”

When vanish’d the two furious shades, on whom Mine eye was held, I turn’d it back to view The other cursed spirits. One I saw In fashion like a lute, had but the groin Been sever’d, where it meets the forked part. Swoln dropsy, disproportioning the limbs With ill-converted moisture, that the paunch Suits not the visage, open’d wide his lips Gasping as in the hectic man for drought, One towards the chin, the other upward curl’d.

“O ye, who in this world of misery, Wherefore I know not, are exempt from pain,” Thus he began, “attentively regard Adamo’s woe. When living, full supply Ne’er lack’d me of what most I coveted; One drop of water now, alas! I crave. The rills, that glitter down the grassy slopes Of Casentino, making fresh and soft The banks whereby they glide to Arno’s stream, Stand ever in my view; and not in vain; For more the pictur’d semblance dries me up, Much more than the disease, which makes the flesh Desert these shrivel’d cheeks. So from the place, Where I transgress’d, stern justice urging me, Takes means to quicken more my lab’ring sighs. There is Romena, where I falsified The metal with the Baptist’s form imprest, For which on earth I left my body burnt. But if I here might see the sorrowing soul Of Guido, Alessandro, or their brother, For Branda’s limpid spring I would not change The welcome sight. One is e’en now within, If truly the mad spirits tell, that round Are wand’ring. But wherein besteads me that? My limbs are fetter’d. Were I but so light, That I each hundred years might move one inch, I had set forth already on this path, Seeking him out amidst the shapeless crew, Although eleven miles it wind, not more Than half of one across. They brought me down Among this tribe; induc’d by them I stamp’d The florens with three carats of alloy.”

“Who are that abject pair,” I next inquir’d, “That closely bounding thee upon thy right Lie smoking, like a band in winter steep’d In the chill stream?”—“When to this gulf I dropt,” He answer’d, “here I found them; since that hour They have not turn’d, nor ever shall, I ween, Till time hath run his course. One is that dame The false accuser of the Hebrew youth; Sinon the other, that false Greek from Troy. Sharp fever drains the reeky moistness out, In such a cloud upsteam’d.” When that he heard, One, gall’d perchance to be so darkly nam’d, With clench’d hand smote him on the braced paunch, That like a drum resounded: but forthwith Adamo smote him on the face, the blow Returning with his arm, that seem’d as hard.

“Though my o’erweighty limbs have ta’en from me The power to move,” said he, “I have an arm At liberty for such employ.” To whom Was answer’d: “When thou wentest to the fire, Thou hadst it not so ready at command, Then readier when it coin’d th’ impostor gold.”

And thus the dropsied: “Ay, now speak’st thou true. But there thou gav’st not such true testimony, When thou wast question’d of the truth, at Troy.”

“If I spake false, thou falsely stamp’dst the coin,” Said Sinon; “I am here but for one fault, And thou for more than any imp beside.”

“Remember,” he replied, “O perjur’d one, The horse remember, that did teem with death, And all the world be witness to thy guilt.”

“To thine,” return’d the Greek, “witness the thirst Whence thy tongue cracks, witness the fluid mound, Rear’d by thy belly up before thine eyes, A mass corrupt.” To whom the coiner thus: “Thy mouth gapes wide as ever to let pass Its evil saying. Me if thirst assails, Yet I am stuff’d with moisture. Thou art parch’d, Pains rack thy head, no urging would’st thou need To make thee lap Narcissus’ mirror up.”

I was all fix’d to listen, when my guide Admonish’d: “Now beware: a little more, And I do quarrel with thee.” I perceiv’d How angrily he spake, and towards him turn’d With shame so poignant, as remember’d yet Confounds me. As a man that dreams of harm Befall’n him, dreaming wishes it a dream, And that which is, desires as if it were not, Such then was I, who wanting power to speak Wish’d to excuse myself, and all the while Excus’d me, though unweeting that I did.

“More grievous fault than thine has been, less shame,” My master cried, “might expiate. Therefore cast All sorrow from thy soul; and if again Chance bring thee, where like conference is held, Think I am ever at thy side. To hear Such wrangling is a joy for vulgar minds.”

CANTO XXXI The very tongue, whose keen reproof before Had wounded me, that either cheek was stain’d, Now minister’d my cure. So have I heard, Achilles and his father’s javelin caus’d Pain first, and then the boon of health restor’d.

Turning our back upon the vale of woe, W cross’d th’ encircled mound in silence. There Was twilight dim, that far long the gloom Mine eye advanc’d not: but I heard a horn Sounded aloud. The peal it blew had made The thunder feeble. Following its course The adverse way, my strained eyes were bent On that one spot. So terrible a blast Orlando blew not, when that dismal rout O’erthrew the host of Charlemagne, and quench’d His saintly warfare. Thitherward not long My head was rais’d, when many lofty towers Methought I spied. “Master,” said I, “what land Is this?” He answer’d straight: “Too long a space Of intervening darkness has thine eye To traverse: thou hast therefore widely err’d In thy imagining. Thither arriv’d Thou well shalt see, how distance can delude The sense. A little therefore urge thee on.”

Then tenderly he caught me by the hand; “Yet know,” said he, “ere farther we advance, That it less strange may seem, these are not towers, But giants. In the pit they stand immers’d, Each from his navel downward, round the bank.”

As when a fog disperseth gradually, Our vision traces what the mist involves Condens’d in air; so piercing through the gross And gloomy atmosphere, as more and more We near’d toward the brink, mine error fled, And fear came o’er me. As with circling round Of turrets, Montereggion crowns his walls, E’en thus the shore, encompassing th’ abyss, Was turreted with giants, half their length Uprearing, horrible, whom Jove from heav’n Yet threatens, when his mutt’ring thunder rolls.

Of one already I descried the face, Shoulders, and breast, and of the belly huge Great part, and both arms down along his ribs.

All-teeming nature, when her plastic hand Left framing of these monsters, did display Past doubt her wisdom, taking from mad War Such slaves to do his bidding; and if she Repent her not of th’ elephant and whale, Who ponders well confesses her therein Wiser and more discreet; for when brute force And evil will are back’d with subtlety, Resistance none avails. His visage seem’d In length and bulk, as doth the pine, that tops Saint Peter’s Roman fane; and th’ other bones Of like proportion, so that from above The bank, which girdled him below, such height Arose his stature, that three Friezelanders Had striv’n in vain to reach but to his hair. Full thirty ample palms was he expos’d Downward from whence a man his garments loops. “Raphel bai ameth sabi almi,” So shouted his fierce lips, which sweeter hymns Became not; and my guide address’d him thus:


“O senseless spirit! let thy horn for thee Interpret: therewith vent thy rage, if rage Or other passion wring thee. Search thy neck, There shalt thou find the belt that binds it on. Wild spirit! lo, upon thy mighty breast Where hangs the baldrick!” Then to me he spake: “He doth accuse himself. Nimrod is this, Through whose ill counsel in the world no more One tongue prevails. But pass we on, nor waste Our words; for so each language is to him, As his to others, understood by none.”

Then to the leftward turning sped we forth, And at a sling’s throw found another shade Far fiercer and more huge. I cannot say What master hand had girt him; but he held Behind the right arm fetter’d, and before The other with a chain, that fasten’d him From the neck down, and five times round his form Apparent met the wreathed links. “This proud one Would of his strength against almighty Jove Make trial,” said my guide; “whence he is thus Requited: Ephialtes him they call.


“Great was his prowess, when the giants brought Fear on the gods: those arms, which then he piled, Now moves he never.” Forthwith I return’d: “Fain would I, if ’t were possible, mine eyes Of Briareus immeasurable gain’d Experience next.” He answer’d: “Thou shalt see Not far from hence Antaeus, who both speaks And is unfetter’d, who shall place us there Where guilt is at its depth. Far onward stands Whom thou wouldst fain behold, in chains, and made Like to this spirit, save that in his looks More fell he seems.” By violent earthquake rock’d Ne’er shook a tow’r, so reeling to its base, As Ephialtes. More than ever then I dreaded death, nor than the terror more Had needed, if I had not seen the cords That held him fast. We, straightway journeying on, Came to Antaeus, who five ells complete Without the head, forth issued from the cave.

“O thou, who in the fortunate vale, that made Great Scipio heir of glory, when his sword Drove back the troop of Hannibal in flight, Who thence of old didst carry for thy spoil An hundred lions; and if thou hadst fought In the high conflict on thy brethren’s side, Seems as men yet believ’d, that through thine arm The sons of earth had conquer’d, now vouchsafe To place us down beneath, where numbing cold Locks up Cocytus. Force not that we crave Or Tityus’ help or Typhon’s. Here is one Can give what in this realm ye covet. Stoop Therefore, nor scornfully distort thy lip. He in the upper world can yet bestow Renown on thee, for he doth live, and looks For life yet longer, if before the time Grace call him not unto herself.” Thus spake The teacher. He in haste forth stretch’d his hands, And caught my guide. Alcides whilom felt That grapple straighten’d score. Soon as my guide Had felt it, he bespake me thus: “This way That I may clasp thee;” then so caught me up, That we were both one burden. As appears The tower of Carisenda, from beneath Where it doth lean, if chance a passing cloud So sail across, that opposite it hangs, Such then Antaeus seem’d, as at mine ease I mark’d him stooping. I were fain at times T’ have pass’d another way. Yet in th’ abyss, That Lucifer with Judas low ingulfs, lightly he plac’d us; nor there leaning stay’d, But rose as in a bark the stately mast.


CANTO XXXII Could I command rough rhimes and hoarse, to suit That hole of sorrow, o’er which ev’ry rock His firm abutment rears, then might the vein Of fancy rise full springing: but not mine Such measures, and with falt’ring awe I touch The mighty theme; for to describe the depth Of all the universe, is no emprize To jest with, and demands a tongue not us’d To infant babbling. But let them assist My song, the tuneful maidens, by whose aid Amphion wall’d in Thebes, so with the truth My speech shall best accord. Oh ill-starr’d folk, Beyond all others wretched! who abide In such a mansion, as scarce thought finds words To speak of, better had ye here on earth Been flocks or mountain goats. As down we stood In the dark pit beneath the giants’ feet, But lower far than they, and I did gaze Still on the lofty battlement, a voice Bespoke me thus: “Look how thou walkest. Take Good heed, thy soles do tread not on the heads Of thy poor brethren.” Thereupon I turn’d, And saw before and underneath my feet A lake, whose frozen surface liker seem’d To glass than water. Not so thick a veil In winter e’er hath Austrian Danube spread O’er his still course, nor Tanais far remote Under the chilling sky. Roll’d o’er that mass Had Tabernich or Pietrapana fall’n,


Not e’en its rim had creak’d. As peeps the frog Croaking above the wave, what time in dreams The village gleaner oft pursues her toil, So, to where modest shame appears, thus low Blue pinch’d and shrin’d in ice the spirits stood, Moving their teeth in shrill note like the stork. His face each downward held; their mouth the cold, Their eyes express’d the dolour of their heart.

A space I look’d around, then at my feet Saw two so strictly join’d, that of their head The very hairs were mingled. “Tell me ye, Whose bosoms thus together press,” said I, “Who are ye?” At that sound their necks they bent, And when their looks were lifted up to me, Straightway their eyes, before all moist within, Distill’d upon their lips, and the frost bound The tears betwixt those orbs and held them there. Plank unto plank hath never cramp clos’d up So stoutly. Whence like two enraged goats They clash’d together; them such fury seiz’d.

And one, from whom the cold both ears had reft, Exclaim’d, still looking downward: “Why on us Dost speculate so long? If thou wouldst know Who are these two, the valley, whence his wave Bisenzio slopes, did for its master own Their sire Alberto, and next him themselves. They from one body issued; and throughout Caina thou mayst search, nor find a shade More worthy in congealment to be fix’d, Not him, whose breast and shadow Arthur’s land At that one blow dissever’d, not Focaccia, No not this spirit, whose o’erjutting head Obstructs my onward view: he bore the name Of Mascheroni: Tuscan if thou be, Well knowest who he was: and to cut short All further question, in my form behold What once was Camiccione. I await Carlino here my kinsman, whose deep guilt Shall wash out mine.” A thousand visages Then mark’d I, which the keen and eager cold Had shap’d into a doggish grin; whence creeps A shiv’ring horror o’er me, at the thought Of those frore shallows. While we journey’d on Toward the middle, at whose point unites All heavy substance, and I trembling went Through that eternal chillness, I know not If will it were or destiny, or chance, But, passing ’midst the heads, my foot did strike With violent blow against the face of one.

“Wherefore dost bruise me?” weeping, he exclaim’d, “Unless thy errand be some fresh revenge For Montaperto, wherefore troublest me?”

I thus: “Instructor, now await me here, That I through him may rid me of my doubt. Thenceforth what haste thou wilt.” The teacher paus’d, And to that shade I spake, who bitterly Still curs’d me in his wrath. “What art thou, speak, That railest thus on others?” He replied: “Now who art thou, that smiting others’ cheeks Through Antenora roamest, with such force As were past suff’rance, wert thou living still?”

“And I am living, to thy joy perchance,” Was my reply, “if fame be dear to thee, That with the rest I may thy name enrol.”

“The contrary of what I covet most,” Said he, “thou tender’st: hence; nor vex me more. Ill knowest thou to flatter in this vale.”


Then seizing on his hinder scalp, I cried: “Name thee, or not a hair shall tarry here.”

“Rend all away,” he answer’d, “yet for that I will not tell nor show thee who I am, Though at my head thou pluck a thousand times.”

Now I had grasp’d his tresses, and stript off More than one tuft, he barking, with his eyes Drawn in and downward, when another cried, “What ails thee, Bocca? Sound not loud enough Thy chatt’ring teeth, but thou must bark outright? “What devil wrings thee?”—“Now,” said I, “be dumb, Accursed traitor! to thy shame of thee True tidings will I bear.”—“Off,” he replied, “Tell what thou list; but as thou escape from hence To speak of him whose tongue hath been so glib, Forget not: here he wails the Frenchman’s gold. ‘Him of Duera,’ thou canst say, ‘I mark’d, Where the starv’d sinners pine.’ If thou be ask’d What other shade was with them, at thy side Is Beccaria, whose red gorge distain’d The biting axe of Florence. Farther on, If I misdeem not, Soldanieri bides, With Ganellon, and Tribaldello, him Who op’d Faenza when the people slept.”

We now had left him, passing on our way, When I beheld two spirits by the ice Pent in one hollow, that the head of one Was cowl unto the other; and as bread Is raven’d up through hunger, th’ uppermost Did so apply his fangs to th’ other’s brain, Where the spine joins it. Not more furiously On Menalippus’ temples Tydeus gnaw’d, Than on that skull and on its garbage he.


“O thou who show’st so beastly sign of hate ’Gainst him thou prey’st on, let me hear,” said I “The cause, on such condition, that if right Warrant thy grievance, knowing who ye are, And what the colour of his sinning was, I may repay thee in the world above, If that wherewith I speak be moist so long.”

CANTO XXXIII His jaws uplifting from their fell repast, That sinner wip’d them on the hairs o’ th’ head, Which he behind had mangled, then began: “Thy will obeying, I call up afresh Sorrow past cure, which but to think of wrings My heart, or ere I tell on’t. But if words, That I may utter, shall prove seed to bear Fruit of eternal infamy to him, The traitor whom I gnaw at, thou at once Shalt see me speak and weep. Who thou mayst be I know not, nor how here below art come: But Florentine thou seemest of a truth, When I do hear thee. Know I was on earth Count Ugolino, and th’ Archbishop he Ruggieri. Why I neighbour him so close, Now list. That through effect of his ill thoughts In him my trust reposing, I was ta’en And after murder’d, need is not I tell. What therefore thou canst not have heard, that is, How cruel was the murder, shalt thou hear, And know if he have wrong’d me. A small grate Within that mew, which for my sake the name Of famine bears, where others yet must pine, Already through its opening sev’ral moons Had shown me, when I slept the evil sleep, That from the future tore the curtain off. This one, methought, as master of the sport, Rode forth to chase the gaunt wolf and his whelps Unto the mountain, which forbids the sight Of Lucca to the Pisan. With lean brachs Inquisitive and keen, before him rang’d Lanfranchi with Sismondi and Gualandi. After short course the father and the sons Seem’d tir’d and lagging, and methought I saw The sharp tusks gore their sides. When I awoke Before the dawn, amid their sleep I heard My sons (for they were with me) weep and ask For bread. Right cruel art thou, if no pang Thou feel at thinking what my heart foretold; And if not now, why use thy tears to flow? Now had they waken’d; and the hour drew near When they were wont to bring us food; the mind Of each misgave him through his dream, and I Heard, at its outlet underneath lock’d up The horrible tower: whence uttering not a word I look’d upon the visage of my sons. I wept not: so all stone I felt within. They wept: and one, my little Anslem, cried: ‘Thou lookest so! Father what ails thee?’ Yet I shed no tear, nor answer’d all that day Nor the next night, until another sun Came out upon the world. When a faint beam Had to our doleful prison made its way, And in four countenances I descry’d The image of my own, on either hand Through agony I bit, and they who thought I did it through desire of feeding, rose O’ th’ sudden, and cried, ‘Father, we should grieve Far less, if thou wouldst eat of us: thou gav’st These weeds of miserable flesh we wear,


And do thou strip them off from us again.’ Then, not to make them sadder, I kept down My spirit in stillness. That day and the next We all were silent. Ah, obdurate earth! Why open’dst not upon us? When we came To the fourth day, then Geddo at my feet Outstretch’d did fling him, crying, ‘Hast no help For me, my father!’ There he died, and e’en Plainly as thou seest me, saw I the three Fall one by one ’twixt the fifth day and sixth:


Whence I betook me now grown blind to grope Over them all, and for three days aloud Call’d on them who were dead. Then fasting got The mastery of grief.” Thus having spoke,


Once more upon the wretched skull his teeth He fasten’d, like a mastiff’s ’gainst the bone Firm and unyielding. Oh thou Pisa! shame Of all the people, who their dwelling make In that fair region, where th’ Italian voice Is heard, since that thy neighbours are so slack To punish, from their deep foundations rise Capraia and Gorgona, and dam up The mouth of Arno, that each soul in thee May perish in the waters! What if fame Reported that thy castles were betray’d By Ugolino, yet no right hadst thou To stretch his children on the rack. For them, Brigata, Ugaccione, and the pair Of gentle ones, of whom my song hath told, Their tender years, thou modern Thebes! did make Uncapable of guilt. Onward we pass’d, Where others skarf’d in rugged folds of ice Not on their feet were turn’d, but each revers’d.

There very weeping suffers not to weep; For at their eyes grief seeking passage finds Impediment, and rolling inward turns For increase of sharp anguish: the first tears Hang cluster’d, and like crystal vizors show, Under the socket brimming all the cup.

Now though the cold had from my face dislodg’d Each feeling, as ’t were callous, yet me seem’d Some breath of wind I felt. “Whence cometh this,” Said I, “my master? Is not here below All vapour quench’d?”—“‘Thou shalt be speedily,” He answer’d, “where thine eye shall tell thee whence The cause descrying of this airy shower.”

Then cried out one in the chill crust who mourn’d: “O souls so cruel! that the farthest post Hath been assign’d you, from this face remove The harden’d veil, that I may vent the grief Impregnate at my heart, some little space Ere it congeal again!” I thus replied: “Say who thou wast, if thou wouldst have mine aid; And if I extricate thee not, far down As to the lowest ice may I descend!”

“The friar Alberigo,” answered he, “Am I, who from the evil garden pluck’d Its fruitage, and am here repaid, the date More luscious for my fig.”—“Hah!” I exclaim’d, “Art thou too dead!”—“How in the world aloft It fareth with my body,” answer’d he, “I am right ignorant. Such privilege Hath Ptolomea, that ofttimes the soul Drops hither, ere by Atropos divorc’d. And that thou mayst wipe out more willingly The glazed tear-drops that o’erlay mine eyes, Know that the soul, that moment she betrays, As I did, yields her body to a fiend Who after moves and governs it at will, Till all its time be rounded; headlong she Falls to this cistern. And perchance above Doth yet appear the body of a ghost, Who here behind me winters. Him thou know’st, If thou but newly art arriv’d below. The years are many that have pass’d away, Since to this fastness Branca Doria came.”

“Now,” answer’d I, “methinks thou mockest me, For Branca Doria never yet hath died, But doth all natural functions of a man, Eats, drinks, and sleeps, and putteth raiment on.”

He thus: “Not yet unto that upper foss By th’ evil talons guarded, where the pitch Tenacious boils, had Michael Zanche reach’d, When this one left a demon in his stead In his own body, and of one his kin, Who with him treachery wrought. But now put forth Thy hand, and ope mine eyes.” I op’d them not. Ill manners were best courtesy to him.

Ah Genoese! men perverse in every way, With every foulness stain’d, why from the earth Are ye not cancel’d? Such an one of yours I with Romagna’s darkest spirit found, As for his doings even now in soul Is in Cocytus plung’d, and yet doth seem In body still alive upon the earth.

CANTO XXXIV “The banners of Hell’s Monarch do come forth Towards us; therefore look,” so spake my guide, “If thou discern him.” As, when breathes a cloud Heavy and dense, or when the shades of night Fall on our hemisphere, seems view’d from far A windmill, which the blast stirs briskly round, Such was the fabric then methought I saw,

To shield me from the wind, forthwith I drew Behind my guide: no covert else was there.

Now came I (and with fear I bid my strain Record the marvel) where the souls were all Whelm’d underneath, transparent, as through glass Pellucid the frail stem. Some prone were laid, Others stood upright, this upon the soles, That on his head, a third with face to feet Arch’d like a bow. When to the point we came, Whereat my guide was pleas’d that I should see The creature eminent in beauty once, He from before me stepp’d and made me pause.


“Lo!” he exclaim’d, “lo Dis! and lo the place, Where thou hast need to arm thy heart with strength.”

How frozen and how faint I then became, Ask me not, reader! for I write it not, Since words would fail to tell thee of my state. I was not dead nor living. Think thyself If quick conception work in thee at all, How I did feel. That emperor, who sways The realm of sorrow, at mid breast from th’ ice Stood forth; and I in stature am more like A giant, than the giants are in his arms. Mark now how great that whole must be, which suits With such a part. If he were beautiful As he is hideous now, and yet did dare To scowl upon his Maker, well from him May all our mis’ry flow. Oh what a sight! How passing strange it seem’d, when I did spy Upon his head three faces: one in front Of hue vermilion, th’ other two with this Midway each shoulder join’d and at the crest; The right ’twixt wan and yellow seem’d: the left To look on, such as come from whence old Nile Stoops to the lowlands. Under each shot forth Two mighty wings, enormous as became A bird so vast. Sails never such I saw Outstretch’d on the wide sea. No plumes had they, But were in texture like a bat, and these He flapp’d i’ th’ air, that from him issued still Three winds, wherewith Cocytus to its depth Was frozen. At six eyes he wept: the tears Adown three chins distill’d with bloody foam. At every mouth his teeth a sinner champ’d Bruis’d as with pond’rous engine, so that three Were in this guise tormented. But far more Than from that gnawing, was the foremost pang’d By the fierce rending, whence ofttimes the back Was stript of all its skin. “That upper spirit, Who hath worse punishment,” so spake my guide, “Is Judas, he that hath his head within And plies the feet without. Of th’ other two, Whose heads are under, from the murky jaw Who hangs, is Brutus: lo! how he doth writhe And speaks not! Th’ other Cassius, that appears So large of limb. But night now re-ascends, And it is time for parting. All is seen.”

I clipp’d him round the neck, for so he bade; And noting time and place, he, when the wings Enough were op’d, caught fast the shaggy sides, And down from pile to pile descending stepp’d Between the thick fell and the jagged ice.

Soon as he reach’d the point, whereat the thigh Upon the swelling of the haunches turns, My leader there with pain and struggling hard Turn’d round his head, where his feet stood before, And grappled at the fell, as one who mounts, That into hell methought we turn’d again.

“Expect that by such stairs as these,” thus spake The teacher, panting like a man forespent, “We must depart from evil so extreme.” Then at a rocky opening issued forth, And plac’d me on a brink to sit, next join’d With wary step my side. I rais’d mine eyes, Believing that I Lucifer should see Where he was lately left, but saw him now With legs held upward. Let the grosser sort, Who see not what the point was I had pass’d, Bethink them if sore toil oppress’d me then.

“Arise,” my master cried, “upon thy feet. The way is long, and much uncouth the road; And now within one hour and half of noon The sun returns.” It was no palace-hall Lofty and luminous wherein we stood, But natural dungeon where ill footing was And scant supply of light. “Ere from th’ abyss I sep’rate,” thus when risen I began, “My guide! vouchsafe few words to set me free From error’s thralldom. Where is now the ice? How standeth he in posture thus revers’d? And how from eve to morn in space so brief Hath the sun made his transit?” He in few Thus answering spake: “Thou deemest thou art still On th’ other side the centre, where I grasp’d Th’ abhorred worm, that boreth through the world. Thou wast on th’ other side, so long as I Descended; when I turn’d, thou didst o’erpass That point, to which from ev’ry part is dragg’d All heavy substance. Thou art now arriv’d Under the hemisphere opposed to that, Which the great continent doth overspread, And underneath whose canopy expir’d The Man, that was born sinless, and so liv’d. Thy feet are planted on the smallest sphere, Whose other aspect is Judecca. Morn Here rises, when there evening sets: and he, Whose shaggy pile was scal’d, yet standeth fix’d, As at the first. On this part he fell down From heav’n; and th’ earth, here prominent before, Through fear of him did veil her with the sea, And to our hemisphere retir’d. Perchance To shun him was the vacant space left here By what of firm land on this side appears, That sprang aloof.” There is a place beneath, From Belzebub as distant, as extends The vaulted tomb, discover’d not by sight, But by the sound of brooklet, that descends This way along the hollow of a rock, Which, as it winds with no precipitous course, The wave hath eaten. By that hidden way My guide and I did enter, to return To the fair world: and heedless of repose We climbed, he first, I following his steps, Till on our view the beautiful lights of heav’n Dawn’d through a circular opening in the cave: Thus issuing we again beheld the stars.


PURGATORY CANTO I O’er better waves to speed her rapid course The light bark of my genius lifts the sail, Well pleas’d to leave so cruel sea behind; And of that second region will I sing, In which the human spirit from sinful blot Is purg’d, and for ascent to Heaven prepares.

Here, O ye hallow’d Nine! for in your train I follow, here the deadened strain revive; Nor let Calliope refuse to sound A somewhat higher song, of that loud tone, Which when the wretched birds of chattering note Had heard, they of forgiveness lost all hope.

Sweet hue of eastern sapphire, that was spread O’er the serene aspect of the pure air, High up as the first circle, to mine eyes Unwonted joy renew’d, soon as I ’scap’d Forth from the atmosphere of deadly gloom, That had mine eyes and bosom fill’d with grief. The radiant planet, that to love invites, Made all the orient laugh, and veil’d beneath The Pisces’ light, that in his escort came.


To the right hand I turn’d, and fix’d my mind On the’ other pole attentive, where I saw Four stars ne’er seen before save by the ken Of our first parents. Heaven of their rays Seem’d joyous. O thou northern site, bereft Indeed, and widow’d, since of these depriv’d!

As from this view I had desisted, straight Turning a little tow’rds the other pole, There from whence now the wain had disappear’d, I saw an old man standing by my side Alone, so worthy of rev’rence in his look, That ne’er from son to father more was ow’d. Low down his beard and mix’d with hoary white Descended, like his locks, which parting fell Upon his breast in double fold. The beams Of those four luminaries on his face So brightly shone, and with such radiance clear Deck’d it, that I beheld him as the sun.

“Say who are ye, that stemming the blind stream, Forth from th’ eternal prison-house have fled?” He spoke and moved those venerable plumes. “Who hath conducted, or with lantern sure Lights you emerging from the depth of night, That makes the infernal valley ever black? Are the firm statutes of the dread abyss Broken, or in high heaven new laws ordain’d, That thus, condemn’d, ye to my caves approach?”


My guide, then laying hold on me, by words And intimations given with hand and head, Made my bent knees and eye submissive pay Due reverence; then thus to him replied.

“Not of myself I come; a Dame from heaven Descending, had besought me in my charge To bring. But since thy will implies, that more Our true condition I unfold at large, Mine is not to deny thee thy request. This mortal ne’er hath seen the farthest gloom. But erring by his folly had approach’d So near, that little space was left to turn. Then, as before I told, I was dispatch’d To work his rescue, and no way remain’d Save this which I have ta’en. I have display’d Before him all the regions of the bad; And purpose now those spirits to display, That under thy command are purg’d from sin. How I have brought him would be long to say. From high descends the virtue, by whose aid I to thy sight and hearing him have led. Now may our coming please thee. In the search Of liberty he journeys: that how dear They know, who for her sake have life refus’d. Thou knowest, to whom death for her was sweet In Utica, where thou didst leave those weeds, That in the last great day will shine so bright. For us the’ eternal edicts are unmov’d: He breathes, and I am free of Minos’ power, Abiding in that circle where the eyes Of thy chaste Marcia beam, who still in look Prays thee, O hallow’d spirit! to own her shine. Then by her love we’ implore thee, let us pass Through thy sev’n regions; for which best thanks I for thy favour will to her return, If mention there below thou not disdain.”

“Marcia so pleasing in my sight was found,” He then to him rejoin’d, “while I was there, That all she ask’d me I was fain to grant. Now that beyond the’ accursed stream she dwells, She may no longer move me, by that law, Which was ordain’d me, when I issued thence. Not so, if Dame from heaven, as thou sayst, Moves and directs thee; then no flattery needs. Enough for me that in her name thou ask. Go therefore now: and with a slender reed See that thou duly gird him, and his face Lave, till all sordid stain thou wipe from thence. For not with eye, by any cloud obscur’d, Would it be seemly before him to come, Who stands the foremost minister in heaven. This islet all around, there far beneath, Where the wave beats it, on the oozy bed Produces store of reeds. No other plant, Cover’d with leaves, or harden’d in its stalk, There lives, not bending to the water’s sway. After, this way return not; but the sun Will show you, that now rises, where to take The mountain in its easiest ascent.”

He disappear’d; and I myself uprais’d Speechless, and to my guide retiring close, Toward him turn’d mine eyes. He thus began; “My son! observant thou my steps pursue. We must retreat to rearward, for that way The champain to its low extreme declines.”

The dawn had chas’d the matin hour of prime, Which deaf before it, so that from afar I spy’d the trembling of the ocean stream.

We travers’d the deserted plain, as one Who, wander’d from his track, thinks every step Trodden in vain till he regain the path.

When we had come, where yet the tender dew Strove with the sun, and in a place, where fresh The wind breath’d o’er it, while it slowly dried; Both hands extended on the watery grass My master plac’d, in graceful act and kind. Whence I of his intent before appriz’d, Stretch’d out to him my cheeks suffus’d with tears. There to my visage he anew restor’d That hue, which the dun shades of hell conceal’d.

Then on the solitary shore arriv’d, That never sailing on its waters saw Man, that could after measure back his course, He girt me in such manner as had pleas’d Him who instructed, and O, strange to tell! As he selected every humble plant, Wherever one was pluck’d, another there Resembling, straightway in its place arose.

CANTO II Now had the sun to that horizon reach’d, That covers, with the most exalted point Of its meridian circle, Salem’s walls, And night, that opposite to him her orb Sounds, from the stream of Ganges issued forth, Holding the scales, that from her hands are dropp’d When she reigns highest: so that where I was, Aurora’s white and vermeil-tinctur’d cheek To orange turn’d as she in age increas’d.

Meanwhile we linger’d by the water’s brink, Like men, who, musing on their road, in thought Journey, while motionless the body rests. When lo! as near upon the hour of dawn, Through the thick vapours Mars with fiery beam Glares down in west, over the ocean floor; So seem’d, what once again I hope to view, A light so swiftly coming through the sea, No winged course might equal its career. From which when for a space I had withdrawn Thine eyes, to make inquiry of my guide, Again I look’d and saw it grown in size And brightness: thou on either side appear’d Something, but what I knew not of bright hue, And by degrees from underneath it came Another. My preceptor silent yet Stood, while the brightness, that we first discern’d, Open’d the form of wings: then when he knew The pilot, cried aloud, “Down, down; bend low Thy knees; behold God’s angel: fold thy hands: Now shalt thou see true Ministers indeed.”


Lo how all human means he sets at naught! So that nor oar he needs, nor other sail Except his wings, between such distant shores. Lo how straight up to heaven he holds them rear’d, Winnowing the air with those eternal plumes, That not like mortal hairs fall off or change!”

As more and more toward us came, more bright Appear’d the bird of God, nor could the eye Endure his splendor near: I mine bent down. He drove ashore in a small bark so swift And light, that in its course no wave it drank. The heav’nly steersman at the prow was seen, Visibly written blessed in his looks.


Within a hundred spirits and more there sat. “In Exitu Israel de Aegypto;” All with one voice together sang, with what In the remainder of that hymn is writ. Then soon as with the sign of holy cross He bless’d them, they at once leap’d out on land, The swiftly as he came return’d. The crew, There left, appear’d astounded with the place, Gazing around as one who sees new sights.

From every side the sun darted his beams, And with his arrowy radiance from mid heav’n Had chas’d the Capricorn, when that strange tribe Lifting their eyes towards us: “If ye know, Declare what path will Lead us to the mount.”

Them Virgil answer’d. “Ye suppose perchance Us well acquainted with this place: but here, We, as yourselves, are strangers. Not long erst We came, before you but a little space, By other road so rough and hard, that now The’ ascent will seem to us as play.” The spirits, Who from my breathing had perceiv’d I liv’d, Grew pale with wonder. As the multitude Flock round a herald, sent with olive branch, To hear what news he brings, and in their haste Tread one another down, e’en so at sight Of me those happy spirits were fix’d, each one Forgetful of its errand, to depart, Where cleans’d from sin, it might be made all fair.

Then one I saw darting before the rest With such fond ardour to embrace me, I To do the like was mov’d. O shadows vain Except in outward semblance! thrice my hands I clasp’d behind it, they as oft return’d Empty into my breast again. Surprise I needs must think was painted in my looks, For that the shadow smil’d and backward drew. To follow it I hasten’d, but with voice Of sweetness it enjoin’d me to desist. Then who it was I knew, and pray’d of it, To talk with me, it would a little pause. It answered: “Thee as in my mortal frame I lov’d, so loos’d forth it I love thee still, And therefore pause; but why walkest thou here?”

“Not without purpose once more to return, Thou find’st me, my Casella, where I am Journeying this way;” I said, “but how of thee Hath so much time been lost?” He answer’d straight: “No outrage hath been done to me, if he Who when and whom he chooses takes, me oft This passage hath denied, since of just will His will he makes. These three months past indeed, He, whose chose to enter, with free leave Hath taken; whence I wand’ring by the shore Where Tyber’s wave grows salt, of him gain’d kind Admittance, at that river’s mouth, tow’rd which His wings are pointed, for there always throng All such as not to Archeron descend.”

Then I: “If new laws have not quite destroy’d Memory and use of that sweet song of love, That while all my cares had power to ’swage; Please thee with it a little to console My spirit, that incumber’d with its frame, Travelling so far, of pain is overcome.”

“Love that discourses in my thoughts.” He then Began in such soft accents, that within The sweetness thrills me yet. My gentle guide And all who came with him, so well were pleas’d, That seem’d naught else might in their thoughts have room.

Fast fix’d in mute attention to his notes We stood, when lo! that old man venerable Exclaiming, “How is this, ye tardy spirits? What negligence detains you loit’ring here? Run to the mountain to cast off those scales, That from your eyes the sight of God conceal.”

As a wild flock of pigeons, to their food Collected, blade or tares, without their pride Accustom’d, and in still and quiet sort, If aught alarm them, suddenly desert Their meal, assail’d by more important care; So I that new-come troop beheld, the song Deserting, hasten to the mountain’s side, As one who goes yet where he tends knows not.

Nor with less hurried step did we depart.

CANTO III Them sudden flight had scatter’d over the plain, Turn’d tow’rds the mountain, whither reason’s voice Drives us; I to my faithful company Adhering, left it not. For how of him Depriv’d, might I have sped, or who beside Would o’er the mountainous tract have led my steps He with the bitter pang of self-remorse Seem’d smitten. O clear conscience and upright How doth a little fling wound thee sore!

Soon as his feet desisted (slack’ning pace), From haste, that mars all decency of act, My mind, that in itself before was wrapt, Its thoughts expanded, as with joy restor’d: And full against the steep ascent I set My face, where highest to heav’n its top o’erflows.

The sun, that flar’d behind, with ruddy beam Before my form was broken; for in me His rays resistance met. I turn’d aside With fear of being left, when I beheld Only before myself the ground obscur’d. When thus my solace, turning him around, Bespake me kindly: “Why distrustest thou? Believ’st not I am with thee, thy sure guide? It now is evening there, where buried lies The body, in which I cast a shade, remov’d To Naples from Brundusium’s wall. Nor thou Marvel, if before me no shadow fall, More than that in the sky element One ray obstructs not other. To endure Torments of heat and cold extreme, like frames That virtue hath dispos’d, which how it works Wills not to us should be reveal’d. Insane Who hopes, our reason may that space explore, Which holds three persons in one substance knit. Seek not the wherefore, race of human kind; Could ye have seen the whole, no need had been For Mary to bring forth. Moreover ye Have seen such men desiring fruitlessly; To whose desires repose would have been giv’n, That now but serve them for eternal grief. I speak of Plato, and the Stagyrite, And others many more.” And then he bent Downwards his forehead, and in troubled mood Broke off his speech. Meanwhile we had arriv’d Far as the mountain’s foot, and there the rock Found of so steep ascent, that nimblest steps To climb it had been vain. The most remote Most wild untrodden path, in all the tract ’Twixt Lerice and Turbia were to this A ladder easy’ and open of access.

“Who knows on which hand now the steep declines?” My master said and paus’d, “so that he may Ascend, who journeys without aid of wine?” And while with looks directed to the ground The meaning of the pathway he explor’d, And I gaz’d upward round the stony height, Of spirits, that toward us mov’d their steps, Yet moving seem’d not, they so slow approach’d.


I thus my guide address’d: “Upraise thine eyes, Lo that way some, of whom thou may’st obtain Counsel, if of thyself thou find’st it not!”

Straightway he look’d, and with free speech replied: “Let us tend thither: they but softly come. And thou be firm in hope, my son belov’d.”

Now was that people distant far in space A thousand paces behind ours, as much As at a throw the nervous arm could fling, When all drew backward on the messy crags Of the steep bank, and firmly stood unmov’d As one who walks in doubt might stand to look.

“O spirits perfect! O already chosen!” Virgil to them began, “by that blest peace, Which, as I deem, is for you all prepar’d, Instruct us where the mountain low declines, So that attempt to mount it be not vain. For who knows most, him loss of time most grieves.”

As sheep, that step from forth their fold, by one, Or pairs, or three at once; meanwhile the rest Stand fearfully, bending the eye and nose To ground, and what the foremost does, that do The others, gath’ring round her, if she stops, Simple and quiet, nor the cause discern; So saw I moving to advance the first, Who of that fortunate crew were at the head, Of modest mien and graceful in their gait. When they before me had beheld the light From my right side fall broken on the ground, So that the shadow reach’d the cave, they stopp’d And somewhat back retir’d: the same did all, Who follow’d, though unweeting of the cause.

“Unask’d of you, yet freely I confess, This is a human body which ye see. That the sun’s light is broken on the ground, Marvel not: but believe, that not without Virtue deriv’d from Heaven, we to climb Over this wall aspire.” So them bespake My master; and that virtuous tribe rejoin’d; “Turn, and before you there the entrance lies,” Making a signal to us with bent hands.

Then of them one began. “Whoe’er thou art, Who journey’st thus this way, thy visage turn, Think if me elsewhere thou hast ever seen.”

I tow’rds him turn’d, and with fix’d eye beheld. Comely, and fair, and gentle of aspect, He seem’d, but on one brow a gash was mark’d.

When humbly I disclaim’d to have beheld Him ever: “Now behold!” he said, and show’d High on his breast a wound: then smiling spake.

“I am Manfredi, grandson to the Queen Costanza: whence I pray thee, when return’d, To my fair daughter go, the parent glad Of Aragonia and Sicilia’s pride; And of the truth inform her, if of me Aught else be told. When by two mortal blows My frame was shatter’d, I betook myself Weeping to him, who of free will forgives. My sins were horrible; but so wide arms Hath goodness infinite, that it receives All who turn to it. Had this text divine Been of Cosenza’s shepherd better scann’d, Who then by Clement on my hunt was set, Yet at the bridge’s head my bones had lain, Near Benevento, by the heavy mole Protected; but the rain now drenches them, And the wind drives, out of the kingdom’s bounds, Far as the stream of Verde, where, with lights Extinguish’d, he remov’d them from their bed. Yet by their curse we are not so destroy’d, But that the eternal love may turn, while hope Retains her verdant blossoms. True it is, That such one as in contumacy dies Against the holy church, though he repent, Must wander thirty-fold for all the time In his presumption past; if such decree Be not by prayers of good men shorter made Look therefore if thou canst advance my bliss; Revealing to my good Costanza, how Thou hast beheld me, and beside the terms Laid on me of that interdict; for here By means of those below much profit comes.”

CANTO IV When by sensations of delight or pain, That any of our faculties hath seiz’d, Entire the soul collects herself, it seems She is intent upon that power alone, And thus the error is disprov’d which holds The soul not singly lighted in the breast. And therefore when as aught is heard or seen, That firmly keeps the soul toward it turn’d, Time passes, and a man perceives it not. For that, whereby he hearken, is one power, Another that, which the whole spirit hash; This is as it were bound, while that is free.

This found I true by proof, hearing that spirit And wond’ring; for full fifty steps aloft The sun had measur’d unobserv’d of me, When we arriv’d where all with one accord The spirits shouted, “Here is what ye ask.”

A larger aperture ofttimes is stopp’d With forked stake of thorn by villager, When the ripe grape imbrowns, than was the path, By which my guide, and I behind him close, Ascended solitary, when that troop Departing left us. On Sanleo’s road Who journeys, or to Noli low descends, Or mounts Bismantua’s height, must use his feet; But here a man had need to fly, I mean With the swift wing and plumes of high desire, Conducted by his aid, who gave me hope, And with light furnish’d to direct my way.


We through the broken rock ascended, close Pent on each side, while underneath the ground Ask’d help of hands and feet. When we arriv’d Near on the highest ridge of the steep bank, Where the plain level open’d I exclaim’d, “O master! say which way can we proceed?”

He answer’d, “Let no step of thine recede. Behind me gain the mountain, till to us Some practis’d guide appear.” That eminence Was lofty that no eye might reach its point, And the side proudly rising, more than line From the mid quadrant to the centre drawn. I wearied thus began: “Parent belov’d! Turn, and behold how I remain alone, If thou stay not.”—“My son!” He straight reply’d, “Thus far put forth thy strength;” and to a track Pointed, that, on this side projecting, round Circles the hill. His words so spurr’d me on, That I behind him clamb’ring, forc’d myself, Till my feet press’d the circuit plain beneath. There both together seated, turn’d we round To eastward, whence was our ascent: and oft Many beside have with delight look’d back.

First on the nether shores I turn’d my eyes, Then rais’d them to the sun, and wond’ring mark’d That from the left it smote us. Soon perceiv’d That Poet sage now at the car of light Amaz’d I stood, where ’twixt us and the north Its course it enter’d. Whence he thus to me: “Were Leda’s offspring now in company Of that broad mirror, that high up and low Imparts his light beneath, thou might’st behold The ruddy zodiac nearer to the bears Wheel, if its ancient course it not forsook. How that may be if thou would’st think; within Pond’ring, imagine Sion with this mount Plac’d on the earth, so that to both be one Horizon, and two hemispheres apart, Where lies the path that Phaeton ill knew To guide his erring chariot: thou wilt see How of necessity by this on one He passes, while by that on the’ other side, If with clear view shine intellect attend.”

“Of truth, kind teacher!” I exclaim’d, “so clear Aught saw I never, as I now discern Where seem’d my ken to fail, that the mid orb Of the supernal motion (which in terms Of art is called the Equator, and remains Ever between the sun and winter) for the cause Thou hast assign’d, from hence toward the north Departs, when those who in the Hebrew land Inhabit, see it tow’rds the warmer part. But if it please thee, I would gladly know, How far we have to journey: for the hill Mounts higher, than this sight of mine can mount.”

He thus to me: “Such is this steep ascent, That it is ever difficult at first, But, more a man proceeds, less evil grows. When pleasant it shall seem to thee, so much That upward going shall be easy to thee. As in a vessel to go down the tide, Then of this path thou wilt have reach’d the end. There hope to rest thee from thy toil. No more I answer, and thus far for certain know.” As he his words had spoken, near to us A voice there sounded: “Yet ye first perchance May to repose you by constraint be led.” At sound thereof each turn’d, and on the left A huge stone we beheld, of which nor I Nor he before was ware. Thither we drew, find there were some, who in the shady place Behind the rock were standing, as a man Thru’ idleness might stand. Among them one, Who seem’d to me much wearied, sat him down, And with his arms did fold his knees about, Holding his face between them downward bent.


“Sweet Sir!” I cry’d, “behold that man, who shows Himself more idle, than if laziness Were sister to him.” Straight he turn’d to us, And, o’er the thigh lifting his face, observ’d, Then in these accents spake: “Up then, proceed Thou valiant one.” Straight who it was I knew; Nor could the pain I felt (for want of breath Still somewhat urg’d me) hinder my approach. And when I came to him, he scarce his head Uplifted, saying “Well hast thou discern’d, How from the left the sun his chariot leads.”

His lazy acts and broken words my lips To laughter somewhat mov’d; when I began: “Belacqua, now for thee I grieve no more. But tell, why thou art seated upright there? Waitest thou escort to conduct thee hence? Or blame I only shine accustom’d ways?” Then he: “My brother, of what use to mount, When to my suffering would not let me pass The bird of God, who at the portal sits? Behooves so long that heav’n first bear me round Without its limits, as in life it bore, Because I to the end repentant Sighs Delay’d, if prayer do not aid me first, That riseth up from heart which lives in grace. What other kind avails, not heard in heaven?”

Before me now the Poet up the mount Ascending, cried: “Haste thee, for see the sun Has touch’d the point meridian, and the night Now covers with her foot Marocco’s shore.”

CANTO V Now had I left those spirits, and pursued The steps of my Conductor, when beheld Pointing the finger at me one exclaim’d: “See how it seems as if the light not shone From the left hand of him beneath, and he, As living, seems to be led on.” Mine eyes I at that sound reverting, saw them gaze Through wonder first at me, and then at me And the light broken underneath, by turns. “Why are thy thoughts thus riveted?” my guide Exclaim’d, “that thou hast slack’d thy pace? or how Imports it thee, what thing is whisper’d here? Come after me, and to their babblings leave The crowd. Be as a tower, that, firmly set, Shakes not its top for any blast that blows! He, in whose bosom thought on thought shoots out, Still of his aim is wide, in that the one Sicklies and wastes to nought the other’s strength.” What other could I answer save “I come?” I said it, somewhat with that colour ting’d Which ofttimes pardon meriteth for man. Meanwhile traverse along the hill there came, A little way before us, some who sang The “Miserere” in responsive Strains. When they perceiv’d that through my body I Gave way not for the rays to pass, their song Straight to a long and hoarse exclaim they chang’d; And two of them, in guise of messengers, Ran on to meet us, and inquiring ask’d: “Of your condition we would gladly learn.” To them my guide. “Ye may return, and bear Tidings to them who sent you, that his frame Is real flesh. If, as I deem, to view His shade they paus’d, enough is answer’d them. Him let them honour, they may prize him well.” Ne’er saw I fiery vapours with such speed Cut through the serene air at fall of night, Nor August’s clouds athwart the setting sun, That upward these did not in shorter space Return; and, there arriving, with the rest Wheel back on us, as with loose rein a troop.


“Many,” exclaim’d the bard, “are these, who throng Around us: to petition thee they come. Go therefore on, and listen as thou go’st.” “O spirit! who go’st on to blessedness With the same limbs, that clad thee at thy birth.” Shouting they came, “a little rest thy step. Look if thou any one amongst our tribe Hast e’er beheld, that tidings of him there Thou mayst report. Ah, wherefore go’st thou on? Ah wherefore tarriest thou not? We all By violence died, and to our latest hour Were sinners, but then warn’d by light from heav’n, So that, repenting and forgiving, we Did issue out of life at peace with God, Who with desire to see him fills our heart.” Then I: “The visages of all I scan Yet none of ye remember. But if aught, That I can do, may please you, gentle spirits! Speak; and I will perform it, by that peace, Which on the steps of guide so excellent Following from world to world intent I seek.” In answer he began: “None here distrusts Thy kindness, though not promis’d with an oath; So as the will fail not for want of power. Whence I, who sole before the others speak, Entreat thee, if thou ever see that land, Which lies between Romagna and the realm Of Charles, that of thy courtesy thou pray Those who inhabit Fano, that for me Their adorations duly be put up, By which I may purge off my grievous sins. From thence I came. But the deep passages, Whence issued out the blood wherein I dwelt, Upon my bosom in Antenor’s land Were made, where to be more secure I thought. The author of the deed was Este’s prince, Who, more than right could warrant, with his wrath Pursued me. Had I towards Mira fled, When overta’en at Oriaco, still Might I have breath’d. But to the marsh I sped, And in the mire and rushes tangled there Fell, and beheld my life-blood float the plain.” Then said another: “Ah! so may the wish, That takes thee o’er the mountain, be fulfill’d, As thou shalt graciously give aid to mine. Of Montefeltro I; Buonconte I: Giovanna nor none else have care for me, Sorrowing with these I therefore go.” I thus: “From Campaldino’s field what force or chance Drew thee, that ne’er thy sepulture was known?” “Oh!” answer’d he, “at Casentino’s foot A stream there courseth, nam’d Archiano, sprung In Apennine above the Hermit’s seat. E’en where its name is cancel’d, there came I, Pierc’d in the heart, fleeing away on foot, And bloodying the plain. Here sight and speech Fail’d me, and finishing with Mary’s name I fell, and tenantless my flesh remain’d. I will report the truth; which thou again Tell to the living. Me God’s angel took, Whilst he of hell exclaim’d: “O thou from heav’n! Say wherefore hast thou robb’d me? Thou of him Th’ eternal portion bear’st with thee away For one poor tear that he deprives me of. But of the other, other rule I make.” “Thou knowest how in the atmosphere collects That vapour dank, returning into water, Soon as it mounts where cold condenses it. That evil will, which in his intellect Still follows evil, came, and rais’d the wind And smoky mist, by virtue of the power Given by his nature. Thence the valley, soon As day was spent, he cover’d o’er with cloud From Pratomagno to the mountain range, And stretch’d the sky above, so that the air Impregnate chang’d to water. Fell the rain, And to the fosses came all that the land Contain’d not; and, as mightiest streams are wont, To the great river with such headlong sweep Rush’d, that nought stay’d its course. My stiffen’d frame Laid at his mouth the fell Archiano found, And dash’d it into Arno, from my breast Loos’ning the cross, that of myself I made When overcome with pain. He hurl’d me on, Along the banks and bottom of his course; Then in his muddy spoils encircling wrapt.”


“Ah! when thou to the world shalt be return’d, And rested after thy long road,” so spake Next the third spirit; “then remember me. I once was Pia. Sienna gave me life, Maremma took it from me. That he knows, Who me with jewell’d ring had first espous’d.”


CANTO VI When from their game of dice men separate, He, who hath lost, remains in sadness fix’d, Revolving in his mind, what luckless throws He cast: but meanwhile all the company Go with the other; one before him runs, And one behind his mantle twitches, one Fast by his side bids him remember him. He stops not; and each one, to whom his hand Is stretch’d, well knows he bids him stand aside; And thus he from the press defends himself. E’en such was I in that close-crowding throng; And turning so my face around to all, And promising, I ’scap’d from it with pains. Here of Arezzo him I saw, who fell By Ghino’s cruel arm; and him beside, Who in his chase was swallow’d by the stream. Here Frederic Novello, with his hand Stretch’d forth, entreated; and of Pisa he, Who put the good Marzuco to such proof Of constancy. Count Orso I beheld; And from its frame a soul dismiss’d for spite And envy, as it said, but for no crime: I speak of Peter de la Brosse; and here, While she yet lives, that Lady of Brabant Let her beware; lest for so false a deed She herd with worse than these. When I was freed From all those spirits, who pray’d for others’ prayers To hasten on their state of blessedness; Straight I began: “O thou, my luminary! It seems expressly in thy text denied, That heaven’s supreme decree can never bend To supplication; yet with this design Do these entreat. Can then their hope be vain, Or is thy saying not to me reveal’d?” He thus to me: “Both what I write is plain, And these deceiv’d not in their hope, if well Thy mind consider, that the sacred height Of judgment doth not stoop, because love’s flame In a short moment all fulfils, which he Who sojourns here, in right should satisfy. Besides, when I this point concluded thus, By praying no defect could be supplied; Because the pray’r had none access to God. Yet in this deep suspicion rest thou not Contented unless she assure thee so, Who betwixt truth and mind infuses light. I know not if thou take me right; I mean Beatrice. Her thou shalt behold above, Upon this mountain’s crown, fair seat of joy.” Then I: “Sir! let us mend our speed; for now I tire not as before; and lo! the hill Stretches its shadow far.” He answer’d thus: “Our progress with this day shall be as much As we may now dispatch; but otherwise Than thou supposest is the truth. For there Thou canst not be, ere thou once more behold Him back returning, who behind the steep Is now so hidden, that as erst his beam Thou dost not break. But lo! a spirit there Stands solitary, and toward us looks: It will instruct us in the speediest way.” We soon approach’d it. O thou Lombard spirit! How didst thou stand, in high abstracted mood, Scarce moving with slow dignity thine eyes! It spoke not aught, but let us onward pass, Eyeing us as a lion on his watch. But Virgil with entreaty mild advanc’d, Requesting it to show the best ascent. It answer to his question none return’d, But of our country and our kind of life Demanded. When my courteous guide began, “Mantua,” the solitary shadow quick Rose towards us from the place in which it stood, And cry’d, “Mantuan! I am thy countryman Sordello.” Each the other then embrac’d. Ah slavish Italy! thou inn of grief, Vessel without a pilot in loud storm, Lady no longer of fair provinces, But brothel-house impure! this gentle spirit, Ev’n from the Pleasant sound of his dear land Was prompt to greet a fellow citizen With such glad cheer; while now thy living ones In thee abide not without war; and one Malicious gnaws another, ay of those Whom the same wall and the same moat contains, Seek, wretched one! around thy sea-coasts wide; Then homeward to thy bosom turn, and mark If any part of the sweet peace enjoy. What boots it, that thy reins Justinian’s hand Befitted, if thy saddle be unpress’d? Nought doth he now but aggravate thy shame. Ah people! thou obedient still shouldst live, And in the saddle let thy Caesar sit, If well thou marked’st that which God commands. Look how that beast to felness hath relaps’d From having lost correction of the spur, Since to the bridle thou hast set thine hand, O German Albert! who abandon’st her, That is grown savage and unmanageable, When thou should’st clasp her flanks with forked heels. Just judgment from the stars fall on thy blood! And be it strange and manifest to all! Such as may strike thy successor with dread! For that thy sire and thou have suffer’d thus, Through greediness of yonder realms detain’d, The garden of the empire to run waste. Come see the Capulets and Montagues, The Philippeschi and Monaldi! man Who car’st for nought! those sunk in grief, and these With dire suspicion rack’d. Come, cruel one! Come and behold the’ oppression of the nobles, And mark their injuries: and thou mayst see. What safety Santafiore can supply. Come and behold thy Rome, who calls on thee, Desolate widow! day and night with moans: “My Caesar, why dost thou desert my side?” Come and behold what love among thy people: And if no pity touches thee for us, Come and blush for thine own report. For me, If it be lawful, O Almighty Power, Who wast in earth for our sakes crucified! Are thy just eyes turn’d elsewhere? or is this A preparation in the wond’rous depth Of thy sage counsel made, for some good end, Entirely from our reach of thought cut off? So are the’ Italian cities all o’erthrong’d With tyrants, and a great Marcellus made Of every petty factious villager. My Florence! thou mayst well remain unmov’d At this digression, which affects not thee: Thanks to thy people, who so wisely speed. Many have justice in their heart, that long Waiteth for counsel to direct the bow, Or ere it dart unto its aim: but shine Have it on their lip’s edge. Many refuse To bear the common burdens: readier thine Answer uneall’d, and cry, “Behold I stoop!” Make thyself glad, for thou hast reason now, Thou wealthy! thou at peace! thou wisdom-fraught! Facts best witness if I speak the truth. Athens and Lacedaemon, who of old Enacted laws, for civil arts renown’d, Made little progress in improving life Tow’rds thee, who usest such nice subtlety, That to the middle of November scarce Reaches the thread thou in October weav’st. How many times, within thy memory, Customs, and laws, and coins, and offices Have been by thee renew’d, and people chang’d! If thou remember’st well and can’st see clear, Thou wilt perceive thyself like a sick wretch, Who finds no rest upon her down, but oft Shifting her side, short respite seeks from pain.

CANTO VII After their courteous greetings joyfully Sev’n times exchang’d, Sordello backward drew Exclaiming, “Who are ye?” “Before this mount By spirits worthy of ascent to God Was sought, my bones had by Octavius’ care Been buried. I am Virgil, for no sin Depriv’d of heav’n, except for lack of faith.” So answer’d him in few my gentle guide. As one, who aught before him suddenly Beholding, whence his wonder riseth, cries “It is yet is not,” wav’ring in belief; Such he appear’d; then downward bent his eyes, And drawing near with reverential step, Caught him, where of mean estate might clasp His lord. “Glory of Latium!” he exclaim’d, “In whom our tongue its utmost power display’d! Boast of my honor’d birth-place! what desert Of mine, what favour rather undeserv’d, Shows thee to me? If I to hear that voice Am worthy, say if from below thou com’st And from what cloister’s pale?”—“Through every orb Of that sad region,” he reply’d, “thus far Am I arriv’d, by heav’nly influence led And with such aid I come. There is a place There underneath, not made by torments sad, But by dun shades alone; where mourning’s voice Sounds not of anguish sharp, but breathes in sighs.”


There I with little innocents abide, Who by death’s fangs were bitten, ere exempt From human taint. There I with those abide, Who the three holy virtues put not on, But understood the rest, and without blame Follow’d them all. But if thou know’st and canst, Direct us, how we soonest may arrive, Where Purgatory its true beginning takes.” He answer’d thus: “We have no certain place Assign’d us: upwards I may go or round, Far as I can, I join thee for thy guide. But thou beholdest now how day declines: And upwards to proceed by night, our power Excels: therefore it may be well to choose A place of pleasant sojourn. To the right Some spirits sit apart retir’d. If thou Consentest, I to these will lead thy steps: And thou wilt know them, not without delight.” “How chances this?” was answer’d; “who so wish’d To ascend by night, would he be thence debarr’d By other, or through his own weakness fail?” The good Sordello then, along the ground Trailing his finger, spoke: “Only this line Thou shalt not overpass, soon as the sun Hath disappear’d; not that aught else impedes Thy going upwards, save the shades of night. These with the wont of power perplex the will. With them thou haply mightst return beneath, Or to and fro around the mountain’s side Wander, while day is in the horizon shut.” My master straight, as wond’ring at his speech, Exclaim’d: “Then lead us quickly, where thou sayst, That, while we stay, we may enjoy delight.” A little space we were remov’d from thence, When I perceiv’d the mountain hollow’d out. Ev’n as large valleys hollow’d out on earth, “That way,” the’ escorting spirit cried, “we go, Where in a bosom the high bank recedes: And thou await renewal of the day.” Betwixt the steep and plain a crooked path Led us traverse into the ridge’s side, Where more than half the sloping edge expires. Refulgent gold, and silver thrice refin’d, And scarlet grain and ceruse, Indian wood Of lucid dye serene, fresh emeralds But newly broken, by the herbs and flowers Plac’d in that fair recess, in color all Had been surpass’d, as great surpasses less. Nor nature only there lavish’d her hues, But of the sweetness of a thousand smells A rare and undistinguish’d fragrance made.


“Salve Regina,” on the grass and flowers Here chanting I beheld those spirits sit Who not beyond the valley could be seen. “Before the west’ring sun sink to his bed,” Began the Mantuan, who our steps had turn’d, “’Mid those desires not that I lead ye on. For from this eminence ye shall discern Better the acts and visages of all, Than in the nether vale among them mix’d. He, who sits high above the rest, and seems To have neglected that he should have done, And to the others’ song moves not his lip, The Emperor Rodolph call, who might have heal’d The wounds whereof fair Italy hath died, So that by others she revives but slowly, He, who with kindly visage comforts him, Sway’d in that country, where the water springs, That Moldaw’s river to the Elbe, and Elbe Rolls to the ocean: Ottocar his name: Who in his swaddling clothes was of more worth Than Winceslaus his son, a bearded man, Pamper’d with rank luxuriousness and ease. And that one with the nose depress, who close In counsel seems with him of gentle look, Flying expir’d, with’ring the lily’s flower. Look there how he doth knock against his breast! The other ye behold, who for his cheek Makes of one hand a couch, with frequent sighs. They are the father and the father-in-law Of Gallia’s bane: his vicious life they know And foul; thence comes the grief that rends them thus. “He, so robust of limb, who measure keeps In song, with him of feature prominent, With ev’ry virtue bore his girdle brac’d. And if that stripling who behinds him sits, King after him had liv’d, his virtue then From vessel to like vessel had been pour’d; Which may not of the other heirs be said. By James and Frederick his realms are held; Neither the better heritage obtains. Rarely into the branches of the tree Doth human worth mount up; and so ordains He who bestows it, that as his free gift It may be call’d. To Charles my words apply No less than to his brother in the song; Which Pouille and Provence now with grief confess. So much that plant degenerates from its seed, As more than Beatrice and Margaret Costanza still boasts of her valorous spouse. “Behold the king of simple life and plain, Harry of England, sitting there alone: He through his branches better issue spreads. “That one, who on the ground beneath the rest Sits lowest, yet his gaze directs aloft, Us William, that brave Marquis, for whose cause The deed of Alexandria and his war Makes Conferrat and Canavese weep.”

CANTO VIII Now was the hour that wakens fond desire In men at sea, and melts their thoughtful heart, Who in the morn have bid sweet friends farewell, And pilgrim newly on his road with love Thrills, if he hear the vesper bell from far, That seems to mourn for the expiring day: When I, no longer taking heed to hear Began, with wonder, from those spirits to mark One risen from its seat, which with its hand Audience implor’d. Both palms it join’d and rais’d, Fixing its steadfast gaze towards the east, As telling God, “I care for naught beside.” “Te Lucis Ante,” so devoutly then Came from its lip, and in so soft a strain, That all my sense in ravishment was lost. And the rest after, softly and devout, Follow’d through all the hymn, with upward gaze Directed to the bright supernal wheels. Here, reader! for the truth makes thine eyes keen: For of so subtle texture is this veil, That thou with ease mayst pass it through unmark’d. I saw that gentle band silently next Look up, as if in expectation held, Pale and in lowly guise; and from on high I saw forth issuing descend beneath Two angels with two flame-illumin’d swords, Broken and mutilated at their points. Green as the tender leaves but newly born, Their vesture was, the which by wings as green Beaten, they drew behind them, fann’d in air. A little over us one took his stand, The other lighted on the’ Opposing hill, So that the troop were in the midst contain’d. Well I descried the whiteness on their heads; But in their visages the dazzled eye Was lost, as faculty that by too much Is overpower’d. “From Mary’s bosom both Are come,” exclaim’d Sordello, “as a guard Over the vale, ganst him, who hither tends, The serpent.” Whence, not knowing by which path He came, I turn’d me round, and closely press’d, All frozen, to my leader’s trusted side. Sordello paus’d not: “To the valley now (For it is time) let us descend; and hold Converse with those great shadows: haply much Their sight may please ye.” Only three steps down Methinks I measur’d, ere I was beneath, And noted one who look’d as with desire To know me. Time was now that air arrow dim; Yet not so dim, that ’twixt his eyes and mine It clear’d not up what was conceal’d before. Mutually tow’rds each other we advanc’d. Nino, thou courteous judge! what joy I felt, When I perceiv’d thou wert not with the bad! No salutation kind on either part Was left unsaid. He then inquir’d: “How long Since thou arrived’st at the mountain’s foot, Over the distant waves?”—“O!” answer’d I, “Through the sad seats of woe this morn I came, And still in my first life, thus journeying on, The other strive to gain.” Soon as they heard My words, he and Sordello backward drew, As suddenly amaz’d. To Virgil one, The other to a spirit turn’d, who near Was seated, crying: “Conrad! up with speed: Come, see what of his grace high God hath will’d.” Then turning round to me: “By that rare mark Of honour which thou ow’st to him, who hides So deeply his first cause, it hath no ford, When thou shalt be beyond the vast of waves. Tell my Giovanna, that for me she call There, where reply to innocence is made. Her mother, I believe, loves me no more; Since she has chang’d the white and wimpled folds, Which she is doom’d once more with grief to wish. By her it easily may be perceiv’d, How long in women lasts the flame of love, If sight and touch do not relume it oft. For her so fair a burial will not make The viper which calls Milan to the field, As had been made by shrill Gallura’s bird.” He spoke, and in his visage took the stamp Of that right seal, which with due temperature Glows in the bosom. My insatiate eyes Meanwhile to heav’n had travel’d, even there Where the bright stars are slowest, as a wheel Nearest the axle; when my guide inquir’d: “What there aloft, my son, has caught thy gaze?” I answer’d: “The three torches, with which here The pole is all on fire.” He then to me: “The four resplendent stars, thou saw’st this morn Are there beneath, and these ris’n in their stead.” While yet he spoke. Sordello to himself Drew him, and cry’d: “Lo there our enemy!” And with his hand pointed that way to look. Along the side, where barrier none arose Around the little vale, a serpent lay, Such haply as gave Eve the bitter food. Between the grass and flowers, the evil snake Came on, reverting oft his lifted head; And, as a beast that smoothes its polish’d coat, Licking his hack. I saw not, nor can tell, How those celestial falcons from their seat Mov’d, but in motion each one well descried, Hearing the air cut by their verdant plumes. The serpent fled; and to their stations back The angels up return’d with equal flight.


The Spirit (who to Nino, when he call’d, Had come), from viewing me with fixed ken, Through all that conflict, loosen’d not his sight. “So may the lamp, which leads thee up on high, Find, in thy destin’d lot, of wax so much, As may suffice thee to the enamel’s height.” It thus began: “If any certain news Of Valdimagra and the neighbour part Thou know’st, tell me, who once was mighty there They call’d me Conrad Malaspina, not That old one, but from him I sprang. The love I bore my people is now here refin’d.” “In your dominions,” I answer’d, “ne’er was I. But through all Europe where do those men dwell, To whom their glory is not manifest? The fame, that honours your illustrious house, Proclaims the nobles and proclaims the land; So that he knows it who was never there. I swear to you, so may my upward route Prosper! your honour’d nation not impairs The value of her coffer and her sword. Nature and use give her such privilege, That while the world is twisted from his course By a bad head, she only walks aright, And has the evil way in scorn.” He then: “Now pass thee on: sev’n times the tired sun Revisits not the couch, which with four feet The forked Aries covers, ere that kind Opinion shall be nail’d into thy brain With stronger nails than other’s speech can drive, If the sure course of judgment be not stay’d.”

CANTO IX

Now the fair consort of Tithonus old, Arisen from her mate’s beloved arms, Look’d palely o’er the eastern cliff: her brow, Lucent with jewels, glitter’d, set in sign Of that chill animal, who with his train Smites fearful nations: and where then we were, Two steps of her ascent the night had past, And now the third was closing up its wing, When I, who had so much of Adam with me, Sank down upon the grass, o’ercome with sleep, There where all five were seated. In that hour, When near the dawn the swallow her sad lay, Rememb’ring haply ancient grief, renews, And with our minds more wand’rers from the flesh, And less by thought restrain’d are, as ’t were, full Of holy divination in their dreams, Then in a vision did I seem to view A golden-feather’d eagle in the sky, With open wings, and hov’ring for descent, And I was in that place, methought, from whence Young Ganymede, from his associates ’reft, Was snatch’d aloft to the high consistory. “Perhaps,” thought I within me, “here alone He strikes his quarry, and elsewhere disdains To pounce upon the prey.” Therewith, it seem’d, A little wheeling in his airy tour Terrible as the lightning rush’d he down, And snatch’d me upward even to the fire.


There both, I thought, the eagle and myself Did burn; and so intense th’ imagin’d flames, That needs my sleep was broken off. As erst Achilles shook himself, and round him roll’d His waken’d eyeballs wond’ring where he was, Whenas his mother had from Chiron fled To Scyros, with him sleeping in her arms; E’en thus I shook me, soon as from my face The slumber parted, turning deadly pale, Like one ice-struck with dread. Solo at my side My comfort stood: and the bright sun was now More than two hours aloft: and to the sea My looks were turn’d. “Fear not,” my master cried, “Assur’d we are at happy point. Thy strength Shrink not, but rise dilated. Thou art come To Purgatory now. Lo! there the cliff That circling bounds it! Lo! the entrance there, Where it doth seem disparted! Ere the dawn Usher’d the daylight, when thy wearied soul Slept in thee, o’er the flowery vale beneath A lady came, and thus bespake me: I Am Lucia. Suffer me to take this man, Who slumbers. Easier so his way shall speed.” Sordello and the other gentle shapes Tarrying, she bare thee up: and, as day shone, This summit reach’d: and I pursued her steps. Here did she place thee. First her lovely eyes That open entrance show’d me; then at once She vanish’d with thy sleep.” Like one, whose doubts Are chas’d by certainty, and terror turn’d To comfort on discovery of the truth, Such was the change in me: and as my guide Beheld me fearless, up along the cliff He mov’d, and I behind him, towards the height. Reader! thou markest how my theme doth rise, Nor wonder therefore, if more artfully I prop the structure! Nearer now we drew, Arriv’d’ whence in that part, where first a breach As of a wall appear’d, I could descry A portal, and three steps beneath, that led For inlet there, of different colour each, And one who watch’d, but spake not yet a word. As more and more mine eye did stretch its view, I mark’d him seated on the highest step, In visage such, as past my power to bear.


Grasp’d in his hand a naked sword, glanc’d back The rays so toward me, that I oft in vain My sight directed. “Speak from whence ye stand:” He cried: “What would ye? Where is your escort? Take heed your coming upward harm ye not.” “A heavenly dame, not skilless of these things,” Replied the’ instructor, “told us, even now, ‘Pass that way: here the gate is.”—“And may she Befriending prosper your ascent,” resum’d The courteous keeper of the gate: “Come then Before our steps.” We straightway thither came. The lowest stair was marble white so smooth And polish’d, that therein my mirror’d form Distinct I saw. The next of hue more dark Than sablest grain, a rough and singed block, Crack’d lengthwise and across. The third, that lay Massy above, seem’d porphyry, that flam’d Red as the life-blood spouting from a vein. On this God’s angel either foot sustain’d, Upon the threshold seated, which appear’d A rock of diamond. Up the trinal steps My leader cheerily drew me. “Ask,” said he, “With humble heart, that he unbar the bolt.” Piously at his holy feet devolv’d I cast me, praying him for pity’s sake That he would open to me: but first fell Thrice on my bosom prostrate. Seven times The letter, that denotes the inward stain, He on my forehead with the blunted point Of his drawn sword inscrib’d. And “Look,” he cried, “When enter’d, that thou wash these scars away.” Ashes, or earth ta’en dry out of the ground, Were of one colour with the robe he wore. From underneath that vestment forth he drew Two keys of metal twain: the one was gold, Its fellow silver. With the pallid first, And next the burnish’d, he so ply’d the gate, As to content me well. “Whenever one Faileth of these, that in the keyhole straight It turn not, to this alley then expect Access in vain.” Such were the words he spake. “One is more precious: but the other needs Skill and sagacity, large share of each, Ere its good task to disengage the knot Be worthily perform’d. From Peter these I hold, of him instructed, that I err Rather in opening than in keeping fast; So but the suppliant at my feet implore.” Then of that hallow’d gate he thrust the door, Exclaiming, “Enter, but this warning hear: He forth again departs who looks behind.” As in the hinges of that sacred ward The swivels turn’d, sonorous metal strong, Harsh was the grating; nor so surlily Roar’d the Tarpeian, when by force bereft Of good Metellus, thenceforth from his loss To leanness doom’d. Attentively I turn’d, List’ning the thunder, that first issued forth; And “We praise thee, O God,” methought I heard In accents blended with sweet melody. The strains came o’er mine ear, e’en as the sound Of choral voices, that in solemn chant With organ mingle, and, now high and clear, Come swelling, now float indistinct away.

CANTO X When we had passed the threshold of the gate (Which the soul’s ill affection doth disuse, Making the crooked seem the straighter path), I heard its closing sound. Had mine eyes turn’d, For that offence what plea might have avail’d? We mounted up the riven rock, that wound On either side alternate, as the wave Flies and advances. “Here some little art Behooves us,” said my leader, “that our steps Observe the varying flexure of the path.” Thus we so slowly sped, that with cleft orb The moon once more o’erhangs her wat’ry couch, Ere we that strait have threaded. But when free We came and open, where the mount above One solid mass retires, I spent, with toil, And both, uncertain of the way, we stood, Upon a plain more lonesome, than the roads That traverse desert wilds. From whence the brink Borders upon vacuity, to foot Of the steep bank, that rises still, the space Had measur’d thrice the stature of a man: And, distant as mine eye could wing its flight, To leftward now and now to right dispatch’d, That cornice equal in extent appear’d. Not yet our feet had on that summit mov’d, When I discover’d that the bank around, Whose proud uprising all ascent denied, Was marble white, and so exactly wrought With quaintest sculpture, that not there alone Had Polycletus, but e’en nature’s self Been sham’d. The angel who came down to earth With tidings of the peace so many years Wept for in vain, that op’d the heavenly gates From their long interdict before us seem’d, In a sweet act, so sculptur’d to the life, He look’d no silent image. One had sworn He had said, “Hail!” for she was imag’d there, By whom the key did open to God’s love, And in her act as sensibly impress That word, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord,” As figure seal’d on wax. “Fix not thy mind On one place only,” said the guide belov’d, Who had me near him on that part where lies The heart of man. My sight forthwith I turn’d And mark’d, behind the virgin mother’s form, Upon that side, where he, that mov’d me, stood, Another story graven on the rock. I passed athwart the bard, and drew me near, That it might stand more aptly for my view. There in the self-same marble were engrav’d The cart and kine, drawing the sacred ark, That from unbidden office awes mankind. Before it came much people; and the whole Parted in seven quires. One sense cried, “Nay,” Another, “Yes, they sing.” Like doubt arose Betwixt the eye and smell, from the curl’d fume Of incense breathing up the well-wrought toil. Preceding the blest vessel, onward came With light dance leaping, girt in humble guise, Sweet Israel’s harper: in that hap he seem’d Less and yet more than kingly. Opposite, At a great palace, from the lattice forth Look’d Michol, like a lady full of scorn And sorrow. To behold the tablet next, Which at the hack of Michol whitely shone, I mov’d me. There was storied on the rock The’ exalted glory of the Roman prince, Whose mighty worth mov’d Gregory to earn His mighty conquest, Trajan th’ Emperor. A widow at his bridle stood, attir’d In tears and mourning. Round about them troop’d Full throng of knights, and overhead in gold The eagles floated, struggling with the wind.


The wretch appear’d amid all these to say: “Grant vengeance, sire! for, woe beshrew this heart My son is murder’d.” He replying seem’d; “Wait now till I return.” And she, as one Made hasty by her grief; “O sire, if thou Dost not return?”—“Where I am, who then is, May right thee.”—“What to thee is other’s good, If thou neglect thy own?”—“Now comfort thee,” At length he answers. “It beseemeth well My duty be perform’d, ere I move hence: So justice wills; and pity bids me stay.” He, whose ken nothing new surveys, produc’d That visible speaking, new to us and strange The like not found on earth. Fondly I gaz’d Upon those patterns of meek humbleness, Shapes yet more precious for their artist’s sake, When “Lo,” the poet whisper’d, “where this way (But slack their pace), a multitude advance. These to the lofty steps shall guide us on.” Mine eyes, though bent on view of novel sights Their lov’d allurement, were not slow to turn. Reader! I would not that amaz’d thou miss Of thy good purpose, hearing how just God Decrees our debts be cancel’d. Ponder not The form of suff’ring. Think on what succeeds, Think that at worst beyond the mighty doom It cannot pass. “Instructor,” I began, “What I see hither tending, bears no trace Of human semblance, nor of aught beside That my foil’d sight can guess.” He answering thus: “So courb’d to earth, beneath their heavy teems Of torment stoop they, that mine eye at first Struggled as thine. But look intently thither, An disentangle with thy lab’ring view, What underneath those stones approacheth: now, E’en now, mayst thou discern the pangs of each.” Christians and proud! O poor and wretched ones! That feeble in the mind’s eye, lean your trust Upon unstaid perverseness! Know ye not That we are worms, yet made at last to form The winged insect, imp’d with angel plumes That to heaven’s justice unobstructed soars? Why buoy ye up aloft your unfleg’d souls? Abortive then and shapeless ye remain, Like the untimely embryon of a worm! As, to support incumbent floor or roof, For corbel is a figure sometimes seen, That crumples up its knees unto its breast, With the feign’d posture stirring ruth unfeign’d In the beholder’s fancy; so I saw These fashion’d, when I noted well their guise. Each, as his back was laden, came indeed Or more or less contract; but it appear’d As he, who show’d most patience in his look, Wailing exclaim’d: “I can endure no more.”

CANTO XI “O thou Almighty Father, who dost make The heavens thy dwelling, not in bounds confin’d, But that with love intenser there thou view’st Thy primal effluence, hallow’d be thy name: Join each created being to extol Thy might, for worthy humblest thanks and praise Is thy blest Spirit. May thy kingdom’s peace Come unto us; for we, unless it come, With all our striving thither tend in vain. As of their will the angels unto thee Tender meet sacrifice, circling thy throne With loud hosannas, so of theirs be done By saintly men on earth. Grant us this day Our daily manna, without which he roams Through this rough desert retrograde, who most Toils to advance his steps. As we to each Pardon the evil done us, pardon thou Benign, and of our merit take no count. ’Gainst the old adversary prove thou not Our virtue easily subdu’d; but free From his incitements and defeat his wiles. This last petition, dearest Lord! is made Not for ourselves, since that were needless now, But for their sakes who after us remain.”

Thus for themselves and us good speed imploring, Those spirits went beneath a weight like that We sometimes feel in dreams, all, sore beset, But with unequal anguish, wearied all, Round the first circuit, purging as they go, The world’s gross darkness off: In our behalf If there vows still be offer’d, what can here For them be vow’d and done by such, whose wills Have root of goodness in them? Well beseems That we should help them wash away the stains They carried hence, that so made pure and light, They may spring upward to the starry spheres.

“Ah! so may mercy-temper’d justice rid Your burdens speedily, that ye have power To stretch your wing, which e’en to your desire Shall lift you, as ye show us on which hand Toward the ladder leads the shortest way. And if there be more passages than one, Instruct us of that easiest to ascend; For this man who comes with me, and bears yet The charge of fleshly raiment Adam left him, Despite his better will but slowly mounts.” From whom the answer came unto these words, Which my guide spake, appear’d not; but ’twas said.

“Along the bank to rightward come with us, And ye shall find a pass that mocks not toil Of living man to climb: and were it not That I am hinder’d by the rock, wherewith This arrogant neck is tam’d, whence needs I stoop My visage to the ground, him, who yet lives, Whose name thou speak’st not him I fain would view. To mark if e’er I knew him? and to crave His pity for the fardel that I bear. I was of Latiun, of a Tuscan horn A mighty one: Aldobranlesco’s name My sire’s, I know not if ye e’er have heard. My old blood and forefathers’ gallant deeds Made me so haughty, that I clean forgot The common mother, and to such excess, Wax’d in my scorn of all men, that I fell, Fell therefore; by what fate Sienna’s sons, Each child in Campagnatico, can tell. I am Omberto; not me only pride Hath injur’d, but my kindred all involv’d In mischief with her. Here my lot ordains Under this weight to groan, till I appease God’s angry justice, since I did it not Amongst the living, here amongst the dead.”

List’ning I bent my visage down: and one (Not he who spake) twisted beneath the weight That urg’d him, saw me, knew me straight, and call’d, Holding his eyes With difficulty fix’d Intent upon me, stooping as I went Companion of their way. “O!” I exclaim’d,

“Art thou not Oderigi, art not thou Agobbio’s glory, glory of that art Which they of Paris call the limmer’s skill?”

“Brother!” said he, “with tints that gayer smile, Bolognian Franco’s pencil lines the leaves. His all the honour now; mine borrow’d light. In truth I had not been thus courteous to him, The whilst I liv’d, through eagerness of zeal For that pre-eminence my heart was bent on. Here of such pride the forfeiture is paid. Nor were I even here; if, able still To sin, I had not turn’d me unto God. O powers of man! how vain your glory, nipp’d E’en in its height of verdure, if an age Less bright succeed not! Cimabue thought To lord it over painting’s field; and now The cry is Giotto’s, and his name eclips’d. Thus hath one Guido from the other snatch’d The letter’d prize: and he perhaps is born, Who shall drive either from their nest. The noise Of worldly fame is but a blast of wind, That blows from divers points, and shifts its name Shifting the point it blows from. Shalt thou more Live in the mouths of mankind, if thy flesh Part shrivel’d from thee, than if thou hadst died, Before the coral and the pap were left, Or ere some thousand years have passed? and that Is, to eternity compar’d, a space, Briefer than is the twinkling of an eye To the heaven’s slowest orb. He there who treads So leisurely before me, far and wide Through Tuscany resounded once; and now Is in Sienna scarce with whispers nam’d: There was he sov’reign, when destruction caught The madd’ning rage of Florence, in that day Proud as she now is loathsome. Your renown Is as the herb, whose hue doth come and go, And his might withers it, by whom it sprang Crude from the lap of earth.” I thus to him: “True are thy sayings: to my heart they breathe The kindly spirit of meekness, and allay What tumours rankle there. But who is he Of whom thou spak’st but now?”—“This,” he replied, “Is Provenzano. He is here, because He reach’d, with grasp presumptuous, at the sway Of all Sienna. Thus he still hath gone, Thus goeth never-resting, since he died. Such is th’ acquittance render’d back of him, Who, beyond measure, dar’d on earth.” I then: “If soul that to the verge of life delays Repentance, linger in that lower space, Nor hither mount, unless good prayers befriend, How chanc’d admittance was vouchsaf’d to him?”

“When at his glory’s topmost height,” said he, “Respect of dignity all cast aside, Freely He fix’d him on Sienna’s plain, A suitor to redeem his suff’ring friend, Who languish’d in the prison-house of Charles, Nor for his sake refus’d through every vein To tremble. More I will not say; and dark, I know, my words are, but thy neighbours soon Shall help thee to a comment on the text. This is the work, that from these limits freed him.”

CANTO XII

With equal pace as oxen in the yoke, I with that laden spirit journey’d on Long as the mild instructor suffer’d me; But when he bade me quit him, and proceed (For “here,” said he, “behooves with sail and oars Each man, as best he may, push on his bark”), Upright, as one dispos’d for speed, I rais’d My body, still in thought submissive bow’d.

I now my leader’s track not loth pursued; And each had shown how light we far’d along When thus he warn’d me: “Bend thine eyesight down: For thou to ease the way shall find it good To ruminate the bed beneath thy feet.”

As in memorial of the buried, drawn Upon earth-level tombs, the sculptur’d form Of what was once, appears (at sight whereof Tears often stream forth by remembrance wak’d, Whose sacred stings the piteous only feel), So saw I there, but with more curious skill Of portraiture o’erwrought, whate’er of space From forth the mountain stretches. On one part Him I beheld, above all creatures erst Created noblest, light’ning fall from heaven: On th’ other side with bolt celestial pierc’d Briareus: cumb’ring earth he lay through dint Of mortal ice-stroke. The Thymbraean god With Mars, I saw, and Pallas, round their sire, Arm’d still, and gazing on the giant’s limbs Strewn o’er th’ ethereal field. Nimrod I saw: At foot of the stupendous work he stood, As if bewilder’d, looking on the crowd Leagued in his proud attempt on Sennaar’s plain.

O Niobe! in what a trance of woe Thee I beheld, upon that highway drawn, Sev’n sons on either side thee slain! O Saul! How ghastly didst thou look! on thine own sword Expiring in Gilboa, from that hour Ne’er visited with rain from heav’n or dew!


O fond Arachne! thee I also saw Half spider now in anguish crawling up Th’ unfinish’d web thou weaved’st to thy bane!

O Rehoboam! here thy shape doth seem Louring no more defiance! but fear-smote With none to chase him in his chariot whirl’d.

Was shown beside upon the solid floor How dear Alcmaeon forc’d his mother rate That ornament in evil hour receiv’d: How in the temple on Sennacherib fell His sons, and how a corpse they left him there. Was shown the scath and cruel mangling made By Tomyris on Cyrus, when she cried: “Blood thou didst thirst for, take thy fill of blood!” Was shown how routed in the battle fled Th’ Assyrians, Holofernes slain, and e’en The relics of the carnage. Troy I mark’d In ashes and in caverns. Oh! how fall’n, How abject, Ilion, was thy semblance there!

What master of the pencil or the style Had trac’d the shades and lines, that might have made The subtlest workman wonder? Dead the dead, The living seem’d alive; with clearer view His eye beheld not who beheld the truth, Than mine what I did tread on, while I went Low bending. Now swell out; and with stiff necks Pass on, ye sons of Eve! veil not your looks, Lest they descry the evil of your path!

I noted not (so busied was my thought) How much we now had circled of the mount, And of his course yet more the sun had spent, When he, who with still wakeful caution went, Admonish’d: “Raise thou up thy head: for know Time is not now for slow suspense. Behold That way an angel hasting towards us! Lo Where duly the sixth handmaid doth return From service on the day. Wear thou in look And gesture seemly grace of reverent awe, That gladly he may forward us aloft. Consider that this day ne’er dawns again.”

Time’s loss he had so often warn’d me ’gainst, I could not miss the scope at which he aim’d.

The goodly shape approach’d us, snowy white In vesture, and with visage casting streams Of tremulous lustre like the matin star. His arms he open’d, then his wings; and spake: “Onward: the steps, behold! are near; and now Th’ ascent is without difficulty gain’d.”

A scanty few are they, who when they hear Such tidings, hasten. O ye race of men Though born to soar, why suffer ye a wind So slight to baffle ye? He led us on Where the rock parted; here against my front Did beat his wings, then promis’d I should fare In safety on my way. As to ascend That steep, upon whose brow the chapel stands (O’er Rubaconte, looking lordly down On the well-guided city,) up the right Th’ impetuous rise is broken by the steps Carv’d in that old and simple age, when still The registry and label rested safe; Thus is th’ acclivity reliev’d, which here Precipitous from the other circuit falls: But on each hand the tall cliff presses close.

As ent’ring there we turn’d, voices, in strain Ineffable, sang: “Blessed are the poor In spirit.” Ah how far unlike to these The straits of hell; here songs to usher us, There shrieks of woe! We climb the holy stairs: And lighter to myself by far I seem’d Than on the plain before, whence thus I spake: “Say, master, of what heavy thing have I Been lighten’d, that scarce aught the sense of toil Affects me journeying?” He in few replied: “When sin’s broad characters, that yet remain Upon thy temples, though well nigh effac’d, Shall be, as one is, all clean razed out, Then shall thy feet by heartiness of will Be so o’ercome, they not alone shall feel No sense of labour, but delight much more Shall wait them urg’d along their upward way.”

Then like to one, upon whose head is plac’d Somewhat he deems not of but from the becks Of others as they pass him by; his hand Lends therefore help to’ assure him, searches, finds, And well performs such office as the eye Wants power to execute: so stretching forth The fingers of my right hand, did I find Six only of the letters, which his sword Who bare the keys had trac’d upon my brow. The leader, as he mark’d mine action, smil’d.

CANTO XIII We reach’d the summit of the scale, and stood Upon the second buttress of that mount Which healeth him who climbs. A cornice there, Like to the former, girdles round the hill; Save that its arch with sweep less ample bends.

Shadow nor image there is seen; all smooth The rampart and the path, reflecting nought But the rock’s sullen hue. “If here we wait For some to question,” said the bard, “I fear Our choice may haply meet too long delay.”

Then fixedly upon the sun his eyes He fastn’d, made his right the central point From whence to move, and turn’d the left aside. “O pleasant light, my confidence and hope, Conduct us thou,” he cried, “on this new way, Where now I venture, leading to the bourn We seek. The universal world to thee Owes warmth and lustre. If no other cause Forbid, thy beams should ever be our guide.”

Far, as is measur’d for a mile on earth, In brief space had we journey’d; such prompt will Impell’d; and towards us flying, now were heard Spirits invisible, who courteously Unto love’s table bade the welcome guest. The voice, that first? flew by, call’d forth aloud, “They have no wine;” so on behind us past, Those sounds reiterating, nor yet lost In the faint distance, when another came Crying, “I am Orestes,” and alike Wing’d its fleet way. “Oh father!” I exclaim’d, “What tongues are these?” and as I question’d, lo! A third exclaiming, “Love ye those have wrong’d you.”

“This circuit,” said my teacher, “knots the scourge For envy, and the cords are therefore drawn By charity’s correcting hand. The curb Is of a harsher sound, as thou shalt hear (If I deem rightly), ere thou reach the pass, Where pardon sets them free. But fix thine eyes Intently through the air, and thou shalt see A multitude before thee seated, each Along the shelving grot.” Then more than erst I op’d my eyes, before me view’d, and saw Shadows with garments dark as was the rock; And when we pass’d a little forth, I heard A crying, “Blessed Mary! pray for us, Michael and Peter! all ye saintly host!”

I do not think there walks on earth this day Man so remorseless, that he hath not yearn’d With pity at the sight that next I saw. Mine eyes a load of sorrow teemed, when now I stood so near them, that their semblances Came clearly to my view. Of sackcloth vile Their cov’ring seem’d; and on his shoulder one Did stay another, leaning, and all lean’d Against the cliff. E’en thus the blind and poor, Near the confessionals, to crave an alms, Stand, each his head upon his fellow’s sunk,


So most to stir compassion, not by sound Of words alone, but that, which moves not less, The sight of mis’ry. And as never beam Of noonday visiteth the eyeless man, E’en so was heav’n a niggard unto these Of his fair light; for, through the orbs of all, A thread of wire, impiercing, knits them up, As for the taming of a haggard hawk.

It were a wrong, methought, to pass and look On others, yet myself the while unseen. To my sage counsel therefore did I turn. He knew the meaning of the mute appeal, Nor waited for my questioning, but said: “Speak; and be brief, be subtle in thy words.”

On that part of the cornice, whence no rim Engarlands its steep fall, did Virgil come; On the’ other side me were the spirits, their cheeks Bathing devout with penitential tears, That through the dread impalement forc’d a way.

I turn’d me to them, and “O shades!” said I,

“Assur’d that to your eyes unveil’d shall shine The lofty light, sole object of your wish, So may heaven’s grace clear whatsoe’er of foam Floats turbid on the conscience, that thenceforth The stream of mind roll limpid from its source, As ye declare (for so shall ye impart A boon I dearly prize) if any soul Of Latium dwell among ye; and perchance That soul may profit, if I learn so much.”

“My brother, we are each one citizens Of one true city. Any thou wouldst say, Who lived a stranger in Italia’s land.”

So heard I answering, as appeal’d, a voice That onward came some space from whence I stood.

A spirit I noted, in whose look was mark’d Expectance. Ask ye how? The chin was rais’d As in one reft of sight. “Spirit,” said I, “Who for thy rise are tutoring (if thou be That which didst answer to me,) or by place Or name, disclose thyself, that I may know thee.”

“I was,” it answer’d, “of Sienna: here I cleanse away with these the evil life, Soliciting with tears that He, who is, Vouchsafe him to us. Though Sapia nam’d In sapience I excell’d not, gladder far Of others’ hurt, than of the good befell me. That thou mayst own I now deceive thee not, Hear, if my folly were not as I speak it. When now my years slop’d waning down the arch, It so bechanc’d, my fellow citizens Near Colle met their enemies in the field, And I pray’d God to grant what He had will’d. There were they vanquish’d, and betook themselves Unto the bitter passages of flight. I mark’d the hunt, and waxing out of bounds In gladness, lifted up my shameless brow, And like the merlin cheated by a gleam, Cried, “It is over. Heav’n! I fear thee not.” Upon my verge of life I wish’d for peace With God; nor repentance had supplied What I did lack of duty, were it not The hermit Piero, touch’d with charity, In his devout orisons thought on me. “But who art thou that question’st of our state, Who go’st to my belief, with lids unclos’d, And breathest in thy talk?”—“Mine eyes,” said I, “May yet be here ta’en from me; but not long; For they have not offended grievously With envious glances. But the woe beneath Urges my soul with more exceeding dread. That nether load already weighs me down.”

She thus: “Who then amongst us here aloft Hath brought thee, if thou weenest to return?


“He,” answer’d I, “who standeth mute beside me. I live: of me ask therefore, chosen spirit, If thou desire I yonder yet should move For thee my mortal feet.”—“Oh!” she replied, “This is so strange a thing, it is great sign That God doth love thee. Therefore with thy prayer Sometime assist me: and by that I crave, Which most thou covetest, that if thy feet E’er tread on Tuscan soil, thou save my fame Amongst my kindred. Them shalt thou behold With that vain multitude, who set their hope On Telamone’s haven, there to fail Confounded, more shall when the fancied stream They sought of Dian call’d: but they who lead Their navies, more than ruin’d hopes shall mourn.”

CANTO XIV “Say who is he around our mountain winds, Or ever death has prun’d his wing for flight, That opes his eyes and covers them at will?”

“I know not who he is, but know thus much He comes not singly. Do thou ask of him, For thou art nearer to him, and take heed Accost him gently, so that he may speak.”

Thus on the right two Spirits bending each Toward the other, talk’d of me, then both Addressing me, their faces backward lean’d, And thus the one began: “O soul, who yet Pent in the body, tendest towards the sky! For charity, we pray thee’ comfort us, Recounting whence thou com’st, and who thou art: For thou dost make us at the favour shown thee Marvel, as at a thing that ne’er hath been.”

“There stretches through the midst of Tuscany,” I straight began: “a brooklet, whose well-head Springs up in Falterona, with his race Not satisfied, when he some hundred miles Hath measur’d. From his banks bring, I this frame. To tell you who I am were words misspent: For yet my name scarce sounds on rumour’s lip.”

“If well I do incorp’rate with my thought The meaning of thy speech,” said he, who first Addrest me, “thou dost speak of Arno’s wave.”

To whom the other: “Why hath he conceal’d The title of that river, as a man Doth of some horrible thing?” The spirit, who Thereof was question’d, did acquit him thus: “I know not: but ’tis fitting well the name Should perish of that vale; for from the source Where teems so plenteously the Alpine steep Maim’d of Pelorus, (that doth scarcely pass Beyond that limit,) even to the point Whereunto ocean is restor’d, what heaven Drains from th’ exhaustless store for all earth’s streams, Throughout the space is virtue worried down, As ’twere a snake, by all, for mortal foe, Or through disastrous influence on the place, Or else distortion of misguided wills, That custom goads to evil: whence in those, The dwellers in that miserable vale, Nature is so transform’d, it seems as they Had shar’d of Circe’s feeding. ’Midst brute swine, Worthier of acorns than of other food Created for man’s use, he shapeth first His obscure way; then, sloping onward, finds Curs, snarlers more in spite than power, from whom He turns with scorn aside: still journeying down, By how much more the curst and luckless foss Swells out to largeness, e’en so much it finds Dogs turning into wolves. Descending still Through yet more hollow eddies, next he meets A race of foxes, so replete with craft, They do not fear that skill can master it. Nor will I cease because my words are heard By other ears than thine. It shall be well For this man, if he keep in memory What from no erring Spirit I reveal. Lo! I behold thy grandson, that becomes A hunter of those wolves, upon the shore Of the fierce stream, and cows them all with dread: Their flesh yet living sets he up to sale, Then like an aged beast to slaughter dooms. Many of life he reaves, himself of worth And goodly estimation. Smear’d with gore Mark how he issues from the rueful wood, Leaving such havoc, that in thousand years It spreads not to prime lustihood again.”

As one, who tidings hears of woe to come, Changes his looks perturb’d, from whate’er part The peril grasp him, so beheld I change That spirit, who had turn’d to listen, struck With sadness, soon as he had caught the word.

His visage and the other’s speech did raise Desire in me to know the names of both, whereof with meek entreaty I inquir’d.

The shade, who late addrest me, thus resum’d: “Thy wish imports that I vouchsafe to do For thy sake what thou wilt not do for mine. But since God’s will is that so largely shine His grace in thee, I will be liberal too. Guido of Duca know then that I am. Envy so parch’d my blood, that had I seen A fellow man made joyous, thou hadst mark’d A livid paleness overspread my cheek. Such harvest reap I of the seed I sow’d. O man, why place thy heart where there doth need Exclusion of participants in good? This is Rinieri’s spirit, this the boast And honour of the house of Calboli, Where of his worth no heritage remains. Nor his the only blood, that hath been stript (’twixt Po, the mount, the Reno, and the shore,) Of all that truth or fancy asks for bliss; But in those limits such a growth has sprung Of rank and venom’d roots, as long would mock Slow culture’s toil. Where is good Lizio? where Manardi, Traversalo, and Carpigna? O bastard slips of old Romagna’s line! When in Bologna the low artisan, And in Faenza yon Bernardin sprouts, A gentle cyon from ignoble stem. Wonder not, Tuscan, if thou see me weep, When I recall to mind those once lov’d names, Guido of Prata, and of Azzo him That dwelt with you; Tignoso and his troop, With Traversaro’s house and Anastagio’s, (Each race disherited) and beside these, The ladies and the knights, the toils and ease, That witch’d us into love and courtesy; Where now such malice reigns in recreant hearts. O Brettinoro! wherefore tarriest still, Since forth of thee thy family hath gone, And many, hating evil, join’d their steps? Well doeth he, that bids his lineage cease, Bagnacavallo; Castracaro ill, And Conio worse, who care to propagate A race of Counties from such blood as theirs. Well shall ye also do, Pagani, then When from amongst you tries your demon child. Not so, howe’er, that henceforth there remain True proof of what ye were. O Hugolin! Thou sprung of Fantolini’s line! thy name Is safe, since none is look’d for after thee To cloud its lustre, warping from thy stock. But, Tuscan, go thy ways; for now I take Far more delight in weeping than in words. Such pity for your sakes hath wrung my heart.”

We knew those gentle spirits at parting heard Our steps. Their silence therefore of our way Assur’d us. Soon as we had quitted them, Advancing onward, lo! a voice that seem’d Like vollied light’ning, when it rives the air, Met us, and shouted, “Whosoever finds Will slay me,” then fled from us, as the bolt Lanc’d sudden from a downward-rushing cloud. When it had giv’n short truce unto our hearing, Behold the other with a crash as loud As the quick-following thunder: “Mark in me Aglauros turn’d to rock.” I at the sound Retreating drew more closely to my guide.

Now in mute stillness rested all the air: And thus he spake: “There was the galling bit. But your old enemy so baits his hook, He drags you eager to him. Hence nor curb Avails you, nor reclaiming call. Heav’n calls And round about you wheeling courts your gaze With everlasting beauties. Yet your eye Turns with fond doting still upon the earth. Therefore He smites you who discerneth all.”

CANTO XV As much as ’twixt the third hour’s close and dawn, Appeareth of heav’n’s sphere, that ever whirls As restless as an infant in his play, So much appear’d remaining to the sun Of his slope journey towards the western goal.

Evening was there, and here the noon of night; and full upon our forehead smote the beams. For round the mountain, circling, so our path Had led us, that toward the sun-set now Direct we journey’d: when I felt a weight Of more exceeding splendour, than before, Press on my front. The cause unknown, amaze Possess’d me, and both hands against my brow Lifting, I interpos’d them, as a screen, That of its gorgeous superflux of light Clipp’d the diminish’d orb. As when the ray, Striking On water or the surface clear Of mirror, leaps unto the opposite part, Ascending at a glance, e’en as it fell, (And so much differs from the stone, that falls) Through equal space, as practice skill hath shown; Thus with refracted light before me seemed The ground there smitten; whence in sudden haste My sight recoil’d. “What is this, sire belov’d! ’Gainst which I strive to shield the sight in vain?” Cried I, “and which towards us moving seems?”

“Marvel not, if the family of heav’n,” He answer’d, “yet with dazzling radiance dim Thy sense it is a messenger who comes, Inviting man’s ascent. Such sights ere long, Not grievous, shall impart to thee delight, As thy perception is by nature wrought Up to their pitch.” The blessed angel, soon As we had reach’d him, hail’d us with glad voice: “Here enter on a ladder far less steep Than ye have yet encounter’d.” We forthwith Ascending, heard behind us chanted sweet, “Blessed the merciful,” and “happy thou! That conquer’st.” Lonely each, my guide and I Pursued our upward way; and as we went, Some profit from his words I hop’d to win, And thus of him inquiring, fram’d my speech:

“What meant Romagna’s spirit, when he spake Of bliss exclusive with no partner shar’d?”

He straight replied: “No wonder, since he knows, What sorrow waits on his own worst defect, If he chide others, that they less may mourn. Because ye point your wishes at a mark, Where, by communion of possessors, part Is lessen’d, envy bloweth up the sighs of men. No fear of that might touch ye, if the love Of higher sphere exalted your desire. For there, by how much more they call it ours, So much propriety of each in good Increases more, and heighten’d charity Wraps that fair cloister in a brighter flame.”

“Now lack I satisfaction more,” said I, “Than if thou hadst been silent at the first, And doubt more gathers on my lab’ring thought. How can it chance, that good distributed, The many, that possess it, makes more rich, Than if ’t were shar’d by few?” He answering thus: “Thy mind, reverting still to things of earth, Strikes darkness from true light. The highest good Unlimited, ineffable, doth so speed To love, as beam to lucid body darts, Giving as much of ardour as it finds. The sempiternal effluence streams abroad Spreading, wherever charity extends. So that the more aspirants to that bliss Are multiplied, more good is there to love, And more is lov’d; as mirrors, that reflect, Each unto other, propagated light. If these my words avail not to allay Thy thirsting, Beatrice thou shalt see, Who of this want, and of all else thou hast, Shall rid thee to the full. Provide but thou That from thy temples may be soon eras’d, E’en as the two already, those five scars, That when they pain thee worst, then kindliest heal,”

“Thou,” I had said, “content’st me,” when I saw The other round was gain’d, and wond’ring eyes Did keep me mute. There suddenly I seem’d By an ecstatic vision wrapt away; And in a temple saw, methought, a crowd Of many persons; and at th’ entrance stood A dame, whose sweet demeanour did express A mother’s love, who said, “Child! why hast thou Dealt with us thus? Behold thy sire and I Sorrowing have sought thee;” and so held her peace, And straight the vision fled. A female next Appear’d before me, down whose visage cours’d Those waters, that grief forces out from one By deep resentment stung, who seem’d to say: “If thou, Pisistratus, be lord indeed Over this city, nam’d with such debate Of adverse gods, and whence each science sparkles, Avenge thee of those arms, whose bold embrace Hath clasp’d our daughter; “and to fuel, meseem’d, Benign and meek, with visage undisturb’d, Her sovran spake: “How shall we those requite, Who wish us evil, if we thus condemn The man that loves us?” After that I saw A multitude, in fury burning, slay With stones a stripling youth, and shout amain “Destroy, destroy!” and him I saw, who bow’d Heavy with death unto the ground, yet made His eyes, unfolded upward, gates to heav’n,


Praying forgiveness of th’ Almighty Sire, Amidst that cruel conflict, on his foes, With looks, that With compassion to their aim.

Soon as my spirit, from her airy flight Returning, sought again the things, whose truth Depends not on her shaping, I observ’d How she had rov’d to no unreal scenes

Meanwhile the leader, who might see I mov’d, As one, who struggles to shake off his sleep, Exclaim’d: “What ails thee, that thou canst not hold Thy footing firm, but more than half a league Hast travel’d with clos’d eyes and tott’ring gait, Like to a man by wine or sleep o’ercharg’d?”

“Beloved father! so thou deign,” said I, “To listen, I will tell thee what appear’d Before me, when so fail’d my sinking steps.”

He thus: “Not if thy Countenance were mask’d With hundred vizards, could a thought of thine How small soe’er, elude me. What thou saw’st Was shown, that freely thou mightst ope thy heart To the waters of peace, that flow diffus’d From their eternal fountain. I not ask’d, What ails thee? for such cause as he doth, who Looks only with that eye which sees no more, When spiritless the body lies; but ask’d, To give fresh vigour to thy foot. Such goads The slow and loit’ring need; that they be found Not wanting, when their hour of watch returns.”

So on we journey’d through the evening sky Gazing intent, far onward, as our eyes With level view could stretch against the bright Vespertine ray: and lo! by slow degrees Gath’ring, a fog made tow’rds us, dark as night. There was no room for ’scaping; and that mist Bereft us, both of sight and the pure air.

CANTO XVI Hell’s dunnest gloom, or night unlustrous, dark, Of every planes ’reft, and pall’d in clouds, Did never spread before the sight a veil In thickness like that fog, nor to the sense So palpable and gross. Ent’ring its shade, Mine eye endured not with unclosed lids; Which marking, near me drew the faithful guide, Offering me his shoulder for a stay.

As the blind man behind his leader walks, Lest he should err, or stumble unawares On what might harm him, or perhaps destroy, I journey’d through that bitter air and foul, Still list’ning to my escort’s warning voice, “Look that from me thou part not.” Straight I heard Voices, and each one seem’d to pray for peace, And for compassion, to the Lamb of God That taketh sins away. Their prelude still Was “Agnus Dei,” and through all the choir, One voice, one measure ran, that perfect seem’d The concord of their song. “Are these I hear Spirits, O master?” I exclaim’d; and he: “Thou aim’st aright: these loose the bonds of wrath.”


“Now who art thou, that through our smoke dost cleave? And speak’st of us, as thou thyself e’en yet Dividest time by calends?” So one voice Bespake me; whence my master said: “Reply; And ask, if upward hence the passage lead.”

“O being! who dost make thee pure, to stand Beautiful once more in thy Maker’s sight! Along with me: and thou shalt hear and wonder.” Thus I, whereto the spirit answering spake:


“Long as ’t is lawful for me, shall my steps Follow on thine; and since the cloudy smoke Forbids the seeing, hearing in its stead Shall keep us join’d.” I then forthwith began “Yet in my mortal swathing, I ascend To higher regions, and am hither come Through the fearful agony of hell. And, if so largely God hath doled his grace, That, clean beside all modern precedent, He wills me to behold his kingly state, From me conceal not who thou wast, ere death Had loos’d thee; but instruct me: and instruct If rightly to the pass I tend; thy words The way directing as a safe escort.”

“I was of Lombardy, and Marco call’d: Not inexperienc’d of the world, that worth I still affected, from which all have turn’d The nerveless bow aside. Thy course tends right Unto the summit:” and, replying thus, He added, “I beseech thee pray for me, When thou shalt come aloft.” And I to him: “Accept my faith for pledge I will perform What thou requirest. Yet one doubt remains, That wrings me sorely, if I solve it not, Singly before it urg’d me, doubled now By thine opinion, when I couple that With one elsewhere declar’d, each strength’ning other. The world indeed is even so forlorn Of all good as thou speak’st it and so swarms With every evil. Yet, beseech thee, point The cause out to me, that myself may see, And unto others show it: for in heaven One places it, and one on earth below.”

Then heaving forth a deep and audible sigh, “Brother!” he thus began, “the world is blind; And thou in truth com’st from it. Ye, who live, Do so each cause refer to heav’n above, E’en as its motion of necessity Drew with it all that moves. If this were so, Free choice in you were none; nor justice would There should be joy for virtue, woe for ill. Your movements have their primal bent from heaven; Not all; yet said I all; what then ensues? Light have ye still to follow evil or good, And of the will free power, which, if it stand Firm and unwearied in Heav’n’s first assay, Conquers at last, so it be cherish’d well, Triumphant over all. To mightier force, To better nature subject, ye abide Free, not constrain’d by that, which forms in you The reasoning mind uninfluenc’d of the stars. If then the present race of mankind err, Seek in yourselves the cause, and find it there. Herein thou shalt confess me no false spy.

“Forth from his plastic hand, who charm’d beholds Her image ere she yet exist, the soul Comes like a babe, that wantons sportively Weeping and laughing in its wayward moods, As artless and as ignorant of aught, Save that her Maker being one who dwells With gladness ever, willingly she turns To whate’er yields her joy. Of some slight good The flavour soon she tastes; and, snar’d by that, With fondness she pursues it, if no guide Recall, no rein direct her wand’ring course. Hence it behov’d, the law should be a curb; A sovereign hence behov’d, whose piercing view Might mark at least the fortress and main tower Of the true city. Laws indeed there are: But who is he observes them? None; not he, Who goes before, the shepherd of the flock, Who chews the cud but doth not cleave the hoof. Therefore the multitude, who see their guide Strike at the very good they covet most, Feed there and look no further. Thus the cause Is not corrupted nature in yourselves, But ill-conducting, that hath turn’d the world To evil. Rome, that turn’d it unto good, Was wont to boast two suns, whose several beams Cast light on either way, the world’s and God’s. One since hath quench’d the other; and the sword Is grafted on the crook; and so conjoin’d Each must perforce decline to worse, unaw’d By fear of other. If thou doubt me, mark The blade: each herb is judg’d of by its seed. That land, through which Adice and the Po Their waters roll, was once the residence Of courtesy and velour, ere the day, That frown’d on Frederick; now secure may pass Those limits, whosoe’er hath left, for shame, To talk with good men, or come near their haunts. Three aged ones are still found there, in whom The old time chides the new: these deem it long Ere God restore them to a better world: The good Gherardo, of Palazzo he Conrad, and Guido of Castello, nam’d In Gallic phrase more fitly the plain Lombard. On this at last conclude. The church of Rome, Mixing two governments that ill assort, Hath miss’d her footing, fall’n into the mire, And there herself and burden much defil’d.”

“O Marco!” I replied, shine arguments Convince me: and the cause I now discern Why of the heritage no portion came To Levi’s offspring. But resolve me this Who that Gherardo is, that as thou sayst Is left a sample of the perish’d race, And for rebuke to this untoward age?”

“Either thy words,” said he, “deceive; or else Are meant to try me; that thou, speaking Tuscan, Appear’st not to have heard of good Gherado; The sole addition that, by which I know him; Unless I borrow’d from his daughter Gaia Another name to grace him. God be with you. I bear you company no more. Behold The dawn with white ray glimm’ring through the mist. I must away—the angel comes—ere he Appear.” He said, and would not hear me more.

CANTO XVII Call to remembrance, reader, if thou e’er Hast, on a mountain top, been ta’en by cloud, Through which thou saw’st no better, than the mole Doth through opacous membrane; then, whene’er The wat’ry vapours dense began to melt Into thin air, how faintly the sun’s sphere Seem’d wading through them; so thy nimble thought May image, how at first I re-beheld The sun, that bedward now his couch o’erhung.

Thus with my leader’s feet still equaling pace From forth that cloud I came, when now expir’d The parting beams from off the nether shores.

O quick and forgetive power! that sometimes dost So rob us of ourselves, we take no mark Though round about us thousand trumpets clang! What moves thee, if the senses stir not? Light Kindled in heav’n, spontaneous, self-inform’d, Or likelier gliding down with swift illapse By will divine. Portray’d before me came The traces of her dire impiety, Whose form was chang’d into the bird, that most Delights itself in song: and here my mind Was inwardly so wrapt, it gave no place To aught that ask’d admittance from without.

Next shower’d into my fantasy a shape As of one crucified, whose visage spake Fell rancour, malice deep, wherein he died; And round him Ahasuerus the great king, Esther his bride, and Mordecai the just, Blameless in word and deed. As of itself That unsubstantial coinage of the brain Burst, like a bubble, Which the water fails That fed it; in my vision straight uprose A damsel weeping loud, and cried, “O queen! O mother! wherefore has intemperate ire Driv’n thee to loath thy being? Not to lose Lavinia, desp’rate thou hast slain thyself. Now hast thou lost me. I am she, whose tears Mourn, ere I fall, a mother’s timeless end.”

E’en as a sleep breaks off, if suddenly New radiance strike upon the closed lids, The broken slumber quivering ere it dies; Thus from before me sunk that imagery Vanishing, soon as on my face there struck The light, outshining far our earthly beam. As round I turn’d me to survey what place I had arriv’d at, “Here ye mount,” exclaim’d A voice, that other purpose left me none, Save will so eager to behold who spake, I could not choose but gaze. As ’fore the sun, That weighs our vision down, and veils his form In light transcendent, thus my virtue fail’d Unequal. “This is Spirit from above, Who marshals us our upward way, unsought; And in his own light shrouds him. As a man Doth for himself, so now is done for us. For whoso waits imploring, yet sees need Of his prompt aidance, sets himself prepar’d For blunt denial, ere the suit be made. Refuse we not to lend a ready foot At such inviting: haste we to ascend, Before it darken: for we may not then, Till morn again return.” So spake my guide; And to one ladder both address’d our steps; And the first stair approaching, I perceiv’d Near me as ’twere the waving of a wing, That fann’d my face and whisper’d: “Blessed they The peacemakers: they know not evil wrath.”

Now to such height above our heads were rais’d The last beams, follow’d close by hooded night, That many a star on all sides through the gloom Shone out. “Why partest from me, O my strength?” So with myself I commun’d; for I felt My o’ertoil’d sinews slacken. We had reach’d The summit, and were fix’d like to a bark Arriv’d at land. And waiting a short space, If aught should meet mine ear in that new round, Then to my guide I turn’d, and said: “Lov’d sire! Declare what guilt is on this circle purg’d. If our feet rest, no need thy speech should pause.”

He thus to me: “The love of good, whate’er Wanted of just proportion, here fulfils. Here plies afresh the oar, that loiter’d ill. But that thou mayst yet clearlier understand, Give ear unto my words, and thou shalt cull Some fruit may please thee well, from this delay.

“Creator, nor created being, ne’er, My son,” he thus began, “was without love, Or natural, or the free spirit’s growth. Thou hast not that to learn. The natural still Is without error; but the other swerves, If on ill object bent, or through excess Of vigour, or defect. While e’er it seeks The primal blessings, or with measure due Th’ inferior, no delight, that flows from it, Partakes of ill. But let it warp to evil, Or with more ardour than behooves, or less. Pursue the good, the thing created then Works ’gainst its Maker. Hence thou must infer That love is germin of each virtue in ye, And of each act no less, that merits pain. Now since it may not be, but love intend The welfare mainly of the thing it loves, All from self-hatred are secure; and since No being can be thought t’ exist apart And independent of the first, a bar Of equal force restrains from hating that.

“Grant the distinction just; and it remains The’ evil must be another’s, which is lov’d. Three ways such love is gender’d in your clay. There is who hopes (his neighbour’s worth deprest,) Preeminence himself, and coverts hence For his own greatness that another fall. There is who so much fears the loss of power, Fame, favour, glory (should his fellow mount Above him), and so sickens at the thought, He loves their opposite: and there is he, Whom wrong or insult seems to gall and shame That he doth thirst for vengeance, and such needs Must doat on other’s evil. Here beneath This threefold love is mourn’d. Of th’ other sort Be now instructed, that which follows good But with disorder’d and irregular course.

“All indistinctly apprehend a bliss On which the soul may rest, the hearts of all Yearn after it, and to that wished bourn All therefore strive to tend. If ye behold Or seek it with a love remiss and lax, This cornice after just repenting lays Its penal torment on ye. Other good There is, where man finds not his happiness: It is not true fruition, not that blest Essence, of every good the branch and root. The love too lavishly bestow’d on this, Along three circles over us, is mourn’d. Account of that division tripartite Expect not, fitter for thine own research.”

CANTO XVIII The teacher ended, and his high discourse Concluding, earnest in my looks inquir’d If I appear’d content; and I, whom still Unsated thirst to hear him urg’d, was mute, Mute outwardly, yet inwardly I said: “Perchance my too much questioning offends.” But he, true father, mark’d the secret wish By diffidence restrain’d, and speaking, gave Me boldness thus to speak: “Master, my Sight Gathers so lively virtue from thy beams, That all, thy words convey, distinct is seen. Wherefore I pray thee, father, whom this heart Holds dearest! thou wouldst deign by proof t’ unfold That love, from which as from their source thou bring’st All good deeds and their opposite.” He then: “To what I now disclose be thy clear ken Directed, and thou plainly shalt behold How much those blind have err’d, who make themselves The guides of men. The soul, created apt To love, moves versatile which way soe’er Aught pleasing prompts her, soon as she is wak’d By pleasure into act. Of substance true Your apprehension forms its counterfeit, And in you the ideal shape presenting Attracts the soul’s regard. If she, thus drawn, incline toward it, love is that inclining, And a new nature knit by pleasure in ye. Then as the fire points up, and mounting seeks His birth-place and his lasting seat, e’en thus Enters the captive soul into desire, Which is a spiritual motion, that ne’er rests Before enjoyment of the thing it loves. Enough to show thee, how the truth from those Is hidden, who aver all love a thing Praise-worthy in itself: although perhaps Its substance seem still good. Yet if the wax Be good, it follows not th’ impression must.” “What love is,” I return’d, “thy words, O guide! And my own docile mind, reveal. Yet thence New doubts have sprung. For from without if love Be offer’d to us, and the spirit knows No other footing, tend she right or wrong, Is no desert of hers.” He answering thus: “What reason here discovers I have power To show thee: that which lies beyond, expect From Beatrice, faith not reason’s task. Spirit, substantial form, with matter join’d Not in confusion mix’d, hath in itself Specific virtue of that union born, Which is not felt except it work, nor prov’d But through effect, as vegetable life By the green leaf. From whence his intellect Deduced its primal notices of things, Man therefore knows not, or his appetites Their first affections; such in you, as zeal In bees to gather honey; at the first, Volition, meriting nor blame nor praise. But o’er each lower faculty supreme, That as she list are summon’d to her bar, Ye have that virtue in you, whose just voice Uttereth counsel, and whose word should keep The threshold of assent. Here is the source, Whence cause of merit in you is deriv’d, E’en as the affections good or ill she takes, Or severs, winnow’d as the chaff. Those men Who reas’ning went to depth profoundest, mark’d That innate freedom, and were thence induc’d To leave their moral teaching to the world. Grant then, that from necessity arise All love that glows within you; to dismiss Or harbour it, the pow’r is in yourselves. Remember, Beatrice, in her style, Denominates free choice by eminence The noble virtue, if in talk with thee She touch upon that theme.” The moon, well nigh To midnight hour belated, made the stars Appear to wink and fade; and her broad disk Seem’d like a crag on fire, as up the vault That course she journey’d, which the sun then warms, When they of Rome behold him at his set. Betwixt Sardinia and the Corsic isle. And now the weight, that hung upon my thought, Was lighten’d by the aid of that clear spirit, Who raiseth Andes above Mantua’s name. I therefore, when my questions had obtain’d Solution plain and ample, stood as one Musing in dreary slumber; but not long Slumber’d; for suddenly a multitude,


The steep already turning, from behind, Rush’d on. With fury and like random rout, As echoing on their shores at midnight heard Ismenus and Asopus, for his Thebes If Bacchus’ help were needed; so came these Tumultuous, curving each his rapid step, By eagerness impell’d of holy love.

Soon they o’ertook us; with such swiftness mov’d The mighty crowd. Two spirits at their head Cried weeping; “Blessed Mary sought with haste The hilly region. Caesar to subdue Ilerda, darted in Marseilles his sting, And flew to Spain.”—“Oh tarry not: away;” The others shouted; “let not time be lost Through slackness of affection. Hearty zeal To serve reanimates celestial grace.”

“O ye, in whom intenser fervency Haply supplies, where lukewarm erst ye fail’d, Slow or neglectful, to absolve your part Of good and virtuous, this man, who yet lives, (Credit my tale, though strange) desires t’ ascend, So morning rise to light us. Therefore say Which hand leads nearest to the rifted rock?”

So spake my guide, to whom a shade return’d: “Come after us, and thou shalt find the cleft. We may not linger: such resistless will Speeds our unwearied course. Vouchsafe us then Thy pardon, if our duty seem to thee Discourteous rudeness. In Verona I Was abbot of San Zeno, when the hand Of Barbarossa grasp’d Imperial sway, That name, ne’er utter’d without tears in Milan. And there is he, hath one foot in his grave, Who for that monastery ere long shall weep, Ruing his power misus’d: for that his son, Of body ill compact, and worse in mind, And born in evil, he hath set in place Of its true pastor.” Whether more he spake, Or here was mute, I know not: he had sped E’en now so far beyond us. Yet thus much I heard, and in rememb’rance treasur’d it.

He then, who never fail’d me at my need, Cried, “Hither turn. Lo! two with sharp remorse Chiding their sin!” In rear of all the troop These shouted: “First they died, to whom the sea Open’d, or ever Jordan saw his heirs: And they, who with Aeneas to the end Endur’d not suffering, for their portion chose Life without glory.” Soon as they had fled Past reach of sight, new thought within me rose By others follow’d fast, and each unlike Its fellow: till led on from thought to thought, And pleasur’d with the fleeting train, mine eye Was clos’d, and meditation chang’d to dream.

CANTO XIX It was the hour, when of diurnal heat No reliques chafe the cold beams of the moon, O’erpower’d by earth, or planetary sway Of Saturn; and the geomancer sees His Greater Fortune up the east ascend, Where gray dawn checkers first the shadowy cone; When ’fore me in my dream a woman’s shape There came, with lips that stammer’d, eyes aslant, Distorted feet, hands maim’d, and colour pale.

I look’d upon her; and as sunshine cheers Limbs numb’d by nightly cold, e’en thus my look Unloos’d her tongue, next in brief space her form Decrepit rais’d erect, and faded face With love’s own hue illum’d. Recov’ring speech She forthwith warbling such a strain began, That I, how loth soe’er, could scarce have held Attention from the song. “I,” thus she sang, “I am the Siren, she, whom mariners On the wide sea are wilder’d when they hear: Such fulness of delight the list’ner feels. I from his course Ulysses by my lay Enchanted drew. Whoe’er frequents me once Parts seldom; so I charm him, and his heart Contented knows no void.” Or ere her mouth Was clos’d, to shame her at her side appear’d A dame of semblance holy. With stern voice She utter’d; “Say, O Virgil, who is this?” Which hearing, he approach’d, with eyes still bent Toward that goodly presence: th’ other seiz’d her, And, her robes tearing, open’d her before, And show’d the belly to me, whence a smell, Exhaling loathsome, wak’d me. Round I turn’d Mine eyes, and thus the teacher: “At the least Three times my voice hath call’d thee. Rise, begone. Let us the opening find where thou mayst pass.”

I straightway rose. Now day, pour’d down from high, Fill’d all the circuits of the sacred mount; And, as we journey’d, on our shoulder smote The early ray. I follow’d, stooping low My forehead, as a man, o’ercharg’d with thought, Who bends him to the likeness of an arch, That midway spans the flood; when thus I heard, “Come, enter here,” in tone so soft and mild, As never met the ear on mortal strand.

With swan-like wings dispread and pointing up, Who thus had spoken marshal’d us along, Where each side of the solid masonry The sloping, walls retir’d; then mov’d his plumes, And fanning us, affirm’d that those, who mourn, Are blessed, for that comfort shall be theirs.

“What aileth thee, that still thou look’st to earth?” Began my leader; while th’ angelic shape A little over us his station took.


“New vision,” I replied, “hath rais’d in me Surmizings strange and anxious doubts, whereon My soul intent allows no other thought Or room or entrance.”—“Hast thou seen,” said he, “That old enchantress, her, whose wiles alone The spirits o’er us weep for? Hast thou seen How man may free him of her bonds? Enough. Let thy heels spurn the earth, and thy rais’d ken Fix on the lure, which heav’n’s eternal King Whirls in the rolling spheres.” As on his feet The falcon first looks down, then to the sky Turns, and forth stretches eager for the food, That woos him thither; so the call I heard, So onward, far as the dividing rock Gave way, I journey’d, till the plain was reach’d.

On the fifth circle when I stood at large, A race appear’d before me, on the ground All downward lying prone and weeping sore. “My soul hath cleaved to the dust,” I heard With sighs so deep, they well nigh choak’d the words. “O ye elect of God, whose penal woes Both hope and justice mitigate, direct Tow’rds the steep rising our uncertain way.”

“If ye approach secure from this our doom, Prostration—and would urge your course with speed, See that ye still to rightward keep the brink.”

So them the bard besought; and such the words, Beyond us some short space, in answer came.

I noted what remain’d yet hidden from them: Thence to my liege’s eyes mine eyes I bent, And he, forthwith interpreting their suit, Beckon’d his glad assent. Free then to act, As pleas’d me, I drew near, and took my stand O`er that shade, whose words I late had mark’d. And, “Spirit!” I said, “in whom repentant tears Mature that blessed hour, when thou with God Shalt find acceptance, for a while suspend For me that mightier care. Say who thou wast, Why thus ye grovel on your bellies prone, And if in aught ye wish my service there, Whence living I am come.” He answering spake “The cause why Heav’n our back toward his cope Reverses, shalt thou know: but me know first The successor of Peter, and the name And title of my lineage from that stream, That’ twixt Chiaveri and Siestri draws His limpid waters through the lowly glen. A month and little more by proof I learnt, With what a weight that robe of sov’reignty Upon his shoulder rests, who from the mire Would guard it: that each other fardel seems But feathers in the balance. Late, alas! Was my conversion: but when I became Rome’s pastor, I discern’d at once the dream And cozenage of life, saw that the heart Rested not there, and yet no prouder height Lur’d on the climber: wherefore, of that life No more enamour’d, in my bosom love Of purer being kindled. For till then I was a soul in misery, alienate From God, and covetous of all earthly things; Now, as thou seest, here punish’d for my doting. Such cleansing from the taint of avarice Do spirits converted need. This mount inflicts No direr penalty. E’en as our eyes Fasten’d below, nor e’er to loftier clime Were lifted, thus hath justice level’d us Here on the earth. As avarice quench’d our love Of good, without which is no working, thus Here justice holds us prison’d, hand and foot Chain’d down and bound, while heaven’s just Lord shall please. So long to tarry motionless outstretch’d.”

My knees I stoop’d, and would have spoke; but he, Ere my beginning, by his ear perceiv’d I did him reverence; and “What cause,” said he, “Hath bow’d thee thus!”—“Compunction,” I rejoin’d. “And inward awe of your high dignity.”


“Up,” he exclaim’d, “brother! upon thy feet Arise: err not: thy fellow servant I, (Thine and all others’) of one Sovran Power. If thou hast ever mark’d those holy sounds Of gospel truth, ‘nor shall be given ill marriage,’ Thou mayst discern the reasons of my speech. Go thy ways now; and linger here no more. Thy tarrying is a let unto the tears, With which I hasten that whereof thou spak’st. I have on earth a kinswoman; her name Alagia, worthy in herself, so ill Example of our house corrupt her not: And she is all remaineth of me there.”

CANTO XX Ill strives the will, ’gainst will more wise that strives His pleasure therefore to mine own preferr’d, I drew the sponge yet thirsty from the wave.

Onward I mov’d: he also onward mov’d, Who led me, coasting still, wherever place Along the rock was vacant, as a man Walks near the battlements on narrow wall. For those on th’ other part, who drop by drop Wring out their all-infecting malady, Too closely press the verge. Accurst be thou! Inveterate wolf! whose gorge ingluts more prey, Than every beast beside, yet is not fill’d! So bottomless thy maw!—Ye spheres of heaven! To whom there are, as seems, who attribute All change in mortal state, when is the day Of his appearing, for whom fate reserves To chase her hence? —With wary steps and slow We pass’d; and I attentive to the shades, Whom piteously I heard lament and wail;


And, ’midst the wailing, one before us heard Cry out “O blessed Virgin!” as a dame In the sharp pangs of childbed; and “How poor Thou wast,” it added, “witness that low roof Where thou didst lay thy sacred burden down. O good Fabricius! thou didst virtue choose With poverty, before great wealth with vice.”

The words so pleas’d me, that desire to know The spirit, from whose lip they seem’d to come, Did draw me onward. Yet it spake the gift Of Nicholas, which on the maidens he Bounteous bestow’d, to save their youthful prime Unblemish’d. “Spirit! who dost speak of deeds So worthy, tell me who thou was,” I said, “And why thou dost with single voice renew Memorial of such praise. That boon vouchsaf’d Haply shall meet reward; if I return To finish the Short pilgrimage of life, Still speeding to its close on restless wing.”

“I,” answer’d he, “will tell thee, not for hell, Which thence I look for; but that in thyself Grace so exceeding shines, before thy time Of mortal dissolution. I was root Of that ill plant, whose shade such poison sheds O’er all the Christian land, that seldom thence Good fruit is gather’d. Vengeance soon should come, Had Ghent and Douay, Lille and Bruges power; And vengeance I of heav’n’s great Judge implore. Hugh Capet was I high: from me descend The Philips and the Louis, of whom France Newly is govern’d; born of one, who ply’d The slaughterer’s trade at Paris. When the race Of ancient kings had vanish’d (all save one Wrapt up in sable weeds) within my gripe I found the reins of empire, and such powers Of new acquirement, with full store of friends, That soon the widow’d circlet of the crown Was girt upon the temples of my son, He, from whose bones th’ anointed race begins. Till the great dower of Provence had remov’d The stains, that yet obscur’d our lowly blood, Its sway indeed was narrow, but howe’er It wrought no evil: there, with force and lies, Began its rapine; after, for amends, Poitou it seiz’d, Navarre and Gascony. To Italy came Charles, and for amends Young Conradine an innocent victim slew, And sent th’ angelic teacher back to heav’n, Still for amends. I see the time at hand, That forth from France invites another Charles To make himself and kindred better known. Unarm’d he issues, saving with that lance, Which the arch-traitor tilted with; and that He carries with so home a thrust, as rives The bowels of poor Florence. No increase Of territory hence, but sin and shame Shall be his guerdon, and so much the more As he more lightly deems of such foul wrong. I see the other, who a prisoner late Had steps on shore, exposing to the mart His daughter, whom he bargains for, as do The Corsairs for their slaves. O avarice! What canst thou more, who hast subdued our blood So wholly to thyself, they feel no care Of their own flesh? To hide with direr guilt Past ill and future, lo! the flower-de-luce Enters Alagna! in his Vicar Christ Himself a captive, and his mockery Acted again! Lo! lo his holy lip The vinegar and gall once more applied! And he ’twixt living robbers doom’d to bleed! Lo! the new Pilate, of whose cruelty Such violence cannot fill the measure up, With no degree to sanction, pushes on Into the temple his yet eager sails!

“O sovran Master! when shall I rejoice To see the vengeance, which thy wrath well-pleas’d In secret silence broods?—While daylight lasts, So long what thou didst hear of her, sole spouse Of the Great Spirit, and on which thou turn’dst To me for comment, is the general theme Of all our prayers: but when it darkens, then A different strain we utter, then record Pygmalion, whom his gluttonous thirst of gold Made traitor, robber, parricide: the woes Of Midas, which his greedy wish ensued, Mark’d for derision to all future times: And the fond Achan, how he stole the prey, That yet he seems by Joshua’s ire pursued. Sapphira with her husband next, we blame; And praise the forefeet, that with furious ramp Spurn’d Heliodorus. All the mountain round Rings with the infamy of Thracia’s king, Who slew his Phrygian charge: and last a shout Ascends: “Declare, O Crassus! for thou know’st, The flavour of thy gold.” The voice of each Now high now low, as each his impulse prompts, Is led through many a pitch, acute or grave. Therefore, not singly, I erewhile rehears’d That blessedness we tell of in the day: But near me none beside his accent rais’d.”

From him we now had parted, and essay’d With utmost efforts to surmount the way, When I did feel, as nodding to its fall, The mountain tremble; whence an icy chill Seiz’d on me, as on one to death convey’d. So shook not Delos, when Latona there Couch’d to bring forth the twin-born eyes of heaven.

Forthwith from every side a shout arose So vehement, that suddenly my guide Drew near, and cried: “Doubt not, while I conduct thee.” “Glory!” all shouted (such the sounds mine ear Gather’d from those, who near me swell’d the sounds) “Glory in the highest be to God.” We stood Immovably suspended, like to those, The shepherds, who first heard in Bethlehem’s field That song: till ceas’d the trembling, and the song Was ended: then our hallow’d path resum’d, Eying the prostrate shadows, who renew’d Their custom’d mourning. Never in my breast Did ignorance so struggle with desire Of knowledge, if my memory do not err, As in that moment; nor through haste dar’d I To question, nor myself could aught discern, So on I far’d in thoughtfulness and dread.

CANTO XXI The natural thirst, ne’er quench’d but from the well, Whereof the woman of Samaria crav’d, Excited: haste along the cumber’d path, After my guide, impell’d; and pity mov’d My bosom for the ’vengeful deed, though just. When lo! even as Luke relates, that Christ Appear’d unto the two upon their way, New-risen from his vaulted grave; to us A shade appear’d, and after us approach’d, Contemplating the crowd beneath its feet. We were not ware of it; so first it spake, Saying, “God give you peace, my brethren!” then Sudden we turn’d: and Virgil such salute, As fitted that kind greeting, gave, and cried: “Peace in the blessed council be thy lot Awarded by that righteous court, which me To everlasting banishment exiles!”

“How!” he exclaim’d, nor from his speed meanwhile Desisting, “If that ye be spirits, whom God Vouchsafes not room above, who up the height Has been thus far your guide?” To whom the bard: “If thou observe the tokens, which this man Trac’d by the finger of the angel bears, ’Tis plain that in the kingdom of the just He needs must share. But sithence she, whose wheel Spins day and night, for him not yet had drawn That yarn, which, on the fatal distaff pil’d, Clotho apportions to each wight that breathes, His soul, that sister is to mine and thine, Not of herself could mount, for not like ours Her ken: whence I, from forth the ample gulf Of hell was ta’en, to lead him, and will lead Far as my lore avails. But, if thou know, Instruct us for what cause, the mount erewhile Thus shook and trembled: wherefore all at once Seem’d shouting, even from his wave-wash’d foot.”

That questioning so tallied with my wish, The thirst did feel abatement of its edge E’en from expectance. He forthwith replied, “In its devotion nought irregular This mount can witness, or by punctual rule Unsanction’d; here from every change exempt. Other than that, which heaven in itself Doth of itself receive, no influence Can reach us. Tempest none, shower, hail or snow, Hoar frost or dewy moistness, higher falls Than that brief scale of threefold steps: thick clouds Nor scudding rack are ever seen: swift glance Ne’er lightens, nor Thaumantian Iris gleams, That yonder often shift on each side heav’n. Vapour adust doth never mount above The highest of the trinal stairs, whereon Peter’s vicegerent stands. Lower perchance, With various motion rock’d, trembles the soil: But here, through wind in earth’s deep hollow pent, I know not how, yet never trembled: then Trembles, when any spirit feels itself So purified, that it may rise, or move For rising, and such loud acclaim ensues. Purification by the will alone Is prov’d, that free to change society Seizes the soul rejoicing in her will. Desire of bliss is present from the first; But strong propension hinders, to that wish By the just ordinance of heav’n oppos’d; Propension now as eager to fulfil Th’ allotted torment, as erewhile to sin. And I who in this punishment had lain Five hundred years and more, but now have felt Free wish for happier clime. Therefore thou felt’st The mountain tremble, and the spirits devout Heard’st, over all his limits, utter praise To that liege Lord, whom I entreat their joy To hasten.” Thus he spake: and since the draught Is grateful ever as the thirst is keen, No words may speak my fullness of content.

“Now,” said the instructor sage, “I see the net That takes ye here, and how the toils are loos’d, Why rocks the mountain and why ye rejoice. Vouchsafe, that from thy lips I next may learn, Who on the earth thou wast, and wherefore here So many an age wert prostrate.”—“In that time, When the good Titus, with Heav’n’s King to help, Aveng’d those piteous gashes, whence the blood By Judas sold did issue, with the name Most lasting and most honour’d there was I Abundantly renown’d,” the shade reply’d, “Not yet with faith endued. So passing sweet My vocal Spirit, from Tolosa, Rome To herself drew me, where I merited A myrtle garland to inwreathe my brow. Statius they name me still. Of Thebes I sang, And next of great Achilles: but i’ th’ way Fell with the second burthen. Of my flame Those sparkles were the seeds, which I deriv’d From the bright fountain of celestial fire That feeds unnumber’d lamps, the song I mean Which sounds Aeneas’ wand’rings: that the breast I hung at, that the nurse, from whom my veins Drank inspiration: whose authority Was ever sacred with me. To have liv’d Coeval with the Mantuan, I would bide The revolution of another sun Beyond my stated years in banishment.”

The Mantuan, when he heard him, turn’d to me, And holding silence: by his countenance Enjoin’d me silence but the power which wills, Bears not supreme control: laughter and tears Follow so closely on the passion prompts them, They wait not for the motions of the will In natures most sincere. I did but smile, As one who winks; and thereupon the shade Broke off, and peer’d into mine eyes, where best Our looks interpret. “So to good event Mayst thou conduct such great emprize,” he cried, “Say, why across thy visage beam’d, but now, The lightning of a smile!” On either part Now am I straiten’d; one conjures me speak, Th’ other to silence binds me: whence a sigh I utter, and the sigh is heard. “Speak on;” The teacher cried; “and do not fear to speak, But tell him what so earnestly he asks.” Whereon I thus: “Perchance, O ancient spirit! Thou marvel’st at my smiling. There is room For yet more wonder. He who guides my ken On high, he is that Mantuan, led by whom Thou didst presume of men and gods to sing. If other cause thou deem’dst for which I smil’d, Leave it as not the true one; and believe Those words, thou spak’st of him, indeed the cause.”

Now down he bent t’ embrace my teacher’s feet; But he forbade him: “Brother! do it not: Thou art a shadow, and behold’st a shade.” He rising answer’d thus: “Now hast thou prov’d The force and ardour of the love I bear thee, When I forget we are but things of air, And as a substance treat an empty shade.”

CANTO XXII Now we had left the angel, who had turn’d To the sixth circle our ascending step, One gash from off my forehead raz’d: while they, Whose wishes tend to justice, shouted forth: “Blessed!” and ended with, “I thirst:” and I, More nimble than along the other straits, So journey’d, that, without the sense of toil, I follow’d upward the swift-footed shades; When Virgil thus began: “Let its pure flame From virtue flow, and love can never fail To warm another’s bosom’ so the light Shine manifestly forth. Hence from that hour, When ’mongst us in the purlieus of the deep, Came down the spirit of Aquinum’s hard, Who told of thine affection, my good will Hath been for thee of quality as strong As ever link’d itself to one not seen. Therefore these stairs will now seem short to me. But tell me: and if too secure I loose The rein with a friend’s license, as a friend Forgive me, and speak now as with a friend: How chanc’d it covetous desire could find Place in that bosom, ’midst such ample store Of wisdom, as thy zeal had treasur’d there?”

First somewhat mov’d to laughter by his words, Statius replied: “Each syllable of thine Is a dear pledge of love. Things oft appear That minister false matters to our doubts, When their true causes are remov’d from sight. Thy question doth assure me, thou believ’st I was on earth a covetous man, perhaps Because thou found’st me in that circle plac’d. Know then I was too wide of avarice: And e’en for that excess, thousands of moons Have wax’d and wan’d upon my sufferings. And were it not that I with heedful care Noted where thou exclaim’st as if in ire With human nature, ‘Why, thou cursed thirst Of gold! dost not with juster measure guide The appetite of mortals?’ I had met The fierce encounter of the voluble rock. Then was I ware that with too ample wing The hands may haste to lavishment, and turn’d, As from my other evil, so from this In penitence. How many from their grave Shall with shorn locks arise, who living, aye And at life’s last extreme, of this offence, Through ignorance, did not repent. And know, The fault which lies direct from any sin In level opposition, here With that Wastes its green rankness on one common heap. Therefore if I have been with those, who wail Their avarice, to cleanse me, through reverse Of their transgression, such hath been my lot.”

To whom the sovran of the pastoral song: “While thou didst sing that cruel warfare wag’d By the twin sorrow of Jocasta’s womb, From thy discourse with Clio there, it seems As faith had not been shine: without the which Good deeds suffice not. And if so, what sun Rose on thee, or what candle pierc’d the dark That thou didst after see to hoist the sail, And follow, where the fisherman had led?”

He answering thus: “By thee conducted first, I enter’d the Parnassian grots, and quaff’d Of the clear spring; illumin’d first by thee Open’d mine eyes to God. Thou didst, as one, Who, journeying through the darkness, hears a light Behind, that profits not himself, but makes His followers wise, when thou exclaimedst, ‘Lo! A renovated world! Justice return’d! Times of primeval innocence restor’d! And a new race descended from above!’ Poet and Christian both to thee I owed. That thou mayst mark more clearly what I trace, My hand shall stretch forth to inform the lines With livelier colouring. Soon o’er all the world, By messengers from heav’n, the true belief Teem’d now prolific, and that word of thine Accordant, to the new instructors chim’d. Induc’d by which agreement, I was wont Resort to them; and soon their sanctity So won upon me, that, Domitian’s rage Pursuing them, I mix’d my tears with theirs, And, while on earth I stay’d, still succour’d them; And their most righteous customs made me scorn All sects besides. Before I led the Greeks In tuneful fiction, to the streams of Thebes, I was baptiz’d; but secretly, through fear, Remain’d a Christian, and conform’d long time To Pagan rites. Five centuries and more, T for that lukewarmness was fain to pace Round the fourth circle. Thou then, who hast rais’d The covering, which did hide such blessing from me, Whilst much of this ascent is yet to climb, Say, if thou know, where our old Terence bides, Caecilius, Plautus, Varro: if condemn’d They dwell, and in what province of the deep.” “These,” said my guide, “with Persius and myself, And others many more, are with that Greek, Of mortals, the most cherish’d by the Nine, In the first ward of darkness. There ofttimes We of that mount hold converse, on whose top For aye our nurses live. We have the bard Of Pella, and the Teian, Agatho, Simonides, and many a Grecian else Ingarlanded with laurel. Of thy train Antigone is there, Deiphile, Argia, and as sorrowful as erst Ismene, and who show’d Langia’s wave: Deidamia with her sisters there, And blind Tiresias’ daughter, and the bride Sea-born of Peleus.” Either poet now Was silent, and no longer by th’ ascent Or the steep walls obstructed, round them cast Inquiring eyes. Four handmaids of the day Had finish’d now their office, and the fifth Was at the chariot-beam, directing still Its balmy point aloof, when thus my guide: “Methinks, it well behooves us to the brink Bend the right shoulder’ circuiting the mount, As we have ever us’d.” So custom there Was usher to the road, the which we chose Less doubtful, as that worthy shade complied.

They on before me went; I sole pursued, List’ning their speech, that to my thoughts convey’d Mysterious lessons of sweet poesy. But soon they ceas’d; for midway of the road A tree we found, with goodly fruitage hung, And pleasant to the smell: and as a fir Upward from bough to bough less ample spreads, So downward this less ample spread, that none. Methinks, aloft may climb. Upon the side, That clos’d our path, a liquid crystal fell From the steep rock, and through the sprays above Stream’d showering. With associate step the bards Drew near the plant; and from amidst the leaves A voice was heard: “Ye shall be chary of me;” And after added: “Mary took more thought For joy and honour of the nuptial feast, Than for herself who answers now for you. The women of old Rome were satisfied With water for their beverage. Daniel fed On pulse, and wisdom gain’d. The primal age Was beautiful as gold; and hunger then Made acorns tasteful, thirst each rivulet Run nectar. Honey and locusts were the food, Whereon the Baptist in the wilderness Fed, and that eminence of glory reach’d And greatness, which the’ Evangelist records.”

CANTO XXIII On the green leaf mine eyes were fix’d, like his Who throws away his days in idle chase Of the diminutive, when thus I heard The more than father warn me: “Son! our time Asks thriftier using. Linger not: away.”

Thereat my face and steps at once I turn’d Toward the sages, by whose converse cheer’d I journey’d on, and felt no toil: and lo! A sound of weeping and a song: “My lips, O Lord!” and these so mingled, it gave birth To pleasure and to pain. “O Sire, belov’d! Say what is this I hear?” Thus I inquir’d.

“Spirits,” said he, “who as they go, perchance, Their debt of duty pay.” As on their road The thoughtful pilgrims, overtaking some Not known unto them, turn to them, and look, But stay not; thus, approaching from behind With speedier motion, eyed us, as they pass’d, A crowd of spirits, silent and devout. The eyes of each were dark and hollow: pale Their visage, and so lean withal, the bones Stood staring thro’ the skin. I do not think Thus dry and meagre Erisicthon show’d, When pinc’ed by sharp-set famine to the quick.

“Lo!” to myself I mus’d, “the race, who lost Jerusalem, when Mary with dire beak Prey’d on her child.” The sockets seem’d as rings, From which the gems were drops. Who reads the name Of man upon his forehead, there the M Had trac’d most plainly. Who would deem, that scent Of water and an apple, could have prov’d Powerful to generate such pining want, Not knowing how it wrought? While now I stood Wond’ring what thus could waste them (for the cause Of their gaunt hollowness and scaly rind Appear’d not) lo! a spirit turn’d his eyes In their deep-sunken cell, and fasten’d then On me, then cried with vehemence aloud: “What grace is this vouchsaf’d me?” By his looks I ne’er had recogniz’d him: but the voice Brought to my knowledge what his cheer conceal’d. Remembrance of his alter’d lineaments Was kindled from that spark; and I agniz’d The visage of Forese. “Ah! respect This wan and leprous wither’d skin,” thus he Suppliant implor’d, “this macerated flesh. Speak to me truly of thyself. And who Are those twain spirits, that escort thee there? Be it not said thou Scorn’st to talk with me.”


“That face of thine,” I answer’d him, “which dead I once bewail’d, disposes me not less For weeping, when I see It thus transform’d. Say then, by Heav’n, what blasts ye thus? The whilst I wonder, ask not Speech from me: unapt Is he to speak, whom other will employs.”

He thus: “The water and tee plant we pass’d, Virtue possesses, by th’ eternal will Infus’d, the which so pines me. Every spirit, Whose song bewails his gluttony indulg’d Too grossly, here in hunger and in thirst Is purified. The odour, which the fruit, And spray, that showers upon the verdure, breathe, Inflames us with desire to feed and drink. Nor once alone encompassing our route We come to add fresh fuel to the pain: Pain, said I? solace rather: for that will To the tree leads us, by which Christ was led To call Elias, joyful when he paid Our ransom from his vein.” I answering thus: “Forese! from that day, in which the world For better life thou changedst, not five years Have circled. If the power of sinning more Were first concluded in thee, ere thou knew’st That kindly grief, which re-espouses us To God, how hither art thou come so soon? I thought to find thee lower, there, where time Is recompense for time.” He straight replied: “To drink up the sweet wormwood of affliction I have been brought thus early by the tears Stream’d down my Nella’s cheeks. Her prayers devout, Her sighs have drawn me from the coast, where oft Expectance lingers, and have set me free From th’ other circles. In the sight of God So much the dearer is my widow priz’d, She whom I lov’d so fondly, as she ranks More singly eminent for virtuous deeds. The tract most barb’rous of Sardinia’s isle, Hath dames more chaste and modester by far Than that wherein I left her. O sweet brother! What wouldst thou have me say? A time to come Stands full within my view, to which this hour Shall not be counted of an ancient date, When from the pulpit shall be loudly warn’d Th’ unblushing dames of Florence, lest they bare Unkerchief’d bosoms to the common gaze. What savage women hath the world e’er seen, What Saracens, for whom there needed scourge Of spiritual or other discipline, To force them walk with cov’ring on their limbs! But did they see, the shameless ones, that Heav’n Wafts on swift wing toward them, while I speak, Their mouths were op’d for howling: they shall taste Of Borrow (unless foresight cheat me here) Or ere the cheek of him be cloth’d with down Who is now rock’d with lullaby asleep. Ah! now, my brother, hide thyself no more, Thou seest how not I alone but all Gaze, where thou veil’st the intercepted sun.”

Whence I replied: “If thou recall to mind What we were once together, even yet Remembrance of those days may grieve thee sore. That I forsook that life, was due to him Who there precedes me, some few evenings past, When she was round, who shines with sister lamp To his, that glisters yonder,” and I show’d The sun. “Tis he, who through profoundest night Of he true dead has brought me, with this flesh As true, that follows. From that gloom the aid Of his sure comfort drew me on to climb, And climbing wind along this mountain-steep, Which rectifies in you whate’er the world Made crooked and deprav’d I have his word, That he will bear me company as far As till I come where Beatrice dwells: But there must leave me. Virgil is that spirit, Who thus hath promis’d,” and I pointed to him; “The other is that shade, for whom so late Your realm, as he arose, exulting shook Through every pendent cliff and rocky bound.”

CANTO XXIV Our journey was not slacken’d by our talk, Nor yet our talk by journeying. Still we spake, And urg’d our travel stoutly, like a ship When the wind sits astern. The shadowy forms,


That seem’d things dead and dead again, drew in At their deep-delved orbs rare wonder of me, Perceiving I had life; and I my words Continued, and thus spake; “He journeys up Perhaps more tardily then else he would, For others’ sake. But tell me, if thou know’st, Where is Piccarda? Tell me, if I see Any of mark, among this multitude, Who eye me thus.”—“My sister (she for whom, ’Twixt beautiful and good I cannot say Which name was fitter ) wears e’en now her crown, And triumphs in Olympus.” Saying this, He added: “Since spare diet hath so worn Our semblance out, ’t is lawful here to name Each one. This,” and his finger then he rais’d, “Is Buonaggiuna,—Buonaggiuna, he Of Lucca: and that face beyond him, pierc’d Unto a leaner fineness than the rest, Had keeping of the church: he was of Tours, And purges by wan abstinence away Bolsena’s eels and cups of muscadel.”

He show’d me many others, one by one, And all, as they were nam’d, seem’d well content; For no dark gesture I discern’d in any. I saw through hunger Ubaldino grind His teeth on emptiness; and Boniface, That wav’d the crozier o’er a num’rous flock. I saw the Marquis, who tad time erewhile To swill at Forli with less drought, yet so Was one ne’er sated. I howe’er, like him, That gazing ’midst a crowd, singles out one, So singled him of Lucca; for methought Was none amongst them took such note of me. Somewhat I heard him whisper of Gentucca: The sound was indistinct, and murmur’d there, Where justice, that so strips them, fix’d her sting.

“Spirit!” said I, “it seems as thou wouldst fain Speak with me. Let me hear thee. Mutual wish To converse prompts, which let us both indulge.”

He, answ’ring, straight began: “Woman is born, Whose brow no wimple shades yet, that shall make My city please thee, blame it as they may. Go then with this forewarning. If aught false My whisper too implied, th’ event shall tell But say, if of a truth I see the man Of that new lay th’ inventor, which begins With ‘Ladies, ye that con the lore of love’.”

To whom I thus: “Count of me but as one Who am the scribe of love; that, when he breathes, Take up my pen, and, as he dictates, write.”

“Brother!” said he, “the hind’rance which once held The notary with Guittone and myself, Short of that new and sweeter style I hear, Is now disclos’d. I see how ye your plumes Stretch, as th’ inditer guides them; which, no question, Ours did not. He that seeks a grace beyond, Sees not the distance parts one style from other.” And, as contented, here he held his peace.

Like as the bird, that winter near the Nile, In squared regiment direct their course, Then stretch themselves in file for speedier flight; Thus all the tribe of spirits, as they turn’d Their visage, faster deaf, nimble alike Through leanness and desire. And as a man, Tir’d With the motion of a trotting steed, Slacks pace, and stays behind his company, Till his o’erbreathed lungs keep temperate time; E’en so Forese let that holy crew Proceed, behind them lingering at my side, And saying: “When shall I again behold thee?”

“How long my life may last,” said I, “I know not; This know, how soon soever I return, My wishes will before me have arriv’d. Sithence the place, where I am set to live, Is, day by day, more scoop’d of all its good, And dismal ruin seems to threaten it.”

“Go now,” he cried: “lo! he, whose guilt is most, Passes before my vision, dragg’d at heels Of an infuriate beast. Toward the vale, Where guilt hath no redemption, on it speeds, Each step increasing swiftness on the last; Until a blow it strikes, that leaveth him A corse most vilely shatter’d. No long space Those wheels have yet to roll” (therewith his eyes Look’d up to heav’n) “ere thou shalt plainly see That which my words may not more plainly tell. I quit thee: time is precious here: I lose Too much, thus measuring my pace with shine.”

As from a troop of well-rank’d chivalry One knight, more enterprising than the rest, Pricks forth at gallop, eager to display His prowess in the first encounter prov’d So parted he from us with lengthen’d strides, And left me on the way with those twain spirits, Who were such mighty marshals of the world.

When he beyond us had so fled mine eyes No nearer reach’d him, than my thought his words, The branches of another fruit, thick hung, And blooming fresh, appear’d. E’en as our steps Turn’d thither, not far off it rose to view. Beneath it were a multitude, that rais’d Their hands, and shouted forth I know not What Unto the boughs; like greedy and fond brats, That beg, and answer none obtain from him, Of whom they beg; but more to draw them on, He at arm’s length the object of their wish Above them holds aloft, and hides it not.


At length, as undeceiv’d they went their way: And we approach the tree, who vows and tears Sue to in vain, the mighty tree. “Pass on, And come not near. Stands higher up the wood, Whereof Eve tasted, and from it was ta’en ‘this plant.” Such sounds from midst the thickets came. Whence I, with either bard, close to the side That rose, pass’d forth beyond. “Remember,” next We heard, “those noblest creatures of the clouds, How they their twofold bosoms overgorg’d Oppos’d in fight to Theseus: call to mind The Hebrews, how effeminate they stoop’d To ease their thirst; whence Gideon’s ranks were thinn’d, As he to Midian march’d adown the hills.”

Thus near one border coasting, still we heard The sins of gluttony, with woe erewhile Reguerdon’d. Then along the lonely path, Once more at large, full thousand paces on We travel’d, each contemplative and mute.

“Why pensive journey thus ye three alone?” Thus suddenly a voice exclaim’d: whereat I shook, as doth a scar’d and paltry beast; Then rais’d my head to look from whence it came.

Was ne’er, in furnace, glass, or metal seen So bright and glowing red, as was the shape I now beheld. “If ye desire to mount,” He cried, “here must ye turn. This way he goes, Who goes in quest of peace.” His countenance Had dazzled me; and to my guides I fac’d Backward, like one who walks, as sound directs.

As when, to harbinger the dawn, springs up On freshen’d wing the air of May, and breathes Of fragrance, all impregn’d with herb and flowers, E’en such a wind I felt upon my front Blow gently, and the moving of a wing Perceiv’d, that moving shed ambrosial smell; And then a voice: “Blessed are they, whom grace Doth so illume, that appetite in them Exhaleth no inordinate desire, Still hung’ring as the rule of temperance wills.”

CANTO XXV It was an hour, when he who climbs, had need To walk uncrippled: for the sun had now To Taurus the meridian circle left, And to the Scorpion left the night. As one That makes no pause, but presses on his road, Whate’er betide him, if some urgent need Impel: so enter’d we upon our way, One before other; for, but singly, none That steep and narrow scale admits to climb.

E’en as the young stork lifteth up his wing Through wish to fly, yet ventures not to quit The nest, and drops it; so in me desire Of questioning my guide arose, and fell, Arriving even to the act, that marks A man prepar’d for speech. Him all our haste Restrain’d not, but thus spake the sire belov’d: “Fear not to speed the shaft, that on thy lip Stands trembling for its flight.” Encourag’d thus I straight began: “How there can leanness come, Where is no want of nourishment to feed?”

“If thou,” he answer’d, “hadst remember’d thee, How Meleager with the wasting brand Wasted alike, by equal fires consum’d, This would not trouble thee: and hadst thou thought, How in the mirror your reflected form With mimic motion vibrates, what now seems Hard, had appear’d no harder than the pulp Of summer fruit mature. But that thy will In certainty may find its full repose, Lo Statius here! on him I call, and pray That he would now be healer of thy wound.”

“If in thy presence I unfold to him The secrets of heaven’s vengeance, let me plead Thine own injunction, to exculpate me.” So Statius answer’d, and forthwith began: “Attend my words, O son, and in thy mind Receive them: so shall they be light to clear The doubt thou offer’st. Blood, concocted well, Which by the thirsty veins is ne’er imbib’d, And rests as food superfluous, to be ta’en From the replenish’d table, in the heart Derives effectual virtue, that informs The several human limbs, as being that, Which passes through the veins itself to make them. Yet more concocted it descends, where shame Forbids to mention: and from thence distils In natural vessel on another’s blood. Then each unite together, one dispos’d T’ endure, to act the other, through meet frame Of its recipient mould: that being reach’d, It ’gins to work, coagulating first; Then vivifies what its own substance caus’d To bear. With animation now indued, The active virtue (differing from a plant No further, than that this is on the way And at its limit that) continues yet To operate, that now it moves, and feels, As sea sponge clinging to the rock: and there Assumes th’ organic powers its seed convey’d. ‘This is the period, son! at which the virtue, That from the generating heart proceeds, Is pliant and expansive; for each limb Is in the heart by forgeful nature plann’d. How babe of animal becomes, remains For thy consid’ring. At this point, more wise, Than thou hast err’d, making the soul disjoin’d From passive intellect, because he saw No organ for the latter’s use assign’d.

“Open thy bosom to the truth that comes. Know soon as in the embryo, to the brain, Articulation is complete, then turns The primal Mover with a smile of joy On such great work of nature, and imbreathes New spirit replete with virtue, that what here Active it finds, to its own substance draws, And forms an individual soul, that lives, And feels, and bends reflective on itself. And that thou less mayst marvel at the word, Mark the sun’s heat, how that to wine doth change, Mix’d with the moisture filter’d through the vine.

“When Lachesis hath spun the thread, the soul Takes with her both the human and divine, Memory, intelligence, and will, in act Far keener than before, the other powers Inactive all and mute. No pause allow’d, In wond’rous sort self-moving, to one strand Of those, where the departed roam, she falls, Here learns her destin’d path. Soon as the place Receives her, round the plastic virtue beams, Distinct as in the living limbs before: And as the air, when saturate with showers, The casual beam refracting, decks itself With many a hue; so here the ambient air Weareth that form, which influence of the soul Imprints on it; and like the flame, that where The fire moves, thither follows, so henceforth The new form on the spirit follows still: Hence hath it semblance, and is shadow call’d, With each sense even to the sight endued: Hence speech is ours, hence laughter, tears, and sighs Which thou mayst oft have witness’d on the mount Th’ obedient shadow fails not to present Whatever varying passion moves within us. And this the cause of what thou marvel’st at.”


Now the last flexure of our way we reach’d, And to the right hand turning, other care Awaits us. Here the rocky precipice Hurls forth redundant flames, and from the rim A blast upblown, with forcible rebuff Driveth them back, sequester’d from its bound.

Behoov’d us, one by one, along the side, That border’d on the void, to pass; and I Fear’d on one hand the fire, on th’ other fear’d Headlong to fall: when thus th’ instructor warn’d: “Strict rein must in this place direct the eyes. A little swerving and the way is lost.”


Then from the bosom of the burning mass, “O God of mercy!” heard I sung; and felt No less desire to turn. And when I saw Spirits along the flame proceeding, I Between their footsteps and mine own was fain To share by turns my view. At the hymn’s close They shouted loud, “I do not know a man;” Then in low voice again took up the strain, Which once more ended, “To the wood,” they cried, “Ran Dian, and drave forth Callisto, stung With Cytherea’s poison:” then return’d Unto their song; then marry a pair extoll’d, Who liv’d in virtue chastely, and the bands Of wedded love. Nor from that task, I ween, Surcease they; whilesoe’er the scorching fire Enclasps them. Of such skill appliance needs To medicine the wound, that healeth last.


CANTO XXVI While singly thus along the rim we walk’d, Oft the good master warn’d me: “Look thou well. Avail it that I caution thee.” The sun Now all the western clime irradiate chang’d From azure tinct to white; and, as I pass’d, My passing shadow made the umber’d flame Burn ruddier. At so strange a sight I mark’d That many a spirit marvel’d on his way.

This bred occasion first to speak of me, “He seems,” said they, “no insubstantial frame:” Then to obtain what certainty they might, Stretch’d towards me, careful not to overpass The burning pale. “O thou, who followest The others, haply not more slow than they, But mov’d by rev’rence, answer me, who burn In thirst and fire: nor I alone, but these All for thine answer do more thirst, than doth Indian or Aethiop for the cooling stream. Tell us, how is it that thou mak’st thyself A wall against the sun, as thou not yet Into th’ inextricable toils of death Hadst enter’d?” Thus spake one, and I had straight Declar’d me, if attention had not turn’d To new appearance. Meeting these, there came, Midway the burning path, a crowd, on whom Earnestly gazing, from each part I view The shadows all press forward, sev’rally Each snatch a hasty kiss, and then away. E’en so the emmets, ’mid their dusky troops, Peer closely one at other, to spy out Their mutual road perchance, and how they thrive.

That friendly greeting parted, ere dispatch Of the first onward step, from either tribe Loud clamour rises: those, who newly come, Shout “Sodom and Gomorrah!” these, “The cow Pasiphae enter’d, that the beast she woo’d Might rush unto her luxury.” Then as cranes, That part towards the Riphaean mountains fly, Part towards the Lybic sands, these to avoid The ice, and those the sun; so hasteth off One crowd, advances th’ other; and resume Their first song weeping, and their several shout.

Again drew near my side the very same, Who had erewhile besought me, and their looks Mark’d eagerness to listen. I, who twice Their will had noted, spake: “O spirits secure, Whene’er the time may be, of peaceful end! My limbs, nor crude, nor in mature old age, Have I left yonder: here they bear me, fed With blood, and sinew-strung. That I no more May live in blindness, hence I tend aloft. There is a dame on high, who wind for us This grace, by which my mortal through your realm I bear. But may your utmost wish soon meet Such full fruition, that the orb of heaven, Fullest of love, and of most ample space, Receive you, as ye tell (upon my page Henceforth to stand recorded) who ye are, And what this multitude, that at your backs Have past behind us.” As one, mountain-bred, Rugged and clownish, if some city’s walls He chance to enter, round him stares agape, Confounded and struck dumb; e’en such appear’d Each spirit. But when rid of that amaze, (Not long the inmate of a noble heart) He, who before had question’d, thus resum’d: “O blessed, who, for death preparing, tak’st Experience of our limits, in thy bark! Their crime, who not with us proceed, was that, For which, as he did triumph, Caesar heard The snout of ‘queen,’ to taunt him. Hence their cry Of ‘Sodom,’ as they parted, to rebuke Themselves, and aid the burning by their shame. Our sinning was Hermaphrodite: but we, Because the law of human kind we broke, Following like beasts our vile concupiscence, Hence parting from them, to our own disgrace Record the name of her, by whom the beast In bestial tire was acted. Now our deeds Thou know’st, and how we sinn’d. If thou by name Wouldst haply know us, time permits not now To tell so much, nor can I. Of myself Learn what thou wishest. Guinicelli I, Who having truly sorrow’d ere my last, Already cleanse me.” With such pious joy, As the two sons upon their mother gaz’d From sad Lycurgus rescu’d, such my joy (Save that I more represt it) when I heard From his own lips the name of him pronounc’d, Who was a father to me, and to those My betters, who have ever us’d the sweet And pleasant rhymes of love. So nought I heard Nor spake, but long time thoughtfully I went, Gazing on him; and, only for the fire, Approach’d not nearer. When my eyes were fed By looking on him, with such solemn pledge, As forces credence, I devoted me Unto his service wholly. In reply He thus bespake me: “What from thee I hear Is grav’d so deeply on my mind, the waves Of Lethe shall not wash it off, nor make A whit less lively. But as now thy oath Has seal’d the truth, declare what cause impels That love, which both thy looks and speech bewray.”

“Those dulcet lays,” I answer’d, “which, as long As of our tongue the beauty does not fade, Shall make us love the very ink that trac’d them.”

“Brother!” he cried, and pointed at a shade Before him, “there is one, whose mother speech Doth owe to him a fairer ornament. He in love ditties and the tales of prose Without a rival stands, and lets the fools Talk on, who think the songster of Limoges O’ertops him. Rumour and the popular voice They look to more than truth, and so confirm Opinion, ere by art or reason taught. Thus many of the elder time cried up Guittone, giving him the prize, till truth By strength of numbers vanquish’d. If thou own So ample privilege, as to have gain’d Free entrance to the cloister, whereof Christ Is Abbot of the college, say to him One paternoster for me, far as needs For dwellers in this world, where power to sin No longer tempts us.” Haply to make way For one, that follow’d next, when that was said, He vanish’d through the fire, as through the wave A fish, that glances diving to the deep.

I, to the spirit he had shown me, drew A little onward, and besought his name, For which my heart, I said, kept gracious room. He frankly thus began: “Thy courtesy So wins on me, I have nor power nor will To hide me. I am Arnault; and with songs, Sorely lamenting for my folly past, Thorough this ford of fire I wade, and see The day, I hope for, smiling in my view. I pray ye by the worth that guides ye up Unto the summit of the scale, in time Remember ye my suff’rings.” With such words He disappear’d in the refining flame.

CANTO XXVII Now was the sun so station’d, as when first His early radiance quivers on the heights, Where stream’d his Maker’s blood, while Libra hangs Above Hesperian Ebro, and new fires Meridian flash on Ganges’ yellow tide.

So day was sinking, when the’ angel of God Appear’d before us. Joy was in his mien. Forth of the flame he stood upon the brink, And with a voice, whose lively clearness far Surpass’d our human, “Blessed are the pure In heart,” he Sang: then near him as we came, “Go ye not further, holy spirits!” he cried, “Ere the fire pierce you: enter in; and list Attentive to the song ye hear from thence.”

I, when I heard his saying, was as one Laid in the grave. My hands together clasp’d, And upward stretching, on the fire I look’d, And busy fancy conjur’d up the forms Erewhile beheld alive consum’d in flames.

Th’ escorting spirits turn’d with gentle looks Toward me, and the Mantuan spake: “My son, Here torment thou mayst feel, but canst not death. Remember thee, remember thee, if I Safe e’en on Geryon brought thee: now I come More near to God, wilt thou not trust me now? Of this be sure: though in its womb that flame A thousand years contain’d thee, from thy head No hair should perish. If thou doubt my truth, Approach, and with thy hands thy vesture’s hem Stretch forth, and for thyself confirm belief. Lay now all fear, O lay all fear aside. Turn hither, and come onward undismay’d.” I still, though conscience urg’d’ no step advanc’d.

When still he saw me fix’d and obstinate, Somewhat disturb’d he cried: “Mark now, my son, From Beatrice thou art by this wall Divided.” As at Thisbe’s name the eye Of Pyramus was open’d (when life ebb’d Fast from his veins), and took one parting glance, While vermeil dyed the mulberry; thus I turn’d To my sage guide, relenting, when I heard The name, that springs forever in my breast.

He shook his forehead; and, “How long,” he said, “Linger we now?” then smil’d, as one would smile Upon a child, that eyes the fruit and yields. Into the fire before me then he walk’d; And Statius, who erewhile no little space Had parted us, he pray’d to come behind.

I would have cast me into molten glass To cool me, when I enter’d; so intense Rag’d the conflagrant mass. The sire belov’d, To comfort me, as he proceeded, still Of Beatrice talk’d. “Her eyes,” saith he, “E’en now I seem to view.” From the other side A voice, that sang, did guide us, and the voice Following, with heedful ear, we issued forth, There where the path led upward. “Come,” we heard, “Come, blessed of my Father.” Such the sounds, That hail’d us from within a light, which shone So radiant, I could not endure the view. “The sun,” it added, “hastes: and evening comes. Delay not: ere the western sky is hung With blackness, strive ye for the pass.” Our way Upright within the rock arose, and fac’d Such part of heav’n, that from before my steps The beams were shrouded of the sinking sun.

Nor many stairs were overpass, when now By fading of the shadow we perceiv’d The sun behind us couch’d: and ere one face Of darkness o’er its measureless expanse Involv’d th’ horizon, and the night her lot Held individual, each of us had made A stair his pallet: not that will, but power, Had fail’d us, by the nature of that mount Forbidden further travel. As the goats, That late have skipp’d and wanton’d rapidly Upon the craggy cliffs, ere they had ta’en Their supper on the herb, now silent lie And ruminate beneath the umbrage brown, While noonday rages; and the goatherd leans Upon his staff, and leaning watches them: And as the swain, that lodges out all night In quiet by his flock, lest beast of prey Disperse them; even so all three abode, I as a goat and as the shepherds they, Close pent on either side by shelving rock.


A little glimpse of sky was seen above; Yet by that little I beheld the stars In magnitude and rustle shining forth With more than wonted glory. As I lay, Gazing on them, and in that fit of musing, Sleep overcame me, sleep, that bringeth oft Tidings of future hap. About the hour, As I believe, when Venus from the east First lighten’d on the mountain, she whose orb Seems always glowing with the fire of love, A lady young and beautiful, I dream’d, Was passing o’er a lea; and, as she came, Methought I saw her ever and anon Bending to cull the flowers; and thus she sang: “Know ye, whoever of my name would ask, That I am Leah: for my brow to weave A garland, these fair hands unwearied ply. To please me at the crystal mirror, here I deck me. But my sister Rachel, she Before her glass abides the livelong day, Her radiant eyes beholding, charm’d no less, Than I with this delightful task. Her joy In contemplation, as in labour mine.”

And now as glimm’ring dawn appear’d, that breaks More welcome to the pilgrim still, as he Sojourns less distant on his homeward way, Darkness from all sides fled, and with it fled My slumber; whence I rose and saw my guide Already risen. “That delicious fruit, Which through so many a branch the zealous care Of mortals roams in quest of, shall this day Appease thy hunger.” Such the words I heard From Virgil’s lip; and never greeting heard So pleasant as the sounds. Within me straight Desire so grew upon desire to mount, Thenceforward at each step I felt the wings Increasing for my flight. When we had run O’er all the ladder to its topmost round, As there we stood, on me the Mantuan fix’d His eyes, and thus he spake: “Both fires, my son, The temporal and eternal, thou hast seen, And art arriv’d, where of itself my ken No further reaches. I with skill and art Thus far have drawn thee. Now thy pleasure take For guide. Thou hast o’ercome the steeper way, O’ercome the straighter. Lo! the sun, that darts His beam upon thy forehead! lo! the herb, The arboreta and flowers, which of itself This land pours forth profuse! Till those bright eyes With gladness come, which, weeping, made me haste To succour thee, thou mayst or seat thee down, Or wander where thou wilt. Expect no more Sanction of warning voice or sign from me, Free of thy own arbitrement to choose, Discreet, judicious. To distrust thy sense Were henceforth error. I invest thee then With crown and mitre, sovereign o’er thyself.”

CANTO XXVIII Through that celestial forest, whose thick shade With lively greenness the new-springing day Attemper’d, eager now to roam, and search Its limits round, forthwith I left the bank, Along the champain leisurely my way Pursuing, o’er the ground, that on all sides Delicious odour breath’d. A pleasant air, That intermitted never, never veer’d, Smote on my temples, gently, as a wind Of softest influence: at which the sprays, Obedient all, lean’d trembling to that part Where first the holy mountain casts his shade, Yet were not so disorder’d, but that still Upon their top the feather’d quiristers Applied their wonted art, and with full joy Welcom’d those hours of prime, and warbled shrill Amid the leaves, that to their jocund lays inept tenor; even as from branch to branch, Along the piney forests on the shore Of Chiassi, rolls the gath’ring melody, When Eolus hath from his cavern loos’d The dripping south. Already had my steps, Though slow, so far into that ancient wood Transported me, I could not ken the place Where I had enter’d, when behold! my path Was bounded by a rill, which to the left With little rippling waters bent the grass, That issued from its brink. On earth no wave How clean soe’er, that would not seem to have Some mixture in itself, compar’d with this, Transpicuous, clear; yet darkly on it roll’d, Darkly beneath perpetual gloom, which ne’er Admits or sun or moon light there to shine.


My feet advanc’d not; but my wond’ring eyes Pass’d onward, o’er the streamlet, to survey The tender May-bloom, flush’d through many a hue, In prodigal variety: and there, As object, rising suddenly to view, That from our bosom every thought beside With the rare marvel chases, I beheld A lady all alone, who, singing, went, And culling flower from flower, wherewith her way Was all o’er painted. “Lady beautiful! Thou, who (if looks, that use to speak the heart, Are worthy of our trust), with love’s own beam Dost warm thee,” thus to her my speech I fram’d: “Ah! please thee hither towards the streamlet bend Thy steps so near, that I may list thy song. Beholding thee and this fair place, methinks, I call to mind where wander’d and how look’d Proserpine, in that season, when her child The mother lost, and she the bloomy spring.”

As when a lady, turning in the dance, Doth foot it featly, and advances scarce One step before the other to the ground; Over the yellow and vermilion flowers Thus turn’d she at my suit, most maiden-like, Valing her sober eyes, and came so near, That I distinctly caught the dulcet sound. Arriving where the limped waters now Lav’d the green sward, her eyes she deign’d to raise, That shot such splendour on me, as I ween Ne’er glanced from Cytherea’s, when her son Had sped his keenest weapon to her heart. Upon the opposite bank she stood and smil’d through her graceful fingers shifted still The intermingling dyes, which without seed That lofty land unbosoms. By the stream Three paces only were we sunder’d: yet The Hellespont, where Xerxes pass’d it o’er, (A curb for ever to the pride of man) Was by Leander not more hateful held For floating, with inhospitable wave ’Twixt Sestus and Abydos, than by me That flood, because it gave no passage thence.

“Strangers ye come, and haply in this place, That cradled human nature in its birth, Wond’ring, ye not without suspicion view My smiles: but that sweet strain of psalmody, ‘Thou, Lord! hast made me glad,’ will give ye light, Which may uncloud your minds. And thou, who stand’st The foremost, and didst make thy suit to me, Say if aught else thou wish to hear: for I Came prompt to answer every doubt of thine.”

She spake; and I replied: “I know not how To reconcile this wave and rustling sound Of forest leaves, with what I late have heard Of opposite report.” She answering thus: “I will unfold the cause, whence that proceeds, Which makes thee wonder; and so purge the cloud That hath enwraps thee. The First Good, whose joy Is only in himself, created man For happiness, and gave this goodly place, His pledge and earnest of eternal peace. Favour’d thus highly, through his own defect He fell, and here made short sojourn; he fell, And, for the bitterness of sorrow, chang’d Laughter unblam’d and ever-new delight. That vapours none, exhal’d from earth beneath, Or from the waters (which, wherever heat Attracts them, follow), might ascend thus far To vex man’s peaceful state, this mountain rose So high toward the heav’n, nor fears the rage Of elements contending, from that part Exempted, where the gate his limit bars. Because the circumambient air throughout With its first impulse circles still, unless Aught interpose to cheek or thwart its course; Upon the summit, which on every side To visitation of th’ impassive air Is open, doth that motion strike, and makes Beneath its sway th’ umbrageous wood resound: And in the shaken plant such power resides, That it impregnates with its efficacy The voyaging breeze, upon whose subtle plume That wafted flies abroad; and th’ other land Receiving (as ’t is worthy in itself, Or in the clime, that warms it), doth conceive, And from its womb produces many a tree Of various virtue. This when thou hast heard, The marvel ceases, if in yonder earth Some plant without apparent seed be found To fix its fibrous stem. And further learn, That with prolific foison of all seeds, This holy plain is fill’d, and in itself Bears fruit that ne’er was pluck’d on other soil. The water, thou behold’st, springs not from vein, As stream, that intermittently repairs And spends his pulse of life, but issues forth From fountain, solid, undecaying, sure; And by the will omnific, full supply Feeds whatsoe’er On either side it pours; On this devolv’d with power to take away Remembrance of offence, on that to bring Remembrance back of every good deed done. From whence its name of Lethe on this part; On th’ other Eunoe: both of which must first Be tasted ere it work; the last exceeding All flavours else. Albeit thy thirst may now Be well contented, if I here break off, No more revealing: yet a corollary I freely give beside: nor deem my words Less grateful to thee, if they somewhat pass The stretch of promise. They, whose verse of yore The golden age recorded and its bliss, On the Parnassian mountain, of this place Perhaps had dream’d. Here was man guiltless, here Perpetual spring and every fruit, and this The far-fam’d nectar.” Turning to the bards, When she had ceas’d, I noted in their looks A smile at her conclusion; then my face Again directed to the lovely dame.

CANTO XXIX Singing, as if enamour’d, she resum’d And clos’d the song, with “Blessed they whose sins Are cover’d.” Like the wood-nymphs then, that tripp’d Singly across the sylvan shadows, one Eager to view and one to ’scape the sun, So mov’d she on, against the current, up The verdant rivage. I, her mincing step Observing, with as tardy step pursued.

Between us not an hundred paces trod, The bank, on each side bending equally, Gave me to face the orient. Nor our way Far onward brought us, when to me at once She turn’d, and cried: “My brother! look and hearken.” And lo! a sudden lustre ran across Through the great forest on all parts, so bright I doubted whether lightning were abroad; But that expiring ever in the spleen, That doth unfold it, and this during still And waxing still in splendor, made me question What it might be: and a sweet melody Ran through the luminous air. Then did I chide With warrantable zeal the hardihood Of our first parent, for that there were earth Stood in obedience to the heav’ns, she only, Woman, the creature of an hour, endur’d not Restraint of any veil: which had she borne Devoutly, joys, ineffable as these, Had from the first, and long time since, been mine.

While through that wilderness of primy sweets That never fade, suspense I walk’d, and yet Expectant of beatitude more high, Before us, like a blazing fire, the air Under the green boughs glow’d; and, for a song, Distinct the sound of melody was heard.

O ye thrice holy virgins! for your sakes If e’er I suffer’d hunger, cold and watching, Occasion calls on me to crave your bounty. Now through my breast let Helicon his stream Pour copious; and Urania with her choir Arise to aid me: while the verse unfolds Things that do almost mock the grasp of thought.

Onward a space, what seem’d seven trees of gold, The intervening distance to mine eye Falsely presented; but when I was come So near them, that no lineament was lost Of those, with which a doubtful object, seen Remotely, plays on the misdeeming sense, Then did the faculty, that ministers Discourse to reason, these for tapers of gold Distinguish, and it th’ singing trace the sound “Hosanna.” Above, their beauteous garniture Flam’d with more ample lustre, than the moon Through cloudless sky at midnight in her full.

I turn’d me full of wonder to my guide; And he did answer with a countenance Charg’d with no less amazement: whence my view Reverted to those lofty things, which came So slowly moving towards us, that the bride Would have outstript them on her bridal day.

The lady called aloud: “Why thus yet burns Affection in thee for these living, lights, And dost not look on that which follows them?”

I straightway mark’d a tribe behind them walk, As if attendant on their leaders, cloth’d With raiment of such whiteness, as on earth Was never. On my left, the wat’ry gleam Borrow’d, and gave me back, when there I look’d. As in a mirror, my left side portray’d.

When I had chosen on the river’s edge Such station, that the distance of the stream Alone did separate me; there I stay’d My steps for clearer prospect, and beheld The flames go onward, leaving, as they went, The air behind them painted as with trail Of liveliest pencils! so distinct were mark’d All those sev’n listed colours, whence the sun Maketh his bow, and Cynthia her zone. These streaming gonfalons did flow beyond My vision; and ten paces, as I guess, Parted the outermost. Beneath a sky So beautiful, came foul and-twenty elders, By two and two, with flower-de-luces crown’d.


All sang one song: “Blessed be thou among The daughters of Adam! and thy loveliness Blessed for ever!” After that the flowers, And the fresh herblets, on the opposite brink, Were free from that elected race; as light In heav’n doth second light, came after them Four animals, each crown’d with verdurous leaf. With six wings each was plum’d, the plumage full Of eyes, and th’ eyes of Argus would be such, Were they endued with life. Reader, more rhymes Will not waste in shadowing forth their form: For other need no straitens, that in this I may not give my bounty room. But read Ezekiel; for he paints them, from the north How he beheld them come by Chebar’s flood, In whirlwind, cloud and fire; and even such As thou shalt find them character’d by him, Here were they; save as to the pennons; there, From him departing, John accords with me.

The space, surrounded by the four, enclos’d A car triumphal: on two wheels it came Drawn at a Gryphon’s neck; and he above Stretch’d either wing uplifted, ’tween the midst And the three listed hues, on each side three; So that the wings did cleave or injure none; And out of sight they rose. The members, far As he was bird, were golden; white the rest With vermeil intervein’d. So beautiful A car in Rome ne’er grac’d Augustus pomp, Or Africanus’: e’en the sun’s itself Were poor to this, that chariot of the sun Erroneous, which in blazing ruin fell At Tellus’ pray’r devout, by the just doom Mysterious of all-seeing Jove. Three nymphs at the right wheel, came circling in smooth dance; The one so ruddy, that her form had scarce Been known within a furnace of clear flame: The next did look, as if the flesh and bones Were emerald: snow new-fallen seem’d the third.


Now seem’d the white to lead, the ruddy now; And from her song who led, the others took Their treasure, swift or slow. At th’ other wheel, A band quaternion, each in purple clad, Advanc’d with festal step, as of them one The rest conducted, one, upon whose front Three eyes were seen. In rear of all this group, Two old men I beheld, dissimilar In raiment, but in port and gesture like, Solid and mainly grave; of whom the one Did show himself some favour’d counsellor Of the great Coan, him, whom nature made To serve the costliest creature of her tribe. His fellow mark’d an opposite intent, Bearing a sword, whose glitterance and keen edge, E’en as I view’d it with the flood between, Appall’d me. Next four others I beheld, Of humble seeming: and, behind them all, One single old man, sleeping, as he came, With a shrewd visage. And these seven, each Like the first troop were habited, but wore No braid of lilies on their temples wreath’d. Rather with roses and each vermeil flower, A sight, but little distant, might have sworn, That they were all on fire above their brow.

Whenas the car was o’er against me, straight. Was heard a thund’ring, at whose voice it seem’d The chosen multitude were stay’d; for there, With the first ensigns, made they solemn halt.

CANTO XXX Soon as the polar light, which never knows Setting nor rising, nor the shadowy veil Of other cloud than sin, fair ornament Of the first heav’n, to duty each one there Safely convoying, as that lower doth The steersman to his port, stood firmly fix’d; Forthwith the saintly tribe, who in the van Between the Gryphon and its radiance came, Did turn them to the car, as to their rest: And one, as if commission’d from above, In holy chant thrice shorted forth aloud: “Come, spouse, from Libanus!” and all the rest Took up the song—At the last audit so The blest shall rise, from forth his cavern each Uplifting lightly his new-vested flesh, As, on the sacred litter, at the voice Authoritative of that elder, sprang A hundred ministers and messengers Of life eternal. “Blessed thou! who com’st!” And, “O,” they cried, “from full hands scatter ye Unwith’ring lilies;” and, so saying, cast Flowers over head and round them on all sides.

I have beheld, ere now, at break of day, The eastern clime all roseate, and the sky Oppos’d, one deep and beautiful serene, And the sun’s face so shaded, and with mists Attemper’d at lids rising, that the eye Long while endur’d the sight: thus in a cloud Of flowers, that from those hands angelic rose, And down, within and outside of the car, Fell showering, in white veil with olive wreath’d, A virgin in my view appear’d, beneath Green mantle, rob’d in hue of living flame:


And o’er my Spirit, that in former days Within her presence had abode so long, No shudd’ring terror crept. Mine eyes no more Had knowledge of her; yet there mov’d from her A hidden virtue, at whose touch awak’d, The power of ancient love was strong within me.

No sooner on my vision streaming, smote The heav’nly influence, which years past, and e’en In childhood, thrill’d me, than towards Virgil I Turn’d me to leftward, panting, like a babe, That flees for refuge to his mother’s breast, If aught have terrified or work’d him woe: And would have cried: “There is no dram of blood, That doth not quiver in me. The old flame Throws out clear tokens of reviving fire:” But Virgil had bereav’d us of himself, Virgil, my best-lov’d father; Virgil, he To whom I gave me up for safety: nor, All, our prime mother lost, avail’d to save My undew’d cheeks from blur of soiling tears.

“Dante, weep not, that Virgil leaves thee: nay, Weep thou not yet: behooves thee feel the edge Of other sword, and thou shalt weep for that.”

As to the prow or stern, some admiral Paces the deck, inspiriting his crew, When ’mid the sail-yards all hands ply aloof; Thus on the left side of the car I saw, (Turning me at the sound of mine own name, Which here I am compell’d to register) The virgin station’d, who before appeared Veil’d in that festive shower angelical.

Towards me, across the stream, she bent her eyes; Though from her brow the veil descending, bound With foliage of Minerva, suffer’d not That I beheld her clearly; then with act Full royal, still insulting o’er her thrall, Added, as one, who speaking keepeth back The bitterest saying, to conclude the speech: “Observe me well. I am, in sooth, I am Beatrice. What! and hast thou deign’d at last Approach the mountain? knewest not, O man! Thy happiness is whole?” Down fell mine eyes On the clear fount, but there, myself espying, Recoil’d, and sought the greensward: such a weight Of shame was on my forehead. With a mien Of that stern majesty, which doth surround mother’s presence to her awe-struck child, She look’d; a flavour of such bitterness Was mingled in her pity. There her words Brake off, and suddenly the angels sang: “In thee, O gracious Lord, my hope hath been:” But went no farther than, “Thou Lord, hast set My feet in ample room.” As snow, that lies Amidst the living rafters on the back Of Italy congeal’d when drifted high And closely pil’d by rough Sclavonian blasts, Breathe but the land whereon no shadow falls, And straightway melting it distils away, Like a fire-wasted taper: thus was I, Without a sigh or tear, or ever these Did sing, that with the chiming of heav’n’s sphere, Still in their warbling chime: but when the strain Of dulcet symphony, express’d for me Their soft compassion, more than could the words “Virgin, why so consum’st him?” then the ice, Congeal’d about my bosom, turn’d itself To spirit and water, and with anguish forth Gush’d through the lips and eyelids from the heart.

Upon the chariot’s right edge still she stood, Immovable, and thus address’d her words To those bright semblances with pity touch’d: “Ye in th’ eternal day your vigils keep, So that nor night nor slumber, with close stealth, Conveys from you a single step in all The goings on of life: thence with more heed I shape mine answer, for his ear intended, Who there stands weeping, that the sorrow now May equal the transgression. Not alone Through operation of the mighty orbs, That mark each seed to some predestin’d aim, As with aspect or fortunate or ill The constellations meet, but through benign Largess of heav’nly graces, which rain down From such a height, as mocks our vision, this man Was in the freshness of his being, such, So gifted virtually, that in him All better habits wond’rously had thriv’d. The more of kindly strength is in the soil, So much doth evil seed and lack of culture Mar it the more, and make it run to wildness. These looks sometime upheld him; for I show’d My youthful eyes, and led him by their light In upright walking. Soon as I had reach’d The threshold of my second age, and chang’d My mortal for immortal, then he left me, And gave himself to others. When from flesh To spirit I had risen, and increase Of beauty and of virtue circled me, I was less dear to him, and valued less. His steps were turn’d into deceitful ways, Following false images of good, that make No promise perfect. Nor avail’d me aught To sue for inspirations, with the which, I, both in dreams of night, and otherwise, Did call him back; of them so little reck’d him, Such depth he fell, that all device was short Of his preserving, save that he should view The children of perdition. To this end I visited the purlieus of the dead: And one, who hath conducted him thus high, Receiv’d my supplications urg’d with weeping. It were a breaking of God’s high decree, If Lethe should be past, and such food tasted Without the cost of some repentant tear.”

CANTO XXXI “O Thou!” her words she thus without delay Resuming, turn’d their point on me, to whom They but with lateral edge seem’d harsh before, “Say thou, who stand’st beyond the holy stream, If this be true. A charge so grievous needs Thine own avowal.” On my faculty Such strange amazement hung, the voice expir’d Imperfect, ere its organs gave it birth.

A little space refraining, then she spake: “What dost thou muse on? Answer me. The wave On thy remembrances of evil yet Hath done no injury.” A mingled sense Of fear and of confusion, from my lips Did such a “Yea” produce, as needed help Of vision to interpret. As when breaks In act to be discharg’d, a cross-bow bent Beyond its pitch, both nerve and bow o’erstretch’d, The flagging weapon feebly hits the mark; Thus, tears and sighs forth gushing, did I burst Beneath the heavy load, and thus my voice Was slacken’d on its way. She straight began: “When my desire invited thee to love The good, which sets a bound to our aspirings, What bar of thwarting foss or linked chain Did meet thee, that thou so should’st quit the hope Of further progress, or what bait of ease Or promise of allurement led thee on Elsewhere, that thou elsewhere should’st rather wait?”

A bitter sigh I drew, then scarce found voice To answer, hardly to these sounds my lips Gave utterance, wailing: “Thy fair looks withdrawn, Things present, with deceitful pleasures, turn’d My steps aside.” She answering spake: “Hadst thou Been silent, or denied what thou avow’st, Thou hadst not hid thy sin the more: such eye Observes it. But whene’er the sinner’s cheek Breaks forth into the precious-streaming tears Of self-accusing, in our court the wheel Of justice doth run counter to the edge. Howe’er that thou may’st profit by thy shame For errors past, and that henceforth more strength May arm thee, when thou hear’st the Siren-voice, Lay thou aside the motive to this grief, And lend attentive ear, while I unfold How opposite a way my buried flesh Should have impell’d thee. Never didst thou spy In art or nature aught so passing sweet, As were the limbs, that in their beauteous frame Enclos’d me, and are scatter’d now in dust. If sweetest thing thus fail’d thee with my death, What, afterward, of mortal should thy wish Have tempted? When thou first hadst felt the dart Of perishable things, in my departing For better realms, thy wing thou should’st have prun’d To follow me, and never stoop’d again To ’bide a second blow for a slight girl, Or other gaud as transient and as vain. The new and inexperienc’d bird awaits, Twice it may be, or thrice, the fowler’s aim; But in the sight of one, whose plumes are full, In vain the net is spread, the arrow wing’d.”

I stood, as children silent and asham’d Stand, list’ning, with their eyes upon the earth, Acknowledging their fault and self-condemn’d. And she resum’d: “If, but to hear thus pains thee, Raise thou thy beard, and lo! what sight shall do!”

With less reluctance yields a sturdy holm, Rent from its fibers by a blast, that blows From off the pole, or from Iarbas’ land, Than I at her behest my visage rais’d: And thus the face denoting by the beard, I mark’d the secret sting her words convey’d.

No sooner lifted I mine aspect up, Than downward sunk that vision I beheld Of goodly creatures vanish; and mine eyes Yet unassur’d and wavering, bent their light On Beatrice. Towards the animal, Who joins two natures in one form, she turn’d, And, even under shadow of her veil, And parted by the verdant rill, that flow’d Between, in loveliness appear’d as much Her former self surpassing, as on earth All others she surpass’d. Remorseful goads Shot sudden through me. Each thing else, the more Its love had late beguil’d me, now the more I Was loathsome. On my heart so keenly smote The bitter consciousness, that on the ground O’erpower’d I fell: and what my state was then, She knows who was the cause. When now my strength Flow’d back, returning outward from the heart, The lady, whom alone I first had seen, I found above me. “Loose me not,” she cried: “Loose not thy hold;” and lo! had dragg’d me high As to my neck into the stream, while she, Still as she drew me after, swept along, Swift as a shuttle, bounding o’er the wave.


The blessed shore approaching then was heard So sweetly, “Tu asperges me,” that I May not remember, much less tell the sound. The beauteous dame, her arms expanding, clasp’d My temples, and immerg’d me, where ’t was fit The wave should drench me: and thence raising up, Within the fourfold dance of lovely nymphs Presented me so lav’d, and with their arm They each did cover me. “Here are we nymphs, And in the heav’n are stars. Or ever earth Was visited of Beatrice, we Appointed for her handmaids, tended on her. We to her eyes will lead thee; but the light Of gladness that is in them, well to scan, Those yonder three, of deeper ken than ours, Thy sight shall quicken.” Thus began their song; And then they led me to the Gryphon’s breast, While, turn’d toward us, Beatrice stood. “Spare not thy vision. We have stationed thee Before the emeralds, whence love erewhile Hath drawn his weapons on thee.” As they spake, A thousand fervent wishes riveted Mine eyes upon her beaming eyes, that stood Still fix’d toward the Gryphon motionless. As the sun strikes a mirror, even thus Within those orbs the twofold being, shone, For ever varying, in one figure now Reflected, now in other. Reader! muse How wond’rous in my sight it seem’d to mark A thing, albeit steadfast in itself, Yet in its imag’d semblance mutable.

Full of amaze, and joyous, while my soul Fed on the viand, whereof still desire Grows with satiety, the other three With gesture, that declar’d a loftier line, Advanc’d: to their own carol on they came Dancing in festive ring angelical.

“Turn, Beatrice!” was their song: “O turn Thy saintly sight on this thy faithful one, Who to behold thee many a wearisome pace Hath measur’d. Gracious at our pray’r vouchsafe Unveil to him thy cheeks: that he may mark Thy second beauty, now conceal’d.” O splendour! O sacred light eternal! who is he So pale with musing in Pierian shades, Or with that fount so lavishly imbued, Whose spirit should not fail him in th’ essay To represent thee such as thou didst seem, When under cope of the still-chiming heaven Thou gav’st to open air thy charms reveal’d.

CANTO XXXII Mine eyes with such an eager coveting, Were bent to rid them of their ten years’ thirst, No other sense was waking: and e’en they Were fenc’d on either side from heed of aught; So tangled in its custom’d toils that smile Of saintly brightness drew me to itself, When forcibly toward the left my sight The sacred virgins turn’d; for from their lips I heard the warning sounds: “Too fix’d a gaze!”

Awhile my vision labor’d; as when late Upon the’ o’erstrained eyes the sun hath smote: But soon to lesser object, as the view Was now recover’d (lesser in respect To that excess of sensible, whence late I had perforce been sunder’d) on their right I mark’d that glorious army wheel, and turn, Against the sun and sev’nfold lights, their front. As when, their bucklers for protection rais’d, A well-rang’d troop, with portly banners curl’d, Wheel circling, ere the whole can change their ground: E’en thus the goodly regiment of heav’n Proceeding, all did pass us, ere the car Had slop’d his beam. Attendant at the wheels The damsels turn’d; and on the Gryphon mov’d The sacred burden, with a pace so smooth, No feather on him trembled. The fair dame Who through the wave had drawn me, companied By Statius and myself, pursued the wheel, Whose orbit, rolling, mark’d a lesser arch.

Through the high wood, now void (the more her blame, Who by the serpent was beguil’d) I past With step in cadence to the harmony Angelic. Onward had we mov’d, as far Perchance as arrow at three several flights Full wing’d had sped, when from her station down Descended Beatrice. With one voice All murmur’d “Adam,” circling next a plant Despoil’d of flowers and leaf on every bough. Its tresses, spreading more as more they rose, Were such, as ’midst their forest wilds for height The Indians might have gaz’d at. “Blessed thou! Gryphon, whose beak hath never pluck’d that tree Pleasant to taste: for hence the appetite Was warp’d to evil.” Round the stately trunk Thus shouted forth the rest, to whom return’d The animal twice-gender’d: “Yea: for so The generation of the just are sav’d.” And turning to the chariot-pole, to foot He drew it of the widow’d branch, and bound There left unto the stock whereon it grew.

As when large floods of radiance from above Stream, with that radiance mingled, which ascends Next after setting of the scaly sign, Our plants then burgeon, and each wears anew His wonted colours, ere the sun have yok’d Beneath another star his flamy steeds; Thus putting forth a hue, more faint than rose, And deeper than the violet, was renew’d The plant, erewhile in all its branches bare.

Unearthly was the hymn, which then arose. I understood it not, nor to the end Endur’d the harmony. Had I the skill To pencil forth, how clos’d th’ unpitying eyes Slumb’ring, when Syrinx warbled, (eyes that paid So dearly for their watching,) then like painter, That with a model paints, I might design The manner of my falling into sleep. But feign who will the slumber cunningly; I pass it by to when I wak’d, and tell How suddenly a flash of splendour rent The curtain of my sleep, and one cries out: “Arise, what dost thou?” As the chosen three, On Tabor’s mount, admitted to behold The blossoming of that fair tree, whose fruit Is coveted of angels, and doth make Perpetual feast in heaven, to themselves Returning at the word, whence deeper sleeps Were broken, that they their tribe diminish’d saw, Both Moses and Elias gone, and chang’d The stole their master wore: thus to myself Returning, over me beheld I stand The piteous one, who cross the stream had brought My steps. “And where,” all doubting, I exclaim’d, “Is Beatrice?”—“See her,” she replied, “Beneath the fresh leaf seated on its root. Behold th’ associate choir that circles her. The others, with a melody more sweet And more profound, journeying to higher realms, Upon the Gryphon tend.” If there her words Were clos’d, I know not; but mine eyes had now Ta’en view of her, by whom all other thoughts Were barr’d admittance. On the very ground Alone she sat, as she had there been left A guard upon the wain, which I beheld Bound to the twyform beast. The seven nymphs Did make themselves a cloister round about her, And in their hands upheld those lights secure From blast septentrion and the gusty south.

“A little while thou shalt be forester here: And citizen shalt be forever with me, Of that true Rome, wherein Christ dwells a Roman To profit the misguided world, keep now Thine eyes upon the car; and what thou seest, Take heed thou write, returning to that place.”

Thus Beatrice: at whose feet inclin’d Devout, at her behest, my thought and eyes, I, as she bade, directed. Never fire, With so swift motion, forth a stormy cloud Leap’d downward from the welkin’s farthest bound, As I beheld the bird of Jove descending Pounce on the tree, and, as he rush’d, the rind, Disparting crush beneath him, buds much more And leaflets. On the car with all his might He struck, whence, staggering like a ship, it reel’d, At random driv’n, to starboard now, o’ercome, And now to larboard, by the vaulting waves.

Next springing up into the chariot’s womb A fox I saw, with hunger seeming pin’d Of all good food. But, for his ugly sins The saintly maid rebuking him, away Scamp’ring he turn’d, fast as his hide-bound corpse Would bear him. Next, from whence before he came, I saw the eagle dart into the hull O’ th’ car, and leave it with his feathers lin’d; And then a voice, like that which issues forth From heart with sorrow riv’d, did issue forth From heav’n, and, “O poor bark of mine!” it cried, “How badly art thou freighted!” Then, it seem’d, That the earth open’d between either wheel, And I beheld a dragon issue thence, That through the chariot fix’d his forked train; And like a wasp that draggeth back the sting, So drawing forth his baleful train, he dragg’d Part of the bottom forth, and went his way Exulting. What remain’d, as lively turf With green herb, so did clothe itself with plumes, Which haply had with purpose chaste and kind Been offer’d; and therewith were cloth’d the wheels, Both one and other, and the beam, so quickly A sigh were not breath’d sooner. Thus transform’d, The holy structure, through its several parts, Did put forth heads, three on the beam, and one On every side; the first like oxen horn’d, But with a single horn upon their front The four. Like monster sight hath never seen. O’er it methought there sat, secure as rock On mountain’s lofty top, a shameless whore, Whose ken rov’d loosely round her. At her side, As ’t were that none might bear her off, I saw A giant stand; and ever, and anon They mingled kisses. But, her lustful eyes Chancing on me to wander, that fell minion Scourg’d her from head to foot all o’er; then full Of jealousy, and fierce with rage, unloos’d The monster, and dragg’d on, so far across The forest, that from me its shades alone Shielded the harlot and the new-form’d brute.


CANTO XXXIII “The heathen, Lord! are come!” responsive thus, The trinal now, and now the virgin band Quaternion, their sweet psalmody began, Weeping; and Beatrice listen’d, sad And sighing, to the song’, in such a mood, That Mary, as she stood beside the cross, Was scarce more chang’d. But when they gave her place To speak, then, risen upright on her feet, She, with a colour glowing bright as fire, Did answer: “Yet a little while, and ye Shall see me not; and, my beloved sisters, Again a little while, and ye shall see me.”

Before her then she marshall’d all the seven, And, beck’ning only motion’d me, the dame, And that remaining sage, to follow her.

So on she pass’d; and had not set, I ween, Her tenth step to the ground, when with mine eyes Her eyes encounter’d; and, with visage mild, “So mend thy pace,” she cried, “that if my words Address thee, thou mayst still be aptly plac’d To hear them.” Soon as duly to her side I now had hasten’d: “Brother!” she began, “Why mak’st thou no attempt at questioning, As thus we walk together?” Like to those Who, speaking with too reverent an awe Before their betters, draw not forth the voice Alive unto their lips, befell me shell That I in sounds imperfect thus began: “Lady! what I have need of, that thou know’st, And what will suit my need.” She answering thus: “Of fearfulness and shame, I will, that thou Henceforth do rid thee: that thou speak no more, As one who dreams. Thus far be taught of me: The vessel, which thou saw’st the serpent break, Was and is not: let him, who hath the blame, Hope not to scare God’s vengeance with a sop. Without an heir for ever shall not be That eagle, he, who left the chariot plum’d, Which monster made it first and next a prey. Plainly I view, and therefore speak, the stars E’en now approaching, whose conjunction, free From all impediment and bar, brings on A season, in the which, one sent from God, (Five hundred, five, and ten, do mark him out) That foul one, and th’ accomplice of her guilt, The giant, both shall slay. And if perchance My saying, dark as Themis or as Sphinx, Fail to persuade thee, (since like them it foils The intellect with blindness) yet ere long Events shall be the Naiads, that will solve This knotty riddle, and no damage light On flock or field. Take heed; and as these words By me are utter’d, teach them even so To those who live that life, which is a race To death: and when thou writ’st them, keep in mind Not to conceal how thou hast seen the plant, That twice hath now been spoil’d. This whoso robs, This whoso plucks, with blasphemy of deed Sins against God, who for his use alone Creating hallow’d it. For taste of this, In pain and in desire, five thousand years And upward, the first soul did yearn for him, Who punish’d in himself the fatal gust.

“Thy reason slumbers, if it deem this height And summit thus inverted of the plant, Without due cause: and were not vainer thoughts, As Elsa’s numbing waters, to thy soul, And their fond pleasures had not dyed it dark As Pyramus the mulberry, thou hadst seen, In such momentous circumstance alone, God’s equal justice morally implied In the forbidden tree. But since I mark thee In understanding harden’d into stone, And, to that hardness, spotted too and stain’d, So that thine eye is dazzled at my word, I will, that, if not written, yet at least Painted thou take it in thee, for the cause, That one brings home his staff inwreath’d with palm.

I thus: “As wax by seal, that changeth not Its impress, now is stamp’d my brain by thee. But wherefore soars thy wish’d-for speech so high Beyond my sight, that loses it the more, The more it strains to reach it?”—“To the end That thou mayst know,” she answer’d straight, “the school, That thou hast follow’d; and how far behind, When following my discourse, its learning halts: And mayst behold your art, from the divine As distant, as the disagreement is ’Twixt earth and heaven’s most high and rapturous orb.”

“I not remember,” I replied, “that e’er I was estrang’d from thee, nor for such fault Doth conscience chide me.” Smiling she return’d: “If thou canst, not remember, call to mind How lately thou hast drunk of Lethe’s wave; And, sure as smoke doth indicate a flame, In that forgetfulness itself conclude Blame from thy alienated will incurr’d. From henceforth verily my words shall be As naked as will suit them to appear In thy unpractis’d view.” More sparkling now, And with retarded course the sun possess’d The circle of mid-day, that varies still As th’ aspect varies of each several clime, When, as one, sent in vaward of a troop For escort, pauses, if perchance he spy Vestige of somewhat strange and rare: so paus’d The sev’nfold band, arriving at the verge Of a dun umbrage hoar, such as is seen, Beneath green leaves and gloomy branches, oft To overbrow a bleak and alpine cliff. And, where they stood, before them, as it seem’d, Tigris and Euphrates both beheld, Forth from one fountain issue; and, like friends, Linger at parting. “O enlight’ning beam! O glory of our kind! beseech thee say What water this, which from one source deriv’d Itself removes to distance from itself?”

To such entreaty answer thus was made: “Entreat Matilda, that she teach thee this.”

And here, as one, who clears himself of blame Imputed, the fair dame return’d: “Of me He this and more hath learnt; and I am safe That Lethe’s water hath not hid it from him.”

And Beatrice: “Some more pressing care That oft the memory ’reeves, perchance hath made His mind’s eye dark. But lo! where Eunoe cows! Lead thither; and, as thou art wont, revive His fainting virtue.” As a courteous spirit, That proffers no excuses, but as soon As he hath token of another’s will, Makes it his own; when she had ta’en me, thus The lovely maiden mov’d her on, and call’d To Statius with an air most lady-like: “Come thou with him.” Were further space allow’d, Then, Reader, might I sing, though but in part, That beverage, with whose sweetness I had ne’er Been sated. But, since all the leaves are full, Appointed for this second strain, mine art With warning bridle checks me. I return’d From the most holy wave, regenerate, If ’en as new plants renew’d with foliage new, Pure and made apt for mounting to the stars.


PARADISE CANTO I His glory, by whose might all things are mov’d, Pierces the universe, and in one part Sheds more resplendence, elsewhere less. In heav’n, That largeliest of his light partakes, was I, Witness of things, which to relate again Surpasseth power of him who comes from thence; For that, so near approaching its desire Our intellect is to such depth absorb’d, That memory cannot follow. Nathless all, That in my thoughts I of that sacred realm Could store, shall now be matter of my song.

Benign Apollo! this last labour aid, And make me such a vessel of thy worth, As thy own laurel claims of me belov’d. Thus far hath one of steep Parnassus’ brows Suffic’d me; henceforth there is need of both For my remaining enterprise Do thou Enter into my bosom, and there breathe So, as when Marsyas by thy hand was dragg’d Forth from his limbs unsheath’d. O power divine! If thou to me of shine impart so much, That of that happy realm the shadow’d form Trac’d in my thoughts I may set forth to view, Thou shalt behold me of thy favour’d tree Come to the foot, and crown myself with leaves; For to that honour thou, and my high theme Will fit me. If but seldom, mighty Sire! To grace his triumph gathers thence a wreath Caesar or bard (more shame for human wills Deprav’d) joy to the Delphic god must spring From the Pierian foliage, when one breast Is with such thirst inspir’d. From a small spark Great flame hath risen: after me perchance Others with better voice may pray, and gain From the Cirrhaean city answer kind.

Through diver passages, the world’s bright lamp Rises to mortals, but through that which joins Four circles with the threefold cross, in best Course, and in happiest constellation set He comes, and to the worldly wax best gives Its temper and impression. Morning there, Here eve was by almost such passage made; And whiteness had o’erspread that hemisphere, Blackness the other part; when to the left I saw Beatrice turn’d, and on the sun Gazing, as never eagle fix’d his ken. As from the first a second beam is wont To issue, and reflected upwards rise, E’en as a pilgrim bent on his return, So of her act, that through the eyesight pass’d Into my fancy, mine was form’d; and straight, Beyond our mortal wont, I fix’d mine eyes Upon the sun. Much is allowed us there, That here exceeds our pow’r; thanks to the place Made for the dwelling of the human kind

I suffer’d it not long, and yet so long That I beheld it bick’ring sparks around, As iron that comes boiling from the fire. And suddenly upon the day appear’d A day new-ris’n, as he, who hath the power, Had with another sun bedeck’d the sky.

Her eyes fast fix’d on the eternal wheels, Beatrice stood unmov’d; and I with ken Fix’d upon her, from upward gaze remov’d At her aspect, such inwardly became As Glaucus, when he tasted of the herb, That made him peer among the ocean gods; Words may not tell of that transhuman change: And therefore let the example serve, though weak, For those whom grace hath better proof in store

If I were only what thou didst create, Then newly, Love! by whom the heav’n is rul’d, Thou know’st, who by thy light didst bear me up. Whenas the wheel which thou dost ever guide, Desired Spirit! with its harmony Temper’d of thee and measur’d, charm’d mine ear, Then seem’d to me so much of heav’n to blaze With the sun’s flame, that rain or flood ne’er made A lake so broad. The newness of the sound, And that great light, inflam’d me with desire, Keener than e’er was felt, to know their cause.

Whence she who saw me, clearly as myself, To calm my troubled mind, before I ask’d, Open’d her lips, and gracious thus began: “With false imagination thou thyself Mak’st dull, so that thou seest not the thing, Which thou hadst seen, had that been shaken off. Thou art not on the earth as thou believ’st; For light’ning scap’d from its own proper place Ne’er ran, as thou hast hither now return’d.”

Although divested of my first-rais’d doubt, By those brief words, accompanied with smiles, Yet in new doubt was I entangled more, And said: “Already satisfied, I rest From admiration deep, but now admire How I above those lighter bodies rise.”

Whence, after utt’rance of a piteous sigh, She tow’rds me bent her eyes, with such a look, As on her frenzied child a mother casts; Then thus began: “Among themselves all things Have order; and from hence the form, which makes The universe resemble God. In this The higher creatures see the printed steps Of that eternal worth, which is the end Whither the line is drawn. All natures lean, In this their order, diversely, some more, Some less approaching to their primal source. Thus they to different havens are mov’d on Through the vast sea of being, and each one With instinct giv’n, that bears it in its course; This to the lunar sphere directs the fire, This prompts the hearts of mortal animals, This the brute earth together knits, and binds. Nor only creatures, void of intellect, Are aim’d at by this bow; but even those, That have intelligence and love, are pierc’d. That Providence, who so well orders all, With her own light makes ever calm the heaven, In which the substance, that hath greatest speed, Is turn’d: and thither now, as to our seat Predestin’d, we are carried by the force Of that strong cord, that never looses dart, But at fair aim and glad. Yet is it true, That as ofttimes but ill accords the form To the design of art, through sluggishness Of unreplying matter, so this course Is sometimes quitted by the creature, who Hath power, directed thus, to bend elsewhere; As from a cloud the fire is seen to fall, From its original impulse warp’d, to earth, By vicious fondness. Thou no more admire Thy soaring, (if I rightly deem,) than lapse Of torrent downwards from a mountain’s height. There would in thee for wonder be more cause, If, free of hind’rance, thou hadst fix’d thyself Below, like fire unmoving on the earth.”

So said, she turn’d toward the heav’n her face.

CANTO II All ye, who in small bark have following sail’d, Eager to listen, on the advent’rous track Of my proud keel, that singing cuts its way, Backward return with speed, and your own shores Revisit, nor put out to open sea, Where losing me, perchance ye may remain Bewilder’d in deep maze. The way I pass Ne’er yet was run: Minerva breathes the gale, Apollo guides me, and another Nine To my rapt sight the arctic beams reveal. Ye other few, who have outstretch’d the neck. Timely for food of angels, on which here They live, yet never know satiety, Through the deep brine ye fearless may put out Your vessel, marking, well the furrow broad Before you in the wave, that on both sides Equal returns. Those, glorious, who pass’d o’er To Colchos, wonder’d not as ye will do, When they saw Jason following the plough.

The increate perpetual thirst, that draws Toward the realm of God’s own form, bore us Swift almost as the heaven ye behold.

Beatrice upward gaz’d, and I on her, And in such space as on the notch a dart Is plac’d, then loosen’d flies, I saw myself Arriv’d, where wond’rous thing engag’d my sight. Whence she, to whom no work of mine was hid, Turning to me, with aspect glad as fair, Bespake me: “Gratefully direct thy mind To God, through whom to this first star we come.”

Me seem’d as if a cloud had cover’d us, Translucent, solid, firm, and polish’d bright, Like adamant, which the sun’s beam had smit Within itself the ever-during pearl Receiv’d us, as the wave a ray of light Receives, and rests unbroken. If I then Was of corporeal frame, and it transcend Our weaker thought, how one dimension thus Another could endure, which needs must be If body enter body, how much more Must the desire inflame us to behold That essence, which discovers by what means God and our nature join’d! There will be seen That which we hold through faith, not shown by proof, But in itself intelligibly plain, E’en as the truth that man at first believes.

I answered: “Lady! I with thoughts devout, Such as I best can frame, give thanks to Him, Who hath remov’d me from the mortal world. But tell, I pray thee, whence the gloomy spots Upon this body, which below on earth Give rise to talk of Cain in fabling quaint?”

She somewhat smil’d, then spake: “If mortals err In their opinion, when the key of sense Unlocks not, surely wonder’s weapon keen Ought not to pierce thee; since thou find’st, the wings Of reason to pursue the senses’ flight Are short. But what thy own thought is, declare.”

Then I: “What various here above appears, Is caus’d, I deem, by bodies dense or rare.”

She then resum’d: “Thou certainly wilt see In falsehood thy belief o’erwhelm’d, if well Thou listen to the arguments, which I Shall bring to face it. The eighth sphere displays Numberless lights, the which in kind and size May be remark’d of different aspects; If rare or dense of that were cause alone, One single virtue then would be in all, Alike distributed, or more, or less. Different virtues needs must be the fruits Of formal principles, and these, save one, Will by thy reasoning be destroy’d. Beside, If rarity were of that dusk the cause, Which thou inquirest, either in some part That planet must throughout be void, nor fed With its own matter; or, as bodies share Their fat and leanness, in like manner this Must in its volume change the leaves. The first, If it were true, had through the sun’s eclipse Been manifested, by transparency Of light, as through aught rare beside effus’d. But this is not. Therefore remains to see The other cause: and if the other fall, Erroneous so must prove what seem’d to thee. If not from side to side this rarity Pass through, there needs must be a limit, whence Its contrary no further lets it pass. And hence the beam, that from without proceeds, Must be pour’d back, as colour comes, through glass Reflected, which behind it lead conceals. Now wilt thou say, that there of murkier hue Than in the other part the ray is shown, By being thence refracted farther back. From this perplexity will free thee soon Experience, if thereof thou trial make, The fountain whence your arts derive their streame. Three mirrors shalt thou take, and two remove From thee alike, and more remote the third. Betwixt the former pair, shall meet thine eyes; Then turn’d toward them, cause behind thy back A light to stand, that on the three shall shine, And thus reflected come to thee from all. Though that beheld most distant do not stretch A space so ample, yet in brightness thou Will own it equaling the rest. But now, As under snow the ground, if the warm ray Smites it, remains dismantled of the hue And cold, that cover’d it before, so thee, Dismantled in thy mind, I will inform With light so lively, that the tremulous beam Shall quiver where it falls. Within the heaven, Where peace divine inhabits, circles round A body, in whose virtue dies the being Of all that it contains. The following heaven, That hath so many lights, this being divides, Through different essences, from it distinct, And yet contain’d within it. The other orbs Their separate distinctions variously Dispose, for their own seed and produce apt. Thus do these organs of the world proceed, As thou beholdest now, from step to step, Their influences from above deriving, And thence transmitting downwards. Mark me well, How through this passage to the truth I ford, The truth thou lov’st, that thou henceforth alone, May’st know to keep the shallows, safe, untold.

“The virtue and motion of the sacred orbs, As mallet by the workman’s hand, must needs By blessed movers be inspir’d. This heaven, Made beauteous by so many luminaries, From the deep spirit, that moves its circling sphere, Its image takes an impress as a seal: And as the soul, that dwells within your dust, Through members different, yet together form’d, In different pow’rs resolves itself; e’en so The intellectual efficacy unfolds Its goodness multiplied throughout the stars; On its own unity revolving still. Different virtue compact different Makes with the precious body it enlivens, With which it knits, as life in you is knit. From its original nature full of joy, The virtue mingled through the body shines, As joy through pupil of the living eye. From hence proceeds, that which from light to light Seems different, and not from dense or rare. This is the formal cause, that generates Proportion’d to its power, the dusk or clear.”

CANTO III That sun, which erst with love my bosom warm’d Had of fair truth unveil’d the sweet aspect, By proof of right, and of the false reproof; And I, to own myself convinc’d and free Of doubt, as much as needed, rais’d my head Erect for speech. But soon a sight appear’d, Which, so intent to mark it, held me fix’d, That of confession I no longer thought.


As through translucent and smooth glass, or wave Clear and unmov’d, and flowing not so deep As that its bed is dark, the shape returns So faint of our impictur’d lineaments, That on white forehead set a pearl as strong Comes to the eye: such saw I many a face, All stretch’d to speak, from whence I straight conceiv’d Delusion opposite to that, which rais’d Between the man and fountain, amorous flame.

Sudden, as I perceiv’d them, deeming these Reflected semblances to see of whom They were, I turn’d mine eyes, and nothing saw; Then turn’d them back, directed on the light Of my sweet guide, who smiling shot forth beams From her celestial eyes. “Wonder not thou,” She cry’d, “at this my smiling, when I see Thy childish judgment; since not yet on truth It rests the foot, but, as it still is wont, Makes thee fall back in unsound vacancy. True substances are these, which thou behold’st, Hither through failure of their vow exil’d. But speak thou with them; listen, and believe, That the true light, which fills them with desire, Permits not from its beams their feet to stray.”

Straight to the shadow which for converse seem’d Most earnest, I addressed me, and began, As one by over-eagerness perplex’d: “O spirit, born for joy! who in the rays Of life eternal, of that sweetness know’st The flavour, which, not tasted, passes far All apprehension, me it well would please, If thou wouldst tell me of thy name, and this Your station here.” Whence she, with kindness prompt, And eyes glist’ning with smiles: “Our charity, To any wish by justice introduc’d, Bars not the door, no more than she above, Who would have all her court be like herself. I was a virgin sister in the earth; And if thy mind observe me well, this form, With such addition grac’d of loveliness, Will not conceal me long, but thou wilt know Piccarda, in the tardiest sphere thus plac’d, Here ’mid these other blessed also blest. Our hearts, whose high affections burn alone With pleasure, from the Holy Spirit conceiv’d, Admitted to his order dwell in joy. And this condition, which appears so low, Is for this cause assign’d us, that our vows Were in some part neglected and made void.”

Whence I to her replied: “Something divine Beams in your countenance, wond’rous fair, From former knowledge quite transmuting you. Therefore to recollect was I so slow. But what thou sayst hath to my memory Given now such aid, that to retrace your forms Is easier. Yet inform me, ye, who here Are happy, long ye for a higher place More to behold, and more in love to dwell?”

She with those other spirits gently smil’d, Then answer’d with such gladness, that she seem’d With love’s first flame to glow: “Brother! our will Is in composure settled by the power Of charity, who makes us will alone What we possess, and nought beyond desire; If we should wish to be exalted more, Then must our wishes jar with the high will Of him, who sets us here, which in these orbs Thou wilt confess not possible, if here To be in charity must needs befall, And if her nature well thou contemplate. Rather it is inherent in this state Of blessedness, to keep ourselves within The divine will, by which our wills with his Are one. So that as we from step to step Are plac’d throughout this kingdom, pleases all, E’en as our King, who in us plants his will; And in his will is our tranquillity; It is the mighty ocean, whither tends Whatever it creates and nature makes.”

Then saw I clearly how each spot in heav’n Is Paradise, though with like gracious dew The supreme virtue show’r not over all.

But as it chances, if one sort of food Hath satiated, and of another still The appetite remains, that this is ask’d, And thanks for that return’d; e’en so did I In word and motion, bent from her to learn What web it was, through which she had not drawn The shuttle to its point. She thus began: “Exalted worth and perfectness of life The Lady higher up enshrine in heaven, By whose pure laws upon your nether earth The robe and veil they wear, to that intent, That e’en till death they may keep watch or sleep With their great bridegroom, who accepts each vow, Which to his gracious pleasure love conforms. from the world, to follow her, when young Escap’d; and, in her vesture mantling me, Made promise of the way her sect enjoins. Thereafter men, for ill than good more apt, Forth snatch’d me from the pleasant cloister’s pale. God knows how after that my life was fram’d. This other splendid shape, which thou beholdst At my right side, burning with all the light Of this our orb, what of myself I tell May to herself apply. From her, like me A sister, with like violence were torn The saintly folds, that shaded her fair brows. E’en when she to the world again was brought In spite of her own will and better wont, Yet not for that the bosom’s inward veil Did she renounce. This is the luminary Of mighty Constance, who from that loud blast, Which blew the second over Suabia’s realm, That power produc’d, which was the third and last.”

She ceas’d from further talk, and then began “Ave Maria” singing, and with that song Vanish’d, as heavy substance through deep wave.

Mine eye, that far as it was capable, Pursued her, when in dimness she was lost, Turn’d to the mark where greater want impell’d, And bent on Beatrice all its gaze. But she as light’ning beam’d upon my looks: So that the sight sustain’d it not at first. Whence I to question her became less prompt.

CANTO IV Between two kinds of food, both equally Remote and tempting, first a man might die Of hunger, ere he one could freely choose. E’en so would stand a lamb between the maw Of two fierce wolves, in dread of both alike: E’en so between two deer a dog would stand, Wherefore, if I was silent, fault nor praise I to myself impute, by equal doubts Held in suspense, since of necessity It happen’d. Silent was I, yet desire Was painted in my looks; and thus I spake My wish more earnestly than language could.

As Daniel, when the haughty king he freed From ire, that spurr’d him on to deeds unjust And violent; so look’d Beatrice then.

“Well I discern,” she thus her words address’d, “How contrary desires each way constrain thee, So that thy anxious thought is in itself Bound up and stifled, nor breathes freely forth. Thou arguest; if the good intent remain; What reason that another’s violence Should stint the measure of my fair desert?

“Cause too thou findst for doubt, in that it seems, That spirits to the stars, as Plato deem’d, Return. These are the questions which thy will Urge equally; and therefore I the first Of that will treat which hath the more of gall. Of seraphim he who is most ensky’d, Moses and Samuel, and either John, Choose which thou wilt, nor even Mary’s self, Have not in any other heav’n their seats, Than have those spirits which so late thou saw’st; Nor more or fewer years exist; but all Make the first circle beauteous, diversely Partaking of sweet life, as more or less Afflation of eternal bliss pervades them. Here were they shown thee, not that fate assigns This for their sphere, but for a sign to thee Of that celestial furthest from the height. Thus needs, that ye may apprehend, we speak: Since from things sensible alone ye learn That, which digested rightly after turns To intellectual. For no other cause The scripture, condescending graciously To your perception, hands and feet to God Attributes, nor so means: and holy church Doth represent with human countenance Gabriel, and Michael, and him who made Tobias whole. Unlike what here thou seest, The judgment of Timaeus, who affirms Each soul restor’d to its particular star, Believing it to have been taken thence, When nature gave it to inform her mold: Since to appearance his intention is E’en what his words declare: or else to shun Derision, haply thus he hath disguis’d His true opinion. If his meaning be, That to the influencing of these orbs revert The honour and the blame in human acts, Perchance he doth not wholly miss the truth. This principle, not understood aright, Erewhile perverted well nigh all the world; So that it fell to fabled names of Jove, And Mercury, and Mars. That other doubt, Which moves thee, is less harmful; for it brings No peril of removing thee from me.

“That, to the eye of man, our justice seems Unjust, is argument for faith, and not For heretic declension. To the end This truth may stand more clearly in your view, I will content thee even to thy wish

“If violence be, when that which suffers, nought Consents to that which forceth, not for this These spirits stood exculpate. For the will, That will not, still survives unquench’d, and doth As nature doth in fire, tho’ violence Wrest it a thousand times; for, if it yield Or more or less, so far it follows force. And thus did these, whom they had power to seek The hallow’d place again. In them, had will Been perfect, such as once upon the bars Held Laurence firm, or wrought in Scaevola To his own hand remorseless, to the path, Whence they were drawn, their steps had hasten’d back, When liberty return’d: but in too few Resolve so steadfast dwells. And by these words If duly weigh’d, that argument is void, Which oft might have perplex’d thee still. But now Another question thwarts thee, which to solve Might try thy patience without better aid. I have, no doubt, instill’d into thy mind, That blessed spirit may not lie; since near The source of primal truth it dwells for aye: And thou might’st after of Piccarda learn That Constance held affection to the veil; So that she seems to contradict me here. Not seldom, brother, it hath chanc’d for men To do what they had gladly left undone, Yet to shun peril they have done amiss: E’en as Alcmaeon, at his father’s suit Slew his own mother, so made pitiless Not to lose pity. On this point bethink thee, That force and will are blended in such wise As not to make the’ offence excusable. Absolute will agrees not to the wrong, That inasmuch as there is fear of woe From non-compliance, it agrees. Of will Thus absolute Piccarda spake, and I Of th’ other; so that both have truly said.”

Such was the flow of that pure rill, that well’d From forth the fountain of all truth; and such The rest, that to my wond’ring thoughts I found.

“O thou of primal love the prime delight! Goddess!” I straight reply’d, “whose lively words Still shed new heat and vigour through my soul! Affection fails me to requite thy grace With equal sum of gratitude: be his To recompense, who sees and can reward thee. Well I discern, that by that truth alone Enlighten’d, beyond which no truth may roam, Our mind can satisfy her thirst to know: Therein she resteth, e’en as in his lair The wild beast, soon as she hath reach’d that bound, And she hath power to reach it; else desire Were given to no end. And thence doth doubt Spring, like a shoot, around the stock of truth; And it is nature which from height to height On to the summit prompts us. This invites, This doth assure me, lady, rev’rently To ask thee of other truth, that yet Is dark to me. I fain would know, if man By other works well done may so supply The failure of his vows, that in your scale They lack not weight.” I spake; and on me straight Beatrice look’d with eyes that shot forth sparks Of love celestial in such copious stream, That, virtue sinking in me overpower’d, I turn’d, and downward bent confus’d my sight.

CANTO V “If beyond earthly wont, the flame of love Illume me, so that I o’ercome thy power Of vision, marvel not: but learn the cause In that perfection of the sight, which soon As apprehending, hasteneth on to reach The good it apprehends. I well discern, How in thine intellect already shines The light eternal, which to view alone Ne’er fails to kindle love; and if aught else Your love seduces, ’t is but that it shows Some ill-mark’d vestige of that primal beam.

“This would’st thou know, if failure of the vow By other service may be so supplied, As from self-question to assure the soul.”

Thus she her words, not heedless of my wish, Began; and thus, as one who breaks not off Discourse, continued in her saintly strain. “Supreme of gifts, which God creating gave Of his free bounty, sign most evident Of goodness, and in his account most priz’d, Was liberty of will, the boon wherewith All intellectual creatures, and them sole He hath endow’d. Hence now thou mayst infer Of what high worth the vow, which so is fram’d That when man offers, God well-pleas’d accepts; For in the compact between God and him, This treasure, such as I describe it to thee, He makes the victim, and of his own act. What compensation therefore may he find? If that, whereof thou hast oblation made, By using well thou think’st to consecrate, Thou would’st of theft do charitable deed. Thus I resolve thee of the greater point.

“But forasmuch as holy church, herein Dispensing, seems to contradict the truth I have discover’d to thee, yet behooves Thou rest a little longer at the board, Ere the crude aliment, which thou hast taken, Digested fitly to nutrition turn. Open thy mind to what I now unfold, And give it inward keeping. Knowledge comes Of learning well retain’d, unfruitful else.

“This sacrifice in essence of two things Consisteth; one is that, whereof ’t is made, The covenant the other. For the last, It ne’er is cancell’d if not kept: and hence I spake erewhile so strictly of its force. For this it was enjoin’d the Israelites, Though leave were giv’n them, as thou know’st, to change The offering, still to offer. Th’ other part, The matter and the substance of the vow, May well be such, to that without offence It may for other substance be exchang’d. But at his own discretion none may shift The burden on his shoulders, unreleas’d By either key, the yellow and the white. Nor deem of any change, as less than vain, If the last bond be not within the new Included, as the quatre in the six. No satisfaction therefore can be paid For what so precious in the balance weighs, That all in counterpoise must kick the beam. Take then no vow at random: ta’en, with faith Preserve it; yet not bent, as Jephthah once, Blindly to execute a rash resolve, Whom better it had suited to exclaim, ‘I have done ill,’ than to redeem his pledge By doing worse or, not unlike to him In folly, that great leader of the Greeks: Whence, on the alter, Iphigenia mourn’d Her virgin beauty, and hath since made mourn Both wise and simple, even all, who hear Of so fell sacrifice. Be ye more staid, O Christians, not, like feather, by each wind Removable: nor think to cleanse ourselves In every water. Either testament, The old and new, is yours: and for your guide The shepherd of the church let this suffice To save you. When by evil lust entic’d, Remember ye be men, not senseless beasts; Nor let the Jew, who dwelleth in your streets, Hold you in mock’ry. Be not, as the lamb, That, fickle wanton, leaves its mother’s milk, To dally with itself in idle play.”

Such were the words that Beatrice spake: These ended, to that region, where the world Is liveliest, full of fond desire she turn’d.

Though mainly prompt new question to propose, Her silence and chang’d look did keep me dumb. And as the arrow, ere the cord is still, Leapeth unto its mark; so on we sped Into the second realm. There I beheld The dame, so joyous enter, that the orb Grew brighter at her smiles; and, if the star Were mov’d to gladness, what then was my cheer, Whom nature hath made apt for every change!


As in a quiet and clear lake the fish, If aught approach them from without, do draw Towards it, deeming it their food; so drew Full more than thousand splendours towards us, And in each one was heard: “Lo! one arriv’d To multiply our loves!” and as each came The shadow, streaming forth effulgence new, Witness’d augmented joy. Here, reader! think, If thou didst miss the sequel of my tale, To know the rest how sorely thou wouldst crave; And thou shalt see what vehement desire Possess’d me, as soon as these had met my view, To know their state. “O born in happy hour! Thou to whom grace vouchsafes, or ere thy close Of fleshly warfare, to behold the thrones Of that eternal triumph, know to us The light communicated, which through heaven Expatiates without bound. Therefore, if aught Thou of our beams wouldst borrow for thine aid, Spare not; and of our radiance take thy fill.”

Thus of those piteous spirits one bespake me; And Beatrice next: “Say on; and trust As unto gods!”—“How in the light supreme Thou harbour’st, and from thence the virtue bring’st, That, sparkling in thine eyes, denotes thy joy, l mark; but, who thou art, am still to seek; Or wherefore, worthy spirit! for thy lot This sphere assign’d, that oft from mortal ken Is veil’d by others’ beams.” I said, and turn’d Toward the lustre, that with greeting, kind Erewhile had hail’d me. Forthwith brighter far Than erst, it wax’d: and, as himself the sun Hides through excess of light, when his warm gaze Hath on the mantle of thick vapours prey’d; Within its proper ray the saintly shape Was, through increase of gladness, thus conceal’d; And, shrouded so in splendour answer’d me, E’en as the tenour of my song declares.

CANTO VI “After that Constantine the eagle turn’d Against the motions of the heav’n, that roll’d Consenting with its course, when he of yore, Lavinia’s spouse, was leader of the flight, A hundred years twice told and more, his seat At Europe’s extreme point, the bird of Jove Held, near the mountains, whence he issued first. There, under shadow of his sacred plumes Swaying the world, till through successive hands To mine he came devolv’d. Caesar I was, And am Justinian; destin’d by the will Of that prime love, whose influence I feel, From vain excess to clear th’ encumber’d laws. Or ere that work engag’d me, I did hold Christ’s nature merely human, with such faith Contented. But the blessed Agapete, Who was chief shepherd, he with warning voice To the true faith recall’d me. I believ’d His words: and what he taught, now plainly see, As thou in every contradiction seest The true and false oppos’d. Soon as my feet Were to the church reclaim’d, to my great task, By inspiration of God’s grace impell’d, I gave me wholly, and consign’d mine arms To Belisarius, with whom heaven’s right hand Was link’d in such conjointment, ’t was a sign That I should rest. To thy first question thus I shape mine answer, which were ended here, But that its tendency doth prompt perforce To some addition; that thou well, mayst mark What reason on each side they have to plead, By whom that holiest banner is withstood, Both who pretend its power and who oppose. “Beginning from that hour, when Pallas died To give it rule, behold the valorous deeds Have made it worthy reverence. Not unknown To thee, how for three hundred years and more It dwelt in Alba, up to those fell lists Where for its sake were met the rival three; Nor aught unknown to thee, which it achiev’d Down to the Sabines’ wrong to Lucrece’ woe, With its sev’n kings conqu’ring the nation round; Nor all it wrought, by Roman worthies home ’Gainst Brennus and th’ Epirot prince, and hosts Of single chiefs, or states in league combin’d Of social warfare; hence Torquatus stern, And Quintius nam’d of his neglected locks, The Decii, and the Fabii hence acquir’d Their fame, which I with duteous zeal embalm. By it the pride of Arab hordes was quell’d, When they led on by Hannibal o’erpass’d The Alpine rocks, whence glide thy currents, Po! Beneath its guidance, in their prime of days Scipio and Pompey triumph’d; and that hill, Under whose summit thou didst see the light, Rued its stern bearing. After, near the hour, When heav’n was minded that o’er all the world His own deep calm should brood, to Caesar’s hand Did Rome consign it; and what then it wrought From Var unto the Rhine, saw Isere’s flood, Saw Loire and Seine, and every vale, that fills The torrent Rhone. What after that it wrought, When from Ravenna it came forth, and leap’d The Rubicon, was of so bold a flight, That tongue nor pen may follow it. Tow’rds Spain It wheel’d its bands, then tow’rd Dyrrachium smote, And on Pharsalia with so fierce a plunge, E’en the warm Nile was conscious to the pang; Its native shores Antandros, and the streams Of Simois revisited, and there Where Hector lies; then ill for Ptolemy His pennons shook again; lightning thence fell On Juba; and the next upon your west, At sound of the Pompeian trump, return’d.

“What following and in its next bearer’s gripe It wrought, is now by Cassius and Brutus Bark’d off in hell, and by Perugia’s sons And Modena’s was mourn’d. Hence weepeth still Sad Cleopatra, who, pursued by it, Took from the adder black and sudden death. With him it ran e’en to the Red Sea coast; With him compos’d the world to such a peace, That of his temple Janus barr’d the door.

“But all the mighty standard yet had wrought, And was appointed to perform thereafter, Throughout the mortal kingdom which it sway’d, Falls in appearance dwindled and obscur’d, If one with steady eye and perfect thought On the third Caesar look; for to his hands, The living Justice, in whose breath I move, Committed glory, e’en into his hands, To execute the vengeance of its wrath.

“Hear now and wonder at what next I tell. After with Titus it was sent to wreak Vengeance for vengeance of the ancient sin, And, when the Lombard tooth, with fangs impure, Did gore the bosom of the holy church, Under its wings victorious, Charlemagne Sped to her rescue. Judge then for thyself Of those, whom I erewhile accus’d to thee, What they are, and how grievous their offending, Who are the cause of all your ills. The one Against the universal ensign rears The yellow lilies, and with partial aim That to himself the other arrogates: So that ’t is hard to see which more offends. Be yours, ye Ghibellines, to veil your arts Beneath another standard: ill is this Follow’d of him, who severs it and justice: And let not with his Guelphs the new-crown’d Charles Assail it, but those talons hold in dread, Which from a lion of more lofty port Have rent the easing. Many a time ere now The sons have for the sire’s transgression wail’d; Nor let him trust the fond belief, that heav’n Will truck its armour for his lilied shield.

“This little star is furnish’d with good spirits, Whose mortal lives were busied to that end, That honour and renown might wait on them: And, when desires thus err in their intention, True love must needs ascend with slacker beam. But it is part of our delight, to measure Our wages with the merit; and admire The close proportion. Hence doth heav’nly justice Temper so evenly affection in us, It ne’er can warp to any wrongfulness. Of diverse voices is sweet music made: So in our life the different degrees Render sweet harmony among these wheels.

“Within the pearl, that now encloseth us, Shines Romeo’s light, whose goodly deed and fair Met ill acceptance. But the Provencals, That were his foes, have little cause for mirth. Ill shapes that man his course, who makes his wrong Of other’s worth. Four daughters were there born To Raymond Berenger, and every one Became a queen; and this for him did Romeo, Though of mean state and from a foreign land. Yet envious tongues incited him to ask A reckoning of that just one, who return’d Twelve fold to him for ten. Aged and poor He parted thence: and if the world did know The heart he had, begging his life by morsels, ’T would deem the praise, it yields him, scantly dealt.”

CANTO VII “Hosanna Sanctus Deus Sabaoth Superillustrans claritate tua Felices ignes horum malahoth!” Thus chanting saw I turn that substance bright With fourfold lustre to its orb again, Revolving; and the rest unto their dance With it mov’d also; and like swiftest sparks, In sudden distance from my sight were veil’d.

Me doubt possess’d, and “Speak,” it whisper’d me, “Speak, speak unto thy lady, that she quench Thy thirst with drops of sweetness.” Yet blank awe, Which lords it o’er me, even at the sound Of Beatrice’s name, did bow me down As one in slumber held. Not long that mood Beatrice suffer’d: she, with such a smile, As might have made one blest amid the flames, Beaming upon me, thus her words began: “Thou in thy thought art pond’ring (as I deem), And what I deem is truth how just revenge Could be with justice punish’d: from which doubt I soon will free thee; so thou mark my words; For they of weighty matter shall possess thee.

“That man, who was unborn, himself condemn’d, And, in himself, all, who since him have liv’d, His offspring: whence, below, the human kind Lay sick in grievous error many an age; Until it pleas’d the Word of God to come Amongst them down, to his own person joining The nature, from its Maker far estrang’d, By the mere act of his eternal love. Contemplate here the wonder I unfold. The nature with its Maker thus conjoin’d, Created first was blameless, pure and good; But through itself alone was driven forth From Paradise, because it had eschew’d The way of truth and life, to evil turn’d. Ne’er then was penalty so just as that Inflicted by the cross, if thou regard The nature in assumption doom’d: ne’er wrong So great, in reference to him, who took Such nature on him, and endur’d the doom. God therefore and the Jews one sentence pleased: So different effects flow’d from one act, And heav’n was open’d, though the earth did quake. Count it not hard henceforth, when thou dost hear That a just vengeance was by righteous court Justly reveng’d. But yet I see thy mind By thought on thought arising sore perplex’d, And with how vehement desire it asks Solution of the maze. What I have heard, Is plain, thou sayst: but wherefore God this way For our redemption chose, eludes my search.

“Brother! no eye of man not perfected, Nor fully ripen’d in the flame of love, May fathom this decree. It is a mark, In sooth, much aim’d at, and but little kenn’d: And I will therefore show thee why such way Was worthiest. The celestial love, that spume All envying in its bounty, in itself With such effulgence blazeth, as sends forth All beauteous things eternal. What distils Immediate thence, no end of being knows, Bearing its seal immutably impress’d. Whatever thence immediate falls, is free, Free wholly, uncontrollable by power Of each thing new: by such conformity More grateful to its author, whose bright beams, Though all partake their shining, yet in those Are liveliest, which resemble him the most. These tokens of pre-eminence on man Largely bestow’d, if any of them fail, He needs must forfeit his nobility, No longer stainless. Sin alone is that, Which doth disfranchise him, and make unlike To the chief good; for that its light in him Is darken’d. And to dignity thus lost Is no return; unless, where guilt makes void, He for ill pleasure pay with equal pain. Your nature, which entirely in its seed Trangress’d, from these distinctions fell, no less Than from its state in Paradise; nor means Found of recovery (search all methods out As strickly as thou may) save one of these, The only fords were left through which to wade, Either that God had of his courtesy Releas’d him merely, or else man himself For his own folly by himself aton’d.

“Fix now thine eye, intently as thou canst, On th’ everlasting counsel, and explore, Instructed by my words, the dread abyss.

“Man in himself had ever lack’d the means Of satisfaction, for he could not stoop Obeying, in humility so low, As high he, disobeying, thought to soar: And for this reason he had vainly tried Out of his own sufficiency to pay The rigid satisfaction. Then behooved That God should by his own ways lead him back Unto the life, from whence he fell, restor’d: By both his ways, I mean, or one alone. But since the deed is ever priz’d the more, The more the doer’s good intent appears, Goodness celestial, whose broad signature Is on the universe, of all its ways To raise ye up, was fain to leave out none, Nor aught so vast or so magnificent, Either for him who gave or who receiv’d Between the last night and the primal day, Was or can be. For God more bounty show’d. Giving himself to make man capable Of his return to life, than had the terms Been mere and unconditional release. And for his justice, every method else Were all too scant, had not the Son of God Humbled himself to put on mortal flesh.

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

“I see, thou sayst, the air, the fire I see, The earth and water, and all things of them Compounded, to corruption turn, and soon Dissolve. Yet these were also things create, Because, if what were told me, had been true They from corruption had been therefore free.

“The angels, O my brother! and this clime Wherein thou art, impassible and pure, I call created, as indeed they are In their whole being. But the elements, Which thou hast nam’d, and what of them is made, Are by created virtue’ inform’d: create Their substance, and create the’ informing virtue In these bright stars, that round them circling move The soul of every brute and of each plant, The ray and motion of the sacred lights, With complex potency attract and turn. But this our life the’ eternal good inspires Immediate, and enamours of itself; So that our wishes rest for ever here.

“And hence thou mayst by inference conclude Our resurrection certain, if thy mind Consider how the human flesh was fram’d, When both our parents at the first were made.”

CANTO VIII The world was in its day of peril dark Wont to believe the dotage of fond love From the fair Cyprian deity, who rolls In her third epicycle, shed on men By stream of potent radiance: therefore they Of elder time, in their old error blind, Not her alone with sacrifice ador’d And invocation, but like honours paid To Cupid and Dione, deem’d of them Her mother, and her son, him whom they feign’d To sit in Dido’s bosom: and from her, Whom I have sung preluding, borrow’d they The appellation of that star, which views, Now obvious and now averse, the sun.

I was not ware that I was wafted up Into its orb; but the new loveliness That grac’d my lady, gave me ample proof That we had entered there. And as in flame A sparkle is distinct, or voice in voice Discern’d, when one its even tenour keeps, The other comes and goes; so in that light I other luminaries saw, that cours’d In circling motion rapid more or less, As their eternal phases each impels.

Never was blast from vapour charged with cold, Whether invisible to eye or no, Descended with such speed, it had not seem’d To linger in dull tardiness, compar’d To those celestial lights, that tow’rds us came, Leaving the circuit of their joyous ring, Conducted by the lofty seraphim. And after them, who in the van appear’d, Such an hosanna sounded, as hath left Desire, ne’er since extinct in me, to hear Renew’d the strain. Then parting from the rest One near us drew, and sole began: “We all Are ready at thy pleasure, well dispos’d To do thee gentle service. We are they, To whom thou in the world erewhile didst Sing ‘O ye! whose intellectual ministry Moves the third heaven!’ and in one orb we roll, One motion, one impulse, with those who rule Princedoms in heaven; yet are of love so full, That to please thee ’t will be as sweet to rest.”

After mine eyes had with meek reverence Sought the celestial guide, and were by her Assur’d, they turn’d again unto the light Who had so largely promis’d, and with voice That bare the lively pressure of my zeal, “Tell who ye are,” I cried. Forthwith it grew In size and splendour, through augmented joy; And thus it answer’d: “A short date below The world possess’d me. Had the time been more, Much evil, that will come, had never chanc’d. My gladness hides thee from me, which doth shine Around, and shroud me, as an animal In its own silk unswath’d. Thou lov’dst me well, And had’st good cause; for had my sojourning Been longer on the earth, the love I bare thee Had put forth more than blossoms. The left bank, That Rhone, when he hath mix’d with Sorga, laves.”


“In me its lord expected, and that horn Of fair Ausonia, with its boroughs old, Bari, and Croton, and Gaeta pil’d, From where the Trento disembogues his waves, With Verde mingled, to the salt sea-flood. Already on my temples beam’d the crown, Which gave me sov’reignty over the land By Danube wash’d, whenas he strays beyond The limits of his German shores. The realm, Where, on the gulf by stormy Eurus lash’d, Betwixt Pelorus and Pachynian heights, The beautiful Trinacria lies in gloom (Not through Typhaeus, but the vap’ry cloud Bituminous upsteam’d), THAT too did look To have its scepter wielded by a race Of monarchs, sprung through me from Charles and Rodolph; had not ill lording which doth spirit up The people ever, in Palermo rais’d The shout of ‘death,’ re-echo’d loud and long. Had but my brother’s foresight kenn’d as much, He had been warier that the greedy want Of Catalonia might not work his bale. And truly need there is, that he forecast, Or other for him, lest more freight be laid On his already over-laden bark. Nature in him, from bounty fall’n to thrift, Would ask the guard of braver arms, than such As only care to have their coffers fill’d.”

“My liege, it doth enhance the joy thy words Infuse into me, mighty as it is, To think my gladness manifest to thee, As to myself, who own it, when thou lookst Into the source and limit of all good, There, where thou markest that which thou dost speak, Thence priz’d of me the more. Glad thou hast made me. Now make intelligent, clearing the doubt Thy speech hath raised in me; for much I muse, How bitter can spring up, when sweet is sown.”

I thus inquiring; he forthwith replied: “If I have power to show one truth, soon that Shall face thee, which thy questioning declares Behind thee now conceal’d. The Good, that guides And blessed makes this realm, which thou dost mount, Ordains its providence to be the virtue In these great bodies: nor th’ all perfect Mind Upholds their nature merely, but in them Their energy to save: for nought, that lies Within the range of that unerring bow, But is as level with the destin’d aim, As ever mark to arrow’s point oppos’d. Were it not thus, these heavens, thou dost visit, Would their effect so work, it would not be Art, but destruction; and this may not chance, If th’ intellectual powers, that move these stars, Fail not, or who, first faulty made them fail. Wilt thou this truth more clearly evidenc’d?”

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

He straight rejoin’d: “Say, were it worse for man, If he liv’d not in fellowship on earth?”

“Yea,” answer’d I; “nor here a reason needs.”

“And may that be, if different estates Grow not of different duties in your life? Consult your teacher, and he tells you ‘no’.”

Thus did he come, deducing to this point, And then concluded: “For this cause behooves, The roots, from whence your operations come, Must differ. Therefore one is Solon born; Another, Xerxes; and Melchisidec A third; and he a fourth, whose airy voyage Cost him his son. In her circuitous course, Nature, that is the seal to mortal wax, Doth well her art, but no distinctions owns ’Twixt one or other household. Hence befalls That Esau is so wide of Jacob: hence Quirinus of so base a father springs, He dates from Mars his lineage. Were it not That providence celestial overrul’d, Nature, in generation, must the path Trac’d by the generator, still pursue Unswervingly. Thus place I in thy sight That, which was late behind thee. But, in sign Of more affection for thee, ’t is my will Thou wear this corollary. Nature ever Finding discordant fortune, like all seed Out of its proper climate, thrives but ill. And were the world below content to mark And work on the foundation nature lays, It would not lack supply of excellence. But ye perversely to religion strain Him, who was born to gird on him the sword, And of the fluent phrasemen make your king; Therefore your steps have wander’d from the paths.”

CANTO IX After solution of my doubt, thy Charles, O fair Clemenza, of the treachery spake That must befall his seed: but, “Tell it not,” Said he, “and let the destin’d years come round.” Nor may I tell thee more, save that the meed Of sorrow well-deserv’d shall quit your wrongs.

And now the visage of that saintly light Was to the sun, that fills it, turn’d again, As to the good, whose plenitude of bliss Sufficeth all. O ye misguided souls! Infatuate, who from such a good estrange Your hearts, and bend your gaze on vanity, Alas for you!—And lo! toward me, next, Another of those splendent forms approach’d, That, by its outward bright’ning, testified The will it had to pleasure me. The eyes Of Beatrice, resting, as before, Firmly upon me, manifested forth Approval of my wish. “And O,” I cried, “Blest spirit! quickly be my will perform’d; And prove thou to me, that my inmost thoughts I can reflect on thee.” Thereat the light, That yet was new to me, from the recess, Where it before was singing, thus began, As one who joys in kindness: “In that part Of the deprav’d Italian land, which lies Between Rialto, and the fountain-springs Of Brenta and of Piava, there doth rise, But to no lofty eminence, a hill, From whence erewhile a firebrand did descend, That sorely sheet the region. From one root I and it sprang; my name on earth Cunizza: And here I glitter, for that by its light This star o’ercame me. Yet I naught repine, Nor grudge myself the cause of this my lot, Which haply vulgar hearts can scarce conceive.

“This jewel, that is next me in our heaven, Lustrous and costly, great renown hath left, And not to perish, ere these hundred years Five times absolve their round. Consider thou, If to excel be worthy man’s endeavour, When such life may attend the first. Yet they Care not for this, the crowd that now are girt By Adice and Tagliamento, still Impenitent, tho’ scourg’d. The hour is near, When for their stubbornness at Padua’s marsh The water shall be chang’d, that laves Vicena And where Cagnano meets with Sile, one Lords it, and bears his head aloft, for whom The web is now a-warping. Feltro too Shall sorrow for its godless shepherd’s fault, Of so deep stain, that never, for the like, Was Malta’s bar unclos’d. Too large should be The skillet, that would hold Ferrara’s blood, And wearied he, who ounce by ounce would weight it, The which this priest, in show of party-zeal, Courteous will give; nor will the gift ill suit The country’s custom. We descry above, Mirrors, ye call them thrones, from which to us Reflected shine the judgments of our God: Whence these our sayings we avouch for good.”

She ended, and appear’d on other thoughts Intent, re-ent’ring on the wheel she late Had left. That other joyance meanwhile wax’d A thing to marvel at, in splendour glowing, Like choicest ruby stricken by the sun, For, in that upper clime, effulgence comes Of gladness, as here laughter: and below, As the mind saddens, murkier grows the shade.

“God seeth all: and in him is thy sight,” Said I, “blest Spirit! Therefore will of his Cannot to thee be dark. Why then delays Thy voice to satisfy my wish untold, That voice which joins the inexpressive song, Pastime of heav’n, the which those ardours sing, That cowl them with six shadowing wings outspread? I would not wait thy asking, wert thou known To me, as thoroughly I to thee am known.”

He forthwith answ’ring, thus his words began: “The valley’ of waters, widest next to that Which doth the earth engarland, shapes its course, Between discordant shores, against the sun Inward so far, it makes meridian there, Where was before th’ horizon. Of that vale Dwelt I upon the shore, ’twixt Ebro’s stream And Macra’s, that divides with passage brief Genoan bounds from Tuscan. East and west Are nearly one to Begga and my land, Whose haven erst was with its own blood warm. Who knew my name were wont to call me Folco: And I did bear impression of this heav’n, That now bears mine: for not with fiercer flame Glow’d Belus’ daughter, injuring alike Sichaeus and Creusa, than did I, Long as it suited the unripen’d down That fledg’d my cheek: nor she of Rhodope, That was beguiled of Demophoon; Nor Jove’s son, when the charms of Iole Were shrin’d within his heart. And yet there hides No sorrowful repentance here, but mirth, Not for the fault (that doth not come to mind), But for the virtue, whose o’erruling sway And providence have wrought thus quaintly. Here The skill is look’d into, that fashioneth With such effectual working, and the good Discern’d, accruing to this upper world From that below. But fully to content Thy wishes, all that in this sphere have birth, Demands my further parle. Inquire thou wouldst, Who of this light is denizen, that here Beside me sparkles, as the sun-beam doth On the clear wave. Know then, the soul of Rahab Is in that gladsome harbour, to our tribe United, and the foremost rank assign’d. He to that heav’n, at which the shadow ends Of your sublunar world, was taken up, First, in Christ’s triumph, of all souls redeem’d: For well behoov’d, that, in some part of heav’n, She should remain a trophy, to declare The mighty contest won with either palm; For that she favour’d first the high exploit Of Joshua on the holy land, whereof The Pope recks little now. Thy city, plant Of him, that on his Maker turn’d the back, And of whose envying so much woe hath sprung, Engenders and expands the cursed flower, That hath made wander both the sheep and lambs, Turning the shepherd to a wolf. For this, The gospel and great teachers laid aside, The decretals, as their stuft margins show, Are the sole study. Pope and Cardinals, Intent on these, ne’er journey but in thought To Nazareth, where Gabriel op’d his wings. Yet it may chance, erelong, the Vatican, And other most selected parts of Rome, That were the grave of Peter’s soldiery, Shall be deliver’d from the adult’rous bond.”

CANTO X Looking into his first-born with the love, Which breathes from both eternal, the first Might Ineffable, whence eye or mind Can roam, hath in such order all dispos’d, As none may see and fail to enjoy. Raise, then, O reader! to the lofty wheels, with me, Thy ken directed to the point, whereat One motion strikes on th’ other. There begin Thy wonder of the mighty Architect, Who loves his work so inwardly, his eye Doth ever watch it. See, how thence oblique Brancheth the circle, where the planets roll To pour their wished influence on the world; Whose path not bending thus, in heav’n above Much virtue would be lost, and here on earth, All power well nigh extinct: or, from direct Were its departure distant more or less, I’ th’ universal order, great defect Must, both in heav’n and here beneath, ensue.

Now rest thee, reader! on thy bench, and muse Anticipative of the feast to come; So shall delight make thee not feel thy toil. Lo! I have set before thee, for thyself Feed now: the matter I indite, henceforth Demands entire my thought. Join’d with the part, Which late we told of, the great minister Of nature, that upon the world imprints The virtue of the heaven, and doles out Time for us with his beam, went circling on Along the spires, where each hour sooner comes; And I was with him, weetless of ascent, As one, who till arriv’d, weets not his coming.

For Beatrice, she who passeth on So suddenly from good to better, time Counts not the act, oh then how great must needs Have been her brightness! What she was i’ th’ sun (Where I had enter’d), not through change of hue, But light transparent—did I summon up Genius, art, practice—I might not so speak, It should be e’er imagin’d: yet believ’d It may be, and the sight be justly crav’d. And if our fantasy fail of such height, What marvel, since no eye above the sun Hath ever travel’d? Such are they dwell here, Fourth family of the Omnipotent Sire, Who of his spirit and of his offspring shows; And holds them still enraptur’d with the view. And thus to me Beatrice: “Thank, oh thank, The Sun of angels, him, who by his grace To this perceptible hath lifted thee.”

Never was heart in such devotion bound, And with complacency so absolute Dispos’d to render up itself to God, As mine was at those words: and so entire The love for Him, that held me, it eclips’d Beatrice in oblivion. Naught displeas’d Was she, but smil’d thereat so joyously, That of her laughing eyes the radiance brake And scatter’d my collected mind abroad.

Then saw I a bright band, in liveliness Surpassing, who themselves did make the crown, And us their centre: yet more sweet in voice, Than in their visage beaming. Cinctur’d thus, Sometime Latona’s daughter we behold, When the impregnate air retains the thread, That weaves her zone. In the celestial court, Whence I return, are many jewels found, So dear and beautiful, they cannot brook Transporting from that realm: and of these lights Such was the song. Who doth not prune his wing To soar up thither, let him look from thence For tidings from the dumb. When, singing thus, Those burning suns that circled round us thrice, As nearest stars around the fixed pole, Then seem’d they like to ladies, from the dance Not ceasing, but suspense, in silent pause, List’ning, till they have caught the strain anew: Suspended so they stood: and, from within, Thus heard I one, who spake: “Since with its beam The grace, whence true love lighteth first his flame, That after doth increase by loving, shines So multiplied in thee, it leads thee up Along this ladder, down whose hallow’d steps None e’er descend, and mount them not again, Who from his phial should refuse thee wine To slake thy thirst, no less constrained were, Than water flowing not unto the sea. Thou fain wouldst hear, what plants are these, that bloom In the bright garland, which, admiring, girds This fair dame round, who strengthens thee for heav’n. I then was of the lambs, that Dominic Leads, for his saintly flock, along the way, Where well they thrive, not sworn with vanity. He, nearest on my right hand, brother was, And master to me: Albert of Cologne Is this: and of Aquinum, Thomas I. If thou of all the rest wouldst be assur’d, Let thine eye, waiting on the words I speak, In circuit journey round the blessed wreath. That next resplendence issues from the smile Of Gratian, who to either forum lent Such help, as favour wins in Paradise. The other, nearest, who adorns our quire, Was Peter, he that with the widow gave To holy church his treasure. The fifth light, Goodliest of all, is by such love inspired, That all your world craves tidings of its doom: Within, there is the lofty light, endow’d With sapience so profound, if truth be truth, That with a ken of such wide amplitude No second hath arisen. Next behold That taper’s radiance, to whose view was shown, Clearliest, the nature and the ministry Angelical, while yet in flesh it dwelt. In the other little light serenely smiles That pleader for the Christian temples, he Who did provide Augustin of his lore. Now, if thy mind’s eye pass from light to light, Upon my praises following, of the eighth Thy thirst is next. The saintly soul, that shows The world’s deceitfulness, to all who hear him, Is, with the sight of all the good, that is, Blest there. The limbs, whence it was driven, lie Down in Cieldauro, and from martyrdom And exile came it here. Lo! further on, Where flames the arduous Spirit of Isidore, Of Bede, and Richard, more than man, erewhile, In deep discernment. Lastly this, from whom Thy look on me reverteth, was the beam Of one, whose spirit, on high musings bent, Rebuk’d the ling’ring tardiness of death. It is the eternal light of Sigebert, Who ’scap’d not envy, when of truth he argued, Reading in the straw-litter’d street.” Forthwith, As clock, that calleth up the spouse of God To win her bridegroom’s love at matin’s hour, Each part of other fitly drawn and urg’d, Sends out a tinkling sound, of note so sweet, Affection springs in well-disposed breast; Thus saw I move the glorious wheel, thus heard Voice answ’ring voice, so musical and soft, It can be known but where day endless shines.

CANTO XI O fond anxiety of mortal men! How vain and inconclusive arguments Are those, which make thee beat thy wings below For statues one, and one for aphorisms Was hunting; this the priesthood follow’d, that By force or sophistry aspir’d to rule; To rob another, and another sought By civil business wealth; one moiling lay Tangled in net of sensual delight, And one to witless indolence resign’d; What time from all these empty things escap’d, With Beatrice, I thus gloriously Was rais’d aloft, and made the guest of heav’n.

They of the circle to that point, each one. Where erst it was, had turn’d; and steady glow’d, As candle in his socket. Then within The lustre, that erewhile bespake me, smiling With merer gladness, heard I thus begin:

“E’en as his beam illumes me, so I look Into the eternal light, and clearly mark Thy thoughts, from whence they rise. Thou art in doubt, And wouldst, that I should bolt my words afresh In such plain open phrase, as may be smooth To thy perception, where I told thee late That ‘well they thrive;’ and that ‘no second such Hath risen,’ which no small distinction needs.

“The providence, that governeth the world, In depth of counsel by created ken Unfathomable, to the end that she, Who with loud cries was ’spous’d in precious blood, Might keep her footing towards her well-belov’d, Safe in herself and constant unto him, Hath two ordain’d, who should on either hand In chief escort her: one seraphic all In fervency; for wisdom upon earth, The other splendour of cherubic light. I but of one will tell: he tells of both, Who one commendeth which of them so’er Be taken: for their deeds were to one end.

“Between Tupino, and the wave, that falls From blest Ubaldo’s chosen hill, there hangs Rich slope of mountain high, whence heat and cold Are wafted through Perugia’s eastern gate: And Norcera with Gualdo, in its rear Mourn for their heavy yoke. Upon that side, Where it doth break its steepness most, arose A sun upon the world, as duly this From Ganges doth: therefore let none, who speak Of that place, say Ascesi; for its name Were lamely so deliver’d; but the East, To call things rightly, be it henceforth styl’d. He was not yet much distant from his rising, When his good influence ’gan to bless the earth. A dame to whom none openeth pleasure’s gate More than to death, was, ’gainst his father’s will, His stripling choice: and he did make her his, Before the Spiritual court, by nuptial bonds, And in his father’s sight: from day to day, Then lov’d her more devoutly. She, bereav’d Of her first husband, slighted and obscure, Thousand and hundred years and more, remain’d Without a single suitor, till he came. Nor aught avail’d, that, with Amyclas, she Was found unmov’d at rumour of his voice, Who shook the world: nor aught her constant boldness Whereby with Christ she mounted on the cross, When Mary stay’d beneath. But not to deal Thus closely with thee longer, take at large The rovers’ titles—Poverty and Francis. Their concord and glad looks, wonder and love, And sweet regard gave birth to holy thoughts, So much, that venerable Bernard first Did bare his feet, and, in pursuit of peace So heavenly, ran, yet deem’d his footing slow. O hidden riches! O prolific good! Egidius bares him next, and next Sylvester, And follow both the bridegroom; so the bride Can please them. Thenceforth goes he on his way, The father and the master, with his spouse, And with that family, whom now the cord Girt humbly: nor did abjectness of heart Weigh down his eyelids, for that he was son Of Pietro Bernardone, and by men In wond’rous sort despis’d. But royally His hard intention he to Innocent Set forth, and from him first receiv’d the seal On his religion. Then, when numerous flock’d The tribe of lowly ones, that trac’d HIS steps, Whose marvellous life deservedly were sung In heights empyreal, through Honorius’ hand A second crown, to deck their Guardian’s virtues, Was by the eternal Spirit inwreath’d: and when He had, through thirst of martyrdom, stood up In the proud Soldan’s presence, and there preach’d Christ and his followers; but found the race Unripen’d for conversion: back once more He hasted (not to intermit his toil), And reap’d Ausonian lands. On the hard rock, ’Twixt Arno and the Tyber, he from Christ Took the last Signet, which his limbs two years Did carry. Then the season come, that he, Who to such good had destin’d him, was pleas’d T’ advance him to the meed, which he had earn’d By his self-humbling, to his brotherhood, As their just heritage, he gave in charge His dearest lady, and enjoin’d their love And faith to her: and, from her bosom, will’d His goodly spirit should move forth, returning To its appointed kingdom, nor would have His body laid upon another bier.

“Think now of one, who were a fit colleague, To keep the bark of Peter in deep sea Helm’d to right point; and such our Patriarch was. Therefore who follow him, as he enjoins, Thou mayst be certain, take good lading in. But hunger of new viands tempts his flock, So that they needs into strange pastures wide Must spread them: and the more remote from him The stragglers wander, so much mole they come Home to the sheep-fold, destitute of milk. There are of them, in truth, who fear their harm, And to the shepherd cleave; but these so few, A little stuff may furnish out their cloaks.

“Now, if my words be clear, if thou have ta’en Good heed, if that, which I have told, recall To mind, thy wish may be in part fulfill’d: For thou wilt see the point from whence they split, Nor miss of the reproof, which that implies, ‘That well they thrive not sworn with vanity.’”

CANTO XII Soon as its final word the blessed flame Had rais’d for utterance, straight the holy mill Began to wheel, nor yet had once revolv’d, Or ere another, circling, compass’d it, Motion to motion, song to song, conjoining, Song, that as much our muses doth excel, Our Sirens with their tuneful pipes, as ray Of primal splendour doth its faint reflex.


As when, if Juno bid her handmaid forth, Two arches parallel, and trick’d alike, Span the thin cloud, the outer taking birth From that within (in manner of that voice Whom love did melt away, as sun the mist), And they who gaze, presageful call to mind The compact, made with Noah, of the world No more to be o’erflow’d; about us thus Of sempiternal roses, bending, wreath’d Those garlands twain, and to the innermost E’en thus th’ external answered. When the footing, And other great festivity, of song, And radiance, light with light accordant, each Jocund and blythe, had at their pleasure still’d (E’en as the eyes by quick volition mov’d, Are shut and rais’d together), from the heart Of one amongst the new lights mov’d a voice, That made me seem like needle to the star, In turning to its whereabout, and thus Began: “The love, that makes me beautiful, Prompts me to tell of th’ other guide, for whom Such good of mine is spoken. Where one is, The other worthily should also be; That as their warfare was alike, alike Should be their glory. Slow, and full of doubt, And with thin ranks, after its banner mov’d The army of Christ (which it so clearly cost To reappoint), when its imperial Head, Who reigneth ever, for the drooping host Did make provision, thorough grace alone, And not through its deserving. As thou heard’st, Two champions to the succour of his spouse He sent, who by their deeds and words might join Again his scatter’d people. In that clime, Where springs the pleasant west-wind to unfold The fresh leaves, with which Europe sees herself New-garmented; nor from those billows far, Beyond whose chiding, after weary course, The sun doth sometimes hide him, safe abides The happy Callaroga, under guard Of the great shield, wherein the lion lies Subjected and supreme. And there was born The loving million of the Christian faith, The hollow’d wrestler, gentle to his own, And to his enemies terrible. So replete His soul with lively virtue, that when first Created, even in the mother’s womb, It prophesied. When, at the sacred font, The spousals were complete ’twixt faith and him, Where pledge of mutual safety was exchang’d, The dame, who was his surety, in her sleep Beheld the wondrous fruit, that was from him And from his heirs to issue. And that such He might be construed, as indeed he was, She was inspir’d to name him of his owner, Whose he was wholly, and so call’d him Dominic. And I speak of him, as the labourer, Whom Christ in his own garden chose to be His help-mate. Messenger he seem’d, and friend Fast-knit to Christ; and the first love he show’d, Was after the first counsel that Christ gave. Many a time his nurse, at entering found That he had ris’n in silence, and was prostrate, As who should say, “My errand was for this.” O happy father! Felix rightly nam’d! O favour’d mother! rightly nam’d Joanna! If that do mean, as men interpret it. Not for the world’s sake, for which now they pore Upon Ostiense and Taddeo’s page, But for the real manna, soon he grew Mighty in learning, and did set himself To go about the vineyard, that soon turns To wan and wither’d, if not tended well: And from the see (whose bounty to the just And needy is gone by, not through its fault, But his who fills it basely, he besought, No dispensation for commuted wrong, Nor the first vacant fortune, nor the tenth), That to God’s paupers rightly appertain, But, ’gainst an erring and degenerate world, Licence to fight, in favour of that seed, From which the twice twelve cions gird thee round. Then, with sage doctrine and good will to help, Forth on his great apostleship he far’d, Like torrent bursting from a lofty vein; And, dashing ’gainst the stocks of heresy, Smote fiercest, where resistance was most stout. Thence many rivulets have since been turn’d, Over the garden Catholic to lead Their living waters, and have fed its plants.

“If such one wheel of that two-yoked car, Wherein the holy church defended her, And rode triumphant through the civil broil. Thou canst not doubt its fellow’s excellence, Which Thomas, ere my coming, hath declar’d So courteously unto thee. But the track, Which its smooth fellies made, is now deserted: That mouldy mother is where late were lees. His family, that wont to trace his path, Turn backward, and invert their steps; erelong To rue the gathering in of their ill crop, When the rejected tares in vain shall ask Admittance to the barn. I question not But he, who search’d our volume, leaf by leaf, Might still find page with this inscription on’t, ‘I am as I was wont.’ Yet such were not From Acquasparta nor Casale, whence Of those, who come to meddle with the text, One stretches and another cramps its rule. Bonaventura’s life in me behold, From Bagnororegio, one, who in discharge Of my great offices still laid aside All sinister aim. Illuminato here, And Agostino join me: two they were, Among the first of those barefooted meek ones, Who sought God’s friendship in the cord: with them Hugues of Saint Victor, Pietro Mangiadore, And he of Spain in his twelve volumes shining, Nathan the prophet, Metropolitan Chrysostom, and Anselmo, and, who deign’d To put his hand to the first art, Donatus. Raban is here: and at my side there shines Calabria’s abbot, Joachim, endow’d With soul prophetic. The bright courtesy Of friar Thomas, and his goodly lore, Have mov’d me to the blazon of a peer So worthy, and with me have mov’d this throng.”

CANTO XIII Let him, who would conceive what now I saw, Imagine (and retain the image firm, As mountain rock, the whilst he hears me speak), Of stars fifteen, from midst the ethereal host Selected, that, with lively ray serene, O’ercome the massiest air: thereto imagine The wain, that, in the bosom of our sky, Spins ever on its axle night and day, With the bright summit of that horn which swells Due from the pole, round which the first wheel rolls, T’ have rang’d themselves in fashion of two signs In heav’n, such as Ariadne made, When death’s chill seized her; and that one of them Did compass in the other’s beam; and both In such sort whirl around, that each should tend With opposite motion and, conceiving thus, Of that true constellation, and the dance Twofold, that circled me, he shall attain As ’t were the shadow; for things there as much Surpass our usage, as the swiftest heav’n Is swifter than the Chiana. There was sung No Bacchus, and no Io Paean, but Three Persons in the Godhead, and in one Substance that nature and the human join’d.

The song fulfill’d its measure; and to us Those saintly lights attended, happier made At each new minist’ring. Then silence brake, Amid th’ accordant sons of Deity, That luminary, in which the wondrous life Of the meek man of God was told to me; And thus it spake: “One ear o’ th’ harvest thresh’d, And its grain safely stor’d, sweet charity Invites me with the other to like toil.

“Thou know’st, that in the bosom, whence the rib Was ta’en to fashion that fair cheek, whose taste All the world pays for, and in that, which pierc’d By the keen lance, both after and before Such satisfaction offer’d, as outweighs Each evil in the scale, whate’er of light To human nature is allow’d, must all Have by his virtue been infus’d, who form’d Both one and other: and thou thence admir’st In that I told thee, of beatitudes A second, there is none, to his enclos’d In the fifth radiance. Open now thine eyes To what I answer thee; and thou shalt see Thy deeming and my saying meet in truth, As centre in the round. That which dies not, And that which can die, are but each the beam Of that idea, which our Soverign Sire Engendereth loving; for that lively light, Which passeth from his brightness; not disjoin’d From him, nor from his love triune with them, Doth, through his bounty, congregate itself, Mirror’d, as ’t were in new existences, Itself unalterable and ever one.

“Descending hence unto the lowest powers, Its energy so sinks, at last it makes But brief contingencies: for so I name Things generated, which the heav’nly orbs Moving, with seed or without seed, produce. Their wax, and that which molds it, differ much: And thence with lustre, more or less, it shows Th’ ideal stamp impress: so that one tree According to his kind, hath better fruit, And worse: and, at your birth, ye, mortal men, Are in your talents various. Were the wax Molded with nice exactness, and the heav’n In its disposing influence supreme, The lustre of the seal should be complete: But nature renders it imperfect ever, Resembling thus the artist in her work, Whose faultering hand is faithless to his skill. Howe’er, if love itself dispose, and mark The primal virtue, kindling with bright view, There all perfection is vouchsafed; and such The clay was made, accomplish’d with each gift, That life can teem with; such the burden fill’d The virgin’s bosom: so that I commend Thy judgment, that the human nature ne’er Was or can be, such as in them it was.

“Did I advance no further than this point, ‘How then had he no peer?’ thou might’st reply. But, that what now appears not, may appear Right plainly, ponder, who he was, and what (When he was bidden ‘Ask’), the motive sway’d To his requesting. I have spoken thus, That thou mayst see, he was a king, who ask’d For wisdom, to the end he might be king Sufficient: not the number to search out Of the celestial movers; or to know, If necessary with contingent e’er Have made necessity; or whether that Be granted, that first motion is; or if Of the mid circle can, by art, be made Triangle with each corner, blunt or sharp.

“Whence, noting that, which I have said, and this, Thou kingly prudence and that ken mayst learn, At which the dart of my intention aims. And, marking clearly, that I told thee, ‘Risen,’ Thou shalt discern it only hath respect To kings, of whom are many, and the good Are rare. With this distinction take my words; And they may well consist with that which thou Of the first human father dost believe, And of our well-beloved. And let this Henceforth be led unto thy feet, to make Thee slow in motion, as a weary man, Both to the ‘yea’ and to the ‘nay’ thou seest not. For he among the fools is down full low, Whose affirmation, or denial, is Without distinction, in each case alike Since it befalls, that in most instances Current opinion leads to false: and then Affection bends the judgment to her ply.

“Much more than vainly doth he loose from shore, Since he returns not such as he set forth, Who fishes for the truth and wanteth skill. And open proofs of this unto the world Have been afforded in Parmenides, Melissus, Bryso, and the crowd beside, Who journey’d on, and knew not whither: so did Sabellius, Arius, and the other fools, Who, like to scymitars, reflected back The scripture-image, by distortion marr’d.

“Let not the people be too swift to judge, As one who reckons on the blades in field, Or ere the crop be ripe. For I have seen The thorn frown rudely all the winter long And after bear the rose upon its top; And bark, that all the way across the sea Ran straight and speedy, perish at the last, E’en in the haven’s mouth seeing one steal, Another brine, his offering to the priest, Let not Dame Birtha and Sir Martin thence Into heav’n’s counsels deem that they can pry: For one of these may rise, the other fall.”

CANTO XIV From centre to the circle, and so back From circle to the centre, water moves In the round chalice, even as the blow Impels it, inwardly, or from without. Such was the image glanc’d into my mind, As the great spirit of Aquinum ceas’d; And Beatrice after him her words Resum’d alternate: “Need there is (tho’ yet He tells it to you not in words, nor e’en In thought) that he should fathom to its depth Another mystery. Tell him, if the light, Wherewith your substance blooms, shall stay with you Eternally, as now: and, if it doth, How, when ye shall regain your visible forms, The sight may without harm endure the change, That also tell.” As those, who in a ring Tread the light measure, in their fitful mirth Raise loud the voice, and spring with gladder bound; Thus, at the hearing of that pious suit, The saintly circles in their tourneying And wond’rous note attested new delight.

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

Him, who lives ever, and for ever reigns In mystic union of the Three in One, Unbounded, bounding all, each spirit thrice Sang, with such melody, as but to hear For highest merit were an ample meed. And from the lesser orb the goodliest light, With gentle voice and mild, such as perhaps The angel’s once to Mary, thus replied: “Long as the joy of Paradise shall last, Our love shall shine around that raiment, bright, As fervent; fervent, as in vision blest; And that as far in blessedness exceeding, As it hath grave beyond its virtue great. Our shape, regarmented with glorious weeds Of saintly flesh, must, being thus entire, Show yet more gracious. Therefore shall increase, Whate’er of light, gratuitous, imparts The Supreme Good; light, ministering aid, The better disclose his glory: whence The vision needs increasing, much increase The fervour, which it kindles; and that too The ray, that comes from it. But as the greed Which gives out flame, yet it its whiteness shines More lively than that, and so preserves Its proper semblance; thus this circling sphere Of splendour, shall to view less radiant seem, Than shall our fleshly robe, which yonder earth Now covers. Nor will such excess of light O’erpower us, in corporeal organs made Firm, and susceptible of all delight.”

So ready and so cordial an “Amen,” Followed from either choir, as plainly spoke Desire of their dead bodies; yet perchance Not for themselves, but for their kindred dear, Mothers and sires, and those whom best they lov’d, Ere they were made imperishable flame.

And lo! forthwith there rose up round about A lustre over that already there, Of equal clearness, like the brightening up Of the horizon. As at an evening hour Of twilight, new appearances through heav’n Peer with faint glimmer, doubtfully descried; So there new substances, methought began To rise in view; and round the other twain Enwheeling, sweep their ampler circuit wide.

O gentle glitter of eternal beam! With what a such whiteness did it flow, O’erpowering vision in me! But so fair, So passing lovely, Beatrice show’d, Mind cannot follow it, nor words express Her infinite sweetness. Thence mine eyes regain’d Power to look up, and I beheld myself, Sole with my lady, to more lofty bliss Translated: for the star, with warmer smile Impurpled, well denoted our ascent.


With all the heart, and with that tongue which speaks The same in all, an holocaust I made To God, befitting the new grace vouchsaf’d. And from my bosom had not yet upsteam’d The fuming of that incense, when I knew The rite accepted. With such mighty sheen And mantling crimson, in two listed rays The splendours shot before me, that I cried, “God of Sabaoth! that does prank them thus!”


As leads the galaxy from pole to pole, Distinguish’d into greater lights and less, Its pathway, which the wisest fail to spell; So thickly studded, in the depth of Mars, Those rays describ’d the venerable sign, That quadrants in the round conjoining frame. Here memory mocks the toil of genius. Christ Beam’d on that cross; and pattern fails me now. But whoso takes his cross, and follows Christ Will pardon me for that I leave untold, When in the flecker’d dawning he shall spy The glitterance of Christ. From horn to horn, And ’tween the summit and the base did move Lights, scintillating, as they met and pass’d. Thus oft are seen, with ever-changeful glance, Straight or athwart, now rapid and now slow, The atomies of bodies, long or short, To move along the sunbeam, whose slant line Checkers the shadow, interpos’d by art Against the noontide heat. And as the chime Of minstrel music, dulcimer, and help With many strings, a pleasant dining makes To him, who heareth not distinct the note; So from the lights, which there appear’d to me, Gather’d along the cross a melody, That, indistinctly heard, with ravishment Possess’d me. Yet I mark’d it was a hymn Of lofty praises; for there came to me “Arise and conquer,” as to one who hears And comprehends not. Me such ecstasy O’ercame, that never till that hour was thing That held me in so sweet imprisonment.

Perhaps my saying over bold appears, Accounting less the pleasure of those eyes, Whereon to look fulfilleth all desire. But he, who is aware those living seals Of every beauty work with quicker force, The higher they are ris’n; and that there I had not turn’d me to them; he may well Excuse me that, whereof in my excuse I do accuse me, and may own my truth; That holy pleasure here not yet reveal’d, Which grows in transport as we mount aloof.

CANTO XV True love, that ever shows itself as clear In kindness, as loose appetite in wrong, Silenced that lyre harmonious, and still’d The sacred chords, that are by heav’n’s right hand Unwound and tighten’d, flow to righteous prayers Should they not hearken, who, to give me will For praying, in accordance thus were mute? He hath in sooth good cause for endless grief, Who, for the love of thing that lasteth not, Despoils himself forever of that love.

As oft along the still and pure serene, At nightfall, glides a sudden trail of fire, Attracting with involuntary heed The eye to follow it, erewhile at rest, And seems some star that shifted place in heav’n, Only that, whence it kindles, none is lost, And it is soon extinct; thus from the horn, That on the dexter of the cross extends, Down to its foot, one luminary ran From mid the cluster shone there; yet no gem Dropp’d from its foil; and through the beamy list Like flame in alabaster, glow’d its course.

So forward stretch’d him (if of credence aught Our greater muse may claim) the pious ghost Of old Anchises, in the’ Elysian bower, When he perceiv’d his son. “O thou, my blood! O most exceeding grace divine! to whom, As now to thee, hath twice the heav’nly gate Been e’er unclos’d?” so spake the light; whence I Turn’d me toward him; then unto my dame My sight directed, and on either side Amazement waited me; for in her eyes Was lighted such a smile, I thought that mine Had div’d unto the bottom of my grace And of my bliss in Paradise. Forthwith To hearing and to sight grateful alike, The spirit to his proem added things I understood not, so profound he spake; Yet not of choice but through necessity Mysterious; for his high conception scar’d Beyond the mark of mortals. When the flight Of holy transport had so spent its rage, That nearer to the level of our thought The speech descended, the first sounds I heard Were, “Best he thou, Triunal Deity! That hast such favour in my seed vouchsaf’d!” Then follow’d: “No unpleasant thirst, tho’ long, Which took me reading in the sacred book, Whose leaves or white or dusky never change, Thou hast allay’d, my son, within this light, From whence my voice thou hear’st; more thanks to her. Who for such lofty mounting has with plumes Begirt thee. Thou dost deem thy thoughts to me From him transmitted, who is first of all, E’en as all numbers ray from unity; And therefore dost not ask me who I am, Or why to thee more joyous I appear, Than any other in this gladsome throng. The truth is as thou deem’st; for in this hue Both less and greater in that mirror look, In which thy thoughts, or ere thou think’st, are shown. But, that the love, which keeps me wakeful ever, Urging with sacred thirst of sweet desire, May be contended fully, let thy voice, Fearless, and frank and jocund, utter forth Thy will distinctly, utter forth the wish, Whereto my ready answer stands decreed.”

I turn’d me to Beatrice; and she heard Ere I had spoken, smiling, an assent, That to my will gave wings; and I began “To each among your tribe, what time ye kenn’d The nature, in whom naught unequal dwells, Wisdom and love were in one measure dealt; For that they are so equal in the sun, From whence ye drew your radiance and your heat, As makes all likeness scant. But will and means, In mortals, for the cause ye well discern, With unlike wings are fledge. A mortal I Experience inequality like this, And therefore give no thanks, but in the heart, For thy paternal greeting. This howe’er I pray thee, living topaz! that ingemm’st This precious jewel, let me hear thy name.”

“I am thy root, O leaf! whom to expect Even, hath pleas’d me:” thus the prompt reply Prefacing, next it added: “he, of whom Thy kindred appellation comes, and who, These hundred years and more, on its first ledge Hath circuited the mountain, was my son And thy great grandsire. Well befits, his long Endurance should be shorten’d by thy deeds.

“Florence, within her ancient limit-mark, Which calls her still to matin prayers and noon, Was chaste and sober, and abode in peace. She had no armlets and no head-tires then, No purfled dames, no zone, that caught the eye More than the person did. Time was not yet, When at his daughter’s birth the sire grew pale. For fear the age and dowry should exceed On each side just proportion. House was none Void of its family; nor yet had come Hardanapalus, to exhibit feats Of chamber prowess. Montemalo yet O’er our suburban turret rose; as much To be surpass in fall, as in its rising. I saw Bellincione Berti walk abroad In leathern girdle and a clasp of bone; And, with no artful colouring on her cheeks, His lady leave the glass. The sons I saw Of Nerli and of Vecchio well content With unrob’d jerkin; and their good dames handling The spindle and the flax; O happy they! Each sure of burial in her native land, And none left desolate a-bed for France! One wak’d to tend the cradle, hushing it With sounds that lull’d the parent’s infancy: Another, with her maidens, drawing off The tresses from the distaff, lectur’d them Old tales of Troy and Fesole and Rome. A Salterello and Cianghella we Had held as strange a marvel, as ye would A Cincinnatus or Cornelia now.

“In such compos’d and seemly fellowship, Such faithful and such fair equality, In so sweet household, Mary at my birth Bestow’d me, call’d on with loud cries; and there In your old baptistery, I was made Christian at once and Cacciaguida; as were My brethren, Eliseo and Moronto.

“From Valdipado came to me my spouse, And hence thy surname grew. I follow’d then The Emperor Conrad; and his knighthood he Did gird on me; in such good part he took My valiant service. After him I went To testify against that evil law, Whose people, by the shepherd’s fault, possess Your right, usurping. There, by that foul crew Was I releas’d from the deceitful world, Whose base affection many a spirit soils, And from the martyrdom came to this peace.”

CANTO XVI O slight respect of man’s nobility! I never shall account it marvelous, That our infirm affection here below Thou mov’st to boasting, when I could not choose, E’en in that region of unwarp’d desire, In heav’n itself, but make my vaunt in thee! Yet cloak thou art soon shorten’d, for that time, Unless thou be eked out from day to day, Goes round thee with his shears. Resuming then With greeting such, as Rome, was first to bear, But since hath disaccustom’d I began; And Beatrice, that a little space Was sever’d, smil’d reminding me of her, Whose cough embolden’d (as the story holds) To first offence the doubting Guenever.

“You are my sire,” said I, “you give me heart Freely to speak my thought: above myself You raise me. Through so many streams with joy My soul is fill’d, that gladness wells from it; So that it bears the mighty tide, and bursts not Say then, my honour’d stem! what ancestors Where those you sprang from, and what years were mark’d In your first childhood? Tell me of the fold, That hath Saint John for guardian, what was then Its state, and who in it were highest seated?”

As embers, at the breathing of the wind, Their flame enliven, so that light I saw Shine at my blandishments; and, as it grew More fair to look on, so with voice more sweet, Yet not in this our modern phrase, forthwith It answer’d: “From the day, when it was said ‘Hail Virgin!’ to the throes, by which my mother, Who now is sainted, lighten’d her of me Whom she was heavy with, this fire had come, Five hundred fifty times and thrice, its beams To reilumine underneath the foot Of its own lion. They, of whom I sprang, And I, had there our birth-place, where the last Partition of our city first is reach’d By him, that runs her annual game. Thus much Suffice of my forefathers: who they were, And whence they hither came, more honourable It is to pass in silence than to tell. All those, who in that time were there from Mars Until the Baptist, fit to carry arms, Were but the fifth of them this day alive. But then the citizen’s blood, that now is mix’d From Campi and Certaldo and Fighine, Ran purely through the last mechanic’s veins. O how much better were it, that these people Were neighbours to you, and that at Galluzzo And at Trespiano, ye should have your bound’ry, Than to have them within, and bear the stench Of Aguglione’s hind, and Signa’s, him, That hath his eye already keen for bart’ring! Had not the people, which of all the world Degenerates most, been stepdame unto Caesar, But, as a mother, gracious to her son; Such one, as hath become a Florentine, And trades and traffics, had been turn’d adrift To Simifonte, where his grandsire ply’d The beggar’s craft. The Conti were possess’d Of Montemurlo still: the Cerchi still Were in Acone’s parish; nor had haply From Valdigrieve past the Buondelmonte. The city’s malady hath ever source In the confusion of its persons, as The body’s, in variety of food: And the blind bull falls with a steeper plunge, Than the blind lamb; and oftentimes one sword Doth more and better execution, Than five. Mark Luni, Urbisaglia mark, How they are gone, and after them how go Chiusi and Sinigaglia; and ’t will seem No longer new or strange to thee to hear, That families fail, when cities have their end. All things, that appertain t’ ye, like yourselves, Are mortal: but mortality in some Ye mark not, they endure so long, and you Pass by so suddenly. And as the moon Doth, by the rolling of her heav’nly sphere, Hide and reveal the strand unceasingly; So fortune deals with Florence. Hence admire not At what of them I tell thee, whose renown Time covers, the first Florentines. I saw The Ughi, Catilini and Filippi, The Alberichi, Greci and Ormanni, Now in their wane, illustrious citizens: And great as ancient, of Sannella him, With him of Arca saw, and Soldanieri And Ardinghi, and Bostichi. At the poop, That now is laden with new felony, So cumb’rous it may speedily sink the bark, The Ravignani sat, of whom is sprung The County Guido, and whoso hath since His title from the fam’d Bellincione ta’en. Fair governance was yet an art well priz’d By him of Pressa: Galigaio show’d The gilded hilt and pommel, in his house. The column, cloth’d with verrey, still was seen Unshaken: the Sacchetti still were great, Giouchi, Sifanti, Galli and Barucci, With them who blush to hear the bushel nam’d. Of the Calfucci still the branchy trunk Was in its strength: and to the curule chairs Sizii and Arigucci yet were drawn. How mighty them I saw, whom since their pride Hath undone! and in all her goodly deeds Florence was by the bullets of bright gold O’erflourish’d. Such the sires of those, who now, As surely as your church is vacant, flock Into her consistory, and at leisure There stall them and grow fat. The o’erweening brood, That plays the dragon after him that flees, But unto such, as turn and show the tooth, Ay or the purse, is gentle as a lamb, Was on its rise, but yet so slight esteem’d, That Ubertino of Donati grudg’d His father-in-law should yoke him to its tribe. Already Caponsacco had descended Into the mart from Fesole: and Giuda And Infangato were good citizens. A thing incredible I tell, tho’ true: The gateway, named from those of Pera, led Into the narrow circuit of your walls. Each one, who bears the sightly quarterings Of the great Baron (he whose name and worth The festival of Thomas still revives) His knighthood and his privilege retain’d; Albeit one, who borders them With gold, This day is mingled with the common herd. In Borgo yet the Gualterotti dwelt, And Importuni: well for its repose Had it still lack’d of newer neighbourhood. The house, from whence your tears have had their spring, Through the just anger that hath murder’d ye And put a period to your gladsome days, Was honour’d, it, and those consorted with it. O Buondelmonte! what ill counseling Prevail’d on thee to break the plighted bond Many, who now are weeping, would rejoice, Had God to Ema giv’n thee, the first time Thou near our city cam’st. But so was doom’d: On that maim’d stone set up to guard the bridge, At thy last peace, the victim, Florence! fell. With these and others like to them, I saw Florence in such assur’d tranquility, She had no cause at which to grieve: with these Saw her so glorious and so just, that ne’er The lily from the lance had hung reverse, Or through division been with vermeil dyed.”


CANTO XVII Such as the youth, who came to Clymene To certify himself of that reproach, Which had been fasten’d on him, (he whose end Still makes the fathers chary to their sons), E’en such was I; nor unobserv’d was such Of Beatrice, and that saintly lamp, Who had erewhile for me his station mov’d; When thus by lady: “Give thy wish free vent, That it may issue, bearing true report Of the mind’s impress; not that aught thy words May to our knowledge add, but to the end, That thou mayst use thyself to own thy thirst And men may mingle for thee when they hear.”

“O plant! from whence I spring! rever’d and lov’d! Who soar’st so high a pitch, thou seest as clear, As earthly thought determines two obtuse In one triangle not contain’d, so clear Dost see contingencies, ere in themselves Existent, looking at the point whereto All times are present, I, the whilst I scal’d With Virgil the soul purifying mount, And visited the nether world of woe, Touching my future destiny have heard Words grievous, though I feel me on all sides Well squar’d to fortune’s blows. Therefore my will Were satisfied to know the lot awaits me, The arrow, seen beforehand, slacks its flight.”

So said I to the brightness, which erewhile To me had spoken, and my will declar’d, As Beatrice will’d, explicitly. Nor with oracular response obscure, Such, as or ere the Lamb of God was slain, Beguil’d the credulous nations; but, in terms Precise and unambiguous lore, replied The spirit of paternal love, enshrin’d, Yet in his smile apparent; and thus spake: “Contingency, unfolded not to view Upon the tablet of your mortal mold, Is all depictur’d in the’ eternal sight; But hence deriveth not necessity, More then the tall ship, hurried down the flood, Doth from the vision, that reflects the scene. From thence, as to the ear sweet harmony From organ comes, so comes before mine eye The time prepar’d for thee. Such as driv’n out From Athens, by his cruel stepdame’s wiles, Hippolytus departed, such must thou Depart from Florence. This they wish, and this Contrive, and will ere long effectuate, there, Where gainful merchandize is made of Christ, Throughout the livelong day. The common cry, Will, as ’t is ever wont, affix the blame Unto the party injur’d: but the truth Shall, in the vengeance it dispenseth, find A faithful witness. Thou shall leave each thing Belov’d most dearly: this is the first shaft Shot from the bow of exile. Thou shalt prove How salt the savour is of other’s bread, How hard the passage to descend and climb By other’s stairs, But that shall gall thee most Will be the worthless and vile company, With whom thou must be thrown into these straits. For all ungrateful, impious all and mad, Shall turn ’gainst thee: but in a little while Theirs and not thine shall be the crimson’d brow Their course shall so evince their brutishness T’ have ta’en thy stand apart shall well become thee.

“First refuge thou must find, first place of rest, In the great Lombard’s courtesy, who bears Upon the ladder perch’d the sacred bird. He shall behold thee with such kind regard, That ’twixt ye two, the contrary to that Which falls ’twixt other men, the granting shall Forerun the asking. With him shalt thou see That mortal, who was at his birth impress So strongly from this star, that of his deeds The nations shall take note. His unripe age Yet holds him from observance; for these wheels Only nine years have compass him about. But, ere the Gascon practice on great Harry, Sparkles of virtue shall shoot forth in him, In equal scorn of labours and of gold. His bounty shall be spread abroad so widely, As not to let the tongues e’en of his foes Be idle in its praise. Look thou to him And his beneficence: for he shall cause Reversal of their lot to many people, Rich men and beggars interchanging fortunes. And thou shalt bear this written in thy soul Of him, but tell it not;” and things he told Incredible to those who witness them; Then added: “So interpret thou, my son, What hath been told thee.—Lo! the ambushment That a few circling seasons hide for thee! Yet envy not thy neighbours: time extends Thy span beyond their treason’s chastisement.”

Soon, as the saintly spirit, by his silence, Had shown the web, which I had streteh’d for him Upon the warp, was woven, I began, As one, who in perplexity desires Counsel of other, wise, benign and friendly: “My father! well I mark how time spurs on Toward me, ready to inflict the blow, Which falls most heavily on him, who most Abandoned himself. Therefore ’t is good I should forecast, that driven from the place Most dear to me, I may not lose myself All others by my song. Down through the world Of infinite mourning, and along the mount From whose fair height my lady’s eyes did lift me, And after through this heav’n from light to light, Have I learnt that, which if I tell again, It may with many woefully disrelish; And, if I am a timid friend to truth, I fear my life may perish among those, To whom these days shall be of ancient date.”

The brightness, where enclos’d the treasure smil’d, Which I had found there, first shone glisteningly, Like to a golden mirror in the sun; Next answer’d: “Conscience, dimm’d or by its own Or other’s shame, will feel thy saying sharp. Thou, notwithstanding, all deceit remov’d, See the whole vision be made manifest. And let them wince who have their withers wrung. What though, when tasted first, thy voice shall prove Unwelcome, on digestion it will turn To vital nourishment. The cry thou raisest, Shall, as the wind doth, smite the proudest summits; Which is of honour no light argument, For this there only have been shown to thee, Throughout these orbs, the mountain, and the deep, Spirits, whom fame hath note of. For the mind Of him, who hears, is loth to acquiesce And fix its faith, unless the instance brought Be palpable, and proof apparent urge.”

CANTO XVIII Now in his word, sole, ruminating, joy’d That blessed spirit; and I fed on mine, Tempting the sweet with bitter: she meanwhile, Who led me unto God, admonish’d: “Muse On other thoughts: bethink thee, that near Him I dwell, who recompenseth every wrong.”

At the sweet sounds of comfort straight I turn’d; And, in the saintly eyes what love was seen, I leave in silence here: nor through distrust Of my words only, but that to such bliss The mind remounts not without aid. Thus much Yet may I speak; that, as I gaz’d on her, Affection found no room for other wish. While the everlasting pleasure, that did full On Beatrice shine, with second view From her fair countenance my gladden’d soul Contented; vanquishing me with a beam Of her soft smile, she spake: “Turn thee, and list. These eyes are not thy only Paradise.”

As here we sometimes in the looks may see Th’ affection mark’d, when that its sway hath ta’en The spirit wholly; thus the hallow’d light, To whom I turn’d, flashing, bewray’d its will To talk yet further with me, and began: “On this fifth lodgment of the tree, whose life Is from its top, whose fruit is ever fair And leaf unwith’ring, blessed spirits abide, That were below, ere they arriv’d in heav’n, So mighty in renown, as every muse Might grace her triumph with them. On the horns Look therefore of the cross: he, whom I name, Shall there enact, as doth in summer cloud Its nimble fire.” Along the cross I saw, At the repeated name of Joshua, A splendour gliding; nor, the word was said, Ere it was done: then, at the naming saw Of the great Maccabee, another move With whirling speed; and gladness was the scourge Unto that top. The next for Charlemagne And for the peer Orlando, two my gaze Pursued, intently, as the eye pursues A falcon flying. Last, along the cross, William, and Renard, and Duke Godfrey drew My ken, and Robert Guiscard. And the soul, Who spake with me among the other lights Did move away, and mix; and with the choir Of heav’nly songsters prov’d his tuneful skill.

To Beatrice on my right l bent, Looking for intimation or by word Or act, what next behoov’d: and did descry Such mere effulgence in her eyes, such joy, It past all former wont. And, as by sense Of new delight, the man, who perseveres In good deeds doth perceive from day to day His virtue growing; I e’en thus perceiv’d Of my ascent, together with the heav’n The circuit widen’d, noting the increase Of beauty in that wonder. Like the change In a brief moment on some maiden’s cheek, Which from its fairness doth discharge the weight Of pudency, that stain’d it; such in her, And to mine eyes so sudden was the change, Through silvery whiteness of that temperate star, Whose sixth orb now enfolded us. I saw, Within that Jovial cresset, the clear sparks Of love, that reign’d there, fashion to my view Our language. And as birds, from river banks Arisen, now in round, now lengthen’d troop, Array them in their flight, greeting, as seems, Their new-found pastures; so, within the lights, The saintly creatures flying, sang, and made Now D. now I. now L. figur’d I’ th’ air.


First, singing, to their notes they mov’d, then one Becoming of these signs, a little while Did rest them, and were mute. O nymph divine Of Pegasean race! whose souls, which thou Inspir’st, mak’st glorious and long-liv’d, as they Cities and realms by thee! thou with thyself Inform me; that I may set forth the shapes, As fancy doth present them. Be thy power Display’d in this brief song. The characters, Vocal and consonant, were five-fold seven. In order each, as they appear’d, I mark’d. Diligite Justitiam, the first, Both verb and noun all blazon’d; and the extreme Qui judicatis terram. In the M. Of the fifth word they held their station, Making the star seem silver streak’d with gold. And on the summit of the M. I saw Descending other lights, that rested there, Singing, methinks, their bliss and primal good. Then, as at shaking of a lighted brand, Sparkles innumerable on all sides Rise scatter’d, source of augury to th’ unwise; Thus more than thousand twinkling lustres hence Seem’d reascending, and a higher pitch Some mounting, and some less; e’en as the sun, Which kindleth them, decreed. And when each one Had settled in his place, the head and neck Then saw I of an eagle, lively Grav’d in that streaky fire. Who painteth there, Hath none to guide him; of himself he guides; And every line and texture of the nest Doth own from him the virtue, fashions it. The other bright beatitude, that seem’d Erewhile, with lilied crowning, well content To over-canopy the M. mov’d forth, Following gently the impress of the bird.

Sweet star! what glorious and thick-studded gems Declar’d to me our justice on the earth To be the effluence of that heav’n, which thou, Thyself a costly jewel, dost inlay! Therefore I pray the Sovran Mind, from whom Thy motion and thy virtue are begun, That he would look from whence the fog doth rise, To vitiate thy beam: so that once more He may put forth his hand ’gainst such, as drive Their traffic in that sanctuary, whose walls With miracles and martyrdoms were built.


Ye host of heaven! whose glory I survey l O beg ye grace for those, that are on earth All after ill example gone astray. War once had for its instrument the sword: But now ’t is made, taking the bread away Which the good Father locks from none. —And thou, That writes but to cancel, think, that they, Who for the vineyard, which thou wastest, died, Peter and Paul live yet, and mark thy doings. Thou hast good cause to cry, “My heart so cleaves To him, that liv’d in solitude remote, And from the wilds was dragg’d to martyrdom, I wist not of the fisherman nor Paul.”

CANTO XIX

Before my sight appear’d, with open wings, The beauteous image, in fruition sweet Gladdening the thronged spirits. Each did seem A little ruby, whereon so intense The sun-beam glow’d that to mine eyes it came In clear refraction. And that, which next Befalls me to portray, voice hath not utter’d, Nor hath ink written, nor in fantasy Was e’er conceiv’d. For I beheld and heard The beak discourse; and, what intention form’d Of many, singly as of one express, Beginning: “For that I was just and piteous, l am exalted to this height of glory, The which no wish exceeds: and there on earth Have I my memory left, e’en by the bad Commended, while they leave its course untrod.”

Thus is one heat from many embers felt, As in that image many were the loves, And one the voice, that issued from them all. Whence I address them: “O perennial flowers Of gladness everlasting! that exhale In single breath your odours manifold! Breathe now; and let the hunger be appeas’d, That with great craving long hath held my soul, Finding no food on earth. This well I know, That if there be in heav’n a realm, that shows In faithful mirror the celestial Justice, Yours without veil reflects it. Ye discern The heed, wherewith I do prepare myself To hearken; ye the doubt that urges me With such inveterate craving.” Straight I saw, Like to a falcon issuing from the hood, That rears his head, and claps him with his wings, His beauty and his eagerness bewraying. So saw I move that stately sign, with praise Of grace divine inwoven and high song Of inexpressive joy. “He,” it began, “Who turn’d his compass on the world’s extreme, And in that space so variously hath wrought, Both openly, and in secret, in such wise Could not through all the universe display Impression of his glory, that the Word Of his omniscience should not still remain In infinite excess. In proof whereof, He first through pride supplanted, who was sum Of each created being, waited not For light celestial, and abortive fell. Whence needs each lesser nature is but scant Receptacle unto that Good, which knows No limit, measur’d by itself alone. Therefore your sight, of th’ omnipresent Mind A single beam, its origin must own Surpassing far its utmost potency. The ken, your world is gifted with, descends In th’ everlasting Justice as low down, As eye doth in the sea; which though it mark The bottom from the shore, in the wide main Discerns it not; and ne’ertheless it is, But hidden through its deepness. Light is none, Save that which cometh from the pure serene Of ne’er disturbed ether: for the rest, ’Tis darkness all, or shadow of the flesh, Or else its poison. Here confess reveal’d That covert, which hath hidden from thy search The living justice, of the which thou mad’st Such frequent question; for thou saidst—‘A man Is born on Indus’ banks, and none is there Who speaks of Christ, nor who doth read nor write, And all his inclinations and his acts, As far as human reason sees, are good, And he offendeth not in word or deed. But unbaptiz’d he dies, and void of faith. Where is the justice that condemns him? where His blame, if he believeth not?’—What then, And who art thou, that on the stool wouldst sit To judge at distance of a thousand miles With the short-sighted vision of a span? To him, who subtilizes thus with me, There would assuredly be room for doubt Even to wonder, did not the safe word Of scripture hold supreme authority.

“O animals of clay! O spirits gross I The primal will, that in itself is good, Hath from itself, the chief Good, ne’er been mov’d. Justice consists in consonance with it, Derivable by no created good, Whose very cause depends upon its beam.”

As on her nest the stork, that turns about Unto her young, whom lately she hath fed, While they with upward eyes do look on her; So lifted I my gaze; and bending so The ever-blessed image wav’d its wings, Lab’ring with such deep counsel. Wheeling round It warbled, and did say: “As are my notes To thee, who understand’st them not, such is Th’ eternal judgment unto mortal ken.”

Then still abiding in that ensign rang’d, Wherewith the Romans over-awed the world, Those burning splendours of the Holy Spirit Took up the strain; and thus it spake again: “None ever hath ascended to this realm, Who hath not a believer been in Christ, Either before or after the blest limbs Were nail’d upon the wood. But lo! of those Who call ‘Christ, Christ,’ there shall be many found, In judgment, further off from him by far, Than such, to whom his name was never known. Christians like these the Ethiop shall condemn: When that the two assemblages shall part; One rich eternally, the other poor.

“What may the Persians say unto your kings, When they shall see that volume, in the which All their dispraise is written, spread to view? There amidst Albert’s works shall that be read, Which will give speedy motion to the pen, When Prague shall mourn her desolated realm. There shall be read the woe, that he doth work With his adulterate money on the Seine, Who by the tusk will perish: there be read The thirsting pride, that maketh fool alike The English and Scot, impatient of their bound. There shall be seen the Spaniard’s luxury, The delicate living there of the Bohemian, Who still to worth has been a willing stranger. The halter of Jerusalem shall see A unit for his virtue, for his vices No less a mark than million. He, who guards The isle of fire by old Anchises honour’d Shall find his avarice there and cowardice; And better to denote his littleness, The writing must be letters maim’d, that speak Much in a narrow space. All there shall know His uncle and his brother’s filthy doings, Who so renown’d a nation and two crowns Have bastardized. And they, of Portugal And Norway, there shall be expos’d with him Of Ratza, who hath counterfeited ill The coin of Venice. O blest Hungary! If thou no longer patiently abid’st Thy ill-entreating! and, O blest Navarre! If with thy mountainous girdle thou wouldst arm thee In earnest of that day, e’en now are heard Wailings and groans in Famagosta’s streets And Nicosia’s, grudging at their beast, Who keepeth even footing with the rest.”

CANTO XX When, disappearing, from our hemisphere, The world’s enlightener vanishes, and day On all sides wasteth, suddenly the sky, Erewhile irradiate only with his beam, Is yet again unfolded, putting forth Innumerable lights wherein one shines. Of such vicissitude in heaven I thought, As the great sign, that marshaleth the world And the world’s leaders, in the blessed beak Was silent; for that all those living lights, Waxing in splendour, burst forth into songs, Such as from memory glide and fall away.


Sweet love! that dost apparel thee in smiles, How lustrous was thy semblance in those sparkles, Which merely are from holy thoughts inspir’d!

After the precious and bright beaming stones, That did ingem the sixth light, ceas’d the chiming Of their angelic bells; methought I heard The murmuring of a river, that doth fall From rock to rock transpicuous, making known The richness of his spring-head: and as sound Of cistern, at the fret-board, or of pipe, Is, at the wind-hole, modulate and tun’d; Thus up the neck, as it were hollow, rose That murmuring of the eagle, and forthwith Voice there assum’d, and thence along the beak Issued in form of words, such as my heart Did look for, on whose tables I inscrib’d them.

“The part in me, that sees, and bears the sun,, In mortal eagles,” it began, “must now Be noted steadfastly: for of the fires, That figure me, those, glittering in mine eye, Are chief of all the greatest. This, that shines Midmost for pupil, was the same, who sang The Holy Spirit’s song, and bare about The ark from town to town; now doth he know The merit of his soul-impassion’d strains By their well-fitted guerdon. Of the five, That make the circle of the vision, he Who to the beak is nearest, comforted The widow for her son: now doth he know How dear he costeth not to follow Christ, Both from experience of this pleasant life, And of its opposite. He next, who follows In the circumference, for the over arch, By true repenting slack’d the pace of death: Now knoweth he, that the degrees of heav’n Alter not, when through pious prayer below Today’s is made tomorrow’s destiny. The other following, with the laws and me, To yield the shepherd room, pass’d o’er to Greece, From good intent producing evil fruit: Now knoweth he, how all the ill, deriv’d From his well doing, doth not helm him aught, Though it have brought destruction on the world. That, which thou seest in the under bow, Was William, whom that land bewails, which weeps For Charles and Frederick living: now he knows How well is lov’d in heav’n the righteous king, Which he betokens by his radiant seeming. Who in the erring world beneath would deem, That Trojan Ripheus in this round was set Fifth of the saintly splendours? now he knows Enough of that, which the world cannot see, The grace divine, albeit e’en his sight Reach not its utmost depth.” Like to the lark, That warbling in the air expatiates long, Then, trilling out his last sweet melody, Drops satiate with the sweetness; such appear’d That image stampt by the’ everlasting pleasure, Which fashions like itself all lovely things.

I, though my doubting were as manifest, As is through glass the hue that mantles it, In silence waited not: for to my lips “What things are these?” involuntary rush’d, And forc’d a passage out: whereat I mark’d A sudden lightening and new revelry. The eye was kindled: and the blessed sign No more to keep me wond’ring and suspense, Replied: “I see that thou believ’st these things, Because I tell them, but discern’st not how; So that thy knowledge waits not on thy faith: As one who knows the name of thing by rote, But is a stranger to its properties, Till other’s tongue reveal them. Fervent love And lively hope with violence assail The kingdom of the heavens, and overcome The will of the Most high; not in such sort As man prevails o’er man; but conquers it, Because ’t is willing to be conquer’d, still, Though conquer’d, by its mercy conquering.

“Those, in the eye who live the first and fifth, Cause thee to marvel, in that thou behold’st The region of the angels deck’d with them. They quitted not their bodies, as thou deem’st, Gentiles but Christians, in firm rooted faith, This of the feet in future to be pierc’d, That of feet nail’d already to the cross. One from the barrier of the dark abyss, Where never any with good will returns, Came back unto his bones. Of lively hope Such was the meed; of lively hope, that wing’d The prayers sent up to God for his release, And put power into them to bend his will. The glorious Spirit, of whom I speak to thee, A little while returning to the flesh, Believ’d in him, who had the means to help, And, in believing, nourish’d such a flame Of holy love, that at the second death He was made sharer in our gamesome mirth. The other, through the riches of that grace, Which from so deep a fountain doth distil, As never eye created saw its rising, Plac’d all his love below on just and right: Wherefore of grace God op’d in him the eye To the redemption of mankind to come; Wherein believing, he endur’d no more The filth of paganism, and for their ways Rebuk’d the stubborn nations. The three nymphs, Whom at the right wheel thou beheldst advancing, Were sponsors for him more than thousand years Before baptizing. O how far remov’d, Predestination! is thy root from such As see not the First cause entire: and ye, O mortal men! be wary how ye judge: For we, who see our Maker, know not yet The number of the chosen: and esteem Such scantiness of knowledge our delight: For all our good is in that primal good Concentrate, and God’s will and ours are one.”

So, by that form divine, was giv’n to me Sweet medicine to clear and strengthen sight, And, as one handling skillfully the harp, Attendant on some skilful songster’s voice Bids the chords vibrate, and therein the song Acquires more pleasure; so, the whilst it spake, It doth remember me, that I beheld The pair of blessed luminaries move. Like the accordant twinkling of two eyes, Their beamy circlets, dancing to the sounds.

CANTO XXI

Again mine eyes were fix’d on Beatrice, And with mine eyes my soul, that in her looks Found all contentment. Yet no smile she wore And, “Did I smile,” quoth she, “thou wouldst be straight Like Semele when into ashes turn’d: For, mounting these eternal palace-stairs, My beauty, which the loftier it climbs, As thou hast noted, still doth kindle more, So shines, that, were no temp’ring interpos’d, Thy mortal puissance would from its rays Shrink, as the leaf doth from the thunderbolt. Into the seventh splendour are we wafted, That underneath the burning lion’s breast Beams, in this hour, commingled with his might, Thy mind be with thine eyes: and in them mirror’d The shape, which in this mirror shall be shown.” Whoso can deem, how fondly I had fed My sight upon her blissful countenance, May know, when to new thoughts I chang’d, what joy To do the bidding of my heav’nly guide: In equal balance poising either weight.

Within the crystal, which records the name, (As its remoter circle girds the world) Of that lov’d monarch, in whose happy reign No ill had power to harm, I saw rear’d up, In colour like to sun-illumin’d gold.


A ladder, which my ken pursued in vain, So lofty was the summit; down whose steps I saw the splendours in such multitude Descending, ev’ry light in heav’n, methought, Was shed thence. As the rooks, at dawn of day Bestirring them to dry their feathers chill, Some speed their way a-field, and homeward some, Returning, cross their flight, while some abide And wheel around their airy lodge; so seem’d That glitterance, wafted on alternate wing, As upon certain stair it met, and clash’d Its shining. And one ling’ring near us, wax’d So bright, that in my thought: said: “The love, Which this betokens me, admits no doubt.”

Unwillingly from question I refrain, To her, by whom my silence and my speech Are order’d, looking for a sign: whence she, Who in the sight of Him, that seeth all, Saw wherefore I was silent, prompted me T’ indulge the fervent wish; and I began: “I am not worthy, of my own desert, That thou shouldst answer me; but for her sake, Who hath vouchsaf’d my asking, spirit blest! That in thy joy art shrouded! say the cause, Which bringeth thee so near: and wherefore, say, Doth the sweet symphony of Paradise Keep silence here, pervading with such sounds Of rapt devotion ev’ry lower sphere?” “Mortal art thou in hearing as in sight;” Was the reply: “and what forbade the smile Of Beatrice interrupts our song. Only to yield thee gladness of my voice, And of the light that vests me, I thus far Descend these hallow’d steps: not that more love Invites me; for lo! there aloft, as much Or more of love is witness’d in those flames: But such my lot by charity assign’d, That makes us ready servants, as thou seest, To execute the counsel of the Highest. “That in this court,” said I, “O sacred lamp! Love no compulsion needs, but follows free Th’ eternal Providence, I well discern: This harder find to deem, why of thy peers Thou only to this office wert foredoom’d.” I had not ended, when, like rapid mill, Upon its centre whirl’d the light; and then The love, that did inhabit there, replied: “Splendour eternal, piercing through these folds, Its virtue to my vision knits, and thus Supported, lifts me so above myself, That on the sov’ran essence, which it wells from, I have the power to gaze: and hence the joy, Wherewith I sparkle, equaling with my blaze The keenness of my sight. But not the soul, That is in heav’n most lustrous, nor the seraph That hath his eyes most fix’d on God, shall solve What thou hast ask’d: for in th’ abyss it lies Of th’ everlasting statute sunk so low, That no created ken may fathom it. And, to the mortal world when thou return’st, Be this reported; that none henceforth dare Direct his footsteps to so dread a bourn. The mind, that here is radiant, on the earth Is wrapt in mist. Look then if she may do, Below, what passeth her ability, When she is ta’en to heav’n.” By words like these Admonish’d, I the question urg’d no more; And of the spirit humbly sued alone T’ instruct me of its state. “’Twixt either shore Of Italy, nor distant from thy land, A stony ridge ariseth, in such sort, The thunder doth not lift his voice so high, They call it Catria: at whose foot a cell Is sacred to the lonely Eremite, For worship set apart and holy rites.” A third time thus it spake; then added: “There So firmly to God’s service I adher’d, That with no costlier viands than the juice Of olives, easily I pass’d the heats Of summer and the winter frosts, content In heav’n-ward musings. Rich were the returns And fertile, which that cloister once was us’d To render to these heavens: now ’t is fall’n Into a waste so empty, that ere long Detection must lay bare its vanity Pietro Damiano there was I yclept: Pietro the sinner, when before I dwelt Beside the Adriatic, in the house Of our blest Lady. Near upon my close Of mortal life, through much importuning I was constrain’d to wear the hat that still From bad to worse it shifted.—Cephas came; He came, who was the Holy Spirit’s vessel, Barefoot and lean, eating their bread, as chanc’d, At the first table. Modern Shepherd’s need Those who on either hand may prop and lead them, So burly are they grown: and from behind Others to hoist them. Down the palfrey’s sides Spread their broad mantles, so as both the beasts Are cover’d with one skin. O patience! thou That lookst on this and doth endure so long.” I at those accents saw the splendours down From step to step alight, and wheel, and wax, Each circuiting, more beautiful. Round this They came, and stay’d them; uttered them a shout So loud, it hath no likeness here: nor I Wist what it spake, so deaf’ning was the thunder.”

CANTO XXII Astounded, to the guardian of my steps I turn’d me, like the chill, who always runs Thither for succour, where he trusteth most, And she was like the mother, who her son Beholding pale and breathless, with her voice Soothes him, and he is cheer’d; for thus she spake, Soothing me: “Know’st not thou, thou art in heav’n? And know’st not thou, whatever is in heav’n, Is holy, and that nothing there is done But is done zealously and well? Deem now, What change in thee the song, and what my smile had wrought, since thus the shout had pow’r to move thee. In which couldst thou have understood their prayers, The vengeance were already known to thee, Which thou must witness ere thy mortal hour, The sword of heav’n is not in haste to smite, Nor yet doth linger, save unto his seeming, Who in desire or fear doth look for it. But elsewhere now l bid thee turn thy view; So shalt thou many a famous spirit behold.” Mine eyes directing, as she will’d, I saw A hundred little spheres, that fairer grew By interchange of splendour. I remain’d, As one, who fearful of o’er-much presuming, Abates in him the keenness of desire, Nor dares to question, when amid those pearls, One largest and most lustrous onward drew, That it might yield contentment to my wish; And from within it these the sounds I heard.

“If thou, like me, beheldst the charity That burns amongst us, what thy mind conceives, Were utter’d. But that, ere the lofty bound Thou reach, expectance may not weary thee, I will make answer even to the thought, Which thou hast such respect of. In old days, That mountain, at whose side Cassino rests, Was on its height frequented by a race Deceived and ill dispos’d: and I it was, Who thither carried first the name of Him, Who brought the soul-subliming truth to man. And such a speeding grace shone over me, That from their impious worship I reclaim’d The dwellers round about, who with the world Were in delusion lost. These other flames, The spirits of men contemplative, were all Enliven’d by that warmth, whose kindly force Gives birth to flowers and fruits of holiness. Here is Macarius; Romoaldo here: And here my brethren, who their steps refrain’d Within the cloisters, and held firm their heart.”

I answ’ring, thus; “Thy gentle words and kind, And this the cheerful semblance, I behold Not unobservant, beaming in ye all, Have rais’d assurance in me, wakening it Full-blossom’d in my bosom, as a rose Before the sun, when the consummate flower Has spread to utmost amplitude. Of thee Therefore entreat I, father! to declare If I may gain such favour, as to gaze Upon thine image, by no covering veil’d.”

“Brother!” he thus rejoin’d, “in the last sphere Expect completion of thy lofty aim, For there on each desire completion waits, And there on mine: where every aim is found Perfect, entire, and for fulfillment ripe. There all things are as they have ever been: For space is none to bound, nor pole divides, Our ladder reaches even to that clime, And so at giddy distance mocks thy view. Thither the Patriarch Jacob saw it stretch Its topmost round, when it appear’d to him With angels laden. But to mount it now None lifts his foot from earth: and hence my rule Is left a profitless stain upon the leaves; The walls, for abbey rear’d, turned into dens, The cowls to sacks choak’d up with musty meal. Foul usury doth not more lift itself Against God’s pleasure, than that fruit which makes The hearts of monks so wanton: for whate’er Is in the church’s keeping, all pertains. To such, as sue for heav’n’s sweet sake, and not To those who in respect of kindred claim, Or on more vile allowance. Mortal flesh Is grown so dainty, good beginnings last not From the oak’s birth, unto the acorn’s setting. His convent Peter founded without gold Or silver; I with pray’rs and fasting mine; And Francis his in meek humility. And if thou note the point, whence each proceeds, Then look what it hath err’d to, thou shalt find The white grown murky. Jordan was turn’d back; And a less wonder, then the refluent sea, May at God’s pleasure work amendment here.”

So saying, to his assembly back he drew: And they together cluster’d into one, Then all roll’d upward like an eddying wind.

The sweet dame beckon’d me to follow them: And, by that influence only, so prevail’d Over my nature, that no natural motion, Ascending or descending here below, Had, as I mounted, with my pennon vied.

So, reader, as my hope is to return Unto the holy triumph, for the which I ofttimes wail my sins, and smite my breast, Thou hadst been longer drawing out and thrusting Thy finger in the fire, than I was, ere The sign, that followeth Taurus, I beheld, And enter’d its precinct. O glorious stars! O light impregnate with exceeding virtue! To whom whate’er of genius lifteth me Above the vulgar, grateful I refer; With ye the parent of all mortal life Arose and set, when I did first inhale The Tuscan air; and afterward, when grace Vouchsaf’d me entrance to the lofty wheel That in its orb impels ye, fate decreed My passage at your clime. To you my soul Devoutly sighs, for virtue even now To meet the hard emprize that draws me on.

“Thou art so near the sum of blessedness,” Said Beatrice, “that behooves thy ken Be vigilant and clear. And, to this end, Or even thou advance thee further, hence Look downward, and contemplate, what a world Already stretched under our feet there lies: So as thy heart may, in its blithest mood, Present itself to the triumphal throng, Which through the’ etherial concave comes rejoicing.”

I straight obey’d; and with mine eye return’d Through all the seven spheres, and saw this globe So pitiful of semblance, that perforce It moved my smiles: and him in truth I hold For wisest, who esteems it least: whose thoughts Elsewhere are fix’d, him worthiest call and best. I saw the daughter of Latona shine Without the shadow, whereof late I deem’d That dense and rare were cause. Here I sustain’d The visage, Hyperion! of thy sun; And mark’d, how near him with their circle, round Move Maia and Dione; here discern’d Jove’s tempering ’twixt his sire and son; and hence Their changes and their various aspects Distinctly scann’d. Nor might I not descry Of all the seven, how bulky each, how swift; Nor of their several distances not learn. This petty area (o’er the which we stride So fiercely), as along the eternal twins I wound my way, appear’d before me all, Forth from the havens stretch’d unto the hills. Then to the beauteous eyes mine eyes return’d.

CANTO XXIII E’en as the bird, who midst the leafy bower Has, in her nest, sat darkling through the night, With her sweet brood, impatient to descry Their wished looks, and to bring home their food, In the fond quest unconscious of her toil: She, of the time prevenient, on the spray, That overhangs their couch, with wakeful gaze Expects the sun; nor ever, till the dawn, Removeth from the east her eager ken; So stood the dame erect, and bent her glance Wistfully on that region, where the sun Abateth most his speed; that, seeing her Suspense and wand’ring, I became as one, In whom desire is waken’d, and the hope Of somewhat new to come fills with delight.

Short space ensued; I was not held, I say, Long in expectance, when I saw the heav’n Wax more and more resplendent; and, “Behold,” Cried Beatrice, “the triumphal hosts Of Christ, and all the harvest reap’d at length Of thy ascending up these spheres.” Meseem’d, That, while she spake her image all did burn, And in her eyes such fullness was of joy, And I am fain to pass unconstrued by.

As in the calm full moon, when Trivia smiles, In peerless beauty, ’mid th’ eternal nympus, That paint through all its gulfs the blue profound In bright pre-eminence so saw I there, O’er million lamps a sun, from whom all drew Their radiance as from ours the starry train: And through the living light so lustrous glow’d The substance, that my ken endur’d it not.

O Beatrice! sweet and precious guide! Who cheer’d me with her comfortable words! “Against the virtue, that o’erpow’reth thee, Avails not to resist. Here is the might, And here the wisdom, which did open lay The path, that had been yearned for so long, Betwixt the heav’n and earth.” Like to the fire, That, in a cloud imprison’d doth break out Expansive, so that from its womb enlarg’d, It falleth against nature to the ground; Thus in that heav’nly banqueting my soul Outgrew herself; and, in the transport lost. Holds now remembrance none of what she was.

“Ope thou thine eyes, and mark me: thou hast seen Things, that empower thee to sustain my smile.”

I was as one, when a forgotten dream Doth come across him, and he strives in vain To shape it in his fantasy again, Whenas that gracious boon was proffer’d me, Which never may be cancel’d from the book, Wherein the past is written. Now were all Those tongues to sound, that have on sweetest milk Of Polyhymnia and her sisters fed And fatten’d, not with all their help to boot, Unto the thousandth parcel of the truth, My song might shadow forth that saintly smile, flow merely in her saintly looks it wrought. And with such figuring of Paradise The sacred strain must leap, like one, that meets A sudden interruption to his road. But he, who thinks how ponderous the theme, And that ’t is lain upon a mortal shoulder, May pardon, if it tremble with the burden. The track, our ventrous keel must furrow, brooks No unribb’d pinnace, no self-sparing pilot.

“Why doth my face,” said Beatrice, “thus Enamour thee, as that thou dost not turn Unto the beautiful garden, blossoming Beneath the rays of Christ? Here is the rose, Wherein the word divine was made incarnate; And here the lilies, by whose odour known The way of life was follow’d.” Prompt I heard Her bidding, and encounter once again The strife of aching vision. As erewhile, Through glance of sunlight, stream’d through broken cloud, Mine eyes a flower-besprinkled mead have seen, Though veil’d themselves in shade; so saw I there Legions of splendours, on whom burning rays Shed lightnings from above, yet saw I not The fountain whence they flow’d. O gracious virtue! Thou, whose broad stamp is on them, higher up Thou didst exalt thy glory to give room To my o’erlabour’d sight: when at the name Of that fair flower, whom duly I invoke Both morn and eve, my soul, with all her might Collected, on the goodliest ardour fix’d. And, as the bright dimensions of the star In heav’n excelling, as once here on earth Were, in my eyeballs lively portray’d, Lo! from within the sky a cresset fell, Circling in fashion of a diadem, And girt the star, and hov’ring round it wheel’d.

Whatever melody sounds sweetest here, And draws the spirit most unto itself, Might seem a rent cloud when it grates the thunder, Compar’d unto the sounding of that lyre, Wherewith the goodliest sapphire, that inlays The floor of heav’n, was crown’d. “Angelic Love, I am, who thus with hov’ring flight enwheel The lofty rapture from that womb inspir’d, Where our desire did dwell: and round thee so, Lady of Heav’n! will hover; long as thou Thy Son shalt follow, and diviner joy Shall from thy presence gild the highest sphere.”

Such close was to the circling melody: And, as it ended, all the other lights Took up the strain, and echoed Mary’s name.

The robe, that with its regal folds enwraps The world, and with the nearer breath of God Doth burn and quiver, held so far retir’d Its inner hem and skirting over us, That yet no glimmer of its majesty Had stream’d unto me: therefore were mine eyes Unequal to pursue the crowned flame, That rose and sought its natal seed of fire; And like to babe, that stretches forth its arms For very eagerness towards the breast, After the milk is taken; so outstretch’d Their wavy summits all the fervent band, Through zealous love to Mary: then in view There halted, and “Regina Coeli” sang So sweetly, the delight hath left me never.

O what o’erflowing plenty is up-pil’d In those rich-laden coffers, which below Sow’d the good seed, whose harvest now they keep.

Here are the treasures tasted, that with tears Were in the Babylonian exile won, When gold had fail’d them. Here in synod high Of ancient council with the new conven’d, Under the Son of Mary and of God, Victorious he his mighty triumph holds, To whom the keys of glory were assign’d.

CANTO XXIV “O ye! in chosen fellowship advanc’d To the great supper of the blessed Lamb, Whereon who feeds hath every wish fulfill’d! If to this man through God’s grace be vouchsaf’d Foretaste of that, which from your table falls, Or ever death his fated term prescribe; Be ye not heedless of his urgent will; But may some influence of your sacred dews Sprinkle him. Of the fount ye alway drink, Whence flows what most he craves.” Beatrice spake, And the rejoicing spirits, like to spheres On firm-set poles revolving, trail’d a blaze Of comet splendour; and as wheels, that wind Their circles in the horologe, so work The stated rounds, that to th’ observant eye The first seems still, and, as it flew, the last; E’en thus their carols weaving variously, They by the measure pac’d, or swift, or slow, Made me to rate the riches of their joy.

From that, which I did note in beauty most Excelling, saw I issue forth a flame So bright, as none was left more goodly there. Round Beatrice thrice it wheel’d about, With so divine a song, that fancy’s ear Records it not; and the pen passeth on And leaves a blank: for that our mortal speech, Nor e’en the inward shaping of the brain, Hath colours fine enough to trace such folds.

“O saintly sister mine! thy prayer devout Is with so vehement affection urg’d, Thou dost unbind me from that beauteous sphere.”

Such were the accents towards my lady breath’d From that blest ardour, soon as it was stay’d: To whom she thus: “O everlasting light Of him, within whose mighty grasp our Lord Did leave the keys, which of this wondrous bliss He bare below! tent this man, as thou wilt, With lighter probe or deep, touching the faith, By the which thou didst on the billows walk. If he in love, in hope, and in belief, Be steadfast, is not hid from thee: for thou Hast there thy ken, where all things are beheld In liveliest portraiture. But since true faith Has peopled this fair realm with citizens, Meet is, that to exalt its glory more, Thou in his audience shouldst thereof discourse.”

Like to the bachelor, who arms himself, And speaks not, till the master have propos’d The question, to approve, and not to end it; So I, in silence, arm’d me, while she spake, Summoning up each argument to aid; As was behooveful for such questioner, And such profession: “As good Christian ought, Declare thee, What is faith?” Whereat I rais’d My forehead to the light, whence this had breath’d, Then turn’d to Beatrice, and in her looks Approval met, that from their inmost fount I should unlock the waters. “May the grace, That giveth me the captain of the church For confessor,” said I, “vouchsafe to me Apt utterance for my thoughts!” then added: “Sire! E’en as set down by the unerring style Of thy dear brother, who with thee conspir’d To bring Rome in unto the way of life, Faith of things hop’d is substance, and the proof Of things not seen; and herein doth consist Methinks its essence,”—“Rightly hast thou deem’d,” Was answer’d: “if thou well discern, why first He hath defin’d it, substance, and then proof.”

“The deep things,” I replied, “which here I scan Distinctly, are below from mortal eye So hidden, they have in belief alone Their being, on which credence hope sublime Is built; and therefore substance it intends. And inasmuch as we must needs infer From such belief our reasoning, all respect To other view excluded, hence of proof Th’ intention is deriv’d.” Forthwith I heard: “If thus, whate’er by learning men attain, Were understood, the sophist would want room To exercise his wit.” So breath’d the flame Of love: then added: “Current is the coin Thou utter’st, both in weight and in alloy. But tell me, if thou hast it in thy purse.”

“Even so glittering and so round,” said I, “I not a whit misdoubt of its assay.”

Next issued from the deep imbosom’d splendour: “Say, whence the costly jewel, on the which Is founded every virtue, came to thee.” “The flood,” I answer’d, “from the Spirit of God Rain’d down upon the ancient bond and new,— Here is the reas’ning, that convinceth me So feelingly, each argument beside Seems blunt and forceless in comparison.” Then heard I: “Wherefore holdest thou that each, The elder proposition and the new, Which so persuade thee, are the voice of heav’n?”

“The works, that follow’d, evidence their truth;” I answer’d: “Nature did not make for these The iron hot, or on her anvil mould them.” “Who voucheth to thee of the works themselves,” Was the reply, “that they in very deed Are that they purport? None hath sworn so to thee.”

“That all the world,” said I, “should have been turn’d To Christian, and no miracle been wrought, Would in itself be such a miracle, The rest were not an hundredth part so great. E’en thou wentst forth in poverty and hunger To set the goodly plant, that from the vine, It once was, now is grown unsightly bramble.” That ended, through the high celestial court Resounded all the spheres. “Praise we one God!” In song of most unearthly melody. And when that Worthy thus, from branch to branch, Examining, had led me, that we now Approach’d the topmost bough, he straight resum’d; “The grace, that holds sweet dalliance with thy soul, So far discreetly hath thy lips unclos’d That, whatsoe’er has past them, I commend. Behooves thee to express, what thou believ’st, The next, and whereon thy belief hath grown.”

“O saintly sire and spirit!” I began, “Who seest that, which thou didst so believe, As to outstrip feet younger than thine own, Toward the sepulchre? thy will is here, That I the tenour of my creed unfold; And thou the cause of it hast likewise ask’d. And I reply: I in one God believe, One sole eternal Godhead, of whose love All heav’n is mov’d, himself unmov’d the while. Nor demonstration physical alone, Or more intelligential and abstruse, Persuades me to this faith; but from that truth It cometh to me rather, which is shed Through Moses, the rapt Prophets, and the Psalms. The Gospel, and that ye yourselves did write, When ye were gifted of the Holy Ghost. In three eternal Persons I believe, Essence threefold and one, mysterious league Of union absolute, which, many a time, The word of gospel lore upon my mind Imprints: and from this germ, this firstling spark, The lively flame dilates, and like heav’n’s star Doth glitter in me.” As the master hears, Well pleas’d, and then enfoldeth in his arms The servant, who hath joyful tidings brought, And having told the errand keeps his peace; Thus benediction uttering with song Soon as my peace I held, compass’d me thrice The apostolic radiance, whose behest Had op’d lips; so well their answer pleas’d.

CANTO XXV If e’er the sacred poem that hath made Both heav’n and earth copartners in its toil, And with lean abstinence, through many a year, Faded my brow, be destin’d to prevail Over the cruelty, which bars me forth Of the fair sheep-fold, where a sleeping lamb The wolves set on and fain had worried me, With other voice and fleece of other grain I shall forthwith return, and, standing up At my baptismal font, shall claim the wreath Due to the poet’s temples: for I there First enter’d on the faith which maketh souls Acceptable to God: and, for its sake, Peter had then circled my forehead thus.

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

As when the ring-dove by his mate alights, In circles each about the other wheels, And murmuring cooes his fondness; thus saw I One, of the other great and glorious prince, With kindly greeting hail’d, extolling both Their heavenly banqueting; but when an end Was to their gratulation, silent, each, Before me sat they down, so burning bright, I could not look upon them. Smiling then, Beatrice spake: “O life in glory shrin’d!” Who didst the largess of our kingly court Set down with faithful pen! let now thy voice Of hope the praises in this height resound. For thou, who figur’st them in shapes, as clear, As Jesus stood before thee, well can’st speak them.”

“Lift up thy head, and be thou strong in trust: For that, which hither from the mortal world Arriveth, must be ripen’d in our beam.”

Such cheering accents from the second flame Assur’d me; and mine eyes I lifted up Unto the mountains that had bow’d them late With over-heavy burden. “Sith our Liege Wills of his grace that thou, or ere thy death, In the most secret council, with his lords Shouldst be confronted, so that having view’d The glories of our court, thou mayst therewith Thyself, and all who hear, invigorate With hope, that leads to blissful end; declare, What is that hope, how it doth flourish in thee, And whence thou hadst it?” Thus proceeding still, The second light: and she, whose gentle love My soaring pennons in that lofty flight Escorted, thus preventing me, rejoin’d: Among her sons, not one more full of hope, Hath the church militant: so ’t is of him Recorded in the sun, whose liberal orb Enlighteneth all our tribe: and ere his term Of warfare, hence permitted he is come, From Egypt to Jerusalem, to see. The other points, both which thou hast inquir’d, Not for more knowledge, but that he may tell How dear thou holdst the virtue, these to him Leave I; for he may answer thee with ease, And without boasting, so God give him grace.” Like to the scholar, practis’d in his task, Who, willing to give proof of diligence, Seconds his teacher gladly, “Hope,” said I, “Is of the joy to come a sure expectance, Th’ effect of grace divine and merit preceding. This light from many a star visits my heart, But flow’d to me the first from him, who sang The songs of the Supreme, himself supreme Among his tuneful brethren. ‘Let all hope In thee,’ so speak his anthem, ‘who have known Thy name;’ and with my faith who know not that? From thee, the next, distilling from his spring, In thine epistle, fell on me the drops So plenteously, that I on others shower The influence of their dew.” Whileas I spake, A lamping, as of quick and vollied lightning, Within the bosom of that mighty sheen, Play’d tremulous; then forth these accents breath’d: “Love for the virtue which attended me E’en to the palm, and issuing from the field, Glows vigorous yet within me, and inspires To ask of thee, whom also it delights; What promise thou from hope in chief dost win.”

“Both scriptures, new and ancient,” I reply’d; “Propose the mark (which even now I view) For souls belov’d of God. Isaias saith,

‘That, in their own land, each one must be clad In twofold vesture; and their proper lands this delicious life.’ In terms more full, And clearer far, thy brother hath set forth This revelation to us, where he tells Of the white raiment destin’d to the saints.” And, as the words were ending, from above, “They hope in thee,” first heard we cried: whereto Answer’d the carols all. Amidst them next, A light of so clear amplitude emerg’d, That winter’s month were but a single day, Were such a crystal in the Cancer’s sign.

Like as a virgin riseth up, and goes, And enters on the mazes of the dance, Though gay, yet innocent of worse intent, Than to do fitting honour to the bride; So I beheld the new effulgence come Unto the other two, who in a ring Wheel’d, as became their rapture. In the dance And in the song it mingled. And the dame Held on them fix’d her looks: e’en as the spouse Silent and moveless. “This is he, who lay Upon the bosom of our pelican: This he, into whose keeping from the cross The mighty charge was given.” Thus she spake, Yet therefore naught the more remov’d her Sight From marking them, or ere her words began, Or when they clos’d. As he, who looks intent, And strives with searching ken, how he may see The sun in his eclipse, and, through desire Of seeing, loseth power of sight: so I Peer’d on that last resplendence, while I heard: “Why dazzlest thou thine eyes in seeking that, Which here abides not? Earth my body is, In earth: and shall be, with the rest, so long, As till our number equal the decree Of the Most High. The two that have ascended, In this our blessed cloister, shine alone With the two garments. So report below.”

As when, for ease of labour, or to shun Suspected peril at a whistle’s breath, The oars, erewhile dash’d frequent in the wave, All rest; the flamy circle at that voice So rested, and the mingling sound was still, Which from the trinal band soft-breathing rose. I turn’d, but ah! how trembled in my thought, When, looking at my side again to see Beatrice, I descried her not, although Not distant, on the happy coast she stood.

CANTO XXVI With dazzled eyes, whilst wond’ring I remain’d, Forth of the beamy flame which dazzled me, Issued a breath, that in attention mute Detain’d me; and these words it spake: “’T were well, That, long as till thy vision, on my form O’erspent, regain its virtue, with discourse Thou compensate the brief delay. Say then, Beginning, to what point thy soul aspires:”


“And meanwhile rest assur’d, that sight in thee Is but o’erpowered a space, not wholly quench’d: Since thy fair guide and lovely, in her look Hath potency, the like to that which dwelt In Ananias’ hand.” I answering thus: “Be to mine eyes the remedy or late Or early, at her pleasure; for they were The gates, at which she enter’d, and did light Her never dying fire. My wishes here Are centered; in this palace is the weal, That Alpha and Omega, is to all The lessons love can read me.” Yet again The voice which had dispers’d my fear, when daz’d With that excess, to converse urg’d, and spake: “Behooves thee sift more narrowly thy terms, And say, who level’d at this scope thy bow.”

“Philosophy,” said I, “hath arguments, And this place hath authority enough T’ imprint in me such love: for, of constraint, Good, inasmuch as we perceive the good, Kindles our love, and in degree the more, As it comprises more of goodness in ’t. The essence then, where such advantage is, That each good, found without it, is naught else But of his light the beam, must needs attract The soul of each one, loving, who the truth Discerns, on which this proof is built. Such truth Learn I from him, who shows me the first love Of all intelligential substances Eternal: from his voice I learn, whose word Is truth, that of himself to Moses saith, ‘I will make all my good before thee pass.’ Lastly from thee I learn, who chief proclaim’st, E’en at the outset of thy heralding, In mortal ears the mystery of heav’n.”

“Through human wisdom, and th’ authority Therewith agreeing,” heard I answer’d, “keep The choicest of thy love for God. But say, If thou yet other cords within thee feel’st That draw thee towards him; so that thou report How many are the fangs, with which this love Is grappled to thy soul.” I did not miss, To what intent the eagle of our Lord Had pointed his demand; yea noted well Th’ avowal, which he led to; and resum’d: “All grappling bonds, that knit the heart to God, Confederate to make fast our clarity. The being of the world, and mine own being, The death which he endur’d that I should live, And that, which all the faithful hope, as I do, To the foremention’d lively knowledge join’d, Have from the sea of ill love sav’d my bark, And on the coast secur’d it of the right. As for the leaves, that in the garden bloom, My love for them is great, as is the good Dealt by th’ eternal hand, that tends them all.”

I ended, and therewith a song most sweet Rang through the spheres; and “Holy, holy, holy,” Accordant with the rest my lady sang. And as a sleep is broken and dispers’d Through sharp encounter of the nimble light, With the eye’s spirit running forth to meet The ray, from membrane on to the membrane urg’d; And the upstartled wight loathes that he sees; So, at his sudden waking, he misdeems Of all around him, till assurance waits On better judgment: thus the saintly came Drove from before mine eyes the motes away, With the resplendence of her own, that cast Their brightness downward, thousand miles below. Whence I my vision, clearer shall before, Recover’d; and, well nigh astounded, ask’d Of a fourth light, that now with us I saw.

And Beatrice: “The first diving soul, That ever the first virtue fram’d, admires Within these rays his Maker.” Like the leaf, That bows its lithe top till the blast is blown; By its own virtue rear’d then stands aloof; So I, the whilst she said, awe-stricken bow’d. Then eagerness to speak embolden’d me; And I began: “O fruit! that wast alone Mature, when first engender’d! Ancient father! That doubly seest in every wedded bride Thy daughter by affinity and blood! Devoutly as I may, I pray thee hold Converse with me: my will thou seest; and I, More speedily to hear thee, tell it not.”

It chanceth oft some animal bewrays, Through the sleek cov’ring of his furry coat. The fondness, that stirs in him and conforms His outside seeming to the cheer within: And in like guise was Adam’s spirit mov’d To joyous mood, that through the covering shone, Transparent, when to pleasure me it spake: “No need thy will be told, which I untold Better discern, than thou whatever thing Thou holdst most certain: for that will I see In Him, who is truth’s mirror, and Himself Parhelion unto all things, and naught else To him. This wouldst thou hear; how long since God Plac’d me high garden, from whose hounds She led me up in this ladder, steep and long; What space endur’d my season of delight; Whence truly sprang the wrath that banish’d me; And what the language, which I spake and fram’d Not that I tasted of the tree, my son, Was in itself the cause of that exile, But only my transgressing of the mark Assign’d me. There, whence at thy lady’s hest The Mantuan mov’d him, still was I debarr’d This council, till the sun had made complete, Four thousand and three hundred rounds and twice, His annual journey; and, through every light In his broad pathway, saw I him return, Thousand save sev’nty times, the whilst I dwelt Upon the earth. The language I did use Was worn away, or ever Nimrod’s race Their unaccomplishable work began. For naught, that man inclines to, ere was lasting, Left by his reason free, and variable, As is the sky that sways him. That he speaks, Is nature’s prompting: whether thus or thus, She leaves to you, as ye do most affect it. Ere I descended into hell’s abyss, El was the name on earth of the Chief Good, Whose joy enfolds me: Eli then ’t was call’d And so beseemeth: for, in mortals, use Is as the leaf upon the bough; that goes, And other comes instead. Upon the mount Most high above the waters, all my life, Both innocent and guilty, did but reach From the first hour, to that which cometh next (As the sun changes quarter), to the sixth.”

CANTO XXVII

Then “Glory to the Father, to the Son, And to the Holy Spirit,” rang aloud Throughout all Paradise, that with the song My spirit reel’d, so passing sweet the strain: And what I saw was equal ecstasy; One universal smile it seem’d of all things, Joy past compare, gladness unutterable, Imperishable life of peace and love, Exhaustless riches and unmeasur’d bliss.

Before mine eyes stood the four torches lit; And that, which first had come, began to wax In brightness, and in semblance such became, As Jove might be, if he and Mars were birds, And interchang’d their plumes. Silence ensued, Through the blest quire, by Him, who here appoints Vicissitude of ministry, enjoin’d; When thus I heard: “Wonder not, if my hue Be chang’d; for, while I speak, these shalt thou see All in like manner change with me. My place He who usurps on earth (my place, ay, mine, Which in the presence of the Son of God Is void), the same hath made my cemetery A common sewer of puddle and of blood: The more below his triumph, who from hence Malignant fell.” Such colour, as the sun, At eve or morning, paints an adverse cloud, Then saw I sprinkled over all the sky. And as th’ unblemish’d dame, who in herself Secure of censure, yet at bare report Of other’s failing, shrinks with maiden fear; So Beatrice in her semblance chang’d: And such eclipse in heav’n methinks was seen, When the Most Holy suffer’d. Then the words Proceeded, with voice, alter’d from itself So clean, the semblance did not alter more. “Not to this end was Christ’s spouse with my blood, With that of Linus, and of Cletus fed: That she might serve for purchase of base gold: But for the purchase of this happy life Did Sextus, Pius, and Callixtus bleed, And Urban, they, whose doom was not without Much weeping seal’d. No purpose was of our That on the right hand of our successors Part of the Christian people should be set, And part upon their left; nor that the keys, Which were vouchsaf’d me, should for ensign serve Unto the banners, that do levy war On the baptiz’d: nor I, for sigil-mark Set upon sold and lying privileges; Which makes me oft to bicker and turn red. In shepherd’s clothing greedy wolves below Range wide o’er all the pastures. Arm of God! Why longer sleepst thou? Caorsines and Gascona Prepare to quaff our blood. O good beginning To what a vile conclusion must thou stoop! But the high providence, which did defend Through Scipio the world’s glory unto Rome, Will not delay its succour: and thou, son, Who through thy mortal weight shall yet again Return below, open thy lips, nor hide What is by me not hidden.” As a Hood Of frozen vapours streams adown the air, What time the she-goat with her skiey horn Touches the sun; so saw I there stream wide The vapours, who with us had linger’d late And with glad triumph deck th’ ethereal cope. Onward my sight their semblances pursued; So far pursued, as till the space between From its reach sever’d them: whereat the guide Celestial, marking me no more intent On upward gazing, said, “Look down and see What circuit thou hast compass’d.” From the hour When I before had cast my view beneath, All the first region overpast I saw, Which from the midmost to the bound’ry winds; That onward thence from Gades I beheld The unwise passage of Laertes’ son, And hitherward the shore, where thou, Europa! Mad’st thee a joyful burden: and yet more Of this dim spot had seen, but that the sun, A constellation off and more, had ta’en His progress in the zodiac underneath.

Then by the spirit, that doth never leave Its amorous dalliance with my lady’s looks, Back with redoubled ardour were mine eyes Led unto her: and from her radiant smiles, Whenas I turn’d me, pleasure so divine Did lighten on me, that whatever bait Or art or nature in the human flesh, Or in its limn’d resemblance, can combine Through greedy eyes to take the soul withal, Were to her beauty nothing. Its boon influence From the fair nest of Leda rapt me forth, And wafted on into the swiftest heav’n.

What place for entrance Beatrice chose, I may not say, so uniform was all, Liveliest and loftiest. She my secret wish Divin’d; and with such gladness, that God’s love Seem’d from her visage shining, thus began: “Here is the goal, whence motion on his race Starts; motionless the centre, and the rest All mov’d around. Except the soul divine, Place in this heav’n is none, the soul divine, Wherein the love, which ruleth o’er its orb, Is kindled, and the virtue that it sheds; One circle, light and love, enclasping it, As this doth clasp the others; and to Him, Who draws the bound, its limit only known. Measur’d itself by none, it doth divide Motion to all, counted unto them forth, As by the fifth or half ye count forth ten. The vase, wherein time’s roots are plung’d, thou seest, Look elsewhere for the leaves. O mortal lust! That canst not lift thy head above the waves Which whelm and sink thee down! The will in man Bears goodly blossoms; but its ruddy promise Is, by the dripping of perpetual rain, Made mere abortion: faith and innocence Are met with but in babes, each taking leave Ere cheeks with down are sprinkled; he, that fasts, While yet a stammerer, with his tongue let loose Gluts every food alike in every moon. One yet a babbler, loves and listens to His mother; but no sooner hath free use Of speech, than he doth wish her in her grave. So suddenly doth the fair child of him, Whose welcome is the morn and eve his parting, To negro blackness change her virgin white.

“Thou, to abate thy wonder, note that none Bears rule in earth, and its frail family Are therefore wand’rers. Yet before the date, When through the hundredth in his reck’ning drops Pale January must be shor’d aside From winter’s calendar, these heav’nly spheres Shall roar so loud, that fortune shall be fain To turn the poop, where she hath now the prow; So that the fleet run onward; and true fruit, Expected long, shall crown at last the bloom!”

CANTO XXVIII So she who doth imparadise my soul, Had drawn the veil from off our pleasant life, And bar’d the truth of poor mortality; When lo! as one who, in a mirror, spies The shining of a flambeau at his back, Lit sudden ore he deem of its approach, And turneth to resolve him, if the glass Have told him true, and sees the record faithful As note is to its metre; even thus, I well remember, did befall to me, Looking upon the beauteous eyes, whence love Had made the leash to take me. As I turn’d; And that, which, in their circles, none who spies, Can miss of, in itself apparent, struck On mine; a point I saw, that darted light So sharp, no lid, unclosing, may bear up Against its keenness. The least star we view From hence, had seem’d a moon, set by its side, As star by side of star. And so far off, Perchance, as is the halo from the light Which paints it, when most dense the vapour spreads, There wheel’d about the point a circle of fire, More rapid than the motion, which first girds The world. Then, circle after circle, round Enring’d each other; till the seventh reach’d Circumference so ample, that its bow, Within the span of Juno’s messenger, lied scarce been held entire. Beyond the sev’nth, Follow’d yet other two. And every one, As more in number distant from the first, Was tardier in motion; and that glow’d With flame most pure, that to the sparkle’ of truth Was nearest, as partaking most, methinks, Of its reality. The guide belov’d Saw me in anxious thought suspense, and spake: “Heav’n, and all nature, hangs upon that point. The circle thereto most conjoin’d observe; And know, that by intenser love its course Is to this swiftness wing’d.” To whom I thus: “It were enough; nor should I further seek, Had I but witness’d order, in the world Appointed, such as in these wheels is seen. But in the sensible world such diff’rence is, That is each round shows more divinity, As each is wider from the centre. Hence, If in this wondrous and angelic temple, That hath for confine only light and love, My wish may have completion I must know, Wherefore such disagreement is between Th’ exemplar and its copy: for myself, Contemplating, I fail to pierce the cause.”

“It is no marvel, if thy fingers foil’d Do leave the knot untied: so hard ’t is grown For want of tenting.” Thus she said: “But take,” She added, “if thou wish thy cure, my words, And entertain them subtly. Every orb Corporeal, doth proportion its extent Unto the virtue through its parts diffus’d. The greater blessedness preserves the more. The greater is the body (if all parts Share equally) the more is to preserve. Therefore the circle, whose swift course enwheels The universal frame answers to that, Which is supreme in knowledge and in love Thus by the virtue, not the seeming, breadth Of substance, measure, thou shalt see the heav’ns, Each to the’ intelligence that ruleth it, Greater to more, and smaller unto less, Suited in strict and wondrous harmony.”

As when the sturdy north blows from his cheek A blast, that scours the sky, forthwith our air, Clear’d of the rack, that hung on it before, Glitters; and, With his beauties all unveil’d, The firmament looks forth serene, and smiles; Such was my cheer, when Beatrice drove With clear reply the shadows back, and truth Was manifested, as a star in heaven. And when the words were ended, not unlike To iron in the furnace, every cirque Ebullient shot forth scintillating fires: And every sparkle shivering to new blaze, In number did outmillion the account Reduplicate upon the chequer’d board. Then heard I echoing on from choir to choir, “Hosanna,” to the fixed point, that holds, And shall for ever hold them to their place, From everlasting, irremovable.


Musing awhile I stood: and she, who saw by inward meditations, thus began: “In the first circles, they, whom thou beheldst, Are seraphim and cherubim. Thus swift Follow their hoops, in likeness to the point, Near as they can, approaching; and they can The more, the loftier their vision. Those, That round them fleet, gazing the Godhead next, Are thrones; in whom the first trine ends. And all Are blessed, even as their sight descends Deeper into the truth, wherein rest is For every mind. Thus happiness hath root In seeing, not in loving, which of sight Is aftergrowth. And of the seeing such The meed, as unto each in due degree Grace and good-will their measure have assign’d. The other trine, that with still opening buds In this eternal springtide blossom fair, Fearless of bruising from the nightly ram, Breathe up in warbled melodies threefold Hosannas blending ever, from the three Transmitted. hierarchy of gods, for aye Rejoicing, dominations first, next then Virtues, and powers the third. The next to whom Are princedoms and archangels, with glad round To tread their festal ring; and last the band Angelical, disporting in their sphere. All, as they circle in their orders, look Aloft, and downward with such sway prevail, That all with mutual impulse tend to God. These once a mortal view beheld. Desire In Dionysius so intently wrought, That he, as I have done rang’d them; and nam’d Their orders, marshal’d in his thought. From him Dissentient, one refus’d his sacred read. But soon as in this heav’n his doubting eyes Were open’d, Gregory at his error smil’d Nor marvel, that a denizen of earth Should scan such secret truth; for he had learnt Both this and much beside of these our orbs, From an eye-witness to heav’n’s mysteries.”

CANTO XXIX No longer than what time Latona’s twins Cover’d of Libra and the fleecy star, Together both, girding the’ horizon hang, In even balance from the zenith pois’d, Till from that verge, each, changing hemisphere, Part the nice level; e’en so brief a space Did Beatrice’s silence hold. A smile Bat painted on her cheek; and her fix’d gaze Bent on the point, at which my vision fail’d: When thus her words resuming she began: “I speak, nor what thou wouldst inquire demand; For I have mark’d it, where all time and place Are present. Not for increase to himself Of good, which may not be increas’d, but forth To manifest his glory by its beams, Inhabiting his own eternity, Beyond time’s limit or what bound soe’er To circumscribe his being, as he will’d, Into new natures, like unto himself, Eternal Love unfolded. Nor before, As if in dull inaction torpid lay. For not in process of before or aft Upon these waters mov’d the Spirit of God. Simple and mix’d, both form and substance, forth To perfect being started, like three darts Shot from a bow three-corded. And as ray In crystal, glass, and amber, shines entire, E’en at the moment of its issuing; thus Did, from th’ eternal Sovran, beam entire His threefold operation, at one act Produc’d coeval. Yet in order each Created his due station knew: those highest, Who pure intelligence were made: mere power The lowest: in the midst, bound with strict league, Intelligence and power, unsever’d bond. Long tract of ages by the angels past, Ere the creating of another world, Describ’d on Jerome’s pages thou hast seen. But that what I disclose to thee is true, Those penmen, whom the Holy Spirit mov’d In many a passage of their sacred book Attest; as thou by diligent search shalt find And reason in some sort discerns the same, Who scarce would grant the heav’nly ministers Of their perfection void, so long a space. Thus when and where these spirits of love were made, Thou know’st, and how: and knowing hast allay’d Thy thirst, which from the triple question rose. Ere one had reckon’d twenty, e’en so soon Part of the angels fell: and in their fall Confusion to your elements ensued. The others kept their station: and this task, Whereon thou lookst, began with such delight, That they surcease not ever, day nor night, Their circling. Of that fatal lapse the cause Was the curst pride of him, whom thou hast seen Pent with the world’s incumbrance. Those, whom here Thou seest, were lowly to confess themselves Of his free bounty, who had made them apt For ministries so high: therefore their views Were by enlight’ning grace and their own merit Exalted; so that in their will confirm’d They stand, nor feel to fall. For do not doubt, But to receive the grace, which heav’n vouchsafes, Is meritorious, even as the soul With prompt affection welcometh the guest. Now, without further help, if with good heed My words thy mind have treasur’d, thou henceforth This consistory round about mayst scan, And gaze thy fill. But since thou hast on earth Heard vain disputers, reasoners in the schools, Canvas the’ angelic nature, and dispute Its powers of apprehension, memory, choice; Therefore, ’t is well thou take from me the truth, Pure and without disguise, which they below, Equivocating, darken and perplex.

“Know thou, that, from the first, these substances, Rejoicing in the countenance of God, Have held unceasingly their view, intent Upon the glorious vision, from the which Naught absent is nor hid: where then no change Of newness with succession interrupts, Remembrance there needs none to gather up Divided thought and images remote

“So that men, thus at variance with the truth Dream, though their eyes be open; reckless some Of error; others well aware they err, To whom more guilt and shame are justly due. Each the known track of sage philosophy Deserts, and has a byway of his own: So much the restless eagerness to shine And love of singularity prevail. Yet this, offensive as it is, provokes Heav’n’s anger less, than when the book of God Is forc’d to yield to man’s authority, Or from its straightness warp’d: no reck’ning made What blood the sowing of it in the world Has cost; what favour for himself he wins, Who meekly clings to it. The aim of all Is how to shine: e’en they, whose office is To preach the Gospel, let the gospel sleep, And pass their own inventions off instead. One tells, how at Christ’s suffering the wan moon Bent back her steps, and shadow’d o’er the sun With intervenient disk, as she withdrew: Another, how the light shrouded itself Within its tabernacle, and left dark The Spaniard and the Indian, with the Jew. Such fables Florence in her pulpit hears, Bandied about more frequent, than the names Of Bindi and of Lapi in her streets. The sheep, meanwhile, poor witless ones, return From pasture, fed with wind: and what avails For their excuse, they do not see their harm? Christ said not to his first conventicle, ‘Go forth and preach impostures to the world,’ But gave them truth to build on; and the sound Was mighty on their lips; nor needed they, Beside the gospel, other spear or shield, To aid them in their warfare for the faith. The preacher now provides himself with store Of jests and gibes; and, so there be no lack Of laughter, while he vents them, his big cowl Distends, and he has won the meed he sought: Could but the vulgar catch a glimpse the while Of that dark bird which nestles in his hood, They scarce would wait to hear the blessing said. Which now the dotards hold in such esteem, That every counterfeit, who spreads abroad The hands of holy promise, finds a throng Of credulous fools beneath. Saint Anthony Fattens with this his swine, and others worse Than swine, who diet at his lazy board, Paying with unstamp’d metal for their fare.

“But (for we far have wander’d) let us seek The forward path again; so as the way Be shorten’d with the time. No mortal tongue Nor thought of man hath ever reach’d so far, That of these natures he might count the tribes. What Daniel of their thousands hath reveal’d With finite number infinite conceals. The fountain at whose source these drink their beams, With light supplies them in as many modes, As there are splendours, that it shines on: each According to the virtue it conceives, Differing in love and sweet affection. Look then how lofty and how huge in breadth The’ eternal might, which, broken and dispers’d Over such countless mirrors, yet remains Whole in itself and one, as at the first.”

CANTO XXX Noon’s fervid hour perchance six thousand miles From hence is distant; and the shadowy cone Almost to level on our earth declines; When from the midmost of this blue abyss By turns some star is to our vision lost. And straightway as the handmaid of the sun Puts forth her radiant brow, all, light by light, Fade, and the spangled firmament shuts in, E’en to the loveliest of the glittering throng. Thus vanish’d gradually from my sight The triumph, which plays ever round the point, That overcame me, seeming (for it did) Engirt by that it girdeth. Wherefore love, With loss of other object, forc’d me bend Mine eyes on Beatrice once again.

If all, that hitherto is told of her, Were in one praise concluded, ’t were too weak To furnish out this turn. Mine eyes did look On beauty, such, as I believe in sooth, Not merely to exceed our human, but, That save its Maker, none can to the full Enjoy it. At this point o’erpower’d I fail, Unequal to my theme, as never bard Of buskin or of sock hath fail’d before. For, as the sun doth to the feeblest sight, E’en so remembrance of that witching smile Hath dispossess my spirit of itself. Not from that day, when on this earth I first Beheld her charms, up to that view of them, Have I with song applausive ever ceas’d To follow, but not follow them no more; My course here bounded, as each artist’s is, When it doth touch the limit of his skill.

She (such as I bequeath her to the bruit Of louder trump than mine, which hasteneth on, Urging its arduous matter to the close), Her words resum’d, in gesture and in voice Resembling one accustom’d to command: “Forth from the last corporeal are we come Into the heav’n, that is unbodied light, Light intellectual replete with love, Love of true happiness replete with joy, Joy, that transcends all sweetness of delight. Here shalt thou look on either mighty host Of Paradise; and one in that array, Which in the final judgment thou shalt see.”

As when the lightning, in a sudden spleen Unfolded, dashes from the blinding eyes The visive spirits dazzled and bedimm’d; So, round about me, fulminating streams Of living radiance play’d, and left me swath’d And veil’d in dense impenetrable blaze. Such weal is in the love, that stills this heav’n; For its own flame the torch this fitting ever!

No sooner to my list’ning ear had come The brief assurance, than I understood New virtue into me infus’d, and sight Kindled afresh, with vigour to sustain Excess of light, however pure. I look’d; And in the likeness of a river saw Light flowing, from whose amber-seeming waves Flash’d up effulgence, as they glided on ’Twixt banks, on either side, painted with spring, Incredible how fair; and, from the tide, There ever and anon, outstarting, flew Sparkles instinct with life; and in the flow’rs Did set them, like to rubies chas’d in gold; Then, as if drunk with odors, plung’d again Into the wondrous flood; from which, as one Re’enter’d, still another rose. “The thirst Of knowledge high, whereby thou art inflam’d, To search the meaning of what here thou seest, The more it warms thee, pleases me the more. But first behooves thee of this water drink, Or ere that longing be allay’d.” So spake The day-star of mine eyes; then thus subjoin’d: “This stream, and these, forth issuing from its gulf, And diving back, a living topaz each, With all this laughter on its bloomy shores, Are but a preface, shadowy of the truth They emblem: not that, in themselves, the things Are crude; but on thy part is the defect, For that thy views not yet aspire so high.” Never did babe, that had outslept his wont, Rush, with such eager straining, to the milk, As I toward the water, bending me, To make the better mirrors of mine eyes In the refining wave; and, as the eaves Of mine eyelids did drink of it, forthwith Seem’d it unto me turn’d from length to round, Then as a troop of maskers, when they put Their vizors off, look other than before, The counterfeited semblance thrown aside; So into greater jubilee were chang’d Those flowers and sparkles, and distinct I saw Before me either court of heav’n displac’d.

O prime enlightener! thou who crav’st me strength On the high triumph of thy realm to gaze! Grant virtue now to utter what I kenn’d, There is in heav’n a light, whose goodly shine Makes the Creator visible to all Created, that in seeing him alone Have peace; and in a circle spreads so far, That the circumference were too loose a zone To girdle in the sun. All is one beam, Reflected from the summit of the first, That moves, which being hence and vigour takes, And as some cliff, that from the bottom eyes Its image mirror’d in the crystal flood, As if t’ admire its brave appareling Of verdure and of flowers: so, round about, Eyeing the light, on more than million thrones, Stood, eminent, whatever from our earth Has to the skies return’d. How wide the leaves Extended to their utmost of this rose, Whose lowest step embosoms such a space Of ample radiance! Yet, nor amplitude Nor height impeded, but my view with ease Took in the full dimensions of that joy. Near or remote, what there avails, where God Immediate rules, and Nature, awed, suspends Her sway? Into the yellow of the rose Perennial, which in bright expansiveness, Lays forth its gradual blooming, redolent Of praises to the never-wint’ring sun, As one, who fain would speak yet holds his peace, Beatrice led me; and, “Behold,” she said, “This fair assemblage! stoles of snowy white How numberless! The city, where we dwell, Behold how vast! and these our seats so throng’d Few now are wanting here! In that proud stall, On which, the crown, already o’er its state Suspended, holds thine eyes—or ere thyself Mayst at the wedding sup,—shall rest the soul Of the great Harry, he who, by the world Augustas hail’d, to Italy must come, Before her day be ripe. But ye are sick, And in your tetchy wantonness as blind, As is the bantling, that of hunger dies, And drives away the nurse. Nor may it be, That he, who in the sacred forum sways, Openly or in secret, shall with him Accordant walk: Whom God will not endure I’ th’ holy office long; but thrust him down To Simon Magus, where Magna’s priest Will sink beneath him: such will be his meed.”

CANTO XXXI

In fashion, as a snow-white rose, lay then Before my view the saintly multitude, Which in his own blood Christ espous’d. Meanwhile That other host, that soar aloft to gaze And celebrate his glory, whom they love, Hover’d around; and, like a troop of bees, Amid the vernal sweets alighting now, Now, clustering, where their fragrant labour glows, Flew downward to the mighty flow’r, or rose From the redundant petals, streaming back Unto the steadfast dwelling of their joy. Faces had they of flame, and wings of gold; The rest was whiter than the driven snow. And as they flitted down into the flower, From range to range, fanning their plumy loins, Whisper’d the peace and ardour, which they won From that soft winnowing. Shadow none, the vast Interposition of such numerous flight Cast, from above, upon the flower, or view Obstructed aught. For, through the universe, Wherever merited, celestial light Glides freely, and no obstacle prevents.

All there, who reign in safety and in bliss, Ages long past or new, on one sole mark Their love and vision fix’d. O trinal beam Of individual star, that charmst them thus, Vouchsafe one glance to gild our storm below!

If the grim brood, from Arctic shores that roam’d, (Where helice, forever, as she wheels, Sparkles a mother’s fondness on her son) Stood in mute wonder ’mid the works of Rome, When to their view the Lateran arose In greatness more than earthly; I, who then From human to divine had past, from time Unto eternity, and out of Florence To justice and to truth, how might I choose But marvel too? ’Twixt gladness and amaze, In sooth no will had I to utter aught, Or hear. And, as a pilgrim, when he rests Within the temple of his vow, looks round In breathless awe, and hopes some time to tell Of all its goodly state: e’en so mine eyes Cours’d up and down along the living light, Now low, and now aloft, and now around, Visiting every step. Looks I beheld, Where charity in soft persuasion sat, Smiles from within and radiance from above, And in each gesture grace and honour high.

So rov’d my ken, and its general form All Paradise survey’d: when round I turn’d With purpose of my lady to inquire Once more of things, that held my thought suspense, But answer found from other than I ween’d; For, Beatrice, when I thought to see, I saw instead a senior, at my side, Rob’d, as the rest, in glory. Joy benign Glow’d in his eye, and o’er his cheek diffus’d, With gestures such as spake a father’s love. And, “Whither is she vanish’d?” straight I ask’d.

“By Beatrice summon’d,” he replied, “I come to aid thy wish. Looking aloft To the third circle from the highest, there Behold her on the throne, wherein her merit Hath plac’d her.” Answering not, mine eyes I rais’d, And saw her, where aloof she sat, her brow A wreath reflecting of eternal beams. Not from the centre of the sea so far Unto the region of the highest thunder, As was my ken from hers; and yet the form Came through that medium down, unmix’d and pure,


“O Lady! thou in whom my hopes have rest! Who, for my safety, hast not scorn’d, in hell To leave the traces of thy footsteps mark’d! For all mine eyes have seen, I, to thy power And goodness, virtue owe and grace. Of slave, Thou hast to freedom brought me; and no means, For my deliverance apt, hast left untried. Thy liberal bounty still toward me keep. That, when my spirit, which thou madest whole, Is loosen’d from this body, it may find Favour with thee.” So I my suit preferr’d: And she, so distant, as appear’d, look’d down, And smil’d; then tow’rds th’ eternal fountain turn’d.

And thus the senior, holy and rever’d: “That thou at length mayst happily conclude Thy voyage (to which end I was dispatch’d, By supplication mov’d and holy love) Let thy upsoaring vision range, at large, This garden through: for so, by ray divine Kindled, thy ken a higher flight shall mount; And from heav’n’s queen, whom fervent I adore, All gracious aid befriend us; for that I Am her own faithful Bernard.” Like a wight, Who haply from Croatia wends to see Our Veronica, and the while ’t is shown, Hangs over it with never-sated gaze, And, all that he hath heard revolving, saith Unto himself in thought: “And didst thou look E’en thus, O Jesus, my true Lord and God? And was this semblance thine?” So gaz’d I then Adoring; for the charity of him, Who musing, in the world that peace enjoy’d, Stood lively before me. “Child of grace!” Thus he began: “thou shalt not knowledge gain Of this glad being, if thine eyes are held Still in this depth below. But search around The circles, to the furthest, till thou spy Seated in state, the queen, that of this realm Is sovran.” Straight mine eyes I rais’d; and bright, As, at the birth of morn, the eastern clime Above th’ horizon, where the sun declines; To mine eyes, that upward, as from vale To mountain sped, at th’ extreme bound, a part Excell’d in lustre all the front oppos’d. And as the glow burns ruddiest o’er the wave, That waits the sloping beam, which Phaeton Ill knew to guide, and on each part the light Diminish’d fades, intensest in the midst; So burn’d the peaceful oriflame, and slack’d On every side the living flame decay’d. And in that midst their sportive pennons wav’d Thousands of angels; in resplendence each Distinct, and quaint adornment. At their glee And carol, smil’d the Lovely One of heav’n, That joy was in the eyes of all the blest.

Had I a tongue in eloquence as rich, As is the colouring in fancy’s loom, ’T were all too poor to utter the least part Of that enchantment. When he saw mine eyes Intent on her, that charm’d him, Bernard gaz’d With so exceeding fondness, as infus’d Ardour into my breast, unfelt before.

CANTO XXXII Freely the sage, though wrapt in musings high, Assum’d the teacher’s part, and mild began: “The wound, that Mary clos’d, she open’d first, Who sits so beautiful at Mary’s feet. The third in order, underneath her, lo! Rachel with Beatrice. Sarah next, Judith, Rebecca, and the gleaner maid, Meek ancestress of him, who sang the songs Of sore repentance in his sorrowful mood. All, as I name them, down from deaf to leaf, Are in gradation throned on the rose. And from the seventh step, successively, Adown the breathing tresses of the flow’r Still doth the file of Hebrew dames proceed. For these are a partition wall, whereby The sacred stairs are sever’d, as the faith In Christ divides them. On this part, where blooms Each leaf in full maturity, are set Such as in Christ, or ere he came, believ’d. On th’ other, where an intersected space Yet shows the semicircle void, abide All they, who look’d to Christ already come. And as our Lady on her glorious stool, And they who on their stools beneath her sit, This way distinction make: e’en so on his, The mighty Baptist that way marks the line (He who endur’d the desert and the pains Of martyrdom, and for two years of hell, Yet still continued holy), and beneath, Augustin, Francis, Benedict, and the rest, Thus far from round to round. So heav’n’s decree Forecasts, this garden equally to fill. With faith in either view, past or to come, Learn too, that downward from the step, which cleaves Midway the twain compartments, none there are Who place obtain for merit of their own, But have through others’ merit been advanc’d, On set conditions: spirits all releas’d, Ere for themselves they had the power to choose. And, if thou mark and listen to them well, Their childish looks and voice declare as much.

“Here, silent as thou art, I know thy doubt; And gladly will I loose the knot, wherein Thy subtle thoughts have bound thee. From this realm Excluded, chalice no entrance here may find, No more shall hunger, thirst, or sorrow can. A law immutable hath establish’d all; Nor is there aught thou seest, that doth not fit, Exactly, as the finger to the ring. It is not therefore without cause, that these, O’erspeedy comers to immortal life, Are different in their shares of excellence. Our Sovran Lord—that settleth this estate In love and in delight so absolute, That wish can dare no further—every soul, Created in his joyous sight to dwell, With grace at pleasure variously endows. And for a proof th’ effect may well suffice. And ’t is moreover most expressly mark’d In holy scripture, where the twins are said To, have struggled in the womb. Therefore, as grace Inweaves the coronet, so every brow Weareth its proper hue of orient light. And merely in respect to his prime gift, Not in reward of meritorious deed, Hath each his several degree assign’d. In early times with their own innocence More was not wanting, than the parents’ faith, To save them: those first ages past, behoov’d That circumcision in the males should imp The flight of innocent wings: but since the day Of grace hath come, without baptismal rites In Christ accomplish’d, innocence herself Must linger yet below. Now raise thy view Unto the visage most resembling Christ: For, in her splendour only, shalt thou win The pow’r to look on him.” Forthwith I saw Such floods of gladness on her visage shower’d, From holy spirits, winging that profound; That, whatsoever I had yet beheld, Had not so much suspended me with wonder, Or shown me such similitude of God. And he, who had to her descended, once, On earth, now hail’d in heav’n; and on pois’d wing. “Ave, Maria, Gratia Plena,” sang: To whose sweet anthem all the blissful court, From all parts answ’ring, rang: that holier joy Brooded the deep serene. “Father rever’d: Who deign’st, for me, to quit the pleasant place, Wherein thou sittest, by eternal lot! Say, who that angel is, that with such glee Beholds our queen, and so enamour’d glows Of her high beauty, that all fire he seems.” So I again resorted to the lore Of my wise teacher, he, whom Mary’s charms Embellish’d, as the sun the morning star; Who thus in answer spake: “In him are summ’d, Whatever of buxomness and free delight May be in Spirit, or in angel, met: And so beseems: for that he bare the palm Down unto Mary, when the Son of God Vouchsaf’d to clothe him in terrestrial weeds. Now let thine eyes wait heedful on my words, And note thou of this just and pious realm The chiefest nobles. Those, highest in bliss, The twain, on each hand next our empress thron’d, Are as it were two roots unto this rose. He to the left, the parent, whose rash taste Proves bitter to his seed; and, on the right, That ancient father of the holy church, Into whose keeping Christ did give the keys Of this sweet flow’r: near whom behold the seer, That, ere he died, saw all the grievous times Of the fair bride, who with the lance and nails Was won. And, near unto the other, rests The leader, under whom on manna fed Th’ ungrateful nation, fickle and perverse. On th’ other part, facing to Peter, lo! Where Anna sits, so well content to look On her lov’d daughter, that with moveless eye She chants the loud hosanna: while, oppos’d To the first father of your mortal kind, Is Lucia, at whose hest thy lady sped, When on the edge of ruin clos’d thine eye.

“But (for the vision hasteneth so an end) Here break we off, as the good workman doth, That shapes the cloak according to the cloth: And to the primal love our ken shall rise; That thou mayst penetrate the brightness, far As sight can bear thee. Yet, alas! in sooth Beating thy pennons, thinking to advance, Thou backward fall’st. Grace then must first be gain’d; Her grace, whose might can help thee. Thou in prayer Seek her: and, with affection, whilst I sue, Attend, and yield me all thy heart.” He said, And thus the saintly orison began.

CANTO XXXIII “O virgin mother, daughter of thy Son, Created beings all in lowliness Surpassing, as in height, above them all, Term by th’ eternal counsel pre-ordain’d, Ennobler of thy nature, so advanc’d In thee, that its great Maker did not scorn, Himself, in his own work enclos’d to dwell! For in thy womb rekindling shone the love Reveal’d, whose genial influence makes now This flower to germin in eternal peace! Here thou to us, of charity and love, Art, as the noon-day torch: and art, beneath, To mortal men, of hope a living spring. So mighty art thou, lady! and so great, That he who grace desireth, and comes not To thee for aidance, fain would have desire Fly without wings. Nor only him who asks, Thy bounty succours, but doth freely oft Forerun the asking. Whatsoe’er may be Of excellence in creature, pity mild, Relenting mercy, large munificence, Are all combin’d in thee. Here kneeleth one, Who of all spirits hath review’d the state, From the world’s lowest gap unto this height. Suppliant to thee he kneels, imploring grace For virtue, yet more high to lift his ken Toward the bliss supreme. And I, who ne’er Coveted sight, more fondly, for myself, Than now for him, my prayers to thee prefer, (And pray they be not scant) that thou wouldst drive Each cloud of his mortality away; That on the sovran pleasure he may gaze. This also I entreat of thee, O queen! Who canst do what thou wilt! that in him thou Wouldst after all he hath beheld, preserve Affection sound, and human passions quell. Lo! Where, with Beatrice, many a saint Stretch their clasp’d hands, in furtherance of my suit!”

The eyes, that heav’n with love and awe regards, Fix’d on the suitor, witness’d, how benign She looks on pious pray’rs: then fasten’d they On th’ everlasting light, wherein no eye Of creature, as may well be thought, so far Can travel inward. I, meanwhile, who drew Near to the limit, where all wishes end, The ardour of my wish (for so behooved), Ended within me. Beck’ning smil’d the sage, That I should look aloft: but, ere he bade, Already of myself aloft I look’d; For visual strength, refining more and more, Bare me into the ray authentical Of sovran light. Thenceforward, what I saw, Was not for words to speak, nor memory’s self To stand against such outrage on her skill. As one, who from a dream awaken’d, straight, All he hath seen forgets; yet still retains Impression of the feeling in his dream; E’en such am I: for all the vision dies, As ’t were, away; and yet the sense of sweet, That sprang from it, still trickles in my heart. Thus in the sun-thaw is the snow unseal’d; Thus in the winds on flitting leaves was lost The Sybil’s sentence. O eternal beam! (Whose height what reach of mortal thought may soar?) Yield me again some little particle Of what thou then appearedst, give my tongue Power, but to leave one sparkle of thy glory, Unto the race to come, that shall not lose Thy triumph wholly, if thou waken aught Of memory in me, and endure to hear The record sound in this unequal strain.

Such keenness from the living ray I met, That, if mine eyes had turn’d away, methinks, I had been lost; but, so embolden’d, on I pass’d, as I remember, till my view Hover’d the brink of dread infinitude.

O grace! unenvying of thy boon! that gav’st Boldness to fix so earnestly my ken On th’ everlasting splendour, that I look’d, While sight was unconsum’d, and, in that depth, Saw in one volume clasp’d of love, whatever The universe unfolds; all properties Of substance and of accident, beheld, Compounded, yet one individual light The whole. And of such bond methinks I saw The universal form: for that whenever I do but speak of it, my soul dilates Beyond her proper self; and, till I speak, One moment seems a longer lethargy, Than five-and-twenty ages had appear’d To that emprize, that first made Neptune wonder At Argo’s shadow darkening on his flood.

With fixed heed, suspense and motionless, Wond’ring I gaz’d; and admiration still Was kindled, as I gaz’d. It may not be, That one, who looks upon that light, can turn To other object, willingly, his view. For all the good, that will may covet, there Is summ’d; and all, elsewhere defective found, Complete. My tongue shall utter now, no more E’en what remembrance keeps, than could the babe’s That yet is moisten’d at his mother’s breast. Not that the semblance of the living light Was chang’d (that ever as at first remain’d) But that my vision quickening, in that sole Appearance, still new miracles descry’d, And toil’d me with the change. In that abyss Of radiance, clear and lofty, seem’d methought, Three orbs of triple hue clipt in one bound: And, from another, one reflected seem’d, As rainbow is from rainbow: and the third Seem’d fire, breath’d equally from both. Oh speech How feeble and how faint art thou, to give Conception birth! Yet this to what I saw Is less than little. Oh eternal light! Sole in thyself that dwellst; and of thyself Sole understood, past, present, or to come! Thou smiledst; on that circling, which in thee Seem’d as reflected splendour, while I mus’d; For I therein, methought, in its own hue Beheld our image painted: steadfastly I therefore por’d upon the view. As one Who vers’d in geometric lore, would fain Measure the circle; and, though pondering long And deeply, that beginning, which he needs, Finds not; e’en such was I, intent to scan The novel wonder, and trace out the form, How to the circle fitted, and therein How plac’d: but the flight was not for my wing; Had not a flash darted athwart my mind, And in the spleen unfolded what it sought.

Here vigour fail’d the tow’ring fantasy: But yet the will roll’d onward, like a wheel In even motion, by the Love impell’d, That moves the sun in heav’n and all the stars.

See also




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