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by Dante Alighieri


Inferno……………… …..1


Purgatorio…………… ….65






Notes to Inferno………….323


Notes to Purgatorio………332


Notes to Paradiso………. ..343





Inferno Canto I:1-60 The Dark Wood and the Hill4

Inferno Canto I:61-99 Dante meets Virgil5

Inferno Canto I:100-111 The salvation of Italy. 5

Inferno Canto I:112-136 Virgil will be his guide through Hell6

Inferno Canto II:1-42 Dante’s doubts as to his fitness for the journey. 6

Inferno Canto II:43-93 Virgil explains his mission:Beatrice. 7

Inferno Canto II:94-120 The Virgin sends Lucia to Beatrice. 7

Inferno Canto II:121-142 Virgil strengthens Dante’s will8

Inferno Canto III:1-21 The Gate of Hell8

Inferno Canto III:22-69 The spiritually neutral8

Inferno Canto III:58-69 Their punishment9

Inferno Canto III:70-99 Charon, the ferryman of the Acheron. 9

Inferno Canto III:100-136 The souls by the shore of Acheron. 9

Inferno Canto IV:1-63 The First Circle: Limbo:The Heathens. 10

Inferno Canto IV:64-105 The Great Poets. 11

Inferno Canto IV:106-129 The Heroes and Heroines. 11

Inferno Canto IV:130-151 The Philosophers and other great spirits. 12

Inferno Canto V:1-51 The Second Circle:Minos:The Carnal Sinners. 12

Inferno Canto V:52-72 Virgil names the sinners. 13

Inferno Canto V:70-142 Paolo and Francesca. 13

Inferno Canto VI:1-33 The Third Circle: Cerberus: The Gluttonous. 14

Inferno Canto VI:34-63 Ciacco, the glutton.14

Inferno Canto VI:64-93 Ciacco’s prophecy concerning Florence. 15

Inferno Canto VI:94-115 Virgil speaks of The Day of Judgement15

Inferno Canto VII:1-39 The Fourth Circle: Plutus: The Avaricious. 15

Inferno Canto VII:40-66 The avaricious and prodigal churchmen. 16

Inferno Canto VII:67-99 Virgil speaks about Fortune. 16

Inferno Canto VII:100-130 The Styx: They view the Fifth Circle. 17

Inferno Canto VIII:1-30 The Fifth Circle: Phlegyas: The Wrathful17

Inferno Canto VIII:31-63 They meet Filippo Argenti18

Inferno Canto VIII:64-81 They approach the city of Dis. 18

Inferno Canto VIII:82-130 The fallen Angels obstruct them... 18

Inferno Canto IX:1-33 Dante asks about precedents. 19

Inferno Canto IX:34-63 The Furies (Conscience) and Medusa (Obduracy). 19

Inferno Canto IX:64-105 The Messenger from Heaven. 20

Inferno Canto IX:106-133 The Sixth Circle: Dis: The Heretics. 20

Inferno Canto X:1-21 Epicurus and his followers. 21

Inferno Canto X:22-51 Farinata degli Uberti21

Inferno Canto X:52-72 Cavalcante Cavalcanti21

Inferno Canto X:73-93 Farinata prophesies Dante’s long exile. 22

Inferno Canto X:94-136 The prophetic vision of the damned. 22

Inferno Canto XI:1-66 The structure of Hell: The Lower Circles. 23

Inferno Canto XI:67-93 The structure of Hell: The Upper Circles. 23

Inferno Canto XI:94-115 Virgil explains usury. 24

Inferno Canto XII:1-27 Above the Seventh Circle: The Minotaur. 24

Inferno Canto XII:28-48 The descent to the Seventh Circle. 25

Inferno Canto XII:49-99 The First Ring: The Centaurs: The Violent25

Inferno Canto XII:100-139 The Tyrants, Murderers and Warriors. 26

Inferno Canto XIII:1-30 The Second Ring: The Harpies: The Suicides. 26

Inferno Canto XIII:31-78 The Wood of Suicides: Pier delle Vigne. 27

Inferno Canto XIII:79-108 The fate of The Suicides. 27

Inferno Canto XIII:109-129 Lano Maconi and Jacomo da Sant’ Andrea. 28

Inferno Canto XIII:130-151 The unnamed Florentine. 28

Inferno Canto XIV:1-42 The Third Ring: The Violent against God. 28

Inferno Canto XIV:43-72 Capaneus. 28

Inferno Canto XIV:73-120 The Old Man of Crete. 29

Inferno Canto XIV:121-142 The Rivers Phlegethon and Lethe. 29

Inferno Canto XV:1-42 The Violent against Nature: Brunetto Latini30

Inferno Canto XV:43-78 Brunetto’s prophecy. 30

Inferno Canto XV:79-99 Dante accepts his fate. 31

Inferno Canto XV:100-124 Brunetto names some of his companions. 31

Inferno Canto XVI:1-45 Rusticucci, Guido Guerra, Aldobrandi31

Inferno Canto XVI:46-87 The condition of Florence. 32

Inferno Canto XVI:88-136 The monster Geryon. 33

Inferno Canto XVII:1-30 The poets approach Geryon. 33

Inferno Canto XVII:31-78 The Usurers. 34

Inferno Canto XVII:79-136 The poets descend on Geryon’s back. 34

Inferno Canto XVIII:1-21 The Eighth Circle: Malebolge: Simple Fraud. 35

Inferno Canto XVIII:22-39 The First Chasm: The Pimps and Seducers. 35

Inferno Canto XVIII:40-66 The Panders: Venedico de’ Caccianemico.. 35

Inferno Canto XVIII:67-99 The Seducers: Jason. 36

Inferno Canto XVIII:100-136 The Second Chasm: The Flatterers. 36

Inferno Canto XIX:1-30 The Third Chasm: The Sellers of Sacred Offices. 36

Inferno Canto XIX:31-87 Pope Nicholas III37

Inferno Canto XIX:88-133 Dante speaks against Simony. 38

Inferno Canto XX:1-30 The Fourth Chasm: The Seers and Sorcerers. 38

Inferno Canto XX:31-51 The Seers. 39

Inferno Canto XX:52-99 Manto and the founding of Mantua. 39

Inferno Canto XX:100-130 The Soothsayers and Astrologers. 39

Inferno Canto XXI:1-30 The Fifth Chasm: The Sellers of Public Offices. 40

Inferno Canto XXI:31-58 The Barrators. 40

Inferno Canto XXI:59-96 Virgil challenges the Demons’ threats. 41

Inferno Canto XXI:97-139 The Demons escort the Poets. 41

Inferno Canto XXII:1-30 The Poets view more of the Fifth Chasm... 42

Inferno Canto XXII:31-75 Ciampolo.. 42

Inferno Canto XXII:76-96 Ciampolo names other Barrators. 43

Inferno Canto XXII:97-123 Ciampolo breaks free of the Demons. 43

Inferno Canto XXII:124-151 The Malebranche quarrel44

Inferno Canto XXIII:1-57 The Sixth Chasm: The Hypocrites. 44

Inferno Canto XXIII:58-81 The Hypocrites. 45

Inferno Canto XXIII:82-126 The Frauti Gaudenti: Caiaphas. 45

Inferno Canto XXIII:127-148 The Poets leave the Sixth Chasm... 46

Inferno Canto XXIV:1-60 The Poets climb up: Virgil exhorts Dante. 46

Inferno Canto XXIV:61-96 The Seventh Chasm: The Thieves. 47

Inferno Canto XXIV:97-129 Vanni Fucci and the serpent47

Inferno Canto XXIV:130-151 Vanni Fucci’s prophecy. 48

Inferno Canto XXV:1-33 Cacus. 48

Inferno Canto XXV:34-78 Cianfa and Agnello.. 48

Inferno Canto XXV:79-151 Buoso degli Abati and Francesco.. 49

Inferno Canto XXVI:1-42 The Eighth Chasm: The Evil Counsellors. 50

Inferno Canto XXVI:43-84 Ulysses and Diomede. 50

Inferno Canto XXVI:85-142 Ulysses’s last voyage. 51

Inferno Canto XXVII:1-30 Guido Da Montefeltro.. 51

Inferno Canto XXVII:31-57 The situation in Romagna. 51

Inferno Canto XXVII:58-136 Guido’s history. 52

Inferno Canto XXVIII:1-21 The Ninth Chasm: The Sowers of Discord. 53

Inferno Canto XXVIII:22-54 Mahomet: the Caliph Ali53

Inferno Canto XXVIII:55-90 Pier della Medicina and others. 53

Inferno Canto XXVIII:91-111 Curio and Mosca. 54

Inferno Canto XXVIII:112-142 Bertrand de Born. 54

Inferno Canto XXIX:1-36 Geri del Bello.. 54

Inferno Canto XXIX:37-72 The Tenth Chasm: The Falsifiers. 55

Inferno Canto XXIX:73-99 Griffolino and Capocchio.. 55

Inferno Canto XXIX:100-120 Griffolino’s narrative. 56

Inferno Canto XXIX:121-139 The Spendthrift Brigade. 56

Inferno Canto XXX:1-48 Schicci and Myrrha. 56

Inferno Canto XXX:49-90 Adam of Brescia. 57

Inferno Canto XXX:91-129 Sinon: Potiphar’s wife. 57

Inferno Canto XXX:130-148 Virgil reproves Dante. 58

Inferno Canto XXXI:1-45 The Giants that guard the central pit58

Inferno Canto XXXI:46-81 Nimrod. 59

Inferno Canto XXXI:82-96 Ephialtes. 59

Inferno Canto XXXI:97-145 Antaeus. 60

Inferno Canto XXXII:1-39 The Ninth Circle: The frozen River Cocytus. 60

Inferno Canto XXXII:40-69 The Caïna: The degli Alberti: Camicion. 60

Inferno Canto XXXII:70-123 The Antenora: Bocca degli Abbati61

Inferno Canto XXXII:124-139 Ugolino and Ruggieri61

Inferno Canto XXXIII:1-90 Count Ugolino’s story. 62

Inferno Canto XXXIII:91-157 Friar Alberigo and Branca d’Oria. 63

Inferno Canto XXXIV:1-54 The Judecca: Satan. 63

Inferno Canto XXXIV:55-69 Judas: Brutus: Cassius. 64

Inferno Canto XXXIV:70-139 The Poets leave Hell64


Inferno Canto I:1-60 The Dark Wood and the Hill


            In the middle of the journey of our life, I re-found myself, in a dark wood, where the direct way was lost. It is a hard thing to speak of, how wild, harsh and impenetrable that wood was, so that thinking of it recreates the fear. It is scarcely less bitter than death: but, in order to tell of the good that I found there, I must tell of the other things I saw there.

            I cannot rightly say how I entered it. I was so full of sleep, at that point where I abandoned the true way. But when I reached the foot of a hill, where the valley, that had pierced my heart with fear, came to an end, I looked up and saw its shoulders brightened with the rays of that sun that leads men rightly on every road. Then the fear, that had settled in the lake of my heart, through the night that I had spent so miserably, became a little calmer. And as a man, who, with panting breath, has escaped from the deep sea to the shore, turns back towards the perilous waters and stares, so my mind, still fugitive, turned back to see that pass again, that no living person ever left.

            After I had rested my tired body a while, I made my way again over empty ground, always bearing upwards to the right. And, behold, almost at the start of the slope, a light swift leopard with spotted coat. It would not turn from before my face, and so obstructed my path, that I often turned, in order to return.

            The time was at the beginning of the morning, and the sun was mounting up with all those stars, that were with him when Divine Love first moved all delightful things, so that the hour of day, and the sweet season, gave me fair hopes of that creature with the bright pelt. But not so fair that I could avoid fear at the sight of a lion, that appeared, and seemed to come at me, with raised head and rabid hunger, so that it seemed the air itself was afraid; and a she-wolf that looked full of craving in its leanness, and, before now, has made many men live in sadness. She brought me such heaviness of fear, from the aspect of her face, that I lost all hope of ascending. And as one who is eager for gain, weeps, and is afflicted in his thoughts, if the moment arrives when he loses, so that creature, without rest, made me like him: and coming at me, little by little, drove me back to where the sun is silent.


Inferno Canto I:61-99 Dante meets Virgil


            While I was returning to the depths, one appeared, in front of my eyes, who seemed hoarse from long silence. When I saw him, in the great emptiness, I cried out to him ‘Have pity on me, whoever you are, whether a man, in truth, or a shadow!’ He answered me: ‘Not a man: but a man I once was, and my parents were Lombards, and both of them, by their native place, Mantuans.

            I was born sub Julio though late, and lived in Rome, under the good Augustus, in the age of false, deceitful gods. I was a poet, and sang of Aeneas, that virtuous son of Anchises, who came from Troy when proud Ilium was burned. But you, why do you turn back towards such pain? Why do you not climb the delightful mountain, that is the origin and cause of all joy?’

            I answered him, with a humble expression: ‘Are you then that Virgil, and that fountain, that pours out so great a river of speech? O, glory and light to other poets, may that long study, and the great love, that made me scan your work, be worth something now. You are my master, and my author: you alone are the one from whom I learnt the high style that has brought me honour. See the creature that I turned back from: O, sage, famous in wisdom, save me from her, she that makes my veins and my pulse tremble.’

            When he saw me weeping, he answered: ‘You must go another road, if you wish to escape this savage place. This creature, that distresses you, allows no man to cross her path, but obstructs him, to destroy him, and she has so vicious and perverse a nature, that she never sates her greedy appetite, and after food is hungrier than before.’


Inferno Canto I:100-111 The salvation of Italy


            ‘Many are the creatures she mates with, and there will be many more, until the Greyhound comes who will make her die in pain. He will not feed himself on land or wealth, but on wisdom, love and virtue, and his birthplace will lie between Feltro and Feltro. He will be the salvation of that lower Italy for which virgin Camilla died of wounds, and Euryalus, Turnus, and Nisus. He will chase the she-wolf through every city, until he has returned her to Hell, from which envy first loosed her.’


Inferno Canto I:112-136 Virgil will be his guide through Hell


            ‘It is best, as I think and understand, for you to follow me, and I will be your guide, and lead you from here through an eternal space where you will hear the desparate shouts, will see the ancient spirits in pain, so that each one cries out for a second death: and then you will see others at peace in the flames, because they hope to come, whenever it may be, among the blessed. Then if you desire to climb to them, there will be a spirit, fitter than I am, to guide you, and I will leave you with her, when we part, since the Lord, who rules above, does not wish me to enter his city, because I was rebellious to his law.

            He is lord everywhere, but there he rules, and there is his city, and his high throne: O, happy is he, whom he chooses to go there!’

            And I to him: ‘Poet, I beg you, by the God, you did not acknowledge, lead me where you said, so that I might escape this evil or worse, and see the Gate of St. Peter, and those whom you make out to be so saddened.’

            Then he moved: and I moved on behind him.


Inferno Canto II:1-42 Dante’s doubts as to his fitness for the journey


            The day was going, and the dusky air was freeing the creatures of the earth, from their labours, and I, one, alone, prepared myself to endure the inner war, of the journey and its pity, that the mind, without error, shall recall.

            O Muses, O high invention, aid me, now! O memory, that has engraved what I saw, here your nobility will be shown.

            I began: ‘Poet, who guides me, examine my virtue, see if I am fitting, before you trust me to the steep way. You say that Aeneas, the father of Sylvius, while still corruptible flesh, went to the eternal world, and in his senses.  But if God, who opposes every evil, was gracious to him, thinking of the noble consequence, of who and what should derive from him, then that does not seem unreasonable to a man of intellect, since he was chosen to be the father of benign Rome, and of her empire. Both of them were founded as a sacred place, where the successor of the great Peter is enthroned. By that journey, by which you graced him, Aeneas learned things that were the source of his victory and of the Papal Mantle. Afterwards Paul, the Chosen Vessel, went there, to bring confirmation of the faith that is the entrance to the way of salvation.

            But why should I go there? Who allows it? I am not Aeneas: I am not Paul. Neither I, nor others, think me worthy of it. So, if I resign myself to going, I fear that going there may prove foolish: you know, and understand, better than I can say.’ And I rendered myself, on that dark shore, like one who unwishes what he wished, and changes his purpose, in new thinking, so that he leaves off what he began, completely, since in thought I consumed action, that had been so ready to begin.


Inferno Canto II:43-93 Virgil explains his mission:Beatrice


            The ghost of the generous poet replied: ‘If I have understood your words correctly, your spirit is attacked by cowardly fear, that often weighs men down, so that it deflects them from honourable action, like a creature seeing phantoms in the dusk. That you may shake off this dread yourself, I will tell you why I came, and what I heard at the first moment when I took pity on you.

            I was among those, in Limbo, in suspense, and a lady called to me, she so beautiful, so blessed, that I begged her to command me. Her eyes shone more brightly than the stars, and she began to speak, gently, quietly, in an angelic voice, in her language: ‘O noble Mantuan spirit, whose fame still endures in the world, and will endure as long as time endures, my friend, not fortune’s friend, is so obstructed in his way, along the desert strand, that he turns back in terror, and I fear he is already so far lost, that I have started too late to his aid, from what I heard of him in heaven. Now go, and help him so, with your eloquence, and with whatever is needed for his relief, that I may be comforted. I am Beatrice, who asks you to go: I come from a place I long to return to: love moved me that made me speak. When I am before my Lord, I will often praise you to him.’

            Then she was silent, and I began: ‘O lady of virtue, in whom, alone, humanity exceeds all that is contained in the lunar heaven, which has the smallest sphere, your command is so pleasing to me, that, obeying, were it done already, it were done too slow: you have no need to explain your wishes further. But tell me why you do not hesitate to descend here, to this centre below, from the wide space you burn to return to.’

            She replied: ‘Since you wish to know, I will tell you this much, briefly, of why I do not fear to enter here. Those things that have the power to hurt are to be feared: not those other things that are not fearful. I am made such, by God’s grace, that your suffering does not touch me, nor does the fire of this burning scorch me.’


Inferno Canto II:94-120 The Virgin sends Lucia to Beatrice


            ‘There is a gentle lady in heaven, who has such compassion, for this trouble I send you to relieve, that she overrules the strict laws on high. She called Lucia, to carry out her request, and said: “Now, he who is faithful to you, needs you, and I commend him to you.” Lucia, who is opposed to all cruelty, rose and came to the place where I was, where I sat with that Rachel of antiquity. Lucia said: “Beatrice, God’s true praise, why do you not help him, who loved you, so intensely, he left behind the common crowd for you? Do you not hear how pitiful his grief is? Do you not see the spiritual death that comes to meet him, on that dark river, over which the sea has no power?”

            No one on earth was ever as quick to search for their good, or run from harm, as I to descend, from my blessed place, after these words were spoken, and place my faith in your true speech, that honours you and those who hear it.’ She turned away, with tears in her bright eyes, after saying this to me, and made me, by that, come here all the quicker: and so I came to you, as she wished, and rescued you in the face of that wild creature, that denied you the shortest path to the lovely mountain.’


Inferno Canto II:121-142 Virgil strengthens Dante’s will


            ‘What is it then? Why, do you hold back? Why? Why let such cowardly fear into your heart? Why, when three such blessed ladies, in the courts of heaven, care for you, and my words promise you so much good, are you not free and ardent?’

            As the flowers, bent down and closed, by the night’s cold, erect themselves, all open, on their stems, when the sun shines on them, so I rose from weakened courage: and so fine an ardour coursed through my heart, that I began to speak, like one who is freed: ‘O she, who pities, who helps me, and you, so gentle, who swiftly obeyed the true words she commanded, you have filled my heart with such desire, by what you have said, to go forward, that I have turned back to my first purpose.

            Go now, for the two of us have but one will, you, the guide, the lord, the master.’ So I spoke to him, and he going on, I entered on the steep, tree-shadowed, way.


Inferno Canto III:1-21 The Gate of Hell














            These were the words, with their dark colour, that I saw written above the gate, at which I said: ‘Master, their meaning, to me, is hard.’ And he replied to me, as one who knows: ‘Here, all uncertainty must be left behind: all cowardice must be dead. We have come to the place where I told you that you would see the sad people who have lost the good of the intellect.’ And placing his hand on mine, with a calm expression, that comforted me, he led me towards the hidden things.


Inferno Canto III:22-69 The spiritually neutral


            Here sighs, complaints, and deep groans, sounded through the starless air, so that it made me weep at first. Many tongues, a terrible crying, words of sadness, accents of anger, voices deep and hoarse, with sounds of hands amongst them, making a turbulence that turns forever, in that air, stained, eternally, like sand spiralling in a whirlwind. And I, my head surrounded by the horror, said: ‘Master, what is this I hear, and what race are these, that seem so overcome by suffering?’

            And he to me: ‘This is the miserable mode in which those exist, who lived without praise, without blame. They are mixed in with the despised choir of angels, those not rebellious, not faithful to God, but for themselves. Heaven drove them out, to maintain its beauty, and deep Hell does not accept them, lest the evil have glory over them.’ And I: ‘Master, what is so heavy on them, that makes them moan so deeply?’ He replied: ‘I will tell you, briefly. They have no hope of death, and their darkened life is so mean that they are envious of every other fate. Earth allows no mention of them to exist: mercy and justice reject them: let us not talk of them, but look and pass.’

            And I, who looked back, saw a banner, that twirling round, moved so quickly, that it seemed to me scornful of any pause, and behind it came so long a line of people, I never would have believed that death had undone so many.


Inferno Canto III:58-69 Their punishment


            When I had recognised some among them, I saw and knew the shade of him who from cowardice made ‘the great refusal’. Immediately I understood that this was the despicable crew, hateful to God and his enemies. These wretches, who never truly lived, were naked, and goaded viciously by hornets, and wasps, there, making their faces stream with blood, that, mixed with tears, was collected, at their feet, by loathsome worms.


Inferno Canto III:70-99 Charon, the ferryman of the Acheron


            And then, as I looked onwards, I saw people on the bank of a great river, at which I said: ‘Master, now let me understand who these are, and what custom makes them so ready to cross over, as I can see by the dim light.’ And he to me: ‘The thing will be told you, when we halt our steps, on the sad strand of Acheron.’ Then, fearing that my words might have offended him, I stopped myself from speaking, with eyes ashamed and downcast, till we had reached the flood.

            And see, an old man, with white hoary locks, came towards us in a boat, shouting: ‘Woe to you, wicked spirits! Never hope to see heaven: I come to carry you to the other shore, into eternal darkness, into fire and ice. And you, who are there, a living spirit, depart from those who are dead.’

            But when he saw that I did not depart, he said: ‘By other ways, by other means of passage, you will cross to the shore: a quicker boat must carry you.’ And my guide said to him: ‘Charon, do not vex yourself: it is willed there, where what is willed is done: ask no more.’ Then the bearded mouth, of the ferryman of the livid marsh, who had wheels of flame round his eyes, was stilled.


Inferno Canto III:100-136 The souls by the shore of Acheron


            But those spirits, who were naked and weary, altered colour, and gnashed their teeth, when they heard his former, cruel words. They blasphemed against God, and their parents, the human species, the place, time, and seed of their conception, and of their birth. Then, all together, weeping bitterly, they neared the cursed shore that waits for every one who has no fear of God.

            Charon, the demon, with eyes of burning coal, beckoning, gathers them all: and strikes with his oar whoever lingers. As the autumn leaves fall, one after another, till the branches see all their spoilage on the ground, so, one by one, the evil seed of Adam, threw themselves down from the bank when signalled, like the falcon at its call. So they vanish on the dark water, and before they have landed over there, over here a fresh crowd collects.

            The courteous Master said: ‘My son, those who die subject to God’s anger, all gather here, from every country, and they are quick to cross the river, since divine justice goads them on, so that their fear is turned to desire. This way no good spirit ever passes, and so if Charon complains at you, you can well understand, now, the meaning of his words.

            When he had ended, the gloomy ground trembled so violently, that the memory of my terror still drenches me with sweat. The weeping earth gave vent, and flashed with crimson light, overpowering all my senses, and I fell, like a man overcome by sleep.


Inferno Canto IV:1-63 The First Circle: Limbo:The Heathens


            A heavy thunder shattered the deep sleep in my head, so that I came to myself, like someone woken by force, and standing up, I moved my eyes, now refreshed, and looked round, steadily, to find out what place I was in. I found myself, in truth, on the brink of the valley of the sad abyss that gathers the thunder of an infinite howling. It was so dark, and deep, and clouded, that I could see nothing by staring into its depths.

            The poet, white of face, began: ‘Now, let us descend into the blind world below: I will go first, and you go second.’ And I, who saw his altered colour, said: ‘How can I go on, if you are afraid, who are my comfort when I hesitate?’ And he to me: ‘The anguish of the people, here below, brings that look of pity to my face, that you mistake for fear. Let us go, for the length of our journey demands it.’ So he entered, and so he made me enter, into the first circle that surrounds the abyss.

            Here there was no sound to be heard, except the sighing, that made the eternal air tremble, and it came from the sorrow of the vast and varied crowds of children, of women, and of men, free of torment. The good Master said to me: ‘You do not demand to know who these spirits are that you see. I want you to learn, before you go further, that they had no sin, yet, though they have worth, it is not sufficient, because they were not baptised, and baptism is the gateway to the faith that you believe in. Since they lived before Christianity, they did not worship God correctly, and I myself am one of them. For this defect, and for no other fault, we are lost, and we are only tormented, in that without hope we live in desire.’

            When I heard this, great sadness gripped my heart, because I knew of people of great value, who must be suspended in that Limbo. Wishing to be certain in that faith that overcomes every error, I began: ‘Tell me my Master, tell me, sir, did anyone ever go from here, through his own merit or because of others’ merit, who afterwards was blessed?’

And he, understanding my veiled question, replied: ‘I was new to this state, when I saw a great one come here crowned with the sign of victory. He took from us the shade of Adam, our first parent, of his son Abel, and that of Noah, of Moses the lawgiver, and Abraham, the obedient Patriarch, King David, Jacob with his father Isaac, and his children, and Rachel, for whom he laboured so long, and many others, and made them blessed, and I wish you to know that no human souls were saved before these.


Inferno Canto IV:64-105 The Great Poets


            We did not cease moving, though he was speaking, but passed the wood meanwhile, the wood, I say, of crowded spirits. We had not gone far from where I slept, when I saw a flame that overcame a hemisphere of shadows. We were still some way from it, but not so far that I failed to discern in part what noble people occupied that place.

            ‘O you, who value every science and art, who are these, who have such honour that they stand apart from all the rest?’ And he to me: ‘Their fame, that sounds out for them, honoured in that life of yours, brings them heaven’s grace that advances them.’ Meanwhile I heard a voice: ‘Honour the great poet: his departed shade returns.’

            After the voice had paused, and was quiet, I saw four great shadows come towards us, with faces that were neither sad nor happy. The good Master began to speak: ‘Take note of him, with a sword in hand, who comes in front of the other three, as if he were their lord: that is Homer, the sovereign poet: next Horace the satirist: Ovid is the third, and last is Lucan. Because each is worthy, with me, of that name the one voice sounded, they do me honour, and, in doing so, do good.’

            So I saw gathered together the noble school, of the lord of highest song, who soars, like an eagle, above the rest. After they had talked for a while amongst themselves, they turned towards me with a sign of greeting, at which my Master smiled. And they honoured me further still, since they made me one of their company, so that I made a sixth among the wise.

            So we went onwards to the light, speaking of things about which it is best to be silent, just as it was best to speak of them, where I was.


Inferno Canto IV:106-129 The Heroes and Heroines


            We came to the base of a noble castle; surrounded seven times by a high wall; defended by a beautiful, encircling, stream. This we crossed as if it were solid earth: I entered through seven gates, with the wise: we reached a meadow of fresh turf. The people there were of great authority in appearance, with calm, and serious looks, speaking seldom, and then with soft voices. We moved to one side, into an open space, bright and high, so that every one, of them all, could be seen. There, on the green enamel, the great spirits were pointed out to me, directly, so that I feel exalted, inside me, at having seen them.

            I saw Electra with many others, amongst whom I knew Hector, Aeneas and Caesar, armed, with his eagle eye. I saw Camilla and Penthesilea, on the other side, and the King of Latium, Latinus, with Lavinia his daughter. I saw that Brutus who expelled Tarquin, Lucretia, Julia, Marcia, and Cornelia, and I saw Saladin, by himself, apart.


Inferno Canto IV:130-151 The Philosophers and other great spirits


            When I lifted my eyes a little higher, I saw the Master of those who know, Aristotle, sitting amongst the company of philosophers. All gaze at him: all show him honour. There I saw Socrates, and Plato, who stand nearest to him of all of them; Democritus, who ascribes the world to chance, Diogenes, Anaxagoras, and Thales; Empedocles, Heraclitus, and Zeno; and I saw the good collector of the qualities of plants, I mean Dioscorides: and saw Orpheus, Cicero, Linus, and Seneca the moralist; Euclid the geometer, and Ptolemaeus; Hippocrates, Avicenna, and Galen; and Averrhoës, who wrote the vast commentary.

            I cannot speak of them all in full, because the great theme drives me on, so that the word falls, many times, short of the fact. The six companions reduce to two: the wise guide leads me, by another path, out of the quiet, into the trembling air, and I come to a region, where nothing shines.


Inferno Canto V:1-51 The Second Circle:Minos:The Carnal Sinners


            So I descended from the first circle to the second, that encloses a smaller space, and so much more pain it provokes howling. There Minos stands, grinning horribly, examines the crimes on entrance, judges, and sends the guilty down as far as is signified by his coils: I mean that when the evil-born spirit comes before him, it confesses everything, and that knower of sins decides the proper place in hell for it, and makes as many coils with his tail, as the circles he will force it descend. A multitude always stand before him, and go in turn to be judged, speak and hear, and then are whirled downwards.

            When Minos saw me, passing by the actions of his great office, he said: ‘O you, who come to the house of pain, take care how you enter, and in whom you trust, do not let the width of the entrance deceive you.’ And my guide replied: ‘Why do you cry out? Do not obstruct his destined journey: so it is willed, where what is willed is done: demand no more.’ Now the mournful notes begin to reach me: now I come where much sorrowing hurts me.

            I came to a place devoid of light, that moans like a tempestuous sea, when it is buffeted by warring winds. The hellish storm that never ceases drives the spirits with its force, and, whirling and striking, it molests them. When they come to the ruins there are shouts, moaning and crying, where they blaspheme against divine power. I learnt that the carnal sinners are condemned to these torments, they who subject their reason to their lust.

            And, as their wings carry the starlings, in a vast, crowded flock, in the cold season, so that wind carries the wicked spirits, and leads them here and there, and up and down. No hope of rest, or even lesser torment, comforts them. And as the cranes go, making their sounds, forming a long flight, of themselves, in the air, so I saw the shadows come, moaning, carried by that war of winds, at which I said: ‘Master, who are these people, that the black air chastises so?’


Inferno Canto V:52-72 Virgil names the sinners


            He replied: ‘The first, of those you wish to know of, was Empress of many languages, so corrupted by the vice of luxury, that she made licence lawful in her code, to clear away the guilt she had incurred. She is Semiramis, of whom we read, that she succeeded Ninus, and was his wife: she held the countries that the Sultan rules.

            The next is Dido who killed herself for love, and broke faith with Sichaeus’s ashes: then comes licentious Cleopatra. See Helen, for whom, so long, the mills of war revolved: and see the great Achilles, who fought in the end with love, of Polyxena. See Paris; Tristan; and he pointed out more than a thousand shadows with his finger, naming, for me, those whom love had severed from life.


Inferno Canto V:70-142 Paolo and Francesca


            After I had heard my teacher name the ancient knights and ladies, pity overcame me, and I was as if dazed. I began: ‘Poet, I would speak, willingly, to those two who go together, and seem so light upon the wind.’ And he to me: ‘You will see, when they are nearer to us, you can beg them, then, by the love that leads them, and they will come.’

            As soon as the wind brought them to us, I raised my voice: ‘O weary souls, come and talk with us, if no one prevents it.’ As doves, claimed by desire, fly steadily, with raised wings, through the air, to their sweet nest, carried by the will, so the spirits flew from the crowd where Dido is, coming towards us through malignant air, such was the power of my affecting call.

            ‘O gracious and benign living creature, that comes to visit us, through the dark air, if the universe’s king were our friend, we, who tainted the earth with blood, would beg him to give you peace, since you take pity on our sad misfortune. While the wind, as now, is silent, we will hear you and speak to you, of what you are pleased to listen to and talk of.

            The place where I was born is by the shore, where the River Po runs down to rest at peace, with his attendant streams. Love, that is quickly caught in the gentle heart, filled him with my fair form, now lost to me, and the nature of that love still afflicts me. Love, that allows no loved one to be excused from loving, seized me so fiercely with desire for him it still will not leave me, as you can see.  Love led us to one death. Caïna, in the ninth circle waits, for him who quenched our life.’

            These words carried to us, from them. After I had heard those troubled spirits, I bowed my head, and kept it bowed, until the poet said: ‘What are you thinking?’ When I replied, I began: ‘O, alas, what sweet thoughts, what longing, brought them to this sorrowful state? Then I turned to them again, and I spoke, and said: ‘Francesca, your torment makes me weep with grief and pity. But tell me, in that time of sweet sighs, how did love allow you to know these dubious desires?’

            And she to me: ‘There is no greater pain, than to remember happy times in misery, and this your teacher knows. But if you have so great a yearning to understand the first root of our love, I will be like one who weeps and tells. We read, one day, to our delight, of Lancelot and how love constrained him: we were alone and without suspicion. Often those words urged our eyes to meet, and coloured our cheeks, but it was a single moment that undid us. When we read how that lover kissed the beloved smile, he who will never be separated from me, kissed my mouth all trembling. That book was a Galeotto, a pandar, and he who wrote it: that day we read no more.’

            While the one spirit spoke, the other wept, so that I fainted out of pity, and, as if I were dying, fell, as a dead body falls.


Inferno Canto VI:1-33 The Third Circle: Cerberus: The Gluttonous


            When my senses return, that closed themselves off from pity of those two kindred, who stunned me with complete sadness, I see around me new torments, and new tormented souls, wherever I move, or turn, and wherever I gaze. I am in the third circle, of eternal, accursed, cold and heavy rain: its kind and quality is never new. Large hail, tainted water, and sleet, pour down through the shadowy air: and the earth is putrid that receives it.

            Cerberus, the fierce and strange monster, triple-throated, barks dog-like over the people submerged in it. His eyes are crimson, his beard is foul and black, his belly vast, and his limbs are clawed: he snatches the spirits, flays, and quarters them. The rain makes them howl like dogs: they protect one flank with the other: often writhing: miserable wretches.

            When Cerberus, the great worm, saw us, he opened his jaws, and showed his fangs: not a limb of his stayed still. My guide, stretching out his hands, grasped earth, and hurled it in fistfuls into his ravening mouth. Like a dog that whines for food, and grows quiet when he eats it, only fighting and struggling to devour it, so did demon Cerberus’s loathsome muzzles that bark, like thunder, at the spirits, so that they wish that they were deaf.


Inferno Canto VI:34-63 Ciacco, the glutton.


            We passed over the shades, that the heavy rain subdues, and placed our feet on each empty space that seems a body. They were all lying on the ground but one, who sat up straight away when he saw us cross in front of him: He said to me: ‘O you, who are led through this Inferno, recognise me if you can: you were made before I was unmade.’ And I to him: ‘The anguish that you suffer, conceals you perhaps from my memory, so that it seems as if I never knew you. But tell me who you are, that are lodged so sadly, and undergo such punishment, that though there are others greater, none is so unpleasant.’

            And he to me: ‘Your city, Florence, that is so full of envy it overflows, held me in the clear life. You, the citizens, called me Ciacco: and for the damnable sin of gluttony, as you see, I languish beneath the rain: and I am not the only wretched spirit, since all these are punished likewise for like sin. I answered him: ‘Ciacco, your affliction weighs on me, inviting me to weep, but tell me, if you can, what the citizens of that divided city will come to; if any there are just: and the reason why such discord tears it apart.’


Inferno Canto VI:64-93 Ciacco’s prophecy concerning Florence


            And he to me: ‘After long struggle, they will come to blood, and, the Whites, the party of the woods, will throw out the Blacks, with great injury. Within three years, then, it must happen, that the Blacks will conquer, with the help of him, who now veers about. That party will hold its head high for a long time, weighing the Whites down, under heavy oppression, however they weep and however ashamed they are. Two men are just, but are not listened to. Pride, Envy and Avarice are the three burning coals that have set all hearts on fire.’

            Here he ended the mournful prophecy, and I said to him: I want you to instruct me still, and grant me a little more speech. Tell me where Farinata and Tegghiaio are, who were worthy enough, and Jacopo Rusticucci, Arrigo, Mosca, and the rest who set their minds to doing good: let me know of them, for a great longing urges me to discover whether Heaven soothes them, or Hell poisons them.’

            And he to me: ‘They are among the blackest spirits, another crime weighs them to the bottom: if you descend so deep, you may see them. But when you are, again, in the sweet world, I beg you to recall me to other minds: I tell you no more, and more I will not answer.’ At that he turned his fixed gaze askance, and looked at me a while: then, bent his head, and lowered himself, and it, among his blind companions.


Inferno Canto VI:94-115 Virgil speaks of The Day of Judgement


            And my guide said to me: ‘He will not stir further, until the angelic trumpet sounds, when the Power opposing evil will come: each will revisit his sad grave, resume his flesh and form, and hear what will resound through eternity.’ So we passed over the foul brew of rain and shadows, with slow steps, speaking a little of the future life.

            Of this I asked: ‘Master, will these torments increase, after the great judgement, or lessen, or stay as fierce?’ And he to me: ‘Remember your science, that says, that the more perfect a thing is, the more it feels pleasure and pain. Though these accursed ones will never achieve true perfection, they will be nearer to it after, than before.’

            We circled along that road, speaking of much more than I repeat: we came to the place where the descent begins, where we found Plutus, the god of wealth, the great enemy.


Inferno Canto VII:1-39 The Fourth Circle: Plutus: The Avaricious


            ‘Pape Satan, pape Satan aleppe,’ Plutus, began to croak, and the gentle sage, who understood all things, comforted me, saying: ‘Do not let fear hurt you, since whatever power he has, he will not prevent you descending this rock.’ Then he turned to that swollen face and said: ‘Peace, evil wolf! Devour yourself inside, in your rage. Our journey to the depths is not without reason: it is willed on high, there where Michael made war on the great dragon’s adulterating pride.’

            Like a sail, bellying in the wind, that falls, in a heap, if the mast breaks, so that cruel creature fell to earth. In that way we descended into the fourth circle, taking in a greater width of the dismal bank, that encloses every evil of the universe.

            O Divine Justice! Who can tell the many new pains and troubles, that I saw, and why our guilt so destroys us? As the wave, over Charybdis, strikes against the wave it counters, so the people here are made to dance. I found more people here than elsewhere, on the one side and on the other, rolling weights by pushing with their chests, with loud howling. They struck against each other, and then each wheeled around where they were, rolling the reverse way, shouting: ‘Why do you hold?’ and ‘Why do you throw away.’

            So they returned along the gloomy circle, from either side to the opposite point, shouting again their measure of reproach. Then each one, when he had reached it, wheeled through his half circle onto the other track. And I, who felt as if my heart were pierced, said: ‘My Master, show me now who these people are: and whether all those, with tonsures, on our left were churchmen.’


Inferno Canto VII:40-66 The avaricious and prodigal churchmen


            And he to me: ‘They were so twisted in mind in their first life, that they made no balanced expenditure. Their voices bark this out most clearly when they come to the two ends of the circle, where opposing sins divide them.

            These were priests, that are without hair on their heads, and Popes and Cardinals, in whom avarice does its worst. And I: ‘Master, surely, amongst this crowd, I ought to recognise some of those tainted with these evils.’ And he to me: ‘You link idle thoughts: the life without knowledge, that made them ignoble, now makes them incapable of being known. They will go butting each other to eternity: and these will rise from their graves with grasping fists, and those with shorn hair.

            Useless giving, and useless keeping, has robbed them of the bright world, and set them to this struggle: what struggle it is, I do not amplify. But you, my son, can see now the vain mockery of the wealth controlled by Fortune, for which the human race fight with each other, since all the gold under the moon, that ever was, could not give peace to one of these weary souls.’


Inferno Canto VII:67-99 Virgil speaks about Fortune


            I said to him: ‘Master, now tell me about Fortune also, that subject you touched on, who is she, who has the wealth of the world in her arms?’ And he to me: ‘O, blind creatures, how great is the ignorance that surrounds you! I want you, now, to hear my judgement of her.

            He whose wisdom transcends all things, made the heavens, and gave them ruling powers, so that each part illuminates the others, distributing the light equally. Similarly he put in place a controller, and a guide, for earthly splendour, to alter, from time to time, idle possession, between nation and nation, and from kin to kin, beyond the schemes of human reason. So one people commands: another wanes, obeying her judgement, she who is concealed, like a snake in the grass.

            Your wisdom cannot comprehend her: she furnishes, adjudicates, and maintains her kingdom, as the other gods do theirs. Her permutations never end: necessity makes her swift: so, often, someone comes who creates change. This is she: so often reviled, even by those who ought to praise her, but, wrongly, blame her, with malicious words. Still, she is in bliss, and does not hear: she spins her globe, joyfully, among the other primal spirits, and tastes her bliss.

            Now let us descend to greater misery: already every star is declining, that was rising when I set out, and we are not allowed to stay too long.’


Inferno Canto VII:100-130 The Styx: They view the Fifth Circle


            We crossed the circle to the other bank, near a spring, that boils and pours down, through a gap that it has made. The water was darker than a dark blue-grey, and we entered the descent by a strange path, in company with the dusky waves. This woeful stream forms the marsh called Styx, when it has fallen to the foot of the grey malignant walls. And I who stood there, intent on seeing, saw muddy people in the fen, naked, and all with the look of anger. They were striking each other, not only with hands, but head, chest, and feet, mangling each other with their teeth, bite by bite.

            The kind Master said: ‘Now, son, see the souls of those overcome by anger, and also, I want you to know, in truth, there are people under the water, who sigh, and make it bubble on the surface, as your eye can see whichever way it turns. Fixed in the slime they say: “We were sullen in the sweet air, that is gladdened by the sun, bearing indolent smoke in our hearts: now we lie here, sullen, in the black mire.” This measure they gurgle in their throats, because they cannot utter it in full speech.’

            So we covered a large arc of the loathsome swamp, between the dry bank and its core, our eyes turned towards those who swallow its filth: we came at last to the base of a tower.


Inferno Canto VIII:1-30 The Fifth Circle: Phlegyas: The Wrathful


            I say, pursuing my theme, that, long before we reached the base of the high tower, our eyes looked upwards to its summit, because we saw two beacon-flames set there, and another, from so far away that the eye could scarcely see it, gave a signal in return. And I turned to the fount of all knowledge, and asked: ‘What does it say? And what does the other light reply? And who has made the signal?’ And he to me: ‘Already you can see, what is expected, coming over the foul waters, if the marsh vapours do not hide it from you.’

            No bowstring ever shot an arrow that flew through the air so quickly, as the little boat, that I saw coming towards us, through the waves, under the control of a single steersman, who cried: ‘Are you here, now, fierce spirit?’ My Master said: ‘Phlegyas, Phlegyas, this time you cry in vain: you shall not keep us longer than it takes us to pass the marsh.’

            Phlegyas in his growing anger, was like someone who listens to some great wrong done him, and then fills with resentment. My guide climbed down into the boat, and then made me board after him, and it only sank in the water when I was in. As soon as my guide and I were in the craft, its prow went forward, ploughing deeper through the water than it does carrying others.


Inferno Canto VIII:31-63 They meet Filippo Argenti


            While we were running through the dead channel, one rose up in front of me, covered with mud, and said: ‘Who are you, that come before your time?’ And I to him: ‘If I come, I do not stay here: but who are you, who are so mired?’ He answered: ‘You see that I am one who weeps.’ And I to him: ‘Cursed spirit, remain weeping and in sorrow! For I know you, muddy as you are.’

            Then he stretched both hands out to the boat, at which the cautious Master pushed him off, saying: ‘Away, there, with the other dogs!’ Then he put his arms around my neck, kissed my face, and said: ‘Blessed be she who bore you, soul, who are rightly indignant. He was an arrogant spirit in your world: there is nothing good with which to adorn his memory: so, his furious shade is here. How many up there think themselves mighty kings, that will lie here like pigs in mire, leaving behind them dire condemnation!’ 

           And I: ‘Master, I would be glad to see him doused in this swill before we quit the lake’. And he to me: ‘You will be satisfied, before the shore is visible to you: it is right that your wish should be gratified.’ Not long after this I saw the muddy people make such a rending of him, that I still give God thanks and praise for it. All shouted: ‘At Filippo Argenti!’ That fierce Florentine spirit turned his teeth in vengeance on himself.


Inferno Canto VIII:64-81 They approach the city of Dis


            We left him there, so that I can say no more of him, but a sound of wailing assailed my ears, so that I turned my gaze in front, intently. The kind Master said: ‘Now, my son, we approach the city they call Dis, with its grave citizens, a vast crowd.’ And I: ‘Master, I can already see its towers, clearly there in the valley, glowing red, as if they issued from the fire.’ And he to me: ‘The eternal fire, that burns them from within, makes them appear reddened, as you see, in this deep Hell.’

            We now arrived in the steep ditch, that forms the moat to the joyless city: the walls seemed to me as if they were made of iron. Not until we had made a wide circuit, did we reach a place where the ferryman said to us: ‘Disembark: here is the entrance.’


Inferno Canto VIII:82-130 The fallen Angels obstruct them


            I saw more than a thousand of those angels, that fell from Heaven like rain, above the gates, who cried angrily: ‘Who is this, that, without death goes through the kingdom of the dead?’ And my wise Master made a sign to them, of wishing to speak in private. Then they furled their great disdain, and said: ‘Come on, alone, and let him go, who enters this kingdom with such audacity. Let him return, alone, on his foolish road: see if he can: and you, remain, who have escorted him, through so dark a land.’

            Think, Reader, whether I was not disheartened at the sound of those accursed words, not believing I could ever return here. I said: ‘O my dear guide, who has ensured my safety more than the seven times, and snatched me from certain danger that faced me, do not leave me, so helpless: and if we are prevented from going on, let us quickly retrace our steps.’ And that lord, who had led me there, said to me: ‘Have no fear: since no one can deny us passage: it was given us by so great an authority. But you, wait for me, and comfort and nourish your spirit with fresh hope, for I will not abandon you in the lower world.’

            So the gentle father goes, and leaves me there, and I am left in doubt: since ‘yes’ and ‘no’ war inside my head. I could not hear what terms he offered them, but he had not been standing there long with them, when, each vying with the other, they rushed back. Our adversaries closed the gate in my lord’s face, leaving him outside, and he turned to me again with slow steps. His eyes were on the ground, and his expression devoid of all daring, and he said, sighing: ‘Who are these who deny me entrance to the house of pain?’ And to me he said: ‘Though I am angered, do not you be dismayed: I will win the trial, whatever obstacle those inside contrive. This insolence of theirs is nothing new, for they displayed it once before, at that less secret gate we passed, that has remained unbarred. Over it you saw the fatal writing, and already on this side of its entrance, one is coming, down the steep, passing the circles unescorted, one for whom the city shall open to us.’


Inferno Canto IX:1-33 Dante asks about precedents


            The colour that cowardice had printed on my face, seeing my guide turn back, made him repress his own heightened colour more swiftly. He stopped, attentive, like one who listens, since his eyes could not penetrate far, through the black air and the thick fog. ‘Nevertheless we must win this struggle,’ he began, ‘if not … then help such as this was offered to us. Oh, how long it seems to me, that other’s coming!’ I saw clearly, how he hid the meaning of his opening words with their sequel, words differing from his initial thought. None the less his speech made me afraid, perhaps because I took his broken phrases to hold a worse meaning than they did.

            ‘Do any of those whose only punishment is deprivation of hope, ever descend, into the depths of this sad chasm, from the first circle?’ I asked this question, and he answered me: ‘It rarely happens, that any of us make the journey that I go on. It is true that I was down here, once before, conjured to do so by that fierce sorceress Erichtho, who recalled spirits to their corpses. My flesh had only been stripped from me a while when she forced me to enter inside that wall, to bring a spirit out of the circle of Judas. That is the deepest place, and the darkest, and the furthest from that Heaven that surrounds all things: I know the way well: so be reassured. This marsh, that breathes its foul stench, circles the woeful city round about, where we also cannot enter now without anger.’


Inferno Canto IX:34-63 The Furies (Conscience) and Medusa (Obduracy)           


            And he said more that I do not remember, because my eyes had been drawn to the high tower, with the glowing crest, where, in an instant, three hellish Furies, stained with blood, had risen, that had the limbs and aspects of women, covered with a tangle of green hydras, their hideous foreheads bound with little adders, and horned vipers. And Virgil, who knew the handmaids of the queen of eternal sadness well, said to me: ‘See, the fierce Erinyes.’

            That is Megaera on the left: the one that weeps, on the right, is Alecto: Tisiphone is in the middle.’: then he was silent. Each one was tearing at her breast with her claws, beating with her hands, and crying out so loudly, that I pressed close to the poet, out of fear. ‘Let Medusa come,’ they all said, looking down on us, ‘so that we can turn him to stone: we did not fully revenge Theseus’s attack.’

            ‘Turn your back.’ said the Master, and he himself turned me round. ‘Keep your eyes closed, since there will be no return upwards, if she were to show herself, and you were to see her.’ Not leaving it to me, he covered them, also, with his own hands.

            O you, who have clear minds, take note of the meaning that conceals itself under the veil of clouded verse!


Inferno Canto IX:64-105 The Messenger from Heaven


            Now, over the turbid waves, there came a fearful crash of sound, at which both shores trembled; a sound like a strong wind, born of conflicting heat, that strikes the forest, remorselessly, breaks the branches, and beats them down, and carries them away, advances proudly in a cloud of dust, and makes wild creatures, and shepherds, run for safety. Virgil uncovered my eyes, and said: ‘Now direct your vision to that ancient marsh, there, where the mists are thickest.’ Like frogs, that all scatter through the water, in front of their enemy the snake, until each one squats on the bottom, so I saw more than a thousand damaged spirits scatter, in front of one who passed the Stygian ferry with dry feet. He waved that putrid air from his face, often waving his left hand before it, and only that annoyance seemed to weary him. I well knew he was a messenger from Heaven, and I turned to the Master, who made a gesture that I should stay quiet, and bow to him.

            How full of indignation he seemed to me! He reached the gate, and opened it with a wand: there was no resistance. On the vile threshold he began to speak: ‘O, outcasts from Heaven, why does this insolence still live in you? Why are you recalcitrant to that will, whose aims can never be frustrated, and that has often increased your torment? What use is it to butt your heads against the Fates? If you remember, your Cerberus still shows a throat and chin scarred from doing so.’

            Then he returned, over the miry pool, and spoke no word to us, but looked like one preoccupied and driven by other cares, than of those who stand before him. And we stirred our feet towards the city, in safety, after his sacred speech.


Inferno Canto IX:106-133 The Sixth Circle: Dis: The Heretics


            We entered Dis without a conflict, and I gazed around, as soon as I as was inside, eager to know what punishment the place enclosed, and saw on all sides a vast plain full of pain and vile torment.

            As at Arles, where the Rhone stagnates, or Pola, near the Gulf of Quarnaro, that confines Italy, and bathes its coast, the sepulchres make the ground uneven, so they did here, all around, only here the nature of it was more terrible.

Flames were scattered amongst the tombs, by which they were made so red-hot all over, that no smith’s art needs hotter metal. Their lids were all lifted, and such fierce groans came from them, that, indeed, they seemed to be those of the sad and wounded.

            And I said: ‘Master, who are these people, entombed in those vaults, who make themselves known by tormented sighing?’ And he to me: ‘Here are the arch-heretics, with their followers, of every sect: and the tombs contain many more than you might think. Here like is buried with like, and the monuments differ in degrees of heat.’ Then after turning to the right, we passed between the tormented, and the steep ramparts.


Inferno Canto X:1-21 Epicurus and his followers


            Now my Master goes, and I, behind him, by a secret path between the city walls and the torments. I began: ‘O, summit of virtue, who leads me round through the circles of sin, as you please, speak to me, and satisfy my longing. Can those people, who lie in the sepulchres, be seen? The lids are all raised, and no one keeps guard.’ And he to me: ‘They will all be shut, when they return here, from Jehoshaphat, with the bodies they left above. In this place Epicurus and all his followers are entombed, who say the soul dies with body. Therefore, you will soon be satisfied, with an answer to the question that you ask me, and also the longing that you hide from me, here, inside.’ And I: ‘Kind guide, I do not keep my heart hidden from you, except by speaking too briefly, something to which you have previously inclined me.’


Inferno Canto X:22-51 Farinata degli Uberti


            ‘O Tuscan, who goes alive through the city of fire, speaking so politely, may it please you to rest in this place. Your speech shows clearly you are a native of that noble city that I perhaps troubled too much.’ This sound came suddenly from one of the vaults, at which, in fear, I drew a little closer to my guide. And he said to me: ‘Turn round: what are you doing: look at Farinata, who has raised himself: you can see him all from the waist up.’

            I had already fixed my gaze on him, and he rose erect in stance and aspect, as if he held Inferno in great disdain. The spirited and eager hands of my guide pushed me through the sepulchres towards him, saying: ‘Make sure your words are measured.’ When I was at the base of the tomb, Farinata looked at me for a while, and then almost contemptuously, he demanded of me: ‘Who were your ancestors?’

            I, desiring to obey, concealed nothing, but revealed the whole to him, at which he raised his brows a little. Then he said: ‘They were fiercely opposed to me, and my ancestors and my party, so that I scattered them twice.’ I replied: ‘Though they were driven out, they returned from wherever they were, the first and the second time, but your party have not yet learnt that skill.’


Inferno Canto X:52-72 Cavalcante Cavalcanti


            Then, a shadow rose behind him, from the unclosed space, visible down to the tip of its chin: I think it had raised itself on to its knees. It gazed around me, as if it wished to see whether anyone was with me, but when all its hopes were quenched, it said, weeping: ‘If by power of intellect, you go through this blind prison, where is my son, and why is he not with you?’ And I to him: ‘I do not come through my own initiative: he that waits there, whom your Guido disdained perhaps, leads me through this place’

            His words and the nature of his punishment had spelt his name to me, so that my answer was a full one. Suddenly raising himself erect, he cried: ‘What did you say?  Disdained? Is he not still alive? Does the sweet light not strike his eyes?’ When he saw that I delayed in answering, he dropped supine again, and showed himself no more.


Inferno Canto X:73-93Farinata prophesies Dante’s long exile


            But the other one, at whose wish I had first stopped, generously did not alter his aspect or move his neck, or turn his side. Continuing his previous words, he said: ‘And if my party have learnt that art of return badly, it tortures me more than this bed, but the face of the moon-goddess Persephone, who rules here, will not be crescent fifty times, before you learn the difficulty of that art. And, as you wish to return to the sweet world, tell me why that people is so fierce towards my kin, in all its lawmaking?’ At which I answered him: ‘The great slaughter and havoc, that dyed the Arbia red, is the cause of those indictments against them, in our churches.’

            Then he shook his head, sighing, and said: ‘I was not alone in that matter, nor would I have joined with the others without good cause, but I was alone, there, when all agreed to raze Florence to the ground, and I openly defended her.


Inferno Canto X:94-136 The prophetic vision of the damned


‘Ah, as I hope your descendants might sometime have peace,’ I begged him, ‘solve the puzzle that has entangled my mind. It seems, if I hear right, that you see beforehand what time brings, but have a different knowledge of the present.’ ‘Like one who has imperfect vision,’ he said, ‘we see things that are distant from us: so much of the light the supreme Lord still allows us. But when they approach, or come to be, our intelligence is wholly void, and we know nothing of your human state, except what others tell us. So you may understand that all our knowledge of the future will end, from the moment when the Day of Judgement closes the gate of futurity.’

                        Then, as if conscious of guilt, I said: ‘Will you therefore, tell that fallen one, now, that his son is still joined to the living. And if I was silent before in reply, let him know it was because my thoughts were already entangled in that error you have resolved for me.’

            And now my Master was recalling me, at which I begged the spirit, with more haste, to tell me who was with him. He said to me: ‘I lie here with more than a thousand: here inside is Frederick the Second, and the Cardinal, Ubaldini, and of the rest I am silent.’ At that he hid himself, and I turned my steps towards the poet of antiquity, reflecting on the words that boded trouble for me.

            Virgil moved on, and then, as we were leaving, said to me: ‘Why are you so bewildered?’ And I satisfied his question. The sage exhorted me: ‘Let your mind retain what you have heard of your fate, and note this,’ and he raised his finger, ‘When you stand before the sweet rays of that lady, whose bright eyes see everything, you will learn the journey of your life through her.’

            Then he turned his feet towards the left: we abandoned the wall, and went towards the middle, by a path that makes its way into a valley, that, even up there, forced us to breathe its foulness.


Inferno Canto XI:1-66 The structure of Hell: The Lower Circles


            On the edge of a high bank, made of great broken rocks in a circle, we came above a still more cruel crowd, and here, because of the repulsive, excessive stench that the deep abyss throws out, we approached it in the shelter of a grand monument, on which I saw an inscription that said: ‘I hold Anastasius, that Photinus drew away from the true path.’

            The Master said: ‘We must delay our descent until our sense is somewhat used to the foul wind, and then we will not notice it.’ I said to him: ‘Find us something to compensate, so that the time is not wasted.’ And he: ‘See, I have thought of it.’ He began: ‘My son, within these walls of stone, are three graduated circles like those you are leaving. They are all filled with accursed spirits: but so that the sight of them may be enough to inform you, in future, listen how and why they are constrained.

            The outcome of all maliciousness, that Heaven hates, is harm: and every such outcome hurts others, either by force or deceit. But because deceit is a vice peculiar to human beings it displeases God more, and therefore the fraudulent are placed below, and more pain grieves them. The whole of the seventh circle is for the violent, but, since violence can be done to three persons, it is constructed and divided in three rings. I say violence may be done to God, or to oneself, or one’s neighbour, and their person or possessions, as you will hear, in clear discourse.

            Death or painful wounds may be inflicted on one’s neighbour; and devastation, fire, and pillage, on his substance. Therefore the first ring torments all homicides; every one who lashes out maliciously; and thieves and robbers; in their diverse groups.

            A man may do violence to himself and to his property, and so, in the second ring, all must repent, in vain, who deprive themselves of your world; or gamble away and dissipate their wealth; or weep there, when they should be happy.

            Violence may be done, against the Deity, denying him and blaspheming in the heart, and scorning Nature and her gifts, and so the smallest ring stamps with its seal both Sodom and Cahors, and those who speak scornfully of God, in their hearts.

            Human beings may practise deceit, which gnaws at every conscience, on one who trusts them, or on one who places no trust. This latter form of fraud only severs the bond of love that Nature created, and so, in the eighth circle, are nested hypocrisy; sorcery; flattery; cheating; theft and selling of holy orders; pimps; corrupters of public office; and similar filth.

            In the previous form, that love that Nature creates is forgotten, and also that which is added later, giving rise to special trust. So, in the ninth, the smallest circle, at the base of the universe, where Dis has his throne, every traitor is consumed eternally.’


Inferno Canto XI:67-93 The structure of Hell: The Upper Circles


            And I said: ‘Master, your reasoning proceeds most clearly, and lays out excellently this gulf, and those that populate it, but tell me why those of the great marsh, those whom the wind drives, and the rain beats, and those who come together with sharp words, are not punished in the burning city, if God’s anger is directed towards them? And if not why they are in such a state?’ And he to me: ‘Why does your mind err so much more than usual, or are your thoughts somewhere else?

            Do you not remember the words with which your Aristotelian Ethics speaks of the three natures that Heaven does not will: incontinence, malice and mad brutishness, and how incontinence offends God less and incurs less blame? If you consider this doctrine correctly, and recall to mind who those are, that suffer punishment out there, above, you will see, easily, why they are separated from these destructive spirits, and why divine justice strikes them with less anger.’

            I said: ‘O Sun, that heals all troubled sight, you make me so content when you explain to me, that to question is as delightful as to know.’


Inferno Canto XI:94-115 Virgil explains usury


            ‘Go back a moment, to where you said that usury offends divine goodness, and unravel that knot.’ He said to me: ‘To him who attends, Philosophy shows, in more than one place, how Nature takes her path from the Divine Intelligence, and its arts, and if you note your Physics well, you will find, not many pages in, that art, follows her, as well as it can, as the pupil does the master, so that your art is as it were the grandchild of God. By these two, art and nature, man must earn his bread and flourish, if you recall to mind Genesis, near its beginning.

            Because the usurer holds to another course, he denies Nature, in herself, and in that which follows her ways, putting his hopes elsewhere.

            But follow me, now, by the path I choose, for Pisces quivers on the horizon, and all Bootës covers Caurus, the north-west wind, and over there, some way, we descend the cliff.’


Inferno Canto XII:1-27 Above the Seventh Circle: The Minotaur


            The place we reached to climb down the bank was craggy, and, because of the creature there, also, a path that every eye would shun. The descent of that rocky precipice was like the landslide that struck the left bank of the Adige, this side of Trento, caused by an earthquake or a faulty buttress, since the rock is so shattered, from the summit of the mountain, where it started, to the plain, that it might form a route, for someone above: and at the top of the broken gully, the infamy of Crete, the Minotaur, conceived on Pasiphaë, in the wooden cow, lay stretched out.

            When he saw us he gnawed himself, like someone consumed by anger inside. My wise guide called to him: ‘Perhaps you think that Theseus, the Duke of Athens, is here, who brought about your death, in the world above? Leave here, monstrous creature. This man does not come here, aided by your sister, Ariadne, but passes through to see the punishments.’

            Like a bull, breaking loose, at the moment when it receives the fatal blow, that cannot go forward, but plunges here and there, so I saw the Minotaur, and my cautious guide cried: ‘Run to the passage: while he is in a fury, it is time for you to descend.’


Inferno Canto XII:28-48 The descent to the Seventh Circle


            So we made our way, downwards, over the landslide of stones, that often shifted beneath my feet, from the unaccustomed weight. I went thoughtfully, and he said:  ‘Perhaps you are contemplating this fallen mass of rock, guarded by the bestial anger that I quelled a moment ago. I would have you know that the previous time I came down here to the deep Inferno, this spill had not yet fallen. But, if I discern the truth, the deep and loathsome valley, shook, not long before He came to take the great ones of the highest circle, so that I thought the universe thrilled with love, by which as some believe, the world has often been overwhelmed by chaos. In that moment ancient rocks, here and elsewhere, tumbled.

            But fix your gaze on the valley, because we near the river of blood, in which those who injure others by violence are boiled.’


Inferno Canto XII:49-99 The First Ring: The Centaurs: The Violent


            O blind desires, evil and foolish, which so goad us in our brief life, and then, in the eternal one, ruin us so bitterly! I saw a wide canal bent in an arc, looking as if it surrounded the whole plain, from what my guide had told me. Centaurs were racing, one behind another, between it and the foot of the bank, armed with weapons, as they were accustomed to hunt on earth.

            Seeing us descend they all stood still, and three, elected leaders, came from the group, armed with bows and spears. And one of them shouted from the distance: ‘What torment do you come for, you that descend the rampart? Speak from there, if not, I draw the bow.’ My Master said: ‘We will make our reply to Chiron, who is there, nearby. Sadly, your nature was always rash.’ Then he touched me, and said: ‘That is Nessus, who died because of his theft of the lovely Deianira, and, for his blood, took vengeance, through his blood.

            He, in the centre, whose head is bowed to his chest, is the great Chiron, who nursed Achilles: the other is Pholus, who was so full of rage. They race around the ditch, in thousands, piercing with arrows any spirit that climbs further from the blood than its guilt has condemned it to. We drew near the swift creatures. Chiron took an arrow, and pushed back his beard from his face with the notched flight. When he had uncovered his huge mouth, he said to his companions: ‘Have you noticed that the one behind moves whatever he touches? The feet of dead men do not usually do so.’

            And my good guide, who was by Chiron’s front part, where the two natures join, replied: ‘He is truly alive, and, alone, I have to show him the dark valley. Necessity brings him here, and not desire. She, who gave me this new duty, came from singing Alleluiahs: he is no thief: nor am I a wicked spirit. But, by that virtue, by means of which I set my feet on so unsafe a path, lend us one of your people whom we can follow, so that he may show us where the ford is, and carry this one over on his back, since he cannot fly as a spirit through the air.’

            Chiron twisted to his right, and said to Nessus: ‘Turn, and guide them, then, and if another crew meet you, keep them off.’


Inferno Canto XII:100-139 The Tyrants, Murderers and Warriors


            We moved onwards with our trustworthy guide, along the margin of the crimson boiling, in which the boiled were shrieking loudly. I saw people immersed as far as the eyebrows, and the great Centaur said: ‘These are tyrants who indulged in blood, and rapine. Here they lament their offences, done without mercy. Here is Alexander, and fierce Dionysius of Syracuse, who gave Sicily years of pain. That head of black hair is Azzolino, and the other, which is blonde, is Obizzo da Este, whose life was quenched, in truth, by his stepson, up in the world.’ Then I turned to the poet, and he said: ‘Let him guide you first, now, and I second.’

            A little further on, Nessus paused, next to people who seemed to be sunk in the boiling stream up to their throat. He showed us a shade, apart by itself, saying: ‘That one, Guy de Montfort, in God’s church, pierced that heart that is still venerated by the Thames.’

            Then I saw others, who held their heads and all their chests, likewise, free of the river: and I knew many of these. So the blood grew shallower and shallower, until it only cooked their feet, and here was our ford through the ditch.

            The Centaur said: ‘As you see the boiling stream continually diminishing, on this side, so, on the other, it sinks more and more, till it comes again to where tyrants are doomed to grieve. Divine Justice here torments Attila, the scourge of the earth; and Pyrrhus, and Sextus Pompeius; and for eternity milks tears, produced by the boiling, from Rinier da Corneto, and Rinier Pazzo, who made war on the highways.’ Then he turned back, and recrossed the ford.


Inferno Canto XIII:1-30 The Second Ring: The Harpies: The Suicides


            Nessus had not yet returned to the other side, when we entered a wood, unmarked by any path. The foliage was not green, but a dusky colour: the branches were not smooth, but warped and knotted: there were no fruits there, but poisonous thorns. The wild beasts, that hate the cultivated fields, in the Tuscan Maremma, between Cecina and Corneto, have lairs less thick and tangled. Here the brutish Harpies make their nests, they who chased the Trojans from the Strophades, with dismal pronouncements of future tribulations.

            They have broad wings, and human necks and faces, clawed feet, and large feathered bellies, and they make mournful cries in that strange wood. The kind Master said: ‘Before you go further, be aware you are in the second ring, and will be until you come to the dreadful sands. So look carefully, and you will see things that might make you mistrust my words.’

            Already I heard sighs on every side, and saw no one to make them, at which, I stood totally bewildered. I think that he thought that I was thinking that many of those voices came from among the trees, from people who hid themselves because of us. So the Master said: ‘If you break a little twig from one of these branches, the thoughts you have will be seen to be in error.’


Inferno Canto XIII:31-78 The Wood of Suicides: Pier delle Vigne


            Then I stretched my hand out a little, and broke a small branch from a large thorn, and its trunk cried out: ‘Why do you tear at me?’ And when it had grown dark with blood, it began to cry out again: ‘Why do you splinter me? Have you no breath of pity? We were men, and we are changed to trees: truly, your hand would be more merciful, if we were merely the souls of snakes.’

            Just as a green branch, burning at one end, spits and hisses with escaping air at the other, so from that broken wood, blood and words came out together: at which I let the branch fall, and stood, like a man afraid. My wise sage replied: ‘Wounded spirit, if he had only believed, before, what he had read in my verse, he would not have lifted his hand to you, but the incredible nature of the thing made me urge him to do what grieves me. But tell him who you were, so that he might make you some amends, and renew your fame up in the world, to which he is allowed to return.

            And the tree replied: ‘You tempt me so, with your sweet words, that I cannot keep silent, but do not object if I am expansive in speech. I am Pier delle Vigne, who held both the keys to Frederick’s heart, and employed them, locking and unlocking, so quietly, that I kept almost everyone else from his secrets. I was so faithful to that glorious office that through it I lost my sleep and my life.

            The whore that never turned her eyes from Caesar’s household, Envy, the common disease and vice of courts, stirred all minds against me, and being stirred they stirred Augustus, so that my fine honours were changed to grievous sorrows. My spirit, in a scornful mode, thinking to escape scorn by death, made me, though I was just, unjust to myself. By the strange roots of this tree, I swear to you, I never broke faith with my lord, so worthy of honour. If either of you return to the world, raise and cherish the memory of me, that still lies low from the blow Envy gave me.’


Inferno Canto XIII:79-108 The fate of The Suicides


            The poet listened for a while, then said to me: ‘Since he is silent, do not lose the moment, but speak, and ask him to tell you more.’ At which I aid to him: ‘You ask him further, about what you think will interest me, because I could not, such pity fills my heart.’ So he continued: ‘That the man may do freely what your words request from him, imprisoned spirit, be pleased to tell us further how the spirits are caught in these knots: and tell us, if you can, whether any of them free themselves from these limbs.’

            Then the trunk blew fiercely, and the breath was turned to words like these: ‘My reply will be brief. When the savage spirit leaves the body, from which it has ripped itself, Minos sends it to the seventh gulf. It falls into this wood, and no place is set for it, but, wherever chance hurls it, there it sprouts, like a grain of German wheat, shoots up as a sapling, and then as a wild tree. The Harpies feeding then on its leaves hurt it, and give an outlet to its hurt.

            Like others we shall go to our corpses on the Day of Judgement, but not so that any of us may inhabit them again, because it would not be just to have what we took from ourselves. We shall drag them here, and our bodies will be hung through the dismal wood, each on the thorn-tree of its tormented shade.


Inferno Canto XIII:109-129 Lano Maconi and Jacomo da Sant’ Andrea


We were still listening to the tree, thinking it might tell us more, when we were startled by a noise, like those who think the wild boar is nearing where they stand, and hear the animals and the crashing of branches. Behold, on the left, two naked, torn spirits, running so hard they broke every thicket of the wood. The leader, cried: ‘Come Death, come now!’ and the other, Jacomo, who felt himself to be too slow cried: ‘Lano, your legs were not so swift at the jousts of Toppo.’ And since perhaps his breath was failing him, he merged himself with a bush.

       The wood behind them was filled with black bitch hounds, eager and quick as greyhounds that have slipped the leash. They clamped their teeth into Lano, who squatted, and tore him bit by bit, then carried off his miserable limbs.


Inferno Canto XIII:130-151 The unnamed Florentine


            My guide now took me by the hand, and led me to the bush, which was grieving, in vain, through its bleeding splinters, crying: ‘O Jacomo da Sant’ Andrea, what have you gained by making me your screen? What blame do I have for your sinful life? When the Master had stopped next to it, he said: ‘Who were you, that breathe out your mournful speech, with blood, through so many wounds? 

            And he to us: ‘You spirits, who have come to view the dishonourable mangling that has torn my leaves from me, gather them round the foot of this sad tree. I was of Florence, that city, which changed Mars, its patron, for St John the Baptist, because of which that god, through his powers, will always make it sorrowful. Were it not that some fragments of his statue remain where Ponte Vecchio crosses the Arno, those citizens, who rebuilt it on the ashes Attila left, would have worked in vain.  I made a gibbet for myself, from my own roofbeam.’


Inferno Canto XIV:1-42 The Third Ring: The Violent against God


 As the love of my native place stirred in me, I gathered up the scattered leaves, and gave them back to him who was already hoarse. Then we came to the edge, where the second round is divided from the third, where a fearsome form of justice is seen. To make these new things clear, I say we reached a plain, where the land repels all vegetation. The mournful wood makes a circle round it, as the ditch surrounds the wood: here we stepped close to its very rim.

             The ground was dry, thick sand, no different in form than that which Cato once trod. O God’s vengeance, how what was shown to my sight should be feared, by all who read! I saw many groups of naked spirits, who were all moaning bitterly: and there seemed to be diverse rules applied to them. Some were lying face upward on the ground; some sat all crouched: and others roamed around continuously.

            Those who moved were more numerous, and those that lay in torment fewer, but uttering louder cries of pain. Dilated flakes of fire, falling slowly, like snow in the windless mountains, rained down over all the vast sands. Like the flames that Alexander saw falling, in the hot zones of India, over all his army, until they reached the ground, fires that were more easily quenched while they were separate, so that his troops took care to trample the earth -  like those, fell this eternal heat, kindling the sand like tinder beneath flint and steel, doubling the pain. 

            The dance of their tortured hands was never still, now here, now there, shaking off the fresh burning.


Inferno Canto XIV:43-72 Capaneus


            I began: ‘Master, you who overcome everything except the obdurate demons, that came out against us at the entrance to the gate, who is that great spirit, who seems indifferent to the fire, and lies there, scornful, contorted, so that the rain does not seem to deepen his repentance?’ And he himself, noting that I asked my guide about him, cried: ‘What I was when I was living, I am now I am dead. Though Jupiter exhausts Vulcan, his blacksmith, from whom he took, in anger, the fierce lightning bolt, that I was struck down with on my last day, and though he exhausts the others, the Cyclopes, one by one, at the black forge of Aetna, shouting: ‘Help, help, good Vulcan’, just as he did at the battle of Phlegra, between the gods and giants, and hurls his bolts at me with all his strength, he shall still not enjoy a true revenge.’

            Then my guide spoke, with a force I had not heard before: ‘O Capaneus, you are punished more in that your pride is not quenched: no torment would produce pain fitting for your fury, except your own raving.’ Then he turned to me with gentler voice, saying: ‘That was one of the seven kings who laid siege to Thebes: and he held God, and seems to hold him, in disdain, and value him lightly, but as I told him, his spite is an ornament that fits his breast.’


Inferno Canto XIV:73-120 The Old Man of Crete


            ‘Now follow me, and be careful not to place your feet yet on the burning sand, but always keep back close to the wood.’ We came, in silence, to the place, where a little stream gushes from the wood, the redness of which still makes me shudder. Like the rivulet that runs sulphur-red from the Bulicame spring, near Viterbo, that the sinful women share among themselves, so this ran down over the sand. Its bed and both its sloping banks were petrified, and its nearby margins: so that I realised our way lay there.

            ‘Among all the other things that I have shown you, since we entered though the gate, whose threshold is denied to no one, your eyes have seen nothing as noteworthy as this present stream, that quenches all the flames over it.’ These were my guide’s words, at which I begged him to grant me food, for which he had given me the appetite.

            He then said: ‘There is a deserted island in the middle of the sea, named Crete, under whose king Saturn, the world was pure. There is a mountain, there, called Ida, which was once gladdened with waters and vegetation, and now is abandoned like an ancient spoil heap. Rhea chose it, once, as the trusted cradle of her son, and the better to hide him when he wept, caused loud shouts to echo from it.

            Inside the mountain, a great Old Man, stands erect, with his shoulders turned towards Egyptian Damietta, and looks at Rome as if it were his mirror. His head is formed of pure gold, his arms and his breasts are refined silver: then he is bronze as far as the thighs. Downwards from there he is all of choice iron, except that the right foot is baked clay, and more of his weight is on that one than the other. Every part, except the gold, is cleft with a fissure that sheds tears, which collect and pierce the grotto. Their course falls from rock to rock into this valley. They form Acheron, Styx and Phlegethon, then, by this narrow channel, go down to where there is no further fall, and form Cocytus: you will see what kind of lake that is: so I will not describe it to you here.’


Inferno Canto XIV:121-142 The Rivers Phlegethon and Lethe


            I said to him: ‘If the present stream flows down like that from our world, why does it only appear to us on this bank? And he to me: ‘You know the place is circular, and though you have come far, always to the left, descending to the depths, you have not yet turned through a complete round, so that if anything new appears to us, it should not bring an expression of wonder to your face.’

            And I again: ‘Master, where are Phlegethon, and Lethe found, since you do not speak of the latter, and say that the former is created from these tears?’ He replied: ‘You please me, truly, with all your questions, but the boiling red water might well answer to one of those you ask about. You will see Lethe, but above this abyss, there, on the Mount, where the spirits go to purify themselves, when their guilt is absolved by penitence.’

            Then he said: ‘Now it is time to leave the wood: see that you follow me: the margins which are not burning form a path, and over them all the fire is quenched.’


Inferno Canto XV:1-42 The Violent against Nature: Brunetto Latini


            Now one of the solid banks takes us on, and the smoke from the stream makes a shadow above, so that it shelters the water and its margins. Just as the Flemings between Bruges and Wissant make their dykes to hold back the sea, fearing the flood that beats against them; and as the Paduans do, along the Brenta, to defend their towns and castles, before Carinthia’s mountains feel the thaw; so those banks were similarly formed, though their creator, whoever it might be, made them neither as high or as deep.

            Already we were so far from the wood, that I was unable to see where it was, unless I turned back, when we met a group of spirits, coming along the bank, and each of them looked at us, as, at twilight, men look at one another, under a crescent moon, and peered towards us, as an old tailor does at the eye of his needle. Eyed so by that tribe, I was recognised, by one who took me by the skirt of my robe, and said: ‘How wonderful!’

            And I fixed my eyes on his baked visage, so that the scorching of his aspect did not prevent my mind from knowing him, and bending my face to his I replied: ‘Are you here Ser Brunetto?’ And he: ‘O my son, do not be displeased if Brunetto Latini turns back with you a while, and lets the crowd pass by.’ I said: ‘I ask it, with all my strength, and, if you want me to sit with you, I will, if it pleases him there, whom I go with.’

            He said: ‘O my son, whoever of the flock stops for a moment, must lie there for a hundred years after, without cooling himself when the fire beats on him. So go on, I will follow at your heels, and then I will rejoin my crew again, who go mourning their eternal loss.’


Inferno Canto XV:43-78 Brunetto’s prophecy


            I did not dare leave the road to be level with him, but kept my head bowed like one who walks reverently. He began: ‘What fate, or chance, bring you down here, before your final hour? Who is this who shows you the way?’ I replied: ‘I lost myself, in the clear life up above, in a valley, before my years were complete. Only yesterday morning I turned my back on it: he appeared to me as I was returning to it, and guides me back again, but by this path.’

            And he to me: ‘If you follow your star, you cannot fail to reach a glorious harbour: if I judged clearly in the sweet life. If I had not died before you, I would have supported you in your work, seeing that Heaven is so kind to you. But that ungrateful, malignant people, who came down from Fiesole to Florence, in ancient times, and still have something of the mountain and the rock, will be inimical to you for the good you do, and with reason, since it is not fitting for the sweet fig tree to fruit, among the sour crab-apples.

            Past report on earth declares them blind, an envious, proud and avaricious people: make sure you purge yourself of their faults. Your fate prophesies such honour for you, that both parties will hunger for you, but the goat will be far from the grass. Let the herd from Fiesole make manure of themselves, but not touch the plant in which the sacred seed of those Romans revives, who stayed, when that nest of malice was created, if any plant still springs from their ordure.’


Inferno Canto XV:79-99 Dante accepts his fate


            I answered him: ‘If my wishes had been completely fulfilled, you would not have been separated, yet, from human nature, since, in my memory, the dear, and kind, paternal image of you is fixed, and now goes to my heart, how, when in the world, hour by hour, you taught me the way man makes himself eternal; and it is fitting my tongue should show what gratitude I hold, while I live. What you tell me of my fate, I write, and retain it with a former text, for a lady who will know, how to comment on it, if I reach her.

            I would make this much known to you: I am ready for whatever Fortune wills, as long as conscience does not hurt me. Such prophecies are not new to my ears: so let Fortune turn her wheel as she pleases, and the peasant wield his mattock.’ At that, my Master, looked back, on his right, and gazed at me, then said: ‘He listens closely, who notes it.’


Inferno Canto XV:100-124 Brunetto names some of his companions


            I carry on speaking, no less, with Ser Brunetto, and ask who are the most famous and noblest of his companions. And he to me: ‘It is good to know of some: of the rest it would be praiseworthy to keep silent, as the time would be too little for such a speech. In short, know that all were clerks, and great scholars, and very famous, tainted with the same sin on earth.

            Priscian goes with that miserable crowd, and Francesco d’Accorso: and if you had any desire for such scum, you might have seen Andrea di Mozzi there, who by Boniface, the Pope, servus servorum Dei, servant of servants, was translated from the Arno to Vicenza’s Bacchiglione, where he departed from his ill-strained body.

I would say more, but my speech and my departure must not linger, since there I see new smoke, rising from the great sand. People come that I cannot be with: let my Tresoro be commended to you, in which I still live: more I ask not.’

                        Then he turned back, and seemed like one who runs for the green cloth, at Verona, through the open fields: and seemed one of those who wins, not one who loses.


Inferno Canto XVI:1-45 Rusticucci, Guido Guerra, Aldobrandi


            I was already in a place where the booming of the water, that fell, into the next circle, sounded like a beehive’s humming, when three shades together, running, left a crowd that passed under the sharp burning rain. They came towards us, and each one cried: ‘Wait, you, who seem to us, by your clothes, to be someone from our perverse city.’

            Ah me, what ancient, and recent, wounds I saw on their limbs, scorched there by the flames! It saddens me now, when I remember it. My teacher listened to their cries, turned his face towards me, and said: ‘Wait, now: courtesy is owed them, and if there were not this fire, that the place’s nature rains down, I would say that you were more hasty than them.’

            As we rested, they started their former laments again, and when they reached us, all three of them formed themselves into a circle. Wheeling round, as champion wrestlers, naked and oiled, do, looking for a hold or an advantage, before they grasp and strike one another, each directed his face at me, so that his neck was turned, all the time, in an opposite direction to his feet.

            And one of them began: ‘If the misery of this sinful place, and our scorched, stained look, renders us, and our prayers, contemptible, let our fame influence your mind to tell us who you are, that move your living feet, safely, through Hell. He, in whose footsteps you see me tread, all peeled and naked as he is, was greater in degree than you would think. His name is Guido Guerra, grandson of the good lady Gualdrada, and in his life he achieved much in council, and with his sword.

            The other, that treads the sand behind me, is Tegghiaio Aldobrandi, whose words should have been listened to in the world. And I, who am placed with them in torment, am Jacopo Rusticucci, and certainly my fierce wife injured me more than anything else.’


Inferno Canto XVI:46-87 The condition of Florence


            If I had been sheltered from the fire, I would have dropped down among them below, and I believe my teacher would have allowed it, but as I would have been burned and baked, myself, my fear overcame the goodwill, that made me eager to embrace them.

            Then I began: ‘Your condition stirred sadness, not contempt, in me, so deeply, it will not soon be gone, when my guide spoke words to me by which I understood such men as yourselves might be approaching. I am of your city, and I have always heard, and rehearsed, your names and your deeds, with affection. I leave the gall behind, and go towards the sweet fruits promised me by my truthful guide, but first I must go downwards to the centre.’

            He replied, then: ‘That your soul may long inhabit your body, and your fame shine after you, tell us if courtesy and courage, still live in our city as they used to, or if they have quite forsaken it? Gugliemo Borsiere, who has been in pain with us, a little while, and goes along there with our companions, torments us greatly with what he says.

            ‘New men, and sudden wealth, have created pride and excess in you, Florence, so that you already weep for it.’ So I cried with lifted face, and the three, who took this for an answer, gazed at one another, as one gazes at the truth. They replied together: ‘Happy are you, if, by speaking according to your will, it costs so little for you to satisfy others! So, if you escape these gloomy spaces, and turn, and see the beauty of the stars again, when you will be glad to say: “I was”, see that you tell people of us.’

            Then they broke up their circle, and, as they ran, their swift legs seemed wings.


Inferno Canto XVI:88-136 The monster Geryon


            An Amen could not have been said in so quick a time as their vanishing took, at which my Master was pleased to depart. I followed him. We had gone only a little way, when the sound of the water came so near us, that if we had been speaking we would hardly have heard each other.

            Like that river (the first that takes its own course to the eastern seaboard, south of Monte Veso, where the Po rises, on the left flank of the Apennines, and is called Acquacheta above, before it falls to its lower bed, and loses its name, to become the Montone, at Forlì) which, plunging through a fall, echoes from the mountain, above San Benedetto, where there should be refuge for a thousand, so, down from a steep bank, we found that tainted water re-echoing, so much so that, in a short while, it would have dazed our hearing.

            I had a cord tied round me, and with it I had once thought to catch the leopard with the spotted skin. After I had completely unwound it from myself, as my guide commanded, I held it out to him, gathered up and coiled. Then he turned towards the right, and threw the end of it, away from the edge a little, down into the steep gulf. I said to myself: ‘Surely something strange will follow this new sign of our intentions, that my master tracks with his eyes, as it falls.’

            Ah, how careful men should be with those who do not only see our actions but, with their understanding, see into our thoughts! He said to me: ‘That which I expect will soon ascend, and, what your thoughts speculate about, will soon be apparent to your sight.’

            A man should always shut his lips, as far as he can, to truth that seems like falsehood, since he incurs reproach, though he is blameless, but I cannot be silent here: and Reader, I swear to you, by the words of this Commedia, that they may not be free of lasting favour, that I saw a shape, marvellous, to every unshaken heart, come swimming upwards through the dense, dark air, as a man rises, who has gone down, sometime, to loose an anchor, caught on a rock or something else, hidden in the water, who spreads his arms out, and draws up his feet.


Inferno Canto XVII:1-30 The poets approach Geryon


            ‘See the savage beast, with the pointed tail, that crosses mountains, and pierces walls and armour: see him, who pollutes the whole world.’ So my guide began to speak to me, and beckoned to him to land near the end of our rocky path, and that vile image of Fraud came on, and grounded his head and chest, but did not lift his tail onto the cliff.

            His face was the face of an honest man, it had so benign and outward aspect: all the rest was a serpent’s body. Both arms were covered with hair to the armpits; the back and chest and both flanks were adorned with knots and circles. Tartars or Turks never made cloths with more colour, background and embroidery: nor did Arachne spread such webs on her loom. As the boats rest on the shore, part in water and part on land, and as the beaver, among the guzzling Germans, readies himself for a fight, so that worst of savage creatures lay on the cliff that surrounds the great sand with stone.

            The whole of his tail glanced into space, twisting the venomous fork upwards, that armed the tip, like a scorpion. My guide said: ‘Now we must direct our path, somewhat, towards the malevolent beast that rests there.’


Inferno Canto XVII:31-78 The Usurers


            Then we went down, on the right, and took ten steps towards the edge, so that we could fully avoid the sand and flame, and when we reached him, I saw people sitting near the empty space, a little further away, on the ground.

            Here my Master said: ‘Go and see the state of them, so that you may take away a complete knowledge of this round. Talk briefly with them: I will speak with this creature, until you return, so that he might carry us on his strong shoulders.’ So, still on the extreme edge of the seventh circle, I went, all alone, to where the sad crew were seated.

            Their grief was gushing from their eyes: they kept flicking away the flames and sometimes the burning dust, on this side, or on that, with their hands, no differently than dogs do in summer, now with their muzzle, now with their paws, when they are bitten by fleas, or gnats, or horse-flies. When I set my eyes on the faces of several of them, on whom the grievous fire falls, I did not recognise any, but I saw that a pouch hung from the neck of each, that had a certain colour, and a certain seal, and it seemed their eye was feeding on it. And as I came among them, looking, I saw, on a golden-yellow purse, an azure seal that had the look and attitude of a lion.

Then my gaze continuing on its track, I saw another, red as blood, showing a goose whiter than butter. And one who had his white purse stamped with an azure, pregnant sow, said to me: ‘What are you doing in this pit? Now go away, and since you are still alive, know that my neighbour, Vitaliano, will come to sit here on my left. I, a Paduan, am with these Florentines. Many a time they deafen my hearing, shouting: ‘Let the noble knight come, who will carry the purse with three eagles’ beaks!’

Then he distorted his mouth, and thrust his tongue out, like an ox licking its nose, and I, dreading lest a longer stay might anger him, who had warned me to make a brief stay, turned back from those weary spirits.



Inferno Canto XVII:79-136 The poets descend on Geryon’s back


            I found my guide, who had already mounted the flank of the savage creature, and he said to me: ‘Be firm and brave. Now we must descend by means of these stairs: you climb in front: I wish to be in the centre, so that the tail may not harm you.’

            Like a man whose fit of the quartan fever is so near, that his nails are already pallid, and he shakes all over, by keeping in the shade, so I became when these words were said: but his reproof roused shame in me, that makes the servant brave in the presence of a worthy master. I set myself on those vast shoulders. I wished to say: ‘See that you clasp me tight.’ but my voice did not come out as I intended. He, who helped me in other difficulties, at other times, embraced me, as soon as I mounted, and held me upright. Then he said: ‘Now move, Geryon! Make large circles, and let your descent be gentle: think of the strange burden that you carry.’

            As a little boat goes backwards, backwards, from its mooring, so the monster left the cliff, and when he felt himself quite free, he turned his tail around, to where his chest had been, and stretching, flicked it like an eel, and gathered the air towards him with his paws. I do not believe the fear was greater when Phaëthon let slip the reins, and the sky was scorched, as it still appears to be; or when poor Icarus felt the feathers melt from his arms, as the wax was heated, and his father Daedalus cried: ‘You are going the wrong way!’ as mine was when I saw myself surrounded by the air, on all sides, and saw everything vanish, except the savage beast.

            He goes down, swimming slowly, slowly: wheels and falls: but I do not see it except by the wind, on my face, and from below. Already I heard the cataract, on the right, make a terrible roaring underneath us, at which I stretched my neck out, with my gaze downwards. Then I was more afraid to dismount, because I saw fires, and heard moaning, so that I cowered, trembling all over. And then I saw what I had not seen before, our sinking and circling through the great evils that drew close on every side.

            As the falcon, that has been long on the wing, descends wearily, without seeing bird or lure, making the falconer cry: ‘Ah, you stoop!’ and settles far from his master disdainful and sullen, so Geryon set us down, at the base, close to the foot of the fractured rock, and relieved of our weight, shot off, like an arrow from the bow.


Inferno Canto XVIII:1-21 The Eighth Circle: Malebolge: Simple Fraud


            There is a place in Hell called Malebolge, all of stone, and coloured like iron, as is the cliff that surrounds it. Right in the centre of the malignant space, a well yawns, very wide and deep, whose structure I will speak of in due place.

            The margin that remains, between the base of the high rocky bank and the well, is circular, and its floor is divided into ten moats. Like the form the ground reveals, where successive ditches circle a castle, to defend the walls, such was the layout displayed here. And as there are bridges to the outer banks from the thresholds of the fortress, so, from the base of the cliff, causeways ran, crossing the successive banks and ditches, down to the well that terminates and links them.

            We found ourselves there, shaken from Geryon’s back, and the Poet kept to the left, and I went on, behind him.


Inferno Canto XVIII:22-39 The First Chasm: The Pimps and Seducers


            On the right I saw new pain and torment, and new tormentors, with which the first chasm was filled. In its depths the sinners were naked: on our inner side of its central round they came towards us, on the outer side, with us, but with larger steps. So the people of Rome, in that year, at the Jubilee, because of the great crowds, initiated this means to pass the people over the bridge: those on the one side all had their faces towards Castello Sant’ Angelo, and went to St Peter’s: those on the other towards Monte Giordano.

            On this side and on that, along the fearful rock, I saw horned demons with large whips, who struck them fiercely, from behind. Ah, how it made them quicken their steps at the first stroke! Truly none waited for the second or third.


Inferno Canto XVIII:40-66 The Panders: Venedico de’ Caccianemico


            As I went on, my eyes encountered one of them, and instantly I said: This shade I have seen before.’ So I stopped to scrutinise him, and the kind guide stood still with me, and allowed me to return a little. And that scourged spirit thought to hide himself, lowering his face, but it did not help, since I said: ‘You, who cast your eyes on the ground, if the features you display are not an illusion, you are Venedico Caccianimico: but what led you into such a biting pickle?’

            And he to me: ‘I tell it unwillingly, but your clear speech that makes me remember the former world, compels me. It was I who induced the fair Ghisola to do the Marquis of Este’s will, however unpleasant the story sounds. And I am not the only Bolognese that weeps here: this place is so filled with us, that as many tongues are no longer taught to say sipa for , between the Savena’s stream that is west, and the Reno’s, that is east of Bologna. If you want assurance and testimony of it, recall to mind our avaricious hearts.’ And as he spoke, a demon struck him with his whip, and said: ‘Away, pander, there are no women here to sell.’


Inferno Canto XVIII:67-99 The Seducers: Jason


            I rejoined my guide: then in a few steps we came to where a causeway ran from the cliff. This we climbed very easily, and, turning to the right on its jagged ridge, we moved away from that eternal round. When we reached the arch where it yawns below to leave a path for the scourged, my guide said: ‘Wait, and let the aspect of those other ill-born spirits strike you, whose faces you have not yet seen, since they have been going in our direction.’

            We viewed their company from the ancient bridge, travelling towards us on the other side, chased likewise by the whip. Without my asking, the kind Master said to me: ‘Look at that great soul who comes, and seems not to shed tears of pain: what a royal aspect he still retains! That is Jason, who, by wisdom and courage, robbed the Colchians of the Golden Fleece.

He sailed by the Isle of Lemnos, after the bold merciless women there had put all their males to death. There with gifts and sweet words he deceived the young Hypsipyle, who had saved her father by deceiving all the rest. He left her there, pregnant and lonely: such guilt condemns him to such torment: and revenge is also taken for his abandoning Medea. With him go all who practise like deceit, and let this be enough for knowledge of the first chasm, and those whom it swallows.’


Inferno Canto XVIII:100-136 The Second Chasm: The Flatterers


            We had already come to where the narrow causeway crosses the second bank, and forms a buttress to a second arch. Here we heard people whining in the next chasm, and blowing with their muzzles, and striking themselves with their palms.

            The banks were crusted, with a mould from the fumes below that condenses on them, and attacks the eyes and nose. The floor is so deep, that we could not see any part of it, except by climbing to the ridge of the arch, where the rock is highest. We came there, and from it, in the ditch below, I saw people immersed in excrement, that looked as if it flowed from human privies. And while I was searching it, down there, with my eyes, I saw one with a head so smeared with ordure, that it was not clear if he was clerk or layman.

            He shouted at me: ‘Why are you so keen to gaze at me more than the other mired ones?’ And I to him: ‘Because, if I remember rightly, I have seen you before with dry head, and you are Alessio Interminei of Lucca: so I eye you more than all the others.’ And he then, beating his forehead: ‘The flatteries, of which my tongue never wearied, have brought me down to this!’

            At which my guide said to me: ‘Advance your head a little, so that your eyes can clearly see, over there, the face of that filthy and dishevelled piece, who scratches herself, with her soiled nails, now crouching down, now rising to her feet. It is Thais, the whore, who answered her lover’s message, in which he asked: “Do you really return me great thanks?” with “No, wondrous thanks.” And let our looking be sated with this.’


Inferno Canto XIX:1-30 The Third Chasm: The Sellers of Sacred Offices


            O Simon Magus! O you, his rapacious, wretched followers, who prostitute, for gold and silver, the things of God that should be wedded to virtue! Now the trumpets must sound for you, since you are in the third chasm.

            Already we had climbed to the next arch, onto that part of the causeway that hangs right over the centre of the ditch. O Supreme Wisdom, how great the art is, that you display, in the heavens, on earth, and in the underworld, and how justly your virtue acts. On the sides and floor of the fosse, I saw the livid stone full of holes, all of one width, and each one rounded. They seemed no narrower or larger, than those in my beautiful Baptistery of St John, made as places to protect those baptising, one of which I broke, not many years ago, to aid a child inside: and let this be a sign of the truth to end all speculation.

            From the mouth of each hole, a sinner’s feet and legs emerged, up to the calf, and the rest remained inside. The soles were all on fire, so that the joints quivered so strongly, that they would have snapped grass ropes and willow branches. As the flame of burning oily liquids moves only on the surface, so it was in their case, from the heels to the legs.


Inferno Canto XIX:31-87 Pope Nicholas III


            I said: ‘Master, who is that, who twists himself about, writhing more than all his companions, and licked by redder flames?’ And he to me: ‘If you will let me carry you down there by the lower bank, you will learn from him about his sins and himself.’ And I: ‘Whatever pleases you is good for me: you are my lord, and know that I do not deviate from your will, also you know what is not spoken.’

            Then we came onto the fourth buttress: we turned and descended, on the left, down into the narrow and perforated depths. The kind master did not let me leave his side until he took me to the hole occupied by the one who so agonised with his feet.

            I began to speak: ‘O, unhappy spirit, whoever you are, who have your upper parts below, planted like a stake, form words if you can.’ I stood like the friar who gives confession to a treacherous assassin, who, after being fixed in the ground, calls the confessor back, and so delays his burial. And he cried: ‘Are you standing there already, Boniface, are you standing there already? The book of the future has deceived me by several years. Are you sated, so swiftly, with that wealth, for which you did not hesitate to seize the Church, our lovely lady, and then destroy her?’

            I became like those who stand, not knowing what has been said to them, and unable to reply, exposed to scorn. Then Virgil said: ‘Quickly, say to him, “I am not him, I am not whom you think.” ’ And I replied as I was instructed. At which the spirit’s legs writhed fiercely: then, sighing, in a tearful voice, he said to me: ‘Then what do you want of me? If it concerns you so much to know who I am, that you have left the ridge, know that I wore the Great Mantle, and truly I was son of the Orsini she-bear, so eager to advance her cubs, that I pursed up wealth, above, and here myself.

            The other simonists, who came before me, are drawn down below my head, cowering inside the cracks in the stone. I too will drop down there, when Boniface comes, the one I mistook you for when I put my startled question. But the extent of time, in which I have baked my feet, and stood like this, reversed, is already longer than the time he shall stand planted in turn with glowing feet, since, after him, will come Clement, the lawless shepherd, of uglier actions, fit indeed to cap Boniface and me.

            He will be a new Jason, the high priest, whom we read about in Maccabees: and as his king Antiochus was compliant, so will Philip be, who governs France.’


Inferno Canto XIX:88-133 Dante speaks against Simony


            I do not know if I was too foolhardy then, but I answered him in this way: ‘Ah, now tell me, how much wealth the Lord demanded of Peter, before he gave the keys of the Church into his keeping? Surely he demanded nothing, saying only: ‘Follow me.’ Nor did Peter or the other Apostles, ask gold or silver of Matthias, when he was chosen to fill the place that Judas, the guilty soul, had forfeited. So, remain here, since you are justly punished, and keep well the ill-gotten money, that made you so bold against Charles of Anjou.

            And were it not that I am still restrained by reverence for the great keys that you held in your hand in the joyful life, I would use even more forceful words, since your avarice grieves the world, trampling the good, and raising the wicked. John the Evangelist spoke of shepherds such as you, when he saw ‘the great whore that sitteth upon many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication’, she that was born with seven heads and, as long as virtue pleased her spouse, had justification.

            You have made a god for yourselves of gold and silver, and how do you differ from the idolaters, except that he worships one image and you a hundred? Ah, Constantine, how much evil you gave birth to, not in your conversion, but in that Donation that the first wealthy Pope, Sylvester, received from you!’

            And while I sung these notes to him, he thrashed violently with both his feet, either rage or conscience gnawing him. I think it pleased my guide, greatly, he had so satisfied an expression, listening to the sound of the true words I spoke. So he lifted me with both his arms, and when he had me quite upon his breast, climbed back up the path he had descended, and did not tire of carrying me clasped to him, till he had borne me to the summit of the arch, that crosses from the fourth to the fifth rampart.

Here he set his burden down, lightly: light for him, on the rough steep cliff, that would be a difficult path for a goat. From there another valley was visible to me.


Inferno Canto XX:1-30 The Fourth Chasm: The Seers and Sorcerers


            I must make verses of new torments, and give matter for this twentieth Canto, of Inferno that treats of the damned.

            I was now quite ready to look into the ditch, bathed with tears of anguish, which was revealed to me: I saw people coming, silent and weeping, through the circling valley, at a pace which processions, that chant Litanies, take through the world. When my eyes looked further down on them, each of them appeared strangely distorted, between the chin and the start of the chest, since the head was reversed towards the body, and they had to move backwards, since they were not allowed to look forwards. Perhaps one might be so distorted by palsy, but I have not seen it, and do not credit it.

            Reader, as God may grant that you profit from your reading, think now yourself how I could keep from weeping, when I saw our image so contorted, nearby, that the tears from their eyes bathed their hind parts at the cleft. Truly, I wept, leaning against one of the rocks of the solid cliff, so that my guide said to me: ‘Are you like other fools, as well? Pity is alive here, where it is best forgotten. Who is more impious than one who bears compassion for God’s judgement?’


Inferno Canto XX:31-51 The Seers


            ‘Lift your head, lift it and see him for whom earth opened, under the eyes of the Thebans, at which they all shouted: “Where are you rushing, Amphiaräus? Why do you quit the battle?” And he did not stop his downward rush until he reached Minos, who grasps every sinner. Note how he has made a chest of his shoulders: because he willed to see too far beyond him, he now looks behind and goes backwards.

            See Tiresias, who changed his form, when he was made a woman, all his limbs altering: and later he had to strike the two entwined snakes with his staff, a second time, before he could resume a male aspect.

            That one is Aruns, who has his back to Tiresias’s belly, he who in the mountains of Tuscan Luni, where the Carrarese hoe, who live beneath them, had a cave to live in, among the white marble, from which he could gaze at the stars and the sea, with nothing to spoil his view.’


Inferno Canto XX:52-99 Manto and the founding of Mantua


            ‘And she that hides her breasts, that you cannot see, with her flowing tresses, and has all hairy skin on the other side, was Manto, who searched through many lands, then settled where I was born, about which it pleases me to have you listen to me speak a while.

            After her father departed from life, and Thebes, the city of Bacchus, came to be enslaved, she roamed the world a long time. A lake, Lake Garda, lies at the foot of the Alps, up in beautiful Italy, where Germany is closed off beyond the Tyrol. Mount Apennino, between the town of Garda and Val Camonica, is bathed by the water that settles in the lake. In the middle there is a place where the Bishops of Trent, Brescia, and Verona might equally give the blessing if they went that way. A strong and beautiful fortress stands, where the shoreline is lowest, to challenge the Brescians and Bergamese.

            There, all the water that cannot remain in the breast of Lake Garda, has to descend through the green fields, and form a river. As soon as the water has its head, it is no longer Garda, but Mincio, down to Governolo where it joins the Po. It has not flowed far before it finds the level, on which it spreads and makes a marsh there, and in summer tends to be unwholesome. Manto, the wild virgin, passing that way, saw untilled land, naked of inhabitants, among the fens. There, to avoid all human contact, she stayed, with her followers, to practise her arts, and lived there, and left her empty body.

            Then the people who were scattered round gathered together in that place, which was well defended by the marshes on every side. They built the city over those dead bones, and without other augury, called it Mantua, after her who first chose the place. Once there were more inhabitants, before Casalodi, was foolishly deceived by Pinamonte. So, I charge you, if you ever hear another story of the origin of my city, do not let falsehoods destroy the truth.’


Inferno Canto XX:100-130 The Soothsayers and Astrologers


            And I said: ‘Master, your speeches are so sound to me, and so hold my belief, that any others are like spent ashes. But tell me about the people who are passing, if you see any of them worth noting, since my mind returns to that alone.’

            Then he said to me: ‘That one, whose beard stretches down from his cheeks, over his dusky shoulders, was an augur, when Greece was so emptied of males, for the expedition against Troy, that there were scarcely any left, even in their cradles. Like Calchas at Aulis, he set the moment for cutting loose the first cable. Eurypylus is his name, and my high Poem sings of it in a certain place: you know it well, who know the whole thing.

            The other, so thin about the flanks, is Michael Scott, who truly understood the fraudulent game of magic. See Guido Bonatti, see Asdente, who wishes now he had attended more to his shoemaker’s leather and cord, but repents too late. See the miserable women who abandoned needle, shuttle and spindle, and became prophetesses: they made witchcraft, using herbs and images.

            But come, now, for Cain with his bundle of thorns, that Man in the Moon, reaches the western confines of both hemispheres, and touches the waves south of Seville, and already, last night, the Moon was full: you must remember it clearly, since she did not serve you badly in the deep wood.’ So he spoke to me, and meanwhile we moved on.


Inferno Canto XXI:1-30 The Fifth Chasm: The Sellers of Public Offices


            So from bridge to bridge we went, with other conversation which my Commedía does not choose to recall, and were at the summit arch when we stopped to see the next cleft of Malebolge, and more vain grieving, and I found it marvellously dark.

            As, in the Venetian Arsenal, the glutinous pitch boils in winter, that they use to caulk the leaking boats they cannot sail; and so, instead one man builds a new boat, another plugs the seams of his, that has made many voyages, one hammers at the prow, another at the stern, some make oars, and some twist rope, one mends a jib, the other a mainsail; so, a dense pitch boiled down there, not melted by fire, but by divine skill, and glued the banks over, on every side.

            I saw it, but nothing in it, except the bubbles that the boiling caused, and the heaving of it all, and the cooling part’s submergence.  While I was gazing fixedly at it, my guide said: ‘Take care. Take care!’ and drew me towards him, from where I stood. Then I turned round, like one who has to see what he must run from, and who is attacked by sudden fear, so that he dare not stop to look: and behind us I saw a black Demon come running up the cliff.


Inferno Canto XXI:31-58 The Barrators


            Ah, how fierce his aspect was! And how cruel he seemed in action, with his outspread wings, and nimble legs! His high pointed shoulders, carried a sinner’s two haunches, and he held the sinews of each foot tight.

            He cried: ‘You, Malebranche, the Evil-clawed, see here is one of Lucca’s elders, that city whose patron is Santa Zita: push him under while I go back for the rest, back to that city which is well provided with them: every one there is a barrator, except Bonturo; there they make ‘Yes’ of ‘No’ for money.

            He threw him down, then wheeled back along the stony cliff, and never was a mastiff loosed so readily to catch a thief. The sinner plunged in, and rose again writhing, but the demons under cover of the bridge, shouted: ‘Here the face of Christ, carved in your cathedral, is of no avail: here you swim differently than in the Serchio: so, unless you want to try our grapples, do not emerge above the pitch.’

            Then they struck at him with more than a hundred prongs, and said: ‘Here you must dance, concealed, so that you steal in private, if you can.’ No different is it, when the cooks make their underlings push the meat down into the depths of the cauldrons with their hooks, to stop it floating.


Inferno Canto XXI:59-96 Virgil challenges the Demons’ threats


            The good master said to me: ‘Cower down behind a rock, so that you have a screen to protect yourself, and so that it is not obvious that you are here, and whatever insult is offered to me, have no fear, since I know these matters, having been in a similar danger before.’ Then he passed beyond the bridgehead, and when he arrived on the sixth bank, it was necessary for him to present a bold front.

            The demons rushed from below the bridge, and turned their weapons against him, with the storm and fury with which a dog rushes at a poor beggar, who suddenly seeks alms when he stops. But Virgil cried: ‘None, of you, commit an outrage. Before you touch me with your forks, one of you come over here, to listen, and then discuss whether you will grapple me.’ They all cried: ‘You go, Malacoda’ at which one moved while the others stood still, and came towards Virgil, saying: ‘What good will it do him?’

            My Master said: ‘Malacoda, do you think I have come here without the Divine Will, and propitious fate, safe from all your obstructions? Let me go by, since it is willed, in Heaven, that I show another this wild road.’ Then the demon’s pride was so down, that he let the hook drop at his feet, and said to the others: ‘Now, do not hurt him!’ And my guide to me: ‘O you, who are sitting, crouching, crouching amongst the bridge’s crags, return to me safely, now!’ At which I moved, and came to him quickly, and the devils all pressed forward so that I was afraid they would not hold to their orders. So I once saw the infantry, marching out, under treaty of surrender, from Caprona, afraid at finding themselves surrounded by so many enemies.


Inferno Canto XXI:97-139 The Demons escort the Poets


            I pressed my whole body close to my guide, and did not take my eyes away from their aspect, which was hostile. They lowered their hooks, and kept saying, to one another: ‘Shall I touch him on the backside?’ and answering, ‘Yes, see that you give him a nick.’

            But that demon who was talking to my guide, turned round quickly, and said: ‘Be quiet, be quiet, Scarmiglione.’ Then he said to us: ‘It will not be possible to go any further along this causeway, since the sixth arch is lying broken at the base, and if you desire still to go forward, go along this ridge, and nearby is another cliff that forms a causeway. Yesterday, five hours later than this hour, twelve hundred and sixty-six years were completed, since this path here was destroyed.

            I am sending some of my company here to see if anyone is out for an airing: go with them, they will not commit treachery.’ Then he began speaking: ‘Advance, Alichino and Calcabrina, and you, Cagnazzo: let Barbariccia lead the ten. Let Libicocco come as well, and Draghignazzo, tusked Ciriatto, Grafficane, Farfarello, and Rubicante the mad one. Search round the boiling glue: see these two safe, as far as the other cliff that crosses the chasms, completely, without a break.’

            I said: ‘O me! Master, what do I see? Oh, let us go alone, without an escort, if you know the way: as for me, I would prefer not. If you are as cautious as usual, do you not see how they grind their teeth, and darken their brows, threatening us with mischief?’ And he to me: ‘I do not want you to be afraid: let them grin away at their will: since they do it for the boiled wretches.’

            They turned by the left bank: but first, each of them had stuck his tongue out, between his teeth, towards their leader, as a signal, and he had made a trumpet of his arse.


Inferno Canto XXII:1-30 The Poets view more of the Fifth Chasm


            I have seen cavalry moving camp, before now, starting a foray, holding muster, and now and then retiring to escape; I have seen war-horses on your territory, O Aretines, and seen the foraging parties, the clash of tournaments, and repeated jousts; now with trumpets, now with bells, with drums and rampart signals, with native and foreign devices, but I never yet saw infantry or cavalry, or ship at sight of shore or star, move to such an obscene trumpet.

            We went with the ten demons: ah, savage company! But, they say: ‘In church with the saints, and in the inn with the drunkards.’ But my mind was on the boiling pitch, to see each feature of the chasm, and the people who were burning in it. Like dolphins, arching their backs, telling the sailors to get ready to save their ship, so, now and then, to ease the punishment, some sinner showed his back, and hid as quick as lightning.

            And as frogs squat, at the edge of the ditchwater, with only mouths showing, so that their feet and the rest of them are hidden, so the sinners stood on every side: but they instantly shot beneath the seething, as Barbariccia approached.


Inferno Canto XXII:31-75 Ciampolo


            I saw, and my heart still shudders at it, one linger, just as one frog remains when the others scatter: and Graffiacane, who was nearest him, hooked his pitchy hair, and hauled him up, looking, to me, like an otter. I already knew the names of every demon, so I noted them well as they were called, and when they shouted to each other, listened out.

            ‘O Rubicante, see you get your clutches in him, and flay him,’ all the accursed tribe cried together. And I: ‘Master, make out if you can, who that wretch is, who has fallen into the hands of his enemies.’ My guide drew close to him, and asked him where he came from, and he answered: ‘I was born in the kingdom of Navarre. My mother placed me as a servant to a lord, since she had borne me to a scurrilous waster of himself and his possessions. Then I was of the household of good King Thibaut, and there I took to selling offices, for which I serve my sentence in this heat.’

            And Ciriatto, from whose mouth a tusk, like a boar’s, projected on each side, made him feel how one of them could rip. The mouse had come among the evil cats: but Barbariccia caught him in his arms, and said: ‘Stand back, while I fork him!’ And, turning to my Master, he said: ‘Ask away, if you want to learn more from him, before someone else gets at him.’

            So my guide said: ‘Now say, do you know any of the other sinners under the boiling pitch that is a Latian?’ And Ciampolo replied: ‘I separated, just now, from one who was a neighbour of theirs over there, and I wish I were still beneath him, since I should not then fear claw or hook!’ And Libicocco cried: ‘We have endured this too long!’ and grappled Ciampolo’s arm with the prong, and, mangling it, carried away a chunk. Draghignazzo, too, wanted a swipe at the legs, below: at which their leader twisted round and round on them with an evil frown.


Inferno Canto XXII:76-96 Ciampolo names other Barrators


            When they had settled a little, without waiting, my guide asked Ciampolo, who was still gazing at his wound: ‘Who was he, from whom you say you unluckily separated, to come on land?’ He replied: ‘It was Friar Gomita, he of Gallura, in Sardinia, the vessel of every fraud, who held his master’s prisoners in his hands, and treated them so that they all praise him for it, taking money for himself, and letting them go, quietly: and in his other roles, he was a high, and not a low, barrator.

            With him, Don Michel Zanche of Logodoro, keeps company, and their tongues never tire of speaking of Sardinia. O me! See that other demon grinning: I would speak more, but I fear he is getting ready to claw my skin.’ And their great captain, turning to Farfarello, who was rolling his eyes to strike, said: ‘Away with you, cursed bird.’


Inferno Canto XXII:97-123 Ciampolo breaks free of the Demons


            The scared sinner then resumed: ‘If you want to see or hear Tuscans or Lombards, I will make them come, but let the Malebranche hold back a little, so that the others may not feel their vengeance, and sitting here, I, who am one, will make seven appear, by whistling, as we do, when any of us gets out.’ Cagnazzo raised his snout, at these words, and, shaking his head, said: ‘Hear the wicked scheme he has contrived to plunge back down.’ At which Ciampolo, who had a great store of tricks, replied: ‘I would be malicious indeed, if I contrived greater sorrow for my companions.’

            Alichino, could contain himself no longer, and contrary to the others said to him: ‘If you run, I will not charge after you, but beat my wings above the boiling pitch: forget the cliff, and let the bank be a course, and see if you alone can beat us.’ O you that read this, hear of this new sport! They all glanced towards the cliff side, he above all who had been most unwilling for this. The Navarrese picked his moment well, planted his feet on the ground, and in an instant plunged, and freed himself from their intention.


Inferno Canto XXII:124-151 The Malebranche quarrel


            Each of the demons was stung with guilt, but Alichino most who had caused the error: so he started up and shouted: ‘You are caught!’ But it helped him little, since wings could not outrun terror: the sinner dived down: and Alichino, flying, lifted his breast. The duck dives like that when the falcon nears, and the hawk flies back up, angry and thwarted.

            Calcabrina, furious at the trick, flew on after him, wanting the sinner to escape, in order to quarrel. And when the barrator had vanished, he turned his claws on his friend, and grappled with him above the ditch. But the other was sparrow hawk enough to claw him thoroughly, and both dropped down, into the centre of the boiling pond.

            The heat, instantly, separated them, but they could not rise, their wings were so glued up. Barbariccia, lamenting with the rest, made four fly over to the other bank, with all their grappling irons, and they dropped rapidly on both sides to the shore. They stretched their hooks out to the trapped pair, who were already scaled by the crust, and we left them, like that, embroiled.


Inferno Canto XXIII:1-57 The Sixth Chasm: The Hypocrites


            Silent, alone, and free of company, we went on, one in front, and the other after, like minor friars journeying on their way. My thoughts were turned, by the recent quarrel, to Aesop’s fable of the frog and mouse, since ‘Si’ and ‘Yes’ are not better matched, than the one case with the other, if the thoughtful mind couples the beginning and end.

            And as one thought springs from another, so another sprang from that, redoubling my fear. I thought of this: ‘Through us, these are mocked, and with a kind of hurt and ridicule, that I guess must annoy them. If anger is added to their malice, they will chase after us, fiercer than snapping dogs that chase a leveret.’ I felt my hair already lifting in fright, and was looking back intently, as I said: ‘Master, if you do not hide us both, quickly, I am afraid of the Malebranche: they are already behind us: I imagine I can hear them now.’

            And he: ‘If I were made of silvered glass, I could not take up your image from outside more rapidly than I fix that image from within. Even now your thoughts were entering mine, with similar form and action, so that, from both, I have made one decision. If the right bank slopes enough, that we can drop down, into the next chasm, we will escape this imaginary pursuit.’ he had not finished stating this resolve, when I saw them, not far off, coming with extended wings, with desire to seize us.

            My guide suddenly took me up like a mother, wakened by a noise, seeing flames burning in front of her eyes, who takes her child and runs, and caring more about him than herself, does not even wait to look around her. Down from the ridge of the solid bank, he threw himself forward on to the hanging cliff that dams up the side of the next chasm. Water never ran as fast through the conduit, turning a mill-wheel on land, when it reaches the paddles, as my Master, down that bank, carrying me, against his breast, like a son, and not a companion.

            His feet had hardly touched the floor, of the depth below, before the demons were on the heights above us, but it gave him no fear, since the high Providence, that willed them to be the guardians of the fifth moat, takes, from all of them, the power to leave it.


Inferno Canto XXIII:58-81 The Hypocrites


            Down below we found a metal-coated tribe, weeping, circling with very slow steps, and weary and defeated in their aspect. They had cloaks, with deep hoods over the eyes, in the shape they make for the monks of Cologne. On the outside they are gilded so it dazzles, but inside all leaden, and so heavy, that compared to them Frederick’s were made of straw.

            O weary mantle for eternity! We turned to the left again, beside them, who were intent on their sad weeping, but those people, tired by their burden, came on so slowly that our companions were new at every step. At which, I said to my guide: ‘Make a search for someone known to us, by name or action, and gaze around as we move by.’ And one of them, who understood the Tuscan language, called after us: ‘Rest your feet, you who speed so fast through the dark air, maybe you will get from me what you request.’ At which my guide turned round and said: ‘Wait, and then go on, at his pace.’


Inferno Canto XXIII:82-126 The Frauti Gaudenti: Caiaphas


            I stood still, and saw two spirits, who were eager in mind to join me, but their burden and the narrow path delayed them. When they arrived, they eyed me askance, for a long time, without speaking a word, then they turned to one another and said: ‘This one seems alive, by the movement of his throat, and if they are dead, by what grace are they moving, free of the heavy cloaks?’

            Then they said to me: ‘O Tuscan, you have come to the college of sad hypocrites: do not scorn to tell us who you are.’ And I to them: ‘I was born, and I grew up, by Arno’s lovely river, in the great city: and I am in the body I have always worn. But you, who are you, from whom such sadness is distilled, that I see, coursing down your cheeks? And what punishment is this, that glitters so?’ And one of them replied: ‘Our orange mantles are of such dense lead, that weights made of it cause the scales to creak.

            We were Fraudi Gaudenti, of that Bolognese order called the ‘Jovial Friars’: I am Catalano, and he is Loderingo, chosen by your city, as usually only one is chosen, to keep the peace: and we wrought such as still appears round your district of Gardingo. ‘O Friars, your evil ....’ I began, but said no more, because one came in sight, crucified, on the ground, with three stakes. When he saw me he writhed all over, puffing into his beard, and sighing, and Friar Catalano, who saw this, said to me: ‘That one you look at, who is transfixed, is Caiaphas, the high priest, who counselled the Pharisees, that it was right to martyr one man for the sake of the people. Crosswise and naked he lies in the road, as you see, and feels the weight of everyone who passes: and his father-in-law Annas is racked, in this chasm, and the others of that Council, that was a source of evil to the Jews.’

            Then I saw Virgil wonder at him, stretched out on the cross, so vilely, in eternal exile.


Inferno Canto XXIII:127-148 The Poets leave the Sixth Chasm


            He addressed these words to the Friars, afterwards: ‘If it is lawful for you, may it not displease you, to tell us if there is any gap on the right, by which we might leave here, without forcing any of the black angels to come and extricate us from this deep.’ He replied: ‘There is a causeway that runs from the great circular wall and crosses all the cruel valleys, nearer at hand than you think, except that it is broken here and does not cover this one: you will be able to climb up among its ruins, that slope down the side, and form a mound at the base.’

            Virgil stood, for a while, with bowed head, then said: ‘Malacoda, who grapples sinners over there, told us the way wrongly.’ And the Friar said: ‘I once heard the Devil’s vices related at Bologna, amongst which I heard that he is a liar, and the father of lies.’ Then my guide went striding on, his face somewhat disturbed by anger, at which I parted from the burdened souls, following the prints of his beloved feet.


Inferno Canto XXIV:1-60 The Poets climb up: Virgil exhorts Dante


            In that part of the new year, when the sun cools his rays under Aquarius, and the nights already shorten towards the equinox; when the hoar-frost copies its white sister the snow’s image on the ground, but the hardness of its tracery lasts only a little time; the peasant, whose fodder is exhausted, rises and looks out, and sees the fields all white, at which he strikes his thigh, goes back into the house, and wanders to and fro, lamenting, like a wretch who does not know what to do; then comes out again, and regains hope, seeing how the world has changed its aspect, in a moment; and takes his crook, and chases his lambs out to feed; so the Master made me disheartened, when I saw his forehead so troubled: but the plaster arrived quickly for the wound.

            For, when we reached the shattered arch, my guide turned to me with that sweet aspect, that I first saw at the base of the mountain. He opened his arms, after having made some plan in his mind, first looking carefully at the ruin, and took hold of me. And like one who prepares and calculates, always seeming to provide in advance, so he, lifting me up towards the summit of one big block, searched for another fragment, saying: ‘Now clamber over that, but check first if it will carry you.’

            It was no route for one clothed in a cloak of lead, since we could hardly climb from rock to rock, he weighing little, and I pushed from behind. And if the ascent were not shorter on that side than on the other, I would truly have been defeated, I do not know about him. But as Malebolge all drops towards the entrance to the lowest well, the position of every valley implies that the one side rises, and the other falls: at last, we came, however, to the point at which the last boulder ends.

            The breath was so driven from my lungs, when I was up, that I could go no further: in fact, I sat down when I arrived. The Master said: ‘Now, you must free yourself from sloth: men do not achieve fame, sitting on down, or under coverlets; fame, without which whoever consumes his life leaves only such trace of himself, on earth, as smoke does in the air, or foam on water: so rise, and overcome weariness with spirit, that wins every battle, if it does not lie down with the gross body. A longer ladder must be climbed: to have left these behind is not enough: if you understand me, act now so it may profit you.’

            I rose then, showing myself to be better filled with breath than I thought, and said: ‘Go on, I am strong again and ardent.’


Inferno Canto XXIV:61-96 The Seventh Chasm: The Thieves


            We made our way along the causeway, which was rugged, narrow, difficult, and much steeper than before. I went, speaking, so that I might not seem weak, at which a voice came from the next moat, inadequate for forming words. I do not know what it said, though I was already on the summit of the bridge that crosses there, but he who spoke seemed full of anger. I had turned to look downwards, but my living eyes could not see the floor, for the darkness, so that I said: ‘Master, make sure you get to the other side, and let us climb down the wall, since as I hear sounds from below, but do not understand them, so I see down there, and make out nothing.’ He said: ‘I make you no answer, but by action, since a fair request should be followed, in silence, by the work.’

            We went down the bridge, at the head of it, where it meets the eighth bank, and then the seventh chasm was open to me. I saw a fearful mass of snakes inside, and of such strange appearance, that even now the memory freezes my blood. Let Libya no longer vaunt its sands: though it engenders chelydri, and jaculi; pareae; and cenchres with amphisbaena; it never showed pests so numerous or dreadful, nor did Ethiopia, nor Arabia, the land that lies along the Red Sea. Amongst this cruel and mournful swarm, people were running, naked and terrified, without hope of concealment, or of that stone, the heliotrope, that renders the wearer invisible.

            They had their hands tied behind them, with serpents, that fixed their head and tail between the loins, and were coiled in knots in front.


Inferno Canto XXIV:97-129 Vanni Fucci and the serpent


            And see, a serpent struck at one who was near our bank, and transfixed him, there, where the neck is joined to the shoulders. Neither ‘o’ nor ‘i’ was ever written as swiftly as he took fire, and burned, and dropped down, transformed to ashes: and after he was heaped on the ground, the powder gathered itself together, and immediately returned to its previous shape. So, great sages say, the phoenix dies, and then renews, when it nears its five-hundredth year. In its life it does not eat grass or grain, but only tears of incense, and amomum: and its last shroud is nard and myrrh.

            The sinner when he rose was like one who falls, and does not know how, throughthe power of a demon that drags him down to the ground, or through some other affliction that binds men, and, when he rises, gazes round himself, all dazed by the great anguish he has suffered, and as he gazes, sighs. O how heavy the power of God, that showers down such blows in vengeance!

            The guide then asked him who he was, at which he answered: ‘I rained down from Tuscany into this gully, a short while back. Brutish, not human, life pleased me, mule that I was: I am Vanni Fucci, the wild beast, and Pistoia was a fitting den for me.’ And I to the guide: ‘Tell him not to move: and ask what crime sank him down here, since I knew him as a man of blood and anger.’


Inferno Canto XXIV:130-151 Vanni Fucci’s prophecy


            And the sinner, who heard me, did not pretend, but turned his face and mind on me, and gave a look of saddened shame. Then he said: ‘It hurts me more for you to catch me, trapped, in the misery you see me in, than the moment of my being snatched from the other life. I cannot deny you what you ask. I am placed so deep down because I robbed the sacristy of its fine treasures, and it was once wrongly attributed to others. But, so that you might not take joy from this sight if you ever escape the gloomy regions, open your ears, and hear what I declare:

            Pistoia first is thinned of Blacks: then Florence changes her people and her laws. Mars brings a vapour, from Valdimagra cloaked in turbid cloud, and a battle will be fought on the field of Piceno, in an angry and eager tempest, that will suddenly tear the mist open, so that every White is wounded by it. And I have said this to give you pain.’


Inferno Canto XXV:1-33 Cacus


            At the end of his speech, the thief raised his hands, both making the fig, the obscene gesture, with thumb between fingers, shouting: ‘Take this, God, I aim it at you.’ From that moment the snakes were my friends, since one of them coiled itself round his neck, as if hissing: ‘You will not be able to speak again.’ Another, round his arms, tied him again, knotting itself so firmly in front, that he could not even shake them.

            Ah, Pistoia, Pistoia, why do you not order yourself to be turned to ash, so that you may remain no longer, since you outdo your seed in evil-doing? I saw no spirit so arrogant towards God, through all the dark circles of Inferno, not even, Capaneus, he who fell from the wall at Thebes.  Vanni Fucci fled, saying not another word, and I saw a Centaur, full of rage, come, shouting: ‘Where is he, where is the bitter one?’

            I do not believe Maremma has as many snakes, as he had on his haunches, there, where the human part begins. Over his shoulders, behind the head, lay a dragon with outstretched wings, and it scorches every one he meets. My Master said: ‘That is Cacus, who often made a lake of blood, below the rocks of Mount Aventine. He does not go with his brothers on the same road, above, because of his cunning theft from the great herd of oxen, pastured near him: for which his thieving actions ended, under the club of Hercules, who gave him a hundred blows perhaps with it, and he did not feel a tenth.’


Inferno Canto XXV:34-78 Cianfa and Agnello


            While he said this, the Centaur ran past, and three spirits came by, also, beneath us, whom neither I, nor my guide, saw, until they cried: ‘Who are you?’ Our words ceased, then, and we gave our attention to them, alone.

            I did not know them, but it happened, as it usually does for some reason, that one had to call the other, saying: ‘Where has Cianfa gone?’ At which I placed my finger over my mouth, in order to make my guide stop and wait.

            Reader, if you are slow to credit, now, what I have to tell, it will be no wonder, since I who saw it, scarcely credit it myself. While I kept looking at them, a six-footed serpent darted in front of one of them, and fastened itself on him, completely. It clasped his belly with it middle feet, seized his arms with the front ones, and then fixed its teeth in both his cheeks. The rear feet it stretched along his thighs, and put its tail between them, and curled it upwards round his loins, behind.

Ivy was never rooted to a tree, as the foul monster twined its limbs around the other. Then they clung together, as if they were melted wax, and mixed their colours: neither the one nor the other seemed what it had at first: just as in front of the flame on burning paper, a brown colour appears, not yet black, and the white is consumed.

        The other two looked on, and each cried: ‘Ah me, Agnello, how you change! See, you are already not two, not one!’ The two heads had now become one, where two forms seemed to us merged in one face, and both were lost. Two limbs were made of the four forearms, the thighs, legs, belly and chest became such members as were never seen before. The former shape was all extinguished in them: the perverse image seemed both, and neither, and like that it moved away with slow steps.


Inferno Canto XXV:79-151 Buoso degli Abati and Francesco


            As the lizard, in the great heat of the Dog days, appears like a flash of lightning, scurrying from hedge to hedge, if it crosses the track, so a little reptile came towards the bellies of the other two, burning with rage, black and livid as peppercorn. And it pierced that part, in one of them, where we first receive our nourishment from our mothers: then fell down, stretched out in front of him. The thief, transfixed, gazed at it but said nothing, but with motionless feet, only yawned, as if sleep or fever had overcome him. He looked at the snake: it looked at him: the one gave out smoke, violently, from his wound, the other from its mouth, and the smoke met.

Let Lucan now be silent, about Sabellus and Nasidius, and wait to hear that which I now tell. Let Ovid be silent about Cadmus and Arethusa: if he in poetry changes one into a snake, and the other into a fountain, I do not envy him, since he never transmuted two natures, face to face, so that both forms were eager to exchange their substance.

                        They merged together in such a way, that the serpent split its tail into a fork, and the wounded spirit brought his feet together. Along with them, the legs and thighs, so stuck to one another, that soon the join left no visible mark. The cleft tail took on the form lost in the other, and its skin grew soft, the other’s hard. I saw the arms enter the armpits: and the two feet of the beast that were short, lengthened themselves by as much as the arms were shortened. Then the two hind feet twisted together, and became the organ that a man conceals, and the wretch, from his, had two pushed out.

            While the smoke covers them both with a new colour, and generates hair on one part, and strips it from another, the one rose up, erect, and the other fell, prostrate: not by that shifting their impious gaze, beneath which they mutually exchanged features. The erect one drew his face towards the temples, and from the excess of matter that swelled there, ears came, out of the smooth cheeks. That which did not slip back, but remained, formed a nose from the superfluous flesh, and enlarged the lips to their right size. He that lay prone, thrust his sharpened visage forward, and drew his ears back into his head, as the snail does its horns into its shell, and his tongue, which was solid before, and fit for speech, splits itself. In the other the forked tongue melds, and the smoke is still.

            The soul that had become a beast, sped, hissing, along the valley, leaving the other, speaking and spluttering, behind him. Then the second turned his new-won shoulders towards him, and called to the other: ‘Buoso shall crawl, as I did, along this road.’ So I saw the seventh chasm’s bodies mutate and transmutate: and let the novelty of it be the excuse, if my pen has gone astray.

            Though my sight was somewhat confused, and my mind dismayed, they could not flee so secretly, but that I clearly saw Puccio Sciancato: and it was he, alone, of the three companions, who had first arrived, who was not changed. One of the others, Francesco, was he who caused you, the people of Gaville, to weep.


Inferno Canto XXVI:1-42 The Eighth Chasm: The Evil Counsellors


            Rejoice, Florence, that, since you are so mighty, you beat your wings over land and sea, and your name spreads through Hell itself. So, among the thieves, I found five of your citizens: at which I am ashamed, and you do not rise to great honour by it either. But if the truth is dreamed, as morning comes, you will soon feel what Prato, and others, wish on you. And, if it were come already, it would not be too soon: would it were so, now, as indeed it must come, since it will trouble me more, the older I am.

            We left there, and my guide remounted by the stairs that the stones had made for us to descend, and drew me up: and, following our solitary way, among the crags and splinters of the cliff, the foot made no progress without the hand.

I was saddened then, and sadden now, again, when I direct my mind to what I saw, and rein in my intellect more than I am used, so that it does not run where virtue would not guide it, and so that, if a good star, or some truer power, has granted me the talent, I may not abuse the gift.

The eighth chasm was gleaming with flames, as numerous as the fireflies the peasant sees, as he rests on the hill, when the sun, who lights the world, hides his face least from us, and the fly gives way to the gnat down there, along the valley, where he gathers grapes, perhaps, and ploughs.

 As soon as I came to where the floor showed itself, I saw them, and, as Elisha, the mockery of whom by children was avenged by bears, saw Elijah’s chariot departing, when the horses rose straight to Heaven, and could not follow it with his eyes, except by the flame alone, like a little cloud, ascending, so each of those flames moved, along the throat of the ditch, for none of them show the theft, but every flame steals a sinner.


Inferno Canto XXVI:43-84 Ulysses and Diomede

                        I stood on the bridge, having so risen to look, that if I had not caught hold of a rock I should have fallen in without being pushed. And the guide, who saw me so intent, said: ‘The spirits are inside those fires: each veils himself in that which burns him.’ I replied: ‘Master, I feel more assured from hearing you, but had already seen that it was so, and already wished to say to you, who is in that fire, that moves, divided at the summit, as if it rose from the pyre where Eteocles was cremated with his brother, Polynices?’

            He answered me: ‘In there, Ulysses and Diomede are tormented, and so they go, together in punishment, as formerly in war: and, in their fire, they groan at the ambush of the Trojan horse, that made a doorway, by which Aeneas, the noble seed of the Romans issued out. In there they lament the trick, by which Deidamia, in death, still weeps for Achilles: and there, for the Palladium, they endure punishment.’

            I said: ‘Master, I beg you greatly, and beg again so that my prayers may be a thousand, if those inside the fires can speak, do not refuse my waiting until the horned flame comes here: you see how I lean towards it with desire.’ And he to me: ‘Your request is worth much praise, and so I accept it, but restrain your tongue. Let me speak: since I conceive what you wish, and because they were Greeks they might disdain your Trojan words.’

            When the flame had come, where the time and place seemed fitting, to my guide, I heard him speak, so: ‘O you, who are two in one fire, if I was worthy of you when I lived, if I was worthy of you, greatly or a little, when on earth I wrote the high verses, do not go, but let one of you tell where he, being lost through his own actions, went to die.’

 Inferno Canto XXVI:85-142 Ulysses’s last voyage


            The greater horn of the ancient flame started to shake itself, murmuring, like a flame struggling in the wind. Then moving the tip, as if it were a tongue speaking, gave out a voice, and said: ‘When I left Circe, who held me for more than a year, near to Gaeta, before Aeneas named it, not even my fondness for my son, Telemachus, my reverence for my aged father, Laërtes, nor the debt of love that should have made Penelope happy, could restrain in me the desire I had, to gain experience of the world, and of human vice and worth.

            I set out on the wide, deep ocean, with only one ship, and that little company, that had not abandoned me. I saw both shores, as far as Spain, as far as Morocco, and the isle of Sardinia, and the other islands that sea washes. I, and my companions, were old, and slow, when we came to that narrow strait, where Hercules set up his pillars, to warn men from going further. I left Seville to starboard: already Ceuta was left behind on the other side.

I said: ‘O my brothers, who have reached the west, through a thousand dangers, do not deny the brief vigil, your senses have left to them, experience of the unpopulated world beyond the Sun. Consider your origin: you were not made to live like brutes, but to follow virtue and knowledge.’ With this brief speech I made my companions so eager for the voyage, that I could hardly have restrained them, and turning the prow towards morning, we made wings of our oars for that foolish flight, always turning south.

Night already saw the southern pole, with all its stars, and our northern pole was so low, it did not rise from the ocean bed. Five times the light beneath the moon had been quenched and relit, since we had entered on the deep pathways, when a mountain appeared to us, dim with distance, and it seemed to me the highest I had ever seen. We rejoiced, but soon our joy was turned to grief, when a tempest rose from the new land, and struck the prow of our ship. Three times it whirled her round, with all the ocean: at the fourth, it made the stern rise, and the prow sink, as it pleased another, till the sea closed over us.’


Inferno Canto XXVII:1-30 Guido Da Montefeltro


            The flame was now erect and quiet, no longer speaking, and was going away from us, with the permission of the sweet poet, when another, that came behind forced us to turn our eyes towards its summit, since a confused sound escaped there.

            As the Sicilian bull, that first bellowed with the groans of Perillus, who had smoothed it with his file (and that was right) bellowed with the sufferer’s voice, so that, although it was bronze, it seemed pierced with agony, so here, the dismal words, having, at their source, no exit from the fire, were changed into its language. But when they had found a path out through the tip, giving it the movement that the tongue had given in making them, we heard it say: ‘O you, at whom I direct my voice, and who, but now, was speaking Lombard, saying: “Now go: no more, I beg you”, let it not annoy you to stop and speak with me, though perhaps I have came a little late: you see it does not annoy me, and I burn.

            If you are only now fallen into this blind world, from that sweet Latian land, from which I bring all my guilt, tell me if Romagna has peace or war, for I was of the mountains there, between Urbino and Monte Coronaro, the source from which the Tiber springs.’


Inferno Canto XXVII:31-57 The situation in Romagna


            I was still leaning downwards eagerly, when my leader touched me on the side, saying: ‘Speak, this is a Latian.’ And I who had my answer ready, began to speak then without delay: ‘O spirit, hidden there below, your Romagna is not, and never has been, without war in the hearts of her tyrants: but I left no open war there now.

Ravenna stands, as it has stood for many years: Guido Vecchio da Polenta’s eagle broods over it, so that it covers Cervia with its claws. That city, Forlì, that withstood so long a siege, and made a bloody pile of Frenchmen, finds itself again under the paws of Ordelaffi’s green lion.

Malatesta, the old mastiff of Verruchio, and the young one, Malatestino, who made bad jailors for Montagna, sharpen their teeth, where they used to do. Faenza, on the Lamone, and Imola on the Santerno, those cities lead out Pagano, the lion of the white lair, who changes sides when he goes from south to north, and Cesena, that city whose walls the Savio bathes, where it lies between the mountain and the plain, likewise lives between freedom and tyranny.

Now I beg you, tell us who you are: do not be harder than others have been to you, so that your name may keep its lustre on earth.’


Inferno Canto XXVII:58-136 Guido’s history


            When the flame had roared for a while as usual, it flickered the sharp point to and fro, and then gave out this breath: ‘If I thought my answer was given to one who could ever return to the world, this flame would flicker no more, but since, if what I hear is true, no one ever returned, alive, from this deep, I reply, without fear of defamation.

            I, Guido da Montefeltro, was a man of arms: and then became a Cordelier of Saint Francis, hoping to make amends, so habited: and indeed my hopes would have been realised in full, but for the Great Priest, Boniface, evil to him, who drew me back to my first sins: and how and why, I want you to hear from me.

            While I was in the form of bones and pulp, that my mother gave me, my actions were not those of the lion, but of the fox. I knew all the tricks and coverts, and employed the art of them so well, that the noise went out to the ends of the earth. When I found myself arrived at that point of life, when everyone should furl their sails, and gather in the ropes, what had pleased me before, now grieved me, and with repentance and confession, I turned monk. Ah misery! Alas, it would have served me well.

            But the Prince of the Pharisees; that Pope waging war near the Lateran, and not with Saracens or Jews, since all his enemies were Christians, and none had been to conquer Acre, or been a merchant in the Sultan’s land; had no regard for the highest office, nor holy orders, nor my habit of Saint Francis, that used to make those who wore it leaner; but as the Emperor Constantine sought out Saint Sylvester, on Mount Soracte, to cure his leprosy, so this man called me, as a doctor to cure his feverish pride. He demanded counsel of me, and I kept silent, since his speech seemed drunken.

            Then he said to me: ‘Do not be doubtful, I absolve you beforehand: and, you, teach me how to act, so that I may raze the fortress of Palestrina to the ground. I can open and close Heaven as you know, with the two keys, that my predecessor, Celestine, did not prize.’ Then the weighty arguments forced me to consider silence worse, and I said: ‘Father, since you absolve me of that sin, into which I must now fall, large promises to your enemies, with little delivery of them, will give you victory, from your high throne.’

            Afterwards, when I was dead, Saint Francis came for me: but one of the Black Cherubim said to him: ‘Do not take him: do not wrong me. He must descend among my servants, because he gave a counsel of deceit, since when I have kept him fast by the hair: he who does not repent, cannot be absolved: nor can one repent a thing, and at the same time will it, since the contradiction is not allowed.’ O miserable self! How I started, when he seized me, saying to me: ‘Perhaps you did not think I was a logician.’

            He carried me to Minos, who coiled his tail eight times round his fearful back, and then, biting it in great rage, said: ‘This sinner is for the thievish fire’, and so I am lost here, as you see, and clothed like this, go inwardly grieving.’

            When he had ended his speech, so, the flame went sorrowing, writhing and flickering its sharp horn. We passed on, my guide and I, along the cliff, up to the other arch, that covers the next ditch, in which the reward is paid to those who collect guilt by sowing discord.


Inferno Canto XXVIII:1-21 The Ninth Chasm: The Sowers of Discord


            Who could ever fully tell, even with repeated unimprisoned words, the blood and wounds I saw now? Every tongue would certainly fail, since our speech and memory have too small a capacity to comprehend so much. If all the people, too, were gathered, who once grieved for their blood, in the fateful land of Apulia, by reason of the Samnite War of the Romans, of Trojan seed; and those, from that long Punic War, that, as Livy writes, who does not err, yielded so great a wealth of rings, from Cannae’s battlefield; and those who felt the pain of blows by withstanding Robert Guiscard; and the rest, whose bones are still heaped at Ceperano, where all the Apulians turned traitor, for Charles of Anjou; and there, at Tagliacozzo where old Alardo’s advice to Charles conquered without weapons: and some were to show pierced limbs, and others severed stumps; it would be nothing to equal the hideous state of the ninth chasm.


Inferno Canto XXVIII:22-54 Mahomet: the Caliph Ali


            Even a wine-cask, that has lost a stave in the middle or the end, does not yawn as widely, as a spirit I saw, cleft from the chin down to the part that gives out the foulest sound: the entrails hung between his legs: the organs appeared, and the miserable gut that makes excrement of what is swallowed.

            While I stood looking wholly at him, he gazed at me, and opened his chest with his hands, saying: ‘See how I tear myself: see how Mahomet is ripped! In front of me, Ali goes, weeping, his face split from chin to scalp, and all the others you see here, were sowers of scandal and schism in their lifetimes: so they are cleft like this. There is a devil behind who tears us cruelly like this, reapplying his sword blade to each of this crowd, when they have wandered round the sad road, since the wounds heal before any reach him again.

            But who are you, who muse there on the cliff, maybe to delay your path to punishment, in sentence for your crimes?’

            My Master replied: ‘Death has not come to him yet, nor does guilt lead him to torment, but it is incumbent on me, who am dead, to grant him full experience, and lead him, through Inferno, down here, from circle to circle, and this is truth, that I tell you.’ When they heard him, more than a hundred spirits, in the ditch, halted, to look at me, forgetting their agony, in their wonder.


Inferno Canto XXVIII:55-90 Pier della Medicina and others


            After lifting up one foot, to leave, Mahomet said to me: ‘Well now, you who will soon see the sun, perhaps, tell Fra Dolcino of the Apostolic Brothers, if he does not wish to follow me, quickly, down here, to furnish himself with supplies, so that the snow-falls may not bring a victory for the Novarese, that otherwise would be difficult to achieve.’ Then, he strode forward to depart.

            Another, who had his throat slit, and nose cut off to the eyebrows, and had only a single ear, standing to gaze in wonder with the rest, opened his wind-pipe, that was red outside, all over, and said: ‘You, that no guilt condemns, and whom I have seen above on Latian ground, unless resemblance deceives me, remember Pier della Medicina, if you ever return to see the gentle plain, that slopes down from Vercelli to Marcabò. And make known to the worthiest two men in Fano, Messer Guido, and Angiolello, also, that unless our prophetic powers here are in vain, they will be cast out of their boat, and drowned near Cattolica, by treachery. Neptune never saw a greater crime, between the isles of Cyprus and Majorca, not even among those carried out by pirates, or by Greeks. Malatestino, the treacherous one, who only sees with one eye, and holds the land, that one, who is here with me, wishes he had never seen, will make them come to parley with him, then act so that they will have no need of vow or prayer to counter Focara’s winds.


Inferno Canto XXVIII:91-111 Curio and Mosca


            And I said to him: ‘If you would have me carry news of you, above, show me and explain who he is that rues the sight of it.’ Then he placed his hand on the jaw of one of his companions, and opened the mouth, saying: ‘This is he: and he does not speak. This outcast quelled Caesar’s doubts at the Rubicon, saying that delay always harms men who are ready.’ O how dejected, Curio seemed to me, with his tongue slit in his palate, who was so bold in speech!

            And one who had both hands severed, lifting the stumps through the dark air, so that their blood stained his face, said: ‘You will remember Mosca too, who said, alas, “A thing done, has an end” which was seed of evil to the Tuscan race.’ ‘And death to your people,’ I added, at which he, accumulating pain on pain, went away like one sad and mad.


Inferno Canto XXVIII:112-142 Bertrand de Born


            But I remained behind to view the crowd, and saw a thing, which, without more proof, I would be afraid to even tell, except that conscience reassures me, the good companion, that strengthens a man, under the armour of his self-respect.

            I saw it clearly, and still seem to see, a headless trunk, that goes on before, like the others, in that miserable crew, and holds its severed head, by the hair, swinging, like a lantern, in its hand. It looked at us, and said: ‘Ah me!’. It made a lamp of itself, to light itself, and there were two in one, and one in two: how that can be he knows, who made it so.

When it was right at the foot of our bridge, it lifted its arm high, complete with the head, to bring its words near to us, which were: ‘Now you see the grievous punishment, you, who go, alive and breathing, to see the dead: look if any are as great as this. And so that you may carry news of me, know that I am Bertrand de Born, he who gave evil counsel to the Young King. I made the father and the son rebel against each other: Ahithophel did no more for Absalom and David, by his malicious stirrings.

Because I parted those who were once joined, I carry my intellect, alas, split from its origin in this body. So, in me, is seen just retribution.


Inferno Canto XXIX:1-36 Geri del Bello


            The multitude of people, and the many wounds, had made my eyes so tear-filled, that they longed to stop and weep, but Virgil said to me: ‘Why are you still gazing? Why does your sight still rest, down there, on the sad, mutilated shadows? You did not do so at the other chasms. Think, if you wish to number them, that the valley circles twenty-two miles, and the moon is already underneath our feet. The time is short now, that is given us, and there are other things to view, than those you see.’

            I replied, then: ‘Had you noticed the reason why I looked, perhaps you might still have allowed me to stay.’ Meanwhile, the guide was moving on, and I went behind him, making my reply, and adding, now: ‘In the hollow where I held my gaze, I believe a spirit of my own blood, laments the guilt that costs so greatly here.’ Then the Master said: ‘Do not let your thoughts be distracted by him: attend to something else: let him stay there. I saw him point to you, at the foot of the little bridge, and threaten, angrily, with his finger: and I heard them call him Geri del Bello. You were so entangled, then, with him who once held Altaforte, that you did not look that way, so he departed.’

            I said: ‘Oh, my guide, his violent murder made him indignant, not yet avenged on his behalf, by any that shares his shame: therefore, I guess, he went away, without speaking to me: and, by that, has made me pity him the more.’


Inferno Canto XXIX:37-72 The Tenth Chasm: The Falsifiers           


            So we talked, as far as the first place on the causeway that would have revealed the next valley, right to its floor, if it had been lighter. When we were above the last cloister of Malebolge, so that its lay brothers could be seen, many groans pierced me, whose arrows were barbed with pity, at which I covered my ears with my hands. Such pain there was, as there would be, if the diseases in the hospitals of Valdichiana, Maremma and Sardinia, between July and September, were all rife in one ditch: a stench arose from it, such as issues from putrid limbs.

            We descended on the last bank of the long causeway, again on the left, and then my sight was clearer, down to the depths, where infallible Justice, the minister of the Lord on high, punishes the falsifiers that it accounts for here. I do not think it would have been a greater sadness to see the people of plague-ridden Aegina, when the air was so malignant, that every animal, even the smallest worm, was killed, and afterwards, as Poets say, for certain, the ancient race was restored from the seed of ants, than it was to see the spirits languishing in scattered heaps through that dim valley. This one lay on its belly, that, on the shoulders of the other, and some were crawling along the wretched path.

            Step by step we went, without a word, gazing at, and listening to, the sick who could not lift their bodies.


Inferno Canto XXIX:73-99 Griffolino and Capocchio


            I saw two sitting, leaning on each other, as one pan is leant to warm against another: they were marked with scabs from head to foot, and I never saw a stable lad his master waits for, or one who stays awake unwillingly, use a currycomb as fiercely, as each of these two clawed himself with his nails, because of the intensity of their itching, that has no other relief.

            And so the nails dragged the scurf off, as a knife does the scales from bream, or other fish with larger scales. My Guide began to speak: ‘O you, who strip your chain-mail with your fingers, and often make pincers of them, tell us if there is any Latian among those here, inside: and may your nails be enough for that task for eternity.’ One of them replied, weeping: ‘We are both Latians, whom you see so mutilated here, but who are you who enquire of us? And the guide said: ‘I am one, who with this living man, descends from steep to steep, and mean to show him Hell.’

            Then the mutual prop broke, and each one turned, trembling, towards me, along with others that heard him, by the echo.


Inferno Canto XXIX:100-120 Griffolino’s narrative


            The good Master addressed me directly, saying: ‘Tell them what you wish,’ and I began as he desired: ‘So that your memory will not fade, from human minds, in the first world, but will live for many suns, tell us who you are, and of what race. Do not let your ugly and revolting punishment make you afraid to reveal yourselves to me.’

            The one replied: ‘I was Griffolino of Arezzo, and Albero of Siena had me burned: but what I died for did not send me here. It is true I said to him, jesting, “I could lift myself into the air in flight,” and he who had great desire and little brain, wished me to show him that art: and only because I could not make him Daedalus, he caused me to be burned, by one who looked on him as a son.

            But to the last chasm of the ten, Minos, who cannot err, condemned me, for the alchemy I practised in the world.’


Inferno Canto XXIX:121-139 The Spendthrift Brigade


            And I said to the poet: ‘Now was there ever a people as vain as the Sienese? Certainly not the French, by far.’ At which the other leper, hearing me, replied to my words: ‘What of Stricca, who contrived to spend so little: and Niccolo who first discovered the costly use of cloves, in that garden, Siena, where such seed takes root: and that company in which Caccia of Aciano threw away his vineyard, and his vast forest, and the Abbagliato showed his wit.

            But so that you may know who seconds you like this against the Sienese, sharpen your eye on me, so that my face may reply to you: so you will see I am Capocchio’s shadow, who made false metals, by alchemy, and you must remember, if I know you rightly, how well I aped nature.’


Inferno Canto XXX:1-48 Schicci and Myrrha


            At the time when Juno was angry, as she had shown more than once, with the Theban race, because of Jupiter’s affair with Semele, she so maddened King Athamas, that, seeing his wife, Ino, go by, carrying her two sons in her arms, he cried: ‘Spread the hunting nets, so that I can take the lioness and her cubs, at the pass,’ and then stretched out his pitiless talons, snatching the one, named Learchus, and, whirling him round, dashed him against the rock: and Ino drowned herself, and her other burden, Melicertes. And after fortune had brought down the high Trojan pride, that dared all, so that Priam the king, and his kingdom were destroyed, Queen Hecuba, a sad, wretched captive, having witnessed the sacrifice of Polyxena, alone, on the sea-shore, when she recognised the body of her Polydorus, barked like a dog, driven out of her senses, so greatly had her sorrow racked her mind.

            But neither Theban nor Trojan Furies were ever seen embodied so cruelly, in stinging creatures, or even less in human limbs, as I saw displayed in two shades, pallid and naked, that ran, biting, as a hungry pig does, when he is driven out of his sty. The one came to Capocchio, and fixed his tusks in his neck, so that dragging him along, it made the solid floor rasp his belly. And the Aretine, Griffolino, who was left, said to me, trembling: ‘That goblin is Gianni Schicci, and he goes, rabidly, mangling others like that.’ I replied: ‘Oh, be pleased to tell us who the other is, before it snatches itself away, and may it not plant its teeth in you.’

            And he to me: ‘That is the ancient spirit of incestuous Myrrha, who loved her father, Cinyras, with more than lawful love. She came to him, and sinned, under cover of another’s name, just as the one who is vanishing there, undertook to disguise himself as Buoso Donati, so as to gain the mare, called the Lady of the Herd, by forging a will, and giving it legal form.’

            When the furious pair, on whom I had kept my eye, were gone, I turned to look at the other spirits, born to evil.


Inferno Canto XXX:49-90 Adam of Brescia


            I saw one, who would have been shaped like a lute, if he had only had his groin cut short, at the place where a man is forked. The heavy dropsy, that swells the limbs, with its badly transformed humours, so that the face does not match the belly, made him hold his lips apart, as the fevered patient does who, through thirst, curls one lip towards the chin, and the other upwards.

            He said to us: ‘O you, who are exempt from punishment in this grim world (and why, I do not know), look and attend to the misery of Master Adam. I had enough of what I wished, when I was alive, and now, alas, I crave a drop of water. The little streams that fall, from the green hills of Casentino, down to the Arno, making cool, moist channels, are constantly in my mind, and not in vain, since the image of them parches me, far more than the disease, that wears the flesh from my face.

            The rigid justice, that examines me, takes its opportunity from the place where I sinned, to give my sighs more rapid flight. That is Romena, where I counterfeited the coin of Florence, stamped with the Baptist’s image: for that, on earth, I left my body, burned. But if I could see the wretched soul of Guido here, or Alessandro, or Aghinolfo, their brother, I would not exchange that sight for Branda’s fountain. Guido is down here already, if the crazed spirits going round speak truly, but what use is it to me, whose limbs are tied?

            If I were only light enough to move, even an inch, every hundred years, I would already have started on the road, to find him among this disfigured people, though it winds around eleven miles, and is no less than half a mile across. Because of them I am with such a crew: they induced me to stamp those florins that were adulterated, with three carats alloy.’


Inferno Canto XXX:91-129 Sinon: Potiphar’s wife


            I said to him: ‘Who are those abject two, lying close to your right edge, and giving off smoke, like a hand, bathed, in winter? He replied: ‘I found them here, when I rained down into this pound, and they have not turned since then, and may never turn I believe.

            One is the false wife who accused Joseph. The other is lying Sinon, the Greek from Troy. A burning fever makes them stink so strongly.’ And Sinon, who perhaps took offence at being named so blackly, struck Adamo’s rigid belly with his fist, so that it resounded, like a drum: and Master Adam struck him in the face with his arm, that seemed no softer, saying to him: ‘I have an arm free for such a situation, though I am kept from moving by my heavy limbs.’ At which Sinon answered: ‘You were not so ready with it, going to the fire, but as ready, and readier, when you were coining.’ And he of the dropsy: ‘You speak truth in that, but you were not so truthful a witness, there, when you were questioned about the truth at Troy.’

            ‘If I spoke falsely, you falsified the coin,’ Sinon said, ‘and I am here for the one crime, but you for more than any other devil.’ He who had the swollen belly answered: ‘Think of the Wooden Horse, you liar, and let it be a torment to you that all the world knows of it.’ The Greek replied: ‘Let the thirst that cracks the tongue be your torture, and the foul water make your stomach a barrier in front of your eyes.’ Then the coiner: ‘Your mouth gapes wide as usual, to speak ill. If I have a thirst, and moisture swells me, you have the burning, and a head that hurts you: and you would not need many words of invitation, to lap at the mirror of Narcissus.’


Inferno Canto XXX:130-148 Virgil reproves Dante


            I was standing, all intent on hearing them, when the Master said to me: ‘Now, keep gazing much longer, and I will quarrel with you!’ When I heard him speak to me in anger, I turned towards him, with such a feeling of shame that it comes over me again, as I only think of it. And like someone who dreams of something harmful to them, and dreaming, wishes it were a dream, so that they long for what is, as if it were not; that I became, who, lacking power to speak, wished to make an excuse, and all the while did so, not thinking I was doing it.

            My Master said: ‘Less shamefacedness would wash away a greater fault than yours, so unburden yourself of sorrow, and know that I am always with you, should it happen that fate takes you, where people are in similar conflict: since the desire to hear it, is a vulgar desire.’


Inferno Canto XXXI:1-45 The Giants that guard the central pit


            One and the same tongue at first wounded me, so that it painted both my cheeks with blushes, and then gave out the ointment for the wound. So I have heard the spear of Achilles, and his father Peleus, was the cause first of sadness, and then of a healing gift.

            We turned our back on the wretched valley, crossing without a word, up by the bank that circles round it. Here was less darkness than night and less light than day, so that my vision showed only a little in front: but I heard a high-pitched horn sound, so loudly, that it would have made thunder seem quiet: it directed my eyes, that followed its passage back, straight to a single point. Roland did not sound his horn so fiercely, after the sad rout, when Charlemagne had lost the holy war, at Roncesvalles.

            I had kept my head turned for a while in that direction, when I seemed to make out many high towers, at which I said: ‘Master, tell me what city this is?’ And he to me: ‘Because your eyes traverse the darkness from too far away, it follows that you imagine wrongly. You will see, quite plainly, when you reach there, how much the sense is deceived by distance, so press on more strongly.’ Then he took me, lovingly, by the hand, and said: ‘Before we go further, so that the reality might seem less strange to you, know that they are Giants, not towers, and are in the pit, from the navel downwards, all of them, around its bank.’

            As the eye, when a mist is disappearing, gradually recreates what was hidden by the vapour thickening the air, so, while approaching closer and closer to the brink, piercing through that gross, dark atmosphere, error left me, and my fear increased. As Montereggione crowns its round wall with towers, so the terrible giants, whom Jupiter still threatens from the heavens, when he thunders, turreted with half their bodies the bank that circles the well.


Inferno Canto XXXI:46-81 Nimrod


            And I already saw the face of one, the shoulders, chest, the greater part of the belly, and the arms down both sides. When nature abandoned the art of making creatures like these, she certainly did well by removing such killers from warfare, and if she does not repent of making elephants and whales, whoever looks at the issue subtly, considers her more prudent and more right in that, since where the instrument of mind is joined to ill will and power, men have no defence against it.

             His face seemed to me as long and large as the bronze pine-cone, in front of St Peter’s in Rome, and his other features were in proportion, so that the bank that covered him from the middle onwards, revealed so much of him above that three Frieslanders would have boasted in vain of reaching his hair, since I saw thirty large hand-spans of him down from the place where a man pins his cloak.

            The savage mouth, for which no sweeter hymns were fit, began to rave: ‘Rafel mai amech sabi almi.’ And my guide turning to him, said: ‘Foolish spirit, stick to your hunting-horn, and vent your breath through that, when rage or some other passion stirs you. Search round your neck, O confused soul, and you will find the belt where it is slung, and see that which arcs across your huge chest.’ Then he said to me: ‘He declares himself. This is Nimrod, through whose evil thought, one language is not still used, throughout the whole world. Let us leave him standing here, and not speak to him in vain: since every language, to him, is like his to others, that no one understands.’


Inferno Canto XXXI:82-96 Ephialtes


            So we went on, turning to the left, and, a crossbow-shot away, we found the next one, far larger and fiercer. Who and what the power might be that bound him, I cannot say, but he had his right arm pinioned behind, and the other in front, by a chain that held him tight, from the neck down, and, on the visible part of him, reached its fifth turn.

            My guide said: ‘This proud spirit had the will to try his strength against high Jupiter, and so has this reward. Ephialtes is his name, and he made the great attempt, when the Giants made the gods fear, and the arms he shook then, now, he never moves.’


Inferno Canto XXXI:97-145 Antaeus


            And I said to him: ‘If it were possible, I would wish my eyes to light on vast Briareus.’ To which he replied: ‘You will see Antaeus, nearby, who speaks and is unchained, and will set us down in the deepest abyss of guilt. He whom you wish to see is far beyond, and is formed and bound like this one, except he seems more savage in his features.’ No huge earthquake ever shook a tower, as violently as Ephialtes promptly shook himself. Then I feared death more than ever, and the fear alone would have been enough to cause it, had I not seen his chains.

            We then went further on, and reached Antaeus, who projected twenty feet from the pit, not including his head. The Master spoke: ‘O you, who, of old, took a thousand lions for your prey, in the fateful valley, near Zama, that made Scipio heir to glory, when Hannibal retreated with his army; you, through whom, it might still be believed, the Giant sons of Earth would have overcome the gods, if you had been at the great war with your brothers; set us down, and do not be shy to do it, where the cold imprisons the River Cocytus, in the Ninth Circle.

Do not make us ask Tityos or Typhon. Bend, and do not curl your lips in scorn: this man can give that which is longed for, here: he can refresh your fame on earth, since he is alive, and still expects long life, if grace does not call him to her before his time.’ So the Master spoke, and Antaeus quickly stretched out both hands, from which Hercules of old once felt the power, and seized my guide. Virgil when he felt his grasp, said to me: ‘Come here, so that I may carry you.’ Then he made one bundle of himself and me.

To me, who stood watching to see Antaeus stoop, he seemed as the leaning tower at Bologna, the Carisenda, appears to the view, under the leaning side, when a cloud is passing over it, and it hangs in the opposite direction. It was such a terrible moment I would have wished to have gone by another route, but he set us down gently in the deep, that swallowed Lucifer and Judas, and did not linger there, bent, but straightened himself, like a mast raised in a boat.


Inferno Canto XXXII:1-39 The Ninth Circle: The frozen River Cocytus


If I had words, rough and hoarse enough, to fit the dismal chasm, on which all the other rocky cliffs weigh, and converge, I would squeeze out the juice of my imagination more completely: but since I have not, I bring myself, not without fear, to describe the place: to tell of the pit of the Universe is not a task to be taken up in play, nor in a language that has words like ‘mother’ and ‘father’. But may the Muses, those Ladies, who helped Amphion shut Thebes behind its walls, aid my speech, so that my words may not vary from the truth.

O you people, created evil beyond all others, in this place that is hard to speak of, it were better if you had been sheep or goats here on earth! When we were down, inside the dark well, beneath the Giants’ feet, and much lower, and I was still staring at the steep cliff, I heard a voice say to me: ‘Take care as you pass, so that you do not tread, with your feet, on the heads of the wretched, weary brothers.’ At which I turned, and saw a lake, in front of me and underneath my feet, that, because of the cold, appeared like glass not water.

The Danube, in Austria, never formed so thick a veil for its winter course, nor the Don, far off under the frozen sky, as was here: if Mount Tambernic in the east, or Mount Pietrapana, had fallen on it, it would not have even creaked at the margin. And as frogs sit croaking with their muzzles above water, at the time when peasant women often dream of gleaning, so the sad shadows sat, in the ice, livid to where the blush of shame appears, chattering with their teeth, like storks.

Each one held his face turned down: the cold is witnessed, amongst them, by their mouths: and their sad hearts, by their eyes.


Inferno Canto XXXII:40-69 The Caïna: The degli Alberti: Camicion


            When I had a looked around awhile, turning to my feet, I saw two, so compressed together, that the hair of their heads was intermingled. I said: ‘Tell me, you, who press your bodies together so: who are you?’ And they twisted their necks up, and when they had lifted their faces towards me, their eyes, which were only moist, inwardly, before, gushed at the lids, and the frost iced fast the tears, between them, and sealed them up again. No vice ever clamped wood to wood as firmly: so that they butted one another like two he-goats, overcome by such rage.

            And one, who had lost both ears to the cold, with his face still turned down, said: ‘Why are you staring at us, so fiercely? If you want to know who these two are, they are the degli Alberti, Allesandro and Napoleone: the valley where the Bisenzio runs down, was theirs and their father Alberto’s. They issued from one body, and you can search the whole Caïna, and will not find shades more worthy of being set in ice: not even Mordred, whose chest and shadow, were pierced, at one blow, by his father’s, King Arthur’s, lance: nor Focaccia: nor this one, who obstructs my face with his head, so that I cannot see further, who was named Sassol Mascheroni. If you are a Tuscan, now, you know truly what he was.

            And so that you do not put me to more speech, know that I am Camicion de’ Pazzi, and am waiting for Carlino, my kinsman, to outdo me.’


Inferno Canto XXXII:70-123 The Antenora: Bocca degli Abbati


            Afterwards I saw a thousand faces, made doglike by the cold, at which a trembling overcomes me, and always will, when I think of the frozen fords. And, whether it was will, or fate or chance, I do not know: but walking, among the heads, I struck my foot violently against one face. Weeping it cried out to me: ‘Why do you trample on me? If you do not come to increase the revenge for Montaperti, why do you trouble me?

            And I: ‘My Master, wait here for me, now, so that I can rid me of a doubt concerning him, then you can make as much haste as you please.’ The Master stood, and I said to that shade which still reviled me bitterly: ‘Who are you, who reproach others in this way?’ ‘No, who are you,’ he answered, ‘who go through the Antenora striking the faces of others, in such a way, that if you were alive, it would be an insult?’

            I replied: ‘I am alive, and if you long for fame, it might be a precious thing to you, if I put your name among the others.’ And he to me: ‘I long for the opposite: take yourself off, and annoy me no more: since you little know how to flatter on this icy slope.’ Then I seized him by the back of the scalp, and said: ‘You need to name yourself, before there is not a hair left on your head!’ At which he said to me: ‘Even if you pluck me, I will not tell you who I am, nor demonstrate it to you, though you tear at my head, a thousand times.’

            I already had his hair coiled in my hand, and had pulled away more than one tuft of it, while he barked, and kept his eyes down, when another spirit cried: ‘What is wrong with you, Bocca, is it not enough that you chatter with your jaws, but you have to bark too? What devil is at you?’ I said: ‘Now, accursed traitor, I do not want you to speak: since I will carry true news of you, to your shame.’ He answered: ‘Go, and say what you please, but, if you get out from here, do not be silent about him, who had his tongue so ready just now. Here he regrets taking French silver. You can say, “I saw Buoso de Duera, there, where the sinners stand caught in the ice.”

            If you are asked who else was there, you have Tesauro de’ Beccheria, whose throat was slit by Florence. Gianni de’ Soldanier is further on, with Ganelon, and Tribaldello, who unbarred the gate of Faenza while it slept.’


Inferno Canto XXXII:124-139 Ugolino and Ruggieri


            We had already left him, when I saw two spirits frozen in a hole, so close together that the one head capped the other, and the uppermost set his teeth into the other, as bread is chewed, out of hunger, there where the back of the head joins the nape. Tydeus gnawed the head of Menalippus, no differently, out of rage, than this one the skull and other parts.

            I said: ‘O you, who, in such a brutal way, inflict the mark of your hatred, on him, whom you devour, tell me why: on condition that, if you complain of him with reason, I, knowing who you are, and his offence, may repay you still in the world above, if the tongue I speak with is not withered.’


Inferno Canto XXXIII:1-90 Count Ugolino’s story


            That sinner raised his mouth from the savage feast, wiping it on the hair, of the head he had stripped behind. Then he began: ‘You wish me to renew desperate grief, that wrings my heart at the very thought, before I even tell of it. But if my words are to be the seed, that bears fruit, in the infamy, of the traitor whom I gnaw, you will see me speak and weep together. I do not know who you are, nor by what means you have come down here, but when I hear you, you seem to me, in truth, a Florentine.

            You must know that I am Count Ugolino, and this is the Archbishop Ruggieri. Now I will tell you why I am a neighbour such as this to him. It is not necessary to say that, confiding in him, I was taken, through the effects of his evil schemes, and afterwards killed. But what you cannot have learnt, how cruel my death was, you will hear: and know if he has injured me.

            A narrow hole inside that tower, which is called Famine, from my death, and in which others must yet be imprisoned, had already shown me several moons through its opening, when I slept an evil sleep that tore the curtain of the future for me. This man seemed to me the lord, and master, chasing the wolf and its whelps, on Monte di San Guiliano, that blocks the view of Lucca from the Pisans. He had the Gualandi, Sismondi and Lanfranchi running with him, with hounds, slender, keen, and agile.

            After a short chase the father and his sons seemed weary to me, and I thought I saw their flanks torn by sharp teeth. When I woke, before dawn, I heard my sons, who were with me, crying in their sleep, and asking for food. You are truly cruel if you do not sorrow already at the thought of what my heart presaged: and if you do not weep, what do you weep at?

            They were awake now, and the hour nearing, at which our food used to be brought to us, and each of us was anxious from dreaming, when below I heard the door of the terrible tower locked up: at which I gazed into the faces of my sons, without saying a word. I did not weep: I grew like stone inside: they wept: and my little Anselm said to me: ‘Father you stare so, what is wrong?’ But I shed no tears, and did not answer, all that day, or the next night, till another sun rose over the world. When a little ray of light was sent into the mournful gaol, and I saw in their four faces, the aspect of my own, I bit my hands from grief. And they, thinking that I did it from hunger, suddenly stood, and said: ‘Father, it will give us less pain, if you gnaw at us: you put this miserable flesh on us, now strip it off, again.’

            Then I calmed myself, in order not to make them more unhappy: that day and the next we all were silent. Ah, solid earth, why did you not open? When we had come to the fourth day, Gaddo threw himself down at my feet, saying: ‘My father, why do you not help me?’ There he died, and even as you see me, I saw the three others fall one by one, between the fifth and sixth days: at which, already blind, I took to groping over each of them, and called out to them for three days, when they were dead: then fasting, at last, had power to overcome grief.’

            When he had spoken this, he seized the wretched skull again with his teeth, which were as strong as a dog’s on the bone, his eyes distorted. Ah Pisa, shame among the people, of the lovely land where ‘si’ is heard, let the isles of Caprara and Gorgona shift and block the Arno at its mouth, since your neighbours are so slow to punish you, so that it may drown every living soul. Since if Count Ugolino had the infamy of having betrayed your castles, you ought not to have put his sons to the torture. Their youth made Uguccione and Brigata, and the other two my words above have named, innocents, you modern Thebes.


Inferno Canto XXXIII:91-157 Friar Alberigo and Branca d’Oria


            We went further on, where the rugged frost encases another people, not bent down but reversed completely. The very weeping there prevents them weeping: and the grief that makes an impediment to their sight, turns inward to increase their agony: since the first tears form a knot, and like a crystal visor, fill the cavities below their eyebrows. And though all feeling had left my face, through the cold, as though from a callus, it seemed to me now as if I felt a breeze, at which I said: ‘Master, what causes this? Is the heat not all quenched here below?’ At which he said to me: ‘Soon you will be where your own eyes, will answer that, seeing the source that generates the air.’

            And one of the sad shadows, in the icy crust, cried out to us: ‘O spirits, so cruel that the last place of all is reserved for you, remove the solid veils from my face, that I might vent the grief a little that chokes my heart, before the tears freezes again.’ At which I said to him: ‘If you would have my help, tell me who you are: and if I do not disburden you, may I have to journey to the depths of the ice.’

            He replied to that: ‘I am Friar Alberigo, I am he of the fruits of the evil garden, who here receive dates made of ice, to match my figs.’ I said to him: ‘O, are you dead already?’ And he to me: ‘How my body stands in the world above, I do not know, such is the power of this Ptolomaea, that the soul often falls down here, before Atropos cuts the thread. And so that you may more willingly clear the frozen tears from your face, know that when the soul betrays, as mine did, her body is taken from her by a demon, there and then, who rules it after that, till its time is complete. She falls, plunging down to this well: and perhaps the body of this other shade, that winters here, behind me, is still visible in the world above.

            You must know it, if you have only now come down here: it is Ser Branca d’Oria, and many years have passed since he was imprisoned here.’ I said to him: ‘I believe you are lying to me: Branca d’Oria is not dead, and eats and drinks, and sleeps, and puts on his clothes.’ He said: ‘Michel Zanche had not yet arrived, in the ditch of the Malebranche above, there where the tenacious pitch boils, when this man left a devil in his place in his own body, and one in the body of his kinsman who did the treachery with him. But reach your hand here: open my eyes.’ And I did not open them for him: and it was a courtesy to be rude to him.

            Ah, Genoese, men divorced from all morality, and filled with every corruption, why are you not dispersed from off the earth? I found the worst spirit of Romagna was one of you, who for his actions even now bathes, as a soul, in Cocytus, and still seems alive on earth, in his own body.


Inferno Canto XXXIV:1-54 The Judecca: Satan


            ‘Vexilla Regis prodeunt inferni, the banners of the King of Hell advance towards us: so look in front of you to see if you discern him,’ said my Master. I seemed to see a tall structure, as a mill, that the wind turns, seems from a distance, when a dense mist breathes, or when night falls in our hemisphere, and I shrank back behind my guide, because of the wind, since there was no other shelter.

            I had already come, and with fear I put it into words, where the souls were completely enclosed, and shone through like straw in glass. Some are lying down, some stand upright, one on its head, another on the soles of its feet, another bent head to foot, like a bow.

            When we had gone on far enough, that my guide was able to show me Lucifer, the monster who was once so fair, he removed himself from me, and made me stop, saying: ‘Behold Dis, and behold the place where you must arm yourself with courage.’ Reader, do not ask how chilled and hoarse I became, then, since I do not write it, since all words would fail to tell it. I did not die, yet I was not alive. Think, yourself, now, if you have any grain of imagination, what I became, deprived of either state.

            The emperor of the sorrowful kingdom stood, waist upwards, from the ice, and I am nearer to a giant in size than the giants are to one of his arms: think how great the whole is that corresponds to such a part. If he was once as fair, as he is now ugly, and lifted up his forehead against his Maker, well may all evil flow from him. O how great a wonder it seemed to me, when I saw three faces on his head! The one in front was fiery red: the other two were joined to it, above the centre of each shoulder, and linked at the top, and the right hand one seemed whitish-yellow: the left was black to look at, like those who come from where the Nile rises. Under each face sprang two vast wings, of a size fit for such a bird: I never saw ship’s sails as wide. They had no feathers, but were like a bat’s in form and texture, and he was flapping them, so that three winds blew out away from him, by which all Cocytus was frozen. He wept from six eyes, and tears and bloody spume gushed down three chins.


Inferno Canto XXXIV:55-69 Judas: Brutus: Cassius


            He chewed a sinner between his teeth, with every mouth, like a grinder, so, in that way, he kept three of them in torment. To the one in front, the biting was nothing compared to the tearing, since, at times, his back was left completely stripped of skin.

            The Master said: ‘That soul up there that suffers the greatest punishment, he who has his head inside, and flails his legs outside, is Judas Iscariot. Of the other two who have their heads hanging downwards, the one who hangs from the face that is black is Brutus: see how he writhes and does not utter a word: and the other is Cassius, who seems so long in limb. But night is ascending, and now we must go, since we have seen it all.’


Inferno Canto XXXIV:70-139 The Poets leave Hell


            I clasped his neck, as he wished, and he seized the time and place, and when the wings were wide open, grasped Satan’s shaggy sides, and then from tuft to tuft, climbed down, between the matted hair and frozen crust.

            When we had come to where the thigh joint turns, just at the swelling of the haunch, my guide, with effort and difficulty, reversed his head to where his feet had been, and grabbed the hair like a climber, so that I thought we were dropping back to Hell. ‘Hold tight,’ said my guide, panting like a man exhausted, ‘since by these stairs, we must depart from all this evil.’ Then he clambered into an opening in the rock, and set me down to sit on its edge, then turned his cautious step towards me.

            I raised my eyes, thinking to see Lucifer as I had left him, but saw him with his legs projecting upwards, and let those denser people, who do not see what point I had passed, judge if I was confused then, or not.

            My Master said: ‘Get up, on your feet: the way is long, and difficult the road, and the sun already returns to mid-tierce.’ Where we stood was no palace hall, but a natural cell with a rough floor, and short of light. When I had risen, I said: ‘My Master, before I leave the abyss, speak to me a while, and lead me out of error. Where is the ice? And why is this monster fixed upside down? And how has the sun moved from evening to dawn in so short a time?’

            And he to me: ‘You imagine you are still on the other side of the earth’s centre, where I caught hold of the Evil Worm’s hair, he who pierces the world. You were on that side of it, as long as I climbed down, but when I reversed myself, you passed the point to which weight is drawn, from everywhere: and are now below the hemisphere opposite that which covers the wide dry land, and opposite that under whose zenith the Man was crucified, who was born, and lived, without sin. You have your feet on a little sphere that forms the other side of the Judecca.

            Here it is morning, when it is evening there: and he who made a ladder for us of his hair is still as he was before. He fell from Heaven on this side of the earth, and the land that projected here before, veiled itself with the ocean for fear of him, and entered our hemisphere: and that which now projects on this side, left an empty space here, and shot outwards, maybe in order to escape from him.’

            Down there, is a space, as far from Beelzebub as his cave extends, not known by sight, but by the sound of a stream falling through it, along the bed of rock it has hollowed out, into a winding course, and a slow incline. The guide and I entered by that hidden path, to return to the clear world: and, not caring to rest, we climbed up, he first, and I second, until, through a round opening, I saw the beautiful things that the sky holds: and we issued out, from there, to see, again, the stars.






Purgatorio Canto I:1-27 Dante’s Invocation and the dawn sky. 68

Purgatorio Canto I:28-84 The Poets meet Cato.. 68

Purgatorio Canto I:85-111 Cato tells Virgil to bathe Dante’s eyes. 69

Purgatory Canto I:112-136 Virgil obeys. 69

Purgatorio Canto II:1-45 The Angel of God. 70

Purgatorio Canto II:46-79 The Crowd of Souls. 70

Purgatorio Canto II:79-114 Casella, the musician. 70

Purgatorio Canto II:115-133 Cato exhorts the spirits to go on. 71

Purgatorio Canto III:1-45 Virgil stresses the limitations of knowledge. 71

Purgatorio Canto III:46-72 The Excommunicated. 72

Purgatorio Canto III:73-102 They are troubled by Dante’s shadow... 72

Purgatorio Canto III:103-145 Manfred. 72

Purgatorio Canto IV:1-18 The unity of the soul73

Purgatorio Canto IV:19-51 The narrow path.73

Purgatorio Canto IV:52-87 The sun’s arc south of the equator. 73

Purgatorio Canto IV:88-139 Belacqua. 74

Purgatorio Canto V:1-63 The Late-Repentant75

Purgatorio Canto V:64-84 Jacopo del Cassero.. 75

Purgatorio Canto V:85-129 Buonconte da Montefeltro.. 76

Purgatorio Canto V:130-136 Pia da Tolomei76

Purgatorio Canto VI:1-24 The spirits crowd round. 76

Purgatorio Canto VI 25-48 Virgil on the efficacy of prayer. 77

Purgatorio Canto VI:49-75 Sordello.. 77

Purgatorio Canto VI:76-151 Dante’s speech on the sad state of Italy. 78

Purgatorio Canto VII:1-39 Virgil declares himself to Sordello.. 78

Purgatorio Canto VII:40-63 Sordello explains the rules for ascent79

Purgatorio Canto VII:64-136 The Valley of the Negligent Rulers. 79

Purgatorio Canto VIII:1-45 The Two Angels descend. 80

Purgatorio Canto VIII:46-84 Nino de’ Visconti81

Purgatorio Canto VIII:85-108 The Serpent81

Purgatorio Canto VIII:109-139 Conrad Malaspina. 82

Purgatorio Canto IX:1-33 Dante dreams he is clasped by an Eagle. 82

Purgatorio Canto IX:34-63 Virgil explains. 83

Purgatorio Canto IX:64-105 The Angel at the Gate of Purgatory. 83

Purgatorio Canto IX:106-145 The Angel opens the Gate. 84

Purgatorio Canto X:1-45 The First Terrace: The Frieze: The Annunciation. 84

Purgatorio Canto X:46-72 King David dancing before the Ark. 85

Purgatorio Canto X:73-96 The Emperor Trajan. 85

Purgatorio Canto X:97-139 The Proud and their Punishment85

Purgatorio Canto XI:1-36 The Proud paraphrase the Lord’s Prayer. 86

Purgatorio Canto XI:37-72 Omberto Aldobrandeschi86

Purgatorio Canto XI:73-117 Oderisi of Gubbio: The Vanity of Fame. 87

Purgatorio Canto XI:118-142 Provenzan Salvani87

Purgatorio Canto XII:1-63 Many examples of Pride. 88

Purgatorio Canto XII:64-99 The Angel of Humility. 88

Purgatorio Canto XII:100-136 The first letter P is now erased. 89

Purgatorio Canto XIII:1-45 The Second Terrace: The voices in the air. 89

Purgatorio Canto XIII:46-84 The Envious and their Punishment90

Purgatorio Canto XIII:85-154 Sapia de’ Saracini91

Purgatorio Canto XIV:1-27 Guido del Duca and Rinieri da Calboli91

Purgatorio Canto XIV:28-66 The Valley of the Arno.. 92

Purgatorio Canto XIV:67-123 Guido’s diatribe against Romagna. 92

Purgatorio Canto XIV:124-151 Examples of Envy. 93

Purgatorio Canto XV:1-36 The Angel of Fraternal Love. 93

Purgatorio Canto XV:37-81 The Second Beatitude: Dante’s doubts. 94

Purgatorio Canto XV:82-145 The Third Terrace: Examples of Gentleness. 94

Purgatorio Canto XVI:1-24 The Wrathful and their Punishment95

Purgatorio Canto XVI:25-96 Marco Lombardo: Free Will95

Purgatorio Canto XVI:97-145 The Error of the Church’s temporal power. 96

Purgatorio Canto XVII:1-39 Examples of Anger. 97

Purgatorio Canto XVII:40-69 The Angel of Meekness: Third Beatitude. 97

Purgatorio Canto XVII:70-139 Virgil explains the structure of Purgatory. 98

Purgatorio Canto XVIII:1-48 Virgil on the Nature of Love. 99

Purgatorio Canto XVIII:49-75 Virgil on Freewill100

Purgatorio Canto XVIII:76-111 The Slothful and their Punishment100

Purgatorio Canto XVIII:112-145 The Slothful: Examples of Sloth. 101

Purgatorio Canto XIX:1-36 Dante’s Second Dream: The Siren. 101

Purgatorio Canto XIX:37-69 The Angel of Zeal: The Fourth Beatitude. 101

Purgatorio Canto XIX:70-114 The Avaricious: Pope Adrian V... 102

Purgatorio Canto XIX:115-145 The Avaricious: Their Punishment102

Purgatorio Canto XX:1-42 Examples of Poverty and Liberality. 103

Purgatorio Canto XX:43-96 Hugh Capet and the Capetian Dynasty. 103

Purgatorio Canto XX:97-151 Examples of Avarice: The Earthquake. 103

Purgatorio Canto XXI:1-33 The Poets meet Statius. 103

Purgatorio Canto XXI:34-75 The Cause of the Earthquake. 104

Purgatorio Canto XXI:76-136 Statius and Virgil104

Purgatorio Canto XXII:1-24 The Angel of Liberality: The Fifth Beatitude. 105

Purgatorio Canto XXII:25-54 Statius’s error was Prodigality not Avarice. 105

Purgatorio Canto XXII:55-93 Statius’s Conversion to Christianity. 106

Purgatorio Canto XXII:94-114 The Pagans in Limbo.. 106

Purgatorio Canto XXII:115-154 Examples of Temperance. 107

Purgatorio Canto XXIII:1-36 The Gluttonous and their Punishment107

Purgatorio Canto XXIII:37-90 Forese Donati107

Purgatorio Canto XXIII:91-133 The Immodesty of the Florentine Women. 108

Purgatorio Canto XXIV:1-33  The Gluttonous. 109

Purgatorio Canto XXIV:34-99 Bonagiunta. 109

Purgatorio Canto XXIV:100-154 Examples of Gluttony: The Angel110

Purgatorio Canto XXV:1-79 Human Embryology and Consciousness. 111

Purgatorio Canto XXV:80-108 The Soul after death: The Shadows. 112

Purgatorio Canto XXV:109-139 The Lustful and their Punishment112

Purgatorio Canto XXVI:1-66 The Lustful112

Purgatorio Canto XXVI:67-111 Guido Guinicelli, the poet113

Purgatorio Canto XXVI:112-148 Arnaut Daniel, the poet114

Purgatorio Canto XXVII:1-45 The Angel of Chastity. 115

Purgatorio Canto XXVII:46-93 The Passage through the Fire. 115

Purgatorio Canto XXVII:94-114 Dante’s third dream... 116

Purgatorio Canto XXVII:115-142 Virgil’s last words to Dante. 116

Purgatorio Canto XXVIII:1-51 Matilda gathering flowers. 117

Purgatorio Canto XXVIII:52-138 The Garden’s winds, plants and waters. 117

Purgatorio Canto XXVIII:139-148 The Golden Age. 118

Purgatorio Canto XXIX:1-36 The Divine Pageant119

Purgatorio Canto XXIX:37-61 The Seven Branched Candlesticks. 119

Purgatorio Canto XXIX:61-81 The Seven Banners. 119

Purgatorio CantoXXIX:82-105 The Elders: The Four Beasts. 120

Purgatorio Canto XXIX:106-132 The Chariot: The Grifon: The Virtues. 120

Purgatorio Canto XXIX:133-154 Luke, Paul and others. 120

Purgatorio Canto XXX:1-48 Beatrice. 121

Purgatorio Canto XXX:49-81 Virgil has left: Dante is filled with Shame. 121

Purgatorio Canto XXX:82-145 Her Mission to help him... 122

Purgatorio Canto XXXI:1-42 Dante confesses his guilt123

Purgatorio Canto XXXI:43-69 Beatrice rebukes him... 123

Purgatorio Canto XXXI:70-90 Dante’s remorse. 124

Purgatorio Canto XXXI:91-145 Lethe: Beatrice unveiled. 124

Purgatorio Canto XXXII:1-36 The Pageant moves eastward. 125

Purgatorio Canto XXXII:37-63 The Mystic Tree. 125

Purgatorio Canto XXXII:64-99 Dante sleeps: Beatrice guards the chariot126

Purgatorio Canto XXXII:100-160 The Church’s Past, Present and Future. 126

Purgatorio Canto XXXIII:1-57 Beatrice’s prophetic words. 127

Purgatorio Canto XXXIII:58-102 The Tree of Empire. 128

Purgatorio Canto XXXIII:103-145 Dante and Statius drink from Eunoë. 128


Purgatorio Canto I:1-27 Dante’s Invocation and the dawn sky


            The little boat of my intellect now sets sail, to course through gentler waters, leaving behind her a sea so cruel. And I will speak of that second region, where the human spirit is purged, and becomes fit to climb to Heaven. But, since I am yours, O sacred Muses, here let dead Poetry rise again, and here let Calliope sound, a moment, accompanying my words with that mode, of which the Pierides felt the power, so that they despaired of pardon.

            The sweet colour of eastern sapphire, that gathered on the skies clear forehead, pure as far as the first sphere, restored delight to my eyes, as soon as I had issued from the dead air, which constrained my eyes and heart. The lovely planet that encourages us to love, was making the whole east smile, veiling the Fishes that escorted her. I turned to the right, and fixed my mind on the southern pole, and saw four stars, never seen, until now, except by the first peoples.

            The sky seemed to be joyful at their fires. O widowed northern region, denied the sight of them!


Purgatorio Canto I:28-84 The Poets meet Cato


            When I had left gazing at them, and turned a little towards the other pole, there, where Bootës had already vanished, I saw a solitary old man, with a face worthy of such great reverence, that no son owes his father more. He wore his beard long, flecked with white, like his hair, of which a double strand fell to his chest. The rays, of the four sacred stars, filled his face, with such brightness, that I saw him as if the sun were in front of him.

            Stirring that noble plumage, he said: ‘Who are you, who have fled the eternal prison, against the dark stream? Who has led you, or who was a light to you, issuing out of that profound night, that always blackens the infernal valley? Are the laws of the abyss shattered, or is there some new counsel taken in Heaven that you come to my mountain, being damned?’

            Then, my leader took hold of me, and made me do reverence with my knees and forehead, using his words and hand. Then he replied: ‘I did not come of my own will. A Lady came down from Heaven, and, because of her prayers, I helped this man, with my companionship. But since it is your wish that more be told about our true state, it cannot be my wish to deny you. He has never witnessed the last hour, but, because of his folly, was so near it, that there was little time left for him to alter. As I said, I was sent to rescue him, and there was no other path but this, along which I have come.

I have shown him all the sinful people, and now intend to show him those spirits that purge themselves, in your care. It would be a long tale to tell, how I have brought him here: virtue descends from above, that helps me to guide him, to see and to hear you. Now, let it please you to grace his coming here: he seeks freedom, which is so dear to us, as he knows, who gives his life for it. You know: since death was not bitter to you in Utica for its sake, where you left the body that will shine so bright, at the great day.

The eternal law is not violated by us, since he lives, and Minos does not bind me: but I am of the circle where the chaste eyes of your Marcia are, who in her aspect begs you, O sacred one, to hold her as your own: lean towards us, for love of her. Allow us to go through your seven regions: I will report, to her, our gratitude to you, if you deign to be mentioned there below.’


Purgatorio Canto I:85-111 Cato tells Virgil to bathe Dante’s eyes


            He replied, then: ‘Marcia was so pleasing to my eyes while I was over there, that I performed every grace she asked of me. Now that she is beyond the evil stream, she can move me no longer, by the law that was made when I issued out. But there is no need for flattery, if a heavenly lady moves and directs you: let it be sufficient that you ask me in her name.

            Go, and see that you tie a smooth rush round this man, and bathe his face, so that all foulness is wiped away, since it is not right to go in front of the first minister of those who are in Paradise, with eyes darkened by any mist.

            This little island nurtures rushes, in the soft mud, all round it, from deep to deep, where the wave beats on it. No other plant that puts out leaves, or stiffens, can live there, because it would not give way to the buffeting. Then, do not return this way: the sun, that is now rising, will show you where to climb the mountain, in an easier ascent.’

            So he left: and I rose without speaking, and drew back towards my leader, and fixed my eyes on him.


Purgatory Canto I:112-136 Virgil obeys


            He began: ‘Son, follow my steps: let us turn back, since the plain slopes down, this way, to its low shore.’ The dawn was vanquishing the breath of morning, which fled before her, so that, from afar, I recognised the tremor of the sea.

            We walked along the solitary plain, like those, who turn again towards a lost road, and seem to go in vain, until they reach it. When we came where the dew fights with the sunlight, being in a place where it disperses slowly in the cool air, my Master gently placed both hands, outspread, on the sweet grass: at which, I who understood his intention, raised my tear-stained face towards him: there he made my true colour visible, that Hell had hidden.

            Then we came onto the deserted shore that never saw a man sail its waters, who, could, afterwards, experience his return. There he tied the rush around me, as the other wished: O marvellous: as he pulled out the humble plant, so it was suddenly replaced, where he tore it.


Purgatorio Canto II:1-45 The Angel of God


The sun, had already reached the horizon, whose meridian circle, at the zenith, covers Jerusalem: and night, that circles opposite him, was rising, out of Ganges, with the Scales, Libra, that fall from night’s hand, when the days shorten: so that, where I was, the pale and rosy cheeks of beautiful Aurora, through age, were turned deep orange.

We were still near the ocean, like people who think about their journey, who go on in spirit, but remain in body; and behold, as Mars reddens through the heavy vapours, low in the west, over the waves, at the coming of dawn, so a light appeared, and may I see it yet, coming over the sea, so quickly, that no flight equals its movement, and when I had taken my eyes from it for a moment to question my guide, I saw it, once more, grown bigger and brighter. Then something white appeared on each side of it, and, little by little, another whiteness emerged from underneath it.

My Master still did not speak a word, until the first whitenesses were seen to be wings: then, when he recognised the pilot clearly, he cried: ‘Kneel, bend your knees: behold the Angel of God: clasp your hands: from now on you will see such ministers. See how he disdains all human mechanism, not needing oars, or any sails but his wings, between such far shores. See how he has them turned towards the sky, beating the air, with eternal plumage, that does not moult like mortal feathers.’

Then as the divine bird approached, nearer and nearer, to us, it appeared much brighter, so that my eyes could not sustain its closeness: but I looked down, and it came towards the shore, in a vessel so quick and light that it skimmed the waves. At the stern stood the celestial steersman, so that blessedness seemed written in his features, and more than a hundred souls sat inside.     


Purgatorio Canto II:46-79 The Crowd of Souls


            They all sang, together, with one voice: ‘In exitu Israel de Aegypto: When Israel went out of Egypt,’ and the rest of the psalm that comes after. Then he made the sign of the sacred cross towards them, at which they all flung themselves on shore, and, as quickly as he came, he departed.

            The crowd that were left seemed unfamiliar with the place, looking round like those who experience something new. The sun, who had chased Capricorn from the height of heaven with his bright arrows, was shooting out the light on every side, when the new people raised their faces towards us, saying: ‘If you know it, show us the way to reach the Mount.’ And Virgil answered: ‘You think, perhaps, we have knowledge of this place, but we are strangers, as you are. We came, just now, a little while before you, by another route so difficult and rough, that the climbing now will seem like play to us.’

            The spirits, who had noticed I was still alive, by my breathing, wondering, grew pale, and as the crowd draws near the messenger, who carries the olive-branch, and no one is wary of trampling on others, so those spirits, each one fortunate, fixed their gaze on my face, almost forgetting to go and make themselves blessed.

            I saw one of them move forward to embrace me, with such great affection, that he stirred me to do the same.


Purgatorio Canto II:79-114 Casella, the musician


            O vain shades, empty except in aspect! My hands met three times behind him, and returned, as often, empty, to my breast. I paled, with wonder, I believe, at which the shade smiled, and drew back, and I hurried forward, following. It asked me, gently, to pause: then I knew who it was: and begged him to stop a while, and speak to me. He replied: ‘Just as I loved you in the mortal body, so I love you, freed: so I stay: but you, where are you going?’

            I said: ‘My Casella, I make this journey, in order to return here again, where I am, but how have so many hours been stolen from you?’ And he to me: ‘If he who carries whom he pleases, when he pleases, has denied me this crossing many times, no wrong is done to me, since his will is full of justice. In truth, for three months past, since the beginning of the Jubilee, he has taken, in all peace, those who wish to enter. So I, who was on the shore where Tiber’s stream becomes saltwater, was accepted by him, in kindness. He has set his winged course to that river-mouth now, because those who do not sink to Acheron, are always gathering there.’

            And I: ‘If some new law has not taken your memory, or your skill in that song of love, that used to calm all my desires, may it please you to console my spirit a while, with it, my spirit, that, coming here in its own person, suffers so.’ He then began to sing: ‘Amor che nella mente mi ragiona: Love that, in my mind, discourses with me,’ so sweetly, that the sweetness of it sounds, in me, yet.


Purgatorio Canto II:115-133 Cato exhorts the spirits to go on


            My Master and I, and the people who were with him, seemed so delighted, that they thought of nothing else. We were all focused and intent on his notes: when, behold, the venerable old man, cried: ‘What is this, tardy spirits? What negligence, what idling is this? Run to the mountain, and strip the scales from your eyes, that prevent God being revealed to you.’

            As doves, gathering corn or seeds, collected at their meal, quietly, and without their usual pride, stop pecking, straight away, if anything appears they are afraid of, since they are troubled by a more important concern, so I saw that new crowd leave the singing, and move towards the hillside, like those who go, but do not know where they will emerge: nor was our departure slower.


Purgatorio Canto III:1-45 Virgil stresses the limitations of knowledge


            Although their sudden flight was scattering them over the plain, I drew close to my faithful companion, turning to the mountain, where reason examines us: and how would I have fared without him? Who would have brought me to the Mount?

            He seemed to me to be gnawed by self-reproach. O clear and noble conscience, how sharply a little fault stings you! When his feet had slowed from that pace that spoils the dignity of every action, my mind, which was inwardly focused before, widened its intent, as if in search, and I set my face towards the hillside that rises highest towards heaven from the water.

            The sunlight, that flamed red behind us, was broken, in front of me, in that shape in which I blocked its rays. I turned aside from fear of being abandoned, seeing the earth darkened, only in front of me. But my comforter began speaking to me, turning straight round: ‘Why so mistrustful? Do you think you are not with me, or that I do not guide you?

            It is already evening, there, where the body with which I cast a shadow, lies buried: Naples has it, and it was taken from Brindisi. Now, if no shadow goes before me, do not wonder at that, any more than at the heavenly spheres, where one does not hide the light of any other. That power, that does not will that its workings should be revealed to us, disposes bodies such as these to suffer torments, fire and ice. He is foolish who hopes that our reason may journey on the infinite road, that one substance in three persons owns. Stay, content, human race, with the ‘what’: since if you had been able to understand it all, there would have been no need for Mary to give birth: and you have seen the fruitless desire, granted to them as an eternal sorrow, of those whose desire would have been quenched, I mean Aristotle, Plato, and many more.’ And here he bent his head, and said nothing more: remaining troubled.


Purgatorio Canto III:46-72 The Excommunicated


            Meanwhile we reached the mountain’s foot: there we found the cliff was so steep that even nimble feet would be useless. The most desolate, and the most solitary track, between Lerici and Turbia, in Liguria, is a free and easy stair compared to that. My Master, halting his feet, said: ‘Now, who knows which way the cliff slopes, so that he who goes without wings, may climb?’ And while he kept his eyes downwards, searching out the way in his mind, and while I was gazing up, across the rocks, a crowd of spirits, appeared to me, on the left, who moved their feet towards us, but did not seem to, they came so slowly.

            I said: ‘Master, raise your eyes, behold one there who will give us advice, if you cannot give it yourself.’ He looked at them, and with a joyful face, answered: ‘Let us go there, since they come slowly, and confirm your hopes, kind son.’ That crowd were still as far off, after a thousand paces of ours I mean, as a good thrower would reach, with a stone, from the hand, when they all pressed close to the solid rock of the high cliff, and stood, motionless together, as people stop to look around, who travel in fear.


Purgatorio Canto III:73-102 They are troubled by Dante’s shadow


            Virgil began: ‘O spirits, who ended well, already chosen: by the same peace that, I believe, is awaited by you all, tell us where the mountain slopes allow us to go upwards, since lost time troubles those most, who know most.’ As sheep come out of their pen, in ones, twos, and threes, and others stand timidly, with eyes and nose towards the ground, and what the first does, the others also do, huddling to her if she stands still, foolish and quiet, and not knowing why, so I saw, then, the head of that fortunate flock, of modest aspect, and dignified movement, make a move to come forward.

            When those in front saw the light on the hillside, broken, on my right, by my shadow, falling from me as far as the rock, they stopped, and drew back, a little: and all the others that came after them, did the same, not understanding why. My Master said: ‘Without your asking, I admit, to you, that this is a human body that you see, by which the sunlight is broken on the ground. Do not wonder, but believe, that he does not try to climb this wall, without the help of power that comes from Heaven.’ And the worthy people said: ‘Turn, then, and go in front of us,’ making a gesture with the backs of their hands.


Purgatorio Canto III:103-145 Manfred


            And one of them began to speak: ‘You, whoever you are, turn your face, as we go, and think if you ever saw me over there.’ I turned towards him, and looked hard: he was blond and handsome, and of noble aspect, but a blow had split one of his eyebrows.

            When I had denied, humbly, ever seeing him, he said: ‘Now look’, and he showed me a wound at the top of his chest. Then, smiling, he said: ‘I am Manfred, grandson of the Empress Constance: and I beg you, when you return, go to my lovely daughter, Costanza, mother of James and Frederick, Sicily’s and Aragon’s pride, and tell her this truth, if things are said differently there. After my body had been pierced, by two mortal wounds, I rendered my spirit to him, who pardons, willingly. My sins were terrible, but infinite goodness has such a wide embrace it accepts all those who turn to it. If the Bishop of Cozenza, who was set on by Clement to hound me, had read that page of God’s rightly, the bones of my corpse would still be at the bridgehead, by Benevento, under the guardianship of the heavy cairn.

            Now, the rain bathes them, and the wind moves them, beyond the kingdom, along the River Verde, where he carried them, a lume spento, with quenched tapers. But no one is so lost by the malediction, of that excommunication, that eternal love may not turn back to him, as long as hope is green. It is true that those who die, disobedient to the Holy Church, even though they repent at the end, must remain outside this bank for thirty times the duration of their life of insolence, unless such decree is shortened by the prayers of the good.

            See now, if you can give me delight, by telling my good Costanza how you saw me, and also of my ban, since much benefit arises, here, through the prayers of those who are still over there.’


Purgatorio Canto IV:1-18 The unity of the soul


            When the soul is wholly centred, on one of our senses, because of some pleasure or pain, that it comprehends, it seems that it pays no attention to its other powers, and this contradicts Plato’s error, that has it, that one soul is kindled on another, inside us. So, when something is seen or heard, that holds the soul’s attention strongly fixed, time vanishes and man is unaware of it, since one power is that which notices time, and another that which occupies the entire soul: the former is as if constrained, the latter free.

            I had a genuine experience of this, while listening to that spirit and marvelling, since the sun had climbed fully fifty degrees, and I had not noticed it, when we came to where those souls, with a single voice, cried out to us: ‘Here is what you wanted.’


Purgatorio Canto IV:19-51 The narrow path.


When the grape is ripening, the peasant often hedges up a larger opening, with a little forkful of thorns, than the gap through which my leader climbed, and I behind him, two alone, after the group had parted from us. You can walk at Sanleo, near Urbino, and descend to Noli, near Savone: you can climb Mount Bismantova, south of Reggio, up to the summit, on foot: but here a man had to fly: I mean with the feathers and swift wings of great desire, behind that leader, who gave me hope, and made himself a light.

We were climbing inside a rock gully, and the cliff pressed against us on either side, and the ground under us needed hands as well as feet. Once we were on the upper edge of the high wall, out on the open hillside, I said: ‘My Master, which way should we go?’ And he to me: ‘Do not let your steps drift downward, always win your way, up the mountain, behind me, until some wise escort appears to us.’

The summit was so high it was beyond my sight, and the slope far steeper than the forty-five degrees a line from mid-quadrant makes with the circle’s radius. I felt weary, and began to say: ‘O sweet father, turn and see how I am left behind if you do not stop.’ He said: ‘My son, make yourself reach there,’ showing me a terrace, a little higher up, that goes round the whole mountain, on that side. His words spurred me on, greatly, and I forced myself on, so far, creeping after him, that the ledge was beneath my feet.


Purgatorio Canto IV:52-87 The sun’s arc south of the equator


            There we both sat down, turning towards the east, from which we had climbed: since it often cheers men to look back. I first fixed my eyes on the shore below, then raised them to the sun, and wondered at the fact that it struck us on the left side. The poet saw clearly that I was totally amazed at that chariot of light, rising between us, and the north. At which he said to me: ‘If that mirror, the sun, that reflects the light, from above, downwards, were in Castor and Pollux, the Gemini, you would see the Zodiac, glowing round him, circle still closer to the Bears, unless it wandered from its ancient track.

            If you wish the power to see that, for yourself, imagine Mount Zion, at Jerusalem, and this Mountain, placed on the globe so that both have the same horizon, but are in opposite hemispheres: by which you can see, if your intellect understands quite clearly, that the sun’s path, that Phaëthon, sadly, did not know how to follow, has to pass to the north here, when it passes Zion on the south.’

            I said: ‘Certainly, Master, I never saw as clearly as I now discern, there, where my mind seemed at fault, that the median circle of the heavenly motion, that is called the Equator in one of the sciences, and always lies between the summer and the winter solstice, is as far north here, for the reason you say, as the Hebrews saw it, towards the hot countries.

            But if it please you, I would like to know, willingly, how far we have to go, since the hillside rises higher than my eyes can reach.’


Purgatorio Canto IV:88-139 Belacqua


            And he to me: ‘This mountain is such, that it is always troublesome at the start, below, but the more one climbs up, the less it wearies. So, you will feel at the end of this track, when it will seem so pleasant to you, that the ascent is as easy as going downstream, in a boat. Hope to rest your weariness there. I answer you no more, and this I know is true.’

            And when he had his say, a voice sounded nearby: ‘Perhaps, before then, you may have need to sit.’ At the sound of it, we each turned round, and saw a great mass of rock on the left, that neither he nor I had noticed before. We drew near it: and there were people lounging in the shade, behind the crag, just as one settles oneself to rest, out of laziness. And one of them, who seemed weary to me, was sitting and clasping his knees, holding his head down low, between them.

            I said: ‘O my sweet sire, set your eyes on that one, who appears lazier than if Sloth were his sister.’ Then he turned to us, and listened, only lifting his face above his thigh, and said: ‘Now go on up, you who are so steadfast.’ Then I knew who he was, and that effort, which still constrained my breath a little, did not prevent me going up to him, and, when I had reached him, he hardly lifted his head, to say: ‘Have you truly understood why the sun drives his chariot to the left?’ His indolent actions and the brief words, moved me to smile a little: then I began: ‘Belacqua, I do not grieve for you now: but tell me why you are sitting here? Are you waiting for a guide, or have you merely resumed your former habit?’

            And he: ‘Brother, what use is it to climb? God’s winged Angel, who sits at the gate, will not let me pass through to the torments. First the sky must revolve, round me, outside, for as long a time as it did in my life: because I delayed my sighs of healing repentance to the end: unless, before then, some prayer aids me, that might rise from a heart that lives in grace: what is the rest worth, that is not heard in Heaven?’

            And the poet was already climbing, in front of me, saying: ‘Come on, now, you see the sun touches the zenith, and night’s feet have already run from the banks of the Ganges to Morocco.’


Purgatorio Canto V:1-63 The Late-Repentant


            I had already parted from those shadows, and was following my leader’s footsteps, when someone, behind me, pointing his finger, called out: ‘See, the light does not seem to shine, on the left of him, below, and he seems to carry himself like a living man.’ I turned my eyes, at the sound of these words, and saw them all gazing in wonder, at me alone, at me alone and at the broken sunlight.

            My Master said: ‘Why is your mind so ensnared that you slacken pace? What does it matter to you what they whisper here? Follow me close behind, and let the people talk: stand like a steady tower, that never shakes at the top, in the blasts of wind: since the man, in whom thought rises on thought, sets himself back, because the force of the one weakens the other.’ What could I answer, except: ‘I come?’ This I said, blushing a little, with that colour that often makes someone worthy of being pardoned.

            And, across the mountain slope, meanwhile, a crowd, in front of us, a little, came, chanting the Miserere, alternately, verse by verse. When they saw I allowed no passage to the sun’s rays because of my body, they changed their chant to a long, hoarse ‘Oh!’: and two of them ran to meet us as messengers and demanded: ‘Make us wise to your state.’ And my Master said: ‘You can go back, and tell those who sent you, that this man’s body is truly flesh. If they stopped at seeing his shadow, as I think, that answer is enough: let them honour him, and he may be precious to them.’

            I never saw burning mists at fall of night, or August clouds at sunset split the bright sky, so quickly, but they in less time, returned, up the slope, and arrived there while the others wheeled round us, like a troop of cavalry riding with loosened reins. The poet said: ‘This crowd that presses us is large, and they come to beg you, but go straight on, and listen while you go.’

            They came, crying: ‘O spirit, who goes to joy, with the limbs you were born with, pause your steps a while. Look and see if you ever knew one of us, so that you can bear news of him, over there: oh, why are you leaving?: oh, why do you not stay? We were all killed by violence, and were sinners till the last hour: then light from Heaven warned us, so that, repenting and forgiving, we left life reconciled with God, who fills us with desire to see him.’

            And I: ‘However much I gaze at your faces, I recognise no one: but if I can do anything to please you, spirits born for happiness, speak, and I will do it, for the sake of that peace, which makes me chase after it, from world to world, following the steps of such a guide.’


Purgatorio Canto V:64-84 Jacopo del Cassero


            And one began to speak: ‘Each of us trusts in your good offices, without your oath, if only lack of power does not thwart your will. So, I, who merely speak before others do, beg you to be gracious to me, in your prayers, at Fano, if ever you see that country again, that lies between Romagna, and Charles the Second’s Naples, so that the good may be adored through me, and I can purge myself of grave offence. I sprang from there, but the deep wounds from which the blood flowed, that bathed my life, were dealt me in the embrace of Paduans, those Antenori, there, where I thought that I was safest. Azzo of Este had it done, he who held a greater anger against me, than justice merited.

            Though, if I had fled towards La Mira, when I was surprised at Oriaco, I would still be over there, where men breathe. I ran to the marshes, and the reeds, and mire, swamped me so that I fell, and there I saw a pool grow on the ground, from my veins.’


Purgatorio Canto V:85-129 Buonconte da Montefeltro


            Then another said: Oh, so the desire might be satisfied, that draws you up the high mountain, aid mine with kind pity. I was of Montefeltro, I am Buonconte: Giovanna has no care for me, nor the others, so I go among these, with bowed head.’ And I to him: ‘What violence or mischance made you wander so far from Campaldino, that your place of burial was never known?’ He replied: ‘Oh, at the foot of Casentino, a stream crosses it, called the Archiano, that rises in the Apennines, above the Monastery of Camoldoli. There, at Bibbiena, where its name is lost in the Arno, I arrived, pierced in the throat, fleeing on foot, and bloodying the plain.

            There I lost vision, and ended my words on Mary’s name, and there I fell, and only my flesh was left. I will speak truly, and do you repeat it among the living: the Angel of God took me and one from Hell cried: “O you from Heaven, why do you rob me? You may carry off the eternal part of this man from here, because of one little teardrop of repentance, that snatches him from me, but I will deal differently with the other part.”

            You well know how damp vapour collects in the air, which turns to water again, when it rises where the cold condenses it. He joined that evil will, which only seeks evil, with intelligence, and stirred the wind, and fog, by the power his nature gives him. Then, when day was done, he covered the valley, from Pratomagno to the great Apennine chain, with mist, and made the sky above it so heavy, that the saturated air turned to water: rain fell, and what the earth did not absorb, came to the fosses: and, as it merged into vast streams, it ran with such speed, towards the royal river, that nothing held it back.

            The raging Archiano found my body, near its mouth, and swept it into the Arno, and loosed the cross that my arms made on my chest, when pain overcame me. It rolled me along its banks and through the depths, then covered me, and closed me in its spoil.’


Purgatorio Canto V:130-136 Pia da Tolomei


            A third spirit, followed on the second: ‘Ah, when you return to the world, and are rested after your long journey, remember me who am La Pia: Siena made me: Maremma undid me: he knows, who having first pledged himself to me, wed me with his ring.’


Purgatorio Canto VI:1-24 The spirits crowd round


            When the gambling game breaks up, the one who loses stays there grieving, repeating the throws, saddened by experience: the crowd all follow the winner: some go in front, some snatch at him from behind, or, at his side, recall themselves to his mind. He does not stop, and attends to this one and that one. Those, to whom he stretches out his hand, cease pressing on him: and so he saves himself from the crush. Such was I in that dense throng, turning my face towards them, now here, now there, and freeing myself from them by promises.

            There was Benincasa, the Aretine, who met his death by Ghin di Tacco’s ruthless weapons, and the other Aretine, Guccio de’ Tarlati, who was drowned as he ran in pursuit at Campaldino. Federigo Novello was there, praying with outstretched hands, and Farinata Scornigiani, he of Pisa, whose father Marzucco showed such fortitude on his behalf.

            I saw Count Orso: and the spirit severed from its body through envy and hatred, and not for any sin committed, or so it said, Pierre de la Brosse, I mean. And here let Lady Mary of Brabant take note, while she is still on earth, so that she does not end with the viler crowd, for it.


Purgatorio Canto VI 25-48 Virgil on the efficacy of prayer


            When I was free of all those shades, whose only prayer was that others might pray, so that their path to blessedness might be quickened, I began: ‘O, you who are a light to me, it seems that you deny, in a certain passage of your Aeneid, that prayer can alter Heaven’s decree: and yet these people pray only for this. Can it be they hope in vain? Or is your meaning not clear to me?’

            And he to me: ‘My writing is clear, and, if you think about it rationally, their hopes are not deceptive, since the nobility of justice is not lessened because a moment of love’s fire discharges the debt each one here owes, and in my text, where I affirmed otherwise, faults could not be rectified by prayer, because prayer, then, was divorced from God.

Truly, you must not suffer such deep anxiety, unless she tells you otherwise, she, who will be the light, linking truth to intellect. I am not sure you understand: I speak of Beatrice. You will see her, above, on this mountain’s summit, smiling, blessed.



Purgatorio Canto VI:49-75 Sordello


            And I said: ‘My lord, let us go with greater speed, since I am already less weary than before, and look the hillside casts a shadow now.’ He replied: ‘We will go forward with this day, as far as we still can: but the facts are other than you think. Before you are on the summit, you will see the sun return, that is hidden now by the slope such that you do not break his light.

            But, there, see, a soul, set solitary, alone, gazes at us: it will show us the quickest way.’ We reached him. O Lombard spirit, how haughty and scornful, you were, how majestic and considered in your manner! He said nothing to us, but allowed us to go by, only watching, like a couchant lion. But Virgil drew towards him, begging him to show us the best ascent: though the spirit did not answer his request, but asked us about our country and our life.

            And the gentle guide began: ‘Mantua,’... and the spirit all pre-occupied with self, surged towards him from the place where it first was, saying: ‘O Mantuan, I am Sordello, of your city.’ And the one embraced the other.


Purgatorio Canto VI:76-151 Dante’s speechon the sad state of Italy


            O Italy, you slave, you inn of grief, ship without helmsman in a mighty tempest, mistress, not of provinces, but of a brothel! That gentle spirit was quick, then, to greet his fellow-citizen, at the mere mention of the sweet name of his city, yet, now, the living do not live there without conflict, and, of those, that one wall and one moat shuts in, one rends the other.

            Wretched country, search the shores of your coastline, and then gaze into your heart, to see if any part of you is at peace. What use is it for Justinian to have renewed, the law, the bridle, if the saddle is empty? The shame would be less if it were not for that. Ah, race, that should be obedient, and let Caesar occupy the saddle, if only you understood what God has told you! See how vicious this creature has become, through not being corrected by his spurs, since he has set his hand to the bridle. O Albert of Germany, you abandon her, she, who has become wild and wanton, you, who should straddle her saddle-bow: may just judgement fall on your blood, from the stars, and let it be strange and obvious, so that your successor may learn to fear it, since you and your father, held back by greed, over there, have allowed the garden of the Empire to become a wasteland.

            Careless man, come and look at the Montagues and Capulets, the Monaldi and Filippeschi: those who are already saddened, and those who fear to be. Come, cruel one, come and see the oppression of your nobles, and tend their sores, and you will see how secure Santafiora of the Aldobrandeschi is. Come and see your Rome, who mourns, widowed and alone, crying night and day: ‘My Caesar, why do you not keep me company?’ Come and see how your people love each other: and if pity for us does not stir you, come, and be ashamed, for the sake of your fame.

            And, if it is allowed for me to say, O highest Jupiter, who was crucified on earth for us, are your just eyes turned elsewhere, or are you preparing some new good, that is completely hidden from our sight? For the cities of Italy are full of tyrants, and every peasant, that comes to take sides, becomes a Marcellus, against the Empire.

            My Florence, you may well rejoice at this digression, which does not affect you, thanks to your populace that reasons so clearly. Many people have justice in their hearts, but they let it fly slowly, since it does not come to the bow without much counsel: yet your people have it always at their lips. Many people refuse public office: but your people answer eagerly without being called, and cry: ‘I bend to the task.’

            Now be glad, since you have good reason for it: you who are rich, at peace, full of wisdom. If I speak truly, the fact will not belie it. Athens and Sparta that framed the ancient laws, and were so rich in civic arts, gave a mere hint of how to live well, compared to you, who makes such subtle provision that what you spin in October does not last till mid-November. How often in the time you remember, you have altered laws, money, offices and customs, and renewed you limbs! And if you consider carefully, and see clearly, you will see yourself like the sick patient, who finds no rest on the bed of down, but by twisting about, escapes her pain.


Purgatorio Canto VII:1-39 Virgil declares himself to Sordello


            After the noble and joyful greetings had been exchanged three or four times, Sordello drew himself back and said: ‘Who are you?’ My leader answered, then: ‘Before those spirits worthy to climb to God were turned towards this Mount, my bones had been buried by Octavian. I am Virgil, and I lost Heaven for no other sin than for not having faith.

            Sordello seemed like someone who suddenly sees something, in front of him, that he marvels at, and believes, and does not believe, saying: ‘It is, is not,’ and he bent his forehead, and turned back, humbly, towards my guide, and embraced him as the inferior person does. He said: ‘O Glory of Latin, through whom our language showed its power, O eternal praise of the place from which I sprang, what merit or favour will you show me? If I am worthy to hear your words, tell me if you come from Hell, and from what circle.’

He answered him: ‘I came here, through all the circles of the mournful kingdom. Virtue from Heaven moved me, and with that I come. Not for the done, but for the undone, I lost the vision of the high Sun, you seek, and who was known too late by me. Down there, there is a place not saddened by torment, but only darkness, where the grief does not sound as moaning, only sighs. There, I am, with the innocent babes, who were bitten by the teeth of death, before they were baptised and exempt from human sin. There I am, with those who did not clothe themselves with the three holy virtues, Faith, Hope and Charity, but without sin, knew the others and followed them all.

But if you know, and can, give us some indication of how we might come most quickly to the place where Purgatory has its true beginning.’


Purgatorio Canto VII:40-63 Sordello explains the rules for ascent


            He answered: ‘No fixed place is set for us: I am allowed to go up and round: I act as guide, beside you, as far as I may go. But see now how the day is declining, and we cannot climb by night, therefore it would be well to think of a good place to rest. Here are some spirits, on the right, apart: if you allow me I will take you to them, and they will be known to you, not without joy.’

            Virgil replied: ‘How is that? Would he who wished to climb by night be prevented by others, or would he not climb because he could not?’ And the good Sordello drew his finger along the ground, saying: ‘See, you could not even cross this line after sunset, not because anything other than the darkness of night hinders you from going upwards, which obstructs the will through the will’s powerlessness. Truly, you could return downwards at night, and walk, straying, along the mountainside while the horizon shuts up the day.’

            Then my lord, as if wondering, said: ‘Take us, then, where you say we might have joy in resting.’


Purgatorio Canto VII:64-136 The Valley of the Negligent Rulers


            We had gone a short distance, when I saw that the mountain was scooped out, in the way that valleys are hollowed out here. The shade said: ‘We will go there, where the mountainside makes a cradle of itself, and wait for the new day. The winding track, that led us to the side of the hollow, there where the valley’s rim more than half-fades out, was neither steep nor flat. Gold and fine silver; crimson and white cloth; bright, clear Indian wood; freshly mined emerald at the moment it is split; would all be surpassed in colour by the grass and flowers, set inside that fold of ground, as the lesser is surpassed, by the greater.

            Not only had Nature painted there, but had made there, one unknown and indefinable perfume, from the sweetness of a thousand scents. There I saw souls, sitting among the grass and flowers, singing Salve Regina, who could not be seen from outside, because of the valley’s depth.

            The Mantuan, who had led us aside, began to speak: ‘Do not wish me to lead you among them, before the little sun sinks to its nest. You will see the faces and actions of them better from this terrace, than if received among them down in the valley.

            He who sits highest, and has the aspect of having left undone what he should have done, and does not move his lips to the others’ singing, was the Emperor Rudolph, who might have healed the wounds that meant Italy’s death, so that she is helped, too late, by another. The next, who seems to be comforting him, ruled Bohemia, the land where the water rises that the Moldau carries down to the Elbe, and the Elbe to the sea. He was named Ottocar, and, even in his swaddling clothes, was far better than bearded Wenceslas his son, whom lust and sloth consume.

            And that snub-nosed one, Philip the Third, who seems so deep in counsel with, Henry of Navarre, who has so kindly a manner, died fleeing, and withering the lily: look at how he strikes his chest. See, the other, sighing, has made a rest for his cheek with the palm of his hand. They are the father and the father-in-law of Philip the Fair, the plague of France: they know his wicked and sordid life, and from that the grief comes that so pierces them.

            He who seems so stout of limb, Peter of Aragon, who blends his singing with Charles of Anjou, him of the prominent nose, was cinctured with the cord of every virtue. And if the young man, who sits behind him, had remained king after him, the worth would have flowed from vessel to vessel: which may not be said of his other heirs. James and Frederick have the kingdoms: but no one has the better heritage. Human worth rarely increases through its branches: and this He wills who creates it, so that it may be asked for of him.

            My words apply to Charles, the large-nosed one, as well, no less than to Peter the other, who sings with him: because of his son Apulia and Provence now groan. So is that plant more degenerate in its seed, by as much as Constance, Peter’s wife, still boasts of her husband, more than Beatrice or Margaret do of the other.

            See the king of the simple life, sitting there alone, Henry the Third of England: he had a better increase in his branches. That one, looking up, who humbles himself lower among them, is William the Marquis of Montferrat, because of whom the town of Alessandria, in Piedmont, and its war, made Montferrat, and Canavese, weep.


Purgatorio Canto VIII:1-45 The Two Angels descend


            It was now that hour which makes the thoughts, of those who voyage, turn back, and melts their hearts, on the day when they have said goodbye to their sweet friends; and which pierces the new pilgrim with love, when he hears the distant chimes, that seem to mourn the dying day; when I began to neglect my sense of hearing, and to gaze, at one of the spirits, who rose, and begged a hearing with his hand.

            He joined his palms, and raised them, fixing his eyes on the east, as though saying, to God: ‘I care for nothing else.’ ‘Te lucis ante,’ issued so devotedly from his mouth, and with such sweet notes, that it rapt me from my thoughts. And then the others accompanied him through the whole hymn, sweetly and devoutly, with their eyes locked on the eternal spheres.

            Reader, focus your eyes here on the truth, since the veil is now so thin, that surely to pass within is easy. I saw that noble troop gaze upwards after that, silently, pale and humble, as if in hope: and I saw two Angels come out from the heights, and descend with two burning swords, that were cut short, and blunted. Their clothes were green as tender newborn leaves, trailing behind, stirred and fanned, by their green wings.

            One came to rest a little way above us, and the other descended on the opposite bank, so that the people were between them. I saw their blonde hair, clearly: but the eye was dazzled, by their faces, like a sense confounded by excess. Sordello said: ‘Both come from Mary’s breast, to guard the valley, because of the serpent that will now come.’ At which I, who did not know which way it would come, turned, and, icy cold, placed myself beside the trusted shoulders. And Sordello again said: ‘Now we go into the valley, among the great souls, and we will talk with them: it will be a great joy to them to see you.


Purgatorio Canto VIII:46-84 Nino de’ Visconti


            I only think I went down three paces, and was down, and saw one who gazed at me, solely, as though he wished to know who I was. It was now the time when the air was darkening, but not so dark that was what hidden from both our eyes before, now grew clear. He approached me, and I said to him: ‘Noble Judge Nino, how it pleased me when I knew you, and knew that you were not among the damned!’

            No kind greeting was left unsaid between us: then he asked: ‘How long is it since you came, over the distant waters, to the foot of the Mount? I said: ‘O, I came from the depths of the sad regions this morning, and I am in my first life, though by this journey I hope to gain the other.’

            And when they heard my answer, Sordello and he shrank back, like people who are suddenly bewildered. One turned to Virgil, and the other to someone seated there, saying: ‘Conrad, rise: come and see what God, in his grace, has willed.’ Then, turning to me: ‘By that singular grace, you owe to him who hides his first cause so deep, there is no path to it, tell my Giovanna, when you are over the wide waters, to pray for me, there, where the innocent are heard. I do not think her mother, Beatrice, still loves me, since she has changed her widow’s weeds, which, unhappily, she will long for once again. In her, is easily known, how long the fire of love endures, in woman, if sight and touch do not relight it, often. The viper that Galeazzo, the Milanese, emblazons on his shield, will not gain her as fair a tomb, as my Pisan cockerel would have done.’ So he spoke, his face stamped with the mark of that righteous fervour, that with due reason, burns in the breast.


Purgatorio Canto VIII:85-108 The Serpent


            My eager eyes were turned towards Heaven again, there, where the stars are slowest, like a wheel close to the axle, and my leader said: ‘Son, what do you stare at, up there?’ And I to him: ‘At those three flames that the whole pole here is burning with.’ And he to me: ‘The four bright stars, you saw this morning, are low, on the other side, and these have risen where they were.’

            As he was speaking, Sordello drew him towards himself, saying: ‘Look, there is our enemy,’ and pointed his finger, so that he would look in that direction. There was a snake, on that side, where the little valley has no barrier, perhaps such a one as gave Eve the bitter fruit. The evil reptile slid through the grass and flowers, now and again, twisting its head towards its tail, licking, like a beast grooming itself.

            I did not see, and so I cannot tell, how the celestial falcons rose: but I saw both, clearly, in flight. Hearing the green wings cutting the air, the serpent fled, and the Angels wheeled round, flying as one, back to their places.


Purgatorio Canto VIII:109-139 Conrad Malaspina


            The shade who had drawn close to the Judge when he called, was not freed from gazing at me, for even a moment, during all that threat. He began: ‘May that lamp that leads you higher, find as much fuel, in your will, as is needed to reach the enamelled summit: if you know true news of Valdimagra, or its region, tell it to me, who was once mighty, there. I was called Conrad Malaspina: not the elder, but descended from him: I had that love for my own, that here is purified.’

            I said to him: ‘O, I have never been through your lands, but where do men live throughout Europe, to whom they are not known? The fame that honours your house, proclaims its lords abroad, and proclaims their country, so that he, who has never been there, knows it. And, as I pray that I may go above, I swear to you, that your honoured race does not impair the glory of the coffer and the sword. Nature and custom grant it such privilege, that it alone walks rightly, and scorns the evil way, for all that a guilty head twists the world.’

            And he: ‘Now go, since the sun will not rest, seven times, in Aries, that couch that the Ram covers, and straddles with all four feet, before this courteous opinion is fixed in your brain, with a deeper pinning than other men’s words, if the course of justice is not halted.’


Purgatorio Canto IX:1-33 Dante dreamshe is clasped by an Eagle


            Now the moon’s aurora, mistress of ancient Tithonus, was whitening at the eastern terrace, free of her lover’s arms; her forehead glittering with jewels, set in the form of the chill creature that stings people with its tail; and, where we were, Night had climbed two of the steps by which she mounts, and the third was already furling its wings; when I who had in me something of the old Adam, overcome by sleep, sank down on the grass, where all five of us were already seated.

            At the hour, near dawn, when the swallow begins her sad songs, in memory, perhaps, of her former pain, and when the mind is almost prophetic, more of a wanderer from the body, and less imprisoned by thought, I imagined I saw an eagle, in a dream, poised in the sky, on outspread wings, with golden plumage, and intent to swoop. And I seemed to be there when Ganymede left his own, snatched up by Jupiter, to the high senate.

            I thought, inwardly: ‘Perhaps, through custom, he only strikes here, and perhaps he disdains to carry anyone away in his talons from any other place.’ Then it seemed to me, that wheeling for a while, terrible as lightning, he descended, and snatched me upwards, as far as the sphere of fire. There he and I seemed to burn, and the flames of vision so scorched me, that my sleep was broken.


Purgatorio Canto IX:34-63 Virgil explains


            Achilles was no less startled, turning his waking eyes about, not knowing where he was, when Thetis, his mother, carried him away, in her arms, as he slept, from Chiron to the island of Scyros, the place from which the Greeks, later, made him go to the Trojan war, than I was as soon as sleep had left my face: and I grew pale, like a man chilled with fear. My comforter was the only one with me, and the sun was already more than two hours high, and my eyes were turned towards the sea.

            My lord said: ‘Have no fear, be assured, since we are in a good position: do not shrink back, but put out all your strength. You have now reached Purgatory: there, see, the cliff that circles it: see the entrance, there, where it seems cleft.

            Before, in the dawn, that precedes the day, when your spirit was asleep in you, among the flowers, with which it is all beautified below, a Lady came, and said: I am Lucia: Let me take this man, who sleeps, and I will help him on his way.’ Sordello was left behind with the other noble forms. She took you, and came on upwards, as day brightened, and I followed in her track. Here she placed you, and her lovely eyes first showed me that open passage: then she, and sleep, together, vanished.’


Purgatorio Canto IX:64-105 The Angel at the Gate of Purgatory


            I felt changed, as a man in fear does who is reassured, and who exchanges comfort for fear, when the truth is revealed to him. When my leader saw me freed from anxiety, he moved up by the cliff, and I followed, towards the heights.

            Reader, you know, clearly, that I must enrich my theme, so do not wonder if I support it with greater art. We drew close, and were at a point, just there where a break, like a fissure, that divides the cliff, first appeared to me. I saw a gate, and three steps, of various colours, below it, to reach it, and a keeper, who as yet said nothing. And as I looked closer, there, I saw that, seated as he was on the top step, there was that in his face I could not endure. He held a naked blade in his hand, that reflected the sun’s rays towards us, so that I turned my eyes towards it, often, but in vain.

            He began to speak: ‘Say, what you want, from where you stand: where is your escort? Be careful that coming up here does not harm you!’ My master answered: ‘A heavenly Lady, who has good knowledge of these things, said to us, just now: ‘Go there, that is the gate.’ ‘And may she quicken your steps towards the good,’ the courteous doorkeeper began again: ‘come then, towards our stair.’

            Where we came, the first step was of white marble, so smooth and polished that I was reflected there, as I appear. The second was darker than a dark blue-grey, of a rough, calcined stone, cracked in its length and breadth. The third, which is massed above them, seemed like red porphyry to me, fiery as blood spurting from an artery. God’s Angel kept both his feet on this, seated at the threshold, which seemed, to me, to be of adamantine stone.


Purgatorio Canto IX:106-145 The Angel opens the Gate


            My guide led me, willingly, up the three steps, saying: ‘Ask humbly for the bolt to be drawn.’ I flung myself, devoutly, at the sacred feet: I begged him for pity’s sake to open the gate to me: but first I struck myself three times on the breast.

            He inscribed seven letter P’s on my forehead, with the tip of his sword, and said: ‘Cleanse these wounds when you are inside.’ Ashes, or dry earth, would be at one with the colour of his robe, and he drew two keys out from under it. One was of gold, and the other of silver: he did that to the gate that satisfied me, first with the white, and then the yellow. He said: ‘Whenever one of these keys fails, so that it does not turn in the lock correctly, the way is not open. The one is more precious, but the other needs great skill and intellect, before it works, since it is the one that unties the knot. I hold them, for Peter, and he told me to err by opening it, rather than keeping it locked, if people humbled themselves at my feet.’

            Then he pushed the door of the sacred gateway, saying: ‘Enter, but I let you know, that whoever looks behind, returns outside, again.’ The doors of the Tarpeian treasury, did not groan as harshly, or as much, when good Metellus was dragged from them, so that it remained poor afterwards, as the pivots of that sacred door, which are of strong and ringing metal, when they were turned in their sockets.

            I turned, listening for a first sound, and seemed to hear Te Deum Laudamus, in a voice intermingled with sweet music. What I heard gave me just the kind of feeling we receive when people sing to the accompaniment of an organ, when the words are now clear, and now lost.


Purgatorio Canto X:1-45 The First Terrace: The Frieze: The Annunciation


            When we were beyond the threshold of the gate, which the soul’s worse love neglects, making the crooked way seem straight instead, I heard it close again, with a ringing sound: but if I had turned my eyes towards it, what could have excused the fault?

            We climbed through a broken rock, which was moving on this side and on that, like a wave that ebbs and flows. My leader began: ‘Here we must use a little skill, in keeping near, now here, now there, to the side that is receding’ And this made our steps so slow that the wandering circle of the moon regained its bed to sink again to rest, before we were out of that needle’s eye.

            But when we were free, and in the open, above, where the Mount is set back, I, being weary, and both of us uncertain of our way, we stood still, on a level space, more lonely than a road through a desert. The length of three human bodies would span it, from its brink where it borders the void, to the foot of the high bank that ascends sheer. And this terrace appeared to me like that, as far as my eye could wing in flight, now to the left, and then to the right.

            Our feet had not yet moved along it, when I saw that the encircling cliff, which, being vertical, lacked any means of ascent, was pure white marble, and beautified with friezes, so that not merely Polycletus, but Nature also, would be put to shame by it.

            In front of us, so vividly sculpted, in a gentle attitude, that it did not seem a dumb image, the Angel Gabriel, appeared, who came to earth, with the annunciation of that peace, wept for, in vain, for so many years, that opened Heaven to us, after the long exile. You would have sworn he was saying: ‘Ave,’ since She was fashioned there, who turned the key to open the supreme Love. And these words were imprinted in her aspect, as clearly as a figure stamped in wax, Ecce ancilla Dei: behold the servant of God.


Purgatorio Canto X:46-72 King David dancing before the Ark


            ‘Do not keep your attention on one place alone’ said the sweet master, who had me on that side of him where the heart is: at which I moved my eyes about, and saw another story set in the rock, behind Mary, on the side where he was, who urged me onwards.

            There, on the very marble, the cart and oxen were engraved, pulling the sacred Ark of the Covenant, which makes us fear, by Uzzah’s example, an office not committed to us. People appeared in front, and the whole crowd, divided into seven choirs, made one of my senses say ‘No’ they do not sing,’ another say ‘Yes, they do.’ Similarly, eyes and nose disagreed, between yes and no, over the smoke of incense depicted there.

            There King David, the humble Psalmist, went, dancing, girt up, in front of the blessed tabernacle: and he was, in that moment, more, and less, than King. Michal, Saul’s daughter, was figured opposite, looking on: a woman sad and scornful. I moved my feet from the place where I stood, to look closely at another story, which shone white in front of me, beyond Michal.


Purgatorio Canto X:73-96 The Emperor Trajan


            There the high glory of the Roman prince was retold whose worth moved Gregory to intercession, and to great victory: I speak of the Emperor Trajan: and at his bridle was a poor widow, in the attitude of tearfulness and grief. A crowd, of horsemen, trampling, appeared round him, and the gold eagles, above him, moved visibly in the wind. The poor woman, among all these, seemed to say: ‘My lord, give me vengeance for my son who was killed, at which my heart is pierced.’ And Trajan seemed to answer her: ‘Now, wait, till I return.’ And she, like a person, urgent with sorrow: ‘My lord, what if you do not return?’ And he: ‘One who will be in place of me will do it.’ And she: ‘What merit will another’s good deed be to you, if you forget your own?’ At which he said: ‘Now be comforted, since I must fulfil my duty before I go: justice wills it, and pity holds me here.’

            He who never sees anything unfamiliar to him, made this speech visible, which is new to us, because it is not found here.


Purgatorio Canto X:97-139 The Proud and their Punishment


            While I was joying in seeing the images, of such great humility, precious to look at, for their Maker’s sake, the poet murmured: ‘See, here, many people, but their steps are few: they will send us on to the high stairs.’ My eyes, that were intent on gazing to find new things, willingly, were not slow in turning towards him.

            Reader, I would not wish you to be scared away from a good intention, by hearing how God wills that the debt is paid. Pay no attention to the form of the suffering: think of what follows it: think that, at worst, it cannot last beyond the great Judgement.

            I began: ‘Master, those whom I see coming towards us do not seem like persons, but I do not know what they look like, my sight errs so much.’ And he to me: ‘The heavy weight of their punishment, doubles them to the ground, so that my eyes, at first, were troubled by them. But look steadily there, and disentangle with your sight what is coming beneath those stones: you can see, already, how each one beats his breast.’

            O proud Christians, weary and wretched, who, infirm in the mind’s vision, put your trust in downward steps: do you not see that we are caterpillars, born to form the angelic butterfly, that flies to judgement without defence? Why does you mind soar to the heights, since you are defective insects, even as the caterpillar is, in which the form is lacking?

            As a figure, with knees joined to chest, is sometimes seen, carved as a corbel, to support a ceiling or a roof, which though unreal, creates a real discomfort in those who see it, even so, I saw these, when I paid attention. Truly, they were more or less bent down, depending as to whether they were weighted more or less, and the one who had most patience in its bearing, seemed to say, weeping: ‘I can no more.’


Purgatorio Canto XI:1-36 The Proud paraphrase the Lord’s Prayer


            ‘O our Father, who are in Heaven, not because of your limitation, but because of the greater love you have for your first sublime works, praised be your name and worth by every creature, as it is fitting to give thanks for your sweet outpourings. May the peace of your kingdom come to us, since we cannot reach it by ourselves, despite all our intellect, if it does not come to us itself. As Angels sacrifice their will to yours, singing Hosanna: so may men sacrifice theirs. Give us this day our daily bread, without which he who labours to advance, goes backward, through this harsh desert. And forgive in loving-kindness, as we forgive everyone, the evil we have suffered, and judge us not by what we deserve. Do not test our virtue, that is easily conquered, against the ancient enemy, but deliver us from him who tempts it. And this last prayer, dear Lord, is not made on our behalf, since we do not need it, but for those we have left behind.’

            So those shades, praying good speed to us and themselves, went on beneath their burdens, like those that we sometimes dream of, weary, and unequal in torment, all around the first terrace, purging away the mists of the world.

            If ever a good word is said, there, for us, by those who have their will rooted in the good, what can we say or do for them, here? Truly we should help them wash away the stain, that they have carried from here, so that, light and pure, they might issue to the starry spheres.


Purgatorio Canto XI:37-72 Omberto Aldobrandeschi


Virgil said: ‘Ah, that justice and mercy might soon disburden you, so that you might spread your wings, that will lift you as you desire, show us, now, in which direction we might go, most quickly, to the stairway: and if there is more than one way, tell us which one ascends least steeply, because he, who comes along with me, is slow in climbing, despite his will, because of the burden of the flesh of Adam, he is clothed with.’

It was not obvious where the words came from, which were returned to those that he, whom I followed, had said, but this was the reply: ‘Come with us, to the right, along the cliff, and you will find the pass that a living man can ascend. And if I were not obstructed by the stone that weighs my proud neck down, so that I have to carry my head low, I would look at him, who is yet alive, who does not name himself, to see if I know him, and to make him pity this burden.

I was Italian, and the son of a great Tuscan: my father was Gugliemo Aldobrandesco: I do not know if his name was ever known to you. My ancestors’ ancient blood and noble actions, made me so arrogant that I held all men in such scorn, not thinking of our common mother, that it was the death of me, as the Sienese, and every child in Campagnatico, know. I am Omberto, and it is not me alone that pride does ill to, because it has dragged all my companions to misfortune. And here, until God is satisfied, I must carry this burden among the dead, since I did not do so among the living.’



Purgatorio Canto XI:73-117 Oderisi of Gubbio: The Vanity of Fame


            Listening, I had bent my head down, and one of them, not he who was speaking, twisted himself beneath the weight that obstructed him: and saw me, and knew me, and was calling out, keeping his eyes fixed on me, who all bent down was moving along with them, with difficulty.

            I said to him: ‘O, are you not Oderisi, the glory of Gubbio, and the glory of that art which in Paris they call ‘Illumination’?’ He said: ‘Brother, the leaves that Franco of Bologna paints are more pleasing: the glory is all his now, and mine in part. In truth, I would not have been so humble while I lived, because of the great desire to excel, that my heart was fixed on. Here the debt is paid for such pride: and I would still not be here, if it were not that, having power to sin, I turned to God.

            O empty glory of human power: how short the green leaves at its summit last, even if it is not buried by dark ages! Cimabue thought to lead the field, in painting, and now Giotto is the cry, so that the other’s fame is eclipsed. Even so, one Guido, Cavalcanti, has taken from Guinicelli, the other, the glory of our language: and perhaps one is born who will chase both from the nest.

            Worldly Fame is nothing but a breath of wind, that now blows here, and now there, and changes name as it changes direction. What more fame will you have, before a thousand years are gone, if you disburden yourself of your flesh when old, than if you had died before you were done with childish prattle? It is a shorter moment, in eternity, than the twinkling of an eye is to the orbit that circles slowest in Heaven.

            All Tuscany rang with the noise of him who moves so slowly in front of me, along the road, and now there is hardly a whisper of him in Siena, where he was lord, when Florence’s fury was destroyed, when she was prouder then, than she is now degraded. Your Reputation is like the colour of the grass, that comes and goes, and he through whom it springs green from the earth, discolours it.’


Purgatorio Canto XI:118-142 Provenzan Salvani


            And I to him: ‘Your true speech fills my heart with holy humility, and deflates my swollen pride, but who is he whom you were speaking of just now?’ He answered: ‘That is Provenzan Salvani, and he is here because he presumed to grasp all Siena in his hand. So he goes, and has gone, without rest, since he died: such coin they pay, to render satisfaction, who were too bold over there.’

            And I: ‘If spirits who wait until the brink of death, before they repent, are down below, and do not climb up here, unless holy prayers help them, till as much time has passed as they once lived, how has his coming here been allowed him?’ He replied: ‘When he lived in highest state, he stationed himself in the marketplace at Siena, of his own free will, putting aside all shame, and made himself quiver in every vein, to deliver a friend from the pain he was suffering, in Charles’s prison.

            I will say no more, and I know that I speak darkly, but a short time will pass and your neighbours will act such that you will be able to understand the beggar’s shame. That action released him from those confines.’


Purgatorio Canto XII:1-63 Many examples of Pride


            I went alongside the burdened spirit, in step, like oxen under the yoke, as long as the sweet teacher allowed it. But when Virgil said: ‘Leave him, and press on, since here it is best if each drives on his boat with sail and oars, and all his strength,’ I stood erect, as required for walking, although my thoughts remained bowed down and humbled.

            I had moved, and was following, willingly, in my master’s steps, and both of us were already showing how much lighter of foot we were, when he said to me: ‘Turn your eyes downward: it will be good for you to look beneath your feet, to ease the journey. As tombstones in the ground, over the dead, carry the figures of who they were before, so that there may be a memory of them, and often cause men to weep for them, through that thorn of memory that only pricks the merciful, so I saw all the roadway that projects from the mountainside, sculpted in relief there, but of better likeness, because of the artistry.

   On one side, I saw Satan, who was created far nobler than any other creature, falling like lightning from Heaven.

   On the other side I saw Briareus, transfixed by the celestial thunderbolt, lying on the ground, heavy with the chill of death.

            I saw Apollo Thymbraeus: I saw Mars and Pallas Athene, still armed, with Jupiter their father, gazing at the scattered limbs of the Giants.

            I saw Nimrod at the foot of his great tower of Babel, as if bewildered, and looking at the people, who shared his pride, in Shinar.

            O Niobe, with what sorrowful eyes I saw you sculpted in the roadway, between your seven dead sons and seven dead daughters!

            O Saul, how you were shown there, dead by your own sword, on Gilboa, that never felt rain or dew after!

            O foolish Arachne, already half spider, so I saw you, saddened, amongst the tatters of your work, woven by you to your own harm!

            O Rehoboam, now your image seems to threaten no longer, but a chariot carries you away, terrified, before chase is given!

            Again, the hard pavement showed, how Alcmaeon made the gift of the luckless necklace costly to his mother Eriphyle.

   It showed how Sennacherib’s sons flung themselves on him in the Temple, and how they left him there, dead.

            It showed the cruel slaughter and destruction that Tomyris generated, at the time when she said, to the dead Cyrus: ‘You thirsted for blood, now take your fill of blood!’

            It showed how the Assyrians fled in a rout, after Holofernes was killed, and also the remains of the murder.

            I saw Troy in ashes and ruin: O Ilion, how low and debased, the sculpture, that is visible there, showed you.


Purgatorio Canto XII:64-99 The Angel of Humility


            What master was it, of the brush, or the engraving tool, who drew the lines and shadows that would make every subtle intellect gaze at them? The dead seemed dead, and the living, living: he who saw the reality of all the tales I trod on, while I went by, bent down, saw no better than me. Be proud then, children of Eve, and on with your haughty faces, and do not bow your heads, in case you see your path of sin!

            Already we had circled more of the Mount, and more of the sun’s path was spent, than the un-free mind judged so, when he, who was always going on, alert, in front of me, began to say: ‘Lift your head up, this is no time to go absorbed like that: see an Angel there who is preparing to come towards us: look how the sixth handmaiden is returning from her hour’s service. Be reverent in your bearing, and in your look, so that it may gladden him to send us on upward: consider, that this day never dawns again.

            I was well used to his warnings never to lose time, so that he could not speak to me unclearly on that matter. The beautiful creature came to us, robed in white, and, in his face, the aspect of the glimmering morning star. He opened his arms, and then spread his wings. He said: ‘Come: here are the steps, nearby, and the climb now is easily made.’ Few are those who do come, at this invitation. O human race, born to soar, why do you fall so, at a breath of wind?

            He led us to where the rock was cleft: there he beat his wings against my forehead: then he promised me a safe journey.


Purgatorio Canto XII:100-136 The first letter P is now erased


            As the ascent is broken on the right by steps, made in the times when the public records, and the standard measure, were safe, that climb the hill where San Miniato stands, looking down on Florence, that well-guided city, over the Ponte Rubaconte, so is this gully made easier, that here falls steeply from the next terrace, but so that the high rock grazes it on either side.

            While we were changing our direction, voices sang, so sweetly no speech could describe it: ‘Beati pauperes spiritu, blessed are the poor in spirit.’ Ah! How different these openings are from Hell’s: here we enter with songs, and, down there, with savage groaning.

            Now we were climbing by the sacred stair, and it seemed to me that I was much lighter, than I seemed to be on the terrace, at which I said: ‘Master, say, what heavy weight has been lifted from me, so that I hardly feel any effort in moving?’ He answered: ‘When the letter P’s, that have stayed on your face, but are almost invisible, shall be erased completely, like that first one, you feet will be so permeated by goodness, that not only will they not feel it as effort, but it will be a pleasure to them to be urged on.’

            Then, like someone who goes along with something on their face, unknown to them, except when another’s gestures make them guess, so that the hand lends its help to make sure, searches, and finds, and carries out the task that cannot be done by looking, I, with the fingers of my right hand outspread, found only six letters, of those that he, the key-holder, had cut on me, over the temples: at which my guide, seeing it, smiled.


Purgatorio Canto XIII:1-45 The Second Terrace: The voices in the air


            We were at the summit of the stairway, where the Mount, that frees us from evil by our ascent, is terraced for a second time. There a cornice, like the first, loops round the hill, except that its curve is sharper. There is no shadow there, or decoration: the cliff appears so naked, and the path level, with the livid colour of the stone.

            The poet was saying: ‘If we wait here for people to ask our way of, I am afraid our decision may be delayed too long.’ Then he set his eyes intently on the sun: he made his right a pivot, and turned his left side, saying: ‘O sweet light, trusting in whom I enter on the new track, lead us on, as we, would be led, within ourselves: you give the world warmth, you shine upon it: if no other reason urges otherwise, your rays must always be our guide.’

            We, by our eager will, in a short time, had already gone as far, there, as counts for a mile here, when we heard, not saw, spirits flying towards us, granting courteous invitations to love’s feast. The first voice that passed by in flight said loudly: ‘Vinum non habent: they have no wine,’ and went by, repeating it behind us.

            And before it was completely lost to hearing, due to distance, another voice passed by, crying: ‘I am Orestes,’ and also did not stay. I said: ‘O, father, what voices are these,’ and as I asked, there was a third voice saying: ‘Love those who have shown you hatred.’ And the good master said: ‘This circle scourges the sin of Envy, and so the cords of the whip are made of Love. The curb or bit is of the opposite sound: I think you will hear it, I believe, before you reach the Pass of Forgiveness. 

            But fix your gaze steadily through the air, and you will see people seated in front of us, along the cliff.’


Purgatorio Canto XIII:46-84 The Envious and their Punishment


            Then my eyes opened wider than before: I looked in front and saw shades with cloaks of the same colour as the stone. And when we were a little nearer, I heard a cry: ‘Mary, pray for us,’ and a cry: ‘Michael, Peter, and all the Saints.’

            I do not believe there is anyone on earth so hardened, that they would not be pierced with compassion, at what I saw then: when I had come near them so that their features were clear to me, heavy tears were wrung from my eyes. They seemed to me to be covered with coarse haircloth: each supported the other with a shoulder: and each was supported, by the cliff.

            Like this, the blind, lacking means, sit near the confessionals, begging for alms, and sink their heads upon one another, so that pity may be stirred quickly in people, not only by their words, but by their aspects, that plead no less. And as the sun does not help the blind, so Heaven’s light will not be generous to the shades I speak of, since an iron wire pierces their eyelids, and stitches them completely shut, just as is done to a wild hawk, that will not stay still.

            By seeing others, and not being seen, I felt I did them a wrong as I went by, at which I turned to Virgil. He knew well what the dumb would say, and so he did not wait for my question, but said: ‘Speak, and be brief, and to the point.’

            My counsellor was with me on the side of the terrace where one might fall, since there is no parapet surrounding it: the devout shades were on the other side, who were squeezing out tears, through the terrible seam, so that they bathed their cheeks.


Purgatorio Canto XIII:85-154 Sapia de’ Saracini


             I turned to them and began: ‘O people, certain to see the light, above, the only thing your desire cares for, may grace quickly clear the dark film of your conscience, so that memory’s stream may flow through it clearly: tell me, since it will be gracious and dear to me, if any soul among you is Italian, and perhaps it will bring him good if I know it.’

            I seemed to hear this for answer, some way further on than where I was: ‘O my brother, we are all citizens of a true city: you mean those who lived as wanderers in Italy.’ So I made myself heard more distinctly towards that side. I saw a spirit among the others, hopeful in look, and if you ask: ‘How?’ its chin was lifted higher in the manner of a blind person.

            ‘Spirit,’ I said, ‘that does penance, in order to climb, if you are the one who replied, make yourself known to me by place or name.’ She answered: ‘I was of Siena, and purge my sinful life, with these others here, weeping to Him, that he might lend his grace to us. Sapia, I was named, though sapient I was not, and I was far happier in other’s harm, than in my own good fortune. And so that you do not think I mislead you, listen, and see if I was as foolish as I say.

            Already when the arc of my years was declining, my townsmen were engaged in battle with their enemies, near to Colle, and I prayed God for what he had already willed. They were routed there, and rolled back in the bitterness of flight, and I joyed, above all, in watching the chase, so much so that I lifted my impudent face, crying out to God: “Now I no longer fear you,” as the blackbird does at a little fine weather.

            I wished to make peace with God, at the end of my life, and my debt would not be reduced, even now, by penitence, had it not been that Pier Pettignano remembered me in his holy prayers, and grieved for me out of charity. But who are you, who go asking about our state, and, as I believe, have your eyes un-sewn, and breathing, speak?’

            I said: ‘My eyes will yet be darkened here, but for only a short time, since they did little offence through being turned to envy. My soul is troubled by a far greater fear of the torment just below, since even now the burden there weighs on me.’ And she to me: ‘Who has led you then, up her, among us, if you expect to return below?’ And I: ‘He who is with me, here, and is silent: and I am alive, and so, spirit elect, ask something of me, if you wish me to move my mortal feet for you, over there.’

            She answered: ‘Oh, this is such a strange thing to hear, that it is a sign that God loves you: so help me sometimes with your prayers. And I beg you, by all you most desire, if ever you tread the soil of Tuscany, renew my fame amongst my people. You will see them among that vain race, that put their faith in the harbour of Talamone, and will know more lost hopes there, than in searching for the stream of Diana: but the admirals will lose most.’


Purgatorio Canto XIV:1-27 Guido del Duca and Rinieri da Calboli


            ‘Who is this, that circles the Mount, before death has allowed him flight, and who opens and closes his eyelids at will?’ ‘I do not know who he is, but I know he is not alone. You, who are nearest, question him, and greet him gently, so that he might speak.’

            So two spirits talked of me there, on the right, one leaning on the other: then held their faces up to speak to me: and one said: ‘O soul, still trapped in the body, journeying towards Heaven, out of charity, bring us consolation, and tell us where you come from, and who you are, since you make us wonder greatly at your state of grace, as a thing does that was never known before.’

            And I: ‘A river runs through the centre of Tuscany, rising at Falterona, in the Apennines, and is not sated by a course of a hundred miles. I bring this body from its banks. It would be useless to tell you who I am, since my name does not sound much, as yet.’ Then, he who had spoken first, answered me: ‘If I penetrate your meaning clearly with my intellect, you are talking about the Arno.’ And the other said to him: ‘Why did he hide the name of the river, as one does with a dreadful thing?’


Purgatorio Canto XIV:28-66 The Valley of the Arno


            And the shade who was asked the question replied as follows: ‘I do not know, but truly it is fit that the name of such a valley should die, since from its head, where the alpine chain from which Cape Faro in Sicily is separated, is so extensive, that there are few places where it exceeds that breadth, as far as Pisa, where it yields that which the sky absorbs from the sea, restoring that water that provides the rivers with what flows in them, Virtue, like a snake, is persecuted as an enemy, by them all, either because of the evil place, or the evil customs that incite them; so that the people, who live in that miserable valley, have changed their nature, until it seems as if Circe had them in her sty.

            It first directs its feeble channel, among the Casentines, filthy hogs, more fitted for acorns than any other food created for man’s use. Then descending, it reaches the Aretines, curs that snarl more than their power merits, and turns its current, scornfully, away from them.

            On it goes in its fall, and the greater the volume in its accursed ditch the more it finds the dogs grown to Florentine wolves. Having descended then, through many scooped-out pools, it finds the Pisan foxes, so full of deceit that they fear no tricks that might trap them.

            I will not stop speaking even if this other hears me, and it would be well for him if he reminds himself, again, of what true prophecy unfolds to me. I see Fulcieri, his grandson, who is becoming a hunter of those Florentine wolves on the bank of the savage river, and who fills them all with terror. He sells their flesh while they are still alive, then slaughters them like worn-out cattle: he deprives many of life, and himself of honour. He comes out, bloodied, from the sad wood. He leaves it so that, a thousands years from now, it will not regenerate to its primal state.’


Purgatorio Canto XIV:67-123 Guido’s diatribe against Romagna


            I saw the other shade, who had turned round to hear, grow troubled and sad, after it had heard these words, as the face of him who listens is troubled, at the announcement of heavy misfortunes, as to which side the danger might attack him from. The speech of the one, and the look of the other, made me long to know their names, and I asked them, mixing the request with prayers. At this the spirit who first spoke to me, began again: ‘You want me to condescend to do that for you, that you will not do for me, but, since God wills so much of his grace to shine in you, I will not be reticent with you: therefore know that I am Guido del Duca.

            My blood was so consumed by envy, that you would have seen me suffused with lividness, if I saw a man render himself happy. I reap the straw of that sowing. O humankind, why set the heart there, where division of partnership must follow?

            This is Rinier: this is the honour and glory of the House of Calboli, in which no one, since him, has made themselves heir to his worth. And not only is his bloodline devoid of the goodness demanded of truth and chivalry between the River Po and the mountains, the Adriatic shore and Reno, but the Romagna, that is within these boundaries, is choked with poisonous growth, that cultivation would now root out with difficulty.

            Where is the good Lizio, and Arrigo Mainardi, Pier Traversaro or Guido di Carpigna? Oh, you Romagnols, turned to bastards, when will a Fabbro again take root in Bologna: when, in Faenza, a Bernadin da Fosco, scion of a low-born plant?

            Do not wonder, Tuscan, if I weep, when I remember Ugolin d’Azzo, and Guido da Prata, who lived among us; Federico Tignoso, and his fellows, the Houses of Traversari, and Anastagi, both races now without an heir, the ladies and the knights, the toils and the ease, that love and courtesy made us wish for, there, where hearts are grown so sinful.

O town of Bertinoro, famous for your hospitality, why do you not vanish, since your noble families, and many of your people, are gone, to escape guilt? It is good that Bagnacavallo produces no more sons, and bad that Castrocaro, and worse that Conio, still trouble to beget such Counts. The Pagani will do well when Mainardo, their devil, is gone: but not, indeed, in that true witness of their lives will remain.

O Ugolin de’ Fantolin, your name is safe, since there is no more chance of there being any heir to blacken it through degeneration.


Purgatorio Canto XIV:124-151 Examples of Envy


            Now, go your ways, Tuscan, since it delights me more to weep than talk, our conversation has so wrung my spirit.’ We knew that those dear shades heard us leave, so, by their silence, they gave us confidence in our road.

            When we were left, journeying on, alone, a voice struck us, like lightning when it splits the air, saying: ‘Everyone who findeth me shall slay me’, and vanished like a thunderclap, that dies away when the cloud suddenly bursts.

            When our hearing was free of it, behold, a second, with such a loud crash, that it was like thunder, following on quickly: ‘I am Aglauros, she, who was turned to stone.’ Then I made a backward step, not a forward one, to press close to the poet.

            Now the air was quiet on all sides, and he said to me: ‘That was the harsh curb, that ought to keep humankind within its limits. But you take the bait, so that the old enemy’s hook draws you towards him, and the bridle and the lure are little use. The Heavens call to you, and circle round you, displaying their eternal splendours to you, but your eyes are only on the ground: for which, he who sees all things, chastises you.’


Purgatorio Canto XV:1-36 The Angel of Fraternal Love


             As much of the sun’s course seemed left before evening, as we see between dawn and the third hour of the day, on the zodiacal circle that is always skipping up and down like a child: it was Vespers, evening, there in Purgatory, and midnight here. And the sun’s rays were striking us mid-face, since we had circled enough of the Mount, to be travelling due west, when I felt my forehead far more burdened, by the splendour, than before, and the unknown nature of it stunned me, so that I lifted my hands above my eyes, and made that shade which dims the excess light.

            Just as when a ray of light bounces from the water’s surface towards the opposite direction, ascending at an equal angle to that at which it falls, and travelling as far from the perpendicular line of a falling stone, in an equal distance, as science and experiment show, so I seemed struck by reflected light, in front of me, from which my eyes were quick to hide.

            I said: ‘Sweet father, what is that, from which I cannot shade my sight enough to help me, that seems to be moving towards us?’ He answered: ‘Do not be amazed if the heavenly family still dazzles you: it is a messenger that comes to invite us to climb. Soon, seeing these things will not be painful to you, but a joy as great as nature has equipped you to feel.’

            When we had reached the blessed Angel, it said, in a pleasant voice: ‘Enter a stairway, here, much less steep than the others.’


Purgatorio Canto XV:37-81 The Second Beatitude: Dante’s doubts


            We were climbing, and already leaving, and, behind us, ‘Beati misericordes: blessed are the merciful,’ was sung, and, ‘Rejoice you who conquer.’

            My master, and I, the two of us, alone, were climbing, and I thought to derive profit from his words while we went, and I addressed him, saying: ‘What did the spirit from Romagna mean by mentioning division and partnership?’ At which he said to me: ‘He knows the harm of his great defect, and therefore let no one wonder if he condemns it, so that the harm, he mourns for, is lessened.

Inasmuch as your desires are centred where things are diminished by partnership, it is Envy moving the bellows, with your sighs. But if the love of the highest sphere drew your desire upward, envious fear would not be core to your heart, since each possesses that much more of the good by the measure of how many more say ours, and so much more love burns in that cloister.’ I said: ‘I am hungrier by being fed than if I had kept silent from the start, and I have added more confusion to my mind.

How can it be that a shared good makes a greater number of possessors richer by it than if it is owned by a few?’ And he to me: ‘Because you fix your eyes, again, only on earthly things, you produce darkness from true light. That infinite and ineffable good, that is up there, rushes towards love as a ray of light rushes towards a bright body. The more ardour it finds, the more it gives of itself, so that, however far love extends, eternal good causes its increase: and the more people there are up there who understand each other, the more there are to love truly, and the more love there is, and, like a mirror, the one increase reflects the other.

And if my explanation does not satisfy your hunger, you will see Beatrice, and she will free you completely from this and from every other longing. Only work, so that the other five wounds that are healed by our pain are soon erased, as two have been.’



Purgatorio Canto XV:82-145 The Third Terrace: Examples of Gentleness


            As I was about to say: ‘You have satisfied me,’ I saw I had arrived on the next terrace, so that my eager gaze made me silent. There I seemed to be suddenly caught up in an ecstatic dream, and to see many people in a temple, and a lady about to enter, saying, with the tender attitude of a mother: ‘My son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold thy father and I sought thee sorrowing,’ and as she fell silent that which had appeared at first, now disappeared.

            Then another woman appeared to me, with those tears on her cheeks, that grief distils, and that well up in someone because of great anger, saying: ‘O Pisistratus, if you are lord of Athens, the city from which all knowledge shines, and whose naming made such strife between the gods, take revenge on those audacious arms that clasped our daughter.’ And her lord, kindly and gently, seemed to answer her, with a placid look: ‘What shall we do to those who wish harm to us, if we condemn him who loves us?’

            Then I saw people, blazing with the fire of wrath, killing a youth with stones, and calling continually and loudly to each other: ‘Kill him, kill him! And I saw him sinking to the ground in death, which already weighed him down, but he made of his eyes, all the while, gateways to Heaven, praying to the Lord on high, in such torment, with that look, that unlocks pity, of forgiveness towards his persecutors.

            When my spirit returned outwards, to find the true things outside it, I understood my visions did not lie. My guide who could see me acting like a man who frees himself from sleep, said: ‘What is wrong with you, that you cannot control yourself, but have come almost two miles, with your eyes covered, and your legs staggering, like someone overcome by wine or sleep? I said: ‘O sweet my father, if you listen, I will tell you what appeared to me, when my legs were pulled from under me.’

            And he said: ‘If you had a hundred masks on your face, your thoughts, however slight, would not be hidden from me. What you saw was to prevent you having an excuse for not opening your heart, to the waters of peace, that are poured from the eternal fountain. I did not ask “What is wrong” for the reason one does, who only sees with the eye, that cannot see when the body lies senseless, but I asked in order to give strength to your feet: so the slothful, who are slow to employ the waking hour when it returns, have to be goaded.’

            We were travelling on, through the evening, straining our eyes ahead, as far as we could, against the bright sunset rays, and behold, little by little, a smoke, dark as night, moving towards us, and there was no space to escape it. This stole away our sight, and the clear air.


Purgatorio Canto XVI:1-24 The Wrathful and their Punishment


            The gloom of Hell, and a night deprived of every planet, under a scant sky, darkened by cloud, as far as it could be, did not make as thick a veil for my sight, or as harsh a texture to the touch, as the smoke that enveloped us there, since it did not even allow the eyes to remain open, at which my wise and faithful escort came near, and offered me his shoulder.

            As a blind man goes behind his guide, in order not to wander, and not to strike against anything that may harm him, or perhaps kill him, so I went, through the foul and bitter air, listening to my leader, who kept saying: ‘Be careful not to get cut off, from me.’

            I heard voices, and each one seemed to pray to the Lamb of God, who takes away sin, for peace and mercy. ‘Agnus Dei,’ was their only commencement: one word and one measure came from them all: so that every harmony seemed to be amongst them. I said: ‘Master, are those spirits, that I hear?’ And he to me: ‘You understand rightly, and they are untying the knot of anger.’


Purgatorio Canto XVI:25-96 Marco Lombardo: Free Will


            A voice said: ‘Now, who are you, who divide our smoke, and talk of us, as if you still measured time by months?’ At which my Master said to me: ‘You, answer, and ask if we should go upwards by this path.’

            And I said: ‘O creature, who purge yourself to return to him who made you, beautified, you will hear a wonder if you follow me.’ He answered: ‘I will follow you, as far as is allowed me, and if the smoke prevents us seeing, hearing will allow contact between us, instead.’ So I began: ‘I am travelling upwards, with those garments that death dissolves, and came here through the pain of Hell, and if God has so far admitted me to his grace, that he wills I should see his court, in a manner wholly outside modern usage, do not conceal from me who you were before death, but tell me, and tell me, also, if I am heading straight for the pass: and your words will be our escort.’

            He answered: ‘I was called Mark, and I was a Lombard: I knew the world, and loved that worth, at the sight of which every one now unbends their bow: you go the right way to ascend,’ and he added, ‘I pray you to pray for me, when you are above.’

            And I to him: ‘By my faith, I promise you, to do what you ask of me, but I am wrung within by doubt if I cannot free myself of it. First it was simple doubt, and now it is re-doubled by your speech, strengthening it in me here, along with that which I couple to it from elsewhere. The world is indeed so wholly destitute of every virtue, even as you say, and covered and weighed down with sin: but I beg you to show me the cause, so that I can see it, and tell others, since some people place the cause in the sky, and others here below.’

            He first gave a deep sigh, which grief shortened to ‘Ah!’ and then began: ‘Brother the world is blind, and you come from there, indeed. You, the living, refer every cause to the heavens, as though they carried all along with them by necessity. If it were so, free will would be destroyed in you, and there would be no justice in taking delight in good, and lamenting evil. The heavens initiate your movements: I do not say all, but even if I said it, you are given a light to know good from evil: and you are given free will, which gains the victory, completely, in the end, if it survives the stress of its first conflict with the heavens, and is well nurtured.

            Free, you are subject to a greater force, and a better nature, and that creates Mind in you, that the sky does not have control of. So if the world today goes awry, the cause is in yourselves, search for it in yourselves, and I will be a true guide to you in this.

            From His hands, who loves her dearly before she exists, issues the soul, in simplicity, like a little child, playing, in laughter and in tears, and she knows nothing, but that, sprung from a joyful Maker, she willingly turns towards what delights her. She savours, at the start, the taste of childish good, and is beguiled by it, and chases it, if her love is not curbed or misguided. That is why it was necessary to create Law as a curb, and necessary to have a ruler, who might at least make out the towers of the true city.’


Purgatorio Canto XVI:97-145 The Error of the Church’s temporal power


            ‘There are laws, but who sets their hand to them? No one: because the Shepherd who leads his flock may chew the cud, may meditate, but does not have a divided hoof, and confuses spiritual and temporal. So the people, seeing their Guide only aiming at that benefit he is eager for, feed on that, and do not question further. You can see clearly that bad leadership is the cause of the world’s sinfulness, and not that nature, corruptible within you.

            Rome, that made the civilised world, used to have two Suns, that made the two roads visible, that of the world, and that of God. One has quenched the other: and the sword and the shepherd’s crook are joined: and the one linked to the other must run to harm, since, being joined, one will not fear the other. If you do not believe me, look closely at the crop, since every plant is known by its seed.

            Worth and courtesy used to be found, in Lombardy, that land the rivers Po and Adige water, before Frederick faced opposition. Now it can only be crossed, in safety, by those who, through shame, have ceased to talk to good men, or live near them. True there are three elder statesmen, in whom the ancient times reprove the new, and it feels a long time to them before God takes them to a better life: Corrado da Palazzo, and the good Gherardo da Camino, and Guido da Castel, who is better named in the French way, the honest Lombard. As of now, say that the Church of Rome, confusing two powers in herself, falls in the mud, and fouls herself and her charge.’

            I said: ‘O my Mark you reason clearly, and now I see why the priests, the sons of Levi, were not allowed to inherit. But who is that Gerard, who you say remains as an example of the vanished race, to reprove this barbarous age?’ He answered: ‘Your speech is either meant to deceive me or to test me, since, speaking in Tuscan, you seem to know nothing of the good Gherard. I know him by no other name, unless I were to take one from his daughter Gaia. God be with you, since I come, with you, no further. See the light, whitening, shining through the smoke: the Angel is there, and I must go before he sees me.’So he turned back, and would no longer listen.


Purgatorio Canto XVII:1-39 Examples of Anger


            Reader, if a mist has ever caught you in the mountains, through which you saw as a mole does, through the skin, remember how the sun’s sphere shone, feebly, through the dense, damp, vapours as it began to melt away, and your imagination will easily understand how I saw the sun again, which was now setting. So, measuring by steps by my faithful Master’s, I issued from that cloud to the sunlight, already dead on the low shore.

            O imagination, that takes us out of ourselves, sometimes, so that we are conscious of nothing, though a thousand trumpets echo round us, what is it that stirs you, since the senses place nothing in front of you? A light stirs you, which takes its form from heaven, by itself, or by a will that sends it downwards.

            The traces of Procne’s impiety appeared in my imagination, she, who changed her form to a nightingale’s, the bird that most delights in singing, and here my mind was so absorbed in itself, that nothing from outside came to it, or was received in it.

            Then in my high fantasy a crucified man, scornful and haughty of aspect, appeared, and it was Haman, so dying. Round about him were the great Ahasuerus, Esther, his wife, and the just Mordecai, who was so sincere in speech and actions.

            And, as this imagining burst like a bubble does, when the water surface it is made of breaks, a girl, Lavinia, weeping pitfully, rose to my vision, saying: ‘O Queen Amata, why have you willed yourself to nothingness, through anger? You have killed yourself in order not to lose me: now you have lost me. I am she, who mourns, Mother, for your loss, rather than for his.’


Purgatorio Canto XVII:40-69 The Angel of Meekness: Third Beatitude


            As sleep is broken, when a new light suddenly strikes on the closed eyelids, and hovers, brokenly, before it completely vanishes, so my imaginings were destroyed, as soon as light struck my face, light far greater than that which we are used to. I was turning about to see where I was, when a voice which snatched me from any other intention, said: ‘Here, you can climb’, and it made me want to see who it was who spoke, with that eagerness that never rests till it confronts the other.

            But my powers failed me there, as at the sun that oppresses our vision, and veils his form, through excess of light. My leader said: ‘This is a Divine Spirit, that points us towards the path to climb, without our asking, and hides itself in its own light. It does towards us what a man does towards himself: since he who sees the need, but waits for the request, has set himself malignly towards denial. Now let our feet fit the invitation: let us try to ascend before nightfall, since we cannot, then, until day returns.’ I turned my steps, with him, towards a stairway, and as soon as I was on the first step, I felt something like the touch of a wing, and my face was fanned, and I heard someone say: ‘Beati pacifici: blessed are the meek, who are without sinful anger.’


Purgatorio Canto XVII:70-139 Virgil explains the structure of Purgatory


            Now the last rays, that night follows, were angled so high above us that the stars were appearing, on every side. ‘Oh, my powers, why do you ebb away from me like this?’ I said inside myself, since I felt the strength of my legs vanish.

            We stood where the stairway went no further, and were aground, like a boat, that arrives at the shore: and I listened for a while to see if I could hear anything in the new circle: then turned to my Master, and said: ‘My sweet father, say what offence is purged in this circle, where we are? Though our feet are stopped, do not stop your speaking.’ And he to me: ‘The love of good, that fell short of its duties, restores itself just here: here the sinfully lazy oar is plied again. But so that you might understand more clearly, turn your mind on me, and you will gather some good fruit from our delay.’

            He began: ‘Son, neither creature nor Creator, was ever devoid of love, natural or rational, and this you know. The natural is always free of error: but the rational may err because of an evil objective, or because of too much or too little energy.

            While it is directed towards the primary virtues, and moderates its aims in the secondary ones, it cannot be the cause of sinful delight, but when it is turned awry, towards evil, or moves towards the good with more or less attention than it should, the creature works against its Creator. So you can understand, that love is the seed of each virtue in you, and its errors the seeds of every action that deserves punishment. Now, in that love can never turn its face away from the well being of its object, everything is safe from self-hatred. And, because no being can be thought to exist apart, standing separate in itself, from the First Cause, all affection is prevented from hating Him.

            It follows, if I judge well in my classification that the evil we desire is due to the presence of our neighbours, and this desire has three origins, in your clay.

            There are those who hope to excel through their neighbour’s downfall, and because of this alone want them toppled from their greatness. This is Pride.

            There are those who fear to lose, power, influence, fame or honour because another is preferred, at which they are so saddened they desire the contrary. This is Envy.

            And there are those who seem so ashamed because of injury, that they become eager for revenge, and so are forced to wish another’s harm. This is Wrath.

            This three-fold desire is lamented, below. Now, I want you to understand the other desires which aim towards love in an erroneous manner.

            Everyone vaguely apprehends a good, where the mind finds rest: and desires it: so everyone labours to attain it.

            If inadequate love draws you on to sight or attainment of that good, this terrace torments you for it, after just repentance. This is Sloth.

            There is another good, which does not make men happy: it is not happiness: it is not the essential good, the root and fruit of all goodness.    

            The love that abandons itself to it, excessively, is lamented above us, on three terraces: but how it is separated into three divisions, I will not say, in order that you search it out for yourself.’


Purgatorio Canto XVIII:1-48 Virgil on the Nature of Love


            The high-minded teacher had ended his discourse, and was looking at my face, attentively, to see if I was satisfied, and I, who was tormented by a new thirst, was outwardly silent, but inwardly said: ‘Perhaps the extent of my questions annoys him.’ But that true father, who noticed the hesitant wish, that did not show itself, gave me courage to speak, by speaking himself.

            At which I said: ‘Master, my vision is so invigorated, by your light, that I understand, clearly, what all your reasoning means and describes. I beg you, therefore, sweet, dear father, to define Love for me, to which you reduce every good action and its opposite.’ He said: ‘Direct the keen eyes of the intellect towards me, and the error of the blind who make themselves their guides, will be apparent to you.

            The spirit, that is created ready for love, is moved by everything pleasing, as soon as it is stirred into action by pleasure.

            Your sensory faculties take an impression from real objects, and unfold it inside you, so that the spirit turns towards those objects. And if it is attracted to them, being turned, that attraction is Love: that is Nature, newly confirmed in you by pleasure.

            Then, as fire rises, because of its form, whose nature is to climb to where it can live longest in its fuel, so the mind, captured, enters into desire, which is a movement of the spirit, and never rests until the object of its love gives it joy.

            Now it may be apparent to you, how deeply truth is concealed from those people, who say that every act of love is praiseworthy in itself, since love’s material may always be good, perhaps, but every seal is not good, even though the wax is good.’

            I replied: ‘Your words, and my wits following you, have made Love clear to me, but it has made me more pregnant with doubts, since if Love is offered to us from outside ourselves, and the spirit has no other foot of her own to walk on, it is no merit of hers whether she walks straight or slantwise.’

            And he said to me: ‘I can tell you merely what Reason sees: beyond this point, wait only for Beatrice, since it is a question of Faith.’


Purgatorio Canto XVIII:49-75 Virgil on Freewill


            ‘Every living form, which is distinct from matter, but is united to it, has a specific virtue, contained in it, that is not seen except in its operation, or manifest except by what it effects, as life is manifest in a plant in the green leaves.

            Therefore human beings do not know where knowledge of primary sensations comes from, or attraction to the primary objects of appetite: they are in you, as the drive in bees to make honey: and this primary volition merits neither praise nor blame.

            Now, in order that every other volition may be related to this one, the virtue, which allows judgement, is innate in you, and ought to guard the threshold of assent. This is the source from which the cause of merit, in you, derives, according to how it gathers and sieves good and evil desires.

            Those who went to the foundations in their reasoning, recognised this innate freedom, and so left their Ethics to the world.

            Therefore, even if you suppose that every love, which burns in you, rises out of necessity, the power to control it is within you. Beatrice takes Freewill to be the noble virtue, so take care to have that in mind, if she sets herself to speak of it, to you.


Purgatorio Canto XVIII:76-111 The Slothful and their Punishment


            The moon, almost at midnight, shaped like a burning pail, made the stars appear fainter to us, and her track across the heavens, in the east, was on those paths, in Sagittarius, that the sun inflames, when in Rome they watch its setting between Sardinia and Corsica. And that noble shade, whose birthplace, Andes, is more renowned than any other Mantuan town, had laid down the burden I had put on him, so that I who had gathered clear, plain answers to my questions, stood like one who wanders, drowsily.

            But this drowsiness was suddenly snatched from me, by people who had already come round on us, from behind our backs. And just as the Rivers Ismenus and Asopus, saw, a furious rout, at night, along their banks, when the Thebans called on the help of Bacchus, so, along that terrace, quickening their steps, those were approaching, who, by what I saw of them, good will and just desire rode. They were soon upon us, since all that vast crowd was moving at a run, and two in front were shouting, tearfully: ‘Mary ran with haste to the hill country,’ and: ‘Caesar lanced Marseilles, and then raced to Spain, to subdue Lerida in Catalonia.’

            The rest shouted, after that: ‘Hurry! Hurry! Do not let time be wasted, through lack of love, so that labouring to do well may renew grace.’

            My guide said: ‘O people, in whom an eager fervour now makes good, perhaps, the negligence and tardiness shown by you, in being lukewarm at doing good, this one who lives wishes to climb, if the sun only shines for us again, and indeed I do not lie to you, so tell us where the ascent is nearest.’


Purgatorio Canto XVIII:112-145 The Slothful: Examples of Sloth


            One of the spirits said: ‘Come behind us, and you will find the gully. We are so full of desire for speed, we cannot stay: so forgive us if you take our penance as an offence. I was the Abbot of San Zeno in Verona, under the rule of the good Barbarossa, of whom Milan still speaks with sorrow. And one I know, Alberto della Scala, who already has one foot in the grave, will soon mourn because of that monastery, and will be saddened at having held power there, because he has appointed his son there, Giuseppe, deformed in body, and more so in mind, and born of shame, instead of a true shepherd.

            I do not know if he said more, or was silent, he had raced so far beyond us, already, but I heard that and was pleased to remember it. And he who was my help when I needed it, said: ‘Turn this way, and see two that come, showing remorse at Sloth.’

            Last of them all, they cried: ‘The people for whom the Red Sea opened, were dead before Jordan saw their heirs,’ and: ‘Those who did not endure the labour with Aeneas, Anchises’s son, until the end, gave themselves to an inglorious fate.’

            Then a new thought rose in me, when those shadows were distant from us, so far they could no longer be seen, from which many other diverse thoughts sprang: and I wandered so much, from one to another, that I closed my eyes in wandering, and transmuted thought to dream.’


Purgatorio Canto XIX:1-36 Dante’s Second Dream: The Siren


            In the hour, before dawn, when the day’s heat, lost by Earth, or quenched by Saturn, no longer offsets the moon’s coldness; when the geomancers see their Fortuna Major, formed of the last stars of Aquarius, and the first of Pisces, rise in the east, on a path which is only dark for a little while, a stuttering woman, came to me in a dream, her eyes squinting, her feet crippled, with maimed hands, and sallow aspect. I gazed at her, and my look readied her tongue, and straightened her completely, in a few moments, as the sun comforts the cold limbs that night weighs down, and her pale face coloured, as love wills.

            When her tongue was freed, she began to sing, so that I could hardly turn my attention away. ‘I am,’ she sang, ‘I am the sweet Siren: I am so pleasing to hear that I lead seamen astray, in mid-ocean. With my song, I turned Ulysses from his wandering path, and whoever rests with me, rarely leaves, I satisfy him so completely.’ Her lips had barely closed, when a lady appeared, near me, saintly and ready to put her to confusion. She said, angrily: ‘O Virgil, Virgil what is this?’ And he came, with his eyes fixed on that honest one.

            He seized the Siren, and, ripping her clothes, revealed her front, and showed me her belly, that woke me with the stench that came from it. I turned my eyes away, and the good Virgil said: ‘I have called you at least three times, rise and come with me, let us find the opening by which you may climb.’


Purgatorio Canto XIX:37-69 The Angel of Zeal: The Fourth Beatitude


            I rose, and all the circles of the holy mountain were now filled with the high day, and we went with the new sun at our backs. I was following him, with my forehead wrinkled like someone burdened by thought, and who makes half a bridge’s arch of his body, when I heard words, spoken, in so gentle and kind a voice, as is not heard in this mortal world: ‘Come, here is the pass.’

            He, who spoke to us, directed us upwards, between two walls of solid stone, with his outspread wings, that seemed like a swan’s. Then he stirred his feathers, and fanned us, affirming that they who mourn, qui lugent, are blessed, whose spirits shall be richly consoled.

            My guide began to speak to me, both of us having climbed a little higher than the Angel: ‘What is wrong with you, that you are always staring at the ground?’ And I: ‘A strange dream, that draws me towards it, so that I cannot stop thinking of it, makes me go in such dread.’ He said: ‘Did you see, that ancient witch, through whom alone those above us now weep? Did you see how man escapes from her? Let that be enough for you, and spurn the Earth with your heels, turn your eyes towards the lure, that the King of Eternity spins, in the great spheres.’

            I became like a falcon, that, at first, is gazing at his feet, then turns at the call, and spreads his wings, with longing for the food, that draws him towards it, and so I went, as far as the rock is split, to allow passage, to him who climbs up, to where the terrace begins.


Purgatorio Canto XIX:70-114 The Avaricious: Pope Adrian V


            When I was in the open, in the fifth circle, I saw people around it, lying on the ground, who wept, all turned face downwards. I heard them say: ‘Adhaesit pavimento anima mea, my soul cleaveth unto the dust’ with such deep sighing the words were hardly understood. ‘O God’s elect, whose sufferings justice and hope make easier, direct us towards the high ascents.’ So the poet prayed, and so, a little in front of us, there was an answer: ‘If you come longing to find the quickest way, and are safe from having to lie prostrate, let your right hand be always towards the outer edge.’ At that I noted what was hidden in the words, and turned my eyes towards my lord, at which he gave assent, with a sign of pleasure, to what my look of longing desired.

            When I was free to do what my mind wished, I went forward, standing over that creature whose previous words made me note them, saying: ‘Spirit, delay your greater business, a while, for me, you, in whom weeping ripens that without which one cannot turn towards God. If you would have me obtain anything for you, over there, where I come from, living, tell me, who you are, and why you have your backs turned upwards.’

            And he to me: ‘You will know why Heaven turns our backs towards it, but first scias quod ego fui successor Petri: know that I was Pope Adrian V, a successor of Peter. A fair river, the Lavagna, flows down to the Gulf of Genoa, between Sestri and Chiaveri, and my people’s title takes its name from it.

For little more than a month, I learnt how the great mantle weighs on him, who keeps it out of the mire, so much so, that all other burdens seem light as feathers. Alas, my conversion was late, but when I was made Pastor of Rome, then I discovered the false life. I saw that the heart was not at peace there, nor could one climb higher in that life: so that love of this one was kindled in me. Until that moment I was a wholly avaricious spirit, wretched, and parted from God: now, as you see, here, I am punished for it.’


Purgatorio Canto XIX:115-145 The Avaricious: Their Punishment


            ‘Here, what Avarice does is declared, in the purgation of the down-turned spirits, and the Mount has no bitterer penalty. Just as our eyes did not lift themselves up to the heights, but were fixed on earthly things, so here justice has sunk them towards the earth. Just as Avarice killed our love for all good, so that our efforts were lost, so here justice holds us fast, taken and bound, by hands and feet, and as long as it is the good Lord’s pleasure, we will lie here outstretched and unmoving.’

            I had knelt, and was about to speak, but he detected my reverence, merely by listening, and as I began, he said: ‘Why do you bend your knees?’ And I to him: ‘My conscience pricked me, for standing, knowing your high office.’ He answered: ‘Straighten your legs, and rise, brother: do not err: I am a fellow servant, of the one Power, with you and the others. If you ever understood the words of the holy gospel, neque nubent, there ‘they neither marry nor are given in marriage’ you will understand, clearly, why I say so.

            Now go: I do not wish you to stay longer, since your remaining disturbs my weeping, by means of which I ripen what you spoke of. I have a niece, Alagia by name, over there, who is good in herself, if only our house does not make her evil by example, and she is the only one left to me, over there.’


Purgatorio Canto XX:1-42 Examples of Poverty and Liberality


            The will fights ill against a finer will: so, to please him, but against my pleasure, I drew the unsaturated sponge from the water. I went on, and my leader went on, also, through the free space, along the rock, as you go by the wall close to the battlements, because those people, who distil, from their eyes, drop by drop, the evil that fills the whole world, were too close to the edge for us to pass on the other side.

Accursed be you, Avarice, ancient she-wolf, who, to satisfy your endless hunger, take more prey than any other beast! O Heaven, by whose circling, it appears to be believed, conditions down here are altered, when will one come by whose actions Avarice will vanish?

We journeyed on, with slow, meagre paces, and I paying attention to the spirits, that I heard weeping piteously, and complaining: and, by chance, I heard one calling, tearfully, in front of us: ‘Sweet Maria’, like a woman in labour, and continuing to speak: ‘you were so poverty-stricken as can be seen by that inn where you laid down your sacred burden.’

Following that I heard: ‘O good Caius Fabricius, you wished to possess virtue in poverty, rather than great riches with vice.’ These words were so pleasing to me that I moved forward, to make contact with the spirit, from whom they seemed to emerge.

It went on to speak of the gifts, that Bishop Nicholas gave to the young girls, to lead their youth towards honour.

I said: ‘O spirit, who speaks of good so much, tell me who you are, and why you alone repeat this praise of worthiness? If I return, to complete the short space of a life that flies to its end, you words will not be un-rewarded.’ And he: ‘I will tell you, not because I expect any comfort from over there, but because so much grace shines in you before your death.’


Purgatorio Canto XX:43-96 Hugh Capet and the Capetian Dynasty


‘I was the root of the evil tree, that overshadows all Christian countries, so that good fruit is rarely obtained there. But if Douay, Lille, Ghent and Bruges can, they will soon take revenge on it, and I beg this of Him who judges all. I was called Hugh Capet, over there: from me the ‘Philip’s and ‘Louis’s derive by whom France is ruled of late.

I was the son of a Paris butcher. When the line of ancient kings was ended, except for one who was clothed in the grey robe, I found the reins of the kingdom’s government held tight in my hands, and had so much power in new acquisitions, and was so rich in friends that the widowed crown was placed on my son’s head, he, with whom the Capetian dynasty’s consecrated bones begin.

Before the dowry of Provence, took away all sense of shame from my race, the line was worth little, but did little harm. Its rapaciousness began there in force and fraud, and then to make amends, Ponthieu, Normandy and Gascony were seized. Charles of Anjou came to Italy, and to make amends, made a victim of Conradin: and then sent Thomas Aquinas back to heaven, to make amends.

I see a time, not far distant from now, that will bring another Charles, of Valois, out of France, rendering him and his people better known. He comes alone, without an army, and with the lance of treachery Judas jousted with, and couches it so as to make the guts of Florence spill. From that he will gather sin and shame, not land, so much the more grave for him, because he treats such wrongs so lightly.

I see the other Charles, the Lame, who was once taken captive in his ship, selling his daughter Beatrice, and haggling over her, as pirates do over other hostages. O Avarice, who more can you do to us, since you have so attracted my tribe to you, that it does not care about its own flesh and blood?

To make the ill that is past and to come, seem lesser, I see the fleur-de-lys enter Anagni, and Christ taken captive in the person of Boniface, his Vicar. I see him mocked for a second time: I see the gall and vinegar renewed, and see him killed, between living thieves. I see the new Pilate, Philip the Fourth, acting so cruelly, that even this does not satisfy him, but he must carry his sails of greed, lawlessly, against the Temple. O my Lord, when will I rejoice to see the sweet vengeance, which, hidden, your anger forms in secrecy?’



Purgatorio Canto XX:97-151 Examples of Avarice: The Earthquake


            ‘What I was saying, concerning the only Bride of the Holy Spirit, that made you turn towards me for explanation, such is the burden of all our prayers as long as daylight lasts, but when the night comes, we adopt a different strain instead.

            Then we rehearse the history of Dido’s brother Pygmalion, whose insatiable lust for gold made him traitor, thief and parricide, and avaricious Midas’s misery, that followed on his greedy wish, for which he must always be derided.

            Then each remembers foolish Achan, who stole the consecrated treasure, so that Joshua’s anger still seems here to rend him.

Then we accuse Sapphira and Ananias her husband; we praise the kicks from the hooves that struck Heliodorus: and the whole Mount echoes with the infamy of Polymnestor who murdered Polydorus.

Last of all, here, we cry out: “Crassus, tell us, since you know, what does gold taste like?”

Sometimes one speaks high and another low, now with greater or lesser force, according to the impulse prompting us to speak: so I was not alone, before, in speaking of the good, as we do, by day, but no one else was raising his voice near here.’

We had already left him, and were labouring to conquer the path, as far as it was in our power to do, when I felt the mountain tremble, like something falling, at which a coldness seized me, as it seizes him who goes to death. Surely Delos was not shaken as violently, before Latona, there, made her nest give birth to the twin eyes of Heaven.

Then a shout went up on every side, so that the Master drew near me, saying: ‘Have no fear, while I am your guide.’ All were saying: ‘Gloria in excelsis Deo: Glory to God in the highest,’ from what I understood of those nearby, whose words I could hear. We stood, immobile, still as those shepherds who first heard that hymn, till it ceased when the quake ended. Then we took up our holy path again, gazing at the spirits lying on the ground, already returned to their usual laments.

If my memory makes no mistake in this, no lack of knowledge ever assaulted me with such a desire to know, as I appeared to feel then, as I reflected, and because of our haste, I was not keen to ask, nor could I see any cause for it there, myself: so I went on, fearful, and thoughtful.


Purgatorio Canto XXI:1-33 The Poets meet Statius


            The natural thirst for knowledge that is never quenched, except by that water’s grace the woman of Samaria asked for, troubled me, and haste was driving me along the impeded path behind my leader, and I was grieving at the spirits’ just punishment, and behold, just as Luke writes that Christ, already risen from the mouth of the tomb, appeared to two who were on the road, so a shade appeared to us, and came on behind gazing at the prostrate crowd at its feet, and we did not see it until it spoke, saying: ‘My brothers, God give you peace.’ We turned quickly, and Virgil gave the appropriate sign in reply, then said: ‘May the true Court, that holds me in eternal exile, bring you in peace to the Council of the Blessed.’

            As we went forward, strongly, the spirit said: ‘How is this: if you are shadows that God does not allow here above, who has escorted you as far as this, by his stairways?’ And my teacher said: ‘If you look at the marks this man carries on his forehead, and which the Angel traced, you will see clearly that it is right for him to reign among the good. But since Lachesis, she who spins, night and day, had not yet drawn out the thread, fully, that Clotho places and winds on the distaff, for each of us, his soul which is sister to yours and mine, coming up here, could not come alone, since it does not understand as we do: so I was sent from the wide jaws of Hell to guide him, and as far as my knowledge can lead, I will guide him upwards.’


Purgatorio Canto XXI:34-75 The Cause of the Earthquake


            ‘But, if you know, tell us why the Mount shook so much before, and why everyone appeared to shout with one voice, right down to its soft base.’ So by asking he threaded the true needle’s eye of my wish, and my thirst was less fierce through hope alone.

            That spirit began: The sacred rule of the mountain allows nothing without purpose, or beyond what is customary. Here we are free from earthly changes: Here, what Heaven accepts from its own self can operate as a cause, nothing else: and rain, hail, snow, dew, and frost cannot fall higher than the brief stair with three steps. Thin or dense cloud does not appear, nor lightning, nor the rainbow, Iris, Thaumas’s daughter, who over there often changes zone. Dry vapours rise no higher than the top of the three steps I spoke of, where Peter’s vicar has his feet.

            Perhaps it trembles lower down, more or less, because of the winds hidden underground, I do not know, it never trembles here. Here it quakes when some soul feels itself purged so that it can rise, or set out to soar above, and such shouting follows it. The will alone gives evidence of the purging, seizing the soul, completely free to change her convent, and helping her in willing. True, she had will before, but the eagerness that Divine Justice creates for the punishment, where before there was eagerness for the sin, counters the will, inhibiting it.

            And, only now, I, who have undergone this torment for five hundred years and more, feel free will towards a better threshold. So, you felt the earthquake, and heard the pious souls around the mountain render praise to the Lord, that he might soon send them above.’

            So he spoke to us, and since we enjoy the drink more, the greater the thirst we have, I could not convey how much he refreshed me.


Purgatorio Canto XXI:76-136 Statius and Virgil


            And the wise leader said: ‘Now, I see the net that traps you here, and how one breaks through it; why the mountain quakes; and why you rejoice together at it. Now may it please you to tell me who you are, and let me learn from your words, why you have been here so many centuries.’

            The spirit answered: ‘When the good Titus, with the help of Heaven’s King, avenged the wounds, from which the blood, that Judas sold, issued, I was famous, with the name of poet, that endures longest, and gives most honour, but not yet of the faith. The music of my words was so sweet, that Rome drew me, from Toulouse, to herself, where I merited a myrtle crown for my forehead. The people, there, still call me Statius: I sang of Thebes, and then of great Achilles: but I fell by the wayside with the second burden.

            The sparks that warmed me, from the divine flame, which has kindled more than a thousand fires, were the seeds of my poetic ardour: I talk of the Aeneid, that was a mother to me, and a poetic nurse, without which I would not have been worth a drachm. And I would agree to endure one sun more than I owe, before coming out of exile, to have lived over there when Virgil was alive.’

            These words made Virgil turn towards me with a silent look that said: ‘Be silent.’ But the virtue that wills is not all-powerful, since laughter and tears follow the passion, from which they spring, so closely, that, in the most truthful, they obey the will least. I merely smiled, like someone who signals, at which the shade fell silent, and looked me in the eyes, where the soul is most present. And he said: ‘So that great effort might achieve its aim, say why your face just now showed me a flash of laughter?’

            Now I am caught on both sides: one forces me to stay silent, the other demands I speak: at which I sigh, and am understood by my master, and he says to me: ‘Do not be afraid to speak, but speak and tell him what he asks with such great desire.’ At which I said: ‘Ancient spirit, perhaps you wonder at the laugh I gave, but I wish a greater wonder to seize you. He, who leads my vision on high, is that Virgil from whom you derived the power to sing of men and gods. If you think there was any other reason for my laughter, set it aside as untrue, and believe it was the words you spoke about him.’

            He was already stooping to embrace my teacher’s ankles: but Virgil said: ‘Brother, do not, since you are a shadow, and it is a shadow that you see.’ And Statius, rising, said: ‘Now you can understand the depth of love that warms me towards you, when I forget our nothingness, and treat shadows as solid things.’


Purgatorio Canto XXII:1-24 The Angel of Liberality: The Fifth Beatitude


            The Angel was already left behind, the Angel who had directed us to the sixth circle, having erased the mark from my forehead, saying that those whose desire is for righteousness are blessed, and accomplishing it with the word sitiunt, ‘they thirst’, and nothing more.

And I went on, lighter than when I left the other stairways, so that I was following the swift souls upwards, without effort, when Virgil began to speak, to Statius: ‘Love, fired by virtue, has always fired further love, when its flame has been revealed. From that moment when Juvenal descended amongst us in the Limbo of Hell, and made your affection known to me, my good will towards you has been more than has ever tied anyone to an unseen person, so that this stairway will seem short to me.

But tell me, now, and, if too great a confidence looses the reins, forgive me, as a friend, and speak to me, as a friend: ‘How could Avarice find a place in your heart, amongst such wisdom as you were filled with, by your efforts?’


Purgatorio Canto XXII:25-54 Statius’s error was Prodigality not Avarice


            These words, at first, moved Statius to smile a little, then he answered: ‘Every word of yours is a precious mark of affection to me. In truth, things often appear that provide false food for doubt, because of the true reasons that are hidden. Your question shows me that you thought I was avaricious in the other life, perhaps because of the terrace you found me on. Know now that Avarice was too far distant from me, and my excess, in the other direction, thousands of moons have punished. And I would feel the grievous butting, where they roll the weights in Hell, had I not straightened out my inclinations, when I noted the lines in your Aeneid where you, as if angered against human nature, exclaimed: ‘O sacred hunger for gold, why do you not rule human appetite?’ Then I saw that our hands could open too far, in spending, and I repented of that as well as other sins.

            How many will rise with shorn heads, through ignorance, which prevents repentance for this sin, in life and at the last hour? And know that the offence that counters the sin with its direct opposite, here, together with it, withers its growth. So, if I, to purge myself, have been among those people who lament their Avarice, it has happened to me, because of its contrary.’


Purgatorio Canto XXII:55-93 Statius’s Conversion to Christianity


            Virgil, the singer of the pastoral songs, said: ‘Now, when you sang, in your Thebaid, of the savage warfare between Jocasta’s twin sorrows, from the pagan nature of what Clio touches on there, with you, it seems that Faith, without which goodness is insufficient, had not yet made you faithful. If that is so, what sunlight or candlelight illuminated the darkness for you, so that after it you set sail to follow the Fisherman?’

            And he replied: ‘You first sent me towards Parnassus, to drink in its caverns, and then lit me on towards God. You did what he does who travels by night, and carries a lamp behind him, that does not help him, but makes those who follow him, wise, when you said: ‘The Earth renews: Justice returns, and the first Age of Mankind: and a new race descends from Heaven.’

            I was a poet, through you, a Christian, through you, but so you may see what I outline more clearly, I will extend my hand to paint it in. The whole world was already pregnant with true belief, seeded by the messengers of the eternal kingdom, and your words, mentioned above, were so in harmony with the new priests, that I took to visiting them. Then they came to seem so holy to me, that when Domitian persecuted them, their sighs were combined with tears of mine. And I aided them, while I trod the earth over there, and their honest customs made me scorn all other sects, and I received baptism, before I had got the Greeks to the rivers of Thebes in my poem, but was a secret Christian out of fear, pretending to Paganism for a long while: and this diffidence sent me round the fourth terrace, for more than four centuries.’


Purgatorio Canto XXII:94-114 The Pagans in Limbo


            ‘Now you, who lifted the veil that hid me from the great good I speak of, when we have time to spare from the climb, tell me where the ancients, Terence, Caecilius, Plautus and Varro are, if you know: say if they are damned, and in what circle.’ My leader answered: ‘They, and I, and Persius, and many others, are with that Greek whom the Muses nursed above all others, in the first circle of the dark gaol. We often speak of the mountain that always holds the goddesses, our foster-mothers.

            Euripides and Antiphon are there with us, Simonides, Agathon, and many other Greeks who once covered their foreheads with laurel. Of the people celebrated in your poems, Antigone, Deiphyle, and Argia are seen, and Ismene, as sad as she was. There Hypsipyle, is visible, who showed the fountain, Langia. Tiresias’s daughter is there, and Thetis, and Deidamia with her sisters.’


Purgatorio Canto XXII:115-154 Examples of Temperance


            Now both the poets were silent, newly intent on looking round, free of the ascent and the walls, and four handmaidens of the day were already left behind, and the fifth was by the pole of the sun’s chariot, which still had its fiery tip slanted upwards, when my leader said: ‘I think we must turn our right shoulders towards the edge, and circle the mountain as we did before.’ So custom was our guide, even there, and we followed the way with less uncertainty, because of the other noble spirit’s assent.

            They went on in front, and I, alone, behind: and I listened to their conversation, which increased my understanding of poetry. But soon the sweet dialogue was interrupted, by our finding a tree, in the middle of the road, with wholesome, and pleasant smelling fruit. And as a pine tree grows so that its branches lessen as the trunk goes upwards, so that did downwards: I think so that no one can climb up. On the side where our way was blocked, a clear stream fell from the high cliff, and spread itself over the canopy above.

The two poets went near to the tree, and a voice inside the leaves cried: ‘Be chary of this food,’ and then it said: ‘Mary thought more about how the marriage-feast might be made honourable, and complete, than of her own mouth, which now intercedes for you all. And the Roman women in ancient times were content to drink water: and Daniel despised food and gained wisdom. The First Age was beautiful, like gold: it made acorns tasty, to the hungry, and every stream, nectar, to the thirsty. Honey and locusts were the meat that fed John the Baptist in the desert, and so he is glorious and great, as the Gospel shows you.’


Purgatorio Canto XXIII:1-36 The Gluttonous and their Punishment


            While I was gazing through the green leaves, like a man does who wastes his life chasing wild birds, my more-than-father said to me: ‘Son, come on now, since the time we have been given must be spent more usefully.’ I turned my face, and my steps as quickly, towards the wise pair, who were talking; making it no penalty to me to go.

            And ‘Labia mea Domine: O Lord open thou my lips,’ was heard, in singing and weeping, producing joy and pain. I began to speak: ‘O sweet father, what do I hear?’ And he: ‘Shadows who perhaps go freeing the knot of their debts.’ Just as thoughtful travellers, who pass people unknown to them on the road, turn to look, but do not stop, so a crowd of spirits, coming on more quickly behind us, passed us by, silent and devout, gazing at us.

            Their eyes were all dark and cavernous, their faces pale, and so wasted that the skin took shape from the bone. I cannot believe Erysichthon was as withered to the skin by hunger, even when he felt it most. I said in my inward thought: ‘See, the people who lost Jerusalem at the time when the woman, Mary, devoured her own child.’

            The sockets of their eyes seemed gem-less rings: those who see the letters ‘omo in a man’s face, would clearly have distinguished the ‘m there. Who, if they did not know the cause, would believe that merely the scent of fruit and water had created this, by creating desire?


Purgatorio Canto XXIII:37-90 Forese Donati


            I was still wondering what famished them, since the reason for their leanness, and their skin’s sad scurf, was not obvious yet, when a shadow turned its eyes towards me from the hollows of its head, and stared fixedly, then cried out loudly: ‘What grace is this, shown to me?’ I would never have recognised him by his face, but what was extinguished in his aspect, was revealed by his voice. This spark kindled the memory in me of the altered features, and I recognised Forese’s face.

            ‘Oh, do not stare at the dry leprosy that stains my skin,’ he begged, ‘nor at any lack of flesh I may have, but tell me truly about yourself, and who those two spirits are there, who escort you: do not stop without speaking to me.’ I replied: ‘Your face I once wept over at your death, gives me no less grief now, even to weeping, seeing it so tortured. Then tell me, in the name of God, what strips you of flesh: do not make me speak while I am wondering, since he talks badly who is filled with another longing.’

            And he to me: ‘A power flows down, into the water, and into the tree we have left behind, from the Eternal Will, the cause of my wasting. All these people who weep and sing, purify themselves again, through hunger and thirst, for having followed Gluttony to excess. The perfume that rises from the fruit, and from the spray that spreads over the leaves, kindles, in us, the desire to eat and drink. And our pain is not merely renewed the once as we circle this road: I say pain, but ought to say solace, since that desire leads us to the tree which led Christ to say ‘Eli’, when he freed us with his blood.’

            And I said to him: ‘Forese, less than five years have revolved since the day when you left the world for a better life. If the power to sin ended in you before the hour of sacred sorrow came, that marries us again to God, how have you come here? I thought I would still find you below, where time is repaid, for time alive.’ And he to me: ‘My Nella, by her river of tears, has enabled me, so soon, to drink the sweet wormwood of affliction: by her devout prayers and her sighs she has drawn me from the shores of waiting, and freed me from the other terraces.’


Purgatorio Canto XXIII:91-133 The Immodesty of the Florentine Women


            ‘My widow, whom I loved deeply, is the more precious and dear to God the more solitary she is in her good works, since the savage women of mountainous Barbagia in Sardinia are far more modest, than those of that Barbagia, Florence, where I left her. O sweet brother, what would you have me say? Already I foresee a time to come, to which this time will not be too distant, when, from the pulpits, the brazen women of Florence will be forbidden to go round displaying their breasts and nipples.

            When was there ever a Saracen woman, or woman of Barbary, who needed disciplining spiritually or otherwise, to force her to cover herself? But the shameless creatures would already have their mouths open to howl, if they realised what swift Heaven is readying for them, since, if prophetic vision does not deceive me, they will be crying before he, who is now calmed with a lullaby, covers his cheeks with soft down.

            Brother, I beg you, do not hide your state from me any longer: you see that all these people, not only I, are gazing at where you veil the sun.’ At which I said to him: ‘If you recall to mind what you have been with me, and I have been with you, the present memory alone will still be heavy. He who goes in front of me, turned me from that life, the other day, when the Moon, the sister of that Sun, shone full for you,’ (and I pointed to the sun).

‘This one has led me through the deep night, from the truly dead, in this true flesh, that follows him. From there his companionship has brought me, climbing and circling the mountain, which straightens you, whom the world made crooked.

He speaks of my being his comrade, till I am there where Beatrice is: there I must remain without him. Virgil it is who tells me so (and I pointed to him), and this other shade is one for whom every cliff of your region, that now frees him from itself, shook, before.


Purgatorio Canto XXIV:1-33  The Gluttonous


            Speech did not make the journey go more slowly, nor the journey speech, but we went strongly, like a ship driven by a favourable wind. And the shades, that seemed doubly dead, drew their amazement from me through the pits of their eyes, knowing I lived.

            And I, continuing my conversation, said: ‘Perhaps Statius climbs more slowly than he might, because of the other. But tell me where Piccarda is, if you know: tell me if I can see anyone of note, amongst the people who stare at me.’ He said, first: ‘My sister - I do not know if she was more beautiful or more good - now triumphs, rejoicing in her crown on high Olympus,’ and then: ‘It is not forbidden to name anyone here, since our features are so shrivelled by hunger.

            This (and he pointed with his finger) is Bonagiunta, Bonagiunta of Lucca: and that face beyond him, leaner than the rest, is Martin, who held the Holy Church in his embrace: he was from Tours, and purges the eels of Bolsena, and the sweet wine.’

            He named many others to me, one by one, and all seemed pleased to be named, so that I did not see a single black look. I saw Ubaldino della Pila, snapping his teeth on the void, out of hunger, and Bonifazio who was pastor to many peoples with his crozier. I saw Messer Marchese, who had time before, at Forlì, to drink, with less reason for thirst, and yet was such that he was never sated.


Purgatorio Canto XXIV:34-99 Bonagiunta


            But like he who looks, and then values one more than another, so I did him of Lucca, who seemed to know me. He was murmuring, what sounded like ‘Gentucca’, there where he was undergoing the wounds of justice, which pares them so. I said: ‘O spirit, who seem longing to talk with me, speak so that I can understand you, and satisfy us both with your speech.’ He began: ‘A woman is born, and is not yet married, who will make my city pleasing to you, however men may reprove the fact. You will go from here with that prophecy: if you have understood my murmuring wrongly, the real events will yet make it clear to you.

            But tell me if, here, I see him who invented the new verse beginning: “Donne, ch’avete intelletto d’Amore: Ladies, who have knowledge of Love.” ’ And I to him: ‘I am one who, when Love inspires him, takes note, and then, writes it in the way he dictates within.’ He said: ‘Brother, O I see, now, the knot that held back Jacopo da Lentino, Fra Guittone, and me, from the dolce stil nuovo, the new sweet style I hear. Truly, I can see how your pens closely follow him who dictates, which certainly was not true of ours. And he who sets out to search any further, cannot distinguish one style from the other,’ and he fell silent, as if satisfied.

            As birds that winter on the Nile, sometimes crowd into the air, then fly more quickly and in files, so all the people there, turning round, quickened their steps, made swift by leanness and longing. And as someone tired of running lets his companions go by, and walks, until the heaving of his chest has eased, so Forese let the sacred flock pass, and came on behind them, with me, saying: ‘When will I see you again?’

            I answered him: ‘I do not know how long I may live, but my return will not be soon enough for my longing not to be before me, at the shore, since the place appointed for me there, is, day by day, more naked of good, and seems condemned to sad ruin.’ Now go, he said, for I see him, who is most guilty, Corso Donati, dragged at the tail of a beast towards the valley where sin is never purged. The beast goes faster at every pace, ever increasing, until it smashes him, and leaves his body vilely broken.

            Those gyres above (and he lifted his eyes towards the sky) do not have long to turn before what my words may no longer say is clear to you. Now stay behind, since time is precious in this region, and I lose too much of it, matching my pace to yours.’ He left us, with greater strides, as a horseman sometimes issues at a gallop from a troop riding past, and goes to win the honour of the first encounter: and I was left by the road, with the two who were such great marshals in the world.


Purgatorio Canto XXIV:100-154 Examples of Gluttony: The Angel


            And when he had gone so far in front of us that my eyes chased after him, as my mind did his words, the green and laden boughs of another fruit-tree appeared, and not far off, since I had just come round to it. I saw people under it lifting their hands, and calling out to the leaves, like spoilt, greedy, children begging, and the one they plead with does not reply, but holds up high what they want, and does not hide it, to make their longing more acute.

            Then they went away, undeceived, and now, we came, to that great tree that denies all those prayers and tears. ‘Go on, without coming near: higher up there is a tree that Eve ate from, and this was grafted from it.’ So a voice spoke, among the branches: at which Virgil, Statius, and I went on by the cliff side. It said: ‘Remember the accursed Centaurs formed in the clouds, who fought Theseus, with their bi-formed bellies sated with food and wine: and remember the Hebrews who appeared fastidious when drinking, so that Gideon would not have them for his comrades when he came down from the hills to Midian.’

            So we passed, close to one of the two sides, hearing sins of Gluttony, followed once by woeful victories. Then, a thousand steps or more took us forwards, scattered along the empty road, each reflecting in silence.

            ‘What do you journey considering so deeply, you solitary three?’ a voice said suddenly, so that I started, as timid creatures do when scared. I lifted my head to see who it was, and glass or metal was never seen as red and glowing in a furnace as the one I saw, who said: ‘If it please you to climb, here you must turn: they go from here, who wish to journey towards peace.’

            His face had robbed me of sight, so I turned back towards my teachers, like one who follows the instructions he hears. And, as the May breeze, announcing the dawn, moves and breathes, impregnated with herbs and flowers, so I felt a wind on my forehead, and I clearly felt the feathers move, that blew an ambrosial perfume to my senses: and I heard a voice say: ‘Blessed are those who are so illumined by grace, that the love of sensation does not fire too great a desire in their hearts, and who only hunger for what is just.’


Purgatorio Canto XXV:1-79 Human Embryology and Consciousness


            It was an hour when nothing prevented our climbing, since the Sun had relinquished the meridian circle to Taurus, while night held Scorpio. So we entered the gap, one behind the other, climbing the stair, whose narrowness separates the climbers, as men do who do not stop, but go on, whatever happens to them, when the spur of necessity pricks them. And like the young stork that raises its wing, wanting to fly, and drops it again, not daring to leave the nest, so my longing to question was lit and quenched, getting as far as the movement one makes when preparing to speak.

            My sweet father did not stop, even though the pace was quick, but said: ‘Fire the arrow of your speech, that you have drawn to the notch.’ Then I opened my mouth confidently, and began: ‘How can one become lean, there, when food is unnecessary?’ He said: ‘If you recall how Meleager wasted away, as the firebrand was consumed, it would not seem so hard for you to understand: or if you thought how your insubstantial image, in the mirror, moves with your every movement, what seems hard would seem easy to you. But in order for you to satisfy your desire, Statius is here, and I call on him, and beg him, to heal your wounds.’

            Statius replied: ‘If I explain the eternal justice he has seen, even though you are here, let my excuse be that I cannot refuse you anything.’ Then he began: ‘Son, if your mind listens to and considers my words, they will enlighten you about what you ask.

            Perfect blood, which is never absorbed by the thirsty veins, and remains behind, like food you remove from the table, acquires a power in the heart sufficient to invigorate all the members, as does the blood that flows through the veins to become those members. Absorbed again it falls to the part, of which it is more fitting to be silent than speak, and, from that part, is afterwards distilled into the partner’s blood, in nature’s vessel. There one blood is mingled with the other’s: one disposed to be passive, the other active because of the perfect place it springs from: and mixed with the former, begins to work, first coagulating, then giving life, to what is has formed for its own material.

            The active power having become a spirit, like a plant’s, different in that it is developing, while the plant’s is developed, now operates so widely that it moves and feels, like a sea-sponge, and then begins to develop organs, as sites for the powers of which it is the seed. Now, son, the power that flows from the heart of the begetter, expands, and distends, into human members as nature intends: but you do not yet understand how it becomes human, from being animal: this is the point which made one wiser than you, Averroës, err, so that he made the intellectual faculty separate from the spirit, because he found no organ that it occupied.

            Open your mind to the truth which follows, and understand that as soon as the structure of the brain is complete in the embryo, the First Mover turns to it, delighting in such a work of nature, and breathes a new spirit into it, filled with virtue, that draws into its own substance what it finds already active, and forms a single soul, that lives and feels, and is conscious of itself. And so that you wonder less at my words, consider the heat of the sun, which becomes wine when joined to the juice of the grape.


Purgatorio Canto XXV:80-108 The Soul after death: The Shadows


            And when Lachesis has no more thread to draw, the soul frees itself from the flesh, taking both the human and divine powers: the other faculties falling silent: memory, intellect, and will far keener in action than they were before. It falls, by itself, wondrously, without waiting, to one of these shores: there it first learns its location.

            As soon as that place encircles it, the formative power radiates round, in quantity and form as in the living members: and as saturated air displays diverse colours, by the light of another body reflected in it, so the surrounding air takes on that form that the soul, which rests there, powerfully prints on it: and then, like the flame that follows fire wherever it moves, the spirit is followed by its new form.

            Since it is in this way that it takes its appearance, it is called a shadow: and in this way it shapes the organs of every sense including sight. In this way we speak, and laugh, form tears, and sighs, which you might have heard, around the mountain. The shade is shaped according to how desires and other affections stir us, and this is the cause of what you wondered at.’


Purgatorio Canto XXV:109-139 The Lustful and their Punishment


            And now we had reached the last turn, and had wheeled round to the right, and were conscious of other things. There the cliff hurls out flames, and the terrace breathes a blast upwards that reflects them, and keeps the path free of them, so that we had to go by the side that was clear, one by one: and I feared the fire on one side, and on the other feared the fall. My leader said: ‘Along this track, a careful watch must be kept, because an error can easily be made.’

            I heard: ‘Summae Deus clementiae: God of supreme mercy’ sung then, in the heart of the great burning, that made me no less keen to turn away: and I saw spirits walking through the flames, so that I looked at them, and at my steps, with a divergent gaze, from time to time. After the end of that hymn, they shouted aloud: ‘Virum non cognosco: I know not a man,’ then they softly recommenced the hymn. At the end they shouted again: ‘Diana kept to the woods, and chased Callisto away, who had known the taint of Venus.’

            Then they returned to singing: then cried the names of women and husbands who were chaste, as virtue and marriage demand. And I believe this mode is sufficient for the whole time that the fire burns them: the last wound must be healed, by this treatment, and this diet.


Purgatorio Canto XXVI:1-66 The Lustful


            While we were going along the brink, like this, one behind the other, the good Master often said: ‘Take care, let me caution you.’ The sun was striking my shoulder, his rays already changing the whole aspect of the west from azure to white, and I made the flames appear redder in my shadow, and many spirits I saw, noted, even so slight a sign, as they passed. This was the cause that gave them a reason to speak about me, and they began to say, one to another: ‘He does not seem to be an insubstantial body.’

            Then some of them made towards me, as far as they could, always careful not to emerge, to where they would be no longer burning. ‘O you who go behind the others, perhaps out of reverence not tardiness, answer me who burn in thirst and fire: and your reply is needed not by me alone, since all these thirst for it, more than Indians or Ethiopians do for water. Tell us how it is that you make a wall against the sunlight, as if you were not held in death’s net.’ So one of them spoke to me, and I would have revealed myself then and there, had I not been intent on something strange that appeared, since people were coming through the middle of the fiery road, their faces opposite these people, and it made me pause, in wonder.

            There I see, each shadow hurry to kiss someone on the other side, without staying, satisfied by a short greeting: ants, in their dark battalions, embrace each other like this, perhaps to know their path and their luck.  As soon as they break off the friendly clasp, before the first step sends them onwards, each one tries to shout the loudest: the newcomers: ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ and the others: ‘Pasiphaë enters the wooden cow, so that the young bull may run to meet her lust.’

            Then like cranes that fly, some to the northern mountains, others towards the desert: the latter shy of frost, the former of the sun: so one crowd passes on, and the other comes past, and they return, weeping, to their previous singing, and to the cries most suitable to them: and those same voices that entreated me, before, drew closer to me, showing their desire to listen, in their aspect.

            I who had seen this desire, twice, began: ‘O spirits, certain, sometime, of reaching a state of peace, my limbs have not remained over there, green or ripe in age, but are here, with me, with all their blood and sinews. I go upwards from here, in order to be blind no longer: there is a lady there above who wins grace for us, by means of which I bring my mortal body through your world. But - and may your desires may be satisfied quickly, and Heaven house you, which stretches furthest, filled with love – tell me who you are, so that I may write it on paper, and who that crowd are, vanishing behind your backs?’


Purgatorio Canto XXVI:67-111 Guido Guinicelli, the poet


            Each shadow in appearance seemed as troubled as the dazed mountain man becomes, when he enters the city, staring about speechlessly, in his roughness and savagery, but when they had thrown off their amazement, which is soon quenched in finer hearts, the first shade who had made his request to me, began: ‘Blessed spirit, who are gathering knowledge of our borders, to achieve the holier life! The people who do not come along with us, offended in that way that made Caesar hear ‘Regina:Queen’ called after him in his triumph, so they leave us, shouting: “Sodom” reproving themselves, as you have heard, and helping the burning with the heat of their shame.

            Our sin was heterosexual, but because we did not obey human law, and followed our appetites like beasts, when we part from them, to our infamy we call her name, Pasiphaë, that made herself a beast, in the beast-like framework.

            Now you know our actions, and what we were guilty of: if you want to know, perhaps, who we are, by name, there is not time enough to tell you, nor could I. But I will indeed make your wish to know me wane: I am Guido Guinicelli, and am purging myself already, because I made a full repentance, before the end.’

            As in the midst of Lycurgus’s sorrow, her two sons were on seeing their mother Hypsipyle again, so I was, though I cannot rise to those heights, when I heard my ‘father’, and the ‘father’ of others who are my betters, name himself, he, who always made use of the sweet and graceful rhymes of love: and without speaking or hearing, I went on, thinking, gazing at him for a long while, and did not move closer there because of the fire.

            When I was filled with gazing, I offered my services to him, eagerly, with that strength that compels belief in the other. And he said to me: ‘I hear that you leave tracks so deep and clear, that Lethe cannot remove or dim them. But if your words just now expressed truth, tell me why you demonstrate, in looks and speech, that you hold me so dear.’


Purgatorio Canto XXVI:112-148 Arnaut Daniel, the poet


            And I to him: ‘Your sweet lines, whose very ink is precious, as long as the modern style shall last.’ He said: ‘O my brother, this one whom I indicate with my finger,’ (and he pointed to a spirit in front) ‘was the better craftsman of his mother tongue. He surpassed all who wrote love-verses and prose romances, and let those fools talk who think that Giraut de Borneil, he of Limoges, excels. They turn their faces towards rumour rather than truth, and confirm their opinions before they listen to art or reason. So, many of our fathers did, with Guittone, shouting praise after praise of him, but truth has won at last, with most people.       

            Now if you have such breadth of privilege, that you are allowed to go to that cloister, where Christ is head of the college, say a Pater Noster there for me, as much of one as is as needed by us, in this world, where the power to sin is no longer ours.’ Then, perhaps in order to give way, to another following closely, he vanished through the fire, like a fish diving, through water, to the depths.

            I drew forward, a little, towards the one Guido had pointed to, and said that my longing was preparing a place of gratitude for his name. And, freely, he began to speak:


            ‘Tan m’abelis vostre cortes deman,

            qu’ieu no-m puesc, ni-m vueil a vos cobrire.


            Ieu sui Arnaut, que plor e vau cantan;

            consiros vei la passada falor,

            e vei jausen lo jorn, qu’esper, denan.


            Ara vos prec, per acquella valor

            que vos guida al som de l’escalina,

            sovgna vos a temps de ma dolor.’


            ‘Your sweet request of me is so pleasing,

            that I cannot, and will not, hide me from you.


            I am Arnaut, who weeping goes and sings:

            seeing, gone by, the folly in my mind,

            joyful, I hope for what the new day brings.


            By that true good, I beg you, that you find,

            guiding you to the summit of the stairway,

think of my sorrow, sometimes, as you climb.’


Then he hid himself in the refining fire.


Purgatorio Canto XXVII:1-45 The Angel of Chastity


            So the sun stood, as when he shoots out his first rays, there at Jerusalem, where his Maker shed his blood; as when Ebro’s river falls under heaven-borne Libra’s scales, and Ganges’s waves are scorched by mid-day heat: so there the daylight was fading when God’s joyful Angel appeared to us. He was standing beyond the flames, on the bank, and singing: ‘Beati mundo corde: Blessed are the pure in heart,’ in a voice more thrilling than ours. Then, when we were nearer to him, he said: ‘You may go no further, O sacred spirits, if the fire has not first bitten you: enter it, and do not be deaf to the singing beyond,’ at which, on hearing him, I became like someone laid in the grave.

            I bent forward, over my linked hands, staring at the fire, and, powerfully conceiving human bodies, once seen, being burnt alive. The kindly guides then turned to me, and Virgil said: ‘My son, there may be torment here, but not death. Remember, remember......if I led you safely, on Geryon’s back, what will I do now, closer to God? Believe, in truth, that if you lived in this womb of flames, even for a thousand years, they could not scorch a single hair: and if you think, perhaps, that I deceive you, go towards them, and gain belief, by holding the edge of your clothes out, in your hands. Now forget, forget all fear: turn this way, and go on, in safety.’

            And I, still rooted to the spot: and conscience against it. When he saw me standing there still rooted, and stubborn, troubled a little, he said: ‘Now, see, my son, this wall lies between you and Beatrice.’

            As Pyramus opened his eyes on the point of death, at Thisbe’s name, and gazed at her, there, where the mulberry was reddened, so, my stubbornness softened, I turned to my wise leader, on hearing that name that always stirs in my mind. At which, he shook his head, and said: ‘What? Do we desire to stay on this side?’ Then he smiled, as one smiles at a child, won over with an apple.


Purgatorio Canto XXVII:46-93 The Passage through the Fire


            Then he went into the fire, in front of me, begging Statius, who, for a long distance before, had separated us, to come behind.

            When I was inside, I would have thrown myself into molten glass to cool myself, so immeasurable was the burning there. My sweet father, to comfort me, went on speaking only of Beatrice, saying: ‘I seem, already, to see her eyes.’

            A voice guided us, that was singing on the far side, and, only intent on it, we came out, there, where the ascent begins. ‘Venite benedicti patris mei: Come ye blessed of my father,’ sounded from inside a light that shone there, so bright it overcame me, and I could not look at it. It added: ‘The sun is sinking, and the evening comes: do not stay, but quicken your steps, while the west is not yet dark.’

            The way climbed straight through the rock, in such a direction that I blocked the light, of the already low sun, in front of me. And we had attempted only a few steps, when I, and the wise, saw, because of the shadow, which vanished, that the sun had set behind us.  And before night held all sovereignty, and the horizon, through all its immense spaces, had become one colour, each of us made a bed, of a step: since the law of the Mount took the power, not the desire, to climb, from us.

            As mountain goats, that have been quick and wanton on the summits, before they are fed, become tame, ruminating, silently in the shade, when the sun is hot, guarded by the shepherd leaning on his staff, and watching them as he leans: and as the shepherd lodging in the open, keeps quiet vigil, at night, near his flock, guarding it, in case a wild beast scatters it: so were we, all three, I, the goat, and they, the shepherds, closed in by the high rock, on both sides.

            Little could be seen there of the outside world, but through that little space I saw the stars, brighter and bigger than they used to be. As I ruminated, like this, and gazed at them, sleep came to me: sleep that often knows the future, before the fact exists.


Purgatorio Canto XXVII:94-114 Dante’s third dream


            In that hour, I think, when Cytherean Venus, who always seems burning with the fire of love, first shone from the east towards the Mount, a lady appeared to me in a dream, young and beautiful and going along a plain gathering flowers: and she said, singing: ‘Whoever asks my name, know that I am Leah, and go moving my lovely hands around to make a garland. I adorn myself here, to look pleasing in the glass, but my sister, Rachel, never moves from her mirror, and sits there all day long. She is as happy to gaze at her lovely eyes, as I am to adorn myself with my hands: action satisfies me: her, contemplation.’

            And now, at the pre-dawn splendour, which grows more welcome to travellers, when, returning, they lodge nearer home, the shadows of night were vanishing, on all sides, and my sleep with them, at which I rose, seeing the great Masters had already risen.


Purgatorio Canto XXVII:115-142 Virgil’s last words to Dante


            ‘That sweet fruit, that mortal anxiety goes in search of, on so many branches, will give your hunger peace today.’ Virgil employed such words to me, and there were never gifts equalling these in sweetness. Such deep longing, on longing, overcame me, to be above, that afterwards, I felt my wings growing, for the flight, at every step.

            When the stairway, below us, was done, and we were on the topmost step, Virgil fixed his eyes on me, and said: ‘Son you have seen the temporal and the eternal fire, and have reached a place where I, by myself, can see no further. Here I have led you, by skill and art: now, take your delight for a guide: you are free of the steep path, and the narrow. See, there, the sun that shines on your forehead, see the grass, the flowers and the bushes, that the earth here produces by itself.

            While the lovely, joyful eyes, that, weeping, made me come to you, are arriving, here you can sit down, or walk amongst all this. Do not expect another word, or sign, from me. Your will is free, direct and whole, and it would be wrong not to do, as it demands: and, by that, I crown you, and mitre you, over yourself.’


Purgatorio Canto XXVIII:1-51 Matilda gathering flowers


            Now, eager to explore, within and round, the dense green of the divine wood, that moderated new daylight to my eyes, I left the mountainside without delay, crossing the plain, slowly, slowly, over the ground, perfumed on every side. A sweet breath of continuous air, struck my forehead, with no more force than a gentle wind, before which the branches, immediately shaking, were all leaning towards that western quarter where the sacred Mount casts its first shadow, not bent so far from their vertical that the little birds, in the treetops, left off practising their art: but singing, in true delight, they welcomed the first breezes among the leaves, that murmured a refrain to their songs: such as gathers, from bough to bough, through the pine-woods on Chiassi’s shore, when Aeolus frees the Sirocco.

            Already my slow steps had taken me into the ancient wood, so far that I could not see where I had entered: and, see, a stream prevented my going further, that, with its little waves, bent the grass that issued from its shore, towards the left. All the waters that seem purest, here, would appear tainted, compared to that, which conceals nothing: though it flows dark, dark in perpetual shade, that never allows the sun or moonlight there.

            I rested my feet, and, with my eyes I passed beyond the stream, to stare at the vast multitude of fresh flowers of May, and, just as something suddenly appears, that sets all other thoughts aside, through wonderment, a lady, all alone, appeared to me, going along singing, gathering flowers on flowers, with which all her path was painted. I said to her: ‘I beg you, lovely lady, who warm yourself at Love’s rays, if I can believe appearances, so often witness to the heart, may it please you to come nearer to the stream, so that I can know what you sing. You make me think of where, and how, Proserpine seemed, when Ceres, her mother, lost her, and she, the Spring.


Purgatorio Canto XXVIII:52-138 The Garden’s winds, plants and waters


            As a lady, who is dancing, turns, with feet close to each other, and to the ground, and barely placing foot in front of foot, she turned to me, among the red and yellow flowers, as a virgin who looks downwards, modestly: and satisfied my prayer, drawing so near, that the sweet sound, and its meaning, reached me.

            As soon as she was there, where the grass is already bathed by the waves of the lovely stream, she granted me the gift of raising her eyes. I do not think as bright a light shone, beneath Venus’s eyelids, when she was, accidentally, wounded by her son, Cupid, against his wish. Matilda smiled, from the right bank, opposite, gathering more flowers in her hands, which the high ground bears without seeds. The river kept us three steps apart, but the Hellespont, that Xerxes crossed, a check to human pride to this day, was not hated more by Leander, because of its turbulent wash, between Sestos and Abydos, than this stream was by me, because it did not open then, for me.

            She began: ‘You are new, and perhaps because I am smiling here, in this place chosen as a nest for the human race, wonderingly, you have some doubts: but the psalm “Delectasti: you have made me glad” sheds light that might un-fog your intellect. And you, who are in front, and entreated me, say if you want to hear anything more, since I came ready to answer your questions, until you are sated.’

            ‘The water,’ I said, ‘and the sound of the forest, are struggling in me with a new belief, in something, I have heard, contrary to this.’ At which she said: ‘I will tell you the cause of what you wonder at, and I will clear away the fog that annoys you.

            The highest Good, who is his own sole joy, created Man good, and for goodness, and gave him this place as a pledge of eternal peace. Through Man’s fault, he did not stay here long: through Man’s fault, he exchanged honest laughter, and sweet play, for tears and sweat. So that the storms, caused below this Mount, by the exhalations of water and earth, following the heat as far as they can, should not hurt Man, it rose this far towards Heaven, free of them, from beyond where it is closed off.

            Now, since the whole of the air turns in a circle with the primal circling, unless its motion is blocked in some direction, that motion strikes this summit, which is wholly free in the clear air, and makes the woods resound because they are so solid: and a plant that is struck has such power, that it impregnates the air with its virtue, and the air, in its circling, scatters it round: and the other soil, depending on its quality and its situation, conceives, and produces various plants, with various virtues.

            If this were understood, over there, it would not seem strange when some plant takes root without obvious seed. And you must know that the sacred plain, where you are, is full of every kind of seed, and bears fruit in it that is not gathered over there.

            The water you see does not rise from a spring, fed by the moisture that the cold condenses, as a river does that gains and loses volume, but issues from a constant, unfailing fountain, that, by God’s will, recovers as much as it pours out freely, on every side.

            On this side it falls with a power that takes away the memory of sin: on the other, with one that restores the memory of every good action. On this side it is called Lethe, on that side Eunoë, and does not act completely unless it is tasted first on this side, and then on that. It surpasses all other savours, and though your thirst to know may be fully sated, even though I say no more to you, I will give you this corollary, out of grace, and I do not think my words will be less precious to you, because they go beyond my promise to you.


Purgatorio Canto XXVIII:139-148 The Golden Age


            Perhaps, in ancient times, those who sang of the Golden Age, and its happy state, dreamed of this place, on Parnassus. Here the root of Humanity was innocent: here is everlasting Spring, and every fruit: this is the nectar of which they all speak.’

            Then I turned straight back towards the poets, and saw that, with smiles, they had heard the last elucidation. Then I turned my face to the lovely lady.


Purgatorio Canto XXIX:1-36 The Divine Pageant


            She continued, from the end of her words, singing, like a lady in love: ‘Beati, quorum tecta sunt peccata: Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven.’ And, like the nymphs who used, alone, to wander through the woodland shadows, one wishing to see the sun, another to flee it, she moved then, walking along the bank, against the stream, and I across from her, one small step answering the other.

            Her steps, with mine, were not a hundred, when both banks curved alike, so that I turned eastwards. And our journey was not far yet, when the lady turned completely to me, saying: ‘My brother, look and listen.’ And see a sudden brightness flooded, through the great forest, on every side, so that I was unsure if it was lightning. But since lightning vanishes, as it comes, and that shone brighter and brighter, lasting, I said, in my mind: ‘What is this thing?’

            And a sweet melody ran through the glowing air, at which righteous zeal made me condemn Eve’s boldness, who a woman, alone, and newly created, there, where Heaven and Earth were obedient, could not bear to be under any veil, which if she had borne, devoutly, I would have known these ineffable delights earlier, and for longer.

            While I was moving among such first fruits of the eternal bliss, enraptured and still longing for greater joys, the air turned to blazing fire, under the green branches in front of us, and the sweet sound was distinguished as a song.


Purgatorio Canto XXIX:37-61 The Seven Branched Candlesticks


            O sacred, virgin Muses, if ever I endured hunger, cold or vigil for you, the occasion spurs me on to ask my reward. Now I need Helicon to stream out for me, and Urania to aid me with her choir, to put into words, things that are hard to imagine.

            A little further on, the illusion of seven golden trees appeared, caused by the great space still between us and them: but when I had come nearer, so that the common object, that can deceive the senses, had not lost any of its details, the power that creates matter for reasoning, realised that branched candlesticks were what they were, and the content of the singing was: ‘Hosanna.’ The lovely pageant was blazing out, above, far brighter than the mid-month moon, at midnight.

            I turned full of wonder, towards the good Virgil, and he replied with a face no less stunned. Then I turned my face back towards the sublime things, which moved towards us, so slowly, that they would be out-paced by a new bride.


Purgatorio Canto XXIX:61-81 The Seven Banners


            The lady cried to me: ‘Why are you only so ardent for the sight of the bright lights, and pay no attention to what comes behind them?’

            Then I saw people, dressed in white, following as if behind their leader: and there was never such whiteness, here, among us. The water shone brightly on my left, and reflected my left side, like a mirror, if I gazed into it. When I was situated on the edge, so that the river alone separated me from them, I stopped to see better, and I saw the flames advance, leaving the air behind them tinted, and they had the appearance of trailing banners, so that the air above remained coloured in seven bands, of the hues in which the sun creates his bow, and Diana, the Moon, her halo.

            These banners streamed to the rear, way beyond my sight, and, as far as I could judge, the outermost ones were ten paces apart.


Purgatorio CantoXXIX:82-105 The Elders: The Four Beasts


            Under as lovely a sky as I could describe, came twenty -four Elders, two by two, crowned with lilies. They were all singing: ‘Blessed art thou among the daughters of Adam, and blessed to all eternity be thy beauties.’ When the flowers, and the other fresh herbs, on the other bank opposite, were free of all those chosen people, four creatures came after them, each one crowned with green leaves, as star follows star in the sky.

            Each was plumed with six wings, the feathers full of eyes, and the eyes of Argus, if they were living, would be like them. Reader, I will scatter no more words, to describe their form, since other duties constrain me, so that I cannot be lavish here, but read Ezekiel, who pictures them as he saw them, coming from the icy firmament in whirlwind, cloud and fire, and as you will find them in his pages, so they were here, except that John, the Divine, is with me as to the wings, and differs from him.


Purgatorio Canto XXIX:106-132 The Chariot: The Grifon: The Virtues


            The space within the four of them contained a triumphal, two-wheeled, chariot drawn by a Grifon, harnessed at the neck. And the Grifon stretched each wing upwards between the centre and three of the banners, so that he did no harm by cutting across them. The wings rose so high their tips could not be seen. Its members were golden, where he was birdlike, and the rest white mixed with brilliant red. Neither Scipio Africanus nor, indeed, Augustus ever gladdened Rome with so magnificent a chariot, and the Sun’s would be poor by comparison, the Sun’s, that was consumed when Phaethon strayed, at Earth’s devout request, when Jupiter was darkly just.

            Three ladies came dancing, in a circle, by the right hand wheel: one was so red she would scarcely be visible in the fire: the next was as if her flesh and bones were made of emerald: the third seemed of newly fallen snow: and now they seemed led by the white, and now by the red, and from her song the others took their metre, slow or quick.

            By the left hand wheel, four dressed in purple, made festive, following the lead of the one who had three eyes in her face.


Purgatorio Canto XXIX:133-154 Luke, Paul and others


            Behind the group I have described, I saw two aged men, of similar bearing, but dissimilar clothing, grave and venerable: one was Luke, showing himself to be of the school of that supreme Hippocrates, whom nature made physician to the creatures she most cares for: the other, Paul, displayed the opposite role, with a sharp, gleaming sword, so that it made me afraid, even on this side of the stream.

            Then I saw four, of humble aspect: and behind them all, a solitary old man, John the Divine, coming by, with a visionary face, as if dreaming. And all these seven were costumed like the first company, but had no garland of lilies round their heads, rather one of roses and other crimson flowers, so that someone who saw them close to would have said they were all on fire above their eyes.

            And when the chariot was opposite me, a clap of thunder was heard: and those noble people seemed to have their further progress stopped, and halted there with the first banners.


Purgatorio Canto XXX:1-48 Beatrice


            When those Seven Lights of the first Heaven had halted, that never knew setting or rising, or the veil of any other mist but sin, and which made all aware of their duty, just as the lower seven, Ursa Minor, guide the helmsman towards port, the people of truth, who had first appeared, between them and the Grifon, turned towards the chariot, as if towards their place of peace: and one of them, as if sent from Heaven, lifted his voice, three times, singing: ‘Veni sponsa de Libano: Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse,’ and all the others sang after him.

            As the Saints at the Last Judgment will rise, ready, each one, from his tomb, singing Halleluiah, with renewed voice, so a hundred rose, in the divine chariot, ad vocem tanti senis, at the voice of so great an Elder, the ministers and messengers of eternal life. All were saying: ‘Benedictus qui venis: Blessed art thou that comest’ and, scattering flowers above and around, ‘Manibus o date lilia plenis: O give lilies with full hands.’

            I have seen, before now, at dawn of day, the eastern sky all rose-red, and the rest of the heavens serene and clear, and seen the sun’s face rise, veiled, so that because of the moderating mists, the eye, for a long while, endured him: and so, in a cloud of flowers, that lifted from the angelic hands, and fell again, inside and beyond, a lady appeared to me, crowned with olive-leaves, over a white veil, dressed in colours of living flame, beneath a green cloak.

            And my spirit, that had endured so great a space of time, since it had been struck with awe, trembling, in her presence, through the hidden virtue that issued from her, and without having greater knowledge through my eyes, felt the intense power of former love.

            As soon as that high virtue struck my sight, which had already transfixed me, before I was out of my childhood, I turned to the left, with that faith with which a little boy runs to his mother, when he is afraid or troubled, saying to Virgil: ‘There is a barely a drop of blood in me that does not tremble: I know the tokens of the ancient flame.’


Purgatorio Canto XXX:49-81 Virgil has left: Dante is filled with Shame


            But Virgil had left us, bereft of himself, Virgil, sweetest father, Virgil to whose guidance I gave myself: and all the beauties, that our ancient mother lost, did not prevent my dew-washed cheeks from turning dark again with tears.

            ‘Dante, do not weep, because Virgil goes, do not weep yet, not yet, since you must weep soon for another reason.’ Like an admiral, who stands, at stern and prow, to inspect the crews who man the other ships, and encourage them to brave action, so I saw the lady who first appeared to me, veiled, beneath the angelic festival, directing her gaze towards me on this side of the stream, from the left of the chariot, when I turned at the sound of my own name, that I write here, from necessity.

            Although the veil which draped her head, crowned with Minerva’s olive leaves, did not allow her to appear clearly, she continued to speak, regally, and severely, like someone who holds back the sharpest words till last.

            ‘Look at me, truly: I truly am, I truly am Beatrice. How did you dare to approach the Mount? Did you not know that here Man is happy?’ My eyes dropped to the clear water, but seeing myself there, I looked back at the grass, so much shame bowed my forehead down. As the mother seems severe to her child, so she seemed to me: since the savour of sharp pity tastes of bitterness.


Purgatorio Canto XXX:82-145 Her Mission to help him


            She fell silent, and immediately the Angels sang: ‘In te, Domine, speravi: In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust..’ but did not sing beyond the words: ‘pedes meos: my feet.’

            As the snow is frozen, among the living rafters, along Italy’s back, under the blast and stress of Slavonic winds, then, melting, trickles down inside its mass, if the ground, free of shadow, breathes, so that the fire seems to melt the candle, so I was frozen, without sighs or tears, before they, who always harmonise their notes with the melody of the eternal spheres, sang: but when I heard the compassion for me in their sweet harmony, greater than if they had said: ‘Lady, why do you shame him so?’ the ice that had closed around my heart became breath and water, and issued from my chest, in anguish, through my mouth and eyes.

            She, still standing on that side of the chariot I spoke of, directed her words, then, to the pitying Angels: ‘You are vigilant in the eternal day, so that night or sleep do not hide one measure of the earth’s journey along its way, from you: therefore I answer with greater care, so that he who weeps there can understand, so that his sorrow and his sin can be measured together.

            Not merely by the motion of the vast spheres, that direct each seed to some objective, according to the stars’ attendance, but by the generosity of divine graces, that yield their rain from such lofty vapours our eyes do not reach near them, this man, potentially, was such in his vita nuova, his new life, that every true skill would have grown miraculously in him. But the more good qualities the earth’s soil has, the more wild and coarse it becomes with evil seed, and lack of cultivation.

            For a while I supported him with my face: showing him my young eyes, I drew him with me, directed towards the right goal. But, as soon as I was on the threshold of my second age, and changed existences, he left me and gave himself to others. I was less dear to him, and less pleasing, when I rose from flesh to spirit, and beauty and virtue increased in me: and he turned his steps to an untrue road, chasing false illusions of good, that never completely repay their promise.

            Nor was it any use to me to gain inspiration to call him back to himself, in dreams, or otherwise: he valued them so little. He sank so low, that all means to save him were already useless, except that of showing him the lost people. To achieve that, I visited the gates of the dead, and, weeping, my prayers carried to him who guided him upwards.

            God’s highest law would be broken, if Lethe were gone by, and such food was tasted, without some tax of penitence, that sheds tears.’


Purgatorio Canto XXXI:1-42 Dante confesses his guilt


            She began again, continuing without delay, directing her speech with its sharp point towards me, whose edge had seemed keen to me: ‘O you, who are on that side of the sacred stream, say, say if it is true: your confession must meet the charge.’

            My powers were so confused, that the voice sounded and was gone before it emerged from its agent. She suffered a pause, then said: ‘What are you thinking of? Reply to me: the sad memories, you have, are not yet erased by the water.’ Confusion and fear, joined together, drove a ‘Yes’ from my mouth, so quietly that eyes were needed to interpret it.

            As a crossbow breaks, in string and bow, when fired at too high a tension, and the bolt hits the mark with lessened force, so I broke under this heavy charge, pouring out a flood of tears and sighs, and my voice died away in transit. At which she said to me: ‘In your desire for me, that led you to love that good, beyond which there is nothing to aspire to, what pits did you find in your path, or chains to bind, that you had to despoil your hope of passing upward? And what allurements, or attractions were displayed in others’ faces, to make you stray towards them?’

            After heaving a bitter sigh, I had hardly voice to answer, and my lips gave it shape with effort. I said, weeping: ‘Present things with false delights turned my steps away, as soon as your face had vanished.’ And she: ‘If you had stayed silent, or denied what you have confessed, your fault would be no less noted, such is the judge who knows of it. But when self-accusation of sin bursts from the mouth, in our Court, the grindstone blunts the edge.’


Purgatorio Canto XXXI:43-69 Beatrice rebukes him


            ‘However, in order that you might be ashamed of your errors, and might be more steadfast, on hearing the Siren sing next time, stifle the source of your weeping, and listen: then you will hear how my entombed flesh should have led you towards the opposite goal.

            Art and Nature never presented such delight to you, as the lovely body I was enclosed by, now scattered into dust: and if the greatest delight was lost to you, by my death, what mortal thing should have led you to desire it? Truly, at the first sting of false things, you should have risen after me, who was no longer such. Some young girl, or other vanity, of such brief enjoyment, should not have weighted your wings, to wait for more arrows. The young bird stays for two or three, but the net is spread, and the shaft fired, in vain, in front of the eyes of the fully-fledged.

            As children stand, mute with shame, listening with eyes on the ground, repentant, and self-confessing, so I stood, there. And she said: ‘Since you are grieving at what you hear, lift your bearded head, and you will have greater grief from what you see.’


Purgatorio Canto XXXI:70-90 Dante’s remorse


            A strong oak-tree is uprooted with less resistance by our northern winds, or the southerlies from Iarbas’s Africa, than I lifted my face, at her command. And when she spoke of my beard, as a man I knew the venom behind her words.

            And when my head was stretched forward, my eyes saw those primal creatures resting from strewing flowers, and my eyes, not yet quite in my control, saw Beatrice, turned towards the Grifon, which is Christ, one sole person in two natures.

            Under her veil, and beyond the stream, she seemed to me to exceed her former self, more than she exceeded others when she was here. The nettle of repentance stung me so fiercely, that the thing that drew me most to love of it, of all other things became most hateful to me. Such great remorse gnawed at my heart, that I fell, stunned, and what I became then she knows, who gave me cause.


Purgatorio Canto XXXI:91-145 Lethe: Beatrice unveiled


            Then, when my heart restored the power of outward things, I saw Matilda bending over me, that lady whom I had found alone, and she said: ‘Hold to me! Hold to me!’ She had drawn me into the river, up to my neck, and she went along, over the water, light as a shuttle, pulling me behind her.

            When I was near to the shore of the blessed, I heard: ‘Asperges me: cleanse me’ sung so sweetly, I cannot remember it, nor can I describe it. The lovely lady opened her arms, clasped my head, and submerged me so that I had to swallow water, then pulled me out, and led me, cleansed, in among the dance of the four lovely ones, and each took my arm, and singing, they began: ‘Here we are nymphs, and in heaven we are stars: before Beatrice descended to your world, we were ordained to be her helpers. We will take you to her eyes: but the three on the other side, who look more deeply, will sharpen your vision to the joyful inward light.’

            Then they lead me, with them, up to the Grifon’s breast, where Beatrice stood, turned towards us. They said: ‘See that you do not spare your eyes: we have set you in front of the bright emeralds, from which Love once shot his arrows at you.’ A thousand desires, hotter than flame, kept my eyes fixed on those shining eyes, that in turn stayed fixed on the Grifon. The dual-natured creature was reflected in them, just like the sun in a mirror, with the attributes now of the human, now of the divine. Reader, think how I marvelled, in my mind, to see the thing itself remain unmoving, and yet its image changing.

            While my spirit, filled with delight and wonder, was tasting that food, that satisfies and causes hunger, the other three ladies, revealing themselves to be of highest nobility in their aspect, came forward, dancing to their angelic measure. ‘Turn Beatrice, turn your sacred eyes, to your faithful one,’ was their song, ‘he, who has trodden so many steps to see you. By your grace, grace us, by unveiling your face to him, so that he may see the second beauty that you conceal.’

            O splendour of eternal living light, who of us is there, grown pale in the shadow of Parnassus, a drinker from its well, whose mind would not seem hampered, trying to render you as you appeared, there, where Heaven in harmony outlines you, when you showed yourself in the clear air?


Purgatorio Canto XXXII:1-36 The Pageant moves eastward


            My eyes were so fixed on satisfying their ten-year thirst, that all my other senses were dulled, and there was a wall of disinterest either side of them, so that her holy smile drew my vision in, towards itself, into its ancient net: at which my face was turned of necessity to my left to those goddesses, because I heard them say: ‘Too intensely.’

            And the state of vision the eyes are in, struck, just now, by the sun, left me sightless for a while: but once my sight adjusted to lesser things (I mean lesser compared to the greater object of perception, that I turned away from, of necessity) I saw the glorious pageant had turned round on the right and was returning, with the sun and the seven flames in its front.

            As a detachment turns to retreat, behinds its shields, and wheels, with the standard, before it can fully change fronts, that militia of the heavenly region, that led, passed us all by, before the chariot-pole had turned. Then the ladies returned near to the wheels, and the Grifon moved the holy burden forwards, without ruffling a plume.

            The lovely lady who drew me across the ford, and Statius, and I, were following the right wheel that made its turn following a tighter arc. So, an angelic melody accompanied our steps, passing through the tall forest that was empty, because of her who believed the serpent. We had gone as far, perhaps, as an arrow would travel in three flights, when Beatrice descended from the chariot.


Purgatorio Canto XXXII:37-63 The Mystic Tree


            I heard them all mutter: ‘Adam!’ Then they surrounded a tree, with every branch stripped of blossom, and foliage. The height of its canopy, that stretches out further the higher it reaches, would be marvelled at by the people of India, in their forests.

            ‘Blessed, are you, Grifon, who tears nothing sweet-tasting from this tree, with your beak, because the stomach is wrenched by it.’ So the others shouted, round the solid tree; and the creature of two natures said: ‘So the seed of righteousness is preserved.’ And turning to the pole he had dragged, he pulled it to the foot of the denuded trunk, and left, bound to it, the Cross, that came from it.

            As our trees bud, when the great light falls, mixed with the light that shines from Aries, following Pisces, the heavenly Fish, and each is newly dressed with colour, before the sun yokes his horses under the light of the following constellation, opening tinted more than rose and less than violet, so that tree renewed itself, that had naked branches before.

            I did not understand the hymn the people sang then, nor is it sung here, and I could not withstand its burden to the end.


Purgatorio Canto XXXII:64-99 Dante sleeps: Beatrice guards the chariot


            If I could depict how Argus’s pitiless eyes closed in sleep, hearing the tale of Syrinx, those eyes, whose greater power to watch, cost him so dear, I would paint how I fell asleep, as an artist does from a model: but who can truly show drowsiness? So, I move on, to when I woke, and say that a bright light tore the veil of sleep, and there was a cry: ‘Rise, what are you about?’

            As, at the Transfiguration, Peter, John, and James were brought, to behold the blossom of Christ, the apple-tree, that makes the Angels eager for its fruit, and makes a perpetual marriage in Heaven, and came to themselves, having been overcome, at the word by which Lazarus’s deeper sleep had been broken, and saw that Moses and Elias had vanished, and their Master’s white raiment changed, even so I came to myself, and saw the compassionate one, who guided my steps, before, along the stream, bending over me.

            And all bemused I said: ‘Where is Beatrice?’ and Matilda replied: ‘See her sitting under the new foliage, at its root. See, the company that surround her: the rest are rising after the Grifon, with sweeter and deeper song.’ And I do not know if her words went on, because now She was in front of my eyes, whose presence prevented me from attending to other things. She sat, alone, on the bare earth, left there as the guardian of the chariot, that I had seen the dual-natured creature anchor to the tree.

            The seven nymphs made a ring, encircling her, carrying those lights, which are secure from the north and south winds, in their hands.


Purgatorio Canto XXXII:100-160 The Church’s Past, Present and Future


            Beatrice spoke: ‘You will not be a forester long, here, and will be with me, a citizen, eternally, of that Rome of which Christ is a Roman. So, to help the world that lives wrongly, fix your gaze on the chariot, and take care to write what you see, when you return, over there.’ And I, completely obedient to her commands, set my mind and eyes where she desired.

            Fire never fell so swiftly from dense cloud, falling from that region that is most remote, as I saw Jupiter’s eagle swoop down through the tree, tearing its bark, its flowers, and its new leaves, and he struck the chariot with all his power, at which it swayed like a ship in a storm, beaten by the seas, now to larboard, then to starboard.

            Then I saw a vixen that seemed starved, of all decent food, leap into the body of the triumphal car. But my Lady put her to a flight as swift as fleshless bones could sustain, rebuking her for her foul sins.

            Then I saw the eagle drop into the body of the chariot from the place where he had first swooped, and leave it feathered with his plumage. And a voice came from Heaven, as it comes from a sorrowing heart, and it said: O my little boat, how badly you are freighted!’

            Then it seemed to me that the ground opened, between the two wheels, and a dragon emerged pointing his tail upwards through the chariot, and drawing his spiteful tail towards himself, like a wasp withdrawing her sting, he wrenched away part of its base, and slid away.

            What was left, covered itself, with those feathers, just as fertile land is covered with grass, offered perhaps with true and benign intent, and the chariot-pole and both wheels were covered by them, in less time than a mouth is open for a sigh. The holy structure, transformed, grew heads above its members, three above the pole and one at each corner. The first three were horned like oxen, but the other four had a single horn on the forehead: such a Monster was never seen before.

            Seated on it, secure as a tower on a high hill, a shameless Whore appeared, looking eagerly round her. And I saw a Giant standing by her side, so that she could not be snatched from him, and each kissed the other, now and then: but because she turned her lustful, wandering eye on me, her fierce lover scourged her from head to foot. Then full of jealousy and vicious with anger, he loosed the Monster, and dragged it so far, through the wood, that he made a screen between me, and the Whore and Monster.


Purgatorio Canto XXXIII:1-57 Beatrice’s prophetic words  


            Now as three, then four, alternately, and weeping, the ladies began a sweet psalmody, singing: ‘Deus, venerunt genes: O God, the heathen are come,’ and Beatrice. compassionate and sighing, was listening to them, so altered in aspect, that Mary was no less altered at the foot of the Cross. But when the virgins gave way for her to speak, standing upright she replied, colouring like fire: ‘Modicum, et non videbitis me, et iterum, my beloved sisters, modicum, et vos videbitis me: a little while, and ye shall not see me, my beloved sisters, and again, a little while, and ye shall see me.’

            Then she set all seven of them in front of her, and, merely with a nod of the head, motioned myself, the Lady and the Sage who had stayed, behind her. So she went on, and I believe that hardly a tenth step touched the ground, until her eyes struck my eyes, and she said to me, quietly: ‘Come along, faster, so that, if I speak to you, you are well placed to listen.’

            As soon as I, dutifully, was next to her, she said: ‘Brother, why when you come along with me, do you not venture to question me?’ I was like those, who are too humble in speech in front of their elders, who do not raise their voice fully to their lips, and short of full volume, I began: ‘Madonna, you know my needs, and what is good for them.’ And she to me: ‘I want you to free yourself, now, from fear and shame, so that you no longer speak like one who dreams.

            Learn that the chariot that the serpent shattered was, and is not: and let him, whose fault it is, know that God’s vengeance cannot be evaded. The eagle, that left its feathers on the car, to make it a Monster, to be preyed on, shall not be without heirs for ever, since I see, with certainty, and so I tell you, stars are already nearing, safe from all barriers and impediments, that will bring us times in which a five-hundred, a ten, and a five (DVX, a leader) sent by God, will kill the Whore, and the Giant, who sins with her.

            And perhaps my prophecy, as obscure as Themis and the Sphinx, persuades you less, because it darkens the mind, after their fashion, but the fact is that Oedipus, will solve this difficult question, without damage to flocks or harvest.

            Take note of it: and just as these words carry from you to me, tell them to those who live the life that is a race towards death, and remember when you write, not to hide that you have seen the tree, now twice spoiled, here.’


Purgatorio Canto XXXIII:58-102 The Tree of Empire


            ‘Whoever robs it, and tears at it, in a blasphemous act, offends God, who created it sacred to his sole use. Adam, the first soul, longed for Him, in torment and desire, for more than five thousand years: He who punished the bite of the apple in Himself. Your intelligence is asleep if it does not judge that tree to be so high, and widened towards its summit, from some special cause. And if your idle thoughts had not been like the waters of the River Elsa round your mind, petrifying it, and their delights had not stained it as Pyramus’s blood the mulberry, you would have recognised in the tree, by these many circumstances alone, that, morally, God’s justice is in the injunction.

            But since I see your mind made of stone, and like a stone, stained, so the light of my words dazes you, I want you to carry my words away with you as well, if not written at least in symbolic form, for the same reason that the pilgrim’s staff returns wreathed with palm-branches. And I said: ‘My brain is now stamped by you, like wax by the seal, whose imprint does not change. But why do your words, I longed for, soar so far beyond my vision, that the more it strains after them, the more they vanish?

            She said: ‘So you may know the School you followed, and see whether its teachings follow my words, and may see that your way is as far from the divine way, as the swiftest Heaven is from the earth.’ At which I replied: ‘I do not remember that I was ever estranged from you, nor does conscience gnaw me, regarding it.’ She answered, smiling: ‘And, if you cannot remember it, think, now, how you drank Lethe’s water today: and if fire is deduced from  smoke, this forgetfulness clearly proves the guiltiness of your desire, intent on other things. But now my words will be naked, as far as is needed to show them to your dull vision.’


Purgatorio Canto XXXIII:103-145 Dante and Statius drink from Eunoë


            The sun was holding the noon circle, which varies here and there, as location varies, shining more brightly, travelling more slowly, when, like those who act as escorts for people, who stop if they find strange things or their traces, those seven ladies stopped, at the edge of a pale shadow, such as the Alps cast over their cool streams, under green leaves and dark branches.

            I seemed to see Euphrates and Tigris, welling from one spring, in front of them, and parting, like lingering friends. I said: ‘O light, O glory of human kind, what waters are these that pour from one source, here, and separate themselves?’ At my prayer, she said: ‘Beg Matilda, to explain,’ and that lovely Lady answered her, like one who absolves herself from blame: ‘I have told him about this, and about other things, and I am sure Lethe’s water does not hide them from him.’ And Beatrice said: ‘Perhaps some greater care, that often robs us of memory, has dimmed the eyes of his mind. But see, Eunoë, that flows from there: lead him to it, and as you are used to do, revive his flagging virtue.’

            Like a gentle spirit, that does not make excuses, but forms her will from another’s will, as soon as it is revealed, by outward sign, so that lovely Lady, set out, after taking charge of me, and said to Statius, in a ladylike way: ‘Come, with him.’

            Reader, if I had more space to write, I would speak, partially at least, about that sweet drink, which would never have sated me: but because all the pages determined for the second Canticle are full, the curb of art lets me go no further.

            I came back, from the most sacred waves, remade, as fresh plants are, refreshed, with fresh leaves: pure, and ready to climb to the stars.





Paradiso Canto I:1-36 Dante’s Invocation. 131

Paradiso Canto I:37-72 The Sun. 132

Paradiso Canto I:73-99 The Harmony of the Spheres. 132

Paradiso Canto I:100-142 Beatrice explains Universal Order. 132

Paradiso Canto II:1-45 The First Sphere: The Moon: Inconstancy. 133

Paradiso Canto II:46-105  The Shadows on the Moon. 134

Paradiso Canto III:1-33 The Spirits manifested in the Moon. 135

Paradiso Canto III:34-60 Piccarda Donati135

Paradiso Canto III:61-96 God’s Will136

Paradiso Canto III:97-130 St Clare: The Empress Constance. 136

Paradiso Canto IV:1-63 Dante’s doubts: The Spirits: Plato’s Error. 137

Paradiso Canto IV:64-114 Response to Violence: The Dual Will138

Paradiso Canto IV:115-142 Dante’s desire for Truth. 138

Paradiso Canto V:1-84 Free Will: Vows: Dispensations. 139

Paradiso Canto V:85-139 The Second Sphere: Mercury: Ambition. 140

Paradiso Canto VI:1-111 Justinian: The Empire. 141

Paradiso Canto VI:112-142 Romeo of Villeneuve. 142

Paradiso Canto VII:1-54 The Fall of Man and the Crucifixion. 143

Paradiso Canto VII:55-120 The Redemption: The Incarnation. 143

Paradiso Canto VII:121-148 Creation and Resurrection. 144

Paradiso Canto VIII:1-30 The Third Sphere: Venus: Earthly Love. 144

Paradiso Canto VIII:31-84 Charles Martel145

Paradiso Canto VIII:85-148 Heredity and the Influence of the Heavens. 146

Paradiso Canto IX:1-66 Cunizza da Romano.. 146

Paradiso Canto IX:67-126 Folco of Marseilles. 147

Paradiso Canto IX:127-142 Florence: The corruption of usury. 147

Paradiso Canto X:1-63 The Fourth Sphere: The Sun: Prudence. 148

Paradiso Canto X:64-99 Thomas Aquinas: Albertus Magnus. 148

Paradiso Canto X:100-129 Solomon: Dionysius: Boëthius. 149

Paradiso Canto X:130-148 Isidore: Bede: Richard of St. Victor: Sigier. 149

Paradiso Canto XI:1-42 Saint Dominic and Saint Francis. 150

Paradiso Canto XI:43-117 The Life of Saint Francis. 150

Paradiso Canto XI:118-139  Saint Dominic: The Dominicans. 151

Paradiso Canto XII:1-36 Saint Bonaventura. 152

Paradiso Canto XII:37-105 Bonaventura speaks of Saint Dominic. 152

Paradiso Canto XII:106-145 Bonaventura names the spirits. 153

Paradiso Canto XIII:1-51 Aquinas answers Dante’s second question. 153

Paradiso Canto XIII:52-90 Creation and Emanation: Matter and Form... 154

Paradiso Canto XIII:91-142 Solomon’s choice: his Wisdom: Heretics. 155

Paradiso Canto XIV:1-66 Solomon: The Resurrection. 155

Paradiso Canto XIV:67-139 The Fifth Sphere: Mars: Fortitude. 156

Paradiso Canto XV:1-36 Silence: Beatrice’s eyes. 157

Paradiso Canto XV:37-87 All things seen in God. 157

Paradiso Canto XV:88-148 Cacciaguida. 158

Paradiso Canto XVI:1-45 Cacciaguida’s ancestry. 159

Paradiso Canto XVI:46-87 The growth of Florence. 159

Paradiso Canto XVI:88-154 The ancient families of Florence. 160

Paradiso Canto XVII:1-99 Cacciaguida unfolds Dante’s future. 161

Paradiso Canto XVII:100-142 He urges Dante to reveal his Vision. 162

Paradiso Canto XVIII:1-57 The Warriors of God. 163

Paradiso Canto XVIII:58-99 The Sixth Sphere: Jupiter: Justice. 163

Paradiso Canto XVIII:100-136 The lights form an Eagle. 164

Paradiso Canto XIX:1-90 Divine Justice. 164

Paradiso Canto XIX:91-148 The Christian Kings. 165

Paradiso Canto XX:1-72 The Eagle celebrates the Just166

Paradiso Canto XX:73-148 Trajan and Ripheus: Predestination. 166

Paradiso Canto XXI:1-51 The Seventh Sphere: Saturn: Temperance. 167

Paradiso Canto XXI:52-142 Peter Damian. 168

Paradiso Canto XXII:1-99 Saint Benedict168

Paradiso Canto XXII:100-154 Dante enters Gemini168

Paradiso Canto XXIII:1-48 The Vision of Christ169

Paradiso Canto XXIII:49-87 The Virgin and the Apostles. 170

Paradiso Canto XXIII:88-139 Gabriel: The Redeemed: The Apostles. 170

Paradiso Canto XXIV:1-51 Saint Peter. 171

Paradiso Canto XXIV:52-87 Faith: Saint Paul171

Paradiso Canto XXIV:88-114 The Source of Faith. 172

Paradiso Canto XXIV:115-154 Dante’s Belief172

Paradiso Canto XXV:1-63 Saint James and Saint Peter. 173

Paradiso Canto XXV:64-96 Hope: Saint James. 173

Paradiso Canto XXV:97-139 Love: Saint John. 173

Paradiso Canto XXVI:1-69 Dante blinded temporarily speaks of Love. 174

Paradiso Canto XXVI:70-142 Dante regains his sight: Adam... 175

Paradiso Canto XXVII:1-66 Saint Peter denounces the Popes. 175

Paradiso Canto XXVII:67-96 Dante’s view of Earth. 176

Paradiso Canto XXVII:97-148 The Primum Mobile: Time: Degeneracy. 176

Paradiso Canto XXVIII:1-57 The Angelic Circles. 177

Paradiso Canto XXVIII:58-93 Beatrice reconciles the two orders. 178

Paradiso Canto XXVIII:94-139 The Angelic Hierarchies. 178

Paradiso Canto XXIX:1-66 The Creation of the Angels. 179

Paradiso Canto XXIX:67-84 The Angels’ Faculties. 179

Paradiso Canto XXIX:85-126 Ineffectual teaching and remission. 179

Paradiso Canto XXIX:127-145 The Number and Diversity of Angels. 180

Paradiso Canto XXX:1-45 Dante and Beatrice enter the Empyrean. 180

Paradiso Canto XXX:46-96 The River of Light180

Paradiso Canto XXX:97-148 The Ranks of the Blest181

Paradiso Canto XXXI:1-27 The Rose. 182

Paradiso Canto XXXI:28-63 Saint Bernard. 182

Paradiso Canto XXXI:64-93 Beatrice crowned in Heaven. 183

Paradiso Canto XXXI:94-142 The Virgin. 183

Paradiso Canto XXXII:1-36 The Two Halves of the Rose. 184

Paradiso Canto XXXII:37-84 The Children. 184

Paradiso Canto XXXII:85-114 Gabriel185

Paradiso Canto XXXII:115-151 The Noble Souls. 185

Paradiso Canto XXXIII:1-48 The Prayer to the Virgin. 186

Paradiso Canto XXXIII:49-145 The Final Vision. 186



Paradiso Canto I:1-36 Dante’s Invocation


            The glory of Him, who moves all things, penetrates the universe, and glows in one region more, in another less. I have been in that Heaven that knows his light most, and have seen things, which whoever descends from there has neither power, nor knowledge, to relate: because as our intellect draws near to its desire, it reaches such depths that memory cannot go back along the track.

            Nevertheless, whatever, of the sacred regions, I had power to treasure in my mind, will now be the subject of my labour.

            O good Apollo, for the final effort, make me such a vessel of your genius, as you demand for the gift of your beloved laurel. Till now, one peak of Parnassus was enough, but now inspired by both I must enter this remaining ring. Enter my chest, and breathe, as you did when you drew Marsyas out of the sheath that covered his limbs.

            O Divine Virtue if you lend me your help, so that I can reveal that shadow of the kingdom of the Blessed, stamped on my brain, you will see me come to your chosen bough, and there crown myself with the leaves, that you, and the subject, will make me worthy of. Father, they are gathered, infrequently from it, for a Caesar’s or a Poet’s Triumph, through the fault, and to the shame, of human will: so the leaves of Daphne’s tree, the Peneian frond, should light joy in the joyful Delphic god, when it makes someone long for them. A great flame follows a tiny spark: perhaps, after me, better voices will pray, and Parnassus will respond.


Paradiso Canto I:37-72 The Sun


            The Light of the World rises, for mortals, through different gates: but he issues on a happier course, and is joined to happier stars, and moulds and stamps the earthly wax more in his manner, when his rising joins four circles in three crosses. It had made it morning there, when it was evening here: and now that hemisphere was all bright, at noon, and this one dark, when I saw Beatrice, turned towards her left, gazing at the sun. No eagle ever fixed its eyes on it so intently.

            And even as the reflected ray always issues from the first, and rises back upwards, like a pilgrim wishing to return, so my stance took its form from hers, infused through the eyes into my imagination, and I fixed my eyes on the sun, beyond our custom. Much is allowed to our powers there, which is not allowed here, through the gift of that place, made to fit the human species.

            I could not endure it long, but enough to see him sparkle all round, like iron poured, molten, from the furnace. And suddenly, it seemed that day was added to day, as though He who has the power, had equipped Heaven with a second sun.

            Beatrice was standing, with her gaze fixed on the eternal spheres, and I, removing my sight from above, fixed it on her. In that aspect I became, inwardly, like Glaucus, eating the grass that made him one with the gods of the sea.To go beyond Humanity is not to be told in words: so let the analogy serve for those to whom grace, alone, may allow the experience.


Paradiso Canto I:73-99 The Harmony of the Spheres


            Love, who rules the Heavens, you know, who lifted me upwards, with your light, whether I was only that which you created, new, in me.

            When the sphere, which you make eternal through the world’s longing, drew my mind towards itself with that harmony which you tune and modulate, so much of the Heavens seemed to me then lit by the sun’s flame, that no rainfall or river’s flow ever made so wide an expanse of lake. The novelty of the sound, and the great light, lit a greater longing in me than I had ever felt, desiring to know their cause. So that She, who saw me as I see myself, opened her lips, to still my troubled mind, before I could open mine to ask, and said: ‘You make yourself stupid with false imaginings, and so you do not see, what you would see, if you discarded them.

            You are no longer on earth, as you think, but lightning leaving its proper home, never flew as quickly as you, who are returning there.’ If my first perplexity was answered by the brief smiling words, I was more entangled by a second, and I said: ‘Content, and already free of one great wonder, now I am startled as to how I lift above lighter matter.’


Paradiso Canto I:100-142 Beatrice explains Universal Order


            At that, after a sigh of pity, she turned her eyes towards me, with that look a mother gives to her fevered child, and began: ‘All things observe a mutual order among themselves, and this is the structure that makes the universe resemble God. In it the higher creatures find the signature of Eternal Value, which is the end for which these laws were made, that I speak of.

            In that order, I say, all things are graduated, in diverse allocations, nearer to, or further from, their source, so that they move towards diverse harbours, over the great sea of being, each one with its given instincts that carry it onwards. This instinct carries the fire towards the moon; that one is the mover in the mortal heart; this other pulls the earth together and unifies it. And this bow does not only fire creatures that are lacking in intelligence, but also those that have intellect and love.

            The Providence that orders it so, makes the Empyrean, in which the ninth sphere whirls with the greatest speed, quiet, with its light: and the power of the bowstring, that directs whatever it fires towards a joyful target, carries us towards it now, as if to the appointed place. It is true that, as form is sometimes inadequate to the artist’s intention, because the material fails to answer, so the creature, that has power, so impelled, to swerve towards some other place, sometimes deserts the track (just as fire can be seen, darting down from a cloud) if its first impulse is deflected towards earth by false pleasures.

            You should not wonder more at your ascent, if I judge rightly, than at rivers falling, from mountains to their foot. It would be a marvellous thing, in you, if without any obstruction, you had settled below; just as stillness would be marvellous, on earth, in a living flame.’ At that She turned her gaze back towards Heaven.


Paradiso Canto II:1-45 The First Sphere: The Moon: Inconstancy


            O you, in your little boat, who, longing to hear, have followed my keel, singing on its way, turn to regain your own shores: do not commit to the open sea, since, losing me, perhaps, you would be left adrift.

            The water I cut was never sailed before: Minerva breathes, Apollo guides, and the nine Muses point me toward the Bears.

            You other few, who have lifted your mouths, in time, towards the bread of Angels, by which life up here is nourished, and from which none of them come away sated, you may truly set your ship to the deep saltwater, following my furrow, in front of the water falling back to its level. The glorious Argonauts who sailed to Colchis, who marvelled when they saw Jason turned ploughman, did not marvel as much as you will.

            The inborn, perpetual thirst for the divine regions lifted us, almost as swiftly as you see the Heavens move. Beatrice was gazing upwards, and I at her: and I saw myself arriving, in the space of time perhaps it takes an arrow to be drawn, released, and leave the notch, there, where a marvellous thing engaged my sight: and therefore She, from whom nothing I did was hidden, turning towards me, as joyful as she was lovely, said: ‘Turn your mind towards God in gratitude, who has joined us with the first planet.’

            It seemed to me that a cloud covered us, dense, lucid, firm, and polished, like diamond struck by sunlight. The eternal pearl accepted us into it, as water accepts a ray of light, though still, itself, unbroken. If we cannot conceive, here, how one dimension could absorb another, which must be the case, if one body enters another, and if I were then a body, the greater should be our longing to see that Essence, where we see how our own nature, and God’s, were once unified.

            There, what we take, on trust, will be shown us, not demonstrated, but realised in ourselves, like a self-evident truth in which we believe.


Paradiso Canto II:46-105  The Shadows on the Moon


            I replied to her: ‘Lady, I thank Him who has raised me from the mortal world, as devoutly as I can, but tell me what are those dark marks on this planet, that make the people down there on earth make fables about Cain?’

            She smiled a moment, and then said: ‘If human opinion errs, where the key of the senses cannot unlock it, the arrows of amazement should certainly not pierce you, since you see that Reason’s wings are too short, even when the senses can take the lead. But tell me what you yourself think about it.’ And I: ‘I think what appears variegated to us up here, is caused by dense and rare bodies.’

            And she: ‘You will see that your thought is truly submerged in error, if you listen attentively to the argument I will make against it.

            The eighth sphere, the Stellar Heaven, shows many lights to you, which can be seen to have diverse appearance, in quantity and quality. If rarity and density alone produced that effect, there would be one quality in all of them, more or less equally distributed. Different qualities must be the result of different formal principles, and on your reasoning, only one could exist.

            Again, if rarity were the cause of those dark non-reflecting patches you ask about, this planet would be short of matter in one part, right through: or, as a body layers fat and lean, it would have alternate pages in its volume.

            If the first were true, it would be revealed by solar eclipses, when the light would shine, through the less dense parts, as it does when falling on anything else that is translucent. That is not so: so we must consider the second case, and if I can show this is false also, your idea will have been refuted.

            If this less dense matter does not go right through, there must be a boundary, beyond which its denser opposite must prevent light travelling on, and from that boundary the rays would be reflected, as coloured light returns from glass that hides lead behind it. Now you will say that the ray is darker here than elsewhere because it is reflected from further back. Experiment can untangle you from that suggestion, if you will try it, which is always the spring that feeds the rivers of your science.

            Take three mirrors, and set two equidistant from you, and let the third, further away, be visible to your eyes, between the other two. Turn towards them, and have a light behind you, reflected from the three mirrors, back towards you. Though the more distant has a smaller area, you will see it shine as brightly as the others.’


Paradiso Canto II:106-148 The Diffusion of the Divine Spirit     


            ‘Now, I wish to illuminate you, who are stripped in mind, as the surface of the snow is stripped of colour and coldness by the stroke of the sun’s warm rays, with light so living it will tremble, as you gaze at it.

            In the Empyrean, the heaven of divine peace, a body whirls, the Primum Mobile, in whose virtue rests the existence of everything it contains. The Stellar Heaven that follows next, within and below it, which shows many lights, divides this existence among diverse essences, which it separates out, and contains. The other seven, lower Heavens circling, dispose the distinct powers they have, in themselves, by various differentiations, to their own seeds and ends.

            These organs of the universe fall, as you can see, from grade to grade, since they receive from above, and work downwards. Now, note well how I thread this pass, to the truth you long for, so that afterwards you may know how to keep the ford alone.

            The motion and power, of the sacred lower gyres, must be derived from the Angels, who are their movers and are blessed, as the hammer’s art derives from the blacksmith. And the Stellar Heaven, that so many lights beautify, takes its imprint from the profound mind, of the Cherubim, that turn it, and from that forms the seal. And as the soul, in your dust, diffuses itself through your different members, and melds to diverse powers, so the Divine Intelligence deploys its goodness, multiplied throughout the stars, still turning round its own unity. Each separate Angelic virtue makes a separate alloy with the precious body it vivifies, in which it is bound, as life is bound in you. Because of the joyful nature it flows from, the Angelic virtue, mingled with the body, shines through it, as joy shines through the living eye.

            From this, come the differences, between light and light, not from density or rarity: this is the formal principle that, according to its own excellence, produces the turbid and the clear.’


Paradiso Canto III:1-33 The Spirits manifested in the Moon


            That sun, which first warmed my heart with love, had unveiled lovely truth’s sweet aspect to me, by proof and refutation: and I lifted up my head to speak, to confess myself corrected and believing, as was needed. But something appeared, that forced me to look at it, so that I stopped thinking of my confession.

            As the outlines of our faces are reflected, from transparent, polished glass, or from clear, tranquil water that is not deep enough for the bottom to be darkened, and are so faint that a pearl on a white forehead is not distinguished more slowly by our eyes, so I saw many faces, eager to speak: at which I fell into the opposite error to that which sparked love between Narcissus and the pool. I was no sooner aware of them, than, thinking they were reflected images, I turned my eyes round to see whose they were: and I saw nothing, and turned them back again, straight to the light of my sweet guide whose holy eyes glowed, as she smiled.

            She said: ‘Do not wonder if I smile, in the presence of your childish thought, since it does not trust itself with the truth, but turns, as it usually does, to emptiness. Those you behold are truly substantial, consigned here for failing in their vows. So speak to them, and listen, and believe, since the true light that satisfies them, does not allow them to turn their steps away from itself.’


Paradiso Canto III:34-60 Piccarda Donati


            And I turned to the shadow who seemed to long to speak to me most, and, like someone whom too great a desire seizes, I began: ‘O spirit, happily created, who feels, in the rays of the eternal life, that sweetness, never understood till it is tasted, it would please me, if you would grace me with your name and your story.’

            At which she replied, eagerly, with smiling eyes: ‘Our love no more closes the gate on a valid request, than does that Love which would make all its courts like itself. I was a virgin sister in the world, and if your memory is searched deeply, my greater beauty, now, will not hide me from you, but you will know me again, as Piccarda, who am blessed in this sphere that moves the slowest, placed here with these others, who are blessed. Our affections that are only inflamed by the pleasure of the Holy Spirit, delight to be informed under his guidance. And this fate, which seems so humble, is given us because our vows were neglected and missing certain cantos.’

            At that I said to her: ‘In your marvellous aspect, something divine shines out again, that transmutes you from my previous concept of you. That is why I was slow to recall you to mind: now what you tell me gives me such assistance, that I remember you more clearly.’


Paradiso Canto III:61-96 God’s Will


            ‘But tell me, you who are happy here, do you wish for a higher place, to see further, or to make yourself dearer?’ She smiled with the other shadows first, a little, then replied to me so joyously she seemed to be burning with the first fire of love: ‘Brother, the power of love quiets our will, and makes us only long for what we have, and gives us no other thirst. If we desired to be higher up, our wishes would be at odds with his will, who assigns us here, and there is no room for that discord in these circles, if you think again about love’s nature, and that we of necessity have our being in Love.

            No, it is the essence of this being blessed to keep ourselves to the Divine Will, through which our own wills are unified. So that our being as we are, from step to step, throughout the kingdom, is a joy to all the kingdom, as it is to the king, who draws our wills towards what he wills: and in his will is our peace, la sua volontate è nostra pace: it is the sea, to which all things flow, that it creates, and nature forms.’ It was clear to me then how every part of Heaven is Paradise, even though the grace of the Highest Good does not pour down to it in only one way.

            But even as it happens that, if one kind of food satisfies us, while the appetite for another kind persists, and giving thanks for that one, we ask for this one, so by word and gesture I learned from her what that warp was, through which she had not drawn the shuttle, to its end.


Paradiso Canto III:97-130 St Clare: The Empress Constance


            She said: ‘A life perfected, and great merit, set a lady, Saint Clare, higher in Heaven, and there are those, in your world, who dress and veil themselves, according to her rule, so that they might sleep and wake, till death, with the Spouse who accepts every vow, which Love has made conformable with his pleasure. I fled from the world, while still a girl, to follow her, and shut myself in her habit, and promised to pursue the way of her company.

            After that, men, who were more used to evil than good, tore me away from that sweet cloister, and God knows what my life became then.

            And this other splendour, who shows herself to you, on my right side, and who burns with all the light of our sphere, says what I say, of myself, about herself. She was a sister, and, in a similar way, the shadow of the holy veil was snatched from her head. But, turned back towards the world as she was, against her will, and against right dealings, she was never torn from her heart’s veil. This is the light of the great Constance, who by Henry the Sixth, the second stormwind of Suabia, conceived Frederick, the third and final power.’

            So she spoke to me, and then began singing: ‘Ave Maria’, and, singing, vanished like a heavy weight through deep water. My vision, which followed her as far as it could, turned, when it lost her, to the mark of a greater longing, and fastened its look wholly on Beatrice: but she flashed into my gaze so brightly, that my sight could not at first endure it, and this made me slower with my questioning.


Paradiso Canto IV:1-63 Dante’s doubts: The Spirits: Plato’s Error


            Death from starvation would come to a man, between two foods, equally distant and equally appetising, before a free man set his teeth in either. So a lamb would stand, equally fearful, between the appetites of two fierce wolves, or a dog stand still between two hinds. So I do not blame or commend myself for keeping quiet, caught in the same way, suspended between doubts, because I was forced to.

            I kept quiet, but my longing was pictured on my face, and my questioning also, in far warmer colours than speech could show. And Beatrice took the part that Daniel took, when he lifted Nebuchadnezzar’s cloud of anger that had made him cruel, unjustly, and she said: ‘I can see clearly how this desire and that one stirs you, so that your anxiety constricts itself, and cannot breathe itself out.

            You argue: ‘If the right intent is still there, how can another’s violence lessen my measure of worth?’ And you are given further cause for perplexity, by the souls returning to the stars, in Plato’s doctrine. These are the two questions that weigh equally on your will, so I will take that first which contains the most dangerous error.

            He of the Seraphim nearest to God, Moses, Samuel, John, either one, you may choose, and Mary, none of them take their places in any different Heaven than the spirits who appeared to you just now, nor do they have more years or less of existence. But all beautify the first sphere, the Empyrean, and share sweet life, but differently, by feeling the eternal spirit more, or less.

            They have shown themselves here, not because this sphere is theirs, but to signify the least steep celestial ascent for you. Such speech needs to match your faculties that can only make fit matter, for your intellect, from what is apprehended by your senses. So the Scriptures also bend to your capacity, attributing hands and feet to God, symbolically, and Holy Church represents Gabriel and Michael, and Raphael who made Tobit complete again, in human form.

            What Timaeus argues concerning spirits, is not what can be seen here, since he seems to believe what he says, and says the soul returns to its star, thinking it was split from it, when nature gave it form, though perhaps his meaning is different than the words say, and may have an intention that should not be derided. If he means that the honour and the blame, ascribed to their influence, returns to these spheres, perhaps his arrow hits some mark of truth.

            This principle, badly understood, almost wrenched the whole world awry, so that it rushed to call upon the names of Jupiter, Mars and Mercury.’


Paradiso Canto IV:64-114 Response to Violence: The Dual Will


            ‘The other source of doubt which troubles you, is less venomous, because its evil influence could not lead you away from me, elsewhere. That our justice appears an injustice to mortal eyes, is a question for faith, not for heretical error. But since your intellect has the power to penetrate easily to this truth, I will satisfy you, as you desire.

            If violence occurs when those who suffer it do nothing to contribute, to what displays force towards them, well then, these souls did not have that excuse: since, the will cannot be overcome if it does not will to be, but behaves like nature in the flames, though a thousand times wrenched away by violence. But if it wavers, more or less, it helps the force against it: and they wavered, since they had the power to return later to the sacred place.

            If their will had remained entire, like that which held Saint Lawrence on the grid, and made Mucius Scaevola treat his right hand with severity, it would have pushed them back towards the path, from which they were taken, as soon as they were free: but such strong will is all too rare.

            Now, if you have gleaned what you should have from these words, the difficulty that would have troubled you, many more times, has been resolved. But now another gulf across your track, meets your eyes, which would make you weary, before you crossed it, alone.

            I have surely instilled in your mind that spirits who are blessed cannot tell a lie, because they live close to the First Truth, and also you might have understood, from Piccarda, that Constance maintained her devotion to the veil, so that Piccarda appears to contradict me. Brother, many times before, things have been done to escape danger, that were against the grain, and not fitting: so Alcmaeon, moved by his father’s prayer, killed his own mother, and to be pious, rendered himself impious.

            At this point, I want you to remember that violence is allowed by the will, and they work together, so that the offence cannot be excused. The absolute will does not consent to evil, but it does consent, in as much as it fears that, if it does not, it will encounter worse. So, when Piccarda expresses this, she is speaking of the absolute will, and I of the practical will, so that, together, we both speak the truth.’


Paradiso Canto IV:115-142 Dante’s desire for Truth


            Such was the flow, from that holy stream, that rose from the fountain from which all truth derives: and was such that it brought peace to both my desires. Then I said: ‘O divine lady, loved by the First Lover, you whose speech floods through me, and warms me, so that it makes me more and more alive, my affections have not the depth to be able to return grace for grace but may He who sees it, and has the power, respond to it.

            Now I see that our intellect can never be satisfied unless the Truth, which no truth goes beyond, shines on it. It rests there, like a wild creature in its lair, as soon as it has reached it: and it can, otherwise all longing would be in vain. So inquiry grows, like a new shoot at the base of truth, a natural thing that rises towards the summit, from ridge to ridge. That invites me, and gives me confidence, to question you lady, reverentially, about another truth hidden from me.

            I wish to know if Man can give you such satisfaction, by other good intentions, for his broken vows, as not to weigh short on your scales.’

            Beatrice looked at me, with eyes so filled with divine sparks of love, that my faculties turned away, overcome, and I felt lost, with downcast eyes.


Paradiso Canto V:1-84 Free Will: Vows: Dispensations


            ‘If I flame at you, in the heat of love, beyond the degree of it seen on earth, and, in so doing, overcome the power of your eyes, do not wonder, since it arises from perfect vision, that, as it understands, advances in the good it understands. I note clearly how the eternal light, already, shines back from your intellect, that, which, once seen, always sets love alight, and if anything else seduces your love, it is nothing but a trace of this light, wrongly comprehended, that shines through in it.

            You wish to know whether reparation may be made, for broken vows, by means of some other service, great enough as to render the soul secure from disputation.’ So Beatrice began this canto, and like someone who does not pause, continued the sacred progress, like this: ‘The greatest gift that God made at the Creation, out of his munificence, the one that most fitted his supreme goodness, and which he values most, is Free Will, with which intelligent creatures, all and sundry, were, and are, endowed.

            Now the high value placed on vows will be clear to you, if they are made such that God consents, when you consent: since, in confirming the pact between God and Man, the guilty party is rendered such by this treasure of Free Will, just as I say, and by their own act. What can be done then, in recompense? If you thought to make good use of what you once consecrated, you would be doing good with stolen evil. You are now clear on the major point.

            But since Holy Church grants dispensations, that seem to run counter to the truth I have revealed, you must still sit at table for a while, as the tough fibres, you have eaten, require further help to aid digestion. Open your mind to what I unfold for you, and fix it inwardly, since to understand and not retain, is not knowledge.

            Two things appertain to the essence of this self-sacrifice: the first is its content: the second is the vow itself. The latter can never be cancelled, except by being kept: and it is about this that my previous discourse is so precise: so it was necessary, always, for the Hebrews to make sacrifice, though, as you ought to know, the thing sacrificed might sometimes be altered.

            The content, the other aspect of the matter being explained to you, may indeed be such that there is no offence if it is substituted by other content. But let no one shift the burden from his shoulder at his own discretion, without a turn of the gold and silver keys (of knowledge and authority). And let him consider any change as foolish, unless the thing that is lapsed from bears a proportion of four to six, to the thing replacing it. And so whatever weighs so heavily in respect of its value, that it exceeds every scale, can never be replaced by any other means.

            Human beings should never take vows lightly: be faithful, and not perverse, as Jepthath was perverse in his first vow, whom it would have been more fitting to have said: ‘Mal feci: I did wrong,’ than keep the vow and do worse: and you may accuse the great leader of the Greeks, Agamemnon, of the same foolishness, that made Iphigenia weep that her face was lovely, and made the wise and foolish weep for her, hearing tell of such a rite.

            Be more cautious in action, you Christians, not like a feather blown by every wind: and do not think that all water purifies. You have the Old and New Testaments, and the shepherd of the Church to guide you: let that be enough for your salvation. If evil greed declares otherwise, be men not mindless sheep, so that the Jews among you do not deride you. Do not do as the lamb does that leaves its mother’s milk, capricious and silly, sporting with itself for pleasure.’


Paradiso Canto V:85-139 The Second Sphere: Mercury: Ambition


            So Beatrice spoke to me, as I write it: then she turned, all in longing, to that region where the universe is most alive. Her silence, and her changed aspect, demanded reticence from my eager intellect that already had new questions to ask. And like an arrow, that hits the target, before the bowstring is still, we rose to the second sphere.

            There I saw my Lady, so delighted, at committing herself to the light of this heaven, that the planet itself grew brighter. And if the star was altered, and smiled, what did I, who am, by my very nature, changeable in every way!

            As the fish in a still, clear pool swim towards whatever falls from above that they consider something to feed on, so I saw more than a thousand radiances draw towards us, and in each one was heard: ‘Ecco chi crescerà li nostri amori: Behold someone who will increase our love.’ And as each one came to us, the shadow seemed filled with delight, judging by the bright glow that came from it.

            Reader, think how you would feel an anguished craving, to know more, if what I start now did not continue, and you will see yourself how I longed to hear from them about their state, as soon as they were manifested to my sight.

            ‘O fortunately-born one, you, to whom grace concedes the right to see the thrones of eternal triumph, before you abandon the place of militancy, we are fired by the light that burns through all the heavens, and therefore if you want to be lit by us, satisfy yourself at pleasure.’ So one of the spirits said to me, and Beatrice said: ‘Speak, speak in safety, and believe, as you would gods.’

            Turned to the light that had spoken to me first, I said: ‘Truly, I see how you are nested in your own light, and that you draw it through your eyes, since they sparkle as you smile, but I do not know who you are, noble spirit, or why you are graded in this sphere, that is veiled, for mortals, in the sun’s rays,’ at which it glowed more brightly even than before.

            Like the sun, which hides itself in excess light when heat has eaten away the moderating effect of the thick clouds, so the sacred figure, through greater delight, hid himself in his own rays, and so, enclosed, enclosed, replied to me, as the following canto declares.


Paradiso Canto VI:1-111 Justinian: The Empire


            ‘When Constantine had turned the Imperial eagle eastwards, against the sky’s course which it had followed in the wake of Aeneas, who took Lavinia from her father, the Bird of God held court at the extremity of Europe, for two hundred years and more, near to the mountains of Troy that he had first issued from: and there he ruled the world, under the shadow of his sacred wings, from reign to reign, until by the passage of time, rule fell to me.

            Caesar I was, Justinian I am, who pared excess and ineffectiveness from the Law, at the wish of the First Love I now feel: and when I first fixed my mind on that labour, I held that Christ had one nature, and no more, and I was content in that belief: but Agapetus, the blessed, who was Pope, pointed me to the true faith, by his words. I believed him, and now I see the content of his faith, as clearly as you see that in every contradictory pair, if one statement is false, the other is true. As soon as I was in step with the Church, it pleased God, in his grace, to inspire me to that high task, and I gave it my all, and committed my weapons to Belisarius, whom Heaven’s right hand was so wedded to, it was a sign that I should rest from them. Now here is the end, already, of my answer to your first question: who I am: but its context forces me to follow with some additions.

            So you may know how much reason is on the side of those who oppose the sacred banner of Empire, as well as those who embrace it, see how great a nobility has made it worthy of reverence, beginning from the time when Evander’s son, Pallas, died to ensure its rule.

            You know it rested in Alba Longa for more than three hundred years, until the end, when the three Horatii and the three Curiatii fought for it. And you know what it enacted, from the wrong to the Sabine women, to Lucretia’s grief, through the reigns of seven kings who conquered the neighbouring peoples.

            You know what it did, carried against Brennus the Gaul, against Greek Pyrrhus, and against the other princes and powers, from which Torquatus, and Cincinnatus, named for his curling hair, the Decii, and the Fabii, earned the fame that I delight in remembering.

            It threw down the Arab pride that followed Hannibal over the Alps, from which the River Po rises. Scipio and Pompey triumphed beneath it, while still young, and it was bitter to Fiesole, in those hills, under which you were born.

            Then, near the time when Heaven wished to lead the world to its own peaceful mode, Caesar laid hands on it, at Rome’s wish, and the Isère and Arar, the Seine, and every valley filled by the Rhone, know what it achieved, then, from Var to Rhine.

            What it did then, when he left Ravenna and crossed the Rubicon, was so great that tongue and pen could not describe it. It wheeled the armies towards Spain, and then Durazzo, and struck Pharsalia so fiercely that the pain was felt as far as the hot Nile. It saw Trojan Antandros and Simois again, from which it first came, and saw the place where Hector lies, and then, alas for Ptolemy, soared again, and afterwards swooped on Juba in a lightning flash, then wheeled to the west where it heard the Pompeian trumpets.

            Brutus and Cassius howl in Hell because of its support for Augustus who followed, and it made Modena and Perugia mourn. Miserable Cleopatra still suffers because of it, who, as she fled from the eagle, took dark sudden death from the viper.

            It ran with Augustus to the Red Sea coast, and with him brought the world to such a peace that Janus saw his temple gates closed.

            But what the Eagle, that I speak of, did before, what it was yet to do throughout the subject mortal world, becomes a dull and insignificant thing to see, if the standard is viewed, with clear eye and pure heart, in Tiberius’s, the third Caesar’s, hand, since the living Justice, that was my inspiration, granted it the glory of taking vengeance for his anger, in the hands of which I speak.

            Now see the wonder in the twofold thing I tell you! It rushed to wreak vengeance, on that vengeance for the ancient sin, afterwards, under Titus.

            And much later when the Lombard tooth gnawed at the Holy Church, Charlemagne, victorious, sheltered her under its wings.

            Now you may judge those I accused just now, and their sins, which are the cause of all your troubles. One faction, the Guelphs, oppose the golden lilies of France to the people’s Eagle, and the other, the Ghibellines, appropriate it to their party, so that it is difficult to see which one offends the most. Let the Ghibellines deploy their skills under some other banner, since he who divorces it from justice always follows it to disaster. And do not let that new Charles, of Naples, beat it down, with his Guelphs, but let him fear the talons, that have torn the hide from greater lions than him. Many a time, before now, the children have grieved for the father’s sin, and do not let Charles imagine that God will change his coat of arms for royal lilies.’


Paradiso Canto VI:112-142 Romeo of Villeneuve


            ‘This little planet adorns herself with good souls, who actively searched for honour and fame, and when desire, swerving, tends towards that, the rays of true love shine upwards with less life. But part of our delight is in the matching of our reward to our merit, because we see them neither magnified nor lessened.  By this, the living Justice so sweetens our affections, that they may never be twisted to any malice.

            On earth a diversity of voices creates sweet harmony, and in the same way the different degrees in this life make sweet harmony among the spheres.

            And, here, in this pearl, the light of Romeo of Villeneuve shines, whose fine, and extensive efforts were so badly rewarded. But the Provençals who harmed him, cannot smile, and he who makes his own ruin out of another’s goodness, takes a bad road.  Raymond Berenger had four daughters, and every one a queen, and this was achieved, on his behalf, by Romeo of Villeneuve, a humble pilgrim wanderer: then muttered words made Raymond demand account from this just man, who gave him twelve for every ten: and Romeo went his way again, old and poor: and if the world knew the heart he had in him, who begged, crust after crust, to stay alive, much as it praises him, it would praise him more.’


Paradiso Canto VII:1-54 The Fall of Man and the Crucifixion


            ‘Osanna Sanctus Deus Sabaoth, superillustrans claritate tua felices ignes horum malachoth! Hosanna, Holy God of Sabaoth, illuminating the blessed fires of these kingdoms, with your brightness from above! So I saw him, singing, to whom the double lustre, of Law and Empire, adds itself, revolving to his own note, and he and the others moved in dance, and like the swiftest of sparks, suddenly veiled themselves from me, in the distance.

            I said, hesitating: ‘Speak to her, Speak,’ in myself, ‘Speak to my Lady who quenches my thirst, with the sweetest drops.’ But that reverence that completely overcomes me, even at the sound of Be or ice, bowed me again, like a man who slumbers. Beatrice only let me be like that for a moment, and began to direct the rays of her smile towards me, that would make a man happy in the flames: ‘According to my unerring perception, those words about how just vengeance was revenged, with justice, have set you thinking: but I will quickly relieve your thoughts: and listen closely since my words will grant you the gift of a noble statement.

            Adam, that man who was not born, condemned his whole race because he would not suffer a rein on his will, for his own good. Therefore Humanity lay in sickness down there, and in great error, for many ages, until it pleased God’s Word to descend, when he joined that nature that had wandered from its Creator, to his own person, solely by an act of his eternal Love.

            Now turn you vision to what I now say: this nature, joined to its maker, was pure and good, as it was when first created, but it had been exiled from Paradise, by its own action, by turning from the way of truth, and its own life. Measured by the nature assumed, no penalty was ever exacted so justly, as that one, inflicted on the Cross, and if we gaze at the Person who endured it, in whom that nature was incarnate, by the same measure no punishment was ever so unjust. So contrary effects came from one cause: God and the Jews were satisfied by the same death: and Earth shook, and Heaven opened at it.

            Now, it should not seem a difficulty to you, to hear it said that just revenge was taken by the Court of Justice. But now I see your mind tangled in knots, from thought to thought, which it greatly longs for release from.’


Paradiso Canto VII:55-120 The Redemption: The Incarnation


            ‘You are saying to yourself: Yes, I understand what I hear, but why God only willed this method of our redemption, is hidden from me. Brother, this decree is buried from the sight of everyone whose intellect is not ripened in Love’s flame. But I will reveal why this method was the most valuable, since it is knowledge often aimed at, but little understood.

            The Divine Good, that rejects all envy, fires out such sparks from its inner fire as to show forth the eternal beauty. What distills from it, without mediation, is eternal, because the print cannot be removed, once it has stamped the seal. What rains down from it, without mediation, is total freedom, since it is not subject to the power of transient things. It conforms more closely to the Good, and is therefore more pleasing to it: since the sacred flame that lights everything, is most alive in what most resembles it.

            The human creature has all these advantages, and if one fails, then that creature falls from nobility. Sin is the only thing that disenfranchises it, and makes it dissimilar to the Highest Good, so that its light irradiates it less, and the creature may never return to dignity, unless it fills the place where guilt has made a void, with just punishment for sinful delight.

            When your nature sinned in totality in the first seed, it was parted from dignity, as it was from Paradise: and they could not be regained, however subtly you search, except by crossing over one of these two fords: either that God out of his grace remitted the debt, or Man gave satisfaction for his foolishness.

            Now fix your eyes on the abyss of Eternal Wisdom, following my speech as closely as you can.

            Man had no power ever to be able to give satisfaction, in his own being, since he could not humble himself, by new obedience, as deeply, as he had aimed, so highly, to exalt himself, through disobedience. This was the reason why man was shut out from the power to give satisfaction by himself. Therefore God had to return Man to his perfect life in his own way: that is, through mercy or through justice, or both. And since what is done by the doer is more gracious the more it shows us the goodness of the heart it comes from, the Divine Goodness, that imprints the world, was content to act in both ways, to raise you up again.

            Between the first day and the last, there never was, nor ever will be again, so high and magnificent a progress on either of those roads, since God was more generous in giving of himself, to make Man capable of rising again, than if he had only granted remission, from himself: and every other way fell short of justice, except that by which the Son of God humbled himself, to become incarnate.’


Paradiso Canto VII:121-148 Creation and Resurrection


‘Now to answer all your longings, I go back to explain a certain passage, so that you can understand it as I do. You are saying to yourself: I see the water, fire, earth, and air: and all their mixtures come to corruption, and do not last for long, and yet these things were creatures, and ought to be secure from corruption, if what I have said to you is true.

Brother, the Angels, and the pure region where you are, may be said to be created as they are, in their total being, but the elements you have named and all the compounds of them, have been inwardly formed by a created power. The matter that they hold was created: the formative power in those stars which circle round them was created.

            The life of every wild creature and every plant is drawn from compounds gaining power by the rays and motion of the sacred lights. But your life is breathed into you without mediation, by the supreme beneficence that makes life love it, so that it always longs for it. And from this you can deduce your resurrection in the flesh, if you again consider how human bodies were first made, when your first parents were both made.’


Paradiso Canto VIII:1-30 The Third Sphere: Venus: Earthly Love


            In its Pagan days the world used to believe that lovely Cyprian Venus used to beam down fond love, turning in the third epicycle, so that those ancient peoples, in ancient error, not only did her the honour of sacrifice and the votive cry, but honoured Dione as well, and Cupid, one as her mother, the other as her son, and told how Cupid sat in Dido’s lap: and from her, from whom I take my start, they took the name of the planet, that courts the Sun, now setting in front, and now behind.

            I had no sense of rising into her sphere, but my Lady’s aspect gave me faith that I was there, because I saw her grow more beautiful. And as we see a spark in a flame, and as a voice can be distinguished from a voice, if one remains fixed and the other comes and goes, so, in that light itself, I saw other lamps, moving in circles, faster or slower, in accord, I believe, with the nature of their eternal vision.

            Blasts never blew from a chill cold, visibly or invisibly, so rapidly that that they would not seem slow and hindered, to whoever had seen those divine lights coming towards us, leaving the sphere that has its first conception in the exalted Seraphim. And among those who appeared most in advance, Hosanna sounded, in such a manner that ever since I have not been free of the desire to hear it again.


Paradiso Canto VIII:31-84 Charles Martel


            Then one came nearer to us, and began alone: ‘We are all at your pleasure, so that you may have joy of us. We orbit with those celestial Princes in one circle, and one circling, and with one thirst, we, to whom you, from the world below, once said: Voi che intendendo il terzo ciel movete: You who by understanding move the third circle: and we are so filled with love, that a moment of rest, to give you pleasure, will be no less sweet to us.’

            When my eyes had been lifted in reverence to my Lady, and she had herself given them satisfaction and assurance, they turned back to the light that had offered itself so generously, and: ‘Say, who you are.’ were my words, stamped with great affection. Oh, how I saw it grow in size and splendour, at the new joy, added to its joys, when I spoke! Altered in that way, it said to me: ‘The world held me, held Charles Martel, below for only a little while: if it had been longer, much of the evil that will happen would not happen. My joy, shining round me, keeps me hidden from you, concealing me like a silkworm cocooned in its own silk. You loved me greatly, and with good cause, since if I had stayed below I would have shown you greater love than the mere shoots of it.

            That left bank, Provence, that the Rhone washes after its meeting with the Sorgue, waited for me to be its lord in time, so did Naples, that stretch of Ausonia, with its cities of Bari, Gaeta, and Catona, down from where Tronto and Verde discharge into the sea. The Crown of Hungary, that the Danube waters, when it has left its German banks, already shone on my forehead: and beautiful Sicily, Trinacria, over the gulf the east wind torments most, that is darkened between Pachynus and Pelorus, not by Typhon, but by the sulphurous clouds, would still have looked for its kings born of the line through me from Charles II and the Emperor Rudolph, if bad governance, that stirs the hearts of subject peoples, had not caused Palermo to cry out: “Death, Death.”

            And if Robert of Calabria my brother had seen it in good time, he would already have avoided the greedy adventurers of Catalonia, before they do him wrong, and indeed he or another needs to make provision that a heavier load is not laid on his already laden boat. His nature, meanness descended from generosity, needs soldiers who do not care about stuffing their purses.’


Paradiso Canto VIII:85-148 Heredity and the Influence of the Heavens


            I said: ‘Sir, because I believe you see the great joy your conversation floods me with, as I see it, there where every good has its beginning and end, it is more gratifying to me: and also I value that you see it by gazing on God. You have given me delight, now enlighten me, since in speaking you have stirred me to question how bitter seed can be born from the sweet.’ And he to me: ‘If I can show you a truth, you will have the thing you ask, that is behind your back, in front of your eyes.

            The Good, which turns, and makes content, the whole kingdom, that you climb, makes its providence a power in these great celestial bodies, and provision is not only made for the nature of things but for their welfare too, by that Mind that is perfection in itself. So whatever this bow fires moves towards its destined end, like an arrow fired at the mark. If that were not so, the Heaven you are crossing would bring its effects into being so that they would be chaos and not art, and that cannot be unless the intellects that move these planets are defective, and the First Mover too, who failed to perfect them. Do you wish this truth to be clarified more?’

            I said: ‘No, since I know it is impossible for Nature to fall short of what is needed.’ And he again: ‘Now, say, would it be worse for man if he were not a citizen, on earth, but left to his own sufficiency?’ ‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘and I do not need to ask the reason.’ ‘And can that be, unless men live various lives below, and with various tasks? Not if your master, Aristotle, wrote truly for you.’ He reached this point, deducing, and then gave the conclusion: ‘Therefore the roots of your qualities must be diverse, so that one is born Solon the lawgiver, and another Xerxes, the soldier, one Melchizedek, the priest, and another Daedalus, the inventor, who lost his son, soaring through the sky.

            Circling Nature, the seal on the mortal wax, is a good maker, and does not distinguish between one house and another. So that Esau differs from Jacob in the seed, and Romulus worshipped as Quirinus, comes from so lowly a father he is assigned to Mars instead. The nature at birth would always be like its parent, if Divine Providence did not overrule it.

            Now what was hidden behind you is in front of you, but so you may know I am delighted with you, I will wrap you round with a corollary. Nature makes a poor fist of things, if she finds events out of harmony with herself, like any other seed out of its proper soil. If the world below paid attention to the foundation Nature lays, and followed that, it would be satisfied with its citizens, but you drag him born to the sword into a religious order, and make a king of him who should be an orator, so that your path cuts across the road.’


Paradiso Canto IX:1-66 Cunizza da Romano


            Lovely Clemence, when your Charles had clarified things for me, he told me about the wrongs his seed was fated to encounter, but added: ‘Be silent, and let the years turn,’ so that I can say nothing except that well-justified grief will follow those wrongs.

And already the life of that holy light had turned towards the Sun that illuminates it, as towards the Good which is sufficient to everything. O impious creatures! O deceived spirits who twist your hearts away from that Good, turning your minds to vanities!

And see, another of those splendours came towards me, and signified its desire to satisfy me, by an outer brightening. Beatrice’s eyes, gazing at me, as before, assured me of happy assent to my wish. I said: ‘Ah, give quick satisfaction to my will, spirit who are blessed, and show proof that I can reflect what I think from you.’ At which the light which was still a stranger to me, from the depths, where it was, at first singing, continued by speaking, like one happy to do good: ‘In that region of Italy, the depraved country, which lies between Venice and the sources of the Brenta and Piave, rises a hill raised to no great height, from which, Ezzelino da Romano, the burning brand, descended, who made a vicious assault on that land. I sprang with him out of the same root: Cunizza I am called, and I shine here because the light of this star conquered me. But I grant myself indulgence for my fate, and it does not grieve me, which perhaps would seem strange to the common man.

The great fame of this dear shining jewel in our Heaven, Folco of Marseilles, who is my nearest neighbour, remains, and before it dies this centenary year will be repeated five times. See how another life follows the first if a man achieves excellence! The present crew in the March of Treviso, enclosed by the Tagliamento and the Adige, do not think of that, beaten but still unrepentant. But it will soon come to pass that Paduan blood will stain the water that bathes Vicenza, because the people rebel against their duty. And at Treviso, where the Sile meets the Cagnano, Riccardo da Camino holds sway, and goes with head held high, for whom the net to catch him is already woven.

From Feltro a wail of grief will rise yet, because of the sins of its impious pastor, Alessandro Novello, so foul, that no one ever entered the prison of Malta for their equal. The dish that would be needed to receive Ferrara’s blood, which this obliging priest will give up to show himself loyal, would be too large, and weary whoever had to weigh it ounce by ounce: and such are the gifts that suit this country’s way of life. There are mirrors above, you call them Thrones, from which God shines in judgement on us, so that these words prove good to us.’

Here she fell silent, and to me she seemed like one who turns to other things, giving herself to the wheel, so that she was as before.


Paradiso Canto IX:67-126 Folco of Marseilles


            The other joyful light, which I had already noted as being distinguished, shone to my sight like a fine ruby, illuminated by the sun. Brightness comes from joy up there, as a smile does here on earth, while down below the spirits are dark outside, just as the mind is saddened.

            I said: ‘God sees it all, and your vision is in him, spirit of the blessed, so that no desire is hidden from you. Why then does your voice, which, with the singing of those devoted fires, the Seraphim, who make a cowl, with six wings, of themselves, gladdens Heaven endlessly, not satisfy my wishes? If I were in you, as you are in me, I would not have waited for your request till now.

            Then he began to speak: ‘The Mediterranean, that greatest valley, into which water flows, from the ocean round the earth, extends so far between its opposite shores, eastwards, that its zenith is formed of what was horizon. I was an inhabitant of Marseilles’s shore, half way between the Ebro and the Macra, which, with its short course, separates the Genoese and the Tuscans. The site of Bougia in Algeria is almost alike in sunrises and sunsets to the place I come from, whose harbour Caesar once warmed with that place’s blood. 

            Those who knew me, called me Folco, and I imprint this Heaven as it imprinted me, since Dido, Belus’s daughter, wronging Sichaeus and Aeneas’s Creüsa, burned no hotter than I, as long as it suited my youthfulness: nor did Phyllis, the girl from Rhodope, who was deceived by Demophoön, nor Hercules when his heart enclosed Iole. But this is not a place of repentance, here we smile: not at the sin, which the mind does not dwell on, but the Power that ordained and provided.

            Here we gaze at the Art, which beautified so great a creation, and discern the Good, which returns the world below to the world above. But so that you might fully satisfy all the longings born in this sphere, I must continue. You will wish to know who is inside that light that gleams next to me, like the sun’s rays in pure water. Know, now, that Rahab, the prostitute, finds peace there, and when she joined our order, it sealed itself, in the highest rank, with her. Before any other soul, she was uplifted at Christ’s triumph, by this sphere, which is touched by the shadow your Earth casts into space. It was truly fitting to leave her in one of the Heavens as a symbol of the great victory achieved by those two nailed hands: because she favoured Joshua’s first glorious campaign in the Holy Land, that land that scarcely touches this Pope’s memory.’


Paradiso Canto IX:127-142 Florence: The corruption of usury


            ‘Florence, the city founded by Mars, that Satan who first turned his back on his Maker, and from whose envy such great grief has come, coins and spreads that accursed lily flower, that has sent the sheep and lambs astray, since it has made a wolf of the shepherd.

            So the Gospels and the Great Doctors are neglected, and only the Decretals, the law-books are studied, as can be seen by their margins. On that, the Pope and Cardinals are intent: their thoughts do not stray to Nazareth, where Gabriel’s wings unfolded, But the Vatican and the other sacred parts of Rome, that cemetery for the soldiers who followed Peter, will soon be freed from the bond of adultery.’


Paradiso Canto X:1-63 The Fourth Sphere: The Sun: Prudence


            The primal and unutterable Power, gazing at his Son, with the Love that both breathe out eternally, made whatever circles through mind and space with such order, that whoever knows them is not without some sense of Him. Then, Reader, raise you eyes with me to the distant wheels, directed to that point where the Celestial Equator and the Ecliptic meet, and begin to view the art of that Master who loves it so much, within himself, that he never lets his eyes leave it.

            See how the Ecliptic, the oblique circle that carries the planets, slants from that Equinoctial point, to satisfy the world’s call for them: and if their path were not inclined, much of the power of the Heavens would be useless, and every potential dead on Earth: and if the slope from the level was greater or smaller, much would be lacking in Cosmic order below and above.

            Now, Reader, stay on your bench, thinking back on this preamble, if you would delight in it before you weary. I have put the food in front of you, now feed yourself, since the matter I have set myself to write of, now draws my complete attention to itself.

            The Sun, the greatest minister of Nature, who stamps the world with the power of Heaven, and measures time for us by his light, was circling on the spiral where he shows himself earlier every day, joined to that Equinoctial point I recalled. And I was with him: but I was no more aware of my ascent than a man is aware of his first thoughts approaching. It is Beatrice who leads me from good to better, so suddenly that her action requires no time.

            How bright, in itself, must that be, that shows itself in the Sun, which I had entered, not by colour, but by light! Though I might call on intellect, art and knowledge, I could never express it so as to make it imaginable, but it may be believed, and desired to be seen. And if our imaginations are too base for such exaltation, it is no surprise, since no eye could ever transcend the Sun. Such was the fourth House of the supreme Father, who always contents it, by showing how he breathes and engenders.

            And Beatrice began to speak: ‘Give thanks, Give thanks to the Sun of the Angels, who, in his grace, has raised you to this visible sun.’ The heart of man was never so disposed to devotion, and so eager to give itself to God with all its will, as I was at those words: and my love was committed to Him so completely, it eclipsed Beatrice from memory. That did not displease her: but she smiled at it so that the splendour, of her laughing eyes, scattered my mind’s coherence amongst many things.


Paradiso Canto X:64-99 Thomas Aquinas: Albertus Magnus


            Then I saw many lights, living and victorious, make a central point of us, and a coronet, even sweeter in voice than shining in appearance, of themselves. So we sometimes see the Moon, Diana, Latona’s daughter, haloed when the air is so damp as to retain the rainbow thread that weaves her zone.  There are many jewels so dear and lovely, in the courts of Heaven I have returned from, that they cannot be moved from that region, and such was the song of these lights: he who does not wing himself to fly up to them, may as well look for news of them from the speechless.

            When those burning suns, so singing, had circled round us three times, like stars near the fixed poles, they seemed as ladies do, not released from the dance, but resting, silent, listening, until they hear the notes again. And in one I heard a voice begin to say: ‘Since the light of grace glows in you, at which true love is lit, and then by loving is multiplied, so as to lead you on that stair, that no one descends except to climb again, whoever denied you the wine from his glass, to quench your thirst, would be as little at liberty to do so, as water to refuse to flow to the sea.

            You wish to know with what flowers this garland is decorated that circles the lovely lady who strengthens your resolve for Heaven. I was one of the lambs, of the sacred flock, that Dominic leads on the path where there is good pasture, if we do not stray. He, who is nearest to me on the right, was my master and my brother: he was Albert of Cologne, and I, Thomas Aquinas.’


Paradiso Canto X:100-129 Solomon: Dionysius: Boëthius


            ‘If you wish to know the rest as well, circling above around the garland, blessed, direct your sight according to my words. This next flamelet issues from Gratian’s smile, he who gave such help to the ecclesiastical and civil spheres as is acceptable in Paradise. The fourth, that adorns our choir next, was that Peter Lombard, who, like the poor widow, offered his wealth to Holy Church. The fifth light, which is most beautiful among us, breathes from such a love, that all the world, below, thirsts to have news of it. In there is the noble mind of Solomon, to which was granted a wisdom so profound, that if truth be known, no other ever achieved so complete a vision.

            Next look at that taper’s light, Dionysius, who in the flesh down there, saw deepest into the Angelic nature and its ministry. In the seventh little light, Orosius, that pleader for the Christian Age, whose works Augustine made use of.

            Now if you run your mind’s eye from light to light, following my praise, you are already thirsting for the eighth. In there, seeing every good, Boëthius, the sainted soul rejoices, who unmasked the deceitful world to those who give him a careful hearing. The body from which it was chased out, lies down below in Cieldauro, and it came from exile and martyrdom to this peace.’


Paradiso Canto X:130-148 Isidore: Bede: Richard of St. Victor: Sigier


            ‘Next, see the glowing breath of Isidore of Seville flame out, of Bede, and Richard of SaintVictor, who in contemplation exceeded Man. The one from whom your glance returns to me, is the light of a spirit, who, of profound thought, seemed to himself to reach death too slowly: it is the eternal light of Sigier, who, lecturing in the Rue du Fouarre, syllogised truths that brought him hatred.’

            Then, as the clock, that strikes the hour, when the bride of God rises, to sing her Matins, to the Bridegroom, so that he might love her, where one part pulls and pushes another, making a chiming sound, of such sweet notes, that the well-disposed spirit fills with love, so I saw the glorious wheel revolve, and answer voice to voice, in harmony, and with a sweetness that cannot be known except where joy renders itself eternal.


Paradiso Canto XI:1-42 Saint Dominic and Saint Francis


            O mindless mortal cares! How defective the reasoning that makes you beat your wings towards the earth! One person was chasing law, another medicine; one following the priesthood, another rule, by force or sophistry; one robbery, another civic business; one was involved in bodily pleasure, and another taking their ease: while I, free of all these things, was received, with Beatrice, so gloriously in Heaven.

            When each spirit had returned to the place in the circle where he was before, he rested, like a candle in its holder. And I saw a smile begin inside the light that had first spoken, as it grew brighter, and Thomas said: ‘Just as I glow with its rays, so as I gaze into the Eternal Light I know the reason for your thoughts. You question, and wish to understand my words, in such open and extended speech as will match your comprehension, the words I spoke just now, where there is good pasture, and, no other ever achieved, and here we need to draw careful distinctions.

            The Providence that governs the world, with wisdom, that defeats every creature’s understanding, before that creature can plumb its depths, ordained two Princes, to be guides, over there and over here, on behalf of the Church, the spouse of Him, who wedded Her, with great cries, in blessed blood, in order that She might go to Christ, her delight, secure in Herself, and more faithful to Him.

            The one Prince, Saint Francis, was all Seraphic in his ardour, the other, Dominic, was a splendour of Cherubic Light, on earth. I will speak of the first, because whoever praises either, whichever he chooses, talks of both, since both their efforts were to the same end.’


Paradiso Canto XI:43-117 The Life of Saint Francis


            ‘A fertile slope falls from a high mountain, between the Tupino and the Chiascio, the stream that drops from the hill chosen by the blessed Ubaldo, a slope from which Perugia feels the cold and heat, through the eastern gate of Porta Sole, and behind it the towns of Nocera and Gualdo bemoan the Angevin’s heavy yoke. From this slope, where it becomes least steep, a Sun was born into this world, even as our sun rises from the Ganges. So that whoever speaks of that place, let him not say Ascesi, I have ascended, which is inadequate, but Oriente, if he wants to name it correctly.

            He was not far from rising when he began to make the earth feel a certain comfort from his great virtue, since in his youth, he rushed to oppose his father, for such a Lady, to whom, like Death, no one opens the gate of his pleasure, and he was united to her in the spiritual court that had jurisdiction over him, and in his father’s presence, and then loved her more deeply, from day to day.

            She, deprived of her first husband for eleven hundred years and more, was obscure, despised, until he stood in front of her, uninvited. And the tale that she was found safe with Amyclas, the fisherman, when Caesar’s voice sounded to terrify the world, had not helped her, nor to have been so faithful and unafraid that She mounted the Cross with Christ, when Mary remained below.

            But lest I proceed too darkly, accept, in plain speech, that Francis and Poverty were these two lovers. Their harmony and their delighted appearance made love, wonder, and tender looks, the cause of sacred thought, so that the venerable Bernard first cast off his sandals, and ran to chase after so great a peacefulness, and thought himself all too slow, while he ran. O unnoted riches, O fertile Good! Egidius casts off his sandals, and Sylvester, following the Bridegroom, as the Bride delights to do.

            This Master and this Father went his way, together with his Lady, and with that family already wearing the humble cord, nor did lowliness of heart weigh down his forehead, because he was Pietro Bernardino’s son, nor that he seemed to be so greatly despised. But he revealed his serious intention to Pope Innocent, and took the seal of his Order from him. When the people of poverty, who followed his path, increased, his miraculous life sung more sweetly in Heaven’s glory, then was this master shepherd’s sacred will encircled with a second crown, from Honorious’s hands, by the Eternal Spirit.

            And when, thirsting for martyrdom, he had preached Christ and his followers’ message, in the proud Soldan’s presence; and, finding the people bitterly against conversion, had returned, to avoid a useless stay, to gather fruit from the Italian branches; then, on the harsh rock, between the Tiber and the Arno, he received the final wounds, from Christ, that his limbs showed for two years.

            When it pleased Him, who ordained him to such good effect, to raise him to the reward, which he had earned by humbling himself, he commended his Lady to his brotherhood, his rightful heirs, and asked that they should love her faithfully, and the illustrious spirit willed himself to leave her breast, turning to his own kingdom, yet wished for no other deathbed for his body.’


Paradiso Canto XI:118-139  Saint Dominic: The Dominicans


            ‘Now think what he must be, who was a worthy colleague, to maintain the course of Peter’s boat in the right direction! Such was our founder, Dominic, so that whoever follows his commands, as you can see, freights himself with good cargoes. But his flock has grown so greedy for new food, it cannot do other than stray through strange pastures, and the more his distant, wandering sheep stray from him, the emptier of milk they return, to the fold. Indeed there are some of them who fear the loss, and keep close to the shepherd, but they are so few it needs little cloth to make cowls for them.

            Now, if my words have not been weak, if you have listened closely, and if you recall what I have said, your wish must now be partly satisfied, since you can see the stem they whittle away, and can see the rebuke intended in the words: where there is good pasture, if we do not stray.’


Paradiso Canto XII:1-36 Saint Bonaventura


            As soon as the flame of the spirit that was blessed had spoken the last word, the sacred mill began to turn, and had not fully revolved before a second, circling, clasped it, and harmonised movement with movement and song with song: song which is as far beyond our Muses, and our Sirens, in those sweet pipings, as the first glory its reflection.

            As two rainbows, parallel and identical in colour, arch through the thin mist, when Juno commands Iris her servant, the outer one born from the inner one, like the speech of Echo, that wandering nymph, whom Love consumed as the sun the vapour, making people here on earth aware, that, through the covenant God made with Noah, the world should never be drowned again: so the two garlands of those everlasting roses circled round us, and so the outer answered the inner.

            As soon as the dance, and the great high-festival of song and radiance, of light with light, joyful and gentle, joined in point of time and will, had stilled them, like eyes which must close and open together to the pleasure that stirs them, a voice came from the heart of one of the fresh lights that made me seem like the compass needle to the pole star, turning me towards it, and Bonaventura began: ‘The Love that adorns me, brings me to speak of the other leader, on whose account such noble words are spoken of my leader.

            It is right that wherever the one is, the other should be presented, so that, just as they fought side by side, their glory might shine together.’ 


Paradiso Canto XII:37-105 Bonaventura speaks of Saint Dominic


            ‘Christ’s army, whose re-arming cost so dear, followed the standard slowly, fearfully and sparsely, when the Emperor, who reigns forever, of his own grace, and not because of that army’s worth, made provision for the soldiers who were in danger, and, as has been said, He came to the aid of his Bride, with two champions, at whose works and words, the scattered ranks re-grouped.

            In Spain, towards that region, where sweet Zephyr rises, to unfold the new leaves Europe sees herself re-clothed with, not far from the crash of the waves, behind which because of their vast reaches, the sun sometimes conceals himself from all people, Calahorra, the fortunate, lies, under the protection of the noble shield of Castile, on whose arms, in the left quarters, the lion is below the castle, and on the right above.

            There the loving servant of the Christian faith was born, the holy wrestler, kind to his followers and cruel to his enemies: and as soon as he was created his mind was so full of living virtue that in the womb it sent his mother a prophetic dream. When the marriage between him and the faith was completed at the holy font, where they dowered each other with mutual salvation, the lady, who gave the assent for him, saw, in her sleep, the marvellous harvest destined to issue from him and his heirs, and so that this might be known, in his very name, a spirit from above moved them to call him after the Lord, whose he was completely. Dominic, he was named: and I talk of him as I would of a labourer, whom Christ chose to nurture his orchard.

            He showed himself truly a companion and messenger of Christ, since the first love he showed was for the first counsel of Christ,