Return to Dante, Divine Comedy
After the gracious and glad salutations
Had three and four times been reiterated,
Sordello backward drew and said, “Who are you?”
“Or ever to this mountain were directed
The souls deserving to ascend to God,
My bones were buried by Octavian.
I am Virgilius; and for no crime else
Did I lose heaven, than for not having faith;”
In this wise then my Leader made reply.
As one who suddenly before him sees
Something whereat he marvels, who believes
And yet does not, saying, “It is! it is not!”
So he appeared; and then bowed down his brow,
And with humility returned towards him,
And, where inferiors embrace, embraced him.
“O glory of the Latians, thou,” he said,
“Through whom our language showed what it could do
O pride eternal of the place I came from,
What merit or what grace to me reveals thee?
If I to hear thy words be worthy, tell me
If thou dost come from Hell, and from what cloister.”
“Through all the circles of the doleful realm,”
Responded he, “have I come hitherward;
Heaven’s power impelled me, and with that I come.
I by not doing, not by doing, lost
The sight of that high sun which thou desirest,
And which too late by me was recognized.
A place there is below not sad with torments,
But darkness only, where the lamentations
Have not the sound of wailing, but are sighs.
There dwell I with the little innocents
Snatched by the teeth of Death, or ever they
Were from our human sinfulness exempt.
There dwell I among those who the three saintly
Virtues did not put on, and without vice
The others knew and followed all of them.
But if thou know and can, some indication
Give us by which we may the sooner come
Where Purgatory has its right beginning.”
He answered: “No fixed place has been assigned us;
’Tis lawful for me to go up and round;
So far as I can go, as guide I join thee.
But see already how the day declines,
And to go up by night we are not able;
Therefore ’tis well to think of some fair sojourn.
Souls are there on the right hand here withdrawn;
If thou permit me I will lead thee to them,
And thou shalt know them not without delight.”
“How is this?” was the answer; “should one wish
To mount by night would he prevented be
By others? or mayhap would not have power?”
And on the ground the good Sordello drew
His finger, saying, “See, this line alone
Thou couldst not pass after the sun is gone;
Not that aught else would hindrance give, however,
To going up, save the nocturnal darkness;
This with the want of power the will perplexes.
We might indeed therewith return below,
And, wandering, walk the hill-side round about,
While the horizon holds the day imprisoned.”
Thereon my Lord, as if in wonder, said:
“Do thou conduct us thither, where thou sayest
That we can take delight in tarrying.”
Little had we withdrawn us from that place,
When I perceived the mount was hollowed out
In fashion as the valleys here are hollowed.
“Thitherward,” said that shade, “will we repair,
Where of itself the hill-side makes a lap,
And there for the new day will we await.”
’Twixt hill and plain there was a winding path
Which led us to the margin of that dell,
Where dies the border more than half away.
Gold and fine silver, and scarlet and pearl-white,
The Indian wood resplendent and serene,
Fresh emerald the moment it is broken,
By herbage and by flowers within that hollow
Planted, each one in colour would be vanquished,
As by its greater vanquished is the less.
Nor in that place had nature painted only,
But of the sweetness of a thousand odours
Made there a mingled fragrance and unknown.
“Salve Regina,” on the green and flowers
There seated, singing, spirits I beheld,
Which were not visible outside the valley.
“Before the scanty sun now seeks his nest,”
Began the Mantuan who had led us thither,
“Among them do not wish me to conduct you.
Better from off this ledge the acts and faces
Of all of them will you discriminate,
Than in the plain below received among them.
He who sits highest, and the semblance bears
Of having what he should have done neglected,
And to the others’ song moves not his lips,
Rudolph the Emperor was, who had the power
To heal the wounds that Italy have slain,
So that through others slowly she revives.
The other, who in look doth comfort him,
Governed the region where the water springs,
The Moldau bears the Elbe, and Elbe the sea.
His name was Ottocar; and in swaddling-clothes
Far better he than bearded Winceslaus
His son, who feeds in luxury and ease.
And the small-nosed, who close in council seems
With him that has an aspect so benign,
Died fleeing and disflowering the lily;
Look there, how he is beating at his breast!
Behold the other one, who for his cheek
Sighing has made of his own palm a bed;
Father and father-in-law of France’s Pest
Are they, and know his vicious life and lewd,
And hence proceeds the grief that so doth pierce them.
He who appears so stalwart, and chimes in,
Singing, with that one of the manly nose,
The cord of every valour wore begirt;
And if as King had after him remained
The stripling who in rear of him is sitting,
Well had the valour passed from vase to vase,
Which cannot of the other heirs be said.
Frederick and Jacomo possess the realms,
But none the better heritage possesses.
Not oftentimes upriseth through the branches
The probity of man; and this He wills
Who gives it, so that we may ask of Him.
Eke to the large-nosed reach my words, no less
Than to the other, Pier, who with him sings;
Whence Provence and Apulia grieve already
The plant is as inferior to its seed,
As more than Beatrice and Margaret
Costanza boasteth of her husband still.
Behold the monarch of the simple life,
Harry of England, sitting there alone;
He in his branches has a better issue.
He who the lowest on the ground among them
Sits looking upward, is the Marquis William,
For whose sake Alessandria and her war
Make Monferrat and Canavese weep.”
Return to Dante, Divine Comedy
Not enrolled? Get started today for free!
The Classical Liberal Arts Academy works to research, restore, publish and teach the classical Catholic curriculum that has been enjoyed by wise men and saints through history. We invite you to study in our self-paced online courses and enjoy the benefits of online quizzes, written assignments, progress records and more. Get started with a free 30-day trial.