Eyes Sewn Shut

Purgatorio 13 begins with the arrival at the second terrace (Purg. 13.2-3: “where for a second time the mountain is indented”). Here we see another reminder that the job of the mountain of purgatory is to perform a kind of aggressive cognitive behavioral therapy, with the goal of dishabituating us from vice, the inclination toward sin.

In the exordium of Purgatorio 13 we learn that this is the mountain that “dismala”—“dis-evils” (verse 3)—those who climb it:

  Noi eravamo al sommo de la scala,
dove secondamente si risega
lo monte che salendo altrui dismala. (Purg. 13.1-3)
  We now had reached the summit of the stairs
where once again the mountain whose ascent
delivers man from sin has been indented.

Dante’s coinage “dismala” is a verb formed from the privative prefix dis + verb malare, based on the noun male, evil, and therefore with the sense that the mountain “dis-evils” us or purifies from vice. It recalls a previous coinage formed with the prefix dis + verb, also in the context of defining the work of purgation: “disusa” in the exordium of Purgatorio 10, where the gate of purgatory is that which “’l mal amor de l’anime disusa” (dishabituates the evil love of the souls [Purg. 10.2]).

Both definitional moments share a verb formed on the privative prefix dis (“disusa”, “dismala”), reminding us that the work of purgatory is to remove from our selves that which is not suitable for paradise. In the Purgatorio 13 passage we do not find any form of “amore”—love—although the new coinage “dismala” recalls the “malo amor” of Purgatorio 10.

These coinages look forward to the critical discussion in Purgatorio 17 where Virgilio explains to his charge that all human behavior—both good and evil—is rooted in love: love that inclines toward the good, or love that inclines toward the bad (“malo amor”). Augustine provides the language of bonus amor versus malus amor. In City of God 14.7 he writes that “a right will is good love and a wrong will is bad love” (“recta itaque voluntas est bonus amor et voluntas perversa malus amor”). Augustinian bonus amor versus malus amor underwrites Dante’s characterization of the entrance to purgatory as ‘‘la porta / che ’l mal amor de l’anime disusa” (Purg. 10.2). Further discussion may be found in “Medieval Multiculturalism and Dante’s Theology of Hell.”

As discussed in the Introductions to the canti of the terrace of pride, a governing narrative template is imposed on each of the seven terraces of purgatory. On each terrace we will find the following narrative building blocks: examples of the virtue that corresponds to the vice being purged (of which the first is always taken from the life of Mary), encounters with souls, examples of the vice being purged, the pardon executed by the angel and the recitation of a Beatitude upon departure.

Within this template, Dante demonstrates great variatio, for instance in coming up with different media for the performance of the examples. On the terrace of pride the examples are engraved in stone, a visual medium, whereas on the terrace of envy Dante will have recourse to an aural medium for the exempla: sound bites take over the terrace’s airwaves, as disembodied spirits call out a kind of anti-envy rap, always in direct discourse.

The sound bites are all examples of love, since caritas (love) is the virtue that is the opposite of envy. Yet the correspondence is not so clear-cut as it might seem.

The choice of “amore” as the virtue corresponding to the vice of envy suggests some strain in Dante’s conceptual scheme, given the foundational importance of love as the basis for all human behavior (see the Introduction to Purgatorio 17) How can “amore” be the specific virtue opposed to the vice of envy, when, as Virgilio will explain in Purgatorio 17, every single vice is itself a deformation of “amore”? By the same token, each of the virtues, not just the virtue corresponding to envy, but the others as well (humility, gentleness, liberality, etcetera) might be seen as inflections of “amore”. The borrowing of the large category, “love”, which holds all the virtues, as the specific virtue that corresponds to a specific vice, betrays some instability in the scheme. More work needs to be done on the ethical paradigms that Dante is using and how he may have modified them in ways that are at times idiosyncratic and perhaps not fully under his control.

The spirits in Purgatorio 13 pronounce exempla of caritas:

  e verso noi volar furon sentiti,
non però visti, spiriti parlando
a la mensa d’amor cortesi inviti. (Purg. 13.25-27)
  we heard spirits as they flew toward us,
though they could not be seen—spirits pronouncing
courteous invitations to love's table.

These “courteous invitations to love’s table” come, first, from the life of Mary, and then from classical and biblical sources. The first voice that Dante hears calls out the words spoken by Mary at the wedding of Cana to indicate that the guests are lacking wine. The voice flies by, reiterating its sound bite as it distances itself:

  La prima voce che passò volando
‘Vinum non habent’ altamente disse,
e dietro a noi l’andò reiterando. (Purg. 13.28-30)
  The first voice that flew by called out aloud:
“Vinum non habent,” and behind us that
same voice reiterated its example.

The classical example is that of Orestes, who announces his identity so that his best friend Pylades cannot sacrifice himself in his place. This example of true friendship between men is interesting also in the context of the Titus and Gisippus story in the Decameron (10.8). The biblical example is anomalous in that it does not feature a particular person or event; rather, this is Jesus’ exhortation in his Sermon on the Mount to “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44).

The use of direct discourse in these examples—“Vinum non habent” (Purg. 13.29), “I’ sono Oreste” (Purg. 13.32), and “Amate da cui male aveste” (Purg. 13.36)—gives a role-playing and performance value to each one: we have to put ourselves in the position of the speaker (which in the case of Orestes/Pylades is ambiguous, since both friends claim the identity of the doomed Orestes).

Purgatorio 13 is the first of two and one-third canti devoted to the terrace of envy; the rest of this canto introduces us to the souls and their punishment. The torment inflicted on the envious is quite gruesome: their eyes are sewn shut with wire, to prevent them from seeing and envying the good fortune of others.

Dante asks whether any of the blinded souls is Italian and consequently strikes up a conversation with a Sienese lady, Sapìa, the aunt of Provenzan Salvani (whom we met in Purgatorio 11). She rejects his characterization of her as “Italian” however, beginning her reply with a typically purgatorial refusal to embrace the earthly values that yet still mean so much to these souls:

  O frate mio, ciascuna è cittadina
d’una vera città; ma tu vuo’ dire
che vivesse in Italia peregrina. (Purg. 13.94-96)
  My brother, each of us is citizen
of one true city: what you meant to say
was “one who lived in Italy as pilgrim.” 

Sapìa’s continued attachment to her earthly self is apparent in her animated account of how she rejoiced in the defeat of her fellow Sienese at the hands of the Florentines at the battle of Colle di Val d’Elsa (8 June 1269). Her nephew Provenzan Salvani led the Sienese troops and was killed in this battle. At witnessing the rout of the Sienese, Sapìa was so overcome by happiness that she raised her face to heaven and called out to God “Omai più non ti temo!” (Now I fear you no more! [Purg. 13.122]). In other words, she has experienced such extremes of joy that now she fears nothing else that can happen to her. Dante here teases out the implications of envy with respect to the self’s relation to the other. Beginning with envy as the desire for what others have, Dante moves in the case of Sapìa to envy as extreme joy at witnessing what others lose.  As though taking a cue from the framework regarding the self and others, Dante-pilgrim distances himself from the envious souls. In reply to Sapìa’s question about his own identity, he acknowledges being alive but claims that he has little fear of spending future time on the terrace of envy. Rather, he boasts, his concern is focused on the terrace of pride:

  «Li occhi», diss’io, «mi fieno ancor qui tolti,
ma picciol tempo, ché poca è l’offesa
fatta per esser con invidia vòlti.
  Troppa è più la paura ond’è sospesa
l’anima mia del tormento di sotto,
che già lo ’ncarco di là giù mi pesa». (Purg. 13.133-38)
  “My eyes,” I said, “will be denied me here,
but only briefly; the offense of envy
was not committed often by their gaze.
  I fear much more the punishment below;
my soul is anxious, in suspense; already
I feel the heavy weights of the first terrace.” 

Envy is such a déclassé vice compared to pride!

Coordinated Reading

Coordinated Reading: The Undivine Comedy, Chapter 5, “Purgatory as Paradigm,” p. 113, Chapter 6, “Re-Presenting What God Presented,” p. 311, note 29. On “malo amor” and “dismala”, see “Medieval Multiculturalism and Dante’s Theology of Hell,” rpt. Dante and the Origins of Italian Literary Culture.

Recommended Citation

Barolini, Teodolinda. “Purgatorio 13: Eyes Sewn Shut.” Commento Baroliniano, Digital Dante. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2017. https://digitaldante.columbia.edu/dante/divine-comedy/purgatorio/purgatorio-13/

About the Commento

1Noi eravamo al sommo de la scala,
2dove secondamente si risega
3lo monte che salendo altrui dismala.

4Ivi così una cornice lega
5dintorno il poggio, come la primaia;
6se non che l’arco suo più tosto piega.

7Ombra non lì è né segno che si paia:
8parsi la ripa e parsi la via schietta
9col livido color de la petraia.

10«Se qui per dimandar gente s’aspetta»,
11ragionava il poeta, «io temo forse
12che troppo avrà d’indugio nostra eletta».

13Poi fisamente al sole li occhi porse;
14fece del destro lato a muover centro,
15e la sinistra parte di sé torse.

16«O dolce lume a cui fidanza i’ entro
17per lo novo cammin, tu ne conduci»,
18dicea, «come condur si vuol quinc’ entro.

19Tu scaldi il mondo, tu sovr’ esso luci;
20s’altra ragione in contrario non ponta,
21esser dien sempre li tuoi raggi duci».

22Quanto di qua per un migliaio si conta,
23tanto di là eravam noi già iti,
24con poco tempo, per la voglia pronta;

25e verso noi volar furon sentiti,
26non però visti, spiriti parlando
27a la mensa d’amor cortesi inviti.

28La prima voce che passò volando
29‘Vinum non habent’ altamente disse,
30e dietro a noi l’andò reïterando.

31E prima che del tutto non si udisse
32per allungarsi, un’altra ‘I’ sono Oreste’
33passò gridando, e anco non s’affisse.

34«Oh!», diss’ io, «padre, che voci son queste?».
35E com’ io domandai, ecco la terza
36dicendo: ‘Amate da cui male aveste’.

37E ’l buon maestro: «Questo cinghio sferza
38la colpa de la invidia, e però sono
39tratte d’amor le corde de la ferza.

40Lo fren vuol esser del contrario suono;
41credo che l’udirai, per mio avviso,
42prima che giunghi al passo del perdono.

43Ma ficca li occhi per l’aere ben fiso,
44e vedrai gente innanzi a noi sedersi,
45e ciascun è lungo la grotta assiso».

46Allora più che prima li occhi apersi;
47guarda’mi innanzi, e vidi ombre con manti
48al color de la pietra non diversi.

49E poi che fummo un poco più avanti,
50udia gridar: ‘Maria, òra per noi’:
51gridar ‘Michele’ e ‘Pietro’ e ‘Tutti santi’.

52Non credo che per terra vada ancoi
53omo sì duro, che non fosse punto
54per compassion di quel ch’i’ vidi poi;

55ché, quando fui sì presso di lor giunto,
56che li atti loro a me venivan certi,
57per li occhi fui di grave dolor munto.

58Di vil ciliccio mi parean coperti,
59e l’un sofferia l’altro con la spalla,
60e tutti da la ripa eran sofferti.

61Così li ciechi a cui la roba falla,
62stanno a’ perdoni a chieder lor bisogna,
63e l’uno il capo sopra l’altro avvalla,

64perché ’n altrui pietà tosto si pogna,
65non pur per lo sonar de le parole,
66ma per la vista che non meno agogna.

67E come a li orbi non approda il sole,
68così a l’ombre quivi, ond’ io parlo ora,
69luce del ciel di sé largir non vole;

70ché a tutti un fil di ferro i cigli fóra
71e cusce sì, come a sparvier selvaggio
72si fa però che queto non dimora.

73A me pareva, andando, fare oltraggio,
74veggendo altrui, non essendo veduto:
75per ch’io mi volsi al mio consiglio saggio.

76Ben sapev’ ei che volea dir lo muto;
77e però non attese mia dimanda,
78ma disse: «Parla, e sie breve e arguto».

79Virgilio mi venìa da quella banda
80de la cornice onde cader si puote,
81perché da nulla sponda s’inghirlanda;

82da l’altra parte m’eran le divote
83ombre, che per l’orribile costura
84premevan sì, che bagnavan le gote.

85Volsimi a loro e: «O gente sicura»,
86incominciai, «di veder l’alto lume
87che ’l disio vostro solo ha in sua cura,

88se tosto grazia resolva le schiume
89di vostra coscïenza sì che chiaro
90per essa scenda de la mente il fiume,

91ditemi, ché mi fia grazioso e caro,
92s’anima è qui tra voi che sia latina;
93e forse lei sarà buon s’i’ l’apparo».

94«O frate mio, ciascuna è cittadina
95d’una vera città; ma tu vuo’ dire
96che vivesse in Italia peregrina».

97Questo mi parve per risposta udire
98più innanzi alquanto che là dov’ io stava,
99ond’ io mi feci ancor più là sentire.

100Tra l’altre vidi un’ombra ch’aspettava
101in vista; e se volesse alcun dir ‘Come?’,
102lo mento a guisa d’orbo in sù levava.

103«Spirto», diss’ io, «che per salir ti dome,
104se tu se’ quelli che mi rispondesti,
105fammiti conto o per luogo o per nome».

106«Io fui sanese», rispuose, «e con questi
107altri rimendo qui la vita ria,
108lagrimando a colui che sé ne presti.

109Savia non fui, avvegna che Sapìa
110fossi chiamata, e fui de li altrui danni
111più lieta assai che di ventura mia.

112E perché tu non creda ch’io t’inganni,
113odi s’i’ fui, com’ io ti dico, folle,
114già discendendo l’arco d’i miei anni.

115Eran li cittadin miei presso a Colle
116in campo giunti co’ loro avversari,
117e io pregava Iddio di quel ch’e’ volle.

118Rotti fuor quivi e vòlti ne li amari
119passi di fuga; e veggendo la caccia,
120letizia presi a tutte altre dispari,

121tanto ch’io volsi in sù l’ardita faccia,
122gridando a Dio: “Omai più non ti temo!”,
123come fé ’l merlo per poca bonaccia.

124Pace volli con Dio in su lo stremo
125de la mia vita; e ancor non sarebbe
126lo mio dover per penitenza scemo,

127se ciò non fosse, ch’a memoria m’ebbe
128Pier Pettinaio in sue sante orazioni,
129a cui di me per caritate increbbe.

130Ma tu chi se’, che nostre condizioni
131vai dimandando, e porti li occhi sciolti,
132sì com’ io credo, e spirando ragioni?».

133«Li occhi», diss’ io, «mi fieno ancor qui tolti,
134ma picciol tempo, ché poca è l’offesa
135fatta per esser con invidia vòlti.

136Troppa è più la paura ond’ è sospesa
137l’anima mia del tormento di sotto,
138che già lo ’ncarco di là giù mi pesa».

139Ed ella a me: «Chi t’ha dunque condotto
140qua sù tra noi, se giù ritornar credi?».
141E io: «Costui ch’è meco e non fa motto.

142E vivo sono; e però mi richiedi,
143spirito eletto, se tu vuo’ ch’i’ mova
144di là per te ancor li mortai piedi».

145«Oh, questa è a udir sì cosa nuova»,
146rispuose, «che gran segno è che Dio t’ami;
147però col priego tuo talor mi giova.

148E cheggioti, per quel che tu più brami,
149se mai calchi la terra di Toscana,
150che a’ miei propinqui tu ben mi rinfami.

151Tu li vedrai tra quella gente vana
152che spera in Talamone, e perderagli
153più di speranza ch’a trovar la Diana;

154ma più vi perderanno li ammiragli».

We now had reached the summit of the stairs
where once again the mountain whose ascent
delivers man from sin has been indented.

There, just as in the case of the first terrace,
a second terrace runs around the slope,
except that it describes a sharper arc.

No effigy is there and no outline:
the bank is visible, the naked path—
only the livid color of raw rock.

“If we wait here in order to inquire
of those who pass,” the poet said, “I fear
our choice of path may be delayed too long.”

And then he fixed his eyes upon the sun;
letting his right side serve to guide his movement,
he wheeled his left around and changed direction.

“O gentle light, through trust in which I enter
on this new path, may you conduct us here,”
he said, “for men need guidance in this place.

You warm the world and you illumine it;
unless a higher Power urge us elsewhere,
your rays must always be the guides that lead.”

We had already journeyed there as far
as we should reckon here to be a mile,
and done it in brief time—our will was eager—

when we heard spirits as they flew toward us,
though they could not be seen—spirits pronouncing
courteous invitations to love’s table.

The first voice that flew by called out aloud:
“Vinum non habent,” and behind us that
same voice reiterated its example.

And as that voice drew farther off, before
it faded finally, another cried:
“I am Orestes.” It, too, did not stop.

“What voices are these, father?” were my words;
and as I asked him this, I heard a third
voice say: “Love those by whom you have been hurt.”

And my good master said: “The sin of envy
is scourged within this circle; thus, the cords
that form the scourging lash are plied by love.

The sounds of punished envy, envy curbed,
are different; if I judge right, you’ll hear
those sounds before we reach the pass of pardon.

But let your eyes be fixed attentively
and, through the air, you will see people seated
before us, all of them on the stone terrace.”

I opened—wider than before—my eyes;
I looked ahead of me, and I saw shades
with cloaks that shared their color with the rocks.

And once we’d moved a little farther on,
I heard the cry of, “Mary, pray for us,”
and then heard, “Michael,” “Peter,” and “All saints.”

I think no man now walks upon the earth
who is so hard that he would not have been
pierced by compassion for what I saw next;

for when I had drawn close enough to see
clearly the way they paid their penalty,
the force of grief pressed tears out of my eyes.

Those souls—it seemed—were cloaked in coarse haircloth;
another’s shoulder served each shade as prop,
and all of them were bolstered by the rocks:

so do the blind who have to beg appear
on pardon days to plead for what they need,
each bending his head back and toward the other,

that all who watch feel—quickly—pity’s touch
not only through the words that would entreat
but through the sight, which can—no less—beseech.

And just as, to the blind, no sun appears,
so to the shades—of whom I now speak—here,
the light of heaven would not give itself;

for iron wire pierces and sews up
the lids of all those shades, as untamed hawks
are handled, lest, too restless, they fly off.

It seemed to me a gross discourtesy
for me, going, to see and not be seen;
therefore, I turned to my wise counselor.

He knew quite well what I, though mute, had meant;
and thus he did not wait for my request,
but said: “Speak, and be brief and to the point.”

Virgil was to my right, along the outside,
nearer the terrace—edge—no parapet
was there to keep a man from falling off;

and to my other side were the devout
shades; through their eyes, sewn so atrociously,
those spirits forced the tears that bathed their cheeks.

I turned to them; and “You who can be certain,”
I then began, “of seeing that high light
which is the only object of your longing,

may, in your conscience, all impurity
soon be dissolved by grace, so that the stream
of memory flow through it limpidly;

tell me, for I shall welcome such dear words,
if any soul among you is Italian;
if I know that, then I—perhaps—can help him.”

“My brother, each of us is citizen
of one true city: what you meant to say
was ‘one who lived in Italy as pilgrim.'”

My hearing placed the point from which this answer
had come somewhat ahead of me; therefore,
I made myself heard farther on; moving,

I saw one shade among the rest who looked
expectant; and if any should ask how—
its chin was lifted as a blind man’s is.

“Spirit,” I said, “who have subdued yourself
that you may climb, if it is you who answered,
then let me know you by your place or name.”

“I was a Sienese,” she answered, “and
with others here I mend my wicked life,
weeping to Him that He grant us Himself.

I was not sapient, though I was called Sapia;
and I rejoiced far more at others’ hurts
than at my own good fortune. And lest you

should think I have deceived you, hear and judge
if I was not, as I have told you, mad
when my years’ arc had reached its downward part.

My fellow citizens were close to Colle,
where they’d joined battle with their enemies,
and I prayed God for that which He had willed.

There they were routed, beaten; they were reeling
along the bitter paths of flight; and seeing
that chase, I felt incomparable joy,

so that I lifted up my daring face
and cried to God: ‘Now I fear you no more!’—
as did the blackbird after brief fair weather.

I looked for peace with God at my life’s end;
the penalty I owe for sin would not
be lessened now by penitence had not

one who was sorrowing for me because
of charity in him—Pier Pettinaio—
remembered me in his devout petitions.

But who are you, who question our condition
as you move on, whose eyes—if I judge right—
have not been sewn, who uses breath to speak?”

“My eyes,” I said, “will be denied me here,
but only briefly; the offense of envy
was not committed often by their gaze.

I fear much more the punishment below;
my soul is anxious, in suspense; already
I feel the heavy weights of the first terrace.”

And she: “Who, then, led you up here among us,
if you believe you will return below?”
And I: “He who is with me and is silent.

I am alive; and therefore, chosen spirit,
if you would have me move my mortal steps
on your behalf, beyond, ask me for that.”

“Oh, this,” she answered, “is so strange a thing
to hear: the sign is clear—you have God’s love.
Thus, help me sometimes with your prayers. I ask

of you, by that which you desire most,
if you should ever tread the Tuscan earth,
to see my name restored among my kin.

You will see them among those vain ones who
have put their trust in Talamone (their loss
in hope will be more than Diana cost);

but there the admirals will lose the most.”

WE were upon the summit of the stairs,
Where for the second time is cut away
The mountain, which ascending shriveth all

There in like manner doth a cornice bind
The hill all round about, as does the first,
Save that its arc more suddenly is curved

Shade is there none, nor sculpture that appears;
So seems the bank, and so the road seems smooth
With but the livid colour of the stone.

“If to inquire we wait for people here,”
The Poet said, “I fear that peradventure
Too much delay will our election have.”

‘Then steadfast on the sun his eyes he fixed.
Made his right side the centre of his motion,
And turned the left part of himself about.

“O thou sweet light! with trust in whom I enter
Upon this novel journey, do thou lead us,’
Said he, “as one within here should be led.

Thou warmest the world, thou shinest over it;
If other reason prompt not otherwise,
Thy rays should evermore our leaders be!”

As much as here is counted for a mile,
So much already there had we advanced
In little time, by dint of ready will;

And tow’rds us there were heard to fly, albeit
They were not visible, spirits uttering
Unto Love’s table courteous invitations,

The first voice that passed onward in its flight,
_”Vinum non habent,”_ said in accents loud,
And went reiterating it behind us.

And ere it wholly grew inaudible
Because of distance, passed another, crying,
“I am Orestes!” and it also stayed not.

“O,” said I, “Father, these, what voices are they?”
And even as I asked, behold the third,
Saying: “Love those from whom ye have had evil!

And the good Master said: “This circle scourges
The sin of envy, and on that account
Are drawn from love the lashes of the scourge.

The bridle of another sound shall be;
I think that thou wilt hear it, as I judge,
Before thou comest to the Pass of Pardon.

But fix thine eyes athwart the air right steadfast,
And people thou wilt see before us sitting,
And each one close against the cliff is seated.”

Then wider than at first mine eyes I opened;
I looked before me, and saw shades with mantles
Not from the colour of the stone diverse.

And when we were a little farther onward
I heard a cry of, “Mary, pray for us!”
A cry of, “Michael, Peter, and all Saints!”

I do not think there walketh still on earth
A man so hard, that he would not be pierced
With pity at what afterward I saw.

For when I had approached so near to them
That manifest to me their acts became,
Drained was I at the eyes by heavy grief.

Covered with sackcloth vile they seemed to me,
And one sustained the other with his shoulder,
And all of them were by the bank sustained.

Thus do the blind, in want of livelihood,
Stand at the doors of churches asking alms,
And one upon another leans his head

So that in others pity soon may rise,
Not only at the accent of their words,
But at their aspect, which no less implores.

And as unto the blind the sun comes not
So to the shades, of whom just now I spake,
Heaven’s light will not be bounteous of itself;

For all their lids an iron wire transpierces,
And sews them up, as to a sparhawk wild
Is done, because it will not quiet stay.

To me it seemed, in passing, to do outrage,
Seeing the others without being seen;
Wherefore I turned me to my counsel sage.

Well knew he what the mute one wished to say,
And therefore waited not for my demand,
But said: “Speak, and be brief, and to the point.”

I had Virgilius upon that side
Of the embankment from which one may fall,
Since by no border ’tis engarlanded;

Upon the other side of me I had
The shades devout, who through the horrible seam
Pressed out the tears so that they bathed their cheeks.

To them I turned me, and, “O people, certain,”
Began I, “of beholding the high light,
Which your desire has solely in its care,

So may grace speedily dissolve the scum
Upon your consciences, that limpidly
Through them descend the river of the mind,

Tell me, for dear ’twill be to me and gracious,
If any soul among you here is Latian,
And ’twill perchance be good for him I learn it.”

“O brother mine, each one is citizen
Of one true city; but thy meaning is,
Who may have lived in Italy a pilgrim.”

By way of answer this I seemed to hear
A little farther on than where I stood,
Whereat I made myself still nearer heard.

Among the rest I saw a shade that waited
In aspect, and should any one ask how,
Its chin it lifted upward like a blind man.

“Spirit,” I said, “who stoopest to ascend,
If thou art he who did reply to me,
Make thyself known to me by place or name.

“Sienese was I,” it replied, “and with
The others here recleanse my guilty life,
Weeping to Him to lend himself to us.

Sapient I was not, although I Sapia
Was called, and I was at another’s harm
More happy far than at my own good fortune.

And that thou mayst not think that I deceive thee,
Hear if I was as foolish as I tell thee.
The arc already of my years descending,

My fellow—citizens near unto Colle
Were joined in battle with their adversaries,
And I was praying God for what he willed.

Routed were they, and turned into the bitter
Passes of flight; and I, the chase beholding,
A joy received unequalled by all others;

So that I lifted upward my bold face
Crying to God, ‘ Henceforth I fear thee not,’
As did the blackbird at the little sunshine.

Peace I desired with God at the extreme
Of my existence, and as yet would not
My debt have been by penitence discharged,

Had it not been that in remembrance held me
Pier Pettignano in his holy prayers,
Who out of charity was grieved for me.

But who art thou, that into our conditions
Questioning goest, and hast thine eyes unbound
As I believe, and breathing dost discourse ?”

“Mine eyes,” I said, “will yet be here ta’en from me,
But for short space ; for small is the offence
Committed by their being turned with envy.

Far greater is the fear, wherein suspended
My soul is, of the torment underneath,
For even now the load down there weighs on me.”

And she to me: “Who led thee, then, among us
Up here, if to return below thou thinkest ?”
And I: “He who is with me, and speaks not;

And living am I; therefore ask of me,
Spirit elect, if thou wouldst have me move
O’er yonder yet my mortal feet for thee.”

“O, this is such a novel thing to hear,
She answered, “that great sign it is God loves thee;
Therefore with prayer of thine sometimes assist me

And I implore, by what thou most desirest,
If e’er thou treadest the soil of Tuscany,
Well with my kindred reinstate my fame.

Them wilt thou see among that people vain
Who hope in Talamone, and will lose there
More hope than in discovering the Diana;

But there still more the admirals will lose.”

We now had reached the summit of the stairs
where once again the mountain whose ascent
delivers man from sin has been indented.

There, just as in the case of the first terrace,
a second terrace runs around the slope,
except that it describes a sharper arc.

No effigy is there and no outline:
the bank is visible, the naked path—
only the livid color of raw rock.

“If we wait here in order to inquire
of those who pass,” the poet said, “I fear
our choice of path may be delayed too long.”

And then he fixed his eyes upon the sun;
letting his right side serve to guide his movement,
he wheeled his left around and changed direction.

“O gentle light, through trust in which I enter
on this new path, may you conduct us here,”
he said, “for men need guidance in this place.

You warm the world and you illumine it;
unless a higher Power urge us elsewhere,
your rays must always be the guides that lead.”

We had already journeyed there as far
as we should reckon here to be a mile,
and done it in brief time—our will was eager—

when we heard spirits as they flew toward us,
though they could not be seen—spirits pronouncing
courteous invitations to love’s table.

The first voice that flew by called out aloud:
“Vinum non habent,” and behind us that
same voice reiterated its example.

And as that voice drew farther off, before
it faded finally, another cried:
“I am Orestes.” It, too, did not stop.

“What voices are these, father?” were my words;
and as I asked him this, I heard a third
voice say: “Love those by whom you have been hurt.”

And my good master said: “The sin of envy
is scourged within this circle; thus, the cords
that form the scourging lash are plied by love.

The sounds of punished envy, envy curbed,
are different; if I judge right, you’ll hear
those sounds before we reach the pass of pardon.

But let your eyes be fixed attentively
and, through the air, you will see people seated
before us, all of them on the stone terrace.”

I opened—wider than before—my eyes;
I looked ahead of me, and I saw shades
with cloaks that shared their color with the rocks.

And once we’d moved a little farther on,
I heard the cry of, “Mary, pray for us,”
and then heard, “Michael,” “Peter,” and “All saints.”

I think no man now walks upon the earth
who is so hard that he would not have been
pierced by compassion for what I saw next;

for when I had drawn close enough to see
clearly the way they paid their penalty,
the force of grief pressed tears out of my eyes.

Those souls—it seemed—were cloaked in coarse haircloth;
another’s shoulder served each shade as prop,
and all of them were bolstered by the rocks:

so do the blind who have to beg appear
on pardon days to plead for what they need,
each bending his head back and toward the other,

that all who watch feel—quickly—pity’s touch
not only through the words that would entreat
but through the sight, which can—no less—beseech.

And just as, to the blind, no sun appears,
so to the shades—of whom I now speak—here,
the light of heaven would not give itself;

for iron wire pierces and sews up
the lids of all those shades, as untamed hawks
are handled, lest, too restless, they fly off.

It seemed to me a gross discourtesy
for me, going, to see and not be seen;
therefore, I turned to my wise counselor.

He knew quite well what I, though mute, had meant;
and thus he did not wait for my request,
but said: “Speak, and be brief and to the point.”

Virgil was to my right, along the outside,
nearer the terrace—edge—no parapet
was there to keep a man from falling off;

and to my other side were the devout
shades; through their eyes, sewn so atrociously,
those spirits forced the tears that bathed their cheeks.

I turned to them; and “You who can be certain,”
I then began, “of seeing that high light
which is the only object of your longing,

may, in your conscience, all impurity
soon be dissolved by grace, so that the stream
of memory flow through it limpidly;

tell me, for I shall welcome such dear words,
if any soul among you is Italian;
if I know that, then I—perhaps—can help him.”

“My brother, each of us is citizen
of one true city: what you meant to say
was ‘one who lived in Italy as pilgrim.'”

My hearing placed the point from which this answer
had come somewhat ahead of me; therefore,
I made myself heard farther on; moving,

I saw one shade among the rest who looked
expectant; and if any should ask how—
its chin was lifted as a blind man’s is.

“Spirit,” I said, “who have subdued yourself
that you may climb, if it is you who answered,
then let me know you by your place or name.”

“I was a Sienese,” she answered, “and
with others here I mend my wicked life,
weeping to Him that He grant us Himself.

I was not sapient, though I was called Sapia;
and I rejoiced far more at others’ hurts
than at my own good fortune. And lest you

should think I have deceived you, hear and judge
if I was not, as I have told you, mad
when my years’ arc had reached its downward part.

My fellow citizens were close to Colle,
where they’d joined battle with their enemies,
and I prayed God for that which He had willed.

There they were routed, beaten; they were reeling
along the bitter paths of flight; and seeing
that chase, I felt incomparable joy,

so that I lifted up my daring face
and cried to God: ‘Now I fear you no more!’—
as did the blackbird after brief fair weather.

I looked for peace with God at my life’s end;
the penalty I owe for sin would not
be lessened now by penitence had not

one who was sorrowing for me because
of charity in him—Pier Pettinaio—
remembered me in his devout petitions.

But who are you, who question our condition
as you move on, whose eyes—if I judge right—
have not been sewn, who uses breath to speak?”

“My eyes,” I said, “will be denied me here,
but only briefly; the offense of envy
was not committed often by their gaze.

I fear much more the punishment below;
my soul is anxious, in suspense; already
I feel the heavy weights of the first terrace.”

And she: “Who, then, led you up here among us,
if you believe you will return below?”
And I: “He who is with me and is silent.

I am alive; and therefore, chosen spirit,
if you would have me move my mortal steps
on your behalf, beyond, ask me for that.”

“Oh, this,” she answered, “is so strange a thing
to hear: the sign is clear—you have God’s love.
Thus, help me sometimes with your prayers. I ask

of you, by that which you desire most,
if you should ever tread the Tuscan earth,
to see my name restored among my kin.

You will see them among those vain ones who
have put their trust in Talamone (their loss
in hope will be more than Diana cost);

but there the admirals will lose the most.”

WE were upon the summit of the stairs,
Where for the second time is cut away
The mountain, which ascending shriveth all

There in like manner doth a cornice bind
The hill all round about, as does the first,
Save that its arc more suddenly is curved

Shade is there none, nor sculpture that appears;
So seems the bank, and so the road seems smooth
With but the livid colour of the stone.

“If to inquire we wait for people here,”
The Poet said, “I fear that peradventure
Too much delay will our election have.”

‘Then steadfast on the sun his eyes he fixed.
Made his right side the centre of his motion,
And turned the left part of himself about.

“O thou sweet light! with trust in whom I enter
Upon this novel journey, do thou lead us,’
Said he, “as one within here should be led.

Thou warmest the world, thou shinest over it;
If other reason prompt not otherwise,
Thy rays should evermore our leaders be!”

As much as here is counted for a mile,
So much already there had we advanced
In little time, by dint of ready will;

And tow’rds us there were heard to fly, albeit
They were not visible, spirits uttering
Unto Love’s table courteous invitations,

The first voice that passed onward in its flight,
_”Vinum non habent,”_ said in accents loud,
And went reiterating it behind us.

And ere it wholly grew inaudible
Because of distance, passed another, crying,
“I am Orestes!” and it also stayed not.

“O,” said I, “Father, these, what voices are they?”
And even as I asked, behold the third,
Saying: “Love those from whom ye have had evil!

And the good Master said: “This circle scourges
The sin of envy, and on that account
Are drawn from love the lashes of the scourge.

The bridle of another sound shall be;
I think that thou wilt hear it, as I judge,
Before thou comest to the Pass of Pardon.

But fix thine eyes athwart the air right steadfast,
And people thou wilt see before us sitting,
And each one close against the cliff is seated.”

Then wider than at first mine eyes I opened;
I looked before me, and saw shades with mantles
Not from the colour of the stone diverse.

And when we were a little farther onward
I heard a cry of, “Mary, pray for us!”
A cry of, “Michael, Peter, and all Saints!”

I do not think there walketh still on earth
A man so hard, that he would not be pierced
With pity at what afterward I saw.

For when I had approached so near to them
That manifest to me their acts became,
Drained was I at the eyes by heavy grief.

Covered with sackcloth vile they seemed to me,
And one sustained the other with his shoulder,
And all of them were by the bank sustained.

Thus do the blind, in want of livelihood,
Stand at the doors of churches asking alms,
And one upon another leans his head

So that in others pity soon may rise,
Not only at the accent of their words,
But at their aspect, which no less implores.

And as unto the blind the sun comes not
So to the shades, of whom just now I spake,
Heaven’s light will not be bounteous of itself;

For all their lids an iron wire transpierces,
And sews them up, as to a sparhawk wild
Is done, because it will not quiet stay.

To me it seemed, in passing, to do outrage,
Seeing the others without being seen;
Wherefore I turned me to my counsel sage.

Well knew he what the mute one wished to say,
And therefore waited not for my demand,
But said: “Speak, and be brief, and to the point.”

I had Virgilius upon that side
Of the embankment from which one may fall,
Since by no border ’tis engarlanded;

Upon the other side of me I had
The shades devout, who through the horrible seam
Pressed out the tears so that they bathed their cheeks.

To them I turned me, and, “O people, certain,”
Began I, “of beholding the high light,
Which your desire has solely in its care,

So may grace speedily dissolve the scum
Upon your consciences, that limpidly
Through them descend the river of the mind,

Tell me, for dear ’twill be to me and gracious,
If any soul among you here is Latian,
And ’twill perchance be good for him I learn it.”

“O brother mine, each one is citizen
Of one true city; but thy meaning is,
Who may have lived in Italy a pilgrim.”

By way of answer this I seemed to hear
A little farther on than where I stood,
Whereat I made myself still nearer heard.

Among the rest I saw a shade that waited
In aspect, and should any one ask how,
Its chin it lifted upward like a blind man.

“Spirit,” I said, “who stoopest to ascend,
If thou art he who did reply to me,
Make thyself known to me by place or name.

“Sienese was I,” it replied, “and with
The others here recleanse my guilty life,
Weeping to Him to lend himself to us.

Sapient I was not, although I Sapia
Was called, and I was at another’s harm
More happy far than at my own good fortune.

And that thou mayst not think that I deceive thee,
Hear if I was as foolish as I tell thee.
The arc already of my years descending,

My fellow—citizens near unto Colle
Were joined in battle with their adversaries,
And I was praying God for what he willed.

Routed were they, and turned into the bitter
Passes of flight; and I, the chase beholding,
A joy received unequalled by all others;

So that I lifted upward my bold face
Crying to God, ‘ Henceforth I fear thee not,’
As did the blackbird at the little sunshine.

Peace I desired with God at the extreme
Of my existence, and as yet would not
My debt have been by penitence discharged,

Had it not been that in remembrance held me
Pier Pettignano in his holy prayers,
Who out of charity was grieved for me.

But who art thou, that into our conditions
Questioning goest, and hast thine eyes unbound
As I believe, and breathing dost discourse ?”

“Mine eyes,” I said, “will yet be here ta’en from me,
But for short space ; for small is the offence
Committed by their being turned with envy.

Far greater is the fear, wherein suspended
My soul is, of the torment underneath,
For even now the load down there weighs on me.”

And she to me: “Who led thee, then, among us
Up here, if to return below thou thinkest ?”
And I: “He who is with me, and speaks not;

And living am I; therefore ask of me,
Spirit elect, if thou wouldst have me move
O’er yonder yet my mortal feet for thee.”

“O, this is such a novel thing to hear,
She answered, “that great sign it is God loves thee;
Therefore with prayer of thine sometimes assist me

And I implore, by what thou most desirest,
If e’er thou treadest the soil of Tuscany,
Well with my kindred reinstate my fame.

Them wilt thou see among that people vain
Who hope in Talamone, and will lose there
More hope than in discovering the Diana;

But there still more the admirals will lose.”