Divine Multiplication

Chapter 7 of The Undivine Comedy tackles the fundamental issue of visionary experience, which Dante thematizes in the Purgatorio: in the three dreams that punctuate his climb up the mountain (Purgatorio 9, Purgatorio 19, Purgatorio 27), in the ecstatic visions of the terrace of wrath at the center of the Commedia (Purgatorio 15 and 17), and in the vision he is afforded of all Christian history at the end of this cantica. The expression “non false errors” of the title of Chapter 7 comes from Purgatorio 15, where Dante describes the ecstatic visions he experiences on the terrace of wrath as “non falsi errori” (117). The Evangelist of the chapter title is St. John, writer of the Apocalpyse (in Dante’s time the St. John who wrote the Apocalpyse was not distinguished from St. John the Evangelist, who wrote the Gospel of John): the Apocalypse is precisely a “true dream” or “vision”, one that Dante references in Inferno 19 and that is the key intertext of the visionary procession at the end of Purgatorio.

The “splendore” (Purg. 15.11) with which Purgatorio 15 begins is an introduction to the “luce rifratta” (Purg. 15.22) of paradise, where all the souls reflect the light of God—literally. Here, the pilgrim is struck so forcefully by the light that he has to look away:

  così mi parve da luce rifratta
quivi dinanzi a me esser percosso;
per che a fuggir la mia vista fu ratta. (Purg. 15.22-24)
  so did it seem to me that I had been
struck there by light reflected, facing me,
at which my eyes turned elsewhere rapidly.

The first segment of Purgatorio 15 is the conclusion of the terrace of envy: the light by which the pilgrim is struck comes from the angel who removes the second “P” from Dante’s brow. There follows the recitation of a Beatitude and the passage upwards to the third terrace, the terrace of anger.

To pass the time while climbing the pilgrim asks his guide in verses 44-45 what the “spirit of Romagna” (Guido del Duca) meant when he used the terms “divieto” and “consorte”:

  Che volse dir lo spirto di Romagna,
e ‘divieto’ e ‘consorte’ menzionando?  (Purg. 15.44-45)
  What did the spirit of Romagna mean
when he said, ‘Sharing cannot have a part’?

The pilgrim is referring to Guido del Duca’s bitter rhetorical question from the preceding canto:

  o gente umana, perché poni ’l core
là ’v’è mestier di consorte divieto? (Purg. 14.86-87)
  o humankind, why do you set your hearts
there where our sharing cannot have a part?

Humans, Virgilio explains, insist on directing their love and desire “there where sharing cannot have a part”; in other words, we humans desire objects that are diminished when shared:

  Perché s’appuntano i vostri disiri
dove per compagnia parte si scema,
invidia move il mantaco a’ sospiri. (Purg. 15.49-51)
  For when your longings center on things such
that sharing them apportions less to each,
then envy stirs the bellows of your sighs. 

If only we would direct our longings upward, toward heaven, we would find that there would be no need for envy, because in heaven, the more there are who share (“the more there are who say ‘ours’” [Purg. 15.55]), the more that each one possesses of the good, and the more love there is altogether:

  ché, per quanti si dice più lì “nostro”,
tanto possiede più di ben ciascuno,
e più di caritate arde in quel chiostro. (Purg. 15.55-57)
  for there, the more there are who would say “ours,”
so much the greater is the good possessed
by each—so much more love burns in that cloister.

Guido del Duca’s rather cryptic statement in Purgatorio 14 frames envy as the natural consequence of human desire for earthly goods that are necessarily diminished by sharing. Nor is he wrong, in material terms: as a piece of material pie is diminished if I share it with you, so the metaphoric pie chart used by economists to demonstrate proportional distribution is all about divvying up and thereby diminishing. In Purgatorio 15, Virgilio reframes the issue as a discussion of spiritual goods that are increased by sharing.

Spiritual goods follow a principle of divine multiplication rather than terrestrial division: the more that everyone loves the more love there is to go around.

But the pilgrim is resistant. He restates his skeptical question with even more emphasis on the logical and mathematical certainty that a good divided among many possessors is necessarily distributed into smaller parts than if it were divided among fewer possessors, thus making each possessor less rich:

  Com’esser puote ch’un ben, distributo
in più posseditor, faccia più ricchi
di sé, che se da pochi è posseduto? (Purg. 15.61-63)
  How can a good that’s shared by more possessors
enable each to be more rich in it
than if that good had been possessed by few? 

Having formulated the distinction between the material viewpoint and the spiritual viewpoint as clearly and sharply as possible, the poet has Virgilio reconfirm the spiritual calculus, whereby the more souls there are who love each other, the more love there is overall for them to enjoy:

  E quanta gente più là sù s’intende,
più v’è da bene amare, e più vi s'ama,
e come specchio l’uno a l’altro rende. (Purg. 15.73-75)
  And when there are more souls above who love,
there's more to love well there, and they love more, 
and, mirror-like, each soul reflects the other.

After the discourse on the distribution of love come the examples of the virtue, gentleness or meekness, that corresponds to the vice of anger. The three examples of gentleness are, as always, taken first from the life of the Virgin Mary, followed by a classical/biblical mix: Mary’s gentleness with her son, the classical Pisistratus’ gentleness with his daughter’s suitor (these two examples are both very interesting as windows into thinking about the family and normative interactions within it), and the biblical St. Stephen’s meek acceptance of his martyrdom.

The examples on the terrace of anger are experienced by Dante not as visual art (the terrace of pride) or sound-bites flying through the air (the terrace of envy) but, remarkably, as “ecstatic visions”: visions that he sees inside his mind but that are not thereby lessened in their truth-value. In this way the author of the Commedia, a great visionary poem, thematizes the visionary experience itself: what it is to be “caught up” like St. Paul (“tratto” in Purgatorio 15.86, analogous to “ratto” in Purgatorio 9.24).

As I write in The Undivine Comedy: “The hallmarks of the visionary style are never more in evidence than in the rendering of the apparitions of the terrace of wrath, which appear and disappear like bubbles within water” (p. 151). The section of Purgatorio 15 devoted to the examples of humility, along with the section of Purgatorio 17 devoted to the examples of wrath, offer a veritable phenomenology of visionary experience, including the only use of the word “ecstatic” in all Dante’s work:

  Ivi mi parve in una visione
estatica di sùbito esser tratto
e vedere in un tempio più persone . . . (Purg. 15.85-87)
  There I seemed, suddenly, to be caught up
in an ecstatic vision and to see
some people in a temple...

Here Dante offers insight into how he perceived visionary experience, an experience that after all underlies the entire Commedia:

  Quando l’anima mia tornò di fori
a le cose che son fuor di lei vere,
io riconobbi i miei non falsi errori. (Purg. 15.115-17)
  And when my soul returned outside itself
and met the things outside it that are real,
I then could recognize my not false errors.

The Undivine Comedy treats the concept of “non falsi errori” from Purgatorio 15.117 as a foundational index of Dante’s overall textual strategies: see Chapter 1, p. 13, and Chapter 7, “Nonfalse Errors and the True Dreams of the Evangelist.” Chapter 7 deals with visionary experience, and thus with the “non falsi errori” of Purgatorio 15 and 17.

Coordinated Reading

Coordinated Reading: The Undivine Comedy, Chapter 1, “Detheologizing Dante,” esp. p. 13; Chapter 7, “Nonfalse Errors and the True Dreams of the Evangelist.”

Recommended Citation

Barolini, Teodolinda. “Purgatorio 15: Divine Multiplication.” Commento Baroliniano, Digital Dante. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2017. https://digitaldante.columbia.edu/dante/divine-comedy/purgatorio/purgatorio-15/

About the Commento

1Quanto tra l’ultimar de l’ora terza
2e ’l principio del dì par de la spera
3che sempre a guisa di fanciullo scherza,

4tanto pareva già inver’ la sera
5essere al sol del suo corso rimaso;
6vespero là, e qui mezza notte era.

7E i raggi ne ferien per mezzo ’l naso,
8perché per noi girato era sì ’l monte,
9che già dritti andavamo inver’ l’occaso,

10quand’ io senti’ a me gravar la fronte
11a lo splendore assai più che di prima,
12e stupor m’eran le cose non conte;

13ond’ io levai le mani inver’ la cima
14de le mie ciglia, e fecimi ’l solecchio,
15che del soverchio visibile lima.

16Come quando da l’acqua o da lo specchio
17salta lo raggio a l’opposita parte,
18salendo su per lo modo parecchio

19a quel che scende, e tanto si diparte
20dal cader de la pietra in igual tratta,
21sì come mostra esperïenza e arte;

22così mi parve da luce rifratta
23quivi dinanzi a me esser percosso;
24per che a fuggir la mia vista fu ratta.

25«Che è quel, dolce padre, a che non posso
26schermar lo viso tanto che mi vaglia»,
27diss’ io, «e pare inver’ noi esser mosso?».

28«Non ti maravigliar s’ancor t’abbaglia
29la famiglia del cielo», a me rispuose:
30«messo è che viene ad invitar ch’om saglia.

31Tosto sarà ch’a veder queste cose
32non ti fia grave, ma fieti diletto
33quanto natura a sentir ti dispuose».

34Poi giunti fummo a l’angel benedetto,
35con lieta voce disse: «Intrate quinci
36ad un scaleo vie men che li altri eretto».

37Noi montavam, già partiti di linci,
38e ‘Beati misericordes!’ fue
39cantato retro, e ‘Godi tu che vinci!’.

40Lo mio maestro e io soli amendue
41suso andavamo; e io pensai, andando,
42prode acquistar ne le parole sue;

43e dirizza’mi a lui sì dimandando:
44«Che volse dir lo spirto di Romagna,
45e ‘divieto’ e ‘consorte’ menzionando?».

46Per ch’elli a me: «Di sua maggior magagna
47conosce il danno; e però non s’ammiri
48se ne riprende perché men si piagna.

49Perché s’appuntano i vostri disiri
50dove per compagnia parte si scema,
51invidia move il mantaco a’ sospiri.

52Ma se l’amor de la spera supprema
53torcesse in suso il disiderio vostro,
54non vi sarebbe al petto quella tema;

55ché, per quanti si dice più lì ‘nostro’,
56tanto possiede più di ben ciascuno,
57e più di caritate arde in quel chiostro».

58«Io son d’esser contento più digiuno»,
59diss’ io, «che se mi fosse pria taciuto,
60e più di dubbio ne la mente aduno.

61Com’ esser puote ch’un ben, distributo
62in più posseditor, faccia più ricchi
63di sé che se da pochi è posseduto?».

64Ed elli a me: «Però che tu rificchi
65la mente pur a le cose terrene,
66di vera luce tenebre dispicchi.

67Quello infinito e ineffabil bene
68che là sù è, così corre ad amore
69com’ a lucido corpo raggio vene.

70Tanto si dà quanto trova d’ardore;
71sì che, quantunque carità si stende,
72cresce sovr’ essa l’etterno valore.

73E quanta gente più là sù s’intende,
74più v’è da bene amare, e più vi s’ama,
75e come specchio l’uno a l’altro rende.

76E se la mia ragion non ti disfama,
77vedrai Beatrice, ed ella pienamente
78ti torrà questa e ciascun’ altra brama.

79Procaccia pur che tosto sieno spente,
80come son già le due, le cinque piaghe,
81che si richiudon per esser dolente».

82Com’ io voleva dicer ‘Tu m’appaghe’,
83vidimi giunto in su l’altro girone,
84sì che tacer mi fer le luci vaghe.

85Ivi mi parve in una visïone
86estatica di sùbito esser tratto,
87e vedere in un tempio più persone;

88e una donna, in su l’entrar, con atto
89dolce di madre dicer: «Figliuol mio,
90perché hai tu così verso noi fatto?

91Ecco, dolenti, lo tuo padre e io
92ti cercavamo». E come qui si tacque,
93ciò che pareva prima, dispario.

94Indi m’apparve un’altra con quell’ acque
95giù per le gote che ’l dolor distilla
96quando di gran dispetto in altrui nacque,

97e dir: «Se tu se’ sire de la villa
98del cui nome ne’ dèi fu tanta lite,
99e onde ogne scïenza disfavilla,

100vendica te di quelle braccia ardite
101ch’abbracciar nostra figlia, o Pisistràto».
102E ’l segnor mi parea, benigno e mite,

103risponder lei con viso temperato:
104«Che farem noi a chi mal ne disira,
105se quei che ci ama è per noi condannato?»,

106Poi vidi genti accese in foco d’ira
107con pietre un giovinetto ancider, forte
108gridando a sé pur: «Martira, martira!».

109E lui vedea chinarsi, per la morte
110che l’aggravava già, inver’ la terra,
111ma de li occhi facea sempre al ciel porte,

112orando a l’alto Sire, in tanta guerra,
113che perdonasse a’ suoi persecutori,
114con quello aspetto che pietà diserra.

115Quando l’anima mia tornò di fori
116a le cose che son fuor di lei vere,
117io riconobbi i miei non falsi errori.

118Lo duca mio, che mi potea vedere
119far sì com’ om che dal sonno si slega,
120disse: «Che hai che non ti puoi tenere,

121ma se’ venuto più che mezza lega
122velando li occhi e con le gambe avvolte,
123a guisa di cui vino o sonno piega?».

124«O dolce padre mio, se tu m’ascolte,
125io ti dirò», diss’ io, «ciò che m’apparve
126quando le gambe mi furon sì tolte».

127Ed ei: «Se tu avessi cento larve
128sovra la faccia, non mi sarian chiuse
129le tue cogitazion, quantunque parve.

130Ciò che vedesti fu perché non scuse
131d’aprir lo core a l’acque de la pace
132che da l’etterno fonte son diffuse.

133Non dimandai “Che hai?” per quel che face
134chi guarda pur con l’occhio che non vede,
135quando disanimato il corpo giace;

136ma dimandai per darti forza al piede:
137così frugar conviensi i pigri, lenti
138ad usar lor vigilia quando riede».

139Noi andavam per lo vespero, attenti
140oltre quanto potean li occhi allungarsi
141contra i raggi serotini e lucenti.

142Ed ecco a poco a poco un fummo farsi
143verso di noi come la notte oscuro;
144né da quello era loco da cansarsi.

145Questo ne tolse li occhi e l’aere puro.

As many as the hours in which the sphere
that’s always playing like a child appears
from daybreak to the end of the third hour,

so many were the hours of light still left
before the course of day had reached sunset;
vespers was there; and where we are, midnight.

When sunlight struck directly at our faces,
for we had circled so much of the mountain
that now we headed straight into the west,

then I could feel my vision overcome
by radiance greater than I’d sensed before,
and unaccounted things left me amazed;

at which, that they might serve me as a shade,
I lifted up my hands above my brow,
to limit some of that excessive splendor.

As when a ray of light, from water or
a mirror, leaps in the opposed direction
and rises at an angle equal to

its angle of descent, and to each side
the distance from the vertical is equal,
as science and experiment have shown;

so did it seem to me that I had been
struck there by light reflected, facing me,
at which my eyes turned elsewhere rapidly.

“Kind father, what is that against which I
have tried in vain,” I said, “to screen my eyes?
It seems to move toward us.” And he replied:

“Don’t wonder if you are still dazzled by
the family of Heaven: a messenger
has come, and he invites us to ascend.

Soon, in the sight of such things, there will be
no difficulty for you, but delight—
as much as nature fashioned you to feel.”

No sooner had we reached the blessed angel
than with glad voice he told us: “Enter here;
these are less steep than were the other stairs.”

We climbed, already past that point; behind us,
we heard “Beati misericordes” sung
and then “Rejoice, you who have overcome.”

I and my master journeyed on alone,
we two together, upward; as we walked,
I thought I’d gather profit from his words;

and even as I turned toward him, I asked:
“What did the spirit of Romagna mean
when he said, ‘Sharing cannot have a part’?”

And his reply: “He knows the harm that lies
in his worst vice; if he chastises it,
to ease its expiation—do not wonder.

For when your longings center on things such
that sharing them apportions less to each,
then envy stirs the bellows of your sighs.

But if the love within the Highest Sphere
should turn your longings heavenward, the fear
inhabiting your breast would disappear;

for there, the more there are who would say ‘ours,’
so much the greater is the good possessed
by each—so much more love burns in that cloister.”

“I am more hungry now for satisfaction”
I said, “than if I’d held my tongue before;
I host a deeper doubt within my mind.

How can a good that’s shared by more possessors
enable each to be more rich in it
than if that good had been possessed by few?”

And he to me: “But if you still persist
in letting your mind fix on earthly things,
then even from true light you gather darkness.

That Good, ineffable and infinite,
which is above, directs Itself toward love
as light directs itself to polished bodies.

Where ardor is, that Good gives of Itself;
and where more love is, there that Good confers
a greater measure of eternal worth.

And when there are more souls above who love,
there’s more to love well there, and they love more,
and, mirror—like, each soul reflects the other.

And if my speech has not appeased your hunger,
you will see Beatrice—she will fulfill
this and all other longings that you feel.

Now only strive, so that the other five
wounds may be canceled quickly, as the two
already are—the wounds contrition heals.”

But wanting then to say, “You have appeased me,”
I saw that I had reached another circle,
and my desiring eyes made me keep still.

There I seemed, suddenly, to be caught up
in an ecstatic vision and to see
some people in a temple; and a woman

just at the threshold, in the gentle manner
that mothers use, was saying: “O my son,
why have you done this to us? You can see

how we have sought you—sorrowing, your father
and I.” And at this point, as she fell still,
what had appeared at first now disappeared.

Then there appeared to me another woman:
upon her cheeks—the tears that grief distills
when it is born of much scorn for another.

She said: “If you are ruler of that city
to name which even goddesses once vied—
where every science had its source of light—

revenge yourself on the presumptuous
arms that embraced our daughter, o Pisistratus.”
And her lord seemed to me benign and mild,

his aspect temperate, as he replied:
“What shall we do to one who’d injure us
if one who loves us earns our condemnation?”

Next I saw people whom the fire of wrath
had kindled, as they stoned a youth and kept
on shouting loudly to each other: “Kill!”

“Kill!” “Kill!” I saw him now, weighed down by death,
sink to the ground, although his eyes were bent
always on Heaven—they were Heaven’s gates—

praying to his high Lord, despite the torture,
to pardon those who were his persecutors;
his look was such that it unlocked compassion.

And when my soul returned outside itself
and met the things outside it that are real,
I then could recognize my not false errors.

My guide, on seeing me behave as if
I were a man who’s freed himself from sleep,
said: “What is wrong with you? You can’t walk straight;

for more than half a league now you have moved
with clouded eyes and lurching legs, as if
you were a man whom wine or sleep has gripped!”

“Oh, my kind father, if you hear me out,
I’ll tell you what appeared to me,” I said,
“when I had lost the right use of my legs.”

And he: “Although you had a hundred masks
upon your face, that still would not conceal
from me the thoughts you thought, however slight.

What you have seen was shown lest you refuse
to open up your heart unto the waters
of peace that pour from the eternal fountain.

I did not ask ‘What’s wrong with you?’ as one
who only sees with earthly eyes, which—once
the body, stripped of soul, lies dead—can’t see;

I asked so that your feet might find more force:
so must one urge the indolent, too slow
to use their waking time when it returns.”

We made our way until the end of vespers,
peering, as far ahead as sight could stretch,
at rays of light that, although late, were bright.

But, gradually, smoke as black as night
began to overtake us; and there was
no place where we could have avoided it.

This smoke deprived us of pure air and sight.

AS much as ‘twixt the close of the third hour
And dawn of day appeareth of that sphere
Which aye in fashion of a child is playing,

So much it now appeared, towards the night,
Was of his course remaining to the sun;
There it was evening, and ’twas midnight here;

And the rays smote the middle of our faces,
Because by us the mount was so encircled,
That straight towards the west we now were going

When I perceived my forehead overpowered
Beneath the splendour far more than at first,
And stupor were to me the things unknown,

Whereat towards the summit of my brow
I raised my hands, and made myself the visor
Which the excessive glare diminishes.

As when from off the water, or a mirror,
The sunbeam leaps unto the opposite side,
Ascending upward in the selfsame measure

That it descends, and deviates as far
From falling of a stone in line direct,
(As demonstrate experiment and art,)

So it appeared to me that by a light
Refracted there before me I was smitten;
On which account my sight was swift to flee.

“What is that, Father sweet, from which I cannot
So fully screen my sight that it avail me,”
Said I, “and seems towards us to be moving ?”

“Marvel thou not, if dazzle thee as yet
The family of heaven,” he answered me;
“An angel ’tis, who comes to invite us upward.

Soon will it be, that to behold these things
Shall not be grievous, but delightful to thee
As much as nature fashioned thee to feel.”

When we had reached the Angel benedight,
With joyful voice he said: “Here enter in
To stairway far less steep than are the others.”

We mounting were, already thence departed,
And _”Beati misericordes”_ was
Behind us sung, “Rejoice, thou that o’ercomest!”

My Master and myself, we two alone
Were going upward, and I thought, in going,
Some profit to acquire from words of his;

And I to him directed me, thus asking:
“What did the spirit of Romagna mean,
Mentioning interdict and partnership ?”

Whence he to me: “Of his own greatest failing
He knows the harm; and therefore wonder not
If he reprove us, that we less may rue it

Because are thither pointed your desires
Where by companionship each share is lessened,
Envy doth ply the bellows to your sighs.

But if the love of the supernal sphere
Should upwardly direct your aspiration,
There would not be that fear within your breast;

For there, as much the more as one says _Our,_
So much the more of good each one possesses,
And more of charity in that cloister burns.”

“I am more hungering to be satisfied,”
I said, “than if I had before been silent,
And more of doubt within my mind I gather.

How can it be, that boon distributed
The more possessors can more wealthy make
Therein, than if by few it be possessed ?”

And he to me: “Because thou fixest still
Thy mind entirely upon earthly things,
Thou pluckest darkness from the very light.

That goodness infinite and ineffable
Which is above there, runneth unto love,
As to a lucid body comes the sunbeam.

So much it gives itself as it finds ardour,
So that as far as charity extends,
O’er it increases the eternal valour.

And the more people thitherward aspire,
More are there to love well, and more they love there,
And, as a mirror, one reflects the other.

And if my reasoning appease thee not,
Thou shalt see Beatrice; and she will fully
Take from thee this and every other longing.

Endeavour, then, that soon may be extinct,
As are the two already, the five wounds
That close themselves again by being painful.”

Even as I wished to say, “Thou dost appease me,”
I saw that I had reached another circle,
So that my eager eyes made me keep silence.

There it appeared to me that in a vision
Ecstatic on a sudden I was rapt,
And in a temple many persons saw;

And at the door a woman, with the sweet
Behaviour of a mother, saying: “Son,
Why in this manner hast thou dealt with us ?

Lo, sorrowing, thy father and myself
Were seeking for thee ;”— and as here she cease
That which appeared at first had disappeared.

Then I beheld another with those waters
Adown her cheeks which grief distils whenever
From great disdain of others it is born,

And saying: “If of that city thou art lord,
For whose name was such strife among the gods
And whence doth every science scintillate,

Avenge thyself on those audacious arms
That clasped our daughter, O Pisistratus ,”
And the lord seemed to me benign and mild

To answer her with aspect temperate:
“What shall we do to those who wish us ill,
If he who loves us be by us condemned ?”

Then saw I people hot in fire of wrath,
With stones a young man slaying, clamorously
Still crying to each other, “Kill him! kill him!”

And him I saw bow down, because of death
That weighed already on him, to the earth,
But of his eyes made ever gates to heaven,

Imploring the high Lord, in so great strife,
That he would pardon those his persecutors,
With such an aspect as unlocks compassion.

Soon as my soul had outwardly returned
To things external to it which are true,
Did I my not false errors recognize.

My Leader, who could see me bear myself
Like to a man that rouses him from sleep,
Exclaimed: “What ails thee, that thou canst not stand ?

But hast been coming more than half a league
Veiling thine eyes, and with thy legs entangled
In guise of one whom wine or sleep subdues ? ‘

“O my sweet Father, if thou listen to me,
I’ll tell thee,” said I, “what appeared to me,
When thus from me my legs were ta’en away.”

And he: “If thou shouldst have a hundred masks
Upon thy face, from me would not be shut
Thy cogitations, howsoever small.

What thou hast seen was that thou mayst not fail
To ope thy heart unto the waters of peace
Which from the eternal fountain are diffused.

I did not ask, ‘ What ails thee ?’ as he does
Who only looketh with the eyes that see not
When of the soul bereft the body lies,

But asked it to give vigour to thy feet;
Thus must we needs urge on the sluggards, slow
To use their wakefulness when it returns.”

We passed along, athwart the twilight peering
Forward as far as ever eye could stretch
Against the sunbeams serotine and lucent;

And lo! by slow degrees a smoke approached
In our direction, sombre as the night,
Nor was there place to hide one’s self therefrom.

This of our eyes and the pure air bereft us.

As many as the hours in which the sphere
that’s always playing like a child appears
from daybreak to the end of the third hour,

so many were the hours of light still left
before the course of day had reached sunset;
vespers was there; and where we are, midnight.

When sunlight struck directly at our faces,
for we had circled so much of the mountain
that now we headed straight into the west,

then I could feel my vision overcome
by radiance greater than I’d sensed before,
and unaccounted things left me amazed;

at which, that they might serve me as a shade,
I lifted up my hands above my brow,
to limit some of that excessive splendor.

As when a ray of light, from water or
a mirror, leaps in the opposed direction
and rises at an angle equal to

its angle of descent, and to each side
the distance from the vertical is equal,
as science and experiment have shown;

so did it seem to me that I had been
struck there by light reflected, facing me,
at which my eyes turned elsewhere rapidly.

“Kind father, what is that against which I
have tried in vain,” I said, “to screen my eyes?
It seems to move toward us.” And he replied:

“Don’t wonder if you are still dazzled by
the family of Heaven: a messenger
has come, and he invites us to ascend.

Soon, in the sight of such things, there will be
no difficulty for you, but delight—
as much as nature fashioned you to feel.”

No sooner had we reached the blessed angel
than with glad voice he told us: “Enter here;
these are less steep than were the other stairs.”

We climbed, already past that point; behind us,
we heard “Beati misericordes” sung
and then “Rejoice, you who have overcome.”

I and my master journeyed on alone,
we two together, upward; as we walked,
I thought I’d gather profit from his words;

and even as I turned toward him, I asked:
“What did the spirit of Romagna mean
when he said, ‘Sharing cannot have a part’?”

And his reply: “He knows the harm that lies
in his worst vice; if he chastises it,
to ease its expiation—do not wonder.

For when your longings center on things such
that sharing them apportions less to each,
then envy stirs the bellows of your sighs.

But if the love within the Highest Sphere
should turn your longings heavenward, the fear
inhabiting your breast would disappear;

for there, the more there are who would say ‘ours,’
so much the greater is the good possessed
by each—so much more love burns in that cloister.”

“I am more hungry now for satisfaction”
I said, “than if I’d held my tongue before;
I host a deeper doubt within my mind.

How can a good that’s shared by more possessors
enable each to be more rich in it
than if that good had been possessed by few?”

And he to me: “But if you still persist
in letting your mind fix on earthly things,
then even from true light you gather darkness.

That Good, ineffable and infinite,
which is above, directs Itself toward love
as light directs itself to polished bodies.

Where ardor is, that Good gives of Itself;
and where more love is, there that Good confers
a greater measure of eternal worth.

And when there are more souls above who love,
there’s more to love well there, and they love more,
and, mirror—like, each soul reflects the other.

And if my speech has not appeased your hunger,
you will see Beatrice—she will fulfill
this and all other longings that you feel.

Now only strive, so that the other five
wounds may be canceled quickly, as the two
already are—the wounds contrition heals.”

But wanting then to say, “You have appeased me,”
I saw that I had reached another circle,
and my desiring eyes made me keep still.

There I seemed, suddenly, to be caught up
in an ecstatic vision and to see
some people in a temple; and a woman

just at the threshold, in the gentle manner
that mothers use, was saying: “O my son,
why have you done this to us? You can see

how we have sought you—sorrowing, your father
and I.” And at this point, as she fell still,
what had appeared at first now disappeared.

Then there appeared to me another woman:
upon her cheeks—the tears that grief distills
when it is born of much scorn for another.

She said: “If you are ruler of that city
to name which even goddesses once vied—
where every science had its source of light—

revenge yourself on the presumptuous
arms that embraced our daughter, o Pisistratus.”
And her lord seemed to me benign and mild,

his aspect temperate, as he replied:
“What shall we do to one who’d injure us
if one who loves us earns our condemnation?”

Next I saw people whom the fire of wrath
had kindled, as they stoned a youth and kept
on shouting loudly to each other: “Kill!”

“Kill!” “Kill!” I saw him now, weighed down by death,
sink to the ground, although his eyes were bent
always on Heaven—they were Heaven’s gates—

praying to his high Lord, despite the torture,
to pardon those who were his persecutors;
his look was such that it unlocked compassion.

And when my soul returned outside itself
and met the things outside it that are real,
I then could recognize my not false errors.

My guide, on seeing me behave as if
I were a man who’s freed himself from sleep,
said: “What is wrong with you? You can’t walk straight;

for more than half a league now you have moved
with clouded eyes and lurching legs, as if
you were a man whom wine or sleep has gripped!”

“Oh, my kind father, if you hear me out,
I’ll tell you what appeared to me,” I said,
“when I had lost the right use of my legs.”

And he: “Although you had a hundred masks
upon your face, that still would not conceal
from me the thoughts you thought, however slight.

What you have seen was shown lest you refuse
to open up your heart unto the waters
of peace that pour from the eternal fountain.

I did not ask ‘What’s wrong with you?’ as one
who only sees with earthly eyes, which—once
the body, stripped of soul, lies dead—can’t see;

I asked so that your feet might find more force:
so must one urge the indolent, too slow
to use their waking time when it returns.”

We made our way until the end of vespers,
peering, as far ahead as sight could stretch,
at rays of light that, although late, were bright.

But, gradually, smoke as black as night
began to overtake us; and there was
no place where we could have avoided it.

This smoke deprived us of pure air and sight.

AS much as ‘twixt the close of the third hour
And dawn of day appeareth of that sphere
Which aye in fashion of a child is playing,

So much it now appeared, towards the night,
Was of his course remaining to the sun;
There it was evening, and ’twas midnight here;

And the rays smote the middle of our faces,
Because by us the mount was so encircled,
That straight towards the west we now were going

When I perceived my forehead overpowered
Beneath the splendour far more than at first,
And stupor were to me the things unknown,

Whereat towards the summit of my brow
I raised my hands, and made myself the visor
Which the excessive glare diminishes.

As when from off the water, or a mirror,
The sunbeam leaps unto the opposite side,
Ascending upward in the selfsame measure

That it descends, and deviates as far
From falling of a stone in line direct,
(As demonstrate experiment and art,)

So it appeared to me that by a light
Refracted there before me I was smitten;
On which account my sight was swift to flee.

“What is that, Father sweet, from which I cannot
So fully screen my sight that it avail me,”
Said I, “and seems towards us to be moving ?”

“Marvel thou not, if dazzle thee as yet
The family of heaven,” he answered me;
“An angel ’tis, who comes to invite us upward.

Soon will it be, that to behold these things
Shall not be grievous, but delightful to thee
As much as nature fashioned thee to feel.”

When we had reached the Angel benedight,
With joyful voice he said: “Here enter in
To stairway far less steep than are the others.”

We mounting were, already thence departed,
And _”Beati misericordes”_ was
Behind us sung, “Rejoice, thou that o’ercomest!”

My Master and myself, we two alone
Were going upward, and I thought, in going,
Some profit to acquire from words of his;

And I to him directed me, thus asking:
“What did the spirit of Romagna mean,
Mentioning interdict and partnership ?”

Whence he to me: “Of his own greatest failing
He knows the harm; and therefore wonder not
If he reprove us, that we less may rue it

Because are thither pointed your desires
Where by companionship each share is lessened,
Envy doth ply the bellows to your sighs.

But if the love of the supernal sphere
Should upwardly direct your aspiration,
There would not be that fear within your breast;

For there, as much the more as one says _Our,_
So much the more of good each one possesses,
And more of charity in that cloister burns.”

“I am more hungering to be satisfied,”
I said, “than if I had before been silent,
And more of doubt within my mind I gather.

How can it be, that boon distributed
The more possessors can more wealthy make
Therein, than if by few it be possessed ?”

And he to me: “Because thou fixest still
Thy mind entirely upon earthly things,
Thou pluckest darkness from the very light.

That goodness infinite and ineffable
Which is above there, runneth unto love,
As to a lucid body comes the sunbeam.

So much it gives itself as it finds ardour,
So that as far as charity extends,
O’er it increases the eternal valour.

And the more people thitherward aspire,
More are there to love well, and more they love there,
And, as a mirror, one reflects the other.

And if my reasoning appease thee not,
Thou shalt see Beatrice; and she will fully
Take from thee this and every other longing.

Endeavour, then, that soon may be extinct,
As are the two already, the five wounds
That close themselves again by being painful.”

Even as I wished to say, “Thou dost appease me,”
I saw that I had reached another circle,
So that my eager eyes made me keep silence.

There it appeared to me that in a vision
Ecstatic on a sudden I was rapt,
And in a temple many persons saw;

And at the door a woman, with the sweet
Behaviour of a mother, saying: “Son,
Why in this manner hast thou dealt with us ?

Lo, sorrowing, thy father and myself
Were seeking for thee ;”— and as here she cease
That which appeared at first had disappeared.

Then I beheld another with those waters
Adown her cheeks which grief distils whenever
From great disdain of others it is born,

And saying: “If of that city thou art lord,
For whose name was such strife among the gods
And whence doth every science scintillate,

Avenge thyself on those audacious arms
That clasped our daughter, O Pisistratus ,”
And the lord seemed to me benign and mild

To answer her with aspect temperate:
“What shall we do to those who wish us ill,
If he who loves us be by us condemned ?”

Then saw I people hot in fire of wrath,
With stones a young man slaying, clamorously
Still crying to each other, “Kill him! kill him!”

And him I saw bow down, because of death
That weighed already on him, to the earth,
But of his eyes made ever gates to heaven,

Imploring the high Lord, in so great strife,
That he would pardon those his persecutors,
With such an aspect as unlocks compassion.

Soon as my soul had outwardly returned
To things external to it which are true,
Did I my not false errors recognize.

My Leader, who could see me bear myself
Like to a man that rouses him from sleep,
Exclaimed: “What ails thee, that thou canst not stand ?

But hast been coming more than half a league
Veiling thine eyes, and with thy legs entangled
In guise of one whom wine or sleep subdues ? ‘

“O my sweet Father, if thou listen to me,
I’ll tell thee,” said I, “what appeared to me,
When thus from me my legs were ta’en away.”

And he: “If thou shouldst have a hundred masks
Upon thy face, from me would not be shut
Thy cogitations, howsoever small.

What thou hast seen was that thou mayst not fail
To ope thy heart unto the waters of peace
Which from the eternal fountain are diffused.

I did not ask, ‘ What ails thee ?’ as he does
Who only looketh with the eyes that see not
When of the soul bereft the body lies,

But asked it to give vigour to thy feet;
Thus must we needs urge on the sluggards, slow
To use their wakefulness when it returns.”

We passed along, athwart the twilight peering
Forward as far as ever eye could stretch
Against the sunbeams serotine and lucent;

And lo! by slow degrees a smoke approached
In our direction, sombre as the night,
Nor was there place to hide one’s self therefrom.

This of our eyes and the pure air bereft us.