Making Literary History

In Purgatorio 24, the encounter with Forese Donati continues. Dante asks his friend the whereabouts of his sister Piccarda. He learns that she is in paradise, and indeed we will meet her in Paradiso 3. There are only two families whose members appear distributed throughout the three realms of the afterlife: the Donati family (Corso is destined for hell, as we learn in this canto; Forese is in Purgatorio 23-24; and Piccarda is in Paradiso 3), and the family of the emperor Frederick II (the emperor himself is in Inferno 10, among the heretics; his son Manfredi is in Purgatorio 3; and his mother the Empress Constance is with Piccarda Donati in Paradiso 3).

Purgatorio 21 and 22 were intensely focused on epic poetry, poetry with a social mission to record the history of a whole people and transmit their cultural values. Since Purgatorio 23 and the meeting with Forese, the focus has shifted to lyric love poetry: poetry centered on the interiority of one person, the lover/poet. Dante is heir to a vigorous lyric tradition that came to Sicily from Provence (for those who would like to read a synthetic overview of this tradition, see my essay “Dante and the Lyric Past”), moving up the Italian peninsula from Sicily to Tuscany. Dante now subjects this tradition to scrutiny.

In Purgatorio 24 and 26 Dante writes a historiography of the lyric tradition: what he says about other poets in these canti became the outlines of a history that has lasted to this day. You can pick up any history of Italian literature and you will find a chapter devoted to the dolce stil novo, a school of poetry Dante invents and baptizes in Purgatorio 24.57. Dante’s opinions on fellow poets, as expressed in the Vita Nuova, Convivio, De Vulgari Eloquentia, and especially the Commedia, long ago attained canonic status. I have attached a chart in which I try to distill the major components of this history as expressed in Purgatorio 24 and 26.

Forese introduces the wayfarers to a group of gluttons, including the poet Bonagiunta da Lucca (ca. 1220-1290), for whom Dante-poet has designed the task of recognizing Dante-pilgrim as the originator of the “sweet new style” of lyric love poetry. Dante has chosen for this role in the afterlife a man who in real life was adverse to the direction in which Dante would take the Italian lyric.

Bonagiunta was a poet of the Tuscan school and a follower of Guittone d’Arezzo. He wrote a sonnet criticizing Guido Guinizzelli of Bologna for “changing the manner of pleasing love poetry” by inappropriately importing into the lyric the philosophical wisdom of Bologna (“’l senno di Bologna” in the penultimate verse):

  Voi ch’avete mutata la mainera
de li piagenti ditti de l’amore
de la forma dell’esser là dov’era,
per avansare ogn’altro trovatore,
  avete fatto como la lumera,
ch’a le scure partite dà sprendore,
ma non quine ove luce l’alta spera,
la quale avansa e passa di chiarore.
  Così passate voi di sottigliansa,
e non si può trovar chi ben ispogna,
cotant’è iscura vostra parlatura.
  Ed è tenuta grave ’nsomilliansa,
ancor che ’l senno vegna da Bologna,
traier canson per forsa di scritura.
  You, who have modified the style
of writing pleasant poems of love
from how they used to be composed,
to best all other lyricists,
  have acted like a beam of light
that fills the darkness with its rays,
but not here where the great star flares,
which outshines all in brilliancy.
  Your subtleties are so pronounced
that none can make out what you mean,
because your speech is so obscure.
  And it is thought quite fanciful,
despite Bologna’s learnedness,
to quote theology in verse. (trans. Richard Lansing)

The point of the historical Bonagiunta is that love poetry was more pleasing before poets got the new-fangled idea of writing poetry that was tinged with philosophy and theology.

Of course the philosophical and theological trend of the Italian lyric tradition is the trend that leads ultimately to Dante’s idea that the lyric love lady—Beatrice—can lead to God. In other words, it is the trend that leads to the Commedia. So, Dante here casts a poet of the old school, one who was explicitly against the new ways, as the celebrator of the creation of a new kind of poetry, a “sweet new style” or ”dolce stil novo” (Purg. 24.57). This new style is seen as having begun with Dante’s own youthful canzone Donne ch’avete intelletto d’amore:

  Ma dì s’i’ veggio qui colui che fore
trasse le nove rime, cominciando
“Donne ch’avete intelletto d’amore”. (Purg. 24.49-51)
  But tell me if the man whom I see here
is he who brought the new rhymes forth, beginning:
“Ladies who have intelligence of love.”

The canzone Donne ch’avete intelletto d’amore is the canzone that Dante placed in the Vita Nuova as marker of the breakthrough moment when he leaves behind the tired conventions of desiring a reward from the lady and instead locates his desire only in what he can do for her, and thus in “quelle parole che lodano la donna mia” (“those words that praise my lady”). Donne ch’avete, which you can read with my commentary and in Richard Lansing’s wonderful translation in Dante’s Lyric Poetry, was written when Dante was a young man and already posits a fully theologized figure of the lady. She is described as desired in highest heaven: “Madonna è disiata in sommo cielo” (Donne ch’avete, 29). In other words, Donne ch’avete is a poem that moves the love lyric in precisely the directions that the historical Bonagiunta da Lucca rejected.

Dante now explains to Bonagiunta that he gets his inspiration directly from love:

  E io a lui: “I’ mi son un che, quando
Amor mi spira, noto, e a quel modo
ch’e’ ditta dentro vo significando”. (Purg. 24.52-54)
  I answered: “I am one who, when Love breathes
in me, takes note; what he, within, dictates,
I, in that way, without, would speak and shape.”

As a response to the pilgrim’s mystical and totally a-historical claim that he writes poetry by following the dictates of love, Bonagiunta replies with a ready-made historiography, somehow intuited from the pilgrim’s opaque remarks:

  «O frate, issa vegg’io», diss’elli, «il nodo
che ’l Notaro e Guittone e me ritenne
di qua dal dolce stil novo ch’i’ odo! (Purg. 24.55-57)
  “O brother, now I see,” he said, “the knot
that kept the Notary, Guittone, and me
short of the sweet new manner that I hear.

Naming three previous important leaders of Italian lyric schools—the “Notary” or Giacomo da Lentini, a Sicilian poet, and the Tuscan poets himself and Guittone d’Arezzo—Bonagiunta declares that all three fell short of the “sweet new style” that he has just heard.

Dante’s historiographic categories in Purgatorio 24 and 26 became Italian literary history; to this day anthologies of Italian literature use Dante’s label dolce stil novo and arrange poets on either side of the great divide—the “nodo”—stipulated by Dante in this passage.

Structurally, the encounter with the Tuscan poet Bonagiunta da Lucca is embedded within the overarching encounter with Dante’s friend (and fellow Florentine) Forese Donati. After the episode with Bonagiunta the narrative returns to Forese, who prophesies the destruction of his brother Corso Donati. The Donati family is one of the magnate families whose power struggles kept Florence in a constant state of conflict; Corso was a power broker and man of violence. The encounter between Dante and his old friend Forese ends however on an elegiac note, reminiscent of the preceding canto, as Forese reminds Dante that time is precious in purgatory—“che ’l tempo è caro / in questo regno” (for time is dear in this realm [Purg. 24.91-92])—and then takes his leave.

In conclusion the travelers come to another inverted tree, like the one we saw toward the end of Purgatorio 22, and this time it is specified that these trees on the terrace of gluttony are grafts from the tree of which Eve ate. In the following terzina the themes of prohibition and transgression—the themes that Dante introduces into his poem as UIyssean—are clearly aligned with the biblical injunction to Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil:

  Trapassate oltre sanza farvi presso:
legno è più sù che fu morso da Eva,
e questa pianta si levò da esso. (Purg. 24.115-17)
  Continue on, but don’t draw close to it;
there is a tree above from which Eve ate,
and from that tree above, this plant was raised.

Given that the focus is on a “tree above from which Eve ate”, gluttony is not simply overeating in a literal sense. The canto ends with the concept of measured and correct hunger: the Beatitude’s refrain “esuriendo sempre quanto è giusto” (“hungering always in just measure” [Purg. 24.154]) hearkens back to the “sacra fame dell’oro” (“sacred hunger for gold”) of Purgatorio 22.40-41. Dante has found in the trees of the terrace of gluttony a new way to yoke excessive desire for knowledge with the excessive desire purged in the top three terraces. In other words he has found in the trees a new way of figuring the nodo that preoccupies him in these canti: epistemological incontinence.

Coordinated Reading

Coordinated Reading: Dante’s Poets, pp. 40-46, 85-91; “Dante and the Lyric Past,” in Dante and the Origins of Italian Literary Culture and The Cambridge Companion to Dante, 2nd ed., ed. R. Jacoff, 2007; Dante’s Lyric Poetry: Poems of Youth and of the ‘Vita Nuova’.

Recommended Citation

Barolini, Teodolinda. “Purgatorio 24: Making Literary History.” Commento Baroliniano, Digital Dante. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2017. https://digitaldante.columbia.edu/dante/divine-comedy/purgatorio/purgatorio-24/

About the Commento

1Né ’l dir l’andar, né l’andar lui più lento
2facea, ma ragionando andavam forte,
3sì come nave pinta da buon vento;

4e l’ombre, che parean cose rimorte,
5per le fosse de li occhi ammirazione
6traean di me, di mio vivere accorte.

7E io, continüando al mio sermone,
8dissi: «Ella sen va sù forse più tarda
9che non farebbe, per altrui cagione.

10Ma dimmi, se tu sai, dov’ è Piccarda;
11dimmi s’io veggio da notar persona
12tra questa gente che sì mi riguarda».

13«La mia sorella, che tra bella e buona
14non so qual fosse più, trïunfa lieta
15ne l’alto Olimpo già di sua corona».

16Sì disse prima; e poi: «Qui non si vieta
17di nominar ciascun, da ch’è sì munta
18nostra sembianza via per la dïeta.

19Questi», e mostrò col dito, «è Bonagiunta,
20Bonagiunta da Lucca; e quella faccia
21di là da lui più che l’altre trapunta

22ebbe la Santa Chiesa in le sue braccia:
23dal Torso fu, e purga per digiuno
24l’anguille di Bolsena e la vernaccia».

25Molti altri mi nomò ad uno ad uno;
26e del nomar parean tutti contenti,
27sì ch’io però non vidi un atto bruno.

28Vidi per fame a vòto usar li denti
29Ubaldin da la Pila e Bonifazio
30che pasturò col rocco molte genti.

31Vidi messer Marchese, ch’ebbe spazio
32già di bere a Forlì con men secchezza,
33e sì fu tal, che non si sentì sazio.

34Ma come fa chi guarda e poi s’apprezza
35più d’un che d’altro, fei a quel da Lucca,
36che più parea di me aver contezza.

37El mormorava; e non so che «Gentucca»
38sentiv’ io là, ov’ el sentia la piaga
39de la giustizia che sì li pilucca.

40«O anima», diss’ io, «che par sì vaga
41di parlar meco, fa sì ch’io t’intenda,
42e te e me col tuo parlare appaga».

43«Femmina è nata, e non porta ancor benda»,
44cominciò el, «che ti farà piacere
45la mia città, come ch’om la riprenda.

46Tu te n’andrai con questo antivedere:
47se nel mio mormorar prendesti errore,
48dichiareranti ancor le cose vere.

49Ma dì s’i’ veggio qui colui che fore
50trasse le nove rime, cominciando
51‘Donne ch’avete intelletto d’amore’».

52E io a lui: «I’ mi son un che, quando
53Amor mi spira, noto, e a quel modo
54ch’e’ ditta dentro vo significando».

55«O frate, issa vegg’ io», diss’ elli, «il nodo
56che ’l Notaro e Guittone e me ritenne
57di qua dal dolce stil novo ch’i’ odo!

58Io veggio ben come le vostre penne
59di retro al dittator sen vanno strette,
60che de le nostre certo non avvenne;

61e qual più a gradire oltre si mette,
62non vede più da l’uno a l’altro stilo»;
63e, quasi contentato, si tacette.

64Come li augei che vernan lungo ’l Nilo,
65alcuna volta in aere fanno schiera,
66poi volan più a fretta e vanno in filo,

67così tutta la gente che lì era,
68volgendo ’l viso, raffrettò suo passo,
69e per magrezza e per voler leggera.

70E come l’uom che di trottare è lasso,
71lascia andar li compagni, e sì passeggia
72fin che si sfoghi l’affollar del casso,

73sì lasciò trapassar la santa greggia
74Forese, e dietro meco sen veniva,
75dicendo: «Quando fia ch’io ti riveggia?».

76«Non so», rispuos’ io lui, «quant’ io mi viva;
77ma già non fïa il tornar mio tantosto,
78ch’io non sia col voler prima a la riva;

79però che ’l loco u’ fui a viver posto,
80di giorno in giorno più di ben si spolpa,
81e a trista ruina par disposto».

82«Or va», diss’ el; «che quei che più n’ha colpa,
83vegg’ ïo a coda d’una bestia tratto
84inver’ la valle ove mai non si scolpa.

85La bestia ad ogne passo va più ratto,
86crescendo sempre, fin ch’ella il percuote,
87e lascia il corpo vilmente disfatto.

88Non hanno molto a volger quelle ruote»,
89e drizzò li occhi al ciel, «che ti fia chiaro
90ciò che ’l mio dir più dichiarar non puote.

91Tu ti rimani omai; ché ’l tempo è caro
92in questo regno, sì ch’io perdo troppo
93venendo teco sì a paro a paro».

94Qual esce alcuna volta di gualoppo
95lo cavalier di schiera che cavalchi,
96e va per farsi onor del primo intoppo,

97tal si partì da noi con maggior valchi;
98e io rimasi in via con esso i due
99che fuor del mondo sì gran marescalchi.

100E quando innanzi a noi intrato fue,
101che li occhi miei si fero a lui seguaci,
102come la mente a le parole sue,

103parvermi i rami gravidi e vivaci
104d’un altro pomo, e non molto lontani
105per esser pur allora vòlto in laci.

106Vidi gente sott’ esso alzar le mani
107e gridar non so che verso le fronde,
108quasi bramosi fantolini e vani

109che pregano, e ’l pregato non risponde,
110ma, per fare esser ben la voglia acuta,
111tien alto lor disio e nol nasconde.

112Poi si partì sì come ricreduta;
113e noi venimmo al grande arbore adesso,
114che tanti prieghi e lagrime rifiuta.

115«Trapassate oltre sanza farvi presso:
116legno è più sù che fu morso da Eva,
117e questa pianta si levò da esso».

118Sì tra le frasche non so chi diceva;
119per che Virgilio e Stazio e io, ristretti,
120oltre andavam dal lato che si leva.

121«Ricordivi», dicea, «d’i maladetti
122nei nuvoli formati, che, satolli,
123Tesëo combatter co’ doppi petti;

124e de li Ebrei ch’al ber si mostrar molli,
125per che no i volle Gedeon compagni,
126quando inver’ Madïan discese i colli».

127Sì accostati a l’un d’i due vivagni
128passammo, udendo colpe de la gola
129seguite già da miseri guadagni.

130Poi, rallargati per la strada sola,
131ben mille passi e più ci portar oltre,
132contemplando ciascun sanza parola.

133«Che andate pensando sì voi sol tre?».
134sùbita voce disse; ond’ io mi scossi
135come fan bestie spaventate e poltre.

136Drizzai la testa per veder chi fossi;
137e già mai non si videro in fornace
138vetri o metalli sì lucenti e rossi,

139com’ io vidi un che dicea: «S’a voi piace
140montare in sù, qui si convien dar volta;
141quinci si va chi vuole andar per pace».

142L’aspetto suo m’avea la vista tolta;
143per ch’io mi volsi dietro a’ miei dottori,
144com’ om che va secondo ch’elli ascolta.

145E quale, annunziatrice de li albori,
146l’aura di maggio movesi e olezza,
147tutta impregnata da l’erba e da’ fiori;

148tal mi senti’ un vento dar per mezza
149la fronte, e ben senti’ mover la piuma,
150che fé sentir d’ambrosïa l’orezza.

151E senti’ dir: «Beati cui alluma
152tanto di grazia, che l’amor del gusto
153nel petto lor troppo disir non fuma,

154esurïendo sempre quanto è giusto!».

Our talking did not slow our pace, our pace
not slow our talking; but conversing, we
moved quickly, like a boat a fair wind drives.

And recognizing that I was alive,
the shades—they seemed to be things twice dead—drew
amazement from the hollows of their eyes.

And I, continuing my telling, added:
“Perhaps he is more slow in his ascent
than he would be had he not met the other.

But tell me, if you can: where is Piccarda?
And tell me if, among those staring at me,
I can see any person I should note.”

“My sister—and I know not whether she
was greater in her goodness or her beauty—
on high Olympus is in triumph; she

rejoices in her crown already,” he
began, then added: “It is not forbidden
to name each shade here—abstinence has eaten

away our faces.” And he pointed: “This
is Bonagiunta, Bonagiunta da
Lucca; the one beyond him, even more

emaciated than the rest, had clasped
the Holy Church; he was from Tours; his fast
purges Bolsena’s eels, Vernaccia’s wine.”

And he named many others, one by one,
and, at their naming, they all seemed content;
so that—for this—no face was overcast.

I saw-their teeth were biting emptiness—
both Ubaldin da la Pila and Boniface,
who shepherded so many with his staff.

I saw Messer Marchese, who once had
more ease, less dryness, drinking at Forli
and yet could never satisfy his thirst.

But just as he who looks and then esteems
one more than others, so did I prize him
of Lucca, for he seemed to know me better.

He murmured; something like “Gentucca” was
what I heard from the place where he could feel
the wound of justice that denudes them so.

“O soul,” I said, “who seems so eager to
converse with me, do speak so that I hear you,
for speech may satisfy both you and me.”

He answered: “Although men condemn my city,
there is a woman born—she wears no veil
as yet-because of whom you’ll find it pleasing.

You are to journey with this prophecy;
and if there’s something in my murmuring
you doubt, events themselves will bear me out.

But tell me if the man whom I see here
is he who brought the new rhymes forth, beginning:
‘Ladies who have intelligence of love.'”

I answered: “I am one who, when Love breathes
in me, takes note; what he, within, dictates,
I, in that way, without, would speak and shape.”

“O brother, now I see,” he said, “the knot
that kept the Notary, Guittone, and me
short of the sweet new manner that I hear.

I clearly see how your pens follow closely
behind him who dictates, and certainly
that did not happen with our pens; and he

who sets himself to ferreting profoundly
can find no other difference between
the two styles.” He fell still, contentedly.

Even as birds that winter on the Nile
at times will slow and form a flock in air,
then speed their flight and form a file, so all

the people who were mere moved much more swiftly,
turning away their faces, hurrying
their pace because of leanness and desire.

And just as he who’s tired of running lets
his comrades go ahead and slows his steps
until he’s eased the panting of his chest,

so did Forese let the holy flock
pass by and move, behind, with me, saying:
“How long before I shall see you again?”

“I do not know,” I said, “how long I’ll live;
and yet, however quick is my return,
my longing for these shores would have me here

sooner—because the place where I was set
to live is day by day deprived of good
and seems along the way to wretched ruin.”

“Do not be vexed,” he said, “for I can see
the guiltiest of all dragged by a beast’s
tail to the valley where no sin is purged.

At every step the beast moves faster, always
gaining momentum, till it smashes him
and leaves his body squalidly undone.

Those wheels,” and here he looked up at the sky,
“do not have long to turn before you see
plainly what I can’t tell more openly.

Now you remain behind, for time is costly
here in this kingdom; I should lose too much
by moving with you thus, at equal pace.”

Just as a horseman sometimes gallops out,
leaving behind his troop of riders, so
that he may gain the honor of the first

clash—so, with longer strides, did he leave us;
and I remained along my path with those
two who were such great marshals of the world.

And when he’d gone so far ahead of us
that my eyes strained to follow him, just as
my mind was straining after what he’d said,

the branches of another tree, heavy
with fruit, alive with green, appeared to me
nearby, just past a curve where I had turned.

Beneath the tree I saw shades lifting hands,
crying I know not what up toward the branches,
like little eager, empty—headed children,

who beg—but he of whom they beg does not
reply, but to provoke their longing, he
holds high, and does not hide, the thing they want.

Then they departed as if disabused;
and we—immediately—reached that great tree,
which turns aside so many prayers and tears.

“Continue on, but don’t draw close to it;
there is a tree above from which Eve ate,
and from that tree above, this plant was raised.”

Among the boughs, a voice—I know not whose—
spoke so; thus, drawing closer, Virgil, Statius,
and I edged on, along the side that rises.

It said: “Remember those with double chests,
the miserable ones, born of the clouds,
whom Theseus battled when they’d gorged themselves;

and those whom Gideon refused as comrades—
those Hebrews who had drunk too avidly—
when he came down the hills to Midian.”

So, keeping close to one of that road’s margins,
we moved ahead, hearing of gluttony—
its sins repaid by sorry penalties.

Then, with more space along the lonely path,
a thousand steps and more had brought us forward,
each of us meditating wordlessly.

“What are you thinking of, you three who walk
alone?” a sudden voice called out; at which
I started—like a scared young animal.

I raised my head to see who it might be;
no glass or metal ever seen within
a furnace was so glowing or so red

as one I saw, who said: “If you’d ascend,
then you must turn at this point; for whoever
would journey unto peace must pass this way.”

But his appearance had deprived me of
my sight, so that—as one who uses hearing
as guide—I turned and followed my two teachers.

And like the breeze of May that-heralding
the dawning of the day—when it is steeped
in flowers and in grass, stirs fragrantly,

so did I feel the wind that blew against
the center of my brow, and clearly sensed
the movement of his wings, the air’s ambrosia.

And then I heard: “Blessed are those whom grace
illumines so, that, in their breasts, the love
of taste does not awake too much desire—

whose hungering is always in just measure.”

NOR speech the going, nor the going that
Slackened; but talking we went bravely on,
Even as a vessel urged by a good wind.

And shadows, that appeared things doubly dead,
From out the sepulchres of their eyes betrayed
Wonder at me, aware that I was living.

And I, continuing my colloquy,
Said: “Peradventure he goes up more slowly
Than he would do, for other people’s sake.

But tell me, if thou knowest, where is Piccarda;
Tell me if any one of note I see
Among this folk that gazes at me so.”

“My sister, who, ‘twixt beautiful and good,
I know not which was more, triumphs rejoicing
Already in her crown on high Olympus.”

So said he first, and then: “Tis not forbidden
To name each other here, so milked away
Is our resemblance by our dieting.

This, “pointing with his finger,” is Buonagiunta,
Buonagiunta, of Lucca; and that face
Beyond him there, more peaked than the others,

Has held the holy Church within his arms;
From Tours was he, and purges by his fasting
Bolsena’s eels and the Vernaccia wine.”

He named me many others one by one;
And all contented seemed at being named,
So that for this I saw not one dark look.

I saw for hunger bite the empty air
Ubaldin dalla Pila, and Boniface,
Who with his crook had pastured many people.

I saw Messer Marchese, who had leisure
Once at Forli for drinking with less dryness,
And he was one who ne’er felt satisfied.

But as he does who scans, and then doth prize
One more than others, did I him of Lucca,
Who seemed to take most cognizance of me.

He murmured, and I know not what Gentucca
From that place heard I, where he felt the wound
Of justice, that doth macerate them so.

“O soul,” I said, “that seemest so desirous
To speak with me, do so that I may hear thee,
And with thy speech appease thyself and me.”

“A maid is born, and wears not yet the veil,”
Began he, “who to thee shall pleasant make
My city, howsoever men may blame it.

Thou shalt go on thy way with this prevision;
If by my murmuring thou hast been deceived,
True things hereafter will declare it to thee.

But say if him I here behold, who forth
Evoked the new—invented rhymes, beginning,
_Ladies, that have intelligence of love?”_

And I to him: “One am I, who, whenever
Love doth inspire me, note, and in that measure
Which he within me dictates, singing go.”

“O brother, now I see,” he said, “the knot
Which me, the Notary, and Guittone held
Short of the sweet new style that now I hear.

I do perceive full clearly how your pens
Go closely following after him who dictates,
Which with our own forsooth came not to pass;

And he who sets himself to go beyond,
No difference sees from one style to another ;”
And as if satisfied, he held his peace.

Even as the birds, that winter tow’rds the Nile,
Sometimes into a phalanx form themselves,
Then fly in greater haste, and go in file;

In such wise all the people who were there,
Turning their faces, hurried on their steps,
Both by their leanness and their wishes light.

And as a man, who weary is with trotting,
Lets his companions onward go, and walks,
Until he vents the panting of his chest;

So did Forese let the holy flock
Pass by, and came with me behind it, saying,
“When will it be that I again shall see thee ?”

“How long,” I answered, “I may live, I know not;
Yet my return will not so speedy be,
But I shall sooner in desire arrive;

Because the place where I was set to live
From day to day of good is more depleted,
And unto dismal ruin seems ordained.”

“Now go,” he said, “for him most guilty of it
At a beast’s tail behold I dragged along
Towards the valley where is no repentance.

Faster at every step the beast is going,
Increasing evermore until it smites him,
And leaves the body vilely mutilated.

Not long those wheels shall turn,” and he uplifted
His eyes to heaven,” ere shall be clear to thee
That which my speech no farther can declare.

Now stay behind; because the time so precious
Is in this kingdom, that I lose too much
By coming onward thus abreast with thee.”

As sometimes issues forth upon a gallop
A cavalier from out a troop that ride,
And seeks the honour of the first encounter,

So he with greater strides departed from us;
And on the road remained I with those two,
Who were such mighty marshals of the world.

And when before us he had gone so far
Mine eyes became to him such pursuivants
As was my understanding to his words,

Appeared to me with laden and living boughs
Another apple—tree, and not far distant,
From having but just then turned thitherward.

People I saw beneath it lift their hands,
And cry I know not what towards the leaves,
Like little children eager and deluded,

Who pray, and he they pray to doth not answer,
But, to make very keen their appetite,
Holds their desire aloft, and hides it not

Then they departed as if undeceived;
And now we came unto the mighty tree
Which prayers and tears so manifold refuses.

“Pass farther onward without drawing near;
The tree of which Eve ate is higher up,
And out of that one has this tree been raised.”

Thus said I know not who among the branches;
Whereat Virgilius, Statius, and myself
Went crowding forward on the side that rises.

“Be mindful,” said he, “of the accursed ones
Formed of the cloud—rack, who inebriate
Combated Theseus with their double breasts;

And of the Jews who showed them soft in drinking,
Whence Gideon would not have them for companions
When he tow’rds Midian the hills descended.”

Thus, closely pressed to one of the two borders,
On passed we, hearing sins of gluttony,
Followed forsooth by miserable gains;

Then set at large upon the lonely road,
A thousand steps and more we onward went,
In contemplation, each without a word.

“What go ye thinking thus, ye three alone ?”
Said suddenly a voice, whereat I started
As terrified and timid beasts are wont.

I raised my head to see who this might be,
And never in a furnace was there seen
Metals or glass so lucent and so red

As one I saw who said: “If it may please you
To mount aloft, here it behoves you turn;
This way goes he who goeth after peace.”

His aspect had bereft me of my sight,
So that I turned me back unto my Teachers,
Like one who goeth as his hearing guides him.

And as, the harbinger of early dawn,
The air of May doth move and breathe out fragrance,
Impregnate all with herbage and with flowers,

So did I feel a breeze strike in the midst
My front, and felt the moving of the plumes
That breathed around an odour of ambrosia,

And heard it said: “Blessed are they whom grace’,
So much illumines, that the love of taste
Excites not in their breasts too great desire,

Hungering at all times so far as is just.”

Our talking did not slow our pace, our pace
not slow our talking; but conversing, we
moved quickly, like a boat a fair wind drives.

And recognizing that I was alive,
the shades—they seemed to be things twice dead—drew
amazement from the hollows of their eyes.

And I, continuing my telling, added:
“Perhaps he is more slow in his ascent
than he would be had he not met the other.

But tell me, if you can: where is Piccarda?
And tell me if, among those staring at me,
I can see any person I should note.”

“My sister—and I know not whether she
was greater in her goodness or her beauty—
on high Olympus is in triumph; she

rejoices in her crown already,” he
began, then added: “It is not forbidden
to name each shade here—abstinence has eaten

away our faces.” And he pointed: “This
is Bonagiunta, Bonagiunta da
Lucca; the one beyond him, even more

emaciated than the rest, had clasped
the Holy Church; he was from Tours; his fast
purges Bolsena’s eels, Vernaccia’s wine.”

And he named many others, one by one,
and, at their naming, they all seemed content;
so that—for this—no face was overcast.

I saw-their teeth were biting emptiness—
both Ubaldin da la Pila and Boniface,
who shepherded so many with his staff.

I saw Messer Marchese, who once had
more ease, less dryness, drinking at Forli
and yet could never satisfy his thirst.

But just as he who looks and then esteems
one more than others, so did I prize him
of Lucca, for he seemed to know me better.

He murmured; something like “Gentucca” was
what I heard from the place where he could feel
the wound of justice that denudes them so.

“O soul,” I said, “who seems so eager to
converse with me, do speak so that I hear you,
for speech may satisfy both you and me.”

He answered: “Although men condemn my city,
there is a woman born—she wears no veil
as yet-because of whom you’ll find it pleasing.

You are to journey with this prophecy;
and if there’s something in my murmuring
you doubt, events themselves will bear me out.

But tell me if the man whom I see here
is he who brought the new rhymes forth, beginning:
‘Ladies who have intelligence of love.'”

I answered: “I am one who, when Love breathes
in me, takes note; what he, within, dictates,
I, in that way, without, would speak and shape.”

“O brother, now I see,” he said, “the knot
that kept the Notary, Guittone, and me
short of the sweet new manner that I hear.

I clearly see how your pens follow closely
behind him who dictates, and certainly
that did not happen with our pens; and he

who sets himself to ferreting profoundly
can find no other difference between
the two styles.” He fell still, contentedly.

Even as birds that winter on the Nile
at times will slow and form a flock in air,
then speed their flight and form a file, so all

the people who were mere moved much more swiftly,
turning away their faces, hurrying
their pace because of leanness and desire.

And just as he who’s tired of running lets
his comrades go ahead and slows his steps
until he’s eased the panting of his chest,

so did Forese let the holy flock
pass by and move, behind, with me, saying:
“How long before I shall see you again?”

“I do not know,” I said, “how long I’ll live;
and yet, however quick is my return,
my longing for these shores would have me here

sooner—because the place where I was set
to live is day by day deprived of good
and seems along the way to wretched ruin.”

“Do not be vexed,” he said, “for I can see
the guiltiest of all dragged by a beast’s
tail to the valley where no sin is purged.

At every step the beast moves faster, always
gaining momentum, till it smashes him
and leaves his body squalidly undone.

Those wheels,” and here he looked up at the sky,
“do not have long to turn before you see
plainly what I can’t tell more openly.

Now you remain behind, for time is costly
here in this kingdom; I should lose too much
by moving with you thus, at equal pace.”

Just as a horseman sometimes gallops out,
leaving behind his troop of riders, so
that he may gain the honor of the first

clash—so, with longer strides, did he leave us;
and I remained along my path with those
two who were such great marshals of the world.

And when he’d gone so far ahead of us
that my eyes strained to follow him, just as
my mind was straining after what he’d said,

the branches of another tree, heavy
with fruit, alive with green, appeared to me
nearby, just past a curve where I had turned.

Beneath the tree I saw shades lifting hands,
crying I know not what up toward the branches,
like little eager, empty—headed children,

who beg—but he of whom they beg does not
reply, but to provoke their longing, he
holds high, and does not hide, the thing they want.

Then they departed as if disabused;
and we—immediately—reached that great tree,
which turns aside so many prayers and tears.

“Continue on, but don’t draw close to it;
there is a tree above from which Eve ate,
and from that tree above, this plant was raised.”

Among the boughs, a voice—I know not whose—
spoke so; thus, drawing closer, Virgil, Statius,
and I edged on, along the side that rises.

It said: “Remember those with double chests,
the miserable ones, born of the clouds,
whom Theseus battled when they’d gorged themselves;

and those whom Gideon refused as comrades—
those Hebrews who had drunk too avidly—
when he came down the hills to Midian.”

So, keeping close to one of that road’s margins,
we moved ahead, hearing of gluttony—
its sins repaid by sorry penalties.

Then, with more space along the lonely path,
a thousand steps and more had brought us forward,
each of us meditating wordlessly.

“What are you thinking of, you three who walk
alone?” a sudden voice called out; at which
I started—like a scared young animal.

I raised my head to see who it might be;
no glass or metal ever seen within
a furnace was so glowing or so red

as one I saw, who said: “If you’d ascend,
then you must turn at this point; for whoever
would journey unto peace must pass this way.”

But his appearance had deprived me of
my sight, so that—as one who uses hearing
as guide—I turned and followed my two teachers.

And like the breeze of May that-heralding
the dawning of the day—when it is steeped
in flowers and in grass, stirs fragrantly,

so did I feel the wind that blew against
the center of my brow, and clearly sensed
the movement of his wings, the air’s ambrosia.

And then I heard: “Blessed are those whom grace
illumines so, that, in their breasts, the love
of taste does not awake too much desire—

whose hungering is always in just measure.”

NOR speech the going, nor the going that
Slackened; but talking we went bravely on,
Even as a vessel urged by a good wind.

And shadows, that appeared things doubly dead,
From out the sepulchres of their eyes betrayed
Wonder at me, aware that I was living.

And I, continuing my colloquy,
Said: “Peradventure he goes up more slowly
Than he would do, for other people’s sake.

But tell me, if thou knowest, where is Piccarda;
Tell me if any one of note I see
Among this folk that gazes at me so.”

“My sister, who, ‘twixt beautiful and good,
I know not which was more, triumphs rejoicing
Already in her crown on high Olympus.”

So said he first, and then: “Tis not forbidden
To name each other here, so milked away
Is our resemblance by our dieting.

This, “pointing with his finger,” is Buonagiunta,
Buonagiunta, of Lucca; and that face
Beyond him there, more peaked than the others,

Has held the holy Church within his arms;
From Tours was he, and purges by his fasting
Bolsena’s eels and the Vernaccia wine.”

He named me many others one by one;
And all contented seemed at being named,
So that for this I saw not one dark look.

I saw for hunger bite the empty air
Ubaldin dalla Pila, and Boniface,
Who with his crook had pastured many people.

I saw Messer Marchese, who had leisure
Once at Forli for drinking with less dryness,
And he was one who ne’er felt satisfied.

But as he does who scans, and then doth prize
One more than others, did I him of Lucca,
Who seemed to take most cognizance of me.

He murmured, and I know not what Gentucca
From that place heard I, where he felt the wound
Of justice, that doth macerate them so.

“O soul,” I said, “that seemest so desirous
To speak with me, do so that I may hear thee,
And with thy speech appease thyself and me.”

“A maid is born, and wears not yet the veil,”
Began he, “who to thee shall pleasant make
My city, howsoever men may blame it.

Thou shalt go on thy way with this prevision;
If by my murmuring thou hast been deceived,
True things hereafter will declare it to thee.

But say if him I here behold, who forth
Evoked the new—invented rhymes, beginning,
_Ladies, that have intelligence of love?”_

And I to him: “One am I, who, whenever
Love doth inspire me, note, and in that measure
Which he within me dictates, singing go.”

“O brother, now I see,” he said, “the knot
Which me, the Notary, and Guittone held
Short of the sweet new style that now I hear.

I do perceive full clearly how your pens
Go closely following after him who dictates,
Which with our own forsooth came not to pass;

And he who sets himself to go beyond,
No difference sees from one style to another ;”
And as if satisfied, he held his peace.

Even as the birds, that winter tow’rds the Nile,
Sometimes into a phalanx form themselves,
Then fly in greater haste, and go in file;

In such wise all the people who were there,
Turning their faces, hurried on their steps,
Both by their leanness and their wishes light.

And as a man, who weary is with trotting,
Lets his companions onward go, and walks,
Until he vents the panting of his chest;

So did Forese let the holy flock
Pass by, and came with me behind it, saying,
“When will it be that I again shall see thee ?”

“How long,” I answered, “I may live, I know not;
Yet my return will not so speedy be,
But I shall sooner in desire arrive;

Because the place where I was set to live
From day to day of good is more depleted,
And unto dismal ruin seems ordained.”

“Now go,” he said, “for him most guilty of it
At a beast’s tail behold I dragged along
Towards the valley where is no repentance.

Faster at every step the beast is going,
Increasing evermore until it smites him,
And leaves the body vilely mutilated.

Not long those wheels shall turn,” and he uplifted
His eyes to heaven,” ere shall be clear to thee
That which my speech no farther can declare.

Now stay behind; because the time so precious
Is in this kingdom, that I lose too much
By coming onward thus abreast with thee.”

As sometimes issues forth upon a gallop
A cavalier from out a troop that ride,
And seeks the honour of the first encounter,

So he with greater strides departed from us;
And on the road remained I with those two,
Who were such mighty marshals of the world.

And when before us he had gone so far
Mine eyes became to him such pursuivants
As was my understanding to his words,

Appeared to me with laden and living boughs
Another apple—tree, and not far distant,
From having but just then turned thitherward.

People I saw beneath it lift their hands,
And cry I know not what towards the leaves,
Like little children eager and deluded,

Who pray, and he they pray to doth not answer,
But, to make very keen their appetite,
Holds their desire aloft, and hides it not

Then they departed as if undeceived;
And now we came unto the mighty tree
Which prayers and tears so manifold refuses.

“Pass farther onward without drawing near;
The tree of which Eve ate is higher up,
And out of that one has this tree been raised.”

Thus said I know not who among the branches;
Whereat Virgilius, Statius, and myself
Went crowding forward on the side that rises.

“Be mindful,” said he, “of the accursed ones
Formed of the cloud—rack, who inebriate
Combated Theseus with their double breasts;

And of the Jews who showed them soft in drinking,
Whence Gideon would not have them for companions
When he tow’rds Midian the hills descended.”

Thus, closely pressed to one of the two borders,
On passed we, hearing sins of gluttony,
Followed forsooth by miserable gains;

Then set at large upon the lonely road,
A thousand steps and more we onward went,
In contemplation, each without a word.

“What go ye thinking thus, ye three alone ?”
Said suddenly a voice, whereat I started
As terrified and timid beasts are wont.

I raised my head to see who this might be,
And never in a furnace was there seen
Metals or glass so lucent and so red

As one I saw who said: “If it may please you
To mount aloft, here it behoves you turn;
This way goes he who goeth after peace.”

His aspect had bereft me of my sight,
So that I turned me back unto my Teachers,
Like one who goeth as his hearing guides him.

And as, the harbinger of early dawn,
The air of May doth move and breathe out fragrance,
Impregnate all with herbage and with flowers,

So did I feel a breeze strike in the midst
My front, and felt the moving of the plumes
That breathed around an odour of ambrosia,

And heard it said: “Blessed are they whom grace’,
So much illumines, that the love of taste
Excites not in their breasts too great desire,

Hungering at all times so far as is just.”