The Pathos of the Body

Purgatorio 3 is one of the canti that falls into two parts: the first half is devoted to Virgilio and virtuous pagans and the latter half to the pilgrim’s encounter with Manfredi.

At the outset of Purgatorio 3, the poet redresses the correction of Virgilio at the hands of Cato that occurred at the end of the previous canto. We note how in his own voice—not as pilgrim but as Dante-poet—he goes out of the way to deconstruct the humiliation of Virgilio that he himself constructed:

  i’ mi ristrinsi a la fida compagna:
e come sare’ io sanza lui corso?
chi m’avria tratto su per la montagna? (Purg. 3.4-6)
  I drew in closer to my true companion.
For how could I have run ahead without him?
Who could have helped me as I climbed the mountain?

This is a beautiful example of the Dantean mastery of authorial dialectic: he first pushes the reader to feel one thing, and then he pushes the reader the other way, the better to maintain a thick and lifelike texture in which it is difficult to pinpoint what is “wrong” and what is “right”.

In a melancholy vein, Virgilio expounds on the mysteries that cannot be plumbed by human reason. If reason alone could satisfy our desire to know, he says, Dante would not have seen Aristotle and Plato condemned to a fruitless longing to know, in the place where their longing will never be fulfilled (Limbo):

  «e disiar vedeste sanza frutto
tai che sarebbe lor disio quetato,
ch’etternalmente è dato lor per lutto:
  io dico d’Aristotile e di Plato
e di molt’altri»; e qui chinò la fronte,
e più non disse, e rimase turbato. (Purg. 3.40-45)
  “You saw the fruitless longing of those men
who would—if reason could—have been content,
those whose desire eternally laments:
  I speak of Aristotle and of Plato—
and many others.” Here he bent his head
and said no more, remaining with his sorrow.

These opening canti of Purgatorio, from the encounter with Cato in Purgatorio 1 to Virgilio’s speech in Purgatorio 3 that culminates in the fates of Aristotle and Plato, constitute a major installment in the Commedia’s Virgilio-narrative, which is a dialectical meditation on classical culture.

These canti also constitute an ongoing meditation on the body, treated with pathos and nostalgia: the body of his friend that Dante tries to embrace in Purgatorio 2, the body of Virgilio that does not cause a shadow in Purgatorio 3 (causing Virgilio to briefly note the virtual nature of the body that Dante sees), the body of Manfredi that still bespeaks his erstwhile beauty and charm. A quasi-nostalgia for the body—our bodies are the emblems of all that we lose when we lose life on earth—is a running trope throughout ante-purgatory.

As noted, we are in an area called by the commentary tradition “ante-purgatory.” Bearing in mind the enormous carte blanche that Dante enjoys with respect to the creation of Purgatorio (discussed in the Introduction to Purgatorio 1), we see that Dante has invented the concept of those who must delay their entrance into purgatory proper (see The Undivine Comedy, p. 34). In Purgatorio 3 we encounter a first group of delayed souls: those who were excommunicated by the Church.

Among the excommunicates, we encounter Manfredi, the son of Emperor Frederic II. Manfredi was a great warrior and known as the epitome of chivalric virtues, a Christian version of Saladin (see Inf. 4.129). As a Florentine, and hence a Guelph, Dante was raised midst anti-imperial propaganda, and yet he shows himself receptive to the legend of Manfredi’s princely glamor, describing his wounded beauty thus:

  Io mi volsi ver lui e guardail fiso:
biondo era e bello e di gentile aspetto,
ma l’un de’ cigli un colpo avea diviso. (Purg. 3.106-08)
  I turned to look at him attentively:
he was fair-haired and handsome and his aspect
was noble—but one eyebrow had been cleft.

The two parts of Purgatorio 3—the section on Virgilio and virtuous pagans at the beginning and the meeting with Manfredi in the latter half—are linked by a profound sense of pathos with respect to human vulnerability and loss: a vulnerability captured in the literal wound that mars Manfredi’s beauty.

The celebration of Manfredi’s “noble aspect” is all the more interesting given that Dante’s family fought against Manfredi and the Ghibellines (led by the exiled Florentine, Farinata [Inf. 10]) at Montaperti.

The presence of a group of saved excommunicates raises the issue of Dante’s willingness to go against church doctrine. To be excommunicated is to be excluded from the communion of Christians, and to be excluded from Christian burial. And yet Dante explicitly makes the point that an excommunicate can be saved. With respect to Manfredi, he explicitly says that the pope who excommunicated him was unable to read the face of God’s mercy (Purg. 3.124-26).

The issue of excommunication is not the only issue: Manfredi says that he repented of his terrible sins at the last moment of life, and so his story is also analogous to those of the late repentant whom we will meet in Purgatorio 5, including Bonconte da Montefeltro. There is a nexus of canti, going back to Inferno 27 and Bonconte’s father Guido da Montefeltro, which pose the question: what constitutes true repentance? What constitutes true conversion? In Inferno 27 we learn that not even a papal absolution can absolve one if one has not truly repented. Purgatorio 3 shows us that if you have truly repented, not even a papal excommunication can damn you.

Coordinated Reading

Coordinated Reading: The Undivine Comedy, Chapter 5, “Purgatory as Paradigm: Traveling the New and Never-Before-Traveled Path of this Life/Poem”, pp. 102-03; Dante’s Poets, pp. 241.

Recommended Citation

Barolini, Teodolinda. “Purgatorio 3: The Pathos of the Body.” Commento Baroliniano, Digital Dante. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2017. https://digitaldante.columbia.edu/dante/divine-comedy/purgatorio/purgatorio-3/

About the Commento

1 Avvegna che la subitana fuga
2 dispergesse color per la campagna,
3 rivolti al monte ove ragion ne fruga,

4 i’ mi ristrinsi a la fida compagna:
5 e come sare’ io sanza lui corso?
6 chi m’avria tratto su per la montagna?

7 El mi parea da sé stesso rimorso:
8 o dignitosa coscïenza e netta,
9 come t’è picciol fallo amaro morso!

10 Quando li piedi suoi lasciar la fretta,
11 che l’onestade ad ogn’ atto dismaga,
12 la mente mia, che prima era ristretta,

13 lo ’ntento rallargò, sì come vaga,
14 e diedi ’l viso mio incontr’ al poggio
15 che ’nverso ’l ciel più alto si dislaga.

16 Lo sol, che dietro fiammeggiava roggio,
17 rotto m’era dinanzi a la figura,
18 ch’avëa in me de’ suoi raggi l’appoggio.

19 Io mi volsi dallato con paura
20 d’ essere abbandonato, quand’ io vidi
21 solo dinanzi a me la terra oscura;

22 e ’l mio conforto: «Perché pur diffidi?»,
23 a dir mi cominciò tutto rivolto;
24 «non credi tu me teco e ch’io ti guidi?

25 Vespero è già colà dov’ è sepolto
26 lo corpo dentro al quale io facea ombra:
27 Napoli l’ha, e da Brandizio è tolto.

28 Ora, se innanzi a me nulla s’aombra,
29 non ti maravigliar più che d’i cieli
30 che l’uno a l’altro raggio non ingombra.

31 A sofferir tormenti, caldi e geli
32 simili corpi la Virtù dispone
33 che, come fa, non vuol ch’a noi si sveli.

34 Matto è chi spera che nostra ragione
35 possa trascorrer la infinita via
36 che tiene una sustanza in tre persone.

37 State contenti, umana gente, al quia;
38 ché, se potuto aveste veder tutto,
39 mestier non era parturir Maria;

40 e disïar vedeste sanza frutto
41 tai che sarebbe lor disio quetato,
42 ch’etternalmente è dato lor per lutto:

43 io dico d’Aristotile e di Plato
44 e di molt’ altri»; e qui chinò la fronte,
45 e più non disse, e rimase turbato.

46 Noi divenimmo intanto a piè del monte;
47 quivi trovammo la roccia sì erta,
48 che ’ndarno vi sarien le gambe pronte.

49 Tra Lerice e Turbìa la più diserta,
50 la più rotta ruina è una scala,
51 verso di quella, agevole e aperta.

52 «Or chi sa da qual man la costa cala»,
53 disse ’l maestro mio fermando ’l passo,
54 «sì che possa salir chi va sanz’ala?».

55 E mentre ch’e’ tenendo ’l viso basso
56 essaminava del cammin la mente,
57 e io mirava suso intorno al sasso,

58 da man sinistra m’apparì una gente
59 d’anime, che movieno i piè ver’ noi,
60 e non pareva, sì venïan lente.

61 «Leva», diss’ io, «maestro, li occhi tuoi:
62 ecco di qua chi ne darà consiglio,
63 se tu da te medesmo aver nol puoi».

64 Guardò allora, e con libero piglio
65 rispuose: «Andiamo in là, ch’ ei vegnon piano;
66 e tu ferma la spene, dolce figlio».

67 Ancora era quel popol di lontano,
68 i’ dico dopo i nostri mille passi,
69 quanto un buon gittator trarria con mano,

70 quando si strinser tutti ai duri massi
71 de l’alta ripa, e stetter fermi e stretti
72 com’ a guardar, chi va dubbiando, stassi.

73 «O ben finiti, o già spiriti eletti»,
74 Virgilio incominciò, «per quella pace
75 ch’i’ credo che per voi tutti s’aspetti,

76 ditene dove la montagna giace,
77 sì che possibil sia l’andare in suso;
78 ché perder tempo a chi più sa più spiace».

79 Come le pecorelle escon del chiuso
80 a una, a due, a tre, e l’altre stanno
81 timidette atterrando l’occhio e ’l muso;

82 e ciò che fa la prima, e l’altre fanno,
83 addossandosi a lei, s’ella s’arresta,
84 semplici e quete, e lo ’mperché non sanno;

85 sì vid’ io muovere a venir la testa
86 di quella mandra fortunata allotta,
87 pudica in faccia e ne l’andare onesta.

88 Come color dinanzi vider rotta
89 la luce in terra dal mio destro canto,
90 sì che l’ombra era da me a la grotta,

91 restaro, e trasser sé in dietro alquanto,
92 e tutti li altri che venieno appresso,
93 non sappiendo ’l perché, fenno altrettanto.

94 «Sanza vostra domanda io vi confesso
95 che questo è corpo uman che voi vedete;
96 per che ’l lume del sole in terra è fesso.

97 Non vi maravigliate, ma credete
98 che non sanza virtù che da ciel vegna
99 cerchi di soverchiar questa parete».

100 Così ’l maestro; e quella gente degna
101 «Tornate», disse, «intrate innanzi dunque»,
102 coi dossi de le man faccendo insegna.

103 E un di loro incominciò: «Chiunque
104 tu se’ ,così andando, volgi ’l viso:
105 pon mente se di là mi vedesti unque».

106 Io mi volsi ver’ lui e guardail fiso:
107 biondo era e bello e di gentile aspetto,
108 ma l’un de’ cigli un colpo avea diviso.

109 Quand’ io mi fui umilmente disdetto
110 d’averlo visto mai, el disse: «Or vedi»;
111 e mostrommi una piaga a sommo ’l petto.

112 Poi sorridendo disse: «Io son Manfredi,
113 nepote di Costanza imperadrice;
114 ond’ io ti priego che, quando tu riedi,

115 vadi a mia bella figlia, genitrice
116 de l’onor di Cicilia e d’Aragona,
117 e dichi ’l vero a lei, s’altro si dice.

118 Poscia ch’io ebbi rotta la persona
119 di due punte mortali, io mi rendei,
120 piangendo, a quei che volontier perdona.

121 Orribil furon li peccati miei;
122 ma la bontà infinita ha sì gran braccia,
123 che prende ciò che si rivolge a lei.

124 Se ’l pastor di Cosenza, che a la caccia
125 di me fu messo per Clemente allora,
126 avesse in Dio ben letta questa faccia,

127 l’ossa del corpo mio sarieno ancora
128 in co del ponte presso a Benevento,
129 sotto la guardia de la grave mora.

130 Or le bagna la pioggia e move il vento
131 di fuor dal regno, quasi lungo ’l Verde,
132 dov’ e’ le trasmutò a lume spento.

133 Per lor maladizion sì non si perde,
134 che non possa tornar, l’etterno amore,
135 mentre che la speranza ha fior del verde.

136 Vero è che quale in contumacia more
137 di Santa Chiesa, ancor ch’al fin si penta,
138 star li convien da questa ripa in fore,

139 per ognun tempo ch’elli è stato, trenta,
140 in sua presunzion, se tal decreto
141 più corto per buon prieghi non diventa.

142 Vedi oggimai se tu mi puoi far lieto,
143 revelando a la mia buona Costanza
144 come m’hai visto, e anco esto divieto;

145 ché qui per quei di là molto s’ avanza».

But while their sudden flight was scattering
those souls across the plain and toward the mountain
where we are racked by rightful punishments,

I drew in closer to my true companion.
For how could I have run ahead without him?
Who could have helped me as I climbed the mountain?

He seemed like one who’s stung by self—reproof;
o pure and noble conscience, you in whom
each petty fault becomes a harsh rebuke!

And when his feet had left off hurrying—
for haste denies all acts their dignity—
my mind, which was—before—too focused, grew

more curious and widened its attention;
I set my vision toward the slope that rises
most steeply, up to heaven from the sea.

Behind my back the sun was flaming red;
but there, ahead of me, its light was shattered
because its rays were resting on my body.

And when I saw the ground was dark in front
of me and me alone, afraid that I
had been abandoned, I turned to my side;

and he, my only comfort, as he turned
around, began: “Why must you still mistrust?
Don’t you believe that I am with—and guide—you?

The body from within which I cast shadows
is buried where it now is evening: taken
from Brindisi, it now belongs to Naples.

Thus, if no shadow falls in front of me,
do not be more amazed than when you see
the heavens not impede each other’s rays.

The Power has disposed such bodiless
bodies to suffer torments, heat and cold;
how this is done, He would not have us know.

Foolish is he who hopes our intellect
can reach the end of that unending road
only one Substance in three Persons follows.

Confine yourselves, o humans, to the quia;
had you been able to see all, there would
have been no need for Mary to give birth.

You saw the fruitless longing of those men
who would—if reason could—have been content,
those whose desire eternally laments:

I speak of Aristotle and of Plato—
and many others.” Here he bent his head
and said no more, remaining with his sorrow.

By this time we had reached the mountain’s base,
discovering a wall of rock so sheer
that even agile legs are useless there.

The loneliest, most jagged promontory
that lies between Turbia and Lerici,
compared with it, provides stairs wide and easy.

“Now who knows where, along this mountainside,”
my master, halting, asked, “one finds a rise
where even he who has no wings can climb?”

While he, his eyes upon the ground, consulted
his mind, considering what road to take,
and I looked up around the wall of rock,

along the left a band of souls appeared
to me to be approaching us—but so
unhurriedly, their movements did not show.

“Lift up your eyes,” I told my master; “here
are those who can advise us how to go,
if you can find no counsel in yourself.”

At this, he looked at them and, less distressed,
replied: “Let us go there; their steps are slow;
and you, my gentle son, hold fast to hope.”

The distance from that company to us—
I mean when we had gone a thousand paces—
was still as far as a fine hurler’s toss,

when they all huddled toward the hard rock wall
and, once they’d crowded there, refused to budge,
even as men, when apprehensive, halt.

“O chosen souls, you who have ended well,”
Virgil began, “by virtue of that peace
which I believe awaits you all, please tell

us where the slope inclines and can be climbed;
for he who best discerns the worth of time
is most distressed whenever time is lost.”

Even as sheep that move, first one, then two,
then three, out of the fold—the others also
stand, eyes and muzzles lowered, timidly;

and what the first sheep does, the others do,
and if it halts, they huddle close behind,
simple and quiet and not knowing why:

so, then, I saw those spirits in the front
of that flock favored by good fortune move—
their looks were modest; seemly, slow, their walk.

As soon as these souls saw, upon my right,
along the ground, a gap in the sun’s light,
where shadow stretched from me to the rock wall,

they stopped and then drew back somewhat; and all
who came behind them—though they did not know
why those ahead had halted—also slowed.

“Without your asking, I shall tell you plainly
that you are looking at a human body;
that’s why the sunlight on the ground is broken.

Don’t be astonished; rest assured that he
would not attempt to cross this wall without
a force that Heaven sent him as support.”

These were my master’s words. That worthy band
replied: “Come back, and move in our direction,”
and gestured—with backhanded motions—right.

And one of them began: “Whoever you
may be, as you move forward, turn and see:
consider if—beyond—you’ve ever seen me.”

I turned to look at him attentively:
he was fair—haired and handsome and his aspect
was noble—but one eyebrow had been cleft

by a swordstroke. When I had humbly noted
that I had never seen him, he said: “Look
now”—showing me a wound high on his chest.

Then, as he smiled, he told me: “I am Manfred,
the grandson of the Empress Constance; thus,
I pray that, when you reach the world again,

you may go to my lovely daughter, mother
of kings of Sicily and Aragon—
tell her the truth, lest she’s heard something other.

After my body had been shattered by
two fatal blows, in tears, I then consigned
myself to Him who willingly forgives.

My sins were ghastly, but the Infinite
Goodness has arms so wide that It accepts
who ever would return, imploring It.

And if Cosenza’s pastor, who was sent
to hunt me down—alive or dead—by Clement,
had understood this facet of God’s mercy,

my body’s bones would still be there—beneath
the custody of the great heap of stones—
near Benevento, at the bridgehead; now

rain bathes my bones, the wind has driven them
beyond the Kingdom, near the Verde’s banks,
where he transported them with tapers spent.

Despite the Church’s curse, there is no one
so lost that the eternal love cannot
return—as long as hope shows something green.

But it is true that anyone who dies
in contumacy of the Holy Church,
though he repented at the end, must wait

along this shore for thirty times the span
he spent in his presumptuousness, unless
that edict is abridged through fitting prayers.

Now see if you, by making known to my
kind Constance where you saw my soul and why
delay’s decreed for me, can make me happy;

those here—through those beyond— advance more quickly.”

INASMUCH as the instantaneous flight
Had scattered them asunder o’er the plain,
Turned to the mountain whither reason spurs us,

I pressed me close unto my faithful comrade,
And how without him had I kept my course?
Who would have led me up along the mountain ?

He seemed to me within himself remorseful;
O noble conscience, and without a stain,
How sharp a sting is trivial fault to thee!

After his feet had laid aside the haste
Which mars the dignity of every act,
My mind, that hitherto had been restrained,

Let loose its faculties as if delighted,
And I my sight directed to the hill
That highest tow’rds the heaven uplifts itself

The sun, that in our rear was flaming red,
Was broken in front of me into the figure
Which had in me the stoppage of its rays;

Unto one side I turned me with the fear
Of being left alone, when I beheld
Only in front of me the ground obscured.

“Why dost thou still mistrust ?” my Comforter
Began to say to me turned wholly round;
“Dost thou not think me with thee, and that I guide thee ?

“Tis evening there already where is buried
The body within which I cast a shadow;
“Tis from Brundusium ta’en, and Naples has it.

Now if in front of me no shadow fall,
Marvel not at it more than at the heavens,
Because one ray impedeth not another

To suffer torments, both of cold and heat,
Bodies like this that Power provides, which wills
That how it works be not unveiled to us.

Insane is he who hopeth that our reason
Can traverse the illimitable way,
Which the one Substance in three Persons follows!

Mortals, remain contented at the _Quia;_
For if ye had been able to see all,
No need there were for Mary to give birth;

And ye have seen desiring without fruit,
Those whose desire would have been quieted,
Which evermore is given them for a grief.

I speak of Aristotle and of Plato,
And many others”;— and here bowed his head,
And more he said not, and remained disturbed.

We came meanwhile unto the mountain’s foot;
There so precipitate we found the rock,
That nimble legs would there have been in vain.

‘Twixt Lerici and Turbia, the most desert,
The most secluded pathway is a stair
Easy and open, if compared with that.

“Who knoweth now upon which hand the hill
Slopes down,” my Master said, his footsteps staying,
“So that who goeth without wings may mount ?”

And while he held his eyes upon the ground
Examining the nature of the path,
And I was looking up around the rock,

On the left hand appeared to me a throng
Of souls, that moved their feet in our direction,
And did not seem to move, they came so slowly.

“Lift up thine eyes,” I to the Master said;
“Behold, on this side, who will give us counsel,
If thou of thine own self can have it not.”

Then he looked at me, and with frank expression
Replied: “Let us go there, for they come slowly,
And thou be steadfast in thy hope, sweet son.”

Still was that people as far off from us,
After a thousand steps of ours I say,
As a good thrower with his hand would reach,

When they all crowded unto the hard masses
Of the high bank, and motionless stood and close,
As he stands still to look who goes in doubt.

“O happy dead! O spirits elect already!”
Virgilius made beginning,”by that peace
Which I believe is waiting for you all,

Tell us upon what side the mountain slopes,
So that the going up be possible,
For to lose time irks him most who most knows.”

As sheep come issuing forth from out the fold
By ones and twos and threes, and the others stand
Timidly, holding down their eyes and nostrils,

And what the foremost does the others do,
Huddling themselves against her, if she stop,
Simple and quiet and the wherefore know not;

So moving to approach us thereupon
I saw the leader of that fortunate flock,
Modest in face and dignified in gait.

As soon as those in the advance saw broken
The light upon the ground at my right side,
So that from me the shadow reached the rock,

They stopped, and backward drew themselves somewhat;
And all the others, who came after them,
Not knowing why nor wherefore, did the same.

Without your asking, I confess to you
This is a human body which you see,
Whereby the sunshine on the ground is cleft.

Marvel ye not thereat, but be persuaded
That not without a power which comes from Heaven
Doth he endeavour to surmount this wall.”

The Master thus; and said those worthy people:
“Return ye then, and enter in before us,”
Making a signal with the back o’ the hand

And one of them began: “Whoe’er thou art,
Thus going turn thine eyes, consider well
If e’er thou saw me in the other world.”

I turned me tow’rds him, and looked at him closely;
Blond was he, beautiful, and of noble aspect,
But one of his eyebrows had a blow divided.

When with humility I had disclaimed
E’er having seen him, “Now behold!” he said,
And showed me high upon his breast a wound.

Then said he with a smile: “I am Manfredi,
The grandson of the Empress Costanza;
Therefore, when thou returnest, I beseech thee

Go to my daughter beautiful, the mother
Of Sicily’s honour and of Aragon’s,
And the truth tell her, if aught else be told.

After I had my body lacerated
By these two mortal stabs, I gave myself
Weeping to Him, who willingly doth pardon.

Horrible my iniquities had been;
But Infinite Goodness hath such ample arms,
That it receives whatever turns to it.

Had but Cosenza’s pastor, who in chase
Of me was sent by Clement at that time,
In God read understandingly this page,

The bones of my dead body still would be
At the bridge—head, near unto Benevento,
Under the safeguard of the heavy cairn.

Now the rain bathes and moveth them the wind,
Beyond the realm, almost beside the Verde,
Where he transported them with tapers quenched.

By malison of theirs is not so lost
Eternal Love, that it cannot return,
So long as hope has anything of green.

True is it, who in contumacy dies
Of Holy Church, though penitent at last,
Must wait upon the outside this bank

Thirty times told the time that he has been
In his presumption, unless such decree
Shorter by means of righteous prayers become.

See now if thou hast power to make me happy,
By making known unto my good Costanza
How thou hast seen me, and this ban beside,

For those on earth can much advance us here.”

But while their sudden flight was scattering
those souls across the plain and toward the mountain
where we are racked by rightful punishments,

I drew in closer to my true companion.
For how could I have run ahead without him?
Who could have helped me as I climbed the mountain?

He seemed like one who’s stung by self—reproof;
o pure and noble conscience, you in whom
each petty fault becomes a harsh rebuke!

And when his feet had left off hurrying—
for haste denies all acts their dignity—
my mind, which was—before—too focused, grew

more curious and widened its attention;
I set my vision toward the slope that rises
most steeply, up to heaven from the sea.

Behind my back the sun was flaming red;
but there, ahead of me, its light was shattered
because its rays were resting on my body.

And when I saw the ground was dark in front
of me and me alone, afraid that I
had been abandoned, I turned to my side;

and he, my only comfort, as he turned
around, began: “Why must you still mistrust?
Don’t you believe that I am with—and guide—you?

The body from within which I cast shadows
is buried where it now is evening: taken
from Brindisi, it now belongs to Naples.

Thus, if no shadow falls in front of me,
do not be more amazed than when you see
the heavens not impede each other’s rays.

The Power has disposed such bodiless
bodies to suffer torments, heat and cold;
how this is done, He would not have us know.

Foolish is he who hopes our intellect
can reach the end of that unending road
only one Substance in three Persons follows.

Confine yourselves, o humans, to the quia;
had you been able to see all, there would
have been no need for Mary to give birth.

You saw the fruitless longing of those men
who would—if reason could—have been content,
those whose desire eternally laments:

I speak of Aristotle and of Plato—
and many others.” Here he bent his head
and said no more, remaining with his sorrow.

By this time we had reached the mountain’s base,
discovering a wall of rock so sheer
that even agile legs are useless there.

The loneliest, most jagged promontory
that lies between Turbia and Lerici,
compared with it, provides stairs wide and easy.

“Now who knows where, along this mountainside,”
my master, halting, asked, “one finds a rise
where even he who has no wings can climb?”

While he, his eyes upon the ground, consulted
his mind, considering what road to take,
and I looked up around the wall of rock,

along the left a band of souls appeared
to me to be approaching us—but so
unhurriedly, their movements did not show.

“Lift up your eyes,” I told my master; “here
are those who can advise us how to go,
if you can find no counsel in yourself.”

At this, he looked at them and, less distressed,
replied: “Let us go there; their steps are slow;
and you, my gentle son, hold fast to hope.”

The distance from that company to us—
I mean when we had gone a thousand paces—
was still as far as a fine hurler’s toss,

when they all huddled toward the hard rock wall
and, once they’d crowded there, refused to budge,
even as men, when apprehensive, halt.

“O chosen souls, you who have ended well,”
Virgil began, “by virtue of that peace
which I believe awaits you all, please tell

us where the slope inclines and can be climbed;
for he who best discerns the worth of time
is most distressed whenever time is lost.”

Even as sheep that move, first one, then two,
then three, out of the fold—the others also
stand, eyes and muzzles lowered, timidly;

and what the first sheep does, the others do,
and if it halts, they huddle close behind,
simple and quiet and not knowing why:

so, then, I saw those spirits in the front
of that flock favored by good fortune move—
their looks were modest; seemly, slow, their walk.

As soon as these souls saw, upon my right,
along the ground, a gap in the sun’s light,
where shadow stretched from me to the rock wall,

they stopped and then drew back somewhat; and all
who came behind them—though they did not know
why those ahead had halted—also slowed.

“Without your asking, I shall tell you plainly
that you are looking at a human body;
that’s why the sunlight on the ground is broken.

Don’t be astonished; rest assured that he
would not attempt to cross this wall without
a force that Heaven sent him as support.”

These were my master’s words. That worthy band
replied: “Come back, and move in our direction,”
and gestured—with backhanded motions—right.

And one of them began: “Whoever you
may be, as you move forward, turn and see:
consider if—beyond—you’ve ever seen me.”

I turned to look at him attentively:
he was fair—haired and handsome and his aspect
was noble—but one eyebrow had been cleft

by a swordstroke. When I had humbly noted
that I had never seen him, he said: “Look
now”—showing me a wound high on his chest.

Then, as he smiled, he told me: “I am Manfred,
the grandson of the Empress Constance; thus,
I pray that, when you reach the world again,

you may go to my lovely daughter, mother
of kings of Sicily and Aragon—
tell her the truth, lest she’s heard something other.

After my body had been shattered by
two fatal blows, in tears, I then consigned
myself to Him who willingly forgives.

My sins were ghastly, but the Infinite
Goodness has arms so wide that It accepts
who ever would return, imploring It.

And if Cosenza’s pastor, who was sent
to hunt me down—alive or dead—by Clement,
had understood this facet of God’s mercy,

my body’s bones would still be there—beneath
the custody of the great heap of stones—
near Benevento, at the bridgehead; now

rain bathes my bones, the wind has driven them
beyond the Kingdom, near the Verde’s banks,
where he transported them with tapers spent.

Despite the Church’s curse, there is no one
so lost that the eternal love cannot
return—as long as hope shows something green.

But it is true that anyone who dies
in contumacy of the Holy Church,
though he repented at the end, must wait

along this shore for thirty times the span
he spent in his presumptuousness, unless
that edict is abridged through fitting prayers.

Now see if you, by making known to my
kind Constance where you saw my soul and why
delay’s decreed for me, can make me happy;

those here—through those beyond— advance more quickly.”

INASMUCH as the instantaneous flight
Had scattered them asunder o’er the plain,
Turned to the mountain whither reason spurs us,

I pressed me close unto my faithful comrade,
And how without him had I kept my course?
Who would have led me up along the mountain ?

He seemed to me within himself remorseful;
O noble conscience, and without a stain,
How sharp a sting is trivial fault to thee!

After his feet had laid aside the haste
Which mars the dignity of every act,
My mind, that hitherto had been restrained,

Let loose its faculties as if delighted,
And I my sight directed to the hill
That highest tow’rds the heaven uplifts itself

The sun, that in our rear was flaming red,
Was broken in front of me into the figure
Which had in me the stoppage of its rays;

Unto one side I turned me with the fear
Of being left alone, when I beheld
Only in front of me the ground obscured.

“Why dost thou still mistrust ?” my Comforter
Began to say to me turned wholly round;
“Dost thou not think me with thee, and that I guide thee ?

“Tis evening there already where is buried
The body within which I cast a shadow;
“Tis from Brundusium ta’en, and Naples has it.

Now if in front of me no shadow fall,
Marvel not at it more than at the heavens,
Because one ray impedeth not another

To suffer torments, both of cold and heat,
Bodies like this that Power provides, which wills
That how it works be not unveiled to us.

Insane is he who hopeth that our reason
Can traverse the illimitable way,
Which the one Substance in three Persons follows!

Mortals, remain contented at the _Quia;_
For if ye had been able to see all,
No need there were for Mary to give birth;

And ye have seen desiring without fruit,
Those whose desire would have been quieted,
Which evermore is given them for a grief.

I speak of Aristotle and of Plato,
And many others”;— and here bowed his head,
And more he said not, and remained disturbed.

We came meanwhile unto the mountain’s foot;
There so precipitate we found the rock,
That nimble legs would there have been in vain.

‘Twixt Lerici and Turbia, the most desert,
The most secluded pathway is a stair
Easy and open, if compared with that.

“Who knoweth now upon which hand the hill
Slopes down,” my Master said, his footsteps staying,
“So that who goeth without wings may mount ?”

And while he held his eyes upon the ground
Examining the nature of the path,
And I was looking up around the rock,

On the left hand appeared to me a throng
Of souls, that moved their feet in our direction,
And did not seem to move, they came so slowly.

“Lift up thine eyes,” I to the Master said;
“Behold, on this side, who will give us counsel,
If thou of thine own self can have it not.”

Then he looked at me, and with frank expression
Replied: “Let us go there, for they come slowly,
And thou be steadfast in thy hope, sweet son.”

Still was that people as far off from us,
After a thousand steps of ours I say,
As a good thrower with his hand would reach,

When they all crowded unto the hard masses
Of the high bank, and motionless stood and close,
As he stands still to look who goes in doubt.

“O happy dead! O spirits elect already!”
Virgilius made beginning,”by that peace
Which I believe is waiting for you all,

Tell us upon what side the mountain slopes,
So that the going up be possible,
For to lose time irks him most who most knows.”

As sheep come issuing forth from out the fold
By ones and twos and threes, and the others stand
Timidly, holding down their eyes and nostrils,

And what the foremost does the others do,
Huddling themselves against her, if she stop,
Simple and quiet and the wherefore know not;

So moving to approach us thereupon
I saw the leader of that fortunate flock,
Modest in face and dignified in gait.

As soon as those in the advance saw broken
The light upon the ground at my right side,
So that from me the shadow reached the rock,

They stopped, and backward drew themselves somewhat;
And all the others, who came after them,
Not knowing why nor wherefore, did the same.

Without your asking, I confess to you
This is a human body which you see,
Whereby the sunshine on the ground is cleft.

Marvel ye not thereat, but be persuaded
That not without a power which comes from Heaven
Doth he endeavour to surmount this wall.”

The Master thus; and said those worthy people:
“Return ye then, and enter in before us,”
Making a signal with the back o’ the hand

And one of them began: “Whoe’er thou art,
Thus going turn thine eyes, consider well
If e’er thou saw me in the other world.”

I turned me tow’rds him, and looked at him closely;
Blond was he, beautiful, and of noble aspect,
But one of his eyebrows had a blow divided.

When with humility I had disclaimed
E’er having seen him, “Now behold!” he said,
And showed me high upon his breast a wound.

Then said he with a smile: “I am Manfredi,
The grandson of the Empress Costanza;
Therefore, when thou returnest, I beseech thee

Go to my daughter beautiful, the mother
Of Sicily’s honour and of Aragon’s,
And the truth tell her, if aught else be told.

After I had my body lacerated
By these two mortal stabs, I gave myself
Weeping to Him, who willingly doth pardon.

Horrible my iniquities had been;
But Infinite Goodness hath such ample arms,
That it receives whatever turns to it.

Had but Cosenza’s pastor, who in chase
Of me was sent by Clement at that time,
In God read understandingly this page,

The bones of my dead body still would be
At the bridge—head, near unto Benevento,
Under the safeguard of the heavy cairn.

Now the rain bathes and moveth them the wind,
Beyond the realm, almost beside the Verde,
Where he transported them with tapers quenched.

By malison of theirs is not so lost
Eternal Love, that it cannot return,
So long as hope has anything of green.

True is it, who in contumacy dies
Of Holy Church, though penitent at last,
Must wait upon the outside this bank

Thirty times told the time that he has been
In his presumption, unless such decree
Shorter by means of righteous prayers become.

See now if thou hast power to make me happy,
By making known unto my good Costanza
How thou hast seen me, and this ban beside,

For those on earth can much advance us here.”