One’s Heart’s Desire

Who else in the course of human writing ever intertwined in a textual double helix the arrival of his heart’s desire with the disappearance of a beloved alternately father-like and mother-like mentor and guide? That is what Dante does in Purgatorio 30.

Dante actually records in direct discourse the words he would have spoken to Virgilio had Virgilio still been next to him:

  volsimi a la sinistra col respitto
col quale il fantolin corre a la mamma
quando ha paura o quando elli è afflitto,
  per dicere a Virgilio: ‘Men che dramma
di sangue m’è rimaso che non tremi:
conosco i segni de l’antica fiamma’. (Purg. 30.43-48)
  I turned around and to my left—just as
a little child, afraid or in distress,
will hurry to his mother—anxiously,
  to say to Virgil: “I am left with less
than one drop of my blood that does not tremble:
I recognize the signs of the old flame.”

As I wrote in “Does Dante Hope for Vergil’s Salvation?” (p. 157):

Dante thus inscribes his sweet father indelibly into the very syntax that tells us he is gone. Because of its will to force us to live its lesson of loss, to experience the shock of bereavement for ourselves, to feel it as the death of a beloved parent whose presence is still palpable, the text works at cross-purposes to itself, achieving the same kind of dialectical “living” textuality that, for instance, confounds us by both celebrating Ulysses and damning him. In this case, while the content denotes an absence, the form works to make a presence—with the words that are addressed to one who cannot hear them, with the appropriation of Dido’s verse from the Aeneid, and with the incantatory invocations of a repeated name: “Ma Virgilio n’avea lasciati scemi / di sé, Virgilio dolcissimo patre, / Virgilio a cui per mia salute die’mi’” (But Vergil had left us deprived of himself, Vergil, most sweet father, Vergil, to whom I gave myself for my salvation) (Purg. 30.49–51).

In a passage studded with the name “Virgilio” and with language from Vergil’s own texts—“Manibus, oh, date lilia plenis” (Purg. 30.21) from Aeneid 6.883 and, most stunningly, Dido’s verse of reawakened passion from Aeneid 4.23, “adgnosco veteris vestigia flammae”, translated by Dante as “conosco i segni dell’antica fiamma” (48)—Virgilio “leaves us deprived of himself” (Purg. 30.49). We note the syntax, which makes Virgilio an actor, rather than acted upon, and the lexicon, whereby Virgilio does not depart, but deprives us of his presence.

Beatrice now takes his place. It would be hard indeed to “like” her given this staging of her arrival.

And then, on top of Virgilio’s disappearance, she turns out not to be the least bit “nice”, not at all the “bella donna” picking flowers of the reader’s fantasy.

So we come to the question: what was Dante making when he made the figure of Beatrice? She is composite; many cultural and textual currents feed into her. She is complex. And, most of all, Beatrice is absolutely not consoling. Bracing, rather, as she regally states her name and challenges Dante to be happy:

  «Guardaci ben! Ben son, ben son Beatrice.
Come degnasti d’accedere al monte?
non sapei tu che qui è l’uom felice?» (Purg. 30.73-75)
  “Look here! For I am Beatrice, I am!
How were you able to ascend the mountain?
Did you not know that man is happy here?”

Eventually Beatrice too will receive the epithet “dolce” (sweet), although never in the superlative, as in “Virgilio dolcissimo patre” (Virgilio most sweet father [Purg. 30.50]). But right away the codes that compose her are startlingly mixed. Beatrice is simultaneously all the following: the object of Dante’s intense and passionate love, in “d’antico amor sentì la gran potenza” (I felt the mighty power of old love [Purg. 30.39]); an admiral encouraging his men on the ship he commands, in the simile that begins in Purgatorio 30.58; regal and disdainful, in verses 70-72; and a stern mother, in the simile of verse 79. (Virgilio has been compared to a mother too, as recently as verse 44 in this very canto, but he was always a tender and kindly mother.)

And there will be so much more . . . biblical currents, stilnovist currents, the language of Boethius and other allegorical writers . . . Perhaps one reason Beatrice does not and cannot work as a “character” in the way that Virgilio does is that she is much more a mosaic of different cultural and scriptural traditions. For more on the traditions that flow into the figure of Beatrice, see my “Notes toward a Gendered History of Italian Literature, with a Discussion of Dante’s Beatrix loquax”, the last chapter in Dante and the Origins of Italian Literary Culture. The point of the title Beatrix loquax is that this female figure is loquacious, in defiance of her lyric origins.

The rest of Purgatorio 30 and a good part of Purgatorio 31 are taken up with Beatrice’s reproof of Dante for his past straying from the path of devotion to her. Her rebuke is the climax of the Augustinian message of the Purgatorio: keep your desire focused on the eternal (primary) good and do not be di-verted by the transient goods, the false earthly goods, no matter how seductive, how captivating (seductive and captivating as in the dolce sirena who seduced Ulysses from his path in the dream of Purgatorio 19).

The idea that Beatrice articulates is formulated in a question by her as follows: once you had lost the most beautiful of mortal beings that was ever available for you to love, one moreover that led you only toward the path of righteousness, why were you distracted by any subsequent and lesser mortal objects of desire?

  Alcun tempo il sostenni col mio volto:
mostrando li occhi giovanetti a lui,
meco il menava in dritta parte vòlto.
  Sì tosto come in su la soglia fui
di mia seconda etade e mutai vita,
questi si tolse a me, e diessi altrui.
  Quando di carne a spirto era salita
e bellezza e virtù cresciuta m’era,
fu’ io a lui men cara e men gradita;
  e volse i passi suoi per via non vera,
imagini di ben seguendo false,
che nulla promession rendono intera. (Purg. 30.121-32)
  My countenance sustained him for a while;
showing my youthful eyes to him, I led 
him with me toward the way of righteousness.
  As soon as I, upon the threshold of
my second age, had changed my life, he took
himself away from me and followed after
  another; when, from flesh to spirit, I
had risen, and my goodness and my beauty
had grown, I was less dear to him, less welcome:
  he turned his footsteps toward an untrue path;
he followed counterfeits of goodness, which
will never pay in full what they have promised.

This is an idea that Dante had begun to consider as the cornerstone of his personal ideology already in the youthful Vita Nuova (1292-1294), where he first came up with the idea that the death of one’s beloved does not free you to love another mortal beloved but rather redirects your love away from all mortal things and to first principles.

Thus the task that governs all Purgatorio—the need to redirect desire from temporary goods, no matter how good in themselves, to the one primary and eternal good—is focused directly onto the pilgrim, who now fully participates in purgation. Here, in the earthly paradise, his own life and life-choices are directly under assault. And, as we saw, the pilgrim participates in the process of loss and sublimation that provides the deep logic of the second realm, since he must give up his beloved Virgilio.

Here, at the core of what I have termed the personal microcosmic history at the center of the macrocosmic history treated in these canti (see the diagram at the end of Purgatorio 28), Dante is reproved by name. This moment constitutes the only occasion on which the name “Dante” is used in the Commedia, despite the fact that he is recognized by fellow Florentines many times. Here Dante is fully present as his historical self when Beatrice addresses him:

  «Dante, perché Virgilio se ne vada,
non pianger anco, non pianger ancora;
ché pianger ti conven per altra spada.» (Purg. 30.55-57)
  “Dante, though Virgil's leaving you, do not
yet weep, do not weep yet; you'll need your tears
for what another sword must yet inflict.”

In The Undivine Comedy I write that Purgatorio 28-33 “tie up all the narrative strings generated thus far in the poem and provide an overwhelming sense of nexus and completion, most forcefully by staging the chiasmic scene of Vergil’s departure and Beatrice’s arrival” (pp. 162-63).

At this nodal point of the Commedia, the three key dramatis personae of this great drama are named and intersect: Virgilio, Beatrice, and Dante.

Coordinated Reading

Coordinated Reading: Dante’s Poets, pp. 251-52; The Undivine Comedy, Chapter 7, “Nonfalse Errors and the True Dreams of the Evangelist,” pp. 162-63; “Q: Does Dante Hope for Vergil’s Salvation? A: Why Do We Care? For the Very Reason We Should Not Ask the Question,” orig. 1990, rpt. Dante and the Origins of Italian Literary Culture; “Notes toward a Gendered History of Italian Literature, with a Discussion of Dante’s Beatrix Loquax,” in Dante and the Origins of Italian Literary Culture.

Recommended Citation

Barolini, Teodolinda. “Purgatorio 30: One’s Heart’s Desire.” Commento Baroliniano, Digital Dante. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2017. https://digitaldante.columbia.edu/dante/divine-comedy/purgatorio/purgatorio-30/

About the Commento

1Quando il settentrïon del primo cielo,
2che né occaso mai seppe né orto
3né d’altra nebbia che di colpa velo,

4e che faceva lì ciascun accorto
5di suo dover, come ’l più basso face
6qual temon gira per venire a porto,

7fermo s’affisse: la gente verace,
8venuta prima tra ’l grifone ed esso,
9al carro volse sé come a sua pace;

10e un di loro, quasi da ciel messo,
11‘Veni, sponsa, de Libano’ cantando
12gridò tre volte, e tutti li altri appresso.

13Quali i beati al novissimo bando
14surgeran presti ognun di sua caverna,
15la revestita voce alleluiando,

16cotali in su la divina basterna
17si levar cento, ad vocem tanti senis,
18ministri e messaggier di vita etterna.

19Tutti dicean: ‘Benedictus qui venis!’,
20e fior gittando e di sopra e dintorno,
21‘Manibus, oh, date lilïa plenis!’.

22Io vidi già nel cominciar del giorno
23la parte orïental tutta rosata,
24e l’altro ciel di bel sereno addorno;

25e la faccia del sol nascere ombrata,
26sì che per temperanza di vapori
27l’occhio la sostenea lunga fïata:

28così dentro una nuvola di fiori
29che da le mani angeliche saliva
30e ricadeva in giù dentro e di fori,

31sovra candido vel cinta d’uliva
32donna m’apparve, sotto verde manto
33vestita di color di fiamma viva.

34E lo spirito mio, che già cotanto
35tempo era stato ch’a la sua presenza
36non era di stupor, tremando, affranto,

37sanza de li occhi aver più conoscenza,
38per occulta virtù che da lei mosse,
39d’antico amor sentì la gran potenza.

40Tosto che ne la vista mi percosse
41l’alta virtù che già m’avea trafitto
42prima ch’io fuor di püerizia fosse,

43volsimi a la sinistra col respitto
44col quale il fantolin corre a la mamma
45quando ha paura o quando elli è afflitto,

46per dicere a Virgilio: ‘Men che dramma
47di sangue m’è rimaso che non tremi:
48conosco i segni de l’antica fiamma’.

49Ma Virgilio n’avea lasciati scemi
50di sé, Virgilio dolcissimo patre,
51Virgilio a cui per mia salute die’mi;

52né quantunque perdeo l’antica matre,
53valse a le guance nette di rugiada,
54che, lagrimando, non tornasser atre.

55«Dante, perché Virgilio se ne vada,
56non pianger anco, non piangere ancora;
57ché pianger ti conven per altra spada».

58Quasi ammiraglio che in poppa e in prora
59viene a veder la gente che ministra
60per li altri legni, e a ben far l’incora;

61in su la sponda del carro sinistra,
62quando mi volsi al suon del nome mio,
63che di necessità qui si registra,

64vidi la donna che pria m’appario
65velata sotto l’angelica festa,
66drizzar li occhi ver’ me di qua dal rio.

67Tutto che ’l vel che le scendea di testa,
68cerchiato de le fronde di Minerva,
69non la lasciasse parer manifesta,

70regalmente ne l’atto ancor proterva
71continüò come colui che dice
72e ’l più caldo parlar dietro reserva:

73«Guardaci ben! Ben son, ben son Beatrice.
74Come degnasti d’accedere al monte?
75non sapei tu che qui è l’uom felice?».

76Li occhi mi cadder giù nel chiaro fonte;
77ma veggendomi in esso, i trassi a l’erba,
78tanta vergogna mi gravò la fronte.

79Così la madre al figlio par superba,
80com’ ella parve a me; perché d’amaro
81sente il sapor de la pietade acerba.

82Ella si tacque; e li angeli cantaro
83di sùbito ‘In te, Domine, speravi’;
84ma oltre ‘pedes meos’ non passaro.

85Sì come neve tra le vive travi
86per lo dosso d’Italia si congela,
87soffiata e stretta da li venti schiavi,

88poi, liquefatta, in sé stessa trapela,
89pur che la terra che perde ombra spiri,
90sì che par foco fonder la candela;

91così fui sanza lagrime e sospiri
92anzi ’l cantar di quei che notan sempre
93dietro a le note de li etterni giri;

94ma poi che ’ntesi ne le dolci tempre
95lor compatire a me, par che se detto
96avesser: ‘Donna, perché sì lo stempre?’,

97lo gel che m’era intorno al cor ristretto,
98spirito e acqua fessi, e con angoscia
99de la bocca e de li occhi uscì del petto.

100Ella, pur ferma in su la detta coscia
101del carro stando, a le sustanze pie
102volse le sue parole così poscia:

103«Voi vigilate ne l’etterno die,
104sì che notte né sonno a voi non fura
105passo che faccia il secol per sue vie;

106onde la mia risposta è con più cura
107che m’intenda colui che di là piagne,
108perché sia colpa e duol d’una misura.

109Non pur per ovra de le rote magne,
110che drizzan ciascun seme ad alcun fine
111secondo che le stelle son compagne,

112ma per larghezza di grazie divine,
113che sì alti vapori hanno a lor piova,
114che nostre viste là non van vicine,

115questi fu tal ne la sua vita nova
116virtüalmente, ch’ogne abito destro
117fatto averebbe in lui mirabil prova.

118Ma tanto più maligno e più silvestro
119si fa ’l terren col mal seme e non cólto,
120quant’ elli ha più di buon vigor terrestro.

121Alcun tempo il sostenni col mio volto:
122mostrando li occhi giovanetti a lui,
123meco il menava in dritta parte vòlto.

124Sì tosto come in su la soglia fui
125di mia seconda etade e mutai vita,
126questi si tolse a me, e diessi altrui.

127Quando di carne a spirto era salita,
128e bellezza e virtù cresciuta m’era,
129fu’ io a lui men cara e men gradita;

130e volse i passi suoi per via non vera,
131imagini di ben seguendo false,
132che nulla promession rendono intera.

133Né l’impetrare ispirazion mi valse,
134con le quali e in sogno e altrimenti
135lo rivocai: sì poco a lui ne calse!

136Tanto giù cadde, che tutti argomenti
137a la salute sua eran già corti,
138fuor che mostrarli le perdute genti.

139Per questo visitai l’uscio d’i morti,
140e a colui che l’ha qua sù condotto,
141li prieghi miei, piangendo, furon porti.

142Alto fato di Dio sarebbe rotto,
143se Letè si passasse e tal vivanda
144fosse gustata sanza alcuno scotto

145di pentimento che lagrime spanda».

When the first heaven’s Seven—Stars had halted
(those stars that never rise or set, that are
not veiled except when sin beclouds our vision;

those stars that, there, made everyone aware
of what his duty was, just as the Bear
below brings helmsmen home to harbor), then

the truthful band that had come first between
the griffin and the Seven—Stars turned toward
that chariot as toward their peace, and one

of them, as if sent down from Heaven, hymned
aloud, ” Veni, sponsa, de Libano,”
three times, and all the others echoed him.

Just as the blessed, at the Final Summons,
will rise up—ready—each out of his grave,
singing, with new—clothed voices, Alleluia,

so, from the godly chariot, eternal
life’s messengers and ministers arose:
one hundred stood ad vocem tanti senis.

All of them cried: “Benedictus qui venis,”
and, scattering flowers upward and around,
“Manibus, oh, date lilia plenis.”

I have at times seen all the eastern sky
becoming rose as day began and seen,
adorned in lovely blue, the rest of heaven;

and seen the sun’s face rise so veiled that it
was tempered by the mist and could permit
the eye to look at length upon it; so,

within a cloud of flowers that were cast
by the angelic hands and then rose up
and then fell back, outside and in the chariot,

a woman showed herself to me; above
a white veil, she was crowned with olive boughs;
her cape was green; her dress beneath, flame—red.

Within her presence, I had once been used
to feeling—trembling—wonder, dissolution;
but that was long ago. Still, though my soul,

now she was veiled, could not see her directly,
by way of hidden force that she could move,
I felt the mighty power of old love.

As soon as that deep force had struck my vision
(the power that, when I had not yet left
my boyhood, had already transfixed me),

I turned around and to my left—just as
a little child, afraid or in distress,
will hurry to his mother—anxiously,

to say to Virgil: “I am left with less
than one drop of my blood that does not tremble:
I recognize the signs of the old flame.”

But Virgil had deprived us of himself,
Virgil, the gentlest father, Virgil, he
to whom I gave my self for my salvation;

and even all our ancient mother lost
was not enough to keep my cheeks, though washed
with dew, from darkening again with tears.

“Dante, though Virgil’s leaving you, do not
yet weep, do not weep yet; you’ll need your tears
for what another sword must yet inflict.”

Just like an admiral who goes to stern
and prow to see the officers who guide
the other ships, encouraging their tasks;

so, on the left side of the chariot
(I’d turned around when I had heard my name—
which, of necessity, I transcribe here),

I saw the lady who had first appeared
to me beneath the veils of the angelic
flowers look at me across the stream.

Although the veil she wore—down from her head,
which was encircled by Minerva’s leaves—
did not allow her to be seen distinctly,

her stance still regal and disdainful, she
continued, just as one who speaks but keeps
until the end the fiercest parts of speech:

“Look here! For I am Beatrice, I am!
How were you able to ascend the mountain?
Did you not know that man is happy here?”

My lowered eyes caught sight of the clear stream,
but when I saw myself reflected there,
such shame weighed on my brow, my eyes drew back

and toward the grass; just as a mother seems
harsh to her child, so did she seem to me—
how bitter is the savor of stern pity!

Her words were done. The angels—suddenly—
sang, “In te, Domine, speravi”; but
their singing did not go past “pedes meos.”

Even as snow among the sap—filled trees
along the spine of Italy will freeze
when gripped by gusts of the Slavonian winds,

then, as it melts, will trickle through itself—
that is, if winds breathe north from shade—less lands—
just as, beneath the flame, the candle melts;

so I, before I’d heard the song of those
whose notes always accompany the notes
of the eternal spheres, was without tears

and sighs; but when I heard the sympathy
for me within their gentle harmonies,
as if they’d said: “Lady, why shame him so?”—

then did the ice that had restrained my heart
become water and breath; and from my breast
and through my lips and eyes they issued—anguished.

Still standing motionless upon the left
side of the chariot, she then addressed
the angels who had been compassionate:

“You are awake in never—ending day,
and neither night nor sleep can steal from you
one step the world would take along its way;

therefore, I’m more concerned that my reply
be understood by him who weeps beyond,
so that his sorrow’s measure match his sin.

Not only through the work of the great spheres—
which guide each seed to a determined end,
depending on what stars are its companions—

but through the bounty of the godly graces,
which shower down from clouds so high that we
cannot approach them with our vision, he,

when young, was such—potentially—that any
propensity innate in him would have
prodigiously succeeded, had he acted.

But where the soil has finer vigor, there
precisely—when untilled or badly seeded—
will that terrain grow wilder and more noxious.

My countenance sustained him for a while;
showing my youthful eyes to him, I led
him with me toward the way of righteousness.

As soon as I, upon the threshold of
my second age, had changed my life, he took
himself away from me and followed after

another; when, from flesh to spirit, I
had risen, and my goodness and my beauty
had grown, I was less dear to him, less welcome:

he turned his footsteps toward an untrue path;
he followed counterfeits of goodness, which
will never pay in full what they have promised.

Nor did the inspirations I received—
with which, in dream and otherwise, I called
him back—help me; he paid so little heed!

He fell so far there were no other means
to lead him to salvation, except this:
to let him see the people who were lost.

For this I visited the gateway of
the dead; to him who guided him above
my prayers were offered even as I wept.

The deep design of God would have been broken
if Lethe had been crossed and he had drunk
such waters but had not discharged the debt

of penitence that’s paid when tears are shed.”

WHEN the Septentrion of the highest heaven
(Which never either setting knew or rising,
Nor veil of other cloud than that of sin,

And which made every one therein aware
Of his own duty, as the lower makes
Whoever turns the helm to come to port)

Motionless halted, the veracious people,
That came at first between it and the Griffin,
Turned themselves to the car, as to their peace.

And one of them, as if by Heaven commissioned,
Singing,_”Veni, sponsa, de Libano”_
Shouted three times, and all the others after.

Even as the Blessed at the final summons
Shall rise up quickened each one from his cavern,
Uplifting light the reinvested flesh.

So upon that celestial chariot
A hundred rose ad vocem tanti senis,
Ministers and messengers of life eternal.

They all were saying, _”Benedictus qui venis,”_
And, scattering flowers above and round about,
_”Manibus o date lilia plenis.”_

Ere now have I beheld, as day began,
The eastern hemisphere all tinged with rose,
And the other heaven with fair serene adorned;

And the sun’s face, uprising, overshadowed
So that by tempering influence of vapours
For a long interval the eye sustained it;

Thus in the bosom of a cloud of flowers
Which from those hands angelical ascended,
And downward fell again inside and out,

Over her snow—white veil with olive cinct
Appeared a lady under a green mantle,
Vested in colour of the living flame.

And my own spirit, that already now
So long a time had been, that in her presence
Trembling with awe it had not stood abashed,

Without more knowledge having by mine eyes,
Through occult virtue that from her proceeded
Of ancient love the mighty influence felt.

As soon as on my vision smote the power
Sublime, that had already pierced me through
Ere from my boyhood I had yet come forth,

To the left hand I turned with that reliance
With which the little child runs to his mother,
When he has fear, or when he is afflicted,

To say unto Virgilius: “Not a drachm
Of blood remains in me, that does not tremble;
I know the traces of the ancient flame.”

But us Virgilius of himself deprived
Had left, Virgilius, sweetest of all fathers,
Virgilius, to whom I for safety gave me:

Nor whatsoever lost the ancient mother
Availed my cheeks now purified from dew,
That weeping they should not again be darkened.

“Dante, because Virgilius has departed
Do not weep yet, do not weep yet awhile;
For by another sword thou need’st must weep.”

E’en as an admiral, who on poop and prow
Comes to behold the people that are working
In other ships. and cheers them to well—doing,

Upon the left hand border of the car,
When at the sound I turned of my own name,
Which of necessity is here recorded,

I saw the Lady, who erewhile appeared
Veiled underneath the angelic festival,
Direct her eyes to me across the river.

Although the veil, that from her head descended,
Encircled with the foliage of Minerva,
Did not permit her to appear distinctly,

In attitude still royal]y majestic
Continued she, like unto one who speaks,
And keeps his warmest utterance in reserve:

“Look at me well; in sooth I’m Beatrice!
How didst thou deign to come unto the Mountain ?
Didst thou not know that man is happy here ?”

Mine eyes fell downward into the clear fountain,
But, seeing myself therein, I sought the grass,
So great a shame did weigh my forehead down.

As to the son the mother seems superb,
So she appeared to me; for somewhat bitter
Tasteth the savour of severe compassion.

Silent became she, and the Angels sang
Suddenly, _”In te, Domine, speravi: “_
But beyond _pedes meos_ did not pass.

Even as the snow among the living rafters
Upon the back of Italy congeals,
Blown on and drifted by Sclavonian winds,

And then, dissolving, trickles through itself
Whene’er the land that loses shadow breathes,
So that it seems a fire that melts a taper;

E’en thus was I without a tear or sigh,
Before the song of those who sing for ever
After the music of the eternal spheres.

But when I heard in their sweet melodies
Compassion for me, more than had they said,
“O wherefore, lady, dost thou thus upbraid him ?”

The ice, that was about my heart congealed,
To air and water changed, and in my anguish
Through mouth and eyes came gushing from my breast.

She, on the right—hand border of the car
Still firmly standing, to those holy beings
Thus her discourse directed afterwards:

“Ye keep your watch in the eternal day,
So that nor night nor sleep can steal from you
One step the ages make upon their path;

Therefore my answer is with greater care,
That he may hear me who is weeping yonder,
So that the sin and dole be of one measure.

Not only by the work of those great wheels,
That destine every seed unto some end,
According as the stars are in conjunction,

But by the largess of celestial graces,
Which have such lofty vapours for their rain
That near to them our sight approaches not,

Such had this man become in his new life
Potentially, that every righteous habit
Would have made admirable proof in him;

But so much more malignant and more savage
Becomes the land untilled and with bad seed,
The more good earthly vigour it possesses.

Some time did I sustain him with my look;
Revealing unto him my youthful eyes,
I led him with me turned in the right way.

As soon as ever of my second age
I was upon the threshold and changed life,
Himself from me he took and gave to others.

When from the flesh to spirit I ascended,
And beauty and virtue were in me increased,
I was to him less dear and less delightful;

And into ways untrue he turned his steps,
Pursuing the false images of good,
That never any promises fulfil;

Nor prayer for inspiration me availed,
By means of which in dreams and otherwise
I called him back, so little did he heed them.

So low he fell, that all appliances
For his salvation were already short,
Save showing him the people of perdition.

For this I visited the gates of death,
And unto him, who so far up has led him,
My intercessions were with weeping borne.

God’s lofty fiat would be violated,
If Lethe should be passed, and if such viands
Should tasted be, withouten any scot

Of penitence, that gushes forth in tears.”

When the first heaven’s Seven—Stars had halted
(those stars that never rise or set, that are
not veiled except when sin beclouds our vision;

those stars that, there, made everyone aware
of what his duty was, just as the Bear
below brings helmsmen home to harbor), then

the truthful band that had come first between
the griffin and the Seven—Stars turned toward
that chariot as toward their peace, and one

of them, as if sent down from Heaven, hymned
aloud, ” Veni, sponsa, de Libano,”
three times, and all the others echoed him.

Just as the blessed, at the Final Summons,
will rise up—ready—each out of his grave,
singing, with new—clothed voices, Alleluia,

so, from the godly chariot, eternal
life’s messengers and ministers arose:
one hundred stood ad vocem tanti senis.

All of them cried: “Benedictus qui venis,”
and, scattering flowers upward and around,
“Manibus, oh, date lilia plenis.”

I have at times seen all the eastern sky
becoming rose as day began and seen,
adorned in lovely blue, the rest of heaven;

and seen the sun’s face rise so veiled that it
was tempered by the mist and could permit
the eye to look at length upon it; so,

within a cloud of flowers that were cast
by the angelic hands and then rose up
and then fell back, outside and in the chariot,

a woman showed herself to me; above
a white veil, she was crowned with olive boughs;
her cape was green; her dress beneath, flame—red.

Within her presence, I had once been used
to feeling—trembling—wonder, dissolution;
but that was long ago. Still, though my soul,

now she was veiled, could not see her directly,
by way of hidden force that she could move,
I felt the mighty power of old love.

As soon as that deep force had struck my vision
(the power that, when I had not yet left
my boyhood, had already transfixed me),

I turned around and to my left—just as
a little child, afraid or in distress,
will hurry to his mother—anxiously,

to say to Virgil: “I am left with less
than one drop of my blood that does not tremble:
I recognize the signs of the old flame.”

But Virgil had deprived us of himself,
Virgil, the gentlest father, Virgil, he
to whom I gave my self for my salvation;

and even all our ancient mother lost
was not enough to keep my cheeks, though washed
with dew, from darkening again with tears.

“Dante, though Virgil’s leaving you, do not
yet weep, do not weep yet; you’ll need your tears
for what another sword must yet inflict.”

Just like an admiral who goes to stern
and prow to see the officers who guide
the other ships, encouraging their tasks;

so, on the left side of the chariot
(I’d turned around when I had heard my name—
which, of necessity, I transcribe here),

I saw the lady who had first appeared
to me beneath the veils of the angelic
flowers look at me across the stream.

Although the veil she wore—down from her head,
which was encircled by Minerva’s leaves—
did not allow her to be seen distinctly,

her stance still regal and disdainful, she
continued, just as one who speaks but keeps
until the end the fiercest parts of speech:

“Look here! For I am Beatrice, I am!
How were you able to ascend the mountain?
Did you not know that man is happy here?”

My lowered eyes caught sight of the clear stream,
but when I saw myself reflected there,
such shame weighed on my brow, my eyes drew back

and toward the grass; just as a mother seems
harsh to her child, so did she seem to me—
how bitter is the savor of stern pity!

Her words were done. The angels—suddenly—
sang, “In te, Domine, speravi”; but
their singing did not go past “pedes meos.”

Even as snow among the sap—filled trees
along the spine of Italy will freeze
when gripped by gusts of the Slavonian winds,

then, as it melts, will trickle through itself—
that is, if winds breathe north from shade—less lands—
just as, beneath the flame, the candle melts;

so I, before I’d heard the song of those
whose notes always accompany the notes
of the eternal spheres, was without tears

and sighs; but when I heard the sympathy
for me within their gentle harmonies,
as if they’d said: “Lady, why shame him so?”—

then did the ice that had restrained my heart
become water and breath; and from my breast
and through my lips and eyes they issued—anguished.

Still standing motionless upon the left
side of the chariot, she then addressed
the angels who had been compassionate:

“You are awake in never—ending day,
and neither night nor sleep can steal from you
one step the world would take along its way;

therefore, I’m more concerned that my reply
be understood by him who weeps beyond,
so that his sorrow’s measure match his sin.

Not only through the work of the great spheres—
which guide each seed to a determined end,
depending on what stars are its companions—

but through the bounty of the godly graces,
which shower down from clouds so high that we
cannot approach them with our vision, he,

when young, was such—potentially—that any
propensity innate in him would have
prodigiously succeeded, had he acted.

But where the soil has finer vigor, there
precisely—when untilled or badly seeded—
will that terrain grow wilder and more noxious.

My countenance sustained him for a while;
showing my youthful eyes to him, I led
him with me toward the way of righteousness.

As soon as I, upon the threshold of
my second age, had changed my life, he took
himself away from me and followed after

another; when, from flesh to spirit, I
had risen, and my goodness and my beauty
had grown, I was less dear to him, less welcome:

he turned his footsteps toward an untrue path;
he followed counterfeits of goodness, which
will never pay in full what they have promised.

Nor did the inspirations I received—
with which, in dream and otherwise, I called
him back—help me; he paid so little heed!

He fell so far there were no other means
to lead him to salvation, except this:
to let him see the people who were lost.

For this I visited the gateway of
the dead; to him who guided him above
my prayers were offered even as I wept.

The deep design of God would have been broken
if Lethe had been crossed and he had drunk
such waters but had not discharged the debt

of penitence that’s paid when tears are shed.”

WHEN the Septentrion of the highest heaven
(Which never either setting knew or rising,
Nor veil of other cloud than that of sin,

And which made every one therein aware
Of his own duty, as the lower makes
Whoever turns the helm to come to port)

Motionless halted, the veracious people,
That came at first between it and the Griffin,
Turned themselves to the car, as to their peace.

And one of them, as if by Heaven commissioned,
Singing,_”Veni, sponsa, de Libano”_
Shouted three times, and all the others after.

Even as the Blessed at the final summons
Shall rise up quickened each one from his cavern,
Uplifting light the reinvested flesh.

So upon that celestial chariot
A hundred rose ad vocem tanti senis,
Ministers and messengers of life eternal.

They all were saying, _”Benedictus qui venis,”_
And, scattering flowers above and round about,
_”Manibus o date lilia plenis.”_

Ere now have I beheld, as day began,
The eastern hemisphere all tinged with rose,
And the other heaven with fair serene adorned;

And the sun’s face, uprising, overshadowed
So that by tempering influence of vapours
For a long interval the eye sustained it;

Thus in the bosom of a cloud of flowers
Which from those hands angelical ascended,
And downward fell again inside and out,

Over her snow—white veil with olive cinct
Appeared a lady under a green mantle,
Vested in colour of the living flame.

And my own spirit, that already now
So long a time had been, that in her presence
Trembling with awe it had not stood abashed,

Without more knowledge having by mine eyes,
Through occult virtue that from her proceeded
Of ancient love the mighty influence felt.

As soon as on my vision smote the power
Sublime, that had already pierced me through
Ere from my boyhood I had yet come forth,

To the left hand I turned with that reliance
With which the little child runs to his mother,
When he has fear, or when he is afflicted,

To say unto Virgilius: “Not a drachm
Of blood remains in me, that does not tremble;
I know the traces of the ancient flame.”

But us Virgilius of himself deprived
Had left, Virgilius, sweetest of all fathers,
Virgilius, to whom I for safety gave me:

Nor whatsoever lost the ancient mother
Availed my cheeks now purified from dew,
That weeping they should not again be darkened.

“Dante, because Virgilius has departed
Do not weep yet, do not weep yet awhile;
For by another sword thou need’st must weep.”

E’en as an admiral, who on poop and prow
Comes to behold the people that are working
In other ships. and cheers them to well—doing,

Upon the left hand border of the car,
When at the sound I turned of my own name,
Which of necessity is here recorded,

I saw the Lady, who erewhile appeared
Veiled underneath the angelic festival,
Direct her eyes to me across the river.

Although the veil, that from her head descended,
Encircled with the foliage of Minerva,
Did not permit her to appear distinctly,

In attitude still royal]y majestic
Continued she, like unto one who speaks,
And keeps his warmest utterance in reserve:

“Look at me well; in sooth I’m Beatrice!
How didst thou deign to come unto the Mountain ?
Didst thou not know that man is happy here ?”

Mine eyes fell downward into the clear fountain,
But, seeing myself therein, I sought the grass,
So great a shame did weigh my forehead down.

As to the son the mother seems superb,
So she appeared to me; for somewhat bitter
Tasteth the savour of severe compassion.

Silent became she, and the Angels sang
Suddenly, _”In te, Domine, speravi: “_
But beyond _pedes meos_ did not pass.

Even as the snow among the living rafters
Upon the back of Italy congeals,
Blown on and drifted by Sclavonian winds,

And then, dissolving, trickles through itself
Whene’er the land that loses shadow breathes,
So that it seems a fire that melts a taper;

E’en thus was I without a tear or sigh,
Before the song of those who sing for ever
After the music of the eternal spheres.

But when I heard in their sweet melodies
Compassion for me, more than had they said,
“O wherefore, lady, dost thou thus upbraid him ?”

The ice, that was about my heart congealed,
To air and water changed, and in my anguish
Through mouth and eyes came gushing from my breast.

She, on the right—hand border of the car
Still firmly standing, to those holy beings
Thus her discourse directed afterwards:

“Ye keep your watch in the eternal day,
So that nor night nor sleep can steal from you
One step the ages make upon their path;

Therefore my answer is with greater care,
That he may hear me who is weeping yonder,
So that the sin and dole be of one measure.

Not only by the work of those great wheels,
That destine every seed unto some end,
According as the stars are in conjunction,

But by the largess of celestial graces,
Which have such lofty vapours for their rain
That near to them our sight approaches not,

Such had this man become in his new life
Potentially, that every righteous habit
Would have made admirable proof in him;

But so much more malignant and more savage
Becomes the land untilled and with bad seed,
The more good earthly vigour it possesses.

Some time did I sustain him with my look;
Revealing unto him my youthful eyes,
I led him with me turned in the right way.

As soon as ever of my second age
I was upon the threshold and changed life,
Himself from me he took and gave to others.

When from the flesh to spirit I ascended,
And beauty and virtue were in me increased,
I was to him less dear and less delightful;

And into ways untrue he turned his steps,
Pursuing the false images of good,
That never any promises fulfil;

Nor prayer for inspiration me availed,
By means of which in dreams and otherwise
I called him back, so little did he heed them.

So low he fell, that all appliances
For his salvation were already short,
Save showing him the people of perdition.

For this I visited the gates of death,
And unto him, who so far up has led him,
My intercessions were with weeping borne.

God’s lofty fiat would be violated,
If Lethe should be passed, and if such viands
Should tasted be, withouten any scot

Of penitence, that gushes forth in tears.”