From Father to Son

In the previous canto we saw that the encounter between Sordello and Virgilio—their embrace based on nothing more than a shared love of a common patria—was interrupted by the poet’s need to fulminate at the various powers that are ruining Italy. At the beginning of Purgatorio 7 the story-line (the diegesis) resumes, picking up exactly where it left off in Purgatorio 6.

Since Virgilio and Sordello had not yet introduced themselves to each other when the digression of Purgatorio 6 ruptured the narrative, Purgatorio 7 begins with these introductions, the “accoglienze oneste e liete” that “furo iterate tre e quattro volte” (glad and gracious welcomings . . . repeated three and four times [Purg. 7.1-2]). Boccaccio loved these verses enough to insert them verbatim into the story of madonna Beritola, to mark the moment after she is reunited with the son she had lost decades previously (Dec. 2.6.69). Dante, less melodramatic (when we factor out the afterworld setting), is describing the meeting of minds of two friends, Sordello and Virgilio. They never met in the flesh, but Sordello adores Virgilio for being who he is: the greatest of Latin poets.

The beginning of Purgatorio 7 offers an important installment in the Virgilio-narrative. Sordello’s tribute to Virgilio, which unites Virgilio’s Latin and Sordello’s Occitan as “la lingua nostra” (Purg. 7.17), also has important implications for Dante’s linguistic theory and for his sense of political unity forged on a common linguistic base:

  «O gloria di Latin», disse, «per cui
mostrò ciò che potea la lingua nostra,
o pregio etterno del loco ond’io fui...» (Purg. 7.16-18)
  He said: “O glory of the Latins, you
through whom our tongue revealed its power, you,
eternal honor of my native city . . . ”

Virgilio melts at Sordello’s genuine adoration, and proceeds to offer the most information on himself and on his habitat—Limbo—that we have received since Inferno 4:

  Non per far, ma per non fare ho perduto
a veder l’alto Sol che tu disiri
e che fu tardi per me conosciuto.
  Luogo è là giù non tristo di martìri,
ma di tenebre solo, ove i lamenti
non suonan come guai, ma son sospiri.
  Quivi sto io coi pargoli innocenti
dai denti morsi de la morte avante
che fosser da l’umana colpa essenti;
  quivi sto io con quei che le tre sante
virtù non si vestiro, e sanza vizio
conobber l’altre e seguir tutte quante. (Purg. 7.25-36)
  Not for the having—but not having—done,
I lost the sight that you desire, the Sun—
that high Sun I was late in recognizing.
  There is a place below that only shadows—
not torments—have assigned to sadness; there,
lament is not an outcry, but a sigh.
  There I am with the infant innocents,
those whom the teeth of death had seized before
they were set free from human sinfulness;
  there I am with those souls who were not clothed
in the three holy virtues—but who knew
and followed after all the other virtues.

Such descriptions of Virgilio as having sinned only through omission (“Non per far, ma per non fare” [Purg. 7.25]), which might have fully satisfied us before we encountered Cato in Purgatorio 1, now have to contend in our minds with the question: if Cato can be saved, why not Virgilio?

The above description of Limbo is also noteworthy for giving equal attention to the “innocent children” and the “virtuous pagans”, although Inferno 4 paid no attention to the former group other than to mention their existence.

Purgatorio 7.39, “là dove purgatorio ha dritto inizio” (“there where purgatory has its true beginning”) is Dante’s own language for what critics have labeled the distinction between “ante-purgatory” (a term Dante does not use) and “purgatory proper”.

Nighttime has come: a time when the travelers might well “err” because climbing up the mountain is not possible without the light of the sun. Sordello therefore proposes to the travelers that they can pass the night safely in The Valley of the Princes and that he will be their guide to this safe haven.

In his Occitan poem, the planh (lament) for Blacatz (for which see Dante’s Poets, p. 156), the historical Sordello listed the various lords of Europe, whom he cites for their deficiencies in courage with respect to his dead lord, Blacatz. Similarly, the purgatorial Sordello now points out and comments on the various negligent princes who await purgation in the Valley.

There are various links between these princes and those who were so fiercely indicted one canto prior in Purgatorio 6. Here too Dante begins to delineate his theory of heredity, of what we can inherit from our parents (mostly from our fathers, truthfully). Sordello’s emphasis on the physical features of the princes, at times amusing (the “nasetto” or “small-nosed” prince of Purg. 7.103 versus “colui dal maschio naso”—he of “manly nose”—in Purg. 7.113 and the “nasuto” or “large-nosed” man of Purg. 7.124), plays into the discussion of heredity and indirectly addresses issues regarding the construction of masculinity.

Physical characteristics notwithstanding, Dante’s theory of heredity is quite radical for his time in its insistence that nobility is not passed on from father to son:

  Rade volte risurge per li rami
l’umana probitate; e questo vole
quei che la dà, perché da lui si chiami. (Purg. 121-23)
  How seldom human worth ascends from branch to branch,
and this is willed by Him who grants
that gift, that one may pray to Him for it!

Dante had long been interested in this question, and had expounded at length on the nature of true nobility (“gentilezza”) in Book 4 of the Convivio. In the Commedia he does more than expound: he shows us how he views this matter by showing us fathers who are damned while their sons are saved. For instance, Frederick II is damned and his son Manfredi is saved, Guido da Montefeltro is damned and his son Bonconte is saved, and Ugolino della Gherardesca is damned and his grandson Nino Visconti is saved.

Coordinated Reading

Coordinated Reading: The Undivine Comedy, Chapter 5, “Purgatory as Paradigm,” p. 120; Dante’s Poets, pp. 155-57, 162-63.

Recommended Citation

Barolini, Teodolinda. “Purgatorio 7: From Father to Son.” Commento Baroliniano, Digital Dante. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2017. https://digitaldante.columbia.edu/dante/divine-comedy/purgatorio/purgatorio-7/

About the Commento

1 Poscia che l’accoglienze oneste e liete
2 furo iterate tre e quattro volte,
3 Sordel si trasse, e disse: «Voi, chi siete?».

4 «Anzi che a questo monte fosser volte
5 l’anime degne di salire a Dio,
6 fur l’ossa mie per Ottavian sepolte.

7 Io son Virgilio; e per null’ altro rio
8 lo ciel perdei che per non aver fé».
9 Così rispuose allora il duca mio.

10 Qual è colui che cosa innanzi sé
11 sùbita vede ond’ e’ si maraviglia,
12 che crede e non, dicendo «Ella è… non è…»,

13 tal parve quelli; e poi chinò le ciglia,
14 e umilmente ritornò ver’ lui,
15 e abbracciòl là ’ve ’l minor s’appiglia.

16 «O gloria di Latin», disse, «per cui
17 mostrò ciò che potea la lingua nostra,
18 o pregio etterno del loco ond’ io fui,

19 qual merito o qual grazia mi ti mostra?
20 S’io son d’udir le tue parole degno,
21 dimmi se vien d’inferno, e di qual chiostra».

22 «Per tutt’ i cerchi del dolente regno»,
23 rispuose lui, «son io di qua venuto;
24 virtù del ciel mi mosse, e con lei vegno.

25 Non per far, ma per non fare ho perduto
26 a veder l’alto Sol che tu disiri
27 e che fu tardi per me conosciuto.

28 Luogo è là giù non tristo di martìri,
29 ma di tenebre solo, ove i lamenti
30 non suonan come guai, ma son sospiri.

31 Quivi sto io coi pargoli innocenti
32 dai denti morsi de la morte avante
33 che fosser da l’umana colpa essenti;

34 quivi sto io con quei che le tre sante
35 virtù non si vestiro, e sanza vizio
36 conobber l’altre e seguir tutte quante.

37 Ma se tu sai e puoi, alcuno indizio
38 dà noi per che venir possiam più tosto
39 là dove purgatorio ha dritto inizio».

40 Rispuose: «Loco certo non c’è posto;
41 licito m’è andar suso e intorno;
42 per quanto ir posso, a guida mi t’accosto.

43 Ma vedi già come dichina il giorno,
44 e andar sù di notte non si puote;
45 però è buon pensar di bel soggiorno.

46 Anime sono a destra qua remote;
47 se mi consenti, io ti merrò ad esse,
48 e non sanza diletto ti fier note».

49 «Com’ è ciò?», fu risposto. «Chi volesse
50 salir di notte, fora elli impedito
51 d’altrui, o non sarria ché non potesse?».

52 E ’l buon Sordello in terra fregò ’l dito,
53 dicendo: «Vedi? sola questa riga
54 non varcheresti dopo ’l sol partito:

55 non però ch’altra cosa desse briga,
56 che la notturna tenebra, ad ir suso;
57 quella col nonpoder la voglia intriga.

58 Ben si poria con lei tornare in giuso
59 e passeggiar la costa intorno errando,
60 mentre che l’orizzonte il dì tien chiuso».

61 Allora il mio segnor, quasi ammirando,
62 «Menane», disse, «dunque là ’ve dici
63 ch’aver si può diletto dimorando».

64 Poco allungati c’eravam di lici,
65 quand’ io m’accorsi che ’l monte era scemo,
66 a guisa che i vallon li sceman quici.

67 «Colà», disse quell’ ombra, «n’anderemo
68 dove la costa face di sé grembo;
69 e là il novo giorno attenderemo».

70 Tra erto e piano era un sentiero schembo,
71 che ne condusse in fianco de la lacca,
72 là dove più ch’a mezzo muore il lembo.

73 Oro e argento fine, cocco e biacca,
74 indaco, legno lucido e sereno,
75 fresco smeraldo in l’ora che si fiacca,

76 da l’erba e da li fior, dentr’ a quel seno
77 posti, ciascun saria di color vinto,
78 come dal suo maggiore è vinto il meno.

79 Non avea pur natura ivi dipinto,
80 ma di soavità di mille odori
81 vi facea uno incognito e indistinto.

82Salve, Regina’ in sul verde e ’n su’ fiori
83 quindi seder cantando anime vidi,
84 che per la valle non parean di fuori.

85 «Prima che ’l poco sole omai s’annidi»,
86 cominciò ’l Mantoan che ci avea vòlti,
87 «tra color non vogliate ch’io vi guidi.

88 Di questo balzo meglio li atti e ’ volti
89 conoscerete voi di tutti quanti,
90 che ne la lama giù tra essi accolti.

91 Colui che più siede alto e fa sembianti
92 d’ aver negletto ciò che far dovea,
93 e che non move bocca a li altrui canti,

94 Rodolfo imperador fu, che potea
95 sanar le piaghe c’hanno Italia morta,
96 sì che tardi per altri si ricrea.

97 L’altro che ne la vista lui conforta,
98 resse la terra dove l’acqua nasce
99 che Molta in Albia, e Albia in mar ne porta:

100 Ottacchero ebbe nome, e ne le fasce
101 fu meglio assai che Vincislao suo figlio
102 barbuto, cui lussuria e ozio pasce.

103 E quel nasetto che stretto a consiglio
104 par con colui c’ha sì benigno aspetto,
105 morì fuggendo e disfiorando il giglio:

106 guardate là come si batte il petto!
107 L’altro vedete c’ha fatto a la guancia
108 de la sua palma, sospirando, letto.

109 Padre e suocero son del mal di Francia:
110 sanno la vita sua viziata e lorda,
111 e quindi viene il duol che sì li lancia.

112 Quel che par sì membruto e che s’accorda,
113 cantando, con colui dal maschio naso,
114 d’ogne valor portò cinta la corda;

115 e se re dopo lui fosse rimaso
116 lo giovanetto che retro a lui siede,
117 ben andava il valor di vaso in vaso,

118 che non si puote dir de l’altre rede;
119 Iacomo e Federigo hanno i reami;
120 del retaggio miglior nessun possiede.

121 Rade volte risurge per li rami
122 l’umana probitate; e questo vole
123 quei che la dà, perché da lui si chiami.

124 Anche al nasuto vanno mie parole
125 non men ch’a l’altro, Pier, che con lui canta,
126 onde Puglia e Proenza già si dole.

127 Tant’ è del seme suo minor la pianta,
128 quanto più che Beatrice e Margherita,
129 Costanza di marito ancor si vanta.

130 Vedete il re de la semplice vita
131 seder là solo, Arrigo d’ Inghilterra:
132 questi ha ne’ rami suoi migliore uscita.

133 Quel che più basso tra costor s’atterra,
134 guardando in suso, è Guiglielmo marchese,
135 per cui e Alessandria e la sua guerra

136 fa pianger Monferrato e Canavese».

When glad and gracious welcomings had been
repeated three and four times, then Sordello
drew himself back and asked: “But who are you?”

“Before the spirits worthy of ascent
to God had been directed to this mountain,
my bones were buried by Octavian.

I am Virgil, and I am deprived of Heaven
for no fault other than my lack of faith.”
This was the answer given by my guide.

Even like one who, suddenly, has seen
something before him and then, marveling,
does and does not believe, saying, “It is…

is not,” so did Sordello seem, and then
he bent his brow, returned to Virgil humbly,
and clasped him where the lesser presence clasps.

He said: “O glory of the Latins, you
through whom our tongue revealed its power, you,
eternal honor of my native city,

what merit or what grace shows you to me?
If I deserve to hear your word, then answer:
tell me if you’re from Hell and from what cloister.”

“Through every circle of the sorry kingdom,”
he answered him, “I journeyed here; a power
from Heaven moved me, and with that, I come.

Not for the having—but not having—done,
I lost the sight that you desire, the Sun—
that high Sun I was late in recognizing.

There is a place below that only shadows—
not torments—have assigned to sadness; there,
lament is not an outcry, but a sigh.

There I am with the infant innocents,
those whom the teeth of death had seized before
they were set free from human sinfulness;

there I am with those souls who were not clothed
in the three holy virtues—but who knew
and followed after all the other virtues.

But if you know and you are able to,
would you point out the path that leads more quickly
to the true entry point of Purgatory?”

He answered: “No fixed place has been assigned
to us; I’m free to range about and climb;
as far as I may go, I’ll be your guide.

But see now how the day declines; by night
we cannot climb; and therefore it is best
to find some pleasant place where we can rest.

Here to the right are spirits set apart;
if you allow me, I shall lead you to them;
and not without delight, you’ll come to know them.”

“How is that?” he was asked. “Is it that he
who tried to climb by night would be impeded
by others, or by his own lack of power?”

And good Sordello, as his finger traced
along the ground, said: “Once the sun has set,
then—look—even this line cannot be crossed.

And not that anything except the dark
of night prevents your climbing up; it is
the night itself that implicates your will.

Once darkness falls, one can indeed retreat
below and wander aimlessly about
the slopes, while the horizon has enclosed

the day.” At which my lord, as if in wonder,
said: “Lead us then to there where, as you say,
we may derive delight from this night’s stay.”

We had not gone far off, when I perceived
that, just as valleys hollow mountains here
in our world, so that mountain there was hollowed.

That shade said: “It is there that we shall go—
to where the slope forms, of itself, a lap;
at that place we’ll await the new day’s coming.”

There was a slanting path, now steep, now flat;
it led us to a point beside the valley,
just where its bordering edge had dropped by half.

Gold and fine silver, cochineal, white lead,
and Indian lychnite, highly polished, bright,
fresh emerald at the moment it is dampened,

if placed within that valley, all would be
defeated by the grass and flowers’ colors,
just as the lesser gives way to the greater.

And nature there not only was a painter,
but from the sweetness of a thousand odors,
she had derived an unknown, mingled scent.

Upon the green grass and the flowers, I
saw seated spirits singing “Salve, Regina”;
they were not visible from the outside.

“Before the meager sun seeks out its nest,”
began the Mantuan who led us here,
“do not ask me to guide you down among them.

From this bank, you’ll be better able to
make out the acts and features of them all
than if you were to join them in the hollow.

He who is seated highest, with the look
of one too lax in what he undertook—
whose mouth, although the rest sing, does not move

was Emperor Rudolph, one who could have healed
the wounds that were the death of Italy,
so that another, later, must restore her.

His neighbor, whose appearance comforts him,
governed the land in which are born the waters
the Moldau carries to the Elbe and

the Elbe to the sea: named Ottokar—
in swaddling—bands he was more valiant than
his son, the bearded Wenceslaus, who feeds

on wantonness and ease. That small—nosed man,
who seems so close in counsel with his kindly
friend, died in flight, deflowering the lily:

see how he beats his breast there! And you see
the other shade, who, as he sighs, would rest
his cheek upon his palm as on a bed.

Father and father—in—law of the pest
of France, they know his life—its filth, its vice;
out of that knowledge grows the grief that has

pierced them. That other, who seems so robust
and sings in time with him who has a nose
so manly, wore the cord of every virtue;

and if the young man seated there behind him
had only followed him as king, then valor
might have been poured from vessel unto vessel;

one cannot say this of his other heirs;
his kingdoms now belong to James and Frederick—
but they do not possess his best bequest.

How seldom human worth ascends from branch
to branch, and this is willed by Him who grants
that gift, that one may pray to Him for it!

My words suggest the large—nosed one no less
than they refer to Peter, singing with him,
whose heir brings Puglia and Provence distress:

the plant is lesser than its seed, just as
the man whom Beatrice and Margaret wed
is lesser than the husband Constance has.

You see the king who led the simple life
seated alone: Henry of England—he
has better fortune with his progeny.

He who is seated lowest on the ground,
and looking up, is William the Marquis—
for him, both Alexandria and its war

make Monferrato and Canavese mourn.”

AFTER the gracious and glad salutations
Had three and four times been reiterated,
Sordello backward drew and said, “Who are you ?”

“Or ever to this mountain were directed
The souls deserving to ascend to God,
My bones were buried by Octavian.

I am Virgilius; and for no crime else
Did I lose heaven, than for not having faith ;”
In this wise then my Leader made reply.

As one who suddenly before him sees
Something whereat he marvels, who believes
And yet (does not, saying,”It is! it is not!”

So he appeared; and then bowed down his brow,
And with humility returned towards him,
And, where inferiors embrace, embraced him.

“O glory of the Latians, thou,” he said,
“Through whom our language showed what it could do
O pride eternal of the place I came from,

What merit or what grace to me reveals thee ?
If I to hear thy words be worthy, tell me
If thou dost come from Hell, and from what cloister.”

“Through all the circles of the doleful realm,
Responded he, “have I come hitherward;
Heaven’s power impelled me, and with that I come.

I by not doing, not by doing, lost
The sight of that high sun which thou desirest,
And which too late by me was recognized.

A place there is below not sad with torments,
But darkness only, where the lamentations
Have not the sound of wailing, but are sighs.

There dwell I with the little innocents
Snatched by the teeth of Death, or ever they
Were from our human sinfulness exempt.

There dwell I among those who the three saintly
Virtues did not put on, and without vice
The others knew and followed all of them.

But if thou know and can, some indication
Give us by which we may the sooner come
Where Purgatory has its right beginning.”

He answered: “No fixed place has been assigned us;
‘Tis lawful for me to go up and round;
So far as I can go, as guide I join thee.

But see already how the day declines,
And to go up by night we are not able;
Therefore ’tis well to think of some fair sojourn.

Souls are there on the right hand here withdrawn;
If thou permit me I will lead thee to them,
And thou shalt know them not without delight.”

“How is this ?” was the answer; “should one wish
To mount by night would he prevented be
By others ? or mayhap would not have power ?”

And on the ground the good Sordello drew
His finger, saying, “See, this line alone
Thou couldst not pass after the sun is gone;

Not that aught else would hindrance give, however,
To going up, save the nocturnal darkness;
This with the want of power the will perplexes.

We might indeed therewith return below,
And, wandering, walk the hill—side round about,
While the horizon holds the day imprisoned.”

Thereon my Lord, as if in wonder, said:
“Do thou conduct us thither, where thou sayest
That we can take delight in tarrying.”

Little had we withdrawn us from that place,
When I perceived the mount was hollowed out
In fashion as the valleys here are hollowed.

“Thitherward,” said that shade, “will we repair,
Where of itself the hill—side makes a lap
And there for the new day will we await.”

‘Twixt hill and plain there was a winding path
Which led us to the margin of that dell,
Where dies the border more than half away

Gold and fine silver, and scarlet and pearl—white,
The Indian wood resplendent and serene,
Fresh emerald the moment it is broken,

By herbage and by flowers within that hollow
Planted, each one in colour would be vanquished,
As by its greater vanquished is the less.

Nor in that place had nature painted only,
But of the sweetness of a thousand odours
Made there a mingled fragrance and unknown.

_”Salve Regina,”_ on the green and flowers
There seated, singing, spirits I beheld,
Which were not visible outside the valley.

“Before the scanty sun now seeks his nest,”
Began the Mantuan who had led us thither,
“Among them do not wish me to conduct you.

Better from off this ledge the acts and faces
Of all of them will you discriminate,
Than in the plain below received among them

He who sits highest, and the semblance bears
Of having what he should have done neglected,
And to the others’ song moves not his lips,

Rudolph the Emperor was, who had the power
To heal the wounds that Italy have slain,
So that through others slowly she revives.

The other, who in look doth comfort him,
Governed the region where the water springs,
The Moldau bears the Elbe, and Elbe the sea.

His name was Ottocar; and in swaddling—clothes
Far better he than bearded Winceslaus
His son, who feeds in luxury and ease.

And the small—nosed, who close in council seems
With him that has an aspect so benign,
Died fleeing and disflowering the lily;

Look there, how he is beating at his breast!
Behold the other one, who for his cheek
Sighing has made of his own palm a bed;

Father and father—in—law of France’s Pest
Are they, and know his vicious life and lewd,
And hence proceeds the grief that so doth pierce them.

He who appears so stalwart, and chimes in,
Singing, with that one of the manly nose,
The cord of every valour wore begirt;

And if as King had after him remained
The stripling who in rear of him is sitting;
Well had the valour passed from vase to vase

Which cannot of the other heirs be said.
Frederick and Jacomo possess the realms,
But none the better heritage possesses.

Not oftentimes upriseth through the branches
The probity of man; and this He wills
Who gives it, so that we may ask of Him.

Eke to the large—nosed reach my words, no less
Than to the other, Pier, who with him sings;
Whence Provence and Apulia grieve already

The plant is as inferior to its seed,
As more than Beatrice and Margaret
Costanza boasteth of her husband still.

Behold the monarch of the simple life,
Harry of England, sitting there alone;
He in his branches has a better issue.

He who the lowest on the ground among them
Sits looking upward, is the Marquis William,
For whose sake Alessandra and her war

Make Monferrat and Canavese weep.”

When glad and gracious welcomings had been
repeated three and four times, then Sordello
drew himself back and asked: “But who are you?”

“Before the spirits worthy of ascent
to God had been directed to this mountain,
my bones were buried by Octavian.

I am Virgil, and I am deprived of Heaven
for no fault other than my lack of faith.”
This was the answer given by my guide.

Even like one who, suddenly, has seen
something before him and then, marveling,
does and does not believe, saying, “It is…

is not,” so did Sordello seem, and then
he bent his brow, returned to Virgil humbly,
and clasped him where the lesser presence clasps.

He said: “O glory of the Latins, you
through whom our tongue revealed its power, you,
eternal honor of my native city,

what merit or what grace shows you to me?
If I deserve to hear your word, then answer:
tell me if you’re from Hell and from what cloister.”

“Through every circle of the sorry kingdom,”
he answered him, “I journeyed here; a power
from Heaven moved me, and with that, I come.

Not for the having—but not having—done,
I lost the sight that you desire, the Sun—
that high Sun I was late in recognizing.

There is a place below that only shadows—
not torments—have assigned to sadness; there,
lament is not an outcry, but a sigh.

There I am with the infant innocents,
those whom the teeth of death had seized before
they were set free from human sinfulness;

there I am with those souls who were not clothed
in the three holy virtues—but who knew
and followed after all the other virtues.

But if you know and you are able to,
would you point out the path that leads more quickly
to the true entry point of Purgatory?”

He answered: “No fixed place has been assigned
to us; I’m free to range about and climb;
as far as I may go, I’ll be your guide.

But see now how the day declines; by night
we cannot climb; and therefore it is best
to find some pleasant place where we can rest.

Here to the right are spirits set apart;
if you allow me, I shall lead you to them;
and not without delight, you’ll come to know them.”

“How is that?” he was asked. “Is it that he
who tried to climb by night would be impeded
by others, or by his own lack of power?”

And good Sordello, as his finger traced
along the ground, said: “Once the sun has set,
then—look—even this line cannot be crossed.

And not that anything except the dark
of night prevents your climbing up; it is
the night itself that implicates your will.

Once darkness falls, one can indeed retreat
below and wander aimlessly about
the slopes, while the horizon has enclosed

the day.” At which my lord, as if in wonder,
said: “Lead us then to there where, as you say,
we may derive delight from this night’s stay.”

We had not gone far off, when I perceived
that, just as valleys hollow mountains here
in our world, so that mountain there was hollowed.

That shade said: “It is there that we shall go—
to where the slope forms, of itself, a lap;
at that place we’ll await the new day’s coming.”

There was a slanting path, now steep, now flat;
it led us to a point beside the valley,
just where its bordering edge had dropped by half.

Gold and fine silver, cochineal, white lead,
and Indian lychnite, highly polished, bright,
fresh emerald at the moment it is dampened,

if placed within that valley, all would be
defeated by the grass and flowers’ colors,
just as the lesser gives way to the greater.

And nature there not only was a painter,
but from the sweetness of a thousand odors,
she had derived an unknown, mingled scent.

Upon the green grass and the flowers, I
saw seated spirits singing “Salve, Regina”;
they were not visible from the outside.

“Before the meager sun seeks out its nest,”
began the Mantuan who led us here,
“do not ask me to guide you down among them.

From this bank, you’ll be better able to
make out the acts and features of them all
than if you were to join them in the hollow.

He who is seated highest, with the look
of one too lax in what he undertook—
whose mouth, although the rest sing, does not move

was Emperor Rudolph, one who could have healed
the wounds that were the death of Italy,
so that another, later, must restore her.

His neighbor, whose appearance comforts him,
governed the land in which are born the waters
the Moldau carries to the Elbe and

the Elbe to the sea: named Ottokar—
in swaddling—bands he was more valiant than
his son, the bearded Wenceslaus, who feeds

on wantonness and ease. That small—nosed man,
who seems so close in counsel with his kindly
friend, died in flight, deflowering the lily:

see how he beats his breast there! And you see
the other shade, who, as he sighs, would rest
his cheek upon his palm as on a bed.

Father and father—in—law of the pest
of France, they know his life—its filth, its vice;
out of that knowledge grows the grief that has

pierced them. That other, who seems so robust
and sings in time with him who has a nose
so manly, wore the cord of every virtue;

and if the young man seated there behind him
had only followed him as king, then valor
might have been poured from vessel unto vessel;

one cannot say this of his other heirs;
his kingdoms now belong to James and Frederick—
but they do not possess his best bequest.

How seldom human worth ascends from branch
to branch, and this is willed by Him who grants
that gift, that one may pray to Him for it!

My words suggest the large—nosed one no less
than they refer to Peter, singing with him,
whose heir brings Puglia and Provence distress:

the plant is lesser than its seed, just as
the man whom Beatrice and Margaret wed
is lesser than the husband Constance has.

You see the king who led the simple life
seated alone: Henry of England—he
has better fortune with his progeny.

He who is seated lowest on the ground,
and looking up, is William the Marquis—
for him, both Alexandria and its war

make Monferrato and Canavese mourn.”

AFTER the gracious and glad salutations
Had three and four times been reiterated,
Sordello backward drew and said, “Who are you ?”

“Or ever to this mountain were directed
The souls deserving to ascend to God,
My bones were buried by Octavian.

I am Virgilius; and for no crime else
Did I lose heaven, than for not having faith ;”
In this wise then my Leader made reply.

As one who suddenly before him sees
Something whereat he marvels, who believes
And yet (does not, saying,”It is! it is not!”

So he appeared; and then bowed down his brow,
And with humility returned towards him,
And, where inferiors embrace, embraced him.

“O glory of the Latians, thou,” he said,
“Through whom our language showed what it could do
O pride eternal of the place I came from,

What merit or what grace to me reveals thee ?
If I to hear thy words be worthy, tell me
If thou dost come from Hell, and from what cloister.”

“Through all the circles of the doleful realm,
Responded he, “have I come hitherward;
Heaven’s power impelled me, and with that I come.

I by not doing, not by doing, lost
The sight of that high sun which thou desirest,
And which too late by me was recognized.

A place there is below not sad with torments,
But darkness only, where the lamentations
Have not the sound of wailing, but are sighs.

There dwell I with the little innocents
Snatched by the teeth of Death, or ever they
Were from our human sinfulness exempt.

There dwell I among those who the three saintly
Virtues did not put on, and without vice
The others knew and followed all of them.

But if thou know and can, some indication
Give us by which we may the sooner come
Where Purgatory has its right beginning.”

He answered: “No fixed place has been assigned us;
‘Tis lawful for me to go up and round;
So far as I can go, as guide I join thee.

But see already how the day declines,
And to go up by night we are not able;
Therefore ’tis well to think of some fair sojourn.

Souls are there on the right hand here withdrawn;
If thou permit me I will lead thee to them,
And thou shalt know them not without delight.”

“How is this ?” was the answer; “should one wish
To mount by night would he prevented be
By others ? or mayhap would not have power ?”

And on the ground the good Sordello drew
His finger, saying, “See, this line alone
Thou couldst not pass after the sun is gone;

Not that aught else would hindrance give, however,
To going up, save the nocturnal darkness;
This with the want of power the will perplexes.

We might indeed therewith return below,
And, wandering, walk the hill—side round about,
While the horizon holds the day imprisoned.”

Thereon my Lord, as if in wonder, said:
“Do thou conduct us thither, where thou sayest
That we can take delight in tarrying.”

Little had we withdrawn us from that place,
When I perceived the mount was hollowed out
In fashion as the valleys here are hollowed.

“Thitherward,” said that shade, “will we repair,
Where of itself the hill—side makes a lap
And there for the new day will we await.”

‘Twixt hill and plain there was a winding path
Which led us to the margin of that dell,
Where dies the border more than half away

Gold and fine silver, and scarlet and pearl—white,
The Indian wood resplendent and serene,
Fresh emerald the moment it is broken,

By herbage and by flowers within that hollow
Planted, each one in colour would be vanquished,
As by its greater vanquished is the less.

Nor in that place had nature painted only,
But of the sweetness of a thousand odours
Made there a mingled fragrance and unknown.

_”Salve Regina,”_ on the green and flowers
There seated, singing, spirits I beheld,
Which were not visible outside the valley.

“Before the scanty sun now seeks his nest,”
Began the Mantuan who had led us thither,
“Among them do not wish me to conduct you.

Better from off this ledge the acts and faces
Of all of them will you discriminate,
Than in the plain below received among them

He who sits highest, and the semblance bears
Of having what he should have done neglected,
And to the others’ song moves not his lips,

Rudolph the Emperor was, who had the power
To heal the wounds that Italy have slain,
So that through others slowly she revives.

The other, who in look doth comfort him,
Governed the region where the water springs,
The Moldau bears the Elbe, and Elbe the sea.

His name was Ottocar; and in swaddling—clothes
Far better he than bearded Winceslaus
His son, who feeds in luxury and ease.

And the small—nosed, who close in council seems
With him that has an aspect so benign,
Died fleeing and disflowering the lily;

Look there, how he is beating at his breast!
Behold the other one, who for his cheek
Sighing has made of his own palm a bed;

Father and father—in—law of France’s Pest
Are they, and know his vicious life and lewd,
And hence proceeds the grief that so doth pierce them.

He who appears so stalwart, and chimes in,
Singing, with that one of the manly nose,
The cord of every valour wore begirt;

And if as King had after him remained
The stripling who in rear of him is sitting;
Well had the valour passed from vase to vase

Which cannot of the other heirs be said.
Frederick and Jacomo possess the realms,
But none the better heritage possesses.

Not oftentimes upriseth through the branches
The probity of man; and this He wills
Who gives it, so that we may ask of Him.

Eke to the large—nosed reach my words, no less
Than to the other, Pier, who with him sings;
Whence Provence and Apulia grieve already

The plant is as inferior to its seed,
As more than Beatrice and Margaret
Costanza boasteth of her husband still.

Behold the monarch of the simple life,
Harry of England, sitting there alone;
He in his branches has a better issue.

He who the lowest on the ground among them
Sits looking upward, is the Marquis William,
For whose sake Alessandra and her war

Make Monferrat and Canavese weep.”