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Dante's Inferno: Canto XIII
The Second Circle: The Envious. Sapia of Siena.
We were upon the summit of the stairs,
Where for the second time is cut away
The mountain, which ascending shriveth all.
There in like manner doth a cornice bind
The hill all round about, as does the first, 5
Save that its arc more suddenly is curved.
Shade is there none, nor sculpture that appears;
So seems the bank, and so the road seems smooth,
With but the livid colour of the stone.
"If to inquire we wait for people here," 10
The Poet said, "I fear that peradventure
Too much delay will our election have."
Then steadfast on the sun his eyes he fixed,
Made his right side the centre of his motion,
And turned the left part of himself about. 15
"O thou sweet light! with trust in whom I enter
Upon this novel journey, do thou lead us,"
Said he, "as one within here should be led.
Thou warmest the world, thou shinest over it;
If other reason prompt not otherwise, 20
Thy rays should evermore our leaders be!"
As much as here is counted for a mile,
So much already there had we advanced
In little time, by dint of ready will;
And tow'rds us there were heard to fly, albeit 25
They were not visible, spirits uttering
Unto Love's table courteous invitations,
The first voice that passed onward in its flight,
"Vinum non habent," said in accents loud,
And went reiterating it behind us. 30
And ere it wholly grew inaudible
Because of distance, passed another, crying,
"I am Orestes!" and it also stayed not.
"O," said I, "Father, these, what voices are they?"
And even as I asked, behold the third, 35
Saying: "Love those from whom ye have had evil!"
And the good Master said: "This circle scourges
The sin of envy, and on that account
Are drawn from love the lashes of the scourge.
The bridle of another sound shall be; 40
I think that thou wilt hear it, as I judge,
Before thou comest to the Pass of Pardon.
But fix thine eyes athwart the air right steadfast,
And people thou wilt see before us sitting,
And each one close against the cliff is seated." 45
Then wider than at first mine eyes I opened;
I looked before me, and saw shades with mantles
Not from the colour of the stone diverse.
And when we were a little farther onward,
I heard a cry of, "Mary, pray for us!" 50
A cry of, "Michael, Peter, and all Saints!"
I do not think there walketh still on earth
A man so hard, that he would not be pierced
With pity at what afterward I saw.
For when I had approached so near to them 55
That manifest to me their acts became,
Drained was I at the eyes by heavy grief.
Covered with sackcloth vile they seemed to me,
And one sustained the other with his shoulder,
And all of them were by the bank sustained. 60
Thus do the blind, in want of livelihood,
Stand at the doors of churches asking alms,
And one upon another leans his head,
So that in others pity soon may rise,
Not only at the accent of their words, 65
But at their aspect, which no less implores.
And as unto the blind the sun comes not,
So to the shades, of whom just now I spake,
Heaven's light will not be bounteous of itself;
For all their lids an iron wire transpierces, 70
And sews them up, as to a sparhawk wild
Is done, because it will not quiet stay.
To me it seemed, in passing, to do outrage,
Seeing the others without being seen;
Wherefore I turned me to my counsel sage. 75
Well knew he what the mute one wished to say,
And therefore waited not for my demand,
But said: "Speak, and be brief, and to the point."
I had Virgilius upon that side
Of the embankment from which one may fall, 80
Since by no border 'tis engarlanded;
Upon the other side of me I had
The shades devout, who through the horrible seam
Pressed out the tears so that they bathed their cheeks.
To them I turned me, and, "O people, certain," 85
Began I, "of beholding the high light,
Which your desire has solely in its care,
So may grace speedily dissolve the scum
Upon your consciences, that limpidly
Through them descend the river of the mind, 90
Tell me, for dear 'twill be to me and gracious,
If any soul among you here is Latian,
And 'twill perchance be good for him I learn it."
"O brother mine, each one is citizen
Of one true city; but thy meaning is, 95
Who may have lived in Italy a pilgrim."
By way of answer this I seemed to hear
A little farther on than where I stood,
Whereat I made myself still nearer heard.
Among the rest I saw a shade that waited 100
In aspect, and should any one ask how,
Its chin it lifted upward like a blind man.
"Spirit," I said, "who stoopest to ascend,
If thou art he who did reply to me,
Make thyself known to me by place or name." 105
"Sienese was I," it replied, "and with
The others here recleanse my guilty life,
Weeping to Him to lend himself to us.
Sapient I was not, although I Sapia
Was called, and I was at another's harm 110
More happy far than at my own good fortune.
And that thou mayst not think that I deceive thee,
Hear if I was as foolish as I tell thee.
The arc already of my years descending,
My fellow-citizens near unto Colle 115
Were joined in battle with their adversaries,
And I was praying God for what he willed.
Routed were they, and turned into the bitter
Passes of flight; and I, the chase beholding,
A joy received unequalled by all others; 120
So that I lifted upward my bold face
Crying to God, 'Henceforth I fear thee not,'
As did the blackbird at the little sunshine.
Peace I desired with God at the extreme
Of my existence, and as yet would not 125
My debt have been by penitence discharged,
Had it not been that in remembrance held me
Pier Pettignano in his holy prayers,
Who out of charity was grieved for me.
But who art thou, that into our conditions 130
Questioning goest, and hast thine eyes unbound
As I believe, and breathing dost discourse?"
"Mine eyes," I said, "will yet be here ta'en from me,
But for short space; for small is the offence
Committed by their being turned with envy. 135
Far greater is the fear, wherein suspended
My soul is, of the torment underneath,
For even now the load down there weighs on me."
And she to me: "Who led thee, then, among us
Up here, if to return below thou thinkest?" 140
And I: "He who is with me, and speaks not;
And living am I; therefore ask of me,
Spirit elect, if thou wouldst have me move
O'er yonder yet my mortal feet for thee."
"O, this is such a novel thing to hear," 145
She answered, "that great sign it is God loves thee;
Therefore with prayer of thine sometimes assist me.
And I implore, by what thou most desirest,
If e'er thou treadest the soil of Tuscany,
Well with my kindred reinstate my fame. 150
Them wilt thou see among that people vain
Who hope in Talamone, and will lose there
More hope than in discovering the Diana;
But there still more the admirals will lose."
1 - 1
The Second Circle, or Cornice, where is punished the sin of Envy; of which St. Augustine says: “Envy is the hatred of another's felicity; in respect of superiors, because they are not equal to them; in respect of inferiors, lest they should be equal to them; in respect of equals, because they are equal to them. Through envy proceeded the fall of the world, and the death of Christ.”
9 - 9
The livid color of Envy.
14 - 14
The military precision with which Virgil faces to the right is Homeric. Biagioli says that Dante expresses it “after his own fashion, that is, entirely new and different from mundane custom.”
16 - 16
Boethius, Cons. Phil., V. Met. 2: –
“Him the Sun, then, rightly call, – God who sees and lightens all.”
29 - 29
John ii. 3: “And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.”
Examples are first given of the virtue opposite the vice here punished. These are but “airy tongues that syllable men's names”; and it must not be supposed that the person alluded to are actually passing in the air.
33 - 33
The name of Orestes is here shouted on account of the proverbial friendship between him and Pylades. When Orestes was condemned to death, Pylads tried to take his place, exclaiming, “I am Orestes.”
36 - 36
Matthew v. 44: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.”
39 - 39
See Canto XIV. 147.
42 - 42
The next stairway leading from the seond to the third circle.
51 - 51
The Litany of All Saints.
92 - 92
Latian for Italian.
109 - 109
A Sienese lady living in banishment at Colle, where from a tower she witnessed the battle between her townsmen and the Florentines. “Sapia hated the Sienese,” says Benvenuto, “and placed herself at a window not far from the field of battle, waiting the issue with anxiety, and desiring the rout and ruin of her own people. Her desires being verified by the entire discomfiture of the Sienese, and the death of their captain.” (Provenzan Salvani, see Canto XI. Note 121), “exultant and almost beside herself, she lifted her bold face to heaven, and cried, 'Now, O God, do with me what thou wilt, do me all the harm thou canst; now my prayers are answered, and I die content.'”
110 - 110
Gower, Confes. Amant., II.: –
“Whan I have sense another blithe Of love and hadde a goodly chere, Ethna, which brenneth yere by yere, Was thanne nought so hote as I Of thilke sore which prively Mine hertes thought withinne brenneth.”
114 - 114
Convito, IV. 23: “Every effect, in so far as it is effect, receiveth the likeness of its cause, as far as it can retain it. Therefore, inasmuch as our life, as has been said, and likewise that of every living creature here below, is caused by the heavens, and the heavens reveal themselves to all these effects, not in complete circle, but in part thereof, so must its movement needs be above; and as an arch retains all lives nearly, (and, I say, retains those of men as well as of other creatures,) ascending and curving, they must be in the similitude of an arch. Returning then to our life, of which it is now question, I say that it proceeds in the image of this arch, ascending and descending.”
122 - 122
The warm days near the end of January are still called in Lombardy I giorni della merla, the days of the blackbird; from an old legend, that once in the sunny weather a blackbird sang, “I fear thee no more, O Lord, for the winter is over.”
128 - 128
Peter Pettignano, or Pettinajo, was a holy hermit, who saw visions and wrought miracles at Siena. Forsyth, Italy, 149, describing the festival of the Assumption in that city in 1802, says: –
“The Pope had reserved for this great festival the Beatification of Peter, a Sienese comb-maker, whom the Church had negleted to canonize till now. Poor Peter was honored with all the solemnity of music, high-mass, an officiating cardinal, a florid panegyric, picture angels bearing his tools to heaven, and combing their own hair as they soared; but he received five hundred years ago a greater honor than all, a verse of praise from Dante.”
138 - 138
Dante's besetting sin was not envy, but pride.
144 - 144
On the other side of the world.
151 - 151
The vanity of the Sienese is also spoken of Inf. XXIX. 123.
152 - 152
Talamone is a seaport in the Maremma, “many times abandoned by its inhabitants,” says the Ottimo, “on account of the malaria. The town is utterly in ruins; but as the harbor is deep, and would be of great utility if the place were inhabited, the Sienese have spent much money in repairing it many times, and bringing in inhabitants; it is of little use, for the malaria prevents the increase of population.”
Talamone is the ancient Telamon, where Marius landed on his return from Africa.
153 - 153
The Diana is a subterranean river, which the Sienese were in search of for many years to supply the city with water. “They never have been able to find it,” says the Ottimo, “and yet they still hope.” In Dante's time it was evidently looked upon as an idle dream. To the credit of the Sienese be it said, they perserved, and finally succeeded in obtaining the water so patiently sought for. The Pozzo Diana, or Diana's Well, is still to be seen at the Convent of the Carmen.
154 - 154
The admirals who go to Talamone to superintend the works will lose there more than their hope, namely, their lives.