16 For the needles eye, the
narrow way to heaven, see Matthew 19:24 and Mark 20:25.
20 The first level is
where the proud repent.
33 Polycletus (d. 412 B.C.) was a
famous Greek sculptor.
34 The angel Gabriel announced the
birth of Jesus to Mary (Luke 1:26-38).
55 The second scene shows King David
dancing before the Ark of the Covenant, Uzzah presuming to touch it and being punished
(1.57) and Davids wife Michal watching him with disapproval (l. 68). See 2 Samuel 6.
73 The emperor Trajan (d. 117 A.D.) was
popularly believed to have been brought back to life and baptized by Saint Gregory. In the
third panel he is shown dismounting to administer justice in behalf of a poor widow, even
while on his way to battle.
100 Dante encounters the first group of
penitents whose sin is pride.
we were past the threshold of the gate
the souls wrongful love may never use
such love makes the crooked way seem straight,
heard by its loud clanging the gate close:
And if I had turned my eyes back to it,
fit excuse could I find for my fault?
climbed the rockface through a zigzag cleft
pitches from one side to the other
a wave cresting in and rolling out.
"Here we must exercise some skill and care,"
guide began, "to stay close, now this side
now that, to the low receding edge."
this task made our steps so slow that now
waning moon had once again gone back
To bed, to sink into its morning rest,
Before we issued from that needles eye.
we were free and out into the open,
where the mount surged back to form a ledge,
halted I worn out and the two of us
Unsure of our way there on that level place
Lonelier than a trail through empty deserts.
the edge which verges out on vacant space
the base of the sheer cliff soaring upward
Measures three times the length of a mans body;
And as far as my eyes could wing their way,
equally to the left, now to the right,
wide the terrace seemed to stretch before me.
that spot we had yet to take a step
I discerned that all the inner cliff-ring,
Which rose so steep there was no way to scale it,
pure white marble, and so decorated
carvings that they would have put to shame
only Polycletus but nature too.
angel who came down to earth decreeing
The peace which, deeply mourned for many years,
opened heaven from its long interdict
Appeared before us there so faithfully
Chiseled out in his soft-spoken bearing
he did not seem to be a silent image:
One would have sworn that he was saying "Ave,"
she who turned the key to open up
on high was also imaged there,
her attitude appeared stamped with the words:
"Behold the handmaid of the Lord," as sharply
As a figure is engraved on sealing wax.
"You need not fix your mind on one place only,"
gentle master stated, while he made me
on the side where the heart within us beats.
that I shifted my sight and gazed further
Past Mary, in the same right-hand direction
he stood who had urged me on to look,
see another story cut in stone;
- So I
crossed in front of Virgil and approached
have the scene disclosed before my eyes.
There carved upon the surface of the marble
cart and oxen pulling the holy ark,
warn men not to overreach their charge.
the lead, seven choirs in separate files
Appeared: one of my senses argued, "No,"
The other answered, "Yes, they really sing!"
the same way, the smoking from the incense
Pictured there made my two eyes and nose
Disagree between a yes and no.
in the vanguard of the sacred coffer,
Dancing with robes hitched up, the humble psalmist
proved himself both more and less than king.
Opposite, depicted at the window
- Of a
stately palace, Michal watched him dance,
like a woman filled with wrath and scorn.
I stirred my feet from the spot where I stood
study close at hand another story
I saw shining white just past Michal.
was told the tale of the high glory
by the Roman prince whose worthiness
Moved Gregory to make his mighty conquest:
here speak of the Emperor Trajan.
there was at his bridle a poor widow
in a pose of weeping and distress.
Surrounding him was shown a trampling press
Of horsemen, while eagles stitched in gold
in full view above them on the wind.
them all the wretched woman seemed
cry, "Oh lord, take vengeance for my son
slaying has pierced my heart with sorrow."
And he appeared to answer her, "Now wait
I shall return." And she: "My lord,"
urgent grief, "What if you dont come back?"
he: "Whoever takes my place will act
me." And she: "What good shall someone elses
Good deeds do you if you ignore your own?"
this he said, "Take comfort, since I must
Fulfill my duty here before I leave:
Justice claims it and pity holds me back."
- He in
whose sight nothing is ever new
Created this art of visible speaking,
Foreign to us who do not find it here.
I enjoyed myself with gazing on
images of high humility,
Precious to look at for their Makers sake,
"Look over there," the poet murmured to me,
"That throng of people walking with slow steps:
will direct us to the stairs on high."
eyes, happy to be full of wonder
seeing something new for which they yearn,
Surely were not slow to turn toward him.
would not have you, reader, in alarm
your good resolve when you now hear
God has willed that we should pay our debts.
no attention to the form of pain:
- 110 Think
of the aftermath, think that the worst
be that it will last till judgment day.
"Master," I began, "what I make out
Moving toward us does not look like people,
- But what
I do not know my sights so muddled!"
And he said to me, "The weighty condition
their torment so bows them to the ground
my eyes first debated about them.
"But peer there firmly and sort out by sight
approaches us beneath those boulders:
By now you see how each one beats his breast."
haughty Christians, woebegone, careworn,
sickened in the insight of your minds,
misplace all your trust in backward steps,
you not aware that we are worms,
Born to become the angelic butterflies
soar defenseless up toward the judgment?
does your mind float proudly far aloft
you are merely like imperfect insects,
as the larva lacks its final form?
Sometimes, in support of roof or ceiling,
sees a corbel shaped in a mans figure
the knees hunched up against the chest,
Which, while unreal, gives birth to real discomfort
someone seeing it: thats how I saw,
When I took good care, how these souls were stooped.
some were more pressed down and some were less
they had more or less weight on their backs,
even one who suffered most patiently
Appeared to say through tears, "I can no more."