Purgatorio -- Canto III

The Excommunicated, Manfred















21 Dante, still in a physical body, is the only one casting a shadow.



26 According to the calculations of the time, sunrise on the Mount of Purgatory corresponds to evening in Jerusalem and late-afternoon in Naples where Virgil’s body is buried. Virgil's biographers, Donatus and Suetonius, state that his body was moved from Brindisi by order of the Emperor Augustus.











49 The Mediterranean coast of Liguria between Turbia and Lerici is extremely mountainous.





58 The first area that lies outside the gates in Antepurgatory is for the late-repentant.




































112 Manfred, king of Sicily, was the natural son of Frederick II; born in 1231, he died in the battle of Benevento in 1266. His daughter Constance was the mother of Frederick of Sicily and James of Aragon (l. 116).





124 Bartolommeo Pignatelli, cardinal-archbishop of Cosenza, at the orders of Pope Clement IV had Manfred’s body removed from Benevento without burial honors and interred outside the Kingdom of Naples.

          While sudden flight was scattering those shades
          Across the plain, twirling them toward the hilltop
          Where Justice and right reason probe the soul,
          I drew in closer to my true companion:
5         For how could I have run my course without him?
          Who would have led me up along the mountain?
          He looked as though heart-stricken with remorse.
          O pure and noble conscience! How sharp the sting
          A single trivial fault can give to you!
10       When he restrained his footsteps from that hurry
          Which robs all action of its dignity,
          My mind, up to that moment so confined,
          Opened wide its scope, in earnest quest:
          I raised my eyes to wonder at the mountain
15       Which rises highest from the sea toward heaven.
          The sun, bursting flaming-red behind us,
          Cut out in front of me the figure formed
          By my own body blocking out its rays.
          I whirled around to my side in a panic
20       That I had been abandoned when I saw
          The ground had darkened only there before me.
          And my comfort, turning full circle, said,
          "Why this deep distrust? Do you doubt that
          I am still with you here and guide you on?
25       "Now evening comes to the tomb where lies buried
          The body in which I too once cast a shadow:
          At Naples laid to rest, moved from Brindisi.
          "Now, if in front of me no shadow travels,
          Do not marvel more than at the skies
30       Where one light does not overstep another.
          "Our bodies endure pain and heat and cold
          Just as that Power disposes that does not will
          To reveal to us the ways of all its workings.
          "It is madness to hope that our mere reason
35       Might be able to compass the infinite course
          Upheld by the Three Persons in one substance.
          "Stay contented, human race, with what is,
          Since were it possible you should see all,
          There’d be no need for Mary to give birth.
40       "For you have seen men want things fruitlessly,
          Such men as would have had their wish fulfilled,
          But now that wish is their unending grief.
          "I speak of Aristotle and of Plato
          And of many others," and here he bowed his head
45       And said no more — and he remained disturbed.
          Meanwhile we reached the base of a high mountain.
          Here we discovered a cliff so sheer and steep
          That the nimblest legs could not have climbed it.
          Between Lerici’s alps and Turbia’s
50       The most deserted and most shattered rockslide
          Compared to this is a free breezy staircase.
          "Now who can tell which side the hill slopes off,"
          My master questioned, halting in his steps,
          "To let someone who has no wings ascend?"
55       And while he stood there with his gaze cast down,
          Searching out his mind about the pathway,
          And while I peered up around the stone face,
          From the left appeared to me a family
          Of souls who moved their feet toward us, and yet,
60       So slow their pace they seemed not to come closer.
          "Lift up your eyes, master!" I exclaimed,
          "See there the ones who’ll give us good advice —
          If in yourself you can’t arrive at it."
          He looked up then and, with distinct relief,
65       Replied, "Let us walk there, for they move slowly
          And you, dear son, brace up your sturdy hope!"
          We were, as yet, as far off from those people —
          I mean after we’d gone a thousand paces —
          As a strong slingsman could cast a stone by hand,
70       When they all huddled close to the rock wall
          Of the steep cliff and stood stock still together,
          As people in befuddlement stop and gape.
          "O elect souls who ended well your lives,"
          Virgil began, "for the sake of that peace
75       Which I believe awaits all of you here,
          "Tell us where the mountain slopes away
          So that it’s possible to walk up there,
          For he who knows most hates most to lose time."
          Just as the sheep at first will leave the fold
80       By ones, by twos, by threes, while the rest stand
          Timid, with eyes and nose bent to the ground,
          And what the first has done the others do,
          Crowding up to him if he should stop,
          Simple and quiet without knowing why,
85       So I saw moving forward to approach us
          The leaders of that happy flock, modest
          In features and dignified in motion.
          When those coming foremost saw the light
          Broken on the ground to my right side
90       By the shadow reaching from me to the cliff,
          They halted and shrank backward a slight distance,
          And all the others who were following after,
          Without their knowing why, did the same thing.
          "Before you ask I will admit to you
95       This is a human body which you look at:
          By it the sunlight on the ground is broken.
          "So do not be astonished, but believe that
          Not without the power come from heaven
          Does he endeavor to scale up this wall."
100      This my master said. And that worthy band
          Replied, "Turn round and go ahead of us!"
          And waved us on with the backs of their hands.
          Then one of them began, "Whoever you are,
          Walking along like this, please turn your face:
105      Think if you ever saw me over there."
          I turned to him and eyed him steadily:
          He was quite handsome, blond, and noble-looking,
          But one brow bore a gash from a sword-blow.
          When I acknowledged with humility
110      That I had never seen him, he said, "Look now!"
          And showed me a wound just above his breast,
          Then added with a smile, "I am Manfred,
          The grandson of the glorious Empress Constance,
          And so I plead that you on your return
115      "Visit my lovely daughter, mother of
          The crowns of Sicily and Aragon,
          And whatever else is said, tell her the truth:
          "After I had my body riven through
          By two mortal thrusts, I gave up my soul
120      Weeping to Him who pardons willingly.
          "Horrible was the depth of my transgressing,
          But infinite goodness has its arms so wide
          That it embraces all who turn to it.
          "Had but the pastor of Cosenza, sent
125     By Clement at that time to hunt me down,
          Carefully read the bidding in God’s book,
          "The bones of my body would be resting
          Still by the bridgehead near Benevento,
          Under the guard of a mound of heavy stones.
130      "Now rain drenches them and wind shifts them,
          Outside my kingdom, by the Verde river,
          Where he has moved them with extinguished tapers.
          "None ever is so lost by curse of clergy
          But that eternal Love can yet return,
135     As long as hope retains a trace of green.
          "It’s true that he who dies still contumacious
          Of Holy Church, although he repent at last,
          Must here remain outside on this embankment
          "For thirty times as long as he persisted
140      In his presumption, unless holy prayers
          Shorten the length imposed by this decree.
          "You see by now how you can make me happy
          By letting my kindhearted Constance know
          How you have seen me, and this interdict,
145      "For those beyond there much advance us here."
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