8 The three theological virtues are now
18 The procession turns back to the east, the
direction it has come, and faces the morning sun.
22 The twenty-four elders lead the vanguard,
followed by the seven ladies (three and four) on the right and left of the chariot (l.
28 The woman again is Matilda.
30 The chariot swings on a lesser arc to the
38 The tree of the knowledge of good and evil
represents the Law, both of God and of the secular State, here the Holy Roman Empire.
42 India was famous for the tall trees of its
49 The griffin approaches the tree and ties
the chariot pole, symbolic of the cross, to the tree which breaks into blossoms, as plants
do in sunlight during spring (ll. 50-57).
64 The hundred-eyed Argus, at the order of
Jupiter, was slain by Mercury who lulled him to sleep with the tale of the nymph Syrinx (Metamorphoses
76 Peter, James, and John witnessed the
transfiguration of Jesus with Moses and Elijah on the mountaintop (Matthew 17:1-8).
89 The griffin ascends into
heaven with his attendants, leaving Beatrice alone with her seven handmaiden virtues.
112 The bird of Jove, the eagle, first
represents Romes stormy persecution of the Church in the first centuries. The
eagles feathering the chariot symbolizes the Donation of Constantine (see Inferno
XIX, l. 115, and note). More feathers or worldly property were added by Pepin and
Charlemagne (ll. 124-29).
119 The fox represents the heresies that have
beset the Church.
131 The dragon is the devil. Some take it to
be Islam or the Great Schism.
142 The transformation of the chariot into a
monstrous beast with seven heads and ten horns derives from Revelation 17:1-3.
148 The whore is the papacy in Dante's time;
the giant, the French monarchy: Philip IV contrived to have the papal seat shifted to
Avignon in 1309 (see Inferno XIX, l. 82, and note).
eyes were so intent and fixed on her
satisfy the thirst of those ten years
every other sense was quenched in me.
one side and the other, my eyes were walled
By indifference to all else: the holy smile
drew them to itself with the old net
I was forced to turn my face leftward
those three goddesses because I heard
them the words, "You gaze too fixedly!"
And my sight was in such a state as when
eyes have just been struck by too much sun,
that for some time I could make out nothing;
when my sight grew used to lesser objects
say "to lesser" in relation to
The greater one from whom I turned by force),
- I saw
that the magnificent army there
wheeled round to the right, and now was turning
faces toward the sun and the seven flames.
as a squadron, underneath their shields,
Turn to retreat and, with the standard, wheel
Around before the rest can swing about,
the militia of the celestial realm
the advanced guard passed in front of us
Before the chariot circled on its pole.
At that the women turned back to the wheels,
then the griffin pulled his blissful burden
such a way none of his feathers stirred.
lovely woman who towed me at the ford,
Statius, and I, were following
The wheel that makes the smaller arc in turning.
pacing through the soaring forest, empty
Because of her who trusted in the serpent,
steps kept time to an angelic tune.
had advanced about the distance covered
By three flights of an arrow shot from its bow,
Beatrice stepped down from the chariot.
heard them all there murmuring "Adam,"
then they gathered round a tree stripped bare,
every branch, of foliage and flowers.
Its branches, which spread wider as they grow
Higher up, would, with their towering height,
even Indians marvel in their forests.
"Blessed are you, griffin, that your beak
nothing from this sweetly-tasting tree
Which sadly racks the stomach afterward!"
Around the sturdy tree, the others cried
words; and the two-natured animal:
"So is preserved the seed of all justice."
turning to the pole-shaft he had pulled,
He dragged it to the foot of the widowed trunk
tied it to the wood from which it came.
as our trees, when the strong light of spring
Streams downward mingled with the rays that glow
Behind the stars of the celestial Fish,
Swell into bud, and then renew themselves
each ones coloring, before the sun
its steeds under a new constellation,
showing color less deep than the rose
darker than the violet, the tree
That first had boughs so barren was renewed.
- I did
not understand it is not sung
earth the hymn that company sang there,
could I hear the music to the end.
I portray the ruthless eyes of Argus
Lulled to sleep, hearing the tale of Syrinx
eyes whose long-kept watching cost so dear
like a painter who paints from a model,
here would picture how I fell asleep,
let whoever wants to depict sleeping!
I move on, then, to when I came awake,
- And I
tell you a bright light rent the veil
sleep, and a voice: "What are you doing? Rise!"
as, when brought to see the blossoms of
apple tree whose fruit the angels crave
And makes an endless marriage-feast in heaven,
and John and James were overpowered
coming to themselves at that same word
which slumbers more profound were broken,
saw their company dwindle away
When Moses and Elijah disappeared,
viewed their Masters raiment changed again:
- So I
came to myself and saw that same
Compassionate woman standing over me
first had led my steps along the shore.
And all perplexed, I asked, "Where is Beatrice?"
answered, "See her seated on the roots
that tree there with its fresh foliage.
"See all the company surrounding her;
rest behind the griffin rise to heaven
With sweeter and with deeper melodies."
she said more than this I do not know,
already my eyes filled with sight of her
shut me off from every other thought.
sat there all alone on the bare ground,
Left like a lookout for the chariot
I had seen the two-form animal tie.
- In a
ring the seven nymphs now fashioned
shelter for her; in their hands they held
lamps the north and south winds cannot quench.
"Here, for a short time, you'll be a forest wayfarer;
you shall live with me a citizen
Forever of that Rome where Christ is Roman.
"To benefit the world, then, that lives badly,
your eyes on the chariot. What you see,
Make sure you write it down when you return there."
Beatrice spoke. And I, who at the feet
her commands was all obedience,
Attached my mind and eyesight where she wished.
Lightning never fell with such swift motion
Down from the densest cloud, when it descends
out the region that lies most remote,
did the bird of Jove which I watched swoop
through the tree, tearing at the bark
also at the flowers and new leaves.
It struck the chariot with its full force,
Making it reel like a ship in a storm,
Tossed, now to starboard, now to port, by waves.
I saw leaping up into the body
the triumphal vehicle a fox
Seemingly starved of wholesome nourishment.
reprimanding it for foul offenses,
lady sent it flying off as fast
those bones bare of flesh would let it go.
from the tree where it had flown before,
I saw the eagle dive inside the chariot
leave it coated over with its feathers.
as a voice breaks from a heart in grief,
came a voice from heaven and it cried,
"O my small ship, how you are laden down!"
Then the ground, it seemed to me, opened up
Between the two wheels, and I saw a dragon
out and dash its tail up through the carriage;
as a wasp retracts its sting, it drew
poisoned tail back to itself, tore out
Part of the floor, and gloating wandered off.
was left was covered once again
fertile land with grasses with the feathers,
Offered perhaps with true and kind intention.
one wheel and the other and the pole-shaft
Were once more covered with them in less time
it would take the mouth to heave a sigh.
Transformed in this way, the sacred structure
Sprouted heads upon its different parts,
on the pole and one each at the corners.
The three were horned like oxen, but the four
just a single horn upon their foreheads:
was seen a monster like that rig!
Seated there securely, like a fortress
- On a
steep hill, a whore appeared to me,
Ungirt, with eyes agog to rove about.
- And I
saw standing by her side a giant,
- As if
he watched that no one take her from him,
they, time after time, kissed one another.
when she turned her lustful, roving eyes
On me, then that ferocious paramour
her unmercifully from head to foot.
filled with jealousy and fierce with rage,
tore the monster loose, and dragged it off
far through the woods that just the trees
Screened me from the whore and that strange beast.