Dante under the parasol

The beginning

Midway in the journey of our life 
I came to myself in a dark wood, 
for the straight way was lost.

Hell I vv. 1-3

The stars

Into that hidden passage my guide and I 
entered, to find again the world of light, 
and, without thinking of a moment’s rest,

we climbed up, he first and I behind him, 
far enough to see, through a round opening, 
a few of those fair things the heavens bear.

Then we came forth, to see again the stars.

Hell XXXIV vv. 133-139

From those most holy waters 
I came away remade, as are new plants 
renewed with new-sprung leaves,

pure and prepared to rise up to the stars.

Purgatory XXXIII, vv. 142-145

Here my exalted vision lost its power. 
But now my will and my desire, like wheels revolving 
with an even motion, were turning with

the Love that moves the sun and all the other stars.

Heaven, XXXIII, 142-145

Pitch black

As in the arsenal of the Venetians 
in wintertime they boil the viscous pitch 
to caulk their unsound ships

because they cannot sail — one rebuilds 
his ship, while still another plugs 
the seams of his, weathered by many a voyage:

one hammers at the stem, another at the stern, 
this one makes the oars, that one twists the ropes 
for rigging, another patches jib and mainsail —

so, not with fire, but by the art of God, 
a thick pitch boiled there, 
sticking to the banks on either side.

Hell XXI, 7-18


And I saw light that flowed as flows a river, 
pouring its golden splendor between two banks 
painted with the wondrous colors of spring.

From that torrent issued living sparks 
and, on either bank, they settled on the flowers, 
like rubies ringed in gold.

Then, as though intoxicated by the odors, 
they plunged once more into the marvelous flood, 
and, as one submerged, another would come forth.

Heaven, XXX, 61-69

O greed, it is you who plunge all mortals 
so deep into your depths that not one has the power 
to lift his eyes above your waves!

Heaven, XVII, vv. 121-123

When I turned back and my eyes were struck 
by what appears on that revolving sphere — 
if one but contemplates its circling —

I saw a point that flashed a beam of light 
so sharp the eye on which it burns 
must close against its piercing brightness.

The star that, seen from here below, seems smallest 
would seem a moon if put beside it, 
as when one star is set beside another.

Heaven, XXVIII, 13-21

Animal similes

And as birds risen from the river’s edge, 
seeming to celebrate their pleasure in their food, 
form now a rounded arc, and now another shape,

so, radiant within their lights, the holy creatures 
sang as they flew and shaped themselves 
in figures, now D, now I, now L.

Heaven XVIII, 73-78

As, in cold weather, the wings of starlings 
bear them up in wide, dense flocks, 
so does that blast propel the wicked spirits.

Here and there, down and up, it drives them. 
Never are they comforted by hope 
of rest or even lesser punishment.

Just as cranes chant their mournful songs, 
making a long line in the air, 
thus I saw approach, heaving plaintive sighs,

shades lifted on that turbulence, 

Hell V 40-49

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