Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867)/Volume 1/Illustrations

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Dante Alighieri2389106The Divine ComedyVol. I. (Inferno), Illustrations1867Henry Wadsworth Longfellow




Inferno X. 85.

I, the writer, heard Dante say that never a rhyme had led him to say other than he would, but that many a time and oft he had made words say in his rhymes what they were not wont to express for other poets.


Cronica, Lib. IX. cap. I 36. Tr. in Napicr’s Florentine History, Book I. ch. 16.

In the month of July, 1321, died the Poet Dante Alighieri of Florence, in the city of Ravenna in Romagna, after his return from an embassy to Venice for the Lords of Polenta with whom he resided; and in Ravenna before the door of the principal church he was interred with high honor, in the habit of a poet and great philoso- pher. He died in banishment from the community of Florence, at the age of about fifty-six. This Dante was an honorable and ancient citizen of Porta San Piero at Florence, and our neigh- bor; and his exile from Florence was on the occasion of Charles of Valois, of the house of France, coming to Florence in 1301, and the expulsion of the White party, as has already in its place been mentioned. The said Dante was of the supreme governors of our city, and of that party although a Guelf; and therefore without any other crime was with the said “’hite party expelled and banished from Flo— rence ; and he went to the University of Bologna, and into many parts of the world. This was a great and learned person in almost every science, although a layman; he was a consummate poet and philosopher and rhetorician; as perfect in prose and verse as he was in public speaking a most noble orator; in rhyming excellent, with the most polished and beautiful style that ever appeared in our language up to his time or since. He wrote in his youth the book of The Early Life of Love, and afterwards when in exile made twenty moral and amorous canzonets very ex- cellent, and amongst other things three noble epistles: one he sent to the Flor- entine government, complaining of his undeserved exile; another to the Em- peror Henry when he was at the siege of Brescia, reprehending him for his delay, and almost prophesying; the third to the Italian cardinals during the vacancy after the death of Pope Clem- ent, urging them to agree in ejecting an Italian Pope; all in Latin, with noble precepts and excellent senten- ces and authorities, which were much commended by the wise and learned. And he wrote the Commedia, where, in polished verse and with great and sub- tile arguments, moral, natural, astro- logical, philosophical, and theological, with new and beautiful figures, similes, and poetical graces, he composed and treated in a hundred chapters or cantos of the existence of hell, purgatory, and paradise; so loftily as may be said of it, that whoever is of subtile intellect may by his said treatise perceive and understand. He was well pleased in this poem to blame and cry out, in the manner of poets, in some places per- haps more than he ought to have done; but it may be that his exile made him do so. He also wrote the Monarchia, where he treats of the office of popes and emperors. And he began a com- ment on fourteen of the above-named moral canzonets in the vulgar tongue, which in consequence of his death is found imperfect except on three, which to judge from what is seen would have proved a lofty, beautiful, subtile, and most important work; because it is equally ornamented with noble opin- ions and fine philosophical and astro- logical reasoning. Besides these he composed a little book which he en- titled De Vulgari Eloqueritia, of which he promised to make four books, but only two are to be found, perhaps in consequence of his early death; where, in powerful and elegant Latin and good reasoning, he rejects all the vulgar tongues of Italy. This Dante, from his knowledge, was somewhat presump- tuous, harsh, and disdainful, like an ungracious philosopher ; he scarcely deigned to converse with laymen; but for his other virtues, science, and worth as a citizen, it seems but reasonable to give him perpetual remembrance in this our chronicle; nevertheless, his noble works, left to us in writing, bear true testimony of him, and honorable fame to our city.


Arrivabene, Comento Storico, p. 379.

.....Hither he came, passing through other feeling. And seeing him, as yet the diocese of Luni, moved either by unknown to me and to all my brethren, the religion of the place, or by some I questioned him of his wishings and his seekings there. He moved not; but stood silently contemplating the columns and arches of the cloister. And again I asked him what he wished, and whom he sought. Then, slowly turning his head, and looking at the friars and at me, he answered: "Peace!" Thence kindling more and more the wish to know him and who he might be, I led him aside somewhat, and, having spoken a few words with him, I knew him; for although I had never seen him till that hour, his fame had long since reached me. And when he saw that I hung upon his countenance, and listened to him with strange affection, he drew from his bosom a book, did gently open it, and offered it to me, saying: "Sir Friar, here is a portion of my work, which peradventure thou hast not seen. This remembrance I leave with thee. Forget me not." And when he had given me the book, I pressed it gratefully to my bosom, and in his presence fixed my eyes upon it with great love. But I beholding there the vulgar tongue, and showing by the fashion of my countenance my wonderment thereat, he asked the reason of the same, "I answered, that I marvelled he should sing in that language; for it seemed a difficult thing, nay, incredible, that those most high conceptions could be expressed in common language; nor did it seem to me right that such and so worthy a science should be clothed in such plebeian garments. "You think aright," he said, "and I myself have thought so. And when at first the seeds of these matters, perhaps inspired by Heaven, began to bud, I chose that language which was most worthy of them: and not alone chose it, but began forthwith to poetize therein, after this wise:

'Ultima regna canam fluido contermina mundo,
Spiritibus quas lata patent ; quæ prxmia solvunt
Pro meritis cuicumque suis.'

But when I recalled the condition of the present age, and saw the songs of the illustrious poets esteemed almost as naught, and knew that the generous men, for whom in better days these things were written, had abandoned, ah me ! the liberal arts unto vulgar hands, I threw aside the delicate lyre, which had armed my flank, and attuned another more befitting the ear of moderns;—for the food that is hard we hold in vain to the mouths of sucklings."

Having said this, he added with emotion, that, if the occasion served, I should make some brief annotations upon the work, and, thus apparailed, should forward it to you. Which task in truth, although I may not have extracted all the marrow of his words, I have nevertheless performed with fidelity ; and the work required of me I frankly send you, as was enjoined upon me by that most friendly man; in which work, if it appear that any ambiguity still remains, you must impute it to my insufficiency, for there is no doubt that the text is perfect in all points....


Leigh Hunt, Stories from the Italian Poets, p. 12.

Ah! would it had pleased the Dispenser of all things that this excuse had never been needed; that neither others had done me wrong, nor myself undergone penalty undeservedly,—the penalty, I say, of exile and of poverty. For it pleased the citizens of the fairest and most renowned daughter of Rome—Florence—to cast me out of her most sweet bosom, where I was born, and bred, and passed half of the life of man, and in which, with her good leave, I still desire with all my heart to repose my weary spirit, and finish the days allotted me; and so I have wandered in almost every place to which our language extends, a stranger, almost a beggar, exposing against my will the wounds given me by fortune, too often unjustly imputed to the sufferer's fault. Truly I have been a vessel without sail and without rudder, driven about upon different ports and shores by the dry wind that springs out of dolorous poverty; and hence have I appeared vile in the eyes of many, who, perhaps, by some better report had conceived of me a different impression, and in whose sight not only has my person become thus debased, but an unworthy opinion created of everything which I did, or which I had to do.


Leigh Hunt, Stories from the Italian Poets, p. 13.

From your letter, which I received with due respect and affection, I observe how much you have at heart my restoration to my country. I am bound to you the more gratefully, inasmuch as an exile rarely finds a friend. But after mature consideration I must, by my answer, disappoint the wishes of some little minds; and I confide in the judgment to which your impartiality and prudence will lead you. Your nephew and mine has written to me, what indeed had been mentioned by many other friends, that by a decree concerning the exiles I am allowed to return to Florence, provided I pay a certain sum of money, and submit to the humiliation of asking and receiving absolution: wherein, my father, I see two propositions that are ridiculous and impertinent. I speak of the impertinence of those who mention such conditions to me; for in your letter, dictated by judgment and discretion, there is no such thing. Is such an invitation, then, to return to his country glorious to Dante Alighieri, after suffering in exile almost fifteen years? Is it thus they would recompense innocence which all the world knows, and the labor and fatigue of unremitting study? Far from the man who is familiar with philosophy be the senseless baseness of a heart of earth, that could act like a little sciolist, and imitate the infamy of some others, by offering himself up as it were in chains: far from the man who cries aloud for justice, this compromise by his money with his persecutors. No, my father, this is not the way that shall lead me back to my country. I will return with hasty steps, if you or any other can open to me a way that shall not derogate from the fame and honor of Dante; but if by no such way Florence can be entered, then Florence I shall never enter. What! shall I not everywhere enjoy the light of the sun and stars? and may I not seek and contemplate, in every corner of the earth, under the canopy of heaven, consoling and delightful truth, without first rendering myself inglorious, nay infamous, to the people and republic of Florence? Bread, I hope, will not fail me.


By Charles E. Norton.

In his Life of Dante, Boccaccio, the earliest of the biographers of the poet, describes him in these words: "Our poet was of middle height, and after reaching mature years he went somewhat stooping; his gait was grave and sedate; always clothed in most becoming garments, his dress was suited to the ripeness of his years; his face was long, his nose aquiline, his eyes rather large than small, his jaw heavy, and his under lip prominent; his complexion was dark, and his hair and beard thick, black, and crisp, and his countenance was always sad and thoughtful.....His manners, whether in public or at home, were wonderfully composed and restrained, and in all his ways he was more courteous and civil than any one else."

Such was Dante as he appeared in his later years to those from whose recollections of him Boccaccio drew this description.

But Boccaccio, had he chosen so to do, might have drawn another portrait of Dante, not the author of the Divine Comedy, but the author of the New Life. The likeness of the youthful Dante was familiar to those Florentines who had never looked on the living presence of their greatest citizen.

On the altar-wall of the chapel of the Palace of the Podesth (now the Bargello) Giotto had painted a grand religious composition, in which, after the fashion of the times, he exalted the glory of Florence by the introduction of some of her most famous citizens into the assembly of the blessed in Paradise. "The head of Christ, full of dignity, appears above, and lower down, the escutcheon of Florence, supported by angels, with two rows of saints, male and female, attendant to the right and left, in front of whom stand a company of the magnates of the city, headed by two crowned personages, close to one of whom, to the right, stands Dante, a pomegranate in his hand, and wearing the graceful falling cap of the day."[1] The date when this picture was painted is uncertain, but Giotto represented his friend in it as a youth, such as he may have been in the first flush of early fame, at the season of the beginning of their memorable friendship.

Of all the portraits of the revival of Art, there is none comparable in interest to this likeness of the supreme poet by the supreme artist of mediaeval Europe. It was due to no accident of fortune that these men were contemporaries, and of the same country; but it was a fortunate and delightful incident, that they were so brought together by sympathy of genius and by favoring circumstance as to become friends, to love and honor each other in life, and to celebrate each other through all time in their respective works. The story of their friendship is known only in its outline, but that it began when they were young is certain, and that it lasted till death divided them is a tradition which finds ready acceptance.

It was probably between 1290 and 1300, when Giotto was just rising to unrivalled fame, that this painting was executed. There is no contemporary record of it, the earliest known reference to it being that by Filippo Villani, who died about 1404. Gianozzo Manetti, who died in 1459, also mentions it, and Vasari, in his Life of Giotto, published in 1550, says, that Giotto "became so good an imitator of nature, that he altogether discarded the stiff Greek manner, and revived the modern and good art of painting, introducing exact drawing from nature of living persons, which for more than two hundred years had not been practised, or if indeed any one had tried it, he had not succeeded very happily, nor anything like so well as Giotto. And he portrayed among other persons, as may even now be seen, in the chapel of the Palace of the Podesta in Florence, Dante Alighieri, his contemporary and greatest friend, who was not less famous a poet than Giotto was painter in those days In the same chapel is the portrait by the same hand of Ser Brunetto Latini, the master of Dante, and of Messer Corso Donati, a great citizen of those times."

One might have supposed that such a picture as this would have been among the most carefully protected and jealously prized treasures of Florence. But such was not the case. The shameful neglect of many of the best and most interesting works of the earlier period of Art, which accompanied and was one of the symptoms of the moral and political decline of Italy during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, extended to this as to other of the noblest paintings of Giotto. Florence, in losing consciousness of present worth, lost care for the memorials of her past honor, dignity, and distinction. The Palace of the Podesta, no longer needed for the dwelling of the chief magistrate of a free city, was turned into a jail for common criminals, and what had once been its beautiful and sacred chapel was occupied as a larder or store-room. The walls, adorned with paintings more precious than gold, were covered with whitewash, and the fresco of Giotto was swept over by the brush of the plasterer. It was not only thus hidden from the sight of those unworthy indeed to behold it, but it almost disappeared from memory also; and from the time of Vasari down to that of Moreni, a Florentine antiquary, in the early part of the present century, hardly a mention of it occurs. In a note found among his papers, Moreni laments that he had spent two years of his life in unavailing efforts to recover the portrait of Dante, and the other portions of the fresco of Giotto in the Bargello, mentioned by Vasari; that others before him had made a like effort, and had failed in like manner; and that he hoped that better times would come, in which this painting. of such historic and artistic interest, would again be sought for, and at length recovered. Stimulated by these words, three gentlemen, one an American, Mr. Richard Henry Wilde, one an Englishman, Mr. Seymour Kirkup, and one an Italian, Signer G. Aubrey Bezzi, all scholars devoted to the study of Dante, undertook new researches, in 1840, and, after many hinderances on the part of the government, which were at length successfully overcome, the work of removing the crust of plaster from the walls of the ancient chapel was intrusted to the Florentine painter, Marini. This new and welldirected search did not fail. After some months' labor the fresco was found, almost uninjured, under the whitewash that had protected while concealing it, and at length the likeness of Dante was uncovered.

"But," says Mr. Kirkup, in a letter published in the Spectator (London), May II, 1850, "the eye of the beautiful profile was wanting. There was a hole an inch deep, or an inch and a half. Marini said it was a nail. It did seem precisely the damage of a nail drawn out. Afterwards Marini filled the hole, and made a new eye, too little and ill designed, and then he retouched the whole face and clothes, to the great damage of the expression and character. The likeness of the face, and the three colors in which Dante was dressed, the same with those of Beatrice, those of young Italy, white, green, and red, stand no more; the green is turned to chocolate-color; moreover, the form of the cap is lost and confounded.

"I desired to make a drawing It was denied to me But I obtained the means to be shut up in the prison for a morning; and not only did I make a drawing, but a tracing also, and with the two I then made a fac-simile sufficiently careful. Luckily it was before the rifacimcnto."

This fac-simile afterwards passed into the hands of Lord Vernon, well known for his interest in all Dantesque studies, and by his permission it had been admirably reproduced in chromo-lithography under the auspices of the Arundel Society. The reproduction is entirely satisfactory as a presentation of the authentic portrait of the youthful Dante, in the state in which it was when Mr. Kirkup was so fortunate as to gain admission to it. ....

This portrait by Giotto is the only likeness of Dante known to have been made of the poet during his life, and is of inestimable value on this account. But there exists also a mask, concerning which there is a tradition that it was taken from the face of the dead poet, and which, if its genuineness could be established, would not be of inferior interest to the early portrait. But there is no trustworthy historic testimony concerning it, and its authority as a likeness depends upon the evidence of truth which its own character affords. On the very threshold of the inquiry concerning it, we are met with the doubt whether the art of taking casts was practised at the time of Dante's death. In his 'Life of Andrea de Verrocchio, Vasari says that this art began to come into use in his time, that is, about the middle of the fifteenth century; and Bottari refers to the likeness of Brunelleschi, who died in 1446, which was taken in this manner, and was preserved in the office of the Works of the Cathedral at Florence. It is not impossible that so simple an art may have been sometimes practised at an earlier period; and if so, there is no inherent improbability in the supposition that Guido Novello, the friend and protector of Dante at Ravenna, may, at the time of the poet's death, have had a mask taken to serve as a model for the head of a statue intended to form part of the monument which he proposed to erect in honor of Dante. And it may further be supposed, that, this design failing, owing to the fall of Guido from power before its accomplishment, the mask may have been preserved at Ravenna, till we first catch a trace of it nearly three centuries later.

There is in the Magliabecchiana Library at Florence an autograph manuscript by Giovanni Cinelli, a Florentine antiquary who died in 1706, entitled La Toscana letterata, ovvero Istoria degli Scrittori Fiorentini, which contains a life of Dante. In the course of the biography Cinelli states that the Archbishop of Ravenna caused the head of the poet which had adorned his sepulchre to be taken therefrom, and that it came into the possession of the famous sculptor, Gian Bologna, who Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/371 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/372 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/373 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/374 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/375 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/376 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/377 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/378 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/379 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/380 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/381 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/382 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/383 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/384 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/385 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/386 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/387 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/388 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/389 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/390 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/391 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/392 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/393 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/394 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/395 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/396 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/397 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/398 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/399 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/400 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/401 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/402 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/403 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/404 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/405 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/406 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/407 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/408 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/409 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/410 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/411 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/412 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/413 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/414 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/415 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/416 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/417 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/418 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/419 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/420 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/421 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/422 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/423 Page:Divine Comedy (Longfellow 1867) v1.djvu/424


Edited by Thomas Wright.

Saynt Brandon, the holy man, was a monke, and borne in Yrlonde, and there he was abbot of an hous wherein were a thousand monkes, and there he ladde a full strayte and holy lyfe, in grete penaunce and abstynence, and he governed his monkes ful vertuously. And than within shorte tyme after, there came to hym an holy abbot that hyght Beryne to vysyte hym, and eche of them was joyful] of other; and than saynt Brandon began to tell to the abbot Beryne of many wonders that he had seen in dyverse londes. And whan Beryne herde that of saynt Brandon, he began to sygh, and sore wepte. And saynt Brandon comforted him in the best wyse he coude, sayenge, "Ye come hyther for to be joyfull with me, and therfore for Goddes love leve your mournynge, and tell me what mervayles ye have seen in the grete see occean, that compasseth all the worlde aboute, and all other waters comen out of hym, whiche renneth in all the partyes of the erth."

And than Beryne began to tell to saynt Brandon and to his monkes the mervaylles that he had seen, full sore wepynge, and sayd, "I have a sone, his name is Meruoke, and he was a monke of grete fame, whiche had grete desyre to seke aboute by shyppe in dyverse countrees, to fynde a solytary place wherein he myght dwell secretly out of the besynesse of the worlde, for to serve God quyetly with more devocyon; and I counseyled hym to sayle into an ylonde ferre in the see, besydes the Mountaynes of Stones, whiche is ful well knowen, and than he made hym redy and sayled thyder with his monkes. And whan he came thyder, he lyked that place full well, where he and his monkes served our Lorde full devoutly." And than Beryne sawe in a visyon that this monke Meruoke was sayled ryght ferre eestwarde into the see more than thre dayes saylynge, and sodeynly to his semynge there came a derke cloude and overcovered them, that a grete parte of the daye they sawe no lyght; and as our Lorde wold, the cloude passed awaye, and they sawe a full fayr ylond, and thyderwarde they drewe. In that ylonde was joye and myrth ynough, and all the erth of that ylonde shyned as bryght as the sonne, and there were the fayrest trees and herbes that ever ony man sawe, and there were many precyous stones shynynge bryght, and every herbe there was ful of fygures, and every tree tul of fruyte; so that it was a glorious sight, and an hevenly joye to abyde there. And than there came to them a fayre yonge man, and full curtoysly he welcomed them all, and called every monke by his name, and sayd that they were much bounde to prayse the name of our Lorde Jesu, that wold of his grace shewe to them that glorious place, where is ever day, and never night, and this place is called paradyse terrestre. But by this ylonde is an other ylonde wherein no man may come. And this yonge man sayd to them, "Ye have ben here halfe a yere without meet, drynke, or slepe." And they supposed that they had not ben there the space of half an houre, so mery and joyfull they were there. And the yonge man tolde them that this is the place that Adam and Eve dwelte in fyrst, and ever should have dwelled here, yf that they had not broken the commaundement of God. And than the yonge man brought them to theyr shyppe agayn, and sayd they might no lenger abyde there; and whan they were all shypped, sodeynly this yonge man vanysshed away out of theyr sight. And than within shorte tyme after, by the purveyaunce of our Lorde Jesu, they came to the abbey where saynt Brandon dwelled, and than he with his bretherne receyved them goodly, and demaunded where they had ben so longe; and they sayd, "We have ben in the Londe of Byheest, to-fore the gates of Paradyse, where as is ever daye, and never night." And they sayd all that the place is full delectable, for yet all theyr clothes smelled of the swete and joyfull place. And than saynt Brandon purposed soone after for to seke that place by Goddes heipe, and anone began to purvey for a good shyppe, and a stronge, and vytaylled it for vij. yere; and than he toke his leve of all his bretherne, and toke xij. monkes with him. But or they entred into the shyppe they fasted xl. dayes, and lyved devoutly, and eche of them receyved the sacrament. And whan saynt Brandon with his xij. monkes were entred into the shyppe, there came other two of his monkes, and prayed hym that they myght sayle with hym. And than he sayd, "Ye may sayle with me, but one of you shall go to hell, or ye come agayn." But not for that they wold go with hym.

And than saynt Brandon badde the shypmen to wynde up the sayle, and forth they sayled in Goddes name, so that on the morow they were out of syght of ony londe; and xl. dayes and xl. nightes after they sayled playn eest, and than they sawe an ylonde ferre fro them, and they sayled thyder-warde as fast as they coude, and they sawe a grete roche of stone appere above all the water, and thre dayes they sayled aboute it or they coude gete in to the place. But at the last, by the purveyaunce of God, they founde a lytell haven, and there went a-londe everychone. ....

And than they sayled forth, and came soone after to that lond; but bycause of lytell depthe in some place, and in some place were grete rockes, but at the last they wente upon an ylonde, wenynge to them they had ben safe, and made theron a fyre for to dresse theyr dyner, but saynt Brandon abode styll in the shyppe. And whan the fyre was ryght hote, and the meet nygh soden, than this ylonde began to move; wherof the monkes were aferde, and fledde anone to the shyppe, and lefte the fyre and meet behynde them, and mervayled sore of the movyng. And saynt Brandon comforted them, and sayd that it was a grete fisshe namedjasconye, whiche laboureth nyght and daye to put his tayle in his mouth, but for gretnes he may not. And than anone they sayled west thre dayes and thre nyghtes or they sawe ony londe, wherfore they were ryght hevy. But soone after, as God wold, they sawe a fayre ylonde, full of floures, herbes, and trees, wherof they thanked God of his good grace, and anone they went on londe. And whan they had gone longe in this, they founde a full fayre well, and therby stode a fayre tree, full of bowes, and on every bough sate a fayre byrde, and they sate so thycke on the tree that unneth ony lefe of the tree myght be seen, the nombre of them was so grete, and they songe so meryly that it was an hevenly noyse to here. Wherfore saynt Brandon kneled down on his knees, and wepte for joye, and made his prayers devoutly unto our Lord God to knowe what these byrdes ment. And than anone one of the byrdes fledde fro the tree to saynt Brandon, and he with flykerynge of his wynges made a full mery noyse lyke a fydle, that hym semed he herde never so joyfull a melodye. And than saynt Brandon commaunded the byrde to tell hym the cause why they sate so thycke on the tree, and sange so meryly. And than the byrde sayd, "Somtyme we were aungels in heven, but whan our mayster Lucyfer fell down into hell for his hygh pryde, we fell with hym for our offences, some hyther, and some lower, after the qualyté of theyr trespace; and bycause our trespace is but lytell, therfore our Lorde hath set us here out of all pyane in full grete joye and myrth, after his pleasynge, here to serve hym on this tree in the best maner that we can. The Sonday is a day of rest fro all worldly occupacyon, and, therfore, that daye all we be made as whyte as ony snow, for to prayse our Lorde in the best wyse we may." And than this byrde sayd to saynt Brandon, " It is xij. monethes past that ye departed fro your abbey, and in the vij. yere hereafter ye shall se the place that ye desyre to come, and all this vij. yere ye shal kepe your Eestcr here with us every yere, and in the ende of the vij. yere ye shal come into the Londe of Byhest." And this was on Eester daye that the byrde sayd these wordes to saynt Brandon. And than this fowle flewe agayn to his felawes that sate on the tree. And than all the byrdes began to synge evensonge so meryly, that it was an hevenly noyse to here; and after souper saynt Brandon and his felawes wente to bedde, and slepte well, and on the morowe they arose betymes, and than those byrdes began matyns, pryme, and houres, and all suchc service as Chrysten men use to synge. ....

And seven dayes they sayled alwaye in that clcrc water. And than there came a south wynde and drove the shyppe north-warde, where as they sawe an ylonde full derke and full of stenche and smoke ; and there they herde grete blowynge and blastyng of belowes, but they myght se no thynge, but herde grete thondrynge, wherof they were sore aferde and blyssed them ofte. And soone after there came one stertynge out all brennynge in fyre, and stared full gastly on them with grete staryng even, of whome the monkes were agast, and at his depart- yng from them he made the horryblest crye that myght be herde. And soone there came a grete nombre of fendes and assayled them with hokes and brennynge yren malles, whiche ranne on the water, folowyng fast theyr shyppe, in suche wyse that it semed all the see to be on a fyre ; but by the wyll of God they had no power to hurte ne to greve them, ne theyr shyppe. Wherfore the fendes began to rore and crye, and threwe theyr hokes and malles at them. And they than were sore aferde, and prayed to God for comforte and helpe ; for they sawe the fendes all about the shyppe, and them semed that all the ylonde and the see to be on a fyre. And with a sorowfull crye all the fendes depart- ed fro them and returned to the place that they came fro. And than saynt Brandon tolde to them that this was a parte of hell, and therfore he charged them to be stedfast in the fayth, for they shold yet se many a dredefull place or they came home agayne. And than came the south wynde and drove them ferther into the north. where they sawe an hyll all on fyre, and a foule smoke and stenche comyng from thens, and the fyre stode on eche syde of the hyll lyke a wall all bren- nynge. And than one of his monkes began to crye and wepe ful sore, and sayd that his ende was comen, and that he might abyde no lenger in the shyppe, and anone he lepte out of the shyppe into the see, and than he cryed and rored full pyteously, curs- ynge the tyme that he was borne, and also fader and moder that bygate him, bycause they sawe no better to his cor- reccyon in his yonge age, " for now I must go to perpetual payne." And than the sayenge of saynt Brandon was veryfyed that he sayd to hym whan he entred into the shyppe. Therfore it is good a man to do penaunce and for- sake synne, for the houre of deth is incertayne.

And than anone the wynde turned into the north, and drove the shyppe into the south, whiche sayled vij. dayes contynually ; and they came to a grete rocke standynge in the see, and theron sate a naked man in full grete mysery and payne ; for the wawes of the see had so beten his body that all the flesshe was gone of, and nothynge lefte but synewes and bare bones. And whan the wawes were gone, there was a canvas that henge over his heed whiche bette his body full sore with the blowynge of the wynde ; and also there were two oxe tongues and a grete stone that he sate on, whiche dyd hym full grete ease. And than saynt Bran- don charged hym to tell hym what he was. And he sayd, " My name is Ju- das, that solde our Lorde Jesu Chryst for XXX. pens, whiche sytteth here moche wretchedly, how be it I am worthy to be in the gretest payne that is ; but our Lorde is so mercyfull that he hath rewarded me better than I have deserved, for of ryght my place is in the brennynge hell ; but I am here but certayne tymes of the yere, that is, fro Chrystmasse to twelfth daye, and fro Eester tyll Whytsontyde be past, and every feestfull daye of our lady, and every Saterdaye at noone tyll Sonday that evensonge be done ; but all other tymes I lye styll in hell in ful brennynge fyre with Pylate, Herode, and Cayphas; therfore accursed be the tyme that ever I knewe them." And than Judas prayed saynt Brandon to abyde styll there all that nyght, and that he wolde kepe hym there styll that the fendes sholde not fetche hym to hell. And he sayd, ** With Goddes helpe thou shalt abyde here all this nyght." And than he asked Judas what cloth that was that henge over his heed. And he sayd it was a cloth that he gave unto a lepre, whiche was bought with the money that he stale fro our Lorde whan he bare his purse, " wherfore it dothe to me grete payne now in betyng my face with the blow- ynge of the wynde ; and these two oxe tongues that hange here above me, I gave them somtyme to two preestes to praye for me. I bought them with myne owne money, and therfore they ease me, bycause the fysshes of the see knawe on them and spare me. And this stone that I syt on laye somtyme in a desolate place where it eased no man ; and I toke it thens and layd it in a foule waye, where it dyd moche ease to them that went by that waye, and therfore it easeth me now ; for every good dede shall be rewarded, and every evyll dede shal be pun- ysshed." And the Sondaye agaynst even there came a grete multitude of fendes blastyng and rorynge, and badde saynt Brandon go thens, that they myght have theyr servaunt Judas, " for we dare not come in the presence of our mayster, but yf we brynge hym to hell with us." And saynt Brandon sayd, " I lette not you do your mays- ters commaundemcnt, but by the pow- er of our Lorde Jesu Chryst I charge you to leve hym this nyght tyll to morow." " How darest thou helpe hym that so solde his mayster for XXX. pens to the Jewes, and caused hym also to dye the moost shamefull deth upon the crosse ? " And than saynt Brandon charged the fendes by his passyon that they sholde not noy hym that nyght. And than the fendes went theyr way rorynge and crvenge towarde hell to theyr mayster, the grete devyll. And than Judas thanked saynt Brandon so revvfully that it was pite to se, and on the morowc the fendes came with an horryble noyse, saycnge that they had that nyght suffred grete payne bycause they brought not Judas, and sayd that he shold sufFre double payne the sixe dayes folowynge. And they toke than Judas tremblynge for fere with them to payne.


From the Poetic Edda. Tr. by Wright, St. Patrick’s Purgatory, p. 177.

In the Norni’s seat
sat I nine days;
thence I was carried on a horse;
the sun of the Gygiars
shone grimly
out of the apertures of the clouds.

Without and within
I seemed to go through all
the seven lower worlds;
above and below
sought I a better way,
where I might have a more agreeable journey.

I must relate
what I first saw,
when I was come into the places of torment;
scorched birds,
which were souls,
fled numerous as flies.

From the west saw I fly
the dragons of expectation,
and open the way of the fire-powerful;
they beat their wings,
so that everywhere it appeared to me
that earth and heaven burst.

The sun's hart
I saw go from the south,
him led two together:
his feet
stood on the ground,
and his horns touched heaven.

From the north saw I ride
the people's sons,
and they were seven together;
with full horns
they drunk the pure mead
from the fountain of heaven's lord.

The wind became quiet,
the waters ceased to flow;
then heard I a fearful sound:
for their husbands
shameless women
ground earth to food

Bloody stones
those dark women
dragged sorrowfully;
their bleeding hearts hung
out of their breasts,
weary with much grief.

Many men saw I
wounded go
in the ways strewed with hot Cinders;
their faces
seemed to me all to be
red with smoking blood.

Many men saw I
go on the ground
who had been unable to obtain the Lord’s meal;
heathen stars
stood over their heads,
painted with fearful characters.

Those men saw I,
who cherish much
envy at other’s fortune;
bloody runes
were on their breasts
marked painfully.

Men saw I there
many, without joy,
who all wandered pathless;
that he purchases for himself,
who of this world
is infatuated with the vices.

Those men saw I,
who in many ways
laid their hands on other's property:
they went in flocks
to Fegiarn's (Satan's) city,
and had burthens of lead.

Those men saw I,
who many had
deprived of money and life;
through their breasts
suddenly pierced
strong venomous dragons.

Those men saw I,
who would not
keep holy days;
their hands
were on hot stones
nailed tight.

Those men saw I,
who in much pride
magnified themselves too much;
their garments
were in derision
with fire surrounded.

Those men saw I,
who had many
words against another lied:
hell's ravens
out of their heads
cruelly tore their eyes.

All the horrors
you cannot know
which the hell-goers have.
Sweet sins
go to cruel recompenses;
ever cometh moan after pleasure.

Those men saw I
who much had
given according to God's laws;
clear candles
were over their heads
burning brightly.

Those men saw I,
who magnanimously
improved the condition of the poor;
angels read
the holy books
over their heads.

Those men saw I,
who had much
their body lean with fasting;
God's angels
bowed before all these;
that is the greatest pleasure.

Those men saw I,
who to their mother had
put food in the mouth;
their resting-places were
in the beams of heaven
placed agreeably.

Holy virgins
had purely
washed the soul of sins,
of those men
who many a day
punish themselves.

Lofty cars
I saw go midst heaven,
which had the roads to God;
men guide them
who were slain
entirely without fault.

O mighty Father,
most great Son,
Holy Ghost of heaven,
I pray thee to save
(who didst create)
us all from miseries!


From The Phœnix, a Paraphrase of the Carmen de Phœnice, ascribed to Lactantius.
Codex Exoniensis. Tr. by B. Thorpe, p. 197.

I have heard tell,
that there is far hence
in eastern parts
a land most noble,
amongst men renowned.
That tract of earth is not
over mid-earth
fellow to many
peopled lands;
but it is withdrawn
through the Creator's might
from wicked doers.
Beauteous is all the plain,
with delights blessed,
with the sweetest
of earth's odors :
unique is that island,
noble the Maker,
lofty, in powers abounding,
who the land founded.
There is oft open
towards the happy,
untlosed, (delight of sounds !)
heaven-kingdom's door.
That is a pleasant plain,
green wolds,
spacious under heaven;
there may not rain nor snow,
nor rage of frost,
nor fire's blast,
nor fall of hail,
nor descent of rime,
nor heat of sun,
nor perpetual cold,
nor warm weather,
nor winter shower,
aught injure;
but the plain rests
happy and healthful.
That noble land is
with blossoms flowered:
nor hills nor mountains there
stand steep,
nor stony cliffs
tower high,
as here with us;
nor dells nor dales,
nor mountain-caves,
risings nor hilly chains;
nor thereon rests
aught unsmooth,
but the noble field
flourishes under the skies
with delights blooming.
That glorious land is
higher by twelve
fold of fathom measure,
(as us the skilful have informed,
sages through wisdom
in writings show,)
than any of those hills
that brightly here with us
tower high,
under the stars of heaven.
Serene is the glorious plain,
the sunny bower glitters,
the woody holt, joyously;
the fruits fall not,
the bright products,
but the trees ever
stand green,
as them God hath commanded;
in winter and in summer
the forest is alike
hung with fruits,
never fade
the leaves in air,
nor will flame them injure,
ever throughout ages,
ere that an end
to the world shall be.
What time of old the water's mass

all mid-earth,
the sea-flood decked
the earth's circumference,
then the noble plain
in all ways secure
against the billowy course
stood preserved,
of the rough waves,
happy, inviolate,
through God's favor:
it shall abide thus blooming,
until the coming of the fire
of the Lord's doom;
when the death-houses,
men's dark chambers,
shall be opened.
There is not in that land
hateful enmity,
nor wail nor vengeance,
evil-token none,
old age nor misery,
nor the narrow death,
nor loss of life,
nor coming of enemy,
nor sin nor strife,
nor painful exile,
nor poor one's toil,
nor desire of wealth,
nor care nor sleep,
nor grievous sickness,
nor winter's darts,
nor dread of tempests
rough under heaven,
nor the hard frost
with cold chill icicles
striketh any.
There nor hail nor rime
on the land descend,
nor windy cloud,
nor there water falls
agitated in air,
but there liquid streams
wonderously curious,
wells spring forth
with fair bubblings from earth;
o'er the soil glide
pleasant waters
from the wood's midst;
there each month
from the turf of earth
sea-cold they burst,
all the grove pervade
at times abundantly.
It is God's behest,
that twelve times
the glorious land
sports over
the joy of water-floods.
The groves are
with produce hung,
with beauteous fruits;
there wane not
holy under heaven
the holt's decorations,
nor fall there on earth
the fallow blossoms,
beauty of forest-trees,
but there wonderously
on the trees ever
the laden branches,
the renovated fruit,
at all times
on the grassy plain
stand green,
gloriously adorned
through the Holy's might,
brightest of groves!
Not broken is
the wood in aspect:
there a holy fragrance
rests o'er the pleasant land.
That shall not be changed
forever throughout ages,
until shall end
his wise work of yore
he who at first created it.


  1. Lord Lindsay's History of Christian Art, VoL n. p. 174.