Lucia Carries Dante
From Puratorio IX:
My looks were turn'd. "Fear not," my master cried,
"Assur'd we are at happy point. Thy strength
Shrink not, but rise dilated. Thou art come
To Purgatory now. Lo! there the cliff
That circling bounds it! Lo! the entrance there,
Where it doth seem disparted! Ere the dawn
Usher'd the daylight, when thy wearied soul
Slept in thee, o'er the flowery vale beneath
A lady came, and thus bespake me: I
Am Lucia. Suffer me to take this man,Who slumbers.
Easier so his way shall speed."
Sordello and the other gentle shapes
Tarrying, she bare thee up: and, as day shone,
This summit reach'd: and I pursued her steps.
Here did she place thee. First her lovely eyes
That open entrance show'd me; then at once
She vanish'd with thy sleep." Like one, whose doubts
Are chas'd by certainty, and terror turn'd
To comfort on discovery of the truth,
Such was the change in me: and as my guide
Beheld me fearless, up along the cliff
He mov'd, and I behind him, towards the height.
Blake's Illlustrations of Dante
Lucia Carrying Dante in his sleep (Plate 77):
|Lucia Carrying Dante in His Sleep|
Blake's Illustrations of Dante
Purgatorio Canto IX:106-145. Te Deum Laudamus is the Ambrosian hymn sung at Matins and on solemn occasions. Saint Ambrose (c340-397AD) Bishop of Milan, opposed the Arian heresy, and chose simple metres.
There the high glory of the Roman prince was retold whose worth moved Gregory to intercession, and to great victory: I speak of the Emperor Trajan: and at his bridle was a poor widow, in the attitude of tearfulness and grief. A crowd, of horsemen, trampling, appeared round him, and the gold eagles, above him, moved visibly in the wind. The poor woman, among all these, seemed to say: ‘My lord, give me vengeance for my son who was killed, at which my heart is pierced.’ And Trajan seemed to answer her: ‘Now, wait, till I return.’ And she, like a person, urgent with sorrow: ‘My lord, what if you do not return?’ And he: ‘One who will be in place of me will do it.’ And she: ‘What merit will another’s good deed be to you, if you forget your own?’ At which he said: ‘Now be comforted, since I must fulfil my duty before I go: justice wills it, and pity holds me here.’
He who never sees anything unfamiliar to him, made this speech visible, which is new to us, because it is not found here.
While I was joying in seeing the images, of such great humility, precious to look at, for their Maker’s sake, the poet murmured: ‘See, here, many people, but their steps are few: they will send us on to the high stairs.’ My eyes, that were intent on gazing to find new things, willingly, were not slow in turning towards him.
Reader, I would not wish you to be scared away from a good intention, by hearing how God wills that the debt is paid. Pay no attention to the form of the suffering: think of what follows it: think that, at worst, it cannot last beyond the great Judgement.
I began: ‘Master, those whom I see coming towards us do not seem like persons, but I do not know what they look like, my sight errs so much.’ And he to me: ‘The heavy weight of their punishment, doubles them to the ground, so that my eyes, at first, were troubled by them. But look steadily there, and disentangle with your sight what is coming beneath those stones: you can see, already, how each one beats his breast.’
O proud Christians, weary and wretched, who, infirm in the mind’s vision, put your trust in downward steps: do you not see that we are caterpillars, born to form the angelic butterfly, that flies to judgement without defence? Why does your mind soar to the heights, since you are defective insects, even as the caterpillar is, in which the form is lacking?
As a figure, with knees joined to chest, is sometimes seen, carved as a corbel, to support a ceiling or a roof, which though unreal, creates a real discomfort in those who see it, even so, I saw these, when I paid attention. Truly, they were more or less bent down, depending as to whether they were weighted more or less, and the one who had most patience in its bearing, seemed to say, weeping: ‘I can no more.’
‘O our Father, who are in Heaven, not because of your limitation, but because of the greater love you have for your first sublime works, praised be your name and worth by every creature, as it is fitting to give thanks for your sweet outpourings. May the peace of your kingdom come to us, since we cannot reach it by ourselves, despite all our intellect, if it does not come to us itself. As Angels sacrifice their will to yours, singing Hosanna: so may men sacrifice theirs. Give us this day our daily bread, without which he who labours to advance, goes backward, through this harsh desert. And forgive in loving-kindness, as we forgive everyone, the evil we have suffered, and judge us not by what we deserve. Do not test our virtue, that is easily conquered, against the ancient enemy, but deliver us from him who tempts it. And this last prayer, dear Lord, is not made on our behalf, since we do not need it, but for those we have left behind.’
So those shades, praying good speed to us and themselves, went on beneath their burdens, like those that we sometimes dream of, weary, and unequal in torment, all around the first terrace, purging away the mists of the world.
If ever a good word is said, there, for us, by those who have their will rooted in the good, what can we say or do for them, here? Truly we should help them wash away the stain, that they have carried from here, so that, light and pure, they might issue to the starry spheres.