"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Notable Quote: From Dante’s Purgatorio, Canto 2

Shortly I’m going to have a series of posts on my reading of Dante’s second part of his Divine Comedy, Purgatorio.  I’m going to give you a little taste of it here, a section from the second canto, where Dante and his guide Virgil, newly arrived and standing on the shores of Purgatory see an angel coming toward them on the sea hoisting a ship of newly dead souls being transported.  The angel starts as a small speck in the distance but grows as it comes closer, getting intensely brighter.  Virgil orders Dante to drop to his knees and fold his hands.  As the angel beaches the ship, Dante hears the souls on board singing, Psalm 113, “When Israel went out of Egypt,” in Latin of course, the souls experiencing the same freedom from their earthly life as the freed slaves from pharaoh. 

We were still alongside the sea, like people
thinking about their path, who go with the heart
and with the body remain.
And behold, as when near the morning Mars
shines red through the heavy vapors, low in the
West, over the surface of the sea:
such appeared to me—so may I see it again!—a
light coming across the sea so rapidly that no flight
equals its motion.
After I had a little withdrawn my eye from it to
question my leader, I saw it again, grown brighter
and larger.
Then on each side of it appeared I knew not
what whiteness, and below it, little by little,
another whiteness came forth.
My master still did not say a word, while the
first white things showed themselves to be wings;
then, when he had recognized the oarsman,
he cried, “See, see that you bend your knees.
Behold the angel of God: fold your hands;
henceforth you will see such ministers.
See how he disdains all human means, so that he
needs no oars nor any sail but his wings, between
shores so distant.
See how he has them stretched toward the sky,
beating the air with his eternal feathers, that do not
change like mortal hairs.”
Then, as the divine bird came closer and closer
to us, it grew brighter, so that my eyes could not
sustain it up close,
but I lowered them; and he came to shore with a
vessel so swift and light that the waters engulfed
none of it.
At the stern stood the angelic pilot, who seemed
to have blessedness inscribed on him; and more
than a hundred spirits were sitting within.
In exitu Israel de Aegypto,” they were singing all
together with one voice, with as much of that
psalm as is written thereafter.
Then he made the sign of the holy
cross; at which they all threw themselves on the
beach; and he went away as quickly as he had
                                    -ll. 10-51

I’m using the Robert M. Durling translation, Oxford University Press, 2003.

I hope you enjoyed it.  Reading Dante is such a pleasure.  I’m looking forward to my upcoming posts.


  1. I'm loking forwards to your posts on this too, Manny. Thanx in advance.

    Thank you also for downloading "The Adventures of Fr Ignatius". It's my latest Fr Ignatius book. Look forwards to learning what you think.

    God bless.

    1. Great. Hope you'll read along. With a good translation, Dante is actually easy to read. One may not get all the subtle complexity, but his writing is beautiful and visual. I'll let you know my thoughts on your book.