Italy literature summaries - 2023
Short summary - Divine Comedy
Halfway through life, I - Dante - got lost in a dense forest. It's scary, wild animals are all around - allegories of vices; nowhere to go. And then a ghost appears, which turned out to be the shadow of my favorite ancient Roman poet Virgil. I ask him for help. He promises to take me from here to the afterlife so that I can see Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. I am ready to follow him.
Yes, but am I capable of such a journey? I hesitated and hesitated. Virgil reproached me, telling me that Beatrice herself (my late beloved) descended to him from Paradise to Hell and asked him to be my guide in wandering through the afterlife. If so, then we must not hesitate, we need determination. Lead me, my teacher and mentor!
Above the entrance to Hell is an inscription that takes away all hope from those who enter. We entered. Here, right behind the entrance, the pitiful souls of those who did not create either good or evil during their lifetime groan. Next is the Acheron River. Through it, the ferocious Charon transports the dead on a boat. We are with them. "But you're not dead!" Charon shouts angrily at me. Virgil subdued him. We swam. From a distance a roar is heard, the wind blows, a flame flashed. I lost my senses...
The first circle of Hell is Limbo. Here the souls of unbaptized babies and glorious pagans languish - warriors, sages, poets (including Virgil). They do not suffer, but only grieve that they, as non-Christians, have no place in Paradise. Virgil and I joined the great poets of antiquity, the first of which was Homer. Gradually walked and talked about the unearthly.
At the descent into the second circle of the underworld, the demon Minos determines which sinner to which place in Hell should be cast down. He reacted to me in the same way as Charon, and Virgil pacified him in the same way. We saw the souls of voluptuaries (Cleopatra, Elena the Beautiful, etc.) carried away by the infernal whirlwind. Francesca is among them, and here she is inseparable from her lover. Immeasurable mutual passion led them to a tragic death. Deeply sympathizing with them, I again fainted.
In the third circle, the bestial dog Cerberus rages. He barked at us, but Virgil subdued him too. Here, lying in the mud, under a heavy downpour, are the souls of those who have sinned with gluttony. Among them is my countryman, the Florentine Chacko. We talked about the fate of our native city. Chacko asked me to remind living people of him when I return to earth.
The demon guarding the fourth circle, where spendthrifts and misers are executed (among the latter there are many clerics - popes, cardinals) - Plutos. Virgil also had to besiege him to get rid of. From the fourth they descended into the fifth circle, where the angry and lazy are tormented, mired in the swamps of the Stygian lowland. We approached a tower.
This is a whole fortress, around it is a vast reservoir, in the canoe is a rower, the demon Phlegius. After another squabble, we sat down to him, we swim. Some sinner tried to cling to the side, I scolded him, and Virgil pushed him away. Before us is the hellish city of Dit. Any dead evil spirits prevents us from entering it. Virgil, leaving me (oh, it's scary to be alone!), went to find out what was the matter, returned worried, but reassured.
And then the infernal furies appeared before us, threatening. A heavenly messenger suddenly appeared and curbed their anger. We entered Dit. Everywhere are tombs engulfed in flames, from which the groans of heretics are heard. On a narrow road we make our way between the tombs.
From one of the tombs, a mighty figure suddenly emerged. This is Farinata, my ancestors were his political opponents. In me, having heard my conversation with Virgil, he guessed from the dialect of the countryman. Proud, he seemed to despise the whole abyss of Hell. We argued with him, and then another head popped out from a nearby tomb: yes, this is the father of my friend Guido! It seemed to him that I was a dead man and that his son had also died, and he fell on his face in despair. Farinata, calm him down; Guido lives!
Near the descent from the sixth circle to the seventh, over the grave of the heretic pope Anastasius, Virgil explained to me the structure of the remaining three circles of Hell, tapering downwards (towards the center of the earth), and what sins are punished in which zone of which circle.
The seventh circle is compressed by mountains and guarded by the half-bull demon Minotaur, who roared menacingly at us. Virgil yelled at him, and we hurried to move away. We saw a blood-boiling stream in which tyrants and robbers boil, and from the shore centaurs shoot at them with bows. Centaur Ness became our guide, told about the executed rapists and helped to ford the boiling river.
Around thorny thickets without greenery. I broke some branch, and black blood flowed from it, and the trunk groaned. It turns out that these bushes are the souls of suicides (rapists over their own flesh). They are pecked by the infernal birds of the Harpy, trampled by the running dead, causing them unbearable pain. One trampled bush asked me to collect the broken branches and return them to him. It turned out that the unfortunate man was my countryman. I complied with his request and we moved on. We see sand, flakes of fire fall on it from above, scorching sinners who scream and groan - all except one: he lies silently. Who is this? The king of Kapanei, a proud and gloomy atheist, slain by the gods for his obstinacy. Even now he is true to himself: either he is silent, or he loudly curses the gods. "You are your own torturer!" Virgil yelled at him...
But towards us, tormented by fire, the souls of new sinners are moving. Among them, I hardly recognized my highly esteemed teacher Brunetto Latini. He is among those who are guilty of a tendency to same-sex love. We started talking. Brunetto predicted that glory awaits me in the world of the living, but there will also be many hardships that must be resisted. The teacher bequeathed to me to take care of his main work, in which he lives, - "Treasure".
And three more sinners (the sin is the same) are dancing in the fire. All Florentines, former respected citizens. I talked to them about the misfortunes of our hometown. They asked me to tell the living countrymen that I saw them. Then Virgil led me to a deep pit in the eighth circle. An infernal beast will bring us down there. He is already climbing to us from there.
This is a motley tailed Geryon. While he prepares to descend, there is still time to look at the last martyrs of the seventh circle - usurers, toiling in a whirlwind of flaming dust. Hanging from their necks are multi-colored purses with different coats of arms. I didn't talk to them. Let's hit the road! We sit down with Virgil astride Geryon and - oh horror! - we are smoothly flying into failure, to new torments. Went down. Gerion immediately flew away.
The eighth circle is divided into ten ditches, called Angry Sinuses. Pimps and seducers of women are executed in the first ditch, and flatterers are executed in the second. Procurers are brutally scourged by horned demons, flatterers sit in a liquid mass of stinking feces - the stench is unbearable. By the way, one whore is punished here not because she fornicated, but because she flattered her lover, saying that she was fine with him.
The next ditch (the third bosom) is lined with stone, full of round holes, from which stick out the burning legs of high-ranking clerics who traded in church positions. Their heads and torsos are clamped by holes in the stone wall. Their successors, when they die, will also jerk their flaming legs in their place, completely squeezing their predecessors into stone. This is how Papa Orsini explained it to me, at first mistaking me for his successor.
Soothsayers, astrologers, sorceresses suffer in the fourth sinus. Their necks are twisted in such a way that, when weeping, they irrigate their backs with tears, not their chests. I myself wept when I saw such a mockery of people, and Virgil shamed me; it's a sin to pity sinners! But he also told me with sympathy about his countrywoman, the soothsayer Manto, after whom Mantua, the birthplace of my glorious mentor, was named.
The fifth ditch is filled with boiling tar, into which the evil-handed devils, black, winged, throw bribe-takers and make sure that they do not stick out, otherwise they will hook the sinner with hooks and finish him off in the most cruel way. The devils have nicknames: Evil-tail, Cross-winged, etc. We will have to go part of the further path in their terrible company. They grimacing, showing tongues, their boss made a deafening obscene sound from behind. I have never heard of this before! We walk with them along the ditch, the sinners dive into the tar - they hide, but one hesitated, and they immediately pulled him out with hooks, intending to torment him, but first they allowed us to talk with him. The poor fellow lulled the vigilance of the Grudgers by cunning and dived back - they did not have time to catch him. Irritated devils fought among themselves, two fell into the tar. In the confusion, we hurried to leave, but no such luck! They fly after us. Virgil, picking me up, barely managed to run across to the sixth bosom, where they are not masters. Here hypocrites languish under the weight of leaden gilded robes. And here is the crucified (nailed to the ground with stakes) Jewish high priest, who insisted on the execution of Christ. He is trampled underfoot by lead-heavy hypocrites.
The transition was difficult: by a rocky path - into the seventh bosom. Thieves live here, bitten by monstrous poisonous snakes. From these bites, they crumble to dust, but are immediately restored to their appearance. Among them is Vanni Fucci, who robbed the sacristy and blamed someone else. A rude and blasphemous man: He sent God away, lifting up two figs. Immediately snakes attacked him (I love them for this). Then I watched how a certain snake merged with one of the thieves, after which it took on its form and stood up, and the thief crawled away, becoming a reptile reptile. Miracles! You will not find such metamorphoses in Ovid either.
Rejoice, Florence: these thieves are your offspring! It's a shame ... And in the eighth ditch live insidious advisers. Among them is Ulysses (Odysseus), his soul imprisoned in a flame that can speak! So, we heard the story of Ulysses about his death: thirsty to know the unknown, he sailed with a handful of daredevils to the other side of the world, suffered a shipwreck and, together with his friends, drowned away from the world inhabited by people.
Another talking flame, in which the soul of a crafty adviser who did not identify himself by name, is hidden, told me about his sin: this adviser helped the Pope in one unrighteous deed - counting on the fact that the pope would forgive him his sin. Heaven is more tolerant of the simple-hearted sinner than of those who hope to be saved by repentance. We crossed into the ninth ditch, where the sowers of unrest are executed.
Here they are, the instigators of bloody strife and religious unrest. The devil will maim them with a heavy sword, cut off their noses and ears, crush their skulls. Here is Mohammed, and Curio, who encouraged Caesar to civil war, and the beheaded troubadour warrior Bertrand de Born (he carries his head in his hand like a lantern, and she exclaims: “Woe!”).
Next, I met my relative, angry with me because his violent death remained unavenged. Then we moved on to the tenth ditch, where the alchemists suffer from an eternal itch. One of them was burned because he jokingly boasted that he could fly - he became a victim of a denunciation. He ended up in Hell not for this, but as an alchemist. Here, those who pretended to be other people, counterfeiters and liars in general are executed. Two of them fought among themselves and then quarreled for a long time (master Adam, who mixed copper into gold coins, and the ancient Greek Sinon, who deceived the Trojans). Virgil rebuked me for the curiosity with which I listened to them.
Our journey through the Spitefuls is coming to an end. We came to the well leading from the eighth circle of Hell to the ninth. There are ancient giants, titans. Among them are Nimrod, who angrily shouted something to us in an incomprehensible language, and Antaeus, who, at the request of Virgil, lowered us to the bottom of the well on his huge palm, and he immediately straightened up.
So, we are at the bottom of the universe, near the center of the globe. Before us is an icy lake, those who betrayed their relatives froze into it. I accidentally kicked one of them on the head, he yelled, but refused to name himself. Then I grabbed his hair, and then someone called his name. Scoundrel, now I know who you are, and I will tell people about you! And he: “Lie whatever you want, about me and about others!” And here is the ice pit, in which one dead man gnaws the skull of another. I ask: for what? Looking up from his victim, he answered me. He, Count Ugolino, takes revenge on his former associate, Archbishop Ruggieri, who betrayed him, who starved him and his children, imprisoning them in the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Their suffering was unbearable, the children were dying in front of their father, he was the last to die. Shame on Pisa! Let's go further. And who is in front of us? Alberigo? But he, as far as I know, did not die, so how did he end up in Hell? It also happens: the body of the villain still lives, but the soul is already in the underworld.
In the center of the earth, the ruler of Hell, Lucifer, frozen into ice, cast down from heaven and hollowed out the abyss of hell in his fall, disfigured, three-faced. From his first mouth Judas sticks out, from the second Brutus, from the third Cassius, He chews them and torments them with claws. Worst of all is the most vile traitor - Judas. A well stretches from Lucifer, leading to the surface of the opposite earth hemisphere. We squeezed into it, rose to the surface and saw the stars.
May the Muses help me to sing the second kingdom! His guard Elder Cato met us unfriendly: who are they? how dare you come here? Virgil explained and, wishing to propitiate Cato, spoke warmly about his wife Marcia. Why is Marcia here? Go to the seashore, you need to wash! We are going. Here it is, the sea distance. And in the coastal grasses - abundant dew. With it Virgil washed away the soot of abandoned Hell from my face.
A boat controlled by an angel is sailing towards us from the distance of the sea. It contains the souls of the dead, who were lucky enough not to go to Hell. They moored, went ashore, and the angel swam away. The shadows of the arrivals crowded around us, and in one I recognized my friend, the singer Cosella. I wanted to hug him, but the shadow is incorporeal - I hugged myself. Cosella, at my request, sang about love, everyone listened, but then Cato appeared, shouted at everyone (they didn’t do business!), And we hurried to the Mount of Purgatory.
Virgil was dissatisfied with himself: he gave a reason to shout at himself ... Now we need to scout the upcoming road. Let's see where the arriving shadows go. And they themselves have just noticed that I am not a shadow: I do not let light pass through me. Surprised. Virgil explained everything to them. “Come with us,” they invited.
So, we hasten to the foot of the purgatory mountain. But is everyone in a hurry, is everyone really impatient? There, near a large stone, there is a group of people who are not in a hurry to climb up: they say, they will have time; climb the one who itchs. Among these sloths I recognized my friend Belacqua. It is pleasant to see that he, and in life the enemy of any haste, is true to himself.
In the foothills of Purgatory, I had the opportunity to communicate with the shadows of the victims of violent death. Many of them were fair sinners, but, saying goodbye to life, they managed to sincerely repent and therefore did not go to Hell. Such a vexation for the devil, who has lost his prey! However, he found how to win back: not having gained power over the soul of a repentant dead sinner, he outraged his murdered body.
Not far from all this, we saw the regal and majestic shadow of Sordello. He and Virgil, recognizing each other as fellow countryman poets (Mantuans), embraced brotherly. Here is an example for you, Italy, a dirty brothel, where the bonds of brotherhood are completely broken! Especially you, my Florence, are good, you won’t say anything ... Wake up, look at yourself ...
Sordello agrees to be our guide to Purgatory. It is a great honor for him to help the highly esteemed Virgil. Conversing sedately, we approached a flowering fragrant valley, where, preparing for the night, the shadows of high-ranking persons - European sovereigns - settled down. We watched them from afar, listening to their consonant singing.
The evening hour has come, when desires draw those who have sailed back to their loved ones, and you remember the bitter moment of farewell; when sadness dominates the pilgrim and he hears how a distant chime cries bitterly about the day of irretrievable... An insidious serpent of temptation crawled into the valley of rest of earthly rulers, but the angels who arrived expelled it.
I lay down on the grass, fell asleep, and in my dream was transferred to the gates of Purgatory. The angel guarding them inscribed on my forehead seven times the same letter - the first in the word "sin" (seven deadly sins; these letters will be erased from my forehead one by one as we ascend the mountain of purgatory). We entered the second realm of the afterlife, the gates closed behind us.
The ascent has begun. We are in the first circle of Purgatory, where the proud atone for their sin. To shame pride, statues were erected here, embodying the idea of a high feat - humility. And here are the shadows of the arrogant being cleansed: unbending during life, here, as a punishment for their sin, they bend under the weight of the stone blocks heaped on them.
"Our Father ..." - this prayer was sung by the bent and proud. Among them is the miniaturist Oderiz, who during his lifetime boasted of his loud fame. Now, he says, he realized that there is nothing to boast about: everyone is equal in the face of death - both the decrepit old man and the baby murmuring “yum-yum”, and glory comes and goes. The sooner you understand this and find the strength in yourself to curb your pride, to humble yourself, the better.
Under our feet we have bas-reliefs depicting scenes of punished pride: Lucifer and Briares cast down from heaven, King Saul, Holofernes and others. Our stay in the first round is coming to an end. The angel who appeared wiped one of the seven letters off my forehead as a sign that I had overcome the sin of pride. Virgil smiled at me.
We went up to the second round. There are envious people here, they are temporarily blinded, their former "envious" eyes do not see anything. Here is a woman who, out of envy, wished harm to her countrymen and rejoiced in their failures ... In this circle, after death, I will not be cleansed for long, because I rarely and few people envied. But in the past circle of proud people - probably for a long time.
Here they are, blinded sinners whose blood once burned with envy. In the silence, the words of the first envious person, Cain, sounded thunderous: “The one who meets me will kill me!” In fear, I clung to Virgil, and the wise leader told me bitter words that the highest eternal light is inaccessible to envious people who are carried away by earthly lures.
Passed the second round. Again an angel appeared to us, and now only five letters remained on my forehead, which I have to get rid of in the future. We are in the third round. A cruel vision of human fury flashed before our eyes (the crowd stoned a meek youth with stones). In this circle, those possessed by anger are purified.
Even in the darkness of Hell there was no such black haze as in this circle, where the fury of the angry is subdued. One of them, the Lombard Marco, talked to me and expressed the idea that everything that happens in the world cannot be understood as a consequence of the activity of higher heavenly powers: this would mean denying the freedom of human will and removing from a person responsibility for what he has done.
Reader, have you ever wandered in the mountains on a foggy evening, when the sun is almost invisible? That's how we are… I felt the touch of an angel's wing on my forehead — another letter was erased. We climbed to the fourth circle, illuminated by the last ray of sunset. Here the lazy ones are cleansed, whose love for the good was slow.
Sloths here must run swiftly, not allowing any indulgence in their lifetime sin. Let them be inspired by the examples of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who, as you know, had to hurry, or Caesar with his amazing quickness. They ran past us and disappeared. I want to sleep. I sleep and dream...
I dreamed of a disgusting woman, who turned into a beauty before my eyes, who was immediately put to shame and turned into an even worse ugly woman (here she is, the imaginary attractiveness of vice!). Another letter disappeared from my forehead: I, therefore, defeated such a vice as laziness. We rise to the fifth circle - to the misers and spenders.
Avarice, greed, greed for gold are disgusting vices. Molten gold was once poured down the throat of one obsessed with greed: drink to your health! I don't feel comfortable being surrounded by misers, and then there was an earthquake. From what? Due to my ignorance, I don't know...
It turned out that the shaking of the mountain was caused by jubilation over the fact that one of the souls was cleansed and ready for ascent: this is the Roman poet Statius, an admirer of Virgil, who was delighted that from now on he will accompany us on the path to the purgatory peak.
Another letter, denoting the sin of avarice, was erased from my forehead. By the way, was Statius, languishing in the fifth round, stingy? On the contrary, it is wasteful, but these two extremes are punished jointly. Now we are in the sixth circle, where gluttons are cleansed. Here it would not be bad to remember that gluttony was not characteristic of Christian ascetics.
Former gluttons are destined to the pangs of hunger: emaciated, skin and bones. Among them I found my late friend and countryman Forese. They talked about their own, scolded Florence, Forese condemningly spoke about the dissolute ladies of this city. I told my friend about Virgil and my hopes of seeing my beloved Beatrice in the afterlife.
With one of the gluttons, a former poet of the old school, I had a conversation about literature. He admitted that my associates, supporters of the "new sweet style", achieved much more in love poetry than he himself and the masters close to him. Meanwhile, the penultimate letter has been erased from my forehead, and the path to the highest, seventh circle of Purgatory is open to me.
And I still remember the thin, hungry gluttons: how did they become so emaciated? After all, these are shadows, not bodies, and they would not have to starve. Virgil explained that the shadows, although incorporeal, exactly repeat the outlines of the implied bodies (which would lose weight without food). Here, in the seventh circle, the voluptuaries scorched by fire are purified. They burn, sing and praise examples of temperance and chastity.
The voluptuaries engulfed in flames were divided into two groups: those who indulged in same-sex love and those who did not know the limits in bisexual intercourse. Among the latter are the poets Guido Guinicelli and the Provençal Arnald, who greeted us exquisitely in his own dialect.
And now we ourselves have to go through the wall of fire. I was scared, but my mentor said that this is the path to Beatrice (to the Earthly Paradise, located on the top of the mountain of purgatory). And so the three of us (Statius with us) go, scorched by the flames. We passed, we move on, it is getting dark, we stopped to rest, I slept; and when I woke up, Virgil turned to me with the last word of parting words and approval, Everything, from now on he will be silent ...
We are in the Earthly Paradise, in a blooming grove resounding with the chirping of birds. I saw a beautiful donna singing and picking flowers. She said that there was a golden age here, innocence shone, but then, among these flowers and fruits, the happiness of the first people was destroyed in sin. When I heard this, I looked at Virgil and Statius: they were both smiling blissfully.
Oh Eve! It was so good here, you ruined everything with your daring! Live fires float past us, righteous elders in snow-white robes, crowned with roses and lilies, march under them, wonderful beauties dance. I couldn't get enough of this amazing picture. And suddenly I saw her - the one I love. Shocked, I made an involuntary movement, as if trying to cling to Virgil. But he disappeared, my father and savior! I sobbed. “Dante, Virgil is not coming back. But you don't have to cry for him. Look at me, it's me, Beatrice! And how did you get here? she asked angrily. Then a voice asked her why she was so strict with me. She replied that I, seduced by the lure of pleasures, had been unfaithful to her after her death. Do I plead guilty? Oh yes, tears of shame and remorse choke me, I lowered my head. "Raise your beard!" she said sharply, not ordering her to take her eyes off her. I lost my senses, and woke up immersed in Oblivion - a river that grants oblivion of committed sins. Beatrice, now look at the one who is so devoted to you and so eager for you. After a ten-year separation, I looked into her eyes, and my vision was temporarily dimmed by their dazzling brilliance. Having regained my sight, I saw a lot of beauty in the Earthly Paradise, but suddenly all this was replaced by cruel visions: monsters, desecration of the shrine, debauchery.
Beatrice grieved deeply, realizing how much evil lies in these visions revealed to us, but she expressed her confidence that the forces of good will ultimately defeat evil. We approached the river Evnoe, drinking from which you strengthen the memory of the good you have done. Statius and I bathed in this river. A sip of her sweetest water poured new strength into me. Now I am pure and worthy to climb the stars.
From the Earthly Paradise, Beatrice and I will fly together to the Heavenly, to heights inaccessible to the comprehension of mortals. I did not notice how they took off, looking at the sun. Am I, staying alive, capable of this? However, Beatrice was not surprised by this: a purified person is spiritual, and a spirit not burdened with sins is lighter than ether.
Friends, let's part here - do not read further: you will be lost in the vastness of the incomprehensible! But if you are insatiably hungry for spiritual food, then go ahead, follow me! We are in the first sky of Paradise - in the sky of the Moon, which Beatrice called the first star; plunged into its bowels, although it is difficult to imagine a force capable of containing one closed body (which I am) into another closed body (the Moon).
In the bowels of the moon, we met the souls of nuns kidnapped from monasteries and forcibly married. Through no fault of their own, they did not keep the vow of virginity given during the tonsure, and therefore the higher heavens are inaccessible to them. Do they regret it? Oh no! To regret would mean not to agree with the highest righteous will.
And yet I wonder: why are they to blame, submitting to violence? Why can't they rise above the sphere of the Moon? Blame the rapist, not the victim! But Beatrice explained that the victim also bears a certain responsibility for the violence committed against her, if, in resisting, she did not show heroic fortitude.
Failure to fulfill a vow, Beatrice argues, is almost irreparable by good deeds (there is too much to do to atone for guilt). We flew to the second heaven of Paradise - to Mercury. Here dwell the souls of the ambitious righteous. These are no longer shadows, unlike the previous inhabitants of the afterlife, but lights: they shine and radiate. One of them flared up especially brightly, rejoicing in communication with me. It turned out that this was the Roman emperor, legislator Justinian. He is aware that being in the sphere of Mercury (and not higher) is the limit for him, because ambitious people, doing good deeds for their own glory (that is, loving themselves first of all), missed the ray of true love for the deity.
The light of Justinian merged with the dance of lights - other righteous souls. I thought, and the course of my thoughts led me to the question: why did God the Father sacrifice his son? It was possible just like that, by the supreme will, to forgive people the sin of Adam! Beatrice explained: the highest justice demanded that humanity itself atone for its guilt. It is incapable of this, and it was necessary to impregnate an earthly woman so that the son (Christ), combining the human with the divine, could do this.
We flew to the third heaven - to Venus, where the souls of the loving ones bliss, shining in the fiery depths of this star. One of these spirit-lights is the Hungarian king Karl Martel, who, speaking to me, expressed the idea that a person can realize his abilities only by acting in a field that meets the needs of his nature: it’s bad if a born warrior becomes a priest ...
Sweet is the radiance of other loving souls. How much blessed light, heavenly laughter is here! And below (in Hell) the shadows thickened gloomily and gloomily... One of the lights spoke to me (troubadour Folco) - he condemned church authorities, self-serving popes and cardinals. Florence is the city of the devil. But nothing, he believes, it will get better soon.
The fourth star is the Sun, the abode of the sages. Here shines the spirit of the great theologian Thomas Aquinas. He joyfully greeted me, showed me other sages. Their consonant singing reminded me of church evangelism.
Thomas told me about Francis of Assisi, the second (after Christ) wife of Poverty. Following his example, the monks, including his closest students, began to walk barefoot. He lived a holy life and died - a naked man on bare earth - in the bosom of Poverty.
Not only I, but also the lights - the spirits of the sages - listened to the speech of Thomas, stopping singing and dancing. Then the Franciscan Bonaventure took the floor. In response to the praise given to his teacher by the Dominican Thomas, he glorified Thomas' teacher, Dominic, a farmer and servant of Christ. Who now continued his work? There are none worthy.
And again Thomas took the floor. He talks about the great virtues of King Solomon: he asked God for intelligence, wisdom - not to solve theological issues, but to reasonably rule the people, that is, royal wisdom, which was granted to him. People, do not judge each other hastily! This one is busy with a good deed, the other with an evil one, but what if the first falls and the second rises?
What will happen to the inhabitants of the Sun on the Day of Judgment, when the spirits become flesh? They are so bright and spiritual that it is difficult to imagine them materialized. Our stay here is over, we flew to the fifth heaven - to Mars, where the sparkling spirits of warriors for the faith settled down in the shape of a cross and a sweet hymn sounds.
One of the lights that form this marvelous cross, without going beyond its limits, moved downwards, closer to me. This is the spirit of my valiant great-great-grandfather, the warrior Kachchagvida. He greeted me and praised the glorious time in which he lived on earth and which, alas! - passed, replaced by a worse time.
I am proud of my ancestor, my origin (it turns out that one can experience such a feeling not only on a vain earth, but also in Paradise!). Cacchagvida told me about himself and about his ancestors, born in Florence, whose coat of arms - a white lily - is now stained with blood.
I want to learn from him, a clairvoyant, about my future fate. What lies ahead for me? He replied that I would be expelled from Florence, that in my joyless wanderings I would know the bitterness of someone else's bread and the steepness of someone else's stairs. To my credit, I will not associate with impure political factions, but I will become my own party. In the end, my opponents will be put to shame, and a triumph awaits me.
Cacchagvida and Beatrice encouraged me. Ended up on Mars. Now - from the fifth heaven to the sixth, from the red Mars to the white Jupiter, where the souls of the just hover. Their lights are formed into letters, into letters - first into a call for justice, and then into the figure of an eagle, a symbol of the just imperial power, unknown, sinful, suffering earth, but affirmed in heaven.
This majestic eagle entered into a conversation with me. He calls himself “I”, but I hear “we” (just power is collegial!). He understands what I myself cannot understand: why is Paradise open only to Christians? What is wrong with a virtuous Hindu who does not know Christ at all? So I don't understand. And even that is true, the eagle admits, that a bad Christian is worse than a glorious Persian or Ethiopian.
The eagle personifies the idea of justice, and its main thing is not claws or a beak, but an all-seeing eye, made up of the most worthy light-spirits. The pupil is the soul of the king and the psalmist David, the souls of the pre-Christian righteous shine in the eyelashes (and I just blunderedly talked about Paradise “only for Christians”? That's how to give vent to doubts!).
We ascended to the seventh heaven - to Saturn. This is the abode of contemplators. Beatrice has become even more beautiful and brighter. She did not smile at me - otherwise she would have completely incinerated me and blinded me. The blessed spirits of the contemplators were silent, did not sing - otherwise they would have deafened me. This was told to me by the sacred torch, the theologian Pietro Damiano.
The spirit of Benedict, after whom one of the monastic orders is named, angrily condemned the modern self-serving monks. After listening to him, we rushed to the eighth heaven, to the constellation of Gemini, under which I was born, saw the sun for the first time and breathed in the air of Tuscany. From its height, I looked down, and my gaze, passing through the seven heavenly spheres we visited, fell on a ridiculously small earthly ball, this handful of dust with all its rivers and mountain steeps.
Thousands of fires are burning in the eighth heaven - these are the triumphant spirits of the great righteous. Intoxicated by them, my vision has increased, and now even Beatrice's smile will not blind me. She smiled wonderfully at me and again prompted me to turn my eyes to the radiant spirits who sang a hymn to the queen of heaven - the holy virgin Mary.
Beatrice asked the apostles to talk to me. To what extent have I penetrated the mysteries of sacred truths? The Apostle Peter asked me about the essence of faith. My answer: faith is an argument in favor of the invisible; mortals cannot see with their own eyes what is revealed here in Paradise—but let them believe in a miracle, having no visual evidence of its truth. Peter was satisfied with my answer.
Will I, the author of the sacred poem, see my homeland? Will I be crowned with laurels where I was baptized? The apostle James asked me about the essence of hope. My answer is: hope is the expectation of a future well-deserved and God-given glory. Delighted, Jacob lit up.
Next up is the question of love. The apostle John gave it to me. Answering, I did not forget to say that love turns us to God, to the word of truth. Everyone rejoiced. The exam (what is Faith, Hope, Love?) was successfully completed. I saw the radiant soul of our forefather Adam, who lived for a short time in the Earthly Paradise, expelled from there to earth; after the death of long languishing in Limbo; then moved here.
Four lights blaze before me: the three apostles and Adam. Suddenly Peter turned purple and exclaimed: “My earthly throne has been seized, my throne, my throne!” Peter hates his successor, the pope. And it's time for us to part with the eighth heaven and ascend to the ninth, supreme and crystal. With unearthly joy, laughing, Beatrice threw me into a rapidly spinning sphere and ascended herself.
The first thing I saw in the sphere of the ninth heaven was a dazzling dot, the symbol of a deity. Lights revolve around it - nine concentric angelic circles. The closest to the deity and therefore smaller are the seraphim and cherubim, the most distant and extensive are the archangels and just angels. People on earth are accustomed to think that the great is greater than the small, but here, as you can see, the opposite is true.
Angels, Beatrice told me, are the same age as the universe. Their rapid rotation is the source of all the movement that takes place in the Universe. Those who hurried to fall away from their host were cast down to Hell, and those who remained are still rapturously circling in Paradise, and they do not need to think, want, remember: they are completely satisfied!
Ascension to the Empyrean - the highest region of the Universe - is the last. I again looked at her, whose beauty, growing in Paradise, raised me from heights to heights. We are surrounded by pure light. Everywhere sparks and flowers are angels and blissful souls. They merge into a kind of radiant river, and then take the form of a huge heavenly rose.
Contemplating the rose and comprehending the general plan of Paradise, I wanted to ask Beatrice something, but I saw not her, but a clear-eyed old man in white. He pointed up. I look - it glows in an inaccessible height, and I called out to her: “O donna, who left a mark in Hell, granting me help! In everything I see, I recognize your good. I followed you from slavery to freedom. Keep me in the future, so that my spirit worthy of you is freed from the flesh! She looked at me with a smile and turned to the eternal shrine. Everything.
The old man in white is Saint Bernard. From now on, he is my mentor. We continue to contemplate the Empyrean rose with him. The souls of immaculate babies also shine in it. This is understandable, but why were the souls of babies in some places in Hell - they can't be vicious, unlike these? God knows better what potentialities - good or bad - are laid in which infant soul. So Bernard explained and began to pray.
Bernard prayed to the Virgin Mary for me - to help me. Then he gave me a sign to look up. Looking up, I see the supreme and brightest light. At the same time, he was not blind, but he gained the highest truth. I contemplate the deity in his radiant trinity. And love draws me to him, which moves both the sun and the stars.