The kindly master said: "Do you not ask
who are these spirits whom you see before you?
I’d have you know, before you go ahead,
they did not sin; and yet, though they have merits,
that’s not enough, because they lacked baptism,
the portal of the faith that you embrace.
And if they lived before Christianity,
they did not worship God in fitting ways;
and of such spirits I myself am one.
For these defects, and for no other evil,
we now are lost and punished just with this:
we have no hope and yet we live in longing."
Great sorrow seized my heart on hearing him,
for I had seen some estimable men
among the souls suspended in that limbo. (Inf. IV, 31-45)
"Tell me, my master, tell me, lord," I then
began because I wanted to be certain
of that belief which vanquishes all errors,
"did any ever go – by his own merit
or others’ – from this place toward blessedness?"
And he, who understood my covert speech,
replied: "I was new-entered on this state
when I beheld a Great Lord enter here:
the crown he wore, a sign of victory.
He carried off the shade of our first father,
of his son Abel, and the shade of Noah,
of Moses, the obedient legislator,
of father Abraham, David the king,
of Israel, his father, and his sons,
and Rachel, she for whom he worked so long,
and many others – and He made them blessed;
and I should have you know that, before them,
there were no human souls that had been saved." (Inf. IV, 46-63)
And while one spirit [Francesca] said these words to me,
the other [Paolo] wept, so that – because of pity –
I fainted, as if I had met my death.
And then I fell as a dead body falls. (Inf. V, 139-142)