by Dante Alighieri
Purgatorio Love Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Canto.Line). We used Allen Mandelbaum's translation.
When he [Virgil] saw me still halting, obstinate,
he said, somewhat perplexed: “Now see, son: this
wall stands between you and your Beatrice.”
As, at the name of Thisbe, Pyramus,
about to die, opened his eyes, and saw her
(when then the mulberry became bloodred),
so, when my stubbornness had softened, I,
hearing the name that’s always flowering
within my mind, turned to my knowing guide. (Purg. XXVII, 34-42)
Virgil craftily dangles Beatrice as an incentive for Dante to overcome his fear and move past the fire, playing on Dante’s obsessive love for her. Dante responds by comparing himself to the dying Pyramus in the epic love story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. That Dante associates his love for Beatrice with the famous story of Pyramus and Thisbe reveals just how highly he esteems her…and himself, as a poet.
[Virgil]: “I’ve brought you here through intellect and art;
from now on, let your pleasure be your guide;
you’re past the steep and past the narrow paths.
Look at the sun that shines upon your brow;
look at the grasses, flowers, and the shrubs
born here, spontaneously, of the earth.
Among them, you can rest or walk until
the coming of the glad and lovely eyes –
those eyes that, weeping, sent me to your side.
Await no further word or sign from me:
your will is free, erect, and whole – to act
against that will would be to err: therefore
I crown and miter you over yourself.” (Purg. XXVII, 130-142)
In his parting words to Dante, Virgil explains that so far “intellect and art” (the concepts Virgil represents) have guided Dante, but now that he has learned his lessons so well, his mental love has been properly aligned with his natural love. Now it is safe to “let [his] pleasure be [Dante's] guide” because his “pleasure” or desire is now correctly directed towards God. To reinforce this idea, that Dante's love is now proper, Virgil asserts that “to act against that will would be to err.”
Within her [Beatrice’s] presence, I had once been used
to feeling – trembling – wonder, dissolution;
but that was long ago. Still, though my soul,
now she was veiled, could not see her directly,
by way of hidden force that she could move,
I felt the mighty power of old love.
As soon as that deep force had struck my vision
(the power that, when I had not yet left
my boyhood, had already transfixed me),
I turned around and to my left – just as
a little child, afraid or in distress,
will hurry to his mother – anxiously,
to say to Virgil: “I am left with less
than one drop of my blood that does not tremble:
I recognize the signs of the old flame.” (Purg. XXX, 34-48)
As a mortal man still bearing a physical body, Dante is still subject to overwhelming physical responses to the woman he formerly loved so ardently. Notice all the sensual words he uses to describe his reaction to her: “feeling,” “trembling,” “struck my vision,” “transfixed,” and “old flame.” Regular penitents (who are all souls) would not have a problem with encountering a past love, author-Dante suggests.