[Virgil to Dante]: …“This mountain’s of such sort
that climbing it is hardest at the start;
but as we rise, the slope grows less unkind.
Therefore, when this slope seems to you so gentle
that climbing farther up will be as restful
as traveling downstream by boat, you will
be where this pathway ends, and there you can
expect to put your weariness to rest.” (Purg. IV, 88-95)
[Belacqua]: …“O brother, what’s the use of climbing?
God’s angel, he who guards the gate, would not
let me pass through to meet my punishment.
Outside that gate the skies must circle round
as many times as they did when I lived –
since I delayed good sighs until the end –
unless, before then, I am helped by prayer
that rises from a heart that lives in grace;
what use are other prayers – ignored by Heaven?” (Purg. IV, 127-135)
…But I would
not have you, reader, be deflected from
your good resolve by hearing from me now
how God would have us pay the debt we owe.
Don’t dwell upon the form of punishment:
consider what comes after that; at worst
it cannot last beyond the final Judgment. (Purg. X, 105-111)