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Dante, Purgatorio, Canto XVI, lines 52-114

[Note: Dante (the "I") is speaking with one Marco Lombardo (the "him"), a nobleman about whom not
much is known. They are on the Third Terrace of Purgatory (the Wrathful)]
And I to him: I pledge my faith to you
to do what you have asked; and yet a doubt
will burst in me if it finds no way out.
Before, my doubt was simple; but your statement
has doubled it and made me sure that I
am right to couple your words with anothers.
The world indeed has been stripped utterly
of every virtue; as you said to me,
it cloaks-and is cloaked by-perversity.
Some place the cause in heaven, some, below;
but I beseech you to define the cause,
that, seeing it, I may show it to others.
A sigh, from which his sorrow formed an Oh,
was his beginning; then he answered: Brother,
the world is blind, and you come from the world.
You living ones continue to assign
to heaven every cause, as if it were
the necessary source of every motion.
If this were so, then your free will would be
destroyed, and there would be no equity
in joy for doing good, in grief for evil.
The heavens set your appetites in motionnot all your appetites, but even if
that were the case, you have received both light
on good and evil, and free will, which though
it struggle in its first wars with the heavens,
then conquers all, if it has been well nurtured.
On greater power and a better nature
you, who are free, depend; that Force engenders
the mind in you, outside the heavens sway.
Thus, if the present world has gone astray,
in you is the cause, in you its to be sought;
and now Ill serve as your true exegete.
Issuing from His hands, the soul-on which
He thought with love before creating itis like a child who weeps and laughs in sport;

that soul is simple, unaware; but since


a joyful Maker gave it motion, it
turns willingly to things that bring delight.
At first it savors trivial goods; these would
beguile the soul, and it runs after them,
unless theres guide or rein to rule its love.
Therefore, one needed law to serve as curb;
a ruler, too, was needed, one who could
discern at least the tower of the true city.
The laws exist, but who applies them now?
No one-the shepherd who precedes his flock
can chew the cud but does not have cleft hooves;
and thus the people, who can see their guide
snatch only at that good for which they feel
some greed, would feed on that and seek no further.
Misrule, you see, has caused the world to be
malevolent; the cause is clearly not
celestial forces-they do not corrupt.
For Rome, which made the world good, used to have
two suns; and they made visible two pathsthe worlds path and the pathway that is Gods.
Each has eclipsed the other; now the sword
has joined the shepherds crook; the two together
must of necessity result in evil,
because, so joined, one need not fear the other:
and if you doubt me, watch the fruit and flower,
for every plant is known by what it seeds.