“…To whom, then, if thou wishest to ascend,
A soul shall be for that than I more worthy;
With her at my departure I will leave thee…”
Virgil, without mentioning her name, explains that Beatrice will give Dante the tour of Heaven if he wishes. Virgil explains that he is not worthy to give such a tour as he is a resident of Hell. In real life, Beatrice is Dante’s great love who died too soon. By including Beatrice in this text, Dante creates a fantasy in which he is reunited with Beatrice in an imagined scenario that surely brought him much comfort and hope.
“… a fair, saintly Lady called to me
In such wise, I besought her to command me.
Her eyes were shining brighter than the Star;
And she began to say, gentle and low, …
‘A friend of mine, and not the friend of fortune,
Upon the desert slope is so impeded
Upon his way, that he has turned through terror,
And may, I fear, already be so lost,
That I too late have risen to his succor.’”
Virgil is describing his conversation with Beatrice, who has traveled from Heaven to Hell to ask for Virgil’s help in guiding her friend Dante back to safety. She knows that Dante has become lost out of fear, and she is worried that the proposed intervention may already be too late. This scene highlights Dante’s view of Beatrice as his benevolent, caring, and loyal friend.
“‘Beatrice,’ said she, ‘the true praise of God,
Why succorest thou not him, who loved thee so,
For thee he issued from the vulgar herd?
Does thou not hear the pity of his plaint?’ …
Never were persons in the world so swift
To work their weal and to escape their woe,
As I, after such words as these were uttered…”
Virgil is quoting Beatrice, who is quoting her conversation with Saint Lucia, who approached her at the behest of Saint Mary. Mary worries about Dante and thinks Beatrice should help him. As Lucia points out, Dante’s love for Beatrice is what inspired him to become a great poet, which then raised him up “from the vulgar herd.” In writing this exchange, Dante reveals his belief he is above most people, and that even holy figures are concerned about his personal well-being.