Included with the Longfellow translation of The Divine Comedy on Project Gutenberg are six sonnets. Here are the first two.


Oft have I seen at some cathedral door

A laborer, pausing in the dust and heat,

Let down his burden, and with reverent feet

Enter, and cross himself, and on the floor

Kneel to repeat his paternoster o’er;

Far off the noises of the world retreat;

The loud vociferations of the street 

Become an undistinguishable roar.

So, as I enter here from day to day,

And leave my burden at this minster gate,

Kneeling in prayer, and not ashamed to pray,

The tumult of the time disconsolate

To inarticulate murmurs dies away,

While the eternal ages watch and wait.


How strange the sculptures that adorn these towers!

This crowd of statues, in whose folded sleeves

Birds build their nests; while canopied with leaves

Parvis and portal bloom like trellised bowers,

And the vast minister seems a cross of flowers!

But fiends and dragons on the gargoyled eaves

Watch the dead Christ between the living thieves,

and, underneath, the traitor Judas lowers!

Ah! from what agonies of heart and brain,

What exultations trampling on despair,

What tenderness, what tears, what hate of wrong,

What passionate outcry of a soul in pain,

Uprose this poem of the earth and air

This mediaeval miracle of song!

Parvis = an enclosed area in front of a church or cathedral

Minster = in general means a large church or cathedral associated with an abbey – here the meaning seems to be the general interior

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