Canto 4 The First Circle: Limbo

"Now down into a world where all is blind,"
Said the poet, who was deathly pale.
"I shall go first, you follow on behind."

Dante and Virgil find themselves at the edge of the pit of Hell, at the First Circle, or Limbo, with the Unbaptised and Virtuous Pagans, who chose human virtue because that was all that was available to them at that time in history. Christ had not yet come; they therefore were "blind" to the greater truths that had not yet been revealed to mankind. Humanism cannot imagine spiritual ecstasy because before Christ it never knew it and after it chooses to exclude it:-

(Virgil..)
"They lived too early to be Christian,
And failed to worship God as people should.
Among such spirits I myself am one.

My heart was sickened when I caught his sense,
Because I recognized some men of worth
Inhabiting that limbo in suspense.

Homer

Homer, the sovereign poet is the first;

Saladin

And I saw Saladin, alone, apart.
I saw both Socrates and Plato there

Socrates

Plato

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