Note 57, Chapter 5 of the author's Christina Rossetti in Context which the University of North Carolina Press published in 1988. It appears in the Victorian web with the kind permission of the author, who of course retains copyright.
In this passage Virgil and Dante discuss the spiritual economies of renunciation. In lines 61-63 Dante asks a question of Virgil that is precisely relevant to Rossetti's sonnet, and Virgil responds:
"How can it be, that boon distributed
The more possessors can more wealthy make
Therein, than if by few it be possessed?"
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
" ... Because thou fixest still
Thy mind entirely upon earthly things,
Thou pluckest darkness from the very light.
That goodness Infinite and Ineffable
Which is above there, runncth unto love,
As to a lucid body comes the sunbeam.
So much It gives itself as It finds ardour,
So that as far as charity extends,
O'er it increases the external Valour.
And the more people thitherward aspire,
More are there to love well, and more they love there,
And, as a mirror, one reflects the other."
Dante, Purgatario (trans. Cayley) 15; quoted by Maria Rossetti, A Shadow of Dante, 155.
Last modified 24 June 2007