Dante’s PurgatoryThe Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri

other editions or translations of ‘The Divine Comedy.’ For this three part edition of ‘The Divine Comedy’ please refer to the end of the Paradiso for supplemental materials. Dennis McCarthy, July 1997 imprimatur@juno.com CONTENTS Purgatorio I. The Shores of Purgatory. The Four Stars. Cato of Utica. The Rush. II. The Celestial Pilot. Casella. The Departure.
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other editions or translations of ‘The Divine Comedy.’ For this three part edition of ‘The Divine Comedy’ please refer to the end of the Paradiso for supplemental materials.

Dennis McCarthy, July 1997



I. The Shores of Purgatory. The Four Stars. Cato of Utica. The Rush.
II. The Celestial Pilot. Casella. The Departure. III. Discourse on the Limits of Reason. The Foot of the Mountain. Those who died in Contumacy of Holy Church. Manfredi. IV. Farther Ascent. Nature of the Mountain. The Negligent, who postponed Repentance till the last Hour. Belacqua. V. Those who died by Violence, but repentant. Buonconte di Monfeltro. La Pia.
VI. Dante’s Inquiry on Prayers for the Dead. Sordello. Italy. VII. The Valley of Flowers. Negligent Princes. VIII. The Guardian Angels and the Serpent. Nino di Gallura. The Three Stars. Currado Malaspina.
IX. Dante’s Dream of the Eagle. The Gate of Purgatory and the Angel. Seven P’s. The Keys.
X. The Needle’s Eye. The First Circle: The Proud. The Sculptures on the Wall.
XI. The Humble Prayer. Omberto di Santafiore. Oderisi d’ Agobbio. Provenzan Salvani. XII. The Sculptures on the Pavement. Ascent to the Second Circle. XIII. The Second Circle: The Envious. Sapia of Siena. XIV. Guido del Duca and Renier da Calboli. Cities of the Arno Valley. Denunciation of Stubbornness. XV. The Third Circle: The Irascible. Dante’s Visions. The Smoke. XVI. Marco Lombardo. Lament over the State of the World. XVII. Dante’s Dream of Anger. The Fourth Circle: The Slothful. Virgil’s Discourse of Love.
XVIII. Virgil further discourses of Love and Free Will. The Abbot of San Zeno.
XIX. Dante’s Dream of the Siren. The Fifth Circle: The Avaricious and Prodigal. Pope Adrian V. XX. Hugh Capet. Corruption of the French Crown. Prophecy of the Abduction of Pope Boniface VIII and the Sacrilege of Philip the Fair. The Earthquake. XXI. The Poet Statius. Praise of Virgil. XXII. Statius’ Denunciation of Avarice. The Sixth Circle: The Gluttonous. The Mystic Tree.
XXIII. Forese. Reproof of immodest Florentine Women. XXIV. Buonagiunta da Lucca. Pope Martin IV, and others. Inquiry into the State of Poetry.
XXV. Discourse of Statius on Generation. The Seventh Circle: The Wanton.
XXVI. Sodomites. Guido Guinicelli and Arnaldo Daniello. XXVII. The Wall of Fire and the Angel of God. Dante’s Sleep upon the Stairway, and his Dream of Leah and Rachel. Arrival at the Terrestrial Paradise. XXVIII. The River Lethe. Matilda. The Nature of the Terrestrial Paradise.
XXIX. The Triumph of the Church.
XXX. Virgil’s Departure. Beatrice. Dante’s Shame. XXXI. Reproaches of Beatrice and Confession of Dante. The Passage of Lethe. The Seven Virtues. The Griffon. XXXII. The Tree of Knowledge. Allegory of the Chariot. XXXIII. Lament over the State of the Church. Final Reproaches of Beatrice. The River Eunoe.

The Divine Comedy
translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (e-text courtesy ILT’s Digital Dante Project)


Purgatorio: Canto I

To run o’er better waters hoists its sail The little vessel of my genius now,
That leaves behind itself a sea so cruel;

And of that second kingdom will I sing Wherein the human spirit doth purge itself, And to ascend to heaven becometh worthy.

But let dead Poesy here rise again,
O holy Muses, since that I am yours, And here Calliope somewhat ascend,

My song accompanying with that sound, Of which the miserable magpies felt
The blow so great, that they despaired of pardon.

Sweet colour of the oriental sapphire, That was upgathered in the cloudless aspect Of the pure air, as far as the first circle,

Unto mine eyes did recommence delight Soon as I issued forth from the dead air, Which had with sadness filled mine eyes and breast.

The beauteous planet, that to love incites, Was making all the orient to laugh,
Veiling the Fishes that were in her escort.

To the right hand I turned, and fixed my mind Upon the other pole, and saw four stars Ne’er seen before save by the primal people.

Rejoicing in their flamelets seemed the heaven. O thou septentrional and widowed site,
Because thou art deprived of seeing these!

When from regarding them I had withdrawn, Turning a little to the other pole,
There where the Wain had disappeared already,

I saw beside me an old man alone,
Worthy of so much reverence in his look, That more owes not to father any son.

A long beard and with white hair intermingled He wore, in semblance like unto the tresses, Of which a double list fell on his breast.

The rays of the four consecrated stars Did so adorn his countenance with light, That him I saw as were the sun before him.

“Who are you? ye who, counter the blind river, Have fled away from the eternal prison?” Moving those venerable plumes, he said:

“Who guided you? or who has been your lamp In issuing forth out of the night profound, That ever black makes the infernal valley?

The laws of the abyss, are they thus broken? Or is there changed in heaven some council new, That being damned ye come unto my crags?”

Then did my Leader lay his grasp upon me, And with his words, and with his hands and signs, Reverent he made in me my knees and brow;

Then answered him: “I came not of myself; A Lady from Heaven descended, at whose prayers I aided this one with my company.

But since it is thy will more be unfolded Of our condition, how it truly is,
Mine cannot be that this should be denied thee.

This one has never his last evening seen, But by his folly was so near to it
That very little time was there to turn.

As I have said, I unto him was sent
To rescue him, and other way was none Than this to which I have myself betaken.

I’ve shown him all the people of perdition, And now those spirits I intend to show
Who purge themselves beneath thy guardianship.

How I have brought him would be long to tell thee. Virtue descendeth from on high that aids me To lead him to behold thee and to hear thee.

Now may it please thee to vouchsafe his coming; He seeketh Liberty, which is so dear,
As knoweth he who life for her refuses.

Thou know’st it; since, for her, to thee not bitter Was death in Utica, where thou didst leave The vesture, that will shine so, the great day.

By us the eternal edicts are not broken; Since this one lives, and Minos binds not me; But of that circle I, where are the chaste

Eyes of thy Marcia, who in looks still prays thee, O holy breast, to hold her as thine own; For her love, then, incline thyself to us.

Permit us through thy sevenfold realm to go; I will take back this grace from thee to her, If to be mentioned there below thou deignest.”

“Marcia so pleasing was unto mine eyes While I was on the other side,” then said he, “That every grace she wished of me I granted;

Now that she dwells beyond the evil river, She can no longer move me, by that law
Which, when I issued forth from there, was made.

But if a Lady of Heaven do move and rule thee, As thou dost say, no flattery is needful; Let it suffice thee that for her thou ask me.

Go, then, and see thou gird this one about With a smooth rush, and that thou wash his face, So that thou cleanse away all stain therefrom,

For ’twere not fitting that the eye o’ercast By any mist should go before the first
Angel, who is of those of Paradise.

This little island round about its base Below there, yonder, where the billow beats it, Doth rushes bear upon its washy ooze;

No other plant that putteth forth the leaf, Or that doth indurate, can there have life, Because it yieldeth not unto the shocks.

Thereafter be not this way your return; The sun, which now is rising, will direct you To take the mount by easier ascent.”

With this he vanished; and I raised me up Without a word, and wholly drew myself
Unto my Guide, and turned mine eyes to him.

And he began: “Son, follow thou my steps; Let us turn back, for on this side declines The plain unto its lower boundaries.”

The dawn was vanquishing the matin hour Which fled before it, so that from afar I recognised the trembling of the sea.

Along the solitary plain we went
As one who unto the lost road returns, And till he finds it seems to go in vain.

As soon as we were come to where the dew Fights with the sun, and, being in a part Where shadow falls, little evaporates,

Both of his hands upon the grass outspread In gentle manner did my Master place;
Whence I, who of his action was aware,

Extended unto him my tearful cheeks;
There did he make in me uncovered wholly That hue which Hell had covered up in me.

Then came we down upon the desert shore Which never yet saw navigate its waters Any that afterward had known return.

There he begirt me as the other pleased; O marvellous! for even as he culled
The humble plant, such it sprang up again

Suddenly there where he uprooted it.

Purgatorio: Canto II

Already had the sun the horizon reached Whose circle of meridian covers o’er
Jerusalem with its most lofty point,

And night that opposite to him revolves Was issuing forth from Ganges with the Scales That fall from out her hand when she exceedeth;

So that the white and the vermilion cheeks Of beautiful Aurora, where I was,
By too great age were changing into orange.

We still were on the border of the sea, Like people who are thinking of their road, Who go in heart and with the body stay;

And lo! as when, upon the approach of morning, Through the gross vapours Mars grows fiery red Down in the West upon the ocean floor,

Appeared to me–may I again behold it!– A light along the sea so swiftly coming, Its motion by no flight of wing is equalled;

From which when I a little had withdrawn Mine eyes, that I might question my Conductor, Again I saw it brighter grown and larger.

Then on each side of it appeared to me I knew not what of white, and underneath it Little by little there came forth another.

My Master yet had uttered not a word
While the first whiteness into wings unfolded; But when he clearly recognised the pilot,

He cried: “Make haste, make haste to bow the knee! Behold the Angel of God! fold thou thy hands! Henceforward shalt thou see such officers!

See how he scorneth human arguments,
So that nor oar he wants, nor other sail Than his own wings, between so distant shores.

See how he holds them pointed up to heaven, Fanning the air with the eternal pinions, That do not moult themselves like mortal hair!”

Then as still nearer and more near us came The Bird Divine, more radiant he appeared, So that near by the eye could not endure him,

But down I cast it; and he came to shore With a small vessel, very swift and light, So that the water swallowed naught thereof.

Upon the stern stood the Celestial Pilot; Beatitude seemed written in his face,
And more than a hundred spirits sat within.

“In exitu Israel de Aegypto!”
They chanted all together in one voice, With whatso in that psalm is after written.

Then made he sign of holy rood upon them, Whereat all cast themselves upon the shore, And he departed swiftly as he came.

The throng which still remained there unfamiliar Seemed with the place, all round about them gazing, As one who in new matters makes essay.

On every side was darting forth the day. The sun, who had with his resplendent shafts From the mid-heaven chased forth the Capricorn,

When the new people lifted up their faces Towards us, saying to us: “If ye know,
Show us the way to go unto the mountain.”

And answer made Virgilius: “Ye believe Perchance that we have knowledge of this place, But we are strangers even as yourselves.

Just now we came, a little while before you, Another way, which was so rough and steep, That mounting will henceforth seem sport to us.”

The souls who had, from seeing me draw breath, Become aware that I was still alive,
Pallid in their astonishment became;

And as to messenger who bears the olive The people throng to listen to the news, And no one shows himself afraid of crowding,

So at the sight of me stood motionless Those fortunate spirits, all of them, as if Oblivious to go and make them fair.

One from among them saw I coming forward, As to embrace me, with such great affection, That it incited me to do the like.

O empty shadows, save in aspect only! Three times behind it did I clasp my hands, As oft returned with them to my own breast!

I think with wonder I depicted me;
Whereat the shadow smiled and backward drew; And I, pursuing it, pressed farther forward.

Gently it said that I should stay my steps; Then knew I who it was, and I entreated That it would stop awhile to speak with me.

It made reply to me: “Even as I loved thee In mortal body, so I love thee free;
Therefore I stop; but wherefore goest thou?”

“My own Casella! to return once more
There where I am, I make this journey,” said I; “But how from thee has so much time be taken?”

And he to me: “No outrage has been done me, If he who takes both when and whom he pleases Has many times denied to me this passage,

For of a righteous will his own is made. He, sooth to say, for three months past has taken Whoever wished to enter with all peace;

Whence I, who now had turned unto that shore Where salt the waters of the Tiber grow, Benignantly by him have been received.

Unto that outlet now his wing is pointed, Because for evermore assemble there
Those who tow’rds Acheron do not descend.”

And I: “If some new law take not from thee Memory or practice of the song of love, Which used to quiet in me all my longings,

Thee may it please to comfort therewithal Somewhat this soul of mine, that with its body Hitherward coming is so much distressed.”

“Love, that within my mind discourses with me,” Forthwith began he so melodiously,
The melody within me still is sounding.

My Master, and myself, and all that people Which with him were, appeared as satisfied As if naught else might touch the mind of any.

We all of us were moveless and attentive Unto his notes; and lo! the grave old man, Exclaiming: “What is this, ye laggard spirits?

What negligence, what standing still is this? Run to the mountain to strip off the slough, That lets not God be manifest to you.”

Even as when, collecting grain or tares, The doves, together at their pasture met, Quiet, nor showing their accustomed pride,

If aught appear of which they are afraid, Upon a sudden leave their food alone,
Because they are assailed by greater care;

So that fresh company did I behold
The song relinquish, and go tow’rds the hill, As one who goes, and knows not whitherward;

Nor was our own departure less in haste.

Purgatorio: Canto III

Inasmuch as the instantaneous flight
Had scattered them asunder o’er the plain, Turned to the mountain whither reason spurs us,

I pressed me close unto my faithful comrade, And how without him had I kept my course? Who would have led me up along the mountain?

He seemed to me within himself remorseful; O noble conscience, and without a stain, How sharp a sting is trivial fault to thee!

After his feet had laid aside the haste Which mars the dignity of every act,
My mind, that hitherto had been restrained,

Let loose its faculties as if delighted, And I my sight directed to the hill
That highest tow’rds the heaven uplifts itself.

The sun, that in our rear was flaming red, Was broken in front of me into the figure Which had in me the stoppage of its rays;

Unto one side I turned me, with the fear Of being left alone, when I beheld
Only in front of me the ground obscured.

“Why dost thou still mistrust?” my Comforter Began to say to me turned wholly round; “Dost thou not think me with thee, and that I guide thee?

‘Tis evening there already where is buried The body within which I cast a shadow;
‘Tis from Brundusium ta’en, and Naples has it.

Now if in front of me no shadow fall, Marvel not at it more than at the heavens, Because one ray impedeth not another

To suffer torments, both of cold and heat, Bodies like this that Power provides, which wills That how it works be not unveiled to us.

Insane is he who hopeth that our reason Can traverse the illimitable way,
Which the one Substance in three Persons follows!

Mortals, remain contented at the ‘Quia;’ For if ye had been able to see all,
No need there were for Mary to give birth;

And ye have seen desiring without fruit, Those whose desire would have been quieted, Which evermore is given them for a grief.

I speak of Aristotle and of Plato,
And many others;”–and here bowed his head, And more he said not, and remained disturbed.

We came meanwhile unto the mountain’s foot; There so precipitate we found the rock, That nimble legs would there have been in vain.

‘Twixt Lerici and Turbia, the most desert, The most secluded pathway is a stair
Easy and open, if compared with that.

“Who knoweth now upon which hand the hill Slopes down,” my Master said, his footsteps staying, “So that who goeth without wings may mount?”

And while he held his eyes upon the ground Examining the nature of the path,
And I was looking up around the rock,

On the left hand appeared to me a throng Of souls, that moved their feet in our direction, And did not seem to move, they came so slowly.

“Lift up thine eyes,” I to the Master said; “Behold, on this side, who will give us counsel, If thou of thine own self can have it not.”

Then he looked at me, and with frank expression Replied: “Let us go there, for they come slowly, And thou be steadfast in thy hope, sweet son.”

Still was that people as far off from us, After a thousand steps of ours I say,
As a good thrower with his hand would reach,

When they all crowded unto the hard masses Of the high bank, and motionless stood and close, As he stands still to look who goes in doubt.

“O happy dead! O spirits elect already!” Virgilius made beginning, “by that peace Which I believe is waiting for you all,

Tell us upon what side the mountain slopes, So that the going up be possible,
For to lose time irks him most who most knows.”

As sheep come issuing forth from out the fold By ones and twos and threes, and the others stand Timidly, holding down their eyes and nostrils,

And what the foremost does the others do, Huddling themselves against her, if she stop, Simple and quiet and the wherefore know not;

So moving to approach us thereupon
I saw the leader of that fortunate flock, Modest in face and dignified in gait.

As soon as those in the advance saw broken The light upon the ground at my right side, So that from me the shadow reached the rock,

They stopped, and backward drew themselves somewhat; And all the others, who came after them, Not knowing why nor wherefore, did the same.

“Without your asking, I confess to you This is a human body which you see,
Whereby the sunshine on the ground is cleft.

Marvel ye not thereat, but be persuaded That not without a power which comes from Heaven Doth he endeavour to surmount this wall.”

The Master thus; and said those worthy people: “Return ye then, and enter in before us,” Making a signal with the back o’ the hand

And one of them began: “Whoe’er thou art, Thus going turn thine eyes, consider well If e’er thou saw me in the other world.”

I turned me tow’rds him, and looked at him closely; Blond was he, beautiful, and of noble aspect, But one of his eyebrows had a blow divided.

When with humility I had disclaimed
E’er having seen him, “Now behold!” he said, And showed me high upon his breast a wound.

Then said he with a smile: “I am Manfredi, The grandson of the Empress Costanza;
Therefore, when thou returnest, I beseech thee

Go to my daughter beautiful, the mother Of Sicily’s honour and of Aragon’s,
And the truth tell her, if aught else be told.

After I had my body lacerated
By these two mortal stabs, I gave myself Weeping to Him, who willingly doth pardon.

Horrible my iniquities had been;
But Infinite Goodness hath such ample arms, That it receives whatever turns to it.

Had but Cosenza’s pastor, who in chase Of me was sent by Clement at that time, In God read understandingly this page,

The bones of my dead body still would be At the bridge-head, near unto Benevento, Under the safeguard of the heavy cairn.

Now the rain bathes and moveth them the wind, Beyond the realm, almost beside the Verde, Where he transported them with tapers quenched.

By malison of theirs is not so lost
Eternal Love, that it cannot return, So long as hope has anything of green.

True is it, who in contumacy dies
Of Holy Church, though penitent at last, Must wait upon the outside this bank

Thirty times told the time that he has been In his presumption, unless such decree
Shorter by means of righteous prayers become.

See now if thou hast power to make me happy, By making known unto my good Costanza
How thou hast seen me, and this ban beside,

For those on earth can much advance us here.”

Purgatorio: Canto IV

Whenever by delight or else by pain,
That seizes any faculty of ours,
Wholly to that the soul collects itself,

It seemeth that no other power it heeds; And this against that error is which thinks One soul above another kindles in us.

And hence, whenever aught is heard or seen Which keeps the soul intently bent upon it, Time passes on, and we perceive it not,

Because one faculty is that which listens, And other that which the soul keeps entire; This is as if in bonds, and that is free.

Of this I had experience positive
In hearing and in gazing at that spirit; For fifty full degrees uprisen was

The sun, and I had not perceived it, when We came to where those souls with one accord Cried out unto us: “Here is what you ask.”

A greater opening ofttimes hedges up
With but a little forkful of his thorns The villager, what time the grape imbrowns,

Than was the passage-way through which ascended Only my Leader and myself behind him,
After that company departed from us.

One climbs Sanleo and descends in Noli, And mounts the summit of Bismantova,
With feet alone; but here one needs must fly;

With the swift pinions and the plumes I say Of great desire, conducted after him
Who gave me hope, and made a light for me.

We mounted upward through the rifted rock, And on each side the border pressed upon us, And feet and hands the ground beneath required.

When we were come upon the upper rim
Of the high bank, out on the open slope, “My Master,” said I, “what way shall we take?”

And he to me: “No step of thine descend; Still up the mount behind me win thy way, Till some sage escort shall appear to us.”

The summit was so high it vanquished sight, And the hillside precipitous far more
Than line from middle quadrant to the centre.

Spent with fatigue was I, when I began: “O my sweet Father! turn thee and behold How I remain alone, unless thou stay!”

“O son,” he said, “up yonder drag thyself,” Pointing me to a terrace somewhat higher, Which on that side encircles all the hill.

These words of his so spurred me on, that I Strained every nerve, behind him scrambling up, Until the circle was beneath my feet.

Thereon ourselves we seated both of us Turned to the East, from which we had ascended, For all men are delighted to look back.

To the low shores mine eyes I first directed, Then to the sun uplifted them, and wondered That on the left hand we were smitten by it.

The Poet well perceived that I was wholly Bewildered at the chariot of the light, Where ‘twixt us and the Aquilon it entered.

Whereon he said to me: “If Castor and Pollux Were in the company of yonder mirror,
That up and down conducteth with its light,

Thou wouldst behold the zodiac’s jagged wheel Revolving still more near unto the Bears, Unless it swerved aside from its old track.

How that may be wouldst thou have power to think, Collected in thyself, imagine Zion
Together with this mount on earth to stand,

So that they both one sole horizon have, And hemispheres diverse; whereby the road Which Phaeton, alas! knew not to drive,

Thou’lt see how of necessity must pass This on one side, when that upon the other, If thine intelligence right clearly heed.”

“Truly, my Master,” said I, “never yet Saw I so clearly as I now discern,
There where my wit appeared incompetent,

That the mid-circle of supernal motion, Which in some art is the Equator called, And aye remains between the Sun and Winter,

For reason which thou sayest, departeth hence Tow’rds the Septentrion, what time the Hebrews Beheld it tow’rds the region of the heat.

But, if it pleaseth thee, I fain would learn How far we have to go; for the hill rises Higher than eyes of mine have power to rise.”

And he to me: “This mount is such, that ever At the beginning down below ’tis tiresome, And aye the more one climbs, the less it hurts.

Therefore, when it shall seem so pleasant to thee, That going up shall be to thee as easy
As going down the current in a boat,

Then at this pathway’s ending thou wilt be; There to repose thy panting breath expect; No more I answer; and this I know for true.”

And as he finished uttering these words, A voice close by us sounded: “Peradventure Thou wilt have need of sitting down ere that.”

At sound thereof each one of us turned round, And saw upon the left hand a great rock, Which neither I nor he before had noticed.

Thither we drew; and there were persons there Who in the shadow stood behind the rock, As one through indolence is wont to stand.

And one of them, who seemed to me fatigued, Was sitting down, and both his knees embraced, Holding his face low down between them bowed.

“O my sweet Lord,” I said, “do turn thine eye On him who shows himself more negligent Then even Sloth herself his sister were.”

Then he turned round to us, and he gave heed, Just lifting up his eyes above his thigh, And said: “Now go thou up, for thou art valiant.”

Then knew I who he was; and the distress, That still a little did my breathing quicken, My going to him hindered not; and after

I came to him he hardly raised his head, Saying: “Hast thou seen clearly how the sun O’er thy left shoulder drives his chariot?”

His sluggish attitude and his curt words A little unto laughter moved my lips;
Then I began: “Belacqua, I grieve not

For thee henceforth; but tell me, wherefore seated In this place art thou? Waitest thou an escort? Or has thy usual habit seized upon thee?”

And he: “O brother, what’s the use of climbing? Since to my torment would not let me go The Angel of God, who sitteth at the gate.

First heaven must needs so long revolve me round Outside thereof, as in my life it did,
Since the good sighs I to the end postponed,

Unless, e’er that, some prayer may bring me aid Which rises from a heart that lives in grace; What profit others that in heaven are heard not?”

Meanwhile the Poet was before me mounting, And saying: “Come now; see the sun has touched Meridian, and from the shore the night

Covers already with her foot Morocco.”

Purgatorio: Canto V

I had already from those shades departed, And followed in the footsteps of my Guide, When from behind, pointing his finger at me,

One shouted: “See, it seems as if shone not The sunshine on the left of him below,
And like one living seems he to conduct him.”

Mine eyes I turned at utterance of these words, And saw them watching with astonishment But me, but me, and the light which was broken!

“Why doth thy mind so occupy itself,” The Master said, “that thou thy pace dost slacken? What matters it to thee what here is whispered?

Come after me, and let the people talk; Stand like a steadfast tower, that never wags Its top for all the blowing of the winds;

For evermore the man in whom is springing Thought upon thought, removes from him the mark, Because the force of one the other weakens.”

What could I say in answer but “I come”? I said it somewhat with that colour tinged Which makes a man of pardon sometimes worthy.

Meanwhile along the mountain-side across Came people in advance of us a little,
Singing the Miserere verse by verse.

When they became aware I gave no place For passage of the sunshine through my body, They changed their song into a long, hoarse “Oh!”

And two of them, in form of messengers, Ran forth to meet us, and demanded of us, “Of your condition make us cognisant.”

And said my Master: “Ye can go your way And carry back again to those who sent you, That this one’s body is of very flesh.

If they stood still because they saw his shadow, As I suppose, enough is answered them;
Him let them honour, it may profit them.”

Vapours enkindled saw I ne’er so swiftly At early nightfall cleave the air serene, Nor, at the set of sun, the clouds of August,

But upward they returned in briefer time, And, on arriving, with the others wheeled Tow’rds us, like troops that run without a rein.

“This folk that presses unto us is great, And cometh to implore thee,” said the Poet; “So still go onward, and in going listen.”

“O soul that goest to beatitude
With the same members wherewith thou wast born,” Shouting they came, “a little stay thy steps,

Look, if thou e’er hast any of us seen, So that o’er yonder thou bear news of him; Ah, why dost thou go on? Ah, why not stay?

Long since we all were slain by violence, And sinners even to the latest hour;
Then did a light from heaven admonish us,

So that, both penitent and pardoning, forth From life we issued reconciled to God,
Who with desire to see Him stirs our hearts.”

And I: “Although I gaze into your faces, No one I recognize; but if may please you Aught I have power to do, ye well-born spirits,

Speak ye, and I will do it, by that peace Which, following the feet of such a Guide, From world to world makes itself sought by me.”

And one began: “Each one has confidence In thy good offices without an oath,
Unless the I cannot cut off the I will;

Whence I, who speak alone before the others, Pray thee, if ever thou dost see the land That ‘twixt Romagna lies and that of Charles,

Thou be so courteous to me of thy prayers In Fano, that they pray for me devoutly, That I may purge away my grave offences.

From thence was I; but the deep wounds, through which Issued the blood wherein I had my seat, Were dealt me in bosom of the Antenori,

There where I thought to be the most secure; ‘Twas he of Este had it done, who held me In hatred far beyond what justice willed.

But if towards the Mira I had fled,
When I was overtaken at Oriaco,
I still should be o’er yonder where men breathe.

I ran to the lagoon, and reeds and mire Did so entangle me I fell, and saw there A lake made from my veins upon the ground.”

Then said another: “Ah, be that desire Fulfilled that draws thee to the lofty mountain, As thou with pious pity aidest mine.

I was of Montefeltro, and am Buonconte; Giovanna, nor none other cares for me;
Hence among these I go with downcast front.”

And I to him: “What violence or what chance Led thee astray so far from Campaldino, That never has thy sepulture been known?”

“Oh,” he replied, “at Casentino’s foot A river crosses named Archiano, born
Above the Hermitage in Apennine.

There where the name thereof becometh void Did I arrive, pierced through and through the throat, Fleeing on foot, and bloodying the plain;

There my sight lost I, and my utterance Ceased in the name of Mary, and thereat I fell, and tenantless my flesh remained.

Truth will I speak, repeat it to the living; God’s Angel took me up, and he of hell
Shouted: ‘O thou from heaven, why dost thou rob me?

Thou bearest away the eternal part of him, For one poor little tear, that takes him from me; But with the rest I’ll deal in other fashion!’

Well knowest thou how in the air is gathered That humid vapour which to water turns, Soon as it rises where the cold doth grasp it.

He joined that evil will, which aye seeks evil, To intellect, and moved the mist and wind By means of power, which his own nature gave;

Thereafter, when the day was spent, the valley From Pratomagno to the great yoke covered With fog, and made the heaven above intent,

So that the pregnant air to water changed; Down fell the rain, and to the gullies came Whate’er of it earth tolerated not;

And as it mingled with the mighty torrents, Towards the royal river with such speed It headlong rushed, that nothing held it back.

My frozen body near unto its outlet
The robust Archian found, and into Arno Thrust it, and loosened from my breast the cross

I made of me, when agony o’ercame me; It rolled me on the banks and on the bottom, Then with its booty covered and begirt me.”

“Ah, when thou hast returned unto the world, And rested thee from thy long journeying,” After the second followed the third spirit,

“Do thou remember me who am the Pia;
Siena made me, unmade me Maremma;
He knoweth it, who had encircled first,

Espousing me, my finger with his gem.”

Purgatorio: Canto VI

Whene’er is broken up the game of Zara, He who has lost remains behind despondent, The throws repeating, and in sadness learns;

The people with the other all depart; One goes in front, and one behind doth pluck him, And at his side one brings himself to mind;

He pauses not, and this and that one hears; They crowd no more to whom his hand he stretches, And from the throng he thus defends himself.

Even such was I in that dense multitude, Turning to them this way and that my face, And, promising, I freed myself therefrom.

There was the Aretine, who from the arms Untamed of Ghin di Tacco had his death, And he who fleeing from pursuit was drowned.

There was imploring with his hands outstretched Frederick Novello, and that one of Pisa Who made the good Marzucco seem so strong.

I saw Count Orso; and the soul divided By hatred and by envy from its body,
As it declared, and not for crime committed,

Pierre de la Brosse I say; and here provide While still on earth the Lady of Brabant, So that for this she be of no worse flock!

As soon as I was free from all those shades Who only prayed that some one else may pray, So as to hasten their becoming holy,

Began I: “It appears that thou deniest, O light of mine, expressly in some text, That orison can bend decree of Heaven;

And ne’ertheless these people pray for this. Might then their expectation bootless be? Or is to me thy saying not quite clear?”

And he to me: “My writing is explicit, And not fallacious is the hope of these, If with sane intellect ’tis well regarded;

For top of judgment doth not vail itself, Because the fire of love fulfils at once What he must satisfy who here installs him.

And there, where I affirmed that proposition, Defect was not amended by a prayer,
Because the prayer from God was separate.

Verily, in so deep a questioning
Do not decide, unless she tell it thee, Who light ‘twixt truth and intellect shall be.

I know not if thou understand; I speak Of Beatrice; her shalt thou see above,
Smiling and happy, on this mountain’s top.”

And I: “Good Leader, let us make more haste, For I no longer tire me as before;
And see, e’en now the hill a shadow casts.”

“We will go forward with this day” he answered, “As far as now is possible for us;
But otherwise the fact is than thou thinkest.

Ere thou art up there, thou shalt see return Him, who now hides himself behind the hill, So that thou dost not interrupt his rays.

But yonder there behold! a soul that stationed All, all alone is looking hitherward;
It will point out to us the quickest way.”

We came up unto it; O Lombard soul,
How lofty and disdainful thou didst bear thee, And grand and slow in moving of thine eyes!

Nothing whatever did it say to us,
But let us go our way, eying us only After the manner of a couchant lion;

Still near to it Virgilius drew, entreating That it would point us out the best ascent; And it replied not unto his demand,

But of our native land and of our life It questioned us; and the sweet Guide began: “Mantua,”–and the shade, all in itself recluse,

Rose tow’rds him from the place where first it was, Saying: “O Mantuan, I am Sordello
Of thine own land!” and one embraced the other.

Ah! servile Italy, grief’s hostelry!
A ship without a pilot in great tempest! No Lady thou of Provinces, but brothel!

That noble soul was so impatient, only At the sweet sound of his own native land, To make its citizen glad welcome there;

And now within thee are not without war Thy living ones, and one doth gnaw the other Of those whom one wall and one fosse shut in!

Search, wretched one, all round about the shores Thy seaboard, and then look within thy bosom, If any part of thee enjoyeth peace!

What boots it, that for thee Justinian The bridle mend, if empty be the saddle? Withouten this the shame would be the less.

Ah! people, thou that oughtest to be devout, And to let Caesar sit upon the saddle,
If well thou hearest what God teacheth thee,

Behold how fell this wild beast has become, Being no longer by the spur corrected,
Since thou hast laid thy hand upon the bridle.

O German Albert! who abandonest
Her that has grown recalcitrant and savage, And oughtest to bestride her saddle-bow,

May a just judgment from the stars down fall Upon thy blood, and be it new and open, That thy successor may have fear thereof;

Because thy father and thyself have suffered, By greed of those transalpine lands distrained, The garden of the empire to be waste.

Come and behold Montecchi and Cappelletti, Monaldi and Fillippeschi, careless man! Those sad already, and these doubt-depressed!

Come, cruel one! come and behold the oppression Of thy nobility, and cure their wounds, And thou shalt see how safe is Santafiore!

Come and behold thy Rome, that is lamenting, Widowed, alone, and day and night exclaims, “My Caesar, why hast thou forsaken me?”

Come and behold how loving are the people; And if for us no pity moveth thee,
Come and be made ashamed of thy renown!

And if it lawful be, O Jove Supreme!
Who upon earth for us wast crucified, Are thy just eyes averted otherwhere?

Or preparation is ‘t, that, in the abyss Of thine own counsel, for some good thou makest From our perception utterly cut off?

For all the towns of Italy are full
Of tyrants, and becometh a Marcellus Each peasant churl who plays the partisan!

My Florence! well mayst thou contented be With this digression, which concerns thee not, Thanks to thy people who such forethought take!

Many at heart have justice, but shoot slowly, That unadvised they come not to the bow, But on their very lips thy people have it!

Many refuse to bear the common burden; But thy solicitous people answereth
Without being asked, and crieth: “I submit.”

Now be thou joyful, for thou hast good reason; Thou affluent, thou in peace, thou full of wisdom! If I speak true, the event conceals it not.

Athens and Lacedaemon, they who made
The ancient laws, and were so civilized, Made towards living well a little sign

Compared with thee, who makest such fine-spun Provisions, that to middle of November
Reaches not what thou in October spinnest.

How oft, within the time of thy remembrance, Laws, money, offices, and usages
Hast thou remodelled, and renewed thy members?

And if thou mind thee well, and see the light, Thou shalt behold thyself like a sick woman, Who cannot find repose upon her down,

But by her tossing wardeth off her pain.

Purgatorio: Canto VII

After the gracious and glad salutations Had three and four times been reiterated, Sordello backward drew and said, “Who are you?”

“Or ever to this mountain were directed The souls deserving to ascend to God,
My bones were buried by Octavian.

I am Virgilius; and for no crime else Did I lose heaven, than for not having faith;” In this wise then my Leader made reply.

As one who suddenly before him sees
Something whereat he marvels, who believes And yet does not, saying, “It is! it is not!”

So he appeared; and then bowed down his brow, And with humility returned towards him, And, where inferiors embrace, embraced him.

“O glory of the Latians, thou,” he said, “Through whom our language showed what it could do O pride eternal of the place I came from,

What merit or what grace to me reveals thee? If I to hear thy words be worthy, tell me If thou dost come from Hell, and from what cloister.”

“Through all the circles of the doleful realm,” Responded he, “have I come hitherward;
Heaven’s power impelled me, and with that I come.

I by not doing, not by doing, lost
The sight of that high sun which thou desirest, And which too late by me was recognized.

A place there is below not sad with torments, But darkness only, where the lamentations Have not the sound of wailing, but are sighs.

There dwell I with the little innocents Snatched by the teeth of Death, or ever they Were from our human sinfulness exempt.

There dwell I among those who the three saintly Virtues did not put on, and without vice The others knew and followed all of them.

But if thou know and can, some indication Give us by which we may the sooner come Where Purgatory has its right beginning.”

He answered: “No fixed place has been assigned us; ‘Tis lawful for me to go up and round;
So far as I can go, as guide I join thee.

But see already how the day declines, And to go up by night we are not able;
Therefore ’tis well to think of some fair sojourn.

Souls are there on the right hand here withdrawn; If thou permit me I will lead thee to them, And thou shalt know them not without delight.”

“How is this?” was the answer; “should one wish To mount by night would he prevented be By others? or mayhap would not have power?”

And on the ground the good Sordello drew His finger, saying, “See, this line alone Thou couldst not pass after the sun is gone;

Not that aught else would hindrance give, however, To going up, save the nocturnal darkness; This with the want of power the will perplexes.

We might indeed therewith return below, And, wandering, walk the hill-side round about, While the horizon holds the day imprisoned.”

Thereon my Lord, as if in wonder, said: “Do thou conduct us thither, where thou sayest That we can take delight in tarrying.”

Little had we withdrawn us from that place, When I perceived the mount was hollowed out In fashion as the valleys here are hollowed.

“Thitherward,” said that shade, “will we repair, Where of itself the hill-side makes a lap, And there for the new day will we await.”

‘Twixt hill and plain there was a winding path Which led us to the margin of that dell, Where dies the border more than half away.

Gold and fine silver, and scarlet and pearl-white, The Indian wood resplendent and serene, Fresh emerald the moment it is broken,

By herbage and by flowers within that hollow Planted, each one in colour would be vanquished, As by its greater vanquished is the less.

Nor in that place had nature painted only, But of the sweetness of a thousand odours Made there a mingled fragrance and unknown.

“Salve Regina,” on the green and flowers There seated, singing, spirits I beheld, Which were not visible outside the valley.

“Before the scanty sun now seeks his nest,” Began the Mantuan who had led us thither, “Among them do not wish me to conduct you.

Better from off this ledge the acts and faces Of all of them will you discriminate,
Than in the plain below received among them.

He who sits highest, and the semblance bears Of having what he should have done neglected, And to the others’ song moves not his lips,

Rudolph the Emperor was, who had the power To heal the wounds that Italy have slain, So that through others slowly she revives.

The other, who in look doth comfort him, Governed the region where the water springs, The Moldau bears the Elbe, and Elbe the sea.

His name was Ottocar; and in swaddling-clothes Far better he than bearded Winceslaus
His son, who feeds in luxury and ease.

And the small-nosed, who close in council seems With him that has an aspect so benign,
Died fleeing and disflowering the lily;

Look there, how he is beating at his breast! Behold the other one, who for his cheek Sighing has made of his own palm a bed;

Father and father-in-law of France’s Pest Are they, and know his vicious life and lewd, And hence proceeds the grief that so doth pierce them.

He who appears so stalwart, and chimes in, Singing, with that one of the manly nose, The cord of every valour wore begirt;

And if as King had after him remained The stripling who in rear of him is sitting, Well had the valour passed from vase to vase,

Which cannot of the other heirs be said. Frederick and Jacomo possess the realms, But none the better heritage possesses.

Not oftentimes upriseth through the branches The probity of man; and this He wills
Who gives it, so that we may ask of Him.

Eke to the large-nosed reach my words, no less Than to the other, Pier, who with him sings; Whence Provence and Apulia grieve already

The plant is as inferior to its seed, As more than Beatrice and Margaret
Costanza boasteth of her husband still.

Behold the monarch of the simple life, Harry of England, sitting there alone;
He in his branches has a better issue.

He who the lowest on the ground among them Sits looking upward, is the Marquis William, For whose sake Alessandria and her war

Make Monferrat and Canavese weep.”

Purgatorio: Canto VIII

‘Twas now the hour that turneth back desire In those who sail the sea, and melts the heart, The day they’ve said to their sweet friends farewell,

And the new pilgrim penetrates with love, If he doth hear from far away a bell
That seemeth to deplore the dying day,

When I began to make of no avail
My hearing, and to watch one of the souls Uprisen, that begged attention with its hand.

It joined and lifted upward both its palms, Fixing its eyes upon the orient,
As if it said to God, “Naught else I care for.”

“Te lucis ante” so devoutly issued
Forth from its mouth, and with such dulcet notes, It made me issue forth from my own mind.

And then the others, sweetly and devoutly, Accompanied it through all the hymn entire, Having their eyes on the supernal wheels.

Here, Reader, fix thine eyes well on the truth, For now indeed so subtile is the veil,
Surely to penetrate within is easy.

I saw that army of the gentle-born
Thereafterward in silence upward gaze, As if in expectation, pale and humble;

And from on high come forth and down descend, I saw two Angels with two flaming swords, Truncated and deprived of their points.

Green as the little leaflets just now born Their garments were, which, by their verdant pinions Beaten and blown abroad, they trailed behind.

One just above us came to take his station, And one descended to the opposite bank, So that the people were contained between them.

Clearly in them discerned I the blond head; But in their faces was the eye bewildered, As faculty confounded by excess.

“From Mary’s bosom both of them have come,” Sordello said, “as guardians of the valley Against the serpent, that will come anon.”

Whereupon I, who knew not by what road, Turned round about, and closely drew myself, Utterly frozen, to the faithful shoulders.

And once again Sordello: “Now descend we ‘Mid the grand shades, and we will speak to them; Right pleasant will it be for them to see you.”

Only three steps I think that I descended, And was below, and saw one who was looking Only at me, as if he fain would know me.

Already now the air was growing dark, But not so that between his eyes and mine It did not show what it before locked up.

Tow’rds me he moved, and I tow’rds him did move; Noble Judge Nino! how it me delighted,
When I beheld thee not among the damned!

No greeting fair was left unsaid between us; Then asked he: “How long is it since thou camest O’er the far waters to the mountain’s foot?”

“Oh!” said I to him, “through the dismal places I came this morn; and am in the first life, Albeit the other, going thus, I gain.”

And on the instant my reply was heard, He and Sordello both shrank back from me, Like people who are suddenly bewildered.

One to Virgilius, and the other turned To one who sat there, crying, “Up, Currado! Come and behold what God in grace has willed!”

Then, turned to me: “By that especial grace Thou owest unto Him, who so conceals
His own first wherefore, that it has no ford,

When thou shalt be beyond the waters wide, Tell my Giovanna that she pray for me,
Where answer to the innocent is made.

I do not think her mother loves me more, Since she has laid aside her wimple white, Which she, unhappy, needs must wish again.

Through her full easily is comprehended How long in woman lasts the fire of love, If eye or touch do not relight it often.

So fair a hatchment will not make for her The Viper marshalling the Milanese
A-field, as would have made Gallura’s Cock.”

In this wise spake he, with the stamp impressed Upon his aspect of that righteous zeal
Which measurably burneth in the heart.

My greedy eyes still wandered up to heaven, Still to that point where slowest are the stars, Even as a wheel the nearest to its axle.

And my Conductor: “Son, what dost thou gaze at Up there?” And I to him: “At those three torches With which this hither pole is all on fire.”

And he to me: “The four resplendent stars Thou sawest this morning are down yonder low, And these have mounted up to where those were.”

As he was speaking, to himself Sordello Drew him, and said, “Lo there our Adversary!” And pointed with his finger to look thither.

Upon the side on which the little valley No barrier hath, a serpent was; perchance The same which gave to Eve the bitter food.

‘Twixt grass and flowers came on the evil streak, Turning at times its head about, and licking Its back like to a beast that smoothes itself.

I did not see, and therefore cannot say How the celestial falcons ‘gan to move, But well I saw that they were both in motion.

Hearing the air cleft by their verdant wings, The serpent fled, and round the Angels wheeled, Up to their stations flying back alike.

The shade that to the Judge had near approached When he had called, throughout that whole assault Had not a moment loosed its gaze on me.

“So may the light that leadeth thee on high Find in thine own free-will as much of wax As needful is up to the highest azure,”

Began it, “if some true intelligence
Of Valdimagra or its neighbourhood Thou knowest, tell it me, who once was great there.

Currado Malaspina was I called;
I’m not the elder, but from him descended; To mine I bore the love which here refineth.”

“O,” said I unto him, “through your domains I never passed, but where is there a dwelling Throughout all Europe, where they are not known?

That fame, which doeth honour to your house, Proclaims its Signors and proclaims its land, So that he knows of them who ne’er was there.

And, as I hope for heaven, I swear to you Your honoured family in naught abates
The glory of the purse and of the sword.

It is so privileged by use and nature, That though a guilty head misguide the world, Sole it goes right, and scorns the evil way.”

And he: “Now go; for the sun shall not lie Seven times upon the pillow which the Ram With all his four feet covers and bestrides,

Before that such a courteous opinion
Shall in the middle of thy head be nailed With greater nails than of another’s speech,

Unless the course of justice standeth still.”

Purgatorio: Canto IX

The concubine of old Tithonus now
Gleamed white upon the eastern balcony, Forth from the arms of her sweet paramour;

With gems her forehead all relucent was, Set in the shape of that cold animal
Which with its tail doth smite amain the nations,

And of the steps, with which she mounts, the Night Had taken two in that place where we were, And now the third was bending down its wings;

When I, who something had of Adam in me, Vanquished by sleep, upon the grass reclined, There were all five of us already sat.

Just at the hour when her sad lay begins The little swallow, near unto the morning, Perchance in memory of her former woes,

And when the mind of man, a wanderer
More from the flesh, and less by thought imprisoned, Almost prophetic in its visions is,

In dreams it seemed to me I saw suspended An eagle in the sky, with plumes of gold, With wings wide open, and intent to stoop,

And this, it seemed to me, was where had been By Ganymede his kith and kin abandoned, When to the high consistory he was rapt.

I thought within myself, perchance he strikes From habit only here, and from elsewhere Disdains to bear up any in his feet.

Then wheeling somewhat more, it seemed to me, Terrible as the lightning he descended, And snatched me upward even to the fire.

Therein it seemed that he and I were burning, And the imagined fire did scorch me so, That of necessity my sleep was broken.

Not otherwise Achilles started up,
Around him turning his awakened eyes, And knowing not the place in which he was,

What time from Chiron stealthily his mother Carried him sleeping in her arms to Scyros, Wherefrom the Greeks withdrew him afterwards,

Than I upstarted, when from off my face Sleep fled away; and pallid I became,
As doth the man who freezes with affright.

Only my Comforter was at my side,
And now the sun was more than two hours high, And turned towards the sea-shore was my face.

“Be not intimidated,” said my Lord,
“Be reassured, for all is well with us; Do not restrain, but put forth all thy strength.

Thou hast at length arrived at Purgatory; See there the cliff that closes it around; See there the entrance, where it seems disjoined.

Whilom at dawn, which doth precede the day, When inwardly thy spirit was asleep
Upon the flowers that deck the land below,

There came a Lady and said: ‘I am Lucia; Let me take this one up, who is asleep; So will I make his journey easier for him.’

Sordello and the other noble shapes
Remained; she took thee, and, as day grew bright, Upward she came, and I upon her footsteps.

She laid thee here; and first her beauteous eyes That open entrance pointed out to me;
Then she and sleep together went away.”

In guise of one whose doubts are reassured, And who to confidence his fear doth change, After the truth has been discovered to him,

So did I change; and when without disquiet My Leader saw me, up along the cliff
He moved, and I behind him, tow’rd the height.

Reader, thou seest well how I exalt
My theme, and therefore if with greater art I fortify it, marvel not thereat.

Nearer approached we, and were in such place, That there, where first appeared to me a rift Like to a crevice that disparts a wall,

I saw a portal, and three stairs beneath, Diverse in colour, to go up to it,
And a gate-keeper, who yet spake no word.

And as I opened more and more mine eyes, I saw him seated on the highest stair,
Such in the face that I endured it not.

And in his hand he had a naked sword, Which so reflected back the sunbeams tow’rds us, That oft in vain I lifted up mine eyes.

“Tell it from where you are, what is’t you wish?” Began he to exclaim; “where is the escort? Take heed your coming hither harm you not!”

“A Lady of Heaven, with these things conversant,” My Master answered him, “but even now
Said to us, ‘Thither go; there is the portal.'”

“And may she speed your footsteps in all good,” Again began the courteous janitor;
“Come forward then unto these stairs of ours.”

Thither did we approach; and the first stair Was marble white, so polished and so smooth, I mirrored myself therein as I appear.

The second, tinct of deeper hue than perse, Was of a calcined and uneven stone,
Cracked all asunder lengthwise and across.

The third, that uppermost rests massively, Porphyry seemed to me, as flaming red
As blood that from a vein is spirting forth.

Both of his feet was holding upon this The Angel of God, upon the threshold seated, Which seemed to me a stone of diamond.

Along the three stairs upward with good will Did my Conductor draw me, saying: “Ask
Humbly that he the fastening may undo.”

Devoutly at the holy feet I cast me,
For mercy’s sake besought that he would open, But first upon my breast three times I smote.

Seven P’s upon my forehead he described With the sword’s point, and, “Take heed that thou wash These wounds, when thou shalt be within,” he said.

Ashes, or earth that dry is excavated, Of the same colour were with his attire, And from beneath it he drew forth two keys.

One was of gold, and the other was of silver; First with the white, and after with the yellow, Plied he the door, so that I was content.

“Whenever faileth either of these keys So that it turn not rightly in the lock,” He said to us, “this entrance doth not open.

More precious one is, but the other needs More art and intellect ere it unlock,
For it is that which doth the knot unloose.

From Peter I have them; and he bade me err Rather in opening than in keeping shut, If people but fall down before my feet.”

Then pushed the portals of the sacred door, Exclaiming: “Enter; but I give you warning That forth returns whoever looks behind.”

And when upon their hinges were turned round The swivels of that consecrated gate,
Which are of metal, massive and sonorous,

Roared not so loud, nor so discordant seemed Tarpeia, when was ta’en from it the good Metellus, wherefore meagre it remained.

At the first thunder-peal I turned attentive, And “Te Deum laudamus” seemed to hear
In voices mingled with sweet melody.

Exactly such an image rendered me
That which I heard, as we are wont to catch, When people singing with the organ stand;

For now we hear, and now hear not, the words.

Purgatorio: Canto X

When we had crossed the threshold of the door Which the perverted love of souls disuses, Because it makes the crooked way seem straight,

Re-echoing I heard it closed again;
And if I had turned back mine eyes upon it, What for my failing had been fit excuse?

We mounted upward through a rifted rock, Which undulated to this side and that,
Even as a wave receding and advancing.

“Here it behoves us use a little art,” Began my Leader, “to adapt ourselves
Now here, now there, to the receding side.”

And this our footsteps so infrequent made, That sooner had the moon’s decreasing disk Regained its bed to sink again to rest,

Than we were forth from out that needle’s eye; But when we free and in the open were,
There where the mountain backward piles itself,

I wearied out, and both of us uncertain About our way, we stopped upon a plain
More desolate than roads across the deserts.

From where its margin borders on the void, To foot of the high bank that ever rises, A human body three times told would measure;

And far as eye of mine could wing its flight, Now on the left, and on the right flank now, The same this cornice did appear to me.

Thereon our feet had not been moved as yet, When I perceived the embankment round about, Which all right of ascent had interdicted,

To be of marble white, and so adorned With sculptures, that not only Polycletus, But Nature’s self, had there been put to shame.

The Angel, who came down to earth with tidings Of peace, that had been wept for many a year, And opened Heaven from its long interdict,

In front of us appeared so truthfully There sculptured in a gracious attitude, He did not seem an image that is silent.

One would have sworn that he was saying, “Ave;” For she was there in effigy portrayed
Who turned the key to ope the exalted love,

And in her mien this language had impressed, “Ecce ancilla Dei,” as distinctly
As any figure stamps itself in wax.

“Keep not thy mind upon one place alone,” The gentle Master said, who had me standing Upon that side where people have their hearts;

Whereat I moved mine eyes, and I beheld In rear of Mary, and upon that side
Where he was standing who conducted me,

Another story on the rock imposed;
Wherefore I passed Virgilius and drew near, So that before mine eyes it might be set.

There sculptured in the self-same marble were The cart and oxen, drawing the holy ark, Wherefore one dreads an office not appointed.

People appeared in front, and all of them In seven choirs divided, of two senses
Made one say “No,” the other, “Yes, they sing.”

Likewise unto the smoke of the frankincense, Which there was imaged forth, the eyes and nose Were in the yes and no discordant made.

Preceded there the vessel benedight,
Dancing with girded loins, the humble Psalmist, And more and less than King was he in this.

Opposite, represented at the window
Of a great palace, Michal looked upon him, Even as a woman scornful and afflicted.

I moved my feet from where I had been standing, To examine near at hand another story,
Which after Michal glimmered white upon me.

There the high glory of the Roman Prince Was chronicled, whose great beneficence Moved Gregory to his great victory;

‘Tis of the Emperor Trajan I am speaking; And a poor widow at his bridle stood,
In attitude of weeping and of grief.

Around about him seemed it thronged and full Of cavaliers, and the eagles in the gold Above them visibly in the wind were moving.

The wretched woman in the midst of these Seemed to be saying: “Give me vengeance, Lord, For my dead son, for whom my heart is breaking.”

And he to answer her: “Now wait until I shall return.” And she: “My Lord,” like one In whom grief is impatient, “shouldst thou not

Return?” And he: “Who shall be where I am Will give it thee.” And she: “Good deed of others What boots it thee, if thou neglect thine own?”

Whence he: “Now comfort thee, for it behoves me That I discharge my duty ere I move;
Justice so wills, and pity doth retain me.”

He who on no new thing has ever looked Was the creator of this visible language, Novel to us, for here it is not found.

While I delighted me in contemplating The images of such humility,
And dear to look on for their Maker’s sake,

“Behold, upon this side, but rare they make Their steps,” the Poet murmured, “many people; These will direct us to the lofty stairs.”

Mine eyes, that in beholding were intent To see new things, of which they curious are, In turning round towards him were not slow.

But still I wish not, Reader, thou shouldst swerve From thy good purposes, because thou hearest How God ordaineth that the debt be paid;

Attend not to the fashion of the torment, Think of what follows; think that at the worst It cannot reach beyond the mighty sentence.

“Master,” began I, “that which I behold Moving towards us seems to me not persons, And what I know not, so in sight I waver.”

And he to me: “The grievous quality
Of this their torment bows them so to earth, That my own eyes at first contended with it;

But look there fixedly, and disentangle By sight what cometh underneath those stones; Already canst thou see how each is stricken.”

O ye proud Christians! wretched, weary ones! Who, in the vision of the mind infirm
Confidence have in your backsliding steps,

Do ye not comprehend that we are worms, Born to bring forth the angelic butterfly That flieth unto judgment without screen?

Why floats aloft your spirit high in air? Like are ye unto insects undeveloped,
Even as the worm in whom formation fails!

As to sustain a ceiling or a roof,
In place of corbel, oftentimes a figure Is seen to join its knees unto its breast,

Which makes of the unreal real anguish Arise in him who sees it, fashioned thus Beheld I those, when I had ta’en good heed.

True is it, they were more or less bent down, According as they more or less were laden; And he who had most patience in his looks