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  • 1308-1320
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Purgatorio: Canto XXXI

“O thou who art beyond the sacred river,” Turning to me the point of her discourse, That edgewise even had seemed to me so keen,

She recommenced, continuing without pause, “Say, say if this be true; to such a charge, Thy own confession needs must be conjoined.”

My faculties were in so great confusion, That the voice moved, but sooner was extinct Than by its organs it was set at large.

Awhile she waited; then she said: “What thinkest? Answer me; for the mournful memories
In thee not yet are by the waters injured.”

Confusion and dismay together mingled Forced such a Yes! from out my mouth, that sight Was needful to the understanding of it.

Even as a cross-bow breaks, when ’tis discharged Too tensely drawn the bowstring and the bow, And with less force the arrow hits the mark,

So I gave way beneath that heavy burden, Outpouring in a torrent tears and sighs, And the voice flagged upon its passage forth.

Whence she to me: “In those desires of mine Which led thee to the loving of that good, Beyond which there is nothing to aspire to,

What trenches lying traverse or what chains Didst thou discover, that of passing onward Thou shouldst have thus despoiled thee of the hope?

And what allurements or what vantages Upon the forehead of the others showed, That thou shouldst turn thy footsteps unto them?”

After the heaving of a bitter sigh,
Hardly had I the voice to make response, And with fatigue my lips did fashion it.

Weeping I said: “The things that present were With their false pleasure turned aside my steps, Soon as your countenance concealed itself.”

And she: “Shouldst thou be silent, or deny What thou confessest, not less manifest Would be thy fault, by such a Judge ’tis known.

But when from one’s own cheeks comes bursting forth The accusal of the sin, in our tribunal Against the edge the wheel doth turn itself.

But still, that thou mayst feel a greater shame For thy transgression, and another time Hearing the Sirens thou mayst be more strong,

Cast down the seed of weeping and attend; So shalt thou hear, how in an opposite way My buried flesh should have directed thee.

Never to thee presented art or nature Pleasure so great as the fair limbs wherein I was enclosed, which scattered are in earth.

And if the highest pleasure thus did fail thee By reason of my death, what mortal thing Should then have drawn thee into its desire?

Thou oughtest verily at the first shaft Of things fallacious to have risen up
To follow me, who was no longer such.

Thou oughtest not to have stooped thy pinions downward To wait for further blows, or little girl, Or other vanity of such brief use.

The callow birdlet waits for two or three, But to the eyes of those already fledged, In vain the net is spread or shaft is shot.”

Even as children silent in their shame Stand listening with their eyes upon the ground, And conscious of their fault, and penitent;

So was I standing; and she said: “If thou In hearing sufferest pain, lift up thy beard And thou shalt feel a greater pain in seeing.”

With less resistance is a robust holm Uprooted, either by a native wind
Or else by that from regions of Iarbas,

Than I upraised at her command my chin; And when she by the beard the face demanded, Well I perceived the venom of her meaning.

And as my countenance was lifted up,
Mine eye perceived those creatures beautiful Had rested from the strewing of the flowers;

And, still but little reassured, mine eyes Saw Beatrice turned round towards the monster, That is one person only in two natures.

Beneath her veil, beyond the margent green, She seemed to me far more her ancient self To excel, than others here, when she was here.

So pricked me then the thorn of penitence, That of all other things the one which turned me Most to its love became the most my foe.

Such self-conviction stung me at the heart O’erpowered I fell, and what I then became She knoweth who had furnished me the cause.

Then, when the heart restored my outward sense, The lady I had found alone, above me
I saw, and she was saying, “Hold me, hold me.”

Up to my throat she in the stream had drawn me, And, dragging me behind her, she was moving Upon the water lightly as a shuttle.

When I was near unto the blessed shore, “Asperges me,” I heard so sweetly sung, Remember it I cannot, much less write it.

The beautiful lady opened wide her arms, Embraced my head, and plunged me underneath, Where I was forced to swallow of the water.

Then forth she drew me, and all dripping brought Into the dance of the four beautiful,
And each one with her arm did cover me.

‘We here are Nymphs, and in the Heaven are stars; Ere Beatrice descended to the world,
We as her handmaids were appointed her.

We’ll lead thee to her eyes; but for the pleasant Light that within them is, shall sharpen thine The three beyond, who more profoundly look.’

Thus singing they began; and afterwards Unto the Griffin’s breast they led me with them, Where Beatrice was standing, turned towards us.

“See that thou dost not spare thine eyes,” they said; “Before the emeralds have we stationed thee, Whence Love aforetime drew for thee his weapons.”

A thousand longings, hotter than the flame, Fastened mine eyes upon those eyes relucent, That still upon the Griffin steadfast stayed.

As in a glass the sun, not otherwise
Within them was the twofold monster shining, Now with the one, now with the other nature.

Think, Reader, if within myself I marvelled, When I beheld the thing itself stand still, And in its image it transformed itself.

While with amazement filled and jubilant, My soul was tasting of the food, that while It satisfies us makes us hunger for it,

Themselves revealing of the highest rank In bearing, did the other three advance, Singing to their angelic saraband.

“Turn, Beatrice, O turn thy holy eyes,” Such was their song, “unto thy faithful one, Who has to see thee ta’en so many steps.

In grace do us the grace that thou unveil Thy face to him, so that he may discern The second beauty which thou dost conceal.”

O splendour of the living light eternal! Who underneath the shadow of Parnassus
Has grown so pale, or drunk so at its cistern,

He would not seem to have his mind encumbered Striving to paint thee as thou didst appear, Where the harmonious heaven o’ershadowed thee,

When in the open air thou didst unveil?

Purgatorio: Canto XXXII

So steadfast and attentive were mine eyes In satisfying their decennial thirst,
That all my other senses were extinct,

And upon this side and on that they had Walls of indifference, so the holy smile Drew them unto itself with the old net

When forcibly my sight was turned away Towards my left hand by those goddesses, Because I heard from them a “Too intently!”

And that condition of the sight which is In eyes but lately smitten by the sun
Bereft me of my vision some short while;

But to the less when sight re-shaped itself, I say the less in reference to the greater Splendour from which perforce I had withdrawn,

I saw upon its right wing wheeled about The glorious host returning with the sun And with the sevenfold flames upon their faces.

As underneath its shields, to save itself, A squadron turns, and with its banner wheels, Before the whole thereof can change its front,

That soldiery of the celestial kingdom Which marched in the advance had wholly passed us Before the chariot had turned its pole.

Then to the wheels the maidens turned themselves, And the Griffin moved his burden benedight, But so that not a feather of him fluttered.

The lady fair who drew me through the ford Followed with Statius and myself the wheel Which made its orbit with the lesser arc.

So passing through the lofty forest, vacant By fault of her who in the serpent trusted, Angelic music made our steps keep time.

Perchance as great a space had in three flights An arrow loosened from the string o’erpassed, As we had moved when Beatrice descended.

I heard them murmur altogether, “Adam!” Then circled they about a tree despoiled Of blooms and other leafage on each bough.

Its tresses, which so much the more dilate As higher they ascend, had been by Indians Among their forests marvelled at for height.

“Blessed art thou, O Griffin, who dost not Pluck with thy beak these branches sweet to taste, Since appetite by this was turned to evil.”

After this fashion round the tree robust The others shouted; and the twofold creature: “Thus is preserved the seed of all the just.”

And turning to the pole which he had dragged, He drew it close beneath the widowed bough, And what was of it unto it left bound.

In the same manner as our trees (when downward Falls the great light, with that together mingled Which after the celestial Lasca shines)

Begin to swell, and then renew themselves, Each one with its own colour, ere the Sun Harness his steeds beneath another star:

Less than of rose and more than violet A hue disclosing, was renewed the tree
That had erewhile its boughs so desolate.

I never heard, nor here below is sung, The hymn which afterward that people sang, Nor did I bear the melody throughout.

Had I the power to paint how fell asleep Those eyes compassionless, of Syrinx hearing, Those eyes to which more watching cost so dear,

Even as a painter who from model paints I would portray how I was lulled asleep; He may, who well can picture drowsihood.

Therefore I pass to what time I awoke, And say a splendour rent from me the veil Of slumber, and a calling: “Rise, what dost thou?”

As to behold the apple-tree in blossom Which makes the Angels greedy for its fruit, And keeps perpetual bridals in the Heaven,

Peter and John and James conducted were, And, overcome, recovered at the word
By which still greater slumbers have been broken,

And saw their school diminished by the loss Not only of Elias, but of Moses,
And the apparel of their Master changed;

So I revived, and saw that piteous one Above me standing, who had been conductress Aforetime of my steps beside the river,

And all in doubt I said, “Where’s Beatrice?” And she: “Behold her seated underneath
The leafage new, upon the root of it.

Behold the company that circles her;
The rest behind the Griffin are ascending With more melodious song, and more profound.”

And if her speech were more diffuse I know not, Because already in my sight was she
Who from the hearing of aught else had shut me.

Alone she sat upon the very earth,
Left there as guardian of the chariot Which I had seen the biform monster fasten.

Encircling her, a cloister made themselves The seven Nymphs, with those lights in their hands Which are secure from Aquilon and Auster.

“Short while shalt thou be here a forester, And thou shalt be with me for evermore
A citizen of that Rome where Christ is Roman.

Therefore, for that world’s good which liveth ill, Fix on the car thine eyes, and what thou seest, Having returned to earth, take heed thou write.”

Thus Beatrice; and I, who at the feet Of her commandments all devoted was,
My mind and eyes directed where she willed.

Never descended with so swift a motion Fire from a heavy cloud, when it is raining From out the region which is most remote,

As I beheld the bird of Jove descend
Down through the tree, rending away the bark, As well as blossoms and the foliage new,

And he with all his might the chariot smote, Whereat it reeled, like vessel in a tempest Tossed by the waves, now starboard and now larboard.

Thereafter saw I leap into the body
Of the triumphal vehicle a Fox,
That seemed unfed with any wholesome food.

But for his hideous sins upbraiding him, My Lady put him to as swift a flight
As such a fleshless skeleton could bear.

Then by the way that it before had come, Into the chariot’s chest I saw the Eagle Descend, and leave it feathered with his plumes.

And such as issues from a heart that mourns, A voice from Heaven there issued, and it said: “My little bark, how badly art thou freighted!”

Methought, then, that the earth did yawn between Both wheels, and I saw rise from it a Dragon, Who through the chariot upward fixed his tail,

And as a wasp that draweth back its sting, Drawing unto himself his tail malign,
Drew out the floor, and went his way rejoicing.

That which remained behind, even as with grass A fertile region, with the feathers, offered Perhaps with pure intention and benign,

Reclothed itself, and with them were reclothed The pole and both the wheels so speedily, A sigh doth longer keep the lips apart.

Transfigured thus the holy edifice
Thrust forward heads upon the parts of it, Three on the pole and one at either corner.

The first were horned like oxen; but the four Had but a single horn upon the forehead; A monster such had never yet been seen!

Firm as a rock upon a mountain high,
Seated upon it, there appeared to me A shameless whore, with eyes swift glancing round,

And, as if not to have her taken from him, Upright beside her I beheld a giant;
And ever and anon they kissed each other.

But because she her wanton, roving eye Turned upon me, her angry paramour
Did scourge her from her head unto her feet.

Then full of jealousy, and fierce with wrath, He loosed the monster, and across the forest Dragged it so far, he made of that alone

A shield unto the whore and the strange beast.

Purgatorio: Canto XXXIII

“Deus venerunt gentes,” alternating
Now three, now four, melodious psalmody The maidens in the midst of tears began;

And Beatrice, compassionate and sighing, Listened to them with such a countenance, That scarce more changed was Mary at the cross.

But when the other virgins place had given For her to speak, uprisen to her feet
With colour as of fire, she made response:

“‘Modicum, et non videbitis me;
Et iterum,’ my sisters predilect,
‘Modicum, et vos videbitis me.'”

Then all the seven in front of her she placed; And after her, by beckoning only, moved Me and the lady and the sage who stayed.

So she moved onward; and I do not think That her tenth step was placed upon the ground, When with her eyes upon mine eyes she smote,

And with a tranquil aspect, “Come more quickly,” To me she said, “that, if I speak with thee, To listen to me thou mayst be well placed.”

As soon as I was with her as I should be, She said to me: “Why, brother, dost thou not Venture to question now, in coming with me?”

As unto those who are too reverential, Speaking in presence of superiors,
Who drag no living utterance to their teeth,

It me befell, that without perfect sound Began I: “My necessity, Madonna,
You know, and that which thereunto is good.”

And she to me: “Of fear and bashfulness Henceforward I will have thee strip thyself, So that thou speak no more as one who dreams.

Know that the vessel which the serpent broke Was, and is not; but let him who is guilty Think that God’s vengeance does not fear a sop.

Without an heir shall not for ever be The Eagle that left his plumes upon the car, Whence it became a monster, then a prey;

For verily I see, and hence narrate it, The stars already near to bring the time, From every hindrance safe, and every bar,

Within which a Five-hundred, Ten, and Five, One sent from God, shall slay the thievish woman And that same giant who is sinning with her.

And peradventure my dark utterance,
Like Themis and the Sphinx, may less persuade thee, Since, in their mode, it clouds the intellect;

But soon the facts shall be the Naiades Who shall this difficult enigma solve,
Without destruction of the flocks and harvests.

Note thou; and even as by me are uttered These words, so teach them unto those who live That life which is a running unto death;

And bear in mind, whene’er thou writest them, Not to conceal what thou hast seen the plant, That twice already has been pillaged here.

Whoever pillages or shatters it,
With blasphemy of deed offendeth God, Who made it holy for his use alone.

For biting that, in pain and in desire Five thousand years and more the first-born soul Craved Him, who punished in himself the bite.

Thy genius slumbers, if it deem it not For special reason so pre-eminent
In height, and so inverted in its summit.

And if thy vain imaginings had not been Water of Elsa round about thy mind,
And Pyramus to the mulberry, their pleasure,

Thou by so many circumstances only
The justice of the interdict of God Morally in the tree wouldst recognize.

But since I see thee in thine intellect Converted into stone and stained with sin, So that the light of my discourse doth daze thee,

I will too, if not written, at least painted, Thou bear it back within thee, for the reason That cinct with palm the pilgrim’s staff is borne.”

And I: “As by a signet is the wax
Which does not change the figure stamped upon it, My brain is now imprinted by yourself.

But wherefore so beyond my power of sight Soars your desirable discourse, that aye The more I strive, so much the more I lose it?”

“That thou mayst recognize,” she said, “the school Which thou hast followed, and mayst see how far Its doctrine follows after my discourse,

And mayst behold your path from the divine Distant as far as separated is
From earth the heaven that highest hastens on.”

Whence her I answered: “I do not remember That ever I estranged myself from you,
Nor have I conscience of it that reproves me.”

“And if thou art not able to remember,” Smiling she answered, “recollect thee now That thou this very day hast drunk of Lethe;

And if from smoke a fire may be inferred, Such an oblivion clearly demonstrates
Some error in thy will elsewhere intent.

Truly from this time forward shall my words Be naked, so far as it is befitting
To lay them open unto thy rude gaze.”

And more coruscant and with slower steps The sun was holding the meridian circle, Which, with the point of view, shifts here and there

When halted (as he cometh to a halt,
Who goes before a squadron as its escort, If something new he find upon his way)

The ladies seven at a dark shadow’s edge, Such as, beneath green leaves and branches black, The Alp upon its frigid border wears.

In front of them the Tigris and Euphrates Methought I saw forth issue from one fountain, And slowly part, like friends, from one another.

“O light, O glory of the human race!
What stream is this which here unfolds itself From out one source, and from itself withdraws?”

For such a prayer, ’twas said unto me, “Pray Matilda that she tell thee;” and here answered, As one does who doth free himself from blame,

The beautiful lady: “This and other things Were told to him by me; and sure I am
The water of Lethe has not hid them from him.”

And Beatrice: “Perhaps a greater care, Which oftentimes our memory takes away, Has made the vision of his mind obscure.

But Eunoe behold, that yonder rises;
Lead him to it, and, as thou art accustomed, Revive again the half-dead virtue in him.”

Like gentle soul, that maketh no excuse, But makes its own will of another’s will As soon as by a sign it is disclosed,

Even so, when she had taken hold of me, The beautiful lady moved, and unto Statius Said, in her womanly manner, “Come with him.”

If, Reader, I possessed a longer space For writing it, I yet would sing in part Of the sweet draught that ne’er would satiate me;

But inasmuch as full are all the leaves Made ready for this second canticle,
The curb of art no farther lets me go.

From the most holy water I returned
Regenerate, in the manner of new trees That are renewed with a new foliage,

Pure and disposed to mount unto the stars.