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  • 1308-1321
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“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

Weeping did seem to say, “I can no more!”

Purgatorio: Canto XI

“Our Father, thou who dwellest in the heavens, Not circumscribed, but from the greater love Thou bearest to the first effects on high,

Praised be thy name and thine omnipotence By every creature, as befitting is
To render thanks to thy sweet effluence.

Come unto us the peace of thy dominion, For unto it we cannot of ourselves,
If it come not, with all our intellect.

Even as thine own Angels of their will Make sacrifice to thee, Hosanna singing, So may all men make sacrifice of theirs.

Give unto us this day our daily manna, Withouten which in this rough wilderness Backward goes he who toils most to advance.

And even as we the trespass we have suffered Pardon in one another, pardon thou
Benignly, and regard not our desert.

Our virtue, which is easily o’ercome, Put not to proof with the old Adversary, But thou from him who spurs it so, deliver.

This last petition verily, dear Lord, Not for ourselves is made, who need it not, But for their sake who have remained behind us.”

Thus for themselves and us good furtherance Those shades imploring, went beneath a weight Like unto that of which we sometimes dream,

Unequally in anguish round and round
And weary all, upon that foremost cornice, Purging away the smoke-stains of the world.

If there good words are always said for us, What may not here be said and done for them, By those who have a good root to their will?

Well may we help them wash away the marks That hence they carried, so that clean and light They may ascend unto the starry wheels!

“Ah! so may pity and justice you disburden Soon, that ye may have power to move the wing, That shall uplift you after your desire,

Show us on which hand tow’rd the stairs the way Is shortest, and if more than one the passes, Point us out that which least abruptly falls;

For he who cometh with me, through the burden Of Adam’s flesh wherewith he is invested, Against his will is chary of his climbing.”

The words of theirs which they returned to those That he whom I was following had spoken, It was not manifest from whom they came,

But it was said: “To the right hand come with us Along the bank, and ye shall find a pass Possible for living person to ascend.

And were I not impeded by the stone,
Which this proud neck of mine doth subjugate, Whence I am forced to hold my visage down,

Him, who still lives and does not name himself, Would I regard, to see if I may know him And make him piteous unto this burden.

A Latian was I, and born of a great Tuscan; Guglielmo Aldobrandeschi was my father; I know not if his name were ever with you.

The ancient blood and deeds of gallantry Of my progenitors so arrogant made me
That, thinking not upon the common mother,

All men I held in scorn to such extent I died therefor, as know the Sienese,
And every child in Campagnatico.

I am Omberto; and not to me alone
Has pride done harm, but all my kith and kin Has with it dragged into adversity.

And here must I this burden bear for it Till God be satisfied, since I did not
Among the living, here among the dead.”

Listening I downward bent my countenance; And one of them, not this one who was speaking, Twisted himself beneath the weight that cramps him,

And looked at me, and knew me, and called out, Keeping his eyes laboriously fixed
On me, who all bowed down was going with them.

“O,” asked I him, “art thou not Oderisi, Agobbio’s honour, and honour of that art Which is in Paris called illuminating?”

“Brother,” said he, “more laughing are the leaves Touched by the brush of Franco Bolognese; All his the honour now, and mine in part.

In sooth I had not been so courteous
While I was living, for the great desire Of excellence, on which my heart was bent.

Here of such pride is paid the forfeiture; And yet I should not be here, were it not That, having power to sin, I turned to God.

O thou vain glory of the human powers, How little green upon thy summit lingers, If’t be not followed by an age of grossness!

In painting Cimabue thought that he
Should hold the field, now Giotto has the cry, So that the other’s fame is growing dim.

So has one Guido from the other taken The glory of our tongue, and he perchance Is born, who from the nest shall chase them both.

Naught is this mundane rumour but a breath Of wind, that comes now this way and now that, And changes name, because it changes side.

What fame shalt thou have more, if old peel off From thee thy flesh, than if thou hadst been dead Before thou left the ‘pappo’ and the ‘dindi,’

Ere pass a thousand years? which is a shorter Space to the eterne, than twinkling of an eye Unto the circle that in heaven wheels slowest.

With him, who takes so little of the road In front of me, all Tuscany resounded;
And now he scarce is lisped of in Siena,

Where he was lord, what time was overthrown The Florentine delirium, that superb
Was at that day as now ’tis prostitute.

Your reputation is the colour of grass Which comes and goes, and that discolours it By which it issues green from out the earth.”

And I: “Thy true speech fills my heart with good Humility, and great tumour thou assuagest; But who is he, of whom just now thou spakest?”

“That,” he replied, “is Provenzan Salvani, And he is here because he had presumed
To bring Siena all into his hands.

He has gone thus, and goeth without rest E’er since he died; such money renders back In payment he who is on earth too daring.”

And I: “If every spirit who awaits
The verge of life before that he repent, Remains below there and ascends not hither,

(Unless good orison shall him bestead,) Until as much time as he lived be passed, How was the coming granted him in largess?”

“When he in greatest splendour lived,” said he, “Freely upon the Campo of Siena,
All shame being laid aside, he placed himself;

And there to draw his friend from the duress Which in the prison-house of Charles he suffered, He brought himself to tremble in each vein.

I say no more, and know that I speak darkly; Yet little time shall pass before thy neighbours Will so demean themselves that thou canst gloss it.

This action has released him from those confines.”

Purgatorio: Canto XII

Abreast, like oxen going in a yoke,
I with that heavy-laden soul went on, As long as the sweet pedagogue permitted;

But when he said, “Leave him, and onward pass, For here ’tis good that with the sail and oars, As much as may be, each push on his barque;”

Upright, as walking wills it, I redressed My person, notwithstanding that my thoughts Remained within me downcast and abashed.

I had moved on, and followed willingly The footsteps of my Master, and we both Already showed how light of foot we were,

When unto me he said: “Cast down thine eyes; ‘Twere well for thee, to alleviate the way, To look upon the bed beneath thy feet.”

As, that some memory may exist of them, Above the buried dead their tombs in earth Bear sculptured on them what they were before;

Whence often there we weep for them afresh, From pricking of remembrance, which alone To the compassionate doth set its spur;

So saw I there, but of a better semblance In point of artifice, with figures covered Whate’er as pathway from the mount projects.

I saw that one who was created noble
More than all other creatures, down from heaven Flaming with lightnings fall upon one side.

I saw Briareus smitten by the dart
Celestial, lying on the other side, Heavy upon the earth by mortal frost.

I saw Thymbraeus, Pallas saw, and Mars, Still clad in armour round about their father, Gaze at the scattered members of the giants.

I saw, at foot of his great labour, Nimrod, As if bewildered, looking at the people Who had been proud with him in Sennaar.

O Niobe! with what afflicted eyes
Thee I beheld upon the pathway traced, Between thy seven and seven children slain!

O Saul! how fallen upon thy proper sword Didst thou appear there lifeless in Gilboa, That felt thereafter neither rain nor dew!

O mad Arachne! so I thee beheld
E’en then half spider, sad upon the shreds Of fabric wrought in evil hour for thee!

O Rehoboam! no more seems to threaten Thine image there; but full of consternation A chariot bears it off, when none pursues!

Displayed moreo’er the adamantine pavement How unto his own mother made Alcmaeon
Costly appear the luckless ornament;

Displayed how his own sons did throw themselves Upon Sennacherib within the temple,
And how, he being dead, they left him there;

Displayed the ruin and the cruel carnage That Tomyris wrought, when she to Cyrus said, “Blood didst thou thirst for, and with blood I glut thee!”

Displayed how routed fled the Assyrians After that Holofernes had been slain,
And likewise the remainder of that slaughter.

I saw there Troy in ashes and in caverns; O Ilion! thee, how abject and debased,
Displayed the image that is there discerned!

Whoe’er of pencil master was or stile, That could portray the shades and traits which there Would cause each subtile genius to admire?

Dead seemed the dead, the living seemed alive; Better than I saw not who saw the truth, All that I trod upon while bowed I went.

Now wax ye proud, and on with looks uplifted, Ye sons of Eve, and bow not down your faces So that ye may behold your evil ways!

More of the mount by us was now encompassed, And far more spent the circuit of the sun, Than had the mind preoccupied imagined,

When he, who ever watchful in advance Was going on, began: “Lift up thy head, ‘Tis no more time to go thus meditating.

Lo there an Angel who is making haste To come towards us; lo, returning is
From service of the day the sixth handmaiden.

With reverence thine acts and looks adorn, So that he may delight to speed us upward; Think that this day will never dawn again.”

I was familiar with his admonition
Ever to lose no time; so on this theme He could not unto me speak covertly.

Towards us came the being beautiful
Vested in white, and in his countenance Such as appears the tremulous morning star.

His arms he opened, and opened then his wings; “Come,” said he, “near at hand here are the steps, And easy from henceforth is the ascent.”

At this announcement few are they who come! O human creatures, born to soar aloft,
Why fall ye thus before a little wind?

He led us on to where the rock was cleft; There smote upon my forehead with his wings, Then a safe passage promised unto me.

As on the right hand, to ascend the mount Where seated is the church that lordeth it O’er the well-guided, above Rubaconte,

The bold abruptness of the ascent is broken By stairways that were made there in the age When still were safe the ledger and the stave,

E’en thus attempered is the bank which falls Sheer downward from the second circle there; But on this, side and that the high rock graze.

As we were turning thitherward our persons, “Beati pauperes spiritu,” voices
Sang in such wise that speech could tell it not.

Ah me! how different are these entrances From the Infernal! for with anthems here One enters, and below with wild laments.

We now were hunting up the sacred stairs, And it appeared to me by far more easy
Than on the plain it had appeared before.

Whence I: “My Master, say, what heavy thing Has been uplifted from me, so that hardly Aught of fatigue is felt by me in walking?”

He answered: “When the P’s which have remained Still on thy face almost obliterate
Shall wholly, as the first is, be erased,

Thy feet will be so vanquished by good will, That not alone they shall not feel fatigue, But urging up will be to them delight.”

Then did I even as they do who are going With something on the head to them unknown, Unless the signs of others make them doubt,

Wherefore the hand to ascertain is helpful, And seeks and finds, and doth fulfill the office Which cannot be accomplished by the sight;

And with the fingers of the right hand spread I found but six the letters, that had carved Upon my temples he who bore the keys;

Upon beholding which my Leader smiled.

Purgatorio: Canto XIII

We were upon the summit of the stairs, Where for the second time is cut away
The mountain, which ascending shriveth all.

There in like manner doth a cornice bind The hill all round about, as does the first, Save that its arc more suddenly is curved.

Shade is there none, nor sculpture that appears; So seems the bank, and so the road seems smooth, With but the livid colour of the stone.

“If to inquire we wait for people here,” The Poet said, “I fear that peradventure Too much delay will our election have.”

Then steadfast on the sun his eyes he fixed, Made his right side the centre of his motion, And turned the left part of himself about.

“O thou sweet light! with trust in whom I enter Upon this novel journey, do thou lead us,” Said he, “as one within here should be led.

Thou warmest the world, thou shinest over it; If other reason prompt not otherwise,
Thy rays should evermore our leaders be!”

As much as here is counted for a mile, So much already there had we advanced
In little time, by dint of ready will;

And tow’rds us there were heard to fly, albeit They were not visible, spirits uttering Unto Love’s table courteous invitations,

The first voice that passed onward in its flight, “Vinum non habent,” said in accents loud, And went reiterating it behind us.

And ere it wholly grew inaudible
Because of distance, passed another, crying, “I am Orestes!” and it also stayed not.

“O,” said I, “Father, these, what voices are they?” And even as I asked, behold the third,
Saying: “Love those from whom ye have had evil!”

And the good Master said: “This circle scourges The sin of envy, and on that account
Are drawn from love the lashes of the scourge.

The bridle of another sound shall be; I think that thou wilt hear it, as I judge, Before thou comest to the Pass of Pardon.

But fix thine eyes athwart the air right steadfast, And people thou wilt see before us sitting, And each one close against the cliff is seated.”

Then wider than at first mine eyes I opened; I looked before me, and saw shades with mantles Not from the colour of the stone diverse.

And when we were a little farther onward, I heard a cry of, “Mary, pray for us!”
A cry of, “Michael, Peter, and all Saints!”

I do not think there walketh still on earth A man so hard, that he would not be pierced With pity at what afterward I saw.

For when I had approached so near to them That manifest to me their acts became,
Drained was I at the eyes by heavy grief.

Covered with sackcloth vile they seemed to me, And one sustained the other with his shoulder, And all of them were by the bank sustained.

Thus do the blind, in want of livelihood, Stand at the doors of churches asking alms, And one upon another leans his head,

So that in others pity soon may rise, Not only at the accent of their words,
But at their aspect, which no less implores.

And as unto the blind the sun comes not, So to the shades, of whom just now I spake, Heaven’s light will not be bounteous of itself;

For all their lids an iron wire transpierces, And sews them up, as to a sparhawk wild Is done, because it will not quiet stay.

To me it seemed, in passing, to do outrage, Seeing the others without being seen;
Wherefore I turned me to my counsel sage.

Well knew he what the mute one wished to say, And therefore waited not for my demand, But said: “Speak, and be brief, and to the point.”

I had Virgilius upon that side
Of the embankment from which one may fall, Since by no border ’tis engarlanded;

Upon the other side of me I had
The shades devout, who through the horrible seam Pressed out the tears so that they bathed their cheeks.

To them I turned me, and, “O people, certain,” Began I, “of beholding the high light,
Which your desire has solely in its care,

So may grace speedily dissolve the scum Upon your consciences, that limpidly
Through them descend the river of the mind,

Tell me, for dear ’twill be to me and gracious, If any soul among you here is Latian,
And ’twill perchance be good for him I learn it.”

“O brother mine, each one is citizen
Of one true city; but thy meaning is, Who may have lived in Italy a pilgrim.”

By way of answer this I seemed to hear A little farther on than where I stood, Whereat I made myself still nearer heard.

Among the rest I saw a shade that waited In aspect, and should any one ask how,
Its chin it lifted upward like a blind man.

“Spirit,” I said, “who stoopest to ascend, If thou art he who did reply to me,
Make thyself known to me by place or name.”

“Sienese was I,” it replied, “and with The others here recleanse my guilty life, Weeping to Him to lend himself to us.

Sapient I was not, although I Sapia
Was called, and I was at another’s harm More happy far than at my own good fortune.

And that thou mayst not think that I deceive thee, Hear if I was as foolish as I tell thee. The arc already of my years descending,

My fellow-citizens near unto Colle
Were joined in battle with their adversaries, And I was praying God for what he willed.

Routed were they, and turned into the bitter Passes of flight; and I, the chase beholding, A joy received unequalled by all others;

So that I lifted upward my bold face
Crying to God, ‘Henceforth I fear thee not,’ As did the blackbird at the little sunshine.

Peace I desired with God at the extreme Of my existence, and as yet would not
My debt have been by penitence discharged,

Had it not been that in remembrance held me Pier Pettignano in his holy prayers,
Who out of charity was grieved for me.

But who art thou, that into our conditions Questioning goest, and hast thine eyes unbound As I believe, and breathing dost discourse?”

“Mine eyes,” I said, “will yet be here ta’en from me, But for short space; for small is the offence Committed by their being turned with envy.

Far greater is the fear, wherein suspended My soul is, of the torment underneath,
For even now the load down there weighs on me.”

And she to me: “Who led thee, then, among us Up here, if to return below thou thinkest?” And I: “He who is with me, and speaks not;

And living am I; therefore ask of me, Spirit elect, if thou wouldst have me move O’er yonder yet my mortal feet for thee.”

“O, this is such a novel thing to hear,” She answered, “that great sign it is God loves thee; Therefore with prayer of thine sometimes assist me.

And I implore, by what thou most desirest, If e’er thou treadest the soil of Tuscany, Well with my kindred reinstate my fame.

Them wilt thou see among that people vain Who hope in Talamone, and will lose there More hope than in discovering the Diana;

But there still more the admirals will lose.”

Purgatorio: Canto XIV

“Who is this one that goes about our mountain, Or ever Death has given him power of flight, And opes his eyes and shuts them at his will?”

“I know not who, but know he’s not alone; Ask him thyself, for thou art nearer to him, And gently, so that he may speak, accost him.”

Thus did two spirits, leaning tow’rds each other, Discourse about me there on the right hand; Then held supine their faces to address me.

And said the one: “O soul, that, fastened still Within the body, tow’rds the heaven art going, For charity console us, and declare

Whence comest and who art thou; for thou mak’st us As much to marvel at this grace of thine As must a thing that never yet has been.”

And I: “Through midst of Tuscany there wanders A streamlet that is born in Falterona,
And not a hundred miles of course suffice it;

From thereupon do I this body bring.
To tell you who I am were speech in vain, Because my name as yet makes no great noise.”

“If well thy meaning I can penetrate
With intellect of mine,” then answered me He who first spake, “thou speakest of the Arno.”

And said the other to him: “Why concealed This one the appellation of that river, Even as a man doth of things horrible?”

And thus the shade that questioned was of this Himself acquitted: “I know not; but truly ‘Tis fit the name of such a valley perish;

For from its fountain-head (where is so pregnant The Alpine mountain whence is cleft Peloro That in few places it that mark surpasses)

To where it yields itself in restoration Of what the heaven doth of the sea dry up, Whence have the rivers that which goes with them,

Virtue is like an enemy avoided
By all, as is a serpent, through misfortune Of place, or through bad habit that impels them;

On which account have so transformed their nature The dwellers in that miserable valley,
It seems that Circe had them in her pasture.

‘Mid ugly swine, of acorns worthier
Than other food for human use created, It first directeth its impoverished way.

Curs findeth it thereafter, coming downward, More snarling than their puissance demands, And turns from them disdainfully its muzzle.

It goes on falling, and the more it grows, The more it finds the dogs becoming wolves, This maledict and misadventurous ditch.

Descended then through many a hollow gulf, It finds the foxes so replete with fraud, They fear no cunning that may master them.

Nor will I cease because another hears me; And well ’twill be for him, if still he mind him Of what a truthful spirit to me unravels.

Thy grandson I behold, who doth become A hunter of those wolves upon the bank
Of the wild stream, and terrifies them all.

He sells their flesh, it being yet alive; Thereafter slaughters them like ancient beeves; Many of life, himself of praise, deprives.

Blood-stained he issues from the dismal forest; He leaves it such, a thousand years from now In its primeval state ’tis not re-wooded.”

As at the announcement of impending ills The face of him who listens is disturbed, From whate’er side the peril seize upon him;

So I beheld that other soul, which stood Turned round to listen, grow disturbed and sad, When it had gathered to itself the word.

The speech of one and aspect of the other Had me desirous made to know their names, And question mixed with prayers I made thereof,

Whereat the spirit which first spake to me Began again: “Thou wishest I should bring me To do for thee what thou’lt not do for me;

But since God willeth that in thee shine forth Such grace of his, I’ll not be chary with thee; Know, then, that I Guido del Duca am.

My blood was so with envy set on fire, That if I had beheld a man make merry,
Thou wouldst have seen me sprinkled o’er with pallor.

From my own sowing such the straw I reap! O human race! why dost thou set thy heart Where interdict of partnership must be?

This is Renier; this is the boast and honour Of the house of Calboli, where no one since Has made himself the heir of his desert.

And not alone his blood is made devoid, ‘Twixt Po and mount, and sea-shore and the Reno, Of good required for truth and for diversion;

For all within these boundaries is full Of venomous roots, so that too tardily
By cultivation now would they diminish.

Where is good Lizio, and Arrigo Manardi, Pier Traversaro, and Guido di Carpigna, O Romagnuoli into bastards turned?

When in Bologna will a Fabbro rise?
When in Faenza a Bernardin di Fosco, The noble scion of ignoble seed?

Be not astonished, Tuscan, if I weep, When I remember, with Guido da Prata,
Ugolin d’ Azzo, who was living with us,

Frederick Tignoso and his company,
The house of Traversara, and th’ Anastagi, And one race and the other is extinct;

The dames and cavaliers, the toils and ease That filled our souls with love and courtesy, There where the hearts have so malicious grown!

O Brettinoro! why dost thou not flee, Seeing that all thy family is gone,
And many people, not to be corrupted?

Bagnacaval does well in not begetting And ill does Castrocaro, and Conio worse, In taking trouble to beget such Counts.

Will do well the Pagani, when their Devil Shall have departed; but not therefore pure Will testimony of them e’er remain.

O Ugolin de’ Fantoli, secure
Thy name is, since no longer is awaited One who, degenerating, can obscure it!

But go now, Tuscan, for it now delights me To weep far better than it does to speak, So much has our discourse my mind distressed.”

We were aware that those beloved souls Heard us depart; therefore, by keeping silent, They made us of our pathway confident.

When we became alone by going onward, Thunder, when it doth cleave the air, appeared A voice, that counter to us came, exclaiming:

“Shall slay me whosoever findeth me!” And fled as the reverberation dies
If suddenly the cloud asunder bursts.

As soon as hearing had a truce from this, Behold another, with so great a crash,
That it resembled thunderings following fast:

“I am Aglaurus, who became a stone!”
And then, to press myself close to the Poet, I backward, and not forward, took a step.

Already on all sides the air was quiet; And said he to me: “That was the hard curb That ought to hold a man within his bounds;

But you take in the bait so that the hook Of the old Adversary draws you to him,
And hence availeth little curb or call.

The heavens are calling you, and wheel around you, Displaying to you their eternal beauties, And still your eye is looking on the ground;

Whence He, who all discerns, chastises you.”

Purgatorio: Canto XV

As much as ‘twixt the close of the third hour And dawn of day appeareth of that sphere Which aye in fashion of a child is playing,

So much it now appeared, towards the night, Was of his course remaining to the sun; There it was evening, and ’twas midnight here;

And the rays smote the middle of our faces, Because by us the mount was so encircled, That straight towards the west we now were going

When I perceived my forehead overpowered Beneath the splendour far more than at first, And stupor were to me the things unknown,

Whereat towards the summit of my brow I raised my hands, and made myself the visor Which the excessive glare diminishes.

As when from off the water, or a mirror, The sunbeam leaps unto the opposite side, Ascending upward in the selfsame measure

That it descends, and deviates as far From falling of a stone in line direct, (As demonstrate experiment and art,)

So it appeared to me that by a light
Refracted there before me I was smitten; On which account my sight was swift to flee.

“What is that, Father sweet, from which I cannot So fully screen my sight that it avail me,” Said I, “and seems towards us to be moving?”

“Marvel thou not, if dazzle thee as yet The family of heaven,” he answered me;
“An angel ’tis, who comes to invite us upward.

Soon will it be, that to behold these things Shall not be grievous, but delightful to thee As much as nature fashioned thee to feel.”

When we had reached the Angel benedight, With joyful voice he said: “Here enter in To stairway far less steep than are the others.”

We mounting were, already thence departed, And “Beati misericordes” was
Behind us sung, “Rejoice, thou that o’ercomest!”

My Master and myself, we two alone
Were going upward, and I thought, in going, Some profit to acquire from words of his;

And I to him directed me, thus asking: “What did the spirit of Romagna mean,
Mentioning interdict and partnership?”

Whence he to me: “Of his own greatest failing He knows the harm; and therefore wonder not If he reprove us, that we less may rue it.

Because are thither pointed your desires Where by companionship each share is lessened, Envy doth ply the bellows to your sighs.

But if the love of the supernal sphere Should upwardly direct your aspiration, There would not be that fear within your breast;

For there, as much the more as one says ‘Our,’ So much the more of good each one possesses, And more of charity in that cloister burns.”

“I am more hungering to be satisfied,” I said, “than if I had before been silent, And more of doubt within my mind I gather.

How can it be, that boon distributed
The more possessors can more wealthy make Therein, than if by few it be possessed?”

And he to me: “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, runneth 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 eternal 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.

And if my reasoning appease thee not, Thou shalt see Beatrice; and she will fully Take from thee this and every other longing.

Endeavour, then, that soon may be extinct, As are the two already, the five wounds That close themselves again by being painful.”

Even as I wished to say, “Thou dost appease me,” I saw that I had reached another circle, So that my eager eyes made me keep silence.

There it appeared to me that in a vision Ecstatic on a sudden I was rapt,
And in a temple many persons saw;

And at the door a woman, with the sweet Behaviour of a mother, saying: “Son,
Why in this manner hast thou dealt with us?

Lo, sorrowing, thy father and myself
Were seeking for thee;”–and as here she ceased, That which appeared at first had disappeared.

Then I beheld another with those waters Adown her cheeks which grief distils whenever From great disdain of others it is born,

And saying: “If of that city thou art lord, For whose name was such strife among the gods, And whence doth every science scintillate,

Avenge thyself on those audacious arms That clasped our daughter, O Pisistratus;” And the lord seemed to me benign and mild

To answer her with aspect temperate:
“What shall we do to those who wish us ill, If he who loves us be by us condemned?”

Then saw I people hot in fire of wrath, With stones a young man slaying, clamorously Still crying to each other, “Kill him! kill him!”

And him I saw bow down, because of death That weighed already on him, to the earth, But of his eyes made ever gates to heaven,

Imploring the high Lord, in so great strife, That he would pardon those his persecutors, With such an aspect as unlocks compassion.

Soon as my soul had outwardly returned To things external to it which are true, Did I my not false errors recognize.

My Leader, who could see me bear myself Like to a man that rouses him from sleep, Exclaimed: “What ails thee, that thou canst not stand?

But hast been coming more than half a league Veiling thine eyes, and with thy legs entangled, In guise of one whom wine or sleep subdues?”

“O my sweet Father, if thou listen to me, I’ll tell thee,” said I, “what appeared to me, When thus from me my legs were ta’en away.”

And he: “If thou shouldst have a hundred masks Upon thy face, from me would not be shut Thy cogitations, howsoever small.

What thou hast seen was that thou mayst not fail To ope thy heart unto the waters of peace, Which from the eternal fountain are diffused.

I did not ask, ‘What ails thee?’ as he does Who only looketh with the eyes that see not When of the soul bereft the body lies,

But asked it to give vigour to thy feet; Thus must we needs urge on the sluggards, slow To use their wakefulness when it returns.”

We passed along, athwart the twilight peering Forward as far as ever eye could stretch Against the sunbeams serotine and lucent;

And lo! by slow degrees a smoke approached In our direction, sombre as the night,
Nor was there place to hide one’s self therefrom.

This of our eyes and the pure air bereft us.

Purgatorio: Canto XVI

Darkness of hell, and of a night deprived Of every planet under a poor sky,
As much as may be tenebrous with cloud,

Ne’er made unto my sight so thick a veil, As did that smoke which there enveloped us, Nor to the feeling of so rough a texture;

For not an eye it suffered to stay open; Whereat mine escort, faithful and sagacious, Drew near to me and offered me his shoulder.

E’en as a blind man goes behind his guide, Lest he should wander, or should strike against Aught that may harm or peradventure kill him,

So went I through the bitter and foul air, Listening unto my Leader, who said only, “Look that from me thou be not separated.”

Voices I heard, and every one appeared To supplicate for peace and misericord
The Lamb of God who takes away our sins.

Still “Agnus Dei” their exordium was; One word there was in all, and metre one, So that all harmony appeared among them.

“Master,” I said, “are spirits those I hear?” And he to me: “Thou apprehendest truly, And they the knot of anger go unloosing.”

“Now who art thou, that cleavest through our smoke And art discoursing of us even as though Thou didst by calends still divide the time?”

After this manner by a voice was spoken; Whereon my Master said: “Do thou reply, And ask if on this side the way go upward.”

And I: “O creature that dost cleanse thyself To return beautiful to Him who made thee, Thou shalt hear marvels if thou follow me.”

“Thee will I follow far as is allowed me,” He answered; “and if smoke prevent our seeing, Hearing shall keep us joined instead thereof.”

Thereon began I: “With that swathing band Which death unwindeth am I going upward, And hither came I through the infernal anguish.

And if God in his grace has me infolded, So that he wills that I behold his court By method wholly out of modern usage,

Conceal not from me who ere death thou wast, But tell it me, and tell me if I go
Right for the pass, and be thy words our escort.”

“Lombard was I, and I was Marco called; The world I knew, and loved that excellence, At which has each one now unbent his bow.

For mounting upward, thou art going right.” Thus he made answer, and subjoined: “I pray thee To pray for me when thou shalt be above.”

And I to him: “My faith I pledge to thee To do what thou dost ask me; but am bursting Inly with doubt, unless I rid me of it.

First it was simple, and is now made double By thy opinion, which makes certain to me, Here and elsewhere, that which I couple with it.

The world forsooth is utterly deserted By every virtue, as thou tellest me,
And with iniquity is big and covered;

But I beseech thee point me out the cause, That I may see it, and to others show it; For one in the heavens, and here below one puts it.”

A sigh profound, that grief forced into Ai! He first sent forth, and then began he: “Brother, The world is blind, and sooth thou comest from it!

Ye who are living every cause refer
Still upward to the heavens, as if all things They of necessity moved with themselves.

If this were so, in you would be destroyed Free will, nor any justice would there be In having joy for good, or grief for evil.

The heavens your movements do initiate, I say not all; but granting that I say it, Light has been given you for good and evil,

And free volition; which, if some fatigue In the first battles with the heavens it suffers, Afterwards conquers all, if well ’tis nurtured.

To greater force and to a better nature, Though free, ye subject are, and that creates The mind in you the heavens have not in charge.

Hence, if the present world doth go astray, In you the cause is, be it sought in you; And I therein will now be thy true spy.

Forth from the hand of Him, who fondles it Before it is, like to a little girl
Weeping and laughing in her childish sport,

Issues the simple soul, that nothing knows, Save that, proceeding from a joyous Maker, Gladly it turns to that which gives it pleasure.

Of trivial good at first it tastes the savour; Is cheated by it, and runs after it,
If guide or rein turn not aside its love.

Hence it behoved laws for a rein to place, Behoved a king to have, who at the least Of the true city should discern the tower.

The laws exist, but who sets hand to them? No one; because the shepherd who precedes Can ruminate, but cleaveth not the hoof;

Wherefore the people that perceives its guide Strike only at the good for which it hankers, Feeds upon that, and farther seeketh not.

Clearly canst thou perceive that evil guidance The cause is that has made the world depraved, And not that nature is corrupt in you.

Rome, that reformed the world, accustomed was Two suns to have, which one road and the other, Of God and of the world, made manifest.

One has the other quenched, and to the crosier The sword is joined, and ill beseemeth it That by main force one with the other go,

Because, being joined, one feareth not the other; If thou believe not, think upon the grain, For by its seed each herb is recognized.

In the land laved by Po and Adige,
Valour and courtesy used to be found, Before that Frederick had his controversy;

Now in security can pass that way
Whoever will abstain, through sense of shame, From speaking with the good, or drawing near them.

True, three old men are left, in whom upbraids The ancient age the new, and late they deem it That God restore them to the better life:

Currado da Palazzo, and good Gherardo, And Guido da Castel, who better named is, In fashion of the French, the simple Lombard:

Say thou henceforward that the Church of Rome, Confounding in itself two governments,
Falls in the mire, and soils itself and burden.”

“O Marco mine,” I said, “thou reasonest well; And now discern I why the sons of Levi
Have been excluded from the heritage.

But what Gherardo is it, who, as sample Of a lost race, thou sayest has remained In reprobation of the barbarous age?”

“Either thy speech deceives me, or it tempts me,” He answered me; “for speaking Tuscan to me, It seems of good Gherardo naught thou knowest.

By other surname do I know him not,
Unless I take it from his daughter Gaia. May God be with you, for I come no farther.

Behold the dawn, that through the smoke rays out, Already whitening; and I must depart–
Yonder the Angel is–ere he appear.”

Thus did he speak, and would no farther hear me.

Purgatorio: Canto XVII

Remember, Reader, if e’er in the Alps A mist o’ertook thee, through which thou couldst see Not otherwise than through its membrane mole,

How, when the vapours humid and condensed Begin to dissipate themselves, the sphere Of the sun feebly enters in among them,

And thy imagination will be swift
In coming to perceive how I re-saw The sun at first, that was already setting.

Thus, to the faithful footsteps of my Master Mating mine own, I issued from that cloud To rays already dead on the low shores.

O thou, Imagination, that dost steal us So from without sometimes, that man perceives not, Although around may sound a thousand trumpets,

Who moveth thee, if sense impel thee not? Moves thee a light, which in the heaven takes form, By self, or by a will that downward guides it.

Of her impiety, who changed her form
Into the bird that most delights in singing, In my imagining appeared the trace;

And hereupon my mind was so withdrawn Within itself, that from without there came Nothing that then might be received by it.

Then reigned within my lofty fantasy
One crucified, disdainful and ferocious In countenance, and even thus was dying.

Around him were the great Ahasuerus,
Esther his wife, and the just Mordecai, Who was in word and action so entire.

And even as this image burst asunder
Of its own self, in fashion of a bubble In which the water it was made of fails,

There rose up in my vision a young maiden Bitterly weeping, and she said: “O queen, Why hast thou wished in anger to be naught?

Thou’st slain thyself, Lavinia not to lose; Now hast thou lost me; I am she who mourns, Mother, at thine ere at another’s ruin.”

As sleep is broken, when upon a sudden New light strikes in upon the eyelids closed, And broken quivers ere it dieth wholly,

So this imagining of mine fell down
As soon as the effulgence smote my face, Greater by far than what is in our wont.

I turned me round to see where I might be, When said a voice, “Here is the passage up;” Which from all other purposes removed me,

And made my wish so full of eagerness To look and see who was it that was speaking, It never rests till meeting face to face;

But as before the sun, which quells the sight, And in its own excess its figure veils, Even so my power was insufficient here.

“This is a spirit divine, who in the way Of going up directs us without asking,
And who with his own light himself conceals.

He does with us as man doth with himself; For he who sees the need, and waits the asking, Malignly leans already tow’rds denial.

Accord we now our feet to such inviting, Let us make haste to mount ere it grow dark; For then we could not till the day return.”

Thus my Conductor said; and I and he
Together turned our footsteps to a stairway; And I, as soon as the first step I reached,

Near me perceived a motion as of wings, And fanning in the face, and saying, “‘Beati Pacifici,’ who are without ill anger.”

Already over us were so uplifted
The latest sunbeams, which the night pursues, That upon many sides the stars appeared.

“O manhood mine, why dost thou vanish so?” I said within myself; for I perceived
The vigour of my legs was put in truce.

We at the point were where no more ascends The stairway upward, and were motionless, Even as a ship, which at the shore arrives;

And I gave heed a little, if I might hear Aught whatsoever in the circle new;
Then to my Master turned me round and said:

“Say, my sweet Father, what delinquency Is purged here in the circle where we are? Although our feet may pause, pause not thy speech.”

And he to me: “The love of good, remiss In what it should have done, is here restored; Here plied again the ill-belated oar;

But still more openly to understand,
Turn unto me thy mind, and thou shalt gather Some profitable fruit from our delay.

Neither Creator nor a creature ever,
Son,” he began, “was destitute of love Natural or spiritual; and thou knowest it.

The natural was ever without error;
But err the other may by evil object, Or by too much, or by too little vigour.

While in the first it well directed is, And in the second moderates itself,
It cannot be the cause of sinful pleasure;

But when to ill it turns, and, with more care Or lesser than it ought, runs after good, ‘Gainst the Creator works his own creation.

Hence thou mayst comprehend that love must be The seed within yourselves of every virtue, And every act that merits punishment.

Now inasmuch as never from the welfare Of its own subject can love turn its sight, From their own hatred all things are secure;

And since we cannot think of any being Standing alone, nor from the First divided, Of hating Him is all desire cut off.