Canto 21

The natural thirst, which never can be quenched,
save by the water asked for by the lowly
young woman of Samaria as a boon,
was troubling me, while hurry spurred me on
behind my Leader o’er the cumbered path,
and I was grieving for the just revenge.
Then lo, as Luke records for us that Christ,
when risen from the burial cave, appeared
before the two upon the road, a shade
appeared, and came behind us as we watched
the crowd, which lay around us at our feet;
but we perceived him not; hence he spoke first,
and said: “May God, my brethren, give you peace!”
We turned at once, and to this greeting Virgil
replied with that which corresponds to it.
Then he began: “Within the blest assembly
mayst thou be set at peace by that just court
which in eternal exile bindeth me.”
“What!” he replied, as quickly on we went,
“If ye are shades whom God deigns not on high,
who guided you so far along His stairs?”

My Teacher then: “If thou regard the marks
which this one bears, and which the Angel draws,
thou ’lt see that with the good he needs must reign.
But whereas she, who spinneth night and day,
had not as yet drawn off for him the flax,
which Clotho lays and packs for every one,
his soul, which sister is to thee and me,
could not, in climbing here, come up alone,
because it seeth not as we. Hence I
out of the ample throat of Hell was drawn,
to show the way to him, and I shall show it,
as far as e’er my school can lead him on.
But tell us, if thou knowest, why the Mountain
shook so just now, and why all seemed to shout
with one accord down to its oozy base?”
Thus by his asking he had threaded so
the needle’s eye of my desire, that, merely
with hope, my thirst had come to be less craving.
The former then began: “Nothing exists
which this Mount’s sacred government can feel,
that void of order is, or ’gainst its wont.
From every change this place up here is free;
whate’er Heaven’s self from its own self receives,
can be the cause of it, and nothing else;
for neither rain, nor hail, nor snow, nor dew,
nor frost falls any higher up than lies
the little stairway of the three short steps;

clouds neither dense or rarefied appear,
nor lightning flashes, nor yet Thaumas’ daughter,
who often changes quarter in the world.
Dry vapor goes no higher than the top
of those three steps whereof I spoke to thee,
and on which Peter’s vicar hath his feet.
Below, perhaps, it trembles more or less,
but never quakes up here because of wind
concealed, I know not how, inside the earth.
It trembles here whenever any soul
feels pure enough to rise, or starts to climb;
and such a cry as this endorses it.
Of purity the will alone gives proof,
which, seizing on the soul, now wholly free
to change its company, by willing helps it.
It wills this from the first; but that desire
which, ’gainst the will, God’s Justice turns toward pain,
as it was once toward sin, allows it not.
And I, who have five hundred years and more
lain in this woe, felt only now within me
a free volition for a better sphere.
That ’s why thou didst the earthquake feel, and hear
the pious spirits on this Mountain praise
that Lord, who soon, I pray, will send them up.”
He thus addressed us; and, since one in drink
delights, according as his thirst is great,
I could not say how much he did me good.

And my wise Leader: “Now I see the net
which holds you here, and how it opens, why
it trembles here, and why ye all rejoice.
Now who thou wast be pleased to let me know,
and also let thy words include for me
why thou hast lain so many centuries here.”
“At that time when, helped by the Most High King,
good Titus took due vengeance for the wounds,
from which came forth the blood by Judas sold,
I was in great renown” that spirit said,
“up yonder with the name which longest lasts,
and honors most, but not as yet with faith.
So sweet my song, that, though a Toulousan,
Rome drew me to herself, where I deserved
to have my temples crowned with myrtle wreath.
Statius they call me still up there; of Thebes
I sang, of great Achilles next; but ’neath
this second load I sank upon the way.
The seeds of my enthusiasm were the sparks,
which warmed me, of that fire divine, wherewith
more than a thousand poets are enflamed;
I mean the Aeneid, which my mother was
and nurse in poetry; and, lacking which,
not by a drachm’s weight had I stirred the scales.
And to have lived on earth when Virgil lived,
to one sun’s period more would I consent
than what I owe, to issue from my ban.”

These words turned Virgil toward me with a look,
which, silently, “Be silent!” said; and yet
the power that wills can not do everything;
for tears and laughter follow so the passion,
from which they each take rise, that least of all
do they obey the will in those most truthful.
I only smiled, like one who winks; whereat
the shade kept still, and looked into my eyes,
wherein expression is most fixed, and said:
“So mayst thou bring unto a happy end
so great a toil, why was it that thy face
showed me just now the flashing of a smile?”
I now am caught on one side and the other;
one asks for silence, the other conjures me
to speak; I therefore sigh, and by my Teacher
am understood. “Be not afraid to talk,”
the latter said to me, “but speak, and tell him
what he so eagerly desires to know.”
I therefore said: “Perhaps thou marvellest,
O ancient spirit, at the smile I gave;
but I would have still greater wonder seize thee.
This spirit here, who upward leads mine eyes,
that Virgil is, from whom thou didst of old
derive the strength to sing of men and gods.
If thou hast given my smile some other cause,
leave it as not the true one, and believe
it was the words thyself didst say of him.”

Already was he stooping to embrace
my Teacher’s feet; but he said: “Brother, no;
for thou, a shade now, dost a shade behold.”
Rising, he said: “Thou now canst understand
the sum of love which warmeth me toward thee,
since I forget our disembodied state,
and act with shades as if they solid were.”

Courtney Langdon, translator. Full text is available at Liberty Fund.

Canto 21

La sete natural che mai non sazia
se non con l’acqua onde la femminetta
samaritana domandò la grazia,

mi travagliava, e pungeami la fretta
per la ’mpacciata via dietro al mio duca,
e condoleami a la giusta vendetta.

Ed ecco, sì come ne scrive Luca
che Cristo apparve a’ due ch’erano in via,
già surto fuor de la sepulcral buca,

ci apparve un’ombra, e dietro a noi venìa,
dal piè guardando la turba che giace;
né ci addemmo di lei, sì parlò pria,

dicendo: «O frati miei, Dio vi dea pace».
Noi ci volgemmo sùbiti, e Virgilio
rendéli ’l cenno ch’a ciò si conface.

Poi cominciò: «Nel beato concilio
ti ponga in pace la verace corte
che me rilega ne l’etterno essilio».

«Come!», diss’ elli, e parte andavam forte:
«se voi siete ombre che Dio sù non degni,
chi v’ha per la sua scala tanto scorte?».

E ’l dottor mio: «Se tu riguardi a’ segni
che questi porta e che l’angel profila,
ben vedrai che coi buon convien ch’e’ regni.

Ma perché lei che dì e notte fila
non li avea tratta ancora la conocchia
che Cloto impone a ciascuno e compila,

l’anima sua, ch’è tua e mia serocchia,
venendo sù, non potea venir sola,
però ch’al nostro modo non adocchia.

Ond’ io fui tratto fuor de l’ampia gola
d’inferno per mostrarli, e mosterrolli
oltre, quanto ’l potrà menar mia scola.

Ma dimmi, se tu sai, perché tai crolli
diè dianzi ’l monte, e perché tutto ad una
parve gridare infino a’ suoi piè molli».

Sì mi diè, dimandando, per la cruna
del mio disio, che pur con la speranza
si fece la mia sete men digiuna.

Quei cominciò: «Cosa non è che sanza
ordine senta la religïone
de la montagna, o che sia fuor d’usanza.

Libero è qui da ogne alterazione:
di quel che ’l ciel da sé in sé riceve
esser ci puote, e non d’altro, cagione.

Per che non pioggia, non grando, non neve,
non rugiada, non brina più sù cade
che la scaletta di tre gradi breve;

nuvole spesse non paion né rade,
né coruscar, né figlia di Taumante,
che di là cangia sovente contrade;

secco vapor non surge più avante
ch’al sommo d’i tre gradi ch’io parlai,
dov’ ha ’l vicario di Pietro le piante.

Trema forse più giù poco o assai;
ma per vento che ’n terra si nasconda,
non so come, qua sù non tremò mai.

Tremaci quando alcuna anima monda
sentesi, sì che surga o che si mova
per salir sù; e tal grido seconda.

De la mondizia sol voler fa prova,
che, tutto libero a mutar convento,
l’alma sorprende, e di voler le giova.

Prima vuol ben, ma non lascia il talento
che divina giustizia, contra voglia,
come fu al peccar, pone al tormento.

E io, che son giaciuto a questa doglia
cinquecent’ anni e più, pur mo sentii
libera volontà di miglior soglia:

però sentisti il tremoto e li pii
spiriti per lo monte render lode
a quel Segnor, che tosto sù li ’nvii».

Così ne disse; e però ch’el si gode
tanto del ber quant’ è grande la sete,
non saprei dir quant’ el mi fece prode.

E ’l savio duca: «Omai veggio la rete
che qui vi ’mpiglia e come si scalappia,
perché ci trema e di che congaudete.

Ora chi fosti, piacciati ch’io sappia,
e perché tanti secoli giaciuto
qui se’, ne le parole tue mi cappia».

«Nel tempo che ’l buon Tito, con l’aiuto
del sommo rege, vendicò le fóra
ond’ uscì ’l sangue per Giuda venduto,

col nome che più dura e più onora
era io di là», rispuose quello spirto,
«famoso assai, ma non con fede ancora.

Tanto fu dolce mio vocale spirto,
che, tolosano, a sé mi trasse Roma,
dove mertai le tempie ornar di mirto.

Stazio la gente ancor di là mi noma:
cantai di Tebe, e poi del grande Achille;
ma caddi in via con la seconda soma.

Al mio ardor fuor seme le faville,
che mi scaldar, de la divina fiamma
onde sono allumati più di mille;

de l’Eneïda dico, la qual mamma
fummi, e fummi nutrice, poetando:
sanz’ essa non fermai peso di dramma.

E per esser vivuto di là quando
visse Virgilio, assentirei un sole
più che non deggio al mio uscir di bando».

Volser Virgilio a me queste parole
con viso che, tacendo, disse ‘Taci’;
ma non può tutto la virtù che vuole;

ché riso e pianto son tanto seguaci
a la passion di che ciascun si spicca,
che men seguon voler ne’ più veraci.

Io pur sorrisi come l’uom ch’ammicca;
per che l’ombra si tacque, e riguardommi
ne li occhi ove ’l sembiante più si ficca;

e «Se tanto labore in bene assommi»,
disse, «perché la tua faccia testeso
un lampeggiar di riso dimostrommi?».

Or son io d’una parte e d’altra preso:
l’una mi fa tacer, l’altra scongiura
ch’io dica; ond’ io sospiro, e sono inteso

dal mio maestro, e «Non aver paura»,
mi dice, «di parlar; ma parla e digli
quel ch’e’ dimanda con cotanta cura».

Ond’ io: «Forse che tu ti maravigli,
antico spirto, del rider ch’io fei;
ma più d’ammirazion vo’ che ti pigli.

Questi che guida in alto li occhi miei,
è quel Virgilio dal qual tu togliesti
forte a cantar de li uomini e d’i dèi.

Se cagion altra al mio rider credesti,
lasciala per non vera, ed esser credi
quelle parole che di lui dicesti».

Già s’inchinava ad abbracciar li piedi
al mio dottor, ma el li disse: «Frate,
non far, ché tu se’ ombra e ombra vedi».

Ed ei surgendo: «Or puoi la quantitate
comprender de l’amor ch’a te mi scalda,
quand’ io dismento nostra vanitate,

trattando l’ombre come cosa salda».

Giorgio Petrocchi, editor. Full text is available at Colombia University’s Digital Dante project.

Canto 22

Already was the Angel left behind,
the Angel who had toward the sixth ring turned us,
after erasing from my face a wound;
and he had said to us that those are blest,
whose longing is for justice, and his words,
with nothing further, ended this with “thirst.”
Hence, lighter now than at the other passes,
I so advanced, that I, without fatigue,
was following up the spirits who were swift,
when Virgil thus began: “A love that flames,
by virtue kindled, always lights another,
if but its flame be outwardly revealed.
And therefore from the hour when Juvenal,
who let me know thy love for me, came down
among us in the Borderland of Hell,
my good will hath been such toward thee, that none
e’er bound me more to one I had not seen;
these stairs will, therefore, now seem short to me.
But tell me, and forgive me as a friend,
if too great confidence relax my rein,
and as a friend converse with me henceforth:

how was it avarice could find a place
within thy breast together with such wisdom,
as that wherewith thou by thy zeal wast filled?”
At first these words made Statius smile a little;
and then he answered: “Every word of thine
is of thy love for me a precious proof.
Things, of a truth, quite frequently appear,
which offer one false arguments for doubt,
because their real occasions are concealed.
Thy question makes me sure of thy belief,
due, maybe, to the ring where I was found,
that I was in the last life avaricious.
Know, then, that avarice was too far from me,
and that this lack of temperance on my part
thousands of courses of the moon have punished.
And were it not that I corrected me,
when I had understood thee in thy cry,
indignant, as it were, with human nature:
‘Why dost thou not, O virtuous love of gold,
govern the appetite of mortal men?’
I ’d now, by rolling, feel the wretched jousts.
I then perceived that hands could ope their wings
too much in spending, and repented me
of that, as well as of my other sins.
How many from the grave shall hairless rise
through ignorance which, in life and at the last,
deprives them of repentance for this fault!

Know, too, that any fault which of a sin
is just the opposite, together with it
drieth its green leaves here. If, therefore, I,
to purge myself, have been among the folk
who avarice bewail, to me it happened
because of what was contrary thereto.”
“When thou didst sing, then, of the cruel strife
between the two afflictions of Jocasta,”
said he who sang bucolic songs, “by that
which Clio singeth with thee there, the faith,
without which doing good is not enough,
had not, it seems, yet made thee a believer.
If this be so, what sun, or else what candles
lightened thy darkness so, that thou thereafter
didst set thy sails behind the Fisherman?”
“Thou first didst send me to Parnassus’ slopes
to drink,” he said to him, “and then the first
thou wast, who, next to God, illumined me.
Thou didst like him, who, when he walks by night,
a light behind him bears nor helps himself,
but maketh those that follow after see,
when thou didst say: ‘The age renews itself;
Justice returns, and man’s primeval times,
as down from Heaven a new-born race descends.’
Through thee a poet I became, through thee
a Christian! But, that thou mayst better see
my sketch, I ’ll set my hand to color it.

Pregnant already with the true belief,
sowed by the eternal Kingdom’s messengers,
was every portion of the whole wide world;
and now thy words, to which I ’ve just referred,
with these new preachers harmonized so well,
that I became accustomed to frequent them.
Thereat so holy did they come to seem,
that when Domitian persecuted them,
their lamentations did not lack my tears;
and while I still remained in yonder world,
I helped them; and their upright mode of life
caused me to treat with scorn all other sects.
And ere in poetry I led the Greeks
to see the streams of Thebes, baptized I was;
and yet, through fear, a secret Christian only,
I long pretended faith in paganism;
this lukewarmness around the fourth ring moved me
till far beyond the fourth centennial year.
Thou, therefore, that didst lift the covering veil
which hid from me the good whereof I speak,
tell me, while we have still a little more
to climb, where our old Terence is, and where
Cecilius, Plautus, Varro, if thou know;
tell me if they are damned, and in what ward.”
“Both they and Persius, I and many others”
my Leader answered him, “are with the Greek,
whom more than any else the Muses nursed,

in the first circle of the sightless Prison;
and frequently we talk about the mount,
which always hath our nurses on its slopes.
Euripides and Antiphon are there
with us, Simonides and Agathon,
and many other Greeks, who once adorned
their brows with laurel. There, of thine own folk,
Antigone is seen, Deìphile,
Argìa, and, as sad as once, Ismène.
There, too, may she be seen, who showed Langìa;
there is Tiresias’ daughter, Thetis also,
and with her sisters there, Deidamìa.”
And now the Poets, both of them, were silent,
intent again on looking round, since free
from climbing up and free from walls; and while
four handmaids of the day had dropped behind,
the fifth was at the sun-car’s pole, still upward
pointing its burning horn; whereat my Leader:
“I think that it behooves us now to turn
our right sides toward the outer edge, and circle
the Mountain as our wont it is to do.”
Thus was our custom our instructor there;
and with less doubt we started on again,
because of that deserving soul’s assent.
In front they went, and I behind, alone,
listening the while to what they had to say,
which gave me understanding for my verse.

But soon their pleasant talk a Tree broke off,
which in the middle of the road we found,
with fruit agreeable and sweet to smell;
and as a fir-tree tapers up from branch
to branch, so likewise this one tapered down,
in order, I believe, that none may climb it.
And on the side on which our path was closed,
down from the lofty cliff a limpid stream
was falling, and spraying upward o’er its leaves.
Then toward the Tree the two Bards turned their steps;
and from among its leaves a voice cried out:
“Of this food there will be for you a dearth!”
Then: “More did Mary think of honoring,
the marriage feast, and making it complete,
than of her mouth, which pleadeth now for you;
the ancient Roman women were content
with water for their only drink; and Daniel
thought little of his food, but wisdom gained.
The primal age was beautiful as gold;
with hunger it made acorns sweet to taste,
and nectar every little brook, with thirst.
Honey and flying locusts were the food
which fed the Baptist in the wilderness;
hence he is now as glorious and as great,
as by the Gospel is revealed to you.”

Courtney Langdon, translator. Full text is available at Liberty Fund.

Canto 22

Già era l’angel dietro a noi rimaso,
l’angel che n’avea vòlti al sesto giro,
avendomi dal viso un colpo raso;

e quei c’hanno a giustizia lor disiro
detto n’avea beati, e le sue voci
con ‘sitiunt’, sanz altro, ciò forniro.

E io più lieve che per l’altre foci
m’andava, sì che sanz’ alcun labore
seguiva in sù li spiriti veloci;

quando Virgilio incominciò: «Amore,
acceso di virtù, sempre altro accese,
pur che la fiamma sua paresse fore;

onde da l’ora che tra noi discese
nel limbo de lo ’nferno Giovenale,
che la tua affezion mi fé palese,

mia benvoglienza inverso te fu quale
più strinse mai di non vista persona,
sì ch’or mi parran corte queste scale.

Ma dimmi, e come amico mi perdona
se troppa sicurtà m’allarga il freno,
e come amico omai meco ragiona:

come poté trovar dentro al tuo seno
loco avarizia, tra cotanto senno
di quanto per tua cura fosti pieno?».

Queste parole Stazio mover fenno
un poco a riso pria; poscia rispuose:
«Ogne tuo dir d’amor m’è caro cenno.

Veramente più volte appaion cose
che danno a dubitar falsa matera
per le vere ragion che son nascose.

La tua dimanda tuo creder m’avvera
esser ch’i’ fossi avaro in l’altra vita,
forse per quella cerchia dov’ io era.

Or sappi ch’avarizia fu partita
troppo da me, e questa dismisura
migliaia di lunari hanno punita.

E se non fosse ch’io drizzai mia cura,
quand’ io intesi là dove tu chiame,
crucciato quasi a l’umana natura:

‘Per che non reggi tu, o sacra fame
de l’oro, l’appetito de’ mortali?’,
voltando sentirei le giostre grame.

Allor m’accorsi che troppo aprir l’ali
potean le mani a spendere, e pente’mi
così di quel come de li altri mali.

Quanti risurgeran coi crini scemi
per ignoranza, che di questa pecca
toglie ’l penter vivendo e ne li stremi!

E sappie che la colpa che rimbecca
per dritta opposizione alcun peccato,
con esso insieme qui suo verde secca;

però, s’io son tra quella gente stato
che piange l’avarizia, per purgarmi,
per lo contrario suo m’è incontrato».

«Or quando tu cantasti le crude armi
de la doppia trestizia di Giocasta»,
disse ’l cantor de’ buccolici carmi,

«per quello che Clïò teco lì tasta,
non par che ti facesse ancor fedele
la fede, sanza qual ben far non basta.

Se così è, qual sole o quai candele
ti stenebraron sì, che tu drizzasti
poscia di retro al pescator le vele?».

Ed elli a lui: «Tu prima m’invïasti
verso Parnaso a ber ne le sue grotte,
e prima appresso Dio m’alluminasti.

Facesti come quei che va di notte,
che porta il lume dietro e sé non giova,
ma dopo sé fa le persone dotte,

quando dicesti: ‘Secol si rinova;
torna giustizia e primo tempo umano,
e progenïe scende da ciel nova’.

Per te poeta fui, per te cristiano:
ma perché veggi mei ciò ch’io disegno,
a colorare stenderò la mano.

Già era ’l mondo tutto quanto pregno
de la vera credenza, seminata
per li messaggi de l’etterno regno;

e la parola tua sopra toccata
si consonava a’ nuovi predicanti;
ond’ io a visitarli presi usata.

Vennermi poi parendo tanto santi,
che, quando Domizian li perseguette,
sanza mio lagrimar non fur lor pianti;

e mentre che di là per me si stette,
io li sovvenni, e i lor dritti costumi
fer dispregiare a me tutte altre sette.

E pria ch’io conducessi i Greci a’ fiumi
di Tebe poetando, ebb’ io battesmo;
ma per paura chiuso cristian fu’mi,

lungamente mostrando paganesmo;
e questa tepidezza il quarto cerchio
cerchiar mi fé più che ’l quarto centesmo.

Tu dunque, che levato hai il coperchio
che m’ascondeva quanto bene io dico,
mentre che del salire avem soverchio,

dimmi dov’ è Terrenzio nostro antico,
Cecilio e Plauto e Varro, se lo sai:
dimmi se son dannati, e in qual vico».

«Costoro e Persio e io e altri assai»,
rispuose il duca mio, «siam con quel Greco
che le Muse lattar più ch’altri mai,

nel primo cinghio del carcere cieco;
spesse fïate ragioniam del monte
che sempre ha le nutrice nostre seco.

Euripide v’è nosco e Antifonte,
Simonide, Agatone e altri piùe
Greci che già di lauro ornar la fronte.

Quivi si veggion de le genti tue
Antigone, Deïfile e Argia,
e Ismene sì trista come fue.

Védeisi quella che mostrò Langia;
èvvi la figlia di Tiresia, e Teti,
e con le suore sue Deïdamia».

Tacevansi ambedue già li poeti,
di novo attenti a riguardar dintorno,
liberi da saliri e da pareti;

e già le quattro ancelle eran del giorno
rimase a dietro, e la quinta era al temo,
drizzando pur in sù l’ardente corno,

quando il mio duca: «Io credo ch’a lo stremo
le destre spalle volger ne convegna,
girando il monte come far solemo».

Così l’usanza fu lì nostra insegna,
e prendemmo la via con men sospetto
per l’assentir di quell’ anima degna.

Elli givan dinanzi, e io soletto
di retro, e ascoltava i lor sermoni,
ch’a poetar mi davano intelletto.

Ma tosto ruppe le dolci ragioni
un alber che trovammo in mezza strada,
con pomi a odorar soavi e buoni;

e come abete in alto si digrada
di ramo in ramo, così quello in giuso,
cred’ io, perché persona sù non vada.

Dal lato onde ’l cammin nostro era chiuso,
cadea de l’alta roccia un liquor chiaro
e si spandeva per le foglie suso.

Li due poeti a l’alber s’appressaro;
e una voce per entro le fronde
gridò: «Di questo cibo avrete caro».

Poi disse: «Più pensava Maria onde
fosser le nozze orrevoli e intere,
ch’a la sua bocca, ch’or per voi risponde.

E le Romane antiche, per lor bere,
contente furon d’acqua; e Danïello
dispregiò cibo e acquistò savere.

Lo secol primo, quant’ oro fu bello,
fé savorose con fame le ghiande,
e nettare con sete ogne ruscello.

Mele e locuste furon le vivande
che nodriro il Batista nel diserto;
per ch’elli è glorïoso e tanto grande

quanto per lo Vangelio v’è aperto».

Giorgio Petrocchi, editor. Full text is available at Colombia University’s Digital Dante project.

Canto 23

While I, as likewise he is wont to do,
who wastes his life in hunting little birds,
was piercing thus the green leaves with mine eyes,
my more than Father said to me: “My son,
come on now, for the time assigned to us
should be more usefully distributed.”
I turned my face, and, no less soon, my steps
behind the Sages, who so talked, that walking
they caused to be of no expense to me.
Then lo, in tearful and in singing tones
“My lips, O Lord” was heard in such a way,
that to delight and sorrow it gave birth.
“O gentle Father, what is that I hear?”
said I; and he then: “Shades who, moving on,
loosen, perhaps, the knot of what they owe.”
As pilgrim travellers do, who lost in thought,
on meeting unknown people on the road,
turn round to look at them, but do not stop;
ev’n so behind us, though more quickly moving,
there came a band of souls, who as they passed,
devout and silent, gazed at us in wonder.

Each was expressionless and hollow-eyed,
pale in his face, and lacking so in flesh,
that of his bones his skin assumed the shape.
I do not think that even Erysìchthon
became so withered into utter skin,
because of fasting, when he feared it most.
Thinking within myself, I said: “Behold
the people who once lost Jerusalem,
when Mary thrust her beak into her son!”
The sockets of their eyes seemed gemless rings;
and he that OMO reads in human faces,
would surely there have recognized the M.
Who would believe the perfume of a fruit
and odor of a water could so act,
and cause such craving, if he knew not how?
I still was wondering what so famished them,
because the reason of their being lean,
and of their wretched scurf was not yet clear;
when lo, a shade from deep within his head
turning his eyes toward me, looked hard, and then
cried out aloud: “What grace is this to me?”
I never should have known him by his face;
but that to me was in his voice revealed,
which in itself his aspect had suppressed.
That spark rekindled all that I had known
of that disfigured countenance, and thus
I recognized it as Forese’s face.

“Ah, prithee, heed thou not the dried up scab,”
he pleaded, “which discolors thus my skin,
nor any lack of flesh that I may have!
But tell the truth about thyself, and who
those two souls are, who bear thee company;
refrain no longer from addressing me.”
I answered him: “Thy face, which once as dead
I mourned for, gives me now no smaller cause
for weeping, that I see it so disfigured.
For God’s sake tell me, then, what strips you thus;
make me not talk and wonder, too; for ill
can he converse, who longs for something else.”
“A virtue from the Eternal Will” he said,
“comes down into the water and the Tree
we left behind, whereby I thus grow lean.
And all these people who in tears are singing,
because of following unchecked love of food,
are here resanctified in thirst and hunger.
The pleasant odor, issuing from the fruit,
and from the spray which o’er the verdure spreads,
kindles in us the wish to eat and drink.
And not once only is our pain renewed,
as on this floor we move around — our pain,
I say, though solace ought to be my word;
for to the Tree doth that same longing lead us,
which once led Christ in happiness to cry:
‘My God!’, when with His blood He set us free.”

And I to him: “Forese, from the day,
when thou didst for a better life change world,
five years have not yet rolled away till now.
If power of sinning further ended in thee
before the coming of that happy hour
of sorrow, which reweddeth us to God,
how is it thou art come up here? I thought
that I should find thee still below, down there,
where time restores itself by means of time.”
Whence he to me: “My Nella, with the tears
which streamed from her, enabled me to drink
the pleasant wormwood of this pain so soon.
She, with her pious prayers and with her sighs,
hath drawn me from the hillside where one waits,
and freed me from the other lower rings.
So much the dearer a delight to God
is my poor widow whom I loved so much,
the more alone she is in doing right;
for far more modest in its women is
the wild Barbagia region of Sardinia,
than the Barbagia which I left her in.
O my dear brother, what wouldst have me say?
I have, e’en now, a future time in sight,
to which this hour will not be very old,
when from the pulpit shameless Florence women
will be prohibited to go abroad
showing their bosoms with the breasts exposed.

What Barbary women, or what Saracens
e’er needed spiritual or other laws,
to keep them covered up when going out?
But if the shameless ones were sure of what
a swiftly moving heaven prepares for them,
their mouths for howling would be open now;
for, if my foresight here deceive me not,
they ’ll grieve, ere that one’s cheek grows hair, who still
is hushed with lullabies. Now, brother, see,
I pray, that from me thou no longer hide!
Thou seèst that not only I, but all
these people gaze where thou dost veil the sun.”
Hence I to him: “If thou recall to mind
what thou with me wast once, and with thee I,
still grievous will our present memory be.
Who goes before me turned me from that life
the other day, when that one’s sister round
was seen by you;” (and at the sun I pointed).
“Through the deep night hath he conducted me,
and from among the truly dead, still clothed
in this real flesh, which follows in his steps.
Thence his encouragements have drawn me on,
as up I climbed, and circled round the Mount,
which straightens you whom crooked made the world.
He says that he will make me his companion,
till there I am, where Beatrice shall be;
up there without him must I needs remain.

Virgil is he, who tells me so,” (at him
I pointed), “and this other one, the shade,
because of whom just now on every slope
your Realm, which from itself removes him, quaked.”

Courtney Langdon, translator. Full text is available at Liberty Fund.

Canto 23

Mentre che li occhi per la fronda verde
ficcava ïo sì come far suole
chi dietro a li uccellin sua vita perde,

lo più che padre mi dicea: «Figliuole,
vienne oramai, ché ’l tempo che n’è imposto
più utilmente compartir si vuole».

Io volsi ’l viso, e ’l passo non men tosto,
appresso i savi, che parlavan sìe,
che l’andar mi facean di nullo costo.

Ed ecco piangere e cantar s’udìe
‘Labïa mëa, Domine’ per modo
tal, che diletto e doglia parturìe.

«O dolce padre, che è quel ch’i’ odo?»,
comincia’ io; ed elli: «Ombre che vanno
forse di lor dover solvendo il nodo».

Sì come i peregrin pensosi fanno,
giugnendo per cammin gente non nota,
che si volgono ad essa e non restanno,

così di retro a noi, più tosto mota,
venendo e trapassando ci ammirava
d’anime turba tacita e devota.

Ne li occhi era ciascuna oscura e cava,
palida ne la faccia, e tanto scema
che da l’ossa la pelle s’informava.

Non credo che così a buccia strema
Erisittone fosse fatto secco,
per digiunar, quando più n’ebbe tema.

Io dicea fra me stesso pensando: ‘Ecco
la gente che perdé Ierusalemme,
quando Maria nel figlio diè di becco!’

Parean l’occhiaie anella sanza gemme:
chi nel viso de li uomini legge ‘omo’
ben avria quivi conosciuta l’emme.

Chi crederebbe che l’odor d’un pomo
sì governasse, generando brama,
e quel d’un’acqua, non sappiendo como?

Già era in ammirar che sì li affama,
per la cagione ancor non manifesta
di lor magrezza e di lor trista squama,

ed ecco del profondo de la testa
volse a me li occhi un’ombra e guardò fiso;
poi gridò forte: «Qual grazia m’è questa?».

Mai non l’avrei riconosciuto al viso;
ma ne la voce sua mi fu palese
ciò che l’aspetto in sé avea conquiso.

Questa favilla tutta mi raccese
mia conoscenza a la cangiata labbia,
e ravvisai la faccia di Forese.

«Deh, non contendere a l’asciutta scabbia
che mi scolora», pregava, «la pelle,
né a difetto di carne ch’io abbia;

ma dimmi il ver di te, dì chi son quelle
due anime che là ti fanno scorta;
non rimaner che tu non mi favelle!».

«La faccia tua, ch’io lagrimai già morta,
mi dà di pianger mo non minor doglia»,
rispuos’ io lui, «veggendola sì torta.

Però mi dì, per Dio, che sì vi sfoglia;
non mi far dir mentr’ io mi maraviglio,
ché mal può dir chi è pien d’altra voglia».

Ed elli a me: «De l’etterno consiglio
cade vertù ne l’acqua e ne la pianta
rimasa dietro ond’ io sì m’assottiglio.

Tutta esta gente che piangendo canta
per seguitar la gola oltra misura,
in fame e ’n sete qui si rifà santa.

Di bere e di mangiar n’accende cura
l’odor ch’esce del pomo e de lo sprazzo
che si distende su per sua verdura.

E non pur una volta, questo spazzo
girando, si rinfresca nostra pena:
io dico pena, e dovria dir sollazzo,

ché quella voglia a li alberi ci mena
che menò Cristo lieto a dire ‘Elì’,
quando ne liberò con la sua vena».

E io a lui: «Forese, da quel dì
nel qual mutasti mondo a miglior vita,
cinqu’ anni non son vòlti infino a qui.

Se prima fu la possa in te finita
di peccar più, che sovvenisse l’ora
del buon dolor ch’a Dio ne rimarita,

come se’ tu qua sù venuto ancora?
Io ti credea trovar là giù di sotto,
dove tempo per tempo si ristora».

Ond’ elli a me: «Sì tosto m’ha condotto
a ber lo dolce assenzo d’i martìri
la Nella mia con suo pianger dirotto.

Con suoi prieghi devoti e con sospiri
tratto m’ha de la costa ove s’aspetta,
e liberato m’ha de li altri giri.

Tanto è a Dio più cara e più diletta
la vedovella mia, che molto amai,
quanto in bene operare è più soletta;

ché la Barbagia di Sardigna assai
ne le femmine sue più è pudica
che la Barbagia dov’ io la lasciai.

O dolce frate, che vuo’ tu ch’io dica?
Tempo futuro m’è già nel cospetto,
cui non sarà quest’ ora molto antica,

nel qual sarà in pergamo interdetto
a le sfacciate donne fiorentine
l’andar mostrando con le poppe il petto.

Quai barbare fuor mai, quai saracine,
cui bisognasse, per farle ir coperte,
o spiritali o altre discipline?

Ma se le svergognate fosser certe
di quel che ’l ciel veloce loro ammanna,
già per urlare avrian le bocche aperte;

ché, se l’antiveder qui non m’inganna,
prima fien triste che le guance impeli
colui che mo si consola con nanna.

Deh, frate, or fa che più non mi ti celi!
vedi che non pur io, ma questa gente
tutta rimira là dove ’l sol veli».

Per ch’io a lui: «Se tu riduci a mente
qual fosti meco, e qual io teco fui,
ancor fia grave il memorar presente.

Di quella vita mi volse costui
che mi va innanzi, l’altr’ ier, quando tonda
vi si mostrò la suora di colui»,

e ’l sol mostrai; «costui per la profonda
notte menato m’ha d’i veri morti
con questa vera carne che ’l seconda.

Indi m’han tratto sù li suoi conforti,
salendo e rigirando la montagna
che drizza voi che ’l mondo fece torti.

Tanto dice di farmi sua compagna
che io sarò là dove fia Beatrice;
quivi convien che sanza lui rimagna.

Virgilio è questi che così mi dice»,
e addita’lo; «e quest’ altro è quell’ ombra
per cuï scosse dianzi ogne pendice

lo vostro regno, che da sé lo sgombra».

Giorgio Petrocchi, editor. Full text is available at Colombia University’s Digital Dante project.

Canto 24

Speaking slowed not our gait, nor did our gait
our speaking; but, still talking, we went on
apace, as, by a fair wind driv’n, a ship.
The shades, meanwhile, who looked like things twice dead,
drew wonder through their hollowed eyes at me,
when they perceived that I was still alive.
And I, continuing my talking, said:
“He, for another’s sake, is going up
more slowly than, perhaps, he else would do.
But, if thou know, say where Piccarda is;
and whether I see any here worth noting
among these people who so gaze at me.”
“My sister who, ’tween fair and good, was most
I know not which, on high Olympus triumphs,
happy already in the crown she wears.”
This he said first, and then: “We ’re not forbid
to name each here, since by our abstinence,
our aspects are so greatly milked away.
This Bonagiunta is,” his finger showed him,
“the Lucca Bonagiunta; while the face
beyond him, more embroidered than the rest,

had in his arms the Holy Church; of Tours
he was, and now, by fasting, expiates
Bolsena’s eels and rare vernaccia wine.”
And many more he named me, one by one;
and all, when named, seemed satisfied, hence I,
because of this, saw not a gloomy act.
Using their teeth through hunger, though in vain,
I saw both Ubaldino della Pila,
and Boniface, who pastured with his crook
much folk. I Ser Marchese saw, who once
had time to drink less dryly at Forlì,
yet such he was, that he did not feel sated.
But, as one looks, and more of one man thinks
than of another, so did I at him
of Lucca, who, it seemed, most wished to know me.
He murmured, and I heard I know not what
about ‘Gentucca,’ uttered where he felt
the wound of Justice which consumes them so.
“O soul, that seemst so fain to speak to me,”
said I, “so do that I may understand,
and with thy words appease thyself and me.”
“There is a woman born,” he then began,
“nor weareth yet the veil, who, howsoe’er
it be reproached, shall cause my town to please thee.
With this prevision shalt thou now go on;
and if by what I murmured thou wast led
astray, events shall make it clear to thee.

But tell me whether him I here behold,
who those new rhymes produced, which thus begin:
‘Ye ladies, who well know what loving is.’”
And him I answered: “I am one, who heed
when Love within me breathes, and outwardly
express myself as in me Love dictates.”
“O brother, now I see” said he, “the bar,
which kept this side the sweet new style I hear,
the Notary, Guittone, and myself.
I clearly see that your pens closely follow
in the dictator’s wake, which certainly
was not the case with ours; and he who further
sets himself most to look, between these styles
perceives no other difference.” Whereupon,
as if content with this, he ceased to speak.
As birds that spend the winter ’long the Nile,
form in the air at times a flock, and then
with greater speed fly on, and in a line
advance; so likewise all the people there,
quickened their steps with faces turned around,
since through their leanness light, and through their will.
And as a man who weary is of running,
lets his companions go, and only walks,
until the panting of his chest has ceased;
ev’n so Forese let the holy flock
pass on, and saying: “When shall I again
behold thee?” came along behind with me.

“I know not,” I replied, “how long I ’ll live;
but I shall not so soon return, that sooner
I shall not with my will be on the shore;
because the place where I was set to live,
strips itself further day by day of goodness,
and now to dismal ruin seems ordained.”
“Now go,” said he, “for him I see, who most
hath blame for this, behind a beast’s tail dragged
down to the Vale, where none e’er frees himself
from fault. The beast with every step goes faster,
and ever faster, till it hurls him down,
and leaves his body in disgraceful plight.
Those spheres have not much further to revolve,”
(he raised his eyes toward heaven) “ere clear to thee
will that become, which my words can explain
no more. Stay now behind; for in this Realm
so precious is our time, that, coming thus
at even pace with thee, I lose too much.”
As at a gallop from a riding troop
a horseman issues forth at times, and goes
to win the honor of the first encounter;
so he with longer strides departed from us;
and on the road with those two I remained,
who of the world such mighty marshals were.
When he had gone so far ahead, that now
mine eyes became such followers of his form,
as of his words my mind, the heavy laden

and living branches of another Tree
appeared before me not so far away,
since toward it I had only then turned round.
Beneath it folk I saw with upraised hands,
who toward the foliage cried I know not what,
like eager children who in vain beseech,
while he, to whom they pray, replieth not,
but with a view to make their longing keen,
holds what they long for up, and hides it not.
They then departed, as if undeceived;
and thereupon to that great Tree we came,
which turns away so many prayers and tears.
“Pass on without approaching! Higher up
a Tree there is, which bitten was by Eve,
and this one is an offshoot sprung from that.”
Thus said I know not who among the branches;
hence Virgil, I, and Statius, close together,
advanced along the side which rises up.
“Recall” he said, “those cursèd cloud-born creatures,
who, gorged with food and drink, ’gainst Theseus strove
with double breasts; the Hebrews, too, recall,
who at their drinking showed that they were soft,
whence as his fellows Gideon had them not,
when he on Midian down the hills advanced.”
Thus, hugging close one margin of the ring,
we passed, and heard of gluttonies,
which once were followed by distressful gains.

Then, spreading out across the lonely path,
more than a thousand steps had borne us on,
in contemplation each without a word.
“What think ye three, as thus alone ye go?”
a voice cried suddenly; whereat I started,
as scared and sluggish beasts are wont to do.
I raised my head to see who this might be;
and ne’er were metals in a furnace seen,
or glass, as red and bright, as one I saw
who said: “If ye are pleased to mount above,
ye must in this direction turn aside;
this way goes he, who goes in quest of peace.”
His aspect had bereft me of my sight;
I therefore turned and stepped behind my Teachers
like one who guides his feet by what he hears.
And as, when heralding the light of dawn,
the breeze of May sheds fragrance as it stirs,
all redolent of grasses and of flowers;
so, ’gainst my brow I felt a zephyr’s stroke,
and well perceived the motion of the wing
which made me scent ambrosian odors there.
“Blessèd are they, whom so much Grace illumes,”
I heard one saying, “that the love of taste
stirs not too great a longing in their breast,
but always hunger only as is right!”

Courtney Langdon, translator. Full text is available at Liberty Fund.

Canto 24

Né ’l dir l’andar, né l’andar lui più lento
facea, ma ragionando andavam forte,
sì come nave pinta da buon vento;

e l’ombre, che parean cose rimorte,
per le fosse de li occhi ammirazione
traean di me, di mio vivere accorte.

E io, continüando al mio sermone,
dissi: «Ella sen va sù forse più tarda
che non farebbe, per altrui cagione.

Ma dimmi, se tu sai, dov’ è Piccarda;
dimmi s’io veggio da notar persona
tra questa gente che sì mi riguarda».

«La mia sorella, che tra bella e buona
non so qual fosse più, trïunfa lieta
ne l’alto Olimpo già di sua corona».

Sì disse prima; e poi: «Qui non si vieta
di nominar ciascun, da ch’è sì munta
nostra sembianza via per la dïeta.

Questi», e mostrò col dito, «è Bonagiunta,
Bonagiunta da Lucca; e quella faccia
di là da lui più che l’altre trapunta

ebbe la Santa Chiesa in le sue braccia:
dal Torso fu, e purga per digiuno
l’anguille di Bolsena e la vernaccia».

Molti altri mi nomò ad uno ad uno;
e del nomar parean tutti contenti,
sì ch’io però non vidi un atto bruno.

Vidi per fame a vòto usar li denti
Ubaldin da la Pila e Bonifazio
che pasturò col rocco molte genti.

Vidi messer Marchese, ch’ebbe spazio
già di bere a Forlì con men secchezza,
e sì fu tal, che non si sentì sazio.

Ma come fa chi guarda e poi s’apprezza
più d’un che d’altro, fei a quel da Lucca,
che più parea di me aver contezza.

El mormorava; e non so che «Gentucca»
sentiv’ io là, ov’ el sentia la piaga
de la giustizia che sì li pilucca.

«O anima», diss’ io, «che par sì vaga
di parlar meco, fa sì ch’io t’intenda,
e te e me col tuo parlare appaga».

«Femmina è nata, e non porta ancor benda»,
cominciò el, «che ti farà piacere
la mia città, come ch’om la riprenda.

Tu te n’andrai con questo antivedere:
se nel mio mormorar prendesti errore,
dichiareranti ancor le cose vere.

Ma dì s’i’ veggio qui colui che fore
trasse le nove rime, cominciando
‘Donne ch’avete intelletto d’amore’».

E io a lui: «I’ mi son un che, quando
Amor mi spira, noto, e a quel modo
ch’e’ ditta dentro vo significando».

«O frate, issa vegg’ io», diss’ elli, «il nodo
che ’l Notaro e Guittone e me ritenne
di qua dal dolce stil novo ch’i’ odo!

Io veggio ben come le vostre penne
di retro al dittator sen vanno strette,
che de le nostre certo non avvenne;

e qual più a gradire oltre si mette,
non vede più da l’uno a l’altro stilo»;
e, quasi contentato, si tacette.

Come li augei che vernan lungo ’l Nilo,
alcuna volta in aere fanno schiera,
poi volan più a fretta e vanno in filo,

così tutta la gente che lì era,
volgendo ’l viso, raffrettò suo passo,
e per magrezza e per voler leggera.

E come l’uom che di trottare è lasso,
lascia andar li compagni, e sì passeggia
fin che si sfoghi l’affollar del casso,

sì lasciò trapassar la santa greggia
Forese, e dietro meco sen veniva,
dicendo: «Quando fia ch’io ti riveggia?».

«Non so», rispuos’ io lui, «quant’ io mi viva;
ma già non fïa il tornar mio tantosto,
ch’io non sia col voler prima a la riva;

però che ’l loco u’ fui a viver posto,
di giorno in giorno più di ben si spolpa,
e a trista ruina par disposto».

«Or va», diss’ el; «che quei che più n’ha colpa,
vegg’ ïo a coda d’una bestia tratto
inver’ la valle ove mai non si scolpa.

La bestia ad ogne passo va più ratto,
crescendo sempre, fin ch’ella il percuote,
e lascia il corpo vilmente disfatto.

Non hanno molto a volger quelle ruote»,
e drizzò li occhi al ciel, «che ti fia chiaro
ciò che ’l mio dir più dichiarar non puote.

Tu ti rimani omai; ché ’l tempo è caro
in questo regno, sì ch’io perdo troppo
venendo teco sì a paro a paro».

Qual esce alcuna volta di gualoppo
lo cavalier di schiera che cavalchi,
e va per farsi onor del primo intoppo,

tal si partì da noi con maggior valchi;
e io rimasi in via con esso i due
che fuor del mondo sì gran marescalchi.

E quando innanzi a noi intrato fue,
che li occhi miei si fero a lui seguaci,
come la mente a le parole sue,

parvermi i rami gravidi e vivaci
d’un altro pomo, e non molto lontani
per esser pur allora vòlto in laci.

Vidi gente sott’ esso alzar le mani
e gridar non so che verso le fronde,
quasi bramosi fantolini e vani

che pregano, e ’l pregato non risponde,
ma, per fare esser ben la voglia acuta,
tien alto lor disio e nol nasconde.

Poi si partì sì come ricreduta;
e noi venimmo al grande arbore adesso,
che tanti prieghi e lagrime rifiuta.

«Trapassate oltre sanza farvi presso:
legno è più sù che fu morso da Eva,
e questa pianta si levò da esso».

Sì tra le frasche non so chi diceva;
per che Virgilio e Stazio e io, ristretti,
oltre andavam dal lato che si leva.

«Ricordivi», dicea, «d’i maladetti
nei nuvoli formati, che, satolli,
Tesëo combatter co’ doppi petti;

e de li Ebrei ch’al ber si mostrar molli,
per che no i volle Gedeon compagni,
quando inver’ Madïan discese i colli».

Sì accostati a l’un d’i due vivagni
passammo, udendo colpe de la gola
seguite già da miseri guadagni.

Poi, rallargati per la strada sola,
ben mille passi e più ci portar oltre,
contemplando ciascun sanza parola.

«Che andate pensando sì voi sol tre?».
sùbita voce disse; ond’ io mi scossi
come fan bestie spaventate e poltre.

Drizzai la testa per veder chi fossi;
e già mai non si videro in fornace
vetri o metalli sì lucenti e rossi,

com’ io vidi un che dicea: «S’a voi piace
montare in sù, qui si convien dar volta;
quinci si va chi vuole andar per pace».

L’aspetto suo m’avea la vista tolta;
per ch’io mi volsi dietro a’ miei dottori,
com’ om che va secondo ch’elli ascolta.

E quale, annunziatrice de li albori,
l’aura di maggio movesi e olezza,
tutta impregnata da l’erba e da’ fiori;

tal mi senti’ un vento dar per mezza
la fronte, e ben senti’ mover la piuma,
che fé sentir d’ambrosïa l’orezza.

E senti’ dir: «Beati cui alluma
tanto di grazia, che l’amor del gusto
nel petto lor troppo disir non fuma,

esurïendo sempre quanto è giusto!».

Giorgio Petrocchi, editor. Full text is available at Colombia University’s Digital Dante project.

Canto 25

The hour was when ascent brooked no delay,
because the sun had left the noon-time ring
to Taurus, as to Scorpio had the Night;
therefore, as doth a man who, whatsoe’er
appear to him, stops not, but goes his way,
if spurred by goading of necessity;
so, one before the other, through the gap
we entered in, and took the flight of stairs,
which by its narrowness parts those who climb.
And like the little stork, which lifts its wings,
because it longs to fly, but ventures not
to leave its nest, and lets them droop again;
even such was I, with kindled, and with quenched
desire to ask, when coming to the act
of one who starts to speak. Nor, though our pace
was fast, did my dear Father check himself,
but said to me: “Discharge the bow of speech,
which to the arrow-head thou now hast drawn.”
With confidence I opened then my mouth,
and said: “How can one possibly grow lean,
where need of nourishment doth not obtain?”

“Shouldst thou recall” he said, “how, when the brand
was burning, Meleager was consumed,
this would not be so difficult for thee;
and shouldst thou think how, at your quivering,
your image quivers in the looking-glass,
that which seems hard to thee would easy seem.
But that thou ease thee to thy heart’s content,
lo, here is Statius; him I call and beg
that he be now a healer of thy wounds.”
“If I unfold for him the eternal view,
when in thy presence,” Statius then replied,
“be my excuse that I cannot refuse thee.”
He then began: “If, son, thy mind shall hear
and understand my words, they ’ll prove a light
for thee unto the ‘how’ which thou dost ask.
The perfect blood, which by the thirsty veins
is never drunk, but stays as doth the food
which from the table thou dost take away,
gets in the heart a power informative
for all the human members, being that
which floweth through the veins to form the same.
When redigested, it flows down to parts,
whereof more seemly silence is than speech;
then on another’s blood it trickles thence
into the natural vessel. There both meet,
passive the one, the other active, since
perfect the place from which it was distilled;

joining the former, it begins to work,
coagulating first, then quickening that,
which it had formed as matter for itself.
The active virtue, now become a soul, —
as of a plant, though so far differing from it,
that this is on its way, and that, arrived, —
so worketh next, that now it moves and feels,
like fungi of the sea; then undertakes
to organize the powers whose germ it is.
That virtue, son, now spreads, and now extends,
which from the generator’s heart derives,
where Nature on all members is intent.
But how from animal it comes to be
a child, thou see’st not yet; a point so hard,
it led a wiser man than thou so far
astray, that, in his teaching, from the soul
he parted the potential intellect,
because he saw no organ it assumed.
Open thy mind unto the coming truth,
and know that, when the brain’s organization
is in the foetus to perfection brought,
the Primal Mover, glad of such a work
of Nature, turns toward it, and breathes therein
a spirit new and full of powers, which draws
into its substance what it active finds
therein, and so becomes a single soul,
which lives and feels, and on itself reflects.

And that the less thou wonder at my words,
consider how to wine the sun’s heat turns,
when joined to juices flowing from the vine!
When Lachesis hath no more thread, the soul
frees itself from the flesh, and bears away
potentially the human and divine;
mute one and all the other faculties,
with memory, intelligence, and will
far keener in their action than before.
Then, without stopping, of itself it falls
in wondrous way to one or other shore;
here first it learns its road. As soon as place
has circumscribed it there, the forming virtue
rays round it in the same degree and way,
as when the members were alive it did;
and as the air, when fully charged with rain,
is by another’s rays, which it reflects
within itself, adorned with many hues;
so here the neighboring air takes on the shape
the soul, which settled there, impresses on it,
as would a seal, by its own forming power;
and afterward, as doth the little flame,
which follows fire where’er it changes place,
so the new shape accompanies its spirit;
which, since it hence takes visibility,
is called a shade; and therewith organizes
each of the senses, up to that of sight.

By means of this we speak, by means of this
we laugh, and by this means we make the tears
and sighs, thou mayst have heard upon the Mount.
As our desires and other passions move us,
our shade takes shape accordingly; and this
the reason is of what thou wonderest at.”
We now had reached the final circling place,
and, to the right hand having turned our steps,
intent we were upon another care.
The bank here outwardly shoots forth a flame,
while upward from the ledge below a blast
is breathed, which drives it back, and keeps it off;
hence one by one along the open side
we had to walk; while I on one hand feared
the fire, and, on the other, falling down.
My Leader said to me: “Along this path
a tight rein must be kept upon one’s eyes,
for one might very easily go wrong.”
“O God of highest Clemency,” I then
heard sung within the bosom of the fire,
whose glowing no less made me wish to turn;
and spirits moving through the flame I saw;
hence at their steps I looked, and at mine own,
lending my eyes to each from time to time.
After the lines with which that hymn concludes,
aloud they shouted: “I know not a man;”
then in low tones began the hymn again.

They cried again, this ended: “To the woods
Diana kept, and thence drove Hèlicë,
for having known the taste of Venus’ poison.”
Then they resumed the song; and then proclaimed
the names of wives and husbands who were chaste,
as virtue and the marriage state enjoin.
And this course, I believe, suffices them
for all the period, during which the fire
is burning them; and such the care and diet,
wherewith the wound is finally sewed up.

Courtney Langdon, translator. Full text is available at Liberty Fund.

Canto 25

Ora era onde ’l salir non volea storpio;
ché ’l sole avëa il cerchio di merigge
lasciato al Tauro e la notte a lo Scorpio:

per che, come fa l’uom che non s’affigge
ma vassi a la via sua, che che li appaia,
se di bisogno stimolo il trafigge,

così intrammo noi per la callaia,
uno innanzi altro prendendo la scala
che per artezza i salitor dispaia.

E quale il cicognin che leva l’ala
per voglia di volare, e non s’attenta
d’abbandonar lo nido, e giù la cala;

tal era io con voglia accesa e spenta
di dimandar, venendo infino a l’atto
che fa colui ch’a dicer s’argomenta.

Non lasciò, per l’andar che fosse ratto,
lo dolce padre mio, ma disse: «Scocca
l’arco del dir, che ’nfino al ferro hai tratto».

Allor sicuramente apri’ la bocca
e cominciai: «Come si può far magro
là dove l’uopo di nodrir non tocca?».

«Se t’ammentassi come Meleagro
si consumò al consumar d’un stizzo,
non fora», disse, «a te questo sì agro;

e se pensassi come, al vostro guizzo,
guizza dentro a lo specchio vostra image,
ciò che par duro ti parrebbe vizzo.

Ma perché dentro a tuo voler t’adage,
ecco qui Stazio; e io lui chiamo e prego
che sia or sanator de le tue piage».

«Se la veduta etterna li dislego»,
rispuose Stazio, «là dove tu sie,
discolpi me non potert’ io far nego».

Poi cominciò: «Se le parole mie,
figlio, la mente tua guarda e riceve,
lume ti fiero al come che tu die.

Sangue perfetto, che poi non si beve
da l’assetate vene, e si rimane
quasi alimento che di mensa leve,

prende nel core a tutte membra umane
virtute informativa, come quello
ch’a farsi quelle per le vene vane.

Ancor digesto, scende ov’ è più bello
tacer che dire; e quindi poscia geme
sovr’ altrui sangue in natural vasello.

Ivi s’accoglie l’uno e l’altro insieme,
l’un disposto a patire, e l’altro a fare
per lo perfetto loco onde si preme;

e, giunto lui, comincia ad operare
coagulando prima, e poi avviva
ciò che per sua matera fé constare.

Anima fatta la virtute attiva
qual d’una pianta, in tanto differente,
che questa è in via e quella è già a riva,

tanto ovra poi, che già si move e sente,
come spungo marino; e indi imprende
ad organar le posse ond’ è semente.

Or si spiega, figliuolo, or si distende
la virtù ch’è dal cor del generante,
dove natura a tutte membra intende.

Ma come d’animal divegna fante,
non vedi tu ancor: quest’ è tal punto,
che più savio di te fé già errante,

sì che per sua dottrina fé disgiunto
da l’anima il possibile intelletto,
perché da lui non vide organo assunto.

Apri a la verità che viene il petto;
e sappi che, sì tosto come al feto
l’articular del cerebro è perfetto,

lo motor primo a lui si volge lieto
sovra tant’ arte di natura, e spira
spirito novo, di vertù repleto,

che ciò che trova attivo quivi, tira
in sua sustanzia, e fassi un’alma sola,
che vive e sente e sé in sé rigira.

E perché meno ammiri la parola,
guarda il calor del sole che si fa vino,
giunto a l’omor che de la vite cola.

Quando Làchesis non ha più del lino,
solvesi da la carne, e in virtute
ne porta seco e l’umano e ’l divino:

l’altre potenze tutte quante mute;
memoria, intelligenza e volontade
in atto molto più che prima agute.

Sanza restarsi, per sé stessa cade
mirabilmente a l’una de le rive;
quivi conosce prima le sue strade.

Tosto che loco lì la circunscrive,
la virtù formativa raggia intorno
così e quanto ne le membra vive.

E come l’aere, quand’ è ben pïorno,
per l’altrui raggio che ’n sé si reflette,
di diversi color diventa addorno;

così l’aere vicin quivi si mette
e in quella forma ch’è in lui suggella
virtüalmente l’alma che ristette;

e simigliante poi a la fiammella
che segue il foco là ’vunque si muta,
segue lo spirto sua forma novella.

Però che quindi ha poscia sua paruta,
è chiamata ombra; e quindi organa poi
ciascun sentire infino a la veduta.

Quindi parliamo e quindi ridiam noi;
quindi facciam le lagrime e ’ sospiri
che per lo monte aver sentiti puoi.

Secondo che ci affliggono i disiri
e li altri affetti, l’ombra si figura;
e quest’ è la cagion di che tu miri».

E già venuto a l’ultima tortura
s’era per noi, e vòlto a la man destra,
ed eravamo attenti ad altra cura.

Quivi la ripa fiamma in fuor balestra,
e la cornice spira fiato in suso
che la reflette e via da lei sequestra;

ond’ ir ne convenia dal lato schiuso
ad uno ad uno; e io temëa ’l foco
quinci, e quindi temeva cader giuso.

Lo duca mio dicea: «Per questo loco
si vuol tenere a li occhi stretto il freno,
però ch’errar potrebbesi per poco».

‘Summae Deus clementïae’ nel seno
al grande ardore allora udi’ cantando,
che di volger mi fé caler non meno;

e vidi spirti per la fiamma andando;
per ch’io guardava a loro e a’ miei passi
compartendo la vista a quando a quando.

Appresso il fine ch’a quell’ inno fassi,
gridavano alto: ‘Virum non cognosco’;
indi ricominciavan l’inno bassi.

Finitolo, anco gridavano: «Al bosco
si tenne Diana, ed Elice caccionne
che di Venere avea sentito il tòsco».

Indi al cantar tornavano; indi donne
gridavano e mariti che fuor casti
come virtute e matrimonio imponne.

E questo modo credo che lor basti
per tutto il tempo che ’l foco li abbruscia:
con tal cura conviene e con tai pasti

che la piaga da sezzo si ricuscia.

Giorgio Petrocchi, editor. Full text is available at Colombia University’s Digital Dante project.

Canto 26

While thus, one ’fore the other, ’long the edge
we went, and my good Teacher often said:
“Attention pay; and let my warning help thee!”
the sun, which with its rays was changing now
from azure all the western skies to white,
was on my right side striking me; and I
was with my shadow giving to the flame
a brighter red; I noticed many shades
give heed to this small sign, as on they moved.
This was what started them to speak of me;
and they began to say among themselves:
“That one seems not to have an unreal body.”
Then some of them, as far as possible
drew near to me, though always with due care
not to come out where they would not be burned.
“O thou that goest on behind the rest,
though not from sloth, but from respect, perhaps
reply to me, who burn with thirst and fire!
Nor is by me alone thine answer needed;
for all these here have greater thirst therefor
than Indians or Ethiopians for cold water.

Inform us how it is that with thyself
thou makest thus a wall against the sun,
as if thou hadst not entered death’s snare yet.”
Thus one of them addressed me; and at once
had I declared myself, had I not heeded
another novelty which then appeared;
for through the middle of the flaming road
folk with their faces turned the other way
came on, and made me stop to gaze at them.
There all the shades on every side I see
make haste, and, without stopping, kiss each other,
with this short form of greeting satisfied.
Thus one ant from among its dark host touches
its muzzle to another’s, to obtain,
perhaps, directions as to path or fortune.
As soon as they leave off their friendly greeting,
and ere the first step has been taken there,
each struggles to outcry the other shade;
the new-come band shouts: “Sodom and Gomorrah!”
the other: “In the cow Pasìphaë
reclines, that to her lust the bull may run.”
Thereat, like cranes, — if some of them should fly
toward the Riphæan heights, and toward the sands
the rest, these shunning ice, and those the sun, —
one band departs, the other comes along;
and weeping to their previous song they turn,
and to the cry which best befitteth them.

Then those same shades who had entreated me,
drew near to me, as they had done before,
with eagerness to listen in their looks.
And I, who twice had seen what they desired,
began: “O souls, who now are sure of having,
whenever it may be, a state of peace,
my body’s members have not stayed beyond,
either unripe or ripe, but with their blood,
and with their joints are really with me here.
I hence go up, to be no longer blind.
On high a Lady wins us Grace, whereby
I carry through your world my mortal part.
But, so may your best wish be soon fulfilled,
in order that that heaven may shelter you,
which, full of love, is amplest in its spread,
tell me, that I may rule more paper for it,
both who ye are, and what is yonder crowd,
which onward goes its way behind your backs.”
A mountaineer becomes not otherwise
confused, nor, looking round, grows dumb,
when, rough and wild, he enters first a town,
than each shade did in its appearance there;
but, when set free from that astonishment,
which soon diminishes in high-born hearts,
the one who questioned me before resumed:
“Happy art thou, that shippest thus experience
of these our bounds, that better thou mayst live!

The people who come not along with us,
in that offended, for which Caesar once
when triumphing heard ‘Queen’ cried out against him;
from us they therefore separate with cries
of ‘Sodom,’ and by self-reproach assist,
as thou hast heard, the burning by their shame.
Our sin was intersexual; but, since we,
by following our appetites like beasts,
failed to conform ourselves to human law,
to our confusion, when we leave the others,
her name we cry, who bestialized herself
by lying in the beast-resembling frame.
Thou knowest now our deeds, and what our guilt;
if who we are thou ’dst know, perhaps, by name,
there is no time to tell, nor could I do it.
As to myself, I ’ll rid thee of thy wish;
I’m Guido Guinizelli, and purge me now,
because of grieving well before the end.”
As in Lycurgus’ anguish those two sons
became, when they again beheld their mother,
ev’n such did I, though I went not so far,
when him I heard self-named, who father was
to me and others, better men than I,
who e’er made sweet and graceful rhymes of love;
hence, lost in thought, nor hearing aught or speaking,
I moved, and long I gazed at him in wonder,
but, for the fire, no nearer drew to him.

When I with looking had been fully fed,
I put myself entirely at his service
with those assurances which win belief.
And he: “Thou leav’st in me a memory,
from what I hear, so great and plain, that Lethe
can neither wipe it out nor make it dim.
But, if thy words swore what was true just now,
tell me: why hast thou by thy speech and looks
revealed to me that thou dost hold me dear?”
And I to him: “’T was those sweet rhymes of yours
which, while the modern form of speech endures,
will e’er endear to me their very ink.”
“Brother,” he said, “he whom I indicate,”
(he pointed at a spirit on ahead)
was of his mother tongue a better smith.
In love-songs and in stories of romance
he vanquished all; hence let those fools talk on,
who think the Limousin excelleth him.
To rumor, rather than to truth, they turn
their faces, forming their opinions thus,
ere art or reason have by them been heeded.
Thus with Guittone many ancients did,
giving, from cry to cry, to him alone
the prize, until with most the truth prevailed.
If now so amply privileged thou art,
that lawful is thy going to the cloister,
where Christ is Abbot of the brotherhood,

a Pater-noster say to Him for me,
or all of it that we in this world need,
wherein no longer it is ours to sin.”
And then, perhaps to yield his place to one
near by him there, he vanished through the fire,
as to the bottom would a fish through water.
Toward him who had been pointed out I moved
a little way, and said that my desire
was for his name a gracious place preparing.
“Your courteous question” he, unurged, began,
“delighteth me so much, that I can not,
nor do I wish to, hide myself from you.
Arnaut am I, who, going, weep and sing;
with sorrow my past folly I behold,
and see with joy the hoped-for coming day.
Now by the Power which guides you to the top
of this short flight of stairs, I beg of you
be mindful in due time of this my pain!”
Then in the fire refining them he hid.

Courtney Langdon, translator. Full text is available at Liberty Fund.

Canto 26

Mentre che sì per l’orlo, uno innanzi altro,
ce n’andavamo, e spesso il buon maestro
diceami: «Guarda: giovi ch’io ti scaltro»;

feriami il sole in su l’omero destro,
che già, raggiando, tutto l’occidente
mutava in bianco aspetto di cilestro;

e io facea con l’ombra più rovente
parer la fiamma; e pur a tanto indizio
vidi molt’ ombre, andando, poner mente.

Questa fu la cagion che diede inizio
loro a parlar di me; e cominciarsi
a dir: «Colui non par corpo fittizio»;

poi verso me, quanto potëan farsi,
certi si fero, sempre con riguardo
di non uscir dove non fosser arsi.

«O tu che vai, non per esser più tardo,
ma forse reverente, a li altri dopo,
rispondi a me che ’n sete e ’n foco ardo.

Né solo a me la tua risposta è uopo;
ché tutti questi n’hanno maggior sete
che d’acqua fredda Indo o Etïopo.

Dinne com’ è che fai di te parete
al sol, pur come tu non fossi ancora
di morte intrato dentro da la rete».

Sì mi parlava un d’essi; e io mi fora
già manifesto, s’io non fossi atteso
ad altra novità ch’apparve allora;

ché per lo mezzo del cammino acceso
venne gente col viso incontro a questa,
la qual mi fece a rimirar sospeso.

Lì veggio d’ogne parte farsi presta
ciascun’ ombra e basciarsi una con una
sanza restar, contente a brieve festa;

così per entro loro schiera bruna
s’ammusa l’una con l’altra formica,
forse a spiar lor via e lor fortuna.

Tosto che parton l’accoglienza amica,
prima che ’l primo passo lì trascorra,
sopragridar ciascuna s’affatica:

la nova gente: «Soddoma e Gomorra»;
e l’altra: «Ne la vacca entra Pasife,
perché ’l torello a sua lussuria corra».

Poi, come grue ch’a le montagne Rife
volasser parte, e parte inver’ l’arene,
queste del gel, quelle del sole schife,

l’una gente sen va, l’altra sen vene;
e tornan, lagrimando, a’ primi canti
e al gridar che più lor si convene;

e raccostansi a me, come davanti,
essi medesmi che m’avean pregato,
attenti ad ascoltar ne’ lor sembianti.

Io, che due volte avea visto lor grato,
incominciai: «O anime sicure
d’aver, quando che sia, di pace stato,

non son rimase acerbe né mature
le membra mie di là, ma son qui meco
col sangue suo e con le sue giunture.

Quinci sù vo per non esser più cieco;
donna è di sopra che m’acquista grazia,
per che ‘l mortal per vostro mondo reco.

Ma se la vostra maggior voglia sazia
tosto divegna, sì che ‘l ciel v’alberghi
ch’è pien d’amore e più ampio si spazia,

ditemi, acciò ch’ancor carte ne verghi,
chi siete voi, e chi è quella turba
che se ne va di retro a’ vostri terghi».

Non altrimenti stupido si turba
lo montanaro, e rimirando ammuta,
quando rozzo e salvatico s’inurba,

che ciascun’ ombra fece in sua paruta;
ma poi che furon di stupore scarche,
lo qual ne li alti cuor tosto s’attuta,

«Beato te, che de le nostre marche»,
ricominciò colei che pria m’inchiese,
«per morir meglio, esperïenza imbarche!

La gente che non vien con noi, offese
di ciò per che già Cesar, trïunfando,
“Regina” contra sé chiamar s’intese:

però si parton “Soddoma” gridando,
rimproverando a sé, com’ hai udito,
e aiutan l’arsura vergognando.

Nostro peccato fu ermafrodito;
ma perché non servammo umana legge,
seguendo come bestie l’appetito,

in obbrobrio di noi, per noi si legge,
quando partinci, il nome di colei
che s’imbestiò ne le ’mbestiate schegge.

Or sai nostri atti e di che fummo rei:
se forse a nome vuo’ saper chi semo,
tempo non è di dire, e non saprei.

Farotti ben di me volere scemo:
son Guido Guinizzelli, e già mi purgo
per ben dolermi prima ch’a lo stremo».

Quali ne la tristizia di Ligurgo
si fer due figli a riveder la madre,
tal mi fec’ io, ma non a tanto insurgo,

quand’ io odo nomar sé stesso il padre
mio e de li altri miei miglior che mai
rime d’amor usar dolci e leggiadre;

e sanza udire e dir pensoso andai
lunga fïata rimirando lui,
né, per lo foco, in là più m’appressai.

Poi che di riguardar pasciuto fui,
tutto m’offersi pronto al suo servigio
con l’affermar che fa credere altrui.

Ed elli a me: «Tu lasci tal vestigio,
per quel ch’i’ odo, in me, e tanto chiaro,
che Letè nol può tòrre né far bigio.

Ma se le tue parole or ver giuraro,
dimmi che è cagion per che dimostri
nel dire e nel guardar d’avermi caro».

E io a lui: «Li dolci detti vostri,
che, quanto durerà l’uso moderno,
faranno cari ancora i loro incostri».

«O frate», disse, «questi ch’io ti cerno
col dito», e additò un spirto innanzi,
«fu miglior fabbro del parlar materno.

Versi d’amore e prose di romanzi
soverchiò tutti; e lascia dir li stolti
che quel di Lemosì credon ch’avanzi.

A voce più ch’al ver drizzan li volti,
e così ferman sua oppinïone
prima ch’arte o ragion per lor s’ascolti.

Così fer molti antichi di Guittone,
di grido in grido pur lui dando pregio,
fin che l’ha vinto il ver con più persone.

Or se tu hai sì ampio privilegio,
che licito ti sia l’andare al chiostro
nel quale è Cristo abate del collegio,

falli per me un dir d’un paternostro,
quanto bisogna a noi di questo mondo,
dove poter peccar non è più nostro».

Poi, forse per dar luogo altrui secondo
che presso avea, disparve per lo foco,
come per l’acqua il pesce andando al fondo.

Io mi fei al mostrato innanzi un poco,
e dissi ch’al suo nome il mio disire
apparecchiava grazïoso loco.

El cominciò liberamente a dire:
«Tan m’abellis vostre cortes deman,
qu’ieu no me puesc ni voill a vos cobrire.

Ieu sui Arnaut, que plor e vau cantan;
consiros vei la passada folor,
e vei jausen lo joi qu’ esper, denan.

Ara vos prec, per aquella valor
que vos guida al som de l’escalina,
sovenha vos a temps de ma dolor!».

Poi s’ascose nel foco che li affina.

Giorgio Petrocchi, editor. Full text is available at Colombia University’s Digital Dante project.

Canto 27

As when he sends his earliest quivering beams
where his Creator shed his blood, while Ebro
’neath lofty Libra falls, and Ganges’ waves
are being scalded by the heat of noon,
so stood the sun; daylight was, hence, departing,
when God’s glad Messenger appeared to us.
Outside the flames upon the bank he stood,
and, in a voice far clearer than is ours
was singing: “Blessèd are the pure in heart!”
“No further may ye go, ye holy souls,
until the fire have burned you; enter it,
and be not deaf unto the song beyond!”
he told us next, when we were near to him;
hence I, on hearing him, became like one
who in the grave is laid. Clasping my hands
together, over them I bowed, and watched
the fire, while vivid images I formed
of human bodies I had once seen burned.
Toward me my kindly Escorts turned around;
and Virgil said to me: “There may, my son,
be pain here, but not death. Recall to mind,

recall to mind! . . . if even on Geryon’s back
I safely led thee, what shall I do now,
that nearer God I am? Assuredly believe
that, if within the center of this flame
thou shouldst for ev’n a thousand years remain,
it could not make thee lose a single hair;
and if, perchance, thou think that I deceive thee,
draw near to it, and make thyself believe
with thine own hands upon thy garment’s hem.
Lay now aside, lay now aside all fear!
Turn round toward me, and come ahead, assured!”
And yet, though ’gainst my conscience, I moved not.
On seeing me still motionless and firm,
somewhat disturbed, he said: “Now see, my son;
this wall remains ’tween Beatrice and thee.”
As Pyramus, when dying, at the name
of Thisbe, oped his eyes, and looked at her,
what time the mulberry became vermilion;
ev’n so, my stubbornness becoming weak,
I turned to my wiser Leader, when I heard
the name that ever wells up in my heart.
Thereat he shook his head, and said: “What ’s this?
Do we on this side wish to stay?” then smiled,
as one does at a child an apple wins.
Then, entering the fire in front of me,
Statius he begged to come behind, who erst
had over a long road divided us.

When once inside, I would have thrown myself,
that I might cool me, into boiling glass,
so without measure was the burning there.
My tender Father, to encourage me,
talked, as we moved, of Beatrice alone,
and said: “I seem to see her eyes already.”
A voice that sang upon the further side,
was guiding us; and we, on it alone
intent, came forth to where the ascent began.
“Ye blessèd of my Father, come!” was said
within a light there, such that I thereby
was overcome, and could not look at it.
“The sun is setting, and the evening comes;”
it added, “tarry not, but hasten on,
while yet the western sky has not grown dark.”
Straight upward went the pathway through the rock
in such direction, that in front of me
I cut the low sun’s rays; not many stairs
had we yet tried, when I and my wise Leaders
were, by my shadow’s vanishing, aware
that back of us the sun had gone to rest.
And ere in all of its unmeasured range
the horizon had assumed one single tone,
and night had everywhere diffused itself,
each of a step had made himself a bed;
because the nature of the Mount deprived us
rather of power to climb than of desire.

Like goats which, swift of foot and wanton once
when on the mountain heights, ere being fed,
grow tamely quiet when they ruminate,
all silent in the shade, while yet the sun
is hot, and guarded by a herd who leans
upon his staff, and serves them as he leans;
and like the shepherd in the open living,
who calmly spends the night beside his flock,
and keepeth watch lest some wild animal
should scatter it; ev’n such all three of us
were then, I like a goat, and they like shepherds,
by the high rock hemmed in on either side.
But little of the outer world could there
be seen; but through that little I perceived
the stars more bright and larger than their wont.
While I was ruminating thus, and thus
was gazing at them, sleep o’ertook me; sleep,
which oft receiveth news of future things
before they are. At that same hour, methinks,
when Cytherèa, who, it seems, e’er burns
with fires of love, beamed first upon the Mount
from out the East, dreaming I seemed to see
a Lady, young and fair, who, gathering flowers,
was walking through a field, and as she sang,
said: “Know, who asks my name, that I am Leah,
and that I move my lovely hands about
to make myself a wreath. To please myself

when at my mirror, I adorn me here;
but never doth my sister Rachel leave
her looking-glass, but sits there all day long.
Her pleasure is to see her lovely eyes,
as mine is to adorn me with my hands;
seeing contenteth her, and doing, me.”
And now, before the splendid beams of dawn,
which rise with greater thanks from travelers,
as, coming home, they lodge less far away,
the shades of night were fleeing everywhere,
and with them sleep; hence I arose and saw
that my great Teachers had already risen.
“That pleasant fruit, which on so many boughs
the care of men is ever looking for,
shall give thine every hunger peace today.”
These were the very words which Virgil used,
when turned toward me; and never were there gifts,
which in their sweetness could have equaled these.
Such longing upon longing overcame me
to be above, that at each step thereafter,
I felt my pinions growing for the flight.
When all the stairway had beneath us passed,
and we were standing on its topmost step,
on me then Virgil fixed his eyes, and said:
“The temporal and the eternal fire, my son,
thou now hast seen, and to a place art come,
where I can, of myself, no further see.

I ’ve brought thee here by genius and by art;
henceforth as leader thine own pleasure take;
forth art thou from both steep and narrow paths.
Behold the sun there shining on thy brow;
behold the tender grass, the flowers and shrubs,
which here the soil yields of itself alone.
Until in happiness those lovely eyes
appear, which, weeping, made me come to thee,
thou mayst be seated, or among them walk.
From me expect no further word or sign.
Free, right and sound is thine own will, and wrong
were not to act according to its hest;
hence o’er thyself I crown and mitre thee.”

Courtney Langdon, translator. Full text is available at Liberty Fund.

Canto 27

Sì come quando i primi raggi vibra
là dove il suo fattor lo sangue sparse,
cadendo Ibero sotto l’alta Libra,

e l’onde in Gange da nona rïarse,
sì stava il sole; onde ’l giorno sen giva,
come l’angel di Dio lieto ci apparse.

Fuor de la fiamma stava in su la riva,
e cantava ‘Beati mundo corde!’
in voce assai più che la nostra viva.

Poscia «Più non si va, se pria non morde,
anime sante, il foco: intrate in esso,
e al cantar di là non siate sorde»,

ci disse come noi li fummo presso;
per ch’io divenni tal, quando lo ’ntesi,
qual è colui che ne la fossa è messo.

In su le man commesse mi protesi,
guardando il foco e imaginando forte
umani corpi già veduti accesi.

Volsersi verso me le buone scorte;
e Virgilio mi disse: «Figliuol mio,
qui può esser tormento, ma non morte.

Ricorditi, ricorditi! E se io
sovresso Gerïon ti guidai salvo,
che farò ora presso più a Dio?

Credi per certo che se dentro a l’alvo
di questa fiamma stessi ben mille anni,
non ti potrebbe far d’un capel calvo.

E se tu forse credi ch’io t’inganni,
fatti ver’ lei, e fatti far credenza
con le tue mani al lembo d’i tuoi panni.

Pon giù omai, pon giù ogne temenza;
volgiti in qua e vieni: entra sicuro!».
E io pur fermo e contra coscïenza.

Quando mi vide star pur fermo e duro,
turbato un poco disse: «Or vedi, figlio:
tra Bëatrice e te è questo muro».

Come al nome di Tisbe aperse il ciglio
Piramo in su la morte, e riguardolla,
allor che ’l gelso diventò vermiglio;

così, la mia durezza fatta solla,
mi volsi al savio duca, udendo il nome
che ne la mente sempre mi rampolla.

Ond’ ei crollò la fronte e disse: «Come!
volenci star di qua?»; indi sorrise
come al fanciul si fa ch’è vinto al pome.

Poi dentro al foco innanzi mi si mise,
pregando Stazio che venisse retro,
che pria per lunga strada ci divise.

Sì com’ fui dentro, in un bogliente vetro
gittato mi sarei per rinfrescarmi,
tant’ era ivi lo ’ncendio sanza metro.

Lo dolce padre mio, per confortarmi,
pur di Beatrice ragionando andava,
dicendo: «Li occhi suoi già veder parmi».

Guidavaci una voce che cantava
di là; e noi, attenti pur a lei,
venimmo fuor là ove si montava.

‘Venite, benedicti Patris mei’,
sonò dentro a un lume che lì era,
tal che mi vinse e guardar nol potei.

«Lo sol sen va», soggiunse, «e vien la sera;
non v’arrestate, ma studiate il passo,
mentre che l’occidente non si annera».

Dritta salia la via per entro ’l sasso
verso tal parte ch’io toglieva i raggi
dinanzi a me del sol ch’era già basso.

E di pochi scaglion levammo i saggi,
che ’l sol corcar, per l’ombra che si spense,
sentimmo dietro e io e li miei saggi.

E pria che ’n tutte le sue parti immense
fosse orizzonte fatto d’uno aspetto,
e notte avesse tutte sue dispense,

ciascun di noi d’un grado fece letto;
ché la natura del monte ci affranse
la possa del salir più e ’l diletto.

Quali si stanno ruminando manse
le capre, state rapide e proterve
sovra le cime avante che sien pranse,

tacite a l’ombra, mentre che ’l sol ferve,
guardate dal pastor, che ’n su la verga
poggiato s’è e lor di posa serve;

e quale il mandrïan che fori alberga,
lungo il pecuglio suo queto pernotta,
guardando perché fiera non lo sperga;

tali eravamo tutti e tre allotta,
io come capra, ed ei come pastori,
fasciati quinci e quindi d’alta grotta.

Poco parer potea lì del di fori;
ma, per quel poco, vedea io le stelle
di lor solere e più chiare e maggiori.

Sì ruminando e sì mirando in quelle,
mi prese il sonno; il sonno che sovente,
anzi che ’l fatto sia, sa le novelle.

Ne l’ora, credo, che de l’orïente
prima raggiò nel monte Citerea,
che di foco d’amor par sempre ardente,

giovane e bella in sogno mi parea
donna vedere andar per una landa
cogliendo fiori; e cantando dicea:

«Sappia qualunque il mio nome dimanda
ch’i’ mi son Lia, e vo movendo intorno
le belle mani a farmi una ghirlanda.

Per piacermi a lo specchio, qui m’addorno;
ma mia suora Rachel mai non si smaga
dal suo miraglio, e siede tutto giorno.

Ell’ è d’i suoi belli occhi veder vaga
com’ io de l’addornarmi con le mani;
lei lo vedere, e me l’ovrare appaga».

E già per li splendori antelucani,
che tanto a’ pellegrin surgon più grati,
quanto, tornando, albergan men lontani,

le tenebre fuggian da tutti lati,
e ’l sonno mio con esse; ond’ io leva’mi,
veggendo i gran maestri già levati.

«Quel dolce pome che per tanti rami
cercando va la cura de’ mortali,
oggi porrà in pace le tue fami».

Virgilio inverso me queste cotali
parole usò; e mai non furo strenne
che fosser di piacere a queste iguali.

Tanto voler sopra voler mi venne
de l’esser sù, ch’ad ogne passo poi
al volo mi sentia crescer le penne.

Come la scala tutta sotto noi
fu corsa e fummo in su ’l grado superno,
in me ficcò Virgilio li occhi suoi,

e disse: «Il temporal foco e l’etterno
veduto hai, figlio; e se’ venuto in parte
dov’ io per me più oltre non discerno.

Tratto t’ho qui con ingegno e con arte;
lo tuo piacere omai prendi per duce;
fuor se’ de l’erte vie, fuor se’ de l’arte.

Vedi lo sol che ’n fronte ti riluce;
vedi l’erbette, i fiori e li arbuscelli
che qui la terra sol da sé produce.

Mentre che vegnan lieti li occhi belli
che, lagrimando, a te venir mi fenno,
seder ti puoi e puoi andar tra elli.

Non aspettar mio dir più né mio cenno;
libero, dritto e sano è tuo arbitrio,
e fallo fora non fare a suo senno:

per ch’io te sovra te corono e mitrio».

Giorgio Petrocchi, editor. Full text is available at Colombia University’s Digital Dante project.

Canto 28

Keen now to look within and round about
the wood divine, whose foliage dense and green
was tempering for mine eyes the new day’s light,
waiting no longer there, I left the edge,
and entered very slowly on the plain,
across a soil which everywhere breathed fragrance.
A pleasant breeze, unvaried in itself,
smote me upon the forehead with a stroke
no greater than a gently blowing wind;
whereby the branches trembling readily
were all of them in that direction swaying,
where first the holy Mount its shadow casts;
yet ne’er deflecting from their upright state
so much, that on their tops the little birds
should give up practicing their every art;
but singing with full gladness, they received
the earliest breezes ’mong the leaves, which sang
in undertone a burden to their songs,
like that which gathers strength from bough to bough,
throughout the grove of pines on Chiassi’s shore,
when Aeolus has set Scirocco free.

My slow steps now had carried me so far
inside the ancient wood, that I no longer
could see whence I had entered it; then, lo,
a stream deprived me of advancing further,
which with its little waves was toward the left
bending the grass which sprang upon its bank.
All waters which are purest here on earth
would seem to have within themselves some mixture,
if they should be compared to that one there,
which hideth naught, though very darkly flowing
’neath the perpetual shade, which ne’er allows
the rays of sun or moon to shine on it.
I checked my feet, and with mine eyes passed on
beyond the little stream, to gaze upon
the great variety of flowering trees;
and there, as when aught suddenly appears
that turns through wonder every thought aside,
a Lady all alone appeared to me,
who singing went her way, and picking flowers,
wherewith her path on every side was painted.
“Prithee, fair Lady, thou that in love’s beams
art warming thee, if outward looks I trust,
which use to be a witness to the heart,
let it thy pleasure be” said I to her,
“to draw thee forward toward this stream so far,
that I may understand what thou art singing.

Thou makest me recall both where and what
Prosèrpina was at the time, when her
her mother lost, and she the flowers of spring.”
As turns around a lady who, while dancing,
her feet together keeps and on the ground,
and hardly sets one foot before the other;
so on the little red and yellow flowers
turned she toward me, no otherwise than would
a virgin lowering her modest eyes;
and satisfied my prayers, for near to me
she drew in such a way, that her sweet tones
reached me with all of their significance.
As soon as she was where the grass is bathed
by that fair river’s wavelets, she conferred
on me the gift of raising up her eyes.
Nor do I think so bright a light shone forth
from under Venus’ eyelids, when transfixed,
wholly against his custom, by her son.
As smiling on the other bank she stood,
her hands kept picking other bright-hued flowers,
which without seed the highland there brings forth.
The river kept us still three steps apart;
but ev’n the Hellespont, where Xerxes crossed it,
a bridle still to every human pride,
endured no greater hatred from Leander,
because it surged ’tween Sestos and Abydos,
than this from me because it then oped not.

“New-comers are ye,” she began, “and hence
because I smile in this place, which was chosen
for human nature as its nest, some doubt,
perhaps, still keeps you wondering here; and yet
the psalm called ‘Delectasti’ gives you light,
which from your minds can drive away your mist.
And thou that art in front and didst entreat me,
say whether thou wouldst hear aught else; for I
came ready for thine every question’s need.”
“The water and the music of the wood”
said I, “impugn in me a recent faith
in what I heard, which contradicted this.”
Whence she: “I ’ll tell thee how from its own cause
proceedeth that which makes thee wonder now,
and clear the mist obstructing thee. The Good
Supreme, which only by Itself is pleased,
made man both good and apt to good, and gave him
this place as earnest of eternal peace.
Through his own fault he but a little while
stayed here; through his own fault, for tears and toil
exchanged he honest laughter and sweet play.
In order that the trouble which, below,
the earth’s and water’s exhalations cause
by their own trend, which is to follow heat
as best they may, should wage no war on man,
this Mountain rose up toward the sky thus far;
and free from them it is from where it ’s locked.

And now, since all the atmosphere revolves
and circles with the sphere of primal motion,
unless its whirling round be somewhere broken,
such motion strikes against this eminence,
which in the living air is wholly free,
and makes the forest, which is dense, resound;
and so much power hath the stricken plant,
that with its virtue it imbues the air,
which by revolving scatters it about;
the other land, as able of itself,
or through its climate, next conceives and bears
the divers qualities of divers trees.
If this were heard, it would not seem to be
a wonder yonder, when a plant takes root,
without there being evidence of seed.
And thou must know that all this holy plain
where thou art now, is full of every seed,
and fraught with fruit which yonder is not picked.
The water thou beholdest wells not up
from fountains fed by mists condensed by cold,
as doth a stream which gains and loses breath;
but issues from a sure and constant fount,
which by the will of God regains as much
as, open on both sides, it poureth forth.
On this side with a virtue it descends,
which takes from men all memory of sin;
on the other it restoreth that of all

good deeds. On this side it is Lethe called,
on the other Eunoë, and worketh not,
till tasted both on this side and on that.
This greater is than are all other savors;
and though thy thirst might be completely sated,
should I reveal no more to thee, I ’ll give thee
a corollary as a further grace;
nor do I think my words will be less dear
to thee, should they extend beyond my promise.
Those who in ancient times sang of the Age
of Gold, and of its happy state, perchance
dreamed on Parnassus of this very place.
Here was the root of mankind innocent;
spring’s flowers and every fruit are always here;
the nectar this, whereof all poets speak.”
Thereat I turned around and, having faced
my Poets, I perceived that they had heard
this last interpretation with a smile;
then toward the Lady beautiful I turned my face.

Courtney Langdon, translator. Full text is available at Liberty Fund.

Canto 28

Vago già di cercar dentro e dintorno
la divina foresta spessa e viva,
ch’a li occhi temperava il novo giorno,

sanza più aspettar, lasciai la riva,
prendendo la campagna lento lento
su per lo suol che d’ogne parte auliva.

Un’aura dolce, sanza mutamento
avere in sé, mi feria per la fronte
non di più colpo che soave vento;

per cui le fronde, tremolando, pronte
tutte quante piegavano a la parte
u’ la prim’ ombra gitta il santo monte;

non però dal loro esser dritto sparte
tanto, che li augelletti per le cime
lasciasser d’operare ogne lor arte;

ma con piena letizia l’ore prime,
cantando, ricevieno intra le foglie,
che tenevan bordone a le sue rime,

tal qual di ramo in ramo si raccoglie
per la pineta in su ’l lito di Chiassi,
quand’ Ëolo scilocco fuor discioglie.

Già m’avean trasportato i lenti passi
dentro a la selva antica tanto, ch’io
non potea rivedere ond’ io mi ’ntrassi;

ed ecco più andar mi tolse un rio,
che ’nver’ sinistra con sue picciole onde
piegava l’erba che ’n sua ripa uscìo.

Tutte l’acque che son di qua più monde,
parrieno avere in sé mistura alcuna
verso di quella, che nulla nasconde,

avvegna che si mova bruna bruna
sotto l’ombra perpetüa, che mai
raggiar non lascia sole ivi né luna.

Coi piè ristetti e con li occhi passai
di là dal fiumicello, per mirare
la gran varïazion d’i freschi mai;

e là m’apparve, sì com’ elli appare
subitamente cosa che disvia
per maraviglia tutto altro pensare,

una donna soletta che si gia
e cantando e scegliendo fior da fiore
ond’ era pinta tutta la sua via.

«Deh, bella donna, che a’ raggi d’amore
ti scaldi, s’i’ vo’ credere a’ sembianti
che soglion esser testimon del core,

vegnati in voglia di trarreti avanti»,
diss’ io a lei, «verso questa rivera,
tanto ch’io possa intender che tu canti.

Tu mi fai rimembrar dove e qual era
Proserpina nel tempo che perdette
la madre lei, ed ella primavera».

Come si volge, con le piante strette
a terra e intra sé, donna che balli,
e piede innanzi piede a pena mette,

volsesi in su i vermigli e in su i gialli
fioretti verso me, non altrimenti
che vergine che li occhi onesti avvalli;

e fece i prieghi miei esser contenti,
sì appressando sé, che ’l dolce suono
veniva a me co’ suoi intendimenti.

Tosto che fu là dove l’erbe sono
bagnate già da l’onde del bel fiume,
di levar li occhi suoi mi fece dono.

Non credo che splendesse tanto lume
sotto le ciglia a Venere, trafitta
dal figlio fuor di tutto suo costume.

Ella ridea da l’altra riva dritta,
trattando più color con le sue mani,
che l’alta terra sanza seme gitta.

Tre passi ci facea il fiume lontani;
ma Elesponto, là ’ve passò Serse,
ancora freno a tutti orgogli umani,

più odio da Leandro non sofferse
per mareggiare intra Sesto e Abido,
che quel da me perch’ allor non s’aperse.

«Voi siete nuovi, e forse perch’ io rido»,
cominciò ella, «in questo luogo eletto
a l’umana natura per suo nido,

maravigliando tienvi alcun sospetto;
ma luce rende il salmo Delectasti,
che puote disnebbiar vostro intelletto.

E tu che se’ dinanzi e mi pregasti,
dì s’altro vuoli udir; ch’i’ venni presta
ad ogne tua question tanto che basti».

«L’acqua», diss’ io, «e ’l suon de la foresta
impugnan dentro a me novella fede
di cosa ch’io udi’ contraria a questa».

Ond’ ella: «Io dicerò come procede
per sua cagion ciò ch’ammirar ti face,
e purgherò la nebbia che ti fiede.

Lo sommo Ben, che solo esso a sé piace,
fé l’uom buono e a bene, e questo loco
diede per arr’ a lui d’etterna pace.

Per sua difalta qui dimorò poco;
per sua difalta in pianto e in affanno
cambiò onesto riso e dolce gioco.

Perché ’l turbar che sotto da sé fanno
l’essalazion de l’acqua e de la terra,
che quanto posson dietro al calor vanno,

a l’uomo non facesse alcuna guerra,
questo monte salìo verso ’l ciel tanto,
e libero n’è d’indi ove si serra.

Or perché in circuito tutto quanto
l’aere si volge con la prima volta,
se non li è rotto il cerchio d’alcun canto,

in questa altezza ch’è tutta disciolta
ne l’aere vivo, tal moto percuote,
e fa sonar la selva perch’ è folta;

e la percossa pianta tanto puote,
che de la sua virtute l’aura impregna
e quella poi, girando, intorno scuote;

e l’altra terra, secondo ch’è degna
per sé e per suo ciel, concepe e figlia
di diverse virtù diverse legna.

Non parrebbe di là poi maraviglia,
udito questo, quando alcuna pianta
sanza seme palese vi s’appiglia.

E saper dei che la campagna santa
dove tu se’, d’ogne semenza è piena,
e frutto ha in sé che di là non si schianta.

L’acqua che vedi non surge di vena
che ristori vapor che gel converta,
come fiume ch’acquista e perde lena;

ma esce di fontana salda e certa,
che tanto dal voler di Dio riprende,
quant’ ella versa da due parti aperta.

Da questa parte con virtù discende
che toglie altrui memoria del peccato;
da l’altra d’ogne ben fatto la rende.

Quinci Letè; così da l’altro lato
Eünoè si chiama, e non adopra
se quinci e quindi pria non è gustato:

a tutti altri sapori esto è di sopra.
E avvegna ch’assai possa esser sazia
la sete tua perch’ io più non ti scuopra,

darotti un corollario ancor per grazia;
né credo che ’l mio dir ti sia men caro,
se oltre promession teco si spazia.

Quelli ch’anticamente poetaro
l’età de l’oro e suo stato felice,
forse in Parnaso esto loco sognaro.

Qui fu innocente l’umana radice;
qui primavera sempre e ogne frutto;
nettare è questo di che ciascun dice».

Io mi rivolsi ’n dietro allora tutto
a’ miei poeti, e vidi che con riso
udito avëan l’ultimo costrutto;

poi a la bella donna torna’ il viso.

Giorgio Petrocchi, editor. Full text is available at Colombia University’s Digital Dante project.

Canto 29

Singing as an enamoured lady would,
when once her words were ended, she went on:
“Blessèd are they whose sins are covered up!”
And like the nymphs who used to go alone
through woodland shades, desiring, one to see,
the other to avoid, the sun; she then
moved counter to the stream’s course, going up
along its bank, and I at even pace,
matching her little steps with steps as small.
Her paces were with mine not yet a hundred,
when both the margins equally were bent
in such a way, that toward the East I faced.
Nor had we yet as far again moved on,
when round toward me the Lady wholly turned,
and said: “My brother, look and listen now!”
And lo, so bright a luster suddenly
traversed the mighty wood in all directions,
that I of lightning was compelled to think;
but since this ceases as it comes, while that,
the longer it endured, the brighter grew,
within me I kept saying: “What is this?”

And through the illumined air was running now
a gentle melody; hence righteous zeal
made me reproach the hardihood of Eve,
who, while both earth and heaven obedient were,
the only woman, and but just created,
could not endure to stay beneath a veil;
’neath which if she had but devoutly kept,
I should have tasted those unspeakable
delights before, and for a longer time.
While I mid such first fruits of bliss eternal
was going all enrapt, and eager still
for further joys,
in front of us the air
’neath the green boughs became a blazing fire,
and that sweet sound was now known as a song.
O Virgins sacrosanct, if I have ever
been hungry, cold or sleepless for your sake,
good reasons spur my claiming a reward.
For me now Helicon must pour her streams,
and with her choir Urania give me help
to set in verse things difficult to think.
A little further on, the lengthy space
still intervening ’tween ourselves and them,
showed falsely what appeared seven trees of gold;
but when I’d drawn so near to them, that now
the common object which deceiveth sense,
because of distance lost no attribute;

the virtue which prepares discourse for reason
perceived that they were candlesticks, and heard
‘Hosanna!’ in the voices of the song.
Above, the fair array flamed far more brightly
than in unclouded skies the midnight moon,
when at the middle of her monthly course.
Filled with astonishment, I turned around
to my good Virgil, and he answered me
with looks no less with wonder fraught. I then
gazed back again at those exalted things,
which toward us moved so slowly, that outrun
they would have been by newly wedded brides.
The Lady chided me: “Why dost thou gaze
so ardently at those bright lights alone,
and dost not look at that which follows them?
I then saw people who were coming on,
as if behind their leaders, clothed in white;
and never was such whiteness here on earth.
The water was resplendent on my left,
and, like a mirror, if I looked in it,
reflected back my body’s left to me.
When I was on my bank so placed, that now
only the river kept me at a distance,
I checked my steps that I might better see,
and I beheld the little flames advance,
leaving the air behind them bright with color,
and look like strokes a painter’s brush had drawn;

so that, above, the air remained marked out
by seven long bands, all in the hues wherewith
the sun his bow, and Delia makes her belt.
These standards further to the rear extended
than I could see; as far as I could judge,
the outermost ten paces were apart.
There now were coming ’neath as fair a sky
as I describe here, four and twenty Elders,
two at a time, and crowned with fleur-de-lys.
And all of them were saying: “Blest be thou
’mong Adam’s daughters, aye, and blessèd be
throughout eternity thy beauty’s charms!”
After the flowers and other tender blooms
in front of me upon the other bank,
had been set free from that elected folk,
as in the sky star follows after star,
so after these, four living Creatures came,
each with a wreath of verdant foliage crowned.
And each of them was feathered with six wings,
their feathers full of eyes; and these were such,
as, were they living, Argus’ eyes would be.
I ’ll waste no more rhymes, Reader, to describe
their forms; for other spending so constrains me,
that I in this one cannot be profuse.
But read thou in Ezechiel, who depicts them,
as from the sky’s cold parts he saw them move,
accompanied by wind, and clouds and fire;

and such as in his pages thou wilt find them,
such were they here, except that, as to wings,
John is with me, and disagrees with him.
The space extending ’tween the four contained
a triumph-Chariot moving on two wheels,
which came along drawn by a Griffon’s neck.
Both of His wings the latter stretched on high
’tween the mid banner and the three and three,
so that, by cleaving it, He injured none;
so high they rose that they were lost to sight.
His members were of gold as far as bird
He was, and white the others mixed with red.
Not only Rome ne’er with so fair a Car
made Africanus or Augustus glad,
but ev’n the Sun’s were poor, compared with this —
the Sun’s, which, when it lost its way, was burned
in answer to the suppliant Earth’s request,
when Jupiter inscrutably was just.
At its right wheel three Ladies in a ring
came dancing on; the first so red, that hardly
would she be noticed, if in fire she were;
and such the second was, as if her flesh
and very bones were made of emerald;
the third one looked like newly fallen snow;
and now led by the white one they appeared,
now by the red; and from the latter’s song
the others took their time, both slow and fast.

Upon the left hand four, in purple clothed,
were making glad, according to the gait
of one of them with three eyes in her head.
Behind the whole group I have here described,
two old men I beheld, unlike in clothes,
but like in mien, both dignified and grave;
one showed himself a pupil of that great
Hippocrates, whom for the animals
she loves most dearly, Nature made; the other
revealed the opposite intention with a sword
so glittering and sharp, that though I stood
on this side of the stream, it caused me fear.
Then four I saw who were of humble mien;
and, back of all, an agèd, keen-faced man
advancing by himself and lost in sleep.
These seven were robed in garments which resembled
those of the primal company, though on their heads
they wore not lily garlands, but were crowned
with roses and with other crimson flowers;
a distant sight of them had made one swear
that all on fire they were above their brows.
And when the Chariot was abreast of me,
thunder was heard; whereat those worthy people
appeared to have advance forbidden them,
and stopped there with the standards in their van.

Courtney Langdon, translator. Full text is available at Liberty Fund.

Canto 29

Cantando come donna innamorata,
continüò col fin di sue parole:
‘Beati quorum tecta sunt peccata!’.

E come ninfe che si givan sole
per le salvatiche ombre, disïando
qual di veder, qual di fuggir lo sole,

allor si mosse contra ’l fiume, andando
su per la riva; e io pari di lei,
picciol passo con picciol seguitando.

Non eran cento tra ’ suoi passi e ’ miei,
quando le ripe igualmente dier volta,
per modo ch’a levante mi rendei.

Né ancor fu così nostra via molta,
quando la donna tutta a me si torse,
dicendo: «Frate mio, guarda e ascolta».

Ed ecco un lustro sùbito trascorse
da tutte parti per la gran foresta,
tal che di balenar mi mise in forse.

Ma perché ’l balenar, come vien, resta,
e quel, durando, più e più splendeva,
nel mio pensier dicea: ‘Che cosa è questa?’.

E una melodia dolce correva
per l’aere luminoso; onde buon zelo
mi fé riprender l’ardimento d’Eva,

che là dove ubidia la terra e ’l cielo,
femmina, sola e pur testé formata,
non sofferse di star sotto alcun velo;

sotto ’l qual se divota fosse stata,
avrei quelle ineffabili delizie
sentite prima e più lunga fïata.

Mentr’ io m’andava tra tante primizie
de l’etterno piacer tutto sospeso,
e disïoso ancora a più letizie,

dinanzi a noi, tal quale un foco acceso,
ci si fé l’aere sotto i verdi rami;
e ’l dolce suon per canti era già inteso.

O sacrosante Vergini, se fami,
freddi o vigilie mai per voi soffersi,
cagion mi sprona ch’io mercé vi chiami.

Or convien che Elicona per me versi,
e Uranìe m’aiuti col suo coro
forti cose a pensar mettere in versi.

Poco più oltre, sette alberi d’oro
falsava nel parere il lungo tratto
del mezzo ch’era ancor tra noi e loro;

ma quand’ i’ fui sì presso di lor fatto,
che l’obietto comun, che ’l senso inganna,
non perdea per distanza alcun suo atto,

la virtù ch’a ragion discorso ammanna,
sì com’ elli eran candelabri apprese,
e ne le voci del cantare ‘Osanna’.

Di sopra fiammeggiava il bello arnese
più chiaro assai che luna per sereno
di mezza notte nel suo mezzo mese.

Io mi rivolsi d’ammirazion pieno
al buon Virgilio, ed esso mi rispuose
con vista carca di stupor non meno.

Indi rendei l’aspetto a l’alte cose
che si movieno incontr’ a noi sì tardi,
che foran vinte da novelle spose.

La donna mi sgridò: «Perché pur ardi
sì ne l’affetto de le vive luci,
e ciò che vien di retro a lor non guardi?».

Genti vid’ io allor, come a lor duci,
venire appresso, vestite di bianco;
e tal candor di qua già mai non fuci.

L’acqua imprendëa dal sinistro fianco,
e rendea me la mia sinistra costa,
s’io riguardava in lei, come specchio anco.

Quand’ io da la mia riva ebbi tal posta,
che solo il fiume mi facea distante,
per veder meglio ai passi diedi sosta,

e vidi le fiammelle andar davante,
lasciando dietro a sé l’aere dipinto,
e di tratti pennelli avean sembiante;

sì che lì sopra rimanea distinto
di sette liste, tutte in quei colori
onde fa l’arco il Sole e Delia il cinto.

Questi ostendali in dietro eran maggiori
che la mia vista; e, quanto a mio avviso,
diece passi distavan quei di fori.

Sotto così bel ciel com’ io diviso,
ventiquattro seniori, a due a due,
coronati venien di fiordaliso.

Tutti cantavan: «Benedicta tue
ne le figlie d’Adamo, e benedette
sieno in etterno le bellezze tue!».

Poscia che i fiori e l’altre fresche erbette
a rimpetto di me da l’altra sponda
libere fuor da quelle genti elette,

sì come luce luce in ciel seconda,
vennero appresso lor quattro animali,
coronati ciascun di verde fronda.

Ognuno era pennuto di sei ali;
le penne piene d’occhi; e li occhi d’Argo,
se fosser vivi, sarebber cotali.

A descriver lor forme più non spargo
rime, lettor; ch’altra spesa mi strigne,
tanto ch’a questa non posso esser largo;

ma leggi Ezechïel, che li dipigne
come li vide da la fredda parte
venir con vento e con nube e con igne;

e quali i troverai ne le sue carte,
tali eran quivi, salvo ch’a le penne
Giovanni è meco e da lui si diparte.

Lo spazio dentro a lor quattro contenne
un carro, in su due rote, trïunfale,
ch’al collo d’un grifon tirato venne.

Esso tendeva in sù l’una e l’altra ale
tra la mezzana e le tre e tre liste,
sì ch’a nulla, fendendo, facea male.

Tanto salivan che non eran viste;
le membra d’oro avea quant’ era uccello,
e bianche l’altre, di vermiglio miste.

Non che Roma di carro così bello
rallegrasse Affricano, o vero Augusto,
ma quel del Sol saria pover con ello;

quel del Sol che, svïando, fu combusto
per l’orazion de la Terra devota,
quando fu Giove arcanamente giusto.

Tre donne in giro da la destra rota
venian danzando; l’una tanto rossa
ch’a pena fora dentro al foco nota;

l’altr’ era come se le carni e l’ossa
fossero state di smeraldo fatte;
la terza parea neve testé mossa;

e or parëan da la bianca tratte,
or da la rossa; e dal canto di questa
l’altre toglien l’andare e tarde e ratte.

Da la sinistra quattro facean festa,
in porpore vestite, dietro al modo
d’una di lor ch’avea tre occhi in testa.

Appresso tutto il pertrattato nodo
vidi due vecchi in abito dispari,
ma pari in atto e onesto e sodo.

L’un si mostrava alcun de’ famigliari
di quel sommo Ipocràte che natura
a li animali fé ch’ell’ ha più cari;

mostrava l’altro la contraria cura
con una spada lucida e aguta,
tal che di qua dal rio mi fé paura.

Poi vidi quattro in umile paruta;
e di retro da tutti un vecchio solo
venir, dormendo, con la faccia arguta.

E questi sette col primaio stuolo
erano abitüati, ma di gigli
dintorno al capo non facëan brolo,

anzi di rose e d’altri fior vermigli;
giurato avria poco lontano aspetto
che tutti ardesser di sopra da’ cigli.

E quando il carro a me fu a rimpetto,
un tuon s’udì, e quelle genti degne
parvero aver l’andar più interdetto,

fermandosi ivi con le prime insegne.

Giorgio Petrocchi, editor. Full text is available at Colombia University’s Digital Dante project.

Canto 30

When the Septentrion of the highest heaven, —
which never either setting knew, or rising,
or veil of other mist than that of guilt,
and which was causing every creature there
to know his duty, as the lower one
makes him who turns the helm to reach a port, —
stopped suddenly; the people of the truth,
who first had come between it and the Griffon,
turned around toward the Car, as toward their peace;
and one of them, as though from Heaven sent down,
sang thrice aloud: “Come thou from Lebanon,
my spouse!” and all the rest sang after him.
As at the last trump-call each of the blest
will quickly rise from out his tomb, and sing
the Halleluiah with a voice regained;
even so there rose upon the Car divine,
at such an elder’s voice, a hundred servants
and message-bearers of eternal life.
They all were saying: “Blest be thou that comest!”
and, strewing flowers on high and all around,
“Oh, scatter forth your lilies with full hands!”

I ’ve seen ere now when day began to dawn,
the eastern skies all rosy, and the rest
adorned with beauty and serenity;
and then the sun rise with its face o’ershadowed
in such a way that, through the tempering
of mists, the human eye could long endure it;
so likewise standing in a cloud of flowers,
which rose from angel hands, and fell again
within and out the Car, a Lady, crowned
with a wreath of olives o’er a pure white veil,
appeared before me, ’neath a cloak of green,
clothed with the color of a living flame.
My spirit hereupon, which for so long
a time had not been trembling in her presence,
or felt itself all broken down with awe,
with no more knowledge of her by mine eyes,
but through a hidden virtue issuing from her,
felt the great power of the olden love.
As soon as that high virtue smote my sight,
which formerly had pierced me through and through,
ere I had passed beyond my boyhood’s years,
round to the left I turned me with the trust
wherewith an infant to its mother runs,
whenever terrified or in distress,
to say to Virgil: “Less now than a drachm
of blood remains in me that is not trembling;
I feel the tokens of the olden flame.”

But Virgil now had left us of himself
deprived, Virgil, my dearest father, Virgil,
to whom for my salvation I had giv’n me;
nor yet did all our ancient mother lost
avail to keep my cheeks, though cleansed with dew,
from turning dark again because of tears.
“Dante, though Virgil leave, weep thou not yet,
weep thou not yet; for thou wilt need to weep
by reason of another sword than this.”
Even as an admiral, who, both on stern
and prow, comes to behold the men that serve
on the other ships, and urge them to do well;
so likewise on the left side of the Car,
when I had turned around me at the sound
of mine own name, which here must needs be mentioned,
I saw the Lady who had first appeared
concealed beneath the Angels’ festival,
direct her eyes toward me across the stream.
Although the veil, which from her head hung down,
encircled by Minerva’s olive leaves,
did not allow her to appear distinctly;
she went on royally, still stern in mien,
as one doth who, when speaking, holdeth back
his warmest words: “Look at us well, for we,
indeed, are, we, indeed, are Beatrice!
How wast thou able to approach the Mountain?
Didst thou not know that man is happy here?”

My lowered eyes fell on the limpid stream;
but when I saw myself reflected there,
I drew them to the grass, so great the shame
that weighed my forehead down! As to her child
a mother seems severe, so she to me,
for bitter tastes the savor of harsh pity.
Silent she kept, then suddenly the Angels
chanted: “In Thee, Lord, have I set my trust,”
but further than “my feet” they did not go.
Even as the snow among the living beams
grown on the back of Italy is frozen,
when blown and hardened by Slavonian winds;
and then, when melting, trickles through itself,
if but the land that loses shadows breathe,
and thus seems like a fire that melts a candle;
ev’n so was I with neither tears nor sighs,
before the song of those who ever tune
their notes to music of eternal spheres.
But when I heard in their sweet harmonies
the sympathy they had for me, far more
than had they said: “Why, Lady, shame him so?”
the ice bound tightly round my heart was turned
to breath and water, and through mouth and eyes
issued with anguish from my inmost breast.
Then she, still standing motionless
upon the same side of the Car, addressed
those sympathetic creatures with these words:

“Ye keep your watches through the eternal day,
so that nor night nor slumber robs from you
one step the world may take upon its course;
my answer, hence, is made with greater care,
that he, who yonder weeps, may understand,
and guilt and sorrow of one measure be.
Not only through the work of those great spheres,
which to some end directly guide each seed,
according as the stars are its companions;
but through the bounty of the Grace divine,
which for its rain hath clouds so very high,
our eyes cannot approach them; this one here
was such potentially in early life,
that all right dispositions would have had
wondrous results in him. But all the more
malign and savage doth a soil become,
when sown with evil seed and left untilled,
the better and more vigorous it is.
I for a while sustained him with my face;
and showing him my youthful eyes, I led him
along with me turned in the right direction.
But when the threshold of my second age
I reached, and changed my life, he took himself
away from me, and gave him to another.
And when from flesh to spirit I had risen,
and beauty and virtue had increased in me,
less dear and pleasing was I then to him;

and o’er an untrue path he turned his steps,
following deceitful images of good,
which naught that they have promised pay in full.
Nor yet did it avail me to obtain
the inspirations, wherewith both in dreams
and otherwise I called him back; he cared
so little for them! So low down he fell,
that short were now all means for his salvation,
save showing him the people that are lost.
I visited the Gateway of the dead
for this, and unto him who guided him
up hither, fraught with tears, my prayers were borne.
God’s high, fate-ordered Will would broken be,
if Lethe should be passed, and should such food
be tasted without paying first the scot
of penitence made manifest by tears.”

Courtney Langdon, translator. Full text is available at Liberty Fund.

Canto 30

Quando il settentrïon del primo cielo,
che né occaso mai seppe né orto
né d’altra nebbia che di colpa velo,

e che faceva lì ciascun accorto
di suo dover, come ’l più basso face
qual temon gira per venire a porto,

fermo s’affisse: la gente verace,
venuta prima tra ’l grifone ed esso,
al carro volse sé come a sua pace;

e un di loro, quasi da ciel messo,
‘Veni, sponsa, de Libano’ cantando
gridò tre volte, e tutti li altri appresso.

Quali i beati al novissimo bando
surgeran presti ognun di sua caverna,
la revestita voce alleluiando,

cotali in su la divina basterna
si levar cento, ad vocem tanti senis,
ministri e messaggier di vita etterna.

Tutti dicean: ‘Benedictus qui venis!’,
e fior gittando e di sopra e dintorno,
‘Manibus, oh, date lilïa plenis!’.

Io vidi già nel cominciar del giorno
la parte orïental tutta rosata,
e l’altro ciel di bel sereno addorno;

e la faccia del sol nascere ombrata,
sì che per temperanza di vapori
l’occhio la sostenea lunga fïata:

così dentro una nuvola di fiori
che da le mani angeliche saliva
e ricadeva in giù dentro e di fori,

sovra candido vel cinta d’uliva
donna m’apparve, sotto verde manto
vestita di color di fiamma viva.

E lo spirito mio, che già cotanto
tempo era stato ch’a la sua presenza
non era di stupor, tremando, affranto,

sanza de li occhi aver più conoscenza,
per occulta virtù che da lei mosse,
d’antico amor sentì la gran potenza.

Tosto che ne la vista mi percosse
l’alta virtù che già m’avea trafitto
prima ch’io fuor di püerizia fosse,

volsimi a la sinistra col respitto
col quale il fantolin corre a la mamma
quando ha paura o quando elli è afflitto,

per dicere a Virgilio: ‘Men che dramma
di sangue m’è rimaso che non tremi:
conosco i segni de l’antica fiamma’.

Ma Virgilio n’avea lasciati scemi
di sé, Virgilio dolcissimo patre,
Virgilio a cui per mia salute die’mi;

né quantunque perdeo l’antica matre,
valse a le guance nette di rugiada,
che, lagrimando, non tornasser atre.

«Dante, perché Virgilio se ne vada,
non pianger anco, non piangere ancora;
ché pianger ti conven per altra spada».

Quasi ammiraglio che in poppa e in prora
viene a veder la gente che ministra
per li altri legni, e a ben far l’incora;

in su la sponda del carro sinistra,
quando mi volsi al suon del nome mio,
che di necessità qui si registra,

vidi la donna che pria m’appario
velata sotto l’angelica festa,
drizzar li occhi ver’ me di qua dal rio.

Tutto che ’l vel che le scendea di testa,
cerchiato de le fronde di Minerva,
non la lasciasse parer manifesta,

regalmente ne l’atto ancor proterva
continüò come colui che dice
e ’l più caldo parlar dietro reserva:

«Guardaci ben! Ben son, ben son Beatrice.
Come degnasti d’accedere al monte?
non sapei tu che qui è l’uom felice?».

Li occhi mi cadder giù nel chiaro fonte;
ma veggendomi in esso, i trassi a l’erba,
tanta vergogna mi gravò la fronte.

Così la madre al figlio par superba,
com’ ella parve a me; perché d’amaro
sente il sapor de la pietade acerba.

Ella si tacque; e li angeli cantaro
di sùbito ‘In te, Domine, speravi’;
ma oltre ‘pedes meos’ non passaro.

Sì come neve tra le vive travi
per lo dosso d’Italia si congela,
soffiata e stretta da li venti schiavi,

poi, liquefatta, in sé stessa trapela,
pur che la terra che perde ombra spiri,
sì che par foco fonder la candela;

così fui sanza lagrime e sospiri
anzi ’l cantar di quei che notan sempre
dietro a le note de li etterni giri;

ma poi che ’ntesi ne le dolci tempre
lor compatire a me, par che se detto
avesser: ‘Donna, perché sì lo stempre?’,

lo gel che m’era intorno al cor ristretto,
spirito e acqua fessi, e con angoscia
de la bocca e de li occhi uscì del petto.

Ella, pur ferma in su la detta coscia
del carro stando, a le sustanze pie
volse le sue parole così poscia:

«Voi vigilate ne l’etterno die,
sì che notte né sonno a voi non fura
passo che faccia il secol per sue vie;

onde la mia risposta è con più cura
che m’intenda colui che di là piagne,
perché sia colpa e duol d’una misura.

Non pur per ovra de le rote magne,
che drizzan ciascun seme ad alcun fine
secondo che le stelle son compagne,

ma per larghezza di grazie divine,
che sì alti vapori hanno a lor piova,
che nostre viste là non van vicine,

questi fu tal ne la sua vita nova
virtüalmente, ch’ogne abito destro
fatto averebbe in lui mirabil prova.

Ma tanto più maligno e più silvestro
si fa ’l terren col mal seme e non cólto,
quant’ elli ha più di buon vigor terrestro.

Alcun tempo il sostenni col mio volto:
mostrando li occhi giovanetti a lui,
meco il menava in dritta parte vòlto.

Sì tosto come in su la soglia fui
di mia seconda etade e mutai vita,
questi si tolse a me, e diessi altrui.

Quando di carne a spirto era salita,
e bellezza e virtù cresciuta m’era,
fu’ io a lui men cara e men gradita;

e volse i passi suoi per via non vera,
imagini di ben seguendo false,
che nulla promession rendono intera.

Né l’impetrare ispirazion mi valse,
con le quali e in sogno e altrimenti
lo rivocai: sì poco a lui ne calse!

Tanto giù cadde, che tutti argomenti
a la salute sua eran già corti,
fuor che mostrarli le perdute genti.

Per questo visitai l’uscio d’i morti,
e a colui che l’ha qua sù condotto,
li prieghi miei, piangendo, furon porti.

Alto fato di Dio sarebbe rotto,
se Letè si passasse e tal vivanda
fosse gustata sanza alcuno scotto

di pentimento che lagrime spanda».

Giorgio Petrocchi, editor. Full text is available at Colombia University’s Digital Dante project.

Continue The Purgatorio Cantos

Read Cantos 31-33