Canto 31

“O thou that art across the sacred stream,”
toward me directing with its point her speech,
which even edgewise had seemed sharp to me,
continuing, she began without delay:
“Say, say if this be true, to such a charge
must thy confession be united now.”
My strength was so confounded, that my voice
began to move, and wholly died away,
ere by its organs it had been released.
A while she bore it; then: “What thinkest thou?”
she said, “Reply; for thy sad memories
are not extinguished by the water yet.”
Perplexity and fear together mixed
extorted such a ‘Yes’ from out my mouth,
that eyes to hear its utterance were required.
Even as a crossbow breaks its cord and bow,
whenever with too great a tension shot,
and with less force the arrow strikes its mark;
so ’neath that heavy burden I broke down,
and as I poured forth gushing tears and sighs,
my voice more slowly through its passage came.

Then she: “Across the paths which I desired,
and which were leading thee to love the Good,
beyond which there is nothing one can wish,
what trenches didst thou find, or hindering chains,
for which thou thus must needs despoil thyself
of hope of further progress on thy way?
What luring charms or what advantages
displayed themselves upon the brows of others,
that thou shouldst pay thy passing court to them?”
Thereat, when I had heaved a bitter sigh,
I scarcely had the voice to make an answer,
and painfully my lips gave form to it.
Weeping, I said: “Things of the present turned
with their delusive joy my steps aside,
as soon as e’er your face was hid from me.”
“Hadst thou been silent, or hadst thou denied”
said she, “what thou confessest, no less clear
would be thy guilt, since known by such a Judge.
But when self-accusation of one’s sin
from one’s own cheek breaks forth, in this our court
the wheel is turned to blunt the sharpened edge.
And yet, that for thy fault thou mayst be now
the more ashamed, and that, when thou again
shalt hear the sirens, thou mayst stronger be,
desist thou now from sowing tears, and hark;
so shalt thou hear o’er what a different path
my buried body should have moved thy feet.

Nature ne’er showed thee, nor did art, such beauty
as did the pleasing members which enclosed me,
and which are scattered now, dissolved in earth;
hence if the highest pleasure failed thee thus
by reason of my death, what mortal thing
should afterward have drawn thee to desire it?
At the first arrow of deceitful things
thou surely oughtest to have risen up
to follow me, who was no longer such.
Thy wings, at least, should not have been weighed down,
to wait for further blows from some young girl,
or other vain thing of as brief a use.
A young bird waits for two blows or for three;
but ’fore the eyes of fully feathered birds
a net is spread or arrow shot in vain.”
As children who are silent when ashamed,
and with their eyes upon the ground, keep list’ning,
and conscience-stricken and repentant are;
so I remained; and she: “Since thou art grieved
because of hearing me, lift up thy beard,
and thou from seeing shalt receive more grief.”
With less resistance is a sturdy oak
uprooted, either by our native wind,
or by the wind that blows from Jarba’s land,
than I at her behest raised up my chin;
and when by ‘beard’ she asked to see my face,
I well perceived the venom in her words.

Thereafter when my face was raised again,
I saw that those first creatures were at rest
from strewing flowers; and thereupon mine eyes,
which were as yet but partially assured,
saw Beatrice turned toward the Animal
which in two natures one sole person is.
Though ’neath her veil and ’cross the stream, it seemed
to me that she surpassed her old-time self,
more than she did all others, when on earth.
So pricked me now the nettle of repentance,
that, of all other things, what turned me most
unto its love, became to me most hostile.
Whereat such great contrition gnawed my heart,
that, overcome, I fell; and what I then
became, she knows who gave me cause for it.
Then, when my heart restored my outward strength,
I saw the Lady I found alone, above me,
saying: “Hold on to me! Hold on to me!”
Into the stream she had already borne me
up to my neck, and, dragging me behind her,
light as a shuttle o’er its top was moving.
When I was near the blessèd shore, I heard:
‘Purge me with hyssop’ said in tones so sweet,
that far from writing, I can not recall it.
The lovely Lady, stretching out her arms,
embraced my head, and plunged me in the stream
so far, that I was forced to drink its water.

Drawing me thence, she set me when thus bathed
within the dance-ring of the lovely four;
and each of them embraced me with her arm.
“Nymphs are we here, and in the sky are stars;
ere Beatrice came down into the world
we were ordained to be her maids. We ’ll lead thee
to see her eyes; but, for the joyous light
therein, the three upon the other side,
who more profoundly gaze, will sharpen thine.”
Thus singing they began; and thereupon
they led me with them to the Griffon’s breast,
where, turning toward us, Beatrice remained.
And “See to it that thou spare not thine eyes;”
they said, “before the emeralds we have set thee,
whence Love of old against thee drew his shafts.”
A thousand wishes hotter far than flames
bound mine eyes fast to those resplendent eyes,
which on the Griffon set their steady gaze.
As in a glass the sun, not otherwise
the two-fold Animal was gleaming in them,
at first in one, then in another way.
Think, Reader, if I wondered, when I saw
that It was keeping quiet in Itself,
while in Its image It was changing form.
While, glad and with amazement filled, my soul
was tasting of the food, which, while it sates,
still causes thirst and hunger for itself;

proving themselves to be of higher rank
by reason of their deeds, the other three
came dancing to their angel roundelay.
“Turn thou,” their song was, “turn thou, Beatrice,
thy holy eyes upon thy faithful one,
who hath, to see thee, ta’en so many steps.
Kindly do us the favor to unveil
thy mouth to him, that he may thus perceive
the second loveliness which thou dost hide.”
O Splendor of eternal living Light,
who, ’neath Parnassus’ shades, e’er grew so pale,
or from its cistern e’er so deeply drank,
as not to feel bewildered in his mind,
should he attempt to paint what thou didst seem,
when, symbolized by Heaven’s own harmonies,
thou didst reveal thee in the open air?

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

Canto 31

«O tu che se’ di là dal fiume sacro»,
volgendo suo parlare a me per punta,
che pur per taglio m’era paruto acro,

ricominciò, seguendo sanza cunta,
«dì, dì se questo è vero: a tanta accusa
tua confession conviene esser congiunta».

Era la mia virtù tanto confusa,
che la voce si mosse, e pria si spense
che da li organi suoi fosse dischiusa.

Poco sofferse; poi disse: «Che pense?
Rispondi a me; ché le memorie triste
in te non sono ancor da l’acqua offense».

Confusione e paura insieme miste
mi pinsero un tal «sì» fuor de la bocca,
al quale intender fuor mestier le viste.

Come balestro frange, quando scocca
da troppa tesa, la sua corda e l’arco,
e con men foga l’asta il segno tocca,

sì scoppia’ io sottesso grave carco,
fuori sgorgando lagrime e sospiri,
e la voce allentò per lo suo varco.

Ond’ ella a me: «Per entro i mie’ disiri,
che ti menavano ad amar lo bene
di là dal qual non è a che s’aspiri,

quai fossi attraversati o quai catene
trovasti, per che del passare innanzi
dovessiti così spogliar la spene?

E quali agevolezze o quali avanzi
ne la fronte de li altri si mostraro,
per che dovessi lor passeggiare anzi?».

Dopo la tratta d’un sospiro amaro,
a pena ebbi la voce che rispuose,
e le labbra a fatica la formaro.

Piangendo dissi: «Le presenti cose
col falso lor piacer volser miei passi,
tosto che ’l vostro viso si nascose».

Ed ella: «Se tacessi o se negassi
ciò che confessi, non fora men nota
la colpa tua: da tal giudice sassi!

Ma quando scoppia de la propria gota
l’accusa del peccato, in nostra corte
rivolge sé contra ’l taglio la rota.

Tuttavia, perché mo vergogna porte
del tuo errore, e perché altra volta,
udendo le serene, sie più forte,

pon giù il seme del piangere e ascolta:
sì udirai come in contraria parte
mover dovieti mia carne sepolta.

Mai non t’appresentò natura o arte
piacer, quanto le belle membra in ch’io
rinchiusa fui, e che so’ ’n terra sparte;

e se ’l sommo piacer sì ti fallio
per la mia morte, qual cosa mortale
dovea poi trarre te nel suo disio?

Ben ti dovevi, per lo primo strale
de le cose fallaci, levar suso
di retro a me che non era più tale.

Non ti dovea gravar le penne in giuso,
ad aspettar più colpo, o pargoletta
o altra novità con sì breve uso.

Novo augelletto due o tre aspetta;
ma dinanzi da li occhi d’i pennuti
rete si spiega indarno o si saetta».

Quali fanciulli, vergognando, muti
con li occhi a terra stannosi, ascoltando
e sé riconoscendo e ripentuti,

tal mi stav’ io; ed ella disse: «Quando
per udir se’ dolente, alza la barba,
e prenderai più doglia riguardando».

Con men di resistenza si dibarba
robusto cerro, o vero al nostral vento
o vero a quel de la terra di Iarba,

ch’io non levai al suo comando il mento;
e quando per la barba il viso chiese,
ben conobbi il velen de l’argomento.

E come la mia faccia si distese,
posarsi quelle prime creature
da loro aspersïon l’occhio comprese;

e le mie luci, ancor poco sicure,
vider Beatrice volta in su la fiera
ch’è sola una persona in due nature.

Sotto ’l suo velo e oltre la rivera
vincer pariemi più sé stessa antica,
vincer che l’altre qui, quand’ ella c’era.

Di penter sì mi punse ivi l’ortica,
che di tutte altre cose qual mi torse
più nel suo amor, più mi si fé nemica.

Tanta riconoscenza il cor mi morse,
ch’io caddi vinto; e quale allora femmi,
salsi colei che la cagion mi porse.

Poi, quando il cor virtù di fuor rendemmi,
la donna ch’io avea trovata sola
sopra me vidi, e dicea: «Tiemmi, tiemmi!».

Tratto m’avea nel fiume infin la gola,
e tirandosi me dietro sen giva
sovresso l’acqua lieve come scola.

Quando fui presso a la beata riva,
‘Asperges me’ sì dolcemente udissi,
che nol so rimembrar, non ch’io lo scriva.

La bella donna ne le braccia aprissi;
abbracciommi la testa e mi sommerse
ove convenne ch’io l’acqua inghiottissi.

Indi mi tolse, e bagnato m’offerse
dentro a la danza de le quattro belle;
e ciascuna del braccio mi coperse.

«Noi siam qui ninfe e nel ciel siamo stelle;
pria che Beatrice discendesse al mondo,
fummo ordinate a lei per sue ancelle.

Merrenti a li occhi suoi; ma nel giocondo
lume ch’è dentro aguzzeranno i tuoi
le tre di là, che miran più profondo».

Così cantando cominciaro; e poi
al petto del grifon seco menarmi,
ove Beatrice stava volta a noi.

Disser: «Fa che le viste non risparmi;
posto t’avem dinanzi a li smeraldi
ond’ Amor già ti trasse le sue armi».

Mille disiri più che fiamma caldi
strinsermi li occhi a li occhi rilucenti,
che pur sopra ’l grifone stavan saldi.

Come in lo specchio il sol, non altrimenti
la doppia fiera dentro vi raggiava,
or con altri, or con altri reggimenti.

Pensa, lettor, s’io mi maravigliava,
quando vedea la cosa in sé star queta,
e ne l’idolo suo si trasmutava.

Mentre che piena di stupore e lieta
l’anima mia gustava di quel cibo
che, saziando di sé, di sé asseta,

sé dimostrando di più alto tribo
ne li atti, l’altre tre si fero avanti,
danzando al loro angelico caribo.

«Volgi, Beatrice, volgi li occhi santi»,
era la sua canzone, «al tuo fedele
che, per vederti, ha mossi passi tanti!

Per grazia fa noi grazia che disvele
a lui la bocca tua, sì che discerna
la seconda bellezza che tu cele».

O isplendor di viva luce etterna,
chi palido si fece sotto l’ombra
sì di Parnaso, o bevve in sua cisterna,

che non paresse aver la mente ingombra,
tentando a render te qual tu paresti
là dove armonizzando il ciel t’adombra,

quando ne l’aere aperto ti solvesti?

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

Canto 32

So steadfast were mine eyes and so intent
on gratifying their decennial thirst,
that all my other senses were asleep;
and both on this side and on that a wall
of heedlessness they had, the holy smile
so strongly drew them with the olden net;
when forcibly my face was toward my left
turned by those Goddesses, for from their lips
I now was hearing a “Too steadfastly!”
Thereat the state of vision which exists
in eyes but newly smitten by the sun,
caused me to be awhile deprived of sight.
But when my eyes were to the small accustomed,
(I say ‘the small’ with reference to the great
resplendence, whence perforce I turned away,)
I saw that on the right the glorious host
had wheeled, and was returning with the sun
and with the sevenfold flame in front of it.
As, to protect itself, a troop revolves
beneath its shields, and wheeleth with its flag,
before the whole of it can change direction;

even so the heavenly Kingdom’s soldiery
who forward were, had wholly passed us by,
before its pole had made the Chariot turn.
Back to the wheel the Ladies then returned;
and so the Griffon drew His blessèd burden,
that, though He moved, no feather of him shook.
The Lady fair, who through the ford had drawn me,
Statius and I, were following the wheel
which made its orbit with the smaller arc.
As thus we crossed the lofty wood, unpeopled
because of her who trusted to the Serpent,
a song angelic kept our steps in time.
A liberated arrow in three flights,
perhaps, as great a distance would have gone,
as we had moved, when Beatrice alighted.
“Adam!” I then heard murmured by them all;
they circled then around a Tree, despoiled
of flowers and other leaves on every branch.
Its crowning boughs, spread out in greater width,
the higher up they are, would for their height
be wondered at by Indians in their woods.
“Thou, Griffon, happy art, since with Thy beak
Thou tearest not this pleasant tasting wood,
because one’s belly writhes in pain therewith.”
Thus round the sturdy Tree the others cried;
whereat the Double-natured Animal:
“Thus is the seed of all just deeds preserved.”

Then, turning toward the pole which He had drawn,
He dragged it forward to the widowed Tree,
and ’neath it left that part of it tied up.
As our plants swell, when falls the great light, mixed
with that which shines behind the heavenly Carp,
and as each thereupon renews itself
in its own color, ere the sun yokes up
his racing horses ’neath another star;
even so, a hue revealing, not as bright
as that which roses have, and more than that
of violets, that Tree renewed itself,
whose branches once had been so bare of leaves.
I understood not (’t is not sung on earth,)
the hymn which thereupon that people sang,
nor did I bear to hear the whole song through.
If I could picture how the unpitying eyes,
on hearing Syrinx’ story, sleepy grew,
the eyes to which much waking cost so dear;
as doth an artist who from models paints,
would I describe how I then fell asleep;
but let whoever will, feign sleeping well.
Hence to the point I pass, when I awoke;
and say a splendor rent my slumber’s veil,
and then a call: “Arise! What doest thou?”
As Peter, John and James were led to see
some of the early blossoms of the apple,
which makes the Angels eager for its fruit,

and causes endless marriage-feasts in Heaven;
and, overcome, recovered at the word
whereby far greater slumbers had been broken;
and even as they perceived their company
diminished both by Moses and Elias,
and all the raiment of their Master changed;
so I, recovering, near me standing saw
that pitying Lady who before had been
the leader of my steps along the stream.
“But where is Beatrice?” all lost in doubt
I said. Whence she: “Behold her sitting there,
beneath the Tree’s new leaves, upon its roots.
Behold the company surrounding her;
the rest on high behind the Griffon go,
with songs of sweeter sound and deeper theme.”
I know not if at greater length her words
were poured, because now in mine eyes was she,
who hindered my attending to aught else.
On the bare ground she sat, and all alone,
left there to be the guardian of the Car
I saw the Biformed Animal tie up.
Circling, the seven Nymphs with their persons formed
a hedge for her, those lights held in their hands,
which safe from Auster are and Aquilo.
“Here for a while shalt thou a woodman be;
then without end with me a citizen
of that Rome, whereof Christ a Roman is.

Hence, for the world’s sake, which lives badly, keep
thine eyes upon the Car, and what thou see’st
be sure to write, when once on earth again.”
Thus Beatrice; and I, who now was wholly
devoted at the feet of her commands,
whither she wished turned both my mind and eyes.
Fire ne’er descended with so swift a motion
out of dense clouds, when from the highest region
the rain is falling, as I now beheld
the bird of Jove swoop down upon the Tree,
and break not only its new budding leaves
and blossoms, but its bark; with all his might
he smote the Chariot next; whereat it reeled,
as in a storm a ship, when by the waves
to starboard now, and now to larboard driven.
And then a she-Fox which from all good food
seemed fasting, I perceived, hurling herself
against the bottom of the triumph-Car;
but, for her ugly sins upbraiding her,
my Lady put her to such speedy flight
as was permitted by her fleshless bones.
Thereafter, whence it first had come, I saw
the Eagle down into the Chariot’s ark
descend, and leave it feathered with his plumes;
and such a voice as from a suffering heart
comes forth, was that which came from Heaven, and said:
“My little Ship, how badly thou art laden!”

Between both wheels the earth seemed opened then,
and forth from it I saw a Dragon come,
who upward through the Chariot thrust his tail;
and like a wasp which draweth back its sting,
withdrawing his bad tail, he drew away
part of its floor, and, keen for more, went off.
That which remained reclothed itself again,
as rich soil doth with grasses, with the plumes,
offered, perhaps, with wise and kind intent;
then one wheel and the other and the pole
were covered up so quickly, that a mouth
is open kept much longer by a sigh.
When thus the holy Structure was transformed,
it put forth heads upon its members, three
upon its pole, and at each corner one.
The first were horned like oxen, but the four
had on their foreheads but a single horn;
never had such a monster yet been seen.
Sitting thereon, as boldly as a fort
is seated on a lofty mountain-top,
a shameless Prostitute appeared before me,
with eyebrows that were quick to wander round;
and then, to see that none should take her from him,
I saw a Giant standing at her side;
at times they kissed each other there; but since
she turned her greedy, fickle eyes on me,
that cruel lover scourged her from her head

unto her soles. Then, filled with jealousy,
and cruel in his wrath, loosing the Monster,
he dragged it through the wood so far away,
that with this last alone he shielded me
against the Harlot and unnatural Beast.

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

Canto 32

Tant’ eran li occhi miei fissi e attenti
a disbramarsi la decenne sete,
che li altri sensi m’eran tutti spenti.

Ed essi quinci e quindi avien parete
di non caler—così lo santo riso
a sé traéli con l’antica rete!—;

quando per forza mi fu vòlto il viso
ver’ la sinistra mia da quelle dee,
perch’ io udi’ da loro un «Troppo fiso!»;

e la disposizion ch’a veder èe
ne li occhi pur testé dal sol percossi,
sanza la vista alquanto esser mi fée.

Ma poi ch’al poco il viso riformossi
(e dico ‘al poco’ per rispetto al molto
sensibile onde a forza mi rimossi),

vidi ’n sul braccio destro esser rivolto
lo glorïoso essercito, e tornarsi
col sole e con le sette fiamme al volto.

Come sotto li scudi per salvarsi
volgesi schiera, e sé gira col segno,
prima che possa tutta in sé mutarsi;

quella milizia del celeste regno
che procedeva, tutta trapassonne
pria che piegasse il carro il primo legno.

Indi a le rote si tornar le donne,
e ’l grifon mosse il benedetto carco
sì, che però nulla penna crollonne.

La bella donna che mi trasse al varco
e Stazio e io seguitavam la rota
che fé l’orbita sua con minore arco.

Sì passeggiando l’alta selva vòta,
colpa di quella ch’al serpente crese,
temprava i passi un’angelica nota.

Forse in tre voli tanto spazio prese
disfrenata saetta, quanto eramo
rimossi, quando Bëatrice scese.

Io senti’ mormorare a tutti «Adamo»;
poi cerchiaro una pianta dispogliata
di foglie e d’altra fronda in ciascun ramo.

La coma sua, che tanto si dilata
più quanto più è sù, fora da l’Indi
ne’ boschi lor per altezza ammirata.

«Beato se’, grifon, che non discindi
col becco d’esto legno dolce al gusto,
poscia che mal si torce il ventre quindi».

Così dintorno a l’albero robusto
gridaron li altri; e l’animal binato:
«Sì si conserva il seme d’ogne giusto».

E vòlto al temo ch’elli avea tirato,
trasselo al piè de la vedova frasca,
e quel di lei a lei lasciò legato.

Come le nostre piante, quando casca
giù la gran luce mischiata con quella
che raggia dietro a la celeste lasca,

turgide fansi, e poi si rinovella
di suo color ciascuna, pria che ’l sole
giunga li suoi corsier sotto altra stella;

men che di rose e più che di vïole
colore aprendo, s’innovò la pianta,
che prima avea le ramora sì sole.

Io non lo ’ntesi, né qui non si canta
l’inno che quella gente allor cantaro,
né la nota soffersi tutta quanta.

S’io potessi ritrar come assonnaro
li occhi spietati udendo di Siringa,
li occhi a cui pur vegghiar costò sì caro;

come pintor che con essempro pinga,
disegnerei com’ io m’addormentai;
ma qual vuol sia che l’assonnar ben finga.

Però trascorro a quando mi svegliai,
e dico ch’un splendor mi squarciò ’l velo
del sonno, e un chiamar: «Surgi: che fai?».

Quali a veder de’ fioretti del melo
che del suo pome li angeli fa ghiotti
e perpetüe nozze fa nel cielo,

Pietro e Giovanni e Iacopo condotti
e vinti, ritornaro a la parola
da la qual furon maggior sonni rotti,

e videro scemata loro scuola
così di Moïsè come d’Elia,
e al maestro suo cangiata stola;

tal torna’ io, e vidi quella pia
sovra me starsi che conducitrice
fu de’ miei passi lungo ’l fiume pria.

E tutto in dubbio dissi: «Ov’ è Beatrice?».
Ond’ ella: «Vedi lei sotto la fronda
nova sedere in su la sua radice.

Vedi la compagnia che la circonda:
li altri dopo ’l grifon sen vanno suso
con più dolce canzone e più profonda».

E se più fu lo suo parlar diffuso,
non so, però che già ne li occhi m’era
quella ch’ad altro intender m’avea chiuso.

Sola sedeasi in su la terra vera,
come guardia lasciata lì del plaustro
che legar vidi a la biforme fera.

In cerchio le facevan di sé claustro
le sette ninfe, con quei lumi in mano
che son sicuri d’Aquilone e d’Austro.

«Qui sarai tu poco tempo silvano;
e sarai meco sanza fine cive
di quella Roma onde Cristo è romano.

Però, in pro del mondo che mal vive,
al carro tieni or li occhi, e quel che vedi,
ritornato di là, fa che tu scrive».

Così Beatrice; e io, che tutto ai piedi
d’i suoi comandamenti era divoto,
la mente e li occhi ov’ ella volle diedi.

Non scese mai con sì veloce moto
foco di spessa nube, quando piove
da quel confine che più va remoto,

com’ io vidi calar l’uccel di Giove
per l’alber giù, rompendo de la scorza,
non che d’i fiori e de le foglie nove;

e ferì ’l carro di tutta sua forza;
ond’ el piegò come nave in fortuna,
vinta da l’onda, or da poggia, or da orza.

Poscia vidi avventarsi ne la cuna
del trïunfal veiculo una volpe
che d’ogne pasto buon parea digiuna;

ma, riprendendo lei di laide colpe,
la donna mia la volse in tanta futa
quanto sofferser l’ossa sanza polpe.

Poscia per indi ond’ era pria venuta,
l’aguglia vidi scender giù ne l’arca
del carro e lasciar lei di sé pennuta;

e qual esce di cuor che si rammarca,
tal voce uscì del cielo e cotal disse:
«O navicella mia, com’ mal se’ carca!».

Poi parve a me che la terra s’aprisse
tr’ambo le ruote, e vidi uscirne un drago
che per lo carro sù la coda fisse;

e come vespa che ritragge l’ago,
a sé traendo la coda maligna,
trasse del fondo, e gissen vago vago.

Quel che rimase, come da gramigna
vivace terra, da la piuma, offerta
forse con intenzion sana e benigna,

si ricoperse, e funne ricoperta
e l’una e l’altra rota e ’l temo, in tanto
che più tiene un sospir la bocca aperta.

Trasformato così ’l dificio santo
mise fuor teste per le parti sue,
tre sovra ’l temo e una in ciascun canto.

Le prime eran cornute come bue,
ma le quattro un sol corno avean per fronte:
simile mostro visto ancor non fue.

Sicura, quasi rocca in alto monte,
seder sovresso una puttana sciolta
m’apparve con le ciglia intorno pronte;

e come perché non li fosse tolta,
vidi di costa a lei dritto un gigante;
e basciavansi insieme alcuna volta.

Ma perché l’occhio cupido e vagante
a me rivolse, quel feroce drudo
la flagellò dal capo infin le piante;

poi, di sospetto pieno e d’ira crudo,
disciolse il mostro, e trassel per la selva,
tanto che sol di lei mi fece scudo

a la puttana e a la nova belva.

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

Canto 33

“O God, the heathen folk are come,” now three,
now four, alternately, and shedding tears,
the Ladies a sweet psalmody began;
and Beatrice with sighs of sympathy
was listening to their words with such a look,
that Mary at the cross changed little more.
But when the other maids had given way
that she might speak, she rose upon her feet,
and, colored with the hue of fire, replied;
“A little while, and ye shall not behold me;
and then again, belovèd sisters mine,
a little while, and me ye shall behold.”
All seven she thereupon before her placed,
and, merely by a nod, behind her moved
me and the Lady, and the Sage who stayed.
She thus was going on, nor do I think
her tenth step had been set upon the ground,
when with her eyes she forcibly met mine;
then with a tranquil face she said to me:
“More quickly come, that, if I speak to thee,
for listening to me thou mayst be well placed.”

As soon as I was with her as I ought,
she said to me: “Why, brother, dost not venture
to question me, now that thou comest with me?”
As unto those who show excessive reverence,
when speaking in the presence of their elders,
and therefore draw no clear voice to their teeth,
to me it happed that with imperfect tones
“Madonna,” I began, “my welfare’s needs
you know, and that which may be good for it.”
And she to me: “From fear and bashfulness
I wish thee now to extricate thyself,
that thou mayst speak no more like one who dreams.
Know that the Vessel which the Serpent broke,
was, and is not; but let whose fault it is,
believe God’s vengeance fears not human sops.
Nor shall the Eagle heirless for all time
remain, who left his feathers on the Car,
whence monstrous it became, and then a prey;
for I see well, and therefore tell it, stars
now near, and from all checks and obstacles
secure, which for us shall a time obtain,
within which a Five Hundred Ten and Five,
sent forth by God, shall kill the female Thief,
and that great Giant who with her is guilty.
And my prediction, which is dark, perhaps,
as Themis and the Sphinx, persuades thee less,
because, as theirs did, it beclouds thy mind;

but facts will soon become the Naiades,
which shall this difficult enigma solve,
without the loss of either sheep or grain.
Give heed; and ev’n as uttered by myself,
see that thou teach these words of mine to those
that live the life which is a race toward death;
and bear in mind, when thou art writing them,
not to conceal in what state thou hast seen
the Tree, which twice now hath been here despoiled.
Whoever robs or teareth that apart,
with blasphemy of deed offendeth God,
who for His own use only made it holy.
For biting it, in pain and in desire
the first soul longed for Him five thousand years
and more, who punished in Himself the bite.
Thy mind is sleeping, if it deemeth not
that for a special cause it soars so high,
and at its summit so inverted is.
And if the vain thoughts which surround thy mind
had not been Elsa water, and their pleasure
as to the mulberry a Pyramus,
thou, by so many circumstances only,
wouldst in the interdict upon the Tree
see morally God’s Justice. But, since made
of stone I see thee in thine understanding,
and, being petrified, so dark in mind
that thou art blinded by my speech’s light,

I also, if not written, wish that painted,
at least, thou bear it in thee, for the reason
the pilgrim’s staff is carried wreathed with palm.”
And I: “As sealing-wax, which changes not
the shape imprinted on it by the seal,
so likewise is my brain now stamped by you.
But why so far above my mental sight
are your desired words now flying up,
it loses them the more, the more it strives?”
“That thou,” she said, “mayst thus appraise the school
which thou hast followed, and perceive how able
its teaching is to carry out my word;
and also see that your ways are removed
as far from the divine, as e’er the heaven
which speeds most high is distant from the earth.”
Whence her I answered: “I do not recall
that I have e’er estranged myself from you,
nor am I conscious of remorse therefor.”
“And if thou canst not call it to thy mind,”
she answered with a smile, “remember now
that this same day thou hast of Lethe drunk;
and if from smoke a fire may be inferred,
this thy forgetfulness but clearly proves
a fault in thy desire intent elsewhere.
Truly my words shall naked be henceforth,
as much at least as it shall needful seem
to make them clear to thine untutored sight.”

Both more refulgent and with slower steps
the sun was holding now the noonday circle,
which, with each point of view, moves here and there;
when, even as he, who as a leader goes
ahead of people, stops, if something new
he find upon his path, the Ladies seven
stopped at a death-pale shadow’s edge,
like that which ’neath green leaves and darkling boughs
the Alps cast o’er their icy mountain-streams.
In front of them I seemed to see Euphrates
and Tigris from one fountain issue forth,
and from each other slowly part as friends.
“O Light and Glory of the human race,
what stream is this which from one source unfolds,
and then from its own self itself withdraws?”
In answer to this question I was told:
“Pray that Matelda tell thee.” Whereupon,
like one who frees himself from blame, replied
the lovely Lady: “This, with other things,
hath he been told by me; and I am sure
that Lethe’s water hath not hid it from him.”
And Beatrice: “Perhaps a greater care
which oft deprives one’s memory of its power,
hath made the vision of his mind’s eye dark.
But Eunoë behold, which yonder now
is flowing forth; conduct him to its bank,
and, as thou ’rt wont, revive his lifeless power.”

Even as a noble soul makes no excuse,
but to another’s will its own conforms,
as soon as e’er by outward signs disclosed;
even so, when she had taken hold of me,
the lovely Lady moved, and then to Statius
said with a lady’s manner: “Come with him.”
If, Reader, I had now more space for writing,
I’d sing, at least in part, of that sweet drink,
which never would have satisfied my thirst;
but inasmuch as filled are all the pages
planned warp-like for this second Canticle,
no further doth art’s bridle let me go.
From that most holy water I returned
made young again, as new trees are in spring,
when with new foliage they renew themselves,
pure, and disposed to rise up to the stars.

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

Canto 33

‘Deus, venerunt gentes’, alternando
or tre or quattro dolce salmodia,
le donne incominciaro, e lagrimando;

e Bëatrice, sospirosa e pia,
quelle ascoltava sì fatta, che poco
più a la croce si cambiò Maria.

Ma poi che l’altre vergini dier loco
a lei di dir, levata dritta in pè,
rispuose, colorata come foco:

‘Modicum, et non videbitis me;
et iterum, sorelle mie dilette,
modicum, et vos videbitis me’.

Poi le si mise innanzi tutte e sette,
e dopo sé, solo accennando, mosse
me e la donna e ’l savio che ristette.

Così sen giva; e non credo che fosse
lo decimo suo passo in terra posto,
quando con li occhi li occhi mi percosse;

e con tranquillo aspetto «Vien più tosto»,
mi disse, «tanto che, s’io parlo teco,
ad ascoltarmi tu sie ben disposto».

Sì com’ io fui, com’ io dovëa, seco,
dissemi: «Frate, perché non t’attenti
a domandarmi omai venendo meco?».

Come a color che troppo reverenti
dinanzi a suo maggior parlando sono,
che non traggon la voce viva ai denti,

avvenne a me, che sanza intero suono
incominciai: «Madonna, mia bisogna
voi conoscete, e ciò ch’ad essa è buono».

Ed ella a me: «Da tema e da vergogna
voglio che tu omai ti disviluppe,
sì che non parli più com’ om che sogna.

Sappi che ’l vaso che ’l serpente ruppe,
fu e non è; ma chi n’ha colpa, creda
che vendetta di Dio non teme suppe.

Non sarà tutto tempo sanza reda
l’aguglia che lasciò le penne al carro,
per che divenne mostro e poscia preda;

ch’io veggio certamente, e però il narro,
a darne tempo già stelle propinque,
secure d’ogn’ intoppo e d’ogne sbarro,

nel quale un cinquecento diece e cinque,
messo di Dio, anciderà la fuia
con quel gigante che con lei delinque.

E forse che la mia narrazion buia,
qual Temi e Sfinge, men ti persuade,
perch’ a lor modo lo ’ntelletto attuia;

ma tosto fier li fatti le Naiade,
che solveranno questo enigma forte
sanza danno di pecore o di biade.

Tu nota; e sì come da me son porte,
così queste parole segna a’ vivi
del viver ch’è un correre a la morte.

E aggi a mente, quando tu le scrivi,
di non celar qual hai vista la pianta
ch’è or due volte dirubata quivi.

Qualunque ruba quella o quella schianta,
con bestemmia di fatto offende a Dio,
che solo a l’uso suo la creò santa.

Per morder quella, in pena e in disio
cinquemilia anni e più l’anima prima
bramò colui che ’l morso in sé punio.

Dorme lo ’ngegno tuo, se non estima
per singular cagione esser eccelsa
lei tanto e sì travolta ne la cima.

E se stati non fossero acqua d’Elsa
li pensier vani intorno a la tua mente,
e ’l piacer loro un Piramo a la gelsa,

per tante circostanze solamente
la giustizia di Dio, ne l’interdetto,
conosceresti a l’arbor moralmente.

Ma perch’ io veggio te ne lo ’ntelletto
fatto di pietra e, impetrato, tinto,
sì che t’abbaglia il lume del mio detto,

voglio anco, e se non scritto, almen dipinto,
che ’l te ne porti dentro a te per quello
che si reca il bordon di palma cinto».

E io: «Sì come cera da suggello,
che la figura impressa non trasmuta,
segnato è or da voi lo mio cervello.

Ma perché tanto sovra mia veduta
vostra parola disïata vola,
che più la perde quanto più s’aiuta?».

«Perché conoschi», disse, «quella scuola
c’hai seguitata, e veggi sua dottrina
come può seguitar la mia parola;

e veggi vostra via da la divina
distar cotanto, quanto si discorda
da terra il ciel che più alto festina».

Ond’ io rispuosi lei: «Non mi ricorda
ch’i’ stranïasse me già mai da voi,
né honne coscïenza che rimorda».

«E se tu ricordar non te ne puoi»,
sorridendo rispuose, «or ti rammenta
come bevesti di Letè ancoi;

e se dal fummo foco s’argomenta,
cotesta oblivïon chiaro conchiude
colpa ne la tua voglia altrove attenta.

Veramente oramai saranno nude
le mie parole, quanto converrassi
quelle scovrire a la tua vista rude».

E più corusco e con più lenti passi
teneva il sole il cerchio di merigge,
che qua e là, come li aspetti, fassi,

quando s’affisser, sì come s’affigge
chi va dinanzi a gente per iscorta
se trova novitate o sue vestigge,

le sette donne al fin d’un’ombra smorta,
qual sotto foglie verdi e rami nigri
sovra suoi freddi rivi l’alpe porta.

Dinanzi ad esse Ëufratès e Tigri
veder mi parve uscir d’una fontana,
e, quasi amici, dipartirsi pigri.

«O luce, o gloria de la gente umana,
che acqua è questa che qui si dispiega
da un principio e sé da sé lontana?».

Per cotal priego detto mi fu: «Priega
Matelda che ’l ti dica». E qui rispuose,
come fa chi da colpa si dislega,

la bella donna: «Questo e altre cose
dette li son per me; e son sicura
che l’acqua di Letè non gliel nascose».

E Bëatrice: «Forse maggior cura,
che spesse volte la memoria priva,
fatt’ ha la mente sua ne li occhi oscura.

Ma vedi Eünoè che là diriva:
menalo ad esso, e come tu se’ usa,
la tramortita sua virtù ravviva».

Come anima gentil, che non fa scusa,
ma fa sua voglia de la voglia altrui
tosto che è per segno fuor dischiusa;

così, poi che da essa preso fui,
la bella donna mossesi, e a Stazio
donnescamente disse: «Vien con lui».

S’io avessi, lettor, più lungo spazio
da scrivere, i’ pur cantere’ in parte
lo dolce ber che mai non m’avria sazio;

ma perché piene son tutte le carte
ordite a questa cantica seconda,
non mi lascia più ir lo fren de l’arte.

Io ritornai da la santissima onda
rifatto sì come piante novelle
rinovellate di novella fronda,

puro e disposto a salire a le stelle.

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

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