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Dante Alighieri (1265–1321).  The Divine Comedy.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
Purgatory
 
Canto XXX
 
 
ARGUMENT.—Beatrice descends from Heaven, and rebukes the Poet.
 
 
SOON as that polar light, 1 fair ornament
Of the first Heaven, which hath never known
Setting nor rising, nor the shadowy veil
Of other cloud than sin, to duty there
Each one convoying, as that lower doth        5
The steersman to his port, stood firmly fix’d;
Forthwith the saintly tribe, who in the van
Between the Gryphon and its radiance came,
Did turn them to the car, as to their rest:
And one, as if commission’d from above,        10
In holy chant thrice shouted forth aloud;
“Come, 2 spouse! from Libanus:” and all the rest
Took up the song.—At the last audit, so
The blest shall rise, from forth his cavern each
Uplifting lightly his new-vested flesh;        15
As, on the sacred litter, at the voice
Authoritative of that elder, sprang
A hundred ministers and messengers
Of life eternal. “Blessed 3 thou, who comest!”
And, “Oh!” they cried, “from full hands scatter ye        20
Unwithering lilies”: and, so saying, cast
Flowers overhead and round them on all sides.
  I have beheld, ere now, at break of day,
The eastern clime all roseate; and the sky
Opposed, one deep and beautiful serene;        25
And the sun’s face so shaded, and with mists
Attemper’d, at his rising, that the eye
Long while endured the sight: thus, in a cloud
Of flowers, that from those hands angelic rose,
And down within and outside of the car        30
Fell showering, in white veil with olive wreathed,
A virgin in my view appear’d, beneath
Green mantle, robed in hue of living flame:
And o’er my spirit, that so long a time
Had from her presence felt no shuddering dread,        35
Albeit mine eyes discern’d her not, there moved
A hidden virtue from her, at whose touch
The power of ancient love was strong within me.
  No sooner on my vision streaming, smote
The heavenly influence, which, years past, and e’en        40
In childhood, thrill’d me, than towards Virgil I
Turn’d me to leftward; panting, like a babe,
That flees for refuge to his mother’s breast,
If aught have terrified or work’d him woe:
And would have cried, “There is no dram of blood,        45
That doth not quiver in me. The old flame
Throws out clear tokens of reviving fire.”
But Virgil had bereaved us of himself;
Virgil, my best-loved father, Virgil, he
To whom I gave me up for safety: nor        50
All, our prime mother lost, avail’d to save
My undew’d cheeks from blur of soiling tears.
  “Dante! weep not that Virgil leaves thee; nay,
Weep thou not yet: behoves thee feel the edge
Of other sword; and thou shalt weep for that.”        55
  As to the prow or stern, some admiral
Paces the deck, inspiriting his crew,
When ’mid the sail-yards all hands ply aloof;
Thus, on the left side of the car, I saw
(Turning me at the sound of mine own name,        60
Which here I am compell’d to register)
The virgin station’d, who before appear’d
Veil’d in that festive shower angelical.
  Towards me, across the stream, she bent her eyes;
Though from her brow the veil descending, bound        65
With foliage of Minerva, suffer’d not
That I beheld her clearly: then with act
Full royal, still insulting o’er her thrall,
Added, as one who, speaking, keepeth back
The bitterest saying, to conclude the speech:        70
“Observe me well. I am, in sooth, I am
Beatrice. What! and hast thou deign’d at last
Approach the mountain? Knewest not, O man!
Thy happiness is here?” Down fell mine eyes
On the clear fount; but there, myself espying,        75
Recoil’d, and sought the greensward; such a weight
Of shame was on my forehead. With a mien
Of that stern majesty, which doth surround
A mother’s presence to her awe-struck child,
She look’d; a flavor of such bitterness        80
Was mingled in her pity. There her words
Brake off; and suddenly the angels sang,
“In thee, O gracious Lord! my hope hath been”:
But 4 went no further than, “Thou, Lord! hast set
My feet in ample room” As snow, that lies,        85
Amidst the living rafters on the back
Of Italy, congeal’d, when drifted high
And closely piled by rough Sclavonian blasts;
Breathe but the land whereon no shadow falls,
And straightway melting it distills away,        90
Like a fire-wasted taper: thus was I,
Without a sigh or tear, or ever these
Did sing, that, with the chiming of Heaven’s sphere,
Still in their warbling chime: but when the strain
Of dulcet symphony express’d for me        95
Their soft compassion, more than could the words,
“Virgin! why so consumest him?” then, the ice
Congeal’d about my bosom, turn’d itself
To spirit and water; and with anguish forth
Gush’d, through the lips and eyelids, from the heart.        100
  Upon the chariot’s same edge still she stood,
Immovable; and thus address’d her words
To those bright semblances with pity touch’d:
“Ye in the eternal day your vigils keep;
So that nor night nor slumber, with close stealth,        105
Conveys from you a single step, in all
The goings on of time: thence, with more heed
I shape mine answer, for his ear intended,
Who there stands weeping; that the sorrow now
May equal the transgression. Not alone        110
Through operation of the mighty orbs,
That mark each seed to some predestined aim,
As with aspect or fortunate or ill
The constellations meet; but through benign
Largess of heavenly graces, which rain down        115
From such a height as mocks our vision, this man
Was, in the freshness of his being, such,
So gifted virtually, that in him
All better habits wondrously had thrived
The more of kindly strength is in the soil,        120
So much doth evil seed and lack of culture
Mar it the more, and make it run to wildness.
These looks sometime upheld him; for I show’d
My youthful eyes, and led him by their light
In upright walking. Soon as I had reach’d        125
Tee threshold of my second age, and changed
My mortal for immortal; then he left me,
And gave himself to others. When from flesh
To spirit I had risen, and increase
Of beauty and of virtue circled me,        130
I was less dear to him, and valued less.
His steps were turn’d into deceitful ways,
Following false images of good, that make
No promise perfect. Nor avail’d me aught
To sue for inspirations, with the which,        135
I, both in dreams of night, and otherwise,
Did call him back; of them, so little reck’d him.
Such depth he fell, that all device was short
Of his preserving, save that he should view
The children of perdition. To this end        140
I visited the purlieus of the dead:
And one, who hath conducted him thus high,
Received my supplications urged with weeping.
It were a breaking of God’s high decree,
If Lethe should be pass’d, and such food 5 tasted,        145
Without the cost of some repentant tear.”
 
Note 1. The seven candlesticks of gold, which he calls the polar light of Heaven itself, because they perform the same office for Christians that the polar star does for mariners, in guiding them to their port. [back]
Note 2. “Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, with me, from Lebanon.”—Song of Solomon, iv. 8. [back]
Note 3. Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”—Matt. xxi. 9. [back]
Note 4. “But.” They sang the thirty-first Psalm, to the end of the eighth verse. What follows would not have suited the place or the occasion. [back]
Note 5. The oblivion of sins. [back]
 

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