Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IV. The Higher Life
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IV. The Higher Life.  1904.
 
VIII. Selections from “The Divine Comedy”
Fire of Purification
Dante Alighieri (1265–1321)
 
Translated by Henry Francis Cary

Selections from “The Divine Comedy”
Purgatory: Canto XXVII.

NOW was the sun so stationed, as when first
His early radiance quivers on the heights,
Where streamed his Maker’s blood; while Libra hangs
Above Hesperian Ebro; and new fires,
Meridian, flash on Ganges’ yellow tide.        5
  So day was sinking, when the angel of God
Appeared before us. Joy was in his mien.
Forth of the flame he stood upon the brink;
And with a voice, whose lively clearness far
Surpassed our human, “Blessed are the pure        10
In heart,” he sang: then near him as we came,
“Go ye not further, holy spirits!” he cried,
“Ere the fire pierce you: enter in; and list
Attentive to the song ye hear from thence.”
I, when I heard his saying, was as one        15
Laid in the grave. My hands together clasped,
And upward stretching, on the fire I looked;
And busy fancy conjured up the forms
Erewhile beheld alive consumed in flames.
  The escorting spirits turned with gentle looks        20
Toward me; and the Mantuan spake: “My son,
Here torment thou may’st feel, but canst not death.
Remember thee, remember thee, if I
Safe e’en on Geryon brought thee; now I come
More near to God, wilt thou not trust me now?        25
Of this be sure; though in its womb that flame
A thousand years contained thee, from thy head
No hair should perish. If thou doubt my truth,
Approach; and with thy hands thy vesture’s hem
Stretch forth, and for thyself confirm belief.        30
Lay now all fear, oh! lay all fear aside.
Turn hither, and come onward undismayed.”
  I still, though conscience urged, no step advanced.
*        *        *        *        *
Into the fire before me then he walked:
And Statius, who erewhile no little space        35
Had parted us, he prayed to come behind.
  I would have cast me into molten glass
To cool me, when I entered; so intense
Raged the conflagrant mass. The sire beloved,
To comfort me, as he proceeded, still        40
Of Beatrice talked. “Her eyes,” saith he,
“E’en now I seem to view.” From the other side
A voice, that sang, did guide us; and the voice
Following, with heedful ear, we issued forth,
There where the path led upward. “Come,” we heard,        45
“Come, blessèd of my Father.” Such the sounds,
That hailed us from within a light, which shone
So radiant, I could not endure the view.
“The sun,” it added, “hastes: and evening comes.
Delay not: ere the western sky is hung        50
With blackness, strive ye for the pass.” Our way
Upright within the rock arose, and faced
Such part of heaven, that from before my steps
The beams were shrouded of the sinking sun.
 
 
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