Dante Alighieri - La Divina Commedia - Purgatorio
Courtney Langdon - The Divine Comedy

The Repentant who died Excommunicated

Although their sudden flight had scattered them
over the plain, and turned them toward the Mount,
where Justice probes us with its penalties,
more closely to my faithful mate I drew.
And how without him had I run my race,
or who had drawn me up the Mountain's side?

To me he seemed o'erwhelmed with self-reproach.
O conscience, when both dignified and clear,
how sharp a bite a slight fault is to thee!

When once his feet had given up the haste,
which of their dignity deprives all acts,
my mind, to one thought limited at first,
enlarged its scope with eager interest now;
and toward that Mountain I addressed my gaze,
which skyward rises highest from the sea.

The sun, which back of us was flaming red,
in front of me was broken in the shape
wherein I lent its rays a resting place.
I turned, and at my side I looked, afraid
of having been abandoned, when I saw
the ground was dark in front of me alone.

When wholly turned, my Comforter began:
"Why still distrustful? Dost thou not believe
that I am with thee, and am guiding thee?
'T is evening now where buried lies the body,
wherein I cast a shadow; Naples now
possesses it; from Brindisi 't was taken.
If, then, in front of me no shadow fall,
marvel no more than at the heavenly spheres
thou wouldst, which hinder not each other's rays.
That Power enables bodies such as mine
to suffer torments, both of heat and cold,
which wills not that Its ways be shown to us.
Insane is he that hopes our human reason
will ever travel o'er the boundless path,
o'er which One Substance in three Persons moves.
Be satisfied, O human race, with facts;
for if ye could have seen the cause of all,
no need had been for Mary to bear child;
and ye 've seen, vainly longing, men so great,
that their desire would else have been appeased,
which giv'n them is for an eternal grief;
I speak of Aristotle and of Plato,
and many others." Here he bowed his head,
and, saying nothing more, remained disturbed.

Meanwhile we had attained the Mountain's foot;
and there we found the rocky cliff so steep,
that legs would there be nimble all in vain.
'Tween Lèrici and Turbìa the loneliest
and wildest path is, if compared with that,
a safely climbed and easy flight of stairs.

"Now who knows on which side the hill so slopes,"
then said my Teacher, as he stayed his steps,
"that he who wingless goes can make the ascent?"

Meanwhile, as he was questioning his mind
about the path, and held his face bowed down,
and I was gazing upward round the cliff,
upon my left a throng of souls appeared,
who toward us moved their feet, yet did not seem
to move, so slowly were they coming on.

"Teacher," said I, "lift up thine eyes; behold
on this side people who will give us counsel,
if thou canst not obtain it from thyself."

He then looked up, and with relief replied:
"Let us go toward them, for they slowly come,
and thou, sweet son, be steadfast in thy hope."

Those people were as yet as far away,
after a thousand of our steps, I mean,
as a good thrower's hand would reach, when all
pressed up against the lofty bank's hard mass,
and stayed there, still, and huddled up together,
as, when in doubt, a walker stops to look.

Virgil began: "O ye whose end was good,
O now elected spirits, by the peace
which I believe ye all look forward to,
say where the Mount so lies, that going up
be possible for us; for loss of time,
to him who knoweth most, is most displeasing."

As from the fold young sheep are wont to come
by ones, and twos, and threes, while timidly
the others stay, with downcast eyes and muzzle;
and what the first one doth, so do the rest,
all huddling up to her, in case she stop,
simple and quiet, nor yet knowing why;
even so the leader of that favored flock
I saw start forward then, and toward us come,
modest in face and dignified in gait.

When those who were in front the light beheld
so broken on the ground upon my right,
that 'gainst the cliff a shadow fell from me,
they stopped, and backward drew a little way;
and all the others coming on behind,
not knowing why they did so, did the same.

"Without your asking I affirm to you
that this you see a human body is;
therefore the sun's light on the ground is broken.
Be not surprised, then, but believe that not
without a power that cometh down from Heaven,
is he attempting to surmount this wall."

My Teacher thus; those worthy people then,
as with the back part of their hands they waved,
said: "Turn, then, and ahead of us go in."

And one of them began: "Whoe'er thou art,
as thus thou goest, turn thy face! Recall
if thou hast ever seen me in the world."

Toward him I turned, and on him fixed my gaze.
Blond, handsome, and of noble mien he was,
although an eyebrow by a blow was cut.

When I had with due modesty disclaimed
having e'er seen him there, he said: "Now see!"
and showed me high upon his breast a wound.
Then with a smile he said: "Manfred am I,
the grandson of the Empress Constance; hence
I beg thee that, on thy return, thou go
to my fair daughter, mother of the honor
of Sicily and Aragon, and should
aught else be told her, tell her thou the truth.

After my body by two mortal stabs
had been pierced through, in tears I gave myself
to that One who forgiveth willingly.
My sins were horrible, indeed; and yet
the Goodness Infinite hath arms so wide,
that It receiveth all who turn to It.
And if Cosenza's Pastor, who by Clement
was sent to hunt me down, had then perused
this page in God's book, as he should have done,
my body's bones would still be lying there,
hard by the bridge's head near Benevento,
under the keeping of the heavy cairn.
Bathed by the rain, the wind now blows them round
outside the Kingdom, near the Verde's banks,
whither he moved them with extinguished lights.

Not by their cursing is Eternal Love
so lost, that it can not return again,
as long as hope hath still a speck of green.

'T is true that he that dieth in contempt
of Holy Church, though at the very last
he may repent, outside this Mountain's bank
must stay, for all the time that he hath been
in his presumption, thirty times as long,
unless by good prayers shortened be this ban.

See now if thou canst make me glad, by telling
my good Costanza both where thou hast seen me
and of this interdict; for one is here
greatly advanced by those that are beyond."

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