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

Antepurgatory. The First Ledge
Those who Neglected Repentance until Death

Whene'er, because of pleasure or of pain
received by any faculty of ours,
our soul is wholly centered thereupon,
it seems to heed no other faculty;
and this is 'gainst that wrong belief which holds
that one soul in us o'er another burns.
Therefore, when anything is heard or seen,
which toward it holds the soul intently turned,
time passes by, and one perceives it not;
since one thing is the faculty which harks,
and that which holdeth all the soul another;
this last is bound, as 't were, the former free.

Of this I real experience had, while hearing
and wondering at that spirit; for the sun
had climbed up fifty full degrees at least,
though I had not perceived it, when we came
to where those souls cried out to us together:
"The place which you were asking for is here."

Oft doth a farmer, when the grapes grow dark,
close up a wider opening in a hedge
with but a little forkful of his thorns,
than was the entrance there, through which my Leader,
and I behind him, mounted all alone,
when once the crowd had gone away from us.

One climbs Sanlčo, and descends to Noli;
one wins the summit of Bismŕntova,
helped solely by one's feet; but one up here
would have to fly; with the swift wings, I mean,
and plumes of great desire, behind the Guide,
who gave me hope and furnished me with light.

As up within the cloven rock we climbed,
its walls on each side closely hemmed us in,
while under us the ground both feet and hands
required. When on the high cliff's upper edge
we were, and out upon the open slope,
"Which way, my Teacher, shall we go?" said I.

And he to me: "Take thou no backward step;
keep gaining ground behind me up the Mount,
until some guide who knows appear to us."

So high the summit was, that it surpassed
our sight, and steeper far the slope, than were
a line from center to mid-quadrant drawn.

Weary was I, when I began to speak:
"O gentle Father, turn around, and see
how I remain alone, unless thou stop!"

"Draw thyself up, my son, as far as there!"
he said, and somewhat higher pointed out
a ledge on that side circling all the hill.
His words so spurred me, that I forced myself
to crawl behind him on my hands and knees,
until the girding ledge was 'neath my feet.

There both of us sat down, and faced the East,
whence we had made the ascent; for looking back
upon a traversed course is wont to help.
First to the shores below I turned mine eyes;
then raised them to the sun, and was amazed
that we were smitten by it on our left.
The Poet well perceived that I was gazing
dumbfounded at the chariot of the light,
which now was rising 'tween the North and us.

"If Castor" said he then to me, "and Pollux
were in the company of yonder mirror,
which up and down in turn conducts its light,
thou wouldst the Zodiac's ruddy part behold
revolving still more closely to the Bears,
unless it issued from its ancient path.
If thou wouldst understand how this can be,
collect thy thoughts within thee, and imagine
both Zion and this Mount so placed on earth,
that both of them one sole horizon have,
and different hemispheres; and thou wilt see
how that the road which Phaëthon could not take,
alas for him, must pass this Mount on one,
while passing that one on the other side,
if thine intelligence but clearly heed."

"Surely, my Teacher, never have I seen"
said I, "as clearly as I now perceive,
where once my mind appeared to be at fault,
how the mid-circle of supernal motion,
which in a certain art is called Equator,
and ever 'tween the sun and winter stays,
lies toward the North, for reasons giv'n by thee,
as far on this side as the Hebrew people
ever beheld it toward the heated parts.
But, if it please thee, I would gladly know
how far we have to go; because the Mount
higher ascends than eyes of mine can rise."

"Such is this Mountain" said he then to me,
"that, always hard to climb at first below,
it pains one less, the higher one ascends.
Hence, when so pleasant to thee it shall seem,
that going up shall be to thee as easy
as floating with the current in a boat,
thou then shalt have attained this pathway's end.
Hope there to rest thee from thy breathless toil!
No more I answer; this I know for truth."

When he had ended what he had to say,
the voice of one near by cried out: "Perhaps,
ere that shall happen, thou wilt need to sit!"

On hearing this, we both of us turned round,
and saw a massive boulder on our left,
which neither I nor he had seen before.
Thither we drew; and there some persons were,
who lingered in the shade behind the rock,
as one is wont to do through indolence.
And one of them, who weary seemed to me,
was sitting with his arms around his knees,
and down between the latter held his face.

"O my sweet Lord," said I then, "turn thine eyes
on yonder man, who shows himself to be
more lazy than if sloth his sister were!"

Then turning round toward us, and giving heed,
he moved his face no more than o'er his thigh,
and said: "Go up now, thou that active art!"

I then knew who it was; nor did the strain,
which quickened still my breath a little, hinder
my going to him; yet, when at his side
I was, he barely raised his head, and said:
"Hast thou at last seen why it is the sun
driveth his car o'er thy left shoulder here?"

His lazy actions and his few short words
impelled my lips to smile a little; then,
"Belacqua," I began, "I grieve for thee
no more; but tell me why thou sittest here?
Art waiting for a guide, or hast thou now
merely resumed thy customary mood?"

And he: "What, brother, is the use of climbing?
The Bird of God who at the Gate is seated,
would not allow me to approach the pangs.
The sky must first turn round me here outside,
as long as ever in my life it did,
since I delayed good sighs until the end,
unless before then I be helped by prayers
arising from a heart that lives in grace;
of what avail are those unheard in Heaven?"

But now the Poet, climbing on ahead,
was saying: "Come now on with me! Thou see'st
that our meridian by the sun is touched,
and that already from the Ganges' banks
Night covers up Morocco with her feet."

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