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

Antepurgatory. The Vale of Flowers
Princes intent on Earthly Glory

After their words of greeting, dignified
and glad, had three and four times been repeated,
Sordello, drawing back, said: "Who are ye?"

"Or ever yet the spirits, who deserved
to rise to God, were toward this Mount directed,
my bones were buried by Octavian's order.
Virgil am I; and through no other guilt
did I lose Heaven, than through not having faith."
'T was thus my Leader thereupon replied.

Like one who sudden sees before him aught
he wonders at, and, as he says: "It is . . ."
and "No, it 's not," believes and disbelieves;
such did the former seem; and then his head
he bowed, and, humbly turning back to him,
embraced him where inferior men take hold.

"O glory of the Latins," said he then,
"through whom our language showed what it could do,
eternal honor of my native town,
what merit, or what grace shows thee to me?
Tell me, if I deserve to hear thy words,
if thou from Hell art come, and from what cloister."

"Through all the circles of the woeful Realm"
he answered him, "have I come hither; virtue
from Heaven impelled me, and therewith I come.
'T was not for doing aught, but for not doing,
I lost the sight of that exalted Sun
thou longest for, and which was known by me
too late. There is a place below, not sad
because of pain, but only gloom, where moans
sound not as wailings, but are merely sighs.
There with those little innocents I dwell,
who, not delivered yet from human guilt,
were bitten by the teeth of death; and there
with those I dwell, who did not clothe themselves
with the three holy virtues, but who knew
the others without vice, and practiced all.
But give us, if thou know and can, some sign,
whereby the sooner we may reach the place,
where Purgatory hath its real beginning."

"No fixed place is assigned us;" he replied,
"I may go upward and around; I 'll join thee,
and be thy guide as far as I can go.
But see already how the day declines,
and one at night can not ascend; it, hence,
were well to think of some fair resting place.
Here to the right are souls that dwell apart;
if thou permit me, I will lead thee to them,
and not without delight will they be known."

"How, then, is this?" was answered, "Should one wish
to mount by night, would some one hinder him?
Or would one not ascend, through lack of power?

Then with his finger good Sordello marked
the ground, and: "See!" he said, "When once the sun
is gone, thou couldst not even cross this line;
though not because aught else than gloom of night
would hinder one from climbing; that it is
puzzles the will with impotence. One could,
however, downward go again therewith,
and walking o'er the hillside, wander round
while still the horizon kept the day confined."

My Lord then said, as if in wonder lost:
"Do thou, then, lead us thither, where thou saidst
that one while waiting can enjoy himself."

But little had we gone away from there,
when I perceived the hill was hollowed out,
as here on earth our hillside valleys are.

"Thither," that shade said, "we 'll betake ourselves
where of itself the hillside forms a lap;
and there will we await the coming day."

A winding path there was, nor steep nor level,
which led us to a border of the dell,
where more than half away the hillside falls.
Gold and fine silver, scarlet and white lead,
indigo blue, wood's clear and shining brown,
and green of emeralds when newly flaked,
would each in hue be vanquished by the grass
and flowers found growing in that bosomed dell,
as by the greater vanquished is the less.
Nature not only had been painting there;
but with the fragrance of a thousand scents
was making up a blend unknown on earth.
Here, seated on the grass among the flowers,
"Salve, Regina" singing, souls I saw,
who, for the dell, could not be seen outside.

"Before the waning sunlight nest itself,"
began the Mantuan who had guided us,
"desire me not to lead you among these.
Much better from this border shall ye learn
to know the acts and faces of them all,
than greeted 'mong them in the dale below.

The one that sitteth highest up, and seems
to have neglected what he should have done,
and with his mouth joins not the others' songs,
was Emperor Rudolph, he who might have healed
the wounds that so have left Italia dead,
that by another she reviveth late.

He who appears to cheer him, ruled the land,
where rise the waters which the Moldau gives
the Elbe, and the Elbe gives the sea.
Named Ottocar, he was, in swaddling clothes,
far better than is Wenceslaus, his son,
on whom, a bearded man, feed lust and ease.

That small-nosed man, who close in counsel seems
with him that hath so kind a countenance,
died fleeing, and disflowering the Lily.
Look at him, yonder, how he smites his breast!
And see the other one, who for his cheek
hath, sighing, made a cushion of his hand.
Father and father-in-law of France's bane,
they know the latter's foul and vicious life;
hence comes the sorrow that so pierces them.

The one who so large-limbed appears, and joins
in song with him who hath the manly nose,
was girded with the cord of every worth;
and if the youth, who seated is behind him,
had, following after him, remained as king,
worth would, indeed, have gone from vase to vase;
which of the other heirs can not be said.
The kingdoms James and Frederick hold; but none
is owner of the better heritage.

Seldom doth human righteousness ascend
among the branches; this is willed by Him
who gives it, that of Him it may be asked.

My words concern the large-nosed man no less
than the other, Peter, who is singing with him,
whence both Apulia and Provence are grieved.
That plant is as inferior to its seed,
as of her husband Constance still vaunts more
than Beatrice and Margaret do of theirs.

Behold the king, known for his simple life,
Henry of England, seated there alone;
he in his branches better issue hath.

He that among them lower on the ground
is sitting, and looks up, is Marquis William,
for whom both Alexandria and her war
make Montferrŕt and Canavčsë weep."

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