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

Antepurgatory. The Vale of Flowers
Princes intent on Earthly Glory. The Serpent

'T was now the hour, which homeward turns the longing,
and melts the heart of those that sail the sea,
the day they 've said goodbye to tender friends;
and thrills with love the pilgrim newly sped,
if from afar he hear a tolling bell,
that seems to mourn the slowly dying day;
when I began to render hearing vain,
and of those souls watch one who, risen up,
was asking for attention with his hand.
He joined his palms, and raising them on high,
turned toward the East his eyes with steadfast gaze,
as if to God he said: "I heed naught else."

"Ere daylight fadeth" issued from his mouth
with such devoutness, and with notes so sweet,
that I was made unmindful of myself.
Thereat the others, sweetly and devoutly
followed that soul, and sang the whole hymn through,
fixing their gaze upon the spheres above.

Sharpen thine eyes here, Reader, for the truth;
for now its veil is certainly so thin,
that easy is the passage into it.

I saw that army of the gentle-born
gazing on high in silence after this,
as if in expectation, pale and meek;
and, issuing from above, and coming down,
two Angels with two fiery swords I saw,
which, broken off, were of their points deprived.
As green they were, as little new-born leaves,
and clothed with garments which, behind them trailed,
were stroked and fanned by verdant plumes. One came
and poised somewhat above us, while the other
alighted on the hillside opposite,
so that the people there remained between.
I well perceived that golden was their hair;
but on their faces vision went astray,
as would a power confounded by excess.

"From Mary's bosom both of them are come"
Sordello said, "to guard this sheltered vale
against the Serpent, which will soon arrive."

Hence I, who knew not by what path, turned round,
chilled through with fear, and to the trusted shoulders
drew closely back. Sordello thereupon
began: "And now among the mighty shades
let us descend, and we will speak with them;
greatly will they be pleased to see you here."

Only three steps, I think, did I go down,
and was below; then one I saw, who looked
at me alone, as if he wished to know me.
The air had for some time been growing dark
but not so much as, 'tween his eyes and mine,
not to reveal what it concealed before.
Toward me he came, and I toward him advanced.
Noble Judge Nino, when I saw that not
among the damned thou wast, how glad I was!
No greetings fair were left unsaid between us;
and then he asked: "How long ago didst thou
o'er the far waters reach the Mountain's foot?"

"Oh!" I exclaimed, "across the fields of woe
I came this morn, and in the first life am,
though by thus going, I'll the other win."

When once my answer had been heard, Sordello
and he drew back, like people suddenly
perplexed. The first to Virgil turned, the other,
to one who there was seated, crying out:
"Get up, Corrado! Come and see what God
hath as a favor willed."

Then, turned toward me:
"By that rare gratitude thou owest Him,
who hides His primal Why in such a way,
that there 's no fording it; when thou art past
the wide waves, ask my Joan to pray for me
where to the innocent replies are given.
I think her mother loves me now no more,
for those white wimples hath she laid aside,
which she, poor soul, must needs want back again.

Through her one understands with greatest ease
how long the fire of love in woman lasts,
unless rekindled oft by sight and touch.
The Viper which conducts the Milanese
afield, will never make as beautiful
a tomb for her, as would Gallura's Cock."

These were the words he used, his countenance
marked with the impress of that righteous zeal,
which burneth in the heart with temperate flame.
My greedy eyes now sought the sky alone,
and only there, where slowest are the stars,
as, nearest to its axle, is a wheel.

My Leader then: "What art thou looking at
up there, my son?" And I: "At those three torches,
wherewith the pole on this side wholly burns."

Then he: "The four bright stars which thou this morn
didst see, are low down on the other side;
and these have risen there, where those were then."
While he was speaking thus, Sordello drew him
aside, and saying: "Yonder see our foe!"
lifted his finger up, to have him look.

On that side where the little hollowed vale
hath no defense, a Snake there was like that,
perhaps, which gave the bitter fruit to Eve.
On through the grass and flowers the wicked reptile
glided, and, turning back its head at times,
was licking like a beast that smoothes itself.
I did not see, and therefore cannot tell,
how the celestial Falcons 'gan to move,
but both I clearly saw, when once in motion.
When cleft by their green wings it heard the air,
the Serpent fled, and back the Angels turning,
regained their posts above with equal flight.

The shade who, when he called him, to the Judge
had closely drawn, throughout the whole assault
had not one moment loosed his gaze from me.

"So may the lantern leading thee above,
find in thy will the wax that is required
for one to reach the enamelled green on high;"
he thus began, "if thou of Valdimagra,
or of its neighboring land, dost know true news,
tell it to me, who once was mighty there.
Corrado Malaspina I was called;
I 'm not the elder, but from him descended;
I bore my race the love which here is cleansed."

"Oh!" said I then to him, "I 've never been
in your domains, but where throughout all Europe
dwelleth a man who knows them not? The fame
which honoreth your house, proclaims its lords,
proclaims its district, so that even he
knows of them, who hath never been there yet.
I swear to you, so may I go on high,
that of the glorious use of purse and sword
your honored race doth not despoil itself.
Nature and use so favor it, that, howe'er
the guilty Head distort the world, alone
it goeth straight, and scorns the evil path."

And he: "Now go, for lo, the sun shall not
seven times on that bed rest him, which the Ram
now covers, and with all four feet bestrides,
ere this thy courteously expressed opinion
shall in the middle of thy head be nailed
with greater nails than words of other men,
unless the course of doom decreed be stayed."

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