Already was old Titan's concubine
whitening upon the Orient's balcony,
outside the arms of her sweet paramour;
already was her forehead shining bright
with gems, arranged according to the shape
of that cold beast, which smites one with its tail;
and Night had of the steps wherewith she climbs,
already taken two where we were then,
and now the third was lowering its wings;
when I, who had somewhat of Adam in me,
o'ercome with sleep, reclined upon the grass,
on which all five of us were sitting then.
Near morning, at the hour in which the swallow
begins to sing her melancholy lays,
perchance in memory of her earliest woes,
and when, much more a pilgrim from the flesh,
and less imprisoned by its thoughts, our mind
well nigh prophetic in its vision is;
an Eagle in a dream I seemed to see
suspended in the sky, with plumes of gold
and wings outspread, intent on swooping down;
and it appeared to me that I was where
his friends were left behind by Ganymede,
when to the highest council he was raised.
I thought within myself: "Perhaps this bird
is wont to strike but here, and from elsewhere,
perhaps, disdains to lift one with its claws."
Then, having wheeled a while, it seemed to me
that terrible as lightning it came down,
and bore me up as far as to the fire.
There it and I both seemed to burn together;
and so intense was that imagined burning,
my sleep was broken of necessity.
Achilles roused himself no differently -
turning around him his awakened eyes,
nor knowing in what region he might be,
when, sleeping in her arms, his mother took him
away from Chiron to the isle of Scyros,
from which the Greeks removed him afterwards -
than I aroused myself, when from my face
sleep fled away; and death-like pale I turned,
like one who freezes when o'ercome by fright.
Only my Comforter was at my side,
and now the sun was higher than two hours,
and toward the open sea my face was turned.
"Be not afraid!" my Lord then said to me.
"Be reassured, for we are faring well;
restrain not, but expand thine every power!
At Purgatory art thou now arrived;
behold the cliff there, which encloses it;
behold the entrance where it broken seems.
Just now, when, in the dawn preceding day,
thy soul was sleeping in thee on the flowers,
wherewith the place down yonder is adorned,
a Lady came and said: 'I am Lucìa;
allow me to take up this sleeping man;
I shall assist him thus upon his way.'
Sordello and the other noble forms
remained; she took thee, and when daylight dawned,
hither came up, and in her foot-prints I.
She laid thee here; and first her lovely eyes
revealed to me that opened entrance; then
both she and sleep together passed away."
Like one who, when in doubt, is reassured,
and into comfort turns his fear, when once
the truth has been disclosed to him, I changed;
and when my Leader wholly freed from care
beheld me, upward o'er the cliff he moved,
and I behind him followed toward the height.
Reader, thou surely see'st how I exalt
my subject; therefore be thou not surprised
if I support it now with greater art.
Nearer we drew, and were in such a place,
that where at first there seemed to be a break,
just like a fissure that divides a wall,
I saw a Gate, and under, to approach it,
three steps of different color each, and then
a Keeper, who as yet said not a word.
And as I opened more and more mine eyes,
I saw him sitting on the upper step,
such in his face that I endured him not;
and in his hand he had a naked sword,
which so reflected upon us its rays,
that toward him oft I turned my eyes in vain.
"Say what it is you wish, from where you are,"
he then began, "and where your escort is.
Beware lest coming up should do you harm."
"A heavenly Lady, of these things aware,"
my Teacher answered him, "said unto us
just now: 'Go thither, yonder is the Gate.'"
"And unto good may she advance your steps!"
the courteous Keeper of the Gate resumed,
"Come forward, therefore, unto these our stairs."
Made of white marble was the first great step
to which we came, so polished and so smooth,
I mirrored me therein as I appear.
The second step, darker than purple-black,
was of a rough and calcined kind of stone,
cracked lengthwise and across. The third, which rests
in massive shape above it, seemed to me
to be of porphyry as flaming red,
as blood appears when spurting from a vein.
Upon this last God's Angel held both feet,
sitting upon the threshold, which to me
appeared to be a rock of adamant.
Up over those three steps my Leader then
drew me along with my good will, and said:
"Humbly request him to undo the lock."
Devoutly at his holy feet I cast me;
I begged that of his mercy he would open,
but first I smote upon my breast three times.
Then with his sword's sharp point he traced seven P's
upon my brow, and told me: "See thou to it,
that, when inside, thou wash away these wounds!"
Ashes, or earth when excavated dry,
would with his garment of one color be;
and from beneath it he drew forth two Keys.
One was of gold, the other silver was;
first with the white, and after with the yellow,
he so did to the Gate that I was pleased.
"Whenever one of these Keys faileth so,
that in the lock it doth not rightly turn,"
said he to us, "this passage opens not.
More precious is the first; and yet the other,
ere it unlock, much skill and judgment needs,
for it is that one which unties the knot.
Peter, from whom I hold them, bade me err
rather in opening, than in keeping closed,
provided folk fell prostrate at my feet."
He pushed the holy Portal's door thereat,
and said to us: "Go in; but I inform you
that he who looks behind returns outside."
And when that sacred Gateway's folding doors,
which were of strong resounding metal made,
were on their iron hinges turned around,
Tarpeia roared not so, nor proved so shrill,
when good Metellus was removed from her,
because of which she afterwards kept lean.
I turned to heed its first resounding tones,
and "Thee we praise, O Lord" I seemed to hear
in voices mixed with those delightful sounds.
What I was hearing made upon me then
just the impression one is wont to get,
when people with an organ sing; for now
the words are heard, and now again are not.