We now were at the summit of the stairs,
where for the second time is cut away
the Mount, ascent of which frees one from sin;
and there a cornice, like the first one, girds
the hillside round about, save that its arc
more quickly curves. There is no shaded carving
apparent here, nor is there any mark;
the bank seems bare, as also seems the path,
with but the livid color of the rock.
"If we await folk here, of whom to ask
our way," the Poet argued, "I 'm afraid
our choice will be, perhaps, delayed too long."
Then on the sun he fixed his steadfast eyes,
made of his right the center for his motion,
and turned the left side of himself around.
"O thou sweet light, with confidence in whom
I enter this new path, conduct us thou,"
he said, "as one should be conducted here.
Thou warm'st the world, and on it thou dost shine;
if aught else urge not to the contrary,
thy rays at all times ought to be our guides."
Already had we gone as far up there,
as here on earth is reckoned for a mile,
in little time, because of ready will;
when, flying toward us, there were spirits heard,
who, though unseen, were to the board of love
uttering their courteous calls.
The voice which first
passed flying, said aloud: "They have no wine!"
and then behind us kept repeating it;
and ere, because of having moved away,
it could be heard no more, another, passing,
cried: "I 'm Orestes!" nor did that one linger.
"What are these voices, Father?" said I then;
and ev'n while I was asking, lo, a third,
which said: "Love those, from whom ye've ill received!"
The kindly Teacher then: "This circle whips
the fault of envy, hence the scourge's cords
are drawn from love. The curb will probably
give forth a sound the contrary of this;
in my opinion, I believe thou 'lt hear it,
before the pass of pardon thou attain.
But keenly through the air address thy gaze,
and thou 'lt see people on ahead of us,
who seated are, and each against the cliff."
Then wider than before I oped mine eyes;
I looked ahead, and shades I saw with cloaks
not differing from the color of the stone.
And when a little further on we were,
I heard one crying: "Mary, pray for us!"
and cries to Michael, Peter, and all the Saints.
Nor do I think there walks on earth to-day
a man so hard, that he would not be pierced
by sympathy for what I then perceived;
for, after I had drawn so near to them,
that what they did with clearness came to me,
tears from my eyes were drawn by bitter grief.
Covered they seemed to me with coarse hair-cloth,
and one sustained the other with his shoulder,
while all of them were by the bank sustained.
Ev'n thus the blind, in want of livelihood,
at Pardons stand to beg for what they need,
and one upon the other bows his head,
that pity may be speedily aroused,
not merely by the sound of what they say,
but by their aspect, which no less implores.
And as the sun availeth not the blind,
so to the shades, whereof I spoke just now,
the sky's light willeth not to grant itself;
because an iron band runs through, and sews
the eyelids of them all, as with wild hawks
one does, since otherwise they 'd not keep still.
To me it seemed an outrage that, unseen,
I should see others, as I walked along;
I therefore turned to my wise Counselor.
He well knew what the dumb man wished to say;
and therefore waited not for me to ask,
but "Speak," he said, "be brief and to the point."
Virgil on that side of the cornice-ledge
was coming on with me, whence one can fall,
because it wreathes itself with no bank there.
On the other side I had those zealous shades,
who through the horrid seams were pressing so
their tears, that they were bathing both their cheeks.
Turning to them, I thus began: "O people,
who certain are of seeing that High Light,
which your desire hath for its only object;
so melt Grace soon the scum upon your conscience,
that memory's stream may through it clearly flow,
tell me, for grateful will it be to me
and pleasing, if there is among you here
a soul that Latin is; it will be well
for him, perhaps, if I should come to know it."
"O brother mine, we both are citizens
of one true City; but thou meanest one,
who, while a pilgrim, lived in Italy."
It seemed to me that this I heard for answer
a little further on than where I was;
I therefore let myself be heard much further.
Among the rest I saw a shade which seemed
expectant in its looks; and, if one ask
"How so?" held up its chin as do the blind.
"Spirit," said I, "that dost subdue thyself,
that thou mayst climb, if she that didst reply,
make thyself known to me by place or name."
"Sienese I was;" she answered, "and with these
cleanse here my guilty life, and pray to Him
with tears, that He may lend Himself to us.
Though called Sapėa, sapient was I not,
for I was far more glad of others' harm,
than I of my good fortune ever was.
And, that thou mayst not think that I deceive thee,
ev'n as I tell thee, hear how mad I was,
once my years' arch was on its downward course.
When with their foes my fellow citizens
were joined in battle near the town of Colle,
I prayed to God for that which He had willed.
When, routed there, they took the bitter path
of flight, I felt, on seeing them pursued,
a joy unequalled by all other joys;
I therefore upward turned my daring face,
and cried to God: 'I fear Thee now no more!'
as doth the blackbird at the least fair weather.
When I was at the end of life, I longed
for peace with God; but not yet would my debt
have been diminished by repentance here,
had it not been that Pietro Pettinagno,
who of his charity was grieved for me,
was mindful of me in his holy prayers.
But who art thou, that askest of our state
while going on, and hast thine eyes unclosed,
as I believe, and dost, while breathing, talk?"
"Mine eyes will yet be taken from me here,
but not for long;" said I, "for they have not
offended much by being turned by envy.
Far greater is the fear, wherewith my soul
is filled, of that tormenting pain below,
for even now the load there weighs upon me."
And she: "Who, then, led thee to us up here,
if to return below thou think?" And I:
"He that is with me here, and speaketh not.
But I am living, therefore ask of me,
elected spirit, if thou'dst have me move
my mortal feet in thy behalf on earth."
"Oh, this" she answered, "is so strange to hear,
that certainly it proves God's love for thee;
therefore assist me with thy prayers at times!
I beg thee by what most thou longest for,
if e'er thou tread the soil of Tuscany,
that thou among my kin restore my fame.
Among that vain folk wilt thou see them there,
which hopes in Talamone, and will waste
more hope on it than on the Diāna quest;
but still more will the admirals invest."