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

Purgatory. The Fourth Ring. Sloth
Love and Free Will. Instances of Punished Sloth

The lofty Doctor, having ended thus
his argument, was looking in my eyes,
eager to see if I seemed satisfied;
and I, who by new thirst was still spurred on,
was silent outwardly, and in me said:
"My many questions trouble him perhaps;"
but that true Father, who perceived the wish,
which, being shy, did not disclose itself,
by speaking first, emboldened me to speak.

Hence I: "My vision, Teacher, in thy light
becomes so keen, that clearly I discern
all that thy talk implieth or unfolds;
I therefore beg of thee, sweet Father dear,
explain to me why thou ascrib'st to love
every good action and its contrary."

"Direct thine understanding's sharpened eyes
toward me," he said, "and clear to thee will be
the error of the blind who pose as guides.
The mind, which is created prone to love,
inclines toward everything that pleases it,
when roused by pleasure to activity.

Your faculty of apprehending draws
an image from reality, and so
displays it in you, that your mind is caused
to turn to it; and if, thus turned, your mind
inclines thereto, that tendency is love,
is nature bound in you again by pleasure.
Then, just as fire, by reason of its form,
moves upward, being made for mounting thither,
where, in its element, it longer lasts;
ev'n so the captive mind begins to yearn,
(a motion of the soul) and never rests
until the thing it loveth gives it joy.
Apparent to thee now can be the extent
to which the truth is hid from those that claim
that each love in itself deserveth praise,
because, perhaps, its object in itself
seems always to be good; and yet not good
is every seal, though good may be its wax."

"Thy words, together with my heeding mind,"
I answered him, "have shown me what love is;
but this hath made me bigger with a doubt;
for, if love from without is born in us,
and if the soul can do naught else, her doing
or right or wrong, is no desert of hers."

And he: "What Reason sees here I can tell thee;
for aught beyond its ken, look thou alone
to Beatrice, for that 's a work of Faith.

Every substantial form which is distinct
from matter, and is also joined with it,
hath in it a specific power collected,
which, save in operation, is not seen,
and only shows itself in its effects,
as life doth, by its green leaves, in a plant.
None knows, however, whence the understanding
of first cognitions comes, or whence the bent
toward those first appetites which are in you,
as zeal for making honey is in bees;
this first will, hence, deserves nor praise nor blame.
Now, that all others be conformed to this,
the power which counsels inborn is in you,
and ought to hold the threshold of assent.
This is the source, whence comes the ground
of merit in you, as it gathers in,
and winnows out, your good and guilty loves.
Those who in reasoning attained the bottom,
perceived this inborn liberty, and left
the world the teachings of morality.
Supposing, then, that every love that flames
within you, rises of necessity,
within you lies the power to master it.
This noble virtue is by Beatrice
called Freedom of the Will; hence see that thou
recall it, should she speak of it to thee."

The moon, in rising, close to midnight late,
and looking like a bucket all on fire,
was causing now the stars to seem more rare;
as, counter to the heavens, it coursed the paths
the sun enflames, whene'er the Roman sees it
setting between the Sards and Corsicans;
and now that noble shade, whence Pičtola
hath greater fame than any Mantuan village,
had put aside the load I laid on him;
hence I who, as an answer to my questions,
had reaped his clear and easy talk, remained
like one confused because of drowsiness.

But suddenly this sleepiness of mine
was taken from me by a crowd of people,
who, back of us, were circling toward us now.
And as Ismenus and Asopus once
along their banks saw maddened throngs at night,
whene'er the Thebans needed Bacchus; such
were those who, sweeping scythe-like round that ring,
were coming on, from what I saw of them,
by good will ridden and by righteous love.

And soon were they upon us, for the whole
of that great crowd was moving at a run;
and two ahead in tears were crying out:
"Mary proceeded to the hills in haste," and "Caesar,
in order to subdue Ilerda, struck
Marseilles, then hurried on to Spain."

"Quick, quick, lest time be lost through lack of love,"
cried those that came behind them, "so that zeal
in doing good may make Grace green again!"

"O folk, in whom keen fervor now redeems,
perhaps, the negligence and slowness shown
by your tepidity in doing good,
this man who lives, and truly I lie not,
desires, when sunlight once returns, to mount;
hence tell us where the nearest opening lies."

These were my Leader's words; and one of those
same spirits said: "Come on behind us, then,
and thou wilt find the hole. So keen we are
to keep on moving, that we cannot stop;
forgive us, then, if lack of courtesy
thou deem, what we consider righteousness.
I was San Zeno's Abbot at Verona,
under the rule of worthy Barbarossa,
of whom Milān in sorrow talketh still.
And he has one foot in the grave already,
who soon will for that monastery weep,
and grieve because he had it in his power;
for he his son, in body wholly sick,
worse still in mind, and also ill-begot,
has had installed in its true shepherd's place."

I know not if aught else he said, or ceased,
so far had he run past us now; but this
I heard, and I've enjoyed retaining it.

Then he who was my help in every need,
said: "Turn in this direction, and behold
two coming on, who give a bite to sloth."

Moving behind them all, they said: "The folk,
for whom the sea was opened up, were dead,
before the Jordan had perceived their heirs;
and those who with the son of Anchises
could not endure to toil unto the end,
gave themselves up to lead inglorious lives."

Then, when those shades were separated from us
so far, that they no longer could be seen,
a new thought made its way into my mind,
whence many other different thoughts were born;
and I between them so confused became,
that, wandering to and fro, I closed mine eyes,
and changed what I had thought into a dream.

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