Within the hour, when, vanquished by the earth,
or ev'n at times by Saturn, day-time's heat
can warm the coldness of the moon no longer;
when geomancers see their Greater Fortune
rise in the East ere dawn, and on a path
which doth not long stay dark for it; a Female
approached me in a dream, with stammering tongue,
with eyes asquint, and crooked on her feet,
with hands lopped off, and pallor on her face.
I fixed my gaze on her; and as the sun
brings comfort to cold limbs which night-time chills,
ev'n so my looking at her freed her tongue,
and afterward, in but a little time,
completely straightened her, and gave that hue
to her discolored face which love desires.
As soon as she had thus unloosed her speech,
she then began to sing in such a way,
that from her I could hardly take my gaze.
"I am" she sang, "the lovely Siren, she
who in mid-ocean mariners bewitches;
so much I please whoever heareth me!
I turned Ulysses from his wandering course
to hear my song; and who gets used to me
seldom departs, so wholly I content him!"
Her mouth had not yet closed, when lo,
a holy Lady at my side appeared,
who ready was to put her to confusion.
"O Virgil, Virgil, who is this?" she cried
in scornful tones; whereat he then advanced
with eyes set only on the modest one.
She seized the other, opened her in front,
and rent her garments, showing me her belly;
this woke me with the stench that issued from it.
I turned my eyes, and my good Teacher said:
"I 've called thee thrice at least. Arise and come.
We' ll find the gate through which thou mayst ascend."
I rose, and all the holy Mountain's rings
were with the high day's light already filled,
as with the new sun back of us we moved.
While I was following him, I held my head
like one who, having it bowed down by thought,
makes of himself a half-arch of a bridge;
and then I heard: "Come on; the pass is here,"
uttered in such a gentle, kindly way,
as in this mortal land is never heard.
With outspread wings, which seemed the wings of swans,
he who thus spoke directed us on high
'tween the two side walls of the granite rock.
He moved his pinions then, and fanning us,
affirmed that "those who mourn" are happy, since
possessed of comfort shall their spirits be.
"What aileth thee, that only on the ground
thou gazest?" said my Guide, when past the Angel
both he and I had climbed a little way.
And I: "A recent dream, which to itself
inclines me, makes me with such doubt advance,
that I cannot refrain from thought of it."
"Thou hast perceived" said he, "that ancient witch
who henceforth o'er us is alone lamented;
and seen how from her one is freed. Let that
suffice thee; strike thy heels upon the ground,
and turn thine eyes up toward the calling lure
the Eternal King whirls with the mighty wheels!"
As is the falcon, which at first looks down,
then turns around when called, and spreads his wings,
keen for the quarry which attracts him; such
was I; and thus, as long as e'er the rock
was cleft, to make a path for those that climb,
I went along to where the circling starts.
When out upon the fifth ring I had come,
people therein I saw who, shedding tears,
were lying wholly prone upon its bed.
"My soul hath cloven to the trodden ground!"
I heard them saying with such heavy sighs,
that what they said could hardly be made out.
"O ye elect of God, whose sufferings here
Justice and hope are making less intense,
direct us toward the steps that lead on high!"
"If ye are come exempt from lying down,
and wish to find the path with greatest speed,
let your right sides be always outward turned."
Thus asked the Poet, and, not far ahead,
thus was the answer giv'n; hence, as he spoke,
I noticed where the other speaker hid,
and then I turned mine eyes unto my Lord;
whereat he granted with a cheerful nod
that which the looks of my desiring asked.
When I was free to act as I inclined,
I came and stood above the soul, whose words
had made me notice him at first, and said:
"Spirit, who by thy tears art ripening that,
without which one can not return to God,
for my sake stay a while thy greater care.
Say who thou wast, why ye hold up your backs,
and whether thou wouldst have me get thee aught
from there, whence I, a living man, set forth."
And he to me: "Why toward itself the sky
is turning here our backs, thou 'lt know; but, first,
know thou that I once sat in Peter's chair.
'Tween Sièstri and Chiaveri there descends
a lovely mountain stream, and from its name
my race's title takes its greatest boast.
For one month and a little more I felt
how much the mighty Mantle weights on him
who keeps it from the mire; for all loads else
seem feathers. My conversion was, alas!
delayed; but when Rome's Shepherd I was made,
I came to know how false the world's life was.
I saw that in it hearts can find no rest;
nor could one in it higher rise than I;
the love of this life, hence, was kindled in me.
Till that time I had been a wretched soul,
cut off from God, and wholly giv'n to greed;
now, as thou see'st, I'm punished for it here.
What avarice doth is here made manifest,
in this purgation of converted souls;
nor hath this Mount a penalty more bitter.
And as our eyes were never upward turned,
because intently fixed on earthly things,
so Justice here hath turned them to the ground.
As avarice quenched our love for all good things,
until well doing had completely ceased,
so here doth Justice hold us in restraint,
bound fast and fettered in our hands and feet;
and here we 'll stay, stretched out and motionless
as long as it shall please the Righteous Lord."
I had knelt down, and wished to speak; but just
as I began, and he was made aware,
by listening only, of my reverence,
"What cause" said he, "hath bent thee downward thus?"
And I to him: "Because of your high rank
my conscience troubled me for standing up."
"Straighten thy legs, my brother," he replied,
"and rise! Err not! With thee and with the rest
a fellow-servant of one Power am I.
If thou hast ever fully understood
those holy Gospel words: 'They neither marry,'
well canst thou see why I am speaking thus.
And now begone! I 'd have thee stay no more;
for, lingering here, thou hinderest the tears,
wherewith I ripen that which thou hast said.
A niece I have up yonder called Alàgia,
good in herself, so be it that our house
by its example do not make her bad;
and she is all that 's left to me up there"