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

Purgatory. The Fifth Ring. Avarice and Prodigality

Instances of Liberality and of Greed. The Earthquake

A will fights weakly 'gainst a stronger will;
hence I, myself displeasing, him to please,
out of the water drew my sponge unfilled.

I started; and along the space left clear
close to the rocky cliff my Leader moved,
as 'neath its battlements one hugs a wall;
for those who through their eyes pour drop by drop
the evil which pervadeth all the world,
approach too closely to the outer edge.

Be thou accurst, thou ancient Wolf, that prey
far greater hast than have all other beasts,
by reason of thy hunger's endless depth!
O Heaven, through whose revolving, some, it seems,
believe that here below conditions change,
when will he come, through whom this beast shall leave?

As on we went with slow and scanted steps,
and I was listening to the shades I heard
weeping and uttering piteous lamentations;
by chance I heard in front of us a voice
cry out 'Sweet Mary!' in the tearful tones
wherewith a woman cries in childbirth's pangs;

and this was followed by: "As poor thou wast,
as by the hostelry may be perceived,
where thou didst lay thy sacred burden down."

Next after this I heard: "O good Fabricius,
with virtue thou didst poverty prefer
to great possessions with iniquity."

So pleasing had these last words been to me,
that further on I moved, that I might know
the spirit from whose lips they seemed to come.
He now was speaking of the generous gift
bestowed by Nicholas upon the maids,
to guide their youth into an honored path.

"O soul, that speakest of such worthy deeds,
say who thou wast," said I, "and why alone
thou thus renewest this deservèd praise.
Thy words will not remain without reward,
if I return to end that life's short course,
which flieth onward toward its final term."

And he: "I 'll tell it thee, though not for help
that I may look for yonder, but because
Grace shines so brightly in thee, ere thy death.
I was the root of that malignant plant,
whose shadow darkens all the Christian land,
so that good fruit is seldom picked from it.
But if Douai, Lille, Ghent, and Bruges could,
vengeance would soon be wrought for this; and I
of Him request it, who is Judge of all.

Yonder my name was Hugh Capet; from me
have sprung the Philips and the Louises,
who have in recent ages governed France.
A Paris butcher's son I was; when all
the ancient kings had passed away, save one,
a gray-robed monk, tight in my hands I found
the bridle of the kingdom's government,
with so much power of recent gain, and such
a host of friends, that to the widowed crown
was raised the head of mine own son, with whom
the line of their anointed bones began.
As long as its great dowry of Provence
had not deprived my family of shame,
its worth was small, but still it did no harm.
With that began its thefts by force and fraud;
for afterward, to make amends, Ponthieu
it seized, with Normandy and Gascony.
Charles came to Italy; and there, to make
amends, a victim made of Conradin; and then,
to make amends, drove Thomas back to Heaven.
A time I see, not very long from now,
which out of France will bring another Charles,
to make both him and his the better known.
He issues thence alone and with no host,
but with the jousting lance of Judas; this
he thrusts so, that he bursts the paunch of Florence.

As a result not land, but sin and shame
he 'll win, of so much greater weight for him,
the lighter he accounts such loss. I see
the other Charles, once captured from his ship,
his daughter sell, and haggle for the price,
as corsairs do with slave-girls not their own.
What more, O Avarice, canst thou do with us,
since thou hast to thyself so drawn my race,
that ev'n for its own flesh it careth not?
That future ills and past ones may seem less,
I see Alagna by the Lily entered,
and, in his Vicar, Christ a prisoner made.
I see the latter mocked a second time;
I see the vinegar and gall renewed,
and Him I see 'mong living robbers killed.
And this new Pilate I behold so ruthless,
that, not content with this, he lawlessly
into the Temple bears his greedy sails.
Oh, when, my Lord, shall I rejoice to see
the vengeance, in Thy secret counsel hid,
which now avails to make Thine anger sweet?
What of the Holy Spirit's only Bride
I said just now, and thereby made thee turn
to me for explanation, serves as answer
to all our prayers, as long as daylight lasts;
but soon as night returns, instead of these,
we utter words which sound the opposite.

We thereupon rehearse Pygmalion's story,
and how of him his greedy lust for gold
a traitor made, a thief, and parricide;
and avaricious Midas' misery,
which followed from his covetous request,
and at which one will always have to laugh.
Next, foolish Achan every one recalls,
who stole the plunder, so that even here
the wrath of Joshua seems to bite him still.
We then accuse Sapphira with her husband;
we praise the kicks which Heliodorus got;
while Polymnestor circles all the Mount
in infamy, who Polydorus killed;
and finally, our cry is: 'Tell us, Crassus,
for thou dost know it, what 's the taste of gold?'
Aloud at times speaks one, another low,
as each one's feelings spur him on to speak,
in stronger now, and now in weaker tones;
hence I, in speaking of the good, which here
is talked about by day, was not alone;
but near us here none other spoke aloud."

Already had we gone away from him,
striving to make our way along the path
as fast as was allowed our powers; when I,
like something falling, felt the Mountain quake;
then such a chill took hold of me, as he
is wont to have who goeth to his death.

Delos, indeed, shook not so terribly,
before Latona made therein her nest,
in order to give birth to heaven's two eyes.

Then such a cry arose on every side,
that close to me my Teacher drew, and said:
"Be not afraid, while I am guiding thee!"
"Glory to God" they all said, "in the highest,"
as far as I could understand from those near by,
where what was being shouted could be heard.
Both motionless and in suspense we stood,
as stood the shepherds who first heard that song,
till, when the trembling stopped, the shouting ceased.

Thereafter we resumed our holy journey,
watching the shades that lay upon the ground,
returned already to their wonted plaint.
No ignorance had ever with as great

anxiety made me desire to know,
unless in this my memory go astray,
as that which, as I thought, I seemed to have;
I neither dared to ask, because of haste,
nor could I see there anything myself;
so on I went, timid and lost in thought.

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