While I, as likewise he is wont to do,
who wastes his life in hunting little birds,
was piercing thus the green leaves with mine eyes,
my more than Father said to me: "My son,
come on now, for the time assigned to us
should be more usefully distributed."
I turned my face, and, no less soon, my steps
behind the Sages, who so talked, that walking
they caused to be of no expense to me.
Then lo, in tearful and in singing tones
"My lips, O Lord" was heard in such a way,
that to delight and sorrow it gave birth.
"O gentle Father, what is that I hear?"
said I; and he then: "Shades who, moving on,
loosen, perhaps, the knot of what they owe."
As pilgrim travellers do, who lost in thought,
on meeting unknown people on the road,
turn round to look at them, but do not stop;
ev'n so behind us, though more quickly moving,
there came a band of souls, who as they passed,
devout and silent, gazed at us in wonder.
Each was expressionless and hollow-eyed,
pale in his face, and lacking so in flesh,
that of his bones his skin assumed the shape.
I do not think that even Erysěchthon
became so withered into utter skin,
because of fasting, when he feared it most.
Thinking within myself, I said: "Behold
the people who once lost Jerusalem,
when Mary thrust her beak into her son!"
The sockets of their eyes seemed gemless rings;
and he that OMO reads in human faces,
would surely there have recognized the M.
Who would believe the perfume of a fruit
and odor of a water could so act,
and cause such craving, if he knew not how?
I still was wondering what so famished them,
because the reason of their being lean,
and of their wretched scurf was not yet clear;
when lo, a shade from deep within his head
turning his eyes toward me, looked hard, and then
cried out aloud: "What grace is this to me?"
I never should have known him by his face;
but that to me was in his voice revealed,
which in itself his aspect had suppressed.
That spark rekindled all that I had known
of that disfigured countenance, and thus
I recognized it as Forese's face.
"Ah, prithee, heed thou not the dried up scab,"
he pleaded, "which discolors thus my skin,
nor any lack of flesh that I may have!
But tell the truth about thyself, and who
those two souls are, who bear thee company;
refrain no longer from addressing me."
I answered him: "Thy face, which once as dead
I mourned for, gives me now no smaller cause
for weeping, that I see it so disfigured.
For God's sake tell me, then, what strips you thus;
make me not talk and wonder, too; for ill
can he converse, who longs for something else."
"A virtue from the Eternal Will" he said,
"comes down into the water and the Tree
we left behind, whereby I thus grow lean.
And all these people who in tears are singing,
because of following unchecked love of food,
are here resanctified in thirst and hunger.
The pleasant odor, issuing from the fruit,
and from the spray which o'er the verdure spreads,
kindles in us the wish to eat and drink.
And not once only is our pain renewed,
as on this floor we move around - our pain,
I say, though solace ought to be my word;
for to the Tree doth that same longing lead us,
which once led Christ in happiness to cry:
'My God!', when with His blood He set us free."
And I to him: "Forese, from the day,
when thou didst for a better life change world,
five years have not yet rolled away till now.
If power of sinning further ended in thee
before the coming of that happy hour
of sorrow, which reweddeth us to God,
how is it thou art come up here? I thought
that I should find thee still below, down there,
where time restores itself by means of time."
Whence he to me: "My Nella, with the tears
which streamed from her, enabled me to drink
the pleasant wormwood of this pain so soon.
She, with her pious prayers and with her sighs,
hath drawn me from the hillside where one waits,
and freed me from the other lower rings.
So much the dearer a delight to God
is my poor widow whom I loved so much,
the more alone she is in doing right;
for far more modest in its women is
the wild Barbagia region of Sardinia,
than the Barbagia which I left her in.
O my dear brother, what wouldst have me say?
I have, e'en now, a future time in sight,
to which this hour will not be very old,
when from the pulpit shameless Florence women
will be prohibited to go abroad
showing their bosoms with the breasts exposed.
What Barbary women, or what Saracens
e'er needed spiritual or other laws,
to keep them covered up when going out?
But if the shameless ones were sure of what
a swiftly moving heaven prepares for them,
their mouths for howling would be open now;
for, if my foresight here deceive me not,
they 'll grieve, ere that one's cheek grows hair, who still
is hushed with lullabies. Now, brother, see,
I pray, that from me thou no longer hide!
Thou sečst that not only I, but all
these people gaze where thou dost veil the sun."
Hence I to him: "If thou recall to mind
what thou with me wast once, and with thee I,
still grievous will our present memory be.
Who goes before me turned me from that life
the other day, when that one's sister round
was seen by you;" (and at the sun I pointed).
"Through the deep night hath he conducted me,
and from among the truly dead, still clothed
in this real flesh, which follows in his steps.
Thence his encouragements have drawn me on,
as up I climbed, and circled round the Mount,
which straightens you whom crooked made the world.
He says that he will make me his companion,
till there I am, where Beatrice shall be;
up there without him must I needs remain.
Virgil is he, who tells me so," (at him
I pointed), "and this other one, the shade,
because of whom just now on every slope
your Realm, which from itself removes him, quaked."