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

Terrestrial Paradise. Lethe
Appearance of Beatrice. Disappearance of Virgil

When the Septentrion of the highest heaven, -
which never either setting knew, or rising,
or veil of other mist than that of guilt,
and which was causing every creature there
to know his duty, as the lower one
makes him who turns the helm to reach a port, -
stopped suddenly; the people of the truth,
who first had come between it and the Griffon,
turned around toward the Car, as toward their peace;
and one of them, as though from Heaven sent down,
sang thrice aloud: "Come thou from Lebanon,
my spouse!" and all the rest sang after him.

As at the last trump-call each of the blest
will quickly rise from out his tomb, and sing
the Halleluiah with a voice regained;
even so there rose upon the Car divine,
at such an elder's voice, a hundred servants
and message-bearers of eternal life.
They all were saying: "Blest be thou that comest!"
and, strewing flowers on high and all around,
"Oh, scatter forth your lilies with full hands!"
I 've seen ere now when day began to dawn,
the eastern skies all rosy, and the rest
adorned with beauty and serenity;
and then the sun rise with its face o'ershadowed
in such a way that, through the tempering
of mists, the human eye could long endure it;
so likewise standing in a cloud of flowers,
which rose from angel hands, and fell again
within and out the Car, a Lady, crowned
with a wreath of olives o'er a pure white veil,
appeared before me, 'neath a cloak of green,
clothed with the color of a living flame.

My spirit hereupon, which for so long
a time had not been trembling in her presence,
or felt itself all broken down with awe,
with no more knowledge of her by mine eyes,
but through a hidden virtue issuing from her,
felt the great power of the olden love.

As soon as that high virtue smote my sight,
which formerly had pierced me through and through,
ere I had passed beyond my boyhood's years,
round to the left I turned me with the trust
wherewith an infant to its mother runs,
whenever terrified or in distress,
to say to Virgil: "Less now than a drachm
of blood remains in me that is not trembling;
I feel the tokens of the olden flame."

But Virgil now had left us of himself
deprived, Virgil, my dearest father, Virgil,
to whom for my salvation I had giv'n me;
nor yet did all our ancient mother lost
avail to keep my cheeks, though cleansed with dew,
from turning dark again because of tears.

"Dante, though Virgil leave, weep thou not yet,
weep thou not yet; for thou wilt need to weep
by reason of another sword than this."

Even as an admiral, who, both on stern
and prow, comes to behold the men that serve
on the other ships, and urge them to do well;
so likewise on the left side of the Car,
when I had turned around me at the sound
of mine own name, which here must needs be mentioned,
I saw the Lady who had first appeared
concealed beneath the Angels' festival,
direct her eyes toward me across the stream.

Although the veil, which from her head hung down,
encircled by Minerva's olive leaves,
did not allow her to appear distinctly;
she went on royally, still stern in mien,
as one doth who, when speaking, holdeth back
his warmest words: "Look at us well, for we,
indeed, are, we, indeed, are Beatrice!
How wast thou able to approach the Mountain?
Didst thou not know that man is happy here?"

My lowered eyes fell on the limpid stream;
but when I saw myself reflected there,
I drew them to the grass, so great the shame
that weighed my forehead down! As to her child
a mother seems severe, so she to me,
for bitter tastes the savor of harsh pity.

Silent she kept, then suddenly the Angels
chanted: "In Thee, Lord, have I set my trust,"
but further than "my feet" they did not go.

Even as the snow among the living beams
grown on the back of Italy is frozen,
when blown and hardened by Slavonian winds;
and then, when melting, trickles through itself,
if but the land that loses shadows breathe,
and thus seems like a fire that melts a candle;
ev'n so was I with neither tears nor sighs,
before the song of those who ever tune
their notes to music of eternal spheres.

But when I heard in their sweet harmonies
the sympathy they had for me, far more
than had they said: "Why, Lady, shame him so?"
the ice bound tightly round my heart was turned
to breath and water, and through mouth and eyes
issued with anguish from my inmost breast.

Then she, still standing motionless
upon the same side of the Car, addressed
those sympathetic creatures with these words:

"Ye keep your watches through the eternal day,
so that nor night nor slumber robs from you
one step the world may take upon its course;
my answer, hence, is made with greater care,
that he, who yonder weeps, may understand,
and guilt and sorrow of one measure be.

Not only through the work of those great spheres,
which to some end directly guide each seed,
according as the stars are its companions;
but through the bounty of the Grace divine,
which for its rain hath clouds so very high,
our eyes cannot approach them; this one here
was such potentially in early life,
that all right dispositions would have had
wondrous results in him. But all the more
malign and savage doth a soil become,
when sown with evil seed and left untilled,
the better and more vigorous it is.
I for a while sustained him with my face;
and showing him my youthful eyes, I led him
along with me turned in the right direction.
But when the threshold of my second age
I reached, and changed my life, he took himself
away from me, and gave him to another.
And when from flesh to spirit I had risen,
and beauty and virtue had increased in me,
less dear and pleasing was I then to him;
and o'er an untrue path he turned his steps,
following deceitful images of good,
which naught that they have promised pay in full.
Nor yet did it avail me to obtain
the inspirations, wherewith both in dreams
and otherwise I called him back; he cared
so little for them! So low down he fell,
that short were now all means for his salvation,
save showing him the people that are lost.
I visited the Gateway of the dead
for this, and unto him who guided him
up hither, fraught with tears, my prayers were borne.
God's high, fate-ordered Will would broken be,
if Lethe should be passed, and should such food
be tasted without paying first the scot
of penitence made manifest by tears."

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