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

Terrestrial Paradise. Dante's Confession
His Immersion in Lethe. Beatrice Unveiled

"O thou that art across the sacred stream,"
toward me directing with its point her speech,
which even edgewise had seemed sharp to me,
continuing, she began without delay:
"Say, say if this be true, to such a charge
must thy confession be united now."

My strength was so confounded, that my voice
began to move, and wholly died away,
ere by its organs it had been released.

A while she bore it; then: "What thinkest thou?"
she said, "Reply; for thy sad memories
are not extinguished by the water yet."

Perplexity and fear together mixed
extorted such a 'Yes' from out my mouth,
that eyes to hear its utterance were required.

Even as a crossbow breaks its cord and bow,
whenever with too great a tension shot,
and with less force the arrow strikes its mark;
so 'neath that heavy burden I broke down,
and as I poured forth gushing tears and sighs,
my voice more slowly through its passage came.

Then she: "Across the paths which I desired,
and which were leading thee to love the Good,
beyond which there is nothing one can wish,
what trenches didst thou find, or hindering chains,
for which thou thus must needs despoil thyself
of hope of further progress on thy way?
What luring charms or what advantages
displayed themselves upon the brows of others,
that thou shouldst pay thy passing court to them?"

Thereat, when I had heaved a bitter sigh,
I scarcely had the voice to make an answer,
and painfully my lips gave form to it.
Weeping, I said: "Things of the present turned
with their delusive joy my steps aside,
as soon as e'er your face was hid from me."

"Hadst thou been silent, or hadst thou denied"
said she, "what thou confessest, no less clear
would be thy guilt, since known by such a Judge.
But when self-accusation of one's sin
from one's own cheek breaks forth, in this our court
the wheel is turned to blunt the sharpened edge.
And yet, that for thy fault thou mayst be now
the more ashamed, and that, when thou again
shalt hear the sirens, thou mayst stronger be,
desist thou now from sowing tears, and hark;
so shalt thou hear o'er what a different path
my buried body should have moved thy feet.

Nature ne'er showed thee, nor did art, such beauty
as did the pleasing members which enclosed me,
and which are scattered now, dissolved in earth;
hence if the highest pleasure failed thee thus
by reason of my death, what mortal thing
should afterward have drawn thee to desire it?
At the first arrow of deceitful things
thou surely oughtest to have risen up
to follow me, who was no longer such.
Thy wings, at least, should not have been weighed down,
to wait for further blows from some young girl,
or other vain thing of as brief a use.
A young bird waits for two blows or for three;
but 'fore the eyes of fully feathered birds
a net is spread or arrow shot in vain."

As children who are silent when ashamed,
and with their eyes upon the ground, keep list'ning,
and conscience-stricken and repentant are;
so I remained; and she: "Since thou art grieved
because of hearing me, lift up thy beard,
and thou from seeing shalt receive more grief."

With less resistance is a sturdy oak
uprooted, either by our native wind,
or by the wind that blows from Jarba's land,
than I at her behest raised up my chin;
and when by 'beard' she asked to see my face,
I well perceived the venom in her words.

Thereafter when my face was raised again,
I saw that those first creatures were at rest
from strewing flowers; and thereupon mine eyes,
which were as yet but partially assured,
saw Beatrice turned toward the Animal
which in two natures one sole person is.
Though 'neath her veil and 'cross the stream, it seemed
to me that she surpassed her old-time self,
more than she did all others, when on earth.

So pricked me now the nettle of repentance,
that, of all other things, what turned me most
unto its love, became to me most hostile.
Whereat such great contrition gnawed my heart,
that, overcome, I fell; and what I then
became, she knows who gave me cause for it.

Then, when my heart restored my outward strength,
I saw the Lady I found alone, above me,
saying: "Hold on to me! Hold on to me!"

Into the stream she had already borne me
up to my neck, and, dragging me behind her,
light as a shuttle o'er its top was moving.
When I was near the blessèd shore, I heard:
'Purge me with hyssop' said in tones so sweet,
that far from writing, I can not recall it.

The lovely Lady, stretching out her arms,
embraced my head, and plunged me in the stream
so far, that I was forced to drink its water.
Drawing me thence, she set me when thus bathed
within the dance-ring of the lovely four;
and each of them embraced me with her arm.

"Nymphs are we here, and in the sky are stars;
ere Beatrice came down into the world
we were ordained to be her maids. We 'll lead thee
to see her eyes; but, for the joyous light
therein, the three upon the other side,
who more profoundly gaze, will sharpen thine."

Thus singing they began; and thereupon
they led me with them to the Griffon's breast,
where, turning toward us, Beatrice remained.
And "See to it that thou spare not thine eyes;"
they said, "before the emeralds we have set thee,
whence Love of old against thee drew his shafts."

A thousand wishes hotter far than flames
bound mine eyes fast to those resplendent eyes,
which on the Griffon set their steady gaze.
As in a glass the sun, not otherwise
the two-fold Animal was gleaming in them,
at first in one, then in another way.

Think, Reader, if I wondered, when I saw
that It was keeping quiet in Itself,
while in Its image It was changing form.

While, glad and with amazement filled, my soul
was tasting of the food, which, while it sates,
still causes thirst and hunger for itself;
proving themselves to be of higher rank
by reason of their deeds, the other three
came dancing to their angel roundelay.

"Turn thou," their song was, "turn thou, Beatrice,
thy holy eyes upon thy faithful one,
who hath, to see thee, ta'en so many steps.
Kindly do us the favor to unveil
thy mouth to him, that he may thus perceive
the second loveliness which thou dost hide."

O Splendor of eternal living Light,
who, 'neath Parnassus' shades, e'er grew so pale,
or from its cistern e'er so deeply drank,
as not to feel bewildered in his mind,
should he attempt to paint what thou didst seem,
when, symbolized by Heaven's own harmonies,
thou didst reveal thee in the open air?

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