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

Terrestrial Paradise. Vicissitudes and
Transformation of the Car. The Harlot and the Giant

So steadfast were mine eyes and so intent
on gratifying their decennial thirst,
that all my other senses were asleep;
and both on this side and on that a wall
of heedlessness they had, the holy smile
so strongly drew them with the olden net;
when forcibly my face was toward my left
turned by those Goddesses, for from their lips
I now was hearing a "Too steadfastly!"
Thereat the state of vision which exists
in eyes but newly smitten by the sun,
caused me to be awhile deprived of sight.

But when my eyes were to the small accustomed,
(I say 'the small' with reference to the great
resplendence, whence perforce I turned away,)
I saw that on the right the glorious host
had wheeled, and was returning with the sun
and with the sevenfold flame in front of it.

As, to protect itself, a troop revolves
beneath its shields, and wheeleth with its flag,
before the whole of it can change direction;
even so the heavenly Kingdom's soldiery
who forward were, had wholly passed us by,
before its pole had made the Chariot turn.
Back to the wheel the Ladies then returned;
and so the Griffon drew His blessèd burden,
that, though He moved, no feather of him shook.

The Lady fair, who through the ford had drawn me,
Statius and I, were following the wheel
which made its orbit with the smaller arc.
As thus we crossed the lofty wood, unpeopled
because of her who trusted to the Serpent,
a song angelic kept our steps in time.

A liberated arrow in three flights,
perhaps, as great a distance would have gone,
as we had moved, when Beatrice alighted.
"Adam!" I then heard murmured by them all;
they circled then around a Tree, despoiled
of flowers and other leaves on every branch.
Its crowning boughs, spread out in greater width,
the higher up they are, would for their height
be wondered at by Indians in their woods.

"Thou, Griffon, happy art, since with Thy beak
Thou tearest not this pleasant tasting wood,
because one's belly writhes in pain therewith."
Thus round the sturdy Tree the others cried;
whereat the Double-natured Animal:
"Thus is the seed of all just deeds preserved."
Then, turning toward the pole which He had drawn,
He dragged it forward to the widowed Tree,
and 'neath it left that part of it tied up.

As our plants swell, when falls the great light, mixed
with that which shines behind the heavenly Carp,
and as each thereupon renews itself
in its own color, ere the sun yokes up
his racing horses 'neath another star;
even so, a hue revealing, not as bright
as that which roses have, and more than that
of violets, that Tree renewed itself,
whose branches once had been so bare of leaves.

I understood not ('t is not sung on earth,)
the hymn which thereupon that people sang,
nor did I bear to hear the whole song through.

If I could picture how the unpitying eyes,
on hearing Syrinx' story, sleepy grew,
the eyes to which much waking cost so dear;
as doth an artist who from models paints,
would I describe how I then fell asleep;
but let whoever will, feign sleeping well.
Hence to the point I pass, when I awoke;
and say a splendor rent my slumber's veil,
and then a call: "Arise! What doest thou?"

As Peter, John and James were led to see
some of the early blossoms of the apple,
which makes the Angels eager for its fruit,
and causes endless marriage-feasts in Heaven;
and, overcome, recovered at the word
whereby far greater slumbers had been broken;
and even as they perceived their company
diminished both by Moses and Elias,
and all the raiment of their Master changed;
so I, recovering, near me standing saw
that pitying Lady who before had been
the leader of my steps along the stream.

"But where is Beatrice?" all lost in doubt
I said. Whence she: "Behold her sitting there,
beneath the Tree's new leaves, upon its roots.
Behold the company surrounding her;
the rest on high behind the Griffon go,
with songs of sweeter sound and deeper theme."

I know not if at greater length her words
were poured, because now in mine eyes was she,
who hindered my attending to aught else.
On the bare ground she sat, and all alone,
left there to be the guardian of the Car
I saw the Biformed Animal tie up.
Circling, the seven Nymphs with their persons formed
a hedge for her, those lights held in their hands,
which safe from Auster are and Aquilo.

"Here for a while shalt thou a woodman be;
then without end with me a citizen
of that Rome, whereof Christ a Roman is.
Hence, for the world's sake, which lives badly, keep
thine eyes upon the Car, and what thou see'st
be sure to write, when once on earth again."

Thus Beatrice; and I, who now was wholly
devoted at the feet of her commands,
whither she wished turned both my mind and eyes.

Fire ne'er descended with so swift a motion
out of dense clouds, when from the highest region
the rain is falling, as I now beheld
the bird of Jove swoop down upon the Tree,
and break not only its new budding leaves
and blossoms, but its bark; with all his might
he smote the Chariot next; whereat it reeled,
as in a storm a ship, when by the waves
to starboard now, and now to larboard driven.

And then a she-Fox which from all good food
seemed fasting, I perceived, hurling herself
against the bottom of the triumph-Car;
but, for her ugly sins upbraiding her,
my Lady put her to such speedy flight
as was permitted by her fleshless bones.

Thereafter, whence it first had come, I saw
the Eagle down into the Chariot's ark
descend, and leave it feathered with his plumes;
and such a voice as from a suffering heart
comes forth, was that which came from Heaven, and said:
"My little Ship, how badly thou art laden!"

Between both wheels the earth seemed opened then,
and forth from it I saw a Dragon come,
who upward through the Chariot thrust his tail;
and like a wasp which draweth back its sting,
withdrawing his bad tail, he drew away
part of its floor, and, keen for more, went off.
That which remained reclothed itself again,
as rich soil doth with grasses, with the plumes,
offered, perhaps, with wise and kind intent;
then one wheel and the other and the pole
were covered up so quickly, that a mouth
is open kept much longer by a sigh.

When thus the holy Structure was transformed,
it put forth heads upon its members, three
upon its pole, and at each corner one.
The first were horned like oxen, but the four
had on their foreheads but a single horn;
never had such a monster yet been seen.

Sitting thereon, as boldly as a fort
is seated on a lofty mountain-top,
a shameless Prostitute appeared before me,
with eyebrows that were quick to wander round;
and then, to see that none should take her from him,
I saw a Giant standing at her side;
at times they kissed each other there; but since
she turned her greedy, fickle eyes on me,
that cruel lover scourged her from her head
unto her soles. Then, filled with jealousy,
and cruel in his wrath, loosing the Monster,
he dragged it through the wood so far away,
that with this last alone he shielded me
against the Harlot and unnatural Beast.

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