Title: The Divine Comedy: Purgatorio.
Author: Dante Alighieri (translation by Allen Mandelbaum).
Genre: Fiction, literature, poetry, religion, Christianity, adventure, ethics, philosophical fiction, politics.
Publication Date: Between 1308-1320.
Summary: The second part of Dante's Divine Comedy, an epic poem in 33 cantos. Dante, with Virgil still as a guide, ascends the mountain of Purgatory toward the Earthly Paradise. Purgatory is a mountain in the Southern Hemisphere, consisting of a bottom section (Ante-Purgatory), seven levels of suffering and spiritual growth (associated with the seven deadly sins), and finally the Earthly Paradise at the top. In describing the climb Dante discusses the nature of sin, examples of vice and virtue, moral issues in politics and in the Church, as well as confronting a theory that all sins arise from love – either perverted or excessive.
My rating: 8.5/10.
♥ The gentle hue of oriental sapphire
in which the sky's serenity was steeped—
its aspect pure as far as the horizon—
brought back my joy in seeing just as soon
as I had left behind the air of death
that had afflicted both my sight and breast.
The lovely planet that is patroness
of love made all the eastern heavens glad,
veiling the Pisces in the train she led.
♥ His beard was long and mixed with white, as were
the hairs upon his head; and his hair spread
down to his chest in a divided tress.
The rays of the four holy stars so framed
his face with light that in my sight he seemed
like one who is confronted by the sun.
♥ "This man had yet to see his final evening;
but, through his folly, little time was lefr
before he did—he was so close to it.
As I have told you, I was sent to him
for his deliverance; the only road
I could have taken was the road I took.
I showed him all the people of perdition;
now I intend to show to him those spirits
who, in your care, are bent on expiation."
♥ "While I was there, within the other world,
Marcia so pleased my eyes," he then replied,
"each kindness she required, I satisfied.
Now that she dwells beyond the evil river,
she has no power to move me any longer,
such was the law decreed when I was freed."
~~from CANTO I
♥ We still were by the sea, like those who think
about the journey they will undertake,
who go in heart but in the body stay.
♥ ..so here those happy spirits—all of them—
stared hard at my face, just as if they had
forgotten to proceed to their perfection.
♥ ..and I beseeched
him to remain awhile and talk with me.
He answered: "As I loved you when I was
within my mortal flesh, so, freed, I love you:
therefore I stay."
♥ And I: "If there's no new law that denies
you memory or practice of the songs
of love that used to quiet all my longings,
then may it please you with those songs to solace
my soul somewhat; for—having journeyed here
together with my body—it is weary."
♥ Even as doves, assembled where they feed,
quietly gathering their grain or weeds,
forgetful of their customary strut,
will, if some thing appears that makes them fear,
immediately leave their food behind
because they are assailed by greater care;
so did I see that new-come company—
they left the song behind, turned toward the slope,
like those who go and yet do not know where.
~~from CANTO II.
♥ I drew in closer to my true companion.
For how could I have run ahead without him?
Who could have helped me as I climbed the mountain?
He seemed like one who's stung by self-reproof;
o pure and noble conscience, you in whom
each petty fault becomes a harsh rebuke!
♥ Foolish is he who hopes our intellect
can reach the end of that unending road
only one Substance in three Persons follows.
Confine yourselves, o humans, to the quia;
had you been able to see all, there would
have been no need for Mary to give birth.
♥ "...for he who best discerns the worth of time
is most distressed whenever time is lost."
♥ Even as sheep that move, first one, then two,
then three, out of the fold—the others also
stand, eyes and muzzles lowered, timidly;
and what the first sheep does, the others do,
and if it halts, they huddle close behind,
simple and quiet and not knowing why:
so, then, I saw those spirits in the front
of that flock favored by good fortune move—
their looks were modest; seemly, slow, their walk.
♥ After my body has been shattered by
two fatal blows, in tears, I then consigned
myself to Him who willingly forgives.
♥ Despite the Church's curse, there is no one
so lost that the eternal love cannot
return—as long as hope shows something green.
But it is true that anyone who dies
in contumacy of the Holy Church,
through he repented at the end, must wait
along this shore for thirty times the span
he spent in his presumptuousness, unless
that edict is abridged through fitting prayers.
~~from CANTO III.
♥ When any of our faculties retains
a strong impression of delight or pain,
the soul with wholly concentrate on that,
neglecting any other power it has
(and this refutes the error that maintains
that—one above the other—several souls
can flame in us); and thus, when something seen
or heard secures the soul in stringent grip,
time moves and yet we do not notice yet.
The power that perceives the course of time
is not the power that captures all the mind;
the former has no force—the latter binds.
♥ San Leo can be climbed, one can decsend
to Noli and ascend Cacume and
Bismantova with feet alone, but here
I had to fly: I mean with rapid wings
and pinions of immense desire, behind
the guide who gave me hope and was my light.
♥ "...unless, before then, I am helped by prayer
that rises from a heart that lives in grace;
what use are other prayers—ignored by Heaven?"
~~from CANTO IV.
♥ "Why have you let your mind get so entwined,"
my master said, "that you have slowed your walk?
Why should you care about what's whispered here?
Come, follow me, and let these people talk:
stand like a sturdy tower that does not shake
its summit though the winds may blast; always
the man in whom thought thrusts ahead of thought
allows the goal he's set to move far off—
the force of one thought saps the other's force."
♥ Never did I see kindled vapors rend
clear skies at nightfall or the setting sun
cleave August clouds with a rapidity
that matched the time it took those two to speed
above; and, there arrived, they with the others
wheeled back, like ranks that run without a rein.
~~from CANTO V.
♥ When dicing's done and players separate,
the loser's left alone, disconsolate—
rehearsing what he'd thrown, he sadly learns;
all of the crowd surrounds the one who won—
one goes in front, and one tugs at his back,
and at his side one asks to be remembered;
he does not halt but listens to them all;
and when he gives then something, they desist;
and so he can fend off the pressing throng.
And I, in that persistent pack, was such:
this way and that, I turned my face to them
and, making promises, escaped their clutch.
♥ I started: "O my light, it seems to me
that in one passage you deny expressly
that prayer can bend the rule of Heaven, yet
these people pray precisely for that end.
Is their hope, therefore, only emptiness,
or have I not read clearly what you said?"
And he to me: "My text is plain enough,
and yet their hope is not delusive if
one scrutinizes it with sober wit;
the peak of justice is not lowered when
the first of love accomplishes in one
instant the expiation owed by all
who dwell here; for where I asserted this—
that prayers could not mend their fault—I spoke
of prayers without a passageway to God."
♥ "Ah, abject Italy, you inn of sorrows,
you ship without a helmsman in harsh seas,
no queen of provinces but of bordellos!
That noble soul had such enthusiasm:
his city's sweet name was enough for him
to welcome—there—his fellow-citizen;
But those who are alive within you now
can't live without her warring—even those
whom one same wall and one same moat enclose
gnaw at each other. Squalid Italy,
search round your shores and then look inland—see
if any part of you delight in peace.
What use was there in a Justinian's
mending your bridle, when the saddle's empty?
Indeed, were there no reins, your shame were less.
Ah you—who if you understood what God
ordained, would then attend to things devout
and in the saddle surely would allow
Caesar to sit—see how this beast turns fierce
because there are no spurs that would correct it,
since you have laid your hands upon the bit!
O German Albert, you who have abandoned
that steed become recalcitrant and savage,
you who should ride astride its saddlebows—
upon your blood may the just judgment of
the stars descend with signs so strange and plain
that your successor has to feel its terror!
For both you and your father, in your greed
for lands that lay more close at hand, allowed
the garden of the Empire to be gutted.
Come—you who pay no heed—do come and see
Montecchi, Cappelletti, sad already,
and, filled with fear, Monaldi, Filippeschi.
Come, cruel one, come see the tribulation
of your nobility and heal their hurts;
see how disconsolate is Santafior!
Come, see your Rome who, widowed and alone,
weeps bitterly; both day and night, she moans:
"My Caesar, why are you not at my side?"
Come, see how much your people love each other!
And if no pity for us moves you, may
shame for your own repute move you to act.
And if I am allowed, o highest Jove,
to ask: You who on earth were crucified
for us—have You turned elsewhere Your just eyes?
Or are you, in Your judgement's depth, devising
a good that we cannot foresee, completely
dissevered from our way of understanding?
For all the towns of Italy are full
of tyrants, and each townsman who becomes
a partisan is soon a new Marcellus.
My Florence, you indeed may be content
that this digression would leave you exempt:
your people's strivings spare you this lament.
Others have justice in their hearts, and thought
is slow to let it fly off from their bow;
but your folk keep it ready—on their lips.
Others refuse the weight of public service;
whereas your people—eagerly—respond,
even unasked, and shout: "I'll take it on."
You might be happy now, for you have cause!
You with your riches, peace, judiciousness!
If I speak truly, facts won't prove me wrong.
Compared to you, Athens and Lacedaemon,
though civil cities, with their ancient laws,
had merely sketched the life of righteousness;
for you devise provisions so ingenious—
whatever threads October sees you spin,
when mid-November comes, will be unspun.
How often, in the time you can remember,
have you changed laws and coinage, offices
and customs, and revised your citizens!
And if your memory has come clarity,
then you will see yourself like that sick woman
who finds no rest upon her feather-bed,
but, turning, tossing, tries to ease her pain.
~~from CANTO VI.
♥ "Through every circle of the sorry kingdom,"
he answered him, "I journeyed here; a power
from Heaven moved me, and with that, I come.
Not for the having—but not having—done,
I lost the sight that you desire, the Sun—
that high Sun I was late in recognizing.
There is a place below that only shadows—
not torments—have assigned to sadness; there,
lament is not an outcry, but a sigh.
There I am with the infant innocents,
those whom the teeth of death had seized before
they were set free from human sinfulness;
there I am with those souls who were not clothed
in the three holy virtues—but who knew
and followed after all the other virtues."
♥ Gold and fine silver, cochineal, white lead,
and Indian lychnite, highly polished, bright
fresh emerald at the moment it is dampened,
if placed within that valley, all would be
defeated by the grass and flowers' colors,
just as the lesser gives way to the greater.
And nature there not only was a painter,
but from the sweetness of a thousand odors,
she had derived an unknown, mingled scent.
~~from CANTO VII.
♥ It was the hour that turns seafarers' longings
homeward—the hour that makes their hearts grow tender
upon the day they bid sweet friends farewell;
the hour that pierces the new traveler
with love when he has heard, far off, the bell
that seems to mourn the dying of the day.
♥ He joined his palms and, lifting them, he fixed
all his attention on the east, as if
to say to God: "I care for nothing else."
"Te lucis ante" issued from his lips
with such devotion and with notes so sweet
that I was moved to move beyond my mind.
And then the other spirits followed him—
devoutly, gently—through all of that hymn,
their eyes intent on the supernal spheres.
Here, reader, let your eyes look sharp at truth,
for now the veil has grown so very thin—
it is not difficult to pass within.
♥ My eyes made out their blond heads clearly, but
my sight was dazzled by their faces—just
like any sense bewildered by excess.
~~from CANTO VIII.
♥ At that hour close to morning when the swallow
begins her melancholy songs, perhaps
in memory of her ancient sufferings,
when, free to wander farther from the flesh
and less held fast by cares, our intellect's
envisionings become almost divine..
♥ Reader, you can see clearly how I lift
my matter; do not wonder, therefore, if
I have to call on more art to sustain it.
♥ There we approached, and the first step was white
marble, so polished and so clear that I
was mirrored there as I appear in life.
The second step, made out of crumbling rock,
rough-textured, scorched, with cracks that ran across
its length and width, was darker than deep purple.
The third, resting above more massively,
appeared to me to be of porphyry,
as flaming red as blood that spurts from veins.
And on this upper step, God's angel—seated
upon the threshold, which appeared to me
to be of adamant—kept his feet planted.
♥ ...beneath that robe he drew two keys; the one
was made of gold, the other was of silver;
fist with the white, then with the yellow key,
he plied the gate so as to satisfy me.
"Whenever one of these keys fails, not turning
appropriately in the lock," he said
to us, "this gate of entry does not open.
One is more precious, but the other needs
much art and skill before it will unlock—
that is the key that must undo the knot.
These I received from Peter; and he taught me
rather to err in opening than in keeping
this portal shut—whenever souls pray humbly."
~~from CANTO IX.
♥ There, carved in that same marble, were the cart
and oxen as they drew the sacred ark,
which makes men now fear tasks not in their charge.
People were shown in front; and all that group,
divided into seven choirs, made
two of my senses speak—one sense said, "No,"
the other said, "Yes, they do sing"; just so,
about the incense smoke shown there, my nose
and eyes contended, too, with yes and no.
And there the humble psalmist went before
the sacred vessel, dancing, lifting up
his robe—he was both less and more than king.
Facing that scene, and shown as at the window
of a great palace, Michal watched as would
a woman full of scorn and suffering.
♥ I mean the Emperor Trajan; and a poor
widow was near his bridle, and she stood
even as one in tears and sadness would.
Around him, horsemen seemed to press and crowd;
above their heads, on golden banners, eagles
were represented, moving in the wind.
Among the crowd, the miserable woman
seemed to be saying: "Lord, avenge me for
the slaying of my son—my heart is broken."
And he was answering: "Wait now until
I have returned." And she, as one in whom
grief presses urgently: "And, lord, if you
do not return?" And he: "The one who'll be
in my place will perform it for you." She:
"What good can others' goodness do for you
if you neglect your own?" He: "Be consoled;
my duty shall be done before I go:
so justice asks, so mercy makes me stay."
♥ O Christians, arrogant, exhausted, wretched,
whose intellects are sick and cannot see,
who place your confidence in backward steps,
do you not know that we are worms and born
to form the angelic butterfly that soars,
without defenses, to confront His judgement?
Why does your mind presume to flight when you
are still like the imperfect grub, the worm
before it has attained its final form?
~~from CANTO X.
♥ "Your kingdom's peace come unto us, for if
it does not come, then though we summon all
our force, we cannot reach it for our selves.
Just as Your angels, as they sing Hosanna,
offer their wills to You as sacrifice,
so may men offer up their wills to You.
Give unto us this day the daily manna
without which he who labors most to move
ahead through this harsh wilderness falls back.
Even as we forgive all who have done
us injury, may You, benevolent,
forgive, and do not judge us by our worth.
Try not our strength, so easily subdued,
against the ancient foe, but set it free
from him who goads it to perversity.
This last request we not address to You,
dear Lord, not for ourselves—who have no need—
but for the ones whom we have left behind."
♥ "Until God has been satisfied, I bear
this burden here among the dead bevause
I did not bear this load among the living."
♥ "Worldly renown is nothing other than
a breath of wind that blows now here, now there,
and changes name when it has changed its course.
Before a thousand years have passed—a span
that, for eternity, is less space than
an eyeblink for the slowest sphere in heaven—
would you find greater glory if you left
your flesh when it was old than if your death
had come before your infant words were spent?"
♥ "Your glory wears the color of the grass
that comes and goes; the sun that makes it wither
first drew it from the ground, still green and tender."
And I to him: "Your truthful speech has filled
my soul with sound humility, abating
my overswollen pride..."
~~from CANTO XI.
♥ I drew my body up again, erect—
the stance most suitable to man—and yet
the thoughts I thought were still submissive, bent.
♥ Now, sons of Eve, persist in arrogance,
in haughty stance, do not let your eyes bend,
lest you be forced to see your evil path!
♥ "Adorn your face and acts with reverence,
that he be pleased to send us higher. Remember—
today will never know another dawn."
♥ He opened wide his arms, then spread his wings;
he said: "Approach: the steps are close at hand;
from this point on one can climb easily.
This invitation's answered by so few:
o humankind, born for the upward flight,
why are you driven back by wind so slight?"
♥ How different were these entryways from those
of Hell! For here it is with song one enters;
down there, it is with savage lamentations."
~~from CANTO XII.
♥ And then he fixed his eyes upon the sun;
letting his right side serve to guide his movement,
he wheeled his left around and changed direction.
"O gentle light, through trust in which I enter
on this new path, may you conduct us here,"
he said, "for men need guidance in this place.
You warm the world and you illumine it;
unless a higher Power urge us elsewhere,
your rays must always be the guides that lead."
♥ "What voices are there, father?" were my words;
and as I asked him this, I heard a third
voice say: "Love those by whom you have been hurt."
And my good master said: "The sin of envy
is scourged within this circle; thus, the cords
that form the scourging lash are plied by love.
The sounds of punished envy, envy curbed,
are different; if I judge right, you'll hear
those sounds before we reach the pass of pardon."
~~from CANTO XIII.
♥ As many as the hours in which the sphere
that's always playing like a child appears
from daybreak to the end of the third hour,
so many were the hours of light still left
before the course of day had reached sunset;
vespers was there; and where we are, midnight.
♥ We climbed, already past that point; behind us,
we heard "Beati misericordes" sung
and then "Rejoice, you who have overcome."
♥ "For when your longings center on things such
that sharing them apportions less to each,
then envy stirs the bellows of your sighs.
But if the love within the Highest Sphere
should turn your longings heavenward, the fear
inhabiting your breast would disappear,
for there, the more there are who would say 'ours,'
so much the greater is the good possessed
by each—so much more love burns in that cloister."
"I am more hungry now for satisfaction,"
I said, "than if I'd held my tongue before;
I host a deeper doubt within my mind.
How can a good that's shared by more possessors
enable each to be more rich in it
than if that good had been possessed by few?"
And he to me: "But if you still persist
in letting your mind fix on earthly things,
then even from true light you gather darkness.
That Good, ineffable and infinite,
which is above, directs Itself toward love
as light directs itself to polished bodies.
Where ardor is, that Good gives of Itself;
and where more love is, there that Good confers
a greater measure of eternal worth.
And when there are more souls above who love,
there's more to love well there, and they love more,
and, mirror-like, each soul reflects the other."
♥ "What shall we do to one who'd injure us
if one who loves us earns our condemnation?"
♥ And he: "Although you had a hundred masks
upon your face, that still would not conceal
from me the thoughts you thought, however slight.
What you have seem was shown lest you refuse
to open up your heart unto the waters
of peace that pour from the eternal fountain.
I did not ask 'What's wrong with you?' as one
who only sees with earthly eyes, which—once
the body, stripped of soul, lies dead—can't see;
I asked so that your feet might find more force:
so must one urge the indolent, too slow
to use their waking time when it returns."
~~from CANTO XV.
the world is blind, and you come from the world.
You living ones continue to assign
to heaven every cause, as if it were
the necessary source of every motion.
If this were so, then your free will would be
destroyed, and there would be no equity
in joy for doing good, in grief for evil.
The heavens set your appetites in motion—
not all your appetites, but even if
that were the case, you have received both light
on good and evil, and free will, which though
it struggle in its first wars with the heavens,
then conquers all, if it has been well nurtured.
On greater power and a better nature
you, who are free, depend; that Force engenders
the mind in you, outside the heavens' sway.
Thus, if the present world has gone astray,
in you is the cause, in you it's to be sought;
and now I'll serve as your true exegete."
♥ "Misrule, you see, has caused the world to be
malevolent; the cause is clearly not
celestial forces—they do not corrupt.
For Rome, which made the world good, used to have
two suns; and they made visible two paths—
the world's path and the pathway that is God's.
Each has eclipsed the other; now the sword
has joined the shepherd's crook; the two together
must of necessity result in evil,
because, so joined, one need not fear the other:
and if you double me, watch the fruit and flower,
for every plant is known by what it seeds.
~~from CANTO XVI.
♥ Remember, reader, if you've ever been
caught in the mountains by a mist through which
you only saw as moles see through their skin,
how, when the thick, damp vapors once begin
to thin, the sun's sphere passes feebly through them,
then your imagination will be quick
to reach the point where it can see how I
first came to see the sun again—when it
was almost at the point at which it sets.
♥ But even as the sun, become too strong,
defeats our vision, veiling its own form
so there my power of sight was overcome.
♥ "My son, there's no Creator and no creature
who ever was without love—natural
or mental; and you know that," he began.
"The natural is always without error,
but mental love may choose an evil object
or err through too much or too little vigor.
As long as it's directed toward the First Good
and tends toward secondary goods with measure,
it cannot be the cause of evil pleasure;
bit when it twists toward evil, or attends
to good with more or less care than it should,
those whom He made have working against their Maker.
From this you see that—of necessity—
love is the seed in you of every virtue
and of all acts deserving punishment.
Now, since love never turns aside its eyes
from the well-being of its subject, things
are surely free from hatred of themselves;
and since no being can be seen as self-
existing and divorced from the First Being,
each creature is cut off from hating Him.
Thus, if I have distinguished properly,
ill love must mean to wish one's neighbor ill;
and this love's born in three ways in your clay.
There's he who, through abasement of another,
hopes for supremacy; he only longs
to see his neighbor's excellence cast down.
Then there is one who, when he is outdone,
fears his own loss of fame, power, honor, favor;
his sadness loves misfortune for his neighbor.
And there is he who, over injury
received, resentful, for revenge grows greedy
and, angrily, seeks out another's harm.
This threefold love is expiated here
below; now I would have you understand
the love that seeks the good distortedly.
Each apprehends confusedly a Good
in which the mind may rest, and longs for It;
and, thus, all strive to reach that Good; but if
the love that urges you to know It or
to reach that Good is lax, this terrace, after
a just repentance, punishes for that.
There is a different good, which does not male
men glad; it is not happiness, is not
true essence, fruit and root of every good.
The love that—profligately—yields to that
is wept on in three terraces above us;
but I'll not say what three shapes that love takes—
may you seek those distinctions for yourself."
~~from CANTO XVII.
♥ The soul, which is created quick to love,
responds to everything that pleases, just
as soon as beauty wakens it to act.
Your apprehension draws an image from
a real object that expands upon
that object until soul has turned toward it;
and if, so turned, the soul tends steadfastly,
then that propensity is love—it's nature
that joins the soul in you, anew, through beauty.
Then, just as flames ascend because the form
of fire was fashioned to fly upward, toward
the stuff of its own sphere, where it lasts longest,
so does the soul, when seized, move into longing,
a motion of the spirit, never resting
till the beloved thing has made it joyous.
Now you can plainly see how deeply hidden
truth is from scrutinists who would insist
that every love is, in itself, praiseworthy;
and they are led to error by the matter
of love, because it may seem—always—good;
but not each seal is fine, although the wax is."
♥ "Every substantial for, at once distinct
from matter and conjoined to it, ingathers
the force that is distinctively its own,
a force unknown to us until it acts—
it's never shown except in its effects,
just as green boughs display the life in plants.
And thus man does not know the source of his
intelligence of primal notions and
his tending toward desire's primal objects:
both are in you just as in bees there is
the money-making urge; such primal will
deserves no praise, and it deserves no blame.
Now, that all other longings may conform
to this first will, there is in you, inborn,
the power that counsels, keeper of the threshold
of your assent: this is the principle
on which your merit may be judged, for it
garners and winnows good and evil longings.
Those reasoners who reached the roots of things
learned of this inborn freedom; the bequest
that, thus, they left unto the world is ethics.
Even if we allow necessity
as source for every long that flames in you,
the power to curb that love is still your own.
This noble power is what Beatrice
means by free will..."
~~from CANTO XIII.
♥ In that hour when the heat of day, defeated
by Earth and, sometimes, Saturn, can no longer
warm up the moon-sent cold, when geomancers
can, in the east, see their Foruna major
rising before the dawn along a path
that will be darkened for it only briefly—
a stammering woman came to me in dream...
~~from CANTO XIX.
♥ May you be damned, o ancient wolf, whose power
can claim more prey than all the other beasts—
your hungering is deep and never-ending!
O heavens, through whose revolutions many
think things on earth are changed, when will he come—
the one whose works will drive that wolf away?
~~from CANTO XX.
♥ The natural thirst that never can be quenched
except by water that gives grace—the draught
the simple woman of Samaria sought—
tormented me; haste spurred me on the path
crowded with souls, behind my guide; and I
felt pity, though the pain was justified.
♥ "This place is free from every perturbation:
what heaven from itself and in itself
receives may serve as cause here—no thing else.
Therefore, no rain, no hail, no snow, no dew,
no hoarfrost falls here any higher than
the stairs of entry with their three brief steps;
neither thick clouds nor thin appear, nor flash
of lightning; Thaumas' daughter, who so often
shifts places in your world, is absent here.
Dry vapor cannot climb up any higher
than to the top of the three steps of which
I spoke—where Peter's vicar plants his feet.
Below that point, there may be small or ample
tremors; but here above, I know not why,
no wind concealed in earth has ever caused
a tremor; for it only trembles here
when some soul feels it's cleansed, so that it rises
or stirs to climb on high; and that shout follows.
The will alone is proof of purity
and, fully free, surprises soul into
a change of dwelling place—effectively.
Soul had the will to climb before, but that
will was opposed by longing to do penance
(as once, to sin), instilled by divine justice.
♥ "On earth my name is still remembered—Statius:
I sang of Thebes and then of great Achilles;
I fell along the way of that last harbor.
The sparks that warmed me, the seeds of my ardor,
were from the holy fire—the same that gave
more than a thousand poets light and flame.
I speak of the Aeneid; when I wrote
verse, it was mother to me, it was nurse;
my work, without it, would not weigh an ounce."
♥ ...(and yet the power of will cannot do all, for tears and smiles are both so faithful to
the feelings that have prompted them that sure
feeling escapes the will that would subdue).
~~from CANTO XXI.
♥ "But tell me if the man whom I see here
is he who brought the new rhymes forth, beginning:
'Ladies who have intelligence of love.'"
I answered: "I am one who, when Love breathes
in me, takes note; what he, within, dictates,
I, in that way, without, would speak and shape."
♥ "How long before I shall see you again?"
"I do not know," I said, "how long I'll live;
and yet, however quick is my return,
my longing for these shores would have me here
sooner—because the place where I was set
to live is day by day deprived of good
and seems along the way to wretched ruin."
♥ And then I heard: "Blessed are those whom grace
illumines so, that, in their breasts, the love
of taste does not awake too much desire—
whose hungering is always in just measure."
~~from CANTO XXIV.
♥ "The thirsty veins drink up the perfect blood—
but not all of that blood: a portion's left,
like leavings that are taken from the table.
Within the heart, that part acquired power
to form all of another's human limbs,
as blood that flows through veins feeds one's own limbs.
Digested yet again, that part descends
to what is best not named; from there it drips
into the natural receptacle,
upon another blood; the two bloods mix,
one ready to be passive and one active
because a perfect place, the heart, prepared them.
The active, having reached the passive, starts
to work: first it coagulates—and then
quickens—the matter it has made more dense.
Having become a soul (much like a plant,
though with this difference—a plant's complete,
whereas a fetus still is journeying),
the active virtue labors, so the fetus
may move and feel, like a sea-sponge; and then
it starts to organize the powers it's seeded.
At this point, son, the power that had come
from the begetter's heart unfolds and spreads,
that nature may see every limb perfected.
But how the animal becomes a speaking
being, you've not yet seen; this point's so hard,
it led one wiser than you are to err
in separating from the possible
intellect the soul, since he could see
no organ for the mind—so did he teach.
Open your heart to truth we now have reached
and know that, once the brain's articulation
within the fetus has attained perfection,
then the First Mover turns toward it with joy
on seeing so much art in nature and
breathes into it new spirit—vigorous—
which draws all that is active in the fetus
into its substance and becomes one soul
that lives and feels and has self-consciousness.
That what I say may leave you less perplexed,
consider the sun's heat that, when combined
with sap that flows from vines, is then made wine.
And when Lachesis lacks more thread, then soul's
divided from the flesh; potentially,
it bears with it the human and divine;
but with the human powers mute, the rest—
intelligence and memory and will—
are more acute in action than they were.
With no delay, the soul falls of itself—
astonishingly—on one of two shores;
there it learns—early—what way it will journey.
There, once the soul is circumscribed by space,
the power that gives form irradiates
as—and as much as—once it formed five limbs.
And even as the saturated air,
since it reflects the rays the sun has sent,
takes rainbow colors as its ornament,
so there, where the soul stopped, the nearby air
takes on the form that soul impressed on it,
a shape that is, potentially, real body;
and then, just as a flame will follow after
the fire whenever fire moves, so that
new form becomes the spirit's follower.
Since from that airy body it takes on
its semblance, that soul is called 'shade': that shape
forms organs for each sense, even for sight.
This airy body lets us speak and laugh;
with it we form the tears and sigh the sighs
that you, perhaps, have heard around this mountain.
Just as we are held fast by longings and
by other sentiments, our shade takes form:
this is the cause of your astonishment."
~~from CANTO XXV.
♥ And now, with the reflected lights that glow
before the dawn and, rising, are most welcome
to pilgrims as, returning, they near home,
the shadows fled upon all sides; my sleep
fled with them...
♥ When all the staircase lay beneath us and
we'd reached the highest step, then Virgil set
his eyes insistently on me and said:
"My son, you've seen the temporary fire
and the eternal fire; you have reached
the place past which my powers cannot see.
I've brought you here through intellect and art;
from now on, let your pleasure be your guide;
you're past the steep and past the narrow paths.
Look at the sun that shines upon your brow;
look at the grasses, flowers, and the shrubs
born here, spontaneously, of the earth.
Among them, you can rest or walk until
the coming of the glad and lovely eyes—
those eyes that, weeping, sent me to your side.
Await no further word or sign from me:
your will is free, erect, and whole—to act
against that will would be to err: therefore
I crown and miter you over yourself."
~~from CANTO XXVII.
♥ "Those ancients who in poetry presented
the golden age, who sang its happy state,
perhaps, in their Parnassus, dreamt this place.
Here, mankind's root was innocent;l and here
were every fruit and never-ending spring;
these streams—the nectar of which poets sing."
~~from CANTO XXVIII.
♥ The upper part of those fair candles flamed
more radiantly than the midmonth moon
shines at midnight in an untroubled sky.
~~from CANTO XXIX.
♥ Her words were done. The angels—suddenly—
sang, "In te, Domine, speravi"; but
their singing did not to past "pedes meos."
Even as snow among the sap-filled trees
along the spine of Italy will freeze
when gripped by gusts of the Slavonian winds,
then, as it melts, will trickle through itself—
that is, if winds breathe north from shade-less lands—
just as, beneath the flame, the candle melts;
so I, before I'd heard the song of those
whose notes always accompany the notes
of the eternal spheres, was without tears
and sighs; but when I heard the sympathy
for me within their gentle harmonies,
as if they'd said: "Lady, why shame him so?"—
then did the ice that had restrained my heart
become water and breath; and from my breast
and through my lips and eyes they issued—anguished.
♥ "...he turned his footsteps toward an untrue path;
he followed counterfeits of goodness, which
will never pay in full what they have promised.
Nor did the inspirations I received—
with which, in dream and otherwise, I called
him back—help me; he paid so little heed!
He fell so far there were no other means
to lead him to salvation, except this:
to let him see the people who were lost.
For this I visited the gateway of
the dead; to him who guided him above
my prayers were offered even as I wept.
The deep design of God would have been broken
if Lethe had been crossed and he had drunk
such waters but had not discharged the debt
of penitence that's paid when tears are shed."
~~from CANTO XXX.
♥ My power of speech was so confounded that
my voice would move and yet was spent before
its organs had released it. She forbore
a moment, then she said: "What are you thinking?
Reply to me, the water has not yet
obliterated your sad memories."
Confusion mixed with fear compelled a Yes
out of my mouth, and yet that Yes was such—
one needed eyes to make out what it was.
Just as a crossbow that is drawn too taut
snaps both its cord and bow when it is shot,
and arrow meets its mark with feeble force,
so, caught beneath that heavy weight, I burst;
and I let tears and sighs pour forth; my voice
had lost its life along its passage out.
♥ "Nature or art had never showed you any
beauty that matched the lovely limbs in which
I was enclosed—limbs scattered now in dust;
and if the highest beauty failed you through
my death, what mortal thing could then induce
you to desire it? For when the first
arrow of things deceptive struck you, then
you surely should have lifted up your wings
to follow me, no longer such a thing.
No green young girl or other novelty—
such brief delight—should have weighed down your wings,
awaiting further shafts. The fledgling bird
must meet two or three blows before he learns,
but any full-fledged bird is proof against
the net that has been spread or arrow, aimed."
♥ O splendor of eternal living light,
who's ever grown so pale beneath Parnassus'
shade or has drunk so deeply from its fountain,
that he'd not seem to have his mind confounded,
tying to render you as you appeared
where heaven's harmony was your pale likeness—
your face, seen through the air, unveiled completely?
~~from CANTO XXXI.
♥ "Take note; and even as I speak these words,
do you transmit them in your turn to those
who live the life that is a race to death."
♥ If, reader, I had ampler space in which
to write, I'd sing—through incompletely—that
sweet draught for which my thirst was limitless;
but since all of the pages pre-disposed
for this, the second canticle, are full,
the curb of art will not let me continue.
From that most holy wave I now returned
to Beatrice; remade, as new trees are
renewed when they bring forth new boughs, I was
pure and prepared to climb unto the stars.
~~from CANTO XXXIII.