1265-1321 Dante Alighieri.

The ante-purgatorio of Dante Alighieri online

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This object, turned me, almost froze with fear,
And to those trusty shoulders closely clung.

Again Sordello : ' Go we down and see



CANTO EIGHTH. 51

These mighty shades, and let them hear our tongue :
Thy presence will to them right gracious be.'

Only three steps I think brought me below,
Where one I noticed solely eyeing me,

As if who I might be he fain would know.

'Twas dusk, yet not so but the dusky air,
Between his eyes and mine, within the dell,

Showed what before it did not quite declare.
Towards me he moved, and I towards him as well :

Gentle Judge Nino, when I saw thee there
What joy was mine to find thee not in hell !

We left unsaid no form of fair salute :
Then he inquired : ' How long since thou didst come

O'er the far waters to the mountain's foot ? '
' but this morn,' said I, ' the realms of gloom

I passed : in the first life I am, but fain
Would find the next by following on this track.'

Like to men suddenly amazed, the twain,
He and Bordello, hearing this, drew bank.

One looked at Yirgil, one into the face
Of a companion sitting there, and cried,

' Up, Conrad ! see what God hath of His grace
Bestowed,' then turning unto me replied :



52 DANTE'S PURGATORIO.



NINO VISCONTI.

' By that especial reverence, I beseech,
Which thou ow'st Him whose primal way is hid

So that none sound it, if soe'er thou reach
The shore beyond the vasty waters, bid

My child Giovanna for my peace implore
There where the cry of innocents heaven heeds.

Her mother I am sure loves me no more
Since she put off her widow's paly weeds,

But in her misery fain would wear this day.
From her full readily may one be taught

How soon love's flame in woman dies away
If sight or touch full oft relume it not.

The chanticleer upon Gallura's shield
Had graced her sepulchre with fairer show

Than will that viper, which to battle-field
Marshals the men of Milan.' With such glow

He uttered this as in his face revealed
The heart's just passion smouldering yet below.

Still that sole part of heaven I fondly eyed

Where the stars move, even as a wheel doth move
More slowly next the axle. Said my Guide :



CANTO EIGHTH. 53

' Son, what dost thou so gaze at there above ? '

O

' Up there ! at yon three torches/ I replied,

' Whose splendour makes this pole here all ablaze.'
And he to me : ' The four clear stars that rose

This morn before thee have abased their rays,
And these have mounted in the place of those.'

While thus he spake, Sordello to his side
Drew Virgil, and exclaimed : ' Behold our Foe ! '

And pointed to the thing which he descried :
And where that small vale's barrier sinks most low

A serpent suddenly was seen to glide,
Such as gave Eve, perchance, the fruit of woe.

Through flowers and herbage came that evil streak,
To lick its back oft turning round its head,

As with his tongue a beast his fur doth sleek.
I was not looking, so must leave unsaid

When first they fluttered, but full well I saw
Both heavenly falcons had their plumage spread.

Soon as the serpent felt the withering flaw
Of those green wings, it vanished, and they sped

Up to their posts again with even flight.
The shade who had approached the judge when he

Accosted him, had never moved his sight
Through this encounter, looking fixed on me.



54 DANTE'S PURGATORIO.



CONRAD MALASPINA.

' So may that light/ the spirit began to say,

' Which leads thee up, find in thine own free will
Sufficient wax to last thee all the way,

Even to th' enamelled summit of the Hill.
If thou true news of Val di Magra know'st,

Or of those parts, inform me of the same,
For I was mighty once upon that coast,

And Conrad Malaspina was my name.
Not the old lord, but his descendant, I :

The love which once I to my kindred bore
Is here refined/ ' O/ thus I made reply,

' That realm of yours I never travelled o'er ;
But where throughout all Europe is the place

That knows it not ? The honour Fame accords
Your house illustrates not alone the race,

But makes the land renowned as are its lords ;
He knows that country who was never there :

Still the free purse they bear, and still bright swords
So mount my soul as this to thee I swear !

Custom and nature privilege them so,
That, if through guilt the world's guide lead astray,

They in the path of right straightforward go



CANTO EIGHTH. 55

Sole of all men, and scorn the evil way.'

To these my words, * Now go,' the spirit said,
For the sun shall not enter seven times more

That part of heaven where Aries o'er his bed
Stretches and spreads his forked feet all four,

Ere this thy courtesy's belief shall be
Nailed in the middle of thy head with nails

Of greater force than men's reports to thee
If, unimpeded, Judgment's course prevails.



56 DANTE'S PUKGATORIO.



CANTO NINTH.

FORTH from the arms of her beloved now,

Whitening the orient steep, the concubine*
Of old Tithonus came, her lucent brow

Adorned with gems whose figure formed the sign t
Of that cold animal whose tail with dread

Strikes trembling nations ; and the night, where we
Now were, had made of her ascending tread

Two of her paces and was making three,
With wings through weariness less fully spread,

When I, in whom the weakness was alive
Of Adam's nature, sank in slumber's power

Where sat already on the grass all five.

Near to the dawning and about the hour
When first the little swallow wakes her lays

(Haply remembering her old woes afresh),

And when our mind, relieved of thinking, strays

* Aurora. f Scorpio.



CANTO NINTH. 57

More of a pilgrim from its cage of flesh

Till to its vision 'tis almost divine,
Dreaming, I seemed to see in heaven suspended

An eagle that with golden plumes did shine
And with spread wings as he to swoop intended :

And in that place it seemed to be, methought,
Where Ganymede, abandoning his own,

Was up to heaven's high consistory caught.
Then I considered ; haply here alone

His wont to strike is, and he scorns elsewhere
To bear up what he snatches in his feet ;

Methought he next wheeled somewhat in the air,
Then struck like lightning, terrible and fleet,

And rapt me up to the empyrean : there
We burned together in so fierce a heat,

And such of that imagined fire the smart,
My dream perforce was by the scorching broke.

Not otherwise Achilles with a start
Rolled his amazed eyes round him, newly woke,

And knowing nothing where he was, when flying
His mother bore him, slumbering on her breast,

From Chiron to the isle of Scyros hieing,
Whence the Greeks, after, forced him with the rest,

Than I too started ! so that all repose
Fled from my features ; deadly pale and chill






58 DANTE'S PURGATORIO.

I grew, like one whom fear hath well-nigh froze.
Sole stood my Comforter beside me still ;

My face was towards the sea-shore turned ; the sun
Was risen already more than two hours high.

' Fear not/ my Lord said, ' we have well begun :
Shrink not ! but every way enlarge thy strength ;

Thou hast arrived at Purgatory ! See
Yon cliff that circles it ; behold at length

The entrance, parted where it seems to be/

In the white light that comes before the morn

While slumbering in thee lay thy soul, there came
Over the flowers this valley that adorn

A woman, saying, ' Lucia is my name ;
This man here sleeping let me take in care ;

So shall I speed him forward on his way.'
Sordello, with his gentle comrades there,

Remained : she took thee and, at dawn of day,
Up hither sped, and I behind her straight.

Here she reposed thee ; first with her fair eyes
Showing the aperture of yonder gate,

Then vanished and thy sleep in even wise.
As a man, doubting, comforteth his fear

At truth's discovery, confident once more,
So did I change ; and seeing me appear



CANTO NINTH. 59

Without inquietude, my Guide up o'er
The cliff moved on, I following in his rear.

Reader, thou well observ'st to what a height

I lift my matter, therefore wonder not
If with more art I strengthen what I write.

We still approached and now had reached the spot
Where that which first had seemed to me a rent,

Like to a fissure in a wall, my view
Made out a gate, and leading to it went

Three steps, and each was of a different hue ;
A guardian sat there keeping the ascent.

As yet he spake not, and as more and more
Mine eyes I opened, on the topmost stair

I saw him sitting, and the look he wore
Was of such brightness that I could not bear.

The rays were so reflected from his face
By a drawn sword that glistened in his hand

That oft I turned to look in empty space :

Then he began : ' Speak ye from where ye stand !

What seek ye here ? who leads you to this place ?
Take heed lest climbing upward from the strand

You come to harm !' My Master answered thus ;
' A heavenly lady, of such things aware,



60 DANTE'S PURGATOBIO.

Spake in these words not long ago to us :
"Go ye up yonder, for the gate is there."

And may she speed you on your way to good !'
Rejoined that gracious guard. ' Up to our flight

Advance you then P We therefore came and stood
At the first stair, which was of marble white,

So clear and burnished, that therein I could
Behold myself, how I appear to sight.

The second was a rough stone, burnt and black
Beyond the darkest purple ; through its length

And crosswise it was traversed by a crack.
The third whose mass is rested on their strength

Appeared to me of porphyry, flaming red,
Or like blood spouting from a vein ; thereon

God's Angel kept with planted feet his tread,
Sitting upon the threshold's gleaming stone,

Which seemed to me of adamant. My Guide
Led me with my good will up that ascent,

Saying, ' Beg humbly that the bolt may slide ! '
And at those hallowed feet devout I bent.

' In mercy open to me ! ' I implored,
But first I smote me thrice upon my breast.

He on my forehead with his pointed sword
Traced P. seven times, then spake me this behest :

'Wash thou these wounds when thou hast passed the door.



CANTO NINTH. 61

Ashes or dry heaps dug from gravelly earth

Were of one colour with the robe he wore,
From under which two keys he next drew forth.

One was of gold, one silver ; first he plied
The white, then used the yellow on the gate,

In such sort as my spirit satisfied ;
Then said : ' To none is passable the strait

When either of these keys be vainly tried,
And in the wards without response it grate.

One is more precious, one more asketh wise
Counsel and intellect the lock to free,

Because 'tis this which error's knot unties.
From Peter's hand I hold them. He on me

Enjoined this rule, that I should rather err
In opening unto penitents, than be

Slow to unbind, if at my feet they were.'

Then of that pass he pushed the sacred gate,

Saying : ' Go in ; but be ye warned, before
You enter ! who looks back returneth straight.'

And when the hinge-bolts of the holy door,
WTiich are of strong and sounding metal, rolled

Round in their sockets, the Tarpeian rock,
When robbed of good Metellus and its gold,

Rung not so loud nor yielded such a shock.



62 DANTE'S PURGATORIO.

At the first thunder, as the portal swung

I looked about, and as I stood intent
Heard Te Deum laudamus ! clearly sung,

And the gate's music with the song was blent.
The same impression what I heard gave me

As on the listener's hearing is begot
When men with organs join their voice, and we

Now hear the words, and now we hear them not.



END OF THE ANTE-PTJRGATORIO.



LONDON:
Printed by JOHN STBANOEWAYS, Castle St. Leicester Sq.



UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LIBRARY

Los Angeles
This book is DUE on the last date stamped below.



f PR 1 1 1968

APR 3 1962

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Online Library1265-1321 Dante AlighieriThe ante-purgatorio of Dante Alighieri → online text (page 3 of 3)