Purgatorio: Canto IX
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The concubine of old Tithonus
Gleamed white upon the eastern balcony
Forth from the arms of her sweet paramour
With gems her forehead all relucent
Set in the shape of that cold animal
Which with its tail doth smite amain
And of the steps, with which she mounts, the Night
Had taken two in that place where we were,
And now the third was bending down its wings
When I, who something had of Adam
by sleep, upon the grass
There were all five of us already sat.
Just at the hour when her sad lay begins
The little swallow
, near unto the morning,
Perchance in memory of her former woes,
And when the mind of man, a wanderer
More from the flesh, and less by thought imprisoned,
Almost prophetic in its visions is,
In dreams it seemed to me I saw suspended
in the sky, with plumes of gold,
With wings wide open, and intent to stoop,
And this, it seemed to me, was where had been
When to the high consistory he was rapt.
I thought within myself, perchance he strikes
From habit only here, and from elsewhere
Disdains to bear up any in his feet.
Then wheeling somewhat more, it seemed to me,
Terrible as the lightning he descended
And snatched me upward even to the fire
Therein it seemed that he and I were burning
And the imagined fire did scorch me so,
That of necessity my sleep was broken.
Not otherwise Achilles
Around him turning his awakened eyes,
And knowing not the place in which he was,
What time from Chiron
stealthily his mother
Carried him sleeping in her arms to Scyros
Wherefrom the Greeks
withdrew him afterwards,
Than I upstarted, when from off my face
Sleep fled away; and pallid I became,
As doth the man who freezes with affright.
Only my Comforter
was at my side,
And now the sun was more than two hours high,
And turned towards the sea-shore was my face.
Be not intimidated," said my Lord
"Be reassured, for all is well with us;
Do not restrain, but put forth all thy strength.
Thou hast at length arrived at Purgatory
See there the cliff that closes it around;
See there the entrance, where it seems disjoined
Whilom at dawn, which doth precede the day,
When inwardly thy spirit was asleep
Upon the flowers that deck the land below,
There came a Lady
and said: 'I am Lucia
Let me take this one up, who is asleep;
So will I make his journey
easier for him.'
Sordello and the other noble shapes
Remained; she took thee, and, as day grew bright,
Upward she came, and I upon her footsteps.
She laid thee here; and first her beauteous eyes
That open entrance pointed
out to me;
Then she and sleep together went away."
In guise of one whose doubts are reassured,
And who to confidence
his fear doth change,
After the truth has been discovered to him,
So did I change; and when without disquiet
saw me, up along the cliff
He moved, and I behind him, tow'rd the height.
Reader, thou seest well how I exalt
My theme, and therefore if with greater art
I fortify it, marvel
Nearer approached we, and were in such place,
That there, where first appeared to me a rift
Like to a crevice
that disparts a wall,
I saw a portal, and three stairs beneath,
Diverse in colour
, to go up to it,
And a gate-keeper
, who yet spake no word.
And as I opened more and more mine eyes,
I saw him seated on the highest stair,
Such in the face that I endured it not.
And in his hand he had a naked sword
Which so reflected
back the sunbeams
That oft in vain I lifted up mine eyes.
"Tell it from where you are, what is't you wish?"
Began he to exclaim; "where is the escort
Take heed your coming hither harm you not!"
"A Lady of Heaven
, with these things conversant
My Master answered him, "but even now
Said to us, 'Thither go; there is the portal
"And may she speed
your footsteps in all good,"
Again began the courteous janitor
"Come forward then unto these stairs of ours."
Thither did we approach
; and the first stair
Was marble white
, so polished and so smooth,
I mirrored myself therein as I appear.
The second, tinct of deeper hue
Was of a calcined
lengthwise and across.
The third, that uppermost rests massively,
seemed to me, as flaming red
As blood that from a vein is spirting forth.
Both of his feet was holding upon this
The Angel of God
, upon the threshold seated,
Which seemed to me a stone of diamond
Along the three stairs upward with good will
Did my Conductor draw me, saying: "Ask
that he the fastening may undo."
Devoutly at the holy feet I cast me,
For mercy's sake besought that he would open,
But first upon my breast three times I smote.
upon my forehead he described
With the sword's point, and, "Take heed that thou wash
These wounds, when thou shalt be within," he said.
Ashes, or earth that dry is excavated,
Of the same colour were with his attire,
And from beneath it he drew forth two keys.
One was of gold, and the other was of silver;
First with the white, and after with the yellow,
Plied he the door, so that I was content.
"Whenever faileth either of these keys
So that it turn not rightly in the lock,"
He said to us, "this entrance doth not open
More precious one is, but the other needs
More art and intellect ere it unlock,
For it is that which doth the knot unloose.
I have them; and he bade
Rather in opening than in keeping shut
If people but fall down before my feet
Then pushed the portals
of the sacred door,
Exclaiming: "Enter; but I give you warning
That forth returns whoever
And when upon their hinges were turned round
The swivels of that consecrated
Which are of metal, massive
not so loud, nor so discordant
, when was ta'en from it the good
, wherefore meagre
At the first thunder-peal I turned attentive,
And "Te Deum laudamus
" seemed to hear
In voices mingled with sweet melody.
Exactly such an image rendered me
That which I heard, as we are wont to catch,
When people singing with the organ
For now we hear, and now hear not, the words
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