Purgatorio: Canto XXIX

Previous Contents Next

Singing like unto an enamoured lady
She, with the ending of her words, continued:
"Beati quorum tecta sunt peccata."

And even as Nymphs, that wandered all alone
Among the sylvan shadows, sedulous
One to avoid and one to see the sun,

She then against the stream moved onward, going
Along the bank, and I abreast of her,
Her little steps with little steps attending.

Between her steps and mine were not a hundred,
When equally the margins gave a turn,
In such a way, that to the East I faced.

Nor even thus our way continued far
Before the lady wholly turned herself
Unto me, saying, "Brother, look and listen!"

And lo! a sudden lustre ran across
On every side athwart the spacious forest,
Such that it made me doubt if it were lightning.

But since the lightning ceases as it comes,
And that continuing brightened more and more,
Within my thought I said, "What thing is this?"

And a delicious melody there ran
Along the luminous air, whence holy zeal
Made me rebuke the hardihood of Eve;

For there where earth and heaven obedient were,
The woman only, and but just created,
Could not endure to stay 'neath any veil;

Underneath which had she devoutly stayed,
I sooner should have tasted those delights
Ineffable, and for a longer time.

While 'mid such manifold first-fruits I walked
Of the eternal pleasure all enrapt,
And still solicitous of more delights,

In front of us like an enkindled fire
Became the air beneath the verdant boughs,
And the sweet sound as singing now was heard.

O Virgins sacrosanct! if ever hunger,
Vigils, or cold for you I have endured,
The occasion spurs me their reward to claim!

Now Helicon must needs pour forth for me,
And with her choir Urania must assist me,
To put in verse things difficult to think.

A little farther on, seven trees of gold
In semblance the long space still intervening
Between ourselves and them did counterfeit;

But when I had approached so near to them
The common object, which the sense deceives,
Lost not by distance any of its marks,

The faculty that lends discourse to Reason
Did apprehend that they were candlesticks,
And in the voices of the song "Hosanna!"

Above them flamed the harness beautiful,
Far brighter than the moon in the serene
Of midnight, at the middle of her month.

I turned me round, with admiration filled,
To good Virgilius, and he answered me
With visage no less full of wonderment.

Then back I turned my face to those high things,
Which moved themselves towards us so sedately,
They had been distanced by new-wedded brides.

The lady chid me: "Why dost thou burn only
So with affection for the living lights,
And dost not look at what comes after them?"

Then saw I people, as behind their leaders,
Coming behind them, garmented in white,
And such a whiteness never was on earth.

The water on my left flank was resplendent,
And back to me reflected my left side,
E'en as a mirror, if I looked therein.

When I upon my margin had such post
That nothing but the stream divided us,
Better to see I gave my steps repose;

And I beheld the flamelets onward go,
Leaving behind themselves the air depicted,
And they of trailing pennons had the semblance,

So that it overhead remained distinct
With sevenfold lists, all of them of the colours
Whence the sun's bow is made, and Delia's girdle.

These standards to the rearward longer were
Than was my sight; and, as it seemed to me,
Ten paces were the outermost apart.

Under so fair a heaven as I describe
The four and twenty Elders, two by two,
Came on incoronate with flower-de-luce.

They all of them were singing: "Blessed thou
Among the daughters of Adam art, and blessed
For evermore shall be thy loveliness."

After the flowers and other tender grasses
In front of me upon the other margin
Were disencumbered of that race elect,

Even as in heaven star followeth after star,
There came close after them four animals,
Incoronate each one with verdant leaf.

Plumed with six wings was every one of them,
The plumage full of eyes; the eyes of Argus
If they were living would be such as these.

Reader! to trace their forms no more I waste
My rhymes; for other spendings press me so,
That I in this cannot be prodigal.

But read Ezekiel, who depicteth them
As he beheld them from the region cold
Coming with cloud, with whirlwind, and with fire;

And such as thou shalt find them in his pages,
Such were they here; saving that in their plumage
John is with me, and differeth from him.

The interval between these four contained
A chariot triumphal on two wheels,
Which by a Griffin's neck came drawn along;

And upward he extended both his wings
Between the middle list and three and three,
So that he injured none by cleaving it.

So high they rose that they were lost to sight;
His limbs were gold, so far as he was bird,
And white the others with vermilion mingled.

Not only Rome with no such splendid car
E'er gladdened Africanus, or Augustus,
But poor to it that of the Sun would be,--

That of the Sun, which swerving was burnt up
At the importunate orison of Earth,
When Jove was so mysteriously just.

Three maidens at the right wheel in a circle
Came onward dancing; one so very red
That in the fire she hardly had been noted.

The second was as if her flesh and bones
Had all been fashioned out of emerald;
The third appeared as snow but newly fallen.

And now they seemed conducted by the white,
Now by the red, and from the song of her
The others took their step, or slow or swift.

Upon the left hand four made holiday
Vested in purple, following the measure
Of one of them with three eyes m her head.

In rear of all the group here treated of
Two old men I beheld, unlike in habit,
But like in gait, each dignified and grave.

One showed himself as one of the disciples
Of that supreme Hippocrates, whom Nature
Made for the animals she holds most dear;

Contrary care the other manifested,
With sword so shining and so sharp, it caused
Terror to me on this side of the river.

Thereafter four I saw of humble aspect,
And behind all an aged man alone
Walking in sleep with countenance acute.

And like the foremost company these seven
Were habited; yet of the flower-de-luce
No garland round about the head they wore,

But of the rose, and other flowers vermilion;
At little distance would the sight have sworn
That all were in a flame above their brows.

And when the car was opposite to me
Thunder was heard; and all that folk august
Seemed to have further progress interdicted,

There with the vanward ensigns standing still.

Previous Contents Next

La Divina Commedia: Purgatorio: Canto XXIX

Cantando come donna innamorata,
  continuo` col fin di sue parole:
  'Beati quorum tecta sunt peccata!'.

E come ninfe che si givan sole
  per le salvatiche ombre, disiando
  qual di veder, qual di fuggir lo sole,

allor si mosse contra 'l fiume, andando
  su per la riva; e io pari di lei,
  picciol passo con picciol seguitando.

Non eran cento tra ' suoi passi e ' miei,
  quando le ripe igualmente dier volta,
  per modo ch'a levante mi rendei.

Ne' ancor fu cosi` nostra via molta,
  quando la donna tutta a me si torse,
  dicendo: "Frate mio, guarda e ascolta".

Ed ecco un lustro subito trascorse
  da tutte parti per la gran foresta,
  tal che di balenar mi mise in forse.

Ma perche' 'l balenar, come vien, resta,
  e quel, durando, piu` e piu` splendeva,
  nel mio pensier dicea: 'Che cosa e` questa?'.

E una melodia dolce correva
  per l'aere luminoso; onde buon zelo
  mi fe' riprender l'ardimento d'Eva,

che la` dove ubidia la terra e 'l cielo,
  femmina, sola e pur teste' formata,
  non sofferse di star sotto alcun velo;

sotto 'l qual se divota fosse stata,
  avrei quelle ineffabili delizie
  sentite prima e piu` lunga fiata.

Mentr'io m'andava tra tante primizie
  de l'etterno piacer tutto sospeso,
  e disioso ancora a piu` letizie,

dinanzi a noi, tal quale un foco acceso,
  ci si fe' l'aere sotto i verdi rami;
  e 'l dolce suon per canti era gia` inteso.

O sacrosante Vergini, se fami,
  freddi o vigilie mai per voi soffersi,
  cagion mi sprona ch'io merce' vi chiami.

Or convien che Elicona per me versi,
  e Uranie m'aiuti col suo coro
  forti cose a pensar mettere in versi.

Poco piu` oltre, sette alberi d'oro
  falsava nel parere il lungo tratto
  del mezzo ch'era ancor tra noi e loro;

ma quand'i' fui si` presso di lor fatto,
  che l'obietto comun, che 'l senso inganna,
  non perdea per distanza alcun suo atto,

la virtu` ch'a ragion discorso ammanna,
  si` com'elli eran candelabri apprese,
  e ne le voci del cantare 'Osanna'.

Di sopra fiammeggiava il bello arnese
  piu` chiaro assai che luna per sereno
  di mezza notte nel suo mezzo mese.

Io mi rivolsi d'ammirazion pieno
  al buon Virgilio, ed esso mi rispuose
  con vista carca di stupor non meno.

Indi rendei l'aspetto a l'alte cose
  che si movieno incontr'a noi si` tardi,
  che foran vinte da novelle spose.

La donna mi sgrido`: "Perche' pur ardi
  si` ne l'affetto de le vive luci,
  e cio` che vien di retro a lor non guardi?".

Genti vid'io allor, come a lor duci,
  venire appresso, vestite di bianco;
  e tal candor di qua gia` mai non fuci.

L'acqua imprendea dal sinistro fianco,
  e rendea me la mia sinistra costa,
  s'io riguardava in lei, come specchio anco.

Quand'io da la mia riva ebbi tal posta,
  che solo il fiume mi facea distante,
  per veder meglio ai passi diedi sosta,

e vidi le fiammelle andar davante,
  lasciando dietro a se' l'aere dipinto,
  e di tratti pennelli avean sembiante;

si` che li` sopra rimanea distinto
  di sette liste, tutte in quei colori
  onde fa l'arco il Sole e Delia il cinto.

Questi ostendali in dietro eran maggiori
  che la mia vista; e, quanto a mio avviso,
  diece passi distavan quei di fori.

Sotto cosi` bel ciel com'io diviso,
  ventiquattro seniori, a due a due,
  coronati venien di fiordaliso.

Tutti cantavan: "Benedicta tue
  ne le figlie d'Adamo, e benedette
  sieno in etterno le bellezze tue!".

Poscia che i fiori e l'altre fresche erbette
  a rimpetto di me da l'altra sponda
  libere fuor da quelle genti elette,

si` come luce luce in ciel seconda,
  vennero appresso lor quattro animali,
  coronati ciascun di verde fronda.

Ognuno era pennuto di sei ali;
  le penne piene d'occhi; e li occhi d'Argo,
  se fosser vivi, sarebber cotali.

A descriver lor forme piu` non spargo
  rime, lettor; ch'altra spesa mi strigne,
  tanto ch'a questa non posso esser largo;

ma leggi Ezechiel, che li dipigne
  come li vide da la fredda parte
  venir con vento e con nube e con igne;

e quali i troverai ne le sue carte,
  tali eran quivi, salvo ch'a le penne
  Giovanni e` meco e da lui si diparte.

Lo spazio dentro a lor quattro contenne
  un carro, in su due rote, triunfale,
  ch'al collo d'un grifon tirato venne.

Esso tendeva in su` l'una e l'altra ale
  tra la mezzana e le tre e tre liste,
  si` ch'a nulla, fendendo, facea male.

Tanto salivan che non eran viste;
  le membra d'oro avea quant'era uccello,
  e bianche l'altre, di vermiglio miste.

Non che Roma di carro cosi` bello
  rallegrasse Affricano, o vero Augusto,
  ma quel del Sol saria pover con ello;

quel del Sol che, sviando, fu combusto
  per l'orazion de la Terra devota,
  quando fu Giove arcanamente giusto.

Tre donne in giro da la destra rota
  venian danzando; l'una tanto rossa
  ch'a pena fora dentro al foco nota;

l'altr'era come se le carni e l'ossa
  fossero state di smeraldo fatte;
  la terza parea neve teste' mossa;

e or parean da la bianca tratte,
  or da la rossa; e dal canto di questa
  l'altre toglien l'andare e tarde e ratte.

Da la sinistra quattro facean festa,
  in porpore vestite, dietro al modo
  d'una di lor ch'avea tre occhi in testa.

Appresso tutto il pertrattato nodo
  vidi due vecchi in abito dispari,
  ma pari in atto e onesto e sodo.

L'un si mostrava alcun de' famigliari
  di quel sommo Ipocrate che natura
  a li animali fe' ch'ell'ha piu` cari;

mostrava l'altro la contraria cura
  con una spada lucida e aguta,
  tal che di qua dal rio mi fe' paura.

Poi vidi quattro in umile paruta;
  e di retro da tutti un vecchio solo
  venir, dormendo, con la faccia arguta.

E questi sette col primaio stuolo
  erano abituati, ma di gigli
  dintorno al capo non facean brolo,

anzi di rose e d'altri fior vermigli;
  giurato avria poco lontano aspetto
  che tutti ardesser di sopra da' cigli.

E quando il carro a me fu a rimpetto,
  un tuon s'udi`, e quelle genti degne
  parvero aver l'andar piu` interdetto,

fermandosi ivi con le prime insegne.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.