Purgatorio: Canto II
Already had the sun
the horizon reached
circle of meridian covers o'er
Jerusalem with its most lofty point,
And night that
opposite to him revolves
issuing forth from Ganges with the Scales
That fall from out her hand when she exceedeth;
So that the white
and the vermilion cheeks
beautiful Aurora, where I was,
By too great age were changing into orange.
We still were on
the border of the sea,
people who are thinking of their road,
Who go in heart and with the body stay;
And lo! as when,
upon the approach of morning,
the gross vapours Mars grows fiery red
Down in the West upon the ocean floor,
Appeared to me--may
I again behold it!--
light along the sea so swiftly coming,
Its motion by no flight of wing is equalled;
From which when I a
little had withdrawn
eyes, that I might question my Conductor,
Again I saw it brighter grown and larger.
Then on each side
of it appeared to me
knew not what of white, and underneath it
Little by little there came forth another.
My Master yet had
uttered not a word
the first whiteness into wings unfolded;
But when he clearly recognised the pilot,
He cried: "Make
haste, make haste to bow the knee!
the Angel of God! fold thou thy hands!
Henceforward shalt thou see such officers!
See how he scorneth
that nor oar he wants, nor other sail
Than his own wings, between so distant shores.
See how he holds
them pointed up to heaven,
the air with the eternal pinions,
That do not moult themselves like mortal hair!"
Then as still
nearer and more near us came
Bird Divine, more radiant he appeared,
So that near by the eye could not endure him,
But down I cast it;
and he came to shore
a small vessel, very swift and light,
So that the water swallowed naught thereof.
Upon the stern
stood the Celestial Pilot;
seemed written in his face,
And more than a hundred spirits sat within.
"In exitu Israel de
chanted all together in one voice,
With whatso in that psalm is after written.
Then made he sign
of holy rood upon them,
all cast themselves upon the shore,
And he departed swiftly as he came.
The throng which
still remained there unfamiliar
with the place, all round about them gazing,
As one who in new matters makes essay.
On every side was
darting forth the day.
sun, who had with his resplendent shafts
From the mid-heaven chased forth the Capricorn,
When the new people
lifted up their faces
us, saying to us: "If ye know,
Show us the way to go unto the mountain."
And answer made
Virgilius: "Ye believe
that we have knowledge of this place,
But we are strangers even as yourselves.
Just now we came, a
little while before you,
way, which was so rough and steep,
That mounting will henceforth seem sport to us."
The souls who had,
from seeing me draw breath,
aware that I was still alive,
Pallid in their astonishment became;
And as to messenger
who bears the olive
people throng to listen to the news,
And no one shows himself afraid of crowding,
So at the sight of
me stood motionless
fortunate spirits, all of them, as if
Oblivious to go and make them fair.
One from among them
saw I coming forward,
to embrace me, with such great affection,
That it incited me to do the like.
O empty shadows,
save in aspect only!
times behind it did I clasp my hands,
As oft returned with them to my own breast!
I think with wonder
I depicted me;
the shadow smiled and backward drew;
And I, pursuing it, pressed farther forward.
Gently it said that
I should stay my steps;
knew I who it was, and I entreated
That it would stop awhile to speak with me.
It made reply to
me: "Even as I loved thee
mortal body, so I love thee free;
Therefore I stop; but wherefore goest thou?"
"My own Casella! to
return once more
where I am, I make this journey," said I;
"But how from thee has so much time be taken?"
And he to me: "No
outrage has been done me,
he who takes both when and whom he pleases
Has many times denied to me this passage,
For of a righteous
will his own is made.
sooth to say, for three months past has taken
Whoever wished to enter with all peace;
Whence I, who now
had turned unto that shore
salt the waters of the Tiber grow,
Benignantly by him have been received.
Unto that outlet
now his wing is pointed,
for evermore assemble there
Those who tow'rds Acheron do not descend."
And I: "If some new
law take not from thee
or practice of the song of love,
Which used to quiet in me all my longings,
Thee may it please
to comfort therewithal
this soul of mine, that with its body
Hitherward coming is so much distressed."
"Love, that within
my mind discourses with me,"
began he so melodiously,
The melody within me still is sounding.
My Master, and
myself, and all that people
with him were, appeared as satisfied
As if naught else might touch the mind of any.
We all of us were
moveless and attentive
his notes; and lo! the grave old man,
Exclaiming: "What is this, ye laggard spirits?
what standing still is this?
to the mountain to strip off the slough,
That lets not God be manifest to you."
Even as when,
collecting grain or tares,
doves, together at their pasture met,
Quiet, nor showing their accustomed pride,
If aught appear of
which they are afraid,
a sudden leave their food alone,
Because they are assailed by greater care;
So that fresh
company did I behold
song relinquish, and go tow'rds the hill,
As one who goes, and knows not whitherward;
Nor was our own
departure less in haste.