Purgatorio: Canto IV
Whenever by delight
or else by pain,
seizes any faculty of ours,
Wholly to that the soul collects itself,
It seemeth that no
other power it heeds;
this against that error is which thinks
One soul above another kindles in us.
And hence, whenever
aught is heard or seen
keeps the soul intently bent upon it,
Time passes on, and we perceive it not,
Because one faculty
is that which listens,
other that which the soul keeps entire;
This is as if in bonds, and that is free.
Of this I had
hearing and in gazing at that spirit;
For fifty full degrees uprisen was
The sun, and I had
not perceived it, when
came to where those souls with one accord
Cried out unto us: "Here is what you ask."
A greater opening
ofttimes hedges up
but a little forkful of his thorns
The villager, what time the grape imbrowns,
Than was the
passage-way through which ascended
my Leader and myself behind him,
After that company departed from us.
One climbs Sanleo
and descends in Noli,
mounts the summit of Bismantova,
With feet alone; but here one needs must fly;
With the swift
pinions and the plumes I say
great desire, conducted after him
Who gave me hope, and made a light for me.
We mounted upward
through the rifted rock,
on each side the border pressed upon us,
And feet and hands the ground beneath required.
When we were come
upon the upper rim
the high bank, out on the open slope,
"My Master," said I, "what way shall we take?"
And he to me: "No
step of thine descend;
up the mount behind me win thy way,
Till some sage escort shall appear to us."
The summit was so
high it vanquished sight,
the hillside precipitous far more
Than line from middle quadrant to the centre.
Spent with fatigue
was I, when I began:
my sweet Father! turn thee and behold
How I remain alone, unless thou stay!"
"O son," he said,
"up yonder drag thyself,"
me to a terrace somewhat higher,
Which on that side encircles all the hill.
These words of his
so spurred me on, that I
every nerve, behind him scrambling up,
Until the circle was beneath my feet.
we seated both of us
to the East, from which we had ascended,
For all men are delighted to look back.
To the low shores
mine eyes I first directed,
to the sun uplifted them, and wondered
That on the left hand we were smitten by it.
The Poet well
perceived that I was wholly
at the chariot of the light,
Where 'twixt us and the Aquilon it entered.
Whereon he said to
me: "If Castor and Pollux
in the company of yonder mirror,
That up and down conducteth with its light,
Thou wouldst behold
the zodiac's jagged wheel
still more near unto the Bears,
Unless it swerved aside from its old track.
How that may be
wouldst thou have power to think,
in thyself, imagine Zion
Together with this mount on earth to stand,
So that they both
one sole horizon have,
hemispheres diverse; whereby the road
Which Phaeton, alas! knew not to drive,
Thou'lt see how of
necessity must pass
on one side, when that upon the other,
If thine intelligence right clearly heed."
"Truly, my Master,"
said I, "never yet
I so clearly as I now discern,
There where my wit appeared incompetent,
That the mid-circle
of supernal motion,
in some art is the Equator called,
And aye remains between the Sun and Winter,
For reason which
thou sayest, departeth hence
the Septentrion, what time the Hebrews
Beheld it tow'rds the region of the heat.
But, if it pleaseth
thee, I fain would learn
far we have to go; for the hill rises
Higher than eyes of mine have power to rise."
And he to me: "This
mount is such, that ever
the beginning down below 'tis tiresome,
And aye the more one climbs, the less it hurts.
Therefore, when it
shall seem so pleasant to thee,
going up shall be to thee as easy
As going down the current in a boat,
Then at this
pathway's ending thou wilt be;
to repose thy panting breath expect;
No more I answer; and this I know for true."
And as he finished
uttering these words,
voice close by us sounded: "Peradventure
Thou wilt have need of sitting down ere that."
At sound thereof
each one of us turned round,
saw upon the left hand a great rock,
Which neither I nor he before had noticed.
Thither we drew;
and there were persons there
in the shadow stood behind the rock,
As one through indolence is wont to stand.
And one of them,
who seemed to me fatigued,
sitting down, and both his knees embraced,
Holding his face low down between them bowed.
"O my sweet Lord,"
I said, "do turn thine eye
him who shows himself more negligent
Then even Sloth herself his sister were."
Then he turned
round to us, and he gave heed,
lifting up his eyes above his thigh,
And said: "Now go thou up, for thou art valiant."
Then knew I who he
was; and the distress,
still a little did my breathing quicken,
My going to him hindered not; and after
I came to him he
hardly raised his head,
"Hast thou seen clearly how the sun
O'er thy left shoulder drives his chariot?"
attitude and his curt words
little unto laughter moved my lips;
Then I began: "Belacqua, I grieve not
henceforth; but tell me, wherefore seated
this place art thou? Waitest thou an escort?
Or has thy usual habit seized upon thee?"
And he: "O brother,
what's the use of climbing?
to my torment would not let me go
The Angel of God, who sitteth at the gate.
First heaven must
needs so long revolve me round
thereof, as in my life it did,
Since the good sighs I to the end postponed,
Unless, e'er that,
some prayer may bring me aid
rises from a heart that lives in grace;
What profit others that in heaven are heard not?"
Meanwhile the Poet
was before me mounting,
saying: "Come now; see the sun has touched
Meridian, and from the shore the night
Covers already with
her foot Morocco."