Purgatorio: Canto XII
Abreast, like oxen
going in a yoke,
with that heavy-laden soul went on,
As long as the sweet pedagogue permitted;
But when he said,
"Leave him, and onward pass,
here 'tis good that with the sail and oars,
As much as may be, each push on his barque;"
Upright, as walking
wills it, I redressed
person, notwithstanding that my thoughts
Remained within me downcast and abashed.
I had moved on, and
footsteps of my Master, and we both
Already showed how light of foot we were,
When unto me he
said: "Cast down thine eyes;
well for thee, to alleviate the way,
To look upon the bed beneath thy feet."
As, that some
memory may exist of them,
the buried dead their tombs in earth
Bear sculptured on them what they were before;
Whence often there
we weep for them afresh,
pricking of remembrance, which alone
To the compassionate doth set its spur;
So saw I there, but
of a better semblance
point of artifice, with figures covered
Whate'er as pathway from the mount projects.
I saw that one who
was created noble
than all other creatures, down from heaven
Flaming with lightnings fall upon one side.
I saw Briareus
smitten by the dart
lying on the other side,
Heavy upon the earth by mortal frost.
I saw Thymbraeus,
Pallas saw, and Mars,
clad in armour round about their father,
Gaze at the scattered members of the giants.
I saw, at foot of
his great labour, Nimrod,
if bewildered, looking at the people
Who had been proud with him in Sennaar.
O Niobe! with what
I beheld upon the pathway traced,
Between thy seven and seven children slain!
O Saul! how fallen
upon thy proper sword
thou appear there lifeless in Gilboa,
That felt thereafter neither rain nor dew!
O mad Arachne! so I
then half spider, sad upon the shreds
Of fabric wrought in evil hour for thee!
O Rehoboam! no more
seems to threaten
image there; but full of consternation
A chariot bears it off, when none pursues!
the adamantine pavement
unto his own mother made Alcmaeon
Costly appear the luckless ornament;
Displayed how his
own sons did throw themselves
Sennacherib within the temple,
And how, he being dead, they left him there;
Displayed the ruin
and the cruel carnage
Tomyris wrought, when she to Cyrus said,
"Blood didst thou thirst for, and with blood I glut thee!"
routed fled the Assyrians
that Holofernes had been slain,
And likewise the remainder of that slaughter.
I saw there Troy in
ashes and in caverns;
Ilion! thee, how abject and debased,
Displayed the image that is there discerned!
Whoe'er of pencil
master was or stile,
could portray the shades and traits which there
Would cause each subtile genius to admire?
Dead seemed the
dead, the living seemed alive;
than I saw not who saw the truth,
All that I trod upon while bowed I went.
Now wax ye proud,
and on with looks uplifted,
sons of Eve, and bow not down your faces
So that ye may behold your evil ways!
More of the mount
by us was now encompassed,
far more spent the circuit of the sun,
Than had the mind preoccupied imagined,
When he, who ever
watchful in advance
going on, began: "Lift up thy head,
'Tis no more time to go thus meditating.
Lo there an Angel
who is making haste
come towards us; lo, returning is
From service of the day the sixth handmaiden.
thine acts and looks adorn,
that he may delight to speed us upward;
Think that this day will never dawn again."
I was familiar with
to lose no time; so on this theme
He could not unto me speak covertly.
Towards us came the
in white, and in his countenance
Such as appears the tremulous morning star.
His arms he opened,
and opened then his wings;
said he, "near at hand here are the steps,
And easy from henceforth is the ascent."
announcement few are they who come!
human creatures, born to soar aloft,
Why fall ye thus before a little wind?
He led us on to
where the rock was cleft;
smote upon my forehead with his wings,
Then a safe passage promised unto me.
As on the right
hand, to ascend the mount
seated is the church that lordeth it
O'er the well-guided, above Rubaconte,
The bold abruptness
of the ascent is broken
stairways that were made there in the age
When still were safe the ledger and the stave,
attempered is the bank which falls
downward from the second circle there;
But on this, side and that the high rock graze.
As we were turning
thitherward our persons,
pauperes spiritu," voices
Sang in such wise that speech could tell it not.
Ah me! how
different are these entrances
the Infernal! for with anthems here
One enters, and below with wild laments.
We now were hunting
up the sacred stairs,
it appeared to me by far more easy
Than on the plain it had appeared before.
Whence I: "My
Master, say, what heavy thing
been uplifted from me, so that hardly
Aught of fatigue is felt by me in walking?"
He answered: "When
the P's which have remained
on thy face almost obliterate
Shall wholly, as the first is, be erased,
Thy feet will be so
vanquished by good will,
not alone they shall not feel fatigue,
But urging up will be to them delight."
Then did I even as
they do who are going
something on the head to them unknown,
Unless the signs of others make them doubt,
Wherefore the hand
to ascertain is helpful,
seeks and finds, and doth fulfill the office
Which cannot be accomplished by the sight;
And with the
fingers of the right hand spread
found but six the letters, that had carved
Upon my temples he who bore the keys;
which my Leader smiled.