Purgatorio: Canto XVI
Darkness of hell,
and of a night deprived
every planet under a poor sky,
As much as may be tenebrous with cloud,
Ne'er made unto my
sight so thick a veil,
did that smoke which there enveloped us,
Nor to the feeling of so rough a texture;
For not an eye it
suffered to stay open;
mine escort, faithful and sagacious,
Drew near to me and offered me his shoulder.
E'en as a blind man
goes behind his guide,
he should wander, or should strike against
Aught that may harm or peradventure kill him,
So went I through
the bitter and foul air,
unto my Leader, who said only,
"Look that from me thou be not separated."
Voices I heard, and
every one appeared
supplicate for peace and misericord
The Lamb of God who takes away our sins.
Still "Agnus Dei"
their exordium was;
word there was in all, and metre one,
So that all harmony appeared among them.
"Master," I said,
"are spirits those I hear?"
he to me: "Thou apprehendest truly,
And they the knot of anger go unloosing."
"Now who art thou,
that cleavest through our smoke
art discoursing of us even as though
Thou didst by calends still divide the time?"
After this manner
by a voice was spoken;
my Master said: "Do thou reply,
And ask if on this side the way go upward."
And I: "O creature
that dost cleanse thyself
return beautiful to Him who made thee,
Thou shalt hear marvels if thou follow me."
"Thee will I follow
far as is allowed me,"
answered; "and if smoke prevent our seeing,
Hearing shall keep us joined instead thereof."
Thereon began I:
"With that swathing band
death unwindeth am I going upward,
And hither came I through the infernal anguish.
And if God in his
grace has me infolded,
that he wills that I behold his court
By method wholly out of modern usage,
Conceal not from me
who ere death thou wast,
tell it me, and tell me if I go
Right for the pass, and be thy words our escort."
"Lombard was I, and
I was Marco called;
world I knew, and loved that excellence,
At which has each one now unbent his bow.
upward, thou art going right."
he made answer, and subjoined: "I pray thee
To pray for me when thou shalt be above."
And I to him: "My
faith I pledge to thee
do what thou dost ask me; but am bursting
Inly with doubt, unless I rid me of it.
First it was
simple, and is now made double
thy opinion, which makes certain to me,
Here and elsewhere, that which I couple with it.
The world forsooth
is utterly deserted
every virtue, as thou tellest me,
And with iniquity is big and covered;
But I beseech thee
point me out the cause,
I may see it, and to others show it;
For one in the heavens, and here below one puts it."
A sigh profound,
that grief forced into Ai!
first sent forth, and then began he: "Brother,
The world is blind, and sooth thou comest from it!
Ye who are living
every cause refer
upward to the heavens, as if all things
They of necessity moved with themselves.
If this were so, in
you would be destroyed
will, nor any justice would there be
In having joy for good, or grief for evil.
The heavens your
movements do initiate,
say not all; but granting that I say it,
Light has been given you for good and evil,
And free volition;
which, if some fatigue
the first battles with the heavens it suffers,
Afterwards conquers all, if well 'tis nurtured.
To greater force
and to a better nature,
free, ye subject are, and that creates
The mind in you the heavens have not in charge.
Hence, if the
present world doth go astray,
you the cause is, be it sought in you;
And I therein will now be thy true spy.
Forth from the hand
of Him, who fondles it
it is, like to a little girl
Weeping and laughing in her childish sport,
Issues the simple
soul, that nothing knows,
that, proceeding from a joyous Maker,
Gladly it turns to that which gives it pleasure.
Of trivial good at
first it tastes the savour;
cheated by it, and runs after it,
If guide or rein turn not aside its love.
Hence it behoved
laws for a rein to place,
a king to have, who at the least
Of the true city should discern the tower.
The laws exist, but
who sets hand to them?
one; because the shepherd who precedes
Can ruminate, but cleaveth not the hoof;
people that perceives its guide
only at the good for which it hankers,
Feeds upon that, and farther seeketh not.
Clearly canst thou
perceive that evil guidance
cause is that has made the world depraved,
And not that nature is corrupt in you.
Rome, that reformed
the world, accustomed was
suns to have, which one road and the other,
Of God and of the world, made manifest.
One has the other
quenched, and to the crosier
sword is joined, and ill beseemeth it
That by main force one with the other go,
joined, one feareth not the other;
thou believe not, think upon the grain,
For by its seed each herb is recognized.
In the land laved
by Po and Adige,
and courtesy used to be found,
Before that Frederick had his controversy;
Now in security can
pass that way
will abstain, through sense of shame,
From speaking with the good, or drawing near them.
True, three old men
are left, in whom upbraids
ancient age the new, and late they deem it
That God restore them to the better life:
Currado da Palazzo,
and good Gherardo,
Guido da Castel, who better named is,
In fashion of the French, the simple Lombard:
henceforward that the Church of Rome,
in itself two governments,
Falls in the mire, and soils itself and burden."
"O Marco mine," I
said, "thou reasonest well;
now discern I why the sons of Levi
Have been excluded from the heritage.
But what Gherardo
is it, who, as sample
a lost race, thou sayest has remained
In reprobation of the barbarous age?"
"Either thy speech
deceives me, or it tempts me,"
answered me; "for speaking Tuscan to me,
It seems of good Gherardo naught thou knowest.
By other surname do
I know him not,
I take it from his daughter Gaia.
May God be with you, for I come no farther.
Behold the dawn,
that through the smoke rays out,
whitening; and I must depart--
Yonder the Angel is--ere he appear."
Thus did he speak,
and would no farther hear me.