Purgatorio: Canto XVII
if e'er in the Alps
mist o'ertook thee, through which thou couldst see
Not otherwise than through its membrane mole,
How, when the
vapours humid and condensed
to dissipate themselves, the sphere
Of the sun feebly enters in among them,
And thy imagination
will be swift
coming to perceive how I re-saw
The sun at first, that was already setting.
Thus, to the
faithful footsteps of my Master
mine own, I issued from that cloud
To rays already dead on the low shores.
Imagination, that dost steal us
from without sometimes, that man perceives not,
Although around may sound a thousand trumpets,
Who moveth thee, if
sense impel thee not?
thee a light, which in the heaven takes form,
By self, or by a will that downward guides it.
Of her impiety, who
changed her form
the bird that most delights in singing,
In my imagining appeared the trace;
And hereupon my
mind was so withdrawn
itself, that from without there came
Nothing that then might be received by it.
Then reigned within
my lofty fantasy
crucified, disdainful and ferocious
In countenance, and even thus was dying.
Around him were the
his wife, and the just Mordecai,
Who was in word and action so entire.
And even as this
image burst asunder
its own self, in fashion of a bubble
In which the water it was made of fails,
There rose up in my
vision a young maiden
weeping, and she said: "O queen,
Why hast thou wished in anger to be naught?
thyself, Lavinia not to lose;
hast thou lost me; I am she who mourns,
Mother, at thine ere at another's ruin."
As sleep is broken,
when upon a sudden
light strikes in upon the eyelids closed,
And broken quivers ere it dieth wholly,
So this imagining
of mine fell down
soon as the effulgence smote my face,
Greater by far than what is in our wont.
I turned me round
to see where I might be,
said a voice, "Here is the passage up;"
Which from all other purposes removed me,
And made my wish so
full of eagerness
look and see who was it that was speaking,
It never rests till meeting face to face;
But as before the
sun, which quells the sight,
in its own excess its figure veils,
Even so my power was insufficient here.
"This is a spirit
divine, who in the way
going up directs us without asking,
And who with his own light himself conceals.
He does with us as
man doth with himself;
he who sees the need, and waits the asking,
Malignly leans already tow'rds denial.
Accord we now our
feet to such inviting,
us make haste to mount ere it grow dark;
For then we could not till the day return."
Thus my Conductor
said; and I and he
turned our footsteps to a stairway;
And I, as soon as the first step I reached,
Near me perceived a
motion as of wings,
fanning in the face, and saying, "'Beati
Pacifici,' who are without ill anger."
Already over us
were so uplifted
latest sunbeams, which the night pursues,
That upon many sides the stars appeared.
"O manhood mine,
why dost thou vanish so?"
said within myself; for I perceived
The vigour of my legs was put in truce.
We at the point
were where no more ascends
stairway upward, and were motionless,
Even as a ship, which at the shore arrives;
And I gave heed a
little, if I might hear
whatsoever in the circle new;
Then to my Master turned me round and said:
"Say, my sweet
Father, what delinquency
purged here in the circle where we are?
Although our feet may pause, pause not thy speech."
And he to me: "The
love of good, remiss
what it should have done, is here restored;
Here plied again the ill-belated oar;
But still more
openly to understand,
unto me thy mind, and thou shalt gather
Some profitable fruit from our delay.
Neither Creator nor
a creature ever,
he began, "was destitute of love
Natural or spiritual; and thou knowest it.
The natural was
ever without error;
err the other may by evil object,
Or by too much, or by too little vigour.
While in the first
it well directed is,
in the second moderates itself,
It cannot be the cause of sinful pleasure;
But when to ill it
turns, and, with more care
lesser than it ought, runs after good,
'Gainst the Creator works his own creation.
Hence thou mayst
comprehend that love must be
seed within yourselves of every virtue,
And every act that merits punishment.
Now inasmuch as
never from the welfare
its own subject can love turn its sight,
From their own hatred all things are secure;
And since we cannot
think of any being
alone, nor from the First divided,
Of hating Him is all desire cut off.
discriminating, I judge well,
evil that one loves is of one's neighbour,
And this is born in three modes in your clay.
There are, who, by
abasement of their neighbour,
to excel, and therefore only long
That from his greatness he may be cast down;
There are, who
power, grace, honour, and renown
they may lose because another rises,
Thence are so sad that the reverse they love;
And there are those
whom injury seems to chafe,
that it makes them greedy for revenge,
And such must needs shape out another's harm.
This threefold love
is wept for down below;
of the other will I have thee hear,
That runneth after good with measure faulty.
Each one confusedly
a good conceives
the mind may rest, and longeth for it;
Therefore to overtake it each one strives.
If languid love to
look on this attract you,
in attaining unto it, this cornice,
After just penitence, torments you for it.
There's other good
that does not make man happy;
not felicity, 'tis not the good
Essence, of every good the fruit and root.
The love that
yields itself too much to this
us is lamented in three circles;
But how tripartite it may be described,
I say not, that
thou seek it for thyself."