Purgatorio: Canto XX
Ill strives the
will against a better will;
to pleasure him, against my pleasure
I drew the sponge not saturate from the water.
Onward I moved, and
onward moved my Leader,
vacant places, skirting still the rock,
As on a wall close to the battlements;
For they that
through their eyes pour drop by drop
malady which all the world pervades,
On the other side too near the verge approach.
Accursed mayst thou
be, thou old she-wolf,
more than all the other beasts hast prey,
Because of hunger infinitely hollow!
O heaven, in whose
gyrations some appear
think conditions here below are changed,
When will he come through whom she shall depart?
Onward we went with
footsteps slow and scarce,
I attentive to the shades I heard
Piteously weeping and bemoaning them;
And I by
peradventure heard "Sweet Mary!"
in front of us amid the weeping
Even as a woman does who is in child-birth;
And in continuance:
"How poor thou wast
manifested by that hostelry
Where thou didst lay thy sacred burden down."
heard: "O good Fabricius,
with poverty didst thou prefer
To the possession of great wealth with vice."
So pleasurable were
these words to me
I drew farther onward to have knowledge
Touching that spirit whence they seemed to come.
He furthermore was
speaking of the largess
Nicholas unto the maidens gave,
In order to conduct their youth to honour.
"O soul that dost
so excellently speak,
me who wast thou," said I, "and why only
Thou dost renew these praises well deserved?
recompense shall be thy word,
I return to finish the short journey
Of that life which is flying to its end."
And he: "I'll tell
thee, not for any comfort
may expect from earth, but that so much
Grace shines in thee or ever thou art dead.
I was the root of
that malignant plant
overshadows all the Christian world,
So that good fruit is seldom gathered from it;
But if Douay and
Ghent, and Lille and Bruges
Power, soon vengeance would be taken on it;
And this I pray of Him who judges all.
Hugh Capet was I
called upon the earth;
me were born the Louises and Philips,
By whom in later days has France been governed.
I was the son of a
time the ancient kings had perished all,
Excepting one, contrite in cloth of gray.
I found me grasping
in my hands the rein
the realm's government, and so great power
Of new acquest, and so with friends abounding,
That to the widowed
head of mine own offspring was, from whom
The consecrated bones of these began.
So long as the
great dowry of Provence
of my blood took not the sense of shame,
'Twas little worth, but still it did no harm.
Then it began with
falsehood and with force
rapine; and thereafter, for amends,
Took Ponthieu, Normandy, and Gascony.
Charles came to
Italy, and for amends
victim made of Conradin, and then
Thrust Thomas back to heaven, for amends.
A time I see, not
very distant now,
draweth forth another Charles from France,
The better to make known both him and his.
Unarmed he goes,
and only with the lance
Judas jousted with; and that he thrusts
So that he makes the paunch of Florence burst.
He thence not land,
but sin and infamy,
gain, so much more grievous to himself
As the more light such damage he accounts.
The other, now gone
forth, ta'en in his ship,
I his daughter sell, and chaffer for her
As corsairs do with other female slaves.
What more, O
Avarice, canst thou do to us,
thou my blood so to thyself hast drawn,
It careth not for its own proper flesh?
That less may seem
the future ill and past,
see the flower-de-luce Alagna enter,
And Christ in his own Vicar captive made.
I see him yet
another time derided;
see renewed the vinegar and gall,
And between living thieves I see him slain.
I see the modern
Pilate so relentless,
does not sate him, but without decretal
He to the temple bears his sordid sails!
When, O my Lord!
shall I be joyful made
looking on the vengeance which, concealed,
Makes sweet thine anger in thy secrecy?
What I was saying
of that only bride
the Holy Ghost, and which occasioned thee
To turn towards me for some commentary,
So long has been
ordained to all our prayers
the day lasts; but when the night comes on,
Contrary sound we take instead thereof.
At that time we
whom a traitor, thief, and parricide
Made his insatiable desire of gold;
And the misery of
followed his inordinate demand,
At which forevermore one needs but laugh.
The foolish Achan
each one then records,
how he stole the spoils; so that the wrath
Of Joshua still appears to sting him here.
Then we accuse
Sapphira with her husband,
laud the hoof-beats Heliodorus had,
And the whole mount in infamy encircles
finally is cried: 'O Crassus, tell us,
For thou dost know, what is the taste of gold?'
Sometimes we speak,
one loud, another low,
to desire of speech, that spurs us
To greater now and now to lesser pace.
But in the good
that here by day is talked of,
alone I was not; yet near by
No other person lifted up his voice."
From him already we
made endeavour to o'ercome the road
As much as was permitted to our power,
When I perceived,
like something that is falling,
mountain tremble, whence a chill seized on me,
As seizes him who to his death is going.
Certes so violently
shook not Delos,
Latona made her nest therein
To give birth to the two eyes of the heaven.
Then upon all sides
there began a cry,
that the Master drew himself towards me,
Saying, "Fear not, while I am guiding thee."
"Gloria in excelsis
saying, from what near I comprehended,
Where it was possible to hear the cry.
We paused immovable
and in suspense,
as the shepherds who first heard that song,
Until the trembling ceased, and it was finished.
Then we resumed
again our holy path,
the shades that lay upon the ground,
Already turned to their accustomed plaint.
No ignorance ever
with so great a strife
rendered me importunate to know,
If erreth not in this my memory,
As meditating then
I seemed to have;
out of haste to question did I dare,
Nor of myself I there could aught perceive;
So I went onward
timorous and thoughtful.