Purgatorio: Canto XXIII
The while among the
verdant leaves mine eyes
riveted, as he is wont to do
Who wastes his life pursuing little birds,
My more than Father
said unto me: "Son,
now; because the time that is ordained us
More usefully should be apportioned out."
I turned my face
and no less soon my steps
the Sages, who were speaking so
They made the going of no cost to me;
And lo! were heard
a song and a lament,
mea, Domine," in fashion
Such that delight and dolence it brought forth.
"O my sweet Father,
what is this I hear?"
I; and he answered: "Shades that go
Perhaps the knot unloosing of their debt."
In the same way
that thoughtful pilgrims do,
unknown people on the road o'ertaking,
Turn themselves round to them, and do not stop,
Even thus, behind
us with a swifter motion
and passing onward, gazed upon us
A crowd of spirits silent and devout.
Each in his eyes
was dark and cavernous,
in face, and so emaciate
That from the bones the skin did shape itself.
I do not think that
so to merest rind
Erisichthon have been withered up
By famine, when most fear he had of it.
myself I said: "Behold,
is the folk who lost Jerusalem,
When Mary made a prey of her own son."
Their sockets were
like rings without the gems;
in the face of men reads 'omo'
Might well in these have recognised the 'm.'
Who would believe
the odour of an apple,
longing, could consume them so,
And that of water, without knowing how?
I still was
wondering what so famished them,
the occasion not yet manifest
Of their emaciation and sad squalor;
And lo! from out
the hollow of his head
eyes a shade turned on me, and looked keenly;
Then cried aloud: "What grace to me is this?"
Never should I have
known him by his look;
in his voice was evident to me
That which his aspect had suppressed within it.
This spark within
me wholly re-enkindled
recognition of his altered face,
And I recalled the features of Forese.
"Ah, do not look at
this dry leprosy,"
he, "which doth my skin discolour,
Nor at default of flesh that I may have;
But tell me truth
of thee, and who are those
souls, that yonder make for thee an escort;
Do not delay in speaking unto me."
"That face of
thine, which dead I once bewept,
me for weeping now no lesser grief,"
I answered him, "beholding it so changed!
But tell me, for
God's sake, what thus denudes you?
me not speak while I am marvelling,
For ill speaks he who's full of other longings."
And he to me: "From
the eternal council
power into the water and the tree
Behind us left, whereby I grow so thin.
All of this people
who lamenting sing,
following beyond measure appetite
In hunger and thirst are here re-sanctified.
Desire to eat and
drink enkindles in us
scent that issues from the apple-tree,
And from the spray that sprinkles o'er the verdure;
And not a single
time alone, this ground
is refreshed our pain,--
I say our pain, and ought to say our solace,--
For the same wish
doth lead us to the tree
led the Christ rejoicing to say 'Eli,'
When with his veins he liberated us."
And I to him:
"Forese, from that day
for a better life thou changedst worlds,
Up to this time five years have not rolled round.
If sooner were the
power exhausted in thee
sinning more, than thee the hour surprised
Of that good sorrow which to God reweds us,
How hast thou come
up hitherward already?
thought to find thee down there underneath,
Where time for time doth restitution make."
And he to me: "Thus
speedily has led me
drink of the sweet wormwood of these torments,
My Nella with her overflowing tears;
She with her
prayers devout and with her sighs
drawn me from the coast where one where one awaits,
And from the other circles set me free.
So much more dear
and pleasing is to God
little widow, whom so much I loved,
As in good works she is the more alone;
For the Barbagia of
far more modest in its women is
Than the Barbagia I have left her in.
O brother sweet,
what wilt thou have me say?
future time is in my sight already,
To which this hour will not be very old,
When from the
pulpit shall be interdicted
the unblushing womankind of Florence
To go about displaying breast and paps.
What savages were
e'er, what Saracens,
stood in need, to make them covered go,
Of spiritual or other discipline?
But if the
shameless women were assured
what swift Heaven prepares for them, already
Wide open would they have their mouths to howl;
For if my foresight
here deceive me not,
shall be sad ere he has bearded cheeks
Who now is hushed to sleep with lullaby.
O brother, now no
longer hide thee from me;
that not only I, but all these people
Are gazing there, where thou dost veil the sun."
Whence I to him:
"If thou bring back to mind
thou with me hast been and I with thee,
The present memory will be grievous still.
Out of that life he
turned me back who goes
front of me, two days agone when round
The sister of him yonder showed herself,"
And to the sun I
pointed. "Through the deep
of the truly dead has this one led me,
With this true flesh, that follows after him.
encouragements have led me up,
and still circling round the mount
That you doth straighten, whom the world made crooked.
He says that he
will bear me company,
I shall be where Beatrice will be;
There it behoves me to remain without him.
This is Virgilius,
who thus says to me,"
him I pointed at; "the other is
That shade for whom just now shook every slope
Your realm, that
from itself discharges him."