Purgatorio: Canto XXV
Now was it the
ascent no hindrance brooked,
the sun had his meridian circle
To Taurus left, and night to Scorpio;
Wherefore as doth a
man who tarries not,
goes his way, whate'er to him appear,
If of necessity the sting transfix him,
In this wise did we
enter through the gap,
the stairway, one before the other,
Which by its narrowness divides the climbers.
And as the little
stork that lifts its wing
a desire to fly, and does not venture
To leave the nest, and lets it downward droop,
Even such was I,
with the desire of asking
and quenched, unto the motion coming
He makes who doth address himself to speak.
Not for our pace,
though rapid it might be,
father sweet forbore, but said: "Let fly
The bow of speech thou to the barb hast drawn."
With confidence I
opened then my mouth,
I began: "How can one meagre grow
There where the need of nutriment applies not?"
"If thou wouldst
call to mind how Meleager
wasted by the wasting of a brand,
This would not," said he, "be to thee so sour;
And wouldst thou
think how at each tremulous motion
within a mirror your own image;
That which seems hard would mellow seem to thee.
But that thou mayst
content thee in thy wish
Statius here; and him I call and pray
He now will be the healer of thy wounds."
"If I unfold to him
the eternal vengeance,"
Statius, "where thou present art,
Be my excuse that I can naught deny thee."
Then he began:
"Son, if these words of mine
mind doth contemplate and doth receive,
They'll be thy light unto the How thou sayest.
The perfect blood,
which never is drunk up
the thirsty veins, and which remaineth
Like food that from the table thou removest,
Takes in the heart
for all the human members
informative, as being that
Which to be changed to them goes through the veins
descends it where 'tis better
to be than say; and then drops thence
Upon another's blood in natural vase.
There one together
with the other mingles,
to be passive meant, the other active
By reason of the perfect place it springs from;
conjoined, begins to operate,
first, then vivifying
What for its matter it had made consistent.
The active virtue,
being made a soul
of a plant, (in so far different,
This on the way is, that arrived already,)
Then works so much,
that now it moves and feels
a sea-fungus, and then undertakes
To organize the powers whose seed it is.
Now, Son, dilates
and now distends itself
virtue from the generator's heart,
Where nature is intent on all the members.
But how from animal
it man becomes
dost not see as yet; this is a point
Which made a wiser man than thou once err
So far, that in his
made the soul from possible intellect,
For he no organ saw by this assumed.
Open thy breast
unto the truth that's coming,
know that, just as soon as in the foetus
The articulation of the brain is perfect,
The primal Motor
turns to it well pleased
so great art of nature, and inspires
A spirit new with virtue all replete,
Which what it finds
there active doth attract
its substance, and becomes one soul,
Which lives, and feels, and on itself revolves.
And that thou less
may wonder at my word,
the sun's heat, which becometh wine,
Joined to the juice that from the vine distils.
has no more thread,
separates from the flesh, and virtually
Bears with itself the human and divine;
The other faculties
are voiceless all;
memory, the intelligence, and the will
In action far more vigorous than before.
Without a pause it
falleth of itself
marvellous way on one shore or the other;
There of its roads it first is cognizant.
Soon as the place
there circumscribeth it,
virtue informative rays round about,
As, and as much as, in the living members.
And even as the
air, when full of rain,
alien rays that are therein reflected,
With divers colours shows itself adorned,
So there the
neighbouring air doth shape itself
that form which doth impress upon it
Virtually the soul that has stood still.
And then in manner
of the little flame,
followeth the fire where'er it shifts,
After the spirit followeth its new form.
Since afterwards it
takes from this its semblance,
is called shade; and thence it organizes
Thereafter every sense, even to the sight.
Thence is it that
we speak, and thence we laugh;
is it that we form the tears and sighs,
That on the mountain thou mayhap hast heard.
impress us our desires
other affections, so the shade is shaped,
And this is cause of what thou wonderest at."
And now unto the
last of all the circles
we arrived, and to the right hand turned,
And were attentive to another care.
embankment shoots forth flames of fire,
upward doth the cornice breathe a blast
That drives them back, and from itself sequesters.
Hence we must needs
go on the open side,
one by one; and I did fear the fire
On this side, and on that the falling down.
My Leader said:
"Along this place one ought
keep upon the eyes a tightened rein,
Seeing that one so easily might err."
clementiae," in the bosom
the great burning chanted then I heard,
Which made me no less eager to turn round;
And spirits saw I
walking through the flame;
I looked, to my own steps and theirs
Apportioning my sight from time to time.
After the close
which to that hymn is made,
they shouted, "Virum non cognosco;"
Then recommenced the hymn with voices low.
This also ended,
cried they: "To the wood
ran, and drove forth Helice
Therefrom, who had of Venus felt the poison."
Then to their song
returned they; then the wives
shouted, and the husbands who were chaste.
As virtue and the marriage vow imposes.
And I believe that
them this mode suffices,
all the time the fire is burning them;
With such care is it needful, and such food,
That the last wound
of all should be closed up.