Purgatorio: Canto XXVIII
Eager already to
search in and round
heavenly forest, dense and living-green,
Which tempered to the eyes the new-born day,
delay I left the bank,
the level country slowly, slowly
Over the soil that everywhere breathes fragrance.
air, that no mutation
in itself, upon the forehead smote me
No heavier blow than of a gentle wind,
branches, lightly tremulous,
all of them bow downward toward that side
Where its first shadow casts the Holy Mountain;
Yet not from their
upright direction swayed,
that the little birds upon their tops
Should leave the practice of each art of theirs;
But with full
ravishment the hours of prime,
received they in the midst of leaves,
That ever bore a burden to their rhymes,
Such as from branch
to branch goes gathering on
the pine forest on the shore of Chiassi,
When Eolus unlooses the Sirocco.
Already my slow
steps had carried me
the ancient wood so far, that I
Could not perceive where I had entered it.
And lo! my further
course a stream cut off,
tow'rd the left hand with its little waves
Bent down the grass that on its margin sprang.
All waters that on
earth most limpid are
seem to have within themselves some mixture
Compared with that which nothing doth conceal,
Although it moves
on with a brown, brown current
the shade perpetual, that never
Ray of the sun lets in, nor of the moon.
With feet I stayed,
and with mine eyes I passed
the rivulet, to look upon
The great variety of the fresh may.
And there appeared
to me (even as appears
something that doth turn aside
Through very wonder every other thought)
A lady all alone,
who went along
and culling floweret after floweret,
With which her pathway was all painted over.
lady, who in rays of love
warm thyself, if I may trust to looks,
Which the heart's witnesses are wont to be,
May the desire come
unto thee to draw
to this river's bank," I said to her,
"So much that I might hear what thou art singing.
Thou makest me
remember where and what
that moment was when lost
Her mother her, and she herself the Spring."
As turns herself,
with feet together pressed
to the ground, a lady who is dancing,
And hardly puts one foot before the other,
On the vermilion
and the yellow flowerets
turned towards me, not in other wise
Than maiden who her modest eyes casts down;
And my entreaties
made to be content,
near approaching, that the dulcet sound
Came unto me together with its meaning
As soon as she was
where the grasses are.
by the waters of the beauteous river,
To lift her eyes she granted me the boon.
I do not think
there shone so great a light
the lids of Venus, when transfixed
By her own son, beyond his usual custom!
Erect upon the
other bank she smiled,
full many colours in her hands,
Which that high land produces without seed.
Apart three paces
did the river make us;
Hellespont, where Xerxes passed across,
(A curb still to all human arrogance,)
More hatred from
Leander did not suffer
rolling between Sestos and Abydos,
Than that from me, because it oped not then.
"Ye are new-comers;
and because I smile,"
she, "peradventure, in this place
Elect to human nature for its nest,
keeps you marvelling;
the psalm 'Delectasti' giveth light
Which has the power to uncloud your intellect.
And thou who
foremost art, and didst entreat me,
if thou wouldst hear more; for I came ready
To all thy questionings, as far as needful."
"The water," said
I, "and the forest's sound,
combating within me my new faith
In something which I heard opposed to this."
Whence she: "I will
relate how from its cause
that which maketh thee to wonder,
And purge away the cloud that smites upon thee.
The Good Supreme,
sole in itself delighting,
man good, and this goodly place
Gave him as hansel of eternal peace.
By his default
short while he sojourned here;
his default to weeping and to toil
He changed his innocent laughter and sweet play.
disturbance which below is made
exhalations of the land and water,
(Which far as may be follow after heat,)
Might not upon
mankind wage any war,
mount ascended tow'rds the heaven so high,
And is exempt, from there where it is locked.
Now since the
in a circuit with the primal motion
Unless the circle is broken on some side,
Upon this height,
that all is disengaged
living ether, doth this motion strike
And make the forest sound, for it is dense;
And so much power
the stricken plant possesses
with its virtue it impregns the air,
And this, revolving, scatters it around;
And yonder earth,
according as 'tis worthy
self or in its clime, conceives and bears
Of divers qualities the divers trees;
It should not seem
a marvel then on earth,
being heard, whenever any plant
Without seed manifest there taketh root.
And thou must know,
this holy table-land
which thou art is full of every seed,
And fruit has in it never gathered there.
The water which
thou seest springs not from vein
by vapour that the cold condenses,
Like to a stream that gains or loses breath;
But issues from a
fountain safe and certain,
by the will of God as much regains
As it discharges, open on two sides.
Upon this side with
virtue it descends,
takes away all memory of sin;
On that, of every good deed done restores it.
Here Lethe, as upon
the other side
it is called; and worketh not
If first on either side it be not tasted.
This every other
savour doth transcend;
notwithstanding slaked so far may be
Thy thirst, that I reveal to thee no more,
I'll give thee a
corollary still in grace,
think my speech will be to thee less dear
If it spread out beyond my promise to thee.
Those who in
ancient times have feigned in song
Age of Gold and its felicity,
Dreamed of this place perhaps upon Parnassus.
Here was the human
race in innocence;
evermore was Spring, and every fruit;
This is the nectar of which each one speaks."
Then backward did I
turn me wholly round
my Poets, and saw that with a smile
They had been listening to these closing words;
Then to the
beautiful lady turned mine eyes.