Purgatorio: Canto XXIX
Singing like unto
an enamoured lady
with the ending of her words, continued:
"Beati quorum tecta sunt peccata."
And even as Nymphs,
that wandered all alone
the sylvan shadows, sedulous
One to avoid and one to see the sun,
She then against
the stream moved onward, going
the bank, and I abreast of her,
Her little steps with little steps attending.
Between her steps
and mine were not a hundred,
equally the margins gave a turn,
In such a way, that to the East I faced.
Nor even thus our
way continued far
the lady wholly turned herself
Unto me, saying, "Brother, look and listen!"
And lo! a sudden
lustre ran across
every side athwart the spacious forest,
Such that it made me doubt if it were lightning.
But since the
lightning ceases as it comes,
that continuing brightened more and more,
Within my thought I said, "What thing is this?"
And a delicious
melody there ran
the luminous air, whence holy zeal
Made me rebuke the hardihood of Eve;
For there where
earth and heaven obedient were,
woman only, and but just created,
Could not endure to stay 'neath any veil;
had she devoutly stayed,
sooner should have tasted those delights
Ineffable, and for a longer time.
While 'mid such
manifold first-fruits I walked
the eternal pleasure all enrapt,
And still solicitous of more delights,
In front of us like
an enkindled fire
the air beneath the verdant boughs,
And the sweet sound as singing now was heard.
sacrosanct! if ever hunger,
or cold for you I have endured,
The occasion spurs me their reward to claim!
Now Helicon must
needs pour forth for me,
with her choir Urania must assist me,
To put in verse things difficult to think.
A little farther
on, seven trees of gold
semblance the long space still intervening
Between ourselves and them did counterfeit;
But when I had
approached so near to them
common object, which the sense deceives,
Lost not by distance any of its marks,
The faculty that
lends discourse to reason
apprehend that they were candlesticks,
And in the voices of the song "Hosanna!"
Above them flamed
the harness beautiful,
brighter than the moon in the serene
Of midnight, at the middle of her month.
I turned me round,
with admiration filled,
good Virgilius, and he answered me
With visage no less full of wonderment.
Then back I turned
my face to those high things,
moved themselves towards us so sedately,
They had been distanced by new-wedded brides.
The lady chid me:
"Why dost thou burn only
with affection for the living lights,
And dost not look at what comes after them?"
Then saw I people,
as behind their leaders,
behind them, garmented in white,
And such a whiteness never was on earth.
The water on my
left flank was resplendent,
back to me reflected my left side,
E'en as a mirror, if I looked therein.
When I upon my
margin had such post
nothing but the stream divided us,
Better to see I gave my steps repose;
And I beheld the
flamelets onward go,
behind themselves the air depicted,
And they of trailing pennons had the semblance,
So that it overhead
sevenfold lists, all of them of the colours
Whence the sun's bow is made, and Delia's girdle.
These standards to
the rearward longer were
was my sight; and, as it seemed to me,
Ten paces were the outermost apart.
Under so fair a
heaven as I describe
four and twenty Elders, two by two,
Came on incoronate with flower-de-luce.
They all of them
were singing: "Blessed thou
the daughters of Adam art, and blessed
For evermore shall be thy loveliness."
After the flowers
and other tender grasses
front of me upon the other margin
Were disencumbered of that race elect,
Even as in heaven
star followeth after star,
came close after them four animals,
Incoronate each one with verdant leaf.
Plumed with six
wings was every one of them,
plumage full of eyes; the eyes of Argus
If they were living would be such as these.
Reader! to trace
their forms no more I waste
rhymes; for other spendings press me so,
That I in this cannot be prodigal.
But read Ezekiel,
who depicteth them
he beheld them from the region cold
Coming with cloud, with whirlwind, and with fire;
And such as thou
shalt find them in his pages,
were they here; saving that in their plumage
John is with me, and differeth from him.
between these four contained
chariot triumphal on two wheels,
Which by a Griffin's neck came drawn along;
And upward he
extended both his wings
the middle list and three and three,
So that he injured none by cleaving it.
So high they rose
that they were lost to sight;
limbs were gold, so far as he was bird,
And white the others with vermilion mingled.
Not only Rome with
no such splendid car
gladdened Africanus, or Augustus,
But poor to it that of the Sun would be,--
That of the Sun,
which swerving was burnt up
the importunate orison of Earth,
When Jove was so mysteriously just.
Three maidens at
the right wheel in a circle
onward dancing; one so very red
That in the fire she hardly had been noted.
The second was as
if her flesh and bones
all been fashioned out of emerald;
The third appeared as snow but newly fallen.
And now they seemed
conducted by the white,
by the red, and from the song of her
The others took their step, or slow or swift.
Upon the left hand
four made holiday
in purple, following the measure
Of one of them with three eyes m her head.
In rear of all the
group here treated of
old men I beheld, unlike in habit,
But like in gait, each dignified and grave.
One showed himself
as one of the disciples
that supreme Hippocrates, whom nature
Made for the animals she holds most dear;
Contrary care the
sword so shining and so sharp, it caused
Terror to me on this side of the river.
Thereafter four I
saw of humble aspect,
behind all an aged man alone
Walking in sleep with countenance acute.
And like the
foremost company these seven
habited; yet of the flower-de-luce
No garland round about the head they wore,
But of the rose,
and other flowers vermilion;
little distance would the sight have sworn
That all were in a flame above their brows.
And when the car
was opposite to me
was heard; and all that folk august
Seemed to have further progress interdicted,
There with the
vanward ensigns standing still.