The Divine Comedy: Purgatory, by Dante Alighieri

CANTO XI

O thou Almighty Father, who dost make

The heavens thy dwelling, not in bounds confin’d,

But that with love intenser there thou view’st

Thy primal effluence, hallow’d be thy name:

Join each created being to extol

Thy might, for worthy humblest thanks and praise

Is thy blest Spirit. May thy kingdom’s peace

Come unto us; for we, unless it come,

With all our striving thither tend in vain.

As of their will the angels unto thee

Tender meet sacrifice, circling thy throne

With loud hosannas, so of theirs be done

By saintly men on earth. Grant us this day

Our daily manna, without which he roams

Through this rough desert retrograde, who most

Toils to advance his steps. As we to each

Pardon the evil done us, pardon thou

Benign, and of our merit take no count.

’Gainst the old adversary prove thou not

Our virtue easily subdu’d; but free

From his incitements and defeat his wiles.

This last petition, dearest Lord! is made

Not for ourselves, since that were needless now,

But for their sakes who after us remain.”

Thus for themselves and us good speed imploring,

Those spirits went beneath a weight like that

We sometimes feel in dreams, all, sore beset,

But with unequal anguish, wearied all,

Round the first circuit, purging as they go,

The world’s gross darkness off: In our behalf

If there vows still be offer’d, what can here

For them be vow’d and done by such, whose wills

Have root of goodness in them? Well beseems

That we should help them wash away the stains

They carried hence, that so made pure and light,

They may spring upward to the starry spheres.

“Ah! so may mercy-temper’d justice rid

Your burdens speedily, that ye have power

To stretch your wing, which e’en to your desire

Shall lift you, as ye show us on which hand

Toward the ladder leads the shortest way.

And if there be more passages than one,

Instruct us of that easiest to ascend;

For this man who comes with me, and bears yet

The charge of fleshly raiment Adam left him,

Despite his better will but slowly mounts.”

From whom the answer came unto these words,

Which my guide spake, appear’d not; but ’twas said

“Along the bank to rightward come with us,

And ye shall find a pass that mocks not toil

Of living man to climb: and were it not

That I am hinder’d by the rock, wherewith

This arrogant neck is tam’d, whence needs I stoop

My visage to the ground, him, who yet lives,

Whose name thou speak’st not him I fain would view.

To mark if e’er I knew him? and to crave

His pity for the fardel that I bear.

I was of Latiun, of a Tuscan horn

A mighty one: Aldobranlesco’s name

My sire’s, I know not if ye e’er have heard.

My old blood and forefathers’ gallant deeds

Made me so haughty, that I clean forgot

The common mother, and to such excess,

Wax’d in my scorn of all men, that I fell,

Fell therefore; by what fate Sienna’s sons,

Each child in Campagnatico, can tell.

I am Omberto; not me only pride

Hath injur’d, but my kindred all involv’d

In mischief with her. Here my lot ordains

Under this weight to groan, till I appease

God’s angry justice, since I did it not

Amongst the living, here amongst the dead.”

List’ning I bent my visage down: and one

(Not he who spake) twisted beneath the weight

That urg’d him, saw me, knew me straight, and call’d,

Holding his eyes With difficulty fix’d

Intent upon me, stooping as I went

Companion of their way. “O!” I exclaim’d,

“Art thou not Oderigi, art not thou

Agobbio’s glory, glory of that art

Which they of Paris call the limmer’s skill?”

“Brother!” said he, “with tints that gayer smile,

Bolognian Franco’s pencil lines the leaves.

His all the honour now; mine borrow’d light.

In truth I had not been thus courteous to him,

The whilst I liv’d, through eagerness of zeal

For that pre-eminence my heart was bent on.

Here of such pride the forfeiture is paid.

Nor were I even here; if, able still

To sin, I had not turn’d me unto God.

O powers of man! how vain your glory, nipp’d

E’en in its height of verdure, if an age

Less bright succeed not! Cimabue thought

To lord it over painting’s field; and now

The cry is Giotto’s, and his name eclips’d.

Thus hath one Guido from the other snatch’d

The letter’d prize: and he perhaps is born,

Who shall drive either from their nest. The noise

Of worldly fame is but a blast of wind,

That blows from divers points, and shifts its name

Shifting the point it blows from. Shalt thou more

Live in the mouths of mankind, if thy flesh

Part shrivel’d from thee, than if thou hadst died,

Before the coral and the pap were left,

Or ere some thousand years have passed? and that

Is, to eternity compar’d, a space,

Briefer than is the twinkling of an eye

To the heaven’s slowest orb. He there who treads

So leisurely before me, far and wide

Through Tuscany resounded once; and now

Is in Sienna scarce with whispers nam’d:

There was he sov’reign, when destruction caught

The madd’ning rage of Florence, in that day

Proud as she now is loathsome. Your renown

Is as the herb, whose hue doth come and go,

And his might withers it, by whom it sprang

Crude from the lap of earth.” I thus to him:

“True are thy sayings: to my heart they breathe

The kindly spirit of meekness, and allay

What tumours rankle there. But who is he

Of whom thou spak’st but now?” — “This,” he replied,

“Is Provenzano. He is here, because

He reach’d, with grasp presumptuous, at the sway

Of all Sienna. Thus he still hath gone,

Thus goeth never-resting, since he died.

Such is th’ acquittance render’d back of him,

Who, beyond measure, dar’d on earth.” I then:

“If soul that to the verge of life delays

Repentance, linger in that lower space,

Nor hither mount, unless good prayers befriend,

How chanc’d admittance was vouchsaf’d to him?”

“When at his glory’s topmost height,” said he,

“Respect of dignity all cast aside,

Freely He fix’d him on Sienna’s plain,

A suitor to redeem his suff’ring friend,

Who languish’d in the prison-house of Charles,

Nor for his sake refus’d through every vein

To tremble. More I will not say; and dark,

I know, my words are, but thy neighbours soon

Shall help thee to a comment on the text.

This is the work, that from these limits freed him.”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/d/dante/d19pu/canto11.html

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 15:53