The Divine Comedy: Purgatory, by Dante Alighieri

CANTO XXIX

Singing, as if enamour’d, she resum’d

And clos’d the song, with “Blessed they whose sins

Are cover’d.” Like the wood-nymphs then, that tripp’d

Singly across the sylvan shadows, one

Eager to view and one to ’scape the sun,

So mov’d she on, against the current, up

The verdant rivage. I, her mincing step

Observing, with as tardy step pursued.

Between us not an hundred paces trod,

The bank, on each side bending equally,

Gave me to face the orient. Nor our way

Far onward brought us, when to me at once

She turn’d, and cried: “My brother! look and hearken.”

And lo! a sudden lustre ran across

Through the great forest on all parts, so bright

I doubted whether lightning were abroad;

But that expiring ever in the spleen,

That doth unfold it, and this during still

And waxing still in splendor, made me question

What it might be: and a sweet melody

Ran through the luminous air. Then did I chide

With warrantable zeal the hardihood

Of our first parent, for that there were earth

Stood in obedience to the heav’ns, she only,

Woman, the creature of an hour, endur’d not

Restraint of any veil: which had she borne

Devoutly, joys, ineffable as these,

Had from the first, and long time since, been mine.

While through that wilderness of primy sweets

That never fade, suspense I walk’d, and yet

Expectant of beatitude more high,

Before us, like a blazing fire, the air

Under the green boughs glow’d; and, for a song,

Distinct the sound of melody was heard.

O ye thrice holy virgins! for your sakes

If e’er I suffer’d hunger, cold and watching,

Occasion calls on me to crave your bounty.

Now through my breast let Helicon his stream

Pour copious; and Urania with her choir

Arise to aid me: while the verse unfolds

Things that do almost mock the grasp of thought.

Onward a space, what seem’d seven trees of gold,

The intervening distance to mine eye

Falsely presented; but when I was come

So near them, that no lineament was lost

Of those, with which a doubtful object, seen

Remotely, plays on the misdeeming sense,

Then did the faculty, that ministers

Discourse to reason, these for tapers of gold

Distinguish, and it th’ singing trace the sound

“Hosanna.” Above, their beauteous garniture

Flam’d with more ample lustre, than the moon

Through cloudless sky at midnight in her full.

I turn’d me full of wonder to my guide;

And he did answer with a countenance

Charg’d with no less amazement: whence my view

Reverted to those lofty things, which came

So slowly moving towards us, that the bride

Would have outstript them on her bridal day.

The lady called aloud: “Why thus yet burns

Affection in thee for these living, lights,

And dost not look on that which follows them?”

I straightway mark’d a tribe behind them walk,

As if attendant on their leaders, cloth’d

With raiment of such whiteness, as on earth

Was never. On my left, the wat’ry gleam

Borrow’d, and gave me back, when there I look’d.

As in a mirror, my left side portray’d.

When I had chosen on the river’s edge

Such station, that the distance of the stream

Alone did separate me; there I stay’d

My steps for clearer prospect, and beheld

The flames go onward, leaving, as they went,

The air behind them painted as with trail

Of liveliest pencils! so distinct were mark’d

All those sev’n listed colours, whence the sun

Maketh his bow, and Cynthia her zone.

These streaming gonfalons did flow beyond

My vision; and ten paces, as I guess,

Parted the outermost. Beneath a sky

So beautiful, came foul and-twenty elders,

By two and two, with flower-de-luces crown’d.

All sang one song: “Blessed be thou among

The daughters of Adam! and thy loveliness

Blessed for ever!” After that the flowers,

And the fresh herblets, on the opposite brink,

Were free from that elected race; as light

In heav’n doth second light, came after them

Four animals, each crown’d with verdurous leaf.

With six wings each was plum’d, the plumage full

Of eyes, and th’ eyes of Argus would be such,

Were they endued with life. Reader, more rhymes

Will not waste in shadowing forth their form:

For other need no straitens, that in this

I may not give my bounty room. But read

Ezekiel; for he paints them, from the north

How he beheld them come by Chebar’s flood,

In whirlwind, cloud and fire; and even such

As thou shalt find them character’d by him,

Here were they; save as to the pennons; there,

From him departing, John accords with me.

The space, surrounded by the four, enclos’d

A car triumphal: on two wheels it came

Drawn at a Gryphon’s neck; and he above

Stretch’d either wing uplifted, ’tween the midst

And the three listed hues, on each side three;

So that the wings did cleave or injure none;

And out of sight they rose. The members, far

As he was bird, were golden; white the rest

With vermeil intervein’d. So beautiful

A car in Rome ne’er grac’d Augustus pomp,

Or Africanus’: e’en the sun’s itself

Were poor to this, that chariot of the sun

Erroneous, which in blazing ruin fell

At Tellus’ pray’r devout, by the just doom

Mysterious of all-seeing Jove. Three nymphs

,k the right wheel, came circling in smooth dance;

The one so ruddy, that her form had scarce

Been known within a furnace of clear flame:

The next did look, as if the flesh and bones

Were emerald: snow new-fallen seem’d the third.

Now seem’d the white to lead, the ruddy now;

And from her song who led, the others took

Their treasure, swift or slow. At th’ other wheel,

A band quaternion, each in purple clad,

Advanc’d with festal step, as of them one

The rest conducted, one, upon whose front

Three eyes were seen. In rear of all this group,

Two old men I beheld, dissimilar

In raiment, but in port and gesture like,

Solid and mainly grave; of whom the one

Did show himself some favour’d counsellor

Of the great Coan, him, whom nature made

To serve the costliest creature of her tribe.

His fellow mark’d an opposite intent,

Bearing a sword, whose glitterance and keen edge,

E’en as I view’d it with the flood between,

Appall’d me. Next four others I beheld,

Of humble seeming: and, behind them all,

One single old man, sleeping, as he came,

With a shrewd visage. And these seven, each

Like the first troop were habited, hut wore

No braid of lilies on their temples wreath’d.

Rather with roses and each vermeil flower,

A sight, but little distant, might have sworn,

That they were all on fire above their brow.

Whenas the car was o’er against me, straight.

Was heard a thund’ring, at whose voice it seem’d

The chosen multitude were stay’d; for there,

With the first ensigns, made they solemn halt.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/d/dante/d19pu/canto29.html

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