Purgatorio -- Canto XXVII

The Dream of Leah

 

Notes.

1 It is six o’clock in the morning at Jerusalem, midnight in Spain where the Ebro River flows, noon in India where the Ganges is found, and six in the evening on the Mount of Purgatory.

8 The beatitude is Beati mundo corde! (Matthew 5:8).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

23 Geryon is the monster who carried Dante and Virgil from the seventh to the eighth circle in hell. See Inferno XVII.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

37 Pyramus and Thisbe, lovers in Babylon, planned to meet at the tomb of Ninus. Thisbe, arriving first, ran off in fright of a lion and dropped her veil which the beast bloodied. Pyramus, thinking her dead, stabbed himself, and a mulberry bush nearby turned red (Metamorphoses IV, 55-166).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

58 The words of Jesus quoted here in Latin, Venite, benedicti Patris mei, shall be spoken on the last day according to Matthew 25:34.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

95 Cytherea is Venus who rose from the sea near the island of Cythera. She, the morning star, beams in the east while Dante begins dreaming his third vision.

 

100 Leah, Jacob’s first wife, was fertile: Rachel, his second, sterile, but the first was weak-eyed and the second clear-sighted (Genesis 30:10-35). The two were regarded as figures of the active and contemplative life, respectively.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

126-142 These are the last words spoken by Virgil, who will accompany Dante for a while longer. In Canto XXX, 46-51, Dante realizes that Virgil is no longer next to him.

          Just as when the sun shoots its first rays
          On the land where its Maker shed his blood,
          While Ebro flows beneath the scales of Libra,
 
          And Ganges’ waves are scorched by noonday heat,
5        So here the sun stood, for the day was fading
          As God’s enraptured angel appeared to us.
 
          He stood upon the bank, outside the flames,
          And sang aloud, "Blessed are the clean of heart!"
          In a voice far more alive than ours.
 
10       Then, "You may go no further, holy souls,
          Unless the fire sting you: enter it,
          And don’t be deaf to what is sung beyond,"
 
          He said to us when we drew near to him;
          And when I heard him speak so, I became
15       Like someone buried in the pit, alive.
 
          I now arched forward over my clasped hands.
          Staring at the fire, I clearly pictured
          Human bodies I had once seen burned.
 
          My kindly escorts turned in my direction,
20       And Virgil said to me, "My son, there may
          Be suffering here, but there can be no death.
 
          "Remember now, remember! And if I
          On Geryon have guided you to safety,
          What shall I do now we are nearer God?
 
25       "Rest assured that should you have to stay
          A thousand years within this womb of flame,
          It could not singe a single hair from you!
 
          "And if perhaps you think that I deceive you,
          Draw near the flame and test it for yourself,
30       With your own hands, against your garment’s hem.
 
          "Put off now, put off all of your fears!
          Turn this way, come, and confidently enter!"
          But, conscience-stricken, I stood motionless.
 
          When he saw me stand so stubborn and stock-still,
35       Slightly upset he said, "Now, son, look here:
          This is the wall between yourself and Beatrice."
 
          As, at the name of Thisbe, Pyramus,
          Near death, opened his eyes and looked at her
          (That moment when the mulberry turned red),
 
40       So, my stubbornness softening at last,
          I turned to my wise master when I heard
          The name that always blossoms in my mind.
 
          At that he shook his head and said, "What’s this?
          You’d have us stay on this side?" Then he smiled,
45       As one does at a child won by an apple.
 
          Then he stepped in the flames ahead of me,
          Requesting Statius, who a long way now
          Had walked between us, to approach behind.
 
          Once in the fire, I would have flung myself
50       Into molten glass to feel cooled off,
          The burning heat inside was so intense.
 
          My tender father, trying to comfort me,
          Kept talking about Beatrice as we walked,
          Saying, "I seem to see her eyes already!"
 
55       A singing voice, beyond, was guiding us;
          And we, while listening all the time to it,
          Came outside at the point which starts to climb.
 
          "Come, you who are blessed of my Father,"
          Resounded from within a light, so bright
60       It overcame me, and I could not look.
 
          "The sun sinks," the voice added; "evening comes;
          Do not stop now, but hurry up your steps
          Before the western sky grows dark again."
 
          The pathway leaped straight up, on through the rock,
65       In such direction that my body blocked
          The rays of sun — already low — before me.
 
          And we had scaled just a few steps when I
          And my two sages sensed, because my shadow
          Vanished, that the sun had set behind us.
 
70       Before the wide horizon turned one color
          Through all the boundless reaches of the sky
          And night possessed the whole of its dominion,
 
          Each of us made his bed upon a stair:
          The nature of the mountain took from us
75       If not the pleasure then the power to climb.
 
          As goats, that have been swift of foot and frisky
          Up on the peaks before they’re put to graze,
          Grow reposeful while they are ruminating,
 
          Hushed in the shade, although the sun is hot,
80       Watched by the shepherd who leans on his staff,
          Tending to their rest with his alertness;
 
          And as the herdsman, who lies in the open,
          Passes the night beside his quiet flock,
          On guard that no wild beast should scatter them,
 
85       So were all three of us on that occasion,
          I as the goat and those two as the herdsmen,
          Hemmed by high rocks on this side and on that.
 
          One could see little of the outside there,
          But in that little I observed the stars
90       Brighter and larger than they usually are.
 
          While ruminating, and admiring them,
          Sleep overcame me, sleep which often knows
          What is the news before events occur.
 
          Within the hour, I think, when from the east
95       Cytherea, who always seems ablaze
          With fires of love, first shone upon the mountain,
 
          A young and pretty woman came to me
          Within a dream as she walked through a meadow,
          Gathering flowers and singing while she said,
 
100     "Whoever asks my name, let him know that
          I am Leah, and I ply my lovely hands
          In circles to make garlands for myself.
 
          "For a glimpse of pleasure at the mirror, I
          Adorn myself here, but my sister Rachel
105     Never leaves her mirror, and sits all day.
 
          "Her yearning is to see her shining eyes,
          As mine is with my hands to adorn myself:
          She is content to look and I to labor."
 
          And now, with the soft splendor of the dawn
110     Whose rising is more welcome to the pilgrims
          As, in returning, they lodge nearer home,
 
          The shadows of the night fled from all sides,
          And my sleep with them. And at that I rose,
          Finding my great teachers up already.
 
115     "That spotless fruit which the concerns of mortals
          Go searching for on many branches shall,
          This day, give peace to all your hungerings."
 
          These were the words that Virgil spoke to me,
          And never could there be a gift received
120     Equal to the pleasure that they gave.
 
          So strong a will on will came over me
          To be up there that, from then on, at each step
          I felt my wings outstretching for the flight.
 
          When all the stairway under us had sped
125     And we had reached the highest step of all,
          Virgil fixed his eyes on me and said,
 
          "My son, now you have seen the temporal and
          The eternal fire, and you have reached the place
          Where on my own I can discern no further:
 
130     "I’ve brought you here with intelligence and art.
          Let your own pleasure guide you from now on:
          You’re through the steep and through the narrow ways.
 
          "See there the sun that shines upon your brow;
          See the young grass, the flowers, and the shrubs,
135     Which here the earth all by itself produces.
 
          "Until those beautiful, rejoicing eyes
          Come, which in tears moved me to come to you,
          You can sit down or walk among the flowers.
 
          "Await no more a word or sign from me.
140     Your will is straightened, free, and whole — and not
          To act upon its promptings would be wrong:
 
          "I crown and miter you lord of your self."
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