Purgatorio -- Canto XXX

Beatrice

 

Notes.

1 The original text says, Septentrion, or seven stars of the Little Dipper. They are here the seven flaming candlesticks.

 

 

 

 

11 One of the twenty-four prophets sings in Latin a line from the Song of Songs, Veni, sponsa, de Libano (4:8).

 

 

 

19 The spirits echo the crowd’s cry at Jesus’ Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:9).

21 The souls now honor Virgil (about to depart) by reciting the words of Anchises’ tribute to Marcellus in the Aeneid (VI, 883).

 

 

 

 

31-33 Beatrice appears to Dante in an apotheosis of symbolic colors, green (crown of olive), white, and red. These colors symbolize the three theological virtues, Faith, Hope, and Charity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

83 The angels sing in Latin part of Psalm 30(31), In te, Domine, speravo.

85 Dante recalls snow in the Apennines among the rafters of the pines.

 

89 In Equatorial Africa, the sun, directly overhead, allows little shade.

          When the Seven Stars of the first heaven —
          Which neither set nor rise, nor ever know
          Any cloud except what sin has veiled,
 
          And which make each one there perceive his duty,
5        Just as the Seven Stars down here direct
          The mariner to turn his helm toward port —
 
          Stopped short, the truthful people who at first
          Had come between the griffin and its lights
          Turned to the chariot as to their peace,
 
10       And one of them, as though sent down from heaven,
          In song cried, "Come, my spouse, from Lebanon,"
          Three times, and all the rest sang after him.
 
          Just as the blessed at the last trumpet blast
          Will rise up ready, each one from his tomb,
15       Singing with new-donned voices Alleluia,
 
          So, on the heavenly chariot, rose up,
          At the voice of such an elder, one hundred
          Servants and heralds of eternal life.
 
          They all called out, "Blessed is he who comes!"
20       And, tossing flowers up and all around,
          They cried, "Oh, offer lilies with full hands!"
 
          I have seen sometimes at the break of day
          The eastern sky rose-tinged, while the rest
          Of heaven is adorned with bright clear blue,
 
25       And the face of the sun rise misted-over
          By so soft-tempering a veil of vapors
          The eye could keep on staring a long time:
 
          So, in a cloud of flowers which flew up
          From the angelic hands and fell again
30       Inside and all around the chariot,
 
          A crown of olive over her white veil,
          A woman appeared to me; beneath her green
          Mantle she wore a robe of flaming red.
 
          And my soul, which for a long time now
35       Had not felt overcome as when I’d stood
          Trembling with trepidation in her presence,
 
          Without apprehending further through my eyes
          But by the hidden power she projected,
          Felt the tremendous force of the old love.
 
40       The moment that uplifting power struck
          My sight, as it had pierced me through already
          Before I’d left my boyhood years behind,
 
          I turned round to the left with the blind trust
          Of a small child who races toward his mother
45       When panic hits him or he comes to grief,
 
          To say to Virgil, "There is not a drop
          Of blood left in me that is not trembling:
          I recognize the signs of the old flame."
 
          But Virgil — he had left us there bereft
50       Of himself — Virgil, sweetest father — Virgil
          To whom I gave myself for my salvation!
 
          Not even all our ancient mother lost
          Could keep my cheeks, already washed with dew,
          From turning dark once more with troubled tears.
 
55       "Dante, because Virgil leaves you now,
          Do not weep yet, do not weep yet, for you
          Must weep for yet another pointed sword!"
 
          Like an admiral who goes to stern and prow
          To see the crews that serve on other ships
60       And to encourage them to do good work,
 
          So on the left side of the chariot —
          When I turned at the utterance of my name
          Which I record here through necessity —
 
          I saw the lady who first appeared to me
65       Veiled by the angels’ flower-festival
          Fix her eyes straight on me across the stream.
 
          Although the veil that flowed down from her head
          Which was encircled by Minerva’s leaves
          Did not permit her to be seen distinctly,
 
70       Still regally unyielding in her look,
          She went on like one who speaks and keeps
          Back the most heated words until the end:
 
          "Look at me! I am Beatrice, I am!
          How ever did you deign to climb the mountain?
75       Did you not know that people here are happy?"
 
          I lowered my eyes to glance at the clear current,
          But seeing myself in it I looked back
          At the grass, such shame weighed on my brow.
 
          Just as a mother seems stern to her child,
80       So she appeared to me, because the taste
          Of caustic pity has a bitter sharpness.
 
          She then kept silent, and the angels sang
          Straightway, "In you, O Lord, I place my trust,"
          But they did not pass beyond "set my feet."
 
85       Even as the snow among the quickening rafters
          Upon the spine of Italy is frozen,
          Blown and packed down by the northeasterly winds,
 
          Then, as it melts off, trickles through itself,
          If winds but breathe from lands that have no shade,
90       Much as a candle melts beneath the flame —
 
          So was I senseless without tears or sighs
          Before I heard the song of those whose notes
          Are ever in tune with the eternal spheres;
 
          But when I sensed how in their sweet harmonies
95       They took my part, almost as if to say,
          "Lady, why do you shame him in this way?"
 
          The ice that was packed tight around my heart
          Turned into breath and water, and with anguish
          Poured from my breast out of my mouth and eyes.
 
100     She, still standing rooted at the same side
          Left of the chariot, then turned her words
          To the compassionate angels in this fashion:
 
          "You keep close watch on the unending day
          That neither night nor sleep may steal from you
105     One step the world would take along its ways;
 
          "And so my answer is far more concerned
          That he who weeps on that side understand me
          So that his guilt and grief have equal measure.
 
          "Not only through work of the wheeling spheres
110     Which send each seed straight to its destined end
          According to what stars are its companions,
 
          "But through the largess of the heavenly graces
          Which shower down on us from clouds so high
          That sight of ours can never reach that far —
 
115     "This man was so potentially endowed
          In his new life, that every fine ambition
          Would have been wonderfully fulfilled in him.
 
          "But how much more robustly rich the soil,
          All the more rank and wild can it become
120     When sown by bad seed and uncultivated.
 
          "I stayed him with my countenance a while;
          Showing him my youthful eyes, I led him
          Along with me turned in the right direction.
 
          "No sooner had I stepped onto the threshold
125     Of this my second age and changed my life,
          But this man left me and sought after others.
 
          "When I leaped up from flesh and into spirit,
          And beauty and good favor grew in me,
          To him I was less precious and less pleasing,
 
130     "And he turned his footsteps to untrue ways,
          Pursuing false impressions of the good,
          Which never pay back promises in full.
 
          "Nor did it help me to win inspirations,
          By dreams and other means, to call him back,
135     So small was the attention that he gave them!
 
          "He plummeted so low that all the measures
          For his salvation by now fell far short
          Except to show him the people who are lost.
 
          "For this I faced the gateway of the dead
140     To visit him who guided this man up here
          And tearfully to offer him my prayers.
 
          "The laws on high of God would have been broken
          If Lethe should be passed and such a potion
          Tasted without there being paid some jot
 
145     "Of penitence by pouring out fresh tears."
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