Saturday, April 26, 2014

DANTE'S SUBLIME COMEDY: PURGATORY: Chapter 15


Chapter 15:  To the Wrathful

Each starry and each planetary sphere
            circles the earth, running like child at play
            over and under us from day to day.                                                    3

Although in Italy it was midnight
            here it was here late afternoon when we two
            rounding the hill, walked west toward the sun                                   6

and level with it, so it warmed my face
            pleasantly, till new dazzlement ahead
            soon made me raise my hands to shield my sight,                              9

crying aloud, “What radiance is this?”
            “All heavenly housekeepers bring extra light,”
            said he. “This one beckons to the next stair.                                      12

The sight of such will soon not dazzle you
            but give as much delight as you can bear.”
            We neared that angel and I saw he stood                                            15

where in the cliff a flight of steps began
            broader, less steep than any we had known.
            A glad angelic voice said, “Enter there,”                                             18

while his angelic finger pointed up.
            We bowed our heads, set feet upon the stair
            and climbing heard him very sweetly sing                                          21

the fifth beatitude of Jesus Christ:
            “Blessed are the merciful,” followed by
            “You who have overcome a sin, rejoice.”                                           24

Since we were now ascending side by side
            I thought to profit by my masters speech.
            “You are the voice of reason and my guide,”                                      27

I said to him, “so please will you explain
            what Guido of Romagna meant when he,
            blinded for envy, spoke of partnership?”                                           30

Said Virgil, “He now knows the social cost
            of his worst sin, and so condemns it most.
            When goods are kept instead of being shared                                     33

goods become selfish gain, so fear of loss
            drives owners to care nothing for the pain
            and poverty they cause by seizing more –                                         36

more than they need out of the public store
            of goodness God has given everyone,
            our common earth. The more that folk say our                                  39

instead of mine, the more their charity.”
            I said, “Forgive me, but I cannot see
            why something many share would not much more                            42

enrich a few.” Said he, “Your worldly greed
            for property blinds you, making darkness
            of Heaven’s light. God’s goodness, infinite,                                       45

unspeakable, enlarges love we share
            as sunlight glorifies colours it shows
            in bright bodies. Heaven’s love adds to love,                                     48

receives it back as mirrors reflect light.
            If these words do not satisfy your need
           for knowledge of Heavenly justice, wait                                             51

til you meet Beatrice, who will wholly
            satisfy that need of yours, others too.
            Two wounds upon your brow now are erased.                                  54

Strive to erase five more, though healing them
            will hurt more.” “Your words have satisfied me,”
            I was about to say, when suddenly                                                    57

we reached the topmost stair and I was
           silenced by my eyes. They were surprised
           by a vision of a congregation,                                                              60

in a great temple. A woman there wore
          a sweet maternal look and meekly asked,
          “Son, why treat us so? father and I feared                                            63

you were lost before we found you here.”
          She said no more, vanished, was replaced by
          a woman with a fretful tear-wet face                                                    66

crying loudly in resentment, “Husband!
         Pisistratus! Athen’s almighty lord!
         are you content that a youth in public                                                    69

kisses out daughter without punishment?”
         I thought I saw smiling Pisistratus
         and heard his calm reply: “If I punish                                                    72 

those who love me and mine, how will I treat
            others who offer hate?” Then I beheld
            a frantic mob all yelling,” Kill! Kill! Kill!”                                          75

while stoning a youth sinking to the ground
           praying in his death agonies that God
           pardon his enemies. Realities                                                               78

claimed my mind again. I found my master
           held my arm as he remarked, “As if drunk,
           with shut eyes you have walked for half a league.”                             81

Said I, “But I saw visions! let me explain…”
          “No need, for if you wore a hundred masks
           I would still know your thoughts,” said he.                                         84

“Those visions should have taught you to accept
           waters of peace from God’s eternal source.
           I spoke of how you walked upon this road                                          87

only to wake you up, put conscious force
          into what had been blindly stumbling feet.
          A dreaming pilgrim sometimes needs a prod.”                                     90

We walked on through the evening, gazing ahead,
         when there sped to us from the setting sun
         an airborne shred of what seemed smoke or fog                                    93

followed by larger darker shreds, and then
         dense black cloud overtook them and us too.
         There was no escape. Spreading everywhere                                        96

it robbed us both of sight and the pure air.


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