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.