DANTE'S SUBLIME COMEDY: PURGATORY: Chapter 26
Chapter 26: The Lustful
While my good master still called out to me,
“Take care! Beware!” We walked in single file
along the precipice’s outer rim. 3
The sinking sun made bright the Western sky
and being at our altitude it cast
my shadow on the flames we travelled past, 6
so yellow flames appeared to burn more red.
As all the shades were journeying our way
the nearest ones attended to that sight. 9
A pair on whom I eavesdropped near me said,
“That man lives in the flesh.” “Yes, I agree.”
At once both of them came closer to me, 12
though keeping carefully within the fire.
Escaping it was not their main desire.
One questioned me, “O you who walk behind 15
the other two, tell me, burning with thirst
in dreadful heat, what others want to know.
How come you here without having to die?” 18
Before I replied a strange thing happened.
In that blazing road a crowd came running
from the way ahead. Kisses were exchanged 21
too fast on either side as they rushed past
to cause delay, like ants upon their tasks
rubbing noses to convey something good. 24
Not stopping all tried to out shout the rest.
“Sodom and Gomorrah!” those leaving yelled
those travelling my way balled, “Pasifae, 27
Cretan queen, in fake cow got fucked by bull!”
As cranes divide, one flight departing north
to Arctic snows, one south to Egypt’s sands, 30
both sides went different ways, singing hymns,
chanting scriptures, lamenting sins in tears
and thus in thirst obtaining holiness. 33
Those who had first approached me came again,
and I, respecting their desire began,
“O souls whose thirst for righteousness will be 36
as Jesus said, fulfilled at last one day,
in paradise a saint has ordered me
to look at what God made for human kind 39
from the world’s centre to the outmost stars.
But say (for I will write it in a book)
who were those folk going the other way? 42
And also, who are you?” The couple gaped
like Highlanders bemused by city streets
but soon resumed civility again. 45
The first shade said, “Your soul is truly blest.
It will learn how to die better than most,
Those you saw run the other way have sinned 48
as Ceasar did, whose soldiers called him ‘queen’.
They shout ‘Sodom’ in self reproach. We too
enjoyed unlawful feasts of lust, My crowd 51
shout the disgraceful name of Pasifae
who lust turned into beast. I do not know
all who are here. Guido Guinicelli 54
is my name. I so sorrowed for my sins
death sent me quickly here. I’ll soon be free.”
In King Lycurgus’ time two orphan boys 57
found that their mother lived. I partly felt
their joy on hearing Guido’s name for he
wrote best the earliest Italian verse, 60
in sweet and graceful songs of love. I gazed
speechlessly til, after my sight was fed,
I offered my respect in humble words 63
he could not doubt, and said, “Thank you but why
with words and looks you value me so high,
I cannot think.” Said I, “Your noble verse 66
in common speech of shop and street enreach
our talk and thought. Thus, sacred is the ink
you wrote them in.” “Brother,” said he, “look there!” 69
He pointed to a shade ahead. “In verse
and prose romance he had more craftsmanship.
Fools deny this, misguided by the cry 72
of other fools who set mere fashion high
above good rules of reason and of art.
Let me be selfish, if you will be kind. 75
When you ascend to Paradise and find
a monastery where the abbot is
Jesus Christ our Lord, there please pray for me. 78
He sank back into flames like fish in sea.