DANTE'S SUBLIME COMEDY: PURGATORY: Chapter 32
CHAPTER 32: Of The Church
Her lovely smile was all I wished to see
since ten years I had thirsted for the sight.
I fixed my eyes on her and in delight 3
forgot all else but she. Again the net
of her enchantment was surrounding me
until I heard the Virtues call, “Too fixed!” 6
when this recalled me from my dazzled state.
I found the sacred pageant had swung round.
Candles and prophets now marched to the sun, 9
passing the car just as the Griffin turned
into the new course with an easy force
that stirred no feather of it’s wings. I walked 12
with she who’d ferried me and Statius.
Beside the car we crossed the woodland glades
lost to mankind because the serpent’s tongue 15
had misled Eve. Three arrow flights beyond
our turning point the car stopped at a tree
far loftier than any I had seen. 18
Leafless and blossomless, the branches spread
wider while rising to astounding height.
Murmuring, “Adam’s tree,” our company 21
encircled it as Beatrice left the car.
The rest sang, “O Griffin who never ate
from this forbidden tree, thus saving seed 24
of righteousness from those who find it sweet
until it’s poison makes their bellies squirm.”
The Griffin drew the car to the tree trunk, 27
laid the pole on a branch, and as in Spring
the plants renew themselves, so did the tree.
It’s colour flushed through rose to violet. 30
It put forth buds, unfolded leaves and bloom
as a glad hymn was sung, but not by me
who fell asleep. Artists perhaps may paint 33
how I looked then. I can’t, so pass to when
light entered eyes and someone said, “Arise,”
the word Christ used to wake dead Lazerous. 36
My good guide through the stream was at my side.
I asked, “Where’s Beatrice?” and she replied,
“Sitting beside the car on the tree root, 39
shaded by leaves. Around her like a cloister
the Virtues stand, candle in hand, each one
guarding a flame. The Griffin with prophets, 42
apostles, saints are back in Paradise.”
She may have said much more but Beatrice
was all I noticed now, on the bare ground, 45
her seven hand-maids near. She spoke to me.
“Now for a while become a woodlander
and citizen of Rome as Rome should be 48
when Christ is Roman too. Here and elsewhere
remember all you see. When back on Earth
write of it truthfully, for the world’s good.” 51
I saw Jove’s eagle swoop down through the tree,
beak tearing leaves, the blossoms and smooth bark.
It struck the car, rocking it side to side, 54
to and fro like ship swept by angry tide,
then there leapt in a filthy starving fox.
Rebuked by Beatrice the vile thing fled. 57
The eagle now nested within the car,
feathering each part with golden plumes till
from on high I heard a lamenting cry, 60
“My wee car, how you are now weighed down!”
Then I saw ground between wheels opening
letting a dragon out that drove it’s tail 63
through the car floor. Like wasp removing sting
it left the floor split and wandered away
leaving broken car covered up with plumes 66
thick as knot-grasses spoiling fertile soil.
Those who donated these no doubt meant well,
but the transforming chariot grew heads, 69
three on the shaft and at each corner one.
The three were horned like oxen, other four
had one horn in their brow. Such a monster 72
had not appeared on Earth before, and then
like fortress on a mountain top I saw
a naked whore seated astride the beast 75
and boldly staring all around although
a giant shamelessly stood caressing
and kissing her until he saw that she 78
was trying to catch my eye, whereupon
he beat her violently from head to toe
then dragged away both she and her foul steed
till both were hidden by the leafy wood. 82