Monday, June 09, 2014
CHAPTER 28: Eden
The pleasure of exploring such a wood
by easy strolling over fragrant turf
did my heart good. The green boughs overhead 3
filtered the sunlight into golden gleams.
The sweet air fanned my brows and shook the leaves
around wee tuneful birds whose vocal art 6
cheered us by blending with an undertone
of branches softly murmuring like pines
beside Ravenna when Sirocco blows. 9
We strayed so far among these ancient glades
that where we entered them was lost to sight.
Then, just ahead, a stream three paces wide 12
ran past from left to right, grass on each side
wet by small waves. I never saw water
darker and yet so clear. Earth’s purest wells 15
are cloudier, though density of shade
prevented sunshine entering, and made
the richly coloured petals of the blooms 18
on the far bank much more astonishing.
A lady plucking them was singing there.
“Lady,” I called, “if kindliness belongs 21
to so majestically fair a face,
come nearer please, to let me hear your songs.
You gather blossoms like Persephone, 24
dear daughter of the Goddess, Mother Earth,
before the King of Hell abducted her,
thus robbing us of Spring for half the year.” 27
She turned and danced toward me and her feet
did not depress the crimson and yellow
petals she trod. Erect, at the streams edge, 30
still holding this high garden’s flowering sprays,
she raised her modest head and smiled at me
with lovely eyes bright as two morning stars. 33
The strait dividing Asia from Greece
bound both the scope of human pride and love,
from Persia’s great king who lost his fleet, 36
to amorous Leander, who it drowned.
They loathed the Hellespont. I hated more
that little stream which would not part for me. 39
“This place, though new to you,” the lady said,
“should not feel strange, for it was made by God
exactly to delight the human race. 42
The first man and woman thought it paradise.
Yet wonder (which I notice on your face)
is natural, for God’s creation is 45
almost too wonderful to understand.
Ask what you wish to know. I will reply.”
“Lower down this hill of stairs,” said I, 48
“someone said running streams and moving airs
could not happen here.” “They can’t elsewhere,”
said she. “This summit is exceptional.” 51
God who delights in generosity
made Adam good, giving him Eve for wife,
this lovely, perfect garden for their home 54
raised far above the stormy seas and lands
of Earth and Hell where Satan is interred.
Here they enjoyed both peaceful ease and mirth, 57
where all good kinds of tree, herb, fruit, flower
flourish abundantly. By sin they lost
this best and first human nest, exchanged it 60
for grief, pain, toil in nations you know well.
From these their children graduate to Hell
or rise to Paradise by climbing here. 63
Clouds are sucked upward by the sun, and so
the triple steps of penitence are raised
so high that nothing misty reaches them, 66
so no one being purified by pain
is hurt by harsher natures than their own.
Air stirring tree tops gently at this height 69
circles the globe, as the First Mover wills
who turns bodies of Celestial light –
moon, sun, planets, starry constellations. 72
Thus, seeds from here are carried by the air
world-wide to all the nations, taking root
in soil that suits them best. No rain falls here 75
so far above the clouds. A fountain fed
by God’s will flows out in two steady streams.
This we call Lethe, the other Eunoë. 78
Who drink this lose all memory of sin;
the next renews all memory of good.
Drunk later, it has sweetest taste of all. 81
Soon these will quench your thirst, but first of all
you may welcome news I’d like to add.
Ancient poets spoke of a Golden Age 84
when all was good and nothing went amiss.
Here is the former home of which they dreamed.
Nectar they sang about was in these streams.” 87
My fellow poets smiled, nodded at this.
DANTE'S SUBLIME COMEDY: PURGATORY: Chapter 27
Chapter 27 : Chastity
Midnight in Spain; high noon in Asia;
sun nearing dawn at Calvary where Christ
was crucified; here, ready to depart. 3
Upon the cliff edge, close beside the flames,
God’s happy angel welcomed us and sang
in voice more clear than any I had heard, 6
“Blest are the pure in heart! Come, holy souls,
pass through this fire and climb to Paradise!”
His last words struck me with a deathly chill. 9
I have seen people burned alive. Raising
clasped hands I glared into the flame. Virgil
turned to me, said, “Son, here is agony 12
but certainly not death. Recall, recall
our ride on Geryon. I brought us through!
I’ll do the same now we are nearer God. 15
If you were in this flame a thousand years
it would not burn a hair upon your head.
Go closer if you fear I’m fooling you. 18
Test it with your garment hem. Put away,
put away fear! Enter with confidence!”
But still I stood, in spite of conscience. 21
My fearful stubbornness now troubled him.
“Remember that this fiery wall,” he said
“divides you from Beatrice.” Hearing that name 24
I softened, stared at him. “So now we go?”
he murmered, with a smile as at a child
beguiled with promise of a sweet. He then 27
told Statius to come behind me and
strode first into the fire. On entering
I felt a bath in molten glass would be 30
a cooling change, so terrible the pain,
but my sweet father spoke of Beatrice
to lead me on: “I seem to see her eyes, 33
rejoice!” he said. A new voice led me too,
singing, “Come you who God the Father blest!”
Once again I came out into a light 36
too bright for me to see. Now the voice said,
“Evening has come. Don’t stop. Start up the stair.
before the west grows dark. “ Straight through the rock 39
the narrow staircase went, with sun so low
my shadow filled it up ahead. Night fell.
That hill lets none go forward after dark. 42
Each sank to make his bed upon a step.
As goats in morning light that leapt at play
in noonday heat rest, chewing cud in shade, 45
watched by the goatherd leaning on his staff;
as shepherds also watch their flocks by night,
ensuring no wild beast attempts a raid, 48
I, like a goat between two herdsmen, lay
in that high-walled ravine where I could see
only a few stars overhead, but these 51
were bigger, brighter than I’d ever seen,
and as I gazed sleep seized me, sleep that brings
sometimes good news of things to come. Venus, 54
our morning star had risen from the sea
I think, and cast a ray upon the hill
when I dreamed that a lady came to me, 57
young and beautiful, through level meadows
gathering spring flowers. She also sang
“Know, if you want my name, that I am Leah, 60
and weave these garlands to adorn myself,
unlike my sister Rachel who all day
sits before her mirror, loving her eyes, 63
while I adore the garments that I weave.”
And now the dawn in splendour touched the sky.
Shadows fled everywhere and so did sleep. 66
The poets had arisen. So did I.
“The fruit that mortals seek on many trees,
you will pluck today,” I heard Virgil say. 69
No promise ever pleased as much. Each step
made me feel wings were sprouting on my heels.
Reaching the top he looked at me and said, 72
“You’ve seen the Hellish, also purging fires.
I’ve led you by intelligence and skill
up to this level where I have no power. 75
From here, let happiness decide your way.
see how the sunlight glows on you and on
smooth grassy lawn, fine trees, fruits and flowers 78
clothing this gracious soil. The splendid eyes
that chose me as your guide must soon appear.
Rest now or roam as wide as you’re inclined. 81
While Statius and I will follow you.
I am not needed now. Your will is whole,
free, strong. Not to obey it would be wrong. 84
I crown you king and bishop of your soul.”
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.