Sunday, November 03, 2013


Chapter 5: More Not-Yet-Purified

I left these ghosts to follow him uphill,
then heard behind new voices shouting, “See –
sunlight can’t pierce him, so he is not dead!”                                     3

Turning my head I saw an eager crowd
            staring upon my shadow, also me.
            “Don’t let words turn you. Face the uphill track,”                            6

my leader cried. “Good heads should imitate
            those tower-tops unshook by windy blast.
            Ignore what people say. Distracted minds                                         9

go easily astray because each thought
cancels the last.” “Coming!” I called (for what
else could I say?) and hurried after him,                                             12

blushing with shame. Round the hill above us
came penitents chanting King David’s psalm
            The Miserere, lamenting his foul crime.                                             15

At sight of me their chant stopped in an “Oo!”
            and two ran down to us and panted, “Please,
            who and what are you?” Promptly my guide said,                            18

“Tell your folk this man (as his shadow proves)
            is living flesh and blood – will do then good
            if they greet and honor him as they should.”                                      21

Cloud never soared up swifter through the sky
            than these rejoined their crowd and at their news
            it wheeled round like a troop of horse and then                                 24

came charging down. The poet said, “Know these
            will beg you to take news of them to earth,
            but don’t stop climbing – listen as you go.”                                       27

“O lucky soul, ascending to delight
            on legs your mother made!” they cried, “Please pause
            and look at us. Do you recognize some                                              30

whose names you can take back to relatives
            who don’t know how we died? For violence
            killed us all before we confessed our sins                                           33

in an obscure place. We had been damned, but
            Heavenly Grace finally saved each soul.
            Here we must thole long pilgrimage before                                         36

fit to see God’s face – that is our piercing,
            agonizing need.” Sadly I replied,
            “I see none among you whose names I know.                                    39

If telling them to me will speed your climb
            I will hear them if you don’t delay mine.
            I must obey a guide who bans delay                                                   42

while leading me from world to world up to
            the highest peace where all good efforts cease.”

3rd November 2013