Monday, June 09, 2014


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.”



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