Sunday, August 17, 2014


                                               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


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