Flower Portraits and the Divine Comedy

Flower Portraits and the Divine Comedy

The Purgatorio

Text extracts from The Divina Commedia, Purgatorio, Dante Alighieri.

Flower Portraits and the Divine Comedy

CANTO I

Here, O ye hallow’d Nine! for in your train
I follow, here the deadened strain revive;
Nor let Calliope refuse to sound
A somewhat higher song, of that loud tone,
Which when the wretched birds of chattering note
Had heard, they of forgiveness lost all hope.

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CANTO II

Now had the sun to that horizon reach’d,
That covers, with the most exalted point
Of its meridian circle, Salem’s walls,
And night, that opposite to him her orb
Sounds, from the stream of Ganges issued forth,
Holding the scales, that from her hands are dropp’d
When she reigns highest: so that where I was,
Aurora’s white and vermeil-tinctur’d cheek
To orange turn’d as she in age increas’d.

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CANTO III

Them sudden flight had scatter’d over the plain,
Turn’d tow’rds the mountain, whither reason’s voice
Drives us; I to my faithful company
Adhering, left it not.  For how of him
Depriv’d, might I have sped, or who beside
Would o’er the mountainous tract have led my steps
He with the bitter pang of self-remorse
Seem’d smitten.  O clear conscience and upright
How doth a little fling wound thee sore!

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CANTO IV

When by sensations of delight or pain,
That any of our faculties hath seiz’d,
Entire the soul collects herself, it seems
She is intent upon that power alone,
And thus the error is disprov’d which holds
The soul not singly lighted in the breast.
And therefore when as aught is heard or seen,
That firmly keeps the soul toward it turn’d,
Time passes, and a man perceives it not.
For that, whereby he hearken, is one power,
Another that, which the whole spirit hash;
This is as it were bound, while that is free.

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CANTO V

Now had I left those spirits, and pursued
The steps of my Conductor, when beheld
Pointing the finger at me one exclaim’d:
“See how it seems as if the light not shone
From the left hand of him beneath, and he,
As living, seems to be led on.”  Mine eyes
I at that sound reverting, saw them gaze
Through wonder first at me, and then at me
And the light broken underneath, by turns.

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CANTO VI

When from their game of dice men separate,
He, who hath lost, remains in sadness fix’d,
Revolving in his mind, what luckless throws
He cast: but meanwhile all the company
Go with the other; one before him runs,
And one behind his mantle twitches, one
Fast by his side bids him remember him.
He stops not; and each one, to whom his hand
Is stretch’d, well knows he bids him stand aside;
And thus he from the press defends himself.
E’en such was I in that close-crowding throng;
And turning so my face around to all,
And promising, I ‘scap’d from it with pains.

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CANTO VII

After their courteous greetings joyfully
Sev’n times exchang’d, Sordello backward drew
Exclaiming, “Who are ye?”  “Before this mount
By spirits worthy of ascent to God
Was sought, my bones had by Octavius’ care
Been buried.  I am Virgil, for no sin
Depriv’d of heav’n, except for lack of faith.”

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CANTO VIII

Now was the hour that wakens fond desire
In men at sea, and melts their thoughtful heart,
Who in the morn have bid sweet friends farewell,
And pilgrim newly on his road with love
Thrills, if he hear the vesper bell from far,
That seems to mourn for the expiring day:
When I, no longer taking heed to hear
Began, with wonder, from those spirits to mark
One risen from its seat, which with its hand
Audience implor’d. Both palms it join’d and rais’d,
Fixing its steadfast gaze towards the east,
As telling God, “I care for naught beside.”

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CANTO IX

Now the fair consort of Tithonus old,
Arisen from her mate’s beloved arms,
Look’d palely o’er the eastern cliff: her brow,
Lucent with jewels, glitter’d, set in sign
Of that chill animal, who with his train
Smites fearful nations: and where then we were,
Two steps of her ascent the night had past,
And now the third was closing up its wing,
When I, who had so much of Adam with me,
Sank down upon the grass, o’ercome with sleep,
There where all five were seated.

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CANTO X

When we had passed the threshold of the gate
(Which the soul’s ill affection doth disuse,
Making the crooked seem the straighter path),
I heard its closing sound.  Had mine eyes turn’d,
For that offence what plea might have avail’d?

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CANTO XI

“O thou Almighty Father, who dost make
The heavens thy dwelling, not in bounds confin’d,
But that with love intenser there thou view’st
Thy primal effluence, hallow’d be thy name:
Join each created being to extol
Thy might, for worthy humblest thanks and praise
Is thy blest Spirit.

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CANTO XII

With equal pace as oxen in the yoke,
I with that laden spirit journey’d on
Long as the mild instructor suffer’d me;
But when he bade me quit him, and proceed
(For “here,” said he, “behooves with sail and oars
Each man, as best he may, push on his bark”),
Upright, as one dispos’d for speed, I rais’d
My body, still in thought submissive bow’d.

I now my leader’s track not loth pursued;
And each had shown how light we far’d along
When thus he warn’d me: “Bend thine eyesight down:
For thou to ease the way shall find it good
To ruminate the bed beneath thy feet.”

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CANTO XIII

We reach’d the summit of the scale, and stood
Upon the second buttress of that mount
Which healeth him who climbs.  A cornice there,
Like to the former, girdles round the hill;
Save that its arch with sweep less ample bends.

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CANTO XIV

“Say who is he around our mountain winds,
Or ever death has prun’d his wing for flight,
That opes his eyes and covers them at will?”

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CANTO XV

As much as ‘twixt the third hour’s close and dawn,
Appeareth of heav’n’s sphere, that ever whirls
As restless as an infant in his play,
So much appear’d remaining to the sun
Of his slope journey towards the western goal.

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CANTO XVI

Hell’s dunnest gloom, or night unlustrous, dark,
Of every planes ‘reft, and pall’d in clouds,
Did never spread before the sight a veil
In thickness like that fog, nor to the sense
So palpable and gross.  Ent’ring its shade,
Mine eye endured not with unclosed lids;
Which marking, near me drew the faithful guide,
Offering me his shoulder for a stay.

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CANTO XVII

Call to remembrance, reader, if thou e’er
Hast, on a mountain top, been ta’en by cloud,
Through which thou saw’st no better, than the mole
Doth through opacous membrane; then, whene’er
The wat’ry vapours dense began to melt
Into thin air, how faintly the sun’s sphere
Seem’d wading through them; so thy nimble thought
May image, how at first I re-beheld
The sun, that bedward now his couch o’erhung.

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CANTO XVIII

The teacher ended, and his high discourse
Concluding, earnest in my looks inquir’d
If I appear’d content; and I, whom still
Unsated thirst to hear him urg’d, was mute,
Mute outwardly, yet inwardly I said:
“Perchance my too much questioning offends.”
But he, true father, mark’d the secret wish
By diffidence restrain’d, and speaking, gave
Me boldness thus to speak: “Master, my Sight
Gathers so lively virtue from thy beams,
That all, thy words convey, distinct is seen.

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CANTO XIX

It was the hour, when of diurnal heat
No reliques chafe the cold beams of the moon,
O’erpower’d by earth, or planetary sway
Of Saturn; and the geomancer sees
His Greater Fortune up the east ascend,
Where gray dawn checkers first the shadowy cone;
When ‘fore me in my dream a woman’s shape
There came, with lips that stammer’d, eyes aslant,
Distorted feet, hands maim’d, and colour pale.

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CANTO XX

Ill strives the will, ‘gainst will more wise that strives
His pleasure therefore to mine own preferr’d,
I drew the sponge yet thirsty from the wave.

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CANTO XXI

The natural thirst, ne’er quench’d but from the well,
Whereof the woman of Samaria crav’d,
Excited: haste along the cumber’d path,
After my guide, impell’d; and pity mov’d
My bosom for the ‘vengeful deed, though just.
When lo! even as Luke relates, that Christ
Appear’d unto the two upon their way,
New-risen from his vaulted grave; to us
A shade appear’d, and after us approach’d,
Contemplating the crowd beneath its feet.
We were not ware of it; so first it spake,
Saying, “God give you peace, my brethren!” then
Sudden we turn’d: and Virgil such salute,
As fitted that kind greeting, gave, and cried:
“Peace in the blessed council be thy lot
Awarded by that righteous court, which me
To everlasting banishment exiles!”

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CANTO XXII

Now we had left the angel, who had turn’d
To the sixth circle our ascending step,
One gash from off my forehead raz’d: while they,
Whose wishes tend to justice, shouted forth:
“Blessed!”  and ended with, “I thirst:” and I,
More nimble than along the other straits,
So journey’d, that, without the sense of toil,
I follow’d upward the swift-footed shades;
When Virgil thus began: “Let its pure flame
From virtue flow, and love can never fail
To warm another’s bosom’ so the light
Shine manifestly forth.  Hence from that hour,
When ‘mongst us in the purlieus of the deep,
Came down the spirit of Aquinum’s hard,
Who told of thine affection, my good will
Hath been for thee of quality as strong
As ever link’d itself to one not seen.
Therefore these stairs will now seem short to me.
But tell me: and if too secure I loose
The rein with a friend’s license, as a friend
Forgive me, and speak now as with a friend:
How chanc’d it covetous desire could find
Place in that bosom, ‘midst such ample store
Of wisdom, as thy zeal had treasur’d there?”

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CANTO XXIII

On the green leaf mine eyes were fix’d, like his
Who throws away his days in idle chase
Of the diminutive, when thus I heard
The more than father warn me: “Son! our time
Asks thriftier using.  Linger not: away.”

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CANTO XXIV

Our journey was not slacken’d by our talk,
Nor yet our talk by journeying.  Still we spake,
And urg’d our travel stoutly, like a ship
When the wind sits astern.  The shadowy forms,
That seem’d things dead and dead again, drew in
At their deep-delved orbs rare wonder of me,
Perceiving I had life; and I my words
Continued, and thus spake; “He journeys up
Perhaps more tardily then else he would,
For others’ sake.

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CANTO XXV

It was an hour, when he who climbs, had need
To walk uncrippled: for the sun had now
To Taurus the meridian circle left,
And to the Scorpion left the night.  As one
That makes no pause, but presses on his road,
Whate’er betide him, if some urgent need
Impel: so enter’d we upon our way,
One before other; for, but singly, none
That steep and narrow scale admits to climb.

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CANTO XXVI

While singly thus along the rim we walk’d,
Oft the good master warn’d me: “Look thou well.
Avail it that I caution thee.”  The sun
Now all the western clime irradiate chang’d
From azure tinct to white; and, as I pass’d,
My passing shadow made the umber’d flame
Burn ruddier.  At so strange a sight I mark’d
That many a spirit marvel’d on his way.

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CANTO XXVII

Now was the sun so station’d, as when first
His early radiance quivers on the heights,
Where stream’d his Maker’s blood, while Libra hangs
Above Hesperian Ebro, and new fires
Meridian flash on Ganges’ yellow tide.

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CANTO XXVIII

Through that celestial forest, whose thick shade
With lively greenness the new-springing day
Attemper’d, eager now to roam, and search
Its limits round, forthwith I left the bank,
Along the champain leisurely my way
Pursuing, o’er the ground, that on all sides
Delicious odour breath’d.  A pleasant air,
That intermitted never, never veer’d,
Smote on my temples, gently, as a wind
Of softest influence: at which the sprays,
Obedient all, lean’d trembling to that part
Where first the holy mountain casts his shade,
Yet were not so disorder’d, but that still
Upon their top the feather’d quiristers
Applied their wonted art, and with full joy
Welcom’d those hours of prime, and warbled shrill
Amid the leaves, that to their jocund lays
inept tenor; even as from branch to branch,
Along the piney forests on the shore
Of Chiassi, rolls the gath’ring melody,
When Eolus hath from his cavern loos’d
The dripping south.  Already had my steps,
Though slow, so far into that ancient wood
Transported me, I could not ken the place
Where I had enter’d, when behold! my path
Was bounded by a rill, which to the left
With little rippling waters bent the grass,
That issued from its brink.  On earth no wave
How clean soe’er, that would not seem to have
Some mixture in itself, compar’d with this,
Transpicuous, clear; yet darkly on it roll’d,
Darkly beneath perpetual gloom, which ne’er
Admits or sun or moon light there to shine.

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CANTO XXIX

Singing, as if enamour’d, she resum’d
And clos’d the song, with “Blessed they whose sins
Are cover’d.”  Like the wood-nymphs then, that tripp’d
Singly across the sylvan shadows, one
Eager to view and one to ‘scape the sun,
So mov’d she on, against the current, up
The verdant rivage.  I, her mincing step
Observing, with as tardy step pursued.

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CANTO XXX

Soon as the polar light, which never knows
Setting nor rising, nor the shadowy veil
Of other cloud than sin, fair ornament
Of the first heav’n, to duty each one there
Safely convoying, as that lower doth
The steersman to his port, stood firmly fix’d;
Forthwith the saintly tribe, who in the van
Between the Gryphon and its radiance came,
Did turn them to the car, as to their rest:
And one, as if commission’d from above,
In holy chant thrice shorted forth aloud:
“Come, spouse, from Libanus!” and all the rest
Took up the song—At the last audit so
The blest shall rise, from forth his cavern each
Uplifting lightly his new-vested flesh,
As, on the sacred litter, at the voice
Authoritative of that elder, sprang
A hundred ministers and messengers
Of life eternal.  “Blessed thou! who com’st!”
And, “O,” they cried, “from full hands scatter ye
Unwith’ring lilies;” and, so saying, cast
Flowers over head and round them on all sides.

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CANTO XXXI

“O Thou!”  her words she thus without delay
Resuming, turn’d their point on me, to whom
They but with lateral edge seem’d harsh before,
“Say thou, who stand’st beyond the holy stream,
If this be true.  A charge so grievous needs
Thine own avowal.”  On my faculty
Such strange amazement hung, the voice expir’d
Imperfect, ere its organs gave it birth.

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CANTO XXXII

Mine eyes with such an eager coveting,
Were bent to rid them of their ten years’ thirst,
No other sense was waking: and e’en they
Were fenc’d on either side from heed of aught;
So tangled in its custom’d toils that smile
Of saintly brightness drew me to itself,
When forcibly toward the left my sight
The sacred virgins turn’d; for from their lips
I heard the warning sounds: “Too fix’d a gaze!”

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CANTO XXXIII

“The heathen, Lord! are come!” responsive thus,
The trinal now, and now the virgin band
Quaternion, their sweet psalmody began,
Weeping; and Beatrice listen’d, sad
And sighing, to the song’, in such a mood,
That Mary, as she stood beside the cross,
Was scarce more chang’d.  But when they gave her place
To speak, then, risen upright on her feet,
She, with a colour glowing bright as fire,
Did answer: “Yet a little while, and ye
Shall see me not; and, my beloved sisters,
Again a little while, and ye shall see me.”

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