Front Page Titles (by Subject) PURGATORIO VIII - The Divine Comedy, Vol. 2 (Purgatorio) (English only trans.)
PURGATORIO VIII - Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, Vol. 2 (Purgatorio) (English only trans.) 
The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri. The Italian Text with a Translation in English Blank Verse and a Commentary by Courtney Langdon, vol. 2 (Purgatorio) (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1920).
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Antepurgatory. The Vale of Flowers
Princes intent on Earthly Glory. The Serpent
- ’T was now the hour, which homeward turns the longing,
- and melts the heart of those that sail the sea,
- the day they ’ve said goodbye to tender friends;
- and thrills with love the pilgrim newly sped,
- if from afar he hear a tolling bell,
- that seems to mourn the slowly dying day;
- when I began to render hearing vain,
- and of those souls watch one who, risen up,
- was asking for attention with his hand.
- He joined his palms, and raising them on high,
- turned toward the East his eyes with steadfast gaze,
- as if to God he said: “I heed naught else.”
- “Ere daylight fadeth” issued from his mouth
- with such devoutness, and with notes so sweet,
- that I was made unmindful of myself.
- Thereat the others, sweetly and devoutly
- followed that soul, and sang the whole hymn through,
- fixing their gaze upon the spheres above.
- Sharpen thine eyes here, Reader, for the truth;
- for now its veil is certainly so thin,
- that easy is the passage into it.
- I saw that army of the gentle-born
- gazing on high in silence after this,
- as if in expectation, pale and meek;
- and, issuing from above, and coming down,
- two Angels with two fiery swords I saw,
- which, broken off, were of their points deprived.
- As green they were, as little new-born leaves,
- and clothed with garments which, behind them trailed,
- were stroked and fanned by verdant plumes. One came
- and poised somewhat above us, while the other
- alighted on the hillside opposite,
- so that the people there remained between.
- I well perceived that golden was their hair;
- but on their faces vision went astray,
- as would a power confounded by excess.
- “From Mary’s bosom both of them are come”
- Sordello said, “to guard this sheltered vale
- against the Serpent, which will soon arrive.”
- Hence I, who knew not by what path, turned round,
- chilled through with fear, and to the trusted shoulders
- drew closely back. Sordello thereupon
- began: “And now among the mighty shades
- let us descend, and we will speak with them;
- greatly will they be pleased to see you here.”
- Only three steps, I think, did I go down,
- and was below; then one I saw, who looked
- at me alone, as if he wished to know me.
- The air had for some time been growing dark
- but not so much as, ’tween his eyes and mine,
- not to reveal what it concealed before.
- Toward me he came, and I toward him advanced.
- Noble Judge Nino, when I saw that not
- among the damned thou wast, how glad I was!
- No greetings fair were left unsaid between us;
- and then he asked: “How long ago didst thou
- o’er the far waters reach the Mountain’s foot?”
- “Oh!” I exclaimed, “across the fields of woe
- I came this morn, and in the first life am,
- though by thus going, I’ll the other win.”
- When once my answer had been heard, Sordello
- and he drew back, like people suddenly
- perplexed. The first to Virgil turned, the other,
- to one who there was seated, crying out:
- “Get up, Corrado! Come and see what God
- hath as a favor willed.”
- Then, turned toward me:
- “By that rare gratitude thou owest Him,
- who hides His primal Why in such a way,
- that there ’s no fording it; when thou art past
- the wide waves, ask my Joan to pray for me
- where to the innocent replies are given.
- I think her mother loves me now no more,
- for those white wimples hath she laid aside,
- which she, poor soul, must needs want back again.
- Through her one understands with greatest ease
- how long the fire of love in woman lasts,
- unless rekindled oft by sight and touch.
- The Viper which conducts the Milanese
- afield, will never make as beautiful
- a tomb for her, as would Gallura’s Cock.”
- These were the words he used, his countenance
- marked with the impress of that righteous zeal,
- which burneth in the heart with temperate flame.
- My greedy eyes now sought the sky alone,
- and only there, where slowest are the stars,
- as, nearest to its axle, is a wheel.
- My Leader then: “What art thou looking at
- up there, my son?” And I: “At those three torches,
- wherewith the pole on this side wholly burns.”
- Then he: “The four bright stars which thou this morn
- didst see, are low down on the other side;
- and these have risen there, where those were then.”
- While he was speaking thus, Sordello drew him
- aside, and saying: “Yonder see our foe!”
- lifted his finger up, to have him look.
- On that side where the little hollowed vale
- hath no defense, a Snake there was like that,
- perhaps, which gave the bitter fruit to Eve.
- On through the grass and flowers the wicked reptile
- glided, and, turning back its head at times,
- was licking like a beast that smoothes itself.
- I did not see, and therefore cannot tell,
- how the celestial Falcons ’gan to move,
- but both I clearly saw, when once in motion.
- When cleft by their green wings it heard the air,
- the Serpent fled, and back the Angels turning,
- regained their posts above with equal flight.
- The shade who, when he called him, to the Judge
- had closely drawn, throughout the whole assault
- had not one moment loosed his gaze from me.
- “So may the lantern leading thee above,
- find in thy will the wax that is required
- for one to reach the enamelled green on high;”
- he thus began, “if thou of Valdimagra,
- or of its neighboring land, dost know true news,
- tell it to me, who once was mighty there.
- Corrado Malaspina I was called;
- I ’m not the elder, but from him descended;
- I bore my race the love which here is cleansed.”
- “Oh!” said I then to him, “I ’ve never been
- in your domains, but where throughout all Europe
- dwelleth a man who knows them not? The fame
- which honoreth your house, proclaims its lords,
- proclaims its district, so that even he
- knows of them, who hath never been there yet.
- I swear to you, so may I go on high,
- that of the glorious use of purse and sword
- your honored race doth not despoil itself.
- Nature and use so favor it, that, howe’er
- the guilty Head distort the world, alone
- it goeth straight, and scorns the evil path.”
- And he: “Now go, for lo, the sun shall not
- seven times on that bed rest him, which the Ram
- now covers, and with all four feet bestrides,
- ere this thy courteously expressed opinion
- shall in the middle of thy head be nailed
- with greater nails than words of other men,
- unless the course of doom decreed be stayed.”