Front Page Titles (by Subject) PURGATORIO XXV - The Divine Comedy, Vol. 2 (Purgatorio) (English only trans.)
PURGATORIO XXV - 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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Purgatory. The Seventh Ring. Lust
Sensuality Punished. Instances of Chastity
- The hour was when ascent brooked no delay,
- because the sun had left the noon-time ring
- to Taurus, as to Scorpio had the Night;
- therefore, as doth a man who, whatsoe’er
- appear to him, stops not, but goes his way,
- if spurred by goading of necessity;
- so, one before the other, through the gap
- we entered in, and took the flight of stairs,
- which by its narrowness parts those who climb.
- And like the little stork, which lifts its wings,
- because it longs to fly, but ventures not
- to leave its nest, and lets them droop again;
- even such was I, with kindled, and with quenched
- desire to ask, when coming to the act
- of one who starts to speak. Nor, though our pace
- was fast, did my dear Father check himself,
- but said to me: “Discharge the bow of speech,
- which to the arrow-head thou now hast drawn.”
- With confidence I opened then my mouth,
- and said: “How can one possibly grow lean,
- where need of nourishment doth not obtain?”
- “Shouldst thou recall” he said, “how, when the brand
- was burning, Meleager was consumed,
- this would not be so difficult for thee;
- and shouldst thou think how, at your quivering,
- your image quivers in the looking-glass,
- that which seems hard to thee would easy seem.
- But that thou ease thee to thy heart’s content,
- lo, here is Statius; him I call and beg
- that he be now a healer of thy wounds.”
- “If I unfold for him the eternal view,
- when in thy presence,” Statius then replied,
- “be my excuse that I cannot refuse thee.”
- He then began: “If, son, thy mind shall hear
- and understand my words, they ’ll prove a light
- for thee unto the ‘how’ which thou dost ask.
- The perfect blood, which by the thirsty veins
- is never drunk, but stays as doth the food
- which from the table thou dost take away,
- gets in the heart a power informative
- for all the human members, being that
- which floweth through the veins to form the same.
- When redigested, it flows down to parts,
- whereof more seemly silence is than speech;
- then on another’s blood it trickles thence
- into the natural vessel. There both meet,
- passive the one, the other active, since
- perfect the place from which it was distilled;
- joining the former, it begins to work,
- coagulating first, then quickening that,
- which it had formed as matter for itself.
- The active virtue, now become a soul, —
- as of a plant, though so far differing from it,
- that this is on its way, and that, arrived, —
- so worketh next, that now it moves and feels,
- like fungi of the sea; then undertakes
- to organize the powers whose germ it is.
- That virtue, son, now spreads, and now extends,
- which from the generator’s heart derives,
- where Nature on all members is intent.
- But how from animal it comes to be
- a child, thou see’st not yet; a point so hard,
- it led a wiser man than thou so far
- astray, that, in his teaching, from the soul
- he parted the potential intellect,
- because he saw no organ it assumed.
- Open thy mind unto the coming truth,
- and know that, when the brain’s organization
- is in the foetus to perfection brought,
- the Primal Mover, glad of such a work
- of Nature, turns toward it, and breathes therein
- a spirit new and full of powers, which draws
- into its substance what it active finds
- therein, and so becomes a single soul,
- which lives and feels, and on itself reflects.
- And that the less thou wonder at my words,
- consider how to wine the sun’s heat turns,
- when joined to juices flowing from the vine!
- When Lachesis hath no more thread, the soul
- frees itself from the flesh, and bears away
- potentially the human and divine;
- mute one and all the other faculties,
- with memory, intelligence, and will
- far keener in their action than before.
- Then, without stopping, of itself it falls
- in wondrous way to one or other shore;
- here first it learns its road. As soon as place
- has circumscribed it there, the forming virtue
- rays round it in the same degree and way,
- as when the members were alive it did;
- and as the air, when fully charged with rain,
- is by another’s rays, which it reflects
- within itself, adorned with many hues;
- so here the neighboring air takes on the shape
- the soul, which settled there, impresses on it,
- as would a seal, by its own forming power;
- and afterward, as doth the little flame,
- which follows fire where’er it changes place,
- so the new shape accompanies its spirit;
- which, since it hence takes visibility,
- is called a shade; and therewith organizes
- each of the senses, up to that of sight.
- By means of this we speak, by means of this
- we laugh, and by this means we make the tears
- and sighs, thou mayst have heard upon the Mount.
- As our desires and other passions move us,
- our shade takes shape accordingly; and this
- the reason is of what thou wonderest at.”
- We now had reached the final circling place,
- and, to the right hand having turned our steps,
- intent we were upon another care.
- The bank here outwardly shoots forth a flame,
- while upward from the ledge below a blast
- is breathed, which drives it back, and keeps it off;
- hence one by one along the open side
- we had to walk; while I on one hand feared
- the fire, and, on the other, falling down.
- My Leader said to me: “Along this path
- a tight rein must be kept upon one’s eyes,
- for one might very easily go wrong.”
- “O God of highest Clemency,” I then
- heard sung within the bosom of the fire,
- whose glowing no less made me wish to turn;
- and spirits moving through the flame I saw;
- hence at their steps I looked, and at mine own,
- lending my eyes to each from time to time.
- After the lines with which that hymn concludes,
- aloud they shouted: “I know not a man;”
- then in low tones began the hymn again.
- They cried again, this ended: “To the woods
- Diana kept, and thence drove Hèlicë,
- for having known the taste of Venus’ poison.”
- Then they resumed the song; and then proclaimed
- the names of wives and husbands who were chaste,
- as virtue and the marriage state enjoin.
- And this course, I believe, suffices them
- for all the period, during which the fire
- is burning them; and such the care and diet,
- wherewith the wound is finally sewed up.