Where Time Is Restored for Time

The theme of ardent friendship, clearly expressed in the language of Virgilio to Stazio at the beginning of Purgatorio 22—“Ma dimmi, e come amico mi perdona . . . e come amico omai meco ragiona” (But tell me, and, as friend, forgive me, as a friend, exchange your words with me [Purg. 22.19-21])—continues in Purgatorio 23, modulated from the key of epic to that of lyric. The theme of friendship between poets is one to which Dante is drawn from his earliest youth, as we see in the beautiful sonnet of friendship addressed to his friend Guido Cavalcanti (friendship in the context of this sonnet is discussed in the introductory essay in Dante’s Lyric Poetry):

  Guido, i’ vorrei che tu e Lapo ed io
fossimo presi per incantamento
e messi in un vasel, ch’ad ogni vento
per mare andasse al voler vostro e mio;
  sì che fortuna od altro tempo rio
non ci potesse dare impedimento,
anzi, vivendo sempre in un talento,
di stare insieme crescesse ’l disio.
  E monna Vanna e monna Lagia poi
con quella ch’è sul numer de le trenta
con noi ponesse il buono incantatore:
  e quivi ragionar sempre d’amore,
e ciascuna di lor fosse contenta,
sì come i’ credo che saremmo noi.
  Guido, I wish that Lapo, you, and I
were carried off by some enchanter’s spell
and set upon a ship to sail the sea
where every wind would favor our command,
  so neither thunderstorms nor cloudy skies
might ever have the power to hold us back,
but rather, cleaving to this single wish,
that our desire to live as one would grow.
  And Lady Vanna were with Lady Lagia
borne to us with her who’s number thirty
by our good enchanter’s wizardry:
  to talk of love would be our sole pursuit,
and each of them would find herself content,
just as I think that we should likewise be. (trans. Richard Lansing)

In the Commedia the theme of friendship is transferred to poets whom Dante conjures in his imagination. Thus, Virgilio says in Purgatorio 22 that he grew to love Stazio, though he had never met him in life, due to the kind offices of the poet Juvenal, who came to Limbo and told Virgilio of Stazio’s affection (Purg. 22.10-18).

But the Commedia also features friends whom Dante truly knew in life, as we have seen from the episodes of Casella, Belacqua, Nino Visconti, and Oderisi da Gubbio. All of these contemporaries died recently, in sharp contrast to a figure like Stazio, who has spent hundreds of years purging his sins on the mountain.

Purgatorio 23 is dominated by the encounter with Forese Donati, a friend of Dante’s Florentine youth with whom he exchanged mutually insulting sonnets known as the “tenzone with Forese Donati”. Forese, a Florentine of a great magnate family, was the brother of Piccarda Donati and of Corso Donati, head of the Florentine Black party. As part of the autobiographical and historical density of the episode, we will learn the fates of both Forese’s siblings in the next canto. Forese died on 28 July 1296.

In their tenzone or sonnet exchange, Dante and Forese vituperate each other’s virility, financial prowess, and morals. In Dante’s first sonnet to Forese, he accuses his friend of leaving his wife cold in her bed all winter, while in the sonnet Bicci novel, figliuol di non so cui Dante characteristically packs an insult into each verse of the opening quatrain, which tells Forese that (1) he is a bastard, (2) his mother is dishonored, (3) he is a glutton, and (4) to support his gluttony he is a thief:

  Bicci novel, figliuol di non so cui
(s’i’ non ne domandasse monna Tessa),
giù per la gola tanta roba hai messa
ch’a forza ti convien tòrre l’altrui. (Bicci novel, 1-4)
  Young Bicci, son of I don’t know who (short of asking my lady Tessa), you’ve
stuffed so much down your gorge that you’re driven to take from others. (trans. Foster-Boyde)

These sonnets resonate with the episode of Purgatorio 23, which we consider to be palinodic with respect to the earlier exchange. Thus, in Purgatorio 23 Forese mentions his wife Nella by name, the very Nella whom Dante had insulted in his youthful sonnet. Now she is recalled by her husband with great affection (“la Nella mia” in Purg. 23.87), and with honor: Forese explains that it is thanks to Nella’s prayers on his behalf that he finds himself so far up the mountain—already on the sixth terrace—although he died only 4 years before.

This information is forthcoming in reply to Dante’s frankly surprised query as to how Forese can already have progressed so far. Dante expected to find his friend, he says, down there “where time is restored for time”, that is in ante-purgatory:

  come se’ tu qua sù venuto ancora?
Io ti credea trovar là giù di sotto
dove tempo per tempo si ristora. (Purg. 23.82-84)
  how have
you come so quickly here? I thought to find
you down below, where time must pay for time.

Consider how the vastly divergent “spiritual accounting” of purgatory is made apparent to the reader by juxtaposing the cases of Stazio and Forese. Stazio died in 96 AD, leaving 1204 years to account for between his death and his release from purgation. We are able to reconstruct the personal “reckoning” of Stazio’s spiritual ledger, and it reads like this:

“500 years and more” for prodigality, the terrace where we meet him (see Purg. 21.68)

“400 years and more” for sloth, for failure to acknowledge his conversion to Christianity (see Purg. 22.92-93)

~ 300 years miscellaneous left unspecified

We have seen that Dante-poet thematizes the issue of the time spent in purgatory by having Dante-pilgrim tell Forese that he expected to find him below, in ante-purgatory, “dove tempo per tempo si ristora” (where time is restored for time [Purg. 23.84]). Here the reference is to ante-purgatory as the place where the time spent sinning is compensated by equivalent periods of time that is spent waiting. But the verse “dove tempo per tempo si ristora”, although literally referring to ante-purgatory, is in fact a perfect emblem for the entire experience of purgatory, which is a temporal experience. It is the temporality of the purgatorial experience that is brought home to the reader by the juxtaposition of Stazio’s 1204 years with Forese’s 4 years and counting. Time is the currency by which a soul is measured in this realm.

Fittingly, given the lyric themes that are beginning to accrue (building up to the next canto’s poetic baptism of Dante’s own early poetry as belonging to a “sweet new style”), there are inspiring female presences in this canto: Nella, Forese’s widow, and Beatrice, named in Purgatorio 23.128. There are also “bad women”, in a continuation of the kind of binary we saw in Purgatorio 8 and in Purgatorio 19: in Purgatorio 23 we find the reference to the “sfacciate donne fiorentine” (immodest Florentine women) in verse 101, whom Forese attacks as worse than Saracen women in their corrupt and lascivious forms of (un)dress.

We are now in a far different world from the “second Limbo” (Dante’s Poets, p. 263) of Purgatorio 22!

This is the world of Florence, of Dante’s youth, of social life both in the sense of the customs of Florence (including issues of dress and sumptuary legislation) and of the brigata of young men we can extrapolate from Dante’s lyrics. This social life of young men is a theme running through my commentary Dante’s Lyric Poetry, along with what I call Dante’s “semantics of friendship”. Both this intimacy and this semantic program are present in this extraordinary terzina:

  Per ch’io a lui: «Se tu riduci a mente
qual fosti meco, e qual io teco fui,
ancor fia grave il memorar presente.» (Purg. 23.115-17)
  At this I said to him: “If you should call
to mind what you have been with me and I
with you, remembering now will still be heavy.”

Finally, as you read Purgatorio 24, bear in mind that the meeting with the Tuscan poet Bonagiunta da Lucca and the discussion of the dolce stil novo take place, in narrative terms, within the encounter with Forese, from whom Dante has not yet parted. Hence the Forese episode—this episode of a critical Florentine friendship second only, perhaps, to that with Guido Cavalcanti—literally frames the moment in Purgatorio 24 in which Dante cites his youthful poem Donne ch’avete intelletto d’amore and baptizes it the exemplar of a “sweet new style”.

Coordinated Reading

Coordinated Reading: Dante’s Poets, pp. 45-57; “Dante and the Lyric Past,” in Dante and the Origins of Italian Literary Culture, 2nd ed. The Cambridge Companion to Dante, ed. R. Jacoff, 2007; Dante’s Lyric Poetry: Poems of Youth and of the ‘Vita Nuova’.

Recommended Citation

Barolini, Teodolinda. “Purgatorio 23: Where Time Is Restored for Time.” Commento Baroliniano, Digital Dante. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2017. https://digitaldante.columbia.edu/dante/divine-comedy/purgatorio/purgatorio-23/

About the Commento

1Mentre che li occhi per la fronda verde
2ficcava ïo sì come far suole
3chi dietro a li uccellin sua vita perde,

4lo più che padre mi dicea: «Figliuole,
5vienne oramai, ché ’l tempo che n’è imposto
6più utilmente compartir si vuole».

7Io volsi ’l viso, e ’l passo non men tosto,
8appresso i savi, che parlavan sìe,
9che l’andar mi facean di nullo costo.

10Ed ecco piangere e cantar s’udìe
11‘Labïa mëa, Domine’ per modo
12tal, che diletto e doglia parturìe.

13«O dolce padre, che è quel ch’i’ odo?»,
14comincia’ io; ed elli: «Ombre che vanno
15forse di lor dover solvendo il nodo».

16Sì come i peregrin pensosi fanno,
17giugnendo per cammin gente non nota,
18che si volgono ad essa e non restanno,

19così di retro a noi, più tosto mota,
20venendo e trapassando ci ammirava
21d’anime turba tacita e devota.

22Ne li occhi era ciascuna oscura e cava,
23palida ne la faccia, e tanto scema
24che da l’ossa la pelle s’informava.

25Non credo che così a buccia strema
26Erisittone fosse fatto secco,
27per digiunar, quando più n’ebbe tema.

28Io dicea fra me stesso pensando: ‘Ecco
29la gente che perdé Ierusalemme,
30quando Maria nel figlio diè di becco!’

31Parean l’occhiaie anella sanza gemme:
32chi nel viso de li uomini legge ‘omo’
33ben avria quivi conosciuta l’emme.

34Chi crederebbe che l’odor d’un pomo
35sì governasse, generando brama,
36e quel d’un’acqua, non sappiendo como?

37Già era in ammirar che sì li affama,
38per la cagione ancor non manifesta
39di lor magrezza e di lor trista squama,

40ed ecco del profondo de la testa
41volse a me li occhi un’ombra e guardò fiso;
42poi gridò forte: «Qual grazia m’è questa?».

43Mai non l’avrei riconosciuto al viso;
44ma ne la voce sua mi fu palese
45ciò che l’aspetto in sé avea conquiso.

46Questa favilla tutta mi raccese
47mia conoscenza a la cangiata labbia,
48e ravvisai la faccia di Forese.

49«Deh, non contendere a l’asciutta scabbia
50che mi scolora», pregava, «la pelle,
51né a difetto di carne ch’io abbia;

52ma dimmi il ver di te, dì chi son quelle
53due anime che là ti fanno scorta;
54non rimaner che tu non mi favelle!».

55«La faccia tua, ch’io lagrimai già morta,
56mi dà di pianger mo non minor doglia»,
57rispuos’ io lui, «veggendola sì torta.

58Però mi dì, per Dio, che sì vi sfoglia;
59non mi far dir mentr’ io mi maraviglio,
60ché mal può dir chi è pien d’altra voglia».

61Ed elli a me: «De l’etterno consiglio
62cade vertù ne l’acqua e ne la pianta
63rimasa dietro ond’ io sì m’assottiglio.

64Tutta esta gente che piangendo canta
65per seguitar la gola oltra misura,
66in fame e ’n sete qui si rifà santa.

67Di bere e di mangiar n’accende cura
68l’odor ch’esce del pomo e de lo sprazzo
69che si distende su per sua verdura.

70E non pur una volta, questo spazzo
71girando, si rinfresca nostra pena:
72io dico pena, e dovria dir sollazzo,

73ché quella voglia a li alberi ci mena
74che menò Cristo lieto a dire ‘Elì’,
75quando ne liberò con la sua vena».

76E io a lui: «Forese, da quel dì
77nel qual mutasti mondo a miglior vita,
78cinqu’ anni non son vòlti infino a qui.

79Se prima fu la possa in te finita
80di peccar più, che sovvenisse l’ora
81del buon dolor ch’a Dio ne rimarita,

82come se’ tu qua sù venuto ancora?
83Io ti credea trovar là giù di sotto,
84dove tempo per tempo si ristora».

85Ond’ elli a me: «Sì tosto m’ha condotto
86a ber lo dolce assenzo d’i martìri
87la Nella mia con suo pianger dirotto.

88Con suoi prieghi devoti e con sospiri
89tratto m’ha de la costa ove s’aspetta,
90e liberato m’ha de li altri giri.

91Tanto è a Dio più cara e più diletta
92la vedovella mia, che molto amai,
93quanto in bene operare è più soletta;

94ché la Barbagia di Sardigna assai
95ne le femmine sue più è pudica
96che la Barbagia dov’ io la lasciai.

97O dolce frate, che vuo’ tu ch’io dica?
98Tempo futuro m’è già nel cospetto,
99cui non sarà quest’ ora molto antica,

100nel qual sarà in pergamo interdetto
101a le sfacciate donne fiorentine
102l’andar mostrando con le poppe il petto.

103Quai barbare fuor mai, quai saracine,
104cui bisognasse, per farle ir coperte,
105o spiritali o altre discipline?

106Ma se le svergognate fosser certe
107di quel che ’l ciel veloce loro ammanna,
108già per urlare avrian le bocche aperte;

109ché, se l’antiveder qui non m’inganna,
110prima fien triste che le guance impeli
111colui che mo si consola con nanna.

112Deh, frate, or fa che più non mi ti celi!
113vedi che non pur io, ma questa gente
114tutta rimira là dove ’l sol veli».

115Per ch’io a lui: «Se tu riduci a mente
116qual fosti meco, e qual io teco fui,
117ancor fia grave il memorar presente.

118Di quella vita mi volse costui
119che mi va innanzi, l’altr’ ier, quando tonda
120vi si mostrò la suora di colui»,

121e ’l sol mostrai; «costui per la profonda
122notte menato m’ha d’i veri morti
123con questa vera carne che ’l seconda.

124Indi m’han tratto sù li suoi conforti,
125salendo e rigirando la montagna
126che drizza voi che ’l mondo fece torti.

127Tanto dice di farmi sua compagna
128che io sarò là dove fia Beatrice;
129quivi convien che sanza lui rimagna.

130Virgilio è questi che così mi dice»,
131e addita’lo; «e quest’ altro è quell’ ombra
132per cuï scosse dianzi ogne pendice

133lo vostro regno, che da sé lo sgombra».

While I was peering so intently through
the green boughs, like a hunter who, so used,
would waste his life in chasing after birds,

my more than father said to me: “Now come,
son, for the time our journey can permit
is to be used more fruitfully than this.”

I turned my eyes, and I was no less quick
to turn my steps; I followed those two sages,
whose talk was such, my going brought no loss.

And—there!—”Labia mea, Domine”
was wept and sung and heard in such a manner
that it gave birth to both delight and sorrow.

“O gentle father, what is this I hear?”
I asked. And he: “Perhaps they’re shades who go
loosening the knot of what they owe.”

Even as pensive pilgrims do, who when
they’ve overtaken folk unknown to them
along the way, will turn but will not stop,

so, overtaking us—they had come from
behind but were more swift—a crowd of souls,
devout and silent, looked at us in wonder.

Each shade had dark and hollow eyes; their faces
were pale and so emaciated that
their taut skin took its shape from bones beneath.

I don’t believe that even Erysichthon
had been so dried, down to his very hide,
by hunger, when his fast made him fear most.

Thinking, I told myself: “I see the people
who lost Jerusalem, when Mary plunged
her beak into her son.” The orbits of

their eyes seemed like a ring that’s lost its gems;
and he who, in the face of man, would read
OMO would here have recognized the M.

Who—if he knew not how—would have believed
that longing born from odor of a tree,
odor of water, could reduce souls so?

I was already wondering what had
so famished them (for I had not yet learned
the reason for their leanness and sad scurf),

when—there!—a shade, his eyes deep in his head,
turned toward me, staring steadily; and then
he cried aloud: “What grace is granted me!”

I never would have recognized him by
his face; and yet his voice made plain to me
what his appearance had obliterated.

This spark rekindled in me everything
I knew about those altered features; thus,
I realized it was Forese’s face.

“Ah, don’t reproach me for the dried—out scabs
that stain my skin,” he begged, “nor for the lack
of flesh on me; but do tell me the truth

about yourself, do tell me who those two
souls there are, those who are escorting you;
may you not keep yourself from speaking to me!”

“Your face, which I once wept on when you died,”
I answered him, “now gives me no less cause
for sad lament, seeing you so deformed

But tell me, for God’s sake, what has unleaved
you so; don’t make me speak while I’m amazed—
he who’s distracted answers clumsily.”

And he to me: “From the eternal counsel,
the water and the tree you left behind
receive the power that makes me waste away.

All of these souls who, grieving, sing because
their appetite was gluttonous, in thirst
and hunger here resanctify themselves.

The fragrance of the fruit and of the water
that’s sprayed through that green tree kindles in us
craving for food and drink; and not once only,

as we go round this space, our pain’s renewed—
I speak of pain but I should speak of solace,
for we are guided to those trees by that

same longing that had guided Christ when He
had come to free us through the blood He shed
and, in His joyousness, called out: ‘Eli.'”

And I to him: “Forese, from that day
when you exchanged the world for better life
until now, less than five years have revolved;

and if you waited for the moment when
the power to sin was gone before you found
the hour of the good grief that succors us

and weds us once again to God, how have
you come so quickly here? I thought to find
you down below, where time must pay for time.”

And he to me: “It is my Nella who,
with her abundant tears, has guided me
to drink the sweet wormwood of torments: she,

with sighs and prayers devout has set me free
of that slope where one waits and has freed me
from circles underneath this circle. She—

my gentle widow, whom I loved most dearly—
was all the more beloved and prized by God
as she is more alone in her good works.

For even the Barbagia of Sardinia
is far more modest in its women than
is that Barbagia where I left her. O

sweet brother, what would you have had me say?
A future time’s already visible
to me-a time not too far—off from now—

when, from the pulpit, it shall be forbidden
to those immodest ones—Florentine women—
to go displaying bosoms with bare paps.

What ordinances—spiritual, civil—
were ever needed by barbarian or
Saracen women to make them go covered?

But if those shameless ones had certain knowledge
of what swift Heaven’s readying for them,
then they would have mouths open now to howl;

for if our foresight here does not deceive me,
they will be sad before the cheeks of those
whom lullabies can now appease grow beards.

Ah, brother, do not hide things any longer!
You see that I am not alone, for all
these people stare at where you veil the sun.”

At this I said to him: “If you should call
to mind what you have been with me and I
with you, remembering now will still be heavy.

He who precedes me turned me from that life
some days ago, when she who is the sister
of him”—I pointed to the sun—”was showing

her roundness to you. It is he who’s led
me through the deep night of the truly dead
with this true flesh that follows after him.

His help has drawn me up from there, climbing
and circling round this mountain, which makes straight
you whom the world made crooked. And he says

that he will bear me company until
I reach the place where Beatrice is; there
I must remain without him. It is Virgil

who speaks to me in this way,” and I pointed
to him; “this other is the shade for whom,
just now, your kingdom caused its every slope

to tremble as it freed him from itself.”

THE while among the verdant leaves mine eyes
I riveted, as he is wont to do
Who wastes his lifc pursuing little birds,

My more than Father said unto me: “Son
Come now; because the time that is ordained us
More usefully should be apportioned out.”

I turned my face and no less soon my steps
Unto the Sages, who were speaking so
They made the going of no cost to me;

And lo! were heard a song and a lament,
_”Labia mea, Domine,”_ in fashion
Such that delight and dolence it brought forth.

“O my sweet Father, what is this I hear ?”
Began I; and he answered: “Shades that go
Perhaps the knot unloosing of their debt.”

In the same way that thoughtful pilgrims do,
Who, unknown people on the road o’ertaking,
Turn themselves round to them, and do not stop,

Even thus, behind us with a swifter motion
Coming and passing onward, gazed upon us
A crowd of spirits silent and devout.

Each in his eyes was dark and cavernous,
Pallid in face, and so emaciate
That from the bones the skin did shape itself.

I do not think that so to merest rind
Could Erisichthon have been withered up
By famine, when most fear he had of it.

Thinking within myself I sald: “Behold,
This is the folk who lost Jerusalem,
When Mary made a prey of her own son.”

Their sockets were like rings without the gems;
Whoever in the face of men reads _omo_
Might well in these have recognised the _m._

Who would believe the odour of an apple,
Begetting longing, could consume them so,
And that of water, without knowing how ?

I still was wondering what so famished them,
For the occasion not yet manifest
Of their emaciation and sad squalor;

And lo! from out the hollow of his head
His eyes a shade turned on me, and looked keenly;
Then cried aloud: “What grace to me is this ?”

Never should I have known him by his look;
But in his voice was evident to me
That which his aspect had suppressed within it.

This spark within me wholly re—enkindled
My recognition of his altered face,
And I recalled the features of Forese.

“Ah, do not look at this dry leprosy,”
Entreated he,”which doth my skin discolour,
Nor at default of flesh that I may have;

But tell me truth of thee, and who are those
Two souls, that yonder make for thee an escort;
Do not delay in speaking unto me.”

“That face of thine, which dead I once bewept,
Gives me for weeping now no lesser grief,”
I answered him, “beholding it so changed!

But tell me, for God’s sake, what thus denudes you ?
Make me not speak while I am marvelling,
For ill speaks he who’s full of other longings.”

And he to me: “From the eternal council
Falls power into the water and the tree
Behind us left, whereby I grow so thin.

All of this people who lamenting sing,
For following beyond measure appetite
In hunger and thirst are here re—sanctified.

Desire to eat and drink enkindles in us
The scent that issues from the apple—tree,
And from the spray that sprinkles o’er the verdure;

And not a single time alone, this ground
Encompassing, is refreshed our pain, —
I say our pain, and ought to say our solace,—

For the same wish doth lead us to the tree
Which led the Christ rejoicing to say _Eli,_
When with his veins he liberated us.”

And I to him: “Forese, from that day
When for a better life thou changedst worlds,
Up to this time five years have not rolled round.

If sooner were the power exhausted in thee
Of sinning more, than thee the hour surprised
Of that good sorrow which to God reweds us,

How hast thou come up hitherward already?
I thought to find thee down there underneath,
Where time for time doth restitution make.”

And he to me: “Thus speedily has led me
To drink of the sweet wormwood of these torments,
My Nella with her overflowing tears;

She with her prayers devout and with her sighs
Has drawn me from the coast where one where one awaits,
And from the other circles set me free.

So much more dear and pleasing is to God
My little widow, whom so much I loved,
As in good works she is the more alone;

For the Barbagia of Sardinia
By far more modest in its women is
Than the Barbagia I have left her in.

O brother sweet, what wilt thou have me say ?
A future time is in my sight already,
To which this hour will not be very old,

When from the pulpit shall be interdicted
To the unblushing womankind of Florence
To go about displaying breast and paps.

What savages were e’er, what Saracens,
Who stood in need, to make them covered go,
Of spiritual or other discipline?

But if the shameless women were assured
Of what swift Heaven prepares for them, already
Wide open would they have their mouths to howl;

For if my foresight here deceive me not,
They shall be sad ere he has bearded cheeks
Who now is hushed to sleep with lullaby.

O brother, now no longer hide thee from me;
See that not only I, but all these people
Are gazing there, where thou dost veil the sun.”

Whence I to him: “If thou bring back to mind
What thou with me hast been and I with thee,
The present memory will be grievous still.

Out of that life he turned me back who goes
In front of me, two days agone when round
The sister of him yonder showed herself,”

And to the sun I pointed. “Through the deep
Night of the truly dead has this one led me,
With this true flesh, that follows after him.

Thence his encouragements have led me up,
Ascending and still circling round the mount
That you doth straighten, whom the world made crooked.

He says that he will bear me company,
Till I shall be where Beatrice will be;
There it behoves me to remain without him.

This is Virgilius, who thus says to me,”
And him I pointed at; “the other is
That shade for whom just now shook every slope

Your realm, that from itself discharges him.”

While I was peering so intently through
the green boughs, like a hunter who, so used,
would waste his life in chasing after birds,

my more than father said to me: “Now come,
son, for the time our journey can permit
is to be used more fruitfully than this.”

I turned my eyes, and I was no less quick
to turn my steps; I followed those two sages,
whose talk was such, my going brought no loss.

And—there!—”Labia mea, Domine”
was wept and sung and heard in such a manner
that it gave birth to both delight and sorrow.

“O gentle father, what is this I hear?”
I asked. And he: “Perhaps they’re shades who go
loosening the knot of what they owe.”

Even as pensive pilgrims do, who when
they’ve overtaken folk unknown to them
along the way, will turn but will not stop,

so, overtaking us—they had come from
behind but were more swift—a crowd of souls,
devout and silent, looked at us in wonder.

Each shade had dark and hollow eyes; their faces
were pale and so emaciated that
their taut skin took its shape from bones beneath.

I don’t believe that even Erysichthon
had been so dried, down to his very hide,
by hunger, when his fast made him fear most.

Thinking, I told myself: “I see the people
who lost Jerusalem, when Mary plunged
her beak into her son.” The orbits of

their eyes seemed like a ring that’s lost its gems;
and he who, in the face of man, would read
OMO would here have recognized the M.

Who—if he knew not how—would have believed
that longing born from odor of a tree,
odor of water, could reduce souls so?

I was already wondering what had
so famished them (for I had not yet learned
the reason for their leanness and sad scurf),

when—there!—a shade, his eyes deep in his head,
turned toward me, staring steadily; and then
he cried aloud: “What grace is granted me!”

I never would have recognized him by
his face; and yet his voice made plain to me
what his appearance had obliterated.

This spark rekindled in me everything
I knew about those altered features; thus,
I realized it was Forese’s face.

“Ah, don’t reproach me for the dried—out scabs
that stain my skin,” he begged, “nor for the lack
of flesh on me; but do tell me the truth

about yourself, do tell me who those two
souls there are, those who are escorting you;
may you not keep yourself from speaking to me!”

“Your face, which I once wept on when you died,”
I answered him, “now gives me no less cause
for sad lament, seeing you so deformed

But tell me, for God’s sake, what has unleaved
you so; don’t make me speak while I’m amazed—
he who’s distracted answers clumsily.”

And he to me: “From the eternal counsel,
the water and the tree you left behind
receive the power that makes me waste away.

All of these souls who, grieving, sing because
their appetite was gluttonous, in thirst
and hunger here resanctify themselves.

The fragrance of the fruit and of the water
that’s sprayed through that green tree kindles in us
craving for food and drink; and not once only,

as we go round this space, our pain’s renewed—
I speak of pain but I should speak of solace,
for we are guided to those trees by that

same longing that had guided Christ when He
had come to free us through the blood He shed
and, in His joyousness, called out: ‘Eli.'”

And I to him: “Forese, from that day
when you exchanged the world for better life
until now, less than five years have revolved;

and if you waited for the moment when
the power to sin was gone before you found
the hour of the good grief that succors us

and weds us once again to God, how have
you come so quickly here? I thought to find
you down below, where time must pay for time.”

And he to me: “It is my Nella who,
with her abundant tears, has guided me
to drink the sweet wormwood of torments: she,

with sighs and prayers devout has set me free
of that slope where one waits and has freed me
from circles underneath this circle. She—

my gentle widow, whom I loved most dearly—
was all the more beloved and prized by God
as she is more alone in her good works.

For even the Barbagia of Sardinia
is far more modest in its women than
is that Barbagia where I left her. O

sweet brother, what would you have had me say?
A future time’s already visible
to me-a time not too far—off from now—

when, from the pulpit, it shall be forbidden
to those immodest ones—Florentine women—
to go displaying bosoms with bare paps.

What ordinances—spiritual, civil—
were ever needed by barbarian or
Saracen women to make them go covered?

But if those shameless ones had certain knowledge
of what swift Heaven’s readying for them,
then they would have mouths open now to howl;

for if our foresight here does not deceive me,
they will be sad before the cheeks of those
whom lullabies can now appease grow beards.

Ah, brother, do not hide things any longer!
You see that I am not alone, for all
these people stare at where you veil the sun.”

At this I said to him: “If you should call
to mind what you have been with me and I
with you, remembering now will still be heavy.

He who precedes me turned me from that life
some days ago, when she who is the sister
of him”—I pointed to the sun—”was showing

her roundness to you. It is he who’s led
me through the deep night of the truly dead
with this true flesh that follows after him.

His help has drawn me up from there, climbing
and circling round this mountain, which makes straight
you whom the world made crooked. And he says

that he will bear me company until
I reach the place where Beatrice is; there
I must remain without him. It is Virgil

who speaks to me in this way,” and I pointed
to him; “this other is the shade for whom,
just now, your kingdom caused its every slope

to tremble as it freed him from itself.”

THE while among the verdant leaves mine eyes
I riveted, as he is wont to do
Who wastes his lifc pursuing little birds,

My more than Father said unto me: “Son
Come now; because the time that is ordained us
More usefully should be apportioned out.”

I turned my face and no less soon my steps
Unto the Sages, who were speaking so
They made the going of no cost to me;

And lo! were heard a song and a lament,
_”Labia mea, Domine,”_ in fashion
Such that delight and dolence it brought forth.

“O my sweet Father, what is this I hear ?”
Began I; and he answered: “Shades that go
Perhaps the knot unloosing of their debt.”

In the same way that thoughtful pilgrims do,
Who, unknown people on the road o’ertaking,
Turn themselves round to them, and do not stop,

Even thus, behind us with a swifter motion
Coming and passing onward, gazed upon us
A crowd of spirits silent and devout.

Each in his eyes was dark and cavernous,
Pallid in face, and so emaciate
That from the bones the skin did shape itself.

I do not think that so to merest rind
Could Erisichthon have been withered up
By famine, when most fear he had of it.

Thinking within myself I sald: “Behold,
This is the folk who lost Jerusalem,
When Mary made a prey of her own son.”

Their sockets were like rings without the gems;
Whoever in the face of men reads _omo_
Might well in these have recognised the _m._

Who would believe the odour of an apple,
Begetting longing, could consume them so,
And that of water, without knowing how ?

I still was wondering what so famished them,
For the occasion not yet manifest
Of their emaciation and sad squalor;

And lo! from out the hollow of his head
His eyes a shade turned on me, and looked keenly;
Then cried aloud: “What grace to me is this ?”

Never should I have known him by his look;
But in his voice was evident to me
That which his aspect had suppressed within it.

This spark within me wholly re—enkindled
My recognition of his altered face,
And I recalled the features of Forese.

“Ah, do not look at this dry leprosy,”
Entreated he,”which doth my skin discolour,
Nor at default of flesh that I may have;

But tell me truth of thee, and who are those
Two souls, that yonder make for thee an escort;
Do not delay in speaking unto me.”

“That face of thine, which dead I once bewept,
Gives me for weeping now no lesser grief,”
I answered him, “beholding it so changed!

But tell me, for God’s sake, what thus denudes you ?
Make me not speak while I am marvelling,
For ill speaks he who’s full of other longings.”

And he to me: “From the eternal council
Falls power into the water and the tree
Behind us left, whereby I grow so thin.

All of this people who lamenting sing,
For following beyond measure appetite
In hunger and thirst are here re—sanctified.

Desire to eat and drink enkindles in us
The scent that issues from the apple—tree,
And from the spray that sprinkles o’er the verdure;

And not a single time alone, this ground
Encompassing, is refreshed our pain, —
I say our pain, and ought to say our solace,—

For the same wish doth lead us to the tree
Which led the Christ rejoicing to say _Eli,_
When with his veins he liberated us.”

And I to him: “Forese, from that day
When for a better life thou changedst worlds,
Up to this time five years have not rolled round.

If sooner were the power exhausted in thee
Of sinning more, than thee the hour surprised
Of that good sorrow which to God reweds us,

How hast thou come up hitherward already?
I thought to find thee down there underneath,
Where time for time doth restitution make.”

And he to me: “Thus speedily has led me
To drink of the sweet wormwood of these torments,
My Nella with her overflowing tears;

She with her prayers devout and with her sighs
Has drawn me from the coast where one where one awaits,
And from the other circles set me free.

So much more dear and pleasing is to God
My little widow, whom so much I loved,
As in good works she is the more alone;

For the Barbagia of Sardinia
By far more modest in its women is
Than the Barbagia I have left her in.

O brother sweet, what wilt thou have me say ?
A future time is in my sight already,
To which this hour will not be very old,

When from the pulpit shall be interdicted
To the unblushing womankind of Florence
To go about displaying breast and paps.

What savages were e’er, what Saracens,
Who stood in need, to make them covered go,
Of spiritual or other discipline?

But if the shameless women were assured
Of what swift Heaven prepares for them, already
Wide open would they have their mouths to howl;

For if my foresight here deceive me not,
They shall be sad ere he has bearded cheeks
Who now is hushed to sleep with lullaby.

O brother, now no longer hide thee from me;
See that not only I, but all these people
Are gazing there, where thou dost veil the sun.”

Whence I to him: “If thou bring back to mind
What thou with me hast been and I with thee,
The present memory will be grievous still.

Out of that life he turned me back who goes
In front of me, two days agone when round
The sister of him yonder showed herself,”

And to the sun I pointed. “Through the deep
Night of the truly dead has this one led me,
With this true flesh, that follows after him.

Thence his encouragements have led me up,
Ascending and still circling round the mount
That you doth straighten, whom the world made crooked.

He says that he will bear me company,
Till I shall be where Beatrice will be;
There it behoves me to remain without him.

This is Virgilius, who thus says to me,”
And him I pointed at; “the other is
That shade for whom just now shook every slope

Your realm, that from itself discharges him.”