Remember, Remember!

The last verse of Purgatorio 26, referring to Arnaut Daniel, is “Poi s’ascose nel foco che li affina” (Then he hid himself in the fire that refines them [Purg. 26.148]). In Purgtorio 27 we learn that the refining fire of the seventh terrace must be confronted by every soul that passes beyond the terraces of purgatory. In other words, the fire of the seventh terrace is not only the designated punishment of the terrace of lust; it burns away and “refines” any remaining inclination to vice in all souls as they complete purgation.

Dante’s fear of the fire is such that Virgilio needs to remind him of all the fear-inducing experiences that they have shared in the course of their time together and all the times that Virgilio took care of him and kept him safe. This is quite a personal moment between the pilgrim and his guide, in which they look back over their long and companionable journey. The moment that Virgilio singles out as most emblematic of the pilgrim’s fear is their flight on the back of the monster Geryon (Inferno 17):

  Volsersi verso me le buone scorte;
e Virgilio mi disse: «Figliuol mio,
qui può esser tormento, ma non morte.
  Ricorditi, ricorditi! E se io
sovresso Gerion ti guidai salvo,
che farò ora presso più a Dio?» (Purg. 27.19-24)
  My gentle escorts turned to me,
and Virgil said: “My son, though there may be
suffering here, there is no death. Remember
  remember! If I guided you to safety
even upon the back of Geryon,
then now, closer to God, what shall I do?”

In The Undivine Comedy I give a metapoetic reading of Virgilio’s words, based on the importance assigned to Geryon in that book’s interpretation:

Thus it is not surprising that Vergil should much later single out the ride on Geryon, the ride that made Dante akin to Phaeton and Icarus, the ride that made him a Ulyssean aeronaut, as emblematic of all the dangers they have encountered together in the course of their journey…
The encounter with Geryon dramatizes the text’s confrontation with its own necessary representational fraud, and as such is the moment of maximum peril, when the text gambles all on being accepted as a “ver c’ha faccia di menzoga,” a comedìa. (The Undivine Comedy, p. 67)

Now I find particularly fascinating in Virgilio’s words his emphasis on time and memory: “Ricorditi, ricorditi!” (Remember remember! [Purg. 27.22]). Time and memory are the currencies of human affect and love: affect accrues over time and is preserved in memory.

Purgatorio 27 is in many ways Virgilio’s canto: the canto that distills the special bond shared by Dante with his mentor and guide. At the beginning of the canto we have the above reference to his paternal guidance, and a little further on we see that only Virgilio—not the new guide Stazio—can induce Dante to cross the flames. Virgilio knowingly refers to Beatrice (whom he, unlike Stazio, has met!) when Dante proves intransigent:

  Quando mi vide star pur fermo e duro,
turbato un poco disse: «Or vedi, figlio:
tra Beatrice e te è questo muro». (Purg. 27.34-36)
  When he saw me still halting, obstinate,
he said, somewhat perplexed: “Now see, son: this
wall stands between you and your Beatrice.”

Virgilio speaks a lot in this canto; Dante never speaks.

The sun sets, night comes, and the travelers stop. As Sordello explained back in Purgatorio 7, no one can climb the mountain by night. Dante dreams: his third purgatorial dream comes, like the previous two, at a moment of transition. The first dream marked the transition from ante-purgatory to the seven terraces, the second dream signaled the transition from the lower terraces to the upper three, and the transition that is about to take place is from the seven terraces to the earthly paradise.

All these dreams are “non-false errors” (the expression used for the ecstatic visions of the terrace of wrath in Purg. 15.117): the first dream figures his being carried up to the gate of purgatory by Santa Lucia; the second figures the vices of the top three terraces, embodied in the siren; the third dream figures the two forms of bliss—active and contemplative—that humans can seek in their lives, here embodied in the biblical characters of Leah and Rachel, the wives of Jacob.

The Old Testament characters of Lia (Leah) and Rachele (Rachel) were traditionally interpreted allegorically by the Church as figures of the active and contemplative life: both are worthy but the contemplative is superior. In Dante’s handling they have a second meaning layered over their traditional allegorical significances. Here, in purgatory, the figures of Lia and Rachele in Dante’s dream are also anticipations of the two ladies he will shortly meet in the garden of Eden: Matelda (who corresponds to Lia, and to the active life) and Beatrice (who corresponds to Rachele, and to the contemplative life). So, as with the dream of the siren, this dream glosses the experience that awaits the pilgrim. In effect, Lia and Rachele are anti-sirens: while the siren leads voyagers off the path, Lia and Rachele are both, in different ways, fulfillments of the correct path.

Dreams are always markers of transition in the Purgatorio and Purgatorio 27 ends with the splendid verses with which Virgilio announces that Dante is now free. He has finished purgation and his will is now free, straight, and whole. He does not need to follow a guide; he can follow himself, for he cannot err. He is crowned and mitered over himself; he is the sovereign of his soul:

  Non aspettar mio dir più né mio cenno;
libero, dritto e sano è tuo arbitrio,
e fallo fora non fare a suo senno:
  per ch’io te sovra te corono e mitrio. (Purg. 27.139-42)
  Await no further word or sign from me:
your will is free, erect, and whole—to act
against that will would be to err: therefore
  I crown and miter you over yourself."

What the pilgrim does not know as he listens to these words, and what we do not know as we read them for the first time, is that these will turn out to be Virgilio’s last spoken words in the poem.

Coordinated Reading

Coordinated Reading: The Undivine Comedy, p. 67.

Recommended Citation

Barolini, Teodolinda. “Purgatorio 27: Remember, Remember!.” Commento Baroliniano, Digital Dante. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2017. https://digitaldante.columbia.edu/dante/divine-comedy/purgatorio/purgatorio-27/

About the Commento

1Sì come quando i primi raggi vibra
2là dove il suo fattor lo sangue sparse,
3cadendo Ibero sotto l’alta Libra,

4e l’onde in Gange da nona rïarse,
5sì stava il sole; onde ’l giorno sen giva,
6come l’angel di Dio lieto ci apparse.

7Fuor de la fiamma stava in su la riva,
8e cantava ‘Beati mundo corde!’
9in voce assai più che la nostra viva.

10Poscia «Più non si va, se pria non morde,
11anime sante, il foco: intrate in esso,
12e al cantar di là non siate sorde»,

13ci disse come noi li fummo presso;
14per ch’io divenni tal, quando lo ’ntesi,
15qual è colui che ne la fossa è messo.

16In su le man commesse mi protesi,
17guardando il foco e imaginando forte
18umani corpi già veduti accesi.

19Volsersi verso me le buone scorte;
20e Virgilio mi disse: «Figliuol mio,
21qui può esser tormento, ma non morte.

22Ricorditi, ricorditi! E se io
23sovresso Gerïon ti guidai salvo,
24che farò ora presso più a Dio?

25Credi per certo che se dentro a l’alvo
26di questa fiamma stessi ben mille anni,
27non ti potrebbe far d’un capel calvo.

28E se tu forse credi ch’io t’inganni,
29fatti ver’ lei, e fatti far credenza
30con le tue mani al lembo d’i tuoi panni.

31Pon giù omai, pon giù ogne temenza;
32volgiti in qua e vieni: entra sicuro!».
33E io pur fermo e contra coscïenza.

34Quando mi vide star pur fermo e duro,
35turbato un poco disse: «Or vedi, figlio:
36tra Bëatrice e te è questo muro».

37Come al nome di Tisbe aperse il ciglio
38Piramo in su la morte, e riguardolla,
39allor che ’l gelso diventò vermiglio;

40così, la mia durezza fatta solla,
41mi volsi al savio duca, udendo il nome
42che ne la mente sempre mi rampolla.

43Ond’ ei crollò la fronte e disse: «Come!
44volenci star di qua?»; indi sorrise
45come al fanciul si fa ch’è vinto al pome.

46Poi dentro al foco innanzi mi si mise,
47pregando Stazio che venisse retro,
48che pria per lunga strada ci divise.

49Sì com’ fui dentro, in un bogliente vetro
50gittato mi sarei per rinfrescarmi,
51tant’ era ivi lo ’ncendio sanza metro.

52Lo dolce padre mio, per confortarmi,
53pur di Beatrice ragionando andava,
54dicendo: «Li occhi suoi già veder parmi».

55Guidavaci una voce che cantava
56di là; e noi, attenti pur a lei,
57venimmo fuor là ove si montava.

58‘Venite, benedicti Patris mei’,
59sonò dentro a un lume che lì era,
60tal che mi vinse e guardar nol potei.

61«Lo sol sen va», soggiunse, «e vien la sera;
62non v’arrestate, ma studiate il passo,
63mentre che l’occidente non si annera».

64Dritta salia la via per entro ’l sasso
65verso tal parte ch’io toglieva i raggi
66dinanzi a me del sol ch’era già basso.

67E di pochi scaglion levammo i saggi,
68che ’l sol corcar, per l’ombra che si spense,
69sentimmo dietro e io e li miei saggi.

70E pria che ’n tutte le sue parti immense
71fosse orizzonte fatto d’uno aspetto,
72e notte avesse tutte sue dispense,

73ciascun di noi d’un grado fece letto;
74ché la natura del monte ci affranse
75la possa del salir più e ’l diletto.

76Quali si stanno ruminando manse
77le capre, state rapide e proterve
78sovra le cime avante che sien pranse,

79tacite a l’ombra, mentre che ’l sol ferve,
80guardate dal pastor, che ’n su la verga
81poggiato s’è e lor di posa serve;

82e quale il mandrïan che fori alberga,
83lungo il pecuglio suo queto pernotta,
84guardando perché fiera non lo sperga;

85tali eravamo tutti e tre allotta,
86io come capra, ed ei come pastori,
87fasciati quinci e quindi d’alta grotta.

88Poco parer potea lì del di fori;
89ma, per quel poco, vedea io le stelle
90di lor solere e più chiare e maggiori.

91Sì ruminando e sì mirando in quelle,
92mi prese il sonno; il sonno che sovente,
93anzi che ’l fatto sia, sa le novelle.

94Ne l’ora, credo, che de l’orïente
95prima raggiò nel monte Citerea,
96che di foco d’amor par sempre ardente,

97giovane e bella in sogno mi parea
98donna vedere andar per una landa
99cogliendo fiori; e cantando dicea:

100«Sappia qualunque il mio nome dimanda
101ch’i’ mi son Lia, e vo movendo intorno
102le belle mani a farmi una ghirlanda.

103Per piacermi a lo specchio, qui m’addorno;
104ma mia suora Rachel mai non si smaga
105dal suo miraglio, e siede tutto giorno.

106Ell’ è d’i suoi belli occhi veder vaga
107com’ io de l’addornarmi con le mani;
108lei lo vedere, e me l’ovrare appaga».

109E già per li splendori antelucani,
110che tanto a’ pellegrin surgon più grati,
111quanto, tornando, albergan men lontani,

112le tenebre fuggian da tutti lati,
113e ’l sonno mio con esse; ond’ io leva’mi,
114veggendo i gran maestri già levati.

115«Quel dolce pome che per tanti rami
116cercando va la cura de’ mortali,
117oggi porrà in pace le tue fami».

118Virgilio inverso me queste cotali
119parole usò; e mai non furo strenne
120che fosser di piacere a queste iguali.

121Tanto voler sopra voler mi venne
122de l’esser sù, ch’ad ogne passo poi
123al volo mi sentia crescer le penne.

124Come la scala tutta sotto noi
125fu corsa e fummo in su ’l grado superno,
126in me ficcò Virgilio li occhi suoi,

127e disse: «Il temporal foco e l’etterno
128veduto hai, figlio; e se’ venuto in parte
129dov’ io per me più oltre non discerno.

130Tratto t’ho qui con ingegno e con arte;
131lo tuo piacere omai prendi per duce;
132fuor se’ de l’erte vie, fuor se’ de l’arte.

133Vedi lo sol che ’n fronte ti riluce;
134vedi l’erbette, i fiori e li arbuscelli
135che qui la terra sol da sé produce.

136Mentre che vegnan lieti li occhi belli
137che, lagrimando, a te venir mi fenno,
138seder ti puoi e puoi andar tra elli.

139Non aspettar mio dir più né mio cenno;
140libero, dritto e sano è tuo arbitrio,
141e fallo fora non fare a suo senno:

142per ch’io te sovra te corono e mitrio».

Just as, there where its Maker shed His blood,
the sun shed its first rays, and Ebro lay
beneath high Libra, and the ninth hour’s rays

were scorching Ganges’ waves; so here, the sun
stood at the point of day’s departure when
God’s angel—happy—showed himself to us.

He stood along the edge, beyond the flames,
singing “Beati mundo corde” in
a voice that had more life than ours can claim.

Then: “Holy souls, you cannot move ahead
unless the fire has stung you first: enter
the flames, and don’t be deaf to song you’ll hear

beyond,” he said when we were close to him;
and when I heard him say this, I became
like one who has been laid within the grave.

I joined my hands and stretched them out to fend
the flames, watching the fire, imagining
clearly the human bodies I’d once seen

burning. My gentle escorts turned to me,
and Virgil said: “My son, though there may be
suffering here, there is no death. Remember,

remember! If I guided you to safety
even upon the back of Geryon,
then now, closer to God, what shall I do?

Be sure: although you were to spend a full
one thousand years within this fire’s center,
your head would not be balder by one hair.

And if you think I am deceiving you,
draw closer to the flames, let your own hands
try out, within the fire, your clothing’s hem—

put down, by now put down, your every fear;
turn toward the fire, and enter, confident!”
But I was stubborn, set against my conscience.

When he saw me still halting, obstinate,
he said, somewhat perplexed: “Now see, son: this
wall stands between you and your Beatrice.”

As, at the name of Thisbe, Pyramus,
about to die, opened his eyes, and saw her
(when then the mulberry became bloodred),

so, when my stubbornness had softened, I,
hearing the name that’s always flowering
within my mind, turned to my knowing guide.

At which he shook his head and said: “And would
you have us stay along this side?”—then smiled
as one smiles at a child fruit has beguiled.

Then he, ahead of me, entered the fire;
and he asked Statius, who had walked between us
before, dividing us, to go behind.

No sooner was I in that fire than I’d
have thrown myself in molten glass to find
coolness—because those flames were so intense.

My gentle father, who would comfort me,
kept talking, as we walked, of Beatrice,
saying: “I seem to see her eyes already.”

A voice that sang beyond us was our guide;
and we, attentive to that voice, emerged
just at the point where it began to climb.

“Venite, benedicti Patris mei,”
it sang within a light that overcame me:
I could not look at such intensity.

“The sun departs,” it added; “evening comes;
don’t stay your steps, but hurry on before
the west grows dark.” The path we took climbed straight

within the rock, and its direction was
such that, in front of me, my body blocked
the rays of sun, already low behind us.

And we had only tried a few steps when
I and my sages sensed the sun had set
because the shadow I had cast was spent.

Before one color came to occupy
that sky in all of its immensity
and night was free to summon all its darkness,

each of us made one of those stairs his bed:
the nature of the mountain had so weakened
our power and desire to climb ahead.

Like goats that, when they grazed, were swift and tameless
along the mountain peaks, but now are sated,
and rest and ruminate—while the sun blazes—

untroubled, in the shadows, silently,
watched over by the herdsman as he leans
upon his staff and oversees their peace;

or like the herdsman in the open fields,
spending the night beside his quiet flock,
watching to see that no beast drives them off;

such were all three of us at that point—they
were like the herdsmen, I was like the goat;
upon each side of us, high rock walls rose.

From there, one saw but little of the sky,
but in that little, I could see the stars
brighter and larger than they usually are.

But while I watched the stars, in reverie,
sleep overcame me—sleep, which often sees,
before it happens, what is yet to be.

It was the hour, I think, when Cytherea,
who always seems aflame with fires of love,
first shines upon the mountains from the east,

that, in my dream, I seemed to see a woman
both young and fair; along a plain she gathered
flowers, and even as she sang, she said:

“Whoever asks my name, know that I’m Leah,
and I apply my lovely hands to fashion
a garland of the flowers I have gathered.

To find delight within this mirror I
adorn myself; whereas my sister Rachel
never deserts her mirror; there she sits

all day; she longs to see her fair eyes gazing,
as I, to see my hands adorning, long:
she is content with seeing, I with labor.”

And now, with the reflected lights that glow
before the dawn and, rising, are most welcome
to pilgrims as, returning, they near home,

the shadows fled upon all sides; my sleep
fled with them; and at this, I woke and saw
that the great teachers had already risen.

“Today your hungerings will find their peace
through that sweet fruit the care of mortals seeks
among so many branches.” This, the speech,

the solemn words, that Virgil spoke to me;
and there were never tidings to compare,
in offering delight to me, with these.

My will on will to climb above was such
that at each step I took I felt the force
within my wings was growing for the flight.

When all the staircase lay beneath us and
we’d reached the highest step, then Virgil set
his eyes insistently on me and said:

“My son, you’ve seen the temporary fire
and the eternal fire; you have reached
the place past which my powers cannot see.

I’ve brought you here through intellect and art;
from now on, let your pleasure be your guide;
you’re past the steep and past the narrow paths.

Look at the sun that shines upon your brow;
look at the grasses, flowers, and the shrubs
born here, spontaneously, of the earth.

Among them, you can rest or walk until
the coming of the glad and lovely eyes—
those eyes that, weeping, sent me to your side.

Await no further word or sign from me:
your will is free, erect, and whole—to act
against that will would be to err: therefore

I crown and miter you over yourself.”

AS when he vibrates forth his earliest rays,
In regions where his Maker shed his blood,
(The Ebro falling under lofty Libra,

And waters in the Ganges burnt with noon,)
So stood the Sun; hence was the day departing,
When the glad Angel of God appeared to us.

Outside the flame he stood upon the verge,
And chanted forth, _”Beati mundo corde,”_
In voice by far more living than our own.

Then: “No one farther goes, souls sanctified,
If first the fire bite not; within it enter,
And be not deaf unto the song beyond.”

Wherefore e’en such became I, when I heard him,
As he is who is put into the grave.
Upon my clasped hands I straightened me,

Scanning the fire, and vividly recalling
The human bodies I had once seen burned.
Towards me turned themselves my good Conductors,

And unto me Virgilius said: “My son,
Here may indeed be torment, but not death.
Remember thee, remember! and if I

On Geryon have safely guided thee,
What shall I do now I am nearer God ?
Believe for certain, shouldst thou stand a full

Millenniunn in the bosom of this flame,
It could not make thee bald a single hair.
And if perchance thou think that I deceive thee,

Draw near to it, and put it to the proof
With thine own hands upon thy garment’s hem.
Now lay aside, now lay aside all fear,

Turn hithenward, and onward come securely ,”
And I still motionless, and ‘gainst my conscience!
Seeing me stand still motionless and stubborn,

Somewhat disturbed he said: “Now look thou, Son,
‘Twixt Beatrice and thee there is this wall.”
As at the name of Thisbe oped his lids

The dying Pyramus, and gazed upon her,
What time the mulberry became vermilion,
Even thus, my obduracy being softened,

I turned to my wise Guide, hearing the name
That in my memory evermore is welling.
Whereat he wagged his head, and said: “How now ?

Shall we stay on this side ?” then smiled as one
Does at a child who’s vanquished by an apple.
Then into the fire in front of me he entered,

Beseeching Statius to come after me,
Who a long way before divided us.
When I was in it, into molten glass

I would have cast me to refresh myself,
So without measure was the burning there!
And my sweet Father, to encourage me,

Discoursing still of Beatrice went on,
Saying: “Her eyes I seem to see already!”
A voice, that on the other side was singing,

Directed us, and we, attent alone
On that, came forth where the ascent began.
_”Venite, bendicti Patri mei,”_

Sounded within a splendour, which was there
Such it o’ercame me, and I could not look.
“The sun departs,” it added, “and night cometh;

Tarry ye not, but onward urge your steps,
So long as yet the west becomes not dark.”
Straight forward through the rock the path ascended

In such a way that I cut off the rays
Before me of the sun, that now was low.
And of few stairs we yet had made assay,

Ere by the vanished shadow the sun’s setting
Behind us we perceived, I and my Sages.
And ere in all its parts immeasurable

The horizon of one aspect had become,
And Night her boundless dispensation held,
Each of us of a stair had made his bed;

Because the nature of the mount took from us
The power of climbing, more than the delight.
Even as in ruminating passive grow

The goats, who have been swift and venturesome
Upon the mountain—tops ere they were fed,
Hushed in the shadow, while the sun is hot,

Watched by the herdsman, who upon his staff
Is leaning, and in leaning tendeth them;
And as the shepherd, lodging out of doors,

Passes the night beside his quiet flock,
Watching that no wild beast may scatter it,
Such at that hour were we, all three of us,

I like the goat, and like the herdsmen they,
Begirt on this side and on that by rocks.
Little could there be seen of things without;

But through that little I beheld the stars
More luminous and larger than their wont.
Thus ruminating, and beholding these,

Sleep seized upon me,— sleep, that oftentimes
Before a deed is done has tidings of it.
It was the hour, I think, when from the East

First on the mountain Citherea beamed,
Who with the fire of love seems always burning;
Youthful and beautiful in dreams methought

I saw a lady walking in a meadow,
Gathering flowers; and singing she was saying:
“Know whosoever may my name demand

That I am Leah, and go moving round
My beauteous hands to make myself a garland.
To please me at the mirror, here I deck me,

But never does my sister Rachel leave
Her looking—glass, and sitteth all day long.
To see her beauteous eyes as eager is she,

As I am to adorn me with my hands;
Her, seeing, and me, doing satisfies.”
And now before the antelucan splendours

That unto pilgrims the more grateful rise,
As, home—returning, less remote they lodge,
The darkness fled away on every side,

And slumber with it; whereupon I rose,
Seeing already the great Masters risen.
“That apple sweet, which through so many branches

The care of mortals goeth in pursuit of,
To—day shall put in peace thy hungerings.”
Speaking to me, Virgilius of such words

As these made use; and never were there guerdons
That could in pleasantness compare with these.
Such longing upon longing came upon me

To be above, that at each step thereafter
For flight I felt in me the pinions growing
When underneath us was the stairway all

Run o’er, and we were on the highest step,
Virgilius fastened upon me his eyes,
And said: “The temporal fire and the eternal,

Son, thou hast seen, and to a place art come
Where of myself no farther I discern.
By intellect and art I here have brought thee;

Take thine own pleasure for thy guide henceforth;
Beyond the steep ways and the narrow art thou.
Behold the sun, that shines upon thy forehead,

Behold the grass, the flowerets, and the shrubs
Which of itself alone this land produces.
Until rejoicing come the beauteous eyes

Which weeping caused me to come unto thee,
Thou canst sit down, and thou canst walk among them.
Expect no more or word or sign from me;

Free and upright and sound is thy free—will,
And error were it not to do its bidding;
Thee o’er thyself I therefore crown and mitre!”

Just as, there where its Maker shed His blood,
the sun shed its first rays, and Ebro lay
beneath high Libra, and the ninth hour’s rays

were scorching Ganges’ waves; so here, the sun
stood at the point of day’s departure when
God’s angel—happy—showed himself to us.

He stood along the edge, beyond the flames,
singing “Beati mundo corde” in
a voice that had more life than ours can claim.

Then: “Holy souls, you cannot move ahead
unless the fire has stung you first: enter
the flames, and don’t be deaf to song you’ll hear

beyond,” he said when we were close to him;
and when I heard him say this, I became
like one who has been laid within the grave.

I joined my hands and stretched them out to fend
the flames, watching the fire, imagining
clearly the human bodies I’d once seen

burning. My gentle escorts turned to me,
and Virgil said: “My son, though there may be
suffering here, there is no death. Remember,

remember! If I guided you to safety
even upon the back of Geryon,
then now, closer to God, what shall I do?

Be sure: although you were to spend a full
one thousand years within this fire’s center,
your head would not be balder by one hair.

And if you think I am deceiving you,
draw closer to the flames, let your own hands
try out, within the fire, your clothing’s hem—

put down, by now put down, your every fear;
turn toward the fire, and enter, confident!”
But I was stubborn, set against my conscience.

When he saw me still halting, obstinate,
he said, somewhat perplexed: “Now see, son: this
wall stands between you and your Beatrice.”

As, at the name of Thisbe, Pyramus,
about to die, opened his eyes, and saw her
(when then the mulberry became bloodred),

so, when my stubbornness had softened, I,
hearing the name that’s always flowering
within my mind, turned to my knowing guide.

At which he shook his head and said: “And would
you have us stay along this side?”—then smiled
as one smiles at a child fruit has beguiled.

Then he, ahead of me, entered the fire;
and he asked Statius, who had walked between us
before, dividing us, to go behind.

No sooner was I in that fire than I’d
have thrown myself in molten glass to find
coolness—because those flames were so intense.

My gentle father, who would comfort me,
kept talking, as we walked, of Beatrice,
saying: “I seem to see her eyes already.”

A voice that sang beyond us was our guide;
and we, attentive to that voice, emerged
just at the point where it began to climb.

“Venite, benedicti Patris mei,”
it sang within a light that overcame me:
I could not look at such intensity.

“The sun departs,” it added; “evening comes;
don’t stay your steps, but hurry on before
the west grows dark.” The path we took climbed straight

within the rock, and its direction was
such that, in front of me, my body blocked
the rays of sun, already low behind us.

And we had only tried a few steps when
I and my sages sensed the sun had set
because the shadow I had cast was spent.

Before one color came to occupy
that sky in all of its immensity
and night was free to summon all its darkness,

each of us made one of those stairs his bed:
the nature of the mountain had so weakened
our power and desire to climb ahead.

Like goats that, when they grazed, were swift and tameless
along the mountain peaks, but now are sated,
and rest and ruminate—while the sun blazes—

untroubled, in the shadows, silently,
watched over by the herdsman as he leans
upon his staff and oversees their peace;

or like the herdsman in the open fields,
spending the night beside his quiet flock,
watching to see that no beast drives them off;

such were all three of us at that point—they
were like the herdsmen, I was like the goat;
upon each side of us, high rock walls rose.

From there, one saw but little of the sky,
but in that little, I could see the stars
brighter and larger than they usually are.

But while I watched the stars, in reverie,
sleep overcame me—sleep, which often sees,
before it happens, what is yet to be.

It was the hour, I think, when Cytherea,
who always seems aflame with fires of love,
first shines upon the mountains from the east,

that, in my dream, I seemed to see a woman
both young and fair; along a plain she gathered
flowers, and even as she sang, she said:

“Whoever asks my name, know that I’m Leah,
and I apply my lovely hands to fashion
a garland of the flowers I have gathered.

To find delight within this mirror I
adorn myself; whereas my sister Rachel
never deserts her mirror; there she sits

all day; she longs to see her fair eyes gazing,
as I, to see my hands adorning, long:
she is content with seeing, I with labor.”

And now, with the reflected lights that glow
before the dawn and, rising, are most welcome
to pilgrims as, returning, they near home,

the shadows fled upon all sides; my sleep
fled with them; and at this, I woke and saw
that the great teachers had already risen.

“Today your hungerings will find their peace
through that sweet fruit the care of mortals seeks
among so many branches.” This, the speech,

the solemn words, that Virgil spoke to me;
and there were never tidings to compare,
in offering delight to me, with these.

My will on will to climb above was such
that at each step I took I felt the force
within my wings was growing for the flight.

When all the staircase lay beneath us and
we’d reached the highest step, then Virgil set
his eyes insistently on me and said:

“My son, you’ve seen the temporary fire
and the eternal fire; you have reached
the place past which my powers cannot see.

I’ve brought you here through intellect and art;
from now on, let your pleasure be your guide;
you’re past the steep and past the narrow paths.

Look at the sun that shines upon your brow;
look at the grasses, flowers, and the shrubs
born here, spontaneously, of the earth.

Among them, you can rest or walk until
the coming of the glad and lovely eyes—
those eyes that, weeping, sent me to your side.

Await no further word or sign from me:
your will is free, erect, and whole—to act
against that will would be to err: therefore

I crown and miter you over yourself.”

AS when he vibrates forth his earliest rays,
In regions where his Maker shed his blood,
(The Ebro falling under lofty Libra,

And waters in the Ganges burnt with noon,)
So stood the Sun; hence was the day departing,
When the glad Angel of God appeared to us.

Outside the flame he stood upon the verge,
And chanted forth, _”Beati mundo corde,”_
In voice by far more living than our own.

Then: “No one farther goes, souls sanctified,
If first the fire bite not; within it enter,
And be not deaf unto the song beyond.”

Wherefore e’en such became I, when I heard him,
As he is who is put into the grave.
Upon my clasped hands I straightened me,

Scanning the fire, and vividly recalling
The human bodies I had once seen burned.
Towards me turned themselves my good Conductors,

And unto me Virgilius said: “My son,
Here may indeed be torment, but not death.
Remember thee, remember! and if I

On Geryon have safely guided thee,
What shall I do now I am nearer God ?
Believe for certain, shouldst thou stand a full

Millenniunn in the bosom of this flame,
It could not make thee bald a single hair.
And if perchance thou think that I deceive thee,

Draw near to it, and put it to the proof
With thine own hands upon thy garment’s hem.
Now lay aside, now lay aside all fear,

Turn hithenward, and onward come securely ,”
And I still motionless, and ‘gainst my conscience!
Seeing me stand still motionless and stubborn,

Somewhat disturbed he said: “Now look thou, Son,
‘Twixt Beatrice and thee there is this wall.”
As at the name of Thisbe oped his lids

The dying Pyramus, and gazed upon her,
What time the mulberry became vermilion,
Even thus, my obduracy being softened,

I turned to my wise Guide, hearing the name
That in my memory evermore is welling.
Whereat he wagged his head, and said: “How now ?

Shall we stay on this side ?” then smiled as one
Does at a child who’s vanquished by an apple.
Then into the fire in front of me he entered,

Beseeching Statius to come after me,
Who a long way before divided us.
When I was in it, into molten glass

I would have cast me to refresh myself,
So without measure was the burning there!
And my sweet Father, to encourage me,

Discoursing still of Beatrice went on,
Saying: “Her eyes I seem to see already!”
A voice, that on the other side was singing,

Directed us, and we, attent alone
On that, came forth where the ascent began.
_”Venite, bendicti Patri mei,”_

Sounded within a splendour, which was there
Such it o’ercame me, and I could not look.
“The sun departs,” it added, “and night cometh;

Tarry ye not, but onward urge your steps,
So long as yet the west becomes not dark.”
Straight forward through the rock the path ascended

In such a way that I cut off the rays
Before me of the sun, that now was low.
And of few stairs we yet had made assay,

Ere by the vanished shadow the sun’s setting
Behind us we perceived, I and my Sages.
And ere in all its parts immeasurable

The horizon of one aspect had become,
And Night her boundless dispensation held,
Each of us of a stair had made his bed;

Because the nature of the mount took from us
The power of climbing, more than the delight.
Even as in ruminating passive grow

The goats, who have been swift and venturesome
Upon the mountain—tops ere they were fed,
Hushed in the shadow, while the sun is hot,

Watched by the herdsman, who upon his staff
Is leaning, and in leaning tendeth them;
And as the shepherd, lodging out of doors,

Passes the night beside his quiet flock,
Watching that no wild beast may scatter it,
Such at that hour were we, all three of us,

I like the goat, and like the herdsmen they,
Begirt on this side and on that by rocks.
Little could there be seen of things without;

But through that little I beheld the stars
More luminous and larger than their wont.
Thus ruminating, and beholding these,

Sleep seized upon me,— sleep, that oftentimes
Before a deed is done has tidings of it.
It was the hour, I think, when from the East

First on the mountain Citherea beamed,
Who with the fire of love seems always burning;
Youthful and beautiful in dreams methought

I saw a lady walking in a meadow,
Gathering flowers; and singing she was saying:
“Know whosoever may my name demand

That I am Leah, and go moving round
My beauteous hands to make myself a garland.
To please me at the mirror, here I deck me,

But never does my sister Rachel leave
Her looking—glass, and sitteth all day long.
To see her beauteous eyes as eager is she,

As I am to adorn me with my hands;
Her, seeing, and me, doing satisfies.”
And now before the antelucan splendours

That unto pilgrims the more grateful rise,
As, home—returning, less remote they lodge,
The darkness fled away on every side,

And slumber with it; whereupon I rose,
Seeing already the great Masters risen.
“That apple sweet, which through so many branches

The care of mortals goeth in pursuit of,
To—day shall put in peace thy hungerings.”
Speaking to me, Virgilius of such words

As these made use; and never were there guerdons
That could in pleasantness compare with these.
Such longing upon longing came upon me

To be above, that at each step thereafter
For flight I felt in me the pinions growing
When underneath us was the stairway all

Run o’er, and we were on the highest step,
Virgilius fastened upon me his eyes,
And said: “The temporal fire and the eternal,

Son, thou hast seen, and to a place art come
Where of myself no farther I discern.
By intellect and art I here have brought thee;

Take thine own pleasure for thy guide henceforth;
Beyond the steep ways and the narrow art thou.
Behold the sun, that shines upon thy forehead,

Behold the grass, the flowerets, and the shrubs
Which of itself alone this land produces.
Until rejoicing come the beauteous eyes

Which weeping caused me to come unto thee,
Thou canst sit down, and thou canst walk among them.
Expect no more or word or sign from me;

Free and upright and sound is thy free—will,
And error were it not to do its bidding;
Thee o’er thyself I therefore crown and mitre!”