The Divine Comedy: Purgatorio: Canto VII

Updated February 28, 2017 | Infoplease Staff


40 - Purgatorio: Canto VI
Purgatorio: Canto VIII - 42

Purgatorio: Canto VII

 After the gracious and glad salutations Had three and four times been reiterated, Sordello backward drew and said, "Who are you?" 
"Or ever to this mountain were directed The souls deserving to ascend to God, My bones were buried by Octavian. 
I am Virgilius; and for no crime else Did I lose heaven, than for not having faith;" In this wise then my Leader made reply. 
As one who suddenly before him sees Something whereat he marvels, who believes And yet does not, saying, "It is! it is not!" 
So he appeared; and then bowed down his brow, And with humility returned towards him, And, where inferiors embrace, embraced him. 
"O glory of the Latians, thou," he said, "Through whom our language showed what it could do O pride eternal of the place I came from, 
What merit or what grace to me reveals thee? If I to hear thy words be worthy, tell me If thou dost come from Hell, and from what cloister." 
"Through all the circles of the doleful realm," Responded he, "have I come hitherward; Heaven's power impelled me, and with that I come. 
I by not doing, not by doing, lost The sight of that high sun which thou desirest, And which too late by me was recognized. 
A place there is below not sad with torments, But darkness only, where the lamentations Have not the sound of wailing, but are sighs. 
There dwell I with the little innocents Snatched by the teeth of Death, or ever they Were from our human sinfulness exempt. 
There dwell I among those who the three saintly Virtues did not put on, and without vice The others knew and followed all of them. 
But if thou know and can, some indication Give us by which we may the sooner come Where Purgatory has its right beginning." 
He answered: "No fixed place has been assigned us; 'Tis lawful for me to go up and round; So far as I can go, as guide I join thee. 
But see already how the day declines, And to go up by night we are not able; Therefore 'tis well to think of some fair sojourn. 
Souls are there on the right hand here withdrawn; If thou permit me I will lead thee to them, And thou shalt know them not without delight." 
"How is this?" was the answer; "should one wish To mount by night would he prevented be By others? or mayhap would not have power?" 
And on the ground the good Sordello drew His finger, saying, "See, this line alone Thou couldst not pass after the sun is gone; 
Not that aught else would hindrance give, however, To going up, save the nocturnal darkness; This with the want of power the will perplexes. 
We might indeed therewith return below, And, wandering, walk the hill-side round about, While the horizon holds the day imprisoned." 
Thereon my Lord, as if in wonder, said: "Do thou conduct us thither, where thou sayest That we can take delight in tarrying." 
Little had we withdrawn us from that place, When I perceived the mount was hollowed out In fashion as the valleys here are hollowed. 
"Thitherward," said that shade, "will we repair, Where of itself the hill-side makes a lap, And there for the new day will we await." 
'Twixt hill and plain there was a winding path Which led us to the margin of that dell, Where dies the border more than half away. 
Gold and fine silver, and scarlet and pearl-white, The Indian wood resplendent and serene, Fresh emerald the moment it is broken, 
By herbage and by flowers within that hollow Planted, each one in colour would be vanquished, As by its greater vanquished is the less. 
Nor in that place had nature painted only, But of the sweetness of a thousand odours Made there a mingled fragrance and unknown. 
"Salve Regina," on the green and flowers There seated, singing, spirits I beheld, Which were not visible outside the valley. 
"Before the scanty sun now seeks his nest," Began the Mantuan who had led us thither, "Among them do not wish me to conduct you. 
Better from off this ledge the acts and faces Of all of them will you discriminate, Than in the plain below received among them. 
He who sits highest, and the semblance bears Of having what he should have done neglected, And to the others' song moves not his lips, 
Rudolph the Emperor was, who had the power To heal the wounds that Italy have slain, So that through others slowly she revives. 
The other, who in look doth comfort him, Governed the region where the water springs, The Moldau bears the Elbe, and Elbe the sea. 
His name was Ottocar; and in swaddling-clothes Far better he than bearded Winceslaus His son, who feeds in luxury and ease. 
And the small-nosed, who close in council seems With him that has an aspect so benign, Died fleeing and disflowering the lily; 
Look there, how he is beating at his breast! Behold the other one, who for his cheek Sighing has made of his own palm a bed; 
Father and father-in-law of France's Pest Are they, and know his vicious life and lewd, And hence proceeds the grief that so doth pierce them. 
He who appears so stalwart, and chimes in, Singing, with that one of the manly nose, The cord of every valour wore begirt; 
And if as King had after him remained The stripling who in rear of him is sitting, Well had the valour passed from vase to vase, 
Which cannot of the other heirs be said. Frederick and Jacomo possess the realms, But none the better heritage possesses. 
Not oftentimes upriseth through the branches The probity of man; and this He wills Who gives it, so that we may ask of Him. 
Eke to the large-nosed reach my words, no less Than to the other, Pier, who with him sings; Whence Provence and Apulia grieve already 
The plant is as inferior to its seed, As more than Beatrice and Margaret Costanza boasteth of her husband still. 
Behold the monarch of the simple life, Harry of England, sitting there alone; He in his branches has a better issue. 
He who the lowest on the ground among them Sits looking upward, is the Marquis William, For whose sake Alessandria and her war 
Make Monferrat and Canavese weep." 
40 - Purgatorio: Canto VI
Purgatorio: Canto VIII - 42