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Chapter 30 Virgil's Departure. Beatrice. Dante's Shame.

  • When the Septentrion of the highest heaven
  • (Which never either setting knew or rising,
  • Nor veil of other cloud than that of sin,
  • And which made every one therein aware
  • Of his own duty, as the lower makes
  • Whoever turns the helm to come to port)
  • Motionless halted, the veracious people,
  • That came at first between it and the Griffin,
  • Turned themselves to the car, as to their peace.
  • And one of them, as if by Heaven commissioned,
  • Singing, "Veni, sponsa, de Libano"
  • Shouted three times, and all the others after.
  • Even as the Blessed at the final summons
  • Shall rise up quickened each one from his cavern,
  • Uplifting light the reinvested flesh,
  • So upon that celestial chariot
  • A hundred rose 'ad vocem tanti senis,'
  • Ministers and messengers of life eternal.
  • They all were saying, "Benedictus qui venis,"
  • And, scattering flowers above and round about,
  • "Manibus o date lilia plenis."
  • Ere now have I beheld, as day began,
  • The eastern hemisphere all tinged with rose,
  • And the other heaven with fair serene adorned;
  • And the sun's face, uprising, overshadowed
  • So that by tempering influence of vapours
  • For a long interval the eye sustained it;
  • Thus in the bosom of a cloud of flowers
  • Which from those hands angelical ascended,
  • And downward fell again inside and out,
  • Over her snow-white veil with olive cinct
  • Appeared a lady under a green mantle,
  • Vested in colour of the living flame.
  • And my own spirit, that already now
  • So long a time had been, that in her presence
  • Trembling with awe it had not stood abashed,
  • Without more knowledge having by mine eyes,
  • Through occult virtue that from her proceeded
  • Of ancient love the mighty influence felt.
  • As soon as on my vision smote the power
  • Sublime, that had already pierced me through
  • Ere from my boyhood I had yet come forth,
  • To the left hand I turned with that reliance
  • With which the little child runs to his mother,
  • When he has fear, or when he is afflicted,
  • To say unto Virgilius: "Not a drachm
  • Of blood remains in me, that does not tremble;
  • I know the traces of the ancient flame."
  • But us Virgilius of himself deprived
  • Had left, Virgilius, sweetest of all fathers,
  • Virgilius, to whom I for safety gave me:
  • Nor whatsoever lost the ancient mother
  • Availed my cheeks now purified from dew,
  • That weeping they should not again be darkened.
  • "Dante, because Virgilius has departed
  • Do not weep yet, do not weep yet awhile;
  • For by another sword thou need'st must weep."
  • E'en as an admiral, who on poop and prow
  • Comes to behold the people that are working
  • In other ships, and cheers them to well-doing,
  • Upon the left hand border of the car,
  • When at the sound I turned of my own name,
  • Which of necessity is here recorded,
  • I saw the Lady, who erewhile appeared
  • Veiled underneath the angelic festival,
  • Direct her eyes to me across the river.
  • Although the veil, that from her head descended,
  • Encircled with the foliage of Minerva,
  • Did not permit her to appear distinctly,
  • In attitude still royally majestic
  • Continued she, like unto one who speaks,
  • And keeps his warmest utterance in reserve:
  • "Look at me well; in sooth I'm Beatrice!
  • How didst thou deign to come unto the Mountain?
  • Didst thou not know that man is happy here?"
  • Mine eyes fell downward into the clear fountain,
  • But, seeing myself therein, I sought the grass,
  • So great a shame did weigh my forehead down.
  • As to the son the mother seems superb,
  • So she appeared to me; for somewhat bitter
  • Tasteth the savour of severe compassion.
  • Silent became she, and the Angels sang
  • Suddenly, "In te, Domine, speravi:"
  • But beyond 'pedes meos' did not pass.
  • Even as the snow among the living rafters
  • Upon the back of Italy congeals,
  • Blown on and drifted by Sclavonian winds,
  • And then, dissolving, trickles through itself
  • Whene'er the land that loses shadow breathes,
  • So that it seems a fire that melts a taper;
  • E'en thus was I without a tear or sigh,
  • Before the song of those who sing for ever
  • After the music of the eternal spheres.
  • But when I heard in their sweet melodies
  • Compassion for me, more than had they said,
  • "O wherefore, lady, dost thou thus upbraid him?"
  • The ice, that was about my heart congealed,
  • To air and water changed, and in my anguish
  • Through mouth and eyes came gushing from my breast.
  • She, on the right-hand border of the car
  • Still firmly standing, to those holy beings
  • Thus her discourse directed afterwards:
  • "Ye keep your watch in the eternal day,
  • So that nor night nor sleep can steal from you
  • One step the ages make upon their path;
  • Therefore my answer is with greater care,
  • That he may hear me who is weeping yonder,
  • So that the sin and dole be of one measure.
  • Not only by the work of those great wheels,
  • That destine every seed unto some end,
  • According as the stars are in conjunction,
  • But by the largess of celestial graces,
  • Which have such lofty vapours for their rain
  • That near to them our sight approaches not,
  • Such had this man become in his new life
  • Potentially, that every righteous habit
  • Would have made admirable proof in him;
  • But so much more malignant and more savage
  • Becomes the land untilled and with bad seed,
  • The more good earthly vigour it possesses.
  • Some time did I sustain him with my look;
  • Revealing unto him my youthful eyes,
  • I led him with me turned in the right way.
  • As soon as ever of my second age
  • I was upon the threshold and changed life,
  • Himself from me he took and gave to others.
  • When from the flesh to spirit I ascended,
  • And beauty and virtue were in me increased,
  • I was to him less dear and less delightful;
  • And into ways untrue he turned his steps,
  • Pursuing the false images of good,
  • That never any promises fulfil;
  • Nor prayer for inspiration me availed,
  • By means of which in dreams and otherwise
  • I called him back, so little did he heed them.
  • So low he fell, that all appliances
  • For his salvation were already short,
  • Save showing him the people of perdition.
  • For this I visited the gates of death,
  • And unto him, who so far up has led him,
  • My intercessions were with weeping borne.
  • God's lofty fiat would be violated,
  • If Lethe should be passed, and if such viands
  • Should tasted be, withouten any scot
  • Of penitence, that gushes forth in tears."