Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Of Dante,Veins Cut and Sewn, Animals,Earth and Stars

drawing by marguerita

Canto II

Now was the day departing, and the air,

Imbrown'd with shadows, from their

toils released

All animals on earth; and I alone

Prepared myself the conflict to sustain,

Both of sad pity, and that perilous road,

Which my unerring memory shall retrace.

O Muses! O high genius! now vouch safe

Your aid. O mind! that all I saw

hast kept

Safe in a written record, here thy worth

And eminent endowments come to proof.

I thus began: "Bard! thou who art

my guide,

Consider well, if virtue be in me

Sufficient, ere to this high enterprise

Thou trust me. Thou hast told that

Silvius' sire,[1]

Yet clothed in corruptible flesh, among

The immortal tribes had entrance,

and was there

Sensibly present. Yet if Heaven's

great Lord,

Almighty foe to ill, such favor show'd

In contemplation of the high effect,

Both what and who from him should

issue forth,

It seems in reason's judgment

well deserved;

Sith he of Rome and of Rome's

empire wide,

In Heaven's imperial height was

chosen sire:

Both which, if truth be spoken,

were ordain'd

And stablish'd for the holy place,

where sits

Who to great Peter's sacred

chair succeeds.

He from this journey, in thy

song renown'd,

Learn'd things, that to his

victory gave rise

And to the papal robe. In after -


The Chosen Vessel[2] also

travel'd there,

To bring us back assurance in

that faith

Which is the entrance to

salvation's way.

But I, why should I there presume?

or who

Permits it? not Aeneas I, nor Paul.

[1: "Silvius' sire." Aeneas.]

[2: "The Chosen Vessel." St. Paul.]

Myself I deem not worthy, and none else

Will deem me. I, if on this voyage then

I venture, fear it will in folly end.

Thou, who art wise, better my

meaning know'st,

Than I can speak." As one, who unresolves

What he hath late resolved, and

with new thoughts

Changes his purpose, from his first intent

Removed; e'en such was I on that dun coast,

Wasting in thought my enterprise, at first

So eagerly embraced. "If right thy words

I scan," replied that shade magnanimous,

"Thy soul is by vile fear assail'd,

which oft

So overcasts a man, that he recoils

From noblest resolution, like a beast

At some false semblance in the

twilight gloom.

That from this terror thou mayst

free thyself,

I will instruct thee why I came,

and what

I heard in that same instant,

when for thee

Grief touch'd me first. I was

among the tribe,

Who rest suspended,[3] when a dame,

so blest

And lovely I besought her to command,

Call'd me;

her eyes were brighter

than the star

Of day; and she, with gentle

voice and soft,

Angelically tuned, her speech


'O courteous shade of Mantua!

thou whose fame

Yet lives, and shall live long

as nature lasts!

A friend, not of my fortune

but myself,

On the wide desert in his

road has met

Hindrance so great, that he

through fear has turn'd.

Now much I dread lest he past

help have stray'd,

And I be risen too late for

his relief,

From what in heaven of him

I heard. Speed now,

And by thy eloquent persuasive


And by all means for his

deliverance meet,

Assist him. So to me will

comfort spring.

I, who now bid thee on this

errand forth,

Am Beatrice;[4] from a place

I come

Revisited with joy. Love brought

me thence,

Who prompts my speech. When in

my Master's sight

I stand, thy praise to him

I oft will tell.'

[3: The spirits in Limbo,

neither admitted to a

state of glory nor

doomed to punishment.]

[4: "Beatrice." The daughter

of Folco Portinari, who is here


with the character of celestial

wisdom or theology.]

"She then was silent, and I thus began:

'O Lady! by whose influence alone

Mankind excels whatever is contain'd

Within that heaven which hath

the smallest orb,

So thy command delights me,

that to obey,

If it were done already,

would seem late.

No need hast thou further

to speak thy will:

Yet tell the reason, why

thou art not loth

To leave that ample space,

where to return

Thou burnest, for this

centre here beneath.'

"She then: 'Since thou so

deeply wouldst inquire,

I will instruct thee

briefly why no dread

Hinders my entrance here.

Those things alone

Are to be fear'd whence

evil may proceed;

None else, for none are

terrible beside.

I am so framed by God,

thanks to His grace!

That any sufferance of your misery

Touches me not, nor flame

of that fierce fire

Assails me. In high Heaven

a blessed Dame[5]

Resides, who mourns with

such effectual grief

That hindrance, which I

send thee to remove,

That God's stern judgment

to her will inclines.'

To Lucia,[6] calling, her she

thus bespake:

'Now doth thy faithful servant

need thy aid,

And I commend him to thee.'

At her word

Sped Lucia, of all cruelty the foe,

And coming to the place,

where I abode

Seated with Rachel, her of

ancient days,

She thus address'd me:

"Thou true praise of God!

Beatrice! why is not thy

succour lent

To him, who so much

loved thee, as to leave

For thy sake all

the multitude admires?

Dost thou not hear how

pitiful his wail,

Nor mark the death, which

in the torrent flood,

Swoln mightier than a sea,

him struggling holds?"

[5: "A blessed Dame."

The Divine Mercy.]

[6: "Lucia." The enlightening

Grace of Heaven; as it is commonly


Ne'er among men did

any with such speed

Haste to their profit, flee

from their annoy,

As, when these words

were spoken, I came here,

Down from my blessed seat,

trusting the force

Of thy pure eloquence,

which thee, and all

Who well have mark'd it, into honor brings.'

"When she had ended,

her bright beaming eyes

Tearful she turn'd aside;

whereat I felt

Redoubled zeal to serve thee.

As she will'd,

Thus am I come: I saved

thee from the beast,

Who thy near way across

the goodly mount

Prevented. What is this

comes o'er thee than?

Why, why dost thou hang back?

why in thy breast

Harbour vile fear? why hast

not courage there,

And noble daring; since

three maids,[7] so blest,

Thy safety plan, e'en

in the court of Heaven;

And so much certain good

my words forebode?"

[7: "Three maids."

The Divine Mercy, Lucia and Beatrice.]

As forests, by the frosty air of night

Bent down and closed, when

day has blanch'd their leaves,

Rise all unfolded on their spiry stems;

So was my fainting vigor new restored,

And to my heart such kindly courage ran,

That I as one undaunted soon replied:

"O full of pity she, who undertook

My succour! and thou kind, who didst perform

So soon her true behest! With such desire

Thou hast disposed me to renew my voyage,

That my first purpose fully is resumed.

Lead on: one only will is in us both.

Thou art my guide, my master thou, and lord,"

So spake I; and when he had onward moved,

I enter'd on the deep and woody way.

Note: To you my Man, read those words

and allow these words enlighten your path....

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