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PURGATORY
Canto I. About to sing of a region where human spirits are purged of their sins and prepared to enter heaven, Dante invokes the aid of the muses. Then, gazing about him, he discovers he is in an atmosphere of sapphire hue, all the more lovely because of the contrast with the infernal gloom whence he has just emerged. It is just before dawn, and he beholds with awe four bright stars,—the Southern Cross,—which symbolize the four cardinal virtues (Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance).

After contemplating these stars awhile, Dante, turning to the north to get his bearings, perceives Virgil has been joined in this ante-purgatorial region by Cato, who wonderingly inquires how they escaped "the eternal prison-house."

Virgil's gesture and example have meantime forced Dante to his knees, so it is in this position that the Latin poet explains how a lady in heaven bade him rescue Dante—before it was too late—by guiding him through hell and showing him how sinners are cleansed in Purgatory. The latter part of Virgil's task can, however, be accomplished only if Cato will allow them to enter the realm which he guards. Moved by so eloquent a plea, Cato directs Virgil to wash all traces of tears and of infernal mirk from Dante's face, girdle him with a reed in token of humility, and then ascend the Mount of Purgatory,—formed of the earthy core ejected from Hades,—which he points out in the middle of a lake with reedy shores.

Leading his charge in the early dawn across a meadow, Virgil draws his hands first through the dewy grass and then over Dante's face, and, having thus removed all visible traces of the passage through Hades, takes him down to the shore to girdle him with a pliant reed, the emblem of humility.

Canto II. Against the whitening east they now behold a ghostly vessel advancing toward them, and when it approaches near enough they descry an angel standing at its prow, his outspread wings serving as sails. While Dante again sinks upon his knees, he hears, faintly at first, the passengers in the boat singing the psalm "When Israel went out of Egypt."

Making a sign of the cross upon each passenger's brow, the angel allows his charges to land, and vanishes at sunrise, just as the new-comers, turning to Virgil, humbly inquire the way to the mountain. Virgil rejoins that he too is a recent arrival, although he and his companion travelled a far harder road than theirs. His words making them aware of the fact that Dante is a living man, the spirits crowd around him, eager to touch him. Among them he recognizes the musician Casella, his friend. Unable to embrace a spirit,—although he tries to do so,—Dante, after explaining his own presence here, begs Casella to comfort all present by singing of love. Just as this strain ends, Cato reappears, urging them to hasten to the mountain and there cast aside the scales which conceal God from their eyes. At these words all the souls present scatter like a covey of pigeons, and begin ascending the mountain, whither Virgil and Dante slowly follow them.

      "As a wild flock of pigeons, to their food
  Collected, blade or tares, without their pride
  Accustom'd, and in still and quiet sort,
  If aught alarm them, suddenly desert
  Their meal, assail'd by more important care;
  So I that new-come troop beheld, the song
  Deserting, hasten to the mountain's side,
  As one who goes, yet, where he tends, knows not."

Canto III. While painfully ascending the steep slope, Dante, seeing only his own shadow lengthening out before him, fears his guide has abandoned him, and is relieved to see Virgil close behind him and to hear him explain that disembodied spirits cast no shadow. While they are talking, they reach the foot of the mountain and are daunted by its steep and rocky sides. They are vainly searching for some crevice whereby they may hope to ascend, when they behold a slowly advancing procession of white-robed figures, from whom Virgil humbly inquires the way.

      "As sheep, that step from forth their fold, by one,
  Or pairs, or three at once; meanwhile the rest
  Stand fearfully, bending the eye and nose
  To ground, and what the foremost does, that do
  The others, gathering round her if she stops,
  Simple and quiet, nor the cause discern;
  So saw I moving to advance the first,
  Who of the fortunate crew were at the head,
  Of modest mien, and graceful in their gait.
  When they before me had beheld the light
  From my right side fall broken on the ground,
  So that the shadow reach'd the cave; they stopp'd,
  And somewhat back retired: the same did all
  Who follow'd, though unwitting of the cause."

These spirits too are startled at the sight of a living being, but, when Virgil assures them Dante is not here without warrant, they obligingly point out "the straight and narrow way" which serves as entrance to Purgatory. This done, one spirit, detaching itself from the rest, inquires whether Dante does not remember Manfred, King of Naples and Sicily, and whether he will not, on his return to earth, inform the princess that her father repented of his sins at the moment of death and now bespeaks her prayers to shorten his time of probation.

Canto IV. Dazed by what he has just seen and heard, Dante becomes conscious of his surroundings once more, only when the sun stands considerably higher, and when he has arrived at the foot of a rocky pathway, up which he painfully follows Virgil, helping himself with his hands as well as his feet. Arrived at its top, both gaze wonderingly around them, and perceive by the position of the sun that they must be at the antipodes of Florence, where their journey began. Panting with the exertions he has just made, Dante expresses some fear lest his strength may fail him, whereupon Virgil kindly assures him the way, so arduous at first, will become easier and easier the higher they ascend.

Just then a voice, addressing them, advises them to rest, and Dante, turning, perceives, among other spirits, a sitting figure, in whom he recognizes a friend noted for his laziness. On questioning this spirit, Dante learns that this friend, Belacqua, instead of exerting himself to climb the mount of Purgatory, is idly waiting in hopes of being wafted upward by the prayers of some "heart which lives in grace." Such slothfulness irritates Virgil, who hurries Dante on, warning him the sun has already reached its meridian and night will all too soon overtake them.

Canto V. Heedless of the whispered comments behind him because he is opaque and not transparent like the other spirits, Dante follows Virgil, until they overtake a band of spirits chanting the Miserere. These too seem surprised at Dante's density, and, when assured he is alive, eagerly inquire whether he can give them any tidings of friends and families left on earth. Although all present are sinners who died violent deaths, as they repented at the last minute they are not wholly excluded from hope of bliss. Unable to recognize any of these, Dante nevertheless listens to their descriptions of their violent ends, and promises to enlighten their friends and kinsmen in regard to their fate.

Canto VI. Because Virgil moves on, Dante feels constrained to follow, although the spirits continue to pluck at his mantle, imploring him to hear what they have to say. Touched by the sorrows of men of his own time or famous in history, Dante wistfully asks his guide whether prayers can ever change Heaven's decrees, and learns that true love can work miracles, as he will perceive when he beholds Beatrice. The hope of meeting his beloved face to face causes Dante to urge his guide to greater speed and almost gives wings to his feet. Presently Virgil directs his companion's attention to a spirit standing apart, in whom Dante recognizes the poet Sordello, who mourns because Mantua—his native city as well as Virgil's—drifts in these political upheavals like a pilotless vessel in the midst of a storm.

Canto VII. Virgil now informs Sordello that he, Virgil, is debarred from all hope of heaven through lack of faith. Thereupon Sordello reverently approaches him, calling him "Glory of Latium," and inquiring whence he comes. Virgil explains how, led by heavenly influence, he left the dim limbo of ante-hell, passed through all the stages of the Inferno, and is now seeking the place "Where Purgatory its true beginning takes." Sordello rejoins that, while he will gladly serve as guide, the day is already so far gone that they had better spend the night in a neighboring dell. He then leads Virgil and Dante to a hollow, where, resting upon fragrant flowers, they prepare to spend the night, with a company of spirits who chant "Salve Regina." Among these the new-comers recognize with surprise sundry renowned monarchs, whose doings are briefly described.

Canto VIII. Meantime the hour of rest has come, the hour described by the poet as—

      Now was the hour that wakens fond desire
  In men at sea, and melts their thoughtful heart
  Who in the morn have bid sweet friends farewell,
  And pilgrim newly on his road with love
  Thrills, if he hear the vesper bell from far
  That seems to mourn for the expiring day.

Dante and Virgil then witness the evening devotions of these spirits, which conclude with a hymn so soft, so devout, that their senses are lost in ravishment. When it has ended, the spirits all gaze expectantly upward, and soon behold two green-clad angels, with flaming swords, who alight on eminences at either end of the glade. These heavenly warriors are sent by Mary to mount guard during the hours of darkness so as to prevent the serpent from gliding unseen into their miniature Eden. Still led by Sordello, the poets withdraw to a leafy recess, where Dante discovers a friend whom he had cause to believe detained in hell. This spirit explains he is not indeed languishing there simply because of the prayers of his daughter Giovanna, who has not forgotten him although his wife has married again.

Dante is just gazing with admiration at three stars (symbols of Faith, Hope, and Charity), when Sordello suddenly points out the serpent, who is no sooner descried by the angels than they swoop down and put him to flight.

              "I saw not, nor can tell,
  How those celestial falcons from their seat
  Moved, but in motion each one well descried.
  Hearing the air cut by their verdant plumes,
  The serpent fled; and, to their stations, back
  The angels up return'd with equal flight."

Canto IX. Dante falls asleep in this valley, but, just as the first gleams of light appear, he is favored by a vision, wherein—like Ganymede—he is borne by a golden-feathered eagle into a glowing fire where both are consumed. Wakening with a start from this disquieting dream, Dante finds himself in a different spot, with no companion save Virgil, and notes the sun is at least two hours high.

Virgil now assures him that, thanks to Santa Lucia (type of God's grace), he has in sleep been conveyed to the very entrance of Purgatory. Gazing at the high cliffs which encircle the mountain, Dante now perceives a deep cleft, through which he and Virgil arrive at a vast portal (the gate of penitence), to which three huge steps of varying color and size afford access. At the top of these steps, on a diamond threshold, sits the Angel of Absolution with his flashing sword. Challenged by this warder, Virgil explains that they have been guided hither by Santa Lucia, at whose name the angel bids them draw near. Up a polished step of white marble (which typifies sincerity), a dark step of cracked stone (symbol of contrition), and one of red porphyry (emblem of self-sacrifice), Dante arrives at the angel's feet and humbly begs him to unbar the door. In reply the angel inscribes upon the poet's brow, by means of his sword, seven P's, to represent the seven deadly sins (in Italian peccata), of which mortals must be purged ere they can enter Paradise.

After bidding Dante have these signs properly effaced, the angel draws from beneath his ash-hued mantle the golden key of authority and the silver key of discernment, stating that when St. Peter entrusted them to his keeping he bade him err "rather in opening than in keeping fast." Then, the gate open, the angel bids them enter, adding the solemn warning "he forth again departs who looks behind."

Canto X. Mindful of this caution, Dante does not turn, although the gates close with a clash behind him, but follows his guide along a steep pathway. It is only after painful exertions they reach the first terrace of Purgatory, or place where the sin of pride is punished. They now pass along a white marble cornice,—some eighteen feet wide,—whose walls are decorated with sculptures which would not have shamed the best masters of Greek art. Here are represented such subjects as the Annunciation, David dancing before the Ark, and Trajan granting the petition of the unfortunate widow. Proceeding along this path, they soon see a procession of spirits approaching, all bent almost double beneath huge burdens. As they creep along, one or another gasps from time to time, "I can endure no more."

Canto XI. The oppressed spirits fervently pray for aid and forgiveness, while continuing their weary tramp around this cornice, where they do penance for undue pride. Praying they may soon be delivered, Virgil inquires of them where he can find means to ascend to the next circle, and is told to accompany the procession which will soon pass the place. The speaker, although unable to raise his head, confesses his arrogance while on earth so incensed his fellow-creatures that they finally rose up against him and murdered him. Stooping so as to catch a glimpse of the bent face, Dante realizes he is talking to a miniature painter who claimed to be without equal, and therefore has to do penance.

                          The noise
  Of worldly fame is but a blast of wind,
  That blows from diverse points, and shifts its name,
  Shifting the point it blows from.

Canto XII. Journeying beside the bowed painter (who names some of his fellow-sufferers), Dante's attention is directed by Virgil to the pavement beneath his feet, where he sees carved Briareus, Nimrod, Niobe, Arachne, Saul, etc.,—in short, all those who dared measure themselves with the gods or who cherished overweening opinions of their attainments. So absorbed is Dante in contemplation of these subjects that he starts when told an angel is coming to meet them, who, if entreated with sufficient humility, will doubtless help them reach the next level.

The radiant-faced angel, robed in dazzling white, instead of waiting to be implored to help the travellers, graciously points out steps where the rocks are sundered by a cleft, and, when Dante obediently climbs past him, a soft touch from his wings brushes away the P. which stands for pride, and thus frees our poet of all trace of this heinous sin. But it is only on reaching the top of the stairway that Dante becomes aware of this fact.

Canto XIII. The second ledge of purgatory, which they have now reached, is faced with plain gray stone, and Virgil leads his companion a full mile along it ere they become aware of a flight of invisible spirits, some of whom chant "They have no wine!" while the others respond "Love ye those who have wrong'd you." These are those who, having sinned through envy, can be freed only by the exercise of charity. Then, bidding Dante gaze fixedly, Virgil points out this shadowy host, clothed in sackcloth, sitting back against the rocks, and Dante takes particular note of two figures supporting each other. He next discovers that one and all of these victims have their eyelids sewn so tightly together with wire that passage is left only for streams of penitential tears.

When allowed to address them, Dante, hoping to comfort them, offers to bear back to earth any message they wish to send. It is then that one of these spirits informs Dante that on earth she was Sapia, a learned Siennese, who, having rejoiced when her country was defeated, is obliged to do penance for heartlessness. Marvelling that any one should wander among them with eyes unclosed, she inquires by what means Dante has come here, bespeaks his prayers, and implores him to warn her countrymen not to cherish vain hopes of greatness or to sin through envy.

Canto XIV. The two spirits leaning close together, in their turn question who Virgil and Dante may be? When they hear mention of Rome and Florence, they hotly inveigh against the degeneracy of dwellers on the banks of the Tiber and Arno.

Shortly after leaving this place with his guide, Dante hears the wail:
"Whosoever finds will slay me," a cry followed by a deafening crash.

Canto XV. Circling round the mountain, always in the same direction, Dante notes the sun is about to set, when another dazzling angel invites them up to the next level,—where anger is punished,—by means of a stairway less steep than any of the preceding. As they climb, the angel softly chants "Blessed the merciful" and "Happy thou that conquer'st," while he brushes aside the second P ., and thus cleanses Dante from envy. But, when Dante craves an explanation of what he has heard and seen, Virgil assures him that only when the five remaining "scars" have vanished from his brow, Beatrice herself can satisfy his curiosity.

On reaching the third level, they find themselves enveloped in a dense fog, through which Dante dimly beholds the twelve-year-old Christ in the Temple and overhears his mother chiding him. Next he sees a woman weeping, and lastly Stephen stoned to death.

Canto XVI. Urged by his guide to hasten through this bitter blinding fog—a symbol of anger which is punished here—Dante stumbles along, mindful of Virgil's caution, "Look that from me thou part not." Meanwhile voices on all sides invoke "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world." Then, all at once, a voice addresses Dante, who, prompted by Virgil, inquires where the next stairway may be? His interlocutor, after bespeaking Dante's prayers, holds forth against Rome, which, boasting of two suns,—the pope and the emperor,—has seen the one quench the other. But the arrival of an angel, sent to guide our travellers to the next level, soon ends this conversation.

Canto XVII. Out of the vapors of anger—as dense as any Alpine fog—Dante, who has caught glimpses of famous victims of anger, such as Haman and Lavinia, emerges with Virgil, only to be dazzled by the glorious light of the sun. Then, climbing the ladder the angel points out, Dante feels him brush away the third obnoxious P., while chanting, "Blessed are the peacemakers." They now reach the fourth ledge, where the sin of indifference or sloth is punished, and, as they trudge along it, Virgil explains that all indifference is due to a lack of love, a virtue on which he eloquently discourses.

Canto XVIII. A multitude of spirits now interrupt Virgil, and, when he questions them, two, who lead the rest, volubly quote examples of fervent affection and zealous haste. They are closely followed by other spirits, the backsliders, who, not having had the strength or patience to endure, preferred inglorious ease to adventurous life and are now consumed with regret.

Canto XIX. In the midst of a trance which overtakes him, Dante next has a vision of the Siren which beguiled Ulysses and of Philosophy or Truth. Then, morning having dawned, Virgil leads him to the next stairway, up which an angel wafts them, chanting "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted," while he brushes away another sin scar from our poet's forehead.

In this fifth circle those guilty of avarice undergo punishment by being chained fast to the earth to which they clung, and which they bedew with penitent tears. One of these, questioned by Dante, reveals he was Pope Adrian V., who, dying a month after his elevation to the papal chair, repented in time of his grasping past. When Dante kneels compassionately beside this august sufferer, he is implored to warn the pope's kinswoman to eschew the besetting sin of their house.

Canto XX. A little further on, among the grovelling figures which closely pave this fifth cornice, Dante beholds Hugues Capet, founder of the third dynasty of French kings, and stigmatized as "root of that ill plant," because this poem was composed only a few years after Philip IV's criminal attempt against Pope Boniface at Agnani. The poets also recognize there Pygmalion (brother of Dido), Midas, Achan, Heliodorus, and Crassus, [18] ere they are startled by feeling the whole mountain tremble beneath them and by hearing the spirits exultantly cry "Glory to God!"

Canto XXI. Clinging to Virgil in speechless terror, Dante hears his guide assure the spirit which suddenly appears before them that the Fates have not yet finished spinning the thread of his companion's life. When questioned by the travellers in regard to the noise and earthquake, this spirit informs them that the mountain quivers with joy whenever a sinner is released, and that, after undergoing a punishment of five hundred years, he—Statius—is now free to go in quest of his master Virgil, whom he has always longed to meet. Dante's smile at these words, together with his meaning glance at Virgil, suddenly reveal to the spirit that his dearest wish is granted, and Statius reverently does obeisance to the poet from whose fount he drew his inspiration.

Canto XXII. The three bards are next led by an angel up another staircase, to the sixth cornice (Dante losing another P. on the way), where the sins of gluttony and drunkenness are punished. As they circle around this ledge, Dante questions how Statius became guilty of the sin of covetousness, for which he was doomed to tramp around the fifth circle. In reply Statius rejoins that it was not because of covetousness, but of its counterpart, over-lavishness, that he suffered so long, and principally because he was not brave enough to own himself a Christian. Then he inquires of Virgil what have become of their fellow-countrymen Terence, Caecilius, Plautus, and Varro, only to learn that they too linger in the dark regions of ante-hell, where they hold sweet converse with other pagan poets.

Reverently listening to the conversation of his companions, Dante drinks in "mysterious lessons of sweet poesy" and silently follows them until they draw near a tree laden with fruit and growing beside a crystal stream. Issuing from this tree a voice warns them against the sin of gluttony—which is punished in this circle—and quotes such marked examples of abstinence as Daniel feeding on pulse and John the Baptist living on locusts and wild honey.

Canto XXIII. Dante is still dumbly staring at the mysterious tree when Virgil bids him follow, for they still have far to go. They next meet weeping, hollow-eyed spirits, so emaciated that their bones start through their skin. One of these recognizes Dante, who is aghast that his friend Forese should be in such a state and escorted by two skeleton spirits. Forese replies that he and his companions are consumed by endless hunger and thirst, although they eat and drink without ever being satisfied. When Dante expresses surprise because a man only five years dead should already be so high up the mount of Purgatory, Forese explains that his wife's constant prayers have successively freed him from detention in the other circles. In return Dante states why he is here and names his companions.

Canto XXIV. Escorting the three travellers on their way, Forese inquires what has become of his sister, Piccarda, ere he points out sundry spirits, with whom Dante converses, and who predict the coming downfall of his political foes. But these spirits suddenly leave Dante to dart toward trees, which tantalizingly withold their fruit from their eager hands, while hidden voices loudly extol temperance.

Canto XXV. In single file the three poets continue their tramp, commenting on what they have seen, and Statius expounds his theories of life. Then they ascend to the seventh ledge, where glowing fires purge mortals of all sensuality. Even as they toil toward this level, an angel voice extols chastity, and Dante once more feels the light touch which he now associates with the removal of one of the scars made by the angel at the entrance of Purgatory. Arrived above, the poets have to tread a narrow path between the roaring fires and the abyss. So narrow is the way, that Virgil bids Dante beware or he will be lost!

       "Behoved us, one by one, along the side,
  That border'd on the void, to pass; and I
  Fear'd on one hand the fire, on the other fear'd
  Headlong to fall: when thus the instructor warn'd:
  'Strict rein must in this place direct the eyes.
  A little swerving and the way is lost.'"

As all three warily proceed, Dante hears voices in the fiery furnace alternately imploring the mercy of God and quoting examples of chastity, such as Mary and Diana, and couples who proved chaste though married.

Canto XXVI. As the poets move along the rim, Dante's shadow, cast upon the roaring flames, causes such wonder to the victims undergoing purification that one of them inquires who he may be. Just as Dante is about to answer, his attention is attracted by hosts of shadows, who, after exchanging hasty kisses, dash on, mentioning such famous examples of dissoluteness as Pasiphae, and the men who caused the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Turning to his interlocutor, Dante then explains how he came hither and expresses a hope he may soon be received in bliss. The grateful spirit then gives his name, admits he sang too freely of carnal love, and adds that Dante would surely recognize many of his fellow-sufferers were he to point them out. Then, bespeaking Dante's prayers, he plunges back into the fiery element which is to make him fit for Paradise.

Canto XXVII. Just as the sun is about to set, an angel approaches them, chanting "Blessed are the pure in heart," and bids them fearlessly pass through the wall of fire which alone stands between them and Paradise. Seeing Dante hang back timorously, Virgil reminds him he will find Beatrice on the other side, whereupon our poet plunges recklessly into the glowing furnace, where both his companions precede him, and whence all three issue on an upward path. There they make their couch on separate steps, and Dante gazes up at the stars until he falls asleep and dreams of a lovely lady, culling flowers in a meadow, singing she is Lea (the mediaeval type of active life), and stating that her sister Rachel (the emblem of contemplative life) spends the day gazing at herself in a mirror.

At dawn the pilgrims awake, and Virgil assures Dante before this day ends his hunger for a sight of Beatrice will be appeased. This prospect so lightens Dante's heart that he almost soars to the top of the stairway. There Virgil, who has led him through temporal and eternal fires, bids him follow his pleasure, until he meets the fair lady who bade him undertake this journey.

                 "Till those bright eyes
  With gladness come, which, weeping, made me haste
  To succor thee, thou mayst or seat thee down
  Or wander where thou wilt. Expect no more
  Sanction of warning voice or sign from me,
  Free of thine own arbitrament to choose.
  Discreet, judicious. To distrust thy sense
  Were henceforth error. I invest thee then
  With crown and mitre, sovereign o'er thyself."

Canto XXVIII. Through the Garden of Eden Dante now strolls with Statius and Virgil, until he beholds, on the other side of a pellucid stream (whose waters have the "power to take away remembrance of offence"), a beautiful lady (the countess Matilda), who smiles upon him. Then she informs Dante she has come to "answer every doubt" he cherishes, and, as they wander along on opposite sides of the stream, she expounds for his benefit the creation of man, the fall and its consequences, and informs him how all the plants that grow on earth originate here. The water at his feet issues from an unquenchable fountain, and divides into two streams, the first of which, Lethe, "chases from the mind the memory of sin," while the waters of the second, Eunoe, have the power to recall "good deeds to one's mind."

Canto XXIX. Suddenly the lady bids Dante pause, look, and hearken. Then he sees a great light on the opposite shore, hears a wonderful music, and soon beholds a procession of spirits, so bright that they leave behind them a trail of rainbow-colored light. First among them march the four and twenty elders of the Book of Revelations; they are followed by four beasts (the Evangelists), and a gryphon, drawing a chariot (the Christian Church or Papal chair), far grander than any that ever graced imperial triumph at Rome. Personifications of the three evangelical virtues (Charity, Faith, and Hope) and of the four moral virtues (Prudence, etc.), together with St. Luke and St. Paul, the four great Doctors of the Church, and the apostle St. John, serve as body-guard for this chariot, which comes to a stop opposite Dante with a noise like thunder.

Canto XXX. The wonderful light, our poet now perceives, emanates from a seven-branched candlestick, and illuminates all the heavens like an aurora borealis. Then, amid the chanting, and while angels shower flowers down upon her, he beholds in the chariot a lady veiled in white, in whom, although transfigured, he instinctively recognizes Beatrice (a personification of Heavenly Wisdom). In his surprise Dante impulsively turns toward Virgil, only to discover that he has vanished!

Beatrice comforts him, however, by promising to be his guide hereafter, and gently reproaches him for the past until he casts shamefaced glances at his feet. There, in the stream (which serves as nature's mirror), he catches a reflection of his utter loathsomeness, and becomes so penitent, that Beatrice explains she purposely brought him hither by the awful road he has travelled to induce him to lead a changed life hereafter.

Canto XXXI. Beatrice then accuses him of yielding to the world's deceitful pleasures after she left him, and explains how he should, on the contrary, have striven to be virtuous so as to rejoin her. When she finally forgives him and bids him gaze into her face once more, he sees she surpasses her former self in loveliness as greatly as on earth she outshone all other women. Dante is so overcome by a sense of his utter unworthiness that he falls down unconscious, and on recovering his senses finds himself in the stream, upheld by the hand of a nymph (Matilda), who sweeps him along, "swift as a shuttle bounding o'er the wave," while angels chant "Thou shalt wash me" and "I shall be whiter than snow."

Freed from all haunting memories of past sins by Lethe's waters, Dante finally lands on the "blessed shore." There Beatrice's hand-maidens welcome him, and beseech her to complete her work by revealing her inner beauty to this mortal, so he can portray it for mankind. But, although Dante gazes at her in breathless admiration, words fail him to render what he sees.

                        "O splendor!
  O sacred light eternal! who is he,
  So pale with musing in Pierian shades,
  Or with that fount so lavishly imbued,
  Whose spirit should not fail him in the essay
  To represent thee such as thou didst seem,
  When under cope of the still-chiming heaven
  Thou gavest to open air thy charms reveal'd?"

Canto XXXII. Dante is still quenching a "ten-years thirst" by staring at his beloved, when her attendants admonish him to desist. But, although he obediently turns aside his eyes, like a man who has gazed too long at the sun, he sees her image stamped on all he looks at. He and Statius now humbly follow the glorious procession, which enters a forest and circles gravely round a barren tree-trunk, to which the chariot is tethered. Immediately the dry branches burst into bud and leaf, and, soothed by angelic music, Dante falls asleep, only to be favored by a vision so startling, that on awakening he eagerly looks around for Beatrice. The nymph who bore him safely through the waters then points her out, resting beneath the mystic tree, and Beatrice, rousing too, bids Dante note the fate of her chariot. The poet then sees an eagle (the Empire), swoop down from heaven, tear the tree asunder, and attack the Chariot (the Church), into which a fox (heresy) has sprung as if in quest of prey. Although the fox is soon routed by Beatrice, the eagle makes its nest in the chariot, beneath which arises a seven-headed monster (the seven capital sins), bearing on its back a giant, who alternately caresses and chastises a whore.

Canto XXXIII. The seven Virtues having chanted a hymn, Beatrice motions to Statius and Dante to follow her, asking the latter why he is so mute? Rejoining she best knows what he needs, Dante receives from her lips an explanation of what he has just seen, which he is bidden reveal to mankind. Conversing thus, they reach the second stream, of whose waters Beatrice bids her friend drink, and after that renovating draught Dante realizes he has now been made pure and "apt for mounting to the stars."


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