Purgatorio: Canto XVIII
An end had put unto
lofty Teacher, and attent was looking
Into my face, if I appeared content;
And I, whom a new
thirst still goaded on,
was mute, and said within: "Perchance
The too much questioning I make annoys him."
But that true
Father, who had comprehended
timid wish, that opened not itself,
By speaking gave me hardihood to speak.
Whence I: "My sight
is, Master, vivified
in thy light, that clearly I discern
Whate'er thy speech importeth or describes.
Therefore I thee
entreat, sweet Father dear,
teach me love, to which thou dost refer
Every good action and its contrary."
"Direct," he said,
"towards me the keen eyes
intellect, and clear will be to thee
The error of the blind, who would be leaders.
The soul, which is
created apt to love,
mobile unto everything that pleases,
Soon as by pleasure she is waked to action.
from some real thing
image draws, and in yourselves displays it
So that it makes the soul turn unto it.
And if, when
turned, towards it she incline,
is that inclination; it is nature,
Which is by pleasure bound in you anew
Then even as the
fire doth upward move
its own form, which to ascend is born,
Where longest in its matter it endures,
So comes the
captive soul into desire,
is a motion spiritual, and ne'er rests
Until she doth enjoy the thing beloved.
Now may apparent be
to thee how hidden
truth is from those people, who aver
All love is in itself a laudable thing;
Because its matter
may perchance appear
to be good; but yet not each impression
Is good, albeit good may be the wax."
"Thy words, and my
answered him, "have love revealed to me;
But that has made me more impregned with doubt;
For if love from
without be offered us,
with another foot the soul go not,
If right or wrong she go, 'tis not her merit."
And he to me: "What
reason seeth here,
can tell thee; beyond that await
For Beatrice, since 'tis a work of faith.
form, that segregate
matter is, and with it is united,
Specific power has in itself collected,
Which without act
is not perceptible,
shows itself except by its effect,
As life does in a plant by the green leaves.
But still, whence
cometh the intelligence
the first notions, man is ignorant,
And the affection for the first allurements,
Which are in you as
instinct in the bee
make its honey; and this first desire
Merit of praise or blame containeth not.
Now, that to this
all others may be gathered,
within you is the power that counsels,
And it should keep the threshold of assent.
This is the
principle, from which is taken
of desert in you, according
As good and guilty loves it takes and winnows.
Those who, in
reasoning, to the bottom went,
of this innate liberty aware,
Therefore bequeathed they Ethics to the world.
that from necessity
every love that is within you kindled,
Within yourselves the power is to restrain it.
The noble virtue
the free will; and therefore see that thou
Bear it in mind, if she should speak of it."
The moon, belated
almost unto midnight,
made the stars appear to us more rare,
Formed like a bucket, that is all ablaze,
And counter to the
heavens ran through those paths
the sun sets aflame, when he of Rome
Sees it 'twixt Sardes and Corsicans go down;
And that patrician
shade, for whom is named
more than any Mantuan town,
Had laid aside the burden of my lading;
Whence I, who
reason manifest and plain
answer to my questions had received,
Stood like a man in drowsy reverie.
But taken from me
was this drowsiness
by a people, that behind
Our backs already had come round to us.
And as, of old,
Ismenus and Asopus
them saw at night the rush and throng,
If but the Thebans were in need of Bacchus,
So they along that
circle curve their step,
what I saw of those approaching us,
Who by good-will and righteous love are ridden.
Full soon they were
upon us, because running
onward all that mighty multitude,
And two in the advance cried out, lamenting,
"Mary in haste unto
the mountain ran,
Caesar, that he might subdue Ilerda,
Thrust at Marseilles, and then ran into Spain."
"Quick! quick! so
that the time may not be lost
little love!" forthwith the others cried,
"For ardour in well-doing freshens grace!"
"O folk, in whom an
eager fervour now
perhaps delay and negligence,
Put by you in well-doing, through lukewarmness,
This one who lives,
and truly I lie not,
fain go up, if but the sun relight us;
So tell us where the passage nearest is."
These were the
words of him who was my Guide;
some one of those spirits said: "Come on
Behind us, and the opening shalt thou find;
So full of longing
are we to move onward,
stay we cannot; therefore pardon us,
If thou for churlishness our justice take.
I was San Zeno's
Abbot at Verona,
the empire of good Barbarossa,
Of whom still sorrowing Milan holds discourse;
And he has one foot
in the grave already,
shall erelong lament that monastery,
And sorry be of having there had power,
Because his son, in
his whole body sick,
worse in mind, and who was evil-born,
He put into the place of its true pastor."
If more he said, or
silent was, I know not,
had already passed so far beyond us;
But this I heard, and to retain it pleased me.
And he who was in
every need my succour
"Turn thee hitherward; see two of them
Come fastening upon slothfulness their teeth."
In rear of all they
shouted: "Sooner were
people dead to whom the sea was opened,
Than their inheritors the Jordan saw;
And those who the
fatigue did not endure
the issue, with Anchises' son,
Themselves to life withouten glory offered."
Then when from us
so separated were
shades, that they no longer could be seen,
Within me a new thought did entrance find,
Whence others many
and diverse were born;
so I lapsed from one into another,
That in a reverie mine eyes I closed,
And meditation into
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