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Dante Alighieri (1265–1321).  The Divine Comedy.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
Purgatory
 
Canto XXIV
 
 
ARGUMENT.—Forese points out several others by name who are here, like himself, purifying themselves from the vice of gluttony; and amongst the rest, Buonaggiunta of Lucca, with whom our Poet converses. Forese then predicts the violent end of Dante’s political enemy, Corso, Donati; and when he has quitted them, the Poet, in company with Statius and Virgil, arrives at another tree, from whence issue voices that record ancient examples of gluttony; and proceeding forward, they are directed by an Angel which way to ascend to the next cornice of the mountain.
 
 
OUR journey was not slacken’d by our talk,
Nor yet our talk by journeying. Still we spake,
And urged our travel stoutly, like a ship
When the wind sits astern. The shadowy forms,
That seem’d things dead and dead again, drew in        5
At their deep-delved orbs rare wonder of me,
Perceiving I had life; and I my words
Continued, and thus spake: “He journeys up
Perhaps more tardily than else he would,
For others’ sake. But tell me, if thou know’st,        10
Where is Piccarda? Tell me, if I see
Any of mark, among this multitude
Who eye me thus.”—“My sister (she for whom,
’Twixt beautiful and good, I cannot say
Which name was fitter) wears e’en now her crown,        15
And triumphs in Olympus.” Saying this,
He added: Since spare diet hath so worn
Our semblance out, ’tis lawful here to name
Each one. This,” and his finger then he raised,
’Is Buonaggiunta, 1 —Buonaggiunta, he        20
Of Lucca: and that face beyond him, pierced
Unto a leaner fineness than the rest,
Had keeping of the Church; he was of Tours, 2
And purges by wan abstinence away
Bolsena’s eels and cups of muscadel.”        25
  He show’d me many others one by one:
And all, as they were named, seem’d well content;
For no dark gesture I discern’d in any.
I saw, through hunger, Ubaldino 3 grind
His teeth on emptiness; and Boniface, 4        30
That waved the crozier o’er a numerous flock.
I saw the Marquis, who had time erewhile
To swill at Forli with less drought; yet so,
Was one ne’er stated. I howe’er, like him
That, gazing ’midst a crowd, singles out one,        35
So singled him of Lucca; for methought
Was none amongst them took such note of me.
Somewhat I heard him whisper of Gentucca:
The sound was indistinct and murmur’d there,
Where justice, that so strips them, fix’d her sting.        40
  “Spirit!” said I, “it seems as thou wouldst fain
Speak with me. Let me hear thee. Mutual wish
To converse prompts, which let us both indulge.”
  He, answering, straight began: “Woman is born,
Whose brow no wimple shades yet, that shall make        45
My city please thee, blame it as they may.
Go then with this forewarning. If aught false
My whisper too implied, the event shall tell.
But say, if of a truth I see the man
Of that new lay the inventor, which begins        50
With “Ladies, ye that con the lore of love.’”
  To whom I thus: “Count of me but as one,
Who am the scribe of love; that, when he breathes,
Take up my pen, and, as he dictates, write.”
  “Brother!” said he, “the hindrance, which once held        55
The notary, with Guittone and myself,
Short of that new and sweeter style I hear,
Is now disclosed: I see how ye your plumes
Stretch, as the inditer guides them; which, no question,
Ours did not. He that seeks a grace beyond,        60
Sees not the distance parts one style from other.”
And, as contented, here he held his peace.
  Like as the birds, that winter near the Nile,
In squared regiment direct their course,
Then stretch themselves in file for speedier flight;        65
Thus all the tribe of spirits, as they turn’d
Their visage, faster fled, nimble alike
Through leanness and desire. And as a man,
Tired with the motion of a trotting steed,
Slacks pace, and stays behind his company,        70
Till his o’erbreathed lungs keep temperate time;
E’en so Forese let that holy crew
Proceed, behind them lingering at my side,
And saying: “When shall I again behold thee?”
  “How long my life may last,” said I, “I know not:        75
This know, how soon soever I return,
My wishes will before me have arrived:
Sithence the place, 5 where I am set to live,
Is, day by day, more scoop’d of all its good;
And dismal ruin seems to threaten it,”.        80
  “Go now,” he cried: “lo! he, 6 whose guilt is most,
Passes before my vision, dragg’d at heels
Of an infuriate beast. Toward the vale,
Where guilt hath no redemption, on its speeds,
Each step increasing swiftness on the last;        85
Until a blow it strikes, that leaveth him
A corse most vilely shatter’d. No long space
Those wheels have yet to roll,” (therewith his eyes
Look’d up to Heaven,) “ere thou shalt plainly see
That which my words may not more plainly tell.        90
I quit thee: time is precious here: I lose
Too much, thus measuring my pace with thine.”
  As from a troop of well-rank’d chivalry,
One knight, more enterprising than the rest,
Pricks forth at gallop, eager to display        95
His prowess in the first encounter proved;
So parted he from us, with lengthen’d strides;
And left me on the way with those twain spirits,
Who were such mighty marshals of the world.
  When he beyond us had so fled, mine eyes        100
No nearer reach’d him, than my thoughts his words,
The branches of another fruit, thick hung,
And blooming fresh, appear’d. E’en as our steps
Turn’d thither; not far off, it rose to view.
Beneath it were a multitude, that raised        105
Their hands, and shouted forth I know not what
Unto the boughs; like greedy and fond brats,
That beg, and answer none obtain from him,
Of whom they beg; but more to draw them on,
He, at arm’s length, the object of their wish        110
Above them holds aloft, and hides it not.
  At length, as undeceived, they went their way:
And we approach the tree, whom vows and tears
Sue to in vain; the mighty tree. “Pass on,
And come not near. Stands higher up the wood,        115
Whereof Eve tasted: and from it was ta’en
This plant.” Such sounds from midst the thickets came
Whence I, with either bard, close to the side
That rose, pass’d forth beyond. “Remember,” next
We heard, “those unblest creatures of the clouds, 7        120
How they their twofold bosoms, overgorged,
Opposed on fight to Theseus: call to mind
The Hebrews, how, effeminate, they stoop’d
To ease their thirst; whence Gideon’s ranks were thinn’d,
As he to Midian 8 march’d adown the hills.”        125
  Thus near one border coasting, still we heard
The sins of gluttony, with woe erewhile
Reguerdon’d. Then along the lonely path,
Once more at large, full thousand paces on
We travel’d, each contemplative and mute.        130
  “Why pensive journey so ye three alone?”
thus suddenly a voice exclaim’d: whereat
I shook, as doth a scared and paltry beast;
Then raised my head, to look from whence it came.
  Was ne’er, in furnace, glass, or metal, seen        135
So bright and glowing red, as was the shape
I now beheld. “If ye desire to mount,”
He cried; “here must ye turn. This way he goes,
Who goes in quest of peace.” His countenance
Had dazzled me; and to my guides I faced        140
Backward, like one who walks as sound directs.
  As when, to harbinger the dawn, springs up
On Freshen’d wing the air of May, and breathes
Of fragrance, all impregn’d with herb and flowers;
E’en such a wind I felt upon my front        145
Blow gently, and the moving of a wing
Perceived, that, moving, shed ambrosial smell;
And then a voice: “Blessed are they, whom grace
Doth so illume, that appetite in them
Exhaleth no inordinate desire,        150
Still hungering as the rule of temperance wills.”
 
Note 1. “Buonaggiunta.” Buonaggiunta Urbiciani, of Lucca. [back]
Note 2. “He was of Tours.” Simon of Tours became Pope with the title of Martin IV in 1281, and died in 1285. [back]
Note 3. “Ubaldino degli Ubaldini, of Pila, in the Florentine territory. [back]
Note 4. “Boniface,” Archbishop of Ravenna. By Venturi he is called Bonifazio de’ Fieschi, a Genoese; by Vellutello, the son of the above-mentioned Ubaldini; and by Landino, Francioso, a Frenchman. [back]
Note 5. “The place.” Florence. [back]
Note 6. “He.” Corso Donati was suspected of aiming at the sovereignty of Florence. To escape the fury of his fellow-citizens, he fled away on horseback, but falling, was overtaken and slain, A. D. 1308. The contemporary annalist, after relating at length the circumstances of his fate, adds, “that he was one of the wisest and most valorous knights, the best speaker, the most expert statesman, the most renowned and enterprising man of his age in Italy, a comely knight and of graceful carriage, but very worldly, and in his time had formed many conspiracies in Florence, and entered into many scandalous practices for the sake of attaining state and lordship.” G. Villani, lib. v. [back]
Note 7. The Centaurs. [back]
Note 8. Judges, vii. [back]
 

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