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Divine Comedy, Cary's Translation, Purgatory

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Cantos 1 - 33


O'er better waves to speed her rapid courseThe light bark of my genius lifts the sail,Well pleas'd to leave so cruel sea behind;And of that second region will I sing,In which the human spirit from sinful blotIs purg'd, and for ascent to Heaven prepares.

Here, O ye hallow'd Nine! for in your trainI follow, here the deadened strain revive;Nor let Calliope refuse to soundA somewhat higher song, of that loud tone,Which when the wretched birds of chattering noteHad heard, they of forgiveness lost all hope.

Sweet hue of eastern sapphire, that was spreadO'er the serene aspect of the pure air,High up as the first circle, to mine eyesUnwonted joy renew'd, soon as I 'scap'dForth from the atmosphere of deadly gloom,That had mine eyes and bosom fill'd with grief.The radiant planet, that to love invites,Made all the orient laugh, and veil'd beneathThe Pisces' light, that in his escort came.

To the right hand I turn'd, and fix'd my mindOn the' other pole attentive, where I sawFour stars ne'er seen before save by the kenOf our first parents. Heaven of their raysSeem'd joyous. O thou northern site, bereftIndeed, and widow'd, since of these depriv'd!

As from this view I had desisted, straightTurning a little tow'rds the other pole,There from whence now the wain had disappear'd,I saw an old man standing by my sideAlone, so worthy of rev'rence in his look,That ne'er from son to father more was ow'd.Low down his beard and mix'd with hoary whiteDescended, like his locks, which parting fellUpon his breast in double fold. The beamsOf those four luminaries on his faceSo brightly shone, and with such radiance clearDeck'd it, that I beheld him as the sun.

"Say who are ye, that stemming the blind stream,Forth from th' eternal prison-house have fled?"He spoke and moved those venerable plumes."Who hath conducted, or with lantern sureLights you emerging from the depth of night,That makes the infernal valley ever black?Are the firm statutes of the dread abyssBroken, or in high heaven new laws ordain'd,That thus, condemn'd, ye to my caves approach?"

My guide, then laying hold on me, by wordsAnd intimations given with hand and head,Made my bent knees and eye submissive payDue reverence; then thus to him replied.

"Not of myself I come; a Dame from heavenDescending, had besought me in my chargeTo bring. But since thy will implies, that moreOur true condition I unfold at large,Mine is not to deny thee thy request.This mortal ne'er hath seen the farthest gloom.But erring by his folly had approach'dSo near, that little space was left to turn.Then, as before I told, I was dispatch'dTo work his rescue, and no way remain'dSave this which I have ta'en. I have display'dBefore him all the regions of the bad;And purpose now those spirits to display,That under thy command are purg'd from sin.How I have brought him would be long to say.From high descends the virtue, by whose aidI to thy sight and hearing him have led....