The Divine Comedy

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The valley of flowers. negligent princes.

After the gracious and glad salutations

Had three and four times been reiterated,

Sordello backward drew and said, "Who are you?"

"Or ever to this mountain were directed

The souls deserving to ascend to God,

My bones were buried by Octavian.

I am Virgilius; and for no crime else

Did I lose heaven, than for not having faith;"

In this wise then my Leader made reply.

As one who suddenly before him sees

Something whereat he marvels, who believes

And yet does not, saying, "It is! it is not!"

So he appeared; and then bowed down his brow,

And with humility returned towards him,

And, where inferiors embrace, embraced him.

"O glory of the Latians, thou," he said,

"Through whom our language showed what it could do

O pride eternal of the place I came from,

What merit or what grace to me reveals thee?

If I to hear thy words be worthy, tell me

If thou dost come from Hell, and from what cloister."

"Through all the circles of the doleful realm,"

Responded he, "have I come hitherward;

Heaven's power impelled me, and with that I come.

I by not doing, not by doing, lost

The sight of that high sun which thou desirest,

And which too late by me was recognized.

A place there is below not sad with torments,

But darkness only, where the lamentations

Have not the sound of wailing, but are sighs.

There dwell I with the little innocents

Snatched by the teeth of Death, or ever they

Were from our human sinfulness exempt.

There dwell I among those who the three saintly

Virtues did not put on, and without vice

The others knew and followed all of them.

But if thou know and can, some indication

Give us by which we may the sooner come

Where Purgatory has its right beginning."

He answered: "No fixed place has been assigned us;

'Tis lawful for me to go up and round;

So far as I can go, as guide I join thee.

But see already how the day declines,

And to go up by night we are not able;

Therefore 'tis well to think of some fair sojourn.

Souls are there on the right hand here withdrawn;

If thou permit me I will lead thee to them,

And thou shalt know them not without delight."

"How is this?" was the answer; "should one wish

To mount by night would he prevented be

By others? or mayhap would not have power?"

And on the ground the good Sordello drew

His finger, saying, "See, this line alone

Thou couldst not pass after the sun is gone;

Not that aught else would hindrance give, however,

To going up, save the nocturnal darkness;

This with the want of power the will perplexes.

We might indeed therewith return below,

And, wandering, walk the hill-side round about,

While the horizon holds the day imprisoned."

Thereon my Lord, as if in wonder, said:

"Do thou conduct us thither, where thou sayest

That we can take delight in tarrying."

Little had we withdrawn us from that place,

When I perceived the mount was hollowed out

In fashion as the valleys here are hollowed.

"Thitherward," said that shade, "will we repair,

Where of itself the hill-side makes a lap,

And there for the new day will we await."

'Twixt hill and plain there was a winding path

Which led us to the margin of that dell,

Where dies the border more than half away.

Gold and fine silver, and scarlet and pearl-white,

The Indian wood resplendent and serene,

Fresh emerald the moment it is broken,

By herbage and by flowers within that hollow

Planted, each one in colour would be vanquished,

As by its greater vanquished is the less.

Nor in that place had nature painted only,

But of the sweetness of a thousand odours

Made there a mingled fragrance and unknown.

"Salve Regina," on the green and flowers

There seated, singing, spirits I beheld,

Which were not visible outside the valley.

"Before the scanty sun now seeks his nest,"

Began the Mantuan who had led us thither,

"Among them do not wish me to conduct you.

Better from off this ledge the acts and faces

Of all of them will you discriminate,

Than in the plain below received among them.

He who sits highest, and the semblance bears

Of having what he should have done neglected,

And to the others' song moves not his lips,

Rudolph the Emperor was, who had the power

To heal the wounds that Italy have slain,

So that through others slowly she revives.

The other, who in look doth comfort him,

Governed the region where the water springs,

The Moldau bears the Elbe, and Elbe the sea.

His name was Ottocar; and in swaddling-clothes

Far better he than bearded Winceslaus

His son, who feeds in luxury and ease.

And the small-nosed, who close in council seems

With him that has an aspect so benign,

Died fleeing and disflowering the lily;

Look there, how he is beating at his breast!

Behold the other one, who for his cheek

Sighing has made of his own palm a bed;

Father and father-in-law of France's Pest

Are they, and know his vicious life and lewd,

And hence proceeds the grief that so doth pierce them.

He who appears so stalwart, and chimes in,

Singing, with that one of the manly nose,

The cord of every valour wore begirt;

And if as King had after him remained

The stripling who in rear of him is sitting,

Well had the valour passed from vase to vase,

Which cannot of the other heirs be said.

Frederick and Jacomo possess the realms,

But none the better heritage possesses.

Not oftentimes upriseth through the branches

The probity of man; and this He wills

Who gives it, so that we may ask of Him.

Eke to the large-nosed reach my words, no less

Than to the other, Pier, who with him sings;

Whence Provence and Apulia grieve already

The plant is as inferior to its seed,

As more than Beatrice and Margaret

Costanza boasteth of her husband still.

Behold the monarch of the simple life,

Harry of England, sitting there alone;

He in his branches has a better issue.

He who the lowest on the ground among them

Sits looking upward, is the Marquis William,

For whose sake Alessandria and her war

Make Monferrat and Canavese weep."

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