Canto VII

 

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

5  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.

 

10As 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,

15  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?

20  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.

 

25I 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

30  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

35  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."

 

40He 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;

45  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Souls are there on the right hand here withdrawn;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

50  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;

 

55Not 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,

60  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,

65  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."

 

70'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,

75  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,

80  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.

 

85"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,

90  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

95  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.

 

100His 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,

105  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

110  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;

 

115And 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,

120  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

125  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.

 

130Behold 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,

135  For whose sake Alessandria and her war

 

Make Monferrat and Canavese weep."