Canto XXXI


"O thou who art beyond the sacred river,"

  Turning to me the point of her discourse,

  That edgewise even had seemed to me so keen,


She recommenced, continuing without pause,

5  "Say, say if this be true; to such a charge,

  Thy own confession needs must be conjoined."


My faculties were in so great confusion,

  That the voice moved, but sooner was extinct

  Than by its organs it was set at large.


10Awhile she waited; then she said: "What thinkest?

  Answer me; for the mournful memories

  In thee not yet are by the waters injured."


Confusion and dismay together mingled

  Forced such a Yes! from out my mouth, that sight

15  Was needful to the understanding of it.


Even as a cross-bow breaks, when 'tis discharged

  Too tensely drawn the bowstring and the bow,

  And with less force the arrow hits the mark,


So I gave way beneath that heavy burden,

20  Outpouring in a torrent tears and sighs,

  And the voice flagged upon its passage forth.


Whence she to me: "In those desires of mine

  Which led thee to the loving of that good,

  Beyond which there is nothing to aspire to,


25What trenches lying traverse or what chains

  Didst thou discover, that of passing onward

  Thou shouldst have thus despoiled thee of the hope?


And what allurements or what vantages

  Upon the forehead of the others showed,

30  That thou shouldst turn thy footsteps unto them?"


After the heaving of a bitter sigh,

  Hardly had I the voice to make response,

  And with fatigue my lips did fashion it.


Weeping I said: "The things that present were

35  With their false pleasure turned aside my steps,

  Soon as your countenance concealed itself."


And she: "Shouldst thou be silent, or deny

  What thou confessest, not less manifest

  Would be thy fault, by such a Judge 'tis known.


40But when from one's own cheeks comes bursting forth

  The accusal of the sin, in our tribunal

  Against the edge the wheel doth turn itself.


But still, that thou mayst feel a greater shame

  For thy transgression, and another time

45  Hearing the Sirens thou mayst be more strong,


Cast down the seed of weeping and attend;

  So shalt thou hear, how in an opposite way

  My buried flesh should have directed thee.


Never to thee presented art or nature

50  Pleasure so great as the fair limbs wherein

  I was enclosed, which scattered are in earth.


And if the highest pleasure thus did fail thee

  By reason of my death, what mortal thing

  Should then have drawn thee into its desire?


55Thou oughtest verily at the first shaft

  Of things fallacious to have risen up

  To follow me, who was no longer such.


Thou oughtest not to have stooped thy pinions downward

  To wait for further blows, or little girl,

60  Or other vanity of such brief use.


The callow birdlet waits for two or three,

  But to the eyes of those already fledged,

  In vain the net is spread or shaft is shot."


Even as children silent in their shame

65  Stand listening with their eyes upon the ground,

  And conscious of their fault, and penitent;


So was I standing; and she said: "If thou

  In hearing sufferest pain, lift up thy beard

  And thou shalt feel a greater pain in seeing."


70With less resistance is a robust holm

  Uprooted, either by a native wind

  Or else by that from regions of Iarbas,


Than I upraised at her command my chin;

  And when she by the beard the face demanded,

75  Well I perceived the venom of her meaning.


And as my countenance was lifted up,

  Mine eye perceived those creatures beautiful

  Had rested from the strewing of the flowers;


And, still but little reassured, mine eyes

80  Saw Beatrice turned round towards the monster,

  That is one person only in two natures.


Beneath her veil, beyond the margent green,

  She seemed to me far more her ancient self

  To excel, than others here, when she was here.


85So pricked me then the thorn of penitence,

  That of all other things the one which turned me

  Most to its love became the most my foe.


Such self-conviction stung me at the heart

  O'erpowered I fell, and what I then became

90  She knoweth who had furnished me the cause.


Then, when the heart restored my outward sense,

  The lady I had found alone, above me

  I saw, and she was saying, "Hold me, hold me."


Up to my throat she in the stream had drawn me,

95  And, dragging me behind her, she was moving

  Upon the water lightly as a shuttle.


When I was near unto the blessed shore,

  "Asperges me," I heard so sweetly sung,

  Remember it I cannot, much less write it.


100The beautiful lady opened wide her arms,

  Embraced my head, and plunged me underneath,

  Where I was forced to swallow of the water.


Then forth she drew me, and all dripping brought

  Into the dance of the four beautiful,

105  And each one with her arm did cover me.


'We here are Nymphs, and in the Heaven are stars;

  Ere Beatrice descended to the world,

  We as her handmaids were appointed her.


We'll lead thee to her eyes; but for the pleasant

110  Light that within them is, shall sharpen thine

  The three beyond, who more profoundly look.'


Thus singing they began; and afterwards

  Unto the Griffin's breast they led me with them,

  Where Beatrice was standing, turned towards us.


115"See that thou dost not spare thine eyes," they said;

  "Before the emeralds have we stationed thee,

  Whence Love aforetime drew for thee his weapons."


A thousand longings, hotter than the flame,

  Fastened mine eyes upon those eyes relucent,

120  That still upon the Griffin steadfast stayed.


As in a glass the sun, not otherwise

  Within them was the twofold monster shining,

  Now with the one, now with the other nature.


Think, Reader, if within myself I marvelled,

125  When I beheld the thing itself stand still,

  And in its image it transformed itself.


While with amazement filled and jubilant,

  My soul was tasting of the food, that while

  It satisfies us makes us hunger for it,


130Themselves revealing of the highest rank

  In bearing, did the other three advance,

  Singing to their angelic saraband.


"Turn, Beatrice, O turn thy holy eyes,"

  Such was their song, "unto thy faithful one,

135  Who has to see thee ta'en so many steps.


In grace do us the grace that thou unveil

  Thy face to him, so that he may discern

  The second beauty which thou dost conceal."


O splendour of the living light eternal!

140  Who underneath the shadow of Parnassus

  Has grown so pale, or drunk so at its cistern,


He would not seem to have his mind encumbered

  Striving to paint thee as thou didst appear,

  Where the harmonious heaven o'ershadowed thee,


145When in the open air thou didst unveil?