14 April 2010

What Dante knew

From Purgatorio, Canto XXVII
Translated by John Ciardi

When we had climbed the stairway to the rise
of the topmost step, there with a father’s love
Virgil turned and fixed me with his eyes.

“My son,” he said, “you now have seen the torment
of the temporary and the eternal fires;
here, now, is the limit of my discernment.

I have led you here by grace of mind and art;
now let your own good pleasure be your guide;
you are past the steep ways, past the narrow part.

See there the sun that shines upon your brow,
the sweet new grass, the flowers, the fruited vines
which spring up without need of seed or plow.

Until those eyes come gladdened which in pain
moved me to come to you and lead your way,
sit there at ease or wander through the plain.

Expect no more of me in word or deed:
here your will is upright, free, and whole,
and you would be in error not to heed

whatever your own impulse prompts you to:
lord of yourself I crown and mitre you.”