Roger Wallace

Canto XXX of Purgatorio: Beatrice Enters the Terrestrial Paradise


ISSUE 58 | LIQUIDITY | NOV 2015

Seven never-setting oxen of highest heaven halted;
Risen through sin’s cloud, each role made known,
Men driven homeward, to port, below, by a lesser Bear’s north;
A true band came between griffin and God’s Ursa,
Deferred looks to that litter’s peace
And there emerged, as instructed, one to call her,
The bride of Lebanon, by three shrieks and an echo.
A hundred of the graveless rose, as all who’re ready will rise,
Rebodied voices, blessed, forming “Hallelujah”,

I have seen at start of day an all red eastern sky
Against another, our own, draped pacific,
Veiled sun through vapors rising shadowed,
Grace granting the eye love’s time to linger:
Cast, then and thus, the angels’ hands a floral shower,
Rising and descending round driven Revelation’s
Olive garland-ringed maid’s veil
And underneath a green mantle a woman appeared to me
Dressed in the color of living flame.

Spirit so long free from slow trembling before her,
Stupor split, then, even while eyes’ ignorance
Parted the power of old love from the vision;
Transfixed boy already taken wayward appeared,
Turned round, to the left, just as then, terror-struck,
Fear caused to flee to Mother for care,
I said to Virgil: “Blood all shakes from old flame, help!”
Split! though, from me as I was split,
Virgil let my speech hang stupid, ah gentlest Virgil,
Father, vanished, to whom I gave myself to save!
Dew-washed cheeks nothing, nor all ancient mother lost,
To keep back black tears’ return, when,
“Dante, it’s best you hold your sobs and spare Virgil’s going;
Do not weep now, else you have no tears for the next wound”

Vicious, calm queen of the angels’ party gazed,
Fleets from her deck commanded, ‘longside left of train
Named me and made me name myself;
From cross the river, through Minerva’s leaves’ circle,
I made out her voice and bearing, as she went on,
Speaking while holding fiercest speech for the end,
“Look here, and well! Yes, it is Beatrice.
How’d you figure you’d manage this mountain that way?
Don’t you know man has joy here?”

Shame weighed me when I witnessed sullen wayward son
Looking back, away from bitter flavor of mother’s pity,
In the stark mirror of the bright water;
Drew my eyes, then, staying low, to the green grass,
Silence saturated the burning of her closed tongue,
Angels tried to break anguish with sudden “Speravi” psalm;
But my feet had been set in a wide world
And I was the candle and the snow
When the fire and the air from shadeless lands comes:
I melted at mercy, ice of my heart gushed forth through my eyes,
My lips, my breast shook, “Must we shame him so?” I heard,
Harmonized sympathy having hardly swayed she who,
Motionless, standing serene on her car, turned toward those holies:

“Timeless keepers of endless day, night nor sleep can steal
Any move made by mortals from your watch;
Make way, pious, that that man may weep in measure,
Know justice as purging penance.
See, that for all the godly graces and great spheres’ hand gave him,
Blinding showers of bounty that would have brought sight to youth,
Man would not bring himself to act, and wildest, darkest growth
Comes from richest, idlest soil.

Fed him well, sure, for a time, on my image-
Showed him my young eyes to enrich his,
Kept him turned, with me, down the narrow way.
Escape from flesh approaching, though, and at the threshold,
Within sweet sight of a greater Eden,
Reaching second age, spirit’s lasting light,
I saw a boy with brow shaded by straying,
Ghosts of the good made guides in place of beauty.
Racking visions tore me crazy, made me holler,
‘Turn back, pilgrim! Give to God what you’ve been given!”
No heed, though, paid, and nothing left
But to make him know the lost.
So the door of the dead heard my weeping,
A greater guide than his earthly I found,
And the life-clearing Lethe will not be crossed
Until tears run river of proper trial
And God’s deep design will not be broken.”


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