Purgatorio

For to the second realm I tune my tale,
Where human spirits purge themselves, and train
To leap up into joy celestial.
Canto 1 lines 4-6


Dante and Virgil emerge from the tunnel leading from Hell to find themselves at the foot of Mount Purgatory, on an island on the opposite side of the world.


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Freehold of bliss apparent in his face,
The heavenly pilot on the poop stood tiptoe,
And with him full an hundred souls had place.
Canto 2 lines 43-45


The poets observe a ship piloted by an angel, bearing the souls of the blessed to the island.


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But when they saw the radiance of the sun
Broken upon the hillside as I came,
And on my right saw the long shadow run
To touch the rock, they halted.
Canto 3 lines 88-91


On the lowest slopes of the mountain, the excommunicate are shocked when they reallize that Dante is not a shade but has a solid body.


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So in we went and up through the stony crack,
Wedged either side between the rock-walls sheer,
Needing both hands and feet to grip the track.
Canto 4 lines 31-33


Virgil and Dante climb up a crack in the cliff to the second terrace of Ante-Purgatory, where they meet the late repentant.


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Meanwhile, athwart the slope ahead, a crew
Of souls passed over, singing, verse by verse,
Antiphonal, the Miserere through.
Canto 5 lines 22-24


On the second terrace of Ante-Purgatory, they meet the unshriven, who ask for their prayers.


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The shade leapt up and ran
From where he was to meet him, crying: "Brother!
O brother-Mantuan! Sordello am I
Of thine own city!" And they embraced each other.
Canto 6 lines 72-75


Leaving the unshriven, Dante meets Serdello, another native of his homeland. Dante denounces the wars and strife that divide Italy.


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Gold and fine silver, crimson and ceruse,
Wood yellow-lustrous, clear cerulean dyee,
Indigo, fresh-cracked emerald's brilliant hues,
Matched with the foliage and the flowers that lie
Heaped in that lap, would faint, as minor faints
Beneath its major, and show dim thereby.
Canto 7 lines 73-78


Sordello explains that one can only ascend the mountain during daylight, and leads them to the Valley of the Rulers, a beautiful vale, where they can spend the night.


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And there, where no bank fenced beneath its lee
That little vale, came sliding in the snake,
Such as gave Eve the bitter fruit, maybe.
Canto 8 lines 97-99


As night falls, two angels descend to guard the valley. When a serpent attempts to enter the valley, the angels attack and drive it off.


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I saw a gate; three steps beneath it, each
Of different hue, lead upward; and thereat
A porter, who as yet vouchsafed no speech.
Canto 9 lines 76-78


Upon waking, Dante finds that Saint Lucy has carried him and Virgil up to the Gate of Purgatory. After Dante ascends the steps of confession, contrition and satisfaction, the porter inscribes his forehead with seven P's, for the seven peccata, or sins, and opens the gate with the keys of Saint Peter.


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I saw how that rock-bastion
Which, rising sheer, showed no means of ascent,
Was pure white marble, and had carved thereon
Sculptures so rare, that Polycete - nay, more -
Nature might blush there, being so outdone.
Canto 10 lines 29-33


The poets ascend to the First Cornice, where the proud perform their penance. Sculpted reliefs in the wall provide illustrations of great humility, including a scene of the Annunciation.


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Those souls beneath their burden curled
And going, as in dreams one sometimes goes,
Where the First Cornice its slow length unfurled,
Painfully round, diverseley laden thus,
Purging away the tarnish of the world.
Canto 11 lines 26-30


The poets are overtaken by the proud, whose penance is to circle the mountain encumbered by great weights. They share their stories with Dante and ask for his prayers.


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So, step for step, like oxen in the yoke,
Beside that burdened soul I held my way
So long as my kind schoolmaster would brook.
Canto 12 lines 1-3


Dante walks along beside the painter Oderisi, until Virgil calls him to proceed on their way. He sees that the ground is inscribed with examples of the proud. When the poets reach the Pass of Pardon, leading to the next level, an angel wipes the first P from his forehead and the two poets ascend.


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For all their eyelids with an iron wire
Are stitched and sealed, as to a wild young hawk
That won't be still, men do to quiet her.
Canto 13 lines 70-72


The Second Cornice is occupied by the envious, whose eyes are stitched shut while voices in the air tell tales of generosity.


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"But go thy ways now, Tuscan; I am fain
Rather to weep than to find more to say;
Our talk has wrung my heart with so much pain."
Canto 14 lines 124-126


Dante speaks with two spirits who were once noblemen in Italy. As the poets leave, they hear voices crying decrying examples of envy.


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And when we came where that blest angel was:
"Enter," his glad voice cried, "to an ascent
Less steep by far than any former pass."
Canto 15 lines 34-36


The Angel of Generosity erases the P representing the sin of envy from Dante's forehead and directs the poets to the pass leading upward. As they climb they find that the way is growing easier. Virgil speaks to Dante about meekness as they approach the Third Cornice.


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Never had wrapped a veil about my head
So gross in grain and gritty to the touch
As was that smoke which held us blanketed.
Canto 16 lines 4-6


The poets find that the Third Cornice is covered in a thick smoke. The wrathful blindly stumble about its course. Dante speaks with Marco Lombardo about determinism and free will.


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I felt as 'twere a wing-beat, felt my head
Fanned, and "Beati", then, "pacifici,
Who know not evil wrath," I heard it said.
Canto 17 lines 67-69


Upon issuing from the smoke, the poets meet the angle of the Third Cornice, who erases the P of wrath and blesses them as they ascend. When night falls they can climb no further, so Virgil describes the arrangement of the mountain to Dante.


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When, all at once, and close behind our backs
Startling me up, a throng came roundabout,
Wheeling towards us in their circling tracks.
Canto 18 lines 88-90


The spirits of the slothful run continuously around the Fourth Cornice, calling out to each other with examples of zeal and sloth.


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For as our eyes would never seek the height,
Being bent on earthly matters, earthward thus
Justice here bends them in their own despite.
Canto 19 lines 118-120


On the Fifth Cornice, the covetous lie face down on the ground. The spirit of Pope Adrian V describes their penance to Dante.


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When sudden I felt the whole mount shake with shock,
Like as to fall, and chillness gripped me, even
As it grips one who's going to the block.
Canto 20 lines 127-129


Dante is frightened when the whole mountain is shaken by an earthquake. Around them the penitent spirits cry out with praise to God.


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A shade appeared to us, who from the rear
O'ertook us, while, with eyes downcast to view
the prostrate throngs, we knew not he was near
Till he spoke first: "God give His peace to you!"
Canto 21 lines 10-13


Dante and Virgil are joined by the spirit Statius, who tells them that he has just finished his penance on the fifth cornice. He further explains that the earthquake at the end of canto 20 was the whole mountain rejoicing, which happened every time a spirit was released.


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But soon, to break their talk's delightful thread,
Right in mid-road we found a tree, whose crop
Of tempting fruit ambrosial odours spread.
Canto 22 lines 130-132


Statius joins Dante and Virgil, and, as they climb to the sixth cornice, discusses his penance. On the next level the poets are confronted by a fruit-laden tree, and a voice cries out that they should not eat of it.


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Hollow and dark of eye was every one,
With pallid face so wasted that the skin
Had all its contours moulded on the bone.
Canto 23 lines 22-24


The poets are overtaken by the souls of the gluttonous, who are emaciated for lack of eating. One of them is a former friend of Dante, and they stop to talk.


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Another tree with green and laden boughs
Appeared to me, and no great distance off,
For as we turned the corner, there it was.
And I saw fold that toward the leaves thereof
Stretched hands below, crying I knew not what.
Canto 24 lines 103-107


After conversing with his friends and other penitent spirits, Dante, Virgil and Statius come to a second tree, a descendant of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Passing it, Dante is blessed by the Angel of Temperance and ascend to the next cornice.


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So that in single file we had to go,
Where space allowed; and I was sore afraid,
On this side, fire - on that, the depths below.
Canto 25 lines 115-117


The seventh cornice is covered by flames. Only a narrow path remains along the edge of the cliff for the poets to pass unharmed.


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Lo! through the highway's heart of fire there flies,
But in the opposite direction bent,
A quite new throng, which halts me in surmise.
Canto 26 lines 28-30


Two throngs of spirits travel in opposite directions amid the flames, purging natural and unnatural lusts. Dante speaks with two of the penitent souls.


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Then: "Holy souls, there's no way on or round
But through the bite of fire; in, then, and come!
Nor be you deaf to what is sung beyond."
Canto 27 lines 10-12


Dante is shocked to find that they must pass through the wall of flames before they can climb the last slopes of the mountain. Virgil helps him to overcome his fears by reminding that he will meat Beatrice above. Passing beyond the fire, the three poets climb to the meadows of the Earthly Paradise on the summit of Mount Purgatory.


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A lady all alone, who wandered there
Singing and plucking flower on floweret gay,
With which her path was painted everywhere.
Canto 28 lines 40-42


Entering the Sacred Wood, Dante sees a Matilda, the handmaid of Beatrice, on the far side of a stream.


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And in the space betwixt the four came on
A triumph-car, on two wheels travelling,
And at the shoulders of a Gryphon drawn.
Canto 29 lines 106-108


Matilda shows Dante the Pageant of the Sacrament, a parade of figures all with allegorical significance.


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Look on us well; we are indeed, we are
Beatrice. How hast thou deigned to climb the hill?
Didst thou not know that man is happy hear?
Canto 30 lines 73-75


Beatrice appears in place of the Host on the triumph-car that represents the Church. Dante turns to Virgil for reassurance, but his guide is no longer there. Beatrice reproaches Dante for his doubts.


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She stretched both hands, she seized me by the crown,
Did that fair lady, and she plunged me in,
So that I needs must drink the water down.
Canto 31 lines 100-102


Upon hearing Beatrice's accusations, Dante confesses his sin and swoons. When he wakes he finds that Matilda is drawing him across the river Lethe, which washes away his guilt and even the memory of his sin. She brings him to Beatrice, who smiles on him.


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And throned there, like a keep on a high mount
Secure, I saw a harlot, loosely dressed,
Sit, with a rolling eye and brazen front.
Canto 32 lines 148-150


The allegorical pageant continues, with scenes symbolic of the history of the Church and the Roman Empire.


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From those most holy waters, born anew
I came, like trees by change of calendars
Renewed with new-sprung foliage through and through,
Pure and prepared to leap up to the stars.
Canto 33 lines 142-145


Drinking from the second stream of Eunoe restores Dante's memory of his sins but none of the guilt. Whole and forgiven, Dante is ready for the final phase of his journey, into Paradise.


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On to the Paradisio

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