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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.


From the Italian. Beatrice

Purgatorio XXX. 13–33, 85–99, XXXI. 13–21.

EVEN as the Blessed, at the final summons,

Shall rise up quickened, each one from his grave,

Wearing again the garments of the flesh,

So, upon that celestial chariot,

A hundred rose ad vocem tanti senis,

Ministers and messengers of life eternal.

They all were saying, “Benedictus quivenis,”

And scattering flowers above and round about,

“Manibus o date lilia plenis.”

Oft have I seen, at the approach of day,

The orient sky all stained with roseate hues,

And the other heaven with light serene adorned,

And the sun’s face uprising, overshadowed,

So that, by temperate influence of vapors,

The eye sustained his aspect for long while;

Thus in the bosom of a cloud of flowers,

Which from those hands angelic were thrown up,

And down descended inside and without,

With crown of olive o’er a snow-white veil,

Appeared a lady, under a green mantle,

Vested in colors of the living flame.


Even as the snow, among the living rafters

Upon the back of Italy, congeals,

Blown on and beaten by Sclavonian winds,

And then, dissolving, filters through itself,

Whene’er the land, that loses shadow, breathes,

Like as a taper melts before a fire,

Even such I was, without a sigh or tear,

Before the song of those who chime forever

After the chiming of the eternal spheres;

But, when I heard in those sweet melodies

Compassion for me, more than had they said,

“Oh wherefore, lady, dost thou thus consume him?”

The ice, that was about my heart congealed,

To air and water changed, and, in my anguish,

Through lips and eyes came gushing from my breast.


Confusion and dismay, together mingled,

Forced such a feeble “Yes!” out of my mouth,

To understand it one had need of sight.

Even as a cross-bow breaks, when’t is discharged,

Too tensely drawn the bow-string and the bow,

And with less force the arrow hits the mark;

So I gave way beneath this heavy burden,

Gushing forth into bitter tears and sighs,

And the voice, fainting, flagged upon its passage.