Monday, October 08, 2007

Canto 28: King of the Hill

With Canto 28, Dante is no longer being guided by Virgil; he's at liberty to explore the foresta at the top of the mountain. After the blasted landscapes of the preceding cantos, the canto opens upon a fragrant, cool, varicolored scene:
Vago già di cercar dentro e dintorno
la divina foresta spessa e viva,
ch'a li occhi temperava il novo giorno, 3

sanza più aspettar, lasciai la riva,
prendendo la campagna lento lento
su per lo suol che d'ogne parte auliva. 6

Un'aura dolce, sanza mutamento
avere in sé, mi feria per la fronte
non di più colpo che soave vento; 9

per cui le fronde, tremolando, pronte
tutte quante piegavano a la parte
u' la prim'ombra gitta il santo monte; 12

non però dal loro esser dritto sparte
tanto, che li augelletti per le cime
lasciasser d'operare ogne lor arte; 15

ma con piena letizia l'ore prime,
cantando, ricevieno intra le foglie,
che tenevan bordone a le sue rime, 18

tal qual di ramo in ramo si raccoglie
per la pineta in su 'l lito di Chiassi,
quand'Ëolo scilocco fuor discioglie.

Now keen to search within, to search around
that forest-dense, alive with green, divine-
which tempered the new day before my eyes, 3

without delay, I left behind the rise
and took the plain, advancing slowly, slowly
across the ground where every part was fragrant. 6

A gentle breeze, which did not seem to vary
within itself, was striking at my brow
but with no greater force than a kind wind's, 9

a wind that made the trembling boughs-they all
bent eagerly-incline in the direction
of morning shadows from the holy mountain; 12

but they were not deflected with such force
as to disturb the little birds upon
the branches in the practice of their arts; 15

for to the leaves, with song, birds welcomed those
first hours of the morning joyously,
and leaves supplied the burden to their rhymes- 18

just like the wind that sounds from branch to branch
along the shore of Classe, through the pines
when Aeolus has set Sirocco loose.

Both Italian and English from Opere.

As we arrive here, this third part of Purgatorio, it's probably a good idea to get some sense of orientation. What do we make of this place, and of how it's described, even before we learn more from its human(?) inhabitant? What do we understand to be the status of the pilgrim at this point? Having just completed his purgation, what seems to be the focus of this next step on his journey?

A little further on, allusions to several classical myths -- Aeolus; Dis and Proserpina; Venus, Cupid and Adonis; Hero and Leander -- along with Xerxes. What role in the seeming harmony of this moment does the introduction of these stories appear to play?

And of course, what can we say of Matilda and her interaction with Dante and the other poets? Does Dante's first question to her seem odd?

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