We now had reached the top step of the stairway
         Where the mountain which cures sin by our climbing
         Cuts away steeply for a second time.
         The terrace here girdles the hill around
5         In the same way the first ledge did below,
         Except that this curve makes a tighter loop.
         No shapes here and no likenesses to see:
         The cliff-face and the roadbed both are bare
         From the livid discoloring of the stone.
10       "Were we to wait for people to give directions,"
         The poet observed, "I am afraid our choice
         Perhaps should have to be delayed too long."
         Straight at the sun he riveted his eyes,
         And turning on the pivot of his right side
15       He swung himself full forward on his left.
         "O tender light, with trust in you I enter
         On this new road: now lead us on," he said,
         "For in this place we require to be led.
         "You warm the world, you shed your light upon it:
20       Unless other reasons urge us differently,
         Your own bright beams will always be our guide."
         The distance measured down here is a mile,
         That far we had already traveled there
         In a short time because of our prompt will:
25       And flying toward us we heard but did not see
         Spirits calling gracious invitations
         To banquet at the table of love’s feast.
         The first voice that flew past cried out aloud
         "They have no wine!" and it sped on by us
30       Off to our rear, re-echoing the words.
         And before it fully faded out of hearing
         Distance, another voice passed with the cry,
         "I am Orestes!" and also did not pause.
         "Oh," I cried, "father, what are these voices?"
35       And just as I asked this, listen! a third
         Exclaimed, "Love those who do you injury!"
         And my kind master said, "This circle scourges
         The sin of envy, and for this reason
         The whip is fashioned with the cords of love.
40       "The rein must be composed of opposite sound:
         I venture to say that you shall hear it soon
         Before you reach the passageway of pardon.
         "But fix your eyes steadily through the air
         And you shall see folk seated in front of us
45       Where each one sits with back against the rock."
         At that I more than ever opened my eyes:
         I peered ahead and noticed shades in cloaks
         Of the same discoloration as the stone.
         And when we went straight forward a short space,
50       I heard cried out " Mary, pray for us!"
         And cried out "Michael" and "Peter" and "All saints."
         I do not think there walks on earth today
         A man so hard of heart he’d not be stabbed
         By keen compassion at what I witnessed there,
55       For, when I came up close enough to them
         That their condition became clear to me,
         Tears of deep grief drained slowly from my eyes.
         Each one seemed to be covered in coarse haircloth,
         And one propped up the other with his shoulder
60       As all of them leaned back along the cliff-side.
         So, too, the blind in their impoverishment
         Gather at indulgences to beg bread;
         And one lets droop his head against another’s,
         The more to make the people pity them,
65       Not merely by the sound of their sad pleading,
         But by the sad looks that express their cravings.
         And as the sun brings no help to the blind,
         So for the shades in the place that I speak of
         The light of heaven withholds its radiance.
70       An iron thread pierces and sews up
         All of their eyelids, as is done to falcons
         Still so wild they recoil at keeping quiet.
         I thought that I did wrong to walk about
         Seeing others who could not see me
75      And so I turned to my wise counselor.
         He clearly knew what this mute wished to say
         And had no need to wait for me to ask,
         But said, "Speak, and be brief and to the point."
         Virgil walked on with me along the side
80       Of the high terrace from which one could fall
         Since there is no surrounding parapet.
         And on the other side of me there sat
         The devout shades who wet their cheeks with tears
         Which seeped out through the terrible stitched seams.
85       I turned to them, "O people," I began,
         "Assured of seeing the supernal light
         Which alone is the object of your longing,
         "So may grace soon clean out the clogged debris
         Of conscience that the river of memory
90       May once more run down through it clear and pure,
         "Tell me, as a favor I shall cherish,
         Is any soul among you here Italian?
         For me to know perhaps will do him good."
         "O my brother, we each are citizens
95       Of one true city, but you intend someone
         Who as a pilgrim lived in Italy."
         I seemed to hear this answer come some distance
         From up ahead of where I stood; so I moved
         To make myself heard more in that direction.
100      Among them all I saw one shade that looked
         Expectant — and if someone asks me how:
         The chin was raised the way the blind lift theirs.
         "Spirit," said I, "subduing yourself to climb:
         If you are the one who responded to me,
105     Make yourself known by either place or name."
         "I was a Sienese," the shade replied,
         "And with the rest here I mend my sinful life,
         Weeping to Him to show Himself to us.
         "Sapient I was not, though named Sapia.
110      I found far more delight in other’s losses
         Than ever I enjoyed my own good fortune.
         "But that you may not fancy I deceive you,
         Listen to the story of my folly
         In the declining arc of my last years.
115      "My fellow citizens took to the field
         Near Colle to join battle with their foes,
         And I prayed God for what he’d willed already.
         "There they were shattered and turned backward
         With harsh steps of retreat, and seeing the rout,
120      I knew the deepest pleasure of my life:
         "So deep, I turned my brazen face upward
         To shout at God, ‘Now I no longer fear you!’
         Like the blackbird at a hint of fair weather.
         "I wanted peace with God just at the end
125     Of all my days, and my debit would not
         As yet have been reduced by penitence,
         "Had it not been that Piero Pettinaio,
         Who in his charity felt sorry for me,
         Remembered me in his own holy pray

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