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 Canto XXIII
      They are overtaken by the spirit of Forese, who had been a friend of our
 Poet's on earth, and who now inveighs bitterly against the immodest dress of
 their countrywomen at Florence.
 On the green leaf mine eyes were fix'd, like his
 Who throws away his days in idle chase
 Of the diminutive birds, when thus I heard
 The more than father warn me: "Son! our time
 Asks thriftier using. Linger not: away!"
 Thereat my face and steps at once I turn'd
 Toward the sages, by whose converse cheer'd
 I journey'd on, and felt no toil: and lo!
 A sound of weeping, and a song: "My lips,[1]
 O Lord!" and these so mingled, it gave birth
 To pleasure and to pain. "O Sire beloved!
 Say what is this I hear." Thus I inquired.
 [1: "O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall show forth thy
 praise." - Psalm li. 15.]
 "Spirits," said he, "who, as they go, perchance,
 Their debt of duty pay." As on their road
 The thoughtful pilgrims, overtaking some
 Not known unto them, turn to them, and look,
 But stay not; thus, approaching from behind
 With speedier motion, eyed us, as they pass'd,
 A crowd of spirits, silent and devout.
 The eyes of each were dark and hollow; pale
 Their visage, and so lean withal, the bones
 Stood staring through the skin. I do not think
 Thus dry and meagre Erisichthon show'd,
 When pinch'd by sharp - set famine to the quick.
 "Lo!" to myself I mused, "the race, who lost
 Jerusalem, when Mary with dire beak
 Prey'd on her child." The sockets seem'd as rings,
 From which the gems were dropt. Who reads the name[2]
 Of man upon his forehead, there the M
 Had traced most plainly. Who would deem, that scent
 Of water and an apple could have proved
 Powerful to generate such pining want,
 Not knowing how it wrought? While now I stood,
 Wondering what thus could waste them, (for the cause
 Of their gaunt hollowness and scaly rind
 Appear'd not,) lo! a spirit turn'd his eyes
 In their deep - sunken cells, and fasten'd them
 On me, then cried with vehemence aloud:
 "What grace is this vouchsafed me?" By his looks
 I ne'er had recognized him: but the voice
 Brought to my knowledge what his cheer conceal'd.
 Remembrance of his alter'd lineaments
 Was kindled from that spark; and I agnized
 The visage of Forese.[3]. "Ah! respect
 This wan and leprous - wither'd skin," thus he
 Suppliant implored, "this macerated flesh.
 Speak to me truly of thyself. And who
 Are those twain spirits, that escort thee there?
 Be it not said thou scorn'st to talk with me."
 [2: The temples, nose, and forehead are supposed to represent this
 letter [of the Latin word (H)OMO - man], and the eyes the two O's.]
 [3: A brother of Piccarda. See also Canto xxiv. and Paradise, Canto
 iii. Cionacci is referred to by Lombardi, in order to show that Forese was
 also the brother of Corso Donati, our author's political enemy.]
 "That face of thine," I answer'd him, "which dead
 I once bewail'd, disposes me not less
 For weeping, when I see it thus transform'd.
 Say then, by Heaven, what blasts ye thus? The whilst
 I wonder, ask not speech from me: unapt
 Is he to speak, whom other will employs."
 He thus: "The water and the plant, we pass'd
 With power are gifted, by the eternal will
 Infused; the which so pines me. Every spirit,
 Whose song bewails his gluttony indulged
 Too grossly, here in hunger and in thirst
 Is purified. The odour, which the fruit,
 And spray that showers upon the verdure, breathe,
 Inflames us with desire to feed and drink.
 Nor once alone, encompassing our route,
 We come to add fresh fuel to the pain:
 Pain, said I? solace rather: for that will,
 To the tree, leads us, by which Christ was led
 To call on Eli, joyful, when he paid
 Our ransom from his vein." I answering thus:
 "Forese! from that day, in which the world
 For better life thou changedst, not five years
 Have circled. If the power of sinning more
 Were first concluded in thee, ere thou knew'st
 That kindly grief which re - espouses us
 To God, how hither art thou, come so soon?
 I thought to find thee lower,[4] there, where time
 Is recompense for time." He straight replied:
 "To drink up the sweet wormwood of affliction
 I have been brought thus early, by the tears
 Stream'd down my Nella's cheeks. Her prayers devout,
 Her sighs have drawn me from the coast,[5] where oft
 Expectance lingers; and have set me free
 From the other circles. In the sight of God
 So much the dearer is my widow prized,
 She whom I loved so fondly, as she ranks
 More singly eminent for virtuous deeds.
 The tract, most barbarous of Sardinia's isle,[6]
 Hath dames more chaste, and modester by far,
 Than that wherein I left her. O sweet brother!
 What wouldst thou have me say? A time to come
 Stands full within my view, to which this hour
 Shall not be counted of an ancient date,
 [4: In the Ante - Purgatory. See Canto ii.]
 [5: The wife of Forese.]
 [6: The Barbagia is a part of Sardinia, to which that name was given,
 on account of the uncivilized state of its inhabitants, who are said to have
 gone nearly naked.]
 When from the pulpit shall be loudly warn'd
 The unblushing dames of Florence, lest they bare
 Unkerchief'd bosoms to the common gaze.
 What savage women hath the world e'er seen,
 What Saracens,[7] for whom there needed scourge
 Of spiritual or other discipline,
 To force them walk with covering on their limbs?
 But did they see, the shameless ones, what Heaven
 Wafts on swift wing toward them while I speak,
 Their mouths were oped for howling: they shall taste
 Of sorrow (unless foresight cheat me here),
 Or e'er the cheek of him be clothed with down,
 Who is now rock'd with lullaby asleep.
 Ah! now, my brother, hide thyself no more:
 Thou seest how not I alone, but all,
 Gaze, where thou veil'st the intercepted sun."
 Whence I replied: "If thou recall to mind
 What we were once together, even yet
 Remembrance of those days may grieve thee sore.
 That I forsook that life, was due to him
 Who there precedes me, some few evenings past,
 When she was round, who shines with sister lamp
 To his that glisters yonder," and I show'd
 The sun. "'Tis. he, who through profoundest night
 Of the true dead has brought me, with this flesh
 As true, that follows. From that gloom the aid
 Of his sure comfort drew me on to climb,
 And, climbing, wind along this mountain - steep,
 Which rectifies in you whate'er the world
 Made crooked and depraved. I have his word,
 That he will bear me company as far
 As till I come where Beatrice dwells:
 But there must leave me. Virgil is that spirit,
 Who thus hath promised," and I pointed to him;
 "The other is that shade, for whom so late
 Your realm, as he arose, exulting, shook
 Through every pendent cliff and rocky bound."
 [7: "Saracens." This word, during the Middle Ages, was applied to all
 nations (except the Jews) who did not profess Christianity.]