Haste to the mountain to strip off the slough that lets not God be manifest to you

From Canto 2 of Dante’s Purgatorio (lines 115-133), as Dante meets a friend at the base of Mount Purgatory and the two enjoy some music together until Cato bursts in.  Below are both Longfellow’s verse and Charles Singleton’s prose renderings.  At bottom is the helpful note on line 122’s lo scoglio (slough) from Singleton’s accompanying commentary.


My master and I and that folk who were with him appeared content as if naught else touched the mind of any.  We were all rapt and attentive to his notes, when lo, the venerable old man, crying, “What is this, you laggard spirits?  What negligence, what stay is this?  Haste to the mountain to strip off the slough that lets not God be manifest to you.

As doves, when gathering wheat or tares, assembled all at their repast and quiet, without their usual show of pride, if something appears that frightens them, suddenly leave their food because they are assailed by a greater care; so I saw that new troop leave the song and hasten toward the hillside, like one who goes, but knows not where he may come forth; nor was our departure less quick.


My Master, and myself, and all that people
Which with him were, appeared as satisfied
As if naught else might touch the mind of any.
We all of us were moveless and attentive
Unto his notes; and lo! the grave old man,
Exclaiming: “What is this, ye laggard spirits?
What negligence, what standing still is this?
Run to the mountain to strip off the slough,
That lets not God be manifest to you.
Even as when, collecting grain or tares,
The doves, together at their pasture met,
Quiet, nor showing their accustomed pride,
If aught appear of which they are afraid,
Upon a sudden leave their food alone,
Because they are assailed by greater care;
So that fresh company did I behold
The song relinquish, and go tow’rds the hill,
As one who goes, and knows not whitherward;
Nor was our own departure less in haste.


Lo mio maestro e io e quella gente
ch’eran con lui parevan sì contenti,
come a nessun toccasse altro la mente.

Noi eravam tutti fissi e attenti
a le sue note; ed ecco il veglio onesto
gridando: «Che è ciò, spiriti lenti?

qual negligenza, quale stare è questo?
Correte al monte a spogliarvi lo scoglio
ch’esser non lascia a voi Dio manifesto».

Come quando, cogliendo biado o loglio,
li colombi adunati a la pastura,
queti, sanza mostrar l’usato orgoglio,

se cosa appare ond’ elli abbian paura,
subitamente lasciano star l’esca,
perch’ assaliti son da maggior cura;

così vid’ io quella masnada fresca
lasciar lo canto, e fuggir ver’ la costa,
com’ om che va, né sa dove rïesca;

né la nostra partita fu men tosta.


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