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"Purgatory", from the Divine Comedy
After his soul-searing journey through the torments of hell, Dante is led by his guide, Virgil, to the frontier of Purgatory, depicted as a vast mountain that represents the sole piece of land in the Southern Hemisphere. The pair slowly make their way up the mountain, at the top of which is the fabled earthly paradise. As they climb they meet repentant sinners whose curative punishments are often no less severe than those inflicted in hell. However, these souls, unlike their counterparts in hell, are assured of eventual salvation and embrace their various forms of penance with joy and gratitude.
The high point of the drama occurs in the earthly paradise, where Virgil suddenly and silently vanishes, his place being taken by Beatrice, who is to be Dante's guide for the rest of his journey.
If the Divine Comedy is viewed as a symphony in verse, the Purgatorio, with its more relaxed pace and periods of sunlit reflection, can be seen as the slow movement. As an interlude between the hectic horrors of the Inferno and the transcendent glories of the Paradiso, it is notable for a distinctive pastoral ambience and an easy beauty of versification, well captured in this self-effacing translation by Ichabod Charles Wright.