Divine Comedy: Novel Summary: Purgatorio section 27- Purgatorio section 31
Purgatorio section 27: As the angel of chastity descends to greet the poet it sings "Beati mundo corde" (Blessed are the pure in heart). The angel urges the travelers to cross through the river of fire because there is no other way up the mountain to the Earthly Paradise. Terrified that he will be burned alive, Dante at first refuses to enter the flames. Virgil, however, encourages Dante by reminding him that Beatrice waits for him above. At the mention of Beatrice, Dante enters the river and writhes in pain from the incredible heat. Angelic voices urge the poets out of the flames. Darkness falls as the poets, safe from the fire, lie down on the steps to rest until daybreak. In his dream, Dante sees Leah who, picking flowers, tells Dante that she prefers to spend her time weaving her flowers into garlands while her sister, Rachel, prefers to look at her own beautiful eyes in a mirror. After Dante awakens, the three poets resume their climb. Although Dante will soon attain true happiness, Virgil explains that he has brought Dante as far as he can as his teacher. Virgil states that having passed through Hell and Purgatory, Dante can now be his own guide. Virgil's final words to his pupil: "I crown and miter you over yourself."
Purgatorio section 28: Dante and Statius enter the divine forest of the Earthly Paradise. Sweet odors, soft breezes, and chirping birds fill the air as Dante approaches a lovely stream followed by the spirits of the ancient poets. Dante spies a beautiful woman picking flowers and singing across the river. The lady nears the stream and Dante muses, "No sooner had she reached the point where that fair river's waves could barely bathe the grass, than she gave me this gift: lifting her eyes. I do not think a light so bright had shone beneath the lids of Venus when her son pierced her in extraordinary fashion." The lady, Matilda, tells Dante that she will answer any questions that puzzle him. Dante asks her to explain how breezes and flowing streams exist in this place. Matilda replies that the breezes in the Earthly Paradise are created by motions of Heaven which always flow in the same direction. A fountain created by the will of God feeds two streams: Lethe, and Eunoe. Matilda concludes by instructing Dante to remember that the poets of the Golden Age had an understanding of this region where man first lived in innocence.
Purgatorio section 29: Matilda resumes her singing as she moves along the banks of Lethe. Dante keeps pace with her until they come to a sharp bend in the river. Matilda stops and urges Dante, "My brother, look and listen." A great light sweeps across the forest as Dante hears music so lovely that it causes him to regret Eve having caused the casting out of humankind from Eden. Dante invokes the Muses to help him describe this experience because he struggles to put his sentiments into words. Dante sees seven lighted candlesticks in the distance. Followed by twenty-four elders crowned in white lilies, the candles move slowly forward. Four creatures each with six wings covered with eyes follow the elders. With a head of gold and a body of red and white, a gryphon pulls a chariot amidst the four beasts. Three ladies, red, green, and white, dance at one of the chariot's wheels while four ladies dressed in purple dance at the other wheel. Two old men, one a physician and the other carrying a sword, follow the chariot while four humble men follow them. Finally, one figure trails brings up the rear of the procession. The procession halts at the sound of thunder.
Purgatorio section 30: As the procession halts, the elders cry "Veni, sponsa, de Libano" (Come bride from Lebanon) and a group of angels drop flowers over the chariot as they sing "Benedictus qui venis" (Blessed are you who come). A lady crowed with an olive garland and wearing a white veil emerges from the mist. Dante recognizes Beatrice at once even though he cannot see her face. Dante turns to express his happiness to Virgil but finds that his teacher has left. Dante begins to weep but Beatrice tells him that he will soon weep for a different sorrow. Beatrice tells the angels about Dante's sinful ways. Dante recoils in shame. Beatrice explains that although Dante has great talent and loved her faithfully while she was alive, he has strayed from God's plan after her death. Although she tried to save him from Heaven, Beatrice realized that she had to bring him on this journey so that he could see the torment and torture of lost souls for himself so she went to Limbo to beseech Virgil to be Dante's guide.
Purgatorio section 31: Beatrice asks Dante if her accusations are true, "tell, tell if this is true; for your confession must be entwined with such self-accusation." Fraught with shame, Dante responds affirmatively. Beatrice urges Dante to reveal the pitfalls that made him stray from his virtuous path. Dante tries to explain that after Beatrice's death, he took pleasure in earthly vanities. After this confession, Beatrice tells Dante that his memory of her should keep him from ever straying again. Still hanging his head in deep shame, Dante stands across the river from Beatrice as she asks him to lift his eyes to gaze up her immortal beauty-something that will cause him more suffering. Dante realizes that, even through her veil, Beatrice is "seemed to surpass her former self in beauty as, here on Earth, she had surpassed all others." Overcome with remorse, Dante faints. As he revives, Dante finds Matilda standing over him. Matilda leads Dante across Lethe where he can wash away his sins. On the opposite shore of the river, the four women in purple greet Dante and usher him to Beatrice. The three other dancing ladies urge Beatrice to raise her veil and look upon the poet who has traveled so far. Beatrice raises her veil and Dante cannot find words to describe his experience thereafter.