History of Literature





Dante Alighieri

"Divine Comedy"


Inferno - Purgatorio - Paradiso


Illustrations by G. Dore

Illustrations by W. Blake

Illustrations by S. Dali




 

 


The Divine Comedy

Translated by James Finn Cotter


PURGATORIO



Illustrations by Gustave Dore

 

 

 

 

 

Canto I

 

          To race for safer waters, the small ship
          Of my poetic powers now hoists sail,
          Leaving in her wake that cruel sea.
 
          And I shall sing this second kingdom where
5        The human spirit purifies itself,
          Becoming fit to mount up into heaven.
 
          But let dead poetry here rise once more,
          O sacred Muses, since I am all your own,
          And let Calliope rise a step higher,
 
10       Accompanying my singing with that strain
          Which struck the wretched Magpies with such force
          That they despaired of ever finding pardon.
 
          Soft coloring of oriental sapphire,
          Collecting in the calm face of the sky,
15       Clear right up to the edge of the horizon,
 
          Brought back delight again into my eyes
          As soon as I stepped out from the dead air
          Which overburdened both my sight and breast.
 
         The beautiful, love-provoking planet
20       Was making the whole east break into smiles,
          Veiling the Fishes that follow in her train:
 
          I turned then to the right and fixed my mind
          On the other pole, and I saw there four stars
          Which, after the first people, none have seen.
 
25       The heavens seemed ecstatic in their flames.
          O widowed northern hemisphere, you are
          Deprived forever of wonder at their sight!
 
          When at last I left off gazing at them,
          Turning partially to the other pole
30       Where the Wain had already disappeared,
 
          I saw near me an aged man, alive,
          In bearing worthy of such reverence
          As no son ever would refuse his father.
 
          His beard was long and mixed with streaks of white,
35       Exactly like his hair which on both sides
          Fell in two tresses down upon his chest.
 
          Radiance from the four holy stars
          So suffused his countenance with light
          That I saw him as if he faced the sun.
 
40       "Who are you, running against the blind stream,
          Who have fled here from the eternal prison?"
          He asked, shaking his venerable locks.
 
          "Who guided you, or what was the lamp there
          That led you in escaping the deep night
45       Which keeps hell’s valley in unending blackness?
 
          "Are the laws of the abyss so shattered
          Or is some new design decreed in heaven
          That, although damned, you come here to my rocks?"
 
          At that my guide placed his hands upon me
50       And with words and gestures and other signs
          Made me bend my head and knees in reverence.
 
          Then he replied, "I come not on my own:
          A lady came from heaven — by her prayers
          I helped this man with my companionship.
 
55       "But since it is your wish that I unfold
          More about the truth of our condition,
          It is not my wish to deny your bidding.
 
          "This man has yet to see his final evening,
          But by his folly came so close to it
60       That not much time was left for him to turn.
 
          "As I just mentioned, I was sent to him
          For rescue, and there was no other way
          Than this on which I set myself to travel.
 
          "I have shown him all of the sinful people
65       And now I want to show him the spirits who
          Purge themselves beneath your supervision.
 
          "To tell you how I led him would take long:
          From up on high the power comes that helps me
          To guide him here to see and hear you now.
 
70       "Now be pleased to support his coming here.
          He goes in search of freedom, which is so dear,
          As he who gives his life for it would know.
 
          "You know, since death for its sake was not bitter
          To you in Utica, where you have doffed
75       The garment which on doomsday shall be bright.
 
          "We have not broken an eternal edict,
          Since he’s alive and Minos does not bind me:
          But I am of the ring where the chaste eyes
 
          "Of your Marcia gleam; her looks still pray you,
80       Oh holy breast, to hold her for your own.
          For love of her, then, bend to our request:
 
          "Permit us to pass through your seven realms.
          I will report your kindness back to her —
          If you allow such talk of you below."
 
85       "Marcia was so pleasing to my eyes
          While I lived there beyond," he then replied,
          "That every favor she wished of me, I did.
 
          "Now that she dwells across that stream of evil,
          She can no longer move me, by that law
90       Which was imposed when I emerged from there.
 
          "But if, as you say, a lady from heaven
          Moves and commands you, you need not flatter:
          It is enough you ask me for her sake.
 
          "Go then, and make sure that you cincture him
95       With a smooth reed and that you cleanse his face
          Until you have removed all trace of filth.
 
          "For it would not be fitting to go before
          The first angel there on guard from paradise
          With eyes still dulled by the thick murky mists.
 
100      "Around about the base of this small island,
          Below the place where waves beat on the shore,
          Rushes flourish in the soft wet mud.
 
          "No other plant that sprouts its leaves, or stalk
          That hardens, ever could thrive in such a spot
105      Because it would not bend to buffeting waves.
 
          "Then afterwards, do not come back this way.
          The sun, now rising, will point out to you
          An easier route for climbing up the mountain."
 
          With this he vanished. I lifted myself up
110     Without a word, drawing myself closer
          To my guide, and turned my eyes toward him,
 
          And he began, "Son, follow in my footsteps!
          Let us turn back, for the plain slopes downward
          In that direction to its lowest point."
 
115      The dawn was winning over the morning hour
          Which fled before it, so that, still far off,
          I recognized the trembling of the sea.
 
          We traveled along the solitary plain,
          Like a man turning to the road he’s lost
120     And, till he finds it, feels the walking useless.
 
          When we arrived at a meadow where the dew
          Outlasts the sun, since in the cooling shade
          The dew scarcely evaporates in the breeze,
 
          My master gently spread out both his hands
125     And pressed them on the grass. And I, at that,
          Comprehending what he here intended,
 
          Presented to his touch my tear-stained cheeks:
          Completely he revealed their rightful color
          Which hell had hidden underneath the grime.
 
130      Then we came down to the deserted shore
          Which never saw one man sail on its waters
          Who afterward resolved how to return.
 
          There, as another willed, he cinctured me.
          O wonderful! when he had picked the humble
135      Plant, the same one instantly sprang up
 
          Exactly at the spot he plucked it out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto II

 

          The sun by now sank down to the horizon
          And the highest point of the meridian
          Circle arched above Jerusalem,
 
          And night, circling on the opposite side,
5         Rose out of the Ganges with the Scales
          Which topple from her hand when she grows longer,
 
          So, where I was, Aurora’s rose-white cheeks
          For all her beauty were turning golden-orange,
          As if they changed with ever increasing age.
 
10       We were there yet, alongside the sea’s margin,
          Like people who reflect about their route,
          Moving in mind and standing still in body.
 
          And look! just as Mars in the early dawn
          Burns with a deep red glow through heavy mists
15       Low in the west above the ocean’s surface,
 
          So appeared to me (may I see it again!)
          A light coming across the sea so fast
          Nothing in flight could match its rapid motion.
 
          When for a moment I’d withdrawn my eyes
20       From the light to ask my guide a question,
          Again I saw it grow in size and brightness.
 
          Then there appeared to me on each of its sides
          A whitish blur, and then from underneath it
          Little by little another blur shone outward.
 
25       My master meanwhile did not speak a word
          Until the first white colors showed as wings:
          Then he clearly recognized the helmsman.
 
          He cried to me, "Kneel down — fall on your knees!
          Look, the angel of God! Fold your hands —
30       From now on you shall see such ministers.
 
          "See how he scorns the instruments of man:
          He needs no oars nor any other sail
          Than his own wings between such distant shores.
 
          "See how he points them straight up toward heaven,
35       Wafting the air with his immortal plumage
          Which, unlike mortal feathers, never molts."
 
          Nearer and nearer came the bird of heaven:
          The closer to us the brighter he appeared
          Until my eyes could not endure his nearness,
 
40       And I lowered them. He then came ashore
          In a swift sailing ship so trim and light
          That it did not draw water while afloat.
 
          At the stern stood the celestial steersman
          With blessedness written all over him,
45       And in his boat sat more than a hundred souls.
 
          "From exile Israel came out of Egypt"
          They all intoned together with one voice
          Right through the psalm as it had been composed.
 
          Then over them he made a sign of the cross:
50       With that they all cast themselves on the shore,
          And he sped off as swiftly as he came.
 
          The crowd left there appeared to be bewildered
          By the location, gazing round about
          Like men come out to see some strange event.
 
55       Shooting rays of daylight to all sides,
          The sun already with his well-aimed arrows
          Had chased off Capricorn from the mid-heaven,
 
          When the new people raised their faces upward
          Toward us in petition: "If you should know,
60       Show us the way that leads on up the mountain."
 
          And Virgil answered, "You believe perhaps
          That we two are familiar with this place,
          But we are pilgrims here the same as you are.
 
          "We came just now, a short while before you did,
65       By another road which was so steep and rugged
          That bounding up will now appear like play."
 
          The souls who had perceived from my breathing
          That I indeed was still a living person
          Turned as pale as death in their amazement.
 
70       And just as people, to hear the news, will mob
          A messenger who bears an olive branch,
          And no one shies away from trampling others,
 
          So did that whole group of good-fortuned souls
          Fasten their eyes upon my face, as though
75       Forgetting to go on to their own beauty.
 
          I observed one of them now drawing forward
          With such deep-felt love to embrace me that
          He moved me to reach out to him in turn.
 
          O shadows empty but in outward look!
80       Three times I clasped my hands behind him and
          Three times I drew them back to my own breast!
 
          Wonder, I believe, painted my cheeks pale,
          Because at this the shade smiled and stepped back,
          And I, following him, lunged on ahead.
 
85       Gently he said that I should hold my place.
          Then I recognized who he was, and begged
          That he should stay a while and talk to me.
 
          He answered me, "Exactly as I loved you
          In my live body, free from it I love you:
90       So I shall stay — but you, why pass this way?"
 
          "My own Casella, to come here where I am
          On my next turn around, I make this journey,"
          I said; "but how did you lose so much time?"
 
          And he told me, "I am not wronged if he,
95       Who as he pleases chooses who shall go
          And when, should often have refused me passage,
 
          "Because a just Will shaped and guides his own.
          To tell the truth, for three months he has taken,
          In perfect peace, those wanting to come aboard.
 
100      "So I, the instant I turned to the strand
          Where the Tiber’s waters become salty,
          Was kindly welcomed on board by that boatman.
 
          "Toward the Tiber’s mouth he’s set his wings
          Since there the spirits always congregate
105     Who do not sink below to Acheron."
 
          And I: "If some new law does not forbid you
          To remember or perform the songs of love
          Which once made calm all of my wilful longings,
 
          "Please, with those strains give a little comfort
110     To my soul which, burdened by my body,
          Has grown so weary coming all this way."
 
          "Love conversing with me in my mind,"
          He then began to sing, so sweetly that
          The sweetness still resounds within my soul.
 
115      My master and I and all the people who
          Were with the singer seemed fully contented,
          Just as if nothing else could touch the mind.
 
          We were now all enraptured and attentive
          To his notes when, look! the upright old man
120      Cried out, "What is this, you sluggish spirits?
 
          "What negligence and what delay is this?
          Race to the mountain and strip off the slough
          Which won’t let God be manifest in you!"
 
          Just as pigeons, when gleaning wheat or tares,
125     All flocked together to peck upon their food,
          Quiet, without their usual show of pride,
 
          If something comes to give them a quick scare,
          Suddenly will fly off from their feeding
          Because a greater care now seizes them,
 
130      So did I see that newly gathered troop
          Leave the song and flee straight for the hillside
          Like men who run not knowing where they’ll end.
 
          Nor did we make less haste in setting out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto III

 

          While sudden flight was scattering those shades
          Across the plain, twirling them toward the hilltop
          Where Justice and right reason probe the soul,
 
          I drew in closer to my true companion:
5         For how could I have run my course without him?
          Who would have led me up along the mountain?
 
          He looked as though heart-stricken with remorse.
          O pure and noble conscience! How sharp the sting
          A single trivial fault can give to you!
 
10       When he restrained his footsteps from that hurry
          Which robs all action of its dignity,
          My mind, up to that moment so confined,
 
          Opened wide its scope, in earnest quest:
          I raised my eyes to wonder at the mountain
15       Which rises highest from the sea toward heaven.
 
          The sun, bursting flaming-red behind us,
          Cut out in front of me the figure formed
          By my own body blocking out its rays.
 
          I whirled around to my side in a panic
20       That I had been abandoned when I saw
          The ground had darkened only there before me.
 
          And my comfort, turning full circle, said,
          "Why this deep distrust? Do you doubt that
          I am still with you here and guide you on?
 
25       "Now evening comes to the tomb where lies buried
          The body in which I too once cast a shadow:
          At Naples laid to rest, moved from Brindisi.
 
          "Now, if in front of me no shadow travels,
          Do not marvel more than at the skies
30       Where one light does not overstep another.
 
          "Our bodies endure pain and heat and cold
          Just as that Power disposes that does not will
          To reveal to us the ways of all its workings.
 
          "It is madness to hope that our mere reason
35       Might be able to compass the infinite course
          Upheld by the Three Persons in one substance.
 
          "Stay contented, human race, with what is,
          Since were it possible you should see all,
          There’d be no need for Mary to give birth.
 
40       "For you have seen men want things fruitlessly,
          Such men as would have had their wish fulfilled,
          But now that wish is their unending grief.
 
          "I speak of Aristotle and of Plato
          And of many others," and here he bowed his head
45       And said no more — and he remained disturbed.
 
          Meanwhile we reached the base of a high mountain.
          Here we discovered a cliff so sheer and steep
          That the nimblest legs could not have climbed it.
 
          Between Lerici’s alps and Turbia’s
50       The most deserted and most shattered rockslide
          Compared to this is a free breezy staircase.
 
          "Now who can tell which side the hill slopes off,"
          My master questioned, halting in his steps,
          "To let someone who has no wings ascend?"
 
55       And while he stood there with his gaze cast down,
          Searching out his mind about the pathway,
          And while I peered up around the stone face,
 
          From the left appeared to me a family
          Of souls who moved their feet toward us, and yet,
60       So slow their pace they seemed not to come closer.
 
          "Lift up your eyes, master!" I exclaimed,
          "See there the ones who’ll give us good advice —
          If in yourself you can’t arrive at it."
 
          He looked up then and, with distinct relief,
65       Replied, "Let us walk there, for they move slowly
          And you, dear son, brace up your sturdy hope!"
 
          We were, as yet, as far off from those people —
          I mean after we’d gone a thousand paces —
          As a strong slingsman could cast a stone by hand,
 
70       When they all huddled close to the rock wall
          Of the steep cliff and stood stock still together,
          As people in befuddlement stop and gape.
 
          "O elect souls who ended well your lives,"
          Virgil began, "for the sake of that peace
75       Which I believe awaits all of you here,
 
          "Tell us where the mountain slopes away
          So that it’s possible to walk up there,
          For he who knows most hates most to lose time."
 
          Just as the sheep at first will leave the fold
80       By ones, by twos, by threes, while the rest stand
          Timid, with eyes and nose bent to the ground,
 
          And what the first has done the others do,
          Crowding up to him if he should stop,
          Simple and quiet without knowing why,
 
85       So I saw moving forward to approach us
          The leaders of that happy flock, modest
          In features and dignified in motion.
 
          When those coming foremost saw the light
          Broken on the ground to my right side
90       By the shadow reaching from me to the cliff,
 
          They halted and shrank backward a slight distance,
          And all the others who were following after,
          Without their knowing why, did the same thing.
 
          "Before you ask I will admit to you
95       This is a human body which you look at:
          By it the sunlight on the ground is broken.
 
          "So do not be astonished, but believe that
          Not without the power come from heaven
          Does he endeavor to scale up this wall."
 
100      This my master said. And that worthy band
          Replied, "Turn round and go ahead of us!"
          And waved us on with the backs of their hands.
 
          Then one of them began, "Whoever you are,
          Walking along like this, please turn your face:
105      Think if you ever saw me over there."
 
          I turned to him and eyed him steadily:
          He was quite handsome, blond, and noble-looking,
          But one brow bore a gash from a sword-blow.
 
          When I acknowledged with humility
110      That I had never seen him, he said, "Look now!"
          And showed me a wound just above his breast,
 
          Then added with a smile, "I am Manfred,
          The grandson of the glorious Empress Constance,
          And so I plead that you on your return
 
115      "Visit my lovely daughter, mother of
          The crowns of Sicily and Aragon,
          And whatever else is said, tell her the truth:
 
          "After I had my body riven through
          By two mortal thrusts, I gave up my soul
120      Weeping to Him who pardons willingly.
 
          "Horrible was the depth of my transgressing,
          But infinite goodness has its arms so wide
          That it embraces all who turn to it.
 
          "Had but the pastor of Cosenza, sent
125     By Clement at that time to hunt me down,
          Carefully read the bidding in God’s book,
 
          "The bones of my body would be resting
          Still by the bridgehead near Benevento,
          Under the guard of a mound of heavy stones.
 
130      "Now rain drenches them and wind shifts them,
          Outside my kingdom, by the Verde river,
          Where he has moved them with extinguished tapers.
 
          "None ever is so lost by curse of clergy
          But that eternal Love can yet return,
135     As long as hope retains a trace of green.
 
          "It’s true that he who dies still contumacious
          Of Holy Church, although he repent at last,
          Must here remain outside on this embankment
 
          "For thirty times as long as he persisted
140      In his presumption, unless holy prayers
          Shorten the length imposed by this decree.
 
          "You see by now how you can make me happy
          By letting my kindhearted Constance know
          How you have seen me, and this interdict,
 
145      "For those beyond there much advance us here."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto IV

 

          When the stress of pleasure or of pain,
          Which any of our senses apprehends,
          So concentrates the soul on that one sense
 
          That it is heedless of its other powers —
5         And this refutes the error which asserts
          One soul above another kindles in us —
 
          Then, when anything is heard or seen
          Which keeps the soul steadily drawn to it,
          Time passes on and we are unaware,
 
10       Because the sense perceiving time is other
          Than the one controlling the whole soul:
          The second is bound while the first is free.
 
          I had a real experience of this truth,
          Listening to that spirit and marveling,
15       For the sun had climbed fifty full degrees
 
          Without my noticing it, when we arrived
          There at a place where those souls called to us
          In unison, "Here, this is what you seek!"
 
          Often a peasant shuts a wider opening
20       In his hedges with a little forkful
          Of thorns, when his grapes grow dark and ripe,
 
          Than was the gap through which my leader climbed
          With me behind him, the two of us alone,
          While that flock was departing from us there.
 
25       Walk up San Leo or trek down to Noli,
          Mount to the summit of Bismantova,
          Still on two feet — but here a man must fly:
 
          I mean, fly with the rapid wings and feathers
          Of mighty longing, on behind that guide
30       Who brought me hope and who became my light.
 
          Upward we scaled inside the fissured rockface
          With walls on each side squeezed in close on us
          And hands and feet both needed for the stone.
 
          After we had reached the topmost rim
35       Of the high cliff, out on an open slope,
          "My master," I asked, "what way do we now take?"
 
          And he told me: "Make none of your steps downward,
          But up the mountain keep climbing after me
          Until some knowing guide appear to us."
 
40       The summit was so high I could not see it
          And the slope was much steeper than a line
          Drawn from mid-quadrant to a circle’s center.
 
          I was worn-out, when I began to moan,
          "O tender father, turn about and look:
45       I shall be left alone if you won’t pause!"
 
          "My son," he answered, "drag yourself up here,"
          And pointed to a ledge not much higher up
          Which circles the whole mountain on that side.
 
          His words so spurred me onwards that I forced
50       Myself to clamber up there after him
          Until the ledge was underneath my feet.
 
          We now sat down together on that spot,
          Facing the east from which we just had climbed,
          Since to gaze back that way often gives comfort.
 
55       I first turned my eyes to the shore below,
          Then raised them to the sun, and wondered
          How its rays shone on us from the left side.
 
          Sharply the poet noticed my amazement
          At seeing there the chariot of light
60       Begin its course between us and the north.
 
          So he said to me, "Were Castor and Pollux
          To keep close company with that bright mirror
          Which leads its light up and down the sky,
 
          "Then you would see the glowing Zodiac
65       Revolving even nearer to the Bears,
          Unless the sun should stray from its old path.
 
          "If you would understand how this can be,
          Then inwardly reflect: imagine Zion
          With this mountain so placed on the earth
 
70       "That they both share the same horizon but
          Two different hemispheres, so that the road
          Which Phaethon failed to drive on properly,
 
          "As you shall see, must pass around this mountain
          On one side and pass Zion on the other,
75       If your mind clearly comprehends this point."
 
          "Surely, my master," I said, "never before
          Have I seen so clearly as I now discern
          How defective was my understanding:
 
          "The middle circle of the heavenly motion,
80       Which in astronomy is called the Equator
          And which lies ever between summer and winter,
 
          "Is just as far away toward the north,
          For the reason that you give, as the Hebrews
          Used to see it toward the warmer climates.
 
85       "But if it please you, I should like to know
          How far we have to travel, for the hillside
          Leaps up higher than my eyes can reach."
 
          And he told me, "This mountain is such that
          Always at the start the climb is the hardest,
90       But the higher that one mounts the less one tires.
 
          "Therefore, when it seems to you so gentle
          That walking up is just as easy for you
          As riding down a river in a boat,
 
          "Then you will be at the end of this path:
95       There you can hope to rest from your fatigue.
          I say no more, but this I know is true."
 
          And after he had finished with these words,
          I heard a voice nearby cry out, "Perhaps
          Before then you will need to sit and rest!"
 
100      At that sound both of us then turned around,
          And we saw at our left a massive boulder
          Which neither of us had observed before.
 
          There we drew near, and up here there were people
          Tarrying in the shade behind the rock,
105      Like men spread out to loaf in idleness.
 
          And one of them, who looked to me all wayworn,
          Sat with his arms clasped fast around his knees,
          Bending his head down low between his legs.
 
          "O my sweet lord," I said, "fix your eyes sharply
110      On that one there who shows himself more lazy
          Than if slothfulness were his own sister!"
 
          Then he turned toward us to give us attention,
          Hardly raising his face above his legs,
          And said, "Then you go up if you’re so able!"
 
115      I knew then who he was, and that weariness
          Which still had left me short of breath did not
          Hinder me from walking to him, and when
 
          I came to him, he scarcely raised his head
          To say, "Have you really seen how the sun
120     Draws his chariot over your left shoulder?"
 
          His drowsy gestures and short-winded speech
          Moved my lips a little to a smile;
          Then I began, "Belacqua, I do not grieve
 
          "For you now; but tell me: what makes you sit
125      Here in this spot? Do you await an escort?
          Or have you simply slipped back to old ways?"
 
          And he: "O brother, why bother going up?
          God’s angel who is sitting at the gate
          Would not permit me to pass to the torments.
 
130      "First the heavens must revolve around me,
          With me outside them, as often as in life,
          Because I put off repenting to the end —
 
          "Unless there first comes to my aid a prayer
          Which rises from a heart that lives in grace:
135      What use are others if unheard in heaven?"
 
          By now the poet was bounding up before me,
          Calling back, "Come on now! See how the sun
          Touches the meridian, and on the shore
 
          "Night already sets foot on Morocco."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto V

 

          I had by now parted from these shadows
          And was following in the footsteps of my guide
          When one behind me pointing his finger
 
          Cried, "See, the light does not appear to shine
5         Upon the left side of the lower climber,
          And he seems to act as if he were alive!"
 
          At the sound of these words I turned my eyes,
          And I saw those shades stare at me in wonder,
          Only at me and at the broken light.
 
10       "Why is your mind in such entanglement
          You slacken off your walk?" my master asked,
          "Why do you care what they may whisper here?
 
          "Come after me and let the people chatter.
          Stand steadfast as a tower whose great height
15       Never shakes when struck by gusts of wind:
 
          "For people always who let thought spring up
          On thought fall ever farther from their goal,
          Since one thought saps the strength out of another."
 
          What else could I respond except "I come"?
20       I said it, my face coloring a little,
          As sometimes makes a man deserve forgiveness.
 
          And meantime all across the mountainside
          Came people slightly ahead of us, singing
          The Miserere, verse answering to verse.
 
25       When they had noticed that the rays of light
          Did not pass through my body, they soon changed
          Their chant into a hoarse and drawn-out "Oh!"
 
          And two of them, in roles of messengers,
          Raced up toward us to tender this request:
30       "We’d like to know about your present state."
 
          And my master replied, "You can return
          And report back to those who sent you here
          That this man’s body is in fact his flesh.
 
          "If they halted at the sight of his shadow,
35       As I suppose, that answer is enough:
          Let them honor him that they may benefit."
 
          I never saw meteors cut so swiftly
          Through the limpid sky at early nighttime
          Or lightning flash through August clouds at sunset
 
40       As swiftly as these shades turned back uphill
          And once there with the others veered around
          Toward us like cavalry charging with free rein.
 
          "These people pressing on us now are numerous,
          And they approach with prayer," the poet said,
45       "Be on your way, and listen as you walk!"
 
          "O soul, who move ahead to be made blessed
          In the same limbs you had when you were born,"
          They came crying, "a short while stay your steps!
 
          "Look if you ever have seen one of us
50       That you may carry news of him back there.
          Ah, why press on? Ah, why not stop right here?
 
          "All of us shades met with a violent death
          And remained sinners up to our last hour.
          The light of heaven then had so forewarned us
 
55       "That we, by true repenting and forgiving,
          Came out of our life, our peace made with the God
          Who fills our hearts with longing to see him."
 
          And I said, "Even though I search your faces,
          I recognize none of you, but if I now
60       In any way can please you, bliss-born souls,
 
          "Tell me and I will do it, by that peace
          Which I, in the steps of so good a guide,
          Am here made to pursue from world to world."
 
          And one began, "Each one of us has trust
65       In your benefices without your oaths,
          As long as no self-weakness thwarts your will.
 
          "So I, who speak alone before the rest,
          Pray you, if ever you look on that country
          Which lies between Romagna and Charles’ land,
 
70       "That you be gracious to me with your prayers
          In Fano, where devotions be made for me
          So that I here can purge my serious sins.
 
          "I came from there, but then the deep-gashed wounds
          From which flowed out the blood that gave me life
75       Were dealt me at the lap of the Antenors,
 
          "In the place where I thought I was most safe:
          Azzo of Este had it done, in anger
          Against me far beyond what justice called for.
 
          "If I had fled instead toward La Mira
80       When I was ambushed at Oriaco,
          I should still be there where men breathe the air.
 
          "I ran into the marsh, and reeds and mud
          So tangled me up I fell, and there I watched
          A pool from my veins spill into the soil."
 
85       Then said another, "Ah, so may that longing
          That draws you up the mountain be fulfilled,
          From kind compassion lend aid to my longing.
 
          "I am Buonconte once of Montefeltro.
          Giovanna and the others care not for me,
90       So I trudge with these souls, my brow bowed low."
 
          And I then asked him, "What force or what chance
          Led you so far astray from Campaldino
          That your gravesite, till now, remains unknown?"
 
          "Oh!" he replied, "below the Casentino,
95       A stream, called the Archiano, crosses
          From above the hermitage in the Apennines.
 
          "There, where its name then changes to the Arno,
          I came with my throat cut wide open, fleeing
          On foot and dripping blood upon the valley.
 
100      "There I lost my sight and then my speech:
          I ended with the name of Mary, and there
          I fell, and my flesh lay there all alone.
 
          "I’ll tell the truth — retell it to the living.
          God’s angel took me up and hell’s cried out,
105     ‘O you from heaven, why must you steal from me?
 
          " ‘His immortal part you haul off with you
          For one tiny tear which tears him from me,
          But I’ve made other plans for what remains!’
 
         "You know how in the atmosphere damp vapor
110      Condenses and turns once more into water
          As soon as it floats up to where cold strikes it:
 
          "Bad will that only plots bad deeds he added
          To intellect, and stirred the mist and wind
          By the power which his fiendish nature gave him.
 
115      "Then, when day was spent, he filled the valley
          From Pratomagno to the mountain range
          With clouds, and he so charged the sky aloft
 
          "That the overburdened air changed into water:
          The rains fell, and into the gullies flushed
120      Whatever the ground refused to sop back up,
 
          "And gathering together in huge torrents,
          They rushed head-onward toward the royal river
          So rapidly that nothing blocked their course.
 
          "The raging Archiano found my body
125      Frozen near its mouth and swept it on
          Into the Arno and unclenched the cross
 
          "Which on my breast I’d formed when pain felled me.
          Along its bed and on its bank it rolled me
          And then swaddled and wound me in its spoils."
 
130      "Pray, when you are come back into the world
          And are well rested from your lengthy journey,"
          A third spirit followed up the second,
 
          "Remember me, I who am La Pia.
          Siena made — Maremma unmade me —
135      As he knows well who plighted me his troth
 
          "And sealed the contract with his jeweled ring."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto VI

 

          When a game of dice breaks up, the loser
          Loiters behind in a downhearted mood,
          Casting his throws again and sadly wiser,
 
          While all the bystanders leave with the winner:
5         One strolls ahead, one tugs him from the rear,
          And one begs for his attention at his side.
 
          He does not stop, but hears this one and that;
          When he gives one a handout, one more leaves,
          And in that way he wards off the whole crowd.
 
10       I was the same within that pressing throng,
          Turning my face this side and that to all,
          Until by promises I slipped scot-free.
 
          The Aretine was there who met his death
          At the cruel hands of Ghino di Tacco,
15       And the other one who drowned in hot pursuit.
 
          Federigo Novello was there begging
          With arms outstretched to me, and there the Pisan
          Whose death made good Marzucco show his valor.
 
          I saw Count Orso, and the soul cut off
20       From its body by spitefulness and hate,
          They say, and not for any crime committed:
 
          Pierre de la Brosse, I mean; and while she lives,
          Let the Lady of Brabant look out lest she
          May end up with the sadder flock for this.
 
25       As soon as I came free of all those shades
          Whose only prayer was that some others pray
          So that the way to their bliss would be hastened,
 
          I then began, "You seem to me expressly
          To deny, O my light, in one written passage
30       That prayer can bend the ordinance of heaven,
 
          "And yet these people pray for this alone:
          Shall then this hope of theirs be empty-handed
          Or is what you said not quite clear to me?"
 
          And he told me, "What I wrote down is plain —
35       The hope of all these souls is not mistaken,
          If you would ponder with an open mind:
 
          "The heights of justice are not brought down low
          Because the fire of love may in one instant
          Fulfill the debt for sin of those lodged here;
 
40       "And there where I asserted this clear point,
          The fault could not be straightened out by prayer
          Because the prayer had been divorced from God.
 
          "But surely you need not remain in so
          Deep a doubt when she who shall be the light
45       Between your mind and truth explains it to you.
 
          "I don’t know if you grasp — I speak of Beatrice.
          You shall see her above, blissful and smiling,
          Upon the summit of this very mountain."
 
          And I: "My lord, let’s walk on with more haste,
50       For now I do not tire as I did then,
          And look! by now the hillside casts a shadow."
 
          "We will walk on as long as daylight lasts,"
          He answered me, "as far as we still can,
          But the reality is not what you suppose.
 
55       "Before you reach that top, you’ll see the sun,
          Now screened behind the hillside so that you
          Do not obstruct its beams, come out again.
 
          "But see, right over there sits one spirit
          All alone, who looks in our direction:
60       He will mark out for us the quickest way."
 
          We came up to him then. O Lombard soul,
          How aloof and disdainful was your manner!
          How solemnly and slowly your eyes moved!
 
          He said not a thing to us, but let us
65       Keep climbing upward, only looking on
          In the same way a lion rests and watches.
 
          Yet Virgil drew up close to him, asking
          That he point out to us the best ascent,
          But he made no reply to his request;
 
70       Instead he questioned us about our country
          And way of life; and the kind guide began,
          "Mantua ... " but the shade, shut in himself,
 
          Now rose toward him from the place he had kept
          And cried, "O Mantuan, I am Sordello
75       From your own city!" And they embraced each other.
 
          Ah, slavish Italy, hostelry for griefs,
          Ship without a captain in huge storms,
          No madam of the provinces but of brothels!
 
          That noble spirit was so eager-hearted,
80       Just at the sweet sound of his city’s name,
          To welcome there his fellow-citizen —
 
          And now all those who dwell within you live
          In war; enclosed by one same wall and moat,
          One person gnaws away at another!
 
85       Search out, you wretched place, around the shores
          Of your own seas, and then look in your heart
          For any part of you that enjoys peace!
 
          What good that Justinian with his code
          Repair the bridle if the saddle’s empty?
90       Without that bit the shame would be less biting!
 
          Ah, people that ought to show reverence
          And allow Caesar to sit in the saddle,
          If you knew well what God prescribes for you!
 
          Look how this beast has become barbarous
95       By its not being checked by any spurs
          Since you have put your hands to the bridle!
 
          O German Albert, you abandon her
          And she has grown uncurbable and wild,
          You who should ride high astride her saddle!
 
100      May the just judgment from the stars fall down
          Upon your bloodline, with so strange and plain
          A sign that may make your heir shake with fear!
 
          Because you and your father, long diverted
          By your greediness back home, have permitted
105     The garden of the empire to waste away.
 
          Come see the Montagues and Capulets,
          The Monaldi and Filippeschi, you reckless man:
          The first two live in grief, the second dread it!
 
          Come, cruel ruler, come see the distress
110      Of your noblemen, come cure their diseases,
          And you shall see how bleak is Santafiora!
 
          Come see your Rome, weeping in widowhood
          All by herself, wailing day and night:
          "My Caesar, why have you abandoned me?"
 
115      Come see how all your people love each other,
          And if no pity moves your heart for us,
          Come feel the shame your fame has won for you!
 
          And if it be allowed me, O highest Jove
          Who on the earth was crucified for us:
120     Are your eyes turned away to somewhere else?
 
          Or is it preparation you provide
          In the depths of your counsel for some good
          Wholly cut off from our discovery?
 
          For all the cities of Italy are filled
125     With tyrants, and any bumpkin who learns how
          To play politics becomes a Marcellus.
 
          My Florence, clearly you can be content
          At this digression which does not touch you,
          Thanks to the earnest efforts of your people!
 
130      Many men have justice in their hearts,
          But thinking makes them slow to let shafts fly:
          Yet your people shoot off with their mouths!
 
          Many men refuse a public office,
          But your people answer with eagerness
135      No call at all, and cry, "I will! I’ll serve!"
 
          Now be glad, since you have such good reason:
          You’re wealthy, you’re at peace, and you’re so smart!
          Should I speak true, the facts will bear me out.
 
          Athens and Sparta which drew up the codes
140     Of ancient laws and were so civilized
          Gave just the faintest sketch of the good life
 
          Compared to you who take such clever care
          That by the middle of November what
          You spun back in October is undone.
 
145      How many times, in the years you can remember,
          Your laws and coinage, offices and customs
          Have you changed, and made new citizens with them!
 
          And if only you reflect and see the light,
          Then you will view yourself like the sick woman
150      Who finds no rest on her soft feather bed,
 
          But turns and tosses to fend off her pain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto VII

 

          After this gallant and warm-hearted greeting
          Again had been given three or four times more,
          Sordello stepped back and asked, "Who are you?"
 
          "Before those souls worthy of climbing up
5         To God were turned toward this mountaintop,
          My bones were buried by Octavian:
 
          "I am Virgil, and for no other fault
          Have I lost heaven than for want of faith."
          This then was the answer my guide gave him.
 
10       As one who sees suddenly before him
          Something to make him wonder, in belief
          And disbelief he says, "It is ... It isn’t so!"
 
          So that shade seemed, and then he bowed his head
          And, humbly coming to my guide again,
15       Embraced him as a minion clasps his lord.
 
          "O glory of the Latin race," he cried,
          "Who proved the power of our native tongue,
          O everlasting honor of my birthplace,
 
          "What merit or what grace brings you to me?
20       Should I be worthy to hear your words, tell me
          If you come here from hell, and from which cell?"
 
          "Through all the circles of that realm of pain,"
          He answered him, "have I come to this place.
          Heaven’s might moved me: by its help I came.
 
25       "Not what I did but what I did not do
          Lost me the sight of that high sun you crave
          And which I came to recognize too late.
 
          "There is a place down there not cursed by tortures
          But only by the darkness, and distress
30       Has not the sound of cries but of deep sighs.
 
          "There I stay with the infant innocents
          Bit off by the strong teeth of death before
          They were delivered from our human guilt.
 
          "There I stay with those souls who did not don
35       Three holy virtues, but who, free from vice,
          Knew all the other virtues and followed them.
 
          "But if you know and are allowed to tell,
          Teach us how we may reach most quickly
          Where purgatory properly begins."
 
40       He answered, "No particular place is set us:
          I am permitted to amble up and around:
          As far as I may travel I shall guide you.
 
          "But look! already daylight is declining,
          And it is not possible to climb at night:
45       It’s best to think then of a resting-place.
 
          "Some souls are off here to the right, apart:
          By your leave I will take you both to them,
          And you will find delight in their acquaintance."
 
          "How do you mean?" my guide asked. "Would someone
50       Wishing to mount by night be stopped by others,
          Or would he not go on because he cannot?"
 
          Good Sordello drew his finger on the ground
          And answered, "Look! even beyond this line
          You could not dare cross once the sun has set.
 
55       "Nor is there anything else that blocks the path
          For going up except the dark of night:
          That blinds the will with inability.
 
          "One might, indeed, at nightfall turn back down
          And go wandering around the mountainside
60       While the horizon seals the daylight shut."
 
          At that my master, seemingly amazed,
          Said, "Lead us then to the place that you mention,
          Where we may find delight in our delay."
 
          We had gone on just a short way from there
65       When I observed that the hill was hollowed out,
          As valleys carve out mountains here on earth.
 
          "Out there," the shade now told us, "we shall walk
          To where the slope shapes out a lap of stone,
          And we shall all wait there for the new day."
 
70       Half steep, half level was a rambling path
          Which led us to the border of that hollow
          Whose edge fades to the middle of the slope.
 
          Gold, fine silver, white lead, cochineal,
          Indigo, self-glowing polished wood,
75       Fresh emerald at the instant it is split,
 
          The grass and flowers blooming in that valley
          Outshine them all in color — were they there —
          As finer works surpass inferior.
 
          But nature had not only painted that place:
80       Out of the sweetness of a thousand scents
          She made there one unknown and secret perfume.
 
          "Salve Regina" — I saw the souls who sang
          This hymn seated on the flowering green:
          They had been hidden till then in the valley.
 
85       "Do not wish me to guide you there among them,"
          The Mantuan conducting us began,
          "Before the setting sun drops to its nest.
 
          "From this knoll you will discover better
          The movements and the faces of them all
90       Than if you were down with them in their glen.
 
          "The one who sits highest and wears the look
          Of having failed to do what he should have done
          And neglects to move his lips with others singing
 
          "Was Rudolph the Emperor, who could have cured
95       The wounds that meant the death of Italy:
          Though someone else should help, it is too late.
 
          "The other shade who seems to comfort him
          Once ruled the land where spring up those waters
          Which the Moldau drifts to the Elbe and the sea:
 
100      "Ottokar was his name, and in babyhood
          He was braver than his grown son Wenceslaus
          In his beard, fed on idleness and lust.
 
          "That snub-nosed one who seems so thick in talk
          With the kind-looking soul next to him
105      Died fleeing and dishonoring the lily:
 
          "Watch him there — look how he beats his breast!
          See too that other one who cradles his cheek
          In the palm of his hand, the while he sighs:
 
          "They’re father and father-in-law of the Plague
110      Of France — they know his vile and vicious life,
          And that is why grief stabs them to the heart.
 
          "That one who seems so strong in build and who
          Chimes his singing with the big-nosed shade
          Was cinctured with the cord of worthiness,
 
115      "And if the young man seated at his rear
          Had succeeded him to his throne, then
          His worth would have passed on from urn to urn,
 
          "A thing that never happened to his heirs.
          James and Frederick now hold the kingdoms,
120      But neither gained the better heritage.
 
          "The sap of human goodness rarely rises
          Through its branches, and this He wills who gives
          The gift that we may call on Him for it.
 
          "My words apply to him with the big nose
125     And to the one who sings with him, Peter,
          Who caused Apulia and Provence distress.
 
          "So stunted has the family tree become
          That Constance can still boast about her husband
          More than Beatrice and Margaret could of theirs.
 
130      "See there the king who led a simple life,
          Sitting all alone, Henry of England:
          He in his branches has a sturdier stock.
 
          "The one who sits with them on lower ground,
          Gazing upward, is William the Marquis,
135      Through whom Alessandria and its war
 
          "Make Montferrat and Canavese weep."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto VIII

 

          Now was the hour when voyagers at sea
          Pine to turn home and their hearts soften,
          This first day out, for friends they bid good-bye,
 
          The hour when outsetting pilgrims ache
5         With love to hear the far-off tolling bell
          That seems to mourn the dying day with tears,
 
          When I began to let my listening fade
          And gazed instead at one of the souls there
          Who had stood up and gestured to be heard.
 
10       He folded his hands in prayer and lifted them,
          With his eyes fastened on the east, as if
          Saying to God, "I care for nothing else!"
 
          "To You before the light is done" — devoutly
          Came from his lips with such melodious tones
15       That it made me step straight out of myself.
 
          Then the rest with sweetness and devotion
          Harmonized with him through the whole hymn,
          Fixing their eyes on the spheres of heaven.
 
          Hone your sight, reader, keenly on the truth,
20       For here the veil is now made so transparent
          That passing to the interior is easy.
 
          I saw that noble host of souls in silence,
          After they had sung the hymn, gaze upward,
          Subdued and pale, as if in expectation.
 
25       I saw sweep from above and then fly down
          Two angels with two flaming swords that were
          Broken short and snapped off at their points.
 
          Green as tender leaves in bud, their robes
          Billowed out behind them in the breeze
30       Which their green wings beat and fanned about them.
 
          One came to stand just a short way above us,
          And one alighted on the farther bank
          So that the company was held between them.
 
          I could quite clearly see their hair of gold,
35       But their bright faces dazzled my eyesight,
          As sense is overwhelmed by too much light.
 
          "Both of them come down from Mary’s bosom,"
          Sordello said, "to guard those in the valley
          Against the serpent that will soon appear."
 
40       So I, not knowing what way he would come,
          Turned all around and, chilled right to the bone,
          Pressed closer to my escort’s trusty shoulders.
 
          And Sordello added, "Now let us go down
          Among the mighty shades and speak to them,
45       For they will be most gratified to see you."
 
          Only three steps, I think, I then went down
          And came below, and I saw one who gaped
          At me alone, as if he ought to know me.
 
          Now it was at the time when air grows darker,
50       But not so dark that we could not make out
          Between his eyes and mine what had been hidden.
 
          He made toward me and I made way toward him:
          Noble Judge Nino! what a joy it was
          To see you there and not among the damned!
 
55       We showed each other every sign of welcome;
          Then he asked me, "How long since you have come
          Over wide waters to this mountain’s base?"
 
          "Oh!" I told him, "I’ve come this morning from
          The sad pit, and I am still in my first life,
60       Although I gain the second by this journey."
 
          And as soon as they both heard my response,
          Nino and Sordello started backward,
          Like people suddenly caught by surprise.
 
          One turned to Virgil,  the other to a soul
65       Seated there and cried out, "Get up, Currado!
          Come see what God, by his grace, has now willed!"
 
          Then he turned to me: "By the singular thanks
          You owe Him who so hides His primal purpose
          In depths we have no way to ford across,
 
70       "When you are there beyond the wide vast waters,
          Tell my Giovanna to pray for me
          In the world where the innocent are answered.
 
          "I doubt her mother loves me any longer
          Since she put off her widowhood’s white bands
75       Which she, poor soul, must once more want to wear.
 
          "By her behavior one may easily learn
          How long the flame of love lasts for a woman
          If sight and touch not often kindle it.
 
          "The viper that leads the Milanese afield
80       Will not provide so fine a coat of arms
          For her tombstone as would Gallura’s rooster."
 
          So he spoke to me with his features stamped
          By the impression of that righteous ardor
          Which burns with true control within the heart.
 
85       My feasting eyes gazed solely at the sky,
          Exactly at the point the stars move slowest,
          As at the point a wheel turns on its axle.
 
          And my guide: "Son, what do you stare at there?"
          And I told him, "I stare at those three torches
90       Which set this polar region all ablaze."
 
          He said to this, "The four bright stars you saw
          This morning have now dipped below the hillside,
          And these are risen here to take their place."
 
          While he was talking, Sordello seized his arm
95       And cried to him, "Look there! Our adversary!"
          And pointed with his finger where to peer.
 
          Along the side on which the little valley
          Has no abutment moved a snake, the same
          Perhaps that offered Eve the bitter fruit.
 
100      Amid the grass and flowers slid the streak
          Of sin, turning its head from time to time,
          And licking its back like a preening beast.
 
          I did not see and so I cannot say
          Just how the hawks of heaven set to move,
105      But I saw clearly both of them in motion.
 
          Hearing the green wings slicing through the air,
          The snake crawled off; the angels wheeled around
          In parallel flights back up to their two posts.
 
          The shade who had drawn closer to Judge Nino
110      When he called out, through that whole incursion
          Did not take his eyes off me for an instant.
 
          "So may the lamp that leads you here on high
          Find in your will all of the oil it needs
          To take you up to the enameled peak,"
 
115      He began, "if you have accurate news
          Of Val di Magra and its neighboring lands,
          Tell me, for there I once was prominent.
 
          "My name was Currado Malaspina:
          I am not the elder but his grandson.
120     The love I bore my own is here made pure."
 
          "Oh," I said to him, "I have yet to visit
          Your countrylands, but where in all of Europe
          Do men not mention them with high regard?
 
          "The fame that brings such honor to your house
125      Heralds its lords and realms so far abroad
          That folk who have not been there know of them.
 
          "And I swear to you by my hope to reach
          The top, your honored line has never shed
          The renown of its royal purse and sword.
 
130      "Custom and nature have so endowed it that,
          Although the Head of Sin perverts the world,
          It still stays straight and scorns the evil road."
 
          And he: "Go now, for the sun shall not rest
          Seven times in the bed the Ram bestrides
135     And covers up with all four feet spread out,
 
          "Before the gracious judgment you just gave
          Shall be nailed to the center of your head
          With stouter nails than all the talk of men,
 
          "Unless the course of justice can be stayed!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto IX

 

          The concubine of old Tithonus now
          Grew pale above the eastern balcony,
          Breaking away from her sweet lover’s arms;
 
          Her white forehead glittered with bright gems
5         Set in the shape of that cold animal
          Which stings and lashes people with its tail;
 
          And night, there in the spot where we were come,
          Had scaled two steps of the hours that she climbs,
          And the third already lowered down its wings,
 
10       When I, who had a trace of Adam in me,
          Overcome by sleep, lay down on the grass
          On which all five of us already sat.
 
          At the hour nearing dawn when the swallow
          Begins to sing her mournful melodies,
15       Perhaps remembering her former woes,
 
          And when our mind, turned more into a pilgrim
          From the flesh and less a prisoner to thought,
          Becomes almost prophetic in its visions,
 
          In a dream I seemed to see an eagle
20       With golden feathers hovering in the sky
          And spreading wings in readiness to swoop.
 
          And I seemed to be standing on the spot
          Where Ganymede left his friends behind
          When caught up to the council of Olympus.
 
25       Deep in myself I thought, "Perhaps it strikes
          Its prey on this spot only and may shun
          To snatch it in its claws from some place else."
 
          Then I dreamed that, after circling for a while,
          Terrible as a thunderbolt it fell
30       And swept me up into the sphere of fire.
 
          There it seemed that the eagle and I burned,
          And the imaginary flames so scorched me
          That I broke straight out of my dreaming sleep
 
          The same way that Achilles started up,
35       Casting his awakened eyes around him
          Without his comprehending where he was,
 
          When his fond mother carried him asleep
          Within her arms from Chiron off to Skyros
          From where later the Greeks lured him to Troy:
 
40       So I woke with a start as soon as sleep
          Fled from my face, and I grew deathly pale,
          Just like a man who freezes up with fright.
 
          My comforter alone was at my side.
          The sun was now more than two hours high,
45       And I had turned my gaze toward the sea.
 
          "You have no need to fear," my master said;
          "Now rest assured — we have reached the right spot:
          Do not keep back but call on all your strength!
 
          "You are right now arrived at purgatory:
50       See there the cliff that walls it all around!
          See there the gate where that gap opens up!
 
          "At dawn before the day, a while ago,
          When your soul slept on deep within yourself,
          Upon the flowers that deck the glen below,
 
55       "A lady came; she said, ‘I am Lucia.
          Allow me to take this man, still asleep,
          So I may speed him on his way above.’
 
          "Sordello and the noble souls stayed there.
          She took you, and as the daylight brightened,
60       She came up here, and I went in her steps.
 
          "She set you down, but first her shining eyes
          Showed me that open entrance over there;
          Then she and sleep — together — went away."
 
          As a man in dismay feels reassured,
65       His fears resolving into resoluteness,
          When truth at last has been revealed to him,
 
          So I felt changed, and when my guide saw me
          Carefree, he started up the slope of stone
          And I moved on behind him toward the heights.
 
70       Reader, you clearly see I elevate
          My theme: you should not wonder then if I
          Try to raise my style with ampler art.
 
          When we drew closer we came to a place
          Where — at first it seemed nothing but a break
75       Or crack there that had split the wall asunder —
 
          I saw a gate, and underneath its threshold
          Three steps each leading up, of different colors
          And a guard too who had not said one word.
 
          And as my eyes grew focused more and more,
80       I saw that he was seated on the top step,
          But his face shone so bright I looked away!
 
          And in his hand he gripped a naked sword
          Which so reflected rays of light on us
          That it was useless to turn my gaze on it.
 
85       "Tell me from there: what is it you want?"
          He began by asking; "Where is your escort?
          Watch out! You may be hurt by coming here!"
 
          "A lady from heaven, familiar with such things,"
          My master answered him, "told us just now,
90       ‘Go in that direction: the gate is there.’ "
 
          "And may she further your steps toward the good!"
          The courteous gatekeeper once more began;
          "Come forward, therefore, to our stairway!"
 
          We came ahead then, and the first step was
95       White marble so smooth and so highly polished
          I saw myself there mirrored as I was.
 
          The second was darker than a blue-black stain,
          Made of charred and pebble-broken stones
          With deep cracks all across its length and breadth.
 
100     The third, resting its massive weight on top,
          Appeared to be of porphyry as flaming
          Red as the blood that spurts out from a vein.
 
          With both his feet planted on this step
          The angel of God sat high on the threshold
105      Which seemed to me cut out of a diamond rock.
 
          By these three steps my leader drew me up
          With glad goodwill, and said to me, "Beg him
          Humbly now that he unbolt the gate."
 
          Devoutly falling at his holy feet,
110     In mercy’s name I begged him open for me,
          But first I beat three times upon my breast.
 
          Seven P’s he traced on my forehead
          With his sword-point, and said, "Be sure you wash
          These wounds away when you are there within."
 
115      Ashes, or earth should it be dug up dry,
          Would have the one same color as his clothing,
          And from beneath these robes he pulled two keys;
 
          One key was golden and the other silver:
          First he fitted the white and then the yellow
120     And so unlocked the gate — my mind was eased.
 
          "Whenever one of these keys fails to work
          By its not turning rightly in the lock,"
          He said to us, "this passageway won’t open.
 
          "One is more precious, but the other needs
125     Wisdom and skill before it will release,
          Since it is that one which undoes the knot.
 
          "From Peter I keep these keys, and he told me
          Rather to err in opening than in closing
          If souls but cast themselves down at my feet."
 
130      Then he pushed the sacred portal open
          And said, "Enter, but I would have you know
          Those who look back return outside once more."
 
          And when the pivots of that holy entrance,
          Which were round rods of ringing and strong steel,
135      Turned within the sockets of their hinges,
 
          They made a louder and more resonant clangor
          Than Tarpeia did, when the good Metellus
          Was snatched from it, the treasure gone forever.
 
          I turned around at the first thundering sound
140     And thought I heard "Te Deum: Praise to God"
          Chanted by voices mixed with that sweet strain.
 
          The notes I heard conveyed to me the same
          Exact impression which we have at times
          When people sing in concert with an organ
 
145     And now and then we just make out the words.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto X

 

          When we were past the threshold of the gate
          Which the soul’s wrongful love may never use
          Since such love makes the crooked way seem straight,
 
          I heard by its loud clanging the gate close:
5         And if I had turned my eyes back to it,
          What fit excuse could I find for my fault?
 
          We climbed the rockface through a zigzag cleft
          Which pitches from one side to the other
          Like a wave cresting in and rolling out.
 
10       "Here we must exercise some skill and care,"
          My guide began, "to stay close, now this side
          And now that, to the low receding edge."
 
          And this task made our steps so slow that now
          The waning moon had once again gone back
15       To bed, to sink into its morning rest,
 
          Before we issued from that needle’s eye.
          When we were free and out into the open,
          Up where the mount surged back to form a ledge,
 
          We halted — I worn out and the two of us
20       Unsure of our way — there on that level place
          Lonelier than a trail through empty deserts.
 
          From the edge which verges out on vacant space
          To the base of the sheer cliff soaring upward
          Measures three times the length of a man’s body;
 
25       And as far as my eyes could wing their way,
          Now equally to the left, now to the right,
          So wide the terrace seemed to stretch before me.
 
          From that spot we had yet to take a step
          When I discerned that all the inner cliff-ring,
30       Which rose so steep there was no way to scale it,
 
          Was pure white marble, and so decorated
          With carvings that they would have put to shame
          Not only Polycletus but nature too.
 
          The angel who came down to earth decreeing
35       The peace which, deeply mourned for many years,
          Has opened heaven from its long interdict
 
          Appeared before us there so faithfully
          Chiseled out in his soft-spoken bearing
          That he did not seem to be a silent image:
 
40       One would have sworn that he was saying "Ave,"
          Since she who turned the key to open up
          Love on high was also imaged there,
 
          And her attitude appeared stamped with the words:
          "Behold the handmaid of the Lord," as sharply
45       As a figure is engraved on sealing wax.
 
          "You need not fix your mind on one place only,"
          My gentle master stated, while he made me
          Stand on the side where the heart within us beats.
 
          At that I shifted my sight and gazed further
50       Past Mary, in the same right-hand direction
          Where he stood who had urged me on to look,
 
          To see another story cut in stone;
          So I crossed in front of Virgil and approached
          To have the scene disclosed before my eyes.
 
55       There carved upon the surface of the marble
          Were cart and oxen pulling the holy ark,
          To warn men not to overreach their charge.
 
          At the lead, seven choirs in separate files
          Appeared: one of my senses argued, "No,"
60       The other answered, "Yes, they really sing!"
 
          In the same way, the smoking from the incense
          Pictured there made my two eyes and nose
          Disagree between a yes and no.
 
          There in the vanguard of the sacred coffer,
65       Dancing with robes hitched up, the humble psalmist
          So proved himself both more and less than king.
 
          Opposite, depicted at the window
          Of a stately palace, Michal watched him dance,
          So like a woman filled with wrath and scorn.
 
70       I stirred my feet from the spot where I stood
          To study close at hand another story
          Which I saw shining white just past Michal.
 
          There was told the tale of the high glory
          Won by the Roman prince whose worthiness
75       Moved Gregory to make his mighty conquest:
 
          I here speak of the Emperor Trajan.
          And there was at his bridle a poor widow
          Held in a pose of weeping and distress.
 
          Surrounding him was shown a trampling press
80       Of horsemen, while eagles stitched in gold
          Waved in full view above them on the wind.
 
          Among them all the wretched woman seemed
          To cry, "Oh lord, take vengeance for my son
          Whose slaying has pierced my heart with sorrow."
 
85       And he appeared to answer her, "Now wait
          Until I shall return." And she: "My lord,"
          With urgent grief, "What if you don’t come back?"
 
          And he: "Whoever takes my place will act
          For me." And she: "What good shall someone else’s
90       Good deeds do you if you ignore your own?"
 
          To this he said, "Take comfort, since I must
          Fulfill my duty here before I leave:
          Justice claims it and pity holds me back."
 
          He in whose sight nothing is ever new
95       Created this art of visible speaking,
          Foreign to us who do not find it here.
 
          While I enjoyed myself with gazing on
          These images of high humility,
          Precious to look at for their Maker’s sake,
 
100      "Look over there," the poet murmured to me,
          "That throng of people walking with slow steps:
          They will direct us to the stairs on high."
 
          My eyes, happy to be full of wonder
          In seeing something new for which they yearn,
105     Surely were not slow to turn toward him.
 
          I would not have you, reader, in alarm
          Lose your good resolve when you now hear
          How God has willed that we should pay our debts.
 
          Pay no attention to the form of pain:
110     Think of the aftermath, think that the worst
          Will be that it will last till judgment day.
 
          "Master," I began, "what I make out
          Moving toward us does not look like people,
          But what I do not know — my sight’s so muddled!"
 
115      And he said to me, "The weighty condition
          Of their torment so bows them to the ground
          That my eyes first debated about them.
 
          "But peer there firmly and sort out by sight
          What approaches us beneath those boulders:
120      By now you see how each one beats his breast."
 
          O haughty Christians, woebegone, careworn,
          You, sickened in the insight of your minds,
          Who misplace all your trust in backward steps,
 
          Are you not aware that we are worms,
125      Born to become the angelic butterflies
          Which soar defenseless up toward the judgment?
 
          Why does your mind float proudly far aloft
          When you are merely like imperfect insects,
          Just as the larva lacks its final form?
 
130      Sometimes, in support of roof or ceiling,
          One sees a corbel shaped in a man’s figure
          With the knees hunched up against the chest,
 
          Which, while unreal, gives birth to real discomfort
          In someone seeing it: that’s how I saw,
135     When I took good care, how these souls were stooped.
 
          True, some were more pressed down and some were less
          If they had more or less weight on their backs,
          Yet even one who suffered most patiently
 
          Appeared to say through tears, "I can no more."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XI

 

          "Our Father, who art in heaven, not bound there,
          But dwelling in it for the greater love
          Thou bearest toward thy firstborn works on high,
 
          "Hallowed be thy name and be thy worthiness
5         Through every creature, as it is most fitting
          To thank thee for the sweet breath of thy wisdom.
 
          "Thy kingdom come to us in peacefulness,
          Because we cannot reach it by ourselves,
          Unless it come, for all our striving effort.
 
10       "And as the angels do thy will in heaven
          By sacrificing theirs, singing hosanna,
          So let the men on earth do with their wills.
 
          "Give us this day our daily manna, since
          Without it, through this bitter wilderness
15       He retreats who tries hardest to advance.
 
          "And as we pardon all for the trespasses
          That we have suffered, so in loving kindness
          Forgive us: do not judge by our deserving.
 
          "Our strength so easily fails: lead us not
20       Into temptation through our ancient foe,
          But deliver us from the evil he provokes.
 
          "This last petition, dearest Lord, we make
          Not for our sake, since now we have no need,
          But for those people who remain behind us."
 
25       This way the souls, praying godspeed for both
          Themselves and us, trudged on beneath a burden
          Like that one pictures sometimes in a dream,
 
          Unequal in their anguish, all of them
          Plodding wearily around the first terrace,
30       Purging away the black dross of the world.
 
          If there they always speak up for our good,
          What for their good can here be said or done
          By those whose prayers are rooted in goodwill?
 
          Surely we should help them cleanse the stains
35       They brought from here, so that, buoyant and pure,
          They may take flight up to the wheeling stars.
 
          "Ah, so may justice and pity soon remove
          Your load of guilt that you may spread out wings
          Which will lift you to the limit of your longing,
 
40       "Show us on which side is the shortest way
          To reach the stairs, and if there’s more than one,
          Instruct us to the path that is least steep,
 
          "Because this man who walks with me, weighed down
          By Adam’s flesh, which he still wears about him,
45       Is slowed, against his will, in his climb up."
 
          Words of theirs were then returned in answer
          To those the guide I followed had addressed,
          But one could not be sure from whom they came:
 
          The words were: "Come with us along this bank
50       To the right, and you’ll find the passageway
          Possible for a living person to ascend.
 
          "And were I not encumbered by this stone
          Which has so tamed my proud neck to submission
          That I am forced to keep my face bent down,
 
55       "I would now gaze upon this man who lives
          But remains nameless, to see if I know him
          And to make him feel compassion for my load.
 
          "I was Italian, son of a great Tuscan:
          Guglielmo Aldobrandesco was my father;
60       I do not know if you ever heard his name.
 
          "The age-old blood and the gallant exploits
          Of my forebears made me so arrogant
          That, not thinking of our common mother,
 
          "I held all men in such complete contempt
65       It killed me, as the Sienese all know
          And every child in Campagnatico.
 
          "I am Omberto. And not only has pride
          Damaged me but it has dragged down all
          My kinsfolk with it into catastrophe.
 
70       "And for this sin I here must bear this weight
          Until I give God satisfaction — since I
          Gave none among the living — among the dead."
 
          Listening to him I held my head down lower;
          And one of them — not the one who’d spoken —
75       Shifted under the mass that pressed upon him
 
          And noticed me and knew me and called out,
          Struggling to keep his eyes fixed upon me
          While I, stooped over, walked along with them.
 
          "Oh," I cried out, "are you not Oderisi,
80       Honor of Gubbio, glory of that art
          Which in Paris they call ‘illuminating’?"
 
          "Brother," he said, "the pages painted by
          Franco Bolognese smile more brightly:
          All his the honor now — and partly mine.
 
85       "Certainly I would have been less courteous
          While I was alive, through my vaulting zeal
          For excellence to which my heart aspired.
 
          "The price of pride like this is paid out here;
          And still I’d not be here if it were not
90       That, capable of sin, I turned to God.
 
          "Oh, the vainglory of our human powers!
          How brief the time the green grows on the hilltop,
          Unless the age that follows it is barren!
 
          "Cimabue thought he held the field
95       In painting, but now the hue and cry is for
          Giotto, and the other’s fame is dulled.
 
          "So, one Guido has snatched from another
          Poetic glory, and perhaps the man
          Has been born who will chase both from the nest!
 
100      "Earthly fame is but a breath of wind,
          No more; huffing here and puffing there,
          It changes name when it changes quarter.
 
          "What more renown will you have, if you lose
          Your flesh through old age, than if you had died
105      Before you left your baby-talk behind you
 
          "In, say, a thousand years? That is a shorter
          Span to the eternal than the blink of an eye
          Is to the turn of the slowest of the spheres.
 
          "All Tuscany resounded with the name
110      Of him who creeps before me on this path:
          Now’s scarce a whisper of him in Siena
 
          "Where he was lord when they together crushed
          The rage of Florence — who was then in wartime
          As proud as she is prostituted now.
 
115      "Your reputation is like the shade of grass
          Which comes and goes: the sun that makes it spring
          Green from the ground soon causes it to fade."
 
          And I told him, "Your words ring true to my heart
          With fit humility and cure my puffed-up pride:
120     But who is he of whom you spoke just now?"
 
          "That," he replied, "is Provenzan Salvani,
          And he is here because in his presumption
          He tried to get his hands on all Siena.
 
          "So he goes on and has gone since he died,
125     Without rest: such is the coin which those
          Who dare too much must pay in satisfaction."
 
          And I: "If souls who postpone until the last
          Moment of life before they show repentance
          Stay there below and do not mount up here
 
130      "Until they wait as long as they once lived —
          Unless propitious prayers come to their aid —
          Then how was he allowed to hasten here?"
 
          "When he lived at the height of his own glory,"
          He said, "he in Siena’s marketplace,
135     Shunning all shame, freely took his stand:
 
          "And there, to gain release for his good friend
          From sufferings he endured in Charles’ dungeon,
          He reduced himself to shivering in his veins.
 
          "I say no more: I know that I speak darkly,
140      But after a short time has passed, your neighbors
          Will so behave that you can gloss it out:
 
          "This act delivered him from that confinement."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XII

 

          Side by side, as oxen go in yoke,
          I trod along with that weight-burdened soul,
          As long as my kind teacher would permit it.
 
          But when he spoke up, "Leave him and push on,
5         For each one here does well with sail and oars
          To urge his boat ahead with all his might,"
 
          I raised myself up straight as one should walk
          With body erect, although my thoughts remained
          Bowed down low and shrunken in themselves.
 
10       I did move on, and willingly I followed
          The footsteps of my master, and both of us
          Now showed how light we could be on our feet
 
          When he told me, "Lower your eyes: you will
          Do well, in making your way easier,
15       To see the bed of rock beneath your feet."
 
          Just as the tombs in the church floor above
          The buried dead, to keep their memory fresh,
          Bear carvings figuring what they were in real life,
 
          And at the sight men often weep for them
20       Because of the sharp spur of memory
          Which pierces only those faithful to the dead:
 
          So I saw there, but in a truer likeness
          By grace of the artist’s skill, sculptured stone
          On the whole path that juts out round the mountain.
 
25       I saw on one side him who was created
          Nobler than any other creature, falling
          Like a streak of lightning out of heaven.
 
          I saw Briareus on the other side
          Transfixed by the celestial thunderbolt,
30       Heavy on the ground in his last death-chills.
 
          I saw Thymbraeus, I saw Mars and Pallas,
          Still in armor, standing around their father,
          Staring at the giants’ scattered limbs.
 
          I saw Nimrod at the foot of his tower,
35       Looking bewildered, and people gaping there
          Who were so proud to join with him in Shinar.
 
          O Niobe, with what tear-laden eyes
          I saw you represented on the road
          Between seven sons and seven daughters slain!
 
40       O Saul, how you appeared there fallen dead
          Upon your own sword on Mount Gilboa
          Which never afterward felt rain or dew!
 
          O mad Arachne, so I saw you turned
          Half-spider already, in sadness on the shreds
45       Of the work you wove to your own undoing!
 
          O Rehoboam, your image there seems now
          Menacing no more, but a chariot wafts it
          Away in panic with no one in pursuit!
 
          Shown as well upon that pavement stone
50       Was Alcmaeon making his mother pay
          The full dear price for her ill-fated necklace.
 
          Shown were the sons of King Sennacherib
          Felling him at prayers in the temple
          And then leaving him there slain on the floor.
 
55       Shown was the downfall and the cruel killing
          Tomyris enacted when she said to Cyrus,
          "For blood you thirsted and with blood I sate you!"
 
          Shown were the Assyrians in full rout,
          After Holofernes had been murdered,
60       And also his remains amid the slaughter.
 
          I saw Troy in ashes, caved-in ruins:
          O Ilion, how cast down low were you
          Shown by the carving there exposed to view!
 
          What master artist of brush or pen was he
65       Who so sketched out the shapes and shadings there
          That they would strike the subtlest minds with awe?
 
          The dead looked dead, the living looked alive!
          Those who had seen the real scenes saw no better
          Than I did all I trod on while bent down!
 
70       Now be proud, and go with haughty looks,
          Children of Eve, and do not bend your faces
          To see the trail of sin you leave behind!
 
          By now we’d rounded far more of the mountain
          And much more of the sun’s course had run up
75       Than my restricted mind had reckoned on,
 
          When he who always looked ahead as he went
          On walking called anew, "Lift up your head!
          You’ve no more time to go on lost in thought!
 
          "Look! an angel over there makes ready
80       To come toward us. Look at the sixth handmaid
          Return from her noon service to the day.
 
          "Let reverence beam in your face and bearing
          That he may now be glad to send us upward.
          Remember, this day will not dawn again."
 
85       I was well used to his admonitions
          Not to waste time, so nothing that he said
          In that regard could be unclear to me.
 
          The beautiful creature now came closer to us,
          All clothed in white and looking radiant
90       Like a trembling star in the morning sky.
 
          Opening his arms wide, he spread his wings,
          Saying, "Come! the steps are here at hand
          And from now on the climbing will be easy."
 
          To this same invitation few come forward.
95       O human race, born to fly aloft,
          Why do you fall at a mere puff of wind?
 
          He led us where the rock had split wide open:
          There he struck my forehead with his wings,
          And then he promised me a safe, sure journey.
 
100      As on the right hand, on climbing on the hill
          Where rises the church, above the Rubaconte,
          Which dominates my so-well-governed city,
 
          The bold rise of the escarpment is broken
          By the stone stairway hewed out in time
105      When ledgers and staves were still trustworthy,
 
          Just so, steps make easier the embankment
          That falls steeply from the upper circle,
          But on both sides the high rock squeezes close.
 
          When we turned ourselves to that direction,
110      "Blessed are the poor in spirit" voices sang
          More sweetly than words ever could describe.
 
          Ah, how different these inroads are from those
          Of hell! For here the entrance is with hymns
          And there below with savage clamorings.
 
115      Now as we mounted up the sacred stairs,
           I seemed to be ever so much lighter
           Than I had been before on level ground:
 
           So I asked, "Master, tell me, what great weight
           Has just been lifted from me that I feel
120      Almost no fatigue as I walk on?"
 
          He answered, "When the P’s that still remain
          Upon your brow, although now nearly faded,
          Are totally erased, as this one is,
 
          "Your feet shall be so guided by goodwill
125      That not only will they never feel exhausted,
           They even will rejoice to be urged uphill."
 
           Then I did what persons do when strolling
           Unaware of something on their head,
           Until the signs of others make them guess it,
 
130       Their hand goes up to help find out for certain,
           And gropes and discovers and performs
           The duty that the eyes can’t carry through:
 
          So with the outstretched fingers of my right hand
135      I found only six of the letter P’s
          The angel of the keys traced on my temples,
 
          And, watching this reaction, my guide smiled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XIII

 

          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 prayers.
 
130      "But who are you who come inquiring
          Of our condition, with your eyes unsewn,
          So I believe, and breathing when you talk?"
 
          "My eyes," I said, "will here be taken from me,
          But not for very long, because they rarely
135     Committed sin by casting looks of envy.
 
          "Far greater is the fear that keeps my soul
          Suspended, of the torment there below,
          For even now that burden weighs me down."
 
          And she asked me, "Who then has led you up here
140     Among us, if you think to go back down?"
          And I: "He who is with me and says nothing.
 
          "And I am living, and so request of me,
          Elected spirit, if you would have me move
          My mortal steps, down there, on your behalf."
 
145      "Oh, such a strange new thing is this to hear,"
          She cried, "it is a great sign that God loves you:
          Give me your aid at times, then, with your prayers.
 
          "And I beg you by all you yearn for most,
          Should ever you set foot on Tuscan soil,
150      Restore my good name with my kinsfolk there.
 
          "You will find them among those foolish people
          With their hopes high for Talamone where they
          Will lose more than in digging for Diana —
 
          "But there the admirals shall lose most of all."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XIV

 

          "Who is this who winds around our mountain
          Even before death gives him wings to fly,
          And opens and shuts his eyes just as he wills?"
 
          "I don’t know, but I know he is not alone:
5         You question him, since you are the closer,
          And greet him gently so that he will answer."
 
          This way two spirits, leaning on each other,
          Talked about me, off to my right hand,
          Then turned their faces up to speak to me,
 
10       And one said, "O soul, you who are still lodged
          In your body while you pass toward heaven,
          Out of your love console us here and say
 
          "Where you come from and who you are, for you
          Make us marvel so much at your grace
15       As one must at a thing not seen before."
 
          And I: "Through central Tuscany there rambles
          A little brook that rises in Falterona
          And its course runs more than a hundred miles.
 
          "From the banks of that stream I bring this body.
20       It would waste words to tell you who I am,
          Since men as yet noise not my name abroad."
 
          "If I correctly grasp what you allude to,"
          The one who had addressed me first, replied,
          "It is the Arno that you just described."
 
25       And the other asked him, "Why did he hide
          The true name of that river, as men do
          When they refer to something horrible?"
 
          The shade who had been questioned commented,
          "I do not know, but it is only right
30       That the name of such a valley perish,
 
          "For from its source — where the high mountain range
          Which cuts Pelorus off is there so teeming
          With water that few places match the spot —
 
          "Downward to where it pours out to restore
35       What the sky then draws upward from the sea
          And lets rain down to make the rivers flow,
 
          "Virtue there is shunned like an enemy —
          As if it were a snake — either a curse
          Grips the place or old bad habits goad it.
 
40       "And so the dwellers in that wretched valley
          Have so changed their true nature that it seems
          As if Circe keeps them feeding in her pen.
 
          "Among the filthy hogs, more fit for acorns
          Than for the food prepared for human use,
45       The river first directs its paltry course.
 
          "Then, flowing down, it comes to packs of curs
          Whose snarling sounds much worse than is their bite
          And in derision turns aside its snout.
 
          "Continuing to fall, the more it gathers
50       The more it finds dogs turning into wolves
          Along the damnable and fateful ditch.
 
          "Then, dropping downward through the hollowed gorges,
          It finds the foxes that are so full of fraud
          They have no fear of traps set to outsmart them.
 
55       "I will not stop, though this man hears me speak,
          For it should do him good to learn the truth
          My prophecy reveals to him about you.
 
          "I see your grandson turning out to hunt
          Those wolves upon the bank of that wild stream,
60       And with the chase he strikes them all with terror.
 
          "While they are still alive, he sells their flesh,
          And then he slaughters them like worn-out cattle:
          Many he robs of life, himself of honor.
 
          "Bloody he comes out of the sorry forest:
65       He leaves it such that in a thousand years
          It won’t rewood itself the way it once was."
 
          As at the news of some distressful menace
          The face of the listener clouds with trouble,
          No matter from what side the blow may fall,
 
70       Just so I saw the other soul who’d turned
          To hear grow cloudy with concern and sadness
          When he absorbed the impact of these words.
 
          The speech of one, and then the other’s face,
          Made me impatient to learn both of their names,
75       And so I pleaded with them as I asked.
 
          At this the spirit who addressed me first
          Began again, "You want me to agree
          To do for you what you won’t do for me!
 
          "But since God wills that such abundant grace
80       Shines through you, I shall not begrudge you this:
          Know then that I once was Guido del Duca.
 
          "My blood was then so fired up with envy
          That if I noticed someone else made happy
          You would have seen my own face turning livid.
 
85       "From the seed that I sowed I reap this straw.
          O human race, why do you set your hearts
          Upon the goods you may not share not with others'?
 
          "This is Rinier; this is the praise and glory
          Of the house of Calboli, where no one since
90       Has proved himself the heir to his high worth.
 
          "And not his line alone — from Po to mountains
          And from the coast to Reno — has been stripped
          Of virtues needed for truth and chivalry,
 
          "Because within these boundaries all the land
95       Is so choked up with poisonous weeds that years
          Of tillage now will hardly root them out.
 
          "Where is the good Lizio? Arrigo Manardi?
          Pier Traversaro? Guido di Carpigna?
          You men of Romagna are their bastards!
 
100      "When will a Fabbro spring up in Bologna?
          When in Faenza a Bernadin di Fosco,
          The noble offshoot of a lowly stock?
 
          "Do not wonder, Tuscan, if I weep
          When I remember, with Guido da Prata,
105      Ugolin d’Azzo who lived among us,
 
          "Federigo Tignoso and his friends,
          The Traversaro house and the Anastagi —
          Both of these families now without an heir —
 
          "The ladies and knights, the labors and pastimes
110      Which love and courtesy inspired in us,
          There where the hearts have grown so villainous!
 
          "O Bretinoro, why do you not vanish,
          Now that your progeny has run away,
          With many others, to avoid the shame?
 
115      "Bagnacaval does well to have no sons,
          But Castrocaro ill, and Conio worse
          In bothering to father counts like theirs!
 
          "The Pagani shall do well when their fiend
          Takes his flight, although their reputation
120      Will never last a day again in court.
 
          "Oh, Ugolin de’ Fantolin, your name
          Is safe since no one left can be discovered
          To blacken it by more degeneracy!
 
          "But go your way here, Tuscan, for I wish
125      Rather to shed tears now than to talk on,
          Our conversation has so touched my heart."
 
          We knew that those dear souls heard us depart,
          And, therefore, because they kept their silence,
          They made us confident about the route.
 
130      We then had hardly set out on our own
          When, like a lightning bolt that split the air,
          A voice hurtled against us with the words,
 
          "Everyone that finds me shall destroy me!"
          And it fled on like thunder that rolls away
135      If suddenly the cloud is ripped apart.
 
          As soon as our ears rested from the roar,
          Listen! the second broke with so loud a crash
          It seemed like thunder quickly coming after:
 
          "I am Aglauros who was turned to stone!"
140      At that I huddled closer to the poet
          By stepping to the right instead of forward.
 
          Once more the air grew quiet on all sides.
          Virgil told me, "That was the iron curb
          Which ought to keep mankind within due limits.
 
145      "But you men grab the bait to let the hook
          Of the old adversary pull you in:
          And check or lure can offer little help.
 
          "The heavens call to you and ring you round,
          Revealing to you their eternal beauties,
150     And yet your eyes stare only on the ground:
 
          "This is the reason He who sees all strikes you."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XV

 

          As much time as that sphere, which like a child
          Plays endlessly, has left between the end
          Of the third hour and the beginning day,
 
          So much of the sun’s course toward evening
5         Appeared still to be left, for now it was
          Vespers there and midnight over here.
 
          The slant rays struck us fully in the face,
          For we had circled so far round the mountain
          That we were headed straight into the sunset.
 
10       Now when I felt my forehead weighted down
          With splendor much brighter than before,
          I grew amazed at things unknown to me.
 
          With that I raised my hand above my brow
          And made a visor to protect my eyes
15       And lessen the intensity of sunlight.
 
          As when a ray of light leaps from the water
          Or mirror, in the opposite direction,
          Yet rising at the angle it descended
 
          And deflecting just as far from that side where
20       The midpoint of the two lines intersects,
          As experiment and science demonstrate —
 
          So I appeared to be struck by the light
          Reflected off the path in front of me,
          And that is why I turned my sight from it.
 
25       "Sweet father, what is that from which I cannot
          Screen my eyes in any helpful way,"
          I asked, "and which seems ever to approach us?"
 
          "Do not marvel if the host of heaven
          Still dazzles you," he answered me, "this is
30       The messenger who invites us to ascend.
 
          "Soon it will be no burden to behold
          These things, rather you will find delight
          As deep as nature destines you to feel."
 
          When we had come up to the blessed angel,
35       He said with a glad voice, "Enter here
          To stairs that are less steep than were the others."
 
          We left him there and we then climbed beyond,
          Until "Blessed are the merciful" rang out
          In song behind us, and "Conqueror, rejoice!"
 
40       My master and I journeyed up together,
          We two alone, and I thought while we walked
          To benefit here from his conversation,
 
          And I turned toward him to ask him the question,
          "What did that spirit from Romagna mean
45       Speaking of ‘goods’ and ‘may not share with others’?"
 
          "He knows the punishment for his worst fault,"
          He answered me, "and so it is no wonder
          If he reproves it, to have less to weep for.
 
          "Since your desires are focused on the goods
50       Which lessen when apportioned out to others,
          Envy pumps your bellows full of sighs.
 
          "But if the love within the loftiest heaven
          Turns your desires toward the good on high,
          That craving fear would not be at your heart,
 
55       "For the more there are who call out ‘ours,’
          The more of the highest good each one possesses,
          And the more charity kindles in that cloister."
 
          "I hunger more now to be satisfied,"
          I said, "than if I had kept still before,
60      And I collect more doubts in my own mind.
 
          "How can one good that is apportioned out
          Make more of those possessors wealthier
          Than if it were possessed by just a few?"
 
          And he told me, "Because you still affix
65       Your intellect to the things of the world,
          You gather darkness out of the true light.
 
          "That ineffable and infinite Good
          That is in heaven hastens forth to love,
          Just as a sunbeam strikes a shiny surface:
 
70       "It gives back as much ardor as it finds,
          So that the more unlimited the love
          The more eternal goodness grows in it,
 
          "And the more souls on high there are in love,
          The more there are to love and the more love,
75       And like a mirror each reflects the other.
 
          "And if my discourse fails to satisfy you,
          You shall see Beatrice and she shall completely
          Free you from this and every other longing.
 
          "Just strive that the five wounds soon melt away,
80       As have the other two already vanished,
          For they heal of themselves by being painful."
 
          I was about to say, "You so content me,"
          When, seeing I’d arrived at the next circle,
          My eager eyes made me remain silent.
 
85       There it seemed that I was all at once
          Caught up into an ecstatic vision
          And saw a temple filled with crowds of people
 
          And saw a woman there about to enter,
          With a mother’s tender attitude,
90       Saying, "My son, why have you done this to us?
 
          "See how your father and I have sought for you,
          Sorrowing." And as she then was silent,
          That which at first appeared there, disappeared.
 
          Another woman then appeared to me,
95       With her cheeks drenched by water grief distills
          When it arises out of deep resentment,
 
          And she spoke, "If you are lord of the city
          Whose naming was debated by the gods,
          And which beams with all knowledge everywhere,
 
100      "Take your revenge against those brazen arms
          Which embraced our daughter, O Pisistratus!"
          And her lord seemed to me gentle and kind
 
          In answering her with a temperate look,
          "What shall we do to one who wants to hurt us
105     If we condemn someone who shows us love?"
 
          Then I saw people fired up with anger
          Stoning a young man to death, and loudly
          Clamoring to each other, "Kill! Kill!"
 
          And I saw him sink down, since death already
110      Weighed heavily upon him, toward the ground,
          But ever he made his eyes gates for heaven,
 
          Praying to the high Lord in such pain
          That He show pardon to his persecutors,
          With that look which unlocks true compassion.
 
115      When my mind turned again to outward things
          Which, independent of it, still are real,
          I recognized the truth within my errors.
 
          My guide, who could see that I acted
          Like someone shaking off his sleepiness,
120     Said, "What’s wrong? Can’t you hold your own,
 
          "But have you come for more than half a league
          With your eyes shut and your legs unsteady,
          Like a man staggering with wine or sleep?"
 
          "O my sweet father, if you’ll hear me out,"
125      I said, "I’ll tell you what appeared to me
          When my two legs stumbled along the way."
 
          And he: "If you had worn a hundred masks
          Over your face, even your slightest thought
          Still could not remain concealed from me.
 
130      "What you saw was intended to allow you
          To open your heart up to the flood of peace
          Which tumbles out of the eternal fountain.
 
          "I did not ask, ‘What’s wrong?’ like a person
          Who cannot see beyond his own two eyes
135      When a body lies insensible before him,
 
          "But I asked to give strength to your feet:
          So must the sluggards be spurred when they are slow
          To ply their waking-time when it comes round."
 
          We walked on through the twilight with our eyes
140      Straining ahead as far as we were able
          Against the last bright beams of evening sun;
 
          And, look! billow by billow a smoke drifted
          Toward us, black as night, with no way left
          For us to flee or to shake free from it:
 
145     Smoke robbed us of our sight and the pure air.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XVI

 

          Darkness of hell and of a night devoid
          Of all the planets, under a dingy sky
          As overcast with clouds as it can be,
 
          Never made for my eyes so thick a veil,
5         Nor yet a cloth so prickly to the touch,
          As was the smoke that there wrapped us around,
 
          For it would not let me keep my eyes open:
          At sight of this my wise and trusted escort
          Drew close to me and offered me his shoulder.
 
10       Just as a blind man goes behind his guide
          So that he may not stray or strike against
          Some thing that could cause hurt or maybe kill him,
 
          So I walked through that vile and smarting air
          Listening to my guide who kept repeating,
15       "Watch out that you are not cut off from me."
 
          Voices I heard and each one seemed to pray
          The Lamb of God who takes away our sins
          To grant his mercy to us and his peace.
 
          "Agnus Dei" their response began,
20       As if one word and measure were in all
          So that full harmony appeared among them.
 
          "Are those whom I am hearing, master, spirits?"
          I asked. And he told me, "You grasp the truth,
          And they go loosening the knot of anger."
 
25       "Now who are you who penetrate our smoke
          And speak of us exactly as if you
          Still counted time according to calendars?"
 
          These words a voice called out. On hearing it,
          My master said to me, "Reply to him
30       And ask if by this way we can climb upward."
 
          And I: "O creature who cleanse yourself of sin
          To return, beautiful, up to your Maker,
          You shall hear wonders if you follow me."
 
          "As far as I’m allowed I’ll follow you,
35       And if the smoke won’t let us see," he answered,
          "Hearing instead will let us stay in touch."
 
          Then I began, "Still with those fleshly bonds
          Which death unbinds I make my upward journey,
          And I have come here through the throes of hell.
 
40       "Since God has so enclosed me in his grace
          That he had willed that I should see his court
          In a way wholly strange to modern custom,
 
          "Don’t hide from me who you were before death,
          But tell me, and say if I’m headed straight
45       For the pass: your words shall be our guide."
 
          "A Lombard was I and Marco I was called.
          I knew the world and yet I loved the worth
          At which the bows of men no longer aim.
 
          "For mounting up you are on the right path."
50       This he replied — then added: "I pray you
          To pray for me when you are up on high."
 
          And I told him, "My faith I pledge to you
          To do what you have asked me — but I burst
          Inwardly with doubt I must be rid of:
 
55       "First my doubt was simple, now it’s doubled
          By your statement which makes me certain here,
          As elsewhere, by the words I couple with it.
 
          "The world indeed is now completely void
          Of every virtue, as you observed to me,
60       And burdened with iniquity, and buried.
 
          "But I pray you to point me out the cause
          That I may see it and then show it to others
          For some place it in heaven, some below."
 
          Deep sighs, which sorrow strained into an "Ah!"
65       He first heaved out, and then began, "Brother,
          The world is blind and surely you come from it.
 
          "You who are living refer every cause
          Solely up to heaven, as if it moved
          All things with it out of necessity.
 
70       "If this were so, the free will you possess
          Would be destroyed, and there would be no justice
          In having joy in good or grief in evil.
 
          "The heavens set your impulses in motion —
          I don’t say all of them, but suppose I did,
75       A light is dealt you to tell good from evil
 
          "And know free will, which, though it be worn out
          In its first struggles with the heavens, later
          It shall yet conquer all, if nourished well.
 
          "To a mightier power and a higher nature
80       You, though free, are subject, and that engenders
          The mind in you the heavens do not sway.
 
          "If, then, the world today has gone astray,
          In you the cause lies, in you it’s to be sought!
          And now I’ll prove a true informant for you.
 
85       "From out the hands of Him who fondly loves her
          Before she comes to be, there issues forth,
          Like a child at play in tears and laughter,
 
          "The simple soul without a shred of knowledge,
          Except that, springing from a joyous Maker,
90       Willingly she turns to what delights her.
 
          "With trifles she first satisfies her taste:
          She is beguiled and gambols after them
          Unless a guide or bridle bend her love.
 
          "Therefore, law was needed as a curb,
95       And needed also was a king who could
          Discern at least the tower of the true city.
 
          "The laws exist, but who sets hand to them?
          No one! For the shepherd who heads the flock
          Can chew the cud but has no cloven hooves.
 
100      "And so the people who behold their guide
          Reaching for that good they’re greedy for
          Feed themselves on that and seek no further.
 
          "You now can clearly see that evil guidance
          Has been the cause which made the world go wrong
105     And not that nature is corrupt in you.
 
          "Rome, which made the world good, used to have
          Two suns that made one and the other roadway
          Visible, of God and of the world.
 
          "One has eclipsed the other, and the sword
110      Has joined the crozier, but the two together
          By force of their conjunction must go wrong
 
          "Because, so joined, one need not fear the other.
          If you do not believe me, regard the grain,
          Since by the seed it bears the plant is known.
 
115      "In land the Adige and Po flow through,
          Honor and courtesy once could be found
          Before Frederick met with strong opposition.
 
          "Now anyone can safely travel there
          Who out of shame avoids conversing with
120      The upright or shuns having contact with them.
 
          "True, three old men are still there, in whom
          The old days rebuke the new, and long they pine
          Until God calls them to a nobler life:
 
          "Currado da Palazzo, good Gherardo,
125      And Guido da Castel who is better named,
          In fashion of the French, ‘the simple Lombard.’
 
          "From this time on, say that the Church of Rome,
          Confounding in itself two sovereignties,
          Falls in the filth, and fouls itself and office."
 
130      "O my Marco, you reason well," I said,
          "And now I realize why the sons of Levi
          Were not allowed to have inheritances.
 
          "But what Gherardo is this who you say
          Remains a sample of the race long-gone,
135      In strict reproach against this barbarous age?"
 
          "Either your speech deceives me or would test me,"
          He answered me, "for, though you talk in Tuscan,
          You seem not to have known the good Gherardo.
 
          "By any further name I do not know him,
140      Unless to say that Gaia is his daughter.
          God be with you! I come no farther with you.
 
          "See the rays of light already whiten
          Through the smoke: and I must take my leave
          (The angel’s there!) before I come in sight."
 
145     So he turned back and would not hear me further.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XVII

 

          Remember, reader, if ever you have been
          Up in the mountains when the clouds close in
          So that you saw as blindly as a mole,
 
          How, when at last the dense and humid vapors
5        Begin to blow away, the circle of the sun
          Pierces through the mists with feebleness,
 
          Then your imagination will be quick
          To come to see how I first saw the sun
          Once more, right at the moment of its setting.
 
10       So, matching my steps with the trusted steps
          Of my master, I broke out of the cloud
          Into the rays now dead down on the shore.
 
          O imagination, which sometimes steals us
          So far from outward things we pay no heed
15       Although a thousand trumpets blast about us,
 
          Who moves you if the senses yield you nothing?
          Light formed in heaven moves you by itself
          Or by the will of Him who guides it downward.
 
          The impious act of her who changed her form
20       Into the bird that most delights in singing
          Appeared to shape in my imagining.
 
          And here my mind was so withdrawn within
          Upon itself that nothing from the outside
          Could have come then to be admitted in it.
 
25       Then there rained down within my heightened fancy
          A figure crucified, scornful and fierce
          In his look, exactly as he died.
 
          Around him stood the great Ahasuerus,
          Esther his wife, and the just Mordecai
30       Who showed integrity in word and deed.
 
          And as this image burst all by itself,
          Just like a bubble when the water runs
          Out from under where the film has formed,
 
          There rose into my vision a young girl
          Bitterly weeping, and she said, "O Queen,
35       Why in your anger did you slay yourself?
 
          "You took your life to keep Lavinia:
          Now you have lost me! I am one who mourns,
          Mother, more for your ruin than another’s."
 
          As sleep is broken when all of a sudden
40       New light strikes upon unopened eyes
          And, broken, flickers before it fully dies,
 
          So my imagining fell straight away
          As soon as light, more intense by far
45       Than what we are inured to, struck my eyes.
 
          I turned about to survey where I was,
          When a voice called out: "Here you can climb up,"
          And this drew me from every other thought,
 
          And it piqued my desire with such impatience
50       To gaze directly on the one who’d spoken
          As never rests till it stands face to face.
 
          But as before the sun which thwarts our sight
          And, being overbright, blurs its own shape
          So there my power of perception failed.
 
55        "This is a heavenly spirit who directs us,
          Without our asking, on the upward way,
          And with his own light he conceals himself.
 
          "He deals with us as men do with themselves.
          For he who sees the need but waits for asking
60      Already sets himself to turn it down.
 
          "Now let our steps follow his invitation.
          Let us press on to climb before night comes,
          For then we cannot go till day returns."
 
          So spoke my guide, and he and I together
65       Had turned our feet toward a stairway there
          When, just as I arrived at the first step,
 
          Near me I felt the brush as of a wing
          Fanning my face, and I heard said, "Blessed are
          The peacemakers, those free of wicked wrath."
 
70       By now the final sunbeams which night follows
          Rose so high above us that the stars
          Started to show themselves on every side.
 
          "O strength of mine, why do you melt away?"
          Within myself I said, since I perceived
75       The power of my legs had ceased to function.
 
          We had arrived now where the stairs ascended
          No higher, and we’d come to a full stop
          Just like a ship that pulls up to the shore.
 
          I listened for a while in hope of hearing
80       Any sound within this newest circle,
          Then I turned to my master, and I said,
 
          "My gentle father, tell me, what offense
          Is purged here in the circle we are come to?
          Although our steps halt, do not stop your speech."
 
85       And he told me, "The love of good which falls
          Short of its duty is in this place restored.
          Here the idle oar is dipped once more.
 
          "But that you may understand more clearly,
          Turn your mind to me and you will gather
90       Some goodly fruit from our delaying here.
 
          "My son, neither Creator nor his creature,"
          He then began, "was ever without love,
          Natural or rational, as you know.
 
          "The natural is always without error,
95       But the other love may err by evil ends,
          Or by too much or by too little ardor.
 
          "While it’s directed toward the primal good
          And toward the secondary goods keeps measure,
          It cannot be the cause of sinful pleasure,
 
100      "But when it’s bent on evil or runs after
          The good with more or less zeal than it should,
          Those whom he made then work against their Maker.
 
          "From this you can conceive how love must be
          The seed in you of every other virtue
105      And every deed deserving punishment.
 
          "Now, in so far as love can never shift
          Its sight from the well-being of its subject,
          All things are free from hatred for themselves.
 
          "And since no being can be thought as sundered
110      From primal Being and standing by itself,
          Each creature is cut off from hating him.
 
          "It follows, if I judge well by my critique,
          This evil that is loved is for one’s neighbor,
          And in three ways this love sprouts in your clay:
 
115      "There is the man who through his neighbor’s fall
          Hopes to advance, and only for this reason
          He longs to see him cast down from his greatness,
 
          "There is the man who dreads the loss of power,
          Favor, fame, and honor at another’s rise,
120     And pines so at it that he wants him ruined;
 
          "And there is the man who grows so resentful
          For injury, he’s greedy for revenge,
          And such a man must seek another’s harm.
 
          "This threefold love is purged down there below us.
125     Now I wish you to grasp the other kind:
          The love that runs for good in wrongful measure.
 
          "Each has a nebulous notion of the good
          On which his mind may rest, and longs for it;
          And so each struggles to achieve that end.
 
130      "If the love drawing you to view or gain
          This goal is lukewarm, then this terrace here,
          After true repentance, punishes for that.
 
          "There is another good which gladdens no one:
          It is not happiness, nor the true essence
135     Which is the fruit and root of every good.
 
          "The love which yields itself too much to this
          Is mourned in the three circles up above us;
          But how it is divided in three parts,
 
          "I will not say, that you may search it out."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XVIII

 

          The lofty teacher came to the conclusion
          Of his discourse and looked intently into
          My eyes to see if I appeared content,
 
          And I, who was by now parched with fresh thirst,
5         Kept outward silence, but within I said,
          "Perhaps I irk him with too many questions."
 
          But that true father, who intuited
          The timid wish that would not be let out,
          By speaking gave me confidence to speak.
 
10       With that I said, "Master, my sight is so
          Enlivened by your light that I grasp clearly
          All that your words explain or analyze.
 
          "Therefore I beg you, gentle father dear,
          Teach me this love to which you have reduced
15       Every good action and its opposite."
 
          "Direct toward me," he answered, "the sharp beams
          Of your mind’s eye, and you shall plainly see
          The error of the blind passed off as guides.
 
          "The intellect, created quick to love,
20       Responds to everything that pleases it
          As soon as pleasure wakens it to act.
 
          "Your apprehension draws an image from
          A real object and displays it in you
          So that it makes the mind attend to it;
 
25       "And if, attentive, the mind tends toward it,
          That tendency is love: it is its nature
          Which is by pleasure bound anew in you.
 
          "Then, just as fire by its innate form
          Flies ever higher to reach that element
30       Where in its matter it may longest last,
 
          "So the enamored mind falls into longing,
          Which is a spiritual motion and never rests
          Until the thing it loves has made it happy.
 
          "Now you may plainly see how far the truth
35       Is hidden from those people who maintain
          That every love is in itself praiseworthy,
 
          "Because perhaps its subject-matter seems
          Always to be good, but every imprint
          Is not flawless although the wax is fine."
 
40       "Your discourse and my thoughts that followed it,"
          I answered him, "have opened love to me,
          But that has made me still more full of doubt;
 
          "For if love is offered to us from without
          And if the soul treads on no other foot,
45       It gains no merit, walking straight or crooked."
 
          And he told me, "As much as reason sees here
          I can inform you; beyond that, just wait
          For Beatrice, since it is a point of faith.
 
          "Every substantial form that is distinct
50       From matter and is yet united with it
          Holds a specific power in itself
 
          "Which is not seen except in operation
          And only in its effects is it shown,
          As the life of a plant in its green leaves.
 
55       "And so man does not know where understanding
          Of his first ideas derives, nor where
          Affection for first objects of desire,
 
          "Which both are in you as instinct in the bee
          For making honey; and this primal will
60       Has no merit for either praise or blame.
 
          "Now that all other wills conform to this one,
          You have the innate power which gives counsel
          And which should guard the threshold of consent.
 
          "This is the principle from which derives
65       The reason for your merits, so far as it
          Garners and winnows good and evil loves.
 
          "Those whose reasoning went to the root of things
          Perceived this innate freedom; as a result,
          They left the gift of ethics to the world.
 
70       "So, even supposing every love enkindled
          Within you rises from necessity,
          The power to restrain it still lies in you.
 
          "This noble power Beatrice calls free will;
          And for this reason, keep it in your mind
75       In case she wants to speak of it to you."
 
          The moon arising late, almost at midnight,
          Made the stars look scantier to us,
          For it was glowing like a burnished bucket,
 
          And it ran counter to the sky on paths
80       The sun inflames when men in Rome observe it
          Setting between Sardinia and Corsica.
 
          That noble shade, for whom Pietola
          Shines with more fame than any Mantuan town,
          Released me from the load I placed on him,
 
85       So that I, who had harvested his clear
          And open-handed answers to my questions,
          Remained like someone rambling drowsily.
 
          But I was snapped out of this drowsiness
          Suddenly by people who had come
90       Already round to us behind our backs.
 
          And as, of old, Ismenus and Asopus
          Saw on their banks at night fanatic crowds
          So often as the Thebans called for Bacchus,
 
          Such was the crowd, from what I saw, curving
95       Its way around that circle, of those who came
          With good will and just love holding the reins.
 
          How soon they were upon us — since that whole
          Huge company was moving at a run,
          And two of them up front cried out in tears:
 
100      "Mary ran with haste to the hill country!
          And Caesar to subdue Lerida thrust
          First at Marseilles and then sped on to Spain!"
 
          "Faster! faster! let no time be lost
          Through little love," the rest who followed cried,
105      "So zeal for good may make grace green again."
 
          "O people whose sharp fervor now perhaps
          Redeems the negligence and dallying
          You showed in lukewarmness for doing good,
 
          "This man, alive — and surely I’d not lie —
110      Would climb as soon as daylight shines on us:
          So tell us where an opening is at hand."
 
          These were the words spoken by my guide,
          And one of those swift spirits called, "Come,
          Follow us and you will find the gap.
 
115      "We are so full of passion to keep moving,
          We cannot stop, we beg your pardon, then,
          If you should take our penance for bad manners.
 
          "I was abbot of San Zeno in Verona
          Under the rule of worthy Barbarossa
120     Of whom Milan still talks with bitter tears.
 
          "And I know one with one foot in the grave
          Who soon will sorrow for that monastery
          And will regret he once had power there,
 
          "Because he’s put, in place of its true shepherd,
125      His son, who is deformed in his whole body
          And even more in mind, and born a bastard."
 
          I do not know if he said more or ceased,
          Since he by now had raced so far beyond us,
          But I heard this much and was glad to note it.
 
130     And he who was my help in every need
          Spoke up, "Turn round this way: observe those two
          Coming who sink their teeth deep into sloth."
 
          Behind them all these two declaimed, "The people
          For whom the sea had parted were all dead
135      Before the Jordan saw its promised heirs;
 
          "And those who to the end did not endure
          Ordeals in company with Anchises’ son
          Gave themselves up to an inglorious life."
 
          Then when those shades had sped so far from us
140      That they could not be sighted any more,
          A new thought worked itself up from within me,
 
          And from it many different thoughts were born,
          And I so drifted from one to the other
          That in my wandering off I closed my eyes,
 
145     And I transmuted thinking into dreaming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XIX

 

          At the hour when the heat of day,
          Beaten by earth’s cold or, sometimes, Saturn’s,
          No longer can warm up the moonlit chill,
 
          When geomancers view Fortuna Major
5         Rising in the east before the dawn
          Along a path just briefly dark for it,
 
          There came to me in dream a stuttering woman
          With eyes crossed-up and crooked on her feet,
          With crippled hands and sickly pale complexion.
 
10       I gazed at her. And as the sun gives comfort
          To the cold limbs which night had left benumbed,
          So did my look make her tongue loosen up
 
          And in a short time set her fully straight
          And, as love wishes, brought the color back
15       Into her pallid features while I looked.
 
          When in this way she had her speech set free,
          She then began to sing so that it would
          Be hard for me to turn my eyes from her.
 
          "I am," she sang, "I am the charming Siren,
20       She who allures the sailors in midsea.
          So fully pleasing am I to hear sing!
 
          "I turned Ulysses from his longed-for journey
          To my songs, and he who dwells with me
          Seldom departs, I satisfy so well."
 
25       Her mouth had not yet shut when at my side
          A lady, saintly and alert, appeared,
          To thrust the Siren into sheer confusion.
 
          "O Virgil, Virgil, who is this?" she asked
          Resentfully, and he came forward then
30      With his eyes fixed on the high-minded one.
 
          She seized the other, stripped her bare in front,
          Ripping her clothing, and showed me her belly;
          The stench that sprang from it awakened me.
 
          I turned my eyes, and my good master said,
35       "Three times at least I’ve called you. Rise and come!
          Let’s find the opening where you may enter."
 
          I rose up. And already all the circles
          Around the holy mountain filled with daylight,
          And we walked with the new sun at our backs.
 
40       Following him, I held my brow bowed down
          Like one who feels it burdened with his thoughts,
          Who bends himself like the archway of a bridge,
 
          When I heard then: "Come, here’s the passageway,"
          Spoken in a tone so kind and gentle
45      As one does not hear in this mortal region.
 
          With outspread wings that seemed to be a swan’s,
          He who had so addressed us pointed us
          Upward between the two walls of hard rock.
 
          Then he moved his feathers and he fanned us
50       As he affirmed that "they who mourn" are blessed
          For they shall have their souls richly consoled.
 
          "What’s wrong, that you keep gazing on the ground?"
          My guide began to say to me, just when
          We had both climbed a bit above the angel.
 
55       And I: "A strange new vision makes me trudge on
          With such mistrust: it bends me inwardly
          So that I cannot stop from thinking of it."
 
          "You have beheld," he said, "that ancient witch
          For whom alone those now above us weep:
60       You saw how man sets himself free from her.
 
          "That is enough! now beat your heels on earth
          And turn your eyes up to the lure spun from
          The mighty spheres by the eternal King."
 
          Like a falcon that first stares at his feet,
65       Then turns up at the call and spreads his wings,
          Out of desire for food that draws him there,
 
          So I became, and so I went, as far
          As the cleft rock allowed one to climb through
          Up to the ledge where further circling starts.
 
70       When I stepped out into the fifth circle,
          I witnessed people on it who were weeping,
          Lying on the ground with faces downward.
 
          "My soul cleaves to the dust," this psalm I heard
          Them murmuring with sighs so deep and gasping
75       That scarcely could the words be understood.
 
          "O chosen souls of God, whose sufferings
          Justice and hope render less difficult,
          Direct us toward the stairs for mounting higher."
 
          "If you come here exempt from lying prostrate
80       And want to find the way most rapidly,
          Then keep your right side toward the outer edge."
 
          This did the poet ask, and this response
          Came from a short way on, so by the words
          I could make out which hidden face had spoken.
 
85       I turned my eyes then to my master’s eyes;
          At this, with gladdening sign he gave assent
          To what my look of longing sought from him.
           
          Then I was free to do just as I wished.
          I drew ahead to be above that person
90      Whose voice before had made me notice him,
 
          And said, "Spirit whose weeping ripens penance
          Without which there is no return to God,
          Put off a while your greater care, for my sake.
 
          "Tell me who you were, and why your backs
95       Are so turned up, and if you’d have me gain
          Something for you where I — alive — come from."
 
          And he told me, "Why heaven has turned our backs
          To heaven, shortly you shall know, but first
          Know that I was a successor of Saint Peter.
 
100      "Between Sestri and Chiavari tumbles
          A pleasant stream, and from its name derives
          The title that adorns our family crest.
 
          "In little more than one month’s time I learned
          How the great mantle weighs on him who guards it
105      From mire — all other burdens seem like feathers!
 
          "My conversion was — ah wretched! — tardy,
          But when I was appointed Roman shepherd,
          Then I found out the falsity of life.
 
          "I saw that there the heart would not have rest,
110     Nor could one mount up higher in that life,
          And so the love of this life kindled in me.
 
          "Up to that time I was a careworn soul,
          Cut off from God and full of avarice;
          Now, as you see, in this place I am punished.
 
115      "What avarice does is here made plain to see
          In purging turned-around — ‘converted’ — souls:
          The mountain has no harsher punishment.
 
          "As our eyes, riveted to earthly things,
          Never lifted themselves to look on high,
120      So justice here has sunk them to the ground.
 
          "As avarice quenched all our love for good
          And, in the end, left all our labor lost,
          So on this level justice holds us fast,
 
          "With feet and hands bound up and pinioned,
125     And for as long as our just Lord is pleased
          We shall lie here outstretched and motionless."
 
          I had kneeled down and wished to speak to him,
          But when I started and — just through my tone
          Of voice — he sensed that I would do him reverence,
 
130      He said, "What cause has bent you down like this?"
          And I told him, "Because of your high rank
          My conscience troubled me for standing straight."
 
          "Straighten your legs, my brother, on your feet!"
          He answered, "Make no mistake: with you and others
135      I am a fellow-servant of one Power.
 
          "If ever you have understood the word
          The Holy Gospel sounds in ‘They neither marry,’
          You can see clearly why I speak this way.
 
          "Now move along: I would not have you stay
140      Since your remaining here keeps me from weeping
          The tears to ripen penance which you spoke of.
 
          "On earth I have a niece who’s named Alagia;
          In herself she is good, so long as our house
          Does not, by bad example, make her bad,
 
145     "For she alone is left to me back there."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XX

 

          Against a firmer will the will fights poorly;
          Against my pleasure, therefore, to please him,
          I drew my unfilled sponge out of the water.
 
          I moved on, and my guide moved on through
5         Unpeopled spaces all along the rock-face,
          As one walks a wall close to the battlements;
 
          For those who, drop by drop, melt through their eyes
          The evil that possesses the whole world
          Lie too close to the far-side outer edge.
 
10       Curses fall on you, you ancient she-wolf,
          That have more prey than all the other beasts,
          Because of your bottomless deep hunger!
 
          O heavens, through whose revolutions men
          Believe conditions here below are changed,
15       When will he come who’ll drive the wolf away?
 
          We walked along with slow, infrequent steps;
          I went, attentive to the shades I heard
          Pitifully weeping and complaining,
 
          And by chance I heard one in front of us
20       Crying out in his lament "Sweet Mary!"
          Just as a woman does who is in labor;
 
          And followed by: "How truly poor you were,
          As may be ably witnessed by that hostel
          Where you did lay your holy burden down!"
 
25       Following that I heard: "O good Fabricius,
          You chose to possess virtue with privation
          Rather than huge wealth with wickedness."
 
          These sayings were so pleasing to me that
          I pressed on forward to become acquainted
30      With the spirit from whom they seemed to come.
 
          He went on telling, too, of the largesse
          Which Nicholas endowed upon the maidens
          To lead their youth to honorable marriage.
 
          "O spirit who tells tales of so much good,
35       Tell me who you were," I said, "and why
          You alone rehearse these worthy plaudits.
 
          "Your words to me shall not go unrewarded
          When I return to finish the short journey
          Of that life which flies on toward its end."
 
40       And he: "I will tell you, but not for comfort
          Which I expect from your world, but because
          Such grace shines in you before you have died.
 
          "I was the root of that wholesome plant
          Which overshadows all the Christian lands
45      So that good fruit is rarely plucked from it.
 
          "But if Douai, Lille, Ghent, and Bruges
          Had power, vengeance would be soon exacted;
          And I beg this of Him who judges all.
 
          "I was called Hugh Capet in that life;
50       From me have sprung the Louises and Philips
          Who lately have been ruling over France.
 
          "I was the son of a butcherman from Paris.
          When the ancient kings came to an end,
          Except for one who’d put on monkish gray,
 
55       "I found the reins that rule the government
          Tight in my hands, and I held so much power
          From new possessions and had so many friends
 
          "That to the widowed crown my own son’s head
          Was raised to eminence, and then from him
60       Began the consecrated bones of kings.
 
          "So long as the large dowry of Provence
          Had not removed all sense of shame from it,
          My line was of small worth but did no harm.
 
          "There with force and fraud its rapine started;
65       And then, to make amends for that, it seized
          Ponthieu and Normandy and Gascony.
 
          "Charles came to Italy and, for amends,
          Made Conradin his victim, and after that,
          Thrust Thomas back to heaven, for amends.
 
70       "I see a time not far off from this day
          That brings forth out of France another Charles
          To make himself and his race better known.
 
          "He comes unarmed, or only with the lance
          That Judas tilted with, and this he couches so
75       That he makes the fat paunch of Florence burst.
 
          "From this he’ll gain not land, but sin and shame:
          So much the heavier it will be for him
          As the more lightly he accounts such wrongs.
 
          "The other Charles, who once was hauled a prisoner
80       From his own ship, I see selling his daughter,
          Haggling like a pirate over female slaves.
 
          "O avarice, what more harm can you do us,
          Since you have so enthralled my bloodline to you
          That it shows no concern for its own flesh?
 
85       "That past and future evil may seem less,
          I see the fleur-de-lis enter Alagna
          And in his vicar Christ become a captive.
 
          "I see him mocked again a second time,
          I see renewed the vinegar and gall,
90       And see him slain between two living thieves.
 
          "I see the new Pilate so cruel that
          This will not placate him, but lawlessly
          He heads his greedy sails into the temple.
 
          "O my Lord, when shall I be made happy
95       To see the vengeance which, though hidden now,
          Sweetens your anger in your secret counsels?
 
          "The words I spoke about the only bride
          Of the Holy Spirit, and which made you turn
          Toward me for some sort of interpretation,
 
100      "These are the answer to our every prayer
          As long as daylight lasts, but when night comes,
          We take up a tune contrary to that;
 
          "Then we once more tell of Pygmalion
          Whose gluttonous longing after gold made him
105     A traitor and a thief and parricide;
 
          "And the misery of avaricious Midas,
          Which followed hard on his greed-mad demand
          And ever after causes us to laugh;
 
          "Then each one calls to mind the foolish Achan,
110      How he ransacked the spoils, so that the wrath
          Of Joshua seems here to sting him still;
 
          "Then we accuse Sapphira and her husband;
          We praise the kicks Heliodorus caught;
          And round the mountain rings the infamy
 
115     "Of Polymnestor who killed Polydorus;
          And last of all we cry out here: ‘Crassus,
          Tell us, since you know, what taste is gold?’
 
          "At times we speak, one loud, another low,
          According to the urge that spurs us on,
120     Now with a stronger, now with a lesser force:
 
          "So, I was not alone before in telling
          The good we speak by day, but of those here
          Nearby, no other soul raised up his voice."
 
          We were already gone away from him
125     And struggling to go forward on the road,
          So far as our own powers would permit us,
 
          When I felt — like something that is falling —
          The mountain tremble, and at that a chill
          Gripped me, as grips one going to his death.
 
130      Surely Delos did not shake so sharply
          Before Latona built her nest in it
          To give birth to the two eyes of the sky.
 
          Then such a cry on all sides started up
          That my master drew close to me and said,
135     "Don’t be afraid while I am guiding you."
 
          "Glory to God in the highest" they all cried,
          By what I understood from those close by,
          Where the crying could be comprehended.
 
          Motionless and in suspense we stood,
140     Just like the shepherds who first heard that song,
          Until the trembling stopped and the song ended.
 
          Then we took up again our holy road,
          Looking at shades that lay along the ground
          Already turned to their accustomed weeping.
 
145      No ignorance of mine has ever battled
          To make me so desirous to know why,
          If here my memory is not mistaken,
 
          As I seemed then to harbor in my thoughts;
          Nor in our hurry did I dare to ask;
150     Nor by myself could I see any reason:
 
          So, timid and thoughtful, I walked on my way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XXI

 

          That natural thirst which is never quenched
          Except with the water which the woman
          Of Samaria sought as a source of grace
 
          Tormented me, and our haste spurred me on
5        Along the straitened path behind my guide,
          As I grieved at the payment of just penance.
 
          And look! just as Saint Luke records for us
          That Christ appeared to two along the way
          Already risen from his burial cave,
 
10       A shade appeared to us, and came behind us
          While we stared at the crowd stretched at our feet;
          Nor did we notice him till he first spoke,
 
          Saying, "My brothers, may God give you peace!"
          We quickly turned, and Virgil answered him
15       With the sign appropriate for greeting,
 
          And then began, "Within the blessed assembly
          May the inerrant court that banishes me
          To eternal exile settle you in peace."
 
          "How then?" he asked as we walked on in haste,
20       "If you are shades God's not found fit for heaven,
          Who guided you so far along his stairway?"
 
          And my teacher: "If you look at the marks
          Which this man bears and which the angel traced,
          You’ll plainly see he must reign with the just.
 
25       "Since she, however, who spins day and night
          Had not yet drawn the fiber off for him
          Which Clotho loads and packs on each one’s distaff,
 
          "His soul, which is your sister and my own,
          Ascending here, could not have come alone,
30       Because she does not see the way we do.
 
          "So I was snatched out of the gaping jaws
          Of hell to guide him, and guide him so I will
          Onward as far as my schooling can conduct him.
 
          "But tell me, if you know, why just this moment
35       The mountain shook so, and all seemed to shout
          With one voice downward to the shore-lined base."
 
          With this request he threaded the needle’s eye
          Of my desire so that with just the hope
          He made my thirst seem less insatiable.
 
40       The soul began then, "Nothing without order
          Or the support of custom is permitted
          By the holy rule of the mountain.
 
          "This place is free from every earthly change.
          What heaven receives into and from itself
45       May function here as cause, and nothing else:
 
          "So neither rain, nor hail, nor snow, nor dew,
          Nor hoarfrost falls here any higher than
          The stairway of the three short steps below;
 
          "No thick, no thin clouds ever can appear,
50       Nor lightning flash, nor Thaumas’s daughter
          Who often changes regions in your sky;
 
          "Nor does dry vapor rise up any higher
          Than to the top of the three steps I mentioned,
          On which Saint Peter’s vicar rests his feet.
 
55       "Tremors, small or large, may chance down lower,
          But here above, I don’t know why, it never
          Trembles from wind concealed within the earth.
 
          "It trembles here when some soul feels herself
          Cleansed, so that she rises or sets out
60       To leap upward, and that shout follows then.
 
          "Of this cleansing the will alone gives proof,
          Surprising the soul, now fully free to change
          Company, and powering her to will.
 
          "The soul had will before, but the desire,
65       Which divine justice turns around toward penance
          And which once bent toward sin, would not consent.
 
          "And I, who for a hundred years and more
          Have lain in this tormenting, only now
          Felt freely willing for a better threshold.
 
70       "That is the cause you felt the quake and heard
          The pious spirits up along the mountain
          Praise the Lord — may he soon send them higher!"
 
          He spoke to us this way; and since enjoyment
          Is deeper when our thirst to drink is stronger,
75       I could not tell how deep the good he did me.
 
          And my wise guide: "Now I espy the net
          That snares you here and how you slip from it,
          Why it quakes here and what makes you all glad:
 
          "Now, if it pleases you, tell me who you were,
80       And let me learn from your own lips the reason
          You have lain here so many centuries."
 
          "In the time when the good Titus, with help
          Of the highest King, avenged the wounds
          From which the blood that Judas sold poured forth,
 
85       "I bore the most enduring and most honored
          Name there in the world," replied that spirit;
          "Fame I had, but not as yet the faith.
 
          "So dulcet was the music of my verses
          That from Toulouse, Rome drew me to herself,
90       Deservedly, to crown my brows with myrtle.
 
          "Statius is my name, still heard on earth.
          I sang of Thebes and then of great Achilles,
          But, with the second labor, fell by the way.
 
          "The seeds of my ardor were the sparks
95       That warmed me from the sacred flame from which
          More than a thousand poets have been kindled:
 
          "I speak of the Aeneid, which was for me
          A mother and a nurse of poetry;
          Without it I would not be worth a farthing.
 
100     "And to have lived on earth when Virgil lived
          I would consent to add another year
          More than I owe for my release from exile."
 
          These words made Virgil turn to me and give
          A look that, by its silence, said, "Be silent!"
105     Yet power of will cannot do everything,
 
          For smiles and tears are such close followers
          On the emotions from which each proceeds,
          They least obey the will in those most truthful.
 
          I smiled — barely — as one might hint at something;
110     At that the shade grew still and looked me fully
          In the eyes which express the soul most clearly,
 
          And said, "So may your trying task end well,
          Tell me why, just now while I was speaking,
          Your face betrayed that flashing smile to me."
 
115     Now I am caught on one side and the other:
          One keeps me still, the other bids me speak,
          So that I sigh and I am understood
 
          By my master — and: "Do not be afraid
          To talk," he told me; "but speak up and tell him
120     What he now asks of you with deep concern."
 
          So I replied, "Perhaps you are amazed,
          Ancient spirit, at the smile I gave you,
          But I would have you wonder even more.
 
          "This soul here who directs my eyes on high
125     Is that same Virgil from whom you have drawn
          The power to sing about the gods and men.
 
          "If you think something else caused me to smile,
          Forget it as a falsehood, and believe
          It was those words which you then spoke about him."
 
130     Already he was bowing to embrace
          My teacher’s feet, but he said, "Brother, don’t!
          You are a shade and here you see a shade."
 
          And rising, he: "Now you can comprehend
          The depth of love that burns in me for you,
135     When I forget the emptiness we are
 
          "And treat the shades as being solid things."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XXII

 

          By now the angel had been left behind us,
          The angel who’d turned us to the sixth circle,
          Having erased a letter from my face,
 
          And he’d told us that those who crave for justice
5        Are blessed, and his words had accomplished this
          With "they that thirst" and no more of the text.
 
          And, lighter than through other passes, I
          Walked on, so that without the least fatigue
          I followed the swift spirits toward the heights,
 
10       When Virgil began, "Love, enkindled by
          Virtue, has always kindled love in others,
          As long as its own flame showed outwardly;
 
          "So from the hour when Juvenal came down
          Among us in the limbo of that hell
15       And made your own affection known to me,
 
          "My goodwill toward you has been truer than
          That ever paid a person one’s not seen,
          And so these stairs shall now seem short to me.
 
          "But tell me — and forgive me as a friend
20       If overconfidence relax my reins,
          And now as with a friend you talk with me —
 
          "How was it possible that avarice
          Lodged in your breast which by your diligence
          You filled with such abundant store of wisdom?"
 
25       These words at first made Statius start to smile
          A little, and then he replied, "Each word
          Of yours is for me a dear sign of love.
 
          "But truly things do often so appear
          That they give us false grounds for some suspicion
30       Because the real reasons remain concealed.
 
          "Your question makes it clear to me you think —
          Perhaps based on the circle I was in —
          That I was greedy in the other life.
 
          "Know now that avarice was far removed
35       From me, but for my want of moderation
          Thousands of months have meted punishment.
 
          "And had I not set my endeavors straight
          When I perused the lines where you call out,
          As if in anger against human nature:
 
40       " ‘Why, O religious hunger after gold,
          Do you not rule the appetite of mortals?’
          I would be rolling weights at the grim jousts.
 
          "Then I perceived our hands could spread their wings
          Too wide in spending, and I grew repentant
45       Of that as well as of my other sins.
 
          "How many shall rise up again with hair
          Cropped short, in ignorance which keeps them from
          Repenting this sin in life and at the end!
 
          "And know that the offence which counters vice
50       With the directly opposite offence
          Loses here its greenness, and both wither.
 
          "So then, if I have been among those people
          Who mourn their avarice, for my purgation,
          It is its opposite that brings me here."
 
55       "Now, when you sang of the cruel clash of arms
          Between the twins that gave Jocasta sorrow,"
          Replied the singer of the Bucolic poems,
 
          "From what Clio inspired in you there,
          It does not seem that you were yet turned faithful
60       To the true faith without which good works falter.
 
          "If this is so, then what sun or what candles
          So drove your darkness out that you set sail
          Straight in the wake behind the Fisherman?"
 
          And he told him, "You were the first to send me
65       Toward Parnassus to drink within its caves,
          And you the first to light my way to God.
 
          "You were like one who, traveling by night,
          Carries the torch behind — no help to him —
          But he makes those who follow him the wiser,
 
70       "When you announced, ‘The ages are made new:
          Justice returns and the first world of man,
          And a new progeny comes down from heaven.’
 
          "Through you I was a poet, through you a Christian.
          But that you may more clearly see my sketch,
75       I will stretch out my hand to color it.
 
          "By then the whole world was in labor with
          The one true faith which had been sown abroad
          By the messengers of the eternal kingdom,
 
          "And those words of yours which I just mentioned
80       Were so in harmony with the new preachers
          That I would often go to meet with them.
 
          "They then became so saintly to my sight
          That when Domitian persecuted them
          My teardrops mingled with their lamentations.
 
85       "And as long as I lived there in the world
          I gave them aid, and their straightforward ways
          Made me feel scorn for every other sect.
 
          "And before I had led the Greeks in my poem
          To the stream of Thebes, I was baptized;
90       But out of fear I was a secret Christian,
 
          "Long putting on a show of paganism,
          And for this lukewarmness I had to circle
          The fourth circle more than four centuries.
 
          "You, then, who lifted up the covering
95       That hid from me the great good I described,
          While we have time remaining yet to climb,
 
          "Tell me where our ancient Terence is,
          Caecilius, Plautus, Varro, if you know;
          Tell me if they are damned, and in what region?"
 
100     "They, and Persius and I, and many others,"
          My guide replied, "are with that Greek to whom
          The Muses gave more milk than to the rest,
 
          "In the first circling of the darkened prison.
          Often we converse about the mountain
105     On which our nurses always have their dwelling.
 
          "Euripides is with us, Antiphon,
          Simonides, Agathon, and many more
          Greeks who once wore laurel on their brows.
 
          "We see there of the people whom you noted
110     Antigone, Deiphyle, and Argia,
          And Ismene, as sad as she once was.
 
          "Hypsipyle, who showed men Langia’s spring,
          We see there; Thetis and Tiresias’ daughter,
          And there Deidamia with her sisters."
 
115     Both the poets had by now grown silent,
          Intent once more on looking all around,
          Free of the climbing stairs and of the walls;
 
          And by now the four handmaids of the day
          Were left behind, and at the chariot-pole
120     The fifth still steered its fiery tip upward,
 
          When my guide said, "I think that we three should
          Turn our right shoulders to the outer edge,
          Circling the mountain in the usual way."
 
          In this way, custom was our standard there,
125     And we took to the road with less mistrust
          Because that worthy soul showed his assent.
 
          They strode in front and I walked on behind,
          By myself, listening to their dialogue
          Which much enlightened me on poetry.
 
130     But soon that pleasant talk was broken off
          When we came on a tree right in our path,
          With fruit unspoiled and fragrant to the smell.
 
          And as a fir-tree tapers toward the top
          From branch to branch, this tree tapered downward,
135     To let no one climb it, I imagine.
 
          On the side where our way was walled off,
          Clear sparkling water fell from the high rock
          And spread itself among the leaves above.
 
          As the two poets drew near to the tree,
140     From deep within the foliage a voice
          Cried out, "This food shall be beyond your reach!"
 
          Then it said, "Mary thought more how to make
          The wedding-feast complete and honorable
          Than on her own mouth, which now pleads for you!
 
145     "And in Rome of old the women were content
          With water for their drink! And Daniel too,
          By his disdaining food, gained understanding.
 
          "The first age was as beautiful as gold:
          Then hunger made the taste of acorns sweet,
150     And thirst turned every streamlet into nectar.
 
          "Honey and locusts were the sustenance
          That fed the Baptist in the wilderness:
          For this he is in glory and made great,
 
          "As in the Gospel you shall find revealed."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XXIII

 

          While fastening my gaze through the green leaves,
          I peered up as a hunter usually does
          Who wastes his life in prowling after birds.
 
          At that my more-than-father told me, "Son,
5        Come on now, for the time allotted us
          Ought to be portioned out more purposefully."
 
          I turned my eyes and — just as fast — my steps
          Straight after those two sages who talked so,
          That it made walking with them cost me nothing.
 
10       And suddenly in tears and song we heard
          "Open my lips, O Lord," sung in such tones
          That it gave birth to gladness and to grief.
 
          "O gentle father, what is this I hear?"
          I wondered; and he: "Shades who journey on,
15       Perhaps loosening the knot of their bad debt."
 
          Like pilgrims who go wrapped in pious thought
          And, overtaking strangers on the road,
          Turn toward them but do not stop to talk,
 
          So from behind us, moving faster, coming
20       And passing by, there gazed at us in wonder
          A throng of spirits, silent and devout.
 
          The eyes of each were dark and hollowed-out,
          Their faces pale and they so shriveled up
          That their skin took its contour from their bones.
 
25       I doubt Erysichthon was so dried up
          Right down to the rind by his huge hunger
          When he was most afraid that he must fast.
 
          In thought I said then to myself, "Look on
          The people there who lost Jerusalem
30       When Miriam tore her son with her beak!"
 
          The sockets of their eyes seemed gemless rings:
          Those who read OMO in the face of man
          Would plainly there have recognized the M.
 
          Who would have dreamt that odor of a fruit
35       And that of water, by creating the craving,
          Would have done this without his knowing how?
 
          I was still wondering what starves them so,
          Since I had not yet fully grasped the reason
          For their thinness and their wretched scurf,
 
40       When look! a shade, from deep inside his head,
          Turned his eyes on me and steadily stared,
          Then cried aloud, "What grace have I received?"
 
          I never would have known him by his looks,
          But in his voice I plainly saw revealed
45       What his face had kept obscured from me.
 
          This spark rekindled in me all I knew
          Of the features that were now so changed,
          And I recognized the face of Forese.
 
          "Ah do not strive to make out who I am
50       Through the dry scabs discoloring my skin,"
          He begged, "nor by my scarcity of flesh,
 
          "But tell me the truth about yourself, and say
          Who are those two souls there escorting you:
          Do not restrain yourself from speaking to me!"
 
55       "Your face, which once I wept for at your death,"
          I answered him, "now gives me no less cause
          For tears when I behold you so disfigured.
 
          "Then tell me, for God’s sake, what strips you bare?
          Don’t make me talk while I am struck with wonder,
60       For one speaks poorly, driven to distraction."
 
          And he told me, "From the eternal counsel
          The power that emaciates us so
          Falls into the water and the tree.
 
          "All these people who in weeping sing
65       Resanctify themselves in thirst and hunger
          For having followed appetite too much.
 
          "Craving for food and drink is kindled in us
          By the fragrance wafted from the fruit
          And from the water splashed on the green leaves;
 
70       "And not just once while we walk round this road
          Is our ordeal renewed — I say ordeal
          And yet I ought to say our consolation,
 
          "For that same will that leads us to the tree
          Led Christ in gladness to call out ‘Eli,’
75       When he delivered us with his own blood."
 
          And I said to him, "Forese, from that day
          When you exchanged the world for a better life,
          Not five years have revolved up to this time.
 
          "If your ability to sin more ended
80       Only when the hour of true repentance,
          Which reweds us to God, had supervened,
 
          "How is it you have come up here already?
          I’d thought to find you still down there below
          Where time pays in return for wasted time."
 
85       And he told me, "What brought me here so soon
          To drink the sweet wormwood of these torments
          Was my Nella with her flood of tears:
 
          "By her devoted prayers and by her sighs,
          She led me from the slope where all must wait
90       And set me free from every other circle.
 
          "All the more precious and beloved by God
          Is my dear widow, whom I loved so well,
          As she is more alone in her good works.
 
          "For the Barbagia of Sardinia
95       Is far more modest in its womenfolk
          Than the Barbagia in which I left her.
 
          "O gentle brother, what would you have me say?
          A future time is already clear to me —
          Before this hour shall be very old —
 
100     "When — brazen-faced — those ladies of Florence
          Shall from the pulpit be prohibited
          To go displaying breasts bare to the paps.
 
          "What barbarian girls, what Saracens
          Ever were required to go covered
105     By spiritual or civil ordinance?
 
          "But if those shameless creatures were made sure
          Of what swift heaven has in store for them,
          They’d open up their mouths by now to howl,
 
          "For if our foresight here does not deceive me,
110     They shall be sad before the hair shall cover
          The cheeks of those now soothed by lullabies.
 
          "Ah, brother, hide nothing from me any longer!
          You see not only me but all these people
          Stare at the spot where you screen out the sun."
 
115     At this I told him, "If you call to mind
          What you have been with me and I with you,
          The memory now will still be hard to bear.
 
          "From that life he who goes before me here
          Turned me the other day, when you were shown,
120     At the full, the sister there of that one" —
 
          And then I pointed to the sun — "He, through
          Deep night, has led me from the truly dead
          With this true flesh in which I follow him.
 
          "From there his furtherance has drawn me higher,
125      Mounting up and moving round the mountain
          That makes you straight whom the world made crooked.
 
          "He says that he will keep me company
          Until I reach the place where Beatrice waits;
          There it is destined I be left without him.
 
130     "Virgil is he who speaks to me this way,"
          And I pointed to him, "and this other
          Is the shade for whom just now your kingdom,
 
          "Releasing him below, shook all its slopes."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XXIV

 

          Not talk our pace, nor pace our talk slowed down,
          But we by rapid conversation picked up speed,
          Just like a ship propelled by a fair wind.
 
          And shades, who looked as if they died again,
5        Through sockets of their eyes gaped out at me,
          Seeing in me a man who was alive.
 
          And I, continuing my speaking, said,
          "He climbs perhaps more slowly than he would
          Since he’s preoccupied with someone else.
 
10       "But tell me, if you know, where is Piccarda?
          Tell me too if I see persons of note
          Among this group that stares at me so hard."
 
          "My sister — whether more beautiful than good
          I do not know — already is in triumph,
15       Rejoicing in her crown on high Olympus."
 
          This he said first, and then: "It’s not forbidden
          Here for us to name each other, since
          Our features are so shrunk by abstinence.
 
          "There," and he pointed, "is Bonagiunta,
20       Bonagiunta of Lucca; and behind him,
          His face more shriveled up than all the rest,
 
          "Is he who in his arms held Holy Church —
          He came from Tours — and he by fasting purges
          The eels of Bolsena and Vernaccia’s wine."
 
25       He named me many others, one by one,
          And at their naming all appeared content,
          So that at this I saw not one black look.
 
          I saw — hungrily biting their teeth on air —
          Ubaldin da la Pila and Boniface
30       Who shepherded many people with his staff.
 
          I saw Messer Marchese, who once enjoyed
          Leisure to drink at Forlм with less thirst,
          And yet he never could feel satisfied.
 
          But as a man who looks and prizes one
35       More than another, so I marked him from Lucca
          Who seemed to want to know the most about me.
 
          He murmured, and I heard something like "Gentucca"
          Come from his lips where he could feel the pang
          Of justice which so strips them of their flesh.
 
40       "O soul," I answered, "you seem so desirous
          To speak with me, do so that I may hear you,
          For by your speech you satisfy us both."
 
          "A woman is born and wears no veil as yet,"
          He then began, "who’ll make my city please you,
45       No matter how men may find fault with it.
 
          "You shall stride forward with this prophecy:
          Should you have misconstrued my murmuring,
Events to come will make things clear to you.
          "But tell me if I see before me here
50       The one who framed the new rhymes which begin:
          ‘Ladies who have intelligence of love.’ "
 
          And I told him, "I am one who, when Love
          Inspires me, takes note, and in the manner
          That he dictates to me, I set it down."
 
55       "O brother, now I see," he said, "the knot
          That held the Notary, Guittone, and me
          Short of the sweet new style which I am hearing.
 
          "I clearly note how your pens follow closely
          After the one who dictates to your hearts,
60       Which surely did not happen with our pens;
 
          "And anyone who thinks to probe more deeply
          Will find no further difference between styles."
          And, seemingly contented, he grew still.
 
          Just as the birds that winter by the Nile
65       Sometimes form a dense flock in the air,
          Then fly on faster and line up in a file,
 
          So all the people who were there, turning
          Away their faces, sped up their pace once more,
          Made lighter by their leanness and desire.
 
70       And as a man who is worn out with running
          Lets his companions pull ahead, and walks
          Until the panting in his chest has eased,
 
          So Forese then let that holy flock
          Pass by and fell behind with me, to ask,
75       "When shall it be that I’ll see you again?"
 
          "I do not know how long I’ll live," I answered,
          "But my return here cannot be so swift
          But that my heart shall come to this shore sooner,
 
          "Because the place where I was put to live
80       Is stripped of goodness more from day to day
          And seems to doom itself to dismal ruin."
 
          "Be calm," he said, "for I can see the man
          Who’s most to blame dragged off by a beast’s tail
          Down toward the valley of the unforgiven.
 
85       "The beast with every stride runs on faster,
          Always picking up speed until it strikes him
          And leaves his body hideously disfigured.
 
          "Those wheels," (he turned his eyes up to the skies)
          "Have not long to revolve before you see
90       Clearly what my speech cannot tell plainly.
 
          "Now you stay back, for time is precious here
          In this kingdom, and I lose too much time
          By walking with you this way at your pace."
 
          Just as a horseman sometimes bolts ahead
95       At a gallop from a troop that’s riding
          And runs to win the honor of first combat,
 
          So he left us behind with longer strides,
          And I remained on my road with those two
          Who were such mighty marshals in the world.
 
100     And when he’d sped so far in front of us
          That my eyes followed in pursuit of him,
          Even as my mind pursued what he had said,
 
          The branches of another tree appeared
          To me not far away, fruitful and green,
105     For I had only then turned round the corner.
 
          Beneath the tree I saw people lift their hands
          And cry I know not what up toward the leaves
          Like foolish and obstreperous small children
 
          Who beg, while he they beg from answers nothing,
110     But, to make their hankering the keener,
          Holds what they crave aloft and will not hide it.
 
          Then they drew off as if they now knew better,
          And straightway we arrived at the huge tree
          Which turns aside so many prayers and tears.
 
115     "Pass on ahead: do not come any nearer.
          The tree from which Eve ate is higher up,
          And from its stock this tree was cultivated."
 
          I know not who spoke this among the branches;
          And so, Virgil, Statius, and I, drawn close,
120     Journeyed along the side where the cliff rises.
 
          "Remember," the voice said, "those wretched creatures,
          Born of a cloud, who, when they drank their fill,
          Fought Theseus with their horse-and-human chests;
 
          "And those Hebrews who showed their haste in drinking
125     So that Gideon refused them as his comrades
          When he came down the hills to Midian."
 
          So, huddling tight to one side of the path,
          We passed, hearing the sins of gluttony,
          Followed by its miserable rewards.
 
130     Then, with more room along the lonely road,
          A thousand steps and more had borne us onward,
          Each of us lost in wordless meditation.
 
          "Why do you three walk here in thought, alone?"
          A sudden voice called out. At that I started,
135     Just like a frightened, timid animal.
 
          I raised my head to see who it might be,
          And never in a furnace was there seen
          Glass or metal so glowing and so red
 
          As one I saw who said, "Should it please you
140     To mount on high, here must you make the turn:
          All those who seek for peace pass through this way."
 
          His countenance had robbed me of my sight,
          So that I turned and followed my two teachers
          Like one who makes his way by listening.
 
145      And as, in harbingering the dawn of day,
          The May breeze stirs and freshens with its fragrance,
          All teeming-full of flowers and the grass,
 
          So I felt the wind grazing my forehead
          And clearly felt the flutter of his wing
150     Which made me sense the aroma and ambrosia.
 
          And I heard uttered: "Blessed are they whom grace
          Enlightens so, the love of taste enkindles
          No overindulgent longings in their breasts,
 
          "Hungering always only after justice!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XXV

 

          The hour came when climbing could not wait:
          The sun had left the mid-point of its circle
          To Taurus, and the night to Scorpio.
 
          So, like a man who does not stop to pause,
5        But goes his way no matter what occurs,
          If he be spurred on by necessity,
 
          We three each entered, one before the other,
          Through the gap and took the stairway up,
          So cramped that climbers squeeze up single file.
 
10       And as the fledgling stork that lifts its wings
          In willingness to fly, but does not dare
          To leave the nest, and lets them drop back down,
 
          Just so was I, with eagerness to ask
          Inflamed and dampened, going through the motions
15       Up to the point where one’s prepared to speak.
 
          Nor did our swift pace keep my gentle father
          From telling me, "Release your bow of speech
          Which you have drawn tight to the arrow-tip."
 
          I opened my mouth confidently then,
20       And I began, "How can they grow so thin
          Where no one has a need for nourishment?"
 
          "If you will call to mind how Meleager
          Burned while the firebrand burned out," he said,
          "This problem won’t prove difficult for you;
 
25       "And if you’ll think how, any move you make,
          Your image in the mirror moves as quickly,
          Then what seems hard should not be tough to chew on.
 
          "But now to let you rest in what you long for,
          Look, here is Statius: I call on him
30       And pray he be the healer of your wounds."
 
          "If I unveil to him eternal views,"
          Statius replied, "while you are here,
          Let my excuse be that I can’t refuse you."
 
          Then he began, "If, son, your mind takes in
35       And heeds my words, then they shall be a light
          Upon the how of what you have inquired.
 
          "The perfect blood — blood which the thirsty veins
          Never drink up, but which they leave behind,
          Like leftovers one clears off from a table —
 
40       "Takes, in the heart, the power to inform
          All of a body’s members, like that blood
          Flowing through the veins to fill the limbs.
 
          "Digested further, it descends to what
          Is best unmentioned, and from there it drips
45       Upon another’s blood in nature’s vessel.
 
          "There one blood mingles with its opposite,
          One tending to be passive and one active
          Because of the perfect place from which they flow;
 
          "And, joined to the other, it begins to work,
50       First coagulating, then quickening
          What it has rendered solid as its matter.
 
          "The active power, now become a soul
          (Like that of a plant, but with this difference:
          The plant’s fulfilled while this is on its way),
 
55       "So works then, that now it moves and feels,
          Like a sea sponge; and then it starts to form
          Organs for the faculties it seeded.
 
          "Now, son, this power that comes from the heart
          Of the begetter swells and now spreads out
60       Where nature plans a place for every member.
 
          "But how the animal becomes a human
          You do not see yet: this is a point
          That led astray a wiser man than you,
 
          "So that he taught the possible intellect
65       To be a separate substance from the soul
          Since he could see no organ suited to it.
 
          "Open your breast to truth about to come,
          And know that, as soon as the articulation
          Of the brain is perfect in the foetus,
 
70       "Then the First Mover turns to it with joy
          To find in nature such fine art, and breathes
          A newborn spirit in it, filled with power,
 
          "Which draws what it discovers active there
          Into its substance and becomes one soul
75       That lives and feels and thinks about itself.
 
          "And that you may be less dazed at my words,
          Look at the sun’s heat that is turned to wine
          When it joins with the juice that flows from vines.
 
          "When Lachesis has run out of her thread,
80       This soul is freed from flesh, and virtually
          Takes with it both the human and divine;
 
          "But with the faculties of sense now mute,
          The memory, intelligence, and will
          Are more acute in action than before.
 
85       "Without a pause, the soul falls on its own
          Wondrously to one shore or the other:
          And there it first finds out the road to take.
 
          "As soon as space surrounds it in that place,
          The informing power radiates around
90       In shape and size as in its living limbs.
 
          "And as the air when it is wet with showers,
          Through the sun’s outer rays reflected in it,
          Adorns itself with alternating colors,
 
          "So there the neighboring air assumes the shape
95       Impressed on it by power of the soul
          Which has come to a stop at that one spot;
 
          "And then, in the same way a flame will follow
          After the fire whichever way it moves,
          So the new form is following the spirit.
 
100     "Since it has its visibility from air,
          It’s called a shade, and out of air it forms
          Organs for all the senses, even sight.
 
          "This is how we speak and how we laugh,
          How we produce the teardrops and the sighs
105     Which possibly you heard around the mountain.
 
          "Just as our longings and our other feelings
          Affect us here, so the shade takes its shape:
          And that’s the cause of what amazes you."
 
          And we had come by now to the last turning
110     And wheeled round to the right-hand side again,
          When we were faced with still a further care.
 
          There fire flashes straight from out the wall,
          But from the terrace edge a wind blows upward
          To push it back and make a pathway through.
 
115     So we three had to go on the free side,
          One by one, and there I feared the fire,
          And over here I feared that I’d fall off.
 
          My guide said, "Throughout a place like this
          One must keep a tight rein upon the eyes,
120     For one false step would be an easy matter."
 
          "Summae Deus Clementiae" I heard then,
          Sung in the heart of the huge burning blaze,
          And this made me more ardent to turn to it:
 
          And I saw spirits walking through the flames,
125     So that I looked at them and at my steps,
          Dividing my gaze between one and the other.
 
          After that hymn had gone on to the end,
          They cried in a loud voice, "I know not man!"
          Then quietly began the hymn again.
 
130     When it was once more done, they cried, "Diana
          Kept to the woods and chased out Helice
          For having felt the poison lust of Venus."
 
          Then they returned to singing; then they cried
          In praise of wives and husbands who were chaste,
135     As virtue and the marriage vows require.
 
          And this way, I believe, they stir themselves
          During all the time the fire burns them:
          With such a searing cure and songful diet
 
          Must the last wound of all be finally healed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XXVI

 

          While we walked on this way along the edge
          In single file, my gentle master often
          Calling, "Watch out! Make good use of my warning,"
 
          The sun, which by now with its beams of light
5        Was changing the whole face of the western sky
          From blue to white, struck me on my right shoulder.
 
          And with my shadow there I made the flames
          Seem to glow more, and simply at that sign
          I saw many souls in passing pay attention.
 
10       This was the reason to give them an opening
          To talk about me, and they began by saying,
          "He does not seem to have a spirit’s body."
 
          Then some of them approached as near to me
          As they were able to, always careful
15       Not to step out where they would not be burned.
 
          "O you who move, not out of sluggishness
          But deference perhaps, behind the others,
          Answer me who burn in thirst and fire.
 
          "Not I alone have need of your response:
20       All these thirst for it more than Indians
          Or Ethiopians thirst for cold water.
 
          "Tell us how it is that you can make
          Yourself a wall before the sun, as if
          You were not yet caught in the net of death."
 
25       So one of them said to me, and I should
          Now have revealed myself, had I not been
          Absorbed in something strange which then appeared,
 
          For down the middle of the burning road
          Came people with their faces opposite
30       To these, and they made me stare in suspense.
 
          There I saw all the shades on either side
          Hurrying and kissing one another
          Without halting, content with this brief greeting:
 
          As ants in black battalions rub their muzzles,
35       One with another, so as to seek out,
          Perhaps, their prospects and their way ahead.
 
          As soon as these break off their friendly welcome,
          Before they take the first step to set off,
          Each one attempts to outshout all the rest,
 
40       The newcomers crying "Sodom and Gomorrah!"
          The others, "Pasiphae climbs in the cow
          To let the bull come gallop to her lust!"
 
          Then just like cranes that fly away, some
          To the Riphean mountains, some toward the sands,
45       These to escape the frost and those the sun:
 
          One group of people leaves and one comes on,
          And they return in tears to their first chants
          And to the shout most suitable for them.
 
          And those same shades who’d first entreated me
50       Drew near to me as they had done before,
          Their looks declaring their intent to listen.
 
          I, having seen their wish a second time,
          Began, "O souls secure in your inheriting,
          Whenever it may be, a state of peace,
 
55       "My limbs have not been left mature or green
          There in the world, but here they are with me,
          With their blood and with their bones intact.
 
          "From here I go up, to be blind no longer.
          Above, a lady’s won this grace for me
60       That I may bear my body through your world.
 
          "But — so may your best longing soon be filled
          So that the heaven which is full of love
          And spreads most spaciously may shelter you —
 
          "Tell me, that I may yet put it on paper,
65       Who are you all and what that crowd is there
          Which is retreating now behind your backs."
 
          No less astonished than a mountain-dweller
          Who, gawking in a stupor, is struck dumb
          When, rough and rustic, he comes into town,
 
70       Was each shade there, with a blank expression;
          But when they threw off their bewilderment —
          Which in a noble heart is quickly banished —
 
          He who’d asked me before, began, again,
          "Blessed are you who for a better death
75       Store in your ship experience of our lands!
 
          "The people who don’t come with us offended
          By that same sin for which Caesar in triumph
          Once heard a voice call out against him, ‘Queen!’
 
          "And that is why they run off shouting ‘Sodom!’
80       Railing against themselves, as you have heard,
          And so support the burning with their shame.
 
          "In sinning we were heterosexual:
          But since we did not yield to human law,
          Following our appetites like beasts,
 
85       "To heap opprobrium upon ourselves,
          Leaving those shades, we blare the name of her
          Who bestialized herself in beast-like planks.
 
          "Now you know our acts and what our guilt is.
          If you should wish to know us each by name,
90       There is no time to tell, nor could I do it.
 
          "In my regard I’ll set your heart at rest:
          I am Guido Guinizelli, and purged here
          Since I repented well before the end."
 
          As, while Lycurgus raged with grief, two sons
95       Rejoiced to see their mother once again,
          So I responded (but with more restraint)
 
          When I heard that spirit name himself the father
          Of me and of my betters, all who ever
          Inscribed the sweet and gracious rhymes of love.
 
100     And without hearing or speaking, full of thought,
          I walked along, a long while gazing on him,
          Not drawing nearer to him, for the fire.
 
          When I had fed my sight on him, in full
          I offered myself ready for his service
105     With such an oath as will compel belief.
 
          And he: "You leave, through what I hear from you,
          A trace so deep within me, and so clear,
          That Lethe cannot dim or cancel it.
 
          "But if your words just now have sworn the truth,
110      Tell me why you show in speech and look
          That you are so affectionate toward me?"
 
          And I said to him, "Those sweet-sounding verses
          It is, which as long as modern usage lasts
          Will make the ink itself a thing to love."
 
115     "O brother, the one I point to with my finger,"
          He spoke, and pointed to a soul in front,
          "Was a better craftsman of the mother tongue.
 
          "In poems of love and prose tales of romance
          He overtook them all — and let fools talk
120     Who think Limoges produced a better poet!
 
          "They turn an ear to rumor, not to truth,
          And in this way they fashion an opinion
          Before listening to reason or to art.
 
          "So, many of our fathers praised Guittone,
125     With hue and cry giving him first prize,
          But truth at last has won out with most men.
 
          "Now if you have so large a privilege
          That you’re permitted to go into the cloister
          In which Christ is the abbot of the college,
 
130     "Say a paternoster there for me,
          As much of it as we need in this world
          Where we no longer have the power to sin."
 
          Then, to give a place perhaps to someone close
          Behind him, he disappeared in the fire,
135     As a fish dives through water to the depths.
 
          I moved a bit ahead to him who had been
          Pointed out to me, and said that my desire
          Made ready for his name a grateful place.
 
          He willingly began to speak to me:
140     "Your courteous request so pleases me,
          I neither can nor would hide myself from you.
 
          "I am Arnault, who weep and, strolling, sing.
          With sorrow I see now my bygone folly
          And see ahead with joy my hoped-for bliss.
 
145     "Now I petition you, by that kind Power
          Escorting you to the summit of the staircase,
          At the appropriate time, recall my pain."
 
          Then he hid himself in the refining fire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XXVII

 

          Just as when the sun shoots its first rays
          On the land where its Maker shed his blood,
          While Ebro flows beneath the scales of Libra,
 
          And Ganges’ waves are scorched by noonday heat,
5        So here the sun stood, for the day was fading
          As God’s enraptured angel appeared to us.
 
          He stood upon the bank, outside the flames,
          And sang aloud, "Blessed are the clean of heart!"
          In a voice far more alive than ours.
 
10       Then, "You may go no further, holy souls,
          Unless the fire sting you: enter it,
          And don’t be deaf to what is sung beyond,"
 
          He said to us when we drew near to him;
          And when I heard him speak so, I became
15       Like someone buried in the pit, alive.
 
          I now arched forward over my clasped hands.
          Staring at the fire, I clearly pictured
          Human bodies I had once seen burned.
 
          My kindly escorts turned in my direction,
20       And Virgil said to me, "My son, there may
          Be suffering here, but there can be no death.
 
          "Remember now, remember! And if I
          On Geryon have guided you to safety,
          What shall I do now we are nearer God?
 
25       "Rest assured that should you have to stay
          A thousand years within this womb of flame,
          It could not singe a single hair from you!
 
          "And if perhaps you think that I deceive you,
          Draw near the flame and test it for yourself,
30       With your own hands, against your garment’s hem.
 
          "Put off now, put off all of your fears!
          Turn this way, come, and confidently enter!"
          But, conscience-stricken, I stood motionless.
 
          When he saw me stand so stubborn and stock-still,
35       Slightly upset he said, "Now, son, look here:
          This is the wall between yourself and Beatrice."
 
          As, at the name of Thisbe, Pyramus,
          Near death, opened his eyes and looked at her
          (That moment when the mulberry turned red),
 
40       So, my stubbornness softening at last,
          I turned to my wise master when I heard
          The name that always blossoms in my mind.
 
          At that he shook his head and said, "What’s this?
          You’d have us stay on this side?" Then he smiled,
45       As one does at a child won by an apple.
 
          Then he stepped in the flames ahead of me,
          Requesting Statius, who a long way now
          Had walked between us, to approach behind.
 
          Once in the fire, I would have flung myself
50       Into molten glass to feel cooled off,
          The burning heat inside was so intense.
 
          My tender father, trying to comfort me,
          Kept talking about Beatrice as we walked,
          Saying, "I seem to see her eyes already!"
 
55       A singing voice, beyond, was guiding us;
          And we, while listening all the time to it,
          Came outside at the point which starts to climb.
 
          "Come, you who are blessed of my Father,"
          Resounded from within a light, so bright
60       It overcame me, and I could not look.
 
          "The sun sinks," the voice added; "evening comes;
          Do not stop now, but hurry up your steps
          Before the western sky grows dark again."
 
          The pathway leaped straight up, on through the rock,
65       In such direction that my body blocked
          The rays of sun — already low — before me.
 
          And we had scaled just a few steps when I
          And my two sages sensed, because my shadow
          Vanished, that the sun had set behind us.
 
70       Before the wide horizon turned one color
          Through all the boundless reaches of the sky
          And night possessed the whole of its dominion,
 
          Each of us made his bed upon a stair:
          The nature of the mountain took from us
75       If not the pleasure then the power to climb.
 
          As goats, that have been swift of foot and frisky
          Up on the peaks before they’re put to graze,
          Grow reposeful while they are ruminating,
 
          Hushed in the shade, although the sun is hot,
80       Watched by the shepherd who leans on his staff,
          Tending to their rest with his alertness;
 
          And as the herdsman, who lies in the open,
          Passes the night beside his quiet flock,
          On guard that no wild beast should scatter them,
 
85       So were all three of us on that occasion,
          I as the goat and those two as the herdsmen,
          Hemmed by high rocks on this side and on that.
 
          One could see little of the outside there,
          But in that little I observed the stars
90       Brighter and larger than they usually are.
 
          While ruminating, and admiring them,
          Sleep overcame me, sleep which often knows
          What is the news before events occur.
 
          Within the hour, I think, when from the east
95       Cytherea, who always seems ablaze
          With fires of love, first shone upon the mountain,
 
          A young and pretty woman came to me
          Within a dream as she walked through a meadow,
          Gathering flowers and singing while she said,
 
100     "Whoever asks my name, let him know that
          I am Leah, and I ply my lovely hands
          In circles to make garlands for myself.
 
          "For a glimpse of pleasure at the mirror, I
          Adorn myself here, but my sister Rachel
105     Never leaves her mirror, and sits all day.
 
          "Her yearning is to see her shining eyes,
          As mine is with my hands to adorn myself:
          She is content to look and I to labor."
 
          And now, with the soft splendor of the dawn
110     Whose rising is more welcome to the pilgrims
          As, in returning, they lodge nearer home,
 
          The shadows of the night fled from all sides,
          And my sleep with them. And at that I rose,
          Finding my great teachers up already.
 
115     "That spotless fruit which the concerns of mortals
          Go searching for on many branches shall,
          This day, give peace to all your hungerings."
 
          These were the words that Virgil spoke to me,
          And never could there be a gift received
120     Equal to the pleasure that they gave.
 
          So strong a will on will came over me
          To be up there that, from then on, at each step
          I felt my wings outstretching for the flight.
 
          When all the stairway under us had sped
125     And we had reached the highest step of all,
          Virgil fixed his eyes on me and said,
 
          "My son, now you have seen the temporal and
          The eternal fire, and you have reached the place
          Where on my own I can discern no further:
 
130     "I’ve brought you here with intelligence and art.
          Let your own pleasure guide you from now on:
          You’re through the steep and through the narrow ways.
 
          "See there the sun that shines upon your brow;
          See the young grass, the flowers, and the shrubs,
135     Which here the earth all by itself produces.
 
          "Until those beautiful, rejoicing eyes
          Come, which in tears moved me to come to you,
          You can sit down or walk among the flowers.
 
          "Await no more a word or sign from me.
140     Your will is straightened, free, and whole — and not
          To act upon its promptings would be wrong:
 
          "I crown and miter you lord of your self."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XXVIII

 

          Longing now to search in and around
          The heavenly woods — dense and green with life —
          Which softened the new sunlight for my eyes,
 
          Not waiting any longer, I left the cliff,
5        Making my slow, slow way on level ground,
          Over the soil which everywhere spread fragrance.
 
          A sweetly scented breeze, which did not vary
          Within itself, struck me across the forehead
          With no more force than would a gentle wind.
 
10       The branches quivering at its touch all bent
          Spontaneously in the direction where
          The holy mountain casts its shadow first;
 
          Yet the trees weren't so swayed from standing straight
          That little birds among the topmost boughs
15       Had to leave off the practice of their art,
 
          But with their song they welcomed, full of joy,
          The early morning hours among the leaves
          Which kept up an accompaniment to their rhymes,
 
          As sound accumulates from branch to branch
20       Through the pine forest on the shore of Chiassi
          When Aeolus lets the Sirocco loose.
 
          Now my slow steps had brought me on so far
          Into the ancient woodland that I could
          Not see back to the point where I had entered —
 
25       And look! a stream stopped me from going farther.
          With its little waves it bent toward the left
          The grass that sprouted up along its bank.
 
          All of the clearest waters here on earth
          Would seem to carry clouds of sediment
30       Compared to that stream which keeps nothing hidden,
 
          Although its dark, dark waters flow beneath
          The ever-present shade which never lets
          A beam of sun or moon to glimmer there.
 
          I stayed my feet and passed my eyes across
35       The far side of the river to survey
          The lush variety of blossoming boughs,
 
          And I saw there — as something suddenly
          Appears that causes such astonishment
          It drives all other thought out of the mind —
 
40       A woman all alone, who walked along
          Singing, and picking flower after flower,
          For her whole path was painted with their colors.
 
          "Ah, lovely lady, you who warm yourself
          In rays of love, if I am to believe
45       Those looks which often witness to the heart,"
 
          I said to her, "may you be pleased to come
          Forward toward this river, close enough
          That I may comprehend what you are singing.
 
          "You make me remember where and what
50       Proserpine was when her mother lost her,
          And she too lost the flowers of the spring."
 
          Even as a woman, dancing, turns around
          With feet close to the ground and to each other,
          And scarcely places foot in front of foot,
 
55       She turned upon the red and yellow flowers
          In my direction, no differently than would
          A virgin lowering her modest eyes.
 
          And in this way she satisfied my prayers,
          Approaching me so near that the sweet sound
60       That came to me was comprehensible.
 
          As soon as she had come to where the waves
          Of the untainted stream just touched the grass,
          She favored me with the lifting of her eyes.
 
          I do not think a light so splendid shone
65       Beneath the lids of Venus when her son,
          Without intending, pierced her with an arrow.
 
          Standing straight, she smiled on the far bank,
          Weaving in her hands the colored flowers
          Which that high land produces without seeds.
 
70       The stream kept us a mere three strides apart,
          And yet the Hellespont where Xerxes crossed
          (It still serves as a curb to human pride)
 
          Stirred no more hatred in Leander for
          Its surging flood from Abydos to Sestos
75       Than I felt at that stream’s not opening then.
 
          "You are new here, and maybe," she began,
          "Because I smile in this place which was chosen
          For the human race as its first nest,
 
          "A doubt of some kind keeps you wondering,
80       But the psalm ‘You made me glad’ sheds light
          That can clear up the mist that clouds your minds.
 
          "And you who are in front, and called on me,
          Speak if you would hear more, since I came ready
          For all your questions till you’re satisfied."
 
85       "The water and the woodland sounds," I said,
          "Contend in me against my recent faith
          In something I heard contrary to this."
 
          To this she answered, "I will tell you how
          The thing that makes you wonder has been caused,
90       And I will clear the mist that troubles you.
 
          "The highest Good, Self pleasing Self alone,
          First made man good and for good, and this place
          He gave him as a pledge of endless peace.
 
          "Through his own sin his stay here was cut short;
95       Through his own sin he changed innocent laughter
          And wholesome sport to tearfulness and toil.
 
          "So that the tempests — which the exhalations
          Of earth and water, drawn up by the heat
          As far as possible, produce below —
 
100     "Should not make war on man in any way,
          This mountain rose to such a height toward heaven
          That it is free, above the gate, from storms.
 
          "Now, since the whole air rotates in a circuit,
          Moving with the primal revolution,
105     Unless its circling breaks off at some point,
 
          "Upon this height, which is completely open
          To the pure air, this whirling motion strikes
          And makes the forest, since it’s dense, resound;
 
          "And, being struck, each tree has so much power
110      That with its seed it makes the same breeze pregnant
          Which, in its whirling, scatters seed abroad;
 
          "And other land conceives and reproduces
          The different plants that grow with different powers
          According to the soil itself and climate.
 
115     "It should not seem a wonder, then, on earth,
          Once this account is heard, when some plant there
          Takes root without a seed that can be seen.
 
          "And you should know here that the holy field
          Where you now stand is full of every growth
120      And has in it fruit never plucked on earth.
 
          "Water you see does not spring from a source
          Restored by vapors which the cold condenses,
          Like rivers gaining and then losing force,
 
          "But pours out from a sure and steady fountain
125     Which by the will of God regains as much
          As it gushes freely down on either side.
 
          "On this side it flows down with the power
          To wipe away the memory of sin,
          On that side to bring all good deeds to mind.
 
130     "It is called Lethe here, Eunoи there;
          And its waters will not work unless they first
          Be tasted on one side and then the other:
 
          "Their flavor is above all other sweetness.
          And though your thirst may now be fully quenched
135      If I disclose to you no more than that,
 
          "I’ll give you, as a gift, a corollary;
          Nor do I think you’ll welcome my words less
          If they extend beyond my promise to you.
 
          "Those who in days of old sang in their poems
140     The golden age, its state of happiness,
          Perhaps dreamed of this place on their Parnassus.
 
          "Here was the root of mankind innocent;
          Here it was always spring and every fruit;
          This is the nectar-drink each poet speaks of."
 
145     With those words I whirled all the way around
          Toward my poets, and saw that they had heard
          This final reference to them with smiles.
 
          Then I turned my face to the lovely woman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XXIX

 

          Singing like a woman who is in love,
          She — after finishing her speech — continued,
          "Blessed are they whose sins are covered over!"
 
          And just as nymphs who used to roam alone
5        Through woodland shadows, one solicitous
          To see the sun, another to avoid it,
 
          So she then moved, walking along the bank,
          Against the stream, and I kept pace with her,
          Following her short steps with my short ones.
 
10       Between us we’d not gone a hundred steps,
          When both banks turned a bend at the same angle,
          In such a way that I once more faced east.
 
          And we had not yet gone far on our way
          When the lady turned around full-face,
15       Saying to me, "My brother, watch and listen!"
 
          And look! a sudden glowing brightness coursed
          Throughout the lofty forest on all sides,
          So that at first I thought it must be lightning.
 
          But since as soon as lightning comes it goes,
20       While this light, glowing brighter, lasted brightly,
          I asked within my mind, "What thing is this?"
 
          And a sweet-sounding melody ran through
          The light-filled air; at that, a holy zeal
          Made me reproach the impudence of Eve,
 
25       In that, where earth and heaven were obedient,
          A solitary woman, just then formed,
          Would not endure the veil before her eyes:
 
          Had she but stayed devout beneath that veil,
          I could have tasted — and for much more time —
30       These ineffable delights before this moment.
 
          While I walked on among so many first fruits
          Of everlasting pleasure, all in raptures,
          And longing for still deeper happiness,
 
          Ahead of us, beneath the greening boughs,
35       The air became just like a blazing fire,
          And now the sweet sound could be heard as song.
 
          O Virgins, sacrosanct, if for your sake
          I’ve ever endured fastings, cold, or vigils,
          Occasion spurs me now to claim reward!
 
40       Now Helicon should pour its streams for me,
          Urania should help me with her choir
          To put in verse things difficult to ponder.
 
          A short way farther on, we seemed to see
          Seven golden trees, a false impression
45       Caused by the vast space between the trees and us;
 
          But when I had come up so close to them
          That the broad likenesses which fool the senses
          Did not let distance blur their true details,
 
          The power which forms matter for the reason
50       Made out that they in fact were candlesticks
          And that the voices sang the word "Hosanna."
 
          Atop that beautiful arrangement flamed
          Light far more brilliant than the mid-month moon
          At midnight in a calm and cloudless sky.
 
55       I turned around, all full of wonderment,
          To my good Virgil, but he answered me
          With a look no less bewildered than my own.
 
          Then I returned my gaze to those lofty things
          Moving towards us at so slow a pace
60       That even newly wedded brides move faster.
 
          The lady chid me, "Why are you so ardent
          Only for the sight of the living lights
          And do not look at what comes after them?"
 
          Then I saw people following the lights,
65       As if behind their lords, and clothed in white:
          Whiteness so pure has never been on earth!
 
          The water on my left took in my likeness,
          And like a mirror, when I looked in it,
          Reflected back to me my left-hand side.
 
70       When I had reached the point along my bank
          Where only the stream now separated us,
          I stayed my steps so that I could see better,
 
          And I beheld the glowing flames glide forward,
          Leaving the air behind them streaked with pigment,
75       Like moving strokes a painter’s brush might make,
 
          So that the air above them remained marked
          With seven bands, all in those colors which
          Make up the rainbow and Delia’s girdle.
 
          These banners streamed on to the rear and far
80       Beyond my sight; as well as I could judge,
          The outside bands were full ten feet apart.
 
          Beneath the vivid sky I have described,
          Twenty-four elders, two by two, approached,
          With crowns of woven lilies on their brows.
 
85       They all were singing, "Blessed are you among
          The daughters of Adam, and blessed be
          Your beauties throughout all eternity!"
 
          After the flowers and fresh-growing grass
          Across from me on the opposing bank
90       Were clear again of the elected people,
 
          As star replaces star within the heavens,
          Behind the elders came four living creatures,
          Each with a crown of green leaves on his head.
 
          Each had six wings with feathers full of eyes.
95       And were the eyes of Argus still alive
          They would have looked exactly like his eyes.
 
          I shall not spend more of my verses, reader,
          Describing their forms, since I have other charges
          So pressing that I can’t be lavish here.
 
100      But read Ezekiel who pictures them
          As he saw them come from the frozen north
          Out of a storm of wind and cloud and fire.
 
          And just as you will find them in his pages,
          Such were they here, except that, for the wings,
105     John is with me and disagrees with him.
 
          The space between the four of them contained
          A chariot of triumph on two wheels,
          Coming drawn at the neck of a griffin.
 
          And he stretched upward one wing and the other
110     Midway between the bands — three here, three there —
          So that by splitting them he did no damage.
 
          They rose so high the wings were lost to sight;
          His limbs were golden where he was a bird
          And all the rest was white mixed in with red.
 
115     Never did Africanus or Augustus
          Please Rome with such a splendid chariot,
          But even the sun’s cannot compare to it —
 
          The sun’s, which veering off its course burnt out
          At the devout petition of the earth,
120     When Jove in his mysterious ways was just.
 
          Three women in a circle next came dancing
          At the right wheel; the first one was so red
          She scarcely would be noticed in a flame;
 
          The second seemed as if her flesh and bone
125     Had been cut out of emerald; and the third
          Appeared to be of freshly fallen snow.
 
          And now the white one seemed to lead them round
          And now the red, and from their leader’s song
          The others took the measure fast and slow.
 
130     By the left wheel, four women clad in purple
          Celebrated, dancing to the cadence
          Of one of them with three eyes in her head.
 
          After all the group I have described,
          I saw two old men, different in their dress
135     But like in bearing, straightforward and staid:
 
          One showed himself to be by his attire
          A follower of great Hippocrates
          Whom nature made for creatures she loves best;
 
          The other showed the contrary concern,
140     With a glittering and sharp-edged sword —
          Even on this near shore it frightened me!
 
          Then I saw four men, modest in their look:
          And after all of them, a lone old man
          Coming along, keen-featured, in a sleep.
 
145     All seven of these men were clothed like those
          In the first group, except they did not wear
          A crown of woven lilies round their heads,
 
          Rather of roses and other red flowers:
          One viewing them from closer up would swear
150     That all, above their eyebrows, were ablaze.
 
          And when the chariot was across from me,
          I heard a thunderclap, and those worthy people,
          Apparently forbidden to march farther,
 
          Stopped there with their banner-flames in front.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XXX

 

          When the Seven Stars of the first heaven —
          Which neither set nor rise, nor ever know
          Any cloud except what sin has veiled,
 
          And which make each one there perceive his duty,
5        Just as the Seven Stars down here direct
          The mariner to turn his helm toward port —
 
          Stopped short, the truthful people who at first
          Had come between the griffin and its lights
          Turned to the chariot as to their peace,
 
10       And one of them, as though sent down from heaven,
          In song cried, "Come, my spouse, from Lebanon,"
          Three times, and all the rest sang after him.
 
          Just as the blessed at the last trumpet blast
          Will rise up ready, each one from his tomb,
15       Singing with new-donned voices Alleluia,
 
          So, on the heavenly chariot, rose up,
          At the voice of such an elder, one hundred
          Servants and heralds of eternal life.
 
          They all called out, "Blessed is he who comes!"
20       And, tossing flowers up and all around,
          They cried, "Oh, offer lilies with full hands!"
 
          I have seen sometimes at the break of day
          The eastern sky rose-tinged, while the rest
          Of heaven is adorned with bright clear blue,
 
25       And the face of the sun rise misted-over
          By so soft-tempering a veil of vapors
          The eye could keep on staring a long time:
 
          So, in a cloud of flowers which flew up
          From the angelic hands and fell again
30       Inside and all around the chariot,
 
          A crown of olive over her white veil,
          A woman appeared to me; beneath her green
          Mantle she wore a robe of flaming red.
 
          And my soul, which for a long time now
35       Had not felt overcome as when I’d stood
          Trembling with trepidation in her presence,
 
          Without apprehending further through my eyes
          But by the hidden power she projected,
          Felt the tremendous force of the old love.
 
40       The moment that uplifting power struck
          My sight, as it had pierced me through already
          Before I’d left my boyhood years behind,
 
          I turned round to the left with the blind trust
          Of a small child who races toward his mother
45       When panic hits him or he comes to grief,
 
          To say to Virgil, "There is not a drop
          Of blood left in me that is not trembling:
          I recognize the signs of the old flame."
 
          But Virgil — he had left us there bereft
50       Of himself — Virgil, sweetest father — Virgil
          To whom I gave myself for my salvation!
 
          Not even all our ancient mother lost
          Could keep my cheeks, already washed with dew,
          From turning dark once more with troubled tears.
 
55       "Dante, because Virgil leaves you now,
          Do not weep yet, do not weep yet, for you
          Must weep for yet another pointed sword!"
 
          Like an admiral who goes to stern and prow
          To see the crews that serve on other ships
60       And to encourage them to do good work,
 
          So on the left side of the chariot —
          When I turned at the utterance of my name
          Which I record here through necessity —
 
          I saw the lady who first appeared to me
65       Veiled by the angels’ flower-festival
          Fix her eyes straight on me across the stream.
 
          Although the veil that flowed down from her head
          Which was encircled by Minerva’s leaves
          Did not permit her to be seen distinctly,
 
70       Still regally unyielding in her look,
          She went on like one who speaks and keeps
          Back the most heated words until the end:
 
          "Look at me! I am Beatrice, I am!
          How ever did you deign to climb the mountain?
75       Did you not know that people here are happy?"
 
          I lowered my eyes to glance at the clear current,
          But seeing myself in it I looked back
          At the grass, such shame weighed on my brow.
 
          Just as a mother seems stern to her child,
80       So she appeared to me, because the taste
          Of caustic pity has a bitter sharpness.
 
          She then kept silent, and the angels sang
          Straightway, "In you, O Lord, I place my trust,"
          But they did not pass beyond "set my feet."
 
85       Even as the snow among the quickening rafters
          Upon the spine of Italy is frozen,
          Blown and packed down by the northeasterly winds,
 
          Then, as it melts off, trickles through itself,
          If winds but breathe from lands that have no shade,
90       Much as a candle melts beneath the flame —
 
          So was I senseless without tears or sighs
          Before I heard the song of those whose notes
          Are ever in tune with the eternal spheres;
 
          But when I sensed how in their sweet harmonies
95       They took my part, almost as if to say,
          "Lady, why do you shame him in this way?"
 
          The ice that was packed tight around my heart
          Turned into breath and water, and with anguish
          Poured from my breast out of my mouth and eyes.
 
100     She, still standing rooted at the same side
          Left of the chariot, then turned her words
          To the compassionate angels in this fashion:
 
          "You keep close watch on the unending day
          That neither night nor sleep may steal from you
105     One step the world would take along its ways;
 
          "And so my answer is far more concerned
          That he who weeps on that side understand me
          So that his guilt and grief have equal measure.
 
          "Not only through work of the wheeling spheres
110     Which send each seed straight to its destined end
          According to what stars are its companions,
 
          "But through the largess of the heavenly graces
          Which shower down on us from clouds so high
          That sight of ours can never reach that far —
 
115     "This man was so potentially endowed
          In his new life, that every fine ambition
          Would have been wonderfully fulfilled in him.
 
          "But how much more robustly rich the soil,
          All the more rank and wild can it become
120     When sown by bad seed and uncultivated.
 
          "I stayed him with my countenance a while;
          Showing him my youthful eyes, I led him
          Along with me turned in the right direction.
 
          "No sooner had I stepped onto the threshold
125     Of this my second age and changed my life,
          But this man left me and sought after others.
 
          "When I leaped up from flesh and into spirit,
          And beauty and good favor grew in me,
          To him I was less precious and less pleasing,
 
130     "And he turned his footsteps to untrue ways,
          Pursuing false impressions of the good,
          Which never pay back promises in full.
 
          "Nor did it help me to win inspirations,
          By dreams and other means, to call him back,
135     So small was the attention that he gave them!
 
          "He plummeted so low that all the measures
          For his salvation by now fell far short
          Except to show him the people who are lost.
 
          "For this I faced the gateway of the dead
140     To visit him who guided this man up here
          And tearfully to offer him my prayers.
 
          "The laws on high of God would have been broken
          If Lethe should be passed and such a potion
          Tasted without there being paid some jot
 
145     "Of penitence by pouring out fresh tears."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XXXI

 

          "O you on that side of the sacred stream,"
          She began, turning on me her speech’s point —
          Even its edge had seemed too sharp for me —
 
          And then went right ahead without a respite,
5         "Tell, tell if this is true! To such a charge
          You are obliged to add your own confession."
 
          My power of speech was thrown into such confusion
          That my voice stirred and yet was cut off short
          Before my throat and mouth could set it free.
 
10       She barely paused, then said, "What are you thinking?
          Answer me! The water of the river
          Has not yet dimmed your mournful memories."
 
          Confusion, mixed together with dismay,
          Forced from my mouth a Yes, so muted that
15       Eyes would have had to read it on my lips.
 
          Just as a crossbow, shot with too much tension,
          Snaps both its bow and bowstring, and the arrow
          Strikes at the target with a feeble force,
 
          So I broke then beneath that heavy burden,
20       Pouring out a stream of tears and sighs,
          And my voice slackened along its passageway.
 
          At this she said, "In your desire for me
          Which always led you on to love the Good
          Beyond which there is nothing one can long for,
 
25       "What pitfalls did you find placed in your path,
          What chains, that you had so to strip yourself
          Of any hope of journeying ahead?
 
          "And what allurements or advancements were
          So obvious upon the brow of others
30       That you felt bound to dally at their doorsills?"
 
          After having heaved a bitter sigh,
          I hardly had a voice to give an answer,
          And my lips shaped the words with difficulty.
 
          Weeping I said, "Things of the present moment,
35       With their false pleasures, turned my steps aside,
          As soon as your face was hidden from my sight."
 
          And she: "Had you kept silent or denied
          What you confess, your guilt would not be less
          Noted down: It is known by such a Judge!
 
40       "But when the accusation of the sin
          Bursts from one’s own cheeks, within the court
          The grindstone turns against the cutting edge.
 
          "Still, that you may now bear the rightful shame
          For your error, and that, another time,
45       Hearing the Sirens’ song, you may be stronger,
 
          "Dismiss what you have sown in tears, and listen:
          So shall you hear how in a different way
          My buried flesh should have conducted you.
 
          "Never in art or nature were you shown
50       Beauty quite like the lovely limbs in which
          I was enclosed and which now lie strewn in dust.
 
          "And if the highest beauty failed you so
          Through my death, what merely mortal thing
          Should then have drawn you to desire it?
 
55       "At the first arrow shot from such deceits,
          Surely you should have flown up higher still,
          Following me, no longer in the flesh.
 
          "You ought not to have let some youthful girl
          Or other novelty of brief delight
60       Weigh your wings down to face a further shot.
 
          "The fledgling will wait for two or three shots,
          But any net is spread or arrow fired
          Idly before the eyes of the full-grown bird."
 
          As children, when ashamed, stand dumbfounded
65       With eyes cast on the ground and listening,
          Admitting to their fault and fully sorry,
 
          So stood I. And she said, "Since you are grieved
          Simply on hearing this, lift up your beard
          And you will feel more grief from what you see."
 
70       With less resistance is the sturdy oak
          Uprooted by the blasts out of our homeland
          Or by the winds that blow from Libya
 
          Than I, at her command, raised up my chin;
          And when, by saying "beard," she meant my face,
75       I truly learned the venom in her speaking.
 
          And while my face was lifted up full-length,
          My eyes made out those first-created beings
          Resting from their sowing of the flowers.
 
          Light of my eyes, still partly clouded over,
80       Saw Beatrice then turned toward the animal
          That is a single person with two natures.
 
          Beneath her veil, and from beyond the stream,
          She seemed more to outshine her former self
          Than she outshone all others while she lived.
 
85       The nettle of remorse so stung me there
          That what, among all other things, had most
          Turned me to its love now became most hateful.
 
          Such guilty recognition gnawed my heart
          That I fell, overcome. What I became then
90       She who was the cause of it best knows.
 
          Then, when my heart restored my outer sense,
          I saw above me the woman I had found
          Alone; she cried, "Hold tight to me! Hold tight!"
 
          She plunged me in the stream up to my neck
95       And, pulling me behind her, passed along,
          Lighter than a shuttle, on the water.
 
          When I had nearly reached the sacred shore,
          I heard "Asperges me" so sweetly sung
          That I cannot recall, much less describe it.
 
100     The lovely woman opened her arms wide;
          She clasped me by the head and dipped me under,
          So deep that I was forced to swallow water.
 
          She drew me out then and she led me bathed
          Into the dance of the four shining beauties,
105     And each one linked her arm above my head.
 
          "Here we are nymphs — in heaven we are stars:
          Before Beatrice was born into the world,
          We were ordained to serve as her handmaidens.
 
          "We’ll lead you to her eyes, but for the joyous
110      Light that is within, the three beyond,
          Who look more deeply, will sharpen your own eyes."
 
          So singing, they began; and then, together,
          They led me with them to the griffin’s breast
          Where Beatrice stood in front and faced toward us.
 
115     "See that you do not spare your gaze," they said,
          "For we have placed you here before the emeralds
          From which Love once propelled his shafts at you."
 
          A thousand yearnings seething more than flames
          Held my eyes fastened to the radiant eyes
120     That remained ever rooted on the griffin.
 
          Exactly like the sunlight in a mirror,
          The twofold animal gleamed in her eyes,
          Now beaming with one nature, now the other.
 
          Reader, reflect if I was struck with wonder
125     When I observed the object in itself
          Stand still while its reflecting image moved.
 
          While my soul, full of gladness and amazement,
          Was tasting that food which, while satisfying
          Of itself, still causes one to crave it,
 
130     The other three, revealing by their bearing
          That they were of a higher rank, came forward
          Dancing to their angelic roundelay.
 
          "Turn, Beatrice, turn your holy eyes to him"
          (This was their song) "who now is faithful to you
135     And who has come so many steps to see you!
 
          "For grace do us the grace here to unveil
          Your lips to him that he may there discern
          The second beauty which you hide from him."
 
          O splendor of the endless living light,
140     Who ever grew so pale beneath the shade
          Of Parnassus, or drank its well so deeply,
 
          That he’d not seem to have his mind obstructed,
          Trying to render you as you appeared
          Where harmony in heaven was your shadow
 
145     When in the open air you raised your veil?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canto XXXII

 

          My eyes were so intent and fixed on her
          To satisfy the thirst of those ten years
          That every other sense was quenched in me.
 
          On one side and the other, my eyes were walled
5        By indifference to all else: the holy smile
          So drew them to itself with the old net
 
          When I was forced to turn my face leftward
          By those three goddesses because I heard
          From them the words, "You gaze too fixedly!"
 
10       And my sight was in such a state as when
          The eyes have just been struck by too much sun,
          So that for some time I could make out nothing;
 
          But when my sight grew used to lesser objects
          (I say "to lesser" in relation to
15       The greater one from whom I turned by force),
 
          I saw that the magnificent army there
          Had wheeled round to the right, and now was turning
          With faces toward the sun and the seven flames.
 
          Just as a squadron, underneath their shields,
20       Turn to retreat and, with the standard, wheel
          Around before the rest can swing about,
 
          So the militia of the celestial realm
          In the advanced guard passed in front of us
          Before the chariot circled on its pole.
 
25       At that the women turned back to the wheels,
          And then the griffin pulled his blissful burden
          In such a way none of his feathers stirred.
 
          The lovely woman who towed me at the ford,
          And Statius, and I, were following
30       The wheel that makes the smaller arc in turning.
 
          So pacing through the soaring forest, empty
          Because of her who trusted in the serpent,
          Our steps kept time to an angelic tune.
 
          We had advanced about the distance covered
35       By three flights of an arrow shot from its bow,
          When Beatrice stepped down from the chariot.
 
          I heard them all there murmuring "Adam,"
          And then they gathered round a tree stripped bare,
          On every branch, of foliage and flowers.
 
40       Its branches, which spread wider as they grow
          Higher up, would, with their towering height,
          Make even Indians marvel in their forests.
 
          "Blessed are you, griffin, that your beak
          Tears nothing from this sweetly-tasting tree
45       Which sadly racks the stomach afterward!"
 
          Around the sturdy tree, the others cried
          These words; and the two-natured animal:
          "So is preserved the seed of all justice."
 
          And turning to the pole-shaft he had pulled,
50       He dragged it to the foot of the widowed trunk
          And tied it to the wood from which it came.