D I V I N E  C O M E D Y












1807 - 1882



                         I follow here the footing of thy feet

That with thy meaning so I may the rather meet

Edmund Spenser












Oft have I seen at some cathedral door

            A labourer, pausing in the dust and heat,

            Lay down his burden, and with reverent feet

            Enter, and cross himself, and on the floor

Kneel to repeat his paternoster o’er;

            Far off the noises of the world retreat;

            The loud vociferations of the street

            Become an indistinguishable roar.

So, as I enter here from day to day,

            And leave my burden at this minister gate,

            Kneeling in prayer, and not ashamed to pray,

The tumult of the time disconsolate

            To inarticulate murmurs die away,

            While the eternal ages watch and wait.




How strange the sculptures that adorn these towers!

            This crowd of staues, in whose folded sleeves

            Birds build their nests; while canopied with leaves

            Parvis and portal bloom like trellised bowers,

And the vast minister seems a cross of flowers !

            But fiends and dragons on the gargoyled eaves

            Watch the dead  Christ between the living thieves,

            And, underneath, the traitor Judas lowers !

Ah ! from what agonies of heart and brain,

            What exultations trampling on despair,

            What tenderness, what tears, what hate of wrong,

What passionate outcry of a soul in pain,

            Uprose this poem of the earth and air,

            This mediaeval miracle of song !




C A N T O   I


MIDWAY upon the journey of our life

          I found myself within a forest dark,

          For me the straightforward path had been lost.

Ah me ! How hard a thing it is to say

          What was this forest savage, rough and stern,                 5

          Which in the very thought renews the fear.

So bitter is it, death is little more;

          But of the good to treat, which there I found,

          Speak will I of the other things I saw there.

I cannot well repeat how there I entered,                                   10

          So full was I of slumber at the moment

          In which I had abandoned the true way.

But after I had reached a mountain’s foot,

          At that point where the valley terminated,

          Which had with consternation pierced my heart,     15

Upward I looked, and I beheld its shoulders,

          Vested already with that planet’s rays

          Which leadeth others right by every road.

Then was the fear a little quieted

          That in my heart’s lake had endured throughout     20

          The night , which I had passed so piteously.

And even as he, who, with distressful breath,

          Forth issued from the sea upon the shore,

          Turns to the water perilous and gazes;

So did my soul, that still was fleeing onward,                  25

          Turn itself back to re-behold the pass

          Which  never yet a living person left.

After my weary body I had rested,

          The way resumed I on the desert slope,

          So that the firm foot ever was the lower.                30

And lo ! almost where the ascent began,

          A panther light and swift exceedingly,

          Which with a spotted skin was covered o’er !

And never moved she from before my face,

          Nay, rather did impede so much my way,                35

          That many times I to return had turned.

The time was the beginning of the morning,

          And up the sun was mounting with those stars

          That with him were, what time was Love Divine

At first in motion set those beauteous things ;                40

          So  were to me occasion of good hope,

          The variegated skin of that wild beast,

The hour of time and the delicious season;

          But not so much, that did not give me fear

          A lion’s aspect which appeared to me.                    45

He seemed as if against me he were coming

          With head uplifted, and with ravenous hunger,

          So that it seemed the air was afraid of him ;

And a she-wolf, that with all hungerings

          Seemed to be laden in her meagreness,                  50

          And many folk has caused to live forlorn !

She brought upon me so much heaviness,

          With the affright that from her aspect came,

          that I the hope relinquished of the height.

And as he is who willingly acquires,                                55

          And the time comes that causes him to lose,

          Who weeps in all his thoughts and is despondent,

E’en such made me that beast withouten peace,

          Which, coming on against me by degrees,

          Thrust me back thither where the sun is silent.     60

While I was rushing downward to the lowland,

          Before mine eyes did one present himself,

          Who seemed from long-continued silence hoarse.

When I beheld him in the desert vast,

          “Have pity on me,” unot him I cried,                       65

          “Whiche’er thou art, or shade or real man !”

He answered me : “Not man; man once I was,

          And both my parents were of Lombardy,

          And Mantuans by country both of them.

Sub Julio was I born, though it was late,                          70

         And lived at Rome under the good Augustus,

          During the time of false and lying gods.

A poet was I, and I sang that just

          Son of Achilles, who came forth from Troy,

          After that Ilion the superb was burned.                  75

But thou, why goest thou back to such an annoyance ?

          Why climb’st thou not the Mount delectable,

          Which is the source and cause of every joy ?”

“Now, art thou Virgilius and that fountain

          Which spreads abroad so wide a river of speech ?”  80

          I made response to him with bashful forehead.

“O, of the other poets honor and light,

          Avail me the long study and great love

          That have impelled me to explore thy volume !

Thou art my master, and my author thou,                        85

          Thou art alone the one from whom I took

          The beautiful style that has done honor to me.

Behold the beast, for which I have turned back ;

          Do thou protect me from her, famous Sage,

          For she doth make my veins and pulses tremble.”   90

“Thee it behooves to take another road,”

          Responded he, when he beheld me weeping,

          “If from this savage place thou wouldst escape ;

Because this beast, at which thou criest out,

          Suffers not any one to pass her way,                      95

          But so doth harass him, that she destroys him ;

And has a nature so malign and ruthless,

          that never doth she glut her greedy will,

          And after food is hungrier than before.

Many the animals with whom she weds,                        100

          And more they shall be still, unitl the Greyhound

          Comes, who shall make her perish in pain.

He shall not feed on either earth or pelf,

          But upon wisdom, and on love and virtue ;

          ‘Twixt Feltro and Feltro shall his nation be ;         105

Of that low Italy shall he be the savior,

          On whose account the maid Camilla died,

          Euryalus, turnus, Nisus, of their wounds ;

Through every city shall he hunt her down,

          Until he shall have driven her back to hell,           110

          There from whence envy first did let her loose.

Therefore I think and judge it for thy best

          Thou follow me, and I will be thy guide,

          And Lead thee hence through the eternal place,

Where thou shalt hear the despearte lamentations,      115

          Shalt see the ancient spirits disconsolate,

          Who cry out each one for the second death ;

And thou shalt see those who contented are

          Within the fire, because they hope to come,

          Whene’er it may be, to the blessed people ;          120

To whom, then, if thou wishest to ascend,

          A soul shall be for that than I more worthy ;

          With her at my departure I will leave thee ;

Because that Emperor, who reigns above,

          In that I was rebellious to his law,                       125

          Wills that through me none come into his city.

He governs everywhere, and there he reigns ;

          There is his city and his lofty throne ;

          O happy he whom thereto he elects !”

And I to him : “Poet, I thee entreat,                               130

          By that same God whom thou didst never know,

          So that I may escape this woe and worse,

Thou woudst conduct me there where thou hast said,

          That I may see the portal of Saint Peter,

          And those thou makest so disconsolate.”

Then he moved on, and  I behind him followed.



DAY was departing, and the embrowned air

          Released the animals that are on earth

          From their fatigues; and I the only one

Made myself ready to sustain the war,

          Both of the way and likewise of the woe,                  5

          Which memery that errs not shall retrace.

O Muses, ohigh genius now assist me !

          O memory, that didst write down what I saw,

          Here thy nobility shall be manifest !

And I began : “Poet, who guidest me,                               10

          Regard my manhood, if it be sufficient,

          Ere to the arduous pass thou dost confide me.

Thou sayest, that of Silvius the parent,

          While yet corruptible, unto the world

          Immortal went, and was ther bodily.                       15

But if the adversary of all evil

          Was courteous, thinking of the high effect

          That issue would from him, and who, and what,

To men od intellect unmeet it seems not ;

          For he was of great Rome, and of her empire           20

          In the crystal heaven as father chosen ;

The which and what, wishing to speak the truth,

          Were stablished as the holy place, wherein

          Sits the successor of the greatest Peter.

Upon this journey, whence thou givest him vaunt,           25

          Things did he ehar, which the occasion were

          Both of his victory and the papal mantle.

Thither went afterwards the Chosen Vessel,

          To bring back comfort thence unto that Faith,

          Which of salvation’s way is the beginning.              30

But I, why thither come, or who concedes it ?

          I not Aeneas am, I am not Paul,

          Nor I, nor others, think me worthy of it.

Therefore, if I resign myself to come,

          I fear the coming may be ill-advised ;                      35

          Thou’rt wise, and knowest better than I speak.”

And as he is, who unwills what he willed,

          And by new thoughts doth his intention change,

          So that from his design he quite withdraws,

Such I became , upon that dark hillside,                          40

          Because, in thinking, I consumed the emprise,

          Which was so very prompt in the beginning.

“If I have well thy language understood,”

          Replied that shade of the Magnanimous,

          “Thy soul attainted is with cowardice,                     45

Which many times a man encumbers so,

          It turns him back from honored enterprise,

          As false sight doth a beast, when he is shy.

That thou mayst free thee from this apprehension,

          I’ll tell thee why I came, and what I heard              50

          At the first moment when I grieved for thee.

Among those was I who are in suspense,

          And a fair, saintly Lady called to me

          In such wise, I besought her to command me.

Her eyes were shining brighter than the Star ;                 55

          And she began to say, gentle and low,

          With voice angelical, in her own language :

‘O spirit courteous of Mantua,

          Of whom the fame still in the world endures,

          And shall endure, long-lasting as the world :          60

A friend of mine, and not the friend of fortune,

          Upon the desert slope is so impeded

          Upon his way, that he ahs turned through terror,

And may, I fear, already be so lost,

          That I too late have risen to his succor,                 65

          From that which I have heard of him in Heaven.

Bestir thee now, and with thy speech orntate,

          And with him what needful is for his release,

          Assist him so, that I may be consoled.

Beatrice am I, who do bid thee go ;                                  70

          I come from there, where I would fain return ;

          Love moved me, which compelleth me to speak.

When shall I be in presence of my Lord,

          Full often will I praise thee unot him.’

          Then paused she, and thereafter I began :              75

‘O Lady of virtue, thou alone through whom

          The human race exceedeth all contained

          Within the heaven that has the lesser circles,

So grateful unto me is thy commandment,

          To obey, if’t were already done, were late ;              80

          No farther need’st thou ope to me thy wish.

But the cause tell me why thou dost not shun

          The here descending down in this centre,

          From the vast place thou burnest to return to.’

‘Since thou wouldst fain so inwardly discern,                   85

          Briefly will I relate,’ she answered me,

          ‘Why I am not afraid to enter here.

Of those things only should one be afraid

          Which have the power of doing others harm ;

          Of the rest, no ; because they are not fearful.         90

God in his mercy such created me

          That misery of yours attains me not,

          Nor any flame assails me of this burning.

A gentle Lady is in Heaven, who grieves

          At this impediment, to which I send thee,              95

          So that stern judgment there above is broken.

In her entreaty she besought Lucia,

          And said, “Thy faithful one now stands in need

          Of thee, and unto thee I recommend him.”

Lucia, foe of all that cruel is,                                         100

          Hastened away, and came unto this place

          Where I was sitting with the ancient Rachel.

“Beatrice,” said she, “the true praise of God,

          Why succorest thou not him, who loved thee so,

          For thee he issued from the vulgar herd ?             105

Dost thou not hear the pity of his plaint ?

          Dost thou not see the death that combats him

          Beside that flood, where ocean has no vaunt ?”

Never were persons in the world so swift

          To work their weal and to escape their woe,          110

          As I, after such words as these were uttered,

Came hither downward from my blessed seat,

          Confiding in thy dignified discourse,

          Which honors thee, and those who’ve listened to it.’

After  she thus had spoken unto me,                             115

          Weeping, her shining eyes she turned away ;

          Whereby she made me swifter in my coming ;

And unto thee I came, as she desired ;

          I have delivered thee from that wild beast,            119

          Which barred the beautiful mountain’s short ascent.

What is it then ? Why, why dost thou delay ?

          Why is such baseness  bedded in thy heart ?

          Daring and hardihood why hast thou not,

Seeing that three such Ladies benedight

          Are caring for thee in the court of Heaven,            125

          And so much good my speech doth promise thee ?”

Even as the flowerets, by nocturnal chill,

          Bowed down and closed, when the sun whitens them,

          Uplift themselves all open  on their stems ;

Such I became with my exhausted strength,                  130

          And such good courage to my heart there coursed,

          That I began, like an intrepid person :

“O she compassionate, who succored me,

          And courteous thou, who hast obeyed so soon

          The words of truth which she adressed to thee !   135

Thou hast my heart so with desire disposed

          To the adventure, with these  words of thine,

          That to my first intent I have returned.

Now go, for one sole will is in us both,

          Thou Leader, and thou Lord, and Master thou.”     140

          Thus said I to him; and when he had moved,

I entered on the deep and savage way.



“THROUGH me the way is to the city dolent ;

          Through me the way is to eternal dole ;

          Through me the way among the people lost.

Justice incited my sublime Creator ;

          Created me divine Omnipotence,                              5

          The highest Wisdom and the primal Love.

Before me there were no created things,

          Only eterne, and I eternal last.

          All hope abandon, ye who enter in !”

These words in sombre color I beheld                              10

          Written upon the summit of a gate ;

          Whence I: “Their sense is, Master, hard to me !”

And he to me, as one experienced :

          “Here all suspicion needs must be abandoned,

          All cowardice must needs be here extinct.              15

We to the place have come, where I have told thee

          Thou shalt behold the people dolorous

          Who have forgoten the good of intellect.”

And after he had laid his hand on mine

          With joyful mien, whence I was comforted,             20

          He led me in among the secret things.

There sighs, complaints, and ululations loud

          resounded through the air without a star,

          Whence I, at the beginning, wept thereat.

Languages diverse, horrible dialects,                               25

          Accents of anger, words of agony,

          And voices high and hoarse, with sounds of hands,

Made up a tumult that goes whirling on

          Forever in that air forever balck,                             29

          Even as the sand doth, when the whirlwind breathes.

And I, who had my head with horror bound,

          Said : “Master, what is this which now I hear ?

     What folk is this,which seems by pain so vanquished?”

And he to me: “This miserable mode

          Maintain the melancholy souls of those                 35

          Who lived withouten infamy or praise.

Commingled are they with that caitaff choir

          Of Angels, who have not rebellious been,

          Nor faithful were to God, but were for self.

The heavens expelled them, not to be less fair ;              40

          Nor them the nethermore abyss receives,

          For glory none the damned would have from them.”

And I: “O Master, what so grievious is

          To these, that maketh them lament so sore ?”

          He answered: “I will tell thee very briefly.               45

These have no longer any hope of death ;

          And this blind life of theirs is so debased,

          They envious are of every other fate.

No fame of them the world permits to be ;

          Misericord and Justice both disdain them.             50

          Let us not speak of them, but look, and pass.”

And I, who looked again, beheld a banner,

          Which whirling round, ran on so rapidly,

          That of all pause it seemed to me indignant ;

And after it there came so long a train                             55

          Of people, that I ne’er would have believed

          That ever Death so many had undone.

When some among them I had recognized,

          I looked, and I beheld the shade of him

          Who made through cowardice the great refusal.      60

Forthwith I comp[rehended, and was certain,

          That this the sect was of the caitaff wretches

          Hateful to God and to his enemies.

These miscreants, who were never alive,

          Were naked, and stung exceedingly                        65

          By gadflies and by hornets that were there.

These did their faces irrigate with blood,

          Which, with their tears commingled, at their feet

          By the disgusting worms was gathered up.

And when to gazing farther I betook me,                          70

          People I saw on a great river’s bank ;

          Whence said I: “Master, now vouchsafe to me,

That I may know who these are, and what law

          Makes them appear so ready to pass over,

          As I discern athwart the dusky light.”                     75

And he to me: “These things shall all be known

          To thee , as soon as we our footsteps stay

          Upon the dismal shores of Acheron.”

Then with mine eyes ashamed and downward cast,

          Fearing my words might irksome be to him,            80

          From speech refrained I till we reached the river.

And Lo ! towards us coming in aboat

          An old man, hoary with the hair of eld,

          Crying: “Woe unto you, ye souls depraved !

Hope nevermore to look upon the heavens ;                    85

          I come to lead you to the other shore,

          To the eternal shades in heat and frost.

And thou, that yonder standest, living soul,

          Withdraw thee from these people who are not dead !”

          But when he saw that I did not withdraw,               90

He said: “By other ways, by other ports

          Thou to the shore shalt come, not here, for passage ;

          A lighter vessel needs must carry thee.”

And unto him the Guide: “Vex thee not, Charon ;

          It is so willed there where is power to do                95

          That which is willed; and farther question not.”

Thereat were quieted the fleecy cheeks

          of himthe ferryman of the livid fen,

          Who round about his eyes had wheels of flame.

But all those souls who weary were and naked               100

          Their color changed and gnashed their teeth together,

          As soon as they had heard those cruel words.

God they blasphemed and their progenitors,

          The human race, the place, the time, the seed

          Of their endgendering and of their birth !              105

Thereafter all together they drew back,

          Bitterly weeping, to the accursed shore,

          Which waiteth every man who fears not God.

Charon the demon, with the eyes of glede,

          Beckoning to them, collects them all together,      110

          Beats with his oar whoever lags behind.

As in the autumn-time the leaves fall off,

          First one and then another, till the branch

          Unot the earth surrenders all its spoils ;

In similar wise the evil seed of Adam                             115

          Throw themselves from that margin one by one,

          At signals, as abird unot its lure.

So they depart across the dusky wave,

          And ere upon the other side they land,

          Again on this side a new troop assembles.            120

“My son,” the courteous master said to me,

          “All those who perish in the wrath of God

          Here meet together out of every land ;

And ready are they to pass o’er the river,

          Because celestial Justice spurns them on,           125

          So that their fear is turned into desire.

This way there never passes a good soul ;

          And hence if Charon doth complain of thee,

          Well mayst thou know now what his speech imports.”

This being finished, all the dusk champaign                   130

          Trembled so violently, that of terror

          The recollection bathes me still with sweat.

The land of tears gave forth a blast of wind,

          And fulminated a vermilion light,

          Which overmastered in me every sense,               135

And as a man whom sleep hath seized I fell.



BROKE the deep lethargy within my head

          A heavy thunder, so that I upstarted,

          Like to a person who by force is wakened ;

And round about I moved my rested eyes,

          Uprisen erect, and steadfastly  I gazed,                    5

          To recognize the place wherin I was.

True is it, that upon the verge I found me

          Of the abysmal valley dolorous,

          That gathers thunder of infinite ululations.

Obscure, profound it was, and nebulous,                         10

          So that by fixing on its depths my sight

          Nothing whatever I discerned therein.

“Let us descend now into the blind world,”

          Began the Poet, pallid utterly ;

          “I will be the first, and thou shalt second be.”        15

And I, who of his color was aware,

          Said: “How shall I come, if thou art afraid,

          Who’rt wont to be a comfort to my fears ?”

And he to me: “The anguish of the people

          Who are below here in myface depicts                    20

          That pity which for terror thou hast taken.

Let us go on, for the long way impels us.”

          Thus he went in, and thus he made me enter

          The foremost circle that surrounds the abyss.

There, in so far as I had power to hear,                           25

          Were lamentations none, but only sighs,

          That tremulous made the everlasting air.

And this arose from sorrow without torment,

          Which the crowds had, that many were and great,

          Of which infants and of women and of men.            30

To me the Master good: “Thou dost not ask

          What spirits these, which thou beholdest, are?”

          Now will I have thee know, ere thou go farther,

That they sinned not; and if merit had,

          ‘T is not enough, because they had not baptism,     35

          Which is the portal of the Faith thou holdest ;

And if they were before Christianity,

          In the right manner they adored not God ;

          And among such as these am I myself.

For such defects, and not for other guilt,                         40

          Lost are we, and are only so far punished,

          That without hope we live on in desire.”

Great grief seized on my heart when this I heard,

          Because some people of much worthiness

          I knew, who in that Limbo were suspended.            45

“Tell me, my Master, tell me, thou my Lord,”

          Began I, with desire of being certain

          Of that Faith which o’ercometh every error,

“Came any one by his own merit hence,

          Or by another’s, who was blessed thereafter ?”       50

          And he, who understood my covert speech,

Replied: “I was a novice in this state,

          When I saw hither come a Mighty One,

          With sign of victory incoronate.

Hence he drew forth the shade of the First Parent,          55

          And that of his son Abel, and of Noah,

          Of Moses the lawgiver, and the obedient

Abraham, patriarch, and David, king,

          Israel with his father and children,

          And Rachel, for whose sake he did so much,           60

And others many, and he made them blessed ;

          And thou must know, that earlier than these

          Never were any human spirits saved.”

We ceased not to advance because he spake,

          But still were passing onward through the forest,   65

          The forest, say I, of thick-crowded ghosts.

Not very far as yet our way had gone

          This side the summit, when I saw a fire

          That overcame a hemisphere of darkness.

We were a little distant from it still,                                70

          But not so far that I in part discerned not

          That honorable people held that place.

“O thou who honorest every art and science,

          Who may these be, which such great honor have,

          That from the fashion of the rest it parts them ?”   75

And he to me: “The honorable name,

          That sounds of them above there in thy life,

          Wins grace in Heaven, that so advances them.”

In the mean time a voice was heard by me :

          “All honor be to the pre-eminent Poet ;                  80

          His shade returns again, that was departed. :”

After the voice had ceased and quiet was,

          Four mighty shades I saw approaching us ;

          Semblance had they nor sorrowful nor glad.

To say to me began my gracious Master :                         85

          “Him with that falchion in his hand behold,

          Who comes before the three, even as their lord.

That one is Homer, poet sovereign ;

          He who comes next is Horace, the satirist ;

          The third is Ovid, and the last is Lucan.                 90

Because to each of these with me applies

          The name that solitary voice proclaimed,

          They do me honor, and in that do well .”

Thus I beheld assemble the fair school

          Of that lord of the song pre-eminent,                     95

          Who o’er the others like an eagle soars.

When they together had discoursed somewhat,

           They turned to me with signs of salutation,

          And on beholding this, my Master smiled ;

And of more honor still, much more, they did me,          100

          In that they made me one of their own band ;

          So that the sixth was I, ‘mid so much wit.

Thus we went on as far as to the light,

          Things saying ‘t is becoming to keep silent,

          As was the saying of them where I was.                105

We came unto a noble castle’s foot,

          Seven times encompassed with lofty walls,

          Defended round by a fair rivulet ;

This we passed over even as firm ground ;                     109

          Through portals seven I entered with these Sages ;

          We came into a meadow of fresh verdure.

People were there with solemn eyes and slow,

          Of great authority in their countenance ;

          They spake but seldom, and with gentle voices.

Thus we withdrew ourselves upon one side                    115

          Into an opening luminous and lofty,

          So that they all of them were visible.

There opposite, upon the green enamel,

          Were pointed out to me the mighty spirits,

          Whom to have seen I feel myself exalted.             120

I saw Electra with companions many,

          ‘Mongst whom I knew both Hector and Aeneas,

          Caesar in armor with gerfalcon eyes ;

I saw Camilla and Penthesilea

          On the other side, and saw the King Latinus,       125

          Who with Lavinia his daughter sat ;

I saw that Brutus who drove Tarquin forth,

          Lucretia, Julia, Marcia, and Cornelia,

          And saw alone, apart, the Saladin.

When I had lifted up my brows a little,                          130

          The master I beheld of those who know,

          Sit with his philosophic family.

All gaze upon him, and all do him honor.

          There I beheld both Socrates and Plato,

          Who nearer him before the others stand ;             135

Democritus, who puts the world on chance,

          Diogenes, Anaxagoras, and Thales,

          Zeno, Empedocles, and Heraclitus ;

Of qualities I saw the good collector,

          Hight Dioscorides ; and Orpheus saw I,                140

          Tully and Livy, and moral Seneca,

Euclid, geometrician, and Ptolemy,

          Galen, Hippocrates, and Avicenna,

          Averroes, who the great Comment made.

I cannot all of them portray in full,                                145

          Because so drives me onward the long theme,

          That many times the world comes short of fact.

The sixfold company in two divides ;

          Another way my sapient Guide conducts me

          Forth from the quiet to the air that trembles ;      150

And to a place I come where nothing shines.



THUS I descended out of the first circle

          Down to the second, that less space begirds,

          And so much greater dole, that goads to wailing.

There standeth Minos horribly, and snarls ;

          Examines the transgressions at the entrance ;        5

          Judges, and sends according as he girds him.

I say, that when the spirit evil-born

          Cometh before him, wholly it confesses ;

          And this discriminator of transgressions

Seeth what place in Hell is meet for it ;                           10

          Girds himself with his tail as many times

          As grades he wishes it should be thrust down.

Always before him many of them stand ;

          They go by turns each one unto the judgement ;     14

          They speak, and hear, and then are downward hurled.

“O thou, that to this dolorous hostelry

          Comest,” said Minos to me, when he saw me,

          Leaving the practice of so great an office,

“Look how thou enterest, and in whom thou trustest ;

          Let not the portal’s amplitude deceive thee.”          20

          And unto him my Guide: “Why criest thou too?

Do not impede his journey fate-ordained ;

          It is so willed there where is power to do

          That which is willed ; and ask no further question.”

And now begin the dolesome notes to grow                      25

          Audible unto me ; now am I come

          There where much lamentation strikes upon me.

I came into a place mute of all light,

          Which bellows as the sea does in a tempest,

          If by opposing winds ‘t is combated.                        30

The infernal hurricane that never rests

          Hurtles the spirits onward in its rapine ;

          Whirling them round, and smiting, it molests them.

When they arrive before the precipice,                             34

          There are the shrieks, the plaints, and the laments,

          There they blaspheme the puissance divine.

I understood that unto such a torment

          The carnal malefactors were condemned,

          Who reason subjugate to appetite.

And as the wings of starlings bear them on                     40

          In the cold season in large band and full,

          So doth that blast the spirits maledict ;

It hither, thither, downward, upward, drives them ;

          No hope doth comfort them forevermore,

          Not of repose, but even of lesser pain.                   45

And as the cranes go chanting forth their lays,

          Making in air a long line of themselves,

          So saw I coming, uttering lamentations,

Shadows borne onward by the aforesaid stress.

          Whereupon said I: “Master, who are those             50

          People, whom the black air so castigates ?”

“The first of those, of whom intelligence

          Thou fain wouldst have,” thensaid he unto me,

          “The empress was of many languages.

To sensual vices she was so abandoned,                         55

          That lustful she made licit in her law,

          To remove the blame to which she been led.

She is Semiramis, of whom we read

          That she succeeded Ninus, and was his spouse ;

          She held the land which now the Sultan rules.       60

The next is she who killed herself for love,

          And broke faith with the ashes of Sichaeus ;

          Then Cleopatra the voluptuous.”

Helen I saw, for whom so many ruthless

          Seasons revolved ; and saw the Great Achilles,      65

          Who at the last hour combated with Love.

Paris I saw, and Tristan ; and more than a thousand

          Shades did he name and point out with his finger,

          Whom Love had seperated from our life.

After that I had listened to my Teacher,                           70

          Naming the dames of elds and cavaliers,

          Pity prevailed, and I was nigh bewildered.

And I began : “O Poet, willingly

          Speak would I to those two, who go together,

          And seem upon the wind to be so light.”                 75

And he to me: “Thou’lt mark, when they shall be

          Nearer to us ; and then do thou implore them

          By love which leadeth them, and they will come.”

Soon as the wind in our direction sways them,

          My voice uplift I : “O ye weary souls !                     80

          Come spaek to us, if no one interdicts it.”

As turtle-doves, called onward by desire,

          With open and steady wings to the sweet nest

          Fly through the air by their volition borne,

So came they from the band where Dido is,                     85

          Approaching us athwart the air malign,

          So strong was the affectionate appeal.

“O living creature gracious and benignant,

          Who visiting goest through the purple air

          Us, who have stained the world incarnadine,          90

If were the King of the Universe our friend,

          We would pray unto him to give thee peace,

          Since thou hast pity on our woe perverse.

Of what it pleases thee to hear and speak,

          That will we hear, and we will speak to you,            95

          While silent is the wind, as it is now.

Sitteth the city, wherein I was born,

          Upon the sea-shore where the Po descends

          To rest in peace with all his retinue.

Love, that on gentle heart doth swiftly seize,                 100

          Seized this man for the person beautiful

      That was ta’en from me, and still the mode offends me.

Love, that exempts no one beloved from loving,

          Seized me with pleasure of this man so strongly,

          That, as thou seest, it doth not yet desert me ;    105

Love, has conducted us unto one death ;

          Caina waiteth him who quenched our life !”

          These words were borne along from them to us.

As soon as I had heard those souls tormented,

          I bowed my face, and so long held it down             110

          Until the Poet said to me: “What thinkest ?”

When I made answer, I began: “Alas !

          How many pleasant thoughts, how much desire,

          Conducted these unto the dolorous pass !”

Then unto them I turned me, and I spake,                     115

          And I began : “Thine agonies, Francesca,

          Sad and compassionate to weeping make me.

But tell me, at the time of those sweet sighs,

          By what and in what manner Love conceeded,

          That you should know your dubious desires ?”      120

And then she to me : “There is no greater sorrow

          Than to be mindful of the happy time

          In misery, and that thy Teacher knows.

But, if to recognize the earliest root

          Of love in us thou hast so great a desire,             125

          I will do even as he who weeps and speaks.

One day we reading were for our delight

          Of Launcelot, how Love did him enthrall.

          Alone we were and without any fear.

Full many a time our eyes together drew                        130

          That reading, and drove the color from our faces ;

          But one point only was it that o’ercame us.

Whenas we read of the much longed-for smile

          Being by such a noble lover kissed,

          This one, who ne’er from me shall be divided,       135

Kissed me upon the mouth all palpitating.

          Galeotto was the book and he who wrote it.

          That day no farther did we read therein.”

And all the while one spirit uttered this,

          The other one did weep so, that, for pity,              140

          I swooned away as if I had been dying,

And fell, even as a dead body falls.



AT the return of consciousness, that closed

          Before the pity of those two relations,

          Which utterly with sadness had confused me,

New torments I behold, and new tormented

          Around me, whichsoever way I move,                        5

          And whichsoever way I turn, and gaze.

In the third circle am I of the rain

          Eternal, maledict, and cold, heavy ;

          Its law and quality are never new.

Huge hail, and water sombre-hued, and snow,                 10

          Athwart the tenebrous air pour down amain ;

          Noisome the earth is, that receiveth this.

Cerberus, monster cruel and uncouth,

          With his three gullets like a dog is barking

          Over the people that are there submerged.             15

Red eyes he has, and unctuous beard and black,

          And belly large, and armed with claws his hands ;

          He rends the spirits, flays, and quarters them.

Howl the rain maketh them like unto dogs ;

          One side they make a shelter for the other ;           20

          Oft turn themselves the wretched reprobates.

When Cerberus perceived us, the great worm !

          His mouths he opened, and displayed his tusks ;

          Not a limb had he that was motionless.

And my Conductor, with his spans extended,                   25

          Took of the earth, and with his fists well filled,

          He threw it into those rapacious gullets.

Such as that dog is, who by barking craves,

          And quiet grows soon as his food he gnaws,

          For to devour it he but thinks and struggles,          30

The like became those muzzles filth-begrimed

          Of Cerberus the demon, who so thunders

          Over the souls that they would fain be deaf.

We passed across the shadows, which subdues

          The heavy rain-storm, and we placed our feet         35

          Upon their vanity that person seems.

They all were lying prone upon the earth,

          Excepting one, who sat upright as soon

          As he beheld us passing on before him.

“O thou that art conducted through this Hell,”                40

          He said to me, “recall me, if thou canst ;

          Thyself wast made before I was unmade.”

And I to him : “The anguish which thou hast

          Perhaps doth draw thee out of my remembrance,

          So that it seems not I have even seen thee.           45

But tell me who thou art, that in so doleful

          A place art put, and in such punishment,

          If some are greater, none is so displeasing.”

And he to me : “Thy city, which is full

          Of envy so that now the sacks runneth over,          50

          Held me within it the life serene.

You citizens were wont to call me Ciacco ;

          For the pernicious sin of gluttony

          I, as thou seest, am battered by this rain.

And I, sad soul, am not the only one,                              55

          For all these suffer the like penalty

          For the like sin”; and word no more spake he.

I answered him: “Ciacco, thy wretchedness

          Weighs on me so that it to weep invites me ;

          But tell me, if thou knowest, to what shall come    60

The citizens of the divided city ;

          If any there be just ; and the occasion

          Tell me why so much discord has assailed it.”

And he to me: “They, after long contention,

          Will come to bloodshed; and the rustic party          65

          Will drive the other out with much offence.

Then afterwards behoves it this one fall

          Within three suns, and rise again the other

          By force of him who now is on the coast.

High will it hold its forehead a long while,                       70

          Keeping the other under heavy burdens,

          Howe’er it weeps thereat and is indignant.

The just are two, and are not understood there ;

          Envy and Arrogance and Avarice                              74

          Are the three sparks that have all hearts enkindled.”

Here ended he his fearful utterance ;

          And I to him: “I wish thee still to teach me,

          And make a gift to me of further speeach.

Farinata and Tegghiaio, once so worthy,

          Jacopo Rusticetti, Arrigo, and Mosca,                     80

          And others who go on good deeds set their thoughts,

Say where they are, and cause that I may know them ;

          For great desire constraineth me to learn

          If Heaven doth sweeten them, or Hell envenom.”

And he: “They are among the blacker souls ;                    85

          A different sin downweighs them to the bottom ;

          If thou so far descendest, thou canst see them.

But when thou art again in the sweet world,

          I pray thee to the mind of others bring me ;

          No more I tell thee and no more I answer.”            90

Then his straightforward eyes he turned askance,

          Eyed me a little, and then bowed his head ;

          He fell therewith prone like the other blind.

And the Guide said to me: “He wakes no more

          This side the sound of the angelic trumpet ;           95

          When shall approach the hostile Potentate,

Each one shall find againhis dismal tomb,

          Shall reassume his flesh and his own figure,

          Shall we hear what through eternity re-echoes.”

So we passed onward o’er the filthy mixture                  100

          Of shadows and of rain with footsteps slow,

          Touching a little on the future life.

Wherefore I said: “Master, these torments here,

          Will they increase after the mighty sentence,

          Or lesser be, or will they be as burning ?”             105

And he to me: “Return to thy science,

          Which wills, that as the thing more perfect is,

          The more it feels of pleasure and pain.

Albeit that this people maledict

          To true perfection never can attain,                      110

          Hereafter more than now they look to be.”

Round in a circle by that road we went,

          Speaking much more, which I do not repeat ;

          We came unto the point where descent is ;

There we found Plutus the great enemy.                        115



“PAPE Satan, Pape Satan, Aleppe !”

          Thus Pltus with his clucking voice began ;

          And that benignant Sage, who all things knew,

Said, to encourage me: “Let not thy fear

          Harm thee ; For any power that he may have            5

          Shall not prevent thy going down this crag.”

Then he turned round unto that bloated lip,

          And said: “Be silent, thou accursed wolf ;

          Consume within thyself with thine own rage.

Not causeless is the journey to the abyss ;                     10

          Thus is it willed on high, where Michael wrought

          Vengeance upon the proud adultery.”

Even as the sails inflated by the wind

          Together fall involved when snaps the mast,

          So fell the cruel monster to the earth.                    15

Thus we descended into the fourth chasm,

          Gaining still farther on the dolesome shore

          Which all the woe of the universe insacks.

Justice of God, ah ! who heaps up so many

          New toils and sufferings as I beheld ?                    20

          And why doth our transgression waste us so ?

As doth the billow there upon Charybdis,

          That breaks itself on that which it encounters,

          So here the folk must dance their roundelay.

Here saw I people, more than elsewhere, many,              25

          On one side and the other, with great howls,

          Rolling weights forward by main-force of chest.

They clashed together, and then at that point

          Each one turned backward, rolling retrograde,         29

       Crying,” Why keepest?” and, “Why squanderest thou ?”

Thus they returned along the lurid circle

          On either hand unto the opposite point,

          Shouting their shameful metre evermore.

Then each, when he arrived there, wheeled about

          Through his half-circle to another joust ;                35

          And I, who had my heart pierced as it were,

Exclaimed: “My Master, now declare to me

          What people these are, and if all were clerks,

          These shaven crowns upon the left of us.”

And he to me: “All of them were asquint                          40

          In intellect in the first life, so much

          That there with measure they no spending made.

Clearly enough their voices bark it forth,

          Whene’er they reach the two points of the circle,

          Where sunders them the opposite defect.               45

Clerks those were who no hairy covering

          Have on the head, and Popes and Cardinals,

          In whom doth avarice practise its excess.”

And I: “My Master, among such as these

          I ought forsooth to recognoze some few,                 50

          Who were infected with these maladies.”

And he to me: “Vain thought thou entertainest ;

          The undiscerning life which made them sordid

          Now makes them unto all discernment dim.

Forever shall they come to these two buttings ;               55

          These from the sepulchre shall rise again

          With the fist closed, and these with tresses shorn.

Ill giving and ill keeping the fair world

      Have ta’en from them, and placed them in this scuffle ;

          Whate’er it be, no words adorn I for it.                   60

Now canst thou, Son, behold the transient farce

          Of goods that are committed unto Fortune,

          For which the human race each other buffet ;

For all the gold that is beneath the moon,

          Or ever has been, of these weary souls                  65

          Could never make a single one repose.”

“Master,”  I said to him, “now tell me also

          What is this Fortune which thou speakest of,

          That has the world’s goods so within its clutches ?”

And he to me: “O creatures imbecile,                               70

          What ignorance is this which doth beset you ?

          Now will I have thee learn my judgement of her.

He whose omniscience everything transcends

       The heavens created, and gave who should guide them,

          That every part to every part may shine,                 75

Distributing the light in equal measure ;

          He in like manner to the mundane splendors

          Ordained a general ministress and guide,

That she might change at times the empty treasures

          From race to race, from one blood to another,         80

          Beyond resistanceof all human wisdom.

Therefore one people triumphs, and another

          Languishes, in pursuance of her judgement,

          Which hidden is, as in the grass a serpent.

Your knowledge has no counterstand against her ;          85

          She makes provision, judges, and pursues

          Her governance, as theirs the other gods.

Her permutations have not any trucce ;

          Necessity makes her precipitate,

          So often cometh who his turn obtains.                   90

And this is she who so crucified

          Even by those who ought to give her priase,

          Giving her blame amiss, and bad repute.

But she is blissful, and she hears it not ;

          Among the other primal creatures gladsome           95

          She turns her sphere, and blissful she rejoices.

Let us descend now unto greater woe ;

          Already sinks each star that was ascending

          When I set out, and loitering is forbidden.”

We crossed the circle to the other bank,                        100

          Near toa fount that boils, and pours itself

          Along a gully that runs out of it.

The water was more sombre far than perse ;

          And we, in company with the dusky waves,

          Made entrance downward by a path uncouth.        105

A marsh it makes, which has the name of Styx,

          This tristful brooklet, when it has descended

          Down to the foot of the malign gray shores.

And I, who stood intent upon beholding,

          Saw people mud-besprent in that lagoon,              110

          All of them naked and with angry look.

They smote each other not alone with hands,

          But with the head and with the breast and feet,

          Tearing each other piecemeal with their teeth.

Said the good Master: “Son, thou now beholdest            115

          The souls of those whom anger overcame ;

          And likewise I would have thee know for certain

Beneath the water people are who sigh

          And make this water bubble at the surface,

          As the eye tells thee wheresoe’er it turns.            120

Fixed in the mire they say, ‘We sullen were

          In the sweet air, which by the sun is gladdened,

          Bearing within ourselves the sluggish reek ;

Now we are sullen in this sable mire.’

          This hymn do they keep gurgling in their throats,  125

          For with unbroken words they cannot say it.”

Thus we went circling round the filthy fen

          A great arc ‘twixt the dry bank and the swamp,

          With eyes turned unto those who gorge the mire ;

Unto the foot of a tower we came at last.                       130



I SAY, continuing, that long before

          We to the foot of that high tower had come,

          Our eyes went upward to the summit of it,

By reason of two flamelets we saw placed there,

          And from afar another answer them,                        5

          So far, that hardly could the eye attain it.

And, to the sea of all discernment turned,

          I said: “What sayeth this, and what respondeth

          That other fire ? and who are they that made it?”

And he to me: “Across the turbid waves                           10

          What is expected thou canst now discern,

          If reek of the morass conceal it not.”

Cord never shot an arrow from itself

          That sped away athwart the air so swift,

          As I beheld a very little boat                                   15

Come o’er the water tow’rds us at that moment,

          Under the guidance of a single pilot,

          Who shouted, “Now art thou arrived, fell soul ?”

“Phlegyas, Phlegyas, thou criest out in vain                     19

          For this once,” said my Lord ; “thou shalt not have us

          Longer than in the passing of the slough.”

As he who listens to some great deceit

          That has been done to him, and then resents it,

`          Such became Phlegyas, in his gathered wrath.

My Guide descended down into the boat,                         25

          And then he made me enter after him,

          And only when I enetered seemed it laden.

Soon as the Guide and I were in the boat,

          The antique prow goes on its way, dividing

          More of the water than ‘t is wont with others.        30

While we were running through the dead canal,

          Uprose in front of me one full of mire,

          And said, “Who’rt thou that comest ere the hour ?”

And I to him: “Although I come, I stay not ;

          But who art thou that hast become so squalid ?”    35

          “Thou seest that I am one who weeps,” he answered.

And I to him: “With weeping and with wailing,

          Thou spirit maledict, do thou remain ;

          For thee I know, though thou art all defiled.”

Then stretched he both his hands unto the boat ;           40

          Whereat my wary Master thrust him back,

          Saying, “Away there with the other dogs !”

Thereafter with his arms he clasped my neck ;

          He kissed my face, and said : “Disdainful soul,

          Blessed be she who bore thee in her bosom.          45

That was an arrogant person in the world ;

          Goodness is none, that decks his memory ;

          So likewise here his shade is furious.

How many are esteemed great kings up there,

          Who here shall be like unto swine in mire,             50

          Leaving behind them horrible dispraises !”

And I : “My Master, much should I be pleased,

          If I could see him soused in this broth,

          Before we issue forth out of the lake.”

And he to me : “Ere unto thee the shore                          55

          Reveal itself, thou shalt be satisfied ;

          Such a desire ‘t is meet thou shouldst enjoy.”

A little after that, isaw such havoc

          Made of him by the people of the mire,

          That still I praise and thank my God for it.             60

They were all shouting, “At Phillipo Argenti !”

          And that exasperate spirit Florentine

          Turned round upon himself with his own teeth.

We left him there, and more of him I tell not ;

          But on mine ears there smote a lamentation,         65

          Whence forward I intent unbar mine eyes.

And the good Master said : “Even now, my son,

          The city draweth near whose name is Dis,

          With the grave citizens, with the great throng.”

And I : “Its mosques already, Master, clearly                   70

          Within there in the valley I discern

          Vermilion, as if issuing from the fire

They were.” And he to me : “The fire eternal

          That kindles them within makes them look red,

          As thou beholdest in this nether Hell.”                  75

Then we arrived within the moats profound,

          That circumvallate that disconsolate city ;

          The walls appeared to made of Iron.

Not without making first acircuit wide,

          We came to a place where loud the pilot                 80

          Cried out to us, “Debark, here is the entrance.”

More than a thousand at the gates I saw

          Out of the Heavens rained down, who angrily

          Were saying, “Who is this that without death

Goes through the kingdom of the people dead ?”              85

          And my sagacious Master made a sign

          Of wishing secretly to speak with them.

A little then they quelled their great disdain,

          And said : “Come thou alone, and he begone

          Who has so boldly enetered these dominions.        90

Let him return alone by his mad road ;

          Try, if he can ; for thou shalt here remain,

          Who hast escorted him through such dark regions.”

Think, Reader, if I was discomforted

          At utterance of the accursed words ;                       95

          For never to return here I believed.

“O my dear Guide, who more than seven times

          Hast rendered me security, and drawn me

          From imminent peril that before me stood,

Do not desert me,” said I, “thus undone ;                      100

          And if the going farther be denied us,

          Let us retrace our steps together swiftly.”

And that Lord, who had led me thitherward,

          Said unto me : “Fear not ; because our passage

          None can take from us, it by Such is given.           105

But here await me, and thy weary spirit

          Comfort and nourish with a better hope ;

          For in this nether world I will not leave thee.”

So onward goes and there abandons me

          My Father sweet, and I remain in doubt,               110

          For No and Yes within my head contend.

I could not hear what he proposed to them ;

          But with them there he did not linger long,

          Ere each within rivalry ran back.

They closed the portals, those our adversaries,              115

          On my Lord’s breast, who had remained without

          And turned to me with footsteps far between.

His eyes cast down, his forehead shorn had he

          Of all its boldness, and he said, with sighs,

          “Who has denied to me the dolesome houses ?”   120

And unto me : “Thou, because I am angry,

          Fear not, for I will conquer in the trial,

          Whatever for defence within will be planned.

This arrogance of theirs is nothing new ;

          For once they used it at less secret gate,              125

          Which finds itself without fastening still.

O’er it didst thou behold the dead inscription ;

          And now this side of it descends the steep,

          Passing across the circles without escort,

One by whose means the city shall be opened.”             130



THAT hue which cowardice brought out on me,

          Beholding my Conductor backward turn,

          Sooner repressed within him his new color.

He stopped attentive, like a man who listens,

          Because the eye could not conduct him far               5

          Through the black air, and through the heavy fog.

“Still it behooveth us to win the fight,”

          Began he ; “Else...Such offered us herself...

          O how I long that some one here arrive !”

Well I perceived, as soon as the beginning                      10

          He covered up with what came afterward,

          That they were words quite different from the first ;

But none the less his saying gave me fear,

          Because I carried out the broken phrase,

          Perhaps to a worse meaning than he had.              15

“Into this bottom of the doleful conch

          Doth any e’er descend from the first grade,

          Which for its pain has only hope cut off ?”

This question put I ; and he answered me :

          “Seldom it comes to pass that one of us                 20

          Maketh the journey upon which I go.

True is it, once before I here below

          Was conjured by that pitiless Erichto,

          Who summoned back the shades unto their bodies.

Naked of me short while the flesh had been,                   25

          Before within that wall she made me enter,

          To bring a spirit from the circle of Judas ;

That is the lowest region and the darkest,

          And farthest from the Heaven which circles all.

          Well know I the way ; therefore be reassured.         30

This fen, which a prodigious stench exhales,

          Encompases about the city dolent,

          Where now we cannot enter without anger.”

And more he said, but not in mind I have it ;

          Because mine eye had altogether drawn me            35

          Tow’rds the high tower with the flaming red summit,

Where in a moment saw I swift uprisen

          The three infernal Furies stained with blood,

          Who the limbs of women and their mein,

And with the greenest hydras were begirt ;                      40

          Small serpents and cerastes were their tresses,

          Wherewith their horrid temples were entwined.

And he who well the handmaids of the Queen

          Of everlasting lamentation knew,

          Said unto me : “Behold the fierce Erinnys.              45

This is Megaera, on the left-hand side ;

          She who is weeping on the right, Alecto ;

          Tisiphone is between” ; and then was silent.

Each one her breast was rending with her nails ;

       They beat them with their palms, and cried so loud, 50

          That I for dread pressed close unot the Poet.

“Medusa come, so we to stone will change him !”

          All shouted looking down ; “in evil honor

          Avenged we not on Theseus his assault !”

“Turn thyself round, and keep thine eyes close shut,       55

          For if the Gorgon appear, and thou shouldst see it,

          No more returning upward would there be.”

Thus said the Master ; and he turned me round

          Himself, and trusted not unto my hands

          So far as not to blind me with his own.                   60

O ye who have undistempered intellects,

          Observe the doctrine that conceals itself

          Beneath the veil of the mysterious verses !

And now there came across the turbid waves

          The clangor of a sound with terror fraught,             65

          Because of which both of the margins trembled ;

Not otherwise it was than of a wind

          Impetuous on account of adverse heats,

          That smites the forest, and without retraint,

The branches rends, beats down, and bears away ;          70

          Right onward, laden with dust, it goes superb,

          And puts to flight the wild beasts and the shepherds.

Mine eyes he loosed, and said : “Direct the nerve

          Of vision now along that ancient foam,

          There yonder where that smoke is most intense.”   75

Even as the frogs before the hostile serpent

          Across the water scatter all abroad,

          Until each one is huddled in the earth,

More than a thousand ruined souls I saw,

          Thus fleeing from before one who on foot                80

          Was passing  o’er the Styx with soles unwet.

From off his face he fanned that unctuous air,

          Waving his left hand oft in front of him,

          And only with that anguish seemed he weary.

Well I perceived one sent from Heaven was he,               85

          And to the Master turned ; and he made sign

          That I should quiet stand, and bow before him.

Ah ! how disdainful he appeared to me !

          He reached the gate, and with a little rod

          He opened it, for there was no resistance.              90

“O banished out of Heaven, people despised !”

          Thus he began upon the horrid threshold ;

          “Whence is this arrogance within you couched ?”

Wherefore recalcitrate against that will,

          From which the end can never be cut off,                95

          And which has many times increased your pain ?

What helpeth it to butt against the fates ?

          Your Cerberus, if you remember well,

          For that still bears his chin and gullet peeled.”

Then he returned along the miry road,                           100

          And spake no word to us, but had the look

          Of one whom other care constrains and goads

Than that of him who in his presence is ;

          And we our feet directed tow’rds the city,

          After those holy words all confident.                     105

Within we entered without any contest;

          And I, who inclination had to see

          What the condition such a fortress holds,

Soon as I was within, cast round mine eye,

          And see on every hand an ample plain,                 110

          Full of distress and torment terrible.

Even as at Arles, where stagnant grows the Rhone,

          Even as at Pola near to the Quarnaro,

          That shuts in Italy and bathes its borders,

That sepulchres make all the place uneven ;                  115

          So likewise did they there on every side,

          Saving that there the manner was more bitter ;

For flames between the sepulchres were scattered,

          By which they so intensely heated were,

          That iron more so asks not any art.                      120

All of their coverings uplifted were,

          And from them issued forth such dire laments,

          Sooth seemed they of the wretched and tormented.

And I : “My  Master, what are all those people

          Who, having sepulture within those tombs,          125

          Make themselves audible by doleful sighs ?”

And he to me : “Here are the Heresiarchs,

          With their disciples of all sects, and much

          More than thou thinkest laden are the tombs.

Here like together with its like is buried ;                      130

          And more and less the monuments are heated.”

          And when he to the right had turned, we passed

Between the torments and high parapets.



NOW onward goes, along a narrow path

          Between the torments and the city wall,

          My Master, and I follow at his back.

“O power supreme, that through these impious circles

          Turnest me,”  I began, “as pleases thee,                  5

          Speak to me, and my longings satisfy ;

The people who are lying in these tombs,

          Might they be seen ? already are uplifted

          The covers all, and no one keepeth guard.”

And he to me : “They all will be closed up                        10

          When from Jehosaphat they shall return

          Here with the bodies they have left above.

Their cemetery have upon this side

          With Epicurus all his followers,

          Who with the body mortal make the soul ;              15

But in the question thou dost put to me,

          Within here shalt thou soon be satisfied,

          And likewise in the wish thou keepest silent.”

And I : “Good Leader, I but keep concealed

          From thee my heart, that I may speak the less,      20

          Nor only now hast thou thereto disposed me.”

“O Tuscan, thou who through the city of fire

          Goest alive, thus speaking modestly,

          Be pleased to stay thy footsteps in this place.

Thy mode of speaking makes thee manifest                     25

          A native of that noble fatherland,

          To which perhaps I too molestful was.”

Upon a sudden issued forth this sound

          From out one of the tombs ; wherefore I pressed,

          Fearing, a little nearer to my Leader.                      30

And unto me he said : “Turn thee ; what dost thou ? ”

          Behold there Farinata who was risen ;

          From the waist upwards wholly shalt thou see him.”

I had already fixed mine eyes on his,

          And he uprose erect with breast and front              35

          E’en as if Hell he had in great despite.

And with courageous hands and prompt my Leader

          Thrust me between the sepulchres towards him,

          Exclaiming, “Let thy words explicit be.”

As soon as I was at the front of his tomb,                       40

          Somewhat he eyed me, and, as if disdainful,

          Then asked of me, “Who were thine ancestors ? “

I, who desirous of obeying was,

          Concealed it not, but all revealed to him ;

          Whereat he raised his brows a little upward.          45

Then said he : “Fiercely adverse have they been

          To me, and to my fathers, and my party ;

          So that two several times I scattered them.”

“If they were banished, they returned on all sides,”

          I answered him, “the first time and the second ;     50

          But yours have not acquired that art aright.”

Then there uproise upon the sight, uncovered

          Down to the chin, a shadow at his side ;

          I think that he had risen on his knees.

Round me he gazed, as if solicitude                                 55

          He had to see if someone else were with me ;

          But after his suspicion was all spent,

Weeping, he said to me : “If through this blind

          Prison thou goest by loftiness of genius,                59

          Where is my son? and why is he not here with thee?”

And I to him : “I come not of myself ;

          He who is waiting yonder leads me here,

          Whom in disdain perhaps your Guido had.”

His language and the mode of punishment

          Already unto me had read his name ;                      65

          On that account my answer was so full.

Up starting suddenly, he cried out : “How

          Saidst thou, -he had ? Is he not still alive ?

          Does not the sweet light strike upon his eyes ?”

When he became aware of some delay,                            70

          Which I before my answer made, supine

          He fell again, and forth appeared no more.

But the other, magnanimous, at whose deisre

          I had remained, did not his aspect change,

          Neither his neck he moved, nor bent his side.        75

“And if,” continuing his first discourse,

          “They have that art,” he said, “not learned aright,

          That more tormenteth me, than doth this bed.

But fifty times shall not rekindled be

          The countenance of the Lady who reigns here,        80

          Ere thou shalt know how heavy is that art ;

And as thou wouldst to the sweet world return,

          Say why that people is so pitiless

          Against my race in each one of its laws ? “

Whence I to him : “The slaughter and great carnage         85

          Which have with crimson stained the Arbia, cause

          Such orisons in our temple to be made.”

After his head he with a sigh had shaken,

          “There I was not alone,” he said, “nor surely

          Without a cause had the others moved.                  90

But there I was alone, where every one

          Consented to the laying waste of Florence,

          He who defended her with open face.”

“Ah ! so hereafter may your seed repose,”

          I him entreated, “solve for me that knot,                95

          Which has entangled my perceptions here.

It seems that you can see, If I hear rightly,

          Beforehand whatsoe’er time brings with it,

          And in the present have another mode.”

“We see, like those who have imperfect sight,                100

          The things,” he said, “that distant are from us ;

          So much still shines on us the Sovereign Ruler.

When they draw near, or are, is wholly vain

          Our intellect, and if none brings it to us,

          Not anything know we of your human state.          105

Hence thou canst understand, that wholly dead

          Will be our knowledge from the moment when

          The portal of the future shall be closed.”

Then I, as if compunctious for my fault,

          Said : “Now, then, you will tell that fallen one,     110

          That still his son is with the living joined.

And if just now, in answering, I was dumb,

          Tell him I did it because I was thinking

          Already of the error you have solved me.”

And now my Master was recalling me,                            115

          Wherefore more eagerly I prayed the spirit

          That he would tell me who was with him there.

He said : “With more than a thousand here I lie ;

          Within here is the second Frederick,

          And the Cardinal, and of the rest I speak not.”     120

Theron he hid himself ; and I towards

          The ancient poet turned my steps, reflecting

          Upon that saying, which seemed hostile to me.

He moved along ; and afterward, thus going,

          He said to me, “Why art thou so bewildered ?”      125

          And I in his inquiry satisfied him.

“Let memory preseve what thou hast heard

          Against thyself,” that Sage commanded me,

          “And now attend here” ; and he raised his finger.

“When thou shalt be before the radiance sweet             130

          Of her whose beautous eyes all things behold,

          From her thou’lt know the journey of thy life.”

Unto the left hand then he turned his feet ;

          We left the wall, and went towards the middle,

          Along a path that strikes into a valley,                  135

Which even up there unpleasant made its stench.


Last Updated on 11/2/99
By JR Kerr
Send Comments to


B A C K to the I N D E X