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

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