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."

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