Moving on, I say that long before
We came to the base of that high tower
Our eyes were drawn up to its pinnacle
By two flares which we saw positioned there
While still a third responded to the signal
From so far off the eye could scarcely see it.
And I turned to that sea of all perception;
I asked, "What does this mean? What answer
Does the other make? And who is doing this?"
And he told me, "Above the filthy waves
Already you can sight what waits for us,
Unless the swamp’s thick vapors hide it from you."
Bowspring never fired off an arrow
That streamed through the air with such speed
As did the tiny dinghy that I spotted
Riding that moment toward us on the water,
A single boatman holding it on course.
He screamed, "Now you are caught, wicked soul!"
"Phlegyas, Phlegyas, you shout futilely,"
My lord replied; "this time your hold on us
Will last no longer than crossing on the mire."
And just as one who learns some huge deception
Has been played on him, grows to resent it,
So Phlegyas reacted, restraining his anger.
My guide then stepped down into the boat,
And next he made me enter after him:
Only when I was in did it seem weighted.
As soon as my guide and I embarked,
The ancient prow pushed off, ploughing down
Water more deeply than it does with others.
While we rode over the dead channel
Before me rose a figure smeared with mud
Who asked, "Who are you come before your time?"
And I told him, "I come, but do not stay.
But who are you who are made so ugly?"
He answered, "You see that I am one who weeps."
And I told him, "In weeping and in mourning,
Accursed spirit, there may you remain,
For, filthy as you are, I recognize you."
Then he stretched both his hands out to the boat.
At that my ready master shoved him off,
Saying, "Get away, with the other dogs!"
My guide then put his arms around my neck,
Kissed me, and said, "Soul of indignation,
Blessed is the woman who gave you birth!
"In the world he was a man of arrogance;
Nothing good bedecks his memory:
For that, his shade down here is furious.
"How many up there now think themselves kings
Who here shall wallow in the mud like pigs,
Bequeathing only loathsome disrepute."
And I said, "Master, eagerly would I like
To see that spirit soused within this soup
Before we take our leave of this morass."
And he told me, "Before the future shore
Comes into view, you shall be satisfied,
For it is right that your wish be fulfilled."
Shortly afterward I saw such a tearing
Of that shade by the slimy people there
That still I praise and thank God for it.
All shouted, "Get Filippo Argenti!"
And then the frenzied Florentine spirit
Turned on himself his own biting teeth.
We left him there; I tell no more about him.
But wailing, then, so pounded on my ear
That I intently strained my eyes ahead.
The kindly master said, "Now, my dear son,
The city known as Dis approaches near
With its grave citizens and mighty hosts."
And I: "Master, already I see clearly
There in the valley its mosques glowing
Bright red as if just lifted from the fire."
And he said to me, "The eternal flame,
Burning within, shows them rosy-red,
As you discern, here in this lower hell."
We arrived at last inside the deep ditch
Which moated round that melancholy city,
The walls appearing to me like cast iron.
After we had first made a great circuit,
We came to a spot where the boatman loudly
Cried, "Get out — this is the entry way!"
I saw above the gates more than a thousand
Of those poured out from heaven; they wrathfully
Called, "Who is this one who without dying
"Passes through the kingdom of the dead?"
Then my thoughtful master gave a signal
Of his wish to speak to them in confidence.
At that they barely checked their high disdain
And said, "You come along — let that one go
Who so boldly enters through this realm.
"Let him return alone on his fool’s path —
Try, if he can! For you are staying here
Who guided him into so dark a country."
Reflect, reader, how I lost my courage
When I heard them speak the awful curse,
For I did not think I ever would go back.
"O my dear guide who more than seven times
Brought me back to safety and who drew me
From the deep peril that stood in my way,
"Don’t let me be forsaken so!" I cried,
"And if we are denied to pass on further,
Quickly let us retrace our steps together."
And that lord who had led me to this spot
Said to me, "Have no fear; our passage here
No one can take from us: such is the Donor.
"But wait for me there, your weary spirit
Comforted and nourished with strong hope,
Since I won’t leave you in the lower world."
So he goes off and here abandons me,
My tender father; and I am kept in doubt
While yes and no battle in my brain.
I couldn’t hear what he proposed to them,
But he did not remain with them for long
When they all scrimmaged to get back inside.
These enemies of ours slammed the gate
In my lord’s face; he stood there left outside
And then turned back to me with slow slack steps.
Eyes fastened on the ground and brows shorn bare
Of any boldness, he murmured between sighs,
"Who has forbidden me the house of pain?"
But he informed me, "You — because I’m vexed —
Should not lose heart — I will win this contest
No matter what defense they try within.
"This arrogance of theirs is nothing new,
For once they showed it at a less secret gate
Which still is standing, in full view, unlocked.
"Above that gate you read the deadly writing,
And already, from this side and down the slope,
Passing through the circles without escort,
"Comes one by whom the city will be opened."
"Pape Satan, pape Satan, aleppe!"
Plutus started up with clacking voice,
And that kind sage, who comprehended all,
Spoke for my comfort, "Do not let your fear
Harm you: whatever power he possesses,
He cannot keep us from climbing down this crag."
Then he turned back to that puffed-up face
And said, "Plutus, be still, wretched wolf!
Feed on yourself with your own rabid rage.
"Not without cause we journey to the abyss.
It is so willed on high, there where Michael
Wreaked vengeance on that arrogant rebellion."
As sails billowed by the wind collapse
Into a tangled heap when the mainmast cracks,
So the ruthless beast fell to the ground.
At that we moved on down to the fourth crater,
Taking in more of that grief-stricken slope
Which stacks all the evil of the universe.
Ah, justice of God! Who has heaped up so many
Of the fresh trials and tortures that I saw?
Why does our guilt devour us like this?
Just like the wave, there over Charybdis,
Breaking itself against the wave it strikes,
So must the people here reel out their dance.
Here I saw more shades than I saw above,
On one side and the other, with piercing howls,
Rolling weights shoved forward with their chests.
They smashed against each other. On the spot,
Each whipped around and, rolling the weight back,
Yelled, "Why do you hoard?" or "Why do you splurge?"
With that they wheeled about the dismal circle
On either arc to the opposing point,
Screaming over again their scornful verses.
When they had reached the end of one half-circle,
Each turned around to face the following joust.
And I — my heart all but pierced by the sight —
Spoke up, "My master, now instruct me here.
Who are these people? Were they all clergy,
The tonsured ones there on the left-hand side?"
And he replied, "All these were so squint-eyed
Mentally, in the first life, that they
Were never even-handed in their spending:
"Their voices bark this truth out clearly
When they come to the two points of the circle
Where contrary guilts set them against each other.
"These were the clergy who have no crown of hair
On their heads, both popes and cardinals,
Within whom avarice runs to its extreme."
And I: "Master, among the likes of these
Surely I should recognize some souls
Who were befouled by these same misdeeds."
And he told me, "You entertain vain thoughts.
The imperceptive lives that dirtied them
Now blacken them beyond all perception.
"Forever they will come to double butt:
These men shall rise up from the sepulcher
With tight fists and those men, with shaven heads.
"Ill-giving and ill-keeping stole from them
The lovely world and put them to this strife.
I will not lose fair words describing it.
"Now you can see, my son, the brief foolery
Of the wealth which Fortune holds in trust —
For this the race of men rebuff each other.
"All the gold that lies beneath the moon
And all the gold of old can bring no rest
To a single one of all these wearied spirits."
"Master," I said to him, "now tell me more.
This Fortune whom you touch on with me here,
Who is she with the world’s wealth in her grip?"
And he replied, "O foolhardy creatures,
What immense ignorance trips you up!
Now I want you to absorb my teaching.
"The One whose wisdom transcends everything
Fashioned the heavens and to them gave his guides,
So that one pole shines out to the other,
"Apportioning, in equal measure, light.
In like manner, for splendors of the world,
He ordained a general minister and guide
"To shift around at times the empty wealth,
From country to country and from house to house,
Beyond the watchfulness of human judgment.
"And so one country rules, one languishes,
In obedience to the verdict that she gives,
Which is hidden like a snake in the grass.
"Your wisdom is unable to withstand her:
She ever foresees, judges, and purveys
Her kingdom as the other gods do theirs.
"Her changes never settle for a truce.
Necessity is that which makes her swift,
So rapidly men come to take their turns.
"She is the one so often crucified
Even by those who ought to sing her praises,
But with wrong, wicked voices they cast blame.
"She is blessed, however, and hears nothing.
Rejoicing with the other primal creatures,
She rolls her sphere and revels in her bliss.
"Now let us pass below to deeper pathos.
Already all the stars set that ascended
When I began; we can no longer tarry."
We crossed the circle to the further bank
Above a source that boils up and spills over
Into a gully cut out from its stream.
The water was far darker than black dye;
And we, escorted by the murky waves,
Started down on this strange passageway.
Into the marshland that is called the Styx
Flows this sad stream after running downward
To the base of these ruinous gray slopes.
And I, standing there to stare intently,
Saw in that morass people smeared with mud,
All naked, their faces lined with rage.
They beat each other not just with their hands
But even with their heads and chest and feet
And with their teeth ripped each other to pieces.
My own good master said, "Son, now you see
The souls of those whom anger overpowered.
I also want you to accept for certain
"That under the water there are people sighing
Who make the surface of the water bubble,
As your eye tells you whichever way it turns."
Mired in slime, they moan, "We were morose
In the sweet air made cheerful by the sun;
We bore within ourselves the torpid vapors:
"Now morbid we are made in this black mud."
This canticle they gurgle in their gullets
Since they can’t sound it with full syllables.
So we walked around the wide curving rim
Of that foul pool, between dry bank and bog,
With our eyes turned to those who swallow slime.
We arrived at last at the base of a tower.
Returning to the consciousness I'd lost
In the pathos of those kindred lovers
Whose plight completely baffled me with grief,
I see new sufferings and new suffering souls
5 Surrounding me no matter where I walk,
No matter where I turn or where I look.
I am in the third circle, a place of rain
Accursed, freezing, heavy, and unending:
Its density and direction never change.
10 Huge hailstones, mucky sleet and snow
Keep pouring down through the gloom-filled air
So that the soil that sucks it in is putrid.
Cerberus, that weird and vicious beast,
15 Howls like a mad-dog out of all three throats,
Baying above the people wallowing here.
His eyes are red, his beard is greasy black,
His belly bloated and talon-sharp his hands:
He claws the spirits, skins and splits them up.
The downpour forces them to howl like hounds.
20 Making a shield of one flank, then the other,
The impious wretches flip and flop about.
When the fat worm Cerberus had seen us,
He opened up his mouths and showed his fangs.
He stood there quivering in every muscle.
25 Then my guide, reaching down his hands,
Scooped up the earth and hurtled two fistfuls
Straight into those three rapacious jaws.
Just as a dog that barks when he is hungry,
Then quiets down while gnawing on his food,
30 Struggling and straining just to swallow it,
Such was the change in the filth-spattered faces
Of the demon Cerberus thundering loudly
Against the souls who wish that they were deaf.
We tread upon the shadows beaten down
35 By the heavy rain, and we set our feet
On emptiness that seems like solid bodies.
All of them were stretched out on the ground
Except for one who sat up straight as soon
As he perceived us passing on before him.
40 "Oh you who are led onward through this hell,"
He said to me, "see if you can place me:
For you were made before I was unmade."
And I told him, "The distress that you endure
Perhaps has wiped you from my memory
45 So it appears that I have never seen you.
"But tell me who you are who in so sad
A place are plunged to suffer such a torture
That, though worse exists, none's more repulsive."
And he told me, "Your city, so crammed full
50 Of envy that already the sack spills over,
Held me in its walls in the tranquil life.
"You citizens had nicknamed me Ciacco.
For the damnable sin of gluttony,
As you can see, I am drubbed by this rain.
55 "And I, unhappy soul, am not alone,
For all these souls bear the same punishment
For the same sin." With that he said no more.
I answered him, "Ciacco, this anguish of yours
So weighs on me it summons me to tears.
60 But tell me, if you know, what shall become
"Of the citizens of that divided city?
Is anyone there just? Tell me too the reason
Why so much discord has assaulted it?"
And he replied, "After long contention
65 They shall come to blood, and the rural party
Shall push the other out with strong offense.
"Then that party itself is doomed to fall
Within three years: the other will prevail
By the might of one now straddling the middle.
70 "This party shall hold its head up high
While keeping the other under heavy burdens,
However much it moans and feels ashamed.
"Two men are just, but no one minds them there:
Pride, spitefulness, and avarice
75 Are three sparks that have fired up their hearts."
Here his mournful words came to a close.
I said to him, "More I would have you tell me
And make me a present of still further speech.
"Farinata and Tegghiaio, once so worthy,
80 Jacopo Rusticucci, Arrigo, Mosca,
And others who put their talents to good use,
"Tell me where they are and how to know them,
For keen desire drives me on to learn
Whether heaven heals or hell poisons them."
85 And he: "They are among the blackest souls:
Different sins sink them to different pits.
If you go down that far, there you will see them.
"But when you have returned to the sweet world,
I pray you to recall me to men's minds.
90 No more I say here and no more I answer."
His straight eyes then he twisted to a squint;
He studied me a moment, bent his head,
And sank down with the others who are blind.
And my guide said to me, "He wakens no more
95 Until resounds the trumpet of the angel
When the hostile power of their Judge shall come.
"Each one shall see again his woeful tomb,
Shall once again don his own flesh and frame,
Shall hear what blasts out to eternity."
100 So we passed on through that polluted mess
Of shades and rainfall, our steps pacing slow,
And touched a moment on the future life.
At that I asked, "Master, these tormentings,
Will they increase after the final judgment
105 Or lessen or be just as burning hot?"
And he said to me, "Go back to your learning
Which holds that when a thing is the more perfect
The more it feels the grief as well as good.
"Although these same detestable people
110 Never can arrive at true perfection,
They can look to get closer then than now."
The two of us walked on around that road,
Talking about much more than I repeat.
We came to the spot where the grade falls off.
115 There we found Plutus, the great enemy.
So I descended from the first circle
Into the second, encompassing less space
But sharper pain which spurs the wailing on.
There Minos stands, hideous and growling,
5 Examining the sins of each newcomer:
With coiling tail he judges and dispatches.
I mean that, when the ill-begotten spirit
Comes before him, that soul confesses all
And then this master-mind of sinfulness
10 Sees what place in hell has been assigned:
The times he winds his tail around himself
Reveal the level to which the soul is sent.
Always in front of him a new mob stands.
Each, taking a turn, proceeds to judgment:
15 Each owns up, listens, and is pitched below.
"You who approach this dwelling-place of pain,"
Cried Minos when he laid his eyes on me —
Forsaking the performance of his office —
"Watch out how you enter and whom you trust!
20 Do not let the wide-open gateway fool you!"
My guide said to him, "Why do you cry out?
"Do not obstruct his own predestined way:
This deed has so been willed where One can do
Whatever He wills — and ask no more questions."
25 Now the notes of suffering begin
To reach my hearing; now I am arrived
At where the widespread wailing hammers me.
I come to a place where all light is muted,
Which rumbles like the sea beneath a storm
30 When waves are buffeted by warring squalls.
The windblast out of hell, forever restless,
Thrusts the spirits onward with its force,
Swirling and mauling and harassing them.
When they alight upon this scene of wreckage,
35 Screams, reproaches, and bemoanings rise
As souls call down their curses on God's power.
I learned that to this unending torment
Have been condemned the sinners of the flesh,
Those who surrender reason to self-will.
40 And as the starlings are lifted on their wings
In icy weather to wide and serried flocks,
So does the gale lift up the wicked spirits,
Flinging them here and there and down and up:
No hope whatever can ever comfort them,
45 Neither of rest nor of less punishment.
And as the cranes fly over, chanting lays,
Forming one long line across the sky,
So I saw come, uttering their cries,
Shades wafted onward by these winds of strife,
50 To make me ask him, "Master, who are those
People whom the blackened air so punishes?"
"The first among those souls whose chronicle
You want to know," he then replied to me,
"Was empress over lands of many tongues.
55 "Her appetite for lust became so flagrant
That she made lewdness licit with her laws
To free her from the blame her vice incurred.
"She is Semiramis, whose story reads
That, as his wife, she succeeded Ninus,
60 Controlling the country now ruled by the sultan.
"The other, Dido, killed herself for love
And broke faith with the ashes of Sychaeus;
Next comes the lust-enamored Cleopatra.
"See Helen, for whom many years of woe
65 Rolled on, and see the great Achilles
Who in his final battle came to love.
"See Paris, Tristan" — and then of a thousand
Shades, he pointed out and named for me
All those whom love had cut off from our life.
70 After I had listened to my instructor
Name the knights and ladies of the past,
Pity gripped me, and I lost my bearing.
I began, "Poet, I would most willingly
Address those two who pass together there
75 And appear to be so light upon the wind,"
And he told me, "You will see when they draw
Closer to us that, if you petition them
By the love that propels them, they will come."
As soon as the gust curved them near to us,
80 I raised my voice to them, "O wind-worn souls,
Come speak to us if it is not forbidden."
Just as the doves when homing instinct calls them
To their sweet nest, on steadily lifted wings
Glide through the air, guided by their longing,
85 So those souls left the covey where Dido lies,
Moving toward us through the malignant air,
So strong was the loving-kindness in my cry.
"O mortal man, gracious and tenderhearted,
Who through the somber air come to visit
90 The two of us who stained the earth with blood,
"If the King of the universe were our friend,
We would then pray to him to bring you peace,
Since you show pity for our wretched plight.
"Whatever you please to hear and speak about
95 We will hear and speak about with you
While the wind, as it is now, is silent.
"The country of my birth lies on that coast
Where the river Po with its tributaries
Flows downhill to its place of final rest.
100 "Love which takes quick hold in a gentle heart
Seized this man for the beauty of the body
Snatched from me — how it happened galls me!
"Love which pardons no one loved from loving
Seized me so strongly with my pleasure in him
105 That, as you see, it still does not leave me.
"Love led the two of us to a single death:
Caina awaits him who snuffed out our lives."
These were the words conveyed from them to us.
When I had heard those grief-stricken souls,
110 I bowed my head and held it bowed down low
Until the poet asked, "What are you thinking?"
When I replied, I ventured, "O misery,
How many the sweet thoughts, how much yearning
Has led these two to this heartbroken pass!"
115 Then I turned round again to speak to them,
And I began, "Francesca, your sufferings
Move my heart to tears of grief and pity.
"But tell me, in the season of sweet sighs,
By what signs did love grant to you the favor
120 Of recognizing your mistrustful longings?"
And she told me, "Nothing is more painful
Than to recall the time of happiness
In wretchedness: this truth your teacher knows.
"If, however, to learn the initial root
125 Of our own love is now your deep desire,
I will speak here as one who weeps in speaking.
"One day for our own pleasure we were reading
Of Lancelot and how love pinioned him.
We were alone and innocent of suspicion.
130 "Several times that reading forced our eyes
To meet and took the color from our faces.
But one solitary moment conquered us.
"When we read there of how the longed-for smile
Was being kissed by that heroic lover,
135 This man, who never shall be severed from me,
"Trembling all over, kissed me on the mouth.
That book — and its author — was a pander!
In it that day we did no further reading."
While the one spirit spoke these words, the other
140 Wept so sadly that pity swept over me
And I fainted as if face to face with death,
And I fell just as a dead body falls.
A loud thunderclap shattered the deep
Sleep in my head, so that I started up
Like someone shaken forcibly awake.
Then, looking all around with rested eyes,
5 I stood straight up with a steady stare,
Attempting to discover where I was.
The truth is I found myself upon the edge
Of the chasm of the valley of salt tears
Which stores the clamor of unending crying.
10 Dark and deep and foggy was the valley:
So, when I strained my eyes to see the bottom,
I was not able to discern a thing.
"Now let us descend to the blind world
Below," the poet, pale as death, began:
15 "I will be first, and you shall follow me."
And I, observing the change in his color,
Asked, "How can I come if you are frightened,
You who strengthen me when I have doubts?"
And he told me, "The anguish of the people
20 Who are down here blanches my complexion
With the pity that you mistake for fear.
"Let us go on: the long road makes it urgent."
So he went down, and so he had me enter
The first circle ringing the abyss.
25 Here, as far as listening could tell,
The only lamentations were the sighs
That caused the everlasting air to tremble.
Suffering without torments drew these sighs
From crowds, multitudinous and vast,
30 Of babies and of women and of men.
My gracious teacher said, "Do you not question
Who these spirits are whom you observe?
Before you go on, I would have you know
"They did not sin: yet even their just merits
35 Were not enough, for they lacked baptism,
The gateway of the faith that you profess.
"And, if they lived before the Christian era,
They did not worship God in the right way:
And I myself am one of those poor souls.
40 "For this failure and for no other fault
Here we are lost, and our sole punishment
Is without hope to live on in desire."
Deep sorrow crushed my heart when I heard him,
Because both men and women of great worth
45 I knew to be suspended here in limbo.
"Tell me, my master, tell me, my good lord,"
I then began, wishing to be assured
Of that belief which conquers every error,
"Have any left here, either through their merits
50 Or someone else's, to be blessed later on?"
And he, grasping my unexpressed appeal,
Responded, "I was newly in this place
When I saw come down here a mighty One
Crowned with the symbol of his victory.
55 "He snatched away the shade of our first parent,
Of his son Abel, and the shade of Noah,
Of Moses, the obedient lawgiver,
"Of Abraham the patriarch, King David,
Israel with his father, with his children,
60 And with Rachel for whom he worked so hard,
"And many others, and he made them blessed.
But I would have you know, before these souls
No human being ever had been saved."
We did not keep from walking while he talked,
65 But all along we journeyed through the forest —
I mean the forest that was dense with spirits.
Our path had not yet led us far away
From where I'd slept, when I descried a fire
That overcame a hemisphere of shadows.
70 We were still a little distance from it
But close enough for me to dimly see
That honored people tenanted that place.
"O you, glory of the arts and sciences,
Who are these souls who here have the high honor
75 Of being kept distinct from all the rest?"
And he told me, "Their distinguished names
Which yet re-echo in your world above
Win for them heaven's grace which furthers them."
Meanwhile I could hear a voice that called,
80 "Honor to the most illustrious poet!
His shade that had departed now returns."
After the voice had ceased and all was still,
I saw four lofty shades approaching us,
In their appearance neither sad nor joyful.
85 My worthy teacher now began by saying,
"Notice there the one with sword in hand,
Coming before the three others like a lord:
"That is Homer, the majestic poet.
The next who comes is Horace, the satirist;
90 Ovid is third, and Lucan last of all.
"Since each one shares with me the name of poet,
The name you heard the single voice call out,
They honor me, and they do well to do so."
Through Me Pass into the Painful City,
Through Me Pass into Eternal Grief,
Through Me Pass among the Lost People.
Justice Moved My Master-Builder:
5 Heavenly Power First Fashioned Me
With Highest Wisdom and with Primal Love.
Before Me Nothing Was Created That
Was Not Eternal, and I Last Eternally.
All Hope Abandon, You Who Enter Here.
10 These words in dim color I beheld
Inscribed on the lintel of an archway.
"Master," I said, "this saying's hard for me."
And he — as someone who understands — told me:
"Here you must give up all irresolution;
15 All cowardice must here be put to death.
"We are come to the place I spoke to you about
Where you shall see the sorrow-laden people,
Those who have lost the Good of the intellect."
And with that, putting his own hand on mine,
20 With smiling face, just to encourage me,
He led me to things hidden from the world.
Here heartsick sighs and groanings and shrill cries
Re-echoed through the air devoid of stars,
So that, but started, I broke down in tears.
25 Babbling tongues, terrible palaver,
Words of grief, inflections of deep anger,
Strident and muffled speech, and clapping hands,
All made a tumult that whipped round and round
Forever in that colorless and timeless air,
30 Like clouds of sand caught up in a whirlwind.
And I, my head enwreathed with wayward doubts,
Asked, "Master, what is this that I am hearing?
Who are these people overwhelmed by pain?"
And he told me: "This way of wretchedness
35 Belongs to the unhappy souls of those
Who lived without being blamed or applauded.
"They are now scrambled with that craven crew
Of angels who elected neither rebellion
Nor loyalty to God, but kept apart.
40 "Not to mar its beauty, heaven expelled them,
Nor will the depths of hell take them in there,
Lest the damned have any glory over them."
And I: "Master, what is so burdensome
To them that they should wail so dismally?"
45 He answered, "Very briefly, I will tell you.
"These people have no hope of again dying,
And so deformed has their blind life become
That they must envy every other fate.
50 "The world will not allow a word about them;
Mercy and justice hold them in disdain.
Let us not discuss them. Look and pass on."
And I, looking again, observed a banner
Which, as it circled, raced on with such speed
It did not seem ever to want to stop.
55 And there, behind it, marched so long a file
Of people, I would never have believed
That death could have undone so many souls.
After I had recognized some there,
I saw and then identified the shade
60 Of that coward who made the great refusal.
Immediately I understood for certain
That this troop was the sect of evil souls
Displeasing both to God and to his enemy.
These wretches, who had never been alive,
65 Went naked and repeatedly were bitten
By wasps and hornets swarming everywhere.
The bites made blood streak down upon their faces;
Blood mixed with tears ran coursing to their feet,
And there repulsive worms sucked the blood back.
70 Then, looking again a little farther on,
I saw people at the shore of a vast river.
At that I said, "Master, permit me now
"To know who these souls are and what law
Makes them appear so eager to cross over,
75 As, even in this weak light, I can discern."
And he: "These things will become clear to you
After the two of us come to a halt
Upon the gloomy banks of the Acheron."
Then, with eyes downcast, deeply abashed,
80 In fear that what I said offended him,
I spoke no more until we reached the river.
And look! coming toward us in a boat,
An old man, his hair hoary with age, rose
Yelling, "Woe to you, you wicked souls!
85 "Have no hope of ever seeing heaven!
I come to take you to the other shore,
To endless darkness, to fire, and to ice.
"And you over there, the living soul,
Get away from those who are already dead!"
90 But when he saw that I had not moved off,
He said, "By other routes, by other harbors,
Not here -- you shall cross over to this shore.
A lighter skiff will have to transport you!"
And my guide: "Charon, do not rack yourself!
95 This deed has so been willed where One can do
Whatever He wills — and ask no more questions."
With these words he silenced the wooly cheeks
Of the old ferryman of the livid marshes
Who had two rings of flame around his eyes.
100 Those souls, however, who were weak and naked
Began to lose color and grind their teeth
When they heard the ferryman's cruel words.
They called down curses on God and their parents,
The human race, the place, the time, the seed
105 Of their conception and of their birth.
At that they massed all the closer together,
Weeping loudly on the malicious strand
Which waits for those who have no fear of God.
The demon Charon, with burning-ember eyes,
110 Gave a signal and gathered all on board,
Smacking lagging stragglers with his oar.
As in the autumn the leaves peel away,
One following another, until the bough
Sees all its treasures spread upon the ground,
115 In the same manner that evil seed of Adam
Drifted from that shoreline one by one
To a signal — like a falcon to its call.
So they departed over the dark water,
And even before they landed on that side
120 Already over here a new crowd mustered.
"My son," my kindly master said to me,
"Those who have perished by the wrath of God
Are all assembled here from every land,
"And they are quick to pass across the river
125 Because divine justice goads them on,
Turning their timidity to zeal.
"No good soul ever crossed by this way.
If Charon, therefore, has complained about you,
You now know clearly what he meant to say."
130 Just as he finished, the blackened landscape
Violently shuddered — with the fright of it
My memory once more bathes me in sweat.
The harsh tear-laden earth exhaled a wind
That hurtled forth a bright-red flash of light
135 That knocked me right out of all my senses,
And I fell as a man drops off to sleep.
Day was now fading, and the dusky air
Released the creatures dwelling here on earth
From tiring tasks, while I, the only one,
Readied myself to endure the battle
5 Both of the journey and the pathos,
Which flawless memory shall here record.
O Muses, O high genius, aid me now!
O memory that noted what I saw,
Now shall your true nobility be seen!
10 I then began, "Poet, you guide me here:
Be on your guard lest my power fail me
Before you make me face that plunging pass.
"You tell us how the father of Silvius,
While in the flesh, to the eternal world
15 Journeyed, with all his senses still alert.
"But if the Enemy of every evil
Was kind to him, considering the high purpose
He performed, and who and what he was,
"This is not hard for us to understand,
20 Since in the highest heaven he was chosen
Father of honored Rome and of her empire.
"The two — city and empire — to tell the truth,
Were destined to become the holy place
Where the successor of mighty Peter sits.
25 "By this journey which you praise him for
He came to comprehend what was to bring
Triumph to him and mantle to the pope.
"Later the Chosen Vessel journeyed beyond
To bring back reassurance in the faith
30 Which is the source of the way to salvation.
"But I, why should I go? Who gives permission?
I am not Aeneas, nor am I Paul!
Not I nor anyone else would judge me worthy.
"So, if I surrender myself to going there,
35 I fear the undertaking shall prove folly.
You are wise, you see more than I say."
Just as the man who, unwilling what he wills,
Thinks back over each thing he proposes
And ends by giving up all he has started,
40 So I acted in that darkened place
As I undid, by thinking, the same task
I had so readily right away accepted.
"If I have grasped the meaning of your words,"
That soul of generosity responded,
45 "Your heart has been beset by cowardice
"Which often places burdens on a man
To turn him back from honorable deeds
Like some animal frightened by its shadow.
"Once and for all to rid you of that fear
50 I will tell you why I came and what I heard
From the first moment I felt sorry for you.
"I was among those spirits in suspense:
A lady called me, so beautiful and blessed
That I at once implored her to command me.
55 "Her eyes outshone the light of any star.
Sweetly and softly she began to speak
With the voice of an angel, in her own words:
" 'O courteous spirit from Mantua
Whose fame has lasted in the world till now
60 And shall endure as long as does the world,
" 'My friend, who is no longer fortune's friend,
On a wasted slope has been so thwarted
Along his path that he turns back in panic.
" 'I fear that he already is so lost
65 I have arisen too late to bring him aid —
At least from what I hear of him in heaven.
" 'Hasten now, and with your polished words
And all that is required for his rescue,
Help him, so that I can be consoled.
70 " 'I am Beatrice who urges you to journey,
Come from a place to which I long to return.
Love moved me to speak my heart to you.
" ' When I stand once more before my Lord,
I shall often sing your praises to him.'
75 With that she fell silent, and I ventured:
"O lady of virtue, through whom alone
The human race surpasses all contained
Within the heavens to the smallest sphere,
"Your command pleases me so thoroughly
80 That already to have done it would seem tardy:
Only let me know what it is you want.
"Tell me, however, why you are so bold
To descend as far as to this center
Out of the wide sky to which you would return?"
85 " 'Since you wish to know the inmost reason,
I will tell you directly,' she answered me,
' Why I do not dread to come down here.
" 'The only things we really need to fear
Are those that have the power to do harm:
90 Nothing else should cause us to be fearful.
" 'God in his mercy has so fashioned me
That I am not affected by your pain;
The fires burning here do me no hurt.
" 'There is a noble Lady who weeps in heaven
95 For this thwarted man to whom I send you,
So that heaven's strict decree is broken.
" 'That Lady called on Lucia with her request
And said: "Your faithful follower has now
Such need of you that I commend him to you."
100 " 'Lucia, the foe of every cruelty,
Started up and came to where I was,
Sitting at the side of the aged Rachel.
" 'She said, "Beatrice, true credit to our God,
Will you not help the man who so loves you
105 That for your sake he left the common crowd?
" ' "Do you not hear his pathetic grieving?
Do you not see the death besieging him
On the river which the ocean cannot sway?"
" 'No one in this whole world was ever quicker
110 To take advantage or escape from harm
Than I — when such words as these were spoken —
" 'To come below here from my blessed seat,
Putting my trust in your honest speech
Which honors you and those who listen to it.'
115 "After she had discussed these matters with me,
She turned her eyes, glittering with tears,
And so made me more diligent to come.
"And I did come to you, just as she wished:
I saved you from the fierce beast barring you
120 From the short route up the lovely mountain.
"So — what is this? Why? why do you stay?
Why entertain such cowardice of heart?
Why not be courageous and straightforward
"When there are three such blessed ladies
125 Caring for you in the court of heaven
And my words guarantee you so much good?"
As little flowers in the chill of night
Drooping and shriveled, when the sun lights them,
Straighten up all open on their stalks,
130 So I, with my limp stamina, now bloomed.
And such good warmth coursed boldly to my heart
That like a free man I once more began:
"O tender-hearted lady who came to aid me,
And you, too, so kind to obey swiftly
135 The words of truth that she proposed to you!
"You, by your words, have so filled my heart
With fervor to go with you on this journey
That I am turned again to my first purpose.
"Now go — one will within the both of us —
140 You the leader, you the lord and master!"
These things I said to him. When he moved on,
I entered on the rank and plunging path
Halfway through the journey we are living
I found myself deep in a darkened forest,
For I had lost all trace of the straight path.
Ah how hard it is to tell what it was like,
5 How wild the forest was, how dense and rugged!
To think of it still fills my mind with panic.
So bitter it is that death is hardly worse!
But to describe the good discovered there
I here will tell the other things I saw.
10 I cannot say clearly how I entered there,
So drowsy with sleep had I grown at that hour
When first I wandered off from the true way.
But when I had reached the base of a hill,
There at the border where the valley ended
15 That had cut my heart to the quick with panic,
I looked up at the hill and saw its shoulder
Mantled already with the planet's light
That leads all people straight by every road.
With that my panic quieted a little
20 After lingering on in the lake of my heart
Through the night I had so grievously passed.
And like a person who with panting breath
Struggles ashore out of the wide ocean
Only to glance back at the treacherous surf,
25 Just so my mind, racing on ahead,
Turned back to marvel at the pass no one
Ever before had issued from alive.
After resting awhile my worn-out body,
I pressed on up the wasted slope so that
30 I always had one firm foot on the ground.
But look! right near the upgrade of the climb
Loomed a fleet and nimble-footed leopard
With coat completely covered by dark spots!
He did not flinch or back off from my gaze,
35 But blocking the path that lay before me,
Time and again he forced me to turn around.
The hour was the beginning of the morning,
And the sun was rising with those stars
That first attended it when divine Love
40 Set these lovely creations round in motion,
So that the early hour and the pleasant season
Gave me good reason to keep up my hopes
Of that fierce beast there with his gaudy pelt.
But not so when — to add now to my fears —
45 In front of me I caught sight of a lion!
He appeared to be coming straight at me
With head held high and furious for hunger,
So that the air itself seemed to be shaking.
And then a wolf stalked, ravenously lean,
50 Seemingly laden with such endless cravings
That she had made many live in misery!
She caused my spirits to sink down so low,
From the dread I felt in seeing her there,
I lost all hope of climbing to the summit.
55 And just as a man, anxious for big winnings,
But the time comes instead for him to lose,
Cries and grieves the more he thinks about it,
So did the restless she-beast make me feel
When, edging closer toward me, step by step,
60 She drove me back to where the sun is silent.
While I was falling back to lower ground,
Before my eyes now came a figure forward
Of one grown feeble from long being mute.
When I saw him in that deserted spot,
65 "Pity me!" I shouted out to him,
"Whoever you are, a shade or living man."
"Not a man," he answered. "Once a man,
Of parents who had come from Lombardy;
Both of them were Mantuans by birth.
Chập chùng sóng bạc khói chơi vơi
Dân ý xưa nay vốn ý trời
Tráng sĩ thiên thu đành nuốt hận
Sơn hà chìm đắm lỗi nơi ai ?
Lật thuyền chớ trách trời quay mặt
Cậy hiểm sao bằng nước chảy xuôi
Cọc gỗ trùng trùng, trơ sóng biển
Chăng sông xích sắt, chỉ mua cười!
Sóng biển mênh mang cọc điệp trùng
Ngăn sông xích sắt luống toi công
Lật thuyền mới biết dân như nước
Cậy hiểm không xong trách Hoá công
Hoạ phúc phải đâu trong phút chốc
Anh hùng ôm hận với non sông
Ý dân muôn thuở là thiên ý
Khói toả cây xa sóng chập chùng