Monday, June 11, 2012


                                                                         Canto II

                                              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,
                                           The higher 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 somber color  I beheld
                                                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.
                                        We to the place have come, where I have told thee
                                            Thou shalt  behold  the people dolorous
                                             Who have forgone the good of intellect.
                                             And after he had laid hid hand on mine
                                             With joyful mien, whence I confronted,
                                               He led me among the secret things.

                                          There sighs, complaints, and ululations loud
                                            Resounded through the air without a star,
                                            Whence I, at the beginning, wept thereat.

                                               Language diverse, horrible dialects,
                                               Accents of  anger, words of agony,
                                         And voices high and hoarse, with sound of hands,

                                                Made  up a tumult that goes whirling on
                                                 Forever in that air forever black,
                                      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: The miserable mode
                                             Maintain the melancholy souls of those
                                             Who lived withouten infamy or praise.
                                           Commingled are they with that caitiff  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;
                                              Nor them the nethermore abyss receives,
                                          For glory none the damned would have from them.

                                                 And  I:O Master, what so grievous is
                                             To these, that maketh them lament so sore?
                                                He answered: I will tell thee very briefly.
                                                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.
                                              Let us not speak of them, but look and pass.

                                                   And I, look again, beheld a banner,
                                               Which, whirling round, ran on sop rapidly,
                                              That of all paused it seemed to me indignant;
                                                  And after it there came so long a train
                                               Of people, that I ne'er would have believed
                                                 That ever to Death so many had undone.
                                              When  some among them I had recognized.
                                                 I looked, and I beheld the shade of him
                                            Who made this through cowardice the great refusal.
                                                Forthwith  I comprehended, and was certain,
                                                That this the sect was of  the caitiff  wretches
                                                      Hateful  to God and to his enemies.
                                                  These miscreants, who never were alive,
                                                    Were naked, were stung exceedingly
                                                 By the disgusting worms was gathered up.
                                                 And when to gazing  father I betook me.
                                                   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.

                                               And he to me, These things shall be known
                                               To thee, as soon  as we our footsteps stay
                                                   Upon the dismal shore of Acheron.

                                        Then with mine eyes ashamed and downward cast,
                                             Fearing my words might irksome be to him,
                                         From speech refrained I till we reached the river
                                                 And lo! towards us coming in a boat
                                                An old man, hoary with the hair of eld,
                                             Crying:  Woe unto you, ye sould depraved.
                                             Hope nevermore to look upon the heavens;
                                                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 dead-
                                               But when he saw that I did not  withdraw.
                                                  He said: By other ways, by other ports
                                            Thou to shore shalt come, not here, for passage;
                                                   A lighter vessel needs must carry thee.
                                              And unto him the Guide: Vex thee not, Caron;
                                                  It is so willed there were is power to do
                                              That which is willed; and farther question not.
                                                  Thereat  were quited  the fleecy  cheeks
                                                    Of him  the ferrymen of the livid fen,
                                               Who round about his eyes had wheels of flame.

                                              But all those souls who weary were and  naked
                                           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 engendering and of their birth!
                                                   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 glade,
                                                 Beckoning to them, collects them all together,
                                                    Beats with his oar whoever lags behind.
                                                     As in the autumn-time the leaves fall of,
                                                    First one and then another, till the branch
                                                      Unto the earth surrenders all its spoils;
                                                       In similar wise the evil seed of Adam
                                                 Throw themselves from that margin one by one
                                                       At signals, as a bird unto 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.
                                                    My sons, 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 spurs them on,
                                                      So that their fear is turned into desire.

                                                    This way there never passes a good soul;
                                                 And hence id Charon doth complain of thee
                                          Well mayst thou know now what his speech imports.

                                                 This being finished, all the dusk champaign
                                                  Trembled so violently, that of that 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,
                                             And  as a man whom sleep hath seized I fell
                                                 (tr. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

No comments:

Post a Comment