Canto VI

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   AFTER that Constantine the eagle turned
2   Against the course of heaven, which it had followed..
3   Behind the ancient who Lavinia took,
4   Two hundred years and more the bird of God
5   In the extreme of Europe held itself,
6   Near to the mountains whence it issued first;
7   And under shadow of the sacred plumes
8   It governed there the world from hand to hand,
9   And, changing thus, upon mine own alighted.
10   Caesar I was, and am Justinian,
11   Who, by the will of primal Love I feel,
12   Took from the laws the useless and redundant;
13   And ere unto the work I was attent,
14   One nature to exist in Christ, not more,
15   Believed, and with such faith was I contented.
16   But blessed Agapetus, he who was
17   The supreme pastor, to the faith sincere
18   Pointed me out the way by words of his.
19   Him I believed, and what was his assertion
20   I now see clearly, even as thou seest
21   Each contradiction to be false and true.
22   As soon as with the Church I moved my feet,
23   God in his grace it pleased with this high task
24   To inspire me, and I gave me wholly to it,
25   And to my Belisarius I commended
26   The arms, to which was heaven’s right hand so joined
27   It was a signal that I should repose.
28   Now here to the first question terminates
29   My answer; but the character thereof
30   Constrains me to continue with a sequel,
31   In order that thou see with how great reason
32   Men move against the standard sacrosanct,
33   Both who appropriate and who oppose it.
34   Behold how great a power has made it worthy
35   Of reverence, beginning from the hour
36   When Pallas died to give it sovereignty.
37   Thou knowest it made in Alba its abode
38   Three hundred years and upward, till at last
39   The three to three fought for it yet again.
40   Thou knowest what it achieved from Sabine wrong
41   Down to Lucretia’s sorrow, in seven kings
42   O’ercoming round about the neighboring nations;
43   Thou knowest what it achieved, borne by the Romans
44   Illustrious against Brennus, against Pyrrhus,
45   Against the other princes and confederates.
46   Torquatus thence and Quinctius, who from locks
47   Unkempt was named, Decii and Fabii,
48   Received the fame I willingly embalm;
49   It struck to earth the pride of the Arabians,
50   Who, following Hannibal, had passed across
51   The Alpine ridges, Po, from which thou glidest;
52   Beneath it triumphed while they yet were young
53   Pompey and Scipio, and to the hill
54   Beneath which thou wast born it bitter seemed;
55   Then, near unto the time when heaven had willed
56   To bring the whole world to its mood serene,
57   Did Caesar by the will of Rome assume it.
58   What it achieved from Var unto the Rhine,
59   Isere beheld and Saone, beheld the Seine,
60   And every valley whence the Rhone is filled;
61   What it achieved when it had left Ravenna,
62   And leaped the Rubicon, was such a flight
63   That neither tongue nor pen could follow it.
64   Round towards Spain it wheeled its legions;
65   Towards Durazzo, and Pharsalia smote
66   That to the calid Nile was felt the pain.
67   Antandros and the Simois, whence it started,
68   It saw again, and there where Hector lies,
69   And ill for Ptolemy then roused itself.
70   From thence it came like lightning upon Juba;
71   Then wheeled itself again into your West,
72   Where the Pompeian clarion it heard.
73   From what it wrought with the next standard-bearer
74   Brutus and Cassius howl in Hell together,
75   And Modena and Perugia dolent were;
76   Still doth the mournful Cleopatra weep
77   Because thereof, who, fleeing from before it,
78   Took from the adder sudden and black death.
79   With him it ran even to the Red Sea shore;
80   With him it placed the world in so great peace,
81   That unto Janus was his temple closed.
82   But what the standard that has made me speak
83   Achieved before, and after should achieve
84   Throughout the mortal realm that lies beneath it,
85   Becometh in appearance mean and dim,
86   If in the hand of the third Caesar seen
87   With eye unclouded and affection pure,
88   Because the living Justice that inspires me
89   Granted it, in the hand of him I speak of,
90   The glory of doing vengeance for its wrath.
91   Now here attend to what I answer thee;
92   Later it ran with Titus to do vengeance
93   Upon the vengeance of the ancient sin.
94   And when the tooth of Lombardy had bitten
95   The Holy Church, then underneath its wings
96   Did Charlemagne victorious succor her.
97   Now hast thou power to judge of such as those
98   Whom I accused above, and of their crimes,
99   Which are the cause of all your miseries.
100   To the public standard one the yellow lilies
101   Opposes, the other claims it for a party,
102   So that ’tis hard to see which sins the most.
103   Let, let the Ghibellines ply their handicraft
104   Beneath some other standard; for this ever
105   Ill follows he who it and justice parts.
106   And let not this new Charles e’er strike it down,
107   He and his Guelfs, but let him fear the talons
108   That from a nobler lion stripped the fell.
109   Already oftentimes the sons have wept
110   The father’s crime; and let him not believe
111   That God will change His scutcheon for the lilies.
112   This little planet doth adorn itself
113   With the good spirits that have active been,
114   That fame and honour might come after them;
115   And whensoever the desires mount thither,
116   Thus deviating, must perforce the rays
117   Of the true love less vividly mount upward.
118   But in commensuration of our wages
119   With our desert is portion of our joy,
120   Because we see them neither less nor greater.
121   Herein doth living Justice sweeten so
122   Affection in us, that for evermore
123   It cannot warp to any iniquity.
124   Voices diverse make up sweet melodies
125   So in this life of ours the seats diverse
126   Render sweet harmony among these spheres;
127   And in the compass of this present pearl
128   Shineth the sheen of Romeo, of whom
129   The grand and beauteous work was ill rewarded.
130   But the Provencals who against him wrought,
131   They have not laughed, and therefore ill goes he
132   Who makes his hurt of the good deeds of others.
133   Four daughters, and each one of them a queen,
134   Had Raymond Berenger, and this for him
135   Did Romeo, a poor man and a pilgrim;
136   And then malicious words incited him
137   To summon to a reckoning this just man,
138   Who rendered to him seven and five for ten.
139   Then he departed poor and stricken in years,
140   And if the world could know the heart he had,
141   In begging bit by bit his livelihood,
142   Though much it laud him, it would laud him more.