Canto XVII

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   As came to Clymene, to be made certain
2   Of that which he had heard against himself,
3   He who makes fathers chary still to children,
 
4   Even such was I, and such was I perceived
5   By Beatrice and by the holy light
6   That first on my account had changed its place.
 
7   Therefore my Lady said to me: Send forth
8   The flame of thy desire, so that it issue
9   Imprinted well with the internal stamp;
 
10   Not that our knowledge may be greater made
11   By speech of thine, but to accustom thee
12   To tell thy thirst, that we may give thee drink.
 
13   O my beloved tree, (that so dost lift thee,
14   That even as minds terrestrial perceive
15   No triangle containeth two obtuse,
 
16   So thou beholdest the contingent things
17   Ere in themselves they are, fixing thine eyes
18   Upon the point in which all times are present,)
 
19   While I was with Virgilius conjoined
20   Upon the mountain that the souls doth heal,
21   And when descending into the dead world,
 
22   Were spoken to me of my future life
23   Some grievous words; although I feel myself
24   ln sooth foursquare against the blows of chance.
 
25   on this account my wish would be content
26   To hear what fortune is approaching me,
27   Because foreseen an arrow comes more slowly.
 
28   Thus did I say unto that selfsame light
29   That unto me had spoken before, and even
30   As Beatrice willed was my own will confessed.
 
31   Not in vague phrase, in which the foolish folk
32   Ensnared themselves of old, ere yet was slain
33   The Lamb of God who taketh sins away,
 
34   But with clear words and unambiguous
35   Language responded that paternal love,
36   Hid and revealed by its own proper smile:
 
37   Contingency, that outside of the volume
38   Of your materiality extends not,
39   Is all depicted in the eternal aspect.
 
40   Necessity however thence it takes not,
41   Except as from the eye, in which ’tis mirrored,
42   A ship that with the current down descends.
 
43   From thence, e’en as there cometh to the ear
44   Sweet harmony from an organ, comes in sight
45   To me the time that is preparing for thee.
 
46   As forth from Athens went Hippolytus,
47   By reason of his step-dame false and cruel,
48   So thou from Florence must perforce depart.
 
49   Already this is willed, and this is sought for;
50   And soon it shall be done by him who thinks it,
51   Where every day the Christ is bought and sold.
 
52   The blame shall follow the offended party
53   In outcry as is usual; but the vengeance
54   Shall witness to the truth that doth dispense it.
 
55   Thou shalt abandon everything beloved
56   Most tenderly, and this the arrow is
57   Which first the bow of banishment shoots forth.
 
58   Thou shalt have proof how savoureth of salt
59   The bread of others, and how hard a road
60   The going down and up another’s stairs.
 
61   And that which most shall weigh upon thy shoulders
62   Will be the bad and foolish company
63   With which into this valley thou shalt fall;
 
64   For all ingrate, all mad and impious
65   Will they become against thee; but soon after
66   They, and not thou, shall have the forehead scarlet
 
67   Of their bestiality their own proceedings
68   Shall furnish proof; so ’twill be well for thee
69   A party to have made thee by thyself.
 
70   Thine earliest refuge and thine earliest inn
71   Shall be the mighty Lombard’s courtesy,
72   Who on the Ladder bears the holy bird,
 
73   Who such benign regard shall have for thee
74   That ‘twixt you twain, in doing and in asking,
75   That shall be first which is with others last.
 
76   With him shalt thou see one who at his birth
77   Has by this star of strength been so impressed,
78   That notable shall his achievements be.
 
79   Not yet the people are aware of him
80   Through his young age, since only nine years ye
81   Around about him have these wheels revolved-
 
82   But ere the Gascon cheat the noble Henry,
83   Some sparkles of his virtue shall appear
84   In caring not for silver nor for toil.
 
85   So recognized shall his magnificence
86   Become hereafter, that his enemies
87   Will not have power to keep mute tongues about it.
 
88   On him rely, and on his benefits;
89   By him shall many people be transformed,
90   Changing condition rich and mendicant;
 
91   And written in thy mind thou hence shalt bear
92   Of him, but shalt not say it –and things said he
93   Incredible to those who shall be present.
 
94   Then added: Son, these are the commentaries
95   On what was said to thee; behold the snares
96   That are concealed behind few revolutions;
 
97   Yet would I not thy neighbours thou shouldst envy,
98   Because thy life into the future reaches
99   Beyond the punishment of their perfidies.
 
100   When by its silence showed that sainted soul
101   That it had finished putting in the woof
102   Into that web which I had given it warped,
 
103   Began I, even as he who yearneth after,
104   Being in doubt, some counsel from a person
105   Who seeth, and uprightly wills, and loves:
 
106   Well see I, father mine, how spurreth on
107   The time towards me such a blow to deal me
108   As heaviest is to him who most gives way.
 
109   Therefore with foresight it is well I arm me,
110   That, if the dearest place be taken from me,
111   I may not lose the others by my songs.
 
112   Down through the world of infinite bitterness,
113   And o’er the mountain, from whose beauteous summit
114   The eyes of my own Lady lifted me,
 
115   And afterward through heaven from light to light,
116   I have learned that which, if I tell again,
117   Will be a savour of strong herbs to many.
 
118   And if I am a timid friend to truth,
119   I fear lest I may lose my life with those
120   Who will hereafter call this time the olden.
 
121   The light in which was smiling my own treasure
122   Which there I had discovered, flashed at first
123   As in the sunshine doth a golden mirror;
 
124   Then made reply: A conscience overcast
125   Or with its own or with another’s shame,
126   Will taste forsooth the tartness of thy word;
 
127   But ne’ertheless, ail falsehood laid aside,
128   Make manifest thy vision utterly,
129   And let them scratch wherever is the itch;
 
130   For if thine utterance shall offensive be
131   At the first taste, a vital nutriment
132   ‘Twill leave thereafter, when it is digested.
 
133   This cry of thine shall do as doth the wind,
134   Which smiteth most the most exalted summits,
135   And that is no slight argument of honour.
 
136   Therefore are shown to thee within these wheels,
137   Upon the mount and in the dolorous valley,
138   Only the souls that unto fame are known;
 
139   Because the spirit of the hearer rests not,
140   Nor doth confirm its faith by an example
141   Which has the root of it unknown and hidden,
 
142   Or other reason that is not apparent.