Canto II

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   ALREADY had the sun the horizon reached
2   Whose circle of meridian covers o’er
3   Jerusalem with its most lofty point,
4   And night that opposite to him revolves
5   Was issuing forth from Ganges with the Scales
6   That fall from out her hand when she exceedeth;
7   So that the white and the vermilion cheeks
8   Of beautiful Aurora, where I was,
9   By too great age were changing into orange.
10   We still were on the border of the sea,
11   Like people who are thinking of their road,
12   Who go in heart and with the body stay;
13   And lo! as when, upon the approach of morning,
14   Through the gross vapours Mars grows fiery red
15   Down in the West upon the ocean floor,
16   Appeared to me–may I again behold it!–
17   A light along the sea so swiftly coming,
18   Its motion by no flight of wing is equalled;
19   From which when I a little had withdrawn
20   Mine eyes, that I might question my Conductor,
21   Again I saw it brighter grown and larger.
22   Then on each side of it appeared to me
23   I knew not what of white, and underneath
24   Little by little there came forth another.
25   My Master yet had uttered not a word
26   While the first whiteness into wings unfolded;
27   But when he clearly recognised the pilot,
28   He cried: Make haste, make haste to bow the knee!
29   Behold the Angel of God ! fold thou thy hands !
30   Henceforward shalt thou see such officers!
31   See how he scorneth human arguments,
32   So that nor oar he wants, nor other sail
33   Than his own wings, between so distant shores.
34   See how he holds them pointed up to heaven,
35   Fanning the air with the eternal pinions,
36   That do not moult themselves like mortal hair!
37   Then as still nearer and more near us came
38   The Bird Divine, more radiant he appeared
39   So that near by the eye could not endure him,
40   But down I cast it; and he came to shore
41   With a small vessel, very swift and light,
42   So that the water swallowed naught thereof
43   Upon the stern stood the Celestial Pilot;
44   Beatitude seemed written in his face,
45   And more than a hundred spirits sat within.
46   In exitu Israel de Aegypto!
47   They chanted all together in one voice,
48   With whatso in that psalm is after written.
49   Then made he sign of holy rood upon them,
50   Whereat all cast themselves upon the shore,
51   And he departed swiftly as he came.
52   The throng which still remained there unfamiliar
53   Seemed with the place, all round about them gazing,
54   As one who in new matters makes essay.
55   On every side was darting forth the day
56   The sun, who had with his resplendent shafts
57   From the mid-heaven chased forth the Capricorn,
58   When the new people lifted up their faces
59   Towards us, saying to us: If ye know,
60   Show us the way to go unto the mountain.
61   And answer made Virgilius:’Ye believe
62   Perchance that we have knowledge of this place,
63   But we are strangers even as ourselves
64   Just now we came, a little while before you;
65   Another way, which was so rough and steep,
66   That mounting will henceforth seem sport to us.
67   The souls who had, from seeing me draw breath,
68   Become aware that I was still alive,
69   Pallid in their astonishment became;
70   And as to messenger who bears the olive
71   The people throng to listen to the news,
72   And no one shows himself afraid of crowding,
73   So at the sight of me stood motionless
74   Those fortunate spirits, all of them, as if
75   Oblivious to go and make them fair.
76   One from among them saw I coming forward,
77   As to embrace me, with such great affection,
78   That it incited me to do the like.
79   O empty shadows, save in aspect only!
80   Three times behind it did I clasp my hands,
81   As oft returned with them to my own breast !
82   T think with wonder I depicted me;
83   Whereat the shadow smiled and backward drew;
84   And I, pursuing it, pressed farther forward.
85   Gently it said that I should stay my steps;
86   Then knew I who it was, and I entreated
87   That it would stop awhile to speak with me.
88   It made reply to me: Even as I loved thee
89   In mortal body, so I love thee free;
90   Therefore I stop; but wherefore goest thou?
91   My own Casella ! to return once more
92   There where I am, I make this journey, said I;
93   But how from thee has so much time be taken
94   And he to me: No outrage has been done me,
95   If he who takes both when and whom he pleases
96   Has many times denied to me this passage,
97   For of a righteous will his own is made.
98   He, sooth to say, for three months past has taken
99   Whoever wished to enter with all peace;
100   Whence I, who now had turned unto that shore
101   Where salt the waters of the Tiber grow,
102   Benignantly by him have been received.
103   Unto that outlet now his wing is pointed,
104   Because for evermore assemble there
105   Those who tow’rds Acheron do not descend.
106   And I: If some new law take not from thee
107   Memory or practice of the song of love,
108   Which used to quiet in me all my longings,
109   Thee may it please to comfort therewithal
110   Somewhat this soul of mine, that with its body
111   Hitherward coming is so much distressed.
112   Love, that within my mind discourses with me,
113   Forthwith began he so melodiously,
114   The melody within me still is sounding.
115   My Master, and myself, and all that people
116   Which with him were, appeared as satisfied
117   As if naught else might touch the mind of any;
118   We all of us were moveless and attentive
119   Unto his notes; and lo ! the grave old man,
120   Exclaiming: What is this, ye laggard spirits
121   hat negligence, what standing still is this?
122   Run to the mountain to strip off the slough,
123   That lets not God be manifest to you.
124   Even as when, collecting grain or tares,
125   The doves, together at their pasture met,
126   Quiet, nor showing their accustomed pride
127   If aught appear of which they are afraid,
128   Upon a sudden leave their food alone,
129   Because they are assailed by greater care;
130   So that fresh company did I behold
131   The song relinquish, and go tow’rds the hill,
132   As one who goes, and knows not whitherward;
133   Nor was our own departure less in haste.