Canto III

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   INASMUCH as the instantaneous flight
2   Had scattered them asunder o’er the plain,
3   Turned to the mountain whither reason spurs us,
 
4   I pressed me close unto my faithful comrade,
5   And how without him had I kept my course?
6   Who would have led me up along the mountain ?
 
7   He seemed to me within himself remorseful;
8   O noble conscience, and without a stain,
9   How sharp a sting is trivial fault to thee!
 
10   After his feet had laid aside the haste
11   Which mars the dignity of every act,
12   My mind, that hitherto had been restrained,
 
13   Let loose its faculties as if delighted,
14   And I my sight directed to the hill
15   That highest tow’rds the heaven uplifts itself
 
16   The sun, that in our rear was flaming red,
17   Was broken in front of me into the figure
18   Which had in me the stoppage of its rays;
 
19   Unto one side I turned me with the fear
20   Of being left alone, when I beheld
21   Only in front of me the ground obscured.
 
22   Why dost thou still mistrust ? my Comforter
23   Began to say to me turned wholly round;
24   Dost thou not think me with thee, and that I guide thee?
 
25   Tis evening there already where is buried
26   The body within which I cast a shadow;
27   Tis from Brundusium ta’en, and Naples has it.
 
28   Now if in front of me no shadow fall,
29   Marvel not at it more than at the heavens,
30   Because one ray impedeth not another
 
31   To suffer torments, both of cold and heat,
32   Bodies like this that Power provides, which wills
33   That how it works be not unveiled to us.
 
34   Insane is he who hopeth that our reason
35   Can traverse the illimitable way,
36   Which the one Substance in three Persons follows!
 
37   Mortals, remain contented at the Quia;
38   For if ye had been able to see all,
39   No need there were for Mary to give birth;
 
40   And ye have seen desiring without fruit,
41   Those whose desire would have been quieted,
42   Which evermore is given them for a grief.
 
43   I speak of Aristotle and of Plato,
44   And many others;–and here bowed his head,
45   And more he said not, and remained disturbed.
 
46   We came meanwhile unto the mountain’s foot;
47   There so precipitate we found the rock,
48   That nimble legs would there have been in vain.
 
49   ‘Twixt Lerici and Turbia, the most desert,
50   The most secluded pathway is a stair
51   Easy and open, if compared with that.
 
52   Who knoweth now upon which hand the hill
53   Slopes down, my Master said, his footsteps staying,
54   So that who goeth without wings may mount?
 
55   And while he held his eyes upon the ground
56   Examining the nature of the path,
57   And I was looking up around the rock,
 
58   On the left hand appeared to me a throng
59   Of souls, that moved their feet in our direction,
60   And did not seem to move, they came so slowly.
 
61   Lift up thine eyes,I to the Master said;
62   Behold, on this side, who will give us counsel,
63   If thou of thine own self can have it not.
 
64   Then he looked at me, and with frank expression
65   Replied: Let us go there, for they come slowly,
66   And thou be steadfast in thy hope, sweet son.
 
67   Still was that people as far off from us,
68   After a thousand steps of ours I say,
69   As a good thrower with his hand would reach,
 
70   When they all crowded unto the hard masses
71   Of the high bank, and motionless stood and close,
72   As he stands still to look who goes in doubt.
 
73   O happy dead ! O spirits elect already!
74   Virgilius made beginning,by that peace
75   Which I believe is waiting for you all,
 
76   Tell us upon what side the mountain slopes,
77   So that the going up be possible,
78   For to lose time irks him most who most knows.
 
79   As sheep come issuing forth from out the fold
80   By ones and twos and threes, and the others stand
81   Timidly, holding down their eyes and nostrils,
 
82   And what the foremost does the others do,
83   Huddling themselves against her, if she stop,
84   Simple and quiet and the wherefore know not;
 
85   So moving to approach us thereupon
86   I saw the leader of that fortunate flock,
87   Modest in face and dignified in gait.
 
88   As soon as those in the advance saw broken
89   The light upon the ground at my right side,
90   So that from me the shadow reached the rock,
 
91   They stopped, and backward drew themselves somewhat;
92   And all the others, who came after them,
93   Not knowing why nor wherefore, did the same.
 
94   Without your asking, I confess to you
95   This is a human body which you see,
96   Whereby the sunshine on the ground is cleft.
 
97   Marvel ye not thereat, but be persuaded
98   That not without a power which comes from Heaven
99   Doth he endeavour to surmount this wall.
 
100   The Master thus; and said those worthy people:
101   Return ye then, and enter in before us,
102   Making a signal with the back o’ the hand
 
103   And one of them began: Whoe’er thou art,
104   Thus going turn thine eyes, consider well
105   If e’er thou saw me in the other world.
 
106   I turned me tow’rds him, and looked at him closely;
107   Blond was he, beautiful, and of noble aspect,
108   But one of his eyebrows had a blow divided.
 
109   When with humility I had disclaimed
110   E’er having seen him, Now behold!he said,
111   And showed me high upon his breast a wound.
 
112   Then said he with a smile: I am Manfredi,
113   The grandson of the Empress Costanza;
114   Therefore, when thou returnest, I beseech thee
 
115   Go to my daughter beautiful, the mother
116   Of Sicily’s honour and of Aragon’s,
117   And the truth tell her, if aught else be told.
 
118   After I had my body lacerated
119   By these two mortal stabs, I gave myself
120   Weeping to Him, who willingly doth pardon.
 
121   Horrible my iniquities had been;
122   But Infinite Goodness hath such ample arms,
123   That it receives whatever turns to it.
 
124   Had but Cosenza’s pastor, who in chase
125   Of me was sent by Clement at that time,
126   In God read understandingly this page,
 
127   The bones of my dead body still would be
128   At the bridge-head, near unto Benevento,
129   Under the safeguard of the heavy cairn.
 
130   Now the rain bathes and moveth them the wind,
131   Beyond the realm, almost beside the Verde,
132   Where he transported them with tapers quenched.
 
133   By malison of theirs is not so lost
134   Eternal Love, that it cannot return,
135   So long as hope has anything of green.
 
136   True is it, who in contumacy dies
137   Of Holy Church, though penitent at last,
138   Must wait upon the outside this bank
 
139   Thirty times told the time that he has been
140   In his presumption, unless such decree
141   Shorter by means of righteous prayers become.
 
142   See now if thou hast power to make me happy,
143   By making known unto my good Costanza
144   How thou hast seen me, and this ban beside,
 
145   For those on earth can much advance us here.