Canto IV

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   WHENEVER by delight or else by pain,
2   That seizes any faculty of ours,
3   Wholly to that the soul collects itself,
4   It seemeth that no other power it heeds;
5   And this against that error is which thinks
6   One soul above another kindles in us.
7   And hence, whenever aught is heard or seen
8   Which keeps the soul intently bent upon it,
9   Time passes on, and we perceive it not,
10   Because one faculty is that which listens,
11   And other that which the soul keeps entire;
12   This is as if in bonds, and that is free.
13   Of this I had experience positive
14   In hearing and in gazing at that spirit;
15   For fifty full degrees uprisen was
16   The sun, and I had not perceived it, when
17   We came to where those souls with one accord
18   Cried out unto us: Here is what you ask.
19   A greater opening ofttimes hedges up
20   With but a little forkful of his thorns
21   The villager, what time the grape imbrowns,
22   Than was the passage-way through which ascended
23   Only my Leader and myself behind him,
24   After that company departed from us.
25   One climbs Sanleo and descends in Noli,
26   And mounts the summit of Bismantova,
27   With feet alone; but here one needs must fly;
28   With the swift pinions and the plumes I say
29   Of great desire, conducted after him
30   Who gave me hope, and made a light for me.
31   We mounted upward through the rifted rock,
32   And on each side the border pressed upon us,
33   And feet and hands the ground beneath required.
34   When we were come upon the upper rim
35   Of the high bank, out on the open slope,
36   My Master, said I, what way shall we take?
37   And he to me: No step of thine descend;
38   Still up the mount behind me win thy way,
39   Till some sage escort shall appear to us.
40   The summit was so high it vanquished sight,
41   And the hillside precipitous far more
42   Than line from middle quadrant to the centre.
43   Spent with fatigue was I, when I began:
44   O my sweet Father ! turn thee and behold
45   How I remain alone, unless thou stay!
46   O son,he said, up yonder drag thyself,
47   Pointing me to a terrace somewhat higher,
48   Which on that side encircles all the hill.
49   These words of his so spurred me on, that I
50   Strained every nerve, behind him scrambling up,
51   Until the circle was beneath my feet.
52   Thereon ourselves we seated both of us
53   Turned to the East, from which we had ascended,
54   For all men are delighted to look back.
55   To the low shores mine eyes I first directed,
56   Then to the sun uplifted them, and wondered
57   That on the left hand we were smitten by it.
58   The Poet well perceived that I was wholly
59   Bewildered at the chariot of the light,
60   Where ‘twixt us and the Aquilon it entered.
61   Whereon he said to me: If Castor and Pollux
62   Were in the company of yonder mirror,
63   That up and down conducteth with its light,
64   Thou wouldst behold the zodiac’s jagged wheel
65   Revolving still more near unto the Bears,
66   Unless it swerved aside from its old track.
67   How that may be wouldst thou have power to think,
68   Collected in thyself, imagine Zion
69   Together with this mount on earth to stand,
70   So that they both one sole horizon have,
71   And hemispheres diverse; whereby the road
72   Which Phaeton, alas ! knew not to drive,
73   Thou’lt see how of necessity must pass
74   This on one side, when that upon the other,
75   If thine intelligence right clearly heed.
76   Truly, my Master,said I, never yet
77   Saw I so clearly as I now discern,
78   There where my wit appeared incompetent,
79   That the mid-circle of supernal motion,
80   Which in some art is the Equator called
81   And aye remains between the Sun and Winter,
82   For reason which thou sayest, departeth hence
83   Tow’rds the Septentrion, what time the Hebrews
84   Beheld it tow’rds the region of the heat.
85   But, if it pleaseth thee, I fain would learn
86   How far we have to go; for the hill rises
87   Higher than eyes of mine have power to rise.
88   And he to me: This mount is such. that ever
89   At the beginning down below ’tis tiresome,
90   And aye the more one climbs, the less it hurts.
91   Therefore, when it shall seem so pleasant to thee,
92   That going up shall be to thee as easy
93   As going down the current in a boat,
94   Then at this pathway’s ending thou wilt be;
95   There to repose thy panting breath expect;
96   No more I answer; and this I know for true.
97   And as he finished uttering these words,
98   A voice close by us sounded: Peradventure
99   Thou wilt have need of sitting down ere that.
100   At sound thereof each one of us turned round,
101   And saw upon the left hand a great rock,
102   Which neither I nor he before had noticed.
103   Thither we drew; and there were persons there
104   Who in the shadow stood behind the rock,
105   As one through indolence is wont to stand.
106   And one of the, who seemed to me fatigued,
107   Was sitting down, and both his knees embraced,
108   Holding his face low down between them bowed.
109   O my sweet Lord,I said, do turn thine eye
110   On him who shows himself more negligent
111   Then even Sloth herself his sister were.
112   Then he turned round to us, and he gave heed,
113   Just lifting up his eyes above his thigh,
114   And said: Now go thou up, for thou art valiant.
115   Then knew I who he was; and the distress,
116   That still a little did my breathing quicken,
117   My going to him hindered not; and after
118   I came to him he hardly raised his head,
119   Saying: Hast thou seen clearly how the sun
120   O’er thy left shoulder drives his chariot?
121   His sluggish attitude and his curt words
122   A little unto laughter moved my lips;
123   Then I began: Belacqua, I grieve not
124   For thee henceforth; but tell me, wherefore seated
125   In this place art thou ? Waitest thou an escort?
126   Or has thy usual habit seized upon thee?
127   And he: O brother, what’s the use of climbing?
128   Since to my torment would not let me go
129   The Angel of God, who sitteth at the gate.
130   First heaven must needs so long revolve me round
131   Outside thereof, as in my life it did,
132   Since the good sighs I to the end postponed,
133   Unless, e’er that, some prayer may bring me aid
134   Which rises from a heart that lives in grace;
135   What profit others that in heaven are heard not?
136   Meanwhile the Poet was before me mounting,
137   And saying: Come now; see the sun has touched
138   Meridian, and from the shore the night
139   Covers already with her foot Morocco.