Canto VII

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   AFTER the gracious and glad salutations
2   Had three and four times been reiterated,
3   Sordello backward drew and said, Who are you?
4   Or ever to this mountain were directed
5   The souls deserving to ascend to God,
6   My bones were buried by Octavian.
7   I am Virgilius; and for no crime else
8   Did I lose heaven, than for not having faith;
9   In this wise then my Leader made reply.
10   As one who suddenly before him sees
11   Something whereat he marvels, who believes
12   And yet (does not, saying, It is! it is not!
13   So he appeared; and then bowed down his brow,
14   And with humility returned towards him,
15   And, where inferiors embrace, embraced him.
16   O glory of the Latians, thou, he said,
17   Through whom our language showed what it could do
18   O pride eternal of the place I came from,
19   What merit or what grace to me reveals thee?
20   If I to hear thy words be worthy, tell me
21   If thou dost come from Hell, and from what cloister.
22   Through all the circles of the doleful realm,
23   Responded he, have I come hitherward;
24   Heaven’s power impelled me, and with that I come.
25   I by not doing, not by doing, lost
26   The sight of that high sun which thou desirest,
27   And which too late by me was recognized.
28   A place there is below not sad with torments,
29   But darkness only, where the lamentations
30   Have not the sound of wailing, but are sighs.
31   There dwell I with the little innocents
32   Snatched by the teeth of Death, or ever they
33   Were from our human sinfulness exempt.
34   There dwell I among those who the three saintly
35   Virtues did not put on, and without vice
36   The others knew and followed all of them.
37   But if thou know and can, some indication
38   Give us by which we may the sooner come
39   Where Purgatory has its right beginning.
40   He answered: No fixed place has been assigned us;
41   ‘Tis lawful for me to go up and round;
42   So far as I can go, as guide I join thee.
43   But see already how the day declines,
44   And to go up by night we are not able;
45   Therefore ’tis well to think of some fair sojourn.
46   Souls are there on the right hand here withdrawn;
47   If thou permit me I will lead thee to them,
48   And thou shalt know them not without delight.
49   How is this? was the answer;should one wish
50   To mount by night would he prevented be
51   By others? or mayhap would not have power?
52   And on the ground the good Sordello drew
53   His finger, saying, See, this line alone
54   Thou couldst not pass after the sun is gone;
55   Not that aught else would hindrance give, however,
56   To going up, save the nocturnal darkness;
57   This with the want of power the will perplexes.
58   We might indeed therewith return below,
59   And, wandering, walk the hill-side round about,
60   While the horizon holds the day imprisoned.
61   Thereon my Lord, as if in wonder, said:
62   Do thou conduct us thither, where thou sayest
63   That we can take delight in tarrying.
64   Little had we withdrawn us from that place,
65   When I perceived the mount was hollowed out
66   In fashion as the valleys here are hollowed.
67   Thitherward, said that shade, will we repair,
68   Where of itself the hill-side makes a lap
69   And there for the new day will we await.
70   ‘Twixt hill and plain there was a winding path
71   Which led us to the margin of that dell,
72   Where dies the border more than half away
73   Gold and fine silver, and scarlet and pearl-white,
74   The Indian wood resplendent and serene,
75   Fresh emerald the moment it is broken,
76   By herbage and by flowers within that hollow
77   Planted, each one in colour would be vanquished,
78   As by its greater vanquished is the less.
79   Nor in that place had nature painted only,
80   But of the sweetness of a thousand odours
81   Made there a mingled fragrance and unknown.
82   Salve Regina, on the green and flowers
83   There seated, singing, spirits I beheld,
84   Which were not visible outside the valley.
85   Before the scanty sun now seeks his nest,
86   Began the Mantuan who had led us thither,
87   Among them do not wish me to conduct you.
88   Better from off this ledge the acts and faces
89   Of all of them will you discriminate,
90   Than in the plain below received among them
91   He who sits highest, and the semblance bears
92   Of having what he should have done neglected,
93   And to the others’ song moves not his lips,
94   Rudolph the Emperor was, who had the power
95   To heal the wounds that Italy have slain,
96   So that through others slowly she revives.
97   The other, who in look doth comfort him,
98   Governed the region where the water springs,
99   The Moldau bears the Elbe, and Elbe the sea.
100   His name was Ottocar; and in swaddling-clothes
101   Far better he than bearded Winceslaus
102   His son, who feeds in luxury and ease.
103   And the small-nosed, who close in council seems
104   With him that has an aspect so benign,
105   Died fleeing and disflowering the lily;
106   Look there, how he is beating at his breast!
107   Behold the other one, who for his cheek
108   Sighing has made of his own palm a bed;
109   Father and father-in-law of France’s Pest
110   Are they, and know his vicious life and lewd,
111   And hence proceeds the grief that so doth pierce them.
112   He who appears so stalwart, and chimes in,
113   Singing, with that one of the manly nose,
114   The cord of every valour wore begirt;
115   And if as King had after him remained
116   The stripling who in rear of him is sitting;
117   Well had the valour passed from vase to vase
118   Which cannot of the other heirs be said.
119   Frederick and Jacomo possess the realms,
120   But none the better heritage possesses.
121   Not oftentimes upriseth through the branches
122   The probity of man; and this He wills
123   Who gives it, so that we may ask of Him.
124   Eke to the large-nosed reach my words, no less
125   Than to the other, Pier, who with him sings;
126   Whence Provence and Apulia grieve already
127   The plant is as inferior to its seed,
128   As more than Beatrice and Margaret
129   Costanza boasteth of her husband still.
130   Behold the monarch of the simple life,
131   Harry of England, sitting there alone;
132   He in his branches has a better issue.
133   He who the lowest on the ground among them
134   Sits looking upward, is the Marquis William,
135   For whose sake Alessandra and her war
136   Make Monferrat and Canavese weep.