Canto VIII

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   ‘TWAS now the hour that turneth back desire
2   In those who sail the sea, and melts the heart,
3   The day they’ve said to their sweet friends farewell,
4   And the new pilgrim penetrates with love,
5   If he doth hear from far away a be
6   That seemeth to deplore the dying day,
7   When I began to make of no avail
8   My hearing, and to watch one of the souls
9   Uprisen, that begged attention with its hand.
10   It joined and lifted upward both its palms,
11   Fixing its eyes upon the orient,
12   As if it said to God, Naught else I care for.
13   Te lucis ante so devoutly issued
14   Forth from its mouth, and with such dulcet notes,
15   It made me issue forth from my own mind.
16   And then the others, sweetly and devoutly,
17   Accompanied it through all the hymn entire,
18   Having their eyes on the supernal wheels.
19   Here, Reader, fix thine eyes well on the truth,
20   For now indeed so subtile is the veil,
21   Surely to penetrate within is easy.
22   I saw that army of the gentle-born
23   Thereafterward in silence upward gaze,
24   As if in expectation, pale and humble;
25   And from on high come forth and down descend,
26   I saw two Angels with two flaming swords,
27   Truncated and deprived of their points.
28   Green as the little leaflets just now born
29   Their garments were, which, by their verdant pinions
30   Beaten and blown abroad, they trailed behind.
31   One just above us came to take his station,
32   And one descended to the opposite bank,
33   So that the people were contained between them.
34   Clearly in them discerned I the blond head;
35   But in their faces was the eye bewildered,
36   As faculty confounded by excess.
37   From Mary’s bosom both of them have come,
38   Sordello said, as guardians of the valley
39   Against the serpent, that will come anon.
40   Whereupon I, who knew not by what road,
41   Turned round about, and closely drew myself,
42   Utterly frozen, to the faithful shoulders.
43   And once again Sordello: Now descend we
44   ‘Mid the grand shades, and we will speak to them;
45   Right pleasant will it be for them to see you.
46   Only three steps I think that I descended,
47   And was below, and saw one who was looking
48   Only at me, as if he fain would know me.
49   Already now the air was growing dark,
50   But not so that between his eyes and mine
51   It did not show w hat it before locked up.
52   Tow’rds me he moved, and I tow’rds him did move;
53   Noble Judge Nino! how it me delighted,
54   When I beheld thee not among the damned!
55   No greeting fair was left unsaid between us;
56   Then asked he: How long is it since thou camest
57   O’er the far waters to the mountain’s foot?
58   Oh!said I to him, through the dismal places
59   I came this morn; and am in the first life,
60   Albeit the other, going thus, I gain.
61   And on the instant my reply was heard,
62   He and Sordello both shrank back from me,
63   Like people who are suddenly bewildered.
64   One to Virgilius, and the other turned
65   To one who sat there, crying, Up, Currado!
66   Come and behold what God in grace has willed!
67   Then, turned to me: By that especial grace
68   Thou owest unto Him, who so conceals
69   His own first wherefore, that it has no ford,
70   When thou shalt be beyond the waters wide,
71   Tell my Giovanna that she pray for me,
72   Where answer to the innocent is made.
73   I do not think her mother loves me more,
74   Since she has laid aside her wimple white,
75   Which she, unhappy, needs must wish again.
76   Through her full easily is comprehended
77   How long in woman lasts the fire of love,
78   If eye or touch do not relight it often.
79   So fair a hatchment will not make for her
80   The Viper marshalling the Milanese
81   A-field, as would have made Gallura’s Cock.
82   In this wise spake he, with the stamp impressed
83   Upon his aspect of that righteous zeal
84   Which measurably burneth in the heart.
85   My greedy eyes still wandered up to heaven,
86   Still to that point where slowest are the stars
87   Even as a wheel the nearest to its axle.
88   And my Conductor: Son, what dost thou gaze at
89   Up there ? And I to him: At those three torches
90   With which this hither pole is all on fire.
91   And he to me: The four resplendent stars
92   Thou sawest this morning are down yonder low,
93   And these have mounted up to where those were.
94   As he was speaking, to himself Sordello
95   Drew him, and said, Lo there our Adversa
96   And pointed with his finger to look thither.
97   Upon the side on which the little valley
98   No barrier hath, a serpent was; perchance
99   The same which gave to Eve the bitter food.
100   ‘Twixt grass and flowers came on the evil
101   streak, Turning at times its head about, and licking
102   Its back like to a beast that smoothes itself
103   I did not see, and therefore cannot say
104   How the celestial falcons ‘gan to move,
105   But well I saw that they were both in motion.
106   Hearing the air cleft by their verdant wings,
107   The serpent fled, and round the Angels wheeled,
108   Up to their stations flying back alike.
109   The shade that to the Judge had near approached
110   When he had called, throughout that whole assault
111   Had not a moment loosed its gaze on me.
112   So may the light that leadeth thee on high
113   Find in thine own free-will as much of wax
114   As needful is up to the highest azure,
115   Began it, if some true intelligence.
116   Of Valdimagra or its neighbourhood
117   Thou knowest, tell it me, who once was great there.
118   Currado Malaspina was I called;
119   I’m not the elder, but from him descended;
120   To mine I bore the love which here refineth.
121   O, said I unto him, through your domains
122   I never passed, but where is there a dwelling
123   Throughout all Europe, where they are not known?
124   That fame, which doeth honour to your house,
125   Proclaims its Signors and proclaims its land,
126   So that he knows of them who ne’er was there.
127   And, as I hope for heaven, I swear to you
128   Your honoured family in naught abates
129   The glory of the purse and of the sword.
130   It is so privileged by use and nature,
131   That though a guilty head misguide the world,
132   Sole it goes right, and scorns the evil way.
133   And he: Now go; for the sun shall not lie
134   Seven times upon the pillow which the Ram
135   With all his four feet covers and bestrides,
136   Before that such a courteous opinion
137   Shall in the middle of thy head be nailed
138   With greater nails than of another’s speech,
139   Unless the course of justice standeth still.