Canto XIII

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   WE were upon the summit of the stairs,
2   Where for the second time is cut away
3   The mountain, which ascending shriveth all
 
4   There in like manner doth a cornice bind
5   The hill all round about, as does the first,
6   Save that its arc more suddenly is curved
 
7   Shade is there none, nor sculpture that appears;
8   So seems the bank, and so the road seems smooth
9   With but the livid colour of the stone.
 
10   If to inquire we wait for people here,
11   The Poet said, I fear that peradventure
12   Too much delay will our election have.
 
13   ‘Then steadfast on the sun his eyes hefixed.
14   Made his right side the centre of his motion,
15   And turned the left part of himself about.
 
16   O thou sweet light ! with trust in whom I enter
17   Upon this novel journey, do thou lead us,’
18   Said he, as one within here should be led.
 
19   Thou warmest the world, thou shinest over it;
20   If other reason prompt not otherwise,
21   Thy rays should evermore our leaders be!
 
22   As much as here is counted for a mile,
23   So much already there had we advanced
24   In little time, by dint of ready will;
 
25   And tow’rds us there were heard to fly, albeit
26   They were not visible, spirits uttering
27   Unto Love’s table courteous invitations,
 
28   The first voice that passed onward in its flight,
29   Vinum non habent, said in accents loud,
30   And went reiterating it behind us.
 
31   And ere it wholly grew inaudible
32   Because of distance, passed another, crying,
33   I am Orestes! and it also stayed not.
 
34   O, said I, Father, these, what voices are they?
35   And even as I asked, behold the third,
36   Saying: Love those from whom ye have had evil !
 
37   And the good Master said: This circle scourges
38   The sin of envy, and on that account
39   Are drawn from love the lashes of the scourge.
 
40   The bridle of another sound shall be;
41   I think that thou wilt hear it, as I judge,
42   Before thou comest to the Pass of Pardon.
 
43   But fix thine eyes athwart the air right steadfast,
44   And people thou wilt see before us sitting,
45   And each one close against the cliff is seated.
 
46   Then wider than at first mine eyes I opened;
47   I looked before me, and saw shades with mantles
48   Not from the colour of the stone diverse.
 
49   And when we were a little farther onward
50   I heard a cry of, Mary, pray for us!
51   A cry of, Michael, Peter, and all Saints!
 
52   I do not think there walketh still on earth
53   A man so hard, that he would not be pierced
54   With pity at what afterward I saw.
 
55   For when I had approached so near to them
56   That manifest to me their acts became,
57   Drained was I at the eyes by heavy grief.
 
58   Covered with sackcloth vile they seemed to me,
59   And one sustained the other with his shoulder,
60   And all of them were by the bank sustained.
 
61   Thus do the blind, in want of livelihood,
62   Stand at the doors of churches asking alms,
63   And one upon another leans his head
 
64   So that in others pity soon may rise,
65   Not only at the accent of their words,
66   But at their aspect, which no less implores.
 
67   And as unto the blind the sun comes not
68   So to the shades, of whom just now I spake,
69   Heaven’s light will not be bounteous of itself;
 
70   For all their lids an iron wire transpierces,
71   And sews them up, as to a sparhawk wild
72   Is done, because it will not quiet stay.
 
73   To me it seemed, in passing, to do outrage,
74   Seeing the others without being seen;
75   Wherefore I turned me to my counsel sage.
 
76   Well knew he what the mute one wished to say,
77   -And therefore waited not for my demand,
78   But said: Speak, and be brief, and to the point.
 
79   I had Virgilius upon that side
80   Of the embankment from which one may fall,
81   Since by no border ’tis engarlanded;
 
82   Upon the other side of me I had
83   The shades devout, who through the horrible seam
84   Pressed out the tears so that they bathed their cheeks.
 
85   To them I turned me, and, O people, certain,
86   Began I, of beholding the high light,
87   Which your desire has solely in its care,
 
88   So may grace speedily dissolve the scum
89   Upon your consciences, that limpidly
90   Through them descend the river of the mind,
 
91   Tell me, for dear ’twill be to me and gracious,
92   If any soul among you here is Latian,
93   And ’twill perchance be good for him I learn it.
 
94   O brother mine, each one is citizen
95   Of one true city; but thy meaning is,
96   Who may have lived in Italy a pilgrim.
 
97   By way of answer this I seemed to hear
98   A little farther on than where I stood,
99   Whereat I made myself still nearer heard.
 
100   Among the rest I saw a shade that waited
101   In aspect, and should any one ask how,
102   Its chin it lifted upward like a blind man.
 
103   Spirit,I said,who stoopest to ascend,
104   If thou art he who did reply to me,
105   Make thyself known to me by place or name.
 
106   Sienese was I, it replied, and with
107   The others here recleanse my guilty life,
108   Weeping to Him to lend himself to us.
 
109   Sapient I was not, although I Sapia
110   Was called, and I was at another’s harm
111   More happy far than at my own good fortune.
 
112   And that thou mayst not think that I deceive thee,
113   Hear if I was as foolish as I tell thee.
114   The arc already of my years descending,
 
115   My fellow-citizens near unto Colle
116   Were joined in battle with their adversaries,
117   And I was praying God for what he willed.
 
118   Routed were they, and turned into the bitter
119   Passes of flight; and I, the chase beholding,
120   A joy received unequalled by all others;
 
121   So that I lifted upward my bold face
122   Crying to God, ‘ Henceforth I fear thee not,’
123   As did the blackbird at the little sunshine.
 
124   Peace I desired with God at the extreme
125   Of my existence, and as yet would not
126   My debt have been by penitence discharged,
 
127   Had it not been that in remembrance held me
128   Pier Pettignano in his holy prayers,
129   Who out of charity was grieved for me.
 
130   But who art thou, that into our conditions
131   Questioning goest, and hast thine eyes unbound
132   As I believe, and breathing dost discourse?
 
133   Mine eyes,I said, will yet be here ta’en from me,
134   But for short space j for small is the offence
135   Committed by their being turned with envy.
 
136   Far greater is the fear, wherein suspended
137   My soul is, of the torment underneath,
138   For even now the load down there weighs on me.
 
139   And she to me: Who led thee, then, among us
140   Up here, if to return below thou thinkest ?
141   And I: He who is with me,and speaks not;
 
142   And living am I; therefore ask of me,
143   Spirit elect, if thou wouldst have me move
144   O’er yonder yet my mortal feet for thee.
 
145   O, this is such a novel thing to hear,
146   She answered, that great sign it is God loves thee;
147   Therefore with prayer of thine sometimes assist me
 
148   And I implore, by what thou most desirest,
149   If e’er thou treadest the soil of Tuscany,
150   Well with my kindred reinstate my fame.
 
151   Them wilt thou see among that people vain
152   Who hope in Talamone, and will lose there
153   More hope than in discovering the Diana;
 
154   But there still more the admirals will lose.