Canto XIV

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   WHO is this one that goes about our mountain,
2   Or ever Death has given him power of flight,
3   And opes his eyes and shuts them at his will?
 
4   I know not who, but know he’s not alone;
5   Ask him thyself, for thou art nearer to him,
6   And gently, so that he may speak, accost him.
 
7   Thus did two spirits, leaning tow’rds each other,
8   Discourse about me there on the right hand;
9   Then held supine their faces to address me.
 
10   And said the one: O soul, that, fastened still
11   Within the body, tow’rds the heaven art going,
12   For charity console us, and declare
 
13   Whence comest and who art thou;for thou mak’st us
14   As much to marvel at this grace of thine
15   As must a thing that never yet has been.
 
16   And I: Through midst of Tuscany there wanders
17   A streamlet that is born in Falterona,
18   And not a hundred miles of course suffice it;
 
19   From thereupon do I this body bring.
20   To tell you who I am were speech in vain,
21   Because my name as yet makes no great noise.
 
22   If well thy meaning I can penetrate
23   With intellect of mine, then answered me
24   He who first spake, thou speakest of the Arno.
 
25   And said the other to him: Why concealed
26   This one the appellation of that river,
27   Even as a man doth of things horrible?
 
28   And thus the shade that questioned was of this
29   Himself acquitted: I know not; but truly
30   ‘Tis fit the name of such a vallev perish:
 
31   For from its fountain-head where is so pregnant
32   The Alpine mountain whence is cleft Peloro
33   That in few places it that mark surpasses
 
34   To where it yields itself in restoration
35   Of what the heaven doth of the sea dry up.
36   Whence have the rivers that which goes with them,
 
37   Virtue is like an enemy avoided
38   By all, as is a serpent, through misfortune
39   Of place, or through bad habit that impels them;
 
40   On which account have so transformed their nature
41   The dwellers in that miserable valley,
42   It seems that Circe had them in her pasture.
 
43   ‘Mid ugly swine, of acorns worthier
44   Than other food for human use created,
45   It first directeth its impoverished way.
 
46   Curs findeth it thereafter, coming downward,
47   More snarling than their puissance demands,
48   And turns from them disdainfully its muzzle.
 
49   It goes on falling, and the more it grows,
50   The more it finds the dogs becoming wolves,
51   This maledict and misadventurous ditch.
 
52   Descended then through many a hollow gulf,
53   It finds the foxes so replete with fraud,
54   They fear no cunning that may master them.
 
55   Nor will I cease because another hears me;
56   And well ’twill be for him, if still he mind him
57   Of what a truthful spirit to me unravels.
 
58   Thy grandson I behold, who doth become
59   A hunter of those wolves upon the bank
60   Of the wild stream. and terrifies them all.
 
61   He sells their flesh, it being yet alive;
62   Thereafter slaughters them like ancient beeves .
63   Many of life, himself of praise, deprives.
 
64   Blood-stained he issues from the dismal forest;
65   He leaves it such, a thousand years from now
66   In its primeval state ’tis not re-wooded.
 
67   As at the announcement of impending ills
68   The face of him who listens is disturbed,
69   From whate’er side the peril seize upon him;
 
70   So I beheld that other soul, which stood
71   Turned round to listen, grow disturbed and sad,
72   When it had gathered to itself the word.
 
73   The speech of one and aspect of the other
74   Had me desirous made to know their names,
75   And question mixed with prayers I made thereof,
 
76   Whereat the spirit which first spake to me
77   Began again: Thou wishest I should bring me
78   To do for thee what thou’lt not do for me;
 
79   But since God willeth that in thee shine forth
80   Such grace of his, I’ll not be chary with thee;
81   Know, then, that I Guido del Duca am.
 
82   My blood was so with envy set on fire,
83   That if I had beheld a man make merry,
84   Thou wouldst have seen me sprinkled o’er with pallor.
 
85   From my own sowing such the straw I reap!
86   O human race ! why dost thou set thy heart
87   Where interdict of partnership must be?
 
88   This is Renier; this is the boast and honour
89   Of the house of Calboli, where no one since
90   Has made himself the heir of his desert.
 
91   And not alone his blood is made devoid,
92   ‘Twixt Po and mount, and sea-shore and the Reno,
93   Of good required for truth and for diversion;
 
94   For all within these boundaries is full
95   Of venomous roots, so that too tardily
96   By cultivation now would they diminish.
 
97   Where is good Lizio, and Arrigo Manardi,
98   Pier Traversaro, and Guido di Carpigna,
99   O Romagnuoli into bastards turned?
 
100   When in Bologna will a Fabbro rise?
101   When in Faenza a Bernardin di Fosco,
102   The noble scion of ignoble seed?
 
103   Be not astonished, Tuscan, if I weep
104   When I remember, with Guido da Prata,
105   Ugolin d’ Azzo, who was living with us,
 
106   Frederick Tignoso and his company
107   The house of Traversara, and th’ Anastagi,
108   And one race and the other is extinct.
 
109   The dames and cavaliers, the toils and ease
110   That filled our souls with love and courtesy,
111   There where the hearts have so malicious grown!
 
112   O Brettinoro! why dost thou not flee,
113   Seeing that all thy family is gone,
114   And many people, not to be corrupted?
 
115   Bagnacaval does well in not begetting
116   And ill does Castrocaro, and Conio worse,
117   In taking trouble to beget such Counts.
 
118   Will do well the Pagani, when their Devil
119   Shall have departed; but not therefore pure
120   Will testimony of them e’er remain.
 
121   O Ugolin de’ Fantoli, secure
122   Thy name is, since no longer is awaited
123   One who, degenerating, can obscure it!
 
124   But go now, Tuscan, for it now delights me
125   To weep far better than it does to speak,
126   So much has our discourse my mind distressed.
 
127   We were aware that those beloved souls
128   Heard us depart; therefore, by keeping silent,
129   They made us of our pathway confident.
 
130   When we became alone by going onward,
131   Thunder, when it doth cleave the air, appeared
132   A voice, that counter to us came, exclaiming:
 
133   Shall slay me whosoever findeth me!
134   And fled as the reverberation dies
135   If suddenly the cloud asunder bursts.
 
136   As soon as hearing had a truce from this,
137   Behold another, with so great a crash,
138   That it resembled thunderings following fast:
 
139   I am Aglaurus, who became a stone!
140   And then, to press myself close to the Poet,
141   I backward, and not forward, took a step.
 
142   Already on all sides the air was quiet;
143   And said he to me: That was the hard curb
144   That ought to hold a man within his bounds;
 
145   But you take in the bait so that the hook
146   Of the old Adversary draws you to him,
147   And hence availeth little curb or call.
 
148   The heavens are calling you, and wheel around you,
149   Displaying to you their eternal beauties,
150   And still your eye is looking on the ground;
 
151   Whence He who all discerns, chastises you.