Canto XX

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   ILL strives the will against a better will;
2   Therefore, to pleasurehim, against my pleasure
3   I drew the sponge not saturate from thewater.
 
4   Onward I moved, and onward moved my Leader,
5   Through vacant places, skirting still the rock,
6   As on a wall close to the battlements;
 
7   For they that through their eyes pour drop by drop
8   The malady whichall the world pervades,
9   On the other side too near the verge approach.
 
10   Accurs edmayst thou be, thou old she-wolf,
11   That more than all the other beasts hast prey,
12   Because of hunger infinitely hollow!
 
13   O heaven, in whose gyrations some appear
14   To think conditions here below are changed,
15   When will he come through whom she shall depart?
 
16   Onward we went with footsteps slow and scarce,
17   And I attentive to the shades I heard
18   Piteously weeping and bemoaning them;
 
19   And I by peradventure heard Sweet Mary!
20   Uttered in front of us amid the weeping
21   Even as a woman does who is in child-birth;
 
22   And in continuance: How poor thou wast
23   Is manifested by that hostelry
24   Where thou didst lay thy sacred burden down.
 
25   Thereafterward I heard: O good Fabricius,
26   Virtue with poverty didst thou prefer
27   To the possession of great wealth with vice.
 
28   So pleasurable were these words to me
29   That I drew farther onward to have knowledge
30   Touching that spirit whence they seemed to come.
 
31   He furthermore was speaking of the largess
32   Which Nicholas unto the maidens gave,
33   In order to conduct their youth to honour.
 
34   O soul that dost so excellently speak,
35   Tell me who wast thou, said I,and why only
36   Thou dost renew these praises well deserved?
 
37   Not without recompense shall be thy word,
38   If I return to finish the short journey
39   Of that life which is flying to its end.
 
40   And he: I’ll tell thee, not for any comfort
41   I may expect from earth, but that so much
42   Grace shines in thee or ever thou art dead.
 
43   I was the root of that malignant plant
44   Which overshadows all the Christian world,
45   So that good fruit is seldom gathered from it;
 
46   But if Douay and Ghent, and Lille and Bruges
47   Had Dower. soon vengeance would be taken on it;
48   And this I pray of Him who judges all.
 
49   Hugh Capet was I called upon the earth;
50   From me were born the Louises and Philips,
51   By whom in later days has France been governed.
 
52   I was the son of a Parisian butcher,
53   What time the ancient kings had perished all,
54   Excepting one, contrite in cloth of gray.
 
55   I found me grasping in my hands the rein
56   Of the realm’s government, and so great power
57   Of new acquest, and so with friends abounding,
 
58   That to the widowed diadem promoted
59   The head of mine own offspring was, from whom
60   The consecrated bones of these began.
 
61   So long as the great dowry of Provence
62   Out of my blood took not the sense of shame,
63   ‘Twas little worth, but still it did no harm.
 
64   Then it began with falsehood and with force
65   Its rapine; and thereafter, for amends,
66   Took Ponthieu, Normandy, and Gascony.
 
67   Charles came to Italy, and for amends
68   A victim made of Conradin, and then
69   Thrust Thomas back to heaven, for amends.
 
70   A time I see, not very distant now,
71   Which draweth forth another Charles from France,
72   The better to make known both him and his.
 
73   Unarmed he goes, and only with the lance
74   That Judas jousted with; and that he thrusts
75   So that he makes the paunch of Florence burst.
 
76   He thence not land, but sin and infamy,
77   Shall gain, so much more grievous to himself
78   As the more light such damage he accounts.
 
79   The other, now gone forth, ta’en in his ship,
80   See I his daughter sell, and chaffer for her
81   As corsairs do with other female slaves.
 
82   What more, O Avarice, canst thou do to us,
83   Since thou my blood so to thyself hast drawn,
84   It careth not for its own proper flesh?
 
85   That less may seem the future ill and past,
86   I see the flower-de-luce Alagna enter,
87   And Christ in his own Vicar captive made.
 
88   I see him yet another time derided;
89   I see renewed the vinegar and gall,
90   And between living thieves I see him slain.
 
91   I see the modern Pilate so relentless,
92   This does not sate him, but without decretal
93   He to the temple bears his sordid sails!
 
94   When, O my Lord 1 shall I be joyful made
95   By looking on the vengeance which, concealed,
96   Makes sweet thine anger in thy secrecy?
 
97   What I was saying of that only bride
98   Of the Holy Ghost, and which occasioned thee
99   To turn towards me for some commentary,
 
100   So long has been ordained to all our prayers
101   As the day lasts; but when the night comes on,
102   Contrary sound we take instead thereof.
 
103   At that time we repeat Pygmalion,
104   Of whom a traitor, thief, and parricide
105   Made his insatiable desire of gold;
 
106   And the misery of avaricious Midas,
107   That followed his inordinate demand,
108   At which forevermore one needs but laugh.
 
109   The foolish Achan each one then records,
110   And how he stole the spoils; so that the wrath
111   Of Joshua still appears to sting him here.
 
112   Then we accuse Sapphira with her husband,
113   We laud the hoof-beats Heliodorus had,
114   And the whole mount in infamy encircles
 
115   Polymnestor who murdered Polydorus.
116   Here finally is cried: ‘ O Crassus, tell us,
117   For thou dost know, what is the taste of gold?
 
118   Sometimes we speak, one loud, another low,
119   According to desire of speech, that spurs us
120   To greater now and now to lesser pace.
 
121   But in the good that here by day is talked of,
122   Erewhile alone I was not; yet near by
123   No other person lifted up his voice.
 
124   From him already we departed were,
125   And made endeavour to o’ercome the road
126   As much as was permitted to our power,
 
127   When I perceived, like something that is falling,
128   The mountain tremble, whence a chill seized on me,
129   As seizes him who to his death is going.
 
130   Certes so violently shook not Delos,
131   Before Latona made her nest therein
132   To give birth to the two eyes of the heaven.
 
133   Then upon all sides there began a cry,
134   Such that the Master drew himself towards me,
135   Saying, Fear not, while I am guiding thee.
 
136   Gloria in excelsis Deo,all
137   Were saying, from what near I comprehended,
138   Where it was possible to hear the cry.
 
139   We paused immovable and in suspense;
140   Even as the shepherds who first heard that song,
141   Until the trembling ceased, and it was finished.
 
142   No ignorance ever with so great a strife
143   Had rendered me importunate to know,
144   If erreth not in this my memory,
 
145   As meditating then I seemed to have;
146   Nor out of haste to question did I dare,
147   Nor of myself I there could aught perceive;
 
148   So I went onward timorous and thoughtful.