Canto XXII

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   ALREADY was the Angel left behind us,
2   The Angel who to the sixth round had turned us,
3   Having erased one mark from off my face;
 
4   And those who have in justice their desire
5   Had said to us, Beati, in their voices,
6   With sitio, and without more ended it
 
7   And I, more light than through the other passes,
8   Went onward so, that without any labour
9   I followed upward the swift-footed spirits;
 
10   When thus Virgilius began: The love
11   Kindled by virtue aye another kindles,
12   Provided outwardly its flame appear.
 
13   Hence from the hour that Juvenal descended
14   Among us into the infernal Limbo,
15   Who made apparent to me thy affection,
 
16   My kindliness towards thee was as great
17   As ever bound one to an unseen person,
18   So that these stairs will now seem short to me.
 
19   But tell me, and forgive me as a friend,
20   If too great confidence let loose the rein,
21   And as a friend now hold discourse with me;
 
22   How was it possible within thy breast
23   For avarice to find place, ‘mid so much wisdom
24   As thou wast filled with by thy diligence?
 
25   These words excited Statius at first
26   Somewhat to laughter; afterward he answered:
27   Each word of thine is love’s dear sign to me.
 
28   Verily oftentimes do things appear
29   Which give fallacious matter to our doubts,
30   Instead of the true causes which are hidden!
 
31   Thy question shows me thy belief to be
32   That I was niggard in the other life,
33   It may be from the circle where I was;
 
34   Therefore know thou, that avarice was removed
35   Too far from me; and this extravagance
36   Thousands of lunar periods have punished.
 
37   And were it not that I my thoughts uplifted,
38   When I the passage heard where thou exclaimest,
39   As if indignant, unto human nature,
 
40   ‘To what impellest thou not, O cursed hunger
41   Of gold, the appetite of mortal men ?’
42   Revolving I should feel the dismal joustings.
 
43   Then I perceived the hands could spread too wide
44   Their wings in spending, and repented me
45   As well of that as of my other sins;
 
46   How many with shorn hair shall rise again
47   Because of ignorance, which from this sin
48   Cuts off repentance living and in death!
 
49   And know that the transgression which rebuts
50   By direct opposition any sin
51   Together with it here its verdure dries.
 
52   Therefore if I have been among that folk
53   Which mourns its avarice, to purify me,
54   For its opposite has this befallen me.
 
55   Now when thou sangest the relentless weapons
56   Of the twofold affliction of Jocasta,
57   The singer of the Songs Bucolic said,
 
58   From that which Clio there with thee preludes,
59   It does not seem that yet had made thee faithful
60   That faith without which no good works suffice.
 
61   If this be so, what candles or what sun
62   Scattered thy darkness so that thou didst trim
63   Thy sails behind the Fisherman thereafter?
 
64   And he to him: Thou first directedst me
65   Towards Parnassus, in its grots to drink,
66   And first concerning God didst me enlighten.
 
67   Thou didst as he who walketh in the night,
68   Who bears his light behind, which helps him not,
69   But wary makes the persons after him,
 
70   When thou didst say: ‘ The age renews itself,
71   Justice returns, and man’s primeval time,
72   And a new progeny descends from heaven.’
 
73   Through thee I Poet was, through thee a Christian;
74   But that thou better see what I design,
75   To colour it will I extend my hand.
 
76   Already was the world in every part
77   Pregnant with the true creed, disseminated
78   By messengers of the eternal kingdom;
 
79   And thy assertion, spoken of above,
80   With the new preachers was in unison;
81   Whence I to visit them the custom took.
 
82   Then they became so holy in my sight,
83   That, when Domitian persecuted them,
84   Not without tears of mine were their laments;
 
85   And all the while that I on earth remained,
86   Them I befriended, and their upright customs
87   Made me disparage all the other sects.
 
88   And ere I led the Greeks unto the rivers
89   Of Thebes, in poetry, I was baptized,
90   But out of fear was covertly a Christian,
 
91   For a long time professing paganism;
92   And this lukewarmness caused me the fourth circle
93   To circuit round more than four centuries.
 
94   Thou, therefore, who hast raised the covering
95   That hid from me whatever good I speak of,
96   While in ascending we have time to spare,
 
97   Tell me, in what place is our friend Terentius,
98   Caecilius, Plautus, Varro, if thou knowest;
99   Tell me if they are damned, and in what alley.
 
100   These, Persius and myself, and others many,
101   Replied my Leader, with that Grecian are
102   Whom more than all the rest the Muses suckled,
 
103   In the first circle of the prison blind;
104   Ofttimes we of the mountain hold discourse
105   Which has our nurses ever with itself
 
106   Euripides is with us, Antiphon,
107   Simonides, Agatho, and many other
108   Greeks who of old their brows with laurel decked.
 
109   There some of thine own people may be seen,
110   Antigone, Deiphile and Argìa,
111   And there Ismene mournful as of old.
 
112   There she is seen who pointed out Langia;
113   There is Tiresias’ daughter, and there Thetis,
114   And there Deidamia with her sisters.
 
115   Silent already were the poets both,
116   Attent once more in looking round about,
117   From the ascent and from the walls released;
 
118   And four handmaidens of the day already
119   Were left behind, and at the pole the fifth
120   Was pointing upward still its burning horn,
 
121   What time my Guide: I think that tow’rds thee
122   Our dexter shoulders it behoves us turn,
123   Circling the mount as we are wont to do.
 
124   Thus in that region custom was our ensign;
125   And we resumed our way with less suspicion
126   For the assenting of that worthy soul
 
127   They in advance went on, and I alone
128   Behind them, and I listened to their speech,
129   Which gave me lessons in the art of song
 
130   But soon their sweet discourses interrupted
131   A tree which midway in the road we found,
132   With apples)Dles sweet and grateful to the smell edge
 
133   And even as a fir-tree tapers upward
134   From bough to bough, so downwardly did that;
135   I think in order that no one might climb it
 
136   On that side where our pathway was enclosed
137   Fell from the lofty rock a limpid water,
138   And spread itself abroad upon the leaves.
 
139   The Poets twain unto the tree drew near,
140   And from among the foliage a voice
141   Cried: Of this food ye shall have scarcity.
 
142   Then said: More thoughtful Mary was of making
143   The marriage feast complete and honourable,
144   Than of her mouth which now for you responds;
 
145   And for their drink the ancient Roman women
146   W With water were content; and Daniel
147   Disparaged food, and understanding won.
 
148   The primal age was beautiful as gold;
149   Acorns It made with hunger savorous,
150   And nectar every rivulet with thirst.
 
151   Honey and locusts were the aliments
152   That fed the Baptist in the wilderness;
153   Whence he is glorious, and so magnified
 
154   As by the Evangel is revealed to you.