Canto XXXI

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   O THOU who art beyond the sacred river,
2   Turning to me the point of her discourse,
3   That edgewise even had seemed to me so keen,
 
4   She recommenced, continuing without pause,
5   Say, say if this be true; to such a charge,
6   Thy own confession needs must be conjoined.
 
7   My faculties were in so great confusion,
8   That the voice moved, but sooner was extinct
9   Than by its organs it was set at large.
 
10   Awhile she waited; then she said: What thinkest?
11   Answer me; for the mournful memories
12   In thee not yet are by the waters injured.
 
13   Confusion and dismay together mingled
14   Forced such a Yes ! from out my mouth, that sight
15   Was needful to the understanding of it.
 
16   Even as a cross-bow breaks, when ’tis discharged
17   Too tensely drawn the bowstring and the bow,
18   And with less force the arrow hits the mark,
 
19   So I gave way beneath that heavy burden,
20   Outpouring in a torrent tears and sighs,
21   And the voice flagged upon its passage forth.
 
22   Whence she to me: In those desires of mine
23   Which led thee to the loving of that good,
24   Beyond which there is nothing to aspire to,
 
25   What trenches lying traverse or what chains
26   Didst thou discover, that of passing onward
27   Thou shouldst have thus despoiled thee of the hope?
 
28   And what allurements or what vantages
29   Upon the forehead of the others showed,
30   That thou shouldst turn thy footsteps unto them?
 
31   After the heaving of a bitter sigh,
32   Hardly had I the voice to make response,
33   And with fatigue my lips did fashion it
 
34   Weeping I said: The things that present were
35   With their false pleasure turned aside my steps,
36   Soon as your countenance concealed itself.
 
37   And she: Shouldst thou be silent, or deny
38   What thou confessest, not less manifest
39   Would be thy fault, by such a Judge ’tis known
 
40   But when from one’s own cheeks comes bursting forth
41   The accusal of the sin, in our tribunal
42   Against the edge the wheel doth turn itself
 
43   But still, that thou mayst feel a greater shame
44   For thy transgression, and another time
45   Hearing the Sirens thou mayst be more strong,
 
46   Cast down the seed of weeping and attend;
47   So shalt thou hear, how in an opposite way
48   My buried flesh should have directed thee.
 
49   Never to thee presented art or nature
50   Pleasure so great as the fair limbs wherein
51   I was enclosed, which scattered are in earth.
 
52   And if the highest pleasure thus did fail thee
53   By reason of my death. What mortal thing
54   Should then have drawn thee into its desire?
 
55   Thou oughtest verily at the first shaft
56   Of things fallacious to have risen up
57   To follow me, who was no longer such.
 
58   Thou oughtest not to have stooped thy pinions downward
59   To wait for further blows, or little girl,
60   Or other vanity of such brief use.
 
61   The callow birdlet waits for two or three,
62   But to the eyes of those already fledged,
63   In vain the net is spread or shaft is shot.
 
64   Even as children silent in their shame
65   Stand listening with their eyes upon the ground,
66   And conscious of their fault, and penitent;
 
67   So was I standing; and she said: If thou
68   In hearing sufferest pain, lift up thy beard
69   And thou shalt feel a greater pain in seeing.
 
70   With less resistance is a robust holm
71   Uprooted, either by a native wind
72   Or else by that from regions of Iarbas,
 
73   Than I upraised at her command my chin;
74   And when she by the beard the face demanded,
75   Well I perceived the venom of her meaning.
 
76   And as my countenance was lifted up,
77   Mine eye perceived those creatures beautiful
78   Had rested from the strewing of the flowers;
 
79   And, still but little reassured, mine eyes
80   Saw Beatrice turned round towards the monster,
81   That is one person only in two natures.
 
82   Beneath her veil, beyond the margent green,
83   She seemed to me far more her ancient self
84   To excel, than others here, when she was here.
 
85   So pricked me then the thorn of penitence,
86   That of all other things the one which turned me
87   Most to its love became the most my foe.
 
88   Such self-conviction stung me at the heart
89   O’erpowered I fell, and what I then became
90   She knoweth who had furnished me the cause.
 
91   Then, when the heart restored my outward sense,
92   The lady I had found alone, above me
93   I saw, and she was saying, Hold me, hold me.
 
94   Up to my throat she in the stream had drawn me,
95   And, dragging me behind her, she was moving
96   Upon the water lightly as a shuttle.
 
97   When I was near unto the blessed shore,
98   Asperges me, I heard so sweetly sung,
99   Remember it I cannot, much less write it
 
100   The beautiful lady opened wide her arms,
101   Embraced my head, and plunged me underneath,
102   Where I was forced to swallow of the water.
 
103   Then forth she drew me, and all dripping brought
104   Into the dance of the four beautiful,
105   And each one with her arm did cover me.
 
106   ‘We here are Nymphs, and in the Heaven are stars;
107   Ere Beatrice descended to the world,
108   We as her handmaids were appointed her.
 
109   We’ll lead thee to her eyes; but for the pleasant
110   Light that within them is, shall sharpen thine
111   The three beyond, who more profoundly look.
 
112   Thus singing they began; and afterwards
113   Unto the Griffin’s breast they led me with them,
114   Where Beatrice was standing, turned towards us.
 
115   See that thou dost not spare thine eyes,they said;
116   Before the emeralds have we stationed thee,
117   Whence Love aforetime drew for thee his weapons.
 
118   A thousand longings, hotter than the flame,
119   Fastened mine eyes upon those eyes relucent,
120   That still upon the Griffin steadfast stayed.
 
121   As in a glass the sun, not otherwise
122   Within them was the twofold monster shining,
123   Now with the one, now with the other nature.
 
124   Think, Reader, if within myself I marvelled,
125   When I beheld the thing itself stand still,
126   And in its image it transformed itself.
 
127   While with amazement filled and jubilant,
128   My soul was tasting of the food, that while
129   It satisfies us makes us hunger for it,
 
130   Themselves revealing of the highest rank
131   In bearing, did the other three advance,
132   Singing to their angelic saraband.
 
133   Turn, Beatrice, O turn thy holy eyes,
134   Such was their song, unto thy faithful one,
135   Who has to see thee ta’en so many steps.
 
136   In grace do us the grace that thou unveil
137   Thy face to him, so that he may discern
138   The second beauty which thou dost conceal.
 
139   O splendour of the living light eternal!
140   Who underneath the shadow of Parnassus
141   Has grown so pale, or drunk so at its cistern,
 
142   He would not seem to have his mind encumbered
143   Striving to paint thee as thou didst appear,
144   Where the harmonious heaven o’ershadowed thee,
 
145   When in the open air thou didst unveil?