Canto II

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   DAY was departing, and the embrowned air
2   Released the animals that are on earth
3   From their fatigues; and I the only one
 
4   Made myself ready to sustain the war,
5   Both of the way and likewise of the woe,
6   Which memory that errs not shall retrace.
 
7   O Muses, O high genius, now assist me!
8   O memory, that didst write dowll what I saw,
9   Here thy nobility shall be manifest !
 
10   And I began: Poet, who guidest me,
11   Regard my manhood, if it be sufficient.
12   Ere to the arduous pass thou dost confide me.
 
13   Thou sayest, that of Silvius the parent,
14   While yet corruptible, unto the world
15   Immortal went, and was there bodily.
 
16   But if the adversary of all evil
17   Was courteous, thinking of the high effect
18   That issue would from him, and who, and what,
 
19   To men of intellect unmeet it seems not;
20   For he was of great Rome, and of her empire
21   In the empyreal heaven as father chosen;
 
22   The which and what, wishing to speak the truth,
23   Were stablished as the ho]y place, wherein
24   Sits the successor of the greatest Peter.
 
25   Upon this journey, whence thou givest him vaunt,
26   Things did he hear, which the occasion were
27   Both of his victory and the papal mantle.
 
28   Thither went afterwards the Chosen Vessel,
29   To bring back comfort thence unto that Faith,
30   Which of salvation’s way is the beginning.
 
31   But I, why thither come, or who concedes it?
32   I not Aenas am, I am not Paul,
33   Nor I, nor others, think me worthy of it.
 
34   Therefore, if I resign myself to come,
35   I fear the coming may be ill-advised;
36   Thou’rt wise, and knowest better than I speak.
 
37   And as he is, who unwills what he willed,
38   And by new thoughts doth his intention change,
39   So that from his design he quite withdraws,
 
40   Such I became, upon that dark hillside,
41   Because, in thinking, I consumed the emprise,
42   Which was so very prompt in the beginning.
 
43   If I have well thy language understood,
44   Replied that shade of the Magnanimous,
45   Thy soul attainted is with cowardice,
 
46   Which many times a man encumbers so,
47   It turns him back from honoured enterprise,
48   As false sight doth a beast, when he is shy.
 
49   That thou mayst free thee from this apprehension,
50   I’ll tell thee why I came, and what I heard
51   At the first moment when I grieved for thee.
 
52   Among those was I who are in suspense,
53   And a fair, saintly Lady called to me
54   In such wise, I besought her to command me.
 
55   Her eyes where shining brighter than the Star;
56   And she began to say, gentle and low,
57   With voice angelical, in her own language
 
58   ‘O spirit courteous of Mantua,
59   Of whom the fame still in the world endures,
60   And shall endure, long-lasting as the world;
 
61   A friend of mine, and not the friend of fortune,
62   Upon the desert slope is so impeded
63   Upon his way, that he has turned through terror,
 
64   And may, I fear, already be so lost,
65   That I too late have risen to his succour,
66   From that which I have heard of him in Heaven.
 
67   Bestir thee now, and with thy speech ornate,
68   And with what needful is for his release,
69   Assist him so, that I may be consoled.
 
70   Beatrice am I, who do bid thee go;
71   I come from there, where I would fain return;
72   Love moved me, which compelleth me to speak.
 
73   When I shall be in presence of my Lord,
74   Full often will I praise thee unto him.’
75   Then paused she, and thereafter I began:
 
76   ‘O Lady of virtue, thou alone through whom
77   The human race exceedeth all contained
78   Within the heaven that has the lesser circles,
 
79   So grateful unto me is thy commandment,
80   To obey, if ’twere already done, were late;
81   No farther need’st thou ope to me thy wish.
 
82   But the cause tell me why thou dost not shun
83   The here descending down into this centre,
84   From the vast place thou burnest to return to.’
 
85   ‘Since thou wouldst fain so inwardly discern,
86   Briefly will I relate,’she answered me,
87   ‘Why I am not afraid to enter here.
 
88   Of those things only should one be afraid
89   Which have the power of doing others harm;
90   Of the rest, no; because they are not fearful.
 
91   God in his mercy such created me
92   That misery of yours attains me not,
93   Nor any flame assails me of this burning
 
94   gentle Lady is in Heaven, who grieves
95   At this impediment, to which I send thee,
96   So that stern judgment there above is broken.
 
97   In her entreaty she besought Lucia,
98   And said, Thy faithful one now stands in need
99   Of thee, and unto thee I recommend him.
 
100   Lucia,a, foe of all that cruel is,
101   Hastened away, and came unto the place
102   Where I was sitting with the ancient Rachel.
 
103   Beatrice said she, the true praise of God,
104   Why succourest thou not him, who loved thee so,
105   For thee he issued from the vulgar herd?
 
106   Dost thou not hear the pity of his plaint?
107   Dost thou not see the death that combats him
108   Beside that flood, where ocean has no vaunt?
 
109   Never were persons in the world so swift
110   To work their weal and to escape their woe,
111   As I, after such words as these were uttered,
 
112   Came hither downward from my blessed seat
113   Confiding in thy dignified discourse,
114   Which honours thee, and those who’ve listened to it.’
 
115   After she thus had spoken unto me,
116   Weeping, her shining eyes she turned away;
117   Whereby she made me swifter in my coming;
 
118   And unto thee I came, as she desired;
119   I have delivered thee from that wild beast,
120   Which barred the beautiful mountain’s short ascent.
 
121   What is it, then ? Why, why dost thou delay?
122   Why is such baseness bedded in thy heart?
123   Daring and hardihood why hast thou not,
 
124   Seeing that three such Ladies benedight
125   Are caring for thee in the court of Heaven,
126   And so much good my speech doth promise thee ?
 
127   Even as the flowerets, by nocturnal chill,
128   Bowed down and closed, when the sun whitens them,
129   Uplift themselves all open on their stems;
 
130   Such I became with my exhausted strength,
131   And such good courage to my heart there coursed,
132   That I began, like an intrepid person:
 
133   O she compassionate, who succoured me,
134   And courteous thou, who hast obeyed so soon
135   The words of truth which she addressed to thee!
 
136   Thou hast my heart so with desire disposed
137   To the adventure, with these words of thine,
138   That to my first intent I have returned.
 
139   Now go, for one sole will is in us both,
140   Thou Leader, and thou Lord, and Master thou.
141   Thus said I to him; and when he had moved,
 
142   I entered on the deep and savage way.