Canto IV

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   BROKE the deep lethargy within my head
2   A heavy thunder, so that I upstarted,
3   Like to a person who by force is wakened;
4   And round about I moved my rested eyes,
5   Uprisen erect, and steadfastly I gazed,
6   To recognise the place wherein I was.
7   True is it, that upon the verge I found me
8   Of the abysmal valley dolorous,
9   That gathers thunder of infinite ululations.
10   Obscure, profound it was, and nebulous,
11   So that by fixing on its depths my sight
12   Nothing whatever I discerned therein.
13   Let us descend now into the blind world,
14   Began the Poet, pallid utterly;
15   I will be first, and thou shalt second be.
16   And I, who of his colour was aware,
17   Said: How shall I come, if thou art afraid,
18   Who’rt wont to be a comfort to my fears?
19   And he to me: The anguish of the people
20   Who are below here in my face depicts
21   That pity which for terror thou hast taken.
22   Let us go on, for the long way impels us.
23   Thus he went in, and thus he made me enter
24   The foremost circle that surrounds the abyss.
25   There, as it seemed to me from listening,
26   Were lamentations none, but only sighs,
27   That tremble made the everlasting air.
28   And this arose from sorrow without torment,
29   Which the crowds had, that many were and great
30   Of infants and of women and of men.
31   To me the Master good: Thou dost not ask
32   What spirits these, which thou beholdest, are?
33   Now will I have thee know, ere thou go farther,
34   That they sinned not; and if they merit had,
35   ‘Tis not enough, because they had not baptism
36   Which is the portal of the Faith thou holdest;
37   And if they were before Christianity,
38   In the right manner they adored not God;
39   And among such as these am I myself
40   For such defects, and not for other guilt,
41   Lost are we and are only so far punished,
42   That without hope we live on in desire.
43   Great grief seized on my heart when this I heard,
44   Because some people of much worthiness
45   I knew, who in that Limbo were suspended.
46   Tell me, my Master, tell me, thou my Lord,
47   Began I, with desire of being certain
48   Of that Faith which o’ercometh every error,
49   Came any one by his own merit hence,
50   Or by another s, who was blessed thereafter?
51   And he, who understood my covert speech,
52   Replied: I was a novice in this state,
53   When I saw hither come a Mighty One,
54   With sign of victory incoronate.
55   Hence he drew forth the shade of the First
56   And that of his son Abel, and of Noah,
57   Of Moses the lawgiver, and the obedient
58   Abraham, patriarch, and David, king,
59   Israel with his father and his children,
60   And Rachel, for whose sake he did so much,
61   And others many, and he made them blessed;
62   And thou must know, that earlier than these
63   Never were any human spirits saved.
64   We ceased not to advance because he spake,
65   But still were passing onward through the forest
66   The forest, say I, of thick-crowded ghosts.
67   Not very far as yet our way had gone
68   This side the summit, when I saw a fire
69   That overcame a hemisphere of darkness.
70   We were a little distant from it still,
71   But not so far that I in part discerned not
72   That honourable people held that place.
73   O thou who honourest every art and science,
74   Who may these be, which such great honour have,
75   That from the fashion of the rest it parts them?
76   And he to me: The honourable name,
77   That sounds of them above there in thy life,
78   Wins grace in Heaven, that so advances them.
79   In the mean time a voice was heard by me:
80   All honour be to the pre-eminent Poet;
81   His shade returns again, that was departed.
82   After the voice had ceased and quiet was,
83   Four mighty shades I saw approaching us;
84   Semblance had they nor sorrowful nor glad.
85   To say to me began my gracious Master:
86   Him with that falchion in his hand behold,
87   Who comes before the three, even as their lord.
88   That one is Homer, Poet sovereign;
89   He who comes next is Horace, the satirist;
90   The third is Ovid, and the last is Lucan.
91   Because to each of these with me applies
92   The name that solitary voice proclaimed,
93   They do me honour, and in that do well.
94   Thus I beheld assemble the fair school
95   Of that lord of the song pre-eminent,
96   Who o’er the others like an eagle soars.
97   When they together had discoursed somewhat,
98   They turned to me with signs of salutation,
99   And on beholding this, my Master smiled;
100   And more of honour still, much more, they did me,
101   In that they made me one of their own ban
102   So that the sixth was I, ‘mid so much wit.
103   Thus we went on as far as to the light,
104   Things saying ’tis becoming to keep silent,
105   As was the saying of them where I was.
106   We came unto a noble castle’s foot,
107   Seven times encompassed with lofty walls,
108   Defended round by a fair rivulet;
109   This we passed over even as firm ground;
110   Through portals seven I entered with these
111   We came into a meadow of fresh verdure.
112   People were there with solemn eyes and slow,
113   Of great authority in their countenance;
114   They spake but seldom, and with gentle voices.
115   Thus we withdrew ourselves upon one side
116   Into an opening luminous and lofty,
117   So that they all of them were visible.
118   There opposite, upon the green enamel,
119   Were pointed out to me the mighty spirits,
120   Whom to have seen I feel myself exalted.
121   I saw Electra with companions many,
122   ‘Mongst whom I knew both Hector and Aenas,
123   Caesar in armour with gerfalcon eyes;
124   I saw Camilla and Penthesilea
125   On the other side, and saw the King Latinus,
126   Who with Lavinia his daughter sat;
127   I saw that Brutus who drove Tarquin forth,
128   Lucretia, Julia, Marcia, and Cornelia,
129   And saw alone, apart, the Saladin.
130   When I had lifted up my brows a little,
131   The Master I beheld of those who know,
132   Sit with his philosophic family.
133   All gaze upon him, and all do him honour.
134   There I beheld both Socrates and Plato,
135   Who nearer him before the others stand;
136   Democritus, who puts the world on chance,
137   Diogenes, Anaxagoros, and Thales,
138   Zeno, Empedocles, and Heraclitus;
139   Of qualities I saw the good collector,
140   Hight Dioscorides; and Orpheus saw I,
141   Tully and Livy, and moral Seneca,
142   Euclid, geometrician, and Ptolemy,
143   Galen, Hippocrates, and Avicenna,
144   Averroes, who the great Comment made.
145   I cannot all of them pourtray in full,
146   Because so drives me onward the long theme,
147   That many times the word comes short of fact.
148   The sixfold company in two divides;
149   Another way my sapient Guide conducts me
150   Forth from the quiet to the air that trembles;
151   And to a place I come where nothing shines.