Canto V

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   Thus I descended out of the first circle
2   Down to the second, that less space begirds,
3   And so much greater dole, that goads to wailing.
4   There standeth Minos horribly, and snarls;
5   Examines the transgressions at the entrance;
6   Judges, and sends according as he girds him.
7   I say, that when the spirit evil-born
8   Cometh before him, wholly it confesses;
9   And this discriminator of transgressions
10   Seeth what place in Hell is meet for it;
11   Girds himself with his tail as many times
12   As grades he wishes it should be thrust down.
13   Always before him many of them stand;
14   They go by turns each one unto the judgment;
15   They speak, and hear, and then are downward hurled.
16   O thou, that to this dolorous hostelry
17   Comest, said Minos to me, when he saw me,
18   Leaving the practice of so great an office,
19   Look how thou enterest, and in whom thou trustest;
20   Let not the portal’s amplitude deceive thee.
21   And unto him my Guide: Why criest thou too?
22   Do not impede his journey fate-ordained;
23   It is so willed there where is power to oo
24   That which is willed; and ask no further question.
25   And now begin the dolesome notes to grow
26   Audible unto me, now am I come
27   There where much lamentation strikes upon me.
28   I came into a place mute of all light,
29   Which bellows as the sea does in a tempest,
30   If by opposing winds ‘t is combated.
31   The infernal hurricane that never rests
32   Hurtles the spirits onward in its rapine;
33   Whirling them round, and smiting, it molests them.
34   When they arrive before the precipice,
35   There are the shrieks, the plaints, and the laments,
36   There they blaspheme the puissance divine.
37   I understood that unto such a torment
38   The carnal malefactors were condemned,
39   Who reason subjugate to appetite.
40   And as the wings of starlings bear them on
41   In the cold season in large band and full,
42   So doth that blast the spirits maledict;
43   It hither, thither, downward, upward, drives them;
44   No hope doth comfort them for evermore,
45   Not of repose, but even of lesser pain.
46   And as the cranes go chanting forth their lays,
47   Making in air a long line of themselves,
48   So saw I coming, uttering lamentations,
49   Shadows borne onward by the aforesaid stress.
50   Whereupon said I: Master, who are those
51   People, whom the black air so castigates?
52   The first of those, of whom intelligence
53   Thou fain wouldst have, then said he unto me,
54   The empress was of many languages.
55   To sensual vices she was so abandoned,
56   That lustful she made licit in her law,
57   To remove the blame to which she had been led.
58   She is Semiramis of whom we read
59   That she succeeded Ninus, and was his spouse;
60   She held the land which now the Sultan rules.
61   The next is she who killed herself for love,
62   And broke faith with the ashes of Sichcaeus;
63   Then Cleopatra the voluptuous.
64   Helen I saw, for whom so many ruthless
65   Seasons revolved; and saw the great Achilles,
66   Who at the last hour combated with Love
67   Paris I saw, Tristan; and more than a thousand
68   Shades did he name and point out with his finger,
69   Whom Love had separated from our life.
70   After that I had listened to my Teacher,
71   Naming the dames of eld and cavaliers,
72   Pity prevailed, and I was nigh bewildered.
73   And I began: O Poet, willingly
74   Speak would I to those two, who go together,
75   And seem upon the wind to be so light.
76   And, he to me: Thou’lt mark, when they shall be
77   Nearer to us; and then do thou implore them
78   By love which leadeth them, and they will come.
79   Soon as the wind in our direction sways them,
80   My voice uplift I: O ye weary souls!
81   Come speak to us, if no one interdicts it.
82   As turtle-doves, called onward by desire,
83   With open and steady wings to the sweet nest
84   Fly through the air by their volition borne,
85   So came they from the band where Dido is,
86   Approaching us athwart the air malign,
87   So strong was the affectionate appeal.
88   O living creature gracious and benignant,
89   Who visiting goest through the purple air
90   Us, who have stained the world incarnadine,
91   If were the King of the Universe our friend,
92   We would pray unto him to give thee peace,
93   Since thou hast pity on our woe perverse.
94   Of what it pleases thee to hear and speak,
95   That will we hear, and we will speak to you,
96   While silent is the wind, as it is now.
97   Sitteth the city, wherein I was born,
98   Upon the sea-shore where the Po descends
99   To rest in peace with all his retinue.
100   Love, that on gentle heart doth swiftly seize,
101   Seized this man for the person beautiful
102   That was ta’en from me, and still the mode offends me.
103   Love, that exempts no one beloved from loving,
104   Seized me with pleasure of this man so strongly,
105   That, as thou seest, it doth not yet desert me;
106   Love has conducted us unto one death;
107   Caina waiteth him who quenched our life!
108   These words were borne along from them to us.
109   As soon as I had heard those souls tormented,
110   I bowed my face, and so long held it down
111   Until the Poet said to me: What thinkest?
112   When I made answer, I began: Alas!
113   How many pleasant thoughts, how much desire,
114   Conducted these unto the dolorous pass!
115   Then unto them I turned me, and I spake,
116   And I began: Thine agonies, Francesca,
117   Sad and compassionate to weeping make me.
118   But tell me, at the time of those sweet sighs,
119   By what and in what manner Love conceded,
120   That you should know your dubious desires?
121   And she to me: There is no greater sorrow
122   Than to be mindful of the happy time
123   In misery, and that thy Teacher knows.
124   But, if to recognise the earliest root
125   Of love in us thou hast so great desire,
126   I will do even as he who weeps and speaks.
127   One day we reading were for our delight
128   Of Launcelot, how Love did him enthral.
129   Alone we were and without any fear.
130   Full many a time our eyes together drew
131   That reading, and drove the colour from our faces;
132   But one point only was it that o’ercame us.
133   When as we read of the much-longed-for smile
134   Being by such a noble lover kissed,
135   This one, who ne’er from me shall be divided,
136   Kissed me upon the mouth all palpitating.
137   Galeotto was the book and he who wrote it.
138   That day no farther did we read therein.
139   And all the while one spirit uttered this,
140   The other one did weep so, that, for pity,
141   I swooned away as if I had been dying,
142   And fell, even as a dead body falls.