Canto XIV

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   BECAUSE the charity of my native place
2   Constrained me, gathered I the scattered leaves,
3   And gave them back to him, who now was hoarse.
 
4   Then came we to the confine, where disparted
5   The second round is from the third, and where
6   A horrible form of Justice is beheld.
 
7   Clearly to manifest these novel things,
8   I say that we arrived upon a plain,
9   Which from its bed rejecteth every plant;
 
10   The dolorous forest is a garland to it
11   All round about, as the sad moat to that;
12   There close upon the edge we stayed our feet.
 
13   The soil was of an arid and thick sand,
14   Not of another fashion made than that
15   Which by the feet of Cato once was pressed.
 
16   Vengeance of God, O how much oughtest thou
17   By each one to be dreaded, who doth read
18   That which was manifest unto mine eyes!
 
19   Of naked souls beheld I many herds,
20   Who all were weeping very miserably,
21   And over them seemed set a law diverse.
 
22   Supine upon the ground some folk were lying;
23   And some were sitting all drawn up together,
24   And others went about continually.
 
25   Those who were going round were far the more,
26   And those were less who lay down to their torment,
27   But had their tongues more loosed to lamentation.
 
28   O’er all the sand-waste, with a gradual fall,
29   Were raining down dilated flakes of fire,
30   As of the snow on Alp without a wind.
 
31   As Alexander, in those torrid parts
32   Of India, beheld upon his host
33   Flames fall unbroken till they reached the ground,
 
34   Whence he provided with his phalanxes
35   To trample down the soil, because the vapour
36   Better extinguished was while it was single;
 
37   Thus was descending the eternal heat,
38   Whereby the sand was set on fire, like tinder
39   Beneath the steel, for doubling of the dole.
 
40   Without repose forever was the dance
41   Of miserable hands, now there, now here,
42   Shaking away from off them the fresh gleeds.
 
43   Master, began I, thou who overcomest
44   All things except the demons dire, that issued
45   Against us at the entrance of the gate,
 
46   Who is that mighty one who seems to heed not
47   The fire, and lieth lowering and disdainful,
48   So that the rain seems not to ripen him?
 
49   And he himself, who had become aware
50   That I was questioning my Guide about him,
51   Cried: Such as I was living, am I, dead
 
52   If Jove should weary out his smith, from whom
53   He seized in anger the sharp thunderbolt,
54   Wherewith upon the last day I was smitten,
 
55   And if he wearied out by turns the others
56   In Mongibello at the swarthy forge,
57   Vociferating, ‘Help, good Vulcan, help!’
 
58   Even as he did there at the fight of Phlegra,
59   And shot his bolts at me with all his might,
60   He would not have thereby a joyous vengeance.
 
61   Then did my Leader speak with such great force,
62   That I had never heard him speak so loud:
63   O Capaneus, in that is not extinguished
 
64   Thine arrogance, thou punished art the more;
65   Not any torment, saving thine own rage,
66   Would be unto thy fury pain complete.
 
67   Then he turned round to me with better lip,
68   Saying: One of the Seven Kings was he
69   Who Thebes besieged, and held, and seems to hold
 
70   God in disdain, and little seems to prize him;
71   But, as I said to him, his own despites
72   Are for his breast the fittest ornaments.
 
73   Now follow me, and mind thou do not place
74   As yet thy feet upon the burning sand,
75   But always keep them close unto the wood.
 
76   Speaking no word, we came to where there gushes
77   Forth from the wood a little rivulet,
78   Whose redness makes my hair still stand on end.
 
79   As from the Bulicame springs the brooklet,
80   The sinful women later share among them,
81   So downward through the sand it went its way.
 
82   The bottom of it, and both sloping banks,
83   Were made of stone, and the margins at the side;
84   Whence I perceived that there the passage was.
 
85   In all the rest which I have shown to thee
86   Since we have entered in within the gate
87   Whose threshold unto no one is denied,
 
88   Nothing has been discovered by thine eyes
89   So notable as is the present river,
90   Which all the little ‘dames above it quenches.
 
91   These words were of my Leader; whence I prayed him
92   That he would give me largess of the food,
93   For which he had given me largess of desire.
 
94   In the mid-sea there sits a wasted land,
95   Said he thereafterward, whose name is Crete,
96   Under whose king the world of old was chaste.
 
97   There is a mountain there, that once was glad
98   With waters and with leaves, which was called Ida;
99   Now ’tis deserted, as a thing worn out.
 
100   Rhea once chose it for the faithful cradle
101   Of her own son; and to conceal him better,
102   Whene’er he cried, she there had clamours made.
 
103   A grand old man stands in the mount erect,
104   Who holds his shoulders turned tow’rds Damietta,
105   And looks at Rome as if it were his mirror.
 
106   His head is fashioned of refined gold,
107   And of pure silver are the arms and breast;
108   Then he is brass as far down as the fork.
 
109   From that point downward all is chosen iron,
110   Save that the right foot is of kiln-baked clay,
111   And more he stands on that than on the other.
 
112   Each part, except the gold, is by a fissure
113   Asunder cleft, that dripping is with tears,
114   Which gathered together perforate that cavern
 
115   From rock to rock they fall into this valley;
116   Acheron, Styx, and Phlegethon they form;
117   Then downward go along this narrow sluice
 
118   Unto that point where is no more descending.
119   They form Cocytus; what that pool may be
120   Thou shalt behold, so here ’tis not narrated.
 
121   And I to him: If so the present runnel
122   Doth take its rise in this way from our world,
123   Why only on this verge appears it to us?
 
124   And he to me: Thou knowest the place is round
125   And notwithstanding thou hast journeyed far,
126   Still to the left descending to the bottom,
 
127   Thou hast not yet through all the circle turned.
128   Therefore if something new appear to us,
129   It should not bring amazement to thy face.
 
130   And I again: Master, where shall be found
131   Lethe and Phlegethon, for of one thou’rt silent,
132   And sayest the other of this rain is made?
 
133   In all thy questions truly thou dost please me,
134   Replied he; but the boiling of the red
135   Water might well solve one of them thou makest.
 
136   Thou shalt see Lethe, but outside this moat,
137   There where the souls repair to lave themselves,
138   When sin repented of has been removed.
 
139   Then said he: It is time now to abandon
140   The wood; take heed that thou come after me;
141   A way the margins make that are not burning,
 
142   And over them all vapours are extinguished.