Canto XV

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   Now bears us onward one of the hard margins,
2   And so the brooklet’s mist o’ershadows it,
3   From fire it saves the water and the dikes.
4   Even as the Flemings, ‘twixt Cadsand and Bruges,
5   Fearing the flood that tow’rds them hurls itself,
6   Their bulwarks build to put the sea to flight;
7   And as the Paduans along the Brenta,
8   To guard their villas and their villages,
9   Or ever Chiarentana feel the heat;
10   In such similitude had those been made,
11   Albeit not so lofty nor so thick,
12   Whoever he might be, the master made them.
13   Now were we from the forest so remote,
14   I could not have discovered where it was,
15   Even if backward I had turned myself,
16   Then we a company of souls encountered,
17   Who came beside the dike, and every one
18   Gazed at us, as at evening we are wont
19   To eye each other under a new moon,
20   And so towards us sharpened they their brows
21   As an old tailor at the needle’s eye.
22   Thus scrutinised by such a family,
23   By some one I was recognised, who seized
24   My garment’s hem, and cried out,What a marvel!
25   And I, when he stretched forth his arm-to me,
26   On his baked aspect fastened so mine eyes,
27   That the scorched countenance prevented not
28   His recognition by my intellect;
29   And bowing down my face unto his own,
30   I made reply,Are you here, Ser Brunetto?
31   And he: May’t not displease thee, O my son,
32   If a brief space with thee Brunetto Latini
33   Backward return and let the trail go on.
34   I said to him: With all my power I ask it;
35   And if you wish me to sit down with you,
36   I will, if he please, for I go with him.
37   O son,he said,whoever of this herd
38   A moment stops, lies then a hundred years,
39   Nor fans himself when smiteth him the fire.
40   Therefore go on; I at thy skirts will come,
41   And afterward will I rejoin my band,
42   Which goes lamenting its eternal doom.
43   I did not dare to go down from the road
44   Level to walk with him; but my head bowed
45   I held as one who goeth reverently.
46   And he began: What fortune or what fate
47   Before the last day leadeth thee down here?
48   And who is this that showeth thee the way?
49   Up there above us in the life serene,
50   I answered him,I lost me in a valley,
51   Or ever yet my age had been completed.
52   But yestermorn I turned my back upon it;
53   This one appeared to me, returning thither,
54   And homeward leadeth me along this road.
55   And he to me: If thou thy star do follow,
56   Thou canst not fail thee of a glorious port,
57   If well I judged in the life beautiful.
58   And if I had not died so prematurely,
59   Seeing Heaven thus benignant unto thee,
60   I would have given thee comfort in the work.
61   But that ungrateful and malignant people,
62   Which of old time from Fesole descended,
63   And smacks still of the mountain and the granite,
64   Will make itself, for thy good deeds, thy foe;
65   And it is right; for among crabbed sorbs
66   It ill befits the sweet fig to bear fruit.
67   Old rumour in the world proclaims them blind;
68   A People avaricious, envious, proud:,
69   Take heed that of their customs thou do cleanse thee.
70   Thy fortune so much honour doth reserve thee,
71   One party and the other shall be hungry
72   For thee; but far from goat shall be the grass.
73   Their litter let the beasts of Fesole
74   Make of themselves, nor let them touch the plant,
75   If any still upon their dunghill rise,
76   In which may yet revive the consecrated
77   Seed of those Romans, who remained there when
78   The nest of such great malice it became.
79   If my entreaty wholly were fulfilled,
80   Replied I to him, not yet would you be
81   In banishment from human nature placed;
82   For in my mind is fixed, and touches now
83   My heart the dear and good paternal image
84   Of you, when in the world from hour to hour
85   You taught me how a man becomes eternal;
86   And how much I am grateful, while I live
87   Behoves that in my language be discerned.
88   What you narrate of my career I write,
89   And keep it to be glossed with other text
90   By a Lady who can do it, if I reach her.
91   This much will I have manifest to you;
92   Provided that my conscience do not chide me,
93   For whatsoever Fortune I am ready.
94   Such handsel is not new unto mine ears;
95   Therefore let Fortune turn her wheel around
96   As it may please her, and the churl his mattock.
97   My Master thereupon on his right cheek
98   Did backward turn himself, and looked at me;
99   Then said: He listeneth well who noteth it.
100   Nor speaking less on that account, I go
101   With Ser Brunetto, and I ask who are
102   His most known and most eminent companions.
103   And he to me: To know of some is well;
104   Of others it were laudable to be silent,
105   For short would be the time for so much speech.
106   Know them in sum, that all of them were clerks,
107   And men of letters great and of great fame,
108   In the world tainted with the selfsame sin.
109   Priscian goes yonder with that wretched crowd,
110   And Francis of Accorso; and thou hadst seen there
111   If thou hadst had a hankering for such scurf,
112   That one, who by the Servant of the Servants
113   From Arno was transferred to Bacchiglione,
114   Where he has left his sin-excited nerves.
115   More would I say, but coming and discoursing
116   Can be no longer; for that I behold
117   New smoke uprising yonder from the sand.
118   A people comes with whom I may not be;
119   Commended unto thee be my Tesoro,
120   In which I still live, and no more I ask.
121   Then he turned round, and seemed to be of those
122   Who at Verona run for the Green Mantle
123   Across the plain; and seemed to be among them
124   The one who wins, and not the one who loses.