Canto XXVI

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   REJOICE, 0 Florence, since thou art so great,
2   That over sea and land thou beatest thy wings,
3   And throughout Hell thy name is spread abroad !
4   Among the thieves five citizens of thine
5   Like these I found, whence shame comes unto me,
6   And thou thereby to no great honour risest.
7   But if when morn is near our dreams are true,
8   Feel shalt thou in a little time from now
9   What Prato, if none other, craves for thee.
10   And if it now were, it were not too soon;
11   Would that it were, seeing it needs must be,
12   For ’twill aggrieve me more the more I age.
13   We went our way, and up along the stairs
14   The bourns had made us to descend before,
15   Remounted my Conductor and drew me.
16   And following the solitary path
17   Among the rocks and ridges of the crag,
18   The foot without the hand sped not at all.
19   Then sorrowed I, and sorrow now again,
20   When I direct my mind to what I saw,
21   And more my genius curb than I am wont,
22   That it may run not unless virtue guide it;
23   So that if some good star, or better thing,
24   Have given me good, I may myself not grudge it.
25   As many as the hind (who on the hill
26   Rests at the time when he who lights the world
27   His countenance keeps least concealed from us,
28   While as the fly gives place unto the gnat)
29   Seeth the glow-worms down along the valley,
30   Perchance there where he ploughs and makes his
31   With flames as manifold resplendent all
32   Was the eighth Bolgia, as I grew aware
33   As soon as I was where the depth appeared.
34   And such as he who with the bears avenged him
35   Beheld Elijah’s chariot at departing,
36   What time the steeds to heaven erect uprose
37   For with his eye he could not follow it
38   So as to see aught else than flame alone,
39   Even as a little cloud ascending upward,
40   Thus each along the gorge of the intrenchment
41   Was moving; for not one reveals the theft,
42   And every flame a sinner steals away.
43   I stood upon the bridge uprisen to see,
44   So that, if I had seized not on a rock,
45   Down had I fallen without being pushed.
46   And the Leader, who beheld me so attent
47   Exclaimed: Within the fires the spirits are;
48   Each swathes himself with that wherewith he burns.
49   ‘My Master, I replied,by hearing thee
50   I am more sure; but I surmised already
51   It might be so, and already wished to ask thee
52   Who is within that fire, which comes so cleft
53   At top, it seems uprising from the pyre
54   Where was Eteocles with his brother placed.
55   He answered me: Within there are tormented
56   Ulysses and Diomed, and thus together
57   They unto vengeance run as unto wrath.
58   And there within their flame do they lament
59   The ambush of the horse, which made the door
60   Whence issued forth the Romans’ gentle seed;
61   Therein is wept the craft, for which being dead
62   Deidamia still deplores Achilles,
63   And pain for the Palladium there is borne.
64   If they within those sparks possess the power
65   To speak, I said, thee, Master, much I pray,
66   And re-pray, that the prayer be worth a thousand,
67   That thou make no denial of awaiting
68   Until the horned flame shall hither come;
69   Thou seest that with desire I lean towards it.
70   And he to me: Worthy is thy entreaty
71   Of much applause, and therefore I accept it;
72   But take heed that thy tongue restrain itself.
73   Leave me to speak,because I have conceived
74   That which thou wishest; for they might disdain
75   Perchance, since they were Greeks, discourse of thine.
76   When now the flame had come unto that point,
77   Where to my Leader it seemed time and place,
78   After this fashion did I hear him speak:
79   O ye, who are twofold within one fire,
80   If I deserved of you, while I was living,
81   If I deserved of you or much or little
82   When in the world I wrote the lofty verses,
83   Do not move on, but one of you declare
84   Whither, being lost, he went away to die.
85   Then of the antique flame the greater horn,
86   Murmuring, began to wave itself about
87   Even as a flame doth which the wind fatigues.
88   Thereafterward, the summit to and fro
89   Moving as if it were the tongue that spake
90   It uttered forth a voice, and said: When I
91   From Circe had departed, who concealed me
92   More than a year there near unto Gaeta,
93   Or ever yet Aenas named it so,
94   Nor fondness for my son, nor reverence
95   For my old father, nor the due affection
96   Which joyous should have made Penelope,
97   Could overcome within me the desire
98   I had to be experienced of the world,
99   And of the vice and virtue of mankind;
100   But I put forth on the high open sea
101   With one sole ship, and that small company
102   By which I never had deserted been.
103   Both of the shores I saw as far as Spain,
104   Far as Morocco. and the isle of Sardes,
105   And the others which that sea bathes round about.
106   I and my company were old and slow
107   When at that narrow passage we arrived
108   Where Hercules his landmarks set as signals,
109   That man no farther onward should adventure.
110   On the right hand behind me left I Seville,
111   And on the other already had left Ceuta.
112   ‘O brothers, who amid a hundred thousand
113   Perils,’ I said, ‘ have come unto the West,
114   To this so inconsiderable vigil
115   Which is remaining of your senses still
116   Be ye unwilling to deny the knowledge,
117   Following the sun, of the unpeopled world.
118   Consider ye the seed from which ye sprang;
119   Ye were not made to live like unto brutes,
120   But for pursuit of virtue and of knowledge.’
121   So eager did I render my companions,
122   With this brief exhortation, for the voyage,
123   That then I hardly could have held them back.
124   And having turned our stern unto the morning,
125   We of the oars made wings for our mad flight,
126   Evermore gaining on the larboard side.
127   Already all the stars of the other pole
128   The night beheld, and ours so very low
129   It did not rise above the ocean floor.
130   Five times rekindled and as many quenched
131   Had been the splendour underneath the moon,
132   Since we had entered into the deep pass,
133   When there appeared to us a mountain, dim
134   From distance, and it seemed to me so high
135   As I had never any one beheld.
136   Joyful were we, and soon it turned to weeping;
137   For out of the new land a whirlwind rose,
138   And smote upon the fore part of the ship.
139   Three times it made her whirl with all the waters,
140   At the fourth time it made the stern uplift,
141   And the prow downward go, as pleased Another,
142   Until the sea above us closed again.