Canto XXXI

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   ONE and the selfsame tongue first wounded me,
2   So that it tinged the one cheek and the other,
3   And then held out to me the medicine;
4   Thus do I hear that once Achilles’ spear,
5   His and his father’s, used to be the cause
6   First of a sad and then a gracious boon.
7   We turned our backs upon the wretched valley,
8   Upon the bank that girds it round about,
9   Going across it without any speech.
10   There it was less than night, and less than day,
11   So that my sight went little in advance;
12   But I could hear the blare of a loud horn,
13   So loud it would have made each thunder faint,
14   Which, counter to it following its way,
15   Mine eyes directed wholly to one place.
16   After the dolorous discomfiture
17   When Charlemagne the holy emprise lost,
18   So terribly Orlando sounded not.
19   Short while my head turned thitherward I held
20   When many lofty towers I seemed to see,
21   Whereat I: Master, say, what town is this?
22   And he to me: Because thou peerest forth
23   Athwart the darkness at too great a distance,
24   It happens that thou errest in thy fancy.
25   Well shalt thou see, if thou arrivest there,
26   How much the sense deceives itself by distance;
27   Therefore a little faster spur thee on.
28   Then tenderly he took me by the hand,
29   And said: Before we farther have advanced,
30   That the reality may seem to thee
31   Less strange, know that these are not towers, but giants,
32   And they are in the well, around the bank,
33   From navel downward, one and all of them.
34   As, when the fog is vanishing away,
35   Little by little doth the sight refigure
36   Whate’er the mist that crowds the air conceals,
37   So, piercing through the dense and darksome air,
38   More and more near approaching tow’rd the verge,
39   My error fled, and fear came over me;
40   Because as on its circular parapets
41   Montereggione crowns itself with towers,
42   E’en thus the margin which surrounds the well
43   With one half of their bodies turreted
44   The horrible giants, whom Jove menaces
45   E’en now from out the heavens when he thunders.
46   And I of one already saw the face,
47   Shoulders, and breast, and great part of the belly,
48   And down along his sides both of the arms.
49   Certainly Nature, when she left the making
50   Of animals like these, did well indeed,
51   By taking such executors from Mars;
52   And if of elephants and whales she doth not
53   Repent her, whosoever looketh subtly
54   More just and more discreet will hold her for it;
55   For where the argument of intellect
56   Is added unto evil will and power,
57   No rampart can the people make against it.
58   His face appeared to me as long and large
59   As is at Rome the pine-cone of Saint Peter’s,
60   And in proportion were the other bones;
61   So that the margin, which an apron was
62   Down from the middle, showed so much of him
63   Above it, that to reach up to his hair
64   Three Frieslanders in vain had vaunted them;
65   For I beheld thirty great palms of him
66   Down from the place where man his mantle buckles.
67   Raphael mai amech izabi almi,
68   Began to clamour the ferocious mouth,
69   To which were not befitting sweeter psalms.
70   And unto him my Guide: Soul idiotic,
71   Keep to thy horn, and vent thyself with that,
72   When wrath or other passion touches thee.
73   Search round thy neck, and thou wilt find the belt
74   Which keeps it fastened,O bewildered soul
75   And see it, where it bars thy mighty breast.
76   Then said to me: He doth himself accuse;
77   This one is Nimrod, by whose evil thought
78   One language in the world is not still used.
79   Here let us leave him and not speak in vain;
80   For even such to him is every language
81   As his to others, which to none is known.
82   Therefore a longer journey did we make,
83   Turned to the left, and a crossbow-shot oft
84   We found another far more fierce and large.
85   In binding him, who might the master be
86   I cannot say; but he had pinioned close
87   Behind the right arm, and in front the other,
88   With chains, that held him so begirt about
89   From the neck down, that on the part uncovered
90   It wound itself as far as the fifth gyre.
91   This proud one wished to make experiment
92   Of his own power against the Supreme Jove,
93   My Leader said, whence he has such a guerdon.
94   Ephialtes is his name; he showed great prowess.
95   What time the giants terrified the gods;
96   The arms he wielded never more he moves.
97   And I to him: If possible, I should wish
98   That of the measureless Briareus
99   These eyes of mine might have experience.
100   Whence he replied: Thou shalt behold Antaeus
101   Close by here, who can speak and is unbound,
102   Who at the bottom of all crime shall place us.
103   Much farther yon is he whom thou wouldst see,
104   And he is bound, and fashioned like to this one,
105   Save that he seems in aspect more ferocious.
106   There never was an earthquake of such might
107   That it could shake a tower so violently,
108   As Ephialtes suddenly shook himself
109   Then was I more afraid of death than ever,
110   For nothing more was needful than the fear,
111   If I had not beheld the manacles.
112   Then we proceeded farther in advance,
113   And to Antaeus came, who, full five ells
114   Without the head, forth issued from the cavern.
115   O thou,who in the valley fortunate,
116   Which Scipio the heir of glory made,
117   When Hannibal turned back with all his hosts,
118   Once brought’st a thousand lions for thy prey,
119   And who, hadst thou been at the mighty war
120   Among thy brothers, some it seems still think
121   The sons of Earth the victory would have gained:
122   Place us below, nor be disdainful of it,
123   There where the cold doth lock Cocytus up.
124   Make us not go to Tityus nor Typhoeus;
125   This one can give of that which here is longed for;
126   Therefore stoop down, and do not curl thy lip.
127   Still in the world can he restore thy fame;
128   Because he lives, and still expects long life,
129   If to itself Grace call him not untimely.
130   So said the Master; and in haste the other
131   His hands extended and took up my Guide,–
132   Hands whose great pressure Hercules once felt.
133   Virgilius, when he felt himself embraced,
134   Said unto me: Draw nigh, that I may take thee;
135   Then of himself and me one bundle made.
136   As seems the Carisenda, to behold
137   Beneath the leaning side, when goes a cloud
138   Above it so that opposite it hangs;
139   Such did Antaeus seem to me, who stood
140   Watching to see him stoop, and then it was
141   I could have wished to go some other way.
142   But lightly in the abyss, which swallows up
143   Judas with Lucifer, he put us down;
144   Nor thus bowed downward made he there delay,
145   But, as a mast does in a ship, uprose.