charta chartarum : text  
    dante longfellow
      canto I canto I
       
i i suddenly come to myself, half my life gone : i have strayed from the path: i am alone, in the woods, afraid of the darkness : just thinking about it scares me : how i got here is a blur : the dark forest, where i have lived for so long, is at the bottom of a valley, and as i come to i realize that i am at the edge of the valley, at the beginning of a mountain : i look up and see the sun, shining down toward me from beyond the mountain whose shoulders cast shadows down into the valley : the light comforts me, gives me the srength to proceed toward the mountain : I take one last look back into the forest, as though I am a sailor glancing back at the sea after a long and terrible voyage 1 Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
ché la diritta via era smarrita.

...

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.

...

       
ii as i try to climb the mountain i am attacked by three beasts : a leopard, a lion and a wolf : although i try to overcome the beasts and make my way up the slope, i am unable to withstand their assault : the hungry wolf, who chases me back toward the dark woods, causes me to despair : i begin to sink back into the forest and could lose myself again : but then i see a faded shape approach, a man, hoarse from silence 31 Ed ecco, quasi al cominciar de l’erta,
una lonza leggera e presta molto,
che di pel macolato era coverta;

...

And lo! almost where the ascent began,
A panther light and swift exceedingly,
Which with a spotted skin was covered o'er!

...

         
iii i call to the shape: 'are you a ghost or a man? please help : ' and he replies that he used to be man, born in the time of julius caesar, he wrote about aeneas, the heir of troy : 'virgil!' : and i beg the ghost of virgil to help me me defeat the wolf who would not let me pass : 'you must take a different path' virgil tells me gently, and as I cry he explains that this wolf will never let me pass, but will kill all who try : until the dog who is to kill this wolf will finally come : and virgil urges me to follow him, to follow him through hell, where there is no hope : through purgatory, where the souls hope for forgiveness and then to the gate of heaven, 'where one more worthy than i will meet you': and gratefully i follow 79 «Or se’ tu quel Virgilio e quella fonte
che spandi di parlar sì largo fiume?»,
rispuos’ io lui con vergognosa fronte.
"Now, art thou that Virgilius and that fountain
Which spreads abroad so wide a river of speech?"
I made response to him with bashful forehead.
         
      canto II canto II
       
1 i hesitate, my heart full of fear, as though preparing for battle : paralyzed : i stop virgil, 'tell me if you really think i am ready for this journey: you wrote about aeneas and saint paul, founders of rome and the church, descended to hell : favored by god to survive and be affirmed : i am no aeneas or paul': and so i am having second thoughts, and want to turn back, on this dark slope, after having just agreed so enthusiastically to go : 11 Io cominciai: ªPoeta che mi guidi,
guarda la mia virtù s’ell’ è possente,
prima ch’a l’alto passo tu mi fidi.

...

And I began: "Poet, who guidest me,
Regard my manhood, if it be sufficient,
Ere to the arduous pass thou dost confide me.

...

         
2 'so you are afraid' virgil says, 'in that case i will tell you why i feel compassion for you and what happened to make me come here : i live in limbo, which is bleak : i heard a woman's voice calling : then i saw her : an image with shining light for eyes, she beckoned : ancient poet whose words still have meaning: go to my friend who is paralyzed by fear on the barren slope, he is lost and i hope i have not come to you too late: inspire him with your poetic words, offer him what help you can so that I will be consoled : i told the vision, who called herself beatrice, that i was so eager to complete her request, that had it already been done it would feel too late : but then i asked her: how is it that you can come to this bleak limbo and not feel fear, she responded: 43 «S’i’ ho ben la parola tua intesa»,
rispuose del magnanimo quell’ ombra,
«l’anima tua è da viltade offesa;
"If I have well thy language understood,"
Replied that shade of the Magnanimous,
"Thy soul attainted is with cowardice,
         
3 i cannot feel the suffering that you feel and so i cannot fear that suffering : a lady in heaven, with grace enough to prevent the judgement of this man to whom you will go, feels pity for him : she asked lucia, who is the enemy of cruelty, to come to me : lucia found me, sitting with ancient rachel, and implored me to come to the aid of this man who loves me so much he rose above the vulgar crowd : as soon as she had spoken i flew to you : virgil, please use your eloquence to rescue my friend from death : and having finished, beatrice turned her shining teary eyes to me: and so i rushed to this barren slope and rescued you from that wolf : so why should you be afraid, three women in heaven care enough to intervene on your behalf': so, as a flower reawakens by the light at dawn, my courage grows : 'i am eager to get going, your story has given me the strength' : and so i follow virgil down the savage road 91 I’ son fatta da Dio, sua mercé, tale,
che la vostra miseria non mi tange,
né fiamma d’esto ’ncendio non m’assale.

...

  God in his mercy such created me
That misery of yours attains me not,
Nor any flame assails me of this burning.

...

         
      canto III canto III
       
4 'through me you will find the city of the sorrowful : eternal pain and people lost : i was made by justice in divine power, extreme wisdom and primal love : before me were no created things, i am eternal : enter here and abandon all hope': these words were written in a dark color over the gate :'i don’t understand, please explain those words', i ask virgil : 'all fear must be left behind,' virgil responds 'we have arrived at the place where you will see the souls who have lost intelligence,' and virgil takes my hand and comforts me so that i can proceed, i trust him and follow him into the unkown  7 Dinanzi a me non fuor cose create
se non etterne, e io etterno duro.
Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate’.

...

 

 

Before me there were no created things,
Only eterne, and I eternal last.
All hope abandon, ye who enter in!"

...

       
5 the cries and groans are so loud, echoing in the starless air, that i begin to cry : i hear strange languages, terrible screams, words full of rage and sadness, cries of tortured sleep and beating hands turning the air like sand in a whirlwind : horrified, i ask virgil, 'who are these people who are in such pain? : he responds, 'these melancholy souls lived as neither good nor bad, and now they mingle with angels who were neither loyal nor rebellious toward God, they are unsure of their fate, heaven and hell both reject them : I ask what is the nature of their agony and virgil tells me that they have no hope of death and envy every other fate : 'let's not talk of them and move on' virgil urges : i look once more and see a banner flapping so hard it will never stop : and after it is such a long line of people i can't imagine that so many have died : i recognize some of them : the ghost of he who made the great refusal : so i understand these people to be those hateful to both God and his enemies : they were never really alive and now their naked skin is eaten by flies and wasps, their faces drip with blood and their tears fall on a floor of maggots 67 Elle rigavan lor di sangue il volto,
che, mischiato di lagrime, a’ lor piedi
da fastidiosi vermi era ricolto.

...

These did their faces irrigate with blood,
Which, with their tears commingled, at their feet
By the disgusting worms was gathered up.

...

       
6 and then i looked further on and saw people on the bank of a huge river : i ask virgil who they are and why they are there waiting to cross : he tells me that i will know the answer once we reach the shore : so i don't speak until we reach the river, afraid to annoy him : i see an old man coming in a boat, calling 'you hopeless souls, i will take you to where souls remain forever in heat and cold' : 'and you who are still alive, go away!' : but he sees i don't leave 'then come another way, this boat boat will not support you' : virgil tells him: 'don't worry charon, it is willed by those with the power to will it that he is to pass, so you must not question it' : charon, with white cheeks and circles of fire around his eyes, is silent, but the naked and tired souls grind their teeth and change colors at virgil's words : they pull away from the shore as charon approaches, but, as though shaking the dead leaves off a tree, charon forces them into his boat, and they cross the river with him while a fesh batch of hopeless souls assembles on our shore : 'my son' says virgil 'all souls who die in God's wrath assemble here, so if charon complains about you know what that means' : sweating, a red blast of light causes me to faint 127

Quinci non passa mai anima buona;
e però, se Caron di te si lagna,
ben puoi sapere omai che ’l suo dir suona».

...

This way there never passes a good soul;
And hence if Charon doth complain of thee,
Well mayst thou know now what his speech imports."

...

         
      canto IV canto IV
       
7 a clap of thunder wakes me up : i get up and look around to see where i am : i am on the edge of the dismal valley of infinite thunder : it is foggy so that i can't see anything inside : 'let's go down now' says virgil, 'i will lead , you follow' : i can see he is pale, so i ask 'how can i go when you are afraid' : 'you mistaken my pity for fear' virgil answers, 'let's go' : so he makes me enter the circle that surronds the abyss : 13

«Or discendiam qua giù nel cieco mondo»,
cominciò il poeta tutto smorto.
«Io sarò primo, e tu sarai secondo».

...

"Let us descend now into the blind world,"
Began the Poet, pallid utterly;
"I will be first, and thou shalt second be."

...

       
8 rather than moans i hear only sighs that make the dead air tremble : they aren't tortured, only sad : 'you don't ask who these souls are' says virgil, 'i will tell you before we move on, these people did not sin, but they are condemned to Limbo because they were not baptized, i am among these souls : we live without hope and in desire' : i am sad to hear this, because i know there are great souls here in Limbo : 'tell me virgil' i say, 'are there any who have come here and thhen been blessed?' : virgil understands my hint and replies: 'when i was first here a mighty one came and took the souls of adam, abel, noah, moses, abraham, david, israel, rachel and many others from Limbo' : we stop walking as virgil speaks but still we pass through a forest of crowded ghosts : i see a fire breaking the darkness, i can see that esteemed souls sit there : 'virgil' I ask 'who are these souls honored to be apart from the crowd?' 64

Non lasciavam l’andar perch’ ei dicessi,
ma passavam la selva tuttavia,
la selva, dico, di spiriti spessi.

...

We ceased not to advance because he spake,
But still were passing onward through the forest,
The forest, say I, of thick-crowded ghosts.

...

       
9 virgil answers: 'the honor they have achieved in the world echoes in heaven and separates them here' : and i hear a voice: 'the eminent poet has returned' : i see four souls approaching, they seem neither happy or sad : notice the soul that leads the others, he is homer, poet sovereign : then is horace, ovid and lucan' : so i see now the school of poets which soars above all others : they now do me the honor of welcoming me into their group, i am the sixth, we walk on as far as the light, we speak of things i leave unsaid, as they request : we come to the foot of a castle, surrounded by seven walls and a river, we pass as though it was solid ground, pass through seven doors and enter a green meadow : there are souls here who seem to be of great importance, speaking little, with gentle voices : we move to the side, onto a raised opening from which i can see them all : on the grass i am told who they are: Electra, hector, aeneas, caesar, camilla and penthesilea, king latinus with his daughter lavinia, brutus, lucretia, marcia, and cornelia, and sitting apart, the saladin : i lift my head and see the master of those who know, and socrates and plato stand near him : democritus, diogenes, anaxagoras, thales, zeno, empedocles and heraclitus : dioscorides, orpheus, tully, livy, seneca, euclid, ptolemy, galen, hippocrates, avicenna, averroes : i cannot list them all, in keeping with the rule that words can't describe all fact : the six poets divide, virgil guides me from this quiet spot to the trembling air, a place with no light 88

quelli è Omero poeta sovrano;
l’altro è Orazio satiro che vene;
Ovidio è ’l terzo, e l’ultimo Lucano.

...

That one is Homer, Poet sovereign;
He who comes next is Horace, the satirist;
The third is Ovid, and the last is Lucan.

...

         
      canto V canto V
       
10 i descend out of the first circle and into the second, with less space and more pain : here is minos, snarling, as each spirit comes before him and confesses, he decides where in hell each one goes : the line of damned souls is always standing in front of him, one by one they confess and then are thrown down into hell : 'be careful' says minos when he sees me 'wathc how you enter and beware in whom you trust, don't be fooled because the door is wide' : 'don't talk to him that way' says virgil to minos 'his way is destiny, it is the will of those whose will is determines reality, do not ask questions' 4

Stavvi Minòs orribilmente, e ringhia:
essamina le colpe ne l’intrata;
giudica e manda secondo ch’avvinghia.

...

There standeth Minos horribly, and snarls;
Examines the transgressions at the entrance;
Judges, and sends according as he girds him.

...

       
11 and now the groans torture me, there is no light : the growing infinite cyclone of tormenting noise : i understand now that this is the fate of carnal sinners, whose desire surpassed reason : as a bird is tossed about in the wind, these souls are thrown around, and as the cranes come out in a line, i see these shadows of groaning souls come : 'who are these people, tortured by black wind?' i ask virigil : 'the first is semiramis, the assyrian queen who abandoned herself to lust, the next is dido, who killed herself for love, then is cleopatra the voluptuous' : i see helen, for whom a ruthless war was fought, i see achilles who fought love at the end, i see paris, tristan, and more than a thousand others : virgil tells me of all the knights and ladies, i am overwhelmed with pity : 'i would like to speak with those two' i tell virgil : 'when they are close, ask them, and they will come' : the wind blows them toward us and I ask them 'tired souls, please come speak to us if you can' 31

La bufera infernal, che mai non resta,
mena li spirti con la sua rapina;
voltando e percotendo li molesta.

...

The infernal hurricane that never rests
Hurtles the spirits onward in its rapine;
Whirling them round, and smiting, it molests them.

...

       
12 they come through the hateful air, from the group with dido, as turtle doves who come with desire : 'living person, if we were friends with the king of the universe, we would ask himto give you peace, since you prity us, whatever you want to say to us or hear from us we will listen and tell you : Love seized this man for the body that was once mine, and Love did not spare me from the pleasure of this man, and Love resulted in our death, caina waits for the one who killed us' : i lower my face to hear these words, and virgil asks 'what do you think' : 'it was desire and pleasant thoughts which sent these two here' i say : i turned to them: 'your agony, francesca, make me cry, tell me, at the time of your love, how did it happen' : she answered, 'there is nothing more sad than recalling good times when in misery, as your teacher knows : but if you want to hear about it i will tell you : we were reading one day about launcelot adn guinevere, we were alone, our eyes met, and he, who will never again be apart from me, kissed me and we read no further' : as francesca tells her story, paulo weeps constantly and i faint, out of pity 121

E quella a me: «Nessun maggior dolore
che ricordarsi del tempo felice
ne la miseria
; e ciò sa ’l tuo dottore.

...

And she to me: "There is no greater sorrow
Than to be mindful of the happy time
In misery, and that thy Teacher knows.

...

         
      canto VI  
       
13   13

Cerbero, fiera crudele e diversa,
con tre gole caninamente latra
sovra la gente che quivi è sommersa.

...

Cerberus, monster cruel and uncouth,
With his three gullets like a dog is barking
Over the people that are there submerged.

...

       
14   52

Voi cittadini mi chiamaste Ciacco:
per la dannosa colpa de la gola,
come tu vedi, a la pioggia mi fiacco.

...

You citizens were wont to call me Ciacco;
For the pernicious sin of gluttony
I, as thou seest, am battered by this rain.

...

       
15   106

Ed elli a me: «Ritorna a tua scïenza,
che vuol, quanto la cosa è più perfetta,
più senta il bene, e così la doglienza.

...

And he to me: "Return unto thy science,
Which wills, that as the thing more perfect is,
The more it feels of pleasure and of pain.

...

         
      canto VII canto VII
       
16   1 «Pape Satàn, pape Satàn aleppe!»,
cominciò Pluto con la voce chioccia;
e quel savio gentil, che tutto seppe,
"Pape Satan, Pape Satan, Aleppe!"
Thus Plutus with his clucking voice began;
And that benignant Sage, who all things knew,
       
17   25 Qui vid’ i’ gente più ch’altrove troppa,
e d’una parte e d’altra, con grand’ urli,
voltando pesi per forza di poppa.
Here saw I people, more than elsewhere, many,
On one side and the other, with great howls,
Rolling weights forward by main force of chest.
       
18   124 or ci attristiam ne la belletta negra".
Quest’ inno si gorgoglian ne la strozza,
ché dir nol posson con parola integra»».
Now we are sullen in this sable mire.'
This hymn do they keep gurgling in their throats,
For with unbroken words they cannot say it."
         
         
         
 

 

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