ready to sustain the war,
Both of the way and likewise of the woe,
Which memory that errors will not retrace.
Oh Muses, Oh
high genius, now be my aid!
O memory, that you did write down what I saw,
Here your nobility will be displayed!
And I began:
"Poet, you who must guide me,
Regard my manhood, if it be sufficient,
Ere to the arduous pass you do confide me.
You say, that
of Silvius the parent,
yet corruptible, unto the world
Immortal went, and was there bodily.
But if the
adversary of all evil
Was courteous, thinking of the high effect
That issue would from him, and who, and what,
To men of intellect
it seems not unmeet ;
For he was of great Rome, and of her empire
In the empyreal heaven as father chosen;
The which and
what, wishing to speak the truth,
Were established as the holy place, wherein
Sits the successor of the greatest Peter.
Upon this journey,
when you give him vaunt,
Things he head, which the occasion were
Both of his victory and the papal mantle.
afterwards the Chosen Vessel,
To bring back comfort from that Faith,
Which of salvation's way is the beginning.
But I, why
thither come, or who concedes it?
I am not Aeneas , I am not Paul,
Not I, not others, think me worthy of it.
if I resign myself to come,
I fear the coming may be ill-advised;
You are wise, and know better than I speak."
And as he is,
who unwills what he willed,
And by new thoughts does his intention change,
So that from his design he quite withdraws,
Such I became,
upon that dark hillside,
Because, in thinking, I consumed the emprise,
Which was so very prompt in the beginning.
"If I have
understood your language well,"
Replied that shade of the Magnanimous,
"Your soul is attainted with cowardice,
times a man encumbers so,
It turns him back from honoured enterprise,
As false sight does a beast, when he is shy.
That you may
free yourself from this apprehension,
I'll tell you why I came, and what I heard
At the first moment when I grieved for you.
was I who are in suspense,
And a fair, saintly Lady called to me
In such wise, I asked her to command me.
Her eyes where
shining brighter than the Star;
And she began to say, gentle and low,
With voice angelical, in her own language:
courteous of Mantua,
Of whom the fame still in the world endures,
And will endure, long-lasting as the world;
A friend of
mine, and not the friend of fortune,
Upon the desert slope is so impeded
Upon his way, that he has turned through terror,
And may, I
fear, already be so lost,
That I too late have risen to his succour,
From that which I have heard of him in Heaven.
now, and with your speech ornate,
And with what needful is for his release,
Assist him so, that I may be consoled.
I, who do bid you go;
I come from there, where I would fain return;
Love moved me, which compell me to speak and show.
When I shall
be in presence of my Lord,
Full often will I praise you to him.'
Then she paused, and thereafter I began:
'O Lady of
virtue, you alone through whom
The human race exceed all contained
Within the heaven that has the lesser circles,
unto me is you commandment,
To obey, if it were already done, was late;
No farther need your ope to me your wish.
But the cause
tell me why you do not shun
The here descending down into this center,
From the vast place you burn to return to.'
wouldst fain so inwardly discern,
Briefly will I relate,' she answered me,
'Why I am not afraid to enter here.
Of those things
only should one be afraid
Which have the power of doing others harm;
Of the rest, no; because they are not fearful.
God in his
mercy such created me
That misery of yours attains me not,
Not any flame assails me of this burning.
A gentle Lady
is in Heaven, who grieves
At this impediment, to which I send you,
So that stern judgment there above is broken.
In her entreaty
she besought Lucia,
And said, "Your faithful one now stands in need
Of you, and to you I recommend him."
of all that is cruel,
Hastened away, and came unto the place
Where I was sitting with the ancient Rachel.
said she, "the true praise of God,
Why succourest thou not him, who loved you so,
For thee he issued from the vulgar herd?
Do you not
hear the pity of his plaint?
Do you not see the death that combats him
Beside that flood, where ocean has no vaunt?"
persons in the world so swift
To work their weal and to escape their woe,
As I, after such words as these were uttered,
downward from my blessed seat,
Confiding in your dignified discourse,
Which honours you, and those who've listened to it.'
After she had
spoken to me,
Weeping, her shining eyes she turned away;
Whereby she made me swifter in my coming;
And to you
I came, as she desired;
I have delivered you from that wild beast,
Which barred the beautiful mountain's short ascent.
What is it,
then? Why, why do you delay?
Why is such baseness bedded in your heart?
Daring and hardihood why have you not,
three such Ladies benedight
Are caring for thee in the court of Heaven,
And so much good my speech does promise you?"
Even as the
flowerets, by nocturnal chill,
Bowed down and closed, when the sun whitens them,
Uplift themselves all open on their stems;
Such I became
with my exhausted strength,
And such good courage to my heart there coursed,
That I began, like an intrepid person:
"Oh she compassionate,
who succoured me,
And you so courteous, who has obeyed so soon
The words of truth which she addressed to you!
You have my
heart so with desire disposed
To the adventure, with these words of yours,
That to my first intent I have returned.
Now go, for
one sole will is in us both,
Thou Leader, and thou Lord, and my Master."
Now lead on: one will serve us two in this
He turned when
I had spoken; and at his back,
I entered on the deep and savage track.