A monterous clap
of thunder broke apart
the deep lethargy within my head, Like to a person
who by force is wakened with a start;
And round about
I moved my rested eyes,
Uprisen erect, and steadfastly I gazed,
To recognise the place wherein I was.
True is it, that
upon the verge I found me
Of the abysmal valley dolorous,
That gathers thunder of infinite ululations.
it was, and nebulous,
So that by fixing on its depths my sight
Nothing whatever I discerned therein.
"Let us descend
now into the blind world,"
Began the Poet, utterly pallid ;
"I will be first, and you will second be."
And I, who of
his color was aware,
Said: "How will I come, if you are afraid,
Who will be a comfort to my fears?"
And he to me:
"The anguish of the people
Who are below here in my face depicts
That pity which for terror you have taken.
Let us go on,
for the long way impels us."
Thus he went in, and thus he made me enter
The foremost circle that surrounds the abyss.
There, as it
seemed to me from listening,
Were no lamentations, but only sighs,
That tremble made the everlasting air.
And this arose
from sorrow without torment,
Which the crowds had, that many were and great,
Of infants and of women and of men.
To me the Master
good: "You do not ask
What spirits these, which you behold, are?
Now will I have you know, ere you go farther,
That they sinned
not; and if they had merit ,
'Tis not enough, because they had not baptism
Which is the portal of the Faith you hold;
And if they were
In the right manner they adored not God;
And among such as these am I myself.
For such defects,
and not for other guilt,
Lost are we and are only so far punished,
That without hope we live on in desire."
Great grief seized
on my heart when this I heard,
Because some people of much worthiness
I knew, who in that Limbo were suspended.
"Tell me, my
Master, tell me, thou my Lord,"
Began I, with desire of being certain
Of that Faith which overcome every error,
"Came any one
by his own merit hence,
Or by another's, who was blessed thereafter?"
And he, who understood my covert speech,
Replied: "I was
a novice in this state,
When I saw hither come a Mighty One,
With sign of victory incoronate.
Hence he drew
forth the shade of the First Parent,
And that of his son Abel, and of Noah,
Of Moses the lawgiver, and the obedient
and David, king,
Israel with his father and his children,
And Rachel, for whose sake he did so much,
And others many,
and he made them blessed;
And you must know, that earlier than these
Never were any human spirits saved."
We ceased not
to advance because he spoke,
But still were passing onward through the forest,
The forest, say I, of thick-crowded ghosts.
Not very far
as yet our way had gone
This side the summit, when I saw a fire
That overcame a hemisphere of darkness.
We were a little
distant from it still,
But not so far that I in part discerned not
That honorable people held that place.
"Oh you who honor
every art and science,
Who may these be, which such great honour have,
That from the fashion of the rest it parts them?"
And he to me:
"The honorable name,
That sounds of them above there in your life,
Wins grace in Heaven, that so advances them."
In the mean time
a voice was heard by me:
"All honor be to the pre-eminent Poet;
His shade returns again, that was departed."
After the voice
had ceased and quiet was,
Four mighty shades I saw approaching us;
Semblance had they nor sorrowful nor glad.
To say to me
began my gracious Master:
"Him with that falchion in his hand behold,
Who comes before the three, even as their lord.
That one is Homer,
He who comes next is Horace, the satirist;
The third is Ovid, and the last is Lucan.
Because to each
of these with me applies
The name that solitary voice proclaimed,
They do me honor, and in that do well."
Thus I beheld
assemble the fair school
Of that lord of the song pre-eminent,
Who over the others like an eagle soars.
When they together
had discoursed somewhat,
They turned to me with signs of salutation,
And on beholding this, my Master smiled;
And more of honor
still, much more, they did me,
In that they made me one of their own band;
So that the sixth was I, amid so much wit.
Thus we went
on as far as to the light,
Things saying 'tis becoming to keep silent,
As was the saying of them where I was.
We came unto
a noble castle's foot,
Seven times encompassed with lofty walls,
Defended round by a fair rivulet;
This we passed
over even as firm ground;
Through portals seven I entered with these Sages;
We came into a meadow of fresh verdure.
People were there
with solemn eyes and slow,
Of great authority in their countenance;
They spoke but seldom, and with gentle voices.
Thus we withdrew
ourselves upon one side
Into an opening luminous and lofty,
So that they all of them were visible.
upon the green enamel,
Were pointed out to me the mighty spirits,
Whom to have seen I feel myself exalted.
I saw Electra
with companions many,
'Among whom I knew both Hector and Aeneas,
Caesar in armour with gerfalcon eyes;
I saw Camilla
On the other side, and saw the King Latinus,
Who with Lavinia his daughter sat;
I saw that Brutus
who drove Tarquin forth,
Lucretia, Julia, Marcia, and Cornelia,
And saw alone, apart, the Saladin.
When I had lifted
up my brows a little,
The Master I beheld of those who know,
Sit with his philosophic family.
All gaze upon
him, and all do him honor.
There I beheld both Socrates and Plato,
Who nearer him before the others stand;
puts the world on chance,
Diogenes, Anaxagoras, and Thales,
Zeno, Empedocles, and Heraclitus;
I saw the good collector,
Hight Dioscorides; and Orpheus saw I,
Tully and Livy, and moral Seneca,
Galen, Hippocrates, and Avicenna,
Averroes, who the great Comment made.
I cannot count
so much nobility,
Because so drives me onward the long theme,
That many times the word comes short of reality.
The sixfold company
is reduced by four;
Another way my sapient Guide conducts me
Forth from the quiet into the roar;
From the trembling
air of hell, I pass from light
into the kingdom of eternal night.