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THE DIVINE COMEDY OF DANTE ALIGHIERI (26)

2006-09-08 21:26

    Inferno: Canto XXVI

    Rejoice, O Florence, since thou art so great, That over sea and land thou beatest thy wings, And throughout Hell thy name is spread abroad! Among the thieves five citizens of thine Like these I found, whence shame comes unto me, And thou thereby to no great honour risest. But if when morn is near our dreams are true, Feel shalt thou in a little time from now What Prato, if none other, craves for thee. And if it now were, it were not too soon; Would that it were, seeing it needs must be, For 'twill aggrieve me more the more I age. We went our way, and up along the stairs The bourns had made us to descend before, Remounted my Conductor and drew me. And following the solitary path Among the rocks and ridges of the crag, The foot without the hand sped not at all. Then sorrowed I, and sorrow now again, When I direct my mind to what I saw, And more my genius curb than I am wont, That it may run not unless virtue guide it; So that if some good star, or better thing, Have given me good, I may myself not grudge it. As many as the hind (who on the hill Rests at the time when he who lights the world His countenance keeps least concealed from us,

    While as the fly gives place unto the gnat) Seeth the glow-worms down along the valley, Perchance there where he ploughs and makes his vintage;

    With flames as manifold resplendent all Was the eighth Bolgia, as I grew aware As soon as I was where the depth appeared.

    And such as he who with the bears avenged him Beheld Elijah's chariot at departing, What time the steeds to heaven erect uprose,

    For with his eye he could not follow it So as to see aught else than flame alone, Even as a little cloud ascending upward,

    Thus each along the gorge of the intrenchment Was moving; for not one reveals the theft, And every flame a sinner steals away.

    I stood upon the bridge uprisen to see, So that, if I had seized not on a rock, Down had I fallen without being pushed.

    And the Leader, who beheld me so attent, Exclaimed: "Within the fires the spirits are; Each swathes himself with that wherewith he burns."

    "My Master," I replied, "by hearing thee I am more sure; but I surmised already It might be so, and already wished to ask thee

    Who is within that fire, which comes so cleft At top, it seems uprising from the pyre Where was Eteocles with his brother placed."

    He answered me: "Within there are tormented Ulysses and Diomed, and thus together They unto vengeance run as unto wrath.

    And there within their flame do they lament The ambush of the horse, which made the door Whence issued forth the Romans' gentle seed;

    Therein is wept the craft, for which being dead Deidamia still deplores Achilles, And pain for the Palladium there is borne."

    "If they within those sparks possess the power To speak," I said, "thee, Master, much I pray, And re-pray, that the prayer be worth a thousand,

    That thou make no denial of awaiting Until the horned flame shall hither come; Thou seest that with desire I lean towards it."

    And he to me: "Worthy is thy entreaty Of much applause, and therefore I accept it; But take heed that thy tongue restrain itself.

    Leave me to speak, because I have conceived That which thou wishest; for they might disdain Perchance, since they were Greeks, discourse of thine."

    When now the flame had come unto that point, Where to my Leader it seemed time and place, After this fashion did I hear him speak:

    "O ye, who are twofold within one fire, If I deserved of you, while I was living, If I deserved of you or much or little

    When in the world I wrote the lofty verses, Do not move on, but one of you declare Whither, being lost, he went away to die."

    Then of the antique flame the greater horn, Murmuring, began to wave itself about Even as a flame doth which the wind fatigues.

    Thereafterward, the summit to and fro Moving as if it were the tongue that spake, It uttered forth a voice, and said: "When I

    From Circe had departed, who concealed me More than a year there near unto Gaeta, Or ever yet Aeneas named it so,

    Nor fondness for my son, nor reverence For my old father, nor the due affection Which joyous should have made Penelope, Could overcome within me the desire I had to be experienced of the world, And of the vice and virtue of mankind;

    But I put forth on the high open sea With one sole ship, and that small company By which I never had deserted been.

    Both of the shores I saw as far as Spain, Far as Morocco, and the isle of Sardes, And the others which that sea bathes round about.

    I and my company were old and slow When at that narrow passage we arrived Where Hercules his landmarks set as signals,

    That man no farther onward should adventure. On the right hand behind me left I Seville, And on the other already had left Ceuta.

    'O brothers, who amid a hundred thousand Perils,' I said, 'have come unto the West, To this so inconsiderable vigil

    Which is remaining of your senses still Be ye unwilling to deny the knowledge, Following the sun, of the unpeopled world.

    Consider ye the seed from which ye sprang; Ye were not made to live like unto brutes, But for pursuit of virtue and of knowledge.'

    So eager did I render my companions, With this brief exhortation, for the voyage, That then I hardly could have held them back.

    And having turned our stern unto the morning, We of the oars made wings for our mad flight, Evermore gaining on the larboard side.

    Already all the stars of the other pole The night beheld, and ours so very low It did not rise above the ocean floor.

    Five times rekindled and as many quenched Had been the splendour underneath the moon, Since we had entered into the deep pass,

    When there appeared to us a mountain, dim From distance, and it seemed to me so high As I had never any one beheld.

    Joyful were we, and soon it turned to weeping; For out of the new land a whirlwind rose, And smote upon the fore part of the ship.

    Three times it made her whirl with all the waters, At the fourth time it made the stern uplift, And the prow downward go, as pleased Another,

    Until the sea above us closed again."

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