Dante's Inferno - Dante Alighieri - ebook

"IN the midway of this our mortal life,I found me in a gloomy wood, astrayGone from the path direct: and e'en to tellIt were no easy task, how savage wildThat forest, how robust and rough its growth,Which to remember only, my dismayRenews, in bitterness not far from death.Yet to discourse of what there good befell,All else will I relate discover'd there."

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IN the midway of this our mortal life,I found me in a gloomy wood, astrayGone from the path direct: and e'en to tellIt were no easy task, how savage wildThat forest, how robust and rough its growth,Which to remember only, my dismayRenews, in bitterness not far from death.Yet to discourse of what there good befell,All else will I relate discover'd there.How first I enter'd it I scarce can say,Such sleepy dullness in that instant weigh'dMy senses down, when the true path I left,But when a mountain's foot I reach'd, where clos'dThe valley, that had pierc'd my heart with dread,I look'd aloft, and saw his shoulders broadAlready vested with that planet's beam,Who leads all wanderers safe through every way.Then was a little respite to the fear,That in my heart's recesses deep had lain,All of that night, so pitifully pass'd:And as a man, with difficult short breath,Forespent with toiling, 'scap'd from sea to shore,Turns to the perilous wide waste, and standsAt gaze; e'en so my spirit, that yet fail'dStruggling with terror, turn'd to view the straits,That none hath pass'd and liv'd.  My weary frameAfter short pause recomforted, againI journey'd on over that lonely steep,The hinder foot still firmer.  Scarce the ascentBegan, when, lo! a panther, nimble, light,And cover'd with a speckled skin, appear'd,Nor, when it saw me, vanish'd, rather stroveTo check my onward going; that ofttimesWith purpose to retrace my steps I turn'd.The hour was morning's prime, and on his wayAloft the sun ascended with those stars,That with him rose, when Love divine first mov'dThose its fair works: so that with joyous hopeAll things conspir'd to fill me, the gay skinOf that swift animal, the matin dawnAnd the sweet season.  Soon that joy was chas'd,And by new dread succeeded, when in viewA lion came, 'gainst me, as it appear'd,With his head held aloft and hunger-mad,That e'en the air was fear-struck.  A she-wolfWas at his heels, who in her leanness seem'dFull of all wants, and many a land hath madeDisconsolate ere now.  She with such fearO'erwhelmed me, at the sight of her appall'd,That of the height all hope I lost.  As one,Who with his gain elated, sees the timeWhen all unwares is gone, he inwardlyMourns with heart-griping anguish; such was I,Haunted by that fell beast, never at peace,Who coming o'er against me, by degreesImpell'd me where the sun in silence rests.While to the lower space with backward stepI fell, my ken discern'd the form one of one,Whose voice seem'd faint through long disuse of speech.When him in that great desert I espied,"Have mercy on me!"  cried I out aloud,"Spirit! or living man! what e'er thou be!"He answer'd: "Now not man, man once I was,And born of Lombard parents, Mantuana bothBy country, when the power of Julius yetWas scarcely firm.  At Rome my life was pastBeneath the mild Augustus, in the timeOf fabled deities and false.  A bardWas I, and made Anchises' upright sonThe subject of my song, who came from Troy,When the flames prey'd on Ilium's haughty towers.But thou, say wherefore to such perils pastReturn'st thou?  wherefore not this pleasant mountAscendest, cause and source of all delight?""And art thou then that Virgil, that well-spring,From which such copious floods of eloquenceHave issued?"  I with front abash'd replied."Glory and light of all the tuneful train!May it avail me that I long with zealHave sought thy volume, and with love immenseHave conn'd it o'er.  My master thou and guide!Thou he from whom alone I have deriv'dThat style, which for its beauty into fameExalts me.  See the beast, from whom I fled.O save me from her, thou illustrious sage!"For every vein and pulse throughout my frameShe hath made tremble."  He, soon as he sawThat I was weeping, answer'd, "Thou must needsAnother way pursue, if thou wouldst 'scapeFrom out that savage wilderness.  This beast,At whom thou criest, her way will suffer noneTo pass, and no less hindrance makes than death:So bad and so accursed in her kind,That never sated is her ravenous will,Still after food more craving than before.To many an animal in wedlock vileShe fastens, and shall yet to many more,Until that greyhound come, who shall destroyHer with sharp pain.  He will not life supportBy earth nor its base metals, but by love,Wisdom, and virtue, and his land shall beThe land 'twixt either Feltro.  In his mightShall safety to Italia's plains arise,For whose fair realm, Camilla, virgin pure,Nisus, Euryalus, and Turnus fell.He with incessant chase through every townShall worry, until he to hell at lengthRestore her, thence by envy first let loose.I for thy profit pond'ring now devise,That thou mayst follow me, and I thy guideWill lead thee hence through an eternal space,Where thou shalt hear despairing shrieks, and seeSpirits of old tormented, who invokeA second death; and those next view, who dwellContent in fire, for that they hope to come,Whene'er the time may be, among the blest,Into whose regions if thou then desireT' ascend, a spirit worthier then IMust lead thee, in whose charge, when I depart,Thou shalt be left: for that Almighty King,Who reigns above, a rebel to his law,Adjudges me, and therefore hath decreed,That to his city none through me should come.He in all parts hath sway; there rules, there holdsHis citadel and throne.  O happy those,Whom there he chooses!" I to him in few:"Bard! by that God, whom thou didst not adore,I do beseech thee (that this ill and worseI may escape) to lead me, where thou saidst,That I Saint Peter's gate may view, and thoseWho as thou tell'st, are in such dismal plight."Onward he mov'd, I close his steps pursu'd.


NOW was the day departing, and the air,Imbrown'd with shadows, from their toils releas'dAll animals on earth; and I alonePrepar'd myself the conflict to sustain,Both of sad pity, and that perilous road,Which my unerring memory shall retrace.O Muses! O high genius! now vouchsafeYour aid! O mind! that all I saw hast keptSafe in a written record, here thy worthAnd eminent endowments come to proof.I thus began: "Bard! thou who art my guide,Consider well, if virtue be in meSufficient, ere to this high enterpriseThou trust me.  Thou hast told that Silvius' sire,Yet cloth'd in corruptible flesh, amongTh' immortal tribes had entrance, and was thereSensible present.  Yet if heaven's great Lord,Almighty foe to ill, such favour shew'd,In contemplation of the high effect,Both what and who from him should issue forth,It seems in reason's judgment well deserv'd:Sith he of Rome, and of Rome's empire wide,In heaven's empyreal height was chosen sire:Both which, if truth be spoken, were ordain'dAnd 'stablish'd for the holy place, where sitsWho to great Peter's sacred chair succeeds.He from this journey, in thy song renown'd,Learn'd things, that to his victory gave riseAnd to the papal robe.  In after-timesThe chosen vessel also travel'd there,To bring us back assurance in that faith,Which is the entrance to salvation's way.But I, why should I there presume?  or whoPermits it?  not, Aeneas I nor Paul.Myself I deem not worthy, and none elseWill deem me.  I, if on this voyage thenI venture, fear it will in folly end.Thou, who art wise, better my meaning know'st,Than I can speak."  As one, who unresolvesWhat he hath late resolv'd, and with new thoughtsChanges his purpose, from his first intentRemov'd; e'en such was I on that dun coast,Wasting in thought my enterprise, at firstSo eagerly embrac'd.  "If right thy wordsI scan," replied that shade magnanimous,"Thy soul is by vile fear assail'd, which oftSo overcasts a man, that he recoilsFrom noblest resolution, like a beastAt some false semblance in the twilight gloom.That from this terror thou mayst free thyself,I will instruct thee why I came, and whatI heard in that same instant, when for theeGrief touch'd me first.  I was among the tribe,Who rest suspended, when a dame, so blestAnd lovely, I besought her to command,Call'd me; her eyes were brighter than the starOf day; and she with gentle voice and softAngelically tun'd her speech address'd:"O courteous shade of Mantua! thou whose fameYet lives, and shall live long as nature lasts!A friend, not of my fortune but myself,On the wide desert in his road has metHindrance so great, that he through fear has turn'd.Now much I dread lest he past help have stray'd,And I be ris'n too late for his relief,From what in heaven of him I heard.  Speed now,And by thy eloquent persuasive tongue,And by all means for his deliverance meet,Assist him.  So to me will comfort spring.I who now bid thee on this errand forthAm Beatrice; from a place I come.(Note: Beatrice.  I use this word, as it ispronounced in the Italian, as consisting of foursyllables, of which the third is a long one.) Revisited with joy.  Love brought me thence,Who prompts my speech.  When in my Master's sightI stand, thy praise to him I oft will tell."She then was silent, and I thus began:"O Lady! by whose influence alone,Mankind excels whatever is contain'dWithin that heaven which hath the smallest orb,So thy command delights me, that to obey,If it were done already, would seem late.No need hast thou farther to speak thy will;Yet tell the reason, why thou art not lothTo leave that ample space, where to returnThou burnest, for this centre here beneath."She then: "Since thou so deeply wouldst inquire,I will instruct thee briefly, why no dreadHinders my entrance here.  Those things aloneAre to be fear'd, whence evil may proceed,None else, for none are terrible beside.I am so fram'd by God, thanks to his grace!That any suff'rance of your miseryTouches me not, nor flame of that fierce fireAssails me.  In high heaven a blessed dameBesides, who mourns with such effectual griefThat hindrance, which I send thee to remove,That God's stern judgment to her will inclines."To Lucia calling, her she thus bespake:"Now doth thy faithful servant need thy aidAnd I commend him to thee."  At her wordSped Lucia, of all cruelty the foe,And coming to the place, where I abodeSeated with Rachel, her of ancient days,She thus address'd me: "Thou true praise of God!Beatrice! why is not thy succour lentTo him, who so much lov'd thee, as to leaveFor thy sake all the multitude admires?Dost thou not hear how pitiful his wail,Nor mark the death, which in the torrent flood,Swoln mightier than a sea, him struggling holds?"Ne'er among men did any with such speedHaste to their profit, flee from their annoy,As when these words were spoken, I came here,Down from my blessed seat, trusting the forceOf thy pure eloquence, which thee, and allWho well have mark'd it, into honour brings.""When she had ended, her bright beaming eyesTearful she turn'd aside; whereat I feltRedoubled zeal to serve thee.  As she will'd,Thus am I come: I sav'd thee from the beast,Who thy near way across the goodly mountPrevented.  What is this comes o'er thee then?Why, why dost thou hang back?  why in thy breastHarbour vile fear?  why hast not courage thereAnd noble daring?  Since three maids so blestThy safety plan, e'en in the court of heaven;And so much certain good my words forebode."As florets, by the frosty air of nightBent down and clos'd, when day has blanch'd their leaves,Rise all unfolded on their spiry stems;So was my fainting vigour new restor'd,And to my heart such kindly courage ran,That I as one undaunted soon replied:"O full of pity she, who undertookMy succour! and thou kind who didst performSo soon her true behest! With such desireThou hast dispos'd me to renew my voyage,That my first purpose fully is resum'd.Lead on: one only will is in us both.Thou art my guide, my master thou, and lord."So spake I; and when he had onward mov'd,I enter'd on the deep and woody way.


"THROUGH me you pass into the city of woe:Through me you pass into eternal pain:Through me among the people lost for aye.Justice the founder of my fabric mov'd:To rear me was the task of power divine,Supremest wisdom, and primeval love.Before me things create were none, save thingsEternal, and eternal I endure."All hope abandon ye who enter here."Such characters in colour dim I mark'dOver a portal's lofty arch inscrib'd:Whereat I thus: "Master, these words importHard meaning."  He as one prepar'd replied:"Here thou must all distrust behind thee leave;Here be vile fear extinguish'd. We are comeWhere I have told thee we shall see the soulsTo misery doom'd, who intellectual goodHave lost."  And when his hand he had stretch'd forthTo mine, with pleasant looks, whence I was cheer'd,Into that secret place he led me on.Here sighs with lamentations and loud moansResounded through the air pierc'd by no star,That e'en I wept at entering.  Various tongues,Horrible languages, outcries of woe,Accents of anger, voices deep and hoarse,With hands together smote that swell'd the sounds,Made up a tumult, that for ever whirlsRound through that air with solid darkness stain'd,Like to the sand that in the whirlwind flies.I then, with error yet encompass'd, cried:"O master!  What is this I hear?  What raceAre these, who seem so overcome with woe?"He thus to me: "This miserable fateSuffer the wretched souls of those, who liv'dWithout or praise or blame, with that ill bandOf angels mix'd, who nor rebellious prov'dNor yet were true to God, but for themselvesWere only.  From his bounds Heaven drove them forth,Not to impair his lustre, nor the depthOf Hell receives them, lest th' accursed tribeShould glory thence with exultation vain."I then: "Master! what doth aggrieve them thus,That they lament so loud?"  He straight replied:"That will I tell thee briefly.  These of deathNo hope may entertain: and their blind lifeSo meanly passes, that all other lotsThey envy.  Fame of them the world hath none,Nor suffers; mercy and justice scorn them both.Speak not of them, but look, and pass them by."And I, who straightway look'd, beheld a flag,Which whirling ran around so rapidly,That it no pause obtain'd: and following cameSuch a long train of spirits, I should ne'erHave thought, that death so many had despoil'd.When some of these I recogniz'd, I sawAnd knew the shade of him, who to base fearYielding, abjur'd his high estate.  ForthwithI understood for certain this the tribeOf those ill spirits both to God displeasingAnd to his foes.  These wretches, who ne'er lived,Went on in nakedness, and sorely stungBy wasps and hornets, which bedew'd their cheeksWith blood, that mix'd with tears dropp'd to their feet,And by disgustful worms was gather'd there.Then looking farther onwards I beheldA throng upon the shore of a great stream:Whereat I thus: "Sir! grant me now to knowWhom here we view, and whence impell'd they seemSo eager to pass o'er, as I discernThrough the blear light?"  He thus to me in few:"This shalt thou know, soon as our steps arriveBeside the woeful tide of Acheron."Then with eyes downward cast and fill'd with shame,Fearing my words offensive to his ear,Till we had reach'd the river, I from speechAbstain'd.  And lo! toward us in a barkComes on an old man hoary white with eld,Crying, "Woe to you wicked spirits! hope notEver to see the sky again.  I comeTo take you to the other shore across,Into eternal darkness, there to dwellIn fierce heat and in ice.  And thou, who thereStandest, live spirit! get thee hence, and leaveThese who are dead."  But soon as he beheldI left them not, "By other way," said he,"By other haven shalt thou come to shore,Not by this passage; thee a nimbler boatMust carry."  Then to him thus spake my guide:"Charon! thyself torment not: so 't is will'd,Where will and power are one: ask thou no more."Straightway in silence fell the shaggy cheeksOf him the boatman o'er the livid lake,Around whose eyes glar'd wheeling flames.  MeanwhileThose spirits, faint and naked, color chang'd,And gnash'd their teeth, soon as the cruel wordsThey heard.  God and their parents they blasphem'd,The human kind, the place, the time, and seedThat did engender them and give them birth.Then all together sorely wailing drewTo the curs'd strand, that every man must passWho fears not God.  Charon, demoniac form,With eyes of burning coal, collects them all,Beck'ning, and each, that lingers, with his oarStrikes.  As fall off the light autumnal leaves,One still another following, till the boughStrews all its honours on the earth beneath;E'en in like manner Adam's evil broodCast themselves one by one down from the shore,Each at a beck, as falcon at his call.Thus go they over through the umber'd wave,And ever they on the opposing bankBe landed, on this side another throngStill gathers.  "Son," thus spake the courteous guide,"Those, who die subject to the wrath of God,All here together come from every clime,And to o'erpass the river are not loth:For so heaven's justice goads them on, that fearIs turn'd into desire.  Hence ne'er hath pastGood spirit.  If of thee Charon complain,Now mayst thou know the import of his words."This said, the gloomy region trembling shookSo terribly, that yet with clammy dewsFear chills my brow.  The sad earth gave a blast,That, lightening, shot forth a vermilion flame,Which all my senses conquer'd quite, and IDown dropp'd, as one with sudden slumber seiz'd.


BROKE the deep slumber in my brain a crashOf heavy thunder, that I shook myself,As one by main force rous'd.  Risen upright,My rested eyes I mov'd around, and search'dWith fixed ken to know what place it was,Wherein I stood.  For certain on the brinkI found me of the lamentable vale,The dread abyss, that joins a thund'rous soundOf plaints innumerable.  Dark and deep,And thick with clouds o'erspread, mine eye in vainExplor'd its bottom, nor could aught discern."Now let us to the blind world there beneathDescend;" the bard began all pale of look:"I go the first, and thou shalt follow next."Then I his alter'd hue perceiving, thus:"How may I speed, if thou yieldest to dread,Who still art wont to comfort me in doubt?"He then: "The anguish of that race belowWith pity stains my cheek, which thou for fearMistakest.  Let us on.  Our length of wayUrges to haste."  Onward, this said, he mov'd;And ent'ring led me with him on the boundsOf the first circle, that surrounds th' abyss.Here, as mine ear could note, no plaint was heardExcept of sighs, that made th' eternal airTremble, not caus'd by tortures, but from griefFelt by those multitudes, many and vast,Of men, women, and infants.  Then to meThe gentle guide: "Inquir'st thou not what spiritsAre these, which thou beholdest?  Ere thou passFarther, I would thou know, that these of sinWere blameless; and if aught they merited,It profits not, since baptism was not theirs,The portal to thy faith.  If they beforeThe Gospel liv'd, they serv'd not God aright;And among such am I. For these defects,And for no other evil, we are lost;"Only so far afflicted, that we liveDesiring without hope."  So grief assail'dMy heart at hearing this, for well I knewSuspended in that Limbo many a soul