Dante Alighieri, probably baptized Durante di Alighiero degli Alighieri and often referred to simply as Dante, was an Italian poet.
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Famous Dante Alighieri Poems
There Is A Gentle Thought
There is a gentle thought that often springs
to life in me, because it speaks of you.
Its reasoning about love’s so sweet and true,
the heart is conquered, and accepts these things.
‘Who is this’ the mind enquires of the heart,
‘who comes here to seduce our intellect?
Is his power so great we must reject
every other intellectual art?
The heart replies ‘O, meditative mind
this is love’s messenger and newly sent
to bring me all Love’s words and desires.
His life, and all the strength that he can find,
from her sweet eyes are mercifully lent,
who feels compassion for our inner fires.’
Sonnet: Beauty Of Her Face
For certain he hath seen all perfectness
Who among other ladies hath seen mine:
They that go with her humbly should combine
To thank their God for such peculiar grace.
So perfect is the beauty of her face
That is begets in no wise any sigh
Of envy, but draws round her a clear line
Of love, and blessed faith, and gentleness.
Merely the sight of her makes all things bow:
Not she herself alone is holier
Than all; but hers, through her, are raised above.
From all her acts such lovely graces flow
That truly one may never think of her
Without a passion of exceeding love.
Sonnet: I Muse Over
At whiles (yea oftentimes) I muse over
The quality of anguish that is mine
Through Love: then pity makes my voice to pine
Saying, ‘Is any else thus, anywhere?’
Love smileth me, whose strength is ill to bear;
So that of all my life is left no sigh
Except one thought; and that, because ’tis thine,
Leaves not the body but abideth there.
And then if I, whom other aid forsook,
Would aid myself, and innocent of art
Would fain have sight of thee as a last hope,
No sooner do I lift mine eyes to look
Than the blood seems as shaken from my heart,
And all my pulses beat at once and stop.
Ulysses’ Last Voyage
I launched her with my small remaining band
and, putting out to sea, we set the main
on that lone ship and said farewell to land.
Far to starboard rose the coast of Spain,
astern was Sardi, Islas at our bow,
and soon we saw Morocco port abeam.
Though I and comrades now were old and slow,
we hauled till nightfall for the narrow sound
where Hercules had shown what not to do,
by setting marks for men to stay behind.
At dawn the starboard lookout made Seville,
and at the straits stood Ceuta t’other hand.
‘Brothers,’ I shouted, ‘who have had the will
to come through danger, and have reached the west!
our time awake is brief from now until
the senses die, and so I say we test
the sun’s own motion and do not forego
the worlds beyond, unknown and peopleless.
Think of the roots from which you sprang, and show
that you are human: not unconscious brutes
but made to follow virtue and to know.’
O Intelligence Moving The Third Heaven
O Intelligences moving the third heaven,
the reasons heed that from my heart come forth,
so new, it seems, that no one else should know.
The heaven set in motion by your worth,
beings in gentleness created even,
keeps my existence in its present woe,
so that to speak of what I feel and know
means to converse most worthily with you:
I beg you, then, to listen to me well.
Of something in me new I now will tell—
how grief and sadness this my soul subdue,
and how a contradiction from afar
speaks through the rays descending from your star.
A thought of loveliness seems now to be
life to my ailing heart: it used to fly
oft to the very presence of your Sire;
and there a glorious Lady sitting high
it also saw, who spoke so pleasingly,
my soul would say “Up there dwells my desire.”
Now one appears, which I in dread admire
a mighty lord that makes it flee away,
so mighty, terror from my heart outflows.
To me he brings a lady very close,
and “Who salvation seeks,” I hear him say,
“let him but gaze into this lady’s eyes,
if he can suffer agony of sighs.”
Such is the contradiction, it can slay
the humble thought that is still telling me
of a fair angel up in heaven crowned.
My soul bemoans its present misery,
saying, “Unhappy me! How fast away
went he, in whom I had some solace found!”
And of my eyes it says, with mournful sound,
“When was it such a lady pierced their sight?
Why did they fail to see me in her guise?
I said, ‘Oh, surely, in this lady’s eyes
the one must dwell who kills my peers with fright.’
To no avail I warned them (Oh, my dread!),
but look at her they did, and I fell dead.”
“Oh, no, not dead, you are bewildered much,
O my poor soul, so pained and grieving so,”
replies a loving spirit, kind and sweet,
“For the fair woman, that you feel and know,
has changed your life so quickly and so much,
you now are trembling in your vile defeat.
Look how humility and mercy meet
in one so wise and gentle in her height:
so call her Lady, as by now you must.
And you will see, if steadfast is your trust,
such lofty miracles, such full delight,
you’ll say, ‘O Love, true lord, do as you please:
here is your humble handmaid on her knees.’”
My song, I do believe that those are few
who can unravel your most hidden sense,
so intricate and mighty is your wit.
Therefore, if by some fate or circumstance
you stray and venture among people who
seem not completely to have fathomed it,
oh, then, I pray, console yourself a bit,
and say, O lovely latest song, to them,
“Notice, at least, how beautiful I am!”
Per me si va ne la città dolente,
per me si va ne l’etterno dolore,
per me si va tra la perduta gente .
THROUGH ME THE WAY INTO THE SUFFERING CITY,
THROUGH ME THE WAY TO THE ETERNAL PAIN,
THROUGH ME THE WAY THAT RUNS AMONG THE LOST.
Giustizia mosse il mio alto fattore:
fecemi la divina podestate,
la somma sapienza e ‘l primo amore .
JUSTICE URGED ON MY HIGH ARTIFICER;
MY MAKER WAS DIVINE AUTHORITY,
THE HIGHEST WISDOM, AND THE PRIMAL LOVE.
Dinanzi a me non fuor cose create
se non etterne, e io etterno duro.
Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate “.
BEFORE ME NOTHING BUT ETERNAL THINGS
WERE MADE, AND I ENDURE ETERNALLY.
ABANDON EVERY HOPE, WHO ENTER HERE.
Queste parole di colore oscuro
vid’io scritte al sommo d’una porta;
per ch’io: «Maestro, il senso lor m’è duro ».
These words-their aspect was obscure-I read
inscribed above a gateway, and I said:
“Master, their meaning is difficult for me.”
Ed elli a me, come persona accorta:
«Qui si convien lasciare ogne sospetto;
ogne viltà convien che qui sia morta .
And he to me, as one who comprehends:
“Here one must leave behind all hesitation;
here every cowardice must meet its death.
Noi siam venuti al loco ov’i’ t’ho detto
che tu vedrai le genti dolorose
c’hanno perduto il ben de l’intelletto ».
For we have reached the place of which I spoke,
where you will see the miserable people,
those who have lost the good of the intellect.”
E poi che la sua mano a la mia puose
con lieto volto, ond’io mi confortai,
mi mise dentro a le segrete cose .
And when, with gladness in his face, he placed
his hand upon my own, to comfort me,
he drew me in among the hidden things.
Quivi sospiri, pianti e alti guai
risonavan per l’aere sanza stelle,
per ch’io al cominciar ne lagrimai .
Here sighs and lamentations and loud cries
were echoing across the starless air,
so that, as soon as I set out, I wept.
Diverse lingue, orribili favelle,
parole di dolore, accenti d’ira,
voci alte e fioche, e suon di man con elle
Strange utterances, horrible pronouncements,
accents of anger, words of suffering,
and voices shrill and faint, and beating hands-
facevano un tumulto, il qual s’aggira
sempre in quell’aura sanza tempo tinta,
come la rena quando turbo spira .
all went to make a tumult that will whirl
forever through that turbid, timeless air,
like sand that eddies when a whirlwind swirls.
E io ch’avea d’error la testa cinta,
dissi: «Maestro, che è quel ch’i’ odo?
e che gent’è che par nel duol sì vinta ?».
And I-my head oppressed by horror-said:
“Master, what is it that I hear? Who are
those people so defeated by their pain?”
Ed elli a me: «Questo misero modo
tegnon l’anime triste di coloro
che visser sanza ‘nfamia e sanza lodo .
And he to me: “This miserable way
is taken by the sorry souls of those
who lived without disgrace and without praise.
Mischiate sono a quel cattivo coro
de li angeli che non furon ribelli
né fur fedeli a Dio, ma per sé fuoro .
They now commingle with the coward angels,
the company of those who were not rebels
nor faithful to their God, but stood apart.
Caccianli i ciel per non esser men belli,
né lo profondo inferno li riceve,
ch’alcuna gloria i rei avrebber d’elli ».
The heavens, that their beauty not be lessened,
have cast them out, nor will deep Hell receive them-
even the wicked cannot glory in them.”
E io: «Maestro, che è tanto greve
a lor, che lamentar li fa sì forte?».
Rispuose: «Dicerolti molto breve .
And I: “What is it, master, that oppresses
these souls, compelling them to wail so loud?”
He answered: “I shall tell you in few words.
Questi non hanno speranza di morte
e la lor cieca vita è tanto bassa,
che ‘nvidiosi son d’ogne altra sorte .
Those who are here can place no hope in death,
and their blind life is so abject that they
are envious of every other fate.
Fama di loro il mondo esser non lassa;
misericordia e giustizia li sdegna:
non ragioniam di lor, ma guarda e passa ».
The world will let no fame of theirs endure;
both justice and compassion must disdain them;
let us not talk of them, but look and pass.”
E io, che riguardai, vidi una ‘nsegna
che girando correva tanto ratta,
che d’ogne posa mi parea indegna ;
And I, looking more closely, saw a banner
that, as it wheeled about, raced on-so quick
that any respite seemed unsuited to it.
e dietro le venìa sì lunga tratta
di gente, ch’i’ non averei creduto
che morte tanta n’avesse disfatta .
Behind that banner trailed so long a file
of people-I should never have believed
that death could have unmade so many souls.
Poscia ch’io v’ebbi alcun riconosciuto,
vidi e conobbi l’ombra di colui
che fece per viltade il gran rifiuto .
After I had identified a few,
I saw and recognized the shade of him
who made, through cowardice, the great refusal.
Incontanente intesi e certo fui
che questa era la setta d’i cattivi,
a Dio spiacenti e a’ nemici sui .
At once I understood with certainty:
this company contained the cowardly,
hateful to God and to His enemies.
Questi sciaurati, che mai non fur vivi,
erano ignudi e stimolati molto
da mosconi e da vespe ch’eran ivi .
These wretched ones, who never were alive,
went naked and were stung again, again
by horseflies and by wasps that circled them.
Elle rigavan lor di sangue il volto,
che, mischiato di lagrime, a’ lor piedi
da fastidiosi vermi era ricolto .
The insects streaked their faces with their blood,
which, mingled with their tears, fell at their feet,
where it was gathered up by sickening worms.
E poi ch’a riguardar oltre mi diedi,
vidi genti a la riva d’un gran fiume;
per ch’io dissi: «Maestro, or mi concedi
And then, looking beyond them, I could see
a crowd along the bank of a great river;
at which I said: “Allow me now to know
ch’i’ sappia quali sono, e qual costume
le fa di trapassar parer sì pronte,
com’io discerno per lo fioco lume ».
who are these people-master-and what law
has made them seem so eager for the crossing,
as I can see despite the feeble light.”
Ed elli a me: «Le cose ti fier conte
quando noi fermerem li nostri passi
su la trista riviera d’Acheronte ».
And he to me: “When we have stopped along
the melancholy shore of Acheron,
then all these matters will be plain to you.”
Allor con li occhi vergognosi e bassi,
temendo no ‘l mio dir li fosse grave,
infino al fiume del parlar mi trassi .
At that, with eyes ashamed, downcast, and fearing
that what I said had given him offense,
I did not speak until we reached the river.
Ed ecco verso noi venir per nave
un vecchio, bianco per antico pelo,
gridando: «Guai a voi, anime prave !
And here, advancing toward us, in a boat,
an aged man-his hair was white with years-
was shouting: “Woe to you, corrupted souls!
Non isperate mai veder lo cielo:
i’ vegno per menarvi a l’altra riva
ne le tenebre etterne, in caldo e ‘n gelo .
Forget your hope of ever seeing Heaven:
I come to lead you to the other shore,
to the eternal dark, to fire and frost.
E tu che se’ costì, anima viva,
pàrtiti da cotesti che son morti».
Ma poi che vide ch’io non mi partiva ,
And you approaching there, you living soul,
keep well away from these-they are the dead.”
But when he saw I made no move to go,
disse: «Per altra via, per altri porti
verrai a piaggia, non qui, per passare:
più lieve legno convien che ti porti ».
he said: “Another way and other harbors-
not here-will bring you passage to your shore:
a lighter craft will have to carry you.”
E ‘l duca lui: «Caron, non ti crucciare:
vuolsi così colà dove si puote
ciò che si vuole, e più non dimandare ».
My guide then: “Charon, don’t torment yourself:
our passage has been willed above, where One
can do what He has willed; and ask no more.”
Quinci fuor quete le lanose gote
al nocchier de la livida palude,
che ‘ntorno a li occhi avea di fiamme rote .
Now silence fell upon the wooly cheeks
of Charon, pilot of the livid marsh,
whose eyes were ringed about with wheels of flame.
Ma quell’anime, ch’eran lasse e nude,
cangiar colore e dibattero i denti,
ratto che ‘nteser le parole crude .
But all those spirits, naked and exhausted,
had lost their color, and they gnashed their teeth
as soon as they heard Charon’s cruel words;
Bestemmiavano Dio e lor parenti,
l’umana spezie e ‘l loco e ‘l tempo e ‘l seme
di lor semenza e di lor nascimenti .
they execrated God and their own parents
and humankind, and then the place and time
of their conception’s seed and of their birth.
Poi si ritrasser tutte quante insieme,
forte piangendo, a la riva malvagia
ch’attende ciascun uom che Dio non teme .
Then they forgathered, huddled in one throng,
weeping aloud along that wretched shore
which waits for all who have no fear of God.
Caron dimonio, con occhi di bragia,
loro accennando, tutte le raccoglie;
batte col remo qualunque s’adagia .
The demon Charon, with his eyes like embers,
by signaling to them, has all embark;
his oar strikes anyone who stretches out.
Come d’autunno si levan le foglie
l’una appresso de l’altra, fin che ‘l ramo
vede a la terra tutte le sue spoglie ,
As, in the autumn, leaves detach themselves,
first one and then the other, till the bough
sees all its fallen garments on the ground,
similemente il mal seme d’Adamo
gittansi di quel lito ad una ad una,
per cenni come augel per suo richiamo .
similarly, the evil seed of Adam
descended from the shoreline one by one,
when signaled, as a falcon-called-will come.
Così sen vanno su per l’onda bruna,
e avanti che sien di là discese,
anche di qua nuova schiera s’auna .
So do they move across the darkened waters;
even before they reach the farther shore,
new ranks already gather on this bank.
«Figliuol mio», disse ‘l maestro cortese,
«quelli che muoion ne l’ira di Dio
tutti convegnon qui d’ogne paese :
“My son,” the gracious master said to me,
“those who have died beneath the wrath of God,
all these assemble here from every country;
e pronti sono a trapassar lo rio,
ché la divina giustizia li sprona,
sì che la tema si volve in disio .
and they are eager for the river crossing
because celestial justice spurs them on,
so that their fear is turned into desire.
Quinci non passa mai anima buona;
e però, se Caron di te si lagna,
ben puoi sapere omai che ‘l suo dir suona ».
No good soul ever takes its passage here;
therefore, if Charon has complained of you,
by now you can be sure what his words mean.”
Finito questo, la buia campagna
tremò sì forte, che de lo spavento
la mente di sudore ancor mi bagna .
And after this was said, the darkened plain
quaked so tremendously-the memory
of terror then, bathes me in sweat again.
La terra lagrimosa diede vento,
che balenò una luce vermiglia
la qual mi vinse ciascun sentimento ;
A whirlwind burst out of the tear-drenched earth,
a wind that crackled with a bloodred light,
a light that overcame all of my senses;
e caddi come l’uom cui sonno piglia.
and like a man whom sleep has seized, I fell.
Of Beauty And Duty
TWO ladies to the summit of my mind
Have clomb, to hold an argument of love.
The one has wisdom with her from above,
For every noblest virtue well designed:
The other, beauty’s tempting power refined
And the high charm of perfect grace approve:
And I, as my sweet Master’s will doth move,
At feet of both their favors am reclined.
Beauty and Duty in my soul keep strife,
At question if the heart such course can take
And ‘twixt the two ladies hold its love complete.
The fount of gentle speech yields answer meet,
That Beauty may be loved for gladness sake,
And Duty in the lofty ends of life
Lo giorno se n’andava, e l’aere bruno
toglieva li animai che sono in terra
da le fatiche loro; e io sol uno
The day was now departing; the dark air
released the living beings of the earth
from work and weariness; and I myself
m’apparecchiava a sostener la guerra
sì del cammino e sì de la pietate,
che ritrarrà la mente che non erra .
alone prepared to undergo the battle
both of the journeying and of the pity,
which memory, mistaking not, shall show.
O muse, o alto ingegno, or m’aiutate;
o mente che scrivesti ciò ch’io vidi,
qui si parrà la tua nobilitate .
O Muses, o high genius, help me now;
o memory that set down what I saw,
here shall your excellence reveal itself!
Io cominciai: «Poeta che mi guidi,
guarda la mia virtù s’ell’è possente,
prima ch’a l’alto passo tu mi fidi .
I started: “Poet, you who are my guide,
see if the force in me is strong enough
before you let me face that rugged pass.
Tu dici che di Silvio il parente,
corruttibile ancora, ad immortale
secolo andò, e fu sensibilmente .
You say that he who fathered Sylvius,
while he was still corruptible, had journeyed
into the deathless world with his live body.
Però, se l’avversario d’ogne male
cortese i fu, pensando l’alto effetto
ch’uscir dovea di lui e ‘l chi e ‘l quale ,
For, if the Enemy of every evil
was courteous to him, considering
all he would cause and who and what he was,
non pare indegno ad omo d’intelletto;
ch’e’ fu de l’alma Roma e di suo impero
ne l’empireo ciel per padre eletto :
that does not seem incomprehensible,
since in the empyrean heaven he was chosen
to father honored Rome and her empire;
la quale e ‘l quale, a voler dir lo vero,
fu stabilita per lo loco santo
u’ siede il successor del maggior Piero .
and if the truth be told, Rome and her realm
were destined to become the sacred place,
the seat of the successor of great Peter.
Per quest’andata onde li dai tu vanto,
intese cose che furon cagione
di sua vittoria e del papale ammanto .
And through the journey you ascribe to him,
he came to learn of things that were to bring
his victory and, too, the papal mantle.
Andovvi poi lo Vas d’elezione,
per recarne conforto a quella fede
ch’è principio a la via di salvazione .
Later the Chosen Vessel travelled there,
to bring us back assurance of that faith
with which the way to our salvation starts.
Ma io perché venirvi? o chi ‘l concede?
Io non Enea, io non Paulo sono:
me degno a ciò né io né altri ‘l crede .
But why should I go there? Who sanctions it?
For I am not Aeneas, am not Paul;
nor I nor others think myself so worthy.
Per che, se del venire io m’abbandono,
temo che la venuta non sia folle.
Se’ savio; intendi me’ ch’i’ non ragiono ».
Therefore, if I consent to start this journey,
I fear my venture may be wild and empty.
You’re wise; you know far more than what I say.”
E qual è quei che disvuol ciò che volle
e per novi pensier cangia proposta,
sì che dal cominciar tutto si tolle ,
And just as he who unwills what he wills
and shifts what he intends to seek new ends
so that he’s drawn from what he had begun,
tal mi fec’io ‘n quella oscura costa,
perché, pensando, consumai la ‘mpresa
che fu nel cominciar cotanto tosta.
so was I in the midst of that dark land,
because, with all my thinking, I annulled
the task I had so quickly undertaken.
«S’i’ ho ben la parola tua intesa»,
rispuose del magnanimo quell’ombra;
«l’anima tua è da viltade offesa ;
“If I have understood what you have said,”
replied the shade of that great-hearted one,
“your soul has been assailed by cowardice,
la qual molte fiate l’omo ingombra
sì che d’onrata impresa lo rivolve,
come falso veder bestia quand’ombra .
which often weighs so heavily on a man-
distracting him from honorable trials-
as phantoms frighten beasts when shadows fall.
Da questa tema acciò che tu ti solve,
dirotti perch’io venni e quel ch’io ‘ntesi
nel primo punto che di te mi dolve .
That you may be delivered from this fear,
I’ll tell you why I came and what I heard
when I first felt compassion for your pain.
Io era tra color che son sospesi,
e donna mi chiamò beata e bella,
tal che di comandare io la richiesi .
I was among those souls who are suspended;
a lady called to me, so blessed, so lovely
that I implored to serve at her command.
Lucevan li occhi suoi più che la stella;
e cominciommi a dir soave e piana,
con angelica voce, in sua favella :
Her eyes surpassed the splendor of the star’s;
and she began to speak to me-so gently
and softly-with angelic voice. She said:
“O anima cortese mantoana,
di cui la fama ancor nel mondo dura,
e durerà quanto ‘l mondo lontana ,
‘O spirit of the courteous Mantuan,
whose fame is still a presence in the world
and shall endure as long as the world lasts,
l’amico mio, e non de la ventura,
ne la diserta piaggia è impedito
sì nel cammin, che volt’è per paura ;
my friend, who has not been the friend of fortune,
is hindered in his path along that lonely
hillside; he has been turned aside by terror.
e temo che non sia già sì smarrito,
ch’io mi sia tardi al soccorso levata,
per quel ch’i’ ho di lui nel cielo udito .
From all that I have heard of him in Heaven,
he is, I fear, already so astray
that I have come to help him much too late.
Or movi, e con la tua parola ornata
e con ciò c’ha mestieri al suo campare
l’aiuta, sì ch’i’ ne sia consolata .
Go now; with your persuasive word, with all
that is required to see that he escapes,
bring help to him, that I may be consoled.
I’ son Beatrice che ti faccio andare;
vegno del loco ove tornar disio;
amor mi mosse, che mi fa parlare .
For I am Beatrice who send you on;
I come from where I most long to return;
Love prompted me, that Love which makes me speak.
Quando sarò dinanzi al segnor mio,
di te mi loderò sovente a lui”.
Tacette allora, e poi comincia’ io :
When once again I stand before my Lord,
then I shall often let Him hear your praises.’
Now Beatrice was silent. I began:
“O donna di virtù, sola per cui
l’umana spezie eccede ogne contento
di quel ciel c’ha minor li cerchi sui ,
‘O Lady of virtue, the sole reason why
the human race surpasses all that lies
beneath the heaven with the smallest spheres,
tanto m’aggrada il tuo comandamento,
che l’ubidir, se già fosse, m’è tardi;
più non t’è uo’ ch’aprirmi il tuo talento .
so welcome is your wish, that even if
it were already done, it would seem tardy;
all you need do is let me know your will.
Ma dimmi la cagion che non ti guardi
de lo scender qua giuso in questo centro
de l’ampio loco ove tornar tu ardi “.
But tell me why you have not been more prudent-
descending to this center, moving from
that spacious place where you long to return?’
“Da che tu vuo’ saver cotanto a dentro,
dirotti brievemente”, mi rispuose,
“perch’io non temo di venir qua entro .
‘Because you want to fathom things so deeply,
I now shall tell you promptly,’ she replied,
‘why I am not afraid to enter here.
Temer si dee di sole quelle cose
c’hanno potenza di fare altrui male;
de l’altre no, ché non son paurose .
One ought to be afraid of nothing other
than things possessed of power to do us harm,
but things innocuous need not be feared.
I’ son fatta da Dio, sua mercé, tale,
che la vostra miseria non mi tange,
né fiamma d’esto incendio non m’assale .
God, in His graciousness, has made me so
that this, your misery, cannot touch me;
I can withstand the fires flaming here.
Donna è gentil nel ciel che si compiange
di questo ‘mpedimento ov’io ti mando,
sì che duro giudicio là sù frange .
In Heaven there’s a gentle lady-one
who weeps for the distress toward which I send you,
so that stern judgment up above is shattered.
Questa chiese Lucia in suo dimando
e disse: – Or ha bisogno il tuo fedele
di te, e io a te lo raccomando -.
And it was she who called upon Lucia,
requesting of her: “Now your faithful one
has need of you, and I commend him to you.”
Lucia, nimica di ciascun crudele,
si mosse, e venne al loco dov’i’ era,
che mi sedea con l’antica Rachele .
Lucia, enemy of every cruelty,
arose and made her way to where I was,
sitting beside the venerable Rachel.
Disse: – Beatrice, loda di Dio vera,
ché non soccorri quei che t’amò tanto,
ch’uscì per te de la volgare schiera ?
She said: “You, Beatrice, true praise of God,
why have you not helped him who loves you so
that-for your sake-he’s left the vulgar crowd?
non odi tu la pieta del suo pianto?
non vedi tu la morte che ‘l combatte
su la fiumana ove ‘l mar non ha vanto ? –
Do you not hear the anguish in his cry?
Do you not see the death he wars against
upon that river ruthless as the sea?”
Al mondo non fur mai persone ratte
a far lor pro o a fuggir lor danno,
com’io, dopo cotai parole fatte,
No one within this world has ever been
so quick to seek his good or flee his harm
as I-when she had finished speaking thus-
venni qua giù del mio beato scanno,
fidandomi del tuo parlare onesto,
ch’onora te e quei ch’udito l’hanno “.
to come below, down from my blessed station;
I trusted in your honest utterance,
which honors you and those who’ve listened to you.’
Poscia che m’ebbe ragionato questo,
li occhi lucenti lagrimando volse;
per che mi fece del venir più presto ;
When she had finished with her words to me,
she turned aside her gleaming, tearful eyes,
which only made me hurry all the more.
e venni a te così com’ella volse;
d’inanzi a quella fiera ti levai
che del bel monte il corto andar ti tolse .
And, just as she had wished, I came to you:
I snatched you from the path of the fierce beast
that barred the shortest way up the fair mountain.
Dunque: che è? perché, perché restai?
perché tanta viltà nel core allette?
perché ardire e franchezza non hai ?
What is it then? Why, why do you resist?
Why does your heart host so much cowardice?
Where are your daring and your openness
poscia che tai tre donne benedette
curan di te ne la corte del cielo,
e ‘l mio parlar tanto ben ti promette? ».
as long as there are three such blessed women
concerned for you within the court of Heaven
and my words promise you so great a good?”
Quali fioretti dal notturno gelo
chinati e chiusi, poi che ‘l sol li ‘mbianca
si drizzan tutti aperti in loro stelo ,
As little flowers, which the chill of night
has bent and huddled, when the white sun strikes
grow straight and open fully on their stems,
tal mi fec’io di mia virtude stanca,
e tanto buono ardire al cor mi corse,
ch’i’ cominciai come persona franca :
so did I, too, with my exhausted force;
and such warm daring rushed into my heart
that I-as one who has been freed-began:
«Oh pietosa colei che mi soccorse!
e te cortese ch’ubidisti tosto
a le vere parole che ti porse !
“O she, compassionate, who has helped me!
And you who, courteous, obeyed so quickly
the true words that she had addressed to you!
Tu m’hai con disiderio il cor disposto
sì al venir con le parole tue,
ch’i’ son tornato nel primo proposto .
You, with your words, have so disposed my heart
to longing for this journey-I return
to what I was at first prepared to do.
Or va, ch’un sol volere è d’ambedue:
tu duca, tu segnore, e tu maestro».
Così li dissi; e poi che mosso fue ,
Now go; a single will fills both of us:
you are my guide, my governor, my master.”
These were my words to him; when he advanced
intrai per lo cammino alto e silvestro .
I entered on the steep and savage path.
Paradiso: Canto Ii
Paradiso Canto 2
O Ye, who in some pretty little boat,
Eager to listen, have been following
Behind my ship, that singing sails along,
Turn back to look again upon your shores;
Do not put out to sea, lest peradventure,
In losing me, you might yourselves be lost.
The sea I sail has never yet been passed;
Minerva breathes, and pilots me Apollo,
And Muses nine point out to me the Bears.
Ye other few who have the neck uplifted
Betimes to th’ bread of Angels upon which
One liveth here and grows not sated by it,
Well may you launch upon the deep salt-sea
Your vessel, keeping still my wake before you
Upon the water that grows smooth again.
Those glorious ones who unto Colchos passed
Were not so wonder-struck as you shall be,
When Jason they beheld a ploughman made!
The con-created and perpetual thirst
For the realm deiform did bear us on,
As swift almost as ye the heavens behold.
Upward gazed Beatrice, and I at her;
And in such space perchance as strikes a bolt
And flies, and from the notch unlocks itself,
Arrived I saw me where a wondrous thing
Drew to itself my sight; and therefore she
From whom no care of mine could be concealed,
Towards me turning, blithe as beautiful,
Said unto me: ‘Fix gratefully thy mind
On God, who unto the first star has brought us.’
It seemed to me a cloud encompassed us,
Luminous, dense, consolidate and bright
As adamant on which the sun is striking.
Into itself did the eternal pearl
Receive us, even as water doth receive
A ray of light, remaining still unbroken.
If I was body, (and we here conceive not
How one dimension tolerates another,
Which needs must be if body enter body,)
More the desire should be enkindled in us
That essence to behold, wherein is seen
How God and our own nature were united.
There will be seen what we receive by faith,
Not demonstrated, but self-evident
In guise of the first truth that man believes.
I made reply: ‘Madonna, as devoutly
As most I can do I give thanks to Him
Who has removed me from the mortal world.
But tell me what the dusky spots may be
Upon this body, which below on earth
Make people tell that fabulous tale of Cain?’
Somewhat she smiled; and then, ‘If the opinion
Of mortals be erroneous,’ she said,
‘Where’er the key of sense doth not unlock,
Certes, the shafts of wonder should not pierce thee
Now, forasmuch as, following the senses,
Thou seest that the reason has short wings.
But tell me what thou think’st of it thyself.’
And I: ‘What seems to us up here diverse,
Is caused, I think, by bodies rare and dense.’
And she: ‘Right truly shalt thou see immersed
In error thy belief, if well thou hearest
The argument that I shall make against it.
Lights many the eighth sphere displays to you
Which in their quality and quantity
May noted be of aspects different.
If this were caused by rare and dense alone,
One only virtue would there be in all
Or more or less diffused, or equally.
Virtues diverse must be perforce the fruits
Of formal principles; and these, save one,
Of course would by thy reasoning be destroyed.
Besides, if rarity were of this dimness
The cause thou askest, either through and through
This planet thus attenuate were of matter,
Or else, as in a body is apportioned
The fat and lean, so in like manner this
Would in its volume interchange the leaves.
Were it the former, in the sun’s eclipse
It would be manifest by the shining through
Of light, as through aught tenuous interfused.
This is not so; hence we must scan the other,
And if it chance the other I demolish,
Then falsified will thy opinion be.
But if this rarity go not through and through,
There needs must be a limit, beyond which
Its contrary prevents the further passing,
And thence the foreign radiance is reflected,
Even as a colour cometh back from glass,
The which behind itself concealeth lead.
Now thou wilt say the sunbeam shows itself
More dimly there than in the other parts,
By being there reflected farther back.
From this reply experiment will free thee
If e’er thou try it, which is wont to be
The fountain to the rivers of your arts.
Three mirrors shalt thou take, and two remove
Alike from thee, the other more remote
Between the former two shall meet thine eyes.
Turned towards these, cause that behind thy back
Be placed a light, illuming the three mirrors
And coming back to thee by all reflected.
Though in its quantity be not so ample
The image most remote, there shalt thou see
How it perforce is equally resplendent.
Now, as beneath the touches of warm rays
Naked the subject of the snow remains
Both of its former colour and its cold,
Thee thus remaining in thy intellect,
Will I inform with such a living light,
That it shall tremble in its aspect to thee.
Within the heaven of the divine repose
Revolves a body, in whose virtue lies
The being of whatever it contains.
The following heaven, that has so many eyes,
Divides this being by essences diverse,
Distinguished from it, and by it contained.
The other spheres, by various differences,
All the distinctions which they have within them
Dispose unto their ends and their effects.
Thus do these organs of the world proceed,
As thou perceivest now, from grade to grade;
Since from above they take, and act beneath.
Observe me well, how through this place I come
Unto the truth thou wishest, that hereafter
Thou mayst alone know how to keep the ford
The power and motion of the holy spheres,
As from the artisan the hammer’s craft,
Forth from the blessed motors must proceed.
The heaven, which lights so manifold make fair,
From the Intelligence profound, which turns it,
The image takes, and makes of it a seal.
And even as the soul within your dust
Through members different and accommodated
To faculties diverse expands itself,
So likewise this Intelligence diffuses
Its virtue multiplied among the stars.
Itself revolving on its unity.
Virtue diverse doth a diverse alloyage
Make with the precious body that it quickens,
In which, as life in you, it is combined.
From the glad nature whence it is derived,
The mingled virtue through the body shines,
Even as gladness through the living pupil.
From this proceeds whate’er from light to light
Appeareth different, not from dense and rare:
This is the formal principle that produces,
According to its goodness, dark and bright.’
To Guido Cavalcanti
Guido, I wish that Lapo, you, and I
could board a vessel, by transporter beam,
that sailed by will alone, wherever seemed
desirable to go, beneath all skies.
I’d have our vessel proof to chance and gale,
and well supplied for pleasant times at sea:
we’d grow into a merry company —
good food and reveling would be the rule.
And Guido, we’d try beaming up the dames!
We’d take the ladies Vanna, Bess, and her
whom I discreetly call the Mistress Trenta:
love, of course, would be the main agenda;
that would keep ’em happy I am sure,
and well I know that we would be the same.
Love And The Gentle Heart
Love and the gentle heart are one thing,
just as the poet says in his verse,
each from the other one as well divorced
as reason from the mind’s reasoning.
Nature craves love, and then creates love king,
and makes the heart a palace where he’ll stay,
perhaps a shorter or a longer day,
breathing quietly, gently slumbering.
Then beauty in a virtuous woman’s face
makes the eyes yearn, and strikes the heart,
so that the eyes’ desire’s reborn again,
and often, rooting there with longing, stays,
Till love, at last, out of its dreaming starts.
Woman’s moved likewise by a virtuous man.
I have come, alas, to the great circle of shadow,
to the short day and to the whitening hills,
when the colour is all lost from the grass,
though my desire will not lose its green,
so rooted is it in this hardest stone,
that speaks and feels as though it were a woman.
And likewise this heaven-born woman
stays frozen, like the snow in shadow,
and is unmoved, or moved like a stone,
by the sweet season that warms all the hills,
and makes them alter from pure white to green,
so as to clothe them with the flowers and grass.
When her head wears a crown of grass
she draws the mind from any other woman,
because she blends her gold hair with the green
so well that Amor lingers in their shadow,
he who fastens me in these low hills,
more certainly than lime fastens stone.
Her beauty has more virtue than rare stone.
The wound she gives cannot be healed with grass,
since I have travelled, through the plains and hills,
to find my release from such a woman,
yet from her light had never a shadow
thrown on me, by hill, wall, or leaves’ green.
I have seen her walk all dressed in green,
so formed she would have sparked love in a stone,
that love I bear for her very shadow,
so that I wished her, in those fields of grass,
as much in love as ever yet was woman,
closed around by all the highest hills.
The rivers will flow upwards to the hills
before this wood, that is so soft and green,
takes fire, as might ever lovely woman,
for me, who would choose to sleep on stone,
all my life, and go eating grass,
only to gaze at where her clothes cast shadow.
Whenever the hills cast blackest shadow,
with her sweet green, the lovely woman
hides it, as a man hides stone in grass.
La Vita Nuova
In that book which is
My memory . . .
On the first page
That is the chapter when
I first met you
Appear the words . . .
Here begins a new life
Inferno Canto 01
Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura
ché la diritta via era smarrita .
When I had journeyed half of our life’s way,
I found myself within a shadowed forest,
for I had lost the path that does not stray.
Ahi quanto a dir qual era è cosa dura
esta selva selvaggia e aspra e forte
che nel pensier rinova la paura !
Ah, it is hard to speak of what it was,
that savage forest, dense and difficult,
which even in recall renews my fear:
Tant’è amara che poco è più morte;
ma per trattar del ben ch’i’ vi trovai,
dirò de l’altre cose ch’i’ v’ho scorte .
so bitter-death is hardly more severe!
But to retell the good discovered there,
I’ll also tell the other things I saw.
Io non so ben ridir com’i’ v’intrai,
tant’era pien di sonno a quel punto
che la verace via abbandonai .
I cannot clearly say how I had entered
the wood; I was so full of sleep just at
the point where I abandoned the true path.
Ma poi ch’i’ fui al piè d’un colle giunto,
là dove terminava quella valle
che m’avea di paura il cor compunto ,
But when I’d reached the bottom of a hill-
it rose along the boundary of the valley
that had harassed my heart with so much fear-
guardai in alto, e vidi le sue spalle
vestite già de’ raggi del pianeta
che mena dritto altrui per ogne calle .
I looked on high and saw its shoulders clothed
already by the rays of that same planet
which serves to lead men straight along all roads.
Allor fu la paura un poco queta
che nel lago del cor m’era durata
la notte ch’i’ passai con tanta pieta .
At this my fear was somewhat quieted;
for through the night of sorrow I had spent,
the lake within my heart felt terror present.
E come quei che con lena affannata
uscito fuor del pelago a la riva
si volge a l’acqua perigliosa e guata ,
And just as he who, with exhausted breath,
having escaped from sea to shore, turns back
to watch the dangerous waters he has quit,
così l’animo mio, ch’ancor fuggiva,
si volse a retro a rimirar lo passo
che non lasciò già mai persona viva .
so did my spirit, still a fugitive,
turn back to look intently at the pass
that never has let any man survive.
Poi ch’èi posato un poco il corpo lasso,
ripresi via per la piaggia diserta,
sì che ‘l piè fermo sempre era ‘l più basso .
I let my tired body rest awhile.
Moving again, I tried the lonely slope-
my firm foot always was the one below.
Ed ecco, quasi al cominciar de l’erta,
una lonza leggera e presta molto,
che di pel macolato era coverta ;
And almost where the hillside starts to rise-
look there!-a leopard, very quick and lithe,
a leopard covered with a spotted hide.
e non mi si partia dinanzi al volto,
anzi ‘mpediva tanto il mio cammino,
ch’i’ fui per ritornar più volte vòlto .
He did not disappear from sight, but stayed;
indeed, he so impeded my ascent
that I had often to turn back again.
Temp’era dal principio del mattino,
e ‘l sol montava ‘n sù con quelle stelle
ch’eran con lui quando l’amor divino
The time was the beginning of the morning;
the sun was rising now in fellowship
with the same stars that had escorted it
mosse di prima quelle cose belle;
sì ch’a bene sperar m’era cagione
di quella fiera a la gaetta pelle
when Divine Love first moved those things of beauty;
so that the hour and the gentle season
gave me good cause for hopefulness on seeing
l’ora del tempo e la dolce stagione;
ma non sì che paura non mi desse
la vista che m’apparve d’un leone .
that beast before me with his speckled skin;
but hope was hardly able to prevent
the fear I felt when I beheld a lion.
Questi parea che contra me venisse
con la test’alta e con rabbiosa fame,
sì che parea che l’aere ne tremesse .
His head held high and ravenous with hunger-
even the air around him seemed to shudder-
this lion seemed to make his way against me.
Ed una lupa, che di tutte brame
sembiava carca ne la sua magrezza,
e molte genti fé già viver grame ,
And then a she-wolf showed herself; she seemed
to carry every craving in her leanness;
she had already brought despair to many.
questa mi porse tanto di gravezza
con la paura ch’uscia di sua vista,
ch’io perdei la speranza de l’altezza .
The very sight of her so weighted me
with fearfulness that I abandoned hope
of ever climbing up that mountain slope.
E qual è quei che volontieri acquista,
e giugne ‘l tempo che perder lo face,
che ‘n tutt’i suoi pensier piange e s’attrista ;
Even as he who glories while he gains
will, when the time has come to tally loss,
lament with every thought and turn despondent,
tal mi fece la bestia sanza pace,
che, venendomi ‘ncontro, a poco a poco
mi ripigneva là dove ‘l sol tace .
so was I when I faced that restless beast
which, even as she stalked me, step by step
had thrust me back to where the sun is speechless.
Mentre ch’i’ rovinava in basso loco,
dinanzi a li occhi mi si fu offerto
chi per lungo silenzio parea fioco .
While I retreated down to lower ground,
before my eyes there suddenly appeared
one who seemed faint because of the long silence.
Quando vidi costui nel gran diserto,
«Miserere di me», gridai a lui,
«qual che tu sii, od ombra od omo certo !».
When I saw him in that vast wilderness,
“Have pity on me,” were the words I cried,
“whatever you may be-a shade, a man.”
Rispuosemi: «Non omo, omo già fui,
e li parenti miei furon lombardi,
mantoani per patria ambedui .
He answered me: “Not man; I once was man.
Both of my parents came from Lombardy,
and both claimed Mantua as native city.
Nacqui sub Iulio, ancor che fosse tardi,
e vissi a Roma sotto ‘l buono Augusto
nel tempo de li dèi falsi e bugiardi .
And I was born, though late, sub Julio,
and lived in Rome under the good Augustus-
the season of the false and lying gods.
Poeta fui, e cantai di quel giusto
figliuol d’Anchise che venne di Troia,
poi che ‘l superbo Ilión fu combusto .
I was a poet, and I sang the righteous
son of Anchises who had come from Troy
when flames destroyed the pride of Ilium.
Ma tu perché ritorni a tanta noia?
perché non sali il dilettoso monte
ch’è principio e cagion di tutta gioia? ».
But why do you return to wretchedness?
Why not climb up the mountain of delight,
the origin and cause of every joy?”
«Or se’ tu quel Virgilio e quella fonte
che spandi di parlar sì largo fiume?»,
rispuos’io lui con vergognosa fronte .
“And are you then that Virgil, you the fountain
that freely pours so rich a stream of speech?”
I answered him with shame upon my brow.
«O de li altri poeti onore e lume
vagliami ‘l lungo studio e ‘l grande amore
che m’ha fatto cercar lo tuo volume .
“O light and honor of all other poets,
may my long study and the intense love
that made me search your volume serve me now.
Tu se’ lo mio maestro e ‘l mio autore;
tu se’ solo colui da cu’ io tolsi
lo bello stilo che m’ha fatto onore .
You are my master and my author, you-
the only one from whom my writing drew
the noble style for which I have been honored.
Vedi la bestia per cu’ io mi volsi:
aiutami da lei, famoso saggio,
ch’ella mi fa tremar le vene e i polsi ».
You see the beast that made me turn aside;
help me, o famous sage, to stand against her,
for she has made my blood and pulses shudder,”
«A te convien tenere altro viaggio»,
rispuose poi che lagrimar mi vide,
«se vuo’ campar d’esto loco selvaggio :
“It is another path that you must take,”
he answered when he saw my tearfulness,
“if you would leave this savage wilderness;
ché questa bestia, per la qual tu gride,
non lascia altrui passar per la sua via,
ma tanto lo ‘mpedisce che l’uccide ;
the beast that is the cause of your outcry
allows no man to pass along her track,
but blocks him even to the point of death;
e ha natura sì malvagia e ria,
che mai non empie la bramosa voglia,
e dopo ‘l pasto ha più fame che pria .
her nature is so squalid, so malicious
that she can never sate her greedy will;
when she has fed, she’s hungrier than ever.
Molti son li animali a cui s’ammoglia,
e più saranno ancora, infin che ‘l veltro
verrà, che la farà morir con doglia .
She mates with many living souls and shall
yet mate with many more, until the Greyhound
arrives, inflicting painful death on her.
Questi non ciberà terra né peltro,
ma sapienza, amore e virtute,
e sua nazion sarà tra feltro e feltro .
That Hound will never feed on land or pewter,
but find his fare in wisdom, love, and virtue;
his place of birth shall be between two felts.
Di quella umile Italia fia salute
per cui morì la vergine Cammilla,
Eurialo e Turno e Niso di ferute .
He will restore low-lying Italy for which
the maid Camilla died of wounds,
and Nisus, Turnus, and Euryalus.
Questi la caccerà per ogne villa,
fin che l’avrà rimessa ne lo ‘nferno,
là onde ‘nvidia prima dipartilla .
And he will hunt that beast through every city
until he thrusts her back again to Hell,
for which she was first sent above by envy.
Ond’io per lo tuo me’ penso e discerno
che tu mi segui, e io sarò tua guida,
e trarrotti di qui per loco etterno ,
Therefore, I think and judge it best for you
to follow me, and I shall guide you, taking
you from this place through an eternal place,
ove udirai le disperate strida,
vedrai li antichi spiriti dolenti,
ch’a la seconda morte ciascun grida ;
where you shall hear the howls of desperation
and see the ancient spirits in their pain,
as each of them laments his second death;
e vederai color che son contenti
nel foco, perché speran di venire
quando che sia a le beate genti .
and you shall see those souls who are content
within the fire, for they hope to reach-
whenever that may be-the blessed people.
A le quai poi se tu vorrai salire,
anima fia a ciò più di me degna:
con lei ti lascerò nel mio partire ;
If you would then ascend as high as these,
a soul more worthy than I am will guide you;
I’ll leave you in her care when I depart,
ché quello imperador che là sù regna,
perch’i’ fu’ ribellante a la sua legge,
non vuol che ‘n sua città per me si vegna .
because that Emperor who reigns above,
since I have been rebellious to His law,
will not allow me entry to His city.
In tutte parti impera e quivi regge;
quivi è la sua città e l’alto seggio:
oh felice colui cu’ ivi elegge! ».
He governs everywhere, but rules from there;
there is His city, His high capital:
o happy those He chooses to be there!”
E io a lui: «Poeta, io ti richeggio
per quello Dio che tu non conoscesti,
acciò ch’io fugga questo male e peggio ,
And I replied: “O poet-by that God
whom you had never come to know-I beg you,
that I may flee this evil and worse evils,
che tu mi meni là dov’or dicesti,
sì ch’io veggia la porta di san Pietro
e color cui tu fai cotanto mesti ».
to lead me to the place of which you spoke,
that I may see the gateway of Saint Peter
and those whom you describe as sorrowful.”
Allor si mosse, e io li tenni dietro.
Then he set out, and I moved on behind him.
Sonnet: Spirit Of Love
I felt a spirit of love begin to stir
Within my heart, long time unfelt till then;
And saw Love coming towards me fair and fain
(That I scarce knew him for his joyful cheer),
Saying, ‘Be now indeed my worshipper!’
And in his speech he laughed and laughed again.
Then, while it was his pleasure to remain,
I chanced to look the way he had drawn near,
And saw the Ladies Joan and Beatrice
Approach me, this the other following,
One and a second marvel instantly.
And even as now my memory speaketh this,
Love spake it then: ‘The first is christened Spring;
The second Love, she is so like to me.’
Sonnet: All My Thoughts
All my thoughts always speak to me of love,
Yet have between themselves such difference
That while one bids me bow with mind and sense,
A second saith, ‘Go to: look thou above’;
The third one, hoping, yields me joy enough;
And with the last come tears, I scarce know whence:
All of them craving pity in sore suspense,
Trembling with fears that the heart knoweth of.
And thus, being all unsure which path to take,
Wishing to speak I know not what to say,
And lose myself in amorous wanderings:
Until (my peace with all of them to make),
Unto mine enemy I needs must pray,
My lady Pity, for the help she brings.
The Thorn Forest
Then dark with dripping blood it gave a howl
and cried again: ‘Our damaged branches ache!
Your pillage maims me! Can’t you feel at all?
We who were men are now this barren brake.
You’d grant us your respect and stay your hand
were we a thicket not of souls but snakes.’
As wood still green starts burning at one end
and from its unlit end the burning stick
drips sap, and hisses with escaping wind,
so from the broken stump there oozed a mix
of words and blood: a frothy babbling gore.
I dropped the branch. My fear had made me sick.
‘Poor wounded soul, could he have grasped before,’
my sage replied, ‘what now he sees is true,
and blindly trusted in poetic lore,
then he need not have so insulted you.
But as there was no other way to learn
I urged him to a test that grieved me too.
Tell us who you were, that he, in turn,
can set your honor freshly back in style
among those he will teach when he returns.’
The trunk: ‘Your speech, by raising hope that I’ll
regain repute, makes words arise in me.
I mean to talk, if you will stay a while:
I was the one entrusted with the keys
to Federigo’s mind, and it was sweet
to share his thought and guard his strategy
for noble ventures secret in my keep —
so faithfully I filled this glorious post,
I gladly sacrificed my health and sleep…’
Sonnet: Love And The Gentle
Love and the gentle heart are one same thing,
Even as the wise man in his ditty saith.
Each, of itself, would be such life in death
As rational soul bereft of reasoning.
‘Tis Nature makes them when she loves: a king
Love is, whose palace where he sojourneth
Is call’d the Heart; there draws he quiet breath
At first, with brief or longer slumbering.
Then beauty seen in virtuous womankind
Will make the eyes desire, and through the heart
Send the desiring of the eyes again;
Where often it abides so long enshrined
That Love at length out of his sleep will start.
And women feel the same for worthy men.
Sonnet: My Lady
My lady carries love within her eyes;
All that she looks on is made pleasanter;
Upon her path men turn to gaze at her;
He whom she greeteth feels his heart to rise,
And droops is troubled visage, full of sighs,
And of his evil heart is then aware:
Hates loves, and pride becomes his worshipper.
O women, help to praise her in somewise.
Humbleness, and the hope that hopeth well,
By speech of hers into the mind are brought,
And who beholds is blessed oftenwhiles.
The look she hath when she a little smiles
Cannot be said, nor holden in the thought;
‘Tis such a new and gracious miracle.
Paradiso: Canto I
The glory of Him who moveth everything
Doth penetrate the universe, and shine
In one part more and in another less.
Within that heaven which most his light receives
Was I, and things beheld which to repeat
Nor knows, nor can, who from above descends;
Because in drawing near to its desire
Our intellect ingulphs itself so far,
That after it the memory cannot go.
Truly whatever of the holy realm
I had the power to treasure in my mind
Shall now become the subject of my song.
O good Apollo, for this last emprise
Make of me such a vessel of thy power
As giving the beloved laurel asks!
One summit of Parnassus hitherto
Has been enough for me, but now with both
I needs must enter the arena left.
Enter into my bosom, thou, and breathe
As at the time when Marsyas thou didst draw
Out of the scabbard of those limbs of his.
O power divine, lend’st thou thyself to me
So that the shadow of the blessed realm
Stamped in my brain I can make manifest,
Thou’lt see me come unto thy darling tree,
And crown myself thereafter with those leaves
Of which the theme and thou shall make me worthy.
So seldom, Father, do we gather them
For triumph or of Caesar or of Poet,
(The fault and shame of human inclinations,)
That the Peneian foliage should bring forth
Joy to the joyous Delphic deity,
When any one it makes to thirst for it.
A little spark is followed by great flame;
Perchance with better voices after me
Shall prayer be made that Cyrrha may respond!
To mortal men by passages diverse
Uprises the world’s lamp; but by that one
Which circles four uniteth with three crosses,
With better course and with a better star
Conjoined it issues, and the mundane wax
Tempers and stamps more after its own fashion.
Almost that passage had made morning there
And evening here, and there was wholly white
That hemisphere, and black the other part,
When Beatrice towards the left-hand side
I saw turned round, and gazing at the sun;
Never did eagle fasten so upon it!
And even as a second ray is wont
To issue from the first and reascend,
Like to a pilgrim who would fain return,
Thus of her action, through the eyes infused
In my imagination, mine I made,
And sunward fixed mine eyes beyond our wont.
There much is lawful which is here unlawful
Unto our powers, by virtue of the place
Made for the human species as its own.
Not long I bore it, nor so little while
But I beheld it sparkle round about
Like iron that comes molten from the fire;
And suddenly it seemed that day to day
Was added, as if He who has the power
Had with another sun the heaven adorned.
With eyes upon the everlasting wheels
Stood Beatrice all intent, and I, on her
Fixing my vision from above removed,
Such at her aspect inwardly became
As Glaucus, tasting of the herb that made him
Peer of the other gods beneath the sea.
To represent transhumanise in words
Impossible were; the example, then, suffice
Him for whom Grace the experience reserves.
If I was merely what of me thou newly
Createdst, Love who governest the heaven,
Thou knowest, who didst lift me with thy light!
When now the wheel, which thou dost make eternal
Desiring thee, made me attentive to it
By harmony thou dost modulate and measure,
Then seemed to me so much of heaven enkindled
By the sun’s flame, that neither rain nor river
E’er made a lake so widely spread abroad.
The newness of the sound and the great light
Kindled in me a longing for their cause,
Never before with such acuteness felt;
Whence she, who saw me as I saw myself,
To quiet in me my perturbed mind,
Opened her mouth, ere I did mine to ask,
And she began: ‘Thou makest thyself so dull
With false imagining, that thou seest not
What thou wouldst see if thou hadst shaken it off.
Thou art not upon earth, as thou believest;
But lightning, fleeing its appropriate site,
Ne’er ran as thou, who thitherward returnest.’
If of my former doubt I was divested
By these brief little words more smiled than spoken,
I in a new one was the more ensnared;
And said: ‘Already did I rest content
From great amazement; but am now amazed
In what way I transcend these bodies light.’
Whereupon she, after a pitying sigh,
Her eyes directed tow’rds me with that look
A mother casts on a delirious child;
And she began: ‘All things whate’er they be
Have order among themselves, and this is form,
That makes the universe resemble God.
Here do the higher creatures see the footprints
Of the Eternal Power, which is the end
Whereto is made the law already mentioned.
In the order that I speak of are inclined
All natures, by their destinies diverse,
More or less near unto their origin;
Hence they move onward unto ports diverse
O’er the great sea of being; and each one
With instinct given it which bears it on.
This bears away the fire towards the moon;
This is in mortal hearts the motive power
This binds together and unites the earth.
Nor only the created things that are
Without intelligence this bow shoots forth,
But those that have both intellect and love.
The Providence that regulates all this
Makes with its light the heaven forever quiet,
Wherein that turns which has the greatest haste.
And thither now, as to a site decreed,
Bears us away the virtue of that cord
Which aims its arrows at a joyous mark.
True is it, that as oftentimes the form
Accords not with the intention of the art,
Because in answering is matter deaf,
So likewise from this course doth deviate
Sometimes the creature, who the power possesses,
Though thus impelled, to swerve some other way,
(In the same wise as one may see the fire
Fall from a cloud,) if the first impetus
Earthward is wrested by some false delight.
Thou shouldst not wonder more, if well I judge,
At thine ascent, than at a rivulet
From some high mount descending to the lowland.
Marvel it would be in thee, if deprived
Of hindrance, thou wert seated down below,
As if on earth the living fire were quiet.’
Thereat she heavenward turned again her face.
Death, Always cruel
Death, always cruel, Pity’s foe in chief,
Mother who brought forth grief,
Merciless judgment and without appeal!
Since thou alone hast made my heart to feel
This sadness and unweal,
My tongue upbraideth thee without relief.
And now (for I must rid thy name of ruth)
Behoves me speak the truth
Touching thy cruelty and wickedness:
Not that they be not known; but ne’ertheless
I would give hate more stress
With them that feed on love in very sooth.
Out of this world thou hast driven courtesy,
And virtue, dearly prized in womanhood;
And out of youth’s gay mood
The lovely lightness is quite gone through thee.
Whom now I mourn, no man shall learn from me
Save by the measure of these praises given.
Whoso deserves not Heaven
May never hope to have her company.
translated by D.G. Rossetti