Side by Side Translations of Dante's Inferno - Canto 15

Longfellow Translation

Inferno: Canto XV

Now bears us onward one of the hard margins,
  And so the brooklet's mist o'ershadows it,
  From fire it saves the water and the dikes.

Even as the Flemings, 'twixt Cadsand and Bruges,
  Fearing the flood that tow'rds them hurls itself,
  Their bulwarks build to put the sea to flight;

And as the Paduans along the Brenta,
  To guard their villas and their villages,
  Or ever Chiarentana feel the heat;

In such similitude had those been made,
  Albeit not so lofty nor so thick,
  Whoever he might be, the master made them.

Now were we from the forest so remote,
  I could not have discovered where it was,
  Even if backward I had turned myself,

When we a company of souls encountered,
  Who came beside the dike, and every one
  Gazed at us, as at evening we are wont

To eye each other under a new moon,
  And so towards us sharpened they their brows
  As an old tailor at the needle's eye.

Thus scrutinised by such a family,
  By some one I was recognised, who seized
  My garment's hem, and cried out, "What a marvel!"

And I, when he stretched forth his arm to me,
  On his baked aspect fastened so mine eyes,
  That the scorched countenance prevented not

His recognition by my intellect;
  And bowing down my face unto his own,
  I made reply, "Are you here, Ser Brunetto?"

And he: "May't not displease thee, O my son,
  If a brief space with thee Brunetto Latini
  Backward return and let the trail go on."

I said to him: "With all my power I ask it;
  And if you wish me to sit down with you,
  I will, if he please, for I go with him."

"O son," he said, "whoever of this herd
  A moment stops, lies then a hundred years,
  Nor fans himself when smiteth him the fire.

Therefore go on; I at thy skirts will come,
  And afterward will I rejoin my band,
  Which goes lamenting its eternal doom."

I did not dare to go down from the road
  Level to walk with him; but my head bowed
  I held as one who goeth reverently.

And he began: "What fortune or what fate
  Before the last day leadeth thee down here?
  And who is this that showeth thee the way?"

"Up there above us in the life serene,"
  I answered him, "I lost me in a valley,
  Or ever yet my age had been completed.

But yestermorn I turned my back upon it;
  This one appeared to me, returning thither,
  And homeward leadeth me along this road."

And he to me: "If thou thy star do follow,
  Thou canst not fail thee of a glorious port,
  If well I judged in the life beautiful.

And if I had not died so prematurely,
  Seeing Heaven thus benignant unto thee,
  I would have given thee comfort in the work.

But that ungrateful and malignant people,
  Which of old time from Fesole descended,
  And smacks still of the mountain and the granite,

Will make itself, for thy good deeds, thy foe;
  And it is right; for among crabbed sorbs
  It ill befits the sweet fig to bear fruit.

Old rumour in the world proclaims them blind;
  A people avaricious, envious, proud;
  Take heed that of their customs thou do cleanse thee.

Thy fortune so much honour doth reserve thee,
  One party and the other shall be hungry
  For thee; but far from goat shall be the grass.

Their litter let the beasts of Fesole
  Make of themselves, nor let them touch the plant,
  If any still upon their dunghill rise,

In which may yet revive the consecrated
  Seed of those Romans, who remained there when
  The nest of such great malice it became."

"If my entreaty wholly were fulfilled,"
  Replied I to him, "not yet would you be
  In banishment from human nature placed;

For in my mind is fixed, and touches now
  My heart the dear and good paternal image
  Of you, when in the world from hour to hour

You taught me how a man becomes eternal;
  And how much I am grateful, while I live
  Behoves that in my language be discerned.

What you narrate of my career I write,
  And keep it to be glossed with other text
  By a Lady who can do it, if I reach her.

This much will I have manifest to you;
  Provided that my conscience do not chide me,
  For whatsoever Fortune I am ready.

Such handsel is not new unto mine ears;
  Therefore let Fortune turn her wheel around
  As it may please her, and the churl his mattock."

My Master thereupon on his right cheek
  Did backward turn himself, and looked at me;
  Then said: "He listeneth well who noteth it."

Nor speaking less on that account, I go
  With Ser Brunetto, and I ask who are
  His most known and most eminent companions.

And he to me: "To know of some is well;
  Of others it were laudable to be silent,
  For short would be the time for so much speech.

Know them in sum, that all of them were clerks,
  And men of letters great and of great fame,
  In the world tainted with the selfsame sin.

Priscian goes yonder with that wretched crowd,
  And Francis of Accorso; and thou hadst seen there
  If thou hadst had a hankering for such scurf,

That one, who by the Servant of the Servants
  From Arno was transferred to Bacchiglione,
  Where he has left his sin-excited nerves.

More would I say, but coming and discoursing
  Can be no longer; for that I behold
  New smoke uprising yonder from the sand.

A people comes with whom I may not be;
  Commended unto thee be my Tesoro,
  In which I still live, and no more I ask."

Then he turned round, and seemed to be of those
  Who at Verona run for the Green Mantle
  Across the plain; and seemed to be among them

The one who wins, and not the one who loses.

Cary Translation


One of the solid margins bears us now
Envelop'd in the mist, that from the stream
Arising, hovers o'er, and saves from fire
Both piers and water. As the Flemings rear
Their mound, 'twixt Ghent and Bruges, to chase back
The ocean, fearing his tumultuous tide
That drives toward them, or the Paduans theirs
Along the Brenta, to defend their towns
And castles, ere the genial warmth be felt
On Chiarentana's top; such were the mounds,
So fram'd, though not in height or bulk to these
Made equal, by the master, whosoe'er
He was, that rais'd them here. We from the wood
Were not so far remov'd, that turning round
I might not have discern'd it, when we met
A troop of spirits, who came beside the pier.

They each one ey'd us, as at eventide
One eyes another under a new moon,
And toward us sharpen'd their sight as keen,
As an old tailor at his needle's eye.

Thus narrowly explor'd by all the tribe,
I was agniz'd of one, who by the skirt
Caught me, and cried, "What wonder have we here!"

And I, when he to me outstretch'd his arm,
Intently fix'd my ken on his parch'd looks,
That although smirch'd with fire, they hinder'd not
But I remember'd him; and towards his face
My hand inclining, answer'd: "Sir! Brunetto!

"And art thou here?" He thus to me: "My son!
Oh let it not displease thee, if Brunetto
Latini but a little space with thee
Turn back, and leave his fellows to proceed."

I thus to him replied: "Much as I can,
I thereto pray thee; and if thou be willing,
That I here seat me with thee, I consent;
His leave, with whom I journey, first obtain'd."

"O son!" said he, "whoever of this throng
One instant stops, lies then a hundred years,
No fan to ventilate him, when the fire
Smites sorest. Pass thou therefore on. I close
Will at thy garments walk, and then rejoin
My troop, who go mourning their endless doom."

I dar'd not from the path descend to tread
On equal ground with him, but held my head
Bent down, as one who walks in reverent guise.

"What chance or destiny," thus he began,
"Ere the last day conducts thee here below?
And who is this, that shows to thee the way?"

"There up aloft," I answer'd, "in the life
Serene, I wander'd in a valley lost,
Before mine age had to its fullness reach'd.
But yester-morn I left it: then once more
Into that vale returning, him I met;
And by this path homeward he leads me back."

"If thou," he answer'd, "follow but thy star,
Thou canst not miss at last a glorious haven:
Unless in fairer days my judgment err'd.
And if my fate so early had not chanc'd,
Seeing the heav'ns thus bounteous to thee, I
Had gladly giv'n thee comfort in thy work.
But that ungrateful and malignant race,
Who in old times came down from Fesole,
Ay and still smack of their rough mountain-flint,
Will for thy good deeds shew thee enmity.
Nor wonder; for amongst ill-savour'd crabs
It suits not the sweet fig-tree lay her fruit.
Old fame reports them in the world for blind,
Covetous, envious, proud. Look to it well:
Take heed thou cleanse thee of their ways. For thee
Thy fortune hath such honour in reserve,
That thou by either party shalt be crav'd
With hunger keen: but be the fresh herb far
From the goat's tooth. The herd of Fesole
May of themselves make litter, not touch the plant,
If any such yet spring on their rank bed,
In which the holy seed revives, transmitted
From those true Romans, who still there remain'd,
When it was made the nest of so much ill."

"Were all my wish fulfill'd," I straight replied,
"Thou from the confines of man's nature yet
Hadst not been driven forth; for in my mind
Is fix'd, and now strikes full upon my heart
The dear, benign, paternal image, such
As thine was, when so lately thou didst teach me
The way for man to win eternity;
And how I priz'd the lesson, it behooves,
That, long as life endures, my tongue should speak,
What of my fate thou tell'st, that write I down:
And with another text to comment on
For her I keep it, the celestial dame,
Who will know all, if I to her arrive.
This only would I have thee clearly note:
That so my conscience have no plea against me;
Do fortune as she list, I stand prepar'd.
Not new or strange such earnest to mine ear.
Speed fortune then her wheel, as likes her best,
The clown his mattock; all things have their course."

Thereat my sapient guide upon his right
Turn'd himself back, then look'd at me and spake:
"He listens to good purpose who takes note."

I not the less still on my way proceed,
Discoursing with Brunetto, and inquire
Who are most known and chief among his tribe.

"To know of some is well;" thus he replied,
"But of the rest silence may best beseem.
Time would not serve us for report so long.
In brief I tell thee, that all these were clerks,
Men of great learning and no less renown,
By one same sin polluted in the world.
With them is Priscian, and Accorso's son
Francesco herds among that wretched throng:
And, if the wish of so impure a blotch
Possess'd thee, him thou also might'st have seen,
Who by the servants' servant was transferr'd
From Arno's seat to Bacchiglione, where
His ill-strain'd nerves he left. I more would add,
But must from farther speech and onward way
Alike desist, for yonder I behold
A mist new-risen on the sandy plain.
A company, with whom I may not sort,
Approaches. I commend my TREASURE to thee,
Wherein I yet survive; my sole request."

This said he turn'd, and seem'd as one of those,
Who o'er Verona's champain try their speed
For the green mantle, and of them he seem'd,
Not he who loses but who gains the prize.

Norton Translation

CANTO XV. Third round of the Seventh Circle: of those who have
done violence to Nature.--Brunetto Latini.--Prophecies of
misfortune to Dante.

Now one of the hard margins bears us on, and the fume of the
brook overshadows so that it saves the water and the banks from
the fire. As the Flemings, between Wissant and Bruges, fearing
the flood that is blown in upon them, make the dyke whereby the
sea is routed; and as the Paduans along the Brenta, in order to
defend their towns and castles, ere Chiarentana[1] feel the
heat,--in such like were these made, though neither so high nor
so thick had the master, whoever he was, made them.

[1] The mountain range north of the Brenta, by the floods from
which the river is swollen in the spring.

We were now so remote from the wood that I could not have seen
where it was though I had turned me round to look, when we
encountered a troop of souls which was coming along by the bank,
and each of them was looking at us, as at eve one is wont to look
at another under the new moon, and they so sharpened their brows
toward us as the old tailor does on the needle's eye.

Thus gazed at by that company, I was recognized by one who took
me by the hem, and cried out, "What a marvel!" And when he
stretched out his arm to me, I fixed my eyes on his baked aspect
so that his scorched visage prevented not my mind from
recognizing him; and bending down my own to his face, I answered,
"Are you here, Sir Brunetto?"[1] And he, "O my son, let it not
displease thee if Brunetto Latini turn a little back with thee,
and let the train go on." I said to him, "With all my power I
pray this of you, and if you will that I seat myself with you I
will do so, if it pleaseth this one, for I go with him." "O son,"
said he, "whoever of this herd stops for an instant lies then a
hundred years without fanning himself when the fire smites him;
therefore go onward, I will come at thy skirts, and then I will
rejoin my band which goeth weeping its eternal sufferings."

[1] Brunetto Latini, one of the most learned and able Florentines
of the thirteenth century. He was banished with the other chiefs
of the Guelph party, after the battle of Montaperti, in 1260, and
went to France, where he resided for many years. After his return
to Florence he became Secretary of the Commune, and he was the
master of Dante and Guido Cavalcanti. His principal literary work
was Li Livres dou Tresor, written in French, an interesting
compend of the omne scibile. He died in 1290. Dante uses the
plural "you" in addressing him, as a sign of respect.

I dared not descend from the road to go level with him, but I
held my head bowed like one who goes reverently. He began, "What
fortune, or destiny, ere the last day, brings thee down here? and
who is this that shows the road?"

"There above, in the clear life," I answered him, "I lost myself
in a valley, before my time was full. Only yester morn I turned
my back on it; this one[1] appeared to me as I was returning to
it, and he is leading me homeward along this path."

[1] Dante never speaks Virgil's name in Hell.

And he to me: "If thou follow thy star, thou canst not miss the
glorious port, if, in the beautiful life, I discerned aright. And
if I had not so untimely died, seeing heaven so benignant unto
thee I would have given cheer unto thy work. But that ungrateful
populace malign which descended from Fiesole of old,[1] and
smacks yet of the mountain and the rock, will hate thee because
of thy good deeds; and this is right, for among the bitter sorb
trees it is not fitting the sweet fig should bear fruit. Old
report in the world calls them blind; it is a people avaricious,
envious, and proud; from their customs take heed that thou keep
thyself clean. Thy fortune reserves such honor for thee that one
party and the other shall hunger for thee; but far from the goat
shall be the grass. Let the Fiesolan beasts make litter of
themselves, and touch not the plant, if any spring still upon
their dungheap, in which may live again the holy seed of those
Romans who remained there when it became the nest of so much

[1] After his flight from Rome Catiline betook himself to
Faesulae (Fiesole), and here for a time held out against the
Roman forces. The popular tradition ran that, after his defeat,
Faesulae was destroyed, and its people, together with a colony
from Rome, made a settlement on the banks of the Arno, below the
mountain on which Faesulae had stood. The new town was named
Fiora, siccome fosse in fiore edificata, "as though built among
flowers," but afterwards was called Fiorenza, or Florence. See G.
Villani, Cronica, I. xxxi.-xxxviii.

"If all my entreaty were fulfilled," replied I to him, "you would
not yet be placed in banishment from human nature; for in my mind
is fixed, and now fills my heart, the dear, good, paternal image
of you, when in the world hour by hour you taught me how man
makes himself eternal and in what gratitude I hold it, so long as
I live, it behoves that on my tongue should be discerned. That
which you tell me of my course I write, and reserve it to be
glossed with other text,[1] by a Lady, who will know how, if I
attain to her. Thus much would I have manifest to you: if only
that my conscience chide me not, for Fortune, as she will, I am
ready. Such earnest is not strange unto my ears; therefore let
Fortune turn her wheel as pleases her, and the churl his

[1] The prophecy by Ciacco of the fall of Dante's party, Canto
vi., and that by Farinata of Dante's exile, Canto x., which
Virgil had told should be made clear to him by Beatrice.

[2] The churl of Fiesole.

My Master then upon his right side turned himself back, and
looked at me; then said, "He listens well who notes it."

Not the less for this do I go on speaking with Sir Brunetto, and
I ask, who are his most known and most eminent companions. And he
to me, "To know of some is good, of the others silence will be
laudable for us, for the time would be short for so much speech.
In brief, know that all were clerks, and great men of letters,
and of great fame, defiled in the world with one same sin.
Priscian goes along with that disconsolate crowd, and Francesco
of Accorso;[1] and thou mightest also have seen, hadst thou had
desire of such scurf, him who by the Servant of Servants was
translated from Arno to Bacchiglione, where he left his
ill-strained nerves.[2] Of more would I tell, but the going on
and the speech cannot be longer, for I see yonder a new cloud
rising from the sand. Folk come with whom I must not be. Let my
Tesoro be commended to thee, in which I still am living, and more
I ask not."

[1] Priscian, the famous grammarian of the sixth century; Francis
of Accorso, a jurist of great repute, who taught at Oxford and at
Bologna, and died in 1294.

[2] Andrea de Mozzi, bishop of Florence, translated by Boniface
VIII. to Viceuza, near which the Bacchiglione runs. He died in

Then he turned back, and seemed of those who run at Verona for
the green cloth[1] across the plain, and of these he seemed the
one that wins, and not he that loses.

[1] The prize in the annual races at Verona.

Browse the cantos of the Inferno:

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] [30] [31] [32] [33] [34]