Longfellow Translation




Inferno: Canto II


Day was departing, and the embrowned air
  Released the animals that are on earth
  From their fatigues; and I the only one

Made myself ready to sustain the war,
  Both of the way and likewise of the woe,
  Which memory that errs not shall retrace.

O Muses, O high genius, now assist me!
  O memory, that didst write down what I saw,
  Here thy nobility shall be manifest!

And I began: "Poet, who guidest me,
  Regard my manhood, if it be sufficient,
  Ere to the arduous pass thou dost confide me.

Thou sayest, that of Silvius the parent,
  While yet corruptible, unto the world
  Immortal went, and was there bodily.

But if the adversary of all evil
  Was courteous, thinking of the high effect
  That issue would from him, and who, and what,

To men of intellect unmeet it seems not;
  For he was of great Rome, and of her empire
  In the empyreal heaven as father chosen;

The which and what, wishing to speak the truth,
  Were stablished as the holy place, wherein
  Sits the successor of the greatest Peter.

Upon this journey, whence thou givest him vaunt,
  Things did he hear, which the occasion were
  Both of his victory and the papal mantle.

Thither went afterwards the Chosen Vessel,
  To bring back comfort thence unto that Faith,
  Which of salvation's way is the beginning.

But I, why thither come, or who concedes it?
  I not Aeneas am, I am not Paul,
  Nor I, nor others, think me worthy of it.

Therefore, if I resign myself to come,
  I fear the coming may be ill-advised;
  Thou'rt wise, and knowest better than I speak."

And as he is, who unwills what he willed,
  And by new thoughts doth his intention change,
  So that from his design he quite withdraws,

Such I became, upon that dark hillside,
  Because, in thinking, I consumed the emprise,
  Which was so very prompt in the beginning.

"If I have well thy language understood,"
  Replied that shade of the Magnanimous,
  "Thy soul attainted is with cowardice,

Which many times a man encumbers so,
  It turns him back from honoured enterprise,
  As false sight doth a beast, when he is shy.

That thou mayst free thee from this apprehension,
  I'll tell thee why I came, and what I heard
  At the first moment when I grieved for thee.

Among those was I who are in suspense,
  And a fair, saintly Lady called to me
  In such wise, I besought her to command me.

Her eyes where shining brighter than the Star;
  And she began to say, gentle and low,
  With voice angelical, in her own language:

'O spirit courteous of Mantua,
  Of whom the fame still in the world endures,
  And shall endure, long-lasting as the world;

A friend of mine, and not the friend of fortune,
  Upon the desert slope is so impeded
  Upon his way, that he has turned through terror,

And may, I fear, already be so lost,
  That I too late have risen to his succour,
  From that which I have heard of him in Heaven.

Bestir thee now, and with thy speech ornate,
  And with what needful is for his release,
  Assist him so, that I may be consoled.

Beatrice am I, who do bid thee go;
  I come from there, where I would fain return;
  Love moved me, which compelleth me to speak.

When I shall be in presence of my Lord,
  Full often will I praise thee unto him.'
  Then paused she, and thereafter I began:

'O Lady of virtue, thou alone through whom
  The human race exceedeth all contained
  Within the heaven that has the lesser circles,

So grateful unto me is thy commandment,
  To obey, if 'twere already done, were late;
  No farther need'st thou ope to me thy wish.

But the cause tell me why thou dost not shun
  The here descending down into this centre,
  From the vast place thou burnest to return to.'

'Since thou wouldst fain so inwardly discern,
  Briefly will I relate,' she answered me,
  'Why I am not afraid to enter here.

Of those things only should one be afraid
  Which have the power of doing others harm;
  Of the rest, no; because they are not fearful.

God in his mercy such created me
  That misery of yours attains me not,
  Nor any flame assails me of this burning.

A gentle Lady is in Heaven, who grieves
  At this impediment, to which I send thee,
  So that stern judgment there above is broken.

In her entreaty she besought Lucia,
  And said, "Thy faithful one now stands in need
  Of thee, and unto thee I recommend him."

Lucia, foe of all that cruel is,
  Hastened away, and came unto the place
  Where I was sitting with the ancient Rachel.

"Beatrice" said she, "the true praise of God,
  Why succourest thou not him, who loved thee so,
  For thee he issued from the vulgar herd?

Dost thou not hear the pity of his plaint?
  Dost thou not see the death that combats him
  Beside that flood, where ocean has no vaunt?"

Never were persons in the world so swift
  To work their weal and to escape their woe,
  As I, after such words as these were uttered,

Came hither downward from my blessed seat,
  Confiding in thy dignified discourse,
  Which honours thee, and those who've listened to it.'

After she thus had spoken unto me,
  Weeping, her shining eyes she turned away;
  Whereby she made me swifter in my coming;

And unto thee I came, as she desired;
  I have delivered thee from that wild beast,
  Which barred the beautiful mountain's short ascent.

What is it, then?  Why, why dost thou delay?
  Why is such baseness bedded in thy heart?
  Daring and hardihood why hast thou not,

Seeing that three such Ladies benedight
  Are caring for thee in the court of Heaven,
  And so much good my speech doth promise thee?"

Even as the flowerets, by nocturnal chill,
  Bowed down and closed, when the sun whitens them,
  Uplift themselves all open on their stems;

Such I became with my exhausted strength,
  And such good courage to my heart there coursed,
  That I began, like an intrepid person:

"O she compassionate, who succoured me,
  And courteous thou, who hast obeyed so soon
  The words of truth which she addressed to thee!

Thou hast my heart so with desire disposed
  To the adventure, with these words of thine,
  That to my first intent I have returned.

Now go, for one sole will is in us both,
  Thou Leader, and thou Lord, and Master thou."
  Thus said I to him; and when he had moved,

I entered on the deep and savage way.


Cary Translation


CANTO II

NOW was the day departing, and the air,
Imbrown'd with shadows, from their toils releas'd
All animals on earth; and I alone
Prepar'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 vouchsafe
Your aid! O mind! that all I saw hast kept
Safe in a written record, here thy worth
And eminent endowments come to proof.

I thus began: "Bard! thou who art my guide,
Consider well, if virtue be in me
Sufficient, ere to this high enterprise
Thou trust me. Thou hast told that Silvius' sire,
Yet cloth'd in corruptible flesh, among
Th' immortal tribes had entrance, and was there
Sensible 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'd
And 'stablish'd for the holy place, where sits
Who to great Peter's sacred chair succeeds.
He from this journey, in thy song renown'd,
Learn'd things, that to his victory gave rise
And to the papal robe. In after-times
The 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 who
Permits it? not, Aeneas I nor Paul.
Myself I deem not worthy, and none else
Will deem me. I, if on this voyage then
I venture, fear it will in folly end.
Thou, who art wise, better my meaning know'st,
Than I can speak." As one, who unresolves
What he hath late resolv'd, and with new thoughts
Changes his purpose, from his first intent
Remov'd; e'en such was I on that dun coast,
Wasting in thought my enterprise, at first
So eagerly embrac'd. "If right thy words
I scan," replied that shade magnanimous,
"Thy soul is by vile fear assail'd, which oft
So overcasts a man, that he recoils
From noblest resolution, like a beast
At some false semblance in the twilight gloom.
That from this terror thou mayst free thyself,
I will instruct thee why I came, and what
I heard in that same instant, when for thee
Grief touch'd me first. I was among the tribe,
Who rest suspended, when a dame, so blest
And lovely, I besought her to command,
Call'd me; her eyes were brighter than the star
Of day; and she with gentle voice and soft
Angelically tun'd her speech address'd:
"O courteous shade of Mantua! thou whose fame
Yet lives, and shall live long as nature lasts!
A friend, not of my fortune but myself,
On the wide desert in his road has met
Hindrance 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 forth
Am Beatrice; from a place I come

(Note: Beatrice. I use this word, as it is
pronounced in the Italian, as consisting of four
syllables, of which the third is a long one.)

Revisited with joy. Love brought me thence,
Who prompts my speech. When in my Master's sight
I 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'd
Within 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 loth
To leave that ample space, where to return
Thou burnest, for this centre here beneath."

She then: "Since thou so deeply wouldst inquire,
I will instruct thee briefly, why no dread
Hinders my entrance here. Those things alone
Are 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 misery
Touches me not, nor flame of that fierce fire
Assails me. In high heaven a blessed dame
Besides, who mourns with such effectual grief
That 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 aid
And I commend him to thee." At her word
Sped Lucia, of all cruelty the foe,
And coming to the place, where I abode
Seated with Rachel, her of ancient days,
She thus address'd me: "Thou true praise of God!
Beatrice! why is not thy succour lent
To him, who so much lov'd thee, as to leave
For 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 speed
Haste to their profit, flee from their annoy,
As when these words were spoken, I came here,
Down from my blessed seat, trusting the force
Of thy pure eloquence, which thee, and all
Who well have mark'd it, into honour brings."

"When she had ended, her bright beaming eyes
Tearful she turn'd aside; whereat I felt
Redoubled 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 mount
Prevented. What is this comes o'er thee then?
Why, why dost thou hang back? why in thy breast
Harbour vile fear? why hast not courage there
And noble daring? Since three maids so blest
Thy safety plan, e'en in the court of heaven;
And so much certain good my words forebode."

As florets, by the frosty air of night
Bent 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 undertook
My succour! and thou kind who didst perform
So soon her true behest! With such desire
Thou 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.



Norton Translation


CANTO II. Dante, doubtful of his own powers, is discouraged at
the outset.--Virgil cheers him by telling him that he has been
sent to his aid by a blessed Spirit from Heaven.--Dante casts off
fear, and the poets proceed.

The day was going, and the dusky air was taking the living things
that are on earth from their fatigues, and I alone was preparing
to sustain the war alike of the road, and of the woe which the
mind that erreth not shall retrace. O Muses, O lofty genius, now
assist me! O mind that didst inscribe that which I saw, here
shall thy nobility appear! I began:--"Poet, that guidest me,
consider my virtue, if it is sufficient, ere to the deep pass
thou trustest me. Thou sayest that the parent of Silvius while
still corruptible went to the immortal world and was there in the
body. Wherefore if the Adversary of every ill was then courteous,
thinking on the high effect that should proceed from him, and on
the Who and the What,[1] it seemeth not unmeet to the man of
understanding; for in the empyreal heaven he had been chosen for
father of revered Rome and of her empire; both which (to say
truth indeed) were ordained for the holy place where the
successor of the greater Peter hath his seat. Through this going,
whereof thou givest him vaunt, he learned things which were the
cause of his victory and of the papal mantle. Afterward the
Chosen Vessel went thither to bring thence comfort to that faith
which is the beginning of the way of salvation. But I, why go I
thither? or who concedes it? I am not Aeneas, I am not Paul; me
worthy of this, neither I nor others think; wherefore if I give
myself up to go, I fear lest the going may be mad. Thou art wise,
thou understandest better than I speak."

[1] Who he was, and what should result.


And as is he who unwills what he willed, and because of new
thoughts changes his design, so that he quite withdraws from
beginning, such I became on that dark hillside: wherefore in my
thought I abandoned the enterprise which had been so hasty in the
beginning.

"If I have rightly understood thy speech," replied that shade of
the magnanimous one, "thy soul is hurt by cowardice, which
oftentimes encumbereth a man so that it turns him back from
honorable enterprise, as false seeing does a beast when it is
startled. In order that thou loose thee from this fear I will
tell thee wherefore I have come, and what I heard at the first
moment that I grieved for thee. I was among those who are
suspended,[1] and a Lady called me, so blessed and beautiful that
I besought her to command. Her eyes were more lucent than the
star, and she began to speak to me sweet and low, with angelic
voice, in her own tongue: 'O courteous Mantuan soul, of whom the
fame yet lasteth in the world, and shall last so long as the
world endureth! a friend of mine and not of fortune upon the
desert hillside is so hindered on his road that he has turned for
fear, and I am afraid, through that which I have heard of him in
heaven, lest already he be so astray that I may have risen late
to his succor. Now do thou move, and with thy speech ornate, and
with whatever is needful for his deliverance, assist him so that
I may be consoled for him. I am Beatrice who make thee go. I come
from a place whither I desire to return. Love moved me, and makes
me speak. When I shall be before my Lord, I will commend thee
often unto Him.' Then she was silent, and thereon I began: 'O
Lady of Virtue, thou alone through whom the human race surpasseth
all contained within that heaven which hath the smallest circles!
[2] so pleasing unto me is thy command that to obey it, were it
already done, were slow to me. Thou hast no need further to
open unto me thy will; but tell me the cause why thou guardest
not thyself from descending down here into this centre, from the
ample place whither thou burnest to return.' 'Since thou wishest
to know so inwardly, I will tell thee briefly,' she replied to
me, 'wherefore I fear not to come here within. One ought to fear
those things only that have power of doing harm, the others not,
for they are not dreadful. I am made by God, thanks be to Him,
such that your misery toucheth me not, nor doth the flame of this
burning assail me. A gentle Lady[3] is in heaven who hath pity
for this hindrance whereto I send thee, so that stern judgment
there above she breaketh. She summoned Lucia in her request, and
said, "Thy faithful one now hath need of thee, and unto thee I
commend him." Lucia, the foe of every cruel one, rose and came to
the place where I was, seated with the ancient Rachel. She said,
"Beatrice, true praise of God, why dost thou not succor him who
so loved thee that for thee he came forth from the vulgar throng?
Dost thou not hear the pity of his plaint? Dost thou not see the
death that combats him beside the stream whereof the sea hath no
vaunt?" In the world never were persons swift to seek their good,
and to fly their harm, as I, after these words were uttered, came
here below, from my blessed seat, putting my trust in thy upright
speech, which honors thee and them who have heard it.' After she
had said this to me, weeping she turned her lucent eyes, whereby
she made me more speedy in coming. And I came to thee as she
willed. Thee have I delivered from that wild beast that took from
thee the short ascent of the beautiful mountain. What is it then?
Why, why dost thou hold back? why dost thou harbor such cowardice
in thy heart? why hast thou not daring and boldness, since three
blessed Ladies care for thee in the court of Heaven, and my
speech pledges thee such good?"

[1] In Limbo, neither in Hell nor Heaven.

[2] The heaven of the moon, nearest to the earth.

[3] The Virgin.


As flowerets, bent and closed by the chill of night, after the
sun shines on them straighten themselves all open on their stem,
so I became with my weak virtue, and such good daring hastened to
my heart that I began like one enfranchised: "Oh compassionate
she who succored me! and thou courteous who didst speedily obey
the true words that she addressed to thee! Thou by thy words hast
so disposed my heart with desire of going, that I have returned
unto my first intent. Go on now, for one sole will is in us both:
Thou Leader, thou Lord, and thou Master." Thus I said to him; and
when he had moved on, I entered along the deep and savage road.