Longfellow Translation



Inferno: Canto XXVI


Rejoice, O Florence, since thou art so great,
  That over sea and land thou beatest thy wings,
  And throughout Hell thy name is spread abroad!

Among the thieves five citizens of thine
  Like these I found, whence shame comes unto me,
  And thou thereby to no great honour risest.

But if when morn is near our dreams are true,
  Feel shalt thou in a little time from now
  What Prato, if none other, craves for thee.

And if it now were, it were not too soon;
  Would that it were, seeing it needs must be,
  For 'twill aggrieve me more the more I age.

We went our way, and up along the stairs
  The bourns had made us to descend before,
  Remounted my Conductor and drew me.

And following the solitary path
  Among the rocks and ridges of the crag,
  The foot without the hand sped not at all.

Then sorrowed I, and sorrow now again,
  When I direct my mind to what I saw,
  And more my genius curb than I am wont,

That it may run not unless virtue guide it;
  So that if some good star, or better thing,
  Have given me good, I may myself not grudge it.

As many as the hind (who on the hill
  Rests at the time when he who lights the world
  His countenance keeps least concealed from us,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nor fondness for my son, nor reverence
  For my old father, nor the due affection
  Which joyous should have made Penelope,

Could overcome within me the desire
  I had to be experienced of the world,
  And of the vice and virtue of mankind;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until the sea above us closed again."

Cary Translation


CANTO XXVI

FLORENCE exult! for thou so mightily
Hast thriven, that o'er land and sea thy wings
Thou beatest, and thy name spreads over hell!
Among the plund'rers such the three I found
Thy citizens, whence shame to me thy son,
And no proud honour to thyself redounds.

But if our minds, when dreaming near the dawn,
Are of the truth presageful, thou ere long
Shalt feel what Prato, (not to say the rest)
Would fain might come upon thee; and that chance
Were in good time, if it befell thee now.
Would so it were, since it must needs befall!
For as time wears me, I shall grieve the more.

We from the depth departed; and my guide
Remounting scal'd the flinty steps, which late
We downward trac'd, and drew me up the steep.
Pursuing thus our solitary way
Among the crags and splinters of the rock,
Sped not our feet without the help of hands.

Then sorrow seiz'd me, which e'en now revives,
As my thought turns again to what I saw,
And, more than I am wont, I rein and curb
The powers of nature in me, lest they run
Where Virtue guides not; that if aught of good
My gentle star, or something better gave me,
I envy not myself the precious boon.

As in that season, when the sun least veils
His face that lightens all, what time the fly
Gives way to the shrill gnat, the peasant then
Upon some cliff reclin'd, beneath him sees
Fire-flies innumerous spangling o'er the vale,
Vineyard or tilth, where his day-labour lies:
With flames so numberless throughout its space
Shone the eighth chasm, apparent, when the depth
Was to my view expos'd. As he, whose wrongs
The bears aveng'd, at its departure saw
Elijah's chariot, when the steeds erect
Rais'd their steep flight for heav'n; his eyes meanwhile,
Straining pursu'd them, till the flame alone
Upsoaring like a misty speck he kenn'd;
E'en thus along the gulf moves every flame,
A sinner so enfolded close in each,
That none exhibits token of the theft.

Upon the bridge I forward bent to look,
And grasp'd a flinty mass, or else had fall'n,
Though push'd not from the height. The guide, who mark'd
How I did gaze attentive, thus began:

"Within these ardours are the spirits, each
Swath'd in confining fire."--"Master, thy word,"
I answer'd, "hath assur'd me; yet I deem'd
Already of the truth, already wish'd
To ask thee, who is in yon fire, that comes
So parted at the summit, as it seem'd
Ascending from that funeral pile, where lay
The Theban brothers?" He replied: "Within
Ulysses there and Diomede endure
Their penal tortures, thus to vengeance now
Together hasting, as erewhile to wrath.
These in the flame with ceaseless groans deplore
The ambush of the horse, that open'd wide
A portal for that goodly seed to pass,
Which sow'd imperial Rome; nor less the guile
Lament they, whence of her Achilles 'reft
Deidamia yet in death complains.
And there is rued the stratagem, that Troy
Of her Palladium spoil'd."--"If they have power
Of utt'rance from within these sparks," said I,
"O master! think my prayer a thousand fold
In repetition urg'd, that thou vouchsafe
To pause, till here the horned flame arrive.
See, how toward it with desire I bend."

He thus: "Thy prayer is worthy of much praise,
And I accept it therefore: but do thou
Thy tongue refrain: to question them be mine,
For I divine thy wish: and they perchance,
For they were Greeks, might shun discourse with thee."

When there the flame had come, where time and place
Seem'd fitting to my guide, he thus began:
"O ye, who dwell two spirits in one fire!
If living I of you did merit aught,
Whate'er the measure were of that desert,
When in the world my lofty strain I pour'd,
Move ye not on, till one of you unfold
In what clime death o'ertook him self-destroy'd."

Of the old flame forthwith the greater horn
Began to roll, murmuring, as a fire
That labours with the wind, then to and fro
Wagging the top, as a tongue uttering sounds,
Threw out its voice, and spake: "When I escap'd
From Circe, who beyond a circling year
Had held me near Caieta, by her charms,
Ere thus Aeneas yet had nam'd the shore,
Nor fondness for my son, nor reverence
Of my old father, nor return of love,
That should have crown'd Penelope with joy,
Could overcome in me the zeal I had
T' explore the world, and search the ways of life,
Man's evil and his virtue. Forth I sail'd
Into the deep illimitable main,
With but one bark, and the small faithful band
That yet cleav'd to me. As Iberia far,
Far as Morocco either shore I saw,
And the Sardinian and each isle beside
Which round that ocean bathes. Tardy with age
Were I and my companions, when we came
To the strait pass, where Hercules ordain'd
The bound'ries not to be o'erstepp'd by man.
The walls of Seville to my right I left,
On the' other hand already Ceuta past.

"O brothers!" I began, "who to the west
Through perils without number now have reach'd,
To this the short remaining watch, that yet
Our senses have to wake, refuse not proof
Of the unpeopled world, following the track
Of Phoebus. Call to mind from whence we sprang:
Ye were not form'd to live the life of brutes
But virtue to pursue and knowledge high.
With these few words I sharpen'd for the voyage
The mind of my associates, that I then
Could scarcely have withheld them. To the dawn
Our poop we turn'd, and for the witless flight
Made our oars wings, still gaining on the left.
Each star of the' other pole night now beheld,
And ours so low, that from the ocean-floor
It rose not. Five times re-illum'd, as oft
Vanish'd the light from underneath the moon
Since the deep way we enter'd, when from far
Appear'd a mountain dim, loftiest methought
Of all I e'er beheld. Joy seiz'd us straight,
But soon to mourning changed. From the new land
A whirlwind sprung, and at her foremost side
Did strike the vessel. Thrice it whirl'd her round
With all the waves, the fourth time lifted up
The poop, and sank the prow: so fate decreed:
And over us the booming billow clos'd."



Norton Translation


CANTO XXVI. Eighth Circle: eighth pit fraudulent counselors.--
Ulysses and Diomed.

Rejoice, Florence, since thou art so great that over sea
and land thou beatest thy wings, and thy name is spread through
Hell. Among the thieves I found five such, thy citizens, whereat
shame comes to me, and thou unto great honor risest not thereby.
But, if near the morning one dreams the truth, thou shalt feel
within little time what Prato, as well as others, craves for
thee.[1] And if now it were, it would not be too soon. Would that
it were so! since surely it must be; for the more it will weigh
on me the more I age.

[1] If that which I foresee is not a vain dream, the calamities
which thine enemies crave for thee will soon be felt.


We departed thence, and up along the stairs that the bourns[1]
had made for our descent before, my Leader remounted and dragged
me. And pursuing the solitary way mid the splinters and rocks of
the crag, the foot without the hand sped not. Then I grieved, and
now I grieve again when I direct my mind to what I saw; and I
curb my genius more than I am wont, that it may not run unless
virtue guide it; so that if a good star, or better thing, has
given me of good, I may not grudge it to myself.

[1] The projections of the rocky wall.


As the rustic who rests him on the bill in the season when he
that brightens the world keepeth his face least hidden from us,
what time the fly yieldeth to the gnat,[1] sees many fireflies
down in the valley, perhaps there where he makes his vintage and
ploughs,--with as many flames all the eighth pit was resplendent,
as I perceived soon as I was there where the bottom became
apparent. And as he[2] who was avenged by the bears saw the
chariot of Elijah at its departure, when the horses rose erect to
heaven, and could not so follow it with his eyes as to see aught
save the flame alone, even as a little cloud, mounting upward:
thus each[3] was moving through the gulley of the ditch, for not
one shows its theft, and every flame steals away a sinner.[4]

[1] That is, in the summer twilight. Elisha.

[2] Kings ii. 9-24.

[3] Of those flames.

[4] Within each flame a sinner was concealed.


I was standing on the bridge, risen up to look, so that if I had
not taken hold of a rock I should have fallen below without being
pushed. And the Leader, who saw me thus attent, said, "Within
these fires are the spirits; each is swathed by that wherewith he
is enkindled." "My Master," I replied, "by hearing thee am I more
certain, but already I deemed that it was so, and already I
wished to say to thee, Who is in that fire that cometh so divided
at its top that it seems to rise from the pyre on which Eteocles
was put with his brother?" [1] He answered me, "There within are
tormented Ulysses and Diomed, and thus together they go in
punishment, as of old in wrath.[2] And within their flame they
groan for the ambush of the horse that made the gate, whence the
gentle seed of the Romans issued forth. Within it they lament for
the artifice whereby the dead Deidamia still mourns for Achilles,
and there for the Palladium they bear the penalty." "If they can
speak within those sparkles," said I, "Master, much I pray thee,
and repray that the prayer avail a thousand, that thou
make not to me denial of waiting till the horned flame come
hither; thou seest that with desire I bend me toward it." And he
to me, "Thy prayer is worthy of much praise, and therefore I
accept it, but take heed that thy tongue restrain itself. Leave
speech to me, for I have conceived what thou wishest, for,
because they are Greeks, they would be shy, perchance, of thy
words."[3]

[1] Eteocles and Polynices, sons of Oedipus and Jocaste, who,
contending at the siege of Thebes, slew each other. Such was
their mutual hate that, when their bodies were burned on the same
funeral pile, the flames divided in two.

--ezundant diviso vertice flammae
Alternosque apices abrupta luce coruscant.
Statius, Thebaid, xii, 431-2.

[2] Against the Trojans. It was through the stratagem of the
wooden horse that Troy was destroyed, and Aeneas thus compelled
to lead forth his followers who became the seed of the Romans.
Deidamia was the wife of Achilles, who slew herself for grief at
his desertion and departure for Troy, which had been brought
about by the deceit of Ulysses and Diomed. The Palladium was the
statue of Athena, on which the safety of Troy depended, stolen by
the two heroes.

[3] The ancient heroes might be averse to talking with a man of
the strange modern world.


When the flame had come there where it seemed to my Leader time
and place, in this form I heard him speak to it: "O ye who are
two within one fire, if I deserved of you while I lived, if I
deserved of you much or little, when in the world I wrote the
lofty verses, move not, but let one of you tell us, where, having
lost himself, he went away to die." The greater horn of the
ancient flame began to waver, murmuring, even as a flame that the
wind wearies. Then moving its tip hither and thither, as it had
been the tongue that would speak, it cast forth a voice, and
said,--

"When I departed from Circe, who had retained me more than a year
there near to Gaeta, before Aeneas had so named it, neither
fondness for my son, nor piety for my old father, nor the due
love that should have made Penelope glad, could overcome within
me the ardor that I had to gain experience of the world, and of
the vices of men, and of their valor. But I put forth on the
deep, open sea, with one vessel only, and with that little
company by which I had not been deserted. One shore and the
other[1] I saw as far as Spain, far as Morocco and the island of
Sardinia, and the rest which that sea bathes round about. I and
my companions were old and slow when we came to that narrow
strait where Hercules set up his bounds, to the end that man may
not put out beyond.[2] On the right hand I left Seville, on the
other already I had left Ceuta. 'O brothers,' said I, 'who
through a hundred thousand perils have reached the West, to this
so little vigil of your senses that remains be ye unwilling to
deny, the experience, following the sun, of the world that hath
no people. Consider ye your origin; ye were not made to live as
brutes, but for pursuit of virtue and of knowledge.' With this
little speech I made my companions so eager for the road that
hardly afterwards could I have held them back. And turning our
stern to the morning, with our oars we made wings for the mad
flight, always gaining on the left hand side. The night saw now
all the stars of the other pole, and ours so low that it rose not
forth from the ocean floor. Five times rekindled and as many
quenched was the light beneath the moon, since we had entered on
the deep pass, when there appeared to us a mountain dim through
the distance, and it appeared to me so high as I had not seen
any. We rejoiced thereat, and soon it turned to lamentation, for
from the strange land a whirlwind rose, and struck the fore part
of the vessel. Three times it made her whirl with all the waters,
the fourth it made her stern lift up, and the prow go down, as
pleased Another, till the sea had closed over us."

[1] Of the Mediterranean.

[2] Piu oltre non; the famous Ne plus ultra, adopted as his motto
by Charles V.