Side by Side Translations of Dante's Inferno - Canto 27

Longfellow Translation

Inferno: Canto XXVII

Already was the flame erect and quiet,
  To speak no more, and now departed from us
  With the permission of the gentle Poet;

When yet another, which behind it came,
  Caused us to turn our eyes upon its top
  By a confused sound that issued from it.

As the Sicilian bull (that bellowed first
  With the lament of him, and that was right,
  Who with his file had modulated it)

Bellowed so with the voice of the afflicted,
  That, notwithstanding it was made of brass,
  Still it appeared with agony transfixed;

Thus, by not having any way or issue
  At first from out the fire, to its own language
  Converted were the melancholy words.

But afterwards, when they had gathered way
  Up through the point, giving it that vibration
  The tongue had given them in their passage out,

We heard it said: "O thou, at whom I aim
  My voice, and who but now wast speaking Lombard,
  Saying, 'Now go thy way, no more I urge thee,'

Because I come perchance a little late,
  To stay and speak with me let it not irk thee;
  Thou seest it irks not me, and I am burning.

If thou but lately into this blind world
  Hast fallen down from that sweet Latian land,
  Wherefrom I bring the whole of my transgression,

Say, if the Romagnuols have peace or war,
  For I was from the mountains there between
  Urbino and the yoke whence Tiber bursts."

I still was downward bent and listening,
  When my Conductor touched me on the side,
  Saying: "Speak thou: this one a Latian is."

And I, who had beforehand my reply
  In readiness, forthwith began to speak:
  "O soul, that down below there art concealed,

Romagna thine is not and never has been
  Without war in the bosom of its tyrants;
  But open war I none have left there now.

Ravenna stands as it long years has stood;
  The Eagle of Polenta there is brooding,
  So that she covers Cervia with her vans.

The city which once made the long resistance,
  And of the French a sanguinary heap,
  Beneath the Green Paws finds itself again;

Verrucchio's ancient Mastiff and the new,
  Who made such bad disposal of Montagna,
  Where they are wont make wimbles of their teeth.

The cities of Lamone and Santerno
  Governs the Lioncel of the white lair,
  Who changes sides 'twixt summer-time and winter;

And that of which the Savio bathes the flank,
  Even as it lies between the plain and mountain,
  Lives between tyranny and a free state.

Now I entreat thee tell us who thou art;
  Be not more stubborn than the rest have been,
  So may thy name hold front there in the world."

After the fire a little more had roared
  In its own fashion, the sharp point it moved
  This way and that, and then gave forth such breath:

"If I believed that my reply were made
  To one who to the world would e'er return,
  This flame without more flickering would stand still;

But inasmuch as never from this depth
  Did any one return, if I hear true,
  Without the fear of infamy I answer,

I was a man of arms, then Cordelier,
  Believing thus begirt to make amends;
  And truly my belief had been fulfilled

But for the High Priest, whom may ill betide,
  Who put me back into my former sins;
  And how and wherefore I will have thee hear.

While I was still the form of bone and pulp
  My mother gave to me, the deeds I did
  Were not those of a lion, but a fox.

The machinations and the covert ways
  I knew them all, and practised so their craft,
  That to the ends of earth the sound went forth.

When now unto that portion of mine age
  I saw myself arrived, when each one ought
  To lower the sails, and coil away the ropes,

That which before had pleased me then displeased me;
  And penitent and confessing I surrendered,
  Ah woe is me! and it would have bestead me;

The Leader of the modern Pharisees
  Having a war near unto Lateran,
  And not with Saracens nor with the Jews,

For each one of his enemies was Christian,
  And none of them had been to conquer Acre,
  Nor merchandising in the Sultan's land,

Nor the high office, nor the sacred orders,
  In him regarded, nor in me that cord
  Which used to make those girt with it more meagre;

But even as Constantine sought out Sylvester
  To cure his leprosy, within Soracte,
  So this one sought me out as an adept

To cure him of the fever of his pride.
  Counsel he asked of me, and I was silent,
  Because his words appeared inebriate.

And then he said: 'Be not thy heart afraid;
  Henceforth I thee absolve; and thou instruct me
  How to raze Palestrina to the ground.

Heaven have I power to lock and to unlock,
  As thou dost know; therefore the keys are two,
  The which my predecessor held not dear.'

Then urged me on his weighty arguments
  There, where my silence was the worst advice;
  And said I: 'Father, since thou washest me

Of that sin into which I now must fall,
  The promise long with the fulfilment short
  Will make thee triumph in thy lofty seat.'

Francis came afterward, when I was dead,
  For me; but one of the black Cherubim
  Said to him: 'Take him not; do me no wrong;

He must come down among my servitors,
  Because he gave the fraudulent advice
  From which time forth I have been at his hair;

For who repents not cannot be absolved,
  Nor can one both repent and will at once,
  Because of the contradiction which consents not.'

O miserable me! how I did shudder
  When he seized on me, saying: 'Peradventure
  Thou didst not think that I was a logician!'

He bore me unto Minos, who entwined
  Eight times his tail about his stubborn back,
  And after he had bitten it in great rage,

Said: 'Of the thievish fire a culprit this;'
  Wherefore, here where thou seest, am I lost,
  And vested thus in going I bemoan me."

When it had thus completed its recital,
  The flame departed uttering lamentations,
  Writhing and flapping its sharp-pointed horn.

Onward we passed, both I and my Conductor,
  Up o'er the crag above another arch,
  Which the moat covers, where is paid the fee

By those who, sowing discord, win their burden.

Cary Translation


NOW upward rose the flame, and still'd its light
To speak no more, and now pass'd on with leave
From the mild poet gain'd, when following came
Another, from whose top a sound confus'd,
Forth issuing, drew our eyes that way to look.

As the Sicilian bull, that rightfully
His cries first echoed, who had shap'd its mould,
Did so rebellow, with the voice of him
Tormented, that the brazen monster seem'd
Pierc'd through with pain; thus while no way they found
Nor avenue immediate through the flame,
Into its language turn'd the dismal words:
But soon as they had won their passage forth,
Up from the point, which vibrating obey'd
Their motion at the tongue, these sounds we heard:
"O thou! to whom I now direct my voice!
That lately didst exclaim in Lombard phrase,

"Depart thou, I solicit thee no more,
Though somewhat tardy I perchance arrive
Let it not irk thee here to pause awhile,
And with me parley: lo! it irks not me
And yet I burn. If but e'en now thou fall
into this blind world, from that pleasant land
Of Latium, whence I draw my sum of guilt,
Tell me if those, who in Romagna dwell,
Have peace or war. For of the mountains there
Was I, betwixt Urbino and the height,
Whence Tyber first unlocks his mighty flood."

Leaning I listen'd yet with heedful ear,
When, as he touch'd my side, the leader thus:
"Speak thou: he is a Latian." My reply
Was ready, and I spake without delay:

"O spirit! who art hidden here below!
Never was thy Romagna without war
In her proud tyrants' bosoms, nor is now:
But open war there left I none. The state,
Ravenna hath maintain'd this many a year,
Is steadfast. There Polenta's eagle broods,
And in his broad circumference of plume
O'ershadows Cervia. The green talons grasp
The land, that stood erewhile the proof so long,
And pil'd in bloody heap the host of France.

"The' old mastiff of Verruchio and the young,
That tore Montagna in their wrath, still make,
Where they are wont, an augre of their fangs.

"Lamone's city and Santerno's range
Under the lion of the snowy lair.
Inconstant partisan! that changeth sides,
Or ever summer yields to winter's frost.
And she, whose flank is wash'd of Savio's wave,
As 'twixt the level and the steep she lies,
Lives so 'twixt tyrant power and liberty.

"Now tell us, I entreat thee, who art thou?
Be not more hard than others. In the world,
So may thy name still rear its forehead high."

Then roar'd awhile the fire, its sharpen'd point
On either side wav'd, and thus breath'd at last:
"If I did think, my answer were to one,
Who ever could return unto the world,
This flame should rest unshaken. But since ne'er,
If true be told me, any from this depth
Has found his upward way, I answer thee,
Nor fear lest infamy record the words.

"A man of arms at first, I cloth'd me then
In good Saint Francis' girdle, hoping so
T' have made amends. And certainly my hope
Had fail'd not, but that he, whom curses light on,
The' high priest again seduc'd me into sin.
And how and wherefore listen while I tell.
Long as this spirit mov'd the bones and pulp
My mother gave me, less my deeds bespake
The nature of the lion than the fox.
All ways of winding subtlety I knew,
And with such art conducted, that the sound
Reach'd the world's limit. Soon as to that part
Of life I found me come, when each behoves
To lower sails and gather in the lines;
That which before had pleased me then I rued,
And to repentance and confession turn'd;
Wretch that I was! and well it had bested me!
The chief of the new Pharisees meantime,
Waging his warfare near the Lateran,
Not with the Saracens or Jews (his foes
All Christians were, nor against Acre one
Had fought, nor traffic'd in the Soldan's land),
He his great charge nor sacred ministry
In himself, rev'renc'd, nor in me that cord,
Which us'd to mark with leanness whom it girded.
As in Socrate, Constantine besought
To cure his leprosy Sylvester's aid,
So me to cure the fever of his pride
This man besought: my counsel to that end
He ask'd: and I was silent: for his words
Seem'd drunken: but forthwith he thus resum'd:
'From thy heart banish fear: of all offence
I hitherto absolve thee. In return,
Teach me my purpose so to execute,
That Penestrino cumber earth no more.
Heav'n, as thou knowest, I have power to shut
And open: and the keys are therefore twain,
The which my predecessor meanly priz'd.'"

Then, yielding to the forceful arguments,
Of silence as more perilous I deem'd,
And answer'd: "Father! since thou washest me
Clear of that guilt wherein I now must fall,
Large promise with performance scant, be sure,
Shall make thee triumph in thy lofty seat."

"When I was number'd with the dead, then came
Saint Francis for me; but a cherub dark
He met, who cried: 'Wrong me not; he is mine,
And must below to join the wretched crew,
For the deceitful counsel which he gave.
E'er since I watch'd him, hov'ring at his hair,
No power can the impenitent absolve;
Nor to repent and will at once consist,
By contradiction absolute forbid.'"
Oh mis'ry! how I shook myself, when he
Seiz'd me, and cried, "Thou haply thought'st me not
A disputant in logic so exact."
To Minos down he bore me, and the judge
Twin'd eight times round his callous back the tail,
Which biting with excess of rage, he spake:
"This is a guilty soul, that in the fire
Must vanish. Hence perdition-doom'd I rove
A prey to rankling sorrow in this garb."

When he had thus fulfill'd his words, the flame
In dolour parted, beating to and fro,
And writhing its sharp horn. We onward went,
I and my leader, up along the rock,
Far as another arch, that overhangs
The foss, wherein the penalty is paid
Of those, who load them with committed sin.

Norton Translation

CANTO XXVII. Eighth Circle: eighth pit fraudulent
counselors.--Guido da Montefeltro.

Now was the flame erect and quiet, through not speaking more, and
now was going from us, with the permission of the sweet poet,
when another that was coming behind it made us turn our eyes to
its tip, by a confused sound that issued forth therefrom. As the
Sicilian bull [1]--that bellowed first with the plaint of him
(and that was right) who had shaped it with his file--was wont to
bellow with the voice of the sufferer, so that, although it was
of brass, yet it appeared transfixed with pain, thus, through not
at first having way or outlet from the fire, the disconsolate
words were converted into its language. But when they had taken
their course up through the point, giving it that vibration which
the tongue had given in their passage, we heard say, "O thou, to
whom I direct my voice, thou that wast just speaking Lombard,[2]
saying, 'Now go thy way, no more I urge thee,' although I may
have arrived perchance somewhat late, let it not irk thee to stop
to speak with me, behold, it irks not me, and I am burning. If
thou but now into this blind world art fallen from that sweet
Italian land whence I bring all my sin, tell me if the Romagnuoli
have peace or war; for I was from the mountains there between
Urbino and the chain from which Tiber is unlocked."[3]

[1] The brazen bull of Phalaris, tyrant of Agrigentum, made to
hold criminals to be burned within it. Perillus, its inventor,
was the first to suffer. So these sinners are wrapped in the
flames which their fraudulent counsels had prepared for them.

[2] Lombard, because the words were those of Virgil, whose
"parents were Lombards," and in speaking he had used a form
peculiar to the Lombard dialect.

[3] It is the spirit of the Ghibelline count, Guido da
Montefeltro, a famous freebooting captain, who speaks.

I was still downward attent and leaning over when my Leader
touched me on the side, saying, "Speak thou, this is an Italian."
And I, who even now had my answer ready, without delay began to
speak, "O soul, that art hidden there below, thy Romagna is not,
and never was, without war in the hearts of her tyrants, but open
war none have I left there now. Ravenna is as it hath been for
many years; the eagle of Polenta[1] is brooding there, so that he
covers Cervia with his wings. The city[2] that made erewhile the
long struggle, and of the French a bloody heap, finds itself
again beneath the green paws. And the old mastiff and the new of
Verrucchio,[3] who made the ill disposal of Montagna, make an
anger of their teeth there where they are wont. The little lion
of the white lair[4] governs the city of Lamone and of Santerno,
and changes side from summer to winter. And she[5] whose flank
the Savio bathes, even as she sits between the plain and the
mountain, lives between tyranny and a free state. Now who thou
art, I pray thee that thou tell us; be not harder than another
hath been,[6] so may thy name in the world hold front."

[1] Guido Novello da Polenta had been lord of Ravenna since 1275.
He was father of Francesca da Rimini, and a friend of Dante. His
shield bore an eagle, gules, on a field, or. Cervia is a small
town on the coast, not far from Ravenna.

[2] Forli, where in 1282 Guido da Montefeltro had defeated, with
great slaughter, a troop, largely of French soldiers, sent
against him by Pope Martin III. It was now ruled by the
Ordelaffi, whose shield, party per fess, bore on its upper half,
or, a demilion, vert.

[3] Malatesta, father and son, rulers of Rimini; father and
brother of the husband and of the lover of Francesca da Rimim.
They had cruelly put to death Montagna di Parcitade, the head of
the Ghibellines of Rimini; and they ruled as tyrants, sucking
the blood of their subjects.

[4] This is Maghinardo da Susinana, who bore a lion azure on a
field argent.

[5] The city of Cesena.

[6] Refuse not to answer me as I have answered thee.

After the fire had somewhat roared according to its fashion, the
sharp point moved this way and that, and then gave forth this
breath: "If I could believe that my answer might be to a person
who should ever return unto the world, this flame would stand
without more quiverings; but inasmuch as, if I hear truth, never
from this depth did any living man return, without fear of infamy
I answer thee.

"I was a man of arms, and then became a cordelier, trusting, thus
girt, to make amends; and surely my trust had been fulfilled but
for the Great Priest,[1] whom may ill betide! who set me back
into my first sins; and how and wherefore, I will that thou hear
from me. While I was that form of bone and flesh that my mother
gave me, my works were not leonine, but of the fox. The wily
practices, and the covert ways, I knew them all, and I so plied
their art that to the earth's end the sound went forth. When I
saw me arrived at that part of my age where every one ought to
strike the sails and to coil up the ropes, what erst was pleasing
to me then gave me pain, and I yielded me repentant and
confessed. Alas me wretched! and it would have availed. The
Prince of the new Pharisees having war near the Lateran,[2]--and
not with Saracens nor with Jews, for every enemy of his was
Christian, and none of them had been to conquer Acre,[3] nor a
trafficker in the land of the Soldan,--regarded in himself
neither his supreme office, nor the holy orders, nor
in me that cord which is wont to make those girt with it more
lean; but as Constantine besought Sylvester within Soracte to
cure his leprosy,[4] so this one besought me as master to cure
his proud fever. He asked counsel of me, and I kept silence,
because his words seemed drunken. And then he said to me, 'Let
not thy heart mistrust; from now I absolve thee, and do thou
teach me to act so that I may throw Palestrina to the ground.
Heaven can I lock and unlock, as thou knowest; for two are the
keys that my predecessor held not dear.' Then his grave arguments
pushed me to where silence seemed to me the worst, and I said,
'Father, since thou washest me of that sin wherein I now must
fall, long promise with short keeping will make thee triumph on
the High Seat.' Francis[5] came for me afterwards, when I was
dead, but one of the Black Cherubim said to him, 'Bear him not
away; do me not wrong; he must come down among my drudges because
he gave the fraudulent counsel, since which till now I have been
at his hair; for he who repents not cannot be absolved, nor can
repentance and will exist together, because of the contradiction
that allows it not.' O woeful me! how I shuddered when he took
me, saying to me, 'Perhaps thou didst not think that I was a
logician.' To Minos he bore me; and he twined his tail eight
times round his hard back, and, after he had bitten it in great
rage, he said, 'This is one of the sinners of the thievish fire.'
Therefore I, where thou seest, am lost, and going thus robed I
rankle." When he had thus completed his speech the flame,
sorrowing, departed, twisting and flapping its sharp horn.

[1] Boniface VIII.

[2] With the Colonna family, whose stronghold was Palestrina.

[3] Not one had been a renegade, to help the Saracens at the
siege of Acre in 1291.

[4] It was for this service that Constantine was supposed to have
made Sylvester "the first rich Father." See Canto xiv. His
predecessor, Celestine V., had renounced the papacy.

[5] St. Francis came for his soul, as that of one of the brethren
of his Order.

We passed onward, I and my Leader, along the crag, far as upon
the next arch that covers the ditch in which the fee is paid
by those who, sowing discord, win their burden.

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]