Side by Side Translations of Dante's Inferno - Canto 5

Longfellow Translation

Inferno: Canto V

Thus I descended out of the first circle
  Down to the second, that less space begirds,
  And so much greater dole, that goads to wailing.

There standeth Minos horribly, and snarls;
  Examines the transgressions at the entrance;
  Judges, and sends according as he girds him.

I say, that when the spirit evil-born
  Cometh before him, wholly it confesses;
  And this discriminator of transgressions

Seeth what place in Hell is meet for it;
  Girds himself with his tail as many times
  As grades he wishes it should be thrust down.

Always before him many of them stand;
  They go by turns each one unto the judgment;
  They speak, and hear, and then are downward hurled.

"O thou, that to this dolorous hostelry
  Comest," said Minos to me, when he saw me,
  Leaving the practice of so great an office,

"Look how thou enterest, and in whom thou trustest;
  Let not the portal's amplitude deceive thee."
  And unto him my Guide: "Why criest thou too?

Do not impede his journey fate-ordained;
  It is so willed there where is power to do
  That which is willed; and ask no further question."

And now begin the dolesome notes to grow
  Audible unto me; now am I come
  There where much lamentation strikes upon me.

I came into a place mute of all light,
  Which bellows as the sea does in a tempest,
  If by opposing winds 't is combated.

The infernal hurricane that never rests
  Hurtles the spirits onward in its rapine;
  Whirling them round, and smiting, it molests them.

When they arrive before the precipice,
  There are the shrieks, the plaints, and the laments,
  There they blaspheme the puissance divine.

I understood that unto such a torment
  The carnal malefactors were condemned,
  Who reason subjugate to appetite.

And as the wings of starlings bear them on
  In the cold season in large band and full,
  So doth that blast the spirits maledict;

It hither, thither, downward, upward, drives them;
  No hope doth comfort them for evermore,
  Not of repose, but even of lesser pain.

And as the cranes go chanting forth their lays,
  Making in air a long line of themselves,
  So saw I coming, uttering lamentations,

Shadows borne onward by the aforesaid stress.
  Whereupon said I: "Master, who are those
  People, whom the black air so castigates?"

"The first of those, of whom intelligence
  Thou fain wouldst have," then said he unto me,
  "The empress was of many languages.

To sensual vices she was so abandoned,
  That lustful she made licit in her law,
  To remove the blame to which she had been led.

She is Semiramis, of whom we read
  That she succeeded Ninus, and was his spouse;
  She held the land which now the Sultan rules.

The next is she who killed herself for love,
  And broke faith with the ashes of Sichaeus;
  Then Cleopatra the voluptuous."

Helen I saw, for whom so many ruthless
  Seasons revolved; and saw the great Achilles,
  Who at the last hour combated with Love.

Paris I saw, Tristan; and more than a thousand
  Shades did he name and point out with his finger,
  Whom Love had separated from our life.

After that I had listened to my Teacher,
  Naming the dames of eld and cavaliers,
  Pity prevailed, and I was nigh bewildered.

And I began: "O Poet, willingly
  Speak would I to those two, who go together,
  And seem upon the wind to be so light."

And, he to me: "Thou'lt mark, when they shall be
  Nearer to us; and then do thou implore them
  By love which leadeth them, and they will come."

Soon as the wind in our direction sways them,
  My voice uplift I: "O ye weary souls!
  Come speak to us, if no one interdicts it."

As turtle-doves, called onward by desire,
  With open and steady wings to the sweet nest
  Fly through the air by their volition borne,

So came they from the band where Dido is,
  Approaching us athwart the air malign,
  So strong was the affectionate appeal.

"O living creature gracious and benignant,
  Who visiting goest through the purple air
  Us, who have stained the world incarnadine,

If were the King of the Universe our friend,
  We would pray unto him to give thee peace,
  Since thou hast pity on our woe perverse.

Of what it pleases thee to hear and speak,
  That will we hear, and we will speak to you,
  While silent is the wind, as it is now.

Sitteth the city, wherein I was born,
  Upon the sea-shore where the Po descends
  To rest in peace with all his retinue.

Love, that on gentle heart doth swiftly seize,
  Seized this man for the person beautiful
  That was ta'en from me, and still the mode offends me.

Love, that exempts no one beloved from loving,
  Seized me with pleasure of this man so strongly,
  That, as thou seest, it doth not yet desert me;

Love has conducted us unto one death;
  Caina waiteth him who quenched our life!"
  These words were borne along from them to us.

As soon as I had heard those souls tormented,
  I bowed my face, and so long held it down
  Until the Poet said to me: "What thinkest?"

When I made answer, I began: "Alas!
  How many pleasant thoughts, how much desire,
  Conducted these unto the dolorous pass!"

Then unto them I turned me, and I spake,
  And I began: "Thine agonies, Francesca,
  Sad and compassionate to weeping make me.

But tell me, at the time of those sweet sighs,
  By what and in what manner Love conceded,
  That you should know your dubious desires?"

And she to me: "There is no greater sorrow
  Than to be mindful of the happy time
  In misery, and that thy Teacher knows.

But, if to recognise the earliest root
  Of love in us thou hast so great desire,
  I will do even as he who weeps and speaks.

One day we reading were for our delight
  Of Launcelot, how Love did him enthral.
  Alone we were and without any fear.

Full many a time our eyes together drew
  That reading, and drove the colour from our faces;
  But one point only was it that o'ercame us.

When as we read of the much-longed-for smile
  Being by such a noble lover kissed,
  This one, who ne'er from me shall be divided,

Kissed me upon the mouth all palpitating.
  Galeotto was the book and he who wrote it.
  That day no farther did we read therein."

And all the while one spirit uttered this,
  The other one did weep so, that, for pity,
  I swooned away as if I had been dying,

And fell, even as a dead body falls.

Cary Translation


FROM the first circle I descended thus
Down to the second, which, a lesser space
Embracing, so much more of grief contains
Provoking bitter moans. There, Minos stands
Grinning with ghastly feature: he, of all
Who enter, strict examining the crimes,

Gives sentence, and dismisses them beneath,
According as he foldeth him around:
For when before him comes th' ill fated soul,
It all confesses; and that judge severe
Of sins, considering what place in hell
Suits the transgression, with his tail so oft
Himself encircles, as degrees beneath
He dooms it to descend. Before him stand
Always a num'rous throng; and in his turn
Each one to judgment passing, speaks, and hears
His fate, thence downward to his dwelling hurl'd.

"O thou! who to this residence of woe
Approachest?" when he saw me coming, cried
Minos, relinquishing his dread employ,
"Look how thou enter here; beware in whom
Thou place thy trust; let not the entrance broad
Deceive thee to thy harm." To him my guide:
"Wherefore exclaimest? Hinder not his way
By destiny appointed; so 'tis will'd
Where will and power are one. Ask thou no more."

Now 'gin the rueful wailings to be heard.
Now am I come where many a plaining voice
Smites on mine ear. Into a place I came
Where light was silent all. Bellowing there groan'd
A noise as of a sea in tempest torn
By warring winds. The stormy blast of hell
With restless fury drives the spirits on
Whirl'd round and dash'd amain with sore annoy.

When they arrive before the ruinous sweep,
There shrieks are heard, there lamentations, moans,
And blasphemies 'gainst the good Power in heaven.

I understood that to this torment sad
The carnal sinners are condemn'd, in whom
Reason by lust is sway'd. As in large troops
And multitudinous, when winter reigns,
The starlings on their wings are borne abroad;
So bears the tyrannous gust those evil souls.
On this side and on that, above, below,
It drives them: hope of rest to solace them
Is none, nor e'en of milder pang. As cranes,
Chanting their dol'rous notes, traverse the sky,
Stretch'd out in long array: so I beheld
Spirits, who came loud wailing, hurried on
By their dire doom. Then I: "Instructor! who
Are these, by the black air so scourg'd?"--"The first
'Mong those, of whom thou question'st," he replied,
"O'er many tongues was empress. She in vice
Of luxury was so shameless, that she made
Liking be lawful by promulg'd decree,
To clear the blame she had herself incurr'd.
This is Semiramis, of whom 'tis writ,
That she succeeded Ninus her espous'd;
And held the land, which now the Soldan rules.
The next in amorous fury slew herself,
And to Sicheus' ashes broke her faith:
Then follows Cleopatra, lustful queen."

There mark'd I Helen, for whose sake so long
The time was fraught with evil; there the great
Achilles, who with love fought to the end.
Paris I saw, and Tristan; and beside
A thousand more he show'd me, and by name
Pointed them out, whom love bereav'd of life.

When I had heard my sage instructor name
Those dames and knights of antique days, o'erpower'd
By pity, well-nigh in amaze my mind
Was lost; and I began: "Bard! willingly
I would address those two together coming,
Which seem so light before the wind." He thus:
"Note thou, when nearer they to us approach."

"Then by that love which carries them along,
Entreat; and they will come." Soon as the wind
Sway'd them toward us, I thus fram'd my speech:
"O wearied spirits! come, and hold discourse
With us, if by none else restrain'd." As doves
By fond desire invited, on wide wings
And firm, to their sweet nest returning home,
Cleave the air, wafted by their will along;
Thus issu'd from that troop, where Dido ranks,
They through the ill air speeding; with such force
My cry prevail'd by strong affection urg'd.

"O gracious creature and benign! who go'st
Visiting, through this element obscure,
Us, who the world with bloody stain imbru'd;
If for a friend the King of all we own'd,
Our pray'r to him should for thy peace arise,
Since thou hast pity on our evil plight.
()f whatsoe'er to hear or to discourse
It pleases thee, that will we hear, of that
Freely with thee discourse, while e'er the wind,
As now, is mute. The land, that gave me birth,
Is situate on the coast, where Po descends
To rest in ocean with his sequent streams.

"Love, that in gentle heart is quickly learnt,
Entangled him by that fair form, from me
Ta'en in such cruel sort, as grieves me still:
Love, that denial takes from none belov'd,
Caught me with pleasing him so passing well,
That, as thou see'st, he yet deserts me not.

"Love brought us to one death: Caina waits
The soul, who spilt our life." Such were their words;
At hearing which downward I bent my looks,
And held them there so long, that the bard cried:
"What art thou pond'ring?" I in answer thus:
"Alas! by what sweet thoughts, what fond desire
Must they at length to that ill pass have reach'd!"

Then turning, I to them my speech address'd.
And thus began: "Francesca! your sad fate
Even to tears my grief and pity moves.
But tell me; in the time of your sweet sighs,
By what, and how love granted, that ye knew
Your yet uncertain wishes?" She replied:
"No greater grief than to remember days
Of joy, when mis'ry is at hand! That kens
Thy learn'd instructor. Yet so eagerly
If thou art bent to know the primal root,
From whence our love gat being, I will do,
As one, who weeps and tells his tale. One day
For our delight we read of Lancelot,
How him love thrall'd. Alone we were, and no
Suspicion near us. Ofttimes by that reading
Our eyes were drawn together, and the hue
Fled from our alter'd cheek. But at one point
Alone we fell. When of that smile we read,
The wished smile, rapturously kiss'd
By one so deep in love, then he, who ne'er
From me shall separate, at once my lips
All trembling kiss'd. The book and writer both
Were love's purveyors. In its leaves that day
We read no more." While thus one spirit spake,
The other wail'd so sorely, that heartstruck
I through compassion fainting, seem'd not far
From death, and like a corpse fell to the ground.

Norton Translation

CANTO V. The Second Circle, that of Carnal Sinners.--Minos.--
Shades renowned of old.--Francesca da Rimini.

Thus I descended from the first circle down into the second,
which girdles less space, and so much more woe that it goads to
wailing. There abides Minos horribly, and snarls; he examines the
sins at the entrance; he judges, and he sends according as he
entwines himself. I mean, that, when the miscreant spirit comes
there before him, it confesses itself wholly, and that discerner
of sins sees what place of Hell is for it; he girdles himself
with his tail so many times as the degrees he wills it should be
sent down. Always before him stand many of them. They go, in
turn, each to the judgment; they speak, and hear, and then are
whirled below.

"O thou that comest to the woeful inn," said Minos to me, when he
saw me, leaving the act of so great an office, "beware how thou
enterest, and to whom thou trustest thyself; let not the
amplitude of the entrance deceive thee." And my Leader to
him, "Why then dost thou cry out? Hinder not his fated going;
thus is it willed there where is power to do that which is
willed; and ask thou no more."

Now the woeful notes begin to make themselves heard; now am I
come where much lamentation smites me. I had come into a place
mute of all light, that bellows as the sea does in a tempest, if
it be combated by opposing winds. The infernal hurricane that
never rests carries along the spirits in its rapine; whirling and
smiting it molests them. When they arrive before its rushing
blast, here are shrieks, and bewailing, and lamenting; here they
blaspheme the power divine. I understood that to such torment are
condemned the carnal sinners who subject reason to appetite. And
as their wings bear along the starlings in the cold season in a
troop large and full, so that blast the evil spirits; hither,
thither, down, up it carries them; no hope ever comforts them,
not of repose, but even of less pain.

And as the cranes go singing their lays, making in air a long
line of themselves, so saw I come, uttering wails, shades borne
along by the aforesaid strife. Wherefore I said, "Master, who are
those folk whom the black air so castigates?" "The first of these
of whom thou wishest to have knowledge," said he to me then, "was
empress of many tongues. To the vice of luxury was she so
abandoned that lust she made licit in her law, to take away the
blame she had incurred. She is Semiramis, of whom it is read that
she succeeded Ninus and had been his spouse; she held the land
which the Soldan rules. That other is she who, for love, killed
herself, and broke faith to the ashes of Sichaeus. Next is
Cleopatra, the luxurious. See Helen, for whom so long a time of
ill revolved; and see the great Achilles, who at the end fought
with love. See Paris, Tristan,--" and more than a thousand shades
he showed me with his finger, and named them, whom love had
parted from our life.

After I had heard my Teacher name the dames of eld and the
cavaliers, pity overcame me, and I was well nigh bewildered. I
began, "Poet, willingly would I speak with those two that go
together, and seem to be so light upon the wind." And he to me,
"Thou shalt see when they shall be nearer to us, and do thou then
pray them by that love which leads them, and they will come."
Soon as the wind sways them toward us I lifted my voice, "O weary
souls, come speak to us, if One forbid it not."

As doves, called by desire, with wings open and steady, fly
through the air to their sweet nest, borne by their will, these
issued from the troop where Dido is, coming to us through the
malign air, so strong was the compassionate cry.

"O living creature, gracious and benign, that goest through the
lurid air visiting us who stained the world blood-red,--if the
King of the universe were a friend we would pray Him for thy
peace, since thou hast pity on our perverse ill. Of what it
pleaseth thee to hear, and what to speak, we will hear and we
will speak to you, while the wind, as now, is hushed for us. The
city where I was born sits upon the sea-shore, where the Po, with
its followers, descends to have peace. Love, that on gentle heart
quickly lays hold, seized him for the fair person that was taken
from me, and the mode still hurts me. Love, which absolves no
loved one from loving, seized me for the pleasing of him so
strongly that, as thou seest, it does not even now abandon me.
Love brought us to one death. Caina awaits him who quenched our
life." These words were borne to us from them.

Soon as I had heard those injured souls I bowed my face, and held
it down, until the Poet said to me, "What art thou thinking?"
When I replied, I began, "Alas! how many sweet thoughts, how
great desire, led these unto the woeful pass." Then I turned me
again to them, and I spoke, and began, "Francesca, thy torments
make me sad and piteous to weeping. But tell me, at the time of
the sweet sighs by what and how did love concede to you to know
the dubious desires?" And she to me, "There is no greater woe
than in misery to remember the happy time, and that thy Teacher
knows. But if to know the first root of our love thou hast so
great a longing, I will do like one who weeps and tells.

"We were reading one day, for delight, of Lancelot, how love
constrained him. We were alone and without any suspicion. Many
times that reading made us lift our eyes, and took the color from
our faces, but only one point was that which overcame us. When we
read of the longed-for smile being kissed by such a lover, this
one, who never from me shall be divided, kissed my mouth all
trembling. Galahaut was the book, and he who wrote it. That day
we read in it no farther."[1]

[1] In the Romance, it was Galahaut that prevailed on Guinevere
to give a kiss to Lancelot.

While one spirit said this the other was weeping so that through
pity I swooned, as if I had been dying, and fell as a dead body

Browse the cantos of the Inferno:

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