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Dante's Divine Comedy


Cantos XIII to XV(1-81)

English Edition, translated by Allen Mandelbaum

from the ELF Presents Website

See their website for other translations.  These translations are not

necessarily the best in English but they are in the public domain.



Canto  XIII

Canto  XIV

Canto XV



Canto XIII


The Second Circle: The Envious


Sapia of Siena.


1   We now had reached the summit of the stairs
2   where once again the mountain whose ascent
3   delivers man from sin has been indented.
4   There, just as in the case of the first terrace,
5   a second terrace runs around the slope,
6   except that it describes a sharper arc.
7   No effigy is there and no outline:
8   the bank is visible, the naked path
9   only the livid color of raw rock.
10   If we wait here in order to inquire
11   of those who pass, the poet said, I fear
12   our choice of path may be delayed too long.
13   And then he fixed his eyes upon the sun;
14   letting his right side serve to guide his movement,
15   he wheeled his left around and changed direction.
16   O gentle light, through trust in which I enter
17   on this new path, may you conduct us here,
18   he said, for men need guidance in this place.
19   You warm the world and you illumine it;
20   unless a higher Power urge us elsewhere,
21   your rays must always be the guides that lead.
22   We had already journeyed there as far
23   as we should reckon here to be a mile,
24   and done it in brief time our will was eager
25   when we heard spirits as they flew toward us,
26   though they could not be seen spirits pronouncing
27   courteous invitations to love's table.
28   The first voice that flew by called out aloud:
29   Vinum non habent, and behind us that
30   same voice reiterated its example.
31   And as that voice drew farther off, before
32   it faded finally, another cried:
33   I am Orestes. It, too, did not stop.
34   What voices are these, father? were my words;
35   and as I asked him this, I heard a third
36   voice say: Love those by whom you have been hurt.
37   And my good master said: The sin of envy
38   is scourged within this circle; thus, the cords
39   that form the scourging lash are plied by love.
40   The sounds of punished envy, envy curbed,
41   are different; if I judge right, you'll hear
42   those sounds before we reach the pass of pardon.
43   But let your eyes be fixed attentively
44   and, through the air, you will see people seated
45   before us, all of them on the stone terrace.
46   I opened wider than before my eyes;
47   I looked ahead of me, and I saw shades
48   with cloaks that shared their color with the rocks.
49   And once we'd moved a little farther on,
50   I heard the cry of, Mary, pray for us,
51   and then heard, Michael, Peter, and All saints.
52   I think no man now walks upon the earth
53   who is so hard that he would not have been
54   pierced by compassion for what I saw next;
55   for when I had drawn close enough to see
56   clearly the way they paid their penalty,
57   the force of grief pressed tears out of my eyes.
58   Those souls-it seemed-were cloaked in coarse haircloth;
59   another's shoulder served each shade as prop,
60   and all of them were bolstered by the rocks:
61   so do the blind who have to beg appear
62   on pardon days to plead for what they need,
63   each bending his head back and toward the other,
64   that all who watch feel quickly pity's touch
65   not only through the words that would entreat
66   but through the sight, which can no less beseech.
67   And just as, to the blind, no sun appears,
68   so to the shades of whom I now speak here,
69   the light of heaven would not give itself;
70   for iron wire pierces and sews up
71   the lids of all those shades, as untamed hawks
72   are handled, lest, too restless, they fly off.
73   It seemed to me a gross discourtesy
74   for me, going, to see and not be seen;
75   therefore, I turned to my wise counselor.
76   He knew quite well what I, though mute, had meant;
77   and thus he did not wait for my request,
78   but said: Speak, and be brief and to the point.
79   Virgil was to my right, along the outside,
80   nearer the terrace-edge no parapet
81   was there to keep a man from falling off;
82   and to my other side were the devout
83   shades; through their eyes, sewn so atrociously,
84   those spirits forced the tears that bathed their cheeks.
85   I turned to them; and You who can be certain,
86   I then began, of seeing that high light
87   which is the only object of your longing,
88   may, in your conscience, all impurity
89   soon be dissolved by grace, so that the stream
90   of memory flow through it limpidly;
91   tell me, for I shall welcome such dear words,
92   if any soul among you is Italian;
93   if I know that, then -perhaps can help him.
94   My brother, each of us is citizen
95   of one true city: what you meant to say
96   was 'one who lived in Italy as pilgrim.'
97   My hearing placed the point from which this answer
98   had come somewhat ahead of me; therefore,
99   I made myself heard farther on; moving,
100   I saw one shade among the rest who looked
101   expectant; and if any should ask how
102   its chin was lifted as a blind man's is.
103   Spirit, I said, who have subdued yourself
104   that you may climb, if it is you who answered,
105   then let me know you by your place or name.
106   I was a Sienese, she answered, and
107   with others here I mend my wicked life,
108   weeping to Him that He grant us Himself.
109   I was not sapient, though I was called Sapia;
110   and I rejoiced far more at others' hurts
111   than at my own good fortune. And lest you
112   should think I have deceived you, hear and judge
113   if I was not, as I have told you, mad
114   when my years' arc had reached its downward part.
115   My fellow citizens were close to Colle,
116   where they'd joined battle with their enemies,
117   and I prayed God for that which He had willed.
118   There they were routed, beaten; they were reeling
119   along the bitter paths of flight; and seeing
120   that chase, I felt incomparable joy,
121   so that I lifted up my daring face
122   and cried to God: 'Now I fear you no more!'
123   as did the blackbird after brief fair weather.
124   I looked for peace with God at my life's end;
125   the penalty I owe for sin would not
126   be lessened now by penitence had not
127   one who was sorrowing for me because
128   of charity in him Pier Pettinaio
129   remembered me in his devout petitions.
130   But who are you, who question our condition
131   as you move on, whose eyes if I judge right
132   have not been sewn, who uses breath to speak?
133   My eyes, I said, will be denied me here,
134   but only briefly; the offense of envy
135   was not committed often by their gaze.
136   I fear much more the punishment below;
137   my soul is anxious, in suspense; already
138   I feel the heavy weights of the first terrace.
139   And she: Who, then, led you up here among us,
140   if you believe you will return below?
141   And I: He who is with me and is silent.
142   I am alive; and therefore, chosen spirit,
143   if you would have me move my mortal steps
144   on your behalf, beyond, ask me for that.
145   Oh, this, she answered, is so strange a thing
146   to hear: the sign is clear you have God's love.
147   Thus, help me sometimes with your prayers. I ask
148   of you, by that which you desire most,
149   if you should ever tread the Tuscan earth,
150   to see my name restored among my kin.
151   You will see them among those vain ones
152   who have put their trust in Talamone (their loss
153   in hope will be more than Diana cost);
154   but there the admirals will lose the most.


Canto XIV

The Second Circle: The Envious


Guido del Duca and Renier da Calboli. Cities of the Arno Valley. Denunciation of Stubbornness.


1   Who is this man who, although death has yet
2   to grant him flight, can circle round our mountain,
3   and can, at will, open and shut his eyes?
4   I don't know who he is, but I do know
5   he's not alone; you're closer; question him
6   and greet him gently, so that he replies.
7   So were two spirits, leaning toward each other,
8   discussing me, along my right-hand side;
9   then they bent back their heads to speak to me,
10   and one began: O soul who still enclosed
11   within the body make your way toward Heaven,
12   may you, through love, console us; tell us who
13   you are, from where you come; the grace that you've
14   received a thing that's never come to pass
15   before has caused us much astonishment.
16   And I: Through central Tuscany there spreads
17   a little stream first born in Falterona;
18   one hundred miles can't fill the course it needs.
19   I bring this body from that river's banks;
20   to tell you who I am would be to speak
21   in vain my name has not yet gained much fame.
22   If, with my understanding, I have seized
23   your meaning properly, replied to me
24   the one who'd spoken first, you mean the Arno.
25   The other said to him: Why did he hide
26   that river's name, even as one would do
27   in hiding something horrible from view?
28   The shade to whom this question was addressed
29   repaid with this: I do not know; but it
30   is right for such a valley's name to perish,
31   for from its source (at which the rugged chain
32   from which Pelorus was cut off surpasses
33   most other places with its mass of mountains)
34   until its end point (where it offers back
35   those waters that evaporating skies
36   drew from the sea, that streams may be supplied),
37   virtue is seen as serpent, and all flee
38   from it as if it were an enemy,
39   either because the site is ill-starred or
40   their evil custom goads them so; therefore,
41   the nature of that squalid valley's people
42   has changed, as if they were in Circe's pasture.
43   That river starts its miserable course
44   among foul hogs, more fit for acorns than
45   for food devised to serve the needs of man.
46   Then, as that stream descends, it comes on curs
47   that, though their force is feeble, snap and snarl;
48   scornful of them, it swerves its snout away.
49   And, downward, it flows on; and when that ditch,
50   ill-fated and accursed, grows wider, it
51   finds, more and more, the dogs becoming wolves.
52   Descending then through many dark ravines,
53   it comes on foxes so full of deceit
54   there is no trap that they cannot defeat.
55   Nor will I keep from speech because my comrade
56   hears me (and it will serve you, too, to keep
57   in mind what prophecy reveals to me).
58   I see your grandson: he's become a hunter
59   of wolves along the banks of the fierce river,
60   and he strikes every one of them with terror.
61   He sells their flesh while they are still alive;
62   then, like an ancient beast, he turns to slaughter,
63   depriving many of life, himself of honor.
64   Bloody, he comes out from the wood he's plundered,
65   leaving it such that in a thousand years
66   it will not be the forest that it was.
67   Just as the face of one who has heard word
68   of pain and injury becomes perturbed,
69   no matter from what side that menace stirs,
70   so did I see that other soul, who'd turned
71   to listen, growing anxious and dejected
72   when he had taken in his comrade's words.
73   The speech of one, the aspect of the other
74   had made me need to know their names, and I
75   both queried and beseeched at the same time,
76   at which the spirit who had spoken first
77   to me began again: You'd have me do
78   for you that which, to me, you have refused.
79   But since God would, in you, have-His grace glow
80   so brightly, I shall not be miserly;
81   know, therefore, that I was Guido del Duca.
82   My blood was so afire with envy that,
83   when I had seen a man becoming happy,
84   the lividness in me was plain to see.
85   From what I've sown, this is the straw I reap:
86   o humankind, why do you set your hearts
87   there where our sharing cannot have a part?
88   This is Rinieri, this is he the glory,
89   the honor of the house of Calboli;
90   but no one has inherited his worth.
91   It's not his kin alone, between the Po
92   and mountains, and the Reno and the coast,
93   who've lost the truth's grave good and lost the good
94   of gentle living, too; those lands are full
95   of poisoned stumps; by now, however much
96   one were to cultivate, it is too late.
97   Where is good Lizio? Arrigo Mainardi?
98   Pier Traversaro? Guido di Carpigna?
99   O Romagnoles returned to bastardy!
100   When will a Fabbro flourish in Bologna?
101   When, in Faenza, a Bernadin di Fosco,
102   the noble offshoot of a humble plant?
103   Don't wonder, Tuscan, if I weep when I
104   remember Ugolino d'Azzo, one
105   who lived among us, and Guido da Prata,
106   the house of Traversara, of Anastagi
107   (both houses without heirs), and Federigo
108   Tignoso and his gracious company,
109   the ladies and the knights, labors and leisure
110   to which we once were urged by courtesy
111   and love, where hearts now host perversity.
112   O Bretinoro, why do you not flee
113   when you've already lost your family
114   and many men who've fled iniquity?
115   Bagnacaval does well: it breeds no more
116   and Castrocuro ill, and Conio worse,
117   for it insists on breeding counts so cursed.
118   Once freed of their own demon, the Pagani
119   will do quite well, but not so well that any
120   will testify that they are pure and worthy.
121   Your name, o Ugolin de' Fantolini,
122   is safe, since one no longer waits for heirs
123   to blacken it with their degeneracy.
124   But, Tuscan, go your way; I am more pleased
125   to weep now than to speak: for that which we
126   have spoken presses heavily on me!
127   We knew those gentle souls had heard us move
128   away; therefore, their silence made us feel
129   more confident about the path we took.
130   When we, who'd gone ahead, were left alone,
131   a voice that seemed like lightning as it splits
132   the air encountered us, a voice that said:
133   Whoever captures me will slaughter me;
134   and then it fled like thunder when it fades
135   after the cloud is suddenly ripped through.
136   As soon as that first voice had granted us
137   a truce, another voice cried out with such
138   uproar like thunder quick to follow thunder:
139   I am Aglauros, who was turned to stone;
140   and then, to draw more near the poet, I
141   moved to my right instead of moving forward.
142   By now the air on every side was quiet;
143   and he told me: That is the sturdy bit
144   that should hold every man within his limits.
145   But you would take the bait, so that the hook
146   of the old adversary draws you to him;
147   thus, neither spur nor curb can serve to save you.
148   Heaven would call and it encircles you;
149   it lets you see its never-ending beauties;
150   and yet your eyes would only see the ground;
151   thus, He who sees all things would strike you down.


Canto XV


1   As many as the hours in which the sphere
2   that's always playing like a child appears
3   from daybreak to the end of the third hour,
4   so many were the hours of light still left
5   before the course of day had reached sunset;
6   vespers was there; and where we are, midnight.
7   When sunlight struck directly at our faces,
8   for we had circled so much of the mountain
9   that now we headed straight into the west,
10   then I could feel my vision overcome
11   by radiance greater than I'd sensed before,
12   and unaccounted things left me amazed;
13   at which, that they might serve me as a shade,
14   I lifted up my hands above my brow,
15   to limit some of that excessive splendor.
16   As when a ray of light, from water or
17   a mirror, leaps in the opposed direction
18   and rises at an angle equal to
19   its angle of descent, and to each side
20   the distance from the vertical is equal,
21   as science and experiment have shown;
22   so did it seem to me that I had been
23   struck there by light reflected, facing me,
24   at which my eyes turned elsewhere rapidly.
25   Kind father, what is that against which I
26   have tried in vain, I said, to screen my eyes?
27   It seems to move toward us. And he replied:
28   Don't wonder if you are still dazzled by
29   the family of Heaven: a messenger
30   has come, and he invites us to ascend.
31   Soon, in the sight of such things, there will be
32   no difficulty for you, but delight
33   as much as nature fashioned you to feel.
34   No sooner had we reached the blessed angel
35   than with glad voice he told us: Enter here;
36   these are less steep than were the other stairs.
37   We climbed, already past that point; behind us,
38   we heard Beati misericordes sung
39   and then Rejoice, you who have overcome.
40   I and my master journeyed on alone,
41   we two together, upward; as we walked,
42   I thought I'd gather profit from his words;
43   and even as I turned toward him, I asked:
44   What did the spirit of Romagna mean
45   when he said, 'Sharing cannot have a part'?
46   And his reply: He knows the harm that lies
47   in his worst vice; if he chastises it,
48   to ease its expiation do not wonder.
49   For when your longings center on things such
50   that sharing them apportions less to each,
51   then envy stirs the bellows of your sighs.
52   But if the love within the Highest Sphere
53   should turn your longings heavenward, the fear
54   inhabiting your breast would disappear;
55   for there, the more there are who would say 'ours,'
56   so much the greater is the good possessed
57   by each so much more love burns in that cloister.
58   I am more hungry now for satisfaction
59   I said, than if I'd held my tongue before;
60   I host a deeper doubt within my mind.
61   How can a good that's shared by more possessors
62   enable each to be more rich in it
63   than if that good had been possessed by few?
64   And he to me: But if you still persist
65   in letting your mind fix on earthly things,
66   then even from true light you gather darkness.
67   That Good, ineffable and infinite,
68   which is above, directs Itself toward love
69   as light directs itself to polished bodies.
70   Where ardor is, that Good gives of Itself;
71   and where more love is, there that Good confers
72   a greater measure of eternal worth.
73   And when there are more souls above who love,
74   there's more to love well there, and they love more,
75   and, mirror-like, each soul reflects the other.
76   And if my speech has not appeased your hunger,
77   you will see Beatrice she will fulfill
78   this and all other longings that you feel.
79   Now only strive, so that the other five
80   wounds may be canceled quickly, as the two
81   already are the wounds contrition heals.
   ... (click to continue the ascent)