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Dante's Divine Comedy


Canto XIX(70) to XXII (54)

English Edition, translated by Allen Mandelbaum

from the ELF Presents Website

See this website for other translations.  These translations are not

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


Canto XIX (70-end)

Canto XX

Canto XXI

Canto XXII (1-54)




The Fifth Circle: The Avaricious and Prodigal The Covetous, fettered face-downward. Pope Adrian V.
70   When I was in the clearing, the fifth level,
71   my eyes discovered people there who wept,
72   lying upon the ground, all turned face down.
73   Adhaesit pavimento anima mea,
74   I heard them say with sighs so deep that it
75   was hard to comprehend the words they spoke.
76   O God's elect, whose sufferings both hope
77   and justice make less difficult, direct
78   us to the stairway meant for our ascent.
79   If you come here but do not need to be
80   prostrate, and you would find the path most quickly,
81   then keep your right hand always to the outside.
82   So did the poet ask, so did reply
83   come from a little way ahead; and I,
84   hearing that voice reply, learned what was hidden.
85   I turned my eyes to find my master's eyes;
86   at this, with a glad sign, he ratified
87   what I had asked for with my eager eyes.
88   When, free to do as I had wanted to,
89   I moved ahead and bent over that soul
90   whose words before had made me notice him,
91   saying: Spirit, within whom weeping ripens
92   that without which there's no return to God,
93   suspend awhile for me your greater care.
94   Tell me: Who were you? And why are your backs
95   turned up? And there where I, alive, set out
96   would you have me beseech some good for you?
97   And he to me: Why Heaven turns our backs
98   against itself, you are to know; but first
99   scias quod ego fui successor Petri.
100   Between Sestri and Chiavari descends
101   a handsome river; and its name is set
102   upon the upper portion of my crest.
103   For one month and a little more I learned
104   how the great mantle weighs on him who'd keep it
105   out of the mire all other weights seem feathers.
106   Alas, how tardy my conversion was!
107   But when I had been named the Roman shepherd,
108   then I discovered the deceit of life.
109   I saw that there the heart was not at rest,
110   nor could I, in that life, ascend more high;
111   so that, in me, love for this life was kindled.
112   Until that point I was a squalid soul,
113   from God divided, wholly avaricious;
114   now, as you see, I'm punished here for that.
115   What avarice enacts is here declared
116   in the purgation of converted souls;
117   the mountain has no punishment more bitter.
118   Just as we did not lift our eyes on high
119   but set our sight on earthly things instead,
120   so justice here impels our eyes toward earth.
121   As avarice annulled in us the love
122   of any other good, and thus we lost
123   our chance for righteous works, so justice here
124   fetters our hands and feet and holds us captive;
125   and for as long as it may please our just
126   Lord, here we'll be outstretched and motionless.
127   I'd kneeled, wishing to speak: but just as I
128   began and through my voice alone he sensed
129   that I had meant to do him reverence.
130   What reason makes you bend your body so?
131   he said. And I to him: Your dignity
132   made conscience sting me as I stood erect.
133   Brother, straighten your legs; rise up! he answered.
134   Don't be mistaken; I, with you and others,
135   am but a fellow-servant of one Power.
136   If you have ever understood the holy
137   sound of the Gospel that says 'Neque nubent,'
138   then you will see why I have spoken so.
139   Now go your way: I'd not have you stop longer;
140   your staying here disturbs my lamentations,
141   the tears that help me ripen what you mentioned.
142   Beyond, I have a niece whose name's Alagia;
143   she in herself is good, as long as our
144   house, by example, brings her not to evil;
145   and she alone is left to me beyond.




The Fifth Circle: The Avaricious and Prodigal Hugh Capet. Corruption of the French Crown. Prophecy of the Abduction of Pope Boniface VIII and the Sacrilege of Philip the Fair. The Earthquake.
1   Against a better will, the will fights weakly;
2   therefore, to please him, though against my pleasure,
3   I drew my unquenched sponge out of the water.
4   I moved on, and my guide moved through the un-
5   encumbered space, hugging the rock, as one
6   walks on a wall, close to the battlements;
7   for those whose eyes would melt down, drop by drop,
8   the evil that possesses all the world,
9   were too close to the edge, on the far side.
10   May you be damned, o ancient wolf, whose power
11   can claim more prey than all the other beasts
12   your hungering is deep and never-ending!
13   O heavens, through whose revolutions many
14   think things on earth are changed, when will he come
15   the one whose works will drive that wolf away?
16   Our steps were short and slow as we moved on;
17   I was attentive to the shades; I heard
18   the sorrow in their tears and lamentations.
19   Then I, by chance, heard one ahead of us
20   crying in his lament, Sweet Mary, as
21   a woman would outcry in labor pains.
22   And he continued: In that hostel where
23   you had set down your holy burden, there
24   one can discover just how poor you were.
25   Following this I heard: O good Fabricius,
26   you chose, as your possessions, indigence
27   with virtue rather than much wealth with vice.
28   These words had been so pleasing to me I
29   moved forward, so that I might come to know
30   the spirit from whom they had seemed to come.
31   He kept on speaking, telling the largesse
32   of Nicholas the gifts he gave the maidens
33   so that they might be honorably wed.
34   O soul who speaks of so much righteousness,
35   do tell me who you were, I said, and why
36   just you alone renew these seemly praises.
37   Your speaking to me will not go unthanked
38   when I return to finish the short span
39   of that life which now hurries toward its end.
40   And he: I'll tell you not because I hope
41   for solace from your world, but for such grace
42   as shines in you before your death's arrived.
43   I was the root of the obnoxious plant
44   that overshadows all the Christian lands,
45   so that fine fruit can rarely rise from them.
46   But if Douai and Lille and Bruges and Ghent
47   had power, they would soon take vengeance on it;
48   and this I beg of Him who judges all.
49   The name I bore beyond was Hugh Capet:
50   of me were born the Louises and Philips
51   by whom France has been ruled most recently.
52   I was the son of a Parisian butcher.
53   When all the line of ancient kings was done
54   and only one a monk in gray survived,
55   I found the reins that ruled the kingdom tight
56   within my hands, and I held so much new
57   gained power and possessed so many friends
58   that, to the widowed crown, my own son's head
59   was elevated, and from him began
60   the consecrated bones of all those kings.
61   Until the giant dowry of Provence
62   removed all sense of shame within my house,
63   my line was not worth much, but did no wrong.
64   There its rapine began with lies and force;
65   and then it seized that it might make amends
66   Ponthieu and Normandy and Gascony.
67   Charles came to Italy and, for amends,
68   made Conradin a victim, and then thrust
69   back Thomas into Heaven, for amends.
70   I see a time not too far off in which
71   another Charles advances out of France
72   to make himself and his descendants famous.
73   He does not carry weapons when he comes,
74   only the lance that Judas tilted; this
75   he couches so he twists the paunch of Florence.
76   From this he'll gain not land, just shame and sin,
77   which will be all the heavier for him
78   as he would reckon lightly such disgrace.
79   The other, who once left his ship as prisoner
80   I see him sell his daughter, bargaining
81   as pirates haggle over female slaves.
82   O avarice, my house is now your captive:
83   it traffics in the flesh of its own children
84   what more is left for you to do to us?
85   That past and future evil may seem less,
86   I see the fleur-de-lis enter Anagni
87   and, in His vicar, Christ made prisoner.
88   I see Him mocked a second time; I see
89   the vinegar and gall renewed and He
90   is slain between two thieves who're still alive.
91   And I see the new Pilate, one so cruel
92   that, still not sated, he, without decree,
93   carries his greedy sails into the Temple.
94   O You, my Lord, when will You let me be
95   happy on seeing vengeance that, concealed,
96   makes sweet Your anger in Your secret?
97   What I have said about the only bride
98   the Holy Ghost has known, the words that made
99   you turn to me for commentary these
100   words serve as answer to our prayers as long
101   as it is day; but when night Ells, then we
102   recite examples that are contrary.
103   Then we tell over how Pygmalion,
104   out of his greedy lust for gold, became
105   a thief and traitor and a parricide
106   the wretchedness of avaricious Midas,
107   resulting from his ravenous request,
108   the consequence that always makes men laugh;
109   and each of us recalls the foolish Achan
110   how he had robbed the spoils, so that the anger
111   of Joshua still seems to sting him here.
112   Then we accuse Sapphira and her husband;
113   we praise the kicks Heliodorus suffered;
114   and Polymnestor, who killed Polydorus,
115   resounds, in infamy, round all this mountain;
116   and finally, what we cry here is: Crassus,
117   tell us, because you know: How does gold taste? '
118   At times one speaks aloud, another low,
119   according to the sentiment that goads
120   us now to be more swift and now more slow:
121   thus, I was not alone in speaking of
122   the good we cite by day, but here nearby
123   no other spirit raised his voice as high.
124   We had already taken leave of him
125   and were already struggling to advance
126   along that road as far as we were able,
127   when I could feel the mountain tremble like
128   a falling thing; at which a chill seized me
129   as cold grips one who goes to meet his death.
130   Delos had surely not been buffeted
131   so hard before Latona planted there
132   the nest in which to bear the sky's two eyes.
133   Then such a shout rose up on every side
134   that, drawing near to me, my master said:
135   Don't be afraid, as long as I'm your guide.
136   Gloria in excelsis Deo, they all cried
137   so did I understand from those nearby,
138   whose shouted words were able to be heard.
139   Just like the shepherds who first heard that song,
140   we stood, but did not move, in expectation,
141   until the trembling stopped, the song was done.
142   Then we took up again our holy path,
143   watching the shades who lay along the ground,
144   who had resumed their customary tears.
145   My ignorance has never struggled so,
146   has never made me long so much to know
147   if memory does not mislead me now
148   as it seemed then to long within my thoughts;
149   nor did I dare to ask we were so rushed
150   nor, by myself, could I discern the cause.
151   So, timid, pensive, I pursued my way.





The Fifth Circle: The Avaricious and Prodigal The Poet Statius. Praise of Virgil.
1   The natural thirst that never can be quenched
2   except by water that gives grace the draught
3   the simple woman of Samaria sought
4   tormented me; haste spurred me on the path
5   crowded with souls, behind my guide; and I
6   felt pity, though their pain was justified.
7   And here even as Luke records for us
8   that Christ, new-risen from his burial cave,
9   appeared to two along his way a shade
10   appeared; and he advanced behind our backs
11   while we were careful not to trample on
12   the outstretched crowd. We did not notice him
13   until he had addressed us with: God give
14   you, o my brothers, peace! We turned at once;
15   then, after offering suitable response,
16   Virgil began: And may that just tribunal
17   which has consigned me to eternal exile
18   place you in peace within the blessed assembly!
19   What! he exclaimed, as we moved forward quickly.
20   If God's not deemed you worthy of ascent,
21   who's guided you so far along His stairs?
22   If you observe the signs the angel traced
23   upon this man, my teacher said, you'll see
24   plainly he's meant to reign with all the righteous;
25   but since she who spins night and day had not
26   yet spun the spool that Clotho sets upon
27   the distaff and adjusts for everyone,
28   his soul, the sister of your soul and mine,
29   in its ascent, could not alone have climbed
30   here, for it does not see the way we see.
31   Therefore, I was brought forth from Hell's broad jaws
32   to guide him in his going; I shall lead
33   him just as far as where I teach can reach.
34   But tell me, if you can, why, just before,
35   the mountain shook and shouted, all of it
36   for so it seemed down to its sea-bathed shore.
37   His question threaded so the needle's eye
38   of my desire that just the hope alone
39   of knowing left my thirst more satisfied.
40   That other shade began: The sanctity
41   of these slopes does not suffer anything
42   that's without order or uncustomary.
43   This place is free from every perturbation:
44   what heaven from itself and in itself
45   receives may serve as cause here no thing else.
46   Therefore, no rain, no hail, no snow, no dew,
47   no hoarfrost falls here any higher than
48   the stairs of entry with their three brief steps;
49   neither thick clouds nor thin appear, nor flash
50   of lightning; Thaumas' daughter, who so often
51   shifts places in your world, is absent here.
52   Dry vapor cannot climb up any higher
53   than to the top of the three steps of which
54   I spoke where Peter's vicar plants his feet.
55   Below that point, there may be small or ample
56   tremors; but here above, I know not why,
57   no wind concealed in earth has ever caused
58   a tremor; for it only trembles here
59   when some soul feels it's cleansed, so that it rises
60   or stirs to climb on high; and that shout follows.
61   The will alone is proof of purity
62   and, fully free, surprises soul into
63   a change of dwelling place effectively.
64   Soul had the will to climb before, but that
65   will was opposed by longing to do penance
66   (as once, to sin), instilled by divine justice.
67   And I, who have lain in this suffering
68   five hundred years and more, just now have felt
69   my free will for a better threshold: thus,
70   you heard the earthquake and the pious spirits
71   throughout the mountain as they praised the Lord
72   and may He send them speedily upward.
73   So did he speak to us; and just as joy
74   is greater when we quench a greater thirst,
75   the joy he brought cannot be told in words.
76   And my wise guide: I now can see the net
77   impeding you, how one slips through, and why
78   it quakes here, and what makes you all rejoice.
79   And now may it please you to tell me who
80   you were, and in your words may I find why
81   you've lain here for so many centuries.
82   In that age when the worthy Titus, with
83   help from the Highest King, avenged the wounds
84   from which the blood that Judas sold had flowed,
85   I had sufficient fame beyond, that spirit
86   replied; I bore the name that lasts the longest
87   and honors most but faith was not yet mine.
88   So gentle was the spirit of my verse
89   that Rome drew me, son of Toulouse, to her,
90   and there my brow deserved a crown of myrtle.
91   On earth my name is still remembered Statius:
92   I sang of Thebes and then of great Achilles;
93   I fell along the way of that last labor.
94   The sparks that warmed me, the seeds of my ardor,
95   were from the holy fire the same that gave
96   more than a thousand poets light and flame.
97   I speak of the Aeneid; when I wrote
98   verse, it was mother to me, it was nurse;
99   my work, without it, would not weigh an ounce.
100   And to have lived on earth when Virgil lived
101   for that I would extend by one more year
102   the time I owe before my exile's end.
103   These words made Virgil turn to me, and as
104   he turned, his face, through silence, said: Be still
105   (and yet the power of will cannot do all,
106   for tears and smiles are both so faithful to
107   the feelings that have prompted them that true
108   feeling escapes the will that would subdue).
109   But I smiled like a man whose eyes would signal;
110   at this, the shade was silent, and he stared
111   where sentiment is clearest at my eyes
112   and said: So may your trying labor end
113   successfully, do tell me why just now
114   your face showed me the flashing of a smile.
115   Now I am held by one side and the other:
116   one keeps me still, the other conjures me
117   to speak; but when, therefore, I sigh, my master
118   knows why and tells me: Do not be afraid
119   to speak, but speak and answer what he has
120   asked you to tell him with such earnestness.
121   At this, I answered: Ancient spirit, you
122   perhaps are wondering at the smile I smiled:
123   but I would have you feel still more surprise.
124   He who is guide, who leads my eyes on high,
125   is that same Virgil from whom you derived
126   the power to sing of men and of the gods.
127   Do not suppose my smile had any source
128   beyond the speech you spoke; be sure it was
129   those words you said of him that were the cause.
130   Now he had bent to kiss my teacher's feet,
131   but Virgil told him: Brother, there's no need
132   you are a shade, a shade is what you see.
133   And, rising, he: Now you can understand
134   how much love burns in me for you, when I
135   forget our insubstantiality,
136   treating the shades as one treats solid things.




The Sixth Circle: The Gluttonous Statius' Denunciation of Avarice. The Mystic Tree.
1   The angel now was left behind us, he
2   who had directed us to the sixth terrace,
3   having erased one P that scarred my face;
4   he had declared that those who longed for justice
5   are blessed, and his voice concluded that
6   message with sitiunt, without the rest.
7   And while I climbed behind the two swift spirits,
8   not laboring at all, for I was lighter
9   than I had been along the other stairs,
10   Virgil began: Love that is kindled by
11   virtue, will, in another, find reply,
12   as long as that love's flame appears without;
13   so, from the time when Juvenal, descending
14   among us, in Hell's Limbo, had made plain
15   the fondness that you felt for me, my own
16   benevolence toward you has been much richer
17   than any ever given to a person
18   one has not seen; thus, now these stairs seem short.
19   But tell me (and, as friend, forgive me if
20   excessive candor lets my reins relax,
21   and, as a friend, exchange your words with me):
22   how was it that you found within your breast
23   a place for avarice, when you possessed
24   the wisdom you had nurtured with such care?
25   These words at first brought something of a smile
26   to Statius; then he answered: Every word
27   you speak, to me is a dear sign of love.
28   Indeed, because true causes are concealed,
29   we often face deceptive reasoning
30   and things provoke perplexity in us.
31   Your question makes me sure that you're convinced
32   perhaps because my circle was the fifth
33   that, in the life I once lived, avarice
34   had been my sin. Know then that I was far
35   from avarice it was my lack of measure
36   thousands of months have punished. And if I
37   had not corrected my assessment by
38   my understanding what your verses meant
39   when you, as if enraged by human nature,
40   exclaimed: 'Why cannot you, O holy hunger
41   for gold, restrain the appetite of mortals?'
42   I'd now, while rolling weights, know sorry jousts.
43   Then I became aware that hands might open
44   too wide, like wings, in spending; and of this,
45   as of my other sins, I did repent.
46   How many are to rise again with heads
47   cropped close, whom ignorance prevents from reaching
48   repentance in and at the end of life!
49   And know that when a sin is countered by
50   another fault directly opposite
51   to it then, here, both sins see their green wither.
52   Thus, I join those who pay for avarice
53   in my purgation, though what brought me here
54   was prodigality its opposite.


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