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Dante's Divine Comedy


Canto XXII(115) to XXIV

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 XXII (115-end)


Canto XXIV




The Sixth Circle: The Gluttonous Statius' Denunciation of Avarice. The Mystic Tree.
115   Both poets now were silent, once again
116   intent on their surroundings they were free
117   of stairs and walls; with day's first four handmaidens
118   already left behind, and with the fifth
119   guiding the chariot-pole and lifting it,
120   so that its horn of flame -rose always higher,
121   my master said: I think it's time that we
122   turn our right shoulders toward the terrace edge,
123   circling the mountain in the way we're used to.
124   In this way habit served us as a banner;
125   and when we chose that path, our fear was less
126   because that worthy soul gave his assent.
127   Those two were in the lead; I walked alone,
128   behind them, listening to their colloquy,
129   which taught me much concerning poetry.
130   But their delightful conversation soon
131   was interrupted by a tree that blocked
132   our path; its fruits were fine, their scent was sweet,
133   and even as a fir-tree tapers upward
134   from branch to branch, that tree there tapered downward,
135   so as I think to ward off any climber.
136   Upon our left, where wall enclosed our path,
137   bright running water fell from the high rock
138   and spread itself upon the leaves above.
139   When the two poets had approached the tree,
140   a voice emerging from within the leaves
141   cried out: This food shall be denied to you.
142   Then it cried: Mary's care was for the marriage-
143   feast's being seemly and complete, not for
144   her mouth (which now would intercede for you).
145   And when they drank, of old, the Roman women
146   were satisfied with water; and young Daniel,
147   through his disdain of food, acquired wisdom.
148   The first age was as fair as gold: when hungry,
149   men found the taste of acorns good; when thirsty,
150   they found that every little stream was nectar.
151   When he was in the wilderness, the Baptist
152   had fed on nothing more than honey, locusts:
153   for this he was made great, as glorious
154   as, in the Gospel, is made plain to you.




The Sixth Circle: The Gluttonous Forese. Reproof of immodest Florentine Women.
1   While I was peering so intently through
2   the green boughs, like a hunter who, so used,
3   would waste his life in chasing after birds,
4   my more than father said to me: Now come,
5   son, for the time our journey can permit
6   is to be used more fruitfully than this.
7   I turned my eyes, and I was no less quick
8   to turn my steps; I followed those two sages,
9   whose talk was such, my going brought no loss.
10   And there! Labia mea, Domine
11   was wept and sung and heard in such a manner
12   that it gave birth to both delight and sorrow.
13   O gentle father, what is this I hear?
14   I asked. And he: Perhaps they're shades who go
15   loosening the knot of what they owe.
16   Even as pensive pilgrims do, who when
17   they've overtaken folk unknown to them
18   along the way, will turn but will not stop,
19   so, overtaking us they had come from
20   behind but were more swift a crowd of souls,
21   devout and silent, looked at us in wonder.
22   Each shade had dark and hollow eyes; their faces
23   were pale and so emaciated that
24   their taut skin took its shape from bones beneath.
25   I don't believe that even Erysichthon
26   had been so dried, down to his very hide,
27   by hunger, when his fast made him fear most.
28   Thinking, I told myself: I see the people
29   who lost Jerusalem, when Mary plunged
30   her beak into her son. The orbits of
31   their eyes seemed like a ring that's lost its gems;
32   and he who, in the face of man, would read
33   OMO would here have recognized the M.
34   Who if he knew not how would have believed
35   that longing born from odor of a tree,
36   odor of water, could reduce souls so?
37   I was already wondering what had
38   so famished them (for I had not yet learned
39   the reason for their leanness and sad scurf),
40   when there!-a shade, his eyes deep in his head,
41   turned toward me, staring steadily; and then
42   he cried aloud: What grace is granted me!
43   I never would have recognized him by
44   his face; and yet his voice made plain to me
45   what his appearance had obliterated.
46   This spark rekindled in me everything
47   I knew about those altered features; thus,
48   I realized it was Forese's face.
49   Ah, don't reproach me for the dried-out scabs
50   that stain my skin, he begged, nor for the lack
51   of flesh on me; but do tell me the truth
52   about yourself, do tell me who those two
53   souls there are, those who are escorting you;
54   may you not keep yourself from speaking to me!
55   Your face, which I once wept on when you died,
56   I answered him, now gives me no less cause
57   for sad lament, seeing you so deformed
58   But tell me, for God's sake, what has unleaved
59   you so; don't make me speak while I'm amazed
60   he who's distracted answers clumsily.
61   And he to me: From the eternal counsel,
62   the water and the tree you left behind
63   receive the power that makes me waste away.
64   All of these souls who, grieving, sing because
65   their appetite was gluttonous, in thirst
66   and hunger here resanctify themselves.
67   The fragrance of the fruit and of the water
68   that's sprayed through that green tree kindles in us
69   craving for food and drink; and not once only,
70   as we go round this space, our pain's renewed ;
71   I speak of pain but I should speak of solace,
72   for we are guided to those trees by that
73   same longing that had guided Christ when He
74   had come to free us through the blood He shed
75   and, in His joyousness, called out: 'Eli.'
76   And I to him: Forese, from that day
77   when you exchanged the world for better life
78   until now, less than five years have revolved;
79   and if you waited for the moment when
80   the power to sin was gone before you found
81   the hour of the good grief that succors us
82   and weds us once again to God, how have
83   you come so quickly here? I thought to find
84   you down below, where time must pay for time.
85   And he to me: It is my Nella who,
86   with her abundant tears, has guided me
87   to drink the sweet wormwood of torments: she,
88   with sighs and prayers devout has set me free
89   of that slope where one waits and has freed me
90   from circles underneath this circle. She
91   my gentle widow, whom I loved most dearly
92   was all the more beloved and prized by God
93   as she is more alone in her good works.
94   For even the Barbagia of Sardinia
95   is far more modest in its women than
96   is that Barbagia where I left her. O
97   sweet brother, what would you have had me say?
98   A future time's already visible
99   to me a time not too far-off from now
100   when, from the pulpit, it shall be forbidden
101   to those immodest ones Florentine women
102   to go displaying bosoms with bare paps.
103   What ordinances spiritual, civil
104   were ever needed by barbarian or
105   Saracen women to make them go covered?
106   But if those shameless ones had certain knowledge
107   of what swift Heaven's readying for them,
108   then they would have mouths open now to howl;
109   for if our foresight here does not deceive me,
110   they will be sad before the cheeks of those
111   whom lullabies can now appease grow beards.
112   Ah, brother, do not hide things any longer!
113   You see that I am not alone, for all
114   these people stare at where you veil the sun.
115   At this I said to him: If you should call
116   to mind what you have been with me and I
117   with you, remembering now will still be heavy.
118   He who precedes me turned me from that life
119   some days ago, when she who is the sister
120   of him-I pointed to the sun was showing
121   her roundness to you. It is he who's led
122   me through the deep night of the truly dead
123   with this true flesh that follows after him.
124   His help has drawn me up from there, climbing
125   and circling round this mountain, which makes straight
126   you whom the world made crooked. And he says
127   that he will bear me company until
128   I reach the place where Beatrice is; there
129   I must remain without him. It is Virgil
130   who speaks to me in this way, and I pointed
131   to him; this other is the shade for whom,
132   just now, your kingdom caused its every slope
133   to tremble as it freed him from itself.




The Sixth Circle: The Gluttonous Buonagiunta da Lucca. Pope Martin IV, and others. Inquiry into the State of Poetry.
1   Our talking did not slow our pace, our pace
2   not slow our talking; but conversing, we
3   moved quickly, like a boat a fair wind drives.
4   And recognizing that I was alive,
5   the shades they seemed to be things twice dead drew
6   amazement from the hollows of their eyes.
7   And I, continuing my telling, added:
8   Perhaps he is more slow in his ascent
9   than he would be had he not met the other.
10   But tell me, if you can: where is Piccarda?
11   And tell me if, among those staring at me,
12   I can see any person I should note.
13   My sister and I know not whether she
14   was greater in her goodness or her beauty
15   on high Olympus is in triumph; she
16   rejoices in her crown already, he
17   began, then added: It is not forbidden
18   to name each shade here abstinence has eaten
19   away our faces. And he pointed: This
20   is Bonagiunta, Bonagiunta da
21   Lucca; the one beyond him, even more
22   emaciated than the rest, had clasped
23   the Holy Church; he was from Tours; his fast
24   purges Bolsena's eels, Vernaccia's wine.
25   And he named many others, one by one,
26   and, at their naming, they all seemed content;
27   so that for this no face was overcast.
28   I saw their teeth were biting emptiness
29   both Ubaldin da la Pila and Boniface,
30   who shepherded so many with his staff.
31   I saw Messer Marchese, who once had
32   more ease, less dryness, drinking at Forli
33   and yet could never satisfy his thirst.
34   But just as he who looks and then esteems
35   one more than others, so did I prize him
36   of Lucca, for he seemed to know me better.
37   He murmured; something like Gentucca was37
38   what I heard from the place where he could feel
39   the wound of justice that denudes them so.
40   O soul, I said, who seems so eager to
41   converse with me, do speak so that I hear you,
42   for speech may satisfy both you and me.
43   He answered: Although men condemn my city,
44   there is a woman born she wears no veil
45   as yet because of whom you'll find it pleasing.
46   You are to journey with this prophecy;
47   and if there's something in my murmuring
48   you doubt, events themselves will bear me out.
49   But tell me if the man whom I see here
50   is he who brought the new rhymes forth, beginning:
51   'Ladies who have intelligence of love.'
52   I answered: I am one who, when Love breathes
53   in me, takes note; what he, within, dictates,
54   I, in that way, without, would speak and shape.
55   O brother, now I see, he said, the knot
56   that kept the Notary, Guittone, and me
57   short of the sweet new manner that I hear.
58   I clearly see how your pens follow closely
59   behind him who dictates, and certainly
60   that did not happen with our pens; and he
61   who sets himself to ferreting profoundly
62   can find no other difference between
63   the two styles. He fell still, contentedly.
64   Even as birds that winter on the Nile
65   at times will slow and form a flock in air,
66   then speed their flight and form a file, so all
67   the people who were mere moved much more swiftly,
68   turning away their faces, hurrying
69   their pace because of leanness and desire.
70   And just as he who's tired of running lets
71   his comrades go ahead and slows his steps
72   until he's eased the panting of his chest,
73   so did Forese let the holy flock
74   pass by and move, behind, with me, saying:
75   How long before I shall see you again?
76   I do not know, I said, how long I'll live;
77   and yet, however quick is my return,
78   my longing for these shores would have me here
79   sooner because the place where I was set
80   to live is day by day deprived of good
81   and seems along the way to wretched ruin.
82   Do not be vexed, he said, for I can see
83   the guiltiest of all dragged by a beast's
84   tail to the valley where no sin is purged.
85   At every step the beast moves faster, always
86   gaining momentum, till it smashes him
87   and leaves his body squalidly undone.
88   Those wheels, and here he looked up at the sky,
89   do not have long to turn before you see
90   plainly what I can't tell more openly.
91   Now you remain behind, for time is costly
92   here in this kingdom; I should lose too much
93   by moving with you thus, at equal pace.
94   Just as a horseman sometimes gallops out,
95   leaving behind his troop of riders, so
96   that he may gain the honor of the first
97   clash so, with longer strides, did he leave us;
98   and I remained along my path with those
99   two who were such great marshals of the world.
100   And when he'd gone so far ahead of us
101   that my eyes strained to follow him, just as
102   my mind was straining after what he'd said,
103   the branches of another tree, heavy
104   with fruit, alive with green, appeared to me
105   nearby, just past a curve where I had turned.
106   Beneath the tree I saw shades lifting hands,
107   crying I know not what up toward the branches,
108   like little eager, empty-headed children,
109   who beg but he of whom they beg does not
110   reply, but to provoke their longing, he
111   holds high, and does not hide, the thing they want.
112   Then they departed as if disabused;
113   and we immediately reached that great tree,
114   which turns aside so many prayers and tears.
115   Continue on, but don't draw close to it;
116   there is a tree above from which Eve ate,
117   and from that tree above, this plant was raised.
118   Among the boughs, a voice I know not whose
119   spoke so; thus, drawing closer, Virgil, Statius,
120   and I edged on, along the side that rises.
121   It said: Remember those with double chests,
122   the miserable ones, born of the clouds,
123   whom Theseus battled when they'd gorged themselves;
124   and those whom Gideon refused as comrades
125   those Hebrews who had drunk too avidly
126   when he came down the hills to Midian.
127   So, keeping close to one of that road's margins,
128   we moved ahead, hearing of gluttony
129   its sins repaid by sorry penalties.
130   Then, with more space along the lonely path,
131   a thousand steps and more had brought us forward,
132   each of us meditating wordlessly.
133   What are you thinking of, you three who walk
134   alone? a sudden voice called out; at which
135   I started like a scared young animal.
136   I raised my head to see who it might be;
137   no glass or metal ever seen within
138   a furnace was so glowing or so red
139   as one I saw, who said: If you'd ascend,
140   then you must turn at this point; for whoever
141   would journey unto peace must pass this way.
142   But his appearance had deprived me of
143   my sight, so that as one who uses hearing
144   as guide I turned and followed my two teachers.
145   And like the breeze of May that heralding
146   the dawning of the day when it is steeped
147   in flowers and in grass, stirs fragrantly,
148   so did I feel the wind that blew against
149   the center of my brow, and clearly sensed
150   the movement of his wings, the air's ambrosia.
151   And then I heard: Blessed are those whom grace
152   illumines so, that, in their breasts, the love
153   of taste does not awake too much desire
154   whose hungering is always in just measure.