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Dante's Divine Comedy


Canto XXV(109) to XXVII

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 XXV (109-end)

Canto XXVI



CANTO XXV (109-end)


The Seventh Circle: The Wanton. Discourse of Statius on Generation.
109   By now we'd reached the final turning we
110   would meet and took the pathway right, at which
111   we were preoccupied with other cares.
112   There, from the wall, the mountain hurls its flames;
113   but, from the terrace side, there whirls a wind
114   that pushes back the fire and limits it;
115   thus, on the open side, proceeding one
116   by one, we went; I feared the fire on
117   the left and, on the right, the precipice.
118   My guide said: On this terrace, it is best
119   to curb your eyes: the least distraction left
120   or right can mean a step you will regret.
121   Then, from the heart of that great conflagration,
122   I heard Summae Deus clementiae
123   sung and was not less keen to turn my eyes;
124   and I saw spirits walking in the flames,
125   so that I looked at them and at my steps,
126   sharing the time I had to look at each.
127   After they'd reached that hymn's end, Virum non
128   cognosco were the words they cried aloud;
129   then they began the hymn in a low voice
130   again, and, done again, they cried: Diana
131   kept to the woods and banished Helice
132   after she'd felt the force of Venus' poison.
133   Then they returned to singing; and they praised
134   aloud those wives and husbands who were chaste,
135   as virtue and as matrimony mandate.
136   This is I think the way these spirits act
137   as long as they are burned by fire: this is
138   the care and this the nourishment with which
139   one has to heal the final wound of all.




The Seventh Circle: The Wanton. Sodomites. Guido Guinicelli and Arnaldo Daniello.
1   While we moved at the edge, one first, one after,
2   and I could often hear my gentle master
3   saying: Take care and do not waste my warning,
4   the sun, its rays already altering
5   the coloring of all the west from azure
6   to white, was striking me on my right shoulder.
7   And where my shadow fell, it made the flames
8   seem more inflamed; and I saw many shades
9   walking, intent upon a sight so strange.
10   This was the reason that first prompted them
11   to speak to me. Among themselves they said:
12   He does not seem to have a fictive body.
13   Then certain of them came as close to me
14   as they were able to while, cautiously,
15   they never left the boundaries of their burning.
16   O you who move behind the others not
17   because of sloth but reverence perhaps,
18   give me who burn in thirst and fire your answer.
19   I'm not alone in needing your response;
20   for all these shades thirst so for it more than
21   an Indian or Ethiopian
22   thirsts for cool water. Tell us how you can
23   as if you're not yet caught within death's net
24   make of yourself a wall against the sun.
25   Thus one of them had spoken to me; I
26   should now have answered clearly, had I not
27   been fixed on something strangely evident;
28   for in the middle of the burning path,
29   came people moving opposite to these
30   and I, since they moved left, stared in suspense.
31   There, on all sides, I can see every shade
32   move quickly to embrace another shade,
33   content they did not pause with their brief greeting,
34   as ants, in their dark company, will touch
35   their muzzles, each to each, perhaps to seek
36   news of their fortunes and their journeyings.
37   No sooner is their friendly greeting done
38   than each shade tries to outcry all the rest
39   even before he starts to move ahead,
40   the new group shouting: Sodom and Gomorrah;
41   the other: That the bull may hurry toward
42   her lust, Pasiphae hides in the cow.
43   Then, just like cranes, of whom a part, to flee
44   the sun, fly north to Riphean mountains, while
45   the rest, to flee the frost, fly toward the sands,
46   one group moves with the other opposite us;
47   and they return with tears to their first chants
48   and to the shout appropriate to each.
49   And those who had entreated me came close
50   again, in the same way they'd done before;
51   their faces showed how keen they were to listen.
52   I, seeing their desire once again,
53   began: O souls who can be sure of gaining
54   the state of peace, whenever that may be,
55   my limbs mature or green have not been left
56   within the world beyond; they're here with me,
57   together with their blood and with their bones.
58   That I be blind no longer, through this place
59   I pass; above, a lady has gained grace
60   for me; therefore, I bear my mortal body
61   across your world. So may your deepest longing
62   soon be appeased and you be lodged within
63   the heaven that's most full of love, most spacious,
64   please tell me, so that I may yet transcribe it
65   upon my pages, who you are, and what
66   crowd moves in the direction opposite.
67   Each shade displayed no less astonishment
68   or less confusion than a mountaineer,
69   who, even as he stares about, falls silent
70   when, rough and rustic, he comes to the city;
71   but when they'd set aside astonishment
72   that's soon subdued in noble hearts he who
73   had questioned me before, began again:
74   Blessed are you who would, in order to
75   die better, store experience of our lands!
76   The people moving opposite us shared
77   the sin for which once, while in triumph, Caesar
78   heard 'Queen' called out against him; that is why,
79   as they move off from us, they cry out 'Sodom,'
80   reproaching their own selves, as you have heard,
81   and through their shame abet the fire's work.
82   Our sin was with the other sex; but since
83   we did not keep the bounds of human law,
84   but served our appetites like beasts, when we
85   part from the other ranks, we then repeat,
86   to our disgrace, the name of one who, in
87   the bestial planks, became herself a beast.
88   You now know why we act so, and you know
89   what our sins were; if you would know our names,
90   time is too short, and I don't know them all.
91   But with regard to me, I'll satisfy
92   your wish to know: I'm Guido Guinizzelli,
93   purged here because I grieved before my end.
94   As, after the sad raging of Lycurgus,
95   two sons, finding their mother, had embraced her,
96   so l desired to do but dared not to
97   when I heard him declare his name: the father
98   of me and of the others those, my betters
99   who ever used sweet, gracious rhymes of love.
100   And without hearing, speaking, pensive, I
101   walked on, still gazing at him, a long time,
102   prevented by the fire from drawing closer.
103   When I had fed my sight on him, I offered
104   myself with such a pledge that others must
105   believe completely ready for his service.
106   And he to me: Because of what I hear,
107   you leave a trace within me one so clear,
108   Lethe itself can't blur or cancel it.
109   But if your words have now sworn truthfully,
110   do tell me why it is that you have shown
111   in speech and gaze that I am dear to you.
112   And I to him: It's your sweet lines that, for
113   as long as modern usage lasts, will still
114   make dear their very inks. Brother, he said,
115   he there, whom I point out to you-he showed
116   us one who walked ahead he was a better
117   artisan of the mother tongue, surpassing
118   all those who wrote their poems of love or prose
119   romances let the stupid ones contend,
120   who think that from Limoges there came the best.
121   They credit rumor rather than the truth,
122   allowing their opinion to be set
123   before they hear what art or reason says.
124   So, many of our fathers once persisted,
125   voice after voice, in giving to Guittone
126   the prize but then, with most, the truth prevailed.
127   Now if you are so amply privileged
128   that you will be admitted to the cloister
129   where Christ is abbot of the college, then
130   pray say, for me, to Him, a Paternoster
131   that is, as much of it as those in this
132   place need, since we have lost the power to sin.
133   Then, to make place, perhaps, for those behind him,
134   he disappeared into the fire, just as
135   a fish, through water, plunges toward the bottom.
136   Saying that my desire was making ready
137   a place of welcome for his name, I moved
138   ahead a little, toward the one who had
139   been pointed out to me. And he spoke freely:
140   So does your courteous request please me
141   I neither could nor would conceal myself
142   from you. I am Arnaut, who, going, weep
143   and sing; with grief, I see my former folly;
144   with joy, I see the hoped-for day draw near.
145   Now, by the Power that conducts you to
146   the summit of the stairway, I pray you:
147   remember, at time opportune, my pain!
148   Then, in the fire that refines, he hid.




The Seventh Circle: The Wanton. The Wall of Fire and the Angel of God. Dante's Sleep upon the Stairway, and his Dream of Leah and Rachel. Arrival at the Terrestrial Paradise.
1   Just as, there where its Maker shed His blood,
2   the sun shed its first rays, and Ebro lay
3   beneath high Libra, and the ninth hour's rays
4   were scorching Ganges' waves; so here, the sun
5   stood at the point of day's departure when
6   God's angel happy showed himself to us.
7   He stood along the edge, beyond the flames,
8   singing Beati mundo corde in
9   a voice that had more life than ours can claim.
10   Then: Holy souls, you cannot move ahead
11   unless the fire has stung you first: enter
12   the flames, and don't be deaf to song you'll hear
13   beyond, he said when we were close to him;
14   and when I heard him say this, I became
15   like one who has been laid within the grave.
16   I joined my hands and stretched them out to fend
17   the flames, watching the fire, imagining
18   clearly the human bodies I'd once seen
19   burning. My gentle escorts turned to me,
20   and Virgil said: My son, though there may be
21   suffering here, there is no death. Remember,
22   remember! If I guided you to safety
23   even upon the back of Geryon,
24   then now, closer to God, what shall I do?
25   Be sure: although you were to spend a full
26   one thousand years within this fire's center,
27   your head would not be balder by one hair.
28   And if you think I am deceiving you,
29   draw closer to the flames, let your own hands
30   try out, within the fire, your clothing's hem
31   put down, by now put down, your every fear;
32   turn toward the fire, and enter, confident!
33   But I was stubborn, set against my conscience.
34   When he saw me still halting, obstinate,
35   he said, somewhat perplexed: Now see, son: this
36   wall stands between you and your Beatrice.
37   As, at the name of Thisbe, Pyramus,
38   about to die, opened his eyes, and saw her
39   (when then the mulberry became bloodred),
40   so, when my stubbornness had softened, 1,
41   hearing the name that's always flowering
42   within my mind, turned to my knowing guide.
43   At which he shook his head and said: And would43
44   you have us stay along this side? then smiled
45   as one smiles at a child fruit has beguiled.
46   Then he, ahead of me, entered the fire;
47   and he asked Statius, who had walked between us
48   before, dividing us, to go behind.
49   No sooner was I in that fire than I'd
50   have thrown myself in molten glass to find
51   coolness because those flames were so intense.
52   My gentle father, who would comfort me,
53   kept talking, as we walked, of Beatrice,
54   saying: I seem to see her eyes already.
55   A voice that sang beyond us was our guide;
56   and we, attentive to that voice, emerged
57   just at the point where it began to climb.
58   Venite, benedicti Patris mei,
59   it sang within a light that overcame me:
60   I could not look at such intensity.
61   The sun departs, it added; evening comes;
62   don't stay your steps, but hurry on before
63   the west grows dark. The path we took climbed straight
64   #NAME?
65   such that, in front of me, my body blocked
66   the rays of sun, already low behind us.
67   And we had only tried a few steps when
68   I and my sages sensed the sun had set
69   because the shadow I had cast was spent.
70   Before one color came to occupy
71   that sky in all of its immensity
72   and night was free to summon all its darkness,
73   each of us made one of those stairs his bed:
74   the nature of the mountain had so weakened
75   our power and desire to climb ahead.
76   Like goats that, when they grazed, were swift and tameless
77   along the mountain peaks, but now are sated,
78   and rest and ruminate while the sun blazes
79   untroubled, in the shadows, silently,
80   watched over by the herdsman as he leans
81   upon his staff and oversees their peace;
82   or like the herdsman in the open fields,
83   spending the night beside his quiet flock,
84   watching to see that no beast drives them off;
85   such were all three of us at that point
86   they were like the herdsmen, I was like the goat;
87   upon each side of us, high rock walls rose.
88   From there, one saw but little of the sky,
89   but in that little, I could see the stars
90   brighter and larger than they usually are.
91   But while I watched the stars, in reverie,
92   sleep overcame me sleep, which often sees,
93   before it happens, what is yet to be.
94   It was the hour, I think, when Cytherea,
95   who always seems aflame with fires of love,
96   first shines upon the mountains from the east,
97   that, in my dream, I seemed to see a woman
98   both young and fair; along a plain she gathered
99   flowers, and even as she sang, she said:
100   Whoever asks my name, know that I'm Leah,
101   and I apply my lovely hands to fashion
102   a garland of the flowers I have gathered.
103   To find delight within this mirror I
104   adorn myself; whereas my sister Rachel
105   never deserts her mirror; there she sits
106   all day; she longs to see her fair eyes gazing,
107   as I, to see my hands adorning, long:
108   she is content with seeing, I with labor.
109   And now, with the reflected lights that glow
110   before the dawn and, rising, are most welcome
111   to pilgrims as, returning, they near home,
112   the shadows fled upon all sides; my sleep
113   fled with them; and at this, I woke and saw
114   that the great teachers had already risen.
115   Today your hungerings will find their peace
116   through that sweet fruit the care of mortals seeks
117   among so many branches. This, the speech,
118   the solemn words, that Virgil spoke to me;
119   and there were never tidings to compare,
120   in offering delight to me, with these.
121   My will on will to climb above was such
122   that at each step I took I felt the force
123   within my wings was growing for the flight.
124   When all the staircase lay beneath us and
125   we'd reached the highest step, then Virgil set
126   his eyes insistently on me and said:
127   My son, you've seen the temporary fire
128   and the eternal fire; you have reached
129   the place past which my powers cannot see.
130   I've brought you here through intellect and art;
131   from now on, let your pleasure be your guide;
132   you're past the steep and past the narrow paths.
133   Look at the sun that shines upon your brow;
134   look at the grasses, flowers, and the shrubs
135   born here, spontaneously, of the earth.
136   Among them, you can rest or walk until
137   the coming of the glad and lovely eyes
138   those eyes that, weeping, sent me to your side.
139   Await no further word or sign from me:
140   your will is free, erect, and whole to act
141   against that will would be to err: therefore
142   I crown and miter you over yourself.