Dante Alighieri - La Divina Commedia - Inferno
Mark Musa - The Divine Comedy - Inferno

Midway along the journey of our life
I woke to find myself in a dark wood,
for I had wandered off from the straight path. 03

How hard it is to tell what it was like,
this wood of wilderness, savage and stubborn
(the thought of it brings back all my old fears), 06

a bitter place! Death could scarce be bitterer.
But if I would show the good that came of it
I must talk about things other than the good. 09

How I enterd there I cannot truly say,
I had become so sleepy at the moment
when I first strayed, leaving the path of truth; 12

but when I found myself at the foot of a hill,
at the edge of the wood's beginning, down in the valley,
where I first felt my heart plunged deep in fear, 15

I raised my head and saw the hilltop shawled
in morning rays of light sent from the planet
that leads men straight ahead on every road. 18

And then only did terror start subsiding
in my heart's lake, which rose to heights of fear
that night I spent in deepest desperation. 21

Just as a swimmer, still with panting breath,
now safe upon the shore, out of the deep,
might turn for one last look at the dangerous waters, 24

so I, although my mind was turned to flee,
turned round to gaze once more upon the pass
that never let a living soul escape. 27

I rested my tired body there awhile
and then began to climb the barren slope
(I dragged my stronger foot and limped along). 30

Beyond the point the slope begins to rise
sprang up a leopard, trim and very swift!
It was covered by a pelt of many spots. 33

And, everywhere I looked, the beast was there
blocking my way, so time and time again
I was about to turn and go back down. 36

The hour was early in the morning then,
the sun was climbing up with those same stars
that had accompanied it on the world's first day, 39

the day Divine Love set their beauty turning;
so the hour and sweet season of creation
encouraged me to think I could get past 42

that gaudy beast, wild in its spotted pelt,
but then good hope gave way and fear returned
when the figure of a lion loomed up before me, 45

and he was coming straight toward me, it seemed,
with head raised high, and furious with hunger -
the air around him seemed to fear his presence. 48

And now a she-wolf came, that in her leanness
seemed racked with every kind of greediness
(how many people she has brought to grief!). 51

This last beast brought my spirit down so low
with fear that seized me at the sight of her,
I lost all hope of going up the hill. 54

As a man who, rejoicing in his gains,
suddenly seeing his gain turn into loss,
will grieve as he compares his then and now, 57

so she made me do, that relentless beast;
coming toward me, slowly, step by step,
she forced me back to where the sun is mute. 60

While I was rushing down to that low place,
my eyes made out a figure coming toward me
of one grown faint, perhaps from too much silence. 63

And when I saw him standing in this wasteland,
"Have pity on my soul," I cried to him,
"whichever you are, shade or living man!" 66

"No longer living man, though once I was,"
he said, "and my parents were from Lombardy,
both of them were Mantuans by birth. 69

I was born, though somewhat late, sub julio,
and lived in Rome when good Augustus reigned,
when still the false and lying gods were worshipped. 72

I was a poet and sang of that just man,
son of Anchises, who sailed off from Troy
after the burning of proud Ilium. 75

But why retreat to so much misery?
Why not climb tip this blissful mountain here,
the beginning and the source of al man's joy?" 78

"Are you then Virgil, are you then that fount
from which pours forth so rich a stream of words?
I said to him, bowing my head modestly. 81

"O light and honor of the other poets,
may my long years of study, and that deep love
that made me search your verses, help me now! 84

You are my teacher, the first of all my authors,
and you alone the one from whom I took
the noble style that was to bring me honor. 87

You see the beast that forced me to retreat;
save me from her, I beg you, famous sage,
she makes me tremble, the blood throbs in my veins." 90

"But you must journey down another road,"
he answered, when he saw me lost in tears,
"if ever you hope to leave this wilderness; 93

this beast, the one you cry about in fear,
allows no soul to succeed along her path,
she blocks his way and puts an end to him. 96

She is by nature so perverse and vicious,
her craving belly is never satisfied,
still hungering for food the more she eats. 99

She mates with many creatures, and will go on
mating with more until the greyhound comes
and tracks her down to make her die in anguish. 102

He will not feed on either land or money:
his wisdom, love, and virtue shall sustain him;
he will he born between Feltro and Feltro. 105

He comes to save that fallen Italy
for which the maid Camilla gave her life
and Turnus, Nisus, Euryalus died of wounds. 108

And he will hunt for her through every city
until he drives her back to Hell once more,
whence Envy first unleashed her on mankind. 111

And so, I think it best you follow me
for your own good, and I shall he your guide
and lead you out through an eternal place 114

where you will hear desperate cries, and see
tormented shades, some old as Hell itself,
and know what second death is, from their screams. 117

And later you will see those who rejoice,
while they are burning, for they have hope of coming,
whenever it may be, to join the blessed - 120

to whom, if you too wish to make the climb,
a spirit, worthier than I, must take you;
I shall go back, leaving you in her care, 123

because that Emperor dwelling on high
will not let me lead any to His city,
since I in life rebelled against His law. 126

Everywhere He reigns, and there He rules;
there is His city, there is His high throne.
Oh, happy the one He makes His citizenl" 129

And I to him: "Poet, I beg of you,
in the name of God, that God you never knew,
save me from this evil place and worse, 132

lead me there to the place you spoke about
that I may see the gate Saint Peter guards
and those whose anguish you have told me of." 135

Then he moved on, and I moved close behind him. 136

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