With equal steps, like oxen going yoked,
I went along beside that burdened soul,
as long as my dear Pedagogue allowed;
but when he said: "Leave him, and go thou on;
for here 't is well that each should urge his bark
with sail and oars, as much as e'er he can,"
I straightened me
as much as walking called for,
although my thoughts kept humble and depressed.
On had I moved, and in my Teacher's steps
was following willingly, and both of us
were showing now how light of step we were,
when "Downward turn thine eyes!" he said to me,
"Well will it be, to calm thee on thy way,
that thou shouldst see the bed thy soles are treading."
As over those that 'neath them buried lie
- that they may be recalled to people's minds -
tombs level with the ground the record bear
of what they were before; whence there they oft
are wept for, through the prick of memory,
which spurs to grief the pitiful alone;
ev'n so I saw engraved in sculpture here,
though finer in respect to workmanship,
as much as from the Mount juts out as path.
I saw, on one side, Him who once was made
nobler by far than any other creature,
fall like a flash of lightning down from Heaven.
I saw Briareus, on the other side,
pierced by an arrow from the sky, lie prone,
and heavy on the ground with mortal cold.
I saw Apollo, Mars I saw and Pallas,
as, still in armor, round their Sire they stood,
gazing upon the Giants' scattered limbs.
I saw great Nimrod 'neath his mighty work
dumb with confusion, as he watched the folk,
who once were proud with him on Shinar's plain.
O Niobe, with what sad eyes I thee
saw pictured forth in stone, between thy children,
the seven and seven thy dead, upon the road!
O Saul, how plainly there on thine own sword
didst thou seem dead upon Gilb˛a's mount,
which felt thereafter neither rain nor dew!
O mad Arachne, thee I saw, as when,
already half a spider, thou wast sad
amid the tatters of thy fatal work.
O Rehoboam, not a threat seems now
thy face, but terror-stricken, as away
a chariot bears thee, lest thou be pursued.
It showed, moreover, that hard pavement did,
how costly once Alcmaeon caused his mother's
unlucky ornament to seem to her.
It showed how, in the temple's walls, his sons
cast themselves on Sennacherib, and how,
when he was dead, they there abandoned him.
It showed the slaughter and the cruel woe
wrought by Tomyris, when she said to Cyrus:
"With blood I fill thee, that didst thirst for blood!"
It showed, too, how the Assyrians took to flight,
routed, when Holophernes had been killed,
and also what was of that slaughter left.
I saw proud Troy in ashes and in caves.
O Ilion, how degraded and how vile
it showed thou wast, the image there perceived!
What master, or of brush or graving-tool,
could reproduce the shadows and the features,
which there would cause all cultured minds to wonder?
The dead seemed dead, the living seemed alive;
whoever saw the real, no better saw
than I then did what I was treading on,
as long as bowed I walked. Be ye, then, proud,
and go with haughty looks, ye sons of Eve,
nor bow your heads, to see your evil path!
More of the Mountain had we circled now,
and of the sun's course far more had we spent,
than my not disengaged mind had supposed;
when he who always walked attentively
ahead of me, began: "Lift up thy head!
The time for going thus absorbed is passed.
See there an Angel who is making ready
to come toward us; see how the sixth handmaiden
returns now from the service of the day.
With reverence adorn thine acts and face,
that he may now be pleased to send us up;
think that this day will never dawn again!"
So well accustomed was I to his warning,
that I should never let my time be lost,
that on this theme he could not darkly speak.
Toward us the lovely Creature was advancing,
arrayed in white, and in his countenance,
such as, when trembling, seems the morning star.
His arms he opened, then he oped his wings,
and said to us: "Come; near by are the steps,
and going up is easy after this."
Only a few to this announcement come.
O human race, why, born for upward flight,
fallest thou so before a little wind?
He led us on to where the rock was cut;
and there my forehead with his wings he stroked,
and promised that my passage would be safe.
As, on the right hand, to ascend the mount,
where seated is the church, which dominates
the well ruled town o'er Rubaconte's bridge,
the slope's bold flight is broken by the stairs
constructed in an age, when quire and stave
so, likewise, doth the bank relax,
which from the next ledge here quite steeply falls;
but closely on each side the high rock rubs.
While, turning thither, we were on our way,
"Blest are the poor in spirit!" voices sang
in such a way as words could not describe.
Alas! how different are the passes here
from those in Hell! For one up here goes in
with songs, but there below with frightful wails!
We now were climbing up the holy stairs,
and lighter far I felt than formerly
I seemed to be, when on the level ground;
I hence said: "Teacher, say, what heavy thing
has been removed from me, that, as I walk,
I almost feel no weariness at all?"
He answered: "When the P's, which still remain
almost extinct upon thy brow, are quite
erased, as one is now, thy feet will so
be conquered by good will, that they will feel
not only no fatigue, but it will be
a pleasure to them to be upward urged."
I then did as do those, who go about
with something on their head they know not of,
till others' gestures cause them to suspect;
whereat their hand assists in ascertaining,
searches, and finds, and so performs the work,
which cannot be accomplished by their sight;
and with my right hand's fingers spread I found
that only six the letters were, which he
who held the Keys, had o'er my temples cut;
on seeing which my Leader smiled with joy.