"Who is this spirit, who around our Mount
is circling thus, ere death have giv'n him flight,
and at his will opens and veils his eyes?"
"I know not who he is, but know he 's not
alone; ask thou, that nearer art to him,
and greet him fairly, so that he may speak."
Two spirits, who were leaning on each other,
thus talked of me upon the right hand there;
then turned their faces up, to speak to me;
and one said: "Soul, that, still held in thy body,
toward Heaven art going, of thy charity
console us now, and tell us whence thou com'st,
and who thou art; for thou dost cause in us
such wonder at the grace accorded thee,
as that demands which never was before."
And I: "A small stream winds through Tuscany,
which up in Falterona hath its rise,
and is not sated by a hundred miles.
From somewhere on its banks I bring this body;
vain would it be to tell you who I am,
because my name makes no great sound as yet."
"If with my mind I rightly penetrate
thy meaning," that one then replied to me;
who spoke before, "thou talkest of the Arno."
Thereat the other spirit said to him:
"Why did this man conceal that river's name,
as people hide the name of dreadful things?"
The shade who had been questioned as to this,
discharged its duty thus: "I do not know;
but meet it is that this vale's name should die!
For from its source - where that wild mountain-chain,
whence severed is Pelorus, swells so greatly,
that in few places doth it pass that mark -
to there where it betakes it to restore
whatever from the sea the sky sucks up,
whence rivers get what goes along with them,
virtue is, snake-like, as a foe pursued
by all, or through the region's evil luck,
or through bad customs which incite men there;
hence those that in this wretched valley dwell,
have changed their nature so, that it would seem
that Circe had them in her pasturage.
Among foul hogs, of acorns worthier far
than of all other food that's fit for man
to use, it first directs its sorry path.
As down it comes, it afterward finds curs,
that snarl more fiercely than their strength comports,
and turns from these its snout aside in scorn.
It keeps on falling; and the more it swells,
the more that cursčd and unlucky ditch
finds that the dogs are turning into wolves.
Descending then through many a gloomy gorge,
foxes it finds, so full of fraud, that naught
have they to fear, lest cunning master them.
Nor shall I cease to speak, though overheard;
and for this man 't were well, if he recall
hereafter what a truthful spirit shows me.
Thy grandson I behold, who first becomes
a hunter of those wolves upon the banks
of that fierce stream, and terrifies them all.
He sells their flesh, while still alive; then kills them,
as an old beast he would; of life depriving
many, himself of honor he deprives.
He issues bloody from the dismal wood,
and leaves it such, that in a thousand years
't will not rewood itself as once it was."
As at the announcement of some painful loss,
the face of him who listens is disturbed,
from wheresoe'er the danger may assail him;
ev'n thus did I behold that other soul,
who turned to listen, grow distressed and sad,
as soon as he had gathered in that speech.
The words of one soul and the other's face
had caused me to desire to know their names;
therefore with prayers I mingled this request.
That spirit, therefore, who addressed me first,
began again: "Thou'dst have me condescend
to do for thee what thou for me wilt not.
But since God wills that so much of His Grace
should shine in thee, I 'll not be niggardly;
Guido del Duca know, then, that I am.
And so consumed by envy was my blood,
that, had I seen a man becoming happy,
livid with envy thou hadst seen me turn.
Of what I sowed I 'm reaping now the straw.
O human race, why set your heart on things,
wherein companionship must be forbidden?
This is Rinieri; this the honor is,
and glory of the house of Calboli,
whose worth, since him, none hath inherited.
Nor hath his blood alone despoiled itself,
'tween Po and mountains, Reno and the sea,
of those good things which truth and joy require;
for in those bounds the country is so full
of poisoned stocks, that only slowly now
would they be lessened, ev'n if it were tilled.
Where are good Lėzio, Arrigo Mainārdi,
Pier Traversaro and Guido di Carpigna?
O Romagnoles, turned into bastards now!
When in Bologna will a Fabbro rise?
When, in Faenza, a Bernardin di Fosco,
the noble scion of a little plant?
Wonder not, Tuscan, if I weep now, when,
with Guido da Prata, I recall to mind
Ugolin d'Azzo, who among us dwelt,
Frederick Tignoso and his company,
the Traversara house, the Anastagi,
(and both these families are void of heirs),
the ladies and the knights, the toils and ease,
which love and courtesy once made us crave,
where hearts have grown so bad! O Brettinoro,
wherefore not vanish, since thy family,
and many people with them, have departed,
that guiltless they might be? Bāgnacavāl,
begetting sons no longer, doeth well;
but Castrocaro ill, and Conio worse,
which still takes trouble to beget such counts.
Well the Pagani, too, will fare, when once
their demon shall have gone, but not so well,
that an unspotted fame will e'er remain
to them. O Ugolin de' Fāntoli,
thy name is safe, since one can now no more
be looked for, who, as a degenerate,
can darken it! But go thy way now, Tuscan;
for weeping now affords me far more zest
than speech, our talk hath so distressed my mind!"
We knew that those dear spirits heard us leaving;
and therefore merely by their keeping still,
they made us trust the path which we were taking.
When we, advancing, found ourselves alone,
a voice, which seemed like lightning when it cleaves
the air, was heard, and, as it reached us there,
said: "Whosoever findeth me shall slay me!"
then vanished, as when thunder rolls away,
if suddenly a cloud be rent apart.
Soon as our hearing had a truce from this,
behold another with so great a crash,
it seemed to be its following thunder-clap:
"I am Aglauros, who was turned to stone!"
Then, to draw closer to the Poet's side,
I took a backward, not a forward, step.
The air was calm on all sides now, when he:
"That was the painful bit, which in his bounds
should hold a man. But ye take in the bait,
and so the ancient Adversary's hook
draweth you to him; hence of small avail
is either curb or lure.
Heaven calleth you,
and, showing to you its eternal beauties,
around you moves, and yet your eyes look down;
hence He, who seeth all things, scourges you."