Already was the Angel left behind,
the Angel who had toward the sixth ring turned us,
after erasing from my face a wound;
and he had said to us that those are blest,
whose longing is for justice, and his words,
with nothing further, ended this with "thirst."
Hence, lighter now than at the other passes,
I so advanced, that I, without fatigue,
was following up the spirits who were swift,
when Virgil thus began: "A love that flames,
by virtue kindled, always lights another,
if but its flame be outwardly revealed.
And therefore from the hour when Juvenal,
who let me know thy love for me, came down
among us in the Borderland of Hell,
my good will hath been such toward thee, that none
e'er bound me more to one I had not seen;
these stairs will, therefore, now seem short to me.
But tell me, and forgive me as a friend,
if too great confidence relax my rein,
and as a friend converse with me henceforth:
how was it avarice could find a place
within thy breast together with such wisdom,
as that wherewith thou by thy zeal wast filled?"
At first these words made Statius smile a little;
and then he answered: "Every word of thine
is of thy love for me a precious proof.
Things, of a truth, quite frequently appear,
which offer one false arguments for doubt,
because their real occasions are concealed.
Thy question makes me sure of thy belief,
due, maybe, to the ring where I was found,
that I was in the last life avaricious.
Know, then, that avarice was too far from me,
and that this lack of temperance on my part
thousands of courses of the moon have punished.
And were it not that I corrected me,
when I had understood thee in thy cry,
indignant, as it were, with human nature:
'Why dost thou not, O virtuous love of gold,
govern the appetite of mortal men?'
I 'd now, by rolling, feel the wretched jousts.
I then perceived that hands could ope their wings
too much in spending, and repented me
of that, as well as of my other sins.
How many from the grave shall hairless rise
through ignorance which, in life and at the last,
deprives them of repentance for this fault!
Know, too, that any fault which of a sin
is just the opposite, together with it
drieth its green leaves here. If, therefore, I,
to purge myself, have been among the folk
who avarice bewail, to me it happened
because of what was contrary thereto."
"When thou didst sing, then, of the cruel strife
between the two afflictions of Jocasta,"
said he who sang bucolic songs, "by that
which Clio singeth with thee there, the faith,
without which doing good is not enough,
had not, it seems, yet made thee a believer.
If this be so, what sun, or else what candles
lightened thy darkness so, that thou thereafter
didst set thy sails behind the Fisherman?"
"Thou first didst send me to Parnassus' slopes
to drink," he said to him, "and then the first
thou wast, who, next to God, illumined me.
Thou didst like him, who, when he walks by night,
a light behind him bears nor helps himself,
but maketh those that follow after see,
when thou didst say: 'The age renews itself;
Justice returns, and man's primeval times,
as down from Heaven a new-born race descends.'
Through thee a poet I became, through thee
a Christian! But, that thou mayst better see
my sketch, I 'll set my hand to color it.
Pregnant already with the true belief,
sowed by the eternal Kingdom's messengers,
was every portion of the whole wide world;
and now thy words, to which I 've just referred,
with these new preachers harmonized so well,
that I became accustomed to frequent them.
Thereat so holy did they come to seem,
that when Domitian persecuted them,
their lamentations did not lack my tears;
and while I still remained in yonder world,
I helped them; and their upright mode of life
caused me to treat with scorn all other sects.
And ere in poetry I led the Greeks
to see the streams of Thebes, baptized I was;
and yet, through fear, a secret Christian only,
I long pretended faith in paganism;
this lukewarmness around the fourth ring moved me
till far beyond the fourth centennial year.
Thou, therefore, that didst lift the covering veil
which hid from me the good whereof I speak,
tell me, while we have still a little more
to climb, where our old Terence is, and where
Cecilius, Plautus, Varro, if thou know;
tell me if they are damned, and in what ward."
"Both they and Persius, I and many others"
my Leader answered him, "are with the Greek,
whom more than any else the Muses nursed,
in the first circle of the sightless Prison;
and frequently we talk about the mount,
which always hath our nurses on its slopes.
Euripides and Antiphon are there
with us, Simonides and Agathon,
and many other Greeks, who once adorned
their brows with laurel. There, of thine own folk,
Antigone is seen, Dežphile,
Argža, and, as sad as once, IsmŤne.
There, too, may she be seen, who showed Langža;
there is Tiresias' daughter, Thetis also,
and with her sisters there, Deidamža."
And now the Poets, both of them, were silent,
intent again on looking round, since free
from climbing up and free from walls; and while
four handmaids of the day had dropped behind,
the fifth was at the sun-car's pole, still upward
pointing its burning horn; whereat my Leader:
"I think that it behooves us now to turn
our right sides toward the outer edge, and circle
the Mountain as our wont it is to do."
Thus was our custom our instructor there;
and with less doubt we started on again,
because of that deserving soul's assent.
In front they went, and I behind, alone,
listening the while to what they had to say,
which gave me understanding for my verse.
But soon their pleasant talk a Tree broke off,
which in the middle of the road we found,
with fruit agreeable and sweet to smell;
and as a fir-tree tapers up from branch
to branch, so likewise this one tapered down,
in order, I believe, that none may climb it.
And on the side on which our path was closed,
down from the lofty cliff a limpid stream
was falling, and spraying upward o'er its leaves.
Then toward the Tree the two Bards turned their steps;
and from among its leaves a voice cried out:
"Of this food there will be for you a dearth!"
Then: "More did Mary think of honoring,
the marriage feast, and making it complete,
than of her mouth, which pleadeth now for you;
the ancient Roman women were content
with water for their only drink; and Daniel
thought little of his food, but wisdom gained.
The primal age was beautiful as gold;
with hunger it made acorns sweet to taste,
and nectar every little brook, with thirst.
Honey and flying locusts were the food
which fed the Baptist in the wilderness;
hence he is now as glorious and as great,
as by the Gospel is revealed to you."