While thus, one 'fore the other, 'long the edge
we went, and my good Teacher often said:
"Attention pay; and let my warning help thee!"
the sun, which with its rays was changing now
from azure all the western skies to white,
was on my right side striking me; and I
was with my shadow giving to the flame
a brighter red; I noticed many shades
give heed to this small sign, as on they moved.
This was what started them to speak of me;
and they began to say among themselves:
"That one seems not to have an unreal body."
Then some of them, as far as possible
drew near to me, though always with due care
not to come out where they would not be burned.
"O thou that goest on behind the rest,
though not from sloth, but from respect, perhaps
reply to me, who burn with thirst and fire!
Nor is by me alone thine answer needed;
for all these here have greater thirst therefor
than Indians or Ethiopians for cold water.
Inform us how it is that with thyself
thou makest thus a wall against the sun,
as if thou hadst not entered death's snare yet."
Thus one of them addressed me; and at once
had I declared myself, had I not heeded
another novelty which then appeared;
for through the middle of the flaming road
folk with their faces turned the other way
came on, and made me stop to gaze at them.
There all the shades on every side I see
make haste, and, without stopping, kiss each other,
with this short form of greeting satisfied.
Thus one ant from among its dark host touches
its muzzle to another's, to obtain,
perhaps, directions as to path or fortune.
As soon as they leave off their friendly greeting,
and ere the first step has been taken there,
each struggles to outcry the other shade;
the new-come band shouts: "Sodom and Gomorrah!"
the other: "In the cow Pasìphaë
reclines, that to her lust the bull may run."
Thereat, like cranes, - if some of them should fly
toward the Riphæan heights, and toward the sands
the rest, these shunning ice, and those the sun, -
one band departs, the other comes along;
and weeping to their previous song they turn,
and to the cry which best befitteth them.
Then those same shades who had entreated me,
drew near to me, as they had done before,
with eagerness to listen in their looks.
And I, who twice had seen what they desired,
began: "O souls, who now are sure of having,
whenever it may be, a state of peace,
my body's members have not stayed beyond,
either unripe or ripe, but with their blood,
and with their joints are really with me here.
I hence go up, to be no longer blind.
On high a Lady wins us Grace, whereby
I carry through your world my mortal part.
But, so may your best wish be soon fulfilled,
in order that that heaven may shelter you,
which, full of love, is amplest in its spread,
tell me, that I may rule more paper for it,
both who ye are, and what is yonder crowd,
which onward goes its way behind your backs."
A mountaineer becomes not otherwise
confused, nor, looking round, grows dumb,
when, rough and wild, he enters first a town,
than each shade did in its appearance there;
but, when set free from that astonishment,
which soon diminishes in high-born hearts,
the one who questioned me before resumed:
"Happy art thou, that shippest thus experience
of these our bounds, that better thou mayst live!
The people who come not along with us,
in that offended, for which Caesar once
when triumphing heard 'Queen' cried out against him;
from us they therefore separate with cries
of 'Sodom,' and by self-reproach assist,
as thou hast heard, the burning by their shame.
Our sin was intersexual; but, since we,
by following our appetites like beasts,
failed to conform ourselves to human law,
to our confusion, when we leave the others,
her name we cry, who bestialized herself
by lying in the beast-resembling frame.
Thou knowest now our deeds, and what our guilt;
if who we are thou 'dst know, perhaps, by name,
there is no time to tell, nor could I do it.
As to myself, I 'll rid thee of thy wish;
I'm Guido Guinizelli, and purge me now,
because of grieving well before the end."
As in Lycurgus' anguish those two sons
became, when they again beheld their mother,
ev'n such did I, though I went not so far,
when him I heard self-named, who father was
to me and others, better men than I,
who e'er made sweet and graceful rhymes of love;
hence, lost in thought, nor hearing aught or speaking,
I moved, and long I gazed at him in wonder,
but, for the fire, no nearer drew to him.
When I with looking had been fully fed,
I put myself entirely at his service
with those assurances which win belief.
And he: "Thou leav'st in me a memory,
from what I hear, so great and plain, that Lethe
can neither wipe it out nor make it dim.
But, if thy words swore what was true just now,
tell me: why hast thou by thy speech and looks
revealed to me that thou dost hold me dear?"
And I to him: "'T was those sweet rhymes of yours
which, while the modern form of speech endures,
will e'er endear to me their very ink."
"Brother," he said, "he whom I indicate,"
(he pointed at a spirit on ahead)
was of his mother tongue a better smith.
In love-songs and in stories of romance
he vanquished all; hence let those fools talk on,
who think the Limousin excelleth him.
To rumor, rather than to truth, they turn
their faces, forming their opinions thus,
ere art or reason have by them been heeded.
Thus with Guittone many ancients did,
giving, from cry to cry, to him alone
the prize, until with most the truth prevailed.
If now so amply privileged thou art,
that lawful is thy going to the cloister,
where Christ is Abbot of the brotherhood,
a Pater-noster say to Him for me,
or all of it that we in this world need,
wherein no longer it is ours to sin."
And then, perhaps to yield his place to one
near by him there, he vanished through the fire,
as to the bottom would a fish through water.
Toward him who had been pointed out I moved
a little way, and said that my desire
was for his name a gracious place preparing.
"Your courteous question" he, unurged, began,
"delighteth me so much, that I can not,
nor do I wish to, hide myself from you.
Arnaut am I, who, going, weep and sing;
with sorrow my past folly I behold,
and see with joy the hoped-for coming day.
Now by the Power which guides you to the top
of this short flight of stairs, I beg of you
be mindful in due time of this my pain!"
Then in the fire refining them he hid.