Dante Alighieri - La Divina Commedia - Inferno - Canto 01
Carlyle-Wicksteed - The Divine Comedy - Inferno - Canto 01

In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself in a dark wood where the straight way was lost.

Ah! how hard a thing it is to tell what a wild, and rough, and stubborn wood this was, which in my thougt renews the fear!

So bitter is it, that scarcely more is death: but to treat of the good that I there found, I will relate the other things that I discerned.

I cannot rightly tell how I entered it, so full of sleep was I about the moment that I left the true way.

But after I had reached the foot of a Hill there, where that valley ended, which had pierced my heart with fear,

I looked up and saw its shoulders already clothed with the rays of the Planet that leads men straight on every road.

Then the fear was somewhat calmed, which had continued in the lake of my heart the night that I passed so piteously.

And as he, who with panting breath has escaped from the deep sea to the shore, turns to the dangerous water and gazes:

so my mind, which still was fleeing, turnes back to see the pass that no one ever left alive.

After I had rested my wearied body a short while, I took the way agian along the desert strand, so that the right foot always was the lower.

And behold, almost at the commencement of the steep, a Leopard, light and very nimble, which was covered with spotted hair.

And it went not from before my face; nay, so impeded my way, that I had often turnes to go back.

The time was at the beginning of the morning; and the sun was mounting up with those stars, which were with him when Divine Love

first moved those fair things: so that the hour of time and the sweet season caused me to have good hope

that animal with the gayskin; yet not so, but that I feared at the sight, which appeared to me, of a Lion.

He seemed coming upon me with head erect, and furious hunger; so that the air seemed to have fear thereat;

and a She-wolf, that looked full of all cravings in her leanness; and has ere now made many live in sorrow.

She brought such heaviness upon me with the terror of her aspect, that I lost the hope of ascending.

And as one who is eager in gaining, and, when the time arrives that makes him lose, weeps and afflicts himself in all his thoughts:

such that restless beast made me, which coming agianst me, by little and little drove me back to where the Sun is silent.

Whilst I was rushing downwards, there appeared before my eyes one who seemed hoarse from long silence.

When I saw him in the great desert, I cried: "Have pity on me, whate'er thou be, wether shade or veritable man!"

He answered me: "Not man, a man I once was; and my parents were Lombards, and both of Mantua by country.

I was born sub Julio, though it was late; and lived at Rome under the good Augustus, in the time of the false and lying Gods.

A poet I was; and sang of that just son of Anchises, who came from Troy after proud Ilium was burnt.

But thou, why returnest thou to such disquiet? why ascendest not the delectable mountain, which is the beginning and the cause of all gledness?"

"Art thou then that Virgil, and that fountain which pours abroad so rich a stream of speech?" I answered him, with bashful front.

"O glory, and light of other poets! May the long zeal avail me, and the great love, that made me search thy volume.

Thou art my master and my author; thou alone art he from whom I took the good style that hath done me honour.

See the beast from which I turnes back; help me from her, thou famous sage; for she kames my veins and pulses tremble."

"Thou must take another road," he answered, when he saw me weeping, "if thou desirest to escape from this wild place:

because this beast, for which thou criest, lets not men pass her way; but so entangles that she slays them;

and has a nature so perverse and vicious, that she never satiates her craving appetite; and after feeding, she ist hungrier than before.

The animals to which she weds herself are many; and will yet be more, until the Greyhound comes, that will make her die with pain.

He will not feed on land or pelf, but on wisdom, and love, and manfulness; and his nation shall be between Feltro and Feltro.

He shall be the salvation of that low Italy, for which Camilla the virgin, Euryalus, and Turnus, and Nisus, died of wounds;

he shall chase her through every city, till he have put her into Hell again; from which envy first set her loose.

Wherefore I think and discern this for thy best, that thou follow me; and I will be thy guide, and lead thee hence through an eternal place,

where thou shalt hear the hopeless shrieks, shalt see the ancient spirits in pain, so that each calls for a second death;

and then thou shalt see those who are contented in the fire: for they hope to come, whensoever ist be, amongst the blessed;

then to these, if thou desirest to ascend, there shall be a spirit worthier than I to guide thee; with her will I leave thee at my parting:

for that Emperor who reigns above, because I was rebellious to his law, wills not that I come into his city.

In all parts he rules and there holds sway; there is his city, and his high seat: O happy whom he chooses for it!"

And I to him: "Poet, I beseech thee by that God whom thou knowest not: in order that I may escape this ill and worse,

lead me where thou now hast said, so that I may see the Gate of St. Peter, and those whom thou makest so sad."

The he moved; and I kept on behind him.

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