Dante Alighieri - La Divina Commedia - Inferno - Canto 01
Robert M. Durling - The Divine Comedy - Inferno - Canto 01

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

Ah, how hard a thing it is to say what that wood was, so savage and harsh and strong that the thought of it renews my fear!

It is so bitter that death is little more so! But to treat of the good that I found there, I will tell of the other things I saw.

I cannot really say how I entered there, so full of sleep was I at the point when I abandoned the true way.

But when I had reached the foot of a hill, where the valley ended that had pierced my heart with fear,

I looked on high and saw its shoulders clothed already with the rays of the planet that leads us straight on every path.

Then was the fear a little quieted that in the lake of my heart had lasted through the night I passed with so much anguish.

And like one with laboring breath, come forth out of the deep onto the shore, who turns back to the perilous water and stares:

so my spirit, still fleeing, turned back to gaze again at the pass that has never yet left anyone alive.

After I had a little rested my weary body, I took my way again along that deserted slope, so that my halted foot was always the lower.

And behold, almost at the beginning of the steep, a leopard, light and very swift, covered with spotted fur;

and it did not depart from before my face but rather so impeded my way that I was at several turns turned to go back.

The time was the beginning of the morning, and the sun was mounting up with those stars that were with it when God's love

first set those lovely things in motion; so that I took reason to have good hope of that beast with its gaily painted hide

from the hour of the morning and the sweet season; but not so that I did not fear the sight of a lion that appeared to me.

He appeared to be coming against me with his head high and with raging hunger, so that the air appeard to tremble at him.

And a she-wolf, that seemed laden with all cravings in her leanness and has caused many peoples to live in wretchedness,

she put on me so much heaviness with the fear that came from the sight of her, that I lost hope of reaching the heights.

And like one who gladly acquires, and the time arrives that makes him lose, who in all of his thoughts weeps and becomes sad:

so she made me, that restless beast, who, coming against me, litle by little was driving me back to where the sun is silent.

While I was falling down into a low place, before my eyes one had offered himself to me who through long silence seemed hoarse.

When I saw him in the great wilderness, "Miserere - on me," I cried to him, "whatever you may be, whether shade or true man!"

He replied: "Not a man, I was formerly a man, and my parents were Lombards, Mantuans both by birth.

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

I was a poet, and I sang of that just son of Anchises who came from Troy, when proud Ilion was destroyed by fire.

But you, why do you return to so much suffering? why do you not climb the delightful mountain that is origin and cause of all joy?"

"Now are you that Virgil, that fountain which spreads forth so broad a river of speech?" I replied with shamefast brow.

"O honor and lght of the other poets, let my long study and great love avail me, that has caused me to search through your volume.

You are my master and my author, you alone are he from whom I have taken the pleasing style that has won me honor.

See the beast for which I have turned back: help me against her, famous sage, for she makes my veins and pulses tremble."

"You must hold to another path," he replied, after he saw me weep, "if you wish to escape from this savage place;

for this beast at which you cry out lets no one pass by her way, but so much impedes him that she kills him;

and she has a nature so evil and cruel that her greedy desire is never satisfied, and after feeding she is hungrier than before.

Many are the animals with whom she mates, and there will be more still, until the greyhound shall come, who will make her die in pain.

He will feed on neither earth nor pelf, but on wisdom, love, and power, and his birth will be between felt and felt.

He will be the savior of that humble Italy for which the virgin Camilla died of her wounds, and Euryalus, Turnus, and Nisus.

He will drive her from every town until he has put her back in Hell, whence envy first sent her forth.

Thus for your good I think and judge that you shall follow me, and I shall be your guide, and I will lead you from here through an eternal place,

where you will hear the desperate shrieks, you will see the ancient suffering spirits, who all cry out at the second death;

and you will see those who are content in the fire, because they hope to come, whenever it may be, to the blessed people.

To whom then if you shall wish to rise, there will be a soul more worthy of that than I; with her I shall leave you when I depart;

for that Emperor who reigns on high, because I was a rebel to his law, wills not that I come into his city.

In every place he commands, and there he rules; there is his city and high throne: O happy the one he chooses to be there!"

And I to him: "Poet, I beg you by that God whom you did not know, so that I may flee this evil and worse,

that you lead me where you have just now said, so that I may see the gate of Saint Peter and those whom you call so woebegone."

The me moved, and I followed after him.

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