Page images
PDF

Then stretched I forth my hand a little forward,
And plucked a branchlet off from a great thorn;
And the trunk cried, “Why dost thou mangle me?”
After it had become embrowned with blood,
It recommenced its cry: “Why dost thou rend me?
Hast thou no spirit of pity whatsoever ?
Men once we were, and now are changed to trees;
Indeed, thy hand should be more pitiful,
Even if the souls of serpents we had been.”
As out of a green brand, that is on fire
At one of the ends, and from the other drips
And hisses with the wind that is escaping;
So from that splinter issued forth together
Both words and blood; whereat I let the tip
Fall, and stood like a man who is afraid.
* Had he been able sooner to believe,”
My Sage made answer, “O thou wounded soul,
What only in my verses he has seen,
Not upon thee had he stretched forth his hand;
Whereas the thing incredible has caused me
To put him to an act which grieveth me.
But tell him who thou wast, so that by way
Of some amends thy fame he may refresh
Up in the world, to which he can return.”
And the trunk said: “So thy sweet words allure me,
I cannot silent be ; and you be vexed not,
That I a little to discourse am tempted.
I am the one who both keys had in keeping
Of Frederick's heart, and turned them to and fro
So softly in unlocking and in locking,
That from his secrets most men I withheld;
Fidelity I bore the glorious office
So great, I lost thereby my sleep and pulses.
The courtesan who never from the dwelling
Of Caesar turned aside her strumpet eyes,
Death universal and the vice of courts,
Inflamed against me all the other minds,
And they, inflamed, did so inflame Augustus,
That my glad honours turned to dismal mournings.
My spirit, in disdainful exultation,
Thinking by dying to escape disdain,
Made me unjust against myself, the just.
I, by the roots unwonted of this wood,
Do swear to you that never broke I faith
Unto my lord, who was so worthy of honour;

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

And to the world if one of you return,
Let him my memory comfort, which is lying
Still prostrate from the blow that envy dealt it.”
Waited awhile, and then : “Since he is silent,”
The Poet said to me, “lose not the time,
But speak, and question him, if more may please thee."
Whence I to him : “Do thou again inquire
Concerning what thou thinks’t will satisfy me;
For I cannot, such pity is in my heart.”
Therefore he recommenced : “So may the man
Do for thee freely what thy speech implores,
Spirit incarcerate, again be pleased
To tell us in what way the soul is bound
Within these knots; and tell us, if thou canst,
If any from such members e'er is freed.”
Then blew the trunk amain, and afterward
The wind was into such a voice converted :
“With brevity shall be replied to you.
When the exasperated soul abandons
The body whence it rent itself away,
Minos consigns it to the seventh abyss.
It falls into the forest, and no part
Is chosen for it; but where Fortune hurls it,
There like a grain of spelt it germinates.
It springs a sapling, and a forest tree;
The Harpies, feeding then upon its leaves,
Do pain create, and for the pain an outlet.
Like others for our spoils shall we return ;
But not that any one may them revest,
For ’tis not just to have what one casts off.
Here we shall drag them, and along the dismal
Forest our bodies shall suspended be,
Each to the thorn of his molested shade.”
We were attentive still unto the trunk,
Thinking that more it yet might wish to tell us,
When by a tumult we were overtaken,
In the same way as he is who perceives
The boar and chase approaching to his stand,
Who hears the crashing of the beasts and branches;
And two behold ! upon our left-hand side,
Naked and scratched, fleeing so furiously,
That of the forest every fan they broke.
He who was in advance: “Now help, Death, help !”
And the other one, who seemed to lag too much,
Was shouting: “Lano, were not so alert

[ocr errors][merged small]

Those legs of thine at joustings of the Toppo l’
And then, perchance because his breath was failing.
He grouped himself together with a bush.
Behind them was the forest full of black
She-mastiffs, ravenous, and swift of foot 125
As greyhounds, who are issuing from the chain.
On him who had crouched down they set their teeth,
And him they lacerated piece by piece,
Thereafter bore away those aching members.
Thereat my Escort took me by the hand, 130
And led me to the bush, that all in vain
Was weeping from its bloody lacerations.
“O Jacopo,” it said, “ of Sant' Andrea,
What helped it thee of me to make a screen P
What blame have I in thy nefarious life?” 133
When near him had the Master stayed his steps,
He said: “Who wast thou, that through wounds so many
Art blowing out with blood thy dolorous speech P”
And he to us: “O souls, that hither come
To look upon the shameful massacre 14c.
That has so rent away from me my leaves,
Gafner them up beneath the dismal bush;
I of that city was which to the Baptist
Changed its first patron, wherefore he for this
Forever with his art will make it sad. 143
And were it not that on the pass of Arno
Some glimpses of him are remaining still,
Those citizens, who afterwards rebuilt it
Upon the ashes left by Attila,
In vain had caused their labour to be done. too
Of my own house I made myself a gibbet.”

CANTO XIV.

BECAUSE the charity of my native place
Constrained me, gathered I the scattered leaves,
And gave them back to him, who now was hoarse.

Then came we to the confine, where disparted
The second round is from the third, and where *
A horrible form of Justice is beheld.

Clearly to manifest these novel things,
I say that we arrived upon a plain,
Which from its bed rejecteth every plant;

The dolorous forest is a garland to it
All round about, as the sad moat to that ;
There close upon the edge we stayed our feet.
I he soil was of an arid and thick sand,
Not of another fashion made than that
Which by the feet of Cato once was pressed.
Vengeance of God, O how much oughtest thou
By each one to be dreaded, who doth read
That which was manifest unto mine eyes |
Of naked souls beheld I many herds,
Who all were weeping very miserably,
And over them seemed set a law diverse.
Supine upon the ground some folk were lying ;
And some were sitting all drawn up together,
And others went about continually.
Those who were going round were far the more,
And those were less who lay down to their torment,
But had their tongues more loosed to lamentation.
O'er all the sand-waste, with a gradual fall,
Were raining down dilated flakes of fire,
As of the snow on Alp without a wind.
As Alexander, in those torrid parts
Of India, beheld upon his host -
Flames fall unbroken till they reached the ground,
Whence he provided with his phalanxes
To trample down the soil, because the vapour
Better extinguished was while it was single ;
Thus was descending the eternal heat,
Whereby the sand was set on fire, like tinder
Beneath the steel, for doubling of the dole.
Without repose forever was the dance
Of miserable hands, now there, now here,
Shaking away from off them the fresh gleeds.
“Master,” began I, “thou who overcomest
All things except the demons dire, that issued
Against us at the entrance of the gate,
Who is that mighty one who seems to heed not
The fire, and lieth lowering and disdainful,
So that the rain seems not to ripen him P”
And he himself, who had become aware
That I was questioning my Guide about him,
Cried : “Such as I was living, am I, dead!
If Jove should weary out his smith, from whom
He seized in anger the sharp thunderbolt,
Wherewith upon the last day I was smitten,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

And if he wearied out by turns the others
In Mongibello at the swarthy forge,
Vociferating, ‘Help, good Vulcan, help !’
Even as he did there at the fight of Phlegra,
And shot his bolts at me with all his might,
He would not have thereby a joyous vengeance.”
Then did my Leader speak with such great force,
That I had never heard him speak so loud :
“O Capaneus, in that is not extinguished
Thine arrogance, thou punished art the more ;
Not any torment, saving thine own rage,
Would be unto thy fury pain complete.”
Then he turned round to me with better lip,
Saying: “One of the Seven Kings was he
Who Thebes besieged, and held, and seems to hold
God in disdain, and little seems to prize him;
But, as I said to him, his own despites
Are for his breast the fittest ornaments.
Now follow me, and mind thou do not place
As yet thy feet upon the burning sand,
But always keep them close unto the wood.”
Speaking no word, we came to where there gushes
Forth from the wood a little rivulet,
Whose redness makes my hair still stand on end.
As from the Bulicamé springs the brooklet,
The sinful women later share among them,
So downward through the sand it went its way.
The bottom of it, and both sloping banks,
Were made of stone, and the margins at the side;
Whence I perceived that there the passage was.
“In all the rest which I have shown to thee
Since we have entered in within the gate
Whose threshold unto no one is denied,
Nothing has been discovered by thine eyes
So notable as is the present river,
Which all the little flames above it quenches.”
These words were of my Leader; whence I prayed him
That he would give me largess of the food,
For which he had given me largess of desire.
“In the mid-sea there sits a wasted land,”
Said he thereafterward, “whose name is Crete,
Under whose king the world of old was chaste.
There is a mountain there, that once was glad
With waters and with leaves, which was called Ida;
Now 'tis deserted, as a thing worn out.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »