Page images
PDF

And to his foes. These wretches, who ne'er lived,
Went on in nakedness, and sorely stung
By wasps and hornets, which bedewed their cheeks
With blood, that, mixed with tears, dropped to their feet,
And by disgustful worms was gathered there.

Then looking farther onwards, I beheld
A throng upon the shore of a great stream:
Whereat I thus: “Sir! grant me now to know
Whom here we view, and whence impelled they seem
So eager to pass o'er, as I discern
Through the blear light?” He thus to me in few :
“ This shalt thou know, soon as our steps arrive
Beside the woeful tide of Acheron."

Then with eyes downward cast, and filled with shame,
Fearing my words offensive to his ear,
Till we had reached the river, I from speech
Abstained. And lo! toward us in a bark
Comes on an old man, hoary white with eld,
Crying, “ Woe to you, wicked spirits! hope not
Ever to see the sky again. I come
To take you to the other shore across,
Into eternal darkness, there to dwell
In fierce heat and in ice. And thou, who there
Standest, live spirit! get thee hence, and leave
These who are dead." But soon as he beheld
I left them not, “ By other way,” said he,
“By other haven shalt thou come to shore,
Not by this passage; thee a nimbler boat
Must carry." Then to him thus spake my guide:
“ Charon! thyself torment not: so 't is willed,
Where will and power are one: ask thou no more.”

Straightway in silence fell the shaggy cheeks
Of him, the boatman o'er the livid lake,

60. That is, who never lived the true life. 86. The souls who are saved go first to the “The sinful man may truly be called dead.” shore where the Tiber falls into the sea, and are

Convito, iv. 7. thence carried over the ocean to Purgatory 66. The Acheron.

(Purg. ii. 96 ff.). This may be the reference 72. Acheron is a Greek word signifying in Charon's words. Or they might mean that “stream of woe.” According to mythology all Dante must cross the Acheron in some other souls must cross this river in order to enter Hades. way than in his boat. 77. Portitor has horrendus aquas et flumina 90. In Heaven, where God dwells who is able servat

to do whatever he wills. Cf. Hell, v. 26, where Terribili squalore Charon, cui plurima Virgil repeats the same words to Minos, and mento

Hell, vii. 10.
Canities inculta jacet; stant lumina 92.“ Vada livida.”
flamma."

Virgil, Æn. vi. 320. Virgil, Æn. vi. 298-300. “Totius ut lacûs puticæque paludis 82. “The delighted spirit

Lividissima, maximeque est profunda vorago." To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside

Catullus, xviii. 10. In thrilling regions of thick-ribbed ice.” Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, iii. 1. Cf. Milton, P. L. ii. 600.

[merged small][ocr errors]

Around whose eyes glared wheeling flames. Meanwhile
Those spirits, faint and naked, color changed,
And gnashed their teeth, soon as the cruel words
They heard. God and their parents they blasphemed,
The human kind, the place, the time, and seed,
That did engender them and give them birth.

Then all together sorely wailing drew
To the curst strand, that every man must pass
Who fears not God. Charon, demoniac form,
With eyes of burning coal, collects them all,
Beckoning, and each, that lingers, with his oar
Strikes. As fall off the light autumnal leaves,
One still another following, till the bough
Strews all its honors on the earth beneath;
E'en in like manner Adam's evil brood
Cast themselves, one by one, down from the shore,
Each at a beck, as falcon at his call.

Thus go they over through the umbered wave;
And ever they on the opposing bank
Be landed, on this side another throng
Still gathers. “Son," thus spake the courteous guide,
“ Those who die subject to the wrath of God
All here together come from every clime,
And to o'erpass the river are not loth:
For so heaven's justice goads them on, that fear
Is turned into desire. Hence ne'er hath past
Good spirit. If of thee Charon complain,
Now mayst thou know the import of his words."

This said, the gloomy region trembling shook
So terribly, that yet with clammy dews
Fear chills my brow. The sad earth gave a blast,
That, lightening, shot forth a vermilion flame,
Which all my senses conquered quite, and I
Down dropped, as one with sudden slumber seized.

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

101. Dante follows the spirit of his age 104. “Quam multa in silvis autumni frigore in conceiving the beings of mythology as

primo demons.

Lapsa cadunt folia.” 102. “His looks were dreadful, and his fiery

Virgil, Æn. vi. 309. eyes

Cf. Apol. Rhod. iv. 214. Like two great beacons glared bright 109. Richiamo in the original means the and wide."

signal — cry or lure — used by the hunter to Spenser, F. Q. vi. vii. 42. call back his bird.

110. Umbered=dark. The original is bruna. CANTO IV.

ARGUMENT.

The poet, being roused by a clap of thunder, and following his guide onwards, descends

into Limbo, which is the first circle of Hell, where he finds the souls of those, who, although they have lived virtuously and have not to suffer for great sins, nevertheless, through lack of baptism, merit not the bliss of Paradise. Hence he is led on by Virgil to descend into the second circle,

BROKE the deep slumber in my brain a crash
Of heavy thunder, that I shook myself,
As one by main force roused. Risen upright,
My rested eyes I moved around, and searched,
With fixed ken, to know what place it was
Wherein I stood. For certain, on the brink
I found me of the lamentable vale,
The dread abyss, that joins a thunderous sound
Of plaints innumerable. Dark and deep,
And thick with clouds o'erspread, mine eye in vain
Explored its bottom, nor could aught discern.

« Now let us to the blind world there beneath
Descend;" the bard began, all pale of look:
“I go the first, and thou shalt follow next.”

Then I, his altered hue perceiving, thus :
“How may I speed, if thou yieldest to dread,
Who still art wont to comfort me in doubt ?"

He then : “ The anguish of that race below
With pity stains my cheek, which thou for fear
Mistakest. Let us on. Our length of way
Urges to haste.” Onward, this said, he moved ;
And entering led me with him, on the bounds
Of the first circle that surrounds the abyss.
Here, as mine ear could note, no plaint was heard
Except of sighs, that made the eternal air
Tremble, not caused by tortures, but from grief
Felt by those multitudes, many and vast,
Of men, women, and infants. Then to me
The gentle guide: “Inquirest thou not what spirits
Are these, which thou beholdest? Ere thou pass
Farther, I would thou know, that these of sin
Were blameless; and if aught they merited,
It profits not, since baptism was not theirs,
The portal to thy faith. If they before

8. Milton, P. L. viii. 242: —

tized children, and of those virtuous men and “ But long ere our approaching heard women who lived before the birth of our Saviour. Noise, other than the sound of dance or song, 34. Instead of porta = portal, Scartazzini Torment, and loud lament, and furious rage." reads parte= part. Longfellow accepts the for23. Limbo, containing the souls of unbap- mer reading, while Professor Norton adopts the

The Gospel lived, they served not God aright;
And among such am I. For these defects,
And for no other evil, we are lost;
Only so far afflicted, that we live
Desiring without hope.” Sore grief assailed
My heart at hearing this, for well I knew
Suspended in that Limbo many a soul
Of mighty worth. “O tell me, sire revered!
Tell me, my master!" I began, through wish
Of full assurance in that holy faith
Which vanquishes all error; “say, did e'er
Any, or through his own or other's merit,
Come forth from thence, who afterward was blest?"

Piercing the secret purport of my speech,
He answered: “I was new to that estate,
When I beheld a puissant one arrive
Amongst us, with victorious trophy crowned.
He forth the shade of our first parent drew,
Abel his child, and Noah righteous man,
Of Moses lawgiver for faith approved,
Of patriarch Abraham, and David king,
Israel with his sire and with his sons,
Nor without Rachel whom so hard he won,
And others many more, whom he to bliss
Exalted. Before these, be thou assured,
No spirit of human kind was ever saved."

We, while he spake, ceased not our onward road,
Still passing through the wood; for so I name
Those spirits thick beset. We were not far
On this side from the summit, when I kenned
A flame, that o'er the darkened hemisphere
Prevailing shined. Yet we a little space
Were distant, not so far but I in part
Discovered, that a tribe in honor high
That place possessed. “O thou, who every art
And science valuest! who are these, that boast
Such honor, separate from all the rest?”

He answered: “ The renown of their great names,
That echoes through your world above, acquires

latter, translating, “baptism, which is part of 52. Adam. the faith that thou believest."

64. Summit = edge of the first circle, where 46. Other's merit = the merit of Christ. he had found himself when he awoke. Another

48. Dante has alluded to the descent of Christ reading is sonno instead of sommo, which Prointo Hell, but did not mention it directly. fessor Norton adopts and translates, “ from where Virgil, however, understands his meaning. I slept.” Longfellow's translation agrees with

49. Virgil died 19 B.C. He had therefore Cary's. been in Limbo fifty years, when Christ came to 70. The original onori is better translated by free the Saints and Patriarchs of the old dispen- the word honorest, the term used by both sation.

Longfellow and Norton. Value in the sense 50. Our Saviour.

of “to cause to have value” is obsolete.

Favor in heaven, which holds them thus advanced.”
Meantime a voice I heard : “Honor the bard
Sublime! his shade returns, that left us late!”'
No sooner ceased the sound, than I beheld
Four mighty spirits toward us bend their steps,
Of semblance neither sorrowful nor glad.

When thus my master kind began : “ Mark him,
Who in his right hand bears that falchion keen,
The other three preceding, as their lord.
This is that Homer, of all bards supreme:
Flaccus the next, in satire's vein excelling;
The third is Naso; Lucan is the last.
Because they all that appellation own,
With which the voice singly accosted me,
Honoring they greet me thus, and well they judge."

So I beheld united the bright school
Of him the monarch of sublimest song,
That o'er the others like an eagle soars.

When they together short discourse had held,
They turned to me, with salutation kind
Beckoning me; at the which my master smiled :
Nor was this all; but greater honor still
They gave me, for they made me of their tribe;
And I was sixth amid so learned a band.

Far as the luminous beacon on we passed
Speaking of matters, then befitting well
To speak, now fitter left untold. At foot
Of a magnificent castle we arrived,
Seven times with lofty walls begirt, and round
Defended by a pleasant stream. O'er this
As o'er dry land we passed. Next, through seven gates,
I with those sages entered, and we came
Into a mead with lively verdure fresh.

There dwelt a race, who slow their eyes around
Majestically moved, and in their port
Bore eminent authority; they spake
Seldom, but all their words were tuneful sweet.

We to one side retired, into a place
Open and bright and lofty, whence each one

110

Tad

79. “She nas to sober ne to glad.”

86. The name of “bard sublime," see line 75. Chaucer's Dream. 90. Homer. 81. The falchion is the symbol of war 97. He is conscious of his own genius. sung by Homer. The works of the latter had 100. The things talked of there were complinot yet been translated into Latin, and Dante mentary to Dante, hence not proper to be was ignorant of Greek. He knew Homer repeated by him. chiefly through the references in Aristotle. 101. Symbol of human knowledge.

84. The original. has simply, Orazio satiro, 102. The seven cardinal virtues. Horace the satirist.

103. The stream is the emblem of eloquence. 85. Original = Ovidio. Naso (like Flaccus 104. The seven liberal arts, forming the quadabove) is an antiquated term.

rivium and the trivium.

« PreviousContinue »