The Divine Comedy of Dante
Translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The Divine Comedy of Dante by H. W. Longfellow
August, 1997 [Etext #1004]
This etext was prepared by Dennis McCarthy, Atlanta, GA.
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This etext was prepared by Dennis McCarthy, Atlanta, GA.
THE DIVINE COMEDY
OF DANTE ALIGHIERI
HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW
The base text for this edition has been provided by Digital Dante,
a project sponsored by Columbia University's Institute for Learning
Technologies. Specific thanks goes to Jennifer Hogan (Project
Editor/Director), Tanya Larkin (Assistant to Editor), Robert W. Cole
(Proofreader/Assistant Editor), and Jennifer Cook (Proofreader).
The Digital Dante Project is a digital 'study space' for Dante studies and
scholarship. The project is multi-faceted and fluid by nature of the Web.
Digital Dante attempts to organize the information most significant for
students first engaging with Dante and scholars researching Dante. The
digital of Digital Dante incurs a new challenge to the student, the
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technology and delve into the content. For more information and access to
the project, please visit its web site at:
For this Project Gutenberg edition the e-text was rechecked. The editor
greatly thanks Dian McCarthy for her assistance in proofreading the
Paradiso. Also deserving praise are Herbert Fann for programming the text
editor "Desktop Tools/Edit" and the late August Dvorak for designing his
keyboard layout. Please refer to Project Gutenberg's e-text listings for
other editions or translations of 'The Divine Comedy.' Please refer to
the end of this file for supplemental materials.
Dennis McCarthy, July 1997
Incipit Comoedia Dantis Alagherii,
Florentini natione, non moribus.
The Divine Comedy
translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
(e-text courtesy ILT's Digital Dante Project)
Inferno: Canto V
Thus I descended out of the first circle
Down to the second, that less space begirds,
And so much greater dole, that goads to wailing.
There standeth Minos horribly, and snarls;
Examines the transgressions at the entrance;
Judges, and sends according as he girds him.
I say, that when the spirit evil-born
Cometh before him, wholly it confesses;
And this discriminator of transgressions
Seeth what place in Hell is meet for it;
Girds himself with his tail as many times
As grades he wishes it should be thrust down.
Always before him many of them stand;
They go by turns each one unto the judgment;
They speak, and hear, and then are downward hurled.
"O thou, that to this dolorous hostelry
Comest," said Minos to me, when he saw me,
Leaving the practice of so great an office,
"Look how thou enterest, and in whom thou trustest;
Let not the portal's amplitude deceive thee."
And unto him my Guide: "Why criest thou too?
Do not impede his journey fate-ordained;
It is so willed there where is power to do
That which is willed; and ask no further question."
And now begin the dolesome notes to grow
Audible unto me; now am I come
There where much lamentation strikes upon me.
I came into a place mute of all light,
Which bellows as the sea does in a tempest,
If by opposing winds 't is combated.
The infernal hurricane that never rests
Hurtles the spirits onward in its rapine;
Whirling them round, and smiting, it molests them.
When they arrive before the precipice,
There are the shrieks, the plaints, and the laments,
There they blaspheme the puissance divine.
I understood that unto such a torment
The carnal malefactors were condemned,
Who reason subjugate to appetite.
And as the wings of starlings bear them on
In the cold season in large band and full,
So doth that blast the spirits maledict;
It hither, thither, downward, upward, drives them;
No hope doth comfort them for evermore,
Not of repose, but even of lesser pain.
And as the cranes go chanting forth their lays,
Making in air a long line of themselves,
So saw I coming, uttering lamentations,
Shadows borne onward by the aforesaid stress.
Whereupon said I: "Master, who are those
People, whom the black air so castigates?"
"The first of those, of whom intelligence
Thou fain wouldst have," then said he unto me,
"The empress was of many languages.
To sensual vices she was so abandoned,
That lustful she made licit in her law,
To remove the blame to which she had been led.
She is Semiramis, of whom we read
That she succeeded Ninus, and was his spouse;
She held the land which now the Sultan rules.
The next is she who killed herself for love,
And broke faith with the ashes of Sichaeus;
Then Cleopatra the voluptuous."
Helen I saw, for whom so many ruthless
Seasons revolved; and saw the great Achilles,
Who at the last hour combated with Love.
Paris I saw, Tristan; and more than a thousand
Shades did he name and point out with his finger,
Whom Love had separated from our life.
After that I had listened to my Teacher,
Naming the dames of eld and cavaliers,
Pity prevailed, and I was nigh bewildered.
And I began: "O Poet, willingly
Speak would I to those two, who go together,
And seem upon the wind to be so light."
And, he to me: "Thou'lt mark, when they shall be
Nearer to us; and then do thou implore them
By love which leadeth them, and they will come."
Soon as the wind in our direction sways them,
My voice uplift I: "O ye weary souls!
Come speak to us, if no one interdicts it."
As turtle-doves, called onward by desire,
With open and steady wings to the sweet nest
Fly through the air by their volition borne,
So came they from the band where Dido is,
Approaching us athwart the air malign,
So strong was the affectionate appeal.
"O living creature gracious and benignant,
Who visiting goest through the purple air
Us, who have stained the world incarnadine,
If were the King of the Universe our friend,
We would pray unto him to give thee peace,
Since thou hast pity on our woe perverse.
Of what it pleases thee to hear and speak,
That will we hear, and we will speak to you,
While silent is the wind, as it is now.
Sitteth the city, wherein I was born,
Upon the sea-shore where the Po descends
To rest in peace with all his retinue.
Love, that on gentle heart doth swiftly seize,
Seized this man for the person beautiful
That was ta'en from me, and still the mode offends me.
Love, that exempts no one beloved from loving,
Seized me with pleasure of this man so strongly,
That, as thou seest, it doth not yet desert me;
Love has conducted us unto one death;
Caina waiteth him who quenched our life!"
These words were borne along from them to us.
As soon as I had heard those souls tormented,
I bowed my face, and so long held it down
Until the Poet said to me: "What thinkest?"
When I made answer, I began: "Alas!
How many pleasant thoughts, how much desire,
Conducted these unto the dolorous pass!"
Then unto them I turned me, and I spake,
And I began: "Thine agonies, Francesca,
Sad and compassionate to weeping make me.
But tell me, at the time of those sweet sighs,
By what and in what manner Love conceded,
That you should know your dubious desires?"
And she to me: "There is no greater sorrow
Than to be mindful of the happy time
In misery, and that thy Teacher knows.
But, if to recognise the earliest root
Of love in us thou hast so great desire,
I will do even as he who weeps and speaks.
One day we reading were for our delight
Of Launcelot, how Love did him enthral.
Alone we were and without any fear.
Full many a time our eyes together drew
That reading, and drove the colour from our faces;
But one point only was it that o'ercame us.
When as we read of the much-longed-for smile
Being by such a noble lover kissed,
This one, who ne'er from me shall be divided,
Kissed me upon the mouth all palpitating.
Galeotto was the book and he who wrote it.
That day no farther did we read therein."
And all the while one spirit uttered this,
The other one did weep so, that, for pity,
I swooned away as if I had been dying,
And fell, even as a dead body falls.
Purgatorio: Canto I
To run o'er better waters hoists its sail
The little vessel of my genius now,
That leaves behind itself a sea so cruel;
And of that second kingdom will I sing
Wherein the human spirit doth purge itself,
And to ascend to heaven becometh worthy.
But let dead Poesy here rise again,
O holy Muses, since that I am yours,
And here Calliope somewhat ascend,
My song accompanying with that sound,
Of which the miserable magpies felt
The blow so great, that they despaired of pardon.
Sweet colour of the oriental sapphire,
That was upgathered in the cloudless aspect
Of the pure air, as far as the first circle,
Unto mine eyes did recommence delight
Soon as I issued forth from the dead air,
Which had with sadness filled mine eyes and breast.
The beauteous planet, that to love incites,
Was making all the orient to laugh,
Veiling the Fishes that were in her escort.
To the right hand I turned, and fixed my mind
Upon the other pole, and saw four stars
Ne'er seen before save by the primal people.
Rejoicing in their flamelets seemed the heaven.
O thou septentrional and widowed site,
Because thou art deprived of seeing these!
When from regarding them I had withdrawn,
Turning a little to the other pole,
There where the Wain had disappeared already,
I saw beside me an old man alone,
Worthy of so much reverence in his look,
That more owes not to father any son.
A long beard and with white hair intermingled
He wore, in semblance like unto the tresses,
Of which a double list fell on his breast.
The rays of the four consecrated stars
Did so adorn his countenance with light,
That him I saw as were the sun before him.
"Who are you? ye who, counter the blind river,
Have fled away from the eternal prison?"
Moving those venerable plumes, he said:
"Who guided you? or who has been your lamp
In issuing forth out of the night profound,
That ever black makes the infernal valley?
The laws of the abyss, are they thus broken?
Or is there changed in heaven some council new,
That being damned ye come unto my crags?"
Then did my Leader lay his grasp upon me,
And with his words, and with his hands and signs,
Reverent he made in me my knees and brow;
Then answered him: "I came not of myself;
A Lady from Heaven descended, at whose prayers
I aided this one with my company.
But since it is thy will more be unfolded
Of our condition, how it truly is,
Mine cannot be that this should be denied thee.
This one has never his last evening seen,
But by his folly was so near to it
That very little time was there to turn.
As I have said, I unto him was sent
To rescue him, and other way was none
Than this to which I have myself betaken.
I've shown him all the people of perdition,
And now those spirits I intend to show
Who purge themselves beneath thy guardianship.
How I have brought him would be long to tell thee.
Virtue descendeth from on high that aids me
To lead him to behold thee and to hear thee.
Now may it please thee to vouchsafe his coming;
He seeketh Liberty, which is so dear,
As knoweth he who life for her refuses.
Thou know'st it; since, for her, to thee not bitter
Was death in Utica, where thou didst leave
The vesture, that will shine so, the great day.
By us the eternal edicts are not broken;
Since this one lives, and Minos binds not me;
But of that circle I, where are the chaste
Eyes of thy Marcia, who in looks still prays thee,
O holy breast, to hold her as thine own;
For her love, then, incline thyself to us.
Permit us through thy sevenfold realm to go;
I will take back this grace from thee to her,
If to be mentioned there below thou deignest."
"Marcia so pleasing was unto mine eyes
While I was on the other side," then said he,
"That every grace she wished of me I granted;
Now that she dwells beyond the evil river,
She can no longer move me, by that law
Which, when I issued forth from there, was made.
But if a Lady of Heaven do move and rule thee,
As thou dost say, no flattery is needful;
Let it suffice thee that for her thou ask me.
Go, then, and see thou gird this one about
With a smooth rush, and that thou wash his face,
So that thou cleanse away all stain therefrom,
For 'twere not fitting that the eye o'ercast
By any mist should go before the first
Angel, who is of those of Paradise.
This little island round about its base
Below there, yonder, where the billow beats it,
Doth rushes bear upon its washy ooze;
No other plant that putteth forth the leaf,
Or that doth indurate, can there have life,
Because it yieldeth not unto the shocks.
Thereafter be not this way your return;
The sun, which now is rising, will direct you
To take the mount by easier ascent."
With this he vanished; and I raised me up
Without a word, and wholly drew myself
Unto my Guide, and turned mine eyes to him.
And he began: "Son, follow thou my steps;
Let us turn back, for on this side declines
The plain unto its lower boundaries."
The dawn was vanquishing the matin hour
Which fled before it, so that from afar
I recognised the trembling of the sea.
Along the solitary plain we went
As one who unto the lost road returns,
And till he finds it seems to go in vain.
As soon as we were come to where the dew
Fights with the sun, and, being in a part
Where shadow falls, little evaporates,
Both of his hands upon the grass outspread
In gentle manner did my Master place;
Whence I, who of his action was aware,
Extended unto him my tearful cheeks;
There did he make in me uncovered wholly
That hue which Hell had covered up in me.
Then came we down upon the desert shore
Which never yet saw navigate its waters
Any that afterward had known return.
There he begirt me as the other pleased;
O marvellous! for even as he culled
The humble plant, such it sprang up again
Suddenly there where he uprooted it.
Paradiso: Canto III
That Sun, which erst with love my bosom warmed,
Of beauteous truth had unto me discovered,
By proving and reproving, the sweet aspect.
And, that I might confess myself convinced
And confident, so far as was befitting,
I lifted more erect my head to speak.
But there appeared a vision, which withdrew me
So close to it, in order to be seen,
That my confession I remembered not.
Such as through polished and transparent glass,
Or waters crystalline and undisturbed,
But not so deep as that their bed be lost,
Come back again the outlines of our faces
So feeble, that a pearl on forehead white
Comes not less speedily unto our eyes;
Such saw I many faces prompt to speak,
So that I ran in error opposite
To that which kindled love 'twixt man and fountain.
As soon as I became aware of them,
Esteeming them as mirrored semblances,
To see of whom they were, mine eyes I turned,
And nothing saw, and once more turned them forward
Direct into the light of my sweet Guide,
Who smiling kindled in her holy eyes.
"Marvel thou not," she said to me, "because
I smile at this thy puerile conceit,
Since on the truth it trusts not yet its foot,
But turns thee, as 'tis wont, on emptiness.
True substances are these which thou beholdest,
Here relegate for breaking of some vow.
Therefore speak with them, listen and believe;
For the true light, which giveth peace to them,
Permits them not to turn from it their feet."
And I unto the shade that seemed most wishful
To speak directed me, and I began,
As one whom too great eagerness bewilders:
"O well-created spirit, who in the rays
Of life eternal dost the sweetness taste
Which being untasted ne'er is comprehended,
Grateful 'twill be to me, if thou content me
Both with thy name and with your destiny."
Whereat she promptly and with laughing eyes:
"Our charity doth never shut the doors
Against a just desire, except as one
Who wills that all her court be like herself.
I was a virgin sister in the world;
And if thy mind doth contemplate me well,
The being more fair will not conceal me from thee,
But thou shalt recognise I am Piccarda,
Who, stationed here among these other blessed,
Myself am blessed in the slowest sphere.
All our affections, that alone inflamed
Are in the pleasure of the Holy Ghost,
Rejoice at being of his order formed;
And this allotment, which appears so low,
Therefore is given us, because our vows
Have been neglected and in some part void."
Whence I to her: "In your miraculous aspects
There shines I know not what of the divine,
Which doth transform you from our first conceptions.
Therefore I was not swift in my remembrance;
But what thou tellest me now aids me so,
That the refiguring is easier to me.
But tell me, ye who in this place are happy,
Are you desirous of a higher place,
To see more or to make yourselves more friends?"
First with those other shades she smiled a little;
Thereafter answered me so full of gladness,
She seemed to burn in the first fire of love:
"Brother, our will is quieted by virtue
Of charity, that makes us wish alone
For what we have, nor gives us thirst for more.
If to be more exalted we aspired,
Discordant would our aspirations be
Unto the will of Him who here secludes us;
Which thou shalt see finds no place in these circles,
If being in charity is needful here,
And if thou lookest well into its nature;
Nay, 'tis essential to this blest existence
To keep itself within the will divine,
Whereby our very wishes are made one;
So that, as we are station above station
Throughout this realm, to all the realm 'tis pleasing,
As to the King, who makes his will our will.
And his will is our peace; this is the sea
To which is moving onward whatsoever
It doth create, and all that nature makes."
Then it was clear to me how everywhere
In heaven is Paradise, although the grace
Of good supreme there rain not in one measure.
But as it comes to pass, if one food sates,
And for another still remains the longing,
We ask for this, and that decline with thanks,
E'en thus did I; with gesture and with word,
To learn from her what was the web wherein
She did not ply the shuttle to the end.
"A perfect life and merit high in-heaven
A lady o'er us," said she, "by whose rule
Down in your world they vest and veil themselves,
That until death they may both watch and sleep
Beside that Spouse who every vow accepts
Which charity conformeth to his pleasure.
To follow her, in girlhood from the world
I fled, and in her habit shut myself,
And pledged me to the pathway of her sect.
Then men accustomed unto evil more
Than unto good, from the sweet cloister tore me;
God knows what afterward my life became.
This other splendour, which to thee reveals
Itself on my right side, and is enkindled
With all the illumination of our sphere,
What of myself I say applies to her;
A nun was she, and likewise from her head
Was ta'en the shadow of the sacred wimple.
But when she too was to the world returned
Against her wishes and against good usage,
Of the heart's veil she never was divested.
Of great Costanza this is the effulgence,
Who from the second wind of Suabia
Brought forth the third and latest puissance."
Thus unto me she spake, and then began
"Ave Maria" singing, and in singing
Vanished, as through deep water something heavy.
My sight, that followed her as long a time
As it was possible, when it had lost her
Turned round unto the mark of more desire,
And wholly unto Beatrice reverted;
But she such lightnings flashed into mine eyes,
That at the first my sight endured it not;
And this in questioning more backward made me.