The Divine Comedy

Dante Alighieri
Culture Club / Getty Images

The Gate of Hell. The Inefficient or Indifferent. Pope Celestine V. The Shores of Acheron. Charon. The Earthquake and the Swoon.

 

«Per me si va ne la città dolente,
per me si va ne l’etterno dolore,
per me si va tra la perduta gente.

Giustizia mosse il mio alto fattore;
fecemi la divina podestate,
la somma sapïenza e ’l primo amore.

Dinanzi a me non fuor cose create
se non etterne, e io etterno duro.
Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate’.

Queste parole di colore oscuro10
vid’ ïo scritte al sommo d’una porta;
per ch’io: «Maestro, il senso lor m’è duro».

Ed elli a me, come persona accorta:
«Qui si convien lasciare ogne sospetto;
ogne viltà convien che qui sia morta.

Noi siam venuti al loco ov’ i’ t’ho detto
che tu vedrai le genti dolorose
c’hanno perduto il ben de l’intelletto».

E poi che la sua mano a la mia puose
con lieto volto, ond’ io mi confortai,20
mi mise dentro a le segrete cose.

Quivi sospiri, pianti e alti guai
risonavan per l’aere sanza stelle,
per ch’io al cominciar ne lagrimai.

Diverse lingue, orribili favelle,
parole di dolore, accenti d’ira,
voci alte e fioche, e suon di man con elle

facevano un tumulto, il qual s’aggira
sempre in quell’ aura sanza tempo tinta,
come la rena quando turbo spira.30

E io ch’avea d’error la testa cinta,
dissi: «Maestro, che è quel ch’i’ odo?
e che gent’ è che par nel duol sì vinta?».

Ed elli a me: «Questo misero modo
tegnon l’anime triste di coloro
che visser sanza ’nfamia e sanza lodo.

Mischiate sono a quel cattivo coro
de li angeli che non furon ribelli
né fur fedeli a Dio, ma per sé fuoro.

Caccianli i ciel per non esser men belli,40
né lo profondo inferno li riceve,
ch’alcuna gloria i rei avrebber d’elli».

E io: «Maestro, che è tanto greve
a lor che lamentar li fa sÌ forte?».
Rispuose: «Dicerolti molto breve.

Questi non hanno speranza di morte,
e la lor cieca vita è tanto bassa,
che ’nvidïosi son d’ogne altra sorte.

Fama di loro il mondo esser non lassa;
misericordia e giustizia li sdegna:50
non ragioniam di lor, ma guarda e passa».

E io, che riguardai, vidi una ’nsegna
che girando correva tanto ratta,
che d’ogne posa mi parea indegna;

e dietro le venìa sì lunga tratta
di gente, ch’i’ non averei creduto
che morte tanta n’avesse disfatta.

Poscia ch’io v’ebbi alcun riconosciuto,
vidi e conobbi l’ombra di colui
che fece per viltade il gran rifiuto.60

Incontanente intesi e certo fui
che questa era la setta d’i cattivi,
a Dio spiacenti e a’ nemici sui.

Questi sciaurati, che mai non fur vivi,
erano ignudi e stimolati molto
da mosconi e da vespe ch’eran ivi.

Elle rigavan lor di sangue il volto,
che, mischiato di lagrime, a’ lor piedi
da fastidiosi vermi era ricolto.

E poi ch’a riguardar oltre mi diedi,70
vidi genti a la riva d’un gran fiume;
per ch’io dissi: «Maestro, or mi concedi

ch’i’ sappia quali sono, e qual costume
le fa di trapassar parer sì pronte,
com’ i’ discerno per lo fioco lume».

Ed elli a me: «Le cose ti fier conte
quando noi fermerem li nostri passi
su la trista riviera d’Acheronte».

Allor con li occhi vergognosi e bassi,
temendo no ’l mio dir li fosse grave,80
infino al fiume del parlar mi trassi.

Ed ecco verso noi venir per nave
un vecchio, bianco per antico pelo,
gridando: «Guai a voi, anime prave!

Non isperate mai veder lo cielo:
i’ vegno per menarvi a l’altra riva
ne le tenebre etterne, in caldo e ’n gelo.

E tu che se’ costì, anima viva,
pàrtiti da cotesti che son morti».
Ma poi che vide ch’io non mi partiva,90

disse: «Per altra via, per altri porti
verrai a piaggia, non qui, per passare:
più lieve legno convien che ti porti».

E ’l duca lui: «Caron, non ti crucciare:
vuolsi così colà dove si puote
ciò che si vuole, e più non dimandare».

Quinci fuor quete le lanose gote
al nocchier de la livida palude,
che ’ntorno a li occhi avea di fiamme rote.

Ma quell’ anime, ch’eran lasse e nude,100
cangiar colore e dibattero i denti,
ratto che ’nteser le parole crude.

Bestemmiavano Dio e lor parenti,
l’umana spezie e ’l loco e ’l tempo e ’l seme
di lor semenza e di lor nascimenti.

Poi si ritrasser tutte quante insieme,
forte piangendo, a la riva malvagia
ch’attende ciascun uom che Dio non teme.

Caron dimonio, con occhi di bragia
loro accennando, tutte le raccoglie;110
batte col remo qualunque s’adagia.

Come d’autunno si levan le foglie
l’una appresso de l’altra, fin che ’l ramo
vede a la terra tutte le sue spoglie,

similemente il mal seme d’Adamo
gittansi di quel lito ad una ad una,
per cenni come augel per suo richiamo.

CosÌ sen vanno su per l’onda bruna,
e avanti che sien di là discese,
anche di qua nuova schiera s’auna.120

«Figliuol mio», disse ’l maestro cortese,
«quelli che muoion ne l’ira di Dio
tutti convegnon qui d’ogne paese;

e pronti sono a trapassar lo rio,
ché la divina giustizia li sprona,
sì che la tema si volve in disio.

Quinci non passa mai anima buona;
e però, se Caron di te si lagna,
ben puoi sapere omai che ’l suo dir suona».

Finito questo, la buia campagna130
tremò sÌ forte, che de lo spavento
la mente di sudore ancor mi bagna.

La terra lagrimosa diede vento,
che balenò una luce vermiglia
la qual mi vinse ciascun sentimento;

e caddi come l’uom cui sonno piglia.

 

"Through me the way is to the city dolent;
Through me the way is to eternal dole;
Through me the way among the people lost.

Justice incited my sublime Creator;
Created me divine Omnipotence,
The highest Wisdom and the primal Love.

Before me there were no created things,
Only eterne, and I eternal last.
All hope abandon, ye who enter in!"

These words in sombre colour I beheld10
Written upon the summit of a gate;
Whence I: "Their sense is, Master, hard to me!"

And he to me, as one experienced:
"Here all suspicion needs must be abandoned,
All cowardice must needs be here extinct.

We to the place have come, where I have told thee
Thou shalt behold the people dolorous
Who have foregone the good of intellect."

And after he had laid his hand on mine
With joyful mien, whence I was comforted,20
He led me in among the secret things.

There sighs, complaints, and ululations loud
Resounded through the air without a star,
Whence I, at the beginning, wept thereat.

Languages diverse, horrible dialects,
Accents of anger, words of agony,
And voices high and hoarse, with sound of hands,

Made up a tumult that goes whirling on
For ever in that air for ever black,
Even as the sand doth, when the whirlwind breathes.30

And I, who had my head with horror bound,
Said: "Master, what is this which now I hear?
What folk is this, which seems by pain so vanquished?"

And he to me: "This miserable mode
Maintain the melancholy souls of those
Who lived withouten infamy or praise.

Commingled are they with that caitiff choir
Of Angels, who have not rebellious been,
Nor faithful were to God, but were for self.

The heavens expelled them, not to be less fair;40
Nor them the nethermore abyss receives,
For glory none the damned would have from them."

And I: "O Master, what so grievous is
To these, that maketh them lament so sore?"
He answered: "I will tell thee very briefly.

These have no longer any hope of death;
And this blind life of theirs is so debased,
They envious are of every other fate.

No fame of them the world permits to be;
Misericord and Justice both disdain them.50
Let us not speak of them, but look, and pass."

And I, who looked again, beheld a banner,
Which, whirling round, ran on so rapidly,
That of all pause it seemed to me indignant;

And after it there came so long a train
Of people, that I ne'er would have believed
That ever Death so many had undone.

When some among them I had recognized,
I looked, and I beheld the shade of him
Who made through cowardice the great refusal.60

Forthwith I comprehended, and was certain,
That this the sect was of the caitiff wretches
Hateful to God and to his enemies.

These miscreants, who never were alive,
Were naked, and were stung exceedingly
By gadflies and by hornets that were there.

These did their faces irrigate with blood,
Which, with their tears commingled, at their feet
By the disgusting worms was gathered up.

And when to gazing farther I betook me.70
People I saw on a great river's bank;
Whence said I: "Master, now vouchsafe to me,

That I may know who these are, and what law
Makes them appear so ready to pass over,
As I discern athwart the dusky light."

And he to me: "These things shall all be known
To thee, as soon as we our footsteps stay
Upon the dismal shore of Acheron."

Then with mine eyes ashamed and downward cast,
Fearing my words might irksome be to him,80
From speech refrained I till we reached the river.

And lo! towards us coming in a boat
An old man, hoary with the hair of eld,
Crying: "Woe unto you, ye souls depraved!

Hope nevermore to look upon the heavens;
I come to lead you to the other shore,
To the eternal shades in heat and frost.

And thou, that yonder standest, living soul,
Withdraw thee from these people, who are dead!"
But when he saw that I did not withdraw,90

He said: "By other ways, by other ports
Thou to the shore shalt come, not here, for passage;
A lighter vessel needs must carry thee."

And unto him the Guide: "Vex thee not, Charon;
It is so willed there where is power to do
That which is willed; and farther question not."

Thereat were quieted the fleecy cheeks
Of him the ferryman of the livid fen,
Who round about his eyes had wheels of flame.

But all those souls who weary were and naked100
Their colour changed and gnashed their teeth together,
As soon as they had heard those cruel words.

God they blasphemed and their progenitors,
The human race, the place, the time, the seed
Of their engendering and of their birth!

Thereafter all together they drew back,
Bitterly weeping, to the accursed shore,
Which waiteth every man who fears not God.

Charon the demon, with the eyes of glede,
Beckoning to them, collects them all together,101
Beats with his oar whoever lags behind.

As in the autumn-time the leaves fall off,
First one and then another, till the branch
Unto the earth surrenders all its spoils;

In similar wise the evil seed of Adam
Throw themselves from that margin one by one,
At signals, as a bird unto its lure.

So they depart across the dusky wave,
And ere upon the other side they land,
Again on this side a new troop assembles.120

"My son," the courteous Master said to me,
"All those who perish in the wrath of God
Here meet together out of every land;

And ready are they to pass o'er the river,
Because celestial Justice spurs them on,
So that their fear is turned into desire.

This way there never passes a good soul;
And hence if Charon doth complain of thee,
Well mayst thou know now what his speech imports."

This being finished, all the dusk champaign130
Trembled so violently, that of that terror
The recollection bathes me still with sweat.

The land of tears gave forth a blast of wind,
And fulminated a vermilion light,
Which overmastered in me every sense,

And as a man whom sleep hath seized I fell.

 

About Dante!

 

 

 

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Filippo, Michael San. "The Divine Comedy." ThoughtCo, Oct. 3, 2016, thoughtco.com/inferno-canto-iii-divine-comedy-dante-alighieri-4098791. Filippo, Michael San. (2016, October 3). The Divine Comedy. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/inferno-canto-iii-divine-comedy-dante-alighieri-4098791 Filippo, Michael San. "The Divine Comedy." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/inferno-canto-iii-divine-comedy-dante-alighieri-4098791 (accessed November 19, 2017).