Inferno: Canto I
Midway upon the
journey of our life
found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.
Ah me! how hard a
thing it is to say
was this forest savage, rough, and stern,
Which in the very thought renews the fear.
So bitter is it,
death is little more;
of the good to treat, which there I found,
Speak will I of the other things I saw there.
I cannot well
repeat how there I entered,
full was I of slumber at the moment
In which I had abandoned the true way.
But after I had
reached a mountain's foot,
that point where the valley terminated,
Which had with consternation pierced my heart,
Upward I looked,
and I beheld its shoulders,
already with that planet's rays
Which leadeth others right by every road.
Then was the fear a
in my heart's lake had endured throughout
The night, which I had passed so piteously.
And even as he,
who, with distressful breath,
issued from the sea upon the shore,
Turns to the water perilous and gazes;
So did my soul,
that still was fleeing onward,
itself back to re-behold the pass
Which never yet a living person left.
After my weary body
I had rested,
way resumed I on the desert slope,
So that the firm foot ever was the lower.
And lo! almost
where the ascent began,
panther light and swift exceedingly,
Which with a spotted skin was covered o'er!
And never moved she
from before my face,
rather did impede so much my way,
That many times I to return had turned.
The time was the
beginning of the morning,
up the sun was mounting with those stars
That with him were, what time the Love Divine
At first in motion
set those beauteous things;
were to me occasion of good hope,
The variegated skin of that wild beast,
The hour of time,
and the delicious season;
not so much, that did not give me fear
A lion's aspect which appeared to me.
He seemed as if
against me he were coming
head uplifted, and with ravenous hunger,
So that it seemed the air was afraid of him;
And a she-wolf,
that with all hungerings
to be laden in her meagreness,
And many folk has caused to live forlorn!
She brought upon me
so much heaviness,
the affright that from her aspect came,
That I the hope relinquished of the height.
And as he is who
the time comes that causes him to lose,
Who weeps in all his thoughts and is despondent,
E'en such made me
that beast withouten peace,
coming on against me by degrees
Thrust me back thither where the sun is silent.
While I was rushing
downward to the lowland,
mine eyes did one present himself,
Who seemed from long-continued silence hoarse.
When I beheld him
in the desert vast,
pity on me," unto him I cried,
"Whiche'er thou art, or shade or real man!"
He answered me:
"Not man; man once I was,
both my parents were of Lombardy,
And Mantuans by country both of them.
'Sub Julio' was I
born, though it was late,
lived at Rome under the good Augustus,
During the time of false and lying gods.
A poet was I, and I
sang that just
of Anchises, who came forth from Troy,
After that Ilion the superb was burned.
But thou, why goest
thou back to such annoyance?
climb'st thou not the Mount Delectable,
Which is the source and cause of every joy?"
"Now, art thou that
Virgilius and that fountain
spreads abroad so wide a river of speech?"
I made response to him with bashful forehead.
"O, of the other
poets honour and light,
me the long study and great love
That have impelled me to explore thy volume!
Thou art my master,
and my author thou,
art alone the one from whom I took
The beautiful style that has done honour to me.
Behold the beast,
for which I have turned back;
thou protect me from her, famous Sage,
For she doth make my veins and pulses tremble."
"Thee it behoves to
take another road,"
he, when he beheld me weeping,
"If from this savage place thou wouldst escape;
Because this beast,
at which thou criest out,
not any one to pass her way,
But so doth harass him, that she destroys him;
And has a nature so
malign and ruthless,
never doth she glut her greedy will,
And after food is hungrier than before.
Many the animals
with whom she weds,
more they shall be still, until the Greyhound
Comes, who shall make her perish in her pain.
He shall not feed
on either earth or pelf,
upon wisdom, and on love and virtue;
'Twixt Feltro and Feltro shall his nation be;
Of that low Italy
shall he be the saviour,
whose account the maid Camilla died,
Euryalus, Turnus, Nisus, of their wounds;
Through every city
shall he hunt her down,
he shall have driven her back to Hell,
There from whence envy first did let her loose.
Therefore I think
and judge it for thy best
follow me, and I will be thy guide,
And lead thee hence through the eternal place,
Where thou shalt
hear the desperate lamentations,
see the ancient spirits disconsolate,
Who cry out each one for the second death;
And thou shalt see
those who contented are
the fire, because they hope to come,
Whene'er it may be, to the blessed people;
To whom, then, if
thou wishest to ascend,
soul shall be for that than I more worthy;
With her at my departure I will leave thee;
Emperor, who reigns above,
that I was rebellious to his law,
Wills that through me none come into his city.
everywhere, and there he reigns;
is his city and his lofty throne;
O happy he whom thereto he elects!"
And I to him:
"Poet, I thee entreat,
that same God whom thou didst never know,
So that I may escape this woe and worse,
conduct me there where thou hast said,
I may see the portal of Saint Peter,
And those thou makest so disconsolate."
Then he moved on,
and I behind him followed.