Inferno: Canto III
"Through me the way
is to the city dolent;
me the way is to eternal dole;
Through me the way among the people lost.
Justice incited my
me divine Omnipotence,
The highest Wisdom and the primal Love.
Before me there
were no created things,
eterne, and I eternal last.
All hope abandon, ye who enter in!"
These words in
sombre colour I beheld
upon the summit of a gate;
Whence I: "Their sense is, Master, hard to me!"
And he to me, as
all suspicion needs must be abandoned,
All cowardice must needs be here extinct.
We to the place
have come, where I have told thee
shalt behold the people dolorous
Who have foregone the good of intellect."
And after he had
laid his hand on mine
joyful mien, whence I was comforted,
He led me in among the secret things.
complaints, and ululations loud
through the air without a star,
Whence I, at the beginning, wept thereat.
of anger, words of agony,
And voices high and hoarse, with sound of hands,
Made up a tumult
that goes whirling on
ever in that air for ever black,
Even as the sand doth, when the whirlwind breathes.
And I, who had my
head with horror bound,
"Master, what is this which now I hear?
What folk is this, which seems by pain so vanquished?"
And he to me: "This
the melancholy souls of those
Who lived withouten infamy or praise.
Commingled are they
with that caitiff choir
Angels, who have not rebellious been,
Nor faithful were to God, but were for self.
expelled them, not to be less fair;
them the nethermore abyss receives,
For glory none the damned would have from them."
And I: "O Master,
what so grievous is
these, that maketh them lament so sore?"
He answered: "I will tell thee very briefly.
These have no
longer any hope of death;
this blind life of theirs is so debased,
They envious are of every other fate.
No fame of them the
world permits to be;
and Justice both disdain them.
Let us not speak of them, but look, and pass."
And I, who looked
again, beheld a banner,
whirling round, ran on so rapidly,
That of all pause it seemed to me indignant;
And after it there
came so long a train
people, that I ne'er would have believed
That ever Death so many had undone.
When some among
them I had recognised,
looked, and I beheld the shade of him
Who made through cowardice the great refusal.
comprehended, and was certain,
this the sect was of the caitiff wretches
Hateful to God and to his enemies.
who never were alive,
naked, and were stung exceedingly
By gadflies and by hornets that were there.
These did their
faces irrigate with blood,
with their tears commingled, at their feet
By the disgusting worms was gathered up.
And when to gazing
farther I betook me.
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
them appear so ready to pass over,
As I discern athwart the dusky light."
And he to me:
"These things shall all be known
thee, as soon as we our footsteps stay
Upon the dismal shore of Acheron."
Then with mine eyes
ashamed and downward cast,
my words might irksome be to him,
From speech refrained I till we reached the river.
And lo! towards us
coming in a boat
old man, hoary with the hair of eld,
Crying: "Woe unto you, ye souls depraved!
Hope nevermore to
look upon the heavens;
come to lead you to the other shore,
To the eternal shades in heat and frost.
And thou, that
yonder standest, living soul,
thee from these people, who are dead!"
But when he saw that I did not withdraw,
He said: "By other
ways, by other ports
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;
is so willed there where is power to do
That which is willed; and farther question not."
quieted the fleecy cheeks
him the ferryman of the livid fen,
Who round about his eyes had wheels of flame.
But all those souls
who weary were and naked
colour changed and gnashed their teeth together,
As soon as they had heard those cruel words.
God they blasphemed
and their progenitors,
human race, the place, the time, the seed
Of their engendering and of their birth!
together they drew back,
weeping, to the accursed shore,
Which waiteth every man who fears not God.
Charon the demon,
with the eyes of glede,
to them, collects them all together,
Beats with his oar whoever lags behind.
As in the
autumn-time the leaves fall off,
one and then another, till the branch
Unto the earth surrenders all its spoils;
In similar wise the
evil seed of Adam
themselves from that margin one by one,
At signals, as a bird unto its lure.
So they depart
across the dusky wave,
ere upon the other side they land,
Again on this side a new troop assembles.
"My son," the
courteous Master said to me,
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,
celestial Justice spurs them on,
So that their fear is turned into desire.
This way there
never passes a good soul;
hence if Charon doth complain of thee,
Well mayst thou know now what his speech imports."
finished, all the dusk champaign
so violently, that of that terror
The recollection bathes me still with sweat.
The land of tears
gave forth a blast of wind,
fulminated a vermilion light,
Which overmastered in me every sense,
And as a man whom
sleep hath seized I fell.