Inferno: Canto IV
Broke the deep
lethargy within my head
heavy thunder, so that I upstarted,
Like to a person who by force is wakened;
And round about I
moved my rested eyes,
erect, and steadfastly I gazed,
To recognise the place wherein I was.
True is it, that
upon the verge I found me
the abysmal valley dolorous,
That gathers thunder of infinite ululations.
it was, and nebulous,
that by fixing on its depths my sight
Nothing whatever I discerned therein.
"Let us descend now
into the blind world,"
the Poet, pallid utterly;
"I will be first, and thou shalt second be."
And I, who of his
colour was aware,
"How shall I come, if thou art afraid,
Who'rt wont to be a comfort to my fears?"
And he to me: "The
anguish of the people
are below here in my face depicts
That pity which for terror thou hast taken.
Let us go on, for
the long way impels us."
he went in, and thus he made me enter
The foremost circle that surrounds the abyss.
There, as it seemed
to me from listening,
lamentations none, but only sighs,
That tremble made the everlasting air.
And this arose from
sorrow without torment,
the crowds had, that many were and great,
Of infants and of women and of men.
To me the Master
good: "Thou dost not ask
spirits these, which thou beholdest, are?
Now will I have thee know, ere thou go farther,
That they sinned
not; and if they merit had,
not enough, because they had not baptism
Which is the portal of the Faith thou holdest;
And if they were
the right manner they adored not God;
And among such as these am I myself.
For such defects,
and not for other guilt,
are we and are only so far punished,
That without hope we live on in desire."
Great grief seized
on my heart when this I heard,
some people of much worthiness
I knew, who in that Limbo were suspended.
"Tell me, my
Master, tell me, thou my Lord,"
I, with desire of being certain
Of that Faith which o'ercometh every error,
"Came any one by
his own merit hence,
by another's, who was blessed thereafter?"
And he, who understood my covert speech,
Replied: "I was a
novice in this state,
I saw hither come a Mighty One,
With sign of victory incoronate.
Hence he drew forth
the shade of the First Parent,
that of his son Abel, and of Noah,
Of Moses the lawgiver, and the obedient
and David, king,
with his father and his children,
And Rachel, for whose sake he did so much,
And others many,
and he made them blessed;
thou must know, that earlier than these
Never were any human spirits saved."
We ceased not to
advance because he spake,
still were passing onward through the forest,
The forest, say I, of thick-crowded ghosts.
Not very far as yet
our way had gone
side the summit, when I saw a fire
That overcame a hemisphere of darkness.
We were a little
distant from it still,
not so far that I in part discerned not
That honourable people held that place.
"O thou who
honourest every art and science,
may these be, which such great honour have,
That from the fashion of the rest it parts them?"
And he to me: "The
sounds of them above there in thy life,
Wins grace in Heaven, that so advances them."
In the mean time a
voice was heard by me:
honour be to the pre-eminent Poet;
His shade returns again, that was departed."
After the voice had
ceased and quiet was,
mighty shades I saw approaching us;
Semblance had they nor sorrowful nor glad.
To say to me began
my gracious Master:
with that falchion in his hand behold,
Who comes before the three, even as their lord.
That one is Homer,
who comes next is Horace, the satirist;
The third is Ovid, and the last is Lucan.
Because to each of
these with me applies
name that solitary voice proclaimed,
They do me honour, and in that do well."
Thus I beheld
assemble the fair school
that lord of the song pre-eminent,
Who o'er the others like an eagle soars.
When they together
had discoursed somewhat,
turned to me with signs of salutation,
And on beholding this, my Master smiled;
And more of honour
still, much more, they did me,
that they made me one of their own band;
So that the sixth was I, 'mid so much wit.
Thus we went on as
far as to the light,
saying 'tis becoming to keep silent,
As was the saying of them where I was.
We came unto a
noble castle's foot,
times encompassed with lofty walls,
Defended round by a fair rivulet;
This we passed over
even as firm ground;
portals seven I entered with these Sages;
We came into a meadow of fresh verdure.
People were there
with solemn eyes and slow,
great authority in their countenance;
They spake but seldom, and with gentle voices.
Thus we withdrew
ourselves upon one side
an opening luminous and lofty,
So that they all of them were visible.
upon the green enamel,
pointed out to me the mighty spirits,
Whom to have seen I feel myself exalted.
I saw Electra with
whom I knew both Hector and Aeneas,
Caesar in armour with gerfalcon eyes;
I saw Camilla and
the other side, and saw the King Latinus,
Who with Lavinia his daughter sat;
I saw that Brutus
who drove Tarquin forth,
Julia, Marcia, and Cornelia,
And saw alone, apart, the Saladin.
When I had lifted
up my brows a little,
Master I beheld of those who know,
Sit with his philosophic family.
All gaze upon him,
and all do him honour.
I beheld both Socrates and Plato,
Who nearer him before the others stand;
puts the world on chance,
Anaxagoras, and Thales,
Zeno, Empedocles, and Heraclitus;
Of qualities I saw
the good collector,
Dioscorides; and Orpheus saw I,
Tully and Livy, and moral Seneca,
geometrician, and Ptolemy,
Hippocrates, and Avicenna,
Averroes, who the great Comment made.
I cannot all of
them pourtray in full,
so drives me onward the long theme,
That many times the word comes short of fact.
The sixfold company
in two divides;
way my sapient Guide conducts me
Forth from the quiet to the air that trembles;
And to a place I
come where nothing shines.