Inferno: Canto V
Thus I descended
out of the first circle
to the second, that less space begirds,
And so much greater dole, that goads to wailing.
Minos horribly, and snarls;
the transgressions at the entrance;
Judges, and sends according as he girds him.
I say, that when
the spirit evil-born
before him, wholly it confesses;
And this discriminator of transgressions
Seeth what place in
Hell is meet for it;
himself with his tail as many times
As grades he wishes it should be thrust down.
Always before him
many of them stand;
go by turns each one unto the judgment;
They speak, and hear, and then are downward hurled.
"O thou, that to
this dolorous hostelry
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;
not the portal's amplitude deceive thee."
And unto him my Guide: "Why criest thou too?
Do not impede his
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
unto me; now am I come
There where much lamentation strikes upon me.
I came into a place
mute of all light,
bellows as the sea does in a tempest,
If by opposing winds 't is combated.
hurricane that never rests
the spirits onward in its rapine;
Whirling them round, and smiting, it molests them.
When they arrive
before the precipice,
are the shrieks, the plaints, and the laments,
There they blaspheme the puissance divine.
I understood that
unto such a torment
carnal malefactors were condemned,
Who reason subjugate to appetite.
And as the wings of
starlings bear them on
the cold season in large band and full,
So doth that blast the spirits maledict;
It hither, thither,
downward, upward, drives them;
hope doth comfort them for evermore,
Not of repose, but even of lesser pain.
And as the cranes
go chanting forth their lays,
in air a long line of themselves,
So saw I coming, uttering lamentations,
onward by the aforesaid stress.
said I: "Master, who are those
People, whom the black air so castigates?"
"The first of
those, of whom intelligence
fain wouldst have," then said he unto me,
"The empress was of many languages.
To sensual vices
she was so abandoned,
lustful she made licit in her law,
To remove the blame to which she had been led.
She is Semiramis,
of whom we read
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,
broke faith with the ashes of Sichaeus;
Then Cleopatra the voluptuous."
Helen I saw, for
whom so many ruthless
revolved; and saw the great Achilles,
Who at the last hour combated with Love.
Paris I saw,
Tristan; and more than a thousand
did he name and point out with his finger,
Whom Love had separated from our life.
After that I had
listened to my Teacher,
the dames of eld and cavaliers,
Pity prevailed, and I was nigh bewildered.
And I began: "O
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
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,
voice uplift I: "O ye weary souls!
Come speak to us, if no one interdicts it."
called onward by desire,
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,
us athwart the air malign,
So strong was the affectionate appeal.
"O living creature
gracious and benignant,
visiting goest through the purple air
Us, who have stained the world incarnadine,
If were the King of
the Universe our friend,
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,
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,
the sea-shore where the Po descends
To rest in peace with all his retinue.
Love, that on
gentle heart doth swiftly seize,
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,
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;
waiteth him who quenched our life!"
These words were borne along from them to us.
As soon as I had
heard those souls tormented,
bowed my face, and so long held it down
Until the Poet said to me: "What thinkest?"
When I made answer,
I began: "Alas!
many pleasant thoughts, how much desire,
Conducted these unto the dolorous pass!"
Then unto them I
turned me, and I spake,
I began: "Thine agonies, Francesca,
Sad and compassionate to weeping make me.
But tell me, at the
time of those sweet sighs,
what and in what manner Love conceded,
That you should know your dubious desires?"
And she to me:
"There is no greater sorrow
to be mindful of the happy time
In misery, and that thy Teacher knows.
But, if to
recognise the earliest root
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
Launcelot, how Love did him enthral.
Alone we were and without any fear.
Full many a time
our eyes together drew
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
by such a noble lover kissed,
This one, who ne'er from me shall be divided,
Kissed me upon the
mouth all palpitating.
was the book and he who wrote it.
That day no farther did we read therein."
And all the while
one spirit uttered this,
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.