Ninth Canto of Dante’s Inferno

That shade which cowardice painted me without,
when I saw my guide turn back around, made him
check his own hue more quickly from within.

Careful, he closed it up like a man who listens
well; for the eyesight’s gaze could stay on him
a while, through the black air and the thick fog.

“Winning this fight for us simply has to happen,”
he started, “& if not… Such offer presents itself
with such. Oh, how delayed I find that one

arriving!” I saw how well he covered o’er his[10
beginning to start with what came next, which
was words different from th’ original, other phrase;

but all the same, his speaking gave a fright
for it, since I was drawing out the speech cut
short perhaps for the worser sense than it held.

“Does anyone from the first circle, where severed
hope is sole for punishment, ever come down
to this depth of the dreary valley?” I asked

this question; and Vergil said, “It happens in-
frequently that someone takes the pathway for
going from us — this walk I am going on.

Truth is I was down here another time before,
enchanted by Erichtho, that uncivilized witch,
who was recalling shades back to their form.

I was newly stripped of the flesh, for which
she made me enter within that wall, to draw
a spirit along, from the circle of Judas.

That place was the furthest depth and most obscure
spot, and farthest removed from heaven, which turns
about all: I know the way well, & it secures you.[30

This marsh, which wafts the great stench, encircles
th’ area around the city of regrets, where
we cannot ever enter without wrath.”

He said more, but I keep it not in mind; however,
the gaze drew me fully toward the tall
tower flickering at the top, where there were

at that moment three furies in a line, hellacious,
stained with blood  — they had the limbs of a woman
and her demeanor, and they were tied up all

with serpents of the deepest green; they had snakes
and adders for locks of hair, by which the
beasts did their temples bind. And he that knew

so well the miserable ladies of the queen
of eternal sobbing, did say to me: “Watch
out for the wild Erinyes. That one, she

is Megæra on the lefthand side; the one which
weeps on the right is Alecto; Tisiphone
is in between.” — and he got quiet for such.

Each fury rends its breast with claws; open-palm
did they fight, and were screaming so loud that,
in suspicion, I drew close to the poet.

“Medusa’s coming: oh, we’ll turn him into cement,”
they said, all looking downward: “our bad, not to’ve
taken vengeance on Theseus for the assault.”

“Get behind me, and keep your eyesight closed;
for if the Gorgon is revealed and you see it,
you’d remember nothing to get back on earth.”

So did the master speak; and that same poet
turned me about: and content not with my
hands, he covered mine with his very own.[60

Now y’ all whose intellects are of sound mind,
marvel wondering at the rationale which is
veiled under the cover of such strange lines.

And right then there arrives a tumultuous
sound on over th’ undulating waves, loaded
with fright, at which both the shores do quiver; just

like happens when a blustery breeze, riled up
by adverse currents, keeps on battering
the branches all over helter-skelter, so

as the forest to wound, and carries them,
shorn away, off — it keeps on mounting dust-stained,
in pride, and does make the beasts and the shepherds fly.

He let go my eyes and said, “Now direct
your eyes’ nerve through that age-old scum on
over where that fuming is thicker.” Just

like the frogs before the hostile adder do
make themselves scarce throughout the waters,
so that each one may retain its plot at land, so

I saw more than a thousand distraught souls
fleeing before one in such manner, before
the path which the river Styx by-passes, with

their meager cries. He at once dismissed that acrid air,
leading, like before, on the lefthand side; and
did he appear worn out just from that anxious care.

I noticed in good manner that the path
was taken by one from heaven, & I turned
to the master; so he gave the sign to quiet

down and bow to that soul. Oh, how full of contempt did
he seem to me! He arrived at the gate, and with his
scepter dispersed the darkness, so it retained no hold.[90

“You who were banished from heaven, oh race
despisèd,” began he upon his terrifying
threshold, “whence is this haughtiness drawn in among

you? Why do you refuse the will of th’ one
whose end cannot ever be cut short, and
that has too often increased your anguish?

What use is it to clash with fated ends?
Your own Cerberus, if you remember well
enough, still keeps the bald chin and paunch there.”

Then he turned over the dirty path, uttering
not a word to us: rather, he made like a man
who is pressed and consumed by some care,

other than his concern that is before one’s own;
we directed our feet over the ground,
reassured after the holy-spoken sayings.

We entered within, without a single conflict; and
I, a man possessed by desire for reviewing
the state which such massive strength does confine,

turned my sight about, as soon as I was
inside; to the left and right I saw great-big
countryside full of grief, and the stream of torment.

Just as at Arles, where the Rhone bottoms out,
just like in Pola, close by Carnaro gulf,
which limits Italy and bathes its own

borders — where graves make all the place quite varied, —
so do the sepulchers in every direction
there, only now the means were much more harsh;

for the flames were scattered about the tombs,
by which they were so fired up in every
case, that no craftsman demands hotter iron.[120

All their lids were suspended ajar, & so dire were
the cries of pain from there, that they did seem
to come from wretched ones and downcast parties.

And said I, “Master, what people are these
that communicate sighs through agonizing
groans, buried inside of such tombs?” And to me

he states: “Here lie the heretics with their
followers, from every faction, & the graves
are much more crowded than you believe.

Like is interred with like minds down here, as[130
some of the memorials are hotter, some less.”
And as he turned about toward the right,

we passed on, between the torments and ramparts.

Il Rap de Enea, Assalti Frontali

the ruling class, future of our immature children

I’ve an idea, I got idea, Aeneas was saying, have one idea,
& he took his saying to the meeting: I have got idea,
the children’s future jives not with Gelmini.
I’ve an idea, I got idea, Aeneas was saying, have one idea,
& he took his saying to the meeting: I have got idea,
better to tell Mariestella no than try on mini-finery;
I’ve an idea, I got idea, Aeneas was saying, have one idea,
& he took his saying to the meeting: I have got idea,
let’s deny Gelmini 24/7, tell her no by day and night —
let’s deny Gelmini 24/7, tell her no by day and night.

Hey, they call me Aeneas — I went up to Iqbal Masih
and got a little green t-shirt, really classy tee, which
states: “I love my school and protect it.” Not one
bit the only master, Gelmini is just one solely;
I understand how great they are — I’m at elementary
level and already working two weeks at my school.
You say that they’re young people and I have a lot to  prepare,
but we’re all under assault and I’m giving myself a project:
not only am I certain, I’m with my mommy, along with my
master teachers, & we built a country shed with all the
pillows made from bags of hair, and the grand doormats
that won’t take one bit — all the same, the ones on
time are ever, I mean forever, at the reunion;
so that they’ll have something to say, I’m playing a bit of
football. They’re all in distress every hour, every moment
looks like a great big disgrace overcame my own world.

I’ve an idea, I got idea, Aeneas was saying, have one idea,
& he took his saying to the meeting: I have got idea,
the children’s future jives not with Gelmini.
I’ve an idea…

I have a pair of teachers, master Mari and Simona, &
come to think of it, I don’t know how to tell you
which is the better, with twenty l’il friends, what a marvel;
we’re every one together, from morning to afternoon
this is public school, everybody’s education,
the schooling that these scoundrels want to be cheeky —
I’m shedding flakes, slinging balloons:
now I’ve taken what backs Gelmini up,
districts 137 and 133.
But if they take Berlusconi’s way, I comprehend the reason
this school room will be empty, will be missing a piece,
which I’m sending them home to resume, from noon to
middle of the night. We’re the kids of a real sick Italy,
that demands them to be assets in the privatized schools,
so let’s shut the world down and chug like a choo-choo:
long live the public schooling system, at full time.

I’ve an idea, I got idea, Aeneas was saying, have one idea,
& he took his saying to the meeting: I have got idea,
the children’s future jives not with Gelmini.
I’ve an idea, I got idea, Aeneas was saying, have one idea,
& he took his saying to the meeting: I have got idea,
better to tell Mariestella no than try on mini-finery;
I’ve an idea, I got idea, Aeneas was saying, have one idea,
& he took his saying to the meeting: I have got idea,
let’s deny Gelmini 24/7, tell her no by day and night —
let’s deny Gelmini 24/7, tell her no by day and night.

I am not afraid, have no fear; and this is Aeneas’s
rhyme against tyranny. I’m not afraid, no, not
a fear — I want to be together with my own people
close to culture, & if this is the crisis that will
settle the problem? Let’s all be united together
at the university crib, since we have to win and
make it happen — this is a kinky wave of crowds
full time. If these are witches, dwarves, the returns
and little people, then I’m making rap of Aeneas
and do defend my interest in tomorrow, so too
the special boys and girls which complete the story,
but always recall: the cho-mo’s paying the bill.

This is Aeneas’s flow, oh yeah Aeneas über-rap,
This is Aeneas’s rap on the education system,
This is Aeneas’s flow, oh yeah Aeneas über-rap,
This is Aeneas’s rap, let’s cut the soldiers off.

Necesito Tenerte, Shuly Dal Riza

Two in the morning hiding between sheets, I
Do it so you can’t talk to my tears,
Break my days open, &
You’re coming so calm demeanor,
& now I’m thinking you never came, once…

I’m losing you — I do look not for these and lose hope!
& I think that now is even better as later than planned.
The sun demands I let you go where you’d want;
The floor is makin’ me shout to you, “…waiting for you.”
You find that hurting where it’s not desired?
Not wanting to admit it, but excuse of me please! —
I’m searching for reasons — my bad for all.,
I’m thinking that we should’ve never been alone,
& however many hugs I may not give you.
The kisses which you put to waste, I
wish didn’t happen, don’t want to mean to: again
I swear I don’t want one, but excuse you want-ties;
I cling to your smile at just the right moments in
Time, & the times just right;
You comprehend? I bet that’s right.

Tell it to me, starting right now: who do you make cause my
Smile? What’s more, more as I can do than give thanks to
You. This is the sensation you hold me for each time?
What more can I go do? — not begging pardon!
I’m thinking that the sole mistake is starting to
Be real. Listen!, I’m not sorry backing out, sorry feel!
I never did that.

I wish to be mistaken, there may be a thousand more times. . . .
But excuse you already late,
Call me arrogant, I prefer a mate.
If I didn’t go for it before, let’s go do it then?
I couldn’t be perfect without knocking back the hour,
Am already trying to and gave up doing you far off —
At least I’m making you and laugh about it,
Marveling with eyes stuck on the phone, couldn’t sleep;
Hope I’m waiting for a loss that I put an end to wasting, my-
Self. I know how you find me so confused,
If I start with no principles, then sorry for me, good-bye…
Fact that until away, you’re jealousies: killer
poison, what a shame, that which you present’s not forever.

Listen!
I need to hold you, & you’re coming like the wind blows
I’d rather just accept that I started to be no one
Before I thought of turning into somebody, I
Don’t want to do you gone, missing —
Listen!
I need to hold you, & you’re coming like the wind blows
I’d rather just accept that I started to be no one
Before I thought of turning into somebody, I
Don’t want to do you gone, missing —
Even less than desire, not to spill it!

Let me believe in one forever, I’m
a demon wanting to be, for surely. —
& I burn myself coming to meet you
losing it — and when lost do I discover it can bother me,
and no needies: no way I plan to wait for you,
I think I am a traveler
playing your game — lose me, burn me,
& tie me down, I take whatever decision it is, out of your
mouth; I plan not to claim I’m crying like a crazy
bitch, or thinking about being able to have other girls. . . .
Pft. Yeah!
I couldn’t want you like you may desire me,
can desire you with all my needs —
had enough of you? Too much of you? Blaming you?
You spill your soul to me, I give you
mojo; wishes fail me, you witches!

Listen!
I need to hold you, & you’re coming like the wind blows
I’d rather just accept that I started to be no one
Before I thought of turning into somebody, I
Don’t want to do you gone, missing —
Listen!
I need to hold you, & you’re coming like the wind blows
I’d rather just accept that I started to be no one
Before I thought of turning into somebody, I
Don’t want to do you gone, missing —
Even less than desire, not to spill it!

Suspend disbelief in an eternity, as one eternally. . . .

Vergil’s 9th Eclogue

LYCIDAS—MOERIS

L: Feet got you going, Moeris? How does the way take you, into town?

M: Well Lycidas, we made it through alive, so that a stranger trying
(which is never cause for concern to me) to master my field, should’ve
said: ‘These things are my stuff; move abroad, you old settlers!’
Now do we get these flocks going, in our defeat, humbled — which
might not go so well — because Fate causes all things to turn.

L: Really, I heard for sure — where the hills start to turn to rolling,
and send the mountain-ridge off at a soft slope, on to the water
front and old time beech (now breaking at peaks) trees — that
your boy Menalcas plays by the rules in his compositions.

M: You heard it here, & it was famed: but our tunes do so well,
Lycidas, among the arms of Mars, as well as what people
do call doves from Chaon, with the eagle arriving. As the crow
was warning me from the evergreen oak not to fall, in any way,
into clever legalese before the hung jury, so neither will
Moeris, nor even Menalcas himself, let you live off of here. . . .

L: Oh no! Did such an evil deed happen to anyone? Too bad! Were
your comforts taken from us nearly right off with you, Menalcas?
So that someone might set the Nymphs to singing? Who would sprinkle
flowering plants on the earth, or bring shade from the verdant source
of the stream? Or your poems which I recently had a peek at,
should you take them with you to my own favorite Amaryllis?
“Tityrus, please put the lambs to pasture (It’s a short way.) while I’m on my
way back; once fed, take them to stream, Tityrus, and watch out for the
boar (which does go wild in the glen) in the midst of heading to meet one.”

M: Alright, & what Varo was singing, albeit unfinished, goes: “Varo,
only our native Mantua should surpass your own name,
poor Mantua too close to lowly Cremona, as singing
swans head to the heavens in sublime fashion.”

L: Just as your flocks flee from the Corsican yew, as the pastured
herd of cattle, when fed on clover, does swell at the udder,
so begin, if you have any starting point. And the Muses made me
a poet; the songs are mine too: the shepherds, they also
call me a prophetic seer, but I don’t buy it from them — for neither
did I seem so to Varius yet, nor to say things appropriate for Cinna,
rather as the goose resounding among conspicuous, the swans.

M: Really, that’s what I’m doing, and considering such to myself in
silence, whether or not I can even remember; it’s not such an unpopular
song: “Here you are, oh Galatea — now what kind of game is upon
the waves’ deep? Now shining spring-time, now the very earth pour
diverse flowers about the stream; here the brilliant poplar impends
over a cave, & the light vines do intertwine with shaded alcoves.
There you are — let the crazy rushing waters rage along the shore.”

L: Why, what poems did I hear you singing alone under the naked
night? I remember the tune, if I still have the words right: “Daphnis,
why don’t you respect the age-old origin of symbols? Look, at
the morning star of Caesar’s love goddess, the star in which
the crops rejoice with flowering plants, and by which the vine
deploys its coloring upon sun-drenched ridges. Plant the
pear trees, Daphnis: your young ones are picking the apples.”

M: Summer’s age moves everything, including the mind — I recall
how often I kept watch over lengthening sunshine days as a boy chanting:
so many of my songs are forgotten already that even one’s voice now retreats
from Moeris: the vanguard of wolves are looking at Moeris. But
still, Menalcas should’ve offered you these answers often enough.

L: You’re leading my desirable loves a long way off, making excuses.
And currently every level field lies open to you in silence, & look,
all the wind-swept airs of heaven have landed with a mild roar.
That’s why our way is so far in between, since it started to make its
appearance with Bion’s memorial marker. Here, where the farmers
put the crowding branches and bushes together, right here, Moeris,
do we sing: leave the kids here all the same — we’re still going to town.
Or, if we’re afraid that night-time may muster a rainstorm beforehand,
then let’s go sing verses as long as one can (The shorter way’s a pain.)
get away with it: to go singing as we go, I’ll relieve you by this torch.

M: No more, young man, do cease what we are doing that’s coming up now.
Let us recite verses even better in song, when the poet will have arrived!

Vergil’s 2nd Eclogue

Corydon the shepherd used to be burning for hand-
some Alexis, & was missing what he wanted; so he kept heading
out again among the crowding beech-trees, the shaded mountain-
tops. Right there & then did he toss off these disorderly words,
by himself, to the hills and woods of an empty zeal:
“Oh heartless Alex, do you care not at all for my songs?
You have no pity on me? Then you’re going to make me die!
Now the sheep also seize the shadows and chills; now
the thorn bushes also abscond the chartreuse lizards;
Thestylis, too, in the sweltering heat — given the reapers[10
at rest — she mixes in thyme with other savory herbs.
But along with me under the burning sunlight, while I
illuminate your signs, do the trees resound with cicadas.
Was it not enough to suffer the wrath of sad Amaryllis and
the condescending compliments, wasn’t it Menalcas, to
want that boy as black as you are pale? Dear shapely
young man, don’t put too much faith in color’s shade!
The white privets fade, with dark hyacinths picked.
You/I hate you, me! — not who you want, Alexis, for
being rich in flocks, loaded with snowy white milk. A[20
thousand of my lambs do wander about in the Sicilian high-
lands; my milk is not bitter in summer, nor lacking in cold;
I recite what I’m accustomed to sing: since indeed he called
to the herd, Amphion of Dirce at Attic Aracynthus. It’s not
like I’m so misshapen: I saw myself in a pool recently,
since the sea came gentle on the breeze; I’m not afraid of
you sitting in judgment, Daphnis, if the image never errs.
Oh, how should it please you, along with me, to live in
shabby country abode and lowly houses, and strike stags,
and force the flock of lambs to pallid marshmallow plants![30

Do make like Pan singing together with me among the trees.
Pan was the first to invent how to unite a bunch of reeds
with wax; Pan, who takes care of the sheep and lords of the
flock. Don’t let it bother you, chafing your lip on a
pipe: so you may know the same things, why wasn’t Amyntas
doing them? I have a pipe composed of seven fretted flutes that
Damoetas gave to me some time ago: his dying words were,
‘Now that kind of woman currently holds you secondary.’
Damoetas said it; struck dumb, Amyntas gave him evil eye.
What’s more, two goats which I discovered in a less than safe[40
valley, with pelts still speckled white even now, they have
been dry of udder two days yet; I am tending them for you:
actually, Thestylis is now saying that I had abducted them;
and he will make good on it, since you find my services un-
tidy. Here you are, you shapely young man: the Nymphs,
just look!, bear lilies for you in loaded baskets; fair Nais,
your girl, plucking the pale violets and lofty poppies, does
combine narcissus flower and that of sweetly smelling anise;
then, weaving mezereon with other soft-scented shrubbery,
does tender hyacinth embroider the tawny hued marigold.[50

Myself, I shall pick apples gleaming with soft, light down, and
chestnuts, the ones my dear Amaryllis used to adore; I’ll
supplement it with plums light as beeswax: this fruit will be
a badge of honor too: and I’ll pluck you, oh you laurels, and you
too, neighboring myrtle blossom, since you mingle odors so
sweet. You’re a country bumpkin, Corydon: Alexis likes not your
offerings, & Iollas yields one’s place not, if you disagree about
our positions. Oh no!, what did I want for my pathetic state?
Lost, I launched the wind into flowers, boar to foaming springs.
Whom do you run from, crazyass? The gods dwell in the forest[60
too, as does Paris from Troy. Let Athena abide by those citadels
which she established; the woods please us better than every, all.
The golden lioness is pursuing the wolf; the wolf itself follows
the she-goat; the naughty lamb goes after the flowering clover;
Corydon’s after you, Alexis: one’s own pleasure pulls each a way.
Look here, plows do bear the yoke lifted over the young cow,
as the sun, when departing, mirrors the crescendo of shadows;
nonetheless love cinges me: now what way is there for love?

‘Oh Corydon, Don-Cory, what madness seized control of you!’

Half-pruned, a leafy stalk is upon the elm tree; weren’t you[70
at least getting ready rather to uncover something of those
practicality requires, with branches green and soft rushes?
You’ll find another man, if he looks down on you, Alex.”

Vergil’s 5th Eclogue

MENALCAS—MOPSVS

Menalcas
Why don’t we both, Mopsus, be right on, since we got together —
you, by blowing on your light reed-flute, while I recite
lines: shall we sit here among the elms mixed with hazels?

Mopsus
You are the greater, elder: it’s your job to make me equal to the task,
Menalcas, whether we come under the west winds as they stir up
uncertain shadows, or rather head to a cave: look at how the wild vine,
in the woodlands, scatters scant bunches of grapes about the cavern.

Menalcas
Amyntas is the only man to challenge you among our mountain peaks.

Mopsus
Why, what if he should overcome Phoebus Apollo in singing verses?!

Menalcas
Start first, Mopsus, if you have the fires of Phyllis, or[10
praise of Alco, or a rivalry with Codrus:
begin, ‘Tityrus will tend to the kids feeding…’

Mopsus
Actually, I jotted down these songs upon verdant bark of the
beech-tree recently, and did note this in changing the tune —
as I tried, so must you demand that Amyntas should compete.

Menalcas
As pliant willow yields to the pale olive tree,
as humble Asarum to purplish roses, is how much
Amyntas gives way to you, in my judgment.
You must give a lot up, boy; we’ve come to the cave.

Mopsus
The nymphs were bewailing Daphnis, snuffed out by a heart-[20
less death; you are a witness to the hazel and with respect
to the nymphs’ streams: for taking hold the pitiable
body of her own son, does fierce mother swear on the gods,
by the stars. Not a cow to take, oh Daphnis, along the
chilled streams for pasturing these days, no beasts of burden
have sipped the river, none to touch the growing blades.
Daphnis, the wild woods and savage peaks declare that
even the lions of Carthage bewailed your passing.
Daphnis made it a custom to drive Turkish tigers at chariot;
Daphnis did institute the ceremonial wands of Bachhus,[30
and wind slender spear with soft ivy green. As the
vine is glory to trees, as grapes grace the vines —
like the bulls with the flocks, just as crops for anointed altars,
so are you a guiding light to your own. After the fates took you,
did Pales the goddess and Apollo himself abandon the fields.
The barley by which we are fed is often plenty enough in the garden —
unfortunate darnel and infertile oats are produced: instead of
soft violet flower, rather than indigo narcissus,
the thistle and Christ’s thorn do arise of prickly spines.
Water the soil with foliage, go introduce your shadow to the springs,[40
you shepherds, should Daphnis command such affairs for his own
self — and build up a burial mound, & add this verse to the grave:
“I, Daphnis, will have been noted henceforth in the woods, on up
to the stars: oneself, a lovelier guardian for fine-looking flock.”

Menalcas
Such a song in verse as yours, oh holy poet, is
like slumber in the grass for the exhausted, like
the rushing of tasty waters to quench one’s thirst
through undulating stream: and you are not up to the task
on a reed-flute alone, but with the voice of masters.
Lucky young man, now you will be second only to that[50
famed poet. All the same will we recite these poems of ours
in whatever manner are yours, and raise your dear
Daphnis on up to the stars; we shall take him
even to stars: Daphnis was well-loved by me too.

Mopsus
Well if we found anything greater than such an offering,
then the young lad was worthy for singing, as well did
Stimicho praise those poems of ours some time ago.

Menalcas
The resplendent man marvels at the unfamiliar gate of Olympus,
with Daphnis up from the threshold looking at clouds and stars.
So a vivacious pleasure does cling to the forest’s trees, and
other country matters, as well as Pan and the shepherds, and the
wood-nymph girls; neither is the wolf considering plots for a flock,[60
nor do any hunting nets plot a stratagem for the deer: kind Daphnis is
in love with leisure. The rustic mountains themselves, they do
toss voices to the heavens in happiness; now do the very caves sing
verses, bristly trees resound: “God, the famed god, Menalcas!”
Oh, be noble and found lucky of your own. There are four altars, see:
look, two for you, Daphnis, with paired altars dedicated to Phoebus.
I dedicate twin goblets dripping with fresh milk the year-long, and
double fine jugs for your olive oil, & with a great rush right from
the start, delighting the revels for Bacchus, — right before the
hearth if it’s cold, and if summer, in the shade — will I offer[70
divine wine from Chios, poured from mixing bowls. Damoetas
and Aegon of Crete will recite lyrics for me; Alphesiboeus,
to make like the two-stepping satyrs. These things will
always be like this for you, both when return we pious offerings
sacred to the Nymphs, and when we shall the fields cleanse.
As long as the boar tends to hill-top peaks, long as the fish still
loves the deep, and while bees do feed upon thyme, as the cicadas
at murmur, will your your fame and name and compliments endure;
as with Bacchus and Ceres, so too will the farmers make you
annual offerings: you also shall condemn such by vows.[80

Mopsus
What’s it to you, that I should requite such a performance with presents?
For neither will the bluster of the south wind rushing in please me,
nor the shores battered by billowing wave help me so, no
streams rushing here & there from stony valleys.

Menalcas
We will dedicate this precious pipe to you beforehand:
this one taught us, “Corydon was burning for hand-
some Alex,” and also, “Whose flock, is it Meliboeus?”

Mopsus
Well then take your shepherd’s crook, which Antigenes did not get, even
though he often asked me for it (& he had reason for being bitter.), a
lovely looking staff with fine handles and bronze to match, Menalcas.[90

1st Canto of Dante’s Inferno

In the middle of our life’s way I found I
was in a shady forest because the
right road was confusedly lost. Oh my,

so difficult a thing it is to speak
what it was, that savage and harsh and hard
wood, that thinking of it renews fearful streak!

So bitter is it that death is yet far
less sweet; but to go over the good I dis-
covered there, I’ll tell of th’ other things I saw.

I don’t know how to recount the way which
I came in there, I was so full of sleep at
that point I left the truthful way amiss.

But when I was at the foot of a great
hill, where that valley which had overwhelmed
my heart with fear did make its end, on that

height I looked and saw its shoulders attired
already in rays of the planet which guides
other people along all highways, road.

The fear was calmed a little bit at this,
so that I lasted in the heart’s lake through
it, the night I spent in such pitiful pains.

And as one with life’s breath under stress, who
gets out of the depths and ashore, turns to the
dangerous water and looks intently into

it, so did my mind, while still breaking free,
turn back to marvel once more at the pass-
age way no person has yet left living.

Then with body rested a bit, my path
I did resume through the deserted climb, so
that the firm foot always was the lowest stand.

And see, as though about to start down the slope,
a sleek and very swift leopard, which was
covered by spot-stained skin; & it didn’t go

to get out of my face: actually, because
it so obstructed my walking way, I
was turned by returning more times faced. As

the time was at outset of morning, and high
the sun climbed on up with those stars which were
with it when divine love first set these fine

things into motion, so I had reason for
right goodly hope about that beast in the
motley skin at which point in time, & the hour

of the sweet spring; but it was not by means
such that fear failed to give me the glimpse
that appeared to me, a lion’s sight. It seemed

to be this that was coming after me, its
head held high, and with ravenous hunger,
so that it seemed th’ air was trembling for it.

And a wolf that seemed loaded down with all
cravings in her leanness, and which still yet has
made many people live wretched lives, for

this she-wolf offered me so much heaviness
in terror I got right out of its sight,
as I lost the hope of the peak on high’s

tip. And like he who gets that which he buys
willingly, and the time comes which makes him lose
face — that in all thoughts weeps and mourns, just like

so did that creature make me feel no peace, whose
coming toward me little by little put
me back there, where the sun’s quiet shade ensues.

While I was fleeing to a low-down spot,
one who seemed hardly perceptible, from long-stand-
ing silence, was offered up to my eyesight.

When I saw this fellow in the waste land,
“Pity me,” I shouted at him, “whoever
you may be, whether ghost or some certain man!”

He responded to me: “Not man, before
I was once a man — and my family, from
Lombardy, both parents were Mantuan for

homeland. I was born in Julius Caesar’s time,
though later, and lived under great Augustus
at Rome, in th’ age of fake and lying gods. I

was a poet, and sang of Anchises’s just
son who came from Ilium, when arrogant Troy
burned to cinders. But why do you return thus

to such tedious anxiety? So why
aren’t you scaling the delightful mountain
which is origin and reason for all joy?”

“So are you that same Virgil and that fountain-
head which extend in speaking so vast a stream?”
I replied to him, my brow lined shy as shame.

“Oh you other poets’ pride and light, let the
eager study and great love, which made me pore
over your volume, test the value of me.

You are my master-teacher and my source,
you are th’ only one from whom I’ve taken
the lovely style which has brought me honor.

Look at the beast by which I am turned back; &
help me with it, you famous genius, since
she makes me, veins and heartbeat, feel shaken.”

“It’s agreed for you to take a different trip,”
he replied then as he saw me shed tears, “if
you want to make it from savage place like this;

now this beast which you cry out about, it lets
not others pass over its path, but impedes
as much as it kills; and its nature gets

so vile and wicked, that the desire’s
trembling will is ever unfulfilled — after
a meal’s greater hunger than before. Beings

that take it as spouse are many, and far
more will be still, till the greyhound arrives:
he’ll make the beast die with pain. Never

will this hound feed on earth, nor mixed alloys,
but on wisdom, love and goodness, & his
heritage will be between banner and country.

From this nation, will humble Italy — for which
the virgin Camilla, Euryalus and
Turnus, Nisus died of injuries — be saved. This

one will hunt the beast throughout every town,
until he will have sent her back to hell,
where envy first departed from. So I

think my interest is in yours and can tell
that you follow me, and your guide shall I be,
and take you from here through an eternal

place, where you will hear the despairing shouts, see
the age-old spirits in pain, how each screams
over the second death; and you’ll view the

ones who are contented in the fire, because
they hope to come, whenever it may be, to
the blessed people. Then, if your wish is

to ascend to these, there should be a soul who is
more worthy than I… I’ll leave you with her as
I depart; for that emperor who rules

above, because I was a rebel to his
law, wills not entrance into his city for
me. In all places does he rule and holds

up beyond that: there is his city or
throne on high: how fulfilled are those of true
happiness whom he elects to choose there.”

And I told him, “Poet, by that God whom
you did not know to recognize, so that
I may flee from this evil and worse, do

I ask you to lead me where you said,
in order that I might see St. Peter’s gate
and those whom you say are hopelessly sad.”

Then he got moving, & behind him I went.