DANTE'S SUBLIME COMEDY: HELL, Chapter 2
Chapter 2: Going to Hell.
Day ended. Birds and beasts who love the sun
homed to their dens and nests through dusky air.
Mine seemed the only living body there 3
going to warfare, marching to battle where
each step ahead would be a struggle of
pity and dread in perpetuity. 6
O Muses! Highest altitudes of thought!
O memory, recording all i see!
by use of noble ingenuity! 9
let me teach others, as i have been taught
"Poet!" I cried, "Tell e if i am fit
to go the fearful way you're leading me. 12
You sang how great Aeneas followed it
and living, was the nation of the dead.
God let Aeneas, for it was His plan 15
to found a pagan empire by that man –
the Roman Empire Christ inherited,
by crucifixion Christianizing Rome. 18
He went through death and Hell to bring souls home
to heavenly bliss Aeneas never knew.
How can this living me follow these two? 21
Why me? Who has suggested that i go?
I'm not Aeneas, nor am i saint Paul
summoned to follow Jesus by a call 24
direct from Christ, If feeble me submits
to enter Hell I'll maybe lose my wits!
Please! You know all! Why should i go with you?" 27
Blethering thus, unwilling what I'd willed,
I halted in agony of doubt
from the brisk pace at which we'd started out. 30
Inside a darkened borderland I stood,
my courage to continue almost killed,
as if again within the evil wood. 33
"If I have grasped the sense of what you say,"
the ghost of splendid Virgil turned and said,
"cowardice, which leads most folk astray, 36
blocks (as it's shadow on the road ahead
frightens a horse) the way that you should tread.
Listen to what should banish your remorse. 39
There came to me in Limbo where i dwell
(the least uncomfortable part of Hell)
a holy lady altogether lovely. 42
Her eyes like starlight and her quiet voice
angelically sweet, made her rejoice
to do the utmost thing she asked. Said she, 45
"Poet of Mantua, whose epic song
will last as long as stars and planets move,
someone I dearly love is going wrong – 48
If none will help he may be lost to me.
On hearing this in Heaven I come to you
O courteous poet, listen to my plea: 51
I beg you, join him where he turned aside
from the true track, He stands alone, astray,
at foot of a grim hill. O pity him! 54
He needs your strength to guide him the right way.
If you are not too late, say to him this:
you have been sent by love and Beatrice, 57
for I am Beatrice, for whom you go
to save both him I love, me too from woe.
The love that drew me from eternity 60
now draws me back. Soon I will see God's face
within the glory of His sacred city
and praise forever in that holy place 63
your goodness." There she paused. At once I said,
"Lady, by virtue of your heavenly love
the love that made God form the human race 66
with excellence that lifts if far above
all other beasts within this world's small space,
obeying you is what I most desire 69
so much that, done at once would be too slow.
But there is something first I wish to know.
Your blessed feet have carried you through Hell 72
yet you are alarmed. How is that so?"
"because you wish to learn I will explain,"
said she, "God makes the innocent and wise 75
wholly blind and deaf to Hell's endless pain
but not to troubles of a living soul.
A gentle lady some call Heaven's queen 78
has mercy as her special ministry.
She often countermands God's stern decress
to save a sinner's soul by purgatory – 81
a breach of justice to which God agrees.
She said to Lucy, "Saint of heavenly light,
your best disciple is about to quit 84
his upward climb to us, risking damnation.
Dante's in danger. Get him out of it."
Lucy sped to the height of contemplation 87
where gracious goodness talked with sage Rachel,
long suffering mother of the Jewish nation
and wife of flock-attending Israel. 90
"Beatrice!" she said, "God's truest harmony!
Why, why, O why reject a lover who
was taught to love sublimity by you? 93
Can you not hear him miserably cry,
lonely and lost beside death's raving sea
and threatened by a foul rapacity?" 96
As soon as Lucy's words were understood,
nobody ever moved as fast as me.
I came to you whose wise and truthful speech 99
can heal my lovers hurt and do him good,
speech glorifying you all who hear,"
she said, turning her face to hide a tear. 102
It's brightness urged me to this place. The wolf
still blocks the uphill path. We'll reach the top
going the long way round. With me your guide 105
and three celstial women on your side
why hesitate? What have you got to fear?
Why all this cowardice? Have you no pride? 108
As daisies folding petals up at night,
heavy with frozen dew, lean to the ground
until the rising sun's warm, generous light 111
thaws and unbends and opens the, I found
at last my crippled courage stand upright.
Like one set free I cried, "Let us go on! 114
The great compassion of that heavenly she,
forby the wonder of your courtesy
have cured my idiot timidity. 117
Your words have filled me with new confidence,
making your will and mine single will.
Guide, Lord and Master, come! Let us go hence," 120
The wild path that we followed led down hill.