Saturday, February 16, 2013

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.                    





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