Wednesday, January 22, 2014


                         Chapter 11: The Proud

“Our Father in Heaven, unlimited
            except by your great love for all you made,
            for everything you’ve given us on earth                                              3     

we praise your name as angels do above.
            Teach us to find your House of Peace on high
            which by our strength alone we cannot reach                                     6

however hard and painfully we try.
            Give everyone the nourishment we need
            to rightly follow in the steps of Christ                                               9

and not slide backwards into sinful ways.
Forgive our sins as we also forgive
those who have hurt us. Dear Lord, most of all           12                 

 do not let enemies become so strong
            they drive the virtuous to doing wrong.
         Lord God, you know that prayer is not for us,      15                                  

but souls alive whose state is not redeemed.”
            Yes, those ghosts prayed for us while toiling on
            beneath such weight as we have never dreamed.       18                           

Let we with any goodness pray that they
            are quicker lightened, raised above the moon
            to their appointed place in Paradise.                               21                       

Reading my mind I heard kind Virgil say,
            “May all who stoop here be unburdened soon
             and wing their upward flight. I lead a man                                           24
still clad in Adam’s flesh, so we need stairs
            to climb this cliff.  Can any of you say
if the nearest way is to left or right?”                                               27

We could not see who spoke but heard a voice.
           “Go with us to the right, where there’s a place
             a man may climb. Were I not bent so low                                           30

I might see his face, recognize a friend              
            who pitied me. I was Italian,
            my father great Bill Aldobrandesco­–                                                    33

surely you know his name? Pride in my birth
and famous ancestors made me forget         
all of us share one common Mother Earth.                                    36

Arrogance killed me, dragged to infamy
my name and kin.  In Compagnatico                                     
            children know this and in Sienna too.                                                39

I am Umberto, whose excessive pride
            will crush me until God is satisfied.”                                     
            To hear him I’d bent low and so saw one                                           42

who did not speak but twisted round his neck
            to see me, knew me, kept his eyes on me                              
            as he crept onward very painfully.                                                      45

Bent almost double at his side I cried,
            “You, Oderisi! Pride of Gubbio                                 
         for illustrating books, or as they say           48                                                                 

in Paris, for illuminating them.”
            “Brother,” said he, “Franco of Bologna                                 
             does that better now.  His claim to fame                                           51

is partly due to what he learned from me.
            When living I denied how good he was.                                 
            Here I am purging all that pettiness.                                                  54     

The emptiness of glory in a name
is obvious. Florence once gloried in                                                   
            the radiance of Cimabue’s art.                                                           57

Giotto’s fame has cast a shade on it.
            Guido Guinizelli’s verse was once                                        
            the splendour of our tongue. Cavalcanti’s                                         60

is now more highly sung. Who’s next? Are you?
            Who cares? A thousand years, two thousand, ten                
            are eye-blinks to the slowly turning spheres                                      63

of the universe. Fame is a brief noise.
            He crawling before me once had a name                                
            shouted through Tuscany, and adored                                              66

in Sienna, where it’s now ignored, though
            he helped it smash a mad Florentine horde.”                         
           “Your true words humble me, but tell me more,”                               69

I said, “about that lord who crawls before.”
            “He, Provenzan Salvani, tried to be                                       
             Sienna’s tyrant prince and so creeps thus                                         72 

like all of us who raised ourselves far too
            presumptuously high.” Said I, “But why,
            is he not below with other princes                                                      75

not yet fit for your purifying pain?”
             Orsini said, “He earned this higher place
 because once, when a despot but not rich,                                        78

he begged for money in the public square
            to ransom a dear friend, though his proud soul
            found this humiliation agony.                                                             81

You too will know the pain of beggary.”



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