Saturday, April 26, 2014


                       Chapter 14: Envy Ruling

Who now ascends our penitential hill
before death makes him rise, and who at will
opens and shuts his eyes?” “I do not know                                       3

but he is nearest you. Speak well to him,                                          
to gain a fair reply.” We saw two souls
conversing thus in that blind row. One said,                                      6

“O living man bound Heavenward, please tell                                   
in charity your birthplace and your name.
A special grace protects you, so your words                                     9

can do us good.” “I was born near,” said I,                                        
“a stream that flows more than a hundred miles
from Falterona to the sea. My name                                                  12

you do not need. It’s not yet known to fame.”                                 
“Mount Falterona is the source,” said he
“ of Tiber and of Arno, therefore you                                               15

are from Romagna or from Tuscany,
            and probably the last. Why not say so?
            Is Arno a bad word?” “It is indeed!”                                                  18

the other speaker cried, “All living by
            that evil flood should die and be forgot.
            They flee from virtue, dread it like a snake.                                       21

The place corrupts them, or bad customs spreads
corruption through them like a deadly plague.
Close to the Arno’s source the folk are brutes                                   24

like those who Circe once turned into swine,
fit to eat acorns, not to dine like men.           
Leaving these hogs the stream enters a land                                  27

of snarling mongrel dogs, more full of spite
than bravery or any strength to bite.
Lower the stream swells wider, and the more                                     30

it swells, the dogs become rapacious wolves.
            Leaving them by a winding glen it flows
through a land of cheating foxes none can trap,                             33 

so great is the support for their deceit.
            But now the future has grown clear to me!
I’ll say what I foresee, and do not care                                               36

what ears may hear. Your grandson will become
            hunter of wolves beside that horrid flood,
selling young flesh, butchering it when old.                                   39

He will be infamous for slaughtering,
            will leave so few that centuries will pass
before the state of Florence is restored.”                                            42

This coming woe showed on the troubled face
            of he announcing it and he who heard.
Said I, “If you want word of that conveyed                                       45

to earth below, I’d better know your names.”
            Chief spokesman of the two replied, “You ask
what you denied to me. I can’t refuse,                                               48

for you are in God’s grace. Know that in life
            I, Guido del Duco, felt so much spite
at sight of folk enjoying life, my face                                                 51

swelled and turned scarlet in my jealous rage.
            I sowed bad seed, now chew the bitter crop.
No wonder I am blind, for envy’s whip                                             54

drove me away from human fellowship,
            engrossing good things for myself and heirs.
O humankind, our mad wish not to share                                           57

repels the sympathy and love we need,
            brings endless war. You Tuscans know that well.
Rinier of the house of Calboli                                                             60

is my companion, last true nobleman
            of an old family. None after he
            have been or will be good, and this is true                                          63

of every great family between
            mountains and Po from Reno to the sea.
            Once they were generous and chivalrous.                                           66

Art, sport, good manners flourished under them.
            Now fields of their estates grow fouler weeds
            than decades of good farming can repair.                                            69 

Where now exist Arrigo Mainardi,
            Guido de Carpigna, good Lizio,
            also the good Pierre Traversaro?                                                         72

In the Romagna a vile bastard race
            replaces every one; and when again
            will a Fabbro be found in Bologna?                                                    75

A Fosco in Faenza? – noble sprout
            from a most humble herb. Do not wonder,
            Tuscan, if I weep remembering how                                                   78

Guido da Prata, Ugulino d’Azzo
            lived and ruled, Tignoso and company,
            the Traversaro and Anastagi,                                                              81

both now without an heir. O Tuscan, think!
            I knew these knights, these ladies moved by love
            and courtesy, where now is villainy.                                                  84

O Bertinoro, why do you remain?
Your lords abandoned your corrupt old den –
follow them! Bagnacavallo does well                                             87

in failing to breed men. Castrocaro
            does ill, Conio worse by breeding lords
            deserving Heaven’s curse. The Pagani                                                90

still keep old honesty, or will when free
            of that sly fiend Malnardo, even so
            their name cannot regain it’s ancient fame.                                         93

O Hugo Fantolini, your good name
            is safe since no one now possesses it.
            Tuscan, depart. I’d rather weep than speak,                                      96

our conversation has so wrung my heart.”
            We knew that these dear spirits heard us go.
            Their silence made us sure our way was right.                                   99

A mighty cry suddenly cleft the air:  
            “All seeing who I am desire my death!”        
Before our ears recovered from that shout                                    102

another deafening outcry burst out,
too loud to be an echo of the first:                                                     
“I am Aglauros who was turned to stone.”                                   105 

Silence returned. Instead of following
I stepped beside my guide. Without surprise                                    
he saw the question in my eyes and said                                       108

“You have heard Cain, his brother’s murderer,
            and sister-killing Aglauros. These two                                              
are reins to hold back human jealousy,                                          111

if we will bite God’s bit on Earth below.
            Many prefer His enemy’s sweet bait                                                
whose hook then pulls them downward into Hell,                        114

yet those who think to raise their eyes can see
            the starry wheels of Heaven high above,                                           
created beautiful, given in love,                                                      117

inviting all to soar into the skies.”


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