Monday, June 09, 2014


Chapter 26: The Lustful

While my good master still called out to me,
            “Take care! Beware!” We walked in single file
            along the precipice’s outer rim.                                                          3

The sinking sun made bright the Western sky
            and being at our altitude it cast
            my shadow on the flames we travelled past,                                      6

so yellow flames appeared to burn more red.
            As all the shades were journeying our way
            the nearest ones attended to that sight.                                              9

A pair on whom I eavesdropped near me said,
            “That man lives in the flesh.” “Yes, I agree.”
            At once both of them came closer to me,                                        12

though keeping carefully within the fire.
            Escaping it was not their main desire.
            One questioned me, “O you who walk behind                               15

the other two, tell me, burning with thirst
in dreadful heat, what others want to know.
            How come you here without having to die?”                                 18

Before I replied a strange thing happened.
            In that blazing road a crowd came running
            from the way ahead. Kisses were exchanged                                  21

too fast on either side as they rushed past
            to cause delay, like ants upon their tasks
            rubbing noses to convey something good.                                      24

Not stopping all tried to out shout the rest.
            “Sodom and Gomorrah!” those leaving yelled
            those travelling my way balled, “Pasifae,                                       27

Cretan queen, in fake cow got fucked by bull!”
            As cranes divide, one flight departing north
            to Arctic snows, one south to Egypt’s sands,                                 30

both sides went different ways, singing hymns,
            chanting scriptures, lamenting sins in tears
            and thus in thirst obtaining holiness.                                             33

Those who had first approached me came again,
            and I, respecting their desire began,
            “O souls whose thirst for righteousness will be                            36

as Jesus said, fulfilled at last one day,
            in paradise a saint has ordered me
            to look at what God made for human kind                                   39

from the world’s centre to the outmost stars.
            But say (for I will write it in a book)
            who were those folk going the other way?                                  42

And also, who are you?” The couple gaped
            like Highlanders bemused by city streets
            but soon resumed civility again.                                                   45

The first shade said, “Your soul is truly blest.
            It will learn how to die better than most,
            Those you saw run the other way have sinned                             48

as Ceasar did, whose soldiers called him ‘queen’.
            They shout ‘Sodom’ in self reproach. We too
            enjoyed unlawful feasts of lust, My crowd                                  51

shout the disgraceful name of Pasifae
            who lust turned into beast. I do not know
            all who are here. Guido Guinicelli                                               54

is my name. I so sorrowed for my sins
            death sent me quickly here. I’ll soon be free.”
            In King Lycurgus’ time two orphan boys                                    57

found that their mother lived. I partly felt
            their joy on hearing Guido’s name for he
            wrote best the earliest Italian verse,                                             60

in sweet and graceful songs of love. I gazed
            speechlessly til, after my sight was fed,
            I offered my respect in humble words                                         63

he could not doubt, and said, “Thank you but why
            with words and looks you value me so high,
            I cannot think.” Said I, “Your noble verse                                   66

in common speech of shop and street enreach
            our talk and thought. Thus, sacred is the ink
            you wrote them in.” “Brother,” said he, “look there!”                 69

He pointed to a shade ahead. “In verse
            and prose romance he had more craftsmanship.
            Fools deny this, misguided by the cry                                        72

of other fools who set mere fashion high
            above good rules of reason and of art.
            Let me be selfish, if you will be kind.                                       75

When you ascend to Paradise and find
            a monastery where the abbot is
            Jesus Christ our Lord, there please pray for me.                      78

He sank back into flames like fish in sea.


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