BY DANTE ALIGHIERI
The Rev. H. F. Cary
Cantos 1 — 33
O’er better waves to speed her rapid course
The light bark of my genius lifts the sail,
Well pleas’d to leave so cruel sea behind;
And of that second region will I sing,
In which the human spirit from sinful blot
Is purg’d, and for ascent to Heaven prepares.
Here, O ye hallow’d Nine! for in your train
I follow, here the deadened strain revive;
Nor let Calliope refuse to sound
A somewhat higher song, of that loud tone,
Which when the wretched birds of chattering note
Had heard, they of forgiveness lost all hope.
Sweet hue of eastern sapphire, that was spread
O’er the serene aspect of the pure air,
High up as the first circle, to mine eyes
Unwonted joy renew’d, soon as I ’scap’d
Forth from the atmosphere of deadly gloom,
That had mine eyes and bosom fill’d with grief.
The radiant planet, that to love invites,
Made all the orient laugh, and veil’d beneath
The Pisces’ light, that in his escort came.
To the right hand I turn’d, and fix’d
On the’ other pole attentive, where I saw
Four stars ne’er seen before save by the ken
Of our first parents. Heaven of their rays
Seem’d joyous. O thou northern site, bereft
Indeed, and widow’d, since of these depriv’d!
As from this view I had desisted, straight
Turning a little tow’rds the other pole,
There from whence now the wain had disappear’d,
I saw an old man standing by my side
Alone, so worthy of rev’rence in his look,
That ne’er from son to father more was ow’d.
Low down his beard and mix’d with hoary white
Descended, like his locks, which parting fell
Upon his breast in double fold. The beams
Of those four luminaries on his face
So brightly shone, and with such radiance clear
Deck’d it, that I beheld him as the sun.
“Say who are ye, that stemming the blind stream,
Forth from th’ eternal prison-house have fled?”
He spoke and moved those venerable plumes.
“Who hath conducted, or with lantern sure
Lights you emerging from the depth of night,
That makes the infernal valley ever black?
Are the firm statutes of the dread abyss
Broken, or in high heaven new laws ordain’d,
That thus, condemn’d, ye to my caves approach?”
My guide, then laying hold on me, by words
And intimations given with hand and head,
Made my bent knees and eye submissive pay
Due reverence; then thus to him replied.