“If well I do incorp’rate with my thought
The meaning of thy speech,” said he, who first
Addrest me, “thou dost speak of Arno’s wave.”
To whom the other: “Why hath he conceal’d
The title of that river, as a man
Doth of some horrible thing?” The spirit, who
Thereof was question’d, did acquit him thus:
“I know not: but ’tis fitting well the name
Should perish of that vale; for from the source
Where teems so plenteously the Alpine steep
Maim’d of Pelorus, (that doth scarcely pass
Beyond that limit,) even to the point
Whereunto ocean is restor’d, what heaven
Drains from th’ exhaustless store for all earth’s streams,
Throughout the space is virtue worried down,
As ’twere a snake, by all, for mortal foe,
Or through disastrous influence on the place,
Or else distortion of misguided wills,
That custom goads to evil: whence in those,
The dwellers in that miserable vale,
Nature is so transform’d, it seems as they
Had shar’d of Circe’s feeding. ’Midst brute swine,
Worthier of acorns than of other food
Created for man’s use, he shapeth first
His obscure way; then, sloping onward, finds
Curs, snarlers more in spite than power, from whom
He turns with scorn aside: still journeying down,
By how much more the curst and luckless foss
Swells out to largeness, e’en so much it finds
Dogs turning into wolves. Descending still
Through yet more hollow eddies, next he meets
A race of foxes, so replete with craft,
They do not fear that skill can master it.
Nor will I cease because my words are heard
By other ears than thine. It shall be well
For this man, if he keep in memory
What from no erring Spirit I reveal.
Lo! behold thy grandson, that becomes
A hunter of those wolves, upon the shore
Of the fierce stream, and cows them all with dread:
Their flesh yet living sets he up to sale,
Then like an aged beast to slaughter dooms.
Many of life he reaves, himself of worth
And goodly estimation. Smear’d with gore
Mark how he issues from the rueful wood,
Leaving such havoc, that in thousand years
It spreads not to prime lustihood again.”
As one, who tidings hears of woe to come,
Changes his looks perturb’d, from whate’er part
The peril grasp him, so beheld I change
That spirit, who had turn’d to listen, struck
With sadness, soon as he had caught the word.
His visage and the other’s speech did raise Desire in me to know the names of both, whereof with meek entreaty I inquir’d.
The shade, who late addrest me, thus resum’d:
“Thy wish imports that I vouchsafe to do
For thy sake what thou wilt not do for mine.
But since God’s will is that so largely shine
His grace in thee, I will be liberal too.
Guido of Duca know then that I am.
Envy so parch’d my blood, that had I seen
A fellow man made joyous, thou hadst mark’d