“LO! the fell monster with the deadly sting!
Who passes mountains, breaks through fenced walls
And firm embattled spears, and with his filth
Taints all the world!” Thus me my guide address’d,
And beckon’d him, that he should come to shore,
Near to the stony causeway’s utmost edge.
SOON as the charity of native land
Wrought in my bosom, I the scatter’d leaves
Collected, and to him restor’d, who now
Was hoarse with utt’rance. To the limit thence
We came, which from the third the second round
Divides, and where of justice is display’d
Contrivance horrible. Things then first seen
Clearlier to manifest, I tell how next
A plain we reach’d, that from its sterile bed
Each plant repell’d. The mournful wood waves round
Its garland on all sides, as round the wood
Spreads the sad foss. There, on the very edge,
Our steps we stay’d. It was an area wide
Of arid sand and thick, resembling most
The soil that erst by Cato’s foot was trod.
UPON the utmost verge of a high bank,
By craggy rocks environ’d round, we came,
Where woes beneath more cruel yet were stow’d:
And here to shun the horrible excess
Of fetid exhalation, upward cast
From the profound abyss, behind the lid
Of a great monument we stood retir’d,
MY theme pursuing, I relate that ere
We reach’d the lofty turret’s base, our eyes
Its height ascended, where two cressets hung
We mark’d, and from afar another light
Return the signal, so remote, that scarce
The eye could catch its beam. I turning round
To the deep source of knowledge, thus inquir’d:
“Say what this means? and what that other light
In answer set? what agency doth this?”
“AH me! O Satan! Satan!” loud exclaim’d
Plutus, in accent hoarse of wild alarm:
And the kind sage, whom no event surpris’d,
To comfort me thus spake: “Let not thy fear
Harm thee, for power in him, be sure, is none
To hinder down this rock thy safe descent.”
Then to that sworn lip turning, “Peace!” he cried,
MY sense reviving, that erewhile had droop’d
With pity for the kindred shades, whence grief
O’ercame me wholly, straight around I see
New torments, new tormented souls, which way
Soe’er I move, or turn, or bend my sight.
In the third circle I arrive, of show’rs
Ceaseless, accursed, heavy, and cold, unchang’d
For ever, both in kind and in degree.
Large hail, discolour’d water, sleety flaw
Through the dun midnight air stream’d down amain:
Stank all the land whereon that tempest fell.
FROM the first circle I descended thus
Down to the second, which, a lesser space
Embracing, so much more of grief contains
Provoking bitter moans. There, Minos stands
Grinning with ghastly feature: he, of all
Who enter, strict examining the crimes,
BROKE the deep slumber in my brain a crash
Of heavy thunder, that I shook myself,
As one by main force rous’d. Risen upright,
My rested eyes I mov’d around, and search’d
With fixed ken to know what place it was,
Wherein I stood. For certain on the brink
I found me of the lamentable vale,
The dread abyss, that joins a thund’rous sound
Of plaints innumerable. Dark and deep,
And thick with clouds o’erspread, mine eye in vain
Explor’d its bottom, nor could aught discern.
“THROUGH me you pass into the city of woe:
Through me you pass into eternal pain:
Through me among the people lost for aye.
Justice the founder of my fabric mov’d:
To rear me was the task of power divine,
Supremest wisdom, and primeval love.
Before me things create were none, save things
Eternal, and eternal I endure.
ENLARGE TO FULL SIZE
NOW was the day departing, and the air,
Imbrown’d with shadows, from their toils releas’d
All animals on earth; and I alone
Prepar’d myself the conflict to sustain,
Both of sad pity, and that perilous road,
Which my unerring memory shall retrace.
O Muses! O high genius! now vouchsafe
Your aid! O mind! that all I saw hast kept
Safe in a written record, here thy worth
And eminent endowments come to proof.