Front Page Titles (by Subject) INFERNO III - The Divine Comedy, Vol. 1 (Inferno) (English trans.)
INFERNO III - Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, Vol. 1 (Inferno) (English trans.) 
The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri. The Italian Text with a Translation in English Blank Verse and a Commentary by Courtney Langdon, vol. 1 (Inferno) (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1918). English version.
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The Gate and Vestibule of Hell
Cowards and Neutrals. Acheron
- Through me one goes into the town of woe,
- through me one goes into eternal pain,
- through me among the people that are lost.
- Justice inspired my high exalted Maker;
- I was created by the Might divine,
- the highest Wisdom and the primal Love.
- Before me there was naught created, save
- eternal things, and I eternal last;
- all hope abandon, ye that enter here!
- These words of gloomy color I beheld
- inscribed upon the summit of a gate;
- whence I: “Their meaning, Teacher, troubles me.”
- And he to me, like one aware, replied:
- “All fearfulness must here be left behind;
- all forms of cowardice must here be dead.
- We ’ve reached the place where, as I said to thee,
- thou ’lt see the sad folk who have lost the Good
- which is the object of the intellect.”
- Then, after he had placed his hand in mine
- with cheerful face, whence I was comforted,
- he led me in among the hidden things.
- There sighs and wails and piercing cries of woe
- reverberated through the starless air;
- hence I, at first, shed tears of sympathy.
- Strange languages, and frightful forms of speech,
- words caused by pain, accents of anger, voices
- both loud and faint, and smiting hands withal,
- a mighty tumult made, which sweeps around
- forever in that timelessly dark air,
- as sand is wont, whene’er a whirlwind blows.
- And I, whose head was girt about with horror,
- said: “Teacher, what is this I hear? What folk
- is this, that seems so overwhelmed with woe?”
- And he to me: “This wretched kind of life
- the miserable spirits lead of those
- who lived with neither infamy nor praise.
- Commingled are they with that worthless choir
- of Angels who did not rebel, nor yet
- were true to God, but sided with themselves.
- The heavens, in order not to be less fair,
- expelled them; nor doth nether Hell receive them,
- because the bad would get some glory thence.”
- And I: “What is it, Teacher, grieves them so,
- it causes them so loudly to lament?”
- “I ’ll tell thee very briefly,” he replied.
- “These have no hope of death, and so low down
- is this unseeing life of theirs, that envious
- they are of every other destiny.
- The world allows no fame of them to live;
- Mercy and Justice hold them in contempt.
- Let us not talk of them; but look, and pass!”
- And I, who gazed intently, saw a flag,
- which, whirling, moved so swiftly that to me
- contemptuous it appeared of all repose;
- and after it there came so long a line
- of people, that I never would have thought
- that death so great a number had undone.
- When some I ’d recognized, I saw and knew
- the shade of him who through his cowardice
- the great Refusal made. I understood
- immediately, and was assured that this
- the band of cowards was, who both to God
- displeasing are, and to His enemies.
- These wretched souls, who never were alive,
- were naked, and were sorely spurred to action
- by means of wasps and hornets that were there.
- The latter streaked their faces with their blood,
- which, after it had mingled with their tears,
- was at their feet sucked up by loathsome worms.
- When I had given myself to peering further,
- people I saw upon a great stream’s bank;
- I therefore said: “Now, Teacher, grant to me
- that I may know who these are, and what law
- makes them appear so eager to cross over,
- as in this dim light I perceive they are.”
- And he to me: “These things will be made clear
- to thee, as soon as on the dismal strand
- of Acheron we shall have stayed our steps.”
- Thereat, with shame-suffused and downcast eyes,
- and fearing lest my talking might annoy him,
- up to the river I abstained from speech.
- Behold then, coming toward us in a boat,
- an agèd man, all white with ancient hair,
- who shouted: “Woe to you, ye souls depraved!
- Give up all hope of ever seeing Heaven!
- I come to take you to the other shore,
- into eternal darkness, heat and cold.
- And thou that yonder art, a living soul,
- withdraw thee from those fellows that are dead.”
- But when he saw that I did not withdraw,
- he said: “By other roads and other ferries
- shalt thou attain a shore to pass across,
- not here; a lighter boat must carry thee.”
- To him my Leader: “Charon, be not vexed;
- thus is it yonder willed, where there is power
- to do whate’er is willed; so ask no more!”
- Thereat were quieted the woolly cheeks
- of that old boatman of the murky swamp,
- who round about his eyes had wheels of flame.
- Those spirits, though, who nude and weary were,
- their color changed, and gnashed their teeth together,
- as soon as they had heard the cruel words.
- They kept blaspheming God, and their own parents,
- the human species, and the place, and time,
- and seed of their conception and their birth.
- Then each and all of them drew on together,
- weeping aloud, to that accursèd shore
- which waits for every man that fears not God.
- Charon, the demon, with his ember eyes
- makes beckoning signs to them, collects them all,
- and with his oar beats whoso takes his ease.
- Even as in autumn leaves detach themselves,
- now one and now another, till their branch
- sees all its stripped off clothing on the ground;
- so, one by one, the evil seed of Adam
- cast themselves down that river-bank at signals,
- as doth a bird to its recalling lure.
- Thus o’er the dusky waves they wend their way;
- and ere they land upon the other side,
- another crowd collects again on this.
- “My son,” the courteous Teacher said to me,
- “all those that perish in the wrath of God
- from every country come together here;
- and eager are to pass across the stream,
- because Justice Divine so spurs them on,
- that what was fear is turned into desire.
- A good soul never goes across from hence;
- if Charon, therefore, findeth fault with thee,
- well canst thou now know what his words imply.”
- The darkling plain, when this was ended, quaked
- so greatly, that the memory of my terror
- bathes me even now with sweat.
- The tear-stained ground
- gave forth a wind, whence flashed vermilion light
- which in me overcame all consciousness;
- and down I fell like one whom sleep o’ertakes.