Front Page Titles (by Subject) INFERNO V - The Divine Comedy, Vol. 1 (Inferno) (English trans.)
INFERNO V - 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 Second Circle. Sexual Intemperance
The Lascivious and Adulterers
- Thus from the first of circles I went down
- into the second, which surrounds less space,
- and all the greater pain, which goads to wailing.
- There Minos stands in horrid guise, and snarls;
- inside the entrance he examines sins,
- judges, and, as he girds himself, commits.
- I mean that when an ill-born soul appears
- before him, it confesses itself wholly;
- and thereupon that Connoisseur of sins
- perceives what place in Hell belongs to it,
- and girds him with his tail as many times,
- as are the grades he wishes it sent down.
- Before him there are always many standing;
- they go to judgment, each one in his turn;
- they speak and hear, and then are downward hurled.
- “O thou that comest to the inn of woe,”
- said Minos, giving up, on seeing me,
- the execution of so great a charge,
- “see how thou enter, and in whom thou put
- thy trust; let not the gate-way’s width deceive thee!”
- To him my Leader: “Why dost thou, too, cry?
- Hinder thou not his fate-ordained advance;
- thus is it yonder willed, where there is power
- to do whate’er is willed; so ask no more!”
- And now the woeful sounds of actual pain
- begin to break upon mine ears; I now
- am come to where much wailing smiteth me.
- I reached a region silent of all light,
- which bellows as the sea doth in a storm,
- if lashed and beaten by opposing winds.
- The infernal hurricane, which never stops,
- carries the spirits onward with its sweep,
- and, as it whirls and smites them, gives them pain.
- Whene’er they come before the shattered rock,
- there lamentations, moans and shrieks are heard;
- there, cursing, they blaspheme the Power Divine.
- I understood that to this kind of pain
- are doomed those carnal sinners, who subject
- their reason to their sensual appetite.
- And as their wings bear starlings on their way,
- when days are cold, in full and wide-spread flocks;
- so doth that blast the evil spirits bear;
- this way and that, and up and down it leads them;
- nor only doth no hope of rest, but none
- of lesser suffering, ever comfort them.
- And even as cranes move on and sing their lays,
- forming the while a long line in the air;
- thus saw I coming, uttering cries of pain,
- shades borne along upon the aforesaid storm;
- I therefore said: “Who, Teacher, are the people
- the gloomy air so cruelly chastises?”
- “The first of those of whom thou wouldst have news,”
- the latter thereupon said unto me,
- “was empress over lands of many tongues.
- To sexual vice so wholly was she given,
- that lust she rendered lawful in her laws,
- thus to remove the blame she had incurred.
- Semiramis she is, of whom one reads
- that she gave suck to Ninus, and became
- his wife; she held the land the Soldan rules.
- The next is she who killed herself through love,
- and to Sichaeus’ ashes broke her faith;
- the lustful Cleopatra follows her.
- See Helen, for whose sake so long a time
- of guilt rolled by, and great Achilles see,
- who fought with love when at the end of life.
- Paris and Tristan see;” and then he showed me,
- and pointed out by name, a thousand shades
- and more, whom love had from our life cut off.
- When I had heard my Leader speak the names
- of ladies and their knights of olden times,
- pity o’ercame me, and I almost swooned.
- “Poet,” I then began, “I ’d gladly talk
- with those two yonder who together go,
- and seem to be so light upon the wind.”
- “Thou ’lt see thy chance when nearer us they are;”
- said he, “beseech them then by that same love
- which leadeth them along, and they will come.”
- Soon as the wind toward us had bent their course.
- I cried: “O toil-worn souls, come speak with us,
- so be it that One Else forbid it not!”
- As doves, when called by their desire, come flying
- with raised and steady pinions through the air
- to their sweet nest, borne on by their own will;
- so from the band where Dido is they issued,
- advancing through the noisome air toward us,
- so strong with love the tone of my appeal.
- “O thou benign and gracious living creature,
- that goest through the gloomy purple air
- to visit us, who stained the world blood-red;
- if friendly were the universal King,
- for thy peace would we pray to Him, since pity
- thou showest for this wretched woe of ours.
- Of whatsoever it may please you hear
- and speak, we will both hear and speak with you,
- while yet, as now it is, the wind is hushed.
- The town where I was born sits on the shore,
- whither the Po descends to be at peace
- together with the streams that follow him.
- Love, which soon seizes on a well-born heart,
- seized him for that fair body’s sake, whereof
- I was deprived; and still the way offends me.
- Love, which absolves from loving none that ’s loved,
- seized me so strongly for his love of me,
- that, as thou see’st, it doth not leave me yet.
- Love to a death in common led us on;
- Cain’s ice awaiteth him who quenched our life.”
- These words were wafted down to us from them.
- When I had heard those sorely troubled souls,
- I bowed my head, and long I held it low,
- until the Poet said: “What thinkest thou?”
- When I made answer I began: “Alas!
- how many tender thoughts and what desire
- induced these souls to take the woeful step!”
- I then turned back to them again and spoke,
- and I began: “Thine agonies, Francesca,
- cause me to weep with grief and sympathy.
- But tell me: at the time of tender sighs,
- whereby and how did Love concede to you
- that ye should know each other’s veiled desires?”
- And she to me: “There is no greater pain
- than to remember happy days in days
- of misery; and this thy Leader knows.
- But if to know the first root of our love
- so yearning a desire possesses thee,
- I ’ll do as one who weepeth while he speaks.
- One day, for pastime merely, we were reading
- of Launcelot, and how love o’erpowered him;
- alone we were, and free from all misgiving.
- Oft did that reading cause our eyes to meet,
- and often take the color from our faces;
- and yet one passage only overcame us.
- When we had read of how the longed-for smile
- was kissed by such a lover, this one here,
- who nevermore shall be divided from me,
- trembling all over, kissed me on my mouth.
- A Gallehault the book, and he who wrote it!
- No further in it did we read that day.”
- While one was saying this, the other spirit
- so sorely wept, that out of sympathy
- I swooned away as though about to die,
- and fell as falls a body that is dead.