Canto XXII

 

Already was the Angel left behind us,

  The Angel who to the sixth round had turned us,

  Having erased one mark from off my face;

 

And those who have in justice their desire

5  Had said to us, "Beati," in their voices,

  With "sitio," and without more ended it.

 

And I, more light than through the other passes,

  Went onward so, that without any labour

  I followed upward the swift-footed spirits;

 

10When thus Virgilius began: "The love

  Kindled by virtue aye another kindles,

  Provided outwardly its flame appear.

 

Hence from the hour that Juvenal descended

  Among us into the infernal Limbo,

15  Who made apparent to me thy affection,

 

My kindliness towards thee was as great

  As ever bound one to an unseen person,

  So that these stairs will now seem short to me.

 

But tell me, and forgive me as a friend,

20  If too great confidence let loose the rein,

  And as a friend now hold discourse with me;

 

How was it possible within thy breast

  For avarice to find place, 'mid so much wisdom

  As thou wast filled with by thy diligence?"

 

25These words excited Statius at first

  Somewhat to laughter; afterward he answered:

  "Each word of thine is love's dear sign to me.

 

Verily oftentimes do things appear

  Which give fallacious matter to our doubts,

30  Instead of the true causes which are hidden!

 

Thy question shows me thy belief to be

  That I was niggard in the other life,

  It may be from the circle where I was;

 

Therefore know thou, that avarice was removed

35  Too far from me; and this extravagance

  Thousands of lunar periods have punished.

 

And were it not that I my thoughts uplifted,

  When I the passage heard where thou exclaimest,

  As if indignant, unto human nature,

 

40'To what impellest thou not, O cursed hunger

  Of gold, the appetite of mortal men?'

  Revolving I should feel the dismal joustings.

 

Then I perceived the hands could spread too wide

  Their wings in spending, and repented me

45  As well of that as of my other sins;

 

How many with shorn hair shall rise again

  Because of ignorance, which from this sin

  Cuts off repentance living and in death!

 

And know that the transgression which rebuts

50  By direct opposition any sin

  Together with it here its verdure dries.

 

Therefore if I have been among that folk

  Which mourns its avarice, to purify me,

  For its opposite has this befallen me."

 

55"Now when thou sangest the relentless weapons

  Of the twofold affliction of Jocasta,"

  The singer of the Songs Bucolic said,

 

"From that which Clio there with thee preludes,

  It does not seem that yet had made thee faithful

60  That faith without which no good works suffice.

 

If this be so, what candles or what sun

  Scattered thy darkness so that thou didst trim

  Thy sails behind the Fisherman thereafter?"

 

And he to him: "Thou first directedst me

65  Towards Parnassus, in its grots to drink,

  And first concerning God didst me enlighten.

 

Thou didst as he who walketh in the night,

  Who bears his light behind, which helps him not,

  But wary makes the persons after him,

 

70When thou didst say: 'The age renews itself,

  Justice returns, and man's primeval time,

  And a new progeny descends from heaven.'

 

Through thee I Poet was, through thee a Christian;

  But that thou better see what I design,

75  To colour it will I extend my hand.

 

Already was the world in every part

  Pregnant with the true creed, disseminated

  By messengers of the eternal kingdom;

 

And thy assertion, spoken of above,

80  With the new preachers was in unison;

  Whence I to visit them the custom took.

 

Then they became so holy in my sight,

  That, when Domitian persecuted them,

  Not without tears of mine were their laments;

 

85And all the while that I on earth remained,

  Them I befriended, and their upright customs

  Made me disparage all the other sects.

 

And ere I led the Greeks unto the rivers

  Of Thebes, in poetry, I was baptized,

90  But out of fear was covertly a Christian,

 

For a long time professing paganism;

  And this lukewarmness caused me the fourth circle

  To circuit round more than four centuries.

 

Thou, therefore, who hast raised the covering

95  That hid from me whatever good I speak of,

  While in ascending we have time to spare,

 

Tell me, in what place is our friend Terentius,

  Caecilius, Plautus, Varro, if thou knowest;

  Tell me if they are damned, and in what alley."

 

100"These, Persius and myself, and others many,"

  Replied my Leader, "with that Grecian are

  Whom more than all the rest the Muses suckled,

 

In the first circle of the prison blind;

  Ofttimes we of the mountain hold discourse

105  Which has our nurses ever with itself.

 

Euripides is with us, Antiphon,

  Simonides, Agatho, and many other

  Greeks who of old their brows with laurel decked.

 

There some of thine own people may be seen,

110  Antigone, Deiphile and Argia,

  And there Ismene mournful as of old.

 

There she is seen who pointed out Langia;

  There is Tiresias' daughter, and there Thetis,

  And there Deidamia with her sisters."

 

115Silent already were the poets both,

  Attent once more in looking round about,

  From the ascent and from the walls released;

 

And four handmaidens of the day already

  Were left behind, and at the pole the fifth

120  Was pointing upward still its burning horn,

 

What time my Guide: "I think that tow'rds the edge

  Our dexter shoulders it behoves us turn,

  Circling the mount as we are wont to do."

 

Thus in that region custom was our ensign;

125  And we resumed our way with less suspicion

  For the assenting of that worthy soul

 

They in advance went on, and I alone

  Behind them, and I listened to their speech,

  Which gave me lessons in the art of song.

 

130But soon their sweet discourses interrupted

  A tree which midway in the road we found,

  With apples sweet and grateful to the smell.

 

And even as a fir-tree tapers upward

  From bough to bough, so downwardly did that;

135  I think in order that no one might climb it.

 

On that side where our pathway was enclosed

  Fell from the lofty rock a limpid water,

  And spread itself abroad upon the leaves.

 

The Poets twain unto the tree drew near,

140  And from among the foliage a voice

  Cried: "Of this food ye shall have scarcity."

 

Then said: "More thoughtful Mary was of making

  The marriage feast complete and honourable,

  Than of her mouth which now for you responds;

 

145And for their drink the ancient Roman women

  With water were content; and Daniel

  Disparaged food, and understanding won.

 

The primal age was beautiful as gold;

  Acorns it made with hunger savorous,

150  And nectar every rivulet with thirst.

 

Honey and locusts were the aliments

  That fed the Baptist in the wilderness;

  Whence he is glorious, and so magnified

 

As by the Evangel is revealed to you."