Canto VI


"After that Constantine the eagle turned

  Against the course of heaven, which it had followed

  Behind the ancient who Lavinia took,


Two hundred years and more the bird of God

5  In the extreme of Europe held itself,

  Near to the mountains whence it issued first;


And under shadow of the sacred plumes

  It governed there the world from hand to hand,

  And, changing thus, upon mine own alighted.


10Caesar I was, and am Justinian,

  Who, by the will of primal Love I feel,

  Took from the laws the useless and redundant;


And ere unto the work I was attent,

  One nature to exist in Christ, not more,

15  Believed, and with such faith was I contented.


But blessed Agapetus, he who was

  The supreme pastor, to the faith sincere

  Pointed me out the way by words of his.


Him I believed, and what was his assertion

20  I now see clearly, even as thou seest

  Each contradiction to be false and true.


As soon as with the Church I moved my feet,

  God in his grace it pleased with this high task

  To inspire me, and I gave me wholly to it,


25And to my Belisarius I commended

  The arms, to which was heaven's right hand so joined

  It was a signal that I should repose.


Now here to the first question terminates

  My answer; but the character thereof

30  Constrains me to continue with a sequel,


In order that thou see with how great reason

  Men move against the standard sacrosanct,

  Both who appropriate and who oppose it.


Behold how great a power has made it worthy

35  Of reverence, beginning from the hour

  When Pallas died to give it sovereignty.


Thou knowest it made in Alba its abode

  Three hundred years and upward, till at last

  The three to three fought for it yet again.


40Thou knowest what it achieved from Sabine wrong

  Down to Lucretia's sorrow, in seven kings

  O'ercoming round about the neighboring nations;


Thou knowest what it achieved, borne by the Romans

  Illustrious against Brennus, against Pyrrhus,

45  Against the other princes and confederates.


Torquatus thence and Quinctius, who from locks

  Unkempt was named, Decii and Fabii,

  Received the fame I willingly embalm;


It struck to earth the pride of the Arabians,

50  Who, following Hannibal, had passed across

  The Alpine ridges, Po, from which thou glidest;


Beneath it triumphed while they yet were young

  Pompey and Scipio, and to the hill

  Beneath which thou wast born it bitter seemed;


55Then, near unto the time when heaven had willed

  To bring the whole world to its mood serene,

  Did Caesar by the will of Rome assume it.


What it achieved from Var unto the Rhine,

  Isere beheld and Saone, beheld the Seine,

60  And every valley whence the Rhone is filled;


What it achieved when it had left Ravenna,

  And leaped the Rubicon, was such a flight

  That neither tongue nor pen could follow it.


Round towards Spain it wheeled its legions; then

65  Towards Durazzo, and Pharsalia smote

  That to the calid Nile was felt the pain.


Antandros and the Simois, whence it started,

  It saw again, and there where Hector lies,

  And ill for Ptolemy then roused itself.


70From thence it came like lightning upon Juba;

  Then wheeled itself again into your West,

  Where the Pompeian clarion it heard.


From what it wrought with the next standard-bearer

  Brutus and Cassius howl in Hell together,

75  And Modena and Perugia dolent were;


Still doth the mournful Cleopatra weep

  Because thereof, who, fleeing from before it,

  Took from the adder sudden and black death.


With him it ran even to the Red Sea shore;

80  With him it placed the world in so great peace,

  That unto Janus was his temple closed.


But what the standard that has made me speak

  Achieved before, and after should achieve

  Throughout the mortal realm that lies beneath it,


85Becometh in appearance mean and dim,

  If in the hand of the third Caesar seen

  With eye unclouded and affection pure,


Because the living Justice that inspires me

  Granted it, in the hand of him I speak of,

90  The glory of doing vengeance for its wrath.


Now here attend to what I answer thee;

  Later it ran with Titus to do vengeance

  Upon the vengeance of the ancient sin.


And when the tooth of Lombardy had bitten

95  The Holy Church, then underneath its wings

  Did Charlemagne victorious succor her.


Now hast thou power to judge of such as those

  Whom I accused above, and of their crimes,

  Which are the cause of all your miseries.


100To the public standard one the yellow lilies

  Opposes, the other claims it for a party,

  So that 'tis hard to see which sins the most.


Let, let the Ghibellines ply their handicraft

  Beneath some other standard; for this ever

105  Ill follows he who it and justice parts.


And let not this new Charles e'er strike it down,

  He and his Guelfs, but let him fear the talons

  That from a nobler lion stripped the fell.


Already oftentimes the sons have wept

110  The father's crime; and let him not believe

  That God will change His scutcheon for the lilies.


This little planet doth adorn itself

  With the good spirits that have active been,

  That fame and honour might come after them;


115And whensoever the desires mount thither,

  Thus deviating, must perforce the rays

  Of the true love less vividly mount upward.


But in commensuration of our wages

  With our desert is portion of our joy,

120  Because we see them neither less nor greater.


Herein doth living Justice sweeten so

  Affection in us, that for evermore

  It cannot warp to any iniquity.


Voices diverse make up sweet melodies;

125  So in this life of ours the seats diverse

  Render sweet harmony among these spheres;


And in the compass of this present pearl

  Shineth the sheen of Romeo, of whom

  The grand and beauteous work was ill rewarded.


130But the Provencals who against him wrought,

  They have not laughed, and therefore ill goes he

  Who makes his hurt of the good deeds of others.


Four daughters, and each one of them a queen,

  Had Raymond Berenger, and this for him

135  Did Romeo, a poor man and a pilgrim;


And then malicious words incited him

  To summon to a reckoning this just man,

  Who rendered to him seven and five for ten.


Then he departed poor and stricken in years,

140  And if the world could know the heart he had,

  In begging bit by bit his livelihood,


Though much it laud him, it would laud him more."