Imagens das páginas
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particular expression which the rhyme has led him to adopt.

In the preparation of the Notes I have been chiefly indebted to the Commentary of Signor Brunone Bianchi, which was recommended to me by Count Aurelio Saffi. I have also derived assistance from the Translations and Commentaries of Longfellow, Cary, Wright, and Pollock; the French Translation of M. Louis gratis- bonne; and the superb edition of the Inferno by the late Lord Vernon.

Other Cantos I have translated, and hope to publish. Those comprised in the present volume have already undergone several revisions since they were first printed. I respectfully submit them to the judgment of the reader.

November, 1874.

THE INFERNO.

CANTO I.

Nel mezzo del cammin.

ARGUMENT. Dante is lost in a wood. Arriving at the base of a hill, whose summit is illumined by the rays of the rising sun, he beholds three wild beasts on the heights above him. Returning in "alarm, he is met by Virgil, whose aid he implores. Virgil informs him that he must traverse the unseen world, if he would escape the perils of the wood. He offers himself to guide the Poet through Hell and Purgatory. Beatrice would be his guide into Paradise.

On life's mid-way—ere half my days were o'er—
All in a darksome wood1 I roved astray,
Wherein the way of truth was seen no more.

Ah me! 'twere a sad task and hard to say

How wild that woodland was, how sharp, how strong 5 Its growth, which ev'n in thought renews dismay.

1 Error.

Does there to death such bitterness belong ?
Yet wondrous things athwart my path that lay,
And good which there I found shall wake my song.

How first I enter'd there I scarce can say; 10

So heedless was I and so full of sleep
That hour wherein I swerved from the straight way.

But soon as I had gain'd a hill-side steep—2
There where that dark and dreary valley ended,
That made my heart to grieve and eyes to weep— 15

Lo! as I gazed, over its slope descended
Vesture of light from the heaven-wanderer,
Upon whose course are all things else suspended.

Then tranquillized a little was the fear
That in the deep lake of my heart3 had lain 20

All that long night of anguish and despair.

And like as one forth from the sea's domain
Escaped unto the shore with labouring breath
Turns back and gazes at the perilous main;

2 Truth. Politically, the ideal form of government for Italy and mankind—in Dante's opinion, an universal monarchy, seated at Rome, with the Pope as spiritual head.

'Variously interpreted:—by Signor Bianchi, as referring to the stagnation of the blood in the vessels of the heart caused by terror; by M. Louis Ratisbonne, as ' le lac agité de mon cceur ;' and by Longfellow as 'the deep mountain tarn of his heart, dark with its own depth, and the shadows hanging over it.'

So did my spirit, that still sank beneath 25

Its anguish, backward turn to view the place

Wherein none else entering had 'scaped from death. I stay'd a while to rest my weariness;

Then, moving gradual o'er a gentle rise,4

My way I took thro' that wide wilderness. 30

And lo! just where the emerald steep 'gan rise,

A Leopard5 light of foot, quick-moving, gay

With speckled skin, unto my wondering eyes Appear'd, nor vanish'd, rather did my way

Perplex and hinder so that many a time 35

I turnèd to go back in deep dismay. It was the hour of the morning's prime;

And the sun clomb up those self-same stars6 among

Wherewith encompassèd he rose sublime

4 The soul enters upon the quest after truth with confidence, meeting with no difficulty at the outset, and having no consciousness of the obstacles which lie in the way.

5 Envy. Inf. vi, 50, 74; xv. 68. Otherwise, with Longfellow, and others, Worldly Pleasure.

The imagery in verses 31-54 is evidently borrowed from Jeremiah v. 6. 'Wherefore a lion out of the forest shall slay them, a wolf of the evenings shall spoil them, a leopard shall watch over their cities: every one that goeth out thence shall be torn in pieces.'

6 The stars of Aries. 'The world was anciently believed to have been created in the spring. "Verillud erat." Georg. II. 336.' Wright.

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