“If you can always offer a reply
so to readily to others,” said all three,
“then happy you who speak, at will, so clearly.
So, if you can escape these lands of darkness
and see the stars on your return,
when you repeat with pleasure, ‘I was there,’
be sure that you remember us to men.”
But here I can’t be still; and by the lines
of this my Comedy, reader, I swear-
and may my verse find favor for long years.
May God so let you, reader, gather fruit
from what you read.
My guide and I came on that hidden road
to make our way back into the bright world;
and with no care for any rest, we climbed-
he first, I following- until I saw,
through a round opening, some of those things
of beauty Heaven bears. It was from there
that we emerged, to see- once more- the stars.
Silently, alone, no one escorting us,
we made our way- one went before, one after-
as Friars Minor when the walk together.
Here sighs and lamentations and loud cries
were echoing across the starless air,
so that, as soon as I set out, I wept.
“This miserable way
is taken by the sorry souls of thoses
who lived without disgrace and without praise.
They now commingle with the coward angels,
the company of those who were not rebels
nor faithful to their God, but stood apart.
The heavens, that their beauty not be lessened,
have cast them out, not will deep Hell recieve them-
even the wicked cannot glory in them.”
O human race, born to fly upward, wherefore at a little wind dost thou so fall?
Consider your origins: you were not made to live as brutes, but to follow virtue and knowledge.
Through me the way into the suffering city
Through me the way to eternal pain,
Through me the way that runs among the lost.
Justice urged on my high Artificer
My maker was Divine Authority,
The Highest Wisdom, and Primal Love.
Before me nothing nothing but eternal things
Were made, and I endure eternally.
Abandon all hope, who enter here.
Here one must leave behind all hesitation;
here every cowardice must meet its death.
The day was now departing; the dark air
released the living beings of the earth
from work and weariness.
When I had journeyed half of our life’s way,
I found myself within a shadowed forest,
for I had lost the path that does not stray.
Moving again, I tried the lonely slope-
my firm foot was always the one below.
The time was the beginning of the morning;
the sun was rising now in fellowship
with the same stars that had escorted it
when Divine Love first moved those things of beauty.