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 Canto III
      Dante, following Virgil, comes to the gate of Hell; where, after having
 read the dreadful words that are written thereon, they both enter. Here, as he
 understands from Virgil, those were punished who had passed their time (for
 living it could not be called) in a state of apathy and indifference both to
 good and evil. Then, pursuing their way, they arrive at the river Acheron; and
 there find the old ferryman Charon, who takes the spirits over to the opposite
 shore; which, as soon as Dante reaches, he is seized with terror, and falls
 into a trance.
 "Through me you pass into the city of woe:
 Through me you pass into eternal pain:
 Through me among the people lost for aye.
 Justice the founder of my fabric moved:
 To rear me was the task of Power divine,
 Supremest Wisdom, and primeval Love.[1]
 Before me things create were none, save things
 Eternal, and eternal I endure.
 All hope abandon, ye who enter here."
 [1: "Power," Wisdom," "Love," the three Persons of the Blessed
 Such characters, in color dim, I mark'd
 Over a portal's lofty arch inscribed.
 Whereat I thus: "Master, these words import
 Hard meaning." He as one prepared replied:
 "Here thou must all distrust behind thee leave;
 Here be vile fear extinguish'd. We are come
 Where I have told thee we shall see the souls
 To misery doom'd, who intellectual good
 Have lost." And when his hand he had stretch'd forth
 To mine, with pleasant looks, whence I was cheer'd,
 Into that secret place he led me on.
 Here sighs, with lamentations and loud moans,
 Resounded through the air pierced by no star,
 That e'en I wept at entering. Various tongues,
 Horrible languages, outcries of woe,
 Accents of anger, voices deep and hoarse,
 With hands together smote that swell'd the sounds,
 Made up a tumult, that forever whirls
 Round through that air with solid darkness stain'd,
 Like to the sand that in the whirlwind flies.
 I then, with horror yet encompast, cried:
 "O master! what is this I hear? what race
 Are these, who seem so overcome with woe?"
 He thus to me: "This miserable fate
 Suffer the wretched souls of those, who lived
 Without or praise or blame, with that ill band
 Of angels mix'd, who nor rebellious proved,
 Nor yet were true to God, but for themselves
 Were only. From his bounds Heaven drove them forth
 Not to impair his lustre; nor the depth
 Of Hell receives them, lest the accursed tribe
 Should glory thence with exultation vain."
 I then: "Master! what doth aggrieve them thus,
 That they lament so loud?" He straight replied:
 "That will I tell thee briefly. These of death
 No hope may entertain: and their blind life
 So meanly passes, that all other lots
 They envy. Fame of them the world hath none,
 Nor suffers; Mercy and Justice scorn them both.
 Speak not of them, but look, and pass them by."
 And I, who straightway look'd, beheld a flag,
 Which whirling ran around so rapidly,
 That it no pause obtain'd: and following came
 Such a long train of spirits, I should ne'er
 Have thought that death so many had despoil'd.
 When some of these I recognized, I saw
 And knew the shade of him, who to base fear[2]
 Yielding, abjured his high estate. Forthwith
 I understood, for certain, this the tribe
 Of those ill spirits both to God displeasing
 And to His foes. These wretches, who ne'er lived,
 Went on in nakedness, and sorely stung
 By wasps and hornets, which bedew'd their cheeks
 With blood, that, mix'd with tears, dropp'd to their feet,
 And by disgustful worms was gather'd there.
 [2: This is commonly understood of Celestine V, who abdicated the
 papal power in 1249. Venturi mentions a work written by Innocenzio Barcellini,
 of the Celestine order, and printed at Milan in 1701, in which an attempt is
 made to put a different interpretation on this passage. Lombardi would apply
 it to some one of Dante's fellow - citizens, who, refusing, through avarice or
 want of spirit, to support the party of the Bianchi at Florence, had been the
 main occasion of the miseries that befell them. But the testimony of Fazio
 degli Uberti, who lived so near the time of our author, seems almost decisive
 on this point. He expressly speaks of the Pope Celestine as being in Hell.]
 Then looking further onwards, I beheld
 A throng upon the shore of a great stream:
 Whereat I thus: "Sir! grant me now to know
 Whom here we view, and whence impell'd they seem
 So eager to pass o'er, as I discern
 Through the blear light?" He thus to me in few:
 "This shalt thou know, soon as our steps arrive
 Beside the woful tide of Acheron."
 Then with eyes downward cast, and fill'd with shame,
 Fearing my words offensive to his ear,
 Till we had reach'd the river, I from speech
 Abstain'd. And lo! toward us in a bark
 Comes on an old man, hoary white with eld,
 Crying, "Woe to you, wicked spirits! hope not
 Ever to see the sky again. I come
 To take you to the other shore across,
 Into eternal darkness, there to dwell
 In fierce heat and in ice. And thou, who there
 Standest, live spirit! get thee hence, and leave
 These who are dead." But soon as he beheld
 I left them not, "By other way," said he,
 "By other haven shalt thou come to shore,
 Not by this passage; thee a nimbler boat
 Must carry." Then to him thus spake my guide:
 "Charon! thyself torment not: so 'tis will'd,
 Where will and power are one: ask thou no more."
 Straightway in silence fell the shaggy cheeks
 Of him, the boatman o'er the livid lake,
 Around whose eyes glared wheeling flames. Meanwhile
 Those spirits, faint and naked, color changed,
 And gnash'd their teeth, soon as the cruel words
 They heard. God and their parents they blasphemed,
 The human kind, the place, the time, and seed,
 That did engender them and give them birth,
 Then all together sorely wailing drew
 To the curst strand, that every man must pass
 Who fears not God. Charon, demoniac form,
 With eyes of burning coal, collects them all,
 Beckoning, and each, that lingers, with his oar
 Strikes. As fall off the light autumnal leaves
 One still another following, till the bough
 Strews all its honours on the earth beneath;
 E'en in like manner Adam's evil brood
 Cast themselves, one by one, down from the shore,
 Each at a beck, as falcon at his call.[3]
 one by one, down from the shore.]
 [3: "As a falcon at his call." This is Vellutello's explanation, and
 seems preferable to that commonly given: "as a bird that is enticed to the
 cage by the call of another."]
 Thus go they over through the umber'd wave;
 And ever they on the opposing bank
 Be landed, on this side another throng
 Still gathers. "Son," thus spake the courteous guide,
 "Those who die subject to the wrath of God
 All here together come from every clime
 And to o'erpass the river are not loth:
 For so Heaven's justice goads them on, that fear
 Is turn'd into desire. Hence ne'er hath past
 Good spirit. If of thee Charon complain,
 Now mayst thou know the import of his words."
 This said, the gloomy region trembling shook
 So terribly, that yet with clammy dews
 Fear chills my brow. The sad earth gave a blast,
 That, lightening, shot forth a vermilion flame,
 Which all my senses conquer'd quite, and I
 Down dropp'd, as one with sudden slumber seized.