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 Canto XXVI
      Remounting by the steps, down which they have descended to the seventh
 gulf, they go forward to the arch that stretches over the eighth, and from
 thence behold numberless flames wherein are punished the evil counsellors,
 each flame containing a sinner, save one, in which were Diomede and Ulysses,
 the latter of whom relates the manner of his death.
 Florence, exult! for thou so mightily
 Hast thriven, that o'er land and sea thy wings
 Thou beatest, and thy name spreads over hell.
 Among the plunderers, such the three I found
 Thy citizens; whence shame to me thy son,
 And no proud honour to thyself redounds.
 But if our minds, when dreaming near the dawn,
 Are of the truth presageful, thou ere long
 Shalt feel what Prato[1] (not to say the rest)
 Would fain might come upon thee; and that chance
 Were in good time, if it befell thee now.
 Would so it were, since it must needs befall!
 For as time wears me, I shall grieve the more.
 [1: "Shalt feel what Prato." The Poet prognosticates the calamities
 which were soon to befall his native city, and which, he says, even her
 nearest neighbor, Prato, would wish her. The calamities more particularly
 pointed at are said to be the fall of a wooden bridge over the Arno, in May,
 1304, where a large multitude were assembled to witness a representation of
 hell and the infernal torments, in consequence of which accident many lives
 were lost; and a conflagration, that in the following month destroyed more
 than 1,700 houses. See G. Villani, Hist. lib. viii. c. lxx. and lxxi.]
 We from the depth departed; and my guide
 Remounting scaled the flinty steps, which late
 We downward traced, and drew me up the steep.
 Pursuing thus our solitary way
 Among the crags and splinters of the rock,
 Sped not our feet without the help of hands.
 Then sorrow seized me, which e'en now revives,
 As my thought turns again to what I saw,
 And, more than I am wont, I rein and curb
 The powers of nature in me, lest they run
 Where Virtue guides not; that, if aught of good
 My gentle star or something better gave me,
 I envy not myself the precious boon.
 As in that season, when the sun least veils
 His face that lightens all, what time the fly
 Gives way to the shrill gnat, the peasant then,
 Upon some cliff reclined, beneath him sees
 Fire - flies innumerous spangling o'er the vale,
 Vineyard or tilth, where his day - labor lies;
 With flames so numberless throughout its space
 Shone the eighth chasm, apparent, when the depth
 Was to my view exposed. As he, whose wrongs
 The bears avenged, as its departure saw
 Elijah's chariot, when the steeds erect
 Raised their steep flight for heaven; his eyes meanwhile,
 Straining pursued them, till the flame alone,
 Upsoaring like a misty speck, he kenn'd:
 E'en thus along the gulf moves every flame,
 A sinner so enfolded close in each,
 That none exhibits token of the theft.
 Upon the bridge I forward bent to look
 And grasp'd a flinty mass, or else had fallen,
 Though push'd not from the height. The guide, who mark'd
 How I did gaze attentive, thus began:
 "Within these ardours are the spirits; each
 Swatched in confining fire." "Master! thy word,"
 I answer'd, "hath assured me; yet I deem'd
 Already of the truth, already wish'd
 To ask thee who is in yon fire, that comes
 So parted at the summit, as it seem'd
 Ascending from that funeral pile[2] where lay
 The Theban brothers." He replied: "Within,
 [2: The flame is said to have divided the bodies of Eteocles and
 Polynices, as if conscious of the enmity that actuated them while living.]
 Ulysses there and Diomede endure
 Their penal tortures, thus to vengeance now
 Together hasting, as erewhile to wrath
 These in the flame with ceaseless groans deplore
 The ambush of the horse,[3] that open'd wide
 A portal for the goodly seed to pass,
 Which sow'd imperial Rome; nor less the guile
 Lament they, whence, of her Achilles 'reft,
 Deidamia yet in death complains.
 And there is rued the stratagem that Troy
 Of her Palladium spoil'd" - "If they have power
 Of utterance from within these sparks," said I,
 "O master! think my prayer a thousand - fold
 In repetition urged, that thou vouchsafe
 To pause till here the horned flame arrive.
 See, how toward it with desires I bend."
 [3: The wooden horse that caused Aeneas to quit Troy and seek his
 fortune in Italy, where his descendants founded Rome.]
 He thus: "Thy prayer is worthy of much praise,
 And I accept it therefore; but do thou
 Thy tongue refrain: to question them be mine;
 For I divine thy wish: and they perchance,
 For they were Greeks,[4] might shun discourse with thee."
 [4: Perhaps implying arrogance.]
 When there the flame had come, where time and place
 Seem'd fitting to my guide, he thus began:
 "O ye, who dwell two spirits in one fire!
 If, living, I of you did merit aught,
 Whate'er the measure were of that desert,
 When in the world my lofty strain I pour'd,
 Move ye not on, till one of you unfold
 In what clime death o'ertook him self - destroy'd."
 Of the old flame forthwith the greater horn
 Began to roll, murmuring, as a fire
 That labors with the wind, then to and fro
 Wagging the top, as a tongue uttering sounds,
 Threw out its voice, and spake: "When I escaped
 From Circe, who beyond a circling year
 Had held me near Caieta by her charms,
 Ere thus Aeneas yet had named the shore;
 Nor fondness for my son, nor reverence
 Of my old father, nor return of love,
 That should have crown'd Penelope with joy,
 Could overcome in me the zeal I had
 To explore the world, and search the ways of life,
 Man's evil and his virtue. Forth I sail'd
 Into the deep illimitable main,
 With but one bark, and the small faithful band
 That yet cleaved to me. As Iberia far,
 Far as Marocco, either shore I saw,
 And the Sardinian and each isle beside
 Which round that ocean bathes. Tardy with age
 Were I and my companions, when we came
 To the strait pass,[5] where Hercules ordain'd
 The boundaries not to be o'erstepp'd by man.
 The walls of Seville to my right I left,
 On the other hand already Ceuta past.
 'O brothers!' I began, 'who to the west
 Through perils without number now have reach'd;
 To this the short remaining watch, that yet
 Our senses have to wake, refuse not proof
 Of the unpeopled world, following the track
 Of Phoebus. Call to mind from whence ye sprang:
 Ye were not form'd to live the life of brutes,
 But virtue to pursue and knowledge high.'
 With these few words I sharpen'd for the voyage
 The mind of my associates, that I then
 Could scarcely have withheld them. To the dawn
 Our poop we turn'd, and for the witless flight
 Made our oars wings, still gaining on the left.
 Each star of the other pole night now beheld,
 And ours so low, that from the ocean floor
 It rose not. Five times reillumed, as oft
 Vanish'd the light from underneath the moon,
 Since the deep way we enter'd, when from far
 Appear'd a mountain dim,[6] loftiest methought
 [5: The Strait of Gibraltar.]
 [6: The mountain of Purgatory. - Among various opinions respecting
 the situation of the terrestrial paradise, Peitro Lombardo relates, that "it
 was separated by a long space, either of sea or land, from the regions
 inhabited by men, and placed in the ocean, reaching as far as to the luner
 circle, so that the waters of the deluge did not reach it." - Sent. lib. ii.
 dist. 17.]
 Of all I e'er beheld. Joy seized us straight;
 But soon to mourning changed. From the new land
 A whirlwind sprung, and at her foremost side
 Did strike the vessel. Thrice it whirl'd her round
 With all the waves; the fourth time lifted up
 The poop, and sank the prow: so fate decreed:
 And over us the booming billow closed."[7]
 [7: "Closed." Venturi refers to Pliny and Solinus for the opinion
 that Ulysses was the founder of Lisbon, from whence he thinks it was easy for
 the fancy of a poet to send him on yet further enterprises. The story (which
 it is not unlikely that our author borrowed from some legend of the Middle
 Ages) may have taken its rise partly from the obscure oracle returned by the
 ghost of Tiresias to Ulysses (eleventh book of the Odyssey), and partly from
 the fate which there was reason to suppose had befallen some adventurous
 explorers of the Atlantic Ocean.]