The Inferno

I did not dare descend to his level
But kept my head inclinded, as one who walks
in reverence meditating good and evil.
"What brings you here before your own last day?
What fortune or what destiny?" he began.
"And who is he that leads you this dark way?"
"Up there in the happy life I went astray
in a valley," I replied, "before I had reached
the fullness of my years. Only yesterday
at dawn I turned from it. This spirit showed
himself to me as I was turning back,
and guides me home again along this road."
And he: "Follow your star, for if in all
of the sweet life I saw one truth shine clearly,

you cannot miss your glorious arrival.
And had I lived to do what I meant to do,
I would have cheered and seconded your work,
observing Heaven so well disposed toward you.

But that ungrateful and malignant stock
that came down from Fiesole of old
and still smacks of the mountain and the rock,

for your good works will be your enemy.
And there is cause: the sweet fig is not meant
to bear its fruit beside the bitter sorb-tree."

Canto XV, Circle Seven: Round Three; The Violent Against Nature (43-58)
Dante Alighieri, 1320

Published on by Matthew LaBreche.