last moon

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Dante's Ulysses

 –  Inferno Canto XXVI-

“When I left Circe who more than a year
   retained me over there close to Gaeta
long before Aeneas came  there
 giving the place that name,
   not fondness for my son, nor pity
on my old father, nor Penelope`s claim
to the joys of conjugal love,
   could overcome  in my mind the lust
 to get  experienced of  the whole world
and  all  human faults and virtues,
   and  I turned into the large and open sea
with just one  ship and only those few comrades
who  did not desert me. 
   I saw  both shores as far as Morocco
 and as far as Spain and I saw Sardinia
and the other islands  washed by that sea.
  I and my  comrades were old  and worn
when we sailed  into the narrow pass
where Hercules rose his columns
  warning all men not to go further,
already I had left Ceuta on the left,
Seville now sank behind me on the right.
  “Comrades,” I said, “who through a hundred thousand
perils have reached the West, in the short time
we have still left of our lives
   let us   not deny  ourselves  to experience
 the uninhabited world  following the course
of the sun where it set.
   Consider your origin! You were not born
to live your lives like brutes,
but to  follow the path of virtue and knowledge!”
   With this brief exhortation I made my men
so eager for the voyage I could hardly
have held them back if I changed my mind,
   and turning our stern toward morning,
we bore southwest out of the  known world ,
making wings of our oars for our fool`s flight.
   The night  showed already   all the constellations
 of the other hemisphere and our pole
 had so declined that it did not rise out of its ocean bed.
    Five times  the  moon’s face
 had brightened  and as many time  waned
since we had started our voyage
   when   a mountain appeared to us 
so far that it  looked dark,  a peak so tall
I doubted any man had seen the like.
   We cheered  and  soon we cried
because  a whirl broke hard
upon our ship from the new land:
   three times it turned over and over the ship
 in the wave ,  at fourth the poop rose
 and the bow went down, as Somebody wished
      till the sea closed over us.”

English Translation by Angelo Ruggeri

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