Dante Alighieri


(From Purgatory, Canto VI)

Translated by Mrs. Ramsay


ALAS! poor Italy, the home of woe,

Ship without pilot in an ocean wild,

No gentle lady, but a harlot thou!

  So eager was that courteous spirit mild,

Only for the sweet sound of his own land,

To welcome joyfully his country’s child:

  And now in thee, not without warfare stand

Those who are yet alive; and each gnaws each,

Of those whom but one wall and ditch defend.

  Seek, wretched one, around thy circling beach;

Then turn thine eyes, within thy bosom gaze,

And see if anywhere sweet peace doth reach.

  What boots it that on thee Justinian lays

The bridle, if the saddle be not filled?

Else were there less of shame and sad amaze.

  Ah! ye whose mad dissensions should be stilled

In loyal obedience unto Cæsar’s throne,

If thou wouldst understand what God hath willed,

  See how this beast is fierce and savage grown,

Because she is not governed by the spur,

And ye would rule her with the bit alone.

  O German Albert, who forsakest her

Who all untamed and lawless has become,

While thou to ride this steed thy limbs shouldst stir,

  On thee and on thy race may righteous doom

Fall from on high, made clearly manifest,

That he may fear who cometh in thy room.

  Thou and thy father were in such hot haste

For distant conquest, that ye now permit

The garden of the empire to be waste.

  Come look on Montague and Capulet,

Monaldi, Filippeschi, heartless power!

And some do groan, some only fear as yet.

  Come, cruel, come, and thou shalt see how sore

The pains and sorrows by thy vassals borne;

And look how safe it is in Santafior!

  Come and behold thy Rome, who now doth mourn,

Lonely and widowed; day and night she cries,

“My Cæsar, wherefore leav’st thou me forlorn?”

  Come see what love among thy people lies;

And if naught else can thee to pity move,

At the dishonor of thy name arise!

  And (be it said with reverence) God of love,

Who upon earth for us was crucified,

Dost fix thine eyes but on the realms above?

  Or does there in thy counsels’ depths abide

Some purpose for our good, by us unknown,

And lying from our vision all too wide?

  For the whole land of Italy doth groan

Beneath the sway of tyrants; peasants swell

With pride, as though Marcellus were each one.


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