Translation #1: Canto 2

Daylight’s ditching me as the dimming sky sets beasts free; and I,
alone,
steel myself for my war with my path and my pity,
which my clear mind will recount.
O muses, o wisdom, help me now;
O mind that sees my memory, be honest now.
I began: “Poets, my guides,
Judge my strength before you test me in the deep.
You say that Silvius’s corrupt father went to the afterlife intact.
So, if evil’s enemy showed him mercy, knowing the great things he should’ve accomplished,
and who and what he was — 
this seems right to a learnèd man, since Heaven chose him to be father of mother
Rome and her empire, and honestly, she and her empire were made to be the Holy home of great Peter’s progeny.
Through your journey —
 the one you take in his name — he understood the reasons for his victory and the papal mantle.
Later, the chosen vessel joined him, to garner support for that faith that begets the path to salvation.
But I — why am I going there?  Or, who lets me?
I’m not Aeneas, I’m not Paul;
nobody knows I’m worthy.  So it might be folly
to give myself over to this journey.
You’re wise; You understand what I can’t articulate.”
And on that midnight mountain I drew back into myself,
unwilling myself, removing myself,
stepping back from the starting line.
“If I understand your words,” responded the magnanimous shade, “cowardice mars your soul,
cowardice that burdens a man, turns him from valiant effort; 
you’re a spooked horse.
So you can free yourself from fear,
I’ll tell you why I’m here — what I understood in that first moment, when I already was grieving for you.
I was in limbo when a woman, whose beauty and virtue pulled at me, called down to me.  I begged her to command me.
Her eyes were as bright as the stars; and she began
speaking to me,
softly,
gently,
in her own native tongue, an angel’s voice:
‘O solicitous Mantuan soul, whose renown continues today and will ’til the end of days:
My friend — who’s no friend of fortune — stands on a bleak shore
and is so paralyzed on his path that
fear’s turned him back;
and he may already be so lost that I’m too late, (judging by what I’ve heard of him in Heaven).
Now go — soothe my heart — use your poetry and
anything, everything else to help him
break free.
I, Beatrice, make you go;
I’ve come from my beloved Heaven, and already long to return, but;
love has moved me to speak.
When I return to my lord, I’ll speak of you highly.’  She fell silent.
I started:
‘O lady of power, who allows man to ascend to St. Peter,
I’m humbled by your command; my heart already obeys and my acts fall behind.
But tell me why you don’t shrink from coming down
to me in the depths of hell, when you already long to return to Heaven.’
‘Since you must know, I’ll tell you,’ she replied, ‘Why I don’t fear seeking out hell.
One need only fear forces that have the power
to harm. Not others.  They’re not fearsome.
I’m made by God, in his mercy.
Your misery doesn’t infect me;
These flames don’t burn me.
There’s a noble lady in Heaven who grieves over the path on which I send you, and so she vanquishes harsh judgment from Heaven.
She called Lucia to ask something of her, and said:
Now, your faithful one needs you, and I leave
his fate in your hands. —
Lucia, enemy of all cruelty, came to me, where I was sitting with ancient Rachel.
She said. — Beatrice, true praise of God, why don’t you help the man who loved you,
who stood out from the madding crowd, for you?
Don’t you hear his anguish, his
weeping, do you not see the fear that feeds
on him there, by the sea whose waves don’t roar?
Nobody has ever moved as fast as I did at her words — not to profit, nor to flee — to move
down to you from my blessèd throne, trusting in the power
of your poetry, which edifies you and your followers.’
And she looked away, her bright stars shedding
tears — tears that drove
me to you.
And I’m here as she willed: I’ve taken you from that beast
that thwarted your short path up the mountain.
So what is it?  Why, why do you stand still?  Why do you safeguard such cowardice in your heart?  Why don’t you have boldness and freedom when three good women in Heaven care for you, and my poetry promises you a path?”
Daisies huddle, bent by night’s chill and dew; but they stretch, reach to receive the sun:
I opened, like they, and so much warmth and boldness flooded into my heart, freeing me:
“Our benefactress, full of grace, and you, noble, who has quickly followed her truth!
You’ve evoked my first inspiration, filled my heart with gladness to walk with you.
Now walk, because we walk together:
you are leader, lord, master.”
He set forth and I started
the deep, savage voyage.

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