Tuesday, 21 April 2009


Kenneth Anger, still from Lucifer Rising

Extract from Dante, Inferno:

"Vexilla regis prodeunt Inferni,"
my master said, "closer to us, so now
look ahead and see if you can make him out."

A far-off windmill turning its huge sails
when a thick fog begins to settle in,
or when the light of day begins to fade,

that is what I thought I saw appearing.
And the gusts of wind it stirred made me shrink back
behind my guide, my only means of cover.

Down here, I stood on souls fixed under ice
(I tremble as I put this into verse);
to me they looked like straws worked into glass.

Some lying flat, some perpendicular,
either with their heads up or their feet,
and some bent head to foot, shaped like a bow.

When we had moved far enough along the way
that my master thought the time had come to show me
the creature who was once so beautiful,

he stepped aside, and stopping me, announced:
"This is he, this is Dis; this is the place
that calls for all the courage you have in you."

How chilled and nerveless, Reader, I felt then;
do not ask me- I cannot write about it-
there are no words to tell you how I felt.

I did not die- I was not living either!
Try to imagine, if you can imagine,
me there, deprived of life and death at once.

The king of the vast kingdom of all grief
stuck out with half his chest above the ice;
my height is closer to the height of giants

than theirs is to the length of his great arms;
consider now how large all of him was:
this body in proportion to his arms.

If once he was as fair as now he's foul
and dared to raise his brows against his Maker,
it is fitting that all grief should spring from him.

Translated by Mark Musa

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