Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Italy: Vols. XI–XIII. 1876–79.



By Dante Alighieri (c. 1265–1321)

(From Inferno, Canto XX)
Translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

ABOVE in beauteous Italy lies a lake

At the Alp’s foot that shuts in Germany

Over Tyrol, and has the name Benaco.

By a thousand springs, I think, and more, is bathed,

’Twixt Garda and Val Camonica, Pennino,

With water that grows stagnant in that lake.

Midway a place is where the Trentine Pastor,

And he of Brescia, and the Veronese

Might give his blessing, if he passed that way.

Sitteth Peschiera, fortress fair and strong,

To front the Brescians and the Bergamasks,

Where round about the bank descendeth lowest.

There of necessity must fall whatever

In bosom of Benaco cannot stay,

And grows a river down through verdant pastures.

Soon as the water doth begin to run,

No more Benaco is it called, but Mincio,

Far as Governo, where it falls in Po.

Not far it runs before it finds a plain

In which it spreads itself, and makes it marshy,

And oft ’t is wont in summer to be sickly.

Passing that way the virgin pitiless

Land in the middle of the fen descried,

Untilled and naked of inhabitants;

There to escape all human intercourse

She with her servants stayed, her arts to practise

And lived, and left her empty body there.

The men, thereafter, who were scattered round,

Collected in that place, which was made strong

By the lagoon it had on every side;

They built their city over those dead bones,

And, after her who first the place selected,

Mantua named it, without other omen.

Its people once within more crowded were,

Ere the stupidity of Casalodi

From Pinamonte had received deceit.

Therefore I caution thee, if e’er thou hearest

Originate my city otherwise,

No falsehood may the verity defraud.