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

Rimini (Ariminum)


By Dante Alighieri (c. 1265–1321)

(From Inferno, Canto V)
Translated by Lord Byron

“THE LAND where I was born sits by the seas,

Upon that shore to which the Po descends,

With all his followers, in search of peace.

Love, which the gentle heart soon apprehends,

Seized him for the fair person which was ta’en

From me, and me even yet the mode offends.

Love, who to none beloved to love again

Remits, seized me with wish to please, so strong,

That, as thou seest, yet, yet it doth remain.

Love to one death conducted us along,

But Cainà waits for him our life who ended”:

These were the accents uttered by her tongue.

Since I first listened to these souls offended,

I bowed my visage, and so kept it till—

“What think’st thou?” said the bard; when I unbended,

And recommenced: “Alas! unto such ill

How many sweet thoughts, what strong ecstasies,

Led these their evil fortune to fulfil!”

And then I turned unto their side my eyes,

And said, “Francesca, thy sad destinies

Have made me sorrow till the tears arise.

But tell me, in the season of sweet sighs,

By what and how thy love to passion rose,

So as his dim desires to recognize?”

Then she to me: “The greatest of all woes

Is to remind us of our happy days

In misery, and that thy teacher knows.

But if to learn our passion’s first root preys

Upon thy spirit with such sympathy,

I will do even as he who weeps and says.

We read one day for pastime, seated nigh,

Of Lancilot, how love enchained him too.

We were alone, quite unsuspiciously.

But oft our eyes met, and our cheeks in hue

All o’er discolored by that reading were:

But one point only wholly us o’erthrew;

When we read the long-sighed-for smile of her,

To be thus kissed by such devoted lover,

He who from me can be divided ne’er

Kissed my mouth, trembling in the act all over.

Accursed was the book and he who wrote!

That day no further leaf we did uncover.

While thus one spirit told us of their lot,

The other wept, so that with pity’s thralls

I swooned as if by death I had been smote,

And fell down even as a dead body falls.”