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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Oceanica: Vol. XXXI. 1876–79.

Miscellaneous: Atlantic Ocean

The Sailing of Ulysses

By Dante Alighieri (c. 1265–1321)

(From La Divina Commedia)
Translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


From Circe had departed, who concealed me

More than a year there near unto Gaëta,

Or ever yet Æneas named it so,

Nor fondness for my son, nor reverence

For my old father, nor the due affection

Which joyous should have made Penelope,

Could overcome within me the desire

I had to be experienced of the world,

And of the vice and virtue of mankind;

But I put forth on the high open sea

With one sole ship, and that small company

By which I never had deserted been.

Both of the shores I saw as far as Spain,

Far as Morocco, and the isle of Sardes,

And the others which that sea bathes round about.

I and my company were old and slow

When at that narrow passage we arrived

Where Hercules his landmarks set as signals,

That man no farther onward should adventure.

On the right hand behind me left I Seville,

And on the other already had left Ceuta.

“O brothers, who amid a hundred thousand

Perils,” I said, “have come unto the West,

To this so inconsiderable vigil

Which is remaining of your senses still,

Be ye unwilling to deny the knowledge,

Following the sun, of the unpeopled world.

Consider ye the seed from which ye sprang;

Ye were not made to live like unto brutes,

But for pursuit of virtue and of knowledge.”

So eager did I render my companions,

With this brief exhortation, for the voyage,

That then I hardly could have held them back.

And having turned our stern unto the morning,

We of the oars made wings for our mad flight,

Evermore gaining on the larboard side.

Already all the stars of the other pole

The night beheld, and ours so very low

It did not rise above the ocean floor.

Five times rekindled and as many quenched

Had been the splendor underneath the moon,

Since we had entered into the deep pass,

When there appeared to us a mountain, dim

From distance, and it seemed to me so high

As I had never any one beheld.

Joyful were we, and soon it turned to weeping;

For out of the new land a whirlwind rose,

And smote upon the forepart of the ship.

Three times it made her whirl with all the waters,

At the fourth time it made the stern uplift,

And the prow downward go, as pleased Another,

Until the sea above us closed again.