INFERNO 33, 22-75.
Now had the loophole of that dungeon, still
Which bears the name of Famine’s Tower from me,
And where ’tis fit that many another will
Be doomed to linger in captivity,
Shown through its narrow opening in my cell
‘Moon after moon slow waning’, when a sleep,
‘That of the future burst the veil, in dream
Visited me. It was a slumber deep
And evil; for I saw, or I did seem’
To see, ‘that’ tyrant Lord his revels keep
The leader of the cruel hunt to them,
Chasing the wolf and wolf-cubs up the steep
Ascent, that from ‘the Pisan is the screen’
Of ‘Lucca’; with him Gualandi came,
Sismondi, and Lanfranchi, ‘bloodhounds lean,
Trained to the sport and eager for the game
Wide ranging in his front;’ but soon were seen
Though by so short a course, with ‘spirits tame,’
The father and ‘his whelps’ to flag at once,
And then the sharp fangs gored their bosoms deep.
Ere morn I roused myself, and heard my sons,
For they were with me, moaning in their sleep,
And begging bread. Ah, for those darling ones!
Right cruel art thou, if thou dost not weep
In thinking of my soul’s sad augury;
And if thou weepest not now, weep never more!
They were already waked, as wont drew nigh
The allotted hour for food, and in that hour
Each drew a presage from his dream. When I
‘Heard locked beneath me of that horrible tower
The outlet; then into their eyes alone
I looked to read myself,’ without a sign
Or word. I wept not—turned within to stone.
They wept aloud, and little Anselm mine,
Said—’twas my youngest, dearest little one,—
“What ails thee, father? Why look so at thine?”
In all that day, and all the following night,
I wept not, nor replied; but when to shine
Upon the world, not us, came forth the light
Of the new sun, and thwart my prison thrown
Gleamed through its narrow chink, a doleful sight,
‘Three faces, each the reflex of my own,
Were imaged by its faint and ghastly ray;’
Then I, of either hand unto the bone,
Gnawed, in my agony; and thinking they
Twas done from sudden pangs, in their excess,
All of a sudden raise themselves, and say,
“Father! our woes, so great, were yet the less
Would you but eat of us,—twas ‘you who clad
Our bodies in these weeds of wretchedness;
Despoil them’.” Not to make their hearts more sad,
I ‘hushed’ myself. That day is at its close,—
Another—still we were all mute. Oh, had
The obdurate earth opened to end our woes!
The fourth day dawned, and when the new sun shone,
Outstretched himself before me as it rose
My Gaddo, saying, “Help, father! hast thou none
For thine own child—is there no help from thee?”
He died—there at my feet—and one by one,
I saw them fall, plainly as you see me.
Between the fifth and sixth day, ere twas dawn,
I found ‘myself blind-groping o’er the three.’
Three days I called them after they were gone.
Famine of grief can get the mastery.