Tony Cousins: ‘The Angel Descends to the City of Dis’


The Angel Descends to the City of Dis
(Dante, Inferno 9. 64-90)
And then across the turbulent waves there came
A crash, a terrifying sound, at which
Both shores of the marsh quaked. And it happened
Not otherwise than when a wind—that’s violent
From conflicting heats—without restraint
Strikes a forest, shattering its branches,
Tearing them down, sweeping them away.
Forward it rushes, in its pride and dust,
Making wild animals and shepherds flee.
Virgil released my eyes; and he said:
“Now aim your sight over that ancient foam—
There, where the vapour’s even more intense”.
As frogs, before their enemy the snake,
All vanish through the water till they’re safe,
And each is squatting on the lake’s floor,
More than a thousand broken spirits I saw
Scatter before one who made his way
Across the Stygian threshold with dry soles.
He brushed away the gross air from his face,
Often fanning it with his left hand;
And only that annoyance seemed to tire him.
At once I knew he was a messenger
From Heaven, and I turned toward the Master—
Who signalled me to silence, and to bow.
Ah, how full of disdain he seemed to me!
He reached the gate, and with a slight wand
He opened it; and there was no resistance.

Tony Cousins

Leave a Reply