The Thorn Forest By Dante Alighieri
Then dark with dripping blood it gave a howl
and cried again: ‘Our damaged branches ache!
Your pillage maims me! Can’t you feel at all?
We who were men are now this barren brake.
You’d grant us your respect and stay your hand
were we a thicket not of souls but snakes.’
As wood still green starts burning at one end
and from its unlit end the burning stick
drips sap, and hisses with escaping wind,
so from the broken stump there oozed a mix
of words and blood: a frothy babbling gore.
I dropped the branch. My fear had made me sick.
‘Poor wounded soul, could he have grasped before,’
my sage replied, ‘what now he sees is true,
and blindly trusted in poetic lore,
then he need not have so insulted you.
But as there was no other way to learn
I urged him to a test that grieved me too.
Tell us who you were, that he, in turn,
can set your honor freshly back in style
among those he will teach when he returns.’
The trunk: ‘Your speech, by raising hope that I’ll
regain repute, makes words arise in me.
I mean to talk, if you will stay a while:
I was the one entrusted with the keys
to Federigo’s mind, and it was sweet
to share his thought and guard his strategy
for noble ventures secret in my keep —
so faithfully I filled this glorious post,
I gladly sacrificed my health and sleep…’