Master, I said, tell me more: this Fortune


'Master,' I said, 'tell me more: this Fortune
whom you mention, who is she that holds
the world's possessions so tightly in her clutches?'

And he to me: 'O foolish creatures,
what great ignorance besets you!
I'll have you feed upon my judgment of her:

'He whose wisdom transcends all
made the heavens and gave them guides,
so that all parts reflect on every part

'in equal distribution of the light. Just so,
He ordained for worldly splendors
a general minister and guide

'who shifts those worthless goods, from time to time,
from race to race, from one blood to another
beyond the intervention of human wit.

'One people comes to rule, another languishes,
in keeping with her judgment,
as secret as a serpent hidden in the grass.

'Your wisdom cannot stand against her.
She foresees, she judges, she maintains her reign,
as do the other heavenly powers.

'Her mutability admits no rest.
Necessity compels her to be swift,
and frequent are the changes in men's state.

'She is reviled by the very ones
who most should praise her,
blaming and defaming her unjustly.

'But she is blessed and does not hear them.
Happy with the other primal creatures,
she turns her sphere, rejoicing in her bliss.'

                   --from The Inferno, Canto VII
                      Italian; trans. Robert Hollander
                        & Jean Hollander


Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, The Inferno, Italian, trans. Robert Hollander & Jean Hollander, Anchor Books, 2000.