Cacciaguida urges Dante to speak out
The light in which it had appeared to me,
That jewel of reserve, suddenly flashed
Like a ray of sun in the gold depths of a mirror,
And carried on: “Those alone who blush
Inwardly, at their own or their neighbours’ shame,
Will find your tidings harsh.
But nevertheless, you must stake your claim,
In the teeth of lies, to absolute recall,
And let them scratch whose itch has been inflamed.
And if what you say is hard for them to swallow
At the beginning, let them digest it –
Nourishment will follow.
Let your voice, like a storm-force gust,
Blow louder the higher the peaks it screams off –
You will only be doing yourself proper honour and justice.
That is why, in the giant scheme of things –
The mountain, and the anguished under-valley –
You were allowed to meet only the great and famous,
For the souls of your readers, undecided still,
Will not be convinced, if all they hear
Are unknown stories, good or ill,
Of those whose names have vanished with the years.”
Translated by Harry Clifton