About the poet
Born in York in 1952, Steve Ellis has published three collections of poetry, including West...
Here sighs and sobs and screams
echo through the starless night,
and had me in tears at first,
strange cries and awful language,
moans of pain or anger, voices
shrill or faint, sounds of blows,
they all make a great confusion
whirling in the changeless dark
like sand swept up in a storm.
And as the horror circles my head
I ask, ‘Master, what’s all this?
Who are they, so sunk in pain?’
He tells me, ‘This miserable state,
it’s for the sad souls who lived
without blame, without praise.
They’re mixed with that evil pack
of angels, not faithful to God,
not rebels, but all for themselves.
Heaven banishes them in its beauty,
but they’re not down in deep hell
since guilt might glory in them.’
I ask, ‘Master, what’s up with them,
that they make such awful groans?’
He says, ‘I’ll explain very quickly.
They haven’t any hopes of death,
and this life’s so low, obscure,
they’ve envy of all other states.
They’ve left no records on earth;
mercy and justice disdain them;
they’re not worth words: look, pass.’
from Dante Alighieri: Hell translated by Steve Ellis (Chatto & Windus, 1994), © Steve Ellis 1994, used by permission of the author
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