The Divine Comedy
of Dante Alighieri
translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Canticle I: Inferno
In that part of the youthful year wherein
The Sun his locks beneath Aquarius tempers,
And now the nights draw near to half the day,
What time the hoar-frost copies on the ground
The outward semblance of her sister white,
But little lasts the temper of her pen,
The husbandman, whose forage faileth him,
Rises, and looks, and seeth the champaign
All gleaming white, whereat he beats his flank,
Returns in doors, and up and down laments,
Like a poor wretch, who knows not what to do;
Then he returns and hope revives again,
Seeing the world has changed its countenance
In little time, and takes his shepherd’s crook,
And forth the little lambs to pasture drives.
Thus did the Master fill me with alarm,
When I beheld his forehead so disturbed,
And to the ailment came as soon the plaster.
For as we came unto the ruined bridge,
The Leader turned to me with that sweet look
Which at the mountain’s foot I first beheld.
His arms he opened, after some advisement
Within himself elected, looking first
Well at the ruin, and laid hold of me.
And even as he who acts and meditates,
For aye it seems that he provides beforehand,
So upward lifting me towards the summit
Of a huge rock, he scanned another crag,
Saying: “To that one grapple afterwards,
But try first if ’tis such that it will hold thee.”
This was no way for one clothed with a cloak;
For hardly we, he light, and I pushed upward,
Were able to ascend from jag to jag.
And had it not been, that upon that precinct
Shorter was the ascent than on the other,
He I know not, but I had been dead beat.
But because Malebolge tow’rds the mouth
Of the profoundest well is all inclining,
The structure of each valley doth import
That one bank rises and the other sinks.
Still we arrived at length upon the point
Wherefrom the last stone breaks itself asunder.
The breath was from my lungs so milked away,
When I was up, that I could go no farther,
Nay, I sat down upon my first arrival.
“Now it behoves thee thus to put off sloth,”
My Master said; “for sitting upon down,
Or under quilt, one cometh not to fame,
Withouten which whoso his life consumes
Such vestige leaveth of himself on earth,
As smoke in air or in the water foam.
And therefore raise thee up, o’ercome the anguish
With spirit that o’ercometh every battle,
If with its heavy body it sink not.
A longer stairway it behoves thee mount;
‘Tis not enough from these to have departed;
Let it avail thee, if thou understand me.”
Then I uprose, showing myself provided
Better with breath than I did feel myself,
And said: “Go on, for I am strong and bold.”
Upward we took our way along the crag,
Which jagged was, and narrow, and difficult,
And more precipitous far than that before.
Speaking I went, not to appear exhausted;
Whereat a voice from the next moat came forth,
Not well adapted to articulate words.
I know not what it said, though o’er the back
I now was of the arch that passes there;
But he seemed moved to anger who was speaking.
I was bent downward, but my living eyes
Could not attain the bottom, for the dark;
Wherefore I: “Master, see that thou arrive
At the next round, and let us descend the wall;
For as from hence I hear and understand not,
So I look down and nothing I distinguish.”
“Other response,” he said, “I make thee not,
Except the doing; for the modest asking
Ought to be followed by the deed in silence.”
We from the bridge descended at its head,
Where it connects itself with the eighth bank,
And then was manifest to me the Bolgia;
And I beheld therein a terrible throng
Of serpents, and of such a monstrous kind,
That the remembrance still congeals my blood
Let Libya boast no longer with her sand;
For if Chelydri, Jaculi, and Phareae
She breeds, with Cenchri and with Amphisbaena,
Neither so many plagues nor so malignant
E’er showed she with all Ethiopia,
Nor with whatever on the Red Sea is!
Among this cruel and most dismal throng
People were running naked and affrighted.
Without the hope of hole or heliotrope.
They had their hands with serpents bound behind them;
These riveted upon their reins the tail
And head, and were in front of them entwined.
And lo! at one who was upon our side
There darted forth a serpent, which transfixed him
There where the neck is knotted to the shoulders.
Nor ‘O’ so quickly e’er, nor ‘I’ was written,
As he took fire, and burned; and ashes wholly
Behoved it that in falling he became.
And when he on the ground was thus destroyed,
The ashes drew together, and of themselves
Into himself they instantly returned.
Even thus by the great sages ’tis confessed
The phoenix dies, and then is born again,
When it approaches its five-hundredth year;
On herb or grain it feeds not in its life,
But only on tears of incense and amomum,
And nard and myrrh are its last winding-sheet.
And as he is who falls, and knows not how,
By force of demons who to earth down drag him,
Or other oppilation that binds man,
When he arises and around him looks,
Wholly bewildered by the mighty anguish
Which he has suffered, and in looking sighs;
Such was that sinner after he had risen.
Justice of God! O how severe it is,
That blows like these in vengeance poureth down!
The Guide thereafter asked him who he was;
Whence he replied: “I rained from Tuscany
A short time since into this cruel gorge.
A bestial life, and not a human, pleased me,
Even as the mule I was; I’m Vanni Fucci,
Beast, and Pistoia was my worthy den.”
And I unto the Guide: “Tell him to stir not,
And ask what crime has thrust him here below,
For once a man of blood and wrath I saw him.”
And the sinner, who had heard, dissembled not,
But unto me directed mind and face,
And with a melancholy shame was painted.
Then said: “It pains me more that thou hast caught me
Amid this misery where thou seest me,
Than when I from the other life was taken.
What thou demandest I cannot deny;
So low am I put down because I robbed
The sacristy of the fair ornaments,
And falsely once ’twas laid upon another;
But that thou mayst not such a sight enjoy,
If thou shalt e’er be out of the dark places,
Thine ears to my announcement ope and hear:
Pistoia first of Neri groweth meagre;
Then Florence doth renew her men and manners;
Mars draws a vapour up from Val di Magra,
Which is with turbid clouds enveloped round,
And with impetuous and bitter tempest
Over Campo Picen shall be the battle;
When it shall suddenly rend the mist asunder,
So that each Bianco shall thereby be smitten.
And this I’ve said that it may give thee pain.”
At the conclusion of his words, the thief
Lifted his hands aloft with both the figs,
Crying: “Take that, God, for at thee I aim them.”
From that time forth the serpents were my friends;
For one entwined itself about his neck
As if it said: “I will not thou speak more;”
And round his arms another, and rebound him,
Clinching itself together so in front,
That with them he could not a motion make.
Pistoia, ah, Pistoia! why resolve not
To burn thyself to ashes and so perish,
Since in ill-doing thou thy seed excellest?
Through all the sombre circles of this Hell,
Spirit I saw not against God so proud,
Not he who fell at Thebes down from the walls!
He fled away, and spake no further word;
And I beheld a Centaur full of rage
Come crying out: “Where is, where is the scoffer?”
I do not think Maremma has so many
Serpents as he had all along his back,
As far as where our countenance begins.
Upon the shoulders, just behind the nape,
With wings wide open was a dragon lying,
And he sets fire to all that he encounters.
My Master said: “That one is Cacus, who
Beneath the rock upon Mount Aventine
Created oftentimes a lake of blood.
He goes not on the same road with his brothers,
By reason of the fraudulent theft he made
Of the great herd, which he had near to him;
Whereat his tortuous actions ceased beneath
The mace of Hercules, who peradventure
Gave him a hundred, and he felt not ten.”
While he was speaking thus, he had passed by,
And spirits three had underneath us come,
Of which nor I aware was, nor my Leader,
Until what time they shouted: “Who are you?”
On which account our story made a halt,
And then we were intent on them alone.
I did not know them; but it came to pass,
As it is wont to happen by some chance,
That one to name the other was compelled,
Exclaiming: “Where can Cianfa have remained?”
Whence I, so that the Leader might attend,
Upward from chin to nose my finger laid.
If thou art, Reader, slow now to believe
What I shall say, it will no marvel be,
For I who saw it hardly can admit it.
As I was holding raised on them my brows,
Behold! a serpent with six feet darts forth
In front of one, and fastens wholly on him.
With middle feet it bound him round the paunch,
And with the forward ones his arms it seized;
Then thrust its teeth through one cheek and the other;
The hindermost it stretched upon his thighs,
And put its tail through in between the two,
And up behind along the reins outspread it.
Ivy was never fastened by its barbs
Unto a tree so, as this horrible reptile
Upon the other’s limbs entwined its own.
Then they stuck close, as if of heated wax
They had been made, and intermixed their colour;
Nor one nor other seemed now what he was;
E’en as proceedeth on before the flame
Upward along the paper a brown colour,
Which is not black as yet, and the white dies.
The other two looked on, and each of them
Cried out: “O me, Agnello, how thou changest!
Behold, thou now art neither two nor one.”
Already the two heads had one become,
When there appeared to us two figures mingled
Into one face, wherein the two were lost.
Of the four lists were fashioned the two arms,
The thighs and legs, the belly and the chest
Members became that never yet were seen.
Every original aspect there was cancelled;
Two and yet none did the perverted image
Appear, and such departed with slow pace.
Even as a lizard, under the great scourge
Of days canicular, exchanging hedge,
Lightning appeareth if the road it cross;
Thus did appear, coming towards the bellies
Of the two others, a small fiery serpent,
Livid and black as is a peppercorn.
And in that part whereat is first received
Our aliment, it one of them transfixed;
Then downward fell in front of him extended.
The one transfixed looked at it, but said naught;
Nay, rather with feet motionless he yawned,
Just as if sleep or fever had assailed him.
He at the serpent gazed, and it at him;
One through the wound, the other through the mouth
Smoked violently, and the smoke commingled.
Henceforth be silent Lucan, where he mentions
Wretched Sabellus and Nassidius,
And wait to hear what now shall be shot forth.
Be silent Ovid, of Cadmus and Arethusa;
For if him to a snake, her to fountain,
Converts he fabling, that I grudge him not;
Because two natures never front to front
Has he transmuted, so that both the forms
To interchange their matter ready were.
Together they responded in such wise,
That to a fork the serpent cleft his tail,
And eke the wounded drew his feet together.
The legs together with the thighs themselves
Adhered so, that in little time the juncture
No sign whatever made that was apparent.
He with the cloven tail assumed the figure
The other one was losing, and his skin
Became elastic, and the other’s hard.
I saw the arms draw inward at the armpits,
And both feet of the reptile, that were short,
Lengthen as much as those contracted were.
Thereafter the hind feet, together twisted,
Became the member that a man conceals,
And of his own the wretch had two created.
While both of them the exhalation veils
With a new colour, and engenders hair
On one of them and depilates the other,
The one uprose and down the other fell,
Though turning not away their impious lamps,
Underneath which each one his muzzle changed.
He who was standing drew it tow’rds the temples,
And from excess of matter, which came thither,
Issued the ears from out the hollow cheeks;
What did not backward run and was retained
Of that excess made to the face a nose,
And the lips thickened far as was befitting.
He who lay prostrate thrusts his muzzle forward,
And backward draws the ears into his head,
In the same manner as the snail its horns;
And so the tongue, which was entire and apt
For speech before, is cleft, and the bi-forked
In the other closes up, and the smoke ceases.
The soul, which to a reptile had been changed,
Along the valley hissing takes to flight,
And after him the other speaking sputters.
Then did he turn upon him his new shoulders,
And said to the other: “I’ll have Buoso run,
Crawling as I have done, along this road.”
In this way I beheld the seventh ballast
Shift and reshift, and here be my excuse
The novelty, if aught my pen transgress.
And notwithstanding that mine eyes might be
Somewhat bewildered, and my mind dismayed,
They could not flee away so secretly
But that I plainly saw Puccio Sciancato;
And he it was who sole of three companions,
Which came in the beginning, was not changed;
The other was he whom thou, Gaville, weepest.
Rejoice, O Florence, since thou art so great,
That over sea and land thou beatest thy wings,
And throughout Hell thy name is spread abroad!
Among the thieves five ci
tizens of thine
Like these I found, whence shame comes unto me,
And thou thereby to no great honour risest.
But if when morn is near our dreams are true,
Feel shalt thou in a little time from now
What Prato, if none other, craves for thee.
And if it now were, it were not too soon;
Would that it were, seeing it needs must be,
For ’twill aggrieve me more the more I age.
We went our way, and up along the stairs
The bourns had made us to descend before,
Remounted my Conductor and drew me.
And following the solitary path
Among the rocks and ridges of the crag,
The foot without the hand sped not at all.
Then sorrowed I, and sorrow now again,
When I direct my mind to what I saw,
And more my genius curb than I am wont,
That it may run not unless virtue guide it;
So that if some good star, or better thing,
Have given me good, I may myself not grudge it.
As many as the hind (who on the hill
Rests at the time when he who lights the world
His countenance keeps least concealed from us,
While as the fly gives place unto the gnat)
Seeth the glow-worms down along the valley,
Perchance there where he ploughs and makes his vintage;
With flames as manifold resplendent all
Was the eighth Bolgia, as I grew aware
As soon as I was where the depth appeared.
And such as he who with the bears avenged him
Beheld Elijah’s chariot at departing,
What time the steeds to heaven erect uprose,
For with his eye he could not follow it
So as to see aught else than flame alone,
Even as a little cloud ascending upward,
Thus each along the gorge of the intrenchment
Was moving; for not one reveals the theft,
And every flame a sinner steals away.
I stood upon the bridge uprisen to see,
So that, if I had seized not on a rock,
Down had I fallen without being pushed.
And the Leader, who beheld me so attent,
Exclaimed: “Within the fires the spirits are;
Each swathes himself with that wherewith he burns.”
“My Master,” I replied, “by hearing thee
I am more sure; but I surmised already
It might be so, and already wished to ask thee
Who is within that fire, which comes so cleft
At top, it seems uprising from the pyre
Where was Eteocles with his brother placed.”
He answered me: “Within there are tormented
Ulysses and Diomed, and thus together
They unto vengeance run as unto wrath.
And there within their flame do they lament
The ambush of the horse, which made the door
Whence issued forth the Romans’ gentle seed;
Therein is wept the craft, for which being dead
Deidamia still deplores Achilles,
And pain for the Palladium there is borne.”
“If they within those sparks possess the power
To speak,” I said, “thee, Master, much I pray,
And re-pray, that the prayer be worth a thousand,
That thou make no denial of awaiting
Until the horned flame shall hither come;
Thou seest that with desire I lean towards it.”
And he to me: “Worthy is thy entreaty
Of much applause, and therefore I accept it;
But take heed that thy tongue restrain itself.
Leave me to speak, because I have conceived
That which thou wishest; for they might disdain
Perchance, since they were Greeks, discourse of thine.”
When now the flame had come unto that point,
Where to my Leader it seemed time and place,
After this fashion did I hear him speak:
“O ye, who are twofold within one fire,
If I deserved of you, while I was living,
If I deserved of you or much or little
When in the world I wrote the lofty verses,
Do not move on, but one of you declare
Whither, being lost, he went away to die.”
Then of the antique flame the greater horn,
Murmuring, began to wave itself about
Even as a flame doth which the wind fatigues.
Thereafterward, the summit to and fro
Moving as if it were the tongue that spake,
It uttered forth a voice, and said: “When I
From Circe had departed, who concealed me
More than a year there near unto Gaeta,
Or ever yet Aeneas named it so,
Nor fondness for my son, nor reverence
For my old father, nor the due affection
Which joyous should have made Penelope,
Could overcome within me the desire
I had to be experienced of the world,
And of the vice and virtue of mankind;
But I put forth on the high open sea
With one sole ship, and that small company
By which I never had deserted been.
Both of the shores I saw as far as Spain,
Far as Morocco, and the isle of Sardes,
And the others which that sea bathes round about.
I and my company were old and slow
When at that narrow passage we arrived
Where Hercules his landmarks set as signals,
That man no farther onward should adventure.
On the right hand behind me left I Seville,
And on the other already had left Ceuta.
‘O brothers, who amid a hundred thousand
Perils,’ I said, ‘have come unto the West,
To this so inconsiderable vigil
Which is remaining of your senses still
Be ye unwilling to deny the knowledge,
Following the sun, of the unpeopled world.
Consider ye the seed from which ye sprang;
Ye were not made to live like unto brutes,
But for pursuit of virtue and of knowledge.’
So eager did I render my companions,
With this brief exhortation, for the voyage,
That then I hardly could have held them back.
And having turned our stern unto the morning,
We of the oars made wings for our mad flight,
Evermore gaining on the larboard side.
Already all the stars of the other pole
The night beheld, and ours so very low
It did not rise above the ocean floor.
Five times rekindled and as many quenched
Had been the splendour underneath the moon,
Since we had entered into the deep pass,
When there appeared to us a mountain, dim
From distance, and it seemed to me so high
As I had never any one beheld.
Joyful were we, and soon it turned to weeping;
For out of the new land a whirlwind rose,
And smote upon the fore part of the ship.
Three times it made her whirl with all the waters,
At the fourth time it made the stern uplift,
And the prow downward go, as pleased Another,
Until the sea above us closed again.”
Already was the flame erect and quiet,
To speak no more, and now departed from us
With the permission of the gentle Poet;
When yet another, which behind it came,
Caused us to turn our eyes upon its top
By a confused sound that issued from it.
As the Sicilian bull (that bellowed first
With the lament of him, and that was right,
Who with his file had modulated it)
Bellowed so with the voice of the afflicted,
That, notwithstanding it was made of brass,
Still it appeared with agony transfixed;
Thus, by not having any way or issue
At first from out the fire, to its own language
Converted were the melancholy words.
But afterwards, when they had gathered way
Up through the point, giving it that vibration
The tongue had given them in their passage out,
We heard it said: “O thou, at whom I aim
My voice, and who but now wast speaking Lombard,
Saying, ‘Now go thy way, no more I urge thee,’
Because I come perchance a little late,
To stay and speak with me let it not irk thee;
Thou seest it irks not me, and I am burning.
If thou but lately into this blind world
Hast fallen down from that sweet Latian land,
Wherefrom I bring the whole of my transgression,
Say, if the Romagnuols have peace or war,
For I was from the mountains there between
Urbino and the yoke whence Tiber bursts.”
I still was downward bent and listening,
When my Conductor touched me on the side,
Saying: “Speak thou: this one a Latian is.”
And I, who had beforehand my reply
In readiness, forthwith began to speak:
“O soul, that down below there art concealed,
Romagna thine is not and never has been
Without war in the bosom of its tyrants;
But open war I none have left there now.
Ravenna stands as it long years has stood;
The Eagle of Polenta there is brooding,
So that she covers Cervia with her vans.
The city which once made the long resistance,
And of the French a sanguinary heap,
Beneath the Green Paws finds itself again;
Verrucchio’s ancient Mastiff and the new,
Who made such bad disposal of Montagna,
Where they are wont make wimbles of their teeth.
The cities of Lamone and Santerno
Governs the Lioncel of the white lair,
Who changes sides ‘twixt summer-time and winter;
And that of which the Savio bathes the flank,
Even as it lies between the plain and mountain,
Lives between tyranny and a free state.
Now I entreat thee tell us who thou art;
Be not more stubborn than the rest have been,
So may thy name hold front there in the world.”
After the fire a little more had roared
In its own fashion, the sharp point it moved
This way and that, and then gave forth such breath:
“If I believed that my reply were made
To one who to the world would e’er return,
This flame without more flickering would stand still;
But inasmuch as never from this depth
Did any one return, if I hear true,
Without the fear of infamy I answer,
I was a man of arms, then Cordelier,
Believing thus begirt to make amends;
And truly my belief had been fulfilled
But for the High Priest, whom may ill betide,
Who put me back into my former sins;
And how and wherefore I will have thee hear.
While I was still the form of bone and pulp
My mother gave to me, the deeds I did
Were not those of a lion, but a fox.
The machinations and the covert ways
I knew them all, and practised so their craft,
That to the ends of earth the sound went forth.
When now unto that portion of mine age
I saw myself arrived, when each one ought
To lower the sails, and coil away the ropes,
That which before had pleased me then displeased me;
And penitent and confessing I surrendered,
Ah woe is me! and it would have bestead me;
The Leader of the modern Pharisees
Having a war near unto Lateran,
And not with Saracens nor with the Jews,
For each one of his enemies was Christian,
And none of them had been to conquer Acre,
Nor merchandising in the Sultan’s land,
Nor the high office, nor the sacred orders,
In him regarded, nor in me that cord
Which used to make those girt with it more meagre;
But even as Constantine sought out Sylvester
To cure his leprosy, within Soracte,
So this one sought me out as an adept
To cure him of the fever of his pride.
Counsel he asked of me, and I was silent,
Because his words appeared inebriate.
And then he said: ‘Be not thy heart afraid;
Henceforth I thee absolve; and thou instruct me
How to raze Palestrina to the ground.
Heaven have I power to lock and to unlock,
As thou dost know; therefore the keys are two,
The which my predecessor held not dear.’
Then urged me on his weighty arguments
There, where my silence was the worst advice;
And said I: ‘Father, since thou washest me
Of that sin into which I now must fall,
The promise long with the fulfilment short
Will make thee triumph in thy lofty seat.’
Francis came afterward, when I was dead,
For me; but one of the black Cherubim
Said to him: ‘Take him not; do me no wrong;
He must come down among my servitors,
Because he gave the fraudulent advice
From which time forth I have been at his hair;
For who repents not cannot be absolved,
Nor can one both repent and will at once,
Because of the contradiction which consents not.’
O miserable me! how I did shudder
When he seized on me, saying: ‘Peradventure
Thou didst not think that I was a logician!’
He bore me unto Minos, who entwined
Eight times his tail about his stubborn back,
And after he had bitten it in great rage,
Said: ‘Of the thievish fire a culprit this;’
Wherefore, here where thou seest, am I lost,
And vested thus in going I bemoan me.”
When it had thus completed its recital,
The flame departed uttering lamentations,
Writhing and flapping its sharp-pointed horn.
Onward we passed, both I and my Conductor,
Up o’er the crag above another arch,
Which the moat covers, where is paid the fee
By those who, sowing discord, win their burden.
Who ever could, e’en with untrammelled words,
Tell of the blood and of the wounds in full
Which now I saw, by many times narrating?
Each tongue would for a certainty fall short
By reason of our speech and memory,
That have small room to comprehend so much.
If were again assembled all the people
Which formerly upon the fateful land
Of Puglia were lamenting for their blood
Shed by the Romans and the lingering war
That of the rings made such illustrious spoils,
As Livy has recorded, who errs not,
With those who felt the agony of blows
By making counterstand to Robert Guiscard,
And all the rest, whose bones are gathered still
At Ceperano, where a renegade
Was each Apulian, and at Tagliacozzo,
Where without arms the old Alardo conquered,
And one his limb transpierced, and one lopped off,
Should show, it would be nothing to compare
With the disgusting mode of the ninth Bolgia.
A cask by losing centre-piece or cant
Was never shattered so, as I saw one
Rent from the chin to where one breaketh wind.
Between his legs were hanging down his entrails;
His heart was visible, and the dismal sack
That maketh excrement of what is eaten.
While I was all absorbed in seeing him,
He looked at me, and opened with his hands
His bosom, saying: “See now how I rend me;
How mutilated, see, is Mahomet;
In front of me doth Ali weeping go,
Cleft in the face from forelock unto chin;
And all the others whom thou here beholdest,
Disseminators of scandal and of schism
While living were, and therefore are cleft thus.
A devil is behind here, who doth cleave us
Thus cruelly, unto the falchion’s edge
Putting again each one of all this ream,
When we have gone around the doleful road;
By reason that our wounds are closed again
Ere any one in front of him repass.
But who art thou, that musest on the crag
Perchance to postpone going to the pain
That is adjudged upon thine accusations?”
“Nor death hath reached him yet, nor guilt doth bring him,”
My Master made reply, “to be tormented;
But to procure him full experience,
Me, who am dead, behoves it to conduct him
Down here through Hell, from circle unto circle;
And this is true as that I speak to thee.”
More than a hundred were there when they heard him,
Who in the moat stood still to look at me,
Through wonderment oblivious of their torture.
“Now say to Fra Dolcino, then, to arm him,
Thou, who perhaps wilt shortly see the sun,
If soon he wish not here to follow me,
So with provisions, that no stress of snow
May give the victory to the Novarese,
Which otherwise to gain would not be easy.”
After one foot to go away he lifted,
This word did Mahomet say unto me,
Then to depart upon the ground he stretched it.
Another one, who had his throat pierced through,
And nose cut off close underneath the brows,
And had no longer but a single ear,
Staying to look in wonder with the others,
Before the others did his gullet open,
Which outwardly was red in every part,
And said: “O thou, whom guilt doth not condemn,
And whom I once saw up in Latian land,
Unless too great similitude deceive me,
Call to remembrance Pier da Medicina,
If e’er thou see again the lovely plain
That from Vercelli slopes to Marcabo,
And make it known to the best two of Fano,
To Messer Guido and Angiolello likewise,
That if foreseeing here be not in vain,
Cast over from their vessel shall they be,
And drowned near unto the Cattolica,
By the betrayal of a tyrant fell.
Between the isles of Cyprus and Majorca
Neptune ne’er yet beheld so great a crime,
Neither of pirates nor Argolic people.
That traitor, who sees only with one eye,
And holds the land, which some one here with me
Would fain be fasting from the vision of,
Will make them come unto a parley with him;
Then will do so, that to Focara’s wind
They will not stand in need of vow or prayer.”
And I to him: “Show to me and declare,
If thou wouldst have me bear up news of thee,
Who is this person of the bitter vision.”
Then did he lay his hand upon the jaw
Of one of his companions, and his mouth
Oped, crying: “This is he, and he speaks not.
This one, being banished, every doubt submerged
In Caesar by affirming the forearmed
Always with detriment allowed delay.”
O how bewildered unto me appeared,
With tongue asunder in his windpipe slit,
Curio, who in speaking was so bold!
And one, who both his hands dissevered had,
The stumps uplifting through the murky air,
So that the blood made horrible his face,
Cried out: “Thou shalt remember Mosca also,
Who said, alas! ‘A thing done has an end!’
Which was an ill seed for the Tuscan people.”
“And death unto thy race,” thereto I added;
Whence he, accumulating woe on woe,
Departed, like a person sad and crazed.
But I remained to look upon the crowd;
And saw a thing which I should be afraid,
Without some further proof, even to recount,
If it were not that conscience reassures me,
That good companion which emboldens man
Beneath the hauberk of its feeling pure.
I truly saw, and still I seem to see it,
A trunk without a head walk in like manner
As walked the others of the mournful herd.
And by the hair it held the head dissevered,
Hung from the hand in fashion of a lantern,
And that upon us gazed and said: “O me!”
It of itself made to itself a lamp,
And they were two in one, and one in two;
How that can be, He knows who so ordains it.
When it was come close to the bridge’s foot,
It lifted high its arm with all the head,
To bring more closely unto us its words,
Which were: “Behold now the sore penalty,
Thou, who dost breathing go the dead beholding;
Behold if any be as great as this.
And so that thou may carry news of me,
Know that Bertram de Born am I, the same
Who gave to the Young King the evil comfort.
I made the father and the son rebellious;
Achitophel not more with Absalom
And David did with his accursed goadings.
Because I parted persons so united,
Parted do I now bear my brain, alas!
From its beginning, which is in this trunk.
Thus is observed in me the counterpoise.”
The many people and the divers wounds
These eyes of mine had so inebriated,
That they were wishful to stand still and weep;
But said Virgilius: “What dost thou still gaze at?
Why is thy sight still riveted down there
Among the mournful, mutilated shades?
Thou hast not done so at the other Bolge;
Consider, if to count them thou believest,
That two-and-twenty miles the valley winds,
And now the moon is underneath our feet;
Henceforth the time allotted us is brief,
And more is to be seen than what thou seest.”
“If thou hadst,” I made answer thereupon,
“Attended to the cause for which I looked,
Perhaps a longer stay thou wouldst have pardoned.”
Meanwhile my Guide departed, and behind him
I went, already making my reply,
And superadding: “In that cavern where
I held mine eyes with such attention fixed,
I think a spirit of my blood laments
The sin which down below there costs so much.”
Then said the Master: “Be no longer broken
Thy thought from this time forward upon him;
Attend elsewhere, and there let him remain;
For him I saw below the little bridge,
Pointing at thee, and threatening with his finger
Fiercely, and heard him called Geri del Bello.
So wholly at that time wast thou impeded
By him who formerly held Altaforte,
Thou didst not look that way; so he departed.”
“O my Conductor, his own violent death,
Which is not yet avenged for him,” I said,
“By any who is sharer in the shame,
Made him disdainful; whence he went away,
As I imagine, without speaking to me,
And thereby made me pity him the more.”
Thus did we speak as far as the first place
Upon the crag, which the next valley shows
Down to the bottom, if there were more light.
When we were now right over the last cloister
Of Malebolge, so that its lay-brothers
Could manifest themselves unto our sight,
Divers lamentings pierced me through and through,
Which with compassion had their arrows barbed,
Whereat mine ears I covered with my hands.
What pain would be, if from the hospitals
Of Valdichiana, ‘twixt July and September,
And of Maremma and Sardinia
All the diseases in one moat were gathered,
Such was it here, and such a stench came from it
As from putrescent limbs is wont to issue.
We had descended on the furthest bank
From the long crag, upon the left hand still,
And then more vivid was my power of sight
Down tow’rds the bottom, where the ministress
Of the high Lord, Justice infallible,
Punishes forgers, which she here records.
I do not think a sadder sight to see
Was in Aegina the whole people sick,
(When was the air so full of pestilence,
als, down to the little worm,
All fell, and afterwards the ancient people,
According as the poets have affirmed,
Were from the seed of ants restored again,)
Than was it to behold through that dark valley
The spirits languishing in divers heaps.
This on the belly, that upon the back
One of the other lay, and others crawling
Shifted themselves along the dismal road.
We step by step went onward without speech,
Gazing upon and listening to the sick
Who had not strength enough to lift their bodies.
I saw two sitting leaned against each other,
As leans in heating platter against platter,
From head to foot bespotted o’er with scabs;
And never saw I plied a currycomb
By stable-boy for whom his master waits,
Or him who keeps awake unwillingly,
As every one was plying fast the bite
Of nails upon himself, for the great rage
Of itching which no other succour had.
And the nails downward with them dragged the scab,
In fashion as a knife the scales of bream,
Or any other fish that has them largest.
“O thou, that with thy fingers dost dismail thee,”
Began my Leader unto one of them,
“And makest of them pincers now and then,
Tell me if any Latian is with those
Who are herein; so may thy nails suffice thee
To all eternity unto this work.”
“Latians are we, whom thou so wasted seest,
Both of us here,” one weeping made reply;
“But who art thou, that questionest about us?”
And said the Guide: “One am I who descends
Down with this living man from cliff to cliff,
And I intend to show Hell unto him.”
Then broken was their mutual support,
And trembling each one turned himself to me,
With others who had heard him by rebound.
Wholly to me did the good Master gather,
Saying: “Say unto them whate’er thou wishest.”
And I began, since he would have it so:
“So may your memory not steal away
In the first world from out the minds of men,
But so may it survive ‘neath many suns,
Say to me who ye are, and of what people;
Let not your foul and loathsome punishment
Make you afraid to show yourselves to me.”
“I of Arezzo was,” one made reply,
“And Albert of Siena had me burned;
But what I died for does not bring me here.
‘Tis true I said to him, speaking in jest,
That I could rise by flight into the air,
And he who had conceit, but little wit,
Would have me show to him the art; and only
Because no Daedalus I made him, made me
Be burned by one who held him as his son.
But unto the last Bolgia of the ten,
For alchemy, which in the world I practised,
Minos, who cannot err, has me condemned.”
And to the Poet said I: “Now was ever
So vain a people as the Sienese?
Not for a certainty the French by far.”
Whereat the other leper, who had heard me,
Replied unto my speech: “Taking out Stricca,
Who knew the art of moderate expenses,
And Niccolo, who the luxurious use
Of cloves discovered earliest of all
Within that garden where such seed takes root;
And taking out the band, among whom squandered
Caccia d’Ascian his vineyards and vast woods,
And where his wit the Abbagliato proffered!
But, that thou know who thus doth second thee
Against the Sienese, make sharp thine eye
Tow’rds me, so that my face well answer thee,
And thou shalt see I am Capocchio’s shade,
Who metals falsified by alchemy;
Thou must remember, if I well descry thee,
How I a skilful ape of nature was.”
‘Twas at the time when Juno was enraged,
For Semele, against the Theban blood,
As she already more than once had shown,
So reft of reason Athamas became,
That, seeing his own wife with children twain
Walking encumbered upon either hand,
He cried: “Spread out the nets, that I may take
The lioness and her whelps upon the passage;”
And then extended his unpitying claws,
Seizing the first, who had the name Learchus,
And whirled him round, and dashed him on a rock;
And she, with the other burthen, drowned herself;–
And at the time when fortune downward hurled
The Trojan’s arrogance, that all things dared,
So that the king was with his kingdom crushed,
Hecuba sad, disconsolate, and captive,
When lifeless she beheld Polyxena,
And of her Polydorus on the shore
Of ocean was the dolorous one aware,
Out of her senses like a dog she barked,
So much the anguish had her mind distorted;
But not of Thebes the furies nor the Trojan
Were ever seen in any one so cruel
In goading beasts, and much more human members,
As I beheld two shadows pale and naked,
Who, biting, in the manner ran along
That a boar does, when from the sty turned loose.
One to Capocchio came, and by the nape
Seized with its teeth his neck, so that in dragging
It made his belly grate the solid bottom.
And the Aretine, who trembling had remained,
Said to me: “That mad sprite is Gianni Schicchi,
And raving goes thus harrying other people.”
“O,” said I to him, “so may not the other
Set teeth on thee, let it not weary thee
To tell us who it is, ere it dart hence.”
And he to me: “That is the ancient ghost
Of the nefarious Myrrha, who became
Beyond all rightful love her father’s lover.
She came to sin with him after this manner,
By counterfeiting of another’s form;
As he who goeth yonder undertook,
That he might gain the lady of the herd,
To counterfeit in himself Buoso Donati,
Making a will and giving it due form.”
And after the two maniacs had passed
On whom I held mine eye, I turned it back
To look upon the other evil-born.
I saw one made in fashion of a lute,
If he had only had the groin cut off
Just at the point at which a man is forked.
The heavy dropsy, that so disproportions
The limbs with humours, which it ill concocts,
That the face corresponds not to the belly,
Compelled him so to hold his lips apart
As does the hectic, who because of thirst
One tow’rds the chin, the other upward turns.
“O ye, who without any torment are,
And why I know not, in the world of woe,”
He said to us, “behold, and be attentive
Unto the misery of Master Adam;
I had while living much of what I wished,
And now, alas! a drop of water crave.
The rivulets, that from the verdant hills
Of Cassentin descend down into Arno,
Making their channels to be cold and moist,
Ever before me stand, and not in vain;
For far more doth their image dry me up
Than the disease which strips my face of flesh.
The rigid justice that chastises me
Draweth occasion from the place in which
I sinned, to put the more my sighs in flight.
There is Romena, where I counterfeited
The currency imprinted with the Baptist,
For which I left my body burned above.
But if I here could see the tristful soul
Of Guido, or Alessandro, or their brother,
For Branda’s fount I would not give the sight.
One is within already, if the raving
Shades that are going round about speak truth;
But what avails it me, whose limbs are tied?
If I were only still so light, that in
sp; A hundred years I could advance one inch,
I had already started on the way,
Seeking him out among this squalid folk,
Although the circuit be eleven miles,
And be not less than half a mile across.
For them am I in such a family;
They did induce me into coining florins,
Which had three carats of impurity.”
And I to him: “Who are the two poor wretches
That smoke like unto a wet hand in winter,
Lying there close upon thy right-hand confines?”
“I found them here,” replied he, “when I rained
Into this chasm, and since they have not turned,
Nor do I think they will for evermore.
One the false woman is who accused Joseph,
The other the false Sinon, Greek of Troy;
From acute fever they send forth such reek.”
And one of them, who felt himself annoyed
At being, peradventure, named so darkly,
Smote with the fist upon his hardened paunch.
It gave a sound, as if it were a drum;
And Master Adam smote him in the face,
With arm that did not seem to be less hard,
Saying to him: “Although be taken from me
All motion, for my limbs that heavy are,
I have an arm unfettered for such need.”
Whereat he answer made: “When thou didst go
Unto the fire, thou hadst it not so ready:
But hadst it so and more when thou wast coining.”
The dropsical: “Thou sayest true in that;
But thou wast not so true a witness there,
Where thou wast questioned of the truth at Troy.”
“If I spake false, thou falsifiedst the coin,”
Said Sinon; “and for one fault I am here,
And thou for more than any other demon.”
“Remember, perjurer, about the horse,”
He made reply who had the swollen belly,
“And rueful be it thee the whole world knows it.”
“Rueful to thee the thirst be wherewith cracks
Thy tongue,” the Greek said, “and the putrid water
That hedges so thy paunch before thine eyes.”
Then the false-coiner: “So is gaping wide
Thy mouth for speaking evil, as ’tis wont;
Because if I have thirst, and humour stuff me
Thou hast the burning and the head that aches,
And to lick up the mirror of Narcissus
Thou wouldst not want words many to invite thee.”
In listening to them was I wholly fixed,
When said the Master to me: “Now just look,
For little wants it that I quarrel with thee.”
When him I heard in anger speak to me,
I turned me round towards him with such shame
That still it eddies through my memory.
And as he is who dreams of his own harm,
Who dreaming wishes it may be a dream,
So that he craves what is, as if it were not;
Such I became, not having power to speak,
For to excuse myself I wished, and still
Excused myself, and did not think I did it.
“Less shame doth wash away a greater fault,”
The Master said, “than this of thine has been;
Therefore thyself disburden of all sadness,
And make account that I am aye beside thee,
If e’er it come to pass that fortune bring thee
Where there are people in a like dispute;
For a base wish it is to wish to hear it.”
One and the selfsame tongue first wounded me,
So that it tinged the one cheek and the other,
And then held out to me the medicine;
Thus do I hear that once Achilles’ spear,
His and his father’s, used to be the cause
First of a sad and then a gracious boon.
We turned our backs upon the wretched valley,
Upon the bank that girds it round about,
Going across it without any speech.
There it was less than night, and less than day,
So that my sight went little in advance;
But I could hear the blare of a loud horn,
So loud it would have made each thunder faint,
Which, counter to it following its way,
Mine eyes directed wholly to one place.
After the dolorous discomfiture
When Charlemagne the holy emprise lost,
So terribly Orlando sounded not.
Short while my head turned thitherward I held
When many lofty towers I seemed to see,
Whereat I: “Master, say, what town is this?”
And he to me: “Because thou peerest forth
Athwart the darkness at too great a distance,
It happens that thou errest in thy fancy.
Well shalt thou see, if thou arrivest there,
How much the sense deceives itself by distance;
Therefore a little faster spur thee on.”
Then tenderly he took me by the hand,
And said: “Before we farther have advanced,
That the reality may seem to thee
Less strange, know that these are not towers, but giants,
And they are in the well, around the bank,
From navel downward, one and all of them.”
As, when the fog is vanishing away,
Little by little doth the sight refigure
Whate’er the mist that crowds the air conceals,
So, piercing through the dense and darksome air,
More and more near approaching tow’rd the verge,
My error fled, and fear came over me;
Because as on its circular parapets
Montereggione crowns itself with towers,
E’en thus the margin which surrounds the well
With one half of their bodies turreted
The horrible giants, whom Jove menaces
E’en now from out the heavens when he thunders.
And I of one already saw the face,
Shoulders, and breast, and great part of the belly,
And down along his sides both of the arms.
Certainly Nature, when she left the making
Of animals like these, did well indeed,
By taking such executors from Mars;
And if of elephants and whales she doth not
Repent her, whosoever looketh subtly
More just and more discreet will hold her for it;
For where the argument of intellect
Is added unto evil will and power,
No rampart can the people make against it.
His face appeared to me as long and large
As is at Rome the pine-cone of Saint Peter’s,
And in proportion were the other bones;
So that the margin, which an apron was
Down from the middle, showed so much of him
Above it, that to reach up to his hair
Three Frieslanders in vain had vaunted them;
For I beheld thirty great palms of him
Down from the place where man his mantle buckles.
“Raphael mai amech izabi almi,”
Began to clamour the ferocious mouth,
To which were not befitting sweeter psalms.
And unto him my Guide: “Soul idiotic,
Keep to thy horn, and vent thyself with that,
When wrath or other passion touches thee.
Search round thy neck, and thou wilt find the belt
Which keeps it fastened, O bewildered soul,
And see it, where it bars thy mighty breast.”
Then said to me: “He doth himself accuse;
This one is Nimrod, by whose evil thought
One language in the world is not still used.
Here let us leave him and not speak in vain;
For even such to him is every language
As his to others, which to none is known.”
Therefore a longer journey did we make,
Turned to the left, and a crossbow-shot oft
We found another far more fierce and large.
In binding him, who might the master be
I cannot say; but he had pinioned close
Behind the right arm, and in front the other,
With chains, that held him so begirt about
From the neck down, that on the part uncovered
It wound itself as far as the fifth gyre.
“This proud one wished to make experiment
Of his o
wn power against the Supreme Jove,”
My Leader said, “whence he has such a guerdon.
Ephialtes is his name; he showed great prowess.
What time the giants terrified the gods;
The arms he wielded never more he moves.”
And I to him: “If possible, I should wish
That of the measureless Briareus
These eyes of mine might have experience.”
Whence he replied: “Thou shalt behold Antaeus
Close by here, who can speak and is unbound,
Who at the bottom of all crime shall place us.
Much farther yon is he whom thou wouldst see,
And he is bound, and fashioned like to this one,
Save that he seems in aspect more ferocious.”
There never was an earthquake of such might
That it could shake a tower so violently,
As Ephialtes suddenly shook himself.
Then was I more afraid of death than ever,
For nothing more was needful than the fear,
If I had not beheld the manacles.
Then we proceeded farther in advance,
And to Antaeus came, who, full five ells
Without the head, forth issued from the cavern.
“O thou, who in the valley fortunate,
Which Scipio the heir of glory made,
When Hannibal turned back with all his hosts,
Once brought’st a thousand lions for thy prey,
And who, hadst thou been at the mighty war
Among thy brothers, some it seems still think
The sons of Earth the victory would have gained:
Place us below, nor be disdainful of it,
There where the cold doth lock Cocytus up.
Make us not go to Tityus nor Typhoeus;
This one can give of that which here is longed for;
Therefore stoop down, and do not curl thy lip.
Still in the world can he restore thy fame;
Because he lives, and still expects long life,
If to itself Grace call him not untimely.”
So said the Master; and in haste the other
His hands extended and took up my Guide,–
Hands whose great pressure Hercules once felt.
Virgilius, when he felt himself embraced,
Said unto me: “Draw nigh, that I may take thee;”
Then of himself and me one bundle made.
As seems the Carisenda, to behold
Beneath the leaning side, when goes a cloud
Above it so that opposite it hangs;
Such did Antaeus seem to me, who stood
Watching to see him stoop, and then it was
I could have wished to go some other way.
But lightly in the abyss, which swallows up
Judas with Lucifer, he put us down;
Nor thus bowed downward made he there delay,
But, as a mast does in a ship, uprose.
If I had rhymes both rough and stridulous,
As were appropriate to the dismal hole
Down upon which thrust all the other rocks,
I would press out the juice of my conception
More fully; but because I have them not,
Not without fear I bring myself to speak;
For ’tis no enterprise to take in jest,
To sketch the bottom of all the universe,
Nor for a tongue that cries Mamma and Babbo.
But may those Ladies help this verse of mine,
Who helped Amphion in enclosing Thebes,
That from the fact the word be not diverse.
O rabble ill-begotten above all,
Who’re in the place to speak of which is hard,
‘Twere better ye had here been sheep or goats!
When we were down within the darksome well,
Beneath the giant’s feet, but lower far,
And I was scanning still the lofty wall,
I heard it said to me: “Look how thou steppest!
Take heed thou do not trample with thy feet
The heads of the tired, miserable brothers!”
Whereat I turned me round, and saw before me
And underfoot a lake, that from the frost
The semblance had of glass, and not of water.
So thick a veil ne’er made upon its current
In winter-time Danube in Austria,
Nor there beneath the frigid sky the Don,
As there was here; so that if Tambernich
Had fallen upon it, or Pietrapana,
E’en at the edge ‘twould not have given a creak.
And as to croak the frog doth place himself
With muzzle out of water,–when is dreaming
Of gleaning oftentimes the peasant-girl,–
Livid, as far down as where shame appears,
Were the disconsolate shades within the ice,
Setting their teeth unto the note of storks.
Each one his countenance held downward bent;
From mouth the cold, from eyes the doleful heart
Among them witness of itself procures.
When round about me somewhat I had looked,
I downward turned me, and saw two so close,
The hair upon their heads together mingled.
“Ye who so strain your breasts together, tell me,”
I said, “who are you;” and they bent their necks,
And when to me their faces they had lifted,
Their eyes, which first were only moist within,
Gushed o’er the eyelids, and the frost congealed
The tears between, and locked them up again.
Clamp never bound together wood with wood
So strongly; whereat they, like two he-goats,
Butted together, so much wrath o’ercame them.
And one, who had by reason of the cold
Lost both his ears, still with his visage downward,
Said: “Why dost thou so mirror thyself in us?
If thou desire to know who these two are,
The valley whence Bisenzio descends
Belonged to them and to their father Albert.
They from one body came, and all Caina
Thou shalt search through, and shalt not find a shade
More worthy to be fixed in gelatine;
Not he in whom were broken breast and shadow
At one and the same blow by Arthur’s hand;
Focaccia not; not he who me encumbers
So with his head I see no farther forward,
And bore the name of Sassol Mascheroni;
Well knowest thou who he was, if thou art Tuscan.
And that thou put me not to further speech,
Know that I Camicion de’ Pazzi was,
And wait Carlino to exonerate me.”
Then I beheld a thousand faces, made
Purple with cold; whence o’er me comes a shudder,
And evermore will come, at frozen ponds.
And while we were advancing tow’rds the middle,
Where everything of weight unites together,
And I was shivering in the eternal shade,
Whether ’twere will, or destiny, or chance,
I know not; but in walking ‘mong the heads
I struck my foot hard in the face of one.
Weeping he growled: “Why dost thou trample me?
Unless thou comest to increase the vengeance
of Montaperti, why dost thou molest me?”
And I: “My Master, now wait here for me,
That I through him may issue from a doubt;
Then thou mayst hurry me, as thou shalt wish.”
The Leader stopped; and to that one I said
Who was blaspheming vehemently still:
“Who art thou, that thus reprehendest others?”
“Now who art thou, that goest through Antenora
Smiting,” replied he, “other people’s cheeks,
So that, if thou wert living, ’twere too much?”
“Living I am, and dear to thee it may be,”
Was my response, “if thou demandest fame,
That ‘mid the other notes thy name I place.”
And he to me: “For the reverse I long;
Take thyself hence, and give me no more trouble;
For ill thou knowest to flatter in this hollow.”
Then by the scalp behind I seized upon him,
And said: “It must needs be thou name thyself,
Or not a hair remain upon thee here.”
Whence he to me: “Though thou strip off my hair,
I will not tell thee who I am, nor show thee,
If on my head
a thousand times thou fall.”
I had his hair in hand already twisted,
And more than one shock of it had pulled out,
He barking, with his eyes held firmly down,
When cried another: “What doth ail thee, Bocca?
Is’t not enough to clatter with thy jaws,
But thou must bark? what devil touches thee?”
“Now,” said I, “I care not to have thee speak,
Accursed traitor; for unto thy shame
I will report of thee veracious news.”
“Begone,” replied he, “and tell what thou wilt,
But be not silent, if thou issue hence,
Of him who had just now his tongue so prompt;
He weepeth here the silver of the French;
‘I saw,’ thus canst thou phrase it, ‘him of Duera
There where the sinners stand out in the cold.’
If thou shouldst questioned be who else was there,
Thou hast beside thee him of Beccaria,
Of whom the gorget Florence slit asunder;
Gianni del Soldanier, I think, may be
Yonder with Ganellon, and Tebaldello
Who oped Faenza when the people slep.”
Already we had gone away from him,
When I beheld two frozen in one hole,
So that one head a hood was to the other;
And even as bread through hunger is devoured,
The uppermost on the other set his teeth,
There where the brain is to the nape united.
Not in another fashion Tydeus gnawed
The temples of Menalippus in disdain,
Than that one did the skull and the other things.
“O thou, who showest by such bestial sign
Thy hatred against him whom thou art eating,
Tell me the wherefore,” said I, “with this compact,
That if thou rightfully of him complain,
In knowing who ye are, and his transgression,
I in the world above repay thee for it,
If that wherewith I speak be not dried up.”
His mouth uplifted from his grim repast,
That sinner, wiping it upon the hair
Of the same head that he behind had wasted.
Then he began: “Thou wilt that I renew
The desperate grief, which wrings my heart already
To think of only, ere I speak of it;
But if my words be seed that may bear fruit
Of infamy to the traitor whom I gnaw,
Speaking and weeping shalt thou see together.
I know not who thou art, nor by what mode
Thou hast come down here; but a Florentine
Thou seemest to me truly, when I hear thee.
Thou hast to know I was Count Ugolino,
And this one was Ruggieri the Archbishop;
Now I will tell thee why I am such a neighbour.
That, by effect of his malicious thoughts,
Trusting in him I was made prisoner,
And after put to death, I need not say;
But ne’ertheless what thou canst not have heard,
That is to say, how cruel was my death,
Hear shalt thou, and shalt know if he has wronged me.
A narrow perforation in the mew,
Which bears because of me the title of Famine,
And in which others still must be locked up,
Had shown me through its opening many moons
Already, when I dreamed the evil dream
Which of the future rent for me the veil.
This one appeared to me as lord and master,
Hunting the wolf and whelps upon the mountain
For which the Pisans cannot Lucca see.
With sleuth-hounds gaunt, and eager, and well trained,
Gualandi with Sismondi and Lanfianchi
He had sent out before him to the front.
After brief course seemed unto me forespent
The father and the sons, and with sharp tushes
It seemed to me I saw their flanks ripped open.
When I before the morrow was awake,
Moaning amid their sleep I heard my sons
Who with me were, and asking after bread.
Cruel indeed art thou, if yet thou grieve not,
Thinking of what my heart foreboded me,
And weep’st thou not, what art thou wont to weep at?
They were awake now, and the hour drew nigh
At which our food used to be brought to us,
And through his dream was each one apprehensive;
And I heard locking up the under door
Of the horrible tower; whereat without a word
I gazed into the faces of my sons.
I wept not, I within so turned to stone;
They wept; and darling little Anselm mine
Said: ‘Thou dost gaze so, father, what doth ail thee?’
Still not a tear I shed, nor answer made
All of that day, nor yet the night thereafter,
Until another sun rose on the world.
As now a little glimmer made its way
Into the dolorous prison, and I saw
Upon four faces my own very aspect,
Both of my hands in agony I bit;
And, thinking that I did it from desire
Of eating, on a sudden they uprose,
And said they: ‘Father, much less pain ’twill give us
If thou do eat of us; thyself didst clothe us
With this poor flesh, and do thou strip it off.’
I calmed me then, not to make them more sad.
That day we all were silent, and the next.
Ah! obdurate earth, wherefore didst thou not open?
When we had come unto the fourth day, Gaddo
Threw himself down outstretched before my feet,
Saying, ‘My father, why dost thou not help me?’
And there he died; and, as thou seest me,
I saw the three fall, one by one, between
The fifth day and the sixth; whence I betook me,
Already blind, to groping over each,
And three days called them after they were dead;
Then hunger did what sorrow could not do.”
When he had said this, with his eyes distorted,
The wretched skull resumed he with his teeth,
Which, as a dog’s, upon the bone were strong.
Ah! Pisa, thou opprobrium of the people
Of the fair land there where the ‘Si’ doth sound,
Since slow to punish thee thy neighbours are,
Let the Capraia and Gorgona move,
And make a hedge across the mouth of Arno
That every person in thee it may drown!
For if Count Ugolino had the fame
Of having in thy castles thee betrayed,
Thou shouldst not on such cross have put his sons.
Guiltless of any crime, thou modern Thebes!
Their youth made Uguccione and Brigata,
And the other two my song doth name above!
We passed still farther onward, where the ice
Another people ruggedly enswathes,
Not downward turned, but all of them reversed.
Weeping itself there does not let them weep,
And grief that finds a barrier in the eyes
Turns itself inward to increase the anguish;
Because the earliest tears a cluster form,
And, in the manner of a crystal visor,
Fill all the cup beneath the eyebrow full.
And notwithstanding that, as in a callus,
Because of cold all sensibility
Its station had abandoned in my face,
Still it appeared to me I felt some wind;
Whence I: “My Master, who sets this in motion?
Is not below here every vapour quenched?”
Whence he to me: “Full soon shalt thou be where
Thine eye shall answer make to thee of this,
Seeing the cause which raineth down the blast.”
And one of the wretches of the frozen crust
Cried out to us: “O souls so merciless
That the last post is given unto you,
Lift from mine eyes the rigid veils, that I
May vent the sorrow which impregns my heart
A little, e’er the weeping recongeal.”
Whence I to him: “If thou wouldst have me help thee
Say who thou wast; and if I free thee not,
May I go to the bottom of the ice.”
Then he replied: “I am Friar Alberigo;
He am I of the fruit of the bad
Who here a date am getting for my fig.”
“O,” said I to him, “now art thou, too, dead?”
And he to me: “How may my body fare
Up in the world, no knowledge I possess.
Such an advantage has this Ptolomaea,
That oftentimes the soul descendeth here
Sooner than Atropos in motion sets it.
And, that thou mayest more willingly remove
From off my countenance these glassy tears,
Know that as soon as any soul betrays
As I have done, his body by a demon
Is taken from him, who thereafter rules it,
Until his time has wholly been revolved.
Itself down rushes into such a cistern;
And still perchance above appears the body
Of yonder shade, that winters here behind me.
This thou shouldst know, if thou hast just come down;
It is Ser Branca d’ Oria, and many years
Have passed away since he was thus locked up.”
“I think,” said I to him, “thou dost deceive me;
For Branca d’ Oria is not dead as yet,
And eats, and drinks, and sleeps, and puts on clothes.”
“In moat above,” said he, “of Malebranche,
There where is boiling the tenacious pitch,
As yet had Michel Zanche not arrived,
When this one left a devil in his stead
In his own body and one near of kin,
Who made together with him the betrayal.
But hitherward stretch out thy hand forthwith,
Open mine eyes;”–and open them I did not,
And to be rude to him was courtesy.
Ah, Genoese! ye men at variance
With every virtue, full of every vice
Wherefore are ye not scattered from the world?
For with the vilest spirit of Romagna
I found of you one such, who for his deeds
In soul already in Cocytus bathes,
And still above in body seems alive!
“‘Vexilla Regis prodeunt Inferni’
Towards us; therefore look in front of thee,”
My Master said, “if thou discernest him.”
As, when there breathes a heavy fog, or when
Our hemisphere is darkening into night,
Appears far off a mill the wind is turning,
Methought that such a building then I saw;
And, for the wind, I drew myself behind
My Guide, because there was no other shelter.
Now was I, and with fear in verse I put it,
There where the shades were wholly covered up,
And glimmered through like unto straws in glass.
Some prone are lying, others stand erect,
This with the head, and that one with the soles;
Another, bow-like, face to feet inverts.
When in advance so far we had proceeded,
That it my Master pleased to show to me
The creature who once had the beauteous semblance,
He from before me moved and made me stop,
Saying: “Behold Dis, and behold the place
Where thou with fortitude must arm thyself.”
How frozen I became and powerless then,
Ask it not, Reader, for I write it not,
Because all language would be insufficient.
I did not die, and I alive remained not;
Think for thyself now, hast thou aught of wit,
What I became, being of both deprived.
The Emperor of the kingdom dolorous
From his mid-breast forth issued from the ice;
And better with a giant I compare
Than do the giants with those arms of his;
Consider now how great must be that whole,
Which unto such a part conforms itself.
Were he as fair once, as he now is foul,
And lifted up his brow against his Maker,
Well may proceed from him all tribulation.
O, what a marvel it appeared to me,
When I beheld three faces on his head!
The one in front, and that vermilion was;
Two were the others, that were joined with this
Above the middle part of either shoulder,
And they were joined together at the crest;
And the right-hand one seemed ‘twixt white and yellow;
The left was such to look upon as those
Who come from where the Nile falls valley-ward.
Underneath each came forth two mighty wings,
Such as befitting were so great a bird;
Sails of the sea I never saw so large.
No feathers had they, but as of a bat
Their fashion was; and he was waving them,
So that three winds proceeded forth therefrom.
Thereby Cocytus wholly was congealed.
With six eyes did he weep, and down three chins
Trickled the tear-drops and the bloody drivel.
At every mouth he with his teeth was crunching
A sinner, in the manner of a brake,
So that he three of them tormented thus.
To him in front the biting was as naught
Unto the clawing, for sometimes the spine
Utterly stripped of all the skin remained.
“That soul up there which has the greatest pain,”
The Master said, “is Judas Iscariot;
With head inside, he plies his legs without.
Of the two others, who head downward are,
The one who hangs from the black jowl is Brutus;
See how he writhes himself, and speaks no word.
And the other, who so stalwart seems, is Cassius.
But night is reascending, and ’tis time
That we depart, for we have seen the whole.”
As seemed him good, I clasped him round the neck,
And he the vantage seized of time and place,
And when the wings were opened wide apart,
He laid fast hold upon the shaggy sides;
From fell to fell descended downward then
Between the thick hair and the frozen crust.
When we were come to where the thigh revolves
Exactly on the thickness of the haunch,
The Guide, with labour and with hard-drawn breath,
Turned round his head where he had had his legs,
And grappled to the hair, as one who mounts,
So that to Hell I thought we were returning.
“Keep fast thy hold, for by such stairs as these,”
The Master said, panting as one fatigued,
“Must we perforce depart from so much evil.”
Then through the opening of a rock he issued,
And down upon the margin seated me;
Then tow’rds me he outstretched his wary step.
I lifted up mine eyes and thought to see
Lucifer in the same way I had left him;
And I beheld him upward hold his legs.
And if I then became disquieted,
Let stolid people think who do not see
What the point is beyond which I had passed.
“Rise up,” the Master said, “upon thy feet;
The way is long, and difficult the road,
And now the sun to middle-tierce returns.”
It was not any palace corridor
There where we were, but dungeon natural,
With floor uneven and unease of light.
“Ere from the abyss I tear myself away,
My Master,” said I when I had arisen,
“To draw me from an error speak a little;
Where is the ice? and how is this one fixed
Thus upside down? and how in such short time
From eve to morn has the sun made his transit?”
And he to me: “Thou still imaginest
Thou art beyond the centre, where I grasped
The hair of the fell worm, who mines the world.
That side thou wast, so long as I descended;
When round I turned me, thou didst pass the point
To which things heavy draw from every side,
And now beneath the hemisphere art come
Opposite that which overhangs the vast
Dry-land, and ‘neath whose cope was put to death
The Man who without sin was born and lived.
Thou hast thy feet upon the little sphere
Which makes the other face of the Judecca.
Here it is morn when it is evening there;
And he who with his hair a stairway made us
Still fixed remaineth as he was before.
Upon this side he fell down out of heaven;
And all the land, that whilom here emerged,
For fear of him made of the sea a veil,
And came to our hemisphere; and peradventure
To flee from him, what on this side appears
Left the place vacant here, and back recoiled.”
A place there is below, from Beelzebub
As far receding as the tomb extends,
Which not by sight is known, but by the sound
Of a small rivulet, that there descendeth
Through chasm within the stone, which it has gnawed
With course that winds about and slightly falls.
The Guide and I into that hidden road
Now entered, to return to the bright world;
And without care of having any rest
We mounted up, he first and I the second,
Till I beheld through a round aperture
Some of the beauteous things that Heaven doth bear;
Thence we came forth to rebehold the stars.
* * * * *
The Crisis Chronicles Online Library presents Dante’s Inferno in three parts.
This has been part three, including Cantos XVIV through XXXIV. Click here to read more.