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The Inferno of Dante – Alternate Ending/Epilogue

David Schwitzgebel

“...where we came forth, and once more saw the stars”(Dante, 373).1

Upon seeing the gleaming points of light, My heart was refreshed, the remnants of the Wearying journey left in the inferno's night.2

“Those who are blessed with life,” said my master,3 “May see and appreciate the small suns Which permeate the beautiful night air

Of Earth; however, remember well - you will not Be on Earth forever. We all will face judgment, After we've become weak of body and thought.”4

I reflected on this, recalling the jealousy Of those living their death in that fetid place, who Will never again see the stars, or feel the breeze.

“Come,” called the guide, “before I show you the other Two sides of the afterlife5, there is one More task which must be fulfilled; I assure


The Inferno of Dante is an epic poem pertaining to a writer's journey through hell. The story ends with the Dante and his guide climbing out of “the inferno,” and seeing the stars overhead.. or does it? 2 Dante wrote this poem in rough iambic pentameter (every other syllable is emphasized) and terza rima (A-B-A, B-C-B, CD-C, D-E-D; the rhymes are approximate). Instead of using terza rima, I decided to write this in approximate couplets. 3 The author often refers to his guide through hell (Virgil) as master, or lord. 4 I had to work hard to get the approx. rhyme here. My meaning is that we all die once we grow old (become weak of body and thought). 5 Dante continues The Inferno in one large epic poem called The Divine Comedy, in which he also is guided through purgatory and heaven.

You, it will not delay us for much time.” Curiously, I followed him, for he Had drifted, while we were speaking, to align

Next to a nearby copse of trees. Upon reaching Him, I spied a faint figure, seemingly outlined In small points of light; when it moved, its gleaming

Build shifted in such a way to give the Appearance of moonlight off a body of Water. It was mournfully kneeling by an

Inordinately gigantic tree which seemed To be grasping at death. Its branches, all blackened, expelled an aura of blight, and the trunk displayed

A similar state of sickliness, being Riddled with an array of chips and holes – though, most Decrepit were the roots on which the spectral thing

Was kneeling. Through them, to my amazement, Lava and fire seemed to be bleeding; The cracks in the charcoal leaked bits of the hell that

I thought I had forever left behind. After a moment of silence, I inquire: “What, dear mentor, Is that being that shines?

And the tree: it seems to have planted its Roots in The Inferno itself.” “These mysteries,” My guide responded, “Are secrets, which sit

On the shoulders of those of us who have Been imbued with the knowledge of the domain After death – but, as your guide, I will give

You all the wisdom which I have the ability or right to bestow. Regarding the tree, you made a correct assumption. It comes directly

From the seventh circle of hell6. So, yes, To confirm the cause of shock in your expression, This tree is indeed a soul, though his name is less

Important than the deeds which were committed by the wretched thing. After being tormented since his youth through the cruelty of his brother, to die

Seemed preferable to him – in contrast to living, and extending his bitter existence.” And, with an ample amount of pity, a strand

Of the experience in the abyss was Remembered by me: violence of any sort Concludes in hell.7 On this bitter thought,

My guide Virgil continued. “He was sent To the layer reserved for those who partake in harm to themselves. As the harpies rent


The seventh circle of hell, according to Dante, consists of those who have committed sins of violence. More specifically, this tree comes from the second ring of the seventh circle, in which people are punished for violence against themselves (i.e., suicide). Sinners are transformed into plants, and harpies make nests in the canopy. 7 I had some trouble with this line, too – my meaning is that Dante recalled that all who do violence of any kind, even in circumstances like these, wind up down there.

This boy’s body in the form of a plant, His brother, for once, felt an intense guilt. He saw his dead sibling, and in turn saw the rat

Which he had become. He dedicated his life To remorse, every particle of his body Focused on compensating for his brother’s strife –

His compunction was so great, the soul separated Itself from the body, and became the Stellar being you see before you: Not dead,

And not alive.” In my indescribable pity, My heart felt as if would burst For the tortured souls standing across from me.

Gravely, my master went on: “This spirit Continued, in its spectral state, to do penance. Even in hell, the young boy could hear it:

His brother’s sorrow, echoing through the World of the dead like a fog horn Sounding in a misty night. As eras

Passed, the boy found that he had (for the first Time in his existence) a direction. He Wished to once again see his brother on Earth.

His will to do this was so great that he grew; He forced himself upward until he had Overtaken even The Lord of Hell; and then drew

Upon every last ounce of his strength, and Reaching up with his roots, pulled himself Through the ceiling of The Inferno, the third

Soul to ever return to Earth from Hell.8 Upon breaking through, the stars once More shone their light on the child who prevailed.”

However, all that the young boy cared for was His brother, a glimmering spirit of remorse, Who had waited upon his arrival for millennia.”9

After hearing this story, I looked upon The boy who resembled a dying tree And the brother who resembled a fallen star

Reflected upon the world, And let Virgil lead me onward.

8 9

The First Two were Orpheus and Hercules. Odysseus also did this, but he lived at a later date. Gaaaah... this line has the wrong amount of syllables... but I like it so much... let’s just pretend that “millennia” is a on esyllable word, okay?