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Dante: "Inferno", translated by David Bruce Gain

Canto 1
At our midlife my wandering way lacked light;
A dark dark wood mersed me in nullest night.
How hard to limn this wood so wild and sere.
The very thought fills me with frantic fear.
Yet it held good, so while I still have breath
I'll tell of all, though telling's worse than death.
I know not what it was that caused to stray,
So tired was I when wandering from the way.
Yet at a hill I found at last relief
From that drear vale that pierced with griping grief.
When I looked up I knew that I had won
From it a sight of the straight-guiding sun.
And my heart's lake was freed from frantic fright
From those long hours of that so piteous night.
As one, still spent, yet now safe on the shore,
Looks on the waves that he need fear no more,
So did my soul, the soul of one who'd fled,
Gaze on the pass that held none but the dead.
Rested, my firm foot lower gave some hope
I might not stumble on this lonely slope,
Foiled by a pantheress, all set to seize,
For sure, swift one, one slow as I, with ease.
I oft turned back, full sure that I was blocked.
My eyes and her eyes, spotted one, were locked.
'twas dawn, and spring, when the beings above,
The sun and stars, were first fired by God's love.
So I had hopes 'twould surely be my lot,
My spotted one, that I would be forgot.
A lion came, th' air and I were filled with dread
At ravening hunger in his high-held head.
A lean she-wolf also, whose gluttonous greed
Full oft ere now had caused wan wights to bleed.
My heart was heavy; her so savage sight
Reft me of hope I could e'er gain the height.
One who is sure that he right now prevails
Is sick and sore and saddened when he fails.
So was I saddened, forced back by the brute
Right to the region where the sun is mute.
I felt, while forced back, desperate, down the slope,
One seeming faint-voiced, long mute, give me hope.
"Are you Shadow or does your form conceal"
I cried to him for pity, "One who's real?"
"Not now, once real" he cried, "Lombardian earth
Made me and my folks Mantuan by birth.
I was born, though late, ere Julius died
And, came to Rome, my own home left, t' abide
Near good Augustus, under gods who lied.
I praised, a bard, Anchises' loyal son,
Who came from Troy when it had been undone.
Climb climb the mount that gives us all our joy.
Why why turn back to what can but destroy?"
Abashed, I cried: "O Virgil, from whose store
Such copious streams of living water pour!
Let me, loving and taught by you, prevail.
O greatest bard, your words shall never fail!
You are my master, you save me from shame.
Your style is my style, source of all my fame!
Great sage, turn back the beast, save me, I quake
From pulsing pain that only you can slake".
I sobbed. "This place" he cried, "shall never save.
If you stay here you'll e'er be but a slave.
This beast, which makes you scream, lets none go by,
But hinders all and causes all to die.
The more the monster eats, the more her need;
Food makes her famished; naught can glut her greed,
Till dog that makes her die, desperate, arrives,
Many shall be the beasts with whom she wives.
'twixt Feltro and Feltro shall be his birth,
Love, wisdom, nerve, not land and wealth, his worth.
Euryalus, Nisus, Turnus all laved,
Camilla too, the land with blood; all craved
What he at last shall win - Italy saved.
From stead to stead he'll hunt the hater well,
Till he at last has hounded her to hell.
Therefore I deem this fittest: 'tis decreed
For you to follow and for me to lead,
To hear the shrieks of those who e'er abide
In pain and torment where all hope has died.
Then shall you see those fire shall leave unstressed,
Since they have hope they'll soon be with the blest.
To whom if you hereafter would ascend,
I'll leave you then; you'll find a fitter friend,
Since he who holds the heavens in his sway
Won't admit me, who once durst disobey.
He's lord of all, yet blest the one who's brought
To that high place, to the high king's own court".
Then I: "Bard, by the God whom you know not,
Save me, I beg, from this so sordid lot,
That I may see (you said) Saint Peter's door
And those you said were of a soul so sore".
I kept behind, while he moved on before.
Canto 2
Day was departing and the air, like soil,
Taking all living on the earth from toil,
Save me. Unerring memory shall portray
How I was readied for the woeful way,
Like one well armed and fitted for the fray.
O mind-inspiring Muses, noble breed,
Sole scribes of what I saw, help now my need.
Then I began: "O bard, you are my guide.
Trust you my strength when it is still untried?
You say Silvius' sire, a son of earth,
Mingled with those of an immortal birth.
The foe of ill, knowing his destined seed,
Was ever helpful in his every need.
This seems but fair since, in th' Empyrean fire,
He was made nurturing Rome's great empire's sire.
And it is Rome where, by divine decree,
Great Peter's heirs have their most holy see.
It was his journey, which your words made known,
That gave him victory and the pope his throne.
'twas Rome too was the chosen vessel's goal,
To strengthen Trust that starts to save the soul.
But I, why may I come? Heeding whose call?
I know I'm neither Aeneas nor Paul.
I yield to you, more skilled than I to school.
Heeding myself, I'd only heed a fool".
How oft we mortals rue our former view!
How oft the old surrenders to the new!
The journey that was so longed for before,
On that dark hill appealed to me no more.
I heard the Shadow of the great sage speak:
"If I hear right you, once so strong, are weak.
Like beasts that shy at shadows in their sight,
A coward's clogged and flees his quest from fright.
Relating what I've heard will bring relief,
By freeing from the fear that gluts your grief.
I begged a beauteous lady to prevail,
Since I had seen my feeble efforts fail.
So soft and sweetly to me she begun,
Her voice an angel's and her eyes the sun:
'When other poets' paltry praise has passed,
Your fame, Mantuan, shall for ever last!
To my, not fortune's friend, defeat is near;
On this lone hill he falters, filled with fear.
From what I've heard in heaven of his fate
I fear my aid will all be far too late.
With your sweet speech succour him, take control;
Assist him now and soothe my saddened soul.
I'm Beatrice; I'd fain go back above;
What moves me so to speak to you is love.
When once again I stand before my Lord,
Full oft shall paeans of praise of you be poured'.
So she, then I: 'O Lady, 'tis your boon
That we excel all circled by the moon.
Your dear dictates shall straightway be obeyed;
Already done were far too far delayed;
But say why you'll descend here from above,
And seek the centre, when heaven is your love'.
'Though I'll be brief' she said, ''twill not appal
To tell why I've come here, since you'd know all.
The safe should ever leave us cool and calm;
We never need fear aught but what can harm.
God's grace has ever schooled me O so well
I feel no pity for the souls in hell.
Heaven has a noble Lady who would free
The one I send you from God's stern decree'.
She called Lucia: 'Rightly you recoil
From thought of failing one who is so loyal'.
I sat with old Rachel. Lucia's rule:
Help all the helpless and counter the cruel.
He said: 'Help him; he left the common crew,
Beatrice whom God praises, just for you.
You know not, deaf to his poor panting breath,
The stream the sea wins not threats him with death.
Surpassing all who court their own soul's calm
Or seek their own security from harm,
I came from my blest seat, your words so stirred,
Which honour you and all those who have heard'.
She turned her eyes away, all filled with dew.
How eager was I then to come to you!
And I have come to you as was her will
And freed you from the beast that stood so still,
And blocked the quick way up the blissful hill.
What ails you then? Why why this dull delay?
Why can you find no manhood to display
When I and three such blessed ladies try
To work your welfare with the court on high?"
As flowers, all wilted by the frost of night,
Strengthen their stems and rise to greet the light,
So too with me, my fainting powers ran
And I spoke bold and fearless, like a man:
"You heeded her, of words which were so true;
I give my heartfelt thanks to her and you.
Fired by your words, I feel my spirit burn
To see it through and my resolve return.
Let us now start, since both our wills are one,
My master, leader, lord". Nor did I shun
The high and wooded journey so begun.
Canto 3
"I am the way to a pitiful place;
I am the way to a forsaken race;
'twas justice moved th' omnipotent above;
I am the work of the primeval love;
Before I was only th' eternal were;
You who come in by me and hope all err".
'twas o'er a gate I saw this black-wrought rule.
I cried: "Master, these words I see are cruel".
He was so wise: "All cowardice, aroused,
All doubts of any sort, all must be doused.
We're in a place where we shall see the flight
Of those sad souls lost to all sense of right".
He smiled his reassurance; hand in hand
He lead me, solaced, through this lonely land.
Sighs, shrieks and sobbing struck the starless sky
So that at first I could do naught but cry.
What babble, claps, mixed voices, wails, with rage
At their fell fate which none could e'er assuage!
Unending gloom gripped all that black black land,
As when a whirlwind swirls the serried sand.
I, hit by horror: "They seem scarcely sane;
Their screams attest such cruel, such piercing pain".
And he to me: "This dismal strain is raised
By those that would be neither blamed nor praised.
They're mingled with that caitiff angel crew,
Neutrals to God, since neither false nor true.
Heaven cast them forth, since they would spoil her fame;
Deep hell receives them not, as source of shame".
Then I: "What torments, master, cause such grief?"
And he: "What you'll be told must be but brief.
Their blind life envies every other lot,
Despised, rejected, e'en by Death forgot.
The World allows no mention of this spawn;
Mercy and Justice visit them with scorn;
Talk not of them, just look and leave forlorn".
I saw a banner; ever on it pressed,
So fast I thought 'twould never ever rest.
Behind it came a crowd of caitiffs, such
I scarce could deem that Death had done so much.
I knew some of the Shadows there displayed,
So too the coward who refused his aid.
I knew this was th' abandoned race of those
Despised by God and also by his foes,
A scum of scum, whom life could never please,
Their naked flesh scored savagely by bees,
Which soaked cheeks with the blood and tears of each,
All falling to a foot, sucked by a leech.
And when I looked beyond this crowd I saw
A throng upon a mighty river's shore.
Then I: "My master, what urges invite
To cross this river in full fervid flight?
Their nature's largely hid by niggard night".
When all before sad Acheron is past"
Said he, "'tis then you'll know the truth at last".
'twas only then that I renewed my suit.
Till then I, lest I should offend, was mute.
Then from the further bank a barque reversed;
Its white-haired elder called these caitiffs cursed.
"There'll be" he cried, "no heaven to behold
When to the further shore you've all been poled,
T' eternal darkness, heat and icy cold.
But access to one still alive's denied,
Since you who live must not join those who've died".
So when he saw me stand my ground he cried:
"The bank right here is all dead souls' reserve;
If you would cross, a skiff elsewhere must serve".
To him my guide: "Charon, your ire is odd;
Seek not to question what's the will of God".
The ancient steersman of the livid mire,
Whose eyes were set in glowing wheels of fire,
Closed woolly jaws and full forbore his ire.
Teeth chattering, pale, tired, these wraiths, all nude,
Were rattled by his words so cruel and crude.
They cursed God, parents, all the seed of earth,
E'en place, time and the seed that gave them birth.
They all together, weeping loudly, trod
Th' accursed shore of all who fear not God.
The demon of the eyes of burning coal
Hit all blind to his signal with his pole.
As leaves of autumn singly strike the sward
(The tree is witness to its past gay gaud)
So too the evil seeds of Adam's fall,
As drops the falcon to the falconer's call.
This side has a new huddle to withhold
E'en ere the dark stream has disgorged the old.
My gentle guide: "My son, you see entire
Those who've just died still subject to God's ire.
They want to cross, they feel just God inspire,
Turning the fear they had into desire.
The good ne'er pass here, so, if Charon chide,
You'll know the message that his harsh words hide".
I, when he'd ended, felt the grim ground shake;
The fear it gave me e'en now makes me quake.
From tear-drenched land there came a reddish blast
In which the senses I once had had passed;
I fell like one whom sleep has overcast.
Canto 4
I was like one drowned in deepest drowse
Whom naught but violent thunder can arouse.
I gave my eyes their greatest roving range -
I saw a sight so savage and so strange.
There endless groans rang from the savage sink;
I, terrified, was teetering on the brink.
'twas deep and dense nor lit by littlest light,
Its dank dark depths hid in nullest night.
My guide: "I first and you come close behind.
Let us together dare the beetling blind".
I saw him blanch and cried: "Can I prevail
When fright makes e'en my constant comfort fail?"
But he: "You have not read my wan face well;
I fear not, rather pity those who dwell
Wracked by th' unending sufferings of hell".
He bad me haste, as we had far to go.
We came to the first circle down below.
We heard no loud complaint, no crying there,
But only sighs (no fits of wild despair)
Quivering for ever through th' eternal air.
Men, women, children of all kinds felt grief;
Though untormented, yet they lacked relief.
Then my good guide: "Ere these people are passed,
Know they, though they sinned not, are yet outcast.
Although their many merits may be prized,
Their lack of Christian Trust can't be disguised;
They're barred from heaven, as still unbaptized.
As I, they lived unflooded by Christ's light;
The worship that they gave God was not right.
For this alone we suffer; grief devours.
We pine for what we know will ne'er be ours".
I'm filled with care; I could not comprehend;
Though good, their life in Limbo knows no end.
"Good guide" I said then, "by that Trust I sue
By which the false is conquered by the true,
Was any's road of any worth e'er trod
By which one, leaving Limbo, could find God?"
Then he, well knowing what I wished to hear,
Said: "I, when new here, saw a Lord appear.
He wore the crown of victory as his sign
And took from here the founder of our line
And his son Abel, Noah too, and sought
Th' obeyer of laws that he himself had taught,
The patriarch Abraham and David, e'en higher,
And Israel with his children and his sire
And Rachel, by whom so much was possessed,
And many more, and made all of them blest.
These are the first that heaven's bounds contain.
Seek others ere them, you shall seek in vain".
We crossed the woods e'en mid such words as these,
I say the woods, since souls were thick as trees.
The distance from where I awoke was slight;
We saw a fire that gave a partial light.
Though I was far, my straining eyes could show
A trace of ones whom I would want to know.
I cried: "O you who honour every art,
Who are these honoured souls who dwell apart?"
And he: "Your world above praises their name;
They find here Heaven's favour for their fame".
A voice cried: "Great the honour that is earned
By the great poet who has now returned".
I saw four great Shadows come, neither sad
Of countenance as they approached, nor glad.
Then my good guide: "See him who holds the sword
Leading the three as if he were their Lord,
Shadow by whom all others are outclassed,
Next satirist Horace then, when he has passed,
The third is Ovid, and Lucan is last.
You heard the voice that cried the common name;
They do me honour; the source is the same,
Since poetry is our common claim to fame".
So I saw there the Lords, their assembled school,
Acknowledging the lofty eagle's rule.
When they had talked together there a while
They turned to me with gestures without guile
And at that sign I saw my master smile.
The boon's still greater that they deigned to pay -
They made me sixth among such minds as they.
We sought the light with speech we knew would suit,
Though now I know my mouth must e'er be mute.
We gazed up at a seven-walled keep of note;
A limpid streamlet served it as a moat.
I passed through seven gates with this sage band;
We'd walked the water as if 'twere dry land.
And there we found the freshest sylvan scene,
Mid men of mark made manifest by mien.
Their eyes were grave and all their glances slow;
Each spoke but seldom and his voice was low.
We swerved and gained that higher than before,
Spread out and brighter, whence we might see more.
I saw the Shadows on th' enamelled green;
I am still thrilled to think of what I've seen!
Hector, Aeneas, Caesar falcon-eyed
Within Electra's throng could be descried.
I saw Camilla and Penthesilea,
Latinus and his daughter Lavinia,
Lucretia, Julia, Marcia, Cornelia,
Brutus, by whom proud Tarquin was o'erthrown
And Saladin also, aloof, alone.
Higher, I saw his pupils in a row,
Mid them, the master sage of all who know.
All those there own the reverence that they owe;
Those closest are Socrates and Plato.
There too are Heraclitus and Zeno,
Anaxagoras and Diogenes,
And with them Thales and Empedocles,
Dioscorides, proving there's design,
Democritus, denying the divine,
And Euclid the geometer, Linus,
And Orpheus and Ptolemy and Tullius,
Galen, Hippocrates and Seneca
The good and moral and Avicenna,
Averrohes, commenter on the sage;
To tell of all of them would take an age.
Though my long task oft urges to prevail
Full oft I falter and my weak words fail.
The company of six becomes a pair;
My wise guide finds another way to fare
Out of the quiet into tempestuous air.
I'm in another place, there's no light there.
Canto 5
I went down from the first round, to traverse
The second, smaller, but the pain is worse.
Grim Minos hugs the entrance, and he boils;
He judges and dispatches, tail in coils.
By this I mean the evil soul's his thrall;
When once before him, it confesses all.
And he, who is the expert judge of wrongs,
Knows to what place in hell the soul belongs.
The times he makes his trailing tail his gown
Tell just how far the sinner must go down.
The damned crowd pass to judgement in a row;
They speak, they hear and then are hurled below.
Minos, treating his duties with disdain,
Cried: "You who come into this house of pain
Will not so easily get out again".
My guide: "Do not dictate where he must go.
His journey's willed, that's all you need to know".
And now I hear a cruel cruel anguished sound,
Since sounds on sounds of wails and weeping pound.
I come to where no light at all abides,
With bellows like a sea wracked by wild tides
When warring winds attack it from both sides.
Th' infernal storm, which nothing can assuage,
Makes whirling, lashing punishment their wage,
With sweeps and drives of never-ending rage.
Swept past the judgement place, they shriek and cower
While still blaspheming the Almighty's power.
Here is the punishment of the unjust
Who lived their witless lives as slaves to lust.
What bears the winter starlings? 'tis the breeze.
It bears too crowds of sinners such as these.
They rush all o'er with, in their dire distress,
No hope of rest or e'en of suffering less.
They, like an endless line of flying cranes,
Came into sight to paean and plaint their pains.
And so I said: "Teacher, tell me the tale
Of sad souls punished by the black wind's flail".
At once: "The first was ruler of a reach
O'er many peoples of divergent speech.
Semiramis, you licenced lust with laws
In hopes to hide the spreading shame of yours.
You're known as wife to Ninus and his heir
And governed all that's now the Sultan's share.
The jilted lover perishing self-thrust
As one unloyal to Sichaeus' dust
Was there, so Cleopatra, famed for lust,
And Helen too, the root of all unright
For years, and Achilles, that man of might,
Life lost for love in that fine final fight,
With Paris, Tristan, thousands once above,
Shadows cut off from life on earth by love.
He showed them to me and he named them all.
When I had heard my learned teacher call
The name of each storied lady and knight
Of ancient times, I pitied the sad sight,
And said: "Poet, I'd fain address the pair
That seem to move so light upon the air".
And he: "Entreaties by love will prevail
When they are near, when harsher courses fail".
When they'd been borne by winds that were not ill
I cried to them: "O souls who're never still,
Come speak to us if 'tis the Holy's will".
Desire calls restward, wings held high above,
The downward floating willing winsome dove.
So they, from Dido's cluster through air's pall,
Such was the tender power of my call.
"O living creature, filling all with awe,
Who make your way here through this air so raw
To visit us who stained the world with gore,
If we could claim as friend the Lord of might
We would beseech that he grant you delight,
Since you now pity our perverted plight.
We'll hear and speak with you whate'er will suit,
So long as wind where we are now is mute.
My birthplace lies where the proud Po is drawn,
With its attending streamlets, to its bourne.
My lover craved my body, but was torn
From me, torn, torn, to leave me all forlorn.
Love that for the lover must e'er abide
Filled me so fully with its tractive tide
That, as you see, he never leaves my side.
Cain waits the one who cruelly snapped our breath;
Love led us blindly straight into our death".
This is the story these sad souls so sent;
When o'er, I bowed my head and kept it bent.
When asked my thoughts I said: "O cruel desire,
How could you lead these lovers to this mire?"
I turned to them: "Francesca, all your sighs
So sad bring tears of pity to my eyes.
But when your sighs were sweet, how did love's fires
Give knowledge of your dubious desires?"
And she: "There's nothing worse when we are sad
Than to remember times when we were glad.
Your teacher knows. But, if you'd know love's cause
I'll weep and weep and yet it shall be yours.
One day we read of Lancelot's love, to wile
The time, alone and innocent of guile.
At what we read our faces flushed and paled,
Our eyes oft locked; one line alone prevailed.
'twas when we twain had read about the bliss
Imparted by a famous lover's kiss
That this one (who shall never more be hid)
Then kissed my mouth and trembled as he did.
The book was Galeot, Galeot was our law,
Its author; all that day we read no more".
She spoke, he wept with such fell fiery force
I swooned for pity, falling like a corse.
Canto 6
Recovered from those lovers who were kin
And pitied for the sorrow of their sin,
Now sin and suffering filled me with amaze
Where'er I moved, where'er I turned my gaze.
'tis circle three, and in the round of rain
Cold, heavy, cursed, which will ne'er ever wane,
Air's black with sleet and hail of savage stroke,
The soil all stinking from its sodden soak.
Fell Cerberus, three-throated howling dog,
Frights all the drowning sinners of this bog.
Black beard, red-eyed, black bowelled, each hand a claw,
He rends the spirits and he rips them raw.
Now on one side, now th' other as a screen,
Still soaked by rain, they howl like hounds their keen.
On his fell form such heaving muscles hang;
He opes such slimy mouths, so full of fang.
My master stooped and spread his fingers wide
And grabbed great heaps of murky mud, to slide
Down thirsty throats and down down deep inside.
As curs, so desperate for the food they crave,
As soon as tasted, quite forget to rave,
So Cerberus, who barked from three-branched cleft
On these dead souls, who wished that they were deafed.
Treading these sodden Shadows, we could feel
But emptiness in ones that looked so real.
Each sinner there was stretched out on the grass,
Save one, who straightened when he saw us pass:
"Remember me, you who swim through this brine,
Since you had life before I gave up mine".
Then I: "Your pain has savaged you so sore
I now forget you, e'en if seen before.
But tell me who you are, fated to howl.
A worse fate there may be, but none more foul".
Then he to me: "Your own town, foe to love,
Once held me in the brighter life above.
I'm Ciacco, and weakened in his bog,
As you can see, since food made me a hog.
Here pain makes other gluttons too atone;
So my sad sunken soul is not alone".
Then I: "Your sorrow Ciacco's so deep
It weighs me down and makes me want to weep.
But tell me what will happen, if you know,
To our divided town, now sunk so low.
Are any in it still of honest life?
Why is it that it is so plagued with strife?"
And he: "The Rustics, when contention's o'er,
Will drive the others out in bloody war.
Within three suns one neither's at this hour
Will put one once the other's slave in power
And cause one once the other's lord to cower.
Long time they'll hold their heads raised up in state,
And hold the others down with whelming weight,
No matter how they weep and wail their fate.
There're two just men, but none at hand to learn;
Pride, envy, avarice is the wage they earn;
They kindle these men's hearts and make them burn".
With this, his mournful words to me were o'er.
But I spoke back: "I'd like to know much more.
Good Farinata and Tegghiaio,
Jacopo Rusticucci, Arigo,
Mosca, I'd fain know of their fate; please tell
Me now, are they in heaven or in hell?"
Then he: "They lie below in blacker thrall;
The worse the sin, the further is the fall;
If you keep going you may see them all.
But when your soujourn here below is o'er
Remember me to my dear friends of yore;
This answer is my all; I speak no more".
He squints and stares awhile at me, then veers
From me, head bent, to join his sightless peers.
My guide then said to me: "He'll sleep below,
Down here, until the angel's trumpet blow.
Then, when the judge of their dire dread shall loom,
Each soul shall find once more his dismal tomb,
Resume his flesh and his own human share
And hear his fate resound right there for e'er".
We trudged and chattered of the afterlife
Where slush and filthy Shadows were all rife.
"The pains less, more, the same? What to assume,
Master" said I, "upon the day of doom?"
Then he: "Let not your learning be in vain;
The nearer a thing's to its own domain
The keener is its pleasure or its pain.
Though this cursed race, quite rotten to the core,
Shall ne'er know joy perfection has in store,
Their pain shall be more perfect than before".
We circled the curved road, full fain to dwell
On more than I now feel that I should tell
And reached the ledge that leads to lower hell.
There we found Pluto, man's foe fierce and fell.
Canto 7
"In Aleppo great Satan is the pope".
So Pluto, but my guide, source of all hope,
Cried: "He'll not stop us, whate'er his power;
Think not that he, poor fool, can make us cower".
He faced the face that raw rage caused to swell
And said: "Your burning bile suits your state well.
Be silent, cursed wolf, while you rot in hell".
'twas willed on high that we go to the gloom,
When Michael sent the rebels to their doom.
The savage beast collapsed and fell like sails
All tangled in the masts brought down by gales.
We sought the fourth trough, down a dismal slope,
A dump whose denizens have lost all hope.
God's just! What pain is there in this abyss!
How can we let our guilt bring us to this!
Retreat follows Charybdis' advance;
Here too Shadows must dance and counter-dance.
More here than anywhere they're thronged and pressed
And from both sides, as savage screams attest,
Each heaving heavy weights with flimsy chest.
Conflicting pushing hordes are interlaced,
One screaming: "Why hoard?" and th' other: "Why waste?"
They moved back round the circle caked in grime,
Each of them counter to the other's climb,
To scream their tuneless tune another time.
Again they came to clash and turn and oust
Each other in their semicircle joust.
Then I: "Explain this, Guide, to me aright,
Since my poor soul is savaged by the sight.
Who are these people whom our left's released?
I see their tonsures. Was each one a priest?"
Then he: "Myopic minds could not attend
To moderation when they came to spend.
Their barking voices make this all too plain
When they reach the two points along the skein
Where counter guilts can sunder them in twain.
Each with a bald patch on his head's back slope
Was either priest or cardinal or pope
Whom money made miser and misanthrope".
Then I: "Master, I'll recognize with ease
Those few made foul by crimes as foul as these".
But he to me: "How can you hope to grab
The very ones who foul lives were so drab?
When resurrected, they will fight for e'er,
Those with tight fists with those with tonsured hair.
'tis so well known! Hoarding and waste have hurled
Them from the light into this warring world.
What can we say, my son, of humans' health
When cruel cravings make them war for wealth,
Since all the gold that lies beneath the moon
Is, for these weary souls, but bootless boon?"
"Tell me in what fortune's nature consists -
She holds all wordly wealth within her fists".
Then he: "O foolish race, whom nothing weans,
Now listen while I tell you what she means.
The one whose wisdom is for ever blest
Made each sky sphere illuminate the rest.
He likewise ordered one who could preside
O'er worldly splendours as a general guide,
One who at her sole sole discretion can
Shift worldly wealth with no hindrance from man.
She makes one ruler rise, another pass,
Her sentence hidden like a snake in grass.
She foresees and she judges and she cares
Sweet nothing for your knowledge while she wears
Her royal robes as th' other gods do theirs.
Her permutations never know a pause;
Her need to move on knows no other laws;
Men come and go and cause succeeds to cause.
And this is she so crucified and cursed;
The lucky, who should praise her, think the worst.
But she is blissful and she does not hear.
With th' other primal creatures, in good cheer,
She tastes her blessedness and turns her sphere.
Now come. To woes e'en worse we must away;
The stars that rose when I set out decay
And the high powers permit no longer stay".
We reached the other bank, passing a sink
That cuts its cleft and pours down o'er the brink.
The water was a deeper dark than perse;
But yet the path that we went down was worse.
This dingy stream ends in the Stygian marsh;
The way down to it is both rough and harsh.
I scanned the muddy people in that cage,
All of them nude, their faces scarred by rage.
They fought with hands and feet and chests and heads
And teeth as well, which tore them all to shreds.
And the good teacher said: "My son, admire
The souls of those who're overcome with ire.
Beneath this slime sad sighing souls are found
Who make these waters bubble in the ground;
Your eyes will tell you this - just look around.
Now bogged in slime, they say: 'We were full loath
To love the sun and smouldered in our sloth.
Now we lie sluggish in this den so dense'.
So they in gurgles, since they can't talk sense".
Then, making a wide arc, we went to climb
The dry bank past the pond of slushy slime.
When those we noted gulping mire were past
We reached the foot of a high tower at last.
Canto 8
Continuing, I must say, ere we came
Below the lofty tower, long our aim,
We'd seen upon its top a small twin flame
And, so far off the eye could scarce divine,
Another burning brand flashed back a sign.
I begged my sea of lore: "I'd understand
The source and meaning of each burning brand".
And he: "You should already see what flies
In answer o'er the mire; there's no disguise,
Unless the marsh mists hide it from your eyes".
No bowstring ever shot a slicing shaft
More fast than what I saw just then, that craft,
Its one sole steersman shouting at the pole:
"Aha, I've got you now, you wretched soul!"
My guide: "Not so, your lordship shall but last,
Phlegyas, till this mucky mire is past".
As one who learns of some prodigious trick,
He seethed with anger, since he thought it sick.
My leader stepped in ere me; I was late,
And only then it seemed to carry weight.
When we were in it seemed to sink far more
Than it had done at any time before.
And, as we sailed this course so full of grime,
There rose a shape covered all o'er in slime
Who said: "Who are you who come ere your time?"
Then I: "Though come, I'll go; but you're so cheap!"
And he: "I'm one who can do naught but weep".
And I: "E'er weep, damned soul, that's what you'll do,
Since, filthy though you may be, I still know you".
He'd board the boat, but it was out of bounds.
My teacher shoved him: "Go back to the hounds".
Neck held, faced kissed, he said: "Blest is she whom
You called your mother, nesting in her womb".
Above, he was a swank snob I could slate;
Hence here below his Shadow's filled with hate.
Above, full many think themselves a name,
But here, like pigs, they find the mud their shame,
Leaving behind them their repulsive fame".
Then I: "My master, I would like to take
And dunk him in slop ere we leave the lake".
And he: "Ere this, you'll surely have your will.
A wish like this is one I must fulfil".
Soon he was mangled by muddy men's might;
I thank the Lord and praise him for the sight.
They: "Filippo Argenti must be had";
And. at these shouts, the Florentine went mad,
Turned on himself and bit his body bad.
We left him there, as does this tale of mine.
'twas then my ears were wounded by a whine.
I strained my ears to understand the sign.
"And here, my son" I heard my teacher say,
"Is Dis, with its fierce men and vast array".
I: "Master, I see mosques right up there, higher,
As red as metal just drawn from the fire".
He: "Red fire ever burns, as you see well,
Its glow diffused right through this nether hell".
We reached the moats of this haunt without weal,
Whose gates, it seemed to me, were made of steel.
We sailed until we heard our boatsman shout:
"Here is the entrance, you must now get out".
A thousand gate-perched screaming angels said:
"Who, undead, dares the kingdom of the dead?"
'twas then my wise wise teacher, with great art,
Made signs that he would speak to them apart.
"You, but not he, may enter this menage".
So they, with bare repressal of their rage:
"You, leader through the dark, you'll stay right here,
While he can go right back and disappear".
Think what I felt when told my fearful lot,
Certain my own world must be now forgot.
"Seven times my rescuer from perils past,
That blocked my way, leave me not at the last"
Said I - "If progress is beyond our powers,
Al least let journey quickly back be ours".
Then that lord who had brought me all this way:
"None can prevent; he speaks whom all obey.
Wait here; hope feeds your weary spirit well.
Be sure I shall not leave your soul in hell".
I see, with doubts, the gentle father go
And battle with my thoughts of "yes" - but "no".
I could not hear the war he waged to win;
Full soon they raced each other back within.
My lord, eyes down, sad, turned with plodding pace,
Since they had slammed the great doors in his face.
"Be not disturbed" said he, "since I shall rout,
No matter how they plot to keep us out!
This insolence of theirs is nothing late.
They used it once at a less secret gate
Which can, both now and e'er, accomodate.
The deadly words engraved above you know.
And now, already past it, and below,
You see one cross the circles, down the steep,
To ope the now closed entrance to the keep".
Canto 9
The coward colour which my face had shown
When he turned back most smartly changed his own.
In hopes of hearing, he stood rooted there,
With straining eyes that lacked the power to stare
And pierce the heavy fog of that black air.
Yet surely we were meant to win the fight"
He said, "or else - yet we were promised might.
O when, O when, will th' other come in sight!"
He'd changed the words that he had used at first
And added words that seemed to me the worst.
What he'd not said had disguised his intent;
It added meaning worse than what he'd meant.
"Have any e'er ere now gone down this slope
Whose pain is all in losing any hope?"
To this he: "It is not often that we
Should take the road that's taken now by me.
'twas once before - Erichtho could compel
A wraith back to his body with a spell.
When I'd just died she sent me down to draw
A Shadow from with Judas at hell's core.
This place is hell's lowest and darkest hall
And furthest from the sphere that circles all.
I know the road and, more, I know full well
The swamp that has such a disgusting smell,
Circling the doleful city that is closed,
Which we cannot now enter unopposed".
What else he said forgot, my keen eyes scour
The topmost crest of that high fiery tower,
Where straight three blood-stained hellish furies swirl
With bodies and with gestures of a girl.
Their waists were bound with wild green hydra thread
And, lacking hair, they sprouted snakes instead,
Which twined themselves around each savage head.
And he who had occasion to know well
The handmaids of the queen of timeless hell
Cried: "Look, 'tis here the fierce Erinyes dwell.
Alecto's right, Megara's left of me
And, in their midst, Tisiphone makes three".
They shriek and beat their breasts with palms as flails
And, since they're bare, they tear them with their nails;
I clutch the bard - my resolution fails.
They glare and shout: "Medusa, he'll atone
For clearing Theseus; turn him into stone".
"Turn, hide, since, if Medusa comes in view,
There's no return to our own world for you".
My master thus. Mistrusting me alone,
He changed my hands o'er my eyes for his own.
All you who can, unveil my verse so dense
And look inside and see its hidden sense.
A sound shot out above the filthy swell,
Filled with fell fear, to rock the shores of hell.
It sounds just like a heat-created gale,
Smashing whole forests with its fiery flail.
It rips whole boughs while churning up the dust,
With man and beasts both subjects of its lust.
"Now, eyes oped, see the scum that came here first,
There where the marsh's hovering mist is worst".
As frogs scatter and dive for safety's sake
When they behold their enemy, the snake,
A thousand fear-shocked Shadows fleetly fly
One walking on the Styx with both feet dry.
His left hand fans the putrid air away,
In all else unsubjected to dismay.
'tis certain now that he is heaven's shoot.
My guide bids me both bow low and be mute.
He reached the gate and oped it with his rod.
The scorn he showed could only come from God.
On the threshold he lashed the coward crew:
"O Heaven's outcasts, all haters of the true,
What insolence is this that dirties you?
Think of the Will that's e'er increased your pain.
Why, why resist? Resistance is all vain.
You all can see your Cerberus still tote
Around the marks on muzzle and on throat".
He sought the squalid path, with mien to suit
One with mind elsewhere, and his mouth was mute.
We sought the city with none to oppose,
Our safety in such holy words as those.
When there, my eyes roved round in hopes to sight
All those sad souls who had been hemmed so tight.
Where'er I looked I saw that this domain
Held naught in it but ugly angst and pain.
Just as at Arles where soft the slow Rhone slides,
Or as at Pola, near Quarnaro's sides,
That fence our Italy with washing tides,
The humps within th' uneven ground betray
Sad sepulchres, strewn in a vast array;
So here, but in a far far crueler way,
Since scattered everywhere beside each grave,
Were flames that flared full fell and gave
More heat than any temperer could crave.
All lids were lifted; none of them were whole;
Laments of those inside lacked all control,
The cruel ravings of a tortured soul.
I: "Master, tell me of those Shadows, please,
That lie within stone graves of doubtful ease,
Speaking their presence in sighs such as these".
"Arch-heretics, of every sect, who rave,
With their disciples, each in his own grave.
Each heretic enjoys his fitted lot,
Some hot and some most savagely hot".
So he, and, turning right, we moved right out
Between the torments and the high redoubt.
Canto 10
My master moves on down a narrow track
'twixt walls and suffering, I at his back.
"Great power that loves to lead through impious gyres,
Speak to me and satisfy my desires.
Are those in tombs ones that one could reveal?
The lids are off, with no guards to conceal".
"Returned here with the bodies of their birth
Which they once had when living on the earth,
From Jehoshaphat, they'll be poisoned for e'er".
So he - "the cemetery here is the share
Of Epicurus and of his allies,
Who say the soul dies when the body dies.
Hence that demand you choose now to unfold
To me right here will not be put on hold,
As too the hidden wish, as yet untold".
And I: "It's never been my wish to hide
Aught save short talk is sweet - 'tis undenied.
You've told me this more than once, noble guide".
"O Tuscan walking through this fire so vile,
Yet still alive and speaking with such style,
'twould please me much if you'd stay here a while.
Your speech proves clearly that you are a bard
From that fair town on which I was too hard".
A vault resounded with these words; to hide,
I drew a little closer to my guide.
My guide: "View Farinata; do not wait;
You'll see him from the waist up, standing straight".
My eyes fixed on his face could see him well.
His chest and brow proclaimed disdain for hell.
My guide guided me past tombs to him there,
Saying: "Be sure to choose your words with care".
He viewed me near his tomb and said: "Your birth?"
'twas clear I'd filled this mean man's mind with mirth.
In my desire t' oblige his mocking drawl
I held back nothing, yes, I told him all.
Brows lifted, he: "My fierce foes were not nice
To my father or friends; they paid the price;
I had to scatter them not once, but twice".
I: "To return not once but twice. Their due?
They showed a skill that your men never knew".
Just then I looked at that tomb's open ledge.
A kneeling Shadow's head showed at its edge.
He rose and looked as if he hoped to see
If someone else, perhaps, had come with me.
Foiled, he wept: "If skill that can never fail
Can carry you right now through this blind gaol,
Why is't, when my son's sought, 'twill not avail?"
I: "My guide's over there: I come not lorn.
'tis he perhaps your Guido held in scorn".
His name was clear from what I'd heard him ask
And made my pointed quip an easy task.
He sprang to his full height with clangent cries:
"The past tense 'held' you used implies 'he dies'.
Does day's sweet light no longer strike his eyes?"
He viewed with dread my long delay before
I spoke and fell back, to be seen no more.
A great one'd bad me talk; he neither turned
Nor moved his head at this, quite unconcerned.
He picked up where he'd left: "To think those whom
You speak of lacked that skill gives greater gloom
Than comes from lying in this torrid tomb.
The face of the queen who reigns here will glow
Not more than fifty times before you know
How hard it is to come back when you go.
By your hope of return, why are the laws
Of other clans so much softer than yours?"
I: "Routs that reddened Arbia now smirch
Such prayers as we now utter in our church".
Head shaken, sighing: "Others had their flaws;
I'd not have joined the rest without good cause.
I saved Florence whom all voted to raze;
'twas I alone worsed all them with my gaze".
I to him in my turn: "Loose my mind's knot;
So shall your future seed's pain be forgot.
You all know well what future times allow,
If I am right, but know not what is now".
And he: "Th' Almighty makes the distant clear,
But dims our sight of everything that's near.
When facts are close to us our mind is blank;
If we'd know you, 'tis others we must thank.
Hence our poor minds will all be totally bare
When future's open door is closed for e'er".
Then I, so saddened by what I had done,
Spoke in my turn: "Please tell the fallen one
That life still counts among her bairns his son.
If asked why I was mute say I would solve
The point that you so clearly could resolve".
My master had begun to call me back;
I asked that spirit to make good my lack
And name for me all his tomb-sharing pack.
And he: "The cardinal and Frederick Two,
And thousands more, whose names are not for you".
He's gone. I sought the bard and thought on those
Words, words which, methought, were prophetic foes.
As we went on he asked my every thought.
I told him what had made me so distraught.
The sage to me: "Make sure your mind's well versed
In all words voiced against you, e'en the worst".
He raised his finger: "Sight of her sweet rays
(All things are open to her glorious gaze)
Shall surely guide you right in all your ways".
A left turn left the walls; we sought deep hell.
A vale, though deep, yet sickened with its smell.
Canto 11
With the curved bank of a steep brink, all lain
With enormous broken rocks as our gain,
We saw below a crueler den of pain.
We were forced back from the abyss's brink
By an overlow of disgusting stink.
Crouched in a tomb I saw writ on its skin:
"Anastasius the pope lies within;
Photinus lured him from the straight to sin".
My master: "Delay here and we'll not find
These vile fumes trouble our untroubled mind".
And I: "See that our stay here's not in vain".
"'tis just this" said he, "that I shall attain".
This was the lesson learned of my dear sire's:
Within these boulders' bounds are three more gyres,
Set like those above in concentric spires,
Soul-packed. If told, sight alone will avail
To tell how and why they are now in gaol.
All malice seeks to hurt, since it is flawed,
An end achieved by violence or by fraud,
Both sins with Heaven's hate as their reward.
Since man and man alone is fraud's sole host,
God hates it more and so fraudsters e'er roast
Far 'neath th' others, so they will suffer most.
The first gyre below belongs to the brute,
Who attacks three kinds (hence three circles suit)
God, self and others, them or else their lot;
All this, explained, will not be soon forgot.
Brutes kill or wound or else there's little left
After arson, devastation and theft.
Murderers, plunderers, destroyers, those who maim,
Are punished here, though their set's not the same.
Men maim their selves or goods; the second grade
Holds, paying debts that never can be paid,
The killers of themselves, self-robbers they,
Or those who gambled all their wealth away,
So sad when it were better to be gay.
They're brutes too who distrust Him and who curse,
Despising him and all his universe.
And so the smallest round stamps with its shame
Both Sodom and Cahors and all whose fame
Lies in their hating God and his great name.
Now fraud, that gnaws the conscience of its thrall,
Is used on one whose trust in you's his caul,
Or else on one who has no trust at all.
The bond of love gives man his only joy;
'tis this the latter sort burns to destroy.
'tis in the second circle that there dwells
The hypocrite, and the dabbler in spells,
The falsifier, simonist and thief,
The flatterer, pander, all givers of grief.
The fraudsters of the former kind all bust
The bond 'twixt men which forms a special trust.
And so it is the smallest of the gyres,
At earth's core, Pluto's great throne, that inspires
The fate of traitors, the eternal fires".
"What I know of this pit and of its crew,
Master" I said in turn, "I owe to you.
But what of those wind-beat and driven by rain,
Each with a tongue to serve his shrill campaign,
Who know naught but what their slime swamps contain?
Why fill they not the city red with fire
If they have truly earned the good God's ire,
Or, if not, why O why's their plight so dire?"
And he: "I've missed the point you have in mind.
Your thoughts have wandered to a beetling blind.
Has Aristotle's 'Ethics' failed to school?
Who are the three opposed to Heaven's rule?
The lustful, the malicious and the brute;
Of them the lustful's the least dissolute.
Consider well this doctrine and recall
The souls above suffering outside the wall.
You'll see why they are sundered and confess
'tis right that God's ire should afflict them less".
"Dim sight blesses the light, O sun, you show.
When you resolve my doubts you charm me so
That being perplexed's as pleasant as to know.
Master, you said that usury's a blot
Against God's goodness. Please untie the knot".
So I, and he: "Not once, but many a time
Philosophy points out to one who'd climb
How nature takes her course from the Sublime
Intellect and his art; note that, then turn
The pages of your 'Physics' and discern,
Not far from the beginning, how your art
Can play a pert apprentice's part,
And have God as the sire of its own sire.
From art and nature man was meant t' acquire
His daily bread to live; this you will find
In 'Genesis', if it's not slipped your mind.
The usurer, who is himself foresworn,
Treats nature and her pupil too with scorn.
Now follow me, I think we should now start;
The Wain is now right o'er Caurus' part.
Horizon high the twinkling Fishes swim.
Go on and down, right o'er the chasm's rim".
Canto 12
Its crags and something else made us both shrink
From bounding carefree down th' embattling brink,
Crags like the spill earthquake or slippage sent
T' Adige's left bank on this side of Trent.
The shattered, slithered rocks that summit rent
Would grant us a most difficult descent.
Worse, at the rent chasm's edge one could greet,
Stretched out right there, the infamy of Crete,
Got in what seemed a cow but was a girl;
The sight of us set off a maddened whirl;
He bit his flesh as if he were a churl.
My skilful guide: "Perhaps you think you eye
Again Athens' king, come to make you die.
Begone, you beast, because he is not led
Down here by means of clues your sister fed.
He comes here only to gloat o'er your dread".
As bulls break loose the moment that they know
For sure that they've been dealt a mortal blow
With but jumps, twists and turns where'er they go,
Just so I saw the Minotaur as clown,
And my guide, alert, cried: "Run to the crown;
While he still writhes with rage, get started down".
And so we made our way down through the rocks,
Twisting and tilting from unnumbered knocks
From feet that gave them such unwonted shocks.
He thus began when I was deep in thought:
"Think you of that ruin-guarding beast full fraught
Whose crazed and rampant rage I soon cut short?
The other time (a time I know full well)
I came down to the lower part of hell
This rock stood proud, not yet a ruined shell.
'twas just ere th' advent of the One so Wise,
Who lightened hell's first circle of its prize,
This sewer shook from base to that above,
So that I thought the universe felt love,
Whereby, some say, cruel chaos has been hurled
Far more than once upon th' unwilling world.
The last time was the time when some sharp shock
Created fissures in this ancient rock.
By peering down the valley you can scan
Blood boiling those who wronged their fellow man".
O blind cupidity and insane ire
That mars our short earth life with spurs so dire,
To steep us then fore'er in such a fire!
There was a bow-curved river that I eyed,
Meandering through the flat land there, as wide
As had been foretold by my sage-souled guide.
'twixt flow and steep I saw some Centaurs race
In single file with arrows in a case,
As they did once when caught up in the chase.
A far one cried: "Your torture? I would know.
Speak where you stand; if not, I draw my bow".
My guide: "I'll answer Chiron when we're there.
But you - I see you are as rash as e'er".
He touched me. saying: "There's Nessus, heart filled
With fair Dejanira (the blood he spilled
When killed caused his own killer to be killed).
Chiron who views his chest's Achilles nurse;
The last is Pholus, whom drunk rage made worse.
They gallop by the thousands round the dike,
To let a self-displaying guilty tyke
Feel their sharp arrows' stern avenging strike".
We neared those swift beasts; Chiron drew a shaft
And with its notch he drew his beard abaft.
He said, his mouth now free: "The one behind
Moves, do you see, all that his fingers find.
'tis not a doing of the ghostly kind".
And my good leader, standing at the breast,
Where the two bodies in him merge, confessed:
"He lives, and yet so lonely is his quest,
He'll only pass this lone vale as my guest,
Not at joy's but necessity's behest.
From singing alleluias with the Lord
Came she who gave me this new charge unflawed.
He is no robber nor am I a fraud.
By that Great Power in whose name I stride
Give us one of your kind to be our guide,
To lead us to the ford, and, when we're there,
To carry across in his own care,
As he is not one who can walk on air".
Chiron had Nessus on his right to hail.
He did: "Go guide and make sure they prevail.
If others should protest, make sure they fail".
We skirt the red flow's bank. our escort loyal,
And hear the savage shrieks of those who boil.
We saw men sunk to eyelids in the flood;
The Centaur: "Tyrants loving theft and blood.
You'll see with Alexander in this clime
Donysius, poor Sicily's cruel zyme;
Their tears are paying for their life of crime.
And here is Azzolino, he of hair
As black as Obizzo d' Esti's is fair.
His own stepson has reft his throat of air".
I asked Virgil, who said, howe'er, "'tis he
Who must instruct you now; look not at me".
A little further the Centaur stopped o'er
What were but heads which peeped out from the gore.
His finger, pointed at one side, condemns
One there who murdered in God's keep; naught stems
The heart still dripping blood above the Thames.
I saw others chest-high above the flood
And knew full many bathed there in its blood.
The flood lessened till but feet high it poured;
'tis here we found a place that we could ford.
The Centaur: "The boil here gets slowly less,
There slowly more, to where tyrants confess.
'tis there that Heaven's justice proves its worth
Against Attila, the scourge of the earth.
Scalding blood wrings tears from Rinier Pazzo,
Pyrrhus, Sextus, Rinier da Corneto.
Their battlefield was but a robber's lane".
With this he turned and crossed the ford again.
Canto 13
He's not back when we see a forest pall
That is not marked by any path at all,
Boughs bent, not smooth, with leaves not green but dark,
No fruit, but poison-galls on withered bark.
Even 'twixt Cecina and Corneto
No rougher brakes or thicker brambles grow
For those wild beasts who hate the well-tilled row.
'tis here that nests give filthy Harpies joy;
They cleared the Strophades of sons of Troy
With filthy forecasts they would soon destroy.
Each is a wide-winged and human-faced ent,
The belly fat and feathered, the claws bent;
Perched in the trees, they shriek their wild lament.
My guide: "Know that you're in the second land
And shall be till we reach the burning sand.
Look around now and see what to believe;
Though my words might, your own eyes won't deceive".
From all around I heard an uncaused wail;
Perplexed by this, I felt my firm feet fail.
He thought I thought that these stumps' voices' blaze
Belonged to ones that hid there from our gaze.
He said: "If any branch be broke by you
Then what you're thinking now will break off too".
I plucked a tiny twig from a great sloe;
The trunk cried out: "Why do you tear me so?"
The wound was dark with blood; I heard it call:
"You tear me. Have you no pity at all?
Though we, once men, are scrub, yet we still ache;
You should have shown more warmth, e'en to a snake".
A green log's end burns, th' other is a spout
For sap hissing with air it forces out;
Such, words and blood, was the split trunk's outpour;
I drop the hand-held twig, cut to the core.
My sage: "Smit soul, if only he believed
My verses, he would ne'er have been deceived,
And you would never have been so beset.
But the trunk was easy to forget;
I urged him to do what I now regret.
But tell him who you were, so he can earn
Your pardon by making your fame reburn
In the world above whither he'll return".
The trunk: "Your words are words that I would clutch.
I feel I must reply when they are such.
I held both keys that fitted Frederick's heart;
I turned them both, locked, unlocked with such art
That I let few inside; such my loyal drive
I failed to sleep or even to survive.
The slut whose hot eyes surveyed Caesar's hall,
Debauching courts and bringing death to all,
Made all, and they Augustus too, my foe,
And changed the joy my honours gave to woe.
I, in my scorn, from which my troubles flow,
Deeming myself scornless if down below,
Dealt my righteous self an unrighteous blow.
By these strange roots of my own tree I swear
To you that I in all was ever fair
To my own honoured Lord, to one so rare.
If one of you has made the earth his aim,
When you are there, restore me my good name
Which Envy has converted into shame".
My poet paused then: "Ask what seems to suit
Since he who has said so much now is mute".
Then I: "You know my wants, so must ask more.
I can't, since pity's pierced me to the core".
Then he: "So he may fill your every need,
Prisoned soul, may it please you to proceed.
Tell us how you, others, became a tree
And, if you know, if you will e'er be free".
His pants changed to a voice: "What's sought
Will have an answer which must be but short.
Minos sends a wild body-sundered soul
As soon as sundered to the seventh hole,
Not to some alloted forest redoubt,
But anywhere, like a spelt grain, to sprout,
Turn tree; then Harpies feasting on its leaves
Create its pain and, for it, what reprieves.
Like others, we'll claim our bodies, to house
Us, but, scorned, they will never more be ours.
Each one shall, dragged into this gloomy glade,
Hang on the thorn of his self-slaughtering shade".
We stood attentive to the tree we'd found,
In hopes he might have more he could expound,
When we were startled by a rushing sound,
Such as a hunter hears from his own bounds
When first the boars then all the chase resounds,
with foliage smashed and crash of hunting hounds.
Then to the left three fleeing shapes were viewed;
They sliced the bobbing branches as they slewed;
Their flesh was gashed and gored and they were nude.
"Come, Death", so said the first one in the chase.
The other, who could not keep up the pace:
"Lano, you weren't so swift, you seemed to wilt
When come to Toppo's tournament to tilt".
And then, from lack of breath perhaps, he slips
Into a bush and wraps himself in rips.
With ravening the wood behind was rich,
Since every dog there was a freed black bitch.
Though hid, he's soon gored by those greedy gangs,
His torn bits borne in their ferocious fangs.
My guide hand-held me to the bush that bore
Its vain laments in every bleeding sore.
"Giacomo da Sant' Andrea" it cried,
"What use was it to pick on me to hide?
Am I to blame if all your goodness died?"
My master: "Who were you whose ruddy flood
Preaches a sorrowing sermon in your blood?"
Then he: "Close the bush with each leaf and bud
That's left. You're just in time to see the rape
That's sundered me from my so well loved shape.
I'm from the town that prized the Baptist more
Than that patron whom she had had before,
Who swears his skill will cause her endless pain
And, were it not the Arno's bridge's gain
That traces of his image still remain,
Those citizens who so manfully wrought
Anew from the ruin that Atilla brought
Upon it all would all have toiled for naught.
I made my home fit only for a mort".
Canto 14
The love we both shared for our native town
Moved me to pick up the leaves that were down
And let them be the faded voice's gown.
We reached the woods 'twixt second and third round;
God's justice there was like a heinous hound.
What's new? We reached a flat and open stead
Rejecting aught that wished to fill her bed.
The grim wood makes for it a garland like
Its own, the all-sounding dismal dike.
We stopped right here, right at the border land.
This wasteland was a dry expanse of sand,
Thick burning sand, no different from the climes
That Cato's feet packed down in former times.
God's fearful vengeance! O how wise, how wise
Are they who read my words with fear and prize
The truths revealed so clearly to my eyes!
Though those there paid in different ways for shame
In nude herds, yet their wailing was the same.
Some souls were stretched supine on the ground
And some were crouching there all tightly wound;
Some wandered, never stopping, round and round.
Full many were the roamers the sand bore;
The stretched out sufferers were a smaller corps;
Their tongues were looser, since the pain was more.
O'er all, slow rain of fire fell without stay
(A mountain snowstorm on a windless day)
Like that which beat on Alexander's band
While he was crossing India's torrid stand,
Flames falling, floating solid to the land.
Here he with all his men resolved to tread
The sand so that the flames might all be dead,
Before they could even begin to spread.
Here too the falling blaze looked like to win;
The tinder under flint sparks is akin;
'twas in this way the torment found its twin.
Unresting hands swirled in wild rhythmic dance
In hopes to halt its relentless advance.
And I: "Guide, there were none you could not fell
Save those who met us at the gates of hell.
Who's that big brute who'd treat both fire and rain
(See him burn there) with the same cool disdain?"
He saw me ask my guide of him and said:
"What I was once, alive, I still am, dead.
Let Jove make his smith forge that thunderbolt
He hurled to halt my blaspheming revolt.
Let lust for lasting labouring engorge
The sooty smiths at Mongibello's forge
(As he shouts: "Help, Vulcan, come to the fore",
As he'd cried out in the Phlegrean war)
And let him hurl his thunderbolts with glee,
He'll get no satisfaction out of me".
He spoke with much violence; my guide used more;
I'd never heard his voice so strong before:
"Capaneus, humbling shall full soon provide
An antidote to your poor preening pride.
There is no torment known of that could wage
A better war on it than your own rage".
More calmly: "Seven kings thrust Thebes; he was one.
'A God in heaven?' he cried and cries, 'there's none'.
But, as I told him, what is really worn
On brazen breast is his own sounding scorn.
The wood is best for you to take your stand;
Place not your feet upon the burning sand".
Silent we came to where a dense stream sped
Out of the woods. Its water was so red
That even now it fills my mind with dread,
So like the one the Bulicame pours,
Its waters full oft frequented by whores.
It wore its way across the sand-strewn zone;
Its bed, as were both its banks, was made of stone,
Whence the tops of both banks received their shape;
I knew full well that this was our escape.
"Th' all-welcoming gate opes naught else one would deem
The equal of this fire-supressing stream".
My guide spoke so. "'twere well" said I, "you gave
The food the words you spoke have made me crave".
And he: "In mid sea lies a land now dour,
Called Crete, whose king lived when the world was pure.
Mount Ida there was once wet, green, of worth,
But now deserted, discarded, of dearth.
Safe there, Rhea told her thralls they must hide
Her new born babe by screaming when he cried.
A tall old man calls the mount's core his home;
His back to Damietta, he faces Rome.
His head is fashioned of the finest gold,
Arms, chest are silver of the finest mould;
He's brass from there down to where his legs splay;
The rest's of iron, save his right foot, of clay.
Does one foot bear more weight? I'd not say nay.
A crack drains tears from all parts save the gold;
Come from his feet, they waste the cavern's hold,
And pour down stones, to become Acheron
And other rivers, Styx and Phlegethon,
And down a channel, one that quite lacks bends,
Until they fall to where all falling ends,
To Cocytus; what the pool's like you'll see
With your own eyes; you'll have no need of me".
And I: "If this small stream is sourced in Earth,
Why is't from here it seems to have its birth?"
Then he: "This place, as you know, is a gyre;
And though I know, long traveller, you tire,
Descending, turning only to the left,
Yet you have still not circled one whole cleft.
So you should not be smitten to the core
If you see aught you've never seen before".
And I again: "Master, we must not shun
Phlegethon and Lethe. You shun the one
And say the other's formed where these tears run".
He said: "They're good points, but the boiling burst
Of blood-water should surely field the first.
You'll see Lethe, a stream beyond this bin;
Souls go there so they can be clean within
When penitence has freed them from their sin.
We've been here long enough; we must be freed".
So he - "Be sure you follow close my lead.
The verges are our road; they are not hot,
Since all the flames above them are forgot".
Canto 15
We trod the verge, the river's mist our shade,
Sheltering banks form the flame's fierce cascade.
Flemings twixt Bruges and Wissant, forced by fright,
Build dikes to stem the Ocean's raging might.
Paduans too build theirs on Brenta's shore
To save their town from Chiarentana's thaw.
Such our walls too, though the unknown grandees
Did not make them as high or thick as these.
We'd left the wood behind, so far behind
That if I'd looked back, e'en with eyes aligned,
It would have been impossible to find.
We saw souls rush up to the bank to view
As clearly as one would when the moon's new.
They squinted hard at us, their brows awry,
Like an old tailor at his needle's eye.
'twas thus that I was eyed by this kin crew;
One grabbed my hem and cried out: "I know you".
By peering at a face so seared by flame
I saw just enough to recall his name,
And said, bending so all our faces were near:
"Is it Ser Brunetto whom I see here?"
He: "Bruno Latini's troop be ta'en
While we two walkers shall, for now, remain".
I: "If you wish, let's sit here side by side;
I yearn for this, if pleasing to my guide".
He: "If I pause a moment in my chore
I'll burn for this for years, a full five score.
Go on. I'll hug your hem, then join again
My kin, lamenting our eternal pain".
I thought to join him below but forebore,
Kept to the verge and bent my head in awe.
Then he: "What guide is he here and what power
Leads you down here before your dying hour?"
Then I to him: "Ere th' end of my life's light
I strayed into a vale of nullest night.
'tis with this one to guide I seek my bourn;
I left that vale but yesterday, at dawn".
Then he: "Follow your star; you shall avail,
Since what I saw in life shall never fail.
Since Heaven's helped you, I'd been your sure support
Had not my life been far too soon cut short.
But those born of ingrate, malignant stud,
Tainted with ancient Fiesolian crud,
Who still have rock and mountain in their blood,
Will become, for your deeds so good, your foes,
And right they are, since where the sweet fig grows
There's no place for such sour berries as those,
Pride, envy, greed a few of many flaws;
You must not let their blinded way be yours.
Fortune shall make of you a man of note;
Both clans have bellies they wish you to bloat,
But grass you grow is not grass for the goat.
Let Fiesole's fodder-searching wild beasts
Make each other, not you, rare plant, their feasts
(Though there'll, I'm sure, be naught of worth among
Their specialities, their heaps of dung).
You're seed of the few Romans, they, the rest,
Have made your city their own filthy nest".
I answered him: "If I had had my will
You would, for sure, be living with us still;
'tis thoughts of you that for ever inspire
My mind and heart, my kind and gracious sire.
When live, for hours and hours you sought to share
The secret of how man may live for e'er.
As long as I live the thanks that are due
Shall, in my words, be paid to none but you.
I'll write, with more, the things you have foreseen,
In hopes a lady'll tell me what they mean.
I'll tell you this, while my conscience is clear
I'll face fickle fortune unfazed by fear.
Let Fortune turn her wheel, the peasant bore
The ground; I've heard this prophecy before".
At this my master turned right and averred,
Looking at me: "Well heeded is well heard".
I answered not but continued to talk
To Ser Brunetto and, during our walk,
Asked who were of most note, and he: "'twere best
To tell of some but to omit the rest;
Time were too short for all to be confessed.
All here were clerics (in this all the same)
And respected men of letters of great fame,
All befouled in the world by the same shame.
Priscian and Francesco d' Accerso too
Are both full members of this wretched crew.
There's more. If you can stomach what appalls,
Pure mange, you might have seen the Thrall of Thralls
Swap Florence's for Vicenza's sad see,
Where he's left what he once employed with glee.
I would say more, but walk and talk are panned,
Since there new smoke is rising from the sand.
I must not mingle with th' approaching band.
There's but one favour I ask you to give:
Remember my 'Tresor', in which I live".
He turned round then and seemed as if to ape
Verona's runners for the green cloth drape;
And of all those runners who run therein
He seemed not a loser but one who'd win.
Canto 16
By now we were where I could hear the choir
Of waters plunging down to the next gyre,
A sound like bees all humming near a byre,
When I saw three Shadows together spring
And run out of a passing spirit ring,
Beneath raw rain that scorched them with its sting.
They came to us as if to shout me down:
"You there, stop right there; you seem, from your gown,
To be a man from our perverted town".
They'd wounds, some new, some old, you'd not believe.
E'en now, when I think back to them, I grieve.
The shouts they sent made my good guide react;
He, when he'd turned to face me, said: "A fact:
These Shadows here are ones to treat with tact.
Did not this place rain a most fiery goo
I would suggest a deed I think is due,
That you should run to them, not they to you".
We stopped, they came; when they had gained our ground
We saw the three of them keep wheeling round,
Like skilful wrestlers, stripped, oiled, on their toes,
Eyeing each other ere they come to blows.
Circling, their feet moved here and their necks there;
'twas thus they kept me constant in their stare.
"If this sad place and our flesh, charred and torn"
Said one, "earn us and our requests but scorn,
Let our great fame persuade your hearts to tell
How you, though live, can walk so safe through hell".
The nude in front, whom I came up behind,
Was nobler far than any you could find.
The good Galdrada was this man's grandsire;
His name's Guido Guerra; many admire
His warlike deeds and what he could inspire.
The other one, who pounds the sand behind,
Is Tegghiaio Aldobrandi, much maligned;
The world should have heeded him, but declined.
I'm Jacopo Rusticucci; my life,
Like theirs, is one of never ending strife,
Due more, than to all others, to my wife".
If, there, there were some shelter from the fire,
I would have joined them there upon their pyre.
But, though I sensed that my guide might agree,
This would have been most unwelcome to me.
Thus my first thought, to embrace and to cheer,
Though strong within me, was conquered by fear.
I: "I felt, not repulsion, but great grief,
And years will pass before I find relief.
'twas when the words that my lord spoke, though few,
Made me believe that I might yet see you.
Your land's mine; your names and deeds shall never cloy;
To hear, to tell, is such a source of joy.
My true guide's promised: when hell's core is past
I leave the gall and find the fruit at last".
He: "May your soul long be your body's guide
And your fame's light shine e'en when you have died.
You're from our town; tell us, can you still find
In it any who're valorous or kind?
Guglielmo Borsiere, now of our crew,
Has made us dread what needs must now ensue".
I: "A new breed who deem quick wealth a boon
Exalt the arrogant and loutish loon
In you, O Florence, made to weep too soon".
I spoke this, head held high, to the three who
Glanced at each other as if this were true.
They all: "If you can answer with such ease,
O happy you, with speech so quick to please.
If you survive this everlasting night
And go to gaze upon the stars of light,
To talk of us to living men were well
When you tell them that you've gone down to hell".
They broke their man-made wheel and ran in fright,
Their nimble legs more like the legs of flight.
"Amen" could not have been a word as slight
As was their stay; they vanished from our sight.
Then my guide left, deeming the time was right.
Not far, the water made all sounds so slurred
That if we spoke we could hardly be heard.
The river with Monte Veso as source,
Which then flows eastward, holding its own course
(It flows to the left from th' Apennine chain,
Called Acquacheta in the high terrain
But not at Forli, when it's on the plain)
Reechoes there near San Benedetto
Dell' Alpa (where it plunges down below)
Where at least a thousand vassals could go.
So down a single rock-strewn slippery steep
We saw the roaring tainted waters sweep
So loud they could raise e'en the dead from sleep.
I wore a cord with which my waist was tied,
With which I once had thought that if I tried
I'd catch the panther of the spotted hide.
As soon as I'd removed it from its site,
Just as my master had told me was right,
He turned right and with a swinging sweep
Flung it far and right down into the deep.
I said to myself: "Something strange will rise
In answer to the sign my master eyes".
You must take care with one who can divine
What's in your mind; my master soon read mine.
"O, it will come" said he, "and quickly too.
What's in your head will soon be in your view".
To avoid shame 'tis better to be shy
Than to blurt out a truth that seems a lie.
But yet my 'Comedy' will press my suit,
Favoured, I hope, for e'er; I'll not be mute.
I saw a rising, swimming form appear,
To fill e'en the bravest with frantic fear.
He was like one returning from the skegs,
From freeing anchors caught in the sea dregs,
Spreading his arms and doubling up his legs.
Canto 17
"Behold the beast with stinging tail unfurled;
Past mountains, on walls and weapons he's hurled;
Behold him that pollutes the whole wide world".
These were the words I heard my master pour
As he signalled the beast to come ashore,
Up close to where the rocky levee's o'er.
I saw then the foul fraud's head and chest sail
Ashore, while the water still held his tail.
While his fair face seemed of an honest make,
The rest of him, that trailed behind, was snake.
Knots and wheels held back, breast and rib-cage pair;
His two paws and both arms were hid in hair.
Arachne, Turks or Tartars couldn't achieve
A work of richer colours, richer weave.
As fishing boats are sometimes seen to moor,
Part still in the water, part on the shore,
And just as the busy beavers, who stay
Near drunken Germans, squat to catch their prey,
So that beast, the worst of beasts, took his stand
On the stone ledge that bounds that stretch of sand.
On the void beyond he exercised his swing,
Twitching and twisting up the venomed string
That armed his tip just like a scorpion's sting.
Then my leader: "'tis right that our path yaws
A little towards those malignant jaws".
So we descended on our right and came
Ten paces onward, skirting the cliff's frame,
To give a wide berth to the sand and flame.
When we had come to him I saw men shrink
Near him in sand that lay right on the brink.
"That naught in this gyre be unknown, go gain"
My master cried, "full knowledge of their pain.
I'll go and ask this one to loan his strength.
So let your discoursiveness there lack length".
So I skirted the seventh gyre, all alone,
To where the set of sufferers were strown.
The pain was bursting from their eyes; each hand
Went scurrying up and down to withstand
Here the fierce flame and there the burning sand,
Like summer dogs, desperate to gain their ease
With paw and snout when bitten by the fleas.
I scanned faces scorched by the fiery flaw,
But failed to recognize e'en one I saw.
Around each sinner's neck a coin bag lies,
Of sign and colour you could recognize,
And fixed on them they seemed to feast their eyes.
I searched the crowd; blue on yellow was seen;
It was a bag with a lion's face and mien.
There's another, blood red; it held no luce
But, whiter far than butter white, a goose.
Another shouted: "Why are you here now?"
His white bag held a farrowing blue sow.
"Away and learn, since you have still not died;
For neighbour Vitaliano I'll provide;
He'll sit with me upon my left hand side.
Save me, Paduan, they're Florentines here,
And they all keep on shouting in my ear:
"Bring on, bring on the peerless cavalier
With three-goat bag". He stuck his tongue right out,
As far out as an ox licking its snout.
I left these tired Shadows, lest I bring grief
To the one who had warned me to be brief.
I saw my guide set high on that fierce beast.
He cried to me: "That fear is best that's ceased.
We descend now; such stairs as these avail.
Climb on up front. Behind, I'll be your mail,
Because between you and the toxic tail".
One whom a shivering fever has greyed,
One who has already seen his bright nails fade,
Will tremble at the mere sight of cool shade.
I was that man when his wise words were stored,
But then felt those stabs of shame that afford
A thrall valour before his valorous lord.
Achieved! Ascent of this living spire!
Yet I would cry: "Hold me, descent is dire",
But had no voice to second my desire.
Then he who once before had seen my plight
And put his arms around me when in fright,
As soon as I was settled, held me tight.
And then he cried: "Geryon, do not wait.
Descend, circling wide and with gentle gait;
Remember you are carrying living freight".
Just as a ship slips slowly from the shore,
Slowly, slowly, yes slowly, more and more,
Slowly, slowly, slowly he left that pier,
And, when he felt at last that he was clear,
Made sure it was his tail his breast could feel;
He stretched it undulating like an eel
As with his paws he made the air his meal.
I doubt if Phahethon's fear went as far
When he dropped the reins of his father's car
And gave the sky, once whole, its still seen scar,
Nor Icarus' at the hot wax run
Unfeathering him with, from his father: "Shun
The sun's fierce rays; you fly too high, my son",
As mine as I beheld nothing but air,
With only the beast I sat on up there.
He moves and his swim is slow, O so slow
And descends a spiral path; this I know
But by a breeze ahead and one below.
I'd heard already on my right hand rise
From the whirlpool a horrible surprise
And so I craned my head with downcast eyes.
But there I heard moans and the fierce fire's power
And in my fear I could do naught but cower.
I saw then what I had not seen before,
What the spiral path of our descent bore,
Closing in on us ever more and more.
A falcon which has long been poised on high
With no bird or even a lure to eye
Descends to the falconer's despairing cry.
Tired, it makes a hundred whirls, to remain
Far from him, perched in anger and disdain.
So Geryon bore us to the beetling blind,
Shot off shaft-swift and left us both behind.
Canto 18
Now Malebolge is a place in hell;
It is a hewn and iron coloured stone cell,
Since the cliffs that circle it wall it well.
I'll tell you when you're there what is't that hide
Within the centre well, so deep and wide.
A full ten descending valleys divide
The space twixt well and the cell's every side,
Most like the deep well-guarding moats that sweep
Concentric circles round the centre keep.
As bridges from a castle's portal guide
From moat to moat to reach the furthest side,
So, from the cliff's base, great spokes of rock soar
Across the moats, crossing from shore to shore,
Till they're cut off from meeting by the core.
When Geryon's left 'tis this place we find;
The poet turned left and I walked behind.
To right, new tortures, new victims to note,
All crammed into the depths of the first moat.
Far down nude souls in two rows could be spied;
We were faced by those passing on our side,
But not by th' others, of a brisker stride.
The Romans' bridge also had to be free
For vast crossing throngs at the jubilee.
One side looked at St Peter's and the keep,
While th' other were walking towards the steep.
Both sides, at many a high rocky site,
Horned devils with huge whips of savage bite
Lash the backs of Shadows with cruel delight.
And how they skipped when the whip was first whirred!
None stayed to take a second or a third.
The glance of one down below let me trace
The features of one I knew in his face.
I stopped short, puzzling out who this might be;
And my good guide stopped too; he left me free
To follow him back a short way and see.
That soul (cruel lashing was his lasting lot)
Bowed low, in hopes his face might be forgot.
But I: "You there, you, with your head bent low,
Your features are ones which I full well know.
You're Venedico Caccianemico.
What pickle's brought you to such pungent woe?"
Then he to me: "I'm not so keen to tell
Of what I did, but your plain words compel.
Whatever the story up there may be,
I coaxed Ghisolabella to be free
With her favours to the lusty marquis.
Do you think no Bolognese weeps here cowed
But me? 'tis just not true; there is a crowd.
Far fewer twixt Reno and Savena
Now say, not 'si' but the local 'sipa'.
Do you doubt me? What witness do you need
Save our own well known money-grubbing greed?"
Just then a fiend whipped him with: "Disappear,
You pimp, you can't cash in on women here".
I turned and hurried to rejoin my guide;
We walked a few more steps and then we eyed
The rocky bridge that juts out from the side.
We proved that we were not on a path that tires
And, turning right, betwixt these jagged spires,
We left those souls to their eternal gyres.
When we were right above the mount that surged
Full wide, to make a passage for the scourged,
My guide said: "Stop and stand where you can pour
O'er all the others whom a bad day bore.
Their faces were ones which you could not see,
Since they were travelling the same road as we".
So from that ancient bridge we watched the surge
On th' other side, chased likewise by the scourge.
My guide, unasked: "He looks like those who reign;
He does not shed a single tear of pain.
How royal the aspect he can still retain!
He is Jason and, in a clever scam,
He fleeced the Colchians of their golden ram.
He later journeyed past Lemnos' strand
To where a bold and heartless female band
Had slaughtered all the males upon the land.
And there the girl Hypsipyle received
His tokens and fair words, too soon believed.
Deceiving, she herself in turn's deceived.
And there he left her, pregnant and forsook;
For these deceits he's sentenced to this nook;
And for the maiden too revenge is took.
And with him every like deceiver goes.
This is all the knowledge a wise man knows
Of those whom its devouring jaws enclose".
By now we'd come to where the narrow ridge
Joins, at the bank, the arch of the next bridge.
Now we could already hear the next moat's bands
Whimper, snort, grunt, with slaps with open hands.
Vile to see, worse to smell, foul slimy goo
Coated the banks and stuck to them like glue.
The bottom was so hollowed out of sight
We only saw it when our view was right,
Looking down from the bridge's topmost height.
I, peering down, saw people of the lake's
Like human ordure running from a jakes.
In my hard search I saw a head so greased
I could not tell if he were lay or priest.
He shouted up: "Why give your eyes a feast
On me and not another dirty beast?"
My reply: "Because, remembering well, I
Have seen your hair not wet, as now, but dry,
Alessio Interminei; if I eye
You, Luccan, more than th' others, that is why".
He then, with ceaseless beating of his pate:
"Ceaseless flatteries sunk me to this state".
"Lean out a little more; peer into space" -
So my guide, "and look carefully at the face,
A slut, scratching herself with nails so brown,
Hair dishevelled, as she moves up and down.
'Great?' her lover asked her, Thahis the whore;
She: 'Absolutely marvellous'. No more".
Canto 19
Simon Magus and his rapacious corps,
You scum, you've turned God's bride into gold's whore.
In your honour the trumpet must now sound,
Since 'tis in the third bag that you are found.
By this we'd climbed high up the bridge to note
This tomb, and were at midpoint of the moat.
High Wisdom, Just Awarder, O how well
You show your skill on earth, in heaven and hell!
Buff holed rocks, I saw, strewed the sides and ground;
All were the same in size and all were round;
My San Giovanni's holes are this size,
Made for a priest to stand in and baptize.
Know, some years ago I was forced to pound
One there, to save someone who else had drowned;
These are the facts; 'tis here they will be found!
I view the sinners; of them the holes screen
The rest; just legs up to the calves are seen.
Their soles flame; their naked legs twitch in pain;
They'd break with great ease any rope or chain.
Flame only moves o'er oily outer peel;
So here it only moved from toe to heel.
I: "Who's the wretch whose writhing's not the same
As the others', licked by a redder flame?"
He: "Go down the bank to the lower tier
And ask him who he is and why he's here".
I: "I do what pleases you, removing naught;
You are my lord; you even know my thought".
We turned, keeping to the left, at bank four
And went down to its holed and narrow floor.
My master would not let me be alone
Until he brought me to the huge cleft stone
Of him whose twisting legs alone are shown.
"Whoe'er you are, who have your upside downed,
Poor soul" said I, "stuck like a stake in ground,
If nothing else, at least let's hear the sound
With which a holed killer near his last breath
Calls a shriver, just to delay his death".
And he: "Fate's book has ta'en me for a loon;
Here, Boniface, and upright too, so soon?
Fed up with what you've got from Mother Church?
You stole from her and left her in the lurch".
I could do naught but stand there, mouth agape,
With naught as answer to this jeering jape.
Then Virgil: "Say you're not the one who preyed.
Quick about it". He bad and I obeyed.
The sighing twisting soul could not keep still.
I heard his tearful voice: "Then what's your will?"
If you have come right down this bank in hope
To know my name, know I was once the pope.
A greedy Bear, up there I bagged my pelf;
So now, down here, I have been bagged myself.
There are many priests and prelates who sold
Church places before me; 'tis here they're holed.
When he whom I thought you were shall show
I, in my turn, shall join the rest below.
My feet have now endured a blazing noon
More than his will; he'll be supplanted soon,
By one whose coming will be from the west,
A lawless shepherd, fit to be our vest.
Jason bribed Israel's king; so He of France
Shall likewise submit to a priest's advance".
I do not know - perhaps I was too bold -
I answered him in tune with what he told:
"What was the sum that Peter needs afford
To buy the Keys of Heaven from his Lord?
Following was the Master's sole reward.
Nor did Peter and the rest extort gold
For any place that they thought could be sold.
When Matthias was picked 'twas at no cost
He gained the place the evil one had lost;
So stay stuck here, since you are rightly fossed.
Do, do guard the money gained by your carls
That made you stand courageous against Charles.
And mark: had I not reverence for the Keys,
I would have used e'en harsher words than these.
Your greed brings grief to those who would be saved,
Crushing the good, exalting the depraved.
The evangelist meant you, shepherd corps,
When he dreamed of her o'er the water pour,
Sitting, playing and giving kings their whore.
Seven heads, ten horns, spread all her bridegroom's joy
Which he, perverted, cannot but destroy.
You all have built yourselves foul gods of gold;
You're all fashioned in th' idolators mould,
Except he worships one, you scores untold.
O Constantine, what evil you let lour,
Not by your conversion, but by the dower,
That giving the first wealthy pope his power!"
And while I chanted to him in this strain
His feet kicked out hard; conscience was his bane,
Or, perhaps, it was merely from the pain.
I'm sure my guide was pleased with what he heard;
He smiled as I pronounced each truthful word.
Then he took hold of me with arms distent
And, when his breast and mine were firmly blent,
Ascended by the road of his descent.
My tight-clasped weight was great; he was not vexed
At th' arch that joins the fourth bank to the next.
When he had brought me to the bridge's crown
He gently, gently set his burden down -
Gently, since the ridge, ease's antidote,
Would have been hard to cross, e'en for a goat.
From there, yet another ravine to cote.
Canto 20
Part twenty of the first chant will now tell
The torments of the damned sunk deep in hell.
I look down deep below; its floor appears,
Wet with all those anguished sinners' salt tears.
They walk sombre, silent, like foes to mirth
That chant their solemn litanies on earth.
When I looked closer I could see their wrack;
Each neck was twisted, each face viewed its back.
None of them ever saw what was ahead;
All of them had to walk backwards instead.
One palsied may perhaps have once walked so;
'tis not the fate of any whom I know.
As I pray God my chant will be of aid,
Ask how my tears could ever have been stayed
When I saw this twisted, contorted pack;
The tears each shed streamed down to wet his back.
I wept as I leaned on a jagged crest.
My guide: "Are you as witles as the rest?
Here pity lives when it is wholly flown.
Pure pure evil lives in that man alone
Who strives to bend divine will to his own.
You see that man there? Hear of his demise.
The earth split wide before the Thebans' eyes
While they all shouted: 'Where is this he flies?
Amphiaraus, why shun the battle cries?'
He rushed ever downwards till in the clutch
Of Minos, all powerful o'er all such.
You see how he has made his chest his back.
Because he thought far seeing was his knack
He sees behind and walks a backward track.
Behold Tiresias here; his travail
Made him a woman when he'd been a male.
His rod struck two twining snakes to rebloom
His erstwhile body with its manly plume.
His chest is on Aruns' back; his domain
Was worked by those of fair Carrara's plain.
The hills of Luni, far above them, gave
Him his white marble home, formed from a cave.
And from this site, with a view bound to please,
He could observe the sea and stars with ease.
And she with her hair flowing back untwined
To cover both the breasts you'll fail to find,
And with her hairy parts in front behind,
Was Manto, who had searched through many a vale
Ere come to where I left my mother's gaol;
Now let me tell you something of her tale.
When her father had heeded death's cold call
And Bacchus' city became a thrall
She roved the world for many years in all.
Beyond the Tyrol Lake Benaco's found,
Beneath mountains that are Germania's bound,
High up and set on fair Italian ground.
The Pennine chain of mountains from Garda
And right up to the Val Camonica,
From a thousand streams or even more, partake
Of the waters flowing down into that lake;
Verona's, Brescia's, Trent's bishops draw
Their boundaries from an island at its core.
A handsome well-built fortress, Peschiera,
Wards off those from Bergamo and Brescia,
Along the lowest point of that lakes's shore
When all Benaco's excess waters pour
Through gren lands; at source, its name is Mencio,
To Governol, where it enters the Po.
It finds a level, ere half its course is run,
And there spreads into a huge marshy tun,
Rank and unwholesome in the summer sun.
This trull, passing one day, sees in the mire
What's untilled, uninhabited, but drier.
There, with but her thralls' company, she plied
Her arts, and there she lived and there she died.
It then drew scattered folk from far and wide,
Safe, girded by a swamp on every side.
Since you, Manto, buried there, were its cause,
The name they gave it, Mantua, is yours.
'twas fuller ere Casalodi, the lord,
The fool, fell for fell Pinamonte's fraud.
It is thus my Mantua knows and knew
Its source; if others try to deceive you
Let no false tales adulterate the true".
I: "I accept your explanations whole.
All other tales would be but burnt-out coal.
But tell me of any passing grandees
If you see any there whose tale could please,
Since my mind is now set on only these".
And he to me: "The one whose beard flows down
From his twin cheeks and makes his back all brown
Was (when the war stripped Greece of all its males
Save those whose sounds were but their baby wails)
An augur; with Calchas, 'twas his decree
At Aulis cut the first ship's cable free.
He is Eurypylus; fired by the Nine,
I sang him in that work of theirs and mine;
You should know where - you know it, every line.
The other one, with flanks like a fiord,
Was Michael Scott, whose mean mean mind was stored
With every trick there was of magic fraud.
See Guido Bonatti; see Asdente,
Who wishes now he had been a devotee
Of making shoes; he'll never now be free.
See hags who left needle, spindle, to tell
The future and use dolls to cast a spell.
But come! Cain with his thorn-bush strides the sill
That sits at the sky's equator, until
He dips into the waves below Seville.
Last night the moon was full; it was she whom
You loved, lost in the wood of endless gloom".
While he still spoke we moved on o'er the flume.
Canto 21
This bridge to the next saw us walk and tell
Of things on which I do not care to dwell.
When we had reached the bridge's topmost height
We stopped to see Malebolge's next sight
And hear more lamentations voiced in vain.
I saw it had a very strange dark stain.
Near the Venetians' vast and busy slips
There boil all winter long pitch-giving dips
Oft used to caulk the ribs of unsound ships.
Since winter will not let them sail, men mould.
Some build new ships, others repair the old,
Plugging planks loose from voyages untold.
While others twine the ropes, one carves an oar;
The jib's one's, the mainsail another's chore;
Some hammer the back, others to the fore.
I saw boiling sticky tar 'neath th' incline
Smearing the banks with what's e'en worse than brine,
Heated not by fire but by power divine.
I see them there, there's nothing they contain
Except the briskly boiling bubbles' strain,
Breathing in air to rise and sink again.
I stood and gazed; when all below was eyed
I heard "Watch out, watch out" come from my guide.
He took hold of me and drew me aside.
I turned without resistance to the rear,
Looking to see what makes him disappear,
My body's strength draining with sudden fear,
And, when I'd turned, not stopping in my track,
I soon saw coming right behind our back,
Rushing along the ridge, a devil, black!
How frightening is the look that his face flings
When skimming o'er the rock with outstretched wings!
With every single move he makes he stings.
On one of his pointed shoulders, hunched high,
He had a slung sinner's left and right thigh
And it was his heels that he held him by.
"Malebranche" he shouted from our height,
"A Santa Zita lord for your delight;
While I go for more, let him have his flight.
Luccans, except Bonturo, are a tribe
Who'll do anything - just give them a bribe".
Deep in the pitchy pit he saw him downed,
Then left the flinty cliff with such a bound
You'd have thought him a thief-pursuing hound.
The sinner plunged, then floated up, stretched out;
The devils beneath us all gave a shout:
"You down there below, this is not the place
For you to imitate the Holy Face.
Swim here and in the Secchio's not the same.
We've grappling hooks with us we'll not disclaim;
Just show yourself above the pitch, they'll aim".
They pricked him with a hundred prongs or more:
"'tis when hid your squirming will really score;
Try learning how to cheat when covered o'er".
They're cooks who've taught their scullery-boys to know
That forks will keep the meat deep down below.
My good guide said: "'twere best not to be seen;
Crouch here; a jutting rock will serve as screen.
Fear not; though they may think that they can score
In my despite, I've seen their tricks before".
He crossed the bridge; the sixth bank was in sight;
He forced, he forced himself to hide his fright.
With sounds which dogs make when full fain to clamp
Their jaws on some poor unsuspecting tramp
Those hid beneath the bridge sprang out to balk
Him with the frenzied flourish of the fork.
Then my master: "Enough" ('tis thus he talks)
"Before you pitch into me with your forks
Let one of you step forward to hear me out
And then decide if you'd still like a bout".
They all cried out: "Malacoda, obey!"
So he stepped forward; the others chose to stay.
Moving, he said: "I'm sure he'll not prevail".
My master: "No, Malacoda, I'll not fail.
Think you that I'd prevail without the nod,
Yes, the nod that can only come from God?
Now you must let us both pass, now he's showed
That I must lead him by the savage road".
His pride collapsed; his pitchfork left his clutch
And he cried out to all of them: "Don't touch".
"Leave now the bridge's rocks, curled up and dour"
My guide called out, "you're now secure".
I rose and ran to him; the devils stirred;
Cold terror griped me; would they keep their word?
(I saw troops leaving Caprona's chateau
Under truce, yet in terror of the foe).
I. clinging closely to the one who saved,
Eyed in terror faces of the depraved.
Their forks poised, they heard from one of the troupe:
"Stab him?" They all cried: "Stab him in the croup".
The devil who'd addressed my master hissed,
Spinning round: "Scarmiglione, desist".
To us: "You may not travel as before;
The sixth moat-spanning arch is now no more.
If you'd proceed, continue on this ridge;
Not far further, a reef will be your bridge.
One thousand and two hundred and three score
And six years it will be (in five hours more)
Since the bridge here crumbled and toppled o'er.
I'll send and stop an untoward display;
Go up to them; they'll not make you their prey.
Forward, Alachino and Calcabrina,
Cagnazzo; lead, Barbariccia.
Come, Libicocco and Draghignazzo,
Graffiacane and toothed Ciriatto,
Mad Rubicante and Farfarello.
Look for a way around the boiling pitch,
Guiding them both safely from ditch to ditch".
I: "Guide, I like not what we have been shown;
You know the way; we two must go alone.
They grind their teeth - you've seen as well as I;
Their lowering brows proclaim that we must die".
He: "Let them grind; only a coward cowers.
The death they threat is boiling souls', not ours".
When they had turned left along the moat's side
They all blew a raspberry for their great guide.
When he had taken this salute from each
He promptly made a bugle of his breech.
Canto 22
I've seen knights break camp, parade or rive
The foe, or even flee to stay alive,
Scouts ride, Arretines, exploring your terrain,
Raiders, tournaments, jousters charge amain,
Bells ring, trumps blare, drums roll, fires flare on wall;
Name anything and I have seen them all,
But not any foot or knights that there are
Or ships that sail by landmark or by star
Bidden to go by bugles that so jar.
Church and the devout, inns and guzzlers suit;
So hell and the demons; who can confute?
My wish in this pitch hole is but to look
And see how brown these sizzling Shadows cook.
Much like the springing dolphins that are said
To warn to rig for stormy seas ahead,
Sinners would surface to relieve their pain,
Then dive lightning quick to hide again.
Like squatting frogs with just their snouts to show,
Their legs and all the rest concealed below,
When they saw Barbariccia near their ditch
They ducked straightway beneath the boiling pitch.
But yet, as happens with the froggy kind,
While th' others dived one (horror!) stayed behind.
Graffiacan, standing in front, took control;
Hoist by his hair, he looked just like a vole.
I knew all of the fiends by name by now
Since, when they were addressed, I listened how.
"Rubicante, claws dug deep in him, cream
His skin" I heard the fiendish chorus scream.
"My master" asked I, "who is he who goes
As sacrificial victim for cruel foes?"
He: "Tell me where you're from and who you are"
To him and he replied: "I'm from Navarre.
My mother'd had me by a self-killed bawd,
So she sold me for service to a lord,
Thibault; now here mid all these boiling tribes
I pay the bill earned by my lavish bribes".
Ciriatto, most like a frothing boar,
Has two tusks sticking out from either jaw;
Let him feel how just one tusk can score.
The warm warm mouse was prey of cats so cold;
But Barbariccia held him in his fold,
Shouting: "Get back, I have him in my hold".
He said ('twas to my guide his face was bent)
If you'd know more, question him ere he's rent".
My guide: "Do you know one whom tough tars grease,
An Italian, forced to consort with these?"
He: "Just now I saw one of them appear;
How I wish I were hidden with him here!
I would not have these hooks or claws to fear".
Libicocco cried: "Must lateness alarm?"
Then with his fork he hooked the sinner's arm
And pulled a piece from it without a qualm.
Draghignazzo wanted a leg to tear,
Defeated by the decurion's glare.
When their sound's less my guide straightway asks more
Of him still gazing at his festering sore:
"Who is he whom (how fickle fortune lours!)
You left to come to these fell shores of ours?"
He: "Friar Gomita from Gallura sold
Posts and, more, gave the guilty joy for gold,
Kinglike in all his acts, quite uncontrolled.
He spends his time with Michel Zanche, lord
Of Logodoro, and they have explored
All topics Sardinia can afford.
I fear that snarler there will use his claws
To scratch me if I say more. I have yaws".
Their leader saw Farfarello's might;
His wild eyes warned he was about to bite;
He shouted out at him: "Away, cursed kite".
"If it's Tuscans or Lombards that you'd hear
And see" the scared soul said, "they shall appear,
But not near Malebranche, whom they fear.
I, from here, will whistle seven souls here,
As we do when we want them to appear".
Cagnazzo shook his head at this; his view:
"A trick to bring us back beneath the brew".
He: "Trickster I am; what a trick 'twill be
To lure my friends into worse misery".
Alichin warned: "The rest will be gainsaid;
If you dive I won't gallop to your aid.
We'll skim with beating wings the tarry pen.
We'll leave the hill, the bank our screen again,
To see if you, but one man, can beat ten".
Another game, Reader: their eyes traversed
Th' other side; he once most opposed was first.
The Navarrese chose well the time to play;
He's poised and then, faster than one could say,
He dived and baulked the sportsmen of their prey.
Then all were stung with guilt and he who taught
The rest to play the fool was the most fraught;
He swooped off to pursue him, shouting: "Caught!"
The soul dived; the fiend's raised breast was near;
In vain; no wings outstrip the flight of fear.
A falcon sees a duck to be despoiled.
The duck dives deftly and the falcon's foiled.
Calcabrina flew, angered by the jape,
He too, but hoping the quarry'd escape,
So he, imputing blame, could pick a fight.
When the bribe taker had passed out of sight
He turned upon his mate, in mind to claw
Him in mid air, hoping to rend him raw.
But th' other was as fit as he; both flew
Down down down straight into the brew.
Heat sundered them, yet no escape availed;
However hard they tried, their clogged wings failed.
No others equalled Barbariccia's rage;
He straight sent four flying friends to engage.
They took their assigned posts, some here, some there,
And stretched their hooks to reach the pitch-dipped pair.
They were by now well cooked within their crust,
Well cooked, and there we left them to combust.
Canto 23
It was like minor friars our path bore
Us, alone, one behind and one before.
The recent skirmish and the sudden souse
Recalled Aesop's tale of the frog and mouse.
Start and end of fact and fable display
The sameness you will find in "yes" and "yea".
The seething of my mind deep deep within
Soon gave the fell fear that I felt its twin.
I: "since these fiends' hurt when mocked was not slight,
'tis certain they now feel far more than spite.
Evil, enraged, 'tis certain they'll be found
As savage as the hare-pursuing hound".
I felt the skin on my body, once slack,
Now tight; fear forced me to keep looking back.
Then I: "My master, hide us quick, I hear
The Malebranche, and am full of fear".
He: "E'en a mirror could not reflect more
Than I can see deep inside your inmost core.
And since we two share but one common soul
'tis sure that we shall find one common goal.
If this right bank should show us the right place
'tis certain that we will escape the chase".
He had scarce finished talking when we spied
Them far too near with their wings open wide.
'twas I my master wrapped his arms around,
A mother waking to some warning sound,
To see the savage flames surging so near
And seize her son and run in frantic fear;
She waits not the short time that it would take
To dress, all not for hers but for his sake.
The edge reached, he slid backwards down the scree
That walls the higher side of the next cay.
No mill stream runs a narrow sluice, when freed
To hit the churning paddle blades, at speed
Greater than my guide's mad downward stampede.
He held me tight all through that whirl so wild
As if I were, not his charge, but his child.
We had but barely reached this sunken site
When forced to view ten right up on the height.
They ruled the fifth moat but the divine will
Which gave this took the power to cross its sill.
We found a painted people here below,
Tired, crying, circling step by step, so slow.
Each wore a cloak with eye-covering hood, sunk
So low you'd take him for a Clunian monk.
These bright gilt cloaks deemed Frederick's underfed,
Though it was huge, since they were lined with lead.
O toilsome mantle for eternal wear!
To left with them, their plaints our only care.
They were so slow we passed all joined before;
Each step we took we met with many more.
I begged my guide: "Walking, please look around
For those whom name or deeds have made renowned".
Someone, hearing the Tuscan tongue at last,
Cried to us from behind: "We're too soon passed
By you who run right through the gloom so fast.
Stay! Maybe I can furnish what you need".
At this my guide turned to me; he agreed:
"Wait here with him then at matched pace proceed".
I stopped and by their looks saw two betray
Much haste of mind to join me, though delay
Was forced by burden and the crowded way.
Arrived, mute, they viewed me some while askance,
Then said, giving each other many a glance:
"He seems to be alive, the way he spoke;
If both are dead then why no heavy cloak?"
And then they spoke to me: "Tuscan, you came
To sullen hypocrites; tell us your name".
I: "Born, bred in the town on Arno's shore,
I have the body that I always bore.
But who are you whose glistening tears of grief
Run down your cheeks in search of vain relief?
What pain is it of glitter far from brief?"
One: "Th' orange-gilded cloaks creak as we tread
This path you see, since they are lined with lead.
Pleased Bolognan friars, I Catalano
And he, my partner here, Loderingo
Were your town's choice as a peace-giving pair
With power one man had erst refused to share;
Judge our success by Gardaringo's despair".
After my "friars" I couldn't utter a sound.
One crucified was thrice-staked on the ground.
When he saw me his body writhed amain
And through his beard he heaved out sighs of pain.
Then friar Catalano, who watched the scene,
Said: "That impaled figure you see had been
The one who caused the Pharisees' miscall:
'It were best that one man should die for all'.
Naked he lies stretched out along the road
For all to cross, and he must feel the load.
His sire-in-law and every council toad
Who were the seed who caused all Jews to itch
Are racked the same way all along the ditch".
Virgil stared at this body on the cross
So rightly punished with eternal loss.
Virgil to a friar: "If your rule allows,
Is there a way to right that can be ours?
We two both want to leave this pit's parade
Ourselves alone. with no black angel's aid".
He: "Closer than you could ever desire
A ridge juts from the base of the great gyre
And bridges every hideous ditch's floor
Except this one, whose arch is totally o'er
And crosses nowhere; you'll not be denied
Climb of the ruins that slope against this side".
My guide stood with bent head and downward look
A while, then said: "'twas bad advice we took
From him who slices sinners with his hook".
The friar: "Once in Bologna 'twas advised
Th' evil devil is the father of lies".
My leader strode in hot haste from the gyre,
His face revealing traces of his ire.
I turned and left those saddened souls in gaol,
To follow feet I felt would never fail.
Canto 24

'twas new year, when the sun renews his rays

In Aquarius and nights all equal days,
When frost paints his snow sister on the slades;
His feathers' fashioning's fine, but she soon fades.
The hind wakes, rises, and goes to the sight
Of hungry sheep, whose fields are snowy white.
He goes inside and smites his thighs in ire
And paces up and down; his thoughts are dire.
He goes outside, dreading a sight so base,
But joy! the world's most sudden change of face!
His sheep now graze in their lush pasture place.
Just so my master's mien gave me great grief
But just as soon came healing raw relief.
I saw when at the bridge's ruined pile
What I'd first seen at the mount's foot - his smile.
Then he, planning to climb up to the wold,
Opened his arms to have me in his hold.
He was most like a man who takes great pains
In earning what he most wants - well-got gains.
So, while he raised me up to one great tor,
He had already singled out one more.
He: "This rock there is not for the sedate;
Test it first to see if it holds your weight".
It was no road for one cumbered by aught;
E'en though I had his help and he weighed naught
We could but barely reach the rocks we sought.
And, had it not been that the bank we saw
Was lower than the one we'd climbed before,
I for one would most certainly have quit.
But since the slope of each most evil pit
Is all towards the lowest yawning well,
The banks in front are all of lesser swell.
When our most perilous path was passed
We reached the end of the loose rocks at last.
The top saw me so tired I had to stay,
Since I could go no further on the way.
My master: "Move on; those whom sloth gives shame,
Who sit or lie 'neath quilts, will ne'er win fame,
Without which men but waste their lives up there
On earth, and of themselves give no more share
Than foam on water or than smoke in air.
Stand up! O'ercome this weariness of yours
With the strength of spirit which, if it scores
Against the body's weight, will win all wars.
There are far steeper stairs we'll have to see;
Our need to see sinners leaves us unfree;
If you understand, then act; learn from me".
I stand up straight though I'd rather be still;
I'm short of breath, but very long of will.
We climbed and went across the bridge - a chore;
'twas jagged, tight and killing to cross o'er,
Far steeper than any we had crossed before.
Not to seem faint, I spoke; my voice was clear
While that from the next deep chasm was queer;
Since it seemed as if he spoke at a run,
E'en though up high (our ascent was done)
Of all the words which he used I knew none.
I was bent o'er, but no living eyes' light
Could penetrate the gloom of that dead night.
And so I said: "Guide, I burn with desire
To cross this bridge to the next bounding gyre,
Since I hear strange words which I have not caught
And peer down deep below but can see naught".
He: "I'll do what you ask; a fitting suit
Is answered best in fitting deed and mute".
From the bridge's height we came down and straight
To where it ends and joins th' edge of bank eight.
The bag below me straight away awakes;
On offer: taut tangles of hissing snakes.
They were, all of them, of such monstrous mould
The thought of them still makes my blood run cold.
Libya breeds Farii and Iaculi,
Also Anfisibena and Cencri;
Yet she can no longer boast of her sands,
Surpassed by all these hissing venom bands,
Not e'en combined with those of Araby
Or all the sands that lie by the Red Sea.
Terrified and naked hordes all grope
In this abundant but cruel store, without hope
Of finding hiding-holes or heliotrope.
Their hands are tied behind their backs with snakes,
A breed which crawls around the loins and takes
The front parts with the knotted coils it makes.
When a sinner came running near our coign
A snake struck him where neck and shoulder join.
Ne'er was "o" or "i" writ with but one dash
Quicker than he took fire and burned to ash.
These unhelped scattered ashes formed a store,
Then quickly took the form they had before.
Just so, says the philosopher, the seer,
The fired phoenix dies, but to reappear
As she approaches her five-hundredth year.
When living, incense and amomum were
Her only food (no herb or grain for her)
And her last swathings are of nard and myrrh.
A man falls puzzled - blockage chokes his breath
Or else some hidden demon deals brief death.
He, when he rises, rolls around his eyes,
Dazed and bewildered by the mighty ties
Of anguish he's endured and, staring, sighs.
So did this sinner when he finally rose.
How harsh the power of the Lord, with blows
Of vicous vengeance raining down like those!
My master asked him who he was before.
So he: "I've come just now like a downpour
From Tuscany into this ravening maw.
I, Vanni Fucci, was a bastard then;
A beast's life pleased me and not that of men;
For me, Pistoia was a fitting den".
I told my guide: "Tell him not to rampage;
Ask him what sin has driven him to this cage;
I, I know him for a man of bloody rage".
The sinner heard and yet did not disclaim;
The face I saw was like an arrow's aim;
He reddened with a look of ugly shame:
"I grieve you've found me in this place of strife
More than I did the day I lost my life;
(So he) Answer I must, although not lief;
Church vestments sent me here; I am a thief;
Another was charged; no joy comes from me
If ever this dark pit lets you go free;
Open your ears and hear my prophecy:
Pistoia shall be stripped of every Black;
Florence's laws and men shall be changed back.
From Val di Magra Mars shall draw a whirl
Of turbid clouds; a sudden storm shall hurl
A bolt over Picen and the fierce fight
That thus results shall not spare any White.
I hope the grief I've caused you won't be slight".
Canto 25
The thief shrieked with thumbs in fists held on high:
"A fig for you, God, go get stuffed, say I".
At once my hate for serpents passed away,
When one gave his neck a coiled snake display,
As if to say: "That's all you're going to say".
Between the two (another wound around
His arms) he froze, he was so tightly bound.
Only Pistoia's ashes would suffice;
Her own surpasses e'en her founder's vice.
No other soul in hell, e'en he who fell
From Thebes' high walls, hated his God so well.
With this he fled; a raging Centaur came,
Roaring: "Where is that beast whom none can tame?"
His horse, to where it was of human form,
Outdid e'en Maremma in serpent swarm.
At his neck a wide-winged dragon lay,
Spitting fire at whoever came his way.
My guide: "Aventine Cacus, fain to slake
His thirst with blood full fit to fill a lake,
He and his brothers walked not the same way -
His neighbour's kine were made his cunning prey.
His life of crime was well and truly done
When Hercules and his huge club durst stun
With five score blows of which he felt but one".
'twas this he said. Where the Centaur had been
There were three spirits beneath us, unseen,
Had we not heard them shout: "What is your name?"
Our talk stopped short; they were now our sole claim.
One said: "Where's Cianfa gone?" I'd known none,
But now at last I knew the name of one.
I'd fain my guide pay th' attention he owes;
Finger on chin, I pointed to my nose.
Reader, no wonder you think I deceive
When I, the witness, can scarcely believe.
A serpent with six feet shot up to haul
One of the creatures, holding him with all.
It grabbed his arms and stomach in its paws
And clamped his cheeks in turn in its strong jaws.
Its hindfeet thrust its tail between his thighs
So it could come out behind him and rise.
Twining of tree and ivy is the least
Of twinings compared to that hideous beast.
Like wax, their shape and hue mixed more and more;
Neither was the one he had been before,
Like the brown that creeps before a black fume
That is a slow burning white page's doom.
The other two, who'd watched ths being done,
Both cried: "O Agnel, see what's now begun
Because you are now neither two nor one!"
Their two heads had by now begun to lose
Their own once separate features and to fuse.
Four arms were four blurred blobs; what once had been
Legs, paunch, chest, grew limbs never ere now seen.
Each former likeness was now quite undone;
Each seemed to be both and yet neither one.
This blob left at the reverse of a run.
As a hedge-seeking lizard of fleet feet,
Stung by the cruel lash of the dog-day's heat,
Zips like a lightning flash across the street,
So th' other two saw, rushing them to take
Their guts, a raging peppercorn-black snake.
It bit one where an embryo draws his food,
Then fell back before him and lay there slewed.
Bit, he stood still, speechless before the heap,
Yawning as if fevered or craving sleep.
They stared, one with wound and one with mouth spume,
And mingled indifferently fume with fume.
Let Nasidius and Sabellus be mute;
Let lucan hear what I have still to suit.
Though Arethusa turned into a spring,
Cadmus into a snake, this does not bring
Envy of Ovid, any suffering,
Since he ne'er ever undertook to make
A change of form by mutual give and take,
As happened here; its tail forked for the snake,
The wounded sinner's feet both coalesced;
The legs with both the thighs were both compressed
And in a short time fused; the join, unseen,
Dsiplayed no sign of ever having been;
All the while the cloven tail was embossed
With features that the other one had lost;
Its skin was soft, the other's was crisscrossed.
I saw the man's arms, once long, minimize,
The beast's front feet stretch the man's old size;
The beast's hind feet then twined around like eels
And turned into the member man conceals
While the man's member grew two legs with heels.
Smoke causes their colours to interrun
And strips the head-of-hair where there was one,
Adding a head-of-hair where there was none;
The one stood up, th' other fell down, without
Turning however the baleful lamps about
Which made each one assume the other's snout.
Th' erect one's snout's short; a round face appears
And this same face, once long, now round, sprouts ears.
Part of what stays in front makes a nose rise,
And lips to puff out to the normal size.
The prostrate creature sees his face outspread
And, too, his ears withdraw into his head
The way a snail withdraws into his shed.
The tongue, once one piece and able to talk,
Divides, while the other one heals his fork.
The smoke subsides; the soul now made a brute
Makes, with hisses, the valley's floor his route,
The other close behind him, far from mute.
He straight, turning on him his new-formed back,
Told th' other: "Bosco will soon have the knack
Of crawling as I crawled, around the track".
Thus I saw the souls of the seventh trail
Change and interchange; if my pen should fail
Let pardon from this newness then prevail.
And, though this spectacle confused my eyes,
They weren't so hid I could not recognize
That one was Puccio Sciancato; only he
Was not transformed of the original three.
The other was Gaville's catastrophe.
Canto 26
Rejoice, O Florence, as you are the belle;
Your wings encompass land and sea so well
Your name is known in all the holes of hell.
I found among the thieves five men of fame,
Surely, O Florence, such a source of shame!
You'll soon have the fate, if dawn dreams are true,
That Prato and the others crave for you.
If come, as come it must, 'twill be relief;
The longer the delay, the more my grief.
My master's task's to pull, mine to submit;
So 'twas thus we remounted bit by bit
The stairs down which we'd erewhile neared the pit.
Alone we clambered o'er the high rock stand;
The foot could not advance without the hand.
I know that I grieved then and now, once more,
I grieve when I remember what I saw.
Now more than e'er I deem my skill a threat
If it runs a course that right has not set.
'tis a good which, if from a lucky star
Or something e'en better, I must not mar.
In the season the world's light most espies,
At the hour gnats take over from the flies,
The hind snug on a hill looks down below
Where he perhaps picks grapes or wields the hoe
And sees dense swarms of flickering fireflies glow.
E'en so the eighth bag's fearsome fires were vast
When I was where I saw the depths at last.
As th' avenged by bears saw Elijah rise
When his car's horses reared and climbed the skies,
And, though he tried to follow with his eyes,
'twas but the flame alone he could espy
Like a small cloud once it had risen high.
So each flame moves himself along the throat
Of the abyss, none showing me his tote,
But all stealing the sinners that they note.
I craned so o'er the bridge to look that, if
My hold upon a rock had not been stiff,
I would, unpushed, have fallen off the cliff.
My guide, who saw me so struck by the sight:
"Each moving fire you see conceals a sprite,
Each tightly swathed in what sets him alight".
I: "Guide, your words tell me I had a clue
To test; the one I'd thought would help was you.
I'd know who's in that cleft flame (mad desire!)
Like that one which once sprang up from the fire
That was Eteocles' and his brother's pyre".
"Ulysses with Diomede's in that fire",
Said he, "joined in their doom as in their ire.
They thus mourn that inside the horse, the seed,
The gate whence came the noble Roman breed.
They pay for the Palladium and the ploy
That reft Deidamia, now dead, of joy
When her beloved Achilles sailed for Troy".
I: "Guide, I pray a thousand times and more,
If they can speak despite those fierce flames' roar,
That you do not refuse me time to stay
Until the coming of the two-horned ray;
You see how longingly I lean that way".
Then he: "I grant your most praiseworthy suit;
But see to it that your tongue remains mute.
I'll speak; I can predict your every word;
If you speak they'll ignore whate'er they've heard".
He, when the space twixt flame and us was slight,
Decided that the time and place were right;
He spoke while I listened to him indict:
"O you who are two souls within one blaze,
Whate'er I deserved in my living days,
Whether I deserved much or little praise,
When in the world I wrote my epic verse,
Stay; tell me where you died when you turned worse".
The greater of the ancient flame's horns thinned,
Swaying, quivering, rustling as if in wind.
We had thus both seen the tip of it fly
Back and forth and, as if the tongue's own cry,
The flame took on a voice and said: "When I
'scaped Circe's year-long hold near Gaeta
(Not so named till named so by Aenea),
Although I was fond of my son and loyal
To my revered aging sire and aboil,
Through love, to joy my wife, naught could spoil
My wish to know the world and know the dearth
Of man's goodness, but also know his worth.
So I set out on the deep and open sea
With just one ship and with that company,
Not many, who had not deserted me.
Far as Morocco, far as Spain I scanned
Both shores; I saw Sardinia's island strand
And all the sea and every wave-girt land.
We were tired and old, I and every mate,
When finally we reached the narrow strait
Where Hercules set signal pillars fast
To warn men that it must not e'er be passed;
Yet we, Seville passed on the right, were reft
Of Ceuta we'd sighted on the left.
'Brothers, though countless perils have oppressed'
I cried to them, 'we've won at last the west;
While we yet live we'll see what seas afford
behind the sun; we'll probe the unexplored.
We Greeks weren't born to live like mindless brutes;
Knowledge and worth must be your preferred routes'.
My short short speech had so inspired my crew
I'd not stopped them e'en had I wanted to.
And with our stern turned to the morning light
We made our oars our wings for that mad flight,
Gaining distance, always shunning the right.
Night now already knew th' other pole's stars;
Ours was so low 'twas far below the spars.
Five times since we'd first ventured on the main
The moon had waxed, only to wane again;
We saw a distant, darkened mountain soar,
A mountain such as never seen before.
Our joy at the new land soon turned to grief;
A wind battered the ship without relief.
We were thrice whirled within the churning swell;
The stern's then high, the bows deep in a well,
A sight full fain to please the lord of hell;
The sea then closed above us was our knell".
Canto 27
Bid by the bard, the flame was near en route,
Although he was still still and straight and mute.
Another came behind the one before;
His crest gave out a jangle like a roar.
As a roarer he was quite as powerful
As its fool cause in Sicily's brazen bull.
Its victim (he and others) cried amain,
Hid; you'd deem the fake bull, not him, in pain.
Here too, since he from whom the cruel cries came
Was hid, the sender seemed to be the flame.
The sound heard was the same when in the air
As that the sinner sent inside his lair.
We heard: "You here, whose tongue is Lombardine,
Said: 'You may move; you'll hear no more of mine'.
Though I've not come before (I've not felt free)
Be pleased, I beg, to pause and speak with me;
Although on fire, I willingly agree.
If 'tis Italy I wronged you've left behind
For this dark dismal region of the blind,
Say, are the Romagnols at peace or war?
I'm from near Urbino, where mountains pour
The floods that form the mighty Tiber's store".
I was still bending forward and listening through;
My guide touched my side and gave me my cue:
"This man is Italian, so I need you".
I'd prepared what I was about to say
And so I spoke to him without delay:
"O soul, you whom dense covering shrouds embay,
Romagna's tyrants' wars were still concealed -
They were not yet, when I came here, revealed.
Ravenna bears what it's long had to bear;
The eagle of Polenta broods up there,
Covering all of Cervia from his lair.
The land that stood the test of long long wars
And left the paltroon French piled in its paws
Is once again beneath the verdant claws.
Verucchio's stale old Mastiff and the fresh,
Who kept Montagna in their muddled mesh,
Still sink their fangs into their people's flesh.
Faenza and Imola are in thrall
To the lion cub emblazoned in white stall
Who changes sides when spring changes to fall.
And as for those whose town Savio laves,
Just as they lie twixt plains and mountain caves,
They are themselves now freemen and now slaves.
And now I beg you tell us of your birth;
I gave your wish, so mine is but my worth;
So shall your fame e'er hold its own on earth".
And when the fire had roared in its own way
Awhile, the flame's sharp tip began to sway
This way and that and then had this to say:
"If I thought I were speaking to a soul
Who might return to see the sky's pure pole
This flame would flicker not; 'twould have no role.
But since no one, if what I've heard is true,
Ever returns alive from his deep stew,
With no fear of any shame I answer you:
I was a man of arms and then a friar,
Believing that the cord would turn God's ire,
And this were more than just a pious hope
Were it not for that cursed cursed man the pope.
He put me back among my old sins; I
Want, if you'll hear, to tell you how and why.
While alive, though still true human stock's,
No lion, I was in every way a fox.
Coverts and wiles - I knew them for a fact,
And so employed my time that every act
Of mine spread to the earth's remotest tract.
But when I reached the age when it is meet
For every sailor, with his port to greet,
To lower the sail and gather in the sheet,
That which had pleased offended me; contrite,
Confessed, I took the habit; if only tight
Good means of grace had served to set me right!
War with his men pleased the prince of the new
Pharisees; he did not chose to pursue
A holy war with Saracen or Jew,
No conquerors of Acri, none of those,
No traders in the Sultan's realm; he chose
None but his fellow Christians as his foes.
His high post, his holy orders, stayed unseen,
As the cord to make me not fat but lean.
Constantine sought Sylvester for a cause;
He left Mount Soracte to heal his yaws.
So too the pope now drew me to his side
To cure his burning fever caused by pride.
He asked me to advise him. I was mute -
His words were drunk. Then he renewed his suit:
'The sins you shall commit, they are absolved.
How can Palestrina's problem be solved?
My predecessor dulled the Keys none denies
Can open and unopen God's own skies'.
So forceably had he thus pressed his suit
I deemed it a far worse choice to be mute.
'Father, you absolve me from my future sin'
Said I, 'false promises shall surely win
Much renown for a mighty paladin'.
Saint Francis came to get me when I died,
But one of the sable Cherubim cried:
'Touch not one whom I have already eyed.
Let him come and join every other thrall.
No hint he gave was any good at all;
I have already had him by the hair;
Forgiveness sans repentance is unfair.
'tis contradictory; one cannot repent
Of one's sins and at the same time consent'.
When he was near me I began to shrink;
Then he: 'You never thought that I could think'.
He bore me off for Minos to inquire.
He made his tail his hard back's eightfold gyre
And then he chewed it in his raging ire,
'This is a sinner for the thievish fire'
He cried. So you see me, food for the pyre,
Moving, lamenting, clad in this attire".
His story told, and ceasing not to mourn,
The pained flame departed and, while so borne,
Swayed to and fro and tossed his pointed horn.
We left him and passed on, I and my guide,
Climbing right up the ridge until astride
The arch that spans the ditch where what is owed
Is paid to those whose rupturing earns their load.
Canto 28
Who could, e'en in the simplest kind of prose,
Describe in full the scene of blood and blows
That I saw now - no matter what he chose!
'tis sure that no tongue at all could prevail;
When pain is such, men's minds and words must fail.
If one could bring together all who wilt,
Who once upon Puglia's fateful silt
Grieved for their life's blood that the Romans spilt
And spilt again in the long years of war
Which gave great spoils of golden rings and more
(As Livy tells us in his most truthful store)
And pile them with the ones who felt the blows
Of Robert Guiscard, whom they dared oppose,
And others still in heaps at Cepriano,
Puglian traitors - add too Tagliacozzo,
Which saw th' unarmed victor old Alardo,
If pierced or maimed limbs of every wan wight
Were combined, there'd be nothing in the fight
To rival the ninth foul bag's bloody sight.
I've never in my life seen any pail
As split as this man, split from top to tail.
Between his legs the dangling entrails hung,
With the foul sack that turns food into dung.
He looked at me, both hands opening his chest
(While I stared at his misery) and confessed:
"'tis from my tearing my misery is born;
See how Mahomed is deformed and torn!
Ali walks before, weeping without rest,
His face cleft from his chin up to his crest.
Scandal and schism sowers fill this pit;
Since they split others, they themselves are split.
Whenever we pass him o'er there we're scored
Savagely by a cruel devil's sharp sword;
Seeing the wounds which each one bore before
Are all healed, he opens them up once more.
But who are you upon the bridge, bemused,
In hopes t' escape your fate, though self accused?"
"Not dead as yet nor brought here as a prey
To cleanse his guilt" I heard my master say,
"But here to gain experience of the way.
I, dead, will see he's brought ('tis truth I tell)
Gyre by gyre to the direst depths of hell".
At this more than a hundred stopped to gaze,
Forgetting their agony in their amaze.
"Tell Fra Dolcino, when you're back and free,
Unless he wants to be here soon with me,
To stockpile food unless he wants to freeze
To let the Navarrese beat him with ease".
When Mahomed had had these words to say,
Stretching his foot out, he moved away.
Another, one-eared, with no nose to note,
And sporting a hole pierced through his throat,
Who had stopped (his wonder forced him to stare)
Now stepped out from all the others to bare
His throat, which ran with crimson everywhere,
And spoke to me: "You whom guilt does not brand,
Unless your face has been too quickly scanned,
I know I've seen you in the Latin land,
Think of Pier da Medicina again
Should you return to see the gentle plain
Sloping from Vercelli to Marcarbo
And inform the two best men of Fano,
The noble Guido and Angiolello,
That, if our foresight here be not all in vain,
They'll be hurled in a sack into the main
Near Cattolica, through a lord's disdain;
Twixt Cyprus and Majorca none durst wreak
Such havoc e'er, whether pirate or Greek.
That one-eyed traitor ruling the demesne
That someone here wishes he'd never seen -
They'll find that no prayer will ever avail
T' escape destruction by Focara's gale;
Parleying with him, no need to waste their breath
On such; they'll already have met their death".
I: "If fain I tell those who see the light,
Show the man sated with the bitter sight".
Straight he seized the jaws of a nearby brute
And, squeezing his mouth half open to suit,
He announced: "Here he is, and he is mute.
In exile he told Caesar that doubts cost
And said, to help him when the die was tossed:
'Though prepared, he who hesitates is lost'".
As helpless and bewildered as a stoat,
His tongue hacked off as far down as the throat,
This Curio, once so bold and quick to gloat!
And one who had both arms but had no hand
Raised the gory stumps in the filthy land,
Dripping blood his face could not withstand.
He cried: "You remember Mosca, who swore:
'What happened in the past is now all o'er'.
So sowing for Tuscans the seeds of war".
"And death to all your clan" I quickly said,
And he, this fresh dread added to his dread,
Turned like one maddened by his pain and fled.
But I remained to watch the throng and there
I saw what I'd hesitate to declare
Without more proof - indeed I would not dare,
Did not a quite blameless conscience avail,
That trusty companion that can engrail
One's self worth on one like a coat of mail.
I saw, for sure, a headless trunk and seem
To see it still ('tis my own endless theme)
Just like the others of that dismal team.
He held his severed head up by its hair,
One hand swinging it like a light in air
And it looked upon us in dire despair.
From his own self he made a light, one who
Then was both two in one and one in two;
How so? Only he who so set it knew.
And when he had arrived below our pier
He raised the arm that held the head up clear
So that it could thus speak to us from near.
"Now see my grievous punishment" it said;
"Nowhere could there be ever aught more dread,
You who, still living. come to see the dead.
I tell you this, that up there you may sing
Of me; I am Bertran de Born, the thing,
Th' evil counsellor of the youthful king.
Who made the father and the son enemies? I.
Achitophel did no more with his lie;
He made Absalom and David comply.
Because I sundered those that should be one
I'm doomed to bear my brain (now this is done)
Cleft from the trunk whence all its life should run.
This is my punishment, second to none".
Canto 29
My stunned eyes are so drunk when they espy
Such grim wounds they want but to stay and cry.
But Virgil said: "Why is't that you stare so
At those wretched broken Shadows below?
Not so at other ditches; are you bound
To count them all? 'tis twenty two miles round.
The time that's left is short; the moon has set;
There's more to see than you have seen as yet".
"Had you but waited", I began to say,
"To find out the reason for my delay
I think perhaps you would have let me stay".
I trailed; my guide had started on before;
I added: "Somewhere on that rocky floor
One of my kin runs mid those whom I saw,
Weeping the guilt for which he pays much more".
And then my master told me: "From today
Think not of him; think ahead; let him stay;
He's Geri de Bello; I heard his name;
He was there under the bridge when you came;
His pointed finger was a feeble threat;
He is a man you can safely forget.
You, so absorbed in Altaforte's lord,
Spared no glance for him, so he left, ignored".
I: "My master, the violent death he died,
Avenged by none of us, has touched his pride;
'twas this that made him mute, made him recoil
From me though I, I know, am truly loyal".
Thus we till the next bag's bridge, for a sight
Right down - but 'twas shrouded in nullest night.
At Malebolge's final round we view
Its lay brotherhood, a wild wailing crew.
I had to clap my hands upon my ears,
Struck as they were by pity's probing spears.
July to September in Maremma,
Valdichiana and Sardinia
Could not have more sick in every sick niche
Than rot here crammed together in one ditch.
The smell of misery here was far from fresh,
Such as could only come from rotting flesh.
Still keeping to our left, we made our way
Down the long bridge to the final entree;
The bottom was now no longer a blur;
I saw the Lord's own judge, who cannot err,
Mete punishments falsifiers incur.
Plague turned all life in Aegina to goo;
Ants, bards say, begot men and life anew.
Aegina's putrid people pools a curse?
What this dismal den displayed was even worse.
Some moved along that squalid pit on haunch,
Some sprawled out on another's back or paunch.
We moved and looked and heard the sick speak, mute;
Some tried to rise, but had no strength to suit.
Two leaned on each other, support the cause,
Like pans propped back to back where a fire roars,
And they were blotched from head to foot with yaws.
I've never seen horse combed by a lad that knew
His master waits or bed is overdue
They way they tore their flesh, desperate to ease
Th' itching that's an incurable disease.
As knives strip fish like bream with great coarse scales,
Their nails kept stripping down their scurfy shales.
My leader to one: "You're one who aspires
To scrape mail scabs and make your fingers pliers;
Any Latian here? Answer what I ask -
Your scraping will e'er be an easy task".
One sobbed: "We gargoyles are of Latian crew;
But you, who ask about us, who are you?"
"I go bank to bank" I heard my guide tell;
"Thus shall I haul him through the whole of hell".
Propped no more, they looked at me and stirred
And shook, as others who had overheard.
Come close: "Say what you will" my good guide pressed;
And I began, since such was his behest:
"By your fervent hopes that your names not fade
In that first world, but be for e'er portrayed
And live for many suns, be not afraid
To tell me who and whence you both may be,
Nor let your sad and shameful state decree
That you may not unfold yourselves to me".
One thus began (an Aretine, I learned)
"Albero of Siena had me burned;
'tis not for that my cruel fate is earned.
'tis true I told the fool one day for fun:
'I can take wings and fly', at which he, one
Full of wild whims, with addled wits, or none,
Would have me teach him how this thing was done,
But, with his role as Daedalus unwon,
He had me burned by one who called him son.
For alchemy unerring Minos cast
Me into the bag here, the tenth, the last".
The I: "The Sienese are my despair;
Even the foolish French cannot compare".
Th' other with yaws, who had heard, replied: "Waive
Stricca, one who really knew how to save,
And Niccolo, of course, who first found out
The costly cult of cloves (this none can doubt)
In gardens where such seeds take root and sprout,
And surely too that fashionable pit
Where Caccia squandered woods and vines, the twit,
And Abbagliato flaunted his great wit!
So you will know on whom you may rely
Against the Sienese, 'tis I you'll eye;
My face will then give you its own reply;
You will know Capocchio's Shadow's face,
Alchemist, making costly from the base.
If you are you, you'll know my little jape,
How I was nature's most accomplished ape.
Canto 30
Of old, Semele could full oft inspire
Royal Juno with anti-Theban ire.
She turned Athamas so wild mad that he,
Deeming his wife and sons, in his malady,
Were what they weren't, cried out in savage glee:
(She had them in her arms) "Let nets be cast
Ere the lioness and her cubs have passed".
His son Learchus seized, each hand a claw,
He whirled him round and smashed him on the tor.
She drowned with th' other son, cut to the core.
And when the wheel of fortune durst destroy
Both king and kingdom of once lofty Troy,
Hecuba saw her Polyxena slain,
Polydorus unburied by the main,
Leaving her, a childless slave, e'er in pain.
So she, now mad from griping grief, was found
In a fell frenzy, howling like a hound.
But ne'er in Thebes or Troy were mad men seen
Attacking beast or human, quite as keen
As two Shadows I saw rage-pale and nude,
Running, snapping crazily at all they viewed,
Like pigs just broken from their pens, miscued.
One sank his teeth into Capocchio's nape;
The rocky ground soon made his belly scrape.
The trembling Aretine: "That madman there
Is Gianni Schichi; 'tis his joy to tear".
I: "Who's the other? Tell me ere its flight
I beg you, by your hope it'll never bite".
He: "The storied Myrrha, full fain to blend
Against love's laws, too much her father's friend -
She goes to him in love and there she errs,
Pretending that her body is not hers.
In the same way the one whom you see there
As Buoso Donati dared to prepare
A false will giving himself the queen mare".
The rabid pair I'd ever eyed progressed;
I turned my eyes so as to watch the rest.
I saw one there whose shape was like a lute,
Had not his legs been lopped off at the root.
The unmatched humours caused the face to craunch;
The bloating dropsy swelled the monstrous paunch;
One lip curled up, th' other sagged to his chin
Like one whose thirst gives him a ghoulish grin.
Then he: "You who (I can't think why) remain
Quite unpunished within this world of pain,
I, Adamo, above was ever first,
But here below I all but die of thirst.
Each little stream that ripples from the hills
Of Casentino to the Arno fills
Their channels with its soft and cooling rills.
My horror cravings for them far outpace
The sickness that has dried my shrivelled face.
Relentless Justice, my most baleful bane,
Uses the place that saw me sin amain
To draw from me ever new sighs of pain.
Romena's there, the same town where I learned
To forge the Baptist's coin; for this I earned
Fierce condemnation and my body burned.
Could I but see Alexander's suffering
Or Guido's or their brother's in this ring
I'd not exchange the sight for Branda's spring.
One of them is already here inside
If the mad souls that rush here haven't lied;
But what avail is that, with my legs tied?
If only excess weight could disappear!
I'd move one inch in every hundredth year;
My start from here would then be overdue;
I'd find him somewhere in this gruesome crew,
Although eleven miles circle this fosse
And it's at least a half a mile across.
They brought me to this gang of ruin and loss;
'twas they that gave me florins to emboss
Whose gold contained three carats weight of dross".
I to him: "I see two there, lying low,
Steam like wet hands when winter is the foe,
Close to your right; who are they? Do you know?"
"I poured into this ditch; I found them there"
He answered, "and they've not gone anywhere;
And so I think that they'll stay here for e'er.
One's Joseph's false accuser, th' other's Greek,
Sinon, false to Troy; fever makes them reek".
One, displeased when so named, turned on his haunch
And struck him with his fist on his hard paunch,
Which boomed like a drum; Adam let him know
His fist could give his face as hard a blow.
He: "Though my swollen legs move not with ease
I have an arm fit for such times as these".
Th' other: "Not so fit when the fire was gorged
With your flesh, but far fitter when you forged".
The dropsical: "The truth you now employ
Was not so much in evidence at Troy".
"Nor in your coins; I'm here for what I tell,
But you for more than any fiend in hell".
So Sinon; the fat paunch: "What of the mare,
You perjurer; the whole world knows 'twas there".
The Greek: "May you thirst, burning your tongue dry,
And rot with ooze that swells your paunch so high".
To whom the coiner: "Your foul mouth gapes wide
And pours out as e'er a most filthy tide;
I thirst and humours swell me up inside;
You have a fever and a headache too;
Hence, to lick Narcissus' watery view,
The words you'd want t' invite you would be few".
The words they poured engrossed my eager soul;
My guide: "Stop or I'll lose all self control".
I turned to him, ashamed, hearing his tone;
Shame fills me still, though all those years have flown.
As one asleep, with trouble as his theme,
Wishes that what he feels were but a dream,
So I, with my words powerless to show
Regret, yet did so, though I did not know.
"Let sadness cease; less shame would pay for flaws
(So my master) far far greater than yours.
Now, if you should ever meet up with men
Wrangling as futilely as this again,
Remember I am ever at your side;
To have a taste for talk like this is snide".
Canto 31
The very tongue that first spoke pierced my brain,
Making the blood to cheeks rush up amain,
Then gave the remedy to ease the pain.
Just so, as I have heard, Achilles' spear,
That had belonged to his father, could steer
To the one it struck, first pain, then cheer.
Leaving that sad pit, we took as our route
The bank that walls it in, both walking mute.
Less light than day but more than night was shed;
My eyes could see, but not much, far ahead;
But then I heard the blast of some high horn
Which would have made e'en thunder seem withdrawn;
It drew my eyes directly to one course
As they retraced the sound's path to its source.
When Charlemagne, routed, had seen the last
Of his true paladins (their life had passed)
Not even Roland blew so dire a blast.
My straining sight, still turned that way, soon scours
What seem to me to be high clustered towers.
I: "Guide, a town ahead?" He: "Because you,
Piercing the gloom, take much too long a view,
You take (not so?) the false to be the true.
Full well, when you are there, shall you espy
How strangely distance can delude the eye;
So set the spurs your dire need shall supply".
He then took my hand in his and said: "I
Tell you what may seem like a subterfuge;
They are not towers, but men, though huge.
They are standing around the bank, encased
In a well and hidden below the waist".
As, when the denser fog has finally passed,
You see some of the sights it hid at last,
So, as we neared the well, piercing that stew,
My error left me and my terror grew.
Just as curved-walled Montereggion lours
O'er those below with huge high-soaring towers,
The half seen giants flank the bank round the well;
'tis they whom thundering Jove e'er threats to quell.
Face, shoulders, chest of one were now descried,
Most of the paunch and th' arms down by his side.
Nature in truth did wisely when she chose
To stop making beings so grandiose
And let Mars lack executants like those.
If she repents not elephants or whales,
Whoso looks subty at the case unveils
How prudently her judgement trims the scales,
Since, when the instrument of thinking mind
Is joined to strength and malice, none will find
What might avail to meet those powers combined.
As large and long his face seemed, to my sense,
As Peter's Pine at Rome; he was immense.
Above the well he had so much to spare
That three tall Frisians could not reach his hair.
'tis true, since from the place at which a man's
Cloak is clasped, he measured full thirty spans.
"Raphel mai amech zabi almi" -
The brute began to shout this prodigy
In tones too harsh for sweeter psalmody.
My guide: "Stick to your horn, you stupid soul,
When rage or other passions pass control.
Its strap is round your neck and it is pressed,
You of souls the most confused, to your chest".
He: "His words accuse him; his overreach
(He's Nimrod) took away our common speech.
Let us not waste our breath; let's let him drowse;
We no more know his tongue than he knows ours".
So, turning to the left beside the wall,
We went perhaps a cross-bow shot, to call
On a second giant, still more fierce and tall.
I do not know what master hand could bind
Him thus, but there he stood, where you could find
His left hand in front and the right behind.
An iron chain there held him closely wound
Down from the neck; and on the portion found
Above the brink the turns went five times round.
"This beast of pride decided that his tries
Would be against the great lord of the skies"
My leader said, "and he has won his prize.
He's Ephialtes, who thought he would score
When the giants rose to make the gods full frore;
The arms he lifted then he lifts no more".
"If I can" said I, "I would like to sight
Briareus' immeasurable might".
"Not far from here" he answered, "you will win
Sight of Antaeus who speaks, wears no gin
And will bear us to the very pit of sin.
Very far off is he whom you would fain
See; like this he's fettered and his disdain
Is as this one's, but twice as fierce again".
No earthquake, howe'er violent, ever took
A tower as Ephialtes' fury shook.
If his chains were not now in full sight
I would most certainly have died of fright.
We went on, to Antaeus, whose trunk rose
Five cloth-yards above where the well top shows.
"You saw in the famed vale Scipio prevail
And Hannibal and all his sad hosts fail;
You once bore off a thousand lions for prey
And, if you and your brothers durst waylay
The hosts of Heaven, some folk (it seems) still say
The sons of the Earth would have won the day;
Disdain me not; your grip can make us go
To where the ice stems Cocytus' flow.
Let Tityus and Typhon be forgot;
Yes, bend down to us instead and scowl not;
This man can give you all your longed for lot.
Above, he will live long and give you fame,
If Grace asserts not an untimely claim".
My master thus; the great giant opened wide
The mighty hands whose strong grip, undenied,
Once took great Hercules, and took my guide.
Virgil, when he felt the grasping hands, cried:
"I'll clasp you". We're a single burden, tied.
As Carisenda looks to one below
On the leaning side, watching a cloud go
Drifting o'er against its slant, swimming slow,
So Antaeus seemed to me, bending, tall
As I looked up, expecting him to fall.
The way I'd ta'en began then to appal.
But he put us carefully into our goal,
Satan's and Judas' devouring hole.
And then the huge leaning giant. leaving fast,
Drew himself up as tall as a ship's mast.
Canto 32
Had I but rhymes rugged and harsh and hoarse,
Fit for the hideous hole on which the force
Of all those rocks grinds downwards course by course,
I could squeeze my memory's drops to the last;
But since I don't, they must for now be passed.
To tell of the universe's core's far
From a task for those who pipe: "Ma, papa".
May each muse who helped Amphion embay
Lofty Thebes with a stone wall aid my lay,
So that what I saw may be what I say.
Worst crew, that crowd this realm, hard e'en to note,
'twere better had you each been sheep or goat.
We're down in the deep of the darkling well,
E'en lower than the giant's secluded cell;
I gaze up at the towering walls of hell,
And hear it said: "Take heed how you now go,
For fear your feet should trample as a foe
The heads of the wan brotherhood of woe".
I turn and see what's more like a glass sheet
Than ice stretched endlessly beneath my feet.
Austria's Danube's ice ne'er wears such a guise,
Nor does the Don beneath its frigid skies.
E'en Tambernic's or Pictrapana's fall
Would not have cracked e'en its edges at all.
As frogs croak, muzzles peeping from the streams,
When harvests haunt a village woman's dreams,
E'en so these frigid livid Shadows froze
Up to the place where a person's shame shows;
Their teeth clicked notes like those when storks' beaks close.
Each kept his face fixed in a downward hold;
The eyes showed sadness and the mouth the cold.
I looked around and then down and my stare
Found beside my feet two clasped close, a pair
Who appeared to have but one set of hair.
I: "Who are you, so close you form a skein?"
They stretched a neck and raised a face entrain.
Their eyes, which were but inly wet till then,
Gushed at the lids; the fierce frost formed a pen
Which joined the eyes and sealed them shut again.
Wood was not joined to wood so close with wire;
They butted like two goats filled full with ire.
One said (his ears frozen off and his scarred
Head seen in ice): "Why look at us so hard?"
If you would have the two of them made known,
The vale whence down-flowing Bisenzio's shown
Was first their father Albert's, then their own.
They're brothers; search all Cahina and you
Will find no Shadows fitter for this stew,
Not him to whom the spear which Arthur spun
Gave a hole whence his shadow showed the sun,
Not Focaccia, not even this one too,
Whose head is in my way and blocks my view;
He - Sassol Mascheroni is his name -
The whole of Tuscany flaunts his fame.
I'm Camicion de' Pazzi; I await
Carlin; my sins seem small, since his are great".
Further, I saw many a cold doglike head,
Whence seeing frozen ponds fills me with dread.
I felt th' eternal chill, nearing the core
Of the universe, which is all weights' draw.
Whether by will or fate or choice 'twas done,
I saw some heads I was most keen to shun,
But struck my foot hard on the face of one.
Weeping, he railed at me: "Why kick me? Why
Molest me now, unless to magnify
The vengeance wreaked for Montiperti?" I:
"My master, when I've done what I desire
I'll be as rapid as you could require".
My leader stopped and I, intent again
On him who still cursed fiercely, cried out: "When,
When will you stop abusing other men?"
So I, and he: "Why, who are you to go
Through Antenora kicking faces so?
You might be living, 'twas so shrewd a blow".
"I am alive" I said - a quite true claim -
"And it might serve you well, if you seek fame,
If you would just let me note down your name".
Then he to me: "'tis the reverse I crave;
'tis not the way to fawn in this concave;
Go! You have no idea how to behave".
At this I grasped the scruff behind his head:
"You'll either tell or name or else, instead,
Your hair'll be stripped" I panted, "shred by shred".
"Pluck it all out" said he, "I'll not declare
My name or show my face, although you swear
To break my head a thousand times. So there".
I had his hair twined tightly in my fist
And taken a tuft or two (I'd not missed),
He head down, yelping, desperate to resist,
When another yelled: "Hey, Bocca, what's to do?
There's far too much jaw noise coming from you.
And why the devil must you start barking too?"
Then I: "No need for speech to be your aim,
You vicious traitor! Now I know your name
I'll see that the whole world hears of your shame".
"Be off" he snarled, "and what you will, proclaim;
But, if you go, tell of a man of fame -
He's here from whom that last glib utterance came.
He rues French silver here, a traitor's fees;
Say: 'I saw him of Duera with these
Men here, with the sinners laid out to freeze'.
Should you be asked who else was here in view,
There's Beccheria by you, whom Florence slew
When they hacked his gullet's gorget right through.
Ganellone's and Tebaldello's sept
Is where Gianni del Soldanier is kept;
He 'twas opened Faenza while it slept".
Soon after leaving him I saw a soul
Frozen with another in but one hole;
One poll formed the cap on the other's poll.
The top one savaged with his teeth and fed
On the one below as the starved chew bread,
Just where the brain and spinal marrow wed.
With no more furious zest did Tydeus gnaw
The scalp of Menalippus than he wore
The brain-pan and the other tissues raw.
Then I: "You who so bestially sate
Your rage with bites upon the head you hate,
I promise this, that if you tell me why
And this is something you can justify,
Once I know who you are and this one's crime,
I'll repay your trust in the higher clime,
Unless my tongue wither before my time".
Canto 33
This soul first wiped off his lips' messy spread
On the hair remaining on the chewed head
On which he had so horrendously fed.
Then he to me: "You want me to explain
Something which I dread to tell of again;
E'en thinking it fills me with piercing pain.
But speak I will, through tears, if 'twill bring shame
On this betrayer whom my wide jaws claim.
I know not who you are or why you're here,
Save that you are Florentine - 'tis quite clear
If I can trust the witness of my ear.
I'm Count Ugolino, my neighbour here
Archbishop Ruggieri, pure evil's peer.
That once I trusted him and that I fell
Into the snare that he contrived so well
And so was seized and slain, I need not tell.
I will tell of humanity denied,
Plain from considering how cruelly I died.
A narrow loophole in the dreadful den
Called 'Famine' after me, which shall be a pen
(I am quite certain) yet for many men,
Had filtered through to me the pallid gleams
Of many changing moons, before her beams
Unveiled the future to my haunted dreams.
I saw this man, lord and master of might
Chasing the wolf and wolf cubs on the height
Which shuts out Lucca from the Pisans' sight;
His dogs were lean, their discipline was tight.
The leaders of the pack were Gualandi,
And also Sismondi and Lanfranchi.
I saw how sire and sons wearied and sank
After a short quick run; I saw the swank
Sharp teeth that tore the bleeding throat and flank.
And, waking early ere the dawn was red,
I heard my sons who were with me, in bed
Weeping aloud and crying out for bread.
Think how my heart misgave! Yes, if you keep
From tears, at what then are you wont to weep?
They woke at the food hour; dread was the theme
For us all of every deluding dream.
Then at the foot of that grim tower I heard,
Far below, the gate nailer's hammer's dird;
I gazed in my sons' eyes without a word.
I did not weep; inside, I turned to clay;
They wept; I heard my Anselmuccio say:
'What is't father? Why do you look that way?'
I shed no tear nor answered all that day
Nor the next night either, till its decay
Gave us the sun; and, when the first faint ray
Stole through into that dismal cell of stone,
And, eyeing those four faces, I was shown
In every one the image of my own,
I gnawed at both my hands for misery;
They, thinking hunger was the malady,
And naught else, rose at once and said to me:
'Our father, it will give us much less pain
If you'll feed on us; your gift, our domain,
Is this sad flesh, so strip it off again'.
To spare them grief I calmed myself. Earth, brute,
No pity then? Could you not gape to suit?
That day and the next all of us sat mute.
It was the fourth day; I heard Gaddo cry:
(He dropped down at my feet) 'My father, why
Do you not help me?' and, so saying, die.
I swear by our converse here, now begun,
When the fifth and the sixth day had both run,
I saw the other three fall one by one.
Blind, I fumbled for them, though dead. Day two,
And famine did what sorrow could not do".
He ceased and rolled his eyes, squinting, and sped
To plant his teeth which, like a dog's, e'er fed
Upon a bone, back in the wretched head.
O Pisa, blot of shame upon those found
In that fair land where men hear the 'si' sound,
Since neighbours' punishment of you is slow,
Let Capraia and Gorgona both go
And dam the river Arno's gentle glide
And let all Pisans perish in the tide!
Though Ugolino betray every tower,
You had no right to make his children cower.
Uguccione and Briganta too, they
And those two named already in my lay,
O New Thebes, being new born, must not pay.
We passed to another harsh frozen race
And saw the anguish on each upturned face.
There the mere weeping will not let them weep,
Since grief, which the eyes will never let seep,
Turns inward to make anguish drive more deep.
There the first tears, ere they have congealed, pass
Into the eyes and form a screen like glass.
And now, although, as from a calloused place,
Because of the cold which made me grimace,
All feeling had departed from my face,
I felt as 'twere a wind begin to go
And so I said: "Master, what makes it blow?
Is not all heat extinguished here below?"
He: "We're near the place where you will know the cause;
It flows from there; th' answer will soon be yours".
And one of the ones whom the frost holds fast
Cried out: "O souls so wicked that of vast
Hell's savage posts you hold the very last,
Rend from my frozen eyes this rigid pall
And give some small relief from pains that maul,
Once, though my tears refreeze before they fall".
Then I: "Tell me your name; that is my price
For help; and, if my help does not suffice,
May I drop to the bottom of the ice".
And he: "I am friar Aberigo, he
Of the evil garden's fruits; as my fee
Dates for my figs are given back to me".
I: "Then are you already dead?" He replied:
"I know not if I live there or have died.
Tolomea is strange, since souls oft fall
Here ere the time of Atropos' call.
And, if 'twill persuade you to take away
These glazing tears, my face's own inlay,
Know, when a soul has chosen to betray,
As I did, it's ousted by a false friend,
Who takes and rules the body till he's kenned
Its term of years has circled to its end.
'tis into this cistern that each soul's thrown;
The body's on earth; here's Shadow alone,
Wintering right here right behind my own.
You must know if you're just come down, since he's
Ser Branca d' Oria; years have passed ere these
Since he was thus shut up down here to freeze".
"I think" said I, "that these are pure deceits,
Since Branca d' Oria yet lives; death defeats
Him not; he's clothed and sleeps and drinks and eats".
"In the ditch where the Malebranche bide"
He answered, "Michael Zanche's not yet eyed,
Boiling and bubbling in the tarry tide,
When this man left a devil in his room,
In his flesh and in that kinsman's flesh, whom
He joined with himself in deceit and doom.
And now you must stretch forth your hand to me
And so free my eyes" - which I did not free,
Since churlishness to him was courtesy.
O Genoa, where hearts corrupt and rot,
Where vice abounds and decency is not,
Let's hound your tribe from earth and purge this blot,
Since, mid those of Romagna's vilest birth
I saw a man of yours quite void of worth.
Although on earth his body is still found
He has a soul whom Cocytus has drowned.
Canto 34
"Vexilla regis prodeunt inferni";
(My guide) "Look now and see if you can see".
As through a gloom, when a dense fog exhales
Or in our hemisphere darkness prevails,
We see far off a mill with turning sails;
It was that that I thought the darkness gave;
I shrank back as the wind gusts made it wave,
Behind my master; who but he would save?
I stood (with fear I write it) where at last
The Shadows, covered by the frozen cast,
Gleamed through the ice like straws that crystal's glassed.
Some lay, some stood, with feet or head below;
Some were bent face to feet, most like a bow.
We we'd gone far enough, he felt it right
To show the Dark One once so full of light.
He stepped aside and, stopping me, said: "Here
Is Dis; 'tis here you must cast off all fear".
My courage fled; my fears all grew and grew;
For them, all the world's words were far too few.
I was in the midst of both states; strive
To picture it - not dead yet not alive.
The king of all of antiparadise
Stuck out with half his chest above the ice.
Think how huge his arms were! Mine compares
Better to giants' heights than his to theirs.
If his arms are so huge, how his whole scares!
He was as fair as he is now crime's chief;
He once dared contest his own maker's fief;
So 'tis but fitting he's the source of grief.
How shocked I was when I looked up to see
His head - it was one, but his faces three!
Th' other two, one at each shoulder, were wed
To the main one, which was vermilion red,
And they were joined at the top of his head.
The right side one blended yellow with white,
The left was Nilotic, black as the night.
Beneath each face two mighty wings were passed,
The size expected of a bird so vast
(I've never seen a ship with larger mast)
Not feathered ones but what a bat would wear;
He formed three winds by flapping them for e'er,
Making Cocytus ever icy and bare.
Tears mixed with bloody slaver rise and rise,
To fall down three chins wet by his six eyes.
Each mouth devoured a sinner clenched within,
Frayed by the fangs like flax beneath a gin;
Three at a time he tortured them for sin.
But all the bites the one in front might take
Were naught beside the claws that were his rake,
That sometimes stripped his back to the last flake.
"That wretch up there whom keenest pangs divide
Is Judas called Iscariot" said my guide,
"His head within, his jerking legs outside;
As for the other two whose heads hang out,
Brutus is that black face's hanging sprout;
Mute despair makes him squirm and writhe about.
And strong-thewed Cassius is his fellow thrall.
But come; above, the sun is near his fall
Once more; we must go; we have seen it all".
While we watched, waiting for the time and place,
I held on to his neck; 'twas his ukase.
And when the Satan's wings were opened wide
He straightway seized, to climb, his shaggy side.
And thus from shag to shag he made his climb
Twixt matted hair and crusts of frozen rime.
And when we had come to where the thigh bone
Rides in its socket where the haunch is shown,
My guide made Dis' shaggy shanks his course,
Head first, with all his muscles' fiery force;
As if to climb. 'twas on the hair he fell;
I thought that we were heading back to hell.
My master, forespent and panting for air:
"Hold fast to me; but by so steep a stair
Needs must we quit this realm of deep despair".
At length, emerging through a rocky vent.
He perched me on the edge, now quite forespent,
And crawled out after, heedful how he went.
I raised my eyes and in my mind I saw
The half of Lucifer I'd seen before,
But saw but, stretching up, his legs so vast
As I stood there, dumbfounded and aghast,
As they will be, that simple-minded caste
Who fail to see what point I must have passed.
"Up on your legs" my master said, "the day
Is already at mid terce and the way
Is long and makes poor footsore feet its prey".
The place we stood in was by no means fit
For a king's palace, but a prison pit,
With a vile floor and very badly lit.
Risen, I said: "Guide, my errors appal;
Save me from them ere I leave this sheer fall.
Why's he upside down? Where's the ice withdrawn?
Why's the sun gone so fast from dusk to dawn?"
And he: "You think you're standing, as before,
Where I grasped the evil grub that durst bore,
On the north side of earth's centre, earth's core.
As long as I descended, you were there;
But when I had turned, then we passed the stair
To which all weight bears down from everywhere.
'tis in the other hemisphere you stand,
That's opposite the one covered by land.
The man whose birth and life were without fault
Came to die at the midpoint of its vault.
Both feet of yours now stand upon a place
On a spherelet; Judecca's th' other face.
Here the sun's begun, there ended his race.
He whose hairs were stairs for our downward crawl
Has not e'er changed his fixed place since his fall.
When he fell from the heavens on this side
All of the land that was once spread out wide,
Shocked by his plunge, cowered beneath the tide
And sought our hemisphere; with equal dread
It was, that peak of earth which still is spread
This side, rushed up, and so this void was fed".
There is a place low down there underground,
As far from Belzebub as his tomb's bound,
Not known to sight but only by the sound
Of a small stream which trickes down the steep,
Hollowing its path where, with gentle seep
And devious course, its wandering waters creep".
My guide and I took the dark way in quest
Of the bright world, nor, after we had pressed
Upon it, had we any thought of rest.
We mount up up, he first and I behind,
Until a small round opening lets us find
The glories that a night above unbars;
We came out thence to see once more the stars.