Canto 21

Speaking of other things my Comedy
cares not to sing, we thus from bridge to bridge
moved on, and, when upon the summit, stopped,
in order to behold the next ravine
of Malebòlgë, and the next vain cries;
and I beheld it wonderfully dark.
And just such sticky pitch as that which boils
in the Venetians’ Arsenal in winter,
for calking up again the unsound ships,
which cannot then be sailed; — instead of which,
as one a new one builds, one plugs the ribs
of that which many voyages has made;
one hammers at the stern, and at the prow another;
one fashions oars, another cordage twists,
while still another mends a jib or mainsail; —
such was the coarse, dense pitch, which, not by fire,
but by an art divine, boiled there below,
and limed the bank on every side. I saw
the pitch, but nothing in it, save the bubbles
the boiling raised, and that the whole of it
kept swelling up, and settling back compressed.

While I was gazing fixedly down yonder,
my Leader cried to me: “Beware, beware!”
and drew me to himself from where I was.
I then turned round, as one who longs to see
the thing which it behooves him to escape,
and who, when by a sudden fear unmanned,
although he sees, delays not his departure;
and I perceived behind us a black devil
come running up along the rocky crag.
Ah, how ferocious in his looks he was,
and in his actions how severe he seemed,
with wings outspread, and light upon his feet!
His shoulder, which was sharp and high, was loaded
with both a sinner’s haunches, whom he held
clutched tightly by the sinews of his feet.
“O Malebranche,” from our bridge he cried,
“here ’s one of Santa Zita’s Ancients! Put him
beneath, for I ’m for more of them returning
to that town which I have well stocked therewith;
there, save Bonturo, every one ’s a grafter;
a ‘No’ for money there becomes a ‘Yes.’”
He hurled him down, and o’er the rugged crag
returned; and never was a mastif loosed
with so much hurry to pursue a thief.
The other sank, and then rose doubled up;
those fiends, though, who were sheltered by the bridge,
cried: “Here the Holy Face availeth not!

One here swims otherwise than in the Serchio!
If, therefore, thou dost not desire our hooks,
protrude not from the surface of the pitch.”
They pricked him then with o’er a hundred prongs,
and said: “Here under cover must thou dance,
that, if thou canst, thou mayst thieve secretly.”
Not otherwise do cooks have scullions plunge
the meat with hooks into the cauldron’s midst,
to hinder it from floating on its surface.
Thereat my kindly Teacher said to me:
“That here thy presence be not known, crouch down
behind a rock, which may avail to screen thee;
and be not thou afraid, for any harm
that may be done to me, who know these things,
for I in frays like this have been before.”
He then passed on beyond the bridge’s head,
and when the sixth embankment had been reached,
he had to show assurance in his face.
With just the storm and fury wherewith dogs
break out and rush upon a poor old man,
who stops and begs at once from where he is;
from ’neath the little bridge those devils issued,
and turned against him all their grappling hooks;
but he cried out: “Be none of you malicious!
Before your grappling hooks take hold of me,
let one of you advance, and hear me speak;
then take ye counsel as to grappling me.”

Then all cried out: “Let Malacoda go!”
Thereat one started, while the rest kept still,
and, as he came, said: “What does this avail him?”
“Dost thou think, Malacoda,” said my Teacher,
“that, as thou seest, I have hither come,
safe until now from all your hindrances,
unhelped by Will Divine and favoring fate?
Let us go on, for it is willed in Heaven
that I should show another this wild road.”
Thereat his pride received so great a fall,
that at his feet he dropped his grappling hook,
and to the rest said: “Let him not be wounded.”
My Leader thereupon cried out to me:
“Thou that among the bridge’s broken rocks
art crouching, safely now regain my side.”
I therefore moved, and quickly came to him;
then all the fiends advanced so far, I feared
they would not keep their word. Even thus I once
saw infantry, who, under pledge of safety,
were from Caprona coming forth, afraid,
when ’mong so many foes they saw themselves.
Then wholly to my Leader’s side I drew,
nor from their faces, which did not look good,
did I remove my eyes. For as their prongs
they lowered, one fiend to another said:
“Wouldst thou that I should touch him on his rump?”
and they replied: “Yes, see thou nick it for him!”

But that fiend, who was with my Leader talking,
turned round at once, and said to him: “Keep still,
keep still there, Scarmiglionë!” Then to us:
“Further advance along this present crag
can not be made, because the sixth arch yonder
lies wholly shattered on the ground below;
but if it please you still to go ahead,
go on along this ridge; there is near by
another crag which furnishes a path.
Than this hour five hours later yesterday,
twelve hundred, six and sixty years had passed,
since here the path was broken. I am sending
some of my company in that direction,
to see if any yonder air themselves;
go on with them, for they will not be bad.”
“Step forward, Alichino, and Calcabrina,”
he then began to say, “thou, too, Cagnazzo;
and let old Barbariccia guide the ten.
Have Libicocco go, and Draghignazzo;
tusked Ciriatto, too, and Graffiacane,
with Farfarello and crazy Rubicante.
Search round about the boiling birdlime pitch;
let these be safe as far as that next crag,
which all unbroken goes across the dens.”
“Oh, Teacher, what is this I see?” said I.
“If thou know how, pray let us go alone,
for I request no escort for myself.

If thou as wary art as thou art wont,
dost thou not notice how they gnash their teeth,
and with their eyebrows threaten us with woe?”
And he to me: “I would not have thee frightened;
let them grin on, then, as they like, for that
they ’re doing at the wretches who are boiled.”
They wheeled, and moved along the left bank then;
but not till each, as signal toward their leader,
had first thrust out his tongue between his teeth,
and he had of his rump a trumpet made.

Courtney Langdon, translator. Full text is available at Liberty Fund.

Canto 21

Così di ponte in ponte, altro parlando
che la mia comedìa cantar non cura,
venimmo; e tenavamo ’l colmo, quando

restammo per veder l’altra fessura
di Malebolge e li altri pianti vani;
e vidila mirabilmente oscura.

Quale ne l’arzanà de’ Viniziani
bolle l’inverno la tenace pece
a rimpalmare i legni lor non sani,

ché navicar non ponno – in quella vece
chi fa suo legno novo e chi ristoppa
le coste a quel che più vïaggi fece;

chi ribatte da proda e chi da poppa;
altri fa remi e altri volge sarte;
chi terzeruolo e artimon rintoppa -:

tal, non per foco, ma per divin’ arte,
bollia là giuso una pegola spessa,
che ’nviscava la ripa d’ogne parte.

I’ vedea lei, ma non vedëa in essa
mai che le bolle che ’l bollor levava,
e gonfiar tutta, e riseder compressa.

Mentr’ io là giù fisamente mirava,
lo duca mio, dicendo «Guarda, guarda!»,
mi trasse a sé del loco dov’ io stava.

Allor mi volsi come l’uom cui tarda
di veder quel che li convien fuggire
e cui paura sùbita sgagliarda,

che, per veder, non indugia ’l partire:
e vidi dietro a noi un diavol nero
correndo su per lo scoglio venire.

Ahi quant’ elli era ne l’aspetto fero!
e quanto mi parea ne l’atto acerbo,
con l’ali aperte e sovra i piè leggero!

L’omero suo, ch’era aguto e superbo,
carcava un peccator con ambo l’anche,
e quei tenea de’ piè ghermito ’l nerbo.

Del nostro ponte disse: «O Malebranche,
ecco un de li anzïan di Santa Zita!
Mettetel sotto, ch’i’ torno per anche

a quella terra che n’è ben fornita:
ogn’ uom v’è barattier, fuor che Bonturo;
del no, per li denar vi si fa ita».

Là giù ’l buttò, e per lo scoglio duro
si volse; e mai non fu mastino sciolto
con tanta fretta a seguitar lo furo.

Quel s’attuffò, e tornò sù convolto;
ma i demon che del ponte avean coperchio,
gridar: «Qui non ha loco il Santo Volto:

qui si nuota altrimenti che nel Serchio!
Però, se tu non vuo’ di nostri graffi,
non far sopra la pegola soverchio».

Poi l’addentar con più di cento raffi,
disser: «Coverto convien che qui balli,
sì che, se puoi, nascosamente accaffi».

Non altrimenti i cuoci a’ lor vassalli
fanno attuffare in mezzo la caldaia
la carne con li uncin, perché non galli.

Lo buon maestro «Acciò che non si paia
che tu ci sia», mi disse, «giù t’acquatta
dopo uno scheggio, ch’alcun schermo t’aia;

e per nulla offension che mi sia fatta,
non temer tu, ch’i’ ho le cose conte,
perch’ altra volta fui a tal baratta».

Poscia passò di là dal co del ponte;
e com’ el giunse in su la ripa sesta,
mestier li fu d’aver sicura fronte.

Con quel furore e con quella tempesta
ch’escono i cani a dosso al poverello
che di sùbito chiede ove s’arresta,

usciron quei di sotto al ponticello,
e volser contra lui tutt’ i runcigli;
ma el gridò: «Nessun di voi sia fello!

Innanzi che l’uncin vostro mi pigli,
traggasi avante l’un di voi che m’oda,
e poi d’arruncigliarmi si consigli».

Tutti gridaron: «Vada Malacoda!»;
per ch’un si mosse – e li altri stetter fermi –
e venne a lui dicendo: «Che li approda?».

«Credi tu, Malacoda, qui vedermi
esser venuto», disse ’l mio maestro,
«sicuro già da tutti vostri schermi,

sanza voler divino e fato destro?
Lascian’ andar, ché nel cielo è voluto
ch’i’ mostri altrui questo cammin silvestro».

Allor li fu l’orgoglio sì caduto,
ch’e’ si lasciò cascar l’uncino a’ piedi,
e disse a li altri: «Omai non sia feruto».

E ’l duca mio a me: «O tu che siedi
tra li scheggion del ponte quatto quatto,
sicuramente omai a me ti riedi».

Per ch’io mi mossi, e a lui venni ratto;
e i diavoli si fecer tutti avanti,
sì ch’io temetti ch’ei tenesser patto;

così vid’ ïo già temer li fanti
ch’uscivan patteggiati di Caprona,
veggendo sé tra nemici cotanti.

I’ m’accostai con tutta la persona
lungo ’l mio duca, e non torceva li occhi
da la sembianza lor ch’era non buona.

Ei chinavan li raffi e «Vuo’ che ’l tocchi»,
diceva l’un con l’altro, «in sul groppone?».
E rispondien: «Sì, fa che gliel’ accocchi».

Ma quel demonio che tenea sermone
col duca mio, si volse tutto presto
e disse: «Posa, posa, Scarmiglione!».

Poi disse a noi: «Più oltre andar per questo
iscoglio non si può, però che giace
tutto spezzato al fondo l’arco sesto.

E se l’andare avante pur vi piace,
andatevene su per questa grotta;
presso è un altro scoglio che via face.

Ier, più oltre cinqu’ ore che quest’ otta,
mille dugento con sessanta sei
anni compié che qui la via fu rotta.

Io mando verso là di questi miei
a riguardar s’alcun se ne sciorina;
gite con lor, che non saranno rei».

«Tra’ti avante, Alichino, e Calcabrina»,
cominciò elli a dire, «e tu, Cagnazzo;
e Barbariccia guidi la decina.

Libicocco vegn’ oltre e Draghignazzo,
Cirïatto sannuto e Graffiacane
e Farfarello e Rubicante pazzo.

Cercate ’ntorno le boglienti pane;
costor sian salvi infino a l’altro scheggio
che tutto intero va sovra le tane».

«Omè, maestro, che è quel ch’i’ veggio?»,
diss’ io, «deh, sanza scorta andianci soli,
se tu sa’ ir; ch’i’ per me non la cheggio.

Se tu se’ sì accorto come suoli,
non vedi tu ch’e’ digrignan li denti,
e con le ciglia ne minaccian duoli?».

Ed elli a me: «Non vo’ che tu paventi;
lasciali digrignar pur a lor senno,
ch’e’ fanno ciò per li lessi dolenti».

Per l’argine sinistro volta dienno;
ma prima avea ciascun la lingua stretta
coi denti, verso lor duca, per cenno;

ed elli avea del cul fatto trombetta.

Giorgio Petrocchi, editor. Full text is available at Colombia University’s Digital Dante project.

Canto 22

Ere now have I seen cavalry break camp,
start to attack, or be reviewed, and even,
at times, retreat, in order to escape;
scouts have I also seen upon your lands,
O Aretines; raids, too, have I beheld,
and tournaments and tilting-matches fought;
with trumpets now, and now with bells, with drums
and beacon-signals made from fortresses,
with native and with foreign things; but never
have I seen horse, or infantry, or ship,
by sign of either land or sky, set out
with instrument of wind as odd as that.
With the ten demons we were going on;
ah, the fierce company! But in a church
with saints consort, with gluttons at an inn!
Upon the pitch alone was I intent,
that I might see all details of the trench
and of the people who were burned therein.
As dolphins do, when, arching up their backs,
they give the warning which bids mariners
take measures for the safety of their ship;

even so at times, his suffering to relieve,
one of the sinners there displayed his back,
and hid it in less time than lightning takes.
And as in ditches at the water’s edge
frogs stay with nothing but their muzzles out,
and thus conceal their feet and all the rest;
even so on all sides did those sinners stay;
and now that Barbariccia was approaching,
they likewise ’neath the boiling pitch withdrew.
I saw, and still it stirs my heart with horror,
one waiting thus, as oft, while one frog stays,
it happens that another scurries off.
And Graffiacane, who was nearest to him,
hooking his pitch-smeared tresses, pulled him up,
so that an otter he appeared to me.
I knew by now the names of each and all,
I noted them so well when they were chosen,
and, when they called each other, noticed how.
“O Rubicante, see thou set thy claws
upon him so, that thou peel off his skin!”
the accursèd all cried out together then.
And I: “My Teacher, if thou canst, contrive
to learn who that wretch is, who thus
has fallen into his adversaries’ hands.”
My Leader thereupon drew near to him,
and asked him whence he was, and he replied:
“Of Navarre’s kingdom I a native was.

My mother placed me out to serve a lord,
for she had borne me to a rascal knave,
who both himself and what he owned destroyed.
I next in good King Thibaut’s household served,
and there I set myself to practice graft,
for which I pay the reckoning in this heat.”
Here Ciriatto, from whose mouth protruded,
as from a boar’s, a tusk on either side,
caused him to feel how one of them could rip.
Among bad cats the mouse had fallen now;
for Barbariccia clasped him in his arms,
and said: “Stand off, while I am clutching him!”
Then, toward my Teacher having turned his face,
he said: “Ask him again, if more thou wish
to know of him, before the others rend him.”
My Leader then: “Now tell me: know’st thou any,
among the other sinners ’neath the pitch,
who Latin is?” And he: “Not long ago
I left a man from that vicinity;
would that like him I still were covered up,
for I should then fear neither claw nor hook!”
Here Libicocco said: “We ’ve borne too much!”
and with his hook so seized him by the arm,
and tore it, that he carried off a piece.
And Draghignazzo also wished to clutch him
down at his legs; but their decurion then
turned right around at them with threatening looks.

When they were somewhat pacified again,
of him, who still was looking at his wound,
my Leader asked without delay: “Who, then,
was he, from whom thou tookst unlucky leave,
as thou hast said, to land upon the shore?”
And he made answer: “That was Fra Gomita,
Gallura’s man, a vessel of all fraud,
who, when he held in hand his master’s foes,
so dealt with them that each is glad. Their money
he took, and, as he puts it, let them all
off easy, and even in other offices
was not a petty, but a first rate grafter.
With him Don Michel Zanche of Logodoro
associates; and never do their tongues
feel tired out by talking of Sardinia.
But oh! Look at the other grinning there!
More would I say, but am afraid lest that one
be making ready now to claw my skin.”
Then the great provost turned toward Farfarello,
who rolled his eyes as if he meant to strike,
and said: “Off yonder, thou malicious bird!”
“If you desire” thereat began again
the terror-stricken man, “to see or hear
Tuscans or Lombards, I will have some come.
But let the Evil Claws here stand aside
a little, that their vengeance be not feared,
and I, while sitting in this very place,

for one that I am, shall make seven come out,
when I shall whistle, as our wont it is,
when any one of us protrudes himself.”
Cagnazzo at this speech his muzzle raised,
and shook his head, and said: “Hear the sly trick
devised by him to cast himself below!”
Then he, who frauds in great abundance had,
replied to him: “Tricky indeed am I,
when for my mates a greater pain I win!”
Here Alichìn could not control himself,
but said, in opposition to the rest:
“I shall not gallop after thee, in case
thou dive, but o’er the pitch shall beat my wings;
the ridge abandoned, be the bank a screen,
to see if thou alone art more than we!”
Now, Reader, of a new sport shalt thou hear!
Each turned his eyes the other way; and he
the first, who had thereto been most opposed.
The Navarrese chose well his time, stood firmly
upon the ground, and, jumping suddenly,
from what they purposed freed himself thereby.
For this each felt himself to blame, but most
the one who of the loss had been the cause;
hence he moved first, and shouted: “Thou art caught!”
But little did it profit him; for wings
could not outmeasure fear; as one went under,
the other, flying upward, raised his breast;

nor different is the speed with which a duck
dives under water, when a hawk draws near,
who, vexed and baffled thus, flies up again.
Then Calcabrina, angered by the flout,
flew out behind him, glad that one escaped,
because it let him scuffle with the other;
and then, the grafter having disappeared,
he turned his claws upon his own companion,
and grappled with him o’er the ditch; but he,
being, indeed, a fighting sparrow-hawk
fitted to claw him well, they both fell down
into the middle of the boiling fen.
A sudden separator was the heat;
but rising thence was quite impossible,
they had their wings so limed with sticky pitch.
Then Barbariccia, vexed as were the rest,
his mates, had four of them with all their hooks
fly to the other bank; on both sides then
they speedily descended to their posts,
and stretched their hooks out toward the pitch-belimed,
who now were cooked inside their crusted hides;
and, thus embarassed, we abandoned them.

Courtney Langdon, translator. Full text is available at Liberty Fund.

Canto 22

Io vidi già cavalier muover campo,
e cominciare stormo e far lor mostra,
e talvolta partir per loro scampo;

corridor vidi per la terra vostra,
o Aretini, e vidi gir gualdane,
fedir torneamenti e correr giostra;

quando con trombe, e quando con campane,
con tamburi e con cenni di castella,
e con cose nostrali e con istrane;

né già con sì diversa cennamella
cavalier vidi muover né pedoni,
né nave a segno di terra o di stella.

Noi andavam con li diece demoni.
Ahi fiera compagnia! ma ne la chiesa
coi santi, e in taverna coi ghiottoni.

Pur a la pegola era la mia ’ntesa,
per veder de la bolgia ogne contegno
e de la gente ch’entro v’era incesa.

Come i dalfini, quando fanno segno
a’ marinar con l’arco de la schiena
che s’argomentin di campar lor legno,

talor così, ad alleggiar la pena,
mostrav’ alcun de’ peccatori ’l dosso
e nascondea in men che non balena.

E come a l’orlo de l’acqua d’un fosso
stanno i ranocchi pur col muso fuori,
sì che celano i piedi e l’altro grosso,

sì stavan d’ogne parte i peccatori;
ma come s’appressava Barbariccia,
così si ritraén sotto i bollori.

I’ vidi, e anco il cor me n’accapriccia,
uno aspettar così, com’ elli ’ncontra
ch’una rana rimane e l’altra spiccia;

e Graffiacan, che li era più di contra,
li arruncigliò le ’mpegolate chiome
e trassel sù, che mi parve una lontra.

I’ sapea già di tutti quanti ’l nome,
sì li notai quando fuorono eletti,
e poi ch’e’ si chiamaro, attesi come.

«O Rubicante, fa che tu li metti
li unghioni a dosso, sì che tu lo scuoi!»,
gridavan tutti insieme i maladetti.

E io: «Maestro mio, fa, se tu puoi,
che tu sappi chi è lo sciagurato
venuto a man de li avversari suoi».

Lo duca mio li s’accostò allato;
domandollo ond’ ei fosse, e quei rispuose:
«I’ fui del regno di Navarra nato.

Mia madre a servo d’un segnor mi puose,
che m’avea generato d’un ribaldo,
distruggitor di sé e di sue cose.

Poi fui famiglia del buon re Tebaldo;
quivi mi misi a far baratteria,
di ch’io rendo ragione in questo caldo».

E Cirïatto, a cui di bocca uscia
d’ogne parte una sanna come a porco,
li fé sentir come l’una sdruscia.

Tra male gatte era venuto ’l sorco;
ma Barbariccia il chiuse con le braccia
e disse: «State in là, mentr’ io lo ’nforco».

E al maestro mio volse la faccia;
«Domanda», disse, «ancor, se più disii
saper da lui, prima ch’altri ’l disfaccia».

Lo duca dunque: «Or dì: de li altri rii
conosci tu alcun che sia latino
sotto la pece?». E quelli: «I’ mi partii,

poco è, da un che fu di là vicino.
Così foss’ io ancor con lui coperto,
ch’i’ non temerei unghia né uncino!».

E Libicocco «Troppo avem sofferto»,
disse; e preseli ’l braccio col runciglio,
sì che, stracciando, ne portò un lacerto.

Draghignazzo anco i volle dar di piglio
giuso a le gambe; onde ’l decurio loro
si volse intorno intorno con mal piglio.

Quand’ elli un poco rappaciati fuoro,
a lui, ch’ancor mirava sua ferita,
domandò ’l duca mio sanza dimoro:

«Chi fu colui da cui mala partita
di’ che facesti per venire a proda?».
Ed ei rispuose: «Fu frate Gomita,

quel di Gallura, vasel d’ogne froda,
ch’ebbe i nemici di suo donno in mano,
e fé sì lor, che ciascun se ne loda.

Danar si tolse, e lasciolli di piano,
sì com’ e’ dice; e ne li altri offici anche
barattier fu non picciol, ma sovrano.

Usa con esso donno Michel Zanche
di Logodoro; e a dir di Sardigna
le lingue lor non si sentono stanche.

Omè, vedete l’altro che digrigna;
i’ direi anche, ma i’ temo ch’ello
non s’apparecchi a grattarmi la tigna».

E ’l gran proposto, vòlto a Farfarello
che stralunava li occhi per fedire,
disse: «Fatti ’n costà, malvagio uccello!».

«Se voi volete vedere o udire»,
ricominciò lo spaürato appresso
«Toschi o Lombardi, io ne farò venire;

ma stieno i Malebranche un poco in cesso,
sì ch’ei non teman de le lor vendette;
e io, seggendo in questo loco stesso,

per un ch’io son, ne farò venir sette
quand’ io suffolerò, com’ è nostro uso
di fare allor che fori alcun si mette».

Cagnazzo a cotal motto levò ’l muso,
crollando ’l capo, e disse: «Odi malizia
ch’elli ha pensata per gittarsi giuso!».

Ond’ ei, ch’avea lacciuoli a gran divizia,
rispuose: «Malizioso son io troppo,
quand’ io procuro a’ mia maggior trestizia».

Alichin non si tenne e, di rintoppo
a li altri, disse a lui: «Se tu ti cali,
io non ti verrò dietro di gualoppo,

ma batterò sovra la pece l’ali.
Lascisi ’l collo, e sia la ripa scudo,
a veder se tu sol più di noi vali».

O tu che leggi, udirai nuovo ludo:
ciascun da l’altra costa li occhi volse,
quel prima, ch’a ciò fare era più crudo.

Lo Navarrese ben suo tempo colse;
fermò le piante a terra, e in un punto
saltò e dal proposto lor si sciolse.

Di che ciascun di colpa fu compunto,
ma quei più che cagion fu del difetto;
però si mosse e gridò: «Tu se’ giunto!».

Ma poco i valse: ché l’ali al sospetto
non potevo avanzar; quelli andò sotto,
e quei drizzò volando suso il petto:

non altrimenti l’anitra di botto,
quando ’l falcon s’appressa, giù s’attuffa,
ed ei ritorna sù crucciato e rotto.

Irato Calcabrina de la buffa,
volando dietro li tenne, invaghito
che quei campasse per aver la zuffa;

e come ’l barattier fu disparito,
così volse li artigli al suo compagno,
e fu con lui sopra ’l fosso ghermito.

Ma l’altro fu bene sparvier grifagno
ad artigliar ben lui, e amendue
cadder nel mezzo del bogliente stagno.

Lo caldo sghermitor sùbito fue;
ma però di levarsi era neente,
sì avieno inviscate l’ali sue.

Barbariccia, con li altri suoi dolente,
quattro ne fé volar da l’altra costa
con tutt’ i raffi, e assai prestamente

di qua, di là discesero a la posta;
porser li uncini verso li ’mpaniati,
ch’eran già cotti dentro da la crosta.

E noi lasciammo lor così ’mpacciati.

Giorgio Petrocchi, editor. Full text is available at Colombia University’s Digital Dante project.

Canto 23

Silent, alone, and unaccompanied,
we went along, one first and one behind,
as Minor Friars go when on the road.
My thoughts, by reason of the present brawl,
were turned to Aesop’s fable, that wherein
he talks about the frog and mouse; for ‘now’
and ‘at this moment’ are no more alike,
than one is like the other, if beginning
and end be linked by an attentive mind.
And ev’n as one thought from another springs,
so, next, from that one was another born,
which doubled my first fear. Hence thus I thought:
“These devils have been scorned on our account,
and with such injury and scoff, indeed,
that I believe that they are greatly vexed.
If anger to ill-will be joined, they ’ll come
more fiercely after us, than doth a dog
the rabbit which he seizes with his teeth.”
Already was I feeling all my hair
bristling with fear, when, gazing back intent,
I said: “If, Teacher, thou hide not thyself

and me with speed, I dread the Evilclaws;
we have them now behind us, and I so
imagine them, that I already feel them.”
And he: “If I were made of leaded glass,
thine outward image I would not reflect
more quickly than thine inward I receive.
Even now thy thoughts were coming among mine
with outlook and intent so similar,
that I with both a single purpose formed.
If it be true the right bank slopeth so,
that to the following trench we can descend,
we shall escape from this imagined chase.”
He had not finished telling me his plan,
when not far off I saw them coming on
with wings outspread, intent on seizing us.
My Leader then took hold of me at once,
even as a mother, by the noise aroused,
and seeing close to her the burning flames,
seizes her child and flees, and doth not stop,
since caring more for him than for herself,
even long enough to clothe her with a shift;
and downward from the ridge of that hard bank,
his back he yielded to the hanging rock,
which closes one side of the following trench.
Water ne’er moved as swiftly through a sluice,
to turn the overshot wheel of a mill,
when closest to the paddles it approaches,

as did my Teacher o’er that selvage-bank,
bearing me down with him upon his back,
as though his son I were, and not his mate.
His feet had hardly reached the trench’s bed
below, when they were on the ridge above,
just over us; but naught was now to fear;
because the Providence on high, which willed
to place them in the fifth trench as its servants,
takes from them all the power of leaving it.
A painted people found we there below,
who, moving with exceedingly slow steps,
shed tears, and in their looks appeared subdued
and weary. Cloaks they had equipped with cowls
lowered before their eyes, and cut like those
which in Cologne are fashioned for her monks.
So gilded outside are they that they dazzle;
but inside all are lead, and of such weight,
that those which Frederick clothed men with were straw.
O cloak that wearies through eternity!
We turned again, as ever, to the left,
along with them, intent on their sad plaint;
but, owing to the weight, that weary folk
came on so slowly, that new company
we had at every motion of our legs.
Hence to my Leader I: “Contrive to find
some one whom we may know by deed or name,
and, while thus going, move thine eyes around.”

And one, who heard my Tuscan speech, cried out
behind us: “Stay your feet, O ye that run
so quickly through the gloomy air! From me,
perhaps, shalt thou receive what thou dost ask.”
Thereat my Leader turned and said: “Now wait;
and then proceed according to his pace.”
I stopped, and two I saw, whose faces showed
great mental haste to be with me, and yet
their burden and the narrow path delayed them.
On coming up to us, they watched me long
with eyes askance, and uttered not a word;
then, toward each other turning, thus they spoke:
“This one seems by the action of his throat
alive; but if they ’re dead, by what right, then,
go they uncovered by the heavy stole?”
And then, addressing me, they said: “O Tuscan,
who to the gathering of sad hypocrites
art come, scorn not to tell us who thou art.”
And I to them: “On Arno’s lovely stream,
and in its famous town, both born and bred,
I’m in the body I have always had.
But who are ye, adown whose cheeks there drips,
as I perceive, so great a woe, and what
the penalty which sparkles on you thus?”
“These orange cloaks,” one answered, “are of lead,
and of such thickness are they, that the weights
thus cause the scales that balance them to creak.

We Jovial Friars were, and Bolognese;
I, Catalàn, and Loderingo he,
by name, and chosen by thy town together,
as one alone is usually called,
to keep its peace; and such we were, as still
in the Gardingo’s neighborhood appears.”
“O friars,” I began, “your evil deeds . . .”
but said no more; because there struck mine eyes
one crucified by three stakes on the ground.
On seeing me, sighs through his beard he blew,
and writhed all over; then Fra Catalàn,
informed thereby of what had happened, said:
“The pinioned man thou gazest at, advised
the Pharisees that it expedient was
to torture one man for the people’s sake.
Stretched crosswise, as thou seest, on the road,
and naked, he is forced to be the first
to feel how much whoever passes weighs.
And in like fashion suffer in this ditch
his father-in-law, and others of the council
which proved a seed of evil for the Jews.”
I then saw Virgil marvelling at him,
who in the figure of a cross was stretched
so basely in eternal banishment.
Then to the friar he addressed these words:
“Be not displeased to tell us, an ye may,
if on the right there lie a crossing-place,

by means of which we two may issue hence,
without black Angels being forced to come
and extricate us from this trench’s bed.”
“Nearer than thou dost hope” he then replied,
“a crag there is, which at the great round wall
begins, and all the cruel trenches spans,
save that at this one it is broken down,
and spans it not; but ye can climb the ruins,
which from its base lie piled along the slope.”
My Leader kept his head bowed down awhile;
then said: “Wrongly did he report the thing,
who yonder grapples sinners with his hook!”
The friar then: “Among the many vices given
the Devil at Bologna, I once heard
that he a liar is, and sire of lies.”
Thereat my Leader with great strides departed,
somewhat disturbed by anger in his looks;
then I the burdened left, and followed on
behind the footprints of belovèd feet.

Courtney Langdon, translator. Full text is available at Liberty Fund.

Canto 23

Taciti, soli, sanza compagnia
n’andavam l’un dinanzi e l’altro dopo,
come frati minor vanno per via.

Vòlt’ era in su la favola d’Isopo
lo mio pensier per la presente rissa,
dov’ el parlò de la rana e del topo;

ché più non si pareggia ‘mo’ e ‘issa’
che l’un con l’altro fa, se ben s’accoppia
principio e fine con la mente fissa.

E come l’un pensier de l’altro scoppia,
così nacque di quello un altro poi,
che la prima paura mi fé doppia.

Io pensava così: ‘Questi per noi
sono scherniti con danno e con beffa
sì fatta, ch’assai credo che lor nòi.

Se l’ira sovra ’l mal voler s’aggueffa,
ei ne verranno dietro più crudeli
che ’l cane a quella lievre ch’elli acceffa’ .

Già mi sentia tutti arricciar li peli
de la paura e stava in dietro intento,
quand’ io dissi: «Maestro, se non celi

te e me tostamente, i’ ho pavento
d’i Malebranche. Noi li avem già dietro;
io li ’magino sì, che già li sento».

E quei: «S’i’ fossi di piombato vetro,
l’imagine di fuor tua non trarrei
più tosto a me, che quella dentro ’mpetro.

Pur mo venieno i tuo’ pensier tra ’ miei,
con simile atto e con simile faccia,
sì che d’intrambi un sol consiglio fei.

S’elli è che sì la destra costa giaccia,
che noi possiam ne l’altra bolgia scendere,
noi fuggirem l’imaginata caccia».

Già non compié di tal consiglio rendere,
ch’io li vidi venir con l’ali tese
non molto lungi, per volerne prendere.

Lo duca mio di sùbito mi prese,
come la madre ch’al romore è desta
e vede presso a sé le fiamme accese,

che prende il figlio e fugge e non s’arresta,
avendo più di lui che di sé cura,
tanto che solo una camiscia vesta;

e giù dal collo de la ripa dura
supin si diede a la pendente roccia,
che l’un de’ lati a l’altra bolgia tura.

Non corse mai sì tosto acqua per doccia
a volger ruota di molin terragno,
quand’ ella più verso le pale approccia,

come ’l maestro mio per quel vivagno,
portandosene me sovra ’l suo petto,
come suo figlio, non come compagno.

A pena fuoro i piè suoi giunti al letto
del fondo giù, ch’e’ furon in sul colle
sovresso noi; ma non lì era sospetto:

ché l’alta provedenza che lor volle
porre ministri de la fossa quinta,
poder di partirs’ indi a tutti tolle.

Là giù trovammo una gente dipinta
che giva intorno assai con lenti passi,
piangendo e nel sembiante stanca e vinta.

Elli avean cappe con cappucci bassi
dinanzi a li occhi, fatte de la taglia
che in Clugnì per li monaci fassi.

Di fuor dorate son, sì ch’elli abbaglia;
ma dentro tutte piombo, e gravi tanto,
che Federigo le mettea di paglia.

Oh in etterno faticoso manto!
Noi ci volgemmo ancor pur a man manca
con loro insieme, intenti al tristo pianto;

ma per lo peso quella gente stanca
venìa sì pian, che noi eravam nuovi
di compagnia ad ogne mover d’anca.

Per ch’io al duca mio: «Fa che tu trovi
alcun ch’al fatto o al nome si conosca,
e li occhi, sì andando, intorno movi».

E un che ’ntese la parola tosca,
di retro a noi gridò: «Tenete i piedi,
voi che correte sì per l’aura fosca!

Forse ch’avrai da me quel che tu chiedi».
Onde ’l duca si volse e disse: «Aspetta,
e poi secondo il suo passo procedi».

Ristetti, e vidi due mostrar gran fretta
de l’animo, col viso, d’esser meco;
ma tardavali ’l carco e la via stretta.

Quando fuor giunti, assai con l’occhio bieco
mi rimiraron sanza far parola;
poi si volsero in sé, e dicean seco:

«Costui par vivo a l’atto de la gola;
e s’e’ son morti, per qual privilegio
vanno scoperti de la grave stola?».

Poi disser me: «O Tosco, ch’al collegio
de l’ipocriti tristi se’ venuto,
dir chi tu se’ non avere in dispregio».

E io a loro: «I’ fui nato e cresciuto
sovra ’l bel fiume d’Arno a la gran villa,
e son col corpo ch’i’ ho sempre avuto.

Ma voi chi siete, a cui tanto distilla
quant’ i’ veggio dolor giù per le guance?
e che pena è in voi che sì sfavilla?».

E l’un rispuose a me: «Le cappe rance
son di piombo sì grosse, che li pesi
fan così cigolar le lor bilance.

Frati godenti fummo, e bolognesi;
io Catalano e questi Loderingo
nomati, e da tua terra insieme presi

come suole esser tolto un uom solingo,
per conservar sua pace; e fummo tali,
ch’ancor si pare intorno dal Gardingo».

Io cominciai: «O frati, i vostri mali…»;
ma più non dissi, ch’a l’occhio mi corse
un, crucifisso in terra con tre pali.

Quando mi vide, tutto si distorse,
soffiando ne la barba con sospiri;
e ’l frate Catalan, ch’a ciò s’accorse,

mi disse: «Quel confitto che tu miri,
consigliò i Farisei che convenia
porre un uom per lo popolo a’ martìri.

Attraversato è, nudo, ne la via,
come tu vedi, ed è mestier ch’el senta
qualunque passa, come pesa, pria.

E a tal modo il socero si stenta
in questa fossa, e li altri dal concilio
che fu per li Giudei mala sementa».

Allor vid’ io maravigliar Virgilio
sovra colui ch’era disteso in croce
tanto vilmente ne l’etterno essilio.

Poscia drizzò al frate cotal voce:
«Non vi dispiaccia, se vi lece, dirci
s’a la man destra giace alcuna foce

onde noi amendue possiamo uscirci,
sanza costrigner de li angeli neri
che vegnan d’esto fondo a dipartirci».

Rispuose adunque: «Più che tu non speri
s’appressa un sasso che de la gran cerchia
si move e varca tutt’ i vallon feri,

salvo che ’n questo è rotto e non coperchia;
montar potrete su per la ruina,
che giace in costa e nel fondo soperchia».

Lo duca stette un poco a testa china;
poi disse: «Mal contava la bisogna
colui che i peccator di qua uncina».

E ’l frate: «Io udi’ già dire a Bologna
del diavol vizi assai, tra ’ quali udi’
ch’elli è bugiardo, e padre di menzogna».

Appresso il duca a gran passi sen gì,
turbato un poco d’ira nel sembiante;
ond’ io da li ’ncarcati mi parti’

dietro a le poste de le care piante.

Giorgio Petrocchi, editor. Full text is available at Colombia University’s Digital Dante project.

Canto 24

When in the youthful season of the year
the sun beneath Aquarius warms his locks,
while southward now the nights pursue their way;
and when the hoar-frost draws upon the ground
the counterfeit of her white sister’s face,
though shortly lasts the temper of her pen;
the peasant, lacking provender, gets up,
looks out, and, seeing all the country white,
slaps himself on the thigh, returns in doors,
and walking to and fro, laments, poor wretch,
not knowing what to do; then later on
returning out again, recovers hope,
on seeing that the world has shortly changed
its face; and, taking down his shepherd-staff,
out to their feeding drives his tender sheep.
Even thus my Teacher filled me with dismay,
when I beheld such trouble in his face;
thus, too, the plaster quickly reached the wound;
for when we had attained the ruined bridge,
my Leader turned to me with that sweet look,
which at the Mountain’s foot I first perceived.

First having well surveyed the ruined arch,
after some counsel taken with himself,
his arms he opened, and took hold of me.
And like a man who ponders while he acts,
and always seems to look ahead; ev’n so,
while upward to the top of one great rock
he pushed me, he sought out another crag,
and said: “Take hold of that one next, but first
see whether it be fit to bear thy weight.”
No path was this for one who wore a cloak,
since scarcely could we two, though he was light,
and I was pushed, ascend from rock to rock.
And had the slope on that bank not been shorter,
than on the other, I know not of him,
but I would surely have been overcome;
but since the whole of Malebolgë slopes
down to the opening of the lowest well,
such is the nature of each trench’s banks,
that one is high, and low the following one;
and yet we reached at length the ridge above,
from which the crag’s last rock projects.
My breath was so exhausted from my lungs,
when up at last, that I could go no further;
nay, on arriving I sat down at once.
“Thus, henceforth, must thou rid thyself of sloth,”
my Teacher said; “for one attains not fame,
sitting on cushions, or ’neath canopies;

and he that lives without attaining it,
leaveth on earth such traces of himself,
as smoke doth in the air, or foam in water.
Therefore get up! O’ercome thy troubled breath
with that soul-energy, which wins all fights,
unless it sink beneath its body’s weight!
A longer stairway must be climbed; ’t is not
enough that these stairs have been left; if, then,
thou understand me, let it profit thee.”
I thereupon arose, and showed myself
better equipped with breath than I had felt,
and said: “Go on, for I am strong and bold!”
We took the pathway up along the crag,
which rocky was, narrow and hard to climb,
and steeper far than was the one before.
Not to seem weak, I talked as on I went;
this from the next trench caused a voice to come,
which was incapable of forming words.
Though I was on the summit of the arch
which crosses here, I know not what it said;
but moved to anger seemed the one who spoke.
Downward I looked, and yet my living eyes
could not attain the bottom for the dark;
hence, “Teacher, try to reach the following ridge,”
said I, “and let us from the wall descend,
for as I hear, but do not understand,
so, looking down from hence, I make out nothing.”

“No other answer give I thee,” he said,
“save that of action; for a fair request
ought to be met by deeds without a word.”
We climbed down from the bridge’s further head,
where to the eighth embankment it is joined,
and then the trench was clearly shown to me;
and in it I beheld a frightful throng
of snakes, and of so weird a kind, that still
the memory of them freezes up my blood.
Let Libya and her sand no longer boast;
for though she breed chelỳdri, jàculi,
with cenchri, phàreae and àmphisbaenae,
ne’er with all Ethiopia did she show,
nor e’en with what above the Red Sea lies,
either so many or such evil plagues.
Among this cruel and most dismal swarm
people were running, nude and terrified,
and with no hope of hole or heliotrope.
Their hands were bound behind their back with snakes,
whose tail and head were thrust between their loins,
and tied together in a knot in front.
Then lo, a serpent hurled himself at one,
who near our bank was standing, and transfixed him
there where the neck is to the shoulders joined.
Never were o or i so quickly written,
as he took fire, and, burning up, must needs
turn wholly into ashes as he fell;

whereat, though thus destroyed upon the ground,
the dust, assembling of its own accord,
turned instantly into the self-same man.
So likewise, as great sages have declared,
the Phoenix dies, and then is born again,
as she approaches her five-hundredth year;
she feeds through life on neither herbs or grain,
but on amòmum only and incense-tears;
her final swaddling bands are nard and myrrh.
And as is he who falls, nor knoweth how,
by demon force, which pulls him to the ground,
or other inhibition binding man,
and who, on getting up again, looks round
wholly bewildered by the great distress
which he has felt, and, as he looks, heaves sighs;
such was that sinner, after he had risen.
O Power of God, how truly just thou art,
that in revenge dost deal such blows as these!
Thereat my Leader asked him who he was,
and he replied: “Into this wild ravine
I rained from Tuscany not long ago.
Mule that I was, a beast’s life, not a man’s,
I liked; I ’m Vanni Fucci, called the Beast;
for me Pistoia was a worthy den.”
Then “Tell him not to slip away,” I said,
“and ask what fault thrust him down here; for I
once saw in him a man of blood and strife.”

The sinner then, who understood, feigned not,
but turned toward me both mind and face, and said,
as with a sudden shame he colored up:
“That thou hast caught me in the misery
in which thou see’st me, gives me greater pain
than that which took me from the other life.
I can’t refuse what thou dost ask of me.
I ’m placed thus low, because ’t was I who robbed
the vestry known for its fair ornaments;
a deed once falsely put upon another.
But now, lest thou enjoy this sight of me,
if thou art ever out of these dark lands,
thine ears to my announcement ope, and hear:
Pistoia first despoils herself of Neri;
then Florence changes folk and government.
From Val di Magra Mars draws forth a bolt
by turbid clouds enveloped; next, with wild
and cruel storm, a battle will be fought
upon the Picene Plain; then suddenly
the bolt will cleave the mist in such a way,
that every Bianco will thereby be wounded.
And this I ’ve said, that it may give thee pain!”

Courtney Langdon, translator. Full text is available at Liberty Fund.

Canto 24

In quella parte del giovanetto anno
che ’l sole i crin sotto l’Aquario tempra
e già le notti al mezzo dì sen vanno,

quando la brina in su la terra assempra
l’imagine di sua sorella bianca,
ma poco dura a la sua penna tempra,

lo villanello a cui la roba manca,
si leva, e guarda, e vede la campagna
biancheggiar tutta; ond’ ei si batte l’anca,

ritorna in casa, e qua e là si lagna,
come ’l tapin che non sa che si faccia;
poi riede, e la speranza ringavagna,

veggendo ’l mondo aver cangiata faccia
in poco d’ora, e prende suo vincastro,
e fuor le pecorelle a pascer caccia.

Così mi fece sbigottir lo mastro
quand’ io li vidi sì turbar la fronte,
e così tosto al mal giunse lo ’mpiastro;

ché, come noi venimmo al guasto ponte,
lo duca a me si volse con quel piglio
dolce ch’io vidi prima a piè del monte.

Le braccia aperse, dopo alcun consiglio
eletto seco riguardando prima
ben la ruina, e diedemi di piglio.

E come quei ch’adopera ed estima,
che sempre par che ’nnanzi si proveggia,
così, levando me sù ver’ la cima

d’un ronchione, avvisava un’altra scheggia
dicendo: «Sovra quella poi t’aggrappa;
ma tenta pria s’è tal ch’ella ti reggia».

Non era via da vestito di cappa,
ché noi a pena, ei lieve e io sospinto,
potavam sù montar di chiappa in chiappa.

E se non fosse che da quel precinto
più che da l’altro era la costa corta,
non so di lui, ma io sarei ben vinto.

Ma perché Malebolge inver’ la porta
del bassissimo pozzo tutta pende,
lo sito di ciascuna valle porta

che l’una costa surge e l’altra scende;
noi pur venimmo al fine in su la punta
onde l’ultima pietra si scoscende.

La lena m’era del polmon sì munta
quand’ io fui sù, ch’i’ non potea più oltre,
anzi m’assisi ne la prima giunta.

«Omai convien che tu così ti spoltre»,
disse ’l maestro; «ché, seggendo in piuma,
in fama non si vien, né sotto coltre;

sanza la qual chi sua vita consuma,
cotal vestigio in terra di sé lascia,
qual fummo in aere e in acqua la schiuma.

E però leva sù; vinci l’ambascia
con l’animo che vince ogne battaglia,
se col suo grave corpo non s’accascia.

Più lunga scala convien che si saglia;
non basta da costoro esser partito.
Se tu mi ’ntendi, or fa sì che ti vaglia».

Leva’mi allor, mostrandomi fornito
meglio di lena ch’i’ non mi senta,
e dissi: «Va, ch’i’ son forte e ardito».

Su per lo scoglio prendemmo la via,
ch’era ronchioso, stretto e malagevole,
ed erto più assai che quel di pria.

Parlando andava per non parer fievole;
onde una voce uscì de l’altro fosso,
a parole formar disconvenevole.

Non so che disse, ancor che sovra ’l dosso
fossi de l’arco già che varca quivi;
ma chi parlava ad ire parea mosso.

Io era vòlto in giù, ma li occhi vivi
non poteano ire al fondo per lo scuro;
per ch’io: «Maestro, fa che tu arrivi

da l’altro cinghio e dismontiam lo muro;
ché, com’ i’ odo quinci e non intendo,
così giù veggio e neente affiguro».

«Altra risposta», disse, «non ti rendo
se non lo far; ché la dimanda onesta
si de’ seguir con l’opera tacendo».

Noi discendemmo il ponte da la testa
dove s’aggiugne con l’ottava ripa,
e poi mi fu la bolgia manifesta:

e vidivi entro terribile stipa
di serpenti, e di sì diversa mena
che la memoria il sangue ancor mi scipa.

Più non si vanti Libia con sua rena;
ché se chelidri, iaculi e faree
produce, e cencri con anfisibena,

né tante pestilenzie né sì ree
mostrò già mai con tutta l’Etïopia
né con ciò che di sopra al Mar Rosso èe.

Tra questa cruda e tristissima copia
corrëan genti nude e spaventate,
sanza sperar pertugio o elitropia:

con serpi le man dietro avean legate;
quelle ficcavan per le ren la coda
e ’l capo, ed eran dinanzi aggroppate.

Ed ecco a un ch’era da nostra proda,
s’avventò un serpente che ’l trafisse
là dove ’l collo a le spalle s’annoda.

Né O sì tosto mai né I si scrisse,
com’ el s’accese e arse, e cener tutto
convenne che cascando divenisse;

e poi che fu a terra sì distrutto,
la polver si raccolse per sé stessa
e ’n quel medesmo ritornò di butto.

Così per li gran savi si confessa
che la fenice more e poi rinasce,
quando al cinquecentesimo anno appressa;

erba né biado in sua vita non pasce,
ma sol d’incenso lagrime e d’amomo,
e nardo e mirra son l’ultime fasce.

E qual è quel che cade, e non sa como,
per forza di demon ch’a terra il tira,
o d’altra oppilazion che lega l’omo,

quando si leva, che ’ntorno si mira
tutto smarrito de la grande angoscia
ch’elli ha sofferta, e guardando sospira:

tal era ’l peccator levato poscia.
Oh potenza di Dio, quant’ è severa,
che cotai colpi per vendetta croscia!

Lo duca il domandò poi chi ello era;
per ch’ei rispuose: «Io piovvi di Toscana,
poco tempo è, in questa gola fiera.

Vita bestial mi piacque e non umana,
sì come a mul ch’i’ fui; son Vanni Fucci
bestia, e Pistoia mi fu degna tana».

E ïo al duca: «Dilli che non mucci,
e domanda che colpa qua giù ’l pinse;
ch’io ’l vidi uomo di sangue e di crucci».

E ’l peccator, che ’ntese, non s’infinse,
ma drizzò verso me l’animo e ’l volto,
e di trista vergogna si dipinse;

poi disse: «Più mi duol che tu m’hai colto
ne la miseria dove tu mi vedi,
che quando fui de l’altra vita tolto.

Io non posso negar quel che tu chiedi;
in giù son messo tanto perch’ io fui
ladro a la sagrestia d’i belli arredi,

e falsamente già fu apposto altrui.
Ma perché di tal vista tu non godi,
se mai sarai di fuor da’ luoghi bui,

apri li orecchi al mio annunzio, e odi.
Pistoia in pria d’i Neri si dimagra;
poi Fiorenza rinova gente e modi.

Tragge Marte vapor di Val di Magra
ch’è di torbidi nuvoli involuto;
e con tempesta impetüosa e agra

sovra Campo Picen fia combattuto;
ond’ ei repente spezzerà la nebbia,
sì ch’ogne Bianco ne sarà feruto.

E detto l’ho perché doler ti debbia!».

Giorgio Petrocchi, editor. Full text is available at Colombia University’s Digital Dante project.

Canto 25

The thief, at the conclusion of his words,
lifted his hands with both their figs, and cried:
“Take that, O God, for ’t is to Thee I show them!”
From that time onward snakes have been my friends,
for thereupon one coiled around his neck,
as if to say: “I ’d have thee speak no more;”
another, coiling, tied his arms together,
and clinched itself so well in front of him,
that he could make no use of them at all.
Pistoia, ah, Pistoia, why not will
to burn to ashes, and no longer last,
since in ill-doing thou excell’st thy seed?
In all of Hell’s dark rings I ’ve seen no spirit
so arrogant toward God; not even he,
who fell down headlong from the walls at Thebes.
Without another word he fled away;
whereat I saw a Centaur full of rage
come crying: “Where, where is the stubborn soul?”
Not ev’n Maremma has so many snakes,
I think, as on his crupper that one had,
as far as where our human form begins.

Upon his shoulders right behind his nape
there crouched a dragon with wide opened wings;
and he sets fire to whomsoe’er he meets.
My Teacher said: “He, yonder, Cacus is,
who ’neath the rocks that form Mount Aventine
oft made a lake of blood. He travels not
along the road o’er which his brethren go,
because of having fraudulently robbed
the famous herd which he as neighbor had;
this ended his sly deeds beneath the club
of Hercules, who may perhaps have dealt him
a hundred blows, whereof he felt but ten.”
While thus he spoke, that sinner, too, made off;
whereat three spirits came and stood below us,
whom neither I nor even my Leader noticed,
until they all cried out: “Who then are ye?”
because of which our conversation ceased,
for afterward we heeded them alone.
I knew them not; but so it happened then,
as it is wont to do in certain cases,
that one perforce employed another’s name,
saying: “But where can Cianfa have remained?”
Hence, that my Leader might give heed, I placed
my finger in a line from chin to nose.
If thou art slow now, Reader, to believe
what I shall tell, no marvel will it be,
for I, who saw it, hardly grant I did.

As toward them I was holding up my brows,
lo, a six-footed serpent hurls itself
in front of one, and clings to him all over;
with both its middle feet it clasped his paunch,
and with its fore feet seized upon his arms;
then with its teeth it wounded both his cheeks;
it spread its hind feet out along his thighs,
and thrusting next its tail between the two,
it stretched it upward all along his back.
Ivy was never rooted to a tree
so fast, as round about the other’s limbs
that horrible wild creature twined its own.
And thereupon, as if hot wax they were,
they stuck together, and their colors mixed,
till neither seemed to be what it had been;
just as a browish hue precedes the flame
on burning paper which is not yet black,
while, equally, the white part dies away.
The other two looked on, and each exclaimed:
“O me, Agnello, what a change is thine!
for see, thou now art neither two nor one.”
Already into one had both heads turned,
when we two countenances still beheld
mixed in a single face, where both were lost.
From the four previous strips two arms were made;
the thighs and legs, the belly and the chest
became such members as were never seen.

Cancelled therein was every former aspect;
the transformed figure seemed both two and none;
and thus appearing slowly moved away.
As like a lightning-flash a lizard looks,
if, changing hedges ’neath the dog-day’s scourge,
across a road it passes; even such
a little fiery serpent seemed to me,
as toward the bellies of the other two
it came, livid and black as peppercorn.
And in that part through which our nourishment
is first received, it transfixed one of them,
and then fell down, stretched out in front of him.
The pierced man gazed at it, but nothing said;
nay, firmly on his feet he stood, and yawned,
as if attacked by fever or by sleep.
He at the serpent looked, and it at him;
one through his wound, the other through its mouth
smoked hard, and each smoke with the other mingled.
Let Lucan, then, be silent, where he tells
of poor Sabellus’ and Nassidius’ fate,
and, giving heed, hear what is now proclaimed.
Of Cadmus, and of Arethusa, too,
let Ovid cease to speak; for though his verse
turn him into a snake, and make of her
a fount, I grudge him not; for face to face
he ne’er so changed two natures, that the forms
of each were ready to exchange their matter.

They blended each with each in such a way
that, while the serpent fork-wise clove its tail,
the wounded man together drew his feet.
The legs and with them ev’n the very thighs
so stuck together, that in little time
their juncture left no mark that could be seen.
The cloven tail was taking on the shape
which there was being lost; the skin of one,
meanwhile, was growing soft, and hard the other’s.
I saw his arms withdraw into his armpits,
and both the serpent’s feet, which were not long,
lengthen as much, as those were growing short.
And then its hinder feet, together twisted,
became the member which a man conceals,
while from his own the wretch had two thrust forth.
And while the smoke was veiling both of them
with novel hues, and generated hair
on one side, and deprived of it the other,
the one stood up, and down the other fell,
nor turned aside for that the impious eyes,
beneath which each of them was changing face.
The one who stood, drew his in toward his temples;
and from the excessive matter coming there
ears issued on his undeveloped cheeks;
and that, which ran not back, but was retained,
of this superfluous matter, gave the face
a nose, and thickened suitably its lips.

He who was lying down thrusts forth his muzzle,
and backward through his head withdraws his ears,
even as a snail doth with its horns; his tongue,
which single used to be, and prompt to speech,
divides itself, while in the other case,
the split one closes, and the smoking stops.
The soul which had become a savage beast
flees hissing through the trench; the other spits
behind him as he talks. Then, having turned
away from him his just created shoulders,
he to the third said: “I ’d have Buoso run,
as I have, on his belly o’er this path.”
I thus beheld the seventh balast change
and interchange; here let its novelty
excuse me, if it slightly blur my pen.
And though somewhat bewildered were my eyes,
and though confused my mind, those men could not
escape so secretly, that I should fail
Pùccio Sciancato perfectly to see;
and of the three companions who came first,
he only was not changed; the other one
was he, for whom, Gavillë, thou dost weep.

Courtney Langdon, translator. Full text is available at Liberty Fund.

Canto 25

Al fine de le sue parole il ladro
le mani alzò con amendue le fiche,
gridando: «Togli, Dio, ch’a te le squadro!».

Da indi in qua mi fuor le serpi amiche,
perch’ una li s’avvolse allora al collo,
come dicesse ‘Non vo’ che più diche’;

e un’altra a le braccia, e rilegollo,
ribadendo sé stessa sì dinanzi,
che non potea con esse dare un crollo.

Ahi Pistoia, Pistoia, ché non stanzi
d’incenerarti sì che più non duri,
poi che ’n mal fare il seme tuo avanzi?

Per tutt’ i cerchi de lo ’nferno scuri
non vidi spirto in Dio tanto superbo,
non quel che cadde a Tebe giù da’ muri.

El si fuggì che non parlò più verbo;
e io vidi un centauro pien di rabbia
venir chiamando: «Ov’ è, ov’ è l’acerbo?».

Maremma non cred’ io che tante n’abbia,
quante bisce elli avea su per la groppa
infin ove comincia nostra labbia.

Sovra le spalle, dietro da la coppa,
con l’ali aperte li giacea un draco;
e quello affuoca qualunque s’intoppa.

Lo mio maestro disse: «Questi è Caco,
che, sotto ’l sasso di monte Aventino,
di sangue fece spesse volte laco.

Non va co’ suoi fratei per un cammino,
per lo furto che frodolente fece
del grande armento ch’elli ebbe a vicino;

onde cessar le sue opere biece
sotto la mazza d’Ercule, che forse
gliene diè cento, e non sentì le diece».

Mentre che sì parlava, ed el trascorse,
e tre spiriti venner sotto noi,
de’ quai né io né ’l duca mio s’accorse,

se non quando gridar: «Chi siete voi?»;
per che nostra novella si ristette,
e intendemmo pur ad essi poi.

Io non li conoscea; ma ei seguette,
come suol seguitar per alcun caso,
che l’un nomar un altro convenette,

dicendo: «Cianfa dove fia rimaso?»;
per ch’io, acciò che ’l duca stesse attento,
mi puosi ’l dito su dal mento al naso.

Se tu se’ or, lettore, a creder lento
ciò ch’io dirò, non sarà maraviglia,
ché io che ’l vidi, a pena il mi consento.

Com’ io tenea levate in lor le ciglia,
e un serpente con sei piè si lancia
dinanzi a l’uno, e tutto a lui s’appiglia.

Co’ piè di mezzo li avvinse la pancia
e con li anterïor le braccia prese;
poi li addentò e l’una e l’altra guancia;

li diretani a le cosce distese,
e miseli la coda tra ’mbedue
e dietro per le ren sù la ritese.

Ellera abbarbicata mai non fue
ad alber sì, come l’orribil fiera
per l’altrui membra avviticchiò le sue.

Poi s’appiccar, come di calda cera
fossero stati, e mischiar lor colore,
né l’un né l’altro già parea quel ch’era:

come procede innanzi da l’ardore,
per lo papiro suso, un color bruno
che non è nero ancora e ’l bianco more.

Li altri due ’l riguardavano, e ciascuno
gridava: «Omè, Agnel, come ti muti!
Vedi che già non se’ né due né uno».

Già eran li due capi un divenuti,
quando n’apparver due figure miste
in una faccia, ov’ eran due perduti.

Fersi le braccia due di quattro liste;
le cosce con le gambe e ’l ventre e ’l casso
divenner membra che non fuor mai viste.

Ogne primaio aspetto ivi era casso:
due e nessun l’imagine perversa
parea; e tal sen gio con lento passo.

Come ’l ramarro sotto la gran fersa
dei dì canicular, cangiando sepe,
folgore par se la via attraversa,

sì pareva, venendo verso l’epe
de li altri due, un serpentello acceso,
livido e nero come gran di pepe;

e quella parte onde prima è preso
nostro alimento, a l’un di lor trafisse;
poi cadde giuso innanzi lui disteso.

Lo trafitto ’l mirò, ma nulla disse;
anzi, co’ piè fermati, sbadigliava
pur come sonno o febbre l’assalisse.

Elli ’l serpente e quei lui riguardava;
l’un per la piaga e l’altro per la bocca
fummavan forte, e ’l fummo si scontrava.

Taccia Lucano ormai là dov’ e’ tocca
del misero Sabello e di Nasidio,
e attenda a udir quel ch’or si scocca.

Taccia di Cadmo e d’Aretusa Ovidio,
ché se quello in serpente e quella in fonte
converte poetando, io non lo ’nvidio;

ché due nature mai a fronte a fronte
non trasmutò sì ch’amendue le forme
a cambiar lor matera fosser pronte.

Insieme si rispuosero a tai norme,
che ’l serpente la coda in forca fesse,
e ’l feruto ristrinse insieme l’orme.

Le gambe con le cosce seco stesse
s’appiccar sì, che ’n poco la giuntura
non facea segno alcun che si paresse.

Togliea la coda fessa la figura
che si perdeva là, e la sua pelle
si facea molle, e quella di là dura.

Io vidi intrar le braccia per l’ascelle,
e i due piè de la fiera, ch’eran corti,
tanto allungar quanto accorciavan quelle.

Poscia li piè di rietro, insieme attorti,
diventaron lo membro che l’uom cela,
e ’l misero del suo n’avea due porti.

Mentre che ’l fummo l’uno e l’altro vela
di color novo, e genera ’l pel suso
per l’una parte e da l’altra il dipela,

l’un si levò e l’altro cadde giuso,
non torcendo però le lucerne empie,
sotto le quai ciascun cambiava muso.

Quel ch’era dritto, il trasse ver’ le tempie,
e di troppa matera ch’in là venne
uscir li orecchi de le gote scempie;

ciò che non corse in dietro e si ritenne
di quel soverchio, fé naso a la faccia
e le labbra ingrossò quanto convenne.

Quel che giacëa, il muso innanzi caccia,
e li orecchi ritira per la testa
come face le corna la lumaccia;

e la lingua, ch’avëa unita e presta
prima a parlar, si fende, e la forcuta
ne l’altro si richiude; e ’l fummo resta.

L’anima ch’era fiera divenuta,
suffolando si fugge per la valle,
e l’altro dietro a lui parlando sputa.

Poscia li volse le novelle spalle,
e disse a l’altro: «I’ vo’ che Buoso corra,
com’ ho fatt’ io, carpon per questo calle».

Così vid’ io la settima zavorra
mutare e trasmutare; e qui mi scusi
la novità se fior la penna abborra.

E avvegna che li occhi miei confusi
fossero alquanto e l’animo smagato,
non poter quei fuggirsi tanto chiusi,

ch’i’ non scorgessi ben Puccio Sciancato;
ed era quel che sol, di tre compagni
che venner prima, non era mutato;

l’altr’ era quel che tu, Gaville, piagni.

Giorgio Petrocchi, editor. Full text is available at Colombia University’s Digital Dante project.

Canto 26

Rejoice, O Florence, since thou art so great,
that thou dost beat thy wings o’er sea and land,
while ev’n through Hell thy name is spread abroad!
Among the thieves five such as these I found,
thy citizens, whence shame accrues to me,
nor to great honor risest thou thereby.
But if the truth be dreamed at dawn’s approach,
thou ’lt feel a little while from now what Prato,
of others not to speak, is craving for thee;
and were it now, it would not be too soon;
so were it, then, since thus it needs must be!
for it will grieve me more, the more I age.
We went away, and up the flight of stairs,
the bournes had formed for our descent before,
my Teacher climbed again, and drew me with him;
and as we followed up the lonely path
among the rocks and boulders of the crag,
our feet proceeded not without our hands.
I sorrowed then, and now again I sorrow,
when I direct my mind to what I saw,
and curb my genius more than I am wont,

lest it should run when virtue guides it not;
that, if a kindly star, or aught that’s better,
have blest me, I myself may not regret it.
As many glow-worms as the countryman, —
who on the hillside takes his rest, when he,
who lights the world, least hides his face from us,
while to the gnat the fly is giving way, —
sees down along the valley where, perchance,
he gathers in his grapes, or ploughs his field;
with just as many flames the whole eighth trench
was gleaming bright, as I perceived at once,
when I was where its bottom came in view.
As he who by the bears avenged himself,
beheld Elijah’s chariot when it left,
and when to heaven its horses rose erect,
since he could not so trace it with his eyes,
as to see more than just the flame alone,
when like a little cloud it rose on high;
of such a nature were the flames that moved
along the gulley of the ditch, for none
displays its theft, though each a sinner hides.
Risen up to look, I so stood on the bridge,
that without being pushed I would have fallen,
had I not grasped a great projecting rock.
My Leader, who perceived me thus intent,
then said: “The spirits are within the fires,
and each is swathed by that wherewith he burns.”

“My Teacher,” I replied, “I ’m more assured
through hearing thee, but deemed it so already,
and wished to ask thee: ‘Who is in the flame
which comes along so cloven at the top,
that from the pyre it seems to rise, whereon
Etèocles was with his brother placed?’”
He answered me: “Therein are both Ulysses
and Diomed tormented, who in pain
thus go together, as they did in wrath;
and in that flame of theirs they now bewail
the ambush of the horse, which made the gate,
from which the Roman’s noble seed went forth;
there they lament the trick, because of which
Deidamìa, dead, still mourns Achilles;
there the Palladium’s penalty is paid.”
“If they can speak within those sparks,” said I,
“I pray thee, Teacher, much, and pray again
that mine be worth to thee a thousand prayers,
refuse not my request to linger here
until the horned flame come this way; thou see’st
that toward it I ’m inclined by great desire.”
And he replied to me: “Thy prayer deserves
much praise and therefore I accede to it,
but see thou that thy tongue restrain itself.
Leave speech to me, who have a clear idea
of what thou wouldst; for they, since Greeks they were,
might be, perchance, disdainful of thy words.”

After the flame had come so near to us,
that time and place seemed fitting to my Leader,
’t was in this fashion that I heard him speak:
“O ye that in a single flame are two,
if I deserved of you, when still alive,
if I deserved of you or much or little,
when in the world I wrote the lofty verses,
depart not; but let one of you inform us
whither, when lost, he went away to die.”
The greater horn then of the ancient flame
began to quiver with a murmuring sound,
as would a flame made weary by the wind;
and then, while swaying here and there its tip,
as if the latter were the tongue that spoke,
gave forth a voice, and said: “When I departed
from Circe, who concealed me near Gaeta
more than a year before Aeneas so
had named the place, nor fondness for my son,
nor pious reverence for my agèd father,
nor ev’n the bounden love which should have cheered
Penelope, could overcome within me
the eagerness I had to gain experience
both of the world, and of the vice and worth
of men; but forth I put upon the deep
and open sea with but a single ship,
and with that little company, by whom
I had not been deserted. Both its shores

I then beheld, as far away as Spain,
Morocco and the island of the Sards,
and all the rest that sea bathes round about.
Both old and slow were I and my companions,
when we attained that narrow passage-way,
where Hercules set up those signs of his,
which warned men not to sail beyond their bounds;
Seville I left behind me on the right hand,
Ceuta I’d left already on the other.
And then I said: ‘O brothers, ye who now
have through a hundred thousand perils reached
the West, to this so short a waking-time
still left your senses, will not to refuse
experience of that world behind the sun
which knows not man! Bethink you of the seed
whence ye have sprung; for ye were not created
to lead the life of stupid animals,
but manliness and knowledge to pursue.’
So eager for the voyage did I make
my fellows by this little speech of mine,
that, after it, I hardly could have checked them.
Hence, to the morning having turned our stern,
we with our oars made wings for our mad flight,
e’er veering toward the left as on we sped.
Night was already seeing all the stars
of the other pole, and our pole so low down,
that from the ocean’s floor it never rose.

Five times rekindled, and as often quenched,
had been the light beneath the moon, since first
we entered on the passage of the deep,
when lo, a mountain loomed before us, dim
by reason of the distance, and so high
it seemed to me, that I had seen none such.
And we rejoiced; but soon our happiness
was turned to grief; for from the new-found land
a whirlwind rose, and smote our vessel’s prow;
three times it made her whirl with all the waters;
then at the fourth it made her stern go up,
and prow go down, even as Another pleased,
till over us the ocean’s waves had closed.”

Courtney Langdon, translator. Full text is available at Liberty Fund.

Canto 26

Godi, Fiorenza, poi che se’ sì grande
che per mare e per terra batti l’ali,
e per lo ’nferno tuo nome si spande!

Tra li ladron trovai cinque cotali
tuoi cittadini onde mi ven vergogna,
e tu in grande orranza non ne sali.

Ma se presso al mattin del ver si sogna,
tu sentirai, di qua da picciol tempo,
di quel che Prato, non ch’altri, t’agogna.

E se già fosse, non saria per tempo.
Così foss’ ei, da che pur esser dee!
ché più mi graverà, com’ più m’attempo.

Noi ci partimmo, e su per le scalee
che n’avean fatto iborni a scender pria,
rimontò ’l duca mio e trasse mee;

e proseguendo la solinga via,
tra le schegge e tra ’ rocchi de lo scoglio
lo piè sanza la man non si spedia.

Allor mi dolsi, e ora mi ridoglio
quando drizzo la mente a ciò ch’io vidi,
e più lo ’ngegno affreno ch’i’ non soglio,

perché non corra che virtù nol guidi;
sì che, se stella bona o miglior cosa
m’ha dato ’l ben, ch’io stessi nol m’invidi.

Quante ’l villan ch’al poggio si riposa,
nel tempo che colui che ’l mondo schiara
la faccia sua a noi tien meno ascosa,

come la mosca cede a la zanzara,
vede lucciole giù per la vallea,
forse colà dov’ e’ vendemmia e ara:

di tante fiamme tutta risplendea
l’ottava bolgia, sì com’ io m’accorsi
tosto che fui là ’ve ’l fondo parea.

E qual colui che si vengiò con li orsi
vide ’l carro d’Elia al dipartire,
quando i cavalli al cielo erti levorsi,

che nol potea sì con li occhi seguire,
ch’el vedesse altro che la fiamma sola,
sì come nuvoletta, in sù salire:

tal si move ciascuna per la gola
del fosso, ché nessuna mostra ’l furto,
e ogne fiamma un peccatore invola.

Io stava sovra ’l ponte a veder surto,
sì che s’io non avessi un ronchion preso,
caduto sarei giù sanz’ esser urto.

E ’l duca che mi vide tanto atteso,
disse: «Dentro dai fuochi son li spirti;
catun si fascia di quel ch’elli è inceso».

«Maestro mio», rispuos’ io, «per udirti
son io più certo; ma già m’era avviso
che così fosse, e già voleva dirti:

chi è ’n quel foco che vien sì diviso
di sopra, che par surger de la pira
dov’ Eteòcle col fratel fu miso?».

Rispuose a me: «Là dentro si martira
Ulisse e Dïomede, e così insieme
a la vendetta vanno come a l’ira;

e dentro da la lor fiamma si geme
l’agguato del caval che fé la porta
onde uscì de’ Romani il gentil seme.

Piangevisi entro l’arte per che, morta,
Deïdamìa ancor si duol d’Achille,
e del Palladio pena vi si porta».

«S’ei posson dentro da quelle faville
parlar», diss’ io, «maestro, assai ten priego
e ripriego, che ’l priego vaglia mille,

che non mi facci de l’attender niego
fin che la fiamma cornuta qua vegna;
vedi che del disio ver’ lei mi piego!».

Ed elli a me: «La tua preghiera è degna
di molta loda, e io però l’accetto;
ma fa che la tua lingua si sostegna.

Lascia parlare a me, ch’i’ ho concetto
ciò che tu vuoi; ch’ei sarebbero schivi,
perch’ e’ fuor greci, forse del tuo detto».

Poi che la fiamma fu venuta quivi
dove parve al mio duca tempo e loco,
in questa forma lui parlare audivi:

«O voi che siete due dentro ad un foco,
s’io meritai di voi mentre ch’io vissi,
s’io meritai di voi assai o poco

quando nel mondo li alti versi scrissi,
non vi movete; ma l’un di voi dica
dove, per lui, perduto a morir gissi».

Lo maggior corno de la fiamma antica
cominciò a crollarsi mormorando,
pur come quella cui vento affatica;

indi la cima qua e là menando,
come fosse la lingua che parlasse,
gittò voce di fuori e disse: «Quando

mi diparti’ da Circe, che sottrasse
me più d’un anno là presso a Gaeta,
prima che sì Enëa la nomasse,

né dolcezza di figlio, né la pieta
del vecchio padre, né ’l debito amore
lo qual dovea Penelopè far lieta,

vincer potero dentro a me l’ardore
ch’i’ ebbi a divenir del mondo esperto
e de li vizi umani e del valore;

a misi me per l’alto mare aperto
sol con un legno e con quella compagna
picciola da la qual non fui diserto.

L’un lito e l’altro vidi infin la Spagna,
fin nel Morrocco, e l’isola d’i Sardi,
e l’altre che quel mare intorno bagna.

Io e ’ compagni eravam vecchi e tardi
quando venimmo a quella foce stretta
dov’ Ercule segnò li suoi riguardi

acciò che l’uom più oltre non si metta;
da la man destra mi lasciai Sibilia,
da l’altra già m’avea lasciata Setta.

“O frati”, dissi, “che per cento milia
perigli siete giunti a l’occidente,
a questa tanto picciola vigilia

d’i nostri sensi ch’è del rimanente
non vogliate negar l’esperïenza,
di retro al sol, del mondo sanza gente.

Considerate la vostra semenza:
fatti non foste a viver come bruti,
ma per seguir virtute e canoscenza”.

Li miei compagni fec’ io sì aguti,
con questa orazion picciola, al cammino,
che a pena poscia li avrei ritenuti;

e volta nostra poppa nel mattino,
de’ remi facemmo ali al folle volo,
sempre acquistando dal lato mancino.

Tutte le stelle già de l’altro polo
vedea la notte, e ’l nostro tanto basso,
che non surgëa fuor del marin suolo.

Cinque volte racceso e tante casso
o lume era di sotto da la luna,
poi che ’ntrati eravam ne l’alto passo,

quando n’apparve una montagna, bruna
per la distanza, e parvemi alta tanto
quanto veduta non avëa alcuna.

Noi ci allegrammo, e tosto tornò in pianto;
ché de la nova terra un turbo nacque
e percosse del legno il primo canto.

Tre volte il fé girar con tutte l’acque;
a la quarta levar la poppa in suso
e la prora ire in giù, com’ altrui piacque,

infin che ’l mar fu sovra noi richiuso».

Giorgio Petrocchi, editor. Full text is available at Colombia University’s Digital Dante project.

Canto 27

The flame, because of having ceased to speak,
was quiet and erect, and now away from us
was going with the gentle Poet’s leave;
when lo, another, which behind it came,
caused us to turn our eyes up toward its tip,
by reason of a vague sound issuing thence.
As the Sicilian bull (which bellowed first
with the lament of him, and that was right,
who with his file had given form to it,)
was wont to bellow with the voice of him
who suffered in it, so that, though of brass,
it seemed the one who by the pain was pierced;
even so, since from the body of the flame
they had nor path nor mouth, the painful words
were changed at first into the latter’s tongue.
But when these words had travelled to the tip,
and given it that vibration which the tongue,
when uttered, gave to them, we heard it say:
“O thou, to whom I now address my voice,
and who just now didst talk in Lombard, saying:
‘Now go thy way, for thee I urge no more;’

though I, perhaps, have somewhat late arrived,
be not displeased to stop and speak with me;
thou see’st that I am not, although I burn!
If into this blind world thou only now
art fallen down from that sweet Latin land,
whence all my guilt I bring, pray tell me whether
the Romagnoles are having peace or war;
for I came from the mountains ’tween Urbino
and that high peak from which the Tiber springs.”
While downward I was leaning still intent,
my Leader touched me on my side, and said:
“Speak thou, for this one an Italian is.”
And I, who had my answer all prepared,
began to speak without delay: “O soul,
that art concealed down yonder, thy Romagna
is not at present, and she never was,
devoid of war within her tyrants’ hearts;
but I left none apparent there just now.
Ravenna is, as she for many years
has been; Polenta’s eagle so broods there,
that Cervia it o’ercovers with its wings.
The town which made the long resistance once,
and of the French a sanguinary heap,
beneath the green paws finds itself again.
Verrucchio’s former Mastif and the new,
who foully with Montagna dealt, there make,
where they are wont, a gimlet of their teeth.

The cities of Lamone and Santerno
the little lion of the white lair rules,
who changes sides from summer-time to winter;
and that whose flank is by the Savio bathed,
lives, as it sits twixt plain and mount,
a free state half, and half a tyranny.
And now, I pray thee, tell me who thou art,
nor harder be than others here have been,
so may thy name maintain itself on earth.”
After the flame had roared a little while,
as is its fashion, to and fro it moved
its pointed tip, and then gave forth this breath:
“If I believed that my reply were made
to one who to the world would e’er return,
this flame would stay without another quiver;
but inasmuch as, if I hear the truth,
none e’er returned alive from this abyss,
fearless of infamy I answer thee.
A man of arms I was, then Cordelier,
trusting, since girded thus, to make amends;
and certainly my trust had been confirmed,
were ’t not for that High Priest, (whom ill befall!)
who set me at my former sins again;
both how and why I ’d have thee hear from me.
While I was still the shape of bones and flesh
my mother gave me, my performances
were not a lion’s, but a fox’s deeds.

All covert practices and hidden ways
I knew; and I so carried on their arts,
that to the ends of earth their fame was noised.
When I perceived at last that I had reached
that period of my life, when each should strike
his sails and coil his ropes, what hitherto
had given me pleasure I thereat disliked;
I yielded then, repenting and confessing,
and that, alas, poor me! would have availed.
The Prince of modern Pharisees, who then
hard by the Lateran had a war on hand,
though not with either Saracens or Jews,
for Christian were all enemies of his,
and none of them had gone to conquer Acre,
or been a merchant in the Soldan’s land;
not heeding in himself his lofty office
and holy orders, or in me the cord,
which leaner used to make those girt therewith;
but as upon Soracte Constantine
once bade Sylvester heal his leprosy;
so this one called on me, as master-leech,
to cure him of the fever of his pride;
he asked me for advice, but I kept still,
because his words were like a drunkard’s words.
And then he said: ‘Let not thy heart mistrust;
I from now on absolve thee; teach me, then,
how I can Palestrina overthrow.

To lock and unlock Heaven is in my power,
as thou dost know; two, therefore, are the Keys,
my predecessor held in small esteem.’
His weighty words then drove me to the point,
at which the silent course appeared the worse;
‘Father,’ I therefore said, ‘since from the sin
thou washest me, which I must now commit,
a promise long drawn out but shortly kept
will cause thy triumph on the lofty seat.’
Then Francis came for me, when I was dead;
but one of our black Cherubs said to him:
‘Remove him not, and do no wrong to me!
Among my menials he must needs descend,
because he gave the fraudulent advice,
since which till now I ’ve had him by the hair;
for who repents not cannot be absolved,
nor yet can one at once repent and will,
the contradiction not permitting it!’
O woeful me! O how I shook with fear,
when, after laying hold on me, he said:
‘Perhaps thou didst not think me a logician!’
He carried me to Minos, and the latter
round his hard back eight times entwined his tail,
and when in great rage he had bitten it,
‘A sinner of the thievish fire is this,’
he said; hence, where thou see’st me, I am lost,
and, thus robed, sorrowing go my way.”

When he had thus completed his discourse,
the flame departed from us with its grief,
twisting and lashing its sharp-pointed horn.
I and my Leader then passed further on
up o’er the crag, as far as the next arch
which spans the ditch, wherein their due is paid
to those who burdens win by severing bonds.

Courtney Langdon, translator. Full text is available at Liberty Fund.

Canto 27

Già era dritta in sù la fiamma e queta
per non dir più, e già da noi sen gia
con la licenza del dolce poeta,

quand’ un’altra, che dietro a lei venìa,
ne fece volger li occhi a la sua cima
per un confuso suon che fuor n’uscia.

Come ’l bue cicilian che mugghiò prima
col pianto di colui, e ciò fu dritto,
che l’avea temperato con sua lima,

mugghiava con la voce de l’afflitto,
sì che, con tutto che fosse di rame,
pur el pareva dal dolor trafitto;

così, per non aver via né forame
dal principio nel foco, in suo linguaggio
si convertïan le parole grame.

Ma poscia ch’ebber colto lor vïaggio
su per la punta, dandole quel guizzo
che dato avea la lingua in lor passaggio,

udimmo dire: «O tu a cu’ io drizzo
la voce e che parlavi mo lombardo,
dicendo “Istra ten va, più non t’adizzo”,

perch’ io sia giunto forse alquanto tardo,
non t’incresca restare a parlar meco;
vedi che non incresce a me, e ardo!

Se tu pur mo in questo mondo cieco
caduto se’ di quella dolce terra
latina ond’ io mia colpa tutta reco,

dimmi se Romagnuoli han pace o guerra;
ch’io fui d’i monti là intra Orbino
e ’l giogo di che Tever si diserra».

Io era in giuso ancora attento e chino,
quando il mio duca mi tentò di costa,
dicendo: «Parla tu; questi è latino».

E io, ch’avea già pronta la risposta,
sanza indugio a parlare incominciai:
«O anima che se’ là giù nascosta,

Romagna tua non è, e non fu mai,
sanza guerra ne’ cuor de’ suoi tiranni;
ma ’n palese nessuna or vi lasciai.

Ravenna sta come stata è molt’ anni:
l’aguglia da Polenta la si cova,
sì che Cervia ricuopre co’ suoi vanni.

La terra che fé già la lunga prova
e di Franceschi sanguinoso mucchio,
sotto le branche verdi si ritrova.

E ’l mastin vecchio e ’l nuovo da Verrucchio,
che fecer di Montagna il mal governo,
là dove soglion fan d’i denti succhio.

Le città di Lamone e di Santerno
conduce il lïoncel dal nido bianco,
che muta parte da la state al verno.

E quella cu’ il Savio bagna il fianco,
così com’ ella sie’ tra ’l piano e ’l monte
tra tirannia si vive e stato franco.

Ora chi se’, ti priego che ne conte;
non esser duro più ch’altri sia stato,
se ’l nome tuo nel mondo tegna fronte».

Poscia che ’l foco alquanto ebbe rugghiato
al modo suo, l’aguta punta mosse
di qua, di là, e poi diè cotal fiato:

«S’i’ credesse che mia risposta fosse
a persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
questa fiamma staria sanza più scosse;

ma però che già mai di questo fondo
non tornò vivo alcun, s’i’ odo il vero,
sanza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.

Io fui uom d’arme, e poi fui cordigliero,
credendomi, sì cinto, fare ammenda;
e certo il creder mio venìa intero,

se non fosse il gran prete, a cui mal prenda!,
che mi rimise ne le prime colpe;
e come e quare, voglio che m’intenda.

Mentre ch’io forma fui d’ossa e di polpe
che la madre mi diè, l’opere mie
non furon leonine, ma di volpe.

Li accorgimenti e le coperte vie
io seppi tutte, e sì menai lor arte,
ch’al fine de la terra il suono uscie.

Quando mi vidi giunto in quella parte
di mia etade ove ciascun dovrebbe
calar le vele e raccoglier le sarte,

ciò che pria mi piacëa, allor m’increbbe,
e pentuto e confesso mi rendei;
ahi miser lasso! e giovato sarebbe.

Lo principe d’i novi Farisei,
avendo guerra presso a Laterano,
e non con Saracin né con Giudei,

ché ciascun suo nimico era cristiano,
e nessun era stato a vincer Acri
né mercatante in terra di Soldano,

né sommo officio né ordini sacri
guardò in sé, né in me quel capestro
che solea fare i suoi cinti più macri.

Ma come Costantin chiese Silvestro
d’entro Siratti a guerir de la lebbre,
così mi chiese questi per maestro

a guerir de la sua superba febbre;
domandommi consiglio, e io tacetti
perché le sue parole parver ebbre.

E’ poi ridisse: “Tuo cuor non sospetti;
finor t’assolvo, e tu m’insegna fare
sì come Penestrino in terra getti.

Lo ciel poss’ io serrare e diserrare,
come tu sai; però son due le chiavi
che ’l mio antecessor non ebbe care”.

Allor mi pinser li argomenti gravi
là ’ ve ’l tacer mi fu avviso ’l peggio,
e dissi: “Padre, da che tu mi lavi

di quel peccato ov’io mo cader deggio,
lunga promessa con l’attender corto
ti farà trïunfar ne l’alto seggio”.

Francesco venne poi com’ io fu’ morto,
per me; ma un d’i neri cherubini
li disse: “Non portar: non mi far torto.

Venir se ne dee giù tra ’ miei meschini
perché diede ’l consiglio frodolente,
dal quale in qua stato li sono a’ crini;

ch’assolver non si può chi non si pente,
né pentere e volere insieme puossi
per la contradizion che nol consente”.

Oh me dolente! come mi riscossi
quando mi prese dicendomi: “Forse
tu non pensavi ch’io löico fossi!”.

A Minòs mi portò; e quelli attorse
otto volte la coda al dosso duro;
e poi che per gran rabbia la si morse,

disse: “Questi è d’i rei del foco furo”;
per ch’io là dove vedi son perduto,
e sì vestito, andando, mi rancuro».

Quand’ elli ebbe ’l suo dir così compiuto,
la fiamma dolorando si partio,
torcendo e dibattendo ’l corno aguto.

Noi passamm’ oltre, e io e ’l duca mio,
su per lo scoglio infino in su l’altr’ arco
che cuopre ’l fosso in che si paga il fio

a quei che scommettendo acquistan carco.

Giorgio Petrocchi, editor. Full text is available at Colombia University’s Digital Dante project.

Canto 28

Who ever could, ev’n with unfettered words,
tell fully of the blood and of the wounds
which now I saw, though oft he told the tale?
All tongues would certainly fall short of it,
by reason of our speech and of our mind,
whose means are small for taking in so much.
If all the people should again assemble,
who on Apulia’s fortune-ravaged soil
suffered of old from all the loss of blood
shed by the Trojans, and in that long war,
which with its spoil of rings made such high heaps,
as Livy writes, who maketh no mistakes;
with those who felt the painful force of blows
received in waging war with Robert Guiscard,
and those whose bones are still heaped up together
at Ceperano, where a faithless liar
was each Apulian, and near Tagliacozzo,
where old Alardo won, though all unarmed;
and if, of these, one showed a limb pierced through,
and one a limb lopped off, ’t would all be nothing,
compared with this ninth trench’s foul display.

No cask, indeed, by loss of middle-board
or stave, is opened as was one I saw,
split from the chin to where one breaketh wind;
while down between his legs his entrails hung,
his pluck appeared, and that disgusting sack,
which maketh excrement of what is swallowed.
While I on seeing him was all intent,
he looked at me, and opening with his hands
his breast, he said: “See now how I am cloven!
Behold how torn apart Mahomet is!
Ali in tears moves on ahead of me,
cloven in his face from forelock down to chin;
and all the others whom thou seest here
disseminators were, when still alive,
of strife and schism, and hence are cloven thus.
There is a devil here behind, who thus
fiercely adorns, and to the sword’s edge puts
each member of this company anew,
when we have gone around the woeful road;
because, ere one return in front of him,
the wounds thus made have all been closed again.
But who art thou, that musest on the crag,
perhaps to put off going to the torture
adjudged thine accusation of thyself?”
“Death hath not reached him yet,” replied my Teacher,
“nor to a torment is he led by guilt,
but that complete experience may be giv’n him,

I, who am dead, must needs conduct him here
from circle unto circle down through Hell;
and this is true, as that I speak to thee.”
On hearing him, more were there than a hundred
who stopped there in the ditch to look at me,
and who through their surprise forgot their pain.
“To Fra Dolcino do thou therefore say,
thou that, perhaps, wilt shortly see the sun,
if soon he would not hither follow me,
to arm him so with food, lest stress of snow
should give the Novarese a victory,
which else would not be easily obtained.”
When one foot he had raised to go away,
Mahomet said these words to me; which done,
upon the ground he stretched it to depart.
Another then, who had his neck pierced through,
his nose cut off as far as ’neath his brows,
and who had one ear only, having stopped
to gaze in wonder with the others there,
opened, before the rest, his throat, whose neck
vermilion was on every side, and said:
“O thou that by thy guilt art not condemned,
and whom up in the Latin land I ’ve seen,
unless too great resemblance play me false,
call Pier da Medicina to thy mind,
if e’er thou see again the lovely plain,
which from Vercelli slopes to Marcabò.

And make it known to Fano’s two best men,
to Messer Guido and Angiolello, too,
that they, unless foreseeing be in vain
down here, will from their vessel be cast forth,
and drowned in sacks near La Cattòlica,
through a disloyal tyrant’s treachery.
Between the isles Majolica and Cyprus
Neptune ne’er saw so great a crime committed
by pirates, nay, nor by the Argolic folk.
That traitor who sees only with one eye,
and holds the town, from seeing which, one now
is with me here, who fain would fasting be,
will to a conference have them come with him;
he ’ll then so act, that ’gainst Focara’s wind
they ’ll stand in need of neither vow nor prayer.”
And I to him: “Point out and show to me,
if news of thee thou ’dst have me bear above,
which is the one who had the bitter sight.”
Thereat he laid his hand upon the jaw
of one of his companions, oped his mouth,
and cried: “This is the one, for he speaks not;
when exiled, he removed all doubt in Caesar,
by saying that a man, when once prepared,
ne’er brooked delay but to his detriment.”
Oh, how dismayed that Curio seemed to me,
who from his throat now had his tongue cut out,
yet once had been so daring in his speech!

Then one, from whom both hands had been lopped off,
raising his maimed arms through the gloomy air,
so that his blood befouled his face, cried out:
“Mosca will thou remember, too, who said,
alas! ‘What ’s done is done!’ a speech which proved
the seed of evil for the Tuscan race.”
“And death” I thereto added, “to thy tribe!”
Then he, as woe on woe he heaped, went off,
as one would whom his grief had made insane.
But I remained to look upon the throng,
and such a thing I saw as I should be
afraid to tell of without further proof;
if it were not that conscience reassures me,
the good companion which, beneath the breastplate
of conscious purity, emboldens man.
I really saw, and still I seem to see it,
a trunk without a head, which moved along,
as moved the others of the mournful herd;
and by the hair it held the severed head,
which, hanging like a lantern from its hand,
was saying as it gazed at us: “O me!”
With his own self he made himself a lamp,
and two in one they were, and one in two;
how this can be, He knows who so ordains.
When at the bridge’s very foot he was,
he raised his arm above him, head and all,
that he might thus bring near to us his words,

which were: “Now see my baneful punishment,
thou that, though breathing, go’st to see the dead!
See whether any be as great as this!
And that thou with thee mayst bear news of me,
know that Bertran de Born I am, the man
who gave the youthful king the ill support.
Of sire and son I mutual rebels made;
Ahithophel by Absalom and David,
with his malicious goadings, did no more.
Because I severed those who thus were joined,
I bear my brain around with me, alas!
severed from its foundation in this trunk;
retaliation thus is seen in me.”

Courtney Langdon, translator. Full text is available at Liberty Fund.

Canto 28

Chi poria mai pur con parole sciolte
dicer del sangue e de le piaghe a pieno
ch’i’ ora vidi, per narrar più volte?

Ogne lingua per certo verria meno
per lo nostro sermone e per la mente
c’hanno a tanto comprender poco seno.

S’el s’aunasse ancor tutta la gente
che già, in su la fortunata terra
di Puglia, fu del suo sangue dolente

per li Troiani e per la lunga guerra
che de l’anella fé sì alte spoglie,
come Livïo scrive, che non erra,

con quella che sentio di colpi doglie
per contastare a Ruberto Guiscardo;
e l’altra il cui ossame ancor s’accoglie

a Ceperan, là dove fu bugiardo
ciascun Pugliese, e là da Tagliacozzo,
dove sanz’ arme vinse il vecchio Alardo;

e qual forato suo membro e qual mozzo
mostrasse, d’aequar sarebbe nulla
il modo de la nona bolgia sozzo.

Già veggia, per mezzul perdere o lulla,
com’ io vidi un, così non si pertugia,
rotto dal mento infin dove si trulla.

Tra le gambe pendevan le minugia;
la corata pareva e ’l tristo sacco
che merda fa di quel che si trangugia.

Mentre che tutto in lui veder m’attacco,
guardommi e con le man s’aperse il petto,
dicendo: «Or vedi com’ io mi dilacco!

vedi come storpiato è Mäometto!
Dinanzi a me sen va piangendo Alì,
fesso nel volto dal mento al ciuffetto.

E tutti li altri che tu vedi qui,
seminator di scandalo e di scisma
fuor vivi, e però son fessi così.

Un diavolo è qua dietro che n’accisma
sì crudelmente, al taglio de la spada
rimettendo ciascun di questa risma,

quand’ avem volta la dolente strada;
però che le ferite son richiuse
prima ch’altri dinanzi li rivada.

Ma tu chi se’ che ’n su lo scoglio muse,
forse per indugiar d’ire a la pena
ch’è giudicata in su le tue accuse?».

«Né morte ’l giunse ancor, né colpa ’l mena»,
rispuose ’l mio maestro, «a tormentarlo;
ma per dar lui esperïenza piena,

a me, che morto son, convien menarlo
per lo ’nferno qua giù di giro in giro;
e quest’ è ver così com’ io ti parlo».

Più fuor di cento che, quando l’udiro,
s’arrestaron nel fosso a riguardarmi
per maraviglia, oblïando il martiro.

«Or dì a fra Dolcin dunque che s’armi,
tu che forse vedra’ il sole in breve,
s’ello non vuol qui tosto seguitarmi,

sì di vivanda, che stretta di neve
non rechi la vittoria al Noarese,
ch’altrimenti acquistar non saria leve».

Poi che l’un piè per girsene sospese,
Mäometto mi disse esta parola;
indi a partirsi in terra lo distese.

Un altro, che forata avea la gola
e tronco ’l naso infin sotto le ciglia,
e non avea mai ch’una orecchia sola,

ristato a riguardar per maraviglia
con li altri, innanzi a li altri aprì la canna,
ch’era di fuor d’ogne parte vermiglia,

e disse: «O tu cui colpa non condanna
e cu’ io vidi su in terra latina,
se troppa simiglianza non m’inganna,

rimembriti di Pier da Medicina,
se mai torni a veder lo dolce piano
che da Vercelli a Marcabò dichina.

E fa saper a’ due miglior da Fano,
a messer Guido e anco ad Angiolello,
che, se l’antiveder qui non è vano,

gittati saran fuor di lor vasello
e mazzerati presso a la Cattolica
per tradimento d’un tiranno fello.

Tra l’isola di Cipri e di Maiolica
non vide mai sì gran fallo Nettuno,
non da pirate, non da gente argolica.

Quel traditor che vede pur con l’uno,
e tien la terra che tale qui meco
vorrebbe di vedere esser digiuno,

farà venirli a parlamento seco;
poi farà sì, ch’al vento di Focara
non sarà lor mestier voto né preco».

E io a lui: «Dimostrami e dichiara,
se vuo’ ch’i’ porti sù di te novella,
chi è colui da la veduta amara».

Allor puose la mano a la mascella
d’un suo compagno e la bocca li aperse,
gridando: «Questi è desso, e non favella.

Questi, scacciato, il dubitar sommerse
in Cesare, affermando che ’l fornito
sempre con danno l’attender sofferse».

Oh quanto mi pareva sbigottito
con la lingua tagliata ne la strozza
Curïo, ch’a dir fu così ardito!

E un ch’avea l’una e l’altra man mozza,
levando i moncherin per l’aura fosca,
sì che ’l sangue facea la faccia sozza,

gridò: «Ricordera’ti anche del Mosca,
che disse, lasso!, “Capo ha cosa fatta”,
che fu mal seme per la gente tosca».

E io li aggiunsi: «E morte di tua schiatta»;
per ch’elli, accumulando duol con duolo,
sen gio come persona trista e matta.

Ma io rimasi a riguardar lo stuolo,
e vidi cosa ch’io avrei paura,
sanza più prova, di contarla solo;

se non che coscïenza m’assicura,
la buona compagnia che l’uom francheggia
sotto l’asbergo del sentirsi pura.

Io vidi certo, e ancor par ch’io ’l veggia,
un busto sanza capo andar sì come
andavan li altri de la trista greggia;

e ’l capo tronco tenea per le chiome,
pesol con mano a guisa di lanterna:
e quel mirava noi e dicea: «Oh me!».

Di sé facea a sé stesso lucerna,
ed eran due in uno e uno in due;
com’ esser può, quei sa che sì governa.

Quando diritto al piè del ponte fue,
levò ’l braccio alto con tutta la testa
per appressarne le parole sue,

che fuoro: «Or vedi la pena molesta,
tu che, spirando, vai veggendo i morti:
vedi s’alcuna è grande come questa.

E perché tu di me novella porti,
sappi ch’i’ son Bertram dal Bornio, quelli
che diedi al re giovane i ma’ conforti.

Io feci il padre e ’l figlio in sé ribelli;
Achitofèl non fé più d’Absalone
e di Davìd coi malvagi punzelli.

Perch’ io parti’ così giunte persone,
partito porto il mio cerebro, lasso!,
dal suo principio ch’è in questo troncone.

Così s’osserva in me lo contrapasso».

Giorgio Petrocchi, editor. Full text is available at Colombia University’s Digital Dante project.

Canto 29

The many people and unheard-of wounds
had caused my eyes to be so drunk with tears,
that fain they were to linger there and weep;
but Virgil said: “At what art gazing still?
Why is it that thine eyes still rest down there
among the wretched mutilated shades?
Thou didst not thus when in the other trenches;
consider, then, if thou propose to count them,
that this trench circles two-and-twenty miles,
and that the moon is now beneath our feet;
short is the time allowed us still, and more
there is to see, than what thou seest here.”
“If thou hadst heeded” I thereat replied,
“the reason for my gazing there, thou wouldst,
perhaps, have granted me a longer stay.”
Meantime my Leader on his way was going,
and I behind him moving, as I made
my answer, adding: “In that hollow place,
whereon I kept mine eyes so steadily,
I think a spirit sprung from mine own blood
bewails the fault so dearly paid for there.”

Thereat my Teacher said: “Let not thy thoughts
hereafter break on him; heed other things,
and there let him remain; for at the foot
of that small bridge I saw him point thee out,
and with his finger fiercely threaten thee;
Geri del Bello I then heard him called.
So wholly wast thou then intent on him
who formerly possessed Hautefort, that thou,
till he departed, didst not look beyond.”
“Leader,” said I, “his death by violence,
which is not yet avenged for him by any
who shared the shame, made him indignant; that,
as I believe, was why he went away
without addressing me; he thus has caused me
to pity him the more.” We thus conversed
till we had reached the first place on the crag,
whence, had there been more light, the next ravine
had to its very bottom been revealed.
When we o’er Malebolgë’s final cloister
were situated so, that its lay-brethren
could be perceived by us, uncouth laments,
which had their arrow-heads with pity barbed,
so pierced me through and through, that with my hands
I closed mine ears. Such pain as there would be,
if from the hospitals of Val di Chiana,
Maremma and Sardinia, from July
until September, all diseases came

together in one ditch; such was it here;
and out of it there came a stench, like that
which out of rotting limbs is wont to come.
Adown the last bank of the lengthy crag
we went, as ever to the left; and then
much clearer was my vision toward the bottom,
wherein the servant of the Most High Lord,
Justice infallible, is punishing
the falsifiers she recordeth here.
I do not think it were a sadder sight
to see the whole race in Aegina sick,
when so suffused with poison was the air,
that all the animals, down to the little worm,
fell dead, and when the ancient race of people,
according to what poets hold for truth,
out of the seed of ants restored themselves;
than now it was, to see the spirits languish
down in that gloomy ditch in different heaps.
One on his belly lay, and others leaned
against each other’s shoulders, while another
crawled on all fours along the dismal path.
Without conversing, step by step we moved,
both looking at and listening to the sick,
who could not raise their bodies. Two of these
I then saw sitting and against each other
leaning, just as a pan against a pan
is leaned to warm, and spotted o’er with scabs

from head to foot; and never have I seen
a curry-comb plied by a boy, for whom
his master waited, or by one who kept
awake against his will, as each oft plied
upon himself the edge of finger-nails
for the great rage of itching, which hath else
no help; their nails kept scraping down their scabs,
as doth a knife the scales of bream, or fish
of other kinds equipped with larger scales.
“O thou that with thy fingers flay’st thyself,”
to one of them my Leader then began,
“and who at times dost pincers make of them,
pray tell us whether Latin any be
of those in here, so may thy nails
suffice thee for thy work eternally.”
“We, both of us, whom thou beholdest here
so spoiled, are Latin,” answered one who wept,
“but who art thou that didst inquire of us?”
My Leader thereupon said: “I am one
who with this living man from ledge to ledge
descend, and who propose to show him Hell.”
Thereat the common back was broken up,
and trembling each of them turned round toward me,
with others who had heard him by rebound.
Then my good Teacher drew close up to me,
and said: “Say whatsoe’er thou wilt to them.”
Hence, since he so had wished it, I began:

“So may your memory never fly away
from human minds in that first world of ours,
but rather under many suns survive,
pray tell me who ye are, and of what people;
nor let your foul and loathsome punishment
make you afraid to show yourselves to me.”
“I of Arezzo was; and Albero
da Siena had me burned;” one then replied,
“but what I died for doth not bring me here.
’T is true I said to him, although in jest,
that I knew how to raise me in the air;
and he, who, curious, had but little sense,
wished me to show that art to him; and only
because I did not make him Daedalus,
he had me burned by one, who treated him
as son. But to the last trench of the ten
Minos, who may not make mistakes, condemned me
for the alchemy I practised in the world.”
Then to the Poet I: “Now was there ever
a people as vainglorious as the men
of Siena? Surely not the French by far!”
Whereat the other leprous one, who heard me,
replied to what I said: “Excepting Stricca,
who moderation knew in what he spent;
and Niccolò, who was the first to find
the costly use of cloves in gardens where
such seed takes root; excepting, too,

the company, on whom Càccia d’ Asciàn
wasted his vineyard and great forest land,
while d’ Abbagliato squandered all his sense.
But so that thou mayst know who backs thee thus
against the men of Siena, point thine eyes
toward me, that well my face may answer thee;
so shalt thou see that I ’m Capocchio’s shade,
who metals falsified by alchemy;
and thou, if well I see thee, shouldst recall
how good an ape of nature I was once.”

Courtney Langdon, translator. Full text is available at Liberty Fund.

Canto 29

La molta gente e le diverse piaghe
avean le luci mie sì inebrïate,
che de lo stare a piangere eran vaghe.

Ma Virgilio mi disse: «Che pur guate?
perché la vista tua pur si soffolge
là giù tra l’ombre triste smozzicate?

Tu non hai fatto sì a l’altre bolge;
pensa, se tu annoverar le credi,
che miglia ventidue la valle volge.

E già la luna è sotto i nostri piedi;
lo tempo è poco omai che n’è concesso,
e altro è da veder che tu non vedi».

«Se tu avessi», rispuos’ io appresso,
«atteso a la cagion per ch’io guardava,
forse m’avresti ancor lo star dimesso».

Parte sen giva, e io retro li andava,
lo duca, già faccendo la risposta,
e soggiugnendo: «Dentro a quella cava

dov’ io tenea or li occhi sì a posta,
credo ch’un spirto del mio sangue pianga
la colpa che là giù cotanto costa».

Allor disse ’l maestro: «Non si franga
lo tuo pensier da qui innanzi sovr’ ello.
Attendi ad altro, ed ei là si rimanga;

ch’io vidi lui a piè del ponticello
mostrarti e minacciar forte col dito,
e udi’ ’l nominar Geri del Bello.

Tu eri allor sì del tutto impedito
sovra colui che già tenne Altaforte,
che non guardasti in là, sì fu partito».

«O duca mio, la vïolenta morte
che non li è vendicata ancor», diss’ io,
«per alcun che de l’onta sia consorte,

fece lui disdegnoso; ond’ el sen gio
sanza parlarmi, sì com’ ïo estimo:
e in ciò m’ha el fatto a sé più pio».

Così parlammo infino al loco primo
che de lo scoglio l’altra valle mostra,
se più lume vi fosse, tutto ad imo.

Quando noi fummo sor l’ultima chiostra
di Malebolge, sì che i suoi conversi
potean parere a la veduta nostra,

lamenti saettaron me diversi,
che di pietà ferrati avean li strali;
ond’ io li orecchi con le man copersi.

Qual dolor fora, se de li spedali
di Valdichiana tra ’l luglio e ’l settembre
e di Maremma e di Sardigna i mali

fossero in una fossa tutti ’nsembre,
tal era quivi, e tal puzzo n’usciva
qual suol venir de le marcite membre.

Noi discendemmo in su l’ultima riva
del lungo scoglio, pur da man sinistra;
e allor fu la mia vista più viva

giù ver’ lo fondo, la ’ve la ministra
de l’alto Sire infallibil giustizia
punisce i falsador che qui registra.

Non credo ch’a veder maggior tristizia
fosse in Egina il popol tutto infermo,
quando fu l’aere sì pien di malizia,

che li animali, infino al picciol vermo,
cascaron tutti, e poi le genti antiche,
secondo che i poeti hanno per fermo,

si ristorar di seme di formiche;
ch’era a veder per quella oscura valle
languir li spirti per diverse biche.

Qual sovra ’l ventre e qual sovra le spalle
l’un de l’altro giacea, e qual carpone
si trasmutava per lo tristo calle.

Passo passo andavam sanza sermone,
guardando e ascoltando li ammalati,
che non potean levar le lor persone.

Io vidi due sedere a sé poggiati,
com’ a scaldar si poggia tegghia a tegghia,
dal capo al piè di schianze macolati;

e non vidi già mai menare stregghia
a ragazzo aspettato dal segnorso,
né a colui che mal volontier vegghia,

come ciascun menava spesso il morso
de l’unghie sopra sé per la gran rabbia
del pizzicor, che non ha più soccorso;

e sì traevan giù l’unghie la scabbia,
come coltel di scardova le scaglie
o d’altro pesce che più larghe l’abbia.

«O tu che con le dita ti dismaglie»,
cominciò ’l duca mio a l’un di loro,
«e che fai d’esse talvolta tanaglie,

dinne s’alcun Latino è tra costoro
che son quinc’ entro, se l’unghia ti basti
etternalmente a cotesto lavoro».

«Latin siam noi, che tu vedi sì guasti
qui ambedue», rispuose l’un piangendo;
«ma tu chi se’ che di noi dimandasti?».

E ’l duca disse: «I’ son un che discendo
con questo vivo giù di balzo in balzo,
e di mostrar lo ’nferno a lui intendo».

Allor si ruppe lo comun rincalzo;
e tremando ciascuno a me si volse
con altri che l’udiron di rimbalzo.

Lo buon maestro a me tutto s’accolse,
dicendo: «Dì a lor ciò che tu vuoli»;
e io incominciai, poscia ch’ei volse:

«Se la vostra memoria non s’imboli
nel primo mondo da l’umane menti,
ma s’ella viva sotto molti soli,

ditemi chi voi siete e di che genti;
la vostra sconcia e fastidiosa pena
di palesarvi a me non vi spaventi».

«Io fui d’Arezzo, e Albero da Siena»,
rispuose l’un, «mi fé mettere al foco;
ma quel per ch’io mori’ qui non mi mena.

Vero è ch’i’ dissi lui, parlando a gioco:
“I’ mi saprei levar per l’aere a volo”;
e quei, ch’avea vaghezza e senno poco,

volle ch’i’ li mostrassi l’arte; e solo
perch’ io nol feci Dedalo, mi fece
ardere a tal che l’avea per figliuolo.

Ma ne l’ultima bolgia de le diece
me per l’alchìmia che nel mondo usai
dannò Minòs, a cui fallar non lece».

E io dissi al poeta: «Or fu già mai
gente sì vana come la sanese?
Certo non la francesca sì d’assai!».

Onde l’altro lebbroso, che m’intese,
rispuose al detto mio: «Tra’mene Stricca
che seppe far le temperate spese,

e Niccolò che la costuma ricca
del garofano prima discoverse
ne l’orto dove tal seme s’appicca;

e tra’ne la brigata in che disperse
Caccia d’Ascian la vigna e la gran fonda,
e l’Abbagliato suo senno proferse.

Ma perché sappi chi sì ti seconda
contra i Sanesi, aguzza ver’ me l’occhio,
sì che la faccia mia ben ti risponda:

sì vedrai ch’io son l’ombra di Capocchio,
che falsai li metalli con l’alchìmia;
e te dee ricordar, se ben t’adocchio,

com’ io fui di natura buona scimia».

Giorgio Petrocchi, editor. Full text is available at Colombia University’s Digital Dante project.

Canto 30

When Juno, on account of Semele,
was angry with the royal blood of Thebes,
as several times she showed herself to be,
so fiercely mad did Athamas become,
that, when he saw his wife approaching him,
burdened by her two sons on either side,
“Spread we the nets,” he cried, “that I may take,
upon their passing, lioness and cubs!”
and thereupon stretched out his cruel claws,
and taking hold of one, Learchus named,
whirled him around, and dashed him ’gainst a rock;
his wife then with the other drowned herself.
Again, when Fortune so low down had brought
the Trojans’ arrogant, all-daring power,
that with their kingdom shattered was their king;
Hecuba, sad, forlorn, and captive now,
when she had seen her dead Polỳxena,
and in her painful anguish had perceived
her Polydorus lying on the beach,
out of her senses, barked as would a dog;
so greatly had her suffering turned her mind.

But ne’er did furies or of Thebes or Troy
reveal in any one such cruelty,
in goading beasts or, much less, human limbs,
as that which I beheld in two death-pale
and naked shades, who ran around, and bit,
as doth a boar, when from the sty let out.
One reached Capocchio, and so thrust his tusks
into his neck behind, that, dragging him,
he made his belly scrape the solid ground.
The Aretine, still trembling, said to me:
“That imp is Gianni Schicchi who, enraged,
goes all around ill-treating others thus.”
Then “Oh,” said I to him, “so may the other
not fix his teeth in thee, be not too tired
to tell me who he is, before he ‘skips’!”
And he to me: “That is the ancient soul
of wicked Myrrha, who, outside the bounds
of lawful love, became her father’s mistress.
She came to sin with him by counterfeiting
another’s person in herself, as dared
the other one who yonder goes away, —
that he might gain the lady of the stud, —
to counterfeit Buoso Donati’s self,
and make his will and give it legal form.”
When the two furious souls, on whom my eyes
were fixed, had passed away, I turned them round
to look upon the other evil born.

And one I saw, who like a lute were shaped,
if he had only had his groin cut off
down in the region where a man is forked.
The heavy dropsy which unmates the limbs
in such a way with ill-digested humor,
that face and paunch no longer correspond,
was causing him to keep his lips apart,
as doth the hectic, who, because of thirst,
turns one lip chinward, and the other up.
“O ye that are, and wherefore I know not,
free from all torment in this world of woe,”
said he to us, “behold, and pay attention
to Master Adam’s wretched misery!
When living, I had all that I desired,
and now, alas, I crave a drop of water.
The little brooks which toward the Arno run
down from the Casentino’s green-clad hills,
and render all their channels cool and fresh,
are evermore before me, nor in vain;
because their image makes me drier far
than this disease, which strips my face of flesh.
The rigid Justice, which is scourging me,
takes from the very place in which I sinned
the means to give my sighs a greater flight.
There lies Romena, where I falsified
the coin on which the Baptist’s form is stamped;
for that I left my body burned above.

But could I see the woeful soul of Guido,
or Alexander, or their brother, here,
for Fonte Branda I ’d not give the sight.
One is in here already, if the shades,
who go around here raging, tell the truth,
but what is that to me whose limbs are bound?
If only I were still so light of foot,
that I could in a hundred years advance
one inch, I ’d be already on the road,
in search of him among the loathsome people,
although this trench goes round eleven miles,
and is no less than half a mile across.
Through them am I in such a family,
for they persuaded me to coin the florins,
which had at least three carats of alloy.”
Then I to him said: “Who are those two wretches
who, smoking like wet hands in winter-time,
are lying there beside thee on thy right?”
“I found them here,” he answered, “when I rained
into this ditch, since when they have not turned,
nor will, I think, for all eternity.
One is the woman who charged Joseph falsely;
the other, Sinon, Troy’s deceitful Greek;
their burning fever makes them reek like this.”
And one of them, who felt aggrieved, perhaps,
at being named so darkly, smote the speaker
upon his hard stiff belly with his fist.

It made a sound, as it had been a drum;
then Master Adam smote him with his arm,
which did not seem less hard, upon his face,
and said: “Though I of motion be deprived,
by reason of my limbs which heavy are,
I have an arm that ’s loose for needs like this.”
Then he replied: “When going to the fire
thou hadst it not so ready; but just so,
and more, thou hadst it, when thou madest coin.”
He of the dropsy: “Here thou sayest true,
but thou wast not so true a witness there,
where thou wast questioned of the truth at Troy.”
“If I spoke falsely, thou didst falsify
the coin!” said Sinon, “I ’m for one sin here,
and thou for more than any other demon!”
“Remember, perjurer, the horse,” replied
he of the swollen paunch, “and bitter be
for thee, that known it is by all the world!”
“Ill be for thee the thirst wherewith thy tongue
is cracking,” said the Greek, “and that foul water,
which ’fore thine eyes thus makes thy paunch a hedge!”
Thereat the coiner said: “As is its wont,
thy mouth in speaking evil gapeth wide;
for though I ’m thirsty, and humor stuffs me out,
thine is the fever and the aching head;
and thou ’dst not stand in need of many words
bidding thee lick the mirror of Narcissus.”

On listening to them I was all intent,
when “Now be careful there!” my Teacher said,
“for I ’m not far from quarrelling with thee.”
When I thus heard him speak to me in anger,
such was the shame wherewith I turned to him,
that through my memory it is circling still;
and such as he who dreameth of his harm,
and, dreaming, wishes that he dreamt, and thus,
as if it were not, longs for that which is;
such I became, who, impotent to speak,
would fain excuse myself, and all the while
was doing so, but did not think I was.
“Less shame would wash away a greater fault
than thine hath been;” my Teacher said to me,
“therefore unburden thee of all thy sadness,
and count on me as ever at thy side,
if it again should chance that Fortune find thee
where folk in such a wrangle are engaged;
for vulgar is the wish to hear such things.”

Courtney Langdon, translator. Full text is available at Liberty Fund.

Canto 30

Nel tempo che Iunone era crucciata
per Semelè contra ’l sangue tebano,
come mostrò una e altra fïata,

Atamante divenne tanto insano,
che veggendo la moglie con due figli
andar carcata da ciascuna mano,

gridò: «Tendiam le reti, sì ch’io pigli
la leonessa e ’ leoncini al varco»;
e poi distese i dispietati artigli,

prendendo l’un ch’avea nome Learco,
e rotollo e percosselo ad un sasso;
e quella s’annegò con l’altro carco.

E quando la fortuna volse in basso
l’altezza de’ Troian che tutto ardiva,
sì che ’nsieme col regno il re fu casso,

Ecuba trista, misera e cattiva,
poscia che vide Polissena morta,
e del suo Polidoro in su la riva

del mar si fu la dolorosa accorta,
forsennata latrò sì come cane;
tanto il dolor le fé la mente torta.

Ma né di Tebe furie né troiane
si vider mäi in alcun tanto crude,
non punger bestie, nonché membra umane,

quant’ io vidi in due ombre smorte e nude,
che mordendo correvan di quel modo
che ’l porco quando del porcil si schiude.

L’una giunse a Capocchio, e in sul nodo
del collo l’assannò, sì che, tirando,
grattar li fece il ventre al fondo sodo.

E l’Aretin che rimase, tremando
mi disse: «Quel folletto è Gianni Schicchi,
e va rabbioso altrui così conciando».

«Oh», diss’ io lui, «se l’altro non ti ficchi
li denti a dosso, non ti sia fatica
a dir chi è, pria che di qui si spicchi».

Ed elli a me: «Quell’ è l’anima antica
di Mirra scellerata, che divenne
al padre, fuor del dritto amore, amica.

Questa a peccar con esso così venne,
falsificando sé in altrui forma,
come l’altro che là sen va, sostenne,

per guadagnar la donna de la torma,
falsificare in sé Buoso Donati,
testando e dando al testamento norma».

E poi che i due rabbiosi fuor passati
sovra cu’ io avea l’occhio tenuto,
rivolsilo a guardar li altri mal nati.

Io vidi un, fatto a guisa di lëuto,
pur ch’elli avesse avuta l’anguinaia
tronca da l’altro che l’uomo ha forcuto.

La grave idropesì, che sì dispaia
le membra con l’omor che mal converte,
che ’l viso non risponde a la ventraia,

faceva lui tener le labbra aperte
come l’etico fa, che per la sete
l’un verso ’l mento e l’altro in sù rinverte.

«O voi che sanz’ alcuna pena siete,
e non so io perché, nel mondo gramo»,
diss’ elli a noi, «guardate e attendete

a la miseria del maestro Adamo;
io ebbi, vivo, assai di quel ch’i’ volli,
e ora, lasso!, un gocciol d’acqua bramo.

Li ruscelletti che d’i verdi colli
del Casentin discendon giuso in Arno,
faccendo i lor canali freddi e molli,

sempre mi stanno innanzi, e non indarno,
ché l’imagine lor vie più m’asciuga
che ’l male ond’ io nel volto mi discarno.

La rigida giustizia che mi fruga
tragge cagion del loco ov’ io peccai
a metter più li miei sospiri in fuga.

Ivi è Romena, là dov’ io falsai
la lega suggellata del Batista;
per ch’io il corpo sù arso lasciai.

Ma s’io vedessi qui l’anima trista
di Guido o d’Alessandro o di lor frate,
per Fonte Branda non darei la vista.

Dentro c’è l’una già, se l’arrabbiate
ombre che vanno intorno dicon vero;
ma che mi val, c’ho le membra legate?

S’io fossi pur di tanto ancor leggero
ch’i’ potessi in cent’ anni andare un’oncia,
io sarei messo già per lo sentiero,

cercando lui tra questa gente sconcia,
con tutto ch’ella volge undici miglia,
e men d’un mezzo di traverso non ci ha.

Io son per lor tra sì fatta famiglia;
e’ m’indussero a batter li fiorini
ch’avevan tre carati di mondiglia».

E io a lui: «Chi son li due tapini
che fumman come man bagnate ’l verno,
giacendo stretti a’ tuoi destri confini?».

«Qui li trovai—e poi volta non dierno—»,
rispuose, «quando piovvi in questo greppo,
e non credo che dieno in sempiterno.

L’una è la falsa ch’accusò Gioseppo;
l’altr’ è ’l falso Sinon greco di Troia:
per febbre aguta gittan tanto leppo».

E l’un di lor, che si recò a noia
forse d’esser nomato sì oscuro,
col pugno li percosse l’epa croia.

Quella sonò come fosse un tamburo;
e mastro Adamo li percosse il volto
col braccio suo, che non parve men duro,

dicendo a lui: «Ancor che mi sia tolto
lo muover per le membra che son gravi,
ho io il braccio a tal mestiere sciolto».

Ond’ ei rispuose: «Quando tu andavi
al fuoco, non l’avei tu così presto;
ma sì e più l’avei quando coniavi».

E l’idropico: «Tu di’ ver di questo:
ma tu non fosti sì ver testimonio
là ’ve del ver fosti a Troia richesto».

«S’io dissi falso, e tu falsasti il conio»,
disse Sinon; «e son qui per un fallo,
e tu per più ch’alcun altro demonio!».

«Ricorditi, spergiuro, del cavallo»,
rispuose quel ch’avëa infiata l’epa;
«e sieti reo che tutto il mondo sallo!».

«E te sia rea la sete onde ti crepa»,
disse ’l Greco, «la lingua, e l’acqua marcia
che ’l ventre innanzi a li occhi sì t’assiepa!».

Allora il monetier: «Così si squarcia
la bocca tua per tuo mal come suole;
ché, s’i’ ho sete e omor mi rinfarcia,

tu hai l’arsura e ’l capo che ti duole,
e per leccar lo specchio di Narcisso,
non vorresti a ’nvitar molte parole».

Ad ascoltarli er’ io del tutto fisso,
quando ’l maestro mi disse: «Or pur mira,
che per poco che teco non mi risso!».

Quand’ io ’l senti’ a me parlar con ira,
volsimi verso lui con tal vergogna,
ch’ancor per la memoria mi si gira.

Qual è colui che suo dannaggio sogna,
che sognando desidera sognare,
sì che quel ch’è, come non fosse, agogna,

tal mi fec’ io, non possendo parlare,
che disïava scusarmi, e scusava
me tuttavia, e nol mi credea fare.

«Maggior difetto men vergogna lava»,
disse ’l maestro, «che ’l tuo non è stato;
però d’ogne trestizia ti disgrava.

E fa ragion ch’io ti sia sempre allato,
se più avvien che fortuna t’accoglia
dove sien genti in simigliante piato:

ché voler ciò udire è bassa voglia».

Giorgio Petrocchi, editor. Full text is available at Colombia University’s Digital Dante project.

Continue The Inferno Cantos

Read Cantos 31-34