DIVINE COMEDY -INFERNO
HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW
ENGLISH TRANSLATION AND NOTES
PAUL GUSTAVE DOR E´
PDF PREPARATION AND TYPESETTING
ENGLISH TRANSLATION AND NOTES
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English translation and notes by H.
Scans of illustrations by P.
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Figure 1: Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself within a
MIDWAY upon the journey of our life 1
I found myself within a forest dark, 2
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.
Ah me! how hard a thing it is to say
What was this forest savage, rough, and stern,
Which in the very thought renews the fear.
So bitter is it, death is little more;
But of the good to treat, which there I found,
Speak will I of the other things I saw there.
I cannot well repeat how there I entered,
So full was I of slumber at the moment
In which I had abandoned the true way.
But after I had reached a mountain’s foot, 3
At that point where the valley terminated, 4
Which had with consternation pierced my heart,
Upward I looked, and I beheld its shoulders
1The action of the poem begins on Good Friday of the year 1300, at which time Dante,
who was born in 1265, had reached the middle of the Scriptual threescore years and ten.
It ends on the first Sunday after Easter, making in all ten days.
2The dark forest of human life, with its passions, vices, and perplexities of all kinds;
politically the state of Florence with its fractions Guelf and Ghibelline.
3Bunyan, in his Pilgrim’s Progress, which is a kind of Divine Comedy in prose, says: “I
beheld then that they all went on till they came to the foot of the hill Difficulty... But the
narrow way lay right up the hill, and the name of the going up the side of the hill is called
Difficulty... They went then till they came to the Delectable Mountains, which mountains
belong to the Lord of that hill of which we have spoken before.”
4Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress – “But now in this valley of Humiliation poor Christian
was hard put to it; for he had gone but a little way before he spied a foul fiend coming
over the field to meet him; his name is Apollyon. Then did Christian begin to be afraid,
and to cast in his mind whether to go back or stand his ground. ...Now at the end of this
valley was another, called the valley of the Shadow of Death; and Christian must needs
go through it, because the way to the Celestial City lay through the midst of it.”
Vested already with that planet’s rays 5
Which leadeth others right by every road.
Then was the fear a little quieted
That in my heart’s lake had endured throughout 6
The night, which I had passed so piteously
And even as he, who, with distressful breath,
Forth issued from the sea upon the shore,
Turns to the water perilous and gazes;
So did my soul, that still was fleeing onward,
Turn itself back to re-behold the pass
Which never yet a living person left. 7
After my weary body I had rested,
The way resumed I on the desert slope,
So that the firm foot ever was the lower. 8
And lo! almost where the ascent began, 9
A panther light and swift exceedingly, 10
Which with a spotted skin was covered o’er!
And never moved she from before my face,
Nay, rather did impede so much my way,
That many times I to return had turned. 11
The time was the beginning of the morning,
And up the sun was mounting with those stars 12
That with him were, what time the Love Divine
5The sun, with all its symbolical meanings. This is the morning of Good Friday. In the
Ptolemaic system the sun was one of the planets.
6The deep mountain tarn of his heart, dark with its own depth, and the shadows
hanging over it.
7Jeremiah ii. 6: “That led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and of
pits, through a land of drought, and of the shadow of death, through a land that no man
passed through, and where no man dwelt.” In his note upon this passage Mr. Wright
quotes Spenser’s lines, Faerie Queene, I. v. 31, – “there creature never passed That back
returned without heavenly grace.”
8Climbing the hillside slowly, so that he rests longest on the foot that is lowest.
9Jeremiah v. 6: “Wherefore a lion out of the forest shall slay them, a wolf of the evening
shall spoil them, a leopard shall watch over their cities: every one that goeth out thence
shall be torn in pieces.”
10Wordly Pleasure; and politically Florence, with its factions of Bianchi and Neri.
11Pi`u volte volto. Dante delights in a play upon words as much as Shakespeare.
12The stars of Aries. Some philosophers and fathers think the world was created in
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 2: And lo! almost where the ascent began, a panther light and swift
At first in motion set those beauteous things;
So were to me occasion of good hope,
The variegated skin of that wild beast,
The hour of time, and the delicious season;
But not so much, that did not give me fear
A lion’s aspect which appeared to me. 13
He seemed as if against me he were coming
With head uplifted, and with ravenous hunger,
So that it seemed the air was afraid of him; 14
And a she-wolf, that with all hungerings 15
Seemed to be laden in her meagreness,
And many folk has caused to live forlorn!
13Ambition; and politically the royal house of France.
14Some editions read temesse, others tremesse.
15Avarice; and politically the Court of Rome, or temporal power of the Popes.
She brought upon me so much heaviness,
With the affright that from her aspect came,
That I the hope relinquished of the height.
And as he is who willingly acquires,
And the time comes that causes him to lose,
Who weeps in all his thoughts and is despondent,
E’en such made me that beast withouten peace,
Which, coming on against me by degrees
Thrust me back thither where the sun is silent 16
While I was rushing downward to the lowland,
Before mine eyes did one present himself,
Who seemed from long-continued silence hoarse. 17
When I beheld him in the desert vast,
“Have pity on me,” unto him I cried,
“Whiche’er thou art, or shade or real man!”
He answered me: “Not man; man once I was,
And both my parents were of Lombardy,
And Mantuans by country both of them.
Sub Julio was I born, though it was late, 18
And lived at Rome under the good Augustus,
During the time of false and lying gods.
A poet was I, and I sang that just
Son of Anchises, who came forth from Troy,
After that Ilion the superb was burned
But thou, why goest thou back to such annoyance?
Why climb’st thou not the Mount Delectable
Which is the source and cause of every joy?”
Now, art thou that Virgilius and that fountain 19
16Dante as a Ghibelline and Imperialist is in opposition to the Guelfs, Pope Boniface
VIII., and the King of France, Philip the Fair, and is banished from Florence, out of the
sunshine, and into “the dry wind that blows from dolorous poverty.” Cato speaks of the
“silent moon” in De Re Rustica, XXIV., Evehito luna silenti; and XL., Vites inseri luna silenti.
Also Pliny, XVI. 39, has Silens luna; and Milton, in Samson Agonistes, “Silent as the moon.”
17The long neglect of classic studies in Italy before Dante’s time.
18Born under Julius Caesar, but too late to grow up to manhood during his Imperial
reign. He florished later under Augustus.
19In this passage Dante but expresses the universal veneration felt for Virgil during the
Middle Ages, and especially in Italy. Petrarch’s copy of Virgil is still preserved in the
Ambrosian Library at Milan; and at the beginning of it he has recorded in a Latin note
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Which spreads abroad so wide a river of speech?”
I made response to him with bashful forehead.
“O, of the other poets honour and light,
Avail me the long study and great love
That have impelled me to explore thy volume!
Thou art my master, and my author thou,
Thou art alone the one from whom I took
The beautiful style that has done honour to me. 20
Behold the beast, for which I have turned back;
Do thou protect me from her, famous Sage,
For she doth make my veins and pulses tremble.”
Thee it behoves to take another road,”
Responded he, when he beheld me weeping,
”If from this savage place thou wouldst escape;
Because this beast, at which thou criest out,
Suffers not any one to pass her way,
But so doth harass him, that she destroys him;
And has a nature so malign and ruthless,
That never doth she glut her greedy will,
And after food is hungrier than before.
Many the animals with whom she weds,
And more they shall be still, until the Greyhound 21
Comes, who shall make her perish in her pain.
He shall not feed on either earth or pelf,
the time of his first meeting with Laura, and the date of her death, which, he says, “I
write in this book, rather than elsewhere, because it comes often under my eye.” In the
popular imagination Virgil became a mythical personage and a mighty magician. See the
story of Virgilius in Thom’s Early Prose Romances, II. Dante selects him for his guide, as
symbolizing human science or Philosophy. “I say and affirm,” he remarks, Convito, V. 16,
“that the lady with whom I became enamored after my first love was the most beautiful
and modest daughter of the Emperor of the Universe, to whom Pythagoras gave the
name of Philosophy.”
20Dante seems to have been already conscious of the fame which his Vita Nuova and
Canzoni had given him.
21The greyhound is Can Grande della Scala, Lord of Verona, Imperial Vicar, Ghibelline,
and friend of Dante. Verona is between Feltro in the Marca Trivigiana, and Montefeltro
in Romagna. Boccaccio, Decameron, I. 7, peaks of him as “one of the most notable and
magnificant lords that had been known in Italy, since the Emperor Frederick the Second.”
To him Dante dedicated the Paradiso. Some commentators think the Veltro is not Can
Grande, but Ugguccione della Faggiola. See Troya, Del Veltro Allegorico di Dante.
But upon wisdom, and on love and virtue;
‘Twixt Feltro and Feltro shall his nation be;
Of that low Italy shall he be the saviour, 22
On whose account the maid Camilla died,
Euryalus, Turnus, Nisus, of their wounds;
Through every city shall he hunt her down,
Until he shall have driven her back to Hell,
There from whence envy first did let her loose.
Therefore I think and judge it for thy best
Thou follow me, and I will be thy guide,
And lead thee hence through the eternal place,
Where thou shalt hear the desperate lamentations, 23
Shalt see the ancient spirits disconsolate,
Who cry out each one for the second death;
And thou shalt see those who contented are
Within the fire, because they hope to come,
Whene’er it may be, to the blessed people;
To whom, then, if thou wishest to ascend,
A soul shall be for that than I more worthy; 24
With her at my departure I will leave thee;
Because that Emperor, who reigns above,
In that I was rebellious to his law,
Wills that through me none come into his city.
He governs everywhere and there he reigns;
There is his city and his lofty throne;
O happy he whom thereto he elects!”
And I to him: “Poet, I thee entreat,
By that same God whom thou didst never know,
So that I may escape this woe and worse,
Thou wouldst conduct me there where thou hast said,
That I may see the portal of Saint Peter,
And those thou makest so disconsolate.”
Then he moved on, and I behind him followed.
22The plains of Italy, in contradistinction to the mountains; the Humilemque Italiam of
Virgil, Æneid, III. 522: “And now the stars being chased away, blushing Aurora appeared,
when far off we espy the hills obscure, and lowly Italy.”
23I give preference to the reading, Di quegli antichi spiriti dolenti.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 3: A lion’s aspect which appeared to me.
Figure 4: Then he moved on, and I behind him followed.
DAY was departing, and the embrowned air
Released the animals that are on earth 25
From their fatigues; and I the only one
Made myself ready to sustain the war,
Both of the way and likewise of the woe,
Which memory that errs not shall retrace.
O Muses, O high genius, now assist me!
O memory, that didst write down what I saw,
Here thy nobility shall be manifest!
And I began: “Poet, who guidest me,
Regard my manhood, if it be sufficient.
Ere to the arduous pass thou dost confide me.
Thou sayest, that of Silvius the parent, 26
While yet corruptible, unto the world
Immortal went, and was there bodily.
But if the adversary of all evil
Was courteous, thinking of the high effect
That issue would from him, and who, and what,
To men of intellect unmeet it seems not;
For he was of great Rome, and of her empire
In the empyreal heaven as father chosen;
The which and what, wishing to speak the truth,
Were stablished as the ho]y place, wherein
Sits the successor of the greatest Peter. 27
25Dante, Convito III. 2, says: “Man is called by philosophers the divine animal.”
26Æneas, founder of the Roman Empire. Virgil, Æneid, B. VI.
27“That is,” says Boccaccio, Comento, “St. Peter the Apostle, called the greater on ac
count of his papal dignity, and to distinguish him from many other holy men of the same
Upon this journey, whence thou givest him vaunt,
Things did he hear, which the occasion were
Both of his victory and the papal mantle.
Thither went afterwards the Chosen Vessel,
To bring back comfort thence unto that Faith,
Which of salvation’s way is the beginning.
But I, why thither come, or who concedes it?
I not Aenas am, I am not Paul,
Nor I, nor others, think me worthy of it.
Therefore, if I resign myself to come,
I fear the coming may be ill-advised;
Thou’rt wise, and knowest better than I speak.”
And as he is, who unwills what he willed,
And by new thoughts doth his intention change,
So that from his design he quite withdraws,
Such I became, upon that dark hillside,
Because, in thinking, I consumed the emprise,
Which was so very prompt in the beginning. 28
“If I have well thy language understood,”
Replied that shade of the Magnanimous,
“Thy soul attainted is with cowardice,
Which many times a man encumbers so,
It turns him back from honoured enterprise,
As false sight doth a beast, when he is shy.
That thou mayst free thee from this apprehension,
I’ll tell thee why I came, and what I heard
At the first moment when I grieved for thee.
Among those was I who are in suspense, 29
And a fair, saintly Lady called to me
In such wise, I besought her to command me.
Her eyes where shining brighter than the Star; 30
28Shakespear, Macbeth, IV. i: “The flighty purpose never is o’ertook, Unless the deed go
29Suspended in Limbo; neither in pain nor in glory.
30Brighter than the star; than “that star which is brightest,” comments Boccaccio. Oth
ers say the Sun, and refer to Dante’s Canzone, beginning: “The star of beauty which doth
measure time, The lady seems, who has enamored me, Placed in the heaven of Love.”
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
And she began to say, gentle and low, 31
With voice angelical, in her own language
“O spirit courteous of Mantua,
Of whom the fame still in the world endures,
And shall endure, long-lasting as the world;
A friend of mine, and not the friend of fortune,
Upon the desert slope is so impeded
Upon his way, that he has turned through terror,
And may, I fear, already be so lost,
That I too late have risen to his succour,
From that which I have heard of him in Heaven.
Bestir thee now, and with thy speech ornate, 32
And with what needful is for his release,
Assist him so, that I may be consoled.
Beatrice am I, who do bid thee go; 33
I come from there, where I would fain return;
Love moved me, which compelleth me to speak.
When I shall be in presence of my Lord,
Full often will I praise thee unto him.”
Then paused she, and thereafter I began:
“O Lady of virtue, thou alone through whom
The human race exceedeth all contained
31Shakespeare, King Lear, V. 3: – “Her voice was ever soft, Gentle, and low; an excellent
thing in woman.”
32This passage will recall Minerva transmitting the message of Juno to Achilles, Iliad,
II.: “Go thou forthwith to the army of the Achæans, and hesitate not, but restrain each
man with thy persuasive words, nor suffer them to drag to the sea their double-oared
33Beatrice Portinari, Dante’s first love, the inspiration of his song and in his mind the
symbol of the Divine. He says of her in the Vita Nuova: – “This most gentle lady, of whom
there has been discourse in what precedes, reached such favour among the people, that
when she passed along the way persons ran to see her, which gave me wonderful delight.
And when she was near any one, such modesty took possession of his heart, that he did
not dare to raise his eyes or to return her salutation; and to this, should any one doubt
it, many, as having experienced it, could bear witness for me. She, crowned and clothed
with humility, took her way, displaying no pride in that which she saw and heard. Many,
when she had passed said, ‘This is not a woman, rather is she one of the most beautiful
angels of heaven.’ Others said, ‘She is a miracle. Blessed be the Lord who can perform
such a marvel.’ I say, that she showed herself so gentle and so full of all beauties, that
those who looked on her felt within themselves a pure and sweet delight, such as they
could not tell in words.” – C.E. Norton, The New Life, 51, 52.
Within the heaven that has the lesser circles, 34
So grateful unto me is thy commandment,
To obey, if ’twere already done, were late;
No farther need’st thou ope to me thy wish.
But the cause tell me why thou dost not shun
The here descending down into this centre,
From the vast place thou burnest to return to.” 35
“Since thou wouldst fain so inwardly discern,
Briefly will I relate,” she answered me,
“Why I am not afraid to enter here.
Of those things only should one be afraid
Which have the power of doing others harm;
Of the rest, no; because they are not fearful.
God in his mercy such created me
That misery of yours attains me not,
Nor any flame assails me of this burning
A gentle Lady is in Heaven, who grieves 36
At this impediment, to which I send thee,
So that stern judgment there above is broken.
In her entreaty she besought Lucia, 37
And said, “Thy faithful one now stands in need
Of thee, and unto thee I recommend him.”
Lucia, foe of all that cruel is,
Hastened away, and came unto the place
Where I was sitting with the ancient Rachel. 38
“Beatrice” said she, “the true praise of God,
Why succourest thou not him, who loved thee so,
For thee he issued from the vulgar herd?
Dost thou not hear the pity of his plaint?
Dost thou not see the death that combats him
Beside that flood, where ocean has no vaunt?” 39
34The heaven of the moon, which contains or encircles the earth.
35The ampler circles of Paradise.
37St Lucia, emblem of enlightening Grace.
38Rachel, emblem of Divine Contemplation. See Par. XXXII. 9.
39Beside that flood, where ocean has no vaunt; “That is,” says Boccacio, Comento, “the sea
cannot boast of being more impetuous or more dangerous than that.”
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Never were persons in the world so swift
To work their weal and to escape their woe,
As I, after such words as these were uttered,
Came hither downward from my blessed seat,
Confiding in thy dignified discourse,
Which honours thee, and those who’ve listened to it.”
After she thus had spoken unto me,
Weeping, her shining eyes she turned away;
Whereby she made me swifter in my coming;
And unto thee I came, as she desired;
I have delivered thee from that wild beast,
Which barred the beautiful mountain’s short ascent.
What is it, then? Why, why dost thou delay?
Why is such baseness bedded in thy heart?
Daring and hardihood why hast thou not,
Seeing that three such Ladies benedight
Are caring for thee in the court of Heaven,
And so much good my speech doth promise thee?”
Even as the flowerets, by nocturnal chill,
Bowed down and closed, when the sun whitens them,
Uplift themselves all open on their stems;
Such I became with my exhausted strength,
And such good courage to my heart there coursed,
That I began, like an intrepid person:
“O she compassionate, who succoured me,
And courteous thou, who hast obeyed so soon
The words of truth which she addressed to thee!
Thou hast my heart so with desire disposed
To the adventure, with these words of thine,
That to my first intent I have returned.
Now go, for one sole will is in us both,
Thou Leader, and thou Lord, and Master thou.”
Thus said I to him; and when he had moved,
I entered on the deep and savage way.
Figure 5: Day was departing...
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 6: “Beatrice am I, who do bid thee go; ...”
THROUGH me the way is to the city dolent; 40
Through me the way is to eternal dole;
Through me the way among the people lost.
Justice incited my sublime Creator;
Created me divine Omnipotence,
The highest Wisdom and the primal Love.
Before me there were no created things,
Only eterne, and I eternal last.
“All hope abandon, ye who enter in!”
These words in sombre colour I beheld
Written upon the summit of a gate;
Whence I: “Their sense is, Master, hard to me!”
And he to me, as one experienced:
“Here all suspicion needs must be abandoned,
All cowardice must needs be here extinct.
We to the place have come, where I have told thee
Thou shalt behold the people dolorous
Who have foregone the good of intellect.” 41
And after he had laid his hand on mine
With joyful mien, whence I was comforted,
He led me in among the secret things.
40This canto begins with a repetition of sounds like the tolling of a funeral bell: dolente...
41Aristotle says: “The good of the intellect is the highest beatitude”; and Dante in the
Convito: “The True is the good of the intellect.” In other words, the knowledge of God is
intellectual good. “It is a most just punishment,” says St. Augustine, “that man should
lose that freedom which man could not use, yet had power to keep, if he would, and that
he who had knowledge to do what was right, and did not do it, should be deprived of
the knowledge of what was right; and that he who would not do righteously, when he
had the power, should lose the power to do it when he had the will.”
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 7: “All hope abandon, ye who enter in!”
There sighs, complaints, and ululations loud
Resounded through the air without a star,
Whence I, at the beginning, wept thereat.
Languages diverse, horrible dialects,
Accents of anger, words of agony,
And voices high and hoarse, with sound of hands,
Made up a tumult that goes whirling on
For ever in that air for ever black,
Even as the sand doth, when the whirlwind breathes.
And I, who had my head with horror bound,
Said: “Master, what is this which now I hear?
What folk is this, which seems by pain so vanquished?”
And he to me: “This miserable mode
Maintain the melancholy souls of those
Who lived withouten infamy or praise.
Commingled are they with that caitiff choir
Of Angels, who have not rebellious been,
Nor faithful were to God, but were for self.
The heavens expelled them, not to be less fair;
Nor them the nethermore abyss receives,
For glory none the damned would have from them.”
And I: “O Master, what so grievous is
To these, that maketh them lament so sore?”
He answered: “I will tell thee very briefly.
These have no longer any hope of death;
And this blind life of theirs is so debased,
They envious are of every other fate.
No fame of them the world permits to be;
Misericord and Justice both disdain them.
Let us not speak of them, but look, and pass.”
And I, who looked again, beheld a banner, 42
Which, whirling round, ran on so rapidly,
That of all pause it seemed to me indignant;
And after it there came so long a train
Of people, that I ne’er would have believed
That ever Death so many had undone.
When some among them I had recognised.
I looked, and I beheld the shade of him
Who made through cowardice the great refusal. 43
Forthwith I comprehended, and was certain,
That this the sect was of the caitiff wretches
Hateful to God and to his enemies.
These miscreants, who never were alive,
Were naked, and were stung exceedingly
By gadflies and by hornets that were there.
These did their faces irrigate with blood,
Which, with their tears commingled, at their feet
By the disgusting worms was gathered up.
And when to gazing farther I betook me.
People I saw on a great river’s bank;
Whence said I: “Master, now vouchsafe to me,
42This restless flag is an emblem of the shifting and unstable minds of its followers.
43Generally supposed to be Pope Celestine V.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
That I may know who these are, and what law
Makes them appear so ready to pass over,
As I discern athwart the dusky light.” 44
And he to me: “These things shall all be known
To thee, as soon as we our footsteps stay
Upon the dismal shore of Acheron.”
Then with mine eyes ashamed and downward cast,
Fearing my words might irksome be to him,
From speech refrained I till we reached the river.
And lo! towards us coming in a boat 45
An old man, hoary with the hair of eld,
Crying: “Woe unto you, ye souls depraved
Hope nevermore to look upon the heavens;
I come to lead you to the other shore,
To the eternal shades in heat and frost.
And thou, that yonder standest, living soul,
Withdraw thee from these people, who are dead! 46
But when he saw that I did not withdraw,
He said: “By other ways, by other ports
Thou to the shore shalt come, not here, for passage;
44Spencer’s “misty dampe of misconceyving night.”
45Virgil, Æneid, VI., Davidson’s translation: – “A grim ferryman guards these floods
and rivers, Charon, of frightful slovenliness; on whose chin a load of gray hair neglected
lies; his eyes are flame: his vestments hang from his shoulders by a knot, with filth overgrown.
Himself thrusts on the barge with a pole, and tends the sails, and wafts over
the bodies in his iron-colored boat, now in years: but the god is of fresh and green old
age. Hither the whole tribe in swarms come pouring to the banks, matrons and men, the
souls of magnanimous heroes who had gone through life, boys and unmarried maids,
and young men who had been stretched on the funeral pile before the eyes of their parents;
as numerous as withered leaves fall in the woods with the first cold of autumn, or
as numerous as birds flock to the land from deep ocean, when the chilling year drives
them beyond sea, and sends them to sunny climes. They stood praying to cross the flood
the first, and were stretching forth their hands with fond desire to gain the further bank:
but the sullen boatman admits sometimes these, sometimes those; while others to a great
distance removed, he debars from the banks.”
And Shakespeare, Richard III., I. 4:
“I passed, methought, the melancholy flood
With that grim ferryman which poets write of,
Unto the kingdom of perpetual night.”
46Virgil Æneid, VI.:
“This is the region of Ghosts, of sleep and drowsy
Night; to waft over the bodies of the living in my Stygian boat is not permitted.”
A lighter vessel needs must carry thee.” 47
And unto him the Guide: “Vex thee not, Charon;
It is so willed there where is power to do
That which is willed; and farther question not.”
Thereat were quieted the fleecy cheeks
Of him the ferryman of the livid fen,
Who round about his eyes had wheels of flame.
But all those souls who weary were and naked
Their colour changed and gnashed their teeth together,
As soon as they had heard those cruel words.
God they blasphemed and their progenitors,
The human race, the place, the time, the seed
Of their engendering and of their birth!
Thereafter all together they drew back,
Bitterly weeping, to the accursed shore,
Which waiteth every man who fears not God.
Charon the demon, with the eyes of glede, 48
Beckoning to them, collects them all together,
Beats with his oar whoever lags behind.
As in the autumn-time the leaves fall off,
First one and then another, till the branch
Unto the earth surrenders all its spoils;
In similar wise the evil seed of Adam
Throw themselves from that margin one by one,
At signals, as a bird unto its lure. 49
So they depart across the dusky wave,
And ere upon the other side they land,
Again on this side a new troop assembles.
“My son,” the courteous Master said to me,
47The souls that were to be saved assembled at the mouth of the Tiber, where they
were received by the celestial pilot, or ferryman, who transported them to the shores of
Purgatory, as described in Purg. II.
48Dryden’s Æneid, B. VI.: – “His eyes like hollow furnaces on fire.”
49Mr. Ruskin, Modern Painters, III. 160, says: – “When Dante describes the spirits falling
from the bank of Acheron ‘as dead leaves flutter from a bough,’ he gives the most perfect
image possible of their utter lightness, feebleness, passiveness, and scattering agony of
despair, without, however, for an instant losing his own clear perception that these are
souls, and those are leaves: he makes no confusion of one with the other.”
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 8: Charon the demon ... beats with his oar whoever lags behind.
“All those who perish in the wrath of God
Here meet together out of every land;
And ready are they to pass o’er the river,
Because celestial Justice spurs them on,
So that their fear is turned into desire.
This way there never passes a good soul;
And hence if Charon doth complain of thee,
Well mayst thou know now what his speech imports.”
This being finished, all the dusk champaign
Trembled so violently, that of that terror
The recollection bathes me still with sweat.
The land of tears gave forth a blast of wind,
And fulminated a vermilion light,
Which overmastered in me every sense,
And as a man whom sleep hath seized I fell.
Figure 9: And lo! towards us coming in a boat, an old man, hoary with the
hair of eld.
BROKE the deep lethargy within my head 50
A heavy thunder, so that I upstarted,
Like to a person who by force is wakened;
And round about I moved my rested eyes,
Uprisen erect, and steadfastly I gazed,
To recognise the place wherein I was.
True is it, that upon the verge I found me
Of the abysmal valley dolorous,
That gathers thunder of infinite ululations.
Obscure, profound it was, and nebulous,
So that by fixing on its depths my sight
Nothing whatever I discerned therein.
“Let us descend now into the blind world,”
Began the Poet, pallid utterly;
“I will be first, and thou shalt second be.”
And I, who of his colour was aware,
Said: “How shall I come, if thou art afraid,
Who’rt wont to be a comfort to my fears?”
And he to me: “The anguish of the people
Who are below here in my face depicts
That pity which for terror thou hast taken.
Let us go on, for the long way impels us.”
Thus he went in, and thus he made me enter
The foremost circle that surrounds the abyss.
There, as it seemed to me from listening,
50Dante is borne across the river Acheron in his sleep, he does not tell us how, and
awakes on the brink of “the dolorous valley of the abyss.” He now enters the First Circle
of the Inferno; the Limbo of the Unbaptized, the border land, as the name denotes.
Were lamentations none, but only sighs,
That tremble made the everlasting air.
And this arose from sorrow without torment, 51
Which the crowds had, that many were and great
Of infants and of women and of men.
To me the Master good: “Thou dost not ask
What spirits these, which thou beholdest, are?
Now will I have thee know, ere thou go farther,
That they sinned not; and if they merit had,
’Tis not enough, because they had not baptism
Which is the portal of the Faith thou holdest;
And if they were before Christianity,
In the right manner they adored not God;
And among such as these am I myself
For such defects, and not for other guilt,
Lost are we and are only so far punished,
That without hope we live on in desire.”
Great grief seized on my heart when this I heard,
Because some people of much worthiness
I knew, who in that Limbo were suspended.
“Tell me, my Master, tell me, thou my Lord,”
Began I, with desire of being certain
Of that Faith which o’ercometh every error,
“Came any one by his own merit hence,
Or by another’s, who was blessed thereafter?”
And he, who understood my covert speech,
Replied: “I was a novice in this state,
When I saw hither come a Mighty One, 52
With sign of victory incoronate.
Hence he drew forth the shade of the First Parent,
And that of his son Abel, and of Noah,
Of Moses the lawgiver, and the obedient
Abraham, patriarch, and David, king,
51Mental, not physical pain; what the French theologians call “la peine du dam”, the
privation of the sight of God.
52The descent of Christ into Limbo. Neither here nor elsewhere in the Inferno does
Dante mention the name of Christ.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 10: ”For such defects, and not for other guilt, lost are we and are
only so far punished, that without hope we live on in desire.”
Israel with his father and his children,
And Rachel, for whose sake he did so much,
And others many, and he made them blessed;
And thou must know, that earlier than these
Never were any human spirits saved.”
We ceased not to advance because he spake,
But still were passing onward through the forest
The forest, say I, of thick-crowded ghosts.
Not very far as yet our way had gone
This side the summit, when I saw a fire
That overcame a hemisphere of darkness.
We were a little distant from it still,
But not so far that I in part discerned not
That honourable people held that place. 53
53The reader will not fail to observe how Dante makes the word “honor”, in its various
“O thou who honourest every art and science,
Who may these be, which such great honour have,
That from the fashion of the rest it parts them?”
And he to me: “The honourable name,
That sounds of them above there in thy life,
Wins grace in Heaven, that so advances them.”
In the mean time a voice was heard by me:
“All honour be to the pre-eminent Poet;
His shade returns again, that was departed.”
After the voice had ceased and quiet was,
Four mighty shades I saw approaching us;
Semblance had they nor sorrowful nor glad.
To say to me began my gracious Master:
“Him with that falchion in his hand behold, 54
Who comes before the three, even as their lord.
That one is Homer, Poet sovereign;
He who comes next is Horace, the satirist;
The third is Ovid, and the last is Lucan.
Because to each of these with me applies
The name that solitary voice proclaimed,
They do me honour, and in that do well.” 55
Thus I beheld assemble the fair school
Of that lord of the song pre-eminent,
Who o’er the others like an eagle soars.
When they together had discoursed somewhat,
They turned to me with signs of salutation,
And on beholding this, my Master smiled;
And more of honour still, much more, they did me, 56
In that they made me one of their own band
So that the sixth was I, ‘mid so much wit.
Thus we went on as far as to the light,
Things saying ’tis becoming to keep silent,
forms, ring and reverberate through these lines, – “orrevol, onori, orranza, onrata, onorata”!
54Dante puts the sword into the hand of Homer as a symbol of his warlike epic, which
is a Song of the Sword.
55Upon this line Boccaccio, Comento, says: – “A proper thing it is to honor every man,
but especially those who are of one and the same profession, as these were with Virgil.”
56Another assertion of Dante’s consciousness of his own power as a poet.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
As was the saying of them where I was.
We came unto a noble castle’s foot, 57
Seven times encompassed with lofty walls,
Defended round by a fair rivulet;
This we passed over even as firm ground;
Through portals seven I entered with these sages
We came into a meadow of fresh verdure.
People were there with solemn eyes and slow,
Of great authority in their countenance;
They spake but seldom, and with gentle voices.
Thus we withdrew ourselves upon one side
Into an opening luminous and lofty,
So that they all of them were visible.
There opposite, upon the green enamel,
Were pointed out to me the mighty spirits,
Whom to have seen I feel myself exalted.
I saw Electra with companions many,
‘Mongst whom I knew both Hector and Aenas,
Caesar in armour with gerfalcon eyes;
I saw Camilla and Penthesilea
On the other side, and saw the King Latinus,
Who with Lavinia his daughter sat;
I saw that Brutus who drove Tarquin forth,
Lucretia, Julia, Marcia, and Cornelia, 58
And saw alone, apart, the Saladin. 59
When I had lifted up my brows a little,
The Master I beheld of those who know,
Sit with his philosophic family.
All gaze upon him, and all do him honour.
There I beheld both Socrates and Plato,
57This is the Noble Castle of human wit and learning, encircled with its seven scholastic
walls, the Trivium – Logic, Grammar, Rhetoric – and the Quadrivium – Arithmetic,
Astronomy, Geometry, Music. The fair rivulet is Eloquence, which Dante does not seem
to consider a very profound matter, as he and Virgil pass over it as if it were dry ground.
58In the Convito, IV. 28, Dante makes Marcia, Cato’s wife, a symbol of the noble soul:
“Per la quale Marzias’ intende la nobile anima.”
59The Saladin of the Crusades. See Gibbon, Chap. LIX. Dante also makes mention of
him, as worthy of affectionate remembrance, in the Convito, IV. 2.
Who nearer him before the others stand;
Democritus, who puts the world on chance,
Diogenes, Anaxagoros, and Thales,
Zeno, Empedocles, and Heraclitus;
Of qualities I saw the good collector,
Hight Dioscorides; and Orpheus saw I,
Tully and Livy, and moral Seneca,
Euclid, geometrician, and Ptolemy,
Galen, Hippocrates, and Avicenna, 60
Averroes, who the great Comment made. 61
I cannot all of them pourtray in full,
Because so drives me onward the long theme,
That many times the word comes short of fact.
The sixfold company in two divides;
Another way my sapient Guide conducts me
Forth from the quiet to the air that trembles;
And to a place I come where nothing shines.
60Avicenna, an Arabian physician of Ispahan in the eleventh century. Born 980, died
61Avverrhoes, an Arabian scholar of the twelfth century, who translated the works of
Aristotle, and wrote a commentary upon them. He was born in Cordova in 1149, and
died in Morocco, about 1200. He was the head of the Western School of philosophy, as
Avicenna was of the Eastern.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 11: After the voice had ceased and quiet was, Four mighty shades
I saw approaching us.
THUS I descended out of the first circle 62
Down to the second, that less space begirds, 63
And so much greater dole, that goads to wailing.
There standeth Minos horribly, and snarls; 64
Examines the transgressions at the entrance;
Judges, and sends according as he girds him.
I say, that when the spirit evil-born
Cometh before him, wholly it confesses;
And this discriminator of transgressions
Seeth what place in Hell is meet for it;
Girds himself with his tail as many times
As grades he wishes it should be thrust down.
Always before him many of them stand;
They go by turns each one unto the judgment;
They speak, and hear, and then are downward hurled.
“O thou, that to this dolorous hostelry
Comest,” said Minos to me, when he saw me,
Leaving the practice of so great an office,
“Look how thou enterest, and in whom thou trustest;
Let not the portal’s amplitude deceive thee.”
62In the Second Circle are found the souls of carnal sinners, whose punishment
“To be imprisoned in the viewless winds,
And blown with restless violence round about
The pendent world.”
63The circles grow smaller and smaller as they descend.
64Minos, the king of Crete, so renowned for justice as to be called the Favorite of the
Gods, and after death made Supreme Judge in the Infernal Regions. Dante furnishes him
with a tail, thus converting him, after the mediaeval fashion, into a Christian demon.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 12: There standeth Minos horribly...
And unto him my Guide: “Why criest thou too? 65
Do not impede his journey fate-ordained;
It is so willed there where is power to go
That which is willed; and ask no further question.”
And now begin the dolesome notes to grow
Audible unto me, now am I come
There where much lamentation strikes upon me.
I came into a place mute of all light, 66
Which bellows as the sea does in a tempest,
If by opposing winds ’t is combated.
The infernal hurricane that never rests
Hurtles the spirits onward in its rapine;
Whirling them round, and smiting, it molests them.
65Thou, too, as well as Charon, to whom Virgil has already made the same reply, Canto
66In Canto 01. 060, the sun is silent; here the light is dumb.
When they arrive before the precipice,
There are the shrieks, the plaints, and the laments,
There they blaspheme the puissance divine.
I understood that unto such a torment
The carnal malefactors were condemned,
Who reason subjugate to appetite.
And as the wings of starlings bear them on
In the cold season in large band and full,
So doth that blast the spirits maledict;
It hither, thither, downward, upward, drives them;
No hope doth comfort them for evermore,
Not of repose, but even of lesser pain.
And as the cranes go chanting forth their lays,
Making in air a long line of themselves,
So saw I coming, uttering lamentations,
Shadows borne onward by the aforesaid stress.
Whereupon said I: “Master, who are those
People, whom the black air so castigates?”
“The first of those, of whom intelligence
Thou fain wouldst have,” then said he unto me,
“The empress was of many languages.
To sensual vices she was so abandoned,
That lustful she made licit in her law,
To remove the blame to which she had been led.
She is Semiramis of whom we read
That she succeeded Ninus, and was his spouse;
She held the land which now the Sultan rules.
The next is she who killed herself for love, 67
And broke faith with the ashes of Sichcaeus;
Then Cleopatra the voluptuous.”
Helen I saw, for whom so many ruthless
Seasons revolved; and saw the great Achilles, 68
Who at the last hour combated with Love
Paris I saw, Tristan; and more than a thousand 69
68Achilles, being in love with Polyxena, a daughter of Priam, went unarmed to the
temple of Apollo, where he was put to death by Paris.
69Paris of Troy.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Shades did he name and point out with his finger,
Whom Love had separated from our life.
After that I had listened to my Teacher,
Naming the dames of eld and cavaliers,
Pity prevailed, and I was nigh bewildered.
And I began: “O Poet, willingly
Speak would I to those two, who go together,
And seem upon the wind to be so light.”
And, he to me: “Thou’lt mark, when they shall be
Nearer to us; and then do thou implore them
By love which leadeth them, and they will come.”
Soon as the wind in our direction sways them,
My voice uplift I: “O ye weary souls!
Come speak to us, if no one interdicts it.”
As turtle-doves, called onward by desire,
With open and steady wings to the sweet nest
Fly through the air by their volition borne,
So came they from the band where Dido is,
Approaching us athwart the air malign,
So strong was the affectionate appeal.
“O living creature gracious and benignant,
Who visiting goest through the purple air 70
Us, who have stained the world incarnadine,
If were the King of the Universe our friend,
We would pray unto him to give thee peace,
Since thou hast pity on our woe perverse.
Of what it pleases thee to hear and speak,
That will we hear, and we will speak to you,
While silent is the wind, as it is now.
Sitteth the city, wherein I was born, 71
Upon the sea-shore where the Po descends
70In the original, “l’aer perso”, the perse air. Dante, Convito, IV. 20, defines perse as “a
color mixed of purple and black, but the black predominates.” Chaucer’s “Doctour of
Phisike” in the Canterbury Tales, Prologue 441, wore this color.
71The city of Ravenna.
Figure 13: “O living creature gracious and benignant, who visiting goest
through the purple air...”
To rest in peace with all his retinue. 72
Love, that on gentle heart doth swiftly seize,
Seized this man for the person beautiful
That was ta’en from me, and still the mode offends me.
Love, that exempts no one beloved from loving, 73
Seized me with pleasure of this man so strongly, 74
That, as thou seest, it doth not yet desert me;
72Quoting this line, Amp`ere remarks, Voyage Dantesque, p. 312: “We have only to cast
our eyes upon the map to recognize the topographical exactitude of this last expression.
In fact, in all the upper part of its course, the Po receives a multitude of affluents, which
converge towards its bed. They are the Tessino, the Adda, the Olio, the Mincio, the
Trebbia, the Bormida, the Taro; – names which recur so often in the history of the wars of
the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.”
73Here the word “love” is repeated, as the word “honor” was in Canto 04. 072. The verse
murmurs with it, like the “moan of doves in immemorial elms.”
74I think it is Coleridge who says: “The desire of man is for the woman, but the desire
of woman is for the desire of man.”
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Love has conducted us unto one death;
Caina waiteth him who quenched our life!” 75
These words were borne along from them to us.
As soon as I had heard those souls tormented,
I bowed my face, and so long held it down
Until the Poet said to me: “What thinkest?”
When I made answer, I began: “Alas!
How many pleasant thoughts, how much desire,
Conducted these unto the dolorous pass!”
Then unto them I turned me, and I spake,
And I began: “Thine agonies, Francesca, 76
Sad and compassionate to weeping make me.
But tell me, at the time of those sweet sighs,
By what and in what manner Love conceded,
That you should know your dubious desires?”
And she to me: “There is no greater sorrow 77
Than to be mindful of the happy time
In misery, and that thy Teacher knows.
But, if to recognise the earliest root
Of love in us thou hast so great desire,
I will do even as he who weeps and speaks.
One day we reading were for our delight
Of Launcelot, how Love did him enthral. 78
75Caina is in the lowest circle of the Inferno, where fratricides are punished.
76Francesca, daughter of Guido da Polenta, Lord of Ravenna, and wife of Gianciotto
Malatesta, son of the Lord of Rimini. The lover, Paul Malatesta, was the brother of the
husband, who, discovering their amour, put them both to death with his own hand.
77This thought is from Boethius, De Consolat. Philos., Lib. II. Prosa 4: – “In omni adversitate
fortunae, infelicissimum genus est infortunii fuisse felicem et non esse.” In the Convito,
II. 16, Dante speaks of Boethius and Tully as having directed him “to the love, that is to
the study, of this most gentle lady Philosophy.” From this Venturi and Biagioli infer that,
by the Teacher, Boethius is meant, not Virgil. This interpretation, however, can hardly be
accepted, as not in one place only, but throughout the Inferno and the Purgatorio, Dante
proclaims Virgil as his teacher, “il mio Dottore.” Lombardi thinks that Virgil had experience
of this “greatest sorrow,” finding himself also in “the infernal prison”; and that
it is to this, in contrast with his happy life on earth, that Francesca alludes, and not to
anything in his writings.
78The Romance of Launcelot of the Lake. The Romance was to these two lovers, what
Galeotto (Gallehault or Sir Galahad) had been to Launcelot and Queen Guenever. Leigh
Hunt speaks of the episode of Francesca as standing in the Inferno “like a lily in the
mouth of Tartarus.”
Alone we were and without any fear.
Full many a time our eyes together drew
That reading, and drove the colour from our faces;
But one point only was it that o’ercame us.
When as we read of the much-longed-for smile
Being by such a noble lover kissed,
This one, who ne’er from me shall be divided,
Kissed me upon the mouth all palpitating.
Galeotto was the book and he who wrote it.
That day no farther did we read therein.”
And all the while one spirit uttered this,
The other one did weep so, that, for pity,
I swooned away as if I had been dying,
And fell, even as a dead body falls.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 14: The infernal hurricane that never rests.
AT the return of consciousness, that closed
Before the pity of those two relations, 79
Which utterly with sadness had confused me,
New torments I behold, and new tormented
Around me, whichsoever way I move,
And whichsoever way I turn, and gaze.
In the third circle am I of the rain 80
Eternal, maledict, and cold, and heavy;
Its law and quality are never new.
Huge hail, and water sombre-hued, and snow,
Athwart the tenebrous air pour down amain;
Noisome the earth is, that receiveth this.
Cerberus, monster cruel and uncouth,
With his three gullets like a dog is barking
Over the people that are there submerged.
Red eyes he has, and unctuous beard and black,
And belly large, and armed with claws his hands;
He rends the spirits, flays, and quarters them.
Howl the rain maketh them like unto dogs;
One side they make a shelter for the other;
Oft turn themselves the wretched reprobates.
When Cerberus perceived us, the great worm!
His mouths he opened, and displayed his tusks;
79The sufferings of these two, and the pity it excited in him. As in Shakespeare, Othello,
IV. 1: “But yet the pity of it, Iago! – O Iago, the pity of it, Iago!”
80In this third circle are punished the Gluttons. Instead of the feasts of former days,
the light, the warmth, the comfort, the luxury, and “the frolic wine” of dinner tables, they
have the murk and the mire, and the “rain eternal, maledict, and cold, and heavy”; and
are barked at and bitten by the dog in the yard.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 15: When Cerberus perceived us...
Not a limb had he that was motionless.
And my Conductor, with his spans extended,
Took of the earth, and with his fists well filled,
He threw it into those rapacious gullets.
Such as that dog is, who by barking craves,
And quiet grows soon as his food he gnaws,
For to devour it he but thinks and struggles,
The like became those muzzles filth-begrimed
Of Cerberus the demon, who so thunders
Over the souls that they would fain be deaf
We passed across the shadows, which subdues
The heavy rain-storm, and we placed our feet
Upon their vanity that person seems.
They all were lying prone upon the earth,
Excepting one, who sat upright as soon
As he beheld us passing on before him.
Figure 16: We passed across the shadows...
“O thou that art conducted through this Hell,”
He said to me, “recall me, if thou canst;
Thyself wast made before I was unmade.”
And I to him: “The anguish which thou hast
Perhaps doth draw thee out of my remembrance,
So that it seems not I have ever seen thee.
But tell me who thou art, that in so doleful
A place art put, and in such punishment,
If some are greater, none is so displeasing.”
And he to me: “Thy city, which is full
Of envy so that now the sack runs over,
Held me within it in the life serene.
You citizens were wont to call me Ciacco; 81
81It is a question whether “Ciacco”, Hog, is the real name of this person, or a nickname.
Boccaccio gives him no other. He speaks of him, Comento, VI., as a noted diner-out in
Florence, “who frequented the gentry and the rich, and particularly those who ate and
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
For the pernicious sin of gluttony
I, as thou seest, am battered bv this rain
And I, sad soul, am not the only one,
For all these suffer the like penalty
For the like sin,” and word no more spake he.
I answered him: “Ciacco, thy wretchedness
Weighs on me so that it to weep invites me;
But tell me, if thou knowest, to what shall come
The citizens of the divided city;
If any there be just; and the occasion
Tell me why so much discord has assailed it.”
And he to me: “They, after long contention,
Will come to bloodshed; and the rustic party 82
Will drive the other out with much offence.
Then afterwards behoves it this one fall
Within three suns, and rise again the other
By force of him who now is on the coast. 83
High will it hold its forehead a long while,
Keeping the other under heavy burdens,
Howe’er it weeps thereat and is indignant.
The just are two, and are not understood there; 84
Envy and Arrogance and Avarice
Are the three sparks that have all hearts enkindled.”
Here ended he his tearful utterance;
And I to him: “I wish thee still to teach me,
And make a gift to me of further speech.
Farinata and Tegghiaio, once so worthy,
drank sumptuously and delicately; and when he was invited by them to dine, he went;
and likewise when he was not invited by them, he invited himself; and for this vice
he was well known to all Florentines; though apart from this he was a well-bred man
according to his condition, eloquent, affable, and of good feeling; on account of which he
was welcomed by every gentleman.”
82The Bianchi are called the “Parte selvaggia”, because its leaders, the Cerchi, came from
the forest lands of Val di Sieve. The other party, the Neri, were led by the Donati.
83Charles de Valois, called Senzaterra, or Lackland, brother of Philip the Fair, king of
84The names of these two remain unknown. Probably one of them was Dante’s friend
Jacopo Rusticucci, Arrigo, and Mosca, 85
And others who on good deeds set their thoughts,
Say where they are, and cause that I may know them;
For great desire constraineth me to learn
If Heaven doth sweeten them, or Hell envenom.”
And he: “They are among the blacker souls;
A different sin downweighs them to the bottom;
If thou so far descendest, thou canst see them.
But when thou art again in the sweet world,
I pray thee to the mind of others bring me;
No more I tell thee and no more I answer.”
Then his straightforward eyes he turned askance,
Eyed me a little, and then bowed his head;
He fell therewith prone like the other blind.
And the Guide said to me: “He wakes no more
This side the sound of the angelic trumpet;
When shall approach the hostile Potentate,
Each one shall find again his dismal tomb,
Shall reassume his flesh and his own figure,
Shall hear what through eternity re-echoes.”
So we passed onward o’er the filthy mixture
Of shadows and of rain with footsteps slow,
Touching a little on the future life.
Wherefore I said: “Master, these torments here,
Will they increase after the mighty sentence,
Or lesser be, or will they be as burning?”
And he to me: “Return unto thy science, 86
Which wills, that as the thing more perfect is,
The more it feels of pleasure and of pain.
Albeit that this people maledict
To true perfection never can attain,
85Of this Arrigo nothing whatever seems to be known, hardly even his name; for some
commentators call him Arrigo dei Fisanti, and others Arrigo dei Fifanti. Of these other
men of mark “who set their hearts on doing good,” Farinata is among the Heretics, Canto
X.; Tegghiaio and Rusticucci among the Sodomites, Canto XVI.; and Mosca among the
Schismatics, Canto XXVIII.
86The philosophy of Aristotle. The same doctrine is taught by St. Augustine:
“Cum fiet resurrectio carnis, et bonorum gaudia et tormenta malorum majora erunt.”
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Hereafter more than now they look to be.”
Round in a circle by that road we went,
Speaking much more, which I do not repeat;
We came unto the point where the descent is;
There we found Plutus the great enemy. 87
87Plutus, the God of Riches.
“PAPE Sat`an, Pape Sat`an, Aleppe!” 88
Thus Plutus with his clucking voice began;
And that benignant Sage, who all things knew,
Said, to encourage me: “Let not thy fear
Harm thee; for any power that he may have
Shall not prevent thy going down this crag”
Then he turned round unto that bloated lip,
And said: “Be silent, thou accursed wolf;
Consume within thyself with thine own rage.
Not causeless is this journey to the abyss;
Thus is it willed on high, where Michael wrought 89
Vengeance upon the proud adultery.”
Even as the sails inflated by the wind
Involved together fall when snaps the mast,
So fell the cruel monster to the earth.
Thus we descended into the fourth chasm,
Gaining still farther on the dolesome shore
Which all the woe of the universe insacks.
Justice of God, ah! who heaps up so many
New toils and sufferings as I beheld?
And why doth our transgression waste us so?
As doth the billow there upon Charybdis,
88In this Canto is described the punishment of the Avaricious and the Prodigal, with
Plutus as their jailer. His outcry of alarm is differently interpreted by different commentators,
and by none very satisfactorily. But nearly all agree, I believe, in construing the
strange words into a cry of alarm or warning of Lucifer, that his realm is invaded by some
89The overthrow of the Rebel Angels. St. Augustine says, ”Idolatria et quaelibet noxia
superstitio fornicatio est.”
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 17: “Pape Sat`an, Pape Sat`an, Aleppe!”
That breaks itself on that which it encounters,
So here the folk must dance their roundelay. 90
Here saw I people, more than elsewhere, many,
On one side and the other, with great howls,
Rolling weights forward by main force of chest. 91
They clashed together, and then at that point
Each one turned backward, rolling retrograde,
Crying, “Why keepest?” and, “Why squanderest thou?”
Thus they returned along the lurid circle
On either hand unto the opposite point,
Shouting their shameful metre evermore.
90Must dance the Ridda, a round dance of the olden time. It was a Roundelay, or singing
and dancing together. Boccaccio’s Monna Belcolore “knew better than any one how to
play the tambourine and lead the Ridda.”
91As the word honor resounds in Canto IV., and the word love in Canto V., so here
the words rolling and turning are the burden of the song, as if to suggest the motion of
Fortune’s wheel, so beautifully described a little later.
Figure 18: Rolling weights forward by main force of chest.
Then each, when he arrived there, wheeled about
Through his half-circle to another joust;
And I, who had my heart pierced as it were,
Exclaimed: “My Master, now declare to me
What people these are, and if all were clerks,
These shaven crowns upon the left of us.” 92
And he to me: “All of them were asquint
In intellect in the first life, so much
That there with measure they no spending made.
92Clerks, clerics, or clergy. Boccaccio, Comento, remarks upon this passage:
“Some maintain, that the clergy wear the tonsure in remembrance and reverence of St.
Peter, on whom, they say, it was made by certain evil-minded men as a mark of madness;
because not comprehending and not wishing to comprehend his holy doctrine, and
seeming him feverently preaching before princes and people, who held that doctrine in
detestation, they thought he acted as one out of his senses. Others maintain that the tonsure
is worn as a mark of dignity, as a sign that those who wear it are more worthy than
those who do not; and they call it corona, because, all the rest of the head being shaven, a
single circle of hair should be left, which in form of a crown surrounds the whole head.”
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Clearly enough their voices bark it forth,
Whene’er they reach the two points of the circle,
Where sunders them the opposite defect.
Clerks those were who no hairy covering
Have on the head, and Popes and Cardinals,
In whom doth Avarice practise its excess.”
And I: “My Master, among such as these
I ought forsooth to recognise some few,
Who were infected with these maladies.”
And he to me: “Vain thought thou entertainest;
The undiscerning life which made them sordid
Now makes them unto all discernment dim.
Forever shall they come to these two buttings;
These from the sepulchre shall rise again
With the fist closed, and these with tresses shorn.
Ill giving and ill keeping the fair world
Have ta’en from them, and placed them in this scuffle;
Whate’er it be, no words adorn I for it.
Now canst thou, Son, behold the transient farce
Of goods that are committed unto Fortune,
For which the human race each other buffet;
For all the gold that is beneath the moon,
Or ever has been, of these weary souls
Could never make a single one repose.”
“Master,” I said to him, “now tell me also
What is this Fortune which thou speakest of, 93
That has the world’s goods so within its clutches?”
And he to me: “O creatures imbecile,
What ignorance is this which doth beset you?
Now will I have thee learn my judgment of her.
He whose omniscience everything transcends
93The Wheel of Fortune was one of the favorite subjects of art and song in the Middle
Ages. On a large square of white marble set in the pavement of the nave of the Cathedral
at Siena, is the representation of a revolving wheel. Three boys are climbing and clinging
at the sides and below; above is a dignified figure with a stern countenance, holding the
sceptre and ball. At the four corners are inscriptions from Seneca, Euripides, Aristotle,
and Epictetus. The same symbol may be seen also in the wheel-of-fortune windows of
many churches; as, for example, that of San Zeno at Verona.
The heavens created, and gave who should guide them, 94
That every part to every part may shine,
Distributing the light in equal measure;
He in like manner to the mundane splendours
Ordained a general ministress and guide,
That she might change at times the empty treasures
From race to race, from one blood to another,
Beyond resistance of all human wisdom.
Therefore one people triumphs, and another
Languishes, in pursuance of her judgment,
Which hidden is, as in the grass a serpent.
Your knowledge has no counterstand against her;
She makes provision, judges, and pursues
Her governance, as theirs the other gods.
Her permutations have not any truce;
Necessity makes her precipitate,
So often cometh who his turn obtains.
And this is she who is so crucified
Even by those who ought to give her praise,
Giving her blame amiss, and bad repute.
But she is blissful, and she hears it not;
Among the other primal creatures gladsome
She turns her sphere, and blissful she rejoices.
Let us descend now unto greater woe;
Already sinks each star that was ascending 95
When I set out, and loitering is forbidden.”
We crossed the circle to the other bank,
Near to a fount that boils, and pours itself
Along a gully that runs out of it.
The water was more sombre far than perse; 96
And we, in company with the dusky waves,
Made entrance downward by a path uncouth.
A marsh it makes, which has the name of Styx,
94This old Rabbinical tradition of the “Regents of the Planets” has been painted by
Raphael, in the Capella Chigiana of the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome.
96Perse, purple-black. See note in Canto V.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 19: They smote each other not alone with hands...
This tristful brooklet, when it has descended
Down to the foot of the malign gray shores.
And I, who stood intent upon beholding,
Saw people mudbesprent in that lagoon,
All of them naked and with angry look.
They smote each other not alone with hands,
But with the head and with the breast and feet,
Tearing each other piecemeal with their teeth.
Said the good Master: “Son, thou now beholdest
The souls of those whom anger overcame;
And likewise I would have thee know for certain
Beneath the water people are who sigh
And make this water bubble at the surface,
As the eye tells thee wheresoe’er it turns.
Fixed in the mire they say, ‘We sullen were
In the sweet air, which by the sun is gladdened,
Bearing within ourselves the sluggish reek;
Now we are sullen in this sable mire.’
This hymn do they keep gurgling in their throats,
For with unbroken words they cannot say it.”
Thus we went circling round the filthy fen
A great arc ’twixt the dry bank and the swamp,
With eyes turned unto those who gorge the mire;
Unto the foot of a tower we came at last.
I SAY, continuing, that long before 97
We to the foot of that high tower had come,
Our eyes went upward to the summit of it,
By reason of two flamelets we saw placed there, 98
And from afar another answer them,
So far, that hardly could the eye attain it.
And, to the sea of all discernment turned,
I said: “What sayeth this, and what respondeth
That other fire? and who are they that made it?”
And he to me: “Across the turbid waves
What is expected thou canst now discern,
If reek of the morass conceal it not.”
Cord never shot an arrow from itself
That sped away athwart the air so swift,
As I beheld a very little boat
Come o’er the water tow’rds us at that moment,
Under the guidance of a single pilot,
Who shouted, “Now art thou arrived, fell soul?”
“Phlegyas, Phlegyas, thou criest out in vain 99
97Boccaccio and some other commentators think the words “I say, continuing,” are a
confirmation of the theory that the first seven cantos of the Inferno were written before
Dante’s banishment from Florence. Others maintain that the words suggest only the
continuation of the subject of the last canto in this.
98These two signal fires announce the arrival of two persons to be ferried over the
wash, and the other in the distance is on the watch-tower of the City of Dis, answering
99Phlegyas was the father of Ixion and Coronis. He was king of the Lapithae, and
burned the temple of Apollo at Delphi to avenge the wrong done by the god to Coronis.
His punishment in the infernal regions was to stand beneath a huge impending rock,
always about to fall upon him. Virgil, Aeneid, VI., says of him: “Phlegyas, most wretched,
Figure 20: Soon as the Guide and I were in the boat...
For this once,” said my Lord; “thou shalt not have
Longer than in the passing of the slough.”
As he who listens to some great deceit
That has been done to him, and then resents it,
Such became Phlegyas, in his gathered wrath.
My Guide descended down into the boat,
And then he made me enter after him,
And only when I entered seemed it laden. 100
Soon as the Guide and I were in the boat,
The antique prow goes on its way, dividing
More of the water than ’tis wont with others.
While we were running through the dead canal,
Uprose in front of me one full of mire,
is a monitor to all and with loud voice proclaims through the shades, ‘Being warned,
learn righteousness, and not to contemn the gods.’ ”
100Virgil, Aeneid, VI.: – “The boat of sewn hide groaned under the weight, and, being
leaky, took in much water from the lake.”
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
And said, “Who ‘rt thou that comest ere the hour?”
And I to him: “Although I come, I stay not;
But who art thou that hast become so squalid?”
“Thou seest that I am one who weeps,” he answered.
And I to him: “With weeping and with wailing,
Thou spirit maledict, do thou remain;
For thee I know, though thou art all defiled.”
Then stretched he both his hands unto the boat;
Whereat my wary Master thrust him back,
Saying, “Away there with the other dogs!”
Thereafter with his arms he clasped my neck;
He kissed my face, and said: “Disdainful soul,
Blessed be she who bore thee in her bosom.
That was an arrogant person in the world;
Goodness is none, that decks his memory;
So likewise here his shade is furious.
How many are esteemed great kings up there,
Who here shall be like unto swine in mire,
Leaving behind them horrible dispraises!” 101
And I: “My Master, much should I be pleased,
If I could see him soused into this broth,
Before we issue forth out of the lake.”
And he to me: “Ere unto thee the shore
Reveal itself, thou shalt be satisfied;
Such a desire ’tis meet thou shouldst enjoy.”
A little after that, I saw such havoc
Made of him by the people of the mire,
That still I praise and thank my God for it.
They all were shouting, “At Philippo Argenti!” 102
101Chaucer’s “sclandre of his diffame.”
102Of Philippo Argenti little is known, and nothing to his credit. Dante seems to have an
especial personal hatred of him, as if in memory of some disagreeable passage between
them in the streets of Florence. Boccaccio says of him in his Comento: “This Philippo
Argenti, as Coppo di Borghese Domenichi de’ Cavicciuli was wont to say, was a very rich
gentleman, so rich that he had the horse he used to ride shod with silver, and from this
he had his surname; he was in person large, swarthy, muscular, of marvellous strength,
and at the slightest provocation the most irascible of men; nor are any more known of his
qualities than these two, each in itself very blameworthy.” He was of the Adimari family,
And that exasperate spirit Florentine
Turned round upon himself with his own teeth.
We left him there, and more of him I tell not;
But on mine ears there smote a lamentation,
Whence forward I intent unbar mine eyes.
And the good Master said: “Even now, my Son,
The city draweth near whose name is Dis,
With the grave citizens, with the great throng.”
And I: “Its mosques already, Master, clearly 103
Within there in the valley I discern
Vermilion, as if issuing from the fire
They were.” And he to me: “The fire eternal
That kindles them within makes them look red,
As thou beholdest in this nether Hell.”
Then we arrived within the moats profound,
That circumvallate that disconsolate city;
The walls appeared to me to be of iron. 104
Not without making first a circuit wide,
We came unto a place where loud the pilot
Cried out to us, “Debark, here is the entrance.”
More than a thousand at the gates I saw
Out of the Heavens rained down, who angrily
Were saying, “Who is this that without death
Goes through the kingdom of the people dead?”
And my sagacious Master made a sign
and of the Neri faction; while Dante was of the Bianchi party, and in banishment. Perhaps
this fact may explain the bitterness of his invective.
This is the same Philippo Argenti who figures in Boccaccio’s tale. See Inf. VI. The Ottimo
Comento says of him: “He was a man of great pomp, and great ostentation, and much
expenditure, and little virtue and worth; and therefore the author says, ‘Goodness is
none that decks his memory.’ ” And this is all that is known of the “Fiorentino spirito
bizzaro”, forgotten by history, and immortalized in song.
103The word “mosques” paints at once to the imagination the City of Unbelief.
104Virgil, Aeneid, VI., Davidson’s Translation: – “Aeneas on a sudden looks back, and
under a rock on the left sees vast prisons inclosed with a triple wall, which Tartarean
Phlegethon’s rapid flood environs with torrents of flame, and whirls roaring rocks along.
Fronting is a huge gate, with columns of solid adamant, that no strength of men, nor the
gods themselves, can with steel demolish. An iron tower rises aloft; and there wakeful
Tisiphone, with her bloody robe tucked up around her, sits to watch the vestibule both
night and day.”
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 21: Then we arrived within the moats profound, that circumvallate
that disconsolate city; ...
Of wishing secretly to speak with them.
A little then they quelled their great disdain,
And said: “Come thou alone, and he begone
Who has so boldly entered these dominions.
Let him return alone by his mad road;
Try, if he can; for thou shalt here remain,
Who hast escorted him through such dark regions.”
Think, Reader, if I was discomforted
At utterance of the accursed words;
For never to return here I believed.
“O my dear Guide, who more than seven times
Hast rendered me security, and drawn me
From imminent peril that before me stood,
Do not desert me,” said I, “thus undone;
And if the going farther be denied us,
Let us retrace our steps together swiftly.”
And that Lord, who had led me thitherward,
Said unto me: “Fear not; because our passage
None can take from us, it by Such is given.
But here await me, and thy weary spirit
Comfort and nourish with a better hope;
For in this nether world I will not leave thee.”
So onward goes and there abandons me
My Father sweet, and I remain in doubt,
For No and Yes within my head contend.
I could not hear what he proposed to them;
But with them there he did not linger long,
Ere each within in rivalry ran back.
They closed the portals, those our adversaries,
On my Lord’s breast, who had remained without
And turned to me with footsteps far between.
His eyes cast down, his forehead shorn had he
Of all its boldness, and he said, with sighs,
“Who has denied to me the dolesome houses?”
And unto me: “Thou, because I am angry,
Fear not, for I will conquer in the trial,
Whatever for defence within be planned.
This arrogance of theirs is nothing new; 105
For once they used it at less secret gate, 106
Which finds itself without a fastening still.
O’er it didst thou behold the dead inscription;
And now this side of it descends the steep,
Passing across the circles without escort,
One by whose means the city shall be opened.” 107
105This arrogance of theirs; tracotanza, oltracotanza; Brantome’s outrecuidance; and
106The gate of the Inferno.
107The coming of the Angel, whose approach is described in the next canto, beginning
at line 64.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 22: While we were running through the dead canal, uprose in front
of me one full of mire...
THAT hue which cowardice brought out on me, 108
Beholding my Conductor backward turn,
Sooner repressed within him his new colour.
He stopped attentive, like a man who listens,
Because the eye could not conduct him far
Through the black air, and through the heavy fog.
“Still it behoveth us to win the fight,” 109
Began he; “Else... Such offered us herself... 110
O how I long that some one here arrive!”
Well I perceived, as soon as the beginning
He covered up with what came afterward,
That they were words quite different from the first;
But none the less his saying gave me fear,
Because I carried out the broken phrase,
Perhaps to a worse meaning than he had.
“Into this bottom of the doleful conch 111
Doth any e’er descend from the first grade,
Which for its pain has only hope cut off?”
This question put I; and he answered me:
“Seldom it comes to pass that one of us
Maketh the journey upon which I go.
True is it, once before I here below
108The flush of anger passes from Virgil’s cheek on seeing the pallor of Dante’s, and he
tries to encourage him with assurances of success; but betrays his own apprehensions in
the broken phrase, “If not,” which he immediately covers with words of cheer.
109Such, or so great a one, is Beatrice, the “fair and saintly Lady” of Canto II. 53.
110The Angel who will open the gates of the City of Dis.
111Dante seems to think that he has already reached the bottom of the infernal conch,
with its many convolutions.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Was conjured by that pitiless Erictho,
Who summoned back the shades unto their bodies.
Naked of me short while the flesh had been,
Before within that wall she made me enter,
To bring a spirit from the circle of Judas;
That is the lowest region and the darkest,
And farthest from the heaven which circles all.
Well know I the way; therefore be reassured.
This fen, which a prodigious stench exhales,
Encompasses about the city dolent,
Where now we cannot enter without anger.”
And more he said, but not in mind I have it;
Because mine eye had altogether drawn me
Tow’rds the high tower with the red-flaming summit,
Where in a moment saw I swift uprisen
The three infernal Furies stained with blood,
Who had the limbs of women and their mien,
And with the greenest hydras were begirt;
Small serpents and cerastes were their tresses,
Wherewith their horrid temples were entwined.
And he who well the handmaids of the Queen
Of everlasting lamentation knew,
Said unto me: “Behold the fierce Erinnys.
This is Megaera, on the left-hand side;
She who is weeping on the right, Alecto;
Tisiphone is between;”and then was silent.
Each one her breast was rending with her nails;
They beat them with their palms, and cried so loud,
That I for dread pressed close unto the Poet.
“Medusa come, so we to stone will change him!”
All shouted looking down; “in evil hour
Avenged we not on Theseus his assault!” 112
“Turn thyself round, and keep thine eyes close shut,
For if the Gorgon appear, and thou shouldst see it,
No more returning upward would there be.”
112The attempt which Theseus and Pirithous made to rescue Proserpine from the infernal
Thus said the Master; and he turned me round
Himself, and trusted not unto my hands
So far as not to blind me with his own.
O ye who have undistempered intellects,
Observe the doctrine that conceals itself 113
Beneath the veil of the mysterious verses!
And now there came across the turbid waves
The clangour of a sound with terror fraught,
Because of which both of the margins trembled;
Not otherwise it was than of a wind
Impetuous on account of adverse heats,
That smites the forest, and, without restraint,
The branches rends, beats down, and bears away;
Right onward, laden with dust, it goes superb,
And puts to flight the wild beasts and the shepherds.
Mine eyes he loosed, and said: “Direct the nerve
Of vision now along that ancient foam,
There yonder where that smoke is most intense.”
Even as the frogs before the hostile serpent
Across the water scatter all abroad,
Until each one is huddled in the earth.
More than a thousand ruined souls I saw,
Thus fleeing from before one who on foot
Was passing o’er the Styx with soles unwet
From off his face he fanned that unctuous air,
Waving his left hand oft in front of him,
And only with that anguish seemed he weary.
Well I perceived one sent from Heaven was he,
And to the Master turned; and he made sign
That I should quiet stand, and bow before him.
Ah! how disdainful he appeared to me!
He reached the gate, and with a little rod
He opened it, for there was no resistance.
“O banished out of Heaven, people despised!”
113The hidden doctrine seems to be, that Negation or Unbelief is the Gorgon’s head
which changes the heart to stone; after which there is “no more returning upward.” The
Furies display it from the walls of the City of Heretics.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 23: Well I perceived one sent from Heaven was he...
Thus he began upon the horrid threshold;
“Whence is this arrogance within you couched?
Wherefore recalcitrate against that will,
From which the end can never be cut off,
And which has many times increased your pain?
What helpeth it to butt against the fates?
Your Cerberus, if you remember well,
For that still bears his chin and gullet peeled.”
Then he returned along the miry road,
And spake no word to us, but had the look
Of one whom other care constrains and goads
Than that of him who in his presence is;
And we our feet directed tow’rds the city,
After those holy words all confident.
Within we entered without any contest;
And I, who inclination had to see
What the condition such a fortress holds,
Soon as I was within, cast round mine eye,
And see on every hand an ample plain,
Full of distress and torment terrible.
Even as at Arles, where stagnant grows the Rhone, 114
Even as at Pola near to the Quarnaro, 115
That shuts in Italy and bathes its borders,
The sepulchres make all the place uneven;
So likewise did they there on every side,
Saving that there the manner was more bitter;
For flames between the sepulchres were scattered,
By which they so intensely heated were,
That iron more so asks not any art.
All of their coverings uplifted were,
And from them issued forth such dire laments,
Sooth seemed they of the wretched and tormented.
And I: “My Master, what are all those people
Who, having sepulture within those tombs,
Make themselves audible by doleful sighs?”
And he to me: “Here are the Heresiarchs,
With their disciples of all sects, and much
More than thou thinkest laden are the tombs.
Here like together with its like is buried;
And more and less the monuments are heated.”
And when he to the right had turned, we passed
Between the torments and high parapets.
114At Arles lie buried, according to old tradition, the Peers of Charlemagne and their
ten thousand men at arms.
115Pola is a city in Istria. “Near Pola,” says Benvenuto da Imola, “are seen many tombs,
about seven hundred, and of various forms.” Quarnaro is a gulf of the northern extremity
of the Adriatic.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 24: The three infernal Furies stained with blood...
Figure 25: The sepulchres make all the place uneven...
NOW onward goes, along a narrow path
Between the torments and the city wall,
My Master, and I follow at his back.
“O power supreme, that through these impious circles
Turnest me,” I began, “as pleases thee,
Speak to me, and my longings satisfy;
The people who are lying in these tombs,
Might they be seen? already are uplifted
The covers all, and no one keepeth guard.”
And he to me: “They all will be closed up
When from Jehoshaphat they shall return
Here with the bodies they have left above.
Their cemetery have upon this side
With Epicurus all his followers,
Who with the body mortal make the soul;
But in the question thou dost put to me,
Within here shalt thou soon be satisfied,
And likewise in the wish thou keepest silent.”
And I: “Good Leader, I but keep concealed
From thee my heart, that I may speak the less,
Nor only now hast thou thereto disposed me.”
“O Tuscan, thou who through the city of fire
Goest alive, thus speaking modestly,
Be pleased to stay thy footsteps in this place.
Thy mode of speaking makes thee manifest
A native of that noble fatherland,
To which perhaps I too molestful was.”
Upon a sudden issued forth this sound
From out one of the tombs; wherefore I pressed,
Fearing, a little nearer to my Leader.
And unto me he said: “Turn thee; what dost thou?
Behold there Farinata who has risen; 116
From the waist upwards wholly shalt thou see him.”
I had already fixed mine eyes on his,
And he uprose erect with breast and front
E’en as if Hell he had in great despite.
And with courageous hands and prompt my Leader
Thrust me between the sepulchres towards him,
Exclaiming, “Let thy words explicit be.”
As soon as I was at the foot of his tomb
Somewhat he eyed me, and, as if disdainful,
Then asked of me, “Who were thine ancestors?”
I, who desirous of obeying was,
Concealed it not, but all revealed to him;
Whereat he raised his brows a little upward.
Then said he: “Fiercely adverse have they been 117
To me, and to my fathers, and my party;
So that two several times I scattered them.”
“If they were banished, they returned on all sides,”
I answered him, “the first time and the second;
But yours have not acquired that art aright.”
Then there uprose upon the sight, uncovered
Down to the chin, a shadow at his side; 118
I think that he had risen on his knees.
116Farinata degli Uberti was the most valiant and renowned leader of the Ghibellines in
Florence. Boccacio, Comento, says: “He was of the opinion of Epicurus, that the soul dies
with the body, and consequently maintained that human happiness consisted in temporal
pleasures; but he did not follow these in the way that Epicurus did, that is by making long
fasts to have afterwards pleasure in eating dry bread; but was fond of good and delicate
viands, and ate them without waiting to be hungry; and for this sin he is damned as a
Heretic in this place.”
Farinata led to Ghibellines at the famous battle of Monte Aperto in 1260, where the Guelfs
were routed, and driven out of Florence. He died in 1264.
117The ancestors of Dante, and Dante himself, were Guelfs. He did not become a Ghibelline
till after his banishment.
118Cavalcante de’ Cavalcanti, father of Dante’s friend, Guido Cavalcanti. He was of the
Guelf party; so that there are Guelf and Ghibelline buried in the same tomb.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Round me he gazed, as if solicitude
He had to see if some one else were with me,
But after his suspicion was all spent,
Weeping, he said to me: “If through this blind
Prison thou goest by loftiness of genius,
Where is my son? and why is he not with thee?”
And I to him: “I come not of myself;
He who is waiting yonder leads me here,
Whom in disdain perhaps your Guido had.” 119
His language and the mode of punishment
Already unto me had read his name;
On that account my answer was so full.
Up starting suddenly, he cried out: “How
Saidst thou, – he had? Is he not still alive?
Does not the sweet light strike upon his eyes?”
When he became aware of some delay,
Which I before my answer made, supine
He fell again, and forth appeared no more.
But the other, magnanimous, at whose desire
I had remained, did not his aspect change,
Neither his neck he moved, nor bent his side. 120
“And if,” continuing his first discourse,
“They have that art,” he said, “not learned aright,
That more tormenteth me, than doth this bed.
But fifty times shall not rekindled be
The countenance of the Lady who reigns here 121
Ere thou shalt know how heavy is that art;
And as thou wouldst to the sweet world return,
Say why that people is so pitiless
119Guido Cavalcanti, whom Benvenuto da Imola calls “the other eye of Florence,” –
alter oculus Florentiae tempore Dantis. He was a poet of decided mark, but he seems not to
have shared Dante’s admiration for Virgil, and to have been more given to the study of
philosophy than of poetry.
120Farinata pays no attention to this outburst of paternal tenderness on the part of his
Guelfic kinsman, but waits, in stern indifference, till it is ended, and then calmly resumes
121The moon, called in the heavens Diana, on earth Luna, and in the infernal regions
Against my race in each one of its laws?”
Whence I to him: “The slaughter and great carnage
Which have with crimson stained the Arbia, cause 122
Such orisons in our temple to be made.”
After his head he with a sigh had shaken,
“There I was not alone,” he said, “nor surely
Without a cause had with the others moved.
But there I was alone, where every one
Consented to the laying waste of Florence,
He who defended her with open face.”
“Ah! so hereafter may your seed repose,” 123
I him entreated, “solve for me that knot,
Which has entangled my conceptions here.
It seems that you can see, if I hear rightly,
Beforehand whatsoe’er time brings with it,
And in the present have another mode.”
“We see, like those who have imperfect sight,
The things,” he said, “that distant are from us;
So much still shines on us the Sovereign Ruler.
When they draw near, or are, is wholly vain
Our intellect, and if none brings it to us,
Not anything know we of your human state.
Hence thou canst understand, that wholly dead
Will be our knowledge from the moment when
The portal of the future shall be closed.”
Then I, as if compunctious for my fault,
Said: “Now, then, you will tell that fallen one,
That still his son is with the living joined.
122In the great battle of Monte Aperto. The river Arbia is a few miles south of Siena.
The traveller crosses it on his way to Rome. In this battle the banished Ghibellines of
Florence, joining the Sienese, gained a victory over the Guelfs, and retook the city of
Florence. Before the battle Buonaguida, Syndic of Siena, presented the keys of the city to
the Virgin Mary in the Cathedral, and made a gift to her of the city and the neighboring
country. After the battle the standard of the vanquished Florentines, together with their
battle-bell, the Martinella, was tied to the tail of a jackass and dragged in the dirt.
123After the battle of Monte Aperto a diet of the Ghibellines was held at Empoli, in
which the deputies from Siena and Pisa, prompted no doubt by provincial hatred, urged
the demolition of Florence. Farinata vehemently opposed the project in a speech.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
And if just now, in answering, I was dumb,
Tell him I did it because I was thinking
Already of the error you have solved me.”
And now my Master was recalling me,
Wherefore more eagerly I prayed the spirit
That he would tell me who was with him there.
He said: “With more than a thousand here I lie;
Within here is the second Frederick, 124
And the Cardinal, and of the rest I speak not.” 125
Thereon he hid himself; and I towards
The ancient poet turned my steps, reflecting
Upon that saying, which seemed hostile to me.
He moved along; and afterward thus going,
He said to me, “Why art thou so bewildered?”
And I in his inquiry satisfied him.
“Let memory preserve what thou hast heard
Against thyself,” that Sage commanded me,
“And now attend here;” and he raised his finger.
“When thou shalt be before the radiance sweet
Of her whose beauteous eyes all things behold,
From her thou’lt know the journey of thy life.”
Unto the left hand then he turned his feet;
We left the wall, and went towards the middle,
Along a path that strikes into a valley,
Which even up there unpleasant made its stench.
124Frederick II., son of the Emperor Henry VI., surnamed the Severe, and grandson of
Barbarossa. He reigned from 1220 to 1250, not only as Emperor of Germany, but also
as King of Naples and Sicily, where for the most part he held his court, one of the most
brilliant of the Middle Ages.
125This is Cardinal Ottaviano delgi Ubaldini, who is accused of saying, “If there be any
soul, I have lost mine for the Ghibellines.” Dante takes him at his word.
Figure 26: As soon as I was at the foot of his tomb...
UPON the margin of a lofty bank
Which great rocks broken in a circle made,
We came upon a still more cruel throng;
And there, by reason of the horrible
Excess of stench the deep abyss throws out,
We drew ourselves aside behind the cover
Of a great tomb, whereon I saw a writing,
Which said: “Pope Anastasius I hold, 126
Whom out of the right way Photinus drew.” 127
“Slow it behoveth our descent to be,
So that the sense be first a little used
To the sad blast, and then we shall not heed it.”
The Master thus; and unto him I said,
“Some compensation find, that the time pass not
126Some critics and commentators accuse Dante of confounding Pope Anastasius with
the Emperor of that name. It is however highly probable that Dante knew best whom
he meant. Both were accused of heresy, though the heresy of the Pope seems to have
been of a mild type. A few years previous to his time, namely, in the year 484, Pope Felix
III. and Acacius, Bishop of Constantinople, mutually excommunicated each other. When
Anastasius II. became Pope in 496, “he dared,” says Milman, Hist. Lat. Christ., I. 349, “to
doubt the damnation of a bishop excommunicated by the See of Rome: ‘Felix and Acacius
are now both before a higher tribunal; leave them to that unerring judgment.’ He would
have the name of Acacius passed over in silence, quietly dropped, rather than publicly
expunged from the diptychs. This degenerate successor of St. Peter is not admitted to the
rank of a saint. The Pontifical book (its authority on this point is indignantly repudiated)
accuses Anastasius of having communicated with a deacon of Thessalonica, who had
kept up communion with Acacius; and of having entertained secret designs of restoring
the name of Acacius in the services of the Church.”
127Photinus is the deacon of Thessalonica alluded to in the preceding note. His heresy
was, that the Holy Ghost did not proceed from the Father, and that the Father was greater
than the Son. The writers who endeavor to rescue the Pope at the expense of the Emperor
say that Photinus died before the days of Pope Anastasius.
Idly;” and he: “Thou seest I think of that.
My son, upon the inside of these rocks,”
Began he then to say, “are three small circles,
From grade to grade, like those which thou art leaving
They all are full of spirits maledict;
But that hereafter sight alone suffice thee,
Hear how and wherefore they are in constraint.
Of every malice that wins hate in Heaven,
Injury is the end; and all such end
Either by force or fraud afflicteth others.
But because fraud is man’s peculiar vice,
More it displeases God; and so stand lowest
The fraudulent, and greater dole assails them.
All the first circle of the Violent is;
But since force may be used against three persons,
In three rounds ’tis divided and constructed.
To God, to ourselves, and to our neighbour can we
Use force; I say on them and on their things,
As thou shalt hear with reason manifest.
A death by violence, and painful wounds,
Are to our neighbour given; and in his substance
Ruin, and arson, and injurious levies;
Whence homicides, and he who smites unjustly,
Marauders, and freebooters, the first round
Tormenteth all in companies diverse.
Man may lay violent hands upon himself
And his own goods; and therefore in the second
Round must perforce without avail repent
Whoever of your world deprives himself,
Who games, and dissipates his property,
And weepeth there, where he should jocund be.
Violence can be done the Deity,
In heart denying and blaspheming Him,
And by disdaining Nature and her bounty.
And for this reason doth the smallest round
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Seal with its signet Sodom and Cahors, 128
And who, disdaining God, speaks from the heart.
Fraud, wherewithal is every conscience stung,
A man may practise upon him who trusts,
And him who doth no confidence imburse.
This latter mode, it would appear, dissevers
Only the bond of love which Nature makes;
Wherefore within the second circle nestle
Hypocrisy, flattery, and who deals in magic,
Falsification, theft, and simony,
Panders, and barrators, and the like filth.
By the other mode, forgotten is that love
Which Nature makes, and what is after added,
From which there is a special faith engendered.
Hence in the smallest circle, where the point is
Of the Universe, upon which Dis is seated,
Whoe’er betrays for ever is consumed.”
And I: “My Master, clear enough proceeds
Thy reasoning, and full well distinguishes
This cavern and the people who possess it.
But tell me, those within the fat lagoon, 129
Whom the wind drives, and whom the rain doth beat, 130
And who encounter with such bitter tongues, 131
128Cahors is the cathedral town of the Department of the Lot, in the South of France,
and the birthplace of the poet Cl´ement Marot and of the romance-writer Calpren`ede. In
the Middle Ages it seems to have been a nest of usurers. Matthew Paris, in his Historia
Major, under date of 1235, has a chapter entitled, Of the Usury of the Caursines, which in
the translation of Rev. J. A. Giles runs as follows: –
“In these days prevailed the horrible nuisance of the Caursines to such a degree that there
was hardly any one in all England, especially among the bishops, who was not caught
in their net. Even the king himself was held indebted to them in an uncalculable sum of
money. For they circumvented the needy in their necessities, cloaking their usury under
the show of trade, and pretending not to know that whatever is added to the principal
is usury, under whatever name it may be called. For it is manifest that their loans lie not
in the path of charity, inasmuch as they do not hold out a helping hand to the poor to
relieve them, but to deceive them; not to aid others in their starvation, but to gratify their
own covetousness; seeing that the motive stamps our every deed.”
129Those within the fat lagoon, the Irascible, Canto VII., VIII.
130Whom the wind drives, the Wanton, Canto V., and whom the rain doth beat, the Gluttonous,
131And who encounter with such bitter tongues, the Prodigal and Avaricious, Canto VIII.
Wherefore are they inside of the red city
Not punished, if God has them in his wrath,
And if he has not, wherefore in such fashion?”
And unto me he said: “Why wanders so
Thine intellect from that which it is wont?
Or, sooth, thy mind where is it elsewhere looking?
Hast thou no recollection of those words
With which thine Ethics thoroughly discusses 132
The dispositions three, that Heaven abides not, –
Incontinence, and Malice, and insane
Bestiality? and how Incontinence
Less God offendeth, and less blame attracts?
If thou regardest this conclusion well,
And to thy mind recallest who they are
That up outside are undergoing penance,
Clearly wilt thou perceive why from these felons
They separated are, and why less wroth
Justice divine doth smite them with its hammer.”
“O Sun, that healest all distempered vision,
Thou dost content me so, when thou resolvest,
That doubting pleases me no less than knowing!
Once more a little backward turn thee,” said I,
“There where thou sayest that usury offends
Goodness divine, and disengage the knot.”
“Philosophy,” he said, “to him who heeds it,
Noteth, not only in one place alone,
After what manner Nature takes her course
From Intellect Divine, and from its art;
And if thy Physics carefully thou notest, 133
After not many pages shalt thou find,
That this your art as far as possible
Follows, as the disciple doth the master;
So that your art is, as it were, God’s grandchild.
132The Ethics of Aristotle, VII. i. “After these things, making another beginning, it must
be observed by us that there are three species of things which are to be avoided in manners,
viz. Malice, Incontinence, and Bestiality.”
133The Physics of Aristotle, Book II.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
From these two, if thou bringest to thy mind
Genesis at the beginning, it behoves 134
Mankind to gain their life and to advance;
And since the usurer takes another way,
Nature herself and in her follower 135
Disdains he, for elsewhere he puts his hope.
But follow, now, as I would fain go on,
For quivering are the Fishes on the horizon,
And the Wain wholly over Caurus lies, 136
And far beyond there we descend the crag.”
134Genesis, i. 28: “And God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the
earth, and subdue it.”
135The constellation Pisces precedes Aries, in which the sun now is. This indicates the
time to be a little before sunrise. It is Saturday morning.
136The Wain is the constellation Charle’s Wain, or Bootes; and Caurus is the Northwest,
indicated by the Latin name of the northwest wind.
Figure 27: We drew ourselves aside behind the cover of a great tomb...
THE place where to descend the bank we came 137
Was alpine, and from what was there, moreover,
Of such a kind that every eye would shun it.
Such as that ruin is which in the flank
Smote, on this side of Trent, the Adige,
Either by earthquake or by failing stay,
For from the mountain’s top, from which it moved,
Unto the plain the cliff is shattered so,
Some path ’twould give to him who was above;
Even such was the descent of that ravine,
And on the border of the broken chasm
The infamy of Crete was stretched along, 138
Who was conceived in the fictitious cow;
And when he us beheld, he bit himself,
Even as one whom anger racks within.
My Sage towards him shoutedw: “Peradventure
Thou think’st that here may be the Duke of Athens, 139
Who in the world above brought death to thee?
Get thee gone, beast, for this one cometh not
Instructed by thy sister, but he comes 140
137With this Canto begins the Seventh Circle of the Inferno, in which the Violent are
punished. In the first Girone or round are the Violent against their neighbors, plunged
more or less deeply in the river of boiling blood.
138The Minotaur, half bull, half man. See the infamous story in all the classical dictio
139The Duke of Athens is Theseus.
140Ariadne, who gave Theseus the silken thread to guide him back through the Cretan
labyrinth after slaying the Minotaur. Hawthorne has beatifully told the old story in his
Tanglewood Tales. “Ah, the bull-headed villain!” he says. “And O my good little people,
you will perhaps see, one of these days, as I do now, that every human being who suffers
In order to behold your punishments.”
As is that bull who breaks loose at the moment
In which he has received the mortal blow,
Who cannot walk, but staggers here and there,
The Minotaur beheld I do the like;
And he, the wary, cried: “Run to the passage;
While he wroth, ’tis well thou shouldst descend.”
Thus down we took our way o’er that discharge
Of stones, which oftentimes did move themselves
Beneath my feet, from the unwonted burden.
Thoughtful I went; and he said: “Thou art thinking
Perhaps upon this ruin, which is guarded
By that brute anger which just now I quenched.
Now will I have thee know, the other time
I here descended to the nether Hell,
This precipice had not yet fallen down.
But truly, if I well discern, a little
Before His coming who the mighty spoil
Bore off from Dis, in the supernal circle, 141
Upon all sides the deep and loathsome valley
Trembled so, that I thought the Universe
Was thrilled with love, by which there are who think 142
The world ofttimes converted into chaos;
And at that moment this primeval crag
Both here and elsewhere made such overthrow.
But fix thine eyes below; for draweth near
The river of blood, within which boiling is
Whoe’er by violence doth injure others.”
O blind cupidity, O wrath insane,
That spurs us onward so in our short life,
And in the eternal then so badly steeps us!
I saw an ample moat bent like a bow,
anything evil to get into his nature, or to remain there, is a kind of Minotaur, an enemy of
his fellow-creatures, and separated from all good companionship, as this poor monster
141Christ’s descent into Limbo, and the earthquake at the Crucifixion.
142This is the doctrine of Empedocles and other old philosophers.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 28: Centaurs in file were running, armed with arrows...
As one which all the plain encompasses,
Conformable to what my Guide had said.
And between this and the embankment’s foot
Centaurs in file were running, armed with arrows, 143
As in the world they used the chase to follow.
Beholding us descend, each one stood still,
And from the squadron three detached themselves,
With bows and arrows in advance selected;
And from afar one cried: “Unto what torment
Come ye, who down the hillside are descending?
Tell us from there; if not, I draw the bow.”
My Master said: “Our answer will we make
To Chiron, near you there; in evil hour,
That will of thine was evermore so hasty.”
143The Centaurs are set to guard this Circle, as symbolizing violence, with some form of
which the classic poets usually associate them.
Figure 29: Shooting with shafts whatever soul emerges...
Then touched he me, and said: “This one is Nessus, 144
Who perished for the lovely Dejanira,
And for himself, himself did vengeance take.
And he in the midst, who at his breast is gazing,
Is the great Chiron, who brought up Achilles; 145
That other Pholus is, who was so wrathful.
Thousands and thousands go about the moat
Shooting with shafts whatever soul emerges
Out of the blood, more than his crime allots.”
Near we approached unto those monsters fleet;
Chiron an arrow took, and with the notch 146
144Chiron was a son of Saturn; Pholus, of Silenus; and Nessus, of Ixion and the Cloud.
145Homer, Iliad, XI. 832, “Whom Chiron instructed, the most just of the Centaurs.”
146Mr. Ruskin refers to this line in confirmation of his theory that “all great art represents
something that it sees or believes in; nothing unseen or uncredited.” The passage is as
follows, Modern Painters, III. 83: – “And just because it is always something that it sees or
believes in, there is the peculiar character above noted, almost unmistakable, in all high
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Backward upon his jaws he put his beard.
After he had uncovered his great mouth,
He said to his companions: “Are you ware
That he behind moveth whate’er he touches?
Thus are not wont to do the feet of dead men.”
And my good Guide, who now was at his breast,
Where the two natures are together joined,
Replied: “Indeed he lives, and thus alone
Me it behoves to show him the dark valley;
Necessity, and not delight, impels us.
Some one withdrew from singing Halleluja,
Who unto me committed this new office;
No thief is he, nor I a thievish spirit.
But by that virtue through which I am moving
My steps along this savage thoroughfare,
Give us some one of thine, to be with us,
And who may show us where to pass the ford,
And who may carry this one on his back;
For ’tis no spirit that can walk the air.”
Upon his right breast Chiron wheeled about,
And said to Nessus: “Turn and do thou guide them,
And warn aside, if other band may meet you.”
We with our faithful escort onward moved
Along the brink of the vermilion boiling,
Wherein the boiled were uttering loud laments.
People I saw within up to the eyebrows,
And the great Centaur said: “Tyrants are these,
Who dealt in bloodshed and in pillaging.
Here they lament their pitiless mischiefs; here
and true ideals, of having been as it were studies from the life, and involving pieces of
sudden familiarity, and close specific painting which never would have been admitted or
even thought of, had not the painter drawn either from the bodily life or from the life of
faith. For instance, Dante’s Centaur, Chiron, dividing his beard with his arrow before he
can speak, is a thing that no mortal would ever have thought of, if he had not actually
seen the Centaur do it. They might have composed handsome bodies of men and horses
in all possible ways, through a whole life of pseudo-idealism, and yet never dreamed of
any such thing. But the real living Centaur actually trotted across Dante’s brain, and he
saw him do it.”
Is Alexander, and fierce Dionysius 147
Who upon Sicily brought dolorous years.
That forehead there which has the hair so black
Is Azzolin; and the other who is blond, 148
Obizzo is of Esti, who, in truth, 149
Up in the world was by his stepson slain.”
Then turned I to the Poet; and he said,
“Now he be first to thee, and second I.”
A little farther on the Centaur stopped
Above a folk, who far down as the throat
Seemed from that boiling stream to issue forth.
A shade’ he showed us on one side alone,
Saying: “He cleft asunder in God’s bosom 150
The heart that still upon the Thames is honoured.”
Then people saw I, who from out the river
Lifted their heads and also all the chest;
And many among these I recognised. 151
Thus ever more and more grew shallower
That blood, so that the feet alone it covered;
And there across the moat our passage was.
“Even as thou here upon this side beholdest
The boiling stream, that aye diminishes,”
The Centaur said, “I wish thee to believe
That on this other more and more declines
Its bed, until it reunites itself
Where it behoveth tyranny to groan.
147Alexander of Thessaly and Dionysius of Syracuse.
148Azzolino, or Ezzolino di Romano, tyrant of Padua, nicknamed the Son of the Devil.
Ariosto, Orlando Furioso, III. 33, describes him as: – “Fierce Ezelin, that most inhuman
lord, Who shall be deemed by men a child of hell.” His story may be found in Sismondi’s
Histoire des Republiques Italiennes, Chap. XIX. He so outraged the religious sense of the
people by his cruelties, that a crusade was preached against him, and he died a prisoner
in 1259, tearing the bandages from his wounds, and fierce and defiant to the last.
149Obizzo da Esti, Marquis of Ferrara. He was murdered by Azzo, “whom he thought
to be his son,” says Boccaccio, “though he was not.” The Ottimo Comento remarks: “Many
call themselves sons, and are step-sons.”
150Guido di Monforte, who murdered Prince Henry of England “in the bosom of God,”
that is, in the church, at Viterbo.
151Violence in all its forms was common enough in Florence in the age of Dante.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Justice divine, upon this side, is goading
That Attila, who was a scourge on earth, 152
And Pyrrhus, and Sextus; and for ever milks 153
The tears which with the boiling it unseals
In Rinier da Corneto and Rinier Pazzo, 154
Who made upon the highways so much war.”
Then back he turned, and passed again the ford.
152Attila, the Scourge of God.
153Which Pyrrhus and which Sextus, the commentators cannot determine; but incline
to Pyrrhus of Epirus, and Sextus Pompey, the corsair of the Mediterranean.
154Nothing more is known of these highwaymen than that the first infested the Roman
sea-shore, and that the second was of a noble family of Florence.
Figure 30: The infamy of Crete was stretched along...
NOT yet had Nessus reached the other side, 155
When we had put ourselves within a wood,
That was not marked by any path whatever.
Not foliage green, but of a dusky colour,
Not branches smooth, but gnarled and intertangled,
Not apple-trees were there, but thorns with poison.
Such tangled thickets have not, nor so dense,
Those savage wild beasts, that in hatred hold
’Twixt Cecina and Corneto the tilled places. 156
There do the hideous Harpies make their nests,
Who chased the Trojans from the Strophades,
With sad announcement of impending doom;
Broad wings have they, and necks and faces human,
And feet with claws, and their great bellies fledged;
They make laments upon the wondrous trees.
And the good Master: “Ere thou enter farther,
Know that thou art within the second round,”
Thus he began to say, “and shalt be, till
Thou comest out upon the horrible sand;
Therefore look well around, and thou shalt see
Things that will credence give unto my speech.”
I heard on all sides lamentations uttered,
And person none beheld I who might make them,
155In this Canto is described the punishment of those who had laid violent hands on
themselves or their property.
156The Cecina is a small river running into the Mediterranean not many miles south of
Leghorn; Corneto, a village in the Papal States, north of Civita Vecchia. The country is
wild and thinly peopled, and studded with thickets, the haunts of the deer and the wild
Whence, utterly bewildered, I stood still.
I think he thought that I perhaps might think
So many voices issued through those trunks
From people who concealed themselves from us;
Therefore the Master said: “If thou break off
Some little spray from any of these trees,
The thoughts thou hast will wholly be made vain.”
Then stretched I forth my hand a little forward,
And plucked a branchlet off from a great thorn,
And the trunk cried, “Why dost thou mangle me?”
After it had become embrowned with blood,
It recommenced its cry: “Why dost thou rend me
Hast thou no spirit of pity whatsoever?
Men once we were, and now are changed to trees;
Indeed, thy hand should be more pitiful,
Even if the souls of serpents we had been.”
As out of a green brand, that is on fire
At one of the ends, and from the other drips
And hisses with the wind that is escaping;
So from that splinter issued forth together
Both words and blood; whereat I let the tip
Fall, and stood like a man who is afraid.
“Had he been able sooner to believe,”
My Sage made answer, “O thou wounded soul,
What only in my verses he has seen,
Not upon thee had he stretched forth his hand;
Whereas the thing incredible has caused me
To put him to an act which grieveth me.
But tell him who thou wast, so that by way
Of some amends thy fame he may refresh
Up in the world, to which he can return.”
And the trunk said: “So thy sweet words allure me,
I cannot silent be; and you be vexed not,
That I a little to discourse am tempted.
I am the one who both keys had in keeping 157
157Pietro della Vigna, Chancellor of the Emperor Frederick II.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Of Frederick’s heart, and turned them to and fro
So softly in unlocking and in locking,
That from his secrets most men I withheld;
Fidelity I bore the glorious office
So great, I lost thereby my sleep and pulses.
The courtesan who never from the dwelling
Of Caesar turned aside her strumpet eyes,
Death universal and the vice of courts,
Inflamed against me all the other minds,
And they, inflamed, did so inflame Augustus,
That my glad honours turned to dismal mournings.
My spirit, in disdainful exultation,
Thinking by dying to escape disdain,
Made me unjust against myself, the just.
I, by the roots unwonted of this wood,
Do swear to you that never broke I faith
Unto my lord, who was so worthy of honour;
And to the world if one of you return,
Let him my memory comfort, which is lying
Still prostrate from the blow that envy dealt it.”
Waited awhile, and then: “Since he is silent,”
The Poet said to me, “lose not the time,
But speak, and question him, if more may please thee.”
Whence I to him: “Do thou again inquire
Concerning what thou thinks’t will satisfy me;
For I cannot, such pity is in my heart.”
Therefore he recommenced: “So may the man
Do for thee freely what thy speech implores,
Spirit incarcerate, again be pleased
To tell us in what way the soul is bound
Within these knots; and tell us, if thou canst
If any from such members e’er is freed.”
Then blew the trunk amain, and afterward
The wind was into such a voice converted:
“With brevity shall be replied to you.
When the exasperated soul abandons
The body whence it rent itself away,
Figure 31: It falls into the forest...
Minos consigns it to the seventh abyss.
It falls into the forest, and no part
Is chosen for it; but where Fortune hurls it,
There like a grain of spelt it germinates.
It springs a sapling, and a forest tree;
The Harpies, feeding then upon its leaves,
Do pain create, and for the pain an outlet.
Like others for our spoils shall we return;
But not that any one may them revest,
For ’tis not just to have what one casts off.
Here we shall drag them, and along the dismal
Forest our bodies shall suspended be,
Each to the thorn of his molested shade.”
We were attentive still unto the trunk,
Thinking that more it yet might wish to tell us,
When by a tumult we were overtaken,
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 32: Fleeing so furiously, that of the forest, every fan they broke.
In the same way as he is who perceives
The boar and chase approaching to his stand,
Who hears the crashing of the beasts and branches;
And two behold! upon our left-hand side,
Naked and scratched, fleeing so furiously,
That of the forest, every fan they broke.
He who was in advance: “Now help, Death, help!”
And the other one, who seemed to lag too much,
Was shouting: “Lano, were not so alert 158
158“Lano,” says Boccaccio, Comento, “was young gentleman of Siena, who had a large
patrimony, and associating himself with a club of other young Sienese, called the
Spendthrift Club, they also being all rich, together with them, not spending but squandering,
in a short time he consumed all that he had and became very poor.” Joining
some Florentine troops sent out against the Aretines, he was in a skirmish at the parish
of Toppo, which Dante calls a joust; “and notwithstanding he might have saved himself,”
continues Boccaccio, “remembering his wretched condition, and it seeming to him
a grievous thing to bear poverty, as he had been very rich, he rushed into the thick of the
enemy and was slain, as perhaps he desired to be.”
Those legs of thine at joustings of the Toppo!”
And then, perchance because his breath was failing,
He grouped himself together with a bush.
Behind them was the forest full of black
She-mastiffs, ravenous, and swift of foot
As greyhounds, who are issuing from the chain. 159
On him who had crouched down they set their teeth,
And him they lacerated piece by piece,
Thereafter bore away those aching members.
Thereat my Escort took me by the hand,
And led me to the bush, that all in vain
Was weeping from its bloody lacerations.
“O Jacopo,” it said, “of Sant’ Andrea, 160
What helped it thee of me to make a screen?
What blame have I in thy nefarious life?”
When near him had the Master stayed his steps,
He said: “Who wast thou, that through wounds so many
Art blowing out with blood thy dolorous speech?”
And he to us: “O souls, that hither come
To look upon the shameful massacre
That has so rent away from me my leaves,
Gather them up beneath the dismal bush;
I of that city was which to the Baptist 161
Changed its first patron, wherefore he for this
Forever with his art will make it sad.
And were it not that on the pass of Arno
Some glimpses of him are remaining still,
Those citizens, who afterwards rebuilt it
159Some commentators interpret these dogs as poverty and despair, still pursuing their
victims. The Ottimo Comento calls them “poor men who, to follow pleasure and the
kitchens of other people, abandoned their homes and families, and are therefore transformed
into hunting dogs, and pursue and devour their masters.”
160Jacopo da St. Andrea was a Paduan of like character and life as Lano. “Among his
other squanderings,” says the Ottimo Comento, “it is said that, wishing to see a grand and
beautiful fire, he had one of his own villas burned.”
161Florence was first under the protection of the god Mars; afterwards under that of St.
John the Baptist. But in Dante’s time the statue of Mars was still standing on a column at
the head of the Ponte Vecchio. It was over thrown by an inundation of the Arno in 1333.
See Canto XV.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Upon the ashes left by Attila, 162
In vain had caused their labour to be done. 163
Of my own house I made myself a gibbet.”
162Florence was destroyed by Totila in 450, and never by Attila. In Dante’s time the two
seem to have been pretty generally confounded. The Ottimo Comento remarks upon this
point, “Some say that Totila was one person and Attila another; and some say that he was
one and the same man.”
163Dante does not mention the name of this suicide; Boccaccio thinks, for one of two
reasons; “either out of regard of his surviving relatives, who peradventure are honorable
men, and therefore he did not wish to stain them with the infamy of so dishonest a death,
or else (as in those times, as if by a malediction sent by God upon our city, many hanged
themselves) that each one might apply it to either he pleased of these many.”
Figure 33: There do the hideous Harpies make their nests...
BECAUSE the charity of my native place 164
Constrained me, gathered I the scattered leaves,
And gave them back to him, who now was hoarse.
Then came we to the confine, where disparted
The second round is from the third, and where
A horrible form of Justice is beheld.
Clearly to manifest these novel things,
I say that we arrived upon a plain,
Which from its bed rejecteth every plant;
The dolorous forest is a garland to it
All round about, as the sad moat to that;
There close upon the edge we stayed our feet.
The soil was of an arid and thick sand,
Not of another fashion made than that
Which by the feet of Cato once was pressed. 165
Vengeance of God, O how much oughtest thou
By each one to be dreaded, who doth read
That which was manifest unto mine eyes!
Of naked souls beheld I many herds,
Who all were weeping very miserably,
And over them seemed set a law diverse.
Supine upon the ground some folk were lying;
And some were sitting all drawn up together,
And others went about continually.
164In this third round of the seventh circle are punished the Violent against God, “In
heart denying and blaspheming him, And by disdaining Nature and her bounty.”
165When he retreated across the Libyan desert with the remnant of Pompey’s army after
the battle of Pharsalia. Lucan, Pharsalia, Book IX.: – “Foremost, behold, I lead you to the
toil, My feet shall foremost print the dusty soil.”
Figure 34: Supine upon the ground some folk were lying...
Those who were going round were far the more,
And those were less who lay down to their torment,
But had their tongues more loosed to lamentation.
O’er all the sand-waste, with a gradual fall,
Were raining down dilated flakes of fire,
As of the snow on Alp without a wind.
As Alexander, in those torrid parts 166
Of India, beheld upon his host
Flames fall unbroken till they reached the ground,
Whence he provided with his phalanxes
To trample down the soil, because the vapour
Better extinguished was while it was single;
Thus was descending the eternal heat,
166Boccaccio confesses that he does not know where Dante found this tradition of
Alexander. Benvenuto da Imola says it is a letter which Alexander wrote to Aristotle.
He quotes the passage as follows: “In India ignited vapors fell from heaven like snow. I
commanded my soldiers to trample them under foot.”
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Whereby the sand was set on fire, like tinder
Beneath the steel, for doubling of the dole.
Without repose forever was the dance
Of miserable hands, now there, now here,
Shaking away from off them the fresh gleeds.
“Master,” began I, “thou who overcomest
All things except the demons dire, that issued
Against us at the entrance of the gate,
Who is that mighty one who seems to heed not
The fire, and lieth lowering and disdainful,
So that the rain seems not to ripen him?”
And he himself, who had become aware
That I was questioning my Guide about him,
Cried: “Such as I was living, am I, dead
If Jove should weary out his smith, from whom
He seized in anger the sharp thunderbolt,
Wherewith upon the last day I was smitten,
And if he wearied out by turns the others
In Mongibello at the swarthy forge, 167
Vociferating, ‘Help, good Vulcan, help!’
Even as he did there at the fight of Phlegra,
And shot his bolts at me with all his might,
He would not have thereby a joyous vengeance.”
Then did my Leader speak with such great force,
That I had never heard him speak so loud:
“O Capaneus, in that is not extinguished 168
Thine arrogance, thou punished art the more;
Not any torment, saving thine own rage,
Would be unto thy fury pain complete.”
Then he turned round to me with better lip,
Saying: “One of the Seven Kings was he
Who Thebes besieged, and held, and seems to hold
God in disdain, and little seems to prize him;
But, as I said to him, his own despites
167Mount Etna, under which, with his Cyclops, Vulcan forged the thunderbolts of Jove.
168Capaneus was one of the seven kings who besieged Thebes.
Are for his breast the fittest ornaments. 169
Now follow me, and mind thou do not place
As yet thy feet upon the burning sand,
But always keep them close unto the wood.”
Speaking no word, we came to where there gushes
Forth from the wood a little rivulet,
Whose redness makes my hair still stand on end.
As from the Bulicame springs the brooklet, 170
The sinful women later share among them,
So downward through the sand it went its way.
The bottom of it, and both sloping banks,
Were made of stone, and the margins at the side;
Whence I perceived that there the passage was.
“In all the rest which I have shown to thee
Since we have entered in within the gate
Whose threshold unto no one is denied,
Nothing has been discovered by thine eyes
So notable as is the present river,
Which all the little ‘dames above it quenches.”
These words were of my Leader; whence I prayed him
That he would give me largess of the food,
For which he had given me largess of desire.
“In the mid-sea there sits a wasted land,”
Said he thereafterward,”whose name is Crete,
Under whose king the world of old was chaste.
There is a mountain there, that once was glad
With waters and with leaves, which was called Ida;
Now ’tis deserted, as a thing worn out.
Rhea once chose it for the faithful cradle
Of her own son; and to conceal him better,
169Like Hawthorne’s scarlet letter, at once an ornament and a punishment.
170The Bulicame or Hot Springs of Viterbo. Villani, Cronica, Book 1. Ch. 51, gives the
following brief account of these springs, and of the origin of the name of Viterbo: – “The
city of Viterbo was built by the Romans, and in old times was called Vigezia, and the
citizens Vigentians. And the Romans sent the sick there on account of the baths which
flow from the Bulicame, and therefore it was called Vita Erbo, that is, life of the sick, or
city of life.”
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Whene’er he cried, she there had clamours made. 171
A grand old man stands in the mount erect, 172
Who holds his shoulders turned tow’rds Damietta,
And looks at Rome as if it were his mirror. 173
His head is fashioned of refined gold,
And of pure silver are the arms and breast;
Then he is brass as far down as the fork.
From that point downward all is chosen iron,
Save that the right foot is of kiln-baked clay,
And more he stands on that than on the other.
Each part, except the gold, is by a fissure
Asunder cleft, that dripping is with tears, 174
Which gathered together perforate that cavern
From rock to rock they fall into this valley;
Acheron, Styx, and Phlegethon they form;
Then downward go along this narrow sluice
Unto that point where is no more descending.
They form Cocytus; what that pool may be
Thou shalt behold, so here ’tis not narrated.”
And I to him: “If so the present runnel
Doth take its rise in this way from our world,
Why only on this verge appears it to us?”
And he to me: “Thou knowest the place is round
And notwithstanding thou hast journeyed far,
Still to the left descending to the bottom,
Thou hast not yet through all the circle turned.
Therefore if something new appear to us,
It should not bring amazement to thy face.”
And I again: “Master, where shall be found
Lethe and Phlegethon, for of one thou’rt silent,
And sayest the other of this rain is made?”
171The shouts and cymbals of the Corybantes, drowning the cries of the infant Jove, lest
Saturn should find him and devour him.
172The statue of Time, turning its back upon the East and looking towards Rome. Com
pare Daniel ii. 31.
173The Ages of Gold, Silver, Brass, and Iron.
174The Tears of Time, forming the infernal rivers that flow into Cocytus.
“In all thy questions truly thou dost please me,”
Replied he; “but the boiling of the red
Water might well solve one of them thou makest.
Thou shalt see Lethe, but outside this moat, 175
There where the souls repair to lave themselves,
When sin repented of has been removed.”
Then said he: “It is time now to abandon
The wood; take heed that thou come after me;
A way the margins make that are not burning,
And over them all vapours are extinguished.”
175See Purgatorio XXVIII.
NOW bears us onward one of the hard margins, 176
And so the brooklet’s mist o’ershadows it,
From fire it saves the water and the dikes.
Even as the Flemings, ’twixt Cadsand and Bruges, 177
Fearing the flood that tow’rds them hurls itself,
Their bulwarks build to put the sea to flight;
And as the Paduans along the Brenta,
To guard their villas and their villages,
Or ever Chiarentana feel the heat; 178
In such similitude had those been made,
Albeit not so lofty nor so thick,
Whoever he might be, the master made them.
Now were we from the forest so remote,
I could not have discovered where it was,
Even if backward I had turned myself,
When we a company of souls encountered,
Who came beside the dike, and every one
Gazed at us, as at evening we are wont
To eye each other under a new moon,
And so towards us sharpened they their brows
As an old tailor at the needle’s eye.
Thus scrutinised by such a family,
176In this Canto is described the punishment of the Violent against Nature; –
“And for this reason does the smallest round
Seal with its signet Sodom and Cahors.”
177Guizzante is not Ghent, but Cadsand, an island opposite L’Ecluse, where the great
canal of Bruges enters the sea. A canal thus flowing into the sea, the dikes on either
margin uniting with the sea-dikes, gives a perfect image of this part of the Inferno.
178That part of the Alps in which the Brenta rises.
Figure 35: And bowing down my face unto his own, I made reply, “Are
you here, Ser Brunetto?”
By some one I was recognised, who seized
My garment’s hem, and cried out, “What a marvel!”
And I, when he stretched forth his arm-to me,
On his baked aspect fastened so mine eyes,
That the scorched countenance prevented not
His recognition by my intellect;
And bowing down my face unto his own,
I made reply, “Are you here, Ser Brunetto?” 179
And he: “May’t not displease thee, O my son,
If a brief space with thee Brunetto Latini
Backward return and let the trail go on.”
I said to him: “With all my power I ask it;
And if you wish me to sit down with you,
I will, if he please, for I go with him.”
179Brunetto Latini, Dante’s friend and teacher.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
“O son,” he said, “whoever of this herd
A moment stops, lies then a hundred years,
Nor fans himself when smiteth him the fire.
Therefore go on; I at thy skirts will come,
And afterward will I rejoin my band,
Which goes lamenting its eternal doom.”
I did not dare to go down from the road
Level to walk with him; but my head bowed
I held as one who goeth reverently.
And he began: “What fortune or what fate
Before the last day leadeth thee down here?
And who is this that showeth thee the way?”
“Up there above us in the life serene,”
I answered him, “I lost me in a valley,
Or ever yet my age had been completed.
But yestermorn I turned my back upon it;
This one appeared to me, returning thither,
And homeward leadeth me along this road.”
And he to me: “If thou thy star do follow,
Thou canst not fail thee of a glorious port,
If well I judged in the life beautiful.
And if I had not died so prematurely,
Seeing Heaven thus benignant unto thee,
I would have given thee comfort in the work.
But that ungrateful and malignant people,
Which of old time from Fesole descended,
And smacks still of the mountain and the granite,
Will make itself, for thy good deeds, thy foe;
And it is right; for among crabbed sorbs
It ill befits the sweet fig to bear fruit.
Old rumour in the world proclaims them blind; 180
A people avaricious, envious, proud
180Villani, IV. 31, tells the story of certain columns of porphyry given by the Pisans to
the Florentines for guarding their city while the Pisan army had gone to the conquest of
Majorca. The columns were cracked by fire, but being covered with crimson cloth, the
Florentines did not perceive it. Boccaccio repeats the story with variations, but does not
think it a sufficient reason for calling the Florentines blind, and confesses that he does not
know what reason there can be for so calling them.
, Take heed that of their customs thou do cleanse thee.
Thy fortune so much honour doth reserve thee,
One party and the other shall be hungry
For thee; but far from goat shall be the grass.
Their litter let the beasts of Fesole
Make of themselves, nor let them touch the plant,
If any still upon their dunghill rise,
In which may yet revive the consecrated
Seed of those Romans, who remained there when
The nest of such great malice it became.”
“If my entreaty wholly were fulfilled,”
Replied I to him, “not yet would you be
In banishment from human nature placed;
For in my mind is fixed, and touches now
My heart the dear and good paternal image
Of you, when in the world from hour to hour
You taught me how a man becomes eternal;
And how much I am grateful, while I live
Behoves that in my language be discerned.
What you narrate of my career I write,
And keep it to be glossed with other text 181
By a Lady who can do it, if I reach her.
This much will I have manifest to you;
Provided that my conscience do not chide me,
For whatsoever Fortune I am ready.
Such handsel is not new unto mine ears;
Therefore let Fortune turn her wheel around
As it may please her, and the churl his mattock.”
My Master thereupon on his right cheek
Did backward turn himself, and looked at me;
Then said: “He listeneth well who noteth it.”
Nor speaking less on that account, I go
With Ser Brunetto, and I ask who are
His most known and most eminent companions.
181The “other text” is the prediction of his banishment, Canto X. 81, and the Lady is
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
And he to me: “To know of some is well;
Of others it were laudable to be silent,
For short would be the time for so much speech.
Know them in sum, that all of them were clerks,
And men of letters great and of great fame,
In the world tainted with the selfsame sin.
Priscian goes yonder with that wretched crowd, 182
And Francis of Accorso; and thou hadst seen there 183
If thou hadst had a hankering for such scurf,
That one, who by the Servant of the Servants
From Arno was transferred to Bacchiglione, 184
Where he has left his sin-excited nerves.
More would I say, but coming and discoursing
Can be no longer; for that I behold
New smoke uprising yonder from the sand.
A people comes with whom I may not be;
Commended unto thee be my Tesoro,
In which I still live, and no more I ask.”
Then he turned round, and seemed to be of those
Who at Verona run for the Green Mantle 185
Across the plain; and seemed to be among them
The one who wins, and not the one who loses.
182Priscian, the grammarian of Constantinople in the sixth century.
183Francesco d’Accorso, a distinguished jurist and Professor at Bologna in the thirteenth
century, celebrated for his Commentary upon the Code Justinian.
184Andrea de’ Mozzi, Bishop of Florence, transferred by the Pope, the “Servant of Servants,”
to Vicenza; the two cities being here designated by the rivers on which they are
185The Corsa del Pallio, or foot races, at Verona; in which a green mantle, or Pallio, was the
prize. Buttura says that these foot-races are still continued (1823), and that he has seen
them more than once; but certainly not in the nude state in which Boccaccio describes
them, and which renders Dante’s comparison more complete and striking.
NOW was I where was heard the reverberation 186
Of water falling into the next round,
Like to that humming which the beehives make,
When shadows three together started forth, 187
Running, from out a company that passed
Beneath the rain of the sharp martyrdom.
Towards us came they, and each one cried out:
“Stop, thou; for by thy garb to us thou seemest
To be some one of our depraved city.”
Ah me! what wounds I saw upon their limbs,
Recent and ancient by the flames burnt in!
It pains me still but to remember it.
Unto their cries my Teacher paused attentive;
He turned his face towards me, and “Now wait,
He said; “to these we should be courteous.
And if it were not for the fire that darts
The nature of this region, I should say
That haste were more becoming thee than them.”
As soon as we stood still, they recommenced
The old refrain, and when they overtook us,
Formed of themselves a wheel, all three of them.
As champions stripped and oiled are wont to do,
Watching for their advantage and their hold,
Before they come to blows and thrusts between them,
Thus, wheeling round, did every one his visage
Direct to me, so that in opposite wise
186In this Canto the subject of the preceding is continued.
187Guidoguerra, Tegghiajo Aldobrandi, and Jacopo Rusticucci.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
His neck and feet continual journey made.
And, “If the misery of this soft place
Bring in disdain ourselves and our entreaties,”
Began one, “and our aspect black and blistered.
Let the renown of us thy mind incline
To tell us who thou art, who thus securely
Thy living feet dost move along through Hell.
He in whose footprints thou dost see me treading,
Naked and skinless though he now may go,
Was of a greater rank than thou dost think;
He was the grandson of the good Gualdrada; 188
His name was Guidoguerra, and in life
Much did he with his wisdom and his sword.
The other, who close by me treads the sand,
Tegghiaio Aldobrandi is, whose fame 189
Above there in the world should welcome be.
And I, who with them on the cross am placed,
Jacopo Rusticucci was; and truly 190
My savage wife, more than aught else, doth harm me.” 191
Could I have been protected from the fire,
Below I should have thrown myself among them,
And think the Teacher would have suffered it;
But as I should have burned and baked myself,
My terror overmastered my good will,
188The good Gualdrada was a daughter of Bellincion Berti, the simple citizen of Florence
in the olden time, who used to walk the streets “begirt with bone and leather,” as
mentioned in the Paradiso, XV. 112.
189Tegghiajo Aldobrandi was a distinguished citizen of Florence, and opposed what
Malespini calls “the ill counsel of the people,” that war should be declared against the
Sienese, which war resulted in the battle of Monte Aperto and the defeat of the Florentines.
190Jacopo Rusticucci was a rich Florentine gentleman, whose chief misfortune seems
to have been an ill-assorted marriage. Whereupon the amiable Boccaccio in his usual
Decameron style remarks: “Men ought not then to be over-hasty in getting married; on
the contrary, they should come to it with much precaution.” And then he indulges in five
octavo pages against matrimony and woman in general.
191See Macchiavelli’s story of Belfagor, wherein Minos and Rhadamanthus, and the rest
of the infernal judges, are greatly surprised to hear an infinite number of condemned
souls “lament nothing so bitterly as their folly in having taken wives, attributing to them
the whole of their misfortune.”
Which made me greedy of embracing them.
Then I began: “Sorrow and not disdain
Did your condition fix within me so,
That tardily it wholly is stripped off,
As soon as this my Lord said unto me
Words, on account of which I thought within me
That people such as you are were approaching.
I of your city am; and evermore
Your labours and your honourable names
I with affection have retraced and heard.
I leave the gall, and go for the sweet fruits
Promised to me by the veracious Leader;
But to the centre first I needs must plunge.”
“So may the soul for a long while conduct
Those limbs of thine,” did he make answer thee:
“And so may thy renown shine after thee,
Valour and courtesy, say if they dwell
Within our city, as they used to do,
Or if they wholly have gone out of it;
For Guglielmo Borsier, who is in torment 192
With us of late, and goes there with his comrades,
Doth greatly mortify us with his words.”
“The new inhabitants and the sudden gains,
Pride and extravagance have in thee engendered,
Florence, so that thou weep’st thereat already!”
In this wise I exclaimed with face uplifted;
And the three, taking that for my reply,
Looked at each other, as one looks at truth
“If other times so little it doth cost thee,”
Replied they all, “to satisfy another,
Happy art thou, thus speaking at thy will!
Therefore, if thou escape from these dark places,
And come to rebehold the beauteous stars,
When it shall pleasure thee to say, ‘I was,’
192Boccaccio, in his Comento, speaks of Guglielmo Borsiere as “a courteous gentleman
of good breeding and excellent manners”; and in the Decameron, Gior. I. Nov.8, tells of a
sharp rebuke administered by him to Messer Ermino de’ Grimaldi, a miser of Genoa.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
See that thou speak of us unto the people.”
Then they broke up the wheel, and in their flight
It seemed as if their agile legs were wings.
Not an Amen could possibly be said
So rapidly as they had disappeared;
Wherefore the Master deemed best to depart.
I followed him, and little had we gone,
Before the sound of water was so near us,
That speaking we should hardly have been heard.
Even as that stream which holdeth its own course
The first from Monte Veso tow’rds the East, 193
Upon the left-hand slope of Apennine,
Which is above called Acquacheta, ere
It down descendeth into its low bed,
And at Forli is vacant of that name,
Reverberates there above San Benedetto
From Alps, by falling at a single leap,
Where for a thousand there were room enough; 194
Thus downward from a bank precipitate,
We found resounding that dark-tinted water,
So that it soon the ear would have offended.
I had a cord around about me girt, 195
193Monte Veso is among the Alps, between Piedmont and Savoy, where the Po takes its
rise. From this point eastward to the Adriatic, all the rivers on the left or northern slope
of the Apennines are tributaries to the Po, until we come to the Montone, which above
Forl`i is called Acquacheta. This is the first which flows directly into the Adriatic, and not
into the Po. At least it was so in Dante’s time. Now, by some change in its course, the
Lamone, farther north, has opened itself a new outlet, and is the first to make its own
way to the Adriatic.
194Boccaccio’s interpretation of this line, which has been adopted by most of the commentators
since his time, is as follows: “I was for a long time in doubt concerning the
author’s meaning in this line; but being by chance at this monastery of San Benedetto,
in company with the abbot, he told me that there had once been a discussion among
the Counts who owned the mountain, about building a village near the waterfall, as a
convenient place for a settlement, and bringing into it their vassals scattered on neighboring
farms; but the leader of the project dying, it was not carried into effect; and that is
what the author says, Ove dovea per mille, that is, for many, esser ricetto, that is home and
195This cord has puzzled the commentators exceedingly. Boccaccio, Volpi, and Venturi,
do not explain it. The anonymous author of the Ottimo, Benvenuto da Imola, Buti,
Landino, Vellutello, and Daniello, all think it means fraud, which Dante had used in the
And therewithal I whilom had designed
To take the panther with the painted skin.
After I this had all from me unloosed,
As my Conductor had commanded me,
I reached it to him, gathered up and coiled
Whereat he turned himself to the right side, 196
And at a little distance from the verge,
He cast it down into that deep abyss.
“It must needs be some novelty respond,”
I said within myself, “to the new signal
The Master with his eye is following so.”
Ah me I how very cautious men should be
With those who not alone behold the act,
But with their wisdom look into the thoughts!
He said to me: “Soon there will upward come
What I await; and what thy thought is dreaming
Must soon reveal itself unto thy sight.”
Aye to that truth which has the face of falsehood,
A man should close his lips as far as may be,
Because without his fault it causes shame;
But here I cannot; and, Reader, by the notes
Of this my Comedy to thee I swear,
So may they not be void of lasting favour,
pursuit of pleasure, “the panther with the painted skin.” Lombardi is of opinion that,
“by girding himself with the Franciscan cord, he had endeavored to restrain his sensual
appetites, indicated by the panther; and still wearing the cord as a Tertiary of the Order,
he makes it serve here to deceive Geryon, and bring him up.” Biagioli understands by it
“the humility with which a man should approach Science, because it is she that humbles
the proud.” Fraticelli thinks it means vigilance; Tommaseo, “the good faith with which
he hoped to win the Florentines, and now wishes to deal with their fraud, so that it may
not harm him”; and Gabrielli Rossetti says, “Dante flattered himself, acting as a sincere
Ghibelline, that he should meet with good faith from his Guelf countrymen, and met instead
with horrible fraud.”
It will be remembered that St. Francis, the founder of the Cordeliers (the wearers of the
cord), used to call his body asino, or ass, and to subdue it with the capestro, or halter. Thus
the cord is made to symbolize the subjugation of the animal nature. This renders Lombardi’s
interpretation the most intelligible and satisfactory, though Virgil seems to have
thrown the cord into the abyss simply because he had nothing else to throw, and not with
the design of deceiving.
196As a man does naturally in the act of throwing.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Athwart that dense and darksome atmosphere
I saw a figure swimming upward come, 197
Marvellous unto every steadfast heart, 198
Even as he returns who goeth down
Sometimes to clear an anchor, which has grappled
Reef, or aught else that in the sea is hidden,
Who upward stretches, and draws in his feet.
197That Geryon, seeing the cord, ascends, expecting to find some moine d´efroqu´e, and
carry him down, as Lombardi suggests, is hardly admissible; for that was not his office.
The spirits were hurled down to their appointed places, as soon as Minos doomed them.
198Even to a steadfast (loyal) heart.
“BEHOLD the monster with the pointed tail, 199
Who cleaves the hills, and breaketh walls and weapons,
Behold him who infecteth all the world.”
Thus unto me my Guide began to say,
And beckoned him that he should come to shore,
Near to the confine of the trodden marble;
And that uncleanly image of deceit
Came up and thrust ashore its head and bust,
But on the border did not drag its tail.
The face was as the face of a just man,
Its semblance outwardly was so benign,
And of a serpent all the trunk beside.
Two paws it had, hairy unto the armpits;
The back, and breast, and both the sides it had
Depicted o’er with nooses and with shields.
With colours more, groundwork or broidery
Never in cloth did Tartars make nor Turks,
Nor were such tissues by Arachne laid.
As sometimes wherries lie upon the shore,
199In this Canto is described the punishment of Usurers, as sinners against Nature and
Art. See Inferno XI. 109: –
“And since the usurer takes another way,
Nature herself in her follower
Disdains he, for elsewhere he puts his hope.”
The Monster Geryon, here used as the symbol of Fraud, was born of Chrysaor and Callirrhoe,
and is generally represented by the poets as having three bodies and three heads
(these are interpreted by modern prose as meaning the three Balearic Islands – Majorca,
Minorca, and Ivica – over which he reigned). He was in ancient times King of Hesperia
or Spain, living on Erytheia, the Red Island of sunset, and was slain by Hercules, who
drove away his beautiful oxen.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
That part are in the water, part on land;
And as among the guzzling Germans there,
The beaver plants himself to wage his war;
So that vile monster lay upon the border,
Which is of stone, and shutteth in the sand.
His tail was wholly quivering in the void,
Contorting upwards the envenomed fork,
That in the guise of scorpion armed its point.
The Guide said: “Now perforce must turn aside
Our way a little, even to that beast
Malevolent, that yonder coucheth him.”
We therefore on the right side descended,
And made ten steps upon the outer verge,
Completely to avoid the sand and flame;
And after we are come to him, I see
A little farther off upon the sand
A people sitting near the hollow place.
Then said to me the Master: “So that full
Experience of this round thou bear away,
Now go and see what their condition is.
There let thy conversation be concise;
Till thou returnest I will speak with him,
That he concede to us his stalwart shoulders.”
Thus farther still upon the outermost
Head of that seventh circle all alone
I went, where sat the melancholy folk.
Out of their eyes was gushing forth their woe;
This way, that way, they helped them with their hands
Now from the flames and now from the hot soil.
Not otherwise in summer do the dogs,
Now with the foot, now with the muzzle, when
By fleas, or flies, or gadflies, they are bitten.
When I had turned mine eyes upon the faces
Of some, on whom the dolorous fire is falling,
Not one of them I knew; but I perceived
That from the neck of each there hung a pouch,
Which certain colour had, and certain blazon;
And thereupon it seems their eyes are feeding. 200
And as I gazing round me come among them,
Upon a yellow pouch I azure saw 201
That had the face and posture of a lion.
Proceeding then the current of my sight,
Another of them saw I, red as blood,
Display a goose more white than butter is. 202
And one, who with an azure sow and gravid 203
Emblazoned had his little pouch of white,
Said unto me: “What dost thou in this moat?
Now get thee gone; and since thou’rt still alive,
Know that a neighbour of mine, Vitaliano, 204
Will have his seat here on my left-hand side.
A Paduan am I with these Florentines;
Full many a time they thunder in mine ears,
Exclaiming, ‘Come the sovereign cavalier,
He who shall bring the satchel with three goats’ ”; 205
Then twisted he his mouth, and forth he thrust 206
His tongue, like to an ox that licks its nose.
And fearing lest my longer stay might vex
Him who had warned me not to tarry long,
Backward I turned me from those weary souls. 207
I found my Guide, who had already mounted
Upon the back of that wild animal,
And said to me: “Now be both strong and bold.
Now we descend by stairways such as these;
Mount thou in front, for I will be midway,
So that the tail may have no power to harm thee.”
200Their love of gold still haunting them in the other world.
201The arms of the Gianfigliacci of Florence.
202The arms of the Ubbriachi of Florence.
203The Scrovigni of Padua.
204Vitaliano del Dente of Padua.
205Giovanni Bujamonte, who seems to have had the ill-repute of being the greatest
usurer of his day, called here in irony the “soverign cavalier.”
206As the ass-driver did in the streets of Florence, when Dante beat him for singing his
verses amiss. See Sachetti, Nov. CXV.
207Dante makes as short work with these usurers, as if he had been a curious traveller
walking through the Ghetto of Rome, or the Judengasse of Frankfort.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Such as he is who has so near the ague
Of quartan that his nails are blue already,
And trembles all, but looking at the shade;
Even such became I at those proffered words;
But shame in me his menaces produced,
Which maketh servant strong before good master.
I seated me upon those monstrous shoulders;
I wished to say, and yet the voice came not
As I believed, “Take heed that thou embrace me.”
But he, who other times had rescued me
In other peril, soon as I had mounted,
Within his arms encircled and sustained me,
And said: “Now, Geryon, bestir thyself;
The circles large, and the descent be little;
Think of the novel burden which thou hast.”
Even as the little vessel shoves from shore,
Backward, still backward, so he thence withdrew;
And when he wholly felt himself afloat,
There where his breast had been he turned his tail,
And that extended like an eel he moved,
And with his paws drew to himself the air.
A greater fear I do not think there was
What time abandoned Phaeton the reins,
Whereby the heavens, as still appears, were scorched; 208
Nor when the wretched Icarus his flanks
Felt stripped of feathers by the melting wax,
His father crying, “An ill way thou takest!”
Than was my own, when I perceived myself
On all sides in the air, and saw extinguished
The sight of everything but of the monster.
Onward he goeth, swimming slowly, slowly;
Wheels and descends, but I perceive it only
By wind upon my face and from below.
I heard already on the right the whirlpool
Making a horrible crashing under us;
208The Milky Way. In Spanish El camino de Santiago; in the Northern Mythology the
pathway of the ghosts going to Valhalla.
Whence I thrust out my head with eyes cast downward.
Then was I still more fearful of the abyss;
Because I fires beheld, and heard laments,
Whereat I, trembling, all the closer cling.
I saw then, for before I had not seen it,
The turning and descending, by great horrors
That were approaching upon divers sides.
As falcon who has long been on the wing,
Who, without seeing either lure or bird,
Maketh the falconer say, “Ah me, thou stoopest,”
Descendeth weary, whence he started swiftly,
Thorough a hundred circles, and alights
Far from his master, sullen and disdainful;
Even thus did Geryon place us on the bottom,
Close to the bases of the rough-hewn rock,
And being disencumbered of our persons,
He sped away as arrow from the string.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 36: Onward he goeth, swimming slowly, slowly...
THERE is a place in Hell called Malebolge, 209
Wholly of stone and of an iron colour,
As is the circle that around it turns.
Right in the middle of the field malign
There yawns a well exceeding wide and deep,
Of which its place the structure will recount.
Round, then, is that enclosure which remains
Between the well and foot of the high, hard bank,
And has distinct in valleys ten its bottom.
As where for the protection of the walls
Many and many moats surround the castles,
The part in which they are a figure forms,
Just such an image those presented there;
And as about such strongholds from their gates
Unto the outer bank are little bridges,
So from the precipice’s base did crags
Project, which intersected dikes and moats,
Unto the well that truncates and collects them.
Within this place, down shaken from the back
Of Geryon, we found us; and the Poet
Held to the left, and I moved on behind.
Upon my right hand I beheld new anguish,
New torments, and new wielders of the lash,
209Here begins the third division of the Inferno, embracing the Eight and Ninth Circles,
in which the Fraudulent are punished.
The Eighth Circle is called Malebolge, or Evil-budgets, and consists of ten concentric
ditches, or Bolge of stone, with dikes between, and rough bridges running across them to
the centre like the spokes of a wheel. In the First Bolgia are punished Seducers, and in
the Second, Flatterers.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Wherewith the foremost Bolgia was replete.
Down at the bottom were the sinners naked;
This side the middle came they facing us,
Beyond it, with us, but with greater steps;
Even as the Romans, for the mighty host,
The year of Jubilee, upon the bridge, 210
Have chosen a mode to pass the people over;
For all upon one side towards the Castle 211
Their faces have, and go unto St. Peter’s;
On the other side they go towards the Mountain.
This side and that, along the livid stone
Beheld I horned demons with great scourges,
Who cruelly were beating them behind.
Ah me! how they did make them lift their legs
At the first blows! and sooth not any one
The second waited for, nor for the third.
While I was going on, mine eyes by one
Encountered were; and straight I said: “Already
With sight of this one I am not unfed.”
Therefore I stayed my feet to make him out,
And with me the sweet Guide came to a stand,
And to my going somewhat back assented;
And he, the scourged one. thought to hide himself,
Lowering his face, but little it availed him;
For said I: “Thou that castest down thine eyes
If false are not the features which thou bearest;
Thou art Venedico Caccianimico; 212
But what doth bring thee to such pungent sauces?” 213
210The year of Jubilee 1300.
211The castle is the Castle of St. Angelo, and the mountain Monte Gianicolo. See Barlow,
Study of Dante p. 126. Others say Monte Giordano.
212“This Caccinimico,” says Benvenuto da Imola, “was a Bolognese; a liberal, noble,
pleasant, and very powerful man.” Nevertheless he was so utterly corrupt as to sell his
sister, the fair Ghisola, to the Marquis of Este.
213In the original the word is salse. “In Bologna,” says Benvenuto da Imola, “the name
of Salse is given to a certain valley outside the city, and near to Santa Maria in Monte, into
which the mortal remains of desperadoes, usurers, and other infamous persons are wont
to be thrown. Hence I have sometimes heard boys in Bologna say to each other, by way
of insult, ‘Your father was thrown into the Salse.’ ”
Figure 37: Beheld I horned demons with great scourges, who cruelly were
beating them behind.
And he to me: “Unwillingly I tell it;
But forces me thine utterance distinct,
Which makes me recollect the ancient world.
I was the one who the fair Ghisola
Induced to grant the wishes of the Marquis,
Howe’er the shameless story may be told.
Not the sole Bolognese am I who weeps here;
Nay, rather is this place so full of them,
That not so many tongues to-day are taught
’Twixt Reno and Savena to say sipa;
And if thereof thou wishest pledge or proof,
Bring to thy mind our avaricious heart.”
While speaking in this manner, with his scourge
A demon smote him, and said: “Get thee gone
Pander, there are no women here for coin.”
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
I joined myself again unto mine Escort;
Thereafterward with footsteps few we came
To where a crag projected from the bank.
This very easily did we ascend,
And turning to the right along its ridge,
From those eternal circles we departed. 214
When we were there, where it is hollowed out
Beneath, to give a passage to the scourged,
The Guide said: “Wait, and see that on thee strike
The vision of those others evil-born,
Of whom thou hast not yet beheld the faces,
Because together with us they have gone.”
From the old bridge we looked upon the train
Which tow’rds us came upon the other border,
And which the scourges in like manner smite.
And the good Master, without my inquiring,
Said to me: “See that tall one who is coming,
And for his pain seems not to shed a tear;
Still what a royal aspect he retains!
That Jason is, who by his heart and cunning
The Colchians of the Ram made destitute.
He by the isle of Lemnos passed along
After the daring women pitiless
Had unto death devoted all their males.
There with his tokens and with ornate words
Did he deceive Hypsipyle, the maiden 215
Who first, herself, had all the rest deceived.
There did he leave her pregnant and forlorn;
Such sin unto such punishment condemns him,
And also for Medea is vengeance done.
With him go those who in such wise deceive;
And this sufficient be of the first valley
To know, and those that in its jaws it holds.”
214They cease going round the circles as heretofore, and now go straight forward to the
centre of the abyss.
215When the women of Lemnos put to death all the male inhabitans of the island, Hypsipyle
concealed her father Thaos, and spared his life.
We were already where the narrow path
Crosses athwart the second dike, and forms
Of that a buttress for another arch.
Thence we heard people, who are making moan
In the next Bolgia, snorting with their muzzles,
And with their palms beating upon themselves
The margins were incrusted with a mould
By exhalation from below, that sticks there,
And with the eyes and nostrils wages war.
The bottom is so deep, no place suffices
To give us sight of it, without ascending
The arch’s back, where most the crag impends.
Thither we came, and thence down in the moat
I saw a people smothered in a filth
That out of human privies seemed to flow
And whilst below there with mine eye I search,
I saw one with his head so foul with ordure,
It was not clear if he were clerk or layman.
He screamed to me: “Wherefore art thou so eager
To look at me more than the other foul ones?”
And I to him: “Because, if I remember,
I have already seen thee with dry hair,
And thou’rt Alessio Interminei of Lucca; 216
Therefore I eye thee more than all the others.”
And he thereon, belabouring his pumpkin:
“The flatteries have submerged me here below,
Wherewith my tongue was never surfeited.”
Then said to me the Guide: “See that thou thrust
Thy visage somewhat farther in advance,
That with thine eyes thou well the face attain
Of that uncleanly and dishevelled drab,
216“Allessio Interminelli,” says Benvenuto da Imola, “a soldier, a nobleman, and of gentle
manners was of Lucca, and from his descended that tyrant Castruccio who filled all
Tuscany with fear, and was lord of Pisa, Lucca, and Pistoja, of whom Dante makes no
mention, because he became illustrious after the author’s death. Alessio took such delight
in flattery, that he could not open his mouth without flattering. He besmeared everybody,
even the lowest menials.”
The Ottimo says, that in the dialect of Lucca the head “was facetiously called a pumpkin.”
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Who there doth scratch herself with filthy nails,
And crouches now, and now on foot is standing.
Thais the harlot is it, who replied 217
Unto her paramour, when he said, ‘Have I
Great gratitude from thee?’ – ‘Nay, marvellous’;
And herewith let our sight be satisfied.” 218
217Tha’is, the famous courtesan of Athens. Terence, The Eunuch, Act III, Sc. I: –
Thraso: “Did Tha’is really return me many thanks?”
Gnatho: “Exceeding thanks.”
Thraso: “Was she delighted, say you?”
Gnatho: “Not so much, indeed, at the present itself, as because it was given by you; really,
in right earnest, she does exult at that.”
218“The filthiness of some passages,” exclaims Landor, Pentameron, p. 15, “would disgrace
the drunkenest horse-dealer; and the names of such criminals are recorded by the
poet, as would be forgotten by the hangman in six months.”
Figure 38: Thither we came, and thence down in the moat I saw a people
smothered in a filth...
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 39: Thais the harlot is it...
O SIMON MAGUS, O forlorn disciples, 219
Ye who the things of God, which ought to be
The brides of holiness, rapaciously
For silver and for gold do prostitute,
Now it behoves for you the trumpet sound,
Because in this third Bolgia ye abide.
We had already on the following tomb
Ascended to that portion of the crag
Which o er the middle of the moat hangs plumb.
Wisdom supreme, O how great art thou showest
In heaven, in earth, and in the evil world,
And with what justice doth thy power distribute!
I saw upon the sides and on the bottom
The livid stone with perforations filled,
All of one size, and every one was round.
To me less ample seemed they not, nor greater
Than those that in my beautiful Saint John
Are fashioned for the place of the baptisers,
And one of which, not many years ago, 220
219The Third Bolgia is devoted to the Simoniacs, so called from Simon Magus, the Sorcerer
mentioned in Acts viii. 9, 18. Brunetto Latini touches lightly upon them in the
Tesoretto, XXI. 259, on account of their high ecclesiastical dignity.
220Lami, in his Deliciae Eruditorum, makes a strange blunder in reference to this passage.
He says: “Not long ago the baptismal font, which stood in the middle of Saint John’s at
Florence, was removed; and in the pavement may still be seen the octagonal shape of
its ample outline. Dante says, that, when a boy, he fell into it and was near drowning;
or rather he fell into one of the circular basins of water, which surrounded the principal
font.” Upon this Arrivabeni, Comento Storico, p. 588, where I find this extract, remarks:
“Not Dante, but Lami, staring at the moon, fell into the hole.”
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
I broke for some one, who was drowning in it; 221
Be this a seal all men to undeceive.
Out of the mouth of each one there protruded
The feet of a transgressor, and the legs
Up to the calf, the rest within remained.
In all of them the soles were both on fire;
Wherefore the joints so violently quivered,
They would have snapped asunder withes and bands.
Even as the flame of unctuous things is wont
To move upon the outer surface only,
So likewise was it there from heel to point.
“Master, who is that one who writhes himself,
More than his other comrades quivering,”
I said, “and whom a redder flame is sucking?” 222
And he to me: “If thou wilt have me bear thee
Down there along that bank which lowest lies,
From him thou’lt know his errors and himself.”
And I: “What pleases thee, to me is pleasing;
Thou art my Lord, and knowest that I depart not
From thy desire, and knowest what is not spoken.”
Straightway upon the fourth dike we arrived;
We turned, and on the left-hand side descended
Down to the bottom full of holes and narrow.
And the good Master yet from off his haunch
Deposed me not, till to the hole he brought me
Of him who so lamented with his shanks.
“Whoe’er thou art, that standest upside down,
O doleful soul, implanted like a stake,”
To say began I, “if thou canst, speak out.”
I stood even as the friar who is confessing
The false assassin, who, when he is fixed, 223
221Dante’s enemies had accused him of committing this act through impiety. He takes
this occasion to vindicate himself.
222Probably an allusion to the red stockings worn by the Popes.
223Burying alive with the head downward and the feet in the air was the inhuman pun
ishment of hired assassins, “according to justice and the municipal law in Florence,” says
the Ottimo. It was called Propagginare, to plant in the manner of vine-stocks. Dante stood
bowed down like the confessor called back by the criminal in order to delay the moment
Recalls him, so that death may be delayed.
And he cried out: “Dost thou stand there already,
Dost thou stand there already, Boniface? 224
By many years the record lied to me.
Art thou so early satiate with that wealth,
For which thou didst not fear to take by fraud
The beautiful Lady, and then work her woe?”
Such I became, as people are who stand,
Not comprehending what is answered them,
As if bemocked, and know not how to answer.
Then said Virgilius: “Say to him straightway,
‘I am not he, I am not he thou thinkest’.”
And I replied as was imposed on me.
Whereat the spirit writhed with both his feet,
Then, sighing, with a voice of lamentation
Said to me: “Then what wantest thou of me?
If who I am thou carest so much to know,
That thou on that account hast crossed the bank,
Know that I vested was with the great mantle;
And truly was I son of the She-bear, 225
of his death.
224Benedetto Gaetani, Pope Boniface VIII. This is the Boniface who frightened Celestine
from the papacy, and persecuted him to death after his resignation. “The lovely Lady”
is the Church. The fraud was his collusion with Charles II. of Naples. “He went to King
Charles by night, secretly, and with few attendants,” says Villani, VIII. Ch. 6, “and said
to him: ‘King, thy Pope Celestine had the will and the power to serve thee in thy Sicilian
wars, but did not know how: but if thou wilt contrive with thy friends the cardinals
to have me elected Pope, I shall know how, and shall have the will and the power’;
promising upon his faith and oath to aid him with all the power of the Church.” Farther
on he continues: “He was very magnanimous and lordly, and demanded great honor, and
knew well how to maintain and advance the cause of the Church, and on account of his
knowledge and power was much dreaded and feared. He was avaricious exceedingly in
order to aggrandize the Church and his relations, not being over-scrupulous about gains,
for he said that all things were lawful which were of the Church.” He was chosen Pope in
1294. Dante indulges towards him a fierce Ghibelline hatred, and assigns him his place
of torment before he is dead. He died in 1303.
225Nicholas III, of the Orsini (the Bears) of Rome, chosen Pope in 1277. “He was the
first Pope, or one of the first,” says Villani, VII. Ch. 54, “in whose court simony was
openly practised.” On account of his many accomplishments he was surnamed Il Compiuto.
Milman, Lat. Christ., Book XI. Ch. 4, says of him: “At length the election fell on John
Gaetano, of the noble Roman house, the Orsini, a man of remarkable beauty of person
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
So eager to advance the cubs, that wealth
Above, and here myself, I pocketed.
Beneath my head the others are dragged down
Who have preceded me in simony,
Flattened along the fissure of the rock.
Below there I shall likewise fall, whenever
That one shall come who I believed thou wast,
What time the sudden question I proposed.
But longer I my feet already toast,
And here have been in this way upside down.
Than he will planted stay with reddened feet;
For after him shall come of fouler deed
From tow’rds the west a Pastor without law, 226
Such as befits to cover him and me.
New Jason will he be, of whom we read 227
In Maccabees ; and as his king was pliant,
So he who governs France shall be to this one.” 228
I do not know if I were here too bold,
That him I answered only in this metre:
“I pray thee tell me now how great a treasure
Our Lord demanded of Saint Peter first,
Before he put the keys into his keeping?
and demeanor. His name, ‘the Accomplished,’ implied that in him met all the graces of
the handsomest clerks in the world, but he was a man likewise of irreproachable morals,
of vast ambition, and of great ability.” He died in 1280.
226The French Pope Clement V., elected in 1305, by the influence of Philip the Fair of
France, with sundry humiliating conditions. He transferred the Papal See from Rome to
Avignon, where it remained for seventy-one years in what Italian writers call its “Babylonian
captivity.” He died in 1314, on his way to Bordeaux. “He had hardly crossed the
Rhone,” says Milman, Lat. Christ., Book XII. Ch. 5, “when he was seized with mortal
sickness at Roquemaure. The Papal treasure was seized by his followers, especially his
nephew; his remains were treated with such utter neglect, that the torches set fire to the
catafalque under which he lay, not in a state. His body, covered only with a single sheet,
all that his rapacious retinue had left to shroud their forgotten master, was half burned
... before alarm was raised. His ashes were borne back to Carpentras and solemnly interered.”
227Jason, to whom Antiochus Epiphanes granted a “license to set him up a place for
exercise, and for the training up of youth in the fashions of the heathen.”
228Philip the Fair of France. “He was one of the handsomest men in the world,” says
Villani IX. 66, “and one of the largest in person, and well proportioned in every limb, – a
wise and good man for a layman.”
Truly he nothing asked but ‘Follow me.’
Nor Peter nor the rest asked of Matthias 229
Silver or gold, when he by lot was chosen
Unto the place the guilty soul had lost.
Therefore stay here, for thou art justly punished,
And keep safe guard o’er the ill-gotten money,
Which caused thee to be valiant against Charles. 230
And were it not that still forbids it me
The reverence for the keys superlative
Thou hadst in keeping in the gladsome life,
I would make use of words more grievous still;
Because your avarice afflicts the world,
Trampling the good and lifting the depraved.
The Evangelist you Pastors had in mind,
When she who sitteth upon many waters 231
To fornicate with kings by him was seen;
The same who with the seven heads was born,
And power and strength from the ten horns received, 232
So long as virtue to her spouse was pleasing.
Ye have made yourselves a god of gold and silver;
And from the idolater how differ ye,
Save that he one, and ye a hundred worship?
229Matthew, chosen as an Apostle in the place of Judas.
230According to Villani, VII. 54, Pope Nicholas III. wished to marry his niece to a nephew
of Charles of Anjou, King of Sicily. To this alliance the King would not consent, saying:
“Although he wears the red stockings, his lineage is not worthy to mingle with ours, and
his power is not hereditary.” This made the Pope indignant and, together with the bribes
of John of Procida, led him to encourage the rebellion in Sicily, which broke out a year
after the Pope’s death in the “Sicilian Vespers,” 1282.
231The Church of Rome under Nicholas, Boniface, and Clement.
232The seven heads are interpreted to mean the Seven Virtues, and the ten horns the Ten
Revelation XVII. 1-3: – “And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials,
and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will show unto thee the judgment of
the great whore that sitteth upon many waters; with whom the kings of the earth have
committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the
wine of her fornication. So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness: and I
saw a woman sit upon a scarlet-colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven
heads and ten horns.”
Revelation XVII. 12, 13: – “And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, ... and shall
give their power and strength unto the beast.”
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Ah, Constantine! of how much ill was mother,
Not thy conversion, but that marriage dower
Which the first wealthy Father took from thee!”
And while I sang to him such notes as these.
Either that anger or that conscience stung him,
He struggled violently with both his feet.
I think in sooth that it my Leader pleased,
With such contented lip he listened ever
Unto the sound of the true words expressed.
Therefore with both his arms he took me up,
And when he had me all upon his breast,
Remounted by the way where he descended.
Nor did he tire to have me clasped to him;
But bore me to the summit of the arch
Which from the fourth dike to the fifth is passage.
There tenderly he laid his burden down,
Tenderly on the crag uneven and steep,
That would have been hard passage for the goats:
Thence was unveiled to me another valley.
Figure 40: Ye have made yourselves a god of gold and silver...
OF a new pain behoves me to make verses 233
And give material to the twentieth canto
Of the first song, which is of the submerged.
I was already thoroughly disposed
To peer down into the uncovered depth,
Which bathed itself with tears of agony;
And people saw I through the circular valley,
Silent and weeping, coming at the pace
Which in this world the Litanies assume. 234
As lower down my sight descended on them,
Wondrously each one seemed to be distorted
From chin to the beginning of the chest;
For tow’rds the reins the countenance was turned,
And backward it behoved them to advance,
As to look forward had been taken from them.
Perchance indeed by violence of palsy
Some one has been thus wholly turned awry;
But I ne’er saw it. nor believe it can be.
As God may let thee, Reader, gather fruit
From this thy reading, think now for thyself
How I could ever keep my face unmoistened,
When our own image near me I beheld
Distorted so, the weeping of the eyes
Along the fissure bathed the hinder parts.
Truly I wept, leaning upon a peak
233In the Fourth Bolgia are punished the Soothsayers – “Because they wished to see too
far before them, Backward they look, and backward make their way.”
234Processions chanting prayers and supplications.
Of the hard crag, so that my Escort said
To me: “Art thou, too, of the other fools?
Here pity lives when it is wholly dead;
Who is a greater reprobate than he
Who feels compassion at the doom divine?
Lift up, lift up thy head, and see for whom
Opened the earth before the Thebans’ eyes;
Wherefore they all cried: ‘Whither rushest thou,
Amphiaraus? Why dost leave the war?’ 235
And downward ceased he not to fall amain
As far as Minos, who lays hold on all.
See, he has made a bosom of his shoulders!
Because he wished to see too far before him
Behind he looks, and backward goes his way:
Behold Tiresias, who his semblance changed,
When from a male a female he became,
His members being all of them transformed;
And afterwards was forced to strike once more
The two entangled serpents with his rod,
Ere he could have again his manly plumes. 236
That Aruns is, who backs the other’s belly,
Who in the hills of Luni, there where grubs
The Carrarese who houses underneath,
Among the marbles white a cavern had
For his abode; whence to behold the stars
And sea, the view was not cut off from him.
And she there, who is covering up her breasts,
Which thou beholdest not, with loosened tresses,
And on that side has all the hairy skin,
Was Manto, who made quest through many lands, 237
Afterwards tarried there where I was born;
235Amphiaraus was one of the seven kings against Thebes. Foreseeing his own fate, he
concealed himself, to avoid going to the war; but his wife Eriphyle, bribed by a diamond
necklace (as famous in ancient story as the Cardinal de Rohan’s in modern), revealed his
hiding-place, and he went to his doom with the others.
236His beard. The word “plumes” is used by old English writers in this sense.
237Manto, daughter of Tiresias, who fled from Thebes, the “City of Bacchus,” when it
became subject to the tyranny of Cleon.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Whereof I would thou list to me a little.
After her father had from life departed,
And the city of Bacchus had become enslaved,
She a long season wandered through the world.
Above in beauteous Italy lies a lake
At the Alp’s foot that shuts in Germany
Over Tyrol, and has the name Benaco. 238
By a thousand springs, I think, and more, is bathed,
’Twixt Garda and Val Camonica, Pennino, 239
With water that grows stagnant in that lake.
Midway a place is where the Trentine Pastor,
And he of Brescia, and the Veronese
Might give his blessing, if he passed that way. 240
Sitteth Peschiera, fortress fair and strong, 241
To front the Brescians and the Bergamasks,
Where round about the bank descendeth lowest.
There of necessity must fall whatever
In bosom of Benaco cannot stay,
And grows a river down through verdant pastures.
Soon as the water doth begin to run
No more Benaco is it called, but Mincio,
Far as Governo, where it falls in Po.
Not far it runs before it finds a plain
In which it spreads itself, and makes it marshy,
And oft ’tis wont in summer to be sickly.
Passing that way the virgin pitiless 242
Land in the middle of the fen descried,
Untilled and naked of inhabitants;
There to escape all human intercourse,
She with her servants stayed, her arts to practise
And lived, and left her empty body there.
238Lake Benacus is now called the Lago di Garda. It is pleasantly alluded to by Claudian
in his “Old Man of Verona,” who has seen “the grove grow old coeval with himself.”
239The Pennine Alps, or Alpes Paenae, watered by the brooklets flowing into the Sarca,
which is the principal tributary of Benaco.
240The place where the three dioceses of Trent, Brescia, and Verona meet.
241At the outlet of the lake.
242Manto. Benvenuto da Imola says: “Virgin should here be rendered Virago.”
The men, thereafter, who were scattered round,
Collected in that place, which was made strong
By the lagoon it had on every side;
They built their city over those dead bones,
And, after her who first the place selected,
Mantua named it, without other omen.
Its people once within more crowded were,
Ere the stupidity of Casalodi 243
From Pinamonte had received deceit.
Therefore I caution thee, if e’er thou hearest
Originate my city otherwise,
No falsehood may the verity defraud.”
And I: “My Master, thy discourses are
To me so certain, and so take my faith,
That unto me the rest would be spent coals.
But tell me of the people who are passing,
If any one note-worthy thou beholdest,
For only unto that my mind reverts.”
Then said he to me: “He who from the cheek
Thrusts out his beard upon his swarthy shoulders
Was, at the time when Greece was void of males,
So that there scarce remained one in the cradle,
An augur, and with Calchas gave the moment,
In Aulis, when to sever the first cable.
Eryphylus his name was, and so sings
My lofty Tragedy in some part or other;
That knowest thou well, who knowest the whole of it.
The next, who is so slender in the flanks,
Was Michael Scott, who of a verity 244
Of magical illusions knew the game.
243Pinamonte dei Buonacossi, a bold, ambitious man, persuaded Alberto, Count of
Casalodi and Lord of Mantua, to banish to their estates the chief nobles of the city, and
then, stirring up a popular tumult, fell upon the rest, laying waste their houses, and
sending them into exile or to prison, and thus greatly depopulating the city.
244“Michael Scott, the Magician,” says Benvuenuto da Imola, “practised divination at
the court of Frederick II., and dedicated to him a book on natural history, which I have
seen, and in which among other things he treats of Astrology, then deemed infallible...
It is said, moreover, that he foresaw his own death, but could not escape it. He had
prognosticated that he should be killed by the falling of a small stone upon his head, and
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Behold Guido Bonatti, behold Asdente 245
Who now unto his leather and his thread
Would fain have stuck, but he too late repents.
Behold the wretched ones, who left the needle,
The spool and rock, and made them fortune-tellers;
They wrought their magic spells with herb and image.
But come now, for already holds the confines
Of both the hemispheres, and under Seville
Touches the ocean-wave, Cain and the thorns, 246
And yesternight the moon was round already;
Thou shouldst remember well it did not harm thee
From time to time within the forest deep.”
Thus spake he to me, and we walked the while.
always wore an iron skull-cap under his hood, to prevent this disaster. But entering a
church on the festival of Corpus Domini, he lowered his hood in sign of veneration, not
of Christ, in whom he did not believe, but to deceive the common people, and a small
stone fell from aloft on his bare head.”
245Guido Bonatti, a tiler and astrologer of Forl`i, who accompanied Guido di Montefeltro
when he marched out of Forl`i to attack the French “under the great oak.”
246The moon setting in the sea west of Seville. In the Italian popular tradition, the Man
in the Moon is Cain with his Thorns. The time here indicated is an hour after sunrise on
FROM bridge to bridge thus, speaking other things 247
Of which my Comedy cares not to sing, 248
We came along, and held the summit, when
We halted to behold another fissure
Of Malebolge and other vain laments;
And I beheld it marvellously dark.
As in the Arsenal of the Venetians
Boils in the winter the tenacious pitch
To smear their unsound vessels o’er again,
For sail they cannot; and instead thereof
One makes his vessel new, and one recaulks
The ribs of that which many a voyage has made;
One hammers at the prow, one at the stern,
This one makes oars, and that one cordage twists,
Another mends the mainsail and the mizzen;
Thus, not by fire, but by the art divine,
Was boiling down below there a dense pitch
Which upon every side the bank belimed.
I saw it, but I did not see within it
Aught but the bubbles that the boiling raised,
And all swell up and resubside compressed.
The while below there fixedly I gazed,
My Leader, crying out: “Beware, beware!”
247The Fifth Bolgia, and the punishment of Barrators, or “Judges who take bribes for
248Having spoken in the preceding Canto of Virgil’s “lofty Tragedy,” Dante here speaks
of his own Comedy, as if to prepare the reader for the scenes which are to follow, and
for which he apologizes in Canto XXII. 14, by repeating the proverb, “In the church with
saints, and in the tavern with the gluttons.”
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Drew me unto himself from where I stood.
Then I turned round, as one who is impatient
To see what it behoves him to escape,
And whom a sudden terror doth unman.
Who, while he looks, delays not his departure;
And I beheld behind us a black devil,
Running along upon the crag, approach.
Ah, how ferocious was he in his aspect!
And how he seemed to me in action ruthless,
With open wings and light upon his feet!
His shoulders, which sharp-pointed were and high,
A sinner did encumber with both haunches,
And he held clutched the sinews of the feet.
From off our bridge, he said: “O Malebranche, 249
Behold one of the elders of Saint Zita; 250
Plunge him beneath, for I return for others
Unto that town, which is well furnished with them.
All there are barrators, except Bonturo; 251
No into Yes for money there is changed.”
He hurled him down, and over the hard crag
Turned round, and never was a mastiff loosened
In so much hurry to pursue a thief.
The other sank, and rose again face downward; 252
But the demons, under cover of the bridge,
Cried: “Here the Santo Volto has no place! 253
249Malebranche, Evil-claws, a general name for the devils.
250Santa Zita, the Patron Saint of Lucca, where the magistrates were called Elders, or
Aldermen. In Florence they bore the name of Priors.
251A Barrator, in Dante’s use of the word, is to the State what is Simoniac is to the
Church; one who sells justice, office, or employment. Benvenuto says that Dante includes
Bontura with the rest, “because he is speaking ironically, as who should say, ‘Bontura
is the greatest barrator of all.’ For Bontura was an arch-barrator, who sagaciously led
and managed the whole commune, and gave offices to whom he wished. He likewise
excluded whom he wished.”
252Bent down in the attitude of one in prayer; therefore the demons mock him with the
allusion to the Santo Volto.
253The Santo Volto, or Holy Face, is a crucifix still preserved in the Cathedral of Lucca,
and held in great veneration by the people. The tradition is that it is the work of Nicodemus,
who sculptured it from memory.
Figure 41: From off our bridge, he said: “O Malebranche...”
Here swims one otherwise than in the Serchio; 254
Therefore, if for our gaffs thou wishest not,
Do not uplift thyself above the pitch.”
They seized him then with more than a hundred rakes;
They said: “It here behoves thee to dance covered,
That, if thou canst, thou secretly mayest pilfer.”
Not otherwise the cooks their scullions make
Immerse into the middle of the caldron
The meat with hooks, so that it may not float.
Said the good Master to me: “That it be not
Apparent thou art here, crouch thyself down
Behind a jag, that thou mayest have some screen;
And for no outrage that is done to me
Be thou afraid, because these things I know,
For once before was I in such a scuffle.”
254The Serchio flows near Lucca.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 42: They issued from beneath the little bridge...
Then he passed on beyond the bridge’s head,
And as upon the sixth bank he arrived,
Need was for him to have a steadfast front.
With the same fury, and the same uproar,
As dogs leap out upon a mendicant,
Who on a sudden begs, where’er he stops,
They issued from beneath the little bridge,
And turned against him all their grappling-irons;
But he cried out: “Be none of you malignant!
Before those hooks of yours lay hold of me,
Let one of you step forward, who may hear me,
And then take counsel as to grappling me.”
They all cried out: “Let Malacoda go;”
Whereat one started, and the rest stood still,
And he came to him, saying: “What avails it?”
“Thinkest thou, Malacoda, to behold me
Advanced into this place,” my Master said,
“Safe hitherto from all your skill of fence,
Without the will divine, and fate auspicious?
Let me go on, for it in Heaven is willed
That I another show this savage road.”
Then was his arrogance so humbled in him,
That he let fall his grapnel at his feet,
And to the others said: “Now strike him not.”
And unto me my Guide: “O thou, who sittest
Among the splinters of the bridge crouched down,
Securely now return to me again.”
Wherefore I started and came swiftly to him;
And all the devils forward thrust themselves,
So that I feared they would not keep their compact.
And thus beheld I once afraid the soldiers
Who issued under safeguard from Caprona, 255
Seeing themselves among so many foes.
Close did I press myself with all my person
Beside my Leader, and turned not mine eyes
From off their countenance, which was not good.
They lowered their rakes, and “Wilt thou have me hit him,”
They said to one another, “on the rump?”
And answered: “Yes; see that thou nick him with it.”
But the same demon who was holding parley
With my Conductor turned him very quickly,
And said: “Be quiet, be quiet, Scarmiglione;”
Then said to us: “You can no farther go
Forward upon this crag, because is lying
All shattered, at the bottom, the sixth arch.
And if it still doth please you to go onward,
Pursue your way along upon this rock; 256
255A fortified town on the Arno in the Pisan territory. It was besieged by the troops of
Florence and Lucca in 1289, and capitulated. As the garrison marched out under safeguard,
they were terrified by the shouts of the crowd, crying: “Hang them! hang them!”
In this crowd was Dante, “a youth of twenty-five,” says Benvenuto da Imola.
256Along the circular dike that separates one Bolgia from another.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Near is another crag that yields a path. 257
Yesterday, five hours later than this hour, 258
One thousand and two hundred sixty-six
Years were complete, that here the way was broken. 259
I send in that direction some of mine
To see if any one doth air himself;
Go ye with them; for they will not be vicious.
“Step forward, Alichino and Calcabrina,”
Began he to cry out, “and thou, Cagnazzo;
And Barbariccia, do thou guide the ten.
Come forward, Libicocco and Draghignazzo,
And tusked Ciriatto and Graffiacane,
And Farfarello and mad Rubicante;
Search ye all round about the boiling pitch;
Let these be safe as far as the next crag, 260
That all unbroken passes o’er the dens.”
“O me! what is it, Master, that I see?
Pray let us go,” I said, “without an escort,
If thou knowest how, since for myself I ask none.
If thou art as observant as thy wont is,
Dost thou not see that they do gnash their teeth,
And with their brows are threatening woe to us?”
And he to me: “I will not have thee fear;
Let them gnash on, according to their fancy,
Because they do it for those boiling wretches.”
257This is a falsehood, as all the bridges over the next Bolgia are broken. See Canto
258At the close of the preceding Canto the time is indicated as being an hour after sunrise.
Five hours later would be noon, or the scriptural sixth hour, the hour of the Crucifixion.
Dante understands St. Luke to say that Christ died at this hour. Convito, IV.
23: “Luke says that it was about the sixth hour when he died; that is, the culmination of
the day.” Add to the “one thousand and two hundred sixty-six years,” the thirty-four of
Christ’s life on earth, and it gives the year 1300, the date of the Infernal Pilgrimage.
259Broken by the earthquake at the time of the Crucifixion, as the rock leading to the
Circle of the Violent, Canto XII. 45: –
“And at that moment this primeval rock
Both here and elsewhere made such over-throw.”
As in the next Bolgia Hypocrites are punished, Dante couples them with the Violent, by
making the shock of the earthquake more felt near them than elsewhere.
260The next crag or bridge, traversing the dikes and ditches.
Along the left-hand dike they wheeled about;
But first had each one thrust his tongue between 261
His teeth towards their leader for a signal;
And he had made a trumpet of his rump.
261See Canto XVIII. 75.
I HAVE erewhile seen horsemen moving camp, 262
Begin the storming, and their muster make,
And sometimes starting off for their escape;
Vaunt-couriers have I seen upon your land,
O Aretines, and foragers go forth, 263
Tournaments stricken, and the joustings run,
Sometimes with trumpets and sometimes with bells,
With kettle-drums, and signals of the castles,
And with our own, and with outlandish things,
But never yet with bagpipe so uncouth
Did I see horsemen move, nor infantry,
Nor ship by any sign of land or star.
We went upon our way with the ten demons;
Ah, savage company! but in the church
With saints, and in the tavern with the gluttons! 264
Ever upon the pitch was my intent,
To see the whole condition of that Bolgia,
And of the people who therein were burned.
Even as the dolphins, when they make a sign
To mariners by arching of the back,
That they should counsel take to save their vessel,
Thus sometimes, to alleviate his pain,
262The subject of the preceding Canto is continued in this.
263Aretino, Vita di Dante, says, that Dante in his youth was present at the “great and
memorable battle, which befell at Campaldino, fighting valiantly on horseback in the
front rank.” It was there he saw the vaunt-couriers of the Aretines, who began the battle
with such a vigorous charge, that they routed the Florentine cavalry, and drove them
back upon the infantry.
264Equivalent to the proverb, “Do in Rome as the Romans do.”
One of the sinners would display his back,
And in less time conceal it than it lightens.
As on the brink of water in a ditch
The frogs stand only with their muzzles out,
So that they hide their feet and other bulk.
So upon every side the sinners stood;
But ever as Barbariccia near them came,
Thus underneath the boiling they withdrew.
I saw, and still my heart doth shudder at it,
One waiting thus, even as it comes to pass
One frog remains, and down another dives;
And Graffiacan, who most confronted him,
Grappled him by his tresses smeared with pitch,
And drew him up, so that he seemed an otter.
I knew, before, the names of all of them,
So had I noted them when they were chosen,
And when they called each other, listened how.
“O Rubicante, see that thou do lay
Thy claws upon him, so that thou mayst flay him,”
Cried all together the accursed ones.
And I: “My Master, see to it, if thou canst,
That thou mayst know who is the luckless wight,
Thus come into his adversaries’ hands.”
Near to the side of him my Leader drew,
Asked of him whence he was; and he replied:
“I in the kingdom of Navarre was born; 265
My mother placed me servant to a lord,
For she had borne me to a ribald knave,
Destroyer of himself and of his things.
Then I domestic was of good King Thibault; 266
265Giampolo, or Ciampolo, say all the commentators; but nothing more is known of him
than his name, and what he tells us here of his history.
266It is not very clear which King Thibault is here meant, but it is probably King Thibault
IV., the crusader and poet, born 1201, died 1253. His poems have been published by
L´eveque de la Ravalli`ere, under the title of Les Po´esies du Roi de Navarre; and in one of his
songs (Chanson 53) he makes a clerk address him as the Bons rois Thiebaut. Dante cites
him two or three times in his Volg. Eloq., and may have taken this expression from his
song, as he does afterwards, Canto XXVIII. 135, lo Re joves, the Re Giovane, or Young King,
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
I set me there to practise barratry,
For which I pay the reckoning in this heat.”
And Ciriatto, from whose mouth projected,
On either side, a tusk, as in a boar,
Caused him to feel how one of them could rip.
Among malicious cats the mouse had come;
But Barbariccia clasped him in his arms,
And said: “Stand ye aside, while I enfork him.”
And to my Master he turned round his head;
“Ask him again,” he said, “if more thou wish
To know from him, before some one destroy him.”
The Guide: “Now tell then of the other culprits;
Knowest thou any one who is a Latian, 267
Under the pitch?” And he: “I separated
Lately from one who was a neighbour to it;
Would that I still were covered up with him,
For I should fear not either claw nor hook!”
And Libicocco: “We have borne too much;”
And with his grapnel seized him by the arm,
So that, by rending, he tore off a tendon.
Eke Draghignazzo wished to pounce upon him
Down at the legs; whence their Decurion
Turned round and round about with evil look.
When they again somewhat were pacified,
Of him, who still was looking at his wound,
Demanded my Conductor without stay:
“Who was that one, from whom a luckless parting
Thou sayest thou hast made, to come ashore?”
And he replied “It was the Friar Gomita,
He of Gallura, vessel of all fraud, 268
Who had the enemies of his Lord in hand,
And dealt so with them each exults thereat;
from the songs of Bertrand de Born.
267A Latian, that is to say, an Italian.
268This Frate Gomita was a Sardinian in the employ of Nino de’ Visconti, judge in the
jurisdiction of Gallura, the “gentle Judge Nino” of Purgatory VIII. 53. The frauds and
peculations of the Friar brought him finally to the gallows. Gallura is the northeastern
jurisdiction of the island.
Money he took, and let them smoothly off,
As he says; and in other offices
A barrator was he, not mean but sovereign.
Foregathers with him one Don Michael Zanche 269
Of Logodoro; and of Sardinia
To gossip never do their tongues feel tired.
O me! see that one, how he grinds his teeth;
Still farther would I speak, but am afraid
Lest he to scratch my itch be making ready.”
And the grand Provost, turned to Farfarello,
Who rolled his eyes about as if to strike,
Said: “Stand aside there, thou malicious bird.”
“If you desire either to see or hear,”
The terror-stricken recommenced thereon,
“Tuscans or Lombards. I will make them come.
But let the Malebranche cease a little,
So that these may not their revenges fear,
And I, down sitting in this very place,
For one that I am will make seven come,
When I shall whistle, as our custom is
To do whenever one of us comes out.”
Cagnazzo at these words his muzzle lifted,
Shaking his head, and said: “Just hear the trick
Which he has thought of, down to throw himself!
Whence he, who snares in great abundance had,
Responded: “I by far too cunning am,
When I procure for mine a greater sadness.”
Alichin held not in, but running counter
Unto the rest, said to him: “If thou dive,
I will not follow thee upon the gallop,
But I will beat my wings above the pitch;
The height be left, and be the bank a shield
269Don Michael Zanche was Seneschal of King Enzo of Sardinia, a natural son of the
Emperor Frederick II. Dante gives him the title of Don, still used in Sardinia for Signore.
After the death of Enzo in prison at Bologna, in 1271, Don Michael won by fraud and
flattery his widow Adelasia, and became himself Lord of Logodoro, the northwestern
jurisdiction, adjoining that of Gallura.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 43: The Navarrese selected well his time...
To see if thou alone dost countervail us.”
O thou who readest, thou shalt hear new sport!
Each to the other side his eyes averted;
He first, who most reluctant was to do it.
The Navarrese selected well his time;
Planted his feet on land, and in a moment
Leaped, and released himself from their design.
Whereat each one was suddenly stung with shame,
But he most who was cause of the defeat;
Therefore he moved, and cried: “Thou art o’ertakern.”
But little it availed, for wings could not
Outstrip the fear; the other one went under,
And, flying, upward he his breast directed;
Not otherwise the duck upon a sudden
Dives under, when the falcon is approaching,
And upward he returneth cross and weary.
Infuriate at the mockery, Calcabrina
Flying behind him followed close, desirous
The other should escape, to have a quarrel.
And when the barrator had disappeared,
He turned his talons upon his companion,
And grappled with him right above the moat.
But sooth the other was a doughty sparhawk
To clapperclaw him well; and both of them
Fell in the middle of the boiling pond.
A sudden intercessor was the heat;
But ne’ertheless of rising there was naught,
To such degree they had their wings belimed.
Lamenting with the others, Barbariccia
Made four of them fly to the other side
With all their gaffs, and very speedily
This side and that they to their posts descended;
They stretched their hooks towards the pitch-ensnared,
Who were already baked within the crust,
And in this manner busied did we leave them.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 44: Infuriate at the mockery, Calcabrina flying behind him followed
SILENT, alone, and without company 270
We went, the one in front, the other after,
As go the Minor Friars along their way
Upon the fable of Aesop was directed 271
My thought, by reason of the present quarrel,
Where he has spoken of the frog and mouse;
For mo and issa are not more alike 272
Than this one is to that, if well we couple
End and beginning with a steadfast mind.
And even as one thought from another springs,
So afterward from that was born another,
Which the first fear within me double made.
Thus did I ponder: “These on our account
Are laughed to scorn, with injury and scoff
So great, that much I think it must annoy them.
If anger be engrafted on ill-will,
They will come after us more merciless
Than dog upon the leveret which he seizes,”
I felt my hair stand all on end already
With terror, and stood backwardly intent,
When said I: “Master, if thou hidest not
270In this Sixth Bolgia the Hypocrites are punished. “A painted people there below we
found, Who went about with footsteps very slow, Weeping and in their looks subdued
271The Fables of Aesop, by Sir Roger L’Estrang, IV.: “There fell out a bloody quarrel once
betwixt the Frogs and the Mice, about the sovereignty of the Fenns; and whilst two of
their champions were disputing it at swords point, down comes a kite powdering upon
them in the interim, and gobbles up both together, to part the fray.”
272Both words signifying “now”; mo, from the Latin modo; and issa, from the Latin ipsa;
meaning ipsa hora. “The Tuscans say mo,” remarks Benvenuto, “the Lombards issa.”
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Thyself and me forthwith, of Malebranche
I am in dread; we have them now behind us;
I so imagine them, I already feel them”
And he: “If I were made of leaded glass
Thine outward image I should not attract
Sooner to me than I imprint the inner.
Just now thy thoughts came in among my own,
With similar attitude and similar face,
So that of both one counsel sole I made.
If peradventure the right bank so slope
That we to the next Bolgia can descend.
We shall escape from the imagined chase.”
Not yet he finished rendering such opinion.
When I beheld them come with outstretched wings,
Not far remote, with will to seize upon us.
My Leader on a sudden seized me up, 273
Even as a mother who by noise is wakened,
And close beside her sees the enkindled flames,
Who takes her son, and flies, and does not stop,
Having more care of him than of herself,
So that she clothes her only with a shift;
And downward from the top of the hard bank
Supine he gave him to the pendent rock,
That one side of the other Bolgia walls.
Ne’er ran so swiftly water through a sluice
To turn the water of any land-built mill,
When nearest to the paddles it approaches,
As did my Master down along that border,
Bearing me with him on his breast away,
As his own son, and not as a companion.
Hardly the bed of the ravine below
His feet had reached, ere they had reached the hill
Right over us; but he was not afraid;
For the high Providence, which had ordained
To place them ministers of the fifth moat,
273“When he is in a fright and hurry, and has a very steep place to go down, Virgil, has
to carry him altogether,” says Mr. Ruskin. See Canto XII.
The power of thence departing took from all.
A painted people there below we found,
Who went about with footsteps very slow,
Weeping and in their semblance tired and vanquished.
They had on mantles with the hoods low down
Before their eyes, and fashioned of the cut
That in Cologne they for the monks arc made. 274
Without, they gilded are so that it dazzles;
But inwardly all leaden and so heavy
That Frederick used to put them on of straw. 275
O everlastingly fatiguing mantle!
Again we turned us, still to the left hand
Along with them, intent on their sad plaint;
But owing to the weight, that weary folk
Came on so tardily, that we were new
In company at each motion of the haunch.
Whence I unto my Leader: “See thou find
Some one who may by deed or name be known,
And thus in going move thine eye about.”
And one, who understood the Tuscan speech
Cried to us from behind: “Stay ye your feet
Ye, who so run athwart the dusky air!
Perhaps thou’lt have from me what thou demandest.”
Whereat the Leader turned him, and said: “Wait,
And then according to his pace proceed.”
I stopped, and two beheld I show great haste
274Benvenuto speaks of the cloaks of the German monks as “ill-fitting and shapeless.”
275The leaden cloaks which Frederick put upon malefactors were straw in comparison.
The Emperor Frederick II. is said to have punished traitors by wrapping them in lead,
and throwing them into a heated caldron. I can find no historic authority for this. It
rests only on tradition; and on the same authority the same punishment is said to have
been inflicted in Scotland, and is thus described in the ballad of “Lord Soulis,” Scott’s
Ministrelsy of the Scottish Border, IV. 256: – “On a circle of stones they placed the pot, On a
circle of stones but barely nine; They heated it red and fiery hot, Till the burnished brass
did glimmer and shine. They roll’d him up in a sheet of lead, A sheet of lead for a funeral
pall, And plunged him into the caldron red, And melted him, – lead, and bones, and all.”
We get also a glimpse of this punishment in Ducange, Glo. Capa Plumbea, where he cites
the case in which one man tells another: “If our Holy Father the Pope knew the life you
are leading, he would have you put to death in a cloak of lead.”
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Of spirit, in their faces, to be with me;
But the burden and the narrow way delayed them.
When they came up, long with an eye askance
They scanned me without uttering a word.
Then to each other turned, and said together:
“He by the action of his throat seems living;
And if they dead are, by what privilege
Go they uncovered by the heavy stole?”
Then said to me: “Tuscan, who to the college 276
Of miserable hypocrites art come,
Do not disdain to tell us who thou art.”
And I to them: “Born was I, and grew up
In the great town on the fair river of Arno, 277
And with the body am I’ve always had.
But who are ye, in whom there trickles down
Along your cheeks such grief as I behold?
And what pain is upon you, that so sparkles?”
And one replied to me: “These orange cloaks
Are made of lead so heavy, that the weights
Cause in this way their balances to creak.
Frati Gaudenti were we, and Bolognese; 278
276Bologna was renowned for its University; and the speaker, who was a Bolognese, is
still mindful of his college.
277Florence, the bellissima e famosissima figlia di Roma, as Dante calls it, Convito, I. 3.
278An order of knighthood, established by Pope Urban IV. in 1261, under the title of
“Knights of Santa Maria.” The name Frati Gaudenti, or “Jovial Friars,” was a nickname,
because they lived in their own homes and were not bound by strict monastic rules.
Napier, Flor. Hist. I. 269, says: – “A short time before this a new order of religious
nighthood under the name of Frati Gaudenti began in Italy: it was not bound by vows
of celibacy, or any very severe regulations, but took the usual oaths to defend widows
and orphans and make peace between man and man: the founder was a Bolognese gentleman,
called Loderingo di Liandolo, who enjoyed a good reputation, and along with
a brother of the same order, named Catalano di Malavolti, one a Guelph and the other
a Ghibelline, was now invited to Florence by Count Guido to execute conjointly the office
of Podest. It was intended by thus dividing the supreme authority between two
magistrates of different politics, that one should correct the other, and justice be equally
administered; more especially as, in conjunction with the people, they were allowed to
elect a deliberative council of thirty-six citizens, belonging to the principal trades without
distinction of party.”
Farther on he says that these two Frati Gaudenti “forfeited all public confidence by their
peculation and hypocrisy.” And Villani, VII. 13: “Although they were of different parties,
Figure 45: “These orange cloaks are made of lead so heavy...”
I Catalano, and he Loderingo
Named, and together taken by thy city,
As the wont is to take one man alone,
For maintenance of its peace; and we were such
That still it is apparent round Gardingo.” 279
“O Friars,” began I, “your iniquitous...”
But said no more; for to mine eyes there rushed
One crucified with three stakes on the ground.
When me he saw, he writhed himself all over,
Blowing into his beard with suspirations;
And the Friar Catalan, who noticed this,
Said to me: “This transfixed one, whom thou seest, 280
Counselled the Pharisees that it was meet
under cover of a false hypocrisy, they were of accord in seeking rather their own private
gains than the common good.”
279A street in Florence, laid waste by the Guelfs.
280Caiaphas, the High-Priest, who thought “expediency” the best thing.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
To put one man to torture for the people.
Crosswise and naked is he on the path,
As thou perceivest; and he needs must feel,
Whoever passes, first how much he weighs;
And in like mode his father-in-law is punished 281
Within this moat, and the others of the council,
Which for the Jews was a malignant seed.”
And thereupon I saw Virgilius marvel
O’er him who was extended on the cross
So vilely in eternal banishment.
Then he directed to the Friar this voice:
“Be not displeased, if granted thee, to tell us
If to the right hand any pass slope down
By which we two may issue forth from here,
Without constraining some of the black angels
To come and extricate us from this deep.”
Then he made answer: “Nearer than thou hopest
There is a rock, that forth from the great circle 282
Proceeds, and crosses all the cruel valleys,
Save that at this ’tis broken, and does not bridge it;
You will be able to mount up the ruin,
That sidelong slopes and at the bottom rises.”
The Leader stood awhile with head bowed down;
Then said: “The business badly he recounted
Who grapples with his hook the sinners yonder.”
And the Friar: “Many of the Devil’s vices
Once heard I at Bologna, and among them,
That he’s a liar and the father of lies.”
Thereat my Leader with great strides went on,
Somewhat disturbed with anger in his looks;
Whence from the heavy-laden I departed
After the prints of his beloved feet.
281Annas, father-in-law of Caiaphas.
282The great outer circle surrounding this division of the Inferno.
Figure 46: His feet had reached, ere they had reached the hill right over
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 47: One crucified with three stakes on the ground.
IN that part of the youthful year wherein 283
The Sun his locks beneath Aquarius tempers, 284
And now the nights draw near to half the day,
What time the hoar-frost copies on the ground
The outward semblance of her sister white,
But little lasts the temper of her pen,
The husbandman, whose forage faileth him,
Rises, and looks, and seeth the champaign
All gleaming white, whereat he beats his flank,
Returns in doors, and up and down laments,
Like a poor wretch, who knows not what to do;
Then he returns and hope revives again,
Seeing the world has changed its countenance
In little time, and takes his shepherd’s crook,
And forth the little lambs to pasture drives.
Thus did the Master fill me with alarm
When I beheld his forehead so disturbed,
And to the ailment came as soon the plaster.
For as we came unto the ruined bridge
The Leader turned to me with that sweet look
Which at the mountain’s foot I first beheld. 285
283The Seventh Bolgia, in which Thieves are punished.
284The sun enters Aquarius during the last half of January, when the Equinox is near,
and the hoar-frost in the morning looks like snow on the fields, but soon evaporates. If
Dante had been a monk of Monte Casino, illuminating a manuscript, he could not have
made a more clerkly and scholastic flourish with his pen than this, nor have painted a
more beautiful picture than that which follows. The mediaeval poets are full of lovely
descriptions of Spring, which seems to blossom and sing through all their verses; but
none is more beautiful or suggestive than this, though serving only as an illustration.
285In Canto I.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
His arms he opened, after some advisement
Within himself elected, looking first
Well at the ruin, and laid hold of me.
And even as he who acts and meditates,
For aye it seems that he provides beforehand,
So upward lifting me towards the summit
Of a huge rock, he scanned another crag,
Saying: “To that one grapple afterwards,
But try first if ’tis such that it will hold thee.”
This was no way for one clothed with a cloak;
For hardly we, he light, and I pushed upward,
Were able to ascend from jag to jag.
And had it not been, that upon that precinct
Shorter was the ascent than on the other,
He I know not, but I had been dead beat.
But because Malebolge tow’rds the mouth
Of the profoundest well is all inclining,
The structure of each valley doth import
That one bank rises and the other sinks.
Still we arrived at length upon the point
Wherefrom the last stone breaks itself asunder.
The breath was from my lungs so milked away,
When I was up, that I could go no farther,
Nay, I sat down upon my first arrival.
“Now it behoves thee thus to put off sloth,”
My Master said; “for sitting upon down,
Or under quilt, one cometh not to fame,
Withouten which whoso his life consumes
Such vestige leaveth of himself on earth.
As smoke in air or in the water foam.
And therefore raise thee up, o’ercome the anguish
With spirit that o’ercometh every battle,
If with its heavy body it sink not.
A longer stairway it behoves thee mount; 286
’Tis not enough from these to have departed;
286The ascent of the Mount of Purgatory.
Let it avail thee, if thou understand me.”
Then I uprose, showing myself provided
Better with breath than I did feel myself,
And said: “Go on, for I am strong and bold.”
Upward we took our way along the crag,
Which jagged was, and narrow, and difficult,
And more precipitous far than that before.
Speaking I went, not to appear exhausted;
Whereat a voice from the next moat came forth,
Not well adapted to articulate words.
I know not what it said, though o’er the back
I now was of the arch that passes there;
But he seemed moved to anger who was speaking
I was bent downward, but my living eyes
Could not attain the bottom, for the dark;
Wherefore I: “Master, see that thou arrive
At the next round, and let us descend the wall; 287
For as from hence I hear and understand not,
So I look down and nothing I distinguish.”
“Other response,” he said, “I make thee not,
Except the doing; for the modest asking
Ought to be followed by the deed in silence.”
We from the bridge descended at its head,
Where it connects itself with the eighth bank,
And then was manifest to me the Bolgia;
And I beheld therein a terrible throng
Of serpents, and of such a monstrous kind,
That the remembrance still congeals my blood
Let Libya boast no longer with her sand;
For if Chelydri, Jaculi, and Pharae
She breeds, with Cenchri and with Ammhisbaena.
Neither so many plagues nor so malignant
E’er showed she with all Ethiopia,
Nor with whatever on the Red Sea is!
Among this cruel and most dismal throng
287The next circular dike, dividing the fosses.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 48: People were running naked and affrighted...
People were running naked and affrighted.
Without the hope of hole or heliotrope. 288
They had their hands with serpents bound behind them;
These riveted upon their reins the tail
And head, and were in front of them entwined.
And lo! at one who was upon our side
There darted forth a serpent, which transfixed him
There where the neck is knotted to the shoulders.
Nor O so quickly e’er, nor I was written,
As he took fire, and burned; and ashes wholly
Behoved it that in falling he became.
And when he on the ground was thus destroyed,
The ashes drew together, and of themselves
288Without a hiding-place, or the heliotrope, a precious stone of great virtue against
poisons, and supposed to render the wearer invisible. Upon this latter vulgar error is
founded Boccaccio’s comical story of Calandrino and his friends Bruno and Buffulmacco,
Decameron, Gior. VIII., Nov. 3.
Into himself they instantly returned.
Even thus by the great sages ’tis confessed
The phoenix dies, and then is born again,
When it approaches its five-hundredth year;
On herb or grain it feeds not in its life,
But only on tears of incense and amomum,
And nard and myrrh are its last winding-sheet.
And as he is who falls, and knows not how,
By force of demons who to earth down drag him,
Or other oppilation that binds man, 289
When he arises and around him looks,
Wholly bewildered by the mighty anguish
Which he has suffered, and in looking sighs;
Such was that sinner after he had risen.
Justice of God! O how severe it is,
That blows like these in vengeance poureth down!
The Guide thereafter asked him who he was;
Whence he replied: “I rained from Tuscany
A short time since into this cruel gorge.
A bestial life, and not a human, pleased me,
Even as the mule I was; I’m Vanni Fucci, 290
289Any obstruction, “such as the epilepsy,” says Benvenuto. “Gouts and dropsies, catarrhs
and oppilations,” says Jeremy Taylor.
290Vanni Fucci, who calls himself a mule, was a bastard son of Fuccio de’ Lazzari. All
the commentators paint him in the darkest colors. Dante had known him as “a man of
blood and wrath,” and seems to wonder he is here, and not in the circle of the Violent,
or of the Irascible. But his great crime was the robbery of a sacristy. Benvenuto da Imola
relates the story in detail. He speaks of him as a man of depraved life, many of whose
misdeeds went unpunished, because he was of noble family. Being banished from Pistoia
for his crimes, he returned to the city one night of the Carnival, and was in company
with eighteen other revellers, among whom was Vanni della Nona, a notary; when, not
content with their insipid diversions, he stole away with two companions to the church of
San Giacomo, and, finding its custodians absent, or asleep with feasting and drinking, he
entered the sacristy and robbed it of all its precious jewels. These he secreted in the house
of the notary, which was close at hand, thinking that on account of his honest repute no
suspicion would fall upon him. A certain Rampino was arrested for the theft, and put to
the torture; when Vanni Fucci, having escaped to Monte Carelli, beyond the Florentine
jurisdiction, sent a messenger to Rampino’s father, confessing all the circumstances of
the crime. Hereupon the notary was seized “on the first Monday in Lent, as he was
going to a sermon in the church of the Minorite Friars,” and was hanged for the theft,
and Rampino set at liberty. No one has a good word to say for Vanni Fucci, except the
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Beast, and Pistoia was my worthy den.”
And I unto the Guide: “Tell him to stir not,
And ask what crime has thrust him here below,
For once a man of blood and wrath I saw him.”
And the sinner, who had heard, dissembled not,
But unto me directed mind and face,
And with a melancholy shame was painted.
Then said: “It pains me more that thou hast caught me
Amid this misery where thou seest me,
Than when I from the other life was taken.
What thou demandest I cannot deny;
So low am I put down because I robbed
The sacristy of the fair ornaments,
And falsely once ’twas laid upon another;
But that thou mayst not such a sight enjoy,
If thou shalt e’er be out of the dark places,
Thine ears to my announcement ope and hear:
Pistoia first of Neri groweth meagre; 291
Then Florence doth renew her men and manners;
Mars draws a vapour up from Val di Magra, 292
Which is with turbid clouds enveloped round,
And with impetuous and bitter tempest
Over Campo Picen shall be the battle;
When it shall suddenly rend the mist asunder,
So that each Bianco shall thereby be smitten
And this I’ve said that it may give thee pain.”
Canonico Crescimbeni, who, in the Comentarj to the Istoria della Volg. Poesia, II. ii., p. 99,
counts him among the Italian Poets, and speaks of him as a man of great courage and
gallantry, and a leader of the Neri party of Pistoia, in 1300. He smooths over Dante’s
invectives by remarking that Dante “makes not too honorable mention of him in the
291The Neri were banished from Pistoia in 1301; the Bianchi, from Florence in 1302.
292This vapor or lightning flash from Val di Magra is the Marquis Malaspini, and the
“turbid clouds” are the banished Neri of Pistoia, whom he is to gather about him to
defeat the Bianchi at Campo Piceno, the old battle-field of Catiline. As Dante was of the
Bianchi party, this prophecy of impending disaster and overthrow could only give him
pain. See Canto VI.
AT the conclusion of his words, the thief 293
Lifted his hands aloft with both the figs, 294
Crying: “Take that, God, for at thee I aim them.”
From that time forth the serpents were my friends;
For one entwined itself about his neck
As if it said: “I will not thou speak more;”
And round his arms another, and rebound him,
Clinching itself together so in front,
That with them he could not a motion make,
Pistoia, ah, Pistoia! why resolve not 295
To burn thyself to ashes and so perish,
Since in ill-doing thou thy seed excellest?
Through all the sombre circles of this Hell,
Spirit I saw not against God so proud,
Not he who fell at Thebes down from the walls! 296
He fled away, and spake no further word;
293The subject of the preceding Canto is continued in this.
294This vulgar gesture of contempt consists in thursting the thumb between the first and
middle fingers. It is the same as the ass-driver made at Dante in the street; Sacchetti, Nov.
CXV.: “When he was a little way off, he turned around to Dante, and thrusting out his
tongue and making a fig at him with his hand, said, ‘Take that.’ ”
Villani, VI. 5, says: “On the Rock of Carmignano there was a tower seventy yards high,
and upon it two marble arms, the hands of which were making the figs at Florence.”
Others say these hands were on a finger-post by the road-side.
295Pistoia is supposed to have been founded by the soldiers of Catiline. Brunetto Latini,
Tresor, I. i. 37, says: “They found Catiline at the foot of the mountains and he had his
army and his people in that place where is now the city of Pestoire. There was Catiline
conquered in battle, and he and his were slain; also a great part of the Romans were killed.
And on account of the pestilence of that great slaughter the city was called Pestoire.”
The Italian proverb says, Pistoia la ferrigna, iron Pistoia, or Pistoia the pitiless.
296Capaneus, Canto XIV. 44.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
And I beheld a Centaur full of rage
Come crying out: “Where is, where is the scoffer?”
I do not think Maremma has so many 297
Serpents as he had all along his back,
As far as where our countenance begins.
Upon the shoulders, just behind the nape,
With wings wide open was a dragon lying,
And he sets fire to all that he encounters.
My Master said: “That one is Cacus, who 298
Beneath the rock upon Mount Aventine
Created oftentimes a lake of blood.
He goes not on the same road with his brothers, 299
By reason of the fraudulent theft he made
Of the great herd, which he had near to him;
Whereat his tortuous actions ceased beneath
The mace of Hercules, who peradventure
Gave him a hundred, and he felt not ten.”
While he was speaking thus, he had passed by,
And spirits three had underneath us come, 300
Of which nor I aware was, nor my Leader
Until what time they shouted: “Who are you?”
On which account our story made a halt 301
And then we were intent on them alone.
I did not know them; but it came to pass,
As it is wont to happen by some chance,
That one to name the other was compelled,
Exclaiming: “Where can Cianfa have remained?” 302
Whence I, so that the Leader might attend,
Upward from chin to nose my finger laid.
297See note in Canto XIII.
298Cacus was the classic Giant Despair, who had his cave in Mount Aventine, and stole
a part of the herd of Geryon, which Hercules had brought to Italy.
299Dante makes a Centaur of Cacus, and separates him from the others because he was
fraudulent as well as violent. Virgil calls him only a monster, a half-man, Semihominis
300Agnello Brunelleschi, Buoso degli Abati, and Puccio Sciancato.
301The story of Cacus, which Virgil was telling.
302Cianfa Donati, a Florentine nobleman. He appears immediately, as a serpent with six
feet, and fastens upon Agnello Brunelleschi.
If thou art, Reader, slow now to believe
What I shall say, it will no marvel be,
For I who saw it hardly can admit it.
As I was holding raised on them my brows,
Behold! a serpent with six feet darts forth
In front of one, and fastens wholly on him.
With middle feet it bound him round the paunch,
And with the forward ones his arms it seized;
Then thrust its teeth through one cheek and the other;
The hindermost it stretched upon his thighs,
And put its tail through in between the two,
And up behind along the reins outspread it.
Ivy was never fastened by its barbs
Unto a tree so, as this horrible reptile
Upon the other’s limbs entwined its own.
Then they stuck close, as if of heated wax
They had been made, and intermixed their colour;
Nor one nor other seemed now what he was;
E’en as proceedeth on before the flame
Upward along the paper a brown colour, 303
Which is not black as yet, and the white dies.
The other two looked on, and each of them
Cried out: “O me, Agnello, how thou changest!
Behold, thou now art neither two nor one.”
Already the two heads had one become,
When there appeared to us two figures mingled
Into one face, wherein the two were lost.
Of the four lists were fashioned the two arms, 304
The thighs and legs, the belly and the chest
Members became that never yet were seen.
Every original aspect there was cancelled;
Two and yet none did the perverted image
303Some commentators contended that in this line papiro does not mean paper, but a
lamp-wick made of papyrus. This destroys the beauty and aptness of the image, and
rather degrades “The leaf of the reed, Which has grown through the clefts in the ruins of
304These four lists, or hands, are the fore feet of the serpent and the arms of Agnello.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Appear, and such departed with slow pace.
Even as a lizard, under the great scourge
Of days canicular, exchanging hedge,
Lightning appeareth if the road it cross;
Thus did appear, coming towards the bellies
Of the two others, a small fiery serpent, 305
Livid and black as is a peppercorn.
And in that part whereat is first received
Our aliment, it one of them transfixed;
Then downward fell in front of him extended.
The one transfixed looked at it, but said naught;
Nay, rather with feet motionless he yawned,
Just as if sleep or fever had assailed him.
He at the serpent gazed, and it at him;
One through the wound, the other through the mouth
Smoked violently, and the smoke commingled.
Henceforth be silent Lucan, where he mentions
Wretched Sabellus and Nassidius,
And wait to hear what now shall be shot forth.
Be silent Ovid, of Cadmus and Arethusa;
For if him to a snake, her to fountain,
Converts he fabling, that I grudge him not;
Because two natures never front to front
Has he transmuted, so that both the forms
To interchange their matter ready were.
Together they responded in such wise,
That to a fork the serpent cleft his tail,
And eke the wounded drew his feet together.
The legs together with the thighs themselves
Adhered so, that in little time the juncture
No sign whatever made that was apparent.
He with the cloven tail assumed the figure
The other one was losing, and his skin
Became elastic, and the other’s hard.
I saw the arms draw inward at the armpits,
305This black serpent is Guercio Cavalcanti, who changes form with Buoso degli Abati.
And both feet of the reptile, that were short,
Lengthen as much as those contracted were.
Thereafter the hind feet, together twisted,
Became the member that a man conceals,
And of his own the wretch had two created.
While both of them the exhalation veils
With a new colour, and engenders hair
On one of them and depilates the other,
The one uprose and down the other fell,
Though turning not away their impious lamps,
Underneath which each one his muzzle changed.
He who was standing drew it tow’rds the temples,
And from excess of matter, which came thither,
Issued the ears from out the hollow cheeks;
What did not backward run and was retained
Of that excess made to the face a nose,
And the lips thickened far as was befitting.
He who lay prostrate thrusts his muzzle forward,
And backward draws the ears into his head,
In the same manner as the snail its horns
And so the tongue, which was entire and apt
For speech before, is cleft, and the bi-forked
In the other closes up, and the smoke ceases.
The soul, which to a reptile had been changed,
Along the valley hissing takes to flight,
And after him the other speaking sputters.
Then did he turn upon him his new shoulders,
And said to the other: “I’ll have Buoso run,
Crawling as I have done, along this road.”
In this way I beheld the seventh ballast
Shift and reshift, and here be my excuse
The novelty, if aught my pen transgress. 306
And notwithstanding that mine eyes might be
Somewhat bewildered, and my mind dismayed,
They could not flee away so secretly
306Some editions read la penna, the pen, instead of la lingua, the tongue.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
But that I plainly saw Puccio Sciancato;
And he it was who sole of three companions,
Which came in the beginning, was not changed;
The other was he whom thou, Gaville, weepest. 307
307Gaville was a village in the Valdarno, where Guercio Cavalcanti was murdered. The
family took vengeance upon the inhabitants in the old Italian style, thus causing Gaville
to lament the murder.
Figure 49: The soul, which to a reptile had been changed...
REJOICE , O Florence, since thou art so great, 308
That over sea and land thou beatest thy wings,
And throughout Hell thy name is spread abroad!
Among the thieves five citizens of thine 309
Like these I found, whence shame comes unto me,
And thou thereby to no great honour risest.
But if when morn is near our dreams are true,
Feel shalt thou in a little time from now
What Prato, if none other, craves for thee. 310
And if it now were, it were not too soon;
Would that it were, seeing it needs must be,
For ’twill aggrieve me more the more I age.
We went our way, and up along the stairs
The bourns had made us to descend before,
Remounted my Conductor and drew me.
And following the solitary path
Among the rocks and ridges of the crag,
The foot without the hand sped not at all.
Then sorrowed I, and sorrow now again,
When I direct my mind to what I saw,
And more my genius curb than I am wont,
That it may run not unless virtue guide it;
308The Eighth Bolgia, in which Fraudulent Counsellors are punished.
309Of these five Florentine nobles, Cianfa Donati, Agnello Brunelleschi, Buoso degli
Abati, Puccio Sciancato, and Guercio Cavalcanti, nothing is known but what Dante tells
us. Perhaps that is enough.
310The disasters soon to befall Florence, and in which even the neighboring town of
Prato would rejoice, to mention no others. These disasters were the fall of the wooden
bridge of Carraia, with a crowd upon it, witnessing a Miracle Play on the Arno; the strife
of the Bianchi and Neri; and the great fire of 1304.
So that if some good star, or better thing,
Have given me good, I may myself not grudge it. 311
As many as the hind (who on the hill
Rests at the time when he who lights the world
His countenance keeps least concealed from us,
While as the fly gives place unto the gnat)
Seeth the glow-worms down along the valley,
Perchance there where he ploughs and makes his vintage
With flames as manifold resplendent all
Was the eighth Bolgia, as I grew aware
As soon as I was where the depth appeared.
And such as he who with the bears avenged him
Beheld Elijah’s chariot at departing,
What time the steeds to heaven erect uprose
For with his eye he could not follow it
So as to see aught else than flame alone,
Even as a little cloud ascending upward,
Thus each along the gorge of the intrenchment
Was moving; for not one reveals the theft,
And every flame a sinner steals away.
I stood upon the bridge uprisen to see,
So that, if I had seized not on a rock,
Down had I fallen without being pushed.
And the Leader, who beheld me so attent,
Exclaimed: “Within the fires the spirits are;
Each swathes himself with that wherewith he burns.”
“My Master,” I replied, “by hearing thee
I am more sure; but I surmised already
It might be so, and already wished to ask thee
Who is within that fire, which comes so cleft
At top, it seems uprising from the pyre
Where was Eteocles with his brother placed.” 312
He answered me: “Within there are tormented
311I may not balk or deprive myself of this good.
312These two sons of Oedipus, Eteocles and Polynices, were so hostile to each other, that,
when after death their bodies were burned on the same funeral pile, the flames swayed
apart, and the ashes separated.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Ulysses and Diomed, and thus together 313
They unto vengeance run as unto wrath.
And there within their flame do they lament
The ambush of the horse, which made the door 314
Whence issued forth the Romans’ gentle seed;
Therein is wept the craft, for which being dead
Deidamia still deplores Achilles, 315
And pain for the Palladium there is borne.” 316
“If they within those sparks possess the power
To speak,” I said, “thee, Master, much I pray,
And re-pray, that the prayer be worth a thousand,
That thou make no denial of awaiting
Until the horned flame shall hither come;
Thou seest that with desire I lean towards it.”
And he to me: “Worthy is thy entreaty
Of much applause, and therefore I accept it;
But take heed that thy tongue restrain itself.
Leave me to speak, because I have conceived
That which thou wishest; for they might disdain
Perchance, since they were Greeks, discourse of thine.” 317
When now the flame had come unto that point,
Where to my Leader it seemed time and place,
After this fashion did I hear him speak:
“O ye, who are twofold within one fire,
If I deserved of you, while I was living,
If I deserved of you or much or little
When in the world I wrote the lofty verses,
313The most cunning of the Greeks at the siege of Troy, now united in their punishment,
as before in warlike wrath.
314As Troy was overcome by the fraud of the wooden horse, it was in a poetic sense the
gateway by which Aeneas went forth to establish the Roman empire in Italy.
315Deidamia was a daughter of Lycomedes of Sycros, at whose court Ulysses found
Achilles, disguised in woman’s attire, and enticed him away to the siege of Troy, telling
him that, according to the oracle, the city could not be taken without him, but not telling
him that, according to the same oracle, he would lose his life there.
316Ulysses and Diomed together stole the Palladium, or statue of Pallas, at Troy, the
safeguard and protection of the city.
317The Greeks scorned all other nations as “outside barbarians.” Even Virgil, a Latian,
has to plead with Ulysses the merit of having praised him in the Aeneid.
Do not move on, but one of you declare
Whither, being lost, he went away to die.”
Then of the antique flame the greater horn,
Murmuring, began to wave itself about
Even as a flame doth which the wind fatigues.
Thereafterward, the summit to and fro
Moving as if it were the tongue that spake
It uttered forth a voice, and said: “When I
From Circe had departed, who concealed me
More than a year there near unto Gaeta,
Or ever yet Aenas named it so,
Nor fondness for my son, nor reverence
For my old father, nor the due affection
Which joyous should have made Penelope,
Could overcome within me the desire
I had to be experienced of the world,
And of the vice and virtue of mankind;
But I put forth on the high open sea
With one sole ship, and that small company
By which I never had deserted been.
Both of the shores I saw as far as Spain,
Far as Morocco. and the isle of Sardes,
And the others which that sea bathes round about.
I and my company were old and slow
When at that narrow passage we arrived
Where Hercules his landmarks set as signals, 318
That man no farther onward should adventure.
On the right hand behind me left I Seville,
And on the other already had left Ceuta.
‘O brothers, who amid a hundred thousand
Perils,’ I said, ‘have come unto the West,
To this so inconsiderable vigil
Which is remaining of your senses still
Be ye unwilling to deny the knowledge,
318The Pillars of Hercules at the straits of Gibraltar; Abyla on the African shore, and
Gibraltar on the Spanish; in which the popular mind has lost its faith, except as symbolized
in the columns on the Spanish dollar, with the legend, Plus ultra.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Following the sun, of the unpeopled world.
Consider ye the seed from which ye sprang;
Ye were not made to live like unto brutes,
But for pursuit of virtue and of knowledge.’
So eager did I render my companions,
With this brief exhortation, for the voyage,
That then I hardly could have held them back.
And having turned our stern unto the morning,
We of the oars made wings for our mad flight,
Evermore gaining on the larboard side.
Already all the stars of the other pole
The night beheld, and ours so very low
It did not rise above the ocean floor.
Five times rekindled and as many quenched
Had been the splendour underneath the moon,
Since we had entered into the deep pass,
When there appeared to us a mountain, dim
From distance, and it seemed to me so high
As I had never any one beheld.
Joyful were we, and soon it turned to weeping;
For out of the new land a whirlwind rose,
And smote upon the fore part of the ship.
Three times it made her whirl with all the waters,
At the fourth time it made the stern uplift,
And the prow downward go, as pleased Another,
Until the sea above us closed again.”
Figure 50: And there within their flame do they lament...
ALREADY was the flame erect and quiet, 319
To speak no more, and now departed from us
With the permission of the gentle Poet;
When yet another, which behind it came,
Caused us to turn our eyes upon its top
By a confused sound that issued from it.
As the Sicilian bull (that bellowed first
With the lament of him, and that was right,
Who with his file had modulated it)
Bellowed so with the voice of the afflicted,
That, notwithstanding it was made of brass,
Still it appeared with agony transfixed;
Thus, by not having any way or issue
At first from out the fire, to its own language
Converted were the melancholy words.
But afterwards, when they had gathered way
Up through the point, giving it that vibration
The tongue had given them in their passage out,
We heard it said: “O thou, at whom I aim
My voice, and who but now wast speaking Lombard,
Saying, ‘Now go thy way, no more I urge thee,’ 320
Because I come perchance a little late,
To stay and speak with me let it not irk thee;
Thou seest it irks not me, and I am burning.
If thou but lately into this blind world
319The subject of the preceding Canto is continued in this.
320Virgil being a Lombard, Dante suggests that, in giving Ulysses and Diomed license
to depart, he had used the Lombard dialect, saying, “Issa t’ en va.”
Hast fallen down from that sweet Latian land,
Wherefrom I bring the whole of my transgression,
Say, if the Romagnuols have peace or war, 321
For I was from the mountains there between 322
Urbino and the yoke whence Tiber bursts.”
I still was downward bent and listening,
When my Conductor touched me on the side,
Saying: “Speak thou: this one a Latian is.”
And I, who had beforehand my reply
In readiness, forthwith began to speak:
“O soul, that down below there art concealed,
Romagna thine is not and never has been
Without war in the bosom of its tyrants;
But open war I none have left there now.
Ravenna stands as it long years has stood;
The Eagle of Polenta there is brooding, 323
So that she covers Cervia with her vans.
The city which once made the long resistance, 324
And of the French a sanguinary heap,
Beneath the Green Paws finds itself again;
Verrucchio’s ancient Mastiff and the new, 325
Who made such bad disposal of Montagna,
Where they are wont make wimbles of their teeth.
The cities of Lamone and Santerno 326
321The inhabitants of the province of Romagna, of which Ravenna is the capital.
322It is the spirit of Guido da Montefeltro that speaks. The city of Montefeltro lies between
Urbino and that part of the Apennines in which the Tiber rises. Count Guido was
a famous warrior, and one of the great Ghibelline leaders. He tells his own story sufficiently
in detail in what follows.
323The arms of Guido da Polenta, Lord of Ravenna, Dante’s friend, and father (or
nephew) of Francesca da Rimini, were an eagle half white in a field of azure, and half
red in a field of gold. Cervia is a small town some twelve miles from Ravenna.
324The city of Forl`i, where Guido da Montefeltro defeated and slaughtered the French
in 1282. See Canto XX. A Green lion was the coat of arms of the Ordelaffi, then Lords of
325Malatesta, father and son, tyrants of Rimini, who murdered Montagna, a Ghibelline
leader. Verrucchio was their castle, near the city. Of this family were the husband and
lover of Francesca. Dante calls them mastiffs, becaue of their fierceness, making “wimbles
of their teeth” in tearing and devouring.
326The cities of Faenza on the Lamone, and Imola on the Santerno. They were ruled by
Mainardo, surnamed “the Devil,” whose coat of arms was a lion azure in a white field.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Governs the Lioncel of the white lair,
Who changes sides ’twixt summer-time and winter;
And that of which the Savio bathes the flank, 327
Even as it lies between the plain and mountain,
Lives between tyranny and a free state.
Now I entreat thee tell us who thou art;
Be not more stubborn than the rest have been,
So may thy name hold front there in the world.”
After the fire a little more had roared
In its own fashion, the sharp point it moved
This way and that, and then gave forth such breath:
“If I believed that my reply were made
To one who to the world would e’er return,
This flame without more flickering would stand still;
But inasmuch as never from this depth
Did any one return, if I hear true,
Without the fear of infamy I answer,
I was a man of arms, then Cordelier,
Believing thus begirt to make amends;
And truly my belief had been fulfilled
But for the High Priest, whom may ill betide, 328
Who put me back into my former sins;
And how and wherefore I will have thee hear.
While I was still the form of bone and pulp
My mother gave to me, the deeds I did
Were not those of a lion, but a fox.
The machinations and the covert ways
I knew them all, and practised so their craft,
That to the ends of earth the sound went forth.
When now unto that portion of mine age
I saw myself arrived, when each one ought
To lower the sails, and coil away the ropes, 329
327The city of Cesena.
328Boniface VIII., who in line 85 is called “the Prince of the new Pharisees.”
329Dante, Convito IV. 28, quoting Cicero, says: “Natural death is as it were a haven and
rest to us after long navigation. And the noble soul is like a good mariner; for he, when
he draws near the port, lowers his sails, and enters it softly with feeble steerage.”
That which before had pleased me then displeased me;
And penitent and confessing I surrendered,
Ah woe is me! and it would have bestead me;
The Leader of the modern Pharisees
Having a war near unto Lateran, 330
330This Papal war, which was waged against Christians, and not against pagan Saracens,
nor unbelieving Jews, nor against the renegades who had helped them at the siege
of Acre, or given them aid and comfort by traffic, is thus described by Mr. Norton, Travel
and Study in Italy, p. 263: –
“This ‘war near the Lateran’ was a war with the great family of Colonna. Two of the
house were Cardinals. They had been deceived in the election, and were rebellious under
the rule of Boniface. The Cardinals of the great Ghibelline house took no pains to
conceal their ill-will toward the Guelf Pope. Boniface, indeed, accused them of plotting
with his enemies for his overthrow. The Colonnas, finding Rome unsafe, had withdrawn
to their strong town of Palestrina, whence they could issue forth at will for plunder, and
where they could give shelter to those who shared in their hostility toward the Pope. On
the other hand, Boniface, not trusting himself in Rome, withdrew to the secure height of
Orvieto, and thence, on the 14th of December, 1297, issued a terrible bull for a crusade
against them, granting plenary indulgence to all, (such was the Christian temper of the
times, and so literally were the violent seizing upon the kingdom of Heaven,) granting
plenary indulgence to all who would take up arms against these rebellious sons of the
Church and march against their chief stronghold, their ‘alto seggio’ of Palestrina. They
and their adherents had already been excommunicated and put under the ban of the
Church; they had been stripped of all dignities and privileges; their property had been
confiscated; and they were now by this bull placed in the position of enemies, not of the
Pope alone, but of the Church Universal. Troops gathered against them from all quarters
of Papal Italy. Their lands were ravaged, and they themselves shut up within their
stronghold; but for a long time they held out in their ancient high-walled mountaintown.
It was to gain Palestrina that Boniface ‘had war near the Lateran.’ The great church and
palace of the Lateran, standing on the summit of the Coelian Hill, close to the city wall,
overlooks the Campagna, which, in broken levels of brown and green and purple fields,
reaches to the base of the encircling mountains. Twenty miles away, crowning the top
and clinging to the side of one of the last heights of the Sabine range, are the gray walls
and roofs of Palestrina. It was a far more conspicuous place at the close of the thirteenth
century than it is now; for the great columns of the famous temple of Fortune still rose
above the town, and the ancient citadel kept watch over it from its high rock. At length,
in September, 1298, the Colonnas, reduced to the hardest extremities, became ready for
peace. Boniface promised largely. The two Cardinals presented themselves before him at
Rieti, in coarse brown dresses, and with ropes around their necks, in token of their repentance
and submission. The Pope gave them not only pardon and absolution, but hope of
being restored to their titles and possessions. This was the ‘lunga promessa con l’attender
corto’; for, while the Colonnas were retained near him, and these deceptive hopes held out
to them, Boniface sent the Bishop of Orvieto to take possession of Palestrina, and to destroy
it utterly, leaving only the church to stand as a monument above its ruins. The work
was done thoroughly; – a plough was drawn across the site of the unhappy town, and
salt scattered in the furrow, that the land might thenceforth be desolate. The inhabitants
were removed from the mountain to the plain, and there forced to build new homes for
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
And not with Saracens nor with the Jews,
For each one of his enemies was Christian,
And none of them had been to conquer Acre,
Nor merchandising in the Sultan’s land,
Nor the high office, nor the sacred orders,
In him regarded, nor in me that cord
Which used to make those girt with it more meagre;
But even as Constantine sought out Sylvester
To cure his leprosy, within Soracte,
So this one sought me out as an adept 331
To cure him of the fever of his pride.
Counsel he asked of me, and I was silent,
Because his words appeared inebriate.
And then he said: ‘Be not thy heart afraid;
Henceforth I thee absolve; and thou instruct me
How to raze Palestrina to the ground.
Heaven have I power to lock and to unlock,
As thou dost know; therefore the keys are two,
The which my predecessor held not dear.’ 332
Then urged me on his weighty arguments
There, where my silence was the worst advice;
And said I: ‘Father, since thou washest me
Of that sin into which I now must fall,
The promise long with the fulfilment short
Will make thee triumph in thy lofty seat.’
Francis came afterward, when I was dead,
For me; but one of the black Cherubim
Said to him: ‘Take him not; do me no wrong;
He must come down among my servitors,
Because he gave the fraudulent advice
From which time forth I have been at his hair;
themselves, which, in their turn, two years afterwards, were thrown down and burned
by order of the implacable Pope. This last piece of malignity was accomplished in 1300,
the year of the Jubilee, the year in which Dante was in Rome and in which he saw Guy of
Montefeltro, the counsellor of Boniface in deceit, burning in Hell.”
331Montefeltro was in the Franciscan monastery at Assisi.
332Pope Celestine V., who made “the great refusal,” or abdication of the papacy. See
note in Canto III.
For who repents not cannot be absolved,
Nor can one both repent and will at once,
Because of the contradiction which consents not.
O miserable me! how I did shudder
When he seized on me, saying: ‘Peradventure
Thou didst not think that I was a logician!’
He bore me unto Minos, who entwined
Eight times his tail about his stubborn back,
And after he had bitten it in great rage,
Said: ‘Of the thievish fire a culprit this;’
Wherefore, here where thou seest, am I lost,
And vested thus in going I bemoan me.”
When it had thus completed its recital,
The flame departed uttering lamentations,
Writhing and flapping its sharp-pointed horn.
Onward we passed, both I and my Conductor,
Up o’er the crag above another arch,
Which the moat covers, where is paid the fee
By those who, sowing discord, win their burden.
WHO ever could, e’en with untrammelled words, 333
Tell of the blood and of the wounds in full
Which now I saw, by many times narrating?
Each tongue would for a certainty fall short
By reason of our speech and memory,
That have small room to comprehend so much
If were again assembled all the people
Which formerly upon the fateful land
Of Puglia were lamenting for their blood 334
Shed by the Romans and the lingering war 335
That of the rings made such illustrious spoils, 336
As Livy has recorded, who errs not,
With those who felt the agony of blows
By making counterstand to Robert Guiscard, 337
And all the rest, whose bones are gathered still
At Ceperano, where a renegade 338
333The Ninth Bolgia, in which are punished the Schismatics, and “where is paid the fee
by those who sowing discord win their burden”; a burden difficult to describe even with
untrammelled words, or in plain prose, free from the fetters of rhyme.
334Apulia, or La Puglia, is in the southeastern part of Italy, “between the spur and the
heel of the boot.”
335The people slain in the conquest of Apulia by the Romans.
336Hannibal’s famous battle at Cannae, in the second Punic war. According to Livy,
XXII. 49, “The number of the slain is computed at forty thousand foot, and two thousand
seven hundred horse.”
337Robert Guiscard, the renowned Norman conqueror of southern Italy. Dante places
him in the Fifth Heaven of Paradise, in the planet Mars.
338The battle of Ceperano, near Monte Cassino, was fought in 1265, between Charles
of Anjou and Manfred, king of Apulia and Sicily. The Apulians, seeing the battle going
against them, deserted their king and passed over to the enemy.
Was each Apulian, and at Tagliacozzo, 339
Where without arms the old Alardo conquered,
And one his limb transpierced, and one lopped off,
Should show, it would be nothing to compare
With the disgusting mode of the ninth Bolgia.
A cask by losing centre-piece or cant
Was never shattered so, as I saw one
Rent from the chin to where one breaketh wind.
Between his legs were hanging down his entrails;
His heart was visible, and the dismal sack
That maketh excrement of what is eaten.
While I was all absorbed in seeing him,
He looked at me, and opened with his hands
His bosom, saying: “See now how I rend me;
How mutilated, see, is Mahomet;
In front of me doth Ali weeping go,
Cleft in the face from forelock unto chin;
And all the others whom thou here beholdest,
Disseminators of scandal and of schism
While living were, and therefore are cleft thus.
A devil is behind here, who doth cleave us
Thus cruelly, unto the falchion’s edge
Putting again each one of all this ream,
When we have gone around the doleful road;
By reason that our wounds are closed again
Ere any one in front of him repass.
But who art thou, that musest on the crag,
Perchance to postpone going to the pain
That is adjudged upon thine accusations?”
339The battle of Tagliacozzo in Abruzzo was fought in 1268, between Charles of Anjou
and Curradino or Conradin, nephew of Manfred. Charles gained the victory by the strategy
of Count Alardo di Valleri, who, “weaponless himself, made arms ridiculous.” This
valiant but wary crusader persuaded the king to keep a third of his forces in reserve; and
when the soldiers of Curradino, thinking they had won the day, were scattered over the
field in pursuit of plunder, Charles fell upon them, and routed them.
Alardo is mentioned in the Cento Novelle Antiche, Nov. LVII., as “celebrated for his wonderful
prowess even among the chief nobles, and no less esteemed for his singular virtues
than for his courage.”
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
“Nor death hath reached him yet, nor guilt doth bring him,”
My Master made reply, “to be tormented;
But to procure him full experience,
Me, who am dead, behoves it to conduct him
Down here through Hell, from circle unto circle;
And this is true as that I speak to thee.”
More than a hundred were there when they heard him,
Who in the moat stood still to look at me,
Through wonderment oblivious of their torture.
“Now say to Fra Dolcino, then, to arm him, 340
Thou, who perhaps wilt shortly see the sun,
If soon he wish not here to follow me,
So with provisions, that no stress of snow
May give the victory to the Novarese, 341
Which otherwise to gain would not be easy.”
After one foot to go away he lifted,
This word did Mahomet say unto me,
Then to depart upon the ground he stretched it.
Another one, who had his throat pierced through,
And nose cut off close underneath the brows,
And had no longer but a single ear,
Staying to look in wonder with the others,
Before the others did his gullet open,
Which outwardly was red in every part,
And said: “O thou, whom guilt doth not condemn,
And whom I once saw up in Latian land,
Unless too great similitude deceive me,
Call to remembrance Pier da Medicina, 342
340Fra Dolcino was one of the early social and religious reformers in the North of Italy.
His sect bore the name of “Apostles,” and its chief, if not only, heresy was a desire to
bring back the Church to the simplicity of the apostolic times. In 1305 he withdrew with
his followers to the mountains overlooking the Val Sesia in Piedmont, where he was
pursued and besieged by the Church party, and, after various fortunes of victory and
defeat, being reduced by “stress of snow” and famine, was taken prisoner, together with
his companion, the beautiful Margaret of Trent. Both were burned at Vercelli on the 1st
of June, 1307.
341Val Sesia, among whose mountains Fra Dolcino was taken prisoner, is in the diocese
342A Bolognese, who stirred up dissensions among the citizens.
Figure 51: Staying to look in wonder with the others...
If e’er thou see again the lovely plain 343
That from Vercelli slopes to Marcabo,
And make it known to the best two of Fano, 344
To Messer Guido and Angiolello likewise,
That if foreseeing here be not in vain,
Cast over from their vessel shall they be,
And drowned near unto the Cattolica,
By the betrayal of a tyrant fell.
Between the isles of Cyprus and Majorca
Neptune ne’er yet beheld so great a crime
Neither of pirates nor Argolic people.
343The plain of Lombardy sloping down two hundred miles and more, from Vercelli in
Piedmont to Marcabo, a village near Ravenna.
344Guido del Cassero and Angiolello da Cagnano, two honorable citizens of Fano, going
to Rimini by invitation of Malatestino, were by his order thrown into the sea and
drowned, as here prophesied or narrated, near the village of Cattolica on the Adriatic.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
That traitor, who sees only with one eye, 345
And holds the land, which some one here with me 346
Would fain be fasting from the vision of,
Will make them come unto a parley with him;
Then will do so, that to Focara’s wind 347
They will not stand in need of vow or prayer.”
And I to him: “Show to me and declare,
If thou wouldst have me bear up news of thee,
Who is this person of the bitter vision.”
Then did he lay his hand upon the jaw
Of one of his companions, and his mouth
Oped, crying: “This is he, and he speaks not.
This one, being banished, every doubt submerged
In Caesar by affirming the forearmed
Always with detriment allowed delay.”
O how bewildered unto me appeared,
With tongue asunder in his windpipe slit,
Curio, who in speaking was so bold!
And one, who both his hands dissevered had,
The stumps uplifting through the murky air,
So that the blood made horrible his face, 348
Cried out: “Thou shalt remember Mosca also, 349
Who said, alas! ‘A thing done has an end!’
Which was an ill seed for the Tuscan people
“And death unto thy race,” thereto I added;
Whence he, accumulating woe on woe,
Departed, like a person sad and crazed.
But I remained to look upon the crowd;
And saw a thing which I should be afraid,
345Malatestino had lost one eye.
347Focara is a headland near Catolica, famous for dangerous winds, to be preserved
from which mariners offered up vows and prayers. These men will not need to do it;
they will not reach that cape.
348Curio, the banished Tribune, who, fleeing to Caesar’s camp on the Rubicon, urged
him to advance upon Rome.
349Mosca degl’Uberti, or dei Lamberti, who, by advising the murder of Buondelmonte,
gave rise to the parties of Guelf and Ghibelline, which so long divided Florence. See note
in Canto X.
Without some further proof, even to recount,
If it were not that conscience reassures me,
That good companion which emboldens man
Beneath the hauberk of its feeling pure.
I truly saw, and still I seem to see it,
A trunk without a head walk in like manner
As walked the others of the mournful herd.
And by the hair it held the head dissevered,
Hung from the hand in fashion of a lantern,
And that upon us gazed and said: “O me!”
It of itself made to itself a lamp,
And they were two in one, and one in two;
How that can be, He knows who so ordains it.
When it was come close to the bridge’s foot,
It lifted high its arm with all the head,
To bring more closely unto us its words,
Which were: “Behold now the sore penalty,
Thou, who dost breathing go the dead beholding;
Behold if any be as great as this.
And so that thou may carry news of me,
Know that Bertram de Born am I, the same 350
Who gave to the Young King the evil comfort. 351
I made the father and the son rebellious;
350Bertrand de Born, the turbulent Troubadour of the last half of the twelfth century,
was alike skilful with his pen and his sword, and passed his life in alternately singing
and fighting, and in stirring up dissension and strife among his neighbors.
351A vast majority of manuscripts and printed editions read in this line, Re Giovanni,
King John, instead of Re Giovane, the Young King. Even Boccaccio’s copy, which he wrote
out with his own had for Petrarca, has Re Giovanni. Out of seventy-nine Codici examined
by Barlow, he says, Study of the Divina Commedia, p. 153, “Only five were found with
the correct reading – re giovane... The reading re giovane is not found in any of the early
editions, nor is it noticed by any of the early commentators.” See also Ginguen, Hist. Litt.
de l’Italie, II, 486, where the subject is elaborately discussed, and the note of Biagioli, who
takes the opposite side of the question.
Henry II. of England had four sons, all of whom were more or less rebellious against
him. They were, Henry, surnamed Curt-Mantle, and called by the Troubadours and novelists
of his time “The Young King,” because he was crowned during his father’s life;
Richard Coeur-de-Lion, Count of Guienne and Poitou; Geoffroy, Duke of Brittany; and
John Lackland. Henry was the only one of these who bore the title of king at the time in
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Achitophel not more with Absalom
And David did with his accursed goadings.
Because I parted persons so united,
Parted do I now bear my brain, alas!
From its beginning, which is in this trunk.
Thus is observed in me the counterpoise.”
Figure 52: How mutilated, see, is Mahomet...
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 53: And by the hair it held the head dissevered...
THE many people and the divers wounds 352
These eyes of mine had so inebriated,
That they were wishful to stand still and weep;
But said Virgilius: “What dost thou still gaze at?
Why is thy sight still riveted down there
Among the mournful, mutilated shades?
Thou hast not done so at the other Bolge;
Consider, if to count them thou believest,
That two-and-twenty miles the valley winds,
And now the moon is underneath our feet;
Henceforth the time allotted us is brief,
And more is to be seen than what thou seest.”
“If thou hadst,” I made answer thereupon
“Attended to the cause for which I looked,
Perhaps a longer stay thou wouldst have pardoned.”
Meanwhile my Guide departed, and behind him
I went, already making my reply,
And superadding: “In that cavern where
I held mine eyes with such attention fixed,
I think a spirit of my blood laments
The sin which down below there costs so much”
Then said the Master: “Be no longer broken
Thy thought from this time forward upon him;
Attend elsewhere, and there let him remain;
For him I saw below the little bridge,
Pointing at thee, and threatening with his finger
352The Tenth and last “cloister of Malebolge,” where “Justice infallible punishes forgers,”
and falsifiers of all kinds. This Canto is devoted to the alchemists.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Fiercely, and heard him called Geri del Bello. 353
So wholly at that time wast thou impeded
By him who formerly held Altaforte, 354
Thou didst not look that way; so he departed.”
“O my Conductor, his own violent death,
Which is not yet avenged for him,” I said,
“By any who is sharer in the shame,
Made him disdainful; whence he went away,
As I imagine, without speaking to me, 355
And thereby made me pity him the more.” 356
Thus did we speak as far as the first place
Upon the crag, which the next valley shows
Down to the bottom, if there were more light.
When we were now right over the last cloister
Of Malebolge, so that its lay-brothers
Could manifest themselves unto our sight,
Divers lamentings pierced me through and through,
Which with compassion had their arrows barbed,
Whereat mine ears I covered with my hands.
What pain would be, if from the hospitals 357
Of Valdichiana, ’twixt July and September,
And of Maremma and Sardinia
All the diseases in one moat were gathered,
353Geri del Bello was a disreputable member of the Alighieri family, and was murdered
by one of the Sacchetti. His death was afterwards avenged by his brother, who in turn
slew one of the Sacchetti at the door of his house.
354Bertrand de Born.
355Like the ghost of Ajax in the Odyssey, XI. “He answered me not at all, but went to
Erebus amongst the other souls of the dead.”
356Dante seems to share the feeling of the Italian vendetta, which required retaliation
from some member of the injured family. “Among the Italians of this age,” says Napier,
Florentine Hist., I. Ch. VII., “and for centuries after, private offence was never forgotten
until revenged, and generally involved a succession of mutual injuries; vengeance was
not only considered lawful and just, but a positive duty, dishonorable to omit; and, as
may be learned from ancient private journals, it was sometimes allowed to sleep for fiveand-
thirty years, and then suddently struck a victim who perhaps had not yet seen the
light when the original injury was inflicted.”
357The Val di Chiana, near Arezzo, was in Dante’s time marshy and pestilential. Now,
by the effect of drainage, it is one of the most beautiful and fruitful of the Tuscan valleys.
The Maremma was and is notoriously unhealthy; see note in Canto XIII., and Sardinia
would seem to have shared its ill repute.
Such was it here, and such a stench came from it
As from putrescent limbs is wont to issue.
We had descended on the furthest bank
From the long crag, upon the left hand still,
And then more vivid was my power of sight
Down tow’rds the bottom, where the ministress
Of the high Lord, Justice infallible,
Punishes forgers, which she here records. 358
I do not think a sadder sight to see
Was in Aegina the whole people sick, 359
(When was the air so full of pestilence,
The animals, down to the little worm,
All fell, and afterwards the ancient people,
According as the poets have affirmed,
Were from the seed of ants restored again,)
Than was it to behold through that dark valley
The spirits languishing in divers heaps.
This on the belly, that upon the back
One of the other lay, and others crawling
Shifted themselves along the dismal road.
We step by step went onward without speech,
Gazing upon and listening to the sick
Who had not strength enough to lift their bodies.
I saw two sitting leaned against each other,
As leans in heating platter against platter,
From head to foot bespotted o’er with scabs;
And never saw I plied a currycomb
By stable-boy for whom his master waits,
Or him who keeps awake unwillingly,
As every one was plying fast the bite
Of nails upon himself, for the great rage
Of itching which no other succour had.
And the nails downward with them dragged the scab,
In fashion as a knife the scales of bream,
Or any other fish that has them largest.
358Forgers or falsifiers in a general sense.
359The plague of Aegina is described by Ovid, Metamorph. VII.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 54: I saw two sitting leaned against each other...
“O thou, that with thy fingers dost dismail thee,”
Began my Leader unto one of them,
“And makest of them pincers now and then,
Tell me if any Latian is with those 360
Who are herein; so may thy nails suffice thee
To all eternity unto this work.”
“Latians are we, whom thou so wasted seest,
Both of us here,” one weeping made reply;
“But who art thou, that questionest about us?”
And said the Guide: “One am I who descends
Down with this living man from cliff to cliff,
And I intend to show Hell unto him.”
Then broken was their mutual support,
And trembling each one turned himself to me,
With others who had heard him by rebound.
Wholly to me did the good Master gather,
360Latian, or Italian; any one of the Latin race.
Saying: “Say unto them whate’er thou wishest.”
And I began, since he would have it so:
“So may your memory not steal away
In the first world from out the minds of men,
But so may it survive ‘neath many suns,
Say to me who ye are, and of what people;
Let not your foul and loathsome punishment
Make you afraid to show yourselves to me.”
“I of Arezzo was,” one made reply, 361
“And Albert of Siena had me burned;
But what I died for does not bring me here.
’Tis true I said to him, speaking in jest,
That I could rise by flight into the air,
And he who had conceit, but little wit,
Would have me show to him the art; and only
Because no Daedalus I made him, made me 362
Be burned by one who held him as his son.
But unto the last Bolgia of the ten,
For alchemy, which in the world I practised,
Minos, who cannot err, has me condemned.”
And to the Poet said I: “Now was ever
So vain a people as the Sienese? 363
Not for a certainty the French by far.”
Whereat the other leper, who had heard me,
Replied unto my speech: “Taking out Stricca, 364
361The speaker is a certain Griffolino, an alchemist of Arezzo, who practised upon the
credulity of Albert, a natural son of the Bishop of Siena. For this he was burned; but was
“condemned to the last Bolgia of the ten for alchemy.”
362The inventor of the Cretan labyrinth. Ovid, Metamorph. VIII.: – “Great Daedalus of
Athens was the man who made the draught, and formed the wondrous plan.” Not being
able to find his way out of the labyrinth, he made wings for himself and his son Icarus,
and escaped by flight.
363Speaking of the people of Siena, Forsyth, Italy, 532, says: “Vain, flighty, fanciful, they
want the judgment and penetration of their Florentine neighbors; who, nationally severe,
call a nail without a head chiodo Sanese.”
364The persons here mentioned gain a kind of immortality from Dante’s verse. The
Stricca, or Baldastricca, was a lawyer of Siena; and Niccol`o dei Salimbeni, or Bonsignori,
introduced the fashion of stuffing pheasants with cloves, or, as Benvenuto says, of roasting
them at a fire of cloves. Though Dante mentions them apart, they seem, like the two
others named afterwards, to have been members of the Brigata Spendereccia, or Prodigal
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Who knew the art of moderate expenses,
o, who the luxurious use
Of cloves discovered earliest of all
Within that garden where such seed takes root;
And taking out the band, among whom squandered
Caccia d’Ascian his vineyards and vast woods,
And where his wit the Abbagliato proffered!
But, that thou know who thus doth second thee
Against the Sienese, make sharp thine eye
Tow’rds me, so that my face well answer thee,
And thou shalt see I am Capocchio’s shade, 365
Who metals falsified by alchemy;
Thou must remember, if I well descry thee,
How I a skilful ape of nature was.”
Club, of Siena, whose extravagances are recorded by Benvenuto da Imola. This club consisted
of “twelve very rich young gentlemen, who took it into their heads to do things
that would make a great part of the world wonder.” Accordingly each contributed eighteen
thousand golden florins to a common fund, amounting in all to two hundred and
sixteen thousand florins. They built a palace, in which each member had a splendid
chamber, and they gave sumptuous dinners and suppers; ending their banquets sometimes
by throwing all the dishes, table-ornaments, and knives of gold and silver out of
the window. “This silly institution,” continues Benvenuto, “lasted only ten months, the
treasury being exhausted, and the wretched members became the fable and laughingstock
of all the world.” In honor of this club, Folgore da San Geminiano, a clever poet of
the day (1260), wrote a series of twelve convivial sonnets, one for each month of the year,
with Dedication and Conclusion.
365“This Capocchio,” says the Ottimo, “was a very subtle alchemist; and because he was
burned for practising alchemy in Siena, he exhibits his hatred to the Sienese, and gives
us to understand that the author knew him.”
Figure 55: All the diseases in one moat were gathered...
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 56: “Why is thy sight still riveted down there among the mournful,
’TWAS at the time when Juno was enraged, 366
For Semele, against the Theban blood,
As she already more than once had shown,
So reft of reason Arthamas became, 367
That, seeing his own wife with children twain
Walking encumbered upon either hand,
He cried: “Spread out the nets, that I may take
The lioness and her whelps upon the passage;”
And then extended his unpitying claws,
Seizing the first, who had the name Learchus,
And whirled him round, and dashed him on a rock;
And she, with the other burthen, drowned herself; –
And at the time when fortune downward hurled
The Trojan’s arrogance, that all things dared,
So that the king was with his kingdom crushed,
Hecuba sad, disconsolate, and captive, 368
When lifeless she beheld Polyxena,
And of her Polydorus on the shore
Of ocean was the dolorous one aware,
Out of her senses like a dog she barked,
So much the anguish had her mind distorted;
But not of Thebes the furies nor the Trojan
Were ever seen in any one so cruel
In goading beasts, and much more human members,
As I beheld two shadows pale and naked,
366In this Canto the same Bolgia is continued, with different kinds of Falsifiers.
367Athamas, king of Thebes and husband of Ino, daughter of Cadmus.
368Hecuba, wife of Priam of Troy, and mother of Polyxena and Polydorus.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 57: As I beheld two shadows pale and naked...
Who, biting, in the manner ran along
That a boar does, when from the sty turned loose.
One to Capocchio came, and by the nape
Seized with its teeth his neck, so that in dragging
It made his belly grate the solid bottom.
And the Aretine, who trembling had remained, 369
Said to me: “That mad sprite is Gianni Schicchi,
And raving goes thus harrying other people.”
“O,” said I to him, “so may not the other
Set teeth on thee, let it not weary thee
To tell us who it is, ere it dart hence.”
And he to me: “That is the ancient ghost
Of the nefarious Myrrha, who became
Beyond all rightful love her father’s lover.
She came to sin with him after this manner,
369Griffolino d’Arezzo, mentioned in Canto XXIX.
By counterfeiting of another’s form;
As he who goeth yonder undertook, 370
That he might gain the lady of the herd,
To counterfeit in himself Buoso Donati,
Making a will and giving it due form.”
And after the two maniacs had passed
On whom I held mine eye, I turned it back
To look upon the other evil-born.
I saw one made in fashion of a lute,
If he had only had the groin cut off
Just at the point at which a man is forked.
The heavy dropsy, that so disproportions
The limbs with humours, which it ill concocts,
That the face corresponds not to the belly,
Compelled him so to hold his lips apart
As does the hectic, who because of thirst
One tow’rds the chin, the other upward turns.
“O ye, who without any torment are,
And why I know not, in the world of woe,”
He said to us, “behold, and be attentive
Unto the misery of Master Adam; 371
I had while living much of what I wished,
And now, alas! a drop of water crave.
The rivulets, that from the verdant hills
370The same “mad sprite,” Gianni Schicchi, mentioned above. “Buoso Donati of Florence,”
says Benvenuto, “although a nobleman and of an illustrious house, was nevertheless
like other noblemen of his time, and by means of thefts had greatly increased his
patrimony. When the hour of death drew near, the sting of conscience caused him to
make a will in which he gave fat legacies to many people; whereupon his son Simon,
(the Ottimo says his nephew,) thinking himself enormously aggrieved, suborned Vanni
Schicchi dei Cavalcanti, who got into Buoso’s bed, and made a will in opposition to the
other. Gianni much resembled Buoso.” In this will Gianni Schicchi did not forget himself,
while making Simon heir; for, according to the Ottimo, he put this clause into it: “To
Gianni Schicchi I bequeath my mare.” This was the “lady of the herd,” and Benvenuto
adds, “none more beautiful was to be found in Tuscany; and it was valued at a thousand
371Messer Adamo, a false-coiner of Brescia, who at the instigation of the Counts Guido,
Alessandro, and Aghinolfo of Romena, counterfeited the golden florin of Florence, which
bore on one side a lily, and on the other the figure of John the Baptist.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Of Cassentin descend down into Arno, 372
Making their channels to be cold and moist,
Ever before me stand, and not in vain;
For far more doth their image dry me up
Than the disease which strips my face of flesh.
The rigid justice that chastises me
Draweth occasion from the place in which
I sinned, to put the more my sighs in flight.
There is Romena, where I counterfeited
The currency imprinted with the Baptist,
For which I left my body burned above.
But if I here could see the tristful soul
Of Guido, or Alessandro, or their brother,
For Branda’s fount I would Dot give the sight.
One is within already, if the raving
Shades that are going round about speak truth;
But what avails it me, whose limbs are tied?
If I were only still so light, that in
A hundred years I could advance one inch,
I had already started on the way,
Seeking him out among this squalid folk,
Although the circuit be eleven miles, 373
And be not less than half a mile across.
For them am I in such a family;
They did induce me into coining florins,
Which had three carats of impurity.”
And I to him: “Who are the two poor wretches
That smoke like unto a wet hand in winter,
Lying there close upon thy right-hand confines?”
372The upper valley of the Arno is in the province of Cassentino.
Quoting these three lines, Amp`
ere, Voyage Dantesque, 246, says: “In these untranslatable
verses, there is a feeling of humid freshness, which almost makes one shudder. I owe it
to truth to say, that the Cassentine was a great deal less fresh and less verdant in reality
than in the poetry of Dante, and that in the midst of the aridity which surrounded me,
this poetry, by its very perfection, made one feel something of the punishment of Master
373This line and line II of Canto XXIX. are cited by Gabrielle Rossetti in confirmation of
his theory of the “Principal Allegory of the Inferno,” that the city of Dis is Rome.
“I found them here,” replied he, “when I rained
Into this chasm, and since they have not turned,
Nor do I think they will for evermore.
One the false woman is who accused Joseph, 374
The other the false Sinon, Greek of Troy; 375
From acute fever they send forth such reek.”
And one of them, who felt himself annoyed
At being, peradventure, named so darkly,
Smote with the fist upon his hardened paunch.
It gave a sound, as if it were a drum; 376
And Master Adam smote him in the face,
With arm that did not seem to be less hard,
Saying to him: “Although be taken from me
All motion, for my limbs that heavy are,
I have an arm unfettered for such need.”
Whereat he answer made: “When thou didst go
Unto the fire, thou hadst it not so ready:
But hadst it so and more when thou wast coining.”
The dropsical: “Thou sayest true in that;
But thou wast not so true a witness there,
Where thou wast questioned of the truth at Troy.”
“If I spake false, thou falsifiedst the coin,”
Said Sinon; “and for one fault I am here,
And thou for more than any other demon.”
“Remember, perjurer, about the horse,”
He made reply who had the swollen belly,
“And rueful be it thee the whole world knows it.”
“Rueful to thee the thirst be wherewith cracks
Thy tongue,” the Greek said, “and the putrid water
That hedges so thy paunch before thine eyes.”
Then the false-coiner: “So is gaping wide
Thy mouth for speaking evil, as ’tis wont;
375Virgil’s “perjured Sinon,” the Greek who persuaded the Trojans to accept the wooden
horse, telling them it was meant to protect the city, in lieu of the statue of Pallas, stolen
by Diomed and Ulysses.
376The disease of tympanites is so called “because the abdomen is distended with wind,
and sounds like a drum when struck.”
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Because if I have thirst, and humour stuff me
Thou hast the burning and the head that aches,
And to lick up the mirror of Narcissus 377
Thou wouldst not want words many to invite thee.”
In listening to them was I wholly fixed,
When said the Master to me: “Now just look,
For little wants it that I quarrel with thee.”
When him I heard in anger speak to me,
I turned me round towards him with such shame
That still it eddies through my memory.
And as he is who dreams of his own harm,
Who dreaming wishes it may be a dream,
So that he craves what is, as if it were not;
Such I became, not having power to speak,
For to excuse myself I wished, and still
Excused myself, and did not think I did it.
“Less shame doth wash away a greater fault,”
The Master said, “than this of thine has been;
Therefore thyself disburden of all sadness,
And make account that I am aye beside thee,
If e’er it come to pass that fortune bring thee
Where there are people in a like dispute;
For a base wish it is to wish to hear it.”
377Ovid, Metamorph. III.: – “A fountain in a darksome wood, nor stained with falling
leaves nor rising mud.”
Figure 58: “That is the ancient ghost of the nefarious Myrrha...”
ONE and the selfsame tongue first wounded me, 378
So that it tinged the one cheek and the other,
And then held out to me the medicine;
Thus do I hear that once Achilles’ spear,
His and his father’s, used to be the cause
First of a sad and then a gracious boon.
We turned our backs upon the wretched valley,
Upon the bank that girds it round about,
Going across it without any speech.
There it was less than night, and less than day,
So that my sight went little in advance;
But I could hear the blare of a loud horn,
So loud it would have made each thunder faint,
Which, counter to it following its way,
Mine eyes directed wholly to one place.
After the dolorous discomfiture 379
When Charlemagne the holy emprise lost,
So terribly Orlando sounded not.
Short while my head turned thitherward I held
When many lofty towers I seemed to see,
Whereat I: “Master, say, what town is this?”
And he to me: “Because thou peerest forth
Athwart the darkness at too great a distance,
It happens that thou errest in thy fancy.
378This Canto describes the Plain of the Giants, between Malebolge and the mouth of
the Infernal Pit.
379The battle of Roncesvalles, “When Charlemagne with all his peerage fell by Fontarabia.”
Well shalt thou see, if thou arrivest there,
How much the sense deceives itself by distance;
Therefore a little faster spur thee on.”
Then tenderly he took me by the hand,
And said: “Before we farther have advanced,
That the reality may seem to thee
Less strange, know that these are not towers, but giants,
And they are in the well, around the bank,
From navel downward, one and all of them.”
As, when the fog is vanishing away,
Little by little doth the sight refigure
Whate’er the mist that crowds the air conceals,
So, piercing through the dense and darksome air,
More and more near approaching tow’rd the verge,
My error fled, and fear came over me;
Because as on its circular parapets
Montereggione crowns itself with towers, 380
E’en thus the margin which surrounds the well
With one half of their bodies turreted
The horrible giants, whom Jove menaces
E’en now from out the heavens when he thunders.
And I of one already saw the face,
Shoulders, and breast, and great part of the belly,
And down along his sides both of the arms.
Certainly Nature, when she left the making
Of animals like these, did well indeed,
By taking such executors from Mars;
And if of elephants and whales she doth not
Repent her, whosoever looketh subtly
More just and more discreet will hold her for it;
For where the argument of intellect
Is added unto evil will and power,
No rampart can the people make against it.
380Montereggione is a picturesque old castle on an eminence near Siena. Amp`ere, Vogage
Dantesque, 251, remarks: “This fortress, as the commentators say, was furnished with
towers all round about, and had none in the centre. In its present state it is still very faithfully
described by the verse, ‘Montereggion de torri si corona.’ ”
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
His face appeared to me as long and large
As is at Rome the pine-cone of Saint Peter’s, 381
And in proportion were the other bones;
So that the margin, which an apron was
Down from the middle, showed so much of him
Above it, that to reach up to his hair
Three Frieslanders in vain had vaunted them;
For I beheld thirty great palms of him
Down from the place where man his mantle buckles.
“Raphael mai amech izabi almi,” 382
Began to clamour the ferocious mouth,
To which were not befitting sweeter psalms.
And unto him my Guide: “Soul idiotic,
Keep to thy horn, and vent thyself with that,
When wrath or other passion touches thee.
Search round thy neck, and thou wilt find the belt
Which keeps it fastened, O bewildered soul
And see it, where it bars thy mighty breast.”
Then said to me: “He doth himself accuse;
This one is Nimrod, by whose evil thought 383
One language in the world is not still used.
Here let us leave him and not speak in vain;
For even such to him is every language
As his to others, which to none is known.”
Therefore a longer journey did we make,
Turned to the left, and a crossbow-shot oft
We found another far more fierce and large.
381This pine-cone of bronze, which is now in the gardens of the Vatican, was found in
the mausoleum of Hadrian, and is supposed to have crowned its summit.
Amp`ere, Voyage Dantesque, 277, remarks: “Here Dante takes as a point of comparison an
object of determinate size; the pigna is eleven feet high, the giant then must be seventy
(21 meters); it performs, in the description, the office of those figures which are placed
near monuments to render it easier for the eye to measure their height.”
382“The gaping monotony of this jargon”, says Leigh Hunt, “full of the vowel a, is admirably
suited to the mouth of the vast half-stupid speaker. It is like a babble of the
gigantic infancy of the world.”
383Nimrod, the “mighty hunter before the Lord”, who built the tower of Babel, which,
according to the Italian popular tradition, was so high that whoever mounted to the top
of it could hear the angels sing.
Figure 59: “This proud one wished to make experiment of his own
In binding him, who might the master be
I cannot say; but he had pinioned close
Behind the right arm, and in front the other,
With chains, that held him so begirt about
From the neck down, that on the part uncovered
It wound itself as far as the fifth gyre go.
“This proud one wished to make experiment
Of his own power against the Supreme Jove,”
My Leader said, “whence he has such a guerdon.
Ephialtes is his name; he showed great prowess.
What time the giants terrified the gods;
The arms he wielded never more he moves.”
And I to him: “If possible, I should wish
That of the measureless Briareus 384
384The giant with a hundred hands. Aeneid, X.: “Aegaeon, who, they say, had a hundred
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
These eyes of mine might have experience.”
Whence he replied: “Thou shalt behold Antaeus
Close by here, who can speak and is unbound, 385
Who at the bottom of all crime shall place us.
Much farther yon is he whom thou wouldst see,
And he is bound, and fashioned like to this one,
Save that he seems in aspect more ferocious.”
There never was an earthquake of such might
That it could shake a tower so violently,
As Ephialtes suddenly shook himself
Then was I more afraid of death than ever,
For nothing more was needful than the fear,
If I had not beheld the manacles.
Then we proceeded farther in advance,
And to Antaeus came, who, full five ells
Without the head, forth issued from the cavern.
“O thou, who in the valley fortunate, 386
Which Scipio the heir of glory made,
When Hannibal turned back with all his hosts,
Once brought’st a thousand lions for thy prey,
And who, hadst thou been at the mighty war
Among thy brothers, some it seems still think
The sons of Earth the victory would have gained:
Place us below, nor be disdainful of it,
There where the cold doth lock Cocytus up.
Make us not go to Tityus nor Typhoeus; 387
arms and a hundred hands, and flashed fire from fifty mouths and breasts; when against
the thunder-bolts of Jove he on so many equal bucklers clashed; unsheathed so many
swords.” He is supposed to have been a famous pirate, and the fable of the hundred
hands arose from the hundred sailors that manned his ship.
385The giant Antaeus is here unbound, because he had not been at “the mighty war”
against the gods.
386The valley of the Bagrada, one of whose branches flows by Zama, the scene of Scipo’s
great victory over Hannibal, by which he gained his greatest renown and his title of
Africanus. Among the neighboring hills, according to Lucan, Pharsalia, IV., the giant
Antaeus had his cave.
387Aeneid, VI.: “Here too you might have seen Tityus, the foster-child of all-bearing
earth, whose body is extended over nine whole acres; and a huge vulture, with her
hooked beak, pecking at his immortal liver.” Also Odyssey, XI., in similar words.
This one can give of that which here is longed for;
Therefore stoop down, and do not curl thy lip.
Still in the world can he restore thy fame;
Because he lives, and still expects long life,
If to itself Grace call him not untimely.”
So said the Master; and in haste the other
His hands extended and took up my Guide, –
Hands whose great pressure Hercules once felt.
Virgilius, when he felt himself embraced,
Said unto me: “Draw nigh, that I may take thee;”
Then of himself and me one bundle made.
As seems the Carisenda, to behold 388
Beneath the leaning side, when goes a cloud
Above it so that opposite it hangs;
Such did Antaeus seem to me, who stood
Watching to see him stoop, and then it was
I could have wished to go some other way.
But lightly in the abyss, which swallows up
Judas with Lucifer, he put us down;
Nor thus bowed downward made he there delay,
But, as a mast does in a ship, uprose.
Typhoeus was a giant with a hundred heads, like a dragon’s, who made war upon the
gods as soon as he was born. He was the father of Geryon and Cerberus.
388One of the leaning towers of Bologna.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 60: “This one is Nimrod, by whose evil thought one language in
the world is not still used.”
Figure 61: But lightly in the abyss, which swallows up Judas with Lucifer,
he put us down; ...
IF I had rhymes both rough and stridulous, 389
As were appropriate to the dismal hole
Down upon which thrust all the other rocks, 390
I would press out the juice of my conception
More fully; but because I have them not,
Not without fear I bring myself to speak;
For ’tis no enterprise to take in jest,
To sketch the bottom of all the universe,
Nor for a tongue that cries Mamma and Babbo. 391
But may those Ladies help this verse of mine,
Who helped Amphion in enclosing Thebes, 392
That from the fact the word be not diverse.
O rabble ill-begotten above all,
Who’re in the place to speak of which is hard,
’Twere better ye had here been sheep or goats!
When we were down within the darksome well,
Beneath the giant’s feet, but lower far,
And I was scanning still the lofty wall,
Heard it said to me: “Look how thou steppest,
Take heed thou do not trample with thy feet
The heads of the tired, miserable brothers!”
389In this Canto begins the Ninth and last Circle of the Inferno, where Traitors are punished.
“Hence in the smallest circle, at the point of all the Universe, where Dis is seated,
whoe’er betrays forever is consumed.”
390The word thrust is here used in its architectural sense, as the thrust of a bridge against
its abutments, and the like.
391Still using the babble of childhood.
392The Muses; the poetic tradition being that Amphion built the walls of Thebes by
the sound of his lyre; and the prosaic interpretation, that he did it by his persuasive
Whereat I turned me round, and saw before me
And underfoot a lake, that from the frost
The semblance had of glass, and not of water.
So thick a veil ne’er made upon its current
In winter-time Danube in Austria,
Nor there beneath the frigid sky the Don,
As there was here; so that if Tambernich 393
Had fallen upon it, or Pietrapana,
E’en at the edge ’twould not have given a creak.
And as to croak the frog doth place himself
With muzzle out of water, – when is dreaming
Of gleaning oftentimes the peasant-girl, –
Livid, as far down as where shame appears,
Were the disconsolate shades within the ice,
Setting their teeth unto the note of storks.
Each one his countenance held downward bent:
From mouth the cold, from eyes the doeful heart
Among them witness of itself procures.
When round about me somewhat I had looked,
I downward turned me, and saw two so close,
The hair upon their heads together mingled.
“Ye who so strain your breasts together, tell me,”
I said.”who are you; “and they bent their necks,
And when to me their faces they had lifted,
Their eyes, which first were only moist within,
Gushed o’er the eyelids, and the frost congealed
The tears between, and locked them up again.
Clamp never bound together wood with wood
So strongly; whereat they, like two he-goats,
Butted together, so much wrath o’ercame them.
And one, who had by reason of the cold
Lost both his ears, still with his visage downward,
Said: “Why dost thou so mirror thyself in us?
If thou desire to know who these two are, 394
393Tambernich is a mountain of Sclavonia, and Pietrapana another near Lucca.
394These two “miserable brothers” are Alessandro and Napoleone, sons of Alberto degli
Alberti, lord of Falterona in the valley of the Bisenzio. After their father’s death they
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 62: Were the disconsolate shades within the ice...
The valley whence Bisenzio descends
Belonged to them and to their father Albert.
They from one body came, and all Caina 395
Thou shalt search through, and shalt not find a shade
More worthy to be fixed in gelatine;
Not he in whom were broken breast and shadow
At one and the same blow by Arthur’s hand; 396
Focaccia not; not he who me encumbers 397
So with his head I see no farther forward,
And bore the name of Sassol Mascheroni; 398
quarrelled, and one treacherously slew the other.
395Caina is the first of the four divisions of this Circle, and takes its name from the first
396Sir Mordred, son of King Arthur.
397Focaccia was one of the Cancellieri Bianchi, of Pistoia, and was engaged in the affair
of cutting off the hand of his half-brother. See note in Canto VI. He is said also to have
killed his uncle.
398Sassol Mascheroni, according to Benvenuto, was one of the Toschi family of Florence.
Well knowest thou who he was, if thou art Tuscan.
And that thou put me not to further speech,
Know that I Camicion de’ Pazzi was, 399
And wait Carlino to exonerate me.”
Then I beheld a thousand faces, made
Purple with cold; whence o’er me comes a shudder,
And evermore will come, at frozen ponds.
And while we were advancing tow’rds the middle,
Where everything of weight unites together,
And I was shivering in the eternal shade,
Whether ’twere will, or destiny, or chance,
I know not; but in walking ‘mong the heads
I struck my foot hard in the face of one.
Weeping he growled: “Why dost thou trample me?
Unless thou comest to increase the vengeance
of Montaperti, why dost thou molest me?” 400
And I: “My Master, now wait here for me,
That I through him may issue from a doubt;
Then thou mayst hurry me, as thou shalt wish.”
The Leader stopped; and to that one I said
Who was blaspheming vehemently still:
“Who art thou, that thus reprehendest others?”
“Now who art thou, that goest through Antenora 401
Smiting,” replied he, “other people’s cheeks,
So that, if thou were living, ’twere too much?”
He murdered his nephew in order to get possession of his property; for which crime he
was carried through the streets of Florence nailed up in a cask, and then beheaded.
399Camicion de’ Pazzi of Valdarno, who murdered his kinsman Ubertino. But his crime
will seem small and excusable when compared with that of another kinsman, Carlino
de’ Pazzi, who treacherously surrendered the castle of Piano in Valdarno, wherein many
Florentine exiles were taken and put to death.
400The speaker is Bocca degli Abati, whose treason caused the defeat of the Guelfs at
the famous battle of Montaperti in 1260. See note in Canto X. “Messer Bocca degli Abati,
the traitor,” says Malispini, Storia, Ch. 171, “with his sword in hand, smote and cut off
the hand of Messer Jacopo de’ Pazzi of Florence, who bore the standard of the cavalry of
the Commune of Florence. And the knights and the people, seeing the standard down,
and the treachery, were put to rout.”
401The second division of the Circle, called Antenora, from Antenor, the Trojan prince,
who betrayed his country by keeping up a secret correspondence with the Greeks. Virgil,
Aeneid, I. 242, makes him founder of Padua.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 63: Then by the scalp behind I seized upon him...
“Living I am, and dear to thee it may be,”
Was my response, “if thou demandest fame,
That ‘mid the other notes thy name I place.”
And he to me: “For the reverse I long;
Take thyself hence, and give me no more trouble;
For ill thou knowest to flatter in this hollow.”
Then by the scalp behind I seized upon him,
And said: “It must needs be thou name thyself,
Or not a hair remain upon thee here.”
Whence he to me: “Though thou strip off my hair,
I will not tell thee who I am, nor show thee,
If on my head a thousand times thou fall.”
I had his hair in hand already twisted,
And more than one shock of it had pulled out,
He barking, with his eyes held firmly down,
When cried another: “What doth ail thee, Bocca?
Is’t not enough to clatter with thy jaws,
But thou must bark? what devil touches thee?”
“Now,” said I, “I care not to have thee speak,
Accursed traitor; for unto thy shame
I will report of thee veracious news.”
“Begone,” replied he, “and tell what thou wilt,
But be not silent, if thou issue hence,
Of him who had just now his tongue so prompt;
He weepeth here the silver of the French;
‘I saw,’ thus canst thou phrase it, ‘him of Duera 402
There where the sinners stand out in the cold.’ 403
If thou shouldst questioned be who else was there,
Thou hast beside thee him of Beccaria, 404
Of whom the gorget Florence slit asunder;
Gianni del Soldanier, I think, may be 405
Yonder with Ganellon, and Tebaldello 406
Who oped Faenza when the people slep
Already we had gone away from him,
When I beheld two frozen in one hole,
So that one head a hood was to the other;
And even as bread through hunger is devoured,
The uppermost on the other set his teeth,
There where the brain is to the nape united.
Not in another fashion Tydeus gnawed 407
The temples of Menalippus in disdain,
Than that one did the skull and the other things.
402Buoso da Duera of Cremona, being bribed, suffered the French cavalry under Guido
da Monforte to pass through Lombardy on their way to Apulia, without opposing them
as he had been commanded.
403There is a double meaning in the Italian expression sta fresco, which is well rendered
by the vulgarism, left out in the cold, so familiar in American politics.
404Beccaria of Pavia, Abbot of Vallombrosa, and Papal Legate at Florence, where he was
beheaded in 1258 for plotting against the Guelfs.
405Gianni de’ Soldanieri, of Florence, a Ghibelline, who betrayed his party.
406The traitor Ganellon, or Ganalon, who betrayed the Christian cause at Roncesvalles,
persuading Charlemagne not to go to the assistance of Orlando. See note in Canto XXXI.
Tebaldello de’ Manfredi treacherously opened the gates of Faenza to the French in the
407Tydeus, son of the king of Calydon, slew Menalippus at the siege of Thebes and was
himself mortally wounded.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 64: When I beheld two frozen in one hole...
“O thou, who showest by such bestial sign
Thy hatred against him whom thou art eating,
Tell me the wherefore,” said I, “with this compact,
That if thou rightfully of him complain,
In knowing who ye are, and his transgression,
I in the world above repay thee for it,
If that wherewith I speak be not dried up.”
HIS mouth uplifted from his grim repast, 408
That sinner, wiping it upon the hair
Of the same head that he behind had wasted
Then he began: “Thou wilt that I renew
The desperate grief, which wrings my heart already
To think of only, ere I speak of it;
But if my words be seed that may bear fruit
Of infamy to the traitor whom I gnaw,
Speaking and weeping shalt thou see together.
I know not who thou art, nor by what mode
Thou hast come down here; but a Florentine
Thou seemest to me truly, when I hear thee.
Thou hast to know I was Count Ugolino, 409
408In this Canto the subject of the preceding is continued.
409Count Ugolino della Ghererardesca was Podest`a of Pisa. “Raised to the highest offices
of the republic for ten years,” says Napier, Florentine History, I. 318, “he would soon
have become absolute, had not his own nephew, Nino Visconte, Judge of Gallura, contested
this supremacy and forced himself into conjoint and equal authority; this could
not continue, and a sort of compromise was for the moment effected, by which Visconte
retired to the absolute government of Sardinia. But Ugolino, still dissatisfied, sent his
son to disturb the island; a deadly feud was the consequence, Guelph against Guelph,
while the latent spirit of Ghibellinism, which filled the breasts of the citizens and was
encouraged by priest and friar, felt its advantage; the Archbishop Ruggiero Rubaldino
was its real head, but he worked with hidden caution as the apparent friend of either
chieftain. In 1287, after some sharp contests, both of them abdicated, for the sake, as it
was alleged, of public tranquillity; but, soon perceiving their error, again united, and,
scouring the streets with all their followers, forcibly re-established their authority. Ruggieri
seemed to assent quietly to this new outrage, even looked without emotion on the
bloody corpse of his favorite nephew, who had been stabbed by Ugolino; and so deep
was his dissimulation, that he not only refused to believe the murdered body to be his
kinsman’s, but zealously assisted the Count to establish himself alone in the government,
and accomplish Visconte’s ruin.”
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
And this one was Ruggieri the Archbishop;
Now I will tell thee why I am such a neighbour.
That, by effect of his malicious thoughts
Trusting in him I was made prisoner,
And after put to death, I need not say;
But ne’ertheless what thou canst not have heard,
That is to say, how cruel was my death,
Hear shalt thou, and shalt know if he has wronged me.
A narrow perforation in the mew, 410
Which bears because of me the title of Famine,
And in which others still must be locked up,
Had shown me through its opening many moons
Already, when I dreamed the evil dream
Which of the future rent for me the veil.
This one appeared to me as lord and master,
Hunting the wolf and whelps upon the mountain
For which the Pisans cannot Lucca see. 411
With sleuth-hounds gaunt, and eager, and well trained, 412
Gualandi with Sismondi and Lanfianchi
He had sent out before him to the front.
After brief course seemed unto me forespent
The father and the sons, and with sharp tushes
It seemed to me I saw their flanks ripped open.
When I before the morrow was awake,
Moaning amid their sleep I heard my sons
Who with me were, and asking after bread.
Cruel indeed art thou, if yet thou grieve not,
Thinking of what my heart foreboded me,
And weep’st thou not, what art thou wont to weep at?
They were awake now, and the hour drew nigh
At which our food used to be brought to us,
410“The remains of this tower,” says Napier, Florentine History, I. 319, note, “still exist
in the Piazza de’ Cavalieri, on the right of the archway as the spectator looks toward the
clock.” According to Buti it was called the Mew, “because the eagles of the Commune
were kept there to moult.”
411Monte San Giuliano, between Pisa and Lucca.
412The hounds are the Pisan mob; the hunters, the Pisan noblemen here mentioned; the
wolf and whelps, Ugolino and his sons.
And through his dream was each one apprehensive;
And I heard locking up the under door 413
Of the horrible tower; whereat without a word
I gazed into the faces of my sons.
I wept not, I within so turned to stone;
They wept; and darling little Anselm mine
Said: ‘Thou dost gaze so, father, what doth ail thee?’
Still not a tear I shed, nor answer made
All of that day, nor yet the night thereafter,
Until another sun rose on the world.
As now a little glimmer made its way
Into the dolorous prison, and I saw
Upon four faces my own very aspect,
Both of my hands in agony I bit,
And, thinking that I did it from desire
Of eating, on a sudden they uprose,
And said they: ‘Father, much less pain ’twill give us
If thou do eat of us; thyself didst clothe us
With this poor flesh, and do thou strip it off.’
I calmed me then, not to make them more sad.
That day we all were silent, and the next.
Ah! obdurate earth, wherefore didst thou not open
When we had come unto the fourth day, Gaddo
Threw himself down outstretched before my feet,
Saying, ‘My father, why dost thou not help me?’
And there he died; and, as thou seest me,
I saw the three fall, one by one, between
The fifth day and the sixth; whence I betook me,
Already blind, to groping over each,
And three days called them after they were dead;
Then hunger did what sorrow could not do.”
413It is a question whether in this line chiavar is to be rendered nailed up or locked. Villani
and Benvenuto say the tower was locked, and the keys thrown into the Arno; and I
believe most of the commentators interpret the line in this way. But the locking of a
prison door, which must have been a daily occurrence, could hardly have caused the
dismay here portrayed, unless it can be shown that the lower door of the tower was
usually left unlocked.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 65: “As now a little glimmer made its way...”
When he had said this, with his eyes distorted,
The wretched skull resumed he with his teeth,
Which, as a dog’s, upon the bone were strong.
Ah! Pisa, thou opprobrium of the people
Of the fair land there where the Si doth sound, 414
Since slow to punish thee thy neighbours are,
Let the Capraia and Gorgona move, 415
And make a hedge across the mouth of Arno
414Italy; it being an old custom to call countries by the affirmative particle of the language.
415Capraia and Gorgona are two islands opposite the mouth of the Arno. Amp`ere,
Voyage Dantesque, 217, remarks: “This imagination may appear grotesque and forced if
one looks at the map, for the isle of Gorgona is at some distance from the mouth of
the Arno, and I had always thought so, until the day when, having ascended the tower
of Pisa, I was struck with the aspect which the Gorgona presented from that point. It
seemed to shut up the Arno. I then understood how Dante might naturally have had this
idea, which had seemed strange to me, and his imagination was justified in my eyes. He
had not seen the Gorgona from the Leaning Tower, which did not exist in his time, but
from some one of the numerous towers which protected the ramparts of Pisa. This fact
Figure 66: “Threw himself down outstretched before my feet...”
That every person in thee it may drown!
For if Count Ugolino had the fame
Of having in thy castles thee betrayed, 416
Thou shouldst not on such cross have put his sons. 417
Guiltless of any crime, thou modern Thebes!
Their youth made Uguccione and Brigata,
alone would be sufficient to show what an excellent interpretation of a poet travelling is.”
416Napier, Florentine History, I. 313: “He without hesitation surrendered Santa Maria a
Monte Fuccechio, Santa Croce, and Monte Calvole to Florence; exiled the most zealous
Ghibellines from Pisa, and reduced it to a purely Guelphic republic; he was accused
of treachery, and certainly his own objects were admirably forwarded by the continued
captivity of so many of his countrymen, by the banishment of the adverse fraction, and
by the friendship and support of Florence.”
417Thebes was renowned for its misfortunes and grim tragedies, from the days of the
sowing of the dragon’s teeth by Cadmus, down to the destruction of the city by Alexander,
who commanded it to be utterly demolished, excepting only the house in which the
poet Pindar was born. Moreover, the tradition runs that Pisa was founded by Pelops, son
of King Tantalus of Thebes, although it derived its name from “the Olympic Pisa on the
banks of the Alpheus.”
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 67: “I saw the three fall, one by one...”
And the other two my song doth name above!
We passed still farther onward, where the ice
Another people ruggedly enswathes,
Not downward turned, but all of them reversed.
Weeping itself there does not let them weep,
And grief that finds a barrier in the eyes
Turns itself inward to increase the anguish;
Because the earliest tears a cluster form,
And, in the manner of a crystal visor,
Fill all the cup beneath the eyebrow full.
And notwithstanding that, as in a callus,
Because of cold all sensibility
Its station had abandoned in my face,
Still it appeared to me I felt some wind;
Whence I: “My Master, who sets this in motion?
Is not below here every vapour quenched?” 418
Whence he to me: “Full soon shalt thou be where
Thine eye shall answer make to thee of this,
Seeing the cause which raineth down the blast.”
And one of the wretches of the frozen crust
Cried out to us: “O souls so merciless
That the last post is given unto you,
Lift from mine eyes the rigid veils, that I
May vent the sorrow which impregns my heart
A little, e’er the weeping recongeal.”
Whence I to him: “If thou wouldst have me help thee
Say who thou wast; and if I free thee not,
May I go to the bottom of the ice.”
Then he replied: “I am Friar Alberigo; 419
He am I of the fruit of the bad garden,
Who here a date am getting for my fig.” 420
“O,” said I to him, “now art thou, too, dead?”
And he to me: “How may my body fare
Up in the world, no knowledge I possess.
Such an advantage has this Ptolomaea, 421
418[JN] – In those times, people used to believe that wind is caused by swamp vapours,
thus this seemingly strange remark.
419Friar Alberigo, of the family of the Manfredi, Lords of Faenza, was one of the Frati
Gaudenti, or Jovial Friars, mentioned in Canto XXIII. The account which the Ottimo gives
of his treason is as follows: “Having made peace with certain hostile fellow-citizens, he
betrayed them in this wise. One evening he invited them to supper, and had armed retainers
in the chambers round the supper-room. It was in summer-time, and he gave
orders to his servants that, when after the meats he should order the fruit, the chambers
should be opened, and the armed men should come forth and should murder all the
guests. And so it was done. And he did the like the year before at Castello delle Mura
at Pistoia. These are the fruits of the Garden of Treason, of which he speaks.” Benvenuto
says that his guests were his brother Manfred and his (Manfred’s) son. Other commentators
say they were certain members of the Order of Frati Gaudenti. In 1300, the date of
the poem, Alberigo was still living.
420A Rowland for an Oliver.
421This division of Cocytus, the Lake of Lamentation, is called Ptolomaea from Ptolomeus,
1 Maccabees xvi. 11, where “the captain of Jericho inviteth Simon and two of his
sons into his castle, and there treacherously murdereth them”; for “when simon and his
sons had drunk largely, Ptolomee and his men rose up, and took their weapons, and came
upon Simon into the banqueting-place, and slew him, and his two sons, and certain of
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
That oftentimes the soul descendeth here
Sooner than Atropos in motion sets it. 422
And, that thou mayest more willingly remove
From off my countenance these glassy tears,
Know that as soon as any soul betrays
As I have done, his body by a demon
Is taken from him, who thereafter rules it,
Until his time has wholly been revolved.
Itself down rushes into such a cistern;
And still perchance above appears the body
Of yonder shade, that winters here behind me.
This thou shouldst know, if thou hast just come down;
It is Ser Branca d’ Oria, and many years 423
Have passed away since he was thus locked up.”
“I think,” said I to him, “thou dost deceive me;
For Branca d’ Oria is not dead as yet,
And eats, and drinks, and sleeps, and puts on clothes.”
“In moat above,” said he, “of Malebranche,
There where is boiling the tenacious pitch,
As yet had Michel Zanche not arrived,
When this one left a devil in his stead
In his own body and one near of kin,
Who made together with him the betrayal.
But hitherward stretch out thy hand forthwith,
Open mine eyes;” – and open them I did not,
And to be rude to him was courtesy.
Ah, Genoese! ye men at variance 424
With every virtue, full of every vice
Wherefore are ye not scattered from the world
Or perhaps from Ptolemy, who murdered Pompey after the battle of Pharsalia.
422Of the three Fates, Clotho held the distaff, Lachesis spun the thread, and Atropos cut
423Ser Branco d’Oria was a Genoese, and a member of the celebrated Doria family of
that city. Nevertheless he murdered at table his father-in-law, Michel Zanche, who is
mentioned Canto XXII.
424This vituperation of the Genoese reminds one of the bitter Tuscan proverb against
them: “Sea without fish; mountains without trees; men without faith; and women without
For with the vilest spirit of Romagna 425
I found of you one such, who for his deeds
In soul already in Cocytus bathes,
And still above in body seems alive!
“VEXILLA Regis prodeunt Inferni 426
Towards us; therefore look in front of thee,”
My Master said,“if thou discernest him.”
As, when there breathes a heavy fog, or when
Our hemisphere is darkening into night,
Appears far off a mill the wind is turning,
Methought that such a building then I saw;
And, for the wind, I drew myself behind
My Guide, because there was no other shelter.
Now was I, and with fear in verse I put it,
There where the shades were wholly covered up,
And glimmered through like unto straws in glass.
Some prone are Iying, others stand erect,
This with the head, and that one with the soles;
Another, bow-like, face to feet inverts.
When in advance so far we had proceeded,
That it my Master pleased to show to me
The creature who once had the beauteous semblance,
He from before me moved and made me stop,
Saying: “Behold Dis, and behold the place
Where thou with fortitude must arm thyself”
How frozen I became and powerless then,
Ask it not, Reader, for I write it not,
Because all language would be insufficient.
426The fourth and last division of the Ninth Circle, the Judecca, – “the smallest circle, at
the point of all the Universe, where Dis is seated.”
The first line, “The banners of the king of Hell come forth,” is a parody of the first line of
a Latin hymn of the sixth century, sung in the churches during Passion week, and written
by Fortunatus, an Italian by birth, but who died Bishop of Poitiers in 600.
Figure 68: The Emperor of the kingdom dolorous from his mid-breast forth
issued from the ice...
I did not die, and I alive remained not;
Think for thyself now, hast thou aught of wit,
What I became, being of both deprived.
The Emperor of the kingdom dolorous
From his mid-breast forth issued from the ice,
And better with a giant I compare
Than do the giants with those arms of his;
Consider now how great must be that whole,
Which unto such a part conforms itself.
Were he as fair once, as he now is foul,
And lifted up his brow against his Maker,
Well may proceed from him all tribulation.
O, what a marvel it appeared to me,
When I beheld three faces on his head! 427
427The Ottimo and Benvenuto both interpret the three faces as symbolizing Ignorance,
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
The one in front, and that vermilion was;
Two were the others, that were joined with this
Above the middle part of either shoulder,
And they were joined together at the crest;
And the right-hand one seemed ’twixt white and yellow
The left was such to look upon as those
Who come from where the Nile falls valley-ward. 428
Underneath each came forth two mighty wings,
Such as befitting were so great a bird;
Sails of the sea I never saw so large.
No feathers had they, but as of a bat
Their fashion was; and he was waving them,
So that three winds proceeded forth therefrom.
Thereby Cocytus wholly was congealed.
With six eyes did he weep, and down three chins
Trickled the tear-drops and the bloody drivel.
At every mouth he with his teeth was crunching
A sinner, in the manner of a brake,
So that he three of them tormented thus.
To him in front the biting was as naught
Unto the clawing, for sometimes the spine
Utterly stripped of all the skin remained.
“That soul up there which has the greatest pain,”
The Master said, “is Judas Iscariot;
With head inside, he plies his legs without.
Of the two others, who head downward are,
The one who hangs from the black jowl is Brutus;
See how he writhes himself, and speaks no word.
And the other, who so stalwart seems, is Cassius.
But night is reascending, and ’tis time 429
That we depart, for we have seen the whole.”
As seemed him good, I clasped him round the neck,
And he the vantage seized of time and place,
Hatred, and Impotence. Others interpret them as signifying the three quarters of the then
known world, Europe, Asia, and Africa.
428Aethiopia; the region about the Cataracts of the Nile.
429The evening of Holy Saturday.
And when the wings were opened wide apart,
He laid fast hold upon the shaggy sides;
From fell to fell descended downward then
Between the thick hair and the frozen crust.
When we were come to where the thigh revolves
Exactly on the thickness of the haunch,
The Guide. with labour and with hard-drawn breath.
Turned round his head where he had had his legs,
And grappled to the hair, as one who mounts,
So that to Hell I thought we were returning.
“Keep fast thy hold, for by such stairs as these,”
The Master said, panting as one fatigued,
“Must we perforce depart from so much evil.”
Then through the opening of a rock he issued,
And down upon the margin seated me;
Then tow’rds me he outstretched his wary step.
I lifted up mine eyes and thought to see
Lucifer in the same way I had left him;
And I beheld him upward hold his legs.
And if I then became disquieted,
Let stolid people think who do not see
What the point is beyond which I had passed.
“Rise up,” the Master said, “upon thy feet;
The way is long, and difficult the road,
And now the sun to middle-tierce returns.” 430
It was not any palace corridor
There where we were, but dungeon natural,
With floor uneven and unease of light.
“Ere from the abyss I tear myself away,
My Master,” said I when I had arisen?
“To draw me from an error speak a little;
Where is the ice? and how is this one fixed
430The canonical day, from sunrise to sunset, was divided into four equal parts, called
in Italian Terza, Sesta, Nona, and Vespro, and varying in length with the change of season.
“These hours,” says Dante, Convito, III. 6, “are short or long ... according as day and night
increase or diminish.” Terza was the first division after sunrise; and at the equinox would
be from six till nine. Consequently mezza terza, or middle tierce, would be half past seven.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Thus upside down? and how in such short time
From eve to morn has the sun made his transit?”
And he to me: “Thou still imaginest
Thou art beyond the centre, where I grasped
The hair of the fell worm, who mines the world.
That side thou wast, so long as I descended;
When round I turned me, thou didst pass the point
To which things heavy draw from every side,
And now beneath the hemisphere art come
Opposite that which overhangs the vast
Dry-land, and ‘neath whose cope was put to death 431
The Man who without sin was born and lived.
Thou hast thy feet upon the little sphere
Which makes the other face of the Judecca
Here it is morn when it is evening there;
And he who with his hair a stairway made us
Still fixed remaineth as he was before.
Upon this side he fell down out of heaven;
And all the land, that whilom here emerged,
For fear of him made of the sea a veil,
And came to our hemisphere; and peradventure
To flee from him, what on this side appears 432
Left the place vacant here, and back recoiled”
A place there is below, from Beelzebub
As far receding as the tomb extends,
Which not by sight is known, but by the sound
Of a small rivulet, that there descendeth 433
Through chasm within the stone, which it has gnawed
With course that winds about and slightly falls.
The Guide and I into that hidden road
Now entered, to return to the bright world;
And without care of having any rest
432The Mountain of Purgatory, rising out of the sea at a point directly opposite
Jerusalem, upon the other side of the globe. It is an island in the South Pacific Ocean.
433This brooklet is Lethe, whose source is on the summit of the Mountain of Purgatory,
flowing down to mingle with Acheron, Styx, and Phlegethon, and form Cocytus. See
We mounted up, he first and I the second,
Till I beheld through a round aperture
Some of the beauteous things that Heaven doth bear;
Thence we came forth to rebehold the stars. 434
434It will be observed that each of the three divisions of the Divine Comedy ends with
the word “Stars,” suggesting and symbolizing endless aspiration. At the end of the Inferno
Dante “rebeholds the stars”; at the end of the Purgatorio he is “ready to ascend to
the stars”; at the end of the Paradiso he feels the power of “that Love which moves the
sun and other stars.” He is now looking upon the morning stars of Easter Sunday.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Figure 69: To return to the bright world...
Figure 70: Rebehold the stars.
Alighieri, or simply Dante
(May 14/June 13, 1265 – September
13/14, 1321), was an Italian poet from Florence. His central work, the Commedia
(Divine Comedy), is considered the greatest literary work composed
in the Italian language and a masterpiece of world literature. In Italian
he is known as “the Supreme Poet” (il Sommo Poeta). Dante, Petrarch and
Boccaccio are also known as “the three fountains” or “the three crowns”.
Dante is also called “the Father of the Italian language”. The first biography
written on him was by his contemporary Giovanni Villani (1276 –
Dante Alighieri was born in 1265, between May 14 and June 13, under the
name “Durante Alighieri.”
His family was prominent in Florence, with loyalties to the Guelphs,
a political alliance that supported the Papacy and which was involved in
complex opposition to the Ghibellines, who were backed by the Holy Roman
Dante pretended that his family descended from the ancient Romans
(Inferno, XV, 76), but the earliest relative he can mention by name is Cacciaguida
degli Elisei (Paradiso, XV, 135), of no earlier than about 1100.
Dante’s father, Alighiero di Bellincione, was a White Guelph (see Politics
section) who suffered no reprisals after the Ghibellines won the Battle of
Montaperti in the mid 13th century. This suggests that Alighiero or his
family enjoyed some protective prestige and status.
The poet’s mother was Bella degli Abati. She died when Dante was
7 years old, and Alighiero soon married again, to Lapa di Chiarissimo
Cialuffi. It is uncertain whether he really married her, as widowers had
social limitations in these matters. This woman definitely bore two children,
Dante’s brother Francesco and sister Tana (Gaetana).
Dante fought in the front rank of the Guelph cavalry at the battle of
Campaldino (June 11, 1289). This victory brought forth a reformation of
the Florentine constitution. To take any part in public life, one had to be
enrolled in one of “the arts”. So Dante entered the guild of physicians and
apothecaries. In following years, his name is frequently found recorded as
speaking or voting in the various councils of the republic.
When Dante was 12, in 1277, he was promised in marriage to Gemma
di Manetto Donati, daughter of Messer Manetto Donati. Contracting marriages
at this early age was quite common and involved a formal ceremony,
including contracts signed before a notary. Dante had already fallen
in love with another girl, Beatrice Portinari (known also as Bice). Years after
Dante’s marriage to Gemma he met Beatrice again. He had become
interested in writing verse, and although he wrote several sonnets to Beatrice,
he never mentioned his wife Gemma in any of his poems.
Dante had several children with Gemma. As often happens with significant
figures, many people subsequently claimed to be Dante’s offspring;
however, it is likely that Jacopo, Pietro, Giovanni, Gabrielle Alighieri, and
Antonia were truly his children. Antonia became a nun with the name of
Not much is known about Dante’s education, and it is presumed he studied
at home. It is known that he studied Tuscan poetry, at a time when the
Sicilian School (Scuola poetica siciliana), a cultural group from Sicily, was
becoming known in Tuscany. His interests brought him to discover the
Occitan poetry of the troubadours and the Latin poetry of classical antiquity
(with a particular devotion to Virgil).
During the “Secoli Bui” (Dark Ages), Italy had become a mosaic of
small states, Sicily being the largest one, at the time under the Angevine
dominations, and as far (culturally and politically) from Tuscany as Occitania
was: the regions did not share a language, culture, or easy communications.
Nevertheless, we can assume that Dante was a keen up-to-date
intellectual with international interests.
At 18, Dante met Guido Cavalcanti, Lapo Gianni, Cino da Pistoia, and
soon after Brunetto Latini; together they became the leaders of Dolce Stil
Novo (“The Sweet New Style”). Brunetto later received a special mention
in the Divine Comedy (Inferno, XV, 28), for what he had taught Dante. “Nor
speaking less on that account, I go With Ser Brunetto, and I ask who are His most
known and most eminent companions”. Some fifty poetical components by
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Dante are known (the so-called Rime, rhymes), others being included in
the later Vita Nuova and Convivio. Other studies are reported, or deduced
from Vita Nuova or the Comedy, regarding painting and music.
When he was nine years old he met Beatrice Portinari, daughter of
Folco Portinari, with whom he fell in love “at first sight”, and apparently
without even having spoken to her. He saw her frequently after age 18,
often exchanging greetings in the street, but he never knew her well –
he effectively set the example for the so-called “courtly love”. It is hard
now to understand what this love actually comprised, but something extremely
important for Italian culture was happening. It was in the name of
this love that Dante gave his imprint to the Stil Novo and would lead poets
and writers to discover the themes of Love (Amore), which had never been
so emphasized before. Love for Beatrice (as in a different manner Petrarch
would show for his Laura) would apparently be the reason for poetry and
for living, together with political passions. In many of his poems, she is
depicted as semi-divine, watching over him constantly.
When Beatrice died in 1290, Dante tried to find a refuge in Latin literature.
The Convivio reveals that he had read Boethius’s De consolatione
philosophiae and Cicero’s De amicitia.
He then dedicated himself to philosophical studies at religious schools
like the Dominican one in Santa Maria Novella. He took part in the disputes
that the two principal mendicant orders (Franciscan and Dominican)
publicly or indirectly held in Florence, the former explaining the doctrine
of the mystics and of Saint Bonaventure, the latter presenting Saint
Thomas Aquinas’ theories.
This “excessive” passion for philosophy would later be criticized by
the character Beatrice, in Purgatorio, the second book of the Comedy.
Dante, like most Florentines of his day, was embroiled in the Guelph-
Ghibelline conflict. He fought in the battle of Campaldino (June 11, 1289),
with the Florentine Guelphs against Arezzo Ghibellines, then in 1294 he
was among the escorts of Charles Martel d’Anjou (son of Charles of Anjou)
while he was in Florence.
To further his political career, he became a pharmacist. He did not intend
to actually practice as one, but a law issued in 1295 required that nobles
who wanted public office had to be enrolled in one of the Corporazioni
delle Arti e dei Mestieri, so Dante obtained admission to the apothecaries’
guild. This profession was not entirely inapt, since at that time books were
sold from apothecaries’ shops. As a politician, he accomplished little, but
he held various offices over a number of years in a city undergoing political
After defeating the Ghibellines, the Guelphs divided into two factions:
the White Guelphs (Guelfi Bianchi) – Dante’s party, led by Vieri dei Cerchi
– and the Black Guelphs (Guelfi Neri), led by Corso Donati. Although initially
the split was along family lines, ideological differences rose based
on opposing views of the papal role in Florentine affairs, with the Blacks
supporting the Pope and the Whites wanting more freedom from Rome.
Initially the Whites were in power and kicked out the Blacks.
In response, Pope Boniface VIII planned a military occupation of Florence.
In 1301, Charles de Valois, brother of Philip the Fair king of France,
was expected to visit Florence because the Pope had appointed him peacemaker
for Tuscany. But the city’s government had treated the Pope’s ambassadors
badly a few weeks before, seeking independence from papal
influence. It was believed that Charles de Valois would eventually have
received other unofficial instructions. So the council sent a delegation to
Rome to ascertain the Pope’s intentions. Dante was one of the delegates.
Boniface quickly dismissed the other delegates and asked Dante alone to
remain in Rome. At the same time (November 1, 1301), Charles de Valois
entered Florence with Black Guelphs, who in the next six days destroyed
much of the city and killed many of their enemies. A new Black Guelph
government was installed and Messer Cante dei Gabrielli di Gubbio was
appointed Podest`a of Florence. Dante was condemned to exile for two
years, and ordered to pay a large fine. The poet was still in Rome, where
the Pope had “suggested” he stay, and was therefore considered an absconder.
He did not pay the fine, in part because he believed he was not
guilty, and in part because all his assets in Florence had been seized by the
Black Guelphs. He was condemned to perpetual exile, and if he returned
to Florence without paying the fine, he could be burned at the stake.
The poet took part in several attempts by the White Guelphs to regain
power, but these failed due to treachery. Dante, bitter at the treatment
he received from his enemies, also grew disgusted with the infighting and
ineffectiveness of his erstwhile allies, and vowed to become a party of one.
At this point, he began sketching the foundation for the Divine Comedy,a
work in 100 cantos, divided into three books of thirty-three cantos each,
with a single introductory canto.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
He went to Verona as a guest of Bartolomeo I della Scala, then moved
to Sarzana in Liguria. Later, he is supposed to have lived in Lucca with
Madame Gentucca, who made his stay comfortable (and was later gratefully
mentioned in Purgatorio, XXIV, 37). Some speculative sources say
that he was also in Paris between 1308 and 1310. Other sources, even less
trustworthy, take him to Oxford.
In 1310, the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VII of Luxembourg, marched
5,000 troops into Italy. Dante saw in him a new Charlemagne who would
restore the office of the Holy Roman Emperor to its former glory and also
re-take Florence from the Black Guelphs. He wrote to Henry and several
Italian princes, demanding that they destroy the Black Guelphs. Mixing
religion and private concerns, he invoked the worst anger of God against
his city, suggesting several particular targets that coincided with his personal
enemies. It was during this time that he wrote the first two books of
the Divine Comedy.
In Florence, Baldo d’Aguglione pardoned most of the White Guelphs
in exile and allowed them to return; however, Dante had gone too far in
his violent letters to Arrigo (Henry VII), and he was not recalled.
In 1312, Henry assaulted Florence and defeated the Black Guelphs, but
there is no evidence that Dante was involved. Some say he refused to
participate in the assault on his city by a foreigner; others suggest that
he had become unpopular with the White Guelphs too and that any trace
of his passage had carefully been removed. In 1313, Henry VII died, and
with him any hope for Dante to see Florence again. He returned to Verona,
where Cangrande I della Scala allowed him to live in a certain security
and, presumably, in a fair amount of prosperity. Cangrande was admitted
to Dante’s Paradise (Paradiso, XVII, 76).
In 1315, Florence was forced by Uguccione della Faggiuola (the military
officer controlling the town) to grant an amnesty to people in exile,
including Dante. But Florence required that as well as paying a sum of
money, these exiles would do public penance. Dante refused, preferring
to remain in exile.
When Uguccione defeated Florence, Dante’s death sentence was commuted
to house arrest, on condition that he go to Florence to swear that
he would never enter the town again. Dante refused to go. His death
sentence was confirmed and extended to his sons.
Dante still hoped late in life that he might be invited back to Florence
on honourable terms. For Dante, exile was nearly a form of death, stripping
him of much of his identity.
Of course it never happened. Prince Guido Novello da Polenta invited
him to Ravenna in 1318, and he accepted. He finished the Paradiso, and
died in 1321 (at the age of 56) while returning to Ravenna from a diplomatic
mission to Venice, perhaps of malaria contracted there. Dante was
buried in Ravenna at the Church of San Pier Maggiore (later called San
Francesco). Bernardo Bembo, praetor of Venice in 1483, took care of his
remains by building a better tomb.
On the grave, some verses of Bernardo Canaccio, a friend of Dante,
dedicated to Florence:
parvi Florentia mater amoris
Florence, mother of little love
Eventually, Florence came to regret Dante’s exile, and made repeated
requests for the return of his remains. The custodians of the body at
Ravenna refused to comply, at one point going so far as to conceal the
bones in a false wall of the monastery. Nevertheless, in 1829, a tomb was
built for him in Florence in the basilica of Santa Croce. That tomb has been
empty ever since, with Dante’s body remaining in Ravenna, far from the
land he loved so dearly. The front of his tomb in Florence reads Onorate
l’altissimo poeta – which roughly translates as “Honour the most exalted
poet”. The phrase is a quote from the fourth canto of the Inferno, depicting
Virgil’s welcome as he returns among the great ancient poets spending
eternity in Limbo. The continuation of the line, L’ombra sua torna, ch’era dipartita
(“his spirit, which had left us, returns”), is poignantly absent from
the empty tomb.
(February 27, 1807 – March 24, 1882) was
an American poet whose works include “Paul Revere’s Ride”, “A Psalm
of Life”, “The Song of Hiawatha”, “Evangeline”, and “Christmas Bells”.
He also wrote the first American translation of Dante Alighieri’s “Divine
and was one of the five members of the group known as the
Fireside Poets. Longfellow was born and raised in the region of Portland,
Maine. He attended university at an early age at Bowdoin College
in Brunswick, Maine. After several journeys overseas, Longfellow settled
for the last forty-five years of his life in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Longfellow was born on February 27, 1807, to Stephen and Zilpah (Wadsworth)
Longfellow in Portland, Maine, and grew up in what is now known
as the Wadsworth-Longfellow House. His father was a lawyer, and his
maternal grandfather, Peleg Wadsworth, Sr., was a general in the American
Revolutionary War. He was named after his mother’s brother Henry
Wadsworth, a Navy lieutenant who died only three years earlier.
Longfellow’s siblings were Stephen, Elizabeth, Anne, Alexander, Mary,
Ellen, and Samuel. Henry was enrolled in a dame school at the age of only
three and by age six was enrolled at the private Portland Academy. In
his years there, he earned a reputation as being very studious and became
fluent in Latin. He printed his first poem – a patriotic and historical four
stanza poem called “The Battle of Lovell’s Pond” – in the Portland Gazette on
November 17, 1820. He remained at the Portland Academy until the age
In the fall of 1822, the 15-year old Longfellow enrolled at Bowdoin
College in Brunswick, Maine alongside his brother Stephen. His grandfather
was a founder of the college and his father was a trustee. There,
Longfellow met Nathaniel Hawthorne, who would later become his lifelong
friend. He boarded with a clergyman for a time before rooming on
the third floor of what is now Maine Hall in 1823. He joined the Peucinian
Society, a group of students with Federalist leanings. In his senior year,
Longfellow wrote to his father about his aspirations:
“I will not disguise it in the least... the fact is, I most eagerly
aspire after future eminence in literature, my whole soul burns
most ardently after it, and every earthly thought centres in it...
I am almost confident in believing, that if I can ever rise in the
world it must be by the exercise of my talents in the wide field
He pursued his literary goals by submitting poetry and prose to various
newspapers and magazines. Between January 1824 and his graduation
in 1825, he had published nearly 40 minor poems. About 24 of
them appeared in the short-lived Boston periodical The United States Literary
After graduating in 1825, he was offered a job as professor of modern languages
at his alma mater. The story, possibly apocryphal, is that an influential
trustee, Benjamin Orr, had been so impressed Longfellow’s translation
of Horace that he was hired under the condition that he travel to Europe
to study French, Spanish and Italian. Whatever the motivation, he began
his tour of Europe in May 1826 aboard a ship named Cadmus. His time
abroad would last three years and cost his father an estimated $2,604.24.
He traveled to France, Spain, Italy, Germany, back to France, then England
before returning to the United States in mid-August 1829. Longfellow was
saddened to learn his favorite sister Elizabeth had died of tuberculosis at
the age of 20 that May while he was abroad.
On August 27, 1829, he wrote to the president of Bowdoin that he was
turning down the professorship because he considered the $600 salary
“disproportionate to the duties required.” The trustees raised his salary
to $800 with an additional $100 to serve as the college’s librarian, a post
which required one hour of work per day. During his years at the college,
he wrote textbooks in French, Italian, and Spanish and a travel book,
Outre-Mer: A Pilgrimage Beyond the Sea. On September 14, 1831, he married
Mary Storer Potter, a childhood friend from Portland. The couple settled
in Brunswick, though the two were not happy there.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
In December 1834, Longfellow received a letter from Josiah Quincy
III, president of Harvard College, offering him a position as the Smith
Professorship of Modern Languages with the stipulation that he spend
a year or so abroad. In October 1835, during the trip, his wife Mary had
a miscarriage about six months into her pregnancy. She did not recover
and died after several weeks of illness at the age of 22 on November 29,
1835. Longfellow had her body embalmed immediately and placed into a
lead coffin inside an oak coffin which was then shipped to Mount Auburn
Cemetery near Boston. Three years later, he was inspired to write “Footsteps
of Angels” about their love.
When he returned to the United States in 1836, Longfellow took up
the professorship at Harvard University. He was required to live in Cambridge
to be close to the campus and moved in to the Craigie House in the
spring of 1837. The home, built in 1759, had once been the headquarters
of George Washington during the seige of Boston in July 1775. Longfellow
began publishing his poetry, including “Voices of the Night” in 1839
and Ballads and Other Poems, which included his famous poem “The Village
Blacksmith”, in 1841.
Longfellow began courting Frances “Fanny” Appleton, the daughter of
a wealthy Boston industrialist, Nathan Appleton. At first, she was not
interested but Longfellow was determined. In July 1839, he wrote to a
friend: “victory hangs doubtful. The lady says she will not! I say she
shall! It is not pride, but the madness of passion.” During the courtship,
he frequently walked from Harvard to her home in Boston, crossing the
Boston Bridge. That bridge was subsequently demolished and replaced in
1906 by a new bridge, which was eventually renamed as the Longfellow
Bridge. Longfellow continued writing, however, and in the fall of 1839
published Hyperion, a book of travel writings discussing his trips abroad.
After seven years, Fanny finally agreed to marriage, and they were
wed in 1843. Nathan Appleton bought the Craigie House, overlooking
the Charles River, as a wedding present to the pair.
His love for Fanny is evident in the following lines from Longfellow’s
only love poem, the sonnet “The Evening Star”, which he wrote in October,
1845: “O my beloved, my sweet Hesperus! My morning and my evening
star of love!”
He and Fanny had six children: Charles Appleton (1844-1893), Ernest
Wadsworth (1845-1921), Fanny (1847-1848), Alice Mary (1850-1928), Edith
(1853-1915) – who married Richard Henry Dana III, son of Richard Henry
Dana, and Anne Allegra (1855-1934).
When the younger Fanny was born on April 7, 1847, Dr. Nathan Coo-
ley Keep administered ether as the first obstetric anesthetic in the United
States to Fanny Longfellow. A few months later, on November 1, 1847, the
poem “Evangeline” was published for the first time.
On June 14, 1853, Longfellow held a farewell dinner party at his Cambridge
home for his friend Nathaniel Hawthorne as he prepared to move
overseas. Shortly after, Longfellow retired from Harvard in 1854, devoting
himself entirely to writing. He was awarded an honorary doctorate of
Laws from Harvard in 1859.
Longfellow was a devoted husband and father with a keen feeling for
the pleasures of home. But each of his marriages ended in sadness and
On a hot July day, while Fanny was putting a lock of a child’s hair
into an envelope and attempting to seal it with hot sealing wax, her dress
caught fire causing severe burns. She died the next day, aged 44, on July 10,
1861. Longfellow was devastated by her death and never fully recovered.
The strength of his grief is still evident in these lines from a sonnet, “The
Cross of Snow” (1879), which he wrote eighteen years later to commemorate
Such is the cross I wear upon my breast
These eighteen years, through all the changing scenes
And seasons, changeless since the day she died.
In March 1882, Longfellow went to bed with severe stomach pain. He
endured the pain for several days with the help of opium before he died
surrounded by family on Friday, March 24, 1882. He had been suffering
He is buried with both of his wives at Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge,
Massachusetts. In 1884 he was the first and only American poet
for whom a commemorative sculpted bust was placed in Poet’s Corner of
Westminster Abbey in London.
-Divine Comedy, Inferno
Longfellow often used allegory in his work. In “Nature”, death is depicted
as bedtime for a cranky child.
Contemporary writer Edgar Allan Poe wrote to Longfellow in May 1841
of his “fervent admiration which [your] genius has inspired in me” and
later called him “unquestionably the best poet in America”. However,
after Poe’s reputation as a critic increased, he publicly accused Longfellow
of plagiarism in what has been since termed by Poe biographers as “The
Longfellow War”. His assessment was that Longfellow was “a determined
imitator and a dextrous adapter of the ideas of other people”, specifically
Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson.
Margaret Fuller judged him “artificial and imitative” and lacking force.
Poet Walt Whitman also considered Longfellow an imitator of European
forms, though he praised his ability to reach a popular audience as “the
expressor of common themes – of the little songs of the masses.”
Longfellow was the most popular poet of his day. He was such an admired
figure in the United States during his life that his 70th birthday in
1877 took on the air of a national holiday, with parades, speeches, and the
reading of his poetry. He had become one of the first American celebrities.
His work was immensely popular during his time and is still today,
although some modern critics consider him too sentimental. His poetry
is based on familiar and easily understood themes with simple, clear, and
flowing language. His poetry created an audience in America and contributed
to creating American mythology.
(January 6, 1832 – January 23, 1883) was a French artist,
engraver, illustrator and sculptor. Dor´e worked primarily with wood engraving
and steel engraving.
Dor´e was born in Strasbourg and his first illustrated story was published
at the age of fifteen. Dor´e began work as a literary illustrator in Paris.
e commissions include works by Rabelais, Balzac, Milton
In 1853 Dor´e was asked to illustrate the works of Lord Byron. This commission
was followed by additional work for British publishers, including
a new illustrated English Bible. Dor´e also illustrated an oversized edition
Poe’s “The Raven”, an endeavor that earned him 30,000
francs from publisher Harper and Brothers in 1883.
Dor´e’s English Bible (1866) was a great success, and in 1867 Dor´e had a
major exhibition of his work in London. This exhibition led to the foundation
of the Dor´
e Gallery in New Bond Street. In 1869, Blanchard Jerrold,
the son of Douglas William Jerrold, suggested that they work together
to produce a comprehensive portrait of London. Jerrold had gotten the
idea from The Microcosm of London produced by Rudolph Ackermann,
William Pyne, and Thomas Rowlandson in 1808. Dor´e signed a five-year
project with the publishers Grant&Co. that involved his staying in London
for three months a year. He was paid the vast sum of £10,000 a year
for his work.
The book, London: A Pilgrimage, with 180 engravings, was published in
1872. It enjoyed commercial success, but the work was disliked by many
contemporary critics. Some critics were concerned with the fact that Dore´
appeared to focus on poverty that existed in London. Dor´e was accused by
the Art Journal of “inventing rather than copying.” The Westminster Review
claimed that “Dor´
e gives us sketches in which the commonest, the vulgarest
external features are set down.” The book was also a financial success,
and Dor´e received commissions from other British publishers. Dor´e’s later
works included Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Milton’s Paradise
Lost, Tennyson’s The Idylls of the King, The Works of Thomas Hood, and The
Comedy. His work also appeared in the Illustrated London News.
Dor´e continued to illustrate books until his death in Paris in 1883. He is
buried in the city’s P`
ere Lachaise Cemetery.
In “Pickman’s Model”, author H. P. Lovecraft’s praises Dor´e: “There’s
something those fellows catch – beyond life – that they’re able to make us
catch for a second. Dor´e had it. [Sidney] Sime has it.”
– For a partial list of Dor´e’s works see WikiPedia.