Parts : VI. – X.

Dante Alighieri
(1265-1321)

  • Canto VI 

THE misery of that sight of souls in Hell
Condemned, and constant in their loss, prevailed
So greatly in me, that I may not tell
How passed I from them, sense and memory failed
So far.
But here new torments I discern,
And new tormented, wheresoe’er I turn.
For sodden around me was the place of bane,
The third doomed circle, where the culprits know
The cold, unceasing, and relentless rain
Pour down without mutation. Heavy with hail,
With turbid waters mixed, and cold with snow,
It streams from out the darkness, and below
The soil is putrid, where the impious lie
Grovelling, and howl like dogs, beneath the flail
That flattens to the foul soaked ground, and try
Vainly for ease by turning. And the while
Above them roams and ravens the loathsome hound
Cerberus, and feeds upon them.
The swampy ground
He ranges; with his long clawed hands he grips
The sinners, and the fierce and hairy lips
(Thrice-headed is he) tear, and the red blood drips
From all his jaws. He clutches, and flays, and rends,
And treads them, growling: and the flood descends
Straight downward.
When he saw us, the loathly worm
Showed all his fangs, and eager trembling frame
Nerved for the leap. But undeterred my guide.
Stooped down, and gathered in full hands the soil,
And cast it in the gaping gullets, to foil
Gluttonous blind greed, and those fierce mouths and wide
Closed on the filth, and as the craving cur
Quietens, that strained and howled to reach his food,
Biting the bone, those squalid mouths subdued
And silenced, wont above the empty dead
To bark insatiate, while they tore unfed
The writhing shadows.
The straight persistent rain,
That altered never, had pressed the miry plain
With flattened shades that in their emptiness
Still showed as bodies. We might not here progress
Except we trod them. Of them all, but one
Made motion as we passed. Against the rain
Rising, and resting on one hand, he said,
“O thou, who through the drenching murk art led,
Recall me if thou canst. Thou wast begun
Before I ended.”
I, who looked in vain
For human semblance in that bestial shade,
Made answer, “Misery here hath all unmade,
It may be, that thou wast on earth, for nought
Recalls thee to me. But thyself shalt tell
The sins that scourged thee to this foul resort,
That more displeasing not the scope of Hell
Can likely yield, though greater pains may lie
More deep.”
And he to me, “Thy city, so high
With envious hates that swells, that now the sack
Bursts, and pours out in ruin, and spreads its wrack
Far outward, was mine alike, while clearer air
Still breathed I. Citizens who knew me there
Called me Ciacco. For the vice I fed
At rich men’s tables, in this filth I lie
Drenched, beaten, hungered, cold, uncomforted,
Mauled by that ravening greed; and these, as I,
With gluttonous lives the like reward have won.”

I answered, “Piteous is thy state to one
Who knew thee in thine old repute, but say,
If yet persists thy previous mind, which way
The feuds of our rent city shall end, and why
These factions vex us, and if still there be
One just man left among us.”

“Two,” said he,
“Are just, but none regards them. Yet more high
The strife, till bloodshed from their long contend
Shall issue at last: the barbarous Cerchi clan
Cast the Donati exiled out, and they
Within three years return, and more offend
Than they were erst offended, helped by him
So long who palters with both parts. The fire
Three sparks have lighted – Avarice, Envy, Pride, -
And there is none may quench it.”
Here
he ceased
His lamentable tale, and I replied,
“Of one thing more I ask thee. Great desire
Is mine to learn it. Where are those who sought
Our welfare earlier? Those whose names at least
Are fragrant for the public good they wrought,
Arrigo, Mosca, and the Tegghiaio
Worthiest, and Farinata, and with these
Jacopo Rusticucci. I would know
If soft in Heaven or bitter-hard in Hell
Their lives continue.”
“Cast in hells
more low
Than yet thou hast invaded, deep they lie,
For different crimes from ours, and shouldst thou go
So far, thou well mayst see them. If thou tread
Again the sweet light land, and overhead
Converse with those I knew there, then recall,
I pray, my memory to my friends of yore.
But ask no further, for I speak no more.”

Thereon his eyes, that straight had gazed before
Squinted and failed, and slowly sank his head,
And blindly with his sodden mates he lay.
And spake my guide, “He shall not lift nor stir,
Until the trumpet shrills that wakens Hell;
And these, who must inimical Power obey,
Shall each return to his sad grave, and there
In carnal form the sinful spirit shall dwell
Once more, and that time only, from the tomb
Rising to hear the irrevocable doom
Which shall reverberate through eternity.”

So paced we slowly through the rain that fell
Unchanging, over that foul ground, and trod
The dismal spirits it held, and somewhat spake
Of life beyond us, and the things of God;
And asked I, “Master, shall these torments cease,
Continue as they are, or more increase,
When calls the trumpet, and the graves shall break,
And the great Sentence sound?”
And he
to me,
“Recall thy learning, as thou canst. We know
With more perfection, greater pain or bliss
Resolves, and though perfection may not be
To these accurs’d, yet nearer then than this
It may be they shall reach it.”
More
to show
He sought, as turned we to the fresh descent,
But speaking all in such strange words as went
Past me. – But ceased our downward path, and
Plutus, of human weal the hateful foe.

  • Canto VII 

HAH, strange! ho, Satan!” such the sounds half-heard
The thick voice gobbled, the while the foul, inflamed,
Distended visage toward us turned, and cast
Invective from its bestial throat, that slurred
Articulate speech. But here the gentle sage,
Who knew beforehand that we faced, to me
Spake first, “Regard not; for a threat misaimed
Falls idle. Fear not to continue past.
His power to us, however else it be,
Is not to hinder.” Then, that bulk inflate
Confronting, – “Peace, thou greed! thy lusting rage
Consume thee inward! Not thy word we wait
The path to open. It is willed on high, -
There, where the Angel of the Sword ye know
Took ruin upon the proud adultery
Of him thou callest as thy prince.”

Thereat
As sails, wind-rounded, when the mast gives way,
Sink tangled to the deck, deflated so
Collapsed that bulk that heard him, shrunk and flat;
And we went downward till before us lay
The fourth sad circle. Ah! what woes contain,
Justice of God! what woes those narrowing deeps
Contain; for all the universe down-heaps
In this pressed space its continent of pain,
So voiding all that mars its peace. But why
This guilt that so degrades us?
As the
surge
Above Charybdis meets contending surge,
Breaks and is broken, and rages and recoils
For ever, so here the sinners. More numerous
Than in the circles past are these. They urge
Huge weights before them. On, with straining breasts,
They roll them, howling in their ceaseless toils.
And those that to the further side belong
l)o likewise, meeting in the midst, and thus
Crash vainly, and recoil, reverse, and cry,
“Why dost thou hold?” “Why dost thou loose?”
No rest
Their doom permits them. Backward course they bend;
Continual crescents trace, at either end
Meeting again in fresh rebound, and high
Above their travail reproachful howlings rise
Incessant at those who thwart their round.

And I,
Who felt my heart stung through with anguish, said,
“O Master, show me who these peoples be,
And if those tonsured shades that left we see
Held priestly office ere they joined the dead.”

He answered, “These, who with such squinting eyes
Regarded God’s providing, that they spent
In waste immoderate, indicate their guilt
In those loud barkings that ye hear. They spilt
Their wealth distemperate; and those they meet
Who cry ‘Why loose ye?’ avarice ruled: they bent
Their minds on earth to seize and hoard. Of these
Hairless, are priests, and popes, and cardinals,
For greed makes empire in such hearts complete.”

And I, “Among them that these vices eat
Are none that I have known on earth before?”

He answered, “Vainly wouldst thou seek; a life
So blind to bounties has obscured too far
The souls once theirs, for that which once they wore
Of mortal likeness in their shades to show.
Waste was their choice, and this abortive strife
And toil unmeaning is the end they are
They butt for ever, until the last award
Shall call them from their graves. Ill-holding those
Ill-loosing these, alike have doomed to know
This darkness, and the fairer world forgo.
Behold what mockery doth their fate afford!
It needs no fineness of spun words to tell.
For this they did their subtle wits oppose,
Contending for the gifts that Fortune straws
So blindly, – for this blind contending hell.

“Beneath the moon there is not gold so great
In worth, it could one moment’s grief abate,
Or rest one only of these weary souls.”

“Master, this Fortune that ye speak, whose claws
Grasp all desirable things of earth,” I said,
“What is she?”
“O betrayed in foolishness I
Blindness of creatures born of earth, whose goals
Are folly and loss!” he answered, “I would make
Thy mouth an opening for this truth I show.

“Transcendent Wisdom, when the spheres He built
Gave each a guide to rule it: more nor less
Their light distributes. For the earth he gave
Like guide to rule its splendours. As we know
The heavenly lights move round us, and is spilt
Light here, and darkness yonder, so doth she
From man to man, from race and kindred take
Alternate wealth, or yield it. None may save
The spoil that she depriveth: none may flee
The bounty that she wills. No human wits
May hinder, nor may human lore reject
Her choice, that like a hidden snake is set
To reach the feet unheeding. Where she sits
In judgment, she resolves, and whom she wills
Is havened, chased by petulant storms, or wreck ‘
Remedeless. Races cease, and men forget
They were. Slaves rise to rule their lords. She
And empties, godlike in her mood. No pause
Her changes leave, so many are those who call
About her gates, so many she dowers, and all
Revile her after, and would crucify
If words could reach her, but she heeds nor hears,
Who dwells beyond the noise of human laws
In the blest silence of the Primal Spheres.

- But let us to the greater woes descend.
The stars from their meridian fall, that rose
When first these hells we entered. Long to stay
Our right of path allows not.”
While
he spake
We crossed the circle to the bank beyond,
And found a hot spring boiling, and a way,
Dark, narrow, and steep, that down beside it goes,
By which we clambered. Purple-black the pond
Beneath it, widening to a marsh that spreads
Far out, and struggling in that slime malign
Were muddied shades, that not with hands, heads,
And teeth and feet besides, contending tore,
And maimed each other in beast-like rage.

My guide
Expounded, “Those whom anger overbore
On earth, behold ye. Mark the further sign
Of bubbles countless on the slime that show.
These from the sobs of those immersed arise;
For buried in the choking filth they cry,
We once were sullen in the rain-sweet air,
When waked the light, and all the earth was fair,
How sullen in the murky swamp we lie
Forbidden from the blessed light on high.
This song they gurgle in their throats, that so
The bubbles rising from the depths below
Break all the surface of the slime.”

Between
The high bank and the putrid swamp was seen
A narrow path, and this, a sweeping arc,
We traversed; outward o’er the surface dark
Still gazing, at the choking shades who took
That diet for their wrath. Till livelier look
Was forward drawn, for where at last we came
A great tower fronted, and a beacon’s flame.

  • Canto VIII 

I SAY, while yet from that tower’s base afar,
We saw two flames of sudden signal rise,
And further, like a small and distant star,
A beacon answered.
“What before us lies?
Who signals our approach, and who replies?”
I asked, and answered he who all things knew,
“Already, if the swamp’s dank fumes permit,
The outcome of their beacon shows in view,
Severing the liquid filth.”
No shaft can slit
Impalpable air, from any corded bow,
As came that craft towards us, cleaving so,
And with incredible speed, the miry wave.
To where we paused its meteor course it clave,
A steersman rising in the stern, who cried,
“Behold thy doom, lost spirit!” To whom my guide,
“Nay, Phlegyas, Phlegyas, here thy cries are
We need thine aid the further shore to gain;
But power thou hast not.”
One amazed to meet
With most unlooked and undeserved deceit
So rages inly; yet no dared reply
There came, as down my Leader stept, and I
Deepened the skiff with earthly weight undue,
Which while we seated swung its bows anew
Outward, and onward once again it flew,
Labouring more deep than wont, and slowlier now,
So burdened.
While that kennel of filth we clave,
There rose among the bubbles a mud-soaked head.
“Who art thou, here before thy time?” it said,
And answer to the unfeatured mask I gave,
“I come, but stay not. Who art thou, so blind
And blackened from the likeness of thy kind?”

“I have no name, but only tears,” said he.

I answered, “Nay, however caked thou be,
I know thee through the muddied drench. For thee
Be weeping ever, accursed spirit.”

At that,
He reached his hands to grasp the boat, whereat
My watchful Master thrust him down, and cried,
“Away, among the dogs, thy fellows!” and then
To me with approbation, “Blest art thou,
Who wouldst not pity in thy heart allow
For these, in arrogance of empty pride
Who lived so vainly. In the minds of men
Is no good thing of this one left to tell,
And hence his rage. How many above that dwell,
Now kinglike in their ways, at last shall lie
Wallowing in these wide marshes, swine in sty,
With all men’s scorn to chase them down.”

And I,
“Master, it were a seemly thing to see
This boaster trampled in the putrid sea,
Who dared approach us, knowing of all we know.”

He answered, “Well thy wish, and surely so
It shall be, e’er the distant shore we view.”
And I looked outward through the gloom, and lo!
The envious eaters of that dirt combined
Against him, leapt upon him, before, behind,
Dragged in their fury, and rent, and tore him through,
Screaming derisive, “Philip! whose horse-hooves shine
With silver,” and the rageful Florentine
Turned on himself his gnashing teeth and tore.

But he deserveth, and I speak, no more.

Now, as we neared the further beach, I heard
The lamentable and unceasing wail
By which the air of all the hells is stirred
Increasing ever, which caused mine eyes unveil
Their keenest vision to search what came, and he
Who marked, indulgent, told. “Ahead we see
The city of Dis, with all its dolorous crew,
Numerous, and burdened with reliefless pain,
And guilt intolerable to think.”

I said,
“Master, already through the night I view
The mosques of that sad city, that fiery red
As heated metal extend, and crowd the plain.”
He answered, “These the eternal fire contain,
That pulsing through them sets their domes aglow.”
At this we came those joyless walls below,
- Of iron I thought them, – with a circling moat;
But saw no entrance, and the burdened boat
Traced the deep fosse for half its girth, before
The steersman warned us. “Get ye forth. The shore
Is here, – and there the Entrance.”
There,
indeed,
The entrance. On the barred and burning gate
I gazed; a thousand of the fiends that rained
From Heaven, to fill that place disconsolate,
Looked downward, and derided. “Who,” they said,
“Before his time comes hither? As though the dead
Arrive too slowly for the joys they would,”
And laughter rocked along their walls. My guide
Their mockery with an equal mien withstood,
Signalling their leaders he would speak aside,
And somewhat closing their contempt they cried,
“Then come thou hither, and let him backward go,
Who came so rashly. Let him find his way
Through the five hells ye traversed, the best he may.
He can but try it awhile! – But thou shalt stay,
And learn the welcome of these halls of woe.”

Ye well may think how I, discomforted
By these accursed words, was moved. The dead,
Nay, nor the living were ever placed as I,
If this fiends’ counsel triumphed. And who should try
That backward path unaided?

“Lord,” I said,
“Loved Master, who hast shared my steps so far,
And rescued ever, if these our path would bar,
Then lead me backward in most haste, nor let
Their malice part us.”
He with cheerful
mien,
Gave answer. “Heed not that they boast. Forget
The fear thou showest, and in good heart abide,
While I go forward. Not these fiends obscene
Shall thwart the mandate that the Power supplied
By which we came, nor any force to do
The things they threaten is theirs; nor think that I
Should leave thee helpless here.”
The
gentle Sage
At this went forward. Feared I? Half I knew
Despair, and half contentment. Yes and no
Denied each other; and of so great a woe
Small doubt is anguish.
In their orgulous
rage
The fiends out-crowded from the gates to meet
My Master; what he spake I could not hear;
But nothing his words availed to cool their heat,
For inward thronged they with a jostling rear
That clanged the gates before he reached, and he
Turned backward slowly, muttering, “Who to me
Denies the woeful houses?” This he said
Sighing, with downcast aspect and disturbed
Beyond concealment; yet some length he curbed
His anxious thought to cheer me. “Doubt ye nought
Of power to hurt in these fiends insolent;
For once the wider gate on which ye read
The words of doom, with greater pride, they sought
To close against the Highest. Already is bent
A great One hereward, whose unhindered way
Descends the steeps unaided. He shall say
Such words as must the trembling hells obey.”

  • Canto IX 

I THINK the paleness of the fear I showed
When he, rejected from that conference,
Rejoined me, caused him speak more confident
Than felt he inly. For the glance he sent
Through the dense darkness of the backward road
Denied the valour of his words’ pretence;
And pausing there with anxious listening mien,
While came no sound, nor any help was seen,
He muttered, “Yet we must this conflict win,
For else – But whom her aid has pledged herein -
How long before he cometh!” And plain I knew
His words turned sideward from the ending due
They first portended. Faster beat my fear,
Methinks, than had he framed in words more clear
The meaning that his care withheld.

I said,
“Do others of the hopeless, sinless, dead,
Who with thee in the outmost circle dwell,
Come ever downward to the narrowing hell
That now we traverse?”
“Once Erichtho
fell,”
He answered, “conjured to such end that I,
- Who then short time had passed to those who die, -
Came here, controlled by her discerning spell,
And entered through these hostile gates, and drew
A spirit from the darkest, deepest pit,
The place of Judas named, that centres Hell.
The path I learnt, and all its dangers well.
Content thine heart. This foul-stretched marsh surrounds
The dolorous city to its furthest bounds.
Without, the dense mirk, and the bubbling mire:
Within, the white-hot pulse of eating fire,
Whence this fiend-anger thwarts. . .,” and more he said,
To save me doubtless from my thoughts, but I
Heeded no more, for by the beacons red
That on the lofty tower before us glowed,
Three bloodstained and infernal furies showed,
Erect, of female form in guise and limb,
But clothed in coils of hydras green and grim;
And with cerastes bound was every head,
And for its crown of hair was serpented;
And he, who followed my diverted gaze,
The handmaids of the Queen of Woeful Days
Well knowing, told me, “These the Furies three.
Megжra leftward: on the right is she
Alecto, wailing: and Tisiphone
Midmost.”
These hateful, in their need of prey,
Tore their own breasts with bloodied claws, and when
They saw me, from the living world of men,
Beneath them standing, with one purpose they
Cried, and so loudly that I shrank for fear,
“Medusa! let her from her place appear,
To change him into stone! Our first default
That venged no wrath on Theseus’ deep assault,
So brings him.”
“Turn thou from their sight,” my guide
Enjoined, nor wholly on my fear relied,
But placed his hands across mine eyes the while
He told me further “Risk no glance. The sight
Of Gorgon, if she cometh, would bring thee night
From which were no returning.”
Ye
that read
With wisdom to discern, ye well may heed
The hidden meaning of the truth that lies
Beneath the shadow-words of mysteries
That here I show ye.
While I turned away,

Across the blackness of the putrid bay,
There crashed a thunder of most fearful sound,
At which the opposing shores, from bound to bound,
Trembled.
As when an entering tempest rends
The brooding heat, and nought its course can stay,
That through the forest its dividing way
Tears open, and tramples down, and strips, and bends,
And levels. The wild things in the woods that be
Cower down. The herdsmen from its trumpets flee.
With clouds of dust to trace its course it goes,
Superb, and leaving ruin. Such sound arose.
And he that held me loosened mine eyes, and said,
“Look back, and see what foam the black waves bear.”

As frogs, the while the serpent picks his prey,
In panic scatter through the stream, and there
Flatten themselves upon its bouldered bed,
I saw a thousand ruined spirits that fled
Before the coming of One who held his way
Dry-shod across the water.
His
left hand
He waved before him, and the stagnant air
Retreated. Simple it were to understand
A Messenger of Heaven he came. My guide
Signed me to silence, and to reverence due,
While to one stroke of his indignant wand
The gate swung open. “Outcast spawn!” he cried,
His voice heard vibrant through the aperture grim,
“Why spurn ye at the Will that, once defied,
Here cast ye grovelling? Have ye felt from Him
Aught ever for fresh revolt but harder pains?
Has Cerberus’ throat, skinned with the threefold chains,
No meaning? Why, to fate most impotent,
Contend ye vainly?”
Then he turned and went,
Nor one glance gave us, but he seemed as one
Whom larger issue than the instant done
Engages wholly.
By that Power compelled,
The gates stood open, and our course we held
Unhindered. As the threshold dread we crossed,
My eager glances swept the scene to know,
In those doomed walls imprisoned, how lived the lost.

On either hand a wide plain stretched, to show
A sight of torment, and most dismal woe.

At Arles, where the stagnant Rhone extends,
Or Pola, where the gulf Quarnero bends,
As with old tombs the plains are ridged, so here,
All sides, did rows of countless tombs appear,
But in more bitter a guise, for everywhere
Shone flames, that moved among them.

Every tomb
Stood open, white with heat. No craft requires
More heated metal than the crawling fires
Made hot the sides of those sad sepulchres;
And cries of torture and most dire despair
Came from them, as the spirits wailed their doom.

I said, “Who are they, in these chests that lie
Confined, and join in this lamenting cry?”

My Master answered, “These in life denied
The faith that saves, and that resisting pride
Here brought them. With their followers, like to like,
Assorted are they, and the keen flames strike
With differing anguish, to the same degree
They reached in their rebellion.”
While
he spake
Rightward he turned, a narrow path to take
Between them and that high-walled boundary.

  • Canto X 

FIRST went my Master, for the space was small
Between the torments and the lofty wall,
And I behind him.
“O controlling Will,”
I spake, “who leadest through such hates, and still
Prevailest for me, wilt thou speak, that who
Within these tombs are held mine eyes may see?
For lifted are they, and unwatched.”

And he, -
“The lids stand open till the time arrive
When to the valley of Jehoshaphat
They each must wend, and earthly flesh resume,
And back returning, as the swarming hive,
From condemnation, each the doleful tomb
Re-enter wailing, and the lids thereat
Be bolted. Here in fitting torment lie
The Epicurean horde, who dared deny
That soul outlasts its mortal home. Is here
Their leader, and his followers round him. Soon
Shall all thy wish be granted, – and the boon
Ye hold in secret.”
“Kind my
guide,” I said,
“I was not silent to conceal, but thou
Didst teach, when in thy written words I read,
That in brief speech is wisdom.”

Here a voice
Behind me, “Tuscan, who canst walk at choice
Untouched amidst the torments, wilt thou stay?
For surely native of the noble land
Where once I held my too-audacious way,
Discreet of speech, thou comest.”
The
sudden cry
So close behind me from the chests that came,
First drove me closer to my guide, but he, -
“What dost thou? Turn thee!” – and a kindly hand
Impelled me, fearful, where the crawling flame
Was all around me, – “Lift thine eyes and see,
For there is Farinata. Be thou short
In speech, for time is failing.”
Scorn
of hell
Was in the eyes that met me. Hard he wrought
To raise himself, till girdle-deep I knew
The greatest of the fierce Uberti crew,
Who asked me, with contempt near-waiting, “Tell
Of whom thou art descended?”
I
replied,
Concealing nothing. With lifted brows he eyed
My face in silence some brief while, and then, -
“Foes were they ever to my part, and me.
It yet must linger in the minds of men
How twice I broke them.”
“Twice ye learned them
flee,”
- I answered boldly, – “but they twice returned;
And others fled more late who have not learned
The mode of that returning.”
Here a
shade
Arose beside him, only to the chin
Revealed: I think it knelt. Beyond and round
It rather looked than at me. Nought it found.
Thereat it wept, and asked me, “Ye that go
Unhindered through these homes of gateless woe, -
Is my son with thee? Hast thou nought to tell?”

I answered, “Single through the gates of hell

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