That hue which cowardice brought out on me,
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,”
Began he; “Else. . .Such offered us herself. . .
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
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
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!”
“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.”
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
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!”
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,
Even as at Pola near to the Quarnaro,
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.
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;
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
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;
I think that he had risen on his knees.
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.”
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.
“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,
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
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
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,”
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.
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,
And the Cardinal, and of the rest I speak not.”
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.
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,
Whom out of the right way Photinus drew.”
“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
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
Seal with its signet Sodom and Cahors,
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,
Whom the wind drives, and whom the rain doth beat,
And who encounter with such bitter tongues,
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
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,
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.
From these two, if thou bringest to thy mind
Genesis at the beginning, it behoves
Mankind to gain their life and to advance;
And since the usurer takes another way,
Nature herself and in her follower
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,
And far beyond there we descend the crag.”