There is a place in Hell called Malebolge,
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,
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,
Have chosen a mode to pass the people over;
For all upon one side towards the Castle
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;
But what doth bring thee to such pungent sauces?”
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.”
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.
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
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.”
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;
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,
Who there doth scratch herself with filthy nails,
And crouches now, and now on foot is standing.
Thais the harlot is it, who replied
Unto her paramour, when he said, ‘Have I
Great gratitude from thee?’–‘Nay, marvellous;’
And herewith let our sight be satisfied.”
O Simon Magus, O forlorn disciples,
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,
I broke for some one, who was drowning in it;
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?”
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,
Recalls him, so that death may be delayed.
And he cried out: “Dost thou stand there already,
Dost thou stand there already, Boniface?
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,
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,
Such as befits to cover him and me.
New Jason will he be, of whom we read
In Maccabees; and as his king was pliant,
So he who governs France shall be to this one.”
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?
Truly he nothing asked but ‘Follow me.’
Nor Peter nor the rest asked of Matthias
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.
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
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,
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?
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.
Of a new pain behoves me to make verses
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.
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
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?’
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.
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,
Afterwards tarried there where I was born;
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.
By a thousand springs, I think, and more, is bathed,
‘Twixt Garda and Val Camonica, Pennino,
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.
Sitteth Peschiera, fortress fair and strong,
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
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.
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
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
Of magical illusions knew the game.
Behold Guido Bonatti, behold Asdente,
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,
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.