From bridge to bridge thus, speaking other things
Of which my Comedy cares not to sing,
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!”
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,
Behold one of the elders of Saint Zita;
Plunge him beneath, for I return for others
Unto that town, which is well furnished with them.
All there are barrators, except Bonturo;
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;
But the demons, under cover of the bridge,
Cried: “Here the Santo Volto has no place!
Here swims one otherwise than in the Serchio;
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.”
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,
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;
Near is another crag that yields a path.
Yesterday, five hours later than this hour,
One thousand and two hundred sixty-six
Years were complete, that here the way was broken.
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,
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.”
Along the left-hand dike they wheeled about;
But first had each one thrust his tongue between
His teeth towards their leader for a signal;
And he had made a trumpet of his rump.
I have erewhile seen horsemen moving camp,
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,
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!
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,
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;
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;
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,
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,
Who had the enemies of his Lord in hand,
And dealt so with them each exults thereat;
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
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
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.
Silent, alone, and without company
We went, the one in front, the other after,
As go the Minor Friars along their way.
Upon the fable of Aesop was directed
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
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
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,
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 wheel 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,
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 are made.
Without, they gilded are so that it dazzles;
But inwardly all leaden and so heavy
That Frederick used to put them on of straw.
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
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
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,
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;
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.”
“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,
Counselled the Pharisees that it was meet
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
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
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.