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The Divine Comedy, Volume 1, Hell [The Inferno]
by Dante Alighieri
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The Divine Comedy, Volume 1, Hell [The Inferno]

by Dante Aligheri

Translated by Charles Eliot Norton



HELL



To

JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL.

E come sare' io sense lui corso?

It is a happiness for me to connect this volume with the memory of my friend and master from youth. I was but a beginner in the study of the Divine Comedy when I first had his incomparable aid in the understanding of it. During the last year of his life he read the proofs of this volume, to what great advantage to my work may readily be conceived.

When, in the early summer of this year, the printing of the Purgatory began, though illness made it an exertion to him, he continued this act of friendship, and did not cease till, at the fifth canto, he laid down the pencil forever from his dear and honored hand.

CHARLES ELIOT NORTON.

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS,

1 October, 1891

The text followed in this translation is, in general, that of Witte. In a few cases I have preferred the readings which the more recent researches of the Rev. Dr. Edward Moore, of Oxford, seem to have established as correct.



CONTENTS

CANTO I. Dante, astray in a wood, reaches the foot of a hill which he begins to ascend; he is hindered by three beasts; he turns back and is met by Virgil, who proposes to guide him into the eternal world.

CANTO II. Dante, doubtful of his own powers, is discouraged at the outset.—Virgil cheers him by telling him that he has been sent to his aid by a blessed Spirit from Heaven.—Dante casts off fear, and the poets proceed.

CANTO III. The gate of Hell. Virgil leads Dante in.—The punishment of the neither good nor bad.—Acheron, and the sinners on its bank.—Charon.—Earthquake.—Dante swoons.

CANTO IV. The further side of Acheron.—Virgil leads Dante into Limbo, the First Circle of Hell, containing the spirits of those who lived virtuously but without Christianity.—Greeting of Virgil by his fellow poets.—They enter a castle, where are the shades of ancient worthies.—Virgil and Dante depart.

CANTO V. The Second Circle: Carnal sinners.—Minos.—Shades renowned of old.—Francesca da Rimini.

CANTO VI. The Third Circle: the Gluttonous.—Cerberus.—Ciacco.

CANTO VII. The Fourth Circle: the Avaricious and the Prodigal.— Pluto.—Fortune.—The Styx.—The Fifth Circle: the Wrathful and the Sullen.

CANTO VIII. The Fifth Circle.—Phlegyas and his boat.—Passage of the Styx.—Filippo Argenti.—The City of Dis.—The demons refuse entrance to the poets.

CANTO IX. The City of Dis.—Eriehtho.—The Three Furies.—The Heavenly Messenger.—The Sixth Circle: Heresiarchs.

CANTO X. The Sixth Circle: Heresiarchs.—Farinata degli Uberti.— Cavalcante Cavalcanti.—Frederick II.

CANTO XI. The Sixth Circle: Heretics.—Tomb of Pope Anastasius.— Discourse of Virgil on the divisions of the lower Hell.

CANTO XII. First round of the Seventh Circle: those who do violence to others.—Tyrants and Homicides.—The Minotaur.—The Centaurs.—Chiron.—Nessus.—The River of Boiling Blood, and the Sinners in it.

CANTO XIII. Second round of the Seventh Circle: those who have done violence to themselves and to their goods.—The Wood of Self-murderers.—The Harpies.—Pier della Vigne.—Lano of Siena and others.

CANTO XIV. Third round of the Seventh Circle those who have done violence to God.—The Burning Sand.—Capaneus.—Figure of the Old Man in Crete.—The Rivers of Hell.

CANTO XV. Third round of the Seventh Circle: those who have done violence to Nature.—Brunetto Latini.—Prophecies of misfortune to Dante.

CANTO XVI. Third round of the Seventh Circle: those who have done violence to Nature.—Guido Guerra, Tegghiaio Aldobrandi and Jacopo Rusticucci.—The roar of Phlegethon as it pours downward.— The cord thrown into the abyss.

CANTO XVII. Third round of the Seventh Circle: those who have done violence to Art.—Geryon.—The Usurers.—Descent to the Eighth Circle.

CANTO XVIII. Eighth Circle: the first pit: Panders and Seducers.— Venedico Caccianimico.—Jason.—Second pit: false flatterers.— Alessio Interminei.—Thais.

CANTO XIX. Eighth Circle: third pit: Simonists.—Pope Nicholas III

CANTO XX. Eighth Circle: fourth pit: Diviners, Soothsayers, and Magicians.—Amphiaraus.—Tiresias.—Aruns.—Manto.—Eurypylus.— Michael Scott.—Asolente.

CANTO XXI. Eighth Circle: fifth pit: Barrators.—A magistrate of Lucca.—The Malebranche.—Parley with them.

CANTO XXII. Eighth Circle: fifth pit: Barrators.—Ciampolo of Navarre.—Brother Gomita.—Michael Zanche.—Fray of the Malebranche.

CANTO XXIII. Eighth Circle. Escape from the fifth pit.—The sixth pit: Hypocrites.—The Jovial Friars.—Caiaphas.—Annas.—Frate Catalano.

CANTO XXIV. Eighth Circle. The poets climb from the sixth pit.— Seventh pit: Fraudulent Thieves.—Vanni Fucci.—Prophecy of calamity to Dante.

CANTO XXV. Eighth Circle: seventh pit: Fraudulent Thieves.— Cacus.—Agnello Brunellesehi and others.

CANTO XXVI. Eighth Circle: eighth pit: Fraudulent Counsellors.— Ulysses and Diomed.

CANTO XXVII. Eighth Circle: eighth pit: Fraudulent Counsellors.— Guido da Montefeltro.

CANTO XXVIII. Eighth Circle: ninth pit: Sowers of discord and schism.—Mahomet and Ali.—Fra Dolcino.—Pier da Medicina.— Curio.—Mosca.—Bertran de Born.

CANTO XXIX. Eighth Circle: ninth pit.—Geri del Bello.—Tenth pit: Falsifiers of all sorts.—Griffolino of Mezzo.—Capocchio.

CANTO XXX. Eighth Circle: tenth pit: Falsifiers of all sorts.— Myrrha.—Gianni Schiechi.—Master Adam.—Sinon of Troy.

CANTO XXXI. The Giants around the Eighth Circle.—Nimrod.— Ephialtes.—Antiens sets the Poets down in the Ninth Circle.

CANTO XXXII. Ninth Circle: Traitors. First ring: Caina.—Counts of Mangona.—Camicion de' Pazzi.—Second ring: Antenora.—Bocca degli Abati.—Buoso da Duera.—Count Ugolino.

CANTO XXXIII. Ninth Circle: Traitors. Second ring: Antenora.— Count Ugolino.—Third ring: Ptolomaea.—Brother Alberigo.—Branca d' Oria.

CANTO XXXIV. Ninth Circle: Traitors. Fourth ring: Judecca.— Lucifer.—Judas, Brutus and Cassius.—Centre of the universe.— Passage from Hell.—Ascent to the surface of the Southern hemisphere.

INTRODUCTION.

So many versions of the Divine Comedy exist in English that a new one might well seem needless. But most of these translations are in verse, and the intellectual temper of our time is impatient of a transmutation in which substance is sacrificed for form's sake, and the new form is itself different from the original. The conditions of verse in different languages vary so widely as to make any versified translation of a poem but an imperfect reproduction of the archetype. It is like an imperfect mirror that renders but a partial likeness, in which essential features are blurred or distorted. Dante himself, the first modern critic, declared that "nothing harmonized by a musical bond can be transmuted from its own speech without losing all its sweetness and harmony," and every fresh attempt at translation affords a new proof of the truth of his assertion. Each language exhibits its own special genius in its poetic forms. Even when they are closely similar in rhythmical method their poetic effect is essentially different, their individuality is distinct. The hexameter of the Iliad is not the hexameter of the Aeneid. And if this be the case in respect to related forms, it is even more obvious in respect to forms peculiar to one language, like the terza rima of the Italian, for which it is impossible to find a satisfactory equivalent in another tongue.

If, then, the attempt be vain to reproduce the form or to represent its effect in a translation, yet the substance of a poem may have such worth that it deserves to be known by readers who must read it in their own tongue or not at all. In this case the aim of the translator should he to render the substance fully, exactly, and with as close a correspondence to the tone and style of the original as is possible between prose and poetry. Of the charm, of the power of the poem such a translation can give but an inadequate suggestion; the musical bond was of its essence, and the loss of the musical bond is the loss of the beauty to which form and substance mutually contributed, and in which they were both alike harmonized and sublimated. The rhythmic life of the original is its vital spirit, and the translation losing this vital spirit is at best as the dull plaster cast to the living marble or the breathing bronze. The intellectual substance is there; and if the work be good, something of the emotional quality may be conveyed; the imagination may mould the prose as it moulded the verse,—but, after all, "translations are but as turn-coated things at best," as Howell said in one of his Familiar Letters.

No poem in any tongue is more informed with rhythmic life than the Divine Comedy. And yet, such is its extraordinary distinction, no poem has an intellectual and emotional substance more independent of its metrical form. Its complex structure, its elaborate measure and rhyme, highly artificial as they are, are so mastered by the genius of the poet as to become the most natural expression of the spirit by which the poem is inspired; while at the same time the thought and sentiment embodied in the verse is of such import, and the narrative of such interest, that they do not lose their worth when expressed in the prose of another tongue; they still haye power to quicken imagination, and to evoke sympathy.

In English there is an excellent prose translation of the Inferno, by Dr. John Carlyle, a man well known to the reader of his brother's Correspondence. It was published forty years ago, but it is still contemporaneous enough in style to answer every need, and had Dr. Carlyle made a version of the whole poem I should hardly have cared to attempt a new one. In my translation of the Inferno I am often Dr. Carlyle's debtor. His conception of what a translation should be is very much the same as my own. Of the Purgatorio there is a prose version which has excellent qualities, by Mr. W. S. Dugdale. Another version of great merit, of both the Purgatorio and Paradiso, is that of Mr. A. J. Butler. It is accompanied by a scholarly and valuable comment, and I owe much to Mr. Butler's work. But through what seems to me occasional excess of literal fidelity his English is now and then somewhat crabbed. "He overacts the office of an interpreter," I cite again from Howell, "who doth enslave himself too strictly to words or phrases. One may be so over-punctual in words that he may mar the matter."

I have tried to be as literal in my translation as was consistent with good English, and to render Dante's own words in words as nearly correspondent to them as the difference in the languages would permit. But it is to be remembered that the familiar uses and subtle associations which give to words their full meaning are never absolutely the same in two languages. Love in English not only SOUNDS but IS different from amor in Latin, or amore in Italian. Even the most felicitous prose translation must fail therefore at times to afford the entire and precise meaning of the original.

Moreover, there are difficulties in Dante's poem for Italians, and there are difficulties in the translation for English readers. These, where it seemed needful, I have endeavored to explain in brief footnotes. But I have desired to avoid distracting the attention of the reader from the narrative, and have mainly left the understanding of it to his good sense and perspicacity. The clearness of Dante's imaginative vision is so complete, and the character of his narration of it so direct and simple, that the difficulties in understanding his intention are comparatively few.

It is a noticeable fact that in by far the greater number of passages where a doubt in regard to the interpretation exists, the obscurity lies in the rhyme-word. For with all the abundant resources of the Italian tongue in rhyme, and with all Dante's mastery of them, the truth still is that his triple rhyme often compelled him to exact from words such service as they did not naturally render and as no other poet had required of them. The compiler of the Ottimo Commento records, in an often-cited passage, that "I, the writer, heard Dante say that never a rhyme had led him to say other than he would, but that many a time and oft he had made words say for him what they were not wont to express for other poets." The sentence has a double truth, for it indicates not only Dante's incomparable power to compel words to give out their full meaning, but also his invention of new uses for them, his employment of them in unusual significations or in forms hardly elsewhere to be found. These devices occasionally interfere with the limpid flow of his diction, but the difficulties of interpretation to which they give rise serve rather to mark the prevailing clearness and simplicity of his expression than seriously to impede its easy and unperplexed current. There are few sentences in the Divina Commedia in which a difficulty is occasioned by lack of definiteness of thought or distinctness of image.

A far deeper-lying and more pervading source of imperfect comprehension of the poem than any verbal difficulty exists in the double or triple meaning that runs through it. The narrative of the poet's spiritual journey is so vivid and consistent that it has all the reality of an account of an actual experience; but within and beneath runs a stream of allegory not less consistent and hardly less continuous than the narrative itself. To the illustration and carrying out of this interior meaning even the minutest details of external incident are made to contribute, with an appropriateness of significance, and with a freedom from forced interpretation or artificiality of construction such as no other writer of allegory has succeeded in attaining. The poem may be read with interest as a record of experience without attention to its inner meaning, but its full interest is only felt when this inner meaning is traced, and the moral significance of the incidents of the story apprehended by the alert intelligence. The allegory is the soul of the poem, but like the soul within the body it does not show itself in independent existence. It is, in scholastic phrase, the form of the body, giving to it its special individuality. Thus in order truly to understand and rightly appreciate the poem the reader must follow its course with a double intelligence. "Taken literally," as Dante declares in his Letter to Can Grande, "the subject is the state of the soul after death, simply considered. But, allegorically taken, its subject is man, according as by his good or ill deserts he renders himself liable to the reward or punishment of Justice." It is the allegory of human life; and not of human life as an abstraction, but of the individual life; and herein, as Mr. Lowell, whose phrase I borrow, has said, "lie its profound meaning and its permanent force." [1] And herein too lie its perennial freshness of interest, and the actuality which makes it contemporaneous with every successive generation. The increase of knowledge, the loss of belief in doctrines that were fundamental in Dante's creed, the changes in the order of society, the new thoughts of the world, have not lessened the moral import of the poem, any more than they have lessened its excellence as a work of art. Its real substance is as independent as its artistic beauty, of science, of creed, and of institutions. Human nature has not changed; the motives of action are the same, though their relative force and the desires and ideals by which they are inspired vary from generation to generation. And thus it is that the moral judgments of life framed by a great poet whose imagination penetrates to the core of things, and who, from his very nature as poet, conceives and sets forth the issues of life not in a treatise of abstract morality, but by means of sensible types and images, never lose interest, and have a perpetual contemporaneousness. They deal with the permanent and unalterable elements of the soul of man.

[1] Mr. Lowell's essay on Dante makes other writing about the poet or the poem seem ineffectual and superfluous. I must assume that it will be familiar to the readers of my version, at least to those among them who desire truly to understand the Divine Comedy.

The scene of the poem is the spiritual world, of which we are members even while still denizens mu the world of time. In the spiritual world the results of sin or perverted love, and of virtue or right love, in this life of probation, are manifest. The life to come is but the fulfilment of the life that now is. This is the truth that Dante sought to enforce. The allegory in which he cloaked it is of a character that separates the Divine Comedy from all other works of similar intent, In The Pilgrim's Progress, for example, the personages introduced are mere simulacra of men and women, the types of moral qualities or religious dispositions. They are abstractions which the genius of Bunyan fails to inform with vitality sufficient to kindle the imagination of the reader with a sense of their actual, living and breathing existence. But in the Divine Comedy the personages are all from real life, they are men and women with their natural passions and emotions, and they are undergoing an actual experience. The allegory consists in making their characters and their fates, what all human characters and fates really are, the types and images of spiritual law. Virgil and Beatrice, whose nature as depicted in the poem makes nearest approach to purely abstract and typical existence, are always consistently presented as living individuals, exalted indeed in wisdom and power, but with hardly less definite and concrete humanity than that of Dante himself.

The scheme of the created Universe held by the Christians of the Middle Ages was comparatively simple, and so definite that Dante, in accepting it in its main features without modification, was provided with the limited stage that was requisite for his design, and of which the general disposition was familiar to all his readers. The three spiritual realms had their local bounds marked out as clearly as those of time earth itself. Their cosmography was but an extension of the largely hypothetical geography of the tune.

The Earth was the centre of the Universe, and its northern hemisphere was the abode of man. At the middle point of this hemisphere stood Jerusalem, equidistant from the Pillars of Hercules on the West, and the Ganges on the East.

Within the body of this hemisphere was hell, shared as a vast cone, of which the apex was the centre of the globe; and here, according to Dante, was the seat of Lucifer. The concave of Hell had been formed by his fall, when a portion of the solid earth, through fear of him, ran back to the southern uninhabited hemisphere, and formed there, directly antipodal to Jerusalem, the mountain of Purgatory which rose from the waste of waters that covered this half of the globe. Purgatory was shaped as a cone, of similar dimensions to that of Hell, amid at its summit was the Terrestrial Paradise.

Immediately surrounding the atmosphere of the Earth was the sphere of elemental fire. Around this was the Heaven of the Moon, and encircling this, in order, were the Heavens of Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jove, Saturn, the Fixed Stars, and the Crystalline or first moving Heaven. These nine concentric Heavens revolved continually around the Earth, and in proportion to their distance from it was time greater swiftness of each. Encircling all was the Empyrean, increate, incorporeal, motionless, unbounded in time or space, the proper seat of God, the home of the Angels, the abode of the Elect.

The Angelic Hierarchy consisted of nine orders, corresponding to the nine moving heavens. Their blessedness and the swiftness of time motion with which in unending delight they circled around God were in proportion to their nearness to Him, —first the Seraphs, then the Cherubs, Thrones, Dominations, Virtues, Powers, Princes, Archangels, and Angels. Through them, under the general name of Intelligences, the Divine influence was transmitted to the Heavens, giving to them their circular motion, which was the expression of their longing to be united with the source of their creation. The Heavens in their turn streamed down upon the Earth the Divine influence thus distributed among them, in varying proportion and power, producing divers effects in the generation and corruption of material things, and in the dispositions and the lives of men.

Such was the general scheme of the Universe. The intention of God in its creation was to communicate of his own perfection to the creatures endowed with souls, that is, to men and to angels, and the proper end of every such creature was to seek its own perfection in likeness to time Divine. This end was attained through that knowledge of God of which the soul was capable, and through love which was in proportion to knowledge. Virtue depended on the free will of man; it was the good use of that will directed to a right object of love. Two lights were given to the soul for guidance of the will: the light of reason for natural things and for the direction of the will to moral virtue the light of grace for things supernatural, and for the direction of the will to spiritual virtue. Sin was the opposite of virtue, the choice by the will of false objects of love; it involved the misuse of reason, and the absence of grace. As the end of virtue was blessedness, so the end of sin was misery.

The cornerstone of Dante's moral system was the Freedom of the Will; in other words, the right of private judgment with the condition of accountability. This is the liberty which Dante, that is man, goes seeking in his journey through the spiritual world. This liberty is to be attained through the right use of reason, illuminated by Divine Grace; it consists in the perfect accord of the will of man with the will of God.

With this view of the nature and end of man Dante's conception of the history of the race could not be other than that its course was providentially ordered. The fall of man had made him a just object of the vengeance of God; but the elect were to be redeemed, and for their redemption the history of the world from the beginning was directed. Not only in his dealings with the Jews, but in his dealings with the heathen was God preparing for the reconciliation of man, to be finally accomplished in his sacrifice of Himself for them. The Roman Empire was foreordained and established for this end. It was to prepare the way for the establishment of the Roman Church. It was the appointed instrument for the political governument of men. Empire and Church were alike divine institutions for the guidance of man on earth.

The aim of Dante in the Divine Comedy was to set forth these truths in such wise as to affect the imaginations and touch the hearts of men, so that they should turn to righteousness. His conviction of these truths was no mere matter of belief; it had the ardor and certainty of faith. They had appeared to him in all their fulness as a revelation of the Divine wisdom. It was his work as poet, as poet with a divine commission, to make this revelation known. His work was a work of faith; it was sacred; to it both Heaven and Earth had set their hands.

To this work, as I have said, the definiteness and the limits of the generally accepted theory of the Universe gave the required frame. The very narrowness of this scheme made Dante's design practicable. He had had the experience of a man on earth. He had been lured by false objects of desire from the pursuit of the true good. But Divine Grace, in the form of Beatrice, who had of old on earth led him aright, now intervened and sent to his aid Virgil, who, as the type of Human Reason, should bring him safe through Hell, showing to him the eternal consequences of sin, and then should conduct him, penitent, up the height of Purgatory, till on its summit, in the Earthly Paradise, Beatrice should appear once more to him. Thence she, as the type of that knowledge through which comes the love of God, should lead him, through the Heavens up to the Empyrean, to the consummation of his course in the actual vision of God.

AIDS TO THE STUDY OF THE DIVINE COMEDY.

The Essay by Mr. Lowell, to which I have already referred (Dante, Lowell's Prose Works, vol. iv.) is the best introduction to the study of the poem. It should be read and re-read.

Dante, an essay by the late Dean Church, is the work of a learned and sympathetic scholar, and is an excellent treatise on the life, times, and work of the poet.

The Notes and Illustrations that accompany Mr. Longfellow's translation of the Divine Comedy form an admirable body of comment on the poem.

The Rev. Dr. Edward Moore's little volume, on The Time-References in the Divina Cominedia (London, 1887), is of great value in making the progress of Dante's journey clear, and in showing Dante's scrupulous consistency of statement. Dr. Moore's more recent work, Contributions to the Textual Criticism of the Divina Commedia (Cambridge, 1889), is to be warmly commended to the advanced student.

These sources of information are enough for the mere English reader. But one who desires to make himself a thorough master of the poem must turn to foreign sources of instruction: to Carl Witte's invaluable Dante-Forschungen (2 vols. Halle, 1869); to the comment, especially that on the Paradiso, which accompanies the German translation of the Divine Comedy by Philalethes. the late King John of Saxony; to Bartoli's life of Dante in his Storia della Letteratura Italiana (Firenze, 1878 and subsequent years), and to Scartazzini's Prolegomeni della Divina Commedia (Leipzig, 1890). The fourteenth century Comments, especially those of Boccaccio, of Buti, and of Benvenuto da Imola, are indispensable to one who would understand the poem as it was understood by Dante's immediate contemporaries and successors. It is from them and from the Chronicle of Dante's contemporary and fellow-citizen, Giovanni Villani, that our knowledge concerning many of the personages mentioned in the Poem is derived.

In respect to the theology and general doctrine of the Poem, the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas is the main source from which Dante himself drew.

Of editions of the Divina Commedia in Italian, either that of Andreoli, or of Bianchi, or of Fraticelli, each in one volume, may be recommended to the beginner. Scartazzini's edition in three volumes is the best, in spite of some serious defects, for the deeper student.

HELL.

CANTO I. Dante, astray in a wood, reaches the foot of a hill which he begins to ascend; he is hindered by three beasts; he turns back and is met by Virgil, who proposes to guide him into the eternal world.

Midway upon the road of our life I found myself within a dark wood, for the right way had been missed. Ah! how hard a thing it is to tell what this wild and rough and dense wood was, which in thought renews the fear! So bitter is it that death is little more. But in order to treat of the good that there I found, I will tell of the other things that I have seen there. I cannot well recount how I entered it, so full was I of slumber at that point where I abandoned the true way. But after I had arrived at the foot of a hill, where that valley ended which had pierced my heart with fear, I looked on high, and saw its shoulders clothed already with the rays of the planet[1] that leadeth men aright along every path. Then was the fear a little quieted which in the lake of my heart had lasted through the night that I passed so piteously. And even as one who with spent breath, issued out of the sea upon the shore, turns to the perilous water and gazes, so did my soul, which still was flying, turn back to look again upon the pass which never had a living person left.

[1] The sun, a planet according to the Ptolemaic system.

After I had rested a little my weary body I took my way again along the desert slope, so that the firm foot was always the lower. And ho! almost at the beginning of the steep a she-leopard, light and very nimble, which was covered with a spotted coat. And she did not move from before my face, nay, rather hindered so my road that to return I oftentimes had turned.

The time was at the beginning of the morning, and the Sun was mounting upward with those stars that were with him when Love Divine first set in motion those beautiful things;[1] so that the hour of the time and the sweet season were occasion of good hope to me concerning that wild beast with the dappled skin. But not so that the sight which appeared to me of a lion did not give me fear. He seemed to be coming against me, with head high and with ravening hunger, so that it seemed that the air was affrighted at him. And a she-wolf,[2] who with all cravings seemed laden in her meagreness, and already had made many folk to live forlorn,—she caused me so much heaviness, with the fear that came from sight of her, that I lost hope of the height And such as he is who gaineth willingly, and the time arrives that makes him lose, who in all his thoughts weeps and is sad,—such made me the beast without repose that, coming on against me, little by little was pushing me back thither where the Sun is silent.

[1] According to old tradition the spring was the season of the creation.

[2] These three beasts correspond to the triple division of sins into those of incontinence, of violence, and of fraud. See Canto XI.

While I was falling back to the low place, before mine eyes appeared one who through long silence seemed hoarse. When I saw him in the great desert, "Have pity on me!" I cried to him, "whatso thou art, or shade or real man." He answered me: "Not man; man once I was, and my parents were Lombards, and Mantuans by country both. I was born sub Julio, though late, and I lived at Rome under the good Augustus, in the time of the false and lying gods. Poet was I, and sang of that just son of Anchises who came from Troy after proud Ilion had been burned. But thou, why returnest thou to so great annoy? Why dost thou not ascend the delectable mountain which is the source and cause of every joy?"

"Art thou then that Virgil and that fount which poureth forth so large a stream of speech?" replied I to him with bashful front: "O honor and light of the other poem I may the long seal avail me, and the great love, which have made me search thy volume! Thou art my master and my author; thou alone art he from whom I took the fair style that hath done me honor. Behold the beast because of which I turned; help me against her, famous sage, for she makes any veins and pulses tremble." "Thee it behoves to hold another course," he replied, when he saw me weeping, "if thou wishest to escape from this savage place; for this beast, because of which thou criest out, lets not any one pass along her way, but so hinders him that she kills him! and she has a nature so malign and evil that she never sates her greedy will, and after food is hungrier than before. Many are the animals with which she wives, and there shall be more yet, till the hound [1] shall come that will make her die of grief. He shall not feed on land or goods, but wisdom and love and valor, and his birthplace shall be between Feltro and Feltro. Of that humble[2] Italy shall he be the salvation, for which the virgin Camilla died, and Euryalus, Turnus and Nisus of their wounds. He shall hunt her through every town till he shall have set her back in hell, there whence envy first sent her forth. Wherefore I think and deem it for thy best that thou follow me, and I will be thy guide, and will lead thee hence through the eternal place where thou shalt hear the despairing shrieks, shalt see the ancient spirits woeful who each proclaim the second death. And then thou shalt see those who are contented in the fire, because they hope to come, whenever it may be, to the blessed folk; to whom if thou wilt thereafter ascend, them shall be a soul more worthy than I for that. With her I will leave thee at my departure; for that Emperor who reigneth them above, because I was rebellious to His law, wills not that into His city any one should come through me. In all parts He governs and them He reigns: there in His city and His lofty seat. O happy he whom thereto He elects!" And I to him, "Poet, I beseech thee by that God whom thou didst not know, in order that I may escape this ill and worse, that thou lead me thither whom thou now hest said, so that I may see the gate of St. Peter, and those whom thou makest so afflicted."

[1] Of whom the hound is the symbol, and to whom Dante looked for the deliverance of Italy from the discorda and misrule that made her wretched, is still matter of doubt, after centuries of controversy.

[2] Fallen, humiliated.

Then he moved on, and I behind him kept.



CANTO II. Dante, doubtful of his own powers, is discouraged at the outset.—Virgil cheers him by telling him that he has been sent to his aid by a blessed Spirit from Heaven.—Dante casts off fear, and the poets proceed.

The day was going, and the dusky air was taking the living things that are on earth from their fatigues, and I alone was preparing to sustain the war alike of the road, and of the woe which the mind that erreth not shall retrace. O Muses, O lofty genius, now assist me! O mind that didst inscribe that which I saw, here shall thy nobility appear! I began:—"Poet, that guidest me, consider my virtue, if it is sufficient, ere to the deep pass thou trustest me. Thou sayest that the parent of Silvius while still corruptible went to the immortal world and was there in the body. Wherefore if the Adversary of every ill was then courteous, thinking on the high effect that should proceed from him, and on the Who and the What,[1] it seemeth not unmeet to the man of understanding; for in the empyreal heaven he had been chosen for father of revered Rome and of her empire; both which (to say truth indeed) were ordained for the holy place where the successor of the greater Peter hath his seat. Through this going, whereof thou givest him vaunt, he learned things which were the cause of his victory and of the papal mantle. Afterward the Chosen Vessel went thither to bring thence comfort to that faith which is the beginning of the way of salvation. But I, why go I thither? or who concedes it? I am not Aeneas, I am not Paul; me worthy of this, neither I nor others think; wherefore if I give myself up to go, I fear lest the going may be mad. Thou art wise, thou understandest better than I speak."

[1] Who he was, and what should result.

And as is he who unwills what he willed, and because of new thoughts changes his design, so that he quite withdraws from beginning, such I became on that dark hillside: wherefore in my thought I abandoned the enterprise which had been so hasty in the beginning.

"If I have rightly understood thy speech," replied that shade of the magnanimous one, "thy soul is hurt by cowardice, which oftentimes encumbereth a man so that it turns him back from honorable enterprise, as false seeing does a beast when it is startled. In order that thou loose thee from this fear I will tell thee wherefore I have come, and what I heard at the first moment that I grieved for thee. I was among those who are suspended,[1] and a Lady called me, so blessed and beautiful that I besought her to command. Her eyes were more lucent than the star, and she began to speak to me sweet and low, with angelic voice, in her own tongue: 'O courteous Mantuan soul, of whom the fame yet lasteth in the world, and shall last so long as the world endureth! a friend of mine and not of fortune upon the desert hillside is so hindered on his road that he has turned for fear, and I am afraid, through that which I have heard of him in heaven, lest already he be so astray that I may have risen late to his succor. Now do thou move, and with thy speech ornate, and with whatever is needful for his deliverance, assist him so that I may be consoled for him. I am Beatrice who make thee go. I come from a place whither I desire to return. Love moved me, and makes me speak. When I shall be before my Lord, I will commend thee often unto Him.' Then she was silent, and thereon I began: 'O Lady of Virtue, thou alone through whom the human race surpasseth all contained within that heaven which hath the smallest circles! [2] so pleasing unto me is thy command that to obey it, were it already done, were slow to me. Thou hast no need further to open unto me thy will; but tell me the cause why thou guardest not thyself from descending down here into this centre, from the ample place whither thou burnest to return.' 'Since thou wishest to know so inwardly, I will tell thee briefly,' she replied to me, 'wherefore I fear not to come here within. One ought to fear those things only that have power of doing harm, the others not, for they are not dreadful. I am made by God, thanks be to Him, such that your misery toucheth me not, nor doth the flame of this burning assail me. A gentle Lady[3] is in heaven who hath pity for this hindrance whereto I send thee, so that stern judgment there above she breaketh. She summoned Lucia in her request, and said, "Thy faithful one now hath need of thee, and unto thee I commend him." Lucia, the foe of every cruel one, rose and came to the place where I was, seated with the ancient Rachel. She said, "Beatrice, true praise of God, why dost thou not succor him who so loved thee that for thee he came forth from the vulgar throng? Dost thou not hear the pity of his plaint? Dost thou not see the death that combats him beside the stream whereof the sea hath no vaunt?" In the world never were persons swift to seek their good, and to fly their harm, as I, after these words were uttered, came here below, from my blessed seat, putting my trust in thy upright speech, which honors thee and them who have heard it.' After she had said this to me, weeping she turned her lucent eyes, whereby she made me more speedy in coming. And I came to thee as she willed. Thee have I delivered from that wild beast that took from thee the short ascent of the beautiful mountain. What is it then? Why, why dost thou hold back? why dost thou harbor such cowardice in thy heart? why hast thou not daring and boldness, since three blessed Ladies care for thee in the court of Heaven, and my speech pledges thee such good?"

[1] In Limbo, neither in Hell nor Heaven.

[2] The heaven of the moon, nearest to the earth.

[3] The Virgin.

As flowerets, bent and closed by the chill of night, after the sun shines on them straighten themselves all open on their stem, so I became with my weak virtue, and such good daring hastened to my heart that I began like one enfranchised: "Oh compassionate she who succored me! and thou courteous who didst speedily obey the true words that she addressed to thee! Thou by thy words hast so disposed my heart with desire of going, that I have returned unto my first intent. Go on now, for one sole will is in us both: Thou Leader, thou Lord, and thou Master." Thus I said to him; and when he had moved on, I entered along the deep and savage road.



CANTO III. The gate of Hell.—Virgil lends Dante in.—The punishment of the neither good nor bad.—Aeheron, and the sinners on its bank.—Charon.—Earthquake.—Dante swoons.

"Through me is the way into the woeful city; through me is the way into eternal woe; through me is the way among the lost people. Justice moved my lofty maker: the divine Power, the supreme Wisdom and the primal Love made me. Before me were no things created, unless eternal, and I eternal last. Leave every hope, ye who enter!"

These words of color obscure I saw written at the top of a gate; whereat I, "Master, their meaning is dire to me."

And he to me, like one who knew, "Here it behoves to leave every fear; it behoves that all cowardice should here be dead. We have come to the place where I have told thee that thou shalt see the woeful people, who have lost the good of the understanding."

And when he had put his hand on mine, with a glad countenance, wherefrom I took courage, he brought me within the secret things. Here sighs, laments, and deep wailings were resounding though the starless air; wherefore at first I wept thereat. Strange tongues, horrible cries, words of woe, accents of anger, voices high and hoarse, and sounds of hands with them, were making a tumult which whirls forever in that air dark without change, like the sand when the whirlwind breathes.

And I, who had my head girt with horror, said, "Master, what is it that I hear? and what folk are they who seem in woe so vanquished?"

And he to me, "This miserable measure the wretched souls maintain of those who lived without infamy and without praise. Mingled are they with that caitiff choir of the angels, who were not rebels, nor were faithful to God, but were for themselves. The heavens chased them out in order to be not less beautiful, nor doth the depth of Hell receive them, because the damned would have some glory from them."

And I, "Master, what is so grievous to them, that makes them lament so bitterly?"

He answered, "I will tell thee very briefly. These have no hope of death; and their blind life is so debased, that they are envious of every other lot. Fame of them the world permitteth not to be; mercy and justice disdain them. Let us not speak of them, but do thou look and pass on."

And I, who was gazing, saw a banner, that whirling ran so swiftly that it seemed to me to scorn all repose, and behind it came so long a train of folk, that I could never have believed death had undone so many. After I had distinguished some among them, I saw and knew the shade of him who made, through cowardice, the great refusal. [1] At once I understood and was certain, that this was the sect of the caitiffs displeasing unto God, and unto his enemies. These wretches, who never were alive, were naked, and much stung by gad-flies and by wasps that were there. These streaked their faces with blood, which, mingled with tears, was harvested at their feet by loathsome worms.

[1] Who is intended by these words is uncertain.

And when I gave myself to looking onward, I saw people on the bank of a great river; wherefore I said, "Master, now grant to me that I may know who these are, and what rule makes them appear so ready to pass over, as I discern through the faint light." And he to me, "The things will be clear to thee, when we shall set our steps on the sad marge of Acheron." Then with eyes bashful and cast down, fearing lest my speech had been irksome to him, far as to the river I refrained from speaking.

And lo! coming toward us in a boat, an old man, white with ancient hair, crying, "Woe to you, wicked souls! hope not ever to see Heaven! I come to carry you to the other bank, into eternal darkness, to heat and frost. And thou who art there, living soul, depart from these that are dead." But when he saw that I did not depart, he said, "By another way, by other ports thou shalt come to the shore, not here, for passage; it behoves that a lighter bark bear thee."[1]

[1] The boat that bears the souls to Purgatory. Charon recognizes that Dante is not among the damned.

And my Leader to him, "Charon, vex not thyself, it is thus willed there where is power to do that which is willed; and farther ask not." Then the fleecy cheeks were quiet of the pilot of the livid marsh, who round about his eyes had wheels of flame.

But those souls, who were weary and naked, changed color, and gnashed their teeth soon as they heard his cruel words. They blasphemed God and their parents, the human race, the place, the time and the seed of their sowing and of their birth. Then, bitterly weeping, they drew back all of them together to the evil bank, that waits for every man who fears not God. Charon the demon, with eyes of glowing coal, beckoning them, collects them all; he beats with his oar whoever lingers.

As in autumn the leaves fall off one after the other, till the bough sees all its spoils upon the earth, in like wise the evil seed of Adam throw themselves from that shore one by one at signals, as the bird at his call. Thus they go over the dusky wave, and before they have landed on the farther side, already on this a new throng is gathered.

"My son," said the courteous Master, "those who die in the wrath of God, all meet together here from every land. And they are eager to pass over the stream, for the divine justice spurs them, so that fear is turned to desire. This way a good soul never passes; and therefore if Charon snarleth at thee, thou now mayest well know what his speech signifies." This ended, the dark plain trembled so mightily, that the memory of the terror even now bathes me with sweat. The tearful land gave forth a wind that flashed a vermilion light which vanquished every sense of mine, and I fell as a man whom slumber seizes.



CANTO IV. The further side of Acheron.—Virgil leads Dante into Limbo, the First Circle of Hell, containing the spirits of those who lived virtuously but without Christianity.—Greeting of Virgil by his fellow poets.—They enter a castle, where are the shades of ancient worthies.—Virgil and Dante depart.

A heavy thunder broke the deep sleep in my head, so that I started up like a person who by force is wakened. And risen erect, I moved my rested eye round about, and looked fixedly to distinguish the place where I was. True it is, that I found myself on the verge of the valley of the woeful abyss that gathers in thunder of infinite wailings. Dark, profound it was, and cloudy, so that though I fixed my sight on the bottom I did not discern anything there.

"Now we descend down here into the blind world," began the Poet all deadly pale, "I will be first, and thou shalt be second."

And I, who had observed his color, said, "How shall I come, if thou fearest, who art wont to be a comfort to my doubting?" And he to me, "The anguish of the folk who are down here depicts upon my face that pity which thou takest for fear. Let us go on, for the long way urges us."

So he set forth, and so he made me enter within the first circle that girds the abyss. Here, so far as could be heard, there was no plaint but that of sighs which made the eternal air to tremble: this came of the woe without torments felt by the crowds, which were many and great, of infants and of women and of men.

The good Master to me, "Thou dost not ask what spirits are these that thou seest. Now I would have thee know, before thou goest farther, that they sinned not; and if they have merits it sufficeth not, because they had not baptism, which is part of the faith that thou believest; and if they were before Christianity, they did not duly worship God: and of such as these am I myself. Through such defects, and not through other guilt, are we lost, and only so far harmed that without hope we live in desire."

Great woe seized me at my heart when I heard him, because I knew that people of much worth were suspended in that limbo. "Tell me, my Master, tell me, Lord," began I, with wish to be assured of that faith which vanquishes every error,[1] "did ever any one who afterwards was blessed go out from here, either by his own or by another's merit?" And he, who understood my covert speech, answered, "I was new in this state when I saw a Mighty One come hither crowned with sign of victory. He drew out hence the shade of the first parent, of Abel his son, and that of Noah, of Moses the law-giver and obedient, Abraham the patriarch, and David the King, Israel with his father, and with his offspring, and with Rachel, for whom he did so much, and others many; and He made them blessed: and I would have thee know that before these, human spirits were not saved."

[1] Wishing especially to be assured in regard to the descent of Christ into Hell.

We ceased not going on because he spoke, but all the while were passing through the wood, the wood I mean of crowded spirits. Nor yet had our way been long from where I slept, when I saw a fire, that conquered a hemisphere of darkness. We were still a little distant from it, yet not so far that I could not partially discern that honorable folk possessed that place. "O thou that honorest both science and art, these, who are they, that have such honor that from the condition of the others it sets them apart?" And he to me, "The honorable fame of them which resounds above in thy life wins grace in heaven that so advances them." At this a voice was heard by me, "Honor the loftiest Poet! his shade returns that was departed." When the voice had ceased and was quiet, I saw four great shades coming to us: they had a semblance neither sad nor glad. The good Master began to say, "Look at him with that sword in hand who cometh before the three, even as lord. He is Homer, the sovereign poet; the next who comes is Horace, the satirist; Ovid is the third, and the last is Lucan. Since each shares with me the name that the single voice sounded, they do me honor, and in that do well"

Thus I saw assembled the fair school of that Lord of the loftiest song which above the others as an eagle flies. After they had discoursed somewhat together, they turned to me with sign of salutation; and my Master smiled thereat. And far more of honor yet they did me, for they made me of their band, so that I was the sixth amid so much wit. Thus we went on as far as the light, speaking things concerning which silence is becoming, even as was speech there where I was.

We came to the foot of a noble castle, seven times circled by high walls, defended round about by a fair streamlet. This we passed as if hard ground; through seven gates I entered with these sages; we came to a meadow of fresh verdure. People were there with eyes slow and grave, of great authority in their looks; they spake seldom, and with soft voices. Thus we drew apart, on one side, into a place open, luminous, and high, so that they all could be seen. There opposite upon the green enamel were shown to me the great spirits, whom to have seen I inwardly exalt myself.

I saw Electra with many companions, among whom I knew both Hector and Aeneas, Caesar in armor, with his gerfalcon eyes; I saw Camilla and Penthesilea on the other side, and I saw the King Latinus, who was seated with Lavinia his daughter. I saw that Brutus who drove out Tarquin; Lucretia, Julia, Marcia, and Cornelia; and alone, apart, I saw the Saladin. When I raised my brow a little more, I saw the Master of those who know, seated amid the philosophic family; all regard him, all do him honor. Here I saw both Socrates and Plato, who before the others stand nearest to him; Democritus, who ascribes the world to chance; Diogenes, Anaxagoras, and Thales, Empedocles, Heraclitus, and Zeno; and I saw the good collector of the qualities, Dioscorides, I mean; and I saw Orpheus, Tully, and Linus, and moral Seneca, Euclid the geometer, and Ptolemy, Hippocrates, Avicenna, Galen, and Averrhoes, who made the great comment. I cannot report of all in full, because the long theme so drives me that many times speech comes short of fact.

The company of six is reduced to two. By another way the wise guide leads me, out from the quiet, into the air that trembles, and I come into a region where is nothing that can give light.



CANTO V. The Second Circle, that of Carnal Sinners.—Minos.— Shades renowned of old.—Francesca da Rimini.

Thus I descended from the first circle down into the second, which girdles less space, and so much more woe that it goads to wailing. There abides Minos horribly, and snarls; he examines the sins at the entrance; he judges, and he sends according as he entwines himself. I mean, that, when the miscreant spirit comes there before him, it confesses itself wholly, and that discerner of sins sees what place of Hell is for it; he girdles himself with his tail so many times as the degrees he wills it should be sent down. Always before him stand many of them. They go, in turn, each to the judgment; they speak, and hear, and then are whirled below.

"O thou that comest to the woeful inn," said Minos to me, when he saw me, leaving the act of so great an office, "beware how thou enterest, and to whom thou trustest thyself; let not the amplitude of the entrance deceive thee." And my Leader to him, "Why then dost thou cry out? Hinder not his fated going; thus is it willed there where is power to do that which is willed; and ask thou no more."

Now the woeful notes begin to make themselves heard; now am I come where much lamentation smites me. I had come into a place mute of all light, that bellows as the sea does in a tempest, if it be combated by opposing winds. The infernal hurricane that never rests carries along the spirits in its rapine; whirling and smiting it molests them. When they arrive before its rushing blast, here are shrieks, and bewailing, and lamenting; here they blaspheme the power divine. I understood that to such torment are condemned the carnal sinners who subject reason to appetite. And as their wings bear along the starlings in the cold season in a troop large and full, so that blast the evil spirits; hither, thither, down, up it carries them; no hope ever comforts them, not of repose, but even of less pain.

And as the cranes go singing their lays, making in air a long line of themselves, so saw I come, uttering wails, shades borne along by the aforesaid strife. Wherefore I said, "Master, who are those folk whom the black air so castigates?" "The first of these of whom thou wishest to have knowledge," said he to me then, "was empress of many tongues. To the vice of luxury was she so abandoned that lust she made licit in her law, to take away the blame she had incurred. She is Semiramis, of whom it is read that she succeeded Ninus and had been his spouse; she held the land which the Soldan rules. That other is she who, for love, killed herself, and broke faith to the ashes of Sichaeus. Next is Cleopatra, the luxurious. See Helen, for whom so long a time of ill revolved; and see the great Achilles, who at the end fought with love. See Paris, Tristan,—" and more than a thousand shades he showed me with his finger, and named them, whom love had parted from our life.

After I had heard my Teacher name the dames of eld and the cavaliers, pity overcame me, and I was well nigh bewildered. I began, "Poet, willingly would I speak with those two that go together, and seem to be so light upon the wind." And he to me, "Thou shalt see when they shall be nearer to us, and do thou then pray them by that love which leads them, and they will come." Soon as the wind sways them toward us I lifted my voice, "O weary souls, come speak to us, if One forbid it not."

As doves, called by desire, with wings open and steady, fly through the air to their sweet nest, borne by their will, these issued from the troop where Dido is, coming to us through the malign air, so strong was the compassionate cry.

"O living creature, gracious and benign, that goest through the lurid air visiting us who stained the world blood-red,—if the King of the universe were a friend we would pray Him for thy peace, since thou hast pity on our perverse ill. Of what it pleaseth thee to hear, and what to speak, we will hear and we will speak to you, while the wind, as now, is hushed for us. The city where I was born sits upon the sea-shore, where the Po, with its followers, descends to have peace. Love, that on gentle heart quickly lays hold, seized him for the fair person that was taken from me, and the mode still hurts me. Love, which absolves no loved one from loving, seized me for the pleasing of him so strongly that, as thou seest, it does not even now abandon me. Love brought us to one death. Caina awaits him who quenched our life." These words were borne to us from them.

Soon as I had heard those injured souls I bowed my face, and held it down, until the Poet said to me, "What art thou thinking?" When I replied, I began, "Alas! how many sweet thoughts, how great desire, led these unto the woeful pass." Then I turned me again to them, and I spoke, and began, "Francesca, thy torments make me sad and piteous to weeping. But tell me, at the time of the sweet sighs by what and how did love concede to you to know the dubious desires?" And she to me, "There is no greater woe than in misery to remember the happy time, and that thy Teacher knows. But if to know the first root of our love thou hast so great a longing, I will do like one who weeps and tells.

"We were reading one day, for delight, of Lancelot, how love constrained him. We were alone and without any suspicion. Many times that reading made us lift our eyes, and took the color from our faces, but only one point was that which overcame us. When we read of the longed-for smile being kissed by such a lover, this one, who never from me shall be divided, kissed my mouth all trembling. Galahaut was the book, and he who wrote it. That day we read in it no farther."[1]

[1] In the Romance, it was Galahaut that prevailed on Guinevere to give a kiss to Lancelot.

While one spirit said this the other was weeping so that through pity I swooned, as if I had been dying, and fell as a dead body falls.



CANTO VI. The Third Circle, that of the Gluttonous.—Cerberus.— Ciacco.

When the mind returned, which closed itself before the pity of these two kinsfolk, that had all confounded me with sadness, new torments and new tormented souls I see around me wherever I move, and howsoever I turn, and wherever I gaze.

I am in the third circle, that of the rain eternal, accursed, cold, and heavy. Its rule and quality are never new. Coarse hail, and foul water and snow pour down through the tenebrous air; the earth that receives them stinks. Cerberus, a beast cruel and monstrous, with three throats barks doglike above the people that are here submerged. He has vermilion eyes, and a greasy and black beard, and a big belly, and hands armed with claws: he tears the spirits, flays them, and rends them. The rain makes them howl like dogs; of one of their sides they make a screen for the other; the profane wretches often turn themselves.

When Cerberus, the great worm, observed us he opened his mouths, and showed his fangs to us; not a limb had he that he kept quiet. And my Leader opened wide his hands, took some earth, and with full fists threw it into the ravenous gullets. As the dog that barking craves, and becomes quiet when he bites his food, and is intent and fights only to devour it, such became those filthy faces of the demon Cerberus, who so thunders at the souls that they would fain be deaf.

We were passing over the shades whom the heavy rain subdues, and were setting our feet upon their vain show that seems a body. They all of them lay upon the ground, except one who raised himself to sit, quickly as he saw us passing before him. "O thou who art led through this Hell," he said to me, "recognize me, if thou canst; thou wast made before I was unmade." And I to him, "The anguish which thou hast perchance withdraws thee from my memory, so that it seems not that I ever saw thee. But tell me who thou art, that in a place so woeful art set, and with such a punishment, that if any other is greater none is so displeasing." And he to me, "Thy city which is so full of envy, that already the sack runs over, held me in it, in the serene life. You citizens called me Ciacco; [1] for the damnable sin of gluttony, as thou seest, I am broken by the rain. And I, wretched soul, am not alone, for all these endure like punishment, for like sin," and more he said not. I answered him, "Ciacco, thy trouble so weighs upon me, that it invites me to weeping; but tell me, if thou canst, to what will come the citizens of the divided city; if any one in it is just; and tell me the reason why such great discord has assailed it."

[1] Ciacco, in popular speech, signifies a hog.

And he to me, "After long contention they will come to blood, and the savage party will chase out the other with great injury. Thereafter within three suns it behoves this to fall, and the other to surmount through the force of one who even now is tacking. It will hold high its front long time, keeping the other under heavy burdens, however it may lament and be shamed thereat. Two men are just, but there they are not heeded; Pride, Envy, Avarice are the three sparks that have inflamed their hearts."[1]

Here he set end unto the lamentable sound.

[1] This prophecy relates to the dissensions and violence of the parties of the Whites and the Blacks by which Florence was rent. The "savage party" was that of the Whites, who were mainly Ghibellines. The "one who even now is tacking" was the Pope, Boniface VIII., who was playing fast and loose with both. Who the "two just men" were is unknown.

And I to him, "Still I would that thou teach me, and that of more speech thou make a gift to me. Farinata and the Tegghiaio who were so worthy, Jacopo Rusticucci, Arrigo, and the Mosca, and the rest who set their minds on well-doing, tell me where they are, and cause that I may know them, for great desire constrains me to learn if Heaven sweeten them, or Hell envenom.

And he, "They are among the blacker souls: a different sin weighs them down to the bottom; if thou so far descendest, thou canst see them. But when thou shalt be in the sweet world I pray thee that thou bring me to the memory of others. More I say not to thee, and more I answer thee not." His straight eyes he twisted then awry, looked at me a little, and then bent his head, and fell with it level with the other blind.

And the Leader said to me, "He wakes no more this side the sound of the angelic trump. When the hostile Sovereign shall come, each one will find again his dismal tomb, will take again his flesh and his shape, will hear that which through eternity reechoes."

Thus we passed along with slow steps through the foul mixture of the shades and of the rain, touching a little on the future life. Wherefore I said, "Master, these torments will they increase after the great sentence, or will they become less, or will they be just as burning?" And he to me, "Return to thy science, which declares that the more perfect a thing is the more it feels the good, and so the pain. Though this accursed people never can attain to true perfection, it expects thereafter to be more than now."

We took a circling course along that road, speaking far more than I repeat; and came to the point where the descent is. Here we found Pluto,[1] the great enemy.

[1] Pluto appears here not as Hades, the god of the lower world, but in his character as the giver of wealth.



CANTO VII. The Fourth Circle, that of the Avaricious and the Prodigal.—Pluto.—Fortune.—The Styx.—The Fifth Circle, that of the Wrathful and the Sullen.

"Pape Satan, pape Satan aleppe,"—began Pluto with his clucking voice. And that gentle Sage, who knew everything, said to comfort me, "Let not thy fear hurt thee; for whatso power he have shall not take from thee the descent of this rock." Then he turned to that swollen lip and said, "Be silent, accursed wolf! inwardly consume thyself with thine own rage: not without cause is this going to the abyss; it is willed on high, there where Michael did vengeance on the proud adultery."[1] As sails swollen by the wind fall in a heap when the mast snaps, so fell to earth the cruel beast.

[1] Adultery, in the sense of infidelity to God.

Thus we descended into the fourth hollow, taking more of the woeful bank that gathers in the evil of the whole universe. Ah, Justice of God! Who heapeth up so many new travails and penalties as I saw? And why doth our sin so waste us? As doth the wave, yonder upon Charybdis, which is broken on that which it encounters, so it behoves that here the people counterdance.

Here saw I people more than elsewhere many, and from one side and the other with great howls rolling weights by force of chest. They struck against each other, and then just there each turned, rolling backward, crying, "Why keepest thou?" and "Why flingest thou away?" Thus they turned through the dark circle on either hand to the opposite point, still crying out their opprobrious verse; then each, when he had come through his half circle, wheeled round to the other joust.

And I, who had my heart well-nigh pierced through, said, "My Master, now declare to me what folk is this, and if all these tonsured ones on our left were clerks."

And he to me, "All of these were so asquint in mind in the first life that they made no spending there with measure. Clearly enough their voices bay it out, when they come to the two points of the circle where the contrary sin divides them. These were clerks who have no hairy covering on their head, and Popes and Cardinals, in whom avarice practices its excess."

And I, "Master, among such as these I ought surely to recognize some who were polluted with these evils."

And he to me, "Vain thought thou harborest; the undiscerning life that made them foul, to all recognition now makes them dim. Forever will they come to the two buttings; these will rise from the sepulchre with closed fist, and these with shorn hair. Ill-giving and ill-keeping have taken from them the fair world, and set them to this scuffle; such as it is, I adorn not words for it. Now canst thou, son, see the brief jest of the goods that are committed unto Fortune, for which the human race so scramble; for all the gold that is beneath the moon, or that ever was, of these weary souls could not make a single one repose."

"Master," said I to him, "now tell me further; this Fortune, on which thou touchest for me, what is it, that hath the goods of the world so in its clutches?"

And he to me, "O creatures foolish, how great is that ignorance that harms you! I would have thee now take in my judgment of her. He whose wisdom transcendeth all made the heavens, and gave them their guides, so that every part on every part doth shine, equally distributing the light. In like wise for the splendors of the world, He ordained a general ministress and guide, who should ever and anon transfer the vain goods from race to race, and from one blood to another, beyond the resistance of human wit. Wherefore one race rules, and the other languishes, pursuant to her judgment, which is occult as the snake in the grass. Your wisdom hath no withstanding of her: she provides, judges and maintains her realm, as theirs the other gods. Her permutations have no truce; necessity compels her to be swift, so often cometh he who obtains a turn. This is she who is so set upon the cross, even by those who ought to give her praise, giving her blame amiss and ill report. But she is blessed and hears this not. With the other Primal Creatures glad she turns her sphere, and blessed she rejoices. But now let us descend to greater woe. Already every star sinks that was rising when I set out, and too long stay is forbidden."

We crossed the circle to the other bank, above a fount that boils and pours down through a cleft that proceeds from it. The water was far darker than perse;[1] and we, in company with the dusky waves, entered down through a strange way. A marsh it makes, that is named Styx, this dismal little stream, when it has descended to the foot of the malign gray slopes. And I, who stood intent to gaze, saw muddy people in that swamp, all naked and with look of hurt. They were smiting each other, not only with hands, but with head, and with chest, and with feet, mangling one another piecemeal with their teeth.

[1] Purple-black.

The good Master said, "Son, now thou seest the souls of those whom anger overcame; and likewise I would have thee believe for certain that beneath the water are folk who sigh, and make this water bubble at the surface, as thine eye tells thee wherever it turns. Fixed in the slime, they say, 'Sullen were we in the sweet air that by the Sun is gladdened, bearing within ourselves the sluggish fume; now we are sullen in the black mire.' This hymn they gurgle in their throats, for they cannot speak with entire words."[1]

[1] The sin here punished is that known to the Middle Ages as acedia, or accidie,—slackness in good works, and spiritual gloom and despondency. In the Parson's Tale Chaucer says: "Envie and ire maken bitternesse in heart, which bitternesse is mother of accidie."

Thus we circled a great arc of the foul fen, between the dry bank and the slough, with eyes turned on those who guzzle the mire. We came at length to the foot of a tower.



CANTO VIII. The Fifth Circle.—Phlegyas and his boat.—Passage of the Styx.—Filippo Argenti.—The City of Dis.—The demons refuse entrance to the poets.

I say, continuing, that, long before we were at the foot of the high tower, our eyes went upward to its top because of two flamelets that we saw set there, and another giving sigual back from so far that hardly could the eye reach it. And I turned me to the Sea of all wisdom; I said, "This one, what says it? and what answers that other fire? and who are they that make it?" And he to me, "Upon the foul waves already thou mayest discern that which is expected, if the fume of the marsh hide it not from thee."

Bowstring never sped arrow from itself that ran so swift a course through the air, as a very little boat which I saw coming through the water toward us at that instant, under the direction of a single ferryman, who was crying out, "Art thou then come, fell soul?"

"Phlegyas, Phlegyas, this time thou criest out in vain," said my Lord; "longer thou shalt not have us than only while crossing the slough." As one who listens to some great deceit that has been practiced on him, and then chafes at it, such became Phlegyas in his stifled anger.

My Leader descended into the bark and then he made me enter after him, and only when I was in did it seem laden. Soon as my Leader and I were in the boat, the antique prow goes its way, cutting more of the water than it is wont with others.

While we were running through the dead channel, before me showed himself one full of mud, and said, "Who art thou that comest before the hour?" And I to him, "If I come I stay not; but thou, who art thou that art become so foul?" He answered, "Thou seest that I am one who weeps." And I to him, "With weeping and with wailing, accursed spirit, do thou remain, for I know thee although thou art all filthy." Then he stretched to the boat both his hands, whereat the wary Master thrust him back, saying, "Begone there, with the other dogs!" Then with his arms he clasped my neck, kissed my face, and said, "Disdainful soul, blessed be she who bore thee! This one was an arrogant person in the world; no goodness is there that adorns his memory; therefore is his shade so furious here. How many now up there are held great kings who shall stand here like swine in mire, leaving of themselves horrible dispraises." And I, "Master, I should much like to see him ducked in this broth before we depart from the lake." And he to me, "Ere the shore allows thee to see it thou shalt be satisfied; it will be fitting that thou enjoy such a desire." After this a little I saw such rending of him by the muddy folk that I still praise God therefor, and thank Him for it. All cried, "At Filippo Argenti!" and the raging florentine spirit turned upon himself with his teeth. Here we left him; so that I tell no more of him.

But on my ears there smote a wailing, whereat forward intent I open wide my eye. And the good Master said, "Now, son, the city draws near that is named Dis, with its heavy citizens, with its great throng." And I, "Master, already in the valley therewithin I clearly discern its mosques vermilion, as if issuing from fire." And he said to me, "The eternal fire that blazes within them displays them red as thou seest in this nether Hell."

We at last arrived within the deep ditches that encompass that disconsolate city. The walls seemed to me to be of iron. Not without first making a great circuit did we come to a place where the ferryman loudly shouted to us, "Out with you, here is the entrance."

Upon the gates I saw more than a thousand of those rained down from heaven who angrily were saying, "Who is this, that without death goes through the realm of the dead folk?" And my wise Master made a sign of wishing to speak secretly with them. Then they shut in a little their great scorn, and said, "Come thou alone, and let him be gone who so boldly entered on this realm. Alone let him return on the mad path: let him try if he can; for thou, who hast escorted him through so dark a region, shalt remain here."

Think, Reader, if I was discomforted at the sound of the accursed words, for I did not believe ever to return hither.[1]

[1] To this world.

"O my dear Leader, who more than seven times hast renewed assurance in me, and drawn me from deep peril that stood confronting me, leave me not," said I, "thus undone; and, if the going farther onward be denied us, let us together retrace our footprints quickly." And that Lord who had led me thither said to me, "Fear not, for no one can take from us our onward way, by Such an one it is given to us. But here await me, and comfort thy dejected spirit and feed on good hope, for I will not leave thee in the nether world."

So the sweet Father goes away, and here abandons me, and I remain in suspense; and yes and no contend within my head. I could not hear what he set forth to them, but he had not staid there long with them, when each ran vying back within. These our adversaries closed the gates on the breast of my Lord, who remained without, and returned to me with slow steps. He held his eyes upon the ground, and his brow was shorn of all hardihood, and he said in sighs, "Who hath denied to me the houses of woe?" And he said to me, "Thou, because I am wroth, be not dismayed, for I shall win the strife, whoever circle round within for the defence. This their insolence is not new, for of old they used it at a less secret gate, which still is found without a bolt. Above it thou didst see the dead inscription; and already on this side of it descends the steep, passing without escort through the circles, One such that by him the city shall be opened to us."



CANTO IX. The City of Dis.—Erichtho.—The Three Furies.—The Heavenly Messenger.—The Sixth Circle, that of the Heresiarchs.

That color which cowardice painted outwardly on me when I saw my Guide turn back, repressed more speedily his own new color. He stopped attentive, like a man that listens, for the eye could not lead him far through the black air, and through the dense fog.

"Yet it must be for us to win the fight," began he, "unless—Such an one offered herself to us.[1] Oh how slow it seems till Some one here arrive!"[2]

[1] Beatrice.

[2] The messenger from Heaven, referred to in the last verses of the last canto.

I saw well how he covered up the beginning with the rest that came after, which were words different from the first. But nevertheless his speech gave me fear, because I drew his broken phrase perchance to a worse meaning than it held.

"Into this depth of the dismal shell does any one ever descend from the first grade who has for penalty only hope cut off?"[1] This question I put, and he answered me, "Seldom it happens that any one of us maketh the journey on which I am going. It is true that another time I was conjured down here by that cruel Erichtho who was wont to call back shades into their bodies. Short while had my flesh been bare of me, when she made me enter within that wall in order to drag out for her a spirit from the circle of Judas. That is the lowest place, and the darkest, and the farthest from the Heaven that encircles all. Well do I know the road: therefore assure thyself. This marsh which breathes out the great stench girds round about the woeful city wherein now we cannot enter without anger."

[1] Dante asks for assurance that Virgil, whose station is in Limbo, "the first grade," knows the way.

And more he said, but I hold it not in mind because my eye had wholly attracted me toward the high tower with the ruddy summit, where in an instant were uprisen suddenly three infernal furies, stained with blood, who had the limbs of women and their action, and were girt with greenest hydras. Little serpents and cerastes they had for hair, wherewith their savage brows were bound.

And he, who well knew the handmaids of the queen of the eternal lamentation, said to me, "Behold the fell Erinnyes; this is Megaera on the left side, she who weeps on the right is Alecto, Tisiphone is in the middle," and therewith he was silent.

With her nails each was tearing her breast, they beat themselves with their hands, and cried out so loud that I pressed close to the Poet through dread. "Let Medusa come, so we will make him of stone," they all said, looking down. "Ill was it we avenged not on Theseus his assault."

"Turn thy back, and keep thy sight closed, for if the Gorgon show herself, and thou shouldest see her, no return upward would there ever be." Thus said the Master, and he himself turned me, and did not so trust to my hands that with his own he did not also blindfold me.

O ye who have sound understanding, regard the doctrine that is hidden under the veil of the strange verses.

And already was coming across the turbid waves a tumult of a sound full of terror at which both the shores trembled. Not otherwise it was than of a wind, impetuous through the opposing heats, that strikes the forest, and without any stay shatters the branches, beats down and carries them away; forward, laden with dust, it goes superb, and makes the wild beasts and the shepherds fly.

My eyes he loosed, and said, "Now direct the nerve of sight across the ancient scum, there yonder where that fume is most bitter."

As frogs before the hostile snake all scatter through the water, till each huddles on the ground, I saw more than a thousand destroyed souls flying thus before one, who at the ford was passing over the Styx with dry feet. From his face he removed that thick air, waving his left hand oft before him, and only with that trouble seemed he weary. Well I perceived that he was sent from Heaven, and I turned me to the Master, and he made sign that I should stand quiet and bow down unto him. Ah, how full of disdain he seemed to me! He reached the gate and with a little rod he opened it, for there was no withstanding.

"O outcasts from Heaven, folk despised," began he upon the horrible threshold, "wherefore is this overweening harbored in you? Why do ye kick against that will from which its end can never be cut short, and which many a time hath increased your grief? What avails it to butt against the fates? Your Cerberus, if ye remember well, still bears his chin and his throat peeled for that." Then he turned back upon the filthy road and said no word to us, but wore the semblance of a man whom other care constrains and stings, than that of him who is before him.

And we moved our feet toward the city, confident after his holy words. Within we entered without any strife, and I, who had desire to observe the condition which such a stronghold locks in, when I was within, sent my eyes round about; and I see on every hand a great plain full of woe and of cruel torment.

As at Arles, where the Rhone stagnates, as at Pola, near the Quarnaro that shuts in Italy and bathes its borders, sepulchres make all the place uneven; so did they here on every side, saving that the manner was more bitter here; for among the tombs flames were scattered, by which they were so intensely kindled that no art requires iron more so. All their lids were lifted; and such dire laments were issuing forth from them as truly seemed of wretches and of sufferers.

And I, "Master, who are these folk that, buried within those coffers, make themselves heard with their woeful sighs?" And he to me, "Here are the heresiarchs with their followers of every sect, and the tombs are much more laden than thou thinkest. Like with like is buried here, and the monuments are more and less hot."

And when he to the right hand had turned, we passed between the torments and the high battlements.



CANTO X. The Sixth Circle: Heresiarchs.—Farinata degli Uberti.-Cavalcante Cavalcanti.—Frederick II.

Now along a narrow path between the wall of the city and the torments my Master goeth on, and I behind his shoulders.

"O Virtue supreme," I began, "that through the impious circles turnest me, according to thy pleasure, speak to me and satisfy my desires. The folk that are lying in the sepulchres, can they be seen? All the lids are now lifted, and no one keepeth guard." And he to me, "All shall be locked in when from Jehoshaphat they shall here return with the bodies which they have left on earth. Upon this side Epicurus with all his followers, who make the soul mortal with the body, have their burial place. Therefore as to the demand that thou makest of me, thou shalt soon be satisfied here within; and also as to the desire concerning which thou art silent to me." And I, "Good Leader, I hold not my heart hidden from thee except in order to speak little; and not only now to that hast thou disposed me."

"O Tuscan, who through the city of fire alive art going, speaking thus modestly, may it please thee to stop in this place. Thy speech makes manifest that thou art native of that noble fatherland to which perchance I was too molestful." Suddenly this sound issued from one of the coffers, wherefore I drew, in fear, a little nearer to my Leader. And he said to me, "Turn, what dost thou? Behold Farinata who hath uprisen; thou shalt see him all from the girdle up."

I had already fixed my face on his, and he straightened himself up with breast and front as though he had Hell in great scorn. And the bold and ready hands of my Leader pushed me among the sepulchres to him, saying, "Let thy words be choice."

When I was at the foot of his tomb, he looked at me a little, and then, as though disdainful, asked me, "Who were thy ancestors?" I, who was desirous to obey, concealed them not, but disclosed them all to him; whereon he raised his brows a little up, then said, "Fiercely were they adverse to me, and to my fathers, and to my party, so that twice I scattered them." [1] "If they were driven out, they returned from every side," replied I to him, "both one and the other time, but yours have not learned well that art."

[1] Dante's ancestors were Guelphs.

Then there arose, to view uncovered down to the chin, a shade at the side of this one; I think that it had risen on its knees. Round about me it looked, as if it had desire to see if another were with me, but when its expectancy was quite extinct, weeping it said, "If through this blind dungeon thou goest through loftiness of genius, my son, where is he? and why is he not with thee?" And I to him, "Of myself I come not; he who waits yonder leads me through here, whom perchance your Guido held in scorn."[1]

[1] Guido Cavalcanti was charged with the same sin of unbelief as his father. Dante regards this as a sin specially contrary to right reason, typified by Virgil.

His words and the mode of the punishment had already read to me the name of this one, wherefore my answer was so full.

Suddenly straightening up, he cried, "How didst thou say, 'he held'? lives he not still? doth not the sweet light strike his eyes?" When he took note of some delay that I made before answering, he fell again supine, and forth appeared no more.

But that other magnanimous one, at whose instance I had stayed, changed not aspect, nor moved his neck, nor bent his side. "And if," he said, continuing his first words, "they have ill learned that art, it torments me more than this bed. But the face of the lady who ruleth here will not be rekindled fifty times ere thou shalt know how much that art weighs. And, so mayest thou return unto the sweet world, tell me wherefore is that people so pitiless against my race in its every law?" Then I to him, "The rout and the great carnage that colored the Arbia red cause such orison to be made in our temple." After he had, sighing, shaken his head, "In that I was not alone," he said, "nor surely without cause would I have moved with the rest; but I was alone,—there [1] where it was agreed by every one to lay Florence waste,—he who defended her with open face." "Ah! so hereafter may your seed repose," I prayed to him, "loose for me that knot, which here has entangled my judgment. It seems, if I rightly hear, that ye foresee that which time is bringing with him, and as to the present have another way." "We see," he said, "like those who have feeble light, the things that are far from us, so much still shineth on us the supreme Leader; when they draw near, or are, our intelligence is all vain, and, if some one report not to us, we know nothing of your human state. Therefore thou canst comprehend that our knowledge will be utterly dead from that moment when the gate of the future shall he closed." Then, as compunctious for my fault I said, "Now wilt thou therefore tell that fallen one that his son is still conjoined with the living, and if just now I was dumb to answer, make him know that I was so because I was still thinking in that error which you have solved for me." [2]

[1] At Empoli, in 1260, after the defeat of the Florentine Guelphs at Montaperti on the Arbia.

[2] Guido Cavalcanti died in August, 1300; his death, being near at hand at the time of Dante's journey, was not known to his father.

And now my Master was calling me back, wherefore I prayed the spirit more hastily that he would tell me who was with him. He said to me, "Here with more than a thousand do I lie; here within is the second Frederick and the Cardinal,[1] and of the others I am silent."

[1] Ottaviano degli Ubaldini, a fierce Ghibelline, who was reported as saying, "If there be a soul I have lost it for the Ghibellines."

Thereon he hid himself; and I toward the ancient Poet turned my steps, reflecting on that speech which seemed hostile to me. He moved on, and then, thus going, he said to me, "Why art thou so distraught?" And I satisfied his demand. "Let thy memory preserve that which thou hast heard against thyself," commanded me that Sage, "and now attend to this," and he raised his finger. "When thou shalt be in presence of the sweet radiance of her whose beautiful eye sees everything, from her thou shalt learn the journey of thy life." Then to the left he turned his step.

We left the wall, and went toward the middle by a path which strikes into a valley that even up there its stench made displeasing.



CANTO XI. The Sixth Circle: Heretics.—Tomb of Pope Anastasins.— Discourse of Virgil on the divisions of the lower Hell.

Upon the edge of a high bank formed by great rocks broken in a circle, we came above a more cruel pen. And here, because of the horrible excess of the stench that the deep abyss throws out, we drew aside behind the lid of a great tomb, whereon I saw an inscription which said, "Pope Anastasius I hold, he whom Photinus drew from the right way."

"Our descent must needs be slow so that the sense may first accustom itself a little to the dismal blast, and then will be no heed of it." Thus the Master, and I said to him, "Some compensation do thou find that the time pass not lost." And be, "Behold, I am thinking of that. My son, within these rocks," he began to say, "are three circlets from grade to grade like those thou leavest. All are full of accursed spirits; but, in order that hereafter sight only may suffice thee, hear how and wherefore they are in constraint.

"Of every malice that wins hate in heaven injury is the end, and every such end afflicts others either by force or by fraud. But because fraud is the peculiar sin of man, it most displeaseth God; and therefore the fraudulent are the lower, and more woe assails them.

"The first circle[1] is wholly of the violent; but because violence can be done to three persons, in three rounds it is divided and constructed. Unto God, unto one's self, unto one's neighbor may violence be done; I mean unto them and unto their belongings, as thou shalt hear in plain discourse. By violence death and grievous wounds are inflicted on one's neighbor; and on his substance ruins, burnings, and harmful robberies. Wherefore homicides, and every one who smites wrongfully, devastators and freebooters, all of them the first round torments, in various troops.

[1] The first circle below, the seventh in the order of Hell.

"Man may lay violent hands upon himself and on his goods; and, therefore, in the second round must needs repent without avail whoever deprives himself of your world, gambles away and squanders his property, and laments there where he ought to be joyous.[2]

[2] Laments on earth because of violence done to what should have made him happy.

"Violence may be done to the Deity, by denying and blaspheming Him in heart, and despising nature and His bounty: and therefore the smallest round seals with its signet both Sodom and Cahors, and him who despising God speaks from his heart.

"Fraud, by which every conscience is bitten, man may practice on one that confides in him, or on one that owns no confidence. This latter mode seemeth to destroy only the bond of love that nature makes; wherefore in the second circle[1] nestle hypocrisy, flatteries, and sorcerers, falsity, robbery, and simony, panders, barrators, and such like filth.

[1] The second circle below, the eighth in the order of Hell.

"By the other mode that love is forgotten which nature makes, and also that which is thereafter added, whereby special confidence is created. Hence, in the smallest circle, where is the centre of the universe, on which Dis sits, whoso betrays is consumed forever."

And I, "Master, full clearly doth thy discourse proceed, and full well divides this pit, and the people that possess it; but, tell me, they of the fat marsh, and they whom the wind drives, and they whom the rain beats, and they who encounter with such sharp tongues, why are they not punished within the ruddy city if God be wroth with them? and if he be not so, why are they in such plight?"

And he said to me, "Wherefore so wanders thine understanding beyond its wont? or thy mind, where else is it gazing? Dost thou not remember those words with which thine Ethics treats in full of the three dispositions that Heaven abides not; in continence, malice, and mad bestiality, and how incontinence less offends God, and incurs less blame? [1] If thou considerest well this doctrine, and bringest to mind who are those that up above, outside,[2] suffer punishment, thou wilt see clearly why from these felons they are divided, and why less wroth the divine vengeance hammers them."

[1] Aristotle, Ethics, vii. 1.

[2] Outside the walls of the city of Dis.

"O Sun that healest every troubled vision, thou dost content me so, when thou explainest, that doubt, not less than knowledge, pleaseth me; yet return a little back," said I, "there where thou saidst that usury offends the Divine Goodness, and loose the knot."

"Philosophy," he said to me, "points out to him who understands it, not only in one part alone, how Nature takes her course from the Divine Intellect and from its art. And if thou note thy Physics [1] well thou wilt find after not many pages that your art follows her so far as it can, as the disciple does the master, so that your art is as it were grandchild of God. By means of these two, if thou bringest to mind Genesis at its beginning, it behoves mankind to obtain their livelihood and to thrive. But because the usurer takes another course, he despises Nature in herself, and in her follower, since upon other thing he sets his hope. But follow me now, for to go on pleaseth me; for the Fishes are gliding on the horizon, and the Wain lies quite over Corus,[2] and far yonder is the way down the cliff."

[1] Aristotle, Physics, ii. 2.

[2] The time indicated is about 4, or from 4 to 5 A.M. Corus, the name of the north-west wind, here stands for that quarter of the heavens.



CANTO XII. First round of the Seventh Circle; those who do violence to others; Tyrants and Homicides.—The Minotaur.—The Centaurs.—Chiron.—Nessus.—The River of Boiling Blood, and the Sinners in it.

The place where we came to descend the bank was rugged, and, because of what was there besides, such that every eye would be shy of it.

As is that ruin which, on this side of Trent, struck the Adige on its flank, either by earthquake or by failure of support,—for from the top of the mountain whence it moved, to the plain, the cliff has so fallen down that it might give a path to one who was above,—so was the descent of that ravine. And on the edge of the broken chasm lay stretched out the infamy of Crete, that was conceived in the false cow. And when he saw us he bit himself even as one whom wrath rends inwardly. My Sage cried out toward him, "Perchance thou believest that here is the Duke of Athens who up in the world brought death to thee? Get thee gone, beast, for this one comes not instructed by thy sister, but he goes to behold your punishments."

As a bull that breaks away at the instant he has now received his mortal stroke, and cannot go, but plunges hither and thither, the Minotaur I saw do the like.

And that wary one cried out, "Run to the pass; while he is raging it is well that thou descend." So we took our way down over the discharge of those stones, which often moved under my feet because of the novel burden.

I was going along thinking, and he said, "Thou thinkest perhaps on this ruin which is guarded by that bestial with which I just now quenched. Now would I have thee know that the other time when I descended hither into the nether hell, this cliff had not yet fallen. But in truth, if I discern clearly, a little ere He came, who levied the great spoil on Dis from the supernal circle, in all its parts the deep foul valley trembled so that I thought the universe had felt the love by which, as some believe, oft times the world has been converted into chaos:[1] and, at that moment, this ancient cliff here and elsewhere made this downfall. But fix thine eyes below, for the river of blood is near, in which boils whoso doth harm to others by violence."

[1] Empedocles taught, as Dante may have learned from Aristotle, that Love and Hate were the forces by which the elements of which the world is composed were united and dissociated. The effort of Love was to draw all things into a simple perfect sphere, by which the common order of the world would be brought to chaos.

Oh blind cupidity, both guilty and mad, that so spurs us in the brief life, and then, in the eternal, steeps us so ill!

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