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Friday, June 15, 2012

Inferno (English) by Dante Alighieri


ONE night, when half my life behind me lay, 
I wandered from the straight lost path afar. 
Through the great dark was no releasing way; 
Above that dark was no relieving star. 
If yet that terrored night I think or say, 
As death's cold hands its fears resuming are. 

Gladly the dreads I felt, too dire to tell, 
The hopeless, pathless, lightless hours forgot, 
I turn my tale to that which next befell, 
When the dawn opened, and the night was not. 
The hollowed blackness of that waste, God wot, 
Shrank, thinned, and ceased. A blinding splendour hot 
Flushed the great height toward which my footsteps fell, 
And though it kindled from the nether hell, 
Or from the Star that all men leads, alike 
It showed me where the great dawn-glories strike 
The wide east, and the utmost peaks of snow. 

How first I entered on that path astray, 
Beset with sleep, I know not. This I know. 
When gained my feet the upward, lighted way, 
I backward gazed, as one the drowning sea, 
The deep strong tides, has baffled, and panting lies, 
On the shelved shore, and turns his eyes to see 
The league-wide wastes that held him. So mine eyes 
Surveyed that fear, the while my wearied frame 
Rested, and ever my heart's tossed lake became 
More quiet. 
Then from that pass released, which yet 
With living feet had no man left, I set 
My forward steps aslant the steep, that so, 
My right foot still the lower, I climbed. 

No more I gazed. Around, a slope of sand 
Was sterile of all growth on either hand, 
Or moving life, a spotted pard except, 
That yawning rose, and stretched, and purred and leapt 
So closely round my feet, that scarce I kept 
The course I would. 
That sleek and lovely thing, 
The broadening light, the breath of morn and spring, 
The sun, that with his stars in Aries lay, 
As when Divine Love on Creation's day 
First gave these fair things motion, all at one 
Made lightsome hope; but lightsome hope was none 
When down the slope there came with lifted head 
And back-blown mane and caverned mouth and red, 
A lion, roaring, all the air ashake 
That heard his hunger. Upward flight to take 
No heart was mine, for where the further way 
Mine anxious eyes explored, a she-wolf lay, 
That licked lean flanks, and waited. Such was she 
In aspect ruthless that I quaked to see, 
And where she lay among her bones had brought 
So many to grief before, that all my thought 
Aghast turned backward to the sunless night 
I left. But while I plunged in headlong flight 
To that most feared before, a shade, or man 
(Either he seemed), obstructing where I ran, 
Called to me with a voice that few should know, 
Faint from forgetful silence, "Where ye go, 
Take heed. Why turn ye from the upward way?" 

I cried, "Or come ye from warm earth, or they 
The grave hath taken, in my mortal need 
Have mercy thou!" 
He answered, "Shade am I, 
That once was man; beneath the Lombard sky, 
In the late years of Julius born, and bred 
In Mantua, till my youthful steps were led 
To Rome, where yet the false gods lied to man; 
And when the great Augustan age began, 
I wrote the tale of Ilium burnt, and how 
Anchises' son forth-pushed a venturous prow, 
Seeking unknown seas. But in what mood art thou 
To thus return to all the ills ye fled, 
The while the mountain of thy hope ahead 
Lifts into light, the source and cause of all 
Delectable things that may to man befall?" 

I answered, "Art thou then that Virgil, he 
From whom all grace of measured speech in me 
Derived? O glorious and far-guiding star! 
Now may the love-led studious hours and long 
In which I learnt how rich thy wonders are, 
Master and Author mine of Light and Song, 
Befriend me now, who knew thy voice, that few 
Yet hearken. All the name my work hath won 
Is thine of right, from whom I learned. To thee, 
Abashed, I grant it. . . Why the mounting sun 
No more I seek, ye scarce should ask, who see 
The beast that turned me, nor faint hope have I 
To force that passage if thine aid deny." 
He answered, "Would ye leave this wild and live, 
Strange road is ours, for where the she-wolf lies 
Shall no man pass, except the path he tries 
Her craft entangle. No way fugitive 
Avoids the seeking of her greeds, that give 
Insatiate hunger, and such vice perverse 
As makes her leaner while she feeds, and worse 
Her craving. And the beasts with which she breed 
The noisome numerous beasts her lusts require, 
Bare all the desirable lands in which she feeds; 
Nor shall lewd feasts and lewder matings tire 
Until she woos, in evil hour for her, 
The wolfhound that shall rend her. His desire 
Is not for rapine, as the promptings stir 
Of her base heart; but wisdoms, and devoirs 
Of manhood, and love's rule, his thoughts prefer. 
The Italian lowlands he shall reach and save, 
For which Camilla of old, the virgin brave, 
Turnus and Nisus died in strife. His chase 
He shall not cease, nor any cowering-place 
Her fear shall find her, till he drive her back, 
From city to city exiled, from wrack to wrack 
Slain out of life, to find the native hell 
Whence envy loosed her. 
For thyself were
To follow where I lead, and thou shalt see 
The spirits in pain, and hear the hopeless woe, 
The unending cries, of those whose only plea 
Is judgment, that the second death to be 
Fall quickly. Further shalt thou climb, and go 
To those who burn, but in their pain content 
With hope of pardon; still beyond, more high, 
Holier than opens to such souls as I, 
The Heavens uprear; but if thou wilt, is one 
Worthier, and she shall guide thee there, where none 
Who did the Lord of those fair realms deny 
May enter. There in his city He dwells, and there 
Rules and pervades in every part, and calls 
His chosen ever within the sacred walls. 
O happiest, they!" 
I answered, "By that Go 
Thou didst not know, I do thine aid entreat, 
And guidance, that beyond the ills I meet 
I safety find, within the Sacred Gate 
That Peter guards, and those sad souls to see 
Who look with longing for their end to be." 

Then he moved forward, and behind I trod. 

Canto II

THE day was falling, and the darkening air 
Released earth's creatures from their toils, while I, 
I only, faced the bitter road and bare 
My Master led. I only, must defy 
The powers of pity, and the night to be. 
So thought I, but the things I came to see, 
Which memory holds, could never thought forecast. 
O Muses high! O Genius, first and last! 
Memories intense! Your utmost powers combine 
To meet this need. For never theme as mine 
Strained vainly, where your loftiest nobleness 
Must fail to be sufficient. 
I said, 
Fearing, to him who through the darkness led, 
"O poet, ere the arduous path ye press 
Too far, look in me, if the worth there be 
To make this transit. &Aelig;neas once, I know, 
Went down in life, and crossed the infernal sea; 
And if the Lord of All Things Lost Below 
Allowed it, reason seems, to those who see 
The enduring greatness of his destiny, 
Who in the Empyrean Heaven elect was called 
Sire of the Eternal City, that throned and walled 
Made Empire of the world beyond, to be 
The Holy Place at last, by God's decree, 
Where the great Peter's follower rules. For he 
Learned there the causes of his victory. 

"And later to the third great Heaven was caught 
The last Apostle, and thence returning brought 
The proofs of our salvation. But, for me, 
I am not &Aelig;neas, nay, nor Paul, to see 
Unspeakable things that depths or heights can show, 
And if this road for no sure end I go 
What folly is mine? But any words are weak. 
Thy wisdom further than the things I speak 
Can search the event that would be." 
Here I
My steps amid the darkness, and the Shade 
That led me heard and turned, magnanimous, 
And saw me drained of purpose halting thus, 
And answered, "If thy coward-born thoughts be clear, 
And all thy once intent, infirmed of fear, 
Broken, then art thou as scared beasts that shy 
From shadows, surely that they know not why 
Nor wherefore. . . Hearken, to confound thy fear, 
The things which first I heard, and brought me here. 
One came where, in the Outer Place, I dwell, 
Suspense from hope of Heaven or fear of Hell, 
Radiant in light that native round her clung, 
And cast her eyes our hopeless Shades among 
(Eyes with no earthly like but heaven's own blue), 
And called me to her in such voice as few 
In that grim place had heard, so low, so clear, 
So toned and cadenced from the Utmost Sphere, 
The Unattainable Heaven from which she came. 
'O Mantuan Spirit,' she said, 'whose lasting fame 
Continues on the earth ye left, and still 
With Time shall stand, an earthly friend to me, 
- My friend, not fortune's - climbs a path so ill 
That all the night-bred fears he hastes to flee 
Were kindly to the thing he nears. The tale 
Moved through the peace of I leaven, and swift I sped 
Downward, to aid my friend in love's avail, 
With scanty time therefor, that half I dread 
Too late I came. But thou shalt haste, and go 
With golden wisdom of thy speech, that so 
For me be consolation. Thou shalt say, 
"I come from Beatricл." Downward far, 
From Heaven to I leaven I sank, from star to star, 
To find thee, and to point his rescuing way. 
Fain would I to my place of light return; 
Love moved me from it, and gave me power to learn 
Thy speech. When next before my Lord I stand 
I very oft shall praise thee.' 
she ceased, 
And I gave answer to that dear command, 
'Lady, alone through whom the whole race of those 
The smallest Heaven the moon's short orbits hold 
Excels in its creation, not thy least, 
Thy lightest wish in this dark realm were told 
Vainly. But show me why the Heavens unclose 
To loose thee from them, and thyself content 
Couldst thus continue in such strange descent 
From that most Spacious Place for which ye burn, 
And while ye further left, would fain return.' 

" 'That which thou wouldst,' she said, 'I briefly tell. 
There is no fear nor any hurt in Hell, 
Except that it be powerful. God in me 
Is gracious, that the piteous sights I see 
I share not, nor myself can shrink to feel 
The flame of all this burning. One there is 
In height among the Holiest placed, and she 
- Mercy her name - among God's mysteries 
Dwells in the midst, and hath the power to see 
His judgments, and to break them. This sharp 
I tell thee, when she saw, she called, that so 
Leaned Lucia toward her while she spake - and said, 
"One that is faithful to thy name is sped, 
Except that now ye aid him." She thereat, 
- Lucia, to all men's wrongs inimical - 
Left her High Place, and crossed to where I sat 
In speech with Rachel (of the first of all 
God saved). "O Beatrice, Praise of God," 
- So said she to me - "sitt'st thou here so slow 
To aid him, once on earth that loved thee so 
That all he left to serve thee? Hear'st thou not 
The anguish of his plaint? and dost not see, 
By that dark stream that never seeks a sea, 
The death that threats him?" 
None, as thus she
None ever was swift on earth his good to chase, 
None ever on earth was swift to leave his dread, 
As came I downward from that sacred place 
To find thee and invoke thee, confident 
Not vainly for his need the gold were spent 
Of thy word-wisdom.' Here she turned away, 
Her bright eyes clouded with their tears, and I, 
Who saw them, therefore made more haste to reach 
The place she told, and found thee. Canst thou say 
I failed thy rescue? Is the beast anigh 
From which ye quailed? When such dear saints beseech 
- Three from the Highest - that Heaven thy course allow 
Why halt ye fearful? In such guards as thou 
The faintest-hearted might be bold." 

As flowers, 
Close-folded through the cold and lightless hours, 
Their bended stems erect, and opening fair 
Accept the white light and the warmer air 
Of morning, so my fainting heart anew 
Lifted, that heard his comfort. Swift I spake, 
"O courteous thou, and she compassionate! 
Thy haste that saved me, and her warning true, 
Beyond my worth exalt me. Thine I make 
My will. In concord of one mind from now, 
O Master and my Guide, where leadest thou 
I follow." 
And we, with no more words' delay, 
Went forward on that hard and dreadful way. 

Canto III 

THE gateway to the city of Doom. Through me 
The entrance to the Everlasting Pain. 
The Gateway of the Lost. The Eternal Three 
Justice impelled to build me. Here ye see 
Wisdom Supreme at work, and Primal Power, 
And Love Supernal in their dawnless day. 
Ere from their thought creation rose in flower 
Eternal first were all things fixed as they. 
Of Increate Power infinite formed am I 
That deathless as themselves I do not die. 
Justice divine has weighed: the doom is clear. 
All hope renounce, ye lost, who enter here. 
This scroll in gloom above the gate I read, 
And found it fearful. "Master, hard," I said, 
"This saying to me." And he, as one that long 
Was customed, answered, "No distrust must wrong 
Its Maker, nor thy cowarder mood resume 
If here ye enter. This the place of doom 
I told thee, where the lost in darkness dwell. 
Here, by themselves divorced from light, they fell, 
And are as ye shall see them." Here he lent 
A hand to draw me through the gate, and bent 
A glance upon my fear so confident 
That I, too nearly to my former dread 
Returned, through all my heart was comforted, 
And downward to the secret things we went. 

Downward to night, but not of moon and cloud, 
Not night with all its stars, as night we know, 
But burdened with an ocean-weight of woe 
The darkness closed us. 
Sighs, and wailings loud, 
Outcries perpetual of recruited pain, 
Sounds of strange tongues, and angers that remain 
Vengeless for ever, the thick and clamorous crowd 
Of discords pressed, that needs I wept to hear, 
First hearing. There, with reach of hands anear, 
And voices passion-hoarse, or shrilled with fright, 
The tumult of the everlasting night, 
As sand that dances in continual wind, 
Turns on itself for ever. 
And I, my head 
Begirt with movements, and my ears bedinned 
With outcries round me, to my leader said, 
"Master, what hear I? Who so overborne 
With woes are these?" 
He answered, "These be they 
That praiseless lived and blameless. Now the scorn 
Of Height and Depth alike, abortions drear; 
Cast with those abject angels whose delay 
To join rebellion, or their Lord defend, 
Waiting their proved advantage, flung them here. - 
Chased forth from Heaven, lest else its beauties end 
The pure perfection of their stainless claim, 
Out-herded from the shining gate they came, 
Where the deep hells refused them, lest the lost 
Boast something baser than themselves." 

And I, 
"Master, what grievance hath their failure cost, 
That through the lamentable dark they cry?" 

He answered, "Briefly at a thing not worth 
We glance, and pass forgetful. Hope in death 
They have not. Memory of them on the earth 
Where once they lived remains not. Nor the breath 
Of Justice shall condemn, nor Mercy plead, 
But all alike disdain them. That they know 
Themselves so mean beneath aught else constrains 
The envious outcries that too long ye heed. 
Move past, but speak not." 
Then I looked, and
Were souls in ceaseless and unnumbered trains 
That past me whirled unending, vainly led 
Nowhither, in useless and unpausing haste. 
A fluttering ensign all their guide, they chased 
Themselves for ever. I had not thought the dead, 
The whole world's dead, so many as these. I saw 
The shadow of him elect to Peter's seat 
Who made the great refusal, and the law, 
The unswerving law that left them this retreat 
To seal the abortion of their lives, became 
Illumined to me, and themselves I knew, 
To God and all his foes the futile crew 
How hateful in their everlasting shame. 

I saw these victims of continued death 
- For lived they never - were naked all, and loud 
Around them closed a never-ceasing cloud 
Of hornets and great wasps, that buzzed and clung, 
- Weak pain for weaklings meet, - and where they stung, 
Blood from their faces streamed, with sobbing breath, 
And all the ground beneath with tears and blood 
Was drenched, and crawling in that loathsome mud 
There were great worms that drank it. 
I gazed far forward. Dark and wide the flood 
That flowed before us. On the nearer shore 
Were people waiting. "Master, show me whence 
These came, and who they be, and passing hence 
Where go they? Wherefore wait they there content, 
- The faint light shows it, - for their transit o'er 
The unbridged abyss?" 
He answered, "When we stand 
Together, waiting on the joyless strand, 
In all it shall be told thee." If he meant 
Reproof I know not, but with shame I bent 
My downward eyes, and no more spake until 
The bank we reached, and on the stream beheld 
A bark ply toward us. 
Of exceeding eld, 
And hoary showed the steersman, screaming shrill, 
With horrid glee the while he neared us, "Woe 
To ye, depraved! - Is here no Heaven, but ill 
The place where I shall herd ye. Ice and fire 
And darkness are the wages of their hire 
Who serve unceasing here - But thou that there 
Dost wait though live, depart ye. Yea, forbear! 
A different passage and a lighter fare 
Is destined thine." 
But here my guide replied, 
"Nay, Charon, cease; or to thy grief ye chide. 
It There is willed, where that is willed shall be, 
That ye shall pass him to the further side, 
Nor question more." 
The fleecy cheeks thereat, 
Blown with fierce speech before, were drawn and flat, 
And his flame-circled eyes subdued, to hear 
That mandate given. But those of whom he spake 
In bitter glee, with naked limbs ashake, 
And chattering teeth received it. Seemed that then 
They first were conscious where they came, and fear 
Abject and frightful shook them; curses burst 
In clamorous discords forth; the race of men, 
Their parents, and their God, the place, the time, 
Of their conceptions and their births, accursed 
Alike they called, blaspheming Heaven. But yet 
Slow steps toward the waiting bark they set, 
With terrible wailing while they moved. And so 
They came reluctant to the shore of woe 
That waits for all who fear not God, and not 
Them only. 
Then the demon Charon rose 
To herd them in, with eyes that furnace-hot 
Glowed at the task, and lifted oar to smite 
Who lingered. 
As the leaves, when autumn shows, 
One after one descending, leave the bough, 
Or doves come downward to the call, so now 
The evil seed of Adam to endless night, 
As Charon signalled, from the shore's bleak height, 
Cast themselves downward to the bark. The brown 
And bitter flood received them, and while they passed 
Were others gathering, patient as the last, 
Not conscious of their nearing doom. 

"My son," 
- Replied my guide the unspoken thought - "is none 
Beneath God's wrath who dies in field or town, 
Or earth's wide space, or whom the waters drown, 
But here he cometh at last, and that so spurred 
By Justice, that his fear, as those ye heard, 
Impels him forward like desire. Is not 
One spirit of all to reach the fatal spot 
That God's love holdeth, and hence, if Char 
Ye well may take it. - Raise thy heart, for now, 
Constrained of Heaven, he must thy course allow." 

Yet how I passed I know not. For the ground 
Trembled that heard him, and a fearful sound 
Of issuing wind arose, and blood-red light 
Broke from beneath our feet, and sense and sight 
Left me. The memory with cold sweat once more 
Reminds me of the sudden-crimsoned night, 
As sank I senseless by the dreadful shore. 

Canto IV 

ARISING thunder from the vast Abyss 
First roused me, not as he that rested wakes 
From slumbrous hours, but one rude fury shakes 
Untimely, and around I gazed to know 
The place of my confining. 
Deep, profound, 
Dark beyond sight, and choked with doleful sound, 
Sheer sank the Valley of the Lost Abyss, 
Beneath us. On the utmost brink we stood, 
And like the winds of some unresting wood 
The gathered murmur from those depths of woe 
Soughed upward into thunder. Out from this 
The unceasing sound comes ever. I might not tell 
How deep the Abyss down sank from hell to hell, 
It was so clouded and so dark no sight 
Could pierce it. 
"Downward through the worlds of night 
We will descend together. I first, and thou 
My footsteps taking," spake my guide, and I 
Gave answer, "Master, when thyself art pale, 
Fear-daunted, shall my weaker heart avail 
That on thy strength was rested?" 

"Nay," said he, 
"Not fear, but anguish at the issuing cry 
So pales me. Come ye, for the path we tread 
Is long, and time requires it." Here he led 
Through the first entrance of the ringed abyss, 
Inward, and I went after, and the woe 
Softened behind us, and around I heard 
Nor scream of torment, nor blaspheming word, 
But round us sighs so many and deep there came 
That all the air was motioned. I beheld 
Concourse of men and women and children there 
Countless. No pain was theirs of cold or flame, 
But sadness only. And my Master said, 
"Art silent here? Before ye further go 
Among them wondering, it is meet ye know 
They are not sinful, nor the depths below 
Shall claim them. But their lives of righteousness 
Sufficed not to redeem. The gate decreed, 
Being born too soon, we did not pass ( for I, 
Dying unbaptized, am of them). More nor less 
Our doom is weighed, - to feel of Heaven the need, 
To long, and to be hopeless." 
was mine 
That heard him, thinking what great names must be 
In this suspense around me. "Master, tell," 
I questioned, "from this outer girth of Hell 
Pass any to the blessed spheres exalt, 
Through other's merits or their own the fault. 
Condoned?" And he, my covert speech that read, 
- For surance sought I of my faith, - replied, 
"Through the shrunk hells there came a Great One, crowned 
And garmented with conquest. Of the dead, 
He rescued from us him who earliest died, 
Abel, and our first parent. Here He found, 
Abraham, obedient to the Voice he heard; 
And Moses, first who wrote the Sacred Word; 
Isaac, and Israel and his sons, and she, 
Rachel, for whom he travailed; and David, king; 
And many beside unnumbered, whom he led 
Triumphant from the dark abodes, to be 
Among the blest for ever. Until this thing 
I witnessed, none, of all the countless dead, 
But hopeless through the somber gate he came." 

Now while he spake he paused not, but pursued, 
Through the dense woods of thronging spirits, his aim 
Straight onward, nor was long our path until 
Before us rose a widening light, to fill 
One half of all the darkness, and I knew 
While yet some distance, that such Shades were there 
As nobler moved than others, and questioned, "Who, 
Master, are those that in their aspect bear 
Such difference from the rest?" 
these," he said, 
"Were named so glorious in thy earth above 
That Heaven allows their larger claim to be 
Select, as thus ye see them." 
he spake 
A voice rose near us: "Hail!" it cried, "for he 
Returns, who was departed." 
it ceased 
When four great spirits approached. They did not show 
Sadness nor joy, but tranquil-eyed as though 
Content in their dominion moved. My guide 
Before I questioned told, "That first ye see, 
With hand that fits the swordhilt, mark, for he 
Is Homer, sovereign of the craft we tried, 
Leader and lord of even the following three, - 
Horace, and Ovid, and Lucan. The voice ye heard, 
That hailed me, caused them by one impulse stirred 
Approach to do me honour, for these agree 
In that one name we boast, and so do well 
Owning it in me." There was I joyed to meet 
Those shades, who closest to his place belong, 
The eagle course of whose out-soaring song 
Is lonely in height. 
Some space apart (to
It may be, something of myself ), my guide 
Conversed, until they turned with grace to greet 
Me also, and my Master smiled to see 
They made me sixth and equal. Side by side 
We paced toward the widening light, and spake 
Such things as well were spoken there, and here 
Were something less than silence. 
Strong and wide 
Before us rose a castled height, beset 
With sevenfold-circling walls, unscalable, 
And girdled with a rivulet round, but yet 
We passed thereover, and the water clear 
As dry land bore me; and the walls ahead 
Their seven strong gates made open one by one, 
As each we neared, that where my Master led 
With ease I followed, although without were none 
But deep that stream beyond their wading spread, 
And closed those gates beyond their breach had been, 
Had they sought entry with us. 
coolest green 
Stretched the wide lawns we midmost found, for there, 
Intolerant of itself, was Hell made fair 
To accord with its containing. 
Quiet-voiced and slow, of seldom words were they 
That walked that verdure. 
To a
place aside 
Open, and light, and high, we passed, and here 
Looked downward on the lawns, in clear survey 
Of such great spirits as are my glory and pride 
That once I saw them. 
There, direct in
Electra passed, among her sons. I knew 
Hector and &Aelig;neas there; and Cжsar too 
Was of them, armed and falcon-eyed; and there 
Camilla and Penthesilea. Near there sate 
Lavinia, with her sire the Latian king; 
Brutus, who drave the Tarquin; and Lucrece 
Julia, Cornelia, Marcia, and their kin; 
And, by himself apart, the Saladin. 

Somewhat beyond I looked. A place more high 
Than where these heroes moved I gazed, and knew 
The Master of reasoned thought, whose hand withdrew 
The curtain of the intellect, and bared 
The secret things of nature; while anigh, 
But lowlier, grouped the greatest names that shared 
His searchings. All regard and all revere 
They gave him. Plato there, and Socrates 
I marked, who closeliest reached his height; and near 
Democritus, who dreamed a world of chance 
Born blindly in the whirl of circumstance; 
And Anaxagoras, Diogenes, 
Thales, Heraclitus, Empedocles, 
Zeno, were there; and Dioscorides 
Who searched the healing powers of herbs and trees; 
And Orpheus, Tullius, Livius, Seneca, 
Euclid and Ptolemжus; Avicenna, 
Galen, Hippocrates; Averrhoлs, 
The Master's great interpreter, - but these 
Are few to those I saw, an endless dream 
Of shades before whom Hell quietened and cowered. My theme, 
With thronging recollections of mighty names 
That there I marked impedes me. All too long 
They chase me, envious that my burdened song 
Forgets. - But onward moves my guide anew: 
The light behind us fades: the six are two: 
Again the shuddering air, the cries of Hell 
Compassed, and where we walked the darkness fell. 

Canto V 

MOST like the spirals of a pointed shell, 
But separate each, go downward, hell from hell, 
The ninefold circles of the damned; but each 
Smaller, concentrate in its greater pain, 
Than that which overhangs it. 
who reach 
The second whorl, on entering, learn their bane 
Where Minos, hideous, sits and snarls. He hears, 
Decides, and as he girds himself they go. 

Before his seat each ill-born spirit appear, 
And tells its tale of evil, loath or no, 
While he, their judge, of all sins cognizant, 
Hears, and around himself his circling tail 
Twists to the number of the depths below 
To which they doom themselves in telling. 

The crowding sinners: their turn they wait: they show 
Their guilt: the circles of his tail convey 
Their doom: and downward they are whirled away. 

"O thou who callest at this doleful inn," 
Cried Minos to me, while the child of sin 
That stood confessing before him, trembling stayed, 
"Heed where thou enterest in thy trust, nor say, 
I walk in safety, for the width of way 
But my guide the answer took, 
"Why dost thou cry? or leave thine ordered trade 
For that which nought belongs thee? Hinder not 
His destined path. For where he goeth is willed, 
Where that is willed prevaileth." 
was filled 
The darker air with wailing. Wailing shook 
My soul to hear it. Where we entered now 
No light attempted. Only sound arose, 
As ocean with the tortured air contends, 
What time intolerable tempest rends 
The darkness; so the shrieking winds oppose 
For ever, and bear they, as they swerve and sweep, 
The doomed disastrous spirits, and whirl aloft, 
Backward, and down, nor any rest allow, 
Nor pause of such contending wraths as oft 
Batter them against the precipitous sides, and there 
The shrieks and moanings quench the screaming air, 
The cries of their blaspheming. 
are they 
That lust made sinful. As the starlings rise 
At autumn, darkening all the colder skies, 
In crowded troops their wings up-bear, so here 
These evil-doers on each contending blast 
Were lifted upward, whirled, and downward cast, 
And swept around unceasing. Striving airs 
Lift them, and hurl, nor ever hope is theirs 
Of rest or respite or decreasing pains, 
But like the long streaks of the calling cranes 
So came they wailing down the winds, to meet 
Upsweeping blasts that ever backward beat 
Or sideward flung them on their walls. And I - 
"Master who are they next that drive anigh 
So scourged amidst the blackness?" 

"These," he said, 
"So lashed and harried, by that queen are led, 
Empress of alien tongues, Semiramis, 
Who made her laws her lawless lusts to kiss, 
So was she broken by desire; and this 
Who comes behind, back-blown and beaten thus, 
Love's fool, who broke her faith to Sichжus, 
Dido; and bare of all her luxury, 
Nile's queen, who lost her realm for Antony." 

And after these, amidst that windy train, 
Helen, who soaked in blood the Trojan plain, 
And great Achilles I saw, at last whose feet 
The same net trammelled; and Tristram, Paris, he showed; 
And thousand other along the fated road 
Whom love led deathward through disastrous things 
He pointed as they passed, until my mind 
Was wildered in this heavy pass to find 
Ladies so many, and cavaliers and kings 
Fallen, and pitying past restraint, I said, 
"Poet, those next that on the wind appear 
So light, and constant as they drive or veer 
Are parted never, I fain would speak." 

And he, - 
"Conjure them by their love, and thou shalt see 
Their flight come hither." 
And when the swerving blast 
Most nearly bent, I called them as they passed, 
"O wearied souls, come downward, if the Power 
That drives allow ye, for one restful hour." 
As doves, desirous of their nest at night, 
Cleave through the dusk with swift and open flight 
Of level-lifting wings, that love makes light, 
Will-borne, so downward through the murky air 
Came those sad spirits, that not deep Hell's despair 
Could sunder, parting from the faithless band 
That Dido led, and with one voice, as though 
One soul controlled them, spake, 

"O Animate! 
Who comest through the black malignant air, 
Benign among us who this exile bear 
For earth ensanguined, if the King of All 
Heard those who from the outer darkness call 
Entreat him would we for thy peace, that thou 
Hast pitied us condemned, misfortunate. - 
Of that which please thee, if the winds allow, 
Gladly I tell. Ravenna, on that shore 
Where Po finds rest for all his streams, we knew; 
And there love conquered. Love, in gentle heart 
So quick to take dominion, overthrew 
Him with my own fair body, and overbore 
Me with delight to please him. Love, which gives 
No pardon to the loved, so strongly in me 
Was empired, that its rule, as here ye see, 
Endureth, nor the bitter blast contrives 
To part us. Love to one death led us. The mode 
Afflicts me, shrinking, still. The place of Cain 
Awaits our slayer." 
They ceased, and I my head 
Bowed down, and made no answer, till my guide 
Questioned, "What wouldst thou more?" and replied, 
"Alas my thought I what sweet keen longings led 
These spirits, woeful, to their dark abode!" 
And then to them, - "Francesca, all thy pain 
Is mine. With pity and grief I weep. But say 
How, in the time of sighing, and in what way, 
Love gave you of the dubious deeds to know." 

And she to me, "There is no greater woe 
In all Hell's depths than cometh when those who 
Look back to Eden. But if thou wouldst learn 
Our love's first root, I can but weep and tell. 
One day, and for delight in idleness, 
- Alone we were, without suspicion, - 
We read together, and chanced the page to turn 
Where Galahad tells the tale of Lancelot, 
How love constrained him. Oft our meeting eyes, 
Confessed the theme, and conscious cheeks were hot, 
Reading, but only when that instant came 
Where the surrendering lips were kissed, no less 
Desire beat in us, and whom, for all this pain, 
No hell shall sever (so great at least our gain), 
Trembling, he kissed my mouth, and all forgot, 
We read no more." 
As thus did one confess 
Their happier days, the other wept, and I 
Grew faint with pity, and sank as those who die. 

Canto VI 

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

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

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

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

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

Canto VII 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canto VIII 

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

"I have no name, but only tears," said he. 

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

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

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

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

But he deserveth, and I speak, no more. 

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

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

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

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

Canto IX 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canto X 

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

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

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

I answered, "Single through the gates of hell

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