1265-1321 Dante Alighieri.

The Vision : or, Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, of Dante Alighieri online

. (page 4 of 37)
Online Library1265-1321 Dante AlighieriThe Vision : or, Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, of Dante Alighieri → online text (page 4 of 37)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

The torment undei'go of the first round
In different herds. Man can do violence
To' himself and his own blessings : and for this
He in the second round must aye deplore
With unavailing penitence his crime, 45

Whoe'er deprives himself of life and light,
In reckless lavishment his talent wastes.
And sori'ows there whei'c he sliou.'d dwell in joy.
To God may force be offer'd, in the heart
Denying and blaspheming his high power, 50

And nature with her kindly law contemning.


And tlience tlie inmost round marks witli its seal
Sodoju and Caliors, and all such as speak
Contemptuously' of the Godhead in their hearts.

" Fraud, that in every conscience leaves a sting, 55
May be by man cm])loy'd on one, whose trust
He wins, or on another who withholds
Strict confidence. Seems as the latter way
Broke but the bond of love which Nature makes.
^^ hence in the second circle have their nest 60

Dissimulation, witchcraft, flatteries,
Theft, falsehood, simony, all who seduce
To lust, or set their honesty at jiawn,
With such vile scum as these. The other Avay
Forgets both Nature's general love, and that 65

Wliich thereto added afterwards gives birth
To special faith. Whence in the lesser circle,
Point of the universe, dread seat of Dis,
The traitor is eternally consum'd."

I tlms : "Instructor, clearly thy discourse 70

Proceeds, distinguishing the hideous chasm
And its inhabitants with skill exact.
But tell me this : they of the dull, fat pool,
Whom the rain beats, or whom the tempest drives.
Or who witli tongues so fierce conflicting meet, 75

Wherefore within the city fire-illum'd
Are not tliese punish'd, if God's wrath be on them?
And if it be not, wherefore in such guise
Are they condemned '?" He answer thus return'd :
" Wherefore in dotage wanders thus tliy mind, 80

Not so aecustom'd ? or what other thoughts
Possess it ? Dwell not in thy memory
Tlie words, wherein thy ethic ymge describes
Three dispositions adverse to Ileav'n's will,
Incont'nence, malice, and mad brutishness, 85

And how incontinence the least offends
God, and least guilt incurs ? If well thou note
This judgment, and remember who they are,
Without these walls to vain repentance doom'd,
Thou shalt discern wliy tliey apai-t are ))lac'd 90

From these fell spirits, and less wi-er.kfid pours

38 HETX.

Justice divine on tliein its vengeance down."

" O Sun ! wlio lieiilcst all imjtei-fect sight,
Thou so content'st me, wluui th(ju solv'st my douht.
That ignorance not less than knowledge charms. 95

Yet somewhat turn thee back," I in t'liese words
Continu'd, " where thou saidst, that usury-
Offends celestial Goodness ; and this knot
Perplex'd unravel." He thus made reply:
" Philosophy, to an attentive ear, lOC

Clearly points out, not in one part alone,
How imitative nature takes her course
From the celestial mind and from its art :
And Avhere her laws the Stagyrite unfolds.
Not many leaves scanned o'er, observing well 105

Thou shalt discover, that your art on her
Obsequious follows, as the learner treads
In his instructor's step, so that your art
Deserves the name of second in descent
From God. These two, if thou recall to mind 110

Creation's holy book, from the beginning
Were the riglit source of life and excellence
To human kind. But in another path
The usurer walks ; and Nature in herself
And in her follovv'er thus he sets at nought, 115

Placing elsewhere his hope. But follow now
My steps on forward journey bent ; for now
The Pisces play with undulating glance
Along the' horizon, and the Wain lies all
O'er the north-west ; and onward there a space 120

Is our steep passage down the rocky height."


The place where to descend the precipice
We came, was rough as Alp, and on its verge
Such object lay, as every eye would shun.

As is that ruin, which Adice's stream
On this side Trento struck, shoidd'ring the wave,
'Or looa'd by earthquake or for lack of prop ;

IIKT.T,. 39

For from the mountain's summit, wlicnco it mov'd

To the low level, so the headlong rock

Is shiver'd, that some passage it might give

To him who from above would pass ; e'en such 10

Into the chasm was that descent : and there

At point of the disparted ridge lay stretch'd

The infamy of Crete, detested brood

Of the feign'd heifer : and at sight of us

It gnaw'd itself, as one with rage distract. 15

To him my guide exclaim'd : " Perchance thou deem'st

The King of Athens here, Avho, in the world

Above, thy death contriv'd. Monster ! avaunt !

He comes not tutor'd by thy sister's art.

But to behold your torments is he come." 20

Like to a bull, that with impetuous spring
Darts, at the moment when the fatal blow
Hath struck him, but unable to proceed
Plunges on either side ; so saw I plunge
The Minotaur ; whereat the sage exclaim'd : 2.5

" Run to the passage ! while he storms, 't is well
That thou descend." Thus down our road we took
Through those dila]»idated crags, that oft
Mov'd underneath my feet, to weight like theirs
Unus'd. I pond'ring went, and thus he spake : 30

" Perhaps thy thoughts are of this ruin'd steep,
Guarded by the brute violence, which I
Have vanquish'd now. Know then, that when I erst
Hither descended to the nether hell,

This rock was not yet fallen. But past doubt 35

(If well I mark) not long ere He arrived,
Who carried off from Dis the mighty spoil
Of the highest circle, then through all its bounds
Such trembling seiz'd the deep concave and foul,
I thought the universe was thrill'd with love, 40

Whereby, there are who deem, the world hath oft
Been into chaos turn'd : and in that point,
Here, and elsewhere, that old rock toppled down.
But fix thine eyes beneath : the river of blood
Ai>proaches, hi the which all those are steep'd, 45

Who have by violence injur'd." O blind lust !


40 IIKI.L,


\ O foolisli wr.'itli ! who so dost goad us on

I In the brief life, and in tlie eternal then

I Thus miserably o'crwlielm us. I beheld

I An ample fuss, (hat in a bow was bent, 50

( As cireling all the plain ; for so my guide

I Had told, lietween it and the rampart's base
On trail ran Centaurs, with keen arrows arm'd,
As to the ehase they on the earth were wont.

At seeing us descend they each one stood ; 55

And issuing from the troop, three sj)ed with bows
And missile weapons chosen first ; of whom
One cried from far : " Say to what pain ye come
Condemn'd, who down this steep have journied ? Speak
From whence ye stand, or else the bow I draw." 6'J

To whom my guide : " Our answer shall be made
To Chiron, there, when nearer him we come.
Ill was thy mind, thus ever quick and rash."

Then me he touch'd, and spake : " Nessus is tliis,
Who for the fair Deianira died, 65

And wrought himself revenge for his own fate.
He in the midst, that on his breast looks down.
Is the great Chiron who Achilles nurs'd ;
That other Pholus, prone to wrath." Around
The foss these go by thousands, aiming shafts 70

At whatsoever spirit dares emerge
From out the blood, more than his guilt allows.

We to those beasts, that rapid strode along,
Drew near, when Chiron took an arrow forth.
And with the notch push'd back his shaggy beard 75

To the cheek-bone, then his great mouth to view
Exposing, to his fellows thus exclaini'd :
" Are ye aware, that he who comes behind
Moves what he touches? The feet of the dead
Are not so wont." My trusty guide, who now 80

Stood near liis breast, where the two natures join,
Thus made reply : " He is indeed alive,
And solitary so must needs by me
Be sliown the gloomy vale, thereto induc'd
By strict necessity, not by delight. 85

She left her joyful harpings in the sky,

5 HELL. 41


I Who this iicw office to my care consigii'd.
I lie is no robber, no dark spirit I.

But by that virtue, which ein])o\vers my step
! To treat so wikl a ])ath, grant us, I ])ray, 90

I One of thy band, whom we may trust secure,
Wlio to the ford may lead us, and convey
Across, him mounted on liis back ; for he
Is not a spirit tliat may walk the air."

Then on his right breast turning, Chiron thus 95

To Nessus spake : "Return, and be their guide.
And if ye chance to cross anotlier troop.
Command them keep aloof." Otiward we mov'd,
The faithful escort by our side, along
The border of the crhnson-seething flood, 100

Wlience from tliose steep'd within loud shrieks arose.

Some there I mark'd, as high as to their brow
Immers'd, of whom tlie miglity Centaur thus :
" These are the souls of tyrants, who were given
To blood and rapine. Here they wail aloud 105

Their merciless wrongs. Here Alexander dwells,
And Dionysius fell, Avho many a year
' Of woe wrought for fair Sicily. That brow
I Whereon the hair so jetty clust'ring hangs,
[ Is Azzolino ; that with flaxen locks 110

Obizzo' of Este, in the world destroy'd
By his foul step-son." To the bard rever'd
I turned me round, and thus he spake; "Let him
Be to thee now first leader, me but next
To him in rank." Then farther on a space 115

The Centaur ]»aus'd, near some, who at the tliroat
Were extant from the wave ; and showing us
A s])irit by itself apart retir'd,
Exclaim'd : "He in God's bosom smote the heart,
AVhich yet is honour'd on the bank of Tliames." 120

A race I next espied, who held the head.
And even all the bust above the stream.
']\Jidst these I many a face remember'd well.
Tims shallow more and more the blood became,
So that at last it but imbru'd the feet ; 125

And there our ])assage lay athwart the foss.

42 HELL.

" As ever on tliis side the boiling wave
Thou seest diniinisliing," the Centaur said,
" So on the other, be thou well assur'd,
It lower still and lower sinks its bed, 130

Till in that part it reuniting join,
Where 't is the lot of tyranny to mourn.
There ITeav'n's stern justice lays chastising hand
On Attila, who was the scourge of earth,
On Sextus, and on Pyrrhus, and extracts 135

Tears ever by the seething flood unlock'd
From the Rinieri, of Corneto this,
Pazzo the other nam'd, who fill'd the ways
With violence and war." This said, he turn'd,
And quitting us, alone repass'd the ford. 140


Eee Nessus yet had reach'd the other bank,

We enter'd on a forest, where no track

Of steps had worn a way. Not verdant there

The foliage, but of dusky hue ; not light

The boughs and tapering, but with knares deform'd 5

And matted thick: fruits there were none, but thorns

Instead, with venom fill'd. Less sharp than these.

Less intricate the brakes, wherein abide

Those animals, that hate the cultur'd fields.

Betwixt Corneto and Cecina's stream. 10

Here the brute Hai'pies make their nest, the same
Who from the Strophades the Trojan band
Drove with dire boding of their future woe.
Broad are their pennons, of the human form
Their neck and count'nance, arm'd with talons keen 15
The feet, and the huge belly fledge with wings.
These sit and wail on the drear mystic wood.

The kind instructor in these words began :
" Ere farther thou proceed, know thou art now
I' til' second round, and shalt be, till thou come 20

Upon the horrid sand : look therefore well
Around thee, and such things thou shalt behold,

As would my speech discredit." On all sides

I heard sad plainings breathe, and none could see

From whom they might have issu'd. In amaze 25

Fast bound I stood. He, as it seem'd, believ'd,

That I had thought so many voices came

From some amid those thickets close conceal'd,

And thus his s])eech resum'd : " If thou lop off

A single twig from one of those ill plants, 30

The thought thou hast conceiv'd shall vanish quite."

Tliereat a little stretching forth my hand,
From a great wilding gather'd I a branch,
And straight the trunk exclaim'd : " Why j^luck'st thou

Then as the dark blood trickled down its side, 35

These words it added : "Wherefore tear'st me thus?
Is there no touch of mercy in thy breast ?
Men once were we, that now are rooted here.
Thy hand might well have spar'd us, had we been
The souls of serpents." As a brand yet green, 40

That burning at one end from the' other sends
A groaning soiind, and hisses with the wind
That forces out its way, so burst at once.
Forth from the broken splinter words and blood.

I, letting fall the bough, remain'd as one 45

Assail'd hy terror, and the sage replied :
" If he, O injur'd spirit! could have believ'd
What he hath seen but in my verse describ'd,
He never against thee had stretch'd his hand.
But I, because the thing surpass'd belief, 50

Prompted him to this deed, which even now
Myself I rue. But tell me, who thou wast ;
That, for this wrong to do thee some amends,
In the' ujiper world (for thither to return
Is granted him) thy fame he may revive." 55

" That pleasant word of thine," the trunk replied
" Hath so inveigled me, that I from speech
Cannot refrain, wherein if I indulge
A little longer, in the snare detain'd.

Count it not grievous. I it was, who held 60

Both keys to Frederick's heart, and turn'd the wards,

44 IIKT.T,.

Opening and sliuUiiiir, witli :i skill so swcot,

Tluvt besides me, into liis inmost In-enst

Searee any other could admittance find.

Tlie faith I bore to my hitfh charge was siicli, G5

It cost me the life-blood that wai-m'd my veins.

Tlie harlot, Avlio ne'er turn'd lier gloating eyes

From Ciesar's liousehold, common vice and j)est

Of courts, 'gainst mc intlam'd the minds of all ;

And to Augustus they so s])read the flame, 70

Tliat my glad lionours chang'd to bitter woes.

My soul, disdainful and disgusted, sought

Refuge in death from scorn, and I became,

Just as I was, unjust toward myself.

By the new roots, which fix tliis stem, I swear, 75

That never faith I broke to my liege lord,

"Who merited such honour ; and of you,

If any to the world indeed return.

Clear he from wrong my memory, that lies

Yet prostrate under envy's cruel blow." 80

First somewhat pausing, till the mournful words
Were ended, then to me the bard began :
"Lose not the time; but sjjcak and of him ask,
If more tliou wish to learn." Whence I replied :
" Question thou him again of Avhatsoe'er 85

Will, as thou think'st, content me ; for no power
Have I to ask, such j^ity' is at my heart."

He thus resum'd ; "So may he do for thee
Freely what thou entreatest, as thou yet
Be pleas'd, imprison'd s])irit ! to declare, 90

How in these gnarled joints the soul is tied ;
And whether any ever from sucli frame
Be loosen'd, if thou canst, that also tell."

Thereat the trunk breatli'd hard, and the wind soon
Chang'd into sounds articulate like these ; 95

Briefly ye shall be answer'd. When departs
The fierce soul from the body, by itself
Thence torn asunder, to the seventh gulf
By Minos doom'd, into the wood it falls.
No place assign'd, but wheresoever chance 100

Hurls it, there s]>routing, as a gi-ain of spelt.

HKLL. 45

Xt rises to a sapling, grov/ini;' thciico

A savage plant. The Harpies, on its leaves

Then feeding, cause both pain and for the pain

A vent to grief. We, as the rest, shall come 105

For our own sj^oils, yet not so that with them

We may again he clad; for what a man

Takes from himself it is not just he have.

Hei-e we perforce shall drag them ; and throughout

The dismal glade our bodies shall be hung, 110

Each on the wild thorn of his wretched shade."

Attentive yet to listen to the trunk
We stood, expecting farther speech, when us
A noise surpris'd, as when a man perceives |

The Avild boar and the hunt approach his place 115 ?

Of station'd watch, who of the beasts and boughs
Loud rustling round him hears. And lo ! there came
Two naked, torn with briei's, in headlong tiiglit,
Tliat they before them broke each fan o' th' wood. \

"Haste now," the foremost cried, "now haste thee, 1
death!" 120 >

Tlie' other, as seem'd, impatient of delay
Exclaiming, " Lano ! not so bent for speed
Thy sinews, in the lists of To])po's field." '

And then, for that perchance no longer bi'cath \

Suffic'd him, of himself and of abui-h 125

One group he made. Behind them was the Avood
Full of black female mastiffs, gaunt and lleet, ■

As greyhounds that have newly slipp'd the leash.
On him, who squatted down, they stuck their fangs, =

And having rent him piecemeal bore away 130 t

The tortur'd limbs. My guide then seiz'd my hand, \

And led me to the thicket, which in vain \

Mourn'd through its bleeding wounds : " O Giacomo
Of Sant' Andrea ! what avails it thee,"

It cried, " that of me thou hast made thy screen ? 135 \
For thy ill life what blame on me recoils ? " [

When o'er it he had paus'd, my master spake: 1

" Say who wast thou, that at so many points |

Breath'st out with blood thy lamentable sj)eech ?"

ITeanswer'd: "Oh, ye s])irits I arriv'd in time 140

46 HELL.

To spy the shamofiil havoc, that from me

My leaves hath sevcr'd thus, gather them up,

And at the foot of their sad parent-tree

Carefully lay them. In that city' 1 dwelt.

Who for the Baptist her first patron chang'd, 145

Whence he for this shall cease not with his art

To work her woe : and if there still remain'd not

On Arno's passage some faint glimpse of him,

Those citizens, who rear'd once more her walls

Ul)on the ashes left by Attila, 150

Had labour'd without profit of their toil.

I sluMg the fatal noose from my own roof."


Soon as the charity of native land

Wrought in my bosom, I the scatter'd leaves

Collected, and to him restor'd, who now

Was hoarse with utt'rance. To the limit thence

We came, which from the third the second round 5

Divides, and where of justice is display'd

Contrivance horrible. Things then first seen

Clearlier to manifest, I tell how next

A plain we reach'd, that from its sterile bed

Each plant repell'd. The mournful wood waves round 10

Its garland on all sides, as round the wood

Spreads the sad foss. There, on the very edge,

Our steps we stay'd. It was an area wide

Of arid sand and thick, resembling most

The soil that erst by Gate's foot was trod. 15

Vengeance of Heav'n ! Oh ! how shouldst thou be
By all, who read what here my eyes belield !

Of naked spirits many a flock I saw.
All weeping piteously, to different laws
Subjected : for on the' earth some lay supine, 20

Some crouching close were seated, others pac'd
Incessantly ai'ound ; the latter tribe,
More numerous, those fewer wlio beneath

HEEL. 47

The torment lay, but louder in their grief.

O'er all the sand fell slowly wafting down 25

Dilated flakes of fire, as flakes of snow
On Alpine summit, when the wind is hush'd.
As in the torrid Indian clime, the son
Of Amnion saw ujion his warrior band
Descending, solid flames, that to the ground 30

Came down : whence he bethought liim with his troop
To trample on tlie soil ; for easier thus
The vapour was extinguish'd, while alone ;
So fell the eternal fiery flood, wherewith
The marble glow'd underneath, as \mder stove 35

Tlie viands, doubly to augment the ])ain.
Unceasing was the play of wretched hands.
Now this, now that way glancing, to shake off
The heat, still falling fresh. I thus began :
" Instructor ! thou who all things overcom'st, 40

Except the hardy demons, that rush'd forth
To stop our entrance at the gate, say who
Is yon huge spirit, that, as seems, heeds not
The burning, but lies writlien in proud scorn,
As by the sultry tempest iramatur'd '?" 45

Straight he himself, who was aware I ask'd
My guide of him, exclaim'd : " Such as I was
When living, dead such now I am. If Jove
Weary his workman out, from whom in ire
He snatch'd the lightnings, that at my last day 50

Transfix'd me, if the rest be weary out
At their black smithy labouring by turns
In Mongibello, while he cries aloud ;
' Help, help, good Mulciber ! ' as erst he cried
In the Phlegraean warfare, and the bolts 55

Launch he full aim'd at me with all his might,
He never should enjoy a sweet revenge."

Then thus my guide, in accent higlier rais'd
Than I before had heard liim : " Capaneus !
Thou art more punisli'd, in that this thy pride 60

Lives yet unquench'd : no torrent, save thy rage,
Were to thy fury pain proportion'd full."

Next turning round to me witli milder lip

48 IIEI.L.

Ho sj)!ikc : " This of tlie seven kiiiL^s was oiu',

Who girt tlio Theban walls with sicuje, mid iield, 65

As still he seems to hold, God in (lis<lain.

And sets his hii!;h onini])otence at nought.

But, as I told him, his desj>itet"ul mood

Is ornament well suits the breast that wears it.

Follow me now ; and look thou set not yet 70

Thy foot in the hot sand, Init to the wood.

Keep ever close." Silently on we pass'd

To whei-e there gushes from the forest's bound.

A little brook, whose crimson'd wave yet lifts

My hair with horror. As the rill, that runs 75

From Bulicame, to be portion'd out

Among the sinful \vomen ; so ran this

Down through the sand, its bottom and each bank

Stone-built, and either margin at its side,

Whereon I straight pcrceiv'd our passage lay. 80

"Of all that I have shown thee, since that gate
We enter'd first, whose threshold is to none
Denied, nouglit else so worthy of regard,
As is this river, has tliine eye discern'd.
O'er which the flaming volley all is quench'd." 85

So spake my guide ; and I him thence besought,
That having giv'n me appetite to know,
The food he too would give, that hunger crav'd.

" In midst of ocean," forthwith he began,
"A desolate country lies, wliich Crete is nam'd, 90

Under whose monarch in old times the world
Liv'd pure and chaste. A mountain rises there,
Call'd Ida, joyous once with leaves and streams,
Deserted now like a forbidden thing.
It was the spot which Rhea, Saturn's spoiise, 95

Chose for the secret cradle of her son ;
And better to conceal him, drown'd in shouts
His infant cries. Within the mount, upright
An ancient form there stands and huge, that turns
His shoulders towards Damiata, and at Home 100

As in his mirror looks. Of finest gold
His head is sha|)'d, ])ure silver are the breast
And arms ; thence to tlie middle is of brass.

HELL. 49

And downward all beneath well-tcmper'd steel,

Save the right foot of })otter's clay, on which 105

Than on the other more erect he stands,

Each pai't except the gold, is rent thronghout ;

And from the fissure tears distil, Avhich join'd

Penetrate to that cave. They in their course

Thus far precipitated down the rock 110

Form Acheron, and Styx, and Phlegethon ;

Then by this straiten'd channel passing hence

Beneath, e'en to the lowest depth of all.

Form there Cocytus, of whose lake (thyself

Shall see it) I here give thee no account." 115 ]

Then I to him : " If from our world this sluice |

Be thus deriv'd ; wherefore to us but now ]

Appears it at this edge ? " He straight replied : J

"The place, thou know'st, is round; and though great \
part i

Thou have already pass'd, still to the left liiO

Descending to the nethermost, not yet
Hast thou the circuit made of the Avholc orb.
Wherefore if aught of new to us a]tpear.
It needs not bring up wonder in thy looks."

Then I again inquir'd : "Where flow the streams 125
Of Phlegethon and Lethe? for of one
Thou tell'st not, and the other of that shower,
Thou say'st, is form'd." He answer thus return'd :
"Doubtless thy questions all well pleas'd I hear.
Yet the red seething wave might have resolv'd 130

One thou proposest. Lethe thou shalt see,
But not within this hollow, in the place.
Whither to lave themselves the spirits go.
Whose blame hath been by penitence remov'd."
He added : " Time is now we quit the wood. 135

Look thou my steps pursue : the margins give
Safe passage, unimpeded by the flames ;
For over them all vapour is extinct."

50 HELL.


One of tlie solid margins bears us now

Eiivelop'cl in the mist, tliat from tlie stream

Arising, hovers o'er, and saves from fire

Botli piers and Avater. As the Flemings rear

Their mound, 'twixt Ghent and Bruges, to ehase back • 5

The ocean, fearing his tumultuous tide

That drives toward them, or the Paduans theirs

Along the Brenta, to defend their towns

And castles, ere the genial warmth be felt

On Chiarentana's top ; such were the mounds, 10

So fram'd, though not in height or bulk to these

Made equal, by the master, whosoe'er

He was, that rais'd them here. We from the wood

Were not so far remov'd, that turning round

I might not have discern'd it, wlien we met 15

A troop of spirits, who came beside the jjier.

They each one ey'd us, as at eventide
One eyes another under a new moon.
And toward iis sharpen'd their sight as keen,
As an old tailor at his needle's eye. 20

Thus narrowly explor'd by all the tribe,

Online Library1265-1321 Dante AlighieriThe Vision : or, Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, of Dante Alighieri → online text (page 4 of 37)