1265-1321 Dante Alighieri.

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

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I was agniz'd of one, who by the skirt
Caught me, and cried, " What wonder have we here ! "

And I, when he to me outstretch'd his arm,
Intently fix'd my ken on his parch'd looks, 25

That although smirch'd with fire, they hinder'd not
But I remember'd him ; and towards his face
My hand inclining, answer'd : "Sir! Brunetto!
And art thou here ? " He thus to me : " My son !
Oh let it not displease thee, if Brunetto 30

Latini but a little space with thee
Turn back, and leave his fellows to proceed."

I thus to liini replied : " Much as I can,
I thereto pray thee; and if thou be willing.
That I here seat me with thee, I consent ; 35

His leave, with whom I journey, first obtain'd."

" O son ! " said he, " whoever of tins throng
One instant stops, lies llien a hundred years,

IIEIJ.. 51

No fan to ventilate liim, wlieii tlio tire

Smites sorest. l*ass tlion tlierefore on. I close 40

Will at thy ijannents walk, and then rejoin

My troo]i, Avho go mourning their endless doom."

I darM not from the jiath descend to tread
On equal ground with him, but held my head
Bent down, as one who walks in reverent guise. 45

" What chance or destiny," thus be began,
" Ere the last day conducts thee here below ?
And who is this, that shows to thee the way ? "

" There up aloft," I answer'd, " in the life
Serene, I wander'd in a valley lost, 50

Before mine age had to its fulness reach'd.
But yester-morn I left it : then once more
Into that vale returning, him I met ;
And by this path homeward he leads me back."

"If thou," he answer'd, "follow' but thy star, 55

Thou canst not miss at last a glorious haven :
Unless in fairer days my judgment err'd.
And if my fate so early had not chanc'd,
Seeing the heav'ns thus bounteous to thee, I
Had gladly giv'n thee comfort in thy work. 60

But tliat ungrateful and malignant race,
Who in old times came down from Fesole,
Ay and still smack of their rough mountain-flint,
Will for thy good deeds shew thee enmity.
Nor wonder ; for amongst ill-savour'd crabs 65

It suits not the sweet fig-tree lay her fruit.
Old fame reports them in the Avorld for blind,
Covetous, envious, proud. Look to it Avell :
Take heed thou cleanse thee of their ways. For thee
Thy fortune hath such honour in reserve, 70

That thou by either party shalt be crav'd
With hunger keen : but be the fresh herb far
Fi"om the goat's tooth. The herd of Fesole
May of themselves make litter, not touch the plant,
If any such yet spring on their rank bed, 75

In which the holy seed revives, transmitted
From those true Uomans, who still there -rcmain'd,
When it was made the nest of so much ill."

62 HELL.

"Were all my wish fulfill'd," I straight re))lied,
" Thou from the oonfhies of man's nature yet 80

ITadst not been driven forth ; for in my mind
Is fix'd, and now strikes full upon my lieart
The dear, benign, paternal image, such
As thine was, when so lately thou didst teach me
The way for man to win eternity ; 85

And how I priz'd the lesson, it behoves,
That, long as life endures, my tongue should speak,
What of my fate thou tell'st, that write I down :
And with another text to comment on
For her I keep it, the celestial dame, 90

Who will know all, if I to her arrive.
This only Avould I have thee clearly note :
That so my conscience have no plea against me;
Do fortune as she list, I stand prepar'd.
Not new or strange such earnest to mine ear. 95

Speed fortune then her wheel, as likes her best.
The clown his mattock; all things have their course."

Thereat my sapient guide upon his right
Turn'd himself back, then look'd at me and spake :
"He listens to good purpose who takes note." 100

I not the less still on my way proceed,
Discoursing with Brunette, and inquire
Who are most known and chief among his tribe.

" To know of some is well ; " thus he replied,
" But of the rest silence may best beseem. 105

Time would not serve us for report so long.
In brief I tell thee, that all these were clerks,
Men of great learning and no less renown,
By one same sin polluted in the world.
With them is Priscian, and Accorso's son 110

Francesco herds among that wretched throng :
And, if the wish of so impure a blotch
Possess'd thee, him thou also might'st have seen,
Who by the servants' servant was transferr'd
From Arno's seat to Bacchiglione, where 115

His ill-strain'd nerves he left. I more would add,
But must from farther speech and onward way
Alike desist, for yonder I behold

HELL. 16

A mist new-risen on the sandy plain.

A company, with wliom I may not sort, 120

Ap])roaches. I commend my Treasure to thee,
Wherein I yet survive ; my sole request."

This said he turn'd, and seem'd as one of those,
Who o'er Verona's champain try their speed
For the green mantle, and of them he seem'd, 120

Not he who loses but who gains the prize.


Now came I where the water's din was heard.

As down it fell into the other round.

Resounding like the hum of swarming bees :

When forth together issu'd from a troop,

That pass'd beneath the fierce tormenting storm, 5

Three spirits, running SMift. They towards us came.

And each one cried aloud, " Oh do thou stay !

Whom by the fashion of thy garb we deem

To be some inmate of our evil land."

Ah me ! what wounds I mark'd upon their limbs, 10
Recent and old, inflicted by the flames !
E'en the remembrance of them grieves me yet.

Attentive to their cry my teacher paus'd.
And turn'd to me his visage, and then spake ;
" Wait noM' ! our courtesy these merit M'ell : 15

And were 't not for the nature of the place.
Whence glide the fiery darts, I should have said.
That haste had better suited thee than them."

They, when we stopp'd, resum'd their ancient wail,
And soon as they had reach'd us, all the three 20

Whirl'd round together in one restless wheel.
As naked chamjiions, smear'd with slippery oil,
Are wont intent to watch their place of hold
And vantage, ere in closer strife they meet ;
Thus each one, as he wheel'd, his countenance 25

At me directed, so that opposite
The neck mov'd ever to the twinkling feet.

" If misery of this drear wilderness,"



Tims one bcc^an, " added to our sad cheer

.And destitute, do call foilh scoru on us 30

And our entreaties, let our great renown

Incline thee to inform us who thou art,

That dost imprint Avith living feet unharm'd

The soil of Hell. lie, in whose track thou see'&t

My ste])s pursuing, naked though he be 35

And reft of all, was of more high estate

Than thou believest ; grandchild of the chaste

Gualdrada, him they Guidoguerracall'd,

"Who in his lifetime many a noble act

Achiev'd, both by his "wisdom and his sword. 40

The other, next to me that beats the sand,

Is Aldobrandi, name deserving well,

In the' upper world, of honour ; and myself

Who in this torment do partake wdth them,

Am Rusticucci, whom, past doubt, my Avife 45

Of savage temper, more than aught beside

Hath to this e^il brought." If from the fire

I had been shelter'd, down amidst them straight

I then had cast me, nor my guide, I deem.

Would have restrain'd my going ; but that fear 50

Of the dire burning vanquish'd the desire.

Which made me eager of their wish'd embrace.

I then began : " Not scorn, but grief much more,
Such as long time alone can cure, your doom
Fix'd. deep within me, soon as this my lord 55

Spake words, whose tenour taught me to exjDCct
That such a race, as ye are, was at hand,
I am a countryman of yours, who still
Affectionate have utter'd, and have heard
Your deeds and names renown'd. Leaving the gall 60
For the sweet fruit I go, that a sure guide
Hath promis'd to me. But behoves, that far
As to the centre first I downward tend."

" So may long space thy spirit guide thy limbs,"
He answer straight return'd ; " and so thy fame 65

Shine bright, when thou art gone ; as thou shalt tell,
If courtesy and valour, as they Avont,
Dwell in our city, or have vanish'd clean?

HKLT,. 55

Foe one amidst us lato condciiiuM to wail,

Borsiere, yonder walkiii<r witli liis ])ecM-s, 70

Grieves us no little l)y tlie news he brings."

"An upstart multitude and sudden gains,
Pride and excess, O Florence ! have in thee
Engender'd, so that now in tears tliou mourn'st ! "
Thus cried I with my face uprais'd, and they 75

All three, who for an answer took my Avords,
Look'd at each other, as men look when truth
Comes to their ear. " If thou at other times,"
They all at once rejoin'd, " so easily

Satisfy those, who question, happy thou, 80

Gifted with words, so apt to s})eak thy thought !
Wherefore if thou escape this darksome clime,
Returning to behold the radiant stars.
When thou with pleasure shalt retrace the past,
Sec that of us thou speak among mankind." 85

Tliis said, they broke the circle, and so swift
Fled, that as pinions seem'd their nimble feet.

Not in so short a time might one have said
"Amen," as they had vanish'd. Straight my guide
Pursu'd his track. I follow'd ; and small space 90

Had we j^ass'd onward, when the water's sound
Was now so near at hand, that we had scarce
Heard one another's speech for the loud din.

E'en as the river, that holds on its course
Unmingled, from the mount of Vesulo, 95

On the left side of Apennine, toward
The east, which Acquacheta higher up
They call, ere it descend into the vale,
At Forli by that name no longer known.
Rebellows o'er Saint Benedict, roll'd on 100

From the' Al])ine summit down a precipice.
Where space enough to lodge a thousand spreads ;
Thus downward from a craggy steep we found.
That this dark wave resounded, roaring loud.
So that the ear its clamour soon had stunn'd. 105

I hud a cord that brac'd my girdle round.
Wherewith I erst had thought fast bound to take
The painted leopard. This when I had all

56 nmj..

Uiiloosen'd from me (so my master bade)

I oatlier'd up, and strctcli'd it forth to l>im. 110

Then to tlie right he turn'd, nud from tlie brink

Standing few ])aces distant, cast it down

Into the deep abyss. "And somewliat strange,"

Thus to myself I spake, " signal so strange

Betokens, which my guide with earnest eye 115

Tlius follows." Ah ! what caution must men use

With those who look not at the deed alone,

But spy into the thoughts with subtle skill !

" Quickly shall come," he said, " what I expeet,
Thine eye discover quickly, that whereof 120

Thy thought is dreaming." Ever to that truth,
Which but the semblance of a falsehood wears,
A man, if possible, should bar his lip ;
Since, although blameless, he incurs reproach.
Biit silence here were vain ; and by these notes 125

Which now I sing, reader ! I swear to thee,
So may they favour find to latest times !
That through the gross and murky air I spied
A shape come swimming up, that might have quell'd
The stoutest heart Avith wonder, in such guise 130

As one returns, who hath been down to loose
An anchor grappled fast against some rock,
Or to aught else that in the salt wave lies.
Who upward springing close draws in his feet.


" Lo ! the fell monster with the deadly sting !

Who ]>asses mountains, breaks through fenced walls

And firm embattled spears, and with his filth

Taints all the world ! " Thus me my guide address'd,

And beckon'd him, that he should come to shore, 5

Near to the stony causeway's utmost edge.

Forthwith that image vile of fraud appear'd,
His head and np])er ])art expos'd on land,
But laid not on the sliore his bestial train.
His face the semblance of a just man's wore, 10

iiErx. 57

So kind and gracious was its outward clieer ;

The rest was serpent all: two shaggy claws

Keach'd to the armpits, and the back and breast,

And eitlier side, were painted o'er with nodes

And orbits. Colours variegated more 15

Nor Turks nor Tartars e'er on cloth of state

With interchangeable embroidery wove,

Nor spread Arachne o'er her curious loom.

As ofttimes a light skiff, moor'd to the shore.

Stands part in water, part iipon the land ; 20

Or, as where dwells the greedy German boor,

The beaver settles watching for his prey ;

So on the rim, that fenc'd the sand with rock,

Sat perch'd the fiend of evil. In the void

Glancing, his tail upturn'd its venomous fork, 25

With sting like scorpion's arm'd. Then thus my guide :

" Now need our way must turn few steps apart.

Far as to that ill beast, who couches tliere."

Thereat toward the right our downward course
We shap'd, and, better to escape the flame 30

And burning marie, ten paces on the verge I

Proceeded. Soon as we to him arrive,
A little further on mine eye beholds
A tribe of spirits, seated on the sand
Near the wide chasm. Forthwith my master spake : 35
" That to the full thy knowledge may extend
Of all this round contains, go now, and mark
The mien these wear : but hold not long discourse.
Till thou returnest, I M'ith him meantime
Will parley, that to us he may vouchsafe 40

The aid of his strong shoulders." Thus alone
Yet forward on the' extremity I pac'd
Of that seventh circle, where the mournful tribe
Were seated. At the eyes forth gush'd their pangs.
Against the vapours and the torrid soil 45

Alternately their shifting hands they plied.
Thus use the dogs in sunmier still to ply
Their jaws and feet by turns, when bitten sore
By gnats, or flies, or gadflies swarming round.

Noting the visages of some, who lay 50

58 HKLL.

Beneatli tlio polling of that dolorous fire,

One of tliom all I knew not ; but perceiv'd,

That pendent from his neck each bore a pouch

Witli colours and with emblems A^arious mark'd,

On which it seem'd as if their eye did feed. 55

And when amongst them looking round I came,
A yellow purse I saw with azure wrought.
That wore a lion's countenance and port.
Then still my sight pursuing its career.
Another I beheld, than blood more red. 60

A goose display of whiter wing than curd.
And one, wlio bore a fat and azure swine
Pictur'd on his white scrip, addressed me thus:
" What dost thou in this deep ? Go now and know.
Since yet thou livest, that my neighbour here 65

Vitaliano on my left shall sit.
A Paduan with these Florentines am I.
Ofttimes they thunder in mine ears, exclaiming
'O haste that noble knight ! he who the pouch
' With the three beaks will bring ! ' " This said, he
writh'd 70

The mouth, and loU'd the tongue out, like an ox
That licks his nostrils. I, lest longer stay
He ill might brook, who bade me stay not long.
Backward my steps from those sad spirits turn'd.

My guide already seated on the haunch 75

Of the tierce animal I found ; and thus
Pie me encourag'd, " Be thou stout ; be bold.
Down such a steep flight must we now descend !
Mount thou before : for that no power the tail
May have to harm thee, I will be i' th' midst." 80

As one, who hath an ague fit so near,
His nails already are turn'd blue, and he
Quivers all o'er, if he but eye the shade ;
Such was my cheer at hearing of his words.
But shame soon interpos'd her threat, who makes 85

The servant bold in presence of his lord.

I settled me upon those shoulders huge.
And would have said, but that the words to aid
My purpose came not, " Look thou clasp me firm ! "

HKLL. 59

But ho whose succonv then not first I prov'd, 90

Soon as I mounted, in liis arms aloft,
Embracing, lield me u]), and thus lie spake :
" Geryon ! now move thee ! be thy wheeling gyres
Of am])le circuit, easy thy descent.
Think on th' unusual burden thou sustain'st." 95

As a small vessel, back'ning out from land,
Her station quits ; so thence the monster loos'd,
And when he felt himself at large, turn'd round
There where the breast had been, his forked tail.
Thus, like an eel, outstretch'd at length he steer'd, 100
Gath'ring the air up with retractile claws.

Not greater was the dread when Phaeton
The reins let drop at random, whence high heaven,
Whereof signs y(;t aj'tpear, was wrapt in flames ;
Nor when ill-fated Icarus perceiv'd, 105

By liquefaction of the scalded wax.
The trusted ])ennons loosen'd from his loins,
Plis sire exclaiming loud, " 111 way thou kee])'st ! "
Than was my dread, when round me on each part
The air I view'd, and other object none 110

Save the fell beast. He slowly sailing, wheels
His downward motion, unobserv'd of me,
But that the wind, arising to my face,
Breathes on me from below. Now on our right
I heard the cataract beneath us leap 115

With hideous crash ; whence bending down to' explore.
New terror I conceiv'd at the steep plunge :
For flames I saw, and wailings smote mine ear :
So that all trembling close I crouch'd my limbs,
And then distinguish'd, unperceiv'd before, 120

By the dread torments that on every side
Drew nearer, how our downward course we wound.

As falcon, that hath long been on the wing.
But lure nor bird hath seen, while in despair
The falconer cries, " Ah me ! thou stoop'st to earth ! "
Wearied descends, and swiftly down the sky 126

In many an orbit wheels, then lighting sits
At distance from his lord in angry mood ;
So Geryon lighting places us on foot


l«ow down at base of tlio dcep-l'urrow'd rock, 130

And, of liis bui'dcn llic^re discliai'g'd, fortliwith
Sprang forward, like an arrow from the string.


There is a place within the depths of hell

Call'd Malebolge, all of rock dark-stain'd

Witli hue ferruginous, e'en as the steep

Tliat round it circling Mands. Kight in the midst

Of that abominable region, yaAvns 5

A spacious gulf profound, whereof the frame

Due time shall tell. The circle, that remains.

Throughout its round, between the gulf and base

Of the high craggy banks, successive forms

Ten trenches, in its hollow bottom sunk. 10

As where to guard the walls, full many a foss
Begirds some stately castle, sure defence
Affording to the space within, so here
Were model'd these ; and as like fortresses
E'en from their threshold to the brink without, 15

Are flank'd M'ith bridges; from the rock's low base
Thns flinty paths advanc'd, that 'cross the moles
And dikes, struck onward far as to the gulf.
That in one bound collected cuts them off.
Such was the place, wherein we fonnd ourselves 20

From Geryon's back dislodg'd. The bard to left
Held on his way, and I behind him mov'd.

On our right hand new misery I saw,
New pains, new executioners of wrath,
Tiiat swarming peopled the first chasm. Below 25

Were naked sinners. Hitherward they came,
Meeting our faces from the middle point.
With ns beyond but with a larger stride.
E'en thus the Romans, when the year returns
Of Jubilee, with better speed to rid 30

The thronging multitudes, their means devise
For such as pass the bridge ; that on one side
I All front toward the castle, and approach

HELL. 61

Saint Peter's fane, on th' otlier towards the mount.

Eacli divers way alonof the grisly rock, 35

Horn'd demons I belield, witli laslies huge,
Tl;at on tlieir back unmercifully smote.
Ah ! liow they made them bound at the first stri|)e !
None for tlie second waited nor the third.

Meantime as on I pass'd, one met my sight 40

Whom soon as view'd ; " Of him," cried I, " not yet
Mine eye hath had his fill." With fixed gaze
I therefore scann'd him. Straight the teacher kind
Paus'd with me, and consented I should walk
Backward a space, and the tormented spirit, 45

Who thought to hide him, bent his visage down.
But it avail'd him nought ; for I exclaim'd :
" Thou Avho dost cast thy eye upon the ground,
Unless thy features do belie thee much,
Venedico art thou. But what brings thee 50

Into this bitter seas'ning?" He replied :
"Unwillingly I answer to thy Avords.
But thy clear speech, that to my mind recalls
The world I once inhabited, constrains me.
Know then 'twas I who led fair Ghisola 55

To do the Marquis' will, however fame
The shameful tale have bruited. Nor alone
Bologna hither sendeth me to mourn.
Rather with us the place is so o'erthrong'd
That not so many tongues this day are taught, CO

Betwixt the Reno and Savena's stream,
To answer Sij)ci in their country's phrase.
And if of that securer proof thou need,
Remember but our craving thirst for gold."

Him speaking thus, a demon with his thong C5

Struck, and exclaim'd, " Away ! corrupter ! here
Women are none for sale." Forthwith I join'd
My escort, and few paces thence we came
To where a rock forth issued from the bank.
That easily ascended, to the right 70

Upon its splinter turning, we depart
From those eternal barriers. When arriv'd,
Where underneath the gaping arch lets pass

62 iiKi.r-.

The scourgecl souls : " Pause liorc," tlic teacher said,
"And let these others miserable, now 75

Strike on thy ken, faces not yet beheld,
For that together they with us have walk'd."

From tlie old bridge we ey'd the pack, who came
From th' other side towards us, like the rest,
Excoriate from the lash. My gentle guide, 80

By me unquestion'd, thus Ins si)eech resum'd :
" Behold that lofty shade, who this way tends,
And seems too woe-begone to drop a tear.
How yet the regal asjiect he retains !

Jason is he, whose skill and ])rowess won 85

The ram from Colclios. To the Lemnian isle
His passage thither led him, when those bold
And pitiless women had slain all their males.
There he with tokens and fair witching words
Hypsipyle bf^guil'd, a virgin young, 90

Who first had all the rest herself beguil'd.
Impregnated he left her there forlorn.
Such is the guilt condemns him to this j^ain.
Here too Medea's inj'ries are avenged.
All bear him company, who like deceit 95

To his have practis'd. And thus much to know
Of the first vale suflice thee, and of those
Whom its keen torments urge." Now had ■we come
Where, crossing the next pier, the straighten'd path
Bestrides its shoulders to another arch. 100

Hence in the second chasm we heard the ghosts,
Who jibber in low melancholy sounds,
With wide-stretch'd nostrils snort, and on themselves
Smite M'ith their palms. Upon the banks a scurf
From the foiil steam condens'd, encrusting hung, 105
That held sharp combat with the sight and smell.

So hollow is the depth, that from no part,
Save on the summit of the rocky span,
Could I distinguish aught. Tims far we came ;
And thence I saw, within the foss below, 110

A crowd immers'd in ordure, that appear'd
Draff of the human body. There beneath
Searching with eye inquisitive, I mark VI

HELL. fi;j

One with his head so grim'd, 't were hard to deem,

If he were clerk or layman. Loud he cried : 115

"Why greedily thus bendest more on nie,

Than on these other filthy ones, tliy ken ? "

"Because if true my mem'ry," I replied,
" I heretofore have seen thee with dry locks,
And thou Alcssio art of Lucca sprung-. 120

Therefore than all the rest I scan thee more."

Then beating on his brain these words he spake :
" Me thus low down my flatteries haA^e sunk.
Wherewith I ne'er enough could glut my tongue."

My leader thus : " A tittle further stretch 125

Thy face, that thou the visage well mayst note
Of that besotted, sluttish courtezan,
Who there doth rend her with defiled nails,
Now crouching down, now risen on her feet.
Thais is this, the harlot, whose false lip 130

Answer'd her doting ])aramour that ask'd,
' Thankest me much ! ' — ' Say rather wondrously,'
And seeing this here satiate be our view."


Woe to thee, Simon Magus ! woe to you.

His wretched followers ! who the things of God,

Which should be wedded iinto goodness, them,

Raj)acious as ye are, do prostitute

For gold and silver in adultery ! 5

Now must the trumpet sound for you, since yours

Is the third chasm. Upon the following vault

We now had mounted, where the rock impends

Directly o'er the centre of the foss.

Wisdom Supreme ! how Avonderful the art, 10

Which thou dost manifest in heaven, in earth,
And in th^i' evil world, how just a meed
Allotting by thy virtue unto all !

I saw the livid stone, throughout the sides
And in its bottom full of ajiertures, 15

Ail equal in their width, and circular each,

64 BELL.

Nor ample less nor larger tlicy appear'd,

Tliun in Saint Jolui's fair dome of me belov'd

Those fram'd to hold tlie j)ure baptismal streams,

One of the which I brake, some few years past, 20

To save a wlielming infant ; and be this

A seal to undeceive whoever doubts

The motive of my deed. From out the mouth

Of every one, emerged a sinner's feet

And of the legs high u|)ward as the calf 25

The rest beneath was hid. On either foot

The soles were burning, whence the flexile joints

Glanc'd with such violent motion, as had suapt

Asunder cords or twisted withs. As flame,

Feeding on inictuous matter, glides along 30

The surface, scarcely touching where it moves ;

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