1265-1321 Dante Alighieri.

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

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Snatehes the leveret, ])antinL!; 'twixt liis jaws."

Already I ])erceiv'd my hair stand all
On end with terror, and look'd eager hack. 20

" 'J'eacher," I thus began, " if sjieedily
Tliyself and me thou hide not, much I dread
Those evil talons. Even now hehind
They urge us : quick imagination works
So forcibly, that I already feel them." 25

He answer'd : " Were I form'd of leaded glass,
I should not sooner draw unto myself
Thy outward image, than I now imprint
That from M'ithin. This moment came thy thoughts
Presented before mine, with similar act 30

And count'nance similar, so that from both
I one design have fram'd. If the right coast
Incline so much, that we may thence descend
Into the other chasm, we shall escape
Secure from this imagined pursuit." 35

He had not spoke his purjiose to the end,
When I from far beheld them with spread wings
Approach to take us. Suddenly my guide
Caught me, ev'n as a mother that from sleep
Is by the noise arous'd, and near her sees 40

The climbing fires, who snatches up her babe
And flies ne'er pausing, careful more of him
Than of herself, that but a single vest
Clings round her limbs. Down from the jutting beach
Supine he cast him, to tliat pendent rock, 45

Which closes on one part the other chasm.

Never ran water with such hurrying ])ace
Adown the tube to turn a land-miirs wheel.
When nearest it ap}>roaches to the spokes,
As then along that edge my master ran, 50

Carrying me in his bosom, as a child,
Not a companion. Scarcely had his feet
Reach'd to the lowest of the bed beneath,

HELL. 79

Wlion over us the steep they renchM ; but fear

In him Avas none ; for tliat hi<j;li Providence, 55

Which ])hic'd tliem ministers of tlie fiftli foss,

Power of departing- tlience took from them all.

There in tlie depth we saw a painted trii)e,
Who pac'd with tardy ste])S around, and wept,
Faint in appearance and o'ercome witli toil. 60

Caps had they on, with hoods, that fell low down
Before their eyes, in fashion like to those
Worn by the monks in Cologne. Their outside
Was overlaid with gold, dazzling to view.
But leaden all within, and of such weight, 65

That Frederick's compar'd to these were straw.
Oh, everlasting wearisome attire !

We yet once more with them together turn'd
To leftward, on their dismal moan intent.
But by the weight oj>]»ress'd, so slowly came 70

The fainting people, that our company
Was chang'd at every movement of the step.

Whence I my guide address'd : " See that thou find
Some spirit, whose name may by his deeds be known.
And to that end look round thee as thou go'st." 75

Then one, wiio understood the Tuscan voice,
Cried after us aloud : " Hold in your feet,
Ye who so swiftly speed through the dusk air.
Perchance from me thou shalt obtain thy wish."

Whereat my leader, turning, me bespake : 80

" Pause, and then onward at their pace proceed."

I staid, and saw two s])irits in whose look
Impatient eagerness of mind was mark'd
To overtake me ; but the load they bare
And narrow path retarded their a])proach. 85

Soon as arriv'd, they with an eye askance
Perus'd me, but spake not: then turning each
To other thus conferring said : " This one
Seems, by the action of his throat, alive.
And, be they dead, wliat privilege allows 90

They walk unmantled by the cumbrous stole ? "

Then thus to mo : " Tuscan, Avho visitest
The college of the mourning hypocrites,

80 II KM..

Disdnin not 1o instruct us who tliou art."

"By Anio's pleasant stre.aiii," I thus i-cplicfl, Oft

" In tlie great city I was bred aiul grew,
And wear the body 1 have ever worn.
But who are ye, from wliom sucli mighty grief,
As now I witness, coursetli down your cheeks?
What torment breaks foitli in tliis bitter woe?" 100

"Our bonnets gleaming briglit with orange hue,"
One of tliem answer'd, "are so leatlen gi-oss,
That witli tlieir weight they make the balances
To crack beneath them. Joyous friars we were,
Bologna's natives, Catalano I, 105

He Loderingo nam'd, and by thy land
Together taken, as men used to take
A single and indifferent arbiter.
To reconcile their strifes. IIow there we sped,
Gardingo's vicinage can best declare." 110

" O friars ! " I began, " your miseries — "
But there brake off, for one had caught my eye,
Fix'd to a cross with three stakes on the ground :
He, when he saw me, Avrith'd himself, throughout
Distorted, rufHing with deep sighs his beard. 115

And Catalano, wlio thereof was 'ware.
Thus spake : " That ])ierced sj^irit, whom intent
Thou view'st, was he who gave the Pharisees
Counsel, that it were fitting for one man
To suffer for the peo})le. He doth lie 120

Transverse ; nor any passes, but him first
Behoves make feeling trial how each weighs.
In straits like this along the foss are plac'd
The father of his consort, and the rest
Partakers in that council, seed of ill 125

And sorrow to the Jews." 1 noted then.
How Virgil gaz'd with wonder upon him.
Thus abjectly extended on the cross
In banishment eternal. To tlie friar
Pie next his words address'd : " We pray ye tell, ISO

If so be lawful, whether on our right
Lies any opening in the rock, Avliereby
We both may issue hence, without constraint

HELL. 81

Oil tlic dark aiigvls, tlial conipcll'd tliey come

To load us from tliis de|»tli." He tlius rcidied : 135

"Nearer than tlioii dost lioi)e, tliere is a rock

From the next circle movina', whicli o'erstej)s>

Each vale of horror, save that here his co})C

Is sliatter'd. By tlie ruiu ye may mount :

For on the side it slants, and most the height 14C

Iiises below." With head bent down awliile

My leader stood, then s])ake : " He warn'd us ill,

Who yonder hangs the sinners on his hook,"

To whom the friar : At Bologna erst
I many vices of the devil heard, 145

Among tlie rest was said, ' He is a liai*.
And the father of lies ! ' " When he had spoke,
My leader with large strides ])roceeded on,
Somewhat disturb'd with anger in liis look.

I therefore left the s])irits heavy laden, 150

And following, his beloved footste]»s mark'd.


In" the year's early nonage, ^\■hen the sun

Tempers his tresses in Aquarius' urn,

And now towards equal day the nights recede,

When as tlie rime u])on the earth jnits on

Her dazzling sister's image, but not long 5

Her milder sway endures, then risetli up

The village hind, whom fails his wintry store,

And looking out beholds the plain around

All whiten'd, whence impatiently he smites

His thighs, and to his hut returning in, 10

There paces to and fro, wailing his lot,

As a discomfited and heljiless man ;

Then comes he forth again, and feels new hojDe

Spring in his bosom, finding e'en thus soon

The world hath chang'd its count'nance, grasps his crook,

And forth to ])asture dl•i^•es his little flock : Ifc

So me my guide dishearten'd when I saw

His troubled forehead, and so speedily

I I II - ■. :■■— ^ - - -v-^ I I, mil nr I "T-i 'I ,.-,,.-.

82 HELL.

That ill was ciirM ; for at the fallen hridge

Arriviiiti:, towards ine with a look as sweet, 20

lie turiiM him back, as that I first beheld

At the steep mountain's foot. Kegardinii; well

The ruin, and some counsel first maintain'd

With his own thought, heopen'd wide his arm

And took me up. As one, who, Avhile he works, 25

Computes his labour's issue, that he seems

Still to foresee the' effect, so lifting me

Up to the summit of one peak, he fix'd

His eye upon another. " Graj^ple that,"

Said he, " but first make proof, if it be such 30

As will sustain thee." For one capp'd with lead

This Avere no journey. Scarcely he, though light,

And I, though onwar<l push'd from crag to crag.

Could mount. And if the precinct of this coast

Were not less am})le than the last, for him 35

I know not, but my strength had surely fail'd.

But Malebolge all toward the mouth

Inclining of the nethermost abyss,

The site of every valley hence requires.

That one side upward slope, the other fall. 40

At length the point of our descent we reach'd
From the last flag: soon as to that arriv'd.
So was the breath exhausted from my lungs,
I could no further, but did seat me there.

" Now needs thy best of man ; " so spake my guide : 45
"For not on downy plumes, nor nnder shade
Of canopy re])osing, fame is won.
Without which whosoe'er consumes his days
Leaveth such vestige of himself on earth.
As smoke in air or foam upon the wave. 50

Thou therefore rise : vanish thy Aveariness
By the mind's effort, in each struggle forin'd
^To vanquish, if she suffer not the weight
Of her corporeal frame to crush her down.
A longer ladder yet remains to scale. 55

PVom these to have escap'd sufficeth not.
If well thou note mo, profit by my words."

I straightway rose, and show'd myself less spent

HELL. 83

Than I in truth did feel me. " On," I cried,

" For I am stout and fearless." Up the rock GO

Our way we lield, more rugged than before,

Narrower and steeper far to climb. From talk

I ceas'd not, as we journey'd, so to seem

Least faint ; Avhereat a voice from the other foss

Did issue forth, for ntt'rance suited ill. 65

Though on the arch tliat crosses there I stood,

What were the words I knew not, but who spake

Seem'd mov'd in anger. Down I stoo])'d to look,

But my quick eye might reach not to the depth

For shrouding darkness; wherefore thus I spake: 70

" To the next circle, Teacher, bend thy steps.

And from the wall dismount we ; for as hence

I hear and understand not, so I see

Beneath, and naught discern." — "I answer not,"

Said he, " but by tlie deed. To fair request 75

Silent performance maketh best return."

We from the bridge's head descended, where
To the eighth mound it joins, and then the chasm
Opening to A'iew, I saw a crowd within
Of ser])ents terrible, so strange of shape yO

And liideous, that remembrance in my veins
Yet shrinks the vital current. Of her sands
Let Lybia vaunt no more : if Jaculus,
Pareas and Chelyder be her brood,

Cenchris and Amphisba?na, plagues so dire 85

Or in such numbers swarming ne'er she shew'd,
Not Avith all Ethiopia, and whate'er
Above the Erythrrean sea is spawn'd.

Amid this dread exuberance of woe
Ran naked spirits Aving'd Avith horrid fear, 90

Nor hope had they of crevice Avhere to hide,
Or heliotrope to charm them out of view.
With serpents were their hands behind thera bound,
Which through their reins infix'd the tail and head
Twisted in folds before. And lo ! on one 95

Near to our side, darted an adder up.
And, Avhere the neck is on the shoulders tied,
Transpierc'd liim. Far more quickly tlian e'er pen


Wrote O or I, he kindled, buni'd, and chang'd

To aslies, all ])()ur'<l out upon the eailli. 100

When tliere dissolv'd he lay, the dust again

Uproll'd spontaneous, and the self-.sanie form

Instant resumed. So mighty sages tell,

The' Arabian Pliamix, wlien five hundred years

Have well nigh circled, dies, and springs forthwith 105

Kenascent. Blade nor lierb throughout his life

He tastes, but tears of frankincense alone

And odorous amomum : swaths of nard

And myrrh his funeral shroud. As one that falls,

He knows not how, by force demoniac dragg'd 110

To earth, or through obstruction fettering up

In chains invisible the powers of man,

Who, risen from his trance, gazeth around,

Bewilder'd with the monstrous agony

He hath endur'd, and wildly staring sighs ; 115

So stood aghast the sinner when he rose.

Oh! how severe God's judgment, that deals out
Such blows in stormy vengeance ! Who he was
My teacher next inquir'd, and thus in few
He answer'd : " Vanni Fucci am I call'd, 120

Not long since rained down from Tuscany
To this dire gullet. Me the beastial life
And not the human pleas'd, mule that I was,
Who in Pistoia found my worthy den."

I then to Virgil : " Bid him stir not hence, 125

And ask what crime did thrust him hither : once
A man I knew him choleric and bloody."

The sinner heard and feign'd not, but towards me
His mind directing and his face, wherein
Was dismal shame depictur'd, thus he spake : 130

" It grieves me more to have been caught by thee
In this sad plight, which thou beholdest, than
When I was taken from the other life.
I have no power permitted to deny

What thou inquirest. I am doom'd. thus low 135

To dwell, for that the sacristy by me
Was rifled of its goodly ornaments.
And with the guilt another falsely charged.



Bat that tliou may'st not joy to see me thus,

So as thou e'er shalt 'scape this darksome realm 140

Open thine ears and hear what I forebode.

Reft of the Neri first Pistoia pines,

Then Florence changeth citizens and laws.

From Valdimagra, drawn by wrathful Mars,

A vapour rises, w]'aj)t in turbid mists, 145

And sliarp and eager driveth on the storm

With arrowy hurtling o'er Piceno's field,

Whence suddenly the cloud shall burst, and strike

Each helpless Bianco prostrate to the ground.

This have I told, that grief may rend thy heart." 150


Whei^ he had spoke, the sinner rais'd his hands

Pointed in mockery, and cried : " Take them, God !

I level them at thee ! " From that day forth

The serpents were my friends ; for round his neck

One of tlien rolling twisted, as it said, 5

" Be silent, tongue ! " Another to his arms

TJpgliding, tied tliem, riveting itself

So close, it took from them the power to move.

Pistoia ! ah Pistoia ! why dost dovibt
To turn thee into ashes, curab'ring earth 10

No longer, since in evil act so far
Thou hast outdone thy seed ? I did not mark,
Tlirough all the gloomy circles of the' abyss,
Spirit, that swell'd so proudly 'gainst his God,
Not him, who headlong fell from Thebes. He fled, 15
Nor utter'd more ; and after liim there came
A centaur full of fury, shouting, " Where
Where is the caitiff?" On Maremma's marsh
Swarm not the serpent tribe, as on his haunch
They swarm'd, to where the human face begins. 20

Behind his head upon the shoulders lay.
With open wings, a dragon breathing fire
On whomsoe'er he met. To me my guide :
" Cacus is this, who underneath the rock

86 HKI.L.

Of Aventine spre-id oft a, lake of blood. 25

He, from his brethren parted, here must tread
A different journey, for his fraudful tlieft
Of the great herd, tJiat near liim stall'd; whence found
Ilis felon deeds their end, beneatli the mace
Of stout Alcides, that ])erchance laid on . 30

A hundred blows, and not the tenth was felt."
While yet he spake, the centaur sped away:
And under us three spirits came, of whom
Nor I nor he was ware, till they exclaim'd ;
" Say who are ye?" We then brake off discourse, 35
Intent on these alone. I knew them not ;
But, as it chanceth oft, befell, that one
Had need to name another. " Where," said he,
" Doth Cianfa lurk ? " I, for a sign my guide
Should stand attentive, plac'd against my lips 40

The finger lifted. If, O reader ! now
Thou be not apt to credit what I tell,
No marvel ; for myself do scarce allow
The witness of mine eyes. But as I looked
Toward them, lo ! a serpent with six feet 45

Springs forth on one, and fastens full upon him :
His midmost grasp'd the belly, a forefoot
Seiz'd on each arm (while deep in either cheek
He flesh'd his fangs) ; the hinder on the thighs
Were spread, 'twixt which the tail inserted curl'd 50

Upon the reins behind. Ivy ne'er clasp'd
A dodder'd oak, as round the other's limbs
The liideous monster intertwin'd his own.
Then, as they both had been of burning wax,
Each melted into other, mingling hues, 55

That which was either now was seen no more.
Thus up the shrinking paper, ere it burns,
A brown tint glides, not turning yet to black,
And the clean white expires. The other two
Look'd on exclaiming: "Ah, how dost thou change, 60
Agnello ! See! Thou art nor double now,
Nor only one." The two heads now became
One, and two figures blended in one form
Appear'd, where both were lost. Of the four lengths

Two arms were made : the belly and the chest 65

The thighs and legs into such nionibers ehang'd,

As never eye hath seen. Of former shape

All trace was vanish'd. Two yet neither seem'd

That image miscreate, and so pass'd on

With tardy steps. As underneath the scourge 70

Of the fierce dog-star, that lays bare the fields,

Shifting from bi-ake to brake, the lizard seems

A flash of lightning, if he thwart the road,

So toward th' entrails of the other two

Approaching seem'd, an adder all on fire, 75

As the dark pepper-grain, livid and swart.

In that part, whence our life is noui-ish'd first,

One he transpierc'd ; then down before him fell

Stretch'd out. The pierced spirit look'd on him

But spake not ; yea stood motionless and yawn'd, 80

As if by sleep or fev'rous fit assail'd.

He ey'd the serpent, and the serjient him.

One from the wound, the other from the month

Breath'd a thick smoke, whose vap'ry columns join'd.

Lncan in mute attention now may hear, 85

Nor thy disastrous fate, Sabellus ! tell.
Nor thine, Nasidius ! Ovid now be mute.
What if in warbling fiction he record
Cadmus and Arethusa, to a snake

Him ehang'd, and her into a fountain clear, 90

I envy not ; for never face to face
Two natures thus transmuted did he sing.
Wherein both shapes were ready to assume
The other's substance. They in mutual guise
So answer'd, that the serpent split his train 95

Divided to a fork, and the ])ierc'd spirit
DrcAV close his steps together, legs and thighs
Compacted, that no sign of juncture soon
Was visible : the tail disparted took
The figure Avhich the spirit lost, its skin 100

Soft'ning, his indurated to a rind.
The shoulders next I mark'd, that ent'ring join'd
The monster's arm-])it8, whose two shorter feet
So lengthen'd, as the other's dwindling shrunk.

88 nETX.

The feet bcliind then twisting up bocnine \'t'j

Tli.-it part tliat man conceals, whicli in tlic wrct(^l)

Was clciLt in twain. While both the shadowy smoke

With a new colour veils, and generates

Th' excrescent ])ile on one, peeling it off

From th' other body, lo ! upon his feet 110

One upright rose, and pi-one the other fell.

Not yet their glaring and malignant lamps

Were shifted, though each feature chang'd beneath.

Of him who stood erect, the mounting face

Retreated towards the temples, and Avhat there 115

Superfluous matter came, shot out in ears

From the smooth cheeks ; the rest, not backward dragg'd,

Of its excess did sha]>e the nose; and swell'd

Into due size protuberant the lips.

lie, on the earth who lay, meanwhile extends 120

Ilis sharpen'd visage, and draws down the cars

Into the head, as doth the slug his horns. I

His tongue continuous before and apt !

For utt'rance, severs ; and the other's fork

Closing unites. That done the smoke was laid. 125

The soul, transform'd into the brute, glides off,

Hissing along the vale, and after him

The other talking sputters ; but soon turn'd

His new-grown shoulders on hira, and in few '

Thus to another si)ake : "Along this path 130

Crawling, as I have done, speed Buoso now ! "

So saw I fluctuate in successive change
Th' unsteady ballast of the seventh hold :
And here if aught my tongue have swerv'd, events
So strange may be its warrant. O'er niine eyes 135

Confusion hung, and on my thoughts amaze.

Yet 'scap'd they not so covertly, but well
I mark'd Sciancato : he alone it was

Of the three first that came, who chang'd not : thou, |

The other's fate, Gaville, still dost rue. 140

HELL. 89


Florence exult ! for thou so mightily

llast thriven, that o'er laud and sea thy wings

Thou beatest, and thy name spreads over hell !

Among the phmd'rers such the three I found

Thy citizens, whence shame to me thy son, 5

And no proud honour to thyself redounds.

But if our minds, when dreaming near the dawn,
Are of the truth presageful, thou ere long
Shalt feel what Prato, (not to say the rest)
Would fain might come upon thee; and that chance 10
Were in good time, if it befell thee now.
Would so it Avere, since it must needs befall !
For as time wears nie, I shall grieve the more.

We from the depth departed ; and my guide
Kemounting scal'd the flinty steps, Avhich late 15

We downward trac'd, and drew me up the steep.
Pursuing thus our solitary way
Among the crags and splinters of the rock,
Sped not our feet without the help of hands.

Then sorrow seiz'd me, which e'en now revives, 20

As my thought turns again to what I saw,
And, more than I am wont, I rein and curb
The powers of nature in me, lest they run
Where Virtue guides not ; that if aught of good
My gentle star, or something better gave me, 25

I envy not myself the precious boon.

As in that season, when the sun least veils
His face that lightens all, what time the fly
Gives way to the shrill gnat, the peasant then
Upon some cliff reclin'd, beneath him sees 30

Fire-flies innumerous spangling o'er the vale,
Vineyard or tilth, where his day-labour lies :
With flames so numberless throughout its space
Shone the eighth cliasm, apparent, when the depth
Was to my view expos'd. As he, Avhose wrongs 35

The bears aveng'd, at its dei)arture saw
Elijah's chariot, when the steeds erect
Rais'd their steep flight for heav'n ; his eyes meanwhile,

90 HELL.

StrnininGj parsii'd them, till tlie flame alone

Upsoariug like a misty s|)(;ck he keiiii'd ; 40

E'en thus along the gulf moves every flame,

A sinner so enfolded close in each,

That none exhibits token of the theft.

U])on the bridge I forward Lent to look.
And grasp'd a flinty mass, or else had fall'n, 45

Though push'd not from the height. The guide, M'ho

HoAV I did gaze attentive, thus began :
" Within these ardours are the spirits, each
Swath'd in confining fire," — " Master, thy word,"
I answer'd, " hath assur'd me ; yet I deem'd 50

Already of the truth, already wish'd
To ask thee, Avho is in yon fire, that comes
So parted at the summit, as it seem'd
Ascending from that funeral pile, where lay
The Theban brothers ? " He replied : " Within 55

Ulysses there and Diomede endure
Their penal tortures, thus to vengeance now
Together hasting, as erewhile to wrath.
These in the flame with ceaseless groans deplore
The ambush of the horse, tliat open'd wide 60

A portal for that goodly seed to pass,
Which sow'd imperial Rome ; nor less the guile
Lament they, whence of her Achilles 'reft
Deidamia yet in death complains.

And there is rued the stratagem, that Troy 65

Of her Palladium s]>oil'd." — " If they have power
0£ utt'rance from within these sparks," said I,
" O master ! think my prayer a thousand fold
In repetition urg'd, that tliou vouchsafe
To pause, till here the horned flame arrive. 70

See, how toward it with desire I bend."

He thus: " Thy prayer is worthy of much praise,
And I accept it therefore : but do thou
Thy tongue refrain : to question them be mine,
Por I divine thy wish : and they perchance, 75

For they were Greeks, might shun discourse with thee."

Wlien there the flame had come, where time and place

IIELT,. 91

SeeTu'd fitting to my guide, he thus began :

" O ye, who dwell two sj)ints in one fire !

If living I of you did merit auglit, 80

Whate'er the measm-e were of that desert,

Wlien in the world my lofty strain I pour'd,

Move ye not on, till one of you unfold

In what clime death o'ertook him self-destroy'd."

Of the old flame forthwith the greater horn 85

Began to roll, murmuring, as a fire
That labours with the wind, then to and fro
Wagging the top, as a tongue uttering sounds,
Threw out its voice, and spake : " Wlien I escap'd
From Circe, who beyond a circling year 90

Had held me near Caieta, by her charms,
Ere thus ^neas yet had nam'd the shore,
Nor fondness for my son, nor reverence
Of my old father, nor return of love.

That should have crown'd Penelope witli joy, 95

Could overcome in me the zeal I liad
T' explore tlie world, and search the ways of life,
Man's evil and his virtue. Forth I sail'd
Into the deep illimitable main,

With but one bark, and the small faithful band 100

That yet cleav'd to me. As Iberia far,
Far as Morocco either shore I saw,
And the Sardinian and each isle beside
Which round that ocean bathes. Tardy with age
Were I and my companions, when we came 105

To the strait pass, where Hercules ordain'd
The bound'ries not to be o'erstepp'd by man.
The walls of Seville to my right I left.
On the' other hand already Ceuta past.
' O brothers ! ' I began, who to the west 110

' Through ])erils without number now have reach' d,
' To this the short remaining -watch, that yet
' Our senses have to wake, refuse not proof
' Of the unpco]iled world, following the track

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