1265-1321 Dante Alighieri.

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

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Thou hadst it not so ready at command,
Tlien readier Avhen it coin'd th' impostor gold." 110

And thus the dropsied : "Ay, now speak'st thou true.
But there thou gav'st not such true testimony,
AVIien thou wast questional of the truth, at Troy."

" If I s])ake false, thou falsely stamp'dst the coin,"
Said Sinon ; "I am here but for one fault, 115

And th'j.i for more than any imp beside."

"Remember," he replied, " O ])erjur'd one,
Tlie horse rememljer, that di<l teem with death,

106 HKLL.

And all the world be witnesB to thy guilt." 119

" To thine," rcturn'd the Greek, " witness the thirst
Whence thy tonone cracks, witness the fluid mound,
Rear'd by thy belly up before tliine eyes,
A mass corrupt." To whom the coiner thus :
" Thy mouth gapes wide as ever to let pass
Its evil saying. Me if thirst assails, 12:')

Yet I am stuff'd with moisture. Thou art pai'ch'd,
Pains rack thy head, no urging would'st thou need
To make thee lap Narcissus' mirror uj)."

I was all fix'd to listen, when my guide
Admonish'd : " Now beware : a little more. 130

And I do quarrel with thee." I perceiv'd
IToAv angrily he spake, and towards him turn'd
With shame so j^oignant, as remember'd yet
Confounds me. As a man that dreams of harm
Befall'n him, dreaming wishes it a dream, 135

And that which is, desires as if it were not,
Such then was I, who wanting ])0'^^'er to speak
W^ish'd to excuse myself, and all the while
Excus'd me, though unweeting that I did.

" MorQ grievous fault than thine has been, less shame,"
My master cried, " might expiate. Therefore cast 141
All sorrow from thy soul ; and if again
Chance bring thee, where like conference is held,
Think I am ever at thy side. To hear
Such wrangling is a joy for vulgar minds," 145


The very tongue, whose keen reproof before
ITad Avounded me, that either cheek was stain'd,
Now minister'd my cure. So have I heard,
Achilles and his father's javelin caus'd
Pain first, and then the boon of health restor'd.

Turning our back upon the vale of woe.
We cross'd th' encircled mound in silence. There
Was twilight dim, that far long the gloom
Mine eye advanc'd not : but I heard a liorn

HELL. 107

Souiulod aloud. The peal it blew had made 10

The thunder feeble. Following its course

The adverse way, my strained eyes were bent

On that one spot. So terrible a blast

Orlando blew not, wlien that dismal rout

Overthrew the host of Charlemain, and quench'd 15

His saintly warfare. Thitherward not long

My head was rais'd, when many lofty towers

Methought I spied. " Master," said" I, " what land

Is this ? " He answered straight : " Too long a space

Of intervening darkness has thine eye 20

To traverse : thou hast therefore widely err'd

In thy imagining. Thither arriv'd

Thou well shalt see, how distance can delude

The sense. A little therefore urge thee on."

Then tenderly he caught me by the hand ; 25

"Yet know," said he, " ere farther we advance,
That it less strange may seem, these are not towers,
But giants. In the pit they stand immers'd,
Each from his navel doAvnward, round the bank."

As when a fog disperseth gradually, 30

Our vision traces Avhat the mist involves
Condens'd in air ; so piercing through the gross
And gloomy atmosphere, as more and more
AVe near'd toward the brink, mine error fled.
And fear came o'er me. As with circling round 35

Of turrets, Montercggion croAvns his walls.
E'en thus the shore, encompassing th' abyss,
Was turreted with giants, half their length
Ul)rearing, horrible, whom Jove from heav'n
Yet threatens, when his mutt'ring thunder rolls. 4U

Of one already I descried the face,
Slioulders, and breast, and of the belly huge
Great part, and both arms down along his ribs.

All-teeming nature, when her jilastic hand
Left framing of these monsters, did disi)lay 45

Past doubt her wisdom, taking from mad War
Such slaves to do his bidding; and if she
Repent her not of th' elephant and whale,
Who ponders \vell confesses her therein

108 iiKix.

Wiser and more discreet ; for when brute force 50

And evil will are b.ack'd witli subtlety,

Resistance none avails. His visage seem'd

In length and bulk, as doth the i)ine, that tops

Saints Peter's IJouian fane; and tli' other bones

Of like proportion, so that from above 55

The bank, which girdled hiin b(>low, such height

Arose his stature, that three Friezelandei-s

Had striv'n in vain to reach but to his hair.

Full thirty ample ]>almswas he expos'd

Downward from M'hence a man his garnients loops. GO

"Raphel l)ai ameth sabi almi,"

So shouted his fierce lips, which sweeter hymns

Became not ; and my guide address'd him thus :

"O senseless spirit ! let thy horn for thee

Interpret : therewith ^ent thy rage, if rage 65

Or other passion wring thee. Search thy neck,

There slialt thou find the belt that binds it on.

Wild s])irit ! lo, upon thy mighty breast

Where hangs the baldrick ! " Then t(i me lie spake:

" He doth accuse himself. Nimrod is this, 70

Through whose ill counsel in the world no more

One tongue prevails. But pass we on, nor waste

Our words; for so each language is to him,

As his to others, understood by none."

Then to the leftward turning sped we forth, 75

And at a sling's throAV found another shade
Far fiercer and more huge. I cannot say
What master hand had girt him ; but he held
Behind the right arm fetter'd, and before
The other with a chain, that fasten'd him 80

From the neck down, and five times round his form
Apparent met the wreathed links. "This proud one
Would of his strength against almighty Jove
Make trial," said my guide ; " whence he is thus
Requited : Ephialtes him they call. 85

Great was his prowess, when the giants brought
Fear on the gods : those arms, which then he piled,
Now moves he never." Forthwith I return'd :
"Fain would T, if 't were ])ossil)le, mine eyes

HELL. 109

Of Briareus immeasurable gain'd 90

Experience next." He answer'd : " Tliou shalt see

Not far from hence Antaeus, who both speal^s

And is unfetter'd, who sliall place us tliere

Where guilt is at its de])th. Far onward stands

Whoni thou wouldst fain behold, in chains, and made 95

Like to this spirit, save that in his looks

More fell he seems." By violent earthquake rock'd

Ne'er shook a tow'r, so reeling to its base,

As Ephialtes. More than ever then

I dreaded death, nor than the terror more 100

Had needed, if I had not seen the cords

That held him fast. We, straightway journeying on,

Came to Anta3us, who five ells complete

Without the head, forth issued from the cave.

" O thou, who in the fortunate vale, that made 105
Great Scipio heir of glory, when his sword
Drove back the troop of Hannibal in flight.
Who thence of old didst carry for thy spoil
An hundred lions ; and if thou hadst fought
In the high conflict on thy brethren's side, 110

Seems as men yet believ'd, that through thine arm
The sons of earth had conquer'd, now vouchsafe
To place us down beneath, where numbing cold
Locks up Cocytus. Force not that Ave crave
Or Tityus' help or Typhon's. Here is one 115

Can give what in this realm ye covet. Stoop
Therefore, nor scornfully distort thy lij).
He in the iipper world can yet bestow
Renown on thee, for he doth live, and looks
For life yet longer, if before the time 120

Grace call him not unto herself." Thus spake
The teacher. He in haste forth stretch d his hands,
And caught my guide. Alcides whilom felt
That grap})le straighten'd score. Soon as my guide
Had felt it, he bespuke me thus : " This way 125

That I may clasp thee ; " then so caught me up,
That we were both one burden. As appears
The tower of Carisenda, from beneath
Where it doth lean, if chance a DassiuLj cloud

110 HELL.

So sail aorosp, tlmt opposite it hanif^s, 130

Such tlicMi AiitjLMis scein'd, as at mine ease

I inark'd him stoo|)iii<^. I were fain at times

T' have pass'd another way. Yet in th' al)ys8,

That Lucifer witli Judas low ingulfs,

Lightly he ])lac'd us ; nor there leaning stuy'd, 135

But rose as in a bark the stately mast.


Could I command rough rhimes and hoarse, to suit

That hole of sorrow, o'er which ev'ry rock

His firm abutment rears, then might the vein

Of fancy rise full springing : but not mine

Such measures, and with falt'ring awe I touch 5

The mighty theme ; for to describe the depth

Of all the universe, is no emprize

To jest with, and demands a tongue not us'd

To infant babbling. But let them assist

My song, the tuneful maidens, by whose aid 10

Amphion wall'd in Thebes, so with the truth

My speech shall best accord. Oh ill-starr'd folk,

Beyond all others wretched ! who abide

In such a mansion, as scarce thought finds words

To speak of, better had ye here on earth 15

Been flocks or mountain goats. As down we stood

In the dark pit beneath the giants' feet.

But lower far than they, and I did gaze

Still on the lofty battlement, a voice

Bespoke me thus : "Look how thou walkest. Take 20

Good heed, thy soles do tread not on the heads

Of thy poor brethren." Thereupon I turn'd,

And saw before and undei'noath my feet

A lake, Avhose frozen surface liker seem'd

To glass than water. Not so tliick a \eil 25

In winter e'er hath Austrian Danube spread

O'er his still course, nor Tanaifs far remote

Under the chilling sky. Kull'd o'er that mass

Had Tabernich or Pi^etrapana fall'n,


Not e'en its rim liad creak'd. As peeps the frog 30

Croaking above the wave, what time in dreams
The viUage gleaner oft pursues her toil,
So, to where modest shame appears, thus low
Blue pinch'd and shrin'd in ice the spirits stood,
Moving their teeth in shrill note like the stork. 35

His face each dowuAvard held ; their moutli the cold,
Their eyes express'd the dolour of their heart.

A space I look'd around, then at my feet
Saw two so strictly join'd, that of their head
The very hairs were mingled. " Tell me ye, 40

Whose bosoms thus together press," said I,
" Who are ye '? " At that sound their necks they bent.
And when their looks were lifted up to me,
Straightway their eyes, before all moist within,
Distill'd upon their lips, and the frost bound 45

The tears betwixt those orbs and held them there.
Plank unto plank hath never cramp clos'd up
So stoutly. Whence like two enraged goais
They clash'd together; them such fuiy seiz'd.

And one, from whom the cold both ears had reft, 50
Exclaim'd, still looking downward : " Why on us
Dost s]>eculate so long? If thou wouldst know
Who are these two, the valley, whence his wave
Bisenzio slopes, did for its master own
Their sire Alberto, and next him themselves. 55

They from one body issued ; and throughout
Caina thou mayst search, nor find a shade
More worthy in congealment to be fix'd.
Not him, whose breast and shadow Arthur's hand
At that one blow dissever'd, not Focaccia, 60

No not this spirit, whose o'erjutting head
Obstructs my onward view : he bore the name
Of Mascheroni : Tuscan if thou be,
Well knowest who he was: and to cut short
All further question, in my form behold 65

What once was Camiccione. I await
Ca7'lino here my kinsman, whose deep guilt
Shall wash out mine." A thousand vis.-iges
Then mark'd I, which the keen and eager cold

11 'J IIKIJ..

Had sliapM into n (1oo;gish grin ; wIkmico ci'co])s 70

A sliiy'rinL!^ liorror o'er iiic, at tlu; tlioiii^Iit

Of tliose i'rori' sliallows. Wliile wo jounicy'd on

Toward the middle, at wliose point nnites

All heavy substance, and I trembling went

Through that eternal chillness, I know not 76

If will it were or destiny, or chance,

But, passing 'midst the heads, my foot did strike

Witli violent blow against the face of one.

" Wherefore dost bruise me?" weeping, he exclaini'd,
" Unless thy errand be some fresli revenge SO

For Monta])erto, Avherefore troublest me?"

I thus : " Instructor, now await me here.
That I through him may rid me of my doubt.
Thenceforth what haste thou wilt." The teacher 2)aus'd,
And to that shade I s])ake, who bitterly 85

Still curs'd me in his wrath. "What art thou, speak,
That railest thus on others? " He replied :
" Now who art thou, that smiting others' cheeks
Through Antenora roamest, with such force
As were past suff'rance, wert thou living still ? " 90

" And I am living, to thy joy perchance,"
Was my reply, " if fame be dear to thee,
That with the rest I may thy name enrol."

" The contrary of what I covet most,"
Said he, " thou tender'st : hence ; nor vex me more. 95
111 knowest thou to flatter in this vale."

Then seizing on his hinder scalp, I cried :
" Name thee, or not a hair shall tarry here."

" Rend all away," he answer'd, " yet for that
I will not tell nor show thee wlio I am, 100

Though at my head thou pluck a thousand times."

Now 1 had grasp'd his tresses, and stript off
More than one tuft, he barking, with his eyes
Drawn in and downward, when another cried,
" What ails thee, Bocca? Sound not loud enough 105
Thy chatt'ring teetli, but thou must bark outright?
What devil wrings thee ? "— " Now," said I, "^be dumb,
Accursed traitor ! to thy shame of thee
True tidings will I bear.'"—" Off," he rei)lied,

HELL. 113

" Tell what thou list; l)ut ns thou escape from hence 110

To speak of him whose tongue hath been so glib,

Forget not : here he wails the Frenchman's gold.

' Him of Duera,' thou canst say, ' I mark'd.

Where the starv'd sinners ])ine.' If thou be ask'd

What other shade was with them, at thy side 115

Is Beccaria, whose red gorge distain'd

The biting axe of B^lorence. Farther on,

If I misdeem not, Soldanieri bides,

With Ganellon, and Tribaldello, him

Who op'd Faenza when the peo])le slept." 120

We now had left him, ])assing on our way,
When I beheld two spirits by the ice
Pent in one hollow, that the head of one
Was cowl unto the other; and as bread
Is raven'd up through hunger, th' uppermost 125

Did so ap})ly his fangs to th' other's brain.
Where the spine joins it. Not more furiously
On Menalip]nis' tem])les Tydeus guaw'd,
Than on that skull and on its garbnge he.

" O thou who show'st so beastly sign of liate 130

'Gainst him thou prey'st on, let me hear," said I,
"The cause, on such condition, that if right
Warrant thy grievance, knowing who ye are,
And what the colour of his sinning was,
I may repay thee in the world above, 135

If that, wherewith I speak be moist so long."


His jaws uplifting from their fell repast.
That sinner wip'd them on the hairs o' th' head,
Which he behind had mangled, then began:
" Thy will obeying, I call up afresh
Sorrow ])ast cure, which but to think of wrings
My heart, or ere I tell on't. But if words.
That I may utter, shall prove seed to bear
Fruit of eternal infamy to him,
The traitoi' whom I gnaw at, thou at once


114 HELL.

Slinlt see me speak and wc(^)>. Who tlioii majst be 10

I know not, nor liow ■iiere below ai-t come :

But Florentine thou seemest of a truth.

When I do hear thee. Know I was on earth

Count Ugolino, and th' Archbishop he

Kuggieri. AVhy I neighbour him so close, 15

Now list. That through effect of his ill thoughts

In him my trust reposing, I was ta'en

And after murder'd, need is not I tell.

What therefore thou canst not have heard, that is,

How cruel was the murder, shalt thou hear, 20

And know if he have wrong'd me. A small grate

AVithin that mew, which for my sake the name

Of famine bears, where others yet must ^^ine,

jMready through its opening sev'ral moons

Had shown me, when I sle])t the evil sleep, 25

That from the future tore the curtain off.

This one, methought, as master of the sport,

Rode forth to chase the gaunt wolf and his whelps

Unto the mountain, which forbids the sight

Of Lucca to the Pisan. With lean brachs 30

Inquisitive and keen, before him rang'd

Lanfranchi with Sismondi and Gualandi.

After short course the father and the sons

Seem'd tir'd and lagging, and methought I saw

The sharp tusks gore their sides. When I awoke 85

Before the dawn, amid tlieir sleep I heard

My sons (for they were v.'ith me) weep and ask

For bread. Right cruel art thou, if no pang

Thou feel at thinking what my heart foretold ;

And if not now, why use thy tears to flow ? 40

Now had tliey waken'd ; and the hour drew near

When they were wont to bring us food ; the mind

Of each misgave him through his dream, and I

Heard, at its outlet underneath lock'd up

The' horrible tower : whence uttering not a word 45

I look'd upon the visage of my sons.

I wejDt not: so all stone I felt within.

They wept : and one, my little Anslem, cried :

•Thou lookest so! Father, what ails thee?' Yet

HELL. 1115

I shed no tear, nor answcr'd all tliat day 50

Nor the next niglit, until anotlier sun

Came out upon the world. When a faint beam

Had to our doleful prison made its way,

And in four countenances I descry'd

The image of my own, on either hand 55

Through agony I bit, and they who thought

I did it through desire of feeding, rose

O' th' sudden, and cried, ' Father, we should grieve

' Far less, if thou wouldst eat of us : thou gav'st

' These weeds of miserable flesh we wear, 60

* And do thou strip them off from us again.'

Then, not to make them sadder, I kept down

J\Iy spirit in stillness. That day and the next

We all were silent. Ah, obdurate earth !

Why open'dst not upon us? When we came 65

To the fourth day, then Geddo at my feet

Outstretch'd did fling him, crying, ' Hast no help

' For me, my father ! ' There he died, and e'en

]'lainly as thou seest me, saw I the three

Fall one by one 'twixt the fifth day and sixth : 70

Whence I betook me now grown blind to grope

Over them all, and for three days aloud

Call'd on them who were dead. Then fastinix jrot

The mastery of grief." Thus having spoke,

Once more upon the wretched skull his teeth 75

He fasten'd, like a mastiff's 'gainst the bone

P^irm and unyielding. Oh thou Pisa ! shame

Of all the people, who their dwelling make

In that fair region, where th' Italian voice

Is heard, since that thy neighbours are so slack 80

To punish, from their deep foundations rise

Capraia and Gorgona, and dam up

Tlie mouth of Arno, that each soul in thee

May perish in the waters ! What if fame

Reported that thy castles were betray'd 85

By XJgolino, yet no right hadst thou

To stretch his children on the rack. For them,

Brigata, XJguccione, and the pair

Of gentle ones, of whom my song hath told,

116 HELL,

Tlieii" (eiidtT years, llioii modern Thebes ! did make 90
UncapaLle of guilt. Omvaixl we jiass'd,
Where others skavfd in rugged folds of ice
Not on their feet were turn'd, but eacli revers'd.

There very Aveeping suffers not to wee]) ;
For at their eyes grief seeking i)assage finds 95

Impediment, and rolling inward turns
For increase of sharp anguish : the first tears
Hang cluster'd, and like crystal vizors show,
Under the socket brimming all the cup.

Now though the cold had from my face dislodg'd 100
Each feeling, as 't were callous, yet me seem'd
Some breath of wind I felt. " Whence cometh this,"
Said I, " my master ? Is not here below
All vapour quench'd ? " — " Thou shalt be speedily,"
He answer'd, " where thine eye shall tell thee whence 105
The cause descrying of this airy shower."

Then cried out one in the chill crust who mourn'd :
" O souls so cruel ! that the farthest post
Hath been assign'd you, from this face remove
The harden'd veil, that I may vent the grief 110

Impregnate at my heart, some little space
Ere it congeal again ! " I thus replied :
" Say who thou wast, if thou wouldst have mine aid ;
And if I extricate thee not, far down
As to the lowest ice may I descend ! " 115

" The friar Alberigo," answered he,
" Am I, wdio from the evil garden pluck'd
Its fruitage, and am here repaid, the date
More luscious for my fig." — " Hah ! " I exclaim'd,
" Art thou too dead ! "— " How in the world aloft 120
It fareth wdth my body," answer'd he,
" I am right ignorant. Such privilege
Plath Ptolomea, that ofttimes the soul
Drops hither, ere by Atropos divorc'd.
And that thou mayst wipe out moi'e willingly 125

The glazed tear-drops that o'erlay mine eyes.
Know that the soul, that moment she betrays,
As I did, yields her body to a fiend
Who after moves and governs it at will.

HELL. 117

Till nil its time be rounded ; lieadlong she 130

Falls to this cistern. And jierchance above

Doth yet ap])ear the body of a ghost,

Who here behind me winters. Him tliou know'si,

If thou but newly art arriv'd below.

The years are many that have pass'd away, 135

Since to this fastness Branca Doria came."

" Now," answer'd I, " methinks thou mockest me,
For Branca Doria never yet hath died.
But doth all natural functions of a man.
Eats, drinks, and sleeps, and putteth raiment on." 140

He thus : " Not yet unto that upper foss
By th' evil talons guarded, where the pitch
Tenacious boils, liad Micliael Zanche reach'd,
When this one left a demon in his stead
In his own body, and of one his kin, 145

Who with him treachery wrought. But now put forth
Thy hand, and ope mine eyes." I op'd them not.
Ill manners were best courtesy to him.

Ah Genoese ! men j^erverse in every way,
With every foulness stain'd, why from the earth 150

Are ye not cancel'd ? Such an one of yours
I with Romagna's darkest spirit found,
As for his doings even now in soul
Is in Cocytus ))lung'd, and yet doth seem
In body still alive ujjon the earth. 155


" The banners of Hell's Monarch do come forth

Towards us ; therefore look," so spake my guide,

"If thou discern him." As, when breathes a cloud

Heavy and dense, or when the shades of night

Fall on our heniisjdiere, seems view'd from far 5

A windmill, which the blast stirs bi'iskly round,

Such Avas the fabric then methought I saw.

To shield me from the wind, forthwith I drew
Behind my guide: no covert else was there.

Now came I (and with fear I bid my strain 10

Record the marvel) where the souls were all

1 1 8 IIKTX.

Wliolm'd undorneatli, traiispni'ent, as through glass

I Pelhu-id the frail stem. Some ])rone were laid,

I Others stood upright, this upon the soles,
Tliat on his head, a tliird with face to feet 15

Arch'd like a bow. When to the point we came,

[ Wliereat my guide was i)lcas'd that I should see

t; Tlie creature eminent in l)eauty once,

i^ lie from before me stepp'd and made me pause.
= " Lo ! " he exclaim'd, " lo Dis ! and lo the i)lace, 20

j Where thou hast need to arm thy heart with strength."

How frozen and how faint I then became,

i Ask me not, reader ! for I write it not,

S Since words would fail to tell tliee of my state.

I I was not dead nor living. Tliink thyself 25

I If quick conception work in thee at all.
How I did feel. That emjieror, who sways

H The realm of sorrow, at mid breast from th' ice

1; Stood forth ; and I in stature am more like

I A giant, than the giants are in his arms. 30

I Mark now how great that whole must be, which suits

\ With such a part. If he were beautiful

I As he is hideous now, and yet did dare

i To scowl upon his Maker, well from him

I May all our mis'ry flov/. Oh what a sight ! 35

I How passing strange it seem'd, Avhen I did spy

!: Upon his head three faces : one in front

[ Of hue vermilion, th' other two with this

I Midway each shoulder join'd and at the crest;

[ The right 'twixt Avau and yellow seem'd : the left 40

I To look on, such as come from whence old Nile

;' Stoops to the lowlands. Under each shot forth

I Two mighty wings, enormous as became

I A bird so vast. Sails never such I saw

Outstretch'd on the wide sea. No plumes had they, 45

■ But were in textui'e like a bat, and these

I He flapp'd i' th' air, that from him issued still

3 Three winds, wherewith Cocytus to its depth

I Was frozen. At six eyes he wept : the tears

J, Adown tliree chins distill'd with bloody foam. 50

; At every mouth his teeth a sinner champ'd

j, Bruis'd as with jiond'rous engine, so that three

HELL. 119

Were in this guise tormented. But fur more

Than from that gnawing, was the foremost 2)ang'd

By the fierce rending, whence ofttimes the back 55

Was stript of all its skin. " That upper spirit,

Wlio hath worse punishment," so spake my guide,

" Is Judas, ho tliat hath his head within

And plies the feet without. Of th' other two,

Whose heads are under, from the murky jaw 60

Wlio hangs, is Brutus : lo ! how he doth writhe

And speaks not ! Tli' other Cassius, that a]')pear8

So large of limb. But night now re-ascends.

And it is time for parting. All is seen."

Online Library1265-1321 Dante AlighieriThe Vision : or, Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, of Dante Alighieri → online text (page 9 of 37)