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The Divine Comedy: Inferno

by Dante Alighieri (Tr. H.W. Longfellow)












































They come to the third gulf, wherein are punished
those who have been guilty of simony. These are fixed with
the head downward in certain apertures, so that no more of
them than the legs appears without, and on the soles of their
feet are seen furling flames. Dante is taken down by his guide
into the bottom of the gulf; and there finds Pope Nicholas the
fifth, whose evil deeds, together with those of the other pontiffs,
are bitterly reprehended. Virgil then carries him up against to the
arch, which affords them a passage over the following gulf.

O SIMON MAGUS, O forlorn disciples, 1
Ye who the things of God, which ought to be
The brides of holiness, rapaciously

For silver and for gold do prostitute,
Now it behoves for you the trumpet sound, 5
Because in this third Bolgia ye abide.

We had already on the following tomb
Ascended to that portion of the crag
Which o er the middle of the moat hangs plumb.

Wisdom supreme, O how great art thou showest
In heaven, in earth, and in the evil world,
And with what justice doth thy power distribute !

I saw upon the sides and on the bottom
The livid stone with perforations filled,
All of one size, and every one was round.

To me less ample seemed they not, nor greater
Than those that in my beautiful Saint John
Are fashioned for the place of the baptisers,

And one of which, not many years ago, 19
I broke for some one, who was drowning in it; 20
Be this a sea! all men to undeceive.

Out of the mouth of each one there protruded
The feet of a transgressor, and the legs
Up to the calf, the rest within remained.

In all of them the soles were both on fire;
Wherefore the joints so violently quivered,
They would have snapped asunder withes and bands.

Even as the flame of unctuous things is wont
To move upon the outer surface only,
So likewise was it there from heel to point.

"Master, who is that one who writhes himself,
More than his other comrades quivering,"
I said. " and whom a redder flame is sucking?" 33

And he to me:"If thou wilt have me bear thee
Down there along that bank which lowest lies,
From him thou'lt know his errors and himself."

And I:"What pleases thee, to me is pleasing;
Thou art my Lord, and knowest that I depart not
From thy desire, and knowest what is not spoken."

Straightway upon the fourth dike we arrived;
We turned, and on the left-hand side descended
Down to the bottom full of holes and narrow.

And the good Master yet from off his haunch
Deposed me not, till to the hole he brought me
Of him who so lamented with his shanks.

"Whoe'er thou art, that standest upside down,
O doleful soul, implanted like a stake,"
To say began I, " if thou canst, speak out."

I stood even as the friar who is confessing
The false assassin, who, when he is fixed, 50
Recalls him, so that death may be delayed.

And he cried out:"Dost thou stand there already,
Dost thou stand there already, Boniface? 53
By many years the record lied to me.

Art thou so early satiate with that wealth,
For which thou didst not fear to take by fraud
The beautiful Lady, and then work her woe?"

Such I became, as people are who stand,
Not comprehending what is answered them,
As if bemocked, and know not how to answer.

Then said Virgilius:"Say to him straightway,
'I am not he, I am not he thou thinkest."
And I replied as was imposed on me.

Whereat the spirit writhed with both his feet,
Then, sighing, with a voice of lamentation
Said to me: " Then what wantest thou of me?

If who I am thou carest so much to know,
That thou on that account hast crossed the bank,
now that I vested was with the great mantle;

And truly was I son of the She-bear, 70
So eager to advance the cubs, that wealth
Above, and here myself, I pocketed.

Beneath my head the others are dragged down
Who have preceded me in simony,
Flattened along the fissure of the rock.

Below there I shall likewise fall, whenever
That one shall come who I believed thou wast,
What time the sudden question I proposed.

But lon er I my feet already toast,
And here have been in this way upside down.
Than he will planted stay with reddened feet;

For after him shall come of fouler deed
From tow'rds the west a Pastor without law, 83
Such as befits to cover him and me.

New Jason will he be, of whom we read 85
In Maccabees j and as his king was pliant,
So he who governs France shall be to this one." 87

I do not know if I were here too bold,
That him I answered only in this metre:
"I pray thee tell me now how great a treasure

Our Lord demanded of Saint Peter first,
Before he put the keys into his keeping?
Truly he nothing asked but 'Follow me.'

Nor Peter nor the rest asked of Matthias 94
Silver or gold, when he by lot was chosen
Unto the place the guilty soul had lost.

Therefore stay here, for thou art justly punished,
And keep safe guard o'er the ill-gotten money,
Which caused thee to be valiant against Charles. 99

And were it not that still forbids it me
The reverence for the keys superlative
Thou hadst in keeping in the gladsome life,

I would make use of words more grievous still;
Because your avarice afflicts the world,
Trampling the good and lifting the depraved.

The Evangelist you Pastors had in mind,
When she who sitteth upon many waters 107
To fornicate with kings by him was seen;

The same who with the seven heads was born,
And power and strength from the ten horns received, 110
So long as virtue to her spouse was pleasing.

Ye have made yourselves a god of gold and silver;
And from the idolater how differ ye,
Save that he one, and ye a hundred worship?

Ah, Constantine ! of how much ill was mother,
Not thy conversion, but that marriage dower
Which the first wealthy Father took from thee!" 117

And while I sang to him such notes as these.
Either that anger or that conscience stung him,
He struggled violently with both his feet.

I think in sooth that it my Leader pleased,
With such contented lip he listened ever
Unto the sound of the true words expressed.

Therefore with both his arms he took me up,
And when he had me all upon his breast,
Remounted by the way where he descended.

Nor did he tire to have me clasped to him;
Rut bore me to the summit of the arch
Which from the fourth dike to the fifth is passage.

There tenderly he laid his burden down,
Tenderly on the crag uneven and steep,
That would have been hard passage for the goats:

Thence was unveiled to me another valley.

Footnotes 19

Canto 19

1. The Third Bolgia is devoted to the Simoniacs, so called from Simon Magus, the Sorcerer mentioned in Acts viii. 9, 18. See Par. XXX. Note 147. Brunetto Latini touches lightly upon them in the Tesoretto, XXI. 259, on account of their high ecclesiastical dignity. His pupil is less reverential in this particular.

Altri per simonia
Si getta in mala via,
E Dio e' Santi offende
E vende le prebende,
E Sante Sagramente,
E mette `nfra la gente
Assempri di mal fare.
Ma questo lascio stare,
Che tocca a ta' persone,
Che non e mia ragione
Di dirne lungamente."

Chaucer, Persones Tale, speaks thus of Simony:--

"Certes simonie is cleped of Simon Magus, that wold have bought for temporel catel the yefte that God had yeven by the holy gost to Seint Peter, and to the Apostles: and therefore understond ye, that both he that selleth and he that byeth thinges spirituel ben called Simoniakes, be it by catel, be it by prcuring, or by fleshly praier of his frendes, fleshly frendes, or spirituel frendes, fleshly in two maners, as by kinrede or other frendes: sothly, if they pray for him that is not worthy and able, it is simonie, if he take the benefice: and if he be worthy and able, ther is non."

5. Gower, Confes. Amant. I.:--

"A trompe with a sterne breth,
Which was cleped the trompe of deth.
He shall this dredfull trompe blowe
To-fore his gate and make it knowe,
How that the jugement is yive
Of deth, which shall nought be foryive."

19. Lami, in his Deliciae Eruditorum, makes a strange blunder in reference to this passage. He says: "Not long ago the baptismal font, which stood in the middle of Saint John's at Florence, was removed; and in the pavement may still be seen the octagonal shape of its ample outline. Dante says, that, when a boy, he fell into it and was near drowning; or rather he fell into one of the circular basins of water, which surrounded the principal font." Upon this Arrivabeni, Comento Storico, p. 588, where I find this extract, remarks: "Not Dante, but Lami, staring at the moon, fell into the hole. "

20. Dante's enemies had accused him of committing this act through impiety. He takes this occasion to vindicate himself.

33. Probably an allusion to the red stockings worn by the Popes.

50. Burying alive with the head downward and the feet in the air was the inhuman punishment of hired assassins, "according to justice and the municipal law in Florence," says the Ottimo. It was called Propagginare, to plant in the manner of vine-stocks. Dante stood bowed down like the confessor called back by the criminal in order to delay the moment of his death.

53. Benedetto Gaetani, Pope Boniface VIII. Gower, Conf. Amant. II. , calls him

"Thou Boneface, thou proude clerke,
Misleder of the papacie."

This is the Boniface who frightened Celestine from the papacy, and persecuted him to death after his resignation. "The lovely Lady" is the Church. The fraud was his collusion with Charles II. of Naples."He went to King Charles by night, secretly, and with few attendants," says Villani, VIII. ch. 6, " and said to him: `King, thy Pope Celestine had the will and the power to serve thee in thy Sicilian wars, but did not know how: but if thou wilt contrive with thy friends the cardinals to have me elected Pope, I shall know how, and shall have the will and the power'; promising upon his faith and oath to aid him with all the power of the Church. " Farther on he continues: "He was very magnanimous and lordly, and demanded great honor, and knew well how to maintain and advance the cause of the Church, and on account of his knowledge and power was much dreaded and feared.

He was avaricious exceedingly in order to aggrandize the Church and his relations, not being over- scrupulous about gains, for he said that all things were lawful which were of the Church." He was chosen Pope in 1294. "The inauguration of Boniface," says Milman Latin Christ., Book IX., ch. 7, "was the most magnificent which Rome had ever beheld. In his procession to St. Peter's and back to the Lateran palace, where he was entertained, he rode not a humble ass, but a noble white horse, richly caparisoned: he had a crown on his head; the King of Naples held the bridle on one side, his son, the King of Hungary, on the other. The nobility of Rome, the Orsinis, the Colonnas, the Savellis, the Stefaneschi, the Annibaldi, who had not only welcomed him to Rome, but conferred on him the Senatorial dignity, followed in a body: the procession could hardly force its way through the masses of the kneeling people. In the midst, a furious hurricane burst over the city, and extinguished every lamp and torch in the church. A darker omen followed: a riot broke out among the populace, in which forty lives were lost. The day after, the Pope dined in public in the Lateran; the two Kings waited behind his chair."

Dante indulges towards him a fierce Ghibelline hatred, and assigns him his place of torment before he is dead. In Canto XXVII. 85, he calls him "the Prince of the new Pharisees"; and, after many other bitter allusions in various parts of the poem, puts into the mouth of St. Peter, Par. XXVII.22, the terrible invective that makes the whole heavens red with anger.

"He who usurps upon the earth my place,
My place, my place, which vacant has become
Now in the presence of the Son of God,
Has of my cemetery made a sewer
Of blood and fetor, whereat the Perverse,
Who fell from here, below there is appeased."

He died in 1303. See Note 87, Purg. XX.

70. Nicholas III, of the Orsini (the Bears) of Rome, chosen Pope in 1277. "He was the first Pope, or one of the first," says Villani, VII. ch. 54, in whose court simony was openly practised." On account of his many accomplishments he was surnamed Il Compiuto. Milman, Lat. Christ., Book XI. ch. 4, says of him: "At length the election fell on John Gaetano, of the noble Roman house, the Orsini, a man of remarkable beauty of person and demeanor. His name, `the Accomplished,' implied that in him met all the graces of the handsomest clerks in the world, but he was a man likewise of irreproachable morals, of vast ambition, and of great ability." He died in 1280.

83. The French Pope Clement V., elected in 1305, by the influence of Philip the Fair of France, with sundry humiliating conditions. He transferred the Papal See from Rome to Avignon, where it remained for seventy-one years in what Italian writers call its "Babylonian captivity."

He died in 1314, on his way to Bordeaux. "He had hardly crossed the Rhone," says Milman, Lat. Christ., Book XII. ch. 5, "when he was seized with mortal sickness at Roquemaure. The Papal treasure was seized by his followers, especially his nephew; his remains were treated with such utter neglect, that the torches set fire to the catafalque under which he lay, not in a state. His body, covered only with a single sheet, all that his rapacious retinue had left to shroud their forgotten master, was half burned. ....before alarm was raised. His ashes were borne back to Carpentras and solemnly interered."

85. Jason, to whom Antiochus Epiphanes granted a "license to set him up a place for exercise, and for the training up of youth in the fashions of the heathen."

2 Maccabees iv. 13: "Now such was the height of Greek fashions, and increase of the heathenish manners, through the exceeding profaneness of Jason, that ungodly wretch and not high priest, that the priests had no courage to serve any more at the alter, but, despising the temple, and neglecting the sacrifices, hastened to be partakers of the unlawful allowance in the place of exercise, after the game of Discus called them forth."

87. Philip the Fair of France. See Note 83."He was one of the handsomest men in the world," says Villani IX. 66, "and one of the largest in person, and well proportioned in every limb,--a wise and good man for a layman."

94. Matthew, chosen as an Apostle in the place of Judas.

99. According to Villani, VII. 54, Pope Nicholas III. wished to marry his niece to a nephew of Charles of Anjou, King of Sicily. To this alliance the King would not consent, saying :"Although he wears the red stockings, his lineage is not worthy to mingle with ours, and his power is not hereditary." This made the Pope indignant and, together with the bribes of John of Procida, led him to encourage the rebellion in Sicily, which broke out a year after the Pope's death in the "Sicilian Vespers," 1282.

107. The Church of Rome under Nicholas, Boniface, and Clement. Revelation xvii. 1-3:--

"And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will show unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters; with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet-colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. "

The seven heads are interpreted to mean the Seven Virtues, and the ten horns the Ten Commandments.

110. |Revelation xvii. 12, 13:--And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings,.....and shall give their power and strength unto the beast."

117. Gower, Confes. Amant., Prologus:--

"The patrimonie and the richesse
Which to Silvester in pure almesse
the firste Constantinus lefte."

Upon this supposed donation of immense domains by Constantine to the Pope, called the "Patrimony of St. Peter," Milman, Lat. Christ., Book I. ch. 2, remarks:--

"Silvester has become a kind of hero of religious fable. But it was not so much the genuine mythical spirit which unconsciously transmutes history into legend; it was rather deliberate invention, with a specific aim and design, which, in direct defiance of history, accelerated the baptism of Constantine, and sanctified a porphyry vessel as appropriated to, or connected with, that holy use: and at a later period produced the monstrous fable of the Donation. "But that with which Constantine actualy did invest the Church, the right of holding landed property, and receiving it by bequest, was far more valuable to the Christian hierarchy, and not least to the Bishop of Rome, than a premature and prodigal endowment."

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