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The Divine Comedy: Inferno

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

Terms

Contents

Preface

CANTO 1

CANTO 2

CANTO 3

CANTO 4

CANTO 5

CANTO 6

CANTO 7

CANTO 8

CANTO 9

CANTO 10

CANTO 11

CANTO 12

CANTO 13

CANTO 14

CANTO 15

CANTO 16

CANTO 17

CANTO 18

CANTO 19

CANTO 20

CANTO 21

CANTO 22

CANTO 23

CANTO 24

CANTO 25

CANTO 26

CANTO 27

CANTO 28

CANTO 29

CANTO 30

CANTO 31

CANTO 32

CANTO 33

CANTO 34

Notes

Essay

Chronology

 

 

CANTO 23

The enraged Demons pursue Dante, but he is preserved from them by Virgil. On reaching the sixth gulf, he beholds the punishment of the hypocrites; which is, to pace continually round the gulf under the pressure of caps and bonds, that are gilt on the outside, but leaden within. He is addressed by two of these, Catalano and Loderingo, knights of Saint Mary, otherwise called Joyous Friars of Bologna. Calaphas is seen fixed to a cross on the ground and lies so stretched along the way, that all tread on him in passing.

SILENT, alone, and without company 1
We went, the one in front, the other after,
As go the Minor Friars along their way

Upon the fable of Aesop was directed 4
My thought, by reason of the present quarrel,
Where he has spoken of the frog and mouse;

For mo and issa are not more alike 7
Than this one is to that, if well we couple
End and beginning with a steadfast mind.

And even as one thought from another springs,
So afterward from that was born another,
Which the first fear within me double made.

Thus did I ponder:"These on our account
Are laughed to scorn, with injury and scoff
So great, that much I think it must annoy them.

If anger be engrafted on ill-will,
They will come after us more merciless
Than dog upon the leveret which he seizes,"

I felt my hair stand all on end already
With terror, and stood backwardly intent,
When said I: " Master, if thou hidest not

Thyself and me forthwith, of Malebranche
I am in dread; we have them now behind us;
I so. imagine them, I already feel them"

And he:"If I were made of leaded glass
Thine outward image I should not attract
Sooner to me than I imprint the inner.

Just now thy thoughts came in among my own,
With similar attitude and similar face,
So that of both one counsel sole I made.

If peradventure the right bank so slope
That we to the next Bolgia can descend.
We shall escape from the imagined chase."

Not yet he finished rendering such opinion.
When I beheld them come with outstretched wings,
Not far remote, with will to seize upon us.

My Leader on a sudden seized me up, 37
Even as a mother who by noise is wakened,
And close beside her sees the enkindled flames,

Who takes her son, and flies, and does not stop,
Having more care of him than of herself,
So that she clothes her only with a shift;

And downward from the top of the hard bank
Supine he gave him to the pendent rock,
That one side of the other Bolgia walls.

Ne'er ran so swiftly water through a sluice
To turn the water of any land-built mill,
When nearest to the paddles it approaches,

As did my Master down along that border,
Bearing me with him on his breast away,
As his own son, and not as a companion.

Hardly the bed of the ravine below
His feet had reached, ere they had reached the hill
Right over us; but he was not afraid;

For the high Providence, which had ordained
To place them ministers of the fifth moat,
The power of thence departing took from all.

A painted people there below we found,
Who went about with footsteps very slow,
Weeping and in their semblance tired and vanquished.

They had on mantles with the hoods low down
Before their eyes, and fashioned of the cut
That in Cologne they for the monks arc made. 63

Without, they gilded are so that it dazzles;
But inwardly all leaden and so heavy
That Frederick used to put them on of straw. 66

O everlastingly fatiguing mantle! 67
Again we turned us, still to the left hand
Along with them, intent on their sad plaint;

But owing to the weight, that weary folk
Came on so tardily, that we were new
In company at each motion of the haunch.

Whence I unto my Leader:"See thou find
Some one who may by deed or name be known,
And thus in going move thine eye about."

And one,who understood the Tuscan speech
Cried to us from behind:"Stay ye your feet
Ye, who so run athwart the dusky air

Perhaps thou'lt have from me what thou demandest."
Whereat the Leader turned him, and said:"Wait,
And then according to his pace proceed."

I stopped, and two beheld I show great haste
Of spirit, in their faces, to be with me;
But the burden and the narrow way delayed them.

When they came up, long with an eye askance
They scanned me without uttering a word.
Then to each other turned, and said together:

"He by the action of his throat seems living;
And if they dead are, by what privilege
Go they uncovered by the heavy stole?"

Then said to me:"Tuscan, who to the college 91
Of miserable hypocrites art come,
Do not disdain to tell us who thou art."

And I to them:"Born was I, and grew up
In the great town on the fair river of Arno, 95
And with the body am I've always had.

But who are ye, in whom there trickles down
Along your cheeks such grief as I behold?
And what pain is upon you, that so sparkles?"

And one replied to me:"These orange cloaks
Are made of lead so heavy, that the weights
Cause in this way their balances to creak.

Frati Gaudenti were we, and Bolognese; 103
I Catalano, and he Loderingo
Named, and together taken by thy city,

As the wont is to take one man alone,
For maintenance of its peace; and we were such
That still it is apparent round Gardingo." 108

"O Friars,"began I,"your iniquitous ..."
But said no more; for to mine eyes there rushed
One crucified with three stakes on the ground.

When me he saw, he writhed himself all over,
Blowing into his beard with suspirations; 113
And the Friar Catalan, who noticed this,

Said to me:"This transfixed one, whom thou seest, 115
Counselled the Pharisees that it was meet
To put one man to torture for the people.

Crosswise and naked is he on the path,
As thou perceivest; and he needs must feel,
Whoever passes, first how much he weighs;

And in like mode his father-in-law is punished 121
Within this moat, and the others of the council,
Which for the Jews was a malignant seed."

And thereupon I saw Virgilius marvel
O'er him who was extended on the cross
So vilely in eternal banishment.

Then he directed to the Friar this voice:
"Be not displeased, if granted thee, to tell us
If to the right hand any pass slope down

By which we two may issue forth from here,
Without constraining some of the black angels
To come and extricate us from this deep."

Then he made answer:"Nearer than thou hopest
There is a rock, that forth from the great circle 134
Proceeds, and crosses all the cruel valleys,

Save that at this 'tis broken, and does not bridge it;
You will be able to mount up the ruin,
That sidelong slopes and at the bottom rises."

The Leader stood awhile with head bowed down;
Then said: " The business badly he recounted
Who grapples with his hook the sinners yonder."

And the Friar:"Many of the Devil's vices 142
Once heard I at Bologna, and among them,
That he's a liar and the father of lies."

Thereat my Leader with great strides went on,
Somewhat disturbed with anger in his looks;
Whence from the heavy-laden I departed

After the prints of his beloved feet.

Footnotes 23

Canto 23

1. In this Sixth Bolgia the Hypocrites are punished.

"A painted people there below we found,
Who went about with footsteps very slow,
Weeping and in their looks subdued and weary."

Chaucer, Knightes Tale, 2780:--

"In his colde grave
Alone, withouten any compagnie."

And Gower, Conf. Amant.:--

To muse in his philosophie
Sole withouten compaignie.

4. The Fables of Aesop, by Sir Roger L'Estrang, IV.:"There fell out a bloody quarrel once betwixt the Frogs and the Mice, about the sovereignty of the Fenns; and whilst two of their champions were disputing it at swords point, down comes a kite powdering upon them in the interim, and gobbles up both together, to part the fray."

7. Both words signifying "now"; mo, from the Latin modo ; and issa, from the Latin ipsa; meaning ipsa hora. "The Tuscans say mo," remarks Benvenuto, "the Lombards issa."

37. "When he is in a fright and hurry, and has a very steep place to go down, Virgil, has to carry him altogether," says Mr. Ruskin. See Canto XII., Note 2.

63. Benvenuto speaks of the cloaks of the German monks as "ill-fitting and shapeless."

66. The leaden cloaks which Frederick put upon malefactors were straw in comparison. The Emperor Frederick II. is said to have punished traitors by wrapping them in lead, and throwing them into a heated caldron. I can find no historic authority for this. It rests only on tradition; and on the same authority the same punishment is said to have been inflicted in Scotland, and is thus described in the ballad of "Lord Soulis," Scott's Ministrelsy of the Scottish Border, IV. 256:--

"On a circle of stones they placed the pot,
On a circle of stones but barely nine;
They heated it red and fiery hot,
Till the burnished brass did glimmer and shine.

"They roll'd him up in a sheet of lead,
A sheet of lead for a funeral pall,
And plunged him into the caldron red,
And melted him,--lead, and bones, and all."

We get also a glimpse of this punishment in Ducange, Glo. Capa Plumbea, where he cites the case in which one man tells another: "If our Holy Father the Pope knew the life you are leading, he would have you put to death in a cloak of lead."

67. Comedy of Errors, IV. 2:--"A devil in an everlasting garment hath him."

91. Bolgna was renowned for its University; and the speaker, who was a Bolognese, is still mindful of his college.

95. Florence, the bellissima e famosissima figlia di Roma, as Dante calls it, Convito, I. 3.

103. An order of knighthood, established by Pope Urban IV. in 1261, under the title of "Knights of Santa Maria." The name Frati Gaudenti, or "Jovial Friars," was a nickname, because they lived in their own homes and were not bound by strict monastic rules.

Napier, Flor. Hist. I. 269, says:--
"A short time before this a new order of religious nighthood under the name of Frati Gaudenti began in Italy: it was not bound by vows of celibacy, or any very severe regulations, but took the usual oaths to defend widows and orphans and make peace between man and man: the founder was a Bolognese gentleman, called Loderingo di Liandolo, who enjoyed a good reputation, and along with a brother of the same order, named Catalano di Malavolti, one a Guelph and the other a Ghibelline, was now invited to Florence by Count Guido to execute conjointly the office of Podesta. It was intended by thus dividing the supreme authority between two magistrates of different politics, that one should correct the other, and justice be equally administered; more especially as, in conjunction with the people, they were allowed to elect a deliberative council of thirty-six citizens, belonging to the principal trades without distinction of party."

Farther on he says that these two Frati Gaudenti "forfeited all public confidence by their peculation and hypocrisy." And Villani, VII. 13: "Although they were of different parties, under cover of a false hypocrisy, they were of accord in seeking rather their own private gains than the common good."

108. A street in Florence, laid waste by the Guelfs.

113. |Hamlet, I. 2:--

"Nor windy suspiration of forced breath."

115. Caiaphas, the High-Priest, who thought "expediency" the best thing.

121. Annas, father-in-law of Caiaphas.

134. The great outer circle surrounding this division of the Inferno.

142. He may have heard in the lectures of the University an exposition of John viii. 44:

"Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do: he was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it."

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