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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 28

They arrive in the ninth gulf, where the sowers of scandal, schismatics, and heretics, are seen with their limbs miserable maimed or divided in different ways. Among these the Poet finds Mahomet, Piero da Medicina, Curio, Mosca, and Bertrand de Born.

WHO ever could, e'en with untrammelled words, 1
Tell of the blood and of the wounds in full
Which now I saw, by many times narrating?

Each tongue would for a certainty fall short
By reason of our speech and memory,
That have small room to comprehend so much

If were again assembled all the people
Which formerly upon the fateful land
Of Puglia were lamenting for their blood 9

Shed by the Romans and the lingering war 10
That of the rings made such illustrious spoils, 11
As Livy has recorded, who errs not,

With those who felt the agony of blows
By making counterstand to Robert Guiscard, 14
And all the rest, whose bones are gathered still

At Ceperano, where a renegade 16
Was each Apulian, and at Tagliacozzo, 17
Where without arms the old Alardo conquered,

And one his limb transpierced, and one lopped off,
Should show, it would be nothing to compare
With the disgusting mode of the ninth Bolgia.

A cask by losing centre-piece or cant
Was never shattered so, as I saw one
Rent from the chin to where one breaketh wind.

Between his legs were hanging down his entrails;
His heart was visible, and the dismal sack
That maketh excrement of what is eaten.

While I was all absorbed in seeing him,
He looked at me, and opened with his hands
His bosom, saying:"See now how I rend me;

How mutilated, see, is Mahomet; 31
In front of me doth Ali weeping go,
Cleft in the face from forelock unto chin;

And all the others whom thou here beholdest,
Disseminators of scandal and of schism
While living were, and therefore are cleft thus.

A devil is behind here, who doth cleave us
Thus cruelly, unto the falchion's edge
Putting again each one of all this ream,

When we have gone around the doleful road;
By reason that our wounds are closed again
Ere any one in front of him repass.

But who art thou, that musest on the crag,
Perchance to postpone going to the pain
That is adjudged upon thine accusations ?"

"Nor death hath reached him yet, nor guilt doth bring him," My
Master made reply, " to be tormented;
But to procure him full experience,

Me, who am dead, behoves it to conduct him
Down here through Hell, from circle unto circle;
And this is true as that I speak to thee."

More than a hundred were there when they heard him,
Who in the moat stood still to look at me,
Through wonderment oblivious of their torture.

"Now say to Fra Dolcino, then, to arm him, 55
Thou, who perhaps wilt shortly see the sun,
If soon he wish not here to follow me,

So with provisions,that no stress of snow
May give the victory to the Novarese, 59
Which otherwise to gain would not be easy."

After one foot to go away he lifted,
This word did Mahomet say unto me,
Then to depart upon the ground he stretched it.

Another one, who had his throat pierced through,
And nose cut off close underneath the brows,
And had no longer but a single ear,

Staying to look in wonder with the others,
Before the others did his gullet open,
Which outwardly was red in every part,

And said:"O thou, whom guilt doth not condemn,
And whom I once saw up in Latian land,
Unless too great similitude deceive me,

Call to remembrance Pier da Medicina, 73
If e'er thou see again the lovely plain 74
That from Vercelli slopes to Marcabo,

And make it known to the best two of Fano, 76
To Messer Guido and Angiolello likewise,
That if foreseeing here be not in vain,

Cast over from their vessel shall they be,
And drowned near unto the Cattolica,
By the betrayal of a tyrant fell.

Between the isles of Cyprus and Majorca
Neptune ne'er yet beheld so great a crime
Neither of pirates nor Argolic people.

That traitor, who sees only with one eye, 85
And holds the land, which some one here with me 86
Would fain be fasting from the vision of,

Will make them come unto a parley with him;
Then will do so, that to Focara's wind 89
They will not stand in need of vow or prayer."

And I to him:"Show to me and declare,
If thou wouldst have me bear up news of thee,
Who is this person of the bitter vision."

Then did he lay his hand upon the jaw
Of one of his companions, and his mouth
Oped, crying:"This is he, and he speaks not.

This one, being banished, every doubt submerged
In Caesar by affirming the forearmed
Always with detriment allowed delay."

O how bewildered unto me appeared,
With tongue asunder in his windpipe slit,
Curio, who in speaking was so bold ! 102

And one, who both his hands dissevered had,
The stumps uplifting through the murky air,
So that the blood made horrible his face,

Cried out:"Thou shalt remember Mosca also, 106
Who said, alas ! ' A thing done has an end!'
Which was an ill seed for the Tuscan people

"And death unto thy race,"thereto I added;
Whence he, accumulating woe on woe,
Departed, like a person sad and crazed.

But I remained to look upon the crowd;
And saw a thing which I should be afraid,
Without some further proof, even to recount,

If it were not that conscience reassures me,
That good companion which emboldens man
Beneath the hauberk of its feeling pure.

I truly saw, and still I seem to see it,
A trunk without a head walk in like manner
As walked the others of the mournful herd.

And by the hair it held the head dissevered,
Hung from the hand in fashion of a lantern,
And that upon us gazed and said:"O me!"

It of itself made to itself a lamp,
And they were two in one, and one in two;
How that can be, He knows who so ordains it.

When it was come close to the bridge's foot,
It lifted high its arm with all the head,
To bring more closely unto us its words,

Which were:"Behold now the sore penalty,
Thou, who dost breathing go the dead beholding;
Behold if any be as great as this.

And so that thou may carry news of me,
Know that Bertram de Born am I, the same 134
Who gave to the Young King the evil comfort. 135

I made the father and the son rebellious;
Achitophel not more with Absalom 137
And David did with his accursed goadings.

Because I parted persons so united,
Parted do I now bear my brain, alas!
From its beginning, which is in this trunk.

Thus is observed in me the counterpoise."

Footnotes 28

Canto 28

1. The Ninth Bolgia, in which are punished the Schismatics, and "where is paid the fee By those who sowing discord win their burden"; a burden difficult to describe even with untrammelled words, or in plain prose, free from the fetters of rhyme.

9. Apulia, or La Puglia, is in the southeastern part of Italy, "between the spur and the heel of the boot."

10. The people slain in the conquest of Apulia by the Romans. Of the battle of Maleventum, Livy, X. 15, says:-- "Here likewise there was more of flight than of bloodshed. Two thousand of the Apulians were slain, and Decius, despising such an enemy, led his legions into Samnium."

11. Hannibal's famous battle at Cannae, in the second Punic war. According to Livy, XXII. 49, "The number of the slain is computed at forty thousand foot, and two thousand seven hundred horse."

He continues, XXII. 51, Baker's Tr.:"On the day following, as soon as light appeared, his troops applied themselves to the collecting of the spoils, and viewing the carnage made, which was such as shocked even enemies; so many thousand Romans, horsemen and footmen, lay promiscuously on the field, as chance had thrown them together, either in the battle, or flight. Some, whom their wounds, being pinched by the morning cold, had roused from their posture, were put to death by the enemy, as they were rising up, all covered with blood, from the midst of the heaps of carcasses.

Some they found lying alive, with their thighs and hams cut, who, stripping their necks and throats, desired them to spill what remained of their blood. Some were found, with their heads buried in the earth, in holes which it appeared they had made for themselves, and covering their faces with earth thrown over them, had thus been suffocated. The attention of all was particularly attracted by a living Numidian with his nose and ears mangled, stretched under a dead Roman, who lay over him, and who, when his hands had been rendered unable to hold a weapon, his rage being exasperated to madness, had expired in the act of tearing his antagonist with his teeth."

When Mago, son of Hamilcar, carried the news of the victory to Carthage, "in conformation of his joyful intelligence," says the same historian, XXIII. 12, "he ordered the gold rings taken from the Romans to be poured down in the porch of the senate-house, and of these there was so great a heap that, according to some writers, on being measured, they filled three pecks and a half; but the more general account, and likewise the more probable is, that they amounted to no more than one peck. He also explained to them, in order to show the greater extent of the slaughter, that none but those of equestrian rank, and of these only the principal, wore this ornament."

14. Robert Guiscard, the renowned Norman conqueror of southern Italy. Dante places him in the Fifth Heaven of Paradise, in the planet Mars. For an account of his character and achievements see Gibbon, Ch. LVI. See also Parad. XVIII. Note 20.

Matthew Paris, Giles's Tr., I. 171, A.D. 1239, gives the following account of the manner in which he captured the monastery of Monte Cassino:--

"In the same year, the monks of Monte Cassino (where St. Benedict had planted a monastery), to the number of thirteen, came to the Pope in old and torn garments, with dishevelled hair and unshorn beards, and with tears in their eyes; and on being introduced to the presence of his Holiness, they fell at his feet, and laid a complaint that the Emperor had ejected them from their house at Monte Cassino. This mountain was impregnable, and indeed inaccessible to any one unless at the will of the monks and others who dwelt on it; however R. Guiscard, by a device, pretending that he was dead and being carried thither on a bier, thus took possession of the monks' castle. When the Pope heard this, he concealed his grief, and asked the reason; to which the monks replied, `Because, in obedience to you, we excommunicated the Emperor.' The Pope then said, `You obedience shall save you'; on which the monks went away without receiving anything more from the Pope."

16. The battle of Ceperano, near Monte Cassino, was fought in 1265, between Charles of Anjou and Manfred, king of Apulia and Sicily. The Apulians, seeing the battle going against them, deserted their king and passed over to the enemy.

17. The battle of Tagliacozzo in Abruzzo was fought in 1268, between Charles of Anjou and Curradino or Conradin, nephew of Manfred. Charles gained the victory by the strategy of Count Alardo di Valleri, who, "weaponless himself, Made arms ridiculous." This valiant but wary crusader persuaded the king to keep a third of his forces in reserve; and when the soldiers of Curradino, thinking they had won the day, were scattered over the field in pursuit of plunder, Charles fell upon them, and routed them.

Alardo is mentioned in the Cento Novelle Antiche, Nov. LVII., as "celebrated for his wonderful prowess even among the chief nobles, and no less esteemed for his singular virtues than for his courage."

31. Gibbon, ch. L., says:"At the conclusion of the Life of Mahomet, it may perhaps be expected that I should balance his faults and virtues, that I should decide whether the title of enthusiast or impostor more properly belongs to that extraordinary man. Had I been intimately conversant with the son of Abdallah, the task would still be difficult, and the success uncertain; at the distance of twelve centuries, I darkly contemplate his shade through a cloud of religious incense; and could I truly delineate the portrait of an hour, the fleeting resemblance would not equally apply to the solitary of Mount Hera, to the preacher of Mecca, and to the conqueror of Arabia..... From enthusiasm to imposture the step is perilous and slippery; the daemon of Socrates affords a memorable instance how a wise man may deceive himself, how a good man may deceive others, how the conscience may slumber in a mixed and middle state between self-illusion and voluntary fraud." Of Ali, the son-in-law and faithful follower of Mahomet, he goes on to say: "He united the qualifications of a poet, a soldier, and a saint; his wisdom still breathes in a collection of moral and religious sayings; and every antagonist, in the combats of the tongue or of the sword, was subdued by his eloquence and valor. From the first hour of his mission to the last rites of his funeral, the apostle was never forsaken by a generous friend, whom he delighted to name his brother, his vice-gerent, and the faithful Aaron of a second Moses."

55. Fra Dolcino was one of the early social and religious reformers in the North of Italy. His sect bore the name of "Apostles," and its chief, if not only, heresy was a desire to bring back the Church to the simplicity of the apostolic times. In 1305 he withdrew with his followers to the mountains overlooking the Val Sesia in Piedmont, where he was pursued and besieged by the Church party, and, after various fortunes of victory and defeat, being reduced by "stress of snow" and famine, was taken prisoner, together with his companion, the beautiful Margaret of Trent.

Both were burned at Vercelli on the 1st of June, 1307. This "last act of the tragedy" is thus described by Mr. Mariotti, Historical Memoir of Fra Dolcino and his Times, p. 290:--

"Margaret of Trent enjoyed the precedence due to her sex. She was first led out into a spot near Vercelli, bearing the name of `Arena Servi,' or more properly `Arena Cervi,' in the sands, that is, of the torrent Cervo, which has its confluent with the Sesia at about one mile above the city. A high stake had been erected in a conspicuous part of the place. To this she was fastened, and a pile of wood was reared at her feet. The eyes of the inhabitants of town and country were upon her. On her also were the eyes of Dolcino. She was burnt alive with slow fire.

"Next came the turn of Dolcino: he was seated high on a car drawn by oxen, and thus paraded from street to street all over Vercelli. His tormentors were all around him. Beside the car, iron pots were carried, filled with burning charcoals; deep in the charcoals were iron pincers, glowing at white heat. These pincers were continually applied to the various parts of Dolcino's naked body, all along his progress, till all his flesh was torn piecemeal from his limbs: when every bone was bare and the whole town was preambulated, they drove the still living carcass back to the same arena, and threw it on the burning mass in which Margaret had been consumed. "

Farther on he adds:--
"Divested of all fables which ignorance, prejudice, or open calumny involved it in, Dolcino's scheme amounted to nothing more than a reformation, not of religion, but of the Church; his aim was merely the destruction of the temporal power of the clergy, and he died for his country no less than for his God. The wealth, arrogance, and corruption of the Papal See appeared to him, as it appeared to Dante, as it appeared to a thousand other patriots before and after him, an eternal hindrance to the union, peace, and welfare of Italy, as it was a perpetual check upon the progress of the human race, and a source of infinite scandal to the piety of earnest believers.....true throughout. If we bring the light of even the clumsiest criticism to bear on his creed, even such as it has been summed up by the ignorance of malignity of men who never utter his name without an imprecation, we have reason to be astonished at the little we find in it that may be construed into a wilful deviation from the strictest orthodoxy. Luther and Calvin would equally have repudiated him. He was neither a Presbyterian nor an Episcopalian, but an uncompromising, stanch Papist. His was, most eminently, the heresy of those whom we have designated as `literal Christians.' He would have the Gospel strictly -- perhaps blindly--adhered to. Neither was that, in the abstract, an unpardonable offence in the eys of the Romanism of those times -- witness St. Francis and his early flock--provided he had limited himself to make Gospel-law binding upon himself and his followers only. But Dolcino must needs enforce it upon the whole Christian community, enforce it especially on those who set up as teachers of the Gospel, on those who laid claim to Apostolical succession. That was the error that damned him."

Of Margaret he still farther says, referring to some old manuscript as authority:--
"She was known by the emphatic appellation of Margaret the Beautiful. It is added, that she was an orphan, heiress of noble parents, and had been placed for her education in a monastery of St. Catherine in Trent; that there Dolcino --who had also been a monk, or at least a novice, in a convent of the Order of the Humiliati, in the same town, and had been expelled in consequence either of his heretic tenets, or of immoral conduct--succeeded nevertheless in becoming domesticated in the nunnery of St. Catherine, as a steward or agent to the nuns, and there accomplished the fascination and abduction of the wealthy heiress."

59. Val Sesia, among whose mountains Fra Dolcino was taken prisoner, is in the diocese of Novara.

73. A Bolognese, who stirred up dissensions among the citizens.

74. The plain of Lombardy sloping down two hundred miles and more, from Vercelli in Piedmont to Marcabo, a village near Ravenna.

76. Guido del Cassero and Angiolello da Cagnano, two honorable citizens of Fano, going to Rimini by invitation of Malatestino, were by his order thrown into the sea and drowned, as here prophesied or narrated, near the village of Cattolica on the Adriatic.

85. Malatestino had lost one eye.

86. Rimini.

89. Focara is a headland near Catolica, famous for dangerous winds, to be preserved from which mariners offered up vows and prayers. These men will not need to do it; they will not reach that cape.

102. Curio, the banished Tribune, who, fleeing to Caesar's camp on the Rubicon, urged him to advance upon Rome. Lucan, Pharsalia, I., Rowe's Tr.:--

"To Caesar's camp the busy Curio fled;
Curio, a speaker turbulent and bold,
Of venal eloquence, that served for gold,
And principles that might be bought and sold.

To Caesar thus, while thousand cares infest,
Revolving round the warrior's anxious breast,
His speech the ready orator addressed.

`Haste, then, thy towering eagles on their way;
When fair occasion calls, `t is fatal to delay.'"

106. Mosca degl'Uberti, or dei Lamberti, who, by advising the murder of Buondelmonte, gave rise to the parties of Guelf and Ghibelline, which so long divided Florence. See Canto X. Note 51.

134. Bertrand de Born, the turbulent Troubadour of the last half of the twelfth century, was alike skilful with his pen and his sword, and passed his life in alternately singing and fighting, and in stirring up dissension and strife among his neighbors. He is the author of that spirited war-song, well known to all readers of Troubadour verse, beginning

"The beautiful spring delights me well,
When flowers and leaves are growing;
And it pleases my heart to hear the swell
Of the birds' sweet chorus flowing
In the echoing wood;
And I love to see, all scattered around,
Pavilions and tents on the martial ground;
And my spirit finds it good,
To see, on the level plains beyond
Gay knights and steeds caparison'd";--

and ending with a challenge to Richard Coeur de Lion, telling his minstrel Papiol to go

"And tell the Lord of `Yes and No'
That peace already too long has been."

"Bertrand de Born," says the old Provenal biography, published by Raynouard, Choix de Poesies Originales des Troubadours, V. 76, "was a chatelain of the bishopric of Perigueux, Viscount of Hautefort, a castle with nearly a thousand retainers. He had a brother, and would have dispossessed him of his inheritance, had it not been for the king of England. He was always at war with all his neighbors, with the Count of Perigueux, and with the Viscount of Limoges, and with his brother Constantine, and with Richard, when he was count of Poitou. He was a good cavalier, and a good warrior, and a good lover, and a good troubadour; and well informed and well spoken; and knew well how to bear good and evil fortune. Whenever he wished, he was master of King Henry of England and of his son; but always desired that father and son should be at war with each other, and one brother with the other. And he always wished that the king of France and the king of England should be at variance; and if there were either peace or truce, straightway he sought and endeavored by his satires to undo the peace, and to show how each was dishonored by it. And he had great advantages and great misfortunes by thus exciting feuds between them. He wrote many satires, but only two songs. The king of Aragon called the songs of Giraud de Borneil the wives of Bertrand de Born's satires. And he who sang for him bore the name of Papiol. And he was handsome and courteous; and called the Count of Britany, Rassa; and the king of England, Yes and No; and his son, the young king, Marinier. And he set his whole heart on fomenting war; and embroiled the father and son of England, until the young king was killed by an arrow in a castle of Bertrand de Born.

"And Bertrand used to boast that he had more wits than he needed. And when the king took him prisoner, he asked him, `Have you all your wits, for you will need them now?' And he answered, `I lost them all when the young king died.' Then the king wept, and pardoned him, and gave him robes, and lands, and honors. And he lived long and became a Cistercian monk."

Fauriel, Histoire de la Poesie Provenale, Adler's Tr., p. 483, quoting part of this passage, adds:--
"In this notice the old biographer indicates the dominant trait of Bertrand's character very distinctly; it was an unbridled passion for war. He loved it not only as the occasion for exhibiting proofs of valor, for acquiring power, and for winning glory, but also, and even more on account of its hazards, on account of the exaltation of courage and of life which it produced, nay, even for the sake of the tumult, the disorders, and the evils which are accustomed to follow in its train. Bertrand de Born is the ideal of the undisciplined and adventuresome warrior of the Middle Age, rather than that of the chevalier in the proper sense of the term."

See also Millot, Hist. Litt. des Troubadours, I. 210, and Hist. Litt. de la France par les Benedictins de St. Maur, continuation, XVII. 425. Bertrand de Born, if not the best of the Troubadours, is the most prominent and striking character among them. His life is a drama full of romantic interest; beginning with the old castle in Gascony, "the dames, the cavaliers, the arms, the loves, the courtesy, the bold emprise"; and ending in a Cistercian convent, among friars and fastings and penitence and prayers.

135. A vast majority of manuscripts and printed editions read in this line, Re Giovanni, King John, instead of Re Giovane, the Young King. Even Boccaccio's copy, which he wrote out with his own had for Petrarca, has Re Giovanni. Out of seventy-nine Codici examined by Barlow, he says, Study of the Divina Commedia, p. 153, "Only five were found with the correct reading--re giovane..... The reading re giovane is not found in any of the early editions, nor is it noticed by any of the early commentators." Se also Ginguene, Hist. Litt. de l'Italie, II, 486, where the subject is elaborately discussed, and the note of Biagioli, who takes the opposite side of the question.

Henry II. of England had four sons, all of whom were more or less rebellious against him. They were, Henry, surnamed Curt-Mantle, and called by the Troubadours and novelists of his time "The Young King," because he was crowned during his father's life; Richard Coeur-de-Lion, Count of Guienne and Poitou; Geoffroy, Duke of Brittany; and John Lackland. Henry was the only one of these who bore the title of king at the time in question.

Bertrand de Born was on terms of intimacy with him, and speaks of him in his poems as lo Reys joves, sometimes lauding, and sometimes reproving him. One of the best of these poems in his Complainte, on the death of Henry, which took place in 1183, from disease, say some accounts, from the bolt of a crossbow say others. He complains that he has lost "the best king that was ever born of mother"; and goes on to say, "King of the courteous, and emperor of the valiant, you would have been Seigneur if you had lived longer; for you bore the name of the Young King, and were the chief and peer of youth. Ay! hauberk and sword, and beautiful buckler, helmet and gonfalon, and purpoint and sark, and joy and love, there is none to maintain them!" See Raynouard, Choix de Poesies, IV. 49. In the Bible Guiot de Provins, Barbazan, Fabliaux et Contes, II. 518, he is spoken of as "li jones Rois, Li proux, li saiges, li cortois." In the Cento Novelle Antiche, XVIII., XIX., XXXV., he is called il Re Giovane; and in Roger de Wendover's Flowers of History, A. D. 1179--1183, "Henry the Young King."

It was to him that Bertrand de Born "gave the evil counsels," embroiling him with his father and his brothers. Therefore, when the commentators challenge us as Pistol does Shallow, "Under which king, Bezonian? speak or die!" I think we must answer as Shallow does, "Under King Harry."

137. See 2 Samuel xvii. I, 2:-- "Moreover, Ahithophel said unto Absalom, let me now choose out twelve thousand men, and I will arise and pursue after David this night. And I will come upon him while he is weary and weak-handed, and will make him afraid; and all the people that are with him shall flee; and I will smite the king only."

Dryden, in his poem of Absalom and Achitophel, gives this portrait of the latter:--

"Of these the false Achitophel was first;
A name to all succeeding ages curst;
For close designs and crooked counsels fit;
Sagacious, bold, and turbulent of wit;
Restless, unfix'd in principles and place;
In power unpleas'd, impatient of disgrace:
A fiery soul, which, working out its way,
Fretted the pigmy body to decay,
And o'er inform'd the tenement of clay."

Then he puts into the mouth of Archiophel the following

"Auspicious prince, at whose nativity
Some royal planet rul'd the southern sky;
Thy longing country's darling and desire;
Their cloudy pillar and their guardian fire;
Their second Moses, whose extended wand
Divides the seas, and shows the promised land;
Whose dawning day, in every distant age,
Has exercised the sacred prophet's rage;
The people's prayer, the glad diviner's theme,
The young men's vision, and the old men's dream."

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