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The Divine Comedy: Inferno

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












































This Canto treats of the first, and, in part, of the second of those rounds, into which the ninth and last, or frozen circle, is divided. In the former, called Caina, Dante finds Camiccione de' Pazzi, who gives him an account of the sinners who are there punished; and in the next, named Antenora, he hears in like manner from Bocca degi Abbati who his fellow-sufferers are.

IF I had rhymes both rough and stridulous, 1
As were appropriate to the dismal hole
Down upon which thrust all the other rocks, 3

I would press out the juice of my conception
More fully; but because I have them not,
Not without fear I bring myself to speak;

For 'tis no enterprise to take in jest,
To sketch the bottom of all the universe,
Nor for a tongue that cries Mamma and Babbo. 9

But may those Ladies help this verse of mine,
Who helped Amphion in enclosing Thebes, 11
That from the fact the word be not diverse.

O rabble ill-begotten above all,
Who're in the place to speak of which is hard,
'Twere better ye had here been sheep or goats ! 15

When we were down within the darksome well,
Beneath the giant's feet, but lower far,
And I was scanning still the lofty wall,

heard it said to me:"Look how thou steppest!
Take heed thou do not trample with thy feet
The heads of the tired, miserable brothers!"

Whereat I turned me round, and saw before me
And underfoot a lake, that from the frost
The semblance had of glass, and not of water.

So thick a veil ne'er made upon its current
In winter-time Danube in Austria,
Nor there beneath the frigid sky the Don,

As there was here; so that if Tambernich 28
Had fallen upon it, or Pietrapana,
E'en at the edge 'twould not have given a creak.

And as to croak the frog doth place himself
With muzzle out of water,--when is dreaming
Of gleaning oftentimes the peasant-girl,--

Livid, as far down as where shame appears,
Were the disconsolate shades within the ice,
Setting their teeth unto the note of storks.

Each one his countenance held downward bent:
From mouth the cold, from eyes the doeful heart
Among them witness of itself procures.

When round about me somewhat I had looked,
I downward turned me, and saw two so close,
The hair upon their heads together mingled.

"Ye who so strain your breasts together, tell me,"
I said. "who are you;" and they bent their necks,
And when to me their faces they had lifted,

Their eyes, which first were only moist within,
Gushed o'er the eyelids, and the frost congealed
The tears between, and locked them up again.

Clamp never bound together wood with wood
So strongly; whereat they, like two he-goats,
Butted together, so much wrath o'ercame them.

And one, who had by reason of the cold
Lost both his ears, still with his visage downward,
Said:"Why dost thou so mirror thyself in us?

If thou desire to know who these two are, 55
The valley whence Bisenzio descends
Belonged to them and to their father Albert.

They from one body came, and all Caina 58
Thou shalt search through, and shalt not find a shade
More worthy to be fixed in gelatine;

Not he in whom were broken breast and shadow
At one and the same blow by Arthur's hand; 62
Focaccia not; not he who me encumbers 63

So with his head I see no farther forward,
And bore the name of Sassol Mascheroni; 65
Well knowest thou who he was, if thou art Tuscan.

And that thou put me not to further speech,
Know that I Camicion de' Pazzi was, 68
And wait Carlino to exonerate me."

Then I beheld a thousand faces, made
Purple with cold; whence o'er me comes a shudder,
And evermore will come, at frozen ponds.

And while we were advancing tow'rds the middle,
Where everything of weight unites together,
And I was shivering in the eternal shade,

Whether 'twere will, or destiny, or chance,
I know not; but in walking 'mong the heads
I struck my foot hard in the face of one.

Weeping he growled; "Why dost thou trample me?
Unless thou comest to increase the vengence
Of Montaperti, why does thou molest me?" 81

And I:"My Master, now wait here for me,
That I through him may issue from a doubt;
Then thou mayst hurry me, as thou shalt wish."

The Leader stopped; and to that one I said
Who was blaspheming vehemently still:
"Who art thou, that thus reprehendest others?"

"Now who art thou, that goest through Antenora 88
Smiting," replied he, " other people's cheeks,
So that, if thou wert living, 'twere too much?"

" Living I am, and dear to thee it may be,"
Was my response, ' if thou demandest fame,
That 'mid the other notes thy name I place."

And he to me: " For the reverse I long;
Take thyself hence, and give me no more trouble;
For ill thou knowest to flatter in this hollow."

Then by the scalp behind I seized upon him,
And said: " It must needs be thou name thyself,
Or not a hair remain upon thee here."

Whence he to me:"Though thou strip off my hair,
I will not tell thee who I am, nor show thee,
If on my head a thousand times thou fall."

I had his hair in hand already twisted,
And more than one shock of it had pulled out,
He barking, with his eyes held firmly down,

When cried another:"What doth ail thee, Bocca? 106
Is't not enough to clatter with thy jaws,
But thou must bark ? what devil touches thee?"

"Now," said I,"I care not to have thee speak,
Accursed traitor; for unto thy shame
I will report of thee veracious news."

"Begone," replied he,"and tell what thou wilt,
But be not silent, if thou issue hence,
Of him who had just now his tongue so prompt;

He weepeth here the silver of the French;
'I saw,' thus canst thou phrase it, ' him of Duera 116
There where the sinners stand out in the cold.' 117

If thou shouldst questioned be who else was there,
Thou hast beside thee him of Beccaria, 119
Of whom the gorget Florence slit asunder;

Gianni del Soldanier, I think, may be 121
Yonder with Ganellon, and Tebaldello 122
Who oped Faenza when the people slep

Already we had gone away from him,
When I beheld two frozen in one hole,
So that one head a hood was to the other;

And even as bread through hunger is devoured,
The uppermost on the other set his teeth,
There where the brain is to the nape united.

Not in another fashion Tydeus gnawed 130
The temples of Menalippus in disdain,
Than that one di-l the skull and the other things.

"O thou, who showest by such bestial sign
Thy hatred against him whom thou art eating,
Tell me the wherefore," said I,"with this compact, us

That if thou rightfully of him complain,
In knowing who ye are, and his transgression,
I in the world above repay thee for it,

If that wherewith I speak be not dried up."

Footnotes 32

Canto 32

1. In this Canto begins the Ninth and last Circle of the Inferno, where Traitors are punished.

"Hence in the smallest circle, at the point Of all the Universe, where Dis is seated, Whoe'er betrays forever is consumed."

3. The word thrust is here used in its architectural sense, as the thrust of a bridge against its abutments, and the like.

9. Still using the babble of childhood.

11. The Muses; the poetic tradition being that Amphion built the walls of Thebes by the sound of his lyre; and the prosaic interpretation, that he did it by his persuasive eloquence.

15. Matthew xxvi. 24: "Woe unto that man by whom the son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born."

28. Tambernich is a mountain of Sclavonia, and Pietrapana another near Lucca.

55. These two "miserable brothers" are Alessandro and Napoleone, sons of Alberto degli Alberti, lord of Falterona in the valley of the Bisenzio. After their father's death they quarrelled, and one treacherously slew the other.

58. Caina is the first of the four divisions of this Circle, and takes its name from the first fratricide.

62. Sir Mordred, son of King Arthur. See La Mort d'Arthure, III. ch. 167: "And there King Arthur smote Sir Mordred under the shield with a foine of his speare throughout the body more than a fadom."

Nothing is said here of the sun's shining through the wound, so as to break the shadow on the ground, but that incident is mentioned in the Italian version of the Romance of Launcelot of the Lake, L'illustre e famosa istoria di Lancillotto del Lago, III. ch. 162: "Behind the opening made by the lance there passed through the wound a ray of the sun so manifestly, that Girflet saw it. "

63. Focaccia was one of the Cancellieri Bianchi, of Pistoia, and was engaged in the affair of cutting off the hand of his half-brother. See Note 65, Canto VI. He is said also to have killed his uncle.

65. Sassol Mascheroni, according to Benvenuto, was one of the Toschi family of Florence. He murdered his nephew in order to get possession of his property; for which crime he was carried through the streets of Florence nailed up in a cask, and then beheaded.

68. Camicion de' Pazzi of Valdarno, who murdered his kinsman Ubertino. But his crime will seem small and excusable when compared with that of another kinsman, Carlino de' Pazzi, who treacherously surrendered the castle of Piano in Valdarno, wherein many Florentine exiles were taken and put to death.

81. The speaker is Bocca degli Abati, whose treason caused the defeat of the Guelfs at the famous battle of Montaperti in 1260. See Note 86, Canto X. "Messer Bocca degli Abati, the traitor," says Malispini, Storia, ch. 171, "with his sword in hand, smote and cut off the hand of Messer Jacopo de' Pazzi of Florence, who bore the standard of the cavalry of the Commune of Florence. And the knights and the people, seeing the standard down, and the treachery, were put to rout."

88. The second division of the Circle, called Antenora, from Antenor, the Trojan prince, who betrayed his country by keeping up a secret correspondence with the Greeks. Virgil, Aeneid, I. 242, makes him founder of Padua.

106. See Note 81 of this Canto.

116. Buoso da Duera of Cremona, being bribed, suffered the French cavalry under Guido da Monforte to pass through Lombardy on their way to Apulia, without opposing them as he had been commanded.

117. There is a double meaning in the Italian expression sta fresco, which is well rendered by the vulgarism, left out in the cold, so familiar in American politics.

119. Beccaria of Pavia, Abbot of Vallombrosa, and Papal Legate at Florence, where he was beheaded in 1258 for plotting against the Guelfs.

121. Gianni de' Soldanieri, of Florence, a Ghibelline, who betrayed his party. Villani, VII, 14, says: "Messer Gianni de' Soldanieri put himself at the head of the populace from motives of ambition, regardless of consequences which were injurious to the Ghibelline party, and to his own detriment, which seems always to have been the case in Florence with those who became popular leaders."

122. The traitor Ganellon, or Ganalon, who betrayed the Christian cause at Roncesvalles, persuading Charlemagne not to go to the assistance of Orlando. See Canto XXXI. Note 18. Tebaldello de' Manfredi treacherously opened the gates of Faenza to the French in the night.

130. Tydeus, son of the king of Calydon, slew Menalippus at the siege of Thebes and was himself mortally wounded. Statius, Thebaid, VIII. , thus describes what followed:--

O'ercome with joy and anger, Tydeus tries
To raise himself, and meets with eager eyes
The deathful object, pleased as he surveyed
His own condition in his foe's portrayed.
The severed head impatient he demands,
And grasps with fever in his trembling hands,
While he remarks the restless balls of sight
That sought and shunned alternately the light.
Contented now, his wrath began to cease,
And the fierce warrior had expired in peace;
But the fell fiend a thought of vengeance bred,
Unworthy of himself and of the dead.
Meanwhile, her sire unmoved, Tritonia came,
To crown her hero with immortal fame;
But when she saw his jaws besprinkled o'er
With spattered brains, and tinged with living gore,
Whilst his imploring friends attempt in vain
To calm his fury, and his rage restrain,
Again, recoiling from the loathsome view,
The sculptur'd target o'er her face she threw."

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