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The Divine Comedy: Inferno

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












































The Poet is told by Count Ugolino de' Cherardeschi of the cruel manner in which he and his children were famished in the tower at Pisa, by command of the Archbishop Ruggieri. He next discourses of the third round, called Ptolomea, wherein those are punished who have betrayed others under the semblance of kindness; and among these he finds the Friar Alberigo de' Manfredi, who tells him of one whose soul was already tormented in that place, though his body appeared still to be alive upon the earth, being yielded up to the governance of a fiend.

His mouth uplifted from his grim repast, 1
That sinner, wiping it upon the hair
Of the same head that he behind had wasted.

Then he began:"Thou wilt that I renew
The desperate grief, which wrings my heart already
To think of only, ere I speak of it;

But if my words be seed that may bear fruit
Of infamy to the traitor whom I gnaw,
Speaking and weeping shalt thou see together.

I know not who thou art, nor by what mode
Thou hast come down here; but a Florentine
Thou seemest to me truly, when I hear thee.

Thou hast to know I was Count Ugolino, 13
And this one was Ruggieri the Archbishop;
Now I will tell thee why I am such a neighbour.

That, by effect of his malicious thoughts
Trusting in him I was made prisoner,
And after put to death, I need not say;

But ne'ertheless what thou canst not have heard,
That is to say, how cruel was my death,
Hear shalt thou, and shalt know if he has wronged me.

A narrow perforation in the mew, 22
Which bears because of me the title of Famine,
And in which others still must be locked up,

Had shown me through its opening many moons
Already, when I dreamed the evil dream
Which of the future rent for me the veil.

This one appeared to me as lord and master,
Hunting the wolf and whelps upon the mountain
For which the Pisans cannot Lucca see. 30

With sleuth-hounds gaunt, and eager, and well trained, 31
Gualandi with Sismondi and Lanfranchi
He had sent out before him to the front

After brief course seemed unto me forespent
The father and the sons, and with sharp tushes
It seemed to me I saw their flanks ripped open.

When I before the morrow was awake,
Moaning amid their sleep I heard my sons
Who with me were, and asking after bread.

Cruel indeed art thou, if yet thou grieve not,
Thinking of what my heart foreboded me,
And weep'st thou not, what art thou wont to weep at?

They were awake now, and the hour drew nigh
At which our food used to be brought to us,
And through his dream was each one apprehensive;

And I heard locking up the under door 46
Of the horrible tower; whereat without a word
I gazed into the faces of my sons.

I wept not, I within so turned to stone;
They wept; and darling little Anselm mine
Said:'Thou dost gaze so, father, what doth ail thee?'

Still not a tear I shed, nor answer made
All of that day, nor yet the night thereafter,
Until another sun rose on the world.

As now a little glimmer made its way
Into the dolorous prison, and I saw
Upon four faces my own very aspect

Both of my hands in agony I bit,
And, thinking that I did it from desire
Of eating, on a sudden they uprose,

And said they:'Father, much less pain 'twill give us
If thou do eat of us; thyself didst clothe us
With this poor flesh, and do thou strip it off.'

I calmed me then, not to make them more sad.
That day we all were silent, and the next.
Ah! obdurate earth, wherefore didst thou not open?

When we had come unto the fourth day, Gaddo
Threw himself down outstretched before my feet,
Saying,'My father, why dost thou not help me?'

And there he died; and, as thou seest me,
I saw the three fall, one by one, between
The fifth day and the sixth; whence I betook me,

Already blind,to groping over each,
And three days called them after they were dead;
Then hunger did what sorrow could not do."

When he had said this, with his eyes distorted,
The wretched skull resumed he with his teeth,
Which, as a dog's, upon the bone were strong.

Ah! Pisa, thou opprobrium of the people
Of the fair land there where the Si doth sound, 80
Since slow to punish thee thy neighbours are,

Let the Capraia and Gorgona move, 82
And make a hedge across the mouth of Arno
That every person in thee it may drown!

For if Count Ugolino had the fame
Of having in thy castles thee betrayed, 86
Thou shouldst not on such cross have put his sons. 87

Guiltless of any crime, thou modern Thebes!
Their youth made Uguccione and Brigata,
And the other two my song doth name above!

We passed still farther onward, where the ice
Another people ruggedly enswathes,
Not downward turned, but all of them reversed.

Weeping itself there does not let them weep,
An(l grief that finds a barrier in the eyes
Turns itself inward to increase the anguish;

Because the earliest tears a cluster form,
And, in the manner of a crystal visor,
Fill all the cup beneath the eyebrow full.

And notwithstanding that, as in a callus,
Because of cold all sensibility
Its station had abandoned in my face,

Still it appeared to me I felt some wind;
Whence I:"My Master, who sets this in motion?
Is not below here every vapour quenched?"

Whence he to me:"Full soon shalt thou be where
Thine eye shall answer make to thee of this,
Seeing the cause which raineth down the blast."

And one of the wretches of the frozen crust
Cried out to us:"O souls so merciless
That the last post is given unto you,

Lift from mine eyes the rigid veils, that I
May vent the sorrow which impregns my heart
A little, e'er the weeping recongeal."

Whence I to him:"If thou wouldst have me help thee
Say who thou wast; and if I free thee not,
May I go to the bottom of the ice."

Then he replied:"I am Friar Alberigo; 118
He am I of the fruit of the bad garden,
Who here a date am getting for my fig." 120

"O,"said I to him, " now art thou, too, dead?"
And he to me: " How may my body fare
Up in the world, no knowledge I possess.

Such an advantage has this Ptolomaea, 124
That oftentimes the soul descendeth here
Sooner than Atropos in motion sets it. 126

And, that thou mayest more willingly remove
From off my countenance these glassy tears,
Know that as soon as any soul betrays

As I have done, his body by a demon
Is taken from him, who thereafter rules it,
Until his time has wholly been revolved.

Itself down rushes into such a cistern;
And still perchance above appears the body
Of yonder shade, that winters here behind me.

This thou shouldst know, if thou hast just come down;
It is Ser Branca d' Oria, and many years 137
Have passed away since he was thus locked up."

"I think," said I to him,"thou dost deceive me;
For Branca d' Oria is not dead as yet,
And eats, and drinks, and sleeps, and puts on clothes."

"In moat above,"said he,"of Malebranche,
There where is boiling the tenacious pitch,
As yet had Michel Zanche not arrived,

When this one left a devil in his stead
In his own body and one near of kin,
Who made together with him the betrayal.

But hitherward stretch out thy hand forthwith,
Open mine eyes ;"--and open them I did not,
And to be rude to him was courtesy.

Ah, Genoese ! ye men at variance 151
With every virtue, full of every vice
Wherefore are ye not scattered from the world

For with the vilest spirit of Romagna 154
I found of you one such, who for his deeds
In soul already in Cocytus bathes,

And still above in body seems alive!

Footnotes 33

Canto 33

1. In this Canto the subject of the preceding is continued.

13. Count Ugolino della Ghererardesca was Podesta of Pisa. "Raised to the highest offices of the republic for ten years," says Napier, Florentine History, I. 318, "he would soon have become absolute, had not his own nephew, Nino Visconte, Judge of Gallura, contested this supremacy and forced himself into conjoint and equal authority; this could not continue, and a sort of compromise was for the moment effected, by which Visconte retired to the absolute government of Sardinia. But Ugolino, still dissatisfied, sent his son to disturb the island; a deadly feud was the consequence, Guelph against Guelph, while the latent spirit of Ghibellinism, which filled the breasts of the citizens and was encouraged by priest and friar, felt its advantage; the Archbishop Ruggiero Rubaldino was its real head, but he worked with hidden caution as the apparent friend of either chieftain.

In 1287, after some sharp contests, both of them abdicated, for the sake, as it was alleged, of public tranquillity; but, soon perceiving their error, again united, and, scouring the streets with all their followers, forcibly re-established their authority. Ruggieri seemed to assent quietly to this new outrage, even looked without emotion on the bloody corpse of his favorite nephew, who had been stabbed by Ugolino; and so deep was his dissimulation, that he not only refused to believe the murdered body to be his kinsman's, but zealously assisted the Count to establish himself alone in the government, and accomplish Visconte's ruin. The design was successful; Nino was overcome and driven from the town, and in 1288 Ugolino entered Pisa in triumph from his villa, where he had retired to await the catastrophe.

The Archbishop had neglected nothing, and Ugolino found himself associated with this prelate in the public government; events now began to thicken; the Count could not brook a competitor, much less a Ghibelline priest: in the month of July both parties flew to arms, and the Archbishop was victorious. After a feeble attempt to rally in the public palace, Count Ugolino, his two sons, Uguccione and Gaddo, and two young grandsons, Anselmuccio and Brigata, surrendered at discretion, and were immediately imprisoned in a tower, afterwards called the Torre della fame, and there perished by starvation. Count Ugolino della Gherardesca, whose tragic story after five hundred years still sounds in awful numbers from the lyre of Dante, was stained with the ambition and darker vices of the age; like other potent chiefs, he sought to enslave his country, and checked at nothing in his impetuous career; he was accused of many crimes; of poisoning his own nephew, of failing in war, making a disgraceful peace, of flying shamefully, perhaps traitorously, at Meloria, and of obstructing all negotiations with Genoa for the return of his imprisoned countrymen. Like most others of his rank in those frenzied times he belonged more to faction than his country, and made the former subservient to his own ambition; but all these accusations, even if well founded, would not draw him from the general standard; they would only prove that he shared the ambition, the cruelty, the ferocity, the recklessness of human life and suffering, and the relentless pursuit of power in common with other chieftains of his age and country. Ugolino was overcome, and suffered a cruel death; his family was dispersed, and his memory has perhaps been blackened with a darker coloring to excuse the severity of his punishment; but his sons, who naturally followed their parent's fortune, were scarcely implicated in his crimes, although they shared his fate; and his grandsons, though not children, were still less guilty, though one of these was not unstained with blood. The Archbishop had public and private wrongs to revenge, and had he fallen, his sacred character alone would probably have procured for him a milder destiny."

Villani, VII. 128, gives this account of the imprisonment: "The Pisans, who had imprisoned Count Ugolino and his two sons and two grandsons, children of Count Guelfo, as we have before mentioned, in a tower on the Piazza degli Anziani, ordered the door of the tower to be locked, and the keys to be thrown into the Arno, and forbade any food should be given to the prisoners, who in a few days died of hunger. And the five dead bodies, being taken together out of the tower, were ignominiously buried; and from that day forth the tower was called the Tower of Famine, and shall be forever more, For this cruelty the Pisans were much blamed through all the world where it was known; not so much for the Count's sake, as on account of his crimes and treasons he perhaps deserved such a death, but for the sake of his children and grandchildren, who were young and innocent boys; and this sin, committed by the Pisans, did not remain unpunished."

Chaucer's version of the story in the Monkes Tale is as follows:

"Of the erl Hugelin of Pise the langour
There may no tonge tellen for pitee.
But litel out of Pise stant a tour,
In whiche tour in prison yput was he,
And with him ben his litel children three,
The eldest scarsely five yere was of age:
Alas! fortune, it was gret crueltee
Swiche briddes for to put in swiche a cage.

Dampned was he to die in that prison,
For Roger, which that bishop of Pise,
Had on him made a false suggestion,
Thurgh which the peple gan upon him rise,
And put him in prison, in swiche a wise,
As ye han herd; and mete and drinke he had
So smale, that wel unnethe it may suffise,
And therwithal it was ful poure and bad.

And on a day befell, that in that houre,
Whan that his mete wont was to be brought,
The gailer shette the dores of the toure;
He hered it wel, but he spake right nought.
And in his herte anon ther fell a thought,
That they for hunger wolden do him dien;
Alas! quod he, alas that I was wrought!
Therwith the teres fellen fro his eyen.

His yonge sone, that three yere was of age,
Unto him said fader, why do ye wepe?
Whan will the gailer bringen our potage?
Is ther no morsel bred that ye do kepe?
I am so hungry, that I may not slepe.
Now wolde God that I might slepen ever,
Than shuld not hunger in my wombe crepe;
Ther n'is no thing, sauf bred, that mo were lever.

Thus day by day this childe began to crie,
Till in his fadres barme adoun it lay,
And saide, farewel, fader, I mote die;
And kist his fader, and dide the same day.
And whan the woful fader did it sey,
For wo his armes two he gan to bite,
And saide, alas! fortune, and wala wa!
Thy false whele my wo all may I wite.

His children wenden, that for hunger it was
That he his armes gnowe, and not for wo,
And sayden: fader, do not so, alas!
But rather ete the flesh upon us two.
Our flesh thou yaf us, take our flesh us fro,
And ete ynough: right thus they to him seide,
And after that, within a day or two,
They laide hem in his lappe adoun, and deide.

Himself dispeired eke for hunger starf.
Thus ended in this mighty Erl of Pise:
From high estat fortune away him carf.
Of this tragedie it ought ynough suffice;
Who so wol here it in a longer wise,
Redeth the grete poete of Itaille,
That highte Dante, for he can it devise
Fro point to point, not o word wol he faille."

Buti, Commento, says: "After eight days they were removed from prison and carried wrapped in matting to the church of the Minor Friars at San Francesco, and buried in the monument, which is on the side of the steps leading into the church near the gate of the cloister, with irons on their legs, which irons I myself saw taken out of the monument."

22. The remains of this tower," says Napier, Florentine History, I. 319, note, "still exist in the Piazza de' Cavalieri, on the right of the archway as the spectator looks toward the clock." According to Buti it was called the Mew, "because the eagles of the Commune were kept there to moult." Shelley thus sings of it, Poems, III. 91:

"Amid the desolation of a city,
Which was the cradle, and is now the grave
Of an extinguished people, so that pity
Weeps o'er the shipwrecks of oblivion's wave,
There stands the Tower of Famine. It is built
Upon some prison-homes, whose dwellers rave
For bread, and gold, and blood: pain, linked to guilt,
Agitates the light flame of their hours,
Until its vital oil is spent or spilt;
There stands the pile, a tower amid the towers
And sacred domes; each marble-ribbed roof,
The brazen-gated temples, and the bowers
Of solitary wealth! The tempest-proof
Pavilions of the dark Italian air
Are by its presence dimmed,--they stand aloof,
And are withdrawn,--so that the world is bare,
As if a spectre, wrapt in shapeless terror,
Amid a company of ladies fair
Should glide and glow, till it became a mirror
Of all their beauty, and their hair and hue,
The life of their sweet eyes, with all its error,
Should be absorbed till they to marble grew."

30. Monte San Giuliano, between Pisa and Lucca. Shelley, Poems, III. 166:
"It was that hill whose intervening brow Screens Lucca from the Pisan's envious eye, Which the circumfluous plain waving below, Like a wide lake of green fertility, With streams and fields and marshes bare, Divides from the far Apennine, which lie Islanded in the immeasurable air."

31. The hounds are the Pisan mob; the hunters, the Pisan noblemen here mentioned; the wolf and whelps, Ugolino and his sons.

46. It is a question whether in this line chiavar is to be rendered nailed up or locked. Villani and Benvenuto say the tower was locked, and the keys thrown into the Arno; and I believe most of the commentators interpret the line in this way. But the locking of a prison door, which must have been a daily occurrence, could hardly have caused the dismay here portrayed, unless it can be shown that the lower door of the tower was usually left unlocked. "The thirty lines from Ed io senti' are unequalled," says Landor, Pentameron, 40, by any other continuous thirty in the whole dominions of poetry."

80. Italy; it being an old custom to call countries by the affirmative particle of the language.

82. Capraia and Gorgona are two islands opposite the mouth of the Arno. Ampere, Voyage Dantesque, 217, remarks: "This imagination may appear grotesque and forced if one looks at the map, for the isle of Gorgona is at some distance from the mouth of the Arno, and I had always thought so, until the day when, having ascended the tower of Pisa, I was struck with the aspect which the Gorgona presented from that point. It seemed to shut up the Arno. I then understood how Dante might naturally have had this idea, which had seemed strange to me, and his imagination was justified in my eyes. He had not seen the Gorgona from the Leaning Tower, which did not exist in his time, but from some one of the numerous towers which protected the ramparts of Pisa. This fact alone would be sufficient to show what an excellent interpretation of a poet travelling is."

86. Napier, Florentine History, I. 313: "He without hesitation surrendered Santa Maria a Monte Fuccechio, Santa Croce, and Monte Calvole to Florence; exiled the most zealous Ghibellines from Pisa, and reduced it to a purely Guelphic republic; he was accused of treachery, and certainly his own objects were admirably forwarded by the continued captivity of so many of his countrymen, by the banishment of the adverse faction, and by the friendship and support of Florence. "

87. Thebes was renowned for its misfortunes and grim tragedies, from the days of the sowing of the dragon's teeth by Cadmus, down to the destruction of the city by Alexander, who commanded it to be utterly demolished, excepting only the house in which the poet Pindar was born. Moreover, the tradition runs that Pisa was founded by Pelops, son of King Tantalus of Thebes, although it derived its name from "the Olympic Pisa on the banks of the Alpheus."

118. Friar Alberigo, of the family of the Manfredi, Lords of Faenza, was one of the Frati Gaudenti, or Jovial Friars, mentioned in Canto XXIII. 103. The account which the Ottimo gives of his treason is as follows: "Having made peace with certain hostile fellow- citizens, he betrayed them in this wise. One evening he invited them to supper, and had armed retainers in the chambers round the supper-room. It was in summer-time, and he gave orders to his servants that, when after the meats he should order the fruit, the chambers should be opened, and the armed men should come forth and should murder all the guests. And so it was done.

And he did the like the year before at Castello delle Mura at Pistoia. These are the fruits of the Garden of Treason, of which he speaks." Benvenuto says that his guests were his brother Manfred and his (Manfred's) son. Other commentators say they were certain members of the Order of Frati Gaudenti. In 1300, the date of the poem, Alberigo was still living.

120. A Rowland for an Oliver.

124. This division of Cocytus, the Lake of Lamentation, is called Ptolom aea from Ptolomeus, 1 Maccabees xvi. 11, where "the captain of Jericho inviteth Simon and two of his sons into his castle, and there treacherously murdereth them"; for "when simon and his sons had drunk largely, Ptolomee and his men rose up, and took their weapons, and came upon Simon into the banqueting-place, and slew him, and his two sons, and certain of his servants." Or perhaps from Ptolemy, who murdered Pompey after the battle of Pharsalia.

126. Of the three Fates, Clotho held the distaff, Lachesis spun the thread, and Atropos cut it. Odyssey, XI.:

"After him I perceived the might of Hercules, an image; for he himself amongst the immortal gods is delighted with banquets, and has the fair-legged Hebe, daughter of mighty Jove, and golden-sandalled Juno."

137. Ser Branco d'Oria was a Genoese, and a member of the celebrated Doria family of that city. Nevertheless he murdered at table his father-in-law, Michel Zanche, who is mentioned Canto XXII. 88.

151. This vituperation of the Genoese reminds one of the bitter Tuscan proverb against them: "Sea without fish; mountains without trees; men without faith; and women without shame."

154. Friar Alberigo.

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