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The Divine Comedy: Inferno

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












































A signal having been made from the tower, Phlegyas, the ferryman of the lake, speedily crosses it, and conveys Virgil and Dante to the other side. On their passage, they meet with Filippe Argenti, whose fury and torment are described. Then they arrive at the city of Dis, the entrance whereto is denied, and the portals closed against them by many Demons.

I SAY, continuing, that long before 1
We to the foot of that high tower had come,
Our eyes went upward to the summit of it,

By reason of two flamelets we saw placed there, 4
And from afar another answer them,
So far, that hardly could the eye attain it.

And, to the sea of all discernment turned,
I said: " What sayeth this, and what respondeth
That other fire ? and who are they that made it?"

And he to me:"Across the turbid waves
What is expected thou canst now discern,
If reek of the morass conceal it not."

Cord never shot an arrow from itself
That sped away athwart the air so swift,
As I beheld a very little boat

Come o'er the water tow'rds us at that moment,
Under the guidance of a single pilot,
Who shouted,"Now art thou arrived, fell soul?"

"Phlegyas, Phlegyas, thou criest out in vain 19
For this once," said my Lord; " thou shalt not have
Longer than in the passing of the slough."

As he who listens to some great deceit
That has been done to him, and then resents it,
Such became Phlegyas, in his gathered wrath.

My Guide descended down into the boat,
And then he made me enter after him,
And only when I entered seemed it laden. 27

Soon as the Guide and I were in the boat,
The antique prow goes on its way, dividing
More of the water than 'tis wont with others.

While we were running through the dead canal,
Uprose in front of me one full of mire,
And said, " Who 'rt thou that comest ere the hour?"

And I to him:"Although I come, I stay not;
But who art thou that hast become so squalid?"
"Thou seest that I am one who weeps," he answered.

And I to him:"With weeping and with wailing,
Thou spirit maledict, do thou remain;
For thee I know, though thou art all defiled."

Then stretched he both his hands unto the boat;
Whereat my wary Master thrust him back,
Saying, " Away there with the other dogs!"

Thereafter with his arms he clasped my neck;
He kissed my face, and said: " Disdainful soul,
Blessed be she who bore thee in her bosom.

That was an arrogant person in the world;
Goodness is none, that decks his memory;
So likewise here his shade is furious.

How many are esteemed great kings up there, 49
Who here shall be like unto swine in mire,
Leaving behind them horrible dispraises!" 51

And I:"My Master, much should I be pleased,
If I could see him soused into this broth,
Before we issue forth out of the lake."

And he to me:"Ere unto thee the shore
Reveal itself, thou shalt be satisfied;
Such a desire 'tis meet thou shouldst enjoy."

A little after that, I saw such havoc
Made of him by the people of the mire,
That still I praise and thank my God for it.

They all were shouting,"At Philippo Argenti!" 61
And that exasperate spirit Florentine
Turned round upon himself with his own teeth

We left him there, and more of him I tell not;
But on mine ears there smote a lamentation,
Whence forward I intent unbar mine eyes.

And the good Master said:"Even now, my Son,
The city draweth near whose name is Dis,
With the grave citizens, with the great throng."

And I:"Its mosques already, Master, clearly 70
Within there in the valley I discern
Vermilion, as if issuing from the fire

They were."And he to me:"The fire eternal
That kindles them within makes them look red,
As thou beholdest in this nether Hell."

Then we arrived within the moats profound,
That circumvallate that disconsolate city;
The walls appeared to me to be of iron. 78

Not without making first a circuit wide,
We came unto a place where loud the pilot
Cried out to us, " Debark, here is the entrance."

More than a thousand at the gates I saw
Out of the Heavens rained down, who angrily
Were saying, " Who is this that without death

Goes through the kingdom of the people dead?"
And my sagacious Master made a sign
Of wishing secretly to speak with them.

A little then they quelled their great disdain,
And said:"Come thou alone, and he begone
Who has so boldly entered these dominions.

Let him return alone by his mad road;
Try, if he can; for thou shalt here remain,
Who hast escorted him through such dark regions."

Think, Reader, if I was discomforted
At utterance of the accursed words;
For never to return here I believed.

"O my dear Guide, who more than seven times
Hast rendered me security, and drawn me
From imminent peril that before me stood,

Do not desert me,"said I,"thus undone;
And if the going farther be denied us,
Let us retrace our steps together swiftly."

And that Lord, who had led me thitherward,
Said unto me: " Fear not; because our passage
None can take from us, it by Such is given.

But here await me, and thy weary spirit
Comfort and nourish with a better hope;
For in this nether world I will not leave thee."

So onward goes and there abandons me
My Father sweet, and I remain in doubt,
For No and Yes within my head contend.

I could not hear what he proposed to them;
But with them there he did not linger long,
Ere each within in rivalry ran back.

They closed the portals, those our adversaries,
On my Lord's breast, who had remained without
And turned to me with footsteps far between.

His eyes cast down, his forehead shorn had he
Of all its boldness, and he said, with sighs,
"Who has denied to me the dolesome houses?"

And unto me:"Thou, because I am angry,
Fear not, for I will conquer in the trial,
Whatever for defence within be planned.

This arrogance of theirs is nothing new; 124
For once they used it at less secret gate, 125
Which finds itself without a fastening still.

O'er it didst thou behold the dead inscription;
And now this side of it descends the steep,
Passing across the circles without escort,

One by whose means the city shall be opened." 130

Footnotes 8

Canto 8

1. Boccaccio and some other commentators think the words "I say, continuing," are a confirmation of the theory that the first seven cantos of the Inferno were written before Dante's banishment from Florence. Others maintain that the words suggest only the continuation of the subject of the last canto in this.

4. These two signal fires announce the arrival of two persons to be ferried over the wash, and the other in the distance is on the watch-tower of the City of Dis, answering these.

19. Phlegyas was the father of Ixion and Coronis. He was king of the Lapithae, and burned the temple of Apollo at Delphi to avenge the wrong done by the god to Coronis. His punishment in the infernal regions was to stand beneath a huge impending rock, always about to fall upon him. Virgil, Aeneid, VI., says of him: "Phlegyas, most wretched, is a monitor to all and with loud voice proclaims through the shades, `Being warned, learn righteousness, and not to contemn the gods.'"

27. Virgil, Aeneid, VI.:"The boat of sewn hide groaned under the weight, and, being leaky, took in much water from the lake."

49. Mr. Wright here quotes Spenser, Ruins of Time:--

"How many great ones may remembered be,
Who in their days most famously did flourish,
Of whom no word we have, nor sign now see,
But as things wiped out with a sponge do perish."

51. Chaucer's "sclandre of his diffame."

61. Of Philippo Argenti little is known, and nothing to his credit. Dante seems to have an especial personal hatred of him, as if in memory of some disagreeable passage between them in the streets of Florence. Boccaccio says of him in his Comento: "This Philippo Argenti, as Coppo di Borghese Domenichi de' Cavicciuli was wont to say, was a very rich gentleman, so rich that he had the horse he used to ride shod with silver, and from this he had his surname; he was in person large, swarthy, muscular, of marvellous strength, and at the slightest provocation the most irascible of men; nor are any more known of his qualities than these two, each in itself very blameworthy." He was of the Adimari family, and of the Neri faction; while Dante was of the Bianchi party, and in banishment. Perhaps this fact may explain the bitterness of his invective.

This is the same Philippo Argenti who figures in Boccaccio's tale. See Inf. VI., note 52. The Ottimo Comento says of him: "He was a man of great pomp, and great ostentation, and much expenditure, and little virtue and worth; and therefore the author says, `Goodness is none that decks his memory.'" And this is all that is known of the "Fiorentino spirito bizzaro," forgotten by history, and immortalized in song. "What a barbarous strength and confusion of ideas," exclaims Leigh Hunt, Italian Poets, p. 60, " is there in this whole passage about him!

Arrogance punished by arrogance, a Christian mother blessed for the unchristian disdainfulness of her son, revenge boasted of and enjoyed, passion arguing in a circle."

70. The word "mosques" paints at once to the imagination the City of Unbelief.

78. Virgil, Aeneid, VI., Davidson's Translation:--Aeneas on a sudden looks back, and under a rock on the left sees vast prisons inclosed with a triple wall, which Tartarean Phlegethon's rapid flood environs with torrents of flame, and whirls roaring rocks along. Fronting is a huge gate, with columns of solid adamant, that no strength of men, nor the gods themselves, can with steel demolish. An iron tower rises aloft; and there wakeful Tisiphone, with her bloody robe tucked up around her, sits to watch the vestibule both night and day."

124. This arrogance of theirs; tracotanza, oltracotanza ; Brantome's outrecuidance; and Spenser's surquedrie.

125. The gate of the Inferno.

130. The coming of the Angel, whose approach is described in the next canto, beginning at line 64.

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