The Divine Comedy: Hell, by Dante Alighieri

Canto XXIX

SO were mine eyes inebriate with view

Of the vast multitude, whom various wounds

Disfigur’d, that they long’d to stay and weep.

But Virgil rous’d me:  “What yet gazest on?

Wherefore doth fasten yet thy sight below

Among the maim’d and miserable shades?

Thou hast not shewn in any chasm beside

This weakness.  Know, if thou wouldst number them

That two and twenty miles the valley winds

Its circuit, and already is the moon

Beneath our feet:  the time permitted now

Is short, and more not seen remains to see.”

“If thou,” I straight replied, “hadst weigh’d the cause

For which I look’d, thou hadst perchance excus’d

The tarrying still.”  My leader part pursu’d

His way, the while I follow’d, answering him,

And adding thus:  “Within that cave I deem,

Whereon so fixedly I held my ken,

There is a spirit dwells, one of my blood,

Wailing the crime that costs him now so dear.”

Then spake my master: “Let thy soul no more

Afflict itself for him.  Direct elsewhere

Its thought, and leave him.  At the bridge’s foot

I mark’d how he did point with menacing look

At thee, and heard him by the others nam’d

Geri of Bello.  Thou so wholly then

Wert busied with his spirit, who once rul’d

The towers of Hautefort, that thou lookedst not

That way, ere he was gone.” — “O guide belov’d!

His violent death yet unaveng’d,” said I,

“By any, who are partners in his shame,

Made him contemptuous:  therefore, as I think,

He pass’d me speechless by; and doing so

Hath made me more compassionate his fate.”

So we discours’d to where the rock first show’d

The other valley, had more light been there,

E’en to the lowest depth.  Soon as we came

O’er the last cloister in the dismal rounds

Of Malebolge, and the brotherhood

Were to our view expos’d, then many a dart

Of sore lament assail’d me, headed all

With points of thrilling pity, that I clos’d

Both ears against the volley with mine hands.

As were the torment, if each lazar-house

Of Valdichiana, in the sultry time

’Twixt July and September, with the isle

Sardinia and Maremma’s pestilent fen,

Had heap’d their maladies all in one foss

Together; such was here the torment: dire

The stench, as issuing steams from fester’d limbs.

We on the utmost shore of the long rock

Descended still to leftward.  Then my sight

Was livelier to explore the depth, wherein

The minister of the most mighty Lord,

All-searching Justice, dooms to punishment

The forgers noted on her dread record.

More rueful was it not methinks to see

The nation in Aegina droop, what time

Each living thing, e’en to the little worm,

All fell, so full of malice was the air

(And afterward, as bards of yore have told,

The ancient people were restor’d anew

From seed of emmets) than was here to see

The spirits, that languish’d through the murky vale

Up-pil’d on many a stack.  Confus’d they lay,

One o’er the belly, o’er the shoulders one

Roll’d of another; sideling crawl’d a third

Along the dismal pathway.  Step by step

We journey’d on, in silence looking round

And list’ning those diseas’d, who strove in vain

To lift their forms.  Then two I mark’d, that sat

Propp’d ’gainst each other, as two brazen pans

Set to retain the heat.  From head to foot,

A tetter bark’d them round. Nor saw I e’er

Groom currying so fast, for whom his lord

Impatient waited, or himself perchance

Tir’d with long watching, as of these each one

Plied quickly his keen nails, through furiousness

Of ne’er abated pruriency.  The crust

Came drawn from underneath in flakes, like scales

Scrap’d from the bream or fish of broader mail.

“O thou, who with thy fingers rendest off

Thy coat of proof,” thus spake my guide to one,

“And sometimes makest tearing pincers of them,

Tell me if any born of Latian land

Be among these within: so may thy nails

Serve thee for everlasting to this toil.”

“Both are of Latium,” weeping he replied,

“Whom tortur’d thus thou seest:  but who art thou

That hast inquir’d of us?”  To whom my guide:

“One that descend with this man, who yet lives,

From rock to rock, and show him hell’s abyss.”

Then started they asunder, and each turn’d

Trembling toward us, with the rest, whose ear

Those words redounding struck.  To me my liege

Address’d him:  “Speak to them whate’er thou list.”

And I therewith began:  “So may no time

Filch your remembrance from the thoughts of men

In th’ upper world, but after many suns

Survive it, as ye tell me, who ye are,

And of what race ye come.  Your punishment,

Unseemly and disgustful in its kind,

Deter you not from opening thus much to me.”

“Arezzo was my dwelling,” answer’d one,

“And me Albero of Sienna brought

To die by fire; but that, for which I died,

Leads me not here.  True is in sport I told him,

That I had learn’d to wing my flight in air.

And he admiring much, as he was void

Of wisdom, will’d me to declare to him

The secret of mine art:  and only hence,

Because I made him not a Daedalus,

Prevail’d on one suppos’d his sire to burn me.

But Minos to this chasm last of the ten,

For that I practis’d alchemy on earth,

Has doom’d me.  Him no subterfuge eludes.”

Then to the bard I spake:  “Was ever race

Light as Sienna’s?  Sure not France herself

Can show a tribe so frivolous and vain.”

The other leprous spirit heard my words,

And thus return’d:  “Be Stricca from this charge

Exempted, he who knew so temp’rately

To lay out fortune’s gifts; and Niccolo

Who first the spice’s costly luxury

Discover’d in that garden, where such seed

Roots deepest in the soil:  and be that troop

Exempted, with whom Caccia of Asciano

Lavish’d his vineyards and wide-spreading woods,

And his rare wisdom Abbagliato show’d

A spectacle for all.  That thou mayst know

Who seconds thee against the Siennese

Thus gladly, bend this way thy sharpen’d sight,

That well my face may answer to thy ken;

So shalt thou see I am Capocchio’s ghost,

Who forg’d transmuted metals by the power

Of alchemy; and if I scan thee right,

Thus needs must well remember how I aped

Creative nature by my subtle art.”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/d/dante/d19he/canto29.html

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 15:53