Canto VII

Pape[293] Satan! Pape Satan! Aleppe!
Plutus[294] began in accents rough and hard:
And that mild Sage, all-knowing, said to me,
For my encouragement: 'Pay no regard
Unto thy fear; whatever power he sways
Thy passage down this cliff shall not be barred.'
Then turning round to that inflamèd face
He bade: 'Accursed wolf,[295] at peace remain;
And, pent within thee, let thy fury blaze.

Down to the pit we journey not in vain:
So rule they where by Michael in Heaven's height
On the adulterous pride[296] was vengeance ta'en.'
Then as the bellied sails, by wind swelled tight,
Suddenly drag whenever snaps the mast;
Such, falling to the ground, the monster's plight.
To the Fourth Cavern so we downward passed,
Winning new reaches of the doleful shore
Where all the vileness of the world is cast.
Justice of God! which pilest more and more
Pain as I saw, and travail manifold!
Why will we sin, to be thus wasted sore?
As at Charybdis waves are forward rolled
To break on other billows midway met,
The people here a counterdance must hold.

A greater crowd than I had seen as yet,
With piercing yells advanced on either track,
Rolling great stones to which their chests were set.
They crashed together, and then each turned back
Upon the way he came, while shouts arise,
'Why clutch it so?' and 'Why to hold it slack?'
In the dark circle wheeled they on this wise
From either hand to the opposing part,
Where evermore they raised insulting cries.
Thither arrived, each, turning, made fresh start
Through the half circle[297] a new joust to run;
And I, stung almost to the very heart,
Said, 'O my Master, wilt thou make it known
Who the folk are? Were these all clerks[298] who go
Before us on the left, with shaven crown?'
And he replied: 'All of them squinted so
In mental vision while in life they were,
They nothing spent by rule. And this they show,
And with their yelping voices make appear
When half-way round the circle they have sped,
And sins opposing them asunder tear.
Each wanting thatch of hair upon his head
Was once a clerk, or pope, or cardinal,
In whom abound the ripest growths of greed.'
And I: 'O Master, surely among all
Of these I ought[299] some few to recognise,
Who by such filthy sins were held in thrall.'
And he to me: 'Vain thoughts within thee rise;
Their witless life, which made them vile, now mocks--
Dimming[300] their faces still--all searching eyes.
Eternally they meet with hostile shocks;
These rising from the tomb at last shall stand
With tight clenched fists, and those with ruined locks.[301]
Squandering or hoarding, they the happy land[302]
Have lost, and now are marshalled for this fray;
Which to describe doth no fine words demand.

Know hence, my Son, how fleeting is the play
Of goods at the dispose of Fortune thrown,
And which mankind to such fierce strife betray.
Not all the gold which is beneath the moon
Could purchase peace, nor all that ever was,
To but one soul of these by toil undone.'
'Master,' I said, 'tell thou, ere making pause,
Who Fortune is of whom thou speak'st askance,
Who holds all worldly riches in her claws.'[303]
'O foolish creatures, lost in ignorance!'
He answer made. 'Now see that the reply
Thou store, which I concerning her advance.
He who in knowledge is exalted high,
Framing[304] all Heavens gave such as should them guide,
That so each part might shine to all; whereby
Is equal light diffused on every side:
And likewise to one guide and governor,
Of worldly splendours did control confide,
That she in turns should different peoples dower
With this vain good; from blood should make it pass
To blood, in spite of human wit. Hence, power,
Some races failing,[305] other some amass,
According to her absolute decree
Which hidden lurks, like serpent in the grass.
Vain 'gainst her foresight yours must ever be.
She makes provision, judges, holds her reign,
As doth his power supreme each deity.

Her permutations can no truce sustain;
Necessity[306] compels her to be swift,
So swift they follow who their turn must gain.
And this is she whom they so often[307] lift
Upon the cross, who ought to yield her praise;
And blame on her and scorn unjustly shift.
But she is blest nor hears what any says,
With other primal creatures turns her sphere,
Jocund and glad, rejoicing in her ways.
To greater woe now let us downward steer.
The stars[308] which rose when I began to guide
Are falling now, nor may we linger here.'
We crossed the circle to the other side,
Arriving where a boiling fountain fell
Into a brooklet by its streams supplied.

In depth of hue the flood did perse[309] excel,
And we, with this dim stream to lead us on,
Descended by a pathway terrible.
A marsh which by the name of Styx is known,
Fed by this gloomy brook, lies at the base
Of threatening cliffs hewn out of cold grey stone.
And I, intent on study of the place,[310]
Saw people in that ditch, mud-smeared. In it
All naked stood with anger-clouded face.
Nor with their fists alone each fiercely hit
The other, but with feet and chest and head,
And with their teeth to shreds each other bit.

'Son, now behold,' the worthy Master said,
'The souls of those whom anger made a prize;
And, further, I would have thee certified
That 'neath the water people utter sighs,
And make the bubbles to the surface come;
As thou mayst see by casting round thine eyes.
Fixed in the mud they say: "We lived in gloom[311]
In the sweet air made jocund by the day,
Nursing within us melancholy fume.
In this black mud we now our gloom display."
This hymn with gurgling throats they strive to sound,
Which they in speech unbroken fail to say.'
And thus about the loathsome pool we wound
For a wide arc, between the dry and soft,
With eyes on those who gulp the filth, turned round.
At last we reached a tower that soared aloft.


[293] _Pape, etc._: These words have exercised the ingenuity of many
scholars, who on the whole lean to the opinion that they contain an
appeal to Satan against the invasion of his domain. Virgil seems to have
understood them, but the text leaves it doubtful whether Dante himself
did. Later on, but there with an obvious purpose, we find a line of pure
gibberish (_Inf._ xxxi. 67).

[294] _Plutus_: The god of riches; degraded here into a demon. He guards
the Fourth Circle, which is that of the misers and spendthrifts.

[295] _Wolf_: Frequently used by Dante as symbolical of greed.

[296] _Pride_: Which in its way was a kind of greed--that of dominion.

Similarly, the avarice represented by the wolf of Canto i. was seen to
be the lust of aggrandisement. Virgil here answers Plutus's (supposed)
appeal to Satan by referring to the higher Power, under whose protection
he and his companion come.

[297] _The half circle_: This Fourth Circle is divided half-way round
between the misers and spendthrifts, and the two bands at set periods
clash against one another in their vain effort to pass into the section
belonging to the opposite party. Their condition is emblematical of
their sins while in life. They were one-sided in their use of wealth; so
here they can never complete the circle. The monotony of their
employment and of their cries represents their subjection to one idea,
and, as in life, so now, their displeasure is excited by nothing so much
as by coming into contact with the failing opposite to their own. Yet
they are set in the same circle because the sin of both arose from
inordinate desire of wealth, the miser craving it to hoard, and the
spendthrift to spend. In Purgatory also they are placed together (see
_Purg._ xxii. 40). So, on Dante's scheme, liberality is allied to and
dependent on a wise and reasonable frugality.--There is no hint of the
enormous length of the course run by these shades. Far lower down, when
the circles of the Inferno have greatly narrowed, the circuit is
twenty-two miles (_Inf._ xxix. 9).

[298] _Clerks_: Churchmen. The tonsure is the sign that a man is of
ecclesiastical condition. Many took the tonsure who never became

[299] _I ought, etc._: Dante is astonished that he can pick out no
greedy priest or friar of his acquaintance, when he had known so many.

[300] _Dimming, etc._: Their original disposition is by this time
smothered by the predominance of greed. Dante treats these sinners with
a special contemptuous bitterness. Scores of times since he became
dependent on the generosity of others he must have watched how at a bare
hint the faces of miser and spendthrift fell, while their eyes travelled
vaguely beyond him, and their voices grew cold.

[301] _Ruined locks_: 'A spendthrift will spend his very hair,' says an
Italian proverb.

[302] _The happy land_: Heaven.

[303] _Her claws_: Dante speaks of Fortune as if she were a brutal and
somewhat malicious power. In Virgil's answer there is a refutation of
the opinion of Fortune given by Dante himself, in the _Convito_ (iv.

11). After describing three ways in which the goods of Fortune come to
men he says: 'In each of these three ways her injustice is manifest.'
This part of the _Convito_ Fraticelli seems almost to prove was written
in 1297.

[304] _Framing, etc._: According to the scholastic theory of the world,
each of the nine heavens was directed in its motion by intelligences,
called angels by the vulgar, and by the heathen, gods (_Convito_ ii. 5).
As these spheres and the influences they exercise on human affairs are
under the guidance of divinely-appointed ministers, so, Virgil says, is
the distribution of worldly wealth ruled by Providence through Fortune.

[305] _Some races failing_: It was long believed, nor is the belief
quite obsolete, that one community can gain only at the expense of
another. Sir Thomas Browne says: 'All cannot be happy at once; for
because the glory of one state depends upon the ruin of another, there
is a revolution and vicissitude of their greatness, and all must obey
the swing of that wheel, not moved by intelligences, but by the hand of
God, whereby all states arise to their zeniths and vertical points
according to their predestinated periods.'--_Rel. Med._ i. 17.

[306] _Necessity, etc._: Suggested, perhaps, by Horace's _Te semper
anteit sæva necessitas_ (_Od._ i. 35). The question of how men can be
free in the face of necessity, here associated with Fortune, more than
once emerges in the _Comedy_. Dante's belief on the subject was
substantially that of his favourite author Boethius, who holds that
ultimately 'it is Providence that turns the wheel of all things;' and
who says, that 'if you spread your sails to the wind you will be
carried, not where you would, but whither you are driven by the gale: if
you choose to commit yourself to Fortune, you must endure the manners of
your mistress.'

[307] _Whom they so often, etc._: Treat with contumely.

[308] _The stars, etc._: It is now past midnight, and towards the
morning of Saturday, the 26th of March 1300. Only a few hours have been
employed as yet upon the journey.

[309] _Perse_: 'Perse is a colour between purple and black, but the
black predominates' (_Conv._ iv. 20). The hue of the waters of Styx
agrees with the gloomy temper of the sinners plunged in them.

[310] _The place_: They are now in the Fifth Circle, where the wrathful
are punished.

[311] _In gloom_: These submerged spirits are, according to the older
commentators, the slothful--those guilty of the sin of slackness in the
pursuit of good, as, _e.g._ neglect of the means of grace. This is,
theologically speaking, the sin directly opposed to the active grace of
charity. By more modern critics it has been ingeniously sought to find
in this circle a place not only for the slothful but for the proud and
envious as well. To each of these classes of sinners--such of them as
have repented in this life--a terrace of Purgatory is assigned, and at
first sight it does seem natural to expect that the impenitent among
them should be found in Inferno. But, while in Purgatory souls purge
themselves of every kind of mortal sin, Inferno, as Dante conceived of
it, contains only such sinners as have been guilty of wicked acts. Drift
and bent of heart and mind are taken no account of. The evil seed must
have borne a harvest, and the guilt of every victim of Justice must be
plain and open. Now, pride and envy are sins indeed, but sins that a man
may keep to himself. If they have betrayed the subject of them into the
commission of crimes, in those crimes they are punished lower down, as
is indicated at xii. 49. And so we find that Lucifer is condemned as a
traitor, though his treachery sprang from envy: the greater guilt
includes the less. For sluggishness in the pursuit of good the vestibule
of the caitiffs seems the appropriate place.--There are two kinds of
wrath. One is vehement, and declares itself in violent acts; the other
does not blaze out, but is grudging and adverse to all social good--the
wrath that is nursed. One as much as the other affects behaviour. So in
this circle, as in the preceding, we have represented the two excesses
of one sin.--Dante's theory of sins is ably treated of in Witte's
_Dante-Forschungen_, vol. ii. p. 121.