Of iron colour, and composed of stone,
A place called Malebolge[515] is in Hell,
Girt by a cliff of substance like its own.
In that malignant region yawns a well[516]
Right in the centre, ample and profound;
Of which I duly will the structure tell.
The zone[517] that lies between them, then, is round--
Between the well and precipice hard and high;
Into ten vales divided is the ground.
As is the figure offered to the eye,
Where numerous moats a castle's towers enclose
That they the walls may better fortify;
A like appearance was made here by those.

And as, again, from threshold of such place
Many a drawbridge to the outworks goes;
So ridges from the precipice's base
Cutting athwart the moats and barriers run,
Till at the well join the extremities.[518]
From Geryon's back when we were shaken down
'Twas here we stood, until the Poet's feet
Moved to the left, and I, behind, came on.
New torments on the right mine eyes did meet
With new tormentors, novel woe on woe;
With which the nearer Bolgia was replete.
Sinners, all naked, in the gulf below,
This side the middle met us; while they strode
On that side with us, but more swift did go.[519]
Even so the Romans, that the mighty crowd
Across the bridge, the year of Jubilee,
Might pass with ease, ordained a rule of road[520]--
Facing the Castle, on that side should be
The multitude which to St. Peter's hied;
So to the Mount on this was passage free.
On the grim rocky ground, on either side,
I saw horned devils[521] armed with heavy whip
Which on the sinners from behind they plied.

Ah, how they made the wretches nimbly skip
At the first lashes; no one ever yet
But sought from the second and the third to slip.
And as I onward went, mine eyes were set
On one of them; whereon I called in haste:
'This one already I have surely met!'
Therefore to know him, fixedly I gazed;
And my kind Leader willingly delayed,
While for a little I my course retraced.
On this the scourged one, thinking to evade
My search, his visage bent without avail,
For: 'Thou that gazest on the ground,' I said,
'If these thy features tell trustworthy tale,
Venedico Caccianimico[522] thou!
But what has brought thee to such sharp regale?'[523]
And he, 'I tell it 'gainst my will, I trow,
But thy clear accents[524] to the old world bear
My memory, and make me all avow.
I was the man who Ghisola the fair
To serve the Marquis' evil will led on,
Whatever[525] the uncomely tale declare.

Of Bolognese here weeping not alone
Am I; so full the place of them, to-day
'Tween Reno and Savena[526] are not known
So many tongues that _Sipa_ deftly say:
And if of this thou'dst know the reason why,
Think but how greedy were our hearts alway.'
To him thus speaking did a demon cry:
'Pander, begone!' and smote him with his thong;
'Here are no women for thy coin to buy.'
Then, with my Escort joined, I moved along.
Few steps we made until we there had come,
Where from the bank a rib of rock was flung.
With ease enough up to its top we clomb,
And, turning on the ridge, bore to the right;[527]
And those eternal circles[528] parted from.
When we had reached where underneath the height
A passage opes, yielding the scourged a way,
My Guide bade: 'Tarry, so to hold in sight
Those other spirits born in evil day,
Whose faces until now from thee have been
Concealed, because with ours their progress lay.'
Then from the ancient bridge by us were seen
The troop which toward us on that circuit sped,
Chased onward, likewise, by the scourges keen.

And my good Master, ere I asked him, said:
'That lordly one now coming hither, see,
By whom, despite of pain, no tears are shed.
What mien he still retains of majesty!
'Tis Jason, who by courage and by guile
The Colchians of the ram deprived. 'Twas he
Who on his passage by the Lemnian isle,
Where all of womankind with daring hand
Upon their males had wrought a murder vile,
With loving pledges and with speeches bland
The tender-yeared Hypsipyle betrayed,
Who had herself a fraud on others planned.
Forlorn he left her then, when pregnant made.
That is the crime condemns him to this pain;
And for Medea[529] too is vengeance paid.

Who in his manner cheat compose his train.
Of the first moat sufficient now is known,
And those who in its jaws engulfed remain.'
Already had we by the strait path gone
To where 'tis with the second bank dovetailed--
The buttress whence a second arch is thrown.
Here heard we who in the next Bolgia wailed[530]
And puffed for breath; reverberations told
They with their open palms themselves assailed.
The sides were crusted over with a mould
Plastered upon them by foul mists that rise,
And both with eyes and nose a contest hold.

The bottom is so deep, in vain our eyes
Searched it till further up the bridge we went,
To where the arch o'erhangs what under lies.
Ascended there, our eyes we downward bent,
And I saw people in such ordure drowned,
A very cesspool 'twas of excrement.
And while I from above am searching round,
One with a head so filth-smeared I picked out,
I knew not if 'twas lay, or tonsure-crowned.
'Why then so eager,' asked he with a shout,
'To stare at me of all the filthy crew?'
And I to him: 'Because I scarce can doubt
That formerly thee dry of hair I knew,
Alessio Interminei[531] the Lucchese;
And therefore thee I chiefly hold in view.'
Smiting his head-piece, then, his words were these:
''Twas flattery steeped me here; for, using such,
My tongue itself enough could never please.'
'Now stretch thou somewhat forward, but not much,'
Thereon my Leader bade me, 'and thine eyes
Slowly advance till they her features touch
And the dishevelled baggage recognise,
Clawing her yonder with her nails unclean,
Now standing up, now squatting on her thighs.

'Tis harlot Thais,[532] who, when she had been
Asked by her lover, "Am I generous
And worthy thanks?" said, "Greatly so, I ween."
Enough[533] of this place has been seen by us.'


[515] _Malebolge_: Or Evil Pits; literally, Evil Pockets.

[516] _A well_: The Ninth and lowest Circle, to be described in Canto
xxxii., etc.

[517] _The zone_: The Eighth Circle, in which the fraudulent of all
species are punished, lies between the precipice and the Ninth Circle. A
vivid picture of the enormous height of the enclosing wall has been
presented to us at the close of the preceding Canto. As in the
description of the Second Circle the atmosphere is represented as
malignant, being murky and disturbed with tempest; so the Malebolge is
called malignant too, being all of barren iron-coloured rock. In both
cases the surroundings of the sinners may well be spoken of as malign,
adverse to any thought of goodwill and joy.

[518] _The extremities_: The _Malebolge_ consists of ten circular pits
or fosses, one inside of another. The outermost lies under the precipice
which falls sheer from the Seventh Circle; the innermost, and of course
the smallest, runs immediately outside of the 'Well,' which is the Ninth
Circle. The Bolgias or valleys are divided from each other by rocky
banks; and, each Bolgia being at a lower level than the one that
encloses it, the inside of each bank is necessarily deeper than the
outside. Ribs or ridges of rock--like spokes of a wheel to the
axle-tree--run from the foot of the precipice to the outer rim of the
'Well,' vaulting the moats at right angles with the course of them. Thus
each rib takes the form of a ten-arched bridge. By one or other of these
Virgil and Dante now travel towards the centre and the base of Inferno;
their general course being downward, though varied by the ascent in turn
of the hog-backed arches over the moats.

[519] _More swift_: The sinners in the First Bolgia are divided into two
gangs, moving in opposite directions, the course of those on the outside
being to the right, as looked at by Dante. These are the shades of
panders; those in the inner current are such as seduced on their own
account. Here a list of the various classes of sinners contained in the
Bolgias of the Eighth Circle may be given:--

1st Bolgia--Seducers, Canto XVIII
2d " Flatterers, " "
3d " Simoniacs, " XIX.
4th " Soothsayers, " XX.
5th " Barrators, " XXI. XXII.
6th " Hypocrites, " XXIII.

7th " Thieves, " XXIV. XXV.
8th " Evil Counsellors, " XXVI. XXVII.
9th " Scandal and Heresy Mongers, " XXVIII. XXIX.
10th " Falsifiers, " XXIX. XXX.

[520] _A rule of road_: In the year 1300 a Jubilee was held in Rome with
Plenary Indulgence for all pilgrims. Villani says that while it lasted
the number of strangers in Rome was never less than two hundred
thousand. The bridge and castle spoken of in the text are those of St.
Angelo. The Mount is probably the Janiculum.

[521] _Horned devils_: Here the demons are horned--terrible
remembrancers to the sinner of the injured husband.

[522] _Venedico Caccianimico_: A Bolognese noble, brother of Ghisola,
whom he inveigled into yielding herself to the Marquis of Este, lord of
Ferrara. Venedico died between 1290 and 1300.

[523] _Such sharp regale_: 'Such pungent sauces.' There is here a play
of words on the _Salse_, the name of a wild ravine outside the walls of
Bologna, where the bodies of felons were thrown. Benvenuto says it used
to be a taunt among boys at Bologna: Your father was pitched into the

[524] _Thy clear accents_: Not broken with sobs like his own and those
of his companions.

[525] _Whatever, etc._: Different accounts seem to have been current
about the affair of Ghisola.

[526] _'Tween Reno, etc._: The Reno and Savena are streams that flow
past Bologna. _Sipa_ is Bolognese for Maybe, or for Yes. So Dante
describes Tuscany as the country where _Si_ is heard (_Inf._ xxxiii.

80). With regard to the vices of the Bolognese, Benvenuto says: 'Dante
had studied in Bologna, and had seen and observed all these things.'

[527] _To the right_: This is only an apparent departure from their
leftward course. Moving as they were to the left along the edge of the
Bolgia, they required to turn to the right to cross the bridge that
spanned it.

[528] _Those eternal circles_: The meaning is not clear; perhaps it only
is that they have now done with the outer stream of sinners in this
Bolgia, left by them engaged in endless procession round and round.

[529] _Medea_: When the Argonauts landed on Lemnos, they found it
without any males, the women, incited by Venus, having put them all to
death, with the exception of Thoas, saved by his daughter Hypsipyle.
When Jason deserted her he sailed for Colchis, and with the assistance
of Medea won the Golden Fleece. Medea, who accompanied him from Colchis,
was in turn deserted by him.

[530] _Who in the next Bolgia wailed_: The flatterers in the Second

[531] _Alessio Interminei_: Of the Great Lucchese family of the
Interminelli, to which the famous Castruccio Castrucani belonged.
Alessio is know to have been living in 1295. Dante may have known him
personally. Benvenuto says he was so liberal of his flattery that he
spent it even on menial servants.

[532] _Thais_: In the _Eunuch_ of Terence, Thraso, the lover of that
courtesan, asks Gnatho, their go-between, if she really sent him many
thanks for the present of a slave-girl he had sent her. 'Enormous!' says
Gnatho. It proves what great store Dante set on ancient instances when
he thought this worth citing.

[533] _Enough, etc._: Most readers will agree with Virgil.