Canto XXII

Horsemen I've seen in march across the field,
Hastening to charge, or, answering muster, stand,
And sometimes too when forced their ground to yield;
I have seen skirmishers upon your land,
O Aretines![594] and those on foray sent;
With trumpet and with bell[595] to sound command
Have seen jousts run and well-fought tournament,
With drum, and signal from the castle shown,
And foreign music with familiar blent;
But ne'er by blast on such a trumpet blown
Beheld I horse or foot to motion brought,
Nor ship by star or landmark guided on.
With the ten demons moved we from the spot;
Ah, cruel company! but 'with the good
In church, and in the tavern with the sot.'
Still to the pitch was my attention glued
Fully to see what in the Bolgia lay,
And who were in its burning mass imbrued.

As when the dolphins vaulted backs display,
Warning to mariners they should prepare
To trim their vessel ere the storm makes way;
So, to assuage the pain he had to bear,
Some wretch would show his back above the tide,
Then swifter plunge than lightnings cleave the air.
And as the frogs close to the marsh's side
With muzzles thrust out of the water stand,
While feet and bodies carefully they hide;
So stood the sinners upon every hand.
But on beholding Barbariccia nigh
Beneath the bubbles[596] disappeared the band.
I saw what still my heart is shaken by:
One waiting, as it sometimes comes to pass
That one frog plunges, one at rest doth lie;
And Graffiacan, who nearest to him was,
Him upward drew, clutching his pitchy hair:
To me he bore the look an otter has.

I of their names[597] ere this was well aware,
For I gave heed unto the names of all
When they at first were chosen. 'Now prepare,
And, Rubicante, with thy talons fall
Upon him and flay well,' with many cries
And one consent the accursed ones did call.
I said: 'O Master, if in any wise
Thou canst, find out who is the wretched wight
Thus at the mercy of his enemies.'
Whereon my Guide drew full within his sight,
Asking him whence he came, and he replied:
'In kingdom of Navarre[598] I first saw light.
Me servant to a lord my mother tied;
Through her I from a scoundrel sire did spring,
Waster of goods and of himself beside.
As servant next to Thiebault,[599] righteous king,
I set myself to ply barratorship;
And in this heat discharge my reckoning.'
And Ciriatto, close upon whose lip
On either side a boar-like tusk did stand,
Made him to feel how one of them could rip.

The mouse had stumbled on the wild cat band;
But Barbariccia locked him in embrace,
And, 'Off while I shall hug him!' gave command.
Round to my Master then he turned his face:
'Ask more of him if more thou wouldest know,
While he against their fury yet finds grace.'
My Leader asked: 'Declare now if below
The pitch 'mong all the guilty there lies here
A Latian?'[600] He replied: 'Short while ago
From one[601] I parted who to them lived near;
And would that I might use him still for shield,
Then hook or claw I should no longer fear,'
Said Libicocco: 'Too much grace we yield.'
And in the sinner's arm he fixed his hook,
And from it clean a fleshy fragment peeled.
But seeing Draghignazzo also took
Aim at his legs, the leader of the Ten
Turned swiftly round on them with angry look.
On this they were a little quieted; then
Of him who still gazed on his wound my Guide
Without delay demanded thus again:
'Who was it whom, in coming to the side,
Thou say'st thou didst do ill to leave behind?'
'Gomita of Gallura,'[602] he replied,
'A vessel full of fraud of every kind,
Who, holding in his power his master's foes,
So used them him they bear in thankful mind;
For, taking bribes, he let slip all of those,
He says; and he in other posts did worse,
And as a chieftain 'mong barrators rose.

Don Michael Zanche[603] doth with him converse,
From Logodoro, and with endless din
They gossip[604] of Sardinian characters.
But look, ah me! how yonder one doth grin.
More would I say, but that I am afraid
He is about to claw me on the skin.'
To Farfarel the captain turned his head,
For, as about to swoop, he rolled his eye,
And, 'Cursed hawk, preserve thy distance!' said.
'If ye would talk with, or would closer spy,'
The frighted wretch began once more to say,
'Tuscans or Lombards, I will bring them nigh.

But let the Malebranche first give way,
That of their vengeance they may not have fear,
And I to this same place where now I stay
For me, who am but one, will bring seven near
When I shall whistle as we use to do
Whenever on the surface we appear.'
On this Cagnazzo up his muzzle threw,
Shaking his head and saying: 'Hear the cheat
He has contrived, to throw himself below.'
Then he who in devices was complete:
'Far too malicious, in good sooth,' replied,
'When for my friends I plan a sorer fate.'
This, Alichin withstood not but denied
The others' counsel,[605] saying: 'If thou fling
Thyself hence, thee I strive not to outstride.
But o'er the pitch I'll dart upon the wing.
Leave we the ridge,[606] and be the bank a shield;
And see if thou canst all of us outspring.'
O Reader, hear a novel trick revealed.
All to the other side turned round their eyes,
He first[607] who slowest was the boon to yield.

In choice of time the Navarrese was wise;
Taking firm stand, himself he forward flung,
Eluding thus their hostile purposes.
Then with compunction each of them was stung,
But he the most[608] whose slackness made them fail;
Therefore he started, 'Caught!' upon his tongue.
But little it bested, nor could prevail
His wings 'gainst fear. Below the other went,
While he with upturned breast aloft did sail.
And as the falcon, when, on its descent,
The wild duck suddenly dives out of sight,
Returns outwitted back, and malcontent;
To be befooled filled Calcabrin with spite.

Hovering he followed, wishing in his mind
The wretch escaping should leave cause for fight.
When the barrator vanished, from behind
He on his comrade with his talons fell
And clawed him, 'bove the moat with him entwined.
The other was a spar-hawk terrible
To claw in turn; together then the two
Plunged in the boiling pool. The heat full well
How to unlock their fierce embraces knew;
But yet they had no power[609] to rise again,
So were their wings all plastered o'er with glue.
Then Barbariccia, mourning with his train,
Caused four to fly forth to the other side
With all their grapplers. Swift their flight was ta'en.

Down to the place from either hand they glide,
Reaching their hooks to those who were limed fast,
And now beneath the scum were being fried.
And from them thus engaged we onward passed.


[594] _O Aretines_: Dante is mentioned as having taken part in the
campaign of 1289 against Arezzo, in the course of which the battle of
Campaldino was fought. But the text can hardly refer to what he
witnessed in that campaign, as the field of it was almost confined to
the Casentino, and little more than a formal entrance was made on the
true Aretine territory; while the chronicles make no mention of jousts
and forays. There is, however, no reason to think but that Dante was
engaged in the attack made by Florence on the Ghibeline Arezzo in the
early summer of the preceding year. In a few days the Florentines and
their allies had taken above forty castles and strongholds, and
devastated the enemy's country far and near; and, though unable to take
the capital, they held all kinds of warlike games in front of it. Dante
was then twenty-three years of age, and according to the Florentine
constitution of that period would, in a full muster of the militia, be
required to serve as a cavalier without pay, and providing his own horse
and arms.

[595] _Bell_: The use of the bell for martial music was common in the
Italy of the thirteenth century. The great war-bell of the Florentines
was carried with them into the field.

[596] _Beneath the bubbles, etc._: As the barrators took toll of the
administration of justice and appointment to offices, something always
sticking to their palms, so now they are plunged in the pitch; and as
they denied to others what should be the common blessing of justice, now
they cannot so much as breathe the air without paying dearly for it to
the demons.

[597] _Their names_: The names of all the demons. All of them urge
Rubicante, the 'mad red devil,' to flay the victim, shining and sleek
with the hot pitch, who is held fast by Graffiacane.

[598] _In kingdom of Navarre, etc._: The commentators give the name of
John Paul to this shade, but all that is known of him is found in the

[599] _Thiebault_: King of Navarre and second of that name. He
accompanied his father-in-law, Saint Louis, to Tunis, and died on his
way back, in 1270.

[600] _A Latian_: An Italian.

[601] _From one, etc._: A Sardinian. The barrator prolongs his answer so
as to procure a respite from the fangs of his tormentors.

[602] _Gomita of Gallura_: 'Friar Gomita' was high in favour with Nino
Visconti (_Purg._ viii. 53), the lord of Gallura, one of the provinces
into which Sardinia was divided under the Pisans. At last, after bearing
long with him, the 'gentle Judge Nino' hanged Gomita for setting
prisoners free for bribes.

[603] _Don Michael Zanche_: Enzo, King of Sardinia, married Adelasia,
the lady of Logodoro, one of the four Sardinian judgedoms or provinces.

Of this province Zanche, seneschal to Enzo, acquired the government
during the long imprisonment of his master, or upon his death in 1273.
Zanche's daughter was married to Branca d'Oria, by whom Zanche was
treacherously slain in 1275 (_Inf._ xxxiii. 137). There seems to be
nothing extant to support the accusation implied in the text.

[604] _They gossip, etc._: Zanche's experience of Sardinia was of an
earlier date than Gomita's. It has been claimed for, or charged against,
the Sardinians, that more than other men they delight in gossip touching
their native country. These two, if it can be supposed that, plunged
among and choked with pitch, they still cared for Sardinian talk, would
find material enough in the troubled history of their land. In 1300 it
belonged partly to Genoa and partly to Pisa.

[605] _The others' counsel_: Alichino, confident in his own powers, is
willing to risk an experiment with the sinner. The other devils count a
bird in the hand worth two in the bush.

[606] _The ridge_: Not the crown of the great rocky barrier between the
Fifth and the Sixth Bolgias, for it is not on that the devils are
standing; neither are they allowed to pass over it (_Inf._ xxiii. 55).
We are to figure them to ourselves as standing on a ledge running
between the fosse and the foot of the enclosing rocky steep--a pathway
continued under the bridges and all round the Bolgia for their
convenience as guardians of it. The bank adjoining the pitch will serve
as a screen for the sinner if the demons retire to the other side of
this ledge.

[607] _He first, etc._: Cagnazzo. See line 106.

[608] _He the most, etc._: Alichino, whose confidence in his agility had
led to the outwitting of the band.

[609] _No power_: The foolish ineptitude of the devils for anything
beyond their special function of hooking up and flaying those who appear
on the surface of the pitch, and their irrational fierce playfulness as
of tiger cubs, convey a vivid impression of the limits set to their
diabolical power, and at the same time heighten the sense of what
Dante's feeling of insecurity must have been while in such inhuman