Silent, alone, not now with company
We onward went, one first and one behind,
As Minor Friars use to make their way.
On Æsop's fable wholly was my mind
Intent, by reason of that contest new--
The fable where the frog and mouse we find;
For _Mo_ and _Issa_ are not more of hue
Than like the fable shall the fact appear,
If but considered with attention due.
And as from one thought springs the next, so here
Out of my first arose another thought,
Until within me doubled was my fear.
For thus I judged: Seeing through us were brought
Contempt upon them, hurt, and sore despite,
They needs must be to deep vexation wrought.
If anger to malevolence unite,
Then will they us more cruelly pursue
Than dog the hare which almost feels its bite.
All my hair bristled, I already knew,
With terror when I spake: 'O Master, try
To hide us quick' (and back I turned to view
What lay behind), 'for me they terrify,
These Malebranche following us; from dread
I almost fancy I can feel them nigh.'
And he: 'Were I a mirror backed with lead
I should no truer glass that form of thine,
Than all thy thought by mine is answered.
For even now thy thoughts accord with mine,
Alike in drift and featured with one face;
And to suggest one counsel they combine.
If the right bank slope downward at this place,
To the next Bolgia offering us a way,
Swiftly shall we evade the imagined chase.'
Ere he completely could his purpose say,
I saw them with their wings extended wide,
Close on us; as of us to make their prey.
Then quickly was I snatched up by my Guide:
Even as a mother when, awaked by cries,
She sees the flames are kindling at her side,
Delaying not, seizes her child and flies;
Careful for him her proper danger mocks,
Nor even with one poor shift herself supplies.
And he, stretched out upon the flinty rocks,
Himself unto the precipice resigned
Which one side of the other Bolgia blocks.
A swifter course ne'er held a stream confined,
That it may turn a mill, within its race,
Where near the buckets 'tis the most declined
Than was my Master's down that rock's sheer face;
Nor seemed I then his comrade, as we sped,
But like a son locked in a sire's embrace.
And barely had his feet struck on the bed
Of the low ground, when they were seen to stand
Upon the crest, no more a cause of dread.
For Providence supreme, who so had planned
In the Fifth Bolgia they should minister,
Them wholly from departure thence had banned.
'Neath us we saw a painted people fare,
Weeping as on their way they circled slow,
Crushed by fatigue to look at, and despair.
Cloaks had they on with hoods pulled down full low
Upon their eyes, and fashioned, as it seemed,
Like those which at Cologne for monks they sew.
The outer face was gilt so that it gleamed;
Inside was all of lead, of such a weight
Frederick's to these had been but straw esteemed.
O weary robes for an eternal state!
With them we turned to the left hand once more,
Intent upon their tears disconsolate.
But those folk, wearied with the loads they bore,
So slowly crept that still new company
Was ours at every footfall on the floor.
Whence to my Guide I said: 'Do thou now try
To find some one by name or action known,
And as we go on all sides turn thine eye.'
And one, who recognised the Tuscan tone,
Called from behind us: 'Halt, I you entreat
Who through the air obscure are hastening on;
Haply in me thou what thou seek'st shalt meet.'
Whereon my Guide turned round and said: 'Await,
And keep thou time with pacing of his feet.'
I stood, and saw two manifesting great
Desire to join me, by their countenance;
But their loads hampered them and passage strait.
And, when arrived, me with an eye askance
They gazed on long time, but no word they spoke;
Then, to each other turned, held thus parlance:
'His heaving throat proves him of living folk.
If they are of the dead, how could they gain
To walk uncovered by the heavy cloak?'
Then to me: 'Tuscan, who dost now attain
To the college of the hypocrites forlorn,
To tell us who thou art show no disdain.'
And I to them: 'I was both bred and born
In the great city by fair Arno's stream,
And wear the body I have always worn.
But who are ye, whose suffering supreme
Makes tears, as I behold, to flood the cheek;
And what your mode of pain that thus doth gleam?'
'Ah me, the yellow mantles,' one to speak
Began, 'are all of lead so thick, its weight
Maketh the scales after this manner creak.
We, Merry Friars of Bologna's state,
I Catalano, Loderingo he,
Were by thy town together designate,
As for the most part one is used to be,
To keep the peace within it; and around
Gardingo, what we were men still may see.'
I made beginning: 'Friars, your profound--'
But said no more, on suddenly seeing there
One crucified by three stakes to the ground,
Who, when he saw me, writhed as in despair,
Breathing into his beard with heavy sigh.
And Friar Catalan, of this aware,
Said: 'He thus fixed, on whom thou turn'st thine eye,
Counselled the Pharisees that it behoved
One man as victim for the folk should die.
Naked, thou seest, he lies, and ne'er removed
From where, set 'cross the path, by him the weight
Of every one that passes by is proved.
And his wife's father shares an equal fate,
With others of the Council, in this fosse;
For to the Jews they proved seed reprobate.'
Meanwhile at him thus stretched upon the cross
Virgil, I saw, displayed astonishment--
At his mean exile and eternal loss.
And then this question to the Friars he sent:
'Be not displeased, but, if ye may, avow
If on the right hand there lies any vent
By which we, both of us, from hence may go,
Nor need the black angelic company
To come to help us from this valley low.'
'Nearer than what thou think'st,' he made reply,
'A rib there runs from the encircling wall,
The cruel vales in turn o'erarching high;
Save that at this 'tis rent and ruined all.
Ye can climb upward o'er the shattered heap
Where down the side the piled-up fragments fall.'
His head bent down a while my Guide did keep,
Then said: 'He warned us in imperfect wise,
Who sinners with his hook doth clutch and steep.'
The Friar: 'At Bologna many a vice
I heard the Devil charged with, and among
The rest that, false, he father is of lies.'
Then onward moved my Guide with paces long,
And some slight shade of anger on his face.
I with him parted from the burdened throng,
Stepping where those dear feet had left their trace.
 _Minor Friars_: In the early years of their Order the Franciscans
went in couples upon their journeys, not abreast but one behind the
 _Æsop's fable_: This fable, mistakenly attributed to Æsop, tells
of how a frog enticed a mouse into a pond, and how they were then both
devoured by a kite. To discover the aptness of the simile would scarcely
be reward enough for the continued mental effort Dante enjoins. So much
was everything Greek or Roman then held in reverence, that the mention
even of Æsop is held to give dignity to the page.
 _Mo_ and _Issa_: Two words for _now_.
 _Through us_: The quarrel among the fiends arose from Dante's
insatiable desire to confer with 'Tuscan or Lombard.'
 _To the next Bolgia_: The Sixth. They are now on the top of the
circular ridge that divides it from the Fifth. From the construction of
Malebolge the ridge is deeper on the inner side than on that up which
they have travelled from the pitch.
 _No more a cause of dread_: There seems some incongruity between
Virgil's dread of these smaller devils and the ease with which he cowed
Minos, Charon, and Pluto. But his character gains in human interest the
more he is represented as sympathising with Dante in his terrors; and in
this particular case the confession of fellow-feeling prepares the way
for the beautiful passage which follows it (line 38, etc.), one full of
an almost modern tenderness.
 _Cologne_: Some make it Clugny, the great Benedictine monastery;
but all the old commentators and most of the mss. read Cologne. All that
the text necessarily carries is that the cloaks had great hoods. If, in
addition, a reproach of clumsiness is implied, it would agree well
enough with the Italian estimate of German people and things.
 _Frederick's, etc._: The Emperor Frederick II.; but that he used
any torture of leaden sheets seems to be a fabrication of his enemies.
 _Passage strait_: Through the crowd of shades, all like themselves
weighed down by the leaden cloaks. There is nothing in all literature
like this picture of the heavily-burdened shades. At first sight it
seems to be little of a torture compared with what we have already seen,
and yet by simple touch after touch an impression is created of the
intolerable weariness of the victims. As always, too, the punishment
answers to the sin. The hypocrites made a fair show in the flesh, and
now their mantles which look like gold are only of base lead. On earth
they were of a sad countenance, trying to seem better than they were,
and the load which to deceive others they voluntarily assumed in life is
now replaced by a still heavier weight, and one they cannot throw off if
they would. The choice of garb conveys an obvious charge of hypocrisy
against the Friars, then greatly fallen away from the purity of their
institution, whether Franciscans or Dominicans.
 _An eye askance_: They cannot turn their heads.
 _His heaving throat_: In Purgatory Dante is known for a mortal by
his casting a shadow. Here he is known to be of flesh and blood by the
act of respiration; yet, as appears from line 113, the shades, too,
breathe as well as perform other functions of living bodies. At least
they seem so to do, but this is all only in appearance. They only seem
to be flesh and blood, having no weight, casting no shadow, and drawing
breath in a way of their own. Dante, as has been said (_Inf._ vi. 36),
is hard put to it to make them subject to corporal pains and yet be only
 _Merry Friars_: Knights of the Order of Saint Mary, instituted by
Urban IV. in 1261. Whether the name of Frati Godenti which they here
bear was one of reproach or was simply descriptive of the easy rule
under which they lived, is not known. Married men might, under certain
conditions, enter the Order. The members were to hold themselves aloof
from public office, and were to devote themselves to the defence of the
weak and the promotion of justice and religion. The two monkish
cavaliers of the text were in 1266 brought to Florence as Podestas, the
Pope himself having urged them to go. There is much uncertainty as to
the part they played in Florence, but none as to the fact of their rule
having been highly distasteful to the Florentines, or as to the other
fact, that in Florence they grew wealthy. The Podesta, or chief
magistrate, was always a well-born foreigner. Probably some monkish rule
or custom forbade either Catalano or Loderingo to leave the monastery
 _Gardingo_: A quarter of Florence, in which many palaces were
destroyed about the time of the Podestaship of the Frati.
 _One man as victim_: _St. John_ xi. 50. Caiaphas and Annas, with
the Scribes and Pharisees who persecuted Jesus to the death, are the
vilest hypocrites of all. They lie naked across the path, unburdened by
the leaden cloak, it is true, but only that they may feel the more
keenly the weight of the punishment of all the hypocrites of the world.
 _Virgil_: On Virgil's earlier journey through Inferno Caiaphas and
the others were not here, and he wonders as at something out of a world
to him unknown.
 _On the right_: As they are moving round the Bolgia to the left,
the rocky barrier between them and the Seventh Bolgia is on their right.
 _We, both of us_: Dante, still in the body, as well as Virgil, the
 _The encircling wall_: That which encloses all the Malebolge.
 _He warned us_: Malacoda (_Inf._ xxi. 109) had assured him that
the next rib of rock ran unbroken across all the Bolgias, but it too,
like all the other bridges, proves to have been, at the time of the
earthquake, shattered where it crossed this gulf of the hypocrites. The
earthquake told most on this Bolgia, because the death of Christ and the
attendant earthquake were, in a sense, caused by the hypocrisy of
Caiaphas and the rest.
 _At Bologna_: Even in Inferno the Merry Friar must have his joke.
He is a gentleman, but a bit of a scholar too; and the University of
Bologna is to him what Marischal College was to Captain Dalgetty.