Now, having first erect and silent grown
(For it would say no more), from us the flame,
The Poet sweet consenting,[688] had moved on;
And then our eyes were turned to one that came[689]
Behind it on the way, by sounds that burst
Out of its crest in a confusèd stream.
As the Sicilian bull,[690] which bellowed first
With his lamenting--and it was but right--
Who had prepared it with his tools accurst,[691]
Roared with the howlings of the tortured wight,
So that although constructed all of brass
Yet seemed it pierced with anguish to the height;
So, wanting road and vent by which to pass
Up through the flame, into the flame's own speech
The woeful language all converted was.
But when the words at length contrived to reach
The top, while hither thither shook the crest
As moved the tongue[692] at utterance of each,
We heard: 'Oh thou, to whom are now addressed
My words, who spakest now in Lombard phrase:
"Depart;[693] of thee I nothing more request."
Though I be late arrived, yet of thy grace
Let it not irk thee here a while to stay:
It irks not me, yet, as thou seest, I blaze.

If lately to this world devoid of day
From that sweet Latian land thou art come down
Whence all my guilt I bring, declare and say
Has now Romagna peace? because my own
Native abode was in the mountain land
'Tween springs[694] of Tiber and Urbino town.'
While I intent and bending low did stand,
My Leader, as he touched me on the side,
'Speak thou, for he is Latian,' gave command.
Whereon without delay I thus replied--
Because already[695] was my speech prepared:
'Soul, that down there dost in concealment 'bide,
In thy Romagna[696] wars have never spared
And spare not now in tyrants' hearts to rage;
But when I left it there was none declared.
No change has fallen Ravenna[697] for an age.
There, covering Cervia too with outspread wing,
Polenta's Eagle guards his heritage.

Over the city[698] which long suffering
Endured, and Frenchmen slain on Frenchmen rolled,
The Green Paws[699] once again protection fling.
The Mastiffs of Verrucchio,[700] young and old,
Who to Montagna[701] brought such evil cheer,
Still clinch their fangs where they were wont to hold.
Cities,[702] Lamone and Santerno near,
The Lion couched in white are governed by
Which changes party with the changing year.
And that to which the Savio[703] wanders nigh
As it is set 'twixt mountain and champaign
Lives now in freedom now 'neath tyranny.

But who thou art I to be told am fain:
Be not more stubborn than we others found,
As thou on earth illustrious wouldst remain.'
When first the fire a little while had moaned
After its manner, next the pointed crest
Waved to and fro; then in this sense breathed sound:
'If I believed my answer were addressed
To one that earthward shall his course retrace,
This flame should forthwith altogether rest.
But since[704] none ever yet out of this place
Returned alive, if all be true I hear,
I yield thee answer fearless of disgrace.
I was a warrior, then a Cordelier;[705]
Thinking thus girt to purge away my stain:
And sure my hope had met with answer clear
Had not the High Priest[706]--ill with him remain!
Plunged me anew into my former sin:
And why and how, I would to thee make plain.
While I the frame of bones and flesh was in
My mother gave me, all the deeds I wrought
Were fox-like and in no wise leonine.

Of every wile and hidden way I caught
The secret trick, and used them with such sleight
That all the world with fame of it was fraught.
When I perceived I had attainèd quite
The time of life when it behoves each one
To furl his sails and coil his cordage tight,
Sorrowing for deeds I had with pleasure done,
Contrite and shriven, I religious grew.
Ah, wretched me! and well it was begun
But for the Chieftain of the Pharisees new,[707]
Then waging war hard by the Lateran,
And not with Saracen nor yet with Jew;
For Christian[708] were his enemies every man,
And none had at the siege of Acre been
Or trafficked in the Empire of Soldàn.
His lofty office he held cheap, and e'en
His Sacred Orders and the cord I wore,
Which used[709] to make the wearers of it lean.

As from Soracte[710] Constantine of yore
Sylvester called to cure his leprosy,
I as a leech was called this man before
To cure him of his fever which ran high;
My counsel he required, but I stood dumb,
For drunken all his words appeared to be.
He said; "For fear be in thy heart no room;
Beforehand I absolve thee, but declare
How Palestrina I may overcome.
Heaven I unlock, as thou art well aware,
And close at will; because the keys are twin
My predecessor[711] was averse to bear."
Then did his weighty reasoning on me win
Till to be silent seemed the worst of all;
And, "Father," I replied, "since from this sin
Thou dost absolve me into which I fall--
The scant performance[712] of a promise wide
Will yield thee triumph in thy lofty stall."
Francis came for me soon as e'er I died;
But one of the black Cherubim was there
And "Take him not, nor rob me of him" cried,
"For him of right among my thralls I bear
Because he offered counsel fraudulent;
Since when I've had him firmly by the hair.
None is absolved unless he first repent;
Nor can repentance house with purpose ill,
For this the contradiction doth prevent."
Ah, wretched me! How did I shrinking thrill
When clutching me he sneered: "Perhaps of old
Thou didst not think[713] I had in logic skill."
He carried me to Minos:[714] Minos rolled
His tail eight times round his hard back; in ire
Biting it fiercely, ere of me he told:
"Among the sinners of the shrouding fire!"
Therefore am I, where thou beholdest, lost;
And, sore at heart, go clothed in such attire.'
What he would say thus ended by the ghost,
Away from us the moaning flame did glide
While to and fro its pointed horn was tossed.

But we passed further on, I and my Guide,
Along the cliff to where the arch is set
O'er the next moat, where paying they reside,
As schismatics who whelmed themselves in debt.


[688] _Consenting_: See line 21.

[689] _One that came_: This is the fire-enveloped shade of Guido of
Montefeltro, the colloquy with whom occupies the whole of the Canto.

[690] _The Sicilian bull_: Perillus, an Athenian, presented Phalaris,
the tyrant of Agrigentum, with a brazen bull so constructed that when it
was heated from below the cries of the victim it contained were
converted into the bellowing of a bull. The first trial of the invention
was made upon the artist.

[691] _Accurst_: Not in the original. 'Rime in English hath such
scarcity,' as Chaucer says.

[692] _As moved the tongue, etc._: The shade being enclosed in the
hollow fire all his words are changed into a sound like the roaring of a
flame. At last, when an opening has been worked through the crested
point, the speech becomes articulate.

[693] _Depart, etc._: One at least of the words quoted as having been
used by Virgil is Lombard. There is something very quaint in making him
use the Lombard dialect of Dante's time.

[694] _'Tween springs, etc._: Montefeltro lies between Urbino and the
mountain where the Tiber has its source.

[695] _Already_: Dante knew that Virgil would refer to him for an answer
to Guido's question, bearing as it did on modern Italian affairs.

[696] _Romagna_: The district of Italy lying on the Adriatic, south of
the Po and east of Tuscany, of which Bologna and the cities named in the
text were the principal towns. During the last quarter of the thirteenth
century it was the scene of constant wars promoted in the interest of
the Church, which claimed Romagna as the gift of the Emperor Rudolf, and
in that of the great nobles of the district, who while using the Guelf
and Ghibeline war-cries aimed at nothing but the lordship of the various
cities. Foremost among these nobles was he with whose shade Dante
speaks. Villani calls him 'the most sagacious and accomplished warrior
of his time in Italy' (_Cronica_, vii. 80). He was possessed of lands of
his own near Forlì and Cesena, and was lord in turn of many of the
Romagnese cities. On the whole he appears to have remained true to his
Ghibeline colours in spite of Papal fulminations, although once and
again he was reconciled to the Church; on the last occasion in 1294. In
the years immediately before this he had greatly distinguished himself
as a wise governor and able general in the service of the Ghibeline
Pisa--or rather as the paid lord of it.

[697] _Ravenna_: Ravenna and the neighbouring town of Cervia were in
1300 under the lordship of members of the Polenta family--the father and
brothers of the ill-fated Francesca (_Inf._ v.). Their arms were an
eagle, half white on an azure and half red on a gold field. It was in
the court of the generous Guido, son of one of these brothers, that
Dante was to find his last refuge and to die.

[698] _Over the city, etc._: Forlì. The reference is to one of the most
brilliant feats of war performed by Guido of Montefeltro. Frenchmen
formed great part of an army sent in 1282 against Forlì by the Pope,
Martin IV., himself a Frenchman. Guido, then lord of the city, led them
into a trap and overthrew them with great slaughter. Like most men of
his time Guido was a believer in astrology, and is said on this occasion
to have acted on the counsel of Guido Bonatti, mentioned among the
diviners in the Fourth Bolgia (_Inf._ xx. 118).

[699] _The Green Paws_: In 1300 the Ordelaffi were lords of Forlì. Their
arms were a green lion on a gold ground. During the first years of his
exile Dante had to do with Scarpetta degli Ordelaffi, under whose
command the exiled Florentines put themselves for a time, and there is
even a tradition that he acted as his secretary.

[700] _The Mastiffs of Verrucchio_: Verrucchio was the castle of the
Malatestas, lords of Rimini, called the Mastiffs on account of their
cruel tenacity. The elder was the father of Francesca's husband and
lover; the younger was a brother of these.

[701] _Montagna_: Montagna de' Parcitati, one of a Ghibeline family that
contested superiority in Rimini with the Guelf Malatestas, was taken
prisoner by guile and committed by the old Mastiff to the keeping of the
young one, whose fangs were set in him to such purpose that he soon died
in his dungeon.

[702] _Cities, etc._: Imola and Faenza, situated on the rivers named in
the text. Mainardo Pagani, lord of these towns, had for arms an azure
lion on a white field. During his minority he was a ward of the
Commonwealth of Florence. By his cunning and daring he earned the name
of the Demon (_Purg._ xiv. 118). He died at Imola in 1302, and was
buried in the garb of a monk of Vallombrosa. Like most of his neighbours
he changed his party as often as his interest required. He was a Guelf
in Florence and a Ghibeline in Romagna, say some.

[703] _Savio_: Cesena, on the Savio, was distinguished among the cities
of Romagna by being left more frequently than the others were to manage
its own affairs. The Malatestas and Montefeltros were in turn possessed
of the tyranny of it.

[704] _But since, etc._: The shades, being enveloped in fire, are unable
to see those with whom they speak; and so Guido does not detect in Dante
the signs of a living man, but takes him to be like himself a denizen of
Inferno. He would not have the truth regarding his fate to be known in
the world, where he is supposed to have departed life in the odour of
sanctity. Dante's promise to refresh his fame he either regards as
meaningless, or as one made without the power of fulfilling it. Dante
leaves him in his error, for he is there to learn all he can, and not to
bandy personal confessions with the shades.

[705] _A Cordelier_: In 1296 Guido entered the Franciscan Order. He died
in 1298, but where is not known; some authorities say at Venice and
others at Assisi. Benvenuto tells: 'He was often seen begging his bread
in Ancona, where he was buried. Many good deeds are related of him, and
I cherish a sweet hope that he may have been saved.'

[706] _The High Priest_: Boniface VIII.

[707] _The Pharisees new_: The members of the Court of Rome. Saint
Jerome calls the dignified Roman clergy of his day 'the Senate of the

[708] _For Christian, etc._: The foes of Boniface, here spoken of, were
the Cardinals Peter and James Colonna. He destroyed their palace in Rome
(1297) and carried the war against them to their country seat at
Palestrina, the ancient Præneste, then a great stronghold. Dante here
bitterly blames Boniface for instituting a crusade against Christians at
a time when, by the recent loss of Acre, the gate of the Holy Land had
been lost to Christendom. The Colonnas were innocent, too, of the crime
of supplying the Infidel with munitions of war--a crime condemned by the
Lateran Council of 1215, and by Boniface himself, who excluded those
guilty of it from the benefits of the great Jubilee of 1300.

[709] _Which used, etc._: In former times, when the rule of the Order
was faithfully observed. Dante charges the Franciscans with degeneracy
in the _Paradiso_, xi. 124.

[710] _From Soracte_: Referring to the well-known legend. The fee for
the cure was the fabulous Donation. See _Inf._ xix. 115.

[711] _My predecessor_: Celestine v. See _Inf._ iii. 60.

[712] _The scant performance, etc._: That Guido gave such counsel is
related by a contemporary chronicler: 'The Pope said: Tell me how to get
the better of those mine enemies, thou who art so knowing in these
things. Then he answered: Promise much, and perform little; which he
did.' But it seems odd that the wily and unscrupulous Boniface should
have needed to put himself to school for such a simple lesson.

[713] _Thou didst not think, etc._: Guido had forgot that others could
reason besides the Pope. With regard to the inefficacy of the Papal
absolution an old commentator says, following Origen: 'The Popes that
walk in the footsteps of Peter have this power of binding and loosing;
but only such as do so walk.' But on Dante's scheme of what fixes the
fate of the soul absolution matters little to save, or priestly curses
to damnify. See _Purg._ iii. 133. It is unfeigned repentance that can
help a sinner even at the last; and it is remarkable that in the case of
Buonconte, the gallant son of this same Guido, the infernal angel who
comes for him as he expires complains that he has been cheated of his
victim by one poor tear. See _Purg._ v. 88, etc. Why then is no
indulgence shown in Dante's court to Guido, who might well have been
placed in Purgatory and made to have repented effectually of this his
last sin? That Dante had any personal grudge against him we can hardly
think. In the Fourth Book of the _Convito_ (written, according to
Fraticelli, in 1297), he calls him 'our most noble Guido Montefeltrano;'
and praises him as one of the wise and noble souls that refuse to run
with full sails into the port of death, but furl the sails of their
worldly undertakings, and, relinquishing all earthly pleasures and
business, give themselves up in their old age to a religious life.
Either, then, he sets Guido here in order that he may have a modern
false counsellor worthy to be ranked with Ulysses; or because, on longer
experience, he had come to reprobate more keenly the abuse of the
Franciscan habit; or, most likely of all, that he might, even at the
cost of Guido, load the hated memory of Boniface with another reproach.

[714] _Minos_: Here we have Minos represented in the act of pronouncing
judgment in words as well as by the figurative rolling of his tail
around his body (_Inf._ v. 11).