Had I sonorous rough rhymes at command,
Such as would suit the cavern terrible
Rooted on which all the other ramparts stand,
The sap of fancies which within me swell
Closer I'd press; but since I have not these,
With some misgiving I go on to tell.
For 'tis no task to play with as you please,
Of all the world the bottom to portray,
Nor one that with a baby speech agrees.
But let those ladies help me with my lay
Who helped Amphion walls round Thebes to pile,
And faithful to the facts my words shall stay.
O 'bove all creatures wretched, for whose vile
Abode 'tis hard to find a language fit,
As sheep or goats ye had been happier! While
We still were standing in the murky pit--
Beneath the giant's feet set far below--
And at the high wall I was staring yet,
When this I heard: 'Heed to thy steps bestow,
Lest haply by thy soles the heads be spurned
Of wretched brothers wearied in their woe.'
Before me, as on hearing this I turned,
Beneath my feet a frozen lake, its guise
Rather of glass than water, I discerned.
In all its course on Austrian Danube lies
No veil in time of winter near so thick,
Nor on the Don beneath its frigid skies,
As this was here; on which if Tabernicch
Or Mount Pietrapana should alight
Not even the edge would answer with a creak.
And as the croaking frog holds well in sight
Its muzzle from the pool, what time of year
The peasant girl of gleaning dreams at night;
The mourning shades in ice were covered here,
Seen livid up to where we blush with shame.
In stork-like music their teeth chattering were.
With downcast face stood every one of them:
To cold from every mouth, and to despair
From every eye, an ample witness came.
And having somewhat gazed around me there
I to my feet looked down, and saw two pressed
So close together, tangled was their hair,
'Say, who are you with breast thus strained to breast?'
I asked; whereon their necks they backward bent,
And when their upturned faces lay at rest
Their eyes, which earlier were but moistened, sent
Tears o'er their eyelids: these the frost congealed
And fettered fast before they further went.
Plank set to plank no rivet ever held
More firmly; wherefore, goat-like, either ghost
Butted the other; so their wrath prevailed.
And one who wanted both ears, which the frost
Had bitten off, with face still downward thrown,
Asked: 'Why with us art thou so long engrossed?
If who that couple are thou'dst have made known--
The vale down which Bisenzio's floods decline
Was once their father Albert's and their own.
One body bore them: search the whole malign
Caïna, and thou shalt not any see
More worthy to be fixed in gelatine;
Not he whose breast and shadow equally
Were by one thrust of Arthur's lance pierced through:
Nor yet Focaccia; nor the one that me
With his head hampers, blocking out my view,
Whose name was Sassol Mascheroni: well
Thou must him know if thou art Tuscan too.
And that thou need'st not make me further tell--
I'm Camicion de' Pazzi, and Carlin
I weary for, whose guilt shall mine excel.'
A thousand faces saw I dog-like grin,
Frost-bound; whence I, as now, shall always shake
Whenever sight of frozen pools I win.
While to the centre we our way did make
To which all things converging gravitate,
And me that chill eternal caused to quake;
Whether by fortune, providence, or fate,
I know not, but as 'mong the heads I went
I kicked one full in the face; who therefore straight
'Why trample on me?' snarled and made lament,
'Unless thou com'st to heap the vengeance high
For Montaperti, why so virulent
'Gainst me?' I said: 'Await me here till I
By him, O Master, shall be cleared of doubt;
Then let my pace thy will be guided by.'
My Guide delayed, and I to him spake out,
While he continued uttering curses shrill:
'Say, what art thou, at others thus to shout?'
'But who art thou, that goest at thy will
Through Antenora, trampling on the face
Of others? 'Twere too much if thou wert still
In life.' 'I live, and it may help thy case,'
Was my reply, 'if thou renown wouldst gain,
Should I thy name upon my tablets place.'
And he: 'I for the opposite am fain.
Depart thou hence, nor work me further dool;
Within this swamp thou flatterest all in vain.'
Then I began him by the scalp to pull,
And 'Thou must tell how thou art called,' I said,
'Or soon thy hair will not be plentiful.'
And he: 'Though every hair thou from me shred
I will not tell thee, nor my face turn round;
No, though a thousand times thou spurn my head.'
His locks ere this about my fist were wound,
And many a tuft I tore, while dog-like wails
Burst from him, and his eyes still sought the ground.
Then called another: 'Bocca, what now ails?
Is't not enough thy teeth go chattering there,
But thou must bark? What devil thee assails?'
'Ah! now,' said I, 'thou need'st not aught declare,
Accursed traitor; and true news of thee
To thy disgrace I to the world will bear.'
'Begone, tell what thou wilt,' he answered me;
'But, if thou issue hence, not silent keep
Of him whose tongue but lately wagged so free.
He for the Frenchmen's money here doth weep.
Him of Duera saw I, mayst thou tell,
Where sinners shiver in the frozen deep.
Shouldst thou be asked who else within it dwell--
Thou hast the Beccheria at thy side;
Across whose neck the knife at Florence fell.
John Soldanieri may be yonder spied
With Ganellon, and Tribaldell who threw
Faenza's gates, when slept the city, wide.'
Him had we left, our journey to pursue,
When frozen in a hole a pair I saw;
One's head like the other's hat showed to the view.
And, as their bread men hunger-driven gnaw,
The uppermost tore fiercely at his mate
Where nape and brain-pan to a junction draw.
No worse by Tydeus in his scornful hate
Were Menalippus' temples gnawed and hacked
Than skull and all were torn by him irate.
'O thou who provest by such bestial act
Hatred of him who by thy teeth is chewed,
Declare thy motive,' said I, 'on this pact--
That if with reason thou with him hast feud,
Knowing your names and manner of his crime
I in the world to thee will make it good;
If what I speak with dry not ere the time.'
 _A baby speech_: 'A tongue that cries _mamma_ and _papa_' For his
present purpose, he complains, he has not in Italian an adequate supply
of rough high-sounding rhymes; but at least he will use only the best
words that can be found. In another work (_De Vulg. El._ ii. 7) he
instances _mamma_ and _babbo_ as words of a kind to be avoided by all
who would write nobly in Italian.
 _Amphion_: Who with his music charmed rocks from the mountain and
heaped them in order for walls to Thebes.
 _The giant's feet_: Antæus. A bank slopes from where the giants
stand inside the wall down to the pit which is filled with the frozen
Cocytus. This is the Ninth and inmost Circle, and is divided into four
concentric rings--Caïna, Antenora, Ptolomæa, and Judecca--where traitors
of different kinds are punished.
 _Thy steps_: Dante alone is addressed, the speaker having seen him
set heavily down upon the ice by Antæus.
 _A frozen lake_: Cocytus. See _Inf._ xiv. 119.
 _Tabernicch_: It is not certain what mountain is here meant;
probably Yavornick near Adelsberg in Carniola. It is mentioned, not for
its size, but the harshness of its name.
 _Pietrapana_: A mountain between Modena and Lucca, visible from
Pisa: Petra Apuana.
 _Time of year_: At harvest-time, when in the warm summer nights
the wearied gleaner dreams of her day's work.
 _To where we blush_: The bodies of the shades are seen buried in
the clear glassy ice, out of which their heads and necks stand free--as
much as 'shows shame,' that is, blushes.
 _With breast, etc._: As could be seen through the clear ice.
 _Fettered fast_: Binding up their eyes. In the punishment of
traitors is symbolised the hardness and coldness of their hearts to all
the claims of blood, country, or friendship.
 _Their father Albert's_: Albert, of the family of the Counts
Alberti, lord of the upper valley of the Bisenzio, near Florence. His
sons, Alexander and Napoleon, slew one another in a quarrel regarding
 _Caïna_: The outer ring of the Ninth Circle, and that in which are
punished those treacherous to their kindred.--Here a place is reserved
for Gianciotto Malatesta, the husband of Francesca (_Inf._ v. 107).
 _Arthur's lance_: Mordred, natural son of King Arthur, was slain
by him in battle as a rebel and traitor. 'And the history says that
after the lance-thrust Girflet plainly saw a ray of the sun pass through
the hole of the wound.'--_Lancelot du Lac_.
 _Focaccia_: A member of the Pistoiese family of Cancellieri, in
whose domestic feuds the parties of Whites and Blacks took rise. He
assassinated one of his relatives and cut off the hand of another.
 _Sassol Mascheroni_: Of the Florentine family of the Toschi. He
murdered his nephew, of whom by some accounts he was the guardian. For
this crime he was punished by being rolled through the streets of
Florence in a cask and then beheaded. Every Tuscan would be familiar
with the story of such a punishment.
 _Camicion de' Pazzi_: To distinguish the Pazzi to whom Camicione
belonged from the Pazzi of Florence they were called the Pazzi of
Valdarno, where their possessions lay. Like his fellow-traitors he had
slain a kinsman.
 _Carlin_: Also one of the Pazzi of Valdarno. Like all the spirits
in this circle Camicione is eager to betray the treachery of others, and
prophesies the guilt of his still living relative, which is to cast his
own villany into the shade. In 1302 or 1303 Carlino held the castle of
Piano de Trevigne in Valdarno, where many of the exiled Whites of
Florence had taken refuge, and for a bribe he betrayed it to the enemy.
 _The centre_: The bottom of Inferno is the centre of the earth,
and, on the system of Ptolemy, the central point of the universe.
 _Montaperti_: See _Inf._ x. 86. The speaker is Bocca, of the great
Florentine family of the Abati, who served as one of the Florentine
cavaliers at Montaperti. When the enemy was charging towards the
standard of the Republican cavalry Bocca aimed a blow at the arm of the
knight who bore it and cut off his hand. The sudden fall of the flag
disheartened the Florentines, and in great measure contributed to the
 _Cleared of doubt_: The mention of Montaperti in this place of
traitors suggests to Dante the thought of Bocca. He would fain be sure
as to whether he has the traitor at his feet. Montaperti was never very
far from the thoughts of the Florentine of that day. It is never out of
 _Antenora_: The second ring of the Ninth Circle, where traitors to
their country are punished, named after Antenor the Trojan prince who,
according to the belief of the middle ages, betrayed his native city to
 _Should I thy name, etc._: 'Should I put thy name among the other
notes.' It is the last time that Dante is to offer such a bribe; and
here the offer is most probably ironical.
 _Not silent keep, etc._: Like all the other traitors Bocca finds
his only pleasure in betraying his neighbours.
 _The Frenchmen's money_: He who had betrayed the name of Bocca was
Buoso of Duera, one of the Ghibeline chiefs of Cremona. When Guy of
Montfort was leading an army across Lombardy to recruit Charles of Anjou
in his war against Manfred in 1265 (_Inf._ xxviii. 16 and _Purg._ iii.),
Buoso, who had been left to guard the passage of the Oglio, took a bribe
to let the French army pass.
 _Beccheria_: Tesauro of the Pavian family Beccheria, Abbot of
Vallombrosa and legate in Florence of Pope Alexander IV. He was accused
of conspiring against the Commonwealth along with the exiled Ghibelines
(1258). All Europe was shocked to hear that a great churchman had been
tortured and beheaded by the Florentines. The city was placed under
Papal interdict, proclaimed by the Archbishop of Pisa from the tower of
S. Pietro in Vincoli at Rome. Villani seems to think the Abbot was
innocent of the charge brought against him (_Cron._ vi. 65), but he
always leans to the indulgent view when a priest is concerned.
 _Soldanieri_: Deserted from the Florentine Ghibelines after the
defeat of Manfred.
 _Ganellon_: Whose treacherous counsel led to the defeat of Roland
 _Tribaldello_: A noble of Faenza, who, as one account says, to
revenge himself for the loss of a pig, sent a cast of the key of the
city gate to John of Apia, then prowling about Romagna in the interest
of the French Pope, Martin IV. He was slain at the battle of Forlì in
1282 (_Inf._ xxvii. 43).
 _Frozen in a hole, etc._: The two are the Count Ugolino and the
 _Tydeus_: One of the Seven against Thebes, who, having been
mortally wounded by Menalippus the Theban, whom he slew, got his friends
to bring him the head of his foe and gnawed at it with his teeth. Dante
found the incident in his favourite author Statius (_Theb._ viii.).
 _I in the world, etc._: Dante has learned from Bocca that the
prospect of having their memory refreshed on earth has no charm for the
sinners met with here. The bribe he offers is that of loading the name
of a foe with ignominy--but only if from the tale it shall be plain that
the ignominy is deserved.
Add the eBook or print edition of Inferno to your bookshelf!