His mouth uplifting from the savage feast,
The sinner[829] rubbed and wiped it free of gore
On the hair of the head he from behind laid waste;
And then began: 'Thou'dst have me wake once more
A desperate grief, of which to think alone,
Ere I have spoken, wrings me to the core.
But if my words shall be as seed that sown
May fructify unto the traitor's shame
Whom thus I gnaw, I mingle speech[830] and groan.
Of how thou earnest hither or thy name
I nothing know, but that a Florentine[831]
In very sooth thou art, thy words proclaim.

Thou then must know I was Count Ugolin,
The Archbishop Roger[832] he. Now hearken well
Why I prove such a neighbour. How in fine,
And flowing from his ill designs, it fell
That I, confiding in his words, was caught
Then done to death, were waste of time[833] to tell.
But that of which as yet thou heardest nought
Is how the death was cruel which I met:
Hearken and judge if wrong to me he wrought.
Scant window in the mew whose epithet
Of Famine[834] came from me its resident,
And cooped in which shall many languish yet,
Had shown me through its slit how there were spent
Full many moons,[835] ere that bad dream I dreamed
When of my future was the curtain rent.
Lord of the hunt and master this one seemed,
Chasing the wolf and wolf-cubs on the height[836]
By which from Pisan eyes is Lucca hemmed.

With famished hounds well trained and swift of flight,
Lanfranchi[837] and Gualandi in the van,
And Sismond he had set. Within my sight
Both sire and sons--nor long the chase--began
To grow (so seemed it) weary as they fled;
Then through their flanks fangs sharp and eager ran.
When I awoke before the morning spread
I heard my sons[838] all weeping in their sleep--
For they were with me--and they asked for bread.
Ah! cruel if thou canst from pity keep
At the bare thought of what my heart foreknew;
And if thou weep'st not, what could make thee weep?
Now were they 'wake, and near the moment drew
At which 'twas used to bring us our repast;
But each was fearful[839] lest his dream came true.
And then I heard the under gate[840] made fast
Of the horrible tower, and thereupon I gazed
In my sons' faces, silent and aghast.

I did not weep, for I to stone was dazed:
They wept, and darling Anselm me besought:
"What ails thee, father? Wherefore thus amazed?"
And yet I did not weep, and answered not
The whole day, and that night made answer none,
Till on the world another sun shone out.
Soon as a feeble ray of light had won
Into our doleful prison, made aware
Of the four faces[841] featured like my own,
Both of my hands I bit at in despair;
And they, imagining that I was fain
To eat, arose before me with the prayer:
"O father, 'twere for us an easier pain
If thou wouldst eat us. Thou didst us array
In this poor flesh: unclothe us now again."
I calmed me, not to swell their woe. That day
And the next day no single word we said.
Ah! pitiless earth, that didst unyawning stay!
When we had reached the fourth day, Gaddo, spread
Out at my feet, fell prone; and made demand:
"Why, O my father, offering us no aid?"
There died he. Plain as I before thee stand
I saw the three as one by one they failed,
The fifth day and the sixth; then with my hand,
Blind now, I groped for each of them, and wailed
On them for two days after they were gone.
Famine[842] at last, more strong than grief, prevailed,'
When he had uttered this, his eyes all thrown
Awry, upon the hapless skull he fell
With teeth that, dog-like, rasped upon the bone.

Ah, Pisa! byword of the folk that dwell
In the sweet country where the Si[843] doth sound,
Since slow thy neighbours to reward thee well
Let now Gorgona and Capraia[844] mound
Themselves where Arno with the sea is blent,
Till every one within thy walls be drowned.
For though report of Ugolino went
That he betrayed[845] thy castles, thou didst wrong
Thus cruelly his children to torment.
These were not guilty, for they were but young,
Thou modern Thebes![846] Brigata and young Hugh,
And the other twain of whom above 'tis sung.
We onward passed to where another crew[847]
Of shades the thick-ribbed ice doth fettered keep;
Their heads not downward these, but backward threw.

Their very weeping will not let them weep,
And grief, encountering barriers at their eyes,
Swells, flowing inward, their affliction deep;
For the first tears that issue crystallise,
And fill, like vizor fashioned out of glass,
The hollow cup o'er which the eyebrows rise.
And though, as 'twere a callus, now my face
By reason of the frost was wholly grown
Benumbed and dead to feeling, I could trace
(So it appeared), a breeze against it blown,
And asked: 'O Master, whence comes this? So low
As where we are is any vapour[848] known?'
And he replied: 'Thou ere long while shalt go
Where touching this thine eye shall answer true,
Discovering that which makes the wind to blow.'
Then from the cold crust one of that sad crew
Demanded loud: 'Spirits, for whom they hold
The inmost room, so truculent were you,
Back from my face let these hard veils be rolled,
That I may vent the woe which chokes my heart,
Ere tears again solidify with cold.'
And I to him: 'First tell me who thou art
If thou'dst have help; then if I help not quick
To the bottom[849] of the ice let me depart.'
He answered: 'I am Friar Alberic[850]--
He of the fruit grown in the orchard fell--
And here am I repaid with date for fig.'
'Ah!' said I to him, 'art thou dead as well?'
'How now my body fares,' he answered me,
'Up in the world, I have no skill to tell;
For Ptolomæa[851] has this quality--
The soul oft plunges hither to its place
Ere it has been by Atropos[852] set free.
And that more willingly from off my face
Thou mayst remove the glassy tears, know, soon
As ever any soul of man betrays
As I betrayed, the body once his own
A demon takes and governs until all
The span allotted for his life be run.
Into this tank headlong the soul doth fall;
And on the earth his body yet may show
Whose shade behind me wintry frosts enthral.

But thou canst tell, if newly come below:
It is Ser Branca d'Oria,[853] and complete
Is many a year since he was fettered so.'
'It seems,' I answered, 'that thou wouldst me cheat,
For Branca d'Oria never can have died:
He sleeps, puts clothes on, swallows drink and meat.'
'Or e'er to the tenacious pitchy tide
Which boils in Malebranche's moat had come
The shade of Michael Zanche,' he replied,
'That soul had left a devil in its room
Within its body; of his kinsmen one[854]
Treacherous with him experienced equal doom.
But stretch thy hand and be its work begun
Of setting free mine eyes.' This did not I.
Twas highest courtesy to yield him none.[855]
Ah, Genoese,[856] strange to morality!
Ye men infected with all sorts of sin!
Out of the world 'tis time that ye should die.
Here, to Romagna's blackest soul[857] akin,
I chanced on one of you; for doing ill
His soul o'erwhelmed Cocytus' floods within,
Though in the flesh he seems surviving still.


Ugolino della Gherardesca, Count of Donoratico, a wealthy noble and a
man fertile in political resource, was deeply engaged in the affairs of
Pisa at a critical period of her history. He was born in the first half
of the thirteenth century. By giving one of his daughters in marriage to
the head of the Visconti of Pisa--not to be confounded with those of
Milan--he came under the suspicion of being Guelf in his sympathies; the
general opinion of Pisa being then, as it always had been, strongly
Ghibeline. When driven into exile, as he was along with the Visconti, he
improved the occasion by entering into close relations with the leading
Guelfs of Tuscany, and in 1278 a free return for him to Pisa was made by
them a condition of peace with that city. He commanded one of the
divisions of the Pisan fleet at the disastrous battle of Meloria in
1284, when Genoa wrested from her rival the supremacy of the Western
Mediterranean, and carried thousands of Pisan citizens into a captivity
which lasted many years. Isolated from her Ghibeline allies, and for the
time almost sunk in despair, the city called him to the government with
wellnigh dictatorial powers; and by dint of crafty negotiations in
detail with the members of the league formed against Pisa, helped as was
believed by lavish bribery, he had the glory of saving the Commonwealth
from destruction though he could not wholly save it from loss. This was
in 1285. He soon came to be suspected of being in a secret alliance with
Florence and of being lukewarm in the negotiations for the return of the
prisoners in Genoa, all with a view to depress the Ghibeline element in
the city that he might establish himself as an absolute tyrant with the
greater ease. In order still further to strengthen his position he
entered into a family compact with his Guelf grandson Nino (_Purg._
viii. 53), now at the head of the Visconti. But without the support of
the people it was impossible for him to hold his ground against the
Ghibeline nobles, who resented the arrogance of his manners and were
embittered by the loss of their own share in the government; and these
contrived that month by month the charges of treachery brought against
him should increase in virulence. He had, by deserting his post, caused
the defeat at Meloria, it was said; and had bribed the other Tuscan
cities to favour him, by ceding to them distant Pisan strongholds. His
fate was sealed when, having quarrelled with his grandson Nino, he
sought alliance with the Archbishop Roger who now led the Ghibeline
opposition. With Ugo's connivance an onslaught was planned upon the
Guelfs. To preserve an appearance of impartiality he left the city for a
neighbouring villa. On returning to enjoy his riddance from a rival he
was invited to a conference, at which he resisted a proposal that he
should admit partners with him in the government. On this the
Archbishop's party raised the cry of treachery; the bells rang out for a
street battle, in which he was worsted; and with his sons he had to take
refuge in the Palace of the People. There he stood a short siege against
the Ghibeline families and the angry mob; and in the same palace he was
kept prisoner for twenty days. Then, with his sons and grandsons, he was
carried in chains to the tower of the Gualandi, which stood where seven
ways met in the heart of Pisa. This was in July 1288. The imprisonment
lasted for months, and seems to have been thus prolonged with the view
of extorting a heavy ransom. It was only in the following March that the
Archbishop ordered his victims to be starved to death; for, being a
churchman, says one account, he would not shed blood. Not even a
confessor was allowed to Ugo and his sons. After the door of the tower
had been kept closed for eight days it was opened, and the corpses,
still fettered, were huddled into a tomb in the Franciscan church.--The
original authorities are far from being agreed as to the details of
Ugo's overthrow and death.--For the matter of this note I am chiefly
indebted to the careful epitome of the Pisan history of that time by
Philalethes in his note on this Canto (_Göttliche Comödie_).


[829] _The sinner_: Count Ugolino. See note at the end of the Canto.

[830] _Mingle speech, etc._: A comparison of these words with those of
Francesca (_Inf._ v. 124) will show the difference in moral tone between
the Second Circle of Inferno and the Ninth.

[831] _A Florentine_: So Farinata (_Inf._ x. 25) recognises Dante by his
Florentine speech. The words heard by Ugo are those at xxxii. 133.

[832] _The Archbishop Roger_: Ruggieri, of the Tuscan family of the
Ubaldini, to which the Cardinal of _Inf._ x. 120 also belonged. Towards
the end of his life he was summoned to Rome to give an account of his
evil deeds, and on his refusal to go was declared a rebel to the Church.
Ugolino was a traitor to his country; Roger, having entered into some
sort of alliance with Ugolino, was a traitor to him. This has led some
to suppose that while Ugolino is in Antenora he is so close to the edge
of it as to be able to reach the head of Roger, who, as a traitor to his
friend, is fixed in Ptolomæa. Against this view is the fact that they
are described as being in the same hole (xxxii. 125), and also that in
Ptolomæa the shades are set with head thrown back, and with only the
face appearing above the ice, while Ugo is described as biting his foe
at where the skull joins the nape. From line 91 it is clear that
Ptolomæa lay further on than where Roger is. Like Ugo he is therefore
here as a traitor to his country.

[833] _Were waste, etc._: For Dante knows it already, all Tuscany being
familiar with the story of Ugo's fate.

[834] _Whose epithet of Famine_: It was called the Tower of Famine. Its
site is now built over. Buti, the old Pisan commentator of Dante, says
it was called the Mew because the eagles of the Republic were kept in it
at moulting-time. But this may have been an after-thought to give local
truth to Dante's verse, which it does at the expense of the poetry.

[835] _Many moons_: The imprisonment having already lasted for eight

[836] _The height, etc._: Lucca is about twelve miles from Pisa, Mount
Giuliano rising between them.

[837] _Lanfranchi, etc._: In the dream, these, the chief Ghibeline
families of Pisa, are the huntsmen, Roger being master of the hunt, and
the populace the hounds. Ugo and his sons and grandsons are the wolf and
wolf-cubs. In Ugo's dream of himself as a wolf there may be an allusion
to his having engaged in the Guelf interest.

[838] _My sons_: According to Dante, taken literally, four of Ugo were
imprisoned with him. It would have hampered him to explain that two were
grandsons--Anselmuccio and Nino, called the Brigata at line 89,
grandsons by their mother of King Enzo, natural son of Frederick
II.--the sons being Gaddo and Uguccione, the latter Ugo's youngest son.

[839] _Each was fearful, etc._: All the sons had been troubled by dreams
of famine. Had their rations been already reduced?

[840] _The under gate, etc._: The word translated _made fast_
(_chiavare_) may signify either to nail up or to lock. The commentators
and chroniclers differ as to whether the door was locked, nailed, or
built up. I would suggest that the lower part of the tower was occupied
by a guard, and that the captives had not been used to hear the main
door locked. Now, when they hear the great key creaking in the lock,
they know that the tower is deserted.

[841] _The four faces, etc._: Despairing like his own, or possibly that,
wasted by famine, the faces of the young men had become liker than ever
to Ugo's own time-worn face.

[842] _Famine, etc._: This line, quite without reason, has been held to
mean that Ugo was driven by hunger to eat the flesh of his children. The
meaning is, that poignant though his grief was it did not shorten his
sufferings from famine.

[843] _Where the Si, etc._: Italy, _Si_ being the Italian for _Yes_.
In his _De Vulg. El._, i. 8, Dante distinguishes the Latin
languages--French, Italian, etc.--by their words of affirmation, and so
terms Italian the language of _Si_. But Tuscany may here be meant,
where, as a Tuscan commentator says, the _Si_ is more sweetly pronounced
than in any other part of Italy. In Canto xviii. 61 the Bolognese are
distinguished as the people who say _Sipa_. If Pisa be taken as being
specially the opprobrium of Tuscany the outburst against Genoa at the
close of the Canto gains in distinctness and force.

[844] _Gorgona and Capraia_: Islands not far from the mouth of the Arno.

[845] _That he betrayed, etc._: Dante seems here to throw doubt on the
charge. At the height of her power Pisa was possessed of many hundreds
of fortified stations in Italy and scattered over the Mediterranean
coasts. The charge was one easy to make and difficult to refute. It
seems hard on Ugo that he should get the benefit of the doubt only after
he has been, for poetical ends, buried raging in Cocytus.

[846] _Modern Thebes_: As Thebes was to the race of Cadmus, so was Pisa
to that of Ugolino.

[847] _Another crew_: They are in Ptolomæa, the third division of the
circle, and that assigned to those treacherous to their friends, allies,
or guests. Here only the faces of the shades are free of the ice.

[848] _Is any vapour_: Has the sun, so low down as this, any influence
upon the temperature, producing vapours and wind? In Dante's time wind
was believed to be the exhalation of a vapour.

[849] _To the bottom, etc._: Dante is going there in any case, and his
promise is nothing but a quibble.

[850] _Friar Alberic_: Alberigo of the Manfredi, a gentleman of Faenza,
who late in life became one of the Merry Friars. See _Inf._ xxiii. 103.
In the course of a dispute with his relative Manfred he got a hearty box
on the ear from him. Feigning to have forgiven the insult he invited
Manfred with a youthful son to dinner in his house, having first
arranged that when they had finished their meat, and he called for
fruit, armed men should fall on his guests. 'The fruit of Friar
Alberigo' passed into a proverb. Here he is repaid with a date for a
fig--gets more than he bargained for.

[851] _Ptolomæa_: This division is named from the Hebrew Ptolemy, who
slew his relatives at a banquet, they being then his guests (1 Maccab.

[852] _Atropos_: The Fate who cuts the thread of life and sets the soul
free from the body.

[853] _Branca d'Oria_: A Genoese noble who in 1275 slew his
father-in-law Michael Zanche (_Inf._ xxii. 88) while the victim sat at
table as his invited guest.--This mention of Branca is of some value in
helping to ascertain when the _Inferno_ was finished. He was in
imprisonment and exile for some time before and up to 1310. In 1311 he
was one of the citizens of Genoa heartiest in welcoming the Emperor
Henry to their city. Impartial as Dante was, we can scarcely think that
he would have loaded with infamy one who had done what he could to help
the success of Henry, on whom all Dante's hopes were long set, and by
their reception of whom on his descent into Italy he continued to judge
his fellow-countrymen. There is considerable reason to believe that the
_Inferno_ was published in 1309; this introduction of Branca helps to
prove that at least it was published before 1311. If this was so, then
Branca d'Oria lived long enough to read or hear that for thirty-five
years his soul had been in Hell.--It is significant of the detestation
in which Dante held any breach of hospitality, that it is as a
treacherous host and not as a treacherous kinsman that Branca is
punished--in Ptolomæa and not in Caïna. Cast as the poet was on the
hospitality of the world, any disloyalty to its obligations came home to
him. For such disloyalty he has invented one of the most appalling of
the fierce retributions with the vision of which he satisfied his
craving for vengeance upon prosperous sin.--It may be that the idea of
this demon-possession of the traitor is taken from the words, 'and after
the sop Satan entered into Judas.'

[854] _Of his kinsmen one_: A cousin or nephew of Branca was engaged
with him in the murder of Michael Zanche. The vengeance came on them so
speedily that their souls were plunged in Ptolomæa ere Zanche breathed
his last.

[855] _To yield him none_: Alberigo being so unworthy of courtesy. See
note on 117. But another interpretation of the words has been suggested
which saves Dante from the charge of cruelty and mean quibbling; namely,
that he did not clear the ice from the sinner's eyes because then he
would have been seen to be a living man--one who could take back to the
world the awful news that Alberigo's body was the dwelling-place of a

[856] _Ah, Genoese, etc._: The Genoese, indeed, held no good character.

One of their annalists, under the date of 1293, describes the city as
suffering from all kinds of crime.

[857] _Romagna's blackest soul_: Friar Alberigo.