Of naked souls beheld I many herds,
Who all were weeping very miserably,
And over them seemed set a diverse law.
Supine upon the ground some folk were lying;
And some were sitting all drawn up together,
And others went about continually.
Those who were going round were far the more,
And those were less who lay down to their torment
But had their tongues more loosed to lamentation.
…I ask who are
His most known and most eminent companions.
And he to me: “To know of some is well;
Of others it were laudable to be silent,
For short would be the time for so much speech.
Know then, in sum, that all of them were clerks
And men of letters great and of great fame,
In the world tainted by the selfsame sin.”
“Behold the monster with the pointed tail,
Who cleaves the hills, and breaketh walls and weapons,
Behold him who infecteth all the world.”
The face was as the face of a just man,
Its semblance outwardly was so benign,
And of a serpent all the trunk beside.
I heard already on the right a whirlpool
Making a horrible crashing under us;
Whence I thrust out my head with eyes cast downward.
Then was I still more fearful of the abyss;
Because I fires beheld, and heard laments,
Whereat I, trembling, all the closer cling.
I saw then, for before I had not seen it,
The turning and descending, by great horrors
That were approaching upon divers sides.