I beheld therein a terrible throng
Of serpents, and of such a monstrous kind,
That the remembrance still congeals my blood…
Among this cruel and most dismal throng
People were running naked and affrighted,
Without the hope of hole or heliotrope.
[H]e took fire and burned; and ashes wholly
Behoved it that in falling he became.
And when he on the ground was thus destroyed,
The ashes drew together, and of themselves
Into himself they instantly returned.
He with the cloven tail assumed the figure
The other one was losing, and his skin
Became elastic, and the other’s hard.
I saw the arms draw inward at the armpits,
And both feet of the reptile, that were short,
Lengthen as much as those contracted were.
[T]he Leader, who beheld me so attent,
Exclaimed, “Within the fires the spirits are;
Each swathes himself with that wherewith he burns.”