Inferno: Canto XII
The place where to
descend the bank we came
alpine, and from what was there, moreover,
Of such a kind that every eye would shun it.
Such as that ruin
is which in the flank
on this side of Trent, the Adige,
Either by earthquake or by failing stay,
For from the
mountain's top, from which it moved,
the plain the cliff is shattered so,
Some path 'twould give to him who was above;
Even such was the
descent of that ravine,
on the border of the broken chasm
The infamy of Crete was stretched along,
Who was conceived
in the fictitious cow;
when he us beheld, he bit himself,
Even as one whom anger racks within.
My Sage towards him
think'st that here may be the Duke of Athens,
Who in the world above brought death to thee?
Get thee gone,
beast, for this one cometh not
by thy sister, but he comes
In order to behold your punishments."
As is that bull who
breaks loose at the moment
which he has received the mortal blow,
Who cannot walk, but staggers here and there,
The Minotaur beheld
I do the like;
he, the wary, cried: "Run to the passage;
While he wroth, 'tis well thou shouldst descend."
Thus down we took
our way o'er that discharge
stones, which oftentimes did move themselves
Beneath my feet, from the unwonted burden.
Thoughtful I went;
and he said: "Thou art thinking
upon this ruin, which is guarded
By that brute anger which just now I quenched.
Now will I have
thee know, the other time
here descended to the nether Hell,
This precipice had not yet fallen down.
But truly, if I
well discern, a little
His coming who the mighty spoil
Bore off from Dis, in the supernal circle,
Upon all sides the
deep and loathsome valley
so, that I thought the Universe
Was thrilled with love, by which there are who think
The world ofttimes
converted into chaos;
at that moment this primeval crag
Both here and elsewhere made such overthrow.
But fix thine eyes
below; for draweth near
river of blood, within which boiling is
Whoe'er by violence doth injure others."
O blind cupidity, O
spurs us onward so in our short life,
And in the eternal then so badly steeps us!
I saw an ample moat
bent like a bow,
one which all the plain encompasses,
Conformable to what my Guide had said.
And between this
and the embankment's foot
in file were running, armed with arrows,
As in the world they used the chase to follow.
descend, each one stood still,
from the squadron three detached themselves,
With bows and arrows in advance selected;
And from afar one
cried: "Unto what torment
ye, who down the hillside are descending?
Tell us from there; if not, I draw the bow."
My Master said:
"Our answer will we make
Chiron, near you there; in evil hour,
That will of thine was evermore so hasty."
Then touched he me,
and said: "This one is Nessus,
perished for the lovely Dejanira,
And for himself, himself did vengeance take.
And he in the
midst, who at his breast is gazing,
the great Chiron, who brought up Achilles;
That other Pholus is, who was so wrathful.
thousands go about the moat
with shafts whatever soul emerges
Out of the blood, more than his crime allots."
Near we approached
unto those monsters fleet;
an arrow took, and with the notch
Backward upon his jaws he put his beard.
After he had
uncovered his great mouth,
said to his companions: "Are you ware
That he behind moveth whate'er he touches?
Thus are not wont
to do the feet of dead men."
my good Guide, who now was at his breast,
Where the two natures are together joined,
Replied: "Indeed he
lives, and thus alone
it behoves to show him the dark valley;
Necessity, and not delight, impels us.
Some one withdrew
from singing Halleluja,
unto me committed this new office;
No thief is he, nor I a thievish spirit.
But by that virtue
through which I am moving
steps along this savage thoroughfare,
Give us some one of thine, to be with us,
And who may show us
where to pass the ford,
who may carry this one on his back;
For 'tis no spirit that can walk the air."
Upon his right
breast Chiron wheeled about,
said to Nessus: "Turn and do thou guide them,
And warn aside, if other band may meet you."
We with our
faithful escort onward moved
the brink of the vermilion boiling,
Wherein the boiled were uttering loud laments.
People I saw within
up to the eyebrows,
the great Centaur said: "Tyrants are these,
Who dealt in bloodshed and in pillaging.
Here they lament
their pitiless mischiefs; here
Alexander, and fierce Dionysius
Who upon Sicily brought dolorous years.
That forehead there
which has the hair so black
Azzolin; and the other who is blond,
Obizzo is of Esti, who, in truth,
Up in the world was
by his stepson slain."
turned I to the Poet; and he said,
"Now he be first to thee, and second I."
A little farther on
the Centaur stopped
a folk, who far down as the throat
Seemed from that boiling stream to issue forth.
A shade he showed
us on one side alone,
"He cleft asunder in God's bosom
The heart that still upon the Thames is honoured."
Then people saw I,
who from out the river
their heads and also all the chest;
And many among these I recognised.
Thus ever more and
more grew shallower
blood, so that the feet alone it covered;
And there across the moat our passage was.
"Even as thou here
upon this side beholdest
boiling stream, that aye diminishes,"
The Centaur said, "I wish thee to believe
That on this other
more and more declines
bed, until it reunites itself
Where it behoveth tyranny to groan.
upon this side, is goading
Attila, who was a scourge on earth,
And Pyrrhus, and Sextus; and for ever milks
The tears which
with the boiling it unseals
Rinier da Corneto and Rinier Pazzo,
Who made upon the highways so much war."
Then back he
turned, and passed again the ford.