Inferno: Canto XXIV
In that part of the
youthful year wherein
Sun his locks beneath Aquarius tempers,
And now the nights draw near to half the day,
What time the
hoar-frost copies on the ground
outward semblance of her sister white,
But little lasts the temper of her pen,
whose forage faileth him,
and looks, and seeth the champaign
All gleaming white, whereat he beats his flank,
Returns in doors,
and up and down laments,
a poor wretch, who knows not what to do;
Then he returns and hope revives again,
Seeing the world
has changed its countenance
little time, and takes his shepherd's crook,
And forth the little lambs to pasture drives.
Thus did the Master
fill me with alarm,
I beheld his forehead so disturbed,
And to the ailment came as soon the plaster.
For as we came unto
the ruined bridge,
Leader turned to me with that sweet look
Which at the mountain's foot I first beheld.
His arms he opened,
after some advisement
himself elected, looking first
Well at the ruin, and laid hold of me.
And even as he who
acts and meditates,
aye it seems that he provides beforehand,
So upward lifting me towards the summit
Of a huge rock, he
scanned another crag,
"To that one grapple afterwards,
But try first if 'tis such that it will hold thee."
This was no way for
one clothed with a cloak;
hardly we, he light, and I pushed upward,
Were able to ascend from jag to jag.
And had it not
been, that upon that precinct
was the ascent than on the other,
He I know not, but I had been dead beat.
Malebolge tow'rds the mouth
the profoundest well is all inclining,
The structure of each valley doth import
That one bank rises
and the other sinks.
we arrived at length upon the point
Wherefrom the last stone breaks itself asunder.
The breath was from
my lungs so milked away,
I was up, that I could go no farther,
Nay, I sat down upon my first arrival.
"Now it behoves
thee thus to put off sloth,"
Master said; "for sitting upon down,
Or under quilt, one cometh not to fame,
whoso his life consumes
vestige leaveth of himself on earth,
As smoke in air or in the water foam.
And therefore raise
thee up, o'ercome the anguish
spirit that o'ercometh every battle,
If with its heavy body it sink not.
A longer stairway
it behoves thee mount;
not enough from these to have departed;
Let it avail thee, if thou understand me."
Then I uprose,
showing myself provided
with breath than I did feel myself,
And said: "Go on, for I am strong and bold."
Upward we took our
way along the crag,
jagged was, and narrow, and difficult,
And more precipitous far than that before.
Speaking I went,
not to appear exhausted;
a voice from the next moat came forth,
Not well adapted to articulate words.
I know not what it
said, though o'er the back
now was of the arch that passes there;
But he seemed moved to anger who was speaking.
I was bent
downward, but my living eyes
not attain the bottom, for the dark;
Wherefore I: "Master, see that thou arrive
At the next round,
and let us descend the wall;
as from hence I hear and understand not,
So I look down and nothing I distinguish."
he said, "I make thee not,
the doing; for the modest asking
Ought to be followed by the deed in silence."
We from the bridge
descended at its head,
it connects itself with the eighth bank,
And then was manifest to me the Bolgia;
And I beheld
therein a terrible throng
serpents, and of such a monstrous kind,
That the remembrance still congeals my blood
Let Libya boast no
longer with her sand;
if Chelydri, Jaculi, and Phareae
She breeds, with Cenchri and with Amphisbaena,
Neither so many
plagues nor so malignant
showed she with all Ethiopia,
Nor with whatever on the Red Sea is!
Among this cruel
and most dismal throng
were running naked and affrighted.
Without the hope of hole or heliotrope.
They had their
hands with serpents bound behind them;
riveted upon their reins the tail
And head, and were in front of them entwined.
And lo! at one who
was upon our side
darted forth a serpent, which transfixed him
There where the neck is knotted to the shoulders.
Nor 'O' so quickly
e'er, nor 'I' was written,
he took fire, and burned; and ashes wholly
Behoved it that in falling he became.
And when he on the
ground was thus destroyed,
ashes drew together, and of themselves
Into himself they instantly returned.
Even thus by the
great sages 'tis confessed
phoenix dies, and then is born again,
When it approaches its five-hundredth year;
On herb or grain it
feeds not in its life,
only on tears of incense and amomum,
And nard and myrrh are its last winding-sheet.
And as he is who
falls, and knows not how,
force of demons who to earth down drag him,
Or other oppilation that binds man,
When he arises and
around him looks,
bewildered by the mighty anguish
Which he has suffered, and in looking sighs;
Such was that
sinner after he had risen.
of God! O how severe it is,
That blows like these in vengeance poureth down!
thereafter asked him who he was;
he replied: "I rained from Tuscany
A short time since into this cruel gorge.
A bestial life, and
not a human, pleased me,
as the mule I was; I'm Vanni Fucci,
Beast, and Pistoia was my worthy den."
And I unto the
Guide: "Tell him to stir not,
ask what crime has thrust him here below,
For once a man of blood and wrath I saw him."
And the sinner, who
had heard, dissembled not,
unto me directed mind and face,
And with a melancholy shame was painted.
Then said: "It
pains me more that thou hast caught me
this misery where thou seest me,
Than when I from the other life was taken.
What thou demandest
I cannot deny;
low am I put down because I robbed
The sacristy of the fair ornaments,
And falsely once
'twas laid upon another;
that thou mayst not such a sight enjoy,
If thou shalt e'er be out of the dark places,
Thine ears to my
announcement ope and hear:
first of Neri groweth meagre;
Then Florence doth renew her men and manners;
Mars draws a vapour
up from Val di Magra,
is with turbid clouds enveloped round,
And with impetuous and bitter tempest
Over Campo Picen
shall be the battle;
it shall suddenly rend the mist asunder,
So that each Bianco shall thereby be smitten.
And this I've said
that it may give thee pain."