Inferno: Canto IX
That hue which
cowardice brought out on me,
my Conductor backward turn,
Sooner repressed within him his new colour.
attentive, like a man who listens,
the eye could not conduct him far
Through the black air, and through the heavy fog.
"Still it behoveth
us to win the fight,"
he; "Else. . .Such offered us herself. . .
O how I long that some one here arrive!"
Well I perceived,
as soon as the beginning
covered up with what came afterward,
That they were words quite different from the first;
But none the less
his saying gave me fear,
I carried out the broken phrase,
Perhaps to a worse meaning than he had.
"Into this bottom
of the doleful conch
any e'er descend from the first grade,
Which for its pain has only hope cut off?"
This question put
I; and he answered me:
it comes to pass that one of us
Maketh the journey upon which I go.
True is it, once
before I here below
conjured by that pitiless Erictho,
Who summoned back the shades unto their bodies.
Naked of me short
while the flesh had been,
within that wall she made me enter,
To bring a spirit from the circle of Judas;
That is the lowest
region and the darkest,
farthest from the heaven which circles all.
Well know I the way; therefore be reassured.
This fen, which a
prodigious stench exhales,
about the city dolent,
Where now we cannot enter without anger."
And more he said,
but not in mind I have it;
mine eye had altogether drawn me
Tow'rds the high tower with the red-flaming summit,
Where in a moment
saw I swift uprisen
three infernal Furies stained with blood,
Who had the limbs of women and their mien,
And with the
greenest hydras were begirt;
serpents and cerastes were their tresses,
Wherewith their horrid temples were entwined.
And he who well the
handmaids of the Queen
everlasting lamentation knew,
Said unto me: "Behold the fierce Erinnys.
This is Megaera, on
the left-hand side;
who is weeping on the right, Alecto;
Tisiphone is between;" and then was silent.
Each one her breast
was rending with her nails;
beat them with their palms, and cried so loud,
That I for dread pressed close unto the Poet.
"Medusa come, so we
to stone will change him!"
shouted looking down; "in evil hour
Avenged we not on Theseus his assault!"
round, and keep thine eyes close shut,
if the Gorgon appear, and thou shouldst see it,
No more returning upward would there be."
Thus said the
Master; and he turned me round
and trusted not unto my hands
So far as not to blind me with his own.
O ye who have
the doctrine that conceals itself
Beneath the veil of the mysterious verses!
And now there came
across the turbid waves
clangour of a sound with terror fraught,
Because of which both of the margins trembled;
Not otherwise it
was than of a wind
on account of adverse heats,
That smites the forest, and, without restraint,
The branches rends,
beats down, and bears away;
onward, laden with dust, it goes superb,
And puts to flight the wild beasts and the shepherds.
Mine eyes he
loosed, and said: "Direct the nerve
vision now along that ancient foam,
There yonder where that smoke is most intense."
Even as the frogs
before the hostile serpent
the water scatter all abroad,
Until each one is huddled in the earth.
More than a
thousand ruined souls I saw,
fleeing from before one who on foot
Was passing o'er the Styx with soles unwet.
From off his face
he fanned that unctuous air,
his left hand oft in front of him,
And only with that anguish seemed he weary.
Well I perceived
one sent from Heaven was he,
to the Master turned; and he made sign
That I should quiet stand, and bow before him.
Ah! how disdainful
he appeared to me!
reached the gate, and with a little rod
He opened it, for there was no resistance.
"O banished out of
Heaven, people despised!"
he began upon the horrid threshold;
"Whence is this arrogance within you couched?
recalcitrate against that will,
which the end can never be cut off,
And which has many times increased your pain?
What helpeth it to
butt against the fates?
Cerberus, if you remember well,
For that still bears his chin and gullet peeled."
Then he returned
along the miry road,
spake no word to us, but had the look
Of one whom other care constrains and goads
Than that of him
who in his presence is;
we our feet directed tow'rds the city,
After those holy words all confident.
Within we entered
without any contest;
I, who inclination had to see
What the condition such a fortress holds,
Soon as I was
within, cast round mine eye,
see on every hand an ample plain,
Full of distress and torment terrible.
Even as at Arles,
where stagnant grows the Rhone,
as at Pola near to the Quarnaro,
That shuts in Italy and bathes its borders,
The sepulchres make
all the place uneven;
likewise did they there on every side,
Saving that there the manner was more bitter;
For flames between
the sepulchres were scattered,
which they so intensely heated were,
That iron more so asks not any art.
All of their
coverings uplifted were,
from them issued forth such dire laments,
Sooth seemed they of the wretched and tormented.
And I: "My Master,
what are all those people
having sepulture within those tombs,
Make themselves audible by doleful sighs?"
And he to me: "Here
are the Heresiarchs,
their disciples of all sects, and much
More than thou thinkest laden are the tombs.
Here like together
with its like is buried;
more and less the monuments are heated."
And when he to the right had turned, we passed
torments and high parapets.