Inferno: Canto XIV
Because the charity
of my native place
me, gathered I the scattered leaves,
And gave them back to him, who now was hoarse.
Then came we to the
confine, where disparted
second round is from the third, and where
A horrible form of Justice is beheld.
Clearly to manifest
these novel things,
say that we arrived upon a plain,
Which from its bed rejecteth every plant;
The dolorous forest
is a garland to it
round about, as the sad moat to that;
There close upon the edge we stayed our feet.
The soil was of an
arid and thick sand,
of another fashion made than that
Which by the feet of Cato once was pressed.
Vengeance of God, O
how much oughtest thou
each one to be dreaded, who doth read
That which was manifest unto mine eyes!
Of naked souls
beheld I many herds,
all were weeping very miserably,
And over them seemed set a law diverse.
Supine upon the
ground some folk were lying;
some were sitting all drawn up together,
And others went about continually.
Those who were
going round were far the more,
those were less who lay down to their torment,
But had their tongues more loosed to lamentation.
O'er all the
sand-waste, with a gradual fall,
raining down dilated flakes of fire,
As of the snow on Alp without a wind.
As Alexander, in
those torrid parts
India, beheld upon his host
Flames fall unbroken till they reached the ground.
Whence he provided
with his phalanxes
trample down the soil, because the vapour
Better extinguished was while it was single;
Thus was descending
the eternal heat,
the sand was set on fire, like tinder
Beneath the steel, for doubling of the dole.
forever was the dance
miserable hands, now there, now here,
Shaking away from off them the fresh gleeds.
"Master," began I,
"thou who overcomest
things except the demons dire, that issued
Against us at the entrance of the gate,
Who is that mighty
one who seems to heed not
fire, and lieth lowering and disdainful,
So that the rain seems not to ripen him?"
And he himself, who
had become aware
I was questioning my Guide about him,
Cried: "Such as I was living, am I, dead.
If Jove should
weary out his smith, from whom
seized in anger the sharp thunderbolt,
Wherewith upon the last day I was smitten,
And if he wearied
out by turns the others
Mongibello at the swarthy forge,
Vociferating, 'Help, good Vulcan, help!'
Even as he did
there at the fight of Phlegra,
shot his bolts at me with all his might,
He would not have thereby a joyous vengeance."
Then did my Leader
speak with such great force,
I had never heard him speak so loud:
"O Capaneus, in that is not extinguished
thou punished art the more;
any torment, saving thine own rage,
Would be unto thy fury pain complete."
Then he turned
round to me with better lip,
"One of the Seven Kings was he
Who Thebes besieged, and held, and seems to hold
God in disdain, and
little seems to prize him;
as I said to him, his own despites
Are for his breast the fittest ornaments.
Now follow me, and
mind thou do not place
yet thy feet upon the burning sand,
But always keep them close unto the wood."
Speaking no word,
we came to where there gushes
from the wood a little rivulet,
Whose redness makes my hair still stand on end.
As from the
Bulicame springs the brooklet,
sinful women later share among them,
So downward through the sand it went its way.
The bottom of it,
and both sloping banks,
made of stone, and the margins at the side;
Whence I perceived that there the passage was.
"In all the rest
which I have shown to thee
we have entered in within the gate
Whose threshold unto no one is denied,
Nothing has been
discovered by thine eyes
notable as is the present river,
Which all the little flames above it quenches."
These words were of
my Leader; whence I prayed him
he would give me largess of the food,
For which he had given me largess of desire.
"In the mid-sea
there sits a wasted land,"
he thereafterward, "whose name is Crete,
Under whose king the world of old was chaste.
There is a mountain
there, that once was glad
waters and with leaves, which was called Ida;
Now 'tis deserted, as a thing worn out.
Rhea once chose it
for the faithful cradle
her own son; and to conceal him better,
Whene'er he cried, she there had clamours made.
A grand old man
stands in the mount erect,
holds his shoulders turned tow'rds Damietta,
And looks at Rome as if it were his mirror.
His head is
fashioned of refined gold,
of pure silver are the arms and breast;
Then he is brass as far down as the fork.
From that point
downward all is chosen iron,
that the right foot is of kiln-baked clay,
And more he stands on that than on the other.
Each part, except
the gold, is by a fissure
cleft, that dripping is with tears,
Which gathered together perforate that cavern.
From rock to rock
they fall into this valley;
Styx, and Phlegethon they form;
Then downward go along this narrow sluice
Unto that point
where is no more descending.
form Cocytus; what that pool may be
Thou shalt behold, so here 'tis not narrated."
And I to him: "If
so the present runnel
take its rise in this way from our world,
Why only on this verge appears it to us?"
And he to me: "Thou
knowest the place is round,
notwithstanding thou hast journeyed far,
Still to the left descending to the bottom,
Thou hast not yet
through all the circle turned.
if something new appear to us,
It should not bring amazement to thy face."
And I again:
"Master, where shall be found
and Phlegethon, for of one thou'rt silent,
And sayest the other of this rain is made?"
"In all thy
questions truly thou dost please me,"
he; "but the boiling of the red
Water might well solve one of them thou makest.
Thou shalt see
Lethe, but outside this moat,
where the souls repair to lave themselves,
When sin repented of has been removed."
Then said he: "It
is time now to abandon
wood; take heed that thou come after me;
A way the margins make that are not burning,
And over them all
vapours are extinguished."