Inferno: Canto XVI
Now was I where was
heard the reverberation
water falling into the next round,
Like to that humming which the beehives make,
When shadows three
together started forth,
from out a company that passed
Beneath the rain of the sharp martyrdom.
Towards us came
they, and each one cried out:
thou; for by thy garb to us thou seemest
To be some one of our depraved city."
Ah me! what wounds
I saw upon their limbs,
and ancient by the flames burnt in!
It pains me still but to remember it.
Unto their cries my
Teacher paused attentive;
turned his face towards me, and "Now wait,"
He said; "to these we should be courteous.
And if it were not
for the fire that darts
nature of this region, I should say
That haste were more becoming thee than them."
As soon as we stood
still, they recommenced
old refrain, and when they overtook us,
Formed of themselves a wheel, all three of them.
stripped and oiled are wont to do,
for their advantage and their hold,
Before they come to blows and thrusts between them,
round, did every one his visage
to me, so that in opposite wise
His neck and feet continual journey made.
And, "If the misery
of this soft place
in disdain ourselves and our entreaties,"
Began one, "and our aspect black and blistered,
Let the renown of
us thy mind incline
tell us who thou art, who thus securely
Thy living feet dost move along through Hell.
He in whose
footprints thou dost see me treading,
and skinless though he now may go,
Was of a greater rank than thou dost think;
He was the grandson
of the good Gualdrada;
name was Guidoguerra, and in life
Much did he with his wisdom and his sword.
The other, who
close by me treads the sand,
Aldobrandi is, whose fame
Above there in the world should welcome be.
And I, who with
them on the cross am placed,
Rusticucci was; and truly
My savage wife, more than aught else, doth harm me."
Could I have been
protected from the fire,
I should have thrown myself among them,
And think the Teacher would have suffered it;
But as I should
have burned and baked myself,
terror overmastered my good will,
Which made me greedy of embracing them.
Then I began:
"Sorrow and not disdain
your condition fix within me so,
That tardily it wholly is stripped off,
As soon as this my
Lord said unto me
on account of which I thought within me
That people such as you are were approaching.
I of your city am;
labours and your honourable names
I with affection have retraced and heard.
I leave the gall,
and go for the sweet fruits
to me by the veracious Leader;
But to the centre first I needs must plunge."
"So may the soul
for a long while conduct
limbs of thine," did he make answer then,
"And so may thy renown shine after thee,
courtesy, say if they dwell
our city, as they used to do,
Or if they wholly have gone out of it;
Borsier, who is in torment
us of late, and goes there with his comrades,
Doth greatly mortify us with his words."
inhabitants and the sudden gains,
and extravagance have in thee engendered,
Florence, so that thou weep'st thereat already!"
In this wise I
exclaimed with face uplifted;
the three, taking that for my reply,
Looked at each other, as one looks at truth.
"If other times so
little it doth cost thee,"
they all, "to satisfy another,
Happy art thou, thus speaking at thy will!
Therefore, if thou
escape from these dark places,
come to rebehold the beauteous stars,
When it shall pleasure thee to say, 'I was,'
See that thou speak
of us unto the people."
they broke up the wheel, and in their flight
It seemed as if their agile legs were wings.
Not an Amen could
possibly be said
rapidly as they had disappeared;
Wherefore the Master deemed best to depart.
I followed him, and
little had we gone,
the sound of water was so near us,
That speaking we should hardly have been heard.
Even as that stream
which holdeth its own course
first from Monte Veso tow'rds the East,
Upon the left-hand slope of Apennine,
Which is above
called Acquacheta, ere
down descendeth into its low bed,
And at Forli is vacant of that name,
above San Benedetto
Alps, by falling at a single leap,
Where for a thousand there were room enough;
Thus downward from
a bank precipitate,
found resounding that dark-tinted water,
So that it soon the ear would have offended.
I had a cord around
about me girt,
therewithal I whilom had designed
To take the panther with the painted skin.
After I this had
all from me unloosed,
my Conductor had commanded me,
I reached it to him, gathered up and coiled,
Whereat he turned
himself to the right side,
at a little distance from the verge,
He cast it down into that deep abyss.
"It must needs be
some novelty respond,"
said within myself, "to the new signal
The Master with his eye is following so."
Ah me! how very
cautious men should be
those who not alone behold the act,
But with their wisdom look into the thoughts!
He said to me:
"Soon there will upward come
I await; and what thy thought is dreaming
Must soon reveal itself unto thy sight."
Aye to that truth
which has the face of falsehood,
man should close his lips as far as may be,
Because without his fault it causes shame;
But here I cannot;
and, Reader, by the notes
this my Comedy to thee I swear,
So may they not be void of lasting favour,
Athwart that dense
and darksome atmosphere
saw a figure swimming upward come,
Marvellous unto every steadfast heart,
Even as he returns
who goeth down
to clear an anchor, which has grappled
Reef, or aught else that in the sea is hidden,
stretches, and draws in his feet.