Inferno: Canto XVIII
There is a place in
Hell called Malebolge,
of stone and of an iron colour,
As is the circle that around it turns.
Right in the middle
of the field malign
yawns a well exceeding wide and deep,
Of which its place the structure will recount.
Round, then, is
that enclosure which remains
the well and foot of the high, hard bank,
And has distinct in valleys ten its bottom.
As where for the
protection of the walls
and many moats surround the castles,
The part in which they are a figure forms,
Just such an image
those presented there;
as about such strongholds from their gates
Unto the outer bank are little bridges,
So from the
precipice's base did crags
which intersected dikes and moats,
Unto the well that truncates and collects them.
Within this place,
down shaken from the back
Geryon, we found us; and the Poet
Held to the left, and I moved on behind.
Upon my right hand
I beheld new anguish,
torments, and new wielders of the lash,
Wherewith the foremost Bolgia was replete.
Down at the bottom
were the sinners naked;
side the middle came they facing us,
Beyond it, with us, but with greater steps;
Even as the Romans,
for the mighty host,
year of Jubilee, upon the bridge,
Have chosen a mode to pass the people over;
For all upon one
side towards the Castle
faces have, and go unto St. Peter's;
On the other side they go towards the Mountain.
This side and that,
along the livid stone
I horned demons with great scourges,
Who cruelly were beating them behind.
Ah me! how they did
make them lift their legs
the first blows! and sooth not any one
The second waited for, nor for the third.
While I was going
on, mine eyes by one
were; and straight I said: "Already
With sight of this one I am not unfed."
Therefore I stayed
my feet to make him out,
with me the sweet Guide came to a stand,
And to my going somewhat back assented;
And he, the
scourged one, thought to hide himself,
his face, but little it availed him;
For said I: "Thou that castest down thine eyes,
If false are not
the features which thou bearest,
art Venedico Caccianimico;
But what doth bring thee to such pungent sauces?"
And he to me:
"Unwillingly I tell it;
forces me thine utterance distinct,
Which makes me recollect the ancient world.
I was the one who
the fair Ghisola
to grant the wishes of the Marquis,
Howe'er the shameless story may be told.
Not the sole
Bolognese am I who weeps here;
rather is this place so full of them,
That not so many tongues to-day are taught
'Twixt Reno and
Savena to say 'sipa;'
if thereof thou wishest pledge or proof,
Bring to thy mind our avaricious heart."
While speaking in
this manner, with his scourge
demon smote him, and said: "Get thee gone
Pander, there are no women here for coin."
I joined myself
again unto mine Escort;
with footsteps few we came
To where a crag projected from the bank.
This very easily
did we ascend,
turning to the right along its ridge,
From those eternal circles we departed.
When we were there,
where it is hollowed out
to give a passage to the scourged,
The Guide said: "Wait, and see that on thee strike
The vision of those
whom thou hast not yet beheld the faces,
Because together with us they have gone."
From the old bridge
we looked upon the train
tow'rds us came upon the other border,
And which the scourges in like manner smite.
And the good
Master, without my inquiring,
to me: "See that tall one who is coming,
And for his pain seems not to shed a tear;
Still what a royal
aspect he retains!
Jason is, who by his heart and cunning
The Colchians of the Ram made destitute.
He by the isle of
Lemnos passed along
the daring women pitiless
Had unto death devoted all their males.
There with his
tokens and with ornate words
he deceive Hypsipyle, the maiden
Who first, herself, had all the rest deceived.
There did he leave
her pregnant and forlorn;
sin unto such punishment condemns him,
And also for Medea is vengeance done.
With him go those
who in such wise deceive;
this sufficient be of the first valley
To know, and those that in its jaws it holds."
We were already
where the narrow path
athwart the second dike, and forms
Of that a buttress for another arch.
Thence we heard
people, who are making moan
the next Bolgia, snorting with their muzzles,
And with their palms beating upon themselves
The margins were
incrusted with a mould
exhalation from below, that sticks there,
And with the eyes and nostrils wages war.
The bottom is so
deep, no place suffices
give us sight of it, without ascending
The arch's back, where most the crag impends.
Thither we came,
and thence down in the moat
saw a people smothered in a filth
That out of human privies seemed to flow;
And whilst below
there with mine eye I search,
saw one with his head so foul with ordure,
It was not clear if he were clerk or layman.
He screamed to me:
"Wherefore art thou so eager
look at me more than the other foul ones?"
And I to him: "Because, if I remember,
I have already seen
thee with dry hair,
thou'rt Alessio Interminei of Lucca;
Therefore I eye thee more than all the others."
And he thereon,
belabouring his pumpkin:
flatteries have submerged me here below,
Wherewith my tongue was never surfeited."
Then said to me the
Guide: "See that thou thrust
visage somewhat farther in advance,
That with thine eyes thou well the face attain
Of that uncleanly
and dishevelled drab,
there doth scratch herself with filthy nails,
And crouches now, and now on foot is standing.
Thais the harlot is
it, who replied
her paramour, when he said, 'Have I
Great gratitude from thee?'--'Nay, marvellous;'
And herewith let
our sight be satisfied."