Inferno: Canto XIX
O Simon Magus, O
who the things of God, which ought to be
The brides of holiness, rapaciously
For silver and for
gold do prostitute,
it behoves for you the trumpet sound,
Because in this third Bolgia ye abide.
We had already on
the following tomb
to that portion of the crag
Which o'er the middle of the moat hangs plumb.
Wisdom supreme, O
how great art thou showest
heaven, in earth, and in the evil world,
And with what justice doth thy power distribute!
I saw upon the
sides and on the bottom
livid stone with perforations filled,
All of one size, and every one was round.
To me less ample
seemed they not, nor greater
those that in my beautiful Saint John
Are fashioned for the place of the baptisers,
And one of which,
not many years ago,
broke for some one, who was drowning in it;
Be this a seal all men to undeceive.
Out of the mouth of
each one there protruded
feet of a transgressor, and the legs
Up to the calf, the rest within remained.
In all of them the
soles were both on fire;
the joints so violently quivered,
They would have snapped asunder withes and bands.
Even as the flame
of unctuous things is wont
move upon the outer surface only,
So likewise was it there from heel to point.
"Master, who is
that one who writhes himself,
than his other comrades quivering,"
I said, "and whom a redder flame is sucking?"
And he to me: "If
thou wilt have me bear thee
there along that bank which lowest lies,
From him thou'lt know his errors and himself."
And I: "What
pleases thee, to me is pleasing;
art my Lord, and knowest that I depart not
From thy desire, and knowest what is not spoken."
the fourth dike we arrived;
turned, and on the left-hand side descended
Down to the bottom full of holes and narrow.
And the good Master
yet from off his haunch
me not, till to the hole he brought me
Of him who so lamented with his shanks.
"Whoe'er thou art,
that standest upside down,
doleful soul, implanted like a stake,"
To say began I, "if thou canst, speak out."
I stood even as the
friar who is confessing
false assassin, who, when he is fixed,
Recalls him, so that death may be delayed.
And he cried out:
"Dost thou stand there already,
thou stand there already, Boniface?
By many years the record lied to me.
Art thou so early
satiate with that wealth,
which thou didst not fear to take by fraud
The beautiful Lady, and then work her woe?"
Such I became, as
people are who stand,
comprehending what is answered them,
As if bemocked, and know not how to answer.
Virgilius: "Say to him straightway,
am not he, I am not he thou thinkest.'"
And I replied as was imposed on me.
Whereat the spirit
writhed with both his feet,
sighing, with a voice of lamentation
Said to me: "Then what wantest thou of me?
If who I am thou
carest so much to know,
thou on that account hast crossed the bank,
Know that I vested was with the great mantle;
And truly was I son
of the She-bear,
eager to advance the cubs, that wealth
Above, and here myself, I pocketed.
Beneath my head the
others are dragged down
have preceded me in simony,
Flattened along the fissure of the rock.
Below there I shall
likewise fall, whenever
one shall come who I believed thou wast,
What time the sudden question I proposed.
But longer I my
feet already toast,
here have been in this way upside down,
Than he will planted stay with reddened feet;
For after him shall
come of fouler deed
tow'rds the west a Pastor without law,
Such as befits to cover him and me.
New Jason will he
be, of whom we read
Maccabees; and as his king was pliant,
So he who governs France shall be to this one."
I do not know if I
were here too bold,
him I answered only in this metre:
"I pray thee tell me now how great a treasure
Our Lord demanded
of Saint Peter first,
he put the keys into his keeping?
Truly he nothing asked but 'Follow me.'
Nor Peter nor the
rest asked of Matthias
or gold, when he by lot was chosen
Unto the place the guilty soul had lost.
here, for thou art justly punished,
keep safe guard o'er the ill-gotten money,
Which caused thee to be valiant against Charles.
And were it not
that still forbids it me
reverence for the keys superlative
Thou hadst in keeping in the gladsome life,
I would make use of
words more grievous still;
your avarice afflicts the world,
Trampling the good and lifting the depraved.
The Evangelist you
Pastors had in mind,
she who sitteth upon many waters
To fornicate with kings by him was seen;
The same who with
the seven heads was born,
power and strength from the ten horns received,
So long as virtue to her spouse was pleasing.
Ye have made
yourselves a god of gold and silver;
from the idolater how differ ye,
Save that he one, and ye a hundred worship?
Ah, Constantine! of
how much ill was mother,
thy conversion, but that marriage dower
Which the first wealthy Father took from thee!"
And while I sang to
him such notes as these,
that anger or that conscience stung him,
He struggled violently with both his feet.
I think in sooth
that it my Leader pleased,
such contented lip he listened ever
Unto the sound of the true words expressed.
Therefore with both
his arms he took me up,
when he had me all upon his breast,
Remounted by the way where he descended.
Nor did he tire to
have me clasped to him;
bore me to the summit of the arch
Which from the fourth dike to the fifth is passage.
There tenderly he
laid his burden down,
on the crag uneven and steep,
That would have been hard passage for the goats:
Thence was unveiled
to me another valley.