Inferno: Canto XX
Of a new pain
behoves me to make verses
give material to the twentieth canto
Of the first song, which is of the submerged.
I was already
peer down into the uncovered depth,
Which bathed itself with tears of agony;
And people saw I
through the circular valley,
and weeping, coming at the pace
Which in this world the Litanies assume.
As lower down my
sight descended on them,
each one seemed to be distorted
From chin to the beginning of the chest;
For tow'rds the
reins the countenance was turned,
backward it behoved them to advance,
As to look forward had been taken from them.
Perchance indeed by
violence of palsy
one has been thus wholly turned awry;
But I ne'er saw it, nor believe it can be.
As God may let
thee, Reader, gather fruit
this thy reading, think now for thyself
How I could ever keep my face unmoistened,
When our own image
near me I beheld
so, the weeping of the eyes
Along the fissure bathed the hinder parts.
Truly I wept,
leaning upon a peak
the hard crag, so that my Escort said
To me: "Art thou, too, of the other fools?
Here pity lives
when it is wholly dead;
is a greater reprobate than he
Who feels compassion at the doom divine?
Lift up, lift up
thy head, and see for whom
the earth before the Thebans' eyes;
Wherefore they all cried: 'Whither rushest thou,
dost leave the war?'
downward ceased he not to fall amain
As far as Minos, who lays hold on all.
See, he has made a
bosom of his shoulders!
he wished to see too far before him
Behind he looks, and backward goes his way:
who his semblance changed,
from a male a female he became,
His members being all of them transformed;
And afterwards was
forced to strike once more
two entangled serpents with his rod,
Ere he could have again his manly plumes.
That Aruns is, who
backs the other's belly,
in the hills of Luni, there where grubs
The Carrarese who houses underneath,
Among the marbles
white a cavern had
his abode; whence to behold the stars
And sea, the view was not cut off from him.
And she there, who
is covering up her breasts,
thou beholdest not, with loosened tresses,
And on that side has all the hairy skin,
Was Manto, who made
quest through many lands,
tarried there where I was born;
Whereof I would thou list to me a little.
After her father
had from life departed,
the city of Bacchus had become enslaved,
She a long season wandered through the world.
Above in beauteous
Italy lies a lake
the Alp's foot that shuts in Germany
Over Tyrol, and has the name Benaco.
By a thousand
springs, I think, and more, is bathed,
Garda and Val Camonica, Pennino,
With water that grows stagnant in that lake.
Midway a place is
where the Trentine Pastor,
he of Brescia, and the Veronese
Might give his blessing, if he passed that way.
fortress fair and strong,
front the Brescians and the Bergamasks,
Where round about the bank descendeth lowest.
There of necessity
must fall whatever
bosom of Benaco cannot stay,
And grows a river down through verdant pastures.
Soon as the water
doth begin to run,
more Benaco is it called, but Mincio,
Far as Governo, where it falls in Po.
Not far it runs
before it finds a plain
which it spreads itself, and makes it marshy,
And oft 'tis wont in summer to be sickly.
Passing that way
the virgin pitiless
in the middle of the fen descried,
Untilled and naked of inhabitants;
There to escape all
with her servants stayed, her arts to practise
And lived, and left her empty body there.
thereafter, who were scattered round,
in that place, which was made strong
By the lagoon it had on every side;
They built their
city over those dead bones,
after her who first the place selected,
Mantua named it, without other omen.
Its people once
within more crowded were,
the stupidity of Casalodi
From Pinamonte had received deceit.
Therefore I caution
thee, if e'er thou hearest
my city otherwise,
No falsehood may the verity defraud."
And I: "My Master,
thy discourses are
me so certain, and so take my faith,
That unto me the rest would be spent coals.
But tell me of the
people who are passing,
any one note-worthy thou beholdest,
For only unto that my mind reverts."
Then said he to me:
"He who from the cheek
out his beard upon his swarthy shoulders
Was, at the time when Greece was void of males,
So that there
scarce remained one in the cradle,
augur, and with Calchas gave the moment,
In Aulis, when to sever the first cable.
Eryphylus his name
was, and so sings
lofty Tragedy in some part or other;
That knowest thou well, who knowest the whole of it.
The next, who is so
slender in the flanks,
Michael Scott, who of a verity
Of magical illusions knew the game.
Bonatti, behold Asdente,
now unto his leather and his thread
Would fain have stuck, but he too late repents.
Behold the wretched
ones, who left the needle,
spool and rock, and made them fortune-tellers;
They wrought their magic spells with herb and image.
But come now, for
already holds the confines
both the hemispheres, and under Seville
Touches the ocean-wave, Cain and the thorns,
And yesternight the
moon was round already;
shouldst remember well it did not harm thee
From time to time within the forest deep."
Thus spake he to
me, and we walked the while.