Inferno: Canto XXIII
Silent, alone, and
went, the one in front, the other after,
As go the Minor Friars along their way.
Upon the fable of
Aesop was directed
thought, by reason of the present quarrel,
Where he has spoken of the frog and mouse;
For 'mo' and 'issa'
are not more alike
this one is to that, if well we couple
End and beginning with a steadfast mind.
And even as one
thought from another springs,
afterward from that was born another,
Which the first fear within me double made.
Thus did I ponder:
"These on our account
laughed to scorn, with injury and scoff
So great, that much I think it must annoy them.
If anger be
engrafted on ill-will,
will come after us more merciless
Than dog upon the leveret which he seizes,"
I felt my hair
stand all on end already
terror, and stood backwardly intent,
When said I: "Master, if thou hidest not
Thyself and me
forthwith, of Malebranche
am in dread; we have them now behind us;
I so imagine them, I already feel them."
And he: "If I were
made of leaded glass,
outward image I should not attract
Sooner to me than I imprint the inner.
Just now thy
thoughts came in among my own,
similar attitude and similar face,
So that of both one counsel sole I made.
If peradventure the
right bank so slope
we to the next Bolgia can descend,
We shall escape from the imagined chase."
Not yet he finished
rendering such opinion,
I beheld them come with outstretched wings,
Not far remote, with will to seize upon us.
My Leader on a
sudden seized me up,
as a mother who by noise is wakened,
And close beside her sees the enkindled flames,
Who takes her son,
and flies, and does not stop,
more care of him than of herself,
So that she clothes her only with a shift;
And downward from
the top of the hard bank
he gave him to the pendent rock,
That one side of the other Bolgia walls.
Ne'er ran so
swiftly water through a sluice
turn the wheel of any land-built mill,
When nearest to the paddles it approaches,
As did my Master
down along that border,
me with him on his breast away,
As his own son, and not as a companion.
Hardly the bed of
the ravine below
feet had reached, ere they had reached the hill
Right over us; but he was not afraid;
For the high
Providence, which had ordained
place them ministers of the fifth moat,
The power of thence departing took from all.
A painted people
there below we found,
went about with footsteps very slow,
Weeping and in their semblance tired and vanquished.
They had on mantles
with the hoods low down
their eyes, and fashioned of the cut
That in Cologne they for the monks are made.
gilded are so that it dazzles;
inwardly all leaden and so heavy
That Frederick used to put them on of straw.
we turned us, still to the left hand
Along with them, intent on their sad plaint;
But owing to the
weight, that weary folk
on so tardily, that we were new
In company at each motion of the haunch.
Whence I unto my
Leader: "See thou find
one who may by deed or name be known,
And thus in going move thine eye about."
And one, who
understood the Tuscan speech,
to us from behind: "Stay ye your feet,
Ye, who so run athwart the dusky air!
have from me what thou demandest."
the Leader turned him, and said: "Wait,
And then according to his pace proceed."
I stopped, and two
beheld I show great haste
spirit, in their faces, to be with me;
But the burden and the narrow way delayed them.
When they came up,
long with an eye askance
scanned me without uttering a word.
Then to each other turned, and said together:
"He by the action
of his throat seems living;
if they dead are, by what privilege
Go they uncovered by the heavy stole?"
Then said to me:
"Tuscan, who to the college
miserable hypocrites art come,
Do not disdain to tell us who thou art."
And I to them:
"Born was I, and grew up
the great town on the fair river of Arno,
And with the body am I've always had.
But who are ye, in
whom there trickles down
your cheeks such grief as I behold?
And what pain is upon you, that so sparkles?"
And one replied to
me: "These orange cloaks
made of lead so heavy, that the weights
Cause in this way their balances to creak.
Frati Gaudenti were
we, and Bolognese;
Catalano, and he Loderingo
Named, and together taken by thy city,
As the wont is to
take one man alone,
maintenance of its peace; and we were such
That still it is apparent round Gardingo."
"O Friars," began
I, "your iniquitous. . ."
said no more; for to mine eyes there rushed
One crucified with three stakes on the ground.
When me he saw, he
writhed himself all over,
into his beard with suspirations;
And the Friar Catalan, who noticed this,
Said to me: "This
transfixed one, whom thou seest,
the Pharisees that it was meet
To put one man to torture for the people.
Crosswise and naked
is he on the path,
thou perceivest; and he needs must feel,
Whoever passes, first how much he weighs;
And in like mode
his father-in-law is punished
this moat, and the others of the council,
Which for the Jews was a malignant seed."
And thereupon I saw
him who was extended on the cross
So vilely in eternal banishment.
Then he directed to
the Friar this voice:
not displeased, if granted thee, to tell us
If to the right hand any pass slope down
By which we two may
issue forth from here,
constraining some of the black angels
To come and extricate us from this deep."
Then he made
answer: "Nearer than thou hopest
is a rock, that forth from the great circle
Proceeds, and crosses all the cruel valleys,
Save that at this
'tis broken, and does not bridge it;
will be able to mount up the ruin,
That sidelong slopes and at the bottom rises."
The Leader stood
awhile with head bowed down;
said: "The business badly he recounted
Who grapples with his hook the sinners yonder."
And the Friar:
"Many of the Devil's vices
heard I at Bologna, and among them,
That he's a liar and the father of lies."
Thereat my Leader
with great strides went on,
disturbed with anger in his looks;
Whence from the heavy-laden I departed
After the prints of
his beloved feet.