Inferno: Canto XXXI
One and the
selfsame tongue first wounded me,
that it tinged the one cheek and the other,
And then held out to me the medicine;
Thus do I hear that
once Achilles' spear,
and his father's, used to be the cause
First of a sad and then a gracious boon.
We turned our backs
upon the wretched valley,
the bank that girds it round about,
Going across it without any speech.
There it was less
than night, and less than day,
that my sight went little in advance;
But I could hear the blare of a loud horn,
So loud it would
have made each thunder faint,
counter to it following its way,
Mine eyes directed wholly to one place.
After the dolorous discomfiture
Charlemagne the holy emprise lost,
So terribly Orlando sounded not.
Short while my head
turned thitherward I held
many lofty towers I seemed to see,
Whereat I: "Master, say, what town is this?"
And he to me:
"Because thou peerest forth
the darkness at too great a distance,
It happens that thou errest in thy fancy.
Well shalt thou
see, if thou arrivest there,
much the sense deceives itself by distance;
Therefore a little faster spur thee on."
Then tenderly he
took me by the hand,
said: "Before we farther have advanced,
That the reality may seem to thee
Less strange, know
that these are not towers, but giants,
they are in the well, around the bank,
From navel downward, one and all of them."
As, when the fog is
by little doth the sight refigure
Whate'er the mist that crowds the air conceals,
through the dense and darksome air,
and more near approaching tow'rd the verge,
My error fled, and fear came over me;
Because as on its
crowns itself with towers,
E'en thus the margin which surrounds the well
With one half of
their bodies turreted
horrible giants, whom Jove menaces
E'en now from out the heavens when he thunders.
And I of one
already saw the face,
and breast, and great part of the belly,
And down along his sides both of the arms.
when she left the making
animals like these, did well indeed,
By taking such executors from Mars;
And if of elephants
and whales she doth not
her, whosoever looketh subtly
More just and more discreet will hold her for it;
For where the
argument of intellect
added unto evil will and power,
No rampart can the people make against it.
His face appeared
to me as long and large
is at Rome the pine-cone of Saint Peter's,
And in proportion were the other bones;
So that the margin,
which an apron was
from the middle, showed so much of him
Above it, that to reach up to his hair
in vain had vaunted them;
I beheld thirty great palms of him
Down from the place where man his mantle buckles.
"Raphael mai amech
to clamour the ferocious mouth,
To which were not befitting sweeter psalms.
And unto him my
Guide: "Soul idiotic,
to thy horn, and vent thyself with that,
When wrath or other passion touches thee.
Search round thy
neck, and thou wilt find the belt
keeps it fastened, O bewildered soul,
And see it, where it bars thy mighty breast."
Then said to me:
"He doth himself accuse;
one is Nimrod, by whose evil thought
One language in the world is not still used.
Here let us leave
him and not speak in vain;
even such to him is every language
As his to others, which to none is known."
Therefore a longer
journey did we make,
to the left, and a crossbow-shot oft
We found another far more fierce and large.
In binding him, who
might the master be
cannot say; but he had pinioned close
Behind the right arm, and in front the other,
With chains, that
held him so begirt about
the neck down, that on the part uncovered
It wound itself as far as the fifth gyre.
"This proud one
wished to make experiment
his own power against the Supreme Jove,"
My Leader said, "whence he has such a guerdon.
Ephialtes is his
name; he showed great prowess.
time the giants terrified the gods;
The arms he wielded never more he moves."
And I to him: "If
possible, I should wish
of the measureless Briareus
These eyes of mine might have experience."
Whence he replied:
"Thou shalt behold Antaeus
by here, who can speak and is unbound,
Who at the bottom of all crime shall place us.
Much farther yon is
he whom thou wouldst see,
he is bound, and fashioned like to this one,
Save that he seems in aspect more ferocious."
There never was an
earthquake of such might
it could shake a tower so violently,
As Ephialtes suddenly shook himself.
Then was I more
afraid of death than ever,
nothing more was needful than the fear,
If I had not beheld the manacles.
Then we proceeded
farther in advance,
to Antaeus came, who, full five ells
Without the head, forth issued from the cavern.
"O thou, who in the
Scipio the heir of glory made,
When Hannibal turned back with all his hosts,
Once brought'st a
thousand lions for thy prey,
who, hadst thou been at the mighty war
Among thy brothers, some it seems still think
The sons of Earth
the victory would have gained:
us below, nor be disdainful of it,
There where the cold doth lock Cocytus up.
Make us not go to
Tityus nor Typhoeus;
one can give of that which here is longed for;
Therefore stoop down, and do not curl thy lip.
Still in the world
can he restore thy fame;
he lives, and still expects long life,
If to itself Grace call him not untimely."
So said the Master;
and in haste the other
hands extended and took up my Guide,--
Hands whose great pressure Hercules once felt.
Virgilius, when he
felt himself embraced,
unto me: "Draw nigh, that I may take thee;"
Then of himself and me one bundle made.
As seems the
Carisenda, to behold
the leaning side, when goes a cloud
Above it so that opposite it hangs;
Such did Antaeus
seem to me, who stood
to see him stoop, and then it was
I could have wished to go some other way.
But lightly in the
abyss, which swallows up
with Lucifer, he put us down;
Nor thus bowed downward made he there delay,
But, as a mast does
in a ship, uprose.