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I then : “Mid such as these some needs must be,
Whom I shall recognise, that with the blot
Of these foul sins were stain'd.” He answering thus :
“ Vain thought conceivest thou. That ignoble
Which made them vile before, now makes them dark
And to all knowledge indiscernible.
For ever they shall meet in this rude shock :
These from the tomb with clenched grasp shall rise,
Those with close-shaven locks. That ill they gave,
And ill they kept, hath of the beauteous world
Deprived, and set them at this strife, which needs
No labourd phrase of mine to set it off,
Now mayst thou see, my son ! how brief, how vain,
The goods committed into Fortune's hands,
For which the human race keep such a coil !
Not all the gold 1 that is beneath the moon,
Or ever hath been, of these toil-worn souls
Might purchase rest for one." I thus rejoin'd:
“My guide ! of thee this also would I learn ;
This Fortune, that thou speak’st of, what it is,
Whose talons grasp the blessings of the world."
He thus: “O beings blind ! what ignorance
Besets you! Now my judgment hear and mark.
He, whose transcendent wisdom o passes all,
The heavens creating, gave them ruling powers
To guide them ; so that each part 3 shines to each,
Their light in equal distribution pour'd.
By similar appointment he ordain'd,
Over the world's bright images to rule,
Superintendence of a guiding hand
And general minister, which, at due time,
May change the empty vantages of life
From race to race, from one to other's blood,
Beyond prevention of man's wisest care :
Wherefore one nation rises into sway,
Another languishes, c'en as her will
Decrees, from us conceal’d, as in the grass 1 Not all the gold.] Tutto l'oro ch'è sotto la luna. For all the gode under the colde mone.
Chaucer, Legende of Hypermnestra. • He, whose transcendent wisdom.] Compare Frezzi :
Dio è primo prince in ogni parte
Sempre e di tutto, etc. Il Quadrir. lib. 2. cap. ii. 3 Each part.] Each hemisphere of the heavens shines upon that hemisphere of the earth which is placed under it.
4 General minister.) Lombardi cites an apposite passage from Augustin, De Civitate Dei, lib. 5. :-"Nos eas causas, quæ dicuntur fortuitæ (unde etiam fortuna nomen accepit) non dicimus nullas, sed latentes, easque tribuimus, vel veri Dei, vel quorumlibet spirituum voluntati.”
The serpent train. Against her nought avails
Your utmost wisdom. She with foresight plans,
Judges, and carries on her reign, as theirs
The other powers divine. Her changes know
None interinission: by necessity 1
She is made swift, so frequent come who clair.
Succession in her favours. This is she,
So execrated e'en by those whose debt
To her is rather praise : they wrongfully
With blame requite her, and with evil word ;
But she is blessed, and for that recks not:
Amidst the other primal beings glad,
Rolls on her sphere, and in her bliss exults.
Now on our way pass we, to heavier woe
Descending : for each star2 is falling now,
That mounted at our entrance, and forbids
Tov long our tarrying.”. We the circle crossid
To the next steep, arriving at a well,
That boiling pours itself down to a foss
Sluiced from its source. Far murkier was the wave
Than sablest grain : and we in company
Of the inky waters, journeying by their side,
Enter'd, though by a different track, beneath.
Into a lake, the Stygian named, expands
The dismal stream, when it bath reach'd the foot
Of the grey wither'd cliffs. Intent I stood
To gaze, and in the marish sunk descried
A miry tribe, all naked, and with looks
Betokening rage. They with their hands alone
Struck not, but with the head, the breast, the feet,
Cutting each other piecemeal with their fangs. 1 By necessity.) This sentiment called forth the reprehension of Francesco Stabili, commonly called Cecco d'Ascoli, in his Acerba, lib. 1. c. i.
In ciò peccasti, O Fiorentin poeta,
Ponendo che li ben della fortuna
Necessitati sieno con lor meta.
Non è fortuna, cui ragion non vinca.
Or pensa Dante, se prova nessuna
Si può più fare che questa convinca.
Herein, O bard of Florence, didst thou crr,
Laying it down that fortune's largesses
Are fated to their goal. Fortune is none,
That reason cannot conquer. Mark thou, Dante,
If any argument may gainsay this. 2 Each star.) So Boccaccio: “Giù ogni stella a cader cominciò, che salia.” Dec. G. iii. at the end.
3 A different track.] Una via diversa. Some understand this "a strange path ;” as the word is used in the preceding Canto; “fiera crudele e diversa," monster fierce and strange ;” and in the l'ita Nuova, “visi diversi ed orribili a vedere," "visages strange and horrible to see.”
The good instructor spake : "Now seest thou, son !
The souls of those, whom anger overcame.
This too for certain know, that underneath
The water dwells a multitude, whose sighs
Into these bubbles make the surface heave,
As thine eye tells thee wheresoe'er it turn.
Fix'd in the slime, they say: 'Sad once were we,
'In the sweet air made gladsome by the sun,
*Carrying a foul and lazy mist within :
Now in these murky settlings are we sad.?
Such dolorous strain they gurgle in their throats,
But word distinct can utter none." Our route
Thus compass'd we, a segment widely stretch'd
Between the dry embankment, and the core
Of the loath'd pool, turning meanwhile our eyes
Downward on those who gulp'd its muddy lees;
Nor stopp'd, till to a tower's low base we came.
Argument. A signal having been made from the tower, Phlegyas, the ferryman of the
lake, speedily crosses it, and conveys Virgil and Dante to the other side. On their passage, they meet with Filippo Argenti, whose fury and torment are described. They then arrive at the city of Dis, the entrance whereto is denied, and the portals closed against them by many Demons.
My theme pursuing, I relate, that ere
We reach'd the lofty turret's base, our eyes
Its height ascended, where we mark'd uphung
Two cressets, and another saw from far 1 My theme pursuing ] It is related by some of the early commentators, that the seven preceding Cantos were found at Florence after our Poet's banishment, by some one who was searching over his papers, which were left in that city; that by this person they were taken to Dino Frescobaldi ; and that he, being much delighted with them, forwarded them to the Marchese Morello Malaspina, at whose entreaty the poem was resumed. This account, though very circumstantially related, is rendered improbable by the prophecy of Ciacco in the sixth Canto, which must have been written after the events to which it alludes. The manner in which the present Canto opens furnishes no proof of the truth of the report ; for, as Maffei remarks in his Osservazioni Letterarie, tom. ii. p. 249, referred to by Lombardi, it might as well be affirmed that Ariosto was interrupted in his Orlando Furioso, because he begins c. xvi.
Dico la bella storia ripigliando. And c. xxii
Ma tornando al lavor, che vario ordisco.
Return the signal, so remote, that scarce
The eye could catch its beam. I, turning round
To the deep source of knowledge, thus inquired :
“Say what this means; and what, that other light
In answer set : what agency doth this ?”
“There on the filthy waters,” he replied,
“E'en now what next awaits us mayst thou see,
If the marsh-gender'd fog conceal it not."
Never was arrow from the cord dismiss'd,
That ran its way so nimbly through the air,
As a small bark, that through the waves I spicıl
Toward us coming, under the sole sway
Of one that ferried it, who cried aloud:
"Art thou arrived, fell spirit?"-"Phlegyas, Phlegyas,
This time thou criest in vain," my lord replied ;
“No longer shalt thou have us, but while o'er
The slimy pool we pass.” As one who hears
Of some great wrong he hath sustain’d, whereat
Inly he pines ; so Phlegyas inly pined
In his fierce ire. My guide, descending, stepp'l
Into the skiff, and bade me enter next,
Close at his side ; nor, till my entrance, seem'd
The vessel freighted. Soon as both embark'ı,
Cutting the waves, goes on the ancient prow,
More deeply than with others it is wont.
While we our course 2 o'er the dead channel licl,
One drench'd in mire before me came, and said :
“Who art thou, that thus comest ere thine hour ?”
I answer'd: “Though I come, I tarry not:
But who art thou, that art become so foul ?”
"One, as thou seest, who mourn:” he straight replied.
To which I thus: “In mourning and in woe,
Curst spirit! tarry thou. I know thee well,
E’en thus in filth disguised.” Then stretchi'd he fort!ı
IIands to the bark; whereof my teacher sage
Aware, thrusting him back: "Away! down there
To the other dogs !" then, with his arms my neck
Encircling, kiss' my cheek, and spake: "O soul,
Justly disdainful ! blest was she in whom
Thou wast conceived. He in the world was one 1 Phlegyas.] Phlegyas, who was so incensed against Apollo, for having violated his daughter Coronis, that he set fire to the temple of that deity, by whose vengeance he was cast into Tartarus. See Virg. Æn. lib. 6. 618. 2 While we our course.] Solcando noi per quella morta gora.
Frezzi, Il Quadrir. lib. 2. cap. vii. In whom Thou wast conceived.] “Che’n te s'incinse.” Several of the commentators have stumbled at this word, which is the same as "enceinte ” in French, and " inciens” in Latin. For many instances, in which it is thus used, seo the Notes on Boccaccio's Decameron, p. 101, in the Giunti edition, 1573.
For arrogance noted : to his memory
No virtue lends its lustre ; even so
Here is his shadow furious. There above,
How many now hold themselves mighty kings,
Who here like swine shall wallow in the mire,
Leaving behind them horrible dispraise."
I then: "Master! him fain would I behold
Whelm'd in these dregs, before we quit the lake.”
He thus: “Or ever to thy view the shore
Be offer'd, satisfied shall be that wish,
Which well deserves completion." Scarce his words
Were ended, when I saw the miry tribes
Set on him with such violence, that yet
For that render I thanks to God, and praise.
“To Filippo Argenti!”) cried they all :
And on himself the moody Florentine
Turn'd his avenging fangs. Him here we left,
Nor speak I of him more. But on mine ear
Sudden a sound of lamentation smote,
Whereat mine eye unbarr'd I sent abroad.
And thus the good instructor : “Now, my son
Draws near the city, that of Dis is named,
With its grave denizens, a mighty throng."
I thus: “The minarets already, Sir!
There, certes, in the valley I descry,
Gleaming vermilion, as if they from fire
Had-issued.” He replied : “ Eternal fire,
That inward burns, shows them with ruddy flame
Illumed ; as in this nether hell thou seest.
We came within the fosses deep, that moat
This region comfortless. The walls appear'd
As they were framed of iron. We had made
Wide circuit, ere a place we reach’d, where loud
The mariner cried vehement: “Go forth :
The entrance is here." Upon the gates I spied
More than a thousand, who of old from heaven
Were shower'd. With ireful gestures, “Who is this,”
They cried, “ that, without death first felt, goes through 1 Filippo Argenti.] Boccaccio tells us, "he was a man remarkable for the large proportions and extraordinary vigour of his bodily frame, and the extreme waywardness and irascibility of his temper.” Decam. G. ix. N. 8. 2 The city, that of Dis is named.] So Ariosto, Orl. Fur. c. xl. st. 32:
Fatto era un stagno più sicuro e brutto,
Di quel che cinge la città di Dite.
Were shower'd.] Da ciel piovuti.
Thus Frezzi :
Li maladetti piovuti da cielo. Il Quadr. lib. 4. cap. iv. And Pulci, in the passage cited in the Note to c. xxi. 117.