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Who for the Baptist her first patron changed,
Whence he for this shall cease not with his art
To work her woe: and if there still remain'd not
On Arno's passage some faint glimpse of him,
Those citizens, who reard once more her walls
Upon the ashés left by Attila,
Had labour'd without profit of their toil.
I slung the fatal noose from my own roof."
Argument. They arrive at the beginning of the third of those compartments into which
this seventh circle is divided. It is a plain of dry and hot sand, where three kinds of violence are punished ; namely, against God, against Nature, and against Art; and those who have thus sinned, are tormented by flakes of fire, which are eternally showering down upon them. Among the violent against God is found Capaneus, whose blasphemies they hear. Next, turning to the left along the forest of self-slayers, and having journeyed a little onwards, they meet with a streamlet of blood that issues from the forest and traverses the sandy plain. Here Virgil speaks to our Poet of a huge ancient statue that stands within Mount Ida in Cretė, from a fissure in which statue there is a dripping of tears, from which the said streamlet, together with the three other infernal rivers, are formed.
Soon as the charity of native land
Wrought in my bosom, I the scatter'd leaves
Collected, and to him restored, who now
Was hoarse with utterance. To the limit thence
We came, which from the third the second round
Divides, and where of justice is display'd
Contrivance horrible. Things then first seen
Clearlier to manifest, I tell how next
A plain we reach'd, that from its steril bed
Each plant repell’d. The mournful wood waves round
Its garland on all sides, as round the wood
Spreads the sad foss. There, on the very edge,
Our steps we stay’d. It was an area wide
Of arid sand and thick, resembling most
The soil that erst by Cato's foot ? was trod.
Vengeance of heaven! Oh! how shouldst thou be fear'd .
By all, who read what here mine eyes beheld.
Of naked spirits many a flock I saw,
All weeping piteously, to different laws 1 I slung the fatal noose.] We are not informed who this suicide was ; some calling him Rocco de' Mozzi, and others Lotto degli Agli.
2 By Cato's foot.] See Lucan, Phars. lib. 9.
Subjected ; for on the earth some lay supine,
Some crouching close were seated, others paced
Incessantly around; the latter tribe
More numerous, those fewer who beneath
The torment lay, but louder in their grief.
O'er all the sand fell slowly wafting down
Dilated flakes of fire, as flakes of snow
On Alpine summit, when the wind is hush'd.
As, in the torrid Indian clime, the son
Of Ammon saw, upon his warrior band
Descending, solid flames, that to the ground
Came down ; whence he bethought him with his troop
To trample on the soil ; for easier thus
The vapour was extinguish’d, while alone :
So fell the eternal fiery flood, wherewith
The marle glow'd underneath, as under stove3
The viands, doubly to augment the pain.
Unceasing was the play of wretched hands,
Now this, now that way glancing, to shake off
The heat, still falling fresh. I thus began :
“Instructor! thou who all things overcomest,
Except the hardy demons that rush'd forth
To stop our entrance at the gate, say who
Is yon huge spirit, that, as seens, heeds not
The burning, but lies writhen in proud scorn,
As by the sultry tempest immatured ?"
Straight he himself, who was aware I ask'd
My guide of him, exclaim'd : “Such as I was
When living, dead such now I am. If Jove
Weary his workman out, from whom in ire
He snatch'd the lightnings, that at my last day
Transfix'd me; if the rest he weary out,
At their black smithy labouring by turns,
In Mongibello,+ while he cries aloud,
1 Dilated flakes of fire.] Compare Tasso, G. L. c. X. st. 61 :
Al fin giungemmo al loco, ove già scese
Fiamma del cielo in dilatate falde,
E di natura vendicò l'offese
Sovra la gente in mal oprar si salde. As, in the torrid Indian clime.] Landino refers to Albertus Magnus for the circumstance here alluded to. 3 As under stove.] So Frezzi :
Si come l'esca al foco del focile. Lib. 1. cap. xvii. 4 In Mongibello.] More hot than Ætn'or flaming Mongibell.
Spenser, F. Q. b. 2. c. ix. st. 29. Siccome alla fucina in Mongibello Batte folgori e foco col martello, Fabrica tuono il demonio Vulcano, E con esso i suoi fabri in ogni mano.
Berni, Orl. Inn. lib. 1. c. xvi. st. 21. See Virg. Æn. lib. 8. 416. It would be endless to refer to parallel passages in the Greek writers
Help, help, good Mulciber!' as erst he cried
In the Phlegræan warfare ; and the bolts
Launch he, full aim'd at me, with all his might;
He never should enjoy a sweet revenge."
Then thus my guide, in accent higher raised
Than I before had heard him : “Capaneus !
Thou art more punish'd, in that this thy pride
Lives yet unquench'd : no torment, save thy rage,
Were to thy fury pain proportion'd full.”
Next turning round to me, with milder lip
He spake : "This of the seven kings was one,
Who girt the Theban walls with siege, and held,
As stiil he seems to hold, God in disdain,
And sets his high omnipotence at nought.
But, as I told him, his despiteful mood
Is ornament well suits the breast that wears it.
Follow me now; and look thou set not yet
Thy foot in the hot sand, but to the wood
Keep ever close.” Silently on we pass'd
To where there gushes from the forest's bound
A little brook, whose crimson'd wave yet lifts
My hair with horror. As the rill, that runs
From Bulicame,2 to be portion'd out
Among the sinful women ; so ran this
Down through the sand ; its bottom and each bank
Stone-built, and either margin at its side,
Whereon I straight perceived our passage lay.
“Of all that I have shown thee, since that gate
We enter'd first, whose threshold is to none
Denied, nought else so worthy of regard,
As is this river, has thine eye discern'd,
O'er which the flaming volley all is quench'd."
So spake my guide; and I him thence besought,
That having given me appetite to know,
The food he too would give, that hunger craved.
“In midst of ocean," forthwith he began,
“A desolate country lies, which Crete is named ;
Under whose monarch,in old times, the world
1 This of the seven kings was one.] Compare Æsch. Seven Chiefs, 425; Euripides, Phoen. 1179; and Statius, Theb. lib. 10. 821.
2 Bulicame.] A warm medicinal spring near Viterbo ; the waters of which, as Landino and Vellutello affirm, passed by a place of ill-fame. Venturi, with less probability, conjectures that Dante would imply that it was the scene of much licentious merriment among those who frequented its baths. 3 Under whose monarch,]
Credo pudicitiam Saturno rege moratam
Juv. Satir. vi.
In Saturn's reign, at Nature's early birth,
There was a thing call’d chastity on earth. Dryden.
Lived pure and chaste. A mountain rises there,
Call’a İda, joyous once with leaves and streams,
Deserted now like a forbidden thing.
It was the spot which Rhea, Saturn's spouce,
Chose for the secret cradle of her son ;
And better to conceal him, drown'd in shouts
His infant cries. Within the mount, upright
An ancient form there stands, and huge, that turns
His shoulders towards Damiata ; and at Rome,
As in his mirror, looks. Of finest gold
His head' is shaped, pure silver are the breast
And arms, thence to the middle is of brass,
And downward all beneath well-tempered steel,
Save the right foot of potter's clay, on which
Than on the other more erect he stands.
Each part, except the gold, is rent throughout;
And from the fissure tears distil, which join'd
Penetrate to that cave. They in their course,
Thus far precipitated down the
From Acheron, and Styx, and Phlegethon;
Then by this straiten'd channel passing hence
Beneath, e’en to the lowest depth of all,
Form there Cocytus, of whose lake (thyself
Shalt see it) I here give thee no account.”
Then I to him: “If from cur world this sluice
Be thus derived ; wherefore to us but now
Appears it at this edge ?" He straight replied :
“The place, thou know'st, is round; and though great part
Thou have already past, still to the left
Descending to the nethermost, not yet
Hast thou the circuit made of the whole orb.
Wherefore, if aught of new to us appear,
It needs not bring up wonder in thy looks."
Then I again inquired : “Where flow the streams
Of Phlegethon and Lethe ? for of one
Thou tell’st not; and the other, of that shower,
Thou say’st, is form’d.” He answer thus return'd :
“Doubtless thy questions all well pleased I hear.
Yet the red seething wave ? might have resolved
One thou proposest. Lethe thou shalt see,
But not within this hollow, in the place
Whither, to lave themselves, the spirits go,
i llis head.] This is imitated by Frezzi, in the Quadriregio, lib. 4. cap. xiv. :
La statua grande vidi in un gran piano, etc. “ This image's head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass : his legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.” Daniel, ii. 32, 33. 2 The red seething wave.] This he might have known was Phlegethon. 3 Whither.] On the other side of Purgatory.
Whose blame liath been by penitence removed."
He added : “Time is now we quit the wood.
Look thou my steps pursue : the margins give
Safe passage, unimpeded by the flames;
For over them all vapour is extinct.”
Argument. Taking their way upon one of the mounds by which the streamlet, spoken
of in the last Canto, was embanked, and having gone so far that they could no longer have discerned the forest if they had turned round to look for it, they meet a troop of spirits that come along the sand by the side of the pier. These are they who have done violence to Nature; and amongst them Dante distinguishes Brunetto Latini, who had been formerly his master; with whom, turning a little backward, he holds a discourse which occupies the remainder of this Canto.
ONE of the solid margins bears us now
Envelop'd in the mist, that, from the stream
Arising, hovers o'er, and saves from fire
Both piers and water. As the Flemings rear
Their mound, 'twixt Ghent and Bruges, to chase back
The ocean, fearing his tumultuous tide
That drives toward them; or the Paduans theirs
Along the Brenta, to defend their towns
And castles, ere the genial warmth be felt
On Chiarentana's 1 top ; such were the mounds,
So framed, though not in height or bulk to these
Vade equal, by the master, whosoc'er
He was, that raised them here. We from the wood
Were now so far removed, that turning round
I might not have discern'd it, when we met
A troop of spirits, wl:o came beside the pier.
They each one eyed us, as at eventide
One eyes another under a new moon ;
And toward us sharpend their sight, as keen
As an old tailor at his needle's eye.2
Thus narrowly explored by all the tribe, i Chiarentana.] A part of the Alps where the Brenta rises ; which river is much swoln as soon as the snow begins to dissolve on the mountains.
? As an old tailor at his needle's eye.] In Fazio degli Uberti's Dittamondo, lib. 4. cap. iv. the tailor is introduced in a simile scarcely less picturesque :
Perchè tanto mi stringe a questo punto
La lunga tema, ch' io fo come il sarto
Che quando afiretta spesso passa il punto.