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With sting like scorpion's arm'd. Then thus my guide:
“Now need our way must turn few steps apart,
Far as to that ill beast, who couches there."
Thereat, toward the right our downward course
We shaped, and, better to escape the flame
And burning marle, ten paces on the verge
Proceeded. Soon as we to him arrive,
A little farther on mine eye beholds
A tribe of spirits, seated on the sand
Near to the void. Forthwith my master spake :
"That to the full thy knowledge may extend
Of all this round contains, go now, and mark
The mien these wear: but hold not long discourse,
Till thou returnest, I with him meantime
Will parley, that to us he may vouchsafe
The aid of his strong shoulders." Thus alone,
Yet forward on the extremity I paced
Of that seventh circle, where the mournful tribe
Were seated. At the eyes forth gush'd their pangs.
Against the vapours and the torrid soil
Alternately their shifting hands they plied.
Thus use the dogs in summer still to ply
Their jaws and feet by turns, when bitten sore
By gnats, or flies, or gadflies swarming round.
Noting the visages of some, who lay
Beneath the pelting of that dolorous fire,
One of them all I knew not; but perceived,
That pendent from his neck each bore a pouch 1
With colours and with emblems various mark'd,
On which it seem'd as if their eye did feed.
And when, amongst them, looking round I came,
A yellow purse 2 I saw with azure wrought,
That wore a lion's countenance and port.
Then, still my sight pursuing its career,
Another 3 I beheld, than blood more red,
A goose display of whiter wing than curd.
And one, who bore a fat and azure swine 4
Pictured on his white scrip, address'd me thus :
“What dost thou in this deep? Go now and know,
Since yet thou livest, that my neighbour here 1 A pouch.] A purse, whereon the armorial bearings of each were enblazoned. According to Landino, our Poet implies that the usurer can pretend to no other honour than such as he derives from his purse and his family. The description of persons by their heraldic insignia is remarkable both on the present and several other occasions in this poem.
? A yellow purse.] The arms of the Gianfigliazzi of Florence. 3 Another. Those of the Ubbriachi, another Florentine family of high distinction.
4 A fat and azure swine.] The arms of the Scrovigni, a noble family of Padua
Vitaliano 1 on my left shall sit.
A Paduan with these Florentines am I.
Oft-times they thunder in mine ears, exclaiming,
Oh! haste that noble knight,” he who the pouch
"With the three goats' will bring.'” This said, he writhed
The mouth, and lollid the tongue out, like an ox
That licks his nostrils. I, lest longer stay
He ill might brook, who bade me stay not long,
Backward my steps from those sad spirits turn'd.
My guide already seated on the haunch
Of the fierce animal I found; and thus
He me encouraged. “Be thou stout : be bold.
Down such a steep flight must we now descend.
Mount thou before : for, that no power the tail
May have to harm thee, I will be i' th' midst.”
As one, 4 who hath an ague fit so near,
His nails already are turn'd blue, and he
Quivers all o'er, if he but
Such was my cheer at hearing of his words.
But shame 5 soon interposed her threat, who makes
The servant bold in presence of his lord.
I settled me upon those shoulders huge,
And would have said, but that the words to aid
My purpose came not, “ Look thou clasp me firmi.”
But he whose succour then not first I proved,
Soon as I mounted, in his arms aloft,
Embracing, held me up; and thus he spake :
“Geryon! now move thee : be thy wheeling syres
Of ample circuit, easy thy descent.
Think on the unusual burden thou sustain'st.”
As a small vessel, backening out from land,
Her station quits ; so thence the monster loosed,
And, when he felt himself at large, turn’d round 1 Vitaliano.] Vitaliano del Dente, a Paduan.
2 That noble knight.] Giovanni Bujamonti, a Florentine usurer, the most infamous of his time.
3 Goats.] Monti, in his Proposta, had introduced a facetious dialogue on the supposed mistake made in the interpretation of this word “Becchi” by the compilers of the Della Crusca Dictionary, who translated it “goats," instead of "beaks.” He afterwards saw his own error, and had the ingenuousness to confess it in the Appendix, p. 274. Having in the former editions of this work been betrayed into the same misunderstanding of my author, I cannot do less than follow so good an example, by acknowledging and correcting it.
4 As one.] Dante trembled with fear, like a man who, expecting the return of a quartan ague, shakes even at the sight of a place made cool by the shade. 5 But shame.] 'I have followed the reading in Vellutello's edition,
Ma vergogna mi fe le sue minacce; which appears preferable to the common one,
Ma vergogna mi fer, etc. It is necessary that I should observe this, because it has been imputed to me as a mistake.
There, where the breast had been, his forked tail.
Thus, like an eel, outstretch'd at length he steerd,
Gathering the air up with retractile claws.
Not greater was tħe dread, when Phaëton
The reins let drop at random, whence high heaven,
Whereof signs yet appear, was wrapt in flames;
Nor when ill-fated Icarus perceived,
By liquefaction of the scalded wax,
The trusted pennons loosen'd from his loins,
His sire exclaiming loud, “Ill way thou keep’st,"
Than was my dread, when round me on eacli part
The air I viewed, and other object none
Save the fell beast. He, slowly sailing, wheels
His downward motion, unobserved of me,
But that the wind, arising to my face,
Breathes on me from below. Now on our right
I heard the cataract beneath us leap
With hideous crash ; whence bending down to explore,
New terror I conceived at the steep plunge ;
For flames I saw, and wailings smote mine ear:
So that, all trembling, close I crouch'd my limbs,
And then distinguish'd, unperceived before,
By the dread torments that on every side
Drew nearer, how our downward course we wound.
As falcon, that hath long been on the wing,
But lure nor bird hath seen, while in despair
The falconer cries, " Ah me! thou stoop'st to earth,"
Wearied descends, whence nimbly he arose
In many an airy wheel, and lighting sits
At distance from his lord in angry mood ;
So Geryon lighting places us on foot
Low down at base of the deep-furrow'd rock,
And, of his burden there discharged, forth with
Sprang forward, like an arrow from the string.
Argument. The Poet describes the situation and form of the eighth circle, divided into
ten gulfs, which contain as many different descriptions of fraudulent sinners; but in the present Canto he treats only of two sorts: the first is of those who, either for their own pleasure, or for that of another, have seduced any woman from her duty; and these are scourged of demons in the first gulf: the other sort is of flatterers, who in the second gulf are condemned to remain immersed in filth.
THERE is a place within the depths of hell
Call’d MaleDolge, all of rock dark-stain'd
With hue ferruginous, e'en as the steep
That round it circling winds. Right in the midst
Of that abominable region yawns
A spacious gulf profound, whereof the frame
Due time shall tell. The circle, that remains,
Throughout its round, between the gulf and base
of the high craggy banks, successive forms
Ten bastions, in its hollow bottom raised.
As where, to guard the walls, full many a foss
Begirds some stately castle, sure defence i
Affording to the space within ; so here
Were model'dl these : and as like fortresses,
E'en from their threshold to the brink without,
Are flank'd with bridges ; from the rock's low base
Thus flinty paths advanced, that 'cross the moles
And dikes struck onward far as to the gulf,
That in one bound collected cuts them off.
Such was the place, wherein we found ourselves
From Geryon's back dislodged. The bard to left
Held on his way, and I behind him moved.
On our right hand new misery I saw,
New pains, new executioners of wrath,
That swarming peopled the first chasm. Below
Were naked sinners. Hitherward they came,
Meeting our faces, from the middle point;
With us beyond, but with a larger stride.
E'en thus the Romans,: when the year returns
1 Sure defence.] La parte dov'e' son rendon sicura. This is the common reading ; besides which there are two others :
La parte dove il sol rende figura ;
and, La parte dov' ei son rende figura : the former of which two, Lombardi says, is found in Daniello's edition, printed at Venice, 1568 ; in that printed in the same city with the commentaries of Landino and Vellutello, 1572; and also in some MSS. The latter, which has very much the appearance of being genuine, was adopted by Lombardi himself, on the authority of a text supposed to be in the handwriting of Filippo Villani, but so defaced by the alterations made in it by some less skilful hand, that the traces of the old ink were with difficulty recovered ; and it has, since the publication of Lombardi's edition, been met with also in the Monte Casino MS. Monti is decided in favour of Lombardi's reading, and Biagioli opposed to it.
2 With us beyond.] Beyond the middle point they tended the same way with us, but their pace was quicker than ours.
3 E'en thus the Romans.] In the year 1300, Pope Boniface VIII., to remedy the inconvenience occasioned by the press of people who were passing over the bridge of St. Angelo during the time of the Jubilee, caused it to be divided lengthwise by a partition ; and ordered, that all those who were going to St. Peter's should keep one side, and those returning the other. G. Villani, who was present, describes the order that was preserved, lib. 8. cap. xxxvi. It was at this time, and on this occasion, as the honest historian tells us, that he first conceived the design of “compiling his book,"
Of Jubilce, with better speed to rid
The thronging multitudes, their means devise
For such as pass the bridge ; that on one side
All front toward the castle, and approach
Saint Peter's fane, on the other towards the mount.
Each diverse way, along the grisly rock,
Horn'd demons I beheld, with lashes huge,
That on their back unmercifully smote.
Ah ! how they made them bound at the first stripe !
None for the second waited, nor the third.
Meantime, as on I pass’d, one met my sight,
Whom soon as view'd, “Of him," cried I, " not yet
Mine eye hath had his fill." I therefore stayil i
My feet to scan him, and the teacher kind
Paused with me, and consented I should walk
Backward a space; and the tormented spirit,
Who thought to hide him, bent his visage down.
But it avail'd him nought; for I exclaim'd :
“Thou who dost cast thine eye upon the ground,
Unless thy features do belie thee much,
Venedico 2 art thou. But what brings thee
Into this bitter seasoning ?"3 He replied :
“Unwillingly I answer to thy words.
But thy clear speech, that to my mind recalls
The world I once inhabited, constrains me.
Know then 't was I who led fair Ghisola
To do the Marquis' will, however fame
The shameful tale have bruited. Nor alone,
Bologna hither sendeth me to mour.
Rather with us the place is so o'erthrong'd,
That not so many tongues this day are taught,
Betwixt the Reno and Savena's stream,
To answer Sipa 4 in their country's phrase.
And if of that securer proof thou need,
Remember but our craving thirst for gold.”
Him speaking thus, a demon with his thong
1 I therefore stay'd.] “I piedi affissi” is the reading of the Nidobeatina edition ; but Lombardi is under an error, when he tells us that the other editions have “gli occhi affissi ;” for Vellutello's at least, printed in 1544, agrees with the Nidobeatina.
2 Venedico.] Venedico Caccianimico, a Bolognese, who prevailed on his sister Ghisola to prostitute herself
to Obizzo da Este, Marquis of Ferrara, whom we have seen among the tyrants, Canto xii.
3 Seasoning.] Salse. Monti, in his Proposta, following Benvenuto da Imola, takes this to be the name of a place. If so, a play must have been intended on the word, which cannot be preserved in English.
4 To answer Sipa.] He denotes Bologna by its situation between the rivers Savena to the east, and Reno to the west of that city; and by a peculiarity of dialect, the use of the affirmative sipa instead either of si, or, as Monti will have it, of sia,