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Thus did the Master fill me with alarm,
When I beheld his forehead so disturbed,
And to the ailment came as soon the plaster. For as we came unto the ruined bridge,
The Leader turned to me with that sweet lock
Which at the mountain's foot I first beheld. His arms he opened, after some advisement
Within himself elected, looking first
Well at the ruin, and laid hold of me. And even as he who acts and meditates,
For aye it seems that he provides beforehand,
So upward lifting me towards the summit Of a huge rock, he scanned another crag,
Saying: “To that one grapple afterwards,
But try first if 'tis such that it will hold thee.” This was no way for one clothed with a cloak ;
For hardly we, he light, and I pushed upward,
Were able to ascend from jag to jag. And had it not been, that upon that precinct
Shorter was the ascent than on the other,
He I know not, but I had been dead beat. But because Malebolge tow'rds the mouth
Of the profoundest well is all inclinirig,
The structure of each valley doth import That one bank rises and the other sinks.
Still we arrived at length upon the point
Wherefrom the last stone breaks itself asunder. The breath was from my lungs so milked away,
When I was up, that I could go no farther,
Nay, I sat down upon my first arrival. “Now it behoves thee thus to put off sloth,”
My Master said ; “for sitting upon down,
Or under quilt, one cometh not to fame, Withouten which whoso his life consumes
Such vestige leaveth of himself on earth,
As smoke in air or in the water foam.
With spirit that o'ercometh every battle,
If with its heavy body it sink not.
'Tis not enough from these to have departed;
Let it avail thee, if thou understand me."
Better with breath than I did feel myself,
Upward we took our way along the crag,
Which jagged was, and narrow, and difficult,
And more precipitous far than that before. Speaking I went, not to appear exhausted ;
Whereat a voice from the next moat came forth,
Not well adapted to articulate words.
I now was of the arch that passes there ;
But he seemed moved to anger who was speaking. I was bent downward, but my living eyes
Could not attain the bottom, for the dark ;
Wherefore I : “ Master, see that thou arrive At the next round, and let us descend the wall;
For as from hence I hear and understand not,
So I look down and nothing I distinguish.” “ Other response,” he said, " I make thee not,
Except the doing ; for the modest asking
Ought to be followed by the deed in silence." We from the bridge descended at its head,
Where it connects itself with the eighth bank,
And then was manifest to me the Bolgia; And I beheld therein a terrible throng
Of serpents, and of such a monstrous kind,
That the remembrance still congeals my blood. Let Libya boast no longer with her sand;
For if Chelydri, Jaculi, and Phareæ
She breeds, with Cenchri and with Amphisbæna, Neither so many plagues nor so malignant
E'er showed she with all Ethiopia,
Nor with whatever on the Red Sea is ! Among this cruel and most dismal throng
People were running naked and affrighted,
Without the hope of hole or heliotrope.
These riveted upon their reins the tail
And head, and were in front of them entwined. And lo! at one who was upon our side
There darted forth a serpent, which transfixed him
There where the neck is knotted to the shoulders. Nor ( so quickly e'er, nor I was written,
As he took fire, and burned ; and ashes wholly
Behoved it that in falling he became.
The ashes drew together, and of themselves
Even thus by the great sages 'tis confessed
The phenix dies, and then is born again,
When it approaches its five-hundredth year; On herb or grain it feeds not in its life,
But only on tears of incense and amomum,
And nard and myrrh are its last winding-sheet. And as he is who falls, and knows not how,
By force of demons who to earth down drag him,
Or other oppilation that binds man, When he arises and around him looks,
Wholly bewildered by the mighty anguish
Which he has suffered, and in looking sighs; Such was that sinner after he had risen.
Justice of God! ( how severe it is,
That blows like these in vengeance poureth down! The Guide thereafter asked him who he was ;
Whence he replied: “I rained from Tuscany
A short time since into this cruel gorge. A bestial life, and not a human, pleased me,
Even as the mule I was ; I'm Vanni Fucci,
Beast, and Pistoia was my worthy den.” And I unto the Guide: “Tell him to stir not,
And ask what crime has thrust him here below,
For once a man of blood and wrath I saw him." And the sinner, who had heard, dissembled not,
But unto me directed mind and face,
And with a melancholy shame was painted. Then said: “It pains me more that thou hast caught ine
Amid this misery where thou seest me,
Than when I from the other life was taken. What thou demandest I cannot deny ;
So low am I put down because I robbed
The sacristy of the fair ornaments, And falsely once 'twas laid upon another ;
But that thou mayst not such a sight enjoy,
If thou shalt e'er be out of the dark places, Thine ears to my announcement ope and hear :
Pistoia first of Neri groweth meagre ;
Then Florence doth renew her men and manners; Mars draws a vapour up from Val di Magra,
Which is with turbid clouds enveloped round,
And with impetuous and bitter tempest Over Canipo Picen shall be the battle ;
When it shall suddenly rend the mist asunder,
So that each Bianco shall thereby be smitten And this I've said that it may give thee pain".
At the conclusion of his words, the thief
Lifted his hands aloft with both the figs,
Crying: “Take that, God, for at thee I aim them." From that time forth the serpents were my friends;
For one entwined itself about his neck
As if it said : “I will not thou speak more;” And round his arms another, and rebound him,
Clinching itself together so in front,
That with them he could not a motion make Pistuia, ah, Pistoia ! why resolve not
To burn thyself to ashes and so perish,
Since in ill-doing thou thy seed excellest ? Through all the sombre circles of this Hell,
Spirit I saw not against God so proud,
Not he who fell at Thebes down from the walls ! He fled away, and spake no further word;
And I beheld a Centaur full of rage
Come crying out : “Where is, where is the scoffer?" I do not think Maremma has so many
Serpents as he had all along his back,
As far as where our countenance begins. Upon the shoulders, just behind the nape,
With wings wide open was a dragon lying,
And he sets fire to all that he encounters. My Master said: “That one is Cacus, who
Beneath the rock upon Mount Aventine
Created oftentimes a lake of blood.
By reason of the fraudulent theft he made
Of the great herd, which he had near to him, Whereat his tortuous actions ceased beneath
The mace of Hercules, who peradventure
Gave him a hundred, and he felt not ten." While he was speaking thus, he had passed by,
And spirits three had underneath us come,
Of which nor I aware was, nor my Leader.
On which account our story made a halt,
I did not know them ; but it came to pass,
As it is wont to happen by some chance,
That one to name the other was compelled,
Whence I, so that the Leader might attend,
Upward from chin to nose my finger laid.
What I shall say, it will no marvel be,
For I who saw it hardly can admit it.
Behold! a serpent with six feet daris forth
In front of one, and fastens wholly on him.
And with the forward ones his arms it seized ;
Then thrust its teeth through one cheek and the other The hindermost it stretched upon his thighs,
And put its tail through in between the two,
And up behind along the reins outspread it.
Unto a tree so, as this horrible reptile
Upon the other's limbs entwined its own.
They had been made, and intermixed their colour;
Nor one nor other seemed now what he was ;
Upward along the paper a brown colour,
Which is not black as yet, and the white dies.
Cried out: “O me, Agnello, how thou changest !
Behold, thou now art neither two nor one.”
When there appeared to us two figures mingleil
Into one face, wherein the two were lost.
The thighs and legs, the belly and the chest
Members became that never yet were seen.
Two and yet none did the perverted image
Appear, and such departed with slow pace.
Of days canicular, exchanging hedge,
Lightning appeareth if the road it cross;
Of the two o:hers, a small fiery serpent,