06
Dante Alighieri - La Divina Commedia - Inferno
Courtney Langdon - The Divine Comedy

The Third Circle. Intemperance in Food
Gluttons

On my return to consciousness, which closed
before the kindred couple's piteous case,
which utterly confounded me with grief,
new torments all around me I behold,
and new tormented ones, where'er I move,
where'er I turn, and wheresoe'er I gaze.

In the third circle am I, that of rain
eternal, cursŔd, cold and burdensome;
its measure and quality are never new.
Coarse hail, and snow, and dirty-colored water
through the dark air are ever pouring down;
and foully smells the ground receiving them.

A wild beast, Cerberus, uncouth and cruel,
is barking with three throats, as would a dog,
over the people that are there submerged.
Red eyes he hath, a dark and greasy beard,
a belly big, and talons on his hands;
he claws the spirits, flays and quarters them.
The rainfall causes them to howl like dogs;
with one side they make shelter for the other;
oft do the poor profaners turn about.

When Cerberus, the mighty worm, perceived us,
his mouths he opened, showing us his fangs;
nor had he any limb that he kept still.
My Leader then stretched out his opened palms,
and took some earth, and with his fists well filled,
he threw it down into the greedy throats.
And like a dog that, barking, yearns for food,
and, when he comes to bite it, is appeased,
since only to devour it doth he strain
and fight; even such became those filthy faces
of demon Cerberus, who, thundering, stuns
the spirits so, that they would fain be deaf.

Over the shades the heavy rain beats down
we then were passing, as our feet we set
upon their unreal bodies which seem real.
They each and all were lying on the ground,
excepting one, which rose and sat upright,
when it perceived us pass in front of it.

“O thou that through this Hell art being led,”
it said to me, “recall me, if thou canst;
for thou, before I unmade was, wast made.”

And I to it: “The anguish thou art in
perchance withdraws thee from my memory so,
it doth not seem that thee I ever saw.
But tell me who thou art, that in so painful
a place art set, and to such punishment,
that none, though greater, so repulsive is.”

And he to me: “Thy town, which is so full
of envy that the bag o'erflows already,
owned me when I was in the peaceful life.
Ciacco, you townsmen used to call me then;
for my injurious fault of gluttony
I 'm broken, as thou seest, by the rain;
nor yet am I, sad soul, the only one,
for all these here are subject, for like fault,
unto like pain.” Thereat he spoke no more.

“Thy trouble, Ciacco,” I replied to him,
“so burdens me that it invites my tears;
but tell me, if thou canst, to what will come
the citizens of our divided town;
if any one therein is just; and tell me
the reason why such discord hath assailed her.”

And he to me then: “After struggling long
they 'll come to bloodshed, and the boorish party
will drive the other out with much offence.
Then, afterward, the latter needs must fall
within three suns, and the other party rise,
by help of one who now is 'on the fence.'
A long time will it hold its forehead up,
keeping the other under grievous weights,
howe'er it weep therefor, and be ashamed.
Two men are just, but are not heeded there;
the three sparks that have set men's hearts on fire,
are overweening pride, envy and greed.”

Herewith he closed his tear-inspiring speech.
And I to him: “I 'd have thee teach me still,
and grant the favor of some further talk.
FarinÓta and TegghiÓio, who so worthy were,
JÓcopo Rustic¨cci, Arrigo and Mosca,
and the others who were set on doing good,
tell me where these are, and let me know of them;
for great desire constraineth me to learn
if Heaven now sweeten, or Hell poison them.”

And he: “Among the blackest souls are these;
a different fault weighs toward the bottom each;
if thou descend so far, thou mayst behold them.
But when in the sweet world thou art again,
recall me, prithee, unto others' minds;
I tell no more, nor further answer thee.”

His fixed eyes thereupon he turned askance;
a while he looked at me, then bowed his head,
and fell therewith among the other blind.

Then said my Leader: “He 'll not wake again
on this side of the angel-trumpet's sound.
What time the hostile PodestÓ shall come,
each soul will find again its dismal tomb,
each will take on again its flesh and shape,
and hear what through eternity resounds.”

We thus passed through with slowly moving steps
the filthy mixture of the shades and rain,
talking a little of the future life;

because of which I said: “These torments, Teacher,
after the Final Sentence will they grow,
or less become, or burn the same as now.”

And he to me: “Return thou to thy science,
which holdeth that the more a thing is perfect,
so much the more it feels of weal or woe.
Although this cursŔd folk shall nevermore
arrive at true perfection, it expects
to be more perfect after, than before.”

As in a circle, round that road we went,
speaking at greater length than I repeat,
and came unto a place where one descends;
there found we Plutus, the great enemy.


1. Dante's frequently mysterious passage from one circle or spiritual state to another resembles the mysterious way in which the [[xxx]] mind shuts out a previous thought or feeling by an act of will, and gives itself wholly to another.
7. The cold and dirty rain in which the Gluttons are submerged, and the three-mouthed monster, Cerberus, who torments them, represent their disgusting abuse of the natural and necessary appetite for Food.
21. Profaners of their body, the temple of the spirit.
38. Ciacco, Jimmy, the pig, apparently the twofold nickname of a clever, good-natured Florentine glutton in Dante's time. To the "empty shades" of spirits in Hell, Dante attributes the power of being seen, heard, and touched, but without solidity.
42. Dante was born before Ciacco had died.
48. Dante had not yet seen some of the lower circles.
58. Sympathy, because gluttony and the like are sins to which the social and good-natured are peculiarly tempted.
64. The political vicissitudes of Florence after 1300, the date of Dante's Vision. The Bianchi and Neri are the factions referred to. The Neri were driven out in 1301 by the Bianchi, who in turn were exiled in 1302 (and with them Dante) largely as a result of the intrigues of Boniface VIII, who in 1300 was "hugging the shore," or "on the fence." The poem having been written at different times later than its feigned date, historical events posterior to 1300 are, as here, narrated in the form of prophecies. Three suns are three years.
73. Of the two just men in Florence, it is quite like Dante to have had himself in mind as one.
74. Peculiarly noteworthy are the three sparks, "overweening Pride, Envy, and Greed," which were the cause of trouble in the limited sphere of Florence six centuries ago!
79. Illustrious citizens of Florence, whom Dante respected for their civic virtues, but whom he will see lower down in Hell, because of their personal sins.
86. Punishment in Hell is graded by a law of spiritual gravitation.
89. Almost all sinners wish to be remembered on earth, except traitors, who have wholly broken the social bond.
96. Christ at the Final Judgment. Men are justly judged by a comparison of their lives with that of the moral and spiritual Record-holder of the race.
106. Man's spirit being thought to be wholly itself only when embodied, it follows that when reŰmbodied its happiness or unhappiness will be more keenly felt.
115. Gluttony suddenly vanishing from Dante's mind, he sees before him the symbol of Intemperance in the Use of Wealth, Plutus, Man's great enemy.

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