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

The Fourth Circle. Intemperance in Wealth
Misers and Prodigals. The Fifth Circle

Papè Satàn, papè Satàn, alèppë!”
thus Plutus with his clucking voice began;
that noble Sage, then, who knew everything,
said, to encourage me: “Let not thy fear
distress thee, for, whatever power he have,
he 'll not prevent our going down this rock.”

Then to those swollen lips he turned around,
and said: “Be silent, thou accursèd wolf;
with thine own rage consume thyself within!
Not causeless is our going to the bottom;
there is it willed on high, where Michael wrought
vengeance upon the arrogant rebellion.”

As sails, when swollen by the wind, fall down
entangled, when the mast breaks; even so,
down to the ground the cruel monster fell.

Into the fourth ditch we descended thus,
advancing further o'er the woeful edge,
which bags all evil in the universe.

Justice of God, alas! who heapeth up
the many unheard of toils and pains I saw,
and wherefore doth our sin torment us so?

As yonder o'er Charybdis doth the sea,
which breaks against the one it runs to meet,
so must the people dance a ring-dance here.
I here saw folk, more numerous than elsewhere,
on one side and the other, with great howls
rolling big weights around by strength of chest;
they struck against each other; then, right there
each turned, and rolling back his weight, cried out:
“Why keepest thou?” and “Wherefore throw away?”
They circled thus around the gloomy ring
on either hand unto the point opposed,
still shouting each to each their vile refrain;
then each turned back, when through his own half-ring
he had attained the other butting place.

And I, whose heart was well nigh broken, said:
“Now, Teacher, show me who these people are,
and tell me whether all these tonsured ones
upon our left ecclesiastics were.”

And he replied to me: “They each and all
were in their first life so squint-eyed in mind,
that they with measure used no money there.
Clearly enough their voices bark it forth,
whene'er they reach the two points of the ring,
where difference in fault unmateth them.
These churchmen were, who have no hairy covering
upon their heads, and Popes and Cardinals,
among whom avarice works its mastery.”

And I to him: “Among such men as these
I surely, Teacher, ought to recognize
a few, who by these sins polluted were.”

And he to me: “Thou shapest a vain thought;
the undiscerning life which made them foul,
now to all recognition makes them dark.
To these two shocks they 'll come eternally;
these from the sepulchre will rise again
close-fisted; these, shorn of their very hair.
Ill-giving and ill-keeping took from them
the lovely world, and set them at this fray;
to qualify it I 'll not use fair words.
Now canst thou, son, behold the short-lived cheat
of riches that are put in Fortune's care,
and for whose sake the human race contends;
for, all the gold there is beneath the moon,
and all that was there once, could not avail
to make one of these weary spirits rest.”

“Teacher,” said I to him, “now tell me further:
what is this Fortune thou dost touch upon,
which hath the world's good things thus in her claws?”

“O foolish creatures,” said he then to me.
“how great the ignorance which hurteth you!
I 'd have thee swallow now my thought of her.
The One whose knowledge everything transcends,
so made the heavens, and so gave guides to them,
that every part on every other shines,

thus equally distributing the light;
likewise for worldly splendours He ordained
a general minister and guide, to change,
from time to time, the vain goods of the world
from race to race, from one blood to another,
past all resistance by the minds of men;
wherefore, one people governs, and the other
declines in power, according to her judgment,
which hidden is, as in the grass a snake.
Your knowledge is not able to resist her;
foreseeing, she decides, and carries on
her government, as theirs the other gods.
Her permutations have no truce at all;
necessity compels her to be swift;
hence oft it happens that a change occurs.
This is the one who is so often cursed
even by those who ought to give her praise,
yet give her blame amiss, and ill repute.
But she is blest, and gives no heed to that;
among the other primal creatures glad,
she turns her sphere, and blest enjoys herself.
But now to woe more piteous let 's descend;
now falls each star that rose when I set out,
and one is here forbidden too long a stay.”

We crossed the circle to the other bank
over a bubbling stream, that poureth down
along a ditch which from it takes its shape.

Than purple-black much darker was its water;
and we, accompanying its dusky waves,
went down and entered on an uncouth path.
A swamp it forms which hath the name of Styx,
this dismal little brook, when it hath reached
the bottom of the grey, malignant slopes.

And I, who was intensely gazing there,
saw muddy people in that slimy marsh,
all naked, and with anger in their looks.
They struck each other, not with hands alone,
but with their heads and chests, and with their feet,
and rent each other piecemeal with their teeth.

Said the good Teacher: “Son, thou seest now
the souls of those whom anger overcame;
nay, more, I 'd have thee certainly believe
that 'neath the water there are folk who sigh,
and make this water bubble at its surface,
as, wheresoe'er it turn, thine eye reveals.
Stuck in the slime, they say: “Sullen we were
in the sweet air that 's gladdened by the sun,
bearing within us fumes of surliness;
we now are sullen in the swamp's black mire.”
This hymn they gurgle down inside their throats,
because they cannot utter it with perfect speech.

And so we circled round the filthy fen
a great arc 'tween the dry bank and the marsh,
our eyes intent on those that swallow mud;
and to a tower's foot we came at last.


1. What it was probably intended to be, incomprehensible jargon, or a clucked out appeal to Satan.
3. Another definition of Virgil.
6. Man will ultimately solve the problems presented by Wealth.
8. The monster Plutus being called a Wolf would seem to strengthen the interpretation, whereby the Wolf of the first canto stood for materialistic Greed, born of Envy, the child of Pride, a view enforced by the following reference to Michael's defeat of Satan's rebellion against a spiritual God.
19. It is because of the perfection of Divine Justice that sin is self-punished.
22. Misers and Prodigals represented as wasting their lives in selfishly amassing and holding, or in squandering Wealth; Abuse and Nonuse, here, as elsewhere in the realm of Incontinence, being opposed to rational Use. Charybdis in the Strait of Messina.
39. Avarice a besetting sin of churchmen in Dante's age.
46. Dante sees Emperors and Ghibellines in Hell, as well as Popes and Guelphs.
52. Dante uses unrecognizability to describe sins which result in, or are due to, lack of character.
59. Avarice and Prodigality mutually punishing each other.
74. Mediaeval mythology conceived of Angels and Intelligences in somewhat the same way that Laws are conceived of in the intellectual mythology of modern Science.
77. Fortune is thought of as the personification of the law controlling the waxing and waning of the prosperity of individuals, families, nations, and races.
87. Gods, Angels, and Laws are all mythological attempts to express observed correlations in Nature.
93. As when she is blamed as [[xxxii]] Luck, or worse.
98. This means, in the language of the stars, whose positions Virgil sees in his mind, that it is now past midnight, over six hours since the evening of Good Friday, when the poets entered Hell.
101. This is the overflow of Acheron, since Dante conceives of all the rivers of his Hell as interconnected.
106. Styx, the marshy river, or fen, which with its banks forms the Fifth Circle.
109. The Wrathful and the indolent Sullen, who, by abuse or nonuse, failed in the rational use of that natural Indignation, upon which the higher interests of Man's civilization as much depend, as the lower do upon the rational use of Wealth.
116. Not the angry, but "those whom anger overcame."
118. Those who have not character enough to have the courage to voice their convictions, and fight for them like men.

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