I say, continuing, that long before
we ever reached the lofty tower's foot,
our eyes had upward toward its summit turned,
because of two small flames we there saw placed,
and of another answering from so far,
that hardly could mine eyesight make it out.
Then to all wisdom's Sea I turned around,
and said: “What sayeth this? and what replies
that other fire? and who are they that made it?”
And he to me: “Upon the filthy waves
thou canst already see what is expected,
unless the marsh's fog conceal it from thee.”
Bowstring ne'er shot an arrow from itself,
that sped away so swiftly through the air,
as I beheld a slender little boat
come toward us through the water thereupon,
under the guidance of a single boatman,
who shouted: “Thou art caught now, wicked soul!”
“O Phlegyas, Phlegyas,” said my Master then,
“this time thou criest out in vain! No longer
shalt thou have us, than while we cross the swamp.”
Like one who listens to a great deceit
practiced upon him, and who then resents it,
so Phlegyas in his stifled wrath became.
My Leader then went down into the boat,
and had me enter after him; and only
when I was in it did it laden seem.
Soon as my Leader and I were in the boat,
the ancient prow goes on its way, and cuts
more water than with others is its wont.
While we were speeding through the stagnant trench,
one stood before me filled with mud, and said:
“Now who art thou, that comest ere thy time?”
And I to him: “Even though I come, I stay not;
but who art thou, that art become so foul?”
He answered: “As thou see'st, I 'm one who weeps.”
Then I to him: “In sorrow and in grief
mayst thou, accursèd spirit, here remain,
for thee I know, all filthy though thou be!”
Then toward the boat he stretched out both his hands;
my wary Teacher, therefore, thrust him off,
saying: “Away there with the other dogs!”
And with his arms he then embraced my neck,
and kissed my face, and said: “Blessèd be she
who pregnant was with thee, indignant soul!
He was a haughty person in the world;
nor is there any goodness which adorns
his memory; hence his shade is furious here.
How many now up yonder think themselves
great kings, who here shall be like pigs in mire,
leaving behind them horrible contempt!”
And I said: “Teacher, I 'd be greatly pleased
to see him get a ducking in this broth,
before we issue from the marshy lake.”
And he to me: “Thou shalt be satisfied
before the shore reveal itself to thee;
't is meet that thou enjoy a wish like that.”
Soon after this I saw the muddy people
making such havoc of him, that therefor
I still give praise and render thanks to God.
They all were shouting: “At Filippo Argenti!”
the spirit of the wrathful Florentine
turning, meanwhile, his teeth against himself.
We left him there; of him I therefore tell
no more; but on mine ears there smote a wail,
hence I, intent ahead, unbar mine eyes.
The kindly Teacher said: “Now, son, at last
the town, whose name is Dis, is drawing near
with all its host of burdened citizens.”
And I said: “Teacher, clearly I behold
its mosques already in that valley there,
vermilion, as if issuing out of fire.”
And he to me: “The eternal fire within
which keeps them burning, maketh them look red,
as thou perceivest in this nether Hell.”
Thereat we came inside the trenches deep,
which fortify that region comfortless;
to me its walls appeared to be of iron.
Not without going first a long way round,
we came to where the boatman cried aloud
to us: “Get out, for here the entrance is!”
More than a thousand o'er the gates I saw
of those that from the heavens had rained, who, vexed,
were saying: “Who is he, that, without death,
is going through the kingdom of the dead?”
And my wise Teacher thereupon made signs
of wishing to have private talk with them.
Their great disdain they somewhat checked, and said:
“Come thou alone, and let him go his way,
who with such daring entered this domain.
Let him retrace alone his foolish road,
and try it, if he can; for thou shalt here
remain, that him so dark a land didst show.”
Think, Reader, whether I lost heart on hearing
those cursèd words; for I did not believe
that I should e'er return on earth again.
“O my dear Leader, who hast made me safe
more than seven times, and extricated me
from serious dangers which I had to face,
forsake me not,” said I, “when so undone!
If further progress be denied to us,
let us at once retrace our steps together.”
That Lord then, who had brought me thither, said:
“Be not afraid; for none can take from us
our passage, since by such an One 't is given!
But thou, await me here, and with good hope
nourish and comfort thou thy weary soul,
for I 'll not leave thee in the nether world.”
Thus goes his way, and there abandons me,
my tender Father, and I in doubt remain;
for Yes and No contend within my head.
I could not hear what he proposed to them;
but with them there he did not long remain,
for each in rivalry ran back within.
They closed the gates, those enemies of ours,
right in my Master's face, who stayed outside,
and walking with slow steps returned to me.
His eyes were downcast, and his eyebrows shorn
of all self-trust, and as he sighed he said:
“Who has forbidden me the homes of pain?”
“Though I get angry, be not thou dismayed,”
he said to me, “for I shall win the fight,
whate'er defensive stir be made within.
This insolence of theirs is nothing new,
for at a gateway less concealed than this
they used it once, which still is lockless found.
Death's scroll thou sawest over it; and now
this side of it One such descends the slope,
crossing the rings unguided, that through him
the city will be opened unto us.”
1. One of the distant towers on the walls surrounding the City of Dis, or Nether Hell.
17. Phlegyas, the wrathful local boatman of Styx, blinded by anger, does not see as clearly as Charon did.
27. The effect of Dante's material body on Phlegyas' boat is used as a means of reminding the reader that Dante is the only living being in the poem.
32. Filippo, nicknamed Argenti (Silver), an arrogant and irascible Florentine of the Adimari family.
37. No sympathy for ill-natured sinners.
43. In Virgil's approval of his righteous indignation Dante makes the only mention [[xxxiii]] in the poem of a member of his immediate family.
66. "Sbarro," "unbar," one of Dante's many rhyme words which lend lucidity to his thought.
68. The City of Dis, or Nether Hell, which contains the realms of Bestiality and Malice, classes of Sin far worse than Incontinence.
71. Mosques, possibly to suggest the Heresy just inside, Mohammedanism being thought to be as heretical as it was schismatic.
82. The Devils, or demons of Biblical mythology, being the guardians of the irrational domain of Bestiality, are naturally inaccessible to the claims of Virgil, or Reason.
105. Virgil's ultimate dependence upon Beatrice is suggestive of that of Art and Science upon Inspiration and Intuition.
125. Reference to the legend of Christ's Descent to Hades, and of the Devils' opposition to His entrance.
128. Reason undivorced from Spirituality is sure of receiving the help of Inspiration or Intuition, when at the end of its natural resources.