16
Dante Alighieri - La Divina Commedia - Inferno
Courtney Langdon - The Divine Comedy

The Seventh Circle. The Third Ring
Violence against Nature. Sodomites

I now was where the booming of the water,
which fell into the following round, was heard
like the dull, buzzing sound which bee-hives make;
when three shades separated from a group,
which 'neath the rain's tormenting punishment
was passing by, and ran along together.
Toward us they came, and each of them cried out:
"Stop, thou, that by thy garb dost seem to us
a citizen of our corrupted town!"

Alas, what wounds I saw upon their limbs,
both old and recent, by the flames burnt in!
It pains me still but to remember them.

My Leader, giving heed to these their cries,
turned his face round toward me, and said: "Now wait!
To those men yonder courtesy is due;
and, were not for the fire, which, arrow-like,
the nature of the place shoots forth, I 'd say
that haste were more becoming thee than them."

And they, when we had stopped, began again
their old refrain; and after they had reached us,
all three of them made of themselves a wheel.

As champions oiled and nude are wont to do,
when looking for an advantageous grip,
before they come to giving blows and wounds;
thus, as he wheeled, each turned his face toward me,
so that his feet continuous journey made
in opposite direction to his neck.

And one began: "Even if the wretched nature
of this soft place, and our burned, shrivelled faces
bring us and our requests into contempt,
still let our reputation bend thy mind
to tell us who thou art, that dost so safely
rub on the soil of Hell thy living feet.
He, in whose footprints thou dost see me tread,
was, though he go both nude and hairless now,
of higher rank then thou believest him.
He was the grandson of the good Gualdrada;
his name was Guido Guerra, and when alive,
his wisdom and his sword accomplished much.
The other, who behind me treads the sand,
Tegghiàio Aldobrandi is, whose voice
should have been welcomed in the world above.
And I, who with them am tormented here,
Iàcopo Rusticucci was; and surely
my shrewish wife than aught else hurts me more."

If I had been protected from the fire,
I would have lept into their midst below,
and I believe my Leader had allowed it.

But since I should have burned and baked myself,
fear was victorious over my good will,
which made me eager to embrace them there.

I then began: "Your state impressed within me
not scorn, but so much pain, that only late
will all of it entirely disappear,
as soon as this my Lord said words to me,
because of which I thought within myself
that there were people coming such as you.
Of your own town am I, and evermore
have I your doings and your honored names
related, and heard mentioned, with regard.
I leave the gall, and for the sweet fruit go,
which my veracious Leader promised me;
but to the center must I first descend."

"So may thy spirit lead thy members long,"
the former thereupon replied to me,
"and, after thou art gone, thy fame be bright,
tell me if courtesy and worth abide
within our town, as they were wont to do,
or whether they have wholly gone from it;
for Guglielmo Borsierë, who but newly
has been in pain with us, and with our mates
goes yonder, grieves us greatly with his words."

"The people newly come, and sudden gains,
have bred in thee such pride and such excess,
that, Florence, thou art even now in pain!"

Thus with uplifted face I cried; whereat
the three, who this as answer understood,
looked at each other, as one looks at truth.

"If satisfying others other times
cost thee so little, happy thou, that thus
at thy sweet will dost speak!" they all replied.
"Hence, - so mayst thou, from these dark places saved,
return to see the lovely stars again, -
when saying 'I was there' shall do thee good,
see that thou tell the people about us."
They then broke up their wheel, and in their flight
it seemed as if their nimble legs were wings.

Amen could not have been as quickly said,
as they then disappeared; my Teacher, therefore,
thought it advisable for us to leave.

I followed him, and not far had we gone,
before the water's noise was so near by,
that, had we spoken, we had not been heard.

And as the stream, which is the first that eastward
from Monte Veso takes a separate course
upon the left slope of the Apennines,
and which above is Acquacheta called,
before it flows into its lowly bed,
and at Forlì is of that name deprived,
booms loud, because of falling o'er a cliff
above San Benedetto of the Alp,
where for a thousand there should refuge be;
even thus, as o'er a precipice it fell,
we found that colored water roaring so,
that very soon it would have hurt our ears.

I had a cord around about me girt,
wherewith I once had thought that I could capture
the Leopard with the brightly colored hide.
When from me I had wholly loosened it,
even as my Leader had commanded me,
I coiled it up and held it out to him.
Thereat upon his right he turned around,
and hurled it to some distance from the edge
down into that profound and dark abyss.

"Surely some strange new thing must needs reply"
said I within myself, "to this strange signal,
which with his eye my Teacher follows thus."

Ah, with what caution men should deal with those,
who see not only what is done by others,
but with their wisdom see into their thoughts!

He said to me: "What I am waiting for,
and what thy thought now dreams, will soon come up;
soon to thy vision will it be revealed."

E'er to a truth that hath a falsehood's face
ought one to close his lips as best he can,
for, though one faultless be, it brings him shame;
but I can not suppress it here; hence, Reader,
even by the verses of this Comedy,
so may they not be void of lasting favor,
I swear to thee, that through that coarse, dark air
I saw a shape, which would have chilled with wonder
however brave a heart, come swimming up,
as he returns, who, going down at times
to clear an anchor clinging to a reef,
or aught else lying hidden in the sea,
above extends, and draweth in below.


1. The waterfall of Phlegethon.
8. Dante wore the toga, a tradition from Roman times, to which he was ever proudly loyal.
15. Another strong instance of respect for the general character of individuals independent of a searching condemnation of the sin which they served to illustrate.
21. A scheme by which the three could keep moving, and yet converse with Dante.
26. The text here adopted is granted to be in every way the best, but is [[xlii]] generally rejected on documentary grounds.
34. Three illustrious Florentines: Guido Guerra, of the Conti Guidi, a leader of the Guelphs of Florence; Tegghiaio Aldobrandi, whose warning, if heeded, would have saved the Florentine Guelphs the defeat of Mont'Aperti; Jacopo Rusticucci, an honored Florentine, apparently plagued by a shrewish wife; all three contemporaries of Dante's father.
61. A compendium of Dante's journey through the spiritual world.
73. A wonderfully succinct account of the causes of the troubled state of Florence in Dante's time, which throws light upon the history of the United States since the Civil War - undigested Wealth, and undigested Immigration.
78. "As one looks at truth!"
88. Just such a hurriedly uttered Amen can still be heard in the rendering of the Latin liturgy in Florence!
92. Phlegethon, falling over the edge of the Seventh Circle into the profound abyss below to form the frozen lake of Cocytus at the bottom of Hell. Bloodthirstiness ultimately results in utterly cold-hearted Treachery.
94. The stream which at Forlì takes the name of Montone, and in Dante's time flowed into the Adriatic, without becoming a tributary of the Po, as did all others on the northern slope of the Apennines, from the Po's source in the Cottian Alps eastward.
100. A monastery rich enough to have accommodated more monks than it did. It is possible, however, to translate the passage: "because of falling o'er one ledge, when by a thousand it should be received."
106. Thought to be the cord of St. Francis, Dante being reported as having intended in his youth to join the Franciscan order, as a means of resisting the temptations to Incontinence, represented by the allegorical Leopard of the first canto.
118. Virgil could read Dante's mind.
122. Geryon's appearance not a surprise to Dante.
124. An anticipation of Browning's teaching in the Ring and the Book, XII, 845-857. Telling unfamiliar as well as unpopular truths is fraught with danger, but Dante dared to face it here. The dangerous truth is, that the cord of St. Francis actually brought up Geryon, the symbol of Fraud. Now Dante loved St. Francis, but, aware as he was of the degeneracy of his order, his own experience may have caused him to realize that joining an organization did not in itself accomplish what must be achieved by one's own will. The cord itself had in Dante's time become too frequently a symbol of Fraud, and so could attract Geryon. Hereafter Dante will wear no girdle but the reed of humility, assumed at the beginning [[xliii]] of his course through Purgatory.
128. His Comedy, to which "both Heaven and earth had set their hand," was to Dante as sacred as anything he could swear by.
133. A diver.

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