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

The Eighth Circle. Fraud
The Eighth Trench. Fraudulent Counselors

The flame, because of having ceased to speak,
was quiet and erect, and now away from us
was going with the gentle Poet's leave;
when lo, another, which behind it came,
caused us to turn our eyes up toward its tip,
by reason of a vague sound issuing thence.

As the Sicilian bull (which bellowed first
with the lament of him, and that was right,
who with his file had given form to it,)
was wont to bellow with the voice of him
who suffered in it, so that, though of brass,
it seemed the one who by the pain was pierced;
even so, since from the body of the flame
they had nor path nor mouth, the painful words
were changed at first into the latter's tongue.
But when these words had travelled to the tip,
and given it that vibration which the tongue,
when uttered, gave to them, we heard it say:

"O thou, to whom I now address my voice,
and who just now didst talk in Lombard, saying:
'Now go thy way, for thee I urge no more;'
though I, perhaps, have somewhat late arrived,
be not displeased to stop and speak with me;
thou see'st that I am not, although I burn!
If into this blind world thou only now
art fallen down from that sweet Latin land,
whence all my guilt I bring, pray tell me whether
the Romagnoles are having peace or war;
for I came from the mountains 'tween Urbino
and that high peak from which the Tiber springs."

While downward I was leaning still intent,
my Leader touched me on my side, and said:
"Speak thou, for this one an Italian is."

And I, who had my answer all prepared,
began to speak without delay: "O soul,
that art concealed down yonder, thy Romagna
is not at present, and she never was,
devoid of war within her tyrants' hearts;
but I left none apparent there just now.
Ravenna is, as she for many years
has been; Polenta's eagle so broods there,
that Cervia it o'ercovers with its wings.
The town which made the long resistance once,
and of the French a sanguinary heap,
beneath the green paws finds itself again.
Verrucchio's former Mastif and the new,
who foully with Montagna dealt, there make,
where they are wont, a gimlet of their teeth.
The cities of Lamone and Santerno
the little lion of the white lair rules,
who changes sides from summer-time to winter;
and that whose flank is by the Savio bathed,
lives, as it sits twixt plain and mount,
a free state half, and half a tyranny.
And now, I pray thee, tell me who thou art,
nor harder be than others here have been,
so may thy name maintain itself on earth."

After the flame had roared a little while,
as is its fashion, to and fro it moved
its pointed tip, and then gave forth this breath:

"If I believed that my reply were made
to one who to the world would e'er return,
this flame would stay without another quiver;
but inasmuch as, if I hear the truth,
none e'er returned alive from this abyss,
fearless of infamy I answer thee.
A man of arms I was, then Cordelier,
trusting, since girded thus, to make amends;
and certainly my trust had been confirmed,
were 't not for that High Priest, (whom ill befall!)
who set me at my former sins again;
both how and why I 'd have thee hear from me.
While I was still the shape of bones and flesh
my mother gave me, my performances
were not a lion's, but a fox's deeds.
All covert practices and hidden ways
I knew; and I so carried on their arts,
that to the ends of earth their fame was noised.
When I perceived at last that I had reached
that period of my life, when each should strike
his sails and coil his ropes, what hitherto
had given me pleasure I thereat disliked;
I yielded then, repenting and confessing,
and that, alas, poor me! would have availed.
The Prince of modern Pharisees, who then
hard by the Lateran had a war on hand,
though not with either Saracens or Jews,
for Christian were all enemies of his,
and none of them had gone to conquer Acre,
or been a merchant in the Soldan's land;
not heeding in himself his lofty office
and holy orders, or in me the cord,
which leaner used to make those girt therewith;
but as upon Soracte Constantine
once bade Sylvester heal his leprosy;
so this one called on me, as master-leech,
to cure him of the fever of his pride;
he asked me for advice, but I kept still,
because his words were like a drunkard's words.
And then he said: 'Let not thy heart mistrust;
I from now on absolve thee; teach me, then,
how I can Palestrina overthrow.
To lock and unlock Heaven is in my power,
as thou dost know; two, therefore, are the Keys,
my predecessor held in small esteem.'
His weighty words then drove me to the point,
at which the silent course appeared the worse;
'Father,' I therefore said, 'since from the sin
thou washest me, which I must now commit,
a promise long drawn out but shortly kept
will cause thy triumph on the lofty seat.'
Then Francis came for me, when I was dead;
but one of our black Cherubs said to him:
'Remove him not, and do no wrong to me!
Among my menials he must needs descend,
because he gave the fraudulent advice,
since which till now I 've had him by the hair;
for who repents not cannot be absolved,
nor yet can one at once repent and will,
the contradiction not permitting it!'
O woeful me! O how I shook with fear,
when, after laying hold on me, he said:
'Perhaps thou didst not think me a logician!'
He carried me to Minos, and the latter
round his hard back eight times entwined his tail,
and when in great rage he had bitten it,
'A sinner of the thievish fire is this,'
he said; hence, where thou see'st me, I am lost,
and, thus robed, sorrowing go my way."

When he had thus completed his discourse,
the flame departed from us with its grief,
twisting and lashing its sharp-pointed horn.

I and my Leader then passed further on
up o'er the crag, as far as the next arch
which spans the ditch, wherein their due is paid
to those who burdens win by severing bonds.


7. Phalaris, a Sicilian tyrant had such a bull as is here described made by Perillus, an Athenian, and then tested its efficiency on its maker.
20. Dante may mean that Virgil's actual words were in the Lombard dialect of Mantua, or only that his Lombard accent was recognized as such.
28. The inhabitants of Romagna, the province of Italy northeast of Tuscany.
30. Monte Coronaro.
33. That is, not a Greek, as Ulysses was; here "Latino" means very definitely "Italian."
39. In 1299 the contending princes and factions of Romagna had concluded an outward, inconclusive peace, which Dante, however, had good reason for not trusting.
40. Ravenna had been ruled by the Guelph, Guido da Polenta, Francesca's father, since 1275; his arms bore an eagle.
43. Forlė a Ghibelline city, which in 1282 defeated and slaughtered its French besiegers; the arms of its rulers, the Ordelaffi, bore a green lion.
46. This political terzina is to the effect that the two Malatestas, lords of Rimini, having murdered the Ghibelline leader, Montagna, kept in their custody, were still goring their subjects, as they had always done.
49. Maghinardo Pagani, whose coat of arms bore a blue lion on a white field, was ruling Faenza on the Lamone river, and Imola near the Santerno, and was constantly changing party.
52. Cesena, on the Savio, was ruled by a tyrant, Galasso da Montefeltro, in spite of the free forms of her government. Herewith ends Dante's historically interesting interlude on the political state of Romagna in 1300.
61. Being inside his flame the spirit cannot see Dante, and know, without being told, that he is still physically alive.
67. Guido da Montefeltro, one of the most famous Ghibelline leaders of the thirteenth century. Having won an even greater reputation for his astuteness than for his great military ability, in his old age he joined the order of St. Francis, and died in 1298. The historical part of the story Dante here narrates has been corroborated.
70. Boniface VIII.
85. In 1297 Boniface was at war with the great Roman family of the Colonna, intrenched in their fortress [[lx]] of Palestrina near the Lateran Palace.
89. None had helped the Saracens conquer the last stronghold of the Christians in Palestine, or kept up commercial relations with the Mohamedan enemies of Christendom.
94. This refers to the conversion of Constantine on Mt. Soracte by Pope Sylvester I, a legend connected with the equally legendary donation which followed.
105. This is Boniface's predecessor Celestine V, who was persuaded through excessive humility to yield to Boniface's intrigues, and abdicate. Lack of "documentation" and imagination still prevent most commentators from seeing that it was not he, but Pilate, who made "the great Refusal" of history.
110. A truly Machiavellian (the more usual, but not the only, spelling) formula for the keeping of treaties.
112. St. Francis came for a spirit of his own order, while the reason for a black Cherub's coming may be that, since among the Angelic Orders the Cherubim are next to the nearest to God, on their Fall with Lucifer, they were assigned to the Eighth Circle of Hell, the next Circle to the last.
118. Even the Pope's declarative authority is subservient to the spiritual law that absolution, or liberation from sin is dependent upon genuine repentance; repentance and liberation being, like sin and its punishment, one and the same thing.
124. Minos, Man's Conscience, here, as everywhere in the Inferno, the court of last appeal.
128. Guido was at his death "eternally" damned, in spite of his previous fear-born repentance; but "eternally" is a spiritual not a temporal term.

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