The many people and unheard-of wounds
had caused my eyes to be so drunk with tears,
that fain they were to linger there and weep;
but Virgil said: "At what art gazing still?
Why is it that thine eyes still rest down there
among the wretched mutilated shades?
Thou didst not thus when in the other trenches;
consider, then, if thou propose to count them,
that this trench circles two-and-twenty miles,
and that the moon is now beneath our feet;
short is the time allowed us still, and more
there is to see, than what thou seest here."
"If thou hadst heeded" I thereat replied,
"the reason for my gazing there, thou wouldst,
perhaps, have granted me a longer stay."
Meantime my Leader on his way was going,
and I behind him moving, as I made
my answer, adding: "In that hollow place,
whereon I kept mine eyes so steadily,
I think a spirit sprung from mine own blood
bewails the fault so dearly paid for there."
Thereat my Teacher said: "Let not thy thoughts
hereafter break on him; heed other things,
and there let him remain; for at the foot
of that small bridge I saw him point thee out,
and with his finger fiercely threaten thee;
Geri del Bello I then heard him called.
So wholly wast thou then intent on him
who formerly possessed Hautefort, that thou,
till he departed, didst not look beyond."
"Leader," said I, "his death by violence,
which is not yet avenged for him by any
who shared the shame, made him indignant; that,
as I believe, was why he went away
without addressing me; he thus has caused me
to pity him the more." We thus conversed
till we had reached the first place on the crag,
whence, had there been more light, the next ravine
had to its very bottom been revealed.
When we o'er Malebolgë's final cloister
were situated so, that its lay-brethren
could be perceived by us, uncouth laments,
which had their arrow-heads with pity barbed,
so pierced me through and through, that with my hands
I closed mine ears. Such pain as there would be,
if from the hospitals of Val di Chiana,
Maremma and Sardinia, from July
until September, all diseases came
together in one ditch; such was it here;
and out of it there came a stench, like that
which out of rotting limbs is wont to come.
Adown the last bank of the lengthy crag
we went, as ever to the left; and then
much clearer was my vision toward the bottom,
wherein the servant of the Most High Lord,
Justice infallible, is punishing
the falsifiers she recordeth here.
I do not think it were a sadder sight
to see the whole race in Aegina sick,
when so suffused with poison was the air,
that all the animals, down to the little worm,
fell dead, and when the ancient race of people,
according to what poets hold for truth,
out of the seed of ants restored themselves;
than now it was, to see the spirits languish
down in that gloomy ditch in different heaps.
One on his belly lay, and others leaned
against each other's shoulders, while another
crawled on all fours along the dismal path.
Without conversing, step by step we moved,
both looking at and listening to the sick,
who could not raise their bodies. Two of these
I then saw sitting and against each other
leaning, just as a pan against a pan
is leaned to warm, and spotted o'er with scabs
from head to foot; and never have I seen
a curry-comb plied by a boy, for whom
his master waited, or by one who kept
awake against his will, as each oft plied
upon himself the edge of finger-nails
for the great rage of itching, which hath else
no help; their nails kept scraping down their scabs,
as doth a knife the scales of bream, or fish
of other kinds equipped with larger scales.
"O thou that with thy fingers flay'st thyself,"
to one of them my Leader then began,
"and who at times dost pincers make of them,
pray tell us whether Latin any be
of those in here, so may thy nails
suffice thee for thy work eternally."
"We, both of us, whom thou beholdest here
so spoiled, are Latin," answered one who wept,
"but who art thou that didst inquire of us?"
My Leader thereupon said: "I am one
who with this living man from ledge to ledge
descend, and who propose to show him Hell."
Thereat the common back was broken up,
and trembling each of them turned round toward me,
with others who had heard him by rebound.
Then my good Teacher drew close up to me,
and said: "Say whatsoe'er thou wilt to them."
Hence, since he so had wished it, I began:
"So may your memory never fly away
from human minds in that first world of ours,
but rather under many suns survive,
pray tell me who ye are, and of what people;
nor let your foul and loathsome punishment
make you afraid to show yourselves to me."
"I of Arezzo was; and Albero
da Siena had me burned;" one then replied,
"but what I died for doth not bring me here.
'T is true I said to him, although in jest,
that I knew how to raise me in the air;
and he, who, curious, had but little sense,
wished me to show that art to him; and only
because I did not make him Daedalus,
he had me burned by one, who treated him
as son. But to the last trench of the ten
Minos, who may not make mistakes, condemned me
for the alchemy I practised in the world."
Then to the Poet I: "Now was there ever
a people as vainglorious as the men
of Siena? Surely not the French by far!"
Whereat the other leprous one, who heard me,
replied to what I said: "Excepting Stricca,
who moderation knew in what he spent;
and Niccolō, who was the first to find
the costly use of cloves in gardens where
such seed takes root; excepting, too,
the company, on whom Cāccia d' Asciān
wasted his vineyard and great forest land,
while d' Abbagliato squandered all his sense.
But so that thou mayst know who backs thee thus
against the men of Siena, point thine eyes
toward me, that well my face may answer thee;
so shalt thou see that I 'm Capocchio's shade,
who metals falsified by alchemy;
and thou, if well I see thee, shouldst recall
how good an ape of nature I was once."
1. Carried away by the extent of the horrible scene before him, Dante is reproved by Virgil because he seems to be much more affected by the quantity, than by the quality, of what distresses him, which suggests the truth that nothing spiritual is susceptible of any quantitative evaluation.
9. For the reason given in the preceding note, it were idle to try to calculate too closely the physical dimensions of Dante's Hell from his statement that this trench is twenty-two miles around, and the following trench, eleven. Suffice it that a realistic touch is here provided, as on countless occasions throughout the journey. The main fact about the Inferno's construction is that, being in the form of an inverted cone, the circles and their rings diminish in size as one in thought goes down, for the simple reason that spirits grow less in number, both in Hell, as they do in Heaven, in inverse ratio to their strength of character. According to the size of the circles, the smallest class of sinners are the traitors, and the largest the cowards and neutral.
10. It is, therefore, about half-past one p.m.
27. This Geri del Bello was the nephew of Dante's grandfather, and a great promoter of strife. Having been treacherously killed by one of the Sacchetti family, his death had not in 1300 been revenged by any of his relatives, a fact which explains [[lxiii]] Dante's sympathetic interest in him here, as well as Geri's threatening gesture, since the avenging of a relative's murder was still held to be a duty in Dante's time.
29. That is, till Bertran de Born, the owner of the castle of Hautefort, had departed.
40. The tenth and last trench of Malebolge, the Eighth Circle, is ironically called a cloister, and its inhabitants convertites, or lay brethren.
45. As by way of describing the true nature of the last kind of fraud, Dante had asked his readers to imagine countless battle fields with all their wounds, so here, to describe the next, he bids them imagine all the hospitals they can, with all their most loathsome diseases, which, since they end by utterly changing men's personal appearance and expression, serve to symbolize the change in the appearance of things wrought by the falsifiers of all kinds punished in this trench. For every outer act a corresponding inner change takes place.
46. All three places were notoriously unhealthy sections of Italy in Dante's time.
59. A reference to the Aegina myth, according to which Juno having destroyed all living creatures on the island except Aeacus, it was at his prayer repopulated by Jove, who turned ants into men.
88. Italian, as usual.
109. Griffolino d'Arezzo, said to have been burned for heresy, but seen in Malebolge by Dante because alchemy, a form of fraud, was a worse sin.
117. The Bishop of Arezzo, who if not Alberto's father, acted as if he were.
118. Griffolino's own conscience infallibly apprised him of what was his worst sin.
125. Instances of Siennese vanity, or foolish self-display: Stricca de' Salimbeni, a podestā of Bologna, a notorious spendthrift; his brother Nicholas who introduced Siena to the use of cloves imported at great expense; and two other illustrations of Siena's silly indulgence in fads.
136. Capocchio was burnt at Siena for alchemy in 1293; he seems to have been a Florentine, judging from his opposition to the Sienese, and his acquaintance with Dante.