Front Page Titles (by Subject) INFERNO IX - The Divine Comedy, Vol. 1 (Inferno) (English trans.)
INFERNO IX - Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, Vol. 1 (Inferno) (English trans.) 
The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri. The Italian Text with a Translation in English Blank Verse and a Commentary by Courtney Langdon, vol. 1 (Inferno) (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1918). English version.
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The Gate of the City of Dis
The Sixth Circle. Heresy
- The color cowardice brought out on me,
- who saw my Leader coming back, the sooner
- repressed in him his unaccustomed hue.
- He stopped attentive like a man who listens;
- because his eyesight could not lead him far
- through the dark air, and through the heavy fog.
- “Yet we must win the battle,” he began,
- “unless . . . One such did offer us herself!
- Oh, how I long for some one to arrive!”
- I well perceived how, when he overlaid
- what he began to say by what came after,
- that these were words that differed from the first.
- But none the less his language gave me fear,
- because I lent to his unfinished phrase
- a meaning worse, perhaps, than he intended.
- “Into this bottom of the dismal shell
- doth any of that first grade e’er descend,
- whose only penalty is hope cut off?”
- I asked this question. He replied to me:
- “It seldom comes to pass that one of us
- performs the journey whereupon I go.
- ’T is true that I was conjured once before
- down here by magic of that wild Erìchtho,
- who used to call shades back into their bodies.
- My flesh had hardly been made bare of me,
- when me she forced to enter yonder wall,
- and thence withdraw a soul from Judas’ ring.
- That is the lowest and the darkest place,
- and from the heaven that turns all things most distant;
- well do I know the road; so be at rest!
- This marsh, from which the mighty stench exhales,
- girdles the woeful city round about,
- which without wrath we cannot enter now.”
- And more he said, but I recall it not,
- because mine eye had made me wholly heed
- the glowing summit of the lofty tower,
- where three infernal Furies stained with blood
- had suddenly uprisen all at once,
- having the members and the mien of women,
- and girt with water-snakes of brightest green;
- for hair they had small serpents and horned snakes,
- wherewith their frightful temples were entwined.
- And he, who well the handmaids of the Queen
- of everlasting lamentation knew,
- said unto me: “Behold the fierce Erìnyes!
- This is Megaera here upon the left;
- Alecto, she who weepeth on the right;
- Tisìphonë’s between.” Thereat he ceased.
- Each with her nails was tearing at her breast;
- they smote them with their hands, and cried so loud,
- that to the Poet I drew close in dread.
- “Now let Medusa come! We ’ll turn him thus
- to stone!” they all cried out, as down they looked;
- “wrong were we not to punish Theseus’ raid.”
- “Turn back, and close thine eyes, for should the Gorgon
- reveal itself, and thou behold the face,
- there ’d be no more returning up above.”
- The Teacher thus: and turning me himself,
- on my hands he did not so far rely,
- as not to close mine eyes with his as well.
- O ye in whom intelligence is sound,
- heed carefully the teaching which lies hidden
- beneath the veil of my mysterious lines!
- There now was coming o’er the turbid waves
- the uproar of a dread-inspiring sound,
- because of which both shores were all aquake,
- a noise like nothing other than a wind,
- impetuous through opposing heats, which smites
- a forest, and without the least restraint
- shatters, lays low, and carries off its boughs;
- dust-laden it goes proudly on its way,
- and makes wild animals and shepherds flee.
- He freed mine eyes, and said: “Direct thou now
- thy keenest vision o’er that ancient scum,
- to where that reeking smoke is most intense.”
- As frogs before the hostile water-snake
- scatter in all directions through the water,
- till each is squatting huddled on the shore;
- more than a thousand ruined souls I saw,
- who thus from one were fleeing, who on foot,
- but with dry feet, was passing over Styx.
- That dense air he kept moving from his face
- by often passing his left hand before him,
- and only with that trouble weary seemed.
- I well perceived he was a Messenger
- from Heaven, and to my Teacher turned; with signs
- he warned me to keep still, and bow before him.
- Ah, how disdainful did he seem to me!
- He reached the gate, and with a little wand
- he opened it, for hindrance had he none.
- “O people thrust from Heaven and held in scorn,”
- upon the horrid threshold he began,
- “whence dwells in you this overweening pride?
- Why is it that ye kick against the Will,
- from which its end can never be cut off,
- and which hath more than once increased your pain?
- Of what avail to butt against the Fates?
- Your Cerberus, if ye remember well,
- still sports for this a hairless chin and neck.”
- He then returned along the filthy road,
- nor did he say a word to us; but looked
- like one whom other cares constrain and gnaw,
- than that of him who in his presence is;
- then we with full assurance toward the town,
- after those holy words, addressed our steps.
- We entered it without the least contention;
- and I, who longed to look about and see
- the state of those whom such a fortress holds,
- when I was in it, cast mine eyes around,
- and see on every side an ample plain,
- with anguish and with awful torture filled.
- Even as at Arles, where marshy turns the Rhone,
- or as at Pola near Quarnaro’s gulf,
- which bounds Italia, and her border bathes,
- the sepulchres make all the ground uneven;
- so likewise did they here on every side,
- save that their nature was more bitter here;
- for flames were spread about within the tombs,
- whereby they glowed with such intensity,
- that no art needeth greater heat for iron.
- The lids of all of them were raised, and wails
- so woeful issued thence, that of a truth
- they seemed the wails of wretched, tortured men.
- “Teacher, what sort of people are those there,”
- said I, “who, buried in those arc-like tombs,
- make themselves heard by means of woeful sighs?”
- “Arch-heretics are with their followers here”
- said he, “of every sect, and far more laden
- than thou believest are the sepulchers.
- Here like with like is buried, and more hot
- and less so are the monuments.” Thereat,
- when he had turned him to the right, we passed
- between the woes and lofty bastioned walls.