Front Page Titles (by Subject) INFERNO XXI - The Divine Comedy, Vol. 1 (Inferno) (English trans.)
INFERNO XXI - 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 Eighth Circle. Fraud
The Fifth Trench. Corrupt Politicians
- Speaking of other things my Comedy
- cares not to sing, we thus from bridge to bridge
- moved on, and, when upon the summit, stopped,
- in order to behold the next ravine
- of Malebòlgë, and the next vain cries;
- and I beheld it wonderfully dark.
- And just such sticky pitch as that which boils
- in the Venetians’ Arsenal in winter,
- for calking up again the unsound ships,
- which cannot then be sailed; — instead of which,
- as one a new one builds, one plugs the ribs
- of that which many voyages has made;
- one hammers at the stern, and at the prow another;
- one fashions oars, another cordage twists,
- while still another mends a jib or mainsail; —
- such was the coarse, dense pitch, which, not by fire,
- but by an art divine, boiled there below,
- and limed the bank on every side. I saw
- the pitch, but nothing in it, save the bubbles
- the boiling raised, and that the whole of it
- kept swelling up, and settling back compressed.
- While I was gazing fixedly down yonder,
- my Leader cried to me: “Beware, beware!”
- and drew me to himself from where I was.
- I then turned round, as one who longs to see
- the thing which it behooves him to escape,
- and who, when by a sudden fear unmanned,
- although he sees, delays not his departure;
- and I perceived behind us a black devil
- come running up along the rocky crag.
- Ah, how ferocious in his looks he was,
- and in his actions how severe he seemed,
- with wings outspread, and light upon his feet!
- His shoulder, which was sharp and high, was loaded
- with both a sinner’s haunches, whom he held
- clutched tightly by the sinews of his feet.
- “O Malebranche,” from our bridge he cried,
- “here ’s one of Santa Zita’s Ancients! Put him
- beneath, for I ’m for more of them returning
- to that town which I have well stocked therewith;
- there, save Bonturo, every one ’s a grafter;
- a ‘No’ for money there becomes a ‘Yes.’”
- He hurled him down, and o’er the rugged crag
- returned; and never was a mastif loosed
- with so much hurry to pursue a thief.
- The other sank, and then rose doubled up;
- those fiends, though, who were sheltered by the bridge,
- cried: “Here the Holy Face availeth not!
- One here swims otherwise than in the Serchio!
- If, therefore, thou dost not desire our hooks,
- protrude not from the surface of the pitch.”
- They pricked him then with o’er a hundred prongs,
- and said: “Here under cover must thou dance,
- that, if thou canst, thou mayst thieve secretly.”
- Not otherwise do cooks have scullions plunge
- the meat with hooks into the cauldron’s midst,
- to hinder it from floating on its surface.
- Thereat my kindly Teacher said to me:
- “That here thy presence be not known, crouch down
- behind a rock, which may avail to screen thee;
- and be not thou afraid, for any harm
- that may be done to me, who know these things,
- for I in frays like this have been before.”
- He then passed on beyond the bridge’s head,
- and when the sixth embankment had been reached,
- he had to show assurance in his face.
- With just the storm and fury wherewith dogs
- break out and rush upon a poor old man,
- who stops and begs at once from where he is;
- from ’neath the little bridge those devils issued,
- and turned against him all their grappling hooks;
- but he cried out: “Be none of you malicious!
- Before your grappling hooks take hold of me,
- let one of you advance, and hear me speak;
- then take ye counsel as to grappling me.”
- Then all cried out: “Let Malacoda go!”
- Thereat one started, while the rest kept still,
- and, as he came, said: “What does this avail him?”
- “Dost thou think, Malacoda,” said my Teacher,
- “that, as thou seest, I have hither come,
- safe until now from all your hindrances,
- unhelped by Will Divine and favoring fate?
- Let us go on, for it is willed in Heaven
- that I should show another this wild road.”
- Thereat his pride received so great a fall,
- that at his feet he dropped his grappling hook,
- and to the rest said: “Let him not be wounded.”
- My Leader thereupon cried out to me:
- “Thou that among the bridge’s broken rocks
- art crouching, safely now regain my side.”
- I therefore moved, and quickly came to him;
- then all the fiends advanced so far, I feared
- they would not keep their word. Even thus I once
- saw infantry, who, under pledge of safety,
- were from Caprona coming forth, afraid,
- when ’mong so many foes they saw themselves.
- Then wholly to my Leader’s side I drew,
- nor from their faces, which did not look good,
- did I remove my eyes. For as their prongs
- they lowered, one fiend to another said:
- “Wouldst thou that I should touch him on his rump?”
- and they replied: “Yes, see thou nick it for him!”
- But that fiend, who was with my Leader talking,
- turned round at once, and said to him: “Keep still,
- keep still there, Scarmiglionë!” Then to us:
- “Further advance along this present crag
- can not be made, because the sixth arch yonder
- lies wholly shattered on the ground below;
- but if it please you still to go ahead,
- go on along this ridge; there is near by
- another crag which furnishes a path.
- Than this hour five hours later yesterday,
- twelve hundred, six and sixty years had passed,
- since here the path was broken. I am sending
- some of my company in that direction,
- to see if any yonder air themselves;
- go on with them, for they will not be bad.”
- “Step forward, Alichino, and Calcabrina,”
- he then began to say, “thou, too, Cagnazzo;
- and let old Barbariccia guide the ten.
- Have Libicocco go, and Draghignazzo;
- tusked Ciriatto, too, and Graffiacane,
- with Farfarello and crazy Rubicante.
- Search round about the boiling birdlime pitch;
- let these be safe as far as that next crag,
- which all unbroken goes across the dens.”
- “Oh, Teacher, what is this I see?” said I.
- “If thou know how, pray let us go alone,
- for I request no escort for myself.
- If thou as wary art as thou art wont,
- dost thou not notice how they gnash their teeth,
- and with their eyebrows threaten us with woe?”
- And he to me: “I would not have thee frightened;
- let them grin on, then, as they like, for that
- they ’re doing at the wretches who are boiled.”
- They wheeled, and moved along the left bank then;
- but not till each, as signal toward their leader,
- had first thrust out his tongue between his teeth,
- and he had of his rump a trumpet made.