Front Page Titles (by Subject) INFERNO XXXIV - The Divine Comedy, Vol. 1 (Inferno) (Bilingual edition)
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INFERNO XXXIV - Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, Vol. 1 (Inferno) (Bilingual edition) 
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).
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The Ninth Circle. Treachery. Cocytus
Traitors to their Benefactors. Lucifer
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[1.] Dante, representing Man, astray in the Wood of Sin, at the age of thirty-five. Dante having been born in 1265, the date of the Vision recorded in the Poem is 1300.
[13.] The Mountain of the ideal life of Virtue.
[17.] The sun, a planet in the Ptolemaic system of astronomy.
[32, 45, 49.] The three symbolic Beasts: the sensual Leopard of Incontinent Appetite; the arrogant Lion of Bestial Violence; and the greedy, materialistic Wolf of Malicious Fraud and Treachery.
[37.] Later than the time of line 13, early in the morning of Good Friday, 1300, at the beginning of Spring, when the sun was in the constellation of Aries, where it was believed to have been on the day of Creation.
[63.] Virgil, Dante’s first Guide and Teacher, the symbol of Man’s Reason, or of his intellectual, aesthetic and moral faculties, of which the University and State may be the organized collective instrumentalities.
[79.] Virgil, as author of the Aeneid, the poem of Rome’s civilizing mission, acknowledged as the Poet of poets, and as his inspiring Teacher by Dante, who asks his help against the insatiable Wolf of Materialism and Greed.
[94.] The Wolf, evidently the most dangerous of the three Beasts to Dante, represents the class of sins spiritually the most dangerous to Man.
[101.] The prophecy of the Veltro, or Hound, a vaguely described future deliverer of Italy, Can Grande (the great Dog) della Scala, of Verona, which lies between two Feltros, being possibly intended.
[107.] Italian heroes who, on one side or the other, died in the Trojans’ war under Aeneas for the conquest of Italy.
[111.] That the source of the Wolf is Envy, the offspring of Pride, falls in with the above interpretation of the worst of the three animals, Greed.
[112.] The course of Salvation through Hell, and Purgatory, the eternal states of Disobedience and Slavery, and of the humble Reconquest of Liberty, under the guidance of Virgil, or Reason; and, later, through Paradise, the state of loving Obedience and Freedom, under the guidance of Beatrice, the symbol of Man’s Spiritual faculty, whose functions are Faith, Hope and Love, and of which the Church may be the organized collective instrumentality.
[125.] Virgil’s incompetence as a Pagan signifies that mere Reason is not qualified to make Man’s higher nature spiritually happy.
[134.] The Gate of Purgatory proper, which ultimately leads to Paradise.
[1.] The evening of Good Friday.
[7.] Invocation of the Muses, who represent the Arts and Sciences, upon a knowledge of which a poet must draw, as well as upon his own Genius and Memory.
[13.] Aeneas, who descended into Hades to get the help, which led to his conquest of Italy, and eventually to the glories of Imperial and Papal Rome.
[28.] Saint Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, who claimed to have been “caught up into Paradise.”
[32.] Cowardice on Dante’s part disguised as Modesty.
[43.] Virgil, the Magnanimous, reproving him for his spiritual Pusillanimity, gives an account of his Mission from Beatrice, sent to Dante’s help by the Gentle Lady (the Virgin Mary) and Lucìa, the representatives, respectively, of Divine Mercy and Light.
[52.] The souls in the Limbo, or Borderland.
[53.] Beatrice, described with ever increasing emphasis throughout the poem as “beautiful and happy,” thus establishing the difference between her and Virgil, who is only learned and wise.
[77.] The circle referred to being that of the Moon, this new definition of Beatrice means that Man’s spiritual, and not his rational, nature is what makes him greater than anything else on earth.
[88.] A statement which may possibly, though not probably, have been intended to mean (much more sublimely): “Of those things only should one be afraid, that have the power of doing others harm.”
[94.] The Virgin Mary, the Mercy of God.
[97.] Divine “kindly Light.”
[102.] Dante thought of Rachel as being Beatrice’s counterpart in the symbolism of the Old Testament.
[103.] Beatrice defined as “true Praise of God,” which is not intellectual knowledge, but spiritual appreciation.
[107.] The river of Sin, which does not flow into the sea.
[119.] The materialistic Wolf.
[124.] God’s Mercy, and Light, and His Spirit in Man.
[131.] Fearlessness and Freedom, here as elsewhere, the great spiritual qualities.
[140.] Virgil (Reason) accepted by Dante as his Leader, Lord and Teacher, titles with which he addresses, or refers to, him appositely in each case. Herewith the two poets enter upon the rough road which leads them underground to the outer Gate of Hell.
[1.] Inscription on the Gate, describing Hell as being a spiritual state, (in the letter of the allegory, a place) eternally created by the Power, Wisdom, and even the Love of God, wherein Pain is the eternal concomitant of Disobedience of a Will inspired by perfect Justice.
[14.] Fearlessness the initial quality requisite of whoever would know Reality.
[17.] The vision of God the real goal of Man’s life.
[22.] The stars, here as elsewhere, the symbols of the Hope, abandoned by whoever enters Hell.
[34.] Cowards, Neutrals, and the Lukewarm in moral and spiritual concerns, who, held in contempt by the universe, are rejected by Heaven and Hell alike. The Lower World’s Vestibule, its largest circle, is devoted to these characterless souls, who form the great majority.
[52.] The restless Flag of Fashion followed by those whose deeds, thoughts, feelings, and beliefs are not self-determined.
[59.] He “who through his cowardice the great Refusal made,” most satisfactorily (though not generally) interpreted as Pilate, who through fear of the Jews washed his hands of responsibility for the fate of Jesus, whose innocence he had officially acknowledged. Most commentators take him to be Celestine V, who was induced to abdicate the Papacy through humility by the fraudulent intrigues of his successor, Boniface VIII.
[64.] Never spiritually alive, they act only under external compulsion, while their blood and tears serve only to feed lower forms of life.
[71.] The river Acheron, crossed by all who, in willing sin, will its equivalent and inseparable punishment.
[82.] Charon, the Ferryman of Acheron, who refuses to receive Dante, because he is not, as are the others, spiritually dead.
[93.] The boat that takes repentant souls to the Island of Purgatory.
[95.] The password which prevails in the realm of Incontinence, where Reason, though neglected, is respected.
[117.] One of several references to the art of Falconry.
[126.] Not fearing the sin, they do not fear its punishment.
[130.] Under the symbolism of earthquake, wind, and lightning Dante describes his mysterious birth by a flash of intuition, as it were, into a first appreciation of the truth which pervades the whole of his Inferno, that any state of Sin is one with its accompanying, or equivalent Pain. While unconscious, he passes across Acheron, to see with his mind’s eye what nonobedience and disobedience of the laws of the spiritual or real world mean in terms of pain.
[7.] A first confused impression of the World of Evil.
[21.] Specially deserving of notice are the occasions when Virgil and Dante show sympathy, or refuse it, for sinners in the lower world.
[24.] Dante’s Hell is physically conceived as being a vast inverted cone extending from immediately below the surface of the earth to its centre, and divided into nine concentric and ever diminishing circles.
[25.] This outermost circle portrays the spiritual state of the innocent and worthy, but pagan-minded, who, not having attained the Christian conception of life, cannot, while in that state, share in its happiness, and who therefore, though desiring, have no hope.
[52.] The legend of Christ’s descent into Hades, and His removal of the Hebrew Worthies who had believed in the Redemption that was to be — a conception probably based upon consciousness that spiritual apprehension of a truth is the essential saving thing.
[68.] The light surrounding these illustrious Pagans is only a hemisphere, because their loyalty to Reason was unquickened by spiritual faith.
[72.] Honor, the outstanding quality in this canto.
[79.] In spite of Homer’s traditional supremacy, Dante probably thought of Virgil as “the loftiest of poets,” and hence, as such, greater, and better fitted to be his guide than Aristotle, “the Teacher of those that know.”
[88.] Homer and the three Latin poets whom, with Virgil, Dante thought the greatest of Antiquity, and whom he yet describes as “neither sorrowful nor glad.”
[97.] Dante received among them as an equal, a claim on his part more than confirmed by the verdict of posterity.
[106.] The Castle of Wisdom and Glory, with its seven walls, Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance, Intelligence, Learning, and Wisdom; its stream of Eloquence; and its gates, Grammar, Dialectics, Rhetoric, Music, Arithmetic, Geometry, and Astronomy, through which was entered the domain of Knowledge.
[121.] The military and political Heroes of the Trojan-Roman civilization, with the chivalric Saladin as the only representative of Mohamedanism.
[130.] Philosophers and men of Science, presided over by Aristotle, the “Teacher of those that know.”
[139.] The qualities of plants.
[144.] A commentary on Aristotle, followed by the great medieval theologian, Thomas Aquinas.
[148.] Dante here enters the real Hell of Sin and Pain, whose darkness is nowhere mitigated even by the half light of Reason.
[1.] As, in descending, the circles grow narrower, the sins they reveal and the pain the latter involve are conceived as growing in intensity.
[4.] Minos, the classic Judge of the Dead, is grotesqued by Dante, and made the symbol of Man’s guilty Conscience.
[12.] His tail is with grim humor conceived as long enough to girdle him eight times.
[19.] A suggestion of the danger of contamination in an unguarded examination of Sin.
[27.] Contrasting with the sighs of the first Circle.
[28.] Carnal sinners in general; their punishment being merely a picture of their sin, they are swept around in the dark by the aimless winds of sexual passion uncontrolled by Reason.
[36.] Blaming God, or others, and not themselves, characteristic of those held in Hell.
[40.] Two more pictures from bird life.
[44.] No rest in disloyal love.
[52.] Semiramis leads those who sinned through brutal lasciviousness, or incest.
[59.] For the usual text succedette “succeeded,” the variant sugger dette, “gave suck to,” has here been boldly substituted, as being significant, more Dante-like, and in perfect harmony with the context.
[61.] In marked contrast with Semiramis, Dido of Carthage, who, faithless to her plighted loyalty to her dead husband, gave herself to Aeneas, leads those who weakly yielded to a genuine, though illegal, love for one person.
[69.] Love characterizes this canto as much as Honor the last.
[72.] Dante’s bestowal or refusal of sympathy differentiates sins springing from good nature from those caused by meanness or ill will.
[73.] The pitiful story of Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta, which has made its fifth canto one of the most popular of the Inferno, is treated by Dante with his utmost poetic charm and sympathy, because though sinful, theirs was the sin of a genuine love.
[81.] God’s name is not used by any one speaking in Hell, except in a case of defiance.
[87.] Love answers love.
[100.] Noteworthy is the contrast between the love of the man and that of the woman.
[106.] When found together, Francesca and Paolo were killed, without a chance of repentance, by her husband, Gianciotto Malatesta, lord of Rimini.
[107.] The legally justified, but treacherous and murderous husband is here condemned to Caìna Cain’s ring in the ice of Cocytus reserved for traitors to their relatives at the bottom of Hell.
[123.] The Italian dottore is best taken here, as above, as meaning not teacher, but leader.
[121.] A reference to Virgil’s previous happiness on earth, or to his having in the Aeneid made Aeneas say to Dido: “Thou bidst me, Queen, recall a grief unspeakable.”
[127.] The Arthurian legends were the favorite reading of the nobility then.
[137.] Sir Gallehault, the go-between in the case of Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere.
[139.] Dante’s sympathy not reproved here by Virgil, as it will be on another occasion.
[1.] Dante’s frequently mysterious passage from one circle or spiritual state to another resembles the mysterious way in which the mind shuts out a previous thought or feeling by an act of will, and gives itself wholly to another.
[7.] The cold and dirty rain in which the Gluttons are submerged, and the three-mouthed monster, Cerberus, who torments them, represent their disgusting abuse of the natural and necessary appetite for Food.
[21.] Profaners of their body, the temple of the spirit.
[38.] Ciacco, Jimmy, the pig, apparently the twofold nickname of a clever, good-natured Florentine glutton in Dante’s time. To the “empty shades” of spirits in Hell, Dante attributes the power of being seen, heard, and touched, but without solidity.
[42.] Dante was born before Ciacco had died.
[48.] Dante had not yet seen some of the lower circles.
[58.] Sympathy, because gluttony and the like are sins to which the social and good-natured are peculiarly tempted.
[64.] The political vicissitudes of Florence after 1300, the date of Dante’s Vision. The Bianchi and Neri are the factions referred to. The Neri were driven out in 1301 by the Bianchi, who in turn were exiled in 1302 (and with them Dante) largely as a result of the intrigues of Boniface VIII, who in 1300 was “hugging the shore,” or “on the fence.” The poem having been written at different times later than its feigned date, historical events posterior to 1300 are, as here, narrated in the form of prophecies. Three suns are three years.
[73.] Of the two just men in Florence, it is quite like Dante to have had himself in mind as one.
[74.] Peculiarly noteworthy are the three sparks, “overweening Pride, Envy, and Greed,” which were the cause of trouble in the limited sphere of Florence six centuries ago!
[79.] Illustrious citizens of Florence, whom Dante respected for their civic virtues, but whom he will see lower down in Hell, because of their personal sins.
[86.] Punishment in Hell is graded by a law of spiritual gravitation.
[89.] Almost all sinners wish to be remembered on earth, except traitors, who have wholly broken the social bond.
[96.] Christ at the Final Judgment. Men are justly judged by a comparison of their lives with that of the moral and spiritual Record-holder of the race.
[106.] Man’s spirit being thought to be wholly itself only when embodied, it follows that when reëmbodied its happiness or unhappiness will be more keenly felt.
[115.] Gluttony suddenly vanishing from Dante’s mind, he sees before him the symbol of Intemperance in the Use of Wealth, Plutus, Man’s great enemy.
[1.] What it was probably intended to be, incomprehensible jargon, or a clucked out appeal to Satan.
[3.] Another definition of Virgil.
[6.] Man will ultimately solve the problems presented by Wealth.
[8.] The monster Plutus being called a Wolf would seem to strengthen the interpretation, whereby the Wolf of the first canto stood for materialistic Greed, born of Envy, the child of Pride, a view enforced by the following reference to Michael’s defeat of Satan’s rebellion against a spiritual God.
[19.] It is because of the perfection of Divine Justice that sin is self-punished.
[22.] Misers and Prodigals represented as wasting their lives in selfishly amassing and holding, or in squandering Wealth; Abuse and Nonuse, here, as elsewhere in the realm of Incontinence, being opposed to rational Use. Charybdis in the Strait of Messina.
[39.] Avarice a besetting sin of churchmen in Dante’s age.
[46.] Dante sees Emperors and Ghibellines in Hell, as well as Popes and Guelphs.
[52.] Dante uses unrecognizability to describe sins which result in, or are due to, lack of character.
[59.] Avarice and Prodigality mutually punishing each other.
[74.] Mediaeval mythology conceived of Angels and Intelligences in somewhat the same way that Laws are conceived of in the intellectual mythology of modern Science.
[77.] Fortune is thought of as the personification of the law controlling the waxing and waning of the prosperity of individuals, families, nations, and races.
[87.] Gods, Angels, and Laws are all mythological attempts to express observed correlations in Nature.
[93.] As when she is blamed as Luck, or worse.
[98.] This means, in the language of the stars, whose positions Virgil sees in his mind, that it is now past midnight, over six hours since the evening of Good Friday, when the poets entered Hell.
[101.] This is the overflow of Acheron, since Dante conceives of all the rivers of his Hell as interconnected.
[106.] Styx, the marshy river, or fen, which with its banks forms the Fifth Circle.
[109.] The Wrathful and the indolent Sullen, who, by abuse or nonuse, failed in the rational use of that natural Indignation, upon which the higher interests of Man’s civilization as much depend, as the lower do upon the rational use of Wealth.
[116.] Not the angry, but “those whom anger overcame.”
[118.] Those who have not character enough to have the courage to voice their convictions, and fight for them like men.
[1.] One of the distant towers on the walls surrounding the City of Dis, or Nether Hell.
[17.] Phlegyas, the wrathful local boatman of Styx, blinded by anger, does not see as clearly as Charon did.
[27.] The effect of Dante’s material body on Phlegyas’ boat is used as a means of reminding the reader that Dante is the only living being in the poem.
[32.] Filippo, nicknamed Argenti (Silver), an arrogant and irascible Florentine of the Adimari family.
[37.] No sympathy for ill-natured sinners.
[43.] In Virgil’s approval of his righteous indignation Dante makes the only mention in the poem of a member of his immediate family.
[66.] “Sbarro,” “unbar,” one of Dante’s many rhyme words which lend lucidity to his thought.
[68.] The City of Dis, or Nether Hell, which contains the realms of Bestiality and Malice, classes of Sin far worse than Incontinence.
[71.] Mosques, possibly to suggest the Heresy just inside, Mohammedanism being thought to be as heretical as it was schismatic.
[82.] The Devils, or demons of Biblical mythology, being the guardians of the irrational domain of Bestiality, are naturally inaccessible to the claims of Virgil, or Reason.
[105.] Virgil’s ultimate dependence upon Beatrice is suggestive of that of Art and Science upon Inspiration and Intuition.
[125.] Reference to the legend of Christ’s Descent to Hades, and of the Devils’ opposition to His entrance.
[128.] Reason undivorced from Spirituality is sure of receiving the help of Inspiration or Intuition, when at the end of its natural resources.
[8.] Beatrice, Man’s spiritual nature, of which his Reason is the prime minister.
[18.] A spirit from Limbo; a “covert” way of asking whether Virgil knew his way.
[23.] Compare with this classical legend of the Thessalian sorceress, Erichtho, that of the biblical witch of Endor, who called up the soul of Samuel.
[27.] Giudecca, the central ring of Cocytus, the Circle of Traitors.
[37.] The Furies of Remorse and Disbelief — another instance of classic mythology put at the service of Christian philosophy.
[43.] Proserpine, the wife of Pluto, the King of the classic Hades.
[52.] The Gorgon’s head, symbolizing the petrifying result of Despair, or of utter disbelief in a spiritual world, the fundamental heresy punished inside.
[54.] Theseus’ attempt to rescue Proserpine.
[58.] Reason’s duty to protect Man from despair and disbelief.
[61.] Dante’s great appeal to the appreciative imagination of his readers.
[64.] A poetic picture of the advent of spiritual Intuition to the rescue of Reason at the end of its resources.
[76.] Dante frequently uses frogs for the purposes of his grim humor.
[82.] The fog of spiritual ignorance and blindness.
[98.] The three-headed dog, Cerberus, tried to interfere with Hercules’ rescue of Theseus from Hades.
[105.] The Angel’s words were “holy” because expressing righteous indignation.
[112.] Roman graves at Arles long thought to be those of Christians fallen in battle with Saracens.
[113.] The popular Dante text which claims Istria for Italy.
[127.] Heretics seen in tombs, because disbelief in the Immortality of the Soul, the fundamental heresy, implies the belief that the end of Man’s life is the grave.
[130.] Dante’s Hell being a picture of perfect Justice, different grades of intensity are implied in the punishment of individual souls guilty of the same kind of sin. In this picture of the worst form of heresy as intellectual self-entombment, equity is provided for by the graded heat of the tombs.
[1.] The more usual text has, instead of stretto, secreto, or “hidden.”
[11.] The Valley of Jehoshaphat believed to be the site of the Final Judgment.
[15.] Disbelief in the Immortality of the Soul picked out by Dante as the fundamental archheresy.
[18.] His wish to see the great Farinata.
[25.] Dante’s Tuscan speech and accent are frequently recognized by Italians.
[32.] Farinata degli Uberti, a famous Ghibelline Florentine patriot, seen here by Dante, who greatly admired him, because tainted with the prevalent heresy of the age.
[46.] Dante’s family and ancestors belonged to the Guelph party opposed to Farinata’s.
[48.] In 1248 and 1260.
[50.] In 1251, and in 1266, after which the Ghibelline party never returned to power in Florence.
[52.] Cavalcante Cavalcanti, the father of Dante’s friend and fellow poet, Guido Cavalcanti, who had not yet died at the date of Dante’s Vision, the Spring of 1300.
[63.] This may mean that Guido did not admire Virgil, or, better, that he did not believe in a Reason that was subservient to Spirituality, to which belief Dante here implies that he owed his great Vision.
[68.] By his use of the past tense Dante seemed to have implied that Guido was dead.
[79.] Proserpine, the Queen of Hades, identified with Luna, the Moon; in less than fifty moons, or months, from April, 1300, Dante found himself banished from Florence, never to return.
[85.] The Battle of Mont’ Aperti, on the river Arbia, won in 1260 by the Ghibelline forces under the leadership of Farinata, over the Guelphs of Florence.
[87.] Perpetual banishment from Florence decreed by the returning Guelphs against the Uberti family.
[91.] The Ghibelline Diet of Empoli, which followed the victory of Mont’Aperti.
[97.] Knowledge of the Present depends upon life in Time; that of the Future upon life in Eternity, remote events of a general nature depending predominantly upon moral and spiritual forces.
[109.] Again, sympathy for the man, and not for the sinner, as such.
[119.] The Hohenstaufen Emperor, Frederick II, whom Dante greatly admired, but condemned to be seen here for the heretical beliefs he shared with his contemporary Cardinal degli Ubaldini.
[122.] Farinata’s prophecy of Dante’s exile.
[130.] The meaning of the vicissitudes of Dante’s (Man’s) life not to be explained by Reason (Virgil), but by Spiritual Insight, the Beatrice who does not know intellectually, but “whose lovely eyes see” by a direct vision of spiritual Reality. One of the most significant definitions of Beatrice in the poem, for if Religion had always understood that it was exclusively concerned with Man’s conquest of the eternal world of spiritual reality; and had Science remembered that its sole function is the conquest of the spatial and temporal world of matter, there would have been no more “conflict” between them than there is between Virgil and Beatrice in our poem.
[5.] The stench arising from the abyss below symbolizes the greater moral and spiritual corruption characterizing the far more serious sins, whose nature is revealed in the three last Circles of Nether Hell.
[8.] Pope Anastasius II, wrongly believed in Dante’s age to have been led into heresy as to the nature of Christ by the Greek Photinus.
[12.] He who would know the inmost nature of evil must be willing to get used to its repulsiveness.
[17.] The Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Circles, small only in relation to the first six.
[22.] The following analysis is based upon Dante’s interpretation of Aristotle’s classification of sins under Incontinence (Intemperance), Bestiality and Malice, wherein Reason is, respectively, neglected, defied, or wrongly used.
[25.] Creatures lower than Man would not have sufficient intelligence, while any presumed to be higher would have too much, to make deceit effective.
[28.] The first of the last three.
[29.] The three persons are one’s own self, one’s fellow self, and the Universal Self.
[33.] Dante treats property as an outermost body of Man’s spirit.
[43.] A fine definition of a suicide; not one who kills himself, but a spirit who kills his own body.
[44.] Wasting one’s property, and pessimism, outer forms of suicide.
[48.] Respect for Nature, which is an outer manifestation of God, associated with reverence for the latter.
[50.] Sodom here stands for unnatural sexual sins, while Cahors, in France, in the middle age a nest of usurers, stands for Usury, conceived as sin against Industry.
[57.] The second of the last three Circles.
[60.] Stigmatized as “filth” are Evil Counsellors, and Promoters of Discord.
[64.] The Ninth Circle, the frozen lake of Cocytus, at whose center Dis, or Lucifer, is fixed.
[66.] Here, and elsewhere in the poem, eternally and eternal should be given a deeper significance than endlessness in Time, or something more like perfect, or absolute; Dante’s Lucifer represents the zero-stage of life.
[70.] The Wrathful and Sullen in Styx, the Carnal Sinners, the Gluttons, and the Misers and Prodigals.
[80, 97, 101.] The Ethics, Philosophy, and Physics referred to are those of Aristotle.
[103.] Man’s Industry is patterned after the operations of Nature.
[109.] Dante condemns Usury because it is contrary to God’s law that Man shall live “in the sweat of his face,” and because he believed it opposed to the interests of Industry, Man’s Art; the Usurer getting his living from neither Nature or his own toil.
[113.] Astronomical data signifying that the time is now about half past three a.m. on Saturday. Caurus, the Northwest wind, shows the Wain’s or Dipper’s position in the sky.
[1.] Descent into the Seventh Circle, suggestively imagined as being much lower and more inaccessible than were the previous circles from each other.
[12.] The Minotaur, symbol of Bestiality, the monster, half man and half bull, who was killed by Theseus with the help of Ariadne. His terrorizing fury defeats its own end.
[29.] Another reminder that Dante is the only physically living being in the Inferno.
[35.] When conjured down by Erichtho.
[38.] Christ, who when in Hades removed from the Limbo the believing Worthies of the Old Dispensation.
[41.] The earthquake at Jesus’ death, which, breaking open the outer Gate of Hell, furnished access to the Circle of Violence; the whole myth symbolizing the insight into Evil resulting from the life and death of Jesus.
[43.] Reference to the doctrine of Empedocles, who taught that Love restored to a happy Chaos the seeds of things that had been separated by Hate.
[52.] Phlegethon, the river of Blood, guarded by the semi-human Centaurs, symbols of human Brutality.
[67.] Wounded by a poisoned arrow by Hercules for trying to carry off Dejanira, Nessus left his shirt which, being poisoned, killed Hercules.
[75.] Sin self-punished.
[77.] One of countless touches of convincing realism.
[84.] The human and the equine.
[88.] Beatrice, already defined as being herself the “true Praise of God, which is spiritual appreciation, and not intellectual understanding or servile flattery, of Him.
[103.] Tyrants, or wholesale slaughterers like Attila, the Hun, the most deeply immersed in the Blood of Phlegethon.
[109.] Italian thirteenth-century tyrants.
[114.] Nessus is put temporarily in charge of Dante, as being the local expert.
[118.] Guy de Montfort, who during Mass (“God’s bosom”) at Viterbo killed Prince Henry of England, whose heart King Edward I brought home, and buried in a shrine on London Bridge.
[135.] The famous King of Epirus, and a pirate son of Pompey.
[137.] Italian Highway Robbers apparently well known in Dante’s time.
[1.] The weird Forest of the Suicides.
[9.] A river and a town which bound the wild district of the Tuscan Maremma.
[10.] The Harpies, symbols of remorse and fear of the future, feed on bushes, to which are reduced the spirits of those who deprived themselves of human bodies.
[21.] Things unbelievable, if merely narrated.
[37.] Suicide, either by the killing of the body or by inaction, is here pictured as essentially vegetating, a self-lowering in the scale of life.
[45.] The perfection of psychological description.
[48.] A similar wonder told by Virgil in the Aeneid about Polydorus.
[58.] Pier delle Vigne, a Chancellor of Frederick II, who, according to Dante here, was unjustly accused of treachery, and took his own life in prison.
[68.] Frederick II.
[75.] It is only as an illustration of the significance of Heresy that Dante sees him in the Sixth Circle.
[84.] Sympathy again unreproved.
[94.] The state of Suicides before and after the Final Judgment; the life of the body, of which the spirit of the suicide deprives himself, is considered as an instrument for the building of character for which he is responsible.
[96.] The suicide’s own conscience.
[115.] Those who were violent against their property, which Dante considered as an outer body, for which a spirit is also responsible.
[118.] Lano da Siena, and Giacomo da Sant’ Andrea, two thirteenth-century Italians famous as squanderers of their means.
[121.] Lano died in the battle of Pieve del Toppo, won in 1289 by the Aretines against the Sienese.
[125.] The Spendthrifts’ creditors.
[143.] Florence, whose patron Saint was John the Baptist, had been in its more warlike, and less commercial, Pagan times under the protection of Mars, a part of whose statue was said to have been set on the Ponte Vecchio, after the legendary destruction of Florence by Attila. The whole passage is a warning to any people, which, in its eagerness for commercial prosperity, risks losing the military qualities which alone would enable them to keep it.
[151.] The speaker may have been a certain Lotto degli Agli, a prior of Florence who hanged himself in his own house.
[1.] Bitterly as Dante at times inveighed against Florence for her vices and ingratitude, no man ever loved his native place more tenderly and proudly than did Dante.
[8.] The Plain of burning sand on which nothing will grow, finely symbolizes sins against spiritual, human, and social growth.
[15.] The Libyan desert crossed by Cato of Utica with the remnants of Pompey’s army.
[16.] God’s Vengeance consists in causing sins to contain the seed of their own punishment.
[22.] Those prostrate on the ground are the violent against God directly; those seated without doing anything the violent against Industry, the economic art; and those restlessly running around with no results the violent against the procreative laws of Nature in Man.
[28.] The Rain of Fire, the symbol of God’s Wrath.
[31.] An Alexandrian legend probably the result of blending two experiences, one of a heavy snow fall, and the other of torrid heat.
[44.] Reason reminded of its limitations.
[49.] Capaneus, one of the famous seven kings who fought against Thebes; he was killed with a thunderbolt hurled by Zeus, whom he had arrogantly defied. This is the Dante character which most resembles the Satan of Milton.
[52.] Vulcan, who had his smithy in Mongibello, Mt. Aetna.
[58.] Phlegra, in Thessaly, the site of the mythical struggle between Zeus and the Giants, the Sky-god and the Sons of Earth, Spirit and Matter.
[65.] Capaneus’ blasphemous rage its own punishment.
[77.] The overflow of Phlegethon.
[79.] A pond of boiling mineral water near Viterbo.
[88.] This brook is peculiarly notable possibly because the fact that the flames falling upon the third ring which it crosses, are extinguished above it, shows that the punishment of one sin cannot extend to another; the overflow of Phlegethon is still a part of the first ring.
[94.] The classic myth of the origin of Man in the island of Crete, and of the Golden Age under Saturn, whose wife, Rhea, secured the survival of Jupiter, by substituting a stone for him at his birth, thus concealing him from his father who would else have devoured him, because the Fates had declared that he would be dethroned by a son. The truth of this myth may consist in the fact that while there is only one God, conceptions of Him are continually dethroning each other in turn. The Hebraic Garden of Eden myth is saved by Dante for use in the Terrestrial Paradise at the top of Mount Purgatory.
[103.] The Old Man of Crete, the symbol of the ever deteriorating human race, whose tears furnish Hell with its rivers; Damietta, in Egypt, represents the ancient world of Man before the age of Imperial and Christian Rome.
[126.] In the Inferno the two poets, when not going down toward the center, regularly turn to the left around an arc of each circle, thus following the course of the sun.
[130.] Phlegethon means, in Greek, boiling; Lethe, the other infernal river of classic mythology, Dante saves for a higher purpose in the Terrestrial Paradise.
[139.] Another of countless instances of the way Dante makes his reader feel the concrete realism of the story with which he has clothed his Allegory; a definite time is allotted to each part of his journey.
[4.] The stone embankments protecting the overflow of Phlegethon compared to the Belgian dykes, and to the embankments along the river Brenta erected to meet the freshets from the Chiarentana mountains, both of which human constructions are declared to be larger than those in Hell; a realistic and masterly touch of self-restraint on Dante’s part.
[16.] A band of Sodomites who were famous literary men.
[22.] Brunetto Latini, a distinguished Florentine Guelph, a statesman and writer, and author of Li Livres dou Trésor (Tesoro) an encyclopaedic work written in French. He probably helped Dante in his studies, and died in 1294.
[30.] Dante uses the specially polite voi in addressing Brunetto, as he did in the case of Farinata and Cavalcanti.
[45.] Reverence for the man, unaffected by condemnation of the sin he illustrated.
[54.] Not Italy, but Heaven.
[55.] Dante’s astrological “star” (unless his natural disposition be intended) was the constellation of Gemini, the Twins, in which the Sun was at the date of his birth, some unknown day in May or June, 1265; this was supposed to be a prognostic of literary ability.
[61.] Dante believed himself descended from the original Roman stock of Florence, and not from the alien element which later came into it from the older and rougher mountain town of Fièsole.
[68.] Again the Greed, the Envy and the overweening Pride!
[70.] One of the many passages in the poem which testify to Dante’s firm belief in his future fame, in spite of his rejection by his fellow Florentines.
[79.] Dante’s deep sympathy for Brunetto here and in what follows shows that he impartially put his friends, as well as his enemies, in Hell.
[85.] One of the greatest tributes ever paid a teacher by his pupil.
[89.] Those of Ciacco and Farinata.
[99.] Reason’s approval of Dante’s fearless attitude toward the impersonal vagaries of Fortune.
[109.] Priscian, a celebrated grammarian of the early sixth century; Francesco d’Accorso, a professor of law at Oxford and Bologna late in the thirteenth.
[112.] A bishop of Florence (on the Arno) transferred to Vicenza (on the Bacchiglione), by Pope Boniface VIII, to whom Dante here gives his humblest title, Servus servorum Dei, ironically.
[122.] A popular foot race at Verona, instituted in 1207, and still held in Dante’s time; a piece of green cloth was the prize contended for.
[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 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 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.
[1.] Geryon, the symbol of Fraud, whose nature will be revealed by the punishment of its several forms in the following Circle.
[17–21.] A marvelous selection of illustrations of Fraud! Arachne a Lydian maiden who challenged Athene to weaving, and was turned by her into a spider.
[31.] They had to go to the right to avoid crossing the stream of blood; ten paces means a few.
[34.] Usurers; Usury being of all forms of violence the nearest to Fraud, they are next to the Abyss.
[39.] To understand the evil of Usury Dante does not need to be accompanied by Virgil.
[45.] Making money work for them, the usurers are represented as seated, with nothing to do but “avail themselves of the market,” and make money — spiritually a “melancholy” job.
[49.] One of several little instances in the poem of Dante’s grim sense of humor.
[54.] Being without character, which is inseparable from personal distinction, these usurers are distinguishable only by means of the money bags hanging from their necks, and hence, except in financial circles, are of no account.
[59.] The devices on the bags are the coats of arms of prominent Florentine and Paduan usurers.
[72.] Giovanni Buiamonte, said to have been the most infamous usurer in Europe in Dante’s time.
[82.] Hereafter the two poets can no longer descend from one Circle to another on foot; here, only by consenting to accept the help of Fraud itself in the person of Geryon, can insight into Fraud be acquired; but Man, in so doing, must be sure to let Reason sit between him and Fraud’s sting.
[107.] Phaëthon, the son of Apollo, who, misguiding the chariot of the Sun, burned the skies and produced the Milky Way.
[109.] Icarus, the son of the inventor Daedalus, the mythical founder of aëronautics.
[122.] The punishments of the Eighth Circle, which they are approaching.
[127.] Another simile drawn from the art of Falconry; Geryon had only grudgingly performed the service imposed on him by Virgil.
[1.] Malebolge, or the Circle of the Evil Pockets, in which are caught those who by one form of deceit or another tried to “bag” others, is conceived as a vast plain cut by ten concentric trenches bridged by a series of crags, the whole sloping toward a central well, at the bottom of which is the Ninth Circle, the frozen lake of Cocytus.
[22.] Pandars, pimps, or professional procurers of women, driven around the trench by devils armed with scourges, who represent the mean passions which restlessly goad them on to fraud.
[25.] Dante uses nakedness here and elsewhere to portray sins that are peculiarly indefensible.
[27.] The second band were moving faster than were the walking poets.
[28.] Immense crowds of pilgrims from all over Europe gathered at Rome for the Jubilee of 1300; Dante may himself have been there, and witnessed what he describes.
[31.] The Castle of Sant’ Angelo; the mountain opposite is Giordano.
[49.] A Bolognese, who for money is said to have betrayed his own sister to the lust of a Marquis da Esti of Ferrara.
[51.] A grim play upon the word salse, sauces, a name given to a place near Bologna, where the bodies of criminals were thrown.
[61.] In Bologna, which lies between the rivers Savena and Reno, sipa used to be the dialectic form of sì, yes.
[76.] Seducers of women, scourged around the trench in the opposite direction.
[83.] Jason, the royal leader of the Argonauts in their quest of the Golden Fleece of Colchos, and the seducer of Hypsipyle, Medea and other women.
[90.] Because, ever since cursed by Venus, they had been abandoned by their husbands. In the general massacre Hypsipyle had saved her father, King Thoas.
[100.] Here Flatterers and Prostitutes, viewed as men and women who, for personal advantage of one kind or another, prostituted their souls or their bodies by playing with friendship, affection, admiration, or love, are immersed in excrement, to signify the utterly disgusting and corrupt nature of their sin morally and spiritually; the boldest instance of Dante’s unflinching realism.
[122.] A contemporary of Dante, of whom little else is known.
[130.] The famous Athenian courtesan, said to have been the mistress of Alexander. Whatever prostitution may be from other points of view, physical or ethical, Dante’s marvelous insight saw that it was spiritually poisonous, because essentially the most corrupting form of Flattery.
[1.] Simon Magus, the magician who offered to pay St. Peter for spiritual gifts, the prototype of all who have been corrupt in the conduct of the Church’s organization, by buying or selling its offices, or by setting a monetary value on its spiritual gifts. In so far as Universities share with the Church in the same high field of spiritual responsibility for Man’s higher nature, they have been, and are, open to the same temptation.
[10.] The perfect Justice of God, whereby sin is its own punishment, illustrated throughout the Inferno, as virtue being its own reward is throughout the Paradiso.
[17.] The baptismal font in what was Dante’s church, now the baptistery, in Florence, had four round wells around its central water basin, in which the baptizing priests stood, protected from the crowd bringing recently born children on special baptismal occasions. Dante, having once had to break one of these to release a child choking in it, is believed to be here defending himself against a charge of sacrilege.
[28.] The Simoniacs, having subjected their spiritual gifts, symbolized by the tongues of fire which rested on the Apostles’ heads at Pentecost, to lower material interests, are here seen symbolically upside down with their heads in the earth, and with flames torturing the soles of their feet. Prostitution again!
[49.] Dante, as one of the six priors of Florence in the summer of 1300, may have been present officially at the execution of assassins for money, who were condemned to be planted head down in a hole dug in the ground.
[52.] Pope Nicholas III, who here mistakes Dante for Boniface VIII, still living, and equally guilty of simony. This is one of Dante’s devices, whereby he is enabled to condemn to Hell one who in 1300, the date of his poem’s Vision, not having yet died, could not be seen there.
[56.] Boniface VIII was believed to have ascended the Papal throne as the result of deceitful intrigues, ending in the abdication of Celestine V, mistakenly identified, some think, with “him who through his cowardice the great Refusal made.”
[70.] Nicholas III belonged to the great Roman Orsini (Bear) family.
[75.] Having changed their allegiance from Spirit to Matter, their destiny is to disappear from the real world into the earth.
[82.] Clement V, of Bordeaux, who was to follow Boniface soon after his death in 1303, was a creature of Philip the Fair of France, as the High Priest Jason had been that of Antiochus of Syria.
[99.] Charles I of Anjou, to whom Nicholas was opposed.
[100.] In spite of his bitter attacks upon several Popes, notably Boniface VIII, for their corruption, Dante was always most loyal to the ideally great conception of the Pope’s office as Head of a united Christian Church.
[106.] Dante here attributes to Papal Rome in its corruption what the author of the Apocalypse probably ascribed to Pagan Rome.
[109.] This probably means that the Church had prospered, or would prosper, only so long as her head, the Pope, remembered that she was born of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, and observed the ten moral commandments.
[115.] One of the most famous passages in the Inferno, and one capable of the widest range of application. Dante shared in the erroneous belief of his age that Constantine had abandoned Rome, and even the Empire of the West, to the Popes to rule therein as temporal sovereigns. The spiritual truth may, however, be disengaged from it that for spiritual institutions excessive or hampering material endowments are fraught with the danger of degeneration and loss of freedom.
[121.] Again Virgil approves of Dante’s fearless expression of a righteous indignation.
[1.] From time to time Dante will incidentally suggest the care with which he had planned out the symmetrical balance of the component parts of his work. In fact, in what poem in universal literature has the architecture of the Divine Comedy been surpassed or equalled?
[7.] The sinners in this trench, if supposed to have seen into the future, have turned it into a past. This is described by their punishment — a mere picture of the real nature of their sin — which consists in walking ahead with their faces turned completely around, what they see being thus a past over which they have no creative control. Dante hereby suggests that man is a co-creator with God, and that the spiritual future being yet uncreated by their free coöperation, cannot be known.
[27.] This is in Italian a play upon the double meaning of the word pietà, piety and pity. Dante, being here concerned for the fate of no individual sinner, is reproved by Virgil for what here seems his sympathy with the sin, to separate which from its equivalent punishment would be as irrational, as it would be to wish any physical or logical law to be other than what it is.
[31, 40, 46.] Amphiaraus, a diviner, one of the seven Kings who besieged Thebes; Tiresias and Aruns also diviners; all three known to classic lore.
[48.] Great Italian marble quarries northwest of Pisa.
[52.] With Manto Dante reaches a case peculiarly interesting to him, because she was the fabled foundress of Mantua in Lombardy, the home of his teacher Virgil.
[59.] A reference to the fall of Thebes, the birthplace of the god, Bacchus, under the tyranny of Creon.
[61.] One of Dante’s most graceful bits of Italian geography, with its expression of the inveterate Latin feeling that the greater function of the highest Alps is to keep Germany and her traditional Barbarians out of the “Garden of the Empire,” as he calls Italy in the Purgatorio.
[67.] Trento, as well as Brescia and Verona, an Italian city.
[78.] Governolo, the modern form of Governo.
[94.] A reference to internal Ghibelline-Guelph dissensions in Mantua, which resulted in a decrease of the city in population and importance.
[97.] Dante here, for some unknown reason preferred this version of the origin of Mantua to one given by Virgil in the Aeneid. Not being history, a later version of a legend may well be better than an earlier one.
[103.] “But . . .!”
[106.] Soothsayers connected with the story of Troy, and the sailing of the Greeks from Aulis.
[115.] Michael Scot, a famous Scotch thirteenth-century physician and astrologer, reputed a magician.
[118.] Italian necromancers, and women who won for themselves the dangerous name of witches.
[124.] Cain and his thorns, a popular Italian version of the Man in the Moon; an astronomical bit indicating that it is now about 6 a.m.
[1.] Though the name Commedia was in Dante’s time that given to serious poetic compositions that ended well, and so befits Dante’s supreme poem, which ends happily in Paradise, the nature of this and of the following canto is such that Comedy in the modern sense would perfectly apply to them. Corruption in politics, and the endless struggle between corrupt representatives of the people and often equally corrupt executives of the laws passed against that corruption, have always been fair game for more or less good natured amusement, cartooning, etc. True to his nature as a great artist, Dante in dealing with the subject at once descends in incident and language to the natural level of the comedy of the perennial political tragedy, so that any criticism from the point of view of taste can be met by the answer that everything in these cantos is as organically fitting as is anything in the other ninety-eight.
[6.] The first note struck; the world of grafters and corrupt politicians is a dark world, wherein they “lie low.”
[7.] Venice was in Dante’s time, as it had been long before, and was to be long after, the great naval power of the world.
[8.] Pitch, the other characteristic of the relation sustained to each other and to their entangling profession by grafters who can only ply their nefarious trade at the expense of good government by playing into each other’s corrupt hands; grafting is dark and sticky business.
[19.] A wonderful picture of the temporary excitement made by public suspicions of corruption and graft in the underworld, and the almost immediate subsiding of the public interest momentarily aroused.
[29.] The nearest modern equivalent of this black devil and his mates would seem to be something approaching a blend of the more or less permanently effective newspapers and police.
[37.] Evil-claws; Santa Zita being the patroness of the city of Lucca in Tuscany, the reference here is to its town council.
[40.] Bonturo Dati, ironically made an exception to the wholesale charge against Lucca, had the reputation of being in 1300 its boss, and the worst grafter of them all.
[42.]Ita, the Latin for “yes” used on the judicial occasions where these magistrates and lawyers testified or voted, for financial considerations, contrary to their sworn duty.
[46.] “Doubled up” in a position such as that assumed by those worshipping the Holy Face, an ancient image of Christ believed to have been by the hand of Nicodemus, which was preserved in Lucca.
[49.] A stream near Lucca, a popular bathing resort for its inhabitants.
[53.] An attitude all too frequently assumed towards such people by a conniving police or press.
[62.] A reference to Virgil’s previous descent through Hell, or to his historical experience with the corrupt politics of Rome and Italy in his time.
[76.] Evil Tail.
[82.] Two ways of viewing the same cause.
[84.] The promise of Reason’s ultimate success in leading Man into a resultful knowledge of the world of political evil.
[95.] A Tuscan town which surrendered to the Lucchese, and to the Florentines with whom Dante was serving, in 1289, when a young man of twenty-four.
[106–114.] Three statements by the devil, the first and last of which were true, while the middle one was false; the third, moreover, being a beguiling truth of religious import. The next crag-bridge was down, but so were all of them in the sixth trench, so that the second statement was untrue; 1266 years from 1300 took one back to the year 34, that of Christ’s death, when the earthquake accompanying it shattered the outer Gate of Hell, the high bank separating the sixth from the seventh Circles, and the bridges across the Sixth Trench, that of the Hypocrites. This would seem to be the devils’ formula for telling a successful lie: sandwich it between two truths.
[118.] These comic devils all of them have more or less significant names, some seeming to have resulted from grotesquing those of well known Italian families, which may have been tainted with this sin of graft.
[125.] Since there was no crag that “all unbroken” crossed the dens, or trenches, this ominous order was the same as telling the devils to do with the two investigating poets as they pleased.
[137.] The last three lines of this canto find their due explanation in the note to line 1, and at any rate are boldly endorsed by the four opening terzine of the next canto. Dante’s contempt for corruption in politics was too great, and too well justified, for him to shrink from giving it the most apposite expression that occurred to him.
[1.] The brilliant mock heroic twelve-line paragraph with which this canto opens, serves to prove how allegorically significant was the close of the last, and is as organic a factor in the all-spanning Inferno as are others more agreeable to read.
[5.] A reference to the Battle of Campaldino in 1289, won by Florence and Lucca over Arezzo, a battle in which Dante served, as he did at Caprona.
[15.] Proverbial wisdom, similar to that of “In Rome do as the Romans do,” which harmonizes with the fact that the two poets were forced to reach the realm of Fraud by riding carefully on the back of Geryon, its symbol.
[25.] Frogs again as instruments of Dante’s grim humor!
[48.] A Navarrese grafter, whose name may have been Ciampolo, though little is known of him but what is recorded here.
[52.] Thibaut II, Count of Champagne, King of Navarre, son-in-law of Louis IX, and a famous French lyric poet.
[65.] Italians have always thought of themselves as Latins.
[82.] Gallura, one of the four provinces into which the Pisans divided Sardinia; this Gomita is said to have been hanged by Judge Nino Visconti of Gallura, who will appear in the Purgatorio.
[88.] Michel Zanche of Logodoro, another province of Sardinia, was vicar of Enzo, Frederick II’s son, and was murdered by Branca d’Oria, whose soul Dante will see in the ice below, without waiting for him to die.
[118.] Dante, the sublimely happy poet the Paradiso will show him to have become, far from being exclusively “saturnine” as some who have only superficially read the Inferno have called him, evidently had a fair share of the lubricating sense of humor, and expected it of his readers.
[127.] This beats the Virgilian “Fear added wings to his feet.” which may have suggested it.
[135.] Another incident, which recalls many a modern farce, in which grafters, the police and the “yellow” press figure with little to distinguish them from each other.
[142.] A last flash of dry humor, before the poet returns to the tragic aspect of the world of evil.
[148.] Even the agents of justice against corrupt politics get sticky with pitch at times!
[1.] The comic frivolity of the last two cantos is with fine contrast succeeded by the solemn seriousness of this, whose tone is suggested by the opening line.
[4.] This fable, supposed to be Aesop’s, told how a frog who had tied a mouse to himself to tow him over the water, dived without regard to his companion, who while struggling was picked up by a kite, who carried them both off.
[7.]Mo and issa, two Italian dialectic words meaning now.
[33.] An imagined evil may be even more terrible than a so-called actual one.
[51.] Noteworthy are the frequent expressions of the tenderness Dante felt toward the poet Virgil, whose influence upon him must have been second only to that of the Florentine maiden, Beatrice, both of whom he accepted as, severally, his rational and spiritual guides through the world of reality.
[55.] The fact that the executives of each trench are limited in their action to their own immediate sphere of power, is here used to show that in the world of Divine Justice no punishment can follow a sin of which it is not merely a picture.
[58.] Dante sees hypocrites as a “painted,” and “burdened” people — one of his most wonderful spiritual portraits, which besides recalling the “whited sepulchers” of the Gospel, is strangely reproduced in the case of Shakespeare’s hypocrite, Claudius, who, lashed by Polonius’ acknowledgment that “with devotion’s visage and pious action we do sugar o’er the devil himself,” contrasts his crime with his “most painted word,” and exclaims: “O heavy burthen!”
[63.] Why Dante should have thought of the monks of Cologne as illustrating “the cloak of hypocrisy” has not been satisfactorily explained.
[66.] Frederick II was believed, at least by his enemies, to have had those guilty of lèse majesté clothed in lead, which was subsequently melted upon them.
[67.] Of course “exhaustion” and “for ever” are mutually contradictory terms; hence here as elsewhere a deeper meaning must be found for “eternal.” Hypocrisy is innately and inescapably “fatiguing,” since it involves living simultaneously two lives.
[74.] Dante is ever at pains to find concrete illustrations for his abstract moral and spiritual states, which is what makes a great poet greater, paradoxically speaking, than an equally great philosopher.
[76.] Again recognized by his Tuscan speech!
[84.] Hypocrites have to tread a narrow path because restlessly obliged, as the sincere and frank are not, to “mind their p’s and q’s.”
[88.] A third device to remind us that Dante was the only one alive in the Inferno. One symptom of hypocritical piety is the solemnity and sadness it affects. Cf. the Gospel warning: “Be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance.”
[94.] As the reader will frequently note, Dante in spite of what he had suffered from it, proudly loved his native town.
[99.] That’s it! The penalty sparkles, because the penalty is the sin.
[100.] Their outwardly fair-seeming piety, morality, and interest in good things are really a burden to them, and cause them (the scales) to weep and moan (creak).
[103–108.] The second of these two hypocrites was the founder of the lay order of the Beata Maria, whose members, not obliged to be ascetic, so availed themselves of the exemption that they came to be known as “Joy” Friars; these two were both at different times called to be podestà (dictators for a year) of Italian towns, and in 1266, were called together to rule Florence; while in power they razed the houses of the Uberti in the neighborhood of an old fortress called the Gardingo.
[109.] How Dante would have ended his interrupted speech we do not know, but can easily imagine, from what we know of his hatred of hypocrisy and of his love for Florence.
[115.] This is the archhypocrite, Caiaphas the High Priest, the second of the infamous triumvirate of the Crucifixion, Pilate the archcoward, and Judas, the archtraitor being the other two. Not “lifted up” as Jesus was, Dante sees Caiaphas crucified like his victim, but on the ground, and forced to bear, as their type, the burden of all subsequent hypocrites.
[122.] Annas, the High Priest, and the other Pharisees, whose decision to prefer the logically and temporarily “expedient” to the spiritually and eternally right, brought an age long trouble upon their race.
[124.] Virgil had been through this trench before, but Caiaphas had not come to it yet.
[129.] Malacoda had told him that one crag-bridge still spanned the trench.
[142.] The friar, having studied theology at the great university of Bologna, had heard that the devil was professionally a liar, and ironically suggests that Virgil should not have been taken in by the pleasant outsides of the sandwich-lie.
[147.] And so this masterly picture of Hypocrisy, which began with the adjective “painted,” ends with the adjective “burdened.” Like all its companion pictures, its convincing power comes from the fact that a great poet addresses simultaneously his reader’s total, undifferentiated intellectual aesthetic, moral and spiritual consciousness.
[1.] As a means of emphasizing Virgil’s calm self-mastery, Dante opens his next description of Fraud, by giving his reader a charming picture of a mid-February day in Tuscany, where the snows of its short winter which permits roses to bloom in December, and spring-flowers in February, are much dreaded, largely because, on the plain, they rarely exceed the effects of a heavy frost. When the sun is in Aquarius in January and February, with spring not far off, it is beginning to warm its locks, as in early autumn it might be said to cool them, and as the season is advancing toward the vernal equinox, the nights are said to move southward, as six months later they would be moving toward the North.
[21.] When he came to Dante’s rescue in the gloomy Wood.
[30.] Judging from his many descriptions of it throughout the poem, Dante must have had much experience in mountain-climbing during his journeys in Italy and elsewhere.
[53.] Dante’s own experience had shown him that imponderable soul-energy was the greatest of all forces.
[56.] An anticipation of his long climb up Mount Purgatory.
[65.] The word onde of the Italian text seems to suggest that it was Dante’s distinct speaking which caused the inarticulate voice in the trench he was approaching. Hence the translation.
[85.] His well conned Latin poets, Lucan and Ovid, had familiarized Dante with the classical snakes of the Libyan Desert, whose names have been reproduced unchanged in the translation, because their Latin names seem to make them snakier, for the same reason that the reverse would be true in the case of flowers. At any rate Dante does not propose to let either Africa or Asia boast of worse snakes than those he saw in Hell.
[93.] The stone, heliotrope, was supposed to render its bearer invisible.
[100.] Two letters each of which is written by one stroke of the pen.
[106.] Both Ovid and Brunetto Latini had told the oriental myth of the Phoenix, whose essentials Dante has reproduced here.
[112.] Epileptics, as in the Gospel account of them, were supposed to be under the control of the devil.
[118.] Dante is filled with admiration of the Power of God, as displayed in the miraculous transformations seen in this trench. The variant quanto è severa, “how severe it is,” while grammatically more satisfactory, would not give as Dantelike and significant a thought as the one here adopted.
[124.] Vanni Fucci of Pistoia, was a bastard, well known in Dante’s time as a man of violence, but not generally suspected as a fraudulent thief; hence Dante’s surprise at finding him here instead of higher up, in the relatively less guilty Seventh Circle, among highway robbers.
[130.] Knowing that he was recognized, Vanni Fucci does not try to hide his identity.
[138.] The vestry of the cathedral of Pistoia, whence some of its ecclesiastical treasures had been stolen in 1293; that Vanni Fucci was the thief was apparently discovered only some time later.
[143.] To vent his spite on Dante for having identified him among the snake-like thieves, Vanni Fucci proceeds to prophecy to him the misfortunes of his party, the Whites, from 1300 to 1302 or, possibly, 1306. A brief account of events will here suffice. In 1301, the Neri were driven from Pistoia; later Florence changed her government by banishing the Whites; in 1302, Moroello Malaspina (the bolt) of Lunigiana (Val di Magra) unexpectedly routed the Whites of Pistoia. Whatever the true historical interpretation of this meteorologically couched prophecy post eventum, it is interesting to note that in 1306 Dante, in exile, was a guest of this Malaspina, and is said to have dedicated his Purgatorio to him. By the term Picene Plain Dante referred to the territory of Pistoia.
[1.] A coarse, defiant insult, consisting in shaking the fist, while holding the thumb between the index and the middle finger. This gesture was once carved on a Pistoian tower facing Florence, which it thereby defied.
[10.] Pistoia’s turn now! Dante spared none of the wrangling, faction-weakened republics of his time, which kept Italy disunited, self-enslaved, and a prey to foreign interference and aggression. Pistoia was believed to have been founded by the remnants of Catiline’s rebellious army. Vanni Fucci would have been seen in the Seventh Circle with Capeneus, had not fraudulent theft been spiritually worse than violence.
[19.] The Tuscan Maremma, whose wild deserted woodland has already been compared to the forest of the Suicides above, was reputed to be infested with snakes.
[25.] Cacus, a centaur-like son of Vulcan, who dwelt in a cave under Mt. Aventine, and who having by trickery robbed Hercules of his herd of cattle, was killed by the latter, who gave him more blows with his club than he ever felt. His robbery being fraudulent, he is not with his fellow Centaurs above.
[43.] Cianfa Donati, a Florentine, charged with having converted public funds to his own use.
[68.] Agnello Brunelleschi, a well born Florentine, said to have been a thief from his youth up.
[79.] Here begins one of the most marvelously weird, uncouth and uncanny pieces of imaginative description in all literature, the mutual transformation of a man and a serpent, into every possible detail of which Dante goes with the keeness of a Poe, and all to show the snakelike nature of fraudulent theft, wherein human intelligence is maliciously sharpened in the service of greed. So proud is Dante of it, that he calls on Lucan and even on Ovid to acknowledge his supremacy even in this side department of poetic imagination.
[94.] Lucan had told the story of Sabellus, one of Cato’s soldiers crossing the desert of Libya, who, when bitten by a snake, had melted away; and of Nassidius, another, who had swollen up until he burst his armor.
[97.] Ovid had related the metamorphosis of Cadmus into a serpent, and of Arethusa into a fountain; and yet Dante refuses to be envious, for here (as similarly throughout the poem) whatever he owed to his “sources,” “the sustained realism,” to borrow Dr. Grandgent’s words, “the atmosphere of mystery and horror, the uncanny yawn, stare, and smoke are Dante’s own.”
[140.] A Florentine; probably Buoso degli Abati.
[142.] This Seventh Trench is called a “ballast,” because its transformations suggest the continual shifting of the ballast in a ship’s hold.
[148.] Another Florentine, with a reputation of being gentlemanly, and of doing his stealing by day.
[151.] A fifth Florentine, Guercio de’ Cavalcanti, killed by the men of Gaville on the Arno, which resulted in lasting bad blood between his family and the men of that village. The reader of this canto will hardly need to be reminded of R. L. Stevenson’s “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”
[1.] One of Dante’s bitterest invectives against his native city, which, owing to her growing prosperity, was sending her sons abroad, while at home she was contributing to the peopling of every part of Hell.
[7.] Dante frequently avails himself of the ancient belief that dreams dreamt near dawn were sure to come true. This one is a reference either to the people of Prato, a rebellious neighboring dependency of Florence, and to her other enemies, or else to a Cardinal di Prato, who sent by the Pope to pacify Florence in 1304, left her with the curse of God and the Church, as did another emissary two years later.
[19.] In marked contrast to his indignation against the thieves is Dante’s pity for the sinners he now meets, who misused their great persuasive oratorical or rhetorical gifts. Realizing, as no man more, his own eloquence, Dante prays that it may never be used, save in the service of a worthy cause, whether it have been the gift of destiny, or of special Divine Grace.
[25.] A beautiful picture that can still be verified from almost any of the heights surrounding the vineyard, orchard, and garden girded City of Flowers.
[34.] A reference to the prophet Elisha’s last vision of his “translated” master.
[41.] The flames which moved around the trench, concealing (as does a candle’s flame its wick) the sinners within them, symbolize the burning eloquence of the words which served to persuade, while concealing the real mind and convictions of those that uttered them.
[48.] Again, the sin is its own punishment; for these flames, cold now to others, burn only those whose fire was not their own.
[50.] Dante, rapidly learning the fundamental truth of the Hell he is visiting, can now tell without help the nature of a sin, on seeing its equivalent punishment.
[54.] Eteocles and Polynices of Thebes, having killed each other, a double flame is said to have shot up from the one funeral pyre on which their bodies were burned.
[55.] To Ulysses, one of the great Greeks in the war against Troy, Dante here associates Diomed, who was with him in getting Achilles back from Scyros, and in the theft of the Palladium. According to Virgil — upon whom Dante depended, since he could not have read Homer — Ulysses was alone in devising the trick of the Horse, which brought about the fall of Troy, and in which Dante was specially interested because it resulted in the ultimate conquest of Italy by the Trojans, and “the lofty walls of Rome.” It was for his guile, of course, and for his abuse of his wonderful powers of persuasion that Dante picked out the great Greek, whose better Hellenic qualities he admired, to be the principal illustration of this trench’s sin. Deidamia, whom Dante will hear of later as being in the Limbo, was abandoned by Achilles when he returned to the War. The Palladium was the sacred image of Pallas, upon whose custody the Trojans relied for the safety of their city. The flame in which Ulysses and the rest are burning further suggests the conflagration of evil that may spread from the spark of a single lie.
[69.] Dante’s great desire to see Ulysses’ shade was due to the chance it offered of solving one of the greatest mediaeval literary questions: what became of Ulysses after his return to Ithaca? He felt somewhat as a lover of Shakespeare might on seeing the spirit of Hamlet in “another world.”
[74.] This seems to be on Dante’s part a realization of the trouble which writers in a modern language would long have in getting due recognition from representatives of the ancient classics.
[82.] Virgil in the Aeneid had done much to spread abroad through the ancient and mediaeval worlds the fame of the two Greek heroes.
[90.] The story of Ulysses’ last journey and death in quest of adventure, which closes the canto, is more than an illustration of its hero’s baneful powers of persuasion, if it be that. Transcending this, it becomes in his hand one of Dante’s most classically conceived passages, presenting a picture of the Hellenic race’s genius for fearless pursuit of knowledge and truth for its own sake, couched in words so simple, direct, and self-restrained that one, who did not know Dante, would think that the whole canto was written by a different hand from that which penned the last two. Never have the essentials of a shipwreck been narrated with such awfully convincing brevity.
[91.] The sorceress Circe, who turned men into beasts.
[92.] Gaeta was named by Aeneas after his nurse who died there.
[108.] The Pillars of Hercules, Calpe (Gibraltar), and the opposite eminence, Abyla. The warning “Ne plus ultra,” which is the motto of the amorial bearings of Spain.
[114.] He bids them, since they have but little time to live, to spend it grandly, as befitted Greeks.
[117.] The southern hemisphere, believed to be wholly covered by water, with vague notions of a possible great uninhabited island in its midst.
[121.] Ulysses certainly used his eloquence here to persuade his companions, but Dante does not make it clear that it was, in this case, for any guilty ulterior purpose.
[126.] That is, they skirted the northwest coast of Africa toward the equator, which they had passed when the North star had ceased to be visible.
[130.] Five months had elapsed since they left the straits of Gibraltar.
[133.] Dante’s allegorical adumbration of the mountain-island of Purgatory, a spiritual state to be dimly seen from afar, but not to be attained, by the Pagan mind.
[141.] “Another,” God, whose name is not mentioned by any one speaking reverently in Hell.
[142.] This perfect close of a perfect description can only be looked at, to use Dante’s own words, “as one looks at truth.”
[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.] Forlì 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 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.
[1.] Even with only the records of the battle fields of southern Italy through the centuries to depict, Dante feels that even unfettered prose were inadequate to describe the wounds and mutilations of which he is about to draw a picture for his readers’ imagination.
[8.] Southern Italy, the Kingdom of Naples.
[10.] The Trojans, including the Romans, their descendants. The fifteen-year second Punic War waged against Rome by Hannibal, described by the Latin historian Livy, who tells of the rings collected from Roman fingers after the Battle of Cannae.
[13.] The war waged by the Normans under Guiscard for the conquest of Apulia.
[15.] An indirect reference to the great Battle of Benevento in 1266, in which Frederick II’s son, Manfred, was defeated, and died as a result of treachery.
[17.] Where in 1268 Frederick’s grandson, Conradin, was captured, and the power of the Swabian domination destroyed, through the strategy of Charles of Anjou’s general, the French Erard de Valéry.
[22.] The natural realism of the battle field transferred to his pages by the most Nature-like of poets.
[31.] It having been believed in Dante’s time that Mohammed was originally a Christian, and that, in founding Islam, he was the author of a schism in the Church, he is the one to lead off among the disseminators of discord in the brotherhood of Man. Ali comes next as the founder of a sect in the ranks of Mohammedanism.
[45.] Real punishment follows only upon self-accusation.
[46.] A clear definition of Dante’s status and object in traversing Hell.
[55.] Fra Dolcino, the leader of a heretical and socialistic free-love sect, against whom Clement V proclaimed a crusade. Forced to surrender by snow and famine, he was burned alive at Novara in 1307; hence the prophetic form of Dante’s account.
[73.] Little is known of this man whom Dante had personally seen, and who hailed from Medicina in the territory of Bologna.
[74.] Practically the whole of the great Lombard plain watered by the Po.
[76.] The prophecy of a murder committed by the one-eyed Malatestino Malatesta on the Adriatic soon after 1312.
[82.] Throughout the whole length of the Mediterranean.
[86.] Curio, mentioned below, who wishes he had never seen Rimini, near the Rubicon where he gave Caesar the bad advice.
[89.] A place on the Adriatic noted for its squalls.
[96.] The Roman, Curio, who, when Caesar was hesitating whether or not to cross the Rubicon, and end Rome’s doubtful freedom, gave him the wise, but unpatriotic, and hence evil, advice mentioned in the text.
[106.] In the original Florentine Guelph-Ghibelline feud, when the Amidei were considering how to avenge an insult offered them by one of the Buondelmonti allied to the Donati, it was Mosca de’ Lamberti who advised murder, by urging the oft quoted saying: “Cosa fatta capo ha,” literally, “A thing that is done has a head.” To this incident were subsequently traced the party feuds of Florence; while for his share in it, Mosca’s family, the Lamberti, were later on permanently exiled from the city.
[115.] Dante’s definition of a good Conscience.
[134.] Bertran de Born, the celebrated Provençal troubadour, who flourished in the last part of the twelfth century, and was believed to have instigated the rebellion of Prince Henry of England, “the youthful king,” against his father Henry II.
[137.] The instigator of Absalom’s rebellion against King David.
[142.] The law of Retaliation, or of “an eye for an eye,” which may be said to prevail in Dante’s Hell in its most perfect form, in that all punishments therein described are but pictures of the essence of the sin itself. To sin against the paternal or filial relations of others is, spiritually, to sin against those that are actually or potentially one’s own.
[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 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 podestà 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.
[1.] Juno’s spite against the royal house of Thebes was due to the love of Jupiter for Semele, the daughter of Cadmus the founder of the city, from which union sprang the god, Bacchus.
[4.] Athamas, king of Thebes, was the husband of Ino, Semele’s sister, and Bacchus’ nurse. “Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.”
[13.] The great classic instance of the fate of “overweening Pride.”
[37.] Myrrha, daughter of a king of Cyprus, who having passed herself off as another woman, was discovered, and fleeing into Arabia, was turned into the plant, myrrh.
[44.] Gianni Schicchi de’ Cavalcanti of Florence, who substituting himself for the dying Buoso Donati, made a will in due form, which successfully diverted the intended bequeathal of the old man’s wealth, and incidentally procured for himself a fine mare he coveted, which was known as “the lady of the stud,” or herd.
[61.] Master Adam, an agent of the impoverished Counts of Romena mentioned in the text, one of whom, Guido, having died in 1292, is already with him in this trench; the other two are expected!
[64.] On the most improbable occasions Dante will drop as here into a beautiful description of his beloved Florence, Tuscany, or Italy.
[74.] The Florentine gold coin, the florin, twenty-four carats fine, was stamped on one side with a figure of St. John the Baptist, the patron of the city, and on the other with that of a lily, whence its name.
[78.] A fountain near Romena, not the more famous Fonte Branda of Siena.
[86.] Only eleven miles around now; the poets are approaching the bottom of Hell.
[94.] On leaving Minos’ presence, the damned are supposed to fall directly into the several places allotted each by their “accusation of themselves,” a fall for which Dante likes to use the term “rain.”
[97.] Potiphar’s wife.
[98.] Sinon, the Greek spy, who lied to the Trojans about the Wooden Horse, and persuaded them to bring it into the city.
[100.] Here follows a rare bit of unseemly repartee, for listening to which, Dante, who for organic poetic reasons saw fit to compose it, will later confess his shame. Another instance of the fact that the works of genius, like those of Nature, transcend in their scope the limits properly set up by refinement.
[120.] Whoever has read Virgil’s Aeneid, which has been used to teach Latin for nineteen centuries, has read of the Wooden Horse of Troy.
[128.] Water; Narcissus, on seeing himself reflected in it, fell in love with himself.
[130.] Dante was, after all, “human” in more ways than one.
[145.] Reason, the counselling companion of Man’s spirit.
[1.] The miraculous ability of the lance of Peleus and of his son Achilles, to heal the wound itself had made, was fruitful in suggestions to old Italian poets, who compared it to a lovely woman’s glance and kiss.
[12.] The horn here strikes the first note characterizing this canto, which, dealing with Giantism, first treats of the arrogant boastfulness of the Superman.
[16.] A reference to the rout of the rear-guard of Charlemagne’s army by the Saracens at Roncesvalles in the Pyrenees, when Roland, the greatest of his knights, as sublimely narrated in the early French epic, the Chanson de Roland, blew so loudly on his ivory horn just before dying, that the Emperor heard him away off in France.
[20.] The second motive of the canto’s theme, towers, which made Dante think that he was approaching a great mediaeval fortified town.
[31.] In the Giants towering up around the Central Well are symbolized all cases of overweening Pride and Ambition, or of mere Might overriding the claims of Right. Drawing equally upon the resources of Biblical and Classical mythology, Dante paints a picture in this canto of rebellious material power held firmly in the chains of the ultimate Power which is spiritual.
[41.] An ancient Sienese castle, whose walls were once fortified by fourteen high towers.
[44.] In the atavistic memory of man God is still the sky-god, Jupiter, and thunder a threat of avenging power. Dante throughout the poem draws impartially upon all available spiritual suggestions to be gotten from ancient mythology.
[49.] A remarkably suggestive warning against putting political or other kinds of power, especially when equipped with trained intelligence, into the hands of men uncontrolled by moral and spiritual training. The God of Dante is a God of Power, Wisdom, and Love. Without the latter quality to guard the other two, he would become the worst kind of a Barbarian god imaginable.
[59.] A pine cone of bronze, once some eleven feet high, still to be seen in one of the garden courts of the Vatican Museum.
[64.] Reputed the tallest men in Europe.
[67.] This line evidently means nothing at all, for the simple reason, as the poet tells us in lines 80 and 81, that “such is every tongue to him, as his to others is, for that is known to none;” and yet all known languages have been painfully examined by literalistic scholars, to discover what was intended to represent the “confusion of tongues” for which the speaker stands!
[77.] Nimrod, reputed a Giant, who built the tower of Babel, whence he might defy Heaven in his attempt to dominate man, with the result that the confusion of interests produced of itself an utter failure of the defiant undertaking. Even morality will lose its power unless transfused and quickened by a spiritual motive.
[78.] Allegorically, a diversity of antagonistic languages symbolizes a confusing diversity of mutually contending interests, which prevent all progress in furthering the free Brotherhood of Man under the spiritual Fatherhood of a God of Freedom.
[91.] Dante, who drove all of civilization’s horses abreast, will throughout the poem draw impartially upon all great human attempts, Pagan, Hebraic, or Christian, to name the Unnamable.
[95.] This conception of a temporary fear on the part of the Gods, necessary to give the struggle any interest, is to be found even in Milton’s Paradise Lost in the initial stages of its grand description of the conflict between the Almighty and Lucifer. Ephialtes and Briareus were leaders among the Sons of Earth, the Titans, in their attempt to scale the heavens, and supplant Zeus.
[102.] And so the bottom of Hell is the bottom of all Sin, which is, as will be seen, utter Selfishness, or moral and spiritual Zerohood.
[108.] Ephialtes is jealous of this ascription of greater fierceness to Antaeus.
[111.] In the spirit’s eye, rebellious Might is seen to be bound.
[113.] Of Antaeus it was fabled that he was absent from the fight of his brethren against Jove in the Battle of Phlegra; that is why he is here unbound, and able to yield to Virgil’s request to set them down at the bottom of the otherwise inaccessible Well of Cocytus.
[115.] The site of the decisive Battle of Zama, when the Roman Scipio defeated the Carthaginian Hannibal.
[121.] The Titans, the Sons of Earth, the mythological exponents of Materialism, and of its religion of Might.
[124.] Two other Titans only less famous for their strength than those already mentioned.
[128.] It is not known just when Dante wrote this canto, but he was recalled by Grace “untimely to itself,” when still in exile from Florence at Ravenna, in 1321, at the age of fifty-six.
[132.] Hercules, having, in his struggle with Antaeus, observed that the Giant received renewed strength every time he touched his mother Earth, lifted him up in the air, and was then able to strangle him.
[136.] The Carisenda, one of two famous leaning towers of Bologna, which by an optical illusion, can seem to be falling on one who, standing beneath it, is watching clouds moving across the sky in the direction opposite to its inclination. Compare with this illustration a similar one from Coleridge’s Ode, Dejection: “and those thin clouds above, in flakes and bars, that give away their motion to the stars.”
[142.] The human and the angelic Archtraitors. Antaeus must have leaned way over to set the poets down at the bottom, which is described in the next canto as “beneath the giant’s feet, though lower far.”
[1.] Dante in the Divine Comedy seems to have drawn upon the whole vocabulary of his language, always appositely, and with no fear of calling a spade a spade. In this complete freedom of speech of his he reminds one of Rostand’s Chantecler’s words: “Being the Cock, I use all words.”
[3.] All the upper Circles which surround the ever diminishing inverted cone, or funnel, of Dante’s Inferno rest ultimately upon the walls of the central well at the bottom, in which is situated the frozen lake of Cocytus, which a few lines down he will call “the bottom of the universe,” to indicate that utter selfishness is spiritually the state furthest removed from God.
[9.] The vernacular, or language of every-day life. Until Dante it was thought that the perfected language, Latin, was the only one fit for the serious purposes of religion or philosophy.
[10.] The Muses, who so inspired Amphion’s lyre that stones came down from Mt. Citheron, and of their own accord formed themselves into the walls of Thebes.
[23.] The fourth River of Hell turned into a frozen lake.
[28.] Tambernicch’s identity has not been made out; Pietrapana is a mountain in the Tuscan Apennine range.
[34.] The human face, to which shame brings a blush.
[37.] Cocytus being divided into four concentric rings of ice surrounding Lucifer, the first, named Caìna after Cain, is given up to those who betrayed relatives. Fixed in the ice up to their heads, they hold them bowed down.
[56.] A little stream which empties into the Arno not far from Florence.
[57.] Two sons of a Count of Mangona, who treacherously killed each other.
[61.] Mordred, the nephew of King Arthur, who, turning traitor, was killed in battle by a thrust of his uncle’s lance, which, on being pulled out, let a ray of the setting sun through Mordred’s body and through the shadow it cast.
[63.] The next three mentioned were murderers through treachery.
[69.] Carlin de’ Pazzi, a particularly outrageous traitor, being in 1300 still alive, Dante makes Camicion look forward to his coming as a means of making his own crime seem less heinous. Dante was never prevented by the “after death,” nature of the allegorical clothing of his description of Hell from seeing in it as an illustration, any individuals whose case seemed adapted to his purpose. If one class of sinners can go to Hell before the death of the body, all can, and do, as all know who have been there; and who has not to some extent been both in Hell and Heaven, while most of the time painfully struggling through Purgatory?
[70.] Crossing the ice into its second ring — called Antenora after Antenor of Troy whom Dante believed to have been a traitor to his city — the poets come across heads projecting from the ice with their faces turned up; these were traitors to their country or to their party.
[72.] Dante frequently makes statements like this to suggest that the experience of his Vision made great changes in his subsequent life.
[74.] Sin is treated from the point of view of its spiritual specific gravity. The eternal cold of Cocytus stands for the utter cold-heartedness which makes treachery possible.
[76.] These three are probably three ways of expressing the same thing.
[81.] The battle in which the Ghibellines under Farinata degli Uberti defeated the Florentine Guelphs with great slaughter, was partly due to the treachery of one of their number, Bocca degli Abati, who cut off the arm of the Florentine standard bearer; hence Dante’s suspicious interest in the speaker.
[90.] Blinded by the ice, he takes Dante for a sinner going to his own place nearer the center.
[94.] Dante did not yet know that traitors did not wish to be remembered on earth.
[97.] In the case of traitors, righteous indignation seems to receive Reason’s tacit permission to express itself in action.
[106.] By mentioning his name the other traitor betrays to Dante that he was talking to the traitor of Mont’ Aperti.
[115.] Buoso da Duera of Cremona, who in 1265 was paid to permit the passage through Italy of the French army of Charles I of Anjou.
[118.] The Italian expression “stanno freschi” means considerably more than “are cold.” Its continuous slanglike use from Dante’s time until now shows that it had a humorous ironical significance, an attempt to render which is made in the translation.
[119.] The following were all Italian traitors to their country or party, except Ganelon who was the traitor in the Chanson de Roland referred to in a previous note.
[124.] Here begins the story of Count Ugolino, one of the most famous, as well as strongest, of the episodes of the whole poem. For simplicity and realism, and as a picture of the possibilities of human cold-heartedness, it would be hard to find its equal in all literature. In the translation, therefore, an effort has been made to draw to the fullest possible extent upon the homely, monosyllabic element of English, with a view to reproducing the sternly simple strength of the original.
[130.] Tydeus, one of the seven Kings besieging Thebes, who, having killed Menalippus by whom he had been wounded, before dying procured his enemy’s head, and gnawed it.
[139.] Knowing that he could secure no information from traitors by promising them fame, Dante appeals to Ugolino’s eager yearning for vengeance on earth as well as in Hell, and does not do so in vain.
[4.] As he approaches the bottom of Hell Dante seems to revert to a mood in some ways similar to one he was in at the beginning. As in spite of her sin he sympathized with Francesca on account of the wrong done her, so here with Ugolino, in spite of his detestation of his treachery. Both are given a full chance to win the reader’s sympathy. Line 4 recalls line 121 of Canto V: “There is no greater pain, etc,” while line 9 is almost the same as line 126: “as one who weepeth while he speaks.” As Francesca was moved to speak by loving sympathy, so is Ugolino by hateful vengeance.
[13.] Count Ugolino della Gherardesca had been a Ghibelline leader, but in 1275 went over to the Guelphs, and later obtained supreme power in Pisa. In 1288 he was treacherously betrayed by his friend Archbishop Ruggieri degli Ubaldini and imprisoned in a tower to die of hunger with two sons and two grandsons.
[19.] Dante’s contribution transcends the limits of history.
[22.] The tower of Gualandi in which the moulting eagles of the municipality had been kept.
[26.] From July, 1288 to May, 1289.
[28.] Ugolino’s dream turned Ruggieri into a hunter, himself and his children into wolves, and the Pisan mob into hounds urged on by leading Pisans mentioned below.
[30.] Mt. Giuliano lying between Pisa and Lucca, from which latter Ugolino may have expected help.
[42.] An undeniable appeal for sympathy bursting from an ice-bound revengeful traitor’s heart.
[49.] This is one of the lines quoted by Matthew Arnold in his Essay on Poetry as a touchstone for detecting the presence of the highest poetic qualities.
[50.] The younger of the two grandchildren.
[67.] Ugolino’s oldest son.
[75.] Hunger killed him.
[80.] In Italian sì is used for “yes,” as oc was in Provençal, and oil in old French.
[82.] Two islands off the mouth of the Arno near Pisa.
[86.] Pisan castles yielded to Florence and Lucca for patriotic reasons, as some held.
[88.] Pisa called modern or new Thebes, because comparable to the most notoriously wicked of ancient cities, the Thebes of Greece, of which it was thought to have been a colony.
[89.] The other son and grandson of Ugolino.
[91.] Here the poets pass into the third ring, called Tolomea after Ptolemy, a captain of Jericho, who killed certain relatives of his who were his guests at a banquet; in this ring traitors are on their backs in the ice with their faces turned up.
[105.] There being no sun, there could be no natural wind in Hell.
[110.] They are supposed to be on their way to the innermost ring, Giudecca.
[117.] They are going there anyhow, so that technically Dante was making a safe promise.
[118.] Alberigo de’ Manfredi of Faenza, who in 1285 had two of his relatives murdered at his own table, his signal to the cut-throats being “Bring on the fruit!” Alberigo, as Dante knew, was still living in 1300.
[126.] The Fate who cut the thread of men’s physical life.
[131.] Starting from the Gospel statement that “after the sop Satan entered into” Judas, Dante’s imagination here invents a means not of having the soul of a traitor to his guest expected, but of being actually seen, in Hell, long before the death of its body.
[137.] Branca d’Oria of Genova, in 1275, though his host at the time, murdered his father-in-law, the Michel Zanche whom Dante had heard of as a grafter in the fifth trench of Malebolge. He seems to have lived a soulless life until 1325, which was long enough for him to have known where Dante had reported his soul to be.
[141.] A famous summary of what most parasitic people fill the largest part of their time with.
[148.] Called upon to keep his promise Dante does not break the ice which covers up the traitor’s eyes. Those who are not satisfied with the usual casuistic explanation that treachery to a traitor was not treachery, can explain that Dante’s refusal was indeed “courtesy” on his part, since, had Alberigo’s eyes been momentarily opened, he could have seen that it was to a living man, who would report him on earth, that he had betrayed himself.
[151.] After Florence, Pistoia and Pisa, Genova here receives her share in the bitter condemnation of Italy’s great moral prophet.
[154.] Alberigo of Faenza in Romagna, and Branca d’Oria of Genova.
[1.] This line, Latin in the original, was borrowed from the first line of an early Latin hymn in honor of the Cross, to which Dante added the word Inferni, to make it apply to Satan.
[8.] When facing the absolutely empty conception of absolute Evil the mind has no recourse but Reason.
[11.] Herewith Dante enters the final, central ring of ice, in which are frozen those who were traitors to their Benefactors; they are wholly immersed in the ice, each in a different position, probably to indicate a difference in the degree of their individual guilt.
[18.] Hebraic mythology had identified Satan with Lucifer, the Bearer of Light, famed for his Intelligence and Beauty, and one, if not the greatest, of the Archangels.
[21.] Again a crisis for which the utmost courage is requisite.
[28.] Called Emperor of the Realm of Woe, Dante’s Satan is far from being the ruler in any way of God’s Hell, seeing that, though his eternally defeated spirit everywhere pervades it, he is in reality its greatest prisoner, fixed immovably in the ice of his own making, with only freedom enough to enable his wings to be the freezing source of woe, and his mouths to be the symbols of the punishment of the three guiltiest of traitors. If Milton’s Satan be the poetical hero of the Paradise Lost, Dante’s Dis is, as he should be, the reverse. As Dante describes him he stands for the eternal failure of the Rebellion of Intellectual Might against the sovereignty of Spiritual Right.
[38.] Lucifer’s three material faces are the direct opposite of the three spiritual qualities of God, Power, Wisdom, and Love, which together form a Trinity, since any one or two of these is spiritually inconceivable apart from the other two or one. The red face represents Hatred, or utter lack of Love; the sickly white and yellow face, Impotence, or the utter lack of Power; and the black Ethiopian face, Ignorance, or the utter lack of Wisdom. Lucifer is, therefore, the Zero point of Spirituality, and himself the perfect negation of all the positive, but imperfect, human qualities which Man attributes to the God of Reality in perfection. His three wings serve only to spread these self-punishing negative qualities through Hell, the state of Disobedience — utter Selfishness being thus the source and “bottom of all Sin.”
[55.] Having saved three traitors against their Benefactors to represent the last and most monstrously guilty of sinners, Dante uses Lucifer’s three mouths for their punishment; Judas as a traitor to the Divine Majesty of Jesus, ordained by God to be Man’s spiritual King; Brutus and Cassius as traitors to the Human Majesty of Julius Caesar, equally ordained by God to order the material interests of Man. Both were traitors to Oneness, to carry out which ethically and spiritually is Man’s fundamental duty. Of the dignified Brutus Dante had to record that, in spite of his-torture, “he uttered not a word;” why he thought of Cassius as “big-limbed” is not known.
[68.] It is now evening of the Saturday before Easter in the northern hemisphere.
[69.] “All,” except the negative, retrospective view of Satan, or Disobedience to one’s inmost nature, which will immediately follow the poet’s arrival on the other side of the Giudecca, the central ring of ice so named after Judas.
[73.] Dante imagines that there is a space left between the hairy body of Lucifer and the surrounding ice.
[82.] This descent and its following ascent signify that only by the closest insight into Evil can it be wholly abandoned.
[90.] Dante, who had just seen Lucifer as the incarnation of the Terrible, now sees him upside down, which in any lesser creature would render him Ridiculous. The last glimpse of Evil, therefore, reveals its Foolishness, or its Upside downness, which formed a part of the punishment of the more individual case of the Simoniacs. As seen from the point of view of the southern hemisphere, which is that of Purgatory and of the Paradise above it, Satan is always upside down.
[96.] Mid-tierce is half-past seven in the morning of a repeated Saturday.
[108.] The Worm of Selfishness which separates each individual self from its fellows, and from the Universal Self which is its Eternal, but not its temporal, Source and Goal.
[111.] The center of Lucifer’s body being at the center of gravity of the Earth, to continue in the same direction involved climbing upward toward its southern surface.
[112.] The hemisphere opposite to the one whose zenith is over Jerusalem; some think Dante meant the corresponding celestial hemispheres, in which case the line should read: “opposed to that which spans the great dry land.”
[118.] Twelve hours separate the time of one hemisphere from that of the other. There is no change in Lucifer, but only in the human point of view from which he is seen.
[121.] This is the first part of the profoundly significant myth of Satan’s Fall, the last part of which is saved for the Paradiso. Lucifer’s rebellion, an eternal event, creates the state of Hell, and by reaction, the state of Purgatory, which is due to a revulsion against Sin.
[127.] The poets have now all the way to traverse that lies between the center to that part of the surface of the earth which is at the antipodes of the place where they entered Hell. It is conceived as a dark, spirally winding pathway which it will take them twenty-four hours to ascend, its only feature being a brook they hear as it trickles its way downward toward Cocytus and its ice. This is the overflow of Lethe, the blessed river of Oblivion, which carries down from the Terrestrial Paradise on the summit of Mount Purgatory all memories of the sinful dispositions remaining in the Penitents who have been bathed in it.
[139.] The Stars stand symbolically for the world of Hope, and therefore Dante ends each of the three parts of the Divine Comedy with the word which peculiarly characterizes human nature; for, as Browning said in “A Death in the Desert,” when contrasting Man with God and animals: “God is, they are, man partly is, and wholly hopes to be.”