Canto XI

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   UPON the margin of a lofty bank
2   Which great rocks broken in a circle made,
3   We came upon a still more cruel throng;
4   And there, by reason of the horrible
5   Excess of stench the deep abyss throws out,
6   We drew ourselves aside behind the cover
7   Of a great tomb, whereon I saw a writing,
8   Which said: Pope Anastasius I hold,
9   Whom out of the right way Photinus drew.
10   Slow it behoveth our descent to be,
11   So that the sense be first a little used
12   To the sad blast, and then we shall not heed it.
13   The Master thus; and unto him I said,
14   Some compensation find, that the time pass not
15   Idly;and he: Thou seest I think of that.
16   My son, upon the inside of these rocks,
17   Began he then to say, are three small circles,
18   From grade to grade, like those which thou art leaving
19   They all are full of spirits maledict;
20   But that hereafter sight alone suffice thee,
21   Hear how and wherefore they are in constraint.
22   Of every malice that wins hate in Heaven,
23   Injury is the end; and all such end
24   Either by force or fraud afflicteth others.
25   But because fraud is man’s peculiar vice,
26   More it displeases God; and so stand lowest
27   The fraudulent, and greater dole assails them.
28   All the first circle of the Violent is;
29   But since force may be used against three persons,
30   In three rounds ’tis divided and constructed.
31   To God, to ourselves, and to our neighbour can we
32   Use force; I say on them and on their things,
33   As thou shalt hear with reason manifest.
34   A death by violence, and painful wounds,
35   Are to our neighbour given; and in his substance
36   Ruin, and arson, and injurious levies;
37   Whence homicides, and he who smites unjustly,
38   Marauders, and freebooters, the first round
39   Tormenteth all m companies diverse.
40   Man may lay violent hands upon himself
41   And his own goods; and therefore in the second
42   Round must perforce without avail repent
43   Whoever of your world deprives himself,
44   Who games, and dissipates his property,
45   And weepeth there, where he should jocund be.
46   Violence can be done the Deity,
47   In heart denying and blaspheming Him,
48   And by disdaining Nature and her bounty.
49   And for this reason doth the smallest round
50   Seal with its signet Sodom and Cahors,
51   And who, disdaining God, speaks from the heart.
52   Fraud, wherewithal is every conscience stung,
53   A man may practise upon him who trusts,
54   And him who doth no confidence imburse.
55   This latter mode, it would appear, dissevers
56   Only the bond of love which Nature makes;
57   Wherefore within the second circle nestle
58   Hypocrisy, flattery, and who deals in magic,
59   Falsification, theft, and simony,
60   Panders, and barrators, and the like-filth.
61   By the other mode, forgotten is that love
62   Which Nature makes, and what is after added,
63   From which there is a special faith engendered.
64   Hence in the smallest circle, where the point is
65   Of the Universe, upon which Dis is seated,
66   Whoe’er betrays for ever is consumed.
67   And I: My Master, clear enough proceeds
68   Thy reasoning, and full well distinguishes
69   This cavern and the people who possess it.
70   But tell me, those within the fat lagoon,
71   Whom the wind drives, and whom the rain doth beat,
72   And who encounter with such bitter tongues,
73   Wherefore are they inside of the red city
74   Not punished, if God has them in his wrath,
75   And if he has not, wherefore in such fashion?
76   And unto me he said: Why wanders so
77   Thine intellect from that which it is wont?
78   Or, sooth, thy mind where is it elsewhere looking?
79   Hast thou no recollection of those words
80   With which thine Ethics thoroughly discusses
81   The dispositions three, that Heaven abides not,–
82   Incontinence, and Malice, and insane
83   Bestiality ? and how Incontinence
84   Less God offendeth, and less blame attracts?
85   If thou regardest this conclusion well,
86   And to thy mind recallest who they are
87   That up outside are undergoing penance,
88   Clearly wilt thou perceive why from these felons
89   They separated are, and why less wroth
90   Justice divine doth smite them with its hammer.
91   O Sun, that healest all distempered vision,
92   Thou dost content me so, when thou resolvest,
93   That doubting pleases me no less than knowing!
94   Once more a little backward turn thee, said I,
95   There where thou sayest that usury offends
96   Goodness divine, and disengage the knot.
97   Philosophy, he said, to him who heeds it,
98   Noteth, not only in one place alone,
99   After what manner Nature takes her course
100   From Intellect Divine, and from its art;
101   And if thy Physics carefully thou notest,
102   After not many pages shalt thou find,
103   That this your art as far as possible
104   Follows, as the disciple doth the master;
105   So that your art is, as it were, God’s grandchild.
106   From these two, if thou bringest to thy mind
107   Genesis at the beginning, it behoves
108   Mankind to gain their life and to advance;
109   And since the usurer takes another way,
110   Nature herself and in her follower
111   Disdains he, for elsewhere he puts his hope.
112   But follow, now, as I would fain go on,
113   For quivering are the Fishes on the horizon,
114   And the Wain wholly over Caurus lies,
115   And far beyond there we descend the crag.