Canto XVIII

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   THERE is a place in Hell called Malebolge,
2   Wholly of stone and of an iron colour,
3   As is the circle that around it turns.
 
4   Right in the middle of the field malign
5   There yawns a well exceeding wide and deep,
6   Of which its place the structure will recount.
 
7   Round, then, is that enclosure which remains
8   Between the well and foot of the high, hard bank,
9   And has distinct in valleys ten its bottom.
 
10   As where for the protection of the walls
11   Many and many moats surround the castles,
12   The part in which they are a figure forms,
 
13   Just such an image those presented there;
14   And as about such strongholds from their gates
15   Unto the outer bank are little bridges,
 
16   So from the precipice’s base did crags
17   Project, which intersected dikes and moats,
18   Unto the well that truncates and collects them.
 
19   Within this place, down shaken from the back
20   Of Geryon, we found us; and the Poet
21   Held to the left, and I moved on behind.
 
22   Upon my right hand I beheld new anguish,
23   New torments, and new wielders of the lash,
24   Wherewith the foremost Bolgia was replete.
 
25   Down at the bottom were the sinners naked;
26   This side the middle came they facing us,
27   Beyond it, with us, but with greater steps;
 
28   Even as the Romans, for the mighty host,
29   The year of Jubilee, upon the bridge,
30   Have chosen a mode to pass the people over;
 
31   For all upon one side towards the Castle
32   Their faces have, and go unto St. Peter’s;
33   On the other side they go towards the Mountain.
 
34   This side and that, along the livid stone
35   Beheld I horned demons with great scourges,
36   Who cruelly were beating them behind.
 
37   Ah me!how they did make them lift their legs
38   At the first blows ! and sooth not any one
39   The second waited for, nor for the third.
 
40   While I was going on, mine eyes by one
41   Encountered were; and straight I said: Already
42   With sight of this one I am not unfed.
 
43   Therefore I stayed my feet to make him out,
44   And with me the sweet Guide came to a stand,
45   And to my going somewhat back assented;
 
46   And he, the scourged one. thought to hide himself,
47   Lowering his face, but little it availed him;
48   For said I: Thou that castest down thine eyes
 
49   If false are not the features which thou bearest;
50   Thou art Venedico Caccianimico;
51   But what doth bring thee to such pungent sauces ?
 
52   And he to me: Unwillingly I tell it;
53   But forces me thine utterance distinct,
54   Which makes me recollect the ancient world.
 
55   I was the one who the fair Ghisola
56   Induced to grant the wishes of the Marquis,
57   Howe’er the shameless story may be told.
 
58   Not the sole Bolognese am I who weeps here;
59   Nay, rather is this place so full of them,
60   That not so many tongues to-day are taught
 
61   ‘Twixt Reno and Savena to say sipa;
62   And if thereof thou wishest pledge or proof,
63   Bring to thy mind our avaricious heart.
 
64   While speaking in this manner, with his scourge
65   A demon smote him, and said: Get thee
66   Pander, there are no women here for coin.
 
67   I joined myself again unto mine Escort;
68   Thereafterward with footsteps few we came
69   To where a crag projected from the bank.
 
70   This very easily did we ascend,
71   And turning to the right along its ridge,
72   From those eternal circles we departe.
 
73   When we were there, where it is hollowed out
74   Beneath, to give a passage to the scourged,
75   The Guide said: Wait, and see that on thee strike
 
76   The vision of those others evil-born,
77   Of whom thou hast not yet beheld the faces,
78   Because together with us they have gone.
 
79   From the old bridge we looked upon the train
80   Which tow’rds us came upon the other border,
81   And which the scourges in like manner smite.
 
82   And the good Master, without my inquiring,
83   Said to me: See that tall one who is coming,
84   And for his pain seems not to shed a tear;
 
85   Still what a royal aspect he retains!
86   That Jason is, who by his heart and cunning
87   The Colchians of the Ram made destitute.
 
88   He by the isle of Lemnos passed along
89   After the daring women pitiless
90   Had unto death devoted all their males.
 
91   There with his tokens and with ornate words
92   Did he deceive Hypsipyle, the maiden
93   Who first, herself, had all the rest deceived.
 
94   There did he leave her pregnant and forlorn;
95   Such sin unto such punishment condemns him,
96   And also for Medea is vengeance done.
 
97   With him go those who in such wise deceive;
98   And this sufficient be of the first valley
99   To know, and those that in its jaws it holds.
 
100   We were already where the narrow path
101   Crosses athwart the second dike, and forms
102   Of that a buttress for another arch.
 
103   Thence we heard people, who are making moan
104   In the next Bolgia, snorting with their muzzles,
105   And with their palms beating upon themselves
 
106   The margins were incrusted with a mould
107   By exhalation from below, that sticks there,
108   And with the eyes and nostrils wages war.
 
109   The bottom is so deep, no place suffices
110   To give us sight of it, without ascending
111   The arch’s back, where most the crag impends.
 
112   Thither we came, and thence down in the moat
113   I saw a people smothered in a filth
114   That out of human privies seemed to flow
 
115   And whilst below there with mine eve I search,
116   I saw one with his head so foul with ordure,
117   It was not clear if he were clerk or layman.
 
118   He screamed to me: Wherefore art thou so eager
119   To look at me more than the other foul ones?
120   And I to him: Because, if I remember,
 
121   I have already seen thee with dry hair,
122   And thou’rt Alessio Interminei of Lucca;
123   Therefore I eye thee more than all the others.
 
124   And he thereon, belabouring his pumpkin:
125   The flatteries have submerged me here below,
126   Wherewith my tongue was never surfeited.
 
127   Then said to me the Guide: See that thou thrust
128   Thy visage somewhat farther in advance,
129   That with thine eyes thou well the face attain
 
130   Of that uncleanly and dishevelled drab,
131   Who there doth scratch herself with filthy nails,
132   And crouches now, and now on foot is standing.
 
133   Thais the harlot is it, who replied
134   Unto her paramour, when he said,’Have I
135   Great gratitude from thee ?’–’ Nay, marvellous ;
 
136   And herewith let our sight be satisfied.