Canto XXIII

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   SILENT, alone, and without company
2   We went, the one in front, the other after,
3   As go the Minor Friars along their way
 
4   Upon the fable of Aesop was directed
5   My thought, by reason of the present quarrel,
6   Where he has spoken of the frog and mouse;
 
7   For mo and issa are not more alike
8   Than this one is to that, if well we couple
9   End and beginning with a steadfast mind.
 
10   And even as one thought from another springs,
11   So afterward from that was born another,
12   Which the first fear within me double made.
 
13   Thus did I ponder: These on our account
14   Are laughed to scorn, with injury and scoff
15   So great, that much I think it must annoy them.
 
16   If anger be engrafted on ill-will,
17   They will come after us more merciless
18   Than dog upon the leveret which he seizes,
 
19   I felt my hair stand all on end already
20   With terror, and stood backwardly intent,
21   When said I: Master, if thou hidest not
 
22   Thyself and me forthwith, of Malebranche
23   I am in dread; we have them now behind us;
24   I so. imagine them, I already feel them
 
25   And he: If I were made of leaded glass
26   Thine outward image I should not attract
27   Sooner to me than I imprint the inner.
 
28   Just now thy thoughts came in among my own,
29   With similar attitude and similar face,
30   So that of both one counsel sole I made.
 
31   If peradventure the right bank so slope
32   That we to the next Bolgia can descend.
33   We shall escape from the imagined chase.
 
34   Not yet he finished rendering such opinion.
35   When I beheld them come with outstretched wings,
36   Not far remote, with will to seize upon us.
 
37   My Leader on a sudden seized me up,
38   Even as a mother who by noise is wakened,
39   And close beside her sees the enkindled flames,
 
40   Who takes her son, and flies, and does not stop,
41   Having more care of him than of herself,
42   So that she clothes her only with a shift;
 
43   And downward from the top of the hard bank
44   Supine he gave him to the pendent rock,
45   That one side of the other Bolgia walls.
 
46   Ne’er ran so swiftly water through a sluice
47   To turn the water of any land-built mill,
48   When nearest to the paddles it approaches,
 
49   As did my Master down along that border,
50   Bearing me with him on his breast away,
51   As his own son, and not as a companion.
 
52   Hardly the bed of the ravine below
53   His feet had reached, ere they had reached the hill
54   Right over us; but he was not afraid;
 
55   For the high Providence, which had ordained
56   To place them ministers of the fifth moat,
57   The power of thence departing took from all.
 
58   A painted people there below we found,
59   Who went about with footsteps very slow,
60   Weeping and in their semblance tired and vanquished.
 
61   They had on mantles with the hoods low down
62   Before their eyes, and fashioned of the cut
63   That in Cologne they for the monks arc made.
 
64   Without, they gilded are so that it dazzles;
65   But inwardly all leaden and so heavy
66   That Frederick used to put them on of straw.
 
67   O everlastingly fatiguing mantle!
68   Again we turned us, still to the left hand
69   Along with them, intent on their sad plaint;
 
70   But owing to the weight, that weary folk
71   Came on so tardily, that we were new
72   In company at each motion of the haunch.
 
73   Whence I unto my Leader: See thou find
74   Some one who may by deed or name be known,
75   And thus in going move thine eye about.
 
76   And one,who understood the Tuscan speech
77   Cried to us from behind: Stay ye your feet
78   Ye, who so run athwart the dusky air
 
79   Perhaps thou’lt have from me what thou demandest.
80   Whereat the Leader turned him, and said: Wait,
81   And then according to his pace proceed.
 
82   I stopped, and two beheld I show great haste
83   Of spirit, in their faces, to be with me;
84   But the burden and the narrow way delayed them.
 
85   When they came up, long with an eye askance
86   They scanned me without uttering a word.
87   Then to each other turned, and said together:
 
88   He by the action of his throat seems living;
89   And if they dead are, by what privilege
90   Go they uncovered by the heavy stole?
 
91   Then said to me: Tuscan, who to the college
92   Of miserable hypocrites art come,
93   Do not disdain to tell us who thou art.
 
94   And I to them: Born was I, and grew up
95   In the great town on the fair river of Arno,
96   And with the body am I’ve always had.
 
97   But who are ye, in whom there trickles down
98   Along your cheeks such grief as I behold?
99   And what pain is upon you, that so sparkles?
 
100   And one replied to me: These orange cloaks
101   Are made of lead so heavy, that the weights
102   Cause in this way their balances to creak.
 
103   Frati Gaudenti were we, and Bolognese;
104   I Catalano, and he Loderingo
105   Named, and together taken by thy city,
 
106   As the wont is to take one man alone,
107   For maintenance of its peace; and we were such
108   That still it is apparent round Gardingo.
 
109   O Friars,began I,your iniquitous …
110   But said no more; for to mine eyes there rushed
111   One crucified with three stakes on the ground.
 
112   When me he saw, he writhed himself all over,
113   Blowing into his beard with suspirations;
114   And the Friar Catalan, who noticed this,
 
115   Said to me: This transfixed one, whom thou seest,
116   Counselled the Pharisees that it was meet
117   To put one man to torture for the people.
 
118   Crosswise and naked is he on the path,
119   As thou perceivest; and he needs must feel,
120   Whoever passes, first how much he weighs;
 
121   And in like mode his father-in-law is punished
122   Within this moat, and the others of the council,
123   Which for the Jews was a malignant seed.
 
124   And thereupon I saw Virgilius marvel
125   O’er him who was extended on the cross
126   So vilely in eternal banishment.
 
127   Then he directed to the Friar this voice:
128   Be not displeased, if granted thee, to tell us
129   If to the right hand any pass slope down
 
130   By which we two may issue forth from here,
131   Without constraining some of the black angels
132   To come and extricate us from this deep.
 
133   Then he made answer: Nearer than thou hopest
134   There is a rock, that forth from the great circle
135   Proceeds, and crosses all the cruel valleys,
 
136   Save that at this ’tis broken, and does not bridge it;
137   You will be able to mount up the ruin,
138   That sidelong slopes and at the bottom rises.
 
139   The Leader stood awhile with head bowed down;
140   Then said: The business badly he recounted
141   Who grapples with his hook the sinners yonder.
 
142   And the Friar: Many of the Devil’s vices
143   Once heard I at Bologna, and among them,
144   That he’s a liar and the father of lies.
 
145   Thereat my Leader with great strides went on,
146   Somewhat disturbed with anger in his looks;
147   Whence from the heavy-laden I departed
 
148   After the prints of his beloved feet.