Canto XXV

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   At the conclusion of his words, the thief
2   Lifted his hands aloft with both the figs,
3   Crying : Take that, God, for at thee I aim them.
4   From that time forth the serpents were my friends;
5   For one entwined itself about his neck
6   As if it said: I will not thou speak more;
7   And round his arms another, and rebound him,
8   Clinching itself together so in front,
9   That with them he could not a motion make,
10   Pistoia, ah, Pistoia ! why resolve not
11   To burn thyself to ashes and so perish,
12   Since in ill-doing thou thy seed excellest?
13   Through all the sombre circles of this Hell,
14   Spirit I saw not against God so proud,
15   Not he who fell at Thebes down from the walls!
16   He fled away, and spake no further word;
17   And I beheld a Centaur full of rage
18   Come crying out: Where is, where is the scoffer?
19   I do not think Maremma has so many
20   Serpents as he had all along his back,
21   As far as where our countenance begins.
22   Upon the shoulders, just behind the nape,
23   With wings wide open was a dragon lying,
24   And he sets fire to all that he encounters.
25   My Master said: That one is Cacus, who
26   Beneath the rock upon Mount Aventine
27   Created oftentimes a lake of blood.
28   He goes not on the same road with his brothers,
29   By reason of the fraudulent theft he made
30   Of the great herd, which he had near to him;
31   Whereat his tortuous actions ceased beneath
32   The mace of Hercules, who peradventure
33   Gave him a hundred, and he felt not ten.
34   While he was speaking thus, he had passed by,
35   And spirits three ha(l underneath us come,
36   Of which nor I aware was, nor my Leader
37   Until what time they shouted: Who are you?
38   On which account our story made a halt
39   And then we were intent on them alone.
40   I did not know them; but it came to pass,
41   As it is wont to happen by some chance,
42   That one to name the other was compelled,
43   Exclaiming: Where can Cianfa have remained?
44   Whence I, so that the Leader might attend,
45   Upward from chin to nose my finger laid.
46   If thou art,Reader, slow now to believe
47   What I shall say, it will no marvel be,
48   For I who saw it hardly can admit it.
49   As I was holding raised on them my brows,
50   Behold ! a serpent with six feet darts forth
51   In front of one, and fastens wholly on him.
52   With middle feet it bound him round the paunch,
53   And with the forward ones his arms it seized;
54   Then thrust its teeth through one cheek and the other;
55   The hindermost it stretched upon his thighs,
56   And put its tail through in between the two,
57   And up behind along the reins outspread it.
58   Ivy was never fastened by its barbs
59   Unto a tree so, as this horrible reptile
60   Upon the other’s limbs entwined its own.
61   Then they stuck close, as if of heated wax
62   They had been made, and intermixed their colour;
63   Nor one nor other seemed now what he was;
64   E’en as proceedeth on before the flame
65   Upward along the paper a brown colour,
66   Which is not black as yet, and the white dies.
67   The other two looked on, and each of them
68   Cried out: O me, Agnello, how thou changest!
69   Behold, thou now art neither two nor one.
70   Already the two heads had one become,
71   When there appeared to us two figures mingled
72   Into one face, wherein the two were lost.
73   Of the four lists were fashioned the two arms,
74   The thighs and legs, the belly and the chest
75   Members became that never yet were seen.
76   Every original aspect there was cancelled;
77   Two and yet none did the perverted image
78   Appear, and such departed with slow pace.
79   Even as a lizard, under the great scourge
80   Of days canicular, exchanging hedge,
81   Lightning appeareth if the road it cross;
82   Thus did appear, coming towards the bellies
83   Of the two others, a small fiery serpent,
84   Livid and black as is a peppercorn.
85   And in that part whereat is first received
86   Our aliment, it one of them transfixed;
87   Then downward fell in front of him extended.
88   The one transfixed looked at it, but said naught;
89   Nay, rather with feet motionless he yawned,
90   Just as if sleep or fever had assailed him.
91   He at the serpent gazed, and it at him;
92   One through the wound, the other throughthe mouth
93   Smoked violently, and the smoke commingled.
94   Henceforth be silent Lucan, where he mentions
95   Wretched Sabellus and Nassidius,
96   And wait to hear what now wil be shot forth.
97   Be silent ovid, of Cadmus and Arethusa;
98   For if him to a snake, her to a fountain,
99   Converts he fabling, that I grudge him not;
100   Because two natures never front to front
101   Has he transmuted, so that both the forms
102   To interchange their matter ready were.
103   Together they responded in such wise,
104   That to a fork the serpent cleft his tail,
105   And eke the wounded drew his feet together.
106   The legs together with the thighs themselves
107   Adhered so, that in little time the juncture
108   No sign whatever made that was apparent.
109   He with the cloven tail assumed the figure
110   The other one was losing, and his skin
111   Became elastic, and the other’s hard.
112   I saw the arms draw inward at the armpits,
113   And both feet of the reptile, that were short,
114   Lengthen as much as those contracted were.
115   Thereafter the hind feet, together twisted,
116   Became the member that a man conceals,
117   And of his own the wretch had two created.
118   While both of them the exhalation veils
119   With a new colour, and engenders hair
120   On one of them and depilates the other,
121   The one uprose and down the other fell,
122   Though turning not away their impious lamps,
123   Underneath which each one his muzzle changed.
124   He who was standing drew it tow’rds the temples,
125   And from excess of matter, which came thither,
126   Issued the ears from out the hollow cheeks;
127   What did not backward run and was retained
128   Of that excess made to the face a nose,
129   And the lips thickened far as was befitting.
130   He who lay prostrate thrusts his muzzle forward,
131   And backward draws the ears into his head,
132   In the same manner as the snail its horns
133   And so the tongue, which was entire and apt
134   For speech before, is cleft, and the bi-forked
135   In the other closes up, and the smoke ceases.
136   The soul,which to a reptile had been changed,
137   Along the valley hissing takes to flight,
138   And after him the other speaking sputters.
139   Then did he turn upon him his new shoulders,
140   And said to the other: I’ll have Buoso run,
141   Crawling as I have done, along this road.
142   In this way I beheld the seventh ballast
143   Shift and reshift, and here be my excuse
144   The novelty, if aught my pen transgress.
145   And notwithstanding that mine eyes might be
146   Somewhat bewildered, and my mind dismayed,
147   They could not flee away so secretly
148   But that I plainly saw Puccio Sciancato;
149   And he it was who sole of three companions,
150   Which came in the beginning, was not changed;
151   The other was he whom thou, Gaville, weepest.