Canto XXVIII

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   WHO ever could, e’en with untrammelled words,
2   Tell of the blood and of the wounds in full
3   Which now I saw, by many times narrating?
 
4   Each tongue would for a certainty fall short
5   By reason of our speech and memory,
6   That have small room to comprehend so much
 
7   If were again assembled all the people
8   Which formerly upon the fateful land
9   Of Puglia were lamenting for their blood
 
10   Shed by the Romans and the lingering war
11   That of the rings made such illustrious spoils,
12   As Livy has recorded, who errs not,
 
13   With those who felt the agony of blows
14   By making counterstand to Robert Guiscard,
15   And all the rest, whose bones are gathered still
 
16   At Ceperano, where a renegade
17   Was each Apulian, and at Tagliacozzo,
18   Where without arms the old Alardo conquered,
 
19   And one his limb transpierced, and one lopped off,
20   Should show, it would be nothing to compare
21   With the disgusting mode of the ninth Bolgia.
 
22   A cask by losing centre-piece or cant
23   Was never shattered so, as I saw one
24   Rent from the chin to where one breaketh wind.
 
25   Between his legs were hanging down his entrails;
26   His heart was visible, and the dismal sack
27   That maketh excrement of what is eaten.
 
28   While I was all absorbed in seeing him,
29   He looked at me, and opened with his hands
30   His bosom, saying: See now how I rend me;
 
31   How mutilated, see, is Mahomet;
32   In front of me doth Ali weeping go,
33   Cleft in the face from forelock unto chin;
 
34   And all the others whom thou here beholdest,
35   Disseminators of scandal and of schism
36   While living were, and therefore are cleft thus.
 
37   A devil is behind here, who doth cleave us
38   Thus cruelly, unto the falchion’s edge
39   Putting again each one of all this ream,
 
40   When we have gone around the doleful road;
41   By reason that our wounds are closed again
42   Ere any one in front of him repass.
 
43   But who art thou, that musest on the crag,
44   Perchance to postpone going to the pain
45   That is adjudged upon thine accusations ?
 
46   Nor death hath reached him yet, nor guilt doth bring him,
47   My Master made reply, to be tormented;
48   But to procure him full experience,
 
49   Me, who am dead, behoves it to conduct him
50   Down here through Hell, from circle unto circle;
51   And this is true as that I speak to thee.
 
52   More than a hundred were there when they heard him,
53   Who in the moat stood still to look at me,
54   Through wonderment oblivious of their torture.
 
55   Now say to Fra Dolcino, then, to arm him,
56   Thou, who perhaps wilt shortly see the sun,
57   If soon he wish not here to follow me,
 
58   So with provisions,that no stress of snow
59   May give the victory to the Novarese,
60   Which otherwise to gain would not be easy.
 
61   After one foot to go away he lifted,
62   This word did Mahomet say unto me,
63   Then to depart upon the ground he stretched it.
 
64   Another one, who had his throat pierced through,
65   And nose cut off close underneath the brows,
66   And had no longer but a single ear,
 
67   Staying to look in wonder with the others,
68   Before the others did his gullet open,
69   Which outwardly was red in every part,
 
70   And said: O thou, whom guilt doth not condemn,
71   And whom I once saw up in Latian land,
72   Unless too great similitude deceive me,
 
73   Call to remembrance Pier da Medicina,
74   If e’er thou see again the lovely plain
75   That from Vercelli slopes to Marcabo,
 
76   And make it known to the best two of Fano,
77   To Messer Guido and Angiolello likewise,
78   That if foreseeing here be not in vain,
 
79   Cast over from their vessel shall they be,
80   And drowned near unto the Cattolica,
81   By the betrayal of a tyrant fell.
 
82   Between the isles of Cyprus and Majorca
83   Neptune ne’er yet beheld so great a crime
84   Neither of pirates nor Argolic people.
 
85   That traitor, who sees only with one eye,
86   And holds the land, which some one here with me
87   Would fain be fasting from the vision of,
 
88   Will make them come unto a parley with him;
89   Then will do so, that to Focara’s wind
90   They will not stand in need of vow or prayer.
 
91   And I to him: Show to me and declare,
92   If thou wouldst have me bear up news of thee,
93   Who is this person of the bitter vision.
 
94   Then did he lay his hand upon the jaw
95   Of one of his companions, and his mouth
96   Oped, crying: This is he, and he speaks not.
 
97   This one, being banished, every doubt submerged
98   In Caesar by affirming the forearmed
99   Always with detriment allowed delay.
 
100   O how bewildered unto me appeared,
101   With tongue asunder in his windpipe slit,
102   Curio, who in speaking was so bold !
 
103   And one, who both his hands dissevered had,
104   The stumps uplifting through the murky air,
105   So that the blood made horrible his face,
 
106   Cried out: Thou shalt remember Mosca also,
107   Who said, alas ! ‘ A thing done has an end!’
108   Which was an ill seed for the Tuscan people
 
109   And death unto thy race,thereto I added;
110   Whence he, accumulating woe on woe,
111   Departed, like a person sad and crazed.
 
112   But I remained to look upon the crowd;
113   And saw a thing which I should be afraid,
114   Without some further proof, even to recount,
 
115   If it were not that conscience reassures me,
116   That good companion which emboldens man
117   Beneath the hauberk of its feeling pure.
 
118   I truly saw, and still I seem to see it,
119   A trunk without a head walk in like manner
120   As walked the others of the mournful herd.
 
121   And by the hair it held the head dissevered,
122   Hung from the hand in fashion of a lantern,
123   And that upon us gazed and said: O me!
 
124   It of itself made to itself a lamp,
125   And they were two in one, and one in two;
126   How that can be, He knows who so ordains it.
 
127   When it was come close to the bridge’s foot,
128   It lifted high its arm with all the head,
129   To bring more closely unto us its words,
 
130   Which were: Behold now the sore penalty,
131   Thou, who dost breathing go the dead beholding;
132   Behold if any be as great as this.
 
133   And so that thou may carry news of me,
134   Know that Bertram de Born am I, the same
135   Who gave to the Young King the evil comfort.
 
136   I made the father and the son rebellious;
137   Achitophel not more with Absalom
138   And David did with his accursed goadings.
 
139   Because I parted persons so united,
140   Parted do I now bear my brain, alas!
141   From its beginning, which is in this trunk.
 
142   Thus is observed in me the counterpoise.