Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Inferno VI: A Dog Has Passed Our Feet

Public domain photo.
A Dog Has Passed Our Feet

A dog
has passed
our feet
upon the earth;
a place you call
"The Divided City."

Tell me why.
I wish to learn  
in the sweet world
a little sound
of rain;
the mighty sentence
of pleasure
and of perfection
we found.

Inferno: Canto VI, Longfellow, tr.

At the return of consciousness, that closed   Before the pity of those two relations,   Which utterly with sadness had confused me,  New torments I behold, and new tormented   Around me, whichsoever way I move,   And whichsoever way I turn, and gaze.  In the third circle am I of the rain   Eternal, maledict, and cold, and heavy;   Its law and quality are never new.  Huge hail, and water sombre-hued, and snow,   Athwart the tenebrous air pour down amain;   Noisome the earth is, that receiveth this.  Cerberus, monster cruel and uncouth,   With his three gullets like a dog is barking   Over the people that are there submerged.  Red eyes he has, and unctuous beard and black,   And belly large, and armed with claws his hands;   He rends the spirits, flays, and quarters them.  Howl the rain maketh them like unto dogs;   One side they make a shelter for the other;   Oft turn themselves the wretched reprobates.  When Cerberus perceived us, the great worm!    His mouths he opened, and displayed his tusks;    Not a limb had he that was motionless.  And my Conductor, with his spans extended,   Took of the earth, and with his fists well filled,   He threw it into those rapacious gullets.  Such as that dog is, who by barking craves,   And quiet grows soon as his food he gnaws,   For to devour it he but thinks and struggles,  The like became those muzzles filth-begrimed   Of Cerberus the demon, who so thunders   Over the souls that they would fain be deaf.  We passed across the shadows, which subdues   The heavy rain-storm, and we placed our feet   Upon their vanity that person seems.  They all were lying prone upon the earth,   Excepting one, who sat upright as soon   As he beheld us passing on before him.  "O thou that art conducted through this Hell,"   He said to me, "recall me, if thou canst;   Thyself wast made before I was unmade."  And I to him: "The anguish which thou hast   Perhaps doth draw thee out of my remembrance,   So that it seems not I have ever seen thee.  But tell me who thou art, that in so doleful   A place art put, and in such punishment,   If some are greater, none is so displeasing."  And he to me: "Thy city, which is full   Of envy so that now the sack runs over,   Held me within it in the life serene.  You citizens were wont to call me Ciacco;   For the pernicious sin of gluttony   I, as thou seest, am battered by this rain.  And I, sad soul, am not the only one,   For all these suffer the like penalty   For the like sin;" and word no more spake he.  I answered him: "Ciacco, thy wretchedness   Weighs on me so that it to weep invites me;   But tell me, if thou knowest, to what shall come  The citizens of the divided city;   If any there be just; and the occasion   Tell me why so much discord has assailed it."  And he to me: "They, after long contention,   Will come to bloodshed; and the rustic party   Will drive the other out with much offence.  Then afterwards behoves it this one fall   Within three suns, and rise again the other   By force of him who now is on the coast.  High will it hold its forehead a long while,   Keeping the other under heavy burdens,   Howe'er it weeps thereat and is indignant.  The just are two, and are not understood there;   Envy and Arrogance and Avarice   Are the three sparks that have all hearts enkindled."  Here ended he his tearful utterance;   And I to him: "I wish thee still to teach me,   And make a gift to me of further speech.  Farinata and Tegghiaio, once so worthy,   Jacopo Rusticucci, Arrigo, and Mosca,   And others who on good deeds set their thoughts,  Say where they are, and cause that I may know them;   For great desire constraineth me to learn   If Heaven doth sweeten them, or Hell envenom."  And he: "They are among the blacker souls;   A different sin downweighs them to the bottom;   If thou so far descendest, thou canst see them.  But when thou art again in the sweet world,   I pray thee to the mind of others bring me;   No more I tell thee and no more I answer."  Then his straightforward eyes he turned askance,   Eyed me a little, and then bowed his head;   He fell therewith prone like the other blind.  And the Guide said to me: "He wakes no more   This side the sound of the angelic trumpet;   When shall approach the hostile Potentate,  Each one shall find again his dismal tomb,   Shall reassume his flesh and his own figure,   Shall hear what through eternity re-echoes."  So we passed onward o'er the filthy mixture   Of shadows and of rain with footsteps slow,   Touching a little on the future life.  Wherefore I said: "Master, these torments here,   Will they increase after the mighty sentence,   Or lesser be, or will they be as burning?"  And he to me: "Return unto thy science,   Which wills, that as the thing more perfect is,   The more it feels of pleasure and of pain.  Albeit that this people maledict   To true perfection never can attain,   Hereafter more than now they look to be."  Round in a circle by that road we went,   Speaking much more, which I do not repeat;   We came unto the point where the descent is;  There we found Plutus the great enemy.  

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