If I had rhymes both rough and stridulous,
As were appropriate to the dismal hole
Down upon which thrust all the other rocks,
I would press out the juice of my conception
More fully; but because I have them not,
Not without fear I bring myself to speak;
For ’tis no enterprise to take in jest,
To sketch the bottom of all the universe,
Nor for a tongue that cries Mamma and Babbo.
But may those Ladies help this verse of mine,
Who helped Amphion in enclosing Thebes,
That from the fact the word be not diverse.
O rabble ill-begotten above all,
Who’re in the place to speak of which is hard,
’Twere better ye had here been sheep or goats!
When we were down within the darksome well,
Beneath the giant’s feet, but lower far,
And I was scanning still the lofty wall,
I heard it said to me: "Look how thou steppest!
Take heed thou do not trample with thy feet
The heads of the tired, miserable brothers!"
Whereat I turned me round, and saw before me
And underfoot a lake, that from the frost
The semblance had of glass, and not of water.
So thick a veil ne’er made upon its current
In winter-time Danube in Austria,
Nor there beneath the frigid sky the Don,
As there was here; so that if Tambernich
Had fallen upon it, or Pietrapana,
E’en at the edge ’twould not have given a creak.
And as to croak the frog doth place himself
With muzzle out of water, — when is dreaming
Of gleaning oftentimes the peasant-girl, —
Livid, as far down as where shame appears,
Were the disconsolate shades within the ice,
Setting their teeth unto the note of storks.
Each one his countenance held downward bent;
From mouth the cold, from eyes the doleful heart
Among them witness of itself procures.
When round about me somewhat I had looked,
I downward turned me, and saw two so close,
The hair upon their heads together mingled.
"Ye who so strain your breasts together, tell me,"
I said, "who are you;" and they bent their necks,
And when to me their faces they had lifted,
Their eyes, which first were only moist within,
Gushed o’er the eyelids, and the frost congealed
The tears between, and locked them up again.
Clamp never bound together wood with wood
So strongly; whereat they, like two he-goats,
Butted together, so much wrath o’ercame them.
And one, who had by reason of the cold
Lost both his ears, still with his visage downward,
Said: "Why dost thou so mirror thyself in us?
If thou desire to know who these two are,
The valley whence Bisenzio descends
Belonged to them and to their father Albert.
They from one body came, and all Caina
Thou shalt search through, and shalt not find a shade
More worthy to be fixed in gelatine;
Not he in whom were broken breast and shadow
At one and the same blow by Arthur’s hand;
Focaccia not; not he who me encumbers
So with his head I see no farther forward,
And bore the name of Sassol Mascheroni;
Well knowest thou who he was, if thou art Tuscan.
And that thou put me not to further speech,
Know that I Camicion de’ Pazzi was,
And wait Carlino to exonerate me."
Then I beheld a thousand faces, made
Purple with cold; whence o’er me comes a shudder,
And evermore will come, at frozen ponds.
And while we were advancing tow’rds the middle,
Where everything of weight unites together,
And I was shivering in the eternal shade,
Whether ’twere will, or destiny, or chance,
I know not; but in walking ’mong the heads
I struck my foot hard in the face of one.
Weeping he growled: "Why dost thou trample me?
Unless thou comest to increase the vengeance
of Montaperti, why dost thou molest me?"
And I: "My Master, now wait here for me,
That I through him may issue from a doubt;
Then thou mayst hurry me, as thou shalt wish."
The Leader stopped; and to that one I said
Who was blaspheming vehemently still:
"Who art thou, that thus reprehendest others?"
"Now who art thou, that goest through Antenora
Smiting," replied he, "other people’s cheeks,
So that, if thou wert living, ’twere too much?"
"Living I am, and dear to thee it may be,"
Was my response, "if thou demandest fame,
That ’mid the other notes thy name I place."
And he to me: "For the reverse I long;
Take thyself hence, and give me no more trouble;
For ill thou knowest to flatter in this hollow."
Then by the scalp behind I seized upon him,
And said: "It must needs be thou name thyself,
Or not a hair remain upon thee here."
Whence he to me: "Though thou strip off my hair,
I will not tell thee who I am, nor show thee,
If on my head a thousand times thou fall."
I had his hair in hand already twisted,
And more than one shock of it had pulled out,
He barking, with his eyes held firmly down,
When cried another: "What doth ail thee, Bocca?
Is’t not enough to clatter with thy jaws,
But thou must bark? what devil touches thee?"
"Now," said I, "I care not to have thee speak,
Accursed traitor; for unto thy shame
I will report of thee veracious news."
"Begone," replied he, "and tell what thou wilt,
But be not silent, if thou issue hence,
Of him who had just now his tongue so prompt;
He weepeth here the silver of the French;
’I saw,’ thus canst thou phrase it, ’him of Duera
There where the sinners stand out in the cold.’
If thou shouldst questioned be who else was there,
Thou hast beside thee him of Beccaria,
Of whom the gorget Florence slit asunder;
Gianni del Soldanier, I think, may be
Yonder with Ganellon, and Tebaldello
Who oped Faenza when the people slep."
Already we had gone away from him,
When I beheld two frozen in one hole,
So that one head a hood was to the other;
And even as bread through hunger is devoured,
The uppermost on the other set his teeth,
There where the brain is to the nape united.
Not in another fashion Tydeus gnawed
The temples of Menalippus in disdain,
Than that one did the skull and the other things.
"O thou, who showest by such bestial sign
Thy hatred against him whom thou art eating,
Tell me the wherefore," said I, "with this compact,
That if thou rightfully of him complain,
In knowing who ye are, and his transgression,
I in the world above repay thee for it,
If that wherewith I speak be not dried up."