Thursday, October 23, 2008

Inferno, Song VI

The story thus far: Dante, a poet and town prior in Florence, finds himself on a dark road of the soul. Before his spirit can fall to its ruin, he encounters Virgil, the greatest poet of classical Rome. Virgil, at the behest of Beatrice, a woman who was Dante's inspiration in life, offers Dante a journey through the realms of the afterworld, through which Dante may find his soul's salvation. He shall travel through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, with Virgil as his guide through the first two. Dante accepts Virgil's offer, and they embark. After passing through the gates of Hell, they encounter the souls of the cowards who took no stand in conflicts between good and evil. After crossing the river Acheron, they enter Limbo, the realm of the noble or innocent souls who were not baptized or otherwise not believers in the Christian faith. Dante and Virgil then travel to the first circle of damnation, reserved for the lustful. After encountering the souls of Dante's adulterous countrymen Paolo Malatesta and Francesca da Rimini, Dante faints out of pity.

Virgil feeds Cerberus dirt in the circle of the gluttons

At the return of consciousness, which was lost
In the presence of the two in-laws’ pathos,
Which confounded me entirely with sadness,

New torments and the newly tormented
I see around me, no matter where I move
Or how I turn, and no matter where I look.

I am in the third circle, that of the rain
Eternal--accursed, cold, and heavy--
Its nature and frequency never change.

Enormous hail, tainted water, and snow
Pour through the gloomy air.
The ground on which it lands is disgusting.

Cerberus, a cruel and freakish wild beast,
Barks with its three throats like a dog
Over the people submerged there.

His eyes are vermilion red, his beard oily and black,
And his stomach broad. His hands have talons;
He claws the spirits, flaying and quartering them.

The rain makes them howl like dogs.
They make one side a shield for the other;
The unholy wretches turn themselves often.

When Cerberus, the great worm, noticed us,
His mouths opened, showing the fangs;
He did not have a limb that held still.

And my leader extended his open hands,
Took the earth, and, with his fists full,
Threw it into the ravenous maws.

Like a dog who, barking hungrily,
Quiets down while chewing his food--
Devouring it is all he thinks of and struggles for--

So were the grimy faces
Of the demon Cerberus, who roared at
The souls with such force that they wished they were deaf.

We went amid the shades, who languished underneath
The heavy rain, putting our feet
Upon their emptiness, which seemed to be their bodies.

They lay upon the ground in all their numbers
Except for one who sat up as soon
As he saw us passing before him.

“O you who are being taken through this Hell,”
He said to me, “Remember me, if you are able:
Before I was undone, you were created.”

I replied, “The anguish you bear
Has perhaps displaced you from my memory,
Making it seem as if I haven’t seen you before.

But tell me who you are that into such a sorrowful
Place you are put, and why your punishment is such
That, if another is more extreme, none is more wretched.”

He replied, “Your city, which is full
Of so much envy that the sack overflows,
Held me within its bounds during life’s serenity.

You townspeople called me Ciacco
For the ruinous sin of gluttony.
As you see, the rain leaves me weak.

And I, a sad soul, am not alone,
For all these are similarly punished
For the same sin.” And then he spoke no more.

I answered him, “Ciacco, your torment
So weighs upon me that it brings me to tears.
But tell me, if you know, what will become of

The citizens of the divided city--
Are there any that are just? And tell me the reason
Why it is assailed upon by such discord.”

And he replied, “After long tensions,
They will come to blood, and the party of the woodlands
Will, with a great deal of spite, drive the others out.

Then, afterwards, the fallen party gathers itself
And, within three years, vanquishes the other
With the power of the one who now hangs his head.

Heads will be held high for a long time.
The other will be held under heavy burdens,
No matter how much it cries or is dishonored.

Two are just, and they are not understood there.
Pride, envy, and avarice are
The three sparks that have hearts lit.”

Here he put an end to his tearful utterance.
And I replied, “ Instruct me still
And make me a gift of continued words.

Farinata and Tegghiaio, who were so honored,
Jacopo Rusticucci, Arrigo, and Mosca,
And the others who dedicated their insignia to good deeds,

Tell me where they are and in such a way that I know them.
For great desire presses me to know
If they are sweetened by Heaven or poisoned by Hell.”

And he said, “They are among the blacker souls.
Different sins weigh them down towards the bottom.
If you descend far enough, you will there be able to see them.

But when you are once again within the world and it sweetness,
I pray you bring me to the memory of others.
No more will I tell you and no more will I respond.”

His eyes then went from focused to glassy.
He looked at me a bit and then lowered his head,
Falling with it to be among the other blind.

And my leader said to me, “He stirs no more
Until the sound of the angelic trumpet
When the hostile Judge comes.

Each will again see their unhappy tomb,
Again take their flesh and form,
And hear that which resounds throughout eternity.”

So we passed along through the putrid mix
Of the shades and rain, going by slowly,
Touching a bit on the future life.

For I said, “Master, these torments--
Will they grow after the great Judgment,
Or will they be lesser, or as searing as they are now?”

He replied, “Return to your system of knowledge,
Which would have it that, the more perfect a thing is,
The more it feels the good, and likewise the pain.

As all these condemned
Will never come to true perfection,
They are, in this way, waiting to be more than they are now.

We turned in a circle around that curving road,
Speaking of much that I do not repeat.
We came to the point, where, in our descent,

We found, Plutus, the great enemy, therein.

Continue to Song VII

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