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Dante's Inferno
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Canto X

The Sixth Circle: Heresiarchs.—Farinata degli Uberti.-Cavalcante Cavalcanti.—Frederick II.

Now along a narrow path between the wall of the city and the torments my Master goeth on, and I behind his shoulders.

"O Virtue supreme," I began, "that through the impious circles turnest me, according to thy pleasure, speak to me and satisfy my desires. The folk that are lying in the sepulchres, can they be seen? All the lids are now lifted, and no one keepeth guard." And he to me, "All shall be locked in when from Jehoshaphat they shall here return with the bodies which they have left on earth. Upon this side Epicurus with all his followers, who make the soul mortal with the body, have their burial place. Therefore as to the demand that thou makest of me, thou shalt soon be satisfied here within; and also as to the desire concerning which thou art silent to me." And I, "Good Leader, I hold not my heart hidden from thee except in order to speak little; and not only now to that hast thou disposed me."

"O Tuscan, who through the city of fire alive art going, speaking thus modestly, may it please thee to stop in this place. Thy speech makes manifest that thou art native of that noble fatherland to which perchance I was too molestful." Suddenly this sound issued from one of the coffers, wherefore I drew, in fear, a little nearer to my Leader. And he said to me, "Turn, what dost thou? Behold Farinata who hath uprisen; thou shalt see him all from the girdle up."

I had already fixed my face on his, and he straightened himself up with breast and front as though he had Hell in great scorn. And the bold and ready hands of my Leader pushed me among the sepulchres to him, saying, "Let thy words be choice."

When I was at the foot of his tomb, he looked at me a little, and then, as though disdainful, asked me, "Who were thy ancestors?" I, who was desirous to obey, concealed them not, but disclosed them all to him; whereon he raised his brows a little up, then said, "Fiercely were they adverse to me, and to my fathers, and to my party, so that twice I scattered them." [1] "If they were driven out, they returned from every side," replied I to him, "both one and the other time, but yours have not learned well that art."

[1] Dante's ancestors were Guelphs.

Then there arose, to view uncovered down to the chin, a shade at the side of this one; I think that it had risen on its knees. Round about me it looked, as if it had desire to see if another were with me, but when its expectancy was quite extinct, weeping it said, "If through this blind dungeon thou goest through loftiness of genius, my son, where is he? and why is he not with thee?" And I to him, "Of myself I come not; he who waits yonder leads me through here, whom perchance your Guido held in scorn."[1]

[1] Guido Cavalcanti was charged with the same sin of unbelief as his father. Dante regards this as a sin specially contrary to right reason, typified by Virgil.

His words and the mode of the punishment had already read to me the name of this one, wherefore my answer was so full.

Suddenly straightening up, he cried, "How didst thou say, 'he held'? lives he not still? doth not the sweet light strike his eyes?" When he took note of some delay that I made before answering, he fell again supine, and forth appeared no more.

But that other magnanimous one, at whose instance I had stayed, changed not aspect, nor moved his neck, nor bent his side. "And if," he said, continuing his first words, "they have ill learned that art, it torments me more than this bed. But the face of the lady who ruleth here will not be rekindled fifty times ere thou shalt know how much that art weighs. And, so mayest thou return unto the sweet world, tell me wherefore is that people so pitiless against my race in its every law?" Then I to him, "The rout and the great carnage that colored the Arbia red cause such orison to be made in our temple." After he had, sighing, shaken his head, "In that I was not alone," he said, "nor surely without cause would I have moved with the rest; but I was alone,—there [1] where it was agreed by every one to lay Florence waste,—he who defended her with open face." "Ah! so hereafter may your seed repose," I prayed to him, "loose for me that knot, which here has entangled my judgment. It seems, if I rightly hear, that ye foresee that which time is bringing with him, and as to the present have another way." "We see," he said, "like those who have feeble light, the things that are far from us, so much still shineth on us the supreme Leader; when they draw near, or are, our intelligence is all vain, and, if some one report not to us, we know nothing of your human state. Therefore thou canst comprehend that our knowledge will be utterly dead from that moment when the gate of the future shall he closed." Then, as compunctious for my fault I said, "Now wilt thou therefore tell that fallen one that his son is still conjoined with the living, and if just now I was dumb to answer, make him know that I was so because I was still thinking in that error which you have solved for me." [2]

[1] At Empoli, in 126O, after the defeat of the Florentine Guelphs at Montaperti on the Arbia.

[2] Guido Cavalcanti died in August, 13OO; his death, being near at hand at the time of Dante's journey, was not known to his father.

And now my Master was calling me back, wherefore I prayed the spirit more hastily that he would tell me who was with him. He said to me, "Here with more than a thousand do I lie; here within is the second Frederick and the Cardinal,[1] and of the others I am silent."

[1] Ottaviano degli Ubaldini, a fierce Ghibelline, who was reported as saying, "If there be a soul I have lost it for the Ghibellines."

Thereon he hid himself; and I toward the ancient Poet turned my steps, reflecting on that speech which seemed hostile to me. He moved on, and then, thus going, he said to me, "Why art thou so distraught?" And I satisfied his demand. "Let thy memory preserve that which thou hast heard against thyself," commanded me that Sage, "and now attend to this," and he raised his finger. "When thou shalt be in presence of the sweet radiance of her whose beautiful eye sees everything, from her thou shalt learn the journey of thy life." Then to the left he turned his step.

We left the wall, and went toward the middle by a path which strikes into a valley that even up there its stench made displeasing.

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