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Dante's Inferno
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Canto XXII

Eighth Circle: fifth pit: barrators.—Ciampolo of Navarre.—Fra Gomita.—Michaci Zanche.—Fray of the Malebranche.

I have seen of old horsemen moving camp, and beginning an assault, and making their muster, and sometimes setting forth on their escape; I have seen runners through your land, O Aretines, and I have seen freebooters starting, tournaments struck and jousts run, at times with trumpets, and at times with bells, with drums, and with signals from strongholds, and with native things and foreign,—but never with so strange a pipe did I see horsemen or footmen set forth, or ship by sign of land or star.

We went along with the ten demons. Ah, the fell company! but in the church with saints, and in the tavern with gluttons. Ever on the pitch was I intent, to see every aspect of the pit, and of the people that were burning in it.

As dolphins, when, by the arching of their back, they give a sign to sailors that they take heed for the safety of their vessel, so, now and then, to alleviate his pain, one of the sinners showed his back and hid in less time than it lightens. And as at the edge of the water of a ditch the frogs stand with only their muzzle out, so that they conceal their feet and the rest of their bulk, thus stood on every side the sinners; but as Barbariccia approached so did they draw back beneath the boiling. I saw, and still my heart shudders at it, one waiting, just as it happens that one frog stays and another jumps. And Graffiacane, who was nearest over against him, hooked him by his pitchy locks, and drew him up so that he seemed to me an otter. I knew now the name of every one of them, so had I noted them when they were chosen, and when they had called each other I had listened how. "O Rubicante, see thou set thy claws upon him so thou flay him," shouted all the accursed ones together.

And I, "My Master, see, if thou canst, that thou find out who is the luckless one come into the hands of his adversaries." My Leader drew up to his side, asked him whence he was, and he replied, "I was born in the kingdom of Navarre; my mother placed me in service of a lord, for she had borne me to a ribald, destroyer of himself and of his substance. Afterward I was of the household of the good King Thibault;[1] there I set myself to practice barratry, for which I pay reckoning in this heat."

[1] Probably Thibault II., the brother-in-law of St Louis, who accompanied him on his last disastrous crusade, and died on his way home in 1270.

And Ciriatto, from whose mouth protruded on either side a tusk, as in a boar, made him feel how one of them rips. Among evil cats the mouse had come; but Barbariccia clasped him in his arms, and said, "Stand off, while I enfork him," and to my Master turned his face. "Ask," said he, "if thou desirest to know more from him, before some other undo him." The Leader, "Now, then, tell of the other sinners; knowst thou any one under the pitch who is Italian?" And he, "I parted short while since from one who was a neighbor to it; would that with him I still were covered so that I might not fear claw or hook." And Libicocco said, "We have borne too much," and seized his arm with his grapple so that, tearing, he carried off a sinew of it. Draghignazzo, also, he wished to give him a clutch down at his legs, whereat their decurion turned round about with evil look.

When they were a little appeased, my Leader, without delay, asked him who still was gazing at his wound, "Who was he from whom thou sayest thou madest in parting to come to shore?" And he replied, "It was Brother Gomita, he of Gallura,[1] vessel of all fraud, who held the enemies of his lord in hand, and dealt so with them that they all praise him for it. Money he took, and let them smoothly off, so he says; and in other offices besides he was no little barrator, but sovereign. With him frequents Don Michael Zanche of Logodoro,[2] and in talking of Sardinia their tongues feel not weary. O me! see ye that other who is grinning: I would say more, but I fear lest he is making ready to scratch my itch." And the grand provost, turning to Farfarello, who was rolling his eyes as if to strike, said, "Get thee away, wicked bird!"

[1] Gallura, one of the four divisions of Sardinia, called judicatures, made by the Pisans, after their conquest of the island. The lord of Gomita was the gentle Judge Nino, whom Dante meets in Purgatory. Gomita was hung for his frauds.

[2] Logodoro was another of the judicatures of Sardinia. Don Michael Zanche was a noted man, but of his special sins little or nothing has been recorded by the chroniclers.

"If you wish to see or to hear Tuscans or Lombards," thereon began again the frightened one, "I will make them come; but let the Malebranche stand a little withdrawn, so that they may not be afraid of their vengeance, and I, sitting in this very place, for one that I am, will make seven of them come, when I shall whistle as is our wont to do whenever one of us comes out." Cagnazzo at this speech raised his muzzle, shaking his head, and said, "Hear the knavery he has devised for throwing himself under!" Whereon he who had snares in great plenty answered, "Too knavish am I, when I procure for mine own companions greater sorrow." Alichino held not in, and, in opposition to the others, said to him, "If thou dive, I will not come behind thee at a gallop, but I will beat my wings above the pitch; let the ridge be left, and be the bank a shield, to see if thou alone availest more than we."

O thou that readest! thou shalt hear new sport. Each turned his eyes to the other side, he first who had been most averse to doing it. The Navarrese chose well his time, planted his feet firmly on the ground, and in an instant leaped, and from their purpose freed himself. At this, each of them was pricked with shame, but he most who was the cause of the loss; wherefore he started and cried out, "Thou art caught." But little it availed, for wings could not outstrip fear. The one went under, and the other, flying, turned his breast npward. Not otherwise the wild duck on a sudden dives when the falcon comes close, and he returns up vexed and baffled. Calcabrina, enraged at the flout, kept flying behind him, desirous that the sinner should escape, that he might have a scuffle; and when the barrator had disappeared he turned his talons upon his companion, and grappled with him above the ditch. But the other was indeed a sparrowhawk full grown to gripe him well, and both fell into the midst of the boiling pool. The heat was a sudden ungrappler, but nevertheless there was no rising from it, they had their wings so glued. Barbariccia, grieving with the rest of his troop, made four of them fly to the other side with all their forks, and very quickly, this side and that, they descended to their post. They stretched out their hooks toward the belimed ones, who were already baked within the crust: and we left them thus embroiled.

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