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Dante's Inferno
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Canto XXIX

Eighth Circle ninth pit.—Geri del Bello.—Tenth pit: falsifiers of all sorts.—Griffolino of Arezzo.—Capocchio.

The many people and the diverse wounds had so inebriated mine eyes that they were fain to stay for weeping. But Virgil said to me, "What art thou still watching? why is thy sight still fixed down there among the dismal mutilated shades? Thou hast not done so at the other pits; consider if thou thinkest to count them, that the valley circles two and twenty miles; and already the moon is beneath our feet; the time is little now that is conceded to us, and other things are to be seen than thou seest." "If thou hadst," replied I thereupon, "attended to the reason why I was looking perhaps thou wouldst have permitted me yet to stay."

Meanwhile my Leader went on, and I behind him went, already waking reply, and adding, "Within that cavern where I just now was holding my eyes so fixedly, I think that a spirit of my own blood weeps the sin that down there costs so dear." Then said the Master, "Let not thy thought henceforth reflect on him; attend to other thing, and let him there remain, for I saw him at the foot of the little bridge pointing at thee, and threatening fiercely with his finger, and I heard him called Geri del Bello.[1] Thou wert then so completely engaged on him who of old held Hautefort[2] that thou didst not look that way till he had departed." "O my Leader," said I, "the violent death which is not yet avenged for him by any who is sharer in the shame made him indignant, wherefore, as I deem, he went on without speaking to me, and thereby has he made me pity him the more."

[1] A cousin or uncle of Dante's father, of whom little is known but what may be inferred from Dante's words and from the place he assigns him in Hell.

[2] Bertran de Born, lord of Hautefort.

Thus we spake far as the place on the crag which first shows the next valley, if more light were there, quite to the bottom. When we were above the last cloister of Malebolge so that its lay brothers could appear to our sight, divers lamentations pierced me, that had their arrows barbed with pity; wherefore I covered my ears with my hands.

Such pain as there would be if, between July and September, from the hospitals of Valdichiana and of Maremma and of Sardinia[1] the sick should all be in one ditch together, such was there here; and such stench came forth therefrom, as is wont to come from putrescent limbs. We descended upon the last bank of the long crag, ever to the left hand, and then my sight became more vivid down toward the bottom, where the ministress of the High Lord—infallible Justice—punishes the falsifiers whom on earth she registers.

[1] Unhealthy regions, noted for the prevalence of malarial fevers in summer.

I do not think it was a greater sorrow to see the whole people in Egina sick, when the air was so full of pestilence that the animals, even to the little worm, all fell dead (and afterwards the ancient people, according as the poets hold for sure, were restored by seed of ants), than it was to see the spirits languishing in different heaps through that dark valley. This one over the belly, and that over the shoulders of another was lying, and this one, crawling, was shifting himself along the dismal path. Step by step we went without speech, looking at and listening to the sick, who could not lift their persons.

I saw two seated leaning on each other, as pan is leaned against pan to warm, spotted from head to foot with scabs; and never did I see currycomb plied by a boy for whom his lord is waiting nor by one who keeps awake unwillingly, as each often plied the bite of his nails upon himself, because of the great rage of his itching which has no other relief. And the nails dragged down the scab, even as a knife the scales of bream or of other fish that may have them larger.

"O thou, that with thy fingers dost dismail thyself," began my Leader unto one of them, "and who sometimes makest pincers of them, tell me if any Latian[1] is among those who are here within: so may thy nails suffice thee eternally for this work." "Latians are we whom here thou seest so defaced, both of us," replied one weeping, "but thou, who art thou that hast asked of us?" And the Leader said, "I am one that descends with this living man down from ledge to ledge, and I intend to show Hell to him." Then their mutual support was broken; and trembling each turned to me, together with others that heard him by rebound. The good Master inclined himself wholly toward me, saying, "Say to them what thou wilt;" and I began, since he was willing, "So may memory of you not steal away in the first world from human minds, but may it live under many suns, tell me who ye are, and of what race; let not your disfiguring and loathsome punishment fright you from disclosing yourselves unto me." "I was from Arezzo," replied one of them,[2] "and Albero of Siena had me put in the fire; but that for which I died brings me not here. True it is that I said to him, speaking in jest, I knew how to raise myself through the air in flight, and he, who had vain desire and little wit, wished that I should show him the art, and only because I did not make him Daedalus, made me be burned by one[3] that held him as a son; but to the last pit of the ten, for the alchemy that I practiced in the world, Minos, to whom it is not allowed to err, condemned me." And I said to the Poet, "Now was ever people so vain as the Sienese? surely not so the French by much." Whereon the other leprous one, who heard me, replied to my words, "Except[4] Stricca who knew how to make moderate expenditure, and Niccolo, who first invented the costly custom of the clove[5] in the garden where such seed takes root; and except the brigade in which Caccia of Asciano wasted his vineyard and his great wood, and the Abbagliato showed his wit. But that thou mayest know who thus seconds thde against the Sienese, so sharpen thine eye toward me that my face may answer well to thee, so shalt thou see that I am the shade of Capocchio, who falsified the metals by alchemy; and thou shouldst recollect, if I descry thee aright, how I was a good ape of nature."

[1] Italian.

[2] This is supposed to be one Griffolino, of whom nothing is known but what Dante tells.

[3] The Bishop of Siena.

[4] Ironical; these youths all being members of the company known as the brigata godereccia or spendereccia, the joyous or spendthrift brigade.

[5] The use of rich and expensive spices in cookery.

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