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Dante's Inferno
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Canto XXX

Eighth Circle: tenth pit: falsifiers of all sorts.—Myrrha.—Gianni Schicchi.—Master Adam.—Sinon of Troy.

At the time when Juno was wroth because of Semele against the Theban blood, as she showed more than once, Athamas became so insane, that seeing his wife come laden on either hand with her two sons, cried out, "Spread we the nets, so that I may take the lioness and the young lions at the pass," and then he stretched out his pitiless talons, taking the one who was named Learchus, and whirled him and struck him on a rock; and she drowned herself with her other burden. And when Fortune turned downward the all-daring loftiness of the Trojans, so that together with the kingdom the king was undone, Hecuba, sad, wretched, and captive, when she saw Polyxena dead, and woeful descried her Polydorus on the sea-bank, frantic, barked like a dog,—to such degree had grief distraught her mind.

But neither the furies of Thebes, nor the Trojan, were ever seen toward any one so cruel, whether in goading beasts or human limbs,[1] as I saw two shades pallid and naked who, biting, were running in the way that a boar does when from the sty he breaks loose. One came at Capocchio, and on the nape of his neck struck his teeth, so that dragging him he made his belly scratch along the solid bottom. And the Aretine,[2] who remained trembling, said to me, "That goblin is Gianni Schicchi, and rabid he goes thus maltreating others." "Oh," said I to him, "so may time other not fix his teeth on thee, let it not weary thee to tell who it is ere it start hence." And he to me, "That is the ancient soul of profligate Myrrha, who became her father's lover beyond rightful love. She came to sinning with him by falsifying herself in another's form, even as the other, who goes off there, undertook, in order to gain the lady of the herd,[3] to counterfeit Buoso Donati, making a will and giving to the will due form."

[1] No mad rages were ever so merciless as those of these furious spirits.

[2] Griffolino.

[3] Buoso Donati had died without making a will, whereupon his nephew suborned Gianni Schicchi to personate the dead man in bed, and to dictate a will in his favor. This Gianni did, but with a clause leaving to himself a favorite mare of Buoso's, the best in all Tuscany.

And after the two rabid ones upon whom I had kept my eye had disappeared, I turned it to look at the other miscreants. I saw one made in fashion of a lute, had he but only had his groin cut off at the part where man is forked. The heavy hydropsy which, with the humor that it ill digests, so unmates the members that the face corresponds not with the belly, was making him hold his lips open as the hectic does, who for thirst turns one toward his chin, the other upward.

"Oh ye, who are without any punishment, and I know not why, in the dismal world," said he to us, "look and attend to the misery of Master Adam. Living, I had enough of what I wished, and now, alas! I long for a drop of water. The rivulets that from the green hills of the Casentino descend into the Arno, making their channels cool and soft, stand ever before me, and not in vain; for their image dries me up far more than the disease which strips my face of flesh. The rigid justice that scourges me draws occasion from the place where I sinned to put my sighs the more in flight. There is Romena, where I falsified the alloy stamped with the Baptist,[1] for which on earth I left my body burned. But if here I could see the wretched soul of Guido or of Alessandro, or of their brother,[2] for Fount Branda[3] I would not give the sight. One of them is here within already, if the rating shades who go around speak true. But what does it avail me who have my limbs bound? If I were only yet so light that in a hundred years I could go an inch, I should already have set out along the path, seeking for him among this disfigured folk, although it circles round eleven miles, and is not less than half a mile across. Because of them I am among such a family; they induced me to strike the forms that had full three carats of base metal." And I to him, "Who are the two poor wretches that are smoking like a wet hand in winter, lying close to your confines on the right?" "Here I found them," he answered, "when I rained down into this trough, and they have not since given a turn, and I do not believe they will give one to all eternity. One is the false woman that accused Joseph, the other is the false Sinon the Greek, from Troy; because of their sharp fever they throw out such great reek."

[1] The florin which bore on the obverse the figure of John the Baptist, the protecting saint of Florence.

[2] Counts of Romena.

[3] The noted fountain in Siena, or perhaps one in Romena.

And one of them who took it ill perchance at being named so darkly, with his fist struck him on his stiff paunch; it sounded as if it were a drum; and Master Adam struck him on the face with his arm that did not seem less hard, saying to him, "Though, because of my heavy limbs, moving hence be taken from me, I have an arm free for such need." Whereon he replied, "When thou wast going to the fire thou hadst it not thus ready, but so and more thou hadst it when thou wast coining." And the hydropic, "Thou sayst true in this, but thou wast not so true a witness there where thou wast questioned of the truth at Troy." "If I spake false, thou didst falsify the coin," said Sinon, "and I am here for a single sin, and thou for more than any other demon." "Remember, perjured one, the horse," answered he who had the puffed up paunch, "and be it ill for thee that the whole world knows it." "And be ill for thee the thirst which cracks thy tongue," said the Greek, "and the putrid water that makes thy belly thus a hedge before thine eyes." Then the coiner, "So yawns thy mouth for its own harm as it is wont, for if I am thirsty, and humor stuffs me out, thou hast the burning, and the head that pains thee, and to lick the mirror of Narcissus thou wouldst not want many words of invitation."

To listen to them was I wholly fixed, when the Master said to me, "Now then look, for it wants but little that I quarrel with thee." When I hcard him speak to me with anger, I turned me toward him with such shame that still it circles through my memory. And as is he that dreams of his harm, and, dreaming, desires to dream, so that that which is he craves as if it were not, such I became, not being able to speak, for I desired to excuse myself, and I was indeed excusing myself, and did not think that I was doing it. "Less shame doth wash away a greater fault than thine hath been," said the Master; therefore disburden thyself of all regret, and make reckoning that I am always at thy side, if again it happen that fortune find thee where people are in similar brawl; for the wish to hear it is a base wish."

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