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Dante's Inferno
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Ninth Circle: traitors. First ring: Caina.—Counts of Mangona.—Camicion de' Pazzi.—Second ring: Antenora.—Bocca degli Abati.—Buoso da Duera.—Count Ugolino.

If I had rhymes both harsh and raucous, such as would befit the dismal hole on which thrust[1] all the other rocks, I would press out the juice of my conception more fully; but since I have them not, not without fear I bring myself to speak; for to describe the bottom of the whole universe is no enterprise to take up in jest, nor a tongue that cries mamma or babbo. But may those Dames aid my verse who aided Amphion to close in Thebes; so that from the fact the speech be not diverse.

[1] Rest their weight.

O populace miscreant above all, that art in the place whereof to speak is hard, better had ye been here[1] or sheep or goats!

[1] On earth.

When we were down in the dark abyss beneath the feet of the giant, but far lower, and I was gazing still at the high wall, I heard say to me, "Beware how thou steppest; take heed thou trample not with thy soles the heads of the wretched weary brethren." Whereat I turned, and saw before me, and under my feet, a lake which through frost had semblance of glass and not of water.

The Danube in Austria makes not for its current so thick a veil in winter, nor the Don yonder under the cold sky, as there was here; for if Tambernich [1] had fallen thereupon, or Pietrapana,[2] it would not even at the edge have given a creak. And as to croak the frog lies with muzzle out of the water, what time[3] oft dreams the peasant girl of gleaning, so, livid up to where shame appears,[4] were the woeful shades within the ice, setting their teeth to the note of the stork.[5] Every one held his face turned downward; from the mouth the cold, and from the eyes the sad heart compels witness of itself among them.

[1] A mountain, the locality of which is unknown.

[2] One of the Toscan Apennines.

[3] In summer.

[4] Up to the face.

[5] Chattering with cold.

When I had looked round awhile, I turned to my feet, and saw two so close that they had the hair of their heads mixed together. "Tell me, ye who so press tight your breasts," said I, "who are ye?" And they bent their necks, and after they had raised their faces to rue, their eyes, which before were moist only within, gushed up through the lids, and the frost bound the tears between them, and locked them up again. Clamp never girt board to board so strongly; wherefore they like two he goats butted together, such anger overcame them.

And one who had lost both his ears through the cold, still with his face downward, said to me, "Why dost thou so mirror thyself on us? If thou wouldst know who are these two, the valley whence the Bisenzio descends belonged to their father Albert, and to them.[1] From one body they issued, and all Caina[2] thou mayst search, and thou wilt not find shade more worthy to be fixed in ice; not he whose breast and shadow were broken by one and the same blow by the hand of Arthur;[3] not Focaccia;[4] not he who encumbers me with his head, so that I cannot see beyond, and was named Sassol Mascheroni:[5] if thou art Tuscan, well knowest thou now who he was. And that thou mayst not put me to more speech, know that I was Camicion de' Pazzi,[6] and I await Carlino that he may exonerate me."

[1] They were of the Alberti, counts of Mangona, in Tuscany, and had killed each other.

[2] The first division of this ninth and lowest circle of Hell.

[3] Mordred, the traitorous son of Arthur.

[4] From the crimes of Focaccia, a member of the great Cancellieri family of Pistoia, began the feud of the Black and the White factions, which long raged in Pistoia and in Florence.

[5] A Florentine who murdered his nephew for an inheritance.

[6] A murderer of one of his kinsmen, whose crime was surpassed by that of Carlino de' Pazzi, who, in 1302, betrayed a band of the Florentine exiles who had taken refuge in a stronghold of his in Valdarno.

Then I saw a thousand faces made currish by the cold, whence shuddering comes to me, and will always come, at frozen pools.

And while we were going toward the centre[1] to which tends every weight, and I was trembling in the eternal shade, whether it was will or destiny, or fortune I know not, but, walking among the heads, I struck my foot hard in the face of one. Wailing he cried out to me, "Why dost thou trample me? If thou comest not to increase the vengeance of Mont' Aperti, why dost thou molest me?" And I, "My Master, now wait here for me, so that I may free me from a doubt by means of this one, then thou shalt make me hasten as much as thou wilt." The Leader stopped, and I said to that shade who was bitterly blaspheming still, "Who art thou that thus railest at another?" "Now thou, who art thou, that goest through the Antenora,"[2] he answered, "smiting the cheeks of others, so that if thou wert alive, it would be too much?" "Alive I am, and it may be dear to thee," was my reply, "if thou demandest fame, that I should set thy name amid the other notes." And he to me, "For the contrary do I long; take thyself hence, and give me no more trouble, for ill thou knowest to flatter on this plain." Then I took him by the hair of the crown, and said, "It shall needs be that thou name thyself, or that not a hair remain upon thee here." Whereon he to me, "Though thou strip me of hair, I will not tell thee who I am, nor will I show it to thee if a thousand times thou fallest on my head."

[1] The centre of the earth.

[2] The second division of the ninth circle; so named after the Trojan who, though of good repute in Homer, was charged by a later tradition with having betrayed Troy.

I already had his hair twisted in my hand, and had pulled out more than one shock, he barking, with his eyes kept close down, when another cried out, "What ails thee, Bocca?[1] Is it not enough for thee to make music with thy jaws, but thou must bark? What devil has hold of thee?" "Now," said I, "I would not have thee speak, accursed traitor, for to thy shame will I carry true news of thee." "Begone," he answered, "and relate what thou wilt, but be not silent, if from here within thou goest forth, of him who now had his tongue so ready. He weeps here the money of the French; I saw, thou canst say, him of Duera,[2] there where the sinners stand cooling. Shouldst thou be asked who else was there, thou hast at thy side that Beccheria [3] whose gorget Florence cut. Gianni dcl Soldanier [4] I think is farther on with Ganellon[5] and Tribaldello,[6] who opened Faenza when it was sleeping."

[1] Bocca degli Abati, the most noted of Florentine traitors, who in the heat of the battle of Mont' Aperti, in 1260, cut off the hand of the standard-bearer of the cavalry, so that the standard fell, and the Guelphs of Florence, disheartened thereby, were put to rout with frightful slaughter.

[2] Buoso da Duera of Cremona, who, for a bribe, let pass near Parma, without resistance, the cavalry of Charles of Anjou, led by Gui de Montfort to the conquest of Naples in 1265.

[3] Tesauro de' Beccheria, Abbot of Vallombrosa, and Papal Legato, beheaded by the Florentines in 1258, because of his treacherous dealings with the exiled Ghibellines.

[4] A Ghibelline leader, who, after the defeat of Manfred in 1266, plotted against his own party.

[5] Ganellon, the traitor who brought about the defeat at Roncesvalles.

[6] He betrayed Faenza to the French, in 1282.

We had now parted from him when I saw two frozen in one hole, so that the head of one was a hood for the other. And as bread is devoured in hunger, so the uppermost one set his teeth upon the other where the brain joins with the nape. Not otherwise Tydeus gnawed for spite the temples of Menalippus than this one did the skull and the other parts. "O thou! that by so bestial a sign showest hatred against him whom thou dost eat, tell me the wherefore," said I, "with this compact, that if thou rightfully of him complainest, I, knowing who ye are, and his sin, may yet recompense thee for it in the world above, if that with which I speak be not dried up."

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