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Dante's Inferno
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Canto VI

The Third Circle, that of the Gluttonous.—Cerberus.—Ciacco.

When the mind returned, which closed itself before the pity of these two kinsfolk, that had all confounded me with sadness, new torments and new tormented souls I see around me wherever I move, and howsoever I turn, and wherever I gaze.

I am in the third circle, that of the rain eternal, accursed, cold, and heavy. Its rule and quality are never new. Coarse hail, and foul water and snow pour down through the tenebrous air; the earth that receives them stinks. Cerberus, a beast cruel and monstrous, with three throats barks doglike above the people that are here submerged. He has vermilion eyes, and a greasy and black beard, and a big belly, and hands armed with claws: he tears the spirits, flays them, and rends them. The rain makes them howl like dogs; of one of their sides they make a screen for the other; the profane wretches often turn themselves.

When Cerberus, the great worm, observed us he opened his mouths, and showed his fangs to us; not a limb had he that he kept quiet. And my Leader opened wide his hands, took some earth, and with full fists threw it into the ravenous gullets. As the dog that barking craves, and becomes quiet when he bites his food, and is intent and fights only to devour it, such became those filthy faces of the demon Cerberus, who so thunders at the souls that they would fain be deaf.

We were passing over the shades whom the heavy rain subdues, and were setting our feet upon their vain show that seems a body. They all of them lay upon the ground, except one who raised himself to sit, quickly as he saw us passing before him. "O thou who art led through this Hell," he said to me, "recognize me, if thou canst; thou wast made before I was unmade." And I to him, "The anguish which thou hast perchance withdraws thee from my memory, so that it seems not that I ever saw thee. But tell me who thou art, that in a place so woeful art set, and with such a punishment, that if any other is greater none is so displeasing." And he to me, "Thy city which is so full of envy, that already the sack runs over, held me in it, in the serene life. You citizens called me Ciacco; [1] for the damnable sin of gluttony, as thou seest, I am broken by the rain. And I, wretched soul, am not alone, for all these endure like punishment, for like sin," and more he said not. I answered him, "Ciacco, thy trouble so weighs upon me, that it invites me to weeping; but tell me, if thou canst, to what will come the citizens of the divided city; if any one in it is just; and tell me the reason why such great discord has assailed it."

[1] Ciacco, in popular speech, signifies a hog.

And he to me, "After long contention they will come to blood, and the savage party will chase out the other with great injury. Thereafter within three suns it behoves this to fall, and the other to surmount through the force of one who even now is tacking. It will hold high its front long time, keeping the other under heavy burdens, however it may lament and be shamed thereat. Two men are just, but there they are not heeded; Pride, Envy, Avarice are the three sparks that have inflamed their hearts."[1]

Here he set end unto the lamentable sound.

[1] This prophecy relates to the dissensions and violence of the parties of the Whites and the Blacks by which Florence was rent. The "savage party" was that of the Whites, who were mainly Ghibellines. The "one who even now is tacking" was the Pope, Boniface VIII., who was playing fast and loose with both. Who the "two just men" were is unknown.

And I to him, "Still I would that thou teach me, and that of more speech thou make a gift to me. Farinata and the Tegghiaio who were so worthy, Jacopo Rusticucci, Arrigo, and the Mosca, and the rest who set their minds on well-doing, tell me where they are, and cause that I may know them, for great desire constrains me to learn if Heaven sweeten them, or Hell envenom.

And he, "They are among the blacker souls: a different sin weighs them down to the bottom; if thou so far descendest, thou canst see them. But when thou shalt be in the sweet world I pray thee that thou bring me to the memory of others. More I say not to thee, and more I answer thee not." His straight eyes he twisted then awry, looked at me a little, and then bent his head, and fell with it level with the other blind.

And the Leader said to me, "He wakes no more this side the sound of the angelic trump. When the hostile Sovereign shall come, each one will find again his dismal tomb, will take again his flesh and his shape, will hear that which through eternity reechoes."

Thus we passed along with slow steps through the foul mixture of the shades and of the rain, touching a little on the future life. Wherefore I said, "Master, these torments will they increase after the great sentence, or will they become less, or will they be just as burning?" And he to me, "Return to thy science, which declares that the more perfect a thing is the more it feels the good, and so the pain. Though this accursed people never can attain to true perfection, it expects thereafter to be more than now."

We took a circling course along that road, speaking far more than I repeat; and came to the point where the descent is. Here we found Pluto,[1] the great enemy.

[1] Pluto appears here not as Hades, the god of the lower world, but in his character as the giver of wealth.

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