Inferno: Canto XI
Upon the margin of a lofty bank
Which great rocks broken in a circle made,
We came upon a still more cruel throng;
And there, by reason of the horrible
Excess of stench the deep abyss throws out,
We drew ourselves aside behind the cover
Of a great tomb, whereon I saw a writing,
Which said: "Pope Anastasius I hold,
Whom out of the right way Photinus drew."
"Slow it behoveth our descent to be,
So that the sense be first a little used
To the sad blast, and then we shall not heed it."
The Master thus; and unto him I said,
"Some compensation find, that the time pass not
Idly;" and he: "Thou seest I think of that.
My son, upon the inside of these rocks,"
Began he then to say, "are three small circles,
From grade to grade, like those which thou art leaving.
They all are full of spirits maledict;
But that hereafter sight alone suffice thee,
Hear how and wherefore they are in constraint.
Of every malice that wins hate in Heaven,
Injury is the end; and all such end
Either by force or fraud afflicteth others.
But because fraud is man's peculiar vice,
More it displeases God; and so stand lowest
The fraudulent, and greater dole assails them.
All the first circle of the Violent is;
But since force may be used against three persons,
In three rounds 'tis divided and constructed.
To God, to ourselves, and to our neighbour can we
Use force; I say on them and on their things,
As thou shalt hear with reason manifest.
A death by violence, and painful wounds,
Are to our neighbour given; and in his substance
Ruin, and arson, and injurious levies;
Whence homicides, and he who smites unjustly,
Marauders, and freebooters, the first round
Tormenteth all in companies diverse.
Man may lay violent hands upon himself
And his own goods; and therefore in the second
Round must perforce without avail repent
Whoever of your world deprives himself,
Who games, and dissipates his property,
And weepeth there, where he should jocund be.
Violence can be done the Deity,
In heart denying and blaspheming Him,
And by disdaining Nature and her bounty.
And for this reason doth the smallest round
Seal with its signet Sodom and Cahors,
And who, disdaining God, speaks from the heart.
Fraud, wherewithal is every conscience stung,
A man may practise upon him who trusts,
And him who doth no confidence imburse.
This latter mode, it would appear, dissevers
Only the bond of love which Nature makes;
Wherefore within the second circle nestle
Hypocrisy, flattery, and who deals in magic,
Falsification, theft, and simony,
Panders, and barrators, and the like filth.
By the other mode, forgotten is that love
Which Nature makes, and what is after added,
From which there is a special faith engendered.
Hence in the smallest circle, where the point is
Of the Universe, upon which Dis is seated,
Whoe'er betrays for ever is consumed."
And I: "My Master, clear enough proceeds
Thy reasoning, and full well distinguishes
This cavern and the people who possess it.
But tell me, those within the fat lagoon,
Whom the wind drives, and whom the rain doth beat,
And who encounter with such bitter tongues,
Wherefore are they inside of the red city
Not punished, if God has them in his wrath,
And if he has not, wherefore in such fashion?"
And unto me he said: "Why wanders so
Thine intellect from that which it is wont?
Or, sooth, thy mind where is it elsewhere looking?
Hast thou no recollection of those words
With which thine Ethics thoroughly discusses
The dispositions three, that Heaven abides not,--
Incontinence, and Malice, and insane
Bestiality? and how Incontinence
Less God offendeth, and less blame attracts?
If thou regardest this conclusion well,
And to thy mind recallest who they are
That up outside are undergoing penance,
Clearly wilt thou perceive why from these felons
They separated are, and why less wroth
Justice divine doth smite them with its hammer."
"O Sun, that healest all distempered vision,
Thou dost content me so, when thou resolvest,
That doubting pleases me no less than knowing!
Once more a little backward turn thee," said I,
"There where thou sayest that usury offends
Goodness divine, and disengage the knot."
"Philosophy," he said, "to him who heeds it,
Noteth, not only in one place alone,
After what manner Nature takes her course
From Intellect Divine, and from its art;
And if thy Physics carefully thou notest,
After not many pages shalt thou find,
That this your art as far as possible
Follows, as the disciple doth the master;
So that your art is, as it were, God's grandchild.
From these two, if thou bringest to thy mind
Genesis at the beginning, it behoves
Mankind to gain their life and to advance;
And since the usurer takes another way,
Nature herself and in her follower
Disdains he, for elsewhere he puts his hope.
But follow, now, as I would fain go on,
For quivering are the Fishes on the horizon,
And the Wain wholly over Caurus lies,
And far beyond there we descend the crag."
UPON the utmost verge of a high bank,
By craggy rocks environ'd round, we came,
Where woes beneath more cruel yet were stow'd:
And here to shun the horrible excess
Of fetid exhalation, upward cast
From the profound abyss, behind the lid
Of a great monument we stood retir'd,
Whereon this scroll I mark'd: "I have in charge
Pope Anastasius, whom Photinus drew
From the right path.--Ere our descent behooves
We make delay, that somewhat first the sense,
To the dire breath accustom'd, afterward
Regard it not." My master thus; to whom
Answering I spake: "Some compensation find
That the time past not wholly lost." He then:
"Lo! how my thoughts e'en to thy wishes tend!
My son! within these rocks," he thus began,
"Are three close circles in gradation plac'd,
As these which now thou leav'st. Each one is full
Of spirits accurs'd; but that the sight alone
Hereafter may suffice thee, listen how
And for what cause in durance they abide.
"Of all malicious act abhorr'd in heaven,
The end is injury; and all such end
Either by force or fraud works other's woe
But fraud, because of man peculiar evil,
To God is more displeasing; and beneath
The fraudulent are therefore doom'd to' endure
Severer pang. The violent occupy
All the first circle; and because to force
Three persons are obnoxious, in three rounds
Hach within other sep'rate is it fram'd.
To God, his neighbour, and himself, by man
Force may be offer'd; to himself I say
And his possessions, as thou soon shalt hear
At full. Death, violent death, and painful wounds
Upon his neighbour he inflicts; and wastes
By devastation, pillage, and the flames,
His substance. Slayers, and each one that smites
In malice, plund'rers, and all robbers, hence
The torment undergo of the first round
In different herds. Man can do violence
To himself and his own blessings: and for this
He in the second round must aye deplore
With unavailing penitence his crime,
Whoe'er deprives himself of life and light,
In reckless lavishment his talent wastes,
And sorrows there where he should dwell in joy.
To God may force be offer'd, in the heart
Denying and blaspheming his high power,
And nature with her kindly law contemning.
And thence the inmost round marks with its seal
Sodom and Cahors, and all such as speak
Contemptuously' of the Godhead in their hearts.
"Fraud, that in every conscience leaves a sting,
May be by man employ'd on one, whose trust
He wins, or on another who withholds
Strict confidence. Seems as the latter way
Broke but the bond of love which Nature makes.
Whence in the second circle have their nest
Dissimulation, witchcraft, flatteries,
Theft, falsehood, simony, all who seduce
To lust, or set their honesty at pawn,
With such vile scum as these. The other way
Forgets both Nature's general love, and that
Which thereto added afterwards gives birth
To special faith. Whence in the lesser circle,
Point of the universe, dread seat of Dis,
The traitor is eternally consum'd."
I thus: "Instructor, clearly thy discourse
Proceeds, distinguishing the hideous chasm
And its inhabitants with skill exact.
But tell me this: they of the dull, fat pool,
Whom the rain beats, or whom the tempest drives,
Or who with tongues so fierce conflicting meet,
Wherefore within the city fire-illum'd
Are not these punish'd, if God's wrath be on them?
And if it be not, wherefore in such guise
Are they condemned?" He answer thus return'd:
"Wherefore in dotage wanders thus thy mind,
Not so accustom'd? or what other thoughts
Possess it? Dwell not in thy memory
The words, wherein thy ethic page describes
Three dispositions adverse to Heav'n's will,
Incont'nence, malice, and mad brutishness,
And how incontinence the least offends
God, and least guilt incurs? If well thou note
This judgment, and remember who they are,
Without these walls to vain repentance doom'd,
Thou shalt discern why they apart are plac'd
From these fell spirits, and less wreakful pours
Justice divine on them its vengeance down."
"O Sun! who healest all imperfect sight,
Thou so content'st me, when thou solv'st my doubt,
That ignorance not less than knowledge charms.
Yet somewhat turn thee back," I in these words
Continu'd, "where thou saidst, that usury
Offends celestial Goodness; and this knot
Perplex'd unravel." He thus made reply:
"Philosophy, to an attentive ear,
Clearly points out, not in one part alone,
How imitative nature takes her course
From the celestial mind and from its art:
And where her laws the Stagyrite unfolds,
Not many leaves scann'd o'er, observing well
Thou shalt discover, that your art on her
Obsequious follows, as the learner treads
In his instructor's step, so that your art
Deserves the name of second in descent
From God. These two, if thou recall to mind
Creation's holy book, from the beginning
Were the right source of life and excellence
To human kind. But in another path
The usurer walks; and Nature in herself
And in her follower thus he sets at nought,
Placing elsewhere his hope. But follow now
My steps on forward journey bent; for now
The Pisces play with undulating glance
Along the' horizon, and the Wain lies all
O'er the north-west; and onward there a space
Is our steep passage down the rocky height."
CANTO XI. The Sixth Circle: Heretics.--Tomb of Pope Anastasins.--
Discourse of Virgil on the divisions of the lower Hell.
Upon the edge of a high bank formed by great rocks broken in a
circle, we came above a more cruel pen. And here, because of the
horrible excess of the stench that the deep abyss throws out, we
drew aside behind the lid of a great tomb, whereon I saw an
inscription which said, "Pope Anastasius I hold, he whom Photinus
drew from the right way."
"Our descent must needs be slow so that the sense may first
accustom itself a little to the dismal blast, and then will be no
heed of it." Thus the Master, and I said to him, "Some
compensation do thou find that the time pass not lost." And be,
"Behold, I am thinking of that. My son, within these rocks," he
began to say, "are three circlets from grade to grade like those
thou leavest. All are full of accursed spirits; but, in order
that hereafter sight only may suffice thee, hear how and
wherefore they are in constraint.
"Of every malice that wins hate in heaven injury is the end, and
every such end afflicts others either by force or by fraud. But
because fraud is the peculiar sin of man, it most displeaseth
God; and therefore the fraudulent are the lower, and more woe
"The first circle is wholly of the violent; but because
violence can be done to three persons, in three rounds it is
divided and constructed. Unto God, unto one's self, unto one's
neighbor may violence be done; I mean unto them and unto their
belongings, as thou shalt hear in plain discourse. By violence
death and grievous wounds are inflicted on one's neighbor; and on
his substance ruins, burnings, and harmful robberies. Wherefore
homicides, and every one who smites wrongfully, devastators and
freebooters, all of them the first round torments, in various
 The first circle below, the seventh in the order of Hell.
"Man may lay violent hands upon himself and on his goods; and,
therefore, in the second round must needs repent without avail
whoever deprives himself of your world, gambles away and
squanders his property, and laments there where he ought to be
 Laments on earth because of violence done to what should have
made him happy.
"Violence may be done to the Deity, by denying and blaspheming
Him in heart, and despising nature and His bounty: and therefore
the smallest round seals with its signet both Sodom and Cahors,
and him who despising God speaks from his heart.
"Fraud, by which every conscience is bitten, man may practice on
one that confides in him, or on one that owns no confidence. This
latter mode seemeth to destroy only the bond of love that nature
makes; wherefore in the second circle nestle hypocrisy,
flatteries, and sorcerers, falsity, robbery, and simony, panders,
barrators, and such like filth.
 The second circle below, the eighth in the order of Hell.
"By the other mode that love is forgotten which nature makes, and
also that which is thereafter added, whereby special confidence
is created. Hence, in the smallest circle, where is the centre of
the universe, on which Dis sits, whoso betrays is consumed
And I, "Master, full clearly doth thy discourse proceed, and full
well divides this pit, and the people that possess it; but, tell
me, they of the fat marsh, and they whom the wind drives, and
they whom the rain beats, and they who encounter with such sharp
tongues, why are they not punished within the ruddy city if God
be wroth with them? and if he be not so, why are they in such
And he said to me, "Wherefore so wanders thine understanding
beyond its wont? or thy mind, where else is it gazing? Dost thou
not remember those words with which thine Ethics treats in full
of the three dispositions that Heaven abides not; in continence,
malice, and mad bestiality, and how incontinence less offends
God, and incurs less blame?  If thou considerest well this
doctrine, and bringest to mind who are those that up above,
outside, suffer punishment, thou wilt see clearly why from
these felons they are divided, and why less wroth the divine
vengeance hammers them."
 Aristotle, Ethics, vii. 1.
 Outside the walls of the city of Dis.
"O Sun that healest every troubled vision, thou dost content me
so, when thou explainest, that doubt, not less than knowledge,
pleaseth me; yet return a little back," said I, "there where thou
saidst that usury offends the Divine Goodness, and loose the
"Philosophy," he said to me, "points out to him who understands
it, not only in one part alone, how Nature takes her course from
the Divine Intellect and from its art. And if thou note thy
Physics  well thou wilt find after not many pages that your
art follows her so far as it can, as the disciple does the
master, so that your art is as it were grandchild of God. By
means of these two, if thou bringest to mind Genesis at its
beginning, it behoves mankind to obtain their livelihood and to
thrive. But because the usurer takes another course, he despises
Nature in herself, and in her follower, since upon other thing he
sets his hope. But follow me now, for to go on pleaseth me; for
the Fishes are gliding on the horizon, and the Wain lies quite
over Corus, and far yonder is the way down the cliff."
 Aristotle, Physics, ii. 2.
 The time indicated is about 4, or from 4 to 5 A.M. Corus, the
name of the north-west wind, here stands for that quarter of the