Inferno: Canto XIV
Because the charity of my native place
Constrained me, gathered I the scattered leaves,
And gave them back to him, who now was hoarse.
Then came we to the confine, where disparted
The second round is from the third, and where
A horrible form of Justice is beheld.
Clearly to manifest these novel things,
I say that we arrived upon a plain,
Which from its bed rejecteth every plant;
The dolorous forest is a garland to it
All round about, as the sad moat to that;
There close upon the edge we stayed our feet.
The soil was of an arid and thick sand,
Not of another fashion made than that
Which by the feet of Cato once was pressed.
Vengeance of God, O how much oughtest thou
By each one to be dreaded, who doth read
That which was manifest unto mine eyes!
Of naked souls beheld I many herds,
Who all were weeping very miserably,
And over them seemed set a law diverse.
Supine upon the ground some folk were lying;
And some were sitting all drawn up together,
And others went about continually.
Those who were going round were far the more,
And those were less who lay down to their torment,
But had their tongues more loosed to lamentation.
O'er all the sand-waste, with a gradual fall,
Were raining down dilated flakes of fire,
As of the snow on Alp without a wind.
As Alexander, in those torrid parts
Of India, beheld upon his host
Flames fall unbroken till they reached the ground.
Whence he provided with his phalanxes
To trample down the soil, because the vapour
Better extinguished was while it was single;
Thus was descending the eternal heat,
Whereby the sand was set on fire, like tinder
Beneath the steel, for doubling of the dole.
Without repose forever was the dance
Of miserable hands, now there, now here,
Shaking away from off them the fresh gleeds.
"Master," began I, "thou who overcomest
All things except the demons dire, that issued
Against us at the entrance of the gate,
Who is that mighty one who seems to heed not
The fire, and lieth lowering and disdainful,
So that the rain seems not to ripen him?"
And he himself, who had become aware
That I was questioning my Guide about him,
Cried: "Such as I was living, am I, dead.
If Jove should weary out his smith, from whom
He seized in anger the sharp thunderbolt,
Wherewith upon the last day I was smitten,
And if he wearied out by turns the others
In Mongibello at the swarthy forge,
Vociferating, 'Help, good Vulcan, help!'
Even as he did there at the fight of Phlegra,
And shot his bolts at me with all his might,
He would not have thereby a joyous vengeance."
Then did my Leader speak with such great force,
That I had never heard him speak so loud:
"O Capaneus, in that is not extinguished
Thine arrogance, thou punished art the more;
Not any torment, saving thine own rage,
Would be unto thy fury pain complete."
Then he turned round to me with better lip,
Saying: "One of the Seven Kings was he
Who Thebes besieged, and held, and seems to hold
God in disdain, and little seems to prize him;
But, as I said to him, his own despites
Are for his breast the fittest ornaments.
Now follow me, and mind thou do not place
As yet thy feet upon the burning sand,
But always keep them close unto the wood."
Speaking no word, we came to where there gushes
Forth from the wood a little rivulet,
Whose redness makes my hair still stand on end.
As from the Bulicame springs the brooklet,
The sinful women later share among them,
So downward through the sand it went its way.
The bottom of it, and both sloping banks,
Were made of stone, and the margins at the side;
Whence I perceived that there the passage was.
"In all the rest which I have shown to thee
Since we have entered in within the gate
Whose threshold unto no one is denied,
Nothing has been discovered by thine eyes
So notable as is the present river,
Which all the little flames above it quenches."
These words were of my Leader; whence I prayed him
That he would give me largess of the food,
For which he had given me largess of desire.
"In the mid-sea there sits a wasted land,"
Said he thereafterward, "whose name is Crete,
Under whose king the world of old was chaste.
There is a mountain there, that once was glad
With waters and with leaves, which was called Ida;
Now 'tis deserted, as a thing worn out.
Rhea once chose it for the faithful cradle
Of her own son; and to conceal him better,
Whene'er he cried, she there had clamours made.
A grand old man stands in the mount erect,
Who holds his shoulders turned tow'rds Damietta,
And looks at Rome as if it were his mirror.
His head is fashioned of refined gold,
And of pure silver are the arms and breast;
Then he is brass as far down as the fork.
From that point downward all is chosen iron,
Save that the right foot is of kiln-baked clay,
And more he stands on that than on the other.
Each part, except the gold, is by a fissure
Asunder cleft, that dripping is with tears,
Which gathered together perforate that cavern.
From rock to rock they fall into this valley;
Acheron, Styx, and Phlegethon they form;
Then downward go along this narrow sluice
Unto that point where is no more descending.
They form Cocytus; what that pool may be
Thou shalt behold, so here 'tis not narrated."
And I to him: "If so the present runnel
Doth take its rise in this way from our world,
Why only on this verge appears it to us?"
And he to me: "Thou knowest the place is round,
And notwithstanding thou hast journeyed far,
Still to the left descending to the bottom,
Thou hast not yet through all the circle turned.
Therefore if something new appear to us,
It should not bring amazement to thy face."
And I again: "Master, where shall be found
Lethe and Phlegethon, for of one thou'rt silent,
And sayest the other of this rain is made?"
"In all thy questions truly thou dost please me,"
Replied he; "but the boiling of the red
Water might well solve one of them thou makest.
Thou shalt see Lethe, but outside this moat,
There where the souls repair to lave themselves,
When sin repented of has been removed."
Then said he: "It is time now to abandon
The wood; take heed that thou come after me;
A way the margins make that are not burning,
And over them all vapours are extinguished."
SOON as the charity of native land
Wrought in my bosom, I the scatter'd leaves
Collected, and to him restor'd, who now
Was hoarse with utt'rance. To the limit thence
We came, which from the third the second round
Divides, and where of justice is display'd
Contrivance horrible. Things then first seen
Clearlier to manifest, I tell how next
A plain we reach'd, that from its sterile bed
Each plant repell'd. The mournful wood waves round
Its garland on all sides, as round the wood
Spreads the sad foss. There, on the very edge,
Our steps we stay'd. It was an area wide
Of arid sand and thick, resembling most
The soil that erst by Cato's foot was trod.
Vengeance of Heav'n! Oh! how shouldst thou be fear'd
By all, who read what here my eyes beheld!
Of naked spirits many a flock I saw,
All weeping piteously, to different laws
Subjected: for on the' earth some lay supine,
Some crouching close were seated, others pac'd
Incessantly around; the latter tribe,
More numerous, those fewer who beneath
The torment lay, but louder in their grief.
O'er all the sand fell slowly wafting down
Dilated flakes of fire, as flakes of snow
On Alpine summit, when the wind is hush'd.
As in the torrid Indian clime, the son
Of Ammon saw upon his warrior band
Descending, solid flames, that to the ground
Came down: whence he bethought him with his troop
To trample on the soil; for easier thus
The vapour was extinguish'd, while alone;
So fell the eternal fiery flood, wherewith
The marble glow'd underneath, as under stove
The viands, doubly to augment the pain.
Unceasing was the play of wretched hands,
Now this, now that way glancing, to shake off
The heat, still falling fresh. I thus began:
"Instructor! thou who all things overcom'st,
Except the hardy demons, that rush'd forth
To stop our entrance at the gate, say who
Is yon huge spirit, that, as seems, heeds not
The burning, but lies writhen in proud scorn,
As by the sultry tempest immatur'd?"
Straight he himself, who was aware I ask'd
My guide of him, exclaim'd: "Such as I was
When living, dead such now I am. If Jove
Weary his workman out, from whom in ire
He snatch'd the lightnings, that at my last day
Transfix'd me, if the rest be weary out
At their black smithy labouring by turns
In Mongibello, while he cries aloud;
"Help, help, good Mulciber!" as erst he cried
In the Phlegraean warfare, and the bolts
Launch he full aim'd at me with all his might,
He never should enjoy a sweet revenge."
Then thus my guide, in accent higher rais'd
Than I before had heard him: "Capaneus!
Thou art more punish'd, in that this thy pride
Lives yet unquench'd: no torrent, save thy rage,
Were to thy fury pain proportion'd full."
Next turning round to me with milder lip
He spake: "This of the seven kings was one,
Who girt the Theban walls with siege, and held,
As still he seems to hold, God in disdain,
And sets his high omnipotence at nought.
But, as I told him, his despiteful mood
Is ornament well suits the breast that wears it.
Follow me now; and look thou set not yet
Thy foot in the hot sand, but to the wood
Keep ever close." Silently on we pass'd
To where there gushes from the forest's bound
A little brook, whose crimson'd wave yet lifts
My hair with horror. As the rill, that runs
From Bulicame, to be portion'd out
Among the sinful women; so ran this
Down through the sand, its bottom and each bank
Stone-built, and either margin at its side,
Whereon I straight perceiv'd our passage lay.
"Of all that I have shown thee, since that gate
We enter'd first, whose threshold is to none
Denied, nought else so worthy of regard,
As is this river, has thine eye discern'd,
O'er which the flaming volley all is quench'd."
So spake my guide; and I him thence besought,
That having giv'n me appetite to know,
The food he too would give, that hunger crav'd.
"In midst of ocean," forthwith he began,
"A desolate country lies, which Crete is nam'd,
Under whose monarch in old times the world
Liv'd pure and chaste. A mountain rises there,
Call'd Ida, joyous once with leaves and streams,
Deserted now like a forbidden thing.
It was the spot which Rhea, Saturn's spouse,
Chose for the secret cradle of her son;
And better to conceal him, drown'd in shouts
His infant cries. Within the mount, upright
An ancient form there stands and huge, that turns
His shoulders towards Damiata, and at Rome
As in his mirror looks. Of finest gold
His head is shap'd, pure silver are the breast
And arms; thence to the middle is of brass.
And downward all beneath well-temper'd steel,
Save the right foot of potter's clay, on which
Than on the other more erect he stands,
Each part except the gold, is rent throughout;
And from the fissure tears distil, which join'd
Penetrate to that cave. They in their course
Thus far precipitated down the rock
Form Acheron, and Styx, and Phlegethon;
Then by this straiten'd channel passing hence
Beneath, e'en to the lowest depth of all,
Form there Cocytus, of whose lake (thyself
Shall see it) I here give thee no account."
Then I to him: "If from our world this sluice
Be thus deriv'd; wherefore to us but now
Appears it at this edge?" He straight replied:
"The place, thou know'st, is round; and though great part
Thou have already pass'd, still to the left
Descending to the nethermost, not yet
Hast thou the circuit made of the whole orb.
Wherefore if aught of new to us appear,
It needs not bring up wonder in thy looks."
Then I again inquir'd: "Where flow the streams
Of Phlegethon and Lethe? for of one
Thou tell'st not, and the other of that shower,
Thou say'st, is form'd." He answer thus return'd:
"Doubtless thy questions all well pleas'd I hear.
Yet the red seething wave might have resolv'd
One thou proposest. Lethe thou shalt see,
But not within this hollow, in the place,
Whither to lave themselves the spirits go,
Whose blame hath been by penitence remov'd."
He added: "Time is now we quit the wood.
Look thou my steps pursue: the margins give
Safe passage, unimpeded by the flames;
For over them all vapour is extinct."
CANTO XIV. Third round of the Seventh Circle of those who have
done violence to God.--The Burning Sand.--Capaneus.--Figure of
the Old Man in Crete.--The Rivers of Hell.
Because the charity of my native place constrained me, I gathered
up the scattered leaves and gave them back to him who was already
Then we came to the confine, where the second round is divided
from the third, and where is seen a horrible mode of justice.
To make clearly manifest the new things, I say that we had
reached a plain which from its bed removeth every plant. The
woeful wood is a garland round about it, even as the dismal foss
to that. Here, on the very edge, we stayed our steps. The floor
was a dry and dense sand, not made in other fashion than that
which of old was trodden by the feet of Cato.
O vengeance of God, how much thou oughtest to be feared by every
one who readeth that which was manifest unto mine eyes!
Of naked souls I saw many flocks, that were all weeping very
miserably, and diverse law seemed imposed upon them. Some folk
were lying supine on the ground, some were seated all crouched
up, and others were going about continually. Those who were going
around were far the more, and those the fewer who were lying down
under the torment, but they had their tongues more loose for
Over all the sand, with a slow falling, were raining down dilated
flakes of fire, as of snow on alps without a wind. As the flames
which Alexander in those hot parts of India saw falling upon his
host, solid to the ground, wherefore he took care to trample the
soil by his troops, because the vapor was better extinguished
while it was single; so was descending the eternal glow whereby
the sand was kindled, like tinder beneath the steel, for doubling
of the dole. Without repose was ever the dance of the wretched
hands, now there, now here, brushing from them the fresh burning.
I began, "Master, thou that overcomest everything, except the
obdurate demons, who at the entrance of the gate came out against
us, who is that great one that seemeth not to heed the fire, and
lies scornful and contorted, so that the rain seems not to ripen
him?" And that same one who had perceived that I was asking my
Leader about him, cried out, "Such as I was alive, such am I
dead. Though Jove weary his smith, from whom in wrath he took the
sharp thunderbolt wherewith on my last day I was smitten, or
though he weary the others, turn by turn, in Mongibello at the
black forge, crying, 'Good Vulcan, help, help!' even as he did at
the fight of Phlegra, and should hurl on me with all his might,
thereby he should not have glad vengeance."
Then my Leader spoke with force so great that I had not heard him
so loud, "O Capaneus, in that thy pride is not quenched, art thou
the more punished; no torture save thine own rage would be a pain
adequate to thy fury."
Then he turned round to me with better look, saying, "He was one
of the Seven Kings that besieged Thebes, and he held, and it
appears that he holds God in disdain, and little it appears that
he prizes Him; but as I said to him, his own despites are very
due adornments for his breast. Now come on behind me, and take
heed withal, not to set thy feet upon the burning sand, but keep
them always close unto the wood."
Silent we came to where spirts forth from the wood a little
streamlet, the redness of which still makes me shudder. As from
the Bulicame issues a brooklet, which then the sinful women share
among them, so this down across the sand went along. Its bed
and both its sloping banks were made of stone, and the margins on
the side, whereby I perceived that the crossing was there.
 The Bulicame, a hot spring near Viterbo, much frequented as a
bath, the use of a portion of which was assigned to "sinful
 The crossing of the breadth of the round of burning sand, on
the way inward toward the next circle.
"Among all else that I have shown to thee, since we entered
through the gate whose threshold is barred to no one, nothing has
been discerned by thine eyes so notable as is the present stream
which deadens all the flamelets upon it." These words were of my
Leader, wherefore I prayed him, that he should give me largess of
the food for which he had given me largess of desire.
"In mid sea sits a wasted land," said he then, "which is named
Crete, under whose king the world of old was chaste. A mountain
is there that of old was glad with waters and with leaves, which
is called Ida; now it is desert, like a thing outworn. Rhea chose
it of old for the trusty cradle of her little son, and to conceal
him better when he cried had shoutings made there. Within the
mountain stands erect a great old man, who holds his shoulders
turned towards Damietta, and looks at Rome as if his mirror. His
head is formed of fine gold, and pure silver are his arms and
breast; then he is of brass far as to the fork. From there
downward he is all of chosen iron, save that his right foot is of
baked clay, and he stands erect on that more than on the
other. Every part except the gold is cleft with a fissure that
trickles tears, which collected perforate that cavern. Their
course falls from rock to rock into this valley; they form
Acheron, Styx, and Phlegethon; then it goes down through this
narrow channel far as where there is no more descending. They
form Cocytus, and what that pool is, thou shalt see; therefore
here is it not told."
 This image is taken directly from the dream of Nebuchadnezzar
(Daniel ii. 31-33). It is the type of the ages of tradition and
history, with its back to the past, its face toward Rome,--the
seat of the Empire and of the Church. The tears of the sin and
suffering of the generations of man form the rivers of Hell.
And I to him, "If the present rill floweth down thus from our
world, why doth it appear to us only at this rim?"
And he to me, "Thou knowest that the place is round, and though
thou art come far, ever to the left descending toward the bottom,
not yet hast thou turned through the whole circle; wherefore if a
new thing appears to us, it ought not to bring wonder to thy
And I again, "Master, where are Phlegethon and Lethe found, for
of the one thou art silent, and of the other thou sayest that it
is formed by this rain?"
"In all thy questions surely thou pleasest me," he answered, "but
the boiling of the red water ought truly to solve one that thou
askest. Lethe thou shalt see, but outside of this ditch, there
where souls go to lave themselves when sin repented of is taken
away." Then he said, "Now it is time to depart from the wood;
take heed that thou come behind me; the margins afford way, for
they are not burning, and above them all the vapor is