Longfellow Translation

Inferno: Canto XVII

"Behold the monster with the pointed tail,
  Who cleaves the hills, and breaketh walls and weapons,
  Behold him who infecteth all the world."

Thus unto me my Guide began to say,
  And beckoned him that he should come to shore,
  Near to the confine of the trodden marble;

And that uncleanly image of deceit
  Came up and thrust ashore its head and bust,
  But on the border did not drag its tail.

The face was as the face of a just man,
  Its semblance outwardly was so benign,
  And of a serpent all the trunk beside.

Two paws it had, hairy unto the armpits;
  The back, and breast, and both the sides it had
  Depicted o'er with nooses and with shields.

With colours more, groundwork or broidery
  Never in cloth did Tartars make nor Turks,
  Nor were such tissues by Arachne laid.

As sometimes wherries lie upon the shore,
  That part are in the water, part on land;
  And as among the guzzling Germans there,

The beaver plants himself to wage his war;
  So that vile monster lay upon the border,
  Which is of stone, and shutteth in the sand.

His tail was wholly quivering in the void,
  Contorting upwards the envenomed fork,
  That in the guise of scorpion armed its point.

The Guide said: "Now perforce must turn aside
  Our way a little, even to that beast
  Malevolent, that yonder coucheth him."

We therefore on the right side descended,
  And made ten steps upon the outer verge,
  Completely to avoid the sand and flame;

And after we are come to him, I see
  A little farther off upon the sand
  A people sitting near the hollow place.

Then said to me the Master: "So that full
  Experience of this round thou bear away,
  Now go and see what their condition is.

There let thy conversation be concise;
  Till thou returnest I will speak with him,
  That he concede to us his stalwart shoulders."

Thus farther still upon the outermost
  Head of that seventh circle all alone
  I went, where sat the melancholy folk.

Out of their eyes was gushing forth their woe;
  This way, that way, they helped them with their hands
  Now from the flames and now from the hot soil.

Not otherwise in summer do the dogs,
  Now with the foot, now with the muzzle, when
  By fleas, or flies, or gadflies, they are bitten.

When I had turned mine eyes upon the faces
  Of some, on whom the dolorous fire is falling,
  Not one of them I knew; but I perceived

That from the neck of each there hung a pouch,
  Which certain colour had, and certain blazon;
  And thereupon it seems their eyes are feeding.

And as I gazing round me come among them,
  Upon a yellow pouch I azure saw
  That had the face and posture of a lion.

Proceeding then the current of my sight,
  Another of them saw I, red as blood,
  Display a goose more white than butter is.

And one, who with an azure sow and gravid
  Emblazoned had his little pouch of white,
  Said unto me: "What dost thou in this moat?

Now get thee gone; and since thou'rt still alive,
  Know that a neighbour of mine, Vitaliano,
  Will have his seat here on my left-hand side.

A Paduan am I with these Florentines;
  Full many a time they thunder in mine ears,
  Exclaiming, 'Come the sovereign cavalier,

He who shall bring the satchel with three goats;'"
  Then twisted he his mouth, and forth he thrust
  His tongue, like to an ox that licks its nose.

And fearing lest my longer stay might vex
  Him who had warned me not to tarry long,
  Backward I turned me from those weary souls.

I found my Guide, who had already mounted
  Upon the back of that wild animal,
  And said to me: "Now be both strong and bold.

Now we descend by stairways such as these;
  Mount thou in front, for I will be midway,
  So that the tail may have no power to harm thee."

Such as he is who has so near the ague
  Of quartan that his nails are blue already,
  And trembles all, but looking at the shade;

Even such became I at those proffered words;
  But shame in me his menaces produced,
  Which maketh servant strong before good master.

I seated me upon those monstrous shoulders;
  I wished to say, and yet the voice came not
  As I believed, "Take heed that thou embrace me."

But he, who other times had rescued me
  In other peril, soon as I had mounted,
  Within his arms encircled and sustained me,

And said: "Now, Geryon, bestir thyself;
  The circles large, and the descent be little;
  Think of the novel burden which thou hast."

Even as the little vessel shoves from shore,
  Backward, still backward, so he thence withdrew;
  And when he wholly felt himself afloat,

There where his breast had been he turned his tail,
  And that extended like an eel he moved,
  And with his paws drew to himself the air.

A greater fear I do not think there was
  What time abandoned Phaeton the reins,
  Whereby the heavens, as still appears, were scorched;

Nor when the wretched Icarus his flanks
  Felt stripped of feathers by the melting wax,
  His father crying, "An ill way thou takest!"

Than was my own, when I perceived myself
  On all sides in the air, and saw extinguished
  The sight of everything but of the monster.

Onward he goeth, swimming slowly, slowly;
  Wheels and descends, but I perceive it only
  By wind upon my face and from below.

I heard already on the right the whirlpool
  Making a horrible crashing under us;
  Whence I thrust out my head with eyes cast downward.

Then was I still more fearful of the abyss;
  Because I fires beheld, and heard laments,
  Whereat I, trembling, all the closer cling.

I saw then, for before I had not seen it,
  The turning and descending, by great horrors
  That were approaching upon divers sides.

As falcon who has long been on the wing,
  Who, without seeing either lure or bird,
  Maketh the falconer say, "Ah me, thou stoopest,"

Descendeth weary, whence he started swiftly,
  Thorough a hundred circles, and alights
  Far from his master, sullen and disdainful;

Even thus did Geryon place us on the bottom,
  Close to the bases of the rough-hewn rock,
  And being disencumbered of our persons,

He sped away as arrow from the string.

Cary Translation


"LO! the fell monster with the deadly sting!
Who passes mountains, breaks through fenced walls
And firm embattled spears, and with his filth
Taints all the world!" Thus me my guide address'd,
And beckon'd him, that he should come to shore,
Near to the stony causeway's utmost edge.

Forthwith that image vile of fraud appear'd,
His head and upper part expos'd on land,
But laid not on the shore his bestial train.
His face the semblance of a just man's wore,
So kind and gracious was its outward cheer;
The rest was serpent all: two shaggy claws
Reach'd to the armpits, and the back and breast,
And either side, were painted o'er with nodes
And orbits. Colours variegated more
Nor Turks nor Tartars e'er on cloth of state
With interchangeable embroidery wove,
Nor spread Arachne o'er her curious loom.
As ofttimes a light skiff, moor'd to the shore,
Stands part in water, part upon the land;
Or, as where dwells the greedy German boor,
The beaver settles watching for his prey;
So on the rim, that fenc'd the sand with rock,
Sat perch'd the fiend of evil. In the void
Glancing, his tail upturn'd its venomous fork,
With sting like scorpion's arm'd. Then thus my guide:
"Now need our way must turn few steps apart,
Far as to that ill beast, who couches there."

Thereat toward the right our downward course
We shap'd, and, better to escape the flame
And burning marle, ten paces on the verge
Proceeded. Soon as we to him arrive,
A little further on mine eye beholds
A tribe of spirits, seated on the sand
Near the wide chasm. Forthwith my master spake:
"That to the full thy knowledge may extend
Of all this round contains, go now, and mark
The mien these wear: but hold not long discourse.
Till thou returnest, I with him meantime
Will parley, that to us he may vouchsafe
The aid of his strong shoulders." Thus alone
Yet forward on the' extremity I pac'd
Of that seventh circle, where the mournful tribe
Were seated. At the eyes forth gush'd their pangs.
Against the vapours and the torrid soil
Alternately their shifting hands they plied.
Thus use the dogs in summer still to ply
Their jaws and feet by turns, when bitten sore
By gnats, or flies, or gadflies swarming round.

Noting the visages of some, who lay
Beneath the pelting of that dolorous fire,
One of them all I knew not; but perceiv'd,
That pendent from his neck each bore a pouch
With colours and with emblems various mark'd,
On which it seem'd as if their eye did feed.

And when amongst them looking round I came,
A yellow purse I saw with azure wrought,
That wore a lion's countenance and port.
Then still my sight pursuing its career,
Another I beheld, than blood more red.
A goose display of whiter wing than curd.
And one, who bore a fat and azure swine
Pictur'd on his white scrip, addressed me thus:
"What dost thou in this deep? Go now and know,
Since yet thou livest, that my neighbour here
Vitaliano on my left shall sit.
A Paduan with these Florentines am I.
Ofttimes they thunder in mine ears, exclaiming
'O haste that noble knight! he who the pouch
With the three beaks will bring!'" This said, he writh'd
The mouth, and loll'd the tongue out, like an ox
That licks his nostrils. I, lest longer stay
He ill might brook, who bade me stay not long,
Backward my steps from those sad spirits turn'd.

My guide already seated on the haunch
Of the fierce animal I found; and thus
He me encourag'd. "Be thou stout; be bold.
Down such a steep flight must we now descend!
Mount thou before: for that no power the tail
May have to harm thee, I will be i' th' midst."

As one, who hath an ague fit so near,
His nails already are turn'd blue, and he
Quivers all o'er, if he but eye the shade;
Such was my cheer at hearing of his words.
But shame soon interpos'd her threat, who makes
The servant bold in presence of his lord.

I settled me upon those shoulders huge,
And would have said, but that the words to aid
My purpose came not, "Look thou clasp me firm!"

But he whose succour then not first I prov'd,
Soon as I mounted, in his arms aloft,
Embracing, held me up, and thus he spake:
"Geryon! now move thee! be thy wheeling gyres
Of ample circuit, easy thy descent.
Think on th' unusual burden thou sustain'st."

As a small vessel, back'ning out from land,
Her station quits; so thence the monster loos'd,
And when he felt himself at large, turn'd round
There where the breast had been, his forked tail.
Thus, like an eel, outstretch'd at length he steer'd,
Gath'ring the air up with retractile claws.

Not greater was the dread when Phaeton
The reins let drop at random, whence high heaven,
Whereof signs yet appear, was wrapt in flames;
Nor when ill-fated Icarus perceiv'd,
By liquefaction of the scalded wax,
The trusted pennons loosen'd from his loins,
His sire exclaiming loud, "Ill way thou keep'st!"
Than was my dread, when round me on each part
The air I view'd, and other object none
Save the fell beast. He slowly sailing, wheels
His downward motion, unobserv'd of me,
But that the wind, arising to my face,
Breathes on me from below. Now on our right
I heard the cataract beneath us leap
With hideous crash; whence bending down to' explore,
New terror I conceiv'd at the steep plunge:

For flames I saw, and wailings smote mine ear:
So that all trembling close I crouch'd my limbs,
And then distinguish'd, unperceiv'd before,
By the dread torments that on every side
Drew nearer, how our downward course we wound.

As falcon, that hath long been on the wing,
But lure nor bird hath seen, while in despair
The falconer cries, "Ah me! thou stoop'st to earth!"
Wearied descends, and swiftly down the sky
In many an orbit wheels, then lighting sits
At distance from his lord in angry mood;
So Geryon lighting places us on foot
Low down at base of the deep-furrow'd rock,
And, of his burden there discharg'd, forthwith
Sprang forward, like an arrow from the string.

Norton Translation

CANTO XVII. Third round of the Seventh Circle: of those who have
done violence to Art.--Geryon.--The Usurers.--Descent to the
Eighth Circle.

"Behold the wild beast with the pointed tail, that passes
mountains, and breaks walls and weapons; behold him that infects
all the world."[1] Thus began my Leader to speak to me; and he
beckoned to him that he should come to shore near the end of the
trodden marbles.[2] And that loathsome image of fraud came
onward, and landed his head and his body, but drew not his tail
upon the bank. His face was the face of a just man (so benignant
was its skin outwardly), and of a serpent all the trunk beside;
he had two paws, hairy to the armpits; his back and breast and
both his sides were painted with nooses and circles. With more
colors of woof and warp Tartars or Turks never made cloth, nor
were such webs woven by Arachne.

[1] Dante makes Geryon the type and image of Fraud, thus
allegorizing the triple form (forma tricorperis umbrae: Aeneid
vi. 289; tergemini Geryonae; Id. viii. 292) ascribed to him by
the ancient poets.

[2] The stony margin of Phlegethon, on which Virgil and Dante
have crossed the sand.

As sometimes boats lie on the shore, so that they are partly in
water and partly on the ground, and as yonder, among the
gluttonous Germans, the beaver settles himself to make his
war,[1] so lay that worst of beasts upon the rim that closes in
the sand with stone. In the void all his tail was quivering,
twisting upwards its venomous fork, which like a scorpion's armed
the point.

[1] With his tail in the water to catch his prey, as was
popularly believed.

The Leader said: "Now needs must our way bend a little toward
that wicked beast that is couching there." Therefore we descended
on the right hand and took ten steps upon the verge quite to
avoid the sand and flame. And when we had come to it, I see, a
little farther on, people sitting upon the sand near to the void

[1] These people are the third class of sinners punished in this
round of the Seventh Circle, those who have done violence to Art,
the usurers. (See Canto xi.)

Here the Master said to me: "In order that thou mayst bear away
complete experience of this round, now go and see their
condition. Let thy discourse there be brief. Till thou returnest
I will speak with this one, that he may concede to us his strong

Thus, still up by the extreme head of that seventh circle, all
alone, I went where the sad people were sitting. Through the eyes
their woe was bursting forth. This way and that they helped with
their hands, sometimes against the vapors,[1] and sometimes
against the hot soil. Not otherwise do the dogs in summer, now
with muzzle, now with paw, when they are bitten either by fleas,
or flies, or gadflies. When I set my eyes on the face of some on
whom the woeful fire falls, not one of them I recognized;[2] but
I perceived that from the neck of each was hanging a pouch, that
had a certain color and a certain device,[3] and thereupon it
seems their eyes feed. And as I looking come among them, I saw
upon a yellow purse azure that had the face and bearing of a
lion.[4] Then as the current of my look proceeded I saw another,
red as blood, display a goose whiter than butter. And one, who
had his little white bag marked with an azure and pregnant
sow,[5] said to me, "What art thou doing in this ditch? Now get
thee gone, and since thou art still alive, know that my neighbor,
Vitaliano, will sit here at my left side. With these Florentines
am I, a Paduan; often they stun my ears shouting, "Let the
sovereign cavalier come who will bring the pouch with the three
goats."[1] Then he twisted his mouth, and stuck out his tongue,
like an ox that licks his nose.

[1] The falling flames.

[2] Dante thus indicates that they were not worthy to be known.

[3] The blazon of their arms, by which Dante learns who they are.

[4] This was the device of the Gianfigliazzi, a Guelph family of
Florence; the next was that of the Ubriachi, Ghibellines, also of

[5] Arms of the Scrovigni of Padua.

[6] One Giovanni Buiamonte of Florence, "who surpassed all others
of the time in usury," says Benvenuto da Imola.

And I, fearing lest longer stay might vex him who had admonished
me to stay but little, turned back from these weary souls. I
found my Leader, who had already mounted upon the croup of the
fierce animal, and he said to me, "Now be strong and courageous;
henceforth the descent is by such stairs; [1] mount thou in
front, for I wish to be between, so that the tail cannot do thee

[1] Not by foot, nor by boat as heretofore, but carried by living
ministers of Hell.

As is he who hath the shivering fit of the quartan so near that
his nails are already pallid, and he is all of a tremble only
looking at the shade, such I became at these words uttered. But
his reproaches wrought shame in me, which in presence of a good
lord makes a servant strong.

I seated myself on those huge shoulders. I wished to speak thus,
"Take heed that thou embrace me," but the voice came not as I had
thought. But he who other time had succored me, in other peril,
soon as I mounted, clasped and sustained me with his arms: and he
said, "Geryon, move on now; let the circles be wide, and the
descending slow; consider the strange burden that thou hast."

As a little vessel goeth from its place, backward, backward, so
he thence withdrew; and when he felt himself quite at play, he
turned his tail to where his breast had been, and moved it,
stretched out like an eel, and with his paws gathered the air to
himself. Greater fear I do not think there was when Phaethon
abandoned the reins, whereby heaven, as is still apparent, was
scorched; nor when the wretched Icarus felt his flanks
unfeathering through the melting of the wax, his father shouting
to him, "Ill way thou holdest," than mine was, when I saw that I
was in the air on every side, and saw every sight vanished,
except that of the beast. He goes along swimming very slowly,
wheels and descends, but I perceive it not, save by the wind upon
my face, and from below.

I heard now on the right hand the gorge making beneath us a
horrible roar; wherefore I stretch out my head, with my eyes
downward. Then I became more afraid to lean over, because I saw
fires and heard laments; whereat I, trembling, wholly cowered
back. And I saw then, what I had not seen before, the descending
and the wheeling, by the great evils that were drawing near on
diverse sides.

As the falcon which has been long on wing, that, without sight of
lure or bird, makes the falconer say, "Ah me, thou stoopest!"
descends weary, there whence he had set forth swiftly, through a
hundred circles, and lights far from his master, disdainful and
sullen; so Geryon set us at the bottom, at the very foot of the
scarped rock, and, disburdened of our persons, darted away as
arrow from the bowstring.