Side by Side Translations of Dante's Inferno - Canto 18

Longfellow Translation

Inferno: Canto XVIII

There is a place in Hell called Malebolge,
  Wholly of stone and of an iron colour,
  As is the circle that around it turns.

Right in the middle of the field malign
  There yawns a well exceeding wide and deep,
  Of which its place the structure will recount.

Round, then, is that enclosure which remains
  Between the well and foot of the high, hard bank,
  And has distinct in valleys ten its bottom.

As where for the protection of the walls
  Many and many moats surround the castles,
  The part in which they are a figure forms,

Just such an image those presented there;
  And as about such strongholds from their gates
  Unto the outer bank are little bridges,

So from the precipice's base did crags
  Project, which intersected dikes and moats,
  Unto the well that truncates and collects them.

Within this place, down shaken from the back
  Of Geryon, we found us; and the Poet
  Held to the left, and I moved on behind.

Upon my right hand I beheld new anguish,
  New torments, and new wielders of the lash,
  Wherewith the foremost Bolgia was replete.

Down at the bottom were the sinners naked;
  This side the middle came they facing us,
  Beyond it, with us, but with greater steps;

Even as the Romans, for the mighty host,
  The year of Jubilee, upon the bridge,
  Have chosen a mode to pass the people over;

For all upon one side towards the Castle
  Their faces have, and go unto St. Peter's;
  On the other side they go towards the Mountain.

This side and that, along the livid stone
  Beheld I horned demons with great scourges,
  Who cruelly were beating them behind.

Ah me! how they did make them lift their legs
  At the first blows! and sooth not any one
  The second waited for, nor for the third.

While I was going on, mine eyes by one
  Encountered were; and straight I said: "Already
  With sight of this one I am not unfed."

Therefore I stayed my feet to make him out,
  And with me the sweet Guide came to a stand,
  And to my going somewhat back assented;

And he, the scourged one, thought to hide himself,
  Lowering his face, but little it availed him;
  For said I: "Thou that castest down thine eyes,

If false are not the features which thou bearest,
  Thou art Venedico Caccianimico;
  But what doth bring thee to such pungent sauces?"

And he to me: "Unwillingly I tell it;
  But forces me thine utterance distinct,
  Which makes me recollect the ancient world.

I was the one who the fair Ghisola
  Induced to grant the wishes of the Marquis,
  Howe'er the shameless story may be told.

Not the sole Bolognese am I who weeps here;
  Nay, rather is this place so full of them,
  That not so many tongues to-day are taught

'Twixt Reno and Savena to say 'sipa;'
  And if thereof thou wishest pledge or proof,
  Bring to thy mind our avaricious heart."

While speaking in this manner, with his scourge
  A demon smote him, and said: "Get thee gone
  Pander, there are no women here for coin."

I joined myself again unto mine Escort;
  Thereafterward with footsteps few we came
  To where a crag projected from the bank.

This very easily did we ascend,
  And turning to the right along its ridge,
  From those eternal circles we departed.

When we were there, where it is hollowed out
  Beneath, to give a passage to the scourged,
  The Guide said: "Wait, and see that on thee strike

The vision of those others evil-born,
  Of whom thou hast not yet beheld the faces,
  Because together with us they have gone."

From the old bridge we looked upon the train
  Which tow'rds us came upon the other border,
  And which the scourges in like manner smite.

And the good Master, without my inquiring,
  Said to me: "See that tall one who is coming,
  And for his pain seems not to shed a tear;

Still what a royal aspect he retains!
  That Jason is, who by his heart and cunning
  The Colchians of the Ram made destitute.

He by the isle of Lemnos passed along
  After the daring women pitiless
  Had unto death devoted all their males.

There with his tokens and with ornate words
  Did he deceive Hypsipyle, the maiden
  Who first, herself, had all the rest deceived.

There did he leave her pregnant and forlorn;
  Such sin unto such punishment condemns him,
  And also for Medea is vengeance done.

With him go those who in such wise deceive;
  And this sufficient be of the first valley
  To know, and those that in its jaws it holds."

We were already where the narrow path
  Crosses athwart the second dike, and forms
  Of that a buttress for another arch.

Thence we heard people, who are making moan
  In the next Bolgia, snorting with their muzzles,
  And with their palms beating upon themselves

The margins were incrusted with a mould
  By exhalation from below, that sticks there,
  And with the eyes and nostrils wages war.

The bottom is so deep, no place suffices
  To give us sight of it, without ascending
  The arch's back, where most the crag impends.

Thither we came, and thence down in the moat
  I saw a people smothered in a filth
  That out of human privies seemed to flow;

And whilst below there with mine eye I search,
  I saw one with his head so foul with ordure,
  It was not clear if he were clerk or layman.

He screamed to me: "Wherefore art thou so eager
  To look at me more than the other foul ones?"
  And I to him: "Because, if I remember,

I have already seen thee with dry hair,
  And thou'rt Alessio Interminei of Lucca;
  Therefore I eye thee more than all the others."

And he thereon, belabouring his pumpkin:
  "The flatteries have submerged me here below,
  Wherewith my tongue was never surfeited."

Then said to me the Guide: "See that thou thrust
  Thy visage somewhat farther in advance,
  That with thine eyes thou well the face attain

Of that uncleanly and dishevelled drab,
  Who there doth scratch herself with filthy nails,
  And crouches now, and now on foot is standing.

Thais the harlot is it, who replied
  Unto her paramour, when he said, 'Have I
  Great gratitude from thee?'--'Nay, marvellous;'

And herewith let our sight be satisfied."

Cary Translation


THERE is a place within the depths of hell
Call'd Malebolge, all of rock dark-stain'd
With hue ferruginous, e'en as the steep
That round it circling winds. Right in the midst
Of that abominable region, yawns
A spacious gulf profound, whereof the frame
Due time shall tell. The circle, that remains,
Throughout its round, between the gulf and base
Of the high craggy banks, successive forms
Ten trenches, in its hollow bottom sunk.

As where to guard the walls, full many a foss
Begirds some stately castle, sure defence
Affording to the space within, so here
Were model'd these; and as like fortresses
E'en from their threshold to the brink without,
Are flank'd with bridges; from the rock's low base
Thus flinty paths advanc'd, that 'cross the moles
And dikes, struck onward far as to the gulf,
That in one bound collected cuts them off.
Such was the place, wherein we found ourselves
From Geryon's back dislodg'd. The bard to left
Held on his way, and I behind him mov'd.

On our right hand new misery I saw,
New pains, new executioners of wrath,
That swarming peopled the first chasm. Below
Were naked sinners. Hitherward they came,
Meeting our faces from the middle point,
With us beyond but with a larger stride.
E'en thus the Romans, when the year returns
Of Jubilee, with better speed to rid
The thronging multitudes, their means devise
For such as pass the bridge; that on one side
All front toward the castle, and approach
Saint Peter's fane, on th' other towards the mount.

Each divers way along the grisly rock,
Horn'd demons I beheld, with lashes huge,
That on their back unmercifully smote.
Ah! how they made them bound at the first stripe!

None for the second waited nor the third.

Meantime as on I pass'd, one met my sight
Whom soon as view'd; "Of him," cried I, "not yet
Mine eye hath had his fill." With fixed gaze
I therefore scann'd him. Straight the teacher kind
Paus'd with me, and consented I should walk
Backward a space, and the tormented spirit,
Who thought to hide him, bent his visage down.
But it avail'd him nought; for I exclaim'd:
"Thou who dost cast thy eye upon the ground,
Unless thy features do belie thee much,
Venedico art thou. But what brings thee
Into this bitter seas'ning?" He replied:
"Unwillingly I answer to thy words.
But thy clear speech, that to my mind recalls
The world I once inhabited, constrains me.
Know then 'twas I who led fair Ghisola
To do the Marquis' will, however fame
The shameful tale have bruited. Nor alone
Bologna hither sendeth me to mourn
Rather with us the place is so o'erthrong'd
That not so many tongues this day are taught,
Betwixt the Reno and Savena's stream,
To answer SIPA in their country's phrase.
And if of that securer proof thou need,
Remember but our craving thirst for gold."

Him speaking thus, a demon with his thong
Struck, and exclaim'd, "Away! corrupter! here
Women are none for sale." Forthwith I join'd
My escort, and few paces thence we came
To where a rock forth issued from the bank.
That easily ascended, to the right
Upon its splinter turning, we depart
From those eternal barriers. When arriv'd,
Where underneath the gaping arch lets pass
The scourged souls: "Pause here," the teacher said,
"And let these others miserable, now
Strike on thy ken, faces not yet beheld,
For that together they with us have walk'd."

From the old bridge we ey'd the pack, who came
From th' other side towards us, like the rest,
Excoriate from the lash. My gentle guide,
By me unquestion'd, thus his speech resum'd:
"Behold that lofty shade, who this way tends,
And seems too woe-begone to drop a tear.
How yet the regal aspect he retains!
Jason is he, whose skill and prowess won
The ram from Colchos. To the Lemnian isle
His passage thither led him, when those bold
And pitiless women had slain all their males.
There he with tokens and fair witching words
Hypsipyle beguil'd, a virgin young,
Who first had all the rest herself beguil'd.
Impregnated he left her there forlorn.
Such is the guilt condemns him to this pain.
Here too Medea's inj'ries are avenged.
All bear him company, who like deceit
To his have practis'd. And thus much to know
Of the first vale suffice thee, and of those
Whom its keen torments urge." Now had we come
Where, crossing the next pier, the straighten'd path
Bestrides its shoulders to another arch.

Hence in the second chasm we heard the ghosts,
Who jibber in low melancholy sounds,
With wide-stretch'd nostrils snort, and on themselves
Smite with their palms. Upon the banks a scurf
From the foul steam condens'd, encrusting hung,
That held sharp combat with the sight and smell.

So hollow is the depth, that from no part,
Save on the summit of the rocky span,
Could I distinguish aught. Thus far we came;
And thence I saw, within the foss below,
A crowd immers'd in ordure, that appear'd
Draff of the human body. There beneath
Searching with eye inquisitive, I mark'd
One with his head so grim'd, 't were hard to deem,
If he were clerk or layman. Loud he cried:
"Why greedily thus bendest more on me,
Than on these other filthy ones, thy ken?"

"Because if true my mem'ry," I replied,
"I heretofore have seen thee with dry locks,
And thou Alessio art of Lucca sprung.
Therefore than all the rest I scan thee more."

Then beating on his brain these words he spake:
"Me thus low down my flatteries have sunk,
Wherewith I ne'er enough could glut my tongue."

My leader thus: "A little further stretch
Thy face, that thou the visage well mayst note
Of that besotted, sluttish courtezan,
Who there doth rend her with defiled nails,
Now crouching down, now risen on her feet.

"Thais is this, the harlot, whose false lip
Answer'd her doting paramour that ask'd,
'Thankest me much!'--'Say rather wondrously,'
And seeing this here satiate be our view."

Norton Translation

CANTO XVIII. Eighth Circle: the first pit: panders and seducers.--
Venedico Caccianimico.--Jason.--Second pit: false flatterers.--
Alessio Interminei.--Thais.

There is a place in Hell called Malebolge, all of stone of the
color of iron, as is the encircling wall that surrounds it. Right
in the middle of this field malign yawns an abyss exceeding wide
and deep, the structure of which I will tell of in its place.
That belt, therefore, which remains between the abyss and the
foot of the high bank is circular, and it has its ground divided
into ten valleys. Such an aspect as where, for guard of the
walls, many moats encircle castles, the place where they are
presents, such image did these make here. And as in such
strongholds from their thresholds to the outer bank are little
bridges, so from the base of the precipitous wall started crags
which traversed the dykes and the moats far as the abyss that
collects and cuts them off.

In this place, shaken off from the back of Geryon, we found
ourselves; and the Poet held to the left, and I moved on behind.
On the right hand I saw new sorrow, new torments, and new
scourgers, with which the first pit [1] was replete. At its
bottom were the sinners naked. This side the middle they came
facing us; on the farther side with us, but with swifter pace. As
the Romans, because of the great host in the year of Jubilee,[2]
have taken means upon the bridge for the passage of the people,
who on one side all have their front toward the Castle,[3] and go
to Saint Peter's, and on the other toward the Mount.[4]

[1] Bolgia, literally, budget, purse, sack, here used for
circular valley, or pit.

[2] The year 1299-1300, from Christmas to Easter.

[3] Of Sant' Angelo.

[4] The Capitoline.

Along the gloomy rock, on this side and on that, I saw horned
demons with great scourges, who were beating them cruelly from
behind. Ah! how they made them lift their heels at the first
blows; truly not one waited for the second, or the third.

While I was going on, my eyes encountered one, and I said
straightway, "Ere now for sight of him I have not fasted;"
wherefore to shape him out I stayed my feet, and the sweet Leader
stopped with ire, and assented to my going somewhat back. And
that scourged one thought to conceal himself by lowering his
face, but little it availed him, for I said: "O thou that castest
thine eye upon the ground, if the features that thou bearest are
not false, thou art Venedico Caccianimico; but what brings thee
unto such pungent sauces?"

And he to me, "Unwillingly I tell it, but thy clear speech
compels me, which makes me recollect the olden world. I was he
who brought the beautiful Ghisola[1] to do the will of the
Marquis, how ever the shameful tale may be reported. And not the
only Bolognese do I weep here, nay, this place is so full of
them, that so many tongues are not now taught between Savena and
the Reno to say sipa; [2] and if of this thou wishest pledge or
testimony, bring to mind our avaricious heart." As he spoke thus
a demon struck him with his scourge and said, "Begone, pandar,
here are no women for coining."

[1] His own sister; the unseemly tale is known only through Dante
and his fourteenth-century commentators, and the latter, while
agreeing that the Marquis was one of the Esti of Ferrara, do not
agree as to which of them he was.

[2] Bologna lies between the Savena and the Reno; sipa is the
Bolognese form of sia, or si.

I rejoined my Escort; then with few steps we came to where a crag
jutted from the bank.[1] Easily enough we ascended it, and
turning to the right[2] upon its ridge, from those eternal
circles we departed.

[1] Forming a bridge, thrown like an arch across the pit.

[2] The course of the Poets, which has mostly been to the left
through the upper Circles, is now generally to proceed straight
across the lower Circles where Fraud is punished. They had been
going to the left at the foot of the precipice, and consequently
turn to the right to ascend the bridge. The allegorical intention
in the direction of their course is evident.

When we were there where it opens below to give passage to the
scourged, the Leader said, "Stop, and let the sight strike on
thee of these other miscreants, of whom thou hast not yet seen
the face, because they have gone along in the same direction with

From the ancient bridge we looked at the train that was coining
toward us from the other side, and which the whip in like manner
drives on. The good Master, without my asking, said to me, "Look
at that great one who is coming, and seems not to shed a tear for
pain. What royal aspect he still retains! He is Jason, who by
courage and by wit despoiled the Colchians of their ram. He
passed by the isle of Lemnos, after the undaunted women pitiless
had given all their males to death. There with tokens and with
ornate words he deceived Hypsipyle, the maiden, who first had
deceived all the rest. There he left her pregnant, and alone;
such sin condemns him to such torment; and also for Medea is
vengeance done. With him goes whoso in such wise deceives. And
let this suffice to know of the first valley, and of those that
it holds in its fangs."

Now we were where the narrow path sets across the second dyke,
and makes of it shoulders for another arch. Here we heard people
moaning in the next pit, and snorting with their muzzles, and
with their palms beating themselves. The banks were encrusted
with a mould because of the breath from below that sticks on
them, and was making quarrel with the eyes and with the nose. The
bottom is so hollowed out that no place sufficeth us for seeing
it, without mounting on the crest of the arch where the crag
rises highest. Hither we came, and thence, down in the ditch, I
saw people plunged in an excrement that seemed as if it proceeded
from human privies.

And while I am searching down there with my eye, I saw one with
his head so foul with ordure that it was not apparent whether he
were layman or clerk. He shouted to me, "Why art so greedy to
look more at me than at the other filthy ones?" And I to him,
"Because, if I remember rightly, ere now I have seen thee with
dry hair, and thou art Alessio Interminei of Lucca[1]; therefore
I eye thee more than all the rest." And he then, beating his
pate, "Down here those flatteries wherewith my tongue was never
cloyed have submerged me."

[1] Of him nothing is known but what these words tell.

Hereupon my Leader, "Mind thou push thy sight a little farther
forward so that with thine eyes thou mayest quite reach the face
of that dirty and disheveled creature, who is scratching herself
there with her nasty nails, and now is crouching down and now
standing on foot. She is Thais the prostitute, who answered her
paramour when he said, 'Have I great thanks from thee?'--'Nay,
marvelous.'" [1] And herewith let our sight be satisfied.

[1] These words are derived from Terence, Eunuchus, act iii. sc.

Browse the cantos of the Inferno:

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