Inferno: Canto XIX
O Simon Magus, O forlorn disciples,
Ye who the things of God, which ought to be
The brides of holiness, rapaciously
For silver and for gold do prostitute,
Now it behoves for you the trumpet sound,
Because in this third Bolgia ye abide.
We had already on the following tomb
Ascended to that portion of the crag
Which o'er the middle of the moat hangs plumb.
Wisdom supreme, O how great art thou showest
In heaven, in earth, and in the evil world,
And with what justice doth thy power distribute!
I saw upon the sides and on the bottom
The livid stone with perforations filled,
All of one size, and every one was round.
To me less ample seemed they not, nor greater
Than those that in my beautiful Saint John
Are fashioned for the place of the baptisers,
And one of which, not many years ago,
I broke for some one, who was drowning in it;
Be this a seal all men to undeceive.
Out of the mouth of each one there protruded
The feet of a transgressor, and the legs
Up to the calf, the rest within remained.
In all of them the soles were both on fire;
Wherefore the joints so violently quivered,
They would have snapped asunder withes and bands.
Even as the flame of unctuous things is wont
To move upon the outer surface only,
So likewise was it there from heel to point.
"Master, who is that one who writhes himself,
More than his other comrades quivering,"
I said, "and whom a redder flame is sucking?"
And he to me: "If thou wilt have me bear thee
Down there along that bank which lowest lies,
From him thou'lt know his errors and himself."
And I: "What pleases thee, to me is pleasing;
Thou art my Lord, and knowest that I depart not
From thy desire, and knowest what is not spoken."
Straightway upon the fourth dike we arrived;
We turned, and on the left-hand side descended
Down to the bottom full of holes and narrow.
And the good Master yet from off his haunch
Deposed me not, till to the hole he brought me
Of him who so lamented with his shanks.
"Whoe'er thou art, that standest upside down,
O doleful soul, implanted like a stake,"
To say began I, "if thou canst, speak out."
I stood even as the friar who is confessing
The false assassin, who, when he is fixed,
Recalls him, so that death may be delayed.
And he cried out: "Dost thou stand there already,
Dost thou stand there already, Boniface?
By many years the record lied to me.
Art thou so early satiate with that wealth,
For which thou didst not fear to take by fraud
The beautiful Lady, and then work her woe?"
Such I became, as people are who stand,
Not comprehending what is answered them,
As if bemocked, and know not how to answer.
Then said Virgilius: "Say to him straightway,
'I am not he, I am not he thou thinkest.'"
And I replied as was imposed on me.
Whereat the spirit writhed with both his feet,
Then, sighing, with a voice of lamentation
Said to me: "Then what wantest thou of me?
If who I am thou carest so much to know,
That thou on that account hast crossed the bank,
Know that I vested was with the great mantle;
And truly was I son of the She-bear,
So eager to advance the cubs, that wealth
Above, and here myself, I pocketed.
Beneath my head the others are dragged down
Who have preceded me in simony,
Flattened along the fissure of the rock.
Below there I shall likewise fall, whenever
That one shall come who I believed thou wast,
What time the sudden question I proposed.
But longer I my feet already toast,
And here have been in this way upside down,
Than he will planted stay with reddened feet;
For after him shall come of fouler deed
From tow'rds the west a Pastor without law,
Such as befits to cover him and me.
New Jason will he be, of whom we read
In Maccabees; and as his king was pliant,
So he who governs France shall be to this one."
I do not know if I were here too bold,
That him I answered only in this metre:
"I pray thee tell me now how great a treasure
Our Lord demanded of Saint Peter first,
Before he put the keys into his keeping?
Truly he nothing asked but 'Follow me.'
Nor Peter nor the rest asked of Matthias
Silver or gold, when he by lot was chosen
Unto the place the guilty soul had lost.
Therefore stay here, for thou art justly punished,
And keep safe guard o'er the ill-gotten money,
Which caused thee to be valiant against Charles.
And were it not that still forbids it me
The reverence for the keys superlative
Thou hadst in keeping in the gladsome life,
I would make use of words more grievous still;
Because your avarice afflicts the world,
Trampling the good and lifting the depraved.
The Evangelist you Pastors had in mind,
When she who sitteth upon many waters
To fornicate with kings by him was seen;
The same who with the seven heads was born,
And power and strength from the ten horns received,
So long as virtue to her spouse was pleasing.
Ye have made yourselves a god of gold and silver;
And from the idolater how differ ye,
Save that he one, and ye a hundred worship?
Ah, Constantine! of how much ill was mother,
Not thy conversion, but that marriage dower
Which the first wealthy Father took from thee!"
And while I sang to him such notes as these,
Either that anger or that conscience stung him,
He struggled violently with both his feet.
I think in sooth that it my Leader pleased,
With such contented lip he listened ever
Unto the sound of the true words expressed.
Therefore with both his arms he took me up,
And when he had me all upon his breast,
Remounted by the way where he descended.
Nor did he tire to have me clasped to him;
But bore me to the summit of the arch
Which from the fourth dike to the fifth is passage.
There tenderly he laid his burden down,
Tenderly on the crag uneven and steep,
That would have been hard passage for the goats:
Thence was unveiled to me another valley.
WOE to thee, Simon Magus! woe to you,
His wretched followers! who the things of God,
Which should be wedded unto goodness, them,
Rapacious as ye are, do prostitute
For gold and silver in adultery!
Now must the trumpet sound for you, since yours
Is the third chasm. Upon the following vault
We now had mounted, where the rock impends
Directly o'er the centre of the foss.
Wisdom Supreme! how wonderful the art,
Which thou dost manifest in heaven, in earth,
And in the evil world, how just a meed
Allotting by thy virtue unto all!
I saw the livid stone, throughout the sides
And in its bottom full of apertures,
All equal in their width, and circular each,
Nor ample less nor larger they appear'd
Than in Saint John's fair dome of me belov'd
Those fram'd to hold the pure baptismal streams,
One of the which I brake, some few years past,
To save a whelming infant; and be this
A seal to undeceive whoever doubts
The motive of my deed. From out the mouth
Of every one, emerg'd a sinner's feet
And of the legs high upward as the calf
The rest beneath was hid. On either foot
The soles were burning, whence the flexile joints
Glanc'd with such violent motion, as had snapt
Asunder cords or twisted withs. As flame,
Feeding on unctuous matter, glides along
The surface, scarcely touching where it moves;
So here, from heel to point, glided the flames.
"Master! say who is he, than all the rest
Glancing in fiercer agony, on whom
A ruddier flame doth prey?" I thus inquir'd.
"If thou be willing," he replied, "that I
Carry thee down, where least the slope bank falls,
He of himself shall tell thee and his wrongs."
I then: "As pleases thee to me is best.
Thou art my lord; and know'st that ne'er I quit
Thy will: what silence hides that knowest thou."
Thereat on the fourth pier we came, we turn'd,
And on our left descended to the depth,
A narrow strait and perforated close.
Nor from his side my leader set me down,
Till to his orifice he brought, whose limb
Quiv'ring express'd his pang. "Whoe'er thou art,
Sad spirit! thus revers'd, and as a stake
Driv'n in the soil!" I in these words began,
"If thou be able, utter forth thy voice."
There stood I like the friar, that doth shrive
A wretch for murder doom'd, who e'en when fix'd,
Calleth him back, whence death awhile delays.
He shouted: "Ha! already standest there?
Already standest there, O Boniface!
By many a year the writing play'd me false.
So early dost thou surfeit with the wealth,
For which thou fearedst not in guile to take
The lovely lady, and then mangle her?"
I felt as those who, piercing not the drift
Of answer made them, stand as if expos'd
In mockery, nor know what to reply,
When Virgil thus admonish'd: "Tell him quick,
I am not he, not he, whom thou believ'st."
And I, as was enjoin'd me, straight replied.
That heard, the spirit all did wrench his feet,
And sighing next in woeful accent spake:
"What then of me requirest? If to know
So much imports thee, who I am, that thou
Hast therefore down the bank descended, learn
That in the mighty mantle I was rob'd,
And of a she-bear was indeed the son,
So eager to advance my whelps, that there
My having in my purse above I stow'd,
And here myself. Under my head are dragg'd
The rest, my predecessors in the guilt
Of simony. Stretch'd at their length they lie
Along an opening in the rock. 'Midst them
I also low shall fall, soon as he comes,
For whom I took thee, when so hastily
I question'd. But already longer time
Hath pass'd, since my souls kindled, and I thus
Upturn'd have stood, than is his doom to stand
Planted with fiery feet. For after him,
One yet of deeds more ugly shall arrive,
From forth the west, a shepherd without law,
Fated to cover both his form and mine.
He a new Jason shall be call'd, of whom
In Maccabees we read; and favour such
As to that priest his king indulgent show'd,
Shall be of France's monarch shown to him."
I know not if I here too far presum'd,
But in this strain I answer'd: "Tell me now,
What treasures from St. Peter at the first
Our Lord demanded, when he put the keys
Into his charge? Surely he ask'd no more
But, Follow me! Nor Peter nor the rest
Or gold or silver of Matthias took,
When lots were cast upon the forfeit place
Of the condemned soul. Abide thou then;
Thy punishment of right is merited:
And look thou well to that ill-gotten coin,
Which against Charles thy hardihood inspir'd.
If reverence of the keys restrain'd me not,
Which thou in happier time didst hold, I yet
Severer speech might use. Your avarice
O'ercasts the world with mourning, under foot
Treading the good, and raising bad men up.
Of shepherds, like to you, th' Evangelist
Was ware, when her, who sits upon the waves,
With kings in filthy whoredom he beheld,
She who with seven heads tower'd at her birth,
And from ten horns her proof of glory drew,
Long as her spouse in virtue took delight.
Of gold and silver ye have made your god,
Diff'ring wherein from the idolater,
But he that worships one, a hundred ye?
Ah, Constantine! to how much ill gave birth,
Not thy conversion, but that plenteous dower,
Which the first wealthy Father gain'd from thee!"
Meanwhile, as thus I sung, he, whether wrath
Or conscience smote him, violent upsprang
Spinning on either sole. I do believe
My teacher well was pleas'd, with so compos'd
A lip, he listen'd ever to the sound
Of the true words I utter'd. In both arms
He caught, and to his bosom lifting me
Upward retrac'd the way of his descent.
Nor weary of his weight he press'd me close,
Till to the summit of the rock we came,
Our passage from the fourth to the fifth pier.
His cherish'd burden there gently he plac'd
Upon the rugged rock and steep, a path
Not easy for the clamb'ring goat to mount.
Thence to my view another vale appear'd
CANTO XIX. Eighth Circle third pit: simonists.--Pope Nicholas
Oh Simon Magus! Oh ye his wretched followers, who, rapacious, do
prostitute for gold and silver the things of God that ought to be
the brides of righteousness, now it behoves for you the trumpet
sound, since ye are in the third pit!
Already were we come to the next tomb, mounted on that part of
the crag which just above the middle of the ditch hangs plumb. Oh
Supreme Wisdom, how great is the art that Thou displayest in
Heaven, on Earth, and in the Evil World! and how justly doth Thy
 The next bolgia or pit.
I saw along the sides, and over the bottom, the livid stone full
of holes all of one size, and each was circular. They seemed to
me not less wide nor larger than those that in my beautiful Saint
John are made as place for the baptizers  one of which, not
many years ago, I broke for sake of one who was stifling in it;
and be this the seal to undeceive all men. Forth from the mouth
of each protruded the feet of a sinner, and his legs up to the
calf, and the rest was within. The soles of all were both on
fire, wherefore their joints quivered so violently that they
would have snapped withes and bands. As the flaming of things
oiled is wont to move only on the outer surface, so was it there
from the heels to the toes.
 "My beautiful Saint John" is the Baptistery at Florence. In
Dante's time the infants, born during the year, were all here
baptized by immersion, mostly on the day of St. John Baptist, the
24th of June. There was a large circular font in the middle of
the church, and around it in its marble wall were four
cylindrical standing-places for the priests, closed by doors, to
protect them from the pressure of the crowd.
"Who is he, Master, that writhes, quivering more than the others
his consorts," said I, "and whom a ruddier flame is sucking?" And
he to me, "If thou wilt that I carry thee down there by that bank
which slopes the most, from him thou shalt know of himself and
of his wrongs." And I, "Whatever pleaseth thee even so is good to
me. Thou art Lord, and knowest that I part me not from thy
will, and thou knowest that which is unspoken."
 The whole of the Eighth circle slopes toward the centre, so
that the inner wall of each bolgia is lower, and is less sharply
inclined than the outer.
Then we went upon the fourth dyke, turned, and descended on the
left hand, down to the bottom pierced with holes, and narrow. And
the good Master set me not down yet from his haunch, till he
brought me to the cleft of him who was thus lamenting with his
"O whoe'er thou art, that keepest upside down, sad soul, planted
like a stake," I began to say, "speak, if thou canst." I was
standing like the friar who confesses the perfidious assassin,
who, after he is fixed, recalls him, in order to delay his death.
 Such criminals were not infrequently punished by being set,
head downwards, in a hole in which they were buried alive.
And he cried out, "Art thou already standing there? Art thoh
already standing there, Boniface? By several years the record
lied to me. Art thou so quickly sated with that having, for which
thou didst not fear to seize by guile the beautiful Lady, and
then to do her outrage?"
 This is Nicholas III., pope from 1277 to 1280; he takes Dante
to be Boniface VIII., but Boniface was not to die till 1303.
Compare what Nicholas says of "the record" with Farinata's
statement, in Canto X, concerning the foresight of the damned.
 The Church, to which Boniface did outrage in many forms;
but worst by his simoniacal practices.
Such I became as those that, not comprehending that which is
replied to them, stand as if mocked, and know not what to answer.
Then Virgil said, "Tell him quickly, I am not he, I am not he
thou thinkest." And I answered as was enjoined on me; whereat the
spirit quite twisted his feet. Thereafter, sighing and with
tearful voice, he said to me, "Then what dost thou require of me?
If to know who I am concerneth thee so much that thou hast
crossed the bank therefor, know that I was vested with the Great
Mantle; and verily I was a son of the She-Bear, so eager to
advance the cubs, that up there I put wealth, and here myself,
into the purse. Beneath my head are stretched the others that
preceded me in simony, flattened through the fissures of the
rock. There below shall I likewise sink, when he shall come whom
I believed thou wert, then when I put to thee the sudden
question; but already the time is longer that I have cooked my
feet, and that I have been thus upside down, than he will stay
planted with red feet; for after him will come, of uglier deed,
from westward, a shepherd without law, such as must cover him
and me again. A new Jason will he be, of whom it is read in
Maccabees; and as to that one his king was compliant, so unto
this he who rules France shall be."
 Nicholas was of the Orsini family.
 Clement V., who will come from Avignon, and in a little more
than ten years after the death of Boniface. Nicholas had already
"cooked his feet" for twenty years. The prophecy of the death of
Clement after a shorter time affords an indication that this
canto was not written until after 1314, the year of his death.
 The story of Jason, "that ungodly wretch and no high-priest"
who bought the high-priesthood from King Antiochus, is told in 2
Maccabees iv. Its application to the Pope was plain.
 "He who rules France" was Philip the Fair.
I know not if here I was too audacious that I only answered him
in this strain, "Pray now tell me how much treasure our Lord
desired of Saint Peter before he placed the keys in his keeping?
Surely he required nothing save 'Follow me.' Nor did Peter or the
others require of Matthias gold or silver, when he was chosen to
the place which the guilty soul had lost. Therefore stay thou,
for thou art rightly punished, and guard well the ill-gotten
money that against Charles made thee to be bold. And were it
not that reverence for the Supreme Keys that thou heldest in the
glad life still forbiddeth me, I would use words still more
grave; for your avarice saddens the world, trampling down the
good and exalting the bad. Of you shepherds the Evangelist was
aware, when she that sitteth upon the waters was seen by him to
fornicate with kings: that woman that was born with the seven
heads, and from the ten horns had evidence, so long as virtue
pleased her spouse. Ye have made you a god of gold and silver:
and what difference is there between you and the idolater save
that he worships one and ye a hundred? Ah Constantine! of how
much ill was mother, not thy conversion, but that dowry which the
first rich Father received from thee!"
 Charles of Anjou, of whom Nicholas III, was the enemy. He was
charged with having been bribed to support the attempt to expel
the French from Sicily, which began with the Sicilian Vespers in
 Dante deals freely with the figures of the Apocalypse:
Revelation vii. The woman here stands for the Church; her seven
heads may be interpreted as the Seven Sacraments, and her ten
horns as the Commandments; her spouse is the Pope.
 The reference is to the so-called Donation of Constantine,
the reality of which was generally accepted till long after
And, while I was singing these notes to him, whether anger or
conscience stung him, he violently quivered with both feet. I
believe, forsooth, that it had pleased my Leader, with so
contented look be listened ever to the sound of the true words
uttered. Thereupon with both his arms he took me, and when he had
me wholly on his breast, remounted on the way by which he had
descended. Nor did he tire of holding me clasped till he had
borne me up to the summit of the arch which is the passage from
the fourth to the fifth dyke. Here softly he laid down his
burden, softly because of the ragged and steep crag, that would
be a difficult pass for goats. Thence another great valley was
discovered to me.