Side by Side Translations of Dante's Inferno - Canto 20

Longfellow Translation

Inferno: Canto XX

Of a new pain behoves me to make verses
  And give material to the twentieth canto
  Of the first song, which is of the submerged.

I was already thoroughly disposed
  To peer down into the uncovered depth,
  Which bathed itself with tears of agony;

And people saw I through the circular valley,
  Silent and weeping, coming at the pace
  Which in this world the Litanies assume.

As lower down my sight descended on them,
  Wondrously each one seemed to be distorted
  From chin to the beginning of the chest;

For tow'rds the reins the countenance was turned,
  And backward it behoved them to advance,
  As to look forward had been taken from them.

Perchance indeed by violence of palsy
  Some one has been thus wholly turned awry;
  But I ne'er saw it, nor believe it can be.

As God may let thee, Reader, gather fruit
  From this thy reading, think now for thyself
  How I could ever keep my face unmoistened,

When our own image near me I beheld
  Distorted so, the weeping of the eyes
  Along the fissure bathed the hinder parts.

Truly I wept, leaning upon a peak
  Of the hard crag, so that my Escort said
  To me: "Art thou, too, of the other fools?

Here pity lives when it is wholly dead;
  Who is a greater reprobate than he
  Who feels compassion at the doom divine?

Lift up, lift up thy head, and see for whom
  Opened the earth before the Thebans' eyes;
  Wherefore they all cried: 'Whither rushest thou,

Amphiaraus?  Why dost leave the war?'
  And downward ceased he not to fall amain
  As far as Minos, who lays hold on all.

See, he has made a bosom of his shoulders!
  Because he wished to see too far before him
  Behind he looks, and backward goes his way:

Behold Tiresias, who his semblance changed,
  When from a male a female he became,
  His members being all of them transformed;

And afterwards was forced to strike once more
  The two entangled serpents with his rod,
  Ere he could have again his manly plumes.

That Aruns is, who backs the other's belly,
  Who in the hills of Luni, there where grubs
  The Carrarese who houses underneath,

Among the marbles white a cavern had
  For his abode; whence to behold the stars
  And sea, the view was not cut off from him.

And she there, who is covering up her breasts,
  Which thou beholdest not, with loosened tresses,
  And on that side has all the hairy skin,

Was Manto, who made quest through many lands,
  Afterwards tarried there where I was born;
  Whereof I would thou list to me a little.

After her father had from life departed,
  And the city of Bacchus had become enslaved,
  She a long season wandered through the world.

Above in beauteous Italy lies a lake
  At the Alp's foot that shuts in Germany
  Over Tyrol, and has the name Benaco.

By a thousand springs, I think, and more, is bathed,
  'Twixt Garda and Val Camonica, Pennino,
  With water that grows stagnant in that lake.

Midway a place is where the Trentine Pastor,
  And he of Brescia, and the Veronese
  Might give his blessing, if he passed that way.

Sitteth Peschiera, fortress fair and strong,
  To front the Brescians and the Bergamasks,
  Where round about the bank descendeth lowest.

There of necessity must fall whatever
  In bosom of Benaco cannot stay,
  And grows a river down through verdant pastures.

Soon as the water doth begin to run,
  No more Benaco is it called, but Mincio,
  Far as Governo, where it falls in Po.

Not far it runs before it finds a plain
  In which it spreads itself, and makes it marshy,
  And oft 'tis wont in summer to be sickly.

Passing that way the virgin pitiless
  Land in the middle of the fen descried,
  Untilled and naked of inhabitants;

There to escape all human intercourse,
  She with her servants stayed, her arts to practise
  And lived, and left her empty body there.

The men, thereafter, who were scattered round,
  Collected in that place, which was made strong
  By the lagoon it had on every side;

They built their city over those dead bones,
  And, after her who first the place selected,
  Mantua named it, without other omen.

Its people once within more crowded were,
  Ere the stupidity of Casalodi
  From Pinamonte had received deceit.

Therefore I caution thee, if e'er thou hearest
  Originate my city otherwise,
  No falsehood may the verity defraud."

And I: "My Master, thy discourses are
  To me so certain, and so take my faith,
  That unto me the rest would be spent coals.

But tell me of the people who are passing,
  If any one note-worthy thou beholdest,
  For only unto that my mind reverts."

Then said he to me: "He who from the cheek
  Thrusts out his beard upon his swarthy shoulders
  Was, at the time when Greece was void of males,

So that there scarce remained one in the cradle,
  An augur, and with Calchas gave the moment,
  In Aulis, when to sever the first cable.

Eryphylus his name was, and so sings
  My lofty Tragedy in some part or other;
  That knowest thou well, who knowest the whole of it.

The next, who is so slender in the flanks,
  Was Michael Scott, who of a verity
  Of magical illusions knew the game.

Behold Guido Bonatti, behold Asdente,
  Who now unto his leather and his thread
  Would fain have stuck, but he too late repents.

Behold the wretched ones, who left the needle,
  The spool and rock, and made them fortune-tellers;
  They wrought their magic spells with herb and image.

But come now, for already holds the confines
  Of both the hemispheres, and under Seville
  Touches the ocean-wave, Cain and the thorns,

And yesternight the moon was round already;
  Thou shouldst remember well it did not harm thee
  From time to time within the forest deep."

Thus spake he to me, and we walked the while.

Cary Translation


AND now the verse proceeds to torments new,
Fit argument of this the twentieth strain
Of the first song, whose awful theme records
The spirits whelm'd in woe. Earnest I look'd
Into the depth, that open'd to my view,
Moisten'd with tears of anguish, and beheld
A tribe, that came along the hollow vale,
In silence weeping: such their step as walk
Quires chanting solemn litanies on earth.

As on them more direct mine eye descends,
Each wondrously seem'd to be revers'd
At the neck-bone, so that the countenance
Was from the reins averted: and because
None might before him look, they were compell'd
To' advance with backward gait. Thus one perhaps
Hath been by force of palsy clean transpos'd,
But I ne'er saw it nor believe it so.

Now, reader! think within thyself, so God
Fruit of thy reading give thee! how I long
Could keep my visage dry, when I beheld
Near me our form distorted in such guise,
That on the hinder parts fall'n from the face
The tears down-streaming roll'd. Against a rock
I leant and wept, so that my guide exclaim'd:
"What, and art thou too witless as the rest?
Here pity most doth show herself alive,
When she is dead. What guilt exceedeth his,
Who with Heaven's judgment in his passion strives?
Raise up thy head, raise up, and see the man,
Before whose eyes earth gap'd in Thebes, when all
Cried out, 'Amphiaraus, whither rushest?
'Why leavest thou the war?' He not the less
Fell ruining far as to Minos down,
Whose grapple none eludes. Lo! how he makes
The breast his shoulders, and who once too far
Before him wish'd to see, now backward looks,
And treads reverse his path. Tiresias note,
Who semblance chang'd, when woman he became
Of male, through every limb transform'd, and then
Once more behov'd him with his rod to strike
The two entwining serpents, ere the plumes,
That mark'd the better sex, might shoot again.

"Aruns, with more his belly facing, comes.
On Luni's mountains 'midst the marbles white,
Where delves Carrara's hind, who wons beneath,
A cavern was his dwelling, whence the stars
And main-sea wide in boundless view he held.

"The next, whose loosen'd tresses overspread
Her bosom, which thou seest not (for each hair
On that side grows) was Manto, she who search'd
Through many regions, and at length her seat
Fix'd in my native land, whence a short space
My words detain thy audience. When her sire
From life departed, and in servitude
The city dedicate to Bacchus mourn'd,
Long time she went a wand'rer through the world.
Aloft in Italy's delightful land
A lake there lies, at foot of that proud Alp,
That o'er the Tyrol locks Germania in,
Its name Benacus, which a thousand rills,
Methinks, and more, water between the vale
Camonica and Garda and the height
Of Apennine remote. There is a spot
At midway of that lake, where he who bears
Of Trento's flock the past'ral staff, with him
Of Brescia, and the Veronese, might each
Passing that way his benediction give.
A garrison of goodly site and strong
Peschiera stands, to awe with front oppos'd
The Bergamese and Brescian, whence the shore
More slope each way descends. There, whatsoev'er
Benacus' bosom holds not, tumbling o'er
Down falls, and winds a river flood beneath
Through the green pastures. Soon as in his course
The steam makes head, Benacus then no more
They call the name, but Mincius, till at last
Reaching Governo into Po he falls.
Not far his course hath run, when a wide flat
It finds, which overstretchmg as a marsh
It covers, pestilent in summer oft.
Hence journeying, the savage maiden saw
'Midst of the fen a territory waste
And naked of inhabitants. To shun
All human converse, here she with her slaves
Plying her arts remain'd, and liv'd, and left
Her body tenantless. Thenceforth the tribes,
Who round were scatter'd, gath'ring to that place
Assembled; for its strength was great, enclos'd
On all parts by the fen. On those dead bones
They rear'd themselves a city, for her sake,
Calling it Mantua, who first chose the spot,
Nor ask'd another omen for the name,
Wherein more numerous the people dwelt,
Ere Casalodi's madness by deceit
Was wrong'd of Pinamonte. If thou hear
Henceforth another origin assign'd
Of that my country, I forewarn thee now,
That falsehood none beguile thee of the truth."

I answer'd: "Teacher, I conclude thy words
So certain, that all else shall be to me
As embers lacking life. But now of these,
Who here proceed, instruct me, if thou see
Any that merit more especial note.
For thereon is my mind alone intent."

He straight replied: "That spirit, from whose cheek
The beard sweeps o'er his shoulders brown, what time
Graecia was emptied of her males, that scarce
The cradles were supplied, the seer was he
In Aulis, who with Calchas gave the sign
When first to cut the cable. Him they nam'd
Eurypilus: so sings my tragic strain,
In which majestic measure well thou know'st,
Who know'st it all. That other, round the loins
So slender of his shape, was Michael Scot,
Practis'd in ev'ry slight of magic wile.

"Guido Bonatti see: Asdente mark,
Who now were willing, he had tended still
The thread and cordwain; and too late repents.

"See next the wretches, who the needle left,
The shuttle and the spindle, and became
Diviners: baneful witcheries they wrought
With images and herbs. But onward now:
For now doth Cain with fork of thorns confine
On either hemisphere, touching the wave
Beneath the towers of Seville. Yesternight
The moon was round. Thou mayst remember well:
For she good service did thee in the gloom
Of the deep wood." This said, both onward mov'd.

Norton Translation

CANTO XX. Eighth Circle: fourth pit: diviners, soothsayers, and
Michael Scott.--Asdente.

Of a new punishment needs must I make verses, and give matetial
to the twentieth canto of the first lay, which is of the

[1] Plunged into the misery of Hell.

I was now wholly set on looking into the disclosed depth that was
bathed with tears of anguish, and I saw folk coming, silent and
weeping, through the circular valley, at the pace at which
lltanies go in this world. As my sight descended deeper among
them, each appeared marvelously distorted from the chin to the
beginning of the chest; for toward their reins their face was
turned, and they must needs go backwards, because they were
deprived of looking forward. Perchance sometimes by force of
palsy one has been thus completely twisted, but I never saw it,
nor do I think it can be.

So may God let thee, Reader, gather fruit from thy reading, now
think for thyself how I could keep my face dry, when near by I
saw our image so contorted that the weeping of the eyes bathed
the buttocks along the cleft. Truly I wept, leaning on one of the
rocks of the hard crag, so that my Guide said to me, "Art thou
also one of the fools? Here pity liveth when it is quite dead.[1]

Who is more wicked than he who feels compassion at the Divine
Judgment? Lift up thy head, lift up, and see him [2] for whom the
earth opened before the eyes of the Thebans, whereon they shouted
all, 'Whither art thou rushing, Amphiaraus? Why dost thou leave
the war?' And he stopped not from falling headlong down far as
Minos, who seizes hold of every one. Look, how he has made a
breast of his shoulders! Because he wished to see too far before
him, he looks behind and makes a backward path.

[1] It is impossible to give the full significance of Dante's
words in a literal translation, owing to the double meaning of
pieta in the original. Qui viva la pieta quando e ben morta.
That is: "Here liveth piety when pity is quite dead."

[2] One of the seven kings who besieged Thebes, augur and
prophet. Dante found his story in Statius, Thebais, viii. 84.

"See Tiresias,[1] who changed his semblance, when from a male he
became a female, his members all of them being transformed; and
afterwards was obliged to strike once more the two entwined
serpents with his rod, ere he could regain his masculine plumage.
Aruns[2] is he that to this one's belly has his back, who on the
mountains of Luni (where grubs the Carrarese who dwells beneath),
amid white marbles, had a cave for his abode, whence for looking
at the stars and the sea his view was not cut off.

[1] The Theban soothsayer. Dante had learned of him from Ovid.,
Metam., iii. 320 sqq., as well as from Statius.

[2] An Etruscan haruspex of whom Lucan tells,--Arens incoluit
desertae moenia Lanae. Phars. i. 556.

"And she who with her loose tresses covers her breasts, which
thou dost not see, and has on that side all her hairy skin, was
Manto,[1] who sought through many lands, then settled there where
I was born; whereof it pleases me that thou listen a little to
me. After her father had departed from life, and the city of
Bacchus had become enslaved, long while she wandered through the
world. Up in fair Italy lies a lake, at foot of the alp that
shuts in Germany above Tyrol, and it is called Benaco.[2] Through
a thousand founts, I think, and more, between Garda and Val
Camonica, the Apennine is bathed by the water which settles in
that lake. Midway is a place where the Trentine Pastor and he of
Brescia and the Veronese might each give his blessing if he took
that road.[3] Peschiera, fortress fair and strong, sits to
confront the Brescians and Bergamasques, where the shore round
about is lowest. Thither needs must fall all that which in the
lap of Benaco cannot stay, and it becomes a river down through
the verdant pastures. Soon as the water gathers head to run, no
longer is it called Benaco, but Mincio, far as Governo, where it
falls into the Po. No long course it hath before it finds a
plain, on which it spreads, and makes a marsh, and is wont in
summer sometimes to be noisome. Passing that way, the cruel
virgin saw a land in the middle of the fen without culture and
bare of inhabitants. There, to avoid all human fellowship, she
stayed with her servants to practice her arts, and lived, and
left there her empty body. Afterward the men who were scattered
round about gathered to that place, which was strong because of
the fen which surrounded it. They built the city over those dead
hones, and for her, who first had chosen the place, they called
it Mantua, without other augury. Of old its people were more
thick within it, before the stupidity of Casalodi had been
tricked by Pinamonte.[4] Therefore I warn thee, that if thou ever
hearest otherwise the origin of my town, no falsehood may defraud
the truth."

[1] The daughter of Tiresias, of whom Statius, Ovid, and Virgil
all tell.

[2] Now Lago di Garda.

[3] Where the three dioceses meet.

[4] The Count of Casalodi, being lord of Mantua about 1276,
gave ear to the treacherous counsels of Messer Pinamonte de
Buonacorsi, and was driven, with his friends, from the city.

And I, "Master, thy discourses are so certain to me, and so lay
hold on my faith, that the others would be to me as dead embers.
But tell me of the people who are passing, if thou seest any one
of them worthy of note; for only unto that my mind reverts."

Then he said to me, "That one, who from his cheek stretches his
beard upon his dusky shoulders, was an augur when Greece was so
emptied of males that they scarce remained for the cradles, and
with Calchas at Aulis he gave the moment for cutting the first
cable. Eurypylus was his name, and thus my lofty Tragedy sings
him in some place;[1] well knowest thou this, who knowest the
whole of it. That other who is so small in the flanks was Michael
Scott,[2] who verily knew the game of magical deceptions. See
Guido Bonatti,[3] see Asdente,[4] who now would wish he had
attended to his leather and his thread, but late repents. See the
forlorn women who left the needle, the spool, and the spindle,
and became fortune-tellers; they wrought spells with herb and
with image.

[1] Suspensi Eurypylum scitantem oracula Phoebi
Mittimus. Aeneid, ii. 112.

[2] A wizard of such dreaded fame
That, when in Salamanca's cave
Him listed his magic wand to wave,
The bells would ring in Notre Dame.
Lay of the Lost Minstrel, Canto ii.

[3] A famous astrologer of Forli, in the thirteenth century.

[4] Dante, in the Canvito, trattato iv. c. 16, says that if
NOBLE meant being widely known, then "Asdente, the shoemaker of
Parma, would be more noble than any of his fellow-citizens."

"But come on now, for already Cain with his thorns [1] holds the
confines of both the hemispheres, and touches the wave below
Seville. And already yesternight was the moon round; well
shouldst thou remember it, for it did thee no harm sometimes in
the deep wood." Thus he spoke to me, and we went on the while.

[1] The Man in the Moon, according to an old popular legend.

Browse the cantos of the Inferno:

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] [30] [31] [32] [33] [34]