Side by Side Translations of Dante's Inferno - Canto 23

Longfellow Translation

Inferno: Canto XXIII

Silent, alone, and without company
  We went, the one in front, the other after,
  As go the Minor Friars along their way.

Upon the fable of Aesop was directed
  My thought, by reason of the present quarrel,
  Where he has spoken of the frog and mouse;

For 'mo' and 'issa' are not more alike
  Than this one is to that, if well we couple
  End and beginning with a steadfast mind.

And even as one thought from another springs,
  So afterward from that was born another,
  Which the first fear within me double made.

Thus did I ponder: "These on our account
  Are laughed to scorn, with injury and scoff
  So great, that much I think it must annoy them.

If anger be engrafted on ill-will,
  They will come after us more merciless
  Than dog upon the leveret which he seizes,"

I felt my hair stand all on end already
  With terror, and stood backwardly intent,
  When said I: "Master, if thou hidest not

Thyself and me forthwith, of Malebranche
  I am in dread; we have them now behind us;
  I so imagine them, I already feel them."

And he: "If I were made of leaded glass,
  Thine outward image I should not attract
  Sooner to me than I imprint the inner.

Just now thy thoughts came in among my own,
  With similar attitude and similar face,
  So that of both one counsel sole I made.

If peradventure the right bank so slope
  That we to the next Bolgia can descend,
  We shall escape from the imagined chase."

Not yet he finished rendering such opinion,
  When I beheld them come with outstretched wings,
  Not far remote, with will to seize upon us.

My Leader on a sudden seized me up,
  Even as a mother who by noise is wakened,
  And close beside her sees the enkindled flames,

Who takes her son, and flies, and does not stop,
  Having more care of him than of herself,
  So that she clothes her only with a shift;

And downward from the top of the hard bank
  Supine he gave him to the pendent rock,
  That one side of the other Bolgia walls.

Ne'er ran so swiftly water through a sluice
  To turn the wheel of any land-built mill,
  When nearest to the paddles it approaches,

As did my Master down along that border,
  Bearing me with him on his breast away,
  As his own son, and not as a companion.

Hardly the bed of the ravine below
  His feet had reached, ere they had reached the hill
  Right over us; but he was not afraid;

For the high Providence, which had ordained
  To place them ministers of the fifth moat,
  The power of thence departing took from all.

A painted people there below we found,
  Who went about with footsteps very slow,
  Weeping and in their semblance tired and vanquished.

They had on mantles with the hoods low down
  Before their eyes, and fashioned of the cut
  That in Cologne they for the monks are made.

Without, they gilded are so that it dazzles;
  But inwardly all leaden and so heavy
  That Frederick used to put them on of straw.

O everlastingly fatiguing mantle!
  Again we turned us, still to the left hand
  Along with them, intent on their sad plaint;

But owing to the weight, that weary folk
  Came on so tardily, that we were new
  In company at each motion of the haunch.

Whence I unto my Leader: "See thou find
  Some one who may by deed or name be known,
  And thus in going move thine eye about."

And one, who understood the Tuscan speech,
  Cried to us from behind: "Stay ye your feet,
  Ye, who so run athwart the dusky air!

Perhaps thou'lt have from me what thou demandest."
  Whereat the Leader turned him, and said: "Wait,
  And then according to his pace proceed."

I stopped, and two beheld I show great haste
  Of spirit, in their faces, to be with me;
  But the burden and the narrow way delayed them.

When they came up, long with an eye askance
  They scanned me without uttering a word.
  Then to each other turned, and said together:

"He by the action of his throat seems living;
  And if they dead are, by what privilege
  Go they uncovered by the heavy stole?"

Then said to me: "Tuscan, who to the college
  Of miserable hypocrites art come,
  Do not disdain to tell us who thou art."

And I to them: "Born was I, and grew up
  In the great town on the fair river of Arno,
  And with the body am I've always had.

But who are ye, in whom there trickles down
  Along your cheeks such grief as I behold?
  And what pain is upon you, that so sparkles?"

And one replied to me: "These orange cloaks
  Are made of lead so heavy, that the weights
  Cause in this way their balances to creak.

Frati Gaudenti were we, and Bolognese;
  I Catalano, and he Loderingo
  Named, and together taken by thy city,

As the wont is to take one man alone,
  For maintenance of its peace; and we were such
  That still it is apparent round Gardingo."

"O Friars," began I, "your iniquitous. . ."
  But said no more; for to mine eyes there rushed
  One crucified with three stakes on the ground.

When me he saw, he writhed himself all over,
  Blowing into his beard with suspirations;
  And the Friar Catalan, who noticed this,

Said to me: "This transfixed one, whom thou seest,
  Counselled the Pharisees that it was meet
  To put one man to torture for the people.

Crosswise and naked is he on the path,
  As thou perceivest; and he needs must feel,
  Whoever passes, first how much he weighs;

And in like mode his father-in-law is punished
  Within this moat, and the others of the council,
  Which for the Jews was a malignant seed."

And thereupon I saw Virgilius marvel
  O'er him who was extended on the cross
  So vilely in eternal banishment.

Then he directed to the Friar this voice:
  "Be not displeased, if granted thee, to tell us
  If to the right hand any pass slope down

By which we two may issue forth from here,
  Without constraining some of the black angels
  To come and extricate us from this deep."

Then he made answer: "Nearer than thou hopest
  There is a rock, that forth from the great circle
  Proceeds, and crosses all the cruel valleys,

Save that at this 'tis broken, and does not bridge it;
  You will be able to mount up the ruin,
  That sidelong slopes and at the bottom rises."

The Leader stood awhile with head bowed down;
  Then said: "The business badly he recounted
  Who grapples with his hook the sinners yonder."

And the Friar: "Many of the Devil's vices
  Once heard I at Bologna, and among them,
  That he's a liar and the father of lies."

Thereat my Leader with great strides went on,
  Somewhat disturbed with anger in his looks;
  Whence from the heavy-laden I departed

After the prints of his beloved feet.

Cary Translation


IN silence and in solitude we went,
One first, the other following his steps,
As minor friars journeying on their road.

The present fray had turn'd my thoughts to muse
Upon old Aesop's fable, where he told
What fate unto the mouse and frog befell.
For language hath not sounds more like in sense,
Than are these chances, if the origin
And end of each be heedfully compar'd.
And as one thought bursts from another forth,
So afterward from that another sprang,
Which added doubly to my former fear.
For thus I reason'd: "These through us have been
So foil'd, with loss and mock'ry so complete,
As needs must sting them sore. If anger then
Be to their evil will conjoin'd, more fell
They shall pursue us, than the savage hound
Snatches the leveret, panting 'twixt his jaws."

Already I perceiv'd my hair stand all
On end with terror, and look'd eager back.

"Teacher," I thus began, "if speedily
Thyself and me thou hide not, much I dread
Those evil talons. Even now behind
They urge us: quick imagination works
So forcibly, that I already feel them."

He answer'd: "Were I form'd of leaded glass,
I should not sooner draw unto myself
Thy outward image, than I now imprint
That from within. This moment came thy thoughts
Presented before mine, with similar act
And count'nance similar, so that from both
I one design have fram'd. If the right coast
Incline so much, that we may thence descend
Into the other chasm, we shall escape
Secure from this imagined pursuit."

He had not spoke his purpose to the end,
When I from far beheld them with spread wings
Approach to take us. Suddenly my guide
Caught me, ev'n as a mother that from sleep
Is by the noise arous'd, and near her sees
The climbing fires, who snatches up her babe
And flies ne'er pausing, careful more of him
Than of herself, that but a single vest
Clings round her limbs. Down from the jutting beach
Supine he cast him, to that pendent rock,
Which closes on one part the other chasm.

Never ran water with such hurrying pace
Adown the tube to turn a landmill's wheel,
When nearest it approaches to the spokes,
As then along that edge my master ran,
Carrying me in his bosom, as a child,
Not a companion. Scarcely had his feet
Reach'd to the lowest of the bed beneath,

When over us the steep they reach'd; but fear
In him was none; for that high Providence,
Which plac'd them ministers of the fifth foss,
Power of departing thence took from them all.

There in the depth we saw a painted tribe,
Who pac'd with tardy steps around, and wept,
Faint in appearance and o'ercome with toil.
Caps had they on, with hoods, that fell low down
Before their eyes, in fashion like to those
Worn by the monks in Cologne. Their outside
Was overlaid with gold, dazzling to view,
But leaden all within, and of such weight,
That Frederick's compar'd to these were straw.
Oh, everlasting wearisome attire!

We yet once more with them together turn'd
To leftward, on their dismal moan intent.
But by the weight oppress'd, so slowly came
The fainting people, that our company
Was chang'd at every movement of the step.

Whence I my guide address'd: "See that thou find
Some spirit, whose name may by his deeds be known,
And to that end look round thee as thou go'st."

Then one, who understood the Tuscan voice,
Cried after us aloud: "Hold in your feet,
Ye who so swiftly speed through the dusk air.
Perchance from me thou shalt obtain thy wish."

Whereat my leader, turning, me bespake:
"Pause, and then onward at their pace proceed."

I staid, and saw two Spirits in whose look
Impatient eagerness of mind was mark'd
To overtake me; but the load they bare
And narrow path retarded their approach.

Soon as arriv'd, they with an eye askance
Perus'd me, but spake not: then turning each
To other thus conferring said: "This one
Seems, by the action of his throat, alive.
And, be they dead, what privilege allows
They walk unmantled by the cumbrous stole?"

Then thus to me: "Tuscan, who visitest
The college of the mourning hypocrites,
Disdain not to instruct us who thou art."

"By Arno's pleasant stream," I thus replied,
"In the great city I was bred and grew,
And wear the body I have ever worn.
but who are ye, from whom such mighty grief,
As now I witness, courseth down your cheeks?
What torment breaks forth in this bitter woe?"
"Our bonnets gleaming bright with orange hue,"
One of them answer'd, "are so leaden gross,
That with their weight they make the balances
To crack beneath them. Joyous friars we were,
Bologna's natives, Catalano I,
He Loderingo nam'd, and by thy land
Together taken, as men used to take
A single and indifferent arbiter,
To reconcile their strifes. How there we sped,
Gardingo's vicinage can best declare."

"O friars!" I began, "your miseries--"
But there brake off, for one had caught my eye,
Fix'd to a cross with three stakes on the ground:
He, when he saw me, writh'd himself, throughout
Distorted, ruffling with deep sighs his beard.
And Catalano, who thereof was 'ware,

Thus spake: "That pierced spirit, whom intent
Thou view'st, was he who gave the Pharisees
Counsel, that it were fitting for one man
To suffer for the people. He doth lie
Transverse; nor any passes, but him first
Behoves make feeling trial how each weighs.
In straits like this along the foss are plac'd
The father of his consort, and the rest
Partakers in that council, seed of ill
And sorrow to the Jews." I noted then,
How Virgil gaz'd with wonder upon him,
Thus abjectly extended on the cross
In banishment eternal. To the friar
He next his words address'd: "We pray ye tell,
If so be lawful, whether on our right
Lies any opening in the rock, whereby
We both may issue hence, without constraint
On the dark angels, that compell'd they come
To lead us from this depth." He thus replied:
"Nearer than thou dost hope, there is a rock
From the next circle moving, which o'ersteps
Each vale of horror, save that here his cope
Is shatter'd. By the ruin ye may mount:
For on the side it slants, and most the height
Rises below." With head bent down awhile
My leader stood, then spake: "He warn'd us ill,
Who yonder hangs the sinners on his hook."

To whom the friar: At Bologna erst
"I many vices of the devil heard,
Among the rest was said, 'He is a liar,
And the father of lies!'" When he had spoke,
My leader with large strides proceeded on,
Somewhat disturb'd with anger in his look.

I therefore left the spirits heavy laden,
And following, his beloved footsteps mark'd.

Norton Translation

CANTO XXIII. Eighth Circle. Escape from the fifth pit.--The sixth
pit: hypocrites, in cloaks of gilded lead.--Jovial Friars.
--Caiaphas.--Annas.--Frate Catalano.

Silent, alone, and without company, we went on, one before, the
other behind, as the Minor friars go along the way. My thought
was turned by the present brawl upon the fable of Aesop, in which
he tells of the frog and the mole; for NOW and THIS INSTANT are
not more alike than the one is to the other, if beginning and end
are rightly coupled by the attentive mind.[1] And as one thought
bursts out from another, so from that then sprang another which
made my first fear double. I reflected in this wise: These
through us have been flouted, and with such harm and mock as I
believe must vex them greatly; if anger to ill-will be added,
they will come after us more merciless than the dog upon the
leveret which he snaps.

[1] "Sed dices forsan, lector," says Benvenuto da Imola, "nescio
per me videre quomodo istae duae fictiones habeant inter se
tantam convenientam. Ad quod respondeo, quod passus vere est
fortis." The point seems to be that, the frog having deceitfully
brought the mole to trouble and death, the mole declares, "me
vindicabit major," and the eagle swoops down and devours the frog
as well as the dead mole. The comparison is not very close except
in the matter of anticipated vengeance.

Already I was feeling my hair all bristling with fear, and was
backwards intent, when I said, "Master, if thou concealest not
thyself and me speedily, I am afraid of the Malebranche; we have
them already behind us, and I so imagine them that I already feel
them." And he, "If I were of leaded glass,[1] I should not draw
thine outward image more quickly to me than thine inward I
receive. Even now came thy thoughts among mine, with similar
action and with similar look, so that of both one sole design I
made. If it be that the right bank lieth so that we can descend
into the next pit, we shall escape the imagined chase."

[1] A mirror.

Not yet had he finished reporting this design, when I saw them
coming with spread wings, not very far off, with will to take us.
My Leader on a sudden took me, as a mother who is wakened by the
noise, and near her sees the kindled flames, who takes her son
and flies, and, having more care of him than of herself, stays
not so long as only to put on a shift. And down from the ridge of
the hard bank, supine he gave himself to the sloping rock that
closes one of the sides of the next pit. Never ran water so
swiftly through a duct, to turn the wheel of a land-mill, when it
approaches near est to the paddles, as my Master over that
border, bearing me along upon his breast, as his own son, and not
as his companion. Hardly had his feet reached the bed of the
depth below, when they were on the ridge right over us; but here
there was no fear, for the high Providence that willed to set
them as ministers of the fifth ditch deprived them all of power
of departing thence.

There below we found a painted people who were going around with
very slow steps, weeping, and in their semblance weary and
vanquished. They had cloaks, with hoods lowered before their
eyes, made of the same cut as those of the monks in Cluny.
Outwardly they are gilded, so that it dazzles, but within all
lead, and so heavy that Frederick put them on of straw.[1] Oh
mantle wearisome for eternity!

[1] The leaden cloaks which the Emperor Frederick II. caused to
be put on criminals, who were then burned to death, were light as
straw in comparison with these.

We turned, still ever to the left hand, along with them, intent
on their sad plaint. But because of the weight that tired folk
came so slowly that we had fresh company at every movement of the
haunch. Wherefore I to my Leader, "See that thou find some one
who may be known by deed or name, and so in going move thy eyes
around." And one who understood the Tuscan speech cried out
behind us, "Stay your feet, ye who run thus through the dusky
air; perchance thou shalt have from me that which thou askest."
Whereon the Leader turned and said, "Await, and then according to
his pace proceed." I stopped, and saw two show, by their look,
great haste of mind to be with me, but their load delayed them,
and the narrow way.

When they had come up, somewhile, with eye askance,[1] they gazed
at me without a word; then they turned to each other, and said
one to the other, "This one seems alive by the action of his
throat; and if they are dead, by what privilege do they go
uncovered by the heavy stole?" Then they said to me, "O Tuscan,
who to the college of the wretched hypocrites art come, disdain
not to tell who thou art." And I to them, "I was born and grew up
on the fair river of Arno, at the great town, and I am in the
body that I have always had. But ye, who are ye, in whom such woe
distills, as I see, down your cheeks? and what punishment is on
you that so sparkles?" And one of them replied to me, "The orange
hoods are of lead so thick that the weights thus make their
scales to creak. Jovial Friars[2] were we, and Bolognese; I
Catalano, and he Loderingo named, and together taken by thy city,
as one man alone is wont to be taken, in order to preserve its
peace; and we were such as still is apparent round about the
Gardingo." I began, "O Friars, your evil"--but more I said not,
for there struck mine eyes one crucified with three stakes on the
ground. When me he saw he writhed all over, blowing into his
beard with sighs: and the Friar Catalano, who observed it, said
to me, "That transfixed one, whom thou lookest at, counseled the
Pharisees that it was expedient to put one man to torture for the
people. Crosswise and naked is he on the path, as thou seest, and
he first must feel how much whoever passes weighs. And in such
fashion his father-in-law is stretched in this ditch, and the
others of that Council which for the Jews was seed of ill."[3]
Then I saw Virgil marvelling over him that was extended on a
cross so vilely in eternal exile. Thereafter he addressed this
speech to the Friar, "May it not displease thee, so it be allowed
thee, to tell us if on the right hand lies any opening whereby we
two can go out without constraining any of the Black Angels to
come to deliver us from this deep." He answered then, "Nearer
than thou hopest is a rock that from the great encircling wall
proceeds and crosses all the savage valleys, save that at this
one it is broken, and does not cover it. Ye can mount up over the
ruin that slopes on the side, and heaps up at the bottom." The
Leader stood a little while with bowed head, then said, "Ill he
reported the matter, he who hooks the sinners yonder." [4] And
the Friar, "I once heard tell at Bologna vices enough of the
devil, among which I heard that he is false, and the father of
lies." Then the Leader with great steps went on, disturbed a
little with anger in his look; whereon I departed from the
heavily burdened ones, following the prints of the beloved feet.

[1] They could not raise their heads for a straight look.

[2] Brothers of the order of Santa Maria, established in 1261,
with knightly vows and high intent. From their free life the
name of "Jovial Friars" was given to the members of the order.
After the battle of Montaperti (1260) the Ghibellines held the
upper hand in Florence for more than five years. The defeat and
death of Manfred early in 1266, at the battle of Benevento, shook
their power and revived the hopes of the Guelphs. As a measure of
compromise, the Florentine Commune elected two podestas, one from
each party; the Guelph was Catalano de' Malavolti, the
Ghibelline, Loderingo degli Andalo, both from Bologna. They were
believed to have joined hands for their own gain, and to have
favored the reviving power of the Guelphs. In the troubles of the
year the houses of the Uberti, a powerful Ghibelline family, were
burned. They lay in the region of the city called the Gardingo,
close to the Palazzo Vecchio.

[3] Annas "was father in law to Caiaphas, which was the high
priest that same year. Now Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to
the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the
people." John xviii. 13-14; id. xi. 47-50.

[4] Malacoda had told him that he would find a bridge not far off
by which to cross this sixth bolgia.

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]