Longfellow Translation

Inferno: Canto XXIV

In that part of the youthful year wherein
  The Sun his locks beneath Aquarius tempers,
  And now the nights draw near to half the day,

What time the hoar-frost copies on the ground
  The outward semblance of her sister white,
  But little lasts the temper of her pen,

The husbandman, whose forage faileth him,
  Rises, and looks, and seeth the champaign
  All gleaming white, whereat he beats his flank,

Returns in doors, and up and down laments,
  Like a poor wretch, who knows not what to do;
  Then he returns and hope revives again,

Seeing the world has changed its countenance
  In little time, and takes his shepherd's crook,
  And forth the little lambs to pasture drives.

Thus did the Master fill me with alarm,
  When I beheld his forehead so disturbed,
  And to the ailment came as soon the plaster.

For as we came unto the ruined bridge,
  The Leader turned to me with that sweet look
  Which at the mountain's foot I first beheld.

His arms he opened, after some advisement
  Within himself elected, looking first
  Well at the ruin, and laid hold of me.

And even as he who acts and meditates,
  For aye it seems that he provides beforehand,
  So upward lifting me towards the summit

Of a huge rock, he scanned another crag,
  Saying: "To that one grapple afterwards,
  But try first if 'tis such that it will hold thee."

This was no way for one clothed with a cloak;
  For hardly we, he light, and I pushed upward,
  Were able to ascend from jag to jag.

And had it not been, that upon that precinct
  Shorter was the ascent than on the other,
  He I know not, but I had been dead beat.

But because Malebolge tow'rds the mouth
  Of the profoundest well is all inclining,
  The structure of each valley doth import

That one bank rises and the other sinks.
  Still we arrived at length upon the point
  Wherefrom the last stone breaks itself asunder.

The breath was from my lungs so milked away,
  When I was up, that I could go no farther,
  Nay, I sat down upon my first arrival.

"Now it behoves thee thus to put off sloth,"
  My Master said; "for sitting upon down,
  Or under quilt, one cometh not to fame,

Withouten which whoso his life consumes
  Such vestige leaveth of himself on earth,
  As smoke in air or in the water foam.

And therefore raise thee up, o'ercome the anguish
  With spirit that o'ercometh every battle,
  If with its heavy body it sink not.

A longer stairway it behoves thee mount;
  'Tis not enough from these to have departed;
  Let it avail thee, if thou understand me."

Then I uprose, showing myself provided
  Better with breath than I did feel myself,
  And said: "Go on, for I am strong and bold."

Upward we took our way along the crag,
  Which jagged was, and narrow, and difficult,
  And more precipitous far than that before.

Speaking I went, not to appear exhausted;
  Whereat a voice from the next moat came forth,
  Not well adapted to articulate words.

I know not what it said, though o'er the back
  I now was of the arch that passes there;
  But he seemed moved to anger who was speaking.

I was bent downward, but my living eyes
  Could not attain the bottom, for the dark;
  Wherefore I: "Master, see that thou arrive

At the next round, and let us descend the wall;
  For as from hence I hear and understand not,
  So I look down and nothing I distinguish."

"Other response," he said, "I make thee not,
  Except the doing; for the modest asking
  Ought to be followed by the deed in silence."

We from the bridge descended at its head,
  Where it connects itself with the eighth bank,
  And then was manifest to me the Bolgia;

And I beheld therein a terrible throng
  Of serpents, and of such a monstrous kind,
  That the remembrance still congeals my blood

Let Libya boast no longer with her sand;
  For if Chelydri, Jaculi, and Phareae
  She breeds, with Cenchri and with Amphisbaena,

Neither so many plagues nor so malignant
  E'er showed she with all Ethiopia,
  Nor with whatever on the Red Sea is!

Among this cruel and most dismal throng
  People were running naked and affrighted.
  Without the hope of hole or heliotrope.

They had their hands with serpents bound behind them;
  These riveted upon their reins the tail
  And head, and were in front of them entwined.

And lo! at one who was upon our side
  There darted forth a serpent, which transfixed him
  There where the neck is knotted to the shoulders.

Nor 'O' so quickly e'er, nor 'I' was written,
  As he took fire, and burned; and ashes wholly
  Behoved it that in falling he became.

And when he on the ground was thus destroyed,
  The ashes drew together, and of themselves
  Into himself they instantly returned.

Even thus by the great sages 'tis confessed
  The phoenix dies, and then is born again,
  When it approaches its five-hundredth year;

On herb or grain it feeds not in its life,
  But only on tears of incense and amomum,
  And nard and myrrh are its last winding-sheet.

And as he is who falls, and knows not how,
  By force of demons who to earth down drag him,
  Or other oppilation that binds man,

When he arises and around him looks,
  Wholly bewildered by the mighty anguish
  Which he has suffered, and in looking sighs;

Such was that sinner after he had risen.
  Justice of God! O how severe it is,
  That blows like these in vengeance poureth down!

The Guide thereafter asked him who he was;
  Whence he replied: "I rained from Tuscany
  A short time since into this cruel gorge.

A bestial life, and not a human, pleased me,
  Even as the mule I was; I'm Vanni Fucci,
  Beast, and Pistoia was my worthy den."

And I unto the Guide: "Tell him to stir not,
  And ask what crime has thrust him here below,
  For once a man of blood and wrath I saw him."

And the sinner, who had heard, dissembled not,
  But unto me directed mind and face,
  And with a melancholy shame was painted.

Then said: "It pains me more that thou hast caught me
  Amid this misery where thou seest me,
  Than when I from the other life was taken.

What thou demandest I cannot deny;
  So low am I put down because I robbed
  The sacristy of the fair ornaments,

And falsely once 'twas laid upon another;
  But that thou mayst not such a sight enjoy,
  If thou shalt e'er be out of the dark places,

Thine ears to my announcement ope and hear:
  Pistoia first of Neri groweth meagre;
  Then Florence doth renew her men and manners;

Mars draws a vapour up from Val di Magra,
  Which is with turbid clouds enveloped round,
  And with impetuous and bitter tempest

Over Campo Picen shall be the battle;
  When it shall suddenly rend the mist asunder,
  So that each Bianco shall thereby be smitten.

And this I've said that it may give thee pain."

Cary Translation


IN the year's early nonage, when the sun
Tempers his tresses in Aquarius' urn,
And now towards equal day the nights recede,
When as the rime upon the earth puts on
Her dazzling sister's image, but not long
Her milder sway endures, then riseth up
The village hind, whom fails his wintry store,
And looking out beholds the plain around
All whiten'd, whence impatiently he smites
His thighs, and to his hut returning in,
There paces to and fro, wailing his lot,
As a discomfited and helpless man;
Then comes he forth again, and feels new hope
Spring in his bosom, finding e'en thus soon
The world hath chang'd its count'nance, grasps his crook,
And forth to pasture drives his little flock:
So me my guide dishearten'd when I saw
His troubled forehead, and so speedily
That ill was cur'd; for at the fallen bridge
Arriving, towards me with a look as sweet,
He turn'd him back, as that I first beheld
At the steep mountain's foot. Regarding well
The ruin, and some counsel first maintain'd
With his own thought, he open'd wide his arm
And took me up. As one, who, while he works,
Computes his labour's issue, that he seems
Still to foresee the' effect, so lifting me
Up to the summit of one peak, he fix'd
His eye upon another. "Grapple that,"
Said he, "but first make proof, if it be such
As will sustain thee." For one capp'd with lead
This were no journey. Scarcely he, though light,
And I, though onward push'd from crag to crag,
Could mount. And if the precinct of this coast
Were not less ample than the last, for him
I know not, but my strength had surely fail'd.
But Malebolge all toward the mouth
Inclining of the nethermost abyss,
The site of every valley hence requires,
That one side upward slope, the other fall.

At length the point of our descent we reach'd
From the last flag: soon as to that arriv'd,
So was the breath exhausted from my lungs,
I could no further, but did seat me there.

"Now needs thy best of man;" so spake my guide:
"For not on downy plumes, nor under shade
Of canopy reposing, fame is won,
Without which whosoe'er consumes his days
Leaveth such vestige of himself on earth,
As smoke in air or foam upon the wave.
Thou therefore rise: vanish thy weariness
By the mind's effort, in each struggle form'd
To vanquish, if she suffer not the weight
Of her corporeal frame to crush her down.
A longer ladder yet remains to scale.
From these to have escap'd sufficeth not.
If well thou note me, profit by my words."

I straightway rose, and show'd myself less spent
Than I in truth did feel me. "On," I cried,
"For I am stout and fearless." Up the rock
Our way we held, more rugged than before,
Narrower and steeper far to climb. From talk
I ceas'd not, as we journey'd, so to seem
Least faint; whereat a voice from the other foss
Did issue forth, for utt'rance suited ill.
Though on the arch that crosses there I stood,
What were the words I knew not, but who spake
Seem'd mov'd in anger. Down I stoop'd to look,
But my quick eye might reach not to the depth
For shrouding darkness; wherefore thus I spake:
"To the next circle, Teacher, bend thy steps,
And from the wall dismount we; for as hence
I hear and understand not, so I see
Beneath, and naught discern."--"I answer not,"
Said he, "but by the deed. To fair request
Silent performance maketh best return."

We from the bridge's head descended, where
To the eighth mound it joins, and then the chasm
Opening to view, I saw a crowd within
Of serpents terrible, so strange of shape
And hideous, that remembrance in my veins
Yet shrinks the vital current. Of her sands
Let Lybia vaunt no more: if Jaculus,
Pareas and Chelyder be her brood,
Cenchris and Amphisboena, plagues so dire
Or in such numbers swarming ne'er she shew'd,
Not with all Ethiopia, and whate'er
Above the Erythraean sea is spawn'd.

Amid this dread exuberance of woe
Ran naked spirits wing'd with horrid fear,
Nor hope had they of crevice where to hide,
Or heliotrope to charm them out of view.
With serpents were their hands behind them bound,
Which through their reins infix'd the tail and head
Twisted in folds before. And lo! on one
Near to our side, darted an adder up,
And, where the neck is on the shoulders tied,
Transpierc'd him. Far more quickly than e'er pen
Wrote O or I, he kindled, burn'd, and chang'd
To ashes, all pour'd out upon the earth.
When there dissolv'd he lay, the dust again
Uproll'd spontaneous, and the self-same form
Instant resumed. So mighty sages tell,
The' Arabian Phoenix, when five hundred years
Have well nigh circled, dies, and springs forthwith
Renascent. Blade nor herb throughout his life
He tastes, but tears of frankincense alone
And odorous amomum: swaths of nard
And myrrh his funeral shroud. As one that falls,
He knows not how, by force demoniac dragg'd
To earth, or through obstruction fettering up
In chains invisible the powers of man,
Who, risen from his trance, gazeth around,
Bewilder'd with the monstrous agony
He hath endur'd, and wildly staring sighs;
So stood aghast the sinner when he rose.

Oh! how severe God's judgment, that deals out
Such blows in stormy vengeance! Who he was
My teacher next inquir'd, and thus in few
He answer'd: "Vanni Fucci am I call'd,
Not long since rained down from Tuscany
To this dire gullet. Me the beastial life
And not the human pleas'd, mule that I was,
Who in Pistoia found my worthy den."

I then to Virgil: "Bid him stir not hence,
And ask what crime did thrust him hither: once
A man I knew him choleric and bloody."

The sinner heard and feign'd not, but towards me
His mind directing and his face, wherein
Was dismal shame depictur'd, thus he spake:
"It grieves me more to have been caught by thee
In this sad plight, which thou beholdest, than
When I was taken from the other life.
I have no power permitted to deny
What thou inquirest. I am doom'd thus low
To dwell, for that the sacristy by me
Was rifled of its goodly ornaments,
And with the guilt another falsely charged.
But that thou mayst not joy to see me thus,
So as thou e'er shalt 'scape this darksome realm
Open thine ears and hear what I forebode.
Reft of the Neri first Pistoia pines,
Then Florence changeth citizens and laws.
From Valdimagra, drawn by wrathful Mars,
A vapour rises, wrapt in turbid mists,
And sharp and eager driveth on the storm
With arrowy hurtling o'er Piceno's field,
Whence suddenly the cloud shall burst, and strike
Each helpless Bianco prostrate to the ground.
This have I told, that grief may rend thy heart."

Norton Translation

CANTO XXIV. Eighth Circle. The poets climb from the sixth pit.--
Seventh pit, filled with serpents, by which thieves are
tormented.--Vanni Fucci.--Prophecy of calamity to Dante.

In that part of the young year when the sun tempers his locks
beneath Aquarius,[1] and now the nights decrease toward half the
day,[2] when the hoar frost copies on the ground the image of her
white sister,[3] but the point of her pen lasts little while, the
rustic, whose provision fails "gets up up and sees the plain all
whitened o'er, whereat he strikes his thigh, returns indoors, and
grumbles here and there, like the poor wretch who knows not what
to do; again goes out and picks up hope again, seeing the world
to have changed face in short while, and takes his crook and
drives forth his flock to pasture": in like manner the Master made
me dismayed, when I saw his front so disturbed, and in like
manner speedily arrived the plaster for the hurt. For when we
came to the ruined bridge, the Leader turned to me with that
sweet look which I first saw at the foot of the mount.[4] He
opened his arms, after some counsel taken with himself, looking
first well at the ruin, and laid hold of me. And as one who acts
and considers, who seems always to be ready beforehand, so
lifting me up toward the top of a great rock, he took note of
another splinter, saying, "Seize hold next on that, but try first
if it is such that it may support thee." It was no way for one
clothed in a cloak, for we with difficulty, he light and I pushed
up, could mount from jag to jag. And had it not been that on that
precinct the bank was shorter than on the other side, I do not
know about him, but I should have been completely overcome. But
because all Malebolge slopes toward the opening of the lowest
abyss, the site of each valley is such that one side rises and
the other sinks.[5] We came, however, at length, up to the point
where the last stone is broken off. The breath was so milked from
my lungs when I was up that I could no farther, but sat me down
on first arrival.

[1] Toward the end of winter.

[2] Half of the twenty-four hours.

[3] The frost copies the look of the snow, but her pen soon loses
its cut, that is, the white frost soon vanishes.

[4] The hill of the first Canto, at the foot of which Virgil had
appeared to Dante.

[5] The level of the whole circle slopes toward the central deep,
so that the inner side of each pit is of less height than the

"Now it behoves thee thus to put off sloth," said the Master,
"for, sitting upon down or under quilt, one attains not fame,
without which he who consumes his life leaves of himself such
trace on earth as smoke in air, or in water the foam. And
therefore rise up, conquer the exhaustion with the spirit that
conquers every battle, if by its heavy body it be not dragged
down. A longer stairway needs must be ascended; it is not enough
from these to have departed; if thou understandest me, now act so
that it avail thee." Then I rose up, showing myself furnished
better with breath than I felt, and said, "Go on, for I am strong
and resolute."

Up along the crag we took the way, which was rugged, narrow, and
difficult, and far steeper than the one before. I was going along
speaking in order not to seem breathless, and a voice, unsuitable
for forming words, came out from the next ditch. I know not
what it said, though I was already upon the back of the arch that
crosses here; but he who was speaking seemed moved to anger. I
had turned downwards, but living eyes could not go to the bottom,
because of the obscurity. Wherefore I said, "Master, see that
thou go on to the next girth, and let us descend the wall, for as
from hence I hear and do not understand, so I look down and shape
out nothing." "Other reply," he said, "I give thee not than
doing, for an honest request ought to be followed by the deed in

We descended the bridge at its head, where it joins on with the
eighth bank, and then the pit was apparent to me. And I saw
therewithin a terrible heap of serpents, and of such hideous look
that the memory still curdles my blood. Let Libya with her sand
vaunt herself no more; for though she brings forth chelydri,
jaculi, and phareae, and cenchri with amphisboena, she never,
with all Ethiopia, nor with the land that lies on the Red Sea,
showed either so many plagues or so evil.

Amid this cruel and most dismal store were running people naked
and in terror, without hope of hole or heliotrope.[1] They had
their hands tied behind with serpents, which fixed through the
reins their tail and their head, and were knotted up in front.

[1] A precious stone, of green color, spotted with red, supposed
to make its wearer invisible.

And lo! at one, who was on our side, darted a serpent that
transfixed him there where the neck is knotted to the shoulders.
Nor _O_ nor _I_ was ever so quickly written as he took fire and
burned, and all ashes it behoved him to become in falling. And
when upon the ground he lay thus destroyed, the dust drew
together of itself, and into that same one instantly returned.
Thus by the great sages it is affirmed that the Phoenix dies, and
then is reborn when to her five hundredth year she draws
nigh. Nor herb nor grain she feeds on in her life, but only on
tears of incense and on balsam, and nard and myrrh are her last

And as he who falls and knows not how, by force of demon that
drags him to ground, or of other attack that seizeth the man;
when he arises and around him gazes, all bewildered by the great
anguish that he has suffered, and in looking sighs, such was that
sinner after he had risen. Oh power of God! how just thou art
that showerest down such blows for vengeance!

The Leader asked him then who he was; whereon he answered, "I
rained from Tuscany short time ago into this fell gullet. Bestial
life, and not human, pleased me, like a mule that I was. I am
Vanni Fucci, beast, and Pistoia was my fitting den." And I to my
Leader, "Tell him not to budge, and ask what sin thrust him down
here, for I have seen him a man of blood and rages." And the
sinner who heard dissembled not, but directed toward me his mind
and his face, and was painted with dismal shame. Then he said,
"More it grieves me, that thou hast caught me in the misery where
thou seest me, than when I was taken from the other life. I
cannot refuse that which thou demandest. I am put so far down
because I was robber of the sacristy with the fair furnishings,
and falsely hitherto has it been ascribed to another.[1] But that
thou enjoy not this sight, if ever thou shalt be forth of these
dark places, open thine ears to my announcement and hear.[2]
Pistoia first strips itself of the Black, then Florence renovates
her people and her customs. Mars draws a flame from Val di Magra
wrapped in turbid clouds, and with impetuous and bitter storm
shall it be opposed upon Campo Piceno, where it shall suddenly
rend the mist, so that every White shall thereby be smitten. And
this have I said because it must grieve thee."

[1] Vanni Fucci robbed the rich sacristy of the Church of St.
James, the cathedral of Pistoia. Suspicion of the crime fell upon
others, who, though innocent, were put to torture and hung for

[2] The following verses refer under their dark imagery to the
two parties, the Black and the White, introduced from Pistoia, by
which Florence was divided in the early years of the fourteenth
century, and to their fightings. The prophecy is dismal to Dante,
because it was with the Whites, whose overthrow Vanni Fucci
foretells, that his own fortunes were linked.