Inferno: Canto XXV
At the conclusion of his words, the thief
Lifted his hands aloft with both the figs,
Crying: "Take that, God, for at thee I aim them."
From that time forth the serpents were my friends;
For one entwined itself about his neck
As if it said: "I will not thou speak more;"
And round his arms another, and rebound him,
Clinching itself together so in front,
That with them he could not a motion make.
Pistoia, ah, Pistoia! why resolve not
To burn thyself to ashes and so perish,
Since in ill-doing thou thy seed excellest?
Through all the sombre circles of this Hell,
Spirit I saw not against God so proud,
Not he who fell at Thebes down from the walls!
He fled away, and spake no further word;
And I beheld a Centaur full of rage
Come crying out: "Where is, where is the scoffer?"
I do not think Maremma has so many
Serpents as he had all along his back,
As far as where our countenance begins.
Upon the shoulders, just behind the nape,
With wings wide open was a dragon lying,
And he sets fire to all that he encounters.
My Master said: "That one is Cacus, who
Beneath the rock upon Mount Aventine
Created oftentimes a lake of blood.
He goes not on the same road with his brothers,
By reason of the fraudulent theft he made
Of the great herd, which he had near to him;
Whereat his tortuous actions ceased beneath
The mace of Hercules, who peradventure
Gave him a hundred, and he felt not ten."
While he was speaking thus, he had passed by,
And spirits three had underneath us come,
Of which nor I aware was, nor my Leader,
Until what time they shouted: "Who are you?"
On which account our story made a halt,
And then we were intent on them alone.
I did not know them; but it came to pass,
As it is wont to happen by some chance,
That one to name the other was compelled,
Exclaiming: "Where can Cianfa have remained?"
Whence I, so that the Leader might attend,
Upward from chin to nose my finger laid.
If thou art, Reader, slow now to believe
What I shall say, it will no marvel be,
For I who saw it hardly can admit it.
As I was holding raised on them my brows,
Behold! a serpent with six feet darts forth
In front of one, and fastens wholly on him.
With middle feet it bound him round the paunch,
And with the forward ones his arms it seized;
Then thrust its teeth through one cheek and the other;
The hindermost it stretched upon his thighs,
And put its tail through in between the two,
And up behind along the reins outspread it.
Ivy was never fastened by its barbs
Unto a tree so, as this horrible reptile
Upon the other's limbs entwined its own.
Then they stuck close, as if of heated wax
They had been made, and intermixed their colour;
Nor one nor other seemed now what he was;
E'en as proceedeth on before the flame
Upward along the paper a brown colour,
Which is not black as yet, and the white dies.
The other two looked on, and each of them
Cried out: "O me, Agnello, how thou changest!
Behold, thou now art neither two nor one."
Already the two heads had one become,
When there appeared to us two figures mingled
Into one face, wherein the two were lost.
Of the four lists were fashioned the two arms,
The thighs and legs, the belly and the chest
Members became that never yet were seen.
Every original aspect there was cancelled;
Two and yet none did the perverted image
Appear, and such departed with slow pace.
Even as a lizard, under the great scourge
Of days canicular, exchanging hedge,
Lightning appeareth if the road it cross;
Thus did appear, coming towards the bellies
Of the two others, a small fiery serpent,
Livid and black as is a peppercorn.
And in that part whereat is first received
Our aliment, it one of them transfixed;
Then downward fell in front of him extended.
The one transfixed looked at it, but said naught;
Nay, rather with feet motionless he yawned,
Just as if sleep or fever had assailed him.
He at the serpent gazed, and it at him;
One through the wound, the other through the mouth
Smoked violently, and the smoke commingled.
Henceforth be silent Lucan, where he mentions
Wretched Sabellus and Nassidius,
And wait to hear what now shall be shot forth.
Be silent Ovid, of Cadmus and Arethusa;
For if him to a snake, her to fountain,
Converts he fabling, that I grudge him not;
Because two natures never front to front
Has he transmuted, so that both the forms
To interchange their matter ready were.
Together they responded in such wise,
That to a fork the serpent cleft his tail,
And eke the wounded drew his feet together.
The legs together with the thighs themselves
Adhered so, that in little time the juncture
No sign whatever made that was apparent.
He with the cloven tail assumed the figure
The other one was losing, and his skin
Became elastic, and the other's hard.
I saw the arms draw inward at the armpits,
And both feet of the reptile, that were short,
Lengthen as much as those contracted were.
Thereafter the hind feet, together twisted,
Became the member that a man conceals,
And of his own the wretch had two created.
While both of them the exhalation veils
With a new colour, and engenders hair
On one of them and depilates the other,
The one uprose and down the other fell,
Though turning not away their impious lamps,
Underneath which each one his muzzle changed.
He who was standing drew it tow'rds the temples,
And from excess of matter, which came thither,
Issued the ears from out the hollow cheeks;
What did not backward run and was retained
Of that excess made to the face a nose,
And the lips thickened far as was befitting.
He who lay prostrate thrusts his muzzle forward,
And backward draws the ears into his head,
In the same manner as the snail its horns;
And so the tongue, which was entire and apt
For speech before, is cleft, and the bi-forked
In the other closes up, and the smoke ceases.
The soul, which to a reptile had been changed,
Along the valley hissing takes to flight,
And after him the other speaking sputters.
Then did he turn upon him his new shoulders,
And said to the other: "I'll have Buoso run,
Crawling as I have done, along this road."
In this way I beheld the seventh ballast
Shift and reshift, and here be my excuse
The novelty, if aught my pen transgress.
And notwithstanding that mine eyes might be
Somewhat bewildered, and my mind dismayed,
They could not flee away so secretly
But that I plainly saw Puccio Sciancato;
And he it was who sole of three companions,
Which came in the beginning, was not changed;
The other was he whom thou, Gaville, weepest.
WHEN he had spoke, the sinner rais'd his hands
Pointed in mockery, and cried: "Take them, God!
I level them at thee!" From that day forth
The serpents were my friends; for round his neck
One of then rolling twisted, as it said,
"Be silent, tongue!" Another to his arms
Upgliding, tied them, riveting itself
So close, it took from them the power to move.
Pistoia! Ah Pistoia! why dost doubt
To turn thee into ashes, cumb'ring earth
No longer, since in evil act so far
Thou hast outdone thy seed? I did not mark,
Through all the gloomy circles of the' abyss,
Spirit, that swell'd so proudly 'gainst his God,
Not him, who headlong fell from Thebes. He fled,
Nor utter'd more; and after him there came
A centaur full of fury, shouting, "Where
Where is the caitiff?" On Maremma's marsh
Swarm not the serpent tribe, as on his haunch
They swarm'd, to where the human face begins.
Behind his head upon the shoulders lay,
With open wings, a dragon breathing fire
On whomsoe'er he met. To me my guide:
"Cacus is this, who underneath the rock
Of Aventine spread oft a lake of blood.
He, from his brethren parted, here must tread
A different journey, for his fraudful theft
Of the great herd, that near him stall'd; whence found
His felon deeds their end, beneath the mace
Of stout Alcides, that perchance laid on
A hundred blows, and not the tenth was felt."
While yet he spake, the centaur sped away:
And under us three spirits came, of whom
Nor I nor he was ware, till they exclaim'd;
"Say who are ye?" We then brake off discourse,
Intent on these alone. I knew them not;
But, as it chanceth oft, befell, that one
Had need to name another. "Where," said he,
"Doth Cianfa lurk?" I, for a sign my guide
Should stand attentive, plac'd against my lips
The finger lifted. If, O reader! now
Thou be not apt to credit what I tell,
No marvel; for myself do scarce allow
The witness of mine eyes. But as I looked
Toward them, lo! a serpent with six feet
Springs forth on one, and fastens full upon him:
His midmost grasp'd the belly, a forefoot
Seiz'd on each arm (while deep in either cheek
He flesh'd his fangs); the hinder on the thighs
Were spread, 'twixt which the tail inserted curl'd
Upon the reins behind. Ivy ne'er clasp'd
A dodder'd oak, as round the other's limbs
The hideous monster intertwin'd his own.
Then, as they both had been of burning wax,
Each melted into other, mingling hues,
That which was either now was seen no more.
Thus up the shrinking paper, ere it burns,
A brown tint glides, not turning yet to black,
And the clean white expires. The other two
Look'd on exclaiming: "Ah, how dost thou change,
Agnello! See! Thou art nor double now,
"Nor only one." The two heads now became
One, and two figures blended in one form
Appear'd, where both were lost. Of the four lengths
Two arms were made: the belly and the chest
The thighs and legs into such members chang'd,
As never eye hath seen. Of former shape
All trace was vanish'd. Two yet neither seem'd
That image miscreate, and so pass'd on
With tardy steps. As underneath the scourge
Of the fierce dog-star, that lays bare the fields,
Shifting from brake to brake, the lizard seems
A flash of lightning, if he thwart the road,
So toward th' entrails of the other two
Approaching seem'd, an adder all on fire,
As the dark pepper-grain, livid and swart.
In that part, whence our life is nourish'd first,
One he transpierc'd; then down before him fell
Stretch'd out. The pierced spirit look'd on him
But spake not; yea stood motionless and yawn'd,
As if by sleep or fev'rous fit assail'd.
He ey'd the serpent, and the serpent him.
One from the wound, the other from the mouth
Breath'd a thick smoke, whose vap'ry columns join'd.
Lucan in mute attention now may hear,
Nor thy disastrous fate, Sabellus! tell,
Nor shine, Nasidius! Ovid now be mute.
What if in warbling fiction he record
Cadmus and Arethusa, to a snake
Him chang'd, and her into a fountain clear,
I envy not; for never face to face
Two natures thus transmuted did he sing,
Wherein both shapes were ready to assume
The other's substance. They in mutual guise
So answer'd, that the serpent split his train
Divided to a fork, and the pierc'd spirit
Drew close his steps together, legs and thighs
Compacted, that no sign of juncture soon
Was visible: the tail disparted took
The figure which the spirit lost, its skin
Soft'ning, his indurated to a rind.
The shoulders next I mark'd, that ent'ring join'd
The monster's arm-pits, whose two shorter feet
So lengthen'd, as the other's dwindling shrunk.
The feet behind then twisting up became
That part that man conceals, which in the wretch
Was cleft in twain. While both the shadowy smoke
With a new colour veils, and generates
Th' excrescent pile on one, peeling it off
From th' other body, lo! upon his feet
One upright rose, and prone the other fell.
Not yet their glaring and malignant lamps
Were shifted, though each feature chang'd beneath.
Of him who stood erect, the mounting face
Retreated towards the temples, and what there
Superfluous matter came, shot out in ears
From the smooth cheeks, the rest, not backward dragg'd,
Of its excess did shape the nose; and swell'd
Into due size protuberant the lips.
He, on the earth who lay, meanwhile extends
His sharpen'd visage, and draws down the ears
Into the head, as doth the slug his horns.
His tongue continuous before and apt
For utt'rance, severs; and the other's fork
Closing unites. That done the smoke was laid.
The soul, transform'd into the brute, glides off,
Hissing along the vale, and after him
The other talking sputters; but soon turn'd
His new-grown shoulders on him, and in few
Thus to another spake: "Along this path
Crawling, as I have done, speed Buoso now!"
So saw I fluctuate in successive change
Th' unsteady ballast of the seventh hold:
And here if aught my tongue have swerv'd, events
So strange may be its warrant. O'er mine eyes
Confusion hung, and on my thoughts amaze.
Yet 'scap'd they not so covertly, but well
I mark'd Sciancato: he alone it was
Of the three first that came, who chang'd not: thou,
The other's fate, Gaville, still dost rue.
CANTO XXV. Eighth Circle: seventh pit: fraudulent thieves.
--Cacus. --Agnel Brunelleschi and others.
At the end of his words the thief raised his hands with both the
figs, crying, "Take that, God! for at thee I square them."
Thenceforth the serpents were my friends, for then one coiled
around his neck, as if it said, "I will not that thou say more,"
and another round his arms and bound them up anew, clinching
itself so in front that he could not give a shake with them. Ah
Pistoia! Pistoia! why dost thou not decree to make ashes of
thyself, so that thou mayest last no longer, since in evil-doing
thou surpassest thine own seed? Through all the dark
circles of Hell I saw no spirit against God so proud, not he who
fell at Thebes down from the walls. He fled away and spake no
 A vulgar mode of contemptuous defiance, thrusting out the
fist with the thumb between the first and middle finger.
 According to tradition, Pistoia was settled by the followers
of Catiline who escaped after his defeat.
 Capaneus; see Canto xiv.
And I saw a Centaur full of rage come crying out, "Where is,
where is that obdurate one?" I do not think Maremma has so many
snakes as he had upon his croup up to where our semblance begins.
On his shoulders behind the nape a dragon with open wings was
lying upon him, and it sets on fire whomsoever it encounters. My
Master said, "This is Cacus, who beneath the rock of Mount
Aventine made oftentimes a lake of blood. He goes not on one road
with his brothers because of the fraudulent theft he committed of
the great herd that was in his neighborhood; wherefor his crooked
deeds ceased under the club of Hercules, who perhaps dealt him a
hundred blows with it, and he felt not ten."
While he was so speaking, and that one had run by, lo! three
spirits came below us, of whom neither I nor my Leader
was aware till when they cried out, "Who are ye?" whereon our
story stopped, and we then attended only unto them. I did not
recognize them, but it happened, as it is wont to happen by
chance, that one must needs name the other, saying, "Cianfa,
where can he have stayed?" Whereupon I, in order that the Leader
should attend, put my finger upward from my chin to my nose.
If thou art now, Reader, slow to credit that which I shall tell,
it will not be a marvel, for I who saw it hardly admit it to
myself. As I was holding my brow raised upon them, lo! a serpent
with six feet darts in front of one, and grapples close to him.
With his middle feet he clasped his paunch, and with his forward
took his arms, then struck his fangs in one and the other cheek.
His hinder feet he stretched upon the thighs, and put his tail
between the two, and behind bent it up along the reins. Ivy was
never so bearded to a tree, as the horrible beast through the
other's limbs entwined his own. Then they stuck together as if
they had been of hot wax, and mingled their color; nor one nor
the other seemed now that which it was; even as before the flame,
up along the paper a dark color proceeds which is not yet black,
and the white dies away. The other two were looking on, and each
cried, "O me! Agnello, how thou changest! Lo, now thou art
neither two nor one! Now were the two heads become one, when
there appeared to us two countenances mixed in one face wherein
the two were lost. Of four  strips the two arms were made; the
thighs with the legs, the belly and the chest became members that
were never seen before. Each original aspect there was cancelled;
both and neither the perverse image appeared, and such it went
away with slow step.
 The two fore feet of the dragon and the two arms of the man
were melted into two strange arms.
As the lizard under the great scourge of the dog days, changing
from hedge to hedge, seems a flash, if it crosses the way, so
seemed, coming toward the belly of the two others, a little fiery
serpent, livid, and black as a grain of pepper. And that part
whereby our nourishment is first taken it transfixed in one of
them, then fell down stretched out before him. The transfixed one
gazed at it, but said nothing; nay rather, with feet fixed, he
yawned even as if sleep or fever had assailed him. He
looked at the serpent, and that at him; one through his wound,
the other through his mouth, smoked violently, and their smoke
met. Let Lucan henceforth be silent, where he tells of the
wretched Sabellus, and of Nasidius, and wait to hear that which
now is uttered. Let Ovid be silent concerning Cadmus and
Arethusa, for if, poetizing, he converts him into a serpent and
her into a fountain, I envy him not; for two natures front to
front never did he transmute, so that both the forms were prompt
to exchange their matter. To one another they responded by such
rules, that the serpent made his tail into a fork, and the
wounded one drew together his feet. The legs and the very thighs
with them so stuck together, that in short while the juncture
made no sign that was apparent. The cleft tail took on the shape
that was lost there, and its skin became soft, and that of the
other hard. I saw the arms draw in through the armpits, and the
two feet of the beast which were short lengthen out in proportion
as those shortened. Then the hinder feet, twisted together,
became the member that man conceals, and the wretched one from
his had two stretched forth.
 Hinder feet.
While the smoke is veiling both with a new color, and generates
hair on the one, and from the other strips it, one rose up, and
the other fell down, not however turning aside their pitiless
lights, beneath which each was changing his visage. He who was
erect drew his in toward the temples, and, from the excess of
material that came in there, issued the ears on the smooth
cheeks; that which did not run backwards but was retained, of its
superfluity made a nose for the face, and thickened the lips so
far as was needful. He who was lying down drives his muzzle
forward, and draws in his ears through his skull, as the snail
doth his horns. And his tongue, which erst was united and fit for
speech, cleaves itself, and the forked one of the other closes
up; and the smoke stops. The soul that had become a brute fled
hissing along the valley, and behind him the other speaking
spits. Then he turned upon him his new shoulders, and said to the
other, "I will that Buoso run, as I have done, groveling
along this path."
 Glaring steadily at each other.
 The third of the three spirits, the only one unchanged.
 Buoso is he who has become a snake.
Thus I saw the seventh ballast change and rechange, and here
let the novelty be my excuse, if my pen straggle a little. And
although my eyes were somewhat confused, and my mind bewildered,
those could not flee away so covertly but that I clearly
distinguished Puccio Sciancato, and he it was who alone, of the
three companions that had first come, was not changed; the
other was he whom thou, Gaville, weepest.
 The ballast,--the sinners in the seventh bolgia.
 Run into unusual detail.
 One Francesco Guerelo de' Cavalcanti, who was slain by men of
the little Florentine town of Gaville, and for whose death cruel
vengeance was taken. The three who had first come were the three
Florentine thieves, Agnello, Buoso, and Puccio. Cianfa Donati had
then appeared as the serpent with six feet, and had been
incorporated with Agnello. Lastly came Guercio Cavalcanti as a
little snake, and changed form with Buoso.