Inferno: Canto XXIV
The many people and the divers wounds
These eyes of mine had so inebriated,
That they were wishful to stand still and weep;
But said Virgilius: "What dost thou still gaze at?
Why is thy sight still riveted down there
Among the mournful, mutilated shades?
Thou hast not done so at the other Bolge;
Consider, if to count them thou believest,
That two-and-twenty miles the valley winds,
And now the moon is underneath our feet;
Henceforth the time allotted us is brief,
And more is to be seen than what thou seest."
"If thou hadst," I made answer thereupon,
"Attended to the cause for which I looked,
Perhaps a longer stay thou wouldst have pardoned."
Meanwhile my Guide departed, and behind him
I went, already making my reply,
And superadding: "In that cavern where
I held mine eyes with such attention fixed,
I think a spirit of my blood laments
The sin which down below there costs so much."
Then said the Master: "Be no longer broken
Thy thought from this time forward upon him;
Attend elsewhere, and there let him remain;
For him I saw below the little bridge,
Pointing at thee, and threatening with his finger
Fiercely, and heard him called Geri del Bello.
So wholly at that time wast thou impeded
By him who formerly held Altaforte,
Thou didst not look that way; so he departed."
"O my Conductor, his own violent death,
Which is not yet avenged for him," I said,
"By any who is sharer in the shame,
Made him disdainful; whence he went away,
As I imagine, without speaking to me,
And thereby made me pity him the more."
Thus did we speak as far as the first place
Upon the crag, which the next valley shows
Down to the bottom, if there were more light.
When we were now right over the last cloister
Of Malebolge, so that its lay-brothers
Could manifest themselves unto our sight,
Divers lamentings pierced me through and through,
Which with compassion had their arrows barbed,
Whereat mine ears I covered with my hands.
What pain would be, if from the hospitals
Of Valdichiana, 'twixt July and September,
And of Maremma and Sardinia
All the diseases in one moat were gathered,
Such was it here, and such a stench came from it
As from putrescent limbs is wont to issue.
We had descended on the furthest bank
From the long crag, upon the left hand still,
And then more vivid was my power of sight
Down tow'rds the bottom, where the ministress
Of the high Lord, Justice infallible,
Punishes forgers, which she here records.
I do not think a sadder sight to see
Was in Aegina the whole people sick,
(When was the air so full of pestilence,
The animals, down to the little worm,
All fell, and afterwards the ancient people,
According as the poets have affirmed,
Were from the seed of ants restored again,)
Than was it to behold through that dark valley
The spirits languishing in divers heaps.
This on the belly, that upon the back
One of the other lay, and others crawling
Shifted themselves along the dismal road.
We step by step went onward without speech,
Gazing upon and listening to the sick
Who had not strength enough to lift their bodies.
I saw two sitting leaned against each other,
As leans in heating platter against platter,
From head to foot bespotted o'er with scabs;
And never saw I plied a currycomb
By stable-boy for whom his master waits,
Or him who keeps awake unwillingly,
As every one was plying fast the bite
Of nails upon himself, for the great rage
Of itching which no other succour had.
And the nails downward with them dragged the scab,
In fashion as a knife the scales of bream,
Or any other fish that has them largest.
"O thou, that with thy fingers dost dismail thee,"
Began my Leader unto one of them,
"And makest of them pincers now and then,
Tell me if any Latian is with those
Who are herein; so may thy nails suffice thee
To all eternity unto this work."
"Latians are we, whom thou so wasted seest,
Both of us here," one weeping made reply;
"But who art thou, that questionest about us?"
And said the Guide: "One am I who descends
Down with this living man from cliff to cliff,
And I intend to show Hell unto him."
Then broken was their mutual support,
And trembling each one turned himself to me,
With others who had heard him by rebound.
Wholly to me did the good Master gather,
Saying: "Say unto them whate'er thou wishest."
And I began, since he would have it so:
"So may your memory not steal away
In the first world from out the minds of men,
But so may it survive 'neath many suns,
Say to me who ye are, and of what people;
Let not your foul and loathsome punishment
Make you afraid to show yourselves to me."
"I of Arezzo was," one made reply,
"And Albert of Siena had me burned;
But what I died for does not bring me here.
'Tis true I said to him, speaking in jest,
That I could rise by flight into the air,
And he who had conceit, but little wit,
Would have me show to him the art; and only
Because no Daedalus I made him, made me
Be burned by one who held him as his son.
But unto the last Bolgia of the ten,
For alchemy, which in the world I practised,
Minos, who cannot err, has me condemned."
And to the Poet said I: "Now was ever
So vain a people as the Sienese?
Not for a certainty the French by far."
Whereat the other leper, who had heard me,
Replied unto my speech: "Taking out Stricca,
Who knew the art of moderate expenses,
And Niccolo, who the luxurious use
Of cloves discovered earliest of all
Within that garden where such seed takes root;
And taking out the band, among whom squandered
Caccia d'Ascian his vineyards and vast woods,
And where his wit the Abbagliato proffered!
But, that thou know who thus doth second thee
Against the Sienese, make sharp thine eye
Tow'rds me, so that my face well answer thee,
And thou shalt see I am Capocchio's shade,
Who metals falsified by alchemy;
Thou must remember, if I well descry thee,
How I a skilful ape of nature was."
SO were mine eyes inebriate with view
Of the vast multitude, whom various wounds
Disfigur'd, that they long'd to stay and weep.
But Virgil rous'd me: "What yet gazest on?
Wherefore doth fasten yet thy sight below
Among the maim'd and miserable shades?
Thou hast not shewn in any chasm beside
This weakness. Know, if thou wouldst number them
That two and twenty miles the valley winds
Its circuit, and already is the moon
Beneath our feet: the time permitted now
Is short, and more not seen remains to see."
"If thou," I straight replied, "hadst weigh'd the cause
For which I look'd, thou hadst perchance excus'd
The tarrying still." My leader part pursu'd
His way, the while I follow'd, answering him,
And adding thus: "Within that cave I deem,
Whereon so fixedly I held my ken,
There is a spirit dwells, one of my blood,
Wailing the crime that costs him now so dear."
Then spake my master: "Let thy soul no more
Afflict itself for him. Direct elsewhere
Its thought, and leave him. At the bridge's foot
I mark'd how he did point with menacing look
At thee, and heard him by the others nam'd
Geri of Bello. Thou so wholly then
Wert busied with his spirit, who once rul'd
The towers of Hautefort, that thou lookedst not
That way, ere he was gone."--"O guide belov'd!
His violent death yet unaveng'd," said I,
"By any, who are partners in his shame,
Made him contemptuous: therefore, as I think,
He pass'd me speechless by; and doing so
Hath made me more compassionate his fate."
So we discours'd to where the rock first show'd
The other valley, had more light been there,
E'en to the lowest depth. Soon as we came
O'er the last cloister in the dismal rounds
Of Malebolge, and the brotherhood
Were to our view expos'd, then many a dart
Of sore lament assail'd me, headed all
With points of thrilling pity, that I clos'd
Both ears against the volley with mine hands.
As were the torment, if each lazar-house
Of Valdichiana, in the sultry time
'Twixt July and September, with the isle
Sardinia and Maremma's pestilent fen,
Had heap'd their maladies all in one foss
Together; such was here the torment: dire
The stench, as issuing steams from fester'd limbs.
We on the utmost shore of the long rock
Descended still to leftward. Then my sight
Was livelier to explore the depth, wherein
The minister of the most mighty Lord,
All-searching Justice, dooms to punishment
The forgers noted on her dread record.
More rueful was it not methinks to see
The nation in Aegina droop, what time
Each living thing, e'en to the little worm,
All fell, so full of malice was the air
(And afterward, as bards of yore have told,
The ancient people were restor'd anew
From seed of emmets) than was here to see
The spirits, that languish'd through the murky vale
Up-pil'd on many a stack. Confus'd they lay,
One o'er the belly, o'er the shoulders one
Roll'd of another; sideling crawl'd a third
Along the dismal pathway. Step by step
We journey'd on, in silence looking round
And list'ning those diseas'd, who strove in vain
To lift their forms. Then two I mark'd, that sat
Propp'd 'gainst each other, as two brazen pans
Set to retain the heat. From head to foot,
A tetter bark'd them round. Nor saw I e'er
Groom currying so fast, for whom his lord
Impatient waited, or himself perchance
Tir'd with long watching, as of these each one
Plied quickly his keen nails, through furiousness
Of ne'er abated pruriency. The crust
Came drawn from underneath in flakes, like scales
Scrap'd from the bream or fish of broader mail.
"O thou, who with thy fingers rendest off
Thy coat of proof," thus spake my guide to one,
"And sometimes makest tearing pincers of them,
Tell me if any born of Latian land
Be among these within: so may thy nails
Serve thee for everlasting to this toil."
"Both are of Latium," weeping he replied,
"Whom tortur'd thus thou seest: but who art thou
That hast inquir'd of us?" To whom my guide:
"One that descend with this man, who yet lives,
From rock to rock, and show him hell's abyss."
Then started they asunder, and each turn'd
Trembling toward us, with the rest, whose ear
Those words redounding struck. To me my liege
Address'd him: "Speak to them whate'er thou list."
And I therewith began: "So may no time
Filch your remembrance from the thoughts of men
In th' upper world, but after many suns
Survive it, as ye tell me, who ye are,
And of what race ye come. Your punishment,
Unseemly and disgustful in its kind,
Deter you not from opening thus much to me."
"Arezzo was my dwelling," answer'd one,
"And me Albero of Sienna brought
To die by fire; but that, for which I died,
Leads me not here. True is in sport I told him,
That I had learn'd to wing my flight in air.
And he admiring much, as he was void
Of wisdom, will'd me to declare to him
The secret of mine art: and only hence,
Because I made him not a Daedalus,
Prevail'd on one suppos'd his sire to burn me.
But Minos to this chasm last of the ten,
For that I practis'd alchemy on earth,
Has doom'd me. Him no subterfuge eludes."
Then to the bard I spake: "Was ever race
Light as Sienna's? Sure not France herself
Can show a tribe so frivolous and vain."
The other leprous spirit heard my words,
And thus return'd: "Be Stricca from this charge
Exempted, he who knew so temp'rately
To lay out fortune's gifts; and Niccolo
Who first the spice's costly luxury
Discover'd in that garden, where such seed
Roots deepest in the soil: and be that troop
Exempted, with whom Caccia of Asciano
Lavish'd his vineyards and wide-spreading woods,
And his rare wisdom Abbagliato show'd
A spectacle for all. That thou mayst know
Who seconds thee against the Siennese
Thus gladly, bend this way thy sharpen'd sight,
That well my face may answer to thy ken;
So shalt thou see I am Capocchio's ghost,
Who forg'd transmuted metals by the power
Of alchemy; and if I scan thee right,
Thus needs must well remember how I aped
Creative nature by my subtle art."
CANTO XXIX. Eighth Circle ninth pit.--Geri del Bello.--Tenth pit:
falsifiers of all sorts.--Griffolino of Arezzo.--Capocchio.
The many people and the diverse wounds had so inebriated mine
eyes that they were fain to stay for weeping. But Virgil said to
me, "What art thou still watching? why is thy sight still fixed
down there among the dismal mutilated shades? Thou hast not done
so at the other pits; consider if thou thinkest to count them,
that the valley circles two and twenty miles; and already the
moon is beneath our feet; the time is little now that is conceded
to us, and other things are to be seen than thou seest." "If thou
hadst," replied I thereupon, "attended to the reason why I was
looking perhaps thou wouldst have permitted me yet to stay."
Meanwhile my Leader went on, and I behind him went, already
waking reply, and adding, "Within that cavern where I just now
was holding my eyes so fixedly, I think that a spirit of my own
blood weeps the sin that down there costs so dear." Then said the
Master, "Let not thy thought henceforth reflect on him; attend to
other thing, and let him there remain, for I saw him at the foot
of the little bridge pointing at thee, and threatening fiercely
with his finger, and I heard him called Geri del Bello. Thou
wert then so completely engaged on him who of old held
Hautefort that thou didst not look that way till he had
departed." "O my Leader," said I, "the violent death which is not
yet avenged for him by any who is sharer in the shame made him
indignant, wherefore, as I deem, he went on without speaking to
me, and thereby has he made me pity him the more."
 A cousin or uncle of Dante's father, of whom little is known
but what may be inferred from Dante's words and from the place he
assigns him in Hell.
 Bertran de Born, lord of Hautefort.
Thus we spake far as the place on the crag which first shows the
next valley, if more light were there, quite to the bottom. When
we were above the last cloister of Malebolge so that its lay
brothers could appear to our sight, divers lamentations pierced
me, that had their arrows barbed with pity; wherefore I covered
my ears with my hands.
Such pain as there would be if, between July and September, from
the hospitals of Valdichiana and of Maremma and of Sardinia
the sick should all be in one ditch together, such was there
here; and such stench came forth therefrom, as is wont to come
from putrescent limbs. We descended upon the last bank of the
long crag, ever to the left hand, and then my sight became more
vivid down toward the bottom, where the ministress of the High
Lord--infallible Justice--punishes the falsifiers whom on earth
 Unhealthy regions, noted for the prevalence of malarial
fevers in summer.
I do not think it was a greater sorrow to see the whole people in
Egina sick, when the air was so full of pestilence that the
animals, even to the little worm, all fell dead (and afterwards
the ancient people, according as the poets hold for sure, were
restored by seed of ants), than it was to see the spirits
languishing in different heaps through that dark valley. This one
over the belly, and that over the shoulders of another was lying,
and this one, crawling, was shifting himself along the dismal
path. Step by step we went without speech, looking at and
listening to the sick, who could not lift their persons.
I saw two seated leaning on each other, as pan is leaned against
pan to warm, spotted from head to foot with scabs; and never did
I see currycomb plied by a boy for whom his lord is waiting nor
by one who keeps awake unwillingly, as each often plied the bite
of his nails upon himself, because of the great rage of his
itching which has no other relief. And the nails dragged down the
scab, even as a knife the scales of bream or of other fish that
may have them larger.
"O thou, that with thy fingers dost dismail thyself," began my
Leader unto one of them, "and who sometimes makest pincers of
them, tell me if any Latian is among those who are here
within: so may thy nails suffice thee eternally for this work."
"Latians are we whom here thou seest so defaced, both of us,"
replied one weeping, "but thou, who art thou that hast asked of
us?" And the Leader said, "I am one that descends with this
living man down from ledge to ledge, and I intend to show Hell to
him." Then their mutual support was broken; and trembling each
turned to me, together with others that heard him by rebound. The
good Master inclined himself wholly toward me, saying, "Say to
them what thou wilt;" and I began, since he was willing, "So may
memory of you not steal away in the first world from human minds,
but may it live under many suns, tell me who ye are, and of what
race; let not your disfiguring and loathsome punishment fright
you from disclosing yourselves unto me." "I was from Arezzo,"
replied one of them, "and Albero of Siena had me put in the
fire; but that for which I died brings me not here. True it is
that I said to him, speaking in jest, I knew how to raise myself
through the air in flight, and he, who had vain desire and little
wit, wished that I should show him the art, and only because I
did not make him Daedalus, made me be burned by one that held
him as a son; but to the last pit of the ten, for the alchemy
that I practiced in the world, Minos, to whom it is not allowed
to err, condemned me." And I said to the Poet, "Now was ever
people so vain as the Sienese? surely not so the French by much."
Whereon the other leprous one, who heard me, replied to my words,
"Except Stricca who knew how to make moderate expenditure, and
Niccolo, who first invented the costly custom of the clove in
the garden where such seed takes root; and except the brigade in
which Caccia of Asciano wasted his vineyard and his great wood,
and the Abbagliato showed his wit. But that thou mayest know who
thus seconds thee against the Sienese, so sharpen thine eye
toward me that my face may answer well to thee, so shalt thou see
that I am the shade of Capocchio, who falsified the metals by
alchemy; and thou shouldst recollect, if I descry thee aright,
how I was a good ape of nature."
 This is supposed to be one Griffolino, of whom nothing is
known but what Dante tells.
 The Bishop of Siena.
 Ironical; these youths all being members of the company known
as the brigata godereccia or spendereccia, the joyous or
 The use of rich and expensive spices in cookery.