Inferno: Canto XXX
'Twas at the time when Juno was enraged,
For Semele, against the Theban blood,
As she already more than once had shown,
So reft of reason Athamas became,
That, seeing his own wife with children twain
Walking encumbered upon either hand,
He cried: "Spread out the nets, that I may take
The lioness and her whelps upon the passage;"
And then extended his unpitying claws,
Seizing the first, who had the name Learchus,
And whirled him round, and dashed him on a rock;
And she, with the other burthen, drowned herself;--
And at the time when fortune downward hurled
The Trojan's arrogance, that all things dared,
So that the king was with his kingdom crushed,
Hecuba sad, disconsolate, and captive,
When lifeless she beheld Polyxena,
And of her Polydorus on the shore
Of ocean was the dolorous one aware,
Out of her senses like a dog she barked,
So much the anguish had her mind distorted;
But not of Thebes the furies nor the Trojan
Were ever seen in any one so cruel
In goading beasts, and much more human members,
As I beheld two shadows pale and naked,
Who, biting, in the manner ran along
That a boar does, when from the sty turned loose.
One to Capocchio came, and by the nape
Seized with its teeth his neck, so that in dragging
It made his belly grate the solid bottom.
And the Aretine, who trembling had remained,
Said to me: "That mad sprite is Gianni Schicchi,
And raving goes thus harrying other people."
"O," said I to him, "so may not the other
Set teeth on thee, let it not weary thee
To tell us who it is, ere it dart hence."
And he to me: "That is the ancient ghost
Of the nefarious Myrrha, who became
Beyond all rightful love her father's lover.
She came to sin with him after this manner,
By counterfeiting of another's form;
As he who goeth yonder undertook,
That he might gain the lady of the herd,
To counterfeit in himself Buoso Donati,
Making a will and giving it due form."
And after the two maniacs had passed
On whom I held mine eye, I turned it back
To look upon the other evil-born.
I saw one made in fashion of a lute,
If he had only had the groin cut off
Just at the point at which a man is forked.
The heavy dropsy, that so disproportions
The limbs with humours, which it ill concocts,
That the face corresponds not to the belly,
Compelled him so to hold his lips apart
As does the hectic, who because of thirst
One tow'rds the chin, the other upward turns.
"O ye, who without any torment are,
And why I know not, in the world of woe,"
He said to us, "behold, and be attentive
Unto the misery of Master Adam;
I had while living much of what I wished,
And now, alas! a drop of water crave.
The rivulets, that from the verdant hills
Of Cassentin descend down into Arno,
Making their channels to be cold and moist,
Ever before me stand, and not in vain;
For far more doth their image dry me up
Than the disease which strips my face of flesh.
The rigid justice that chastises me
Draweth occasion from the place in which
I sinned, to put the more my sighs in flight.
There is Romena, where I counterfeited
The currency imprinted with the Baptist,
For which I left my body burned above.
But if I here could see the tristful soul
Of Guido, or Alessandro, or their brother,
For Branda's fount I would not give the sight.
One is within already, if the raving
Shades that are going round about speak truth;
But what avails it me, whose limbs are tied?
If I were only still so light, that in
A hundred years I could advance one inch,
I had already started on the way,
Seeking him out among this squalid folk,
Although the circuit be eleven miles,
And be not less than half a mile across.
For them am I in such a family;
They did induce me into coining florins,
Which had three carats of impurity."
And I to him: "Who are the two poor wretches
That smoke like unto a wet hand in winter,
Lying there close upon thy right-hand confines?"
"I found them here," replied he, "when I rained
Into this chasm, and since they have not turned,
Nor do I think they will for evermore.
One the false woman is who accused Joseph,
The other the false Sinon, Greek of Troy;
From acute fever they send forth such reek."
And one of them, who felt himself annoyed
At being, peradventure, named so darkly,
Smote with the fist upon his hardened paunch.
It gave a sound, as if it were a drum;
And Master Adam smote him in the face,
With arm that did not seem to be less hard,
Saying to him: "Although be taken from me
All motion, for my limbs that heavy are,
I have an arm unfettered for such need."
Whereat he answer made: "When thou didst go
Unto the fire, thou hadst it not so ready:
But hadst it so and more when thou wast coining."
The dropsical: "Thou sayest true in that;
But thou wast not so true a witness there,
Where thou wast questioned of the truth at Troy."
"If I spake false, thou falsifiedst the coin,"
Said Sinon; "and for one fault I am here,
And thou for more than any other demon."
"Remember, perjurer, about the horse,"
He made reply who had the swollen belly,
"And rueful be it thee the whole world knows it."
"Rueful to thee the thirst be wherewith cracks
Thy tongue," the Greek said, "and the putrid water
That hedges so thy paunch before thine eyes."
Then the false-coiner: "So is gaping wide
Thy mouth for speaking evil, as 'tis wont;
Because if I have thirst, and humour stuff me
Thou hast the burning and the head that aches,
And to lick up the mirror of Narcissus
Thou wouldst not want words many to invite thee."
In listening to them was I wholly fixed,
When said the Master to me: "Now just look,
For little wants it that I quarrel with thee."
When him I heard in anger speak to me,
I turned me round towards him with such shame
That still it eddies through my memory.
And as he is who dreams of his own harm,
Who dreaming wishes it may be a dream,
So that he craves what is, as if it were not;
Such I became, not having power to speak,
For to excuse myself I wished, and still
Excused myself, and did not think I did it.
"Less shame doth wash away a greater fault,"
The Master said, "than this of thine has been;
Therefore thyself disburden of all sadness,
And make account that I am aye beside thee,
If e'er it come to pass that fortune bring thee
Where there are people in a like dispute;
For a base wish it is to wish to hear it."
WHAT time resentment burn'd in Juno's breast
For Semele against the Theban blood,
As more than once in dire mischance was rued,
Such fatal frenzy seiz'd on Athamas,
That he his spouse beholding with a babe
Laden on either arm, "Spread out," he cried,
"The meshes, that I take the lioness
And the young lions at the pass:" then forth
Stretch'd he his merciless talons, grasping one,
One helpless innocent, Learchus nam'd,
Whom swinging down he dash'd upon a rock,
And with her other burden self-destroy'd
The hapless mother plung'd: and when the pride
Of all-presuming Troy fell from its height,
By fortune overwhelm'd, and the old king
With his realm perish'd, then did Hecuba,
A wretch forlorn and captive, when she saw
Polyxena first slaughter'd, and her son,
Her Polydorus, on the wild sea-beach
Next met the mourner's view, then reft of sense
Did she run barking even as a dog;
Such mighty power had grief to wrench her soul.
Bet ne'er the Furies or of Thebes or Troy
With such fell cruelty were seen, their goads
Infixing in the limbs of man or beast,
As now two pale and naked ghost I saw
That gnarling wildly scamper'd, like the swine
Excluded from his stye. One reach'd Capocchio,
And in the neck-joint sticking deep his fangs,
Dragg'd him, that o'er the solid pavement rubb'd
His belly stretch'd out prone. The other shape,
He of Arezzo, there left trembling, spake;
"That sprite of air is Schicchi; in like mood
Of random mischief vent he still his spite."
To whom I answ'ring: "Oh! as thou dost hope,
The other may not flesh its jaws on thee,
Be patient to inform us, who it is,
Ere it speed hence."--"That is the ancient soul
Of wretched Myrrha," he replied, "who burn'd
With most unholy flame for her own sire,
"And a false shape assuming, so perform'd
The deed of sin; e'en as the other there,
That onward passes, dar'd to counterfeit
Donati's features, to feign'd testament
The seal affixing, that himself might gain,
For his own share, the lady of the herd."
When vanish'd the two furious shades, on whom
Mine eye was held, I turn'd it back to view
The other cursed spirits. One I saw
In fashion like a lute, had but the groin
Been sever'd, where it meets the forked part.
Swoln dropsy, disproportioning the limbs
With ill-converted moisture, that the paunch
Suits not the visage, open'd wide his lips
Gasping as in the hectic man for drought,
One towards the chin, the other upward curl'd.
"O ye, who in this world of misery,
Wherefore I know not, are exempt from pain,"
Thus he began, "attentively regard
Adamo's woe. When living, full supply
Ne'er lack'd me of what most I coveted;
One drop of water now, alas! I crave.
The rills, that glitter down the grassy slopes
Of Casentino, making fresh and soft
The banks whereby they glide to Arno's stream,
Stand ever in my view; and not in vain;
For more the pictur'd semblance dries me up,
Much more than the disease, which makes the flesh
Desert these shrivel'd cheeks. So from the place,
Where I transgress'd, stern justice urging me,
Takes means to quicken more my lab'ring sighs.
There is Romena, where I falsified
The metal with the Baptist's form imprest,
For which on earth I left my body burnt.
But if I here might see the sorrowing soul
Of Guido, Alessandro, or their brother,
For Branda's limpid spring I would not change
The welcome sight. One is e'en now within,
If truly the mad spirits tell, that round
Are wand'ring. But wherein besteads me that?
My limbs are fetter'd. Were I but so light,
That I each hundred years might move one inch,
I had set forth already on this path,
Seeking him out amidst the shapeless crew,
Although eleven miles it wind, not more
Than half of one across. They brought me down
Among this tribe; induc'd by them I stamp'd
The florens with three carats of alloy."
"Who are that abject pair," I next inquir'd,
"That closely bounding thee upon thy right
Lie smoking, like a band in winter steep'd
In the chill stream?"--"When to this gulf I dropt,"
He answer'd, "here I found them; since that hour
They have not turn'd, nor ever shall, I ween,
Till time hath run his course. One is that dame
The false accuser of the Hebrew youth;
Sinon the other, that false Greek from Troy.
Sharp fever drains the reeky moistness out,
In such a cloud upsteam'd." When that he heard,
One, gall'd perchance to be so darkly nam'd,
With clench'd hand smote him on the braced paunch,
That like a drum resounded: but forthwith
Adamo smote him on the face, the blow
Returning with his arm, that seem'd as hard.
"Though my o'erweighty limbs have ta'en from me
The power to move," said he, "I have an arm
At liberty for such employ." To whom
Was answer'd: "When thou wentest to the fire,
Thou hadst it not so ready at command,
Then readier when it coin'd th' impostor gold."
And thus the dropsied: "Ay, now speak'st thou true.
But there thou gav'st not such true testimony,
When thou wast question'd of the truth, at Troy."
"If I spake false, thou falsely stamp'dst the coin,"
Said Sinon; "I am here but for one fault,
And thou for more than any imp beside."
"Remember," he replied, "O perjur'd one,
The horse remember, that did teem with death,
And all the world be witness to thy guilt."
"To thine," return'd the Greek, "witness the thirst
Whence thy tongue cracks, witness the fluid mound,
Rear'd by thy belly up before thine eyes,
A mass corrupt." To whom the coiner thus:
"Thy mouth gapes wide as ever to let pass
Its evil saying. Me if thirst assails,
Yet I am stuff'd with moisture. Thou art parch'd,
Pains rack thy head, no urging would'st thou need
To make thee lap Narcissus' mirror up."
I was all fix'd to listen, when my guide
Admonish'd: "Now beware: a little more.
And I do quarrel with thee." I perceiv'd
How angrily he spake, and towards him turn'd
With shame so poignant, as remember'd yet
Confounds me. As a man that dreams of harm
Befall'n him, dreaming wishes it a dream,
And that which is, desires as if it were not,
Such then was I, who wanting power to speak
Wish'd to excuse myself, and all the while
Excus'd me, though unweeting that I did.
"More grievous fault than thine has been, less shame,"
My master cried, "might expiate. Therefore cast
All sorrow from thy soul; and if again
Chance bring thee, where like conference is held,
Think I am ever at thy side. To hear
Such wrangling is a joy for vulgar minds."
CANTO XXX. Eighth Circle: tenth pit: falsifiers of all
sorts.--Myrrha.--Gianni Schicchi.--Master Adam.--Sinon of Troy.
At the time when Juno was wroth because of Semele against the
Theban blood, as she showed more than once, Athamas became so
insane, that seeing his wife come laden on either hand with her
two sons, cried out, "Spread we the nets, so that I may take the
lioness and the young lions at the pass," and then he stretched
out his pitiless talons, taking the one who was named Learchus,
and whirled him and struck him on a rock; and she drowned herself
with her other burden. And when Fortune turned downward the
all-daring loftiness of the Trojans, so that together with the
kingdom the king was undone, Hecuba, sad, wretched, and captive,
when she saw Polyxena dead, and woeful descried her Polydorus on
the sea-bank, frantic, barked like a dog,--to such degree had
grief distraught her mind.
But neither the furies of Thebes, nor the Trojan, were ever seen
toward any one so cruel, whether in goading beasts or human
limbs, as I saw two shades pallid and naked who, biting, were
running in the way that a boar does when from the sty he breaks
loose. One came at Capocchio, and on the nape of his neck struck
his teeth, so that dragging him he made his belly scratch along
the solid bottom. And the Aretine, who remained trembling,
said to me, "That goblin is Gianni Schicchi, and rabid he goes
thus maltreating others." "Oh," said I to him, "so may time other
not fix his teeth on thee, let it not weary thee to tell who it
is ere it start hence." And he to me, "That is the ancient soul
of profligate Myrrha, who became her father's lover beyond
rightful love. She came to sinning with him by falsifying herself
in another's form, even as the other, who goes off there,
undertook, in order to gain the lady of the herd, to
counterfeit Buoso Donati, making a will and giving to the will
 No mad rages were ever so merciless as those of these furious
 Buoso Donati had died without making a will, whereupon his
nephew suborned Gianni Schicchi to personate the dead man in bed,
and to dictate a will in his favor. This Gianni did, but with a
clause leaving to himself a favorite mare of Buoso's, the best in
And after the two rabid ones upon whom I had kept my eye had
disappeared, I turned it to look at the other miscreants. I saw
one made in fashion of a lute, had he but only had his groin cut
off at the part where man is forked. The heavy hydropsy which,
with the humor that it ill digests, so unmates the members that
the face corresponds not with the belly, was making him hold his
lips open as the hectic does, who for thirst turns one toward his
chin, the other upward.
"Oh ye, who are without any punishment, and I know not why, in
the dismal world," said he to us, "look and attend to the misery
of Master Adam. Living, I had enough of what I wished, and now,
alas! I long for a drop of water. The rivulets that from the
green hills of the Casentino descend into the Arno, making their
channels cool and soft, stand ever before me, and not in vain;
for their image dries me up far more than the disease which
strips my face of flesh. The rigid justice that scourges me draws
occasion from the place where I sinned to put my sighs the more
in flight. There is Romena, where I falsified the alloy stamped
with the Baptist, for which on earth I left my body burned.
But if here I could see the wretched soul of Guido or of
Alessandro, or of their brother, for Fount Branda I would
not give the sight. One of them is here within already, if the
rating shades who go around speak true. But what does it avail me
who have my limbs bound? If I were only yet so light that in a
hundred years I could go an inch, I should already have set out
along the path, seeking for him among this disfigured folk,
although it circles round eleven miles, and is not less than half
a mile across. Because of them I am among such a family; they
induced me to strike the forms that had full three carats of base
metal." And I to him, "Who are the two poor wretches that are
smoking like a wet hand in winter, lying close to your confines
on the right?" "Here I found them," he answered, "when I
rained down into this trough, and they have not since given a
turn, and I do not believe they will give one to all eternity.
One is the false woman that accused Joseph, the other is the
false Sinon the Greek, from Troy; because of their sharp fever
they throw out such great reek."
 The florin which bore on the obverse the figure of John the
Baptist, the protecting saint of Florence.
 Counts of Romena.
 The noted fountain in Siena, or perhaps one in Romena.
And one of them who took it ill perchance at being named so
darkly, with his fist struck him on his stiff paunch; it sounded
as if it were a drum; and Master Adam struck him on the face with
his arm that did not seem less hard, saying to him, "Though,
because of my heavy limbs, moving hence be taken from me, I have
an arm free for such need." Whereon he replied, "When thou wast
going to the fire thou hadst it not thus ready, but so and more
thou hadst it when thou wast coining." And the hydropic, "Thou
sayst true in this, but thou wast not so true a witness there
where thou wast questioned of the truth at Troy." "If I spake
false, thou didst falsify the coin," said Sinon, "and I am here
for a single sin, and thou for more than any other demon."
"Remember, perjured one, the horse," answered he who had the
puffed up paunch, "and be it ill for thee that the whole world
knows it." "And be ill for thee the thirst which cracks thy
tongue," said the Greek, "and the putrid water that makes thy
belly thus a hedge before thine eyes." Then the coiner, "So yawns
thy mouth for its own harm as it is wont, for if I am thirsty,
and humor stuffs me out, thou hast the burning, and the head that
pains thee, and to lick the mirror of Narcissus thou wouldst not
want many words of invitation."
To listen to them was I wholly fixed, when the Master said to me,
"Now then look, for it wants but little that I quarrel with
thee." When I heard him speak to me with anger, I turned me
toward him with such shame that still it circles through my
memory. And as is he that dreams of his harm, and, dreaming,
desires to dream, so that that which is he craves as if it were
not, such I became, not being able to speak, for I desired to
excuse myself, and I was indeed excusing myself, and did not
think that I was doing it. "Less shame doth wash away a greater
fault than thine hath been," said the Master; therefore disburden
thyself of all regret, and make reckoning that I am always at thy
side, if again it happen that fortune find thee where people are
in similar brawl; for the wish to hear it is a base wish."