Side by Side Translations of Dante's Inferno - Canto 31

Longfellow Translation

Inferno: Canto XXXI

One and the selfsame tongue first wounded me,
  So that it tinged the one cheek and the other,
  And then held out to me the medicine;

Thus do I hear that once Achilles' spear,
  His and his father's, used to be the cause
  First of a sad and then a gracious boon.

We turned our backs upon the wretched valley,
  Upon the bank that girds it round about,
  Going across it without any speech.

There it was less than night, and less than day,
  So that my sight went little in advance;
  But I could hear the blare of a loud horn,

So loud it would have made each thunder faint,
  Which, counter to it following its way,
  Mine eyes directed wholly to one place.

After the dolorous discomfiture
  When Charlemagne the holy emprise lost,
  So terribly Orlando sounded not.

Short while my head turned thitherward I held
  When many lofty towers I seemed to see,
  Whereat I: "Master, say, what town is this?"

And he to me: "Because thou peerest forth
  Athwart the darkness at too great a distance,
  It happens that thou errest in thy fancy.

Well shalt thou see, if thou arrivest there,
  How much the sense deceives itself by distance;
  Therefore a little faster spur thee on."

Then tenderly he took me by the hand,
  And said: "Before we farther have advanced,
  That the reality may seem to thee

Less strange, know that these are not towers, but giants,
  And they are in the well, around the bank,
  From navel downward, one and all of them."

As, when the fog is vanishing away,
  Little by little doth the sight refigure
  Whate'er the mist that crowds the air conceals,

So, piercing through the dense and darksome air,
  More and more near approaching tow'rd the verge,
  My error fled, and fear came over me;

Because as on its circular parapets
  Montereggione crowns itself with towers,
  E'en thus the margin which surrounds the well

With one half of their bodies turreted
  The horrible giants, whom Jove menaces
  E'en now from out the heavens when he thunders.

And I of one already saw the face,
  Shoulders, and breast, and great part of the belly,
  And down along his sides both of the arms.

Certainly Nature, when she left the making
  Of animals like these, did well indeed,
  By taking such executors from Mars;

And if of elephants and whales she doth not
  Repent her, whosoever looketh subtly
  More just and more discreet will hold her for it;

For where the argument of intellect
  Is added unto evil will and power,
  No rampart can the people make against it.

His face appeared to me as long and large
  As is at Rome the pine-cone of Saint Peter's,
  And in proportion were the other bones;

So that the margin, which an apron was
  Down from the middle, showed so much of him
  Above it, that to reach up to his hair

Three Frieslanders in vain had vaunted them;
  For I beheld thirty great palms of him
  Down from the place where man his mantle buckles.

"Raphael mai amech izabi almi,"
  Began to clamour the ferocious mouth,
  To which were not befitting sweeter psalms.

And unto him my Guide: "Soul idiotic,
  Keep to thy horn, and vent thyself with that,
  When wrath or other passion touches thee.

Search round thy neck, and thou wilt find the belt
  Which keeps it fastened, O bewildered soul,
  And see it, where it bars thy mighty breast."

Then said to me: "He doth himself accuse;
  This one is Nimrod, by whose evil thought
  One language in the world is not still used.

Here let us leave him and not speak in vain;
  For even such to him is every language
  As his to others, which to none is known."

Therefore a longer journey did we make,
  Turned to the left, and a crossbow-shot oft
  We found another far more fierce and large.

In binding him, who might the master be
  I cannot say; but he had pinioned close
  Behind the right arm, and in front the other,

With chains, that held him so begirt about
  From the neck down, that on the part uncovered
  It wound itself as far as the fifth gyre.

"This proud one wished to make experiment
  Of his own power against the Supreme Jove,"
  My Leader said, "whence he has such a guerdon.

Ephialtes is his name; he showed great prowess.
  What time the giants terrified the gods;
  The arms he wielded never more he moves."

And I to him: "If possible, I should wish
  That of the measureless Briareus
  These eyes of mine might have experience."

Whence he replied: "Thou shalt behold Antaeus
  Close by here, who can speak and is unbound,
  Who at the bottom of all crime shall place us.

Much farther yon is he whom thou wouldst see,
  And he is bound, and fashioned like to this one,
  Save that he seems in aspect more ferocious."

There never was an earthquake of such might
  That it could shake a tower so violently,
  As Ephialtes suddenly shook himself.

Then was I more afraid of death than ever,
  For nothing more was needful than the fear,
  If I had not beheld the manacles.

Then we proceeded farther in advance,
  And to Antaeus came, who, full five ells
  Without the head, forth issued from the cavern.

"O thou, who in the valley fortunate,
  Which Scipio the heir of glory made,
  When Hannibal turned back with all his hosts,

Once brought'st a thousand lions for thy prey,
  And who, hadst thou been at the mighty war
  Among thy brothers, some it seems still think

The sons of Earth the victory would have gained:
  Place us below, nor be disdainful of it,
  There where the cold doth lock Cocytus up.

Make us not go to Tityus nor Typhoeus;
  This one can give of that which here is longed for;
  Therefore stoop down, and do not curl thy lip.

Still in the world can he restore thy fame;
  Because he lives, and still expects long life,
  If to itself Grace call him not untimely."

So said the Master; and in haste the other
  His hands extended and took up my Guide,--
  Hands whose great pressure Hercules once felt.

Virgilius, when he felt himself embraced,
  Said unto me: "Draw nigh, that I may take thee;"
  Then of himself and me one bundle made.

As seems the Carisenda, to behold
  Beneath the leaning side, when goes a cloud
  Above it so that opposite it hangs;

Such did Antaeus seem to me, who stood
  Watching to see him stoop, and then it was
  I could have wished to go some other way.

But lightly in the abyss, which swallows up
  Judas with Lucifer, he put us down;
  Nor thus bowed downward made he there delay,

But, as a mast does in a ship, uprose.

Cary Translation


THE very tongue, whose keen reproof before
Had wounded me, that either cheek was stain'd,
Now minister'd my cure. So have I heard,
Achilles and his father's javelin caus'd
Pain first, and then the boon of health restor'd.

Turning our back upon the vale of woe,
W cross'd th' encircled mound in silence. There
Was twilight dim, that far long the gloom
Mine eye advanc'd not: but I heard a horn
Sounded aloud. The peal it blew had made
The thunder feeble. Following its course
The adverse way, my strained eyes were bent
On that one spot. So terrible a blast
Orlando blew not, when that dismal rout
O'erthrew the host of Charlemagne, and quench'd
His saintly warfare. Thitherward not long
My head was rais'd, when many lofty towers
Methought I spied. "Master," said I, "what land
Is this?" He answer'd straight: "Too long a space
Of intervening darkness has thine eye
To traverse: thou hast therefore widely err'd
In thy imagining. Thither arriv'd
Thou well shalt see, how distance can delude
The sense. A little therefore urge thee on."

Then tenderly he caught me by the hand;
"Yet know," said he, "ere farther we advance,
That it less strange may seem, these are not towers,
But giants. In the pit they stand immers'd,
Each from his navel downward, round the bank."

As when a fog disperseth gradually,
Our vision traces what the mist involves
Condens'd in air; so piercing through the gross
And gloomy atmosphere, as more and more
We near'd toward the brink, mine error fled,
And fear came o'er me. As with circling round
Of turrets, Montereggion crowns his walls,
E'en thus the shore, encompassing th' abyss,
Was turreted with giants, half their length
Uprearing, horrible, whom Jove from heav'n
Yet threatens, when his mutt'ring thunder rolls.

Of one already I descried the face,
Shoulders, and breast, and of the belly huge
Great part, and both arms down along his ribs.

All-teeming nature, when her plastic hand
Left framing of these monsters, did display
Past doubt her wisdom, taking from mad War
Such slaves to do his bidding; and if she
Repent her not of th' elephant and whale,
Who ponders well confesses her therein
Wiser and more discreet; for when brute force
And evil will are back'd with subtlety,
Resistance none avails. His visage seem'd
In length and bulk, as doth the pine, that tops
Saint Peter's Roman fane; and th' other bones
Of like proportion, so that from above
The bank, which girdled him below, such height
Arose his stature, that three Friezelanders
Had striv'n in vain to reach but to his hair.
Full thirty ample palms was he expos'd
Downward from whence a man his garments loops.
"Raphel bai ameth sabi almi,"
So shouted his fierce lips, which sweeter hymns
Became not; and my guide address'd him thus:

"O senseless spirit! let thy horn for thee
Interpret: therewith vent thy rage, if rage
Or other passion wring thee. Search thy neck,
There shalt thou find the belt that binds it on.
Wild spirit! lo, upon thy mighty breast
Where hangs the baldrick!" Then to me he spake:
"He doth accuse himself. Nimrod is this,
Through whose ill counsel in the world no more
One tongue prevails. But pass we on, nor waste
Our words; for so each language is to him,
As his to others, understood by none."

Then to the leftward turning sped we forth,
And at a sling's throw found another shade
Far fiercer and more huge. I cannot say
What master hand had girt him; but he held
Behind the right arm fetter'd, and before
The other with a chain, that fasten'd him
From the neck down, and five times round his form
Apparent met the wreathed links. "This proud one
Would of his strength against almighty Jove
Make trial," said my guide; "whence he is thus
Requited: Ephialtes him they call.

"Great was his prowess, when the giants brought
Fear on the gods: those arms, which then he piled,
Now moves he never." Forthwith I return'd:
"Fain would I, if 't were possible, mine eyes
Of Briareus immeasurable gain'd
Experience next." He answer'd: "Thou shalt see
Not far from hence Antaeus, who both speaks
And is unfetter'd, who shall place us there
Where guilt is at its depth. Far onward stands
Whom thou wouldst fain behold, in chains, and made
Like to this spirit, save that in his looks
More fell he seems." By violent earthquake rock'd
Ne'er shook a tow'r, so reeling to its base,
As Ephialtes. More than ever then
I dreaded death, nor than the terror more
Had needed, if I had not seen the cords
That held him fast. We, straightway journeying on,
Came to Antaeus, who five ells complete
Without the head, forth issued from the cave.

"O thou, who in the fortunate vale, that made
Great Scipio heir of glory, when his sword
Drove back the troop of Hannibal in flight,
Who thence of old didst carry for thy spoil
An hundred lions; and if thou hadst fought
In the high conflict on thy brethren's side,
Seems as men yet believ'd, that through thine arm
The sons of earth had conquer'd, now vouchsafe
To place us down beneath, where numbing cold
Locks up Cocytus. Force not that we crave
Or Tityus' help or Typhon's. Here is one
Can give what in this realm ye covet. Stoop
Therefore, nor scornfully distort thy lip.
He in the upper world can yet bestow
Renown on thee, for he doth live, and looks
For life yet longer, if before the time
Grace call him not unto herself." Thus spake
The teacher. He in haste forth stretch'd his hands,
And caught my guide. Alcides whilom felt
That grapple straighten'd score. Soon as my guide
Had felt it, he bespake me thus: "This way
That I may clasp thee;" then so caught me up,
That we were both one burden. As appears
The tower of Carisenda, from beneath
Where it doth lean, if chance a passing cloud
So sail across, that opposite it hangs,
Such then Antaeus seem'd, as at mine ease
I mark'd him stooping. I were fain at times
T' have pass'd another way. Yet in th' abyss,
That Lucifer with Judas low ingulfs,
Lightly he plac'd us; nor there leaning stay'd,
But rose as in a bark the stately mast.

Norton Translation

CANTO XXXI. The Giants around the Eighth Circle.--Nimrod.
--Ephialtes.--Antaeus sets the Poets down in the Ninth Circle.

One and the same tongue first stung me, so that it tinged both
my cheeks, and then supplied the medicine to me. Thus do I
hear[1] that the lance of Achilles and of his father was wont to
be cause first of a sad and then of a good gift. We turned our
back to the wretched valley,[2] up along the bank that girds it
round, crossing without any speech. Here it was less than night
and less than day, so that my sight went little forward; but I
heard a horn sounding so loud that it would have made every
thunder faint, which directed my eyes, following its course
counter to it,[3] wholly to one place.

[1] Probably from Ovid, who more than once refers to the magic
power of the spear which had been given to Peleus by Chiron.
Shakespeare too had heard of it, and applies it, precisely as
Dante does, to one

Whose smile and frown, like to Achilles' spear,
Is able with the charge to kill and cure.
2 Henry VI. v. i.

[2] The tenth and last pit. My eyes went in the direction whence
the sound came.

After the dolorous rout when Charlemagne lost the holy gest,
Roland sounded not so terribly.[1] Shortwhile did I carry my head
turned thitherward, when it seemed to me I saw many high towers;
whereon I, "Master, say, what city is this?" And he to me,
"Because too far away thou peerest through the darkness, it
happens that thou dost err in thy imagining. Thou shalt see well,
if thou arrivest there, how much the sense at distance is
deceived; therefore somewhat more spur thyself on;" Then
tenderly he took me by the hand, and said, "Before we go further
forward, in order that the fact may seem less strange to thee,
know that they are not towers, but giants, and they are in the
abyss[2] round about the bank, from the navel downward, one and
all of them."

[1] At Roncesvalles.

Rollanz ad mis l'olifan a sa buche,
Empeint le bien, par grant vertut le sunet.
Halt sunt li pui e la voiz est mult lunge,
Granz xxx. liwes l'oirent-il respundre,
Carles l'oit e ses cumpaignes tutes.

Chanson de Roland, 1753-57.

[2] The central deep of Hell, dividing the eighth circle from
the ninth,--the lowest.

As when the mist is dissipating, the look little by little shapes
out what the vapor that thickens the air conceals, so, as I
pierced the gross and dark air as we drew nearer and nearer to
the verge, error fled from me and fear grew upon me. For as above
its circular enclosure Montereggione [1] crowns itself with
towers, so with half their body the horrible giants, whom Jove
still threatens from heaven when he thunders, betowered the bank
that surrounds the abyss.

[1] The towers of Montereggione in ruin still crown its broken
wall, and may be seen from the railroad not far from Siena, on
the way to Florence.

And I discerned now the face of one, his shoulders, and his
breast, and great part of his belly, and down along his sides
both his arms. Nature, surely, when she left the art of such like
creatures, did exceeding well in taking such executers from Mars;
and if she repent not of elephants and of whales, he who looks
subtly holds her more just and more discreet therefor;[1] for
where the faculty of the mind is added to evil will and to power,
the human race can make no defense against it. His face seemed to
me long and huge as the pine-cone[2] of St. Peter at Rome, and in
its proportion were his other bones; so that the bank, which was
an apron from his middle downward, showed of him fully so much
above, that to reach to his hair three Frieslanders[3] would have
made ill vaunt. For I saw of him thirty great palms down from the
place where one buckles his cloak.

[1] For no longer creating giants.

[2] Of bronze, that came from the Mausoleum of Hadrian, and
in Dante's time stood in the fore-court of St. Peter's, and is
now in the Vatican gardens.

[3] Supposed to be tall men.

"Raphel mai amech zabi almi," the fierce mouth, to which sweeter
psalms were not befitting, began to cry. And my Leader toward
him, "Foolish soul! Keep to thy horn, and with that vent thyself
when anger or other passion touches thee; seek at thy neck, and
thou wilt find the cord that holds it tied, O soul confused! and
see it lying athwart thy great breast." Then he said to me, "He
himself accuses himself; this is Nimrod, because of whose evil
thought the world uses not one language only. Let us leave him,
and let us not speak in vain, for so is every language to him, as
his to others, which to no one is known."

Then turning to the left, we pursued our way, and at a
crossbow's shot we found the next, far more fierce and larger.
Who the master was for binding him I cannot tell; but he had his
right arm fastened behind, and the other in front, by a chain
that held him entwined from the neck downward, so that upon his
uncovered part it was wound as far as the fifth coil. "This
proud one wished to make trial of his power against the supreme
Jove," said my Leader, "wherefore he has such reward;
Ephialtes[1] is his name, and he made his great endeavors when
the giants made the Gods afraid; the arms which he plied he moves

[1] Iphimedeia bore to Poseidon two sons, "but they were short-
lived, godlike Otus and far-famed Ephialtes whom the fruitful
Earth nourished to be the tallest and much the most beautiful of
mortals except renowned Orion, for at nine years old they were
nine cubits in breadth, and nine fathoms tall. They even
threatened the immortals, raising the din of tumultuous war on
Olympus, and strove to set Ossa upon Olympus and wood-clad Pelion
upon Ossa, in order to scale heaven. But Jove destroyed them
both." Odyssey, xi. 306-317.

And I to him, "If it may be, I should like my eyes to have
experience of the huge Briareus." [1] Whereon he answered, "Thou
shalt see Antaeus close at hand here, who speaks, and is
unbound,[2] and will set us at the bottom of all sin. Him whom
thou wishest to see is much farther on, and is bound and
fashioned like this one, save that he seems more ferocious in his

[1] "Him of the hundred hands whom the Gods call Briareus."
Iliad, i. 402.

[2] Because he took no part in the war of his brethren against
the Gods. What Dante tells of him is derived from Lucan,
Pharsalia, iv. 597 sqq.

Never was earthquake so mighty that it shook a tower as violently
as Ephialtes was quick to shake himself. Then more than ever did
I fear death; and there had been no need of more than the fright,
if I had not seen his bonds. We then proceeded further forward,
and came to Antaeus, who full five ells, besides his head, issued
forth from the cavern. "O thou that, in the fateful valley which
made Scipio the heir of glory when Hannibal and his followers
turned their backs, didst bring of old a thousand lions for
booty,--and it still seems credible that hadst thou been at the
high war of thy brothers, the sons of the Earth would have
conquered,--set us below, and disdain thou not to do so, where
the cold locks up Cocytus. Make us not go to Tityus, nor to
Typhon;[1] this one can give of that which here is longed for;
[2] therefore stoop, and curl not thy snout. He yet can restore
fame to thee in the world; for he is living, and still expects
long life, if Grace doth not untimely call him to itself." Thus
said the Master; and he in haste stretched out those hands, whose
strong grip Hercules once felt, and took my Leader. Virgil, when
he felt himself taken up, said to me, "Come hither so that I take
thee." Then he made one bundle of himself and me. As beneath its
leaning side, the Carisenda[3] seems to look when a cloud is
going over so that the tower hangs counter to it, thus seemed
Antaeus to me that stood attent to see him bend; and it was a
moment when I could have wished to go by another road. But
lightly on the bottom that swallows Lucifer with Judas he set us
down; nor, thus bent, did he there make stay, and like a mast in
a ship he raised himself.

[1] Lucan (Phars. iv. 600), naming these giants, says they were
less strong than Antaeus; wherefore there is subtle flattery in
these words of Virgil.

[2] To be remembered on earth.

[3] The more inclined of the two famous leaning towers at
Bologna. As the cloud goes over it, the tower seems to bend to
meet it. So Coleridge in his Ode to Dejection:

And those thin clouds above, in flakes and bars,
That give sway their motion to the stars.

Browse the cantos of the Inferno:

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