Side by Side Translations of Dante's Inferno - Canto 34

Longfellow Translation

Inferno: Canto XXXIV

"'Vexilla Regis prodeunt Inferni'
  Towards us; therefore look in front of thee,"
  My Master said, "if thou discernest him."

As, when there breathes a heavy fog, or when
  Our hemisphere is darkening into night,
  Appears far off a mill the wind is turning,

Methought that such a building then I saw;
  And, for the wind, I drew myself behind
  My Guide, because there was no other shelter.

Now was I, and with fear in verse I put it,
  There where the shades were wholly covered up,
  And glimmered through like unto straws in glass.

Some prone are lying, others stand erect,
  This with the head, and that one with the soles;
  Another, bow-like, face to feet inverts.

When in advance so far we had proceeded,
  That it my Master pleased to show to me
  The creature who once had the beauteous semblance,

He from before me moved and made me stop,
  Saying: "Behold Dis, and behold the place
  Where thou with fortitude must arm thyself."

How frozen I became and powerless then,
  Ask it not, Reader, for I write it not,
  Because all language would be insufficient.

I did not die, and I alive remained not;
  Think for thyself now, hast thou aught of wit,
  What I became, being of both deprived.

The Emperor of the kingdom dolorous
  From his mid-breast forth issued from the ice;
  And better with a giant I compare

Than do the giants with those arms of his;
  Consider now how great must be that whole,
  Which unto such a part conforms itself.

Were he as fair once, as he now is foul,
  And lifted up his brow against his Maker,
  Well may proceed from him all tribulation.

O, what a marvel it appeared to me,
  When I beheld three faces on his head!
  The one in front, and that vermilion was;

Two were the others, that were joined with this
  Above the middle part of either shoulder,
  And they were joined together at the crest;

And the right-hand one seemed 'twixt white and yellow;
  The left was such to look upon as those
  Who come from where the Nile falls valley-ward.

Underneath each came forth two mighty wings,
  Such as befitting were so great a bird;
  Sails of the sea I never saw so large.

 No feathers had they, but as of a bat
  Their fashion was; and he was waving them,
  So that three winds proceeded forth therefrom.

Thereby Cocytus wholly was congealed.
  With six eyes did he weep, and down three chins
  Trickled the tear-drops and the bloody drivel.

At every mouth he with his teeth was crunching
  A sinner, in the manner of a brake,
  So that he three of them tormented thus.

To him in front the biting was as naught
  Unto the clawing, for sometimes the spine
  Utterly stripped of all the skin remained.

"That soul up there which has the greatest pain,"
  The Master said, "is Judas Iscariot;
  With head inside, he plies his legs without.

Of the two others, who head downward are,
  The one who hangs from the black jowl is Brutus;
  See how he writhes himself, and speaks no word.

And the other, who so stalwart seems, is Cassius.
  But night is reascending, and 'tis time
  That we depart, for we have seen the whole."

As seemed him good, I clasped him round the neck,
  And he the vantage seized of time and place,
  And when the wings were opened wide apart,

He laid fast hold upon the shaggy sides;
  From fell to fell descended downward then
  Between the thick hair and the frozen crust.

When we were come to where the thigh revolves
  Exactly on the thickness of the haunch,
  The Guide, with labour and with hard-drawn breath,

Turned round his head where he had had his legs,
  And grappled to the hair, as one who mounts,
  So that to Hell I thought we were returning.

"Keep fast thy hold, for by such stairs as these,"
  The Master said, panting as one fatigued,
  "Must we perforce depart from so much evil."

Then through the opening of a rock he issued,
  And down upon the margin seated me;
  Then tow'rds me he outstretched his wary step.

I lifted up mine eyes and thought to see
  Lucifer in the same way I had left him;
  And I beheld him upward hold his legs.

And if I then became disquieted,
  Let stolid people think who do not see
  What the point is beyond which I had passed.

"Rise up," the Master said, "upon thy feet;
  The way is long, and difficult the road,
  And now the sun to middle-tierce returns."

It was not any palace corridor
  There where we were, but dungeon natural,
  With floor uneven and unease of light.

"Ere from the abyss I tear myself away,
  My Master," said I when I had arisen,
  "To draw me from an error speak a little;

Where is the ice? and how is this one fixed
  Thus upside down? and how in such short time
  From eve to morn has the sun made his transit?"

And he to me: "Thou still imaginest
  Thou art beyond the centre, where I grasped
  The hair of the fell worm, who mines the world.

That side thou wast, so long as I descended;
  When round I turned me, thou didst pass the point
  To which things heavy draw from every side,

And now beneath the hemisphere art come
  Opposite that which overhangs the vast
  Dry-land, and 'neath whose cope was put to death

The Man who without sin was born and lived.
  Thou hast thy feet upon the little sphere
  Which makes the other face of the Judecca.

Here it is morn when it is evening there;
  And he who with his hair a stairway made us
  Still fixed remaineth as he was before.

Upon this side he fell down out of heaven;
  And all the land, that whilom here emerged,
  For fear of him made of the sea a veil,

And came to our hemisphere; and peradventure
  To flee from him, what on this side appears
  Left the place vacant here, and back recoiled."

A place there is below, from Beelzebub
  As far receding as the tomb extends,
  Which not by sight is known, but by the sound

Of a small rivulet, that there descendeth
  Through chasm within the stone, which it has gnawed
  With course that winds about and slightly falls.

The Guide and I into that hidden road
  Now entered, to return to the bright world;
  And without care of having any rest

We mounted up, he first and I the second,
  Till I beheld through a round aperture
  Some of the beauteous things that Heaven doth bear;

Thence we came forth to rebehold the stars.

Cary Translation


"THE banners of Hell's Monarch do come forth
Towards us; therefore look," so spake my guide,
"If thou discern him." As, when breathes a cloud
Heavy and dense, or when the shades of night
Fall on our hemisphere, seems view'd from far
A windmill, which the blast stirs briskly round,
Such was the fabric then methought I saw,

To shield me from the wind, forthwith I drew
Behind my guide: no covert else was there.

Now came I (and with fear I bid my strain
Record the marvel) where the souls were all
Whelm'd underneath, transparent, as through glass
Pellucid the frail stem. Some prone were laid,
Others stood upright, this upon the soles,
That on his head, a third with face to feet
Arch'd like a bow. When to the point we came,
Whereat my guide was pleas'd that I should see
The creature eminent in beauty once,
He from before me stepp'd and made me pause.

"Lo!" he exclaim'd, "lo Dis! and lo the place,
Where thou hast need to arm thy heart with strength."

How frozen and how faint I then became,
Ask me not, reader! for I write it not,
Since words would fail to tell thee of my state.
I was not dead nor living. Think thyself
If quick conception work in thee at all,
How I did feel. That emperor, who sways
The realm of sorrow, at mid breast from th' ice
Stood forth; and I in stature am more like
A giant, than the giants are in his arms.
Mark now how great that whole must be, which suits
With such a part. If he were beautiful
As he is hideous now, and yet did dare
To scowl upon his Maker, well from him
May all our mis'ry flow. Oh what a sight!
How passing strange it seem'd, when I did spy
Upon his head three faces: one in front
Of hue vermilion, th' other two with this
Midway each shoulder join'd and at the crest;
The right 'twixt wan and yellow seem'd: the left
To look on, such as come from whence old Nile
Stoops to the lowlands. Under each shot forth
Two mighty wings, enormous as became
A bird so vast. Sails never such I saw
Outstretch'd on the wide sea. No plumes had they,
But were in texture like a bat, and these
He flapp'd i' th' air, that from him issued still
Three winds, wherewith Cocytus to its depth
Was frozen. At six eyes he wept: the tears
Adown three chins distill'd with bloody foam.
At every mouth his teeth a sinner champ'd
Bruis'd as with pond'rous engine, so that three
Were in this guise tormented. But far more
Than from that gnawing, was the foremost pang'd
By the fierce rending, whence ofttimes the back
Was stript of all its skin. "That upper spirit,
Who hath worse punishment," so spake my guide,
"Is Judas, he that hath his head within
And plies the feet without. Of th' other two,
Whose heads are under, from the murky jaw
Who hangs, is Brutus: lo! how he doth writhe
And speaks not! Th' other Cassius, that appears
So large of limb. But night now re-ascends,
And it is time for parting. All is seen."

I clipp'd him round the neck, for so he bade;
And noting time and place, he, when the wings
Enough were op'd, caught fast the shaggy sides,
And down from pile to pile descending stepp'd
Between the thick fell and the jagged ice.

Soon as he reach'd the point, whereat the thigh
Upon the swelling of the haunches turns,
My leader there with pain and struggling hard
Turn'd round his head, where his feet stood before,
And grappled at the fell, as one who mounts,
That into hell methought we turn'd again.

"Expect that by such stairs as these," thus spake
The teacher, panting like a man forespent,
"We must depart from evil so extreme."
Then at a rocky opening issued forth,
And plac'd me on a brink to sit, next join'd
With wary step my side. I rais'd mine eyes,
Believing that I Lucifer should see
Where he was lately left, but saw him now
With legs held upward. Let the grosser sort,
Who see not what the point was I had pass'd,
Bethink them if sore toil oppress'd me then.

"Arise," my master cried, "upon thy feet.
The way is long, and much uncouth the road;
And now within one hour and half of noon
The sun returns." It was no palace-hall
Lofty and luminous wherein we stood,
But natural dungeon where ill footing was
And scant supply of light. "Ere from th' abyss
I sep'rate," thus when risen I began,
"My guide! vouchsafe few words to set me free
From error's thralldom. Where is now the ice?
How standeth he in posture thus revers'd?
And how from eve to morn in space so brief
Hath the sun made his transit?" He in few
Thus answering spake: "Thou deemest thou art still
On th' other side the centre, where I grasp'd
Th' abhorred worm, that boreth through the world.
Thou wast on th' other side, so long as I
Descended; when I turn'd, thou didst o'erpass
That point, to which from ev'ry part is dragg'd
All heavy substance. Thou art now arriv'd
Under the hemisphere opposed to that,
Which the great continent doth overspread,
And underneath whose canopy expir'd
The Man, that was born sinless, and so liv'd.
Thy feet are planted on the smallest sphere,
Whose other aspect is Judecca. Morn
Here rises, when there evening sets: and he,
Whose shaggy pile was scal'd, yet standeth fix'd,
As at the first. On this part he fell down
From heav'n; and th' earth, here prominent before,
Through fear of him did veil her with the sea,
And to our hemisphere retir'd. Perchance
To shun him was the vacant space left here
By what of firm land on this side appears,
That sprang aloof." There is a place beneath,
From Belzebub as distant, as extends
The vaulted tomb, discover'd not by sight,
But by the sound of brooklet, that descends
This way along the hollow of a rock,
Which, as it winds with no precipitous course,
The wave hath eaten. By that hidden way
My guide and I did enter, to return
To the fair world: and heedless of repose
We climbed, he first, I following his steps,
Till on our view the beautiful lights of heav'n
Dawn'd through a circular opening in the cave:
Thus issuing we again beheld the stars.

Norton Translation

CANTO XXXIV. Ninth Circle: traitors. Fourth ring: Judecca.--
Lucifer.--Judas, Brutus and Cassius.--Centre of the universe.--
Passage from Hell.--Ascent to the surface of the Southern

"Vexilla regis prodeunt inferni,[1] toward us; therefore look in
front," said my Master; "if thou discernest him." As a mill that
the wind turns seems from afar when a thick fog breathes, or when
our hemisphere grows dark with night, such a structure then it
seemed to me I saw.

[1] "The banners of the King of Hell advance." Vexilla Regis
prodeunt are the first words of a hymn in honor of the Cross,
sung at vespers on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
and on Monday of Holy Week.

Then, because of the wind, I drew me behind my Leader; for there
was no other shelter. I was now, and with fear I put it in verse,
there[1] where the shades were wholly covered, and showed through
like a straw in glass. Some are lying; some stand erect, this on
his head, and that on his soles; another like a bow inverts his
face to his feet.

[1] In the fourth, innermost ring of ice of the ninth circle, the

When we had gone so far forward that it pleased my Master to show
me the creature that had the fair semblance, from before me he
took himself and made me stop, saying, "Behold Dis, and behold
the place where it is needful that with fortitude thou arm thee."
How I became then chilled and hoarse, ask it not, Reader, for I
write it not, because all speech would be little. I did not die,
and I did not remain alive. Think now for thyself, if thou hast
grain of wit, what I became, deprived of one and the other.

The emperor of the woeful realm from his midbreast issued forth
from the ice; and I match better with a giant, than the giants do
with his arms. See now how great must be that whole which
corresponds to such parts. If he was as fair as he now is foul,
and against his Maker lifted up his brow, surely may all
tribulation proceed from him. Oh how great a marvel it seemed to
me, when I saw three faces on his head! one in front, and that
was red; the others were two that were joined to this above the
very middle of each shoulder, and they were joined together at
the place of the crest; and the right seemed between white and
yellow, the left was such to sight as those who come from where
the Nile flows valleyward. Beneath each came forth two great
wings, of size befitting so huge a bird. Sails of the sea never
saw I such. They had no feathers, but their fashion was of a bat;
and he was flapping them so that three winds went forth from him,
whereby Cocytus was all congealed. With six eyes he was weeping,
and over three chins trickled the tears and bloody drivel. With
each mouth he was crushing a sinner with his teeth, in manner of
a brake, so that he thus was making three of them woeful. To the
one in front the biting was nothing to the clawing, so that
sometimes his spine remained all stripped of skin.

"That soul up there which has the greatest punishment," said the
Master, "is Judas Iscariot, who has his head within, and plies
his legs outside. Of the other two who have their heads down, he
who hangs from the black muzzle is Brutus; see how he writhes and
says no word; and the other is Cassius, who seems so
large-limbed. But the night is rising again, and now we must
depart, for we have seen the whole."

As was his pleasure, I clasped his neck, and he took opportunity
of time and place, and when the wings were opened wide he caught
hold on the shaggy flanks; from shag to shag he then descended
between the bushy hair and the frozen crusts. When we were just
where the thigh turns on the thick of the haunch, my Leader, with
effort and stress of breath, turned his head where he had his
shanks, and clambered by the hair as a man that ascends, so that
I thought to return again to hell.

"Cling fast hold," said the Master, panting like one weary, "for
by such stairs it behoves to depart from so much evil." Then he
came forth through the opening of a rock, and placed me upon its
edge to sit; then stretched toward me his cautious step.

I raised my eyes, and thought to see Lucifer as I had left him,
and I saw him holding his legs upward. And if I then became
perplexed, let the dull folk think it that see not what that
point is that I had passed.[1]

[1] This point is the centre of the universe; when Virgil had
turned upon the haunch of Lucifer, the passage had been made from
one hemisphere of the earth--the inhabited and known hemisphere--
to the other where no living men dwell, and where the only land
is the mountain of Purgatory. In changing one hemisphere for the
other there is a change of time of twelve hours. A second
Saturday morning begins for the poets, and they pass nearly as
long a time as they have been in Hell, that is, twenty-four
hours, in traversing the long and hard way that leads through the
new hemisphere on which they have just entered.

"Rise up," said the Master, "on thy feet; the way is long and the
road is difficult, and already the sun unto mid-tierce[1]

[2] Tierce is the church office sung at the third hour of the
day, and the name is given to the first three hours after
sunrise. Midtierce consequently here means about half-past seven
o'clock. In Hell Dante never mentions the sun to mark division of
time, but now, having issued from Hell, Virgil marks the hour by
a reference to the sun.

It was no hallway of a palace where we were, but a natural
dungeon that had a bad floor, and lack of light. "Before I tear
me from the abyss," said I when I had risen up, "my Master, speak
a little to me to draw me out of error. Where is the ice? and
this one, how is he fixed thus upside down? and how in such short
while has the sun from eve to morn made transit?" And he to me,
"Thou imaginest that thou still art on the other side of the
centre where I laid hold on the hair of the guilty Worm that
pierces the world. On that side wast thou so long as I descended;
when I turned thou didst pass the point to which from all parts
whatever has weight is drawn; and thou art now arrived beneath
the hemisphere opposite to that which the great dry land covers,
and beneath whose zenith the Man was slain who was born and lived
without sin. Thou hast thy feet upon the little sphere which
forms the other face of the Judecca. Here it is morning when
there it is evening; and he who made for us a stairway with his
hair is still fixed even as he was before. Upon this side he fell
down from heaven, and the earth, which before was spread out
here, through fear of him made of the sea a veil, and came to
your hemisphere; and perchance to flee from him that land[1]
which on this side appears left here this empty space and upward
ran back."

[1] The Mount of Purgatory.

A place is there below, stretching as far from Beelzebub as his
tomb extends,[1] which not by sight is known, but by the sound of
a rivulet that here descends along the hollow of a rock that it
has gnawed with its course that winds and little falls. My Leader
and I entered through that hidden way, to return to the bright
world. And without care, to have any repose, we mounted up, he
first and I second, till through a round opening I saw of those
beauteous things which heaven bears, and thence we came forth to
see again the stars.

[1] Hell is his tomb; this vacant dark passage through the
opposite hemisphere is, of course, of the same depth as Hell from
surface to centre.

Browse the cantos of the Inferno:

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] [30] [31] [32] [33] [34]