Inferno: Canto VII
"Pape Satan, Pape Satan, Aleppe!"
Thus Plutus with his clucking voice began;
And that benignant Sage, who all things knew,
Said, to encourage me: "Let not thy fear
Harm thee; for any power that he may have
Shall not prevent thy going down this crag."
Then he turned round unto that bloated lip,
And said: "Be silent, thou accursed wolf;
Consume within thyself with thine own rage.
Not causeless is this journey to the abyss;
Thus is it willed on high, where Michael wrought
Vengeance upon the proud adultery."
Even as the sails inflated by the wind
Involved together fall when snaps the mast,
So fell the cruel monster to the earth.
Thus we descended into the fourth chasm,
Gaining still farther on the dolesome shore
Which all the woe of the universe insacks.
Justice of God, ah! who heaps up so many
New toils and sufferings as I beheld?
And why doth our transgression waste us so?
As doth the billow there upon Charybdis,
That breaks itself on that which it encounters,
So here the folk must dance their roundelay.
Here saw I people, more than elsewhere, many,
On one side and the other, with great howls,
Rolling weights forward by main force of chest.
They clashed together, and then at that point
Each one turned backward, rolling retrograde,
Crying, "Why keepest?" and, "Why squanderest thou?"
Thus they returned along the lurid circle
On either hand unto the opposite point,
Shouting their shameful metre evermore.
Then each, when he arrived there, wheeled about
Through his half-circle to another joust;
And I, who had my heart pierced as it were,
Exclaimed: "My Master, now declare to me
What people these are, and if all were clerks,
These shaven crowns upon the left of us."
And he to me: "All of them were asquint
In intellect in the first life, so much
That there with measure they no spending made.
Clearly enough their voices bark it forth,
Whene'er they reach the two points of the circle,
Where sunders them the opposite defect.
Clerks those were who no hairy covering
Have on the head, and Popes and Cardinals,
In whom doth Avarice practise its excess."
And I: "My Master, among such as these
I ought forsooth to recognise some few,
Who were infected with these maladies."
And he to me: "Vain thought thou entertainest;
The undiscerning life which made them sordid
Now makes them unto all discernment dim.
Forever shall they come to these two buttings;
These from the sepulchre shall rise again
With the fist closed, and these with tresses shorn.
Ill giving and ill keeping the fair world
Have ta'en from them, and placed them in this scuffle;
Whate'er it be, no words adorn I for it.
Now canst thou, Son, behold the transient farce
Of goods that are committed unto Fortune,
For which the human race each other buffet;
For all the gold that is beneath the moon,
Or ever has been, of these weary souls
Could never make a single one repose."
"Master," I said to him, "now tell me also
What is this Fortune which thou speakest of,
That has the world's goods so within its clutches?"
And he to me: "O creatures imbecile,
What ignorance is this which doth beset you?
Now will I have thee learn my judgment of her.
He whose omniscience everything transcends
The heavens created, and gave who should guide them,
That every part to every part may shine,
Distributing the light in equal measure;
He in like manner to the mundane splendours
Ordained a general ministress and guide,
That she might change at times the empty treasures
From race to race, from one blood to another,
Beyond resistance of all human wisdom.
Therefore one people triumphs, and another
Languishes, in pursuance of her judgment,
Which hidden is, as in the grass a serpent.
Your knowledge has no counterstand against her;
She makes provision, judges, and pursues
Her governance, as theirs the other gods.
Her permutations have not any truce;
Necessity makes her precipitate,
So often cometh who his turn obtains.
And this is she who is so crucified
Even by those who ought to give her praise,
Giving her blame amiss, and bad repute.
But she is blissful, and she hears it not;
Among the other primal creatures gladsome
She turns her sphere, and blissful she rejoices.
Let us descend now unto greater woe;
Already sinks each star that was ascending
When I set out, and loitering is forbidden."
We crossed the circle to the other bank,
Near to a fount that boils, and pours itself
Along a gully that runs out of it.
The water was more sombre far than perse;
And we, in company with the dusky waves,
Made entrance downward by a path uncouth.
A marsh it makes, which has the name of Styx,
This tristful brooklet, when it has descended
Down to the foot of the malign gray shores.
And I, who stood intent upon beholding,
Saw people mud-besprent in that lagoon,
All of them naked and with angry look.
They smote each other not alone with hands,
But with the head and with the breast and feet,
Tearing each other piecemeal with their teeth.
Said the good Master: "Son, thou now beholdest
The souls of those whom anger overcame;
And likewise I would have thee know for certain
Beneath the water people are who sigh
And make this water bubble at the surface,
As the eye tells thee wheresoe'er it turns.
Fixed in the mire they say, 'We sullen were
In the sweet air, which by the sun is gladdened,
Bearing within ourselves the sluggish reek;
Now we are sullen in this sable mire.'
This hymn do they keep gurgling in their throats,
For with unbroken words they cannot say it."
Thus we went circling round the filthy fen
A great arc 'twixt the dry bank and the swamp,
With eyes turned unto those who gorge the mire;
Unto the foot of a tower we came at last.
"AH me! O Satan! Satan!" loud exclaim'd
Plutus, in accent hoarse of wild alarm:
And the kind sage, whom no event surpris'd,
To comfort me thus spake: "Let not thy fear
Harm thee, for power in him, be sure, is none
To hinder down this rock thy safe descent."
Then to that sworn lip turning, "Peace!" he cried,
"Curs'd wolf! thy fury inward on thyself
Prey, and consume thee! Through the dark profound
Not without cause he passes. So 't is will'd
On high, there where the great Archangel pour'd
Heav'n's vengeance on the first adulterer proud."
As sails full spread and bellying with the wind
Drop suddenly collaps'd, if the mast split;
So to the ground down dropp'd the cruel fiend.
Thus we, descending to the fourth steep ledge,
Gain'd on the dismal shore, that all the woe
Hems in of all the universe. Ah me!
Almighty Justice! in what store thou heap'st
New pains, new troubles, as I here beheld!
Wherefore doth fault of ours bring us to this?
E'en as a billow, on Charybdis rising,
Against encounter'd billow dashing breaks;
Such is the dance this wretched race must lead,
Whom more than elsewhere numerous here I found,
From one side and the other, with loud voice,
Both roll'd on weights by main forge of their breasts,
Then smote together, and each one forthwith
Roll'd them back voluble, turning again,
Exclaiming these, "Why holdest thou so fast?"
Those answering, "And why castest thou away?"
So still repeating their despiteful song,
They to the opposite point on either hand
Travers'd the horrid circle: then arriv'd,
Both turn'd them round, and through the middle space
Conflicting met again. At sight whereof
I, stung with grief, thus spake: "O say, my guide!
What race is this? Were these, whose heads are shorn,
On our left hand, all sep'rate to the church?"
He straight replied: "In their first life these all
In mind were so distorted, that they made,
According to due measure, of their wealth,
No use. This clearly from their words collect,
Which they howl forth, at each extremity
Arriving of the circle, where their crime
Contrary' in kind disparts them. To the church
Were separate those, that with no hairy cowls
Are crown'd, both Popes and Cardinals, o'er whom
Av'rice dominion absolute maintains."
I then: "Mid such as these some needs must be,
Whom I shall recognize, that with the blot
Of these foul sins were stain'd." He answering thus:
"Vain thought conceiv'st thou. That ignoble life,
Which made them vile before, now makes them dark,
And to all knowledge indiscernible.
Forever they shall meet in this rude shock:
These from the tomb with clenched grasp shall rise,
Those with close-shaven locks. That ill they gave,
And ill they kept, hath of the beauteous world
Depriv'd, and set them at this strife, which needs
No labour'd phrase of mine to set if off.
Now may'st thou see, my son! how brief, how vain,
The goods committed into fortune's hands,
For which the human race keep such a coil!
Not all the gold, that is beneath the moon,
Or ever hath been, of these toil-worn souls
Might purchase rest for one." I thus rejoin'd:
"My guide! of thee this also would I learn;
This fortune, that thou speak'st of, what it is,
Whose talons grasp the blessings of the world?"
He thus: "O beings blind! what ignorance
Besets you? Now my judgment hear and mark.
He, whose transcendent wisdom passes all,
The heavens creating, gave them ruling powers
To guide them, so that each part shines to each,
Their light in equal distribution pour'd.
By similar appointment he ordain'd
Over the world's bright images to rule.
Superintendence of a guiding hand
And general minister, which at due time
May change the empty vantages of life
From race to race, from one to other's blood,
Beyond prevention of man's wisest care:
Wherefore one nation rises into sway,
Another languishes, e'en as her will
Decrees, from us conceal'd, as in the grass
The serpent train. Against her nought avails
Your utmost wisdom. She with foresight plans,
Judges, and carries on her reign, as theirs
The other powers divine. Her changes know
Nore intermission: by necessity
She is made swift, so frequent come who claim
Succession in her favours. This is she,
So execrated e'en by those, whose debt
To her is rather praise; they wrongfully
With blame requite her, and with evil word;
But she is blessed, and for that recks not:
Amidst the other primal beings glad
Rolls on her sphere, and in her bliss exults.
Now on our way pass we, to heavier woe
Descending: for each star is falling now,
That mounted at our entrance, and forbids
Too long our tarrying." We the circle cross'd
To the next steep, arriving at a well,
That boiling pours itself down to a foss
Sluic'd from its source. Far murkier was the wave
Than sablest grain: and we in company
Of the' inky waters, journeying by their side,
Enter'd, though by a different track, beneath.
Into a lake, the Stygian nam'd, expands
The dismal stream, when it hath reach'd the foot
Of the grey wither'd cliffs. Intent I stood
To gaze, and in the marish sunk descried
A miry tribe, all naked, and with looks
Betok'ning rage. They with their hands alone
Struck not, but with the head, the breast, the feet,
Cutting each other piecemeal with their fangs.
The good instructor spake; "Now seest thou, son!
The souls of those, whom anger overcame.
This too for certain know, that underneath
The water dwells a multitude, whose sighs
Into these bubbles make the surface heave,
As thine eye tells thee wheresoe'er it turn."
Fix'd in the slime they say: "Sad once were we
In the sweet air made gladsome by the sun,
Carrying a foul and lazy mist within:
Now in these murky settlings are we sad."
Such dolorous strain they gurgle in their throats.
But word distinct can utter none." Our route
Thus compass'd we, a segment widely stretch'd
Between the dry embankment, and the core
Of the loath'd pool, turning meanwhile our eyes
Downward on those who gulp'd its muddy lees;
Nor stopp'd, till to a tower's low base we came.
CANTO VII. The Fourth Circle, that of the Avaricious and the
Prodigal.--Pluto.--Fortune.--The Styx.--The Fifth Circle, that of
the Wrathful and the Sullen.
"Pape Satan, pape Satan aleppe,"--began Pluto with his clucking
voice. And that gentle Sage, who knew everything, said to comfort
me, "Let not thy fear hurt thee; for whatso power he have shall
not take from thee the descent of this rock." Then he turned to
that swollen lip and said, "Be silent, accursed wolf! inwardly
consume thyself with thine own rage: not without cause is this
going to the abyss; it is willed on high, there where Michael did
vengeance on the proud adultery." As sails swollen by the wind
fall in a heap when the mast snaps, so fell to earth the cruel
 Adultery, in the sense of infidelity to God.
Thus we descended into the fourth hollow, taking more of the
woeful bank that gathers in the evil of the whole universe. Ah,
Justice of God! Who heapeth up so many new travails and penalties
as I saw? And why doth our sin so waste us? As doth the wave,
yonder upon Charybdis, which is broken on that which it
encounters, so it behoves that here the people counterdance.
Here saw I people more than elsewhere many, and from one side and
the other with great howls rolling weights by force of chest.
They struck against each other, and then just there each turned,
rolling backward, crying, "Why keepest thou?" and "Why flingest
thou away?" Thus they turned through the dark circle on either
hand to the opposite point, still crying out their opprobrious
verse; then each, when he had come through his half circle,
wheeled round to the other joust.
And I, who had my heart well-nigh pierced through, said, "My
Master, now declare to me what folk is this, and if all these
tonsured ones on our left were clerks."
And he to me, "All of these were so asquint in mind in the first
life that they made no spending there with measure. Clearly
enough their voices bay it out, when they come to the two points
of the circle where the contrary sin divides them. These were
clerks who have no hairy covering on their head, and Popes and
Cardinals, in whom avarice practices its excess."
And I, "Master, among such as these I ought surely to recognize
some who were polluted with these evils."
And he to me, "Vain thought thou harborest; the undiscerning life
that made them foul, to all recognition now makes them dim.
Forever will they come to the two buttings; these will rise from
the sepulchre with closed fist, and these with shorn hair.
Ill-giving and ill-keeping have taken from them the fair world,
and set them to this scuffle; such as it is, I adorn not words
for it. Now canst thou, son, see the brief jest of the goods that
are committed unto Fortune, for which the human race so scramble;
for all the gold that is beneath the moon, or that ever was, of
these weary souls could not make a single one repose."
"Master," said I to him, "now tell me further; this Fortune, on
which thou touchest for me, what is it, that hath the goods of
the world so in its clutches?"
And he to me, "O creatures foolish, how great is that ignorance
that harms you! I would have thee now take in my judgment of her.
He whose wisdom transcendeth all made the heavens, and gave them
their guides, so that every part on every part doth shine,
equally distributing the light. In like wise for the splendors of
the world, He ordained a general ministress and guide, who should
ever and anon transfer the vain goods from race to race, and from
one blood to another, beyond the resistance of human wit.
Wherefore one race rules, and the other languishes, pursuant to
her judgment, which is occult as the snake in the grass. Your
wisdom hath no withstanding of her: she provides, judges and
maintains her realm, as theirs the other gods. Her permutations
have no truce; necessity compels her to be swift, so often cometh
he who obtains a turn. This is she who is so set upon the cross,
even by those who ought to give her praise, giving her blame
amiss and ill report. But she is blessed and hears this not. With
the other Primal Creatures glad she turns her sphere, and blessed
she rejoices. But now let us descend to greater woe. Already
every star sinks that was rising when I set out, and too long
stay is forbidden."
We crossed the circle to the other bank, above a fount that boils
and pours down through a cleft that proceeds from it. The water
was far darker than perse; and we, in company with the dusky
waves, entered down through a strange way. A marsh it makes, that
is named Styx, this dismal little stream, when it has descended
to the foot of the malign gray slopes. And I, who stood intent to
gaze, saw muddy people in that swamp, all naked and with look of
hurt. They were smiting each other, not only with hands, but with
head, and with chest, and with feet, mangling one another
piecemeal with their teeth.
The good Master said, "Son, now thou seest the souls of those
whom anger overcame; and likewise I would have thee believe for
certain that beneath the water are folk who sigh, and make this
water bubble at the surface, as thine eye tells thee wherever it
turns. Fixed in the slime, they say, 'Sullen were we in the sweet
air that by the Sun is gladdened, bearing within ourselves the
sluggish fume; now we are sullen in the black mire.' This hymn
they gurgle in their throats, for they cannot speak with entire
 The sin here punished is that known to the Middle Ages as
acedia, or accidie,--slackness in good works, and spiritual gloom
and despondency. In the Parson's Tale Chaucer says: "Envie and
ire maken bitternesse in heart, which bitternesse is mother of
Thus we circled a great arc of the foul fen, between the dry bank
and the slough, with eyes turned on those who guzzle the mire. We
came at length to the foot of a tower.