Inferno: Canto VIII
I say, continuing, that long before
We to the foot of that high tower had come,
Our eyes went upward to the summit of it,
By reason of two flamelets we saw placed there,
And from afar another answer them,
So far, that hardly could the eye attain it.
And, to the sea of all discernment turned,
I said: "What sayeth this, and what respondeth
That other fire? and who are they that made it?"
And he to me: "Across the turbid waves
What is expected thou canst now discern,
If reek of the morass conceal it not."
Cord never shot an arrow from itself
That sped away athwart the air so swift,
As I beheld a very little boat
Come o'er the water tow'rds us at that moment,
Under the guidance of a single pilot,
Who shouted, "Now art thou arrived, fell soul?"
"Phlegyas, Phlegyas, thou criest out in vain
For this once," said my Lord; "thou shalt not have us
Longer than in the passing of the slough."
As he who listens to some great deceit
That has been done to him, and then resents it,
Such became Phlegyas, in his gathered wrath.
My Guide descended down into the boat,
And then he made me enter after him,
And only when I entered seemed it laden.
Soon as the Guide and I were in the boat,
The antique prow goes on its way, dividing
More of the water than 'tis wont with others.
While we were running through the dead canal,
Uprose in front of me one full of mire,
And said, "Who 'rt thou that comest ere the hour?"
And I to him: "Although I come, I stay not;
But who art thou that hast become so squalid?"
"Thou seest that I am one who weeps," he answered.
And I to him: "With weeping and with wailing,
Thou spirit maledict, do thou remain;
For thee I know, though thou art all defiled."
Then stretched he both his hands unto the boat;
Whereat my wary Master thrust him back,
Saying, "Away there with the other dogs!"
Thereafter with his arms he clasped my neck;
He kissed my face, and said: "Disdainful soul,
Blessed be she who bore thee in her bosom.
That was an arrogant person in the world;
Goodness is none, that decks his memory;
So likewise here his shade is furious.
How many are esteemed great kings up there,
Who here shall be like unto swine in mire,
Leaving behind them horrible dispraises!"
And I: "My Master, much should I be pleased,
If I could see him soused into this broth,
Before we issue forth out of the lake."
And he to me: "Ere unto thee the shore
Reveal itself, thou shalt be satisfied;
Such a desire 'tis meet thou shouldst enjoy."
A little after that, I saw such havoc
Made of him by the people of the mire,
That still I praise and thank my God for it.
They all were shouting, "At Philippo Argenti!"
And that exasperate spirit Florentine
Turned round upon himself with his own teeth.
We left him there, and more of him I tell not;
But on mine ears there smote a lamentation,
Whence forward I intent unbar mine eyes.
And the good Master said: "Even now, my Son,
The city draweth near whose name is Dis,
With the grave citizens, with the great throng."
And I: "Its mosques already, Master, clearly
Within there in the valley I discern
Vermilion, as if issuing from the fire
They were." And he to me: "The fire eternal
That kindles them within makes them look red,
As thou beholdest in this nether Hell."
Then we arrived within the moats profound,
That circumvallate that disconsolate city;
The walls appeared to me to be of iron.
Not without making first a circuit wide,
We came unto a place where loud the pilot
Cried out to us, "Debark, here is the entrance."
More than a thousand at the gates I saw
Out of the Heavens rained down, who angrily
Were saying, "Who is this that without death
Goes through the kingdom of the people dead?"
And my sagacious Master made a sign
Of wishing secretly to speak with them.
A little then they quelled their great disdain,
And said: "Come thou alone, and he begone
Who has so boldly entered these dominions.
Let him return alone by his mad road;
Try, if he can; for thou shalt here remain,
Who hast escorted him through such dark regions."
Think, Reader, if I was discomforted
At utterance of the accursed words;
For never to return here I believed.
"O my dear Guide, who more than seven times
Hast rendered me security, and drawn me
From imminent peril that before me stood,
Do not desert me," said I, "thus undone;
And if the going farther be denied us,
Let us retrace our steps together swiftly."
And that Lord, who had led me thitherward,
Said unto me: "Fear not; because our passage
None can take from us, it by Such is given.
But here await me, and thy weary spirit
Comfort and nourish with a better hope;
For in this nether world I will not leave thee."
So onward goes and there abandons me
My Father sweet, and I remain in doubt,
For No and Yes within my head contend.
I could not hear what he proposed to them;
But with them there he did not linger long,
Ere each within in rivalry ran back.
They closed the portals, those our adversaries,
On my Lord's breast, who had remained without
And turned to me with footsteps far between.
His eyes cast down, his forehead shorn had he
Of all its boldness, and he said, with sighs,
"Who has denied to me the dolesome houses?"
And unto me: "Thou, because I am angry,
Fear not, for I will conquer in the trial,
Whatever for defence within be planned.
This arrogance of theirs is nothing new;
For once they used it at less secret gate,
Which finds itself without a fastening still.
O'er it didst thou behold the dead inscription;
And now this side of it descends the steep,
Passing across the circles without escort,
One by whose means the city shall be opened."
MY theme pursuing, I relate that ere
We reach'd the lofty turret's base, our eyes
Its height ascended, where two cressets hung
We mark'd, and from afar another light
Return the signal, so remote, that scarce
The eye could catch its beam. I turning round
To the deep source of knowledge, thus inquir'd:
"Say what this means? and what that other light
In answer set? what agency doth this?"
"There on the filthy waters," he replied,
"E'en now what next awaits us mayst thou see,
If the marsh-gender'd fog conceal it not."
Never was arrow from the cord dismiss'd,
That ran its way so nimbly through the air,
As a small bark, that through the waves I spied
Toward us coming, under the sole sway
Of one that ferried it, who cried aloud:
"Art thou arriv'd, fell spirit?"--"Phlegyas, Phlegyas,
This time thou criest in vain," my lord replied;
"No longer shalt thou have us, but while o'er
The slimy pool we pass." As one who hears
Of some great wrong he hath sustain'd, whereat
Inly he pines; so Phlegyas inly pin'd
In his fierce ire. My guide descending stepp'd
Into the skiff, and bade me enter next
Close at his side; nor till my entrance seem'd
The vessel freighted. Soon as both embark'd,
Cutting the waves, goes on the ancient prow,
More deeply than with others it is wont.
While we our course o'er the dead channel held.
One drench'd in mire before me came, and said;
"Who art thou, that thou comest ere thine hour?"
I answer'd: "Though I come, I tarry not;
But who art thou, that art become so foul?"
"One, as thou seest, who mourn:" he straight replied.
To which I thus: "In mourning and in woe,
Curs'd spirit! tarry thou.g I know thee well,
E'en thus in filth disguis'd." Then stretch'd he forth
Hands to the bark; whereof my teacher sage
Aware, thrusting him back: "Away! down there;
"To the' other dogs!" then, with his arms my neck
Encircling, kiss'd my cheek, and spake: "O soul
Justly disdainful! blest was she in whom
Thou was conceiv'd! He in the world was one
For arrogance noted; to his memory
No virtue lends its lustre; even so
Here is his shadow furious. There above
How many now hold themselves mighty kings
Who here like swine shall wallow in the mire,
Leaving behind them horrible dispraise!"
I then: "Master! him fain would I behold
Whelm'd in these dregs, before we quit the lake."
He thus: "Or ever to thy view the shore
Be offer'd, satisfied shall be that wish,
Which well deserves completion." Scarce his words
Were ended, when I saw the miry tribes
Set on him with such violence, that yet
For that render I thanks to God and praise
"To Filippo Argenti:" cried they all:
And on himself the moody Florentine
Turn'd his avenging fangs. Him here we left,
Nor speak I of him more. But on mine ear
Sudden a sound of lamentation smote,
Whereat mine eye unbarr'd I sent abroad.
And thus the good instructor: "Now, my son!
Draws near the city, that of Dis is nam'd,
With its grave denizens, a mighty throng."
I thus: "The minarets already, Sir!
There certes in the valley I descry,
Gleaming vermilion, as if they from fire
Had issu'd." He replied: "Eternal fire,
That inward burns, shows them with ruddy flame
Illum'd; as in this nether hell thou seest."
We came within the fosses deep, that moat
This region comfortless. The walls appear'd
As they were fram'd of iron. We had made
Wide circuit, ere a place we reach'd, where loud
The mariner cried vehement: "Go forth!
The' entrance is here!" Upon the gates I spied
More than a thousand, who of old from heaven
Were hurl'd. With ireful gestures, "Who is this,"
They cried, "that without death first felt, goes through
The regions of the dead?" My sapient guide
Made sign that he for secret parley wish'd;
Whereat their angry scorn abating, thus
They spake: "Come thou alone; and let him go
Who hath so hardily enter'd this realm.
Alone return he by his witless way;
If well he know it, let him prove. For thee,
Here shalt thou tarry, who through clime so dark
Hast been his escort." Now bethink thee, reader!
What cheer was mine at sound of those curs'd words.
I did believe I never should return.
"O my lov'd guide! who more than seven times
Security hast render'd me, and drawn
From peril deep, whereto I stood expos'd,
Desert me not," I cried, "in this extreme.
And if our onward going be denied,
Together trace we back our steps with speed."
My liege, who thither had conducted me,
Replied: "Fear not: for of our passage none
Hath power to disappoint us, by such high
Authority permitted. But do thou
Expect me here; meanwhile thy wearied spirit
Comfort, and feed with kindly hope, assur'd
I will not leave thee in this lower world."
This said, departs the sire benevolent,
And quits me. Hesitating I remain
At war 'twixt will and will not in my thoughts.
I could not hear what terms he offer'd them,
But they conferr'd not long, for all at once
To trial fled within. Clos'd were the gates
By those our adversaries on the breast
Of my liege lord: excluded he return'd
To me with tardy steps. Upon the ground
His eyes were bent, and from his brow eras'd
All confidence, while thus with sighs he spake:
"Who hath denied me these abodes of woe?"
Then thus to me: "That I am anger'd, think
No ground of terror: in this trial I
Shall vanquish, use what arts they may within
For hindrance. This their insolence, not new,
Erewhile at gate less secret they display'd,
Which still is without bolt; upon its arch
Thou saw'st the deadly scroll: and even now
On this side of its entrance, down the steep,
Passing the circles, unescorted, comes
One whose strong might can open us this land."
CANTO VIII. The Fifth Circle.--Phlegyas and his boat.--Passage of
the Styx.--Filippo Argenti.--The City of Dis.--The demons refuse
entrance to the poets.
I say, continuing, that, long before we were at the foot of the
high tower, our eyes went upward to its top because of two
flamelets that we saw set there, and another giving sigual back
from so far that hardly could the eye reach it. And I turned me
to the Sea of all wisdom; I said, "This one, what says it? and
what answers that other fire? and who are they that make it?" And
he to me, "Upon the foul waves already thou mayest discern that
which is expected, if the fume of the marsh hide it not from
Bowstring never sped arrow from itself that ran so swift a course
through the air, as a very little boat which I saw coming through
the water toward us at that instant, under the direction of a
single ferryman, who was crying out, "Art thou then come, fell
"Phlegyas, Phlegyas, this time thou criest out in vain," said my
Lord; "longer thou shalt not have us than only while crossing the
slough." As one who listens to some great deceit that has been
practiced on him, and then chafes at it, such became Phlegyas in
his stifled anger.
My Leader descended into the bark and then he made me enter after
him, and only when I was in did it seem laden. Soon as my Leader
and I were in the boat, the antique prow goes its way, cutting
more of the water than it is wont with others.
While we were running through the dead channel, before me showed
himself one full of mud, and said, "Who art thou that comest
before the hour?" And I to him, "If I come I stay not; but thou,
who art thou that art become so foul?" He answered, "Thou seest
that I am one who weeps." And I to him, "With weeping and with
wailing, accursed spirit, do thou remain, for I know thee
although thou art all filthy." Then he stretched to the boat both
his hands, whereat the wary Master thrust him back, saying,
"Begone there, with the other dogs!" Then with his arms he
clasped my neck, kissed my face, and said, "Disdainful soul,
blessed be she who bore thee! This one was an arrogant person in
the world; no goodness is there that adorns his memory; therefore
is his shade so furious here. How many now up there are held
great kings who shall stand here like swine in mire, leaving of
themselves horrible dispraises." And I, "Master, I should much
like to see him ducked in this broth before we depart from the
lake." And he to me, "Ere the shore allows thee to see it thou
shalt be satisfied; it will be fitting that thou enjoy such a
desire." After this a little I saw such rending of him by the
muddy folk that I still praise God therefor, and thank Him for
it. All cried, "At Filippo Argenti!" and the raging florentine
spirit turned upon himself with his teeth. Here we left him; so
that I tell no more of him.
But on my ears there smote a wailing, whereat forward intent I
open wide my eye. And the good Master said, "Now, son, the city
draws near that is named Dis, with its heavy citizens, with its
great throng." And I, "Master, already in the valley therewithin
I clearly discern its mosques vermilion, as if issuing from
fire." And he said to me, "The eternal fire that blazes within
them displays them red as thou seest in this nether Hell."
We at last arrived within the deep ditches that encompass that
disconsolate city. The walls seemed to me to be of iron. Not
without first making a great circuit did we come to a place where
the ferryman loudly shouted to us, "Out with you, here is the
Upon the gates I saw more than a thousand of those rained down
from heaven who angrily were saying, "Who is this, that without
death goes through the realm of the dead folk?" And my wise
Master made a sign of wishing to speak secretly with them. Then
they shut in a little their great scorn, and said, "Come thou
alone, and let him be gone who so boldly entered on this realm.
Alone let him return on the mad path: let him try if he can; for
thou, who hast escorted him through so dark a region, shalt
Think, Reader, if I was discomforted at the sound of the accursed
words, for I did not believe ever to return hither.
 To this world.
"O my dear Leader, who more than seven times hast renewed
assurance in me, and drawn me from deep peril that stood
confronting me, leave me not," said I, "thus undone; and, if the
going farther onward be denied us, let us together retrace our
footprints quickly." And that Lord who had led me thither said to
me, "Fear not, for no one can take from us our onward way, by
Such an one it is given to us. But here await me, and comfort thy
dejected spirit and feed on good hope, for I will not leave thee
in the nether world."
So the sweet Father goes away, and here abandons me, and I remain
in suspense; and yes and no contend within my head. I could not
hear what he set forth to them, but he had not staid there long
with them, when each ran vying back within. These our adversaries
closed the gates on the breast of my Lord, who remained without,
and returned to me with slow steps. He held his eyes upon the
ground, and his brow was shorn of all hardihood, and he said in
sighs, "Who hath denied to me the houses of woe?" And he said to
me, "Thou, because I am wroth, be not dismayed, for I shall win
the strife, whoever circle round within for the defence. This
their insolence is not new, for of old they used it at a less
secret gate, which still is found without a bolt. Above it thou
didst see the dead inscription; and already on this side of it
descends the steep, passing without escort through the circles,
One such that by him the city shall be opened to us."