CANTO XXV

The thief held up his hands when he was through,
And "God," he cried, making the fig with both--
"Take these: I aim them squarely up at you!"

The serpents were my friends from that time forth,
For then one coiled itself about his neck
As if to say, "That's all then, from your mouth,"

And another went around his arms to snake
Them tight and cinch itself in front, so tied
They couldn't budge enough to gesture. Alack,

Pistoia, Pistoia!--Why haven't you decreed
Your own incineration, so that you dwell
On earth no more, since you surpass your seed

In evildoing? In all the circles of Hell
I saw no spirit so arrogant to God,
Not even him who fell from the Theban wall.

Speaking no more then, Vanni Fucci fled,
And next I saw a centaur full of rage:
"Where is he? Where is the bitter one?" he cried

As he charged up. I think more snakes than lodge
In Marcemma's swamp were riding on his croup,
Swarming along his back up to the edge

Of our human form. He bore behind his nape,
Along the shoulders, a dragon with wings spread wide:
If any blocked the path, it burned them up.

"This centaur's name is Cacus," my master said,
"Who underneath the stones of Aventine
Many a time has made a lake of blood.

He doesn't walk the same road as his clan
Because by theft and fraud he tried to get
The splendid herd that lay near him--a sin

That ended his crooked habits: he died for it.
When Hercules's club rained onto his head
Some hundred blows, he lived to feel ten hit."

While he was saying this, the centaur sped
Beyond us, and three new spirits appeared below;
They went unnoticed by me or by my guide

Until they shouted to us, "Who are you?"
At which we ceased our talk and turned to them.
I did not know them, but as people do

When chance disposes, one had some cause to name
Another--"Where have we left Cianfa?" he said.
To be sure my leader heard, I signaled him

To stay alert, with a finger that I laid
From chin to nose. Reader, if you are slow
To credit what I tell you next, it should

Be little wonder, for I who saw it know
That I myself can hardly acknowledge it:
While I was staring at the sinners below

A serpent darted forward that had six feet,
And facing one of the three it fastened on him
All over--with the middle feet it got

A grip upon the belly, with each fore-limb
It clasped an arm; its fangs gripped both his cheeks;
It spread its hind feet out to do the same

To both his thighs, extending its tail to flex
Between them upward through to the loins behind.
No ivy growing in a tree's bark sticks

As firmly as the horrid beast entwined
Its limbs around the other. Then, as if made
Out of hot wax, they clung and made a bond

And mixed their colors; and neither could be contstrued
As what it was at first--so, as the track
Of flame moves over paper, there is a shade

That moves before it that is not yet black,
And the white dies away. The other two
Were looking on, and cried, "Ah me, now look

At how you change, Agnello!--already you
Are neither two nor one." Now the two heads
Had become one; we watched the two shapes grow

Into one face, where both were lost. The sides
Grew two arms, fused from lengths that had been four;
Thighs, legs, chest, belly merged; and in their steads

Grew members that were never seen before.
All of the former features were blotted out.
A perverse shape, with both not what they were,

Yet neither--such, its pace deliberate,
It moved away. The way a lizard can dash
Under the dog day's scourge, darting out

Between the hedges so that it seems a flash
Of lightning if it spurts across the road,
So did a fiery little serpent rush

Toward the bellies of the two who stayed;
Peppercorn black and livid, it struck out,
Transfixing one in the place where we are fed

When life begins--then fell before his feet,
Outstretched. The pierced one gazed at it and stood
Not speaking, only yawning as if a fit

Of sleep or fever had taken him. He eyed
The serpent, the serpent him. From this one's wound
And that one's mouth smoke violently flowed,

And their smoke met. Let Lucan now attend
In silence, who has told the wretched fates
Of Nasidius and Sabellus--till he had learned

What I will let fly next. And Ovid, who writes
Of Cadmus and Arethusa, let him be still--
For though he in his poet-craft transmutes

One to a serpent, and makes the other spill
Transformed into a fountain, I envy him not:
He never transformed two individual

Front-to-front natures so both forms as they met
Were ready to exchange their substance. The twain
Reacted mutually: the reptile split

Its tail to make a fork; the wounded one
Conjoined his feet. The legs and thighs were pressed
So tight no mark of juncture could be seen;

The split tail took the shape the other lost,
Its skin grew softer, and the other's hard.
I saw the arms draw inward to be encased

Inside the armpits; the animal's feet appeared
To lengthen as the other's arms grew less.
The hind paws, twisting together like a cord,

Became the member man conceals. From his,
The wretch had grown to feet. While the smoke veils
Each one with colors that are new, and grows

Hair here and strips it there, the one shape falls
And one comes upright. But neither turned aside
The unholy lights that stared above the muzzles

They each were changing: the one who newly stood
Drew his in toward his tmeples, and from the spare
Matter from that, ears issued from the head,

Behind smooth cheeks; what didn't course to an ear
But was retained became the face's nose,
And fleshed lips to the thickness they should bear.

He that lay prone propelled his nose and face
Forward, and shrank his ears back into the head
As a snail does its horns. The tongue that was

Whole and prepared for speech was split instead--
And in the other the forked tongue fomred one piece:
And the smoke ceased. The soul that had been made

A beast fled down the valley with a hiss;
The other, speaking now, spat after it,
Turned his new shoulders on it to address

The third, and said: "I'll have Buoso trot
On all fours down this road, as I have done!"
And so I saw that seventh deadweight transmute

And mutate--and may its strangeness excuse my pen,
If it has tangled things. And though my eyes
Were somewhat in confusion at the scene,

My mind somewhat bewildered, yet none of these
Could flee to hide himself so secretly
That I could not distinguish well the face

Of Puccio Sciancato, who of the three
Companions that we first took notice of,
Alone was not transformed; the other was he

Whose death, Gaville, you have good cause to grieve.

CANTO XXVI

Rejoice, O Florence, since you are so great,
Beating your wings on land and on the sea,
That in Hell too your name is spread about!

I found among those there for their thievery
Five of your citizens, which carries shame
For me--and you gain no high honor thereby.

But if we dream the truth near morning time,
Then you will feel, before much time has gone
What Prato and others crave for you--and come

Already, it would not have come too soon.
And truly, let it, since it must come to pass:
For it will all the heavier weigh me down,

The older I become. We left the place,
And on the stairway that the jutting stone
A little while before had offered us

On our descent, my guide climbed up again
And drew me up to pursue our lonely course.
Without the hand the foot could not go on,

Climbing that jaggged ridge's rocks and spurs.
I sorrowed then, and when I turn my mind
To what I saw next, sorrow again--and force

My art to make its genius more restrained
Than is my usual bent, lest it should run
Where virtue doesn't: so that if any kind

Star or some better thing has made it mine
I won't myself negate the gift in me.
As many as the fireflies a peasant has seen

(Resting on a hill that time of year when he
Who lights the world least hides his face from us,
And at the hour when the fly gives way

To the mosquito) all down the valley's face,
Where perhaps he gathers grapes and tills the ground:
With flames that numerous was Hell's eight fosse

Glittering, as I saw when I attained
A place from which its floor could be made out.
And as the one avenged by bears divined

That what he saw was Elijah's chariot
Carried by rearing horses to Heaven's domain--
For with his eyes he couldn't follow it

Except by looking at the flame alone,
Like a small cloud ascending: so each flame moves
Along the ditch's gullet with not one

Showing its plunder, though every flame contrives
To steal away a sinner. I had climbed up
To balance where the bridge's high point gives

A better view, and if I didn't grip
A rock I would have fallen from where I stood
Without a push. Seeing how from the top

I gazed intently down, my master said,
"Within the flames are spirits; each one here
Enfolds himself in what burns him." I replied,

"My Master, to hear you say it makes me sure,
But I already thought it; already, too,
I wanted to ask you who is in that fire

Which at its top is so split into two
It seems to surge from the pyre Eteocles
Shared with his brother?" He answered, "In it go

Tormented Ulysses and Diomedes
Enduring vengeance together, as they did wrath;
And in their flame they grieve for their device,

The horse that made the doorway through which went forth
The Romans' noble seed. Within their fire
Now they lament the guile that even in death

Makes Deidamia mourn Achilles, and there
They pay the price for the Palladium."
"Master," I said, "I earnestly implore,

If they can speak within those sparks of flame--
And pray my prayer be worth a thousand pleas--
Do not forbid my waiting here for them

Until their horned flame makes its way to us;
You see how yearningly it makes me lean."
And he to me: "Your paryer is worthy of praise,

And thereofore I accept it. But restrain
Your tongue, leave speech to me--Greeks that they were,
They might treat words of yours with some disdain."

My master waited as the flame drew near
For the right place and moment to arrive,
Then spoke: "O you, who are two within one fire:

If I deserved of you while I was alive--
If I deserved anything great or small
From you when I wrote verse, then do not move;

But rather grant that one of you will tell
Whither, when lost, he went away to die."
The greater horn of flame began to flail

And murmur like fire the wind beats, and to ply
Its tip which, as it vibrated here and there
Like a tongue in speech, flung out a voice to say:

"When Circe had detained me more than a year
There near Gaeta, before it had that name
Aeneas gave it, and I parted from her,

Not fondness for my son, nor any claim
Of reverence for my father, nor love I owed
Penelope, to please her, could overcome

My longing for experience of the world,
Of human vices and virtue. But I sailed out
On the deep open seas, accompanied

By that small company that still had not
Deserted me, in a single ship. One coast
I saw, and then another, and I got

As far as Spain, Morocco, Sardinia, a host
Of other islands that the sea bathes round.
My men and I were old and slow when we passed

The narrow outlet where Hercules let stand
His markers beyond which men were not to sail.
On my left hand I had left Ceuta behind,

And on the other sailed beyond Seville.
'O brothers who have reached the west,' I began,
'Through a hundred thousand perils, surviving all:

So little is the vigil we see remain
Still for our senses, that you should not choose
To deny it the experience--behind the sun

Leading us onward--of the world which has
No people in it. COnsider well your seed:
You were not born to live as a mere brute does,

But for the pursuit of knowledge and the good.'
Then all of my companions grew so keen
To journey, spurred by this little speech I'd made,

I would have found them difficult to restrain.
Turning our stern toward the morning light,
We made wings of our oars, in an insane

Flight, always gaining on the left. The night
Showed all the stars, now, of the other pole--
Our own star fallen so low, no sign of it

Rose from the sea. The moon's low face glowed full
Five times since we set course across the deep,
And as many times was quenched invisible,

When dim in the distance we saw a mountaintop:
It seemed the highest I had ever seen.
We celebrated--but soon began to weep,

For from the newfound land a storm had grown,
Rising to strike the forepart of the ship.
It whirled the vessel round, and round again

With all the waters three times, lifting up
The stern the fourth--as pleased an Other--to press
The prow beneath the surface, and did not stop

Until the sea had closed up over us."

CANTO XXVII

The flame already was quiet and erect again,
Done speaking, and, as the gentle poet allowed,
Leaving us, when behind it another one

Was drawing near, the confused sound it made
Drawing our eyes toward its flickering tip.
As the Scicilian bull (which bellowed loud

For the first time when he who gave it shape
With his file's art was forced to give it his voice,
Justly) would use a victim's cries, sealed up

Inside its body, to bellow--so that, though brass,
It seemed transfixed with pain when it was heated:
So, having at first no passage or egress

From fire, the melancholy words were transmuted
Into fire's language. But after the words had found
Their passage through the tip, and it vibrated

As the tongue had in trying to form their sound,
We heard it say, "O you toward whom I guide
My voice, and who a moment ago intoned

In Lombard, 'Now continue on your road,
I do not ask you more'--though I may be
Late in my coming here, don't be annoyed

To stop and speak; you see that I am free
Of annoyance, though I burn. If you just fell
Into this viewless world from Italy,

Sweet land above, from which I carry all
My guilt, then tell me: is it peace or war
That occupies the Romagnoles?--I hail

From the hill country between Urbino and where,
High up the ridge, the Tiber has its source."
I was still crouched and intently giving ear

When my guide nudged me, saying, "You may discourse
With him: he is Italian." Already prepared
To answer, I said: "That Romagna of yours,

O soul concealed below, is not yet cleared
And never was--in her tyrants' hearts--of war:
Though when I left, no war had been declared.

Ravenna still remains as many a year,
Polenta's eagle brooding above the town
So its wings cover Cervia. The land that bore

The long siege, once, and struck the Frenchmen down
Into a bloody heap, finds itself now
Held underneath the Green Paws once again.

Both the old mastiff and new of Verrucchio,
Who treated Montagna in an evil way,
Sink their teeth in, the way they always do.

Along the Santerno and the Lamone lie
Cities the Lionet of the White Lair rules,
Who changes sides and shifts his loyalty

From summer to winter. And the town that feels
The Savio bathe its flank, just as it lies
Between a plain and mountains, also dwells

Somewhere between tyranny's and freedom's ways.
And now I pray you--tell us who you are.
Don't be more grudging than the other was

In answering you, so may your name endure,
Proudly in the world above." After the fire
Roared in its way awhile, it began to stir

Its sharp tip rapidly, first here, then there,
Then formed this breath: "If I believed I gave
My answer to one who'd ever go once more

Back to the world, this tongue of flame would have
No motion. But since, if what I hear is true,
None ever return from this abyss alive,

Not fearing infamy I will answer you.
I was a man of arms, and after that
Became a corded friar, hopeful to do

Penance by wearing the rope; indeed that thought
Might well have been fulfilled, but the High Priest--
May evil befall him!--led me to commit

Again the sins that I had practiced at first:
And how and why, now listen and I'll disclose.
My actions, when my form was still encased

In the flesh and bones my mother gave me, were those
Of the fox, not the lion. I was expert
In all the stratatems and covert ways.

And practiced them with so much cunning art
The sound extended to the earth's far end.
But when I saw that I had reached that part

Of life when we should let our sails descend
And coil the ropes--then what had pleased me before
Now grieved me: penitent and confessed, I joined

An order and--woe to say!--my life as friar
Would have availed me. The Prince of new Pharisees
Nearby the Lateran was making war,

And not against the Saracens or Jews,
His enemies all being Christians: and none
Had been at Acre's conquest, nor one of those

Who went as merchants to the Sultan's domain;
And he respected neither the supreme
Office and holy orders that were his own,

Nor in me the friar's cord which at one time
Made those who wore it leaner. As Constantine
Sought out Sylvester in Soracte, his aim

To have him cure his leprosy--this man
Came seeking me as one who meant to find
A doctor to cure the fever he was in,

Of pride. He asked my counsel, and I remained
Silent, because his words seemed drunk to me.
And then he spoke again: 'Now understand,

Your heart should not respond mistrustfully,
For I absolve you in advance, henceforth:
Instruct me, so that I can find a way

To level Palestrina to the earth.
I have the power to lock and unlock Heaven,
As you know; for the keys are two, whose worth

Seemed not dear to my predecessor.' Then, driven
To where the gravity of his argument
Made silence seem worse counsel, I said: 'Given,

Father, that you are washing me of the taint
Of this sin into which I now must fall--
Large promises with fulfillments that are scant

Will bring your high throne triumph over all.'
And Francis came for me the moment I died,
But one of these black cherubim of Hell

Appeared and, 'Do not carry him off,' it said,
'Do not deprive me: he must be carried down
Among my servants because he counseled fraud,

And I have hovered near his hair since then,
Until this moment--for no one has absolution
Without repenting; nor can one will a sin

And repent at once, because the contradiction
Precludes it.' How I shuddered--O wretched me!
'Perhaps you did not think I was a logician,'

He said, and took me, and carried me away
To Minos, who coiled his tail eight times around
His scaly back, and gnawed it angrily

And then declared, 'This wicked one is bound
For the fire of thievery.' So I am lost
Where you see me wander, in this garment wound,

Bitter to myself." And as his discourse ceased
The grieving flame departed, its horn's sharp point
Tossing about and twisting as it passed.

We journeyed on, my leader and I, and went
To the next arch of the ridge: and looking under,
We saw the fosse where they pay the due amount

Who earned their burden by splitting things asunder.

CANTO XXVIII

Who could find words, even in free-running prose,
For the blood and wounds I saw, in all their horror--
Telling it over as often as you choose,

It's certain no human tongue could take the measure
Of those enormities. Our speech and mind,
Straining to comprehend the, flail, and falter.

If all the Apulians who long ago mounred
Their lives cut off by Trojans could live once more,
Assembled to grieve again with all those stained

By their own blood in the long Carthanginian war--
Rings pillaged from their corpses poured by the bushel,
As Livy writes, who never was known to err--

And they who took their mortal blows in battle
With Robert Guiscard, and those whose bones were heaped
At Ceperano, killed in the Puglian betrayal,

And the soldiers massacred in the stratagem shaped
By old Alardo, who conquered without a weapon
Near Tagliacozzo when their army was trapped--

And some were showing wounds still hot and open,
Others the gashes where severed limbs had been:
It would be nothing to equal the mutilation

I saw in that Ninth Chasm. No barrle staved-in
And missing its end-piece ever gaped as wide
As the man I saw split open from his chin

Down to the farting-place, and from the splayed
Trunk the spilled entrails dangled between his thighs
I saw his organs, and the sack that make the bread

We swallow turn to shit. Seeing my eyes
Fastened upon him, he pulled open his chest
With both hands saying, "Look how Mohammend claws

And mangles himself, torn open down the breast!
Look how I tear myself! And Ali goes
Weeping before me--like me, a schismatic, and cleft:

Split open from the chin along his face
Up to the forelock. All you see here, when alive,
Taught scandal and schism, so they are cleavered like this.

A devil waits with a sword back there to carve
Each of us open afresh each time we've gone
Our circuit round this road, where while we grieve

Our wounds close up before we pass him again--
But who are you that stand here, perhaps to delay
Torments pronounced on your own false words to men?"

"Neither has death yet reached him, nor does he stay
For punishment of guilt," my master replied,
"But for experience. And for that purpose I,

Who am dead, lead him through Hell a rightful guide,
From circle to circle. Of this, you can be as sure
As that I speak to you here at his side."

More than a hundred shades were gathered there
Who hearing my master's words had halted, and came
Along the trench toward me in order to start,

Forgetting their torment in wonder for a time.
"Tell Fra Dolcino, you who may see the sun,
If he wants not to follow soon the same

Punishment, he had better store up grain
Against a winter siege and the snows' duress,
Or the Novarese will easily bring him down"--

After he had lifted his foot to resume the pace,
Mohammed spoke these words, and having spoken
He stepped away again on his painful course.

Another there, whose face was cruelly broken,
The throat pierced through, the nose cut off at the brow,
One ear remaining, stopped and gazed at me, stricken

With recognition as well as wonder. "Ah, you,"
His bleeding throat spoke, "you here, yet not eternally
Doomed here by guilt--unless I'm deceived, I knew

Your face when I still walked above in Italy.
If you return to the sweet plain I knew well
That slopes toward Marcab˛ from Vercelli,

Remember Pier da Medicina. And tell
Ser Guido and Angiolello, the two best men
Of Fano: if we have foresight here in Hell

Then by a tyrant's treachery they will drown
Off La Cattolica--bound and thrown in the sea
From their ships. Neptune has never seen, between

Cyprus and Majorca, whether committed by
Pirates or Argives, such a crime. The betrayer
Who sees from one eye only (he holds a city

Found bitter by another who's with me here)
Will lure them to set sail for truce-talks: then,
When he has dealt with them, they'll need no prayer

For safe winds near Focara--not ever again."
Then I to him: "If you'd have me be the bearer
Of news from you to those above, explain--

What man do you mean, who found a city bitter?"
Then he grapsed one shade near him by the jaw,
And opened the mouth, and said, "This is the creature,

He does not speak, who once, in exile, knew
Words to persuade Caesar at the Rubicon--
Affiming, to help him thrust his doubt below,

'Delaying when he's ready hurts a man.' "
I saw how helpless Curio's tongue was cut
To a stub in his throat, whose speech had been so keen.

One with both hands lopped off came forward to shout,
Stumps raised in the murk to spatter his cheeks with blood,
"Also remember Mosca! I too gave out

A slogan uging bloodshed, when I said
'Once done it's done with': words which were seeds of pain
For the Tuscan people." Then, when he heard me add,

"--and death to your family line," utterly undone
By sorrow heaped upon his sorrow, the soul
Went away like one whom grief has made insane.

I stayed to see more, one sight so incredible
As I should fear to describe, except that conscience,
Being pure in this, encourages me to tell:

I saw--and writing it now, my brain still envisions--
A headless trunk that walked, in sad promenade
Shuffling the dolorous track with its companions,

And the trunk was carrying the severed head,
Gripping its hair like a lantern, letting it swing,
And the head looked up at us: "Oh me!" it cried.

He was himself and his lamp as he strode along,
Two in one, and one it two--and how it can be,
Only He knows, so ordained the thing.

Reaching the bridge, the trunk held the head up high
So we could hear his words, which were "Look well,
You who come breathing to view the dead, and say

If there is punishment harder than mine in Hell.
Carry the word, and know me: Bertran de Born,
Who made the father and the son rebel

The one against the other, by the evil turn
I did the young king, counseling him to ill.
David and Absalom had nothing worse to learn

From the wickedness contrived by Achitophel.
Because I parted their union, I carry my brain
Parted from this, its pitiful stem: Mark well

This retribution that you see is mine."

CANTO XXIX

That mass of people wounded so curiously
Had made my eyes so drunk they had a passion
To stay and weep. But Virgil said to me,

"What are you staring at? Why let your vision
Linger there down among the disconsolate
And mutilated shades? You found no reason

To delay like this at any other pit.
Consider, if counting them is what you plan:
This valley extends along a circular route

For twenty-two miles. And already the moon
Is under our feet: the time we are allowed
Has now grown short, and more is to be seen

Than you see here." "If you had given heed
To what my reason is for looking, perhaps
You would have granted a longer stay," I said.

Meanwhile my guide went on, and in his steps
I followed while I answered--but told him, too,
"Inside that hollow, where for a little lapse

Of time I gazed so steadily just now,
I think a spirit of my own blood laments
The guilt that brings so great a cost below."

The master answered, "Let your intelligence
Distract itself with thoughts of him no more.
Attend to other things, while he remains

Down where he is, below the bridge--for there
I saw him with his finger point you out
And fiercely threaten you. And I could hear

Them call him Geri del Bello. So complete
Was your preoccupation with the one
Who once held Altaforte, you never set

Your eyes his direction till he was gone."
And "O my guide," I said, "his violent death,
For which as yet no vengeance has been done

By any of those he shares dishonor with,
Is what has made him full of indignation--
And that is why he continued on his path

Without addressing me, and with this action
He makes my pity for him greater yet."
So we continued in our conversation,

Walking the ridge until we reached the spot
Where the next valley could first be seen below--
Down to the bottom, had there been more light.

Up above Malebolge's last cloister now
Where we could see its lay-brothers under us,
Their strange laments beset me, each an arrow

Whose shaft was barbed with pity--and at this,
I lifted up my hands and blocked my ears.
The suffering was such, if one could place

All of the sick who endure disease's course
In Val di Chiana's hospital from July
All through Septemeber, and all the sufferers

In Maremma and Sardinia, to lie
All in one ditch together, so was this place;
From it a stench, like that which usually

Is given off by festering limbs, arose.
Keeping as ever to the left, on down
We came, to the ridge's final bank. The fosse

Grew clearer to my sight, in which the one
Who serves as minister of the Lord on high,
Unerring Justice, lets her punishments rain

Upon the shades whose sin is to falsify;
She has recorded them upon her scroll.
I think it could not have been sadder to see

Aegina's whole population fallen ill
When such corruption crowded through the air
That, down to the small worms, every animal

Succumbed (and afterward, the poets aver
As certain, the ancients populace was restored
Out of the seed of ants) than to see there,

All through that murky valley, bow a horde
Of shades lay languishing in scattered heaps:
One lay upon his belly, another poured

Across his neighbor's shoulders, or perhaps
Moved on all fours along the dismal track.
In silence, walking with deliberate steps,

We went on, watching and listening to the sick,
Who could not raise their bodies. I could see
Two who were sitting propped up back to back,

As pan is leaned against pan to warm them dry,
Each of them spotted with scabs from head to foot.
And I have never seen a stableboy

Who knows that he is making his master wait,
Or one unhappy to be still awake,
Work with a currycomb at such a rate

As each of these was laboring to rake
His nails all over himself--scrathing and digging
For the great fury of the itch they tried to slake,

Which has no other relief: their nails were snagging
Scabs from the skin as a knifeblade might remove
Scales from a carp, or as if the knife were dragging

Still larger scales some other fish might have.
"O you who with your fingers scrape the mail
From your own flesh, and sometimes make them serve

As pincers: say if any of these who dwell
Below here with you is from Italy,
So may your nails suffice you in this toil

That you perform throughout eternity--"
My leader said, addressing one of the two.
"Both of us are Italians, whom you see

Disfigured here," he answered, weeping. "But who
Are you, who ask us?" My guide said, "I am one
Who accompanies this living man; we go

Downward from level to level, and I mean
To show him Hell." Their mutual support
Was broken at his words; they turned to lean

Closer to me, both trembling and alert,
With others who overheard what he had said.
Drawing near to me, my good master said, "Now start:

Speak to them as you choose." So I complied,
Beginning thus: "So that your memory
In men's minds in the former world won't fade

But live on under many suns, tell me
Who you are and your people are; your punished state,
Loathsome and hideous although it be,

Should not discourage you from speaking out."
"I was of Arezzo," one answered, "and died by fire
At Albero of Siena's orders, and yet

That which I died for is not what brought me here.
The truth is that I told him, speaking in jest,
That I knew how to lift myself through air,

In flight: he, curious, but not much blessed
With wit, asked me to train him in that skill;
I failed to make him Daedalus--which sufficed

For him to have me burned: the sentence fell
On me from one who held him as a son.
But alchemy, which I plied in the world so well,

Is why I was doomed to this last ditch of ten
By Minos, who cannot err in his decrees."
I asked the poet, "Has there ever been

Another people as vain as the Sienese?
Certainly not the French themselves, by far."
The other lerpous one, at hearing this,

Responded, "Some, you'll grant exceptions for:
Stricca, who knew how to spend in moderation,
And Niccol˛, who was progenitor

Of the costly cult of cloves--a fine tradition
For the rich garden where such seeds take root.
And let that company also be an exception

Where Caccia d'Asciano freely spent out
His vineyard and his forest, and where the one
They nicknamed Muddlehead displayed his wit.

But so you know who seconds you in this vein
Against the Sienese, come sharpen your gaze
In my direction, where you may well discern

The answer given to you by my face:
I am Capocchio's shade--the counterfeiter
Of metals by alchemy; if I trust my eyes,

You recall how good I was at aping nature."

   Inferno, Page 6