Title: The Divine Comedy: Inferno.
Author: Dante Alighieri (translation by Allen Mandelbaum).
Genre: Fiction, literature, poetry, religion, Christianity, adventure, ethics, philosophical fiction, politics.
Publication Date: Between 1308-1320.
Summary: The first part of Dante's Divine Comedy, the story sees the author, with the poet Virgil as his guide, travel through the Nine Circles of Hell. Filled with politics and philosophy, humor and horror, the epic poem is at once personal and universal, and provides a darkly illuminating view into our present world no less than Dante's own. For as as we're led to the last circle of the Inferno, we recognize the very worst in human nature... and the ever-abiding potential for redemption.
My rating: 8.5/10.
♥ When I had journeyed half of our life's way,
I found myself within a shadowed forest,
for I had lost the path that does not stray.
♥ And just as he who, with exhausted breath,
having escaped from sea to shore, turns back
to watch the dangerous waters he has quit,
so did my spirit, still a fugitive,
turn back to look intently at the pass
that never has let any man survive.
♥ Even as he who glories while he gains
will, when the time has come to tally loss,
lament with every thought and turn despondent,
so was I when I faced that restless beast,
which, even as she stalked me, step by step
had thrust me back to where the sun is speechless.
♥ "..And I was born, though late, sub Julio,
and lived in Rome under the good Augustus—
the season of the false and lying gods."
♥ "...the beast that is the cause of your outcry
allows no man to pass along her track,
but blocks him even to the point of death;
her nature is so squalid, so malicious
that she can never sate her greedy will;
when she has fed, she's hungrier than ever.
She mates with many living souls and shall
yet mate with many more, until the Greyhound
arrives, inflicting painful death on her.
That Hound will never feed on land or pewter,
but find his fare in wisdom, love, and virtue;
his place of birth shall be between two felts.
He will restore low-lying Italy
for which the maid Camilla died of wounds,
and Nisus, Turnus, and Euryalus.
And he will hunt that beast through every city
until he thrusts her back again to Hell,
from which she was first sent above by envy."
~~from CANTO I.
♥ O Muses, o high genius, help me now;
o memory that set down what I saw,
here shall your excellence reveal itself!
♥ And just as he who unwills what he wills
and shifts what he intends to seek new ends
so that he's drawn from what he had begun,
so was I in the midst of that dark land,
because, with all my thinking, I annulled
the task I had so quickly undertaken.
"If I have understood what you have said,"
replied the shade of that great-hearted one,
"your soul has been assaulted by cowardice,
which often weighs so heavily on a man—
distracting him from honorable trials—
as phantoms frighten beasts when shadows fall."
♥ "'O Lady of virtue, the sole reason why
the human race surpasses all that lies
beneath the heaven with the smallest spheres,
so welcome is your wish, that even if
it were already done, it would seem tardy;
all you need do is let me know your will.'"
♥ "One ought to be afraid of nothing other
than things possessed of power to do us harm,
but things innocuous need not be feared.
God, in His graciousness, has made me so
that this, your misery, cannot touch me;
I can withstand the fires flaming here."
♥ As little flowers, which the chill of night
has bent and huddled, when the white sun strikes,
grow straight and open fully on their stems,
so did I, too, with my exhausted force;
and such warm daring rushed into my heart
that I—as one who has been freed—began:
"O she, compassionate, who has helped me!
And you who, courteous, obeyed so quickly
the true words that she had addressed to you!
You, with your words, have so disposed my heart
to longing for this journey—I return
to what I was at first prepared to do.
Now go; a single will fills both of us:
you are my guide, my governor, my master."
~~from CANTO II.
♥ THROUGH ME THE WAY INTO THE SUFFERING CITY,
THROUGH ME THE WAY TO THE ETERNAL PAIN,
THROUGH ME THE WAY THAT RUNS AMONG THE LOST.
JUSTICE URGED ON MY HIGH ARTIFICER;
MY MAKER WAS DIVINE AUTHORITY,
THE HIGHEST WISDOM, AND THE PRIMAL LOVE.
BEFORE ME NOTHING BUT ETERNAL THINGS
WERE MADE, AND I ENDURE ETERNALLY.
ABANDON EVERY HOPE, WHO ENTER HERE.
♥ Here sighs and lamentations and loud cries
were echoing across the starless air,
so that, as soon as I set out, I wept.
Strange utterances, horrible pronouncements,
accents of anger, words of suffering,
and voices thrill and faint, and beating hands—
all went to make a tumult that will whirl
forever through that turbid, timeless air,
like sand that eddies when a whirlwind swirls.
♥ "Master, what is it that I hear? Who are
those people so defeated by their pain?"
And he to me: "This miserable way
is taken by the sorry souls of those
who lived without disgrace and without praise.
They now commingle with the coward angels,
the company of those who were not rebels
nor faithful to their God, but stood apart.
The heavens, that their beauty not be lessened,
have cast them out, nor will deep Hell receive them—
even the wicked cannot glory in them."
~~from CANTO III.
♥ ...and even greater honor then was mine,
for they invited me to join their ranks—
I was the sixth among such intellects.
So did we move along and toward the light,
talking of things about which silence here
is just as seemly as our speech was there.
~~from CANTO IV.
♥ "Love, that can quickly seize the gentle heart,
took hold of him because of the fair body
taken from me—how that was done still wounds me.
Love, that releases no beloved from loving,
took hold of me so strongly through his beauty
that, as you see, it has not left me yet.
Love led the two of us unto one death."
~~from CANTO V.
♥ Over the souls of those submerged beneath
that mess, is an outlandish, vicious beast,
his three throats barking, doglike: Cerberus.
His eyes are bloodred; greasy, black, his beard;
his belly bulges, and his hands are claws;
his talons tear and flay and rend the shades.
That downpour makes the sinners howl like dogs;
they use one of their sides to screen the other—
those miserable wretches turn and turn.
♥ "Three sparks that set one fire every heart
are envy, pride, and avariciousness."
♥ "Remember now your science,
which says that when a thing has more perfection,
so much the greater is its pain or pleasure."
~~from CANTO VI.
♥ Justice of God! Who has amassed as many
strange tortures and travails as I have seen?
Why do we let our guilt consume us so?
♥ "Now you can see, my son, how brief's the sport
of all those goods that are in Fortune's care,
for which the tribe of men contend and brawl;
for all the gold that is or ever was
beneath the moon could never offer rest
to even one of these exhausted spirits."
"Master," I asked of him, "now tell me too:
this Fortune whom you've touched upon just now—
what's she, who clutches so all the world's goods?"
And he to me: "O unenlightened creatures,
how deep—the ignorance that hampers you!
I want you to digest my word on this.
Who made the heavens and who gave them guides
was He whose wisdom transcends everything;
that every part may shine unto the other,
He had the light apportioned equally;
similarly, for worldly splendors, He
ordained a general minster and guide
to shift, from time to time, those empty goods
from nation unto nation, clan to clan,
in ways that human reason can't prevent;
just son, one people rules, one languishes,
obeying the decision she has given,
which, like a serpent in the grass, is hidden.
Your knowledge cannot stand against her force;
for she foresees and judges and maintains
her kingdom as the other gods do theirs.
The changes that she brings are without respite:
it is necessity that make her swift;
and for this reason, men change state so often.
She is the one so frequently maligned
even by those who should give praise to her—
they blame her wrongfully with words of scorn.
But she is blessed and does not hear these things;
for with the other primal beings, happy,
she turns her sphere and glories in her bliss."
♥ When it has reached the foot of those malign
gray slopes, that melancholy stream descends,
forming a swamp that bears the name of Styx.
And I, who was intent on watching it,
could make out muddied people in that slime,
all naked and their faces furious.
These struck each other not with hands alone,
but with their heads and chests and with their feet,
and tore each other piecemeal with their teeth.
The kindly master told me: "Son, now see
the souls of those whom anger has defeated;
and I should also have you know for certain
that underneath the water there are souls
who sigh and make this pain of water bubble,
as your eye, looking anywhere, can tell.
Wedged in the slime, they say: 'We had been sullen
in the sweet air that's gladdened by the sun;
we bore the mist of sluggishness in us:
now we are bitter in the blackened mud.'"
~~from CANTO VII.
♥ "How many up above now count themselves
great kings, who'll wallow here like pigs in slime,
leaving behind foul memories of their crimes!"
~~from CANTO VIII.
&hears: "Look at the ferocious Erinyes!
That is Megaera on the left, and she
who weeps upon the right, that is Allecto;
Tisiphone's between them."
♥ "Turn round and keep your eyes shut fast, for should
the Gorgon show herself and you behold her,
never again would you return above,"
my master said; and he himself turned me
around and, not content with just my hands,
used his as well to cover up my eyes.
O you possessed of sturdy intellects,
observe the teaching that is hidden here
beneath the veil of verses so obscure.
~~from CANTO IX.
♥ Of every malice that earns hate in Heaven,
injustice is the end; and each such end
by force or fraud brings harm to other men.
However, fraud is man's peculiar vice;
God finds it more displeasing—and therefore,
the fraudulent are lower, suffering more.
The violent take all of the first circle;
but since one uses force against three persons,
that circle's built of three divided rings.
To God and to one's self and one's neighbor—
I mean, to them or what is theirs—one can
do violence, as you shall now hear clearly."
♥ "But in the former way of fraud, not only
the love that nature forges is forgotten,
but added love that builds a special trust;
thus, in the tightest circle, where there is
the universe's center, seat of Dis,
all traitors are consumed eternally."
♥ "O sun that heals all sight that is perplexed,
when I ask you, your answer so contents
that doubting pleases me as much as knowing."
♥ "Philosophy, for one who understands,
points out, and not in just one place," he said,
"how nature follows—as she takes her course—
the Divine Intellect and Divine Art;
and if you read your Physics carefully,
not many pages from the start, you'll see
that when it can, your art would follow nature,
just as a pupil imitates his master;
so that your art is almost God's grandchild
From these two, art and nature, it is fitting,
if you recall how Genesis begins,
for men to make their way, to gain their living;
and since the usurer prefers another
pathway, he scorns both nature in herself
and art, her follower; his hope is elsewhere."
~~from CANTO XI.
♥ "...on all sides, the steep and filthy valley
had trembled so, I thought the universe
felt love (by which, as some believe, the world
has often been converted into chaos);
and at that moment, here as well as elsewhere,
these ancient boulders toppled, in this way."
♥ "He is indeed alive, and so alone
it falls to me to show him the dark valley.
Necessity has brought him here, not pleasure.
For she who have me this new task was one
who had just come from singing halleluiah:
he is no robber; I am not a thief."
~~from CANTO XII.
♥ "Like other souls, we shall seek out the flesh
that we have left, but none of us shall wear it;
it is not right for any man to have
what he himself has cast aside. We'll drag
our bodies here; they'll hang in this sad wood,
each on the stump of its vindictive shade."
~~from CANTO XIII.
♥ "One thing alone I'd have you plainly see:
so long as I am not rebuked by conscience,
I stand prepared for Fortune, come what may.
My ears find no new pledge in that prediction;
therefore, let Fortune turn her wheel as she
may please, and let the peasant turn his mattock."
At this, my master turned his head around
and toward the right, and looked at me and said:
"He who takes note of this has listened well."
~~from CANTO XV.
♥ "Newcomers to the city and quick gains
have brought excess and arrogance to you,
o Florence, and you weep for it already!"
♥ "If you can always offer a reply
so readily to others," said all three,
"then happy you who speak, at will, so clearly."
♥ Ah, how much care men ought to exercise
with those whose penetrating intellect
can see our thoughts—not just our outer act!"
♥ Faced with that truth which seems a lie, a man
should always close his lips as long as he can—
to tell it shames him, even though he's blameless...
~~from CANTO XVI.
♥ O Highest Wisdom, how much art you show
in heaven, earth, and this sad world below,
how just your power is when it allots!
♥ "Then tell me now, how much gold did our Lord
ask that Saint Peter give to him before
he placed the keys within his care? Surely
the only thing he said was: "Follow me.'
And Peter and the others never asked
for gold or silver when they chose Matthias
to take the place of the transgressing soul."
♥ "...because your avarice afflicts the world:
it tramples on the good, lifts up the wicked.
You, shepherds, the Evangelist had noticed
when he saw her who sits upon the waters
and realized she fornicates with kings,
she who was born with seven heads and had
the power and support of the ten horns,
as long as virtue was her husband's pleasure.
You've made yourselves a god of gold and silver;
how are you different from idolaters,
save that they worship one and you a hundred?
Ah, Constantine, what wickedness was born—
and not from your conversion—from the dower
that you bestowed upon the first rich father!"
~~from CANTO XIX.
♥ They turned around along the left hand bank:
but first each pressed his tongue between his teeth
as signal for their leader, Barbariccia.
And he had made a trumpet of his ass.
~~from CANTO XXI.
♥ We made our way together with ten demons:
ah, what ferocious company! And yet
"in church with saints, with rotters in the tavern."
♥ ...so he took off and shouted: "You are caught!"
But this could help him little; wings were not
more fast than fear...
~~from CANTO XII.
♥ In that part of the young year when the sun
begins to warm its locks beneath Aquarius
and nights grow shorter, equaling the days,
when hoarfrost mimes the image of his white
sister upon the ground—but not for long,
because the pen he uses is not sharp—
the farmer who is short of fodder rises
and looks and sees the fields all white, at which
he slaps his thigh, turns back into the house,
and here and there complains like some poor wretch
who doesn't know what can be done, and tyhen
goes out again and fathers up new hope
on seeing that the world has changed its face
in so few hours, and he takes his staff
and hurries out his flock of sheep to pasture.
♥ The breath within my lungs was so exhausted
from climbing, I could not go on; in fact,
as soon as I had reached that stone, I sat.
"Now you must cast aside your laziness,"
my master said, "for he who rests on down
or under covers cannot come to fame;
and he who spends his life without renown
leaves such a vestige of himself on earth
as smoke bequeaths to air or foam to water.
Therefore, get up; defeat your breathlessness
with spirit that can win all battles if
the body's heaviness does not deter it.
A longer ladder still is to be climbed;
it's not enough to have left them behind;
if you have understood, now profit from it."
♥ "The only answer that I give to you
is doing it," he said. "A just request
is to be met in silence, by the act."
~~from CANTO XXIV.
♥ Be joyous, Florence, you are great indeed,
for over sea and land you beat young wings;
through every part of Hell your name extends!
♥ "Brothers," I said, "o you, who having crossed
a hundred thousand dangers, reach the west,
to this brief waking-time that still is left
unto your senses, you must not deny
experience of that which lies beyond
the sun, and of the world that is unpeopled.
Consider well the seed that gave you birth:
you were not made to live your lives as brutes,
but to be followers of worth and knowledge."
~~from CANTO XXVI.
♥ "O soul that is concealed below in flame,
Romagna is not now and never was
quite free of war inside its tyrants' hearts..."
~~from CANTO XXVII.
♥ I was intent on listening to them
when this was what my master said: "If you
insist on looking more, I'll quarrel with you!"
And when I heard him speak so angrily,
I turned around to him with shame so great
that it still stirs within my memory.
Even as one who dreams that he is harmed
and, dreaming, wishes he were dreaming, thus
desiring that which is, as if it were not,
so I became within my speechlessness:
I wanted to excuse myself, although I knew it not,
"Less shame would wash away a greater fault
than was your fault," my master said to me;
"therefore release yourself from all remorse
and see that I am always at your side,
should it so happen—once again—that fortune
brings you where men would quarrel in this fashion:
to want to hear such bickering is base."
~~from CANTO XXX.
♥ Had I the crude and scrannel rhymes to suit
the melancholy hope upon which all
the other circling crags converge and rest,
the juice of my conception would be pressed
more fully; but because I feel their lack,
I bring myself to speak, yet speak in fear;
for it is not a task to take in jest,
to show the base of all the universe—
not for a tongue that cries out, "mama," "papa."
~~from CANTO XXXII.
♥ "But then," I said, "are you already dead?"
And he to me: "I have no knowledge of
my body's fate within the world above.
For Ptolomea has this privilege:
quite frequently the soul falls here before
it has been thrust away to Atropos.
And that you may with much more willingness
scrape these glazed tears from off my face, know this:
as soon as any soul becomes a traitor,
as I was, then a demon takes its body
away—and keeps that body in his power
until its years have run their course completely.
The soul falls headlong, down into this cistern:
and up above, perhaps, there still appears
the body of the shade that winters here
~~from CANTO XXXII.
♥ "Look! Here is Dis, and this the place where you
will have to rm yourself with fortitude."
O reader, do not ask of me how I
grew faint and frozen then—I cannot write it:
all words would fall far short of what it was.
I did not die, and I was not alive;
think for yourself, if you have any wit,
what I became, deprived of life and death.
The emperor of the despondent kingdom
so towered from the ice, up from midchest,
that I match better with a giant's breadth
than giants match the measure of his arms;
now you can gauge the size of all of him
if it is in proportion to such parts.
If he was once as handsome as he now
is ugly and, despite that, raised his brows
against his Maker, one can understand
how every sorrow has its source in him!
I marveled when I saw that, on his head,
he had three faces: one—in front—bloodred;
and then another two that, just above
the midpoint of each shoulder, joined the first;
and at the crown, all three were reattached;
the right looked somewhat yellow, somewhat white;
the left in its appearance was like those
who come from where the Nile, descending, flows.
Beneath each face of his, two wings spread out,
as broad as suited so immense a bird:
I've never seen a ship with sails so wide.
They had no feathers, but were fashioned like
a bat's; and he was agitating them,
so that three winds made their way out from him—
and all Cocytus froze before those winds.
He wept out of six eyes; and down three chins,
tears gushed together with a bloody froth.
Within each mouth—he used it like a grinder—
with gnashing teeth he tore to bits a sinner,
so that he brought much pain to three at once.
♥ I raised my eyes, believing I should see
the half of Lucifer that I had left;
instead I saw him with his legs turned up;
and if I then became perplexed, do let
the ignorant be judges—those who can
not understand what point I had just crossed.
♥ "Before I free myself from this abyss,
master," I said when I had stood up straight,
"tell me enough to see I don't mistake:
Where is the ice? And how is he so placed
head downward? Tell me, too, how has the sun
in so few hours gone from night to morning?"
And he to me: "You still believe you are
north of the center, where I grasped the hair
of the damned worm who pierces through the world.
And you were there as long as I descended;
but when I turned, that's when you passed the point
to which, from every part, all weights are drawn.
And now you stand beneath the hemisphere
opposing that which cloaks the great dry lands
and underneath whose zenith died the Man
whose birth and life were sinless in this world.
Your feet are placed upon a little sphere
that forms the other face of the Judecca.
Here it is morning when it's evening there;
and he whose hair has served us as a ladder
is still fixed, even as he was before.
This was the side on which he fell from Heaven;
for fear of him, the land that once loomed here
made of the sea a veil and rose into
our hemisphere; and that land which appears
upon this side—perhaps to flee from him—
left here this hollow space and hurried upward."
♥ My guide and I came on that hidden road
to make our way back into the bright world;
and with no care for any rest, we climbed—
he first, I following—until I saw,
through a round opening, some of those things
of beauty Heaven bears. It was from there
that we emerged, to see—once more—the stars.
~~from CANTO XXXIV.