Sunday, February 17, 2013

DANTE'S SUBLIME COMEDY: HELL, Chapter 7



                                           Hell: Chapter 7


 “Daddy Mephisto! Daddy Bugaboo!”                                                         
         gargled the demon. Like a bulging sack
          his bloated body almost filled the gap                                      3

torn in the cliff our track descended through.                                    
         “Never fear him,” murmured my gentle guide.
          Pointing at Plutus swollen face, he said                                    6

“Shut up, you wolfish clown! Chew your own gut!             
         Our journey into Hell is willed on high
         where archangelic swords cut rebels down!”                             9

As billowing sails of scudding ship                                                   
        crumple in tangles if the mast collapse,
        so crumpled Plutus. We descended past,                                   12
        
 arriving at the fourth shore round the bin                                         
            all evil sinks to, where I stared amazed
            by the insanity that raged therein.                                          15

Justice of God! I cannot understand                                                  
            why men condemn themselves to endless pain
            by madly chasing earthly loss and gain.                                 18

Think of a mighty river wild with spate                                            
            plunging in torrents till abruptly blocked
            by counter - torrents of an equal weight.                                21

Think of the smashing splash as these two crash                              
            together and the turmoil and recoil.
            Imagine now each wave of this stramash                                24

a man shoving a boulder with his chest,                                            
            each limb and muscle with the utmost strain
            holding the weight or pushing it away,                                   27

the difference impossible to say,                                                                   
         though when their boulders clashed one party yelled
         “Hold tight!”, the other shouted out, “Let go!”                        30

Disgusted by the sight , “Master, “ I cried,                                      
         “ who are they? Those with tonsures on the right,
            are they all clergymen?” “Both right and left,”                       33

said he, “ in their first life could neither keep                                    
             nor spend with decency. To hoard or waste
             is what divided them, and yes, the bald                                 36

were greedy priests and cardinals and popes                                    
             who loved gold more than souls.“ ”Point out the worst!”
             I cried, “When I am back in Italy                                           39

my book will make their vices more accursed.”                                 
             “It’s stupid to commemorate, “ said he,
             “People who’s names deserve to be forgot.                         42

How short a comedy it is, my son,                                                   
             this play of wealth that’s only blessed by luck,
             since all the gold that glows beneath the moon                      45

can’t buy a single soul one moments rest.”                                       
             Said I,” Please tell me more about this luck
             who seems to hold the worlds wealth in her fist.”                48

Said he to me,” O creatures of the dark -                                           
             you human brood unlit by reason’s spark,
             allow my sentences to do you good.                                    51


The mind who formed the universe took care                                   
              that every one could have an equal share
              of sunlight, moonlight, starlight and sweet air.                     54

On earth such widespread goodness cannot be.                                
              Most goods become a private property
              even within a small community.                                            57

inside a city or a nation state                                                             
              great force or cunning can accumulate
              properties, letting some cliques dominate                            60

until the angel with so many names –                                                            
              luck, chance, fate, fortune,  mutability -             
              makes new cliques prosper, other cliques decay,                 63

whether by vice or virtue, who can say?                                           
              But those who trust, not virtue, but to luck
              have gone astray, aye, very far astray.                                 66

A day and night have passed since we set out.                                 
              We must not linger longer on our way
               but go to look at deeper misery.”                                        69

We dodged right through that boulder-shoving mob              
              and on the far side found a bubbling spring
              of water, black as night, from which a stream                      72 

led us around to a cliff-edge crevasse                                                 
              where, tumbling in, it spilled to lower ground.
              A steep dark stair by that weird waterfall                            75

brought us to where black liquid filled a ditch                                   
              under the over hanging precipice –
              a wide, dank, moatlike ditch known as the Styx                   78 

giving off chilling mist. It’s outward bank                                         
              sloped down toward a marsh in which I saw
              great multitudes of figures in a fight,                                    81

naked and mud-stained, grappling upright                                         
              or wrestling prone, legs kicking, punching fists,
              fingers that gouged or tore and teeth that bit.                       84

Walking between the Styx and that foul sight                                   
              my master said,” Outrageous violence
              condemns these souls to mindless, endless spite.              87

Now turn your eyes and look the other way                                    
              to the black slime bubbling like boiling broth
              caused by the sighs of damned souls underneath.              90

I’ll tell you what they’d like to say but can’t.                                              
              On earth we were so full of our own woe
              we saw no good in any gift of God.                                       93

Not space, time, air, sunlight or love itself                                         
               could woo us from our miserable state.
               Eternal sullenness is now our fate.                                      96

Aye, could they speak such words would be their chant.                 
               Bubbles are all that will be seen of them.”
               Conversing, we eventually came                                          99

to base of a big tower that had no name.                                

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