Saturday, May 25, 2013

DANTE'S SUBLIME COMEDY: HELL, Chapter 25


Chapter 25: More Thieves

Having said that, The Brute flung up his fists,
            each one with two fingers splayed in wide Vs,
            and screamed, “Up your arse God! Fuck you and yours!”      3

A friendly snake, coiling round throat and head,
            choked cursing short, while one between his thighs
tied hands to genitals. He could not move                               6

a finger without pain so, speechless, fled.
            Pestoia, Pestoia, burn yourself down
            rather than breed brutes from the Fucci seed!                          9

In all Hell’s halls I have met none who so
            shamelessly, arrogantly hated God,
            not even he struck dead on Theban walls.                              12
           
A centaur charging past cried, “Where is he?
            Where is that filthy beast?” Maremma’s swamp
            along the Tuscan coast had not more snakes                         15

than writhed upon his back.  Behind the head
a dragon rode his shoulders, bat-wings spread
            and snorting flame.  “That’s Cacus,” my guide said.           18

“He was that cattle-thief Hercules slew,
so is not good enough to share the job
            of keeping tyrants in the moat of blood.”                          21

I heard voices below cry, “Who are you?”
            and down there saw three Florentines too rude
            to give their names. Not knowing them I laid                   24

finger from nose to chin, suggesting that
            we watch them silently.  I heard one say,
            “Where is Cianfa?” in a worried way.                                27

Maybe you won’t believe what happened next.
            It seemed incredible to me.  A reptile,
            six-legged, sprang and clung to the speaker’s front.          30

Mid limbs clasped belly, top claws clamped his arms,
            jaws like a vice gripped cheeks.  The lowest part
            grasped thighs, squeezed tail between and up behind.       33

Never did ivy bind an oak so tight,
            then both forms started merging like hot wax,
            colours and shapes becoming interfused.                          36

“Agnello, you are neither one nor two!”
            the others cried.  Two faces shared one head.
            Torso and legs grew twice as thick.  Two arms               39

stretched twice as long.  Sickened, I gladly saw
            that jumbled monster stumbling away.
            His friends stayed put in spite of their dismay.                42

If they felt safer near us, silly they!
            As in hot summers, over sunlit roads
            the lizards flash from hedge to hedge, through air            45

a wee red goggle-eyed beast flung itself
like dart at belly, hit one where it stung
            the part through which the unborn child is fed,               48

then fell down, crouched, gaped up at the bitten one
            who, hypnotized, gaped back and even yawned.
            Smoke from his navel, smoke from the beast’s snout      51

came squirting out and mingled in a cloud.
            Lucan’s Pharselia tells how bite of snake
            turned Sabellus into a pool of pus, and how                   54

Namidius swelled spherical and burst. 
            Ovid’s Metamorphosis tells of how
            Daphne, Arachne, Arethusa changed                            57

into tree, spider and fountain.  I am first
to tell how substances were interchanged
between two kinds, so Lucan, Ovid,                              60

listen to me.  Under that smoky veil
the lizard’s tail split while the bitten man
            pressed feet, knees, thighs against each other till           63       

separation vanished.  The forked tail took shapes
legs lost.  Meanwhile arms drew into armpits
            while the beast’s fore-legs grew.  Its hind claws clenched,      66

changing into those parts good men conceal –
            the wretch’s private parts became wee feet.
As one sank down the other rose erect.                                 69

One head went bald, the other head grew hair.
            Colours exchanged, yet through the misty air
they still stared eye to eye from changing heads.                   72 

The upright one grew brows, cheeks sprouted ears,
            nose formed above and chin below his mouth
            in which the cleft tongue rounded, fit for speech.                 75       

The croucher’s face had sharpened to a snout,
ears pulled inside as a snail retracts its horns.
The tongue thinned, forked and flickered.The smoke 
stopped.                                                                                                    78

The soul, now lizard, squirmed and hissed and fled.
            The soul now human spat, and turning said
            to he who stayed, “So now let Bosua                              81

run on all fours a while as I have done.”
 I thus knew how none in this robber’s den
             could call their souls their own for very long.              84       

As the unchanged man limped away I knew
            he was crippled Puccio, followed by
Francesco, the ex-lizard, thug and thief                      87       

who brought the folk of Gaville such grief.
           

           
           
           
           
                       
           
           




             
           

           
           





           



           
           


           
           
             
             




           
           
           
           
           
           





           
           





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