Saturday, March 16, 2013


Hell: Chapter 8

Before we reached that lofty tower I saw                                         
            two horns of flame spring from the very top
            And far beyond the vapors of the marsh                                3

I seemed to see a distant flame respond.                                           
            I asked the fund of knowledge at my side
            “what do these symbols indicate, and why?”                           6

He answered, “wait and see. The marsh mists hide                          
            the ferry we desire, but not for long.”
            Then, speeding rapidly toward our shore                               9

like arrow twanged from bow, there came a skiff                              
            rowed by an oarsman roaring out at me,
            “Hooray, you wicked beast! Got you at last!”                      12

My guide called back, “Phlegyas, Phlegyas,                                     
            You’re wrong about this man. He will not stew
            Inside this filthy ditch where you are boss                             15

or any ditch in Hell he passes through.                                                         
            What you must do is carry us across.”
            As if defrauded of his rightful wage                                         18

the demon strove to bottle up his rage.                                                         
            My leader stepped aboard the ancient craft
            Then beckoned me. Unused to heavy freight                         21

it settled lower with my weight, was rowed                                     
            much, much more slowly to the other shore.
            Then, from the stagnant fen beside the boat                         24

a muddy figure rose and said to me,                                                  
            “Who are you, coming here before your time?”
            “I am not here to stay, but who are you?”                             27

said I, “One who must weep,” was his reply.                                   
            I said, “Good. Stay and weep in misery
            Fillipo Argenti, for I know you                                                30

despite your filthy dress.” He stretched his hands                           
to grasp the boat. My master shoved him off crying,
“Stay here with other dirty dogs!”                                                     33

Clasping my neck, kissing my cheek he said,            
            “Blessed be the womb that bore you and also
            your righteous indignation. Argenti                                        36

was horrible. His spiteful arrogance                                                  
            encouraged spite in others. It is right
            he weeps enraged for all eternity.”                                         39

I said,” I want to see him suffer more.”                                                         
            “Before we reach the shore,” my master said,
            “that good wish will be gratified,” and then,                          42

(I thank almighty God for this) a shout                                                         
            burst out, “Fillipo Argenti!” it cried
            so loud it seemed yelled by the whole damned marsh.        45

Beneath the ooze I saw them tearing him                                          
            while with his teeth that proud Florentine soul
            tore at himself. Enough of this. Anon                                     48

I heard new sounds of grief in front and stared                                 
            eagerly forward. “Son,” explained my guide,
            “we now approach Hell’s greatest garrison,                           51

the citadel of Dis.” Said I, “Ahead                                                     
            I see beyond the battlements what look
            like tops of red-hot mosques.” Said he, “they are.                 54

The heat of nether Hell creates that glow.”                           
            We reached the dismal city’s iron wall,
            were rowed around it till the boatman bawled,                       57

“Get out. This is the only entrance gate.”                                         
            Beside the gate a thousand angels stood,
            those ugly ones expelled from Heaven’s light.                         60

Said they, “Nobody living gets through here!”                                  
            My master signed he’d talk to them apart.
            They said (though only slightly mollified)                                  63

“Yes, you can come, but not that other one                                      
            who’ll have to find his own insane way back
            without you as a guide!” Reader, my heart                               66

sank at these words. “Dear leader,” then I begged,                            
            “you who have helped me through so many threats,
            do not abandon me. Take me instead                                      69

back where we came from.” “Do not be afraid,”                               
            my guide said. “None can stop our pilgrimage
            since One has ordered it. You rest a bit                                  72

and cultivate good hope. I will return                                                
            and not desert you in this lower pit.”
            My gentle padre leaves and I remain                                      75

with yes and no contending in my brain.                                            


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