Could any, even in words unclogged by rhyme
Recount the wounds that now I saw, and blood,
Although he aimed at it time after time?
Here every tongue must fail of what it would,
Because our human speech and powers of thought
To grasp so much come short in aptitude.
If all the people were together brought
Who in Apulia, land distressed by fate,
Made lamentation for the bloodshed wrought
By Rome; and in that war procrastinate
When the large booty of the rings was won,
As Livy writes whose every word has weight;
With those on whom such direful deeds were done
When Robert Guiscard they as foes assailed;
And those of whom still turns up many a bone
At Ceperan, where each Apulian failed
In faith; and those at Tagliacozzo strewed,
Where old Alardo, not by arms, prevailed;
And each his wounds and mutilations showed,
Yet would they far behind by those be left
Who had the vile Ninth Bolgia for abode.
No cask, of middle stave or end bereft,
E'er gaped like one I saw the rest among,
Slit from the chin all downward to the cleft.
Between his legs his entrails drooping hung;
The pluck and that foul bag were evident
Which changes what is swallowed into dung.
And while I gazed upon him all intent,
Opening his breast his eyes on me he set,
Saying: 'Behold, how by myself I'm rent!
See how dismembered now is Mahomet!
Ali in front of me goes weeping too;
With visage from the chin to forelock split.
By all the others whom thou seest there grew
Scandal and schism while yet they breathed the day;
Because of which they now are cloven through.
There stands behind a devil on the way,
Us with his sword thus cruelly to trim:
He cleaves again each of our company
As soon as we complete the circuit grim;
Because the wounds of each are healed outright
Or e'er anew he goes in front of him.
But who art thou that peerest from the height,
It may be putting off to reach the pain
Which shall the crimes confessed by thee requite?'
'Death has not seized him yet, nor is he ta'en
To torment for his sins,' my Master said;
'But, that he may a full experience gain,
By me, a ghost, 'tis doomed he should be led
Down the Infernal circles, round on round;
And what I tell thee is the truth indeed.'
A hundred shades and more, to whom the sound
Had reached, stood in the moat to mark me well,
Their pangs forgot; so did the words astound.
'Let Fra Dolcin provide, thou mayst him tell--
Thou, who perchance ere long shalt sunward go--
Unless he soon would join me in this Hell,
Much food, lest aided by the siege of snow
The Novarese should o'er him victory get,
Which otherwise to win they would be slow.'
While this was said to me by Mahomet
One foot he held uplifted; to the ground
He let it fall, and so he forward set
Next, one whose throat was gaping with a wound,
Whose nose up to the brows away was sheared
And on whose head a single ear was found,
At me, with all the others, wondering peered;
And, ere the rest, an open windpipe made,
The outside of it all with crimson smeared.
'O thou, not here because of guilt,' he said;
'And whom I sure on Latian ground did know
Unless by strong similitude betrayed,
Upon Pier da Medicin bestow
A thought, shouldst thou revisit the sweet plain
That from Vercelli slopes to Marcabò.
And make thou known to Fano's worthiest twain--
To Messer Guido and to Angiolel--
They, unless foresight here be wholly vain,
Thrown overboard in gyve and manacle
Shall drown fast by Cattolica, as planned
By treachery of a tyrant fierce and fell.
Between Majolica and Cyprus strand
A blacker crime did Neptune never spy
By pirates wrought, or even by Argives' hand.
The traitor who is blinded of an eye,
Lord of the town which of my comrades one
Had been far happier ne'er to have come nigh,
To parley with him will allure them on,
Then so provide, against Focara's blast
No need for them of vow or orison.'
And I: 'Point out and tell, if wish thou hast
To get news of thee to the world conveyed,
Who rues that e'er his eyes thereon were cast?'
On a companion's jaw his hand he laid,
And shouted, while the mouth he open prised:
''Tis this one here by whom no word is said.
He quenched all doubt in Cæsar, and advised--
Himself an outlaw--that a man equipped
For strife ran danger if he temporised.'
Alas, to look on, how downcast and hipped
Curio, once bold in counsel, now appeared;
With gorge whence by the roots the tongue was ripped.
Another one, whose hands away were sheared,
In the dim air his stumps uplifted high
So that his visage was with blood besmeared,
And, 'Mosca, too, remember!' loud did cry,
'Who said, ah me! "A thing once done is done!"
An evil seed for all in Tuscany.'
I added: 'Yea, and death to every one
Of thine!' whence he, woe piled on woe, his way
Went like a man with grief demented grown.
But I to watch the gang made longer stay,
And something saw which I should have a fear,
Without more proof, so much as even to say,
But that my conscience bids me have good cheer--
The comrade leal whose friendship fortifies
A man beneath the mail of purpose clear.
I saw in sooth (still seems it 'fore mine eyes),
A headless trunk; with that sad company
It forward moved, and on the selfsame wise.
The severed head, clutched by the hair, swung free
Down from the fist, yea, lantern-like hung down;
Staring at us it murmured: 'Wretched me!'
A lamp he made of head-piece once his own;
And he was two in one and one in two;
But how, to Him who thus ordains is known.
Arrived beneath the bridge and full in view,
With outstretched arm his head he lifted high
To bring his words well to us. These I knew:
'Consider well my grievous penalty,
Thou who, though still alive, art visiting
The people dead; what pain with this can vie?
In order that to earth thou news mayst bring
Of me, that I'm Bertrand de Born know well,
Who gave bad counsel to the Younger King.
I son and sire made each 'gainst each rebel:
David and Absalom were fooled not more
By counsels of the false Ahithophel.
Kinsmen so close since I asunder tore,
Severed, alas! I carry now my brain
From what it grew from in this trunk of yore:
And so I prove the law of pain for pain.'
 _That now I saw_: In the Ninth Bolgia, on which he is looking
down, and in which are punished the sowers of discord in church and
 _Apulia_: The south-eastern district of Italy, owing to its
situation a frequent battle-field in ancient and modern times.
 _Rome_: 'Trojans' in most MSS.; and then the Romans are described
as descended from Trojans. The reference may be to the defeat of the
Apulians with considerable slaughter by P. Decius Mus, or to their
losses in general in the course of the Samnite war.
 _War procrastinate_: The second Punic war lasted fully fifteen
years, and in the course of it the battle of Cannæ was gained by
Hannibal, where so many Roman knights fell that the spoil of rings
amounted to a peck.
 _Guiscard_: One of the Norman conquerors of the regions which up
to our own time constituted the kingdom of Naples. In Apulia he did much
fighting against Lombards, Saracens, and Greeks. He is found by Dante in
Paradise among those who fought for the faith (_Par._ xviii. 48). His
death happened in Cephalonia in 1085, at the age of seventy, when he was
engaged on an expedition against Constantinople.
 _Ceperan_: In the swift and decisive campaign undertaken by
Charles of Anjou against Manfred, King of Sicily and Naples, the first
victory was obtained at Ceperano; but it was won owing to the treachery
of Manfred's lieutenant, and not by the sword. The true battle was
fought at Benevento (_Purg._ iii. 128). Ceperano may be named by Dante
as the field where the defeat of Manfred was virtually begun, and where
the Apulians first failed in loyalty to their gallant king. Dante was a
year old at the time of Manfred's overthrow (1266).
 _Tagliacozzo_: The crown Charles had won from Manfred he had to
defend against Manfred's nephew Conradin (grandson and last
representative of Frederick II. and the legitimate heir to the kingdom
of Sicily), whom, in 1268, he defeated near Tagliacozzo in the Abruzzi.
He made his victory the more complete by acting on the advice of Alardo
or Erard de Valery, an old Crusader, to hold good part of his force in
reserve. Charles wrote to the Pope that the slaughter was so great as
far to exceed that at Benevento. The feet of all the low-born prisoners
not slain on the field were cut off, while the gentlemen were beheaded
 _Mahomet_: It has been objected to Dante by M. Littré that he
treats Mahomet, the founder of a new religion, as a mere schismatic. The
wonder would have been had he dwelt on the good qualities of the Prophet
at a time when Islam still threatened Europe. He goes on the fact that
Mahomet and his followers rent great part of the East and South from
Christendom; and for this the Prophet is represented as being mutilated
in a sorer degree than the other schismatics.
 _Ali_: Son-in-law of Mahomet.
 _Fra Dolcin_: At the close of the thirteenth century, Boniface
being Pope, the general discontent with the corruption of the higher
clergy found expression in the north of Italy in the foundation of a new
sect, whose leader was Fra Dolcino. What he chiefly was--enthusiast,
reformer, or impostor--it is impossible to ascertain; all we know of him
being derived from writers in the Papal interest. Among other crimes he
was charged with that of teaching the lawfulness of telling an
Inquisitor a lie to save your life, and with prophesying the advent of a
pious Pope. A holy war on a small scale was preached against him. After
suffering the extremities of famine, snowed up as he was among the
mountains, he was taken prisoner and cruelly put to death (1307). It may
have been in order to save himself from being suspected of sympathy with
him, that Dante, whose hatred of Boniface and the New Pharisees was
equal to Dolcino's, provides for him by anticipation a place with
 _Pier da Medicin_: Medicina is in the territory of Bologna. Piero
is said to have stirred up dissensions between the Polentas of Ravenna
and the Malatestas of Rimini.
 _From Vercelli, etc._: From the district of Vercelli to where the
castle of Marcabò once stood, at the mouth of the Po, is a distance of
two hundred miles. The plain is Lombardy.
 _Majolica, etc._: On all the Mediterranean, from Cyprus in the
east to Majorca in the west.
 _The traitor, etc._: The one-eyed traitor is Malatesta, lord of
Rimini, the Young Mastiff of the preceding Canto. He invited the two
chief citizens of Fano, named in the text, to hold a conference with
him, and procured that on their way they should be pitched overboard
opposite the castle of Cattolica, which stood between Fano and Rimini.
This is said to have happened in 1304.
 _Focara_: The name of a promontory near Cattolica, subject to
squalls. The victims were never to double the headland.
 _Curio_: The Roman Tribune who, according to Lucan--the incident
is not historically correct--found Cæsar hesitating whether to cross the
Rubicon, and advised him: _Tolle moras: semper nocuit differre paratis_.
'No delay! when men are ready they always suffer by putting off.' The
passage of the Rubicon was counted as the beginning of the Civil
War.--Curio gets scant justice, seeing that in Dante's view Cæsar in all
he did was only carrying out the Divine purpose regarding the Empire.
 _Mosca_: In 1215 one of the Florentine family of the Buondelmonti
jilted a daughter of the Amidei. When these with their friends met to
take counsel touching revenge for the insult, Mosca, one of the Uberti
or of the Lamberti, gave his opinion in the proverb, _Cosa fatta ha
capo_: 'A thing once done is done with.' The hint was approved of, and
on the following Easter morning the young Buondelmonte, as, mounted on a
white steed and dressed in white he rode across the Ponte Vecchio, was
dragged to the ground and cruelly slain. All the great Florentine
families took sides in the feud, and it soon widened into the civil war
between Florentine Guelf and Ghibeline.
 _Bertrand de Born_: Is mentioned by Dante in his Treatise _De
Vulgari Eloquio_, ii. 2, as specially the poet of warlike deeds. He was
a Gascon noble who used his poetical gift very much to stir up strife.
For patron he had the Prince Henry, son of Henry II. of England. Though
Henry never came to the throne he was, during his father's lifetime,
crowned as his successor, and was known as the young King. After the
death of the Prince, Bertrand was taken prisoner by the King, and,
according to the legend, was loaded with favours because he had been so
true a friend to his young master. That he had a turn for fomenting
discord is shown by his having also led a revolt in Aquitaine against
Richard I.--All the old MSS. and all the earlier commentators read _Re
Giovanni_, King John; _Re Giovane_, the young King, being a
comparatively modern emendation. In favour of adopting this it may be
mentioned that in his poems Bertrand calls Prince Henry _lo Reys joves_,
the young King; that it was Henry and not John that was his friend and
patron; and that in the old _Cento Novelle_ Henry is described as the
young King: in favour of the older reading, that John as well as his
brother was a rebel to Henry; and that the line is hurt by the change
from _Giovanni_ to _Giovane_. Considering that Dante almost certainly
wrote _Giovanni_ it seems most reasonable to suppose that he may have
confounded the _Re Giovane_ with King John.
 _From what, etc._: The spinal cord, as we should now say, though
Dante may have meant the heart.
 _Pain for pain_: In the City of Dis we found the heresiarchs,
those who lead others to think falsely. The lower depth of the Malebolge
is reserved for such as needlessly rend any Divinely-constituted order
of society, civil or religious. Conduct counts more with Dante than
opinion--in this case.
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