Divine Comedy, Inferno

Author: Dante Alighieri


Eighth Circle: ninth pit: sowers of discord and schism. —Mahomet and Ali.—Fra Dolcino.—Pier da Medicina.
-Curio.—Mosca.—Bertrau de Born.

Who, even with words unfettered,[1] could ever tell in full of the blood and of the wounds that I now saw, though many times narrating? Every tongue assuredly would come short, by reason of our speech and our memory that have small capacity to comprise so much.

[1] In prose.

If all the people were again assembled, that of old upon the fateful land of Apulia lamented for their blood shed by the
Trojans,[1] and in the long war that made such high spoil of the rings,[2] as Livy writes, who erreth not; with those that, by resisting Robert Guiscard,[3] felt the pain of blows, and the rest whose bones are still heaped up at Ceperano,[4] where every
Apullan was false, and there by Tagliacozzo,[5] where without arms the old Alardo conquered,—and one should show his limb pierced through, and one his lopped off, it would be nothing to equal the grisly mode of the ninth pit.

[1] The Romans, descendants of the Trojans.

[2] The spoils of the battle of Canon, in the second Punic War.

[3] The Norman conqueror and Duke of Apulia. He died in 1085.

[4] Where, in 1266, the leaders of the army of Manfred, King of
Apulia and Sicily, treacherously went over to Charles of Anjou.

[5] Here, in 1265, Conradin, the nephew of Manfred, was defeated and taken prisoner. The victory was won by a stratagem devised by
Count Erard de Valery.

Truly cask, by losing mid-board or cross-piece, is not so split open as one I saw cleft from the chin to where the wind is broken: between his legs were hanging his entrails, his inner parts were visible, and the dismal sack that makes ordure of what is swallowed. Whilst all on seeing him I fix myself, he looked at me, and with his hands opened his breast, saying, "Now see how I rend myself, see how mangled is Mahomet. Ali [1] goeth before me weeping, cleft in the face from chin to forelock; and all the others whom thou seest here were, when living, sowers of scandal and of schism, and therefore are they so cleft. A devil is here behind, that adjusts us so cruelly, putting again to the edge of the sword each of this crew, when we have turned the doleful road, because the wounds are closed up ere one passes again before him. But thou, who art thou, that musest on the crag, perchance to delay going to the punishment that is adjudged on thine own accusations?" [2] "Nor death hath reached him yet,"
replied my Master, "nor doth sin lead him to torment him; but, in order to give him full experience, it behoves me, who am dead, to lead him through Hell down here, from circle to circle; and this is true as that I speak to thee."

[1] Cousin and son-in-law of Mahomet, and himself the head of a schism.

[1] When the soul appears before Minos, every sin is confessed.
See Canto V.

More than a hundred there were that, when they heard him, stopped in the ditch to look at me, forgetting the torment in their wonder. "Now, say to Fra Dolcino,[1] then, thou who perchance shalt shortly see the sun, if he wish not soon to follow me here,
so to arm himself with supplies that stress of snow bring not the victory to the Novarese, which otherwise to gain would not be easy:—after he had lifted one foot to go on Mahomet said to me these words, then on the ground he stretched it to depart.

[1] A noted heretic and reformer, who for two years maintained himself in Lombardy against the forces of the Pope, but finally,
being reduced by famine in time of snow, in 18O7, was taken captive and burnt at Novara.

Another who had his throat pierced and his nose cut off up under his brows, and had but one ear only, having stopped to look in wonder with the rest, before the rest opened his gullet, which outwardly was all crimson, and said, "O thou whom sin condemns not, and whom of old I saw above in the Latian land, if too great resemblance deceive me not, remember Pier da Medicina [1] if ever thou return to see the sweet plain that from Vercelli slopes to
Marcabb, and make known to the two best of Fano, to Messer Guido and likewise to Angiolello,[2] that, if foresight here be not vain, they will be cast forth from their vessel and drowned near to the Cattolica, by treachery of a fell tyrant. Between the islands of Cyprus and Majorca Neptune never saw so great a crime,
not of the pirates, nor of the Argolic people. That traitor who sees only with one eye, and holds the city from sight of which one who is here with me would fain have fasted,[3] will make them come to parley with him; then will act so that against the wind of Focara[4] they will not need or vow or prayer." And I to him,
"Show to me and declare, if thou wishest that I carry up news of thee, who is he of the bitter sight?"[5] Then he put his hand on the jaw of one of his companions, and opened the mouth of him,
crying, "This is he, and he speaks not; this outcast stifled the doubt in Caesar, by affirming that the man prepared always suffered harm from delay." Oh, how dismayed, with his tongue slit in his gorge, seemed to me Curio,[6] who in speech had been so hardy!

[1] Medicina is a town in the Bolognese district. Piero was a fosterer of discord.

[2] Guido del Cassero and Angiolello da Cagnano, treacherously drowned by order of the one-eyed Malatestino, lord of Rimini.

[3] The city of Rimini, which Curio would wish never to have seen.

[4] A high foreland near the Cattolica, between Rimini and Fano,
whence often fell dangerous squalls.

[5] He to whom the sight of Rimini had been bitter.

[6] Curio the Tribune, banished from Rome, fled to Caesar delaying to cross the Rubicon, and urged him on, with the argument, according to Lucan, "Tolle moras, semper nocuit differre paratis." Phars. i. 281.

And one who had both hands lopped off, lifting the stumps through the murky air so that the blood made his face foul, cried out,
"Thou shalt remember Mosca,[1] too, who said, alas! ’Thing done has an end,’ which was the seed of ill for the Tuscan people."
And I added thereto, "And death to thine own race." Whereat he,
accumulating woe on woe, went away like a person sad and distracted.

[1] In 1215 one of the Buondelmonti, plighted to a maiden of the
Amidei, broke faith, and engaged himself to a damsel of the
Donati. The family of the girl who had been thus slighted took counsel how to avenge the affront, and Mosca de’ Lamberti gave the ill advice to murder the young Buondelmonte. The murder was the beginning of long woe to Florence, and of the division of her people into Guelphs and Ghibellines.

But I remained to look at the crowd, and I saw a thing that I
should be afraid, without more proof, only to tell, were it not that conscience reassures me, the good companion that emboldens man under the hauberk of feeling himself pure. I saw in truth,
and still I seent to see it, a trunk without a head going along even as the others of the dismal flock were going. And it was holding the cut-off head by its hair, dangling in hand like a lantern. And it gazed on us, and said, "O me!" Of itself it was making for itself a lamp; and they were two in one, and one in two. How it can be He knows who so ordains. When it was right at the foot of the bridge, it lifted its arm high with the whole head, in order to approach its words to us, which were, "Now see the dire punishment, thou that, breathing, goest seeing the dead:
see thou if any other is great as this! And that thou mayest carry news of me, know that I am Bertran de Born,[1] he that gave to the young king the ill encouragements. I made father and son rebellious to each other. Ahithophel did not more with Absalom and with David by his wicked goadings. Because I divided persons so united, I bear my brain, alas! divided from its source which is in this trunk. Thus retaliation is observed in me.

[1] The famous troubadour who incited the young Prince Henry to rebellion against his father, Henry II. of England. The prince died in 1183.


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Chicago: Dante Alighieri, "Canto XXVIII.," Divine Comedy, Inferno, ed. Firth, John B. and trans. Norton, Charles Eliot, 1827-1908 in Divine Comedy, Inferno (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1891), Original Sources, accessed April 25, 2018, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CR8QLLQBQLK7ZKN.

MLA: Alighieri, Dante. "Canto XXVIII." Divine Comedy, Inferno, edited by Firth, John B., and translated by Norton, Charles Eliot, 1827-1908, in Divine Comedy, Inferno, Vol. 1, Boston, Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1891, Original Sources. 25 Apr. 2018. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CR8QLLQBQLK7ZKN.

Harvard: Alighieri, D, 'Canto XXVIII.' in Divine Comedy, Inferno, ed. and trans. . cited in 1891, Divine Comedy, Inferno, Houghton, Mifflin and Company, Boston. Original Sources, retrieved 25 April 2018, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CR8QLLQBQLK7ZKN.