Courtly Life and Novel Sport

  • a manifesto of the mixed style: “ma ne la chiesa / coi santi, e in taverna coi ghiottoni” (in church with saints, with rotters in the tavern [Inf. 22.14-15])
  • from urban corruption in Lucca to the courtly setting of the kingdom of Navarre: the issues of “wealth management” as discussed in the Introduction to Inferno 16 are here applied to the hangers-on of a great court
  • Sardinian barraters, part of an intratextual “Sardinian network” that will be reprised in Inferno 32-33
  • a specific society is formed by the sinners of the fifth bolgia, one that includes communication systems and sporting events
  • the “nuovo ludo” (new sport [Inf. 22.118]) has features of the beffa from the novella tradition (see “buffa” in Inf. 22.133 and “beffa” in Inf. 23.14)

Act 2, Continued.  Inferno 22, verses 1-30

[1] Inferno 22 continues the drama initiated in Inferno 21, into which a secondary drama will soon be inserted.

[2] Inferno 22 opens with a mock-heroic passage that continues the military imagery from Inferno 21 and is a repertory of different kinds of military communication and semiosis. In the context of the bolgia that treats corrupt governance, the emphasis on the sign-systems necessary for effective communication in the military, and on the trust that we place in shared sign-systems in a healthy and functioning society, is a way of commenting on the break-down in governance and trust in the Italian cities.

[3] For the same reason, the mock-heroic opening of Inferno 22 takes the form of an apostrophe addressed to the citizens of Arezzo: “Aretini” in Inferno 22.5. The continuing references throughout Malebolge to Italian city-states, evoked through their citizens and through rhetorical devices like the simile of the Venetian arsenal in the previous canto (Inf. 21.7-18) or this apostrophe implicating Arezzo, is a way of continuing the connection between Italy and the fraudulent tar in which its citizens are caught.

[3] The targeting of the citizens of Arezzo in the apostrophe that opens Inferno 22 recalls Dante’s own participation in the recent military history of Florence. Dante tells us in Inferno 21.95 that he participated in the seige of Caprona, which occurred in August 1289. A few months earlier, in June 1289, Dante was among the cavalry at the battle of Campaldino, the battle in which Guelf Florence defeated Ghibelline Arezzo.

[4] This opening passage is thus a way of returning to the military context as one that bespeaks the functioning of society and one that is replete with sign-systems and forms of semiosis. It is also a way to return to the last verse of Inferno 21 and the cenno (signal) given there: “ed elli avea del cul fatto trombetta” (And he had made a trumpet of his ass). In all his past experience of military forms of communication, says the narrator, an experience that is replete with trumpets (“trombe” [7]), bells (“campane” [7]), drums (“tamburi” [8]), and signals from castle walls (“cenni di castella” [Inf. 22.8]), he has never seen troops moved by so strange a bugle (“sì diversa cennamella” [10]) as that resounding fart at the end of Inferno 21.

[5] The “cenni di castella” of Inferno 22.8 recall the signs exchanged between diabolic watch-towers in a similarly semiotic activity described as “render cenno” (to return a sign [Inf. 8.5]). This signal exchage occurs as the travelers approach the city of Dis at the beginning of Inferno 8:

Io dico, seguitando, ch’assai prima
che noi fossimo al piè de l’alta torre,
li occhi nostri n’andar suso a la cima
per due fiammette che i vedemmo porre
e un’altra da lungi render cenno
tanto ch’a pena il potea l’occhio tòrre.  
(Inf. 8.1-6)
I say, continuing, that long before
we two had reached the foot of that tall tower,
our eyes had risen upward, toward its summit,
because of two small flames that flickered there,
while still another flame returned their signal,
so far off it was scarcely visible.

[6] We are reminded that all encounters with devils have involved challenge, obstruction, and, most significantly, the need to decode hostile semiosis.

[7] The high-style opening of Inferno 22 was interpreted by Pietro di Dante as an indirect stylisltic apology for the exceedingly vulgar ending of Inferno 21. Pietro di Dante comments à propos the opening of canto 22 that the author “vult se excusare de turpi recitatione quam fecit supra in Capitolo precedenti in fine, per id quod scribit Socrates, dicens: ‘Que facere turpe est, ea nec dicere honestum puto’” (wants to excuse himself for the disgusting reference that he made at the end of the previous canto, because, as Socrates says: “That which it is shameful to do, neither do I think it honorable to say”). (For the citation, see Guido Biagi, ed., La Divina Commedia nella figurazione artistica e nel secolare commento, 3 vols. [Turin: Unione Tipografico-Editrice Torinese, 1924-1929], vol. 1, p. 531).

[8] More perceptively, Jacopo della Lana writes of the end of canto 21: “Circa la quale locuzione si pò excusare l’Autore a chi l’acusasse de parladura porca e villana sì in questo logo commo eziamdeo in lo XVIIIo Capitolo de Tayde, che la materia del logo lo constrenge, zoè l’Inf., in lo quale è omme dexordinazione” (Regarding this language, the author can excuse himself to the one who accuses him of shameful and lowly speech both in this place as also in the 18th canto of Thais, that the nature of the place constrains him: this is Hell, in which exists all forms of disorder [Biagi, La Divina Commedia, vol. 1, p. 529]).

[9] Pietro di Dante considered the exordium of Inferno 22 a way of making amends for the offensively low conclusion of the preceding canto. I agree that the two passages are intended to contrast with each other, but would recalibrate to achieve an interpretation more in line with that of Jacopo della Lana. In my view, the opening of canto 22 draws attention to the purposefulness of the conclusion of canto 21 and to the constraint under which the author operates: as Jacopo della Lana says, he must capture Hell, a place that contains all disorder — moral and hence stylistic. These canti are in this sense an intentional recital of the disparate elements that make up the mixed style.

[10] The canti of Malebolge are notable for their stylistic plenitude, for their fearless veering from high to low. Following the arrival of Geryon and the announcement of the word comedìa at the end of Inferno 16, Dante more aggressively promotes the mixed style. Comedìa is not qualified by an adjective that limits it, like Vergil’s alta tragedìa in Inferno 20.113. Comedìa is not the opposite of alta tragedìa because it is not limited to one manner. It is not low, but it includes low; it is not high, but it includes high.

[11] These canti are a manifesto for the mixed style; like the mock-heroic exordium of Inferno 22, they are neither high nor low. Language must adapt to represent all facets of reality.

[12] The poet turns to proverbial language in verses 14-15 in order to synthesize the comedìa’s manifesto of stylistic decorum. The travelers join up with the band of devils — “Noi andavam con li diece demoni. /Ahi fiera compagnia! (We made our way together with ten demons: / ah, what ferocious company! [Inf. 22.13-14]) — and the poet explains the travelers’ counter-intuitive behavior with a proverbial comment: “ma ne la chiesa / coi santi, e in taverna coi ghiottoni” (in church with saints, with guzzlers in the tavern [Inf. 22.14-15]).

[13] The proverb justifying the plot development described above is transferable from plot to style. Dante is effectively declaring that representation must coincide with the requirements of location and with the realities of that place: “ma ne la chiesa / coi santi, e in taverna coi ghiottoni” (Inf. 22.14-15).

Act 3. Inferno 22, verse 31-end

[14] Into the overarching plot-line about Dante, Virgilio and the devils (a more elaborate version of the encounter with devils at the gate of Dis in Inferno 8Inferno 9), the poet now inserts a remarkable secondary plot about the devils and their interaction with one of the damned souls of this bolgia.

[15] We recall that at the end of canto 21 Malacoda sent a reconnaissance party, led by Barbariccia, on a mission to make sure that no damned souls are outside of the boiling pitch. At that time Malacoda also instructed his troop to accompany Dante and Virgilio to the next intact bridge over the bolgia: costor sian salvi infino a l’altro scheggio / che tutto intero va sovra le tane” (keep these two safe and sound till the next ridge / that rises without break across the dens [Inf. 21.125-26]). Accordingly, the travelers — reassured by Malacoda’s having granted them apparent safe passage — have set out with ten devils: “Noi andavam con li diece demoni” (We made our way together with ten demons [Inf. 22.13]). Occasionally they see a sinner show his back above the surface like a dolphin (19-24), but most of all they see sinners partly exposed at the edges of the bolgia, like frogs at the margins of a ditch (25-28). These souls rush to submerge themselves when the devils approach, but one unlucky soul is captured by Graffiacane:

e Graffiacan, che li era più di contra,
li arruncigliò le ’mpegolate chiome
e trassel sù, che mi parve una lontra.  
(Inf. 22.34-36)
And Graffiacane, who was closest to him, 
then hooked him by his pitch-entangled locks
and hauled him up; he seemed to me an otter. 

[16] This grafter, protagonist of the forthcoming episode, is not named in the text, but is commonly known in the commentary tradition as Ciampolo. (This is an Italian corruption of the French name Jean Paul.) Ciampolo explains that he is from the kingdom of Navarre in France, that his mother placed him in the service of a lord — “Mia madre a servo d’un segnor mi puose” (My mother made me servant of a lord [Inf. 22.49]) — and that his father was a rake who squandered his possessions and killed himself: “che m’avea generato d’un ribaldo, / distruggitor di sé e di sue cose” ([my mother] had had me by a wastrel, / destroyer of himself and his possessions [Inf. 22.50-51]). Eventually he moved up and served in the household of King Thibaut II of Navarre, where he began to practice graft: “Poi fui famiglia del buon re Tebaldo: / quivi mi misi a far baratteria” (Then I was in the household of the worthy / King Thibault; there I started taking graft [Inf. 22.52-53]).

[17] Ciampolo’s brief but rich narrative transitions the poet’s lens from the urban graft of Lucca in central Italy in the previous canto to a courtly setting in the south of France. Suddenly we are transferred to the homeland of the courtly culture to which Dante had been so drawn as a young poet. Thibaut II was King of Navarre from 1253 to his death at 1270. His father Thibaut I was a courtly poet who wrote in French. Thibaut I is the only Old French poet named and cited in Dante’s linguistic treatise, De vulgari eloquentia, where he is specifically called “King of Navarre”.

[18] The language that Ciampolo uses is taken from feudal and courtly culture. The word “famiglia” in verse 52 — “Poi fui famiglia del buon re Tebaldo” (Inf. 22.52) — indicates that he became a familiaris of King Thibaut: familiaris is the technical term for a courtier in the service of a lord. For instance, the poet Sordello whom the travellers meet in Purgatorio 6 was a courtier and protégé of Charles I of Anjou, and was described by Charles as “dilectus familiaris et fidelis noster” (our faithful and beloved servant) in a document granting him certain feudal castles in the Abruzzi. (The reference is from the Introduction to Sordello: Le Poesie, ed. Marco Boni [Bologna: Libreria Antiquaria Palmaverde, 1954], p. xcviii).

[19] In his brief account, Ciampolo depicts an upward arc. He outlines nothing less than his successful transtion from “servo” of a minor lord, the role he was placed in by his mother — Mia madre a servo d’un segnor mi puose (Inf. 22.49) — to familiaris of the king: “Poi fui famiglia del buon re Tebaldo” (Inf. 22.52).  Anna Maria Chiavacci Leonardi glosses the word famiglia in verse 52 thus: “da servo dunque di un barone del re, divenne per la sua industria famiglia, cioè cortegiano, degli uomini di fiducia del re stesso” (from the servant of a baron of the king, he became through his hard work famiglia, in other words a courtier, one of the trusted men of the king himself). (See Chiavacci Leonardi, ed., Inferno [Milan: Mondadori, 2005], p. 662; also available through the Dartmouth Dante Project.)

[20] Of the term that Ciampolo uses for his father, “ribaldo” in verse 50, Chiavacci Leonardi notes that it originally signified a man of the court and subsequently took on negative connotations, and that the shift in the word occurred precisely because of the negative habits associated with courtiers: “in origine uomo di corte, devoto a signore (Tommaseo); termine poi passato a cattivo senso, per i costumi propri dei cortigiani” (originally man of the court, dedicated to the service of the lord [Tommaseo]; the term subsequently took on a negative sense, because of the habits typical of courtiers [Chiavacci Leonardi, op. cit., p. 662]).

[21] Sapegno adds to our understanding of “ribaldo” in his commentary, citing Barbi:

Il vocabolo era usato per estensione a indicare ogni uomo che menasse unesistenza viziosa e dissipata, frequentando assiduamente bische, taverne e postriboli. Il padre di Ciampolo è detto qui ribaldo, «non perché tale di condizione sociale (ha un patrimonio da distruggere), ma perché menava vita da ribaldo, in ciò che aveva di meno umiliante, ma di piú vizioso, cioè giocare, gozzovigliare e stare in bordello». (cfr. BARBI, Probl., I, 212-13, 242)

(The word was used by extension to indicate any man who led a vicious and dissipated life, who assiduously frequented taverns and brothels. The father of Ciampolo is here called ribaldo, “not because this was his social condition — he had a patrimony to destroy — but because he lived the life of a ribald, in its less humiliating but more vicious features: that is gaming, extravagant feasting, and frequenting brothels”.)

(Natalino Sapegno,  ed., Inferno [Firenze: La Nuova Italia, 1968], p. 244; also available through the Dartmouth Dante Project)

[22] The life of a ribaldo is thus the dissipated life of a rake: a man who gambles, drinks, and whores. It is the life evoked by the “taverna” in the proverb cited above: “ma ne la chiesa / coi santi, e in taverna coi ghiottoni” (in church with saints, with guzzlers in the tavern [Inf. 22.14-15]). The life of Ciampolo’s father is a veritable rake’s progress, as he proceeds from dissipation of his possessions to destruction of his self, from squandering to suicide: he is, in his son’s words, “distruggitor di sé e di sue cose” (destroyer of himself and of his possessions [Inf. 22.51]). Verse 51 encapsulates both types of violence against the self featured in the second rung of the circle of violence (Inferno 13).

[23] Ciampolo’s story and the story of his father offer a keyhole onto the world of a court and its satellites, onto the ethically-challenged lives of the hangers-on who inhabit the margins of a great court. Ciampolo’s story is poignant: after all, he worked his way up the courtly ladder from a baron’s servant to a king’s courtier before his fall. Most of all, it suggests the difficulty of maintaining equilibrium — “misura” is Dante’s word — toward material goods in such an environment.

[24] Let us unpack a bit more. Ciampolo was the son of a ribaldo. His father was not poor; as Barbi points out in the above citation, he had an inheritance to squander. Ciampolo’s father destroyed first his means and then himself. In other words, Ciampolo was born into an environment of profound dismisura. Such a man is then put into service, into a life in which he is surrounded by luxury and magnificence that is not his. His biography sounds like a recipe for the making of an embezzler.

[25] I think of Dante’s canzone Poscia ch’Amor, where he inveighs against those who squander their wealth while posing as generous citizens. I am not suggesting that Ciampolo’s father falls into the latter camp; he was a ribaldo, a rake pure and simple, never mistakenly considered a good citizen like the men whom Dante castigates in his canzone.

[26] But the story of Ciampolo’s father, like Ciampolo’s own, does suggest the pressures generated by life in an environment where financial prudence was much less valued than largesse in spending. For more on these issues, and for the contradictions between courtly and Christian values regarding material goods, see the essays “Sociology of the Brigata”, “Aristotle’s Mezzo, Courtly Misura, and Dante’s Canzone Le dolci rime”, and “Dante on Wealth and Society, between Aristotle and Cortesia”, cited in Coordinated Reading. See too the Introduction to Inferno 16 in this commentary.

[27] The same courtly culture of southern France, whose literature and values were of vital importance to Dante in his youth and throughout his life, will be featured in Paradiso 6, 112-42. Here Dante (through the character of Justinian) will tell of a man called Romeo of Villeneuve (1170-1250). Romeo was minister and chamberlain to Count Raymond Berenger IV of Provence (reigned 1209-1245) and was the opposite of a barattiere: rather than using his position of trust to practice corruption, Romeo enhanced the Count’s prestige. He successfully married Raymond’s four daughters, giving him back a return greater than he had received: “che li assegnò sette e cinque per diece” (given ten, Romeo gave Raymond five and seven [Par. 6.138]). Nonetheless Romeo is unjustly exiled, due to the envy that bedevils courts (a phenomenon on which Dante comments in Pier della Vigna’s story in Inferno 13). Once again Dante depicts the pathology of courtly life and suggests the difficulty of achieving balanced and ethical deployment of material goods in a courtly setting.

* * *

[28] Now begins the build-up to a diabolic sport, which will culminate at the canto’s end. The poet draws our attention to this diabolic sport with a solemn address to the reader, reminiscent of the mock-heroic opening of this canto. The address to the reader features the severely out of place Latin word ludus (play or game), here barely vernacularized as ludo: “O tu che leggi, udirai nuovo ludo” (O you who read, hear now of this new sport [Inf. 22.118]). This is a nuovo ludo: a novel game, a new sport never seen anywhere else.

[29] Dante sets out to recount the trick that Ciampolo will play on the devils. In a wonderful emblem of the mixed style, Dante mixes Latinate “ludo” (sport) and vernacular “beffa” (trick), high and low styles. The term beffa signals the tricks and tricksters of the novella tradition, and carries connotations of literary genre (Boccaccio devotes many stories of the Decameron to narrating beffe played by one person upon another). That the sport played by devils and grafters in Hell is both ludo and beffa — both Latin and vernacular, both high and low — testifies to the mixed mode that the author of the Commedia is forging.

[30] The word beffa refers to a deceitful trick that involves not only words but also deeds, a trick of the sort that in English we call a practical joke. (To use Boccaccio as a reference point again, the beffe of the Decameron are action-oriented affairs.) Dante designs a “novel sporting event” — “nuovo ludo” (Inf. 22.118) — that is effectively also a “beffa”, a trick that gets the better of and therefore enrages the devil Calcabrina: “Irato Calcabrina de la buffa” (But Calcabrina, raging at the trick [Inf. 22.133]).

[31] Dante uses “buffa” in Inferno 22.133, followed by the now standard spelling “beffa” in Inferno 23.14, where we learn that the devils’ malice toward the travelers has been stoked by the beffa that has successfully been played on them:

Io pensava così: “Questi per noi
sono scherniti con danno e con beffa
sì fatta, ch’assai credo che lor nòi.”  
(Inf. 23.13-15)
I thought: “Because of us, they have been mocked,
and this inflicted so much hurt and scorn
that I am sure they feel deep indignation.”

[32] The sport that is played in Hell — a “nuovo ludo” with features of the vernacular beffa from the novella tradition — is a reflection of the infernal society that invented it: it is a game of interlocking and mutual and complete deception. But it is also important to stipulate that it is a game, in other words that Dante intends his optic on human society and human cultural artifacts to be broad enough to take in those essential staples of human life: games, play, and sport. We think back to the Aeneid, the Latin poem that Dante just told us he knew entirely, “tutta quanta” (Inf. 20.114), and remember that Vergil devoted Book 5 of his epic to games played by the displaced Trojans.

[33] Baratteria is the corruption of civic governance, and the result of civic graft is the corruption of the social order. Hence in the canti devoted to baratteria Dante will create the contours of a small society that is deeply corroded by mutual and absolute lack of trust. That small society is on display in Inferno 22, a canto that emphasizes distinctive features of human societies, such as courtly life and novel sport.

[34] Let us reconstruct the events that lead up to the nuovo ludo that concludes Inferno 22. The devils hook Ciampolo,  and then offer the travelers the opportunity to speak with the sinner before they shred him (Inf. 22.31-63). Virgilio knows what interests Dante, and he asks Ciampolo whether there are any Italians under the pitch: “Or dì: de li altri rii / conosci tu alcun che sia latino / sotto la pece?” (Now tell: among the sinners / who hide beneath the pitch, / do you know any who are Italian?” [Inf. 23.64-66]). In detailing the fellow sinners from whose company he has recently parted, Ciampolo focuses on two important figures from Sardinia: Frate Gomita and Michele Zanche (Inf. 22.81-90).

[35] The two Sardinian grafters are part of a Sardinian network in the Commedia. Describing Frate Gomita, Ciampolo refers to the lord he betrayed by the Sardinian term “donno” (from dominus): “ebbe i nemici di suo donno in mano” (he had his master’s enemies in hand [Inf. 22.83]). Sardinia was conquered by Pisa in 1117, and Frate Gomita’s lord was Nino Visconti, who ruled the giudicato of Gallura on behalf of Pisa from 1275-1296. (Sardinia was divided into four judicates in the Middle Ages.) Nino Visconti was grandson of the Pisan noble Ugolino della Gherardesca and Sardinia will be implicated in the story of Ugolino in Inferno 32. Nino Visconti was also Dante’s personal friend, as we learn in Purgatorio 8, where he carries his Sardinian title of “judge” (because he ruled a giudicato): “giudice Nin gentil” (Noble Judge Nino [Purg. 8.53]). In effect, Inferno 32 and 33 will be the dark locus in which the corruption and politics of Pisa — and therefore of its possession Sardinia — will come to a head.

[36] The other Sardinian grafter is “donno Michel Zanche / di Logodoro” (lord Michel Zanche of Logodoro [Inf. 22.88-89]), who will also be linked intratextually to Inferno 33. Michele Zanche’s son-in-law is the traitor Branca Doria, whose soul is in the ninth circle. As we shall see, Branca Doria had his father-in-law Michele Zanche murdered in order to acquire his lands and dominion. Branca’s sin was so heinous that his soul went to Hell at the moment of his betrayal, while his body — only apparently alive — remained on earth, now inhabited by a devil.

[37] The in-credible account — the fact that a devil came to inhabit the traitor Branca Doria’s body at the moment that he killed his father-in-law Michele Zanche — becomes a wonderful intratextual opportunity for Dante-poet in Inferno 33. In order to support the truth of the unbelievable assertion that Branca Doria’s body on earth is inhabited by a devil, the soul recounting the sensational event (Frate Alberigo) invokes . . . the bolgia of the barattieri. Frate Alberigo conjures the moment when Michele Zanche arrives at the fifth bolgia, saying that Michele had not yet arrived “nel fosso sù . . . de’ Malebranche” (in the Malebranche’s ditch above [Inf. 33.142]) when a devil entered Branca’s body:

“Nel fosso sù”, diss’ el, “de’ Malebranche,
là dove bolle la tenace pece,
non era ancora giunto Michel Zanche,
che questi lasciò il diavolo in sua vece
nel corpo suo.”                
(Inf. 33.142-46)
“There in the Malebranche’s ditch above,
where sticky pitch boils up, Michele Zanche
had still not come,” he said to me, 
“when this one left a devil in his stead
inside his body.” 

[38] In the above passage Dante has Frate Alberigo drive his point home by referring back, intra-textually, to “the ditch above”: to the tar of the fifth bolgia. In effect, the poet appeals to his own creation — his own possible world — as guarantor of the truth of that world. I analyze this moment in the poem in The Undivine Comedy:

How does Alberigo — the creature in the fiction — persuade the pilgrim to believe him? By appealing to “reality,” namely the fiction to which he belongs. His reply is one of the most remarkable intratextual moments within the Commedia, as the text buttresses the text, the fiction supports the credibility of the fiction: “‘Nel fosso sù,’ diss’el, ‘de’ Malebranche, / là dove bolle la tenace pece, / non era ancora giunto Michel Zanche, / che questi lasciò il diavolo in sua vece / nel corpo su’” (“In the ditch of the Malebranche above,” he said, “there where boils the sticky pitch, Michel Zanche had not yet arrived when this one [Branca] left a devil in his place in his own body” [Inf. 33.142-46]). With these references to the text of the Inferno — to the Malebranche and the boiling pitch of the bolgia of the barraters — the pilgrim is convinced; and the poet, who has mirrored and thereby mounted a sneak attack on the reader’s reluctance to believe, concludes the canto by stating as simple fact what he learned from Alberigo: in this place he found — “trovai” (155) — a spirit whose soul was in Cocytus, while his body was on earth. Now that the fiction has been accepted as reality, reality — in a typically Dantesque inversion — can be revealed to be a fiction: “e in corpo par vivo ancor di sopra” (and in body he still appears alive up above [Inf. 33.157]). (The Undivine Comedy, p. 95)

[39] After telling of the Sardinians, Ciampolo offers to call other Italians for Dante and Virgilio. He says he will use the sign-system shared by the sinners to indicate that the coast is clear, and that by whistling he will succeed in obtaining Tuscans and Lombards for Dante and Virgilio to interview (Inf. 22.97-105). He has deduced that Dante and Virgilio will be particularly interested in “Toschi o Lombardi” (99): we know that Dante speaks like a Tuscan, because Farinata recognizes him on the basis of his Tuscan speech, but does Virgilio then sound like a Lombard? We will return to this question in the Introduction to Inferno 27.

[40] Ciampolo is offering to abuse the trust of his companions in order to secure Tuscans and Lombards. In return, the travelers will induce the devils to stand away from him. He is trying to negotiate a truce like the one under whose terms the Pisan foot-soldiers left the castle of Caprona (see Inferno 21.94-96). The castle of Caprona is one of the castles whose delivery to the Florentines was involved in Ugolino’s fall from power in Pisa: again, all roads lead to Inferno 32-33.

[41] Ciampolo tries to secure the devils’ compliance by stressing the magnitude of his offer to deceive his fellows; he must be telling them the truth because he is offering to harm his friends! There is a brief standoff as each “team” tries to ascertain the level of deceit of the other (Inf. 22.106-117). Then mayhem ensues as Ciampolo finds a moment to free himself and to dive back into the pitch — here is the culmination of the “nuovo ludo” — with the devils in hot pursuit (Inf. 22.121-123). In their anger and spite at being deceived by a sinner the devils turn upon each other and, at canto’s end, the “cooks are cooked”: “ch’eran già cotti dentro da la crosta” (they were already cooked within that crust [Inf. 22.150]).

[42] In sum: Ciampolo offers to betray his fellows in order to betray the devils, who betray each other in their eagerness to betray the sinners and in their enthusiasm to have Ciampolo betray his comrades.

[43] A complex and perverse social order unfolds in Inferno 22: a micro-society furnished with its own sign-systems and even its own sports. The sinners have their own communications and codes of governance, all deeply rooted in malice and betrayal.

[44] The narrator uses Ciampolo’s “nuovo ludo” and the subsequent havoc to conclude Inferno 22 and to delay the next Act of his play in four Acts: Act 4, which returns to the overarching plot-line of the deceit practiced by Malacoda on Dante and Virgilio, resumes in the next canto. Inferno 22, like Inferno 8 and Inferno 16 before it, ends in medias res, as Dante again works to script suspense into his overdetermined plot. The devils have been humiliated: instead of being the “cooks” engaged in submerging the sinners, they are now themselves cooked within the tar. Will they seek to avenge themselves on Dante and Virgilio?

Coordinated Reading

The Undivine Comedy (Princeton: Princeton U. Press, 1992), Chapter 4, “Narrative and Style in Lower Hell”, pp. 81-82; “Sociology of the Brigata: Gendered Groups in Dante, Forese, Folgore, Boccaccio – From ‘Guido, i’ vorrei’ to Griselda,” Italian Studies 67.1 (2012): 4-22; “Aristotle’s Mezzo, Courtly Misura, and Dante’s Canzone Le dolci rime: Humanism, Ethics, and Social Anxiety,” in Dante and the Greeks, ed. Jan Ziolkowski (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014), pp. 163-79; “Dante and Wealth, Between Aristotle and Cortesia: From the Moral Canzoni Le dolci rime and Poscia ch'Amor to Inferno VI and VII”, Medioevo letterario d'Italia 15 (2018): pp.33-47.

Recommended Citation

Barolini, Teodolinda. “Inferno 22: Courtly Life and Novel Sport.” Commento Baroliniano, Digital Dante. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2018. https://digitaldante.columbia.edu/dante/divine-comedy/inferno/inferno-22/
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Commento Table of Contents

1 Io vidi già cavalier muover campo,
2 e cominciare stormo e far lor mostra,
3 e talvolta partir per loro scampo;

4 corridor vidi per la terra vostra,
5 o Aretini, e vidi gir gualdane,
6 fedir torneamenti e correr giostra;

7 quando con trombe, e quando con campane,
8 con tamburi e con cenni di castella,
9 e con cose nostrali e con istrane;

10 né già con sì diversa cennamella
11 cavalier vidi muover né pedoni,
12 né nave a segno di terra o di stella.

13 Noi andavam con li diece demoni.
14 Ahi fiera compagnia! ma ne la chiesa
15 coi santi, e in taverna coi ghiottoni.

16 Pur a la pegola era la mia ’ntesa,
17 per veder de la bolgia ogne contegno
18 e de la gente ch’entro v’era incesa.

19 Come i dalfini, quando fanno segno
20 a’ marinar con l’arco de la schiena
21 che s’argomentin di campar lor legno,

22 talor così, ad alleggiar la pena,
23 mostrav’ alcun de’ peccatori ’l dosso
24 e nascondea in men che non balena.

25 E come a l’orlo de l’acqua d’un fosso
26 stanno i ranocchi pur col muso fuori,
27 sì che celano i piedi e l’altro grosso,

28 sì stavan d’ogne parte i peccatori;
29 ma come s’appressava Barbariccia,
30 così si ritraén sotto i bollori.

31 I’ vidi, e anco il cor me n’accapriccia,
32 uno aspettar così, com’ elli ’ncontra
33 ch’una rana rimane e l’altra spiccia;

34 e Graffiacan, che li era più di contra,
35 li arruncigliò le ’mpegolate chiome
36 e trassel sù, che mi parve una lontra.

37 I’ sapea già di tutti quanti ’l nome,
38 sì li notai quando fuorono eletti,
39 e poi ch’e’ si chiamaro, attesi come.

40 «O Rubicante, fa che tu li metti
41 li unghioni a dosso, sì che tu lo scuoi!»,
42 gridavan tutti insieme i maladetti.

43 E io: «Maestro mio, fa, se tu puoi,
44 che tu sappi chi è lo sciagurato
45 venuto a man de li avversari suoi».

46 Lo duca mio li s’accostò allato;
47 domandollo ond’ ei fosse, e quei rispuose:
48 «I’ fui del regno di Navarra nato.

49 Mia madre a servo d’un segnor mi puose,
50 che m’avea generato d’un ribaldo,
51 distruggitor di sé e di sue cose.

52 Poi fui famiglia del buon re Tebaldo;
53 quivi mi misi a far baratteria,
54 di ch’io rendo ragione in questo caldo».

55 E Cirïatto, a cui di bocca uscia
56 d’ogne parte una sanna come a porco,
57 li fé sentir come l’una sdruscia.

58 Tra male gatte era venuto ’l sorco;
59 ma Barbariccia il chiuse con le braccia
60 e disse: «State in là, mentr’ io lo ’nforco».

61 E al maestro mio volse la faccia;
62 «Domanda», disse, «ancor, se più disii
63 saper da lui, prima ch’altri ’l disfaccia».

64 Lo duca dunque: «Or dì: de li altri rii
65 conosci tu alcun che sia latino
66 sotto la pece?». E quelli: «I’ mi partii,

67 poco è, da un che fu di là vicino.
68 Così foss’ io ancor con lui coperto,
69 ch’i’ non temerei unghia né uncino!».

70 E Libicocco «Troppo avem sofferto»,
71 disse; e preseli ’l braccio col runciglio,
72 sì che, stracciando, ne portò un lacerto.

73 Draghignazzo anco i volle dar di piglio
74 giuso a le gambe; onde ’l decurio loro
75 si volse intorno intorno con mal piglio.

76 Quand’ elli un poco rappaciati fuoro,
77 a lui, ch’ancor mirava sua ferita,
78 domandò ’l duca mio sanza dimoro:

79 «Chi fu colui da cui mala partita
80 di’ che facesti per venire a proda?».
81 Ed ei rispuose: «Fu frate Gomita,

82 quel di Gallura, vasel d’ogne froda,
83 ch’ebbe i nemici di suo donno in mano,
84 e fé sì lor, che ciascun se ne loda.

85 Danar si tolse, e lasciolli di piano,
86 sì com’ e’ dice; e ne li altri offici anche
87 barattier fu non picciol, ma sovrano.

88 Usa con esso donno Michel Zanche
89 di Logodoro; e a dir di Sardigna
90 le lingue lor non si sentono stanche.

91 Omè, vedete l’altro che digrigna;
92 i’ direi anche, ma i’ temo ch’ello
93 non s’apparecchi a grattarmi la tigna».

94 E ’l gran proposto, vòlto a Farfarello
95 che stralunava li occhi per fedire,
96 disse: «Fatti ’n costà, malvagio uccello!».

97 «Se voi volete vedere o udire»,
98 ricominciò lo spaürato appresso
99 «Toschi o Lombardi, io ne farò venire;

100 ma stieno i Malebranche un poco in cesso,
101 sì ch’ei non teman de le lor vendette;
102 e io, seggendo in questo loco stesso,

103 per un ch’io son, ne farò venir sette
104 quand’ io suffolerò, com’ è nostro uso
105 di fare allor che fori alcun si mette».

106 Cagnazzo a cotal motto levò ’l muso,
107 crollando ’l capo, e disse: «Odi malizia
108 ch’elli ha pensata per gittarsi giuso!».

109 Ond’ ei, ch’avea lacciuoli a gran divizia,
110 rispuose: «Malizioso son io troppo,
111 quand’ io procuro a’ mia maggior trestizia».

112 Alichin non si tenne e, di rintoppo
113 a li altri, disse a lui: «Se tu ti cali,
114 io non ti verrò dietro di gualoppo,

115 ma batterò sovra la pece l’ali.
116 Lascisi ’l collo, e sia la ripa scudo,
117 a veder se tu sol più di noi vali».

118 O tu che leggi, udirai nuovo ludo:
119 ciascun da l’altra costa li occhi volse,
120 quel prima, ch’a ciò fare era più crudo.

121 Lo Navarrese ben suo tempo colse;
122 fermò le piante a terra, e in un punto
123 saltò e dal proposto lor si sciolse.

124 Di che ciascun di colpa fu compunto,
125 ma quei più che cagion fu del difetto;
126 però si mosse e gridò: «Tu se’ giunto!».

127 Ma poco i valse: ché l’ali al sospetto
128 non potevo avanzar; quelli andò sotto,
129 e quei drizzò volando suso il petto:

130 non altrimenti l’anitra di botto,
131 quando ’l falcon s’appressa, giù s’attuffa,
132 ed ei ritorna sù crucciato e rotto.

133 Irato Calcabrina de la buffa,
134 volando dietro li tenne, invaghito
135 che quei campasse per aver la zuffa;

136 e come ’l barattier fu disparito,
137 così volse li artigli al suo compagno,
138 e fu con lui sopra ’l fosso ghermito.

139 Ma l’altro fu bene sparvier grifagno
140 ad artigliar ben lui, e amendue
141 cadder nel mezzo del bogliente stagno.

142 Lo caldo sghermitor sùbito fue;
143 ma però di levarsi era neente,
144 sì avieno inviscate l’ali sue.

145 Barbariccia, con li altri suoi dolente,
146 quattro ne fé volar da l’altra costa
147 con tutt’ i raffi, e assai prestamente

148 di qua, di là discesero a la posta;
149 porser li uncini verso li ’mpaniati,
150 ch’eran già cotti dentro da la crosta.

151 E noi lasciammo lor così ’mpacciati.

Before this I’ve seen horsemen start to march
and open the assault and muster ranks
and seen them, too, at times beat their retreat;

and on your land, o Aretines, I’ve seen
rangers and raiding parties galloping,
the clash of tournaments, the rush of jousts,

now done with trumpets, now with bells, and now
with drums, and now with signs from castle walls,
with native things and with imported ware;

but never yet have I seen horsemen or
seen infantry or ship that sails by signal
of land or star move to so strange a bugle!

We made our way together with ten demons:
ah, what ferocious company! And yet
“in church with saints, with rotters in the tavern.”

But I was all intent upon the pitch,
to seek out every feature of the pouch
and of the people who were burning in it.

Just as the dolphins do, when with arched back,
they signal to the seamen to prepare
for tempest, that their vessel may be spared,

so here from time to time, to ease his torment,
some sinner showed his back above the surface,
then hid more quickly than a lightning flash.

And just as on the margin of a ditch,
frogs crouch, their snouts alone above the water,
so as to hide their feet and their plump flesh,

so here on every side these sinners crouched;
but faster than a flash, when Barbariccia
drew near, they plunged beneath the boiling pitch.

I saw-my heart still shudders in recall—
one who delayed, just as at times a frog
is left behind while others dive below;

and Graffiacane, who was closest to him,
then hooked him by his pitch—entangled locks
and hauled him up; he seemed to me an otter.

By now I knew the names of all those demons—
I’d paid attention when the fiends were chosen;
I’d watched as they stepped forward one by one.

“O Rubicante, see you set your talons
right into him, so you can flay his flesh!”
So did those cursed ones cry out together.

And I: “My master, if you can, find out
what is the name of that unfortunate
who’s fallen victim to his enemies.”

My guide, who then drew near that sinner’s side,
asked him to tell his birthplace. He replied:
“My homeland was the kingdom of Navarre.

My mother, who had had me by a wastrel,
destroyer of himself and his possessions,
had placed me in the service of a lord.

Then I was in the household of the worthy
King Thibault; there I started taking graft;
with this heat I pay reckoning for that.”

And Ciriatto, from whose mouth there bulged
to right and left two tusks like a wild hog’s,
then let him feel how one of them could mangle.

The mouse had fallen in with evil cats;
but Barbariccia clasped him in his arms
and said: “Stand off there, while I fork him fast.”

And turning toward my master then, he said:
“Ask on, if you would learn some more from him
before one of the others does him in.”

At which my guide: “Now tell: among the sinners
who hide beneath the pitch, are any others
Italian?” And he: “I have just left

one who was nearby there; and would I were
still covered by the pitch as he is hidden,
for then I’d have no fear of hook or talon.”

And Libicocco said, “We’ve been too patient!”
and, with his grapple, grabbed him by the arm
and, ripping, carried off a hunk of flesh.

But Draghignazzo also looked as if
to grab his legs; at which, their captain wheeled
and threatened all of them with raging looks.

When they’d grown somewhat less tumultuous,
without delay my guide asked of that one
who had his eyes still fixed upon his wound:

“Who was the one you left to come ashore—
unluckily—as you just said before?”
He answered: “Fra Gomita of Gallura,

who was a vessel fit for every fraud;
he had his master’s enemies in hand,
but handled them in ways that pleased them all.

He took their gold and smoothly let them off,
as he himself says; and in other matters,
he was a sovereign, not a petty, swindler.

His comrade there is Don Michele Zanche
of Logodoro; and their tongues are never
too tired to talk of their Sardinia.

Ah me, see that one there who grinds his teeth!
If I were not afraid, I’d speak some more,
but he is getting set to scratch my scurf.”

And their great marshal, facing Farfarello—
who was so hot to strike he rolled his eyes,
said: “Get away from there, you filthy bird!”

“If you perhaps would like to see or hear,”
that sinner, terrified, began again,
“Lombards or Tuscans, I can fetch you some;

but let the Malebranche stand aside
so that my comrades need not fear their vengeance.
Remaining in this very spot, I shall,

although alone, make seven more appear
when I have whistled, as has been our custom
when one of us has managed to get out.”

At that, Cagnazzo lifted up his snout
and shook his head, and said: “Just listen to
that trick by which he thinks he can dive back!”

To this, he who was rich in artifice
replied: “Then I must have too many tricks,
if I bring greater torment to my friends.”

This was too much for Alichino and,
despite the others, he cried out: “If you
dive back, I shall not gallop after you

but beat my wings above the pitch; we’ll leave
this height; with the embankment as a screen,
we’ll see if you—alone—can handle us.”

O you who read, hear now of this new sport:
each turned his eyes upon the other shore,
he first who’d been most hesitant before.

The Navarrese, in nick of time, had planted
his feet upon the ground; then in an instant
he jumped and freed himself from their commander.

At this each demon felt the prick of guilt,
and most, he who had led his band to blunder;
so he took off and shouted: “You are caught!”

But this could help him little; wings were not
more fast than fear; the sinner plunged right under;
the other, flying up, lifted his chest:

not otherwise the wild duck when it plunges
precipitously, when the falcon nears
and then—exhausted, thwarted—flies back up.

But Calcabrina, raging at the trick,
flew after Alichino; he was keen
to see the sinner free and have a brawl;

and once the Navarrese had disappeared,
he turned his talons on his fellow demon
and tangled with him just above the ditch.

But Alichino clawed him well—he was
indeed a full—grown kestrel; and both fell
into the middle of the boiling pond.

The heat was quick to disentangle them,
but still there was no way they could get out;
their wings were stuck, enmeshed in glue—like pitch.

And Barbariccia, grieving with the rest,
sent four to fly out toward the other shore
with all their forks, and speedily enough

on this side and on that they took their posts;
and toward those two—stuck fast, already cooked
beneath that crust—they stretched their grappling hooks.

We left them still contending with that mess.

I HAVE erewhile seen horsemen moving camp,
Begin the storming, and their muster make,
And sometimes starting off for their escape;

Vaunt—couriers have I seen upon your land,
O Aretines, and foragers go forth,
Tournaments stricken, and the joustings run,

Sometimes with trumpets and sometimes with bells,
With kettle—drums, and signals of the castles,
And with our own, and with outlandish things,

But never yet with bagpipe so uncouth
Did I see horsemen move, nor infantry,
Nor ship by any sign of land or star.

We went upon our way with the ten demons;
Ah, savage company ! but in the church
With saints, and in the tavern with the gluttons!

Ever upon the pitch was my intent,
To see the whole condition of that Bolgia,
And of the people who therein were burned.

Even as the dolphins, when they make a sign
To mariners by arching of the back,
That they should counsel take to save their vessel,

Thus sometimes, to alleviate his pain,
One of the sinners would display his back,
And in less time conceal it than it lightens.

As on the brink of water in a ditch
The frogs stand only with their muzzles out,
So that they hide their feet and other bulk.

So upon every side the sinners stood;
But ever as Barbariccia near them came,
Thus underneath the boiling they withdrew.

I saw, and still my heart doth shudder at it,
One waiting thus, even as it comes to pass
One frog remains, and down another dives;

And Graffiacan, who most confronted him,
Grappled him by his tresses smeared with pitch,
And drew him up, so that he seemed an otter.

I knew, before, the names of all of them,
So had I noted them when they were chosen,
And when they called each other, listened how.

“O Rubicante, see that thou do lay
Thy claws upon him, so that thou mayst flay him,”
Cried all together the accursed ones.

And I: “My Master, see to it, if thou canst,
That thou mayst know who is the luckless wight,
Thus come into his adversaries’ hands.”

Near to the side of him my Leader drew,
Asked of him whence he was; and he replied:
“I in the kingdom of Navarre was born;

My mother placed me servant to a lord,
For she had borne me to a ribald knave,
Destroyer of himself and of his things.

Then I domestic was of good King Thibault;
I set me there to practise barratry,
For which I pay the reckoning in this heat.”

And Ciriatto, from whose mouth projected,
On either side, a tusk, as in a boar,
Caused him to feel how one of them could rip.

Among malicious cats the mouse had come;
But Barbariccia clasped him in his arms,
And said: “Stand ye aside, while I enfork him.”

And to my Master he turned round his head;
“Ask him again,” he said, “if more thou wish
To know from him, before some one destroy him.”

The Guide: “Now tell then of the other culprits;
Knowest thou any one who is a Latian,
Under the pitch ?” And he: “I separated

Lately from one who was a neighbour to it;
Would that I still were covered up with him,
For I should fear not either claw nor hook !”

And Libicocco: “We have borne too much;”
And with his grapnel seized him by the arm,
So that, by rending, he tore off a tendon.

Eke Draghignazzo wished to pounce upon him
Down at the legs; whence their Decurion
Turned round and round about with evil look.

When they again somewhat were pacified,
Of him, who still was looking at his wound,
Demanded my Conductor without stay:

“Who was that one, from whom a luckless parting
Thou sayest thou hast made, to come ashore?”
And he replied “It was the Friar Gomita,

He of Gallura, vessel of all fraud,
Who had the enemies of his Lord in hand,
And dealt so with them each exults thereat;

Money he took, and let them smoothly off,
As he says; and in other offices
A barrator was he, not mean but sovereign.

Foregathers with him one Don Michael Zanche
Of Logodoro; and of Sardinia
To gossip never do their tongues feel tired.

O me ! see that one, how he grinds his teeth;
Still farther would I speak, but am afraid
Lest he to scratch my itch be making ready.”

And the grand Provost, turned to Farfarello,
Who rolled his eyes about as if to strike,
Said: “Stand aside there, thou malicious bird.”

“If you desire either to see or hear,”
The terror—stricken recommenced thereon,
“Tuscans or Lombards. I will make them come.

But let the Malebranche cease a little,
So that these may not their revenges fear,
And I, down sitting in this very place,

For one that I am will make seven come,
When I shall whistle, as our custom is
To do whenever one of us comes out.”

Cagnazzo at these words his muzzle lifted,
Shaking his head, and said: “Just hear the trick
Which he has thought of, down to throw himself !

Whence he, who snares in great abundance had,
Responded: “I by far too cunning am,
When I procure for mine a greater sadness.”

Alichin held not in, but running counter
Unto the rest, said to him: “If thou dive,
I will not follow thee upon the gallop,

But I will beat my wings above the pitch;
The height be left, and be the bank a shield
To see if thou alone dost countervail us.”

O thou who readest, thou shalt hear new sport !
Each to the other side his eyes averted;
He first, who most reluctant was to do it.

The Navarrese selected well his time;
Planted his feet on land, and in a moment
Leaped, and released himself from their design.

Whereat each one was suddenly stung with shame,
But he most who was cause of the defeat;
Therefore he moved, and cried: “Thou art o’ertakern.”

But little it availed, for wings could not
Outstrip the fear; the other one went under,
And, flying, upward he his breast directed;

Not otherwise the duck upon a sudden
Dives under, when the falcon is approaching,
And upward he returneth cross and weary.

Infuriate at the mockery, Calcabrina
Flying behind him followed close, desirous
The other should escape, to have a quarrel.

And when the barrator had disappeared,
He turned his talons upon his companion,
And grappled with him right above the moat.

But sooth the other was a doughty sparhawk
To clapperclaw him well; and both of them
Fell in the middle of the boiling pond.

A sudden intercessor was the heat;
But ne’ertheless of rising there was naught,
To such degree they had their wings belimed.

Lamenting with the others, Barbariccia
Made four of them fly to the other side
With all their gaffs, and very speedily

This side and that they to their posts descended;
They stretched their hooks towards the pitch—ensnared,
Who were already baked within the crust,

And in this manner busied did we leave them.

Before this I’ve seen horsemen start to march
and open the assault and muster ranks
and seen them, too, at times beat their retreat;

and on your land, o Aretines, I’ve seen
rangers and raiding parties galloping,
the clash of tournaments, the rush of jousts,

now done with trumpets, now with bells, and now
with drums, and now with signs from castle walls,
with native things and with imported ware;

but never yet have I seen horsemen or
seen infantry or ship that sails by signal
of land or star move to so strange a bugle!

We made our way together with ten demons:
ah, what ferocious company! And yet
“in church with saints, with rotters in the tavern.”

But I was all intent upon the pitch,
to seek out every feature of the pouch
and of the people who were burning in it.

Just as the dolphins do, when with arched back,
they signal to the seamen to prepare
for tempest, that their vessel may be spared,

so here from time to time, to ease his torment,
some sinner showed his back above the surface,
then hid more quickly than a lightning flash.

And just as on the margin of a ditch,
frogs crouch, their snouts alone above the water,
so as to hide their feet and their plump flesh,

so here on every side these sinners crouched;
but faster than a flash, when Barbariccia
drew near, they plunged beneath the boiling pitch.

I saw-my heart still shudders in recall—
one who delayed, just as at times a frog
is left behind while others dive below;

and Graffiacane, who was closest to him,
then hooked him by his pitch—entangled locks
and hauled him up; he seemed to me an otter.

By now I knew the names of all those demons—
I’d paid attention when the fiends were chosen;
I’d watched as they stepped forward one by one.

“O Rubicante, see you set your talons
right into him, so you can flay his flesh!”
So did those cursed ones cry out together.

And I: “My master, if you can, find out
what is the name of that unfortunate
who’s fallen victim to his enemies.”

My guide, who then drew near that sinner’s side,
asked him to tell his birthplace. He replied:
“My homeland was the kingdom of Navarre.

My mother, who had had me by a wastrel,
destroyer of himself and his possessions,
had placed me in the service of a lord.

Then I was in the household of the worthy
King Thibault; there I started taking graft;
with this heat I pay reckoning for that.”

And Ciriatto, from whose mouth there bulged
to right and left two tusks like a wild hog’s,
then let him feel how one of them could mangle.

The mouse had fallen in with evil cats;
but Barbariccia clasped him in his arms
and said: “Stand off there, while I fork him fast.”

And turning toward my master then, he said:
“Ask on, if you would learn some more from him
before one of the others does him in.”

At which my guide: “Now tell: among the sinners
who hide beneath the pitch, are any others
Italian?” And he: “I have just left

one who was nearby there; and would I were
still covered by the pitch as he is hidden,
for then I’d have no fear of hook or talon.”

And Libicocco said, “We’ve been too patient!”
and, with his grapple, grabbed him by the arm
and, ripping, carried off a hunk of flesh.

But Draghignazzo also looked as if
to grab his legs; at which, their captain wheeled
and threatened all of them with raging looks.

When they’d grown somewhat less tumultuous,
without delay my guide asked of that one
who had his eyes still fixed upon his wound:

“Who was the one you left to come ashore—
unluckily—as you just said before?”
He answered: “Fra Gomita of Gallura,

who was a vessel fit for every fraud;
he had his master’s enemies in hand,
but handled them in ways that pleased them all.

He took their gold and smoothly let them off,
as he himself says; and in other matters,
he was a sovereign, not a petty, swindler.

His comrade there is Don Michele Zanche
of Logodoro; and their tongues are never
too tired to talk of their Sardinia.

Ah me, see that one there who grinds his teeth!
If I were not afraid, I’d speak some more,
but he is getting set to scratch my scurf.”

And their great marshal, facing Farfarello—
who was so hot to strike he rolled his eyes,
said: “Get away from there, you filthy bird!”

“If you perhaps would like to see or hear,”
that sinner, terrified, began again,
“Lombards or Tuscans, I can fetch you some;

but let the Malebranche stand aside
so that my comrades need not fear their vengeance.
Remaining in this very spot, I shall,

although alone, make seven more appear
when I have whistled, as has been our custom
when one of us has managed to get out.”

At that, Cagnazzo lifted up his snout
and shook his head, and said: “Just listen to
that trick by which he thinks he can dive back!”

To this, he who was rich in artifice
replied: “Then I must have too many tricks,
if I bring greater torment to my friends.”

This was too much for Alichino and,
despite the others, he cried out: “If you
dive back, I shall not gallop after you

but beat my wings above the pitch; we’ll leave
this height; with the embankment as a screen,
we’ll see if you—alone—can handle us.”

O you who read, hear now of this new sport:
each turned his eyes upon the other shore,
he first who’d been most hesitant before.

The Navarrese, in nick of time, had planted
his feet upon the ground; then in an instant
he jumped and freed himself from their commander.

At this each demon felt the prick of guilt,
and most, he who had led his band to blunder;
so he took off and shouted: “You are caught!”

But this could help him little; wings were not
more fast than fear; the sinner plunged right under;
the other, flying up, lifted his chest:

not otherwise the wild duck when it plunges
precipitously, when the falcon nears
and then—exhausted, thwarted—flies back up.

But Calcabrina, raging at the trick,
flew after Alichino; he was keen
to see the sinner free and have a brawl;

and once the Navarrese had disappeared,
he turned his talons on his fellow demon
and tangled with him just above the ditch.

But Alichino clawed him well—he was
indeed a full—grown kestrel; and both fell
into the middle of the boiling pond.

The heat was quick to disentangle them,
but still there was no way they could get out;
their wings were stuck, enmeshed in glue—like pitch.

And Barbariccia, grieving with the rest,
sent four to fly out toward the other shore
with all their forks, and speedily enough

on this side and on that they took their posts;
and toward those two—stuck fast, already cooked
beneath that crust—they stretched their grappling hooks.

We left them still contending with that mess.

I HAVE erewhile seen horsemen moving camp,
Begin the storming, and their muster make,
And sometimes starting off for their escape;

Vaunt—couriers have I seen upon your land,
O Aretines, and foragers go forth,
Tournaments stricken, and the joustings run,

Sometimes with trumpets and sometimes with bells,
With kettle—drums, and signals of the castles,
And with our own, and with outlandish things,

But never yet with bagpipe so uncouth
Did I see horsemen move, nor infantry,
Nor ship by any sign of land or star.

We went upon our way with the ten demons;
Ah, savage company ! but in the church
With saints, and in the tavern with the gluttons!

Ever upon the pitch was my intent,
To see the whole condition of that Bolgia,
And of the people who therein were burned.

Even as the dolphins, when they make a sign
To mariners by arching of the back,
That they should counsel take to save their vessel,

Thus sometimes, to alleviate his pain,
One of the sinners would display his back,
And in less time conceal it than it lightens.

As on the brink of water in a ditch
The frogs stand only with their muzzles out,
So that they hide their feet and other bulk.

So upon every side the sinners stood;
But ever as Barbariccia near them came,
Thus underneath the boiling they withdrew.

I saw, and still my heart doth shudder at it,
One waiting thus, even as it comes to pass
One frog remains, and down another dives;

And Graffiacan, who most confronted him,
Grappled him by his tresses smeared with pitch,
And drew him up, so that he seemed an otter.

I knew, before, the names of all of them,
So had I noted them when they were chosen,
And when they called each other, listened how.

“O Rubicante, see that thou do lay
Thy claws upon him, so that thou mayst flay him,”
Cried all together the accursed ones.

And I: “My Master, see to it, if thou canst,
That thou mayst know who is the luckless wight,
Thus come into his adversaries’ hands.”

Near to the side of him my Leader drew,
Asked of him whence he was; and he replied:
“I in the kingdom of Navarre was born;

My mother placed me servant to a lord,
For she had borne me to a ribald knave,
Destroyer of himself and of his things.

Then I domestic was of good King Thibault;
I set me there to practise barratry,
For which I pay the reckoning in this heat.”

And Ciriatto, from whose mouth projected,
On either side, a tusk, as in a boar,
Caused him to feel how one of them could rip.

Among malicious cats the mouse had come;
But Barbariccia clasped him in his arms,
And said: “Stand ye aside, while I enfork him.”

And to my Master he turned round his head;
“Ask him again,” he said, “if more thou wish
To know from him, before some one destroy him.”

The Guide: “Now tell then of the other culprits;
Knowest thou any one who is a Latian,
Under the pitch ?” And he: “I separated

Lately from one who was a neighbour to it;
Would that I still were covered up with him,
For I should fear not either claw nor hook !”

And Libicocco: “We have borne too much;”
And with his grapnel seized him by the arm,
So that, by rending, he tore off a tendon.

Eke Draghignazzo wished to pounce upon him
Down at the legs; whence their Decurion
Turned round and round about with evil look.

When they again somewhat were pacified,
Of him, who still was looking at his wound,
Demanded my Conductor without stay:

“Who was that one, from whom a luckless parting
Thou sayest thou hast made, to come ashore?”
And he replied “It was the Friar Gomita,

He of Gallura, vessel of all fraud,
Who had the enemies of his Lord in hand,
And dealt so with them each exults thereat;

Money he took, and let them smoothly off,
As he says; and in other offices
A barrator was he, not mean but sovereign.

Foregathers with him one Don Michael Zanche
Of Logodoro; and of Sardinia
To gossip never do their tongues feel tired.

O me ! see that one, how he grinds his teeth;
Still farther would I speak, but am afraid
Lest he to scratch my itch be making ready.”

And the grand Provost, turned to Farfarello,
Who rolled his eyes about as if to strike,
Said: “Stand aside there, thou malicious bird.”

“If you desire either to see or hear,”
The terror—stricken recommenced thereon,
“Tuscans or Lombards. I will make them come.

But let the Malebranche cease a little,
So that these may not their revenges fear,
And I, down sitting in this very place,

For one that I am will make seven come,
When I shall whistle, as our custom is
To do whenever one of us comes out.”

Cagnazzo at these words his muzzle lifted,
Shaking his head, and said: “Just hear the trick
Which he has thought of, down to throw himself !

Whence he, who snares in great abundance had,
Responded: “I by far too cunning am,
When I procure for mine a greater sadness.”

Alichin held not in, but running counter
Unto the rest, said to him: “If thou dive,
I will not follow thee upon the gallop,

But I will beat my wings above the pitch;
The height be left, and be the bank a shield
To see if thou alone dost countervail us.”

O thou who readest, thou shalt hear new sport !
Each to the other side his eyes averted;
He first, who most reluctant was to do it.

The Navarrese selected well his time;
Planted his feet on land, and in a moment
Leaped, and released himself from their design.

Whereat each one was suddenly stung with shame,
But he most who was cause of the defeat;
Therefore he moved, and cried: “Thou art o’ertakern.”

But little it availed, for wings could not
Outstrip the fear; the other one went under,
And, flying, upward he his breast directed;

Not otherwise the duck upon a sudden
Dives under, when the falcon is approaching,
And upward he returneth cross and weary.

Infuriate at the mockery, Calcabrina
Flying behind him followed close, desirous
The other should escape, to have a quarrel.

And when the barrator had disappeared,
He turned his talons upon his companion,
And grappled with him right above the moat.

But sooth the other was a doughty sparhawk
To clapperclaw him well; and both of them
Fell in the middle of the boiling pond.

A sudden intercessor was the heat;
But ne’ertheless of rising there was naught,
To such degree they had their wings belimed.

Lamenting with the others, Barbariccia
Made four of them fly to the other side
With all their gaffs, and very speedily

This side and that they to their posts descended;
They stretched their hooks towards the pitch—ensnared,
Who were already baked within the crust,

And in this manner busied did we leave them.

Reading by Francesco Bausi: Inferno 22

For more readings by Francesco Bausi, see the Bausi Readings page.