Erotic Ice to Frozen Core

  • Dante’s poetic mission, transferred from the canzone Così nel mio parlar (one of the rime petrose) to Inferno 32
  • hair-pulling, transferred from a gendered and sexualized context in the erotic canzone Così nel mio parlar to a political context vis-à-vis Bocca degli Abati in Inferno 32
  • winter, transferred from the rime petrose to the pit of Hell
  • ice: the frozen core—the frozen heart—at the center of the universe
  • ice: the mirror of the self
  • the structural connection between family and betrayal in the upper stratum of society anticipates the Ugolino episode
  • there are multiple connections between the traitors and Inferno 5: “Caina” is named in Inf. 5.107 as Gianciotto’s future home; the traitor Tebaldello de’ Zambrasi of Faenza became Gianciotto’s father-in-law (after Francesca’s death Tebaldello’s daughter Zambrasina married the widower Gianciotto Malatesta)
  • the “bestial segno” and the utter distortion of language: used not to comfort and console and communicate but to betray

As is usual for Dante, acknowledgment of radical representational inadequacy reinforces his dedication to overcome such lack, to be “di natura buona scimia” (Inf. 29.139): a “good ape of nature”, in other words, a great mimetic artist. He seeks to find the language that will eliminate difference, traversing the space between what De vulgari eloquentia calls the rational and the sensual aspects of language, i.e., the space between the meaning and the sound, between the signified and signifier. The goal is to achieve a language that is indivisible from reality, “sì che dal fatto il dir non sia diverso” (so that my word not differ from the fact [Inf. 32.12]).

Accordingly, the great cascade of metapoetic language that opens Inferno 32 celebrates the fundamental principle of Dantean mimesis: language must not differ from reality. What Dante seeks is the exact opposite of Nembrot’s affliction. If Nembrot is condemned in Inferno 31 to “parlare a vòto”—to “speak emptily” or vainly (Inf. 31.79)—Dante seeks a parlare that clings to reality like a burr, annihilating all distance between the fatto—the event as it occurs—and the dir that represents it.

Because we exist in time, and because our representation of life always comes into existence belatedly with respect to life itself, Dante’s quest is an impossible one: it is an “ovra inconsummabile”—“unaccomplishable task” (Par. 26.125)—as per the language with which Adam describes Nembrot’s attempt to build the Tower of Babel in Paradiso 26. Nonetheless, the ovra inconsummabile of creating a language in which dir is not different from fatto, a feat (“impresa” [Inf. 32.7]) undertaken with full understanding of the metaphysical reasons because of which such a goal is eternally out of reach, is without a doubt the great heroic, indeed Ulyssean, quest of the Commedia. In my opinion, Dante accomplishes this ovra inconsummabile as well as any person who has ever lived.

Inferno 32 begins with an extraordinary metapoetic opening that includes an invocation to the Muses and also echoes Dante’s own erotic canzone Così nel mio parlar voglio esser aspro (written circa 1296). This canzone, one of the rime petrose, itself boasts a metapoetic opening, in which Dante writes about the desire to find a poetic form that is fully commensurate with his content. The canzone’s content centers on a beautiful and stone-cold woman (“questa bella petra”), whose actions are as harsh and unyielding as stone (“com’è ne li atti questa bella petra”). Consequently the poet seeks language (“parlar”) that is as harsh (“aspro”) as is the lady in her behavior:

Così nel mio parlar voglio esser aspro
com’è ne li atti questa bella petra . . . (Così nel mio parlar, 1-2)
I want to be as harsh in my speech
as this fair stone is in her deeds . . .

In the opening of Così nel mio parlar, the poet wants to align his parlare with the harsh atti that he seeks to describe. In the opening of Inferno 32, the poet wants to align his dir with the harsh fatti that he seeks to represent.

It is the same poetic program, transferred from conjuring a scene of violent and frustrated eros in the canzone to describing the violent “fondo a tutto l’universo” (bottom of the universe [Inf. 32.8]) in Inferno.

Along with the same poetic program, Dante also transfers the same stylistic modality—harsh rhymes—from the canzone to the Commedia. As in Così nel mio parlar voglio esser aspro the poet desired harsh speech, a “parlar . . . aspro”, now at the end of Hell he desires harsh and rasping rhymes, “rime aspre e chiocce” (we remember that Plutus had a “voce chioccia” in Inferno 7.2):

  S’io avessi le rime aspre e chiocce,
come si converrebbe al tristo buco
sovra ’l qual pontan tutte l’altre rocce,
  io premerei di mio concetto il suco
più pienamente . . . (Inf. 32.1-5)
  Had I the crude and scrannel rhymes to suit
the melancholy hole upon which all
the other circling crags converge and rest,
  the juice of my conception would be pressed
more fully . . . 

Then, in the canzone, the goal was to find language that matched the harshness of the lady he loved. Now, in Inferno, it is to find language fit to render the unremittingly harsh reality of the pit of Hell:

  ché non è impresa da pigliare a gabbo
discriver fondo a tutto l'universo,
né da lingua che chiami mamma o babbo. (Inf. 32.7-9)
  for it is not a task to take in jest,
to show the base of all the universe—
nor for a tongue that cries out, "mama," "papa."

The consonance between canzone and Inferno 32 goes further, involving an act of violence committed by the poet in both works. In Così nel mio parlar the poet imagines that he takes a violent and erotic revenge on the lady for her resistance, in a scene that involves seizing her by her beautiful braids:

S’io avessi le belle trecce prese,
che fatte son per me scudiscio e ferza,
pigliandole anzi terza,
con esse passerei vespero e squille:
e non sarei pietoso né cortese,
anzi farei com’orso quando scherza;
e se Amor me ne sferza,
io mi vendicherei di più di mille. (Così nel mio parlar, 66-73)

Once I’d taken in my hand the fair locks
which have become my whip and lash,
seizing them before terce
I’d pass through vespers with them and the evening bell:
and I’d not show pity or courtesy,
O no, I’d be like a bear at play. 
And though Love whips me with them now, 
I would take my revenge more than a thousandfold. (Foster & Boyde)

In Inferno 32 Dante will pull hair again, and pull it violently—not this time the hair of a lady who rejects his desire, but the hair of Bocca degli Abati, the Guelph nobleman whom he here brands the arch-traitor of the battle of Montaperti (the identification of Bocca as the traitor of Montaperti is not completely confirmed). Bocca now howls in pain (“latrando lui” [Inf. 32.105]), as Dante once howled in desire for the stony lady: “Ohmè, perché non latra / per me, com’io per lei, nel caldo borro?” (Alas, why does she not howl / for me in the hot gorge, as I for her? [Così nel mio parlar, 59-60]).

In this way Dante channels the violence and frustration of his early canzone into his violent anger toward Bocca degli Abati: from a violent eros that remains in the private and subjective domain of lyric poetry he moves to the violent public history of Florence and Tuscany. Moreover, as discussed in the essay “Dante’s Sympathy for the Other”, Dante here transfers hair-pulling from the sexualized and gendered domain to a desexualized and political domain. The sexual stereotype has mutated into the shaming of a man for his political treachery:

The aggressively sexualized hair-pulling of the canzone feeds not into the Commedia’s treatment of female sexual sin but into the shaming of a man in Inferno 32 (a canto whose opening request for «rime aspre e chiocce» echoes the incipit of Così nel mio parlar). Rather than an adulterous woman, the hair-pulling of Inferno 32 involves Bocca degli Abati, the Florentine arch-traitor of the battle of Montaperti: a man. (“Dante’s Sympathy for the Other”, p. 179)

* * *

The sin that Dante stipulates for the ninth circle of Hell is treachery: fraud practiced on those who trust us, as he defines it in Inferno 11.53. The ninth circle is thus a continuation of the eighth, which features sinners who deceived people with whom they shared no special bonds of trust. Dante has given about half the real estate of Hell to fraud, given that we enter the circle of fraud in Inferno 18 and that fraud persists as an organizing principle until the end of Inferno.

When the travelers arrive at the fondo dell’universo, the ninth circle, they see ice: ice so thick that if certain very large and particularly stony mountains fell upon this ice, it would not crack (verses 25-30). One of the mountains named in this passage is “Pietrapana” (from Pietra Apuana), a mountain in the Apuan Alps in Tuscany that is now called Pania della Croce. Its very name, Pietrapana, reminds us of the ice-cold stony lady of the rime petrose.

And indeed, as the poetic program of lowest Hell is imprinted with a rima petrosa, so too is the air, the landscape, the very “weather” of this place. The petrose are winter poems, poems that explore a love that renders the self stone-dead and ice-cold. The icy death of the rime petrose, subjective and psychological, has now been projected onto objective reality: it has been conjured as the frozen lake of Cocytus, the frozen core—the frozen heart—at the center of the universe.

Ice was no more a popular frame of reference for Hell in the medieval cultural imaginary than in ours. Dante ignores convention to make his point: ice = lack of all warmth, lack of all life, lack of all love. The ninth circle features the icy coldness of death. The ice of Cocytus is maintained by a frigid wind, which (as we will learn in Inferno 34) is generated by Lucifer’s bat-like wings. A first mention of the frigid wind of lowest Hell is found in verse 75: “e io tremava ne l’etterno rezzo” (and I was trembling in the eternal breeze [Inf. 32.75]).

The smooth ice of Cocytus, which the extreme cold has caused to take on the appearance of glass (“avea di vetro e non d’acqua sembiante” [it looks like glass, not water Inf. 32.24]), serves as a mirror. Camicion de’ Pazzi says to Dante, in verse 54, “Perché cotanto in noi ti specchi?”, which, literally translated, means: “Why do you so mirror yourself in us?” (Inf. 32.54).

This is a lake of glass in which the self is mirrored, for the journey through Hell, which now draws to an end, is not only about recognizing evil in others: we must also recognize evil in ourselves.

The ice is the home of traitors, for betrayal is human behavior that is premised on lack of love. Here in the ninth circle we find four types of betrayal (although as we shall see one type easily bleeds into another): betrayal of family, betrayal of country or party, betrayal of friends and guests, betrayal of benefactors. Dante imagines that the ice of Cocytus is roughly divided into four zones accordingly and that the sinners exhibit different postures in the ice according to which zone they inhabit. The sinners in lowest hell are those who defiled the bonds of family and community that we humans hold most dear.

The first section of Cocytus, devoted to the betrayal of family, is called “Caina” (58) after biblical Cain who killed his brother Abel. Dante offers this label in the ferocious description of two brothers who are locked together in the ice for eternity:

D’un corpo usciro; e tutta la Caina
potrai cercare, e non troverai ombra
degna più d’esser fitta in gelatina. (Inf. 32.58-60)

They came out of one body; and you can
search all Caina, you will never find
a shade more fit to sit within this ice. 

The mutual hatred (based on quarrels over inheritance) of these two brothers, Napoleone and Alessandro degli Alberti, counts of Mangona, led to their killing each other. The double fratricide was followed in the next generation by the killing of Napoleone’s son, Orso, by the hand of Alessandro’s son, Alberto (Sapegno, p. 354, who cites Barbi).

The killing of brother by brother reminds us of the first usage of the word “Caina” in Inferno 5, where it is used by Francesca da Rimini. She refers to the future infernal resting-place of her husband, Gianciotto, guilty of killing both his wife and his brother Paolo, her lover, and thus destined to join the traitors of family: “Caina attende chi a vita ci spense” (Caina waits for him who took our life [Inf. 5.107]). Interestingly, another parallel between the counts of Mangona and the Malatesta clan is the transmittal of the desire for vengeance to the next generation. For, as I note in an essay on Francesca da Rimini, Gianciotto’s son Ramberto killed Paolo’s son Uberto, just as Alessandro’s son Alberto killed Napoleone’s son Orso:

The struggle for power among the cousins was so fierce, and betrayal so customary, that Gianciotto’s son Ramberto would eventually invite Paolo’s son Uberto to dinner and there, in concert with other family members, have him killed. (Dante and Francesca da Rimini: Realpolitik, Romance, Gender”, p. 24)

As the Malatesta family well demonstrates, there is not a clear demarcation between family betrayal and political betrayal. This blurring of the lines between family ties and the exercise of political power, systemic in Dante’s society, comes into focus in the episode that dominates the next canto, that of Count Ugolino della Gherardesca.

There is another tidbit of Malatesta history that relates Francesca’s story to Inferno 32. In verses 122-23 of this canto, Dante presents the political traitor Tebaldello de’ Zambrasi of Faenza: “Tebaldello, / ch’aprì Faenza quando si dormia” (he who unlocked Faenza while it slept). Tebaldello’s daughter Zambrasina married the widower Gianciotto Malatesta and bore him five children after Francesca’s demise, “thus achieving the unique status of being wife of one traitor in Dante’s hell and daughter of another” (“Dante and Francesca da Rimini”, p. 19).

A final point about the word “Caina” in Inferno 5.107. Whatever form of outlining or note-keeping Dante undertook in composing his intricate otherworld, he clearly had worked out at least a basic formal structure, as indicated by Francesca using the name Caina for lowest Hell way up in Inferno 5. This line not only shows that Dante had planned the structure of Hell in some detail quite a bit in advance, it also indicates that he likely understood that he was creating a text that would require commentary. The same early commentators who explain the identity of Francesca da Rimini also have the task of explaining what the word “Caina” signifies in Inf. 5.107.

However, while information about the identity of Francesca da Rimini has to be imported by the commentator from outside of the text, the significance of the word “Caina” in Inf. 5.107 is entirely internal: it can only be ascertained by reading Inferno 32. By treating his own virtual reality as equally deserving of gloss as a simile drawn from Ovid or the identity of a historical character, Dante contributes to the compelling verisimilitude of his text.

 * * *

The second zone of the ninth circle, ”Antenora” (verse 88), contains political traitors, including Bocca degli Abati, a Florentine Guelph whom Dante believed betrayed his fellow Guelphs at the battle of Montaperti (1260). The Abati family is a magnate family. (See the list of Florentine magnates compiled by the historian Carol Lansing in her book The Florentine Magnates, posted in the Introduction to Inferno 10.) Bocca degli Abati’s betrayal of Florence during the battle of Montaperti—he cut off the hand of the Florentine standard-bearer—turned the tide and led to the victory of the Sienese and the Florentine Ghibellines over the Florentine Guelphs.

Looking back at the chronicles of Florentine history in the Inferno that feature Montapertiin particular Inferno 10 and Inferno 28—we see that the battle of Montaperti is like a festering wound that never heals.

The exiled Florentine Ghibelline, Farinata degli Uberti of Inferno 10, led the Sienese forces to victory, and that victory initiated a violent back-and-forth as Ghibellines and Guelphs exchanged power and exiled each other throughout the subsequent decades. The violence of the encounter with Bocca degli Abati reflects this dolorous history: Dante suspects he is speaking to Bocca and when Bocca refuses to reveal his name (a name that is then “betrayed” to Dante by another traitor in Inf. 32.106) the pilgrim threatens to pull out his hair (Inf. 32.97-99).

The sinner who betrays Bocca is subsequently revealed by Bocca to be Buoso da Duera, who betrayed Manfredi and the Ghibelline cause: Buoso da Duera accepted a bribe from Charles of Anjou and withdrew all opposition to the passage of the French through Lombardy, thus leading to Manfredi’s defeat at Benevento (1266). Dante in this way offers both a Ghibelline traitor and a Guelph traitor, although his personal passion is reserved for the Guelph.

The pilgrim tells Bocca that he will heap shame on him by bringing “true news” of his whereabouts back to earth: “ch’a la tua onta / io porterò di te vere novelle” (for I shall carry / true news of you, and that will bring you shame [Inf. 32.110-11]). Here Dante threatens Bocca with the very stigma of profound shame and dishonor—the “onta” discussed in the Introduction to Inferno 29—that in the Geri del Bello episode he refused to assume for himself. While the failure to have performed vendetta does not deserve onta, the betrayal of one’s fellow citizens to their deaths certainly does.

The passion that Dante brings to the Bocca degli Abati episode simmers in its fierce repartee. Buoso asks Bocca why he is howling in pain, and wonders “what devil is touching you?”:

quando un altro gridò:Che hai tu, Bocca?
non ti basta sonar con le mascelle,
se tu non latri? qual diavol ti tocca?” (Inf. 32.106-8)

when someone else cried out: “What is it, Bocca?
Isn’t the music of your jaws enough
for you without your bark? What devil’s at you?”

Of course, the “devil” that is touching Bocca is none other than Dante, who here has “become” a devil or a minister of God’s justice, in fulfillment of the infernal mandate that “Qui vive la pietà quand’è ben morta” (Here pity lives when it is truly dead [Inf. 20.28]).

At the same time, it is worth noting that Dante is here participating in the kind of quarrel that Virgilio just recently, at the end of Inferno 30, rebuked him for even watching. Perhaps, as I suggested in the Introduction to Inferno 30, Virgilio’s rebuke was a sign of the Roman poet’s limited understanding of Hell, rather than a sign of Dante’s shameful behavior.

In the last section of Inferno 32, the travelers see one sinner savagely eating the skull of another, digging his teeth in “right at the place where brain is joined to nape” (Inf. 32.129). The pilgrim addresses the soul as one who shows his hatred through such a “bestial sign”: “O tu che mostri per sì bestial segno / odio sovra colui che tu ti mangi” (O you who show, with such a bestial sign, / your hatred for the one on whom you feed [Inf. 32.133-34]).

This is the beginning of the encounter with Ugolino della Gherardesca, whose story dominates Inferno 33.

The distortion of language that was signaled by Nembrot’s gibberish in Inferno 31 has now found its fitting rubric. Down here language is a “bestial segno” (bestial sign [Inf. 32.133]). These souls would have been better off had they been “pecore e zebe” (sheep and goats [Inf. 32.15]): now they chatter their teeth like storks (“mettendo i denti in nota di cicogna” [Inf. 32.36]) and howl like dogs (“latrando lui con gli occhi in giù raccolti” [Inf. 32.105]).

Their language is bestial not because it is poorly uttered or composed; as we will see Ugolino is an accomplished rhetorician. It is bestial because it does not respect the human ties that are the reason for language’s existence: it does not respect the ties of family and community. It is not used to comfort and console. It is used—like Buoso’s and Bocca’s language in Inferno 32—to betray.

Coordinated Reading

Coordinated Reading: The Undivine Comedy, pp. 93-94; Dante and Francesca da Rimini: Realpolitik, Romance, Gender”, Speculum 75 (2000): 1-28; “Dante’s Sympathy for the Other, or the Non-Stereotyping Imagination: Sexual and Racialized Others in the Commedia”, Critica del Testo 14 (2011): 177-204.

Recommended Citation

Barolini, Teodolinda. “Inferno 32: Erotic Ice to Frozen Core.” Commento Baroliniano, Digital Dante. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2017. https://digitaldante.columbia.edu/dante/divine-comedy/inferno/inferno-32/

About the Commento

1S’ïo avessi le rime aspre e chiocce,
2come si converrebbe al tristo buco
3sovra ’l qual pontan tutte l’altre rocce,

4io premerei di mio concetto il suco
5più pienamente; ma perch’ io non l’abbo,
6non sanza tema a dicer mi conduco;

7ché non è impresa da pigliare a gabbo
8discriver fondo a tutto l’universo,
9né da lingua che chiami mamma o babbo.

10Ma quelle donne aiutino il mio verso
11ch’aiutaro Anfïone a chiuder Tebe,
12sì che dal fatto il dir non sia diverso.

13Oh sovra tutte mal creata plebe
14che stai nel loco onde parlare è duro,
15mei foste state qui pecore o zebe!

16Come noi fummo giù nel pozzo scuro
17sotto i piè del gigante assai più bassi,
18e io mirava ancora a l’alto muro,

19dicere udi’mi: «Guarda come passi:
20va sì, che tu non calchi con le piante
21le teste de’ fratei miseri lassi».

22Per ch’io mi volsi, e vidimi davante
23e sotto i piedi un lago che per gelo
24avea di vetro e non d’acqua sembiante.

25Non fece al corso suo sì grosso velo
26di verno la Danoia in Osterlicchi,
27né Tanaï là sotto ’l freddo cielo,

28com’ era quivi; che se Tambernicchi
29vi fosse sù caduto, o Pietrapana,
30non avria pur da l’orlo fatto cricchi.

31E come a gracidar si sta la rana
32col muso fuor de l’acqua, quando sogna
33di spigolar sovente la villana,

34livide, insin là dove appar vergogna
35eran l’ombre dolenti ne la ghiaccia,
36mettendo i denti in nota di cicogna.

37Ognuna in giù tenea volta la faccia;
38da bocca il freddo, e da li occhi il cor tristo
39tra lor testimonianza si procaccia.

40Quand’ io m’ebbi dintorno alquanto visto,
41volsimi a’ piedi, e vidi due sì stretti,
42che ’l pel del capo avieno insieme misto.

43«Ditemi, voi che sì strignete i petti»,
44diss’ io, «chi siete?». E quei piegaro i colli;
45e poi ch’ebber li visi a me eretti,

46li occhi lor, ch’eran pria pur dentro molli,
47gocciar su per le labbra, e ’l gelo strinse
48le lagrime tra essi e riserrolli.

49Con legno legno spranga mai non cinse
50forte così; ond’ ei come due becchi
51cozzaro insieme, tanta ira li vinse.

52E un ch’avea perduti ambo li orecchi
53per la freddura, pur col viso in giùe,
54disse: «Perché cotanto in noi ti specchi?

55Se vuoi saper chi son cotesti due,
56la valle onde Bisenzo si dichina
57del padre loro Alberto e di lor fue.

58D’un corpo usciro; e tutta la Caina
59potrai cercare, e non troverai ombra
60degna più d’esser fitta in gelatina:

61non quelli a cui fu rotto il petto e l’ombra
62con esso un colpo per la man d’Artù;
63non Focaccia; non questi che m’ingombra

64col capo sì, ch’i’ non veggio oltre più,
65e fu nomato Sassol Mascheroni;
66se tosco se’, ben sai omai chi fu.

67E perché non mi metti in più sermoni,
68sappi ch’i’ fu’ il Camiscion de’ Pazzi;
69e aspetto Carlin che mi scagioni».

70Poscia vid’ io mille visi cagnazzi
71fatti per freddo; onde mi vien riprezzo,
72e verrà sempre, de’ gelati guazzi.

73E mentre ch’andavamo inver’ lo mezzo
74al quale ogne gravezza si rauna,
75e io tremava ne l’etterno rezzo;

76se voler fu o destino o fortuna,
77non so; ma, passeggiando tra le teste,
78forte percossi ’l piè nel viso ad una.

79Piangendo mi sgridò: «Perché mi peste?
80se tu non vieni a crescer la vendetta
81di Montaperti, perché mi moleste?».

82E io: «Maestro mio, or qui m’aspetta,
83sì ch’io esca d’un dubbio per costui;
84poi mi farai, quantunque vorrai, fretta».

85Lo duca stette, e io dissi a colui
86che bestemmiava duramente ancora:
87«Qual se’ tu che così rampogni altrui?».

88«Or tu chi se’ che vai per l’Antenora,
89percotendo», rispuose, «altrui le gote,
90sì che, se fossi vivo, troppo fora?».

91«Vivo son io, e caro esser ti puote»,
92fu mia risposta, «se dimandi fama,
93ch’io metta il nome tuo tra l’altre note».

94Ed elli a me: «Del contrario ho io brama.
95Lèvati quinci e non mi dar più lagna,
96ché mal sai lusingar per questa lama!».

97Allor lo presi per la cuticagna
98e dissi: «El converrà che tu ti nomi,
99o che capel qui sù non ti rimagna».

100Ond’ elli a me: «Perché tu mi dischiomi,
101né ti dirò ch’io sia, né mosterrolti,
102se mille fiate in sul capo mi tomi».

103Io avea già i capelli in mano avvolti,
104e tratti glien’ avea più d’una ciocca,
105latrando lui con li occhi in giù raccolti,

106quando un altro gridò: «Che hai tu, Bocca?
107non ti basta sonar con le mascelle,
108se tu non latri? qual diavol ti tocca?».

109«Omai», diss’ io, «non vo’ che più favelle,
110malvagio traditor; ch’a la tua onta
111io porterò di te vere novelle».

112«Va via», rispuose, «e ciò che tu vuoi conta;
113ma non tacer, se tu di qua entro eschi,
114di quel ch’ebbe or così la lingua pronta.

115El piange qui l’argento de’ Franceschi:
116“Io vidi”, potrai dir, “quel da Duera
117là dove i peccatori stanno freschi”.

118Se fossi domandato “Altri chi v’era?”,
119tu hai dallato quel di Beccheria
120di cui segò Fiorenza la gorgiera.

121Gianni de’ Soldanier credo che sia
122più là con Ganellone e Tebaldello,
123ch’aprì Faenza quando si dormia».

124Noi eravam partiti già da ello,
125ch’io vidi due ghiacciati in una buca,
126sì che l’un capo a l’altro era cappello;

127e come ’l pan per fame si manduca,
128così ’l sovran li denti a l’altro pose
129là ’ve ’l cervel s’aggiugne con la nuca:

130non altrimenti Tidëo si rose
131le tempie a Menalippo per disdegno,
132che quei faceva il teschio e l’altre cose.

133«O tu che mostri per sì bestial segno
134odio sovra colui che tu ti mangi,
135dimmi ’l perché», diss’ io, «per tal convegno,

136che se tu a ragion di lui ti piangi,
137sappiendo chi voi siete e la sua pecca,
138nel mondo suso ancora io te ne cangi,

139se quella con ch’io parlo non si secca».

Had I the crude and scrannel rhymes to suit
the melancholy hole upon which all
the other circling crags converge and rest,

the juice of my conception would be pressed
more fully; but because I feel their lack,
I bring myself to speak, yet speak in fear;

for it is not a task to take in jest,
to show the base of all the universe—
nor for a tongue that cries out, “mama,” “papa.”

But may those ladies now sustain my verse
who helped Amphion when he walled up Thebes,
so that my tale not differ from the fact.

O rabble, miscreated past all others,
there in the place of which it’s hard to speak,
better if here you had been goats or sheep!

When we were down below in the dark well,
beneath the giant’s feet and lower yet,
with my eyes still upon the steep embankment,

I heard this said to me: “Watch how you pass;
walk so that you not trample with your soles
the heads of your exhausted, wretched brothers.”

At this I turned and saw in front of me,
beneath my feet, a lake that, frozen fast,
had lost the look of water and seemed glass.

The Danube where it flows in Austria,
the Don beneath its frozen sky, have never
made for their course so thick a veil in winter

as there was here; for had Mount Tambernic
or Pietrapana’s mountain crashed upon it,
not even at the edge would it have creaked.

And as the croaking frog sits with its muzzle
above the water, in the season when
the peasant woman often dreams of gleaning,

so, livid in the ice, up to the place
where shame can show itself, were those sad shades,
whose teeth were chattering with notes like storks’.

Each kept his face bent downward steadily;
their mouths bore witness to the cold they felt,
just as their eyes proclaimed their sorry hearts.

When I had looked around a while, my eyes
turned toward my feet and saw two locked so close,
the hair upon their heads had intermingled.

“Do tell me, you whose chests are pressed so tight,”
I said, “who are you?” They bent back their necks,
and when they’d lifted up their faces toward me,

their eyes, which wept upon the ground before,
shed tears down on their lips until the cold
held fast the tears and locked their lids still more.

No clamp has ever fastened plank to plank
so tightly; and because of this, they butted
each other like two rams, such was their fury.

And one from whom the cold had taken both
his ears, who kept his face bent low, then said:
“Why do you keep on staring so at us?

If you would like to know who these two are:
that valley where Bisenzio descends,
belonged to them and to their father Alberto.

They came out of one body; and you can
search all Caina, you will never find
a shade more fit to sit within this ice—

not him who, at one blow, had chest and shadow
shattered by Arthur’s hand; and not Focaccia;
and not this sinner here who so impedes

my vision with his head, I can’t see past him;
his name was Sassol Mascheroni; if
you’re Tuscan, now you know who he has been.

And lest you keep me talking any longer,
know that I was Camiscion de’ Pazzi;
I’m waiting for Carlino to absolve me.”

And after that I saw a thousand faces
made doglike by the cold; for which I shudder—
and always will—when I face frozen fords.

And while we were advancing toward the center
to which all weight is drawn—I, shivering
in that eternally cold shadow—I

know not if it was will or destiny
or chance, but as I walked among the heads,
I struck my foot hard in the face of one.

Weeping, he chided then: “Why trample me?
If you’ve not come to add to the revenge
of Montaperti, why do you molest me?”

And I: “My master, now wait here for me,
that I may clear up just one doubt about him;
then you can make me hurry as you will.”

My guide stood fast, and I went on to ask
of him who still was cursing bitterly:
“Who are you that rebukes another so?”

“And who are you who go through Antenora,
striking the cheeks of others,” he replied,
“too roughly—even if you were alive?”

“I am alive, and can be precious to you
if you want fame,” was my reply, “for I
can set your name among my other notes.”

And he to me: “I want the contrary;
so go away and do not harass me—
your flattery is useless in this valley.”

At that I grabbed him by the scruff and said:
“You’ll have to name yourself to me or else
you won’t have even one hair left up here.”

And he to me: “Though you should strip me bald,
I shall not tell you who I am or show it,
not if you pound my head a thousand times.”

His hairs were wound around my hand already,
and I had plucked from him more than one tuft
while he was barking and his eyes stared down,

when someone else cried out: “What is it, Bocca?
Isn’t the music of your jaws enough
for you without your bark? What devil’s at you?”

“And now,” I said, “you traitor bent on evil,
I do not need your talk, for I shall carry
true news of you, and that will bring you shame.”

“Be off,” he answered; “tell them what you like,
but don’t be silent, if you make it back,
about the one whose tongue was now so quick.

Here he laments the silver of the Frenchmen;
‘I saw,’ you then can say, ‘him of Duera,
down there, where all the sinners are kept cool.’

And if you’re asked who else was there in ice,
one of the Beccheria is beside you—
he had his gullet sliced right through by Florence.

Gianni de’ Soldanieri, I believe,
lies there with Ganelon and Tebaldello,
he who unlocked Faenza while it slept.”

We had already taken leave of him,
when I saw two shades frozen in one hole,
so that one’s head served as the other’s cap;

and just as he who’s hungry chews his bread,
one sinner dug his teeth into the other
right at the place where brain is joined to nape:

no differently had Tydeus gnawed the temples
of Menalippus, out of indignation,
than this one chewed the skull and other parts.

“O you who show, with such a bestial sign,
your hatred for the one on whom you feed,
tell me the cause,” I said; “we can agree

that if your quarrel with him is justified,
then knowing who you are and what’s his sin,
I shall repay you yet on earth above,

if that with which I speak does not dry up.”

IF I had rhymes both rough and stridulous,
As were appropriate to the dismal hole
Down upon which thrust all the other rocks,

I would press out the juice of my conception
More fully; but because I have them not,
Not without fear I bring myself to speak;

For ’tis no enterprise to take in jest,
To sketch the bottom of all the universe,
Nor for a tongue that cries Mamma and Babbo.

But may those Ladies help this verse of mine,
Who helped Amphion in enclosing Thebes,
That from the fact the word be not diverse.

O rabble ill—begotten above all,
Who’re in the place to speak of which is hard,
‘Twere better ye had here been sheep or goats !

When we were down within the darksome well,
Beneath the giant’s feet, but lower far,
And I was scanning still the lofty wall,

heard it said to me: “Look how thou steppestI
Take heed thou do not trample with thy feet
The heads of the tired, miserable brothers !”

Whereat I turned me round, and saw before me
And underfoot a lake, that from the frost
The semblance had of glass, and not of water.

So thick a veil ne’er made upon its current
In winter—time Danube in Austria,
Nor there beneath the frigid sky the Don,

As there was here; so that if Tambernich
Had fallen upon it, or Pietrapana,
E’en at the edge ‘twould not have given a creak.

And as to croak the frog doth place himself
With muzzle out of water,— when is dreaming
Of gleaning oftentimes the peasant—girl,—

Livid, as far down as where shame appears,
Were the disconsolate shades within the ice,
Setting their teeth unto the note of storks.

Each one his countenance held downward bent:
From mouth the cold, from eyes the doeful heart
Among them witness of itself procures.

When round about me somewhat I had looked,
I downward turned me, and saw two so close,
The hair upon their heads together mingled.

“Ye who so strain your breasts together, tell me,”
I said.”who are you;”and they bent their necks,
And when to me their faces they had lifted,

Their eyes, which first were only moist within,
Gushed o’er the eyelids, and the frost congealed
The tears between, and locked them up again.

Clamp never bound together wood with wood
So strongly; whereat they, like two he—goats,
Butted together, so much wrath o’ercame them.

And one, who had by reason of the cold
Lost both his ears, still with his visage downward,
Said: “Why dost thou so mirror thyself in us ?

If thou desire to know who these two are,
The valley whence Bisenzio descends
Belonged to them and to their father Albert.

They from one body came, and all Caina
Thou shalt search through, and shalt not find a shade
More worthy to be fixed in gelatine;

Not he in whom were broken breast and shadow
At one and the same blow by Arthur’s hand;
Focaccia not; not he who me encumbers

So with his head I see no farther forward,
And bore the name of Sassol Mascheroni;
Well knowest thou who he was, if thou art Tuscan.

And that thou put me not to further speech,
Know that I Camicion de’ Pazzi was,
And wait Carlino to exonerate me.”

Then I beheld a thousand faces, made
Purple with cold; whence o’er me comes a shudder,
And evermore will come, at frozen ponds.

And while we were advancing tow’rds the middle,
Where everything of weight unites together,
And I was shivering in the eternal shade,

Whether ’twere will, or destiny, or chance,
I know not; but in walking ‘mong the heads
I struck my foot hard in the face of one.

Weeping he growled: “Why dost thou trample me ?
Unless thou comest to increase the vengeance
of Montaperti, why dost thou molest me?”

And I: “My Master, now wait here for me,
That I through him may issue from a doubt;
Then thou mayst hurry me, as thou shalt wish.”

The Leader stopped; and to that one I said
Who was blaspheming vehemently still:
“Who art thou, that thus reprehendest others ?”

“Now who art thou, that goest through Antenora
Smiting,” eplied he, “other people’s cheeks,
So that, if thou wert living, ’twere too much ?”

“Living I am, and dear to thee it may be,”
Was my response, ‘ if thou demandest fame,
That ‘mid the other notes thy name I place.”

And he to me: “For the reverse I long;
Take thyself hence, and give me no more trouble;
For ill thou knowest to flatter in this hollow.”

Then by the scalp behind I seized upon him,
And said: “It must needs be thou name thyself,
Or not a hair remain upon thee here.”

Whence he to me: “Though thou strip off my hair,
I will not tell thee who I am, nor show thee,
If on my head a thousand times thou fall.”

I had his hair in hand already twisted,
And more than one shock of it had pulled out,
He barking, with his eyes held firmly down,

When cried another: “What doth ail thee, Bocca ?
Is’t not enough to clatter with thy jaws,
But thou must bark ? what devil touches thee ?”

“Now,” said I, “I care not to have thee speak,
Accursed traitor; for unto thy shame
I will report of thee veracious news.”

“Begone,” replied he, “and tell what thou wilt,
But be not silent, if thou issue hence,
Of him who had just now his tongue so prompt;

He weepeth here the silver of the French;
‘I saw,’ thus canst thou phrase it, ‘him of Duera
There where the sinners stand out in the cold.’

If thou shouldst questioned be who else was there,
Thou hast beside thee him of Beccaria,
Of whom the gorget Florence slit asunder;

Gianni del Soldanier, I think, may be
Yonder with Ganellon, and Tebaldello
Who oped Faenza when the people slep

Already we had gone away from him,
When I beheld two frozen in one hole,
So that one head a hood was to the other;

And even as bread through hunger is devoured,
The uppermost on the other set his teeth,
There where the brain is to the nape united.

Not in another fashion Tydeus gnawed
The temples of Menalippus in disdain,
Than that one did the skull and the other things.

“O thou, who showest by such bestial sign
Thy hatred against him whom thou art eating,
Tell me the wherefore,” said I, “with this compact,

That if thou rightfully of him complain,
In knowing who ye are, and his transgression,
I in the world above repay thee for it,

If that wherewith I speak be not dried up.”

Had I the crude and scrannel rhymes to suit
the melancholy hole upon which all
the other circling crags converge and rest,

the juice of my conception would be pressed
more fully; but because I feel their lack,
I bring myself to speak, yet speak in fear;

for it is not a task to take in jest,
to show the base of all the universe—
nor for a tongue that cries out, “mama,” “papa.”

But may those ladies now sustain my verse
who helped Amphion when he walled up Thebes,
so that my tale not differ from the fact.

O rabble, miscreated past all others,
there in the place of which it’s hard to speak,
better if here you had been goats or sheep!

When we were down below in the dark well,
beneath the giant’s feet and lower yet,
with my eyes still upon the steep embankment,

I heard this said to me: “Watch how you pass;
walk so that you not trample with your soles
the heads of your exhausted, wretched brothers.”

At this I turned and saw in front of me,
beneath my feet, a lake that, frozen fast,
had lost the look of water and seemed glass.

The Danube where it flows in Austria,
the Don beneath its frozen sky, have never
made for their course so thick a veil in winter

as there was here; for had Mount Tambernic
or Pietrapana’s mountain crashed upon it,
not even at the edge would it have creaked.

And as the croaking frog sits with its muzzle
above the water, in the season when
the peasant woman often dreams of gleaning,

so, livid in the ice, up to the place
where shame can show itself, were those sad shades,
whose teeth were chattering with notes like storks’.

Each kept his face bent downward steadily;
their mouths bore witness to the cold they felt,
just as their eyes proclaimed their sorry hearts.

When I had looked around a while, my eyes
turned toward my feet and saw two locked so close,
the hair upon their heads had intermingled.

“Do tell me, you whose chests are pressed so tight,”
I said, “who are you?” They bent back their necks,
and when they’d lifted up their faces toward me,

their eyes, which wept upon the ground before,
shed tears down on their lips until the cold
held fast the tears and locked their lids still more.

No clamp has ever fastened plank to plank
so tightly; and because of this, they butted
each other like two rams, such was their fury.

And one from whom the cold had taken both
his ears, who kept his face bent low, then said:
“Why do you keep on staring so at us?

If you would like to know who these two are:
that valley where Bisenzio descends,
belonged to them and to their father Alberto.

They came out of one body; and you can
search all Caina, you will never find
a shade more fit to sit within this ice—

not him who, at one blow, had chest and shadow
shattered by Arthur’s hand; and not Focaccia;
and not this sinner here who so impedes

my vision with his head, I can’t see past him;
his name was Sassol Mascheroni; if
you’re Tuscan, now you know who he has been.

And lest you keep me talking any longer,
know that I was Camiscion de’ Pazzi;
I’m waiting for Carlino to absolve me.”

And after that I saw a thousand faces
made doglike by the cold; for which I shudder—
and always will—when I face frozen fords.

And while we were advancing toward the center
to which all weight is drawn—I, shivering
in that eternally cold shadow—I

know not if it was will or destiny
or chance, but as I walked among the heads,
I struck my foot hard in the face of one.

Weeping, he chided then: “Why trample me?
If you’ve not come to add to the revenge
of Montaperti, why do you molest me?”

And I: “My master, now wait here for me,
that I may clear up just one doubt about him;
then you can make me hurry as you will.”

My guide stood fast, and I went on to ask
of him who still was cursing bitterly:
“Who are you that rebukes another so?”

“And who are you who go through Antenora,
striking the cheeks of others,” he replied,
“too roughly—even if you were alive?”

“I am alive, and can be precious to you
if you want fame,” was my reply, “for I
can set your name among my other notes.”

And he to me: “I want the contrary;
so go away and do not harass me—
your flattery is useless in this valley.”

At that I grabbed him by the scruff and said:
“You’ll have to name yourself to me or else
you won’t have even one hair left up here.”

And he to me: “Though you should strip me bald,
I shall not tell you who I am or show it,
not if you pound my head a thousand times.”

His hairs were wound around my hand already,
and I had plucked from him more than one tuft
while he was barking and his eyes stared down,

when someone else cried out: “What is it, Bocca?
Isn’t the music of your jaws enough
for you without your bark? What devil’s at you?”

“And now,” I said, “you traitor bent on evil,
I do not need your talk, for I shall carry
true news of you, and that will bring you shame.”

“Be off,” he answered; “tell them what you like,
but don’t be silent, if you make it back,
about the one whose tongue was now so quick.

Here he laments the silver of the Frenchmen;
‘I saw,’ you then can say, ‘him of Duera,
down there, where all the sinners are kept cool.’

And if you’re asked who else was there in ice,
one of the Beccheria is beside you—
he had his gullet sliced right through by Florence.

Gianni de’ Soldanieri, I believe,
lies there with Ganelon and Tebaldello,
he who unlocked Faenza while it slept.”

We had already taken leave of him,
when I saw two shades frozen in one hole,
so that one’s head served as the other’s cap;

and just as he who’s hungry chews his bread,
one sinner dug his teeth into the other
right at the place where brain is joined to nape:

no differently had Tydeus gnawed the temples
of Menalippus, out of indignation,
than this one chewed the skull and other parts.

“O you who show, with such a bestial sign,
your hatred for the one on whom you feed,
tell me the cause,” I said; “we can agree

that if your quarrel with him is justified,
then knowing who you are and what’s his sin,
I shall repay you yet on earth above,

if that with which I speak does not dry up.”

IF I had rhymes both rough and stridulous,
As were appropriate to the dismal hole
Down upon which thrust all the other rocks,

I would press out the juice of my conception
More fully; but because I have them not,
Not without fear I bring myself to speak;

For ’tis no enterprise to take in jest,
To sketch the bottom of all the universe,
Nor for a tongue that cries Mamma and Babbo.

But may those Ladies help this verse of mine,
Who helped Amphion in enclosing Thebes,
That from the fact the word be not diverse.

O rabble ill—begotten above all,
Who’re in the place to speak of which is hard,
‘Twere better ye had here been sheep or goats !

When we were down within the darksome well,
Beneath the giant’s feet, but lower far,
And I was scanning still the lofty wall,

heard it said to me: “Look how thou steppestI
Take heed thou do not trample with thy feet
The heads of the tired, miserable brothers !”

Whereat I turned me round, and saw before me
And underfoot a lake, that from the frost
The semblance had of glass, and not of water.

So thick a veil ne’er made upon its current
In winter—time Danube in Austria,
Nor there beneath the frigid sky the Don,

As there was here; so that if Tambernich
Had fallen upon it, or Pietrapana,
E’en at the edge ‘twould not have given a creak.

And as to croak the frog doth place himself
With muzzle out of water,— when is dreaming
Of gleaning oftentimes the peasant—girl,—

Livid, as far down as where shame appears,
Were the disconsolate shades within the ice,
Setting their teeth unto the note of storks.

Each one his countenance held downward bent:
From mouth the cold, from eyes the doeful heart
Among them witness of itself procures.

When round about me somewhat I had looked,
I downward turned me, and saw two so close,
The hair upon their heads together mingled.

“Ye who so strain your breasts together, tell me,”
I said.”who are you;”and they bent their necks,
And when to me their faces they had lifted,

Their eyes, which first were only moist within,
Gushed o’er the eyelids, and the frost congealed
The tears between, and locked them up again.

Clamp never bound together wood with wood
So strongly; whereat they, like two he—goats,
Butted together, so much wrath o’ercame them.

And one, who had by reason of the cold
Lost both his ears, still with his visage downward,
Said: “Why dost thou so mirror thyself in us ?

If thou desire to know who these two are,
The valley whence Bisenzio descends
Belonged to them and to their father Albert.

They from one body came, and all Caina
Thou shalt search through, and shalt not find a shade
More worthy to be fixed in gelatine;

Not he in whom were broken breast and shadow
At one and the same blow by Arthur’s hand;
Focaccia not; not he who me encumbers

So with his head I see no farther forward,
And bore the name of Sassol Mascheroni;
Well knowest thou who he was, if thou art Tuscan.

And that thou put me not to further speech,
Know that I Camicion de’ Pazzi was,
And wait Carlino to exonerate me.”

Then I beheld a thousand faces, made
Purple with cold; whence o’er me comes a shudder,
And evermore will come, at frozen ponds.

And while we were advancing tow’rds the middle,
Where everything of weight unites together,
And I was shivering in the eternal shade,

Whether ’twere will, or destiny, or chance,
I know not; but in walking ‘mong the heads
I struck my foot hard in the face of one.

Weeping he growled: “Why dost thou trample me ?
Unless thou comest to increase the vengeance
of Montaperti, why dost thou molest me?”

And I: “My Master, now wait here for me,
That I through him may issue from a doubt;
Then thou mayst hurry me, as thou shalt wish.”

The Leader stopped; and to that one I said
Who was blaspheming vehemently still:
“Who art thou, that thus reprehendest others ?”

“Now who art thou, that goest through Antenora
Smiting,” eplied he, “other people’s cheeks,
So that, if thou wert living, ’twere too much ?”

“Living I am, and dear to thee it may be,”
Was my response, ‘ if thou demandest fame,
That ‘mid the other notes thy name I place.”

And he to me: “For the reverse I long;
Take thyself hence, and give me no more trouble;
For ill thou knowest to flatter in this hollow.”

Then by the scalp behind I seized upon him,
And said: “It must needs be thou name thyself,
Or not a hair remain upon thee here.”

Whence he to me: “Though thou strip off my hair,
I will not tell thee who I am, nor show thee,
If on my head a thousand times thou fall.”

I had his hair in hand already twisted,
And more than one shock of it had pulled out,
He barking, with his eyes held firmly down,

When cried another: “What doth ail thee, Bocca ?
Is’t not enough to clatter with thy jaws,
But thou must bark ? what devil touches thee ?”

“Now,” said I, “I care not to have thee speak,
Accursed traitor; for unto thy shame
I will report of thee veracious news.”

“Begone,” replied he, “and tell what thou wilt,
But be not silent, if thou issue hence,
Of him who had just now his tongue so prompt;

He weepeth here the silver of the French;
‘I saw,’ thus canst thou phrase it, ‘him of Duera
There where the sinners stand out in the cold.’

If thou shouldst questioned be who else was there,
Thou hast beside thee him of Beccaria,
Of whom the gorget Florence slit asunder;

Gianni del Soldanier, I think, may be
Yonder with Ganellon, and Tebaldello
Who oped Faenza when the people slep

Already we had gone away from him,
When I beheld two frozen in one hole,
So that one head a hood was to the other;

And even as bread through hunger is devoured,
The uppermost on the other set his teeth,
There where the brain is to the nape united.

Not in another fashion Tydeus gnawed
The temples of Menalippus in disdain,
Than that one did the skull and the other things.

“O thou, who showest by such bestial sign
Thy hatred against him whom thou art eating,
Tell me the wherefore,” said I, “with this compact,

That if thou rightfully of him complain,
In knowing who ye are, and his transgression,
I in the world above repay thee for it,

If that wherewith I speak be not dried up.”