The City

  • an emblematic announcement of the “poetics of the new”
  • technique of rapid recontextualization
  • Florence and factional violence: Dante’s own exile from Florence is prophesied by Ciacco
  • the metaphorization of sin: see verse 50, discussed below
  • the distinction between sin and underlying vice, discussed à propos verse 74 below
  • political analysis: the “divided city”
  • the theme of the body, both virtual and eschatological

Inferno 6 begins with an example of the poet’s technique of rapid recontextualization, here applied to Inferno 5. The lush romantic aura that suffused the encounter with Francesca is brusquely brushed aside in the first verses of Inferno 6, and Francesca and her lover are referred to bluntly as “i due cognati” (the two in-laws [Inf. 6.2]).

Also at the beginning of Inferno 6 is an emblematic announcement of the Commedia’s “poetics of the new”, as discussed in Chapter 2 of The Undivine Comedy: for Dante-pilgrim alone, in hell, there are the “novi tormenti e novi tormentati” (new sufferings and new sufferers) of Inf. 6.4. For the sinners, instead (as for the angels, but for opposite reasons, and with opposite results), there is no difference, nothing is ever new, as the narrator categorically states in Inferno 6.9: “regola e qualità mai non l’è nova” (measure and quality are never new [Inf. 6.9])

Inferno 6 could not be more different from Inferno 5. As compared to the “high” courtly and romantic lyricism of the latter half of Inferno 5, Inferno 6 is a “low” and plebeian canto, in its tone and stylistic register and even with respect to the form of punishment. Asking the soul of Ciacco about the dismal torment of the circle of gluttony, the pilgrim notes, in a verse that is emblematic of the transition to Inferno 6, that “if other pain is greater, none is more disgusting”: “che, s’altra è maggio, nulla è sì spiacente” (Inf. 6.48).

The souls here are the gluttons, and Ciacco (whose name itself is plebeian) turns out to be a Florentine who addresses Dante as a fellow Florentine.

Florence here enters the Commedia. Indeed, Florence—the city-state—is effectively the main protagonist of Inferno 6. The conversation between the Florentines Ciacco and Dante features words like “città” (city) and “cittadini” (citizens):

Ed elli a me: “La tua città, 
ch’è piena d’invidia sì che già trabocca il sacco,
seco mi tenne in la vita serena.
  Voi cittadini mi chiamaste Ciacco...
(Inf. 6.49-52)
And he to me: “Your city—one so full
of envy that its sack has always spilled—
that city held me in the sunlit life.
  The name you citizens gave me was Ciacco . . .

In Ciacco’s words above, he characterizes Florence as “so full of envy that its sack is already overflowing”: “piena d’invidia sì che già trabocca il sacco” (Inf. 6.50]). Here we see Dante’s penchant for metaphorizing sin. We have already seen his interest in widening the reach of a sin, such that, for instance, in treating lust he ends up treating the moral responsibility of readers and authors as well. Similarly, in Inferno 6 Dante pays very little attention to literal gluttony, touched on in the treatment of Cerberus.

Instead, he metaphorizes literal gluttony into metaphorical gluttony. From literal gluttony he moves to the lust for wealth and power that is at the root of the factional politics that divide and destroy the city (Inf. 6.50). As we shall see, the same move from literal to metaphorical occurs, in more explicit fashion, in the purgatorial treatment of the sins of incontinence.

Verse 50 beautifully crystallizes in its language the move from the literal to the metaphorical. Literal gluttony is invoked in the verb traboccare (to spill out of, literally to spill out of the mouth of), with its root bocca (mouth). Literal gluttony is is here however quickened by the yeast of envy: “La tua città, ch’è piena / d’invidia sì che già trabocca il sacco” (Your city—one so full / of envy that its sack has always spilled [Inf. 6.49-50]).

Gluttony, quickened by the yeast of envy, becomes much more: it becomes the spur to the divisive factional rivalries that were destroying the city of Florence.

Later in the Commedia (for instance the opening of Inferno 26), Dante will make clear also his disdain for what he views as Florence’s gluttony for dominion and power:

Godi, Fiorenza, poi che se’ sì grande
che per mare e per terra batti l’ali,
e per lo ’nferno tuo nome si spande!
(Inf. 26.1-3)
Be joyous, Florence, you are great indeed,
for over sea and land you beat your wings;
through every part of Hell your name extends!

The word “invidia” in verse 50 of Inferno 6 is repeated in verse 74, where it is combined with two other fundamental vices: we learn that “superbia, invidia e avarizia” (pride, envy, and avarice) are the three sparks that have inflamed the hearts of the Florentines against each other.

Verse 74 requires us to consider the distinction between sin, the act committed, and underlying vice, the disposition of the soul that inclines it to sin. Pride, envy, and avarice are three of the seven fundamental vices, and therefore they are, indeed, sparks that inflame humans and cause them to act sinfully. The distinction between the act that is sinful and the disposition toward that act is the fundamental distinction between the organizational template of hell and the organizational template of purgatory.

Dante-pilgrim—testing the prophetic capacities of the damned—asks Ciacco for an account of the future: what will happen to the citizens of the divided city? Is any man there just? And what has led to so much discord?

For Dante the political thinker, the negative analysis of Florence is implicit in the lexicon of divisiveness and schism: “the divided city” (“la città partita”) of verse 61 and the “discordia” that assaults the city in verse 63.

As we will see in the Introduction to Inferno 28, which contains the bolgia of the schismatics, the highest of political values for Dante are concord and unity, while their opposites—division and discord—spell political disaster. These values are made explicit in Dante’s political treatise Monarchia, of which apposite passages are cited in the Introduction to Inferno 28.

In Dante’s time Florence was not a “city” in our sense, but a state, and the references to the “city” are references to the state that Dante had served as a citizen-politician and by which he was unjustly exiled. The circumstances that led to the condemnations of January and March 1302 that changed Dante’s life are here rehearsed and all the major protagonists of the political dramas that savaged the city are introduced, albeit in cryptic language: the White party (pro-imperial), the Black party (pro-papal), and Pope Boniface VIII.

In the fiction of the poem, in which Dante’s voyage to the afterlife takes place in spring of 1300, the condemnations of 1302 have not yet occurred. Hence Ciacco’s prophetic speech is also a moment of great personal drama: the moment in which Dante-pilgrim learns that he will be exiled from his city.

To be exiled is to be stateless: a vagabond, shamed, and dishonored. The personal theme of his bitter exile will be intertwined by Dante with the moral indictment of Florence throughout the Commedia.

Significant is Dante’s language for the disgraced Whites in Inferno 6. This is the group to which he belonged and to whose fortunes he remained bound for some years after leaving Florence, before he famously turned away from all party alliances.

In Inferno the Bianchi are said to weep and feel ashamed—feel onta—as a result of their treatment at the hands of the Neri: “come che di ciò pianga o che n’aonti” (however much they weep or feel ashamed [Inf. 6.72]). Onta, the shame and dishonor that results from social and civic injury, is a topic that will recur in the Commedia. See the Introduction to Inferno 29 for a detailed discussion of onta in the context of Florentine factional violence and the practice of vendetta.

The word onta is deeply sutured into the psyche of Italian communal life, as we can see by following its lexical traces.

In Purgatorio 17 Dante defines each of the seven deadly vices. With respect to anger, he signals that ira is an impulse triggered by the particular cultural nexus of onta and vendetta. Fascinatingly, Dante’s periphrasis for a generically irascible man is not generic at all, but embedded in a particular culture and in a particular psychic pathology induced by that culture’s norms. Thus, his definition of anger includes both the verb aontare (to take offense as a result of onta; the same verb used for the disgraced Bianchi in Inf. 6.72 cited above) and the word vendetta.

In this telling, an angry man is thus one who has been injured and who, ashamed as a result of the injury received, craves vengeance:

ed è chi per ingiuria par ch’aonti,
sì che si fa de la vendetta ghiotto,
e tal convien che ’l male altrui impronti.
(Purg. 17.121-23)
And there is he who, over injury
received, resentful, for revenge grows greedy
and, angrily, seeks out another’s harm.

Much of what went wrong in Florence, what led to its being a “divided city”—“città partita” (Inf. 6.61) in the language of Inferno 6—can be inferred from the description of anger in Purgatorio 17. Anger is injury that triggers shame that triggers desire for vengeance. We could also formulate in reverse: in defining ira in Purgatorio 17 Dante is so deeply influenced by the cultural norms of his place and time that he extrapolates the definition of anger from the factional violence and bitter blood feuds that tore apart his own city.

The moral indictment of Florence and its citizens continues in the next part of the dialogue, where Dante asks Ciacco to tell him of the whereabouts in the afterlife of specific great Florentine citizens of the generation before his: “Farinata e ’l Tegghiaio, che fuor sì degni, / Iacopo Rusticucci, Arrigo e ’l Mosca” (Farinata and Tegghiaio, who were so worthy, Iacopo Rusticucci, Arrigo, and Mosca [Inf. 6.79-80]). These are citizens whom Dante-pilgrim here describes as having had “minds bent toward the good”: “ch’a ben far puoser li ’ngegni” (Inf. 6.81).

Shockingly, Ciacco replies that these Florentines are among the blackest souls of hell: “Ei son tra l’anime più nere” (They are among the blackest souls [Inf. 6.85]). Ciacco’s condemnation of citizens whom the pilgrim considers exemplary of good work—“ben far” in verse 81—is a confirmation of the moral depravity of Florence.

The term “ben far” will recur as a description of Dante’s own contributions to Florence in another canto that deals with Florentine civic virtue, or the lack thereof, the canto of Brunetto Latini, Inferno 15. Brunetto tells Dante that he would have supported his “opera” (work [Inf. 15.60]) had he lived, and he characterizes Dante’s own actions with the same phrase, “ben far”, that in Inferno 6 is used for the great Florentines:ti si farà, per tuo ben far, nimico” ([the Florentine people] for your good deeds, will be your enemy [Inf. 15.64]). But whereas Dante remembers and honors the ben far of the previous generation, his own ben far will be rejected by his fellow citizens in his lifetime.

Ciacco tells Dante that he will be able to see the souls of the great Florentines of the preceding generation as he proceeds through the infernal regions, and the reader should likewise pay attention to this directive. All the souls on this list of Florentines from Inferno 6 will reappear in Inferno with the exception of “Arrigo”, of whose identity we are unsure. We encounter Farinata degli Uberti in Inferno 10, among the heretics, and Tegghiaio Aldobrandi and Iacopo Rusticucci in Inferno 16, among the sodomites.

The last soul on this list, Mosca dei Lamberti, who died in 1242, appears in Inferno 28, among the sowers of discord: he is blamed for having sown the division and hatred among the Florentines that led to factional division and strife in the city. The city’s factional discord was believed to have originated in the murder of Buondelmonte de’ Buondelmonti in 1216, a murder that was precipitated by Buondelmonte’s jilting of a woman of the Amidei family in favor of a Donati. Mosca’s sin was to have counseled the Amidei to take their revenge not in the form of a beating or a mutilation, but to kill Buondelmonte outright and have done with it, an act “which was the seed of evil for the Tuscans”: “che fu mal seme per la gente tosca” (Inf. 28.108).

This canto’s catalogue of Florentine citizens who did bad rather than good—Farinata, Tegghiaio, Iacopo Rusticucci, Arrigo, and Mosca—eventually culminates in Inferno 28 in a revelation about the consequent suffering of the citizenry as a whole. Mosca dei Lamberti’s act of factional violence is the “evil seed” that bore evil fruit for the entire populace: “per la gente tosca” (for the Tuscan people [Inf. 28.108]).

Dante’s analysis of the ills that affect “la gente  tosca” thus casts a net over almost a century of evil action: he goes back to the killing of Buondelmonte in 1216 and comes forward to the time of his own exile in 1302. He includes the factional violence precipitated by Mosca de’ Lamberti in 1216 (Inferno 28) and later manifested in the warfare undertaken by Farinata, Ghibelline commander at the battle of Montaperti in 1260 (Inferno 10). All this taken together, all this nefarious behavior over many generations of Florentines, results in the “divided city” that Dante deplores in Inferno 6.

In this first presentation of Florence in the Commedia, Dante takes care to root this long history of factional violence in greed.

***

Finally, Inferno 6 features an important installment in the ongoing topic of Dante’s treatment of the body. This moment functions too as an installment in Dante’s stout and explicit Aristotelianism, his adherence to the philosophical tenets of the great Greek philosopher and his fascinating attempts to wed Aristotelianism to Christian eschatological beliefs.

Aristotle is among the shades in Limbo, where he is accorded a remarkable honorific: he is “’l maestro di color che sanno” (the master of those who know) in Inferno 4.131. Toward the end of Inferno 6 Dante asks his guide whether the torments of hell will be greater or lesser after the Last Judgment (Inf. 6.103-105). In reply, Virgilio instructs him to “return to your science” (“ritorna a tua scienza” [Inf.6.106] ). By “tua scienza” Virgilio refers to Aristotelian philosophy and to the doctrine that holds that “perfection”—completion, actuality—will always result in an increase in pain or pleasure.

According to Christian theology, the human soul will reach “perfection” in the afterlife only after the resurrection of the body, when body is reunited with soul at the Last Judgment. At that point, when souls have achieved their “perfezion” (perfection [Inf. 6.110]), only then will each soul experience his or her maximum of pleasure and maximum of pain:

  Ed elli a me: “Ritorna a tua scienza,
che vuol, quanto la cosa è più perfetta,
più senta il bene, e così la doglienza.
  Tutto che questa gente maladetta
in vera perfezion già mai non vada,
di là più che di qua essere aspetta.” 
(Inf. 6.106-11)
  And he to me: “Remember now your science, 
which says that when a thing has more perfection, 
so much the greater is its pain or pleasure.
  Though these accursed sinners never shall 
attain the true perfection, yet they can 
expect to be more perfect then than now.”  

The Aristotelian doctrine of entelecheia results in the principle that souls in the eschaton—after the end of time, in Christian teleology signified by the Last Judgment—will experience more pleasure in heaven and more pain in hell.

This passage is of great importance for a host of issues that constellate around the body and what it means to be embodied, in life and in eternity.

Very important is the recognition that we are only completed, from a Christian theological perspective, once we have been reunited to our bodies.

Ultimately the belief first stated here, at the end of Inferno 6, will issue into one of the Dante’s most remarkable “inventions” about his journey: the idea, expressed in Paradiso, that he is graced in his vision to see the blessed in their bodies, as they will be after the Last Judgment. The recognition of the irreducible status of the body also informs some of Dante’s most beautiful poetry, for instance Paradiso 14’s beautiful cadences on the blessed souls’ desire for their dead bodies:

Tanto mi parver sùbiti e accorti
e l’uno e l’altro coro a dicer «Amme!»,
che ben mostrar disio d’i corpi morti:
forse non pur per lor, ma per le mamme,
per li padri e per li altri che fuor cari
anzi che fosser sempiterne fiamme.  
(Par. 14.61-66)
One and the other choir seemed to me
so quick and keen to say “Amen’ that they
showed clearly how they longed for their dead bodies—
not only for themselves, perhaps, but for
their mothers, fathers, and for others dear
to them before they were eternal flames.

By the time we reach Inferno 6, Dante has already begun to thematize the body with respect to its status in otherworld journeys, for instance in Inferno 2’s reference to Aeneas journeying to Hades “sensibilmente”, i.e. “in the body” (Inf. 2.15). Now the poet begins to treat the issue of the “bodies” of the souls, an ongoing theme of the Commedia. See the Introductions to Inferno 10, Inferno 13, and Inferno 25 for further discussion of the theme of the body in the Inferno.

The theme of the resurrection of the body as introduced at the end of Inferno 6 thus connects to the poet’s creation of virtual bodies for his afterlife. These virtual bodies are ultimately treated in Purgatorio 25, but they are first adumbrated in the section of Inferno 6 where the travelers walk on the incorporeal shades: “e ponavam le piante / sovra lor vanità che par persona” (and set our soles upon / their empty images that seem like persons [Inf. 6.35-36]). These incorporeal shades—“vanità” as Dante calls them in Inferno 6. 36—will seem to become quite substantial later on in the journey through Hell, especially in the encounter with the sinner whose hair Dante pulls in Inferno 32 (this is Bocca degli Abati), only to become “vanità” again in the encounter with Casella in Purgatorio 2.

Most of all, Inferno 6’s referencing of the Last Judgment and the resurrection of the body reminds us that, for Dante as for Catholic theology of the resurrection, the body is essential: not a husk to be discarded (as per the suicides of Inferno 13), but an integral part of the completed and “perfected” human being. For Dante, we only become perfect when we are reunited with our flesh.

Coordinated Reading

The Undivine Comedy, Chapter 2, “Infernal Incipits: The Poetics of the New,” pp. 23-24 and 42-44.

Recommended Citation

Barolini, Teodolinda. “Inferno 6: The City.” Commento Baroliniano, Digital Dante. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2017. https://digitaldante.columbia.edu/dante/divine-comedy/inferno/inferno-6/

About the Commento

1Al tornar de la mente, che si chiuse
2dinanzi a la pietà d’i due cognati,
3che di trestizia tutto mi confuse,

4novi tormenti e novi tormentati
5mi veggio intorno, come ch’io mi mova
6e ch’io mi volga, e come che io guati.

7Io sono al terzo cerchio, de la piova
8etterna, maladetta, fredda e greve;
9regola e qualità mai non l’è nova.

10Grandine grossa, acqua tinta e neve
11per l’aere tenebroso si riversa;
12pute la terra che questo riceve.

13Cerbero, fiera crudele e diversa,
14con tre gole caninamente latra
15sovra la gente che quivi è sommersa.

16Li occhi ha vermigli, la barba unta e atra,
17e ’l ventre largo, e unghiate le mani;
18graffia li spirti ed iscoia ed isquatra.

19Urlar li fa la pioggia come cani;
20de l’un de’ lati fanno a l’altro schermo;
21volgonsi spesso i miseri profani.

22Quando ci scorse Cerbero, il gran vermo,
23le bocche aperse e mostrocci le sanne;
24non avea membro che tenesse fermo.

25E ’l duca mio distese le sue spanne,
26prese la terra, e con piene le pugna
27la gittò dentro a le bramose canne.

28Qual è quel cane ch’abbaiando agogna,
29e si racqueta poi che ’l pasto morde,
30ché solo a divorarlo intende e pugna,

31cotai si fecer quelle facce lorde
32de lo demonio Cerbero, che ’ntrona
33l’anime sì, ch’esser vorrebber sorde.

34Noi passavam su per l’ombre che adona
35la greve pioggia, e ponavam le piante
36sovra lor vanità che par persona.

37Elle giacean per terra tutte quante,
38fuor d’una ch’a seder si levò, ratto
39ch’ella ci vide passarsi davante.

40«O tu che se’ per questo ’nferno tratto»,
41mi disse, «riconoscimi, se sai:
42tu fosti, prima ch’io disfatto, fatto».

43E io a lui: «L’angoscia che tu hai
44forse ti tira fuor de la mia mente,
45sì che non par ch’i’ ti vedessi mai.

46Ma dimmi chi tu se’ che ’n sì dolente
47loco se’ messo, e hai sì fatta pena,
48che, s’altra è maggio, nulla è sì spiacente».

49Ed elli a me: «La tua città, ch’è piena
50d’invidia sì che già trabocca il sacco,
51seco mi tenne in la vita serena.

52Voi cittadini mi chiamaste Ciacco:
53per la dannosa colpa de la gola,
54come tu vedi, a la pioggia mi fiacco.

55E io anima trista non son sola,
56ché tutte queste a simil pena stanno
57per simil colpa». E più non fé parola.

58Io li rispuosi: «Ciacco, il tuo affanno
59mi pesa sì, ch’a lagrimar mi ’nvita;
60ma dimmi, se tu sai, a che verranno

61li cittadin de la città partita;
62s’alcun v’è giusto; e dimmi la cagione
63per che l’ha tanta discordia assalita».

64E quelli a me: «Dopo lunga tencione
65verranno al sangue, e la parte selvaggia
66caccerà l’altra con molta offensione.

67Poi appresso convien che questa caggia
68infra tre soli, e che l’altra sormonti
69con la forza di tal che testé piaggia.

70Alte terrà lungo tempo le fronti,
71tenendo l’altra sotto gravi pesi,
72come che di ciò pianga o che n’aonti.

73Giusti son due, e non vi sono intesi;
74superbia, invidia e avarizia sono
75le tre faville c’hanno i cuori accesi».

76Qui puose fine al lagrimabil suono.
77E io a lui: «Ancor vo’ che mi ’nsegni
78e che di più parlar mi facci dono.

79Farinata e ’l Tegghiaio, che fuor sì degni,
80Iacopo Rusticucci, Arrigo e ’l Mosca
81e li altri ch’a ben far puoser li ’ngegni,

82dimmi ove sono e fa ch’io li conosca;
83ché gran disio mi stringe di savere
84se ’l ciel li addolcia o lo ’nferno li attosca».

85E quelli: «Ei son tra l’anime più nere;
86diverse colpe giù li grava al fondo:
87se tanto scendi, là i potrai vedere.

88Ma quando tu sarai nel dolce mondo,
89priegoti ch’a la mente altrui mi rechi:
90più non ti dico e più non ti rispondo».

91Li diritti occhi torse allora in biechi;
92guardommi un poco e poi chinò la testa:
93cadde con essa a par de li altri ciechi.

94E ’l duca disse a me: «Più non si desta
95di qua dal suon de l’angelica tromba,
96quando verrà la nimica podesta:

97ciascun rivederà la trista tomba,
98ripiglierà sua carne e sua figura,
99udirà quel ch’in etterno rimbomba».

100Sì trapassammo per sozza mistura
101de l’ombre e de la pioggia, a passi lenti,
102toccando un poco la vita futura;

103per ch’io dissi: «Maestro, esti tormenti
104crescerann’ ei dopo la gran sentenza,
105o fier minori, o saran sì cocenti?».

106Ed elli a me: «Ritorna a tua scïenza,
107che vuol, quanto la cosa è più perfetta,
108più senta il bene, e così la doglienza.

109Tutto che questa gente maladetta
110in vera perfezion già mai non vada,
111di là più che di qua essere aspetta».

112Noi aggirammo a tondo quella strada,
113parlando più assai ch’i’ non ridico;
114venimmo al punto dove si digrada:

115quivi trovammo Pluto, il gran nemico.

Upon my mind’s reviving—it had closed
on hearing the lament of those two kindred,
since sorrow had confounded me completely—

I see new sufferings, new sufferers
surrounding me on every side, wherever
I move or turn about or set my eyes.

I am in the third circle, filled with cold,
unending, heavy, and accursed rain;
its measure and its kind are never changed.

Gross hailstones, water gray with filth, and snow
come streaking down across the shadowed air;
the earth, as it receives that shower, stinks.

Over the souls of those submerged beneath
that mess, is an outlandish, vicious beast,
his three throats barking, doglike: Cerberus.

His eyes are bloodred; greasy, black, his beard;
his belly bulges, and his hands are claws;
his talons tear and flay and rend the shades.

That downpour makes the sinners howl like dogs;
they use one of their sides to screen the other—
those miserable wretches turn and turn.

When Cerberus, the great worm, noticed us,
he opened wide his mouths, showed us his fangs;
there was no part of him that did not twitch.

My guide opened his hands to their full span,
plucked up some earth, and with his fists filled full
he hurled it straight into those famished jaws.

Just as a dog that barks with greedy hunger
will then fall quiet when he gnaws his food,
intent and straining hard to cram it in,

so were the filthy faces of the demon
Cerberus transformed—after he’d stunned
the spirits so, they wished that they were deaf.

We walked across the shades on whom there thuds
that heavy rain, and set our soles upon
their empty images that seem like persons.

And all those spirits lay upon the ground,
except for one who sat erect as soon
as he caught sight of us in front of him.

“O you who are conducted through this Hell,”
he said to me, “recall me, if you can;
for you, before I was unmade, were made.”

And I to him: “It is perhaps your anguish
that snatches you out of my memory,
so that it seems that I have never seen you.

But tell me who you are, you who are set
in such a dismal place, such punishment—
if other pains are more, none’s more disgusting.”

And he to me: “Your city—one so full
of envy that its sack has always spilled—
that city held me in the sunlit life.

The name you citizens gave me was Ciacco;
and for the damning sin of gluttony,
as you can see, I languish in the rain.

And I, a wretched soul, am not alone,
for all of these have this same penalty
for this same sin.” And he said nothing more.

I answered him: “Ciacco, your suffering
so weights on me that I am forced to weep;
but tell me, if you know, what end awaits

the citizens of that divided city;
is any just man there? Tell me the reason
why it has been assailed by so much schism.”

And he to me: “After long controversy,
they’ll come to blood; the party of the woods
will chase the other out with much offense.

But then, within three suns, they too must fall;
at which the other party will prevail,
using the power of one who tacks his sails.

This party will hold high its head for long
and heap great weights upon its enemies,
however much they weep indignantly.

Two men are just, but no one listens to them.
Three sparks that set on fire every heart
are envy, pride, and avariciousness.”

With this, his words, inciting tears, were done;
and I to him: “I would learn more from you;
I ask you for a gift of further speech:

Tegghiaio, Farinata, men so worthy,
Arrigo, Mosca, Jacopo Rusticucci,
and all the rest whose minds bent toward the good,

do tell me where they are and let me meet them;
for my great longing drives me on to learn
if Heaven sweetens or Hell poisons them.”

And he: “They are among the blackest souls;
a different sin has dragged them to the bottom;
if you descend so low, there you can see them.

But when you have returned to the sweet world,
I pray, recall me to men’s memory:
I say no more to you, answer no more.”

Then his straight gaze grew twisted and awry;
he looked at me awhile, then bent his head;
he fell as low as all his blind companions.

And my guide said to me: “He’ll rise no more
until the blast of the angelic trumpet
upon the coming of the hostile Judge:

each one shall see his sorry tomb again
and once again take on his flesh and form,
and hear what shall resound eternally.”

So did we pass across that squalid mixture
of shadows and of rain, our steps slowed down,
talking awhile about the life to come.

At which I said: “And after the great sentence-
o master—will these torments grow, or else
be less, or will they be just as intense?”

And he to me: “Remember now your science,
which says that when a thing has more perfection,
so much the greater is its pain or pleasure.

Though these accursed sinners never shall
attain the true perfection, yet they can
expect to be more perfect then than now.”

We took the circling way traced by that road;
we said much more than I can here recount;
we reached the point that marks the downward slope.

Here we found Plutus, the great enemy.

AT the return of consciousness, that closed
Before the pity of those two relations,
Which utterly with sadness had confused me,

New torments I behold, and new tormented
Around me, whichsoever way I move,
And whichsoever way I turn, and gaze.

In the third circle am I of the rain
Eternal, maledict, and cold, and heavy;
Its law and quality are never new.

Huge hail, and water sombre—hued, and snow,
Athwart the tenebrous air pour down amain;
Noisome the earth is, that receiveth this.

Cerberus, monster cruel and uncouth,
With his three gullets like a dog is barking
Over the people that are there submerged.

Red eyes he has, and unctuous beard and black,
And belly large, and armed with claws his hands;
He rends the spirits, flays, and quarters them.

Howl the rain maketh them like unto dogs;
One side they make a shelter for the other;
Oft turn themselves the wretched reprobates.

When Cerberus perceived us, the great worm !
His mouths he opened, and displayed his tusks;
Not a limb had he that was motionless.

And my Conductor, with his spans extended,
Took of the earth, and with his fists well filled,
He threw it into those rapacious gullets.

Such as that dog is, who by barking craves,
And quiet grows soon as his food he gnaws,
For to devour it he but thinks and struggles,

The like became those muzzles filth—begrimed
Of Cerberus the demon, who so thunders
Over the souls that they would fain be deaf

We passed across the shadows, which subdues
The heavy rain—storm, and we placed our feet
Upon their vanity that person seems.

They all were lying prone upon the earth,
Excepting one, who sat upright as soon
As he beheld us passing on before him.

“O thou that art conducted through this Hell,”
He said to me, “recall me, if thou canst;
Thyself wast made before I was unmade.”

And I to him: “The anguish which thou hast
Perhaps doth draw thee out of my remembrance,
So that it seems not I have ever seen thee.

But tell me who thou art, that in so doleful
A place art put, and in such punishment,
If some are greater, none is so displeasing.”

And he to me: “Thy city, which is full
Of envy so that now the sack runs over,
Held me within it in the life serene.

You citizens were wont to call me Ciacco;
For the pernicious sin of gluttony
I, as thou seest, am battered bv this rain

And I, sad soul, am not the only one,
For all these suffer the like penalty
For the like sin, “and word no more spake he.

I answered him: “Ciacco, thy wretchedness
Weighs on me so that it to weep invites me;
But tell me, if thou knowest, to what shall come

The citizens of the divided city;
If any there be just; and the occasion
Tell me why so much discord has assailed it.”

And he to me: “They, after long contention,
Will come to bloodshed; and the rustic party
Will drive the other out with much offence.

Then afterwards behoves it this one fall
Within three suns, and rise again the other
By force of him who now is on the coast.

High will it hold its forehead a long while,
Keeping the other under heavy burdens,
Howe’er it weeps thereat and is indignant.

The just are two, and are not understood there;
Envy and Arrogance and Avarice
Are the three sparks that have all hearts enkindled.”

Here ended he his tearful utterance;
And I to him: “I wish thee still to teach me,
And make a gift to me of further speech.

Farinata and Tegghiaio, once so worthy,
Jacopo Rusticucci, Arrigo, and Mosca,
And others who on good deeds set their thoughts,

Say where they are, and cause that I may know them;
For great desire constraineth me to learn
If Heaven doth sweeten them, or Hell envenom.”

And he: “They are among the blacker souls;
A different sin downweighs them to the bottom;
If thou so far descendest, thou canst see them.

But when thou art again in the sweet world,
I pray thee to the mind of others bring me;
No more I tell thee and no more I answer.”

Then his straightforward eyes he turned askance,
Eyed me a little, and then bowed his head;
He fell therewith prone like the other blind.

And the Guide said to me: “He wakes no more
This side the sound of the angelic trumpet;
When shall approach the hostile Potentate,

Each one shall find again his dismal tomb,
Shall reassume his flesh and his own figure,
Shall hear what through eternity re—echoes.”

So we passed onward o’er the filthy mixture
Of shadows and of rain with footsteps slow,
Touching a little on the future life.

Wherefore I said: “Master, these torments here,
Will they increase after the mighty sentence,
Or lesser be, or will they be as burning?”

And he to me: “Return unto thy science,
Which wills, that as the thing more perfect is,
The more it feels of pleasure and of pain.

Albeit that this people maledict
To true perfection never can attain,
Hereafter more than now they look to be.”

Round in a circle by that road we went,
Speaking much more, which I do not repeat;
We came unto the point where the descent is;

There we found Plutus the great enemy.

Upon my mind’s reviving—it had closed
on hearing the lament of those two kindred,
since sorrow had confounded me completely—

I see new sufferings, new sufferers
surrounding me on every side, wherever
I move or turn about or set my eyes.

I am in the third circle, filled with cold,
unending, heavy, and accursed rain;
its measure and its kind are never changed.

Gross hailstones, water gray with filth, and snow
come streaking down across the shadowed air;
the earth, as it receives that shower, stinks.

Over the souls of those submerged beneath
that mess, is an outlandish, vicious beast,
his three throats barking, doglike: Cerberus.

His eyes are bloodred; greasy, black, his beard;
his belly bulges, and his hands are claws;
his talons tear and flay and rend the shades.

That downpour makes the sinners howl like dogs;
they use one of their sides to screen the other—
those miserable wretches turn and turn.

When Cerberus, the great worm, noticed us,
he opened wide his mouths, showed us his fangs;
there was no part of him that did not twitch.

My guide opened his hands to their full span,
plucked up some earth, and with his fists filled full
he hurled it straight into those famished jaws.

Just as a dog that barks with greedy hunger
will then fall quiet when he gnaws his food,
intent and straining hard to cram it in,

so were the filthy faces of the demon
Cerberus transformed—after he’d stunned
the spirits so, they wished that they were deaf.

We walked across the shades on whom there thuds
that heavy rain, and set our soles upon
their empty images that seem like persons.

And all those spirits lay upon the ground,
except for one who sat erect as soon
as he caught sight of us in front of him.

“O you who are conducted through this Hell,”
he said to me, “recall me, if you can;
for you, before I was unmade, were made.”

And I to him: “It is perhaps your anguish
that snatches you out of my memory,
so that it seems that I have never seen you.

But tell me who you are, you who are set
in such a dismal place, such punishment—
if other pains are more, none’s more disgusting.”

And he to me: “Your city—one so full
of envy that its sack has always spilled—
that city held me in the sunlit life.

The name you citizens gave me was Ciacco;
and for the damning sin of gluttony,
as you can see, I languish in the rain.

And I, a wretched soul, am not alone,
for all of these have this same penalty
for this same sin.” And he said nothing more.

I answered him: “Ciacco, your suffering
so weights on me that I am forced to weep;
but tell me, if you know, what end awaits

the citizens of that divided city;
is any just man there? Tell me the reason
why it has been assailed by so much schism.”

And he to me: “After long controversy,
they’ll come to blood; the party of the woods
will chase the other out with much offense.

But then, within three suns, they too must fall;
at which the other party will prevail,
using the power of one who tacks his sails.

This party will hold high its head for long
and heap great weights upon its enemies,
however much they weep indignantly.

Two men are just, but no one listens to them.
Three sparks that set on fire every heart
are envy, pride, and avariciousness.”

With this, his words, inciting tears, were done;
and I to him: “I would learn more from you;
I ask you for a gift of further speech:

Tegghiaio, Farinata, men so worthy,
Arrigo, Mosca, Jacopo Rusticucci,
and all the rest whose minds bent toward the good,

do tell me where they are and let me meet them;
for my great longing drives me on to learn
if Heaven sweetens or Hell poisons them.”

And he: “They are among the blackest souls;
a different sin has dragged them to the bottom;
if you descend so low, there you can see them.

But when you have returned to the sweet world,
I pray, recall me to men’s memory:
I say no more to you, answer no more.”

Then his straight gaze grew twisted and awry;
he looked at me awhile, then bent his head;
he fell as low as all his blind companions.

And my guide said to me: “He’ll rise no more
until the blast of the angelic trumpet
upon the coming of the hostile Judge:

each one shall see his sorry tomb again
and once again take on his flesh and form,
and hear what shall resound eternally.”

So did we pass across that squalid mixture
of shadows and of rain, our steps slowed down,
talking awhile about the life to come.

At which I said: “And after the great sentence-
o master—will these torments grow, or else
be less, or will they be just as intense?”

And he to me: “Remember now your science,
which says that when a thing has more perfection,
so much the greater is its pain or pleasure.

Though these accursed sinners never shall
attain the true perfection, yet they can
expect to be more perfect then than now.”

We took the circling way traced by that road;
we said much more than I can here recount;
we reached the point that marks the downward slope.

Here we found Plutus, the great enemy.

AT the return of consciousness, that closed
Before the pity of those two relations,
Which utterly with sadness had confused me,

New torments I behold, and new tormented
Around me, whichsoever way I move,
And whichsoever way I turn, and gaze.

In the third circle am I of the rain
Eternal, maledict, and cold, and heavy;
Its law and quality are never new.

Huge hail, and water sombre—hued, and snow,
Athwart the tenebrous air pour down amain;
Noisome the earth is, that receiveth this.

Cerberus, monster cruel and uncouth,
With his three gullets like a dog is barking
Over the people that are there submerged.

Red eyes he has, and unctuous beard and black,
And belly large, and armed with claws his hands;
He rends the spirits, flays, and quarters them.

Howl the rain maketh them like unto dogs;
One side they make a shelter for the other;
Oft turn themselves the wretched reprobates.

When Cerberus perceived us, the great worm !
His mouths he opened, and displayed his tusks;
Not a limb had he that was motionless.

And my Conductor, with his spans extended,
Took of the earth, and with his fists well filled,
He threw it into those rapacious gullets.

Such as that dog is, who by barking craves,
And quiet grows soon as his food he gnaws,
For to devour it he but thinks and struggles,

The like became those muzzles filth—begrimed
Of Cerberus the demon, who so thunders
Over the souls that they would fain be deaf

We passed across the shadows, which subdues
The heavy rain—storm, and we placed our feet
Upon their vanity that person seems.

They all were lying prone upon the earth,
Excepting one, who sat upright as soon
As he beheld us passing on before him.

“O thou that art conducted through this Hell,”
He said to me, “recall me, if thou canst;
Thyself wast made before I was unmade.”

And I to him: “The anguish which thou hast
Perhaps doth draw thee out of my remembrance,
So that it seems not I have ever seen thee.

But tell me who thou art, that in so doleful
A place art put, and in such punishment,
If some are greater, none is so displeasing.”

And he to me: “Thy city, which is full
Of envy so that now the sack runs over,
Held me within it in the life serene.

You citizens were wont to call me Ciacco;
For the pernicious sin of gluttony
I, as thou seest, am battered bv this rain

And I, sad soul, am not the only one,
For all these suffer the like penalty
For the like sin, “and word no more spake he.

I answered him: “Ciacco, thy wretchedness
Weighs on me so that it to weep invites me;
But tell me, if thou knowest, to what shall come

The citizens of the divided city;
If any there be just; and the occasion
Tell me why so much discord has assailed it.”

And he to me: “They, after long contention,
Will come to bloodshed; and the rustic party
Will drive the other out with much offence.

Then afterwards behoves it this one fall
Within three suns, and rise again the other
By force of him who now is on the coast.

High will it hold its forehead a long while,
Keeping the other under heavy burdens,
Howe’er it weeps thereat and is indignant.

The just are two, and are not understood there;
Envy and Arrogance and Avarice
Are the three sparks that have all hearts enkindled.”

Here ended he his tearful utterance;
And I to him: “I wish thee still to teach me,
And make a gift to me of further speech.

Farinata and Tegghiaio, once so worthy,
Jacopo Rusticucci, Arrigo, and Mosca,
And others who on good deeds set their thoughts,

Say where they are, and cause that I may know them;
For great desire constraineth me to learn
If Heaven doth sweeten them, or Hell envenom.”

And he: “They are among the blacker souls;
A different sin downweighs them to the bottom;
If thou so far descendest, thou canst see them.

But when thou art again in the sweet world,
I pray thee to the mind of others bring me;
No more I tell thee and no more I answer.”

Then his straightforward eyes he turned askance,
Eyed me a little, and then bowed his head;
He fell therewith prone like the other blind.

And the Guide said to me: “He wakes no more
This side the sound of the angelic trumpet;
When shall approach the hostile Potentate,

Each one shall find again his dismal tomb,
Shall reassume his flesh and his own figure,
Shall hear what through eternity re—echoes.”

So we passed onward o’er the filthy mixture
Of shadows and of rain with footsteps slow,
Touching a little on the future life.

Wherefore I said: “Master, these torments here,
Will they increase after the mighty sentence,
Or lesser be, or will they be as burning?”

And he to me: “Return unto thy science,
Which wills, that as the thing more perfect is,
The more it feels of pleasure and of pain.

Albeit that this people maledict
To true perfection never can attain,
Hereafter more than now they look to be.”

Round in a circle by that road we went,
Speaking much more, which I do not repeat;
We came unto the point where the descent is;

There we found Plutus the great enemy.

Reading by Francesco Bausi: Inferno 6

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