I beheld new torments, and more tormented souls
All about me, and every way I moved,
Wherever I turned, wherever I looked.
I had reached the third circle of eternal rain,
Wickedly cold, this constant downpour;
The steady innundation was never changing.
Hail-stones, murky water, with sleet and snow,
Through the putrid air the deluge pours down,
Fouling the ground wherever it falls.
And Cerberus, cruel monster, so fierce and vile,
With the mouths of three heads he barks like a dog
Over the multitude being drenched below.
His red eyes glare over his greasy, black beard,
And with claws for hands above a great belly,
He rips the spirits, then flays and dismembers them.
The deluge of rain makes them howl like animals;
They turn from one side to the other
To protect themselves, the ungodly wretches.
When Cerberus, that giant beast, looked upon us,
He opened his mouths and bared his fangs;
While every part of his body was in motion.
And then my Guide spread his palms on the ground,
And raised his fists that were filled with slime,
And cast it into those insatiable mouths.
Like a dog that bays for the food he craves,
And then grows quiet when at last he is fed,
Since he thinks of nothing in his haste to devour it,
Then quiet became those filthy mouths
Of Cerberus the demon, who so loudly thunders
Over the souls, sufficient to deafen them.
We walked on top of the souls made prostrate
By the downpour, and stepped upon
What looked like bodies, but was as nothing.
They all were lying on the earth,
Except for one, who sat upright
When he beheld us passing by.
"O you who are led through this Inferno,"
Said he to me, "Do you know me?
For you were born before I died."
Said I: "The anguish your form is bearing
Distorts the perception of my mind,
So that it seems I've never seen you.
But who are you, condemned to this?
A place so awful, and in such torment.
Though some are worse, surely none so filthy."
He answered me: "Your city, so full
Of envy that overflows all bounds,
Once held me there in better times.
Your citizens were accustomed to call me Ciacco;
For the damnable sin of gluttony,
As you can see, I'm drenched in this rain.
And I am not the only one,
For all these suffer a similar sentence
For the very same sin," and he said no more.
I answered: "Ciacco, your wretchedness weighs
On me so heavily, it brings me to tears;
But tell me, if you know, what shall befall
The citizens of that divided city;
If any there are just; and tell me why
Such jarring discord has assailed it."
Said he to me: "After long contention,
There will be bloodshed; and the party of the woods
Will drive the others forth with violence.
Then they must fall within three risings
Of the sun, and the other will rise, urged on
By him who now lives on the coast.
A long while it will hold its head up high,
Keeping the others under heavy oppression,
No matter how much they weep and fret.
There are two who are just, but are not understood;
Envy and Pride and Avarice -- these three
Are the sparks that have set all hearts on fire."
Here ended his tearful tale of misfortune;
Said I: "More would I learn from you,
And beg a further revelation.
Farinata and Tegghiaio, were once so worthy,
Giacopo, Arrigo, and Mosca, and the others
Who set their thoughts on doing good,
Say where are they; tell me of them;
For I must know if now they taste
Sweet Heaven's cup or Hell's vile poison."
Said he: "They dwell with darker souls;
Their many sins have sunk them deeper;
If further you descend, you can see them there.
When you return to the pleasant world,
I pray you'll recall to all my memory;
No more can I say, and no more will I answer."
With that he turned his eyes aside,
Glanced back at me, then bowed his head;
And fell back with his blinded companions.
And my Guide said to me: "He'll come out no more
Before the angelic trumpet blows;
When the Sovereign Power shall come in glory,
Each shall return to his grisly tomb,
And reoccupy his flesh and his previous form,
And hear the re-echoing of eternal doom."
Thus we passed through that filthy mixture
Of spirits and rain with wary steps,
Touching but little on the life to come.
Which caused me to ask: "Master, after the Great Sentence,
Will these torments increase, or will they be less,
Or will they then be as they are now?"
Said he to me: "Review your learning:
You know as a thing approaches perfection,
It feels more intensely both pleasure and pain.
Though these accursed people may never arrive
At true perfection, yet closer than now
In that hereafter shall they come near it."
We journeyed around that circular path,
Speaking much more, which I now omit;
Till we came to the point where the steps go down;
And there we found Plutus, the greatest of foes.
Copyright © 1998 by Eyler Robert Coates, Sr. All rights reserved.