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Chapter 17 Geryon. The Violent against Art. Usurers. Descent into the Abys_f Malebolge.

  • "Behold the monster with the pointed tail,
  • Who cleaves the hills, and breaketh walls and weapons,
  • Behold him who infecteth all the world."
  • Thus unto me my Guide began to say,
  • And beckoned him that he should come to shore,
  • Near to the confine of the trodden marble;
  • And that uncleanly image of deceit
  • Came up and thrust ashore its head and bust,
  • But on the border did not drag its tail.
  • The face was as the face of a just man,
  • Its semblance outwardly was so benign,
  • And of a serpent all the trunk beside.
  • Two paws it had, hairy unto the armpits;
  • The back, and breast, and both the sides it had
  • Depicted o'er with nooses and with shields.
  • With colours more, groundwork or broidery
  • Never in cloth did Tartars make nor Turks,
  • Nor were such tissues by Arachne laid.
  • As sometimes wherries lie upon the shore,
  • That part are in the water, part on land;
  • And as among the guzzling Germans there,
  • The beaver plants himself to wage his war;
  • So that vile monster lay upon the border,
  • Which is of stone, and shutteth in the sand.
  • His tail was wholly quivering in the void,
  • Contorting upwards the envenomed fork,
  • That in the guise of scorpion armed its point.
  • The Guide said: "Now perforce must turn aside
  • Our way a little, even to that beast
  • Malevolent, that yonder coucheth him."
  • We therefore on the right side descended,
  • And made ten steps upon the outer verge,
  • Completely to avoid the sand and flame;
  • And after we are come to him, I see
  • A little farther off upon the sand
  • A people sitting near the hollow place.
  • Then said to me the Master: "So that full
  • Experience of this round thou bear away,
  • Now go and see what their condition is.
  • There let thy conversation be concise;
  • Till thou returnest I will speak with him,
  • That he concede to us his stalwart shoulders."
  • Thus farther still upon the outermost
  • Head of that seventh circle all alone
  • I went, where sat the melancholy folk.
  • Out of their eyes was gushing forth their woe;
  • This way, that way, they helped them with their hands
  • Now from the flames and now from the hot soil.
  • Not otherwise in summer do the dogs,
  • Now with the foot, now with the muzzle, when
  • By fleas, or flies, or gadflies, they are bitten.
  • When I had turned mine eyes upon the faces
  • Of some, on whom the dolorous fire is falling,
  • Not one of them I knew; but I perceived
  • That from the neck of each there hung a pouch,
  • Which certain colour had, and certain blazon;
  • And thereupon it seems their eyes are feeding.
  • And as I gazing round me come among them,
  • Upon a yellow pouch I azure saw
  • That had the face and posture of a lion.
  • Proceeding then the current of my sight,
  • Another of them saw I, red as blood,
  • Display a goose more white than butter is.
  • And one, who with an azure sow and gravid
  • Emblazoned had his little pouch of white,
  • Said unto me: "What dost thou in this moat?
  • Now get thee gone; and since thou'rt still alive,
  • Know that a neighbour of mine, Vitaliano,
  • Will have his seat here on my left-hand side.
  • A Paduan am I with these Florentines;
  • Full many a time they thunder in mine ears,
  • Exclaiming, 'Come the sovereign cavalier,
  • He who shall bring the satchel with three goats;'"
  • Then twisted he his mouth, and forth he thrust
  • His tongue, like to an ox that licks its nose.
  • And fearing lest my longer stay might vex
  • Him who had warned me not to tarry long,
  • Backward I turned me from those weary souls.
  • I found my Guide, who had already mounted
  • Upon the back of that wild animal,
  • And said to me: "Now be both strong and bold.
  • Now we descend by stairways such as these;
  • Mount thou in front, for I will be midway,
  • So that the tail may have no power to harm thee."
  • Such as he is who has so near the ague
  • Of quartan that his nails are blue already,
  • And trembles all, but looking at the shade;
  • Even such became I at those proffered words;
  • But shame in me his menaces produced,
  • Which maketh servant strong before good master.
  • I seated me upon those monstrous shoulders;
  • I wished to say, and yet the voice came not
  • As I believed, "Take heed that thou embrace me."
  • But he, who other times had rescued me
  • In other peril, soon as I had mounted,
  • Within his arms encircled and sustained me,
  • And said: "Now, Geryon, bestir thyself;
  • The circles large, and the descent be little;
  • Think of the novel burden which thou hast."
  • Even as the little vessel shoves from shore,
  • Backward, still backward, so he thence withdrew;
  • And when he wholly felt himself afloat,
  • There where his breast had been he turned his tail,
  • And that extended like an eel he moved,
  • And with his paws drew to himself the air.
  • A greater fear I do not think there was
  • What time abandoned Phaeton the reins,
  • Whereby the heavens, as still appears, were scorched;
  • Nor when the wretched Icarus his flanks
  • Felt stripped of feathers by the melting wax,
  • His father crying, "An ill way thou takest!"
  • Than was my own, when I perceived myself
  • On all sides in the air, and saw extinguished
  • The sight of everything but of the monster.
  • Onward he goeth, swimming slowly, slowly;
  • Wheels and descends, but I perceive it only
  • By wind upon my face and from below.
  • I heard already on the right the whirlpool
  • Making a horrible crashing under us;
  • Whence I thrust out my head with eyes cast downward.
  • Then was I still more fearful of the abyss;
  • Because I fires beheld, and heard laments,
  • Whereat I, trembling, all the closer cling.
  • I saw then, for before I had not seen it,
  • The turning and descending, by great horrors
  • That were approaching upon divers sides.
  • As falcon who has long been on the wing,
  • Who, without seeing either lure or bird,
  • Maketh the falconer say, "Ah me, thou stoopest,"
  • Descendeth weary, whence he started swiftly,
  • Thorough a hundred circles, and alights
  • Far from his master, sullen and disdainful;
  • Even thus did Geryon place us on the bottom,
  • Close to the bases of the rough-hewn rock,
  • And being disencumbered of our persons,
  • He sped away as arrow from the string.