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Chapter 19 The Third Bolgia: Simoniacs. Pope Nicholas III. Dante's Reproo_f corrupt Prelates.

  • O Simon Magus, O forlorn disciples,
  • Ye who the things of God, which ought to be
  • The brides of holiness, rapaciously
  • For silver and for gold do prostitute,
  • Now it behoves for you the trumpet sound,
  • Because in this third Bolgia ye abide.
  • We had already on the following tomb
  • Ascended to that portion of the crag
  • Which o'er the middle of the moat hangs plumb.
  • Wisdom supreme, O how great art thou showest
  • In heaven, in earth, and in the evil world,
  • And with what justice doth thy power distribute!
  • I saw upon the sides and on the bottom
  • The livid stone with perforations filled,
  • All of one size, and every one was round.
  • To me less ample seemed they not, nor greater
  • Than those that in my beautiful Saint John
  • Are fashioned for the place of the baptisers,
  • And one of which, not many years ago,
  • I broke for some one, who was drowning in it;
  • Be this a seal all men to undeceive.
  • Out of the mouth of each one there protruded
  • The feet of a transgressor, and the legs
  • Up to the calf, the rest within remained.
  • In all of them the soles were both on fire;
  • Wherefore the joints so violently quivered,
  • They would have snapped asunder withes and bands.
  • Even as the flame of unctuous things is wont
  • To move upon the outer surface only,
  • So likewise was it there from heel to point.
  • "Master, who is that one who writhes himself,
  • More than his other comrades quivering,"
  • I said, "and whom a redder flame is sucking?"
  • And he to me: "If thou wilt have me bear thee
  • Down there along that bank which lowest lies,
  • From him thou'lt know his errors and himself."
  • And I: "What pleases thee, to me is pleasing;
  • Thou art my Lord, and knowest that I depart not
  • From thy desire, and knowest what is not spoken."
  • Straightway upon the fourth dike we arrived;
  • We turned, and on the left-hand side descended
  • Down to the bottom full of holes and narrow.
  • And the good Master yet from off his haunch
  • Deposed me not, till to the hole he brought me
  • Of him who so lamented with his shanks.
  • "Whoe'er thou art, that standest upside down,
  • O doleful soul, implanted like a stake,"
  • To say began I, "if thou canst, speak out."
  • I stood even as the friar who is confessing
  • The false assassin, who, when he is fixed,
  • Recalls him, so that death may be delayed.
  • And he cried out: "Dost thou stand there already,
  • Dost thou stand there already, Boniface?
  • By many years the record lied to me.
  • Art thou so early satiate with that wealth,
  • For which thou didst not fear to take by fraud
  • The beautiful Lady, and then work her woe?"
  • Such I became, as people are who stand,
  • Not comprehending what is answered them,
  • As if bemocked, and know not how to answer.
  • Then said Virgilius: "Say to him straightway,
  • 'I am not he, I am not he thou thinkest.'"
  • And I replied as was imposed on me.
  • Whereat the spirit writhed with both his feet,
  • Then, sighing, with a voice of lamentation
  • Said to me: "Then what wantest thou of me?
  • If who I am thou carest so much to know,
  • That thou on that account hast crossed the bank,
  • Know that I vested was with the great mantle;
  • And truly was I son of the She-bear,
  • So eager to advance the cubs, that wealth
  • Above, and here myself, I pocketed.
  • Beneath my head the others are dragged down
  • Who have preceded me in simony,
  • Flattened along the fissure of the rock.
  • Below there I shall likewise fall, whenever
  • That one shall come who I believed thou wast,
  • What time the sudden question I proposed.
  • But longer I my feet already toast,
  • And here have been in this way upside down,
  • Than he will planted stay with reddened feet;
  • For after him shall come of fouler deed
  • From tow'rds the west a Pastor without law,
  • Such as befits to cover him and me.
  • New Jason will he be, of whom we read
  • In Maccabees; and as his king was pliant,
  • So he who governs France shall be to this one."
  • I do not know if I were here too bold,
  • That him I answered only in this metre:
  • "I pray thee tell me now how great a treasure
  • Our Lord demanded of Saint Peter first,
  • Before he put the keys into his keeping?
  • Truly he nothing asked but 'Follow me.'
  • Nor Peter nor the rest asked of Matthias
  • Silver or gold, when he by lot was chosen
  • Unto the place the guilty soul had lost.
  • Therefore stay here, for thou art justly punished,
  • And keep safe guard o'er the ill-gotten money,
  • Which caused thee to be valiant against Charles.
  • And were it not that still forbids it me
  • The reverence for the keys superlative
  • Thou hadst in keeping in the gladsome life,
  • I would make use of words more grievous still;
  • Because your avarice afflicts the world,
  • Trampling the good and lifting the depraved.
  • The Evangelist you Pastors had in mind,
  • When she who sitteth upon many waters
  • To fornicate with kings by him was seen;
  • The same who with the seven heads was born,
  • And power and strength from the ten horns received,
  • So long as virtue to her spouse was pleasing.
  • Ye have made yourselves a god of gold and silver;
  • And from the idolater how differ ye,
  • Save that he one, and ye a hundred worship?
  • Ah, Constantine! of how much ill was mother,
  • Not thy conversion, but that marriage dower
  • Which the first wealthy Father took from thee!"
  • And while I sang to him such notes as these,
  • Either that anger or that conscience stung him,
  • He struggled violently with both his feet.
  • I think in sooth that it my Leader pleased,
  • With such contented lip he listened ever
  • Unto the sound of the true words expressed.
  • Therefore with both his arms he took me up,
  • And when he had me all upon his breast,
  • Remounted by the way where he descended.
  • Nor did he tire to have me clasped to him;
  • But bore me to the summit of the arch
  • Which from the fourth dike to the fifth is passage.
  • There tenderly he laid his burden down,
  • Tenderly on the crag uneven and steep,
  • That would have been hard passage for the goats:
  • Thence was unveiled to me another valley.