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Chapter 20 The Fourth Bolgia: Soothsayers. Amphiaraus, Tiresias, Aruns, Manto, Eryphylus, Michael Scott, Guido Bonatti, and Asdente. Virgil reproache_ante's Pity. Mantua's Foundation.

  • Of a new pain behoves me to make verses
  • And give material to the twentieth canto
  • Of the first song, which is of the submerged.
  • I was already thoroughly disposed
  • To peer down into the uncovered depth,
  • Which bathed itself with tears of agony;
  • And people saw I through the circular valley,
  • Silent and weeping, coming at the pace
  • Which in this world the Litanies assume.
  • As lower down my sight descended on them,
  • Wondrously each one seemed to be distorted
  • From chin to the beginning of the chest;
  • For tow'rds the reins the countenance was turned,
  • And backward it behoved them to advance,
  • As to look forward had been taken from them.
  • Perchance indeed by violence of palsy
  • Some one has been thus wholly turned awry;
  • But I ne'er saw it, nor believe it can be.
  • As God may let thee, Reader, gather fruit
  • From this thy reading, think now for thyself
  • How I could ever keep my face unmoistened,
  • When our own image near me I beheld
  • Distorted so, the weeping of the eyes
  • Along the fissure bathed the hinder parts.
  • Truly I wept, leaning upon a peak
  • Of the hard crag, so that my Escort said
  • To me: "Art thou, too, of the other fools?
  • Here pity lives when it is wholly dead;
  • Who is a greater reprobate than he
  • Who feels compassion at the doom divine?
  • Lift up, lift up thy head, and see for whom
  • Opened the earth before the Thebans' eyes;
  • Wherefore they all cried: 'Whither rushest thou,
  • Amphiaraus? Why dost leave the war?'
  • And downward ceased he not to fall amain
  • As far as Minos, who lays hold on all.
  • See, he has made a bosom of his shoulders!
  • Because he wished to see too far before him
  • Behind he looks, and backward goes his way:
  • Behold Tiresias, who his semblance changed,
  • When from a male a female he became,
  • His members being all of them transformed;
  • And afterwards was forced to strike once more
  • The two entangled serpents with his rod,
  • Ere he could have again his manly plumes.
  • That Aruns is, who backs the other's belly,
  • Who in the hills of Luni, there where grubs
  • The Carrarese who houses underneath,
  • Among the marbles white a cavern had
  • For his abode; whence to behold the stars
  • And sea, the view was not cut off from him.
  • And she there, who is covering up her breasts,
  • Which thou beholdest not, with loosened tresses,
  • And on that side has all the hairy skin,
  • Was Manto, who made quest through many lands,
  • Afterwards tarried there where I was born;
  • Whereof I would thou list to me a little.
  • After her father had from life departed,
  • And the city of Bacchus had become enslaved,
  • She a long season wandered through the world.
  • Above in beauteous Italy lies a lake
  • At the Alp's foot that shuts in Germany
  • Over Tyrol, and has the name Benaco.
  • By a thousand springs, I think, and more, is bathed,
  • 'Twixt Garda and Val Camonica, Pennino,
  • With water that grows stagnant in that lake.
  • Midway a place is where the Trentine Pastor,
  • And he of Brescia, and the Veronese
  • Might give his blessing, if he passed that way.
  • Sitteth Peschiera, fortress fair and strong,
  • To front the Brescians and the Bergamasks,
  • Where round about the bank descendeth lowest.
  • There of necessity must fall whatever
  • In bosom of Benaco cannot stay,
  • And grows a river down through verdant pastures.
  • Soon as the water doth begin to run,
  • No more Benaco is it called, but Mincio,
  • Far as Governo, where it falls in Po.
  • Not far it runs before it finds a plain
  • In which it spreads itself, and makes it marshy,
  • And oft 'tis wont in summer to be sickly.
  • Passing that way the virgin pitiless
  • Land in the middle of the fen descried,
  • Untilled and naked of inhabitants;
  • There to escape all human intercourse,
  • She with her servants stayed, her arts to practise
  • And lived, and left her empty body there.
  • The men, thereafter, who were scattered round,
  • Collected in that place, which was made strong
  • By the lagoon it had on every side;
  • They built their city over those dead bones,
  • And, after her who first the place selected,
  • Mantua named it, without other omen.
  • Its people once within more crowded were,
  • Ere the stupidity of Casalodi
  • From Pinamonte had received deceit.
  • Therefore I caution thee, if e'er thou hearest
  • Originate my city otherwise,
  • No falsehood may the verity defraud."
  • And I: "My Master, thy discourses are
  • To me so certain, and so take my faith,
  • That unto me the rest would be spent coals.
  • But tell me of the people who are passing,
  • If any one note-worthy thou beholdest,
  • For only unto that my mind reverts."
  • Then said he to me: "He who from the cheek
  • Thrusts out his beard upon his swarthy shoulders
  • Was, at the time when Greece was void of males,
  • So that there scarce remained one in the cradle,
  • An augur, and with Calchas gave the moment,
  • In Aulis, when to sever the first cable.
  • Eryphylus his name was, and so sings
  • My lofty Tragedy in some part or other;
  • That knowest thou well, who knowest the whole of it.
  • The next, who is so slender in the flanks,
  • Was Michael Scott, who of a verity
  • Of magical illusions knew the game.
  • Behold Guido Bonatti, behold Asdente,
  • Who now unto his leather and his thread
  • Would fain have stuck, but he too late repents.
  • Behold the wretched ones, who left the needle,
  • The spool and rock, and made them fortune-tellers;
  • They wrought their magic spells with herb and image.
  • But come now, for already holds the confines
  • Of both the hemispheres, and under Seville
  • Touches the ocean-wave, Cain and the thorns,
  • And yesternight the moon was round already;
  • Thou shouldst remember well it did not harm thee
  • From time to time within the forest deep."
  • Thus spake he to me, and we walked the while.