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Chapter 23 Escape from the Malabranche. The Sixth Bolgia: Hypocrites. Catalano and Loderingo. Caiaphas.

  • Silent, alone, and without company
  • We went, the one in front, the other after,
  • As go the Minor Friars along their way.
  • Upon the fable of Aesop was directed
  • My thought, by reason of the present quarrel,
  • Where he has spoken of the frog and mouse;
  • For 'mo' and 'issa' are not more alike
  • Than this one is to that, if well we couple
  • End and beginning with a steadfast mind.
  • And even as one thought from another springs,
  • So afterward from that was born another,
  • Which the first fear within me double made.
  • Thus did I ponder: "These on our account
  • Are laughed to scorn, with injury and scoff
  • So great, that much I think it must annoy them.
  • If anger be engrafted on ill-will,
  • They will come after us more merciless
  • Than dog upon the leveret which he seizes,"
  • I felt my hair stand all on end already
  • With terror, and stood backwardly intent,
  • When said I: "Master, if thou hidest not
  • Thyself and me forthwith, of Malebranche
  • I am in dread; we have them now behind us;
  • I so imagine them, I already feel them."
  • And he: "If I were made of leaded glass,
  • Thine outward image I should not attract
  • Sooner to me than I imprint the inner.
  • Just now thy thoughts came in among my own,
  • With similar attitude and similar face,
  • So that of both one counsel sole I made.
  • If peradventure the right bank so slope
  • That we to the next Bolgia can descend,
  • We shall escape from the imagined chase."
  • Not yet he finished rendering such opinion,
  • When I beheld them come with outstretched wings,
  • Not far remote, with will to seize upon us.
  • My Leader on a sudden seized me up,
  • Even as a mother who by noise is wakened,
  • And close beside her sees the enkindled flames,
  • Who takes her son, and flies, and does not stop,
  • Having more care of him than of herself,
  • So that she clothes her only with a shift;
  • And downward from the top of the hard bank
  • Supine he gave him to the pendent rock,
  • That one side of the other Bolgia walls.
  • Ne'er ran so swiftly water through a sluice
  • To turn the wheel of any land-built mill,
  • When nearest to the paddles it approaches,
  • As did my Master down along that border,
  • Bearing me with him on his breast away,
  • As his own son, and not as a companion.
  • Hardly the bed of the ravine below
  • His feet had reached, ere they had reached the hill
  • Right over us; but he was not afraid;
  • For the high Providence, which had ordained
  • To place them ministers of the fifth moat,
  • The power of thence departing took from all.
  • A painted people there below we found,
  • Who went about with footsteps very slow,
  • Weeping and in their semblance tired and vanquished.
  • They had on mantles with the hoods low down
  • Before their eyes, and fashioned of the cut
  • That in Cologne they for the monks are made.
  • Without, they gilded are so that it dazzles;
  • But inwardly all leaden and so heavy
  • That Frederick used to put them on of straw.
  • O everlastingly fatiguing mantle!
  • Again we turned us, still to the left hand
  • Along with them, intent on their sad plaint;
  • But owing to the weight, that weary folk
  • Came on so tardily, that we were new
  • In company at each motion of the haunch.
  • Whence I unto my Leader: "See thou find
  • Some one who may by deed or name be known,
  • And thus in going move thine eye about."
  • And one, who understood the Tuscan speech,
  • Cried to us from behind: "Stay ye your feet,
  • Ye, who so run athwart the dusky air!
  • Perhaps thou'lt have from me what thou demandest."
  • Whereat the Leader turned him, and said: "Wait,
  • And then according to his pace proceed."
  • I stopped, and two beheld I show great haste
  • Of spirit, in their faces, to be with me;
  • But the burden and the narrow way delayed them.
  • When they came up, long with an eye askance
  • They scanned me without uttering a word.
  • Then to each other turned, and said together:
  • "He by the action of his throat seems living;
  • And if they dead are, by what privilege
  • Go they uncovered by the heavy stole?"
  • Then said to me: "Tuscan, who to the college
  • Of miserable hypocrites art come,
  • Do not disdain to tell us who thou art."
  • And I to them: "Born was I, and grew up
  • In the great town on the fair river of Arno,
  • And with the body am I've always had.
  • But who are ye, in whom there trickles down
  • Along your cheeks such grief as I behold?
  • And what pain is upon you, that so sparkles?"
  • And one replied to me: "These orange cloaks
  • Are made of lead so heavy, that the weights
  • Cause in this way their balances to creak.
  • Frati Gaudenti were we, and Bolognese;
  • I Catalano, and he Loderingo
  • Named, and together taken by thy city,
  • As the wont is to take one man alone,
  • For maintenance of its peace; and we were such
  • That still it is apparent round Gardingo."
  • "O Friars," began I, "your iniquitous… "
  • But said no more; for to mine eyes there rushed
  • One crucified with three stakes on the ground.
  • When me he saw, he writhed himself all over,
  • Blowing into his beard with suspirations;
  • And the Friar Catalan, who noticed this,
  • Said to me: "This transfixed one, whom thou seest,
  • Counselled the Pharisees that it was meet
  • To put one man to torture for the people.
  • Crosswise and naked is he on the path,
  • As thou perceivest; and he needs must feel,
  • Whoever passes, first how much he weighs;
  • And in like mode his father-in-law is punished
  • Within this moat, and the others of the council,
  • Which for the Jews was a malignant seed."
  • And thereupon I saw Virgilius marvel
  • O'er him who was extended on the cross
  • So vilely in eternal banishment.
  • Then he directed to the Friar this voice:
  • "Be not displeased, if granted thee, to tell us
  • If to the right hand any pass slope down
  • By which we two may issue forth from here,
  • Without constraining some of the black angels
  • To come and extricate us from this deep."
  • Then he made answer: "Nearer than thou hopest
  • There is a rock, that forth from the great circle
  • Proceeds, and crosses all the cruel valleys,
  • Save that at this 'tis broken, and does not bridge it;
  • You will be able to mount up the ruin,
  • That sidelong slopes and at the bottom rises."
  • The Leader stood awhile with head bowed down;
  • Then said: "The business badly he recounted
  • Who grapples with his hook the sinners yonder."
  • And the Friar: "Many of the Devil's vices
  • Once heard I at Bologna, and among them,
  • That he's a liar and the father of lies."
  • Thereat my Leader with great strides went on,
  • Somewhat disturbed with anger in his looks;
  • Whence from the heavy-laden I departed
  • After the prints of his beloved feet.