Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 27 Guido da Montefeltro. His deception by Pope Boniface VIII.

  • Already was the flame erect and quiet,
  • To speak no more, and now departed from us
  • With the permission of the gentle Poet;
  • When yet another, which behind it came,
  • Caused us to turn our eyes upon its top
  • By a confused sound that issued from it.
  • As the Sicilian bull (that bellowed first
  • With the lament of him, and that was right,
  • Who with his file had modulated it)
  • Bellowed so with the voice of the afflicted,
  • That, notwithstanding it was made of brass,
  • Still it appeared with agony transfixed;
  • Thus, by not having any way or issue
  • At first from out the fire, to its own language
  • Converted were the melancholy words.
  • But afterwards, when they had gathered way
  • Up through the point, giving it that vibration
  • The tongue had given them in their passage out,
  • We heard it said: "O thou, at whom I aim
  • My voice, and who but now wast speaking Lombard,
  • Saying, 'Now go thy way, no more I urge thee,'
  • Because I come perchance a little late,
  • To stay and speak with me let it not irk thee;
  • Thou seest it irks not me, and I am burning.
  • If thou but lately into this blind world
  • Hast fallen down from that sweet Latian land,
  • Wherefrom I bring the whole of my transgression,
  • Say, if the Romagnuols have peace or war,
  • For I was from the mountains there between
  • Urbino and the yoke whence Tiber bursts."
  • I still was downward bent and listening,
  • When my Conductor touched me on the side,
  • Saying: "Speak thou: this one a Latian is."
  • And I, who had beforehand my reply
  • In readiness, forthwith began to speak:
  • "O soul, that down below there art concealed,
  • Romagna thine is not and never has been
  • Without war in the bosom of its tyrants;
  • But open war I none have left there now.
  • Ravenna stands as it long years has stood;
  • The Eagle of Polenta there is brooding,
  • So that she covers Cervia with her vans.
  • The city which once made the long resistance,
  • And of the French a sanguinary heap,
  • Beneath the Green Paws finds itself again;
  • Verrucchio's ancient Mastiff and the new,
  • Who made such bad disposal of Montagna,
  • Where they are wont make wimbles of their teeth.
  • The cities of Lamone and Santerno
  • Governs the Lioncel of the white lair,
  • Who changes sides 'twixt summer-time and winter;
  • And that of which the Savio bathes the flank,
  • Even as it lies between the plain and mountain,
  • Lives between tyranny and a free state.
  • Now I entreat thee tell us who thou art;
  • Be not more stubborn than the rest have been,
  • So may thy name hold front there in the world."
  • After the fire a little more had roared
  • In its own fashion, the sharp point it moved
  • This way and that, and then gave forth such breath:
  • "If I believed that my reply were made
  • To one who to the world would e'er return,
  • This flame without more flickering would stand still;
  • But inasmuch as never from this depth
  • Did any one return, if I hear true,
  • Without the fear of infamy I answer,
  • I was a man of arms, then Cordelier,
  • Believing thus begirt to make amends;
  • And truly my belief had been fulfilled
  • But for the High Priest, whom may ill betide,
  • Who put me back into my former sins;
  • And how and wherefore I will have thee hear.
  • While I was still the form of bone and pulp
  • My mother gave to me, the deeds I did
  • Were not those of a lion, but a fox.
  • The machinations and the covert ways
  • I knew them all, and practised so their craft,
  • That to the ends of earth the sound went forth.
  • When now unto that portion of mine age
  • I saw myself arrived, when each one ought
  • To lower the sails, and coil away the ropes,
  • That which before had pleased me then displeased me;
  • And penitent and confessing I surrendered,
  • Ah woe is me! and it would have bestead me;
  • The Leader of the modern Pharisees
  • Having a war near unto Lateran,
  • And not with Saracens nor with the Jews,
  • For each one of his enemies was Christian,
  • And none of them had been to conquer Acre,
  • Nor merchandising in the Sultan's land,
  • Nor the high office, nor the sacred orders,
  • In him regarded, nor in me that cord
  • Which used to make those girt with it more meagre;
  • But even as Constantine sought out Sylvester
  • To cure his leprosy, within Soracte,
  • So this one sought me out as an adept
  • To cure him of the fever of his pride.
  • Counsel he asked of me, and I was silent,
  • Because his words appeared inebriate.
  • And then he said: 'Be not thy heart afraid;
  • Henceforth I thee absolve; and thou instruct me
  • How to raze Palestrina to the ground.
  • Heaven have I power to lock and to unlock,
  • As thou dost know; therefore the keys are two,
  • The which my predecessor held not dear.'
  • Then urged me on his weighty arguments
  • There, where my silence was the worst advice;
  • And said I: 'Father, since thou washest me
  • Of that sin into which I now must fall,
  • The promise long with the fulfilment short
  • Will make thee triumph in thy lofty seat.'
  • Francis came afterward, when I was dead,
  • For me; but one of the black Cherubim
  • Said to him: 'Take him not; do me no wrong;
  • He must come down among my servitors,
  • Because he gave the fraudulent advice
  • From which time forth I have been at his hair;
  • For who repents not cannot be absolved,
  • Nor can one both repent and will at once,
  • Because of the contradiction which consents not.'
  • O miserable me! how I did shudder
  • When he seized on me, saying: 'Peradventure
  • Thou didst not think that I was a logician!'
  • He bore me unto Minos, who entwined
  • Eight times his tail about his stubborn back,
  • And after he had bitten it in great rage,
  • Said: 'Of the thievish fire a culprit this;'
  • Wherefore, here where thou seest, am I lost,
  • And vested thus in going I bemoan me."
  • When it had thus completed its recital,
  • The flame departed uttering lamentations,
  • Writhing and flapping its sharp-pointed horn.
  • Onward we passed, both I and my Conductor,
  • Up o'er the crag above another arch,
  • Which the moat covers, where is paid the fee
  • By those who, sowing discord, win their burden.