Canto XI


Upon the margin of a lofty bank

  Which great rocks broken in a circle made,

  We came upon a still more cruel throng;


And there, by reason of the horrible

5  Excess of stench the deep abyss throws out,

  We drew ourselves aside behind the cover


Of a great tomb, whereon I saw a writing,

  Which said: "Pope Anastasius I hold,

  Whom out of the right way Photinus drew."


10"Slow it behoveth our descent to be,

  So that the sense be first a little used

  To the sad blast, and then we shall not heed it."


The Master thus; and unto him I said,

  "Some compensation find, that the time pass not

15  Idly;" and he: "Thou seest I think of that.


My son, upon the inside of these rocks,"

  Began he then to say, "are three small circles,

  From grade to grade, like those which thou art leaving.


They all are full of spirits maledict;

20  But that hereafter sight alone suffice thee,

  Hear how and wherefore they are in constraint.


Of every malice that wins hate in Heaven,

  Injury is the end; and all such end

  Either by force or fraud afflicteth others.


25But because fraud is man's peculiar vice,

  More it displeases God; and so stand lowest

  The fraudulent, and greater dole assails them.


All the first circle of the Violent is;

  But since force may be used against three persons,

30  In three rounds 'tis divided and constructed.


To God, to ourselves, and to our neighbour can we

  Use force; I say on them and on their things,

  As thou shalt hear with reason manifest.


A death by violence, and painful wounds,

35  Are to our neighbour given; and in his substance

  Ruin, and arson, and injurious levies;


Whence homicides, and he who smites unjustly,

  Marauders, and freebooters, the first round

  Tormenteth all in companies diverse.


40Man may lay violent hands upon himself

  And his own goods; and therefore in the second

  Round must perforce without avail repent


Whoever of your world deprives himself,

  Who games, and dissipates his property,

45  And weepeth there, where he should jocund be.


Violence can be done the Deity,

  In heart denying and blaspheming Him,

  And by disdaining Nature and her bounty.


And for this reason doth the smallest round

50  Seal with its signet Sodom and Cahors,

  And who, disdaining God, speaks from the heart.


Fraud, wherewithal is every conscience stung,

  A man may practise upon him who trusts,

  And him who doth no confidence imburse.


55This latter mode, it would appear, dissevers

  Only the bond of love which Nature makes;

  Wherefore within the second circle nestle


Hypocrisy, flattery, and who deals in magic,

  Falsification, theft, and simony,

60  Panders, and barrators, and the like filth.


By the other mode, forgotten is that love

  Which Nature makes, and what is after added,

  From which there is a special faith engendered.


Hence in the smallest circle, where the point is

65  Of the Universe, upon which Dis is seated,

  Whoe'er betrays for ever is consumed."


And I: "My Master, clear enough proceeds

  Thy reasoning, and full well distinguishes

  This cavern and the people who possess it.


70But tell me, those within the fat lagoon,

  Whom the wind drives, and whom the rain doth beat,

  And who encounter with such bitter tongues,


Wherefore are they inside of the red city

  Not punished, if God has them in his wrath,

75  And if he has not, wherefore in such fashion?"


And unto me he said: "Why wanders so

  Thine intellect from that which it is wont?

  Or, sooth, thy mind where is it elsewhere looking?


Hast thou no recollection of those words

80  With which thine Ethics thoroughly discusses

  The dispositions three, that Heaven abides not, -


Incontinence, and Malice, and insane

  Bestiality? and how Incontinence

  Less God offendeth, and less blame attracts?


85If thou regardest this conclusion well,

  And to thy mind recallest who they are

  That up outside are undergoing penance,


Clearly wilt thou perceive why from these felons

  They separated are, and why less wroth

90  Justice divine doth smite them with its hammer."


"O Sun, that healest all distempered vision,

  Thou dost content me so, when thou resolvest,

  That doubting pleases me no less than knowing!


Once more a little backward turn thee," said I,

95  "There where thou sayest that usury offends

  Goodness divine, and disengage the knot."


"Philosophy," he said, "to him who heeds it,

  Noteth, not only in one place alone,

  After what manner Nature takes her course


100From Intellect Divine, and from its art;

  And if thy Physics carefully thou notest,

  After not many pages shalt thou find,


That this your art as far as possible

  Follows, as the disciple doth the master;

105  So that your art is, as it were, God's grandchild.


From these two, if thou bringest to thy mind

  Genesis at the beginning, it behoves

  Mankind to gain their life and to advance;


And since the usurer takes another way,

110  Nature herself and in her follower

  Disdains he, for elsewhere he puts his hope.


But follow, now, as I would fain go on,

  For quivering are the Fishes on the horizon,

  And the Wain wholly over Caurus lies,


115And far beyond there we descend the crag."