Canto XXV

 

At the conclusion of his words, the thief

  Lifted his hands aloft with both the figs,

  Crying: "Take that, God, for at thee I aim them."

 

From that time forth the serpents were my friends;

5  For one entwined itself about his neck

  As if it said: "I will not thou speak more;"

 

And round his arms another, and rebound him,

  Clinching itself together so in front,

  That with them he could not a motion make.

 

10Pistoia, ah, Pistoia! why resolve not

  To burn thyself to ashes and so perish,

  Since in ill-doing thou thy seed excellest?

 

Through all the sombre circles of this Hell,

  Spirit I saw not against God so proud,

15  Not he who fell at Thebes down from the walls!

 

He fled away, and spake no further word;

  And I beheld a Centaur full of rage

  Come crying out: "Where is, where is the scoffer?"

 

I do not think Maremma has so many

20  Serpents as he had all along his back,

  As far as where our countenance begins.

 

Upon the shoulders, just behind the nape,

  With wings wide open was a dragon lying,

  And he sets fire to all that he encounters.

 

25My Master said: "That one is Cacus, who

  Beneath the rock upon Mount Aventine

  Created oftentimes a lake of blood.

 

He goes not on the same road with his brothers,

  By reason of the fraudulent theft he made

30  Of the great herd, which he had near to him;

 

Whereat his tortuous actions ceased beneath

  The mace of Hercules, who peradventure

  Gave him a hundred, and he felt not ten."

 

While he was speaking thus, he had passed by,

35  And spirits three had underneath us come,

  Of which nor I aware was, nor my Leader,

 

Until what time they shouted: "Who are you?"

  On which account our story made a halt,

  And then we were intent on them alone.

 

40I did not know them; but it came to pass,

  As it is wont to happen by some chance,

  That one to name the other was compelled,

 

Exclaiming: "Where can Cianfa have remained?"

  Whence I, so that the Leader might attend,

45  Upward from chin to nose my finger laid.

 

If thou art, Reader, slow now to believe

  What I shall say, it will no marvel be,

  For I who saw it hardly can admit it.

 

As I was holding raised on them my brows,

50  Behold! a serpent with six feet darts forth

  In front of one, and fastens wholly on him.

 

With middle feet it bound him round the paunch,

  And with the forward ones his arms it seized;

  Then thrust its teeth through one cheek and the other;

 

55The hindermost it stretched upon his thighs,

  And put its tail through in between the two,

  And up behind along the reins outspread it.

 

Ivy was never fastened by its barbs

  Unto a tree so, as this horrible reptile

60  Upon the other's limbs entwined its own.

 

Then they stuck close, as if of heated wax

  They had been made, and intermixed their colour;

  Nor one nor other seemed now what he was;

 

E'en as proceedeth on before the flame

65  Upward along the paper a brown colour,

  Which is not black as yet, and the white dies.

 

The other two looked on, and each of them

  Cried out: "O me, Agnello, how thou changest!

  Behold, thou now art neither two nor one."

 

70Already the two heads had one become,

  When there appeared to us two figures mingled

  Into one face, wherein the two were lost.

 

Of the four lists were fashioned the two arms,

  The thighs and legs, the belly and the chest

75  Members became that never yet were seen.

 

Every original aspect there was cancelled;

  Two and yet none did the perverted image

  Appear, and such departed with slow pace.

 

Even as a lizard, under the great scourge

80  Of days canicular, exchanging hedge,

  Lightning appeareth if the road it cross;

 

Thus did appear, coming towards the bellies

  Of the two others, a small fiery serpent,

  Livid and black as is a peppercorn.

 

85And in that part whereat is first received

  Our aliment, it one of them transfixed;

  Then downward fell in front of him extended.

 

The one transfixed looked at it, but said naught;

  Nay, rather with feet motionless he yawned,

90  Just as if sleep or fever had assailed him.

 

He at the serpent gazed, and it at him;

  One through the wound, the other through the mouth

  Smoked violently, and the smoke commingled.

 

Henceforth be silent Lucan, where he mentions

95  Wretched Sabellus and Nassidius,

  And wait to hear what now shall be shot forth.

 

Be silent Ovid, of Cadmus and Arethusa;

  For if him to a snake, her to fountain,

  Converts he fabling, that I grudge him not;

 

100Because two natures never front to front

  Has he transmuted, so that both the forms

  To interchange their matter ready were.

 

Together they responded in such wise,

  That to a fork the serpent cleft his tail,

105  And eke the wounded drew his feet together.

 

The legs together with the thighs themselves

  Adhered so, that in little time the juncture

  No sign whatever made that was apparent.

 

He with the cloven tail assumed the figure

110  The other one was losing, and his skin

  Became elastic, and the other's hard.

 

I saw the arms draw inward at the armpits,

  And both feet of the reptile, that were short,

  Lengthen as much as those contracted were.

 

115Thereafter the hind feet, together twisted,

  Became the member that a man conceals,

  And of his own the wretch had two created.

 

While both of them the exhalation veils

  With a new colour, and engenders hair

120  On one of them and depilates the other,

 

The one uprose and down the other fell,

  Though turning not away their impious lamps,

  Underneath which each one his muzzle changed.

 

He who was standing drew it tow'rds the temples,

125  And from excess of matter, which came thither,

  Issued the ears from out the hollow cheeks;

 

What did not backward run and was retained

  Of that excess made to the face a nose,

  And the lips thickened far as was befitting.

 

130He who lay prostrate thrusts his muzzle forward,

  And backward draws the ears into his head,

  In the same manner as the snail its horns;

 

And so the tongue, which was entire and apt

  For speech before, is cleft, and the bi-forked

135  In the other closes up, and the smoke ceases.

 

The soul, which to a reptile had been changed,

  Along the valley hissing takes to flight,

  And after him the other speaking sputters.

 

Then did he turn upon him his new shoulders,

140  And said to the other: "I'll have Buoso run,

  Crawling as I have done, along this road."

 

In this way I beheld the seventh ballast

  Shift and reshift, and here be my excuse

  The novelty, if aught my pen transgress.

 

145And notwithstanding that mine eyes might be

  Somewhat bewildered, and my mind dismayed,

  They could not flee away so secretly

 

But that I plainly saw Puccio Sciancato;

  And he it was who sole of three companions,

150  Which came in the beginning, was not changed;

 

The other was he whom thou, Gaville, weepest.