Inferno: Canto XVII
"Behold the monster
with the pointed tail,
cleaves the hills, and breaketh walls and weapons,
Behold him who infecteth all the world."
Thus unto me my
Guide began to say,
beckoned him that he should come to shore,
Near to the confine of the trodden marble;
And that uncleanly
image of deceit
up and thrust ashore its head and bust,
But on the border did not drag its tail.
The face was as the
face of a just man,
semblance outwardly was so benign,
And of a serpent all the trunk beside.
Two paws it had,
hairy unto the armpits;
back, and breast, and both the sides it had
Depicted o'er with nooses and with shields.
With colours more,
groundwork or broidery
in cloth did Tartars make nor Turks,
Nor were such tissues by Arachne laid.
wherries lie upon the shore,
part are in the water, part on land;
And as among the guzzling Germans there,
The beaver plants
himself to wage his war;
that vile monster lay upon the border,
Which is of stone, and shutteth in the sand.
His tail was wholly
quivering in the void,
upwards the envenomed fork,
That in the guise of scorpion armed its point.
The Guide said:
"Now perforce must turn aside
way a little, even to that beast
Malevolent, that yonder coucheth him."
We therefore on the
right side descended,
made ten steps upon the outer verge,
Completely to avoid the sand and flame;
And after we are
come to him, I see
little farther off upon the sand
A people sitting near the hollow place.
Then said to me the
Master: "So that full
of this round thou bear away,
Now go and see what their condition is.
There let thy
conversation be concise;
thou returnest I will speak with him,
That he concede to us his stalwart shoulders."
Thus farther still
upon the outermost
of that seventh circle all alone
I went, where sat the melancholy folk.
Out of their eyes
was gushing forth their woe;
way, that way, they helped them with their hands
Now from the flames and now from the hot soil.
Not otherwise in
summer do the dogs,
with the foot, now with the muzzle, when
By fleas, or flies, or gadflies, they are bitten.
When I had turned
mine eyes upon the faces
some, on whom the dolorous fire is falling,
Not one of them I knew; but I perceived
That from the neck
of each there hung a pouch,
certain colour had, and certain blazon;
And thereupon it seems their eyes are feeding.
And as I gazing
round me come among them,
a yellow pouch I azure saw
That had the face and posture of a lion.
Proceeding then the
current of my sight,
of them saw I, red as blood,
Display a goose more white than butter is.
And one, who with
an azure sow and gravid
had his little pouch of white,
Said unto me: "What dost thou in this moat?
Now get thee gone;
and since thou'rt still alive,
that a neighbour of mine, Vitaliano,
Will have his seat here on my left-hand side.
A Paduan am I with
many a time they thunder in mine ears,
Exclaiming, 'Come the sovereign cavalier,
He who shall bring
the satchel with three goats;'"
twisted he his mouth, and forth he thrust
His tongue, like to an ox that licks its nose.
And fearing lest my
longer stay might vex
who had warned me not to tarry long,
Backward I turned me from those weary souls.
I found my Guide,
who had already mounted
the back of that wild animal,
And said to me: "Now be both strong and bold.
Now we descend by
stairways such as these;
thou in front, for I will be midway,
So that the tail may have no power to harm thee."
Such as he is who
has so near the ague
quartan that his nails are blue already,
And trembles all, but looking at the shade;
Even such became I
at those proffered words;
shame in me his menaces produced,
Which maketh servant strong before good master.
I seated me upon
those monstrous shoulders;
wished to say, and yet the voice came not
As I believed, "Take heed that thou embrace me."
But he, who other
times had rescued me
other peril, soon as I had mounted,
Within his arms encircled and sustained me,
And said: "Now,
Geryon, bestir thyself;
circles large, and the descent be little;
Think of the novel burden which thou hast."
Even as the little
vessel shoves from shore,
still backward, so he thence withdrew;
And when he wholly felt himself afloat,
There where his
breast had been he turned his tail,
that extended like an eel he moved,
And with his paws drew to himself the air.
A greater fear I do
not think there was
time abandoned Phaeton the reins,
Whereby the heavens, as still appears, were scorched;
Nor when the
wretched Icarus his flanks
stripped of feathers by the melting wax,
His father crying, "An ill way thou takest!"
Than was my own,
when I perceived myself
all sides in the air, and saw extinguished
The sight of everything but of the monster.
Onward he goeth,
swimming slowly, slowly;
and descends, but I perceive it only
By wind upon my face and from below.
I heard already on
the right the whirlpool
a horrible crashing under us;
Whence I thrust out my head with eyes cast downward.
Then was I still
more fearful of the abyss;
I fires beheld, and heard laments,
Whereat I, trembling, all the closer cling.
I saw then, for
before I had not seen it,
turning and descending, by great horrors
That were approaching upon divers sides.
As falcon who has
long been on the wing,
without seeing either lure or bird,
Maketh the falconer say, "Ah me, thou stoopest,"
whence he started swiftly,
a hundred circles, and alights
Far from his master, sullen and disdainful;
Even thus did
Geryon place us on the bottom,
to the bases of the rough-hewn rock,
And being disencumbered of our persons,
He sped away as
arrow from the string.
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