Divine Comedy, Cary's Translation, Hell eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 106 pages of information about Divine Comedy, Cary's Translation, Hell.

CANTO IX

The hue, which coward dread on my pale cheeks
Imprinted, when I saw my guide turn back,
Chas’d that from his which newly they had worn,
And inwardly restrain’d it.  He, as one
Who listens, stood attentive:  for his eye
Not far could lead him through the sable air,
And the thick-gath’ring cloud.  “It yet behooves
We win this fight”—­thus he began—­“if not—­
Such aid to us is offer’d.—­Oh, how long
Me seems it, ere the promis’d help arrive!”

I noted, how the sequel of his words
Clok’d their beginning; for the last he spake
Agreed not with the first.  But not the less
My fear was at his saying; sith I drew
To import worse perchance, than that he held,
His mutilated speech.  “Doth ever any
Into this rueful concave’s extreme depth
Descend, out of the first degree, whose pain
Is deprivation merely of sweet hope?”

Thus I inquiring.  “Rarely,” he replied,
“It chances, that among us any makes
This journey, which I wend.  Erewhile ’tis true
Once came I here beneath, conjur’d by fell
Erictho, sorceress, who compell’d the shades
Back to their bodies.  No long space my flesh
Was naked of me, when within these walls
She made me enter, to draw forth a spirit
From out of Judas’ circle.  Lowest place
Is that of all, obscurest, and remov’d
Farthest from heav’n’s all-circling orb.  The road
Full well I know:  thou therefore rest secure. 
That lake, the noisome stench exhaling, round
The city’ of grief encompasses, which now
We may not enter without rage.”  Yet more
He added:  but I hold it not in mind,
For that mine eye toward the lofty tower
Had drawn me wholly, to its burning top. 
Where in an instant I beheld uprisen
At once three hellish furies stain’d with blood: 
In limb and motion feminine they seem’d;
Around them greenest hydras twisting roll’d
Their volumes; adders and cerastes crept
Instead of hair, and their fierce temples bound.

He knowing well the miserable hags
Who tend the queen of endless woe, thus spake: 

“Mark thou each dire Erinnys.  To the left
This is Megaera; on the right hand she,
Who wails, Alecto; and Tisiphone
I’ th’ midst.”  This said, in silence he remain’d
Their breast they each one clawing tore; themselves
Smote with their palms, and such shrill clamour rais’d,
That to the bard I clung, suspicion-bound. 
“Hasten Medusa:  so to adamant
Him shall we change;” all looking down exclaim’d. 
“E’en when by Theseus’ might assail’d, we took
No ill revenge.”  “Turn thyself round, and keep
Thy count’nance hid; for if the Gorgon dire
Be shown, and thou shouldst view it, thy return
Upwards would be for ever lost.”  This said,
Himself my gentle master turn’d me round,
Nor trusted he my hands, but with his own
He also hid me.  Ye of intellect
Sound and entire, mark well the lore conceal’d
Under close texture of the mystic strain!

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Divine Comedy, Cary's Translation, Hell from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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