To leftward o’er the pier they turn’d;
Had first between his teeth prest close the tongue,
Toward their leader for a signal looking,
Which he with sound obscene triumphant gave.
It hath been heretofore my chance to see
Horsemen with martial order shifting camp,
To onset sallying, or in muster rang’d,
Or in retreat sometimes outstretch’d for flight;
Light-armed squadrons and fleet foragers
Scouring thy plains, Arezzo! have I seen,
And clashing tournaments, and tilting jousts,
Now with the sound of trumpets, now of bells,
Tabors, or signals made from castled heights,
And with inventions multiform, our own,
Or introduc’d from foreign land; but ne’er
To such a strange recorder I beheld,
In evolution moving, horse nor foot,
Nor ship, that tack’d by sign from land or star.
With the ten demons on our way we went;
Ah fearful company! but in the church
With saints, with gluttons at the tavern’s mess.
Still earnest on the pitch I gaz’d, to mark
All things whate’er the chasm contain’d, and those
Who burn’d within. As dolphins, that, in sign
To mariners, heave high their arched backs,
That thence forewarn’d they may advise to save
Their threaten’d vessels; so, at intervals,
To ease the pain his back some sinner show’d,
Then hid more nimbly than the lightning glance.
E’en as the frogs, that of a wat’ry moat
Stand at the brink, with the jaws only out,
Their feet and of the trunk all else concealed,
Thus on each part the sinners stood, but soon
As Barbariccia was at hand, so they
Drew back under the wave. I saw, and yet
My heart doth stagger, one, that waited thus,
As it befalls that oft one frog remains,
While the next springs away: and Graffiacan,
Who of the fiends was nearest, grappling seiz’d
His clotted locks, and dragg’d him sprawling up,
That he appear’d to me an otter. Each
Already by their names I knew, so well
When they were chosen, I observ’d, and mark’d
How one the other call’d. “O Rubicant!
See that his hide thou with thy talons flay,”
Shouted together all the cursed crew.
Then I: “Inform thee, master! if thou may,
What wretched soul is this, on whom their hand
His foes have laid.” My leader to his side
Approach’d, and whence he came inquir’d, to whom
Was answer’d thus: “Born in Navarre’s domain
My mother plac’d me in a lord’s retinue,
For she had borne me to a losel vile,
A spendthrift of his substance and himself.
The good king Thibault after that I serv’d,
To peculating here my thoughts were turn’d,
Whereof I give account in this dire heat.”