The sinner heard and feign’d not, but towards
His mind directing and his face, wherein
Was dismal shame depictur’d, thus he spake:
“It grieves me more to have been caught by thee
In this sad plight, which thou beholdest, than
When I was taken from the other life.
I have no power permitted to deny
What thou inquirest. I am doom’d thus low
To dwell, for that the sacristy by me
Was rifled of its goodly ornaments,
And with the guilt another falsely charged.
But that thou mayst not joy to see me thus,
So as thou e’er shalt ’scape this darksome realm
Open thine ears and hear what I forebode.
Reft of the Neri first Pistoia pines,
Then Florence changeth citizens and laws.
From Valdimagra, drawn by wrathful Mars,
A vapour rises, wrapt in turbid mists,
And sharp and eager driveth on the storm
With arrowy hurtling o’er Piceno’s field,
Whence suddenly the cloud shall burst, and strike
Each helpless Bianco prostrate to the ground.
This have I told, that grief may rend thy heart.”
When he had spoke, the sinner rais’d his
Pointed in mockery, and cried: “Take them, God!
I level them at thee!” From that day forth
The serpents were my friends; for round his neck
One of then rolling twisted, as it said,
“Be silent, tongue!” Another to his arms
Upgliding, tied them, riveting itself
So close, it took from them the power to move.
Pistoia! Ah Pistoia! why dost doubt
To turn thee into ashes, cumb’ring earth
No longer, since in evil act so far
Thou hast outdone thy seed? I did not mark,
Through all the gloomy circles of the’ abyss,
Spirit, that swell’d so proudly ’gainst his God,
Not him, who headlong fell from Thebes. He fled,
Nor utter’d more; and after him there came
A centaur full of fury, shouting, “Where
Where is the caitiff?” On Maremma’s marsh
Swarm not the serpent tribe, as on his haunch
They swarm’d, to where the human face begins.
Behind his head upon the shoulders lay,
With open wings, a dragon breathing fire
On whomsoe’er he met. To me my guide:
“Cacus is this, who underneath the rock
Of Aventine spread oft a lake of blood.
He, from his brethren parted, here must tread
A different journey, for his fraudful theft
Of the great herd, that near him stall’d; whence found
His felon deeds their end, beneath the mace
Of stout Alcides, that perchance laid on
A hundred blows, and not the tenth was felt.”
While yet he spake, the centaur sped away:
And under us three spirits came, of whom
Nor I nor he was ware, till they exclaim’d;
“Say who are ye?” We then brake off discourse,
Intent on these alone. I knew them not;
But, as it chanceth oft, befell, that one
Had need to name another. “Where,” said he,