What state a fortress like to that might hold,
I soon as enter’d throw mine eye around,
And see on every part wide-stretching space
Replete with bitter pain and torment ill.
As where Rhone stagnates on the plains of Arles,
Or as at Pola, near Quarnaro’s gulf,
That closes Italy and laves her bounds,
The place is all thick spread with sepulchres;
So was it here, save what in horror here
Excell’d: for ’midst the graves were scattered flames,
Wherewith intensely all throughout they burn’d,
That iron for no craft there hotter needs.
Their lids all hung suspended, and beneath
From them forth issu’d lamentable moans,
Such as the sad and tortur’d well might raise.
I thus: “Master! say who are these, interr’d
Within these vaults, of whom distinct we hear
The dolorous sighs?” He answer thus return’d:
“The arch-heretics are here, accompanied
By every sect their followers; and much more,
Than thou believest, tombs are freighted: like
With like is buried; and the monuments
Are different in degrees of heat. “This said,
He to the right hand turning, on we pass’d
Betwixt the afflicted and the ramparts high.
Now by a secret pathway we proceed,
Between the walls, that hem the region round,
And the tormented souls: my master first,
I close behind his steps. “Virtue supreme!”
I thus began; “who through these ample orbs
In circuit lead’st me, even as thou will’st,
Speak thou, and satisfy my wish. May those,
Who lie within these sepulchres, be seen?
Already all the lids are rais’d, and none
O’er them keeps watch.” He thus in answer spake
“They shall be closed all, what-time they here
From Josaphat return’d shall come, and bring
Their bodies, which above they now have left.
The cemetery on this part obtain
With Epicurus all his followers,
Who with the body make the spirit die.
Here therefore satisfaction shall be soon
Both to the question ask’d, and to the wish,
Which thou conceal’st in silence.” I replied:
“I keep not, guide belov’d! from thee my heart
Secreted, but to shun vain length of words,
A lesson erewhile taught me by thyself.”
“O Tuscan! thou who through the city of fire
Alive art passing, so discreet of speech!
Here please thee stay awhile. Thy utterance
Declares the place of thy nativity
To be that noble land, with which perchance
I too severely dealt.” Sudden that sound
Forth issu’d from a vault, whereat in fear
I somewhat closer to my leader’s side
Approaching, he thus spake: “What dost thou? Turn.
Lo, Farinata, there! who hath himself
Uplifted: from his girdle upwards all
Expos’d behold him.” On his face was mine
Already fix’d; his breast and forehead there