If he were clerk or layman. Loud he cried:
“Why greedily thus bendest more on me,
Than on these other filthy ones, thy ken?”
“Because if true my mem’ry,” I replied,
“I heretofore have seen thee with dry locks,
And thou Alessio art of Lucca sprung.
Therefore than all the rest I scan thee more.”
Then beating on his brain these words he spake:
“Me thus low down my flatteries have sunk,
Wherewith I ne’er enough could glut my tongue.”
My leader thus: “A little further stretch
Thy face, that thou the visage well mayst note
Of that besotted, sluttish courtezan,
Who there doth rend her with defiled nails,
Now crouching down, now risen on her feet.
Thais is this, the harlot, whose false lip
Answer’d her doting paramour that ask’d,
‘Thankest me much!’—’Say rather wondrously,’
And seeing this here satiate be our view.”
Woe to thee, Simon Magus! woe to you,
His wretched followers! who the things of God,
Which should be wedded unto goodness, them,
Rapacious as ye are, do prostitute
For gold and silver in adultery!
Now must the trumpet sound for you, since yours
Is the third chasm. Upon the following vault
We now had mounted, where the rock impends
Directly o’er the centre of the foss.
Wisdom Supreme! how wonderful the art,
Which thou dost manifest in heaven, in earth,
And in the evil world, how just a meed
Allotting by thy virtue unto all!
I saw the livid stone, throughout the sides
And in its bottom full of apertures,
All equal in their width, and circular each,
Nor ample less nor larger they appear’d
Than in Saint John’s fair dome of me belov’d
Those fram’d to hold the pure baptismal streams,
One of the which I brake, some few years past,
To save a whelming infant; and be this
A seal to undeceive whoever doubts
The motive of my deed. From out the mouth
Of every one, emerg’d a sinner’s feet
And of the legs high upward as the calf
The rest beneath was hid. On either foot
The soles were burning, whence the flexile joints
Glanc’d with such violent motion, as had snapt
Asunder cords or twisted withs. As flame,
Feeding on unctuous matter, glides along
The surface, scarcely touching where it moves;
So here, from heel to point, glided the flames.
“Master! say who is he, than all the rest
Glancing in fiercer agony, on whom
A ruddier flame doth prey?” I thus inquir’d.
“If thou be willing,” he replied, “that I
Carry thee down, where least the slope bank falls,
He of himself shall tell thee and his wrongs.”
I then: “As pleases thee to me is best.
Thou art my lord; and know’st that ne’er I quit
Thy will: what silence hides that knowest thou.”
Thereat on the fourth pier we came, we turn’d,