Thus issuing from Caprona, once I saw
Th’ infantry dreading, lest his covenant
The foe should break; so close he hemm’d them round.
I to my leader’s side adher’d, mine eyes
With fixt and motionless observance bent
On their unkindly visage. They their hooks
Protruding, one the other thus bespake:
“Wilt thou I touch him on the hip?” To whom
Was answer’d: “Even so; nor miss thy aim.”
But he, who was in conf’rence with my guide,
Turn’d rapid round, and thus the demon spake:
“Stay, stay thee, Scarmiglione!” Then to us
He added: “Further footing to your step
This rock affords not, shiver’d to the base
Of the sixth arch. But would you still proceed,
Up by this cavern go: not distant far,
Another rock will yield you passage safe.
Yesterday, later by five hours than now,
Twelve hundred threescore years and six had fill’d
The circuit of their course, since here the way
Was broken. Thitherward I straight dispatch
Certain of these my scouts, who shall espy
If any on the surface bask. With them
Go ye: for ye shall find them nothing fell.
Come Alichino forth,” with that he cried,
“And Calcabrina, and Cagnazzo thou!
The troop of ten let Barbariccia lead.
With Libicocco Draghinazzo haste,
Fang’d Ciriatto, Grafflacane fierce,
And Farfarello, and mad Rubicant.
Search ye around the bubbling tar. For these,
In safety lead them, where the other crag
Uninterrupted traverses the dens.”
I then: “O master! what a sight is there!
Ah! without escort, journey we alone,
Which, if thou know the way, I covet not.
Unless thy prudence fail thee, dost not mark
How they do gnarl upon us, and their scowl
Threatens us present tortures?” He replied:
“I charge thee fear not: let them, as they will,
Gnarl on: ’t is but in token of their spite
Against the souls, who mourn in torment steep’d.”
To leftward o’er the pier they turn’d; but each
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.