The third round of the seventh circle; three Florentines; the cord

canto summary and diagram

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1 As we approached the place where the waters dive Down to the next circle we could distinguish Their distant murmur like the humming of a beehive. inferno xvi 4 Here three shades streaked across the hellish Landscape from a company that passed Beneath the rain of bitter anguish. 7 "Stop!" they cried as they approached us fast. "From your clothes you seem to be one who Comes from our perverse city." I was aghast * 10 At the terrible wounds, both old and new, Covering the limbs of these three, burned Deep into the flesh. It still pains me to review inferno xvi 13 The experience, even now. My master turned His face toward me when he heard their cries. "Now wait, show courtesy, these shades have earned 16 Your respect; indeed, if fiery skies Were not in the nature of this place, Then the haste they now demonstrate I'd advise * 19 You to adopt instead." They resumed their normal pace Once we'd stopped, and made themselves into a wheel When they were before us. Each kept his face inferno xvi 22 Toward me, and like naked, oiled wrestlers who feel Opponents out with feints before they beat Each other and come to blows for real, 25 These three made motions of advance and retreat So that the neck went in a direction Always contrary to that of the feet. * 28 Said one: "If the misery of this squalid location "And our charred, peeled faces bring disdain "Upon us and our invocation, inferno xvi 31 Then let our fame convince you to explain To us who you are, you who, without being dead, Stride through hell with a step so certain. 34 He in whose footsteps you see me tread, Although compelled to participate Here naked and peeled, was much better bred 37 Than you might think. Grandson of the late, Virtuous Gualdrada, Guido Guerra was his name, * And his counsel and sword produced great inferno xvi 40 Results in his life; as for the one behind, blame * The world for not giving heed to Tegghiaio Aldobrandi. I who share the same 43 Punishment and pain as these worthy two, Was Jacopo Rusticucci, and more * Than anything else, it was my savage wife who 46 Destroyed me." Had I been able to ignore Or deflect the fire, I would have thrown Myself down among them on the stream's shore, inferno xvi 49 Which I think my guide would have been happy to condone. * But since the fire would have baked and charred me, I was overcome by fears for my own 52 Safety and lost the impetus to embrace those three. "It wasn't," I said, "disdain I felt, but deep pity, When my master's words first prepared me to see 55 Men of your stature. I am indeed from your city, And have long heard and repeated your Revered names and deeds with fond alacrity. inferno xvi 58 As for me, I leave the bitter gall and go for The sweet fruit promised me by my true guide; But first I must descend to the core, 61 Down to the deepest point inside." "So that your soul may long give direction To your limbs," the same shade replied, 64 "And so that the bright illumination Of your fame shines after your departure, Tell us if our city still finds inspiration inferno xvi 67 In courtesy and valor, which were part of its nature When we were there, or have qualities Like these been driven from the picture? 70 Guglielmo Borsiere, who has shared our agonies * For only a short time, and walks ahead there With our companions, has told us stories 73 Which greatly distress us." "Newcomers and their Sudden wealth have engendered pride And excess in you, O Florence, and in despair inferno xvi 76 You weep because of them already." Thus I cried With face uplifted; and the three from Florence, * Who took this as my answer, eyed 79 Each other as people often do in the presence Of plain truth. "To hear such a clear reply," They all said, "is a satisfying experience; 82 You're indeed fortunate if you can rely On this whenever you speak. Therefore, If you escape these gloomy regions and again spy inferno xvi 85 The lovely stars, speak of us to men, we implore, When you rejoice to say, 'I was once among the dead.'" They broke their wheel, and their legs seemed to soar 88 Like wings as they fled. No amen could have been said As quickly as they vanished; my master found This the right time to leave as well, and led 91 Me away. We hadn't covered much ground When we heard water falling with such force That our voices were drowned out by the sound. inferno xvi 94 Like that river which springs from a source * At Mount Veso and travels the high hills Of the Apennines on an eastward course, 97 (Called Acquacheta until it spills To its lower bed, losing that name beyond there At Forlì), and which reverberates and fills 100 A great space above San Benedetto where A thousand could be housed under * Its cascade, so that black water filled the air inferno xvi 103 With a deafening roar of thunder As it plunged down the steep rock face. A command from my guide made me wonder 106 What strange event was about to take place, For he requested the cord which I'd tied About my waist (with which I'd once thought to chase 109 And catch the leopard with the painted hide). * When I gave it to him, coiled in a loop, he took it And turned toward the right side, inferno xvi 112 Flinging it down into the depths of the pit, Far out beyond the edge. "Surely there must Be some response," I thought to myself, "to fit 115 The strange signal which my master just Sent, and whose course his eye now pursues." Ah, how cautious, even with those we trust, 118 Should one be in the presence of those who use Their senses to see not only the outer action But the inner thought as well. "What ensues inferno xvi 121 Now," declared my guide, "will match my expectation And embody the image you're trying to reach." When dealing with a fact which sounds like fiction, 124 One should lock one's lips against speech As firmly as possible, for although One is blameless, to tell the truth might impeach 127 One's reputation. But while this may well be so At present, I cannot maintain my reserve: Reader, I swear to you, by the verses that flow inferno xvi 130 Through this Comedy—may they long deserve The world's favor—that through the thick, murky air I saw a figure approach that would rattle the nerve 133 Of the strongest heart; like a diver rising from where He went down to pull an anchor free Of a reef or some other ocean snare, 136 It swam with arms out and legs bent at the knee.

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9. "Our perverse city" is Florence. ^
18.   The "haste" to show reverence would be more fitting in Dante 
toward them than vice versa. ^
21–27.   Not permitted to cease moving, the three do a kind of 
dance around Dante and Virgil. ^
38.   Guido Guerra (1220–1272) was a Guelph leader in battle.  
His grandmother, according to Florentine tradition, was a woman 
of great virtue and beauty. ^
40–42. Tegghiaio Aldobrandi, Guelph leader, was the spokesman for the soldiers led by Guido Guerra in the attack on Siena. The two of them were against the attack which led to the defeat at Montaperti and the return of Ghibelline rule in Florence. ^
44.   Jacopo Rusticucci was also a Guelph, but little more is 
known about him. ^
49.   Virgil would have condoned Dante's show of respect, as 
indicated by lines 15–19. ^
70. Little is known of Guglielmo Borsiere, although Boccaccio twice mentions him favorably. From his name, he may have been a purse–maker. ^
77.   The "face uplifted" accompanies a prophetic statement, not 
conversation. ^
94–102.   The river is the Montone River, and the waterfall 
occurs near the San Benedetto dell'Alpe monastery in the Apennines.  
Until it reached Forlì, the river was called the Acquacheta.  
Monte Viso is a peak in Piedmont, at the source of the Po. ^
101–102. According to Boccaccio, there was a plan to construct vast lodgings for the vassals of the Conti Guidi near the waterfall. Alternatively, this might indicate Dante's view that the monastery should support more monks. ^
107–109. The cord probably does not point to Dante's having been 
a Franciscan Friar, as old commentators believed.  Rather it might 
be a symbol of self–confidence, since lines 108–109 refer to his 
audacious idea of catching the leopard with it in Canto I. ^

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