The eighth circle, ninth bolgia; Geri del Bello; the tenth bolgia; the falsfiers; Griffolino; Capocchio

canto summary and diagram

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1 The multitude of wounds and the hordes of dead Had so bewildered my eyes that they Longed to stay and weep, but Virgil said inferno xxix 4 "Why do you stand there staring that way? Why does your gaze continue to linger On the lost, mutilated shades, when no delay 7 Ever occurred at the other chasms? Consider, If you want to visit them all, this valley alone Is twenty–two miles around, and the moon is under * 10 Our feet already; our allotted time has grown * Short, and there's more to see than this one sight." To which I at once replied: "If you had known inferno xxix 13 Why I was looking down there you might Have let me stay longer." While I spoke My guide was moving on, with myself a slight 16 Distance behind. "I think one of my folk," I pursued, "the shade of a blood relative, Is down in this ditch wishing he could revoke 19 The guilt whose infernal price is so expensive." At this my master said: "Rid your mind Of him from this moment on; be attentive inferno xxix 22 To other things and just leave him behind; He was at the foot of the bridge back there, Pointing at you; I saw how he maligned 25 And threatened you with gestures in the air. And then I heard them call his name, Geri del Bello. But your attention was elsewhere— * 28 On that one who was lord of Altaforte before he came * Down here— and when you gave him no recognition He left." "Alas, my guide, no one who shares his shame inferno xxix 31 Has avenged his violent death, and this inaction Has called down on all of us his disdain; This is the reason, in my estimation, 34 That he went abruptly away and didn't deign To speak with me, and I pity him all the more Because of this." We conversed in this vein 37 Until we reached a place where we stood before The next valley, and if the light had been stronger We could have seen right down to the floor. inferno xxix 40 When we had climbed above the last cloister Of Malebolge, so that its congregation Was visible to our eyes, I had to cover 43 My ears to block out the cries of lamentation Which penetrated like arrows assaulting me, Barbed with pity. If the entire population 46 Were removed from the hospitals of these three Regions: Valdichiana, Maremmo and, further * South, Sardinia, during those months known to be inferno xxix 49 Worst for disease, July through September, And if they were all thrown into a ditch to rot, The scene would resemble the one my master 52 And I looked down upon, inhaling a stench not Less horrible than that of flesh decaying. My sight was clearer as we descended from that spot 55 To the final bank of the long cliff, as always keeping To the left; before us were the depths where justice, Infallible minister of the high Lord, having inferno xxix 58 Noted the falsifiers, performed her office And punished them. I doubt if the sight * Was any sadder when Aegina became a hospice 61 For its own sick people — when infection and blight Were carried by the air itself, and animals perished En masse, even the little worms — when, in spite 64 Of being crushed, this ancient people flourished Again from the seed of ants, as poets firmly hold. Throughout the dark valley spirits languished inferno xxix 67 In scattered heaps; the bodies of some were rolled Over on their bellies; some lay in a sprawl Across another's back; still others patrolled 70 The squalid path on all fours in a pathetic crawl. Step by step we went on without speech, Watching and listening to the sick, too weak to haul 73 Their limbs off the ground. I saw two supporting each Other like pans propped up back to back at a flame, Both covered from head to toe with scabs, within reach 76 Of their clawing nails. Never have I seen the same Frenzy in a stableboy, not when he brushes The currycomb with vigor to escape the blame 79 Of his impatient master, nor when he's tired and rushes To finish his grooming, as I saw when these two Dug into their own flesh. With a power that crushes 82 And rips but fails to relieve the itching, they drew Their nails across their scabs as if peeling scales From a carp or even scraping a knife through inferno xxix 85 The tough flesh of a larger fish. "O you whose nails Strip away your scabs and sometimes take the shape Of pincers," said my guide to one, "so may the travails 88 Of your fingers suffice for your eternal scrape, Tell us if there are any Italians down there With you." "We, at whose mutilations you gape, 91 Are both Italian," answered one of the pair, Weeping, "but who are you, who wants to know?" "I am one who descends from stair to stair inferno xxix 94 Through these infernal circles in order to show All of Hell to this living man." This information Dealt their mutual support an instant blow 97 And they both turned, trembling, in my direction; Others, having overheard, looked at me too. My good master drew close to me with his instruction: 100 "Now inquire of them whatever it is you want to Find out." And just as he wished, I said: "So that men's minds don't lose the memory of you inferno xxix 103 Up in the first world, but retain it instead, And let it live for many suns to come, Tell me your names, and where you were born and bred; 106 Don't let your disgusting punishment keep you from Speaking out." "I'm from Arezzo," one replied, * "And Albero of Siena had me burned; but some 109 Other matter than the incident for which I died Brought me to this place. I have to admit That while speaking in jest I lied inferno xxix 112 To that fool of great eagerness but little wit When I told him: 'I know how to rise And fly through the air.' He actually believed it, 115 And wanted to see it with his own eyes; And only because I didn't teach him to be A Daedalus did he have me burned for my lies, 118 By one who considered him a son. Minos condemned me, With his unerring sense of sin and retribution, To this last bolgia of the ten, as you can see, inferno xxix 121 Not because of this particular deception, But rather for my alchemical activity." "Did you ever know a sillier population * 124 Than the Sienese?" I asked the poet. "Their vanity Exceeds even that of the French." At this comment The other leper said: "Except Stricca, with his frugality; * 127 And Niccolò, who made cloves a rich condiment, Introducing its seed into that luxurious Garden where it took root; and that decadent inferno xxix 130 Group with whom Caccia d'Ascian squandered his precious Vineyards as well as his extensive forest, And where Abbagliato was so wittily pretentious. 133 But if you want to know who's giving you such earnest Support against the Sienese, focus your eyes On me, for my face itself will offer the truest 136 Response to your request; in me you'll recognize The shade of Capocchio, whose alchemy could * Counterfeit metals, and you'll recall, if my surmise inferno xxix 139 Is correct, that in aping nature I was quite good."

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9. Why Dante specified exactly twenty–two miles for the circumference is not clear, but note that the next bolgia is eleven. See Canto XXX, 87. ^
9–10.   From Canto XX, 128–129, we know that the moon is 
now waning.  Since the moon is below them, the sun is above and 
it must be early afternoon in Jerusalem. ^
27. Geri del Bello, first cousin of Dante's father, was killed by a member of the Sacchetti family. The Alighieri family avenged his death in 1310,so that in 1300 the obligatory (and lawful) revenge had not yet been exacted. ^
28. The lord of Altaforte is Bertran de Born, already encountered in Canto XXVIII. ^
47–48. Valdichiana and Maremma, swampy areas of Tuscany, as well as Sardinia,were known for malaria. ^
59–65. Juno sent a plague which killed all the inhabitants of the island of Aegina, except for Aeacus. In response to his prayers, Jupiter restored the population by transforming the ants into men. See Ovid, Metamorphoses, VII,523–660. ^
107–122. The speaker is Griffolino of Arezzo, who conned Albero of Siena into believing he could teach him to fly, "be a Daedalus." Albero denounced him to the Bishop of Siena, who was either his father or protector, who had him burned. ^
123–124. The Florentines always made fun of their rivals, the Sienese. ^
126–132. Stricca, Niccolò, Caccia d'Ascian and Abbagliato were members of the "Spendthrift Club," already mentioned in the note to Canto XIII, 115. ^
137. Capocchio was burned at the stake in Siena in 1293 for practicing alchemy. Dante seems to have known him in his student days. ^

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