Vanni Fucci's obscene gesture to God; Cacus; the three shades; Cianfa and Agnello merging; Buoso; Puccio Sciancato

canto summary and diagram

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1 When his words were finished the thief threw Both arms upward with figs on the ends * And shouted: "Take them, God! They're meant for you!" inferno xxv 4 From then on the serpents were my friends, For one curled about his neck as if to say: "Speak no more," while another coiled its bends 7 Around his arms in front, forcing them to stay Rigidly together, the knot so firmly tied That they couldn't budge or squirm in any way. 10 Ah Pistoia, Pistoia, why don't you decide To turn yourself to ashes and end it all, Since you possess even more wickedness and pride inferno xxv 13 Than your seed? I saw no other soul with the gall * To defy God like this in all the circles of the dead, Not even he who fell at Thebes from the wall. * 16 Without saying another word the sinner fled; And then I saw an angry Centaur who was crying: "Where's that unripe beast? Where?" as he sped 19 Toward us, his body, I believe, carrying More snakes than Maremma on that equine * Portion of his back not of human copying. inferno xxv 22 And just back from the nape, lying supine Over the shoulders, a dragon with wings outspread Breathed fire on anyone who crossed his line 25 Of sight. "That Centaur is Cacus," my master said, * "Who often turned a cave beneath the stone Of Mount Avertine into a lake of bloody red. 28 He doesn't travel with his brothers but goes alone; This is because of the cunning, thieving deceit He used to make his neighbor's great herd his own. inferno xxv 31 His crooked tricks were over by the tenth beat Of Hercules' club, whose total perhaps surpassed One hundred by the time the job was complete." 34 While he was speaking the Centaur galloped past; Then three shades arrived quietly below Our lookout, so we didn't see them until at last 37 They cried out: "Who are you?" And to bestow Sufficient attention on them we had to place My master's story on hold. I didn't know inferno xxv 40 Any of these spirits, but as is often the case I could pick out a name from their conversation. "Where did Cianfa go?" asked one. "I've lost trace * 43 Of him." Hearing this, I gave an indication To my guide to be silent, pressing my first digit To my lips from chin to nose. Reader, if this narration 46 Becomes too far–fetched for you to credit, It's no wonder that you doubt, for even I, Who witnessed it all, can hardly believe it. 49 While I fixed those three spirits with my eye A serpent with six feet shot out and grasped One of them, its middle feet gripping him by 52 The belly while the front feet clasped Both his arms; then it delivered a bite On both his cheeks, while I watched and gasped. 55 Its hind feet were stretched out right Along his thighs, its tail stuck between His legs and then up behind his loins, tight inferno xxv 58 Against his back. No ivy was ever seen Clinging so closely to a tree As did the grappling limbs of this obscene 61 Monster to that shade's. Then both—it and he – Melted together like heated wax, mingling Colors so that neither of them seemed to be 64 What he'd been before (just as, crawling Up a burning page, a brownish border is not yet Fully black, although the white is failing). inferno xxv 67 Watching this, the other two began to fret: "O Agnello, how you've changed! You're neither * One nor two!" The two heads had already met, 70 Fusing and losing themselves in one another, When out of this confusion came a new face, Blending both their features together. 73 A single pair of arms now took the place Of four strips of flesh; the stomach, chest, Thighs and legs took on forms which the human race inferno xxv 76 Had never seen before; old shapes were suppressed, And within this perverse, distorted picture Both and neither seemed to be expressed; 79 In such form crept away this hybrid creature. Just as the lizard, who beneath the lash Of the dog days' heat streaks in a low posture 82 From hedge to hedge like a lightning flash, So toward the bellies of the remaining pair A little serpent made a furious dash, inferno xxv 85 Livid and black as a peppercorn; just where * We first take nourishment it pierced one shade, Then fell down in front of him and lay there. 88 The wounded thief, standing motionless, stayed Silent, staring and yawning at the reptile, As if sleep or fever were making him fade. 91 He gazed at the serpent, the serpent at him, while From his sore and the other's mouth came Furious billows, fumes which met and were hostile. inferno xxv 94 From now on let Lucan cease telling that lame * Tale of poor Nasidius and Sabellus, And pay close attention while I take aim. 97 Let Ovid be silent about Arethusa and Cadmus, For if his poetry makes a snake And a fountain of them, I'm not jealous: 100 Never did his verse attempt to make Two natures stand face to face So that each form was ready to partake inferno xxv 103 Of the other's substance. There now took place A dance of mutual response, in which the creature Cleft its tail into a fork, and the shade closed the space 106 Between his feet; the legs made such a tight suture, Along with the thighs, that soon one could spy No sign of any seam along the juncture. 109 Meanwhile the cloven tail was taken over by The shape which was abandoning the spirit; Its skin grew soft, the other's hard in reply. inferno xxv 112 I saw the shade's arms retreat toward the armpit And the reptile's two short feet grow by the same Amount, but in the direction opposite. 115 The beast's hind legs, twisted together, became The member which man commonly conceals, While from the wretch's own member came 118 Two hind legs. Now, while a veil of smoke reveals New color in both—and generates hair Where it's missing, and where it's thick, peels inferno xxv 121 It from the skin—one of this transmuting pair Rises and the other falls; yet as they trade Faces they never once break the evil stare 124 Which forms a bond above the swap as it's made. The standing creature's face had begun to migrate Toward the temples, and the smooth cheeks displayed 127 Two ears where extra flesh was starting to accumulate; The substance which didn't drift remained to form a nose And thicken the lips to a size that was appropriate. inferno xxv 130 Now the face of the one lying down grows Sharply forward; the ears recede into the sides Of the head like a snail's horns; the tongue forgoes 133 Its power of speech as it divides, While the forked tongue of the one standing Closes up and heals; and then the smoke subsides. 136 The soul that had become bestial went bounding Off with a hissing sound into the valley. The other pursued, spluttering and portending inferno xxv 139 (As it turned its new–made back on the escapee And spoke to the third soul): "Buoso shall range * This valley on all fours, as I did formerly." 142 And so I watched the seventh cargo change And rechange; and if my pen has tended to falter, Let my excuse be that the subject was so strange. * 145 Though my eyes were blurred and my mind helter–skelter, The sinners weren't secretive enough in their flight To disguise from me the only one who didn't alter inferno xxv 148 From those original three; even the dim light Couldn't conceal the face of the thief – Puccio Sciancato—from my inquiring sight; 151 The other was he who brought you, Gaville, to grief. *

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2. This obscene gesture is made by thrusting the thumb between the index and middle fingers of the closed fist. ^
13.   Catiline, a traitor to the Roman Republic, was Pistoia's 
founder, its "seed." ^
15.   This refers to Capaneus, whom Dante placed with the 
blasphemers in the seventh circle, and who still rebels against 
God in Hell.  See Canto XIV, 46–72. ^
20.   Maremma was a swampy area along the Tuscan coast, infested 
with snakes. ^
25–32. Cacus, son of Vulcan, was a monster who lived in a cave beneath Mt. Aventine. Hercules killed him for stealing his cattle, his "cunning, thieving deceit" consisting of leading the cattle backward to disguise their path. His "brothers" are the centaurs in the first ring of the seventh circle, in Canto XII. ^
42.   Cianfa was a member of the Donati family of Florence.  He 
appears as the "serpent with six feet" in line 50. ^
68.   Probably Agnello of the Ghibelline Brunelleschi family of 
Florence. ^
85–86.   The navel. ^
94–103. In the Pharsalia IX, Lucan describes how Sabellus and Nasidius, soldiers in Cato's army, were bitten by poisonous snakes in the Lybian desert, the former's body turning into a putrid mass, the latter's swelling until it burst. In the Metamorphoses, IV, Ovid describes how Cadmus became a serpent, and Arethusa a fountain. Dante boasts not only that his transformation is superior to these, since his goes two ways, but also that he himself is a better narrator. ^
140. The "third soul" is Puccio Sciancato, of the Ghibelline family of Galigai; he is the only one of the original Florentine thieves who does not transform. "Buoso" is probably either the nephew of the Buoso Donati of Canto XXX, 44, or Buoso degli Abati. ^
143–144.   Perhaps an attempt by Dante to temper his earlier 
boastfulness. ^
151.   Francesco de' Cavalcanti, known as Guercio, was murdered by 
the people of Gaville, a town in the valley of the Arno.  The 
Cavalcantis avenged his death by killing almost all the inhabitants. ^

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