The eighth circle, ninth bolgia; the sowers of scandal and schism; Mohammed; Curio; Mosca; Bertran de Born

canto summary and diagram

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1 Whose speech could ever adequately paint The blood and wounds I saw here, Even with repeated attempts and no constraint inferno xxviii 4 On language? Every tongue, it's clear, Would fall short, for neither in mentality Nor in expression are we anywhere near 7 Making sense of such an enormity. If you took all those who in the fateful regions Of Apulia once bemoaned the vast quantity lament * 10 Of their blood spilled by Roman legions, * Then added those who fell in the long war * Whose spoils (as the unerring Livy mentions) inferno xxviii 13 Were heaps of rings, then piled on the many more Who suffered blows when they defied the will Of Robert Guiscard, and then, to all of these before, 16 Added those whose bones are stacked up still * At Ceperano, (where each Apulian was traitorous), And at Tagliacozzo (where old Alardo's skill * 19 Conquered without weapons),—if this combined, enormous Heap of hacked and pierced limbs was put on show, The ninth bolgia would still be more hideous. inferno xxviii 22 No barrel, not even one where the hoops and staves go Every which way, was ever split open like one frayed Sinner I saw, ripped from chin to where we fart below. 25 His guts hung between his legs and displayed His vital organs, including that wretched sack Which converts to shit whatever gets conveyed 28 Down the gullet. As I stared at him he looked back And with his hands pulled his chest open, Saying, "See how I split open the crack inferno xxviii 31 In myself! See how twisted and broken * Mohammed is! Before me walks Ali, his face Cleft from chin to crown, grief–stricken. 34 All the others you see in this place Sowed scandal and schism when they were alive, And thus are now split wide. Each time we pace 37 Around this sad, painful road we arrive Back at the devil who slices us up once more; Each one of this mob has just enough time to revive inferno xxviii 40 Himself and close up his gaping wounds before He's subject again to that blade's cruel rip. But who are you, gazing down at all this gore, 43 Lingering guiltily on the ridge's lip In order to delay, perhaps, the terrible torment Earned by your confession?" "Death has no grip * 46 On him yet," replied my master, "and punishment Is not what he's come for; he was sent here To bring his experience to fulfillment; inferno xxviii 49 And it's up to me, who am dead, to steer Him down through Hell, round by round; This is as true as the fact that you hear 52 Me saying it to you right now." At the sound Of his words more than a hundred down there Stopped and stared at me with a wonder so profound 55 That for a moment it dulled their pain and despair. "Well then, you who perhaps will soon cast your eyes On the sun—tell Fra Dolcino that if he doesn't care inferno xxviii 58 To follow me he'd better stock up on supplies; If not, the Novarese will gain in the snow A victory they'd find it hard to win otherwise. * 61 So spoke Mohammed, raising one foot as if to go, Then placing it on the ground as he left. Another sinner, his nose hacked off just below 64 The eyebrows, his throat slit, his head bereft Of one ear, having paused with his fellow hundred To gape in wonder, was the first to open up a cleft inferno xxviii 67 In his gullet, all sides of which ran blood red. "You whom guilt does not condemn, and whose face," He said, "unless I'm deceived by kindred 70 Appearance, I know I've glimpsed some place Up there in Italy—if you ever again see The gently sloping plain which spans the space 73 From Vercelli to Marcabò, remember me, * Pier da Medicina. And tell the finest two * Citizens of Fano—Messer Guido, that would be, inferno xxviii 76 And Angiolello—that if our foresight is true, They'll be cast from their ship into the sea Near Cattolica, a deed which will be due 79 To a treacherous tyrant, able to see Out of only one eye. Between Cyprus and * The isle of Majorca, Neptune will never be * 82 Witness to so great a crime, not by any band Of pirates, nor by any Argive crew. * That foul traitor (who rules the land inferno xxviii 85 Loathed by someone down here who Wishes he'd never seen it at all), Will invite these men to a rendez–vous, 88 Then make sure they have no call To offer Focara's wind any prayer or plea." * "Well," I said, "if you don't want your name to fall 91 Into oblivion up there, you'd better show me The shade who detests the sight of that place, And tell me his story." "This is the one!" said he, inferno xxviii 94 Grabbing hold of a companion's face And forcing open the jaws. "You see he's mute. * He was an outcast who once squashed all trace 97 Of doubt in Caesar by insisting that it didn't suit A prepared man to delay—indeed, hesitation would Only bring harm." This wretch Curio, once so astute 100 And aggressive in his speech, now simply stood There in dejection, his tongue slit In his throat! And another shade who could inferno xxviii 103 Only wave his hacked arms in the dimly lit, Filthy air—the stumps dripping blood on his head, Said: "Tell them about Mosca too, the one who split 106 The Tuscan people into factions, the one who said— Alas!—'What's done has an end,'—which was the seed From which all evil in Tuscany later spread." * 109 "And brought death to your kin," I quickly agreed, And he, with this new grief piled on the old, Went away like one crazed with pain. But I, with my need inferno xxviii 112 To see everything, stayed to watch the scene unfold, And now witnessed something I'd be afraid to relate Without corroboration, if I were not made bold 115 By conscience (every man's friend and mate, Encouraging him with its pureness And protecting him like a breastplate). 118 I saw—and I say this with sureness, For in my memory it's still a clear image — A torso with no head, moving as if in harness 121 With the rest of the herd in its dismal passage; A hand swung the severed head by its hair Like a lantern, and with a glance at us the visage 124 Sighed: "Ah me!" and somehow produced a spare Lamp out of itself; thus there now arose A strange two in one and one in two. (How this pair 127 Could assume such a form, He who decreed it knows.) At the foot of our bridge the shade raised high Its arm with the swinging head in a pose inferno xxviii 130 Which brought its words closer to our ear and eye. "You—still breathing while you inspect the dead — Look at this atrocious suffering, then try 133 To find a punishment worse than losing your head. You should know that I'm Bertran de Born, so that you * Can bring news of me above; I'm the one who misled 136 The young king, who set father against son, and who Acted more wickedly than Achitophel did with David and Absolom. Because I sliced such close bonds in two inferno xxviii 139 I now hold my brain dangling from my hand, Cut off—alas—from its vital source In the trunk. By observing me you can understand 142 How the law of retribution takes its course."

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9. In the Middle Ages, "Apulia" meant all of southern Italy. ^
10.   This refers to the war between the Samnites and Romans, 
343–290 B.C. ^
11.   This is the Second Punic War; according to Livy, after 
Hannibal defeated the Romans at Cannae in 216 B.C. the 
Carthaginians collected three bushels of rings from the fingers 
of dead Romans. ^
15. Robert Guiscard (1015–1085), a Norman adventurer, controlled most of southern Italy and fought for the Church against the schismatic Greeks and Saracens. For this Dante puts him with the warriors for the Faith in the Heaven of Mars. See Paradiso XVIII. ^
16–17.   In 1266 Charles of Anjou marched against Manfred, King of 
Sicily.  Manfred blocked the passes, but the one at Ceprano was 
abandoned by traitors.  The troops of Charles passed unhindered 
to Naples and thereafter defeated the Sicilians at Benevento, 
killing Manfred.  In reality, then, the bones would not be stacked 
up at Ceprano, but at Benevento. ^
18. Two years later Charles went on to defeat Manfred's nephew, Conradin, at Tagliacozzo. His victorious strategy entailed the use of reserve troops, and was suggested to him by his general, Erard de Valéry, known as "Alardo." ^
31–36.   In Dante's time many believed that Mohammed had originally 
been a Christian.  While it is not clear if  this is what Dante 
thought, he is at least portraying Mohammed as a sower of dissension.  
When Ali, his nephew and son–in–law, assumed the Caliphate in 656, 
his claim was contested, and the ensuing strife split Islam into 
the still existent Sunni and Shiite sects. ^
45. That is, your confession before Minos. ^
57–60.   Fra Dolcino was head of a sect known as the Apostolic 
Brothers, condemned by Pope Clement V in 1305 because of its belief 
in community property and the sharing of women.  While the pope considered
them heretics, Dante puts them among the schismatics.  The sect took
refuge in the hills near Novara, resisting papal forces for more than
a year until starved out.  Dolcino and his mistress were burned at the
stake in 1307. ^
73–74. According to early commentators, Pier da Medicina was a sower of strife between the Polenta and Malatesta families. Medicina is a town in the Po valley, between Vercelli and Marcabò. ^
74–89.   Malatestino of Rimini, the "treacherous tyrant" of 
line 79, invited Angiolello da Caragnano and Guido del Cassero, 
two nobles of Fano, to a conference at La Cattolica, on the Adriatic.  
With a view to taking control of Fano, he had them drowned off 
the headland of Focara. ^
80–81. Cyprus and Majorca signify the breadth of the Mediterranean. ^
81.   Neptune is the god of the sea. ^
83.   "Argive" here would signify Greek, not necessarily from Argos. ^
89.   Focara was so notorious for its strong winds that sailors used 
to offer up prayers to pass around it safely; the two murdered 
citizens will have no need of these prayers. ^
95–102. According to Lucan, Caius Curio advised Caesar to cross the Rubicon, near rimini, and thus invade the Roman Republic.^
105–108.   In 1215 the Ghibelline Mosca de' Lamberti counseled the 
Amidei family to kill the Guelph Buondelmonte dei Buondelmonti 
because he broke off his engagement to a daughter of the Amidei 
family.  This murder originated the Guelph and Ghibelline factions 
in Florence.  The story is brought up again in Paradiso XVI. ^
134–138. Bertran de Born (c1140–1215), lord of Altaforte in Périgord, was one of the greatest Provençal troubadours. He promoted the rebellion of Prince Henry, "the young king," against his father, Henry II of England, just as Achitophel incited Absalom to rebel against his father, King David of Israel. ( See II Samuel 15–17. ) His own poetry acknowledges his delight in war and his provocation of conflict to further the interests of his class, the minor noblemen. Although Dante places him in Hell, he admired his craft, calling him the "sole paragon of martial poetry " in De vulgari eloquentia II , and speaking favorably of him in the Convivio IV . ^

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