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Inferno: Canto XXV

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At the conclusion of his words, the thief
Lifted his hands aloft with both the figs,
Crying: "Take that, God, for at thee I aim them."

From that time forth the serpents were my friends;
For one entwined itself about his neck
As if it said: "I will not thou speak more;"

And round his arms another, and rebound him,
Clinching itself together so in front,
That with them he could not a motion make.

Pistoia, ah, Pistoia! why resolve not
To burn thyself to ashes and so perish,
sincein ill-doing thou thy seed excellest?

Through all the sombre circles of this Hell,
Spirit I saw not against God so proud,
Not he who fell at Thebes down from the walls!

He fled away, and spake no further word;
And I beheld a Centaur full of rage
Come crying out: "Where is, where is the scoffer?"

I do not think Maremma has so many
Serpents as he had all along his back,
As far as where our countenance begins.

Upon the shoulders, just behind the nape,
With wings wide open was a dragon lying,
And he sets fire to all that he encounters.

My Master said: "That one is Cacus, who
Beneath the rock upon Mount Aventine
Created oftentimes a lake of Blood.

He goes not on the same road with his brothers,
By reason of the fraudulent theft he made
Of the great herd, which he had near to him;

Whereat his tortuous actions ceased beneath
The mace of Hercules, who peradventure
Gave him a hundred, and he felt not ten."

While he was speaking thus, he had passed by,
And Spirits three had underneath us come,
Of which nor I aware was, nor my Leader,

Until what time they shouted: "Who are you?"
On which account our story made a halt,
And then we were intent on them alone.

I did not know them; but it came to pass,
As it is wont to happen by some chance,
That one to name the other was compelled,

Exclaiming: "Where can Cianfa have remained?"
Whence I, so that the Leader might attend,
Upward from chin to nose my finger laid.

If thou art, Reader, slow now to believe
What I shall say, it will no marvel be,
For I who saw it hardly can admit it.

As I was holding raised on them my brows,
Behold! a serpent with six feet darts forth
In front of one, and fastens wholly on him.

With middle feet it bound him round the paunch,
And with the forward ones his arms it seized;
Then thrust its teeth through one cheek and the other;

The hindermost it stretched upon his thighs,
And put its tail through in between the two,
And up behind along the reins outspread it.

Ivy was never fastened by its barbs
Unto a tree so, as this horrible reptile
Upon the other's limbs entwined its own.

Then they stuck close, as if of heated wax
They had been made, and intermixed their colour;
Nor one nor other seemed now what he was;

E'en as proceedeth on before the flame
Upward along the paper a brown colour,
Which is not black as yet, and the white dies.

The other two looked on, and each of them
Cried out: "O me, Agnello, how thou changest!
Behold, thou now art neither two nor one."

Already the two heads had one become,
When there appeared to us two figures mingled
Into one face, wherein the two were lost.

Of the four lists were fashioned the two arms,
The thighs and legs, the belly and the chest
Members became that never yet were seen.

Every original aspect there was cancelled;
Two and yet none did the perverted image
Appear, and such departed with slow pace.

Even as a lizard, under the great scourge
Of days canicular, exchanging hedge,
lightning appeareth if the road it cross;

Thus did appear, coming towards the bellies
Of the two others, a small fiery serpent,
Livid and black as is a peppercorn.

And in that part whereat is first received
Our aliment, it one of them transfixed;
Then downward fell in front of him extended.

The one transfixed looked at it, but said naught;
Nay, rather with feet motionless he yawned,
Just as if sleep or fever had assailed him.

He at the serpent gazed, and it at him;
One through the wound, the other through the mouth
Smoked violently, and the smoke commingled.

Henceforth be silent Lucan, where he mentions
Wretched Sabellus and Nassidius,
And wait to hear what now shall be shot forth.

Be silent Ovid, of Cadmus and Arethusa;
For if him to a snake, her to fountain,
Converts he fabling, that I grudge him not;

Because two natures never front to front
Has he transmuted, so that both the forms
To interchange their matter ready were.

Together they responded in such wise,
That to a fork the serpent cleft his tail,
And eke the wounded drew his feet together.

The legs together with the thighs themselves
Adhered so, that in little time the juncture
No sign whatever made that was apparent.

He with the cloven tail assumed the figure
The other one was losing, and his skin
Became elastic, and the other's hard.

I saw the arms draw inward at the armpits,
And both feet of the reptile, that were short,
Lengthen as much as those contracted were.

Thereafter the hind feet, together twisted,
Became the member that a man conceals,
And of his own the wretch had two created.

While both of them the exhalation veils
With a new colour, and engenders hair
On one of them and depilates the other,

The one uprose and down the other fell,
Though turning not away their impious lamps,
Underneath which each one his muzzle changed.

He who was standing drew it tow'rds the temples,
And from excess of matter, which came thither,
Issued the ears from out the hollow cheeks;

What did not backward run and was retained
Of that excess made to the face a nose,
And the lips thickened far as was befitting.

He who lay prostrate thrusts his muzzle forward,
And backward draws the ears into his head,
In the same manner as the snail its horns;

And so the tongue, which was entire and apt
For speech before, is cleft, and the bi-forked
In the other closes up, and the smoke ceases.

The Soul, which to a reptile had been changed,
Along the valley hissing takes to flight,
And after him the other speaking sputters.

Then did he turn upon him his new shoulders,
And said to the other: "I'll have Buoso run,
Crawling as I have done, along this road."

In this way I beheld the seventh ballast
Shift and reshift, and here be my excuse
The novelty, if aught my pen transgress.

And notwithstanding that mine eyes might be
Somewhat bewildered, and my mind dismayed,
They could not flee away so secretly

But that I plainly saw Puccio Sciancato;
And he it was who sole of three companions,
Which came in the beginning, was not changed;

The other was he whom thou, Gaville, weepest.

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La Divina Commedia: Inferno: Canto XXV
Al fine de le sue parole il ladro
  le mani alzo` con amendue le fiche,
  gridando: "Togli, Dio, ch'a te le squadro!".

Da indi in qua mi fuor le serpi amiche,
  perch'una li s'avvolse allora al collo,
  come dicesse 'Non vo' che piu` diche';

e un'altra a le braccia, e rilegollo,
  ribadendo se' stessa si` dinanzi,
  che non potea con esse dare un crollo.

Ahi Pistoia, Pistoia, che' non stanzi
  d'incenerarti si` che piu` non duri,
  poi che 'n mal fare il seme tuo avanzi?

Per tutt'i cerchi de lo 'nferno scuri
  non vidi spirto in Dio tanto superbo,
  non quel che cadde a Tebe giu` da' muri.

El si fuggi` che non parlo` piu` verbo;
  e io vidi un centauro pien di rabbia
  venir chiamando: "Ov'e`, ov'e` l'acerbo?".

Maremma non cred'io che tante n'abbia,
  quante bisce elli avea su per la groppa
  infin ove comincia nostra labbia.

Sovra le spalle, dietro da la coppa,
  con l'ali aperte li giacea un draco;
  e quello affuoca qualunque s'intoppa.

Lo mio maestro disse: "Questi e` Caco,
  che sotto 'l sasso di monte Aventino
  di sangue fece spesse volte laco.

Non va co' suoi fratei per un cammino,
  per lo furto che frodolente fece
  del grande armento ch'elli ebbe a vicino;

onde cessar le sue opere biece
  sotto la mazza d'Ercule, che forse
  gliene die` cento, e non senti` le diece".

Mentre che si` parlava, ed el trascorse
  e tre spiriti venner sotto noi,
  de' quali ne' io ne' 'l duca mio s'accorse,

se non quando gridar: "Chi siete voi?";
  per che nostra novella si ristette,
  e intendemmo pur ad essi poi.

Io non li conoscea; ma ei seguette,
  come suol seguitar per alcun caso,
  che l'un nomar un altro convenette,

dicendo: "Cianfa dove fia rimaso?";
  per ch'io, accio` che 'l duca stesse attento,
  mi puosi 'l dito su dal mento al naso.

Se tu se' or, lettore, a creder lento
  cio` ch'io diro`, non sara` maraviglia,
  che' io che 'l vidi, a pena il mi consento.

Com'io tenea levate in lor le ciglia,
  e un serpente con sei pie` si lancia
  dinanzi a l'uno, e tutto a lui s'appiglia.

Co' pie` di mezzo li avvinse la pancia,
  e con li anterior le braccia prese;
  poi li addento` e l'una e l'altra guancia;

li diretani a le cosce distese,
  e miseli la coda tra 'mbedue,
  e dietro per le ren su` la ritese.

Ellera abbarbicata mai non fue
  ad alber si`, come l'orribil fiera
  per l'altrui membra avviticchio` le sue.

Poi s'appiccar, come di calda cera
  fossero stati, e mischiar lor colore,
  ne' l'un ne' l'altro gia` parea quel ch'era:

come procede innanzi da l'ardore,
  per lo papiro suso, un color bruno
  che non e` nero ancora e 'l bianco more.

Li altri due 'l riguardavano, e ciascuno
  gridava: "Ome`, Agnel, come ti muti!
  Vedi che gia` non se' ne' due ne' uno".

Gia` eran li due capi un divenuti,
  quando n'apparver due figure miste
  in una faccia, ov'eran due perduti.

Fersi le braccia due di quattro liste;
  le cosce con le gambe e 'l ventre e 'l casso
  divenner membra che non fuor mai viste.

Ogne primaio aspetto ivi era casso:
  due e nessun l'imagine perversa
  parea; e tal sen gio con lento passo.

Come 'l ramarro sotto la gran fersa
  dei di` canicular, cangiando sepe,
  folgore par se la via attraversa,

si` pareva, venendo verso l'epe
  de li altri due, un serpentello acceso,
  livido e nero come gran di pepe;

e quella parte onde prima e` preso
  nostro alimento, a l'un di lor trafisse;
  poi cadde giuso innanzi lui disteso.

Lo trafitto 'l miro`, ma nulla disse;
  anzi, co' pie` fermati, sbadigliava
  pur come sonno o febbre l'assalisse.

Elli 'l serpente, e quei lui riguardava;
  l'un per la piaga, e l'altro per la bocca
  fummavan forte, e 'l fummo si scontrava.

Taccia Lucano ormai la` dove tocca
  del misero Sabello e di Nasidio,
  e attenda a udir quel ch'or si scocca.

Taccia di Cadmo e d'Aretusa Ovidio;
  che' se quello in serpente e quella in fonte
  converte poetando, io non lo 'nvidio;

che' due nature mai a fronte a fronte
  non trasmuto` si` ch'amendue le forme
  a cambiar lor matera fosser pronte.

Insieme si rispuosero a tai norme,
  che 'l serpente la coda in forca fesse,
  e il feruto ristrinse insieme l'orme.

Le gambe con le cosce seco stesse
  s'appiccar si`, che 'n poco la giuntura
  non facea segno alcun che si paresse.

Togliea la coda fessa la figura
  che si perdeva la`, e la sua pelle
  si facea molle, e quella di la` dura.

Io vidi intrar le braccia per l'ascelle,
  e i due pie` de la fiera, ch'eran corti,
  tanto allungar quanto accorciavan quelle.

Poscia li pie` di retro, insieme attorti,
  diventaron lo membro che l'uom cela,
  e 'l misero del suo n'avea due porti.

Mentre che 'l fummo l'uno e l'altro vela
  di color novo, e genera 'l pel suso
  per l'una parte e da l'altra il dipela,

l'un si levo` e l'altro cadde giuso,
  non torcendo pero` le lucerne empie,
  sotto le quai ciascun cambiava muso.

Quel ch'era dritto, il trasse ver' le tempie,
  e di troppa matera ch'in la` venne
  uscir li orecchi de le gote scempie;

cio` che non corse in dietro e si ritenne
  di quel soverchio, fe' naso a la faccia
  e le labbra ingrosso` quanto convenne.

Quel che giacea, il muso innanzi caccia,
  e li orecchi ritira per la testa
  come face le corna la lumaccia;

e la lingua, ch'avea unita e presta
  prima a parlar, si fende, e la forcuta
  ne l'altro si richiude; e 'l fummo resta.

L'anima ch'era fiera divenuta,
  suffolando si fugge per la valle,
  e l'altro dietro a lui parlando sputa.

Poscia li volse le novelle spalle,
  e disse a l'altro: "I' vo' che Buoso corra,
  com'ho fatt'io, carpon per questo calle".

Cosi` vid'io la settima zavorra
  mutare e trasmutare; e qui mi scusi
  la novita` se fior la penna abborra.

E avvegna che li occhi miei confusi
  fossero alquanto e l'animo smagato,
  non poter quei fuggirsi tanto chiusi,

ch'i' non scorgessi ben Puccio Sciancato;
  ed era quel che sol, di tre compagni
  che venner prima, non era mutato;

l'altr'era quel che tu, Gaville, piagni.

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