Home > Uncategorized > Dante: The fate of those who deal in bloodshed and in pillaging

Dante: The fate of those who deal in bloodshed and in pillaging

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Italian writers on war and militarism

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Dante Alighieri
From The Divine Comedy
Inferno Canto XII
Translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“But fix thine eyes below; for draweth near
The river of blood, within which boiling is
Whoe’er by violence doth injure others.

O blind cupidity, O wrath insane,
That spurs us onward so in our short life,
And in the eternal then so badly steeps us!”

***

We with our faithful escort onward moved
Along the brink of the vermilion boiling,
Wherein the boiled were uttering loud laments.

People I saw within up to the eyebrows,
And the great Centaur said: “Tyrants are these,
Who dealt in bloodshed and in pillaging.

Here they lament their pitiless mischiefs; here
Is Alexander, and fierce Dionysius
Who upon Sicily brought dolorous years.

That forehead there which has the hair so black
Is Azzolin; and the other who is blond,
Obizzo is of Esti, who, in truth,

Up in the world was by his stepson slain.”
Then turned I to the Poet; and he said,
“Now he be first to thee, and second I.”

A little farther on the Centaur stopped
Above a folk, who far down as the throat
Seemed from that boiling stream to issue forth.

A shade he showed us on one side alone,
Saying: “He cleft asunder in God’s bosom
The heart that still upon the Thames is honoured.”

Then people saw I, who from out the river
Lifted their heads and also all the chest;
And many among these I recognised.

Thus ever more and more grew shallower
That blood, so that the feet alone it covered;
And there across the moat our passage was.

“Even as thou here upon this side beholdest
The boiling stream, that aye diminishes,”
The Centaur said, “I wish thee to believe

That on this other more and more declines
Its bed, until it reunites itself
Where it behoveth tyranny to groan.

Justice divine, upon this side, is goading
That Attila, who was a scourge on earth,
And Pyrrhus, and Sextus; and for ever milks

The tears which with the boiling it unseals
In Rinier da Corneto and Rinier Pazzo,
Who made upon the highways so much war.”

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