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We chanced to read for our delight one day
Of Lancelot, how love enthrallèd him :
Alone we read, all unsuspectingly.
And many times that tale our eyes made dim I 30
With tears, and paled our cheeks; but 'twas one place
Alone that vanquish'd us : for when we came
To where it was narrated how that fair
Enchanting face was kiss'd by one so fond,
So dear, he, who from me will never be I 35
Dissever'd, kiss'd my lips all tremblingly.
The book, the writer served as Galahad 5
For us. We read therein no more that day.'
Thus while one spirit spake, the other stay'd
Speechless, but moan'd, and wept. I at that tale 140
Of sorrow swoon'd, and was as one half dead;
And, as a corpse falls, to the ground I fell.
5 Galahad was the name of the person who acted as go-between to Guinevere and Lancelot.
The Poets enter the third circle, where, under a ceaseless tempest of rain, hail, and snow, the souls of the Gluttonous are tormented by Cerberus. Dante here converses with Ciacco, a Florentine, who predicts the expulsion of the Neri from Florence, and their return within three years. Dante inquires whether the torments of the lost will be increased or diminished after the day of judgment. In reply Virgil refers him to the maxim of Aristotle, that beings are more or less sensible of good and evil in proportion as they have attained a greater or less degree of perfection. After the judgment the lost will recover their bodies, and will thus, in accordance with this maxim, experience an increase of suffering. On the descent towards the fourth circle they find Plutus—the arch-enemy.
When life and sense return'd, erewhile suspended
In presence of the kindred shades, whose anguish
Shrouded me all in dazing mist of sorrow,
New torments I behold, and new tormented
Spirits around me strown, where'er I move, 5
Where'er I turn, or bend my wistful gaze.
I found myself in the third circle, where
The accursed everlasting showers descend
Baleful and cold—unchanging evermore
In rule and quality. Large hail and snow IO
And ink-black rain pours thro' the darken'd air :
The foul earth stinks whereon that deluge falls.
The savage-hearted monster multiform,
Cerberus, with his three throats dog-like bayeth
Over the people that are whelmèd thus. I5
Eyes fiery red—black matted beard beneath
His visage grim—huge paunch—and talon'd hands—
He flays the souls, and tears them limb from limb.
They howl like dogs beneath the drenching rain,
With one side making shelter for the other, 2O
And shifting oft—those hapless spirits profane.
When Cerberus, the great worm, us descried,
He open'd wide his mouths, and show'd his fangs,
And shook in every limb : whereat my Guide
Stooping forthwith stretch'd out his hands, and took 25
Of that foul earth, and flung whole handfuls down
Those ravenous throats. As when a dog with pangs
Of hunger yelps and howls, but ceaseth soon,
When he has seized his prey, and ravening gloats
Over the wish'd-for meal, intent thereon; 30
So brought to silence were the three foul throats
Of demon Cerberus, who dins alway
The souls until they fain would lose the sense
Of hearing. Onward o'er the spirits, that lay
Prostrate beneath the rain, we went, and placed
Our steps on shadowy forms that substance seem'd.
They lay diffused upon the ground—all who
Were there, save one, who raised himself to sit,
When he beheld us passing near. 'Thou who
Art borne thro' this infernal pit,' he said
To me, ‘bethink thee who I am, if yet
Thou can'st. Thy life began ere mine was sped.'
And I replied; 'Perhaps it is thy state
Of agony withdraws thee from my mind
So that it seemeth that I never saw thee.
But tell me who thou art, that in this blind
Abode art placed, and with such pain that, if
There be more grievous, none hath more distaste.'
And he replied; 'Thy city, 1 which is rife
With envy so that it hath now excell'd
All bounds, possess'd me in the light of life.
By you, my townsmen, I was Ciacco 2 call'd.
For the wide-wasting vice of gluttony
I welter, as thou seest, beneath the rain :
Nor is it thus with me alone, but all 55
These hapless souls unto like pain are doom'd
For like offence.' He ended here, and I
Thus made response ; 'Ciacco, thy troublous state
Afflicts me so that I am moved to tears.
But tell me, if thou knowest, whereunto 60
The citizens of the divided state
Will come; if any there be just ; and say
Whence grew this factious spirit to such height?'
And he replied; 'After long struggle they
Will come to bloodshed, when the forest party 3 65
Will with outrageous violence expel
The other 4—destin'd soon itself to fall
Within three years, and see the other rise
Again with help of one who some while steers
A middle course.5 Long time the victor bears 7o
His head on high, weighing with heavy hand
Upon the foe, who chafes resentfully.