Monday, July 13, 2015

Dante 24

The Seducers tormented by the Devils (Plate 12)
Willam Blake Illustrations of Dante's Inferno

Inferno: Canto XVIII after page 58 of Milton Klonsky's Blake's Dante:

There is a place in Hell called Malebolge,
  Wholly of stone and of an iron colour,
  As is the circle that around it turns.

Right in the middle of the field malign
  There yawns a well exceeding wide and deep,
  Of which its place the structure will recount.

Round, then, is that enclosure which remains
  Between the well and foot of the high, hard bank,
  And has distinct in valleys ten its bottom.

As where for the protection of the walls
  Many and many moats surround the castles,
  The part in which they are a figure forms,

Just such an image those presented there;
  And as about such strongholds from their gates
  Unto the outer bank are little bridges,

So from the precipice's base did crags
  Project, which intersected dikes and moats,
  Unto the well that truncates and collects them.

Within this place, down shaken from the back
  Of Geryon, we found us; and the Poet
  Held to the left, and I moved on behind.

Upon my right hand I beheld new anguish,
  New torments, and new wielders of the lash,
  Wherewith the foremost Bolgia was replete.

Down at the bottom were the sinners naked;
  This side the middle came they facing us,
  Beyond it, with us, but with greater steps;

Even as the Romans, for the mighty host,
  The year of Jubilee, upon the bridge,
  Have chosen a mode to pass the people over;

For all upon one side towards the Castle
  Their faces have, and go unto St. Peter's;
  On the other side they go towards the Mountain.

This side and that, along the livid stone
  Beheld I horned demons with great scourges,
  Who cruelly were beating them behind.

Ah me! how they did make them lift their legs
  At the first blows! and sooth not any one
  The second waited for, nor for the third.

On page 144 Klonsky gives us a list of the ten
bowges, which occupy the whole of the eighth circle
arranged in the following order:
1) Panders and Seducers
2) Flattereres
3) Simonaics
4) Socerers
5) Barraters
6) Hypocrits
7) Thieves
8) Counsellors of Fraud
9) Schmatics and Sowers of Discord
10) Forgers and Falsifiers

Really a lurid list of malfactors!

"Fraud, wherewithal is every conscience stung,
  A man may practise upon him who trusts,
  And him who doth no confidence imburse.

This latter mode, it would appear, desevers
  Only the bond of love which Nature makes;
  Wherefore within the second circle nestle
This from Canto XI
Hypocrisy, flattery, and who deals in magic,
  Falsification, theft, and simony,
  Panders, and barrators, and the like filth.

This from Wikipedia
 This circle is divided into ten Bolgie, or ditches of stone, with bridges spanning the ditches:
  • Bolgia 1Panderers and seducers march in separate lines in opposite directions, whipped by demons (here Dante makes reference to a recent traffic rule developed for the Jubilee year of 1300 in Rome: keep to the right).[39] Just as the panderers and seducers used the passions of others to drive them to do their bidding, they are themselves driven by whip-wielding demons to march for all eternity.[39] In the group of panderers, the poets notice Venedico Caccianemico, who sold his own sister to theMarchese d'Este. In the group of seducers, Virgil points out Jason, who gained the help of Medea by seducing and marrying her only to later desert her for Creusa.[39]Jason also seduced Hypsipyle, but "abandoned her, alone and pregnant"[40] (Canto XVIII).
  • Bolgia 2Flatterers also exploited other people, this time using language. They are steeped in human excrement, which represents the words they produced. Alessio Interminei of Lucca and Thaïs are seen here.[39] (Canto XVIII).
  • Bolgia 3: Dante now forcefully expresses[41] his condemnation of those who committed simony. Those who committed simony are placed head-first in holes in the rock (resembling baptismal fonts), with flames burning on the soles of their feet. One of the simoniacs, Pope Nicholas III, denounces two of his successors, Pope Boniface VIII andPope Clement V, for the same offence. Simon Magus, who offered gold in exchange for holy power to Saint Peter, is also seen here. The simile of baptismal fonts gives Dante an incidental opportunity to clear his name of an accusation of malicious damage to the font in the church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini[42] (Canto XIX).
  • Bolgia 4Sorcerersastrologers, and false prophets here have their heads twisted around backward on their bodies, so that they "found it necessary to walk backward, / because they could not see ahead of them."[43] While referring primarily to attempts to see into the future by forbidden means, this also symbolises the twisted nature of magic in general.[44] In thisBolgia, Dante sees AmphiarausTiresias (whose double transformation is also referenced), Tiresias' daughter MantoArunsMichael Scot, Alberto de Casalodi, and Guido Bonatti, among others (Canto XX).
  • Bolgia 5: Corrupt politicians (barrators) are immersed in a lake of boiling pitch, which represents the sticky fingers and dark secrets of their corrupt deals.[45] The barrators are the political analogue of the simoniacs, and Dante devotes several cantos to them. They are guarded by devils called the Malebranche ("Evil Claws"), who provide some savage and satirical black comedy – in the last line of Canto XXI, the sign for their march is provided by a fart: "and he had made a trumpet of his ass."[46] The leader of the Malebranche, Malacoda ("Evil Tail"), assigns a troop to escort Virgil and Dante safely to the next bridge. The troop hook and torment one of the sinners (identified by early commentators as Ciampolo), who names some Italian grafters and then tricks the Malebranche in order to escape back into the pitch. The promise of safe conduct the poets received from the demons turns out to have limited value (and there is no "next bridge"),[47] so the poets are forced to scramble down into the sixthBolgia (Cantos XXI through XXIII).
  • Bolgia 6: In the sixth Bolgia, the poets find the hypocrites listlessly walking along wearing gilded lead cloaks, which represent the falsity behind the surface appearance of their actions – falsity that weighs them down and makes spiritual progress impossible for them.[47] Dante speaks with Catalano and Loderingo, two members of the Jovial Friars, an order that had acquired a reputation for not living up to its vows[47] and was eventually suppressed by Pope Sixtus VCaiaphas, the high priest responsible for ordering Jesus crucified, is also seen here, crucified to the ground and trampled (Canto XXIII).
  • Bolgia 7: Two cantos are devoted to the thieves. They are guarded by the centaur Cacus, who has a fire-breathing dragon on his shoulders and snakes covering his equine back (in Roman mythology, Cacus was not a centaur but a monstrous fire-breathing giant slain byHeracles). The thieves are pursued and bitten by snakes and lizards. The full horror of the thieves' punishment is revealed gradually: just as they stole other people's substance in life, their very identity becomes subject to theft here,[48] and the snake bites make them undergo various transformations. Vanni Fucci is turned to ashes and resurrected. Agnello is blended with the six-legged reptile that isCianfa. Buoso exchanges shapes with the four-legged Francesco: "The soul that had become an animal, / now hissing, hurried off along the valley; / the other one, behind him, speaks and spits"[49] (Cantos XXIV and XXV).
  • Bolgia 8: Two further cantos are devoted to fraudulent advisers or evil counsellors, who are concealed within individual flames. These are not people who gave false advice, but people who used their position to advise others to engage in fraud.[50] Ulysses and Diomedes are condemned here for the deception of the Trojan Horse. Ulysses tells the tale of his fatal final voyage (Dante's invention) where he left his home and family to sail to the end of the Earth only to have his ship founder near Mount Purgatory; Ulysses also mentions of his encounter with Circe, stating that she "beguiled him." Guido da Montefeltro recounts how he advised Pope Boniface VIII to capture the fortress of Palestrina, by offering the Colonna familyinside it a false amnesty and then razing it to the ground after they surrendered. Guido describes how St. Francis came to take his soul to Heaven because of Guido's subsequent joining of the Franciscan order, only to have a demon assert prior claim. Although Boniface had absolved Guido in advance for his evil advice, Dante points out the invalidity of that, since absolution requires contrition, and a man cannot be contrite for a sin at the same time that he is intending to commit it[51](Cantos XXVI and XXVII).
  • Bolgia 9: In the ninth Bolgia, a sword-wielding demon hacks at the Sowers of Discord, dividing parts of their bodies as in life they divided others.[52] As they make their rounds the wounds heal, only to have the demon tear apart their bodies again. Dante encounters Muhammad, with his entrails hanging out, who tells him to warn the schismatic and heretic Fra Dolcino. Dante describes Muhammad as a schismatic,[52][53] apparently viewing Islam as an off-shoot from Christianity, and similarly Dante seems to condemn Ali for schism between Sunni and Shiite. In this Bolgia, Dante also encounters Bertran de Born, who carries around his severed head like a lantern (a literal representation of allowing himself to detach his intelligence from himself), as a punishment for (Dante believes) fomenting the rebellion of Henry the Young King against his father Henry II(Cantos XXVIII and XXIX).
  • Bolgia 10: In the final Bolgia, various sorts of falsifiers (alchemistscounterfeitersperjurers, and impostors) – who are a "disease" on society – are themselves afflicted with different types of diseases.[54] Potiphar's wife is briefly mentioned for her false accusation of Joseph. The Achaean spy Sinon suffers from a burning fever for tricking the Trojans into taking the Trojan Horse into their city; Sinon is here rather than in Bolgia 8 because his advice was false as well as evil. Gianni Schicchi is a 'rabid goblin' for forging the will of Dante's relative Buoso Donati. Myrrha suffers from madness for disguising herself to commit incest with her father King Theias.
In Sayers's notes on her translation, she remarks that the descent through Malebolge "began with the sale of the sexual relationship, and went on to the sale of Church and State; now, the very money is itself corrupted, every affirmation has become perjury, and every identity a lie"[54] so that every aspect of social interaction has been progressively destroyed (Cantos XXIX and XXX).


In Dante Alighieri's Inferno, part of the Divine ComedyMalebolge is the eighth circle of Hell. Roughly translated from Italian, Malebolge means "evil ditches". Malebolge is a large, funnel-shaped cavern, itself divided into ten concentric circular trenches or ditches. Each trench is called a bolgia (Italian for "pouch" or "ditch"). Long causeway bridges run from the outer circumference of Malebolge to its center, pictured as spokes on a wheel. At the center of Malebolge is the ninth and final circle of hell.
In Dante’s version of hell, categories of sin are punished in different circles, with the depth of the circle (and placement within that circle) symbolic of the amount of punishment to be inflicted. Sinners placed in the upper circles of hell are given relatively minor punishments, while sinners in the depths of hell endure far greater torments. As the eighth of nine circles, Malebolge is one of the worst places in hell to be. In it, sinners guilty of "simple" fraud are punished (that is, fraud that is committed without particularly malicious intent, whereas Malicious or "compound" fraud — fraud that goes against bond of love, blood, honor, or the bond of hospitality — would be punished in the ninth circle). Sinners of this category include counterfeiters, hypocrites, grafters, seducers, sorcerers and simonists.
Dante and his guide, Virgil, make their way into Malebolge by riding on the back of the monster Geryon, the personification of fraud, who possesses the face of an honest man 'good of cheer,' but the tail of a scorpion, who flies them down through the yawning chasm that separates the eighth circle from the seventh circle, where the violent are punished. Dante and Virgil plan on crossing Malebolge by way of the system of bridges, but find their path disturbed by many broken ledges and collapsed bridges that were destroyed during the Harrowing of Hell. They must then cross some of the bolgias on foot and even rely on demons to guide them. Eventually, they make it to the inner ledge where after a brief look at the giants, the babbling Nimrod to the hostile Ephialtes and heavily chained Briareus, Virgil convinces the giant Antaeus to lower them down to the ninth circle's frozen lake,Cocytus.

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