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One of the two then addresses Dante thus :
• O gracious creature and benign! who go'st
is mute. The land that gave me birth
Love, that in gentle hearts is quickly learnt,
The spirit which thus spoke was that of the beautiful and frail Francesca, daughter of Guido da Polento, lord of Ravenna, who was given by her father in marriage to Lanciotto Malatesta, son of the lord of Rimini, who was deformed in his person. Paolo, Lanciotto's brother, engaged the affections of his sister-in-law, and, their guilt being discovered, they were both put to death by the husband. Dante, during his exile, was a guest of Guido da Polenta at Ravenna, when the recollection of the catastrophe was still recent. The poet represents himself as deeply affected by Francesca's narrative, and, after musing awhile, he thus addresses her :
• Francesca, your sad fate
Thy learn 'd instructor. Yet so eagerly
Ofttimes by that reading
In the next, or third circle, the poet sees the gluttons, who are punished by lying in the mire, under a continual storm of hail, snow, and muddy water; whilst Cerberus, the three-headed mastiff, barks over them and tears their limbs.
The fourth circle is occupied by the prodigal and the avaricious, and Plutus stands watching at the gate. The punishment of those who are confined in the fourth circle consists in rolling continually enormous stones one against the other, by pushing them with their breasts. The poet next proceeded to the fifth circle, in which he saw the wrathful and passionate, who lay plunged in the Stygian marsh, tearing each other to pieces with their nails and teeth. In the sixth circle is the city of Dis, with walls and minarets of iron, lighted by a fire within, which burns for ever. The area of the city incloses a vast number of sepulchres, in which are buried heretics and infidels burning in the flames.
In the seventh circle Dante first meets with those who have committed violence against their neighbours, and who are immersed in a river of blood, from which, as they strive to escape, they are shot at with arrows by centaurs posted along the banks. This place of punishment is awarded to fierce conquerors, tyrants, and devastators of countries, among whom the poet enumerates Pyrrhus, Dionysius the
Elder, Attila, Eccelino da Romano, &c.; also murderers, pirates, and highway-robbers. He notices Guy de Montfort, son of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, who killed Prince Henry, son of Richard of Cornwall, and nephew of Henry III. of England, in a church at Viterbo, in Italy, while Henry was kneeling before the altar, hearing
Guy committed this act to revenge his own father's death. (* Holinshea's Chronicle,' A D. 1272.) In another compartment of the seventh circle are the self-murderers, and also those who squander away their property, or other blessings, which they have received from God; whoever
In reckless lavishment his talent wastes,
In the third compartment of the seventh circle are those who have done violence or openly revolted against God. They are all in a vast sandy plain, some stretched on their backs, others sitting, and others perpetually walking about, while flakes of fire are falling thick upon the sand.
Dante and Virgil then descend into the eighth circle, seated on the back of the monster Gorgon, who is the emblem of fraud :
Lo! the fell monster with the deadly sting,
The eighth circle is divided into ten gulfs or compartments, each containing a particular class of sinners. The description of this circle occupies thirteen cantos (xviii. to xxx.), by which the poet intends to show the vast proportion of crimes committed through fraud, deceit, or treachery.
In the ninth gulf of the eighth circle are the sowers of scandal, schism, and heresy, with their limbs mangled and divided. Among them the poet saw Mahommed and Ali, besides several of his own contemporaries and countrymen. In the tenth gulf are the alchemists, forgers, and coiners, who are tormented by various loathsome diseases. One of them, Adamo da Brescia, who had counterfeited the coin of Florence at the instigation of the lord of Romena, a place in the fine valley of the Apennines, called Casentino, appears swollen with dropsy, and tormented
by a parching thirst, which he has no means of allaying. He thus addresses Dante :
• O ye! who in this world of misery,
Thus he began, 'attentively regard
Dante, following Virgil, proceeds to the ninth and lowest circle of hell, divided into four compartments, in which are confined various sorts of traitors. Their torment consists in being plunged into a frozen lake. Among the rest our poet beheld
Two spirits by the ice
Dante addresses the uppermost of the two to know the reason of his deadly hate against the other :
His jaws uplifting from their fell repast,
Know I was on earth
In him my trust reposing, I was ta’en
A small grate
· When I awoke Before the dawn, amid their sleep I heard My sons (for they were with me) weep and ask For bread. Right cruel art thou if no pang Thou feel at thinking what my heart foretold; And if not now, why use thy tears to flow? Now had they waken'd, and the hour drew near When they were wont to bring us food; the mind Of each misgave him through his dream, and I Heard at its outlet underneath lock'd up The horrible tower: whence, utt'ring not a word, I look'd upon the visage of
my sons. I wept not: so all stone I felt within. They wept: and one, my little Anselm, cried, Thou lookest so! Father, what ails thee? Yet I shed no tears, nor answer'd all that day Nor the next night, until another sun Came out upon the world. When a faint beam Had to our doleful prison made its way, And in four countenances I descried The image of my own, on either hand Through agony I bit; and they, who thought I did it through desire of feeding, rose O'the sudden and cried, Father, we should grieve, Far less if thou wouldst eat of us : thou gav'st These weeds of miserable flesh we wear; And do thou strip them off from us again. Then, not to make them sadder, I kept down