Inferno -- Canto X

Heretics, Farinata, Cavalcante









11 Jehosaphat is the valley outside Jerusalem where the last judgment will take place (Joel 3:2, 12).

14 Epicurus, the Greek philosopher (342-270 B.C.), is assigned to the sixth circle of the heretics because he denied the immortality of the soul.










32 Farinata degli Uberti (d. 1264) led the Ghibelline faction which defeated the Guelphs in 1248 and 1260. Both times the Guelphs returned to power a few years later.


















63 Guido Cavalcanti, a poet and friend of Dante, died in August of 1300. Here his father inquires about him.










80 The lady Hecate, or Proserpine, was considered a moon-goddess.



85 Farinata is referring to the defeat suffered at Montaperti. So much blood was spilled that the Arbia turned red.



91 During the council of Empoli, it was decided that Florence be destroyed. Only Farinata was opposed, and he convinced the others to spare the city.

















119 Frederick II (1194-1250) was King of Sicily. The Cardinal is Ottaviano degli Ubaldini (d. 1273).






130 Dante will learn from Beatrice what Virgil can't tell him now.

          Now, by a hidden passageway that wound
          Between the rack and ramparts of the city,
          My master travels and I after him.
          "O highest virtue who through these arrant rings
5         Lead me around as you please," I began,
          "Speak to me and satisfy my yearnings:
          "The people here who lie within the tombs,
          Can they be seen? Already all the lids
          Are raised off and no one is standing guard,"
10         And he responded, "They shall all be sealed
          When they come back here from Jehosaphat
          With the bodies that they have left up there.
          "In this section is found the cemetery
          Of Epicurus and his followers,
15       All those who claim the soul dies with the body.
          "So the question that you have put to me
          Soon shall be satisfied while we are here,
          As shall the wish that you have kept from me."
          And I: "Good guide, I do not hide my heart:
20       I only want now to have less to say
          As more than once before you prompted me."
          "O Tuscan, passing through the fiery city
          Alive and speaking with such frank decorum,
          Be kind enough to pause now in this place.
25       "Your way of talking makes it clear you come
          Of the stock born of that same noble city
          To which I was perhaps too troublesome."
          So suddenly had this sound issued from
          One of the coffins there that I trembled
30       And drew a little closer to my guide.
          "Turn around," he said. "What are you doing?
          Look here at Farinata straightening up!
          From waist high you will see the whole of him."
          I had already fixed my eyes on his
35       While he emerged with his forehead and chest,
          Looking as though he held hell in contempt.
          The quick, assuring hands of my leader
          Pushed me toward him between the sepulchers —
          He said, "Suit your words to the occasion."
40       When I had come up nearer to his tomb,
          He stared a moment and then, disdainfully,
          Questioned me, "Who were your ancestors?"
          I who was anxious to be dutiful
          Kept nothing back but told him everything.
45       At this he raised his brows ever so slightly,
          Then said, "They were so fiercely inimical
          To me and to my forebears and my party
          That twice I had to send them scampering."
          "Though they were driven out, yet from all sides
50       At both times they came back," I said to him;
          "But your men never really learned that art."
          At that there rose before my sight a shade
          Beside him — visible down to his chin —
          I guess he raised himself up on his knees.
55       He gazed all around me, as though intent
          To see if I were there with someone else,
          But when his hope had been completely dashed,
          Tearfully he said, "If you journey through
          This blind prison by reason of high genius,
60       Where is my son? Why is he not with you?"
          I answered, "I do not journey on my own:
          He who awaits there leads me through this place —
          Perhaps your Guido had felt scorn for him."
          His question and his form of punishment
65       Allowed me already to read his name;
          On that account, my answer was so full.
          Suddenly he stood and cried out, "How?
          You said ‘had felt’? Is he not still alive?
          Does not the lovely light still strike his eyes?"
70       And when he had observed my hesitation
          Before I answered him, he shrank back down
          And would not show his face to me again.
          That noble-hearted shade at whose request
          I’d halted my steps did not change his look
75       Or bow his head or bend his body down,
          But, picking up once more our first exchange,
          He said, "If they have poorly learned that art,
          That fact torments me far more than this bed.
          "Not fifty times, however, shall the face
80       Of the lady reigning here rekindle light
          Before you know how heavy that art weighs.
          "And, so may you return to the sweet world,
          Tell me why those people are so unjust
          In all the laws they pass against my kindred?"
85       Then I replied, "The rout and massacre
          Which stained the stream of the Arbia red
          Inspires such petitions in our temple."
          At that he sighed, shook his head, and said,
          "In that harsh action I was not alone:
90       Surely with cause I joined in with the others;
          "But there I was alone where all concurred
          To topple Florence to the ground, the only
          One to stand up for her openly."
          "Ah, as you wish your seed to find true peace,"
95       I answered, "help me to unravel the knot
          That has so tangled up my thinking here.
          "It seems, if I am right, that you can see
          Beforehand what time bears along with it,
          But what the present holds you cannot grasp."
100     "We see, like someone suffering poor vision,
          Those things," he said, "that are far off from us:
          Such light the Sovereign Lord still proffers us.
          "When things approach or happen, our intellect
          Is useless; unless others inform us here
105     We would know nothing of your human state.
          "So you can comprehend how wholly dead
          Shall be our knowledge at that moment when
          The door of the future has slammed shut."
          Then, as though in sorrow for my failure,
110     I said, "Now will you tell that fallen man
          That his son is still there among the living.
          "And if, before, I remained silent
          To his response, inform him I was thinking
          About the problem you have just cleared up."
115     Already my master was calling me back,
          And so I begged that spirit with fresh haste
          To tell me who were with him in the tombs.
          "Here lie with me more than a thousand,"
          He said; "Here is Frederick the Second,
120     And the Cardinal. . ., but I name no more."
          With that he vanished, and I turned my steps
          Toward the ancient poet while I pondered
          Those words that seemed so threatening to me.
          He moved along, and then as we two walked,
125     He questioned me, "Why are you so perturbed?"
          And I satisfied him with my answer.
          "Store in your mind what you have heard set forth
          Against yourself," that sage commanded me.
          "Now pay attention," and he raised a finger:
130     "When you shall stand before the gentle beams
          Of her whose beautiful eyes see everything,
          From her you’ll learn the journey of your life."
          With that he turned his steps off to the left.
          We quit the wall and headed toward the center
135     Along a path that strikes down to a valley
          Which, even there, sickened us with its stench.
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