Inferno -- Canto XXII

Grafters, the Navarese

 

Notes

 

 

5 The battle of Campaldino was fought against the Aretines in 1289.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

32 The Navarese grafter has sometimes been identified as a certain Ciampolo, although no more is known about him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

52 Thibault II was king of Navarre (1253-1270).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

81 Fra Gomita, a friar, administered Gallura, one of the four districts of Sardinia, then a Pisan colony.

 

 

 

88 Michel Zanche (d. 1290) administered another Sardinian district, Logodoro.

          I have seen horsemen in the past break camp,
          Muster their army and open assault,
          And at times even beat a quick retreat;
 
          I have seen outriders roam your countryside,
5        O Aretines, and seen raiding-parties charge,
          Tournaments clash and jousters galloping,
 
          Some called by trumpets and some by bells,
          By drumrolls and by flares from castle-walls,
          By homemade and imported instruments;
 
10       But never before have I seen horsemen,
          Footsoldiers, or ships that sail by sighting
          Of land or stars move to a stranger bugle.
 
          We walked together along with the ten demons —
          Ah, what fierce company, and yet: with saints
15       In church, with rioters in the tavern!
 
          My whole attention was fixed on the pitch
          To study every aspect of this pocket
          And of the people who, within it, burned.
 
          Just as dolphins do, when with arching backs
20       They signal a storm-warning to the sailors
          To make all hands ready to save the ship,
 
          So here at times to soothe the suffering
          Some sinner showed his back above the top
          And hid again as fast as lightning flashes.
 
25       And just as on the water’s edge of ditches
          Frogs squat with only their muzzles showing,
          To hide their legs and the rest of their fat flesh,
 
          So here on all sides these sinners squatted,
          But the instant Barbariccia stepped forward,
30       They dived back underneath the boiling pitch.
 
          I saw, and still my heart shudders with it,
          One lag behind — just as sometimes one frog
          Will stay back while another leaps below —
 
          And Graffiacane, the closest to him,
35       Hooked him up by his pitch-knotted hair
          And hauled him out — he looked just like an otter!
 
          I knew all of the devils now by name,
          For I had watched them when they were selected,
          And when they called each other, I had listened.
 
40       "Oh Rubicante, see that you get your claws
          Into his back so you can skin and flay him!"
          The whole damned squad shouted all together.
 
          And I: "My master, if you can, please do
          Find out the name of the unfortunate soul
45      Who’s fallen in the clutches of his foes."
 
          My guide, drawing closer to his side,
          Asked him where he came from; he replied,
          "I was born in the kingdom of Navarre.
 
          "My mother placed me in service to a lord,
50       For she had had me by some fly-by-night,
          A destroyer of his goods and suicide.
 
          "Then I served in kind King Thibault’s household
          Where I set myself up by accepting graft:
          And in this heat I render my account."
 
55       And Ciriatto, with two tusks stuck out
          From both sides of his mouth, just like a boar’s,
          Let him feel how one tusk could rip him open.
 
          The mouse had fallen prey to wicked cats.
          But Barbariccia grabbed him with his arms,
60      Yelling, "Stay back there while I’ve got a grip!"
 
          Then he turned his face to my guide and said,
          "Ask once again, if you want to learn more
          From him, before the rest tear him apart."
 
          So my guide: "Tell me then, among the other
65       Sinners, do you know of any Italians sunk
          Under the pitch?" And he: "I just now left
 
          "One soul from near there — would that I were still
          With him beneath the shelter of that pitch!
          These claws and hooks would not then frighten me!"
 
70        And Libicocco snarled, "We’ve stood enough!"
          And with his grapple caught him by the arm
          And, tearing at it, hacked out the skin and muscle.
 
          But Draghignazzo also hoped to lay
          Hooks to his legs; at that the captain whipped
75      About and rounded them with ill-boding looks.
 
          When they’d become a little more subdued,
          Without waiting, my guide questioned the sinner
          Who stood there still, studying his wound,
 
          "Who was the soul you said you had to leave
80       Behind you there when you came to the shore?"
          He answered, "That was Friar Gomita
 
          "From Gallura, a purse for every fraud!
          He had his master’s enemies in his hands
          And treated them so that they sang his praises.
 
85       "He took their cash and let them off scot free,
          As he admits, and in his other dealings
          He was no petty thief but a royal one.
 
          "With him is his cohort Michel Zanche
          Of Logodoro, and their tongues never tire
90       With constant chatter about Sardinia.
 
          "Oh oh, look! there’s another grinding his teeth!
          I’d tell you more but I feel terrified
          That that fiend is all set to scratch my scabs!"
 
          Then their field marshal, facing Farfarello,
95       His eyes rolling with readiness to strike,
          Shouted, "Get back from there, you filthy bird!"
 
          "If it remains your wish to see or hear
          Tuscans or Lombards," the frightened soul resumed,
          "I will call up still more to come to you.
 
100      "But let the Malebranche there stand aside
          So that the souls may not fear their vengeance,
          And I, staying seated in this same spot,
 
          "All by myself, shall make seven surface
          By whistling, a practice that we follow
105     Whenever one of us escapes the pitch."
 
          At this news Cagnazzo raised his muzzle;
          Shaking his head, he sneered, "Listen to that —
          A trick he has thought up to jump back down!"
 
          With that, he who had a store of stratagems
110      Answered, "I am a tricky soul indeed
          When I gain deeper pain for my own partners!"
 
          Alichino could not restrain himself
          And, counter to the rest, said, "If you jump,
          I wouldn’t come galloping after you;
 
115      "Instead, I’ll flap my wings above the pitch-pot!
          We’ll leave this ridge and make the bank a shield
          To see if all alone you can outsmart us!"
 
          O reader, listen to the latest sport!
          Each turned his eyes toward the other shore —
120      The first one was the fiend who most resisted!
 
          The Navarrese picked his time perfectly,
          Fixed both feet on the ground and in a flash
          Leaped out and broke free of the fiend-in-charge!
 
          Each one felt guilt-stricken at being gulled,
125     But chief the one who brought about the blunder,
          So he took straight off and cried, "You’re caught!"
 
          But it did little good, for wings cannot
          Fly faster than can fear: the one dives under
          While the other thrusts up his chest in flight.
 
130      No different is the duck that plunges downward
          With a rush when the falcon closes in
          And then, beaten and bitter, soars back again.
 
          Calcabrina, fuming at the ruse,
          Flew after Alichino; he was hoping
135     The sinner would escape so he could tussle.
 
          And as soon as the grafter disappeared,
          He turned his claws on his air-borne comrade
          And grappled with him high above the ditch.
 
          But the other was a fullfledged sparrowhawk
140     And clawed at him until they both tumbled
          Right in the middle of the boiling pond.
 
          Instantly the heat blew them asunder,
          But then they had no way of lifting off
          Since they had clogged their wings with gluey pitch.
 
145      Barbariccia, fretting with the rest,
          Sent four fiends to fly to the other side
          With all their pitchforks, and swiftly enough,
 
          From here and there they then took up their posts
          And stretched their hooks out to the bird-limed pair
150     Who were already cooked inside the crust.
 
          And so we left them embroiled in that mess.
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