Inferno -- Canto XXXII

Traitors in Caina and Antenora








10 The Muses so inspired the music of Amphion that stones built themselves into the wall of Thebes at the sound of his lyre.



16 This is Caina, first zone of the ninth circle for the treacherous, named for Cain, who slew his brother Abel.







28 Tambernic and Pietrapana are probably mountains in northern Tuscany.

















55 Alessandro and Napoleone degli Alberti, sons of Alberto of Mangona, quarreled over their patrimony — including castles in the Val di Bisenzio — and killed each other.

61 Modred betrayed his uncle King Arthur who lanced him through so that sunlight shone from the hole.

63 Focaccia de’ Cancellieri of Pistoia, Sassol Mascheroni (l. 65), and Camiscion de’ Pazzi (l. 68) all murdered relatives. Carlino, brother of Carniscion, would later in 1302 surrender a castle to the Florentine Blacks.














88 Antenora, the second zone of the final round, is named for the Trojan who supposedly betrayed his city to the Greeks.











106 Bocca degli Abbati, posing as a Florentine Guelph, but actually a Ghibelline, cut off the hand of the Guelph standard-bearer at the battle of Montaperti in 1260 and helped cause that party’s defeat.




116 Buoso da Duera, a Ghibelline leader, was bribed by the French to betray his side.

119 Tesauro dei Beccheria of Pavia, a papal legate in Tuscany, secretly worked for the Ghibellines; he was beheaded in 1258.

121 Gianni de’ Soldanier, a Florentine Ghibelline, joined up with the Guelphs.

122 Ganelon betrayed Roland and the rear-guard to the Moors. Tebaldello de’ Zambrasi of Faenza turned over his city to the Guelphs of Bologna in 1280.


130 Tydeus, one of the seven kings who fought Thebes, killed Menalippus but was mortally wounded in turn. While dying, he gnawed on his enemy’s skull.

          If I possessed the crude and caustic verses
          Suited to this desolate abyss
          Where all the other crushing rocks converge,
          I would squeeze out the juice of my conceit
5        More amply, but since I lack the words, it is
          With some timidity I’d start to speak.
          To describe the bottom of the whole universe
          Is not a pastime taken up in sport
          Nor baby-talk about Mamma and Daddy.
10       However, may those ladies aid my verse
          Who aided Amphion to build the wall of Thebes,
          So that the word not differ from the thing.
          O misbegotten mob beyond all others
          Trapped in this place so hard to describe,
15       Better had you been born as sheep or goats!
          When we were there below in the darkened hole,
          Far down the slope beneath the giant’s feet,
          And I still stared up at the steep-pitched wall,
          I heard someone tell me, "Watch out how you pass!
20       Be careful not to step upon the heads
          Of this weary, wretched brotherhood."
          At that I turned around and saw before me
          And underneath my feet a lake of ice
          So frozen that it looked like glass, not water.
25       Neither the Danube in Austria nor the Don,
          Far-off under the cold sky, ever fashioned
          So thick a veil in winter for its current
          As was here: for if the peaks of Tambernic
          Or Pietrapana had fallen down on it,
30       Not even at its edge would it have creaked.
          The way frogs sit to croak with muzzles out
          Of water, in the season when the peasant girl
          Often dreams about her harvesting,
          So these mournful shadows were sealed in ice,
35       Livid to where they blush their cheek with shame,
          Teeth chattering with the clatter of a stork.
          Each held his face bowed down before the ice,
          Witnessing to the cold by their mouths,
          Witnessing to the heartache with their eyes.
40       When I had gazed around me for a while,
          I looked down at my feet and saw two shades
          So clasped, the hair of their heads knit together.
          "Tell me, you who squash your chests together,"
          I said, "who are you?" They bent their necks back
45      And, when they had their faces lifted toward me,
          Their eyes, which had before wept inwardly,
          Wet drops down on their lips, and the frost froze
          The tears between the two and locked them tight.
          Never was board on board bolted more firmly
50       Than these two, so that they butted one another
          Like two he-goats, such anger drove them wild.
          And one shade who had lost both ears from cold,
          With his eyes still cast downward, spoke to me,
          "Why do you have to stare at us so hard?
55       "If you desire to know who this pair is,
          The valley from which the Bisenzio cascades
          Belonged to them and to their father Albert.
          "One womb bore them both, and you can search
          All Caina and you shall not find a shade
60       More worthy to be riveted in ice:
          "Not Modred who had breast and shadow pierced
          With but one blow dealt by the hand of Arthur,
          Not Focaccia, not this one here who blocks
          "My view with his head so I see no farther —
65       And his name was Sassol Mascheroni:
          Should you be Tuscan, you now know who he is.
          "And that you may not put me through more talk,
          Know this: I was Camiscion de’ Pazzi,
          And I wait for Carlino to absolve me."
70       After that I saw a thousand faces so
          Purpled by cold that a shivering still
          Grips me, and it always will, at frozen ponds.
          Now while we walked onward toward the center
          To which the whole weight of the world pulls down
75       And while I shuddered with the eternal chill,
          Whether it happened by will or fate or chance
          I don’t know, but, moving among the heads,
          I struck my foot hard on one of the faces.
          Through tears he screamed, "Why do you kick me?
80       If you haven’t come to take revenge on me
          For Montaperti, why should you pester me?"
          And I: "My master, please wait for me here:
          Permit me to clear up a doubt about him,
          Then I shall be as quick as you could wish."
85       My guide stood still, and I said to the shade
          Who swore and cursed with hardened bitterness,
          "Who are you, insulting other people?"
          "Who are you who stroll through Antenora
          Kicking the cheeks of others?" he responded,
90       "Were you alive, I wouldn’t take that from you!"
          "I am alive, and it may be worth your effort,
          Should you seek fame, that I would now note down
          Your name with the others." This was my reply.
          And he cried, "I want just the opposite!
95       You have a poor grasp of how to flatter us!
          Get out of here and give me no more trouble!"
          At that I grabbed him by the scruff of his neck
          And said, "Either you give me your name now
          Or you won’t have a hair left here on top!"
100     Then he cried at me, "Go right ahead and scalp me!
          I wouldn’t tell you who I am or show you
          Though you pummel my head a thousand times!"
          I had already twisted his hair in my hand
          And pulled out more than a full hank of it,
105     While he yelped on and kept his eyes down low,
          When someone else shouted, "What’s with you, Bocca?
          Don’t you sound off enough with your clattering jaws
          But now you have to bark? What evil’s got you?"
          "Now," I said, "I don't need you to blab more,
110     Evil-minded traitor, because to shame you
          I’ll carry back the real news here about you!"
          "Go away!" he answered, "Tell all you want!
          But if you do get out of here, do not
          Shut up about this one with the big mouth!
115      "He weeps here for the bribe of Frenchman’s silver.
          ‘I saw Buoso da Duera,’ you can report,
          ‘There where all the sinners cool their heels!’
          "Should you be questioned, ‘And who else was there?’
          Right at your side you have Beccheria
120     Whose head was cut off by the Florentines.
          "Gianni de’ Soldanier I think is farther
          On with Ganelon and Tebaldello
          Who opened Faenza’s gates while it slept fast."
          We left them, and soon afterward I saw
125      Two souls frozen in one hole so close
          That one’s head served as the other’s hood.
          Just as a hungry man chews on bread crusts,
          So did the one on top sink his teeth into
          The other’s nape at the base of the brain.
130      Tydeus gnawed the head of Menalippus
          With no more fury than this sinner showed
          In gnawing on the skull of skin and bone.
          "O you who by this sign of bestiality
          Show hatred for the one whom you devour,
135      Tell me why," I said; "and for the favor,
          "If you have any reason for your grievance,
          When I know who you are and what his sin,
          I will pay you back in the world above
          "Unless my tongue should dry up in my throat."
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