Inferno -- Canto VII

Misers and Wasters

 

Notes

1 Plutus, the god of wealth, speaks gibberish while presiding over the fourth circle of the wasters and the misers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

22 Charybdis is a whirlpool in the strait of Messina.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

106 Styx, the second river of hell, is a quagmire where the wrathful wallow in the fifth circle.

          "Pape Satan, pape Satan, aleppe!"
          Plutus started up with clacking voice,
          And that kind sage, who comprehended all,
 
          Spoke for my comfort, "Do not let your fear
5         Harm you: whatever power he possesses,
          He cannot keep us from climbing down this crag."
 
          Then he turned back to that puffed-up face
          And said, "Plutus, be still, wretched wolf!
          Feed on yourself with your own rabid rage.
 
10       "Not without cause we journey to the abyss.
          It is so willed on high, there where Michael
          Wreaked vengeance on that arrogant rebellion."
 
          As sails billowed by the wind collapse
          Into a tangled heap when the mainmast cracks,
15       So the ruthless beast fell to the ground.
 
          At that we moved on down to the fourth crater,
          Taking in more of that grief-stricken slope
          Which stacks all the evil of the universe.
 
          Ah, justice of God! Who has heaped up so many
20       Of the fresh trials and tortures that I saw?
          Why does our guilt devour us like this?
 
          Just like the wave, there over Charybdis,
          Breaking itself against the wave it strikes,
          So must the people here reel out their dance.
 
25       Here I saw more shades than I saw above,
          On one side and the other, with piercing howls,
          Rolling weights shoved forward with their chests.
 
          They smashed against each other. On the spot,
          Each whipped around and, rolling the weight back,
30       Yelled, "Why do you hoard?" or "Why do you splurge?"
 
          With that they wheeled about the dismal circle
          On either arc to the opposing point,
          Screaming over again their scornful verses.
 
          When they had reached the end of one half-circle,
35       Each turned around to face the following joust.
          And I — my heart all but pierced by the sight —
 
          Spoke up, "My master, now instruct me here.
          Who are these people? Were they all clergy,
          The tonsured ones there on the left-hand side?"
 
40       And he replied, "All these were so squint-eyed
          Mentally, in the first life, that they
          Were never even-handed in their spending:
 
          "Their voices bark this truth out clearly
          When they come to the two points of the circle
45       Where contrary guilts set them against each other.
 
          "These were the clergy who have no crown of hair
          On their heads, both popes and cardinals,
          Within whom avarice runs to its extreme."
 
          And I: "Master, among the likes of these
50       Surely I should recognize some souls
          Who were befouled by these same misdeeds."
 
          And he told me, "You entertain vain thoughts.
          The imperceptive lives that dirtied them
          Now blacken them beyond all perception.
 
55       "Forever they will come to double butt:
          These men shall rise up from the sepulcher
          With tight fists and those men, with shaven heads.
 
          "Ill-giving and ill-keeping stole from them
          The lovely world and put them to this strife.
60       I will not lose fair words describing it.
 
          "Now you can see, my son, the brief foolery
          Of the wealth which Fortune holds in trust —
          For this the race of men rebuff each other.
 
          "All the gold that lies beneath the moon
65       And all the gold of old can bring no rest
          To a single one of all these wearied spirits."
 
          "Master," I said to him, "now tell me more.
          This Fortune whom you touch on with me here,
          Who is she with the world’s wealth in her grip?"
 
70       And he replied, "O foolhardy creatures,
          What immense ignorance trips you up!
          Now I want you to absorb my teaching.
 
          "The One whose wisdom transcends everything
          Fashioned the heavens and to them gave his guides,
75       So that one pole shines out to the other,
 
          "Apportioning, in equal measure, light.
          In like manner, for splendors of the world,
          He ordained a general minister and guide
 
          "To shift around at times the empty wealth,
80       From country to country and from house to house,
          Beyond the watchfulness of human judgment.
 
          "And so one country rules, one languishes,
          In obedience to the verdict that she gives,
          Which is hidden like a snake in the grass.
 
85       "Your wisdom is unable to withstand her:
          She ever foresees, judges, and purveys
          Her kingdom as the other gods do theirs.
 
          "Her changes never settle for a truce.
          Necessity is that which makes her swift,
90       So rapidly men come to take their turns.
 
          "She is the one so often crucified
          Even by those who ought to sing her praises,
          But with wrong, wicked voices they cast blame.
 
          "She is blessed, however, and hears nothing.
95       Rejoicing with the other primal creatures,
          She rolls her sphere and revels in her bliss.
 
          "Now let us pass below to deeper pathos.
          Already all the stars set that ascended
          When I began; we can no longer tarry."
 
100     We crossed the circle to the further bank
          Above a source that boils up and spills over
          Into a gully cut out from its stream.
 
          The water was far darker than black dye;
          And we, escorted by the murky waves,
105     Started down on this strange passageway.
 
          Into the marshland that is called the Styx
          Flows this sad stream after running downward
          To the base of these ruinous gray slopes.
 
          And I, standing there to stare intently,
110     Saw in that morass people smeared with mud,
          All naked, their faces lined with rage.
 
          They beat each other not just with their hands
          But even with their heads and chest and feet
          And with their teeth ripped each other to pieces.
 
115      My own good master said, "Son, now you see
          The souls of those whom anger overpowered.
          I also want you to accept for certain
 
          "That under the water there are people sighing
          Who make the surface of the water bubble,
120     As your eye tells you whichever way it turns."
 
          Mired in slime, they moan, "We were morose
          In the sweet air made cheerful by the sun;
          We bore within ourselves the torpid vapors:
 
          "Now morbid we are made in this black mud."
125     This canticle they gurgle in their gullets
          Since they can’t sound it with full syllables.
 
          So we walked around the wide curving rim
          Of that foul pool, between dry bank and bog,
          With our eyes turned to those who swallow slime.
 
130     We arrived at last at the base of a tower.
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