CANTO THE SIXTH.

 

ARGUMENT.

 

 

Leaving the LOVER’S LOT, and journeying still downwards, the Poets find the Gulph of EPICURISM, where DANTE is known by the Soul of a noble FLORENTINE, named CIACCO, who discloses to him some revolutions soon to take place in their native Republic. On passing this Region, DANTE makes some

Enquiries relative to the State of Things after the Resurrection, which are answered by the MANTUAN Poet, and the consequences of the final Judgment explained from Analogy.

 

 

LONG in the arms of Death entranc’d I lay. –

At length the vital current found its way ;

When other regions, fraught with other woes,

Far seen beneath, amaz’d my startled fight :

Obscure, the Champaign frown’d in native night,

And deeper plagues their deadly stores disclose.

 

II.

 

The prospect low’rs beneath eternal storms,

Dire, vollied hail, the hoary scene deforms,

And drifted snows their endless rigour keep :

Dark ruin hurtles thro’ the dusky air,

Foul steams arise and fill the troubled sphere,

Incessant floating round the awful steep.

 

III.

 

Hell’s bloodhound there his triple form extends,

And ever and anon the Savage rends

Some wand’ring wretch, and dyes his fangs in gore ;

His flaming eyes the troubled deep survey,

Loud gnash his teeth and hold the damn’d at bay,

Whose captive bands in vain his rage deplore.

 

IV.

 

The founder’d crew bewail the bitter show’r.

Loud barks the fiend ; his flaming eye‑balls lour,

Still as the wretches shift the tortur’d side.

Rolling innum’rous thro’ the dark profound,

Their yells canine th’ astonish’d hearing wound ;

At length our steps the dog of darknes spy’d.

 

V.

 

His triple head aloft the savage rear’d :

His fangs, a triple row of fate, appear’d,

And all the man forsook my sinking frame.

Soon MARO, stooping, flung a moulded clod,

He swallow’d it, and found his rage o’eraw’d,

Then gradual sunk, exhausted, weak, and tame.

 

VI.

 

As when a mongrel quits his nightly guard,

When the dark felon deals the wish’d reward,

And charms the ceaseless terrors of his tongue ;

So found the fiend his wonted wrath assuage :

His eyes had lost their flame, his fangs their rage,

And silence o’er the deep a moment hung.

 

VII.

 

The captive crew the wondrous pause admire,

Now first untortur’d by his clamours dire :

At length arriving on the bounds of pain,

Thro’ their wide flound’ring forms amaz’d we pass’d,

Extended, bare, beneath the bitter blast,

Whose dread artill’ry beat the groaning plain.

 

VIII. 

 

Mocking the touch, the heav’n‑abandon’d host,

A foul encampment ! fill’d the spacious coast.

A voice at length the horrid silence broke ;

Where a pale, pris’ner seem’d his head to raise,

And view my earthly form with fix’d amaze ;

While thus with feeble voice the phantom spoke :

 

IX.

 

“ Say ! hardy wand’rer thro’ the realms of pain,

Does any trace or lineament remain,

To wake the mem’ry of a friend once dear?

A while our vital threads together ran.”

“ In vain,” I cry’d, “ I trace thy visage wan,

Where nought but characters of hell appear.

 

X.

 

“ Tell who thou art, and what th’ ignoble crime

That chains thy limbs in this contagious clime,

Among the foulest stigmatics of Hell ?”

I spoke, and thus th’ afflicted soul rejoin’d :

“ FLORENCE, whose broad-blown crimes infect the wind,

Saw me within her vile enclosure dwell.

 

XI.

 

“ While yet I breath’d the sweet Hesperian air,

Ere doom’d the bitter‑beating storm to bear,

At feasts well known, CIACCO was my name ;[i]

Nor mine a voice that solitary wails,

Here thousands fill the deep Cimmerian vales,

For foul intemp’rance doom’d to equal shame.”

 

XII.

 

Sighing, I answer’d, “ Could my tears assuage

This deadly tempest of eternal rage,

Ceaseless, for thee, my tears should yearn to flow :

But say what ills yon factious walls await ?---

Since Discord breathes her poison through the state,

Lives there a man whose worth can ward the blow?”

 

XIII.

 

Then he, “ The wordy war shall end in blood ;

Whence the strong hunter of the ACONIAN wood[ii]

“ Cries, Havock ! and lets flip his dogs of war.”

Three suns shall see him rule the subject plain,

‘Till VALOIS, hov’ring on the TUSCAN main

Shall turn the scale, and chase the tyrant far.

 

XIV.

 

“ Long shall the Victor show his haughty brow,

The foe beneath his iron hand shall bow ;

In vain I see and mourn their rigid doom !

Two patriots still remain ; but savage Force,

And Pride, and Av’rice, check their noble course,

And with confed’rate flames the state consume.”

 

XV.

 

He ceas’d, and I resum’d my ardent pray’r :

“ Yet to thy friend a fleeting moment spare,

FARINA’slot, and TEGghio’s doom to tell ;

ARRIGO, MOSCA, with JACOPO’s fate ;[iii]

If here, below, the tort’ring hour they wait,

Or near the springs of endless pleasure dwell?

 

XVI.

 

“ Where shall I find those souls so high renown’d ?”

“ Far hence,” he cry’d, “ in darkest durance bound,

For various sins, in various climes confin’d.

That path leads downward to their dark abode,

Where human foot before hath never trod,

Still many a darksome league thy feet must wind.

 

XVII.

 

“ And Oh ! if e’er thou view’st the golden sky,

Let not my name in dark oblivion lie ;

No more I ask, and thou enquire no more.” ---

He turn’d, yet eyed me still with look askance ;

Then with his brethren sunk in torpid trance,

And silence reign’d along the dismal shore.

 

XVIII.

“ Those,” cry’d the Bard, “ shall slumber out their fate,

‘Till, from the confines of the heav’nly state,

The Hierarch’s trump shall thunder thro’ the deep :

Then, cloath’d again in vests of humble clay,

The hideous band shall rise upon the day,

And down return, their endless doom to weep.”

 

XIX.

 

Then through the dark morass we pick’d our way,

Where, vex’d with storms, the festal squadrons lay,

Reas’ning in sage debate on future things.

Then I, “ Shall equal plagues the damn’d await ;

Shall Hell encrease her torments, or abate,

When the last change their final sentence brings ?”

 

XX.

 

“ Let Science solve the doubt,” the Bard rejoin’d,

“ The body married to th’ immortal mind,

Or higher transport feels, or fiercer woe :

Then th’ ignoble brethren of the sty,

When the last clarion shakes the vaulted sky,

Shall feel their pains sublim’d, their tortures grow.”

 

XXI.

 

Far thence; the fearful verge we walk’d around,

Conversing sad, or wrapt in thought profound,

On mystic things unmeet for mortal strain :

At length, arriving where the shelving steep

By easy slope refign’d us to the deep,

We saw where PLUTO rul’d the dark domain.[iv]

 

 

END OF THE SIXTH CANTO

 

 



[i] St.xi.l.3.] Ciacco, or Guiotto, a noble Florentine, noted for intemperance ; thence he got the nickname of CIACCO, i.e. The Hog. ---For some entertaining particulars of him, see the story of Philippo Argente, in the notes on the Eighth Canto.

[ii] St.xiii.l.2.] Cherchi of Florence, the head of the White Faction, of a family not so remarkable for their antiquity as their opulence. His antagonist, Donate, who headed the Black Faction, was of an illustrious family, but indigent. For the rise and history of these factions, see the Florentine History annexed, and the Life of DANTE, who, for his partiality to the White Faction during his government, was banished.

  It is to be observed, that the Poet dates this vision to his thirty-fifth year, before his banishment ; hence CIACCO speaks to him in a prophetical strain.

[iii] St.xv.l.4.] The stories of these characters shall all be told under their respective allotments.

  The punishment of intemperance may seem rather too severe, as its consequences rather affect the criminal himself than society. –Luxury indeed gives life to commerce, and birth to a variety of trades, but is often supported by oppression, and often by fraud, evils the most detrimental to society ; and the ruin which luxury brings on one man of opulence, particularly in a commercial country, must affect thousands.

[iv] St.xx.l.6.] From St. Augustine, “Cum fiet resurrectio carnis, et bonorum gaudium erit, et tormenta majora.”