The third circle; the gluttons; Cerberus; Ciacco

canto summary and diagram

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1 With the return of consciousness, (Shut down by the pitiful plight Of the kindred lovers, concussing me with sadness), inferno vi 4 New sufferings and sufferers come to light * All around me; they're present wherever I go, Wherever I turn, wherever I fix my sight. 7 The third circle offers this grim hello: Filled with cold, accursed, unchanging, Heavy rain, it forms an eternal status quo 10 Of bleak texture and rhythm. Plummeting Through the murky air are snow, filthy water And huge hailstones; the earth beneath them is stinking. 13 Cerberus, a bizarre and vicious monster With three throats, barks like a dog Above those whom the muck is pulling under. * 16 His eyes are bloody, his belly that of a hog, His beard slobbered black; his clawed hands disembowel, Flay and rend the spirits in the bog 19 Into little pieces, leaving them to howl In pain, using one side of their bodies to screen The other from attack while they yelp and growl. inferno vi 22 No sooner had that great worm Cerberus seen The two of us than he opened his mouths and drew Out his fangs, his twitching body grossly obscene. 25 Stooping, my guide scooped up earth and threw * Fistfuls of it down the three hungry gullets. And like a dog given a chance to chew, 28 So that all of its ravenous barking gets Channeled into devouring its snack, Leaving it quietly gnawing what it covets, inferno vi 31 So the gluttonous demon held its faces back From their thunderous verbal assault on those Who would gladly have gone deaf to avoid the attack. 34 We walked right across the top of those shadows, Who were beaten down by the heavy rain And much emptier than one might suppose. * 37 All of them were stretched out on the soaked terrain Except for one man who sat up when he saw us go by. "Oh you being led through Hell," he called, "strain inferno vi 40 To remember me, if you will, for my Life ended after yours began." And I replied to him: "As hard as I try 43 To recall you, I don't think I can Place your face, perhaps because I know Your features as they used to be, rather than 46 As your anguish forces them to grow. Who are you, and why are you a resident of This sewer, surely more disgusting than any circle below? " inferno vi 49 And he to me: "Your city, so devoid of love But so full of envy that its sack always spills over, Was where I spent my life above. * 52 Ciacco was how citizens used to refer * To me; for the sin of gluttony I'm forced to languish in this filthy water, 55 And as you can see there are many Who suffer the same punishment For the same lifelong felony." inferno vi 58 "Ciacco," I responded, "I sorely lament Your suffering, which moves me to tears of pity; But tell me, if you can, what future is imminent 61 For the citizens of my divided city? Is there anyone there who's just and good? And why is it so splintered by animosity? " 64 And he to me: "The party of the wood, After years of contention, will drive Its rival out with great loss of blood. inferno vi 67 But this party will fall and the other thrive Before three suns have passed, through the effort Of one who keeps both tiltings alive. 70 For a long time this new party will comport Itself proudly, piling great weight upon the other, No matter how the other squirms or plays the spoiled sport. 73 Two men there are just, but unheeded; rather Do the sparks of pride, envy, and avarice ignite Mens' hearts into flame all over." * inferno vi 76 Thus ended the discouraging words he chose to recite. "I beg you," I said to him, "before I go, Speak to me a bit more, for I haven't quite 79 Learned all I wish. Farinata and Tegghiaio, * Who were so worthy, Jacopo Rusticucci and men of Good effort and intent, like Mosca and Arrigo, 82 Tell me where they are now; for I would love Passionately to know if they're here, Being poisoned in Hell, or there, being sweetened above." inferno vi 85 "They are down among the blackest souls, but where Each one resides depends upon his sin; if you descend Low enough you'll find them all there. 88 Remember me to the living when you ascend Once more to the sweet world, I pray; * But no more, my responses are at an end." 91 Twisting his gaze, he let his squint stay On me awhile, then bent his head And fell down where his blind companions lay. inferno vi 94 And my guide said: "He'll sleep like the dead Until the angel's trumpet sounds. Indeed each of them will return to his tomb in dread 97 When the fierce judge makes his rounds; * Each will resume his fleshly form and hear The judgment which through eternity rebounds." 100 Thus we continued through that unclear Mixture of shades and rain, our pace now slower, Our talk of the afterlife. "Should these souls fear inferno vi 103 An increase in their torment?" I asked the master, "Or will their torment, after judgment, remain The same, or perhaps even be lighter?" 106 And he to me: "Doesn't your science explain * That the more something is perfect The more it feels pleasure and pain? 109 Thus, though these accursed sinners can never expect To arrive at true perfection, They do tend to improve in this respect." inferno vi 112 As we followed the curving road our conversation Was much fuller than I can portray. At last, where the road began to lose elevation, 115 The arch–enemy Plutus blocked our way. *

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4. Note the first tense, signifying a sudden shift from the breezy lascivious circle Dante has just left in a swoon, to the harsh reality of this filthy circle with its heavy, pounding rain. ^
15. In classical mythology, Cerberus is a three–headed dog who guards the entrance to the underworld. ^
25. In the Aeneid the Sibyl appeases Cerberus by throwing honeyed cakes into his three mouths. ^
36. Although the shades in Hell can be physically tortured, they are somehow without substance, and will regain their tangible bodies at the Day of Judgment. ^
51. "Your city" refers to Florence. ^
52. Ciacco means "pig," or, as an adjective, "filthy" or "swinish." Some commentators identify him as Ciacco dell'Anguillaia, a minor poet of Dante's time. In any case, he was a Florentine contemporary of Dante's, and probably the same Ciacco whom Boccaccio writes of in Decameron IX, 8. ^
64–75. This is the first indication that the souls in Hell can see into the future. Of course Dante wrote the poem after the date at which it is supposed to have taken place, so that he himself knew what was in the "future." The prophecy can be interpreted: The Guelph party had defeated the Ghibellines at Campaldino and Caprona in 1289, but by 1300 the Guelphs themselves had split into the Whites, led by the Cerchi family, and the Blacks, led by the Donati family. "Great loss of blood," refers to the fighting of May 1, 1300, and "...will drive its rival out," to the expulsion of the Blacks by the White faction, called "the party of the wood" because the Cerchi came from a wooded district. In less than three years the Blacks regained control with the aid of Boniface VIII, who usually played both sides. Dante himself may be one of the two men who are just, although this may simply signifiy the moral barrenness of Florence. ^
79–81. All of these will be encountered in lower circles of Hell, except Arrigo, whom research has failed to identify, and who is not mentioned again in the Inferno . Farinata degli Uberti is with the heretics in Canto X; Tegghiaio Aldobrandini and Jacopo Rusticucci are with the sodomites in Canto XVI; Mosca dei Lamberti is with the sowers of scandal and schism in Canto XXVIII. ^
89. In spite of Ciacco's previous bitterness against Florence, he still longs to be remembered above in "the sweet world." ^
97. The "fierce judge" is Christ. ^
106. "Your science" refers to Aristotelian doctrine, as explicated by Aquinas, whereby perfection lies in the union of body and spirit; thus at the Day of Judgment, when the two are again united, the damned will feel more pain, while the blessed will enjoy God's blessings more. ^
115. The medieval tradition did not clearly distinguish between Pluto, mythological god of the underworld, and Plutus, god of wealth. The combination is here appropriate. ^

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