The fifth circle; Phlegyas; the rebellious angels; the city of Dis.

canto summary and diagram

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1 Continuing, I must explain that before we'd neared * The base of that tower, our eyes had been Drawn by two small flames which appeared inferno viii 4 At the summit; our sight was then split between These two and a torch which returned their signal From so far off that it could hardly be seen. 7 I inquired, turning to that sea of universal Wisdom: "What does this mean? Why the reply From that other fire? And who's behind this dual 10 Event?" And he answered: "You can already spy What's awaiting us if you look over The filthy waves – that is, if it's not hidden by inferno viii 13 Vapors from the marsh." No arrow ever Streaked from a bow so quickly As did a little boat I saw skimming the river 16 In our direction, guided by a lonely Steersman. "Aha! Now you're stuck, You wretched soul!" he shouted eagerly. 19 "Phlegyas, Phlegyas, calm down, you're out of luck," * Said my master, "We're yours for no longer Than it takes you to ferry us across this muck." inferno viii 22 Like someone who seethes with raging, inner Resentment upon discovering he's been deceived, So Phlegyas stood there, stewing in his anger. 25 My guide was the first to be received Into the boat, and only when I myself went Down could any sense of weight be perceived. * 28 For once we were embarked its ancient Prow cut more deeply through the watery grime Than ever it did with its normal content. inferno viii 31 While we were moving through the stagnant slime A muddy figure rose up before me * And said, "Who are you, who dares come before time?" 34 And I retorted: "Although I've come, I won't be Here for long; but who are you, grown so repulsive?" "I am one who weeps, as you can see." * 37 And I: "Weep in Hell for as long as you survive, You accursed soul, for now I recognize that face, Despite its filth." Then, groping with all five inferno viii 40 Fingers on each hand, he tried to bridge the space Between himself and the boat, but my clever master Shoved him away, yelling, "Down dog, back in your place!" 43 Then my master turned to me with eager Embraces and declared: "O soul indignant, Because she bore you, blessed be your mother. * 46 In your world was this man supremely arrogant; His memory is graced by nothing of value; Thus does his shadow rave and rant inferno viii 49 For lack of recognition. How many who Fancy themselves kings will lie here like swine, Wondering where their importance went to!" 52 And I: "Master, the greatest wish of mine Would be to see that scoundrel dunked in this swill Before we leave the lake." And he: "Such a fine 55 Sentiment must be gratified; you will See it done before you glimpse the other shore." And indeed, a bit later I saw the evil inferno viii 58 Wretch utterly ripped apart by a score Of muddy sinners, so that even now I still Thank God for the event. Upon hearing the roar, 61 "Get Filippo Argenti!" loud and shrill, * The tormented Florentine let his teeth bite Into his own flesh like a maddened devil. 64 I'll say no more about him, for here he left our sight. But soon a wailing sound pounded my ear And made me strain with all my might inferno viii 67 To see what caused it. "What will soon appear, My son, is the city of Dis, with its stern * Citizens and troops that strike fear." 70 "Master," I said, "already I can discern The mosques in the valley, blazing red, * As if they'd all begun to burn." 73 "The eternal fire diffuses a glow," he said, "Reddening, as you've noticed, that entire city, Coloring the whole lower Inferno of the dead." inferno viii 76 Soon we entered the deep trenches whose immensity Guards that joyless city all about With moats and walls of iron solidity. 79 And suddenly our boatman began to shout, Having brought us on a long, circuitous tour: "There! This is the entrance! Now get out!" 82 Around the gate more than a thousand dour, Angry spirits, having at one time come * From heaven, cried out: "Who are you, who before your inferno viii 85 Own death travels through death's kingdom? " And my wise master gave a signal which implied That off to the side, privately, he'd explain the conundrum. 88 At this their ferocity was mollified And they said: "Send this arrogant fool back Where he came from and come alone inside; 91 Let him try to retrace the track You brought him on, without your protection." Consider, reader, what an attack inferno viii 94 Of panic I felt at this horrendous suggestion, For the likelihood of ever seeing our world again Seemed beyond all expectation. 97 "Oh dear guide, who has helped me regain My confidence more than seven times," I began to plead, * "Who has saved me from untold dangers eager to constrain 100 My advance, don't leave me in my hour of need; If we're really stopped in our pursuit Let's retrace our steps together with all due speed." inferno viii 103 And that lord, who had guided me every inch of the route, Again counseled me: "Do not fear, for our passage Has a guarantee no one can possibly refute. 106 Wait for me here, and comfort and assuage * Your weary spirit with high hopes, for you know I won't abandon you at this or any other stage inferno viii 109 Of our trip through the underworld." Thus does he go, My gentle father, leaving me in some doubt, For still my head wrestles with yes and no. 112 I couldn't hear what the talk was all about But before long the rebels made a dash Back inside, shutting my master out. 115 The heavy gate slammed with a crash In his face, as if he were banned. He turned to me without the usual flash inferno viii 118 Of boldness I'd expected, muttering: " What band Of thugs is this that blocks my entry? Don't worry," he added, "they won't get the upper hand. 121 Regardless of their connivance and trickery I'll win this battle, I assure you, Even though right now I'm furiously angry. 124 This insolence of theirs is nothing new; * They tried it once before at a less obscure gate, (The one whose inscription gave you your first view inferno viii 127 Of the lower world), a gate unbolted since that date. * But now, already within that entrance and on his Way down the circles at a rapid rate 130 Is one who will open for us this city of Dis."

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1. According to Boccaccio and others, Dante had completed seven cantos of the Inferno when he was exiled from Florence in 1302. They were later found by his wife, Gemma, and sent to him at the home of Moroello Malaspina. Thus the word "continuing" signifies that he was resuming the work. Modern scholarship thinks this interpretation unlikely. ^
19. Phlegyas was a son of Mars; enraged that Apollo had raped his daughter, he set fire to the temple of Apollo at Delphi. For this Apollo killed him and sent him to Tartarus. Dante turns this angry figure into a boatman—guardian of the wrathful souls in Styx. ^
27. Dante, still alive, has weight.^
32. Filippo Argenti was one of the Adimari family, reputedly hostile to Dante. Some sources say that Philippo once slapped Dante in a quarrel, and others say that one of Philippo's brothers took possesion of Dante's property when the poet went into exile. ^
36. Note that in contrast to Dante's sympathetic response when Francesca says that she "will have to weep and speak together," (V, 126) here Dante bursts into righeous fury when Filippo Argenti says that he is "one who weeps." ^
43–45.   Virgil could not be applauding Dante for satisfying 
a personal antagonism, but must be congratulating the novice 
traveller on his maturing perceptions and reactions.  That is, 
Dante is not being wrathful himself, but displaying a legitimate 
hatred of the sin of wrath. ^
61. Filippo was nicknamed "Argenti" because he shod his horse with silver. ^
68. "Dis" was the name originally given by the Romans to Pluto, king of the underworld. Dante applies this name both to Lucifer and to the region of lower Hell. Thus the walls of the city of Dis divide upper from lower Hell—the sins of Incontinence from those of Violence. ^
71.   Mosques indicate a city of infidels. ^
82–83. These are the rebellious angels who were cast into Hell with Lucifer after their attempt to take control of Heaven. ^
98. "Seven" is probably not to be taken literally, but interpreted as "many." ^
109. "Thus does he go," in the present tense, duplicates for the reader the poet's sudden doubt. ^
125–127.   The rebellious angels tried to keep Christ out of Hell 
by barring the principal gate at Limbo, but He forced it open forever. ^
130. The divine messenger, an angel, will arrive in the next canto. ^

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