HELL X

CANTO X

The heretics; Farinata; Cavalcante

canto summary and diagram

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1 By a narrow path which runs between those who Suffer and the walls of the city, My master now walks on, and I pursue. inferno x 4 "Oh highest virtue, who steers me through this cavity Of impious circles as you think best, Speak to me, satisfy my deep curiosity. 7 Can one look at the souls who rest In these sepulchers? The lids are open wide, And no one is on guard to protest." 10 "The tombs will all be closed," he replied, "When the souls return from Jehosaphat, matched * With the bodies they left above when they died. inferno x 13 Epicurus and all of those attached * To him are buried here; they believe The soul's death from the body's can't be detached. 16 To the question you asked you'll soon receive Satisfaction, as you also will to A certain hidden longing I perceive." * 19 "There is nothing my heart wouldn't tell you, My good guide," I said. "I try only to limit My speech, as you've urged me to do." inferno x 22 "O Tuscan, who while still alive pays a visit * To our flaming city and speaks so nobly, Please be kind enough to interrupt your transit. 25 Your accent shows unmistakably That you were born in that noble city Toward which I behaved disagreeably." 28 This sound burst with such abrupt clarity From one of the tombs that in fear I edged into my guide's vicinity. inferno x 31 "Turn around," he instructed me, "do you hear? That's Farinata rising out of that chest; His whole upper body will soon appear." 34 Up he came—his forehead, his throat, his breast— Gradually revealing to my fixed stare An attitude of the proudest, haughtiest 37 Contempt for hell. And the bold, aware Hands of my guide urged me ahead While he cautioned: "Choose your words with care." inferno x 40 When I had approached close enough, the dead Farinata looked at me with a slight show Of disdain. "Who were your ancestors?" he said. 43 I obliged by telling him all he wanted to know, Concealing nothing, at which his eyebrows rose Slightly and he declared: "Some years ago 46 Your ancestors and mine were bitter foes; * Indeed, twice did I have to disperse Your people, so ferociously did they oppose inferno x 49 Myself and my party." "And twice did they reverse That dispersal," I said, "returning from every quarter, An art your people are much the worse 52 For not having learned." Just then another * Shade arose beside him, apparently bent at the knee, * For he was visible to the chin and no further. 55 He looked around me as if he wished to see Whether there was another person, But when he realized there was no one but me inferno x 58 He wept: "If you journey through this blind prison * By dint of your superior genius, Why are you not accompanied by my son?" 61 "I'm not here through my own impetus," I replied, "but am led by that one there, Whom your Guido perhaps felt was of low status." 64 His words, and the punishment he had to bear, Had by now so precisely identified Him that I could fashion my response with care. inferno x 67 He rose instantly to his full height and cried: "You said felt? Has his life been stayed? Does the sweet light into his eyes no longer glide?" 70 When he noticed how long I delayed Before answering him he fell back in the chest And never rose again. But that other shade, 73 That magnanimous one, at whose request I'd first halted, never turned his head, Never changed his features, or showed any interest. inferno x 76 "And if they've learned this art poorly," he said, * Continuing where he'd left off, "that pains Me even more than does this bed. 79 And yet the face of the lady who reigns Here shall rekindle fewer than fifty times before You feel the hardness this art contains. * 82 And as I expect that you will once more Return to the sweet world, tell me why The laws made by your people so abhor inferno x 85 My kindred and punish them." And I gave my reply: * "The massacre and carnage which dyed The waters of the Arbia red now make our temples cry * 88 Out such decrees." He shrugged and sighed: "In that incident I was not alone, and surely, without Sufficient cause I would never have complied * 91 With the others' wishes; I alone held out Against the demand to destroy Florence; indeed, If not for me its ruin would surely have come about." * inferno x 94 "Well then," I said to him, "as I would have your seed Find peace, so please help me unravel this knot Which ties up my mind. It seems that you can read 97 In advance what time is bringing, but not What it has brought—if I have that right." "In this realm," he explained, "our lot * 100 Is the same as those whose imperfect sight Functions best at a distance; at least The Sovereign grants us that much light; inferno x 103 But our minds go blank when events have ceased To approach, or are; and were it not for Others, our knowledge of humans would be decreased 106 To absolutely nothing. Thus you see that when the door To the future is shut, our knowledge will be dead, And our awareness will exist no more." 109 Then, as if to atone for my fault of omission, I said: "Please assure that one who fell in desperation That his son is still alive; and if I misled inferno x 112 Him by not responding to his question, Tell him I was struggling with that doubt To which you later gave the solution." 115 As my master was now motioning me out, I hastily expressed an interest In knowing who else was with that spirit. "About 118 A thousand, or even more, fill this stone chest; The second Frederick is here with us, * And the Cardinal, but I won't reveal the rest." * inferno x 121 With this he hid himself, and his ominous Words hung heavily as I turned back To the ancient poet. "What's the fuss?" 124 Asked my master as we continued along the track, "Why are you so upset?" I told him why. "Just remember those words of attack 127 Against you," commanded that sage, fixing me with his eye, "And mark well what I'm about to say." He raised a single finger to the sky. * inferno x 130 "When at last you stand before the sweet ray Of that lady whose luminous eyes see all, You'll learn from her your life's true way." 133 He then turned to the left, and leaving the wall, We went toward the middle, by a trail Which strikes into a valley whose tall 136 Sides shunted up to us a stench too foul to inhale.

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NOTES

11. According to the Old Testament (Joel 3:2), the Last Judgment will take place in the Valley of Jehosaphat, between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. ^
13.   Epicurus' philosophy was not one of sensual enjoyment, 
as popularly believed, but of temporal happiness, achieved by 
practicing the virtues.  He is in Hell because he denied the 
immortality of the soul. ^
18 The "hidden longing" may be Dante's desire to know whether Florentines are present in this circle, or perhaps to understand better how the damned can see the future. ^
22.   The speaker is Farinata, the name used for Manente di 
Jacopo degli Uberti. Head of the respected Uberti family of 
Florence, he was leader of the Ghibellines from 1239 until his 
death in 1264, one year before Dante's birth. ^
46–51. Dante's family were Guelphs, overthrown by the Ghibellines in 1248 and1260, regaining power in 1251 and 1266. In 1280 the Uberti were among the Ghibelline families exiled. ^
52–60. This is the shade of Cavalcante de' Cavalcanti, father of Dante's great friend, the poet Guido Cavalcanti, to whom Dante dedicated the Vita Nuova. Guido married the daughter of Farinata to secure peace between the two Guelph factions, black and white. At the time of the poem Guido was still alive, dying in August of 1300, having fallen ill in exile. ^
53. It is not clear why Guido would look down upon Virgil, or 
even whether Virgil is "that one here." ^ 
58. The souls in Hell can see the future, but not the present. ^
76. The "art" referred to is the same as that in line 51—the art of returning from exile. ^
 
79–81. The prophecy says that Hecate or Proserpina, goddess of the moon, will show her full face fewer than fifty times before the collapse of the negotiations on the exiles' return (including Dante's). ^
84–85. The Uberti were denied the pardons granted to the Ghibellines, including that of 1280, when most Ghibellines were allowed to return to Florence. ^
87. On September 4, 1260, the Sienese and exiled Ghibellines, 
of whom Farinata was a leader, defeated the Guelphs at Montaperti, 
a hill town beside the Arbia. ^
90. The "sufficient cause" is his desire to return to Florence. ^
91–93. After Montaperti, all the Ghibelline leaders except 
Farinata wished to raze Florence. ^
99–108. The shades know events in the future, but lose sight of them as they approach the present; thus they are dependent upon new arrivals for current knowledge. At the Day of Judgment there will no longer be any future, and they will have no knowledge whatsoever. ^
119. Frederick II was Holy Roman Emperor from 1215 to 1250, and is damned with the heretics because he was believed to have been an Epicurean. ^
120. Cardinal Ottaviano degli Ubaldini, a Ghibelline, is 
supposed to have said, "If I have a soul, I have lost it 
a thousand times over for the Ghibellines."  If this characterized 
his beliefs, Dante probably condemned him as a heretic for 
his doubt about the soul's immortality. ^
129. Virgil raises his finger either in teacherly admonition, or to indicate Beatrice, (who in fact will not tell Dante's future to him, this task being accomplished by Dante's ancestor Cacciaguida in Paradiso XVII). ^


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