The eighth circle, eighth bolgia; the fraudulent counselors; Guido da Montefeltro

canto summary and diagram

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1 The flame now stood straight and steady, Having no more to say, and with the consent Of the gentle poet had turned away already; inferno xxvii 4 Just behind it was another, and at once our eyes went Up to where a confused sound issued from its peak. Remember the Sicilian bull which turned the lament * 7 Of its inventor into its initial shriek – A justifiable punishment—and bellowed With whatever sounds its victim might speak, 10 So that although it was merely hollowed Brass it seemed pierced through with pain. Such was that flame whose language we followed inferno xxvii 13 Uncertainly, for as the wretched words tried in vain To escape from the burning soul they were Transformed into the fire's muffled refrain. 16 But once they'd journeyed upward to stir The flame's tip to that same vibration As the sinner's tongue, we could easily infer 19 These phrases: "O you in whose direction * I aim my voice, who a moment ago I heard state In Lombard, 'Go now, I have no further question,' * inferno xxvii 22 Please wait; while I may have approached you a bit late, Stay and speak with me if you don't mind, For although I burn, it doesn't bother me to wait. 25 If you've fallen into this world of the blind Just now, from that sweet Italian land where I earned my guilt, tell me if the Romagnoles find 28 Themselves in peace or war; I come from the hills there, Between Urbino and the ridge from which the Tiber runs." * I was leaning forward, listening with extreme care, inferno xxvii 31 When my guide gently touched my side. "This one's Italian, you speak to him," he told me. "O soul, you down there in the flame, whose face shuns 34 My sight," I said, ready and eager to be His informant, "neither in the past nor the present Would you find the hearts of Romagna's tyrants free 37 Of war; but when I left, open conflict was absent. Ravenna remains the way you've known her; The eagle of Polenta nests in benevolent inferno xxvii 40 Protection overhead, providing broad cover To all of Cervia with his outstretched pinions. * The city which successfully survived under 43 The long siege, leaving the French battalions In a bloody heap, finds itself once again * Beneath green claws; Verucchio's two generations 46 Of mastiffs, who had Montagna imprisoned and slain, * Still gnaw at the flesh of their subjects; The lion of the white lair, under whose reign inferno xxvii 49 Lie the cities on Lamone and Santerno, rejects * One faction for the other while summer chills To winter; and that town which the Savio protects * 52 And bathes on its flank, lying between the hills And the plain, likewise lives in a state Between tyranny and freedom. And if this fulfills 55 Your inquiry, I beg you now to relate Who you are, so that you maintain your name In the world; please don't be more obstinate inferno xxvii 58 In this than I've been with you." After the flame Had roared awhile in its usual way, The sharp tip moved to and fro and out came 61 These breathy words: "If I thought that what I now say Had any chance of being carried back by you, This flame would cease to stir; but since no one may 64 Return alive from here, —if what I've heard is true— I can answer you with no fear of disgrace. I was a man of arms, but in order to undo * inferno xxvii 67 My sins I chose the friar's cord to replace My weapons; and that which I hoped and thought Would come to pass surely would have been the case 70 If the high priest—damn him!—hadn't brought * Me back to those sins; and now I wish to narrate To you exactly how and why I was caught. 73 When I was still in my flesh and bones—the innate Form my mother gave me—I had all the qualities Of a fox rather than a lion; I was an initiate inferno xxvii 76 Of the world's secret ways and wily activites, And practised my art so well that my fame spread All the way to the earth's extremities. 79 When I saw that time of life looming ahead When one should lower the sails and wind In the ropes, those things which once had fed 82 My joy now nourished my grief, and with a mind Repentant I confessed and took the monk's vow. Oh me!—if only I hadn't been undermined! – inferno xxvii 85 But the prince of the new Pharisees was now * Waging war, not with Saracen, not with Jew, But near the Lateran, in a local, deceitful row; * 88 All his enemies were Christians, and not one who * Helped conquer Acre or carried on trade In the Sultan's kingdom; he was untrue 91 To his high office and sacred vows, and paid Just as little attention to my cord as he did To these (that cord which once would have made * inferno xxvii 94 Its wearers leaner). But as Constantine bid * Silvestro come from Mount Soracte to cure His leprosy, just so did this one, to rid 97 Himself of the fever he was forced to endure Because of his pride, seek me out And ask my counsel; I kept my lips secure, 100 or his words seemed drunken. "Do not doubt," He assured me, "for I absolve you before The fact—just teach me how to deliver a clout inferno xxvii 103 Which will smash Penestrino to the floor. * As you know, I can lock and unlock heaven With two keys my predecessor had no affection for." * 106 When at last his weighty arguments had proven That silence was the worst response of all, I said: 'Father, since you've already forgiven 109 The sin into which I'm about to fall, Know this: victory will come to the holy seat If the promise is great but the fulfillment small.' * inferno xxvii 112 Saint Francis came for me when my life was complete, But one of the black cherubim began to yell: * 'No no! Leave him alone! Don't try to cheat 115 Me out of him! The wretch goes down to hell With all the other slaves! I've had my eye on His scalp since he gave false counsel! It's well 118 Known that you can't give someone absolution If he doesn't repent, and no one can both repent And will something at once—it's a contradiction!' inferno xxvii 121 O woe is me! How I trembled—how weak I went – When he grabbed me and taunted, ' Perhaps you Didn't realize I had such a logical bent.' 124 He carried me down to that beast Minos who Twisted his tail eight times around His hardened back and in a great rage began to chew 127 His own thick hide. 'This one is to be bound Forever in thieving fire,' said the monster. And so indeed I am, clothed in the flame you found inferno xxvii 130 Me in, eternally lost, grieving and bitter." The troubled flame departed, having no more to say, Its sharp horn writhing in an agonized flutter. 133 Along the ridge my guide and I made our way Up to the next arch, where in the ditch below We could see how sinners were made to pay 136 For the discord they'd once contrived to sow.

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6–11. Phalaris, despot of Agrigentum in Sicily, had Perillus make a bronze bull as a device for torture. Victims roasting inside would emit cries which outwardly would sound like the bellowing of a bull. Perillus was put in first to test it, and thus received his just reward for designing it. ^
19–29.   The speaker is Guido da Montefeltro, thirteenth century 
Ghibelline leader, known for his military skill. ^
21. In the Middle Ages, all of Northern Italy was designated as Lombardy. Virgil, born in Mantua, is thus made to speak the local Lombard dialect, which Dante perhaps believed evolved from the language of ancient Lombardy in Virgil's time. The words quoted are those with which Virgil dismissed Ulysses, referred to in line 2. ^
29.   The region is known as Montefeltro. ^
39–41. The "eagle of Polenta" was the coat of arms of the Polenta family. In 1300 the head of the family, Guido Vecchio (father of Francesca da Rimini in Canto V), governed Ravenna and its surroundings, including Cervia on the Adriatic. ^
42–44.   In 1282 the Ghibelline city of Forlì, besieged by French 
and Guelph troops for months, erupted under the leadership of 
Guido da Montefeltro and slaughtered the French.  But in 1300 
the city fell under the tyranny of the Ordelaffi family, whose 
coat of arms contained a green lion. ^
46. The "mastiffs" were Malatesta and his son Malatestino da Verrucchio, lords of Rimini. Defeating the Ghibelline party in 1295, Malatesta captured its leader, Montagna de' Parcitati, and Malatestino mudered him in prison. ^
49–51.   Faenza on the Lamone and Imola on the Santerno were ruled 
by Maghinardo Pagani da Susinana, whose coat of arms bore a lion 
on a white field.  He was born Ghibelline, but in Florence was 
Guelph. ^
51–54. Cesena, on the Savio, was not ruled by a despot, but was a free municipality dominated by Galasso da Montefeltro, Guido's cousin. ^
66–68.   In 1296 Guido joined the Franciscan order, whose attire 
included a rope cord for a belt.  Dante praises his conversion 
in the Convivio. ^
70. Pope Boniface VIII. ^
85.   Also Boniface VIII. ^
87.   The Lateran Palace was the residence of the Pope.  The 
reference is to the feud between Boniface, of the Caetani family, 
and the Colonna family, who contested the legitimacy of Celestine V's
abdication, and therefore of Boniface's subsequent election. ^
88–90. The Pope's enemies were Christians, but not those who in 1291 helped the Saracens take Acre, the last Christian stronghold in the Holy Land, nor those who violated the prohibition against trading with the Saracens. ^
93–94.   In earlier times, those who wore the cord would have 
faithfully followed St. Francis' example of poverty and abstinence, 
and thus been "leaner." ^
94–96. The legend is that the Emperor Constantine, afflicted with leprosy for his persecution of Christians, dreamed that St. Peter and St. Paul advised him to seek out Pope Sylvester on Mount Soracte, where the Pope had taken refuge. Constantine was thus baptized by Sylvester and instantly cured of his leprosy. ^
103.   Excommunicated by Boniface, the Colonna family retreated 
to their castle at Penestrino, or Palestrina, southeast of Rome. ^
104–105. The keys are those of condemnation and absolution. See Matthew 16:19. Boniface is falsely assuring Guildo of papal absolution in advance. The "predecessor " was Pope Celestine V, frightened into abdicating when Boniface described for him the sins associated with public office. ^
110–111.   This advice prompted Boniface to offer amnesty to the 
Colonna family if they surrended, but when they did, he demolished 
their castle. ^
113.   The "black cherubim" are those cherubim (eighth order of 
angels) who became devils in rebellion against God. ^

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