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 Canto XXI
      Still in the eighth circle, which bears the name of Malebolge, they look
 down from the bridge that passes over its fifth gulf, upon the barterers or
 public peculators. These are plunged in a lake of boiling pitch, and guarded
 by Demons, to whom Virgil, leaving Dante apart, presents himself; and license
 being obtained to pass onward, both pursue their way.
 Thus we from bridge to bridge, with other talk,
 The which my drama cares not to rehearse,
 Pass'd on; and to the summit reaching, stood
 To view another gap, within the round
 Of Malebolge, other bootless pangs.
 Marvellous darkness shadow'd o'er the place.
 In the Venetians' arsenal as boils
 Through wintry months tenacious pitch, to smear
 Their unsound vessels; for the inclement time
 Seafaring men restrains, and in that while
 His bark one builds anew, another stops
 The ribs of his that hath made many a voyage,
 One hammers at the prow, one at the poop,
 This shapeth oars, that other cables twirls,
 The mizzen one repairs, and main - sail rent;
 So, not by force of fire but art divine,
 Boil'd here a glutinous thick mass, that round
 Limed all the shore beneath. I that beheld,
 But therein naught distinguish'd, save the bubbles
 Raised by the boiling, and one mighty swell
 Heave, and by turns subsiding fall. While there
 I fix'd my ken below, "Mark! mark!" my guide
 Exclaiming, drew me toward him from the place
 Wherein I stood. I turn'd myself, as one
 Impatient to behold that which beheld
 He needs must shun, whom sudden fear unmans,
 That he his flight delays not for the view.
 Behind me I discern'd a devil black,
 That running up advanced along the rock.
 Ah! what fierce cruelty his look bespake.
 In act how bitter did he seem, with wings
 Buoyant outstretch'd and feet of nimblest tread.
 His shoulder, proudly eminent and sharp,
 Was with a sinner charged; by either haunch
 He held him, the foot's sinew griping fast.
 "Ye of our bridge!" he cried. "keen - talon'd fiends!
 Lo! one of Santa Zita's elders. Him
 Whelm ye beneath, while I return for more.
 That land hath store of such. All men are there,
 Except Bonturo, barterers: of 'no'
 For lucre there an 'ay' is quickly made."
 Him dashing down, o'er the rough rock he turn'd;
 Nor ever after thief a mastiff loosed
 Sped with like eager haste. That other sank,
 And forthwith writing to the surface rose.
 But those dark demons, shrouded by the bridge,
 Cried, "Here the hallow'd visage saves not: here
 Is other swimming than in Serchio's wave,
 Wherefore, if thou desire we rend thee not,
 Take heed thou mount not o'er the pitch." This said,
 They grappled him with more than hundred hooks,
 And shouted: "Cover'd thou must sport thee here;
 So, if thou canst, in secret mayst thou filch."
 E'en thus the cook bestirs him, with his grooms,
 To thrust the flesh into the caldron down
 With flesh - hooks, that it float not on the top.
 Me then my guide bespake: "Lest they descry
 That thou art here, behind a craggy rock
 Bend low and screen thee: and whate'er of force
 Be offer'd me, or insult, fear thou not;
 For I am well advised, who have been erst
 In the like fray." Beyond the bridge's head
 Therewith he pass'd; and reaching the sixth pier,
 Behoved him then a forehead terror - proof.
 With storm and fury, as when dogs rush forth
 Upon the poor man's back, who suddenly
 From whence he standeth makes his suit; so rush'd
 Those from beneath the arch, and against him
 Their weapons all they pointed. He, aloud:
 "Be none of you outrageous: ere your tine
 Dare seize me, come forth from amongst you one,
 Who having heard my words, decide he then
 If he shall tear these limbs." They shouted loud,
 "Go, Malacoda!" Whereat one advanced,
 The others standing firm, and as he came,
 "What may this turn avail him?" he exclaim'd.
 "Believest thou, Malacoda! I had come
 Thus far from all your skirmishing secure,"
 My teacher answer'd, "without will divine
 And destiny propitious? Pass we then;
 For so Heaven's pleasure is, that I should lead
 Another through this savage wilderness."
 Forthwith so fell his pride, that he let drop
 The instrument of torture at his feet,
 And to the rest exclaim'd: "We have no power
 To strike him." Then to me my guide: "O thou!
 Who on the bridge among the crags dost sit
 Low crouching, safely now to me return."
 I rose, and toward him moved with speed; the fiends
 Meantime all forward drew: me terror seized,
 Lest they should break the compact they had made.
 Thus issuing from Caprona,[1] once I saw
 Th' infantry, dreading lest his covenant
 The foe should break; so close he hemm'd them round.
 [1: "From Caprona." The surrender of the castle of Caprona to the
 combined forces of Florence and Lucca, on condition that the garrison should
 march out in safety, to which event Dante was a witness, took place in 1290.
 See G. Villani, Hist. lib. vii. c. cxxxvi.]
 I to my leader's side adhered, mine eyes
 With fixt and motionless observance bent
 On their unkindly visage. They their hooks
 Protruding, one the other thus bespake:
 "Wilt thou I touch him on the hip?" To whom
 Was answer'd: "Even so; nor miss thy aim."
 But he, who was in conference with my guide,
 Turn'd rapid round; and thus the demon spake:
 "Stay, stay thee, Scarmiglione!" Then to us
 He added: "Further footing to your step
 This rock affords not, shiver'd to the base
 Of the sixth arch. But would ye still proceed,
 Up by this cavern go: not distant far,
 Another rock will yield you passage safe.
 Yesterday,[2] later by five hours than now,
 Twelve hundred threescore years and six had fill'd
 The circuit of their course, since here the way
 Was broken. Thitherward I straight despatch
 Certain of these my scouts, who shall espy
 If any on the surface bask. With them
 Go ye: for ye shall find them nothing fell.
 Come, Alichino, forth," with that he cried,
 "And Calcabrina, and Cagnozzo thou!
 The troop of ten let Barbariccia lead.
 With Libicocco, Draghinazzo haste,
 Fang'd Ciriatta, Graffiacane fierce,
 And Farfarello, and mad Rubicant.
 Search ye around the bubbling tar. For these,
 In safety lead them, where the other crag
 Uninterrupted traverses the dens."
 [2: "Yesterday." This passage fixes the era of Dante's descent at
 Good Friday, in the year 1300 (thirty - four years from our blessed Lord's
 incarnation being added to 1266), and at the thirty - fifth year of our Poet's
 age. See Canto i. v. I. The awful event alluded to, the Evangelists inform us,
 happened "at the ninth hour," that is, our sixth, when "the rocks were rent,"
 and the convulsion, according to Dante, was felt even in the depths of Hell.
 See Canto xii. v. 38.]
 I then: "O master! what a sight is there.
 Ah! without escort, journey we alone,
 Which, if thou know the way, I covet not.
 Unless thy prudence fail thee, dost not mark
 How they do gnarl upon us, and their scowl
 Threatens us present tortures?" He replied:
 "I charge thee, fear not: let them, as they will,
 Gnarl on: 'tis but in token of their spite
 Against the souls who mourn in torment steep'd."
 To leftward o'er the pier they turn'd; but each
 Had first between his teeth prest close the tongue,
 Toward their leader for a signal looking,
 Which he with sound obscene triumphant gave.