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 Canto XXV
      The sacrilegious Fucci vents his fury in blasphemy, is seized by
 serpents, and flying is pursued by Cacus in the form of a Centaur, who is
 described with a swarm of serpents on his haunch, and a dragon on his
 shoulders breathing forth fire. Our Poet then meets with the spirits of three
 of his countrymen, two of whom undergo a marvelous transformation in his
 When he had spoke, the sinner raised his hands[1]
 Pointed in mockery and cried" "Take them,
 I level them at thee." From that day forth
 The serpents were my friends; for round his neck
 One of them rolling twisted, as it said,
 "Be silent, tongue!" Another, to his arms
 Upgliding, tied them, riveting itself
 So close, it took from them the power to move.
 [1: "The practice of thrusting out the thumb between the first and
 second fingers, to express the feelings of insult and contempt, has prevailed
 very generally among the nations of Europe, and for many ages had been
 denominated 'making the fig,' or described at least by some equivalent
 expression." - Douce's "Illustrations of Shakespeare," vol. i. p. 492, ed.
 Pistoia! ah, Pistoia! why dost doubt
 To turn thee into ashes, cumbering earth
 No longer, since in evil act so far
 Thou hast outdone thy seed? I did not mark,
 Through all the gloomy circles of the abyss,
 Spirit, that swell'd so proudly' gainst his God;
 Not him,[2] who headlong fell from Thebes. He fled,
 Nor utter'd more; and after him there came
 A Centaur full of fury, shouting, "Where,
 Where is the caitiff?" On Maremma's marsh[3]
 Swarm not the serpent tribe, as on his haunch
 They swarm'd, to where the human face begins.
 Behind his head, upon the shoulders, lay
 With open wings a dragon, breathing fire
 On whomsoe'er he met. To me my guide:
 "Cacus is this, who underneath the rock
 Of Aventine spread oft a lake of blood.
 He, from his brethren parted, here must tread
 A different journey, for his fraudful theft
 Of the great herd that near him stall'd; whence found
 His felon deeds their end, beneath the mace
 Of stout Alcides, that perchance laid on
 A hundred blows, and not the tenth was felt."
 [2: Capaneus. Canto xiv.]
 [3: Near the Tuscan shore.]
 While yet he spake, the Centaur sped away:
 And under us three spirits came, of whom
 Nor I nor he was ware, till they exclaim'd,
 "Say who are ye!" We then brake off discourse,
 Intent on these alone. I knew them not:
 But, as it chanceth oft, befell that one
 Had need to name another. "Where," said he,
 "Doth Cianfa[4] lurk?" I, for a sign my guide
 Should stand attentive, placed against my lips
 The finger lifted. If, O reader! now
 Thou be not apt to credit what I tell,
 No marvel; for myself do scarce allow
 The witness of mine eyes. But as I look'd
 Toward them, lo! a serpent with six feet
 Springs forth on one, and fastens full upon him:
 His midmost grasp'd the belly, a forefoot
 Seized on each arm (while deep in either cheek
 He flesh'd his fangs); the hinder on the thighs
 Were spread, 'twixt which the tail inserted curl'd
 Upon the reins behind. Ivy ne'er clasp'd
 A dodder'd oak, as round the other's limbs
 [4: Said to have been of the family of Donati at Florence.]
 The hideous monster intertwined his own.
 Then, as they both had been of burning wax,
 Each melted into other, mingling hues,
 That which was either now was seen no more.
 Thus up the shrinking paper, ere it burns,
 A brown tint glides, not turning yet to black,
 And the clean white expires. The other two
 Look'd on exclaiming, "Ah! how dost thou change,
 Agnello![5] See! Thou art nor double now,
 Nor only one." The two heads now became
 One, and two figures blended in one form
 Appear'd, where both were lost. Of the four lengths
 Two arms were made: the belly and the chest,
 The thighs and legs, into such members changed
 As never eye hath seen. Of former shape
 All trace was vanish'd. Two, yet neither, seem'd
 That image miscreate, and so pass'd on
 With tardy steps. As underneath the scourge
 Of the fierce dog - star that lays bare the fields,
 Shifting from brake to brake the lizard seems
 A flash of lightning, if he thwart the road;
 So toward the entrails of the other two
 Approaching seem'd an adder all on fire,
 As the dark pepper - grain livid and swart.
 In that part, whence our life is nourish'd first,
 Once he transpierced; then down before him fell
 Stretch'd out. The pierced spirit look'd on him,
 But spake not; yea, stood motionless and yawn'd,
 As if by sleep or feverous fit assail'd.
 He eyed the serpent, and the serpent him.
 One from the wound, the other from the mouth
 Breathed a thick smoke, whose vapory columns join'd.
 [5: "Agnello." Agnello Brunelleschi.]
 Lucan in mute attention now may hear,
 Nor thy disastrous fate, Sabellus, tell,
 Nor thine, Nasidius. Ovid now be mute.
 What if in warbling fiction he record
 Cadmus and Arethusa, to a snake
 Him changed, and her into a fountain clear,
 I envy not; for never face to face
 Two natures thus transmuted did he sing,
 Wherein both shapes were ready to assume
 The other's substance. They in mutual guise
 So answer'd that the serpent split his train
 Divided to a fork, and the pierced spirit
 Drew close his steps together, legs and thighs
 Compacted, that no sign of juncture soon
 Was visible: the tail, disparted, took
 The figure which the spirit lost; its skin
 Softening, his indurated to a rind.
 The shoulders next I mark'd, that entering join'd
 The monster's arm - pits, whose two shorter feet
 So lengthen'd, as the others dwindling shrunk.
 The feet behind then twisting up became
 That part that man conceals, which in the wretch
 Was cleft in twain. While both the shadowy smoke
 With a new color veils, and generates
 The excrescent pile on one, peeling it off
 From the other body, lo! upon his feet
 One upright rose, and prone the other fell.
 Nor yet their glaring and malignant lamps
 Were shifted, though each feature changed beneath.
 Of him who stood erect, the mounting face
 Retreated toward the temples, and what there
 Superfluous matter came, shot out in ears
 From the smooth cheeks; the rest, not backward dragg'd,
 Of its excess did shape the nose; and swell'd
 Into due size protuberant the lips.
 He, on the earth who lay, meanwhile extends
 His sharpen'd visage, and draws down the ears
 Into the head, as doth the slug his horns.
 His tongue, continuous before and apt
 For utterance, severs; and the other's fork
 Closing unites. That done, the smoke was laid.
 The soul, transform'd into the brute, glides off,
 Hissing along the vale, and after him
 The other talking sputters; but soon turn'd
 His new - grown shoulders on him, and in few
 Thus to another spake: "Along this path
 Crawling, as I have done, speed Buoso now!"
 So saw I fluctuate in successive change
 The unsteady ballast of the seventh hold:
 And here if aught my pen have swerved, events
 So strange may be its warrant. O'er mine eyes
 Confusion hung, and on my thoughts amaze.
 Yet 'scaped they not so covertly, but well
 I mark'd Sciancato: he alone it was
 Of the three first that came, who changed not: tho'
 The other's fate, Gaville! still dost rue.