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languished through the murky vale,
One of the horde of Alchemists, who is suffering |
from the foulest form of leprosy, symbolical of the superficial and polluting effect of his so-called art, tells the poet :
I am Capocchio's ghost,
Adamo, a noted counterfeiter of Florence, whose body is swollen into a hideous mass by dropsy, the alloy of water in the blood being emblematical of his nefarious craft, exclaims, as the poets pass by,
Elsewhere, those who have fraudulently personated others are engaged in a never-ending and brutal fight, symbolical of the violence done to personality by counterfeiting it; while liars and false witnesses for ever burn and rage with fever and delirium, emblem of the hallucinations and despondent depths that invariably accompany this species of Fraud.
Leaving this Circle, the poets, with the aid of the giant Antæus, come to the ninth and last Circle of Inferno, the Circle of Treason. In this, the lowest Circle of deepest Hell, Traitors are eternally imprisoned in ice, symbolic of the coldness and deadness of feeling which is the characteristic of the state of mind of those who are guilty of this transcendent crime. Dante tells us, that he saw before and underneath his feet,
A lake whose frozen surface liker seem'd
Blue pinch'd and shrined in ice the spirits stood,
In the first chasm of this Circle, Caïna (so named from Cain), is punished treason or treachery towards one's Family.
Two murderers, brothers and fratricides, especially attract the attention of Dante:
His face each downward held ; their mouth the cold,
A space I look'd around, then at my feet
“Not him, whose breast and shadow Arthur's hand At that one blow dissever'd ;”
i. e., not Modred, but two brothers who had murdered each other.
As the poet is passing through the second chasm of ice, or valley of Antenora, where traitors to their Country are punished, he tells us,
A thousand visages
All heavy substance, and I trembling went
But, passing 'midst the heads, my foot did strike
This shade and others are shown to have been guilty of treachery to their native State or native land, and to be suffering condign punishment.
Leaving the valley of Antenora, the two poets pass to the next chasm, called Ptolemea, (perhaps from Ptolemy the betrayer of Pompey), the region where those are incarcerated who are guilty of treachery under the mask of friendship and hospitality.
Onward we pass'd,
Now though the cold had from my face dislodged
All vapour quench'd?"-"Thou shalt be speedily,"
Friar Alberigo, whose soul is being punished in this chasm, asks Dante to help him open his frozen eyelids and tells him,
" that thou mayst wipe out more willingly The glazed tear-drops that o'erlay mine eyes, Know that the soul, that moment she betrays As I did, yields her body to a fiend Who after moves and governs it at will, Till all its time be rounded : headlong she Falls to this cistern."
At length, Dante and Virgil arrive at the fourth and last chasm, named Giudecca, so called from Judas Iscariot. In this region of eternal ice are imbedded those who are traitors to their benefactors, their monarch, or their God.
Now came I (and with fear I bid my strain
At the bottom of this chasm,--at the very centre of Earth, or apex of the cone of Inferno,-wedged in eternal ice is Lucifer, the Arch-Traitor of the Empyrean.