Inferno, Canto 5

[1] INF5.1

Così discesi del cerchio primaio 1 Thus I descended from the first circle


sounds innocent enough


and it just so happens that HELL 5 has I descended  in the first line and I dropped in the last.



[1] INF5.2

 giù nel secondo, che men loco cinghia 2 down into the second, which girds a smaller space

[1] INF5.3

 e tanto più dolor, che punge a guaio. 3 but greater agony to goad lament.


isn’t this almost the same strange compressed construction—punge a guaio—only in reverse, as

where fear had stabbed my heart repentant, [a long since replaced line]

15 H1>   che m'avea di paura il cor compunto,

which had pierced my heart with fear,

in both cases you have a) an aggression of something sharp and b) an emotionally distressed reaction, fear in H1 and wailing in H5


[months later:] Here’s what I think now (winter 2004).  I now believe the reason for this strange construction is that

D is intent on mirroring the sin and the punishment.  The poke|thrust and resulting moans of sex, the greater grief and

resulting wails of punishment for same.  So D, in the very first terzina of all the circles of sin,

presents a form of his entire Inferno thesis—

one’s sin is one’s punishment, in the most offhand way

[2] INF5.4

     Stavvi Minòs orribilmente, e ringhia: 4 There stands Minos, snarling, terrible.

[2] INF5.5

 essamina le colpe ne l'intrata; 5 He examines each offender at the entrance,

[2] INF5.6

 giudica e manda secondo ch'avvinghia. 6 judges and dispatches as he encoils himself.

[3] INF5.7

     Dico che quando l'anima mal nata 7 I mean that when the ill-begotten soul


mal nata: compare Purgatorio 5:

E io: "Perché ne' vostri visi guati, 58 And I replied: 'However hard I gaze into your faces,

 non riconosco alcun; ma s'a voi piace 59 none do I recognize. But if in anything

 cosa ch'io possa, spiriti ben nati, 60 I can please you, spirits born for bliss,

     voi dite, e io farò per quella pace 61 'by the very peace I seek

 che, dietro a' piedi di sì fatta guida, 62 from world to world, following the steps

 di mondo in mondo cercar mi si face." 63 of such a guide, that I will do.'




[3] INF5.8

 li vien dinanzi, tutta si confessa; 8 stands there before him it confesses all,

[3] INF5.9

 e quel conoscitor de le peccata 9 and that accomplished judge of sins

[4] INF5.10

     vede qual loco d'inferno è da essa; 10 decides what place in Hell is fit for it,

[4] INF5.11

 cignesi con la coda tante volte 11 then coils his tail around himself to count

[4] INF5.12

 quantunque gradi vuol che giù sia messa. 12 how many circles down the soul must go.


Tozer points out that the process is described again in HELL 27, as experienced by Guido da Montefeltro:


     Oh me dolente! come mi riscossi 121 'Oh, wretch that I am, how I shuddered

 quando mi prese dicendomi: 'Forse 122 when he seized me and said: "Perhaps

 tu non pensavi ch'io löico fossi!' 123 you didn't reckon I'd be versed in logic."

     A Minòs mi portò; e quelli attorse 124 'He carried me to Minos, who coiled his tail

 otto volte la coda al dosso duro; 125 eight times around his scaly back

 e poi che per gran rabbia la si morse, 126 and, having gnawed it in his awful rage,

     disse: 'Questi è d'i rei del foco furo'; 127 'said: "Here comes a sinner for the thieving fire."

 per ch'io là dove vedi son perduto, 128 And so, just as you see me, I am damned,

 e sì vestito, andando, mi rancuro." 129 cloaked as I am. And as I go, I grieve.'


[5] INF5.13

     Sempre dinanzi a lui ne stanno molte: 13 Always before him stands a crowd of them,

[5] INF5.14

 vanno a vicenda ciascuna al giudizio, 14 going to judgment each in turn.

[5] INF5.15

 dicono e odono e poi son giù volte. 15 They tell, they hear, and then are hurled down.

[6] INF5.16

     "O tu che vieni al doloroso ospizio," 16 'O you who come to this abode of pain,'

[6] INF5.17

 disse Minòs a me quando mi vide, 17 said Minos when he saw me, pausing

[6] INF5.18

 lasciando l'atto di cotanto offizio, 18 in the exercise of his high office,

[7] INF5.19

     "guarda com' entri e di cui tu ti fide; 19 'beware how you come in and whom you trust.

[7] INF5.20

 non t'inganni l'ampiezza de l'intrare!" 20 Don't let the easy entrance fool you.'

[7] INF5.21

 E 'l duca mio a lui: "Perché pur gride? 21 And my leader to him: 'Why all this shouting?

[8] INF5.22

     Non impedir lo suo fatale andare: 22 'Hinder not his destined journey.

[8] INF5.23

 vuolsi così colà dove si puote 23 It is so willed where will and power are one,

[8] INF5.24

 ciò che si vuole, e più non dimandare." 24 and ask no more.'

[9] INF5.25

     Or incomincian le dolenti note 25 Now I can hear the screams


Exactly the line where D in HELL 4 begins to hear, and hears “sighs, not cries”

[9] INF5.26

 a farmisi sentire; or son venuto 26 of agony. Now I have come

[9] INF5.27

 là dove molto pianto mi percuote. 27 where a great wailing beats upon me.

[10] INF5.28

     Io venni in loco d'ogne luce muto, 28 I reached a place mute of all light,

[10] INF5.29

 che mugghia come fa mar per tempesta, 29 which bellows as the sea in tempest

[10] INF5.30

 se da contrari venti è combattuto. 30 tossed by conflicting winds.

[11] INF5.31

     La bufera infernal, che mai non resta, 31 The hellish squall, which never rests,

[11] INF5.32

 mena li spirti con la sua rapina; 32 sweeps spirits in its headlong rush,

Commentary: Tozer
     Language: English
    Publ.Date: 1901
    Reference: 10-Inferno           5. 32-32
     rapina: its `furious rush' which sweeps them
     along; cp. Conv. ii. 6, ll. 149, 150, `la rapina del Primo


[11] INF5.33

 voltando e percotendo li molesta. 33 tormenting, whirls and strikes them.

[12] INF5.34

     Quando giungon davanti a la ruina, 34 Caught in that path of violence,

[12] INF5.35

 quivi le strida, il compianto, il lamento; 35 they shriek, weep, and lament.

[12] INF5.36

 bestemmian quivi la virtù divina. 36 Then how they curse the power of God!

[13] INF5.37

     Intesi ch'a così fatto tormento 37 I understood that to such torment

[13] INF5.38

 enno dannati i peccator carnali, 38 the carnal sinners are condemned,

[13] INF5.39

 che la ragion sommettono al talento. 39 they who make reason subject to desire.

[14] INF5.40

     E come li stornei ne portan l'ali 40 As, in cold weather, the wings of starlings


I will try to make an echoing motif of all the portares in this canto:


the wings of the starlings, here, carry/bear up/transport the starlings:

     E come li stornei ne portan l'ali 40 As, in cold weather, the wings of starlings

nel freddo tempo, a schiera larga e piena, 41 bear them up in wide, dense flocks,


the shades in 49 are carried/borne by their trouble/distress/ordeal:

così vid' io venir, traendo guai, 48 thus I saw approach, heaving plaintive sighs,

     ombre portate da la detta briga; 49 shades lifted on that turbulence,


and p and f, in 84, are carried/borne—like doves!—by desire:

     Quali colombe dal disio chiamate 82 As doves, summoned by desire, their wings

 con l'ali alzate e ferme al dolce nido 83 outstretched and motionless, move on the air,

 vegnon per l'aere, dal voler portate; 84 borne by their will to the sweet nest,


then in 108 the words of p and f are borne from them (no agent specified) after francesca finishes her first speech:

Caina attende chi a vita ci spense." 107 Caïna waits for him who quenched our lives.'

 Queste parole da lor ci fuor porte. 108 These words were borne from them to us.




[14] INF5.41

 nel freddo tempo, a schiera larga e piena, 41 bear them up in wide, dense flocks,


Singleton is magnificent here:

Commentary: Singleton
     Language: English
    Publ.Date: 1970-75
      Attrib.: copyright
    Reference: 10-Inferno           5. 41-41
     nel freddo tempo:  In late autumn, birds such as
     starlings are seen gathering in great flocks, wheeling about in
     flight (see M. Barbi, 1927, pp. 126-127).  The suggestion of
     autumn and of winter's coming continues (see Inf. III, 112) and
     extends here into the simile of the cranes (vss. 46-47),
     contributing the tone of sadness and melancholy commonly
     associated with these seasons.  Indeed, the cumulative effect of
     such touches as these establishes for the Inferno a mood that
     is impressively different from that of the Purgatorio or the


[14] INF5.42

 così quel fiato li spiriti mali 42 so does that blast propel the wicked spirits.

[15] INF5.43

     di qua, di là, di giù, di sù li mena; 43 Here and there, down and up, it drives them.

[15] INF5.44

 nulla speranza li conforta mai, 44 Never are they comforted by hope

[15] INF5.45

 non che di posa, ma di minor pena. 45 of rest or even lesser punishment.

[16] INF5.46

     E come i gru van cantando lor lai, 46 Just as cranes chant their mournful songs,


for his beautiful over I am greatly indebted to John Ciardi.

[16] INF5.47

 faccendo in aere di sé lunga riga, 47 making a long line in the air,


D in the Paradiso will make much of creatures in the air making of themselves one pattern after another


meanwhile, I must pay closer attention.  This is the riga of rigavan of the disgusting worms of HELL 3:


Questi sciaurati, che mai non fur vivi, 64 These wretches, who never were alive,

 erano ignudi e stimolati molto 65 were naked and beset

 da mosconi e da vespe ch'eran ivi. 66 by stinging flies and wasps

     Elle rigavan lor di sangue il volto, 67 that made their faces stream with blood,

 che, mischiato di lagrime, a' lor piedi 68 which, mingled with their tears,

 da fastidiosi vermi era ricolto. 69 was gathered at their feet by loathsome worms.


To translate merely as line is to deprive the reader of much.

I am not chiding the Hollanders.  I am scolding myself.  I was very close to letting riga be line and move on.




[16] INF5.48

 così vid' io venir, traendo guai, 48 thus I saw approach, heaving plaintive sighs,


see the PAROLE, this line


but since the phrase appears in the central canzone of Vita Nuova and in the entire C only here*, the association prompting D to use it may have been the birds that fell dead from the sky during his vision of the death of Beatrice,

since in this terzina there are a) birds b) lamenting birds and c) birds used to describe a scene in Hell.


but HELL 13.22:

Io sentia d'ogne parte trarre guai 22 Lamentations I heard on every side

 e non vedea persona che 'l facesse; 23 but I saw no one who might be crying out

 per ch'io tutto smarrito m'arrestai. 24 so that, confused, I stopped.




[17] INF5.49

     ombre portate da la detta briga; 49 shades lifted on that turbulence,


meant to have the same general meaning as molesta in 33?

voltando e percotendo li molesta. 33 tormenting, whirls and strikes them.


distress, making life miserable, really annoy


[17] INF5.50

 per ch'i' dissi: "Maestro, chi son quelle 50 so that I said: 'Master, who are these


curious.  hasn’t D just identified these as Lustful Sinners, in [9]: why is he asking?

Ah!  He wants their names.  He knows why they’re there, now he wants to know who’s included.


Intesi ch'a così fatto tormento 37 I understood that to such torment

enno dannati i peccator carnali, 38 the carnal sinners are condemned,

 che la ragion sommettono al talento. 39 they who make reason subject to desire.


NOTE:  every one of the carnal sinners pointed out betrayed a spouse in some way,

except Achilles (whose intention to marry a Trojan was a—marriage-related—betrayal of his country)


[17] INF5.51

 genti che l'aura nera sì gastiga?" 51 whom the black air lashes?'


[as of 2/8/04 I’m at “black air grinds.”]

[18] INF5.52

     "La prima di color di cui novelle 52 'The first of them about whom


Whoa!  Led to Aeneid 6.734 by Putnam’s “Virgil’s Inferno,” I come across Anchises going,

in 6.724, “Principio . . .” and I’m like, “Whoa!  That sounds familiar—and helps explain Virgil’s sort of

odd padding-seeming “La prima . . “ I have to say Virgil, with the preceding line’s

 “atque ordine singula pandit” [and reveals each truth in order—Loeb], has what seems like more justification

 for “Principio,” but maybe Dante, given the Virgil passage, has no, or at least less, need of setup.

 Allusion as sufficient setup, as setup enow.

[18] INF5.53

 tu vuo' saper," mi disse quelli allotta, 53 you would hear,' he then replied,


consciously archaic as a way of taking us back to an older time?



[18] INF5.54

 "fu imperadrice di molte favelle. 54 'was empress over many tongues.


Commentary: Oelsner
     Language: English
    Publ.Date: 1899
    Reference: 10-Inferno           5. 52-60
     According to Orosius, Semiramis succeeded her
     husband Ninus as ruler of Assyria.  She was known for her
     licentious character.  Dante appears to have confused the ancient
     kingdom of Assyria or Babylonia in Asia with the Babylon in
     Egypt, for only the latter was ruled by the Sultan.  Or perhaps he
     followed a tradition according to which Ninus conquered Egypt.
     The mention of the molte favelle in verse 54 is probably due to
     the fact that Babylon and Babel were commonly held to be

And somewhere in the Convivio, I think, D allows as how Semiramis and Ninus were something like

history’s first recorded rulers—so “la prima” has extra point.  Plus perhaps D is saying ‘twas every thus,

from the very very beginning

[19] INF5.55

     A vizio di lussuria fu sì rotta, 55 'She was so given to the vice of lechery

[19] INF5.56

 che libito fé licito in sua legge, 56 she made lust licit in her law

[19] INF5.57

 per tòrre il biasmo in che era condotta. 57 to take away the blame she had incurred.

[20] INF5.58

     Ell' è Semiramìs, di cui si legge 58 'She is Semiramis, of whom we read[i]

D is so casually perfect.  It’s as though he were a great golfer and the Comedy a game of miniature golf,

at which he seems somehow effortlessly transcendent.


!!! the subtle harbinger of the p and f reading,

and reading about a famous lover,

and reading no more


Oxford Classical Dictionary:



Semiramis in history was Sammu-ramat, wife of Shamshi-Adad V of Assyria, mother of Adad-nirari III, with whom she campaigned against Commagene in 805 BC. Her inscribed stela stood with stelae of kings and high officials in Assur. In Greek legend, she was the daughter of the Syrian goddess Derceto at Ascalon, wife of Onnes (probably the first Sumerian sage Oannes) and then of Ninos, eponymous king of Nineveh; she conquered 'Bactria' and built 'Babylon' (Berossus denied this). In Armenian legend, she conquered Armenia (ancient Urartu), built a palace and waterworks, and left inscriptions.


W. Schramm, Historia 1972, 513–21; F. W. König, Die Persika des Ktesias von Knidos, Archiv für Orientforschung Beiheft 18 (1972), 37–40; V. Donbaz, Annual Review of the Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia Project (1990), 5–10; Moses Khorenats'i, History of the Armenians, ed. R. W. Thomson (1978), 93–104.

S. M. D.






© Copyright The Oxford Classical Dictionary © Oxford University Press 1996, 2000



[20] INF5.59

 che succedette a Nino e fu sua sposa: 59 that she, once Ninus' wife, succeeded him.

[20] INF5.60

 tenne la terra che 'l Soldan corregge. 60 She held sway in the land the Sultan rules.

[21] INF5.61

     L'altra è colei che s'ancise amorosa, 61 'Here is she who broke faith with the ashes


Commentary: Grandgent
     Language: English
    Publ.Date: 1909-13
      Attrib.: copyright
    Reference: 10-Inferno           5. 62-62
     Note Aen., IV, 552: `non servata fides cineri
     promissa Sichaeo.'


[21] INF5.62

 e ruppe fede al cener di Sicheo; 62 of Sichaeus and slew herself for love.

[21] INF5.63

 poi è Cleopatràs lussurïosa. 63 The next is wanton Cleopatra.

[22] INF5.64

     Elena vedi, per cui tanto reo 64 'See Helen, for whose sake so many years

[22] INF5.65

 tempo si volse, e vedi 'l grande Achille, 65 of ill rolled past. And see the great Achilles,

[22] INF5.66

 che con amore al fine combatteo. 66 who battled, at the last, with love.

[23] INF5.67

     Vedi Parìs, Tristano"; e più di mille 67 'See Paris, Tristan,' and he showed me more


Tristan gets us into medieval romance times, which is where we want to be when we meet p and f


we go from myth time to Tristan—and halt.



[23] INF5.68

 ombre mostrommi e nominommi a dito, 68 than a thousand shades, naming as he pointed,

[23] INF5.69

 ch'amor di nostra vita dipartille. 69 whom love had parted from our life.

[24] INF5.70

     Poscia ch'io ebbi 'l mio dottore udito 70 When I heard my teacher name the ladies


very cool

first appearance in the C

the second:  just sixty lines from now, when Francesca says, “I’m sure your teacher knows what I’m talking about.”


this line helps ensure that Francesca’s bitter parenthetical will hit home without passing hunh?



[24] INF5.71

 nomar le donne antiche e ' cavalieri, 71 and the knights of old, pity overcame me


more p and f setup



[24] INF5.72

 pietà mi giunse, e fui quasi smarrito. 72 and I almost lost my senses.


[24] is a palate cleanser, the entr’acte preparing the way for p and f


also a warning:  cf Monty Python’s Holy Grail:  “The problem!”


In any case, we now know this means closure—the conclusion of this section: taking it all in has become too overwhelming to continue




[25] INF5.73

     I' cominciai: "Poeta, volontieri 73 I began: 'Poet, gladly would I speak


D is so good.  We have seen volontieri only once before—in the Hell 1 simile where a big winner reacts to total loss

—and who else are p and f?  HELL 1:


     E qual è quei che volontieri acquista, 55 And like one who rejoices in his gains

 e giugne 'l tempo che perder lo face, 56 but when the time comes and he loses,

 che 'n tutti suoi pensier piange e s'attrista; 57 turns all his thought to sadness and lament,


[25] INF5.74

 parlerei a que' due che 'nsieme vanno, 74 with these two that move together


remember that van cantando went the cranes in line 46

     E come i gru van cantando lor lai, 46 Just as cranes chant their mournful songs,


cranes are far more elegant than starlings—and their flocks far smaller


I have go moving to echo go singing


even though it’s on the face of it quite an awkward locution, smacking loudly of redundancy





[25] INF5.75

 e paion sì al vento esser leggieri." 75 and seem to be so light upon the wind.'

[26] INF5.76

     Ed elli a me: "Vedrai quando saranno 76 And he: 'Once they are nearer, you will see:

[26] INF5.77

 più presso a noi; e tu allor li priega 77 if you entreat them by the love


priega an ironic contrast with the prayers of the faithful?


cf. Rime XXVIII [just came across this, September 27, 2003, in the process of building a document consisting of the Rime, pasting in poems copied from the Princeton site]
    E priega Dio, lo signor verace, 
    che vi conforti sì come vi piace.



[26] INF5.78

 per quello amor che i mena, ed ei verranno." 78 that leads them, they will come.'


this canto is saturated with irony


“ask them over in the name of the love that drives them, which at the moment is away from us”



[27] INF5.79

     Sì tosto come il vento a noi li piega, 79 As soon as the wind had bent them to us,

[27] INF5.80

 mossi la voce: "O anime affannate, 80 I raised my voice: 'O wearied souls,


Aha!  an allusion to the other big simile of HELL 1 (in line 5.73 the reference was to win then lose

you got a lot, you lose it all.

here the allusion is to lose then win. h1.22  You’re drowning, you step onto the shore.

 D subliminally sets up the ambivalence

that has buffeted such centuries of commentary.



[27] INF5.81

 venite a noi parlar, s'altri nol niega!" 81 if it is not forbidden, come speak with us.'


“if Another deny it not” [Norton]

Francesca replies with a parallel negative reference to God in 91:

     se fosse amico il re de l'universo, 91 'if the King of the universe were our friend

 noi pregheremmo lui de la tua pace, 92 we would pray that He might give you peace,


D speaks as one who acknowledges God’s right to dictate behavior.

Francesca speaks as one accustomed to political connections.  [Musa critical indiana inferno, his essay, 312]



[28] INF5.82

     Quali colombe dal disio chiamate 82 As doves, summoned by desire, their wings

[28] INF5.83

 con l'ali alzate e ferme al dolce nido 83 outstretched and motionless, move on the air,

[28] INF5.84

 vegnon per l'aere, dal voler portate; 84 borne by their will to the sweet nest,


the doves come through unqualified aere, unlike the contrasting aere maligno of 86


the same thing happens another bird simile in this canto: the cranes chant their ballad in air,

and D is reminded of them when he sees the ombre portate: 

then he asks for the names of some of the ones being punished by this black sky

[29] INF5.85

     cotali uscir de la schiera ov' è Dido, 85 so did these leave the troop where Dido is,

[29] INF5.86

 a noi venendo per l'aere maligno, 86 coming to us through the malignant air,

[29] INF5.87

 sì forte fu l'affettüoso grido. 87 such force had my affectionate call.

[30] INF5.88

     "O animal grazïoso e benigno 88 'O living creature, gracious and kind,


let me, uh, ruminate here a bit




we saw it as creature including people in HELL 2.2:

Lo giorno se n'andava, e l'aere bruno 1 Day was departing and the darkened air

 toglieva li animai che sono in terra 2 released the creatures of the earth

 da le fatiche loro; e io sol uno 3 from their labor, and I, alone,


but the first time we saw it was in the context of indiscriminate promiscuity:

in HELL 1, referring to the wolf:

     Molti son li animali a cui s'ammoglia, 100 'Many are the creatures that she mates with,


there’s also the consideration that f is trying to top D:

if he can anima, why she can be fancier and say animal


she clearly throughout wants to display her breeding and have its high quality be unmistakable


so we’ve got


animals worn out from their day who want release

and can you top this


all of which apply beautifully


it’s a showoff word: she’s got his attention, now she wants his attention


more: it’s a way (despite grazioso and benigno) to bring down D down to her level: you’re an animal, too

don’t think you’re not


what’s the next animal of HELL we encounter?

of HELL we encounter?

Geryon—flying serpent with a man’s face—hardly a description of D


     Trova' il duca mio ch'era salito 79 I found my leader mounted

 già su la groppa del fiero animale, 80 on the shoulders of the savage beast.

 e disse a me: "Or sie forte e ardito. 81 He said to me: 'Now be strong and resolute.


next, HELL 29, where all the animals on the island of Juno-angering Aegina are wiped out by plague, down to the last little worm:

Non credo ch'a veder maggior tristizia 58 I think it could have been no greater sorrow

 fosse in Egina il popol tutto infermo, 59 to see the people of Aegina stricken,

 quando fu l'aere sì pien di malizia, 60 with such corruption in the very air

     che li animali, infino al picciol vermo, 61 that every animal, even the smallest worm,

 cascaron tutti, e poi le genti antiche, 62 perished, and, later, as the poets hold for certain,

 secondo che i poeti hanno per fermo, 63 these ancient people were restored to life,

     si ristorar di seme di formiche; 64 hatched from the eggs of ants—


and the final animal of HELL, in 31, —no better—weird monstrous mistakes of nature, prompted by the appearance of the giants chained up beyond the Malebolge


Natura certo, quando lasciò l'arte 49 Surely nature did well when she renounced

 di sì fatti animali, assai fé bene 50 the craft of making creatures such as these,

 per tòrre tali essecutori a Marte. 51 depriving Mars of such practitioners.'

     E s'ella d'elefanti e di balene 52 If she does not repent her elephants

 non si pente, chi guarda sottilmente, 53 and whales, when one reviews the matter closely

 più giusta e più discreta la ne tene; 54 she will be found more cautious and more just.

     ché dove l'argomento de la mente 55 For when the power of thought

 s'aggiugne al mal volere e a la possa, 56 is coupled with ill will and naked force

 nessun riparo vi può far la gente. 57 there is no refuge from it for mankind.


Now animal is f’s second word – the first being the educated, D-echoing O


My mission is to give f the faint sense of having said

“Hey, Tiger—you seem like a real nice guy.”






[30] INF5.89

 che visitando vai per l'aere perso 89 that come through somber air to visit us

[30] INF5.90

 noi che tignemmo il mondo di sanguigno, 90 who stained the world with blood,

[31] INF5.91

     se fosse amico il re de l'universo, 91 'if the King of the universe were our friend

[31] INF5.92

 noi pregheremmo lui de la tua pace, 92 we would pray that He might give you peace,

[31] INF5.93

 poi c'hai pietà del nostro mal perverso. 93 since you show pity for our grievous plight.


I have we twice, in lines 1 and 2:

if we had a friend in the King of the universe

we would pray to Him for your peace,

because you take pity on a plight so perverse.


  D has we in 2 and 3

[32] INF5.94

     Di quel che udire e che parlar vi piace, 94 'We long to hear and speak of that

[32] INF5.95

 noi udiremo e parleremo a voi, 95 which you desire to speak and know,

[32] INF5.96

 mentre che 'l vento, come fa, ci tace. 96 here, while the wind has calmed.


It’s not my fault is such a part of Francesca, that even the wind is enlisted: I’ll tell you what you want me to when the wind decides to be quiet enough to let me.


from an observation by Carroll:  look at the muting of the lower senses in PURG 25:


     Quando Làchesis non ha più del lino, 79 'When Lachesis runs short of thread, the soul

 solvesi da la carne, e in virtute 80 unfastens from the flesh, carrying with it

 ne porta seco e l'umano e 'l divino: 81 potential faculties, both human and divine.

     l'altre potenze tutte quante mute; 82 'The lower faculties now inert,

 memoria, intelligenza e volontade 83 memory, intellect, and the will remain

 in atto molto più che prima agute. 84 in action, and are far keener than before.


Dante was a poet.  Silence, voicelessness—to a poet, there is nothing worse.


[33] INF5.97

     Siede la terra dove nata fui 97 'On that shore where the river Po

[33] INF5.98

 su la marina dove 'l Po discende 98 with all its tributaries slows

[33] INF5.99

 per aver pace co' seguaci sui. 99 to peaceful flow, there I was born.

[34] INF5.100

     Amor, ch'al cor gentil ratto s'apprende, 100 'Love, quick to kindle in the gentle heart,

[34] INF5.101

 prese costui de la bella persona 101 seized this man with the fair form taken from me.

[34] INF5.102

 che mi fu tolta; e 'l modo ancor m'offende. 102 The way of it afflicts me still.

[35] INF5.103

     Amor, ch'a nullo amato amar perdona, 103 'Love, which absolves no one beloved from loving,

[35] INF5.104

 mi prese del costui piacer sì forte, 104 seized me so strongly with his charm that,

[35] INF5.105

 che, come vedi, ancor non m'abbandona. 105 as you see, it has not left me yet.

[36] INF5.106

     Amor condusse noi ad una morte. 106 'Love brought us to one death.

[36] INF5.107

 Caina attende chi a vita ci spense." 107 Caïna waits for him who quenched our lives.'

[36] INF5.108

 Queste parole da lor ci fuor porte. 108 These words were borne from them to us.

[37] INF5.109

     Quand' io intesi quell' anime offense, 109 And when I heard two those afflicted souls

[37] INF5.110

 china' il viso, e tanto il tenni basso, 110 I bowed my head and held it low until at last


what’s going on?

here’s yet another simile word from yet another simile, this one lose/win:


from Hell 2:

     Quali fioretti dal notturno gelo 127 As little flowers, bent and closed

 chinati e chiusi, poi che 'l sol li 'mbianca, 128 with chill of night, when the sun

 si drizzan tutti aperti in loro stelo, 129 lights them, stand all open on their stems,

     tal mi fec' io di mia virtude stanca, 130 such, in my failing strength, did I become.

 e tanto buono ardire al cor mi corse, 131 And so much courage poured into my heart


[37] INF5.111

 fin che 'l poeta mi disse: "Che pense?" 111 the poet said: 'What are your thoughts?'

[38] INF5.112

     Quando rispuosi, cominciai: "Oh lasso, 112 In answer I replied: 'Oh,

[38] INF5.113

 quanti dolci pensier, quanto disio 113 how many sweet thoughts, what great desire,


pensier is also to be found in the HELL 1 volontieri simile:


     E qual è quei che volontieri acquista, 55 And like one who rejoices in his gains

 e giugne 'l tempo che perder lo face, 56 but when the time comes and he loses,

 che 'n tutti suoi pensier piange e s'attrista; 57 turns all his thought to sadness and lament,



[38] INF5.114

 menò costoro al doloroso passo!" 114 have brought them to this woeful pass!'

[39] INF5.115

     Poi mi rivolsi a loro e parla' io, 115 Then I turned to them again to speak

[39] INF5.116

 e cominciai: "Francesca, i tuoi martìri 116 and I began: 'Francesca, your torments

[39] INF5.117

 a lagrimar mi fanno tristo e pio. 117 make me weep for grief and pity,

[40] INF5.118

     Ma dimmi: al tempo d'i dolci sospiri, 118 'but tell me, in that season of sweet sighs,


sospiri  at this point is a word firmly connected to Hell, which is where their sweet sighs got them


[40] INF5.119

 a che e come concedette amore 119 how and by what signs did Love

[40] INF5.120

 che conosceste i dubbiosi disiri?" 120 acquaint you with your hesitant desires?'

[41] INF5.121

     E quella a me: "Nessun maggior dolore 121 And she to me: 'There is no greater sorrow

[41] INF5.122

 che ricordarsi del tempo felice 122 than to recall our time of joy

[41] INF5.123

 ne la miseria; e ciò sa 'l tuo dottore. 123 in wretchedness— and this your teacher knows.

[42] INF5.124

     Ma s'a conoscer la prima radice 124 'But if you feel such longing

[42] INF5.125

 del nostro amor tu hai cotanto affetto, 125 to know the first root of our love,

[42] INF5.126

 dirò come colui che piange e dice. 126 I shall tell as one who weeps in telling.


distance, distance, Horatio!


f will not tell the tale as herself, but as someone who . . .



[43] INF5.127

     Noi leggiavamo un giorno per diletto 127 'One day, to pass the time in pleasure,

[43] INF5.128

 di Lancialotto come amor lo strinse; 128 we read of Lancelot, how love enthralled him.

[43] INF5.129

 soli eravamo e sanza alcun sospetto. 129 We were alone, without the least misgiving.

[44] INF5.130

     Per più fïate li occhi ci sospinse 130 'More than once that reading made our eyes meet

[44] INF5.131

 quella lettura, e scolorocci il viso; 131 and drained the color from our faces.


just as pity for those in Limbo made V fearfully pale in HELL 4



[44] INF5.132

 ma solo un punto fu quel che ci vinse. 132 Still, it was a single instant overcame us:

[45] INF5.133

     Quando leggemmo il disïato riso 133 'When we read how the longed-for smile

[45] INF5.134

 esser basciato da cotanto amante, 134 was kissed by so renowned a lover, this man,

[45] INF5.135

 questi, che mai da me non fia diviso, 135 who never shall be parted from me,

[46] INF5.136

     la bocca mi basciò tutto tremante. 136 'all trembling, kissed me on my mouth.

[46] INF5.137

 Galeotto fu 'l libro e chi lo scrisse: 137 A Galeotto was the book and he that wrote it.

[46] INF5.138

 quel giorno più non vi leggemmo avante." 138 That day we read in it no further.'

[47] INF5.139

     Mentre che l'uno spirto questo disse, 139 While the one spirit said this

[47] INF5.140

 l'altro piangëa; sì che di pietade 140 the other wept, so that for pity

[47] INF5.141

 io venni men così com' io morisse. 141 I swooned as if in death.

[47] INF5.142

 E caddi come corpo morto cade. 142 And down I fell as a dead body falls.


[i] Elegy V: By Duke

'Twas noon when I, scorch'd with the double fire

Of the hot sun and my more hot desire,

Stretch'd on my downy couch at ease was laid,

Big with expectance of the lovely maid.

The curtains but half drawn, a light let in

Such as in shades of thickest groves is seen,

Such as remains when the sun flies away,

Or when night's gone, and yet it is not day.

This light to modest maids must be allow'd,

Where shame may hope its guilty head to shroud.

And now my love Corinna did appear,

Loose on her neck fell her divided hair;

Loose as her flowing gown, that wanton'd in the air.

In such a garb, with such a grace and mien,

To her rich bed came the Assyrian queen;

So Lais looked when all the youth of Greece

With adoration did her charms confess.

Her envious gown to pull away I tried,

But she resisted still, and still denied;

But so resisted that she seem'd to be

Unwilling to obtain the victory;

So I at last an easy conquest had,

Whilst my fair combatant herself betray'd.

But when she naked stood before my eyes,

Gods, with what charms did she my soul surprise!

What snowy arms did I both see and feel!

With what rich globes did her soft bosom swell!

Plump as ripe clusters rose each glowing breast,

Courting the hand, and suing to be press'd!

What a smooth plain was on her belly spread,

Where thousand little loves and graces play'd!

What thighs! what legs ! but why strive I in vain,

Each limb, each grace, each feature to explain

One beauty did through her whole body shine;

I saw, admir'd, and press'd it close to mine

The rest who knows not? Thus entranc'd we lay,

Till in each other's arms we died away;

0 give me such a noon, ye gods, to ev'ry day!



of the above

Amores. 1. 5. 6-16

  Aut ubi nox abiit, nec tamen orta dies.

Illa verecundis lux est praebenda puellis,

    Qua timidus latebras speret habere pudor.

Ecce, Corinna venit, tunica velata recincta,  [given the canto’s beginning, interesting]


    Candida dividua colla tegente coma+ --

Qualiter in thalamos famosa Semiramis isse


[Ovid associating Semiramis with the bedroom]


    Dicitur, et multis Lais amata viris.

Deripui+ tunicam+ -- nec multum+ rara+ nocebat+;

    Pugnabat tunica sed tamen illa tegi.


Quae cum ita pugnaret, tamquam quae vincere nollet,

    Victa est non aegre proditione sua.


Ovid Metamorphoses 4 esp 44-48




E quibus una levi deducens pollice filum

“dum cessant aliae commentaque sacra frequentant,

nos quoque, quas Pallas, melior dea, detinet” inquit,

“utile opus manuum vario sermone levemus:


perque vices aliquid, quod tempora longa videri

non sinat, in medium vacuas referamus ad aures.”

Dicta probant primamque iubent narrare sorores.


and here is Shakespeare’s Golding’s translation:

She had such store and choyce of tales she wist not which to tell.

She doubted if she might declare the fortune that befell

To Dircetes of Babilon whome now with scaly hide

In altred shape the Philistine beleveth to abide

In watrie Pooles: or rather how hir daughter taking wings

In shape of Dove on toppes of towres in age now sadly sings:

Or how a certaine water Nymph by witchcraft and by charmes

Converted into fishes dumbe of yongmen many swarmes,

Untill that of the selfesame sauce hir selfe did tast at last:

Or how the tree that usde to beare fruite white in ages past,

Doth now beare fruite in manner blacke, by sprincling up of blood.

This tale (bicause it was not stale nor common) seemed good

To hir to tell: and thereupon she in this wise begun,

Hir busie hand still drawing out the flaxen threede she spun:



Illa, quid e multis referat (nam plurima norat),

cogitat et dubia est, de te, Babylonia, narret,


Derceti, quam versa squamis velantibus artus

stagna Palaestini credunt motasse figura;

an magis, ut sumptis illius filia pennis

extremos albis in turribus egerit annos;

nais an ut cantu nimiumque potentibus herbis


verterit in tacitos iuvenalia corpora pisces,

donec idem passa est; an, quae poma alba ferebat,

ut nunc nigra ferat contactu sanguinis arbor.

Hoc placet, hanc, quoniam vulgaris fabula non est,

talibus orsa modis, lana sua fila sequente:


[or how the mulberry-tree, which once had borne white fruit, now has fruit dark red, from the bloody stain.  (Loeb)]




“She thought of Babylonian Dercetis,

who (Syrians believed) changed to a fish,

Glittering with scales and diving through clear waters,

Then how her daughter changed to a white dove,

fated to end her life on high watchtowers;

. . .

 . . . then she thought

Of how a tree, famous for snow-white berries,

Took on new colours of a blood-red taint.

This last [of the possible stories a daughter of Minyas was considering as the one she would tell her sisters]

             seemed best, nor was it widely known,

And as she went on spinning, she began:

‘Pyramus and Thisbe: both the best-looking

Of young people in the East were next-door

Neighbors; they lived within a high-walled brick-built,

so it was said, by Queen Semiramis.’”  [Horace Gregory]


Semiramis and the Pyramus and Thisbe are together here,

and the mulberry tree berries dyed their now color because

of the lovers’ tragedy, and and Francesca’s word for the red—all together now—

oh, and of course, the dove which the daughter of the woman of Babylon widely associated with both Semiramis and the Assyrian Venus Ishtar


The Oxford Classical Dictionary:

on Atagartis:





Atargatis (Aramaic <Atar-<Ata), the goddess of HierapolisBambyce in Syria whose usual name among Greeks and Romans was the 'Syrian goddess' (Suq¥a he¡, dea Syria); a mother-goddess, giver of fertility. Her temple, rebuilt c.300 BC by Stratonice, wife of Seleucus I, was plundered by Antiochus IV and by Crassus, but was still in Lucian's day one of the greatest and holiest in Syria; its site has yet to be found. Her consort was Hadad; his throne was flanked by bulls, that of Atargatis by lions. At Ascalon, Atargatis was represented as half woman, half fish. Fish and doves were sacred to her; the myth records that, having fallen into a lake, Atargatis was saved by the fish ([Eratosth.] Cat. 38), or, in another version, that Atargatis was changed into a fish, and her daughter Semiramis into a dove (Diod. Sic. 2. 4. 2–6; 2. 20. 1–2; Ov. Met. 4. 44–8). Late in the 3rd cent. BC her cult appears in Egypt, Macedon, and, with civic status, at Phistyon in Aetolia and (early 2nd cent.) at Thuria in Messenia. Citizens of Hierapolis founded a shrine on Delos in 128–127, of which Athens soon took control. Atargatis was worshipped also in a number of other Greek cities and in Rome, where Nero favoured her for a while; Roman troops took her cult to the Danubian provinces and Britain. Astrologers identified her with the constellation Virgo, and a 3rd-cent. 'creed' found in England (RIB 1791) accepts the dea Syria as one of several names or manifestations of the universal goddess. At Thuria her cult included mysteries. Lucian, De dea Syria, describes the cult in Syria; Apuleius, Met. 8–9, the life of her wandering Galli. See EUNUCHS (religious); FISH, SACRED; METRAGYRTES.


M. Hörig, ANRW 2. 17. 3 (1983), 1581 ff.; LIMC 'Dea Syria' (with bibliog.). F. R. W.; A. J. S. S.

© Copyright The Oxford Classical Dictionary © Oxford University Press 1996, 2000