by Dante Alighieri
Inferno Justice Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Canto.Line). We used Allen Mandelbaum's translation.
Along its [Malebolge’s] bottom, naked sinners moved,
to our side of the middle, facing us;
beyond that, they moved with us, but more quickly –
as, in the year of Jubilee, the Romans,
confronted by great crowds, contrived a plan
that let the people pass across the bridge,
for to one side went all who had their eyes
upon the Castle, heading toward St. Peter’s,
and to the other, those who faced the Mount.
Both left and right, along the somber rock,
I saw horned demons with enormous whips,
who lashed those spirits cruelly from behind.
Ah, how their first strokes made those sinners lift
their heels! Indeed no sinner waited for
a second stroke to fall – or for a third. (Inf. XVIII, 25-39)
In the first pouch of the Eighth Circle, the panderers (or pimps) and seducers march in ranks, hustled along by demons whipping their backs. In life, these sinners manipulated others into sinful acts with their words. So in Hell, they are themselves manipulated and moved by fierce demons.
We heard the people whine in the next pouch
and heard them as they snorted with their snouts;
we heard them use their palms to beat themselves.
And exhalations, rising from below,
stuck to the banks, encrusting them with mold,
and so waged war against both eyes and nose…
This was the place we reached; the ditch beneath
held people plunged in excrement that seemed
as if it had been poured from human privies. (Inf. XVIII, 103-114)
In life, the flatterers wheedled others with false praise to achieve their own filthy ends. Their words, spoken insincerely, amount spiritually to rubbish. Thus, they wallow in their own excrement, which is so squalid that their very "exhalations, rising from below….encrust them with mold."
Along the sides and down along the bottom,
I saw that livid rock was perforated:
the openings were all one width and round.
They did not seem to me less broad or more
than those that in my handsome San Giovanni
were made to serve as basins for baptizing…
Out from the mouth of each hole there emerged
a sinner’s feet and so much of his legs
up to the thigh; the rest remained within.
Both soles of every sinner were on fire;
their joints were writhing with such violence,
they would have severed withes and ropes of grass. (Inf. XIX, 13-27)
The image of the dishonest clergymen buried upside-down in the rock with their protruding feet seared by flames is recognizable to the devout Christian as an inversion of the Pentecost. In this feast of salvation, the Apostles descended with flaming haloes around their heads. That the simonists are physically inverted, with flames at their feet, demonstrates metaphorically that their practices oppose those of the Pentecost. When the Apostles descended, all their followers were filled with the spirit of the Holy Ghost and began speaking and prophesying in other tongues – basically affirming the truth of the Word. (Some scholars have read the Pentecost as a reversal of the Tower of Babel, a reunification of all the different human languages.) Simonists, on the other hand, sell the Word for profit, as absolution from sin, thus putting a price on the Word and denying its sanctity.