Inferno Canto XVI (the Seventh Circle, Third Ring: The Violent against God)
We’ve finally reached the point where the Phlegethon falls into a new circle, quite noisily with the sound of a "beehive’s hum." But we’re still going to stay in this circle for another canto.
So who are these people Brunetto’s so eager to avoid? Three quick little Florentines (also sodomites), all burnt and scorched from the flaming rain.
The speedy trio recognizes Dante by his clothes as someone from their "indecent country."
With one glance, Virgil deems these Florentines worth speaking to and tells Dante so.
But the three Florentines sure behave weirdly. When they reach our pilgrims, they link hands and form a wheel around them.
One, appealing to Dante’s compassion, asks him to tell them who he is and why he’s still alive in Hell. We’re pretty sure Dante is getting tired of this question too.
But because he’s such a well-mannered gentleman, the speaker first introduces his pals—Guido Guerra, Tegghiaio Aldobrandi—and himself, Jacopo Rusticucci.
(History lesson: Dante recognizes them as allied Guelphs who tried to dissuade their fellow Florentines from fighting at Montaperti.)
At hearing those beloved names, Dante contemplates leaving his safe path to brave the burning one above just to talk to them… but then decides he doesn’t like pain.
So he satisfies himself by simply telling them how deeply he feels for them and how much he honored them in life. Then he brags a little, saying he will bring their names great fame, but that first he has to go to the center of Hell.
But, thankfully, Jacopo just wants to know if Florence is still a good town or if it’s been corrupted by bad guys like Guiglielmo Borsiere, a recent addition to the sodomite gang.
Dante’s reply goes something like "all newcomers are bad, because new money is bad!"
The trio stares at him. Then they say "Okay, thanks" and skedaddle.
Unfazed, Dante and Virgil frolic along until they reach the ending point of Phlegethon, which Dante monumentally compares to the river Acquacheta cascading down the Apennines. In other words, the river becomes a great big waterfall which any sane man would not want to jump down.
Oh, what to do now? Virgil has an idea.
He orders Dante to remove the cord from around his waist.
Virgil makes a lasso and throws it down the ravine.
Even Dante thinks this is a little strange. Which, he assumes, means that something strange will happen.
What emerges from those dark depths is so incredible that Dante calls it a "truth which seems a lie," but he swears (and he addresses the reader directly) that "by the lines / of this my Comedy," what he sees is real.
But all he tells us of this spectacular event in this canto is that some sort of monster rises from the depths like a diver swimming to the water’s surface.