Dante, astray in a dark wood, sees light,
but leopard, lion, and wolf halts his way.
Wise Virgil comes to guide him past his plight.
The pilgrim, no Aeneas or Paul, stays.
“Your Beatrice sent me, so have no fear—
our path is sure, though through hell’s dark maze.”
“Abandon every hope, who enter here,”
declares the gate. Agnostics chase a flag,
while unrepentant throng Acheron’s pier.
Sorrow without torments for those who lag
the saving cross—Homer, Plato, and so—
though castle and greens uplift, their spirits sag.
Shades confess, then Minos’ tail casts below.
Tempests endlessly buffet the lusting.
Our pilgrim faints for false Fransesca’s show.
Overeaters bark in the cold, falling,
foul, filth with the three-headed demon dog.
A man foretells the white Guelphs ending.
Hoarders and spendthrifts, in a circular slog,
roll weights to and fro. The wrathful damned fight
while the slothful’s bubbles cover the bog.
Furies, halting our nervous pair, incite
an angel to descend and clear the way,
where heretics, crowded in tombs, alight.
Proud Farinata rises to waylay
the two, as they pass buried Epicures.
Sad news, with dark prophecy, he repays.
Adjusting to the stench, Virgil confers
hell’s order: incontinence, violence,
then fraud—with ever increasing tortures.
Half-bull dismissed, they see a turbulent
stream of boiling blood immersing tyrants
and killers, watch’d by centaurs with bows bent.
Self-killers turn into trees, who spout grunts
and blood when snapped and someday will hang bodies.
Nude squanderers flee, the prey of dog-hunts.
A rain of fire justly rewards blasphemers
in this sandy circle, crossed only via tears
flowing from the Old Man’s diverse crevices.
Dantes’ mentor, Ser Brunetto, appears—
seeking fame though blackened. He foretells his
pupils’ exile, who says he’ll persevere.
Three Florentines encircle Dante: “‘tis
true, courtesy and valour flew our state?”
They left despondent. Then Geryon meets his summonses.
A serpent, scorpion, man—instantiate
fraud—carried them down to the eighth dark ring,
passing lenders who’d used an unfair rate.
The first of ten dikes is filled with marching
pimps and seducers, whipped red. Jason’s there.
Next, dipped in shit, are those damned for flatt’ring,
then buried priests, flaming feet in the air,
who pimped dear Jesus’ bride for gold.
Indignant Dante calls the pope’s pain fair.
The mages contort their necks, and behold
there buttocks fore’er. Rejecting pity,
our guide utters a story that’s scrambled.
Corrupt officials boil in tar and flee
from poking demons, who’d sooner harm than
guide the two, if not for heaven holy.
The escorts hook a tardy denizen
of the pit, who’s questioned ‘between torment,
escapes, leaving tarred captors. We’re free again.
A sliding escape. The hypocrites, bent
by painted lead cloaks, trudge o’re Pharisees.
Two false fat friars direct their ascent.
After the climb, and breathing break, armies
of snakes emerge below—who bite, hand-cuff,
and somehow ignite frantic naked thieves.
One rebel’s neck is squeezed shut—“enough!”
Two other’s flesh and bones are stolen when,
wax-like, they meld with serpents, coiled rough.
Hot flames entomb false counselors within.
Ulysses’s friends, won by his words, end in
a God-sent wave, having seen the mountain.
The next flame asked how Italy has been—
a soldier turned friar turned fraud who led
pope Boni’s scheme to conquer Christian kin.
Next, those who’ve pimped mistrust and schism bred
are split and closed repeatedly. There lies
Mohamed and a man holding his own head!
An unavenged cousin’s curses occupies
our pair’s descent into the final ditch,
where plagued alchemists itch and smells paralyze,
impersonators bite, and one who did switch
real gold for dross bickers with a Greek liar.
There Myrrah and Potiphar’s wife do twitch.
Nearing the ninth circle, where chains inter
the giants, dumb Nimrod blasts his horn.
Anteus trades fame for gentle transfer.
In Caïna, killers of kin adorn
the ice and brothers ram heads endlessly.
Betrayers of party face Dante’s scorn.
Now Ugolino, stops gnawing Ruggieri
to tell how his kids starved before his eyes.
Betrayers of guests freeze with living bodies.
Past Cassius, Brutus, Judas—who satisifies
Satan’s three mouths—trudge our pair through hell’s core
and up to see the stars and open skies.