Inferno Canto XIV

Inferno 14

Ever without repose was the rude dance
of wretched hands, now here, now there,
slapping at each new scorching cinder.

vv. 40-42

Third round of the Seventh Circle those who have done violence to God.- The Burning Sand. – Capaneus. – Figure of the Old Man in Crete. – The Rivers of Hell.

Out of love for their native city, Florence, Dante gave the anonymous spirit the branches that had broken from him, and then continued on his way to the third ring of the seventh circle. There the woods gave way to sand, and many naked souls were miserable there, exposed in different degrees to the flakes of fire which rained down from above, setting the sand on fire when they fell. Dante asked Virgil who a particular spirit was, who did not seem to care about the fires. The giant spirit himself answered, and claimed that he feared God no more in death than he had in life. Virgil berated him and said that his madness was a suitable punishment for his arrogance and blasphemy, then informed Dante that this was Capaneus, one of the seven kings who beseiged Thebes. They continued on, keeping to the edge of the forest to avoid the burning sand, and came to a thin red stream. Virgil explained that within the mountain Ida in Crete there was a gigantic statue of an old man, whose head was made of gold, his arms and chest of silver, brass down to the legs, his legs of iron and his right foot of clay. Each part of him except his golden head is cracked, and the tears that drip down the cracks make all the infernal rivers: the Acheron, the Styx, Phlegethon, and finally Coctyus. The rivulet Dante saw was presumably water from the Phlegethon dripping down to the Cocytus. Dante wanted to know where Lethe was (another mythological infernal river, associated with forgetting), and Virgil answered that he would see it, but in the palce where spirits cleansed themselves of repented guilt. They then left the circle through a path that didn’t burn.

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