Canto 21 and 23: Caiaphas
Reading time: 5 minutes. Word count: 900 words.
The Demons escort the Poets
I pressed my whole body close to my guide, and did not take my eyes away from their aspect, which was hostile. They lowered their hooks, and kept saying, to one another: 'Shall I touch him on the backside?' and answering, 'Yes, see that you give him a nick.'
But that demon who was talking to my guide, turned round quickly, and said: 'Be quiet, be quiet, Scarmiglione.'
Then he said to us: 'It will not be possible to go any further along this causeway, since the sixth arch is lying broken at the base, and if you desire still to go forward, go along this ridge, and nearby is another cliff that forms a causeway. Yesterday, five hours later than this hour, twelve hundred and sixty-six years were completed, since this path here was destroyed. I am sending some of my company here to see if anyone is out for an airing: go with them, they will not commit treachery.'
Then he began speaking: 'Advance, Alichino and Calcabrina, and you, Cagnazzo: let Barbariccia lead the ten. Let Libicocco come as well, and Draghignazzo, tusked Ciriatto, Grafficane, Farfarello, and Rubicante the mad one. Search round the boiling glue: see these two safe, as far as the other cliff that crosses the chasms, completely, without a break.'
I said: 'O me! Master, what do I see? Oh, let us go alone, without an escort, if you know the way: as for me, I would prefer not. If you are as cautious as usual, do you not see how they grind their teeth, and darken their brows, threatening us with mischief?
And he to me: 'I do not want you to be afraid: let them grin away at their will: since they do it for the boiled wretches.'
They turned by the left bank: but first, each of them had stuck his tongue out, between his teeth, towards their leader, as a signal, and he had made a trumpet of his arse. [...]
Down below we found a metal-coated tribe, weeping, circling with very slow steps, and weary and defeated in their aspect. They had cloaks, with deep hoods over the eyes, in the shape they make for the monks of Cologne. On the outside they are gilded so it dazzles, but inside all leaden, and so heavy, that compared to them Frederick's were made of straw.
O weary mantle for eternity! We turned to the left again, beside them, who were intent on their sad weeping, but those people, tired by their burden, came on so slowly that our companions were new at every step. At which, I said to my guide: 'Make a search for someone known to us, by name or action, and gaze around as we move by.'
And one of them, who understood the Tuscan language, called after us: 'Rest your feet, you who speed so fast through the dark air, maybe you will get from me what you request.'
At which my guide turned round and said: 'Wait, and then go on, at his pace.'
The Fraudi Gaudenti: Caiaphas
I stood still, and saw two spirits, who were eager in mind to join me, but their burden and the narrow path delayed them. When they arrived, they eyed me askance, for a long time, without speaking a word, then they turned to one another and said: 'This one seems alive, by the movement of his throat, and if they are dead, by what grace are they moving, free of the heavy cloaks?'
Then they said to me: 'O Tuscan, you have come to the college of sad hypocrites: do not scorn to tell us who you are.'
And I to them: 'I was born, and I grew up, by Arno's lovely river, in the great city: and I am in the body I have always worn. But you, who are you, from whom such sadness is distilled, that I see, coursing down your cheeks? And what punishment is this, that glitters so?'
And one of them replied: 'Our orange mantles are of such dense lead, that weights made of it cause the scales to creak. We were Fraudi Gaudenti, of that Bolognese order called the 'Jovial Friars': I am Catalano, and he is Loderingo, chosen by your city, as usually only one is chosen, to keep the peace: and we wrought such as still appears round your district of Gardingo.
'O Friars, your evil ...' I began, but said no more, because one came in sight, crucified, on the ground, with three stakes.
When he saw me he writhed all over, puffing into his beard, and sighing, and Friar Catalano, who saw this, said to me: 'That one you look at, who is transfixed, is Caiaphas, the high priest, who counselled the Pharisees, that it was right to martyr one man for the sake of the people. Crosswise and naked he lies in the road, as you see, and feels the weight of everyone who passes: and his father-in-law Annas is racked, in this chasm, and the others of that Council, that was a source of evil to the Jews.'
Then I saw Virgil wonder at him, stretched out on the cross, so vilely, in eternal exile.
Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:
Source: Dante's Inferno, translated by A.S. Kline (2000). Website: Dante and Others.
MLLL-2003. World Literature: Frametales. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D.
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