Flabbergasted – I didn’t know what to say,
Trying to think of something, but
Just standing there and taking it,
Think, think… but nothing comes out
Virgil prompted me:
—Enlighten him at once. You need to set this straight.
You’re not the one, go on.
I got myself together and replied as I was told, somehow…
At this the spirit twisted both his feet, as if wringing his hands,
Sighing, despairing, slipped back
And flatlined back to his standard state.
—So what do you want, then?
You do know who I am?
I assume you must know who I am,
If you’ve come all this way to meet me,
… Or maybe you haven’t.
I am Nicholas III, vicar of Rome.
You were Nicholas, yes.
And it seems you did pocket the loot,
But only to provide for some of less prosperous members of your family,
As I’m sure you will be quick to point out,
Well, you bought your whole throne, and you sold it on.
And he explained the principle of his punishment,
A long succession of Popes
—We are in a line, squeezed more and more tightly
Into the cracks
All those before me,
Well, not all, just those that were corrupt,
When our time comes, we are replaced by the next,
For greater or lesser time in that position until replaced,
I expect Boniface,
But his time on top is going to be quite a lot shorter than mine,
And the next one after that… very ugly.
Referring to Clement V – bought off by Philip of France
Moved from Rome to Avignon, he caused the schism of Antipopes
We know, yes, even cramped up as you are,
You’ve been given the gift of future sight.
I have, it’s true, been in the presence of the Holy Father on Earth.
And maybe I didn’t show enough respect here,
Sinner he may have been, but still a Pope.
But I had to reply:
—You remember your keys of office, do you?
When Jesus handed these over to Peter,
His hand came back with a slip of gold in the palm,
And St. Peter, when he went to Rome
When he worked to start up Christianity?
Dangerous work, that he did in the hope of huge reward,
Didn’t he just…
I don’t think any of the Apostles took anything for it,
When they elected Matthias to replace Judas.
They did it by drawing lots, so it was God’s will…
You’re in your rightful place – better guard all the money
That made you so powerful,
Or have you figured out yet you can’t take it with you?
Granted you stood firm against Charles
But only because the ill-gotten money helped you there as well.
That you did hold the office… that stays my tongue
And keeps me to some reverence, when I could give vent
To dark gutter opinions,
Nothing so dark I think as undeserved.
The stain affects the people in their lives,
It exalts the wicked, there is my particular anger,
And the good, where is their preferment…?
And those I might prefer, where are they?
Think on the Relevation and the prophet’s image:-
She sits upon the waters and fornicates with kings.
She is the whore of Babylon,
And a whore I see,
Gold and silvern scales to cover her nakedness.
Full rhetoric restored,
My way with words come back to me, the power of them, if I may say so.
And their effect pierced him – the soles quick-stepped more.
Maybe the guilt, or maybe just the fact he couldn’t get at me.
For once, I think Virgil approved my pilgrim’s progress,
He certainly nodded a few times, while was in the middle of it.
And a sly kick was it I noticed, something extra for Pope Nicholas,
Or was he just jumping across to steady me when I slipped a little
On our way back to the bridge.
Take a deep breath, soldier, and continue,
Another valley, the fifth, was ripe for the inquiry.