Dante, Inferno 21 (3rd part)

At this, they howled, —Malacoda, you go!
And he moved out of the huddle – the others stayed

—You reckon I’d be stupid enough to come through here, unarmed,
And if you do stop to think, I’ve come quite a way,
And there may be have been the odd ambush
You reckon I’ve come this far without something on my side…?

Destiny and God is with us on a mission,
And there’s nothing you can do,
My mission is to show my companion through Hell.

The prongs dropped to the ground…

Malacoda caught in two minds,
He turned back:- I know, I know, in miming protestation,
Them still urging him on,

—We’d better not, just on case,
Since that’s the way things stand.

Turning point… it had worked.
My guide then called back to me:

—You can come out now

(but stay close)
When I did the devils edged forward again, as if to have another go.
A tricky situation, walking under the white flag of truce,
Hair-trigger, I did stay close to Virgil,
I didn’t let the devils out of my sight at any time. They just glowered.

Safe-conduct pass signed, pale, tense,
The company at Caprona, seige succesful, resigned,
Coming out under truce, passing through the ranks
Untouched by the powerful army, which simply stood.

They still had a sinner to have fun with,
Gook can have it good – by all means let him have it,
They waved their tridents and shouted to each other:
Shall I give it to him?
And all of them at once: Let him have it!

But Malacoda, still in conversation
With my good guide, turned quickly to his squadron
And said:

—Hold, Scarmiglione! Stand easy there!

To Virgil:

—If you’re looking going down, you won’t get much further
Along this line, the sixth bridge is down,
Take the traverse a bit further on
And there’s another bridge, a couple of clicks,

He became a fantastic instrument to speak the flowing time,
As if nouns, verbs, particles, at the tick, solemn,

—Five hours from this hour yesterday,
One thousand and two hundred sixty-six years ago
That bridge fell.

Since the roadway was shattered.

—Ten of mine are off to check for sinners,
Make sure they’re not using it to get air.
You can go with, I suppose,
Salt of the earth, my boys – no malice in ’em.

He selected the party:

—Out front, Alichino and Calcabrina,
You too, Cagnazzo,
Barbariccia, you’re in charge.

Libicocco, you can go, and Draghignazzo,

He’s running out of reliables,

—Ciriatto and Graffiacane… Farfarello….
Yes, and I suppose you too, Rubicante.

Search all around the stew of pitch,
Hunt them in the rockpools, they’re good at hiding,
You know what to do with any you find –
And keep these two safe and sound till the next ridge,
Then let them go off on their way.

I, mouth behind hand:

—But Virgil, you know the way to go, don’t you…
It’s not as if we need them, is it.
I’m sure you’ve noticed the winks…

And he to me:

—For now, just leave them be,
Once they see some sinners, they’ll be much more interested in them.
It’ll all work out.

Barbariccia mustering, they break camp and prepare to march out,
Along the left hand bank, numbering off,
Each whistled, his tongue between his teeth,
And when done, Malacoda gave them signal to move off,
Using no bugle, instead, his arse.

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