Dante, Inferno Canto 21 (1st part)

The Fifth Bolgia: Peculators. The Elder of Santa Zita. Malacoda and other Devils.

Of this and that, from bridge to bridge, talking,
At the height of feathered wings, the judges (we’d become) peered on penalty.

And next in Malebolge, more light removed, the sauce reduced,
A tar pit – I’d judge it black – rolling pitch at the double bubble,
Viscous foreverness, In the bituminous fumes, smoaks and emanations,
The lees laid of charred remains,

To caulk Venetian keels, galleon or smack,
I’ve seen, in their shipyards, a great cauldron that boils all months of winter through,
While they re-equip for another touch of piracy or trade,
The shipwrights industrious,
One picking the cordage to fibrous, dipping in that cauldron to first quality oakum,
To make perfect the flotation, the seal, after many voyages,
While others around them,
One busy jointing in place new rails and yards,
One at the patching of staysails,
One shaving up a new oar for the Ligurian sea.
Sadness for shipwrights who never skim the clear blue,
Trapped in the hibernal building, never the acting.

Not by any extra infernal calorific input, a tar pit boiled by God.

I saw, but I could not see into it, except boiling bubbles,
Gravid to burst, the pregnancy of the pitch,
Eruptions that splattered the sides.
Matt, to glossy jewel, the carbuncle lanced for gases

—Look out!

What? Another sin I’m supposed to have done?
But, inattention, trying to see the problem and flee at the same time,
It might help if I knew what I was fleeing,
During which Virgil had already barged me to one side,

—No, look out!

A devil, wings unfurled and bestial, inexorable,
As he came racing down the crags.
His feet pattered, but it was the wings that powered,
Drove him in dynamo for superhuman.
He had a sinner over one shoulder, lugged by the ankles,
Limp swag in the talons,
A devil racing towards us.

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