Dante, Inferno Canto 23 (2nd part)

—We need to do something,

I gasped to Virgil, in terror,
As in water or mirror, face equals face,
Two hearts moving two faces, despite,
Arrived at one pinnacle thought,
Virgil and I agree.

—If we can get down that bank, see there, to the right,
It might get us to the next valley,

Now they are coming – a flash of wings wide, closing fast to intercept,
Action, he pushed me straight off the hillside.

Woken by smoke and flames invading the house,
Not a moment to lose,
No, leave that dressing, just go,
The doors, cannot reach them, the brass handles too hot,
The windows then,
And the child dropped safely to the fireman below,
Break a leg, but preserve a life,
Dignity and decency be regained by the living later,
Without thinking, without caring for the niceties,
Racing from the volcano at Sicilia, you just go,
Racing from lava, you don’t analyse,

We both slithered down in clouds of dust,
Surfed the gravel, scraping the back,
The garments frayed and shredded,
And hit the bottom in a heap – last pebbles pinged,
To look back and see them lined up…

They’re coming no further, strange, look at them, they can’t, they’re stuck,
Which is fine and dandy, I think we’re ok,
I think we really are ok, at last we can actually relax.

They were made trusties, even up to strutting as kings,
Monarchs of the fifth valley, but nothing in the sixth,
Kings can never truly leave their kingdom,
You can’t step out of the circle, God says so,
Shouldn’t even try.

So they strained at the border, those ten demons,
Screaming their abuse, insults bloodcurdling, but impotent.

In the sixth valley, we found a golden people,
Glittering and dazzling, sparkling highlights leapt,
Weeping from fatigue, dragging, tramping,
Trudging in slowest motion, as if sound slowed, light slowed,
Tired unto death, which couldn’t be done again.

Dressed in cloaks, pulled low of cowl to hide the features
(Actually, just like the Benedictines at Cluny,
The ones rolling in wealth, taxes, tithes,
The one who don’t do the daily labours, but subcontract,
Eating roast chicken among the candlebras, cheeses, wines from silver goblets,
Hey hey, it’s the Cluniac way).

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