Dante, Inferno Canto 23 (4th part)

And the result of their doomed tenure can still be seen,
Around the Palazzo Vecchio, remains of the palace of the Uberti,
Razed in the 1266 rising.
Any more to add than that, politician?

—Obviously, there were successes we can point to…
But, overall, our tenure was not what it might have been.
I have to admit…

Jovial friars, absolutely,
A reputation for carelessness with respect to their vows,
And quite likely a few indiscretions down there in the kitchens,
Suck on a capon leg
And bounce suggestion towards the wenches…
Later the rewards of indiscretion set to the spits and chopping,
I could see them all back there with the grease and cholesterol.

The monks lording it in their comfort,
Tricking the peasants with their learning,
Soaking up tithes, telling them to obey,
But maybe not so obedient themselves.

I had ‘misdeeds’ on the tip of my tongue,
But before that, we came to one staked out on the ground,
Three stakes, arms outstretched, crucified.
Couldn’t move his head much,
When he saw me, that sinner writhed all over,
As if to speak, but couldn’t.

Fra Catalano said:

—That one you see impaled there – Caiaphas.
He carried the Pharisees in the debate,
Better to give up one man, for the sake of the many.
Too high the priest and too much of a trimmer,
The pragmatic decision.

Hypocrite? Not prepared to stand on first principles, yes, expediency,
But hypocrite?

—He has been stretched across the path, as you can see,
We all have to step on him as we march round.
Father-in-law Annas, who gave up Jesus to him,
And every member of that council are stations along our path,
Their actions have brought much evil on the Jews.

I noticed Virgil double-take here,
Of course, this would have been the first time he’d seen Caiaphas.

And he addressed the friar:

—If you’d be so kind, there should be an exit for us,
A passageway down, on the right perhaps,

He answered:

—There is a ridge that cuts down through the circles…
Except for this one, it’s collapsed,
I suppose you’ll have to clamber among the remains,
You’ll probably be ok.

My leader stood a moment, staring at the ground, thinking,
Counting to ten, perhaps, then said:

—Well, Malacoda lied to us back there,
About which bridge was down.

At which the Friar – and a definite edge:

—When I was in Bologna, I always heard tell
That lying is just one of the Devil’s many vices
The Father of all Lies, I’ve even heard him called…

Virgil didn’t trouble himself to respond to the sarcasm.
But demonstrated something by striding off ahead.
Disturbed, annoyance in his eyes.
I hurried after him – whatever the case, I’m with Virgil,
Following in his footsteps.

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