Dante, Inferno Canto 27 (1st part)

Guido da Montefeltro. His deception by Pope Boniface VIII.

The column of fire, now deciding on aloof,
Light but no heat, or heat but no light, in Hell’s commutation,
Shuffled off by its own apparent leave and kind permission of Virgil.

To be replaced by another shimmering will-o’-the-wisp,
Causing our eyes to fix on its tip,
The words in the sinner, slowly released up the ribbon,
At first hard to understand, we got the hang of it,
Tuning in to some strange synaesthesia of ripples, colors,
Until words streamed from it, no need to coax this one out.

Back in the old days, Phalaris, despot of Agrigentum in Sicily,
Commissioned a torture machine, a bronze bull, which you could put a sinner in,
And roast over a fire, so it was the bull making all the bellows,
To the pleasure of all around.
And, just to make sure of his money’s worth, the king tried it first on the designer.

—I heard you, whoever you are, talking Lombard,
And saying go your way then, to that other sinner,
And although I was nervous about approaching you, (I’ve arrived late)
talk to me, if you’d do me the honour,
I’m in the flames but it doesn’t do me any great trouble.

He’d grown used, I think he means, which I wasn’t aware was an option.

—If you’ve only just arrived in Hell, from Italy,
That’s where I hauled all my sins from, if you think about it,
So tell me whether Romagna is at peace or fallen to war again?
I’m from there, the mountains and Urbino, and the source of the Tiber
Who’s up, who’s down, what’s the state of play…?

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