|Alichino Attacking Ciampolo, by Gustave Doré|
I have seen horsemen move their camp away,
and launch a strike and muster up a crowd,
and sometimes draw away for their escape;
4 throughout your homeland I’ve seen mounted scouts,
o Aretines, and I’ve seen raiders roam,
the clash of contests and the rush of jousts;
7 with trumpets now, and now with bells, with drums
and signals from the castles and alarms,
with strange and foreign things and with our own;
10 but never with an oboe so bizarre
have I seen horsemen move nor men, nor ships
at any sign so strange from land or star.
13 We went with the ten demons along the cliff.
Ah savage company! but in the church
with saints, and in the tavern with the pigs.
16 Only upon the tar was I alert,
to witness every feature of the pouch
and all the people in it as they burned.
19 Like dolphins, when they make a signal out
to mariners with the arching of their backs,
that they might keep their craft from going down,
22 so now and then, some sinner shows his back
in order to alleviate the torture,
and hides it faster than a lightning flash.
25 And as, at the ditch’s edge, within the water
the frogs crouch down with just their muzzles out,
to hide their feet and bodies underwater,
28 so here on every side the sinners crouched;
but thus they ducked beneath the boiling tar,
whenever Barbariccia came around.
31 I saw, and still it shudders through my heart,
one waiting thus, as one frog in the water
happens to stay while the rest disperse and dart;
34 and Graffiacane, closer than the others,
hooked him up by his tar-entangled hair
and yanked him out, and he looked like an otter.
37 I knew the names of all the demons there,
for I took note of them when they were picked,
and as they called each other, I was there.
40 “O Rubicante, make sure that you stick
your claws into his back, and skin the man!”
cried out together all the maledict.
43 And I: “My master, make sure, if you can,
that you know who he is—the luckless wight
who’s come into his adversaries’ hands.”
46 My guide approached him then; and at his side,
he asked him where he came from. —“I was born
in the kingdom of Navarre,” the wretch replied.
49 “My mother, from a deadbeat, bred me forth—
a destroyer of himself and of his things—
so she put me in the service of a lord.
52 Then I was in the house of the good king
Theobald; there I practiced barratry,
and in this heat I pay a reckoning.”
55 And Ciriatto, with a tusk at each
side of his mouth protruding like a boar,
made him feel how one would rip him at the seams.
58 The mouse was caught between bad cats for sport;
but Barbariccia, with his arms, encased him,
and said: “Stay there, while I can keep him forked.”
61 And to my master, turning round to face him:
“Ask on,” he said, “if there’s more you’d request
to know from him, before the rest unmake him.”
64 And so my guide: “Now tell us: of the rest
of the guilty ones, do you know any Latins
beneath the pitch?” And he: “Just now, I left
67 someone who came from near there, as it happens.
If I were still with him and covered up,
then I would have no fear of hooks and talons!”
70 And Libicocco said: “We’ve had enough;”
and seized him by the forearm with his lance,
and ripped a muscle out by wrenching up.
73 Draghignazzo too wished to lay his hands
upon his legs; at which their chieftain’s eyes
turned round and round at them with a mean glance.
76 When they had all been somewhat pacified,
the one, who still was looking at his gash,
without delay was questioned by my guide:
79 “Who was the one you say you left—a bad
parting—to come ashore here and get caught?”
“It was Friar Gomita,” he answered back,
82 “from Gallura, a vessel of all fraud,
who had in hand his master’s enemies,
and handled each of them to their applause.
85 He took money, and slyly set them free,
as he admits; in other roles as well,
he was no petty barrator, but supreme.
88 Usually there with him is Don Michel
Zanche di Logudoro; and what passes
in Sardinia, their tongues don’t tire to tell.
91 O me, you see the other one who gnashes
his teeth; I would say more, but I am scared
that he prepares himself to scrape my rashes.”
94 And, turned toward Farfarello who had flared
his eyes to strike, the great commander jeered:
“You wicked bird, you get away from there!”
97 “If one of you would like to see or hear,”
began the sinner then, still terrified,
“Tuscans or Lombards, I will bring them here;
100 but let the Malebranche stand aside
a little, so their vengeance won’t be feared,
and, sitting here myself in this place, I,
103 though I am one, I will bring seven here
when I shall whistle, as we often now
will do whenever one of us gets clear.”
106 Cagnazzo, at these words, raised up his snout,
shaking his head, and said: “You hear this malice
he’s thought of just to throw himself back down!”
109 And he, who had a wealth of snares to trap with,
responded: “I am too malicious then,
when I procure for mine a greater sadness.”
112 Alichino couldn’t take it, and against
the others, said: “If you dive in that ditch,
I won’t come galloping after you then,
115 but I will beat my wings above the pitch.
The slope abandoned, shielded by the shore,
we’ll see if you alone, or we, shall win.”
118 O you who read, will hear of this new sport:
each one now turned his eyes from the far shelf,
that one first, who was most opposed before.
121 The Navarrese had picked his timing well;
he planted both his feet, and with a vault
from their commander’s grip, he freed himself.
124 Then each of them was troubled by their fault,
but him the most who caused it; so he leapt
off after him and cried out: “You are caught!”
127 But since his wings could not outstrip the dread,
he did not win: the sinner went beneath,
and, flying up, he lifted back his chest;
130 no differently do ducks plunge underneath,
in a snap, when the falcon presses close,
and then he goes back up, thwarted and aggrieved.
133 And Calcabrina, livid at the joke,
came flying on behind them—wanting him
to make it, so that they could come to blows;
136 and as the barrator had vanished, then
he turned against his comrade with his claws,
and so was clinched with him above the trench.
139 But the other was a seasoned sparrowhawk
and clawed him just as well, and both of them
fell in the middle of the boiling froth.
142 The heat unclinched them in an instant then;
and yet there was no rising out of it,
so thickly had their wings been glued within.
145 Barbariccia, while he lamented with
the rest, made four fly up to the far coast
with all their prodding hooks, and very swift
148 from here and there they circled to their post;
they reached their forks out to the two enmeshed,
who were, within the crust, already roast.
151 And so we left them tangled in that mess.