Friday, January 09, 2009

Ahitophel in Inferno 28

Ahitophel, Absalom and David are alluded to in the memorable scene in Inferno 28 where Dante and Virgil encounter Bertrand de Born among the sowers of discord:

But I remained to look upon the crowd;
And saw a thing which I should be afraid,
Without some further proof, even to recount,

If it were not that conscience reassures me,
That good companion which emboldens man
Beneath the hauberk of its feeling pure.

I truly saw, and still I seem to see it,
A trunk without a head walk in like manner
As walked the others of the mournful herd.

And by the hair it held the head dissevered,
Hung from the hand in fashion of a lantern,
And that upon us gazed and said: "O me!"

It of itself made to itself a lamp,
And they were two in one, and one in two;
How that can be, He knows who so ordains it.

When it was come close to the bridge's foot,
It lifted high its arm with all the head,
To bring more closely unto us its words,

Which were: "Behold now the sore penalty,
Thou, who dost breathing go the dead beholding;
Behold if any be as great as this.

And so that thou may carry news of me,
Know that Bertram de Born am I, the same
Who gave to the Young King the evil comfort.

I made the father and the son rebellious;
Achitophel not more with Absalom
And David did with his accursed goadings.

Because I parted persons so united,
Parted do I now bear my brain, alas!
From its beginning, which is in this trunk.

Thus is observed in me the counterpoise*."

*("contrapasso" - the appropriate form of punishment for the crime.)

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