Roberta Writes – Divine Comedy, Inferno – Canto 9

Dante and Virgil are stuck outside the gates of Dis, having been barred from entry by the fallen angels. While they are waiting to see if Virgil’s appeal to them will change the status quo, the fallen angels come back and slam the gates shut in defiance.

Virgil tells Dante not to worry as an angel from Heaven will descend to open the gates. The wait seems to be long and Dante becomes anxious, asking Virgil if anyone from the upper circles has ever made this descent into Hell. Virgil confirms that he was once required to summons a shade from the circle of Judas, deeper into Hell, so he does know the way.

During this wait, three furies appear. They threaten to summon Medusa to turn Dante to stone. Virgil places his own hands over Dante’s eyes to protect his eyes from the beast.

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An enormous noise, like a hurricane, causes the two poets to look towards Styx. They see a figure crossing without touching the marsh. Shades rush away from him and he moves his left hand in front of him to dispel the fog of the marsh.

Dante recognizes the Heavenly messenger and Virgil asks him to bow down and remain quiet.

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The angel opens the gate of Dis with his rod, and chides the fallen angels for their resistance. He then returns the way he came.

The pair enter the sixth circle and see a large graveyard with uneven open tombs. Flames burn outside the wall of every tomb making them red hot. Terrible moans and howls come from the open tombs which are inhabited by the spirits of arch-heretics of all cults and their followers.

The two poets walk past the burning tombs.

Extract from Canto 9

Even as at Arles, where marshy turns the Rhone,

or as at Pola near Quarnaro’s gulf,

which bounds Italia, and her border bathes,

the sepulchres make all the ground uneven;

so likewise did they here on every side,

save that their nature was more bitter here;

for flames were spread about within the tombs,

whereby they glowed with such intensity,

that no art needeth greater heat for iron.

The lids of all of them were raised, and wails

so woeful issued thence, that of a truth

they seemed the wails of wretched, tortured men.

23 thoughts on “Roberta Writes – Divine Comedy, Inferno – Canto 9

  1. And so the story continues… Every time I look at these verses I think what a mammoth task to write in a strict poetic form, and to translate it too, as DL Sayers did, including all the obscure (to me) references.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The horrors of hell, limbo and purgatory are not for the weak of soul, or spine.
    Are there still many who have this view of heaven vs. hell, and that vision keeps them chained to the church, obedient servants of god?
    I think mythology, which preceded christian religion, had worked out a lot of details that the writers used.
    I like the mix. I find both of interest. Hmm, I might find the demented stories of mythology more…mmm…. colourful.
    I believe neither, but am entertainted. (That was supposed to be … entertained, but entertainted seemed appropriate for the tale, so I left it.)
    I enjoyed catching up a bit here today! Wish I could stay longer!
    Be well!


  3. How fascinating, but also horrifying, Robbie. I agree with your comments that Dante was a genius, and it’s wonderful that you’re interpreting for us, especially for those of us who wouldn’t read this on our own.


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