Dante Alighieri: Inferno
Translated by MARY JO BANG
When I come to, after fainting
From the intense distress of hearing the story
Of two I now felt I knew and felt close to,
I look around and see more torments
And more tormented; on all sides, I see nothing but
Regardless of where I turn and look.
I‘m in the third circle of hell and under assault by rain—
Cold, heavy, odious, and always.
The continual downpour never varies.
Enormous hailstones, sewer water, and snow,
Mix with the soaking rain and add more weight to it.
The ground reeks.
Savage and bestial Cerberus, three-headed freak,
Barks like a Doberman—through each of his three throats—
Over those who are forced to wallow in the slop.
Red eyes, filthy bilious whiskers, swollen belly;
With his claws, he excoriates the ghosts–
Then rips their skin off and quarters them.
The rain makes the poor unfortunates howl like dogs;
They continually turn from side to side,
Uselessly trying to protect themselves from the onslaught.
When Cerberus, that vicious creature, caught sight of us,
He opened his mouths, curled his lips, and showed his fangs.
Every muscle in his body rippled in response.
My teacher reached down several times
And grabbed huge fistfuls of mud and threw them
Into the creature‘s three ravenous gullets.
Just as any hungry canine will set up a racket until knick
Knack, paddy whack, it gets a doggy bone–then snaps it up
And settles down, totally absorbed, to gnaw it clean–
So Cerberus, his demonic faces contorted with chewing,
Quieted, which gave a few seconds of relief to the ghosts
Who were so undone by his barking they wished they were deaf.
We were walking on the ghosts who were stunned
By the deadening rain. Beneath our feet,
They were bodiless, yet seemed to have dimension.
From: Dante Alighieri: Inferno. Translated by MARY JO BANG. Illustrations by Henrik Drescher. Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2012, p. 63 f