The tracks on this album have not yet been mixed properly or mastered. If you contribute some money when downloading, it will go towards the requisite studio time to get the job done. As the tracks get completed, I will replace them here, and you can download them again for free!
It's seven hundred years since Dante Alighieri penned his epic poem, Commedia, in which he describes in breathtaking detail a journey into three realms of the Catholic afterlife. So insanely inspired was this poetic undertaking, that swiftly after its printing its giddy readers added the epithet Divine to it, and 'La Divina Commedia' has never been surpassed in scope or style in seven centuries of poetry in any language.
Dante made use of a poetic form described as the 'Dolce Stil Novo' which translates as The Sweet New Style. He was determined to prove that the collection of unrefined dialects of the peninsula that we now know as Italy were just as appropriate for writing poetry as the Latin which all other writers of the time felt obliged to favour. He called this principle 'De Vulgari Eloquentia' - the Eloquence of Vulgar Languages (i.e. the eloquence of the vernacular). In exile from his beloved Florence, he set about writing the Commedia, and over the course of 100 canti, not only proved that the disparate dialects were up to the task, but effectively created the Italian language in the process, and immortalised himself to boot.
Over the epic journey, in effortlessly flowing and ingenious rhyme form, he shows the language's ability to run the gamut of tones from the brutal and disgusting tortures of Hell to high flown and awe-inspiring visions of Paradise. So great was his prowess with rhyme, that he effectively placed himself at the top of the all-time great rhymers that humanity has produced for seven centuries.
However, when in the latter half of the 20th Century, in New York, an upstart group of young musical innovators gave birth to a style of music and a subculture called Hip Hop, all of a sudden, in the form of Rap, there arrived poets who took the art of rhyming to obsessive extremes, finally presenting a poetic form that, in terms of rhyming at least, could hold its own alongside and perhaps even surpass that of history's greatest.
Immortal innovators of the artform such as Rakim, Talib Kweli, Eminem, KRS One, Mos Def, Nas, Notorious BIG, Tupac Shakur and Pharoahe Monch, took this rap rhyming to incredible depths, exploring all angles of their own vernacular, spitting intricate multi-syllable rhymed verses over irresistible hip hop beats and delivering their version of the Dolce Stil Novo to an insatiable world, and in the process proving, like Dante, that their Vulgar vernacular could have global relevance in its eloquence.
So, to this project. The basic agenda being simply to retranslate the Inferno using some of the forms of Rap - Multi-syllabic rhyme patterns, driving beats - to reengage with this epic medieval poem, and maybe contribute to garnering it a new audience. Of course, being a mere beginner in this art form myself, I have done my best to do justice to both the form and the source material. Any seeming deficiencies in either are in fact mine, and I apologise in advance.
released January 6, 2013
As references to the original poem, I have used the following editions
The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri Volume I Inferno, edited and translated by Robert M. Durling (Oxford University Press, 1996) - an excellent side by side translation with great commentary
The website Danteinferno.info which places the translations of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), Henry Francis Cary (December 6, 1772 - August 14, 1844) and Charles Eliot Norton (November 16, 1827 - October 21, 1908) alongside each other for easy comparison. I have to admit I favour the Longfellow translation, and have made liberal use of his ideas for this piece. www.danteinferno.info/translations/index.html
Finally, the superlative performance/lecture series 'Tutto Dante' from Roberto Benigni, in which he appeared night after sell-out night in the Piazza Santa Croce in Florence to deliver a commentary and reading (from memory) of the entire Inferno. It has been an indispensable resource, and is available on dvd.
Track Name: Canto 1 - Dante's Inferno Rap Translation - Hugo The Poet
Midway through our life's journey I came to
In the midst of a dark, and dangerous wood,
The way through, the straight path, the way to choose
Having been lost, misplaced and erased from view.
How hard it is here to even come near
to describing sincerely and clearly the sheer
Horridness of this forest, such gruesomeness fierce
That its merest mention renews all my fears
So bitter and awful, death is little more,
But in order to talk of the good that would befall
I am forced to discourse, recall and share
All the myriad other things I saw there.
I'm not aware, nor can easily describe
The sequence of time that led me to arrive
Stumbling tired In a wasteland and through dark
So full of slumber when I had abandoned the true path.
But at last, after I had looked for it still
I found myself standing at the foot of a hill
At the end of that valley which had pierced my heart
And blinded my mind with fear from the start
Gazing from the dark, up the slopes and boulders
I was able to glimpse that mountain's shoulders
Already clothed in the dawn light of the sun
Which shows the way for the wanderer and guides everyone.
Thus was the fear that had become so violent
Becalmed, and made somewhat quiet,
Fear had remained in the lake of my heart the dweller
For that entire night which I had passed in terror
and like a swimmer with shortness of breath
Who crawls onto the shore having avoided his death
And looks back at the scene and beholds
The turmoil and boil of the sea as it rolls
thus my poor soul, still hooked in panic,
Turned around and fearfully looked back at
The passage, that valley, that ill fen
Which had never left a person alive until then.
I needed a moment to rest my weary bones
But then Began scrambling over the stones
Now to Climb the barren slope leaving ground behind
always keeping my stronger foot on the downside
Intrepid, but barely had I commenced this effort
Than leapt out of nowhere a leopard
Svelte and light, moving as a rapid blur
Darting, Cloaked in a pelt of dappled fur.
I was Disturbed, shepherded by this leopard,
Which didn't flee and impeded whichever way I was headed
Indeed, so confined, I, unable to run
Was tempted to turn and return the way I had come
Nevertheless, this was the hour of morning
The sun was mounting in the shroud of the Dawn
And Alongside, the spring stars were rising above
Just as on that auspicious day when the Divine Love
First conspired to set into motion
the beautiful events which inspire eternal devotion
So that there was reason for hopeful feelings
the glittering of that creature's coat even
And between The hour of the day and the sweet season
These all were causes for my easier breathing
Yet not so easy that fear could be defied when
faced with the appearance of the face of a fearsome lion
Seemingly charging on and towards me
Teeth bared, with ravenous head held lofty
So that, this ferocious beast there entering
Seemed to set in dread the very air trembling
I was tempted to escape and I would've
But straight away came a slavering emaciated wolf
A she-wolf with Ribs exposed, whose savage hungering
has caused so many casualties of lack and suffering
Pummelling my spirit at the very sight
Of This creature increasing my terror and fright
I reached the limit of my will to fight
And lost hope of crossing the slope and ascending the height
And like one who has had life handed to him on a plate
And acquired a fortune while things were great
who all of a sudden loses it all in a twist of fate
And breaks down, weeping in a despondent state
Thus, I became when that remorseless beast
Which knows no joy or thoughts of peace
Approached,Without ceasing, snapping growling and snarling
And forced me back down into the dark again.
As I scrambled down the valley slope in retreat
Hope defeated, suddenly I approached within reach
Of a figure who stood, frozen, speechless
As if he had spent eons with no speaking
When I could see him in that vast desert
I beseeched him speaking to him, asking, begging
"Have mercy on me," I started to yell and demand
"Whichever you are; spirit, or genuine man!"
He answered: "I am not a man,
not anymore. I already was a man.
And my parents each hailed from the
city of Mantua in the region of Lombardy.
I was born to these late during the period
of the reign of Julius Caesar
and lived in Rome under good Augustus
in the time of the lying gods of false substance
I was a poet and I composed and recited
odes to that righteous son of Anchises
Aeneas, who fled from the city of Troy,
splendid Ilion, as it was stripped and destroyed
in fire. But you, tell me, why are
you returning down here to the mire?
Why are you not climbing higher
on that mountain, the prime source of all that inspires?"
"Could it be that you are that Virgil?
That bounteous fountain of words that stirs still
My heart and imparts such a river of speech?"
I responded to him thus, with face hidden timidly
"O, I call upon the honour and luminosity
Of all poets, to now illumine the curiosity
And draw up that long study, the depth of affection
That allowed me to explore your epic collections.
You are my master, and you are my author
You alone, among all poets were the source of
The beautiful style which has enveloped
Every work I've had the honour to develop
See this terrible she-wolf beast on the slope
That has made me turn back and defeated my hope
Please can you protect me, o legendary sage?
For she makes the very blood tremble in my veins"
"For you the best way through is to take
an entirely different route" he was moved to say
when he observed the tears on my face
"if you wish to escape from this fearful place
For this beast you face, which sets your terror free
Never permits anyone to cross her territory
And if someone attempts, she harasses his step
So persistently that he is dragged to his death
And the savagery that she possesses of nature
So malign and ruthless, so desperate with hatred
With an appetite that can never be sated
But is hungrier after food than before she ate it
And she mates with any one she can find
To uncountable animals has she offered her hind
And this number will continue to climb
Until the greyhound arrives to kill her in kind
This greyhound shall be one who feeds
Not on land, or precious metals, or on greed
But on wisdom, on love and on good deed
his simple kingdom shall be vast and without need
Indeed it is safe to say that it is he
The awaited saviour of poor Italy
The country for whose sake Camilla the maid
Euryalus, Turnus, and Nisus, were all slain.
The she-wolf shall be ceaselessly chased
By the greyhound through every single city state
Until he has eventually driven her down again
To the inferno from whence she in envy came.
Due to this beast, for your sake I advise
That you should follow me and make me your guide
Stay by my side, I shall discern and trace
A path through the maze of an eternal place
A place wherein you will hear desperate screams,
Wailing and moans, and you will see
Ancient spirits in pain, bereft of breath,
Each one crying out for the second death
Then you shall see those who though located
In the flames of a fire remain contented
For they can harbour hope one day to enter,
Whenever it shall be, among the blesséd
And then at that point if you wish to ascend
To see those people, a spirit will be sent
Who is more worthy than I can compare
Then I will depart and leave you with her there
Because that all-powerful emperor that is
The ruler up heaven forbids
Anyone with me to travel through his city walls
Given that I was rebellious to his laws
He Rules over all, and everywhere the same
And that is the place from which he reigns;
That is his city, and his most potent throne
How happy are those who are chosen to go"
And so I said to him, "Poet, I beg of you,
In the name of that same God you never knew
So that I may be allowed to flee this curse
And escape The woe surrounding me and worse
please, guide me, and take me to
the places you stated so I may see The
gates of saint Peter and those pitiable ones you described,"
then he moved off and I followed behind
Track Name: Canto 2 - Dante's Inferno Rap Translation - Hugo The Poet
Inferno: Canto II
The day was winding down at dusk
and the fading sky all brown with rust
Called all beasts alive and roaming
To cease creeping and sleep, but I alone
Prepared myself to enter the fray
To walk the path, that lengthy way
The war, the wrath, the sinister fate
Which my unfailing mind shall unflinchingly relate.
I call now upon the eternal muses
The highest intellect to help me through this
And upon my memory which wrote down everything
Now your power will manifest again.
I began to speak 'Poet, who guides me
Please, look right deep inside of me
And inquire if the required strength resides in me
Prior to entrusting me with this giant scheme;
In your grand poem it was written
That Aeneas, the father of Silvius, while still living
Travelled to the Underworld, flesh still intact
And went there and back with all his senses and tact,
In fact, God, the enemy of all that is bad
Extended that grand honour to that man,
Aeneas, considering the effect he would have,
Who and what he was in the ineffable plan,
Which cannot seem unworthy of respect to all sane
In intellect, for he had been selected and ordained
In Empyrean heaven sole and alone
Sire and father of the empire and noble soul of Rome.
And furthermore, that exact city state
To tell the truth, was actually established to take
Its place as the holy and sacred seat of
The church, the successor of great saint Peter.
And during his march into the depth of earth,
The glorious journey you expressed in your work,
Aeneas heard prophecies which came to be
Of his victory and of the nascent papacy.
And later Saint Paul was called to the same walls
And came forth to restore strength to the cause
This faith, which faithfully maintained is
The greatest source and sole path of salvation.
But me? Why me? Why would I be chosen?
Who would ever say that I was appropriate?
I am neither Paul, nor am i Aeneas,
Not I, nor anyone, would ever believe this.
For these reasons, if I relent and agree to
Embark on this journey, i honestly fear that
Lunacy infuses this enterprise and quest
But you are wise, and know me more than I can express'
And just like those who change their minds
And take back a wish they have previously designed,
And at the mercy of tides in their emotional core,
Withdraw from all they'd begun a moment before
Forlorn, I did exactly the same,
Standing upon that dark hillside I became
Fretful and stressed, as thought after thought divested
Me of all the bold intent I'd initially possessed.
'If I have understood your discourse right'
The shade of that great poet replied
'Then your heart and spirit are now eclipsed
By a most ignominious cowardice.
Now this is very often the source
Of obstacles that buffet a man off course
From a noble quest, just as animals scare
And cower from shadows that aren't even there.
Step near, and allow me to make myself clear,
And You will free your heart of fear,
As I relate the tale of how I came here
And the words, when I first grieved for you, I did hear.
I was among those shades without tears
Who remain suspended, when now appeared
A lady, so beautiful, blessed and inspired
That when she called, I begged to attend her every desire.
Her eyes were shining the same as the sun
and then so lightly, in her native tongue
She began to speak and address me alone,
Her voice employing the most angelic of tones
"O, noble and courteous Mantuan spirit,
Whose fame in the world remains undiminished
And which shall endure within it
Without limit, Until the very world is finished;
A dear friend of mine, though no friend of fate,
Has landed himself in a wretched state
Upon the dark hill, and in terror shakes,
Tempted to turn from the path and step away
And may have already strayed
So far that I fear I have attempted too late
To offer him succour, or help him with aid
Given all I have heard of him in heaven of late
Now go to him, make your ways converge
Bring to bear your ornate words
And whatever else he needs to be safe
And thus console my fearful state.
I am Beatrice...
I am Beatrice, who bids you to hear this
I came from and shall return to the dear bliss
And the force which moved me to speak herewith
Was the love divine that shines peerless.
When again I am before God in his presence
I shall be sure to praise and frequently mention
You, and your carrying out this grand deed"
Then she fell silent, so I began to speak
"Lady of divine virtue, who defines the word 'True'
And to whom the elevation of the entire earth is due
For through you humanity assumes
A higher position than the nearest heaven, the moon,
In truth, the order you gave me
Is so pleasing to me that had I already obeyed it
Without hesitation, it would be too late as
For me to carry out your wish, you need only state it
But please enlighten me as to how you deign
To descend to this centre of such burning pain
Leaving behind the vast and eternal plain
To which you yearn to return again."
"Seeing as you so sincerely desire to know
The reason why, briefly I will show"
she answered me, "why I am not afraid
To descend here and enter this place.
The only things that should ever cause us alarm
Are things that could genuinely cause us harm;
For the rest, the contrary is clear
That which cannot hurt us, causes no fear.
I am made and created by God
In the mercy and grace and name of our Lord,
In such a way that the misery that pervades this spot
Taints me not, nor do flames even make me hot.
There is a most gentle lady dwelling
In the very highest position In heaven,
And whom the situation that I've been telling
Grieves so much, that up there, harsh judgement is swelling.
She went and sought st Lucia of Syracuse
And said, 'The one who has held a faithful light for you
Now has need of guidance from you.
I will choose therefore to entrust his life to you'
Lucia, enemy of every cruelty, in haste
Went away, and came through to the place
Where I was sitting in contemplation
With wise Rachel, the lover of Jacob
'Beatrice,' said Lucia, when she came to our spot,
'You who are the essence of the praise of God,
Why do you aid him not,
He who loved you so, and in loving, strayed from the flock?
Do you not hear the pitiful depth of his cries
Can you not see imminent death in his eyes
Can you not see him drowning in the tide
On the floor Of an ocean that has dried?'
No one in the entire world has ever run
So rapidly and urgently towards some
Advantage or away from some peril to come
Than I did immediately when her words were done
So I have come down here and left
The sanctity of my holy seat so blessed
Trusting the words and honesty of your text
Which honour you and all who hear its depth"
Then, immediately after she had said
These words, she turned and I could see she wept,
As her eyes shone then, even brighter
Which made me try to speed my arrival
And I came straightaway from the fire
To find you, exactly as she had desired
And I have rescued you from that terrible beast
That prevented you from ascending the peak
So, what is wrong? Why do you delay?
Why is your heart so craven and afraid?
Why do you wait? why are you paralysed
How can you not have a brave appetite,
When at this very moment in Paradise
Three ladies of the court are standing by,
Watching over you and holding candles bright
And with my own words I have sworn to satisfy'
And then, just like flowers
That Bend low and close, frozen in nocturnal hours
But when illumined by the sun's shower
Of light, stand upright and open, showing renewed power
So did I also, fight back my exhaustion
Stand upright, and feel great courage coursing
Through my heart, imparting such new purpose
That I burst forth and spoke like an intrepid person
'I give thanks for Beatrice, her compassion
Love, and charity, and her swift actions in
Calling you, Mantuan, and for your reactions
In acting without delay to obey the words she had to say:
You have inflamed my heart with such Fire
And raised my desire for this entire
Adventure together, for when my spirit was tired,
Your words inspired my intent from the mire.
Now let us hasten our departure and go
For henceforth one sole will charges us both
You are my Leader, Lord and master,' I spoke
As he moved off, and I entered the wild and dark road.
Track Name: Canto 3 - Dante's Inferno Rap Translation - Hugo The Poet
Inferno: Canto III
"THROUGH ME YOU GO TO THE CITY OF GRIEVING
OF WAILING, GNASHING OF TEETH AND OF SCREAMING
THROUGH ME YOU ENTER ETERNAL PAIN WITHOUT EQUAL
THROUGH ME YOU GO TO REMAIN AMONG THE LOST PEOPLE
MY CREATOR WAS MOTIVATED BY JUSTICE
AND HE MADE ME FROM SUBLIME SUBSTANCE
AS AN EVERLASTING INSTRUMENT OF THE HIGHEST WISDOM
COMBINED WITH PRIMAL LOVE IN THE DIVINE VISION
NOTHING WAS MADE IN ALL CREATION
EXCEPTING THE ETERNAL BEFORE MY MAKING
AND I SHALL ENDURE FOREVER
ABANDON ALL HOPE, YE WHO ENTER"
This was the grave statement engraved in dark script
Written straight above the gate to a vast crypt
I paused, turned forth to Virgil and asked him
'Sir, the meaning of these words is hard to pin'
And he, answering with such deliberate intent
As if to demonstrate that he knew what I meant
said, 'Here you must surrender all doubts in your head;
All trace of cowardice must now be dead.
We have arrived at the place where I said
That you'll witness dwelling in suffering without end
The souls of those who know they are forever lost
To the benevolent intellect of God.'
And then his right hand extended to mine and
With an encouraging smile he held my eye
Which comforted me more than I can tell
Before he finally led me right into that occult realm.
Immediately on entering, the sound of pained yelling,
Sobs and desperate cries overwhelmed me
Assailing my ears, Echoing through the starless air
And provoking me uncontrollably to shed tears.
Such an incomparable mix of strange languages,
Horrible dialects, savage words of agony
Voices shrill and hoarse, forced to the loudest shrieking
All punctuated by the coarse sound of beatings
made a confusing, brutal, deafening cacophony
That turns tumultuously, swirling constantly
In that dark atmosphere beyond the reaches of time
Like a sand storm that rises when a whirlwind strikes
And I, my head full of horror and fear,
Said, 'Master, what is this that I hear?
And who are these people here,
Who are so grievously overcome with grief and tears?'
And he then replied to me, 'This choir of grief
That rings out hereabouts so violently
Is formed from the lukewarm souls who delayed
Their decision and remained living with neither infamy or praise
And mixed in among them are angels as well
From that cowardly group who didn't deign to rebel
were faithful neither to God nor to who reigns in hell
but instead chose to live for themselves
Heaven and hell both reject them the same
Heaven because their presence would tarnish its name
And deep Hell because the wicked would gain
Some fame from these angels if they entered in.'
So I said to him 'Master, what ever is
So terrible that they scream and wail so relentlessly
And lament so strongly and grievously?'
And he to me, 'Very well, I will tell you briefly.
This whole group of souls is so totally bereft,
Possessing no hope of approaching closer to death
And their blind life is so base in this pit
That they envy every single other fate that exists.
The world in which you live doesn't deign to permit
Any fame of their name to remain on its lips
Mercy and justice disdain them as quick.
Let's talk of them no more, but look and then split.'
When I looked back at the pit,
I saw a black flag in rags on a stick, but no one carrying it
And yet it was travelling quick
Flapping in the wind and refusing to stand still for a bit
And after it, there came a gigantic horde
A rabble chasing after that flag as it soared
And that train of people was so long and plenty
I couldn't believe death had undone so many.
As they came near I was tempted to tremble
I looked at them and recognised several
And then I saw one particular shade and knew that
It was the one who through cowardice made the great refusal.
Immediately I understood and was certain
That this rabble circling was made up of those persons
Who were cowards and equally deserving
of the disdain of God and of his enemies' curses.
These pathetic creatures, who never really lived,
Were now all naked and dreadfully tormented
By large flies and wasps that often vexed
And bit them, attracted by their rotting flesh,
And down their faces, dripping bright
was blood streaming right from their horrific bites,
Mixing with their tears, and putridly slathered
Around their feet where it gathered to be consumed by maggots.
And when I took a look beyond those nameless spirits
I saw an incomparable mass of shades of figures
Standing massed, back on the banks of a great river
So I grasped the chance to ask, 'Master, will you reveal
To me the details so that I may know the
Station, nation and Identification of those who
Seem so urgently disposed to cross over,
Which I can discern even though the light is low.'
And he then exclaimed to me, a little impatient,
'These things will be fully explained when
We have travelled on
And our feet have reached the banks of the dark river Acheron.'
And we walked on a bit, but I kept my eyes set
Down, on the ground and the path ahead
And in fear that by speaking I'd earn his displeasure
I kept my mouth shut until we reached the river.
Where we witnessed the scrawniest
Tallest longest bearded oarsman rowing towards us
In a boat, his hair and beard all grey with old
Yelling, 'Woe to you, depraved souls!
Resign yourselves nigh and for the rest of time
To never henceforth espying the sky, for I
Will lead you to the other shore and leave you
In eternal darkness, in fire and in freezing.
And you standing there, Breathing air,
You living soul, separate yourself and stand clear
Of the rest of these wretches who are all dead.'
But when he comprehended that I had not left,
He said, 'There is another road, and other ports
By which you'll cross over to the other shore.
You will not cross here, today, do not wait:
There is a lighter boat that you will take.'
And my guide defiantly replied to his request,
'Charon, Do not torture yourself with such stress
This quest has been willed and blessed
Where what is willed can manifest so cease your protest.'
There then arrived a moment of silence
As the bearded jaw of the pilot fell quiet
On the banks of that river mire
But his eyes were still encircled by rings of fire.
And after that moment of peace, he began to speak
And the bedraggled naked souls within reach
Became enraged, writhing, grinding their teeth
As soon as they heard the crude lines of his speech
They blasphemed, cursing god and his deeds
They cursed their parents and all their beliefs
They cursed the human race, the place on earth,
The day, and even the semen which created their birth.
Then all of the entire horde moved forward
Involuntarily, weeping, their bodies being drawn
Towards the river, that malevolent shore,
Which calls all who do not tremble before God's law.
That is where this demon Charon forever stands tall
With haggard eyes glowing like embers of coal
And making signs with his hands, gathers them all
And any that resist, he smacks back with his oar.
And just like in Autumn, when the leaves all come
Detached from the tree one by one and begin falling
Until the branch itself looks back down
And sees all of its clothing collapsed on the ground,
In this way, indeed, this strange motley gathering
This fistful of the evil seed of Adam
Throw themselves to the edge and over
Like a falcon returning on the signal of its owner.
In this manner they move off and travel
Rowed across the dark river waves by Charon
And before they have finished crossing the channel
On this bank a whole other flock has already gathered.
'My son,' explained my courteous master,
'Those who die in the eye of God's eternal wrath all
Come and gather here on these shores and just stand
Together from every single earthly culture and land;
And they demand, completely ready and willing
To be taken quickly across this malevolent river
For the justice divine so inclines and inspires
That it converts and turns their burning fear into desire
In all history no good soul has been claimed
By Charon, and been made to cross this way
So if he complains of you in this scene
You can clearly understand what he means.'
When he finished speaking the dark landscape
And the ground surrounding me began to shake
So violently trembling, upset so terribly
That I am bathed in craven sweat at the memory:
The earth itself split, with a terrifyingly large sound
And an awesome fork of lightning suddenly blasted out
Crimson in colour, so bright and charged now
It overcame all of my senses, and I passed out.
Track Name: Canto 4 - Dante's Inferno Rap Translation - Hugo The Poet
All of a sudden a massive thunderclap was breaking
Ferociously, opening the sky, causing it to crack and making
me shake my head, and start up straight with
Eyes agape like someone by great force awakened
At this incredibly loud sound, I moved my eyes all around
As they were finally rested from my time down on the ground
I rose up to try and take in my surroundings as well
Squinting to see this place where I found myself
And I immediately found that I was literally sitting on the lip
On the very edge of the ledge of the precipice
Of the cliff of the valley of the terrifying abyss
Wherein the tortured screams and cries are infinite
So dark, obscure and tenebrous
So incredibly deep and nebulous
That when I attempted to stare at it
I could discern nothing at all in the depths of it
"Now we climb down straight into the blind world"
The poet, beside me, intoned with a face white as pearl
And after a second then, As he beckoned Said
"I shall enter first, and then you shall go second"
Then I stared straight at his face and became aware
That a horrified pallid lack of colour was there
And said, "How am I expected to go down there, if you're scared?
You, who are supposed to be comforting my fears"
And he then responded, "It is for the sour anguish
In which the crowd of tragic people in this place now languish
That my face and manner are afflicted with palour
You have made a grievous error, mistaking my pity for terror.
Come on, let us get on and commence with this
The journey impels us, and we've got a long way ahead of us"
Then he went in, and bade me enter the shroud of the mist
Into the outermost circle that surrounds the abyss
And I stood there listening and to my surprise
There seemed to be no shrieks, screams or cries
But instead a multitude of jaded sighs
That caused a tremor to rise in those changeless skies
And these sighs of such misfortunes
Were sighs not arising from torment or sick tortures,
But rather from the sorrow that enshrouded and filled this
Enormous tightly packed crowd of men women and children
And just then, spoke my good master to me
"I notice that you haven't even bothered to ask me
Who these souls that you behold might be
Well, I would have you know before we go farther that these
Souls were not guilty of sinning
And if they were good while living, it was not sufficient
For they hadn't undergone a baptism
Which is the gate to heaven in the faith you happen to believe in;
Or if they were alive in these times
Prior to the arrival of Jesus Christ
Then they didn't worship your lord in the manner your creed prescribes
Among their number, I too am deemed to reside
For defects such as these, and no deeper crime
We are consigned in the deep for all time
We are not punished by torture or burned in fire
But instead condemned to dwell in hopeless eternal desire"
My heart, on hearing these very words,
Was seized with grief and heavily burdened
For I knew of people of significant worth
Who'd been suspended here in limbo since they'd left earth
"Tell me, my master, tell me my lord"
I asked, with the fire of desire in my thought
To be absolutely certain of the wise design at the core
Of the faith which is refined beyond flaw
"Has anyone ever succeeded in leaving
This place, by his own deeds or through another's means,
And subsequently been welcomed in heaven?"
And he, who understood, though my meaning was hidden
Replied, "I had only just died, and entered this state,
When I witnessed a most incredible event
Sweeping through these parts came a glorious figure
Crowned with a shroud of victorious shimmer
And with vigour, he rescued the soul of the first father
And the soul of his son Abel emerged after
And Noah, and Moses the bringer of commandments
And also the one who did as he was asked to:
Abraham, and David, the king of wisdom,
Jacob and his father Isaac, with him
And his twelve children, And his wife Rachel,
For whose sake he made sure to do all he was able;
And many others beside, this figure took them away
To heaven's gates, By his side, and his blessing he gave
Unto them, and I must state that prior to that day
Not a single human spirit or shade had ever been saved."
During this whole time we were talking
We didn't pause once, and we never stopped walking
But continued pressing onward to step through
this ghostly forest, where the spirits were crowded like trees in a dense wood
We had not travelled far along our route
From the cliff top where I had previously come to
When all of a sudden, a fire appeared in my view
That conquered the darkness in that hemisphere of gloom
We were still some remove from this higher place
Which was brightly illuminated through by the fire of grace
But not so far to keep me from telling
That some most honourable people must call it their dwelling
I turned to Virgil beside me, to ask
"O you, who honour every science and art
Who are these who with such honour are so decidedly marked
That from the rest of the multitude, they reside apart?"
And he replied to me fast, "The high regard
And honourable titles you people decide to grant them
Up above in your lifetime, resound in the sky and
Suffice to convince heaven to mildly advance them."
Just then I heard a disembodied voice intoning
In volume growing "Let us honour this poet
Among poets: the great powerful Virgil
Whose spirit departed, but now returns still"
As soon as that voice's pitch had ceased
I saw the shades of four mighty figures of history
Approaching us with quickening speed but
Showing no happiness on their faces, or misery either
Virgil slowed to a pause to hold forth
"Behold the one in front who is holding a sword
And comes strolling slowly before
The other three with the composure of noble lord.
That one is Homer of course
Whom 'The Sovereign King Of All Poets' we call
The next one is the satirist Horace
The last is Lucan, preceded by Ovid
And because to each of them, the title
Which that disembodied voice gave me in that recital
Applies just the same, they are truly impelled
To come out and welcome me home, and they do it well"
In this manner I was able to wholly view
Assembled in its entirety the noble school
Of high poetry, over which that lord Homer, who
Soars over the rest like an eagle, alone rules.
Then they formed a huddle and had an impromptu meeting
And after a while they stopped speaking.
They turned around and kind of nodded in greeting
And Virgil couldn't prevent a smile from creeping in
And an even higher honour was mine as
To my delight, they unanimously decided
To allow me to join as one of their kind
And be considered the sixth greatest poet of all time.
Then we continued to walk towards the bright light
As one group, discoursing of such stupefying heights
That to stay silent about them in hindsight
Is as sweet as it was to talk of them in that twilight
Having walked over a while we arrived at last at
The foot of a noble high and vast castle
Guarded and encircled by seven huge walls of stone
And defended all around by a beautiful moat
Which we walked over like it was solid ground
And through seven gates entered the castle grounds
I entered beside these sages at last and found
a large meadow where the freshest green grass abounds
The people around there standing were languid
Their eyes solemn, movements slow, but their authority was candid
Language was something they seldom brandished
And when they did, their voice was never frantic
Our poetic group walked off to one side
And climbed to an opening filled with light
So that we could view the scene from on high
And see at once everyone dwelling on site
There in front of us, arranged down on the green
Were carefully and graciously pointed out to me
The spirits of great figures, whom to have seen
I feel myself elevated and honoured in the extreme
I recollect seeing Electra, standing ahoy
With Hector and Aeneas among her companions from Troy
What's more I saw murdered Julius Caesar
In full armour with eyes burning like a warrior leader
I saw Camilla, who sacrificed herself for all Italians
I saw Penthesilea, queen of the amazons
And as I carried on, and I also saw the
King of Rome, Latinus with Lavinia, his daughter
I saw Brutus, scourge of Tarquin, Tuscany's last king,
And Lucretia, Julia, Marcia, Cornelia, just glancing
At these exalted women from the start of Rome,
And the mighty Saladin, I saw sitting apart, alone
At that moment, upon raising my gaze a little
I was able to glimpse then the king of wisdom:
Aristotle, the king of the knowledge kingdom
Together with his philosophical family, sitting
He is the centre of everyone's attention
All gaze upon him, pay him respects and
I also beheld Socrates and Plato next
Who stand closer to Aristotle than anyone else
Then Democritus, who proposed the existence of atoms
Diogenes, with two ears who lived in a barrel
Thales, Zeno, Heraclitus, Anaxagoras,
And Empedocles, killed by the miraculous tortoise
And the cataloguer of the effects of all herbs
Dioscorides, and the lyricist of all words
Orpheus, that musical demigod emperor
And Tully, Livy, and the moral Seneca.
Then there was Euclid, great master of geometry,
And the genius of astronomy, Ptolemy
Galen, Hippocrates, Avicenna
Averroes, who translated Aristotle for us to read forever
I regret that I cannot list all i saw
Because there are so very many more in store
That if I attempted to recall them all
Many times word compared to fact would fall short.
At this point, our noble group of six splits in two
As my wise guide takes me on a different route
Away from the peace, into the trembling air of doom
Into an area where all is buried in gloom.
Track Name: Canto 5 - Dante's Inferno Rap Translation - Hugo The Poet
Inferno: Canto V
And so now Virgil urged me to descend out of the first circle
Down to the Second which though it encircles and girdles
Less space, is a place certainly worse still
Causing more pain, more curses, and is more hurt filled.
There stood King Minos, Judge of the sinners
Snarling, as his eyes lock and centre on each one that enters
He hears their line of transgressions at the entrance
And with a whip crack, decides and sends them off where his judgement delivers
What I mean is that whenever an evil born spirit
Enters and falls forlorn before him in the thrall of these limits
It cannot help itself at all, and completely confesses
And that king connoisseur of sinful deeds and transgressions
Listens, and judges which place in Hell is right
Then he whips his scaly tail around him as many times
As the number of the circle of Hell he then decides
This sinner should be confined to spend the rest of time.
At any time thousands upon thousands stand before him,
Then one by one they crawl down and present themselves to fortune
They confess, hear their judgement as Minos calls it
And then in the next instant are hurled downward, violently falling.
"You there, who've come to enjoy this miserable hospitality"
Said Minos to me, when he glanced at me
Pausing for a moment all horrid activity
Of his grand and grisly office of responsibility
"Beware of the means by which you enter this place and
Also in whom you place you trust and faith cos
Don't think you can escape just because the gates are spacious!"
But Virgil snapped back thus: "Why complain to us?
Do not impede or even conceive of getting in the way
Of his journey this day, for it is fate ordained
It has been willed where the power is instilled
To fulfil that which is willed, so now just be still."
And now I have reached the point of
Hearing the growing lowing of a multitude of screeching voices
Now I have arrived At the place where I
Am assailed by weeping and pained cries.
I came right into a place where all light is silent
Which bucks, strains and bellows with heightened violence
Like the sea does when tempests rise and strike it
When winds arriving from opposite tides are fighting.
This hurricane of the inferno never calms its assault
But hurls and assaults millions of spirits on through the vault
In pitch blackness, the captive souls roll in this madness
Being flung rapidly through the air and smashed upon rocks
And when they are about to drop and hit the ground,
The air all around is drowned out with the sound
Of shrieking, screaming, hoarse with the pain
As they curse the divine force for forcing them into this forceful whirlwind and torturing them this way.
I was able to order my thoughts and clearly comprehend
That into this terribly awful torture and torment
Were condemned the incredibly many sinners of carnal crimes
Who let their lustful desires take charge of their minds.
And just as starlings fly on their wings as one
Forming giant flocks in the winter months
Darting and weaving, their numbers infinite thus
Move the sinner spirits in that wind as dust.
It just blasts them here, there, downward, over and upward
And they have not the slightest hope of comfort
For eternity, Certainly no hope of unction
Not even that their seething pain could show slight reduction.
Yet there is another group of shades residing,
Who, gracefully like cranes are flying
Slowly, steadily, but plaintively crying
I saw them arriving Making a line across the horizon
Both types of soul are impelled by the stressful wind.
After a while I turned to Virgil and said to him
"Master, please tell me then
Who are these souls flung about with this black air molesting them?"
"Among the lusty, the first one we see there in the furious gale;
I can tell you must be curious as to her tale,"
He yelled this, "She was once Empress
Of a large empire which extended a vast distance.
By sensuousness, incestuous lustful vices,
She was so broken and corrupt minded
She just decided to make incest legalised and
Thus cover up her own transgressions against moral guidance.
Her name was Semiramis, and when her husband Ninus perished
She became empress instead and
When the people revolted, mistakenly thinking she could halt it
she disrobed and vaulted naked onto her balcony to be savagely and fatally assaulted
Those who more calmly fly above like doves died for love
Dido, who committed suicide cause she loved
Aeneas, having sworn on Sichaeus's ashes not to love
And there: Cleopatra for whom lust was love
There: Helen of Troy, for whose sake was embroiled
A Seemingly endless era of terrible toil
And the great Achilles flying above as well
Who was ambushed and killed due to love itself
And Helen's abductor Paris is with them, and Isolde's lover Tristan"
Virgil named and singled out with his finger
As We lingered
More than a thousand souls whose life had for love been extinguished
After I had listened to my teacher deliver
This list of dames and cavaliers - historic figures
Overwhelming pity took my attention thither
And I was bewildered, I had a fit of shivers
And I interrupted his flowing, by saying "o, poet,
I have a desire growing to know them;
Those two together there who seem to be floating with
Such lightness on the wing in this strongest wind."
And he replied then, "Keep your eyes clear and thus
You can espy when they fly near to us.
Divine love leads them, thus beseech them with such,
And they will come near and speak with us, trust."
Within a brief instant, the wind shifted
And between us and them diminished the distance.
Therefore I addressed them both "O, weary spirits!
Come! Speak with us, if no one here forbids it."
And just like two doves, inspired and beckoned
By desire, with wings open to the highest extension
And obeying instincts their own prime volition connects
Fly through the air to rest in the sweetness of the nest,
Thus, In this manner they arrived to us next
Flying down from the sky where Dido is kept
Approaching through the air in that malignant zone
So effectively my affectionate appeal had hit home
"O, living soul, so gracious and benign
Who goes visiting through this air the shade of wine,
We who reside within this blustery wind
Who have stained the world with our lustful sin
If the king of the universe were our friend
We would pray to him from now on without end
For peace to be showered on you, for the pity you've shown
To us, miserable souls, and our perverted woe
So, whatsoever you need to find out
Whatever pleases you to speak of or hear about
Is what we will speak and hear when the wind has died down
As it appears to be doing right now.
The town where I was born sits down low
On the coast, on the river mouth of the Po
Where that river descends to its home
And comes to peaceful rest with its tributaries in tow.
Love! Love, which pounces upon a gentle heart
Swiftly, grips it and rips it apart, Seized the heart
Of this man, who was torn from me
And murdered so horribly it still haunts my dreams.
Love! Love, which is so powerful that it's a proven fact
No one beloved can prevent themselves loving back,
Attacked me with such a passion for this man that
As you see, nothing has diminished the attraction
Love was the force that tempted us together and then
It has brought us together to one death
An eternity dwelling with Cain when he's dead
Awaits the one who extinguished our breath."
As I paused to reflect on the evident depth
Of torment of these two souls, I bowed my head
So low and for such a long time
Until the poet beside me said "What's on your mind?"
And then, after a time I spoke and stated
"My goodness! How many knowing gazes
Sweet thoughts, what desire and longing state
Must have led these two to this woeful fate?"
Then I turned myself towards them to speak
And I began, "Your agonies are so awfully deep,
Francesca, so filled with such maddening grief that
They provoke me to compassionate weeping
But, tell me, at that deep time
Of burgeoning emotions and sweet sighs
By what discreet signs did love realize
To make you both concede the design of your secret desires?"
And she replied: "No more tender pain
Exists than to remember a blessed day
Full of happiness and pleasurable escapades
When in misery, as your teacher is well acquainted.
Nevertheless, if you truly desire
To recognise the earliest root of the fire
Of that love which conspired to pass between us
I will speak of it like one who speaks while weeping.
We were reading together for our pleasure one day
The story of Lancelot, how he was swept away
And enthralled by love, as the text explained.
We were alone in the room, and never afraid.
We were sitting side by side and on many occasions
While set on the page, our eyes together came, as
Steadily the colour eventually drained from our faces.
But on only one occasion desire overcame us
When we came to the page which described
The moment of the long craved smile
And the passionate kiss which from a noble lover arrived
This one here beside, from whom I'll never be divided
Kissed me fully upon my trembling lips
Passionately embraced me, caressing my hips.
But we read no more of the chapter which was the catalyst of our passions
For my husband caught us in the act and stabbed us."
And while Francesca delivered this sorrowful talk
Paolo floated next to her so distraught with remorse
That out of pity I started to feel lightheaded and fall
As heavily as a recently dead corpse
Track Name: Canto 6 - Dante's Inferno Rap Translation - Hugo The Poet
Upon regaining consciousness, which I had lost in this
So suddenly on hearing that tale of such loss
From these two lovers, which had upset and tossed
My temper into such sadness I could barely adjust to it
I immediately witnessed and beheld new torments
And new tormented, surrounding me with no ends
That whichever way I turned, or attempted to move
From horizon to horizon they filled the entirety of my view
I find myself in the third circle of endless pain
The circle in which it perpetually rains
Heavy, cold, brutal, sleet filled, torrential rains
Which never change, but forever remain to descend on the plain
Terrible hail, and putrid stale water are thrown
Pouring forth from the dark air mixed with a horrible snow
Creating a swampy miasma below that chokes
And causes a terrifying stench on the ground that it soaks.
In that area resides this murderous Cerberus
The three headed canine beast whose sole purpose is
To patrol among the sinner souls who lie submerged in this
Murky muck, barking with those ravenous jaws of his
He is gigantic, and each of his rabid heads has deep red eyes,
And a thick black beard sloppy with rancid saliva
He has a fat distended belly, and with claws the size of Swords
he slashes, hacks and flays the spirits sprawled lying on the floor
They themselves howl resoundingly without cease like dogs
Straining in the rain as they are restrained in the bogs
They writhe in pain, turning on one side to shelter the other
These wretched sinners perpetually desperate for cover
When Cerberus turned, heard and perceived us
That bloodcurdling beast, immediately spurred, leaped up
Opened his mouths to expose his fearsome teeth and tusks
His body quivering all over with appetite to eat us up
And my leader, Virgil, as the beast converged
Reached down first and dug his hands deep in the earth
He picked up two fistfuls of dirt from the grounds
And tossed them into Cerberus's three slavering mouths
And just like a famished dog who will not cease barking
Until he gets the food which he is demanding
But becomes quiet the precise instant that he's consuming
For to devour it is the only powerful thing that moves him
This movement was what now occurred to this demon
Cerberus, whose filthy jaws fell mercilessly into eating
Momentarily ceasing from roaring over the dead
Which he does so loudly they wish they were deaf.
We then commenced traversing these shades
Which are packed so tight subdued by the merciless rains
That there was no way we could avoid placing
Our feet straight upon their projected bodies and faces.
They were all laid prostrate, flat in the mud
Except one, who suddenly sat straight up
When he sensed that we were passing before
The location where he was stationed to lay gasping forlorn
"Hey! You there that on this journey below
Is being shown through this Inferno"
He said to me, "recognise me, if you know, for
You were born before my life was over."
And I replied to him, "It's possible that the anguish
With which you have had the misfortune to be branded
Has caused you to vanish from my memory's core
So that it seems I have met you never before
But help me recall, let me know who you are
That have ended up in such a woeful state at last
And with an unpleasant punishing sentence that if others are more excessive
Surely there is none more offensive."
And he said, "Your city of Florence, so rotten with greed
And dripping with envy that it is bursting at the seams
Used to number me among its citizenry
And the life I used to lead there was serene.
The rest of the citizens back home gave me a nickname:
'Fatso' - based on the shape of my frame
And of the sin of gluttony I was found to blame
And to pay for this sin, I am drowned in this rain
And, sad soul, as you can probably see
In committing this transgression, I'm far from solitary
For all of these surrounding me are paying the same horrid fee
For the same immoral deed," And no more he said to me
So I decided to question him, "Fatso, your wretched state
Weighs so upon my mind it tempts tears to my face
But tell me straight, if you are able to detect and relate fate
Sate my desire to know the eventual state that awaits
The citizens of the divided city, Florence;
Also, tell me if any that call it their home are honest
Or honorable, and when they decide to behave like it;
And why such discord resides there, why the city has been claimed by it."
So came his reply then: "The populace of this metropolis
Will, after a long ominous struggle for dominance,
Come to bloodshed, in which the White Guelfs from the sticks
Will drive out the Black faction with much violence and horridness
Then to follow this, the Whites will fall from grace
And the Blacks, within three years of their exile from politics
Will return with all their strength, and go on the attack
Funded by the tyrant who allies with both sides - Pope Boniface
And after that the Black faction will hold its head up proudly
For a while, all the while condemning their enemies roundly
To various indignations, reprisals and strict boundaries,
However much they weep and cry, and no matter how loudly
There are two honest people in Florence, and no one understands them;
For Envy, Arrogance and Avarice work in tandem
As the three main sparks of motivation and action
That inspire all the citizens' hearts with any passion."
And with that he ceased, Tears streaking his cheeks, weeping
So I beseeched him, "Fatso, I have a deep seated
Greedy need to feed on more of these teachings,
So if it pleases, I wish you to keep speaking:
Tell me the fate of Florentines from earlier times
Like Farinata degli Uberti, leader of the Ghibbellines
Tegghiaio of the Guelf side; Iacopo Rusticucci;
Arrigo and Mosca, and others who attempted good deeds
I'd like to know where they've ended up, if you can tell
For I have insatiable desire to know their fate as well
Whether they in Heaven's sweetness dwell
Or they drown down in the venomous pits deep in Hell
And so Fatso did tell, "they found themselves dragged low
To dwell in hell's cells forever among the black souls
A different sin than mine weighs them down deeper
And if you descend that far, you're bound to meet them
But when you return to the sweet world of the living
I beg of you, do not forget all that I have given
Bring me to the minds of all people you have chance to
No more shall I tell you, no more will I answer."
Then his eyes went blank and he stared for an instant
At my face, but then turned away without blinking
And he lay down again, in the mud in his small space
Squeezed in between all the other blind rotund corpses
And Virgil returning thus having distracted Cerberus
Wiping mud from his hands, said, "He will stir not
Or move around until the sound of the angelic trumpet resounds
When the potentate of judgement is coming down
And each of the spirits of the departed will move
And crawl once more to the place of his tomb
And will resume inhabiting his corpse and emerge to see
And hear the divine judgement which echoes through eternity"
So as we walked on gingerly, for each of our steps were
Squelching into the depths of this slimy filthy texture
Of this festering mixture of mud, rain and semi solid corpulent souls
We conversed a little of what the future would hold
So I asked, "Master, these torments that are on display
I wonder what will happen after Judgement Day.
Will the punishments increase in suffering pain
Or be less intense, or burn just the same?"
And his reply was, "Remember your science,
That you derived from Aristotle, now you may apply it
For it describes that the more perfect an object
The more intensely feelings of pain or pleasure will be upon it.
So even though these souls, guilty of such malefaction
Can, in fact, never attain true perfection
Even they, when the hereafter comes around
Will be closer to perfection than they are now."
Round and round on that road we traveled perpetually
And we talked of much more of which I'll never speak
And as we reached the place where the descent is steep
We found Plutus, the great enemy.