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I do not think Maremma has so many
Serpents as he had all along his back,
As far as where our countenance begins.
With wings wide open was a dragon lying,
And he sets fire to all that he encounters..
Beneath the rock upon Mount Aventine
Created oftentimes a lake of blood.
By reason of the fraudulent theft he made
Of the great herd, which he had near to him;
The mace of Hercules, who peradventure
Gave him a hundred, and he felt not ten.”
And spirits three had underneath us come,
Of which nor I aware was, nor my Leader,
On which account our story made a halt,
And then we were intent on them alone.
As it is wont to happen by some chance,
Exclaiming : “Where can Cianfa have remained ?”
Whence I, so that the Leader might attend,
Upward from chin to nose my finger laid. If thou art, Reader, slow now to believe
What I shall say, it will no marvel be,
For I who saw it hardly can admit it.
Behold! a serpent with six feet darts forth 50
In front of one, and fastens wholly on him. With middle feet it bound him round the paunch,
And with the forward ones his arms it seized;
Then thrust its teeth through one cheek and the other; The hindermost it stretched upon his thighs, 55
And put its tail through in between the two,
And up behind along the reins outspread it. Ivy was never fastened by its barbs
Unto a tree so, as this horrible reptile
Upon the other's limbs entwined its own.
They had been made, and intermixed their color ;
Nor one nor other seemed now what he was ;
Upward along the paper a brown color, 65
The other two looked on, and each of them
Cried out: “O me, Agnello, how thou changest !
Behold, thou now art neither two nor one.” Already the two heads had one become,
When there appeared to us two figures mingled
Into one face, wherein the two were lost. Of the four lists were fashioned the two arms,
The thighs and legs, the belly and the chest
Members became that never yet were seen. Every original aspect there was cancelled ;
Two and yet none did the perverted image
Appear, and such departed with slow pace. Even as a lizard, under the great scourge
Of days canicular, exchanging hedge,
Lightning appeareth if the road it cross ; Thus did appear, coming towards the bellies
Of the two others, a small fiery serpent,
Livid and black as is a peppercorn. And in that part whereat is first received
Our aliment, it one of them transfixed;
Then downward fell in front of him extended.
Nay, rather with feet motionless he yawned,
He at the serpent gazed, and it at him;
One through the wound, the other through the mouth
Smoked violently, and the smoke commingled. Henceforth be silent Lucan, where he mentions
Wretched Sabellus and Nassidius,
And wait to hear what now shall be shot forth. Be silent Ovid, of Cadmus and Arethusa ;
For if him to a snake, her to a fountain,
Converts he fabling, that I grudge him not; Because two natures never front to front
Has he transmuted, so that both the forms
To interchange their matter ready were. Together they responded in such wise,
That to a fork the serpent cleft his tail,
And eke the wounded drew his feet together. 105 The legs together with the thighs themselves.
Adhered so, that in little time the juncture
No sign whatever made that was apparent. He with the cloven tail assumed the figure
The other one was losing, and his skin
Became elastic, and the other's hard.
And both feet of the reptile, that were short,
Thereafter the hind feet, together twisted,
115 Became the member that a man conceals,
And of his own the wretch had two created. While both of them the exhalation veils
With a new color, and engenders hair
On one of them and depilates the other, 120 The one uprose and down the other fell,
Though turning not away their impious lamps,
Underneath which each one his muzzle changed. He who was standing drew it tow'rds the temples,
And from excess of matter, which came thither, 125
Issued the ears from out the hollow cheeks ; What did not backward run and was retained
Of that excess made to the face a nose,
And the lips thickened far as was befitting. He who lay prostrate thrusts his muzzle forward, 130
And backward draws the ears into his head,
In the same manner as the snail its horns; And so the tongue, which was entire and apt
For speech before, is cleft, and the bi-forked
In the other closes up, and the smoke ceases.
Along the valley hissing takes to flight,