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The Origin Of Dante’s Inferno
by [?]

“And while I listened to them tremblingly, I beheld the blackest demons flying with hooks of burning iron, who would have caught the ball of thread which I held in my hand, and have drawn it towards them, but it darted such a reverberating light, that they could not lay hold of the thread. These demons, when at my back, hustled to precipitate me into those sulphureous pits; but my conductor, who carried the ball, wound about my shoulder a double thread, drawing me to him with such force, that we ascended high mountains of flame, from whence issued lakes and burning streams, melting all kinds of metals. There I found the souls of lords who had served my father and my brothers; some plunged in up to the hair of their heads, others to their chins, others with half their bodies immersed. These yelling, cried to me, ‘It is for inflaming discontents with your father, and your brothers, and yourself, to make war and spread murder and rapine, eager for earthly spoils, that we now suffer these torments in these rivers of boiling metal.’ While I was timidly bending over their suffering, I heard at my back the clamours of voices, potentes potenter tormenta patiuntur! ‘The powerful suffer torments powerfully;’ and I looked up, and beheld on the shores boiling streams and ardent furnaces, blazing with pitch and sulphur, full of great dragons, large scorpions, and serpents of a strange species; where also I saw some of my ancestors, princes, and my brothers also, who said to me, ‘Alas, Charles! behold our heavy punishment for evil, and for proud malignant counsels, which, in our realms and in thine, we yielded to from the lust of dominion.’ As I was grieving with their groans, dragons hurried on, who sought to devour me with throats open, belching flame and sulphur. But my leader trebled the thread over me, at whose resplendent light these were overcome. Leading me then securely, we descended into a great valley, which on one side was dark, except where lighted by ardent furnaces, while the amenity of the other was so pleasant and splendid, that I cannot describe it. I turned, however, to the obscure and flaming side; I beheld some kings of my race agonised in great and strange punishments, and I thought how in an instant the huge black giants who in turmoil were working to set this whole valley into flames, would have hurled me into these gulfs; I still trembled, when the luminous thread cheered my eyes, and on the other side of the valley a light for a little while whitened, gradually breaking: I observed two fountains; one, whose waters had extreme heat, the other more temperate and clear; and two large vessels filled with these waters. The luminous thread rested on one of the fervid waters, where I saw my father Louis covered to his thighs, and though labouring in the anguish of bodily pain, he spoke to me. ‘My son Charles, fear nothing! I know that thy spirit shall return unto thy body; and God has permitted thee to come here that thou mayest witness, because of the sins I have committed, the punishments I endure. One day I am placed in the boiling bath of this large vessel, and on another changed into that of more tempered waters: this I owe to the prayers of Saint Peter, Saint Denis, Saint Remy, who are the patrons of our royal house; but if by prayers and masses, offerings and alms, psalmody and vigils, my faithful bishops, and abbots, and even all the ecclesiastical order, assist me, it will not be long before I am delivered from these boiling waters. Look on your left!’ I looked and beheld two tuns of boiling waters. ‘These are prepared for thee,’ he said, ‘if thou wilt not be thy own corrector, and do penance for thy crimes!’ Then I began to sink with horror; but my guide perceiving the panic of my spirit, said to me, ‘Follow me to the right of the valley, bright in the glorious light of Paradise.’ I had not long proceeded, when, amidst the most illustrious kings, I beheld my uncle Lotharius seated on a topaz, of marvellous magnitude, covered with a most precious diadem; and beside him was his son Louis, like him crowned, and seeing me, he spake with a blandishment of air, and a sweetness of voice, ‘Charles, my successor, now the third in the Roman empire, approach! I know that thou hast come to view these places of punishment, where thy father and my brother groans to his destined hour: but still to end by the intercession of the three saints, the patrons of the kings and the people of France. Know that it will not be long ere thou shalt be dethroned, and shortly after thou shalt die!’ Then Louis turning towards me: ‘Thy Roman empire shall pass into the hands of Louis, the son of my daughter; give him the sovereign authority, and trust to his hands that ball of thread thou holdest.’ Directly I loosened it from the finger of my right hand to give the empire to his son. This invested him with empire, and he became brilliant with all light; and at the same instant, admirable to see, my spirit, greatly wearied and broken, returned gliding into my body. Hence let all know whatever happen, that Louis the Young possesses the Roman empire destined by God. And so the Lord who reigneth over the living and the dead, and whose kingdom endureth for ever and for aye, will perform when he shall call me away to another life.”