From Inferno Canto 7 (19-35), on the avaricious and the prodigal. I enjoy the Inferno least of the Commedia sections but I love this scene as – at least by my slightly warped application – a favorite image of head-pounding communication failure. When I watch people in meetings exchange the same arguments on loop I chant to myself Perché tieni?” e “Perché burli? The text and translation are Singleton’s.
Ah, justice of God! who crams together so many new travails and penalties as I saw? And why does our guilt so waste us? As does the wave, there over Charybdis, breaking itself against the wave it meets, so must the folk here dance their round. Here I saw far more people than elsewhere, both on the one side and on the other, howling loudly, rolling weights, which they pushed with their chests; they clashed together, and then right there each wheeled round, rolling back his weight, shouting, “Why do you hoard?” and “Why do you squander?” Thus they returned along the gloomy circle on either hand to the opposite point, shouting at each other again their reproachful refrain; then, having reached that point, each turned back through his half-circle to the next joust.
Ahi giustizia di Dio! tante chi stipa
nove travaglie e pene quant’ io viddi?
e perché nostra colpa sì ne scipa?
Come fa l’onda là sovra Cariddi,
che si frange con quella in cui s’intoppa,
così convien che qui la gente riddi.
Qui vid’ i’ gente più ch’altrove troppa,
e d’una parte e d’altra, con grand’ urli,
voltando pesi per forza di poppa.
Percotëansi ‘ncontro; e poscia pur lì
si rivolgea ciascun, voltando a retro,
gridando: “Perché tieni?” e “Perché burli?”
Così tornavan per lo cerchio tetro
da ogne mano a l’opposito punto,
gridandosi anche loro ontoso metro;
poi si volgea ciascun, quand’ era giunto,
per lo suo mezzo cerchio a l’altra giostra.