My Tour of Dante’s Inferno (Circle 9 – The Lake of Treachery)

In the first part of my Inferno tour, I journeyed through Circles 1-7. In the second part, I suffered the horrors of Circle 8. Here is the final part: my trek across the frozen Lake of Cocytus, which imprisons the souls of the traitors.

Canto 23: The Giants (from Circle 8 to Circle 9)

I looked down in the final pit
Wanting badly now to quit
Knowing I couldn’t, the only way out
Was to finish Dante and Virgil’s route

The giants made my bowels churn
Many of them looking fierce and stern
Rising from below, over 1200 feet
The Lake of Cocytus, the frozen sheet

The giant I approached extended a hand
That could have easily held a rock ‘n roll band
I jumped on gagging at the beast’s pheromones
And braced myself for treachery’s zones:

First against family, slayers of kin
Second against country, betraying within
Third against guests or even one’s host
Fourth against lords – to sin the most

Every soul a supreme offender
Cast down on the frozen blender
They had broken oaths at every price
And were now caged in the rigid ice

As I was lifted down I felt the freeze
The air a brutal 15 degrees
Yet somehow my skin was kept protected
As a guest of Hell I was unaffected

I was swiftly set down at the lake’s edge
And I thanked the giant, giving my pledge
To make this last damned Circle count
And call these miserable souls to account

And I stepped on the ice.

Canto 24: The Traitors (Circle 9)

I step on the lowest Circle in Hell – the frozen Lake of Cocytus, where traitors are buried to their necks (at least), and devils swing mallets at their protruding heads. Lucifer is at the lake’s center. There are four zones of punishment: the outer circle for traitors against kin, the next for traitors against country, the third for traitors against guests or hosts, and the innermost zone for traitors against lords and rulers.

The outermost zone was full of heads
Glassy-eyed, as if on meds
Buried deep up to their necks
Tormented by the lake’s effects

I stepped around them, very slow
And looked upon the horror show
Of all the souls who’d killed their mothers
Fathers, sisters, cousins, brothers

Devils as usual patrolled the course
Abusing the heads without remorse
Hammering them with iron mallets
And chewing off ears to reward their palates

It was the worst punishment in Hell for sure
Except for the flatterers’ lake of manure
To be immersed in either shit or ice
I could never choose, I’d roll the dice

The heads of these traitors moaned around spit
Screaming only when the mallets hit
And I proceeded through the torture ground
Trying to ignore every sound

And then I gasped and stopped my walking
When I saw a head before me gawking
Trying to find the words to speak
Through a frozen mouth and frostbitten cheek:

“How have you come to us down here?
And speak loud, I can barely hear!”

[Me]
“I’m a guest on tour of this awful place
And there’s much from memory I wish to efface
Who are you, and whom did you slay?
Or at least, I presume, foully betray?”

[Kashyapa I]
“I am Kashyapa of dynasty Mauryan
I had the soul and teeth of a lion
Hated by all, but I didn’t care
The throne was mine to seize on a dare.”

I knew the name of this Sri Lankan king
He usurped the throne and made it his thing
Entombing his father inside a wall
Buried alive to scream and bawl

[Me]
“You had the soul and teeth of a shark
And never deserved to be monarch
I hope your father can see you now
Being made the devil’s chow.”

And sure enough, right then and there
Came a devil with no quarter to spare
Smashing the king’s head, as if to cheers
Then squatting to feast on both his ears

I left Kashyapa and then came next
To a soul demanding I pay him respects:

[Me]
“Who are you, to expect submission?
I’m inclined to put you out of commission
Perhaps I’ll find a mallet to borrow
And find more ways to increase your sorrow.”

[Mehmed II]
“I am Mehmed the Conqueror, you infidel
It is you, not I, who should freeze in Hell
I smashed Constantinople once and for all
For the glory of Islam, may it never fall.”

[Me]
“That’s enough to convict you, I grant
But not on this Circle as an ice plant
Which of your family did you slay?
As I’m sure you did, clear as day.”

[Mehmed II]
“I drowned my brother, it’s well known
To remove any chance he’d come for my throne
Better yet, I made it legal
To kill any relatives who might become regal:

‘Whichever of my sons inherits the crown
It behooves him to make his brothers drown.’
This I promoted with the force of a claw
And it became the norm like sharia law.

It only makes sense to remove any threat
Of which there are many, lest you forget
In the royal court, where a brother schemes
To sit the throne and fulfill his dreams.”

[Me]
“If only that ‘justice’ had been done to you
Instanbul may have never come true
Perhaps today it would still be a beacon
And Eastern Europe not have weakened.”

At that he shouted and swore and defamed
I was tempted to kick him, then felt ashamed
These heads in the ice were invitations
To indulge my nastiest inclinations

I left him and walked for about a mile
Then came to a section that looked like an isle
Thousands of heads, and thousands more
Filled this region like an open sore

Questioning them I was able to determine
That they all needed a fiery sermon
For these were men who had killed their sisters
For the “sin” of being raped as resistors

They killed their daughters for the very same crime:
Having the gall to get raped in one’s prime
In the pecking order of family slayers
Honor killers were the worst betrayers

I gave into fury and went on a rant
To the souls it likely came out as a cant
But I was all sincere, 100 percent
And said exactly what I goddamn meant:

[Me]
“Every one of you were ruled by shame
To absolve the guilty and dump the blame
On the victim who needed love and support
Your ‘honor’ came up mighty short.”

[Random soul]
“There’s no need for us to be reviled
We killed our women who’d been defiled
Or fornicated, or dressed like whores
It was only right to settle the scores.”

[Me]
“Scores are settled on this frozen floor
Paying you back for all your gore
While your daughters and sisters bask in the light
Of paradise, hopefully, where all is right.”

I moved onward, straight to the center
And before long I came to enter
Zone number 2 in this ice-cap marsh
Where the souls now suffered even more harsh

The heads were buried up to the chin
Not the necks, as for traitors of kin
These heads could not even bow to deflect
The worst of the winds that blew unchecked

Traitors against country, nation, and state
Breaching their patriotic mandate
And the first of these turncoats to speak aloud
Was a soul of great hubris, who refused to be cowed:

“Watch where you walk, you careless dolt
I’m trying to sleep and you gave me a jolt
But as long as you’re here, stand to your right
And keep the wind out of my plight.”

[Me]
“I think I’ll move the other way
And enjoy it as you bark and bay
The likes of you I will never obey
And who the hell are you, anyway?”

[Ephialtes]
“I am Ephialtes of ancient Greece
Ostracized for making the peace
With Persians who outnumbered us 20 to 1
Anyone could see that Xerxes had won.”

[Me]
“I would have ostracized you no less
What you did was for wealth and largesse
I’m glad you were stiffed on that traitor’s reward
You should have then fallen upon your sword.”

I walked away then without any grace
Leaving the winds to shatter his face
And it wasn’t long before I heard
A voice crying “Peggy, where are you, my bird?”

The head that cried was that officer of fame
Benedict Arnold, his cursed name
Calling for his wife, who was surely resting
In greener pastures with no protesting

I addressed him, asking him why he defected
But he seemed not to see me, as though disconnected
I was about to kneel and get in his face
When shouts from my left tore over the place

I was shocked to see an acre of traitors
White House rioters and demonstrators
Who stormed the Capitol on January 6
Shouting their odious politics:

[Rioters]
“Give us Trump! He won the election!
To him we offer eternal subjection!
Give us Trump! America’s Savior!
Praise to all his vulgar behavior!”

The heads repeated their chant like sheep
Singing the praises of that fascist creep
I tried shouting over them in complete vain:
“Enjoy your death under Lucifer’s reign!”

The chants rose higher, and mallets swung
From devils annoyed by treasonous tongue
But bashing their heads just made it worse
Their praises became even more perverse

I rushed away as fast as I dared
From these Trumpians so mentally impaired
Sliding on the ice, and around every head
I reached a border and looked ahead

In Zone number 3 each soul lay supine
Buried in the ice, a horizontal line
Face exposed just barely to the sky
As tears pooled and froze in the eye

The comfort of weeping was denied these souls
Who had turned on their guests with vicious goals
Slaying them while under their roof
And calling down every form of reproof

And likewise guests who did the same
Slaying their hosts to utter shame
These were souls of the blackest hearts
Who deserved to be torn in a thousand parts

They groaned where they lay, hardly aware
How their moans sounded like a pitiful prayer
Begging release from their freezing tomb
And their irrevocable permanent doom

I approached a head that wouldn’t stop mewling
And asked him why he’d received this ruling:

[Crichton]
“I am Lord Chancellor William Crichton
In the halls of fame, a Scottish titan
‘Twas I who hosted the Black Dinner
So my king would remain the royal winner.”

[Me]
“Holy shit, it was that beheading
That inspired George Martin’s Red Wedding
You deserve to suffer this close to the center
With the shade of Douglas your eternal tormentor.”

[Crichton]
“Douglas and his brother had to die
Don’t make me out to be the bad guy
It was just the way of medieval lords
Whatever it took, we protected our wards.”

[Me]
“I hope it felt good, killing those boys
Who never remotely suspected your ploys
Even King James burned with hives
And begged you to spare their innocent lives.”

[Crichton]
“The young James was naively kind
And sometimes even willfully blind
I wouldn’t risk or hedge my bets
And I kept him safe from Douglas threats.”

It was crystal clear to me by now
That a sin in Hell was a sacred cow
Beyond the reach of any regret
A badge of honor and coronet

I left Crichton, feeling soiled
Thinking of those that he’d despoiled
And further on I stopped to stare
At four souls lying in a square

Buried supine, and aligned precise
With faces exposed above the ice
They yakked incoherently, not making sense
I asked them to explain their hellish offense

“We’re here for treachery,” said one of the heads
“We killed Clan MacDonald – all in their beds
They offered us quarter and treated us nice
Clueless that they would pay our price.”

[Me]
“You’re the shits who murdered your hosts
Then vanished from Glencoe like cowardly ghosts.
All because a pledge arrived too late
From a clan you’d already decided to hate.”

[One of the four]
“The MacDonalds could never be trusted
So quit acting so disgusted
We made an example to stifle rebellions
And to send a warning to any hellions.”

I left them to vent and spew their dreck
And then resumed my infernal trek
Which was finally nearing the end of the line
As I came to Zone 4 of Circle 9

Here the traitors were completely buried
Their heads beneath the ice unvaried
Twisted and bent, their bodies broken
By the Devil who’s name is often unspoken:

Lucifer, who was not far away
At the center of the lake, itching for prey
Trapped though he was, down in this hole
He could still reach out to wreck a soul

As he evidently had with this zone-4 bunch
Mangling the bodies in a horrible crunch
Two of the souls I could barely make out
But I knew them from photos and had no doubt:

One was the sniper, Lee Harvey Oswald
Who had left the American people galled
Shooting Kennedy, despite the claims
Of Olive Stone and conspiracy frames

Another was law student Ygal Amir
Who shot his prime minister like a musketeer
And many more assassins were buried below
Who had slain their lords long ago

I wasn’t sure why on the punishment scale
Betraying one’s lord was beyond the pale
What if one’s lord was especially vile?
For that I’d betray him and suffer a trial

If I’d been a Ruskie under Uncle Joe
I’d have vehemently opposed the status quo
And perhaps killed Stalin, given a chance
With sword or gun or even a lance

Lords who betray the people they serve
Get the betrayals they fucking deserve
Or so I believed at the end of my tour
Of Dante’s Inferno that I’d vowed to endure

And I went to Lucifer and returned home.

Here ends Part 3 of My tour of Dante’s Inferno.

 

Notes to Canto 24 (The Traitors)

Against Kin

Kashyapa I. “Kashyapa of dynasty Mauryan”: The king of Sri Lanka between 473-495 AD. He acquired the throne by overthrowing his father and usurping his brother who was the rightful heir to the throne. Then he killed his father by entombing him inside a wall.

Mehmed II. “Mehmed the Conqueror”: The Ottoman Sultan who had two reigns, between 1444 and 1446, and then 1451 to 1481. He took Constantinople in 1453, making it Istanbul, and wrote brutally harsh laws, including the Law of Governance, which stipulated that anyone who succeeded to the Sultan’s throne could slay his brothers so they could not try claiming or usurping the throne. (Just as he had done to his own brother.)

Honor killers. “For the sin of being raped”: Most honor killers (currently 91%) throughout history have been Muslim fathers or brothers, killing their daughters or sisters who were raped.

Against Country

Ephialtes of Trachis. “Ephialtes of ancient Greece”: This man betrayed his homeland, letting the Greeks get slaughtered at Thermopyle in 480 BC, hoping to be rewarded by the Persians (which he was not).

Benedict Arnold. “A voice crying “Peggy, where are you, my bird?” Arnold began by fighting for America in the Revolutionary War (1775-1783), but defected to the Brits in 1780. Peggy Shippen was the Brit he married after defecting.

The White House mob. “Who stormed the Capitol on January 6”: On the day of Epiphany in 2021, thousands of Trump supporters stormed the White House in defiance of the election results that validated Joe Biden as the new president.

Against Guests or Hosts

William Crichton. “‘Twas I who hosted the Black Dinner”: Crichton was a knight and the Keeper of Edinburgh, charged with safeguarding the young king, James II, who was ten years old in 1440. On November 24, 1440, Crichton invited the 16-year old Earl of Douglas and his 10-year old brother to Edinburgh Castle as guests, and then beheaded them both, in an act of treachery that would become known as the Black Dinner. This event inspired George Martin’s famous Red Wedding in A Song of Ice and Fire.

John Dalrymple, Robert Duncanson, Thomas Drummond, and Robert Campbell. “We killed Clan MacDonald all in their beds”: These men played the lead role in engineering the slaughter of Clan MacDonald, who supposedly refused to pledge allegiance to William of Orange. In reality they were only late pleding their fealty, and the Secretary of State for Scotland (John Dalrymple) wanted to make an example of them. The other men led forces who accepted hospitality from Clan MacDonald — and then murdered their hosts in their sleep On February 13, 1692, which became known as the Massacre of Glencoe.

Against Lords

Lee Harvey Oswald. “Shooting Kennedy, despite the claims of Olive Stone and conspiracy frames”: Oswald assassinated his president, John F. Kennedy, on November 22, 1963, conspiracy claims notwithstanding.

Ygal Amir. “Law student Ygal Amir”. Amir assassinated his prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, on November 4, 1995.

One thought on “My Tour of Dante’s Inferno (Circle 9 – The Lake of Treachery)

  1. Pingback: My Tour of Dante’s Inferno (Circle 9 – The Lake of Treachery) – Talmidimblogging

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