Canto XXXV (of the Dante's Inferno) by Eliza Gabel
As I gazed at a beautiful star
I stumbled and down that great tunnel1 I fell
Back through that which we had climbed far
Up. I turned to my guide, who was falling as well,
To ask in a shaky voice to where we were descending:
Would we again land somewhere in hell?
My master, who was better than I at comprehending
The layout of this land that we were falling towards
Told that our fall would soon be ending
10 In a place too horrible to describe in words.
And reader, he meant it. This indescribable site
Is so terrible that souls here would rather be sliced with swords
Than be caught in their well-deserved plight.
My guide instructed me as we neared the ground
To look for and grab with all my might
A necktie floating somewhere around
So I would not crash on the hostile, cold
ground of circle ten. His advice was sound;
I saw spikes of ice as sharp as if they'd been made with a nail mold.
20 They would have impaled me so far that I
Would never have a chance to grow old.
And so I caught a hovering tie
And looked at the inconceivable agony
Of the souls who in life had the gall to deny
The importance of Tie Day. Their blasphemy
Against this quintessential holiday
Earned them their just punishment for treachery2.
Because my grip on the flying tie was weak, I couldn't stay
Hanging much longer. The great poet lowered me when he saw
30 My predicament. I turned to him to say,
"Why does the ground never thaw,
And why do ties hover above here?"
My master replied, "Those here defied the law
Of wearing ties every Tie Day. It's not queer
At all that ties hover above these wretched souls
Who would now do anything for a mere
Tie of any sort. See the sinners try to dig holes
For shelter in the frozen solid land
As they claw at the ground like moles.
40 Half naked and freezing, they never may enter into the grand
Warm inn that they so desperately crave
Because of the 'No tie, no entry' sign3, and
Without ties in life, one gets no ties in the grave.
You saw yourself why the ground will never heat
In the ninth circle4, where you were not brave."
Thus shamed by my master's words that beat
Me hard, I sought to impress him this time.
Suddenly, my eyes beheld a great treat.
In the midst of the frozen ground of grime,
50 A lady too beautiful for me to describe shivered,
Her beauty so immense it was a crime
To punish her so. Her lovely bare frost-bitten arms quivered
With the cold. She had pretty round blue eyes
That gave me such a look it delivered
Me much pity, though I knew the feeling was unwise.
"What could you have done to deserve this
torture?" I moaned and felt tears in my eyes rise.
"I did not wear a tie every Tie Day, and I did miss
The holidays on purpose5. I thought that they
60 Detracted from my beauty. No one would likely kiss
A girl who's wearing a tacky tie." This made me say,
"Convenience in life does not earn you
Convenience in death." She cried and looked away.
My proud guide said, "What you say is true!"
The message of this terrible wasted world
And justice has finally gotten through!"
I glanced back at the demon innkeeper who hurled
A tie-less soul who had tried to sneak
Into the cozy inn from which the smell of warm soup swirled.
70 My master turned to me and began to speak,
"The way out is through the tunnel and a hanging tie
Is the only way to escape through the security leak6."
I then saw descending through the sky
An angel with a slender wand coming down
The tunnel. He brought a tie low enough for me to put my
Body on. My master held on and without a frown7
We ascended up the tunnel and once again saw the stars.
1: The tunnel is the crack in the ice from Satan to the surface of the earth.
2: The treachery here is against Tie Day, a universal holiday.
3: Ties are required everywhere on Tie Day, and it is perpetually Tie Day in circle ten.
4: The ground never heats because Satan is constantly beating his wings in circle nine.
5: Those who just forgot to wear ties on Tie Day are in the area of sins of incontinence.
6: In other words, the only way to get out is to take a tie as a lift through the tunnel.
7: They don't give the sinners another thought as they go to a happier place.