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.


Back to Eliza's page