A New Translation and Dramatization of Inferno, Canto XXVI: The 8th Circle of Hell.
(In rags, with clay pipe, red-faced, moustachioed. He wears the pale pink nightie of an empress. Appears on his haunches in the London tube. Looking at the ceiling. Puddle of phlegm on sneakers.)
Ooooooooooooooo brothers! (Slaps thigh gleefully.)
After a hundred thousand perils
You have reached the West.
(With a clown’s wig, lipstick applied suavely, in a wheelchair with a lopsided wheel, glancing at his watch. Rabbit’s ears.)
(Dabs hooked nose with spotted handkerchief. Looks wistfully at crag in distance. Decidedly ungleeful.)
(Mortar-boarded, drunk, a crown of thorns. The manner of a policeman.)
Guard your few senses that are remaining,
experience the world before the birth of the sun,
think of your beginnings (wipes blood from eyes.)
You were not made to live like animals,
but for the pursuit of virtue and knowledge.
(Dancing in a pit of fire. Bored, hairy, with pince-nez, linen suit, and briefcase. Clutches miniature of Augustus to chest. Perturbed. Unreachable.)
(Graceful, heroic, with bootcut jeans, Stetson, and two revolvers slung from her hips. A million dollars. Smells of honey, juniper, and marzipan. At a large writing table, concentrating.)
Seven years! Go back to her. She wants you.
(Holding a fiddle. Saluting a picture of the Queen. Eating hors d’oeuvre.)
And with these few words (maniacally.)
I galvanised my friends for the journey ahead.
From then on, I couldn’t hold them back.
(Sniffing uncontrollably. Leaving for France.)
Need a doctor.
(Serious now, on the battlements, sceptre-in-hand, kneeling, staring at a postcard with great intensity. Fairy wings. Ski-wear. Looks like he might jump. Cries of distant army audible.)
The night sky saw stars of the other pole,
we were very low, not rising above the sea floor.
(Peers over the edge. Whimpers.)
We ummm (intelligible) entered the deep passage,
the light was rekindled five times under the moon;
a mountain appeared, dusky in the distance,
it seemed much higher than any I had seen before.
We were happy at this, but we soon turned to tears.
(Disappointedly. Peaceful. Bed sheets stained from crying.)
How the many-minded lie.
(Bashfully. Dressed as a bumblebee. At a wedding.)
Aye. Sunt lacrimae rerum.
(Beardless, panic-stricken, in Scouts’ uniform, on a dentist’s chair, with mould in one hand, mouth wide open, cataleptic, garbled.)
a whirlwind appeared
crushed (incoherent) our boat spinning
on the waters
on the fourth the stern was torn
the bow plunged
(Playing tiddlywinks. Blonde hair. Bumbling.)
ka mee fete pleasire (English accent)
(As a baby, with a T-shirt that reads ‘I was at Troy.’ Hyperglycaemic, mucoidal, catatonic, in a cold sweat. Suspended in air. Whispering at a dream.)
(gasps for breath)
(pulled, marionette-like, back into the shadows.)
(Sobbing inaudibly.) ∎
Words by George Adams. Artwork by Oliver Roberts.