Canto XXXII: Ring 2 – Antenora
By Adam Rinaldi
My guide through Hell was President George Washington.
We traveled past the Ninth Circle’s First Ring.
I could not walk any more, as I felt upon
My body a chill that was enveloping.
He described the journey we were about to take,
“The Second Ring we are just now entering.
You will understand that this tour we will make
Is the beginning of the cold, for here we are
Feeling already the winds Satan’s wings did wake.”
Although the Fourth Ring is really quite far,
The freezing winds there encased all of the sinners, and
We felt it. To that cold, distance was not a bar.
George Washington then gestured with his hand,
And then he said that if I wanted to be miles and hours
Away from this place, I should keep walking through the land
And let nothing stop me from reaching the stars.
He told me that I should expect the worst
While always hoping for the best. Nothing mars
My determination to go on to the first
Person, to encounter who was a big sinner.
My curiosity was somewhat like a thirst.
I asked my guide, since I was still a beginner,
“Who and what sin will we see along our way?
Who will we see first, which one is the winner?”
George Washington grew serious and turned to say,
“The Ring that we entered is going to be full
Of those treacherous to their homeland in their day.
Each one did something that I find so terrible.
This Ring is easily the most wretched place
In Hell. To me, these are the worst of all people.
They had free will, and yet they chose to face
Fate head-on, knowing the consequences, and still
Each sin was a cunning, cowardly case
Of wishing to cause our dear country harm and ill.
Honor, respect, and patriotism were lacking.
The reason that these horrid people will
For eternity be trapped in ice that is cracking
Is that their acts were attempts to break up our land,
To fracture fair America. The heartbreaks were stacking
High, but each time our nation did heal then stand
Up and overcome the evil or callousness.”
I knew Washington the General did command
And bravely lead his army through harshness.
Perseverance, patriotism, and planning
Prepared the path to light from the darkness.
“Those who are ruthless, devious, and conniving,
Who also have more than a little insanity,
Made breaks in our dear land, so now we are shunning
Them by having them face the same calamity.
They will for eternity always be stuck in
The cracks in the ice, no matter what profanity
They may shout out, but they shall have no luck in
Rescue or relief, no matter how much they scream.
Listen to their stories, but do not suck in
Their pathetic evil, oh how they did scheme.”
The ground had been shaking when a new crack was made.
I felt nauseated as if in a bad dream.
The punishment was that sinners were all to be made
Trapped and squeezed with the full pressure and weight
Of Earth and Hell so that their sins would be paid.
Then cracks at random times the sinners would await,
But they could not predict when they would fall inside
And get wedged and trapped further in a painful state.
Deep in the crevices all the way down did they slide,
And then the ice came together again and did crush
Them deep down. Yet, we could still hear how they cried
Because their bodies were squeezed tightly into mush.
The scene below the surface must have been gory.
The frozen cracked land did mercilessly push
Them down but up again so I could hear the story
Of how each sinner was tempted and fell.
I wondered if any of them had said they were sorry.
I approached the closest sinner, hoping he would tell
Me the story of how it was that he got here.
“Who are you and what did you do to get into Hell?”
What I saw of this man was his upper half, and clear
As day I saw his dark mustache and dark hair.
He had a look of confusion, craziness, and fear.
He asked me how I got there, so I did declare
That it was not his concern, and soon I would split.
He said, “I’ll give you a hint if you really do care
To know my name and the sin that I did commit.
It happened one night in a dimly lit theater.
I had planned it all out in my head, I admit.
I felt urged to do it then, not a moment later.
I knew it was wrong, but still chose to use my gun
To send Abraham Lincoln home to his Creator.”
It was John Wilkes Booth! Our dear homeland did he stun!
A President greatly loved and looked up to
Was killed by that man! Then, what felt like at least a ton
Of ice trembled. Booth sank further into the ice and turned almost blue.
I approached the next sinner and asked why he was here.
He also told me that he would give me a clue.
“I wanted ships and riches, to me it was clear.
I offered to help the British and did also fuel
Some conflict about Louisiana, my dear.
I used my position and power as a tool.
I rose to be our nation’s third Vice President,
But you probably know me because of a duel
Where Alexander Hamilton was finally sent
To meet his Maker! I am glad that he died!
Towards him I had a great deal of resentment.
I am Aaron Burr!” he said with a great deal of pride.
This sinner, too, had no remorse that was detected.
Just then the ground opened and that sinner did slide
Deeper into the crevice of ice. I expected
Him to repent since he was feeling more pain,
But I watched him a while and then stood corrected.
I walked over the frozen, still-trembling terrain
To the very next sinner that I could find.
The third sinner I found is considered the main
Person one thinks of when the word “traitor” comes to mind.
I had to ask fast, as the ground was starting to quiver
More violently than before. I certainly had a kind
Of resentment, but my questions I did still deliver,
“What is your name? What are sealed your fate?”
He replied, “Once trusted by the great Washington, but a river
Of unfortunate events led me from the straight
Path. I admit to spying and defection.
I bargained with the British, but it was too late.
Untrusted wherever I went, all connection
Was basically cut off. I died poor and alone.
For me, Benedict Arnold, it’s too late for correction!”
He stopped speaking, and I heard the loudest moan.
The frozen ground began to tremble and split
Open wider the crack Arnold was in. I heard bone
Snapping, cracking, and breaking. I heard screams that fit
Three sinners becoming more wedged in ice so tight,
But then I heard a different sound. I admit
I was terrified and tried with all my might
To cover my ears, but I still heard the sound.
I tried to cover my eyes, but I still saw the sight
Of sudden, closing cracks in the ground.
Remains of the sinners squirted up, and soon later,
Blood mixed with crushed bone showered down all around.
Washington said as he led me away, “A traitor
To one’s homeland is the worst. They are such slime.
They are more damaging than any foreign invader.
They make cracks in trust from within that in time
Can tear apart a country’s fabric and its people.
Antenora has punishment that fits the crime.”