My guide led me gravely down dark smoky byways,
The fire-lit chambers and sulphurous highways
That wound through the plateaus where fallen souls dwell;
The echoing agonized precincts of Hell.
And just when I thought it was all I could bear
And yearned for one breath of unsullied air,
I noticed one region apart from the rest
Where the torments just glimpsed put my soul to the test.
“Pray tell me,” I begged him, “Who could be so cursed?
For of all of the damned these are surely the worst!”
He followed my glance, then blanched, turned away,
For a time as I followed no further would say.
Then: “Those monsters,” he muttered, avoiding my looks,
“Wrote in the margins of library books.”