Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Song and Legend From the Middle Ages by William D. McClintock and Porter Lander McClintock

Part 3 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.3 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Thereat outspake Sir Hagan, the noble knight and good,
"Let each, by thirst tormented, take here a draught of blood.
In such a heat, believe me, 't is better far than wine.
Nought's for the time so fitting; such counsel, friends, is

With that straight went a warrior, where a warm corpse he found.
On the dead down knelt he; his helmet he unbound;
Then greedily began he to drink the flowing blood.
However unaccustom'd, it seem'd him passing good.

"Now God requite thee, Hagan," the weary warrior cried,
"For such refreshing beverage by your advice supplied.
It has been my lot but seldom to drink of better wine.
For life am I thy servant for this fair hint of thine."

When th' others heard and witness'd with that delight he quaff'd,
Yet many more among them drank too the bloody draught.
It strung again their sinews, and failing strength renew'd.
This in her lover's person many a fair lady rued.

Into the hall upon them the fire-flakes thickly fell;
These with their shields they warded warily and well.
With smoke and heat together they were tormented sore.
Never, I ween, good warriors such burning anguish bore.

Through smoke and flame cried Hagan, "stand close against the
Let not the burning ashes on your helm-laces fall.
Into the blood yet deeper tread every fiery flake.
In sooth, this feast of Kriemhild's is ghastly merry-make."

One by one the champions fall, until only Hagen and Gunther,
exhausted with fighting, are left to contend with Dietrich, the
most Valisntof Etzel's vassals. The conclusion of the poem tells
of the fate of Hagen, Gunther, and Kriemhild.

Stanza 2428-2459.

Well knew the noble Dietrich how fierce and fell a knight
Was standing now against him; so warily the fight
'Gainst those tempestuous swordstrokes wag'd the good lord of
The strength and skill of Hagan he had not now to learn.

He fear'd too, mighty Balmung as down it swept amain;
Yet at times Sir Dietrich with craft would strike again,
Till that to sink before him he brought his foeman strong;
A fearful wound, he gave him that was both deep and long.

Sir Dietrich then bethought him, "thou'rt faint and ill bestead
I should win little worship, were I to strike thee dead.
I'll make a different trial, if thou can'st now be won
By main force for a pris'ner." With wary heed 't was done.

Down he threw his buckler; wondrous was his might;
He his arms resistless threw round Trony's knight.
So was by his stronger the main of strength subdued.
Thereat the noble Gunther remain'd in mournful mood.

His vanquish'd foe Sir Dietrich bound in a mighty band,
And led him thence to Kriemhild, and gave into her hand
The best and boldest champion that broadsword ever bore.
She after all her anguish felt comfort all the more.

For joy the queen inclin'd her before the welcome guest;
"Sir knight I in mind and body heaven keep thee ever blest!
By thee all my long sorrows are shut up in delight.
Even if death prevent not, thy service I'll requite."

"Fair and noble Kriemhild," thus Sir Dietrich spake,
"Spare this captive warrior, who full amends will make
For all his past transgressions; him here in bonds you see;
Revenge not on the fetter'd th' offences of the free."

With that she had Sir Hagan to durance led away,
Where no one could behold him, where under lock he lay.
Meanwhile the fierce king Gunther shouted loud and strong,
"Whither is gone the Berner? he hath done me grievous wrong."

Straight, at the call, to meet him Sir Dietrich swiftly went.
Huge was the strength of Gunther, and deadly his intent.
There he no longer dallied; from th' hall he forward ran;
Sword clash'd with sword together, as man confronted man.

Howe'er renown'd was Dietrich, and train'd in combat well,
Yet Gunther fought against him so furious and so fell,
And bore him hate so deadly, now friendless left and lone,
It seemed past all conceiving, how Dietrich held his own.

Both were of mighty puissance, and neither yielded ground;
Palace and airy turret rung with their strokes around,
As their swift swords descending their temper'd helmets hew'd
Well there the proud king Gunther display'd his manly mood.

Yet him subdued the Berner, as Hagan erst befell;
Seen was the blood of the warrior forth through his mail to well
Beneath the fatal weapon that Dietrich bore in fright.
Tir'd as he was, still Gunther had kept him like a knight.

So now at length the champion was bound by Dietrich there,
How ill soe'er it fitteth a king such bonds to bear.
Gunther and his fierce liegeman if he had left unbound,
He ween'd they'd deal destruction on all, whome'er they found.

Then by the hand Sir Dietrich took the champion good.
And in his bonds thence led him to where fair Kriemhild stood.
She cried, "thou'rt welcome, Gunther, hero of Burgundy."
"Now God requite you, Kriemhild, if you speak lovingly."

Said he, "I much should thank you, and justly, sister dear,
If true affection prompted the greeting which I hear;
But, knowing your fierce temper, proud queen, too well I see,
Such greeting is a mocking of Hagan and of me."

Then said the noble Berner, "high-descended dame,
Ne'er have been brought to bondage knights of such peerless fame,
As those, whom you, fair lady, now from your servant take.
Grant these forlorn and friendless fair treatment for my sake."

She said she fain would do so; then from the captive pair
With weeping eyes Sir Dietrich retir'd and left them there.
Straight a bloody vengeance wreak'd Etzell's furious wife
On those redoubted chanapions, and both bereft of life.

In dark and dismal durance them kept apart the queen,
So that from that hour neither was by the other seen,
Till that at last to Hagan her brother's head she bore.
On both she took with vengeance as tongue ne'er told before.

To the cell of Hagan eagerly she went;
Thus the knight bespake she, ah! with what fell intent!
"Wilt thou but return me what thou from me hast ta'en,
Back thou may'st go living to Burgundy again."

Then spake grim-visag'd Hagan, "you throw away your prayer,
High-descended lady; I took an oath whilere,
That, while my lords were living, or of them only one,
I'd ne'er point out the treasure; thus 't will be given to none."

Well knew the subtle Hagan, she ne'er would let him 'scape.
Ah! when did ever falsehood assume so foul a shape?
He fear'd, that, soon as ever the queen his life had ta'en,
She then would send her brother to Rhineland back again.

"I'll make an end, and quickly," Kriemhild fiercely spake.
Her brother's life straight had she in his dungeon take.
Off his head was smitten; she bore it by the hair
To the lord of Trony; such sight he well could spare.

A while in gloomy sorrow he view'd his master's head;
Then to remorseless Kriemhild thus the warrior said;
"E'en to thy wish this business thou to an end hast brought,
To such an end, moreover, as Hagan ever thought.

Now the brave king Gunther of Burgundy is dead
Young Giselher and eke Gernot alike with him are sped;
So now, where lies the treasure, none knows save God and me,
And told shall it be never, be sure, she-fiend! to thee."

Said she, "ill hast thou quitted a debt so deadly scor'd;
At least in my possession I'll keep my Siegfried's sword.
My lord and lover bore it, when last I saw him go.
For him woe wring my bosom, that pass'd all other woe."

Forth from the sheath she drew it; that could not be prevent;
At once to slay the champion was Kriemhild's stern intent.
High with both hands she heav'd it, and off his head did smite.
That was seen of king Etzel; he shudder'd at the sight.

"Ah!" cried the prince impassion'd, "harrow and welaway!
That the hand of a woman the noblest knight should slay,
That e'er struck stroke in battle, or ever buckler bore!
Albeit I was his foeman, needs must I sorrow sore."

Then said the aged Hildebrand, "let not her boast of gain,
In that by her contrivance this noble chief was slain.
Though to sore strait he brought me, let ruin on me light,
But I will take full vengeance for Trony's murdered knight."

Hildebrand the aged fierce on Kriemhild sprung:
To the death he smote her as his sword he swung.
Sudden and remorseless he his wrath did wreak.
What could then avail her her fearful thrilling shriek?

There now the dreary corpses stretch'd all around were seen;
There lay, hewn in pieces, the fair and noble queen.
Sir Dietrich and king Etzel, their tears began to start;
For kinsmen and for vassals each sorrow'd in his heart.

The mighty and the noble there lay together dead;
For this had all the people dole and drearihead.
The feast of royal Etzel was thus shut up in woe.
Pain in the steps of Pleasure treads ever here below.

'Tis more than I can tell you what afterwards befell,
Save that there was weeping for friends belov'd so well;
Knights and squires, dames and damsels, were seen lamenting all,
So here I end my story. This is THE NIBELUNGERS' FALL.

--Tr. by Littsom.


As elsewhere in Europe, the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in
Germany produced numberless romances. These may be classed under
(1) Romances of Arthur, (2) Romances of the Holy Graal, (3)
Romances of Antiquity, and (4) Romances of Love and Chivalry. The
chief poets of romances were Hartmann von Aue, Gottfried von
Strassburg, and Wolfram von Eschenbach. A good example of the
romance of love is "Der Arme Heinrich of Hartmann von Aue". "Poor
Henry", to quote Scherer, "is a kind of Job, a man of noble
birth; rich, handsome, and beloved, who is suddenly visited by
God with the terrible affliction of leprosy,and who can be cured
only by the lifeblood of a young maiden who is willing to die for
him. The daughter of a peasant, to whose house he has retired in
his despair, resolves to sacrifiice her life for him. Heinrich
accepts her offer, and the knife to kill her is already whetted,
when a better feeling arises in his breast, and he refuses to
take upon himself the guilt of her death, resolving to resign
himself to the will of God. This resignation saves him; he
recovers and marries the maiden." Our extracts are from the first
and last of the poem.

Ll. 1-131.--

Once on a time, rhymeth the rhyme,
In Swabia land once on a time,
There was a nobleman so journeying,
Unto whose nobleness everything
Of virtue and high-hearted excellence
Worthy his line and his high pretense
With plentiful measure was meted out:
The land rejoiced in him round about.
He was like a prince in his governing--
In his, wealth he was like a king;
But most of all by the fame far-flown
Of his great knightliness was he known,
North and south, upon land and sea.
By his name he was Henry of the Lea.
All things whereby the truth grew dim
Were held as hateful foes with him:
By solemn oath was he bounden fast
To shun them while his life should last.
In honour all his days went by:
Therefore his soul might look up high
To honorable authority.

A paragon of all graciousness,
A blossoming branch of youthfulness,
A looking-glass to the world around,
A stainless and priceless diamond,
Of gallant 'haviour a beautiful wreath,
A home when the tyrant menaceth,
A buckler to the breast of his friend,
And courteous without measure or end;
Whose deeds of arms 'twere long to tell;
Of precious wisdom a limpid well,
A singer of ladies every one,
And very lordly to look upon
In feature and hearing and countenance:
Say, failed he in anything, perchance,
The summit of all glory to gain.
And the lasting honour of all men.

Alack! the soul that was up so high
Dropped down into pitiful misery;
The lofty courage was stricken low,
The steady triumph stumbled in woe,
And the world-joy was hidden in the dust,
Even as all such shall be and must.
He whose life in the senses centreth
Is already in the shades of death.
The joys, called great, of this under-state
Burn up the bosom early and late;
And their shining is altogether vain,
For it bringeth anguish and trouble and pain,
The torch that flames for men to see
And wasteth to ashes inwardly
Is verily but an imaging
Of man's own life, the piteous thing.
The whole is brittleness and mishap:
We sit and dally in Fortune's lap
Till tears break in our smiles betwixt,
And the shallow honey-draught be mix'd
With sorrow's wormwood fathom-deep.
Oh! rest not therefore, man, nor sleep:
In the blossoming of thy flower-crown
A sword is raised to smite thee down.

It was thus with Earl Henry, upon whom for his pride God sent a
leprosy, as He did upon Job. But he did not bear his affliction
as did Job.

Its duteousness his heart forgot;
His pride waxed hard, and kept its place,
But the glory departed from his face,
And that which was his strength, grew weak.
The hand that smote him on the cheek
Was all too heavy. It was night,
Now, and his sun withdrew its light.
To the pride of his uplifted thought
Much woe the weary knowledge brought
That the pleasant way his feet did wend
Was all passed o'er and had an end.
The day wherein his years had begun
Went in his mouth with a malison.
As the ill grew stronger and more strong,--
There was but hope bore him along;
Even yet to hope he was full fain
That gold might help him back again
Thither whence God had cast him out.
Ah! weak to strive and little stout
'Gainst Heaven the strength that he possessed.
North and south and east and west,
Far and wide from every side,
Mediciners well proved and tried
Came to him at the voice of his woe;
But, mused and pondered they ever so,
They could but say, for all their care,
That he must be content to bear
The burthen of the anger of God;
For him there was no other road.
Already was his heart nigh down
When yet to him one chance was shown;
For in Salerno dwelt, folk said,
A leach who still might lend him aid,
Albeit unto his body's cure,
All such had been as nought before.

Earl Henry visits the leach in Salerno whom he implores to tell
him the means by which he may be healed.

Quoth the leach, "Then know them what they are;
Yet still all hope must stand afar.
Truly if the cure for your care
Might be gotten anyway anywhere,
Did it hide in the furthest parts of earth,
This-wise I had not sent you forth.
But all my knowledge hath none avail;
There is but one thing would not fail:
An innocent virgin for to find,
Chaste, and modest, and pure in mind,
Who to save you from death might choose
Her own young body's life to lose;
The heart's blood of the excellent maid--
That and nought else can be your aid.
But there is none will be won thereby
For the love of another's life to die.

"'T was then poor Henry knew indeed
That from his ill he might not be freed,
Sith that no woman he might win
Of her own will to act herein.
Thus got he but an ill return
For the journey he made unto Salerne,
And the hope he had upon that day
Was snatched from him and rent away.
Homeward he hied him back: fall fain
With limbs in the dust he would have lain.
Of his substance--lands and riches both--
He rid himself; even as one doth
Who the breath of the last life of his hope
Once and forever hath rendered up.
To his friends he gave and to the poor,
Unto God praying evermore
The spirit that was in him to save,
And make his bed soft in the grave.
What still remained aside he set
For Holy Church's benefit.
Of all that heretofore was his
Nought held he for himself, I wis,
Save one small house with byre and field:
There from the world he lived concealed,--
There lived he, and awaited Death,
Who being awaited, lingereth.
Pity and ruth his troubles found
Alway through all the country round.
Who heard him named, had sorrow deep
And for his piteous sake would weep.

The poor man who tilled Earl Henry's field had a daughter, a
sweet and tender maiden who, out of love for Henry and a heart of
Christ-like pity, at last offers herself to die for him. After a
struggle Henry accepts the sacrifice. But when he knows it is
about to be made his heart rises against it and he refuses to
permit it. At this the maiden is much grieved. She takes it as a
token that she is not pure enough to be offered for him. She
prays for a sign that she may hope to become wholly cleansed. In
answer to this prayer Earl Henry is in one night cleansed of the
leprosy. He then joyfully takes the maiden for his bride and
leads her before his kinsman and nobles for their consent.

"Then," quoth the Earl, "hearken me this.
The damozel who standeth here,--
And whom I embrace, being most dear,--
She it is unto whom I owe
The grace it hath pleased God to bestow.
He saw the simple spirited
Earnestness of the holy maid,
And even in guerdon of her truth
Gave me back the joys of my youth,
Which seemed to be lost beyond all doubt,
And therefore I have chosen her out
To wed with mae knowing her free.
I think that God will let this be.
Lo! I enjoin ye, with God's will
That this my longing ye fulfill.
I pray ye all have but one voice
And let your choice go with my choice."

Then the cries ceased, and the counter-cries,
And all the battle of advice,
And every lord, being content
With Henry's choice, granted assent.

Then the priests came to bind as one
Two lives in bridal unison,
Into his hand they folded hers,
Not to be loosed in coming years,
And uttered between man and wife
God's blessing on the road of this life.
Many a bright and pleasant day
The twain pursued their steadfast way,
Till hand in hand, at length they trod
Upward to the kingdom of God.
Even as it was with them, even thus,
And quickly, it must be with us.
To such reward as theirs was then,
God help us in His hour. Amen.

-- Tr. by Rossetti.


In the twelfth century, Germany had a remarkable outburst of
lyric poetry, chiefly songs of love. The influence of the
crusades, the spread of the romances of Arthur and Charlemagne
roused over all Germany the spirit of poetry. The poets of this
new movement are called Minnesingers. It is interesting to notice
that the same poets who wrote these love lyrics, wrote also long
romances of chivalry; the greatest names among them being
Hartmann von Aue, Wolfram von Eschenbach, Heinrich von
Ofterdingen, Gottfried von Strassburg, and Walther von der
Vogelweide. They were of all ranks, but chiefly belonged to the
upper classes--knights, squires, princes, and even kings being
numbered among them. Their extraordinarily large number may be
gathered from the fact that from the twelfth century alone the
names of one hundred and sixty Minnesingers have come down to us.
Their names and their songs have been handed down largely by
tradition, since the mass of them could neither read nor write,
and for a century or more their work was preserved orally.

The subject of these songs was almost always love--generally love
of a sweetheart; sometimes of the simpler aspects of nature,
sometimes the love of the Virgin. Besides this they wrote also
many didactic, religious, and patriotic songs. The rhythmical and
metrical structure of their verse was very complicated and
generally very skillful, sometimes, however, running into
eccentricities and barren technicalities. The Minnesinger
generally composed the music of his song at the same time with
the verse.

The bloom of the Minnesong passed away in the latter half of the
thirteenth century. The songs became theological, didactic,
political, more and more forced and complicated in form, more and
more filled with quaint new figures, far-fetched conceits, and
obscure allusions. Then gradually developed the school of the
Meistersingers, who formed themselves into a guild of poets to
which only those were admitted who passed examination upon the
difficult technical rules that had been built up. The poetry of
the Meistersinigers was, for the most part, tedious and
artificial. The poets were not nobles and soldiers, but burghers
and artisans. They reached their highest development in the
sixteenth century. The most famous of them was Hans Sachs
(1494-1575), who, in the space of fifty-three years, wrote 6181
pieces of verse.

DIETMAR VON AIST. Twelfth Century.

By the heath stood a lady
All lonely and fair;
As she watched for her lover,
A falcon flew near.
"Happy falcon!" she cried
"Who can fly where he list,
And can choose in the forest
The tree he loves best!

"Thus, too, had I chosen
One knight for mine own,
Him my eye had selected,
Him prized I alone:
But other fair ladies
Have envied my joy,
And why? for I sought not
Their bliss to destroy.

"As to thee, lovely summer,
Returns the birds' strain,
As on yonder green linden
The leaves spring again,
So constant doth grief
At my eyes overflow,
And wilt not thou, dearest,
Return to me now?"

"Yes, come, my own hero,
All others desert!
When first my eye saw thee,
How graceful thou wert;
How fair was thy presence,
How graceful, how bright!
Then think of me only,
My own chosen knight!"
. . . . . .
There sat upon the linden-tree
A bird and sang its strain;
So sweet it sang, that, as I heard,
My heart went back again:
It went to one remembered spot,
I saw the rose-trees grow,
And thought again the thoughts of love
There cherished long ago.

A thousand years to me it seems
Since by my fair I sat,
Yet thus to have been a stranger long
Was not my choice, but fate:
Since then I have not seen the flowers,
Nor heard the birds' sweet song;
My joys have all too briefly passed,
My griefs been all too long.

--Tr. by Taylor.

WALTHER VON DER VOGELWEIDE. Early ninteenth Century.

Under the linden
On the meadow
Where our bed arrange'd was,
There now you may find e'en
In the shadow Broken flowers and crushe'd grass.
Near the woods, down in the vale
Sweetly sang the nightingale.

I, poor sorrowing one,
Came to the prairie,
Look, my lover had gone before.
There he received me--
Gracious Mary!--
That now with bliss I am brimming o'er.
Kissed he me? Ah, thousand hours!
See my mouth, how red it flowers!

Then 'gan he making
Oh! so cheery,
From flowers a couch most rich outspread.
At which outbreaking
In laughter merry
You'll find, whoe'er the path does tread.
By the rose he can see
Where my head lay cozily.

How he caressed me
Knew it one ever
God defend! ashamed I'd be.
Whereto he pressed me
No, no, never
Shall any know it but him and me
And a birdlet on the tree
Sure we can trust it, cannot we?

--Tr. by Kroeger.


Sweet love of Holy Spirit
Direct sick mind and steer it,
God, who the first didst rear it,
Protect thou Christendom.
It lies of pleasure barren
No rose blooms more in Sharon;
Comfort of all th' ill-starren,
Oh! help dispel the gloom!
Keep, Savior, from all ill us!
We long for the bounding billows,
Thy Spirit's love must thrill us,
Repentant hearts' true friend.
Thy blood for us thou'st given,
Unlocked the gates of heaven.
Now strive we as we've striven
To gain the blessed land.
Our wealth and blood grows thinner;
God yet will make us winner
Gainst him, who many a sinner
Holds pawne'd in his hand.
. . . . . . . . .
God keep thy help us sending,
With thy right hand aid lending,
Protect us till the ending
When at last our soul us leaves,
From hell-fires, flaming clamor
Lest we fall 'neath the hammer!
Too oft we've heard with tremor,
How pitiably it grieves
The land so pure and holy
All helplessly and fearfully!
Jerusalem, weep lowly,
That thou forgotten art!
The heathen's boastful glory
Put thee in slavery hoary.
Christ, by thy name's proud story
In mercy take her part!
And help those sorely shaken
Who treaties them would maken
That we may not be taken
And conquered at the start.

-- Tr. by Kroeger.

When from the sod the flowerets spring,
And smile to meet the sun's bright ray,
When birds their sweetest carols sing,
In all the morning pride of May,
What lovelier than the prospect there?
Can earth boast any thing more fair?
To me it seems an almost heaven,
So beauteous to my eyes that vision bright is given.

But when a lady chaste and fair,
Noble, and clad in rich attire,
Walks through the throng with gracious air,
As sun that bids the stars retire,
Then, where are all thy boastings, May?
What hast thou beautiful and gay,
Compared with that supreme delight?
We leave thy loveliest flowers, and watch that lady bright.

Wouldst thou believe me,--come and place
Before thee all this pride of May;
Then look but on my lady's face,
And which is best and brightest say:
For me, how soon (if choice were mine)
This would I take, and that resign,
And say, "Though sweet thy beauties, May,
I'd rather forfeit all than lose my lady gay!"

--Tr. by Taylor.

The Minnesingers wrote many songs in praise of the Virgin. She
was the embodiment of pure womanhood, their constant object of
devotion. The following extracts are taken from a hymn to the
Virgin, formerly attributed to Gottfried von Strassburg. It is
one of the greatest of the Minnesongs. It consists of
ninety-three stanzas, of which six are given.

Stanza 1.--
Ye who your life would glorify
And float in bliss to God on high,
There to dwell nigh
His peace and love's salvation;
Who fain would learn how to enroll
All evil under your control,
And rid your soul
Of many a sore temptation;
Give heed unto this song of love,
And follow its sweet story.
Then will its passing sweetness prove
Unto your hearts a winge'd dove
And upward move
Your souls to bliss and glory.

Stanza 12.--
Ye fruitful heavens, from your ways
Bend down to hear the tuneful lays
I sing in praise
Of her, the sainted maiden,
Who unto us herself has shown
A modest life, a crown and throne;
Whose love has flown
O'er many a heart grief-laden.
Thou too, O Christ, thine ear incline
To this my adoration,
In honor of that mother thine
Who ever blest must stay and shine,
For she's the shrine
Of God's whole vast creation.

Stanza 19.--
Thou sheen of flowers through clover place,
Thou lignum aloe's blooming face,
Thou sea of grace,
Where man seeks blessed landing.
Thou roof of rapture high and blest,
Through which no rain has ever passed,
Thou goodly rest,
Whose end is without ending.
Thou to help-bearing strength a tower
Against all hostile evils.
Thou parriest many a stormy shower
Which o'er us cast in darkest hour,
The hell worm's power
And other ruthless devils.

Stanza 20.--
Thou art a sun, a moon, a star,
'Tis thou can'st give all good and mar,
Yea, and debar
Our enemies' great cunning.
That power God to thee hath given
That living light, that light of heaven:
Hence see we even
Thy praise from all lips running.
Thou' st won the purest, noblest fame,
In all the earth's long story,
That e'er attached to worldly name;
It shineth brightly like a flame;
All hearts the same
Adore its lasting glory.

Stanza 82.--
To worship, Lady, thee is bliss,
And fruitful hours ne'er pass amiss
To heart that is
So sweet a guest's host-mansion.
He who thee but invited hath
Into his heart's heart love with faith,
Must live and bathe
In endless bliss-expansion.
To worship thee stirs up in man
A love now tame, now passion.
To worship thee doth waken, then
Love e'en in those love ne'er could gain;
Thus now amain
Shines forth thy love's concession.

From praising Mary, the poet passes to praising Christ.

Stanza 59.--
Thou cool, thou cold, thou warmth, thou heat,
Thou rapture's circle's central seat,
Who does not meet
With thee stays dead in sadness;
Each day to him appears a year,
Seldom his thoughts wear green bloom's gear;
He doth appear
Forever without gladness.
Thou art most truly our heart's shine
Our sun wide joy-inspiring;
A sweet heart's love for all that pine,
For all the sad a joyful shrine,
A spring divine
For the thirsty and desiring.

--Tr. by Kroeger.


There was no folk poetry and no popular literature in Mediaeval
Italy. There were two reasons for this: (1) Italian history,
political and intellectual, attaches itself very closely to that
of Rome. The traditions of classic learning never died out. Hence
the Italian nation was always too learned, too literary to
develop a folk literature. (2) Italy was for many centuries
dominated by ecclesiastical influence, and the people's minds
were full of matters of religious and scholastic philosophy,
which excluded art.

The Italians translated and adapted some of the epics, romances,
and tales of other countries, during the earlier years of the
Middle Ages; but they were written in Latin, or in a kind of
French. They produced none of their own. There was no literature
written in Italian before the thirteenth century.

In the thirteenth century (1250) there came the first outburst of
Italian literature--religious songs, love songs, dramas, and
tales. In almost every part of Italy men began to write. But it
was in Tuscany, in Florence, that the most remarkable literary
development of this period appeared. It was of the nature chiefly
of lyric and allegoric poetry. The work of this group of Tuscan
poets was really the beginning of Italian literary art. Yet it
was a finished art product, not at all like the beginnings of
poetry in other countries.

The group numbered a dozen poets of considerable power and skill.
The greatest of them and the greatest of Italian poets was Dante
Alighieri. In Italian mediaeval literature three names stand out
far above all others. They are Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio. So
completely do they overshadow their contemporaries, that in
making our selection of Italian literature we shall confine
ourselves entirely to these three.

Dante Alighieri was born at Florence, in May, 1266, and died at
Ravenna in September, 1321. He had an eventful and pathetic life.
He was much in public affairs. He was banished from his native
city in 1302, and died in exile. His literary work is represented
chiefly by the following titles: "Vita Nuova, The New Life";
"Convito, The Banquet"; "De Monarchia, A Treatise on Monarchy";
"De Vulgari Eloquio, A Treatise on the Vulgar Tongue"; and
"Divina Commedia", his masterpiece and the master-work of the
Middle Ages.


The "Vita Nuova" is a work of Dante's youth, a record of his
early life and love. The title may be translated either Early
Life or The New Life. From the nature of the work we may infer
that the latter translation conveys the poet's thought. It
implies that after his first sight of Beatrice he began a new
existence. He saw her first when he was nine years old. Nine
years later she greeted him for the first time. Inspired by this
greeting he began the "Vita Nuova".[1] It is written in prose
interspersed with sonnets and canzoni. We select for reproduction
some of the sonnets from Rossetti's translation.

[1] When Dante first saw Beatrice she was eight years old. From
that hour he says he loved her. She was the inspiration of his
early poem; and afterward, in the Divine Comedy, she became the
embodiment of his conception of divine wisdom. She was married
quite young to Simon di Bardi, a citizen of Florence. She died in
1290, when only twenty-four years old.

I. Sonnets telling to other ladies the praise of Beatrice.

Ladies that have intelligence in love
Of mine own lady I would speak with you;
Not that I hope to count her praises through,
But telling what I may to ease my mind.
And I declare that when I speak thereof
Love sheds such perfect sweetness over me
That if my courage failed not, certainly
To him my listeners must be all resign'd.
Wherefore I will not speak in such large kind
That mine own speech should foil me, which were base;
But only will discourse of her high grace
In these poor words, the best that I can find,
With you alone dear dames and damozels:
'Twere ill to speak thereof with any else.
. . . . . . . .
My lady is desired in the high Heaven;
WHEREFORE, it now behoveth me to tell, saying:
Let any maid that would be well
Esteemed, keep with her; for as she goes by,
Into foul hearts a deadly chill is driven
By Love, that makes ill thoughts to perish there;
While any who endures to gaze on her
Must either be ennobled, or else die.
When one deserving to be raised so high
Is found, It is then her power attains its proof,
Making his heart strong for his soul's behoof
With the full strength of meek humility.
Also this virtue owns she, by God's will:
Who speaks with her can never come to ill.

II. On the death of Beatrice.

When mine eyes had wept for some while until they were so weary
with weeping that I could no longer through them give ease to my
sorrow, I bethought me that a few mournful words might stand me
instead of tears. And therefore I proposed to make a poem, that
weeping I might speak therein of her for whom so much sorrow had
destroyed my spirit; and I then began:

The eyes that weep for pity of the heart
Have wept so long that their grief languisheth,
And they have no more tears to weep withal:
And now if I would ease me of a part
Of what, little by little, leads to death,
It must be done by speech, or not at all,
And because often, thinking I recall
How it was pleasant ere she went afar,
To talk of her with you, kind damozels,
I talk with no one else,
But only with such hearts as women's are.
And I will say,--still sobbing as speech fails,--
That she hath gone to Heaven suddenly,
And hath left Love below, to mourn with me.


"Dante once prepared to paint an angel."
. . . . . . .
"You and I would rather see that angel
Painted by the tenderness of Dante,--
Would we not?--than read a fresh Inferno."

--Browning's "One Word More".

On that day which fulfilled the year since my lady had been made
of the citizens of eternal life, remembering me of her as I sat
alone, I betook myself to draw the resemblance of an angel upon
certain tablets. And while I did thus, chancing to turn my head,
I perceived that some were standing beside me to whom I should
have given courteous welcome, and that they were observing what I
did; also I learned afterwards that they had been there a while
before I perceived them. Perceiving whom, I arose for salutation
and said: "Another was with me."

Afterwards, when they had left me, I set myself again to mine
occupation, to wit, to the drawing figures of angels; in doing
which, I conceived to write of this matter in rhyme, as for her
anniversary, and to address my rhymes unto those who had just
left me. It was then that I wrote the sonnet which saith "That

That lady of all gentle memories
Had lighted on my soul; whose new abode
Lies now, as it was well ordained of God,
Among the poor in heart where Mary is.
Love, knowing that dear image to be his,
Woke up within the sick heart sorrow-bowed,
Unto the sighs which are its weary load,
Saying, "Go forth." And they went forth, I wis
Forth went they from my breast that throbbed and ached;
With such a pang as oftentimes will bathe
Mine eyes with tears when I am left alone.
And still those sighs which drew the heaviest breath
Came whispering thus: "O noble intellect!
It is a year to-day that thou art gone."

IV. The Close of the Vita Nuova.

Beyond the sphere which spreads to widest space
Now soars the sigh that my heart sends above;
A new perception born of grieving Love
Guideth it upward the untrodden ways.
When it hath reached unto the end and stays,
It sees a lady round whom splendors move
In homage; till, by the great light thereof
Abashed, the pilgrim spirit stands at gaze.
It sees her such, that when it tells me this
Which it hath seen, I understand it not;
It hath a speech so subtile and so fine
And yet I know its voice within my thought
Often remembereth me of Beatrice:
So that I understand it, ladies mine.

After writing this sonnet, it was given unto me to behold a very
wonderful vision,[1] wherein I saw things which determined me
that I would say nothing further of this most blessed one, until
such time as I could discourse more worthily of her. And to this
end I labor all I can; as she well knoweth. Wherefore if it be
His pleasure through whom is the life of all things, that my life
continue with me a few years, it is my hope that I shall yet
write concerning her what hath not before been written of any
woman. After the which may it seem good unto Him who is the
Master of Grace, that my spirit should go hence to behold the
glory of its lady: to wit, the blessed Beatrice, who now gazeth
continually on His countenanc,e qui est per omnia soecula
benedictus. Laus Deo.[2]

[1] This we may believe to be the vision of Hell, Purgatory, and
Paradise, the vision which gave him the argument of the Divine

[2] Who is blessed throughout all ages. Praise to God.


[1] Dante called his poem a comedy, he says, for two reasons:
because it has a sad beginning and a cheerful ending, and because
it is written in a "middle" style, treating alike of lowly and
lofty things. Midway in life the poet finds himself lost in the
forest of worldly cares, beset by the three beasts, Pride,
Avarice, and Worldly Pleasure. Virgil, who is the embodiment of
moral philosophy, appears and leads him through the Hell of
worldly sin and suffering, through the Purgatory of repentance,
to the calm of the earthly Paradise. Mere philosophy can go no
further. The poet is here taken under the guidance of Beatrice,
the embodiment of divine wisdom, who leads him through Paradise
to the throne of God. Such, in the briefest form, is the argument
of the Divine Comedy; this statement carries the actual story and
the allegory side by side. The first division of the triple
vision is the Inferno. Dante's Inferno is an inverted cone,
having its mouth in a deep rugged valley, its sides sloping down
to the center of the earth. When Lucifer fell from heaven the
earth retired before him, making this hollow cone. This is
divided into nine circles, in which the lost souls suffer. These
souls are grouped into three main classes: the incontinent, the
violent, and the fraudulent. The first circle of the Inferno is
Limbo, where are the souls of children and the unbaptized; of the
heathen philosophers and poets. They are neither in pain nor
glory, they do not shriek nor groan but only sigh.

I. The Poets in Limbo.--From the Inferno.

Broke the deep slumber in my brain a crash
Of heavy thunder, that I shook myself,
As one by main force roused. Risen upright,
My rested eyes I moved around, and search'd,
With fixed ken, to know what place it was
Wherein I stood. For certain, on the brink
I found me of the lamentable vale,
The dread abyss, that joins a thundrous sound
Of plaints innumerable. Dark and deep,
And thick with clouds o'erspread, mine eye in vain
Explored its bottom, nor could aught discern.
"Now let us to the blind world there beneath
Descend;" the bard began, all pale of look:
"I go the first, and thou shalt follow next."
Then I his alter'd hue perceiving, thus:
"How may I speed, if thou yieldest to dread,
Who still art wont to comfort me in doubt?"
He then: "The anguish of that race below
With pity stains my cheek, which thou for fear
Mistakest. Let us on. Our length of way
Urges to haste." Onward, this said, he moved;
And entering led me with him, on the bounds
Of the first circle that surrounds the abyss.
. . . . . . . . . .
We were not far
On this side from the summit, when I kenn'd
A flame, that o'er the darken'd hemisphere
Prevailing shined. Yet we a little space
Were distant, not so far but I in part
Discover'd that a tribe in honour high
That place possess'd. "O thou, who every art
And science valuest I who are these that boast
Such honour, separate from all the rest?"
He answer'd: "The renown of their great names,
That echoes through your world above, acquires
Favour in heaven, which holds them thus advanced."
Meantime a voice I heard: "Honour the bard
Sublime![1] his shade returns, that left us late!

No sooner ceased the sound, than I beheld
Four mighty spirits toward us bend their steps,
Of semblance neither sorrowful nor glad.
When thus my master kind began: "Mark him,
Who in his right hand bears that falchion keen,
The other three preceding, as their lord.
This is that Homer, of all bards supreme:
Flaccus the next, in satire's vein excelling;
The third is Naso; Lucan is the last.
Because they all that appellation own,
With which the voice singly accosted me,
Honouring they greet me thus, and well they judge."
So I beheld united the bright school
Of him the monarch of sublimest song,[2]

That o'er the others like an eagle soars.
When they together short discourse had held,
They turned to me, with salutation kind
Beckoning me; at the which my master smiled
Nor was this all; but greater honour still
They gave me, for they made me of their tribe;
And I was sixth amid so learn'd a band.

[1] The bard sublime--Virgil.

[2] The monarch of sublimest song--Homer.

II. Francesca da Rimini.[1]

[1] Francesca da Polenta was given in marriage by her father to
Lanclotto da Rimini, a man brave, but of deformed person. His
brother Paolo, who was exceedingly handsome, won her affections.
They were both put to death by Lagnciotto.

From the Inferno.
From Limbo the poet descends into the second circle, where the
sin of lust is punished. The souls in this circle are driven
forever round in a tyrannous gust of wind. They see Cleopatra and
Helen and Paris and Tristan and many others whom Virgil names to
the poet. Finally he sees two spirits approaching, whom he asks
permission to address. To these he spoke:

"O wearied spirits! come, and hold discourse
With us, if by none else restrain'd." As doves
By fond desire invited, on wide wings
And firm, to their sweet nest returning home,
Cleave the air, wafted by their will along;
Thus issued, from that troop where Dido ranks,
They, through the ill air speeding--with such force
My cry prevail'd, by strong affection urged.
"O gracious creature and benign! who go'st
Visiting, through this element obscure,
Us, who the world with bloody stain imbrued;
If, for a friend, the King of all, we own'd,
Our prayer to him should for thy peace arise,
Since thou hast pity on our evil plight.
Of whatsoe'er to hear or to discourse
It pleases thee, that will we hear, of that
Freely with thee discourse, while e'er the wind,
As now, is mute. The land[1] that gave me birth,
Is situate on the coast, where Po descends
To rest in ocean with his sequent streams.
"Love, that in gentle heart is quickly learnt,
Entangled him by that fair form, from me
Ta'en in such cruel sort, as grieves me still!
Love, that denial takes from none beloved,
Caught me with pleasing him so passing well,
That, as thou seest' he yet deserts me not.
Love brought us to one death: Caina[2] waits
The soul, who split our life."
Such were their words;
At hearing which, downward I bent my looks,
And held them there so long, that the bard cried:
"What art thou pondering?" I in answer thus:
"Alas I by what sweet thoughts, what fond desire
Must they at length to that ill pass have reach'd!"
Then turning, I to them my speech addressed,
And thus began: "Francesca! your sad fate
Even to tears my grief and pity moves.
But tell me; in the time of your sweet sighs,
By what, and how Love granted, that ye knew
Your yet uncertain wishes?" She replied:
"No greater grief than to remember days
Of joy, when misery is at hand. That kens
Thy learn'd instructor. Yet so eagerly
If thou art bent to know the primal root,
From whence our love gat being, I will do
As one, who weeps and tells his tale. One day,
For our delight we read of Lancelot,[3]
How him love thrall'd. Alone we were, and no
Suspicion near us. Oft-times by that reading
Our eyes were drawn together, and the hue
Fled from our alter'd cheek. But at one point
Alone we fell. When of that smile we read,
The wished smile so rapturously kiss'd
By one so deep in love, then he, who ne'er
From me shall separate, at once my lips
All trembling kiss'd. The book and writer both
Were love's purveyors. In its leaves that day
We read no more." While thus one spirit spake,
The other wailed so sorely, that heart-struck
I, through compassion fainting, seem'd not far
From death, and like a corse fell to the ground.

[1] The land that gave me birth--Ravenna.

[2] Caina, the place to which murderers are doomed.

[3] Lancelot, one of the knights of the Round Table, the lover of
Queen Guinevere.

III. Farinata.--From the Inferno.

The poet and his guide descend through the third circle where the
sin of gluttony is punished; through the fourth, where they find
the prodigal and avaricious; through the fifth where immersed in
a filthy pool are the souls of the irascible. The sixth circle is
the city of Dis, with walls of heated iron, filled within with
open fiery tombs from which issue the groans of the heretics who
are punished here. With two of these, Farinata degli Uberti[1]
and Cavaleante Cavaleanti,[2] Dante holds converse.

[1] Farinata degli Uberti, a Florentine of great military
ability, a leader of the Ghibelline, or imperial, party.

[2] Cavaleante Cavaleanti, a Florentine, of the Guelph, or Papal,

Now by a secret pathway we proceed,
Between the walls that hem the region round,
And the tormented souls: my master first,
I close behind his steps. "Virtue supreme!"
I thus began: "who through these ample orbs
In circuit lead'st me, even as thou will'st;
Speak thou, and satisfy my wish. May those,
Who lie within these sepulchres, be seen?
Already all the lids are raised, and none
O'er them keeps watch." He thus in answer spake:
"They shall be closed all, what-time they here
From Josaphat[1] return'd shall come, and bring
Their bodies, which above they now have left.
The cemetery on this part obtain,
With Epicurus, all his followers,
Who with the body make the spirit die.
Here therefore satisfaction shall be soon,
Both to the question ask'd, and to the wish [2]
Which thou conceal'st in silence." I replied:
"I keep not, guide beloved I from thee my heart
Secreted, but to shun vain length of words;
A lesson erewhile taught me by thyself."
"O Tuscan! thou, who through the city of fire
Alive art passing, so discreet of speech:
Here, please thee, stay awhile. Thy utterance
Declares the place of thy nativity
To be that noble land, with which perchance
I too severely dealt." Sudden that sound
Forth issued from a vault, whereat, in fear,
I somewhat closer to my leader's side
Approaching, he thus spake: "What dost thou? Turn: Lo!
Farinata, there, who hath himself
Uplifted: from his girdle upwards, all
Exposed, behold him." On his face was mine
Already fix'd: his breast and forehead there
Erecting, seem'd as in high scorn he held
E'en hell. Between the sepulchres, to him
My guide thrust me, with fearless hands and prompt;
This warning added: "See thy words be clear."
He, soon as there I stood at the tomb's foot,
Eyed me a space; then in disdainful mood
Address'd me: "Say what ancestors were thine."
I, willing to obey him, straight reveal'd
The whole, nor kept back aught: whence he, his brow
Somewhat uplifting, cried: "Fiercely were they
Adverse to me, my party, and the blood
From whence I sprang: twice, therefore, I abroad
Scatter'd them." "Though driven out, yet they each time
From all parts," answer'd I, "return'd; an art
Which yours have shown they are not skill'd to learn."
Then, peering forth from the unclosed jaw,
Rose from his side a shade,[3] high as the chin,
Leaning, methought, upon its knees upraised.
It look'd around, as eager to explore
If there were other with me; but perceiving
That fond imagination quench'd, with tears
Thus spake: "If thou through this blind prison go'st,
Led by thy lofty genius and profound,
Where is my son? and wherefore not with thee?
I straight replied: "Not of myself I come;
By him, who there expects me, through this clime
Conducted, whom perchance Guido thy son
Had in contempt."[4] Already had his words
And mode of punishment read me his name,
Whence I so fully answer'd. He at once
Exclaim'd' up starting, "How! said'st thou' he HAD?
No longer lives he? Strikes not on his eye
The blessed daylight?" Then, of some delay
I made ere my reply, aware, down fell
Supine, nor after forth appear'd he more.

[1] It was a common opinion that the general judgment would be
held in the valley of Josaphat, or Jehoshaphat. Joel iii., 2.

[2] The wish-Dante's wish was to speak with the followers of
Epicurus, of whom were Farinata and Cavalcante.

[3] A shade--Cavalcante.

[4] Guido, thy son had in contempt--Guido the son of Cavalcante
Cavalcanti, a Tuscan poet, the friend of Dante. But being fonder
of philosophy than of poetry was perhaps not an admirer of

V. The Hypocrites. From the Inferno.

In the seventh circle, which is divided into three rounds, or
gironi, the violent are tormented. The eighth circle is divided
into ten concentric fosses, or gulfs, in each of which some
variety of fraudulent sinners is punished. In the sixth gulf are
the hypocrites.

There in the depth we saw a painted tribe,
Who paced with tardy steps around, and wept,
Faint in appearance and o'ercome with toil.
Caps had they on, with hoods, that fell low down
Before their eyes, in fashion like to those
Worn by the monks in Cologne.[1]
Their outside Was overlaid with gold, dazzling to view,
But leaden all within, and of such weight,
That Frederick's [2] compared to these were straw.
Oh, everlasting wearisome attire!
We yet once more with them together turn'd
To leftward, on their dismal moan intent.
But by the weight opprest, so slowly came
The fainting people, that our company
Was changed, at every movement of the step.
I staid, and saw two spirits in whose look
Impatient eagerness of mind was mark'd
To overtake me; but the load they bare
And narrow path retarded their approach.
Soon as arrived, they with an eye askance
Perused me, but spake not: then turning, each
To other thus conferring said: "This one
Seems, by the action of his throat, alive;
And, be they dead, what privilege allows
They walk unmantled by the cumbrous stole?"
Then thus to me: "Tuscan, who visitest
The college of the mourning hypocrites,
Disdain not to instruct us who thou art."
"By Arno's pleasant stream," I thus replied,
In the great city I was bred and grew,
And wear the body I have ever worn.
But who are ye, from whom such mighty grief,
As now I witness, courseth down your cheeks?
What torment breaks forth in this bitter woe?"
"Our bonnets gleaming bright with orange hue,"
One of them answer'd' "are so leaden gross,
That with their weight they make the balances
To crack beneath them. Joyous friars[3] we were,
Bologna's natives; Catalano I,
He Loderingo named; and by thy land
Together taken, as men use to take
A single and indifferent arbiter,
To reconcile their strifes. How there we sped,
Gardingo's vicinage [4] can best declare."
"O friars!" I began, "your miseries--"
But there brake off, for one had caught mine eye,
Fix'd to a cross with three stakes on the ground:
He, when he saw me, writhed himself, throughout
Distorted, ruffling with deep sighs his beard.
And Catalano, who thereof was 'ware,
Thus spake: "That pierced spirit,[5] whom intent
Thou view'st, was he who gave the Pharisees
Counsel, that it were fitting for one man
To suffer for the people. He doth lie
Transverse; nor any passes, but him first
Behoves make feeling trial how each weighs.
In straits like this along the foss are placed
The father of his consort,[6] and the rest
Partakers in that council, seed of ill
And sorrow to the Jews."

[1] The monks in Cologne. These monks wore their cowls unusually

[2] Frederick's. Frederick II. punished those guilty of high
treason by wrapping them up in lead, and casting them into a

[3] Joyous friars. An order of knights (Frail Godenti) on two of
whom the Ghibelline party at one time conferred the chief power
of Florence. One was Catalano de' Malavolti, the other Loderingo
di Liandolo. Their administration was unjust.

[4] Gardingo's vicinage. That part of the city inhabited by the
Ghibelline family of the Uberti, and destroyed, under the
iniquitous administration of Catalano and Loderingo.

[5] That pierced spirit. Caiaphas.

[6] The father of his consort. Annas.

When the poets reach the ninth and last circle they see the souls
of traitors lying in a frozen lake and in the midst Lucifer, the
fallen archangel, in the very center of the earth. They slide
down his icy sides, and begin to ascend to the earth's surface
through a cavern "and thence come forth to see the stars again."

The second part of the Divine Comedy is the vision of Purgatory.
When the solid earth retired before the falling Lucifer, making
the hollow cone of hell, it was pushed out on the other side of
the globe, forming the mountain of Purgatory. This is also
divided into nine circles. In the first two are the souls of
those who delayed repentance until death. In the other seven, the
seven deadly sins are purged away. On the summit is the earthly

I. The Celestial Pilot.--From the Pargatorio.

The mountain of Purgatory is situated upon an island. While
Virgil and Dante are standing looking across the water, they
behold a boat laden with spirits for Purgatory under the guidance
of an angel.

Meanwhile we linger'd by the water's brink,
Like men' who' musing on their road, in thought
Journey, while motionless the body rests.
When lo! as, near upon the hour of dawn,
Through the thick vapours
Mars with fiery beam
Glares down in west, over the ocean floor;
So seem'd, what once again I hope to view,
A light, so swiftly coming through the sea,
No winged course night equal its career.
From which when for a space I had withdrawn
Mine eyes, to make inquiry of my guide,
Again I look'd, and saw it grown in size
And brightness: then on either side appear'd
Something but what I knew not, of bright hue,
And by degrees from underneath it came
Another. My preceptor silent yet
Stood, while the brightness, that we first discern'd,
Open'd the form of wings: then when he knew
The pilot, cried aloud, "Down, down; bend low
Thy knees; behold God's angel: fold thy hands:
Now shalt thou see true ministers indeed.
Lo! how all human means he sets at nought;
So that nor oar he needs, nor other sail
Except his wings, between such distant shores.
Lo! how straight up to heaven he holds them rear'd,
Winnowing the air with those eternal plumes,
That not like mortal hairs fall off or change."
As more and more toward us came, more bright
Appear'd the bird of God, nor could the eye
Endure his splendour near: I mine bent down.
He drove ashore in a small bark so swift
And light, that in its course no wave it drank.
The heavenly steersman at the prow was seen,
Visibly written Blessed in his looks.
Within, a hundred spirits and more there sat.
"In Exitu [1] Israel de Egypto,"
All with one voice together sang, with what
In the remainder of that hymn is writ.
Then soon as with the sign of holy cross
He bless'd them, they at once leap'd out on land:
He, swiftly as he came, return'd.

[1] In Exitu Israel de Egypto--When Israel came out of Egypt.--Ps

II. The Meeting with Sordello.--From the Purgatorio.

In the second circle of the mountain of Purgatory, Virgil and
Dante encounter the spirit of Sordello,[1] detained among those
who delayed repentance until death.

[1] Sordello. A Provencal soldier and poet, whose life is wrapt
in romantic mystery. See Browning's poem "Sardello".

"But lo! a spirit there
Stands solitary' and toward us looks:
It will instruct us in the speediest way."
We soon approach'd it.
When my courteous guide began,
"Mantua," the shadow, in itself absorb'd,
Rose towards us from the place in which it stood,
And cried, "Mantuan! I am thy countryman, Sordello."
Each the other then embraced.
. . . . . . . . .
After their courteous greetings joyfully
Seven times exchanged, Sordello backward drew
Exclaiming, "Who are ye?"--"Before this mount
By spirits worthy of ascent to God
Was sought, my bones had by Octavius care
Been buried. I am Virgil; for no sin
Deprived of heaven, except for lack of faith."
So answer'd him in few my gentle guide.
. . . . . . . . . . .
"Glory of Latium!" he exclaim'd,
"In whom our tongue its utmost power display'd;
Boast of my honour'd birth-place I what desert
Of mine, what favour, rather, undeserved,
Shows thee to me? If I to hear that voice
Am worthy, say if from below thou comest,
And from what cloister's pale."--"Through every orb
Of that sad region," he replied, "thus far
Am I arrived, by heavenly influence led:
And with such aid I come. Not for my doing,
But for not doing, have I lost the sight
Of that high Sun, whom thou desirest, and who
By me too late was known. There is a place[1]
There underneath, not made by torments sad,
But by dun shades alone; where mourning's voice
Sounds not of anguish sharp, but breathes in sighs.
There I with little innocents abide,
Who by death's fangs were bitten, ere exempt
From human taint. There I with those abide,
Who the three holy virtues put not on,
But understood the rest, and without blame
Follow'd them all. But if thou know'st and canst,
Direct us how we soonest may arrive,
Where Purgatory its true beginning takes."
He answer'd thus: "We have no certain place
Assign'd us: upwards I may go, or round.
Far as I can, I join thee for thy guide.
But thou beholdest now how day declines;
And upwards to proceed by night, our power
Excels: therefore it may be well to choose
A place of pleasant sojourn. To the right
Some spirits sit apart retired. If thou
Consentest, I to these will lead thy steps:
And thou wilt know them, not without delight."

[1] A place there underneath. Limbo. See first selection from the
Divine Comedy.

III. The Angel of the Gate.--From the Purgatorio.

The poets spend the night in this valley with Sordello and other
spirits. In the morning they ascend to the gates of the real
Purgatory. These are kept by an angel deputed by St. Peter.

Ashes, or earth taken dry out of the ground,
Were of one colour with the robe he wore.
From underneath that vestment forth he drew
Two keys, of metal twain: the one was gold,
Its fellow silver. With the pallid first,
And next the burnish'd, he so ply'd the gate,
As to content me well. "Whenever one
Faileth of these, that in the key-hole straight
It turn not, to this alley then expect
Access in vain." Such were the words he spake.
"One is more precious[1]: but the other needs,
Skill and sagacity, large share of each,
Ere its good task to disengage the knot
Be worthily perform'd.
From Peter these I hold, of him instructed that I err
Rather in opening, than in keeping fast;
So but the suppliant at my feet implore."
Then of that hallow'd gate he thrust the door,
Exclaiming, "Enter, but this warning hear:
He forth again departs who looks behind."
As in the hinges of that sacred ward
The swivels turn'd sonorous metal strong,
Harsh was the grating, nor so surlily
Roar'd the Tarpeian, when by force bereft Of good
Metellus, thenceforth from his loss
To leanness doom'd. Attentively I turn'd,
Listening the thunder that first issued forth;
And "We praise thee, O God," methought I heard,
In accents blended with sweet melody,
The strains came o'er mine ear, e'en as the sound
Of choral voices, that in solemn chant
With organ mingle, and, now high and clear
Come swelling, now float indistinct away.

[1] One is more precious. The golden key is the divine authority
by which the priest gives absolution. The silver stands for the
learning and wisdom necessary for the priest.

IV. Beatrice Appears to Dante and Rebukes Him. From the

Inside the gates of Purgatory rise seven successive circles, in
which the seven deadly sins are purged; in the first, the sin of
pride; in the second, that of envy; in the third, anger; in the
fourth, lukewarmness; in the fifth, avarice; in the sixth,
gluttony; in the seventh, incontinence is purged by fire. Having
passed through all these, Dante and his guide ascend to the
summit of the mountain, the earthly Paradise. Here Virgil ceases
to guide the poet, but leaves him to choose for a while his own
way. To him here descends Beatrice who, before assuming his
further guidance, rebukes him for his manner of life on earth.

At the last audit, so
The blest shall rise, from forth his cavern each
Uplifting lightly his new-vested flesh;
As, on the sacredl litter, at the voice
Authoritative of that elder, sprang
A hundred ministers and messengers
Of life eternal. "Blessed thou, who comest!"
And, "Oh!" they cried, "from full hands scatter ye
Unwithering lilies": and, so saying, cast
Flowers over head and round them on all sides.
I have beheld, ere now, at break of day,
The eastern clime all roseate; and the sky
Opposed, one deep and beautiful serene;
And the sun's face so shaded, and with mists
Attemper'd, at his rising, that the eye
Long while endured the sight: thus, in a cloud
Of flowers, that from those hands angelic rose,
And down within. and outside of the car
Fell showering, in white veil with olive wreathed,
A virgin in my view appear'd, beneath
Green mantle, robed in hue of living flame:
And o'er my spirit, that so long a time
Had from her presence felt no shuddering dread,
Albeit mine eyes discern'd her not, there moved
A hidden virtue from her, at whose touch
The power of ancient love was strong within me.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Upon the chariot's same edge still she stood,
Immovable; and thus address'd her words:
"I shape mine answer, for his ear intended,
Who there stands weeping;[1] that the sorrow now
May equal the transgression. Not alone
Through operation of the mighty orbs,
That mark each seed to some predestined aim,
As with aspect or fortunate or ill
The constellations meet; but through benign
Largess of heavenly graces, which rain down
From such a height as mocks our vision, this man
Was, in the freshness of his being, such,
So gifted virtually, that in him
All better habits wonderously had thrived
He more of kindly strength is in the soil,
So much doth evil seed and lack of culture
Mar it the more, and make it run to wildness.
These looks sometime upheld him; for I showed
My youthful eyes, and led him by their light
In upright walking. Soon as I had reach'd
The threshold of my second age, and changed
My mortal for immortal; then he left me,
And gave himself to others. When from flesh
To spirit I had risen, and increase
Of beauty and of virtue circled me,
I was less dear to him, and valued less.
His steps were turn'd into deceitful ways,
Following false images of good, that make
No promise perfect. Nor availed me aught
To sue for inspirations, with the which,
I, both in dreams of night, and otherwise,
Did call him back; of them, so little reck'd him.
Such depth he fell, that all device was short
Of his preserving, save that he should view
The children of perdition. To this end
I visited the purlieus of the dead:
And one, who hath conducted him thus high,
Received my supplications urged with weeping.
It were a breaking of God's high decree,
If Lethe should be past, and such food[3] tasted,
Without the cost of some repentant tear."

[1] Who there stands weeping. Dante.

[2] Such food. The oblivion of sins.

The third part of the Divine Comedy is the vision of Paradise.
Dante's Paradise is divided into ten heavens, or spheres. Through
these in succession the poet is conducted by Beatrice, until in
the tenth heaven, or the Empyrean, he comes into the visible
presence of God.

I. The Visible Presence. From the Paradiso.

O eternal beam!
(Whose height what reach of mortal thought may soar?)
Yield me again some little particle
Of what thou then appearedst; give my tongue
Power' but to leave one sparkle of thy glory,
Unto the race to come' that shall not lose
Thy triumph wholly, if thou waken aught
Of memory in me, and endure to hear
The record sound in this unequal strain.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
O grace, unenvying of thy boon! that gavest
Boldness to fix so earnestly my ken
On the everlasting splendour, that I look'd,
While sight was unconsumed; and, in that depth,
Saw in one volume clasp'd of love, whate'er
The universe unfolds; all properties
Of substance and of accident, beheld,
Compounded, yet one individual light
The whole.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
In that abyss
Of radiance, clear and lofty, seem'd, methought,
Three orbs of triple hue,[1] clipt in one bound:
And, from another, one reflected seem'd,
As rainbow is from rainbow: and the third
Seem'd fire, breathed equally from both.
O speech! How feeble and how faint art thou, to give
Conception birth. Yet this to what I saw
Is less than little.
O eternal light!
Sole in thyself that dwell'st; and of thyself
Sole understood' past' present, or to come;
Thou smile'st, on that circling, which in thee
Seem'd as reflected splendour, while I mused;
For I therein, methought, in its own hue
Beheld our image painted: stedfastly
I therefore pored upon the view. As one,
Who versed in geometric lore, would fain
Measure the circle; and, though pondering long
And deeply, that beginning, which he needs,
Finds not: e'en such was I, intent to scan
The novel wonder, and trace out the form,
How to the circle fitted, and therein
How placed: but the flight was not for my wing:
Had not a flash darted athwart my mind,
And, in the spleen, unfolded what is sought.
Here vigour fail'd the towering fantasy:
But yet the will roll'd onward, like a wheel
In even motion' by the love impell'd,
That moves the sun in heaven and all the stars.

[1] Three orbs of triple hue. The Trinity.

Next after Dante, the first name of importance in Italian
literature is that of Francesca Petrarca, called Petrarch in
English. He was the son of a Florentine exile, was born at Aruzzo
in 1304, and died at Padua in 1374. He was a scholar and a
diplomat, and was entrusted with many public services. Most of
his active life he spent at Avignon, at the papal court, or in
Vaucluse near by. When he was twenty-three, he met Laura, the
beautiful woman with whom he was always after in love, and who
was the inspiration of all his lyric poetry. She was the daughter
of a citizen of Avignon, and was married, probably to Ugo de Sade
of Avignon. She was a good woman whose character was ever above
reproach. Petrarch was a very industrious writer. He produced
many letters and treatises in Latin, besides a long Latin epic
Africa. But his great and deserved fame rests upon his Italian
lyric poetry--the Canzoniere. The Canzoniere is divided into
three parts: the poems to Laura in life; to Laura in death; and
the Triumphs. The Triumphs are inferior in merit to the other two
parts. He had studied closely the Provencall poets, and had
something of their spirit.

I. To Laura in Life.


'Twas on the morn' when heaven its blessed ray
In pity to its suffering master veil'd,
First did I, Lady, to your beauty yield,
Of your victorious eyes th' unguarded prey.
Ah! little reck'd I that, on such a day,
Needed against Love's arrows any shield;
And trod' securely trod, the fatal field:
Whence, with the world's, began my heart's dismay.
On every side Love found his victim bare,
And through mine eyes transfix'd my throbbing heart;
Those eyes, which now with constant sorrows flow:
But poor the triumph of his boasted art,
Who thus could pierce a naked youth nor dare
To you in armour mail'd even to display his bow!



The palmer bent, with locks of silver gray,
Quits the sweet spot where he has pass'd his years,
Quits his poor family, whose anxious fears
Paint the loved father fainting on his way;
And trembling, on his aged limbs slow borne,
In these last days that close his earthly course,
He, in his soul's strong purpose, finds new force,
Though weak with age, though by long travel worn:
Thus reaching Rome, led on by pious love,
He seeks the image of that Saviour Lord
Whom soon he hopes to meet in bliss above:
So, oft in other forms I seek to trace
Some charm, that to my heart may yet afford
A faint resemblance of thy matchless grace.



There was a touching paleness on her face,
Which chased her smiles, but such sweet union made
Of pensive majesty and heavenly grace,
As if a passing cloud had veil'd her with its shade;
Then knew I how the blessed ones above
Gaze on each other in their perfect bliss,
For never yet was look of mortal love
So pure, so tender, so serene as this.
The softest glance fond woman ever sent
To him she loved, would cold and rayless be
Compared to this, which she divinely bent
Earthward, with angel sympathy, on me,
That seem'd with speechless tenderness to say,
"Who takes from me my faithful friend away?"

-E.(New Monthly Magazine.)


Count the ocean's finny droves;
Count the twinkling host of stars,
Round the night's pale orb that moves;
Count the groves' wing'd choristers;
Count each verdant blade that grows;
Counted then will be my woes.
. . . . . . . .
Sad my nights; from morn till eve,
Tenanting the woods, I sigh:
But, ere I shall cease to grieve,
Ocean's vast bed shall be dry,
Suns their light from moons shall gain,
And spring wither on each plain.

Pensive, weeping, night and day,
From this shore to that I fly,
Changeful as the lunar ray;
And, when evening veils the sky,
Then my tears might swell the floods,
Then my sighs might bow the woods!

Towns I hate, the shades I love;
For relief to yon green height,
Where the rill resounds, I rove
At the grateful calm of night;
There I wait the day's decline,
For the welcome moon to shine.

Song, that on the wood-hung stream
In the silent hour wert born,
Witness'd but by Cynthia's beam,
Soon as breaks to-morrow's morn,
Thou shalt seek a glorious plain,
There with Laura to remain!


II. To Laura in Death.


Woe for the 'witching look of that fair face!
The port where ease with dignity combined!
Woe for those accents' that each savage mind
To softness tuned, to noblest thoughts the base!
And the sweet smile, from whence the dart I trace,
Which now leaves death my only hope behind!
Exalted soul, most fit on thrones to 've shined,
But that too late she came this earth to grace!
For you I still must burn, and breathe in you;
For I was ever yours; of you bereft,
Full little now I reck all other care.
With hope and with desire you thrill'd me through,
When last my only joy on earth I left--
But caught by winds each word was lost in air.

--Anon, Ox., 1795.


The soft west wind, returning, brings again
Its lovely family of herbs and flowers;
Progne's gay notes and Philomela's strain
Vary the dance of springtide's rosy hours;
And joyously o'er every field and plain
Glows the bright smile that greets them from above,
And the warm spirit of reviving love
Breathes in the air and murmurs from the main.
But tears and sorrowing sighs, which gushingly
Pour from the secret chambers of my heart,
Are all that spring returning brings to me;
And in the modest smile, or glance of art,
The song of birds, the bloom of heath and tree,
A desert's rugged tract and savage forms I see.



I feel the well-known breeze, and the sweet hill
Again appears, where rose that beauteous light,
Which, while Heaven willed it, met my eyes, then bright
With gladness, but now dimmed with many an ill.
Vain hopes! weak thoughts! Now, turbid is the rill;
The flowers have drooped; and she hath ta'en her flight
From the cold nest, which once, in proud delight,
Living and dying, I had hoped to fill:
I hoped, in these retreats, and in the blaze
Of her fair eyes, which have consumed my heart,
To taste the sweet reward of troubled days.
Thou, whom I serve, how hard and proud thou art!
Erewhile, thy flame consumed me; now, I mourn
Over the ashes which have ceased to burn.



While at my window late I stood alone,
So new and many things there cross'd my sight,
To view them I had almost weary grown.
A dappled mind appear'd upon the right,
In aspect gentle, yet of stately stride,
By two swift greyhounds chased, a black and white,
Who tore in the poor side
Of that fair creature wounds so deep and wide,
That soon they forced her where ravine and rock
The onward passage block: Then triumph'd
Death her matchless beauties o'er,
And left me lonely there her sad fate to deplore.
. . . . . . .
In a fair grove a bright young laurel made--
Surely to Paradise the plant belongs!--
Of sacred boughs a pleasant summer shade,
From whose green depths there issued so sweet songs
Of various birds, and many a rare delight
Of eye and ear, what marvel from the world
They stole my senses quite!
While still I gazed, the heavens grew black around,
The fatal lightning flash'd, and sudden hurl'd,
Uprooted to the ground, That blessied birth.
Alas! for it laid low,
And its dear shade whose like we ne'er again shall know.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
A lovely and rare bird within the wood,
Whose crest with gold, whose wings with purple gleam'd,
Alone, but proudly soaring, next I view'd,
Of heavenly and immortal birth which seem'd,
Flitting now here, now there, until it stood
Where buried fount and broken laurel lay,
And sadly seeing there
The fallen trunk, the boughs all stripp'd and bare,
The channel dried--for all things to decay
So tend-it turn'd away
As if in angry scorn, and instant fled,
While through me for her loss new love and pity spread.

At length along the flowery award I saw
So sweet and fair a lady pensive move
That her mere thought inspires a tender awe;
Meek in herself, but haughty against Love,
Flow'd from her waist a robe so fair and fine
Seem'd gold and snow together there to join:
But, ah! each charm above
Was veil'd from sight in an unfriendly cloud:
Stung by a lurking shake, as flowers that pine
Her head she gently bow'd,
And joyful pass'd on high, perchance secure:
Alas I that in the world grief only should endure.


Love held me one and twenty years enchain'd,
His flame was joy--for hope was in my grief!
For ten more years I wept without relief,
When Laura with my heart, to heaven attain'd.
Now weary grown, my life I had arraign'd
That in its error, check'd (to my belief)
Blest virtue's seeds-now, in my yellow leaf,
I grieve the mispent years, existence stain'd.
Alas! it might have sought a brighter goal,
In flying troublous thoughts, and winning peace;
O Father! I repentant seek thy throne:
Thou, in this temple hast enshrined my soul,
Oh, bless me yet, and grant its safe release!
Unjustifled--my sin I humbly own.



Poor, solitary bird, that pour'st thy lay,
Or haply mournest the sweet season gone,
As chilly night and winter hurry on,
And daylight fades, and summer flies away!
If, as the cares that swell thy little throat,
Thou knew'st alike the woes that wound my rest.
O, thou wouldst house thee
In this kindred breast,
And mix with mine thy melancholy note!
Yet little know I ours are kindred ills:
She still may live the object of thy song:
Not so for me stern Death or Heaven wills!
But the sad reason, and less grateful hour,
And of past joy and sorrow thoughts that throng,
Prompt my full heart this idle lay to pour.


The third great name in Italian mediaeval literature is that of
Giovanni Boccaccio. He was born in Paris in l3l3, and died at
Certaldo in 1345. Like Dante and Petrarch he was a scholar and an
industrious writer. He wrote some important historical treatises,
and many poems, some of which attained some fame. But it is as a
writer of prose that he deserves the name he has. In Italy, as in
all other lands, there was in the Middle Ages a large body of
tales and fables in circulation. In Italy, during the thirteenth
and fourteenth centuries, these tales came into literature as
Novellas or novels. The Decamerone of Boccaccio is a collection
of a hundred such novels or tales. They are derived from many
sources, probably not more than three or four of them being
invented by Boccaccio. The tale we select is interesting as
furnishing the basis for one of Keats' beautiful romantic


There lived, then at Messina, three young merchants, who were
brothers, and left very rich by their father; they had an only
sister, a lady of worth and beauty, who was unmarried. Now, they

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest