behind, but it hindereth the march; yea, and the care of it sometimes loseth or disturbeth the victory; of great riches there is no real use, except it be in the distribution; the rest is but conceit. … The personal fruition in any man cannot reach to feel great riches: there is a custody of them; or a power of dole and donative of them; or a fame of them; but no solid use to the owner.”
1. In this Canto is described the punishment of the Avaricious and the Prodigal, with Plutus as their jailer. His outcry of alarm is differently interpreted by different commentators, and by none very satisfactorily. The curious student, groping among them for a meaning, is like Gower’s young king, of whom he says, in his Confessio Amantis:–
“Of deepe ymaginations
And strange interpretations,
Problems and demaundes eke
His wisdom was to finde and seke, Whereof he wholde in sondry wise
Opposen hem, that weren wise;
But none of hem it mighte bere
Upon his word to give answere.”
But nearly all agree, I believe, in construing the strange words into a cry of alarm or warning of Lucifer, that his realm is invaded by some unusual apparition.
Of all the interpretations given, the most amusing is that of Benvenuto Cellini, in his description of the Court of Justice in Paris, Roscoe’s Memoirs of Benvenuto Cellini, Chap, XXII.: — “I stooped down several times to observe what passed: the words which I heard the judge utter, upon seeing two gentlemen who wanted to hear the trial, and whom the porter was endeavoring to keep out, were these: `Be quite, be quite, Satan, get hence, and leave off disturbing us.’ The terms were, Paix, paix, Satan, allez, paix. As I had by this time thoroughly learnt the French language, upon hearing these words, I recollected what Dante said, when he with his master, Virgil, entered the gates of hell; for Dante and Giotto the painter were together in France, and visited Paris with particular attention, where the court of justice may be considered as hell. Hence it is that Dante, who was likewise perfect master of the French, made use of that expression; and I have often been surprised, that it was never understood in that sense; so that I cannot help thinking, that the commentators on this author have often made him say things which he never so much as dreamed of. “
Dante himself hardly seems to have understood the meaning of the words, though he suggests that Virgil did.
11. The overthrow of the Rebel Angels. St. Augustine says,
“Idolatria et quaelibet noxia superstitio fornicatio est. “
24. Must dance the Ridda, a round dance of the olden time. It was a Roundelay, or singing and dancing together. Boccaccio’s Monna Belcolore “knew better than any one how to play the tambourine and lead the Ridda.”
27. As the word honor resounds in Canto IV., and the word love in Canto V., so here the words rolling and turning are the burden of the song, as if to suggest the motion of Fortune’s wheel, so beautifully described a little later.
39. Clerks, clerics, or clergy. Boccaccio, Comento, remarks upon this passage: “Some maintain, that the clergy wear the tonsure in remembrance and reverence of St. Peter, on whom, they say, it was made by certain evil-minded men as a mark of madness; because not comprehending and not wishing to comprehend his holy doctrine, and seeming him feverently preaching before princes and people, who held that doctrine in detestation, they thought he acted as one out of his senses. Others maintain that the tonsure is worn as a mark of dignity, as a sign that those who wear it are more worthy than those who do not; and they call it corona, because, all the rest of the head being shaven, a single circle of hair should be left, which in form of a crown surrounds the whole head.”
58. In like manner Chaucer, Persones Tale pp. 227, 337, reproves ill-keeping and ill-giving.
“Avarice, after the description of Seint Augustine, is a likerousnesse in herte to have erthly things. Som other folk sayn, that avarice is for to purchase many earthly things, and nothing to yeve to hem that han nede. And understond wel, that avarice standeth not only in land ne catel, but som time in science and in glorie, and in every maner outrageous thing is avarice…..
“But for as moche as som folk ben unmesurable, men oughten for to avoid and eschue fool-large, the whiche men clepen waste. Certes, he that is fool-large, he yeveth not his catel, but he leseth his catel. Sothly, what thing that he yeveth for vaine-glory, as to minstrals, and to folk that bere his renome in the world, he hath do sinne thereof, and non almesse: certes, he leseth foule his good, that ne seketh with the yefte of his good nothing but sinne. He is like to an hors that seketh rather to drink drovy or troubled water, than for to drink water of the clere well. And for as moche as they yeven ther as they shuld nat yeven, to hem apperteineth thilke malison, that Crist shal yeve at the day of dome to hem that shul be dampned.”
68. The Wheel of Fortune was one of the favorite subjects of art and song in the Middle Ages. On a large square of white marble set in the pavement of the nave of the Cathedral at Siena, is the representation of a revolving wheel. Three boys are climbing and clinging at the sides and below; above is a dignified figure with a stern countenance, holding the sceptre and ball. At the four corners are inscriptions from Seneca, Euripides, Aristotle, and Epictetus. The same symbol may be seen also in the wheel-of-fortune windows of many churches; as, for example, that of San Zeno at Verona. See Knight, Ecclesiastical Architecture, II. plates v., vi.
In the following poem Guido Cavalcanti treats this subject in very much the same way that Dante does; and it is curious to observe how at particular times certain ideas seem to float in the air, and to become the property of every one who chooses to make use of them. From the similarity between this poem and the lines of Dante, one might infer that the two friends had discussed the matter in conversation, and afterwards that each had written out their common thought.
Cavalcanti’s Song of Fortune, as translated by Rossetti, Early Italian Poets, p. 366, runs as follows:–
“Lo! I am she who makes the wheel to turn; Lo! I am who gives and takes away;
Blamed idly, day by day,
In all mine acts by you, ye humankind. For whoso smites his visage and doth mourn, What time he renders back my gifts to me, Learns then that I decree
No state which mine own arrows may not find. Who clomb must fall:–this bear ye well in mind, Nor say, because, he fell, I did him wrong. Yet mine is a vain song:
For truly ye may find out wisdom when King Arthur’s resting-place is found of men.
“Ye make great marvel and astonishment What time ye see the sluggard lifted up And the just man to drop,
And ye complain on God and on my sway. O humankind, ye sin in your complaint: For He, that Lord who made the world to live, Lets me not take or give
By mine own act, but as he wills I may. Yet is the mind of man so castaway,
That it discerns not the supreme behest. Alas! ye wretchedest,
And chide ye at God also? Shall not He Judge between good and evil righteously?
“Ah! had ye knowlege how God evermore, With agonies of soul and grievous heats, As on an anvil beats
On them that in this earth hold hight estate,– Ye would choose little rather than more store, And solitude than spacious palaces;
Such is the sore disease
Of anguish that on all their days doth wait. Behold if they be not unfortunate,
When oft the father dares not trust the son! O wealth, with thee is won
A worm to gnaw forever on his soul Whose abject life is laid in thy control!
“If also ye take note what piteous death They oftimes make, whose hoards were manifold, Who cities had and gold
And multitudes of men beneath their hand; Then he among you that most angereth
Shall bless me saying, `Lo! I worship thee That I was not as he
Whose death is thus accurst throughout the land.’ But now your living souls are held in band Of avarice, shutting you from the true light Which shows how sad and slight
Are this world’s treasured riches and array That still change hands a hundred times a day.
“For me,–could envy enter in my sphere, Which of all human taint is clean and quit,– I well might harbor it
When I behold the peasant at his toil. Guiding his team, untroubled, free from fear, He leaves his perfect furrow as he goes, And gives his field repose
From thorns and tares and weeds that vex the soil: Thereto he labors, and without turmoil Entrusts his work to God, content if so Such guerdon from it grow
That in that year his family shall live: Nor care nor thought to other things will give.
“But now ye may no more have speech of me, For this mine office craves continual use: Ye therefore deeply muse
Upon those things which ye have heard the while: Yea, and even yet remember heedfully
How this my wheel a motion hath so fleet, That in an eyelid’s beat
Him whom it raised it maketh low and vile. None was, nor is, nor shall be of such guile, Who could, or can, or shall, I say, at length Prevail against my strenght.
But still those men that are my questioners In bitter torment own their hearts perverse.
“Song, that wast made to carry high intent Dissembled in the garb of humbleness,– With fair and open face
To Master Thomas let they course be bent. Say that a great thing scarcely may be pent In little room: yet always pray that he Commend us, thee and me,
To them that are more apt in lofty speech: For truly one must learn ere he can teach.”
74. This old Rabbinical tradition of the “Regents of the Planets” has been painted by Raphael, in the Capella Chigiana of the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome. See Mrs. Jameson, Sacred and Legendary Art, I. She says: “As a perfect example of grand and poetical feeling I may cite the angels as `Regents of the Planets’ in the Capella Chigiana. The Cupola represents in a circle the
creation of the solar system, according to the theological (or rather astrological) notions which then prevailed,–a hundred years before `the starry Gailileo and his woes.’ In the centre is the Creator; around, in eight compartments, we have, first, the angel of the celestial sphere, who seems to be listening to the divine mandate, `Let there be lights in the firmament of heaven’; then follow, in their order, the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The name of each planet is expressed by its mythlogical representative; the Sun by Apollo, the Moon by Diana; and over each presides a grand, colossal winged spirit, seated or reclining on a portion of the zodiac as on a throne.” The old tradition may be found in Stehelin, Rabbinical Literature, I, 157. See Cabala, end of Vol III.
98. Past midnight.
103. |Perse, purple-black. See Canto V., Note 89.
115. “Is not this a cursed vice?” says Chaucer in The Persones Tale, p. 202, speaking of wrath.”Yes, certes. Alas! it benimmeth fro man his witte and his reson, and all his debonaire lif spirituel, that shulde keepe his soule. Certes it benimmeth also Goddes due lordship (and that is mannes soule) and the love of his neighbours; it reveth him the quiet of his herte, and subverteth his soule. “
And farther on he continues: “After the sinne of wrath, now wolle I speke of the sinne of accidie, or slouth; for envie blindeth the herte of a man, and ire troubleth a man, and accidie maketh him hevy, thoughtful, and wrawe. Envie and ire maken bitterness in herte, which bitternesse is mother of accidie, and benimmeth him the love of alle goodnesse, than is accidie the anguish of a trouble herte.”
And Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, I. 3. i. 3, speaking of that kind of melancholy which proceeds from “humors adust,” says: “For example, if it proceeds from flegm (which is seldom, and not so frequent as the rest) it stirs up dull symptomes, and a kind of stupidity, or impassionate hurt; they are sleepy, saith Savanarola, dull, slow, cold, blockish, ass-like, asininam melancholiam Melancthon calls it they are much given to weeping, and delight in waters, ponds, pools, rivers, fishing, fowling, &c. They are pale of color, slothful, apt to sleep, heavy, much troubled with the head- ache, continual meditation and muttering to themselves, they dream of waters, that they are in danger of drowning, and fear such things.”
See also Purg. 17. 085.
1. Boccaccio and some other commentators think the words “I say, continuing,” are a confirmation of the theory that the first seven cantos of the Inferno were written before Dante’s banishment from Florence. Others maintain that the words suggest only the continuation of the subject of the last canto in this.
4. These two signal fires announce the arrival of two persons to be ferried over the wash, and the other in the distance is on the watch-tower of the City of Dis, answering these.
19. Phlegyas was the father of Ixion and Coronis. He was king of the Lapithae, and burned the temple of Apollo at Delphi to avenge the wrong done by the god to Coronis. His punishment in the infernal regions was to stand beneath a huge impending rock, always about to fall upon him. Virgil, Aeneid, VI., says of him: “Phlegyas, most wretched, is a monitor to all and with loud voice proclaims through the shades, `Being warned, learn righteousness, and not to contemn the gods.'”
27. Virgil, Aeneid, VI.:”The boat of sewn hide groaned under the weight, and, being leaky, took in much water from the lake.”
49. Mr. Wright here quotes Spenser, Ruins of Time:–
“How many great ones may remembered be, Who in their days most famously did flourish, Of whom no word we have, nor sign now see, But as things wiped out with a sponge do perish.”
51. Chaucer’s “sclandre of his diffame.”
61. Of Philippo Argenti little is known, and nothing to his credit. Dante seems to have an especial personal hatred of him, as if in
memory of some disagreeable passage between them in the streets of Florence. Boccaccio says of him in his Comento: “This Philippo Argenti, as Coppo di Borghese Domenichi de’ Cavicciuli was wont to say, was a very rich gentleman, so rich that he had the horse he used to ride shod with silver, and from this he had his surname; he was in person large, swarthy, muscular, of marvellous strength, and at the slightest provocation the most irascible of men; nor are any more known of his qualities than these two, each in itself very blameworthy.” He was of the Adimari family, and of the Neri faction; while Dante was of the Bianchi party, and in banishment. Perhaps this fact may explain the bitterness of his invective.
This is the same Philippo Argenti who figures in Boccaccio’s tale. See Inf. VI., note 52. The Ottimo Comento says of him: “He was a man of great pomp, and great ostentation, and much expenditure, and little virtue and worth; and therefore the author says, `Goodness is none that decks his memory.'” And this is all that is known of the “Fiorentino spirito bizzaro,” forgotten by history, and immortalized in song. “What a barbarous strength and confusion of ideas,” exclaims Leigh Hunt, Italian Poets, p. 60, ” is there in this whole passage about him! Arrogance punished by arrogance, a Christian mother blessed for the unchristian disdainfulness of her son, revenge boasted of and enjoyed, passion arguing in a circle.”
70. The word “mosques” paints at once to the imagination the City of Unbelief.
78. Virgil, Aeneid, VI., Davidson’s Translation:–Aeneas on a sudden looks back, and under a rock on the left sees vast prisons inclosed with a triple wall, which Tartarean Phlegethon’s rapid flood environs with torrents of flame, and whirls roaring rocks along. Fronting is a huge gate, with columns of solid adamant, that no strength of men, nor the gods themselves, can with steel demolish. An iron tower rises aloft; and there wakeful Tisiphone, with her bloody robe tucked up around her, sits to watch the vestibule both night and day.”
124. This arrogance of theirs; tracotanza, oltracotanza ; Brantome’s outrecuidance; and Spenser’s surquedrie.
125. The gate of the Inferno.
130. The coming of the Angel, whose approach is described in the next canto, beginning at line 64.
1. flush of anger passes from Virgil’s cheek on seeing the pallor of Dante’s, and he tries to encourage him with assurances of success; but betrays his own apprehensions in the broken phrase, “If not, ” which he immediately covers with words of cheer.
8. Such, or so great a one, is Beatrice, the “fair and saintly Lady” of Canto II. 53.
9. The Angel who will open the gates of the City of Dis.
16. Dnte seems to think that he has already reached the bottom of the infernal conch, with its many convolutions.
52. Gower, Confessio Amantis, I.:–
“Cast nought thin eye upon Meduse
That thou be turned into stone.”
Hawthorne has beautifully told the story of “The Gorgon’s Head, ” as well as many more of the classic fables, in his Wonder-Book.
54. The attempt which Theseus and Pirithous made to rescue Proserpine from the infernal regions.
62. The hidden doctrine seems to be, that Negation or Unbelief is the Gorgon’s head which changes the heart to stone; after which there is “no more returning upward.” The Furies display it from the walls of the City of Heretics.
112. At Arles lie buried, according to old tradition, the Peers of Charlemagne and their ten thousand men at arms. Archbishop Turpin, in his famous History of Charles the Great, XXX., Rodd’s Translation, I. 52, says:–
“After this the King and his army proceeded by the way of Gascony and Thoulouse, and came to Arles, where we found the army of Burgundy, which had left us in the hostile valley, bringing their dead by the way of Morbihan and Thoulouse, to bury them in the plain of Arles. Here we performed the rites of Estolfo, Count of Champagne; of Solomon; Sampson, Duke of Burgundy; Arnold of Berlanda; Alberic of Burgundy; Gumard, Esturinite, Hato, Juonius, Berard, Berengaire, and Naaman, Duke of Bourbon, and of ten thousand of their soldiers. “
Boccacio comments upon these tombs as follows:– “At Arles, somewhat out of the city, are many tombs of stone, made of old for sepulchres, and some are large, and some are small, and some are better sculptured, and some not so well, peradventure according to the means of those who had them made; and upon some of them appear inscriptions after the ancient custom, I suppose in indication of those who are buried within. The inhabitants of the country repeat a tradition of them, affirming that in that place there was once a great battle between William of Orange, or some other Christian prince, with his forces on one side, and infidel barbarians for Africa [on the other]; and that many Christians were slain in it; and that on the following night, by divine miracle, those tombs were brought there for the burial of the Christians, and so on the following morning all the dead Christians were buried in them.”
113. Pola is a city in Istria. “Near Pola,” says Benvenuto da Imola, “are seen many tombs, about seven hundred, and of various forms.” Quarnaro is a gulf of the northern extremity of the Adriatic.
1. In this Canto is described the punishment of Heretics. Brunetto Latini, Tesoretto, XIII.:–
“Or va mastro Brunetto
Per lo cammino stretto.”
14. Sir Thomas Browne, Urn Burial, Chap. IV., says:”They may sit in the orchestra and noblest seats of heaven who have held up shaking hands in the fire, and humanly contended for glory. Meanwhile Epicurus lies deep in Dante’s hell, wherein we meet with tombs enclosing souls, which denied their immortalities. But whether the virtuous heathen, who lived better than he spake, or, erring in the principles of himself, yet lived above philosophers of more specious maxims, lie so deep as he is placed, at least so low as not to rise against Christians, who, believing or knowing that truth, have lastingly denied it in their practice and conversation, — were a query too sad to insist on.” Also Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, Part II. Sec. 2. Mem. 6. Subs. I, thus vindicates the memory of Epicurus: “A quiet mind is that voluptas, or summum bonum of Epicurus; non dolere, curis vacare, animo tranquillo esse, not to grieve, but to want cares, and have a quiet soul, is the only pleasure of the world, as Seneca truly recites his opinion, not that of eating and drinking, which injurious Aristotle maliciously puts upon him, and for which he is still mistaken, mala audit et vapulat, slandered without a cause, and lashed by all posterity.”
32. Farinata degli Uberti was the most valiant and renowned leader of the Ghibellines in Florence. Boccacio, Comento, says: “He was of
the opinion of Epicurus, that the soul dies with the body, and consequently maintained that human happiness consisted in temporal pleasures; but he did not follow these in the way that Epicurus did, that is by making long fasts to have afterwards pleasure in eating dry bread; but was fond of good and delicate viands, and ate them without waiting to be hungry; and for this sin he is damned as a Heretic in this place.” Farinata led to Ghibellines at the famous battle of Monte Aperto in 1260, where the Guelfs were routed, and driven out of Florence. He died in 1264.
46. The ancestors of Dante, and Dante himself, were Guelfs. He did not become a Ghibelline till after his banishment. Boccaccio in his Life of Dante makes the following remarks upon his party spirit. I take the passage as given in Mrs. Bunbury’s translation of Balbo’s Life and Times of Dante, II. 227. “He was,” says Boccaccio, “a most excellent man, and most resolute in adversity. It was only on a one subject that he showed himself, I do not know whether I ought to call it impatient, or spirited, — it was regarding anything relating to Party; since in his exile he was more violent in this respect than suited his circumstances, and more than he was willing that others should believe. And in order that it may be seen for what party he was thus violent and pertinacious, it appears to me I must go further back in my story. I believe that it was the just anger of God that permitted, it is a long time ago, almost all Tuscany and Lombardy to be divided into two parties; I do not know how they acquired those names, but one party was called Guelf and the other party Ghibelline. And these two names were so revered, and had such an effect on the folly of many minds, that, for the sake of defending the side any one had chosen for his own against the opposite party, it was not considered hard to lose property, and even life, if it were necessary. And under these names the Italian cities many times suffered serious grievences and changes; and among the rest our city, which was sometimes at the head of one party, and sometimes of the other, according to the citizens in power; so much so that Dante’s ancestors, being Guelfs, were twice expelled by the Ghibellines from their home, and he likewise under the title of Guelf held the reins of the Florentine Republic, from which he was expelled, as we have shown, not by the the Ghibellines, but by the Guelfs; and seeing that he could not return, he so much altered his mind that there never was a fiercer Ghibelline, or a bitterer enemy to the Guelfs, than he was. And that which I feel most ashamed at for the sake of his memory is, that it was a well-known thing in Romagna, that if any boy or girl, talking to him on party matters, condemned the Ghibelline side, he would become frantic, so that if they did not be silent he would have been induced to throw stones at them; and with this violence of party feeling he lived until his death. I am certainly ashamed to tarnish with any fault the fame of such a man; but the order of my subject in some degree demands it, because if I were silent in those things in which he was to blame, I should not be believed in those things I have already related in his praise. Therefore I excuse myself to himself, who perhaps looks down from heaven with a disdainful eye on me writing.”
51. The following account of the Guelfs and Ghibellines is from the Pecorone of Giovanni Fiorentino, a writer of the fourteenth century. It forms the first Novella of the Eight Day, and will be found in Roscoe’s Italian Novelists, I. 322. “There formerly resided in Germany two wealthy and well-born individuals, whose names were Guelfo and Ghibellino, very near neighbors, and greatly attached to each other. But returning together one day from the chase, there unfortunately arose some difference of opinion as to the merits of one of their hounds, which was maintained on both sides so very warmly, that, from being almost inseparable friends and companions, they became each other’s deadliest enemies. This unlucky division between them still increasing, they on either side collected parties of their followers, in order more effectually to annoy each other. Soon extending its malignant influence among the neighboring lords and barons of Germany, who divided, according to their motives, either with the Guelf or the Ghibelline, it not only produced many serious affrays, but several persons fell victims to its rage. Ghibellino, finding himself hard pressed by his enemy, and unable longer to keep the field against him, resolved to apply for assistance to Frederick the First, the reigning Emperor. Upon this, Guelfo, perceiving that his adversary sought the alliance of this monarch, applied on his side to Pope Honorius II., who being at variance with the former, and hearing how the affair stood, immediately joined the cause of the Guelfs, the Emperor having already embraced that of the Ghibellines. It is thus the apostolic see became connected with the former, and the empire with the latter faction; and it was thus that a vile hound became the origin of a deadly hatred between the two noble families. Now it happened that in the year of our dear Lord and Redeemer 1215, the same pestiferous spirit spread itself into parts of Italy, in the following manner.
Messer Guido Orlando being at that time chief magistrate of Florence, there likewise resided in that city a noble and valiant cavalier of the family of Buondelmonti, one of the most distinguished houses in the state. Our young Buondelmonte having already plighted his troth to a lady of the Amidei family, the lovers were considered as betrothed, with all the solemnity usually observed on such occasions. But this unfortunate young man, chancing one day to pass by the house of the Donati, was stopped and accosted by a lady of the name of Lapaccia, who moved to him from her door as he went along, saying: `I am surprised that a gentleman of your appearance, Signor, should think of taking for his wife a woman scarcely worthy of handing him his boots. There is a child of my own, whom, to speak sincerely, I have long intended for you, and whom I wish you would just venture to see.’ And on this she called out for her daughter, whose name was Ciulla, one of the prettiest and most enchanting girls in all Florence. Introducing her to Messer Buondelmonte, she whispered, `This is she whom I had reserved for you’; and the young Florentine, suddenly becoming enamored of her, thus replied to her mother, `I am quite ready, Madonna, to meet your wishes’; and before stirring from the spot he placed a ring upon her finger, and, wedding her, received her there as his wife. “The Amidei, hearing that young Buondelmonte had thus espoused another, immediately met together, and took counsel with other friends and relations, how they might best avenge themselves for such an insult offered to their house. There were present among the rest Lambertuccio Amidei, Schiatta Ruberti, and Mosca Lamberti, one of whom proposed to give him a box on the ear, another to strike him in the face; yet they were none of them able to agree about it among themselves. On observing this, Mosca hastily rose, in a great passion, saying, `Cosa fatta capo ha,’ wishing it to be understood that a dead man will never strike again. It was therefore decided that he should be put to death, a sentence which they proceeded to execute in the following manner. “M. Buondelmonte returning one Easter morning from a visit to the Casa Bardi, beyond the Arno, mounted upon a snow white steed, and dressed in a mantle of the same color, had just reached the foot of the Ponte Vecchio, or old bridge, where formerly stood a statue of Mars, whom the Florentines in their Pagan state were accustomed to worship, when the whole party issued out upon him, and, dragging him in the scuffle from his horse, in spite of the gallant resistance he made, despatched him with a thousand wounds. The tidings of this affair seemed to throw all Florence into confusion; the chief prsonages and noblest families in the place everywhere meeting, and dividing themselves into parties in consequence; the one party embracing the cause of the Buondelmonti, who placed themselves at the head of the Guelfs; and the other taking part with the Amidei, who supported the Ghibellines.
“In the same fatal manner, nearly all the seigniories and cities of Italy were involved in the original quarrel between these two German families: the Guelfs still supporting the interest of the Holy Church, and the Ghibellines those of the Emperor. And thus I have made you acquainted with the origin of the Germanic faction, between two noble houses, for the sake of a vile cur, and have shown how it afterwards disturbed the peace of Italy for the sake of a beautiful woman.”
53. Cavalcante de’ Cavalcanti, father of Dante’s friend, Guido Cavalcanti. He was of the Guelf party; so that there are Guelf and Ghibelline buried in the same tomb.
60. This question recalls the scene in the Odyssey, where the shade of Agamemnon appears to Ulysses and asks for Orestes. Book XI. in Chapman’s translation, line 603:–
“Doth my son yet survive
In Orchomen or Pylos? Or doth live In Sparta with his uncle? Yet I see
Divine Orestes is not here with me.”
63. Guido Cavalcanti, whom Benvenuto da Imola calls “the other eye of Florence,”– alter oculus Florentiae tempore Dantis. It is this Guido that Dante addresses the sonnet, which is like the breath of Spring,
“Guido, I wish that Lapo, thou, and I Could be by spells conveyed, as it were now, Upon a barque, with all the winds that blow, Across all seas at our good will to hie.”
He was a poet of decided mark, as may be seen by his “Song of Fortune,” quoted in Note 68, Canto VII., and the Sonnet to Dante, Note 136, Purgatorio XXX.
But he seems not to have shared Dante’s admiration for Virgil, and to have been more given to the study of philosophy than of poetry. Like Lucentio in “The Taming of the Shrew” he is
“So devote to Aristotle’s ethics
As Ovid be an outcast quite abjured.”
Boccaccio, Decameron, VI. 9, praises him for his learning and other good qualities; “for over and beside his being one of the best Logitians, as those times not yielded a better,” so runs the old translation, “he was also a most absolute Natural Philosopher, a very friendly Gentleman, singularly well spoken, and whatsoever else was commendable in any man was no way wanting in him.” In the same Novella he tells this anecdote of him:– “It chanced upon a day that Signior Guido, departing from the Church of Saint Michael d’Horta, and passing along by the Adamari, so far as to Saint John’s Church, which evermore was his customary walk: many goodly Marble Tombs were then about the said Church, as now adays are at Saint Reparata, and divers more beside. He entring among the Columns of Porphiry, and the other Sepulchers being there, because the door of the Church was shut: Signior Betto and his Company came riding from Saint Reparata, and espying Signior Guido amont the Graves and Tombs, said, `Come, let us go make some jests to anger him.’ so putting the Spurs to their Horses they rode apace towards him; and being upon him before he perceived them, one of them said, `Guido, thou refusest to be one of our society, and seekest for that which never was: when thou hast found it, tell us, what wilt thou do with it?’
“Guido seeing himself round engirt with them, suddenly thus replyed:
`Gentlemen, you may use me in your own House as you please.’ And setting his hand upon one of the Tombs (which was somewhat great) he took his rising, and leapt quite over it on the further side, as being of an agile and springhtly body, and being thus freed from them, he went away to his own lodging. “They stood all like men amazed, strangely looking one upon another, and began afterward to murmur among themselves: That Guido was a man without any understanding, and the answer which he had made unto them was to no purpose, neither savoured of any discretion, but meerly came from an empty Brain, because they had no more to do in the place where now they were, than any of the other Citizens, and Signior Guido (himself) as little as any of them; whereto Signior Betto thus replyed: `Alas, Gentlemen, it is you your selves that are void of understanding: for, if you had but observed the answer which he made unto us: he did honestly, and (in very few words) not only notably express his own wisdom, but also deservedly reprehend us. Because, if we observe things as we ought to do, Graves and Tombs are the Houses of the dead, ordained and prepared to be the latest dwellings. He told us moreover that although we have here (in this life) our habitations and abidings, yet these (or the like) must at last be our Houses. To let us know, and all other foolish, indiscreet, and unlearned men, that we are worse than dead men, in comparison of him, and other men equal to him in skill and learning. And therefore, while we are here among the Graves and Monuments, it may be well said, that we ar not far from our own Houses, or how soon we shall be possessors of them, in regard of the frailty attending on us.'”
Napier, Florentine History, I. 368, speaks of Guido as “a bold, melancholy man, who loved solitude and literature; but generous, brave, and courteous, a poet and philosopher, and one that seems to have had the respect and admiration of his age.” He then adds this singular picture of the times:–
“Corso Donati, by whom he was feared and hated, would have had him murdered while on a pilgrimage to Saint James of Galicia; on his return this became known and gained him many supporters amongst the Cerchi and other youth of Florence; he took no regular measures of vengeance, but accidentally meeting Corso in the street, rode violently towards him, casting his javelin at the same time; it missed by the tripping of his horse and he escaped with a slight wound from one of Donati’s attendants.” Sacchetti, Nov. 68, tells a pleasant story of Guido’s having his cloak nailed to the bench by a roguish boy, while he was playing chess in one of the streets of Florence, which is also a curious picture of Italian life.
75. Farinata pays no attention to this outburst of paternal tenderness on the part of his Guelfic kinsman, but waits, in stern indifference, till it is ended, and then calmly resumes his discourse.
80. The moon, called in the heavens Diana, on earth Luna, and in the infernal regions Proserpina.
86. In the great battle of Monte Aperto. The river Arbia is a few miles south of Siena. The traveller crosses it on his way to Rome. In this battle the banished Ghibellines of Florence, joining the Sienese, gained a victory over the Guelfs, and retook the city of Florence. Before the battle Buonaguida, Syndic of Siena, presented the keys of the city to the Virgin Mary in the Cathedral, and made a gift to her of the city and the neighboring country. After the battle the standard of the vanquished Florentines, together with their battle-bell, the Martinella, was tied to the tail of a jackass and dragged in the dirt. See Ampere, Voyage Dantesque, 254.
94. After the battle of Monte Aperto a diet of the Ghibellines was held at Empoli, in which the deputies from Siena and Pisa, prompted no doubt by provincial hatred, urged the demolition of Florence. Farinata vehemently opposed the project in a speech, thus given in Napier, Florentine History, I. 257:– “`It would have been better,’ he exclaimed, `to have died on the Arbia, than survive only to hear such a proposition as that which they were then discussing. There is no happiness in victory itself, that must ever be sought for amongst the companions who helped us to gain the day, and the injury we receive from an enemy inflicts a far more trifling wound than the wrong that comes from the hand of a friend. If I now complain, it is not that I fear the destruction of my native city, for as long as I have life to wield a sword Florence shall never be destroyed; but I cannot suppress my indignation at the discourses I have just been listening to: we are here assembled to discuss the wisest means of maintaining our influence in Florence, not to debate on its destruction, and my country would indeed be unfortunate, and I and my companions miserable, mean-spirited creatures, if it were true that the fate of our city depended on the fiat of the present assembly. I did hope that all former hatred would have been banished from such a meeting, and that our mutual destruction would not have been treacherously aimed at from under the false colors of general safety; I did hope that all here were convinced that counsel dictated by jealousy could never be advantageous to the general good! But to what does your hatred attach itself? To the ground on which the city stands? To its houses and insensible walls? To the fugitives who have abandoned it? Or to ourselves that now possess it? Who is he that thus advises? Who is the bold bad man that dare thus give voice to the malice he hath engendered in his soul? It is meet then that all your cities should exist unharmed, and ours alone be devoted to destruction? That you should return in triumph to your hearths, and we with whom you have conquered should have nothing in exchange but exile and the ruin of our country? Is there on of you who can believe that I could even hear such things with patience? Are you indeed ignorant that if I have carried arms, if I have persecuted my foes, I still have never ceased to love my country, and that I never will allow what even our enemies have respected to be violated by your hands, so that posterity may call them the saviours, us the destroyers of our country? Here then I declare, that, although I stand alone amongst the Florentines, I will never permit my native city to be destroyed, and if it be necessary for her sake to die a thousand deaths, I am ready to meet them all in her defence. ‘ “Farinata then rose, and with angry gestures quitted the assembly; but left such an impression on the mind of his audience that the project was instantly dropped, and the only question for the moment was how to regain a chief of such talent and influence.”
119. Frederick II., son of the Emperor Henry VI., surnamed the Severe, and grandson of Barbarossa. He reigned from 1220 to 1250, not only as Emperor of Germany, but also as King of Naples and Sicily, where for the most part he held his court, one of the most brilliant of the Middle Ages. Villani, Cronica, V. I, thus sketches his character: “This Frederick reigned thirty years as Emperor, and was a man of great mark and great worth, learned in letter and of natural ability, universal in all things; he knew the Latin language, the Italian, the German, French, Greek, and Arabic; was copiously endowed with all virtues, liberal and courteous in giving, valiant and skilled in arms, and was much feared. And he was dissolute and voluptuous in many ways, and had many concubines and mamelukes, after the Saracenic fashion; he was addicted to all sensual delights, and led an Epicurean life, taking no account of any other; and this was one principal reason why he was an enemy to the clergy and the Holy Church.” Milman, Lat. Christ., B. X., Chap. iii., says of him: “Frederick’s predilection for his native kingdom, for the bright cities reflected in the blue Mediterranean, over the dark barbaric towns of Germany, of itself characterizes the man. The summer skies, the more polished manners, the more elegant luxuries, the knowledge, the arts, the poetry, the gayety, the beauty, the romance of the South, were throughout his life more congenial to his mind, than the heavier and more chilly climate the feudal barbarism, the ruder pomp, the coarser habits of his German liegemen….. And no doubt that delicious climate and lovely land, so highly appreciated by the gay sovereign, was not without influence on the state, and even the manners of his court, to which other circumstances contributed to give a peculiar and romantic character. It resembled probably (though its full splendor was of a later period) Grenada in its glory, more than any other in Europe, though more rich and picturesque from the variety of races, of manners, usages, even dresses, which prevailed within it.” Gibbon also, Decline and Fall, Chap. lix., gives this graphic picture:–
“Frederick the Second, the grandson of Barbarossa, was successively the pupil, the enemy, and the victim of the Church. At the age of twenty-one years, and in obedience to his guardian Innocent the Third, he assumed the cross; the same promise was repeated at his royal and imperial coronations; and his marriage with the heiress of Jerusalem forever bound him to defend the kingdom of his son Conrad. But as Frederick advanced in age and authority, he repented of the rash engagements of his youth: his liberal sense and knowledge taught him to despise the phantoms of superstition and the crowns of Asia: he no longer entertained the same reverence for the successors of Innocent; and his ambition was occupied by the restoration of the Italian monarchy, from Sicily to the Alps. But the success of this project would have reduced the Popes to their primitive simplicity; and, after the delays and excuses of twelve years, they urged the Emperor, with entreaties and threats, to fix the time and place of his departure for Palestine. In the harbors of Sicily and Apulia he prepared a fleet of one hundred galleys, and of one hundred vessels, that were famed to transport and land two thousand five hundred knights, with horses and attendants; his vassals of Naples and Germany formed a powerful army; and the number of English crusaders was magnified to sixty thousand by the report of frame. But the inevitable, or affected, slowness of these mighty preparations consumed the strength and provisions of the more indigent pilgrims; the multitude was thinned by sickness and desertion, and the sultry summer of Calabria anticipated the mischiefs of a Syrian campaign. At length the Emperor hoisted sail at Brundusium with a fleet and army of forty thousand men; but he kept the sea no more than three days; and his hasty retreat, which was ascribed by his friends to a grievous indisposition, was accused by his enemies as a voluntary and obstinate disobedience. For suspending his vow was Frederick excommunicated by Gregory the Ninth; for presuming, the next year, to accomplish his vow, he was again excommunicated by the same Pope. While he served under the banner of the cross, a crusade was preached against him in Italy; and after his return he was compelled to ask pardon for the injuries which he had suffered. The clergy and military orders of Palestine were previously instructed to renounce his communion and dispute his commands; and in his own kingdom the Emperor was forced to consent that the orders of the camp should be issued in the name of God and of the Christian republic. Frederick entered Jerusalem in triumph; and with his own hands (for no priest would perform the office) he took the crown from the alter of the holy sepulchre.”
Matthew Paris, A. D. 1239, gives a long letter of Pope Gregory IX. in which he calls the Emperor some very hard names; “a beast, full of the words of blasphemy,” “a wolf in sheep’s clothing, ” “a son lies,” “a staff of the impious,” and “hammer of the earth”; and finally accuses him of being the author of a work De Tribus Impostoribus, which, if it ever existed, is no longer to be found. “There is one thing,” he says in conclusion, “at which, although we ought to mourn for a lost man, you ought to rejoice greatly, and for which you ought to return thanks to God, namely, that this man, who delights in being called a forerunner of Antichrist, by God’s will, no longer endures to be veiled in darkness; not expecting that his trial and disgrace are near, he with his own hands undermines the wall of his abominations, and, by the said letters of his, brings his works of darkness to the light, boldly setting forth in them, that he could not be excommunicated by us, although the Vicar of Christ; thus affirming that the Church had not the power of binding and loosing, which was given by our Lord to St. Peter and his successors…..But as it may not be easily believed by some people that he has ensnared himself by the words of his own mouth, proofs are ready, to the triumph of the faith; for this king of pestilence openly asserts that the whole world was deceived by three, namely Christ Jesus, Moses, and Mahomet; that, two of them having died in glory, the said Jesus was suspended on the cross; and he, moreover, presumes plainly to affirm (or rather to lie), that all are foolish who believe that God, who created nature, and could do all things, was born of the Virgin.”
120. This is Cardinal Ottaviano delgi Ubaldini, who is accused of saying, “If there be any soul, I have lost mine for the Ghibellines.” Dante takes him at his word.
8. Some critics and commentators accuse Dante of confounding Pope Anastasius with the Emperor of that name. It is however highly probable that Dante knew best whom he meant. Both were accused of heresy, though the heresy of the Pope seems to have been of a mild type. A few years previous to his time, namely, in the year 484, Pope Felix III. and Acacius, Bishop of Constantinople, mutually excommunicated each other. When Anastasius II. became Pope in 496, “he dared,” says Milman, Hist. Lat. Christ., I. 349, “to doubt the damnation of a bishop excommunicated by the See of Rome: `Felix and Acacius are now both before a higher tribunal; leave them to that unerring judgment.’ He would have the name of Acacius passed over in silence, quietly dropped, rather than publicly expunged from the diptychs. This degenerate successor of St. Peter is not admitted to the rank of a saint. The Pontifical book (its authority on this point is indignantly repudiated) accuses Anastasius of having communicated with a deacon of Thessalonica, who had kept up communion with Acacius; and of having entertained secret designs of restoring the name of Acacius in the services of the Church.”
9. Photinus is the deacon of Thessalonica alluded to in the preceding note. His heresy was, that the Holy Ghost did not proceed from the Father, and that the Father was greater than the Son. The writers who endeavor to rescue the Pope at the expense of the Emperor say that Photinus died before the days of Pope Anastasius.
50. Cahors is the cathedral town of the Department of the Lot, in the South of France, and the birthplace of the poet Clement Marot and of the romance-writer Calprenede. In the Middle Ages it seems to have been a nest of usurers. Matthew Paris, in his Historia Major, under date of 1235, has a chapter entitled, Of the Usury of the Caursines, which in the translation of Rev. J. A. Giles runs as follows:–
“In these days prevailed the horrible nuisance of the Caursines to such a degree that there was hardly any one in all England, especially among the bishops, who was not caught in their net. Even the king himself was held indebted to them in an uncalculable sum of money. For they circumvented the needy in their necessities, cloaking their usury under the show of trade, and pretending not to know that whatever is added to the principal is usury, under whatever name it may be called. For it is manifest that their loans lie not in the path of charity, inasmuch as they do not hold out a helping hand to the poor to relieve them, but to deceive them; not to aid others in their starvation, but to gratify their own covetousness; seeing that the motive stamps our every deed. “
70. Those within the fat lagoon, the Irascible, Canto VII., VIII.
71. Whom the wind drives, the Wanton, Canto V., and whom the rain doth beat, the Gluttonous, Canto VI.
72. And who encounter with such bitter tongues, the Prodigal and Avaricious, Canto VIII.
80. The Ethics of Aristotle, VII. i. “After these things, making another beginning, it must be observed by us that there are three species of things which are to be avoided in manners, viz. Malice, Incontinence, and Bestiality.”
101. The Physics of Aristotle, Book II.
107. Genesis, i. 28: “And God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.”
109. Gabrielle Rossetti, in the Comento Analitico of his edition of the Divina Commedia, quotes here the lines of Florian:–
“Nous ne recevons l’existence
Qu’afin de travailler pour nous, ou pour autrui: De ce devoir sacre quiconque se dispense Est puni par la Providence,
Par le besoin, ou par l’ennui.”
110. The constellation Pisces precedes Aries, in which the sun now is. This indicates the time to be a little before sunrise. It is Saturday morning.
114. The Wain is the constellation Charle’s Wain, or Bo,otes; and Caurus is the Northwest, indicated by the Latin name of the northwest wind.
1. With this Canto begins the Seventh Circle of the Inferno, in which the Violent are punished. In the first Girone or round are the Violent against their neighbors, plunged more or less deeply in the river of boiling blood.
2. Mr. Ruskin, Modern Painters, III. 242, has the following remarks upon Dante’s idea of rocks and mountains.– “At the top of the abyss of the seventh circle, appointed for the `violent,’ or souls who had done evil by force, we are told, first, that the edge of it was composed of `great broken stones in a circle’; then, that the place was `Alpine’; and, becoming hereupon attentive, in order to hear what an Alpine place is like, we find that it was `like the place beyond Trent, where the rock, either by earthquake, or failure of support, has broken down to the plain, so that it gives any one at the top some means of getting down to the bottom.’ This is not a very elevated or enthusiastic description of an Alpine scene; and it is far from mended by the following verses, in which we are told that Dante `began to go down by this great unloading of stones,’ and that they moved often under his feet by reason of the new weight. The fact is that Dante, by many expressions throughout the poem, shows himself to have been a notably bad climber; and being fond of sitting in the sun, looking at his fair Baptistery, or walking in a dignified manner on flat pavement in a long robe, it puts him seriously out of his way when he has to take to his hands and knees, or look to his feet; so that the first strong impression made upon him by any Alpine scene whatever is, clearly, that it is bad walking. When he is in a fright and hurry, and has a very steep place to go down, Virgil has to carry him altogether.”
5. Speaking of the region to which Dante here alludes, Eustace, Classical Tour, I. 71, says:–“The descent becomes more rapid between Roveredo and Ala; the river, which glided gently through the valley of Trent, assumes the roughness of a torrent; the defiles become narrower; and the mountains break into rocks and precipices, which occasionally approach the road, sometimes rise perpendicular from it, and now and then hand over it in terrible majesty.”
In a note he adds:–
“Amid these wilds the traveller cannot fail to notice a vast tract called the Slavini di Marco, covered with fragments of rock torn from the sides of the neighboring mountains by an earthquake, or perhaps by their own unsupported weight, and hurled down into the plains below. They spread over the whole valley, and in some places contract the road to a very narrow space. A few firs and cypresses scattered in the intervals, or sometimes rising out of the crevices of the rocks, cast a partial and melancholy shade amid the surrounding nakedness and desolation. This scene of ruin seems to have made a deep impression upon the wild imagination of Dante, as he has introduced it into the twelfth canto of the Inferno, in order to give the reader an adequate idea of one of his infernal ramparts.”
12. The Minotaur, half bull, half man. See the infamous story in all the classical dictionaries.
18. The Duke of Athens is Theseus. Chaucer gives him the same title in The Knights Tale:–
“Whilom, as olde stories tellen us, Ther was a duk that highte Theseus.
Of Athenes he was lord and governour, That greter was ther non under the sonne. Ful many a rich contree had he wonne. What with his wisdom and his chevalrie, He conquerd all the regne of Feminie, That whilom was ycleped Scythia;
And wedded the freshe quene Ipolita, And brought hire home with him to his contree With mochel glorie and great solempnitee, And eke hire yonge suster Emelie.
And thus with victorie and with melodie Let I this worthy duk to Athenes ride, And all his host, in armes him beside.”
Shakespeare also, in the Midsummer Night’s Dream, calls him the Duke of Athens.
20. Ariadne, who gave Theseus the silken thread to guide him back through the Cretan labyrinth after slaying the Minotaur. Hawthorne has beatifully told the old story in his Tanglewood Tales.”Ah, the bull-headed villain!” he says. “And O my good little people, you will perhaps see, one of these days, as I do now, that every human being who suffers anything evil to get into his nature, or to remain there, is a kind of Minotaur, an enemy of his fellow- creatures, and separated from all good companionship, as this poor monster was.”
39. Christ’s descent into Limbo, and the earthquake at the Crucifixion.
42. This is the doctrine of Empedocles and other old philosophers.
See Ritter, History of Ancient Philosophy, Book V., Chap. vi. The following passages are from Mr. Morrison’s translation: — “Empedocles proceeded from the Eleatic principle of the oneness of all truth. In its unity it resembles a ball; he calls it the sphere,
wherein the ancients recognized the God of Empedoocles….. “Into the unity of the sphere all elementary things are combined by love, without difference or distinction: within it they lead a happy life, replete with holiness, and remote from discord:
They know no god of war nor the spirit of battles, Nor Zeus, the sovereign, nor Cronos, nor yet Poseidon, But Cypris the queen…..
“The actual separation of the elements one from another is produced by discord; for originally they were bound together in the sphere, and therein continued perfectly unmovable. Now in this Empedocles posits different periods and different conditions of the world; for, according to the above position, originally all is united in love, and then subsequently the elements and living essences are separated. ….
“His assertion of certain mundane periods was taken by the ancients literally; for they tell us that, according to his theory, All was originally one by love, but afterwards many and at enmity with itself through discord.”
56. The Centaurs are set to guard this Circle, as symbolizing violence, with some form of which the classic poets usually associate them.
68. Chaucer, The Monkes Tale:–
“A lemman had this noble champion, That highte Deianire, as fresh as May; And as thise clerkes maken mention,
She hath him sent a sherte fresh and gay: Alas! this sherte, alas and wala wa!
Envenimed was sotilly withalle,
That or that he had wered it half a day, It made his flesh all from his bones falle.”
Chiron was a son of Saturn; Pholus, of Silenus; and Nessus, of Ixion and the Cloud.
71. Homer, Iliad, XI. 832, “Whom Chiron instructed, the most just of the Centaurs.” Hawthorne gives a humorous turn to the fable of Chiron, in the Tanglewod Tales, p. 273:– “I have sometimes suspected that Master Chiron was not really very different from other people, but that, being a kind-hearted and merry old fellow, he was in the habit of making believe that he was a horse, and scrambling about the school-room on all fours, and letting the little boys ride upon his back. And so, when his scholars had grown up, and grown old, and were trotting their grandchildren on their knees, they told them about the sports of their school days; and these young folks took the idea that their grandfathers had been taught their letters by a Centaur, half man and half horse…..
“Be that as it may, it has always been told for a fact, (and always will be told, as long as the world lasts,) that Chiron, with the head of a schoolmaster, had the body and legs of a horse. Just imagine the grave old gentleman clattering and stamping into the school room on his four hoofs, perhaps treading on some little fellow’s toes, flourishing his switch tail instead of a rod, and, now and them, trotting out of doors to eat a mouthful of grass!”
77. Mr. Ruskin refers to this line in confirmation of his theory that “all great art represents something that it sees or believes in; nothing unseen or uncredited.” The passage is as follows, Modern Painters, III. 83:–
“And just because it is always something that it sees or believes in, there is the peculiar character above noted, almost unmistakable, in all high and true ideals, of having been as it were studies from the life, and involving pieces of sudden familiarity, and close specific painting which never would have been admitted or even thought of, had not the painter drawn either from the bodily life or from the life of faith. For instance, Dante’s Centaur, Chiron, dividing his beard with his arrow before he can speak, is a thing that no mortal would ever have thought of, if he had not actually seen the Centaur do it. They might have composed handsome bodies of men and horses in all possible ways, through a whole life of pseudo-idealism, and yet never dreamed of any such thing. But the real living Centaur actually trotted across Dante’s brain, and he saw him do it.”
107. Alexander of Thessaly and Dionysius of Syracuse. 51
110. Azzolino, or Ezzolino di Romano, tyrant of Padua, nicknamed the Son of the Devil. Ariosto, Orlando Furioso, III. 33, describes him as
“Fierce Ezelin, that most inhuman lord, Who shall be deemed by men a child of hell.”
His story may be found in Sismondi’s Histoire des Republiques Italiennes, Chap. XIX. He so outraged the religious sense of the people by his cruelties, that a crusade was preached against him, and he died a prisoner in 1259, tearing the bandages from his wounds, and fierce and defiant to the last. “Ezzolino was small of stature,” says Sismondi, “but the whole aspect of his person, all his movements, indicated the soldier. His language was bitter, his countenance proud; and by a single look, he made the boldest tremble. His soul, so greedy of all crimes, felt no attraction for sensual pleasures. Never had Ezzolino loved women; and this perhaps is the reason why in his punishments he was as pitiless against them as against men. He was in his sixty- sixth year when he died; and his reign of blood had lasted thirty- four years.” Many glimpses of him are given in the Cento Novelle Antiche, as if his memory long haunted the minds of men. Here are two of them, from Novella 83. “Once upon a time Messer Azzolino da Romano made proclamation, through his own territories and elsewhere, that he wished to do a great charity, and therefore that all the beggars, both men and women, should assemble in his meadow, on a certain day, and to each he would give a new gown, and abundance of food. The news spread among the servants on all hands. When the day of assembling came, his seneschals went among them with the gowns and the food, and made them strip naked one by one, and then clothed them with new clothes, and fed them. They asked for their old rags, but it was all in vain; for he put them into a heap and set fire to them. Afterwards he found there so much gold and silver melted, that it more than paid the expense, and then he dismissed them with his blessing…..
“To tell you how much he was feared, would be a long story, and many people knew it. But I will recall how he, being one day with the Emperor on horseback, with all their people, they laid a wager as to which of them had the most beautiful sword. The Emperor drew from its sheath his own, which was wonderfully garnished with gold and precious stones. Then said Messer Azzolino: `It is very beautiful; but mine, without any great ornament, is far more beautiful’; — and he drew it forth. Then six hundred knights, who were with him, all drew theirs. When the Emperor beheld this cloud of swords, he said: `Yours is the most beautiful.'”
111. Obizzo da Esti, Marquis of Ferrara. He was murdered by Azzo, “whom he thought to be his son,” says Boccaccio, “though he was not. ” The Ottimo Comento remarks: “Many call themselves sons, and are step-sons.”
119. Guido di Monforte, who murdered Prince Henry of England “in the bosom of God,” that is, in the church, at Viterbo. The event is thus narrated by Napier, Florentine History, I. 283:– “Another instance of this revengeful spirit occurred in the year 1271 at Viterbo, where the cardinals had assembled to elect a successor to Clement the Fourth, about whom they had been long disputing: Charles of Anjou and Philip of France, with Edward and Henry, sons of Richard, Duke of Cornwall, had repaired there, the two first to hasten the election, which they finally accomplished by the elevation of Gregory the Tenth. During these proceedings Prince Henry, while taking the sacrament in the church of San Silvestro at Viterbo, was stabbed to the heart by his own cousin, Guy de Montfort, in revenge for the Earl of Leicester’s death, although Henry was then endeavoring to procure his pardon. This sacrilegious act threw Viterbo into confusion, but Montfort had many supporters, one of whom asked him what he had done. `I have taken my revenge,’ said he. ` But your father’s body was trailed!’ At this reproach, De Montfort instantly re-entered the church, walked straight to the altar, and, seizing Henry’s body by the hair, dragged it through the aisle, and left it, still bleeding, in the open street: he then retired unmolested to the castle of his father-in-law, Count Rosso of the Maremma, and there remained in security!” “The body of the Prince,” says Barlow, Study of Dante, p. 125, “was brought to England, and interred at Hayles, in Gloucestershire, in the Abbey which his father had there built for monks of the Cistercian order; but his heart was put into a golden vase, and placed on the tomb of Edward the Confessor, in Westminster Abbey; most probably, as stated by some writers, in the hands of a statue. “
123. Violence in all its forms was common enough in Florence in the age of Dante.
134. Attila, the Scourge of God. Gibbon, Decline and Fall, Chap. 39, describes him thus:–
“Attila, the son of Mundzuk, deduced his noble, perhaps his regal, descent from the ancient Huns, who had formerly contended with the monarchs of China. His features, according to the observation of a Gothic historian, bore the stamp of his national origin; and the portrait of Attila exhibits the genuine deformity of a modern Calmuk; a large head, a swarthy complexion, small, deep-seated eyes, a flat nose, a few hairs in the place of a beard, broad shoulders, and a short, square body, of nervous strength, though of a disproportioned form. The haughty step and demeanor of the King of the Huns expressed the consciousness of his superiority above the rest of mankind; and he had a custom of fiercely rolling his eyes, as if he wished to enjoy the terror which he inspired. “
135. Which Pyrrhus and which Sextus, the commentators cannot determine; but incline to Pyrrhus of Epirus, and Sextus Pompey, the corsair of the Mediterranean.
137. Nothing more is known of these highwaymen than that the first infested the Roman sea-shore, and that the second was of a noble family of Florence.
1. In this Canto is described the punishment of those who had laid violent hands on themselves or their property.
2. Chaucer, Knights Tale, 1977:–
“First on the wall was peinted a forest, In which ther wonneth neyther man ne best, With knotty knarry barrein trees old
Of stubbes sharpe and hidous to behold; In which there ran a romble and a swough As though a storme shuld bresten every bough.”
9. The Cecina is a small river running into the Mediterranean not many miles south of Leghorn; Corneto, a village in the Papal States, north of Civita Vecchia. The country is wild and thinly peopled, and studded with thickets, the haunts of the deer and the wild boar. This region is the fatal Maremma, thus described by Forsyth, Italy, p. 156:–
“Farther south is the Maremma, a region which, though now worse than a desert, is supposed to have been anciently both fertile and healthy. The Maremma certainly formed part of that Etruria which was called from its harvests the annonaria. Old Roman cisterns may still be traced, and the ruins of Populonium are still visible in the worst part of this tract: yet both nature and man seem to have conspired against it. “Sylla threw this maritime part of Tuscany into enormous latifundia for his disbanded soldiers. Similar distributions continued to lessen its population during the Empire. In the younger Pliny’s time the climate was pestilential. The Lombards gave it a new aspect of misery. Wherever they found culture they built castles, and to each castle they allotted a `bandita’ or military fief. Hence baronial wars which have left so many picturesque ruins on the hills, and such desolation round them. Whenever a baron was conquered, his vassals escaped to the cities, and the vacant fief was annexed to the victorious. Thus stripped of men, the lands returned into a state of nature: some were flooded by the rivers, others grew into horrible forests, which enclose and concentrate the pestilence of the lakes and marshes.
“In some parts the water is brackish, and lies lower than the sea: in others it oozes full of tartar from beds oftravertine. At the bottom or on the sides of hills are a multitude of hot springs, which form pools, called Lagoni. A few of these are said to produce borax: some, which are called fumache, exhale sulphur; others, called bulicami, boil with a mephitic gas. The very air above is only a pool of vapors, which sometimes undulate, but seldom flow off. It draws corruption from a rank, unshorn, rotting vegetation, from reptiles and fish both living and dead.
“All nature conspires to drive man away from this fatal region; but man will ever return to his bane, if it be well baited. The Casentine peasants still migrate hither in the winter to feed their cattle: and here they sow corn, make charcoal, saw wood, cut hoops, and peel cork. When summer returns they decamp, but often too late; for many leave their corpses on the road, or bring home the Maremmian disease.”
11. Aeneid, III., Davidson’s Tr.:–
“The shores of the Strophades first receive me rescued from the waves. The Strophades, so called by a Greek name, are islands situated in the great Ionian Sea; which direful Celaeno and the other Harpies inhabit, from what time Phineus’ palace was closed against them, and they were frightened from his table, which they formerly haunted. No monster more fell than they, no plague and scourge of the gods more cruel, ever issued from the Stygian waves. They are fowls with virgin faces, most loathsome is their bodily discharge, hands hooked, and looks ever pale with famine. Hither conveyed, as soon as we entered the port, lo! we observe joyous herds of cattle roving up and down the plains, and flocks of goats along the meadows without a keeper. We rush upon them with our swords, and invoke the gods and Jove himself to share the booty. Then along the winding shore we raise the couches, and feast on the rich repast. But suddenly, with direful swoop, the Harpies are upon us from the mountains, shake their wings with loud din, prey upon our banquet, and defile everything with their touch: at the same time, together with a rank smell, hideous screams arise.”
21. His words in the Aeneid, III., Davidson’s Tr.:– “Near at hand there chanced to be a rising ground, on whose top were young cornel-trees, and a myrtle rough with thick, spear- like branches. I came up to it, and attempting to tear from the earth the verdant wood, that I might cover the altars with the leafy boughs, I observe a dreadful prodigy, and wondrous to relate. For from that tree which first is torn from the soil, its rooted fibres being burst asunder, drops of black blood distil, and stain the ground with gore: cold terror shakes my limbs, and my chill blood is congealed with fear. I again essay to tear off a limber bough from another, and thoroughly explore the latent cause: and from the rind of that other the purple blood descends. Raising in my mind many an anxious thought, I with reverence besought the rural nymphs, and father Mars, who presides over the Thracian territories, kindly to prosper the vision and avert evil from the omen. But when I attempted the boughs a third time with a more vigorous effort, and on my knees struggled against the opposing mould, (shall I speak, or shall I forbear?) a piteous groan is heard from the bottom of the rising ground, and a voice sent forth reaches my ears: `Aeneas, why dost thou tear an unhappy wretch? Spare me, now that I am in my grave; forbear to pollute with guilt thy pious hands: Troy brought me forth no stranger to you; nor is it from the trunk this blood distils.'”
40. Chaucer, Knightes Tale, 2339:–
“And as it queinte, it made a whisteling As don these brondes wet in hir brenning, And at the brondes ende outran anon
As it were blody dropes many on.”
See also Spenser, Faerie Queene, I. ii. 30.
58. Pietro della Vigna, Chancellor of the Emperor Frederick II. Napier’s account of him is as follows, Florentine History, I. 197– “The fate of his friend and minister, Piero delle Vigne of Capua, if truly told, would nevertheless impress us with an unfavorable idea of his mercy and magnanimity: Piero was sent with Taddeo di Sessa as Frederick’s advocate and representative to the Council of Lyons, which was assembled by his friend Innocent the Fourth, nominally to reform the Church, but really to impart more force and solemnity to a fresh sentence of excommunication and deposition. There Taddeo spoke with force and boldness for his master; but Piero was silent; and hence he was accused of being, like several others, bribed by the Pope, not only to desert the Emperor, but to attempt his life; and whether he were really culpable, or the victim of court intrigue, is still doubtful. Frederick, on apparently good evidence, condemned him to have his eyes burned out, and the sentence was executed at San Miniato al Tedesco: being afterwards sent on horseback to Pisa, where he was hated, as an object for popular derison, he died, as is conjectured, from the effects of a fall while thus cruelly exposed, and not by his own hand, as Dante believed and sung.”
Milman, Latin Christianity, V. 499, gives the story thus:– “Peter de Vine#a had been raised by the wise choice of Frederick to the highest rank and influence. All the acts of Frederick were attributed to his Chancellor. De Vine#a, like his master, was a poet; he was one of the counsellors in his great scheme of legislation. Some rumors spread abroad that at the Council of Lyons, though Frederick had forbidden all his representatives from holding private intercourse with the Pope, De Vine#a had many secret conferences with Innocent, and was accused of betraying his master’s interests. Yet there was no seeming diminution in the trust placed in De Vine#a. Still, to the end the Emperor’s letters concerning the disaster at Parma are by the same hand. Over the cause of his disgrace and death, even in his own day, there was deep doubt and obscurity. The popular rumor ran that Frederick was ill; the physician of De Vine#a prescribed for him; the Emperor having received some warning, addressed De Vine#a: `My friend, in thee I have full trust; art thou sure that this is medicine, not poison?’ De Vine#a replied: `How often has my physician ministered healthful medicines!–why are you now afraid?’ Frederick took the cup, sternly commanded the physician to drink half of it. The physician threw himself at the King’s feet, and, he fell, overthrew the liquor. But what was left was administered to some criminals, who died in agony. The Emperor wrung his hands and wept bitterly: `Whom can I now trust, betrayed by my own familiar friend? Never can I know security, never can I know joy more.’ By one account Peter de Vine#a was led ignominiously on an ass through Pisa, and thrown into prison, where he dashed his brains out against the wall. Dante’s immortal verse has saved the fame of De Vine#a: according to the poet he was the victim of wicked and calumnious jealousy.” See also Giuseppe de Blasiis, Vita et Opere di Pietro della Vigna.
112. Iliad, XII. 146: “Like two wild boars, which catch the coming tumult of men and dogs in the mountains, and, advancing obliquely to the attack, break down the wood about them, cutting it off at the roots.”
Chaucer, Legende of Goode Women:–
Envie ys lavendere of the court alway; For she ne parteth neither nyght ne day Out of the house of Cesar, thus saith Daunte.”
120. “Lano,” says Boccaccio, Comento, “was young gentleman of Siena, who had a large patrimony, and associating himself with a club of other young Sienese, called the Spendthrift Club, they also being all rich, together with them, not spending but squandering, in a short time he consumed all that he had and became very poor. ” Joining some Florentine troops sent out against the Aretines, he was in a skirmish at the parish of Toppo, which Dante calls a joust; “and notwithstanding he might have saved himself,” continues Boccaccio, “remembering his wretched condition, and it seeming to him a grievous thing to bear poverty, as he had been very rich, he rushed into the thick of the enemy and was slain, as perhaps he desired to be.”
125. Some commentators interpret these dogs as poverty and despair, still pursuing their victims. The Ottimo Comento calls them “poor men who, to follow pleasure and the kitchens of other people, abandoned their homes and families, and are therefore transformed into hunting dogs, and pursue and devour their masters.”
133. Jacopo da St. Andrea was a Paduan of like character and life as Lano. “Among his other squanderings,” says the Ottimo Comento, “it is said that, wishing to see a grand and beautiful fire, he had one of his own villas burned.”
143. Florence was first under the protection of the god Mars; afterwards under that of St. John the Baptist. But in Dante’s time the statue of Mars was still standing on a column at the head of the Ponte Vecchio. It was over thrown by an inundation of the Arno in 1333. See Canto XV. Note 62.
149. Florence was destroyed by Totila in 450, and never by Attila. In Dante’s time the two seem to have been pretty generally confounded. The Ottimo Comento remarks upon this point, “Some say that Totila was one person and Attila another; and some say that he was one and the same man.”
150. Dante does not mention the name of this suicide; Boccaccio thinks, for one of two reasons; “either out of regard of his surviving relatives, who peradventure are honorable men, and therefore he did not wish to stain them with the infamy of so dishonest a death, or else (as in those times, as if by a malediction sent by God upon our city, many hanged themselves) that each one might apply it to either he pleased of these many.”
1. In this third round of the seventh circle are punished the Violent against God,
“In heart denying and blaspheming him, And by disdaining Nature and her bounty.”
15. When he retreated across the Libyan desert with the remnant of Pompey’s army after the battle of Pharsalia. Lucan, Pharsalia, Book IX.:–
“Foremost, behold, I lead you to the toil, My feet shall foremost print the dusty soil.”
31. Boccaccio confesses that he does not know where Dante found this tradition of Alexander. Benvenuto da Imola says it is a letter which Alexander wrote to Aristotle. He quotes the passage as follows: “In India ignited vapors fell from heaven like snow. I commanded my soldiers to trample them under foot.” Dante perhaps took the incident from the old metrical Romance of Alexander, which in some form or other was current in his time. In the English version of it, published by the Roxburghe Club, we find the rain of fire, and a fall of snow; but it is the snow, and not the fire, and the soldiers trample down. So likewise in the French version. The English runs as follows, line 4164: —
“Than fandis he furth as I finde five and twenti days, Come to a velanus vale thare was a vile cheele, Quare flaggis of the fell snawe fell fra the heven, That was a brade, sais the buke, as battes ere of wolle. Than bett he many brigt fire and lest it bin nold, And made his folk with thaire feete as flores it to trede. Than fell ther fra the firmament as it ware fell sparkes, Ropand doune o rede fire, than any rayne thikir.”
45. Canto VIII. 83.
56. Mount Etna, under which, with his Cyclops, Vulcan forged the thunderbolts of Jove.
63. Capaneus was one of the seven kings who besieged Thebes. Euripides, Phoenissae, line 1188, thus describes his death:–
While o’er the battlements sprung Capaneus, Jove struck him with his thunder, and the earth Resounded with the crack; meanwhile mankind Stood all aghast; from off the ladder’s height His limbs were far asunder hurled, his hair Flew to’ards Olympus, to the ground his blood, His hands and feet whirled like Ixion’s wheel, And to the earth his flaming body fell.”
Also Gower, Confes. Amant., I.:–
“As he the cite wolde assaile,
God toke him selfe the bataile
Ayen his pride, and fro the sky
A firy thonder sudeinly
He sende and him to pouder smote.”
72. Like Hawthorne’s scarlet letter, at once an ornament and a punishment.
79. The Bulicame or Hot Springs of Viterbo. Villani, Cronica, Book 1. Ch. 51, gives the following brief account of these springs, and of the origin of the name of Viterbo:– The city of Viterbo was built by the Romans, and in old times was called Vigezia, and the citizens Vigentians. And the Romans sent the sick there on account of the baths which flow from the Bulicame, and therefore it was called Vita Erbo, that is, life of the sick, or city of life.”
80. “The building thus appropriated”, says Mr. Barlow, Contributions to the Study of the Divine Comedy, p. 129, “would appear to have been the large ruined edifice known as the Bagno di Ser Paolo Benigno, situated between the Bulicame and Viterbo. About half a mile beyond the Porta di Faule, which leads to Toscanella, we come to a way called Reillo, after which we arrive at the said ruined edifice, which received the water from the Bulicame by conduits, and has popularly been regarded as the Bagno delle Meretrici alluded to by Dante; there is no other building here found, which can dispute with it the claim to this distinction.”
102. The shouts and cymbals of the Corybantes, drowning the cries of the infant Jove, lest Saturn should find him and devour him.
103. The statue of Time, turning its back upon the East and looking towards Rome. Compare Daniel ii. 31.
105. The Ages of Gold, Silver, Brass, and Iron. See Ovid, Metamorph. I. See also Don Quixote’s discourse to the goatherds, inspired by the acorns they gave him, Book II. Chap. 3; and Tasso’s Ode to the Golden Age, in the Aminta.
113. The Tears of Time, forming the infernal rivers that flow into Cocytus.
Milton, Parad. Lost, II. 577:–
“Abhorred Styx, the flood of deadly hate; Sad Acheron of sorrow, black and deep; Cocytus, named of lamentation loud
Heard on the rueful stream; fierce Phlegeton, Whose waves of torrent fire inflame with rage. Far off from these a slow and silent stream, Her watery labyrinth, whereof who drinks Forthwith his former state and being forgets, Forgets both joy and grief, pleasure and pain.”
136. See Purgatorio XXVIII.
1. In this Canto is described the punishment of the Violent against Nature;–
“And for this reason does the smallest round Seal with its signet Sodom and Cahors.”
4. Guizzante is not Ghent, but Cadsand, an island opposite L’Ecluse, where the great canal of Bruges enters the sea. A canal thus flowing into the sea, the dikes on either margin uniting with the sea-dikes, gives a perfect image of this part of the Inferno. Lodovico Guicciardini in his Descrittione di tutti i Paesi Bassi (1581), p. 416, speaking of Cadsand, says: “This is the very place of which our great poet Dante makes mention in the fifteenth chapter of the Inferno, calling it incorrectly, perhaps by error of the press, Guizzante; where still at the present day great repairs are continually made upon the dikes, because here, and in the environs towards Bruges, the flood, or I should rather say the tide, on account of the situation and lowness of the land, has very great power, particularly during a northwest wind.”
5. These lines recall Goldsmith’s description in the Traveller:- –
“Methinks her patient sons before me stand, Where the broad ocean leans against the land, And, sedulous to stop the coming tide, Lift the tall rampire’s artificial pride. Onward, methinks, and diligently slow The firm connected bulwark seems to grow; Spreads its long arms amidst the watery roar, Scoops out an empire and usurps the shore.”
9. That part of the Alps in which the Brenta rises.
29. The reading la mia seems preferable to la mano, and is justified by line 45.
30. Brunetto Latini, Dante’s friend and teacher. Villani thus speaks of him, Cronica, VIII. 10: “In this year 1294 died in Florence a worthy citizen, whose name was Ser Brunetto Latini, who was a great philosopher and perfect master of rhetoric, both in speaking and in writing. He commented the Rhetoric of Tully, and made the good and useful book called the Tesoro, and the Tesoretto, and the Keys of the Tesoro, and many other books of philosophy, and of vices and of virtues, and he was Secretary of our Commune. He was a worldly man, but we have made mention of him because he was the first master in refining the Florentines, and in teaching them how to speak correctly, and how to guide and govern our Republic on political principles.” Boccaccio, Comento, speaks of him thus: “This Ser Brunetto Latini was a Florentine, and a very able man in some of the liberal arts, and in philosophy; but his principal calling was that of Notary; and he held himself and his calling in such great esteem, that, having made a mistake in a contract drawn up by him, and having been in consequence accused of fraud, he preferred to be condemned for it rather than to confess that he had made a mistake; and afterwards he quitted Florence in disdain, and leaving in memory of himself a book composed by him, called the Tesoretto, he went to Paris and lived there a long time, and composed a book there which is in French, and in which he treats of many matters regarding the liberal arts, and moral and natural philosophy, and metaphysics, which he called the Tesoro; and finally, I believe, he died in Paris.”
He also wrote a short poem, called the Favoletto, and perhaps the Pataffio, a satirical poem in the Florentine dialect, “a jargon, ” says Nardini, “which cannot be understood even with a commentary. ” But his fame rests upon the Tesoretto and the Tesoro, and more than all upon the fact that he was Dante’s teacher, and was put by him into a very disreputable place in the Inferno. He died in Florence, not in Paris, as Boccaccio supposes, and was buried in Santa Maria Novella, where his tomb still exists. It is strange than Boccaccio should not have known this, as it was in this church that the “seven young gentlewomen” of his Decameron met “on a Tuesday morning,” and resolved to go together into the country, where they “might hear the birds sing, and see the verdure of the hills and plains, and the fields full of grain undulating like the sea. “
The poem of the Tesoretto, written in a jingling metre, which reminds one of the Vision of Piers Ploughman, is itself a Vision, with the customary allegorical personages of the Virtues and Vices. Ser Brunetto, returning from an embassy to King Alphonso of Spain, meets on the plain of Roncesvalles a student of Bologna, riding on a day mule, who informs him that the Guelfs have been banished from Florence. Whereupon Ser Brunetto, plunged in meditation and sorrow, loses the highroad and wanders in a wondrous forest. Here he discovers the august and gigantic figure of Nature, who relates to him the creation of the world, and gives him a banner to protect him on his pilgrimage through the forest, in which he meets with no adventures, but with the Virtues and Vices, Philosophy, Fortune, Ovid, and the God of Love, and sundry other characters, which are sung at large through eight or ten chapters. He then emerges from the forest, and confesses himself to the monks of Montpellier; after which he goes back into the forest again, and suddenly finds himself on the summit of Olympus; and the poem abruptly leaves his discoursing about the elements with Ptolemy,
“Mastro di storlomia
E di filosofia.”
It has been supposed by some commentators that Dante was indebted to the Tesoretto for the first idea of the Commedia. “If any one is pleased to imagine this,” says the Abbate Zannoni in the Preface to his edition of the Tesoretto, (Florence, 1824,) “he must confess that a slight and almost invisible spark served to kindle a vast conflagration.” The Tesoro, which is written in French, is a much more ponderous and pretentious volume. Hitherto it has been known only in manuscript, or in the Italian translation of Giamboni, but at length appears as one of the volumes of the Collection de Documents inedits sur l’Histoire de France, under the title of Li Livres dou Tresor, edited by P. Chabaille, Paris, 1863; a stately quarto of some seven hundred pages, which it would assuage the fiery torment of Ser Brunetto to look upon, and justify him in saying
“Commended unto thee be my Tesoro, In which I still live, and no more I ask.”
The work is quaint and curious, but mainly interesting as being written by Dante’s schoolmaster, and showing what he knew and what he taught his pupil. I cannot better describe it than in the author’s own words, Book I. ch. I:–
“The smallest part of this Treasure is like unto ready money, to be expended daily in things needful; that is, it treats of the beginning of time, of the antiquity of old histories, of the creation of the world, and in fine of the nature of all things…..
“The second part, which treats of the vices and virtues, is of precious stones, which give unto man delight and virtue; that is to say, what things a man should do, and what he should not, and shows the reason why…..
“The third part of the Treasure is of fine gold; that is to say, it teaches a man to speak according to the rules of rhetoric, and how a ruler ought to govern those beneath him….. “And I say not that this book is extracted from my own poor sense and my own naked knowledge, but, on the contrary, it is like a honeycomb gathered from diverse flowers; for this book is wholly compiled from the wonderful sayings of the authors who before our time have treated of philosophy, each one according to his knowledge. ….
“And if any one should ask why this book is written in Romance, according to the languages of the French, since we are Italian, I should say it is for two reasons; one, because we are in France, and the other, because this speech is more delectable, and more common to all people.”
62. “Afterwards,” says Brunetto Latini, Tresor, Book I. Pt. I. ch. 37, “the Romans besieged Fiesole, till at last they conquered it and brought it into subjection. Then they built upon the plain, which is at the foot of the high rocks on which that city stood, another city, that is now called Florence. And know that the spot of ground where Florence stands was formerly called the House of Mars, that is to say the House of War; for Mars, who is one of the seven planets, is called the God of War, and as such was worshipped of old. Therefore it is no wonder that the Florentines are always in war and in discord, for that planet reigns over them. Of this Master Brunez Latins ought to know the truth, for he was born there, and was in exile on account of war with the Florentines, when he composed this book.” See also Villani, I. 38, who assigns a different reason for the Florentine dissensions. “And observe, that if the Florentines are always in war and dissension among themselves it is not to be wondered at, they being descended from two nations so contrary and hostile and different in customs, as were the noble and virtuous Romans and the rude and warlike Fiesolans.”
Again, IV. 7, he attributes the Florentine dissensions to both the above-mentioned causes.
67. Villani, IV. 31, tells the story of certain columns of porphyry given by the Pisans to the Florentines for guarding their city while the Pisan army had gone to the conquest of Majorca. The columns were cracked by fire, but being covered with crimson cloth, the Florentines did not perceive it. Boccaccio repeats the story with variations, but does not think it a sufficient reason for calling the Florentines blind, and confesses that he does not know what reason there can be for so calling them.
89. The “other text” is the prediction of his banishment, Canto X. 81, and the Lady is Beatrice.
96. Boileau, Epitre, V.:–
“Qu’a son gre desormais la fortune me joue, On me verra dormir au branle de sa roue.”
And Tennyson’s Song of “Fortune and her Wheel”:–
“Turn, Fortune, turn thy wheel and lower the proud; Turn thy wild wheel thro’ sunshine, storm, and cloud; Thy wheel and thee we neither love nor hate. “Turn, Fortune, turn thy wheel with smile or frown; With that wild wheel we go not up or down; Our hoard is little, but our hearts are great. “Smile and we smile, the lords of many lands; Frown and we smile, the lords of our own hands; For man is man and master of his fate. “Turn, turn thy wheel above the staring crowd; Thy wheel and thou are shadows in the cloud; Thy wheel and thee we neither love nor hate.”
109. Priscian, the grammarian of Constantinople in the sixth century.
110. Francesco d’Accorso, a distinguished jurist and Professor at Bologna in the thirteenth century, celebrated for his Commentary upon the Code Justinian.
113. Andrea de’ Mozzi, Bishop of Florence, transferred by the Pope, the “Servant of Servants,” to Vicenza; the two cities being here designated by the rivers on which they are respectively situated.
119. See Note 30.
122. The Corsa del Pallio, or foot races, at Verona; in which a green mantle, or Pallio, was the prize. Buttura says that these foot- races are still continued (1823), and that he has seen them more than once; but certainly not in the nude state in which Boccaccio describes them, and which renders Dante’s comparison more complete and striking.
1. In this Canto the subject of the preceding is continued.
4. Guidoguerra, Tegghiajo Aldobrandi, and Jacopo Rusticucci.
37. The good Gualdrada was a daughter of Bellincion Berti, the simple citizen of Florence in the olden time, who used to walk the streets “begirt with bone and leather,” as mentioned in the Paradiso, XV. 112. Villani, I. 37, reports a story of her with all the brevity of a chronicler. Boccaccio tells the same story, as if he were writing a page of the Decameron. In his version it runs as follows.
“The Emperor Otho IV., being by chance in Florence and having gone to the festival of St. John, to make it more gay with his presence, it happened that to the church with the other city dames, as our custom is, came the wife of Messer Berto, and brought with her a daughter of hers called Gualdrada, who was still unmarried. And as they sat there with the others, the maiden being beautiful in face and figure, nearly all present turned round to look at her, and among the rest the Emperor. And having much commended her beauty and manners, he asked Messer Berto, who was near him, who she was. To which Messer Berto smiling answered: `She is the daughter of one who, I dare say, would let you kiss her if you wished.’ These words the young lady heard, being near the speaker; and somewhat troubled by the opinion her father seemed to have of her, that, if he wished it, she would suffer herself to be kissed by any one in this free way, rising, and looking a moment at her father, and blushing with shame, said: `Father, do not make such courteous promises at the expense of my modesty, for certainly, unless by violence, no one shall ever kiss me, except him whom you shall give me as my husband.’ The Emperor, on hearing this, much commended the words and the young lady….. And calling forward a noble youth named Guido Beisangue, who was afterwards called Guido the Elder, who as yet had no wife, he insisted upon his marrying her; and gave him as her dowry a large territory in Cassentino and the Alps, and made him Count thereof.” Amp@ere says in his Voyage Dantesque, page 242: “Near the battle-field of Campaldino stands the little town of Poppi, whose castle was built in 1230 by the father of the Arnolfo who built some years later the Palazzo Vecchio of Florence. In this castle is still shown the bedroom of the beautiful and modest Gualdrada.” Francesco Sansovino, an Italian novelist of the sixteenth century, has made Gualdrada the heroine of one of his tales, but has strangely perverted the old tradition. His story may be found in Roscoe’s Italian Novelists, III. p. 107.
41. Tegghiajo Aldobrandi was a distinguished citizen of Florence, and opposed what Malespini calls “the ill counsel of the people, ” that war should be declared against the Sienese, which war resulted in the battle of Monte Aperto and the defeat of the Florentines.
44. Jacopo Rusticucci was a rich Florentine gentleman, whose chief misfortune seems to have been an ill-assorted marriage. Whereupon the amiable Boccaccio in his usual Decameron style remarks: “Men ought not then to be over-hasty in getting married; on the contrary, they should come to it with much precaution.” And then he indulges in five octavo pages against matrimony and woman in general.
45. See Macchiavelli’s story of Belfagor, wherein Minos and Rhadamanthus, and the rest of the infernal judges, are greatly surprised to hear an infinite number of condemned souls “lament nothing so bitterly as their folly in having taken wives, attributing to them the whole of their misfortune.”
70. Boccaccio, in his Comento, speaks of Guglielmo Borsiere as “a courteous gentleman of good breeding and excellent manners”; and in the Decameron, Gior. I. Nov.8, tells of a sharp rebuke administered by him to Messer Ermino de’ Grimaldi, a miser of Genoa.
“It came to pass, that whilst by spending nothing he went on accumulating wealth, there came to Genoa a well-bred and witty gentleman called Gulielmo Borsiere, one nothing like the courtiers of the present day; who, to the great reproach of the debauched dispositions of such as would now be reputed fine gentlemen, should more properly style themselves asses, brought up amidst the filthiness and sink of mankind, rather than in courts…..
“This Gulielmo, whom I before mentioned, was much visited and respected by the better sort of people at Genoa; when having made some stay here, and hearing much talk of Ermino’s sordidness, he became desirous of seeing him. Now Ermino had been informed of Gulielmo’s worthy character, and having, however covetous he was, some small sparks of gentility, he received him in a courteous manner, and, entering into discourse together, he took him, and some Genoese who came along with him, to see a fine house which he had lately built: and when he had showed every part of it, he said: `Pray, sir, can you, who have heard and seen so much, tell me of something that was never yet seen, to have painted in my hall?’ To whom Gulielmo, hearing him speak so simply, replied: `Sir, I can tell you of nothing which has never yet been seen, that I know of; unless it be sneezing, or some thing of that sort; but if you please, I can tell you of a thing which, I believe, you never saw.’ Said Ermino (little expecting such an answer as he received), `I beg you would let me know what that is.’ Gulielmo immediately replied, `Paint Liberality.’ When Ermino heard this, such a sudden shame seized him, as quite changed his temper from what it had hitherto been; and he said: `Sir, I will have her painted in such a manner that neither you, nor any one else, shall be able to say, hereafter, that I am unacquainted with her.’ And from that time such effect had Gulielmo’s words upon him, he became the most liberal and courteous gentleman, and was the most respected, both by strangers and his own citizens, of any in Genoa.”
95. Monte Veso is among the Alps, between Piedmont and Savoy, where the Po takes its rise. From this point eastward to the Adriatic, all the rivers on the left or northern slope of the Apennines are tributaries to the Po, until we come to the Montone, which above Forl@i is called Acquacheta. This is the first which flows directly into the Adriatic, and not into the Po. At least it was so in Dante’s time. Now, by some change in its course, the Lamone, farther north, has opened itself a new outlet, and is the first to make its own way to the Adriatic. See Barlow, Contributions to the Study of the Divine Comedy, p. 131. This Comparison shows the delight which Dante took in the study of physical geography. To reach the waterfall of Acquacheta he traverses in thought the entire valley to the Po, stretching across the whole of Northern Italy.
102. Boccaccio’s interpretation of this line, which has been adopted by most of the commentators since his time, is as follows: “I was for a long time in doubt concerning the author’s meaning in this line; but being by chance at this monastery of San Benedetto, in company with the abbot, he told me that there had once been a discussion among the Counts who owned the mountain, about building a village near the waterfall, as a convenient place for a settlement, and bringing into it their vassals scattered on neighboring farms; but the leader of the project dying, it was not carried into effect; and that is what the author says, Ove dovea per mille, that is, for many, esser ricetto, that is home and habitation.”
Doubtless grammatically the words will bear this meaning. But evidently the idea in the author’s mind, and which he wished to impress upon the reader’s, was that of a waterfall plunging at a single leap down a high precipice. To this idea, the suggestion of buildings and inhabitants is wholly foreign, and adds neither force nor clearness. Whereas, to say that the river plunged at once bound over a precipice high enough for a thousand cascades, presents at one a vivid picture to the imagination, and I have interpreted the line accordingly, making the contrast between una scesa and mille. It should not be forgotten that, while some editions read dovea, others read dovria, and even potria.
106. This cord has puzzled the commentators exceedingly. Boccaccio, Volpi, and Venturi, do not explain it. The anonymous author of the Ottimo, Benvenuto da Imola, Buti, Landino, Vellutello, and Daniello, all think it means fraud, which Dante had used in the pursuit of pleasure,–
“the panther with the painted skin.” Lombardi is of opinion that, “by girding himself with the Franciscan cord, he had endeavored to restrain his sensual appetites, indicated by the panther; and still wearing the cord as a Tertiary of the Order, he makes it serve here to deceive Geryon, and bring him up.” Biagioli understands by it “the humility with which a man should approach Science, because it is she that humbles the proud.” Fraticelli thinks it means vigilance; Tommaseo, “the good faith with which he hoped to win the Florentines, and now wishes to deal with their fraud, so that it may not harm him”; and Gabrielli Rossetti says, “Dante flattered himself, acting as a sincere Ghibelline, that he should meet with good faith from his Guelf countrymen, and met instead with horrible fraud.”
Dante elsewhere speaks of the cord in a good sense. In Purgatorio, VII.114, Peter of Aragon is “girt with the cord of every virtue. ” In Inferno, XXVII. 92, it is mortification, “the cord that used to make those girt with it more meagre”; and in Paradiso, XI. 87, it is humility, “that family which had already girt the humble cord.”
It will be remembered that St. Francis, the founder of the Cordeliers (the wearers of the cord), used to call his body asino, or ass, and to subdue it with the capestro, or halter. Thus the cord is made to symbolize the subjugation of the animal nature. This renders Lombardi’s interpretation the most intelligible and satisfactory, though Virgil seems to have thrown the cord into the abyss simply because he had nothing else to