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Title: Stories from the Italian Poets: with Lives of the Writers, Volume 1
Author: Hunt, Leigh, 1784-1859
Language: English
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As I know no man who surpasses yourself either in combining a love of
the most romantic fiction with the coolest good sense, or in passing
from the driest metaphysical questions to the heartiest enjoyment of
humour,--I trust that even a modesty so true as yours will not grudge me
the satisfaction of inscribing these volumes with your name.

That you should possess such varieties of taste is no wonder,
considering what an abundance of intellectual honours you inherit; nor
might the world have been the better for it, had they been tastes, and
nothing more. But that you should inherit also that zeal for justice to
mankind, which has become so Christian a feature in the character of the
age, and that you should include in that zeal a special regard for the
welfare of your Father's Friend, are subjects of constant pleasurable
reflection to

Your obliged and affectionate



The purpose of these volumes is, to add to the stock of tales from the
Italian writers; to retain as much of the poetry of the originals as it
is in the power of the writer's prose to compass; and to furnish careful
biographical notices of the authors. There have been several collections
of stories from the Novellists of Italy, but none from the Poets; and it
struck me that prose versions from these, of the kind here offered to
the public, might not be unwillingly received. The stories are selected
from the five principal narrative poets, Dante, Pulci, Boiardo, Ariosto,
and Tasso; they comprise the most popular of such as are fit for
translation; are reduced into one continuous narrative, when diffused
and interrupted, as in the instances of those of Angelica, and Armida;
are accompanied with critical and explanatory notes; and, in the case of
Dante, consist of an abstract of the poet's whole work. The volumes are,
furthermore, interspersed with the most favourite _morceaux_ of the
originals, followed sometimes with attempts to versify them; and in the
Appendix, for the furtherance of the study of the Italian language, are
given entire stories, also in the original, and occasionally rendered
in like manner. The book is particularly intended for such students or
other lovers of the language as are pleased with any fresh endeavours to
recommend it; and, at the same time, for such purely English readers as
wish to know something about Italian poetry, without having leisure to
cultivate its acquaintance.

I did not intend in the first instance to depart from the plan
of selection in the case of Dante; but when I considered what an
extraordinary person he was,--how intense is every thing which he
says,--how widely he has re-attracted of late the attention of the
world,--how willingly perhaps his poem might be regarded by the reader
as being itself one continued story (which, in fact, it is), related
personally of the writer,--and lastly, what a combination of
difficulties have prevented his best translators in verse from giving
the public a just idea of his almost Scriptural simplicity,--I began to
think that an abstract of his entire work might possibly be looked upon
as supplying something of a desideratum. I am aware that nothing but
verse can do perfect justice to verse; but besides the imperfections
which are pardonable, because inevitable, in all such metrical
endeavours, the desire to impress a grand and worshipful idea of Dante
has been too apt to lead his translators into a tone and manner the
reverse of his passionate, practical, and creative style--a style which
may be said to write things instead of words; and thus to render every
word that is put out of its place, or brought in for help and filling
up, a misrepresentation. I do not mean to say, that he himself never
does any thing of the sort, or does not occasionally assume too much
of the oracle and the schoolmaster, in manner as well as matter;
but passion, and the absence of the superfluous, are the chief
characteristics of his poetry. Fortunately, this sincerity of purpose
and utterance in Dante render him the least pervertible of poets in a
sincere prose translation; and, since I ventured on attempting one, I
have had the pleasure of meeting with an express recommendation of such
a version in an early number of the _Edinburgh Review_.[1]

The abstract of Dante, therefore, in these volumes (with every
deprecation that becomes me of being supposed to pretend to give a
thorough idea of any poetry whatsoever, especially without its metrical
form) aspires to be regarded as, at all events, not exhibiting a false
idea of the Dantesque spirit in point of feeling and expression. It is
true, I have omitted long tedious lectures of scholastic divinity, and
other learned absurdities of the time, which are among the bars to the
poem's being read through, even in Italy (which Foscolo tells us is
never the case); and I have compressed the work in other passages not
essentially necessary to the formation of a just idea of the author.
But quite enough remains to suggest it to the intelligent; and in no
instance have I made additions or alterations. There is warrant--I hope
I may say letter--for every thing put down. Dante is the greatest poet
for intensity that ever lived; and he excites a corresponding emotion
in his reader--I wish I could say, always on the poet's side; but his
ferocious hates and bigotries too often tempt us to hate the bigot,
and always compel us to take part with the fellow-creatures whom he
outrages. At least, such is their effect on myself. Nor will he or his
worshippers suffer us to criticise his faults with mere reference to the
age in which he lived. I should have been glad to do so; but the claims
made for him, even by himself, will not allow it. We are called upon to
look on him as a divine, a prophet, an oracle in all respects for all
time. Such a man, however, is the last whom a reporter is inclined to
misrepresent. We respect his sincerity too much, ferocious and arrogant
though it be; and we like to give him the full benefit of the recoil of
his curses and maledictions. I hope I have not omitted one. On the
other hand, as little have I closed my feelings against the lovely
and enchanting sweetness which this great semi-barbarian sometimes so
affectingly utters. On those occasions he is like an angel enclosed
for penance in some furious giant, and permitted to weep through the
creature's eyes.

The stories from goodnatured Pulci I have been obliged to compress for
other reasons--chiefly their excessive diffuseness. A paragraph of the
version will sometimes comprise many pages. Those of Boiardo and Ariosto
are more exact; and the reader will be good enough to bear in mind, that
nothing is added to any of the poets, different as the case might seem
here and there on comparison with the originals. An equivalent for
whatever is said is to be found in some part of the context--generally
in letter, always in spirit. The least characteristically exact passages
are some in the love-scenes of Tasso; for I have omitted the plays upon
words and other corruptions in style, in which that poet permitted
himself to indulge. But I have noticed the circumstance in the comment.
In other respects, I have endeavoured to make my version convey some
idea of the different styles and genius of the writers,--of the severe
passion of Dante; of the overflowing gaiety and affecting sympathies
of Pulci, several of whose passages in the Battle of Roncesvalles are
masterpieces of pathos; of the romantic and inventive elegance of
Boiardo; the great cheerful universality of Ariosto, like a healthy
_anima mundi_; and the ambitious irritability, the fairy imagination,
and tender but somewhat effeminate voluptuousness of the poet of Armida
and Rinaldo. I do not pretend that prose versions of passages from these
writers can supersede the necessity of metrical ones, supposing proper
metrical ones attainable. They suffice for them, in some respects, less
than for Dante, the manner in their case being of more importance to
the effect. But with all due respect to such translators as Harrington,
Rose, and Wiffen, their books are not Ariosto and Tasso, even in manner.
Harrington, the gay "godson" of Queen Elizabeth, is not always unlike
Ariosto; but when not in good spirits he becomes as dull as if her
majesty had frowned on him. Rose was a man of wit, and a scholar; yet
he has undoubtedly turned the ease and animation of his original into
inversion and insipidity. And Wiffen, though elegant and even poetical,
did an unfortunate thing for Tasso, when he gave an additional line and
a number of paraphrastic thoughts to a stanza already tending to the
superfluous. Fairfax himself, who, upon the whole, and with regard to
a work of any length, is the best metrical translator our language has
seen, and, like Chapman, a genuine poet, strangely aggravated the sins
of prettiness and conceit in his original, and added to them a love
of tautology amounting to that of a lawyer. As to Hoole, he is below
criticism; and other versions I have not happened to see. Now if I had
no acquaintance with the Italian language, I confess I would rather get
any friend who had, to read to me a passage out of Dante, Tasso, or
Ariosto, into the first simple prose that offered itself, than go to any
of the above translators for a taste of it, Fairfax excepted; and we
have seen with how much allowance his sample would have to be taken.
I have therefore, with some restrictions, only ventured to do for the
public what I would have had a friend do for myself.

The _Critical and Biographical Notices_ I did not intend to make so long
at first; but the interest grew upon me; and I hope the reader will
regard some of them--Dante's and Tasso's in particular--as being
"stories" themselves, after their kind,--"stories, alas, too true;"
"romances of real life." The extraordinary character of Dante, which is
personally mixed up with his writings beyond that of any other poet, has
led me into references to his church and creed, unavoidable at any
time in the endeavour to give a thorough estimate of his genius, and
singularly demanded by certain phenomena of the present day. I hold
those phenomena to be alike feeble and fugitive; but only so by reason
of their being openly so proclaimed; for mankind have a tendency to the
absurd, if their imaginations are not properly directed; and one of the
uses of poetry is, to keep the faculty in a healthy state, and cause it
to know its duties. Dante, in the fierce egotism of his passions, and
the strange identification of his knowledge with all that was knowable,
would fain have made his poetry both a sword against individuals, and a
prop for the support of the superstition that corrupted them. This was
reversing the duty of a Christian and a great man; and there happen to
be existing reasons why it is salutary to chew that he had no right to
do so, and must not have his barbarism confounded with his strength.
Machiavelli was of opinion, that if Christianity had not reverted to its
first principles, by means of the poverty and pious lives of St. Francis
and St. Dominic,[2] the faith would have been lost. It may have been;
but such are not the secrets of its preservation in times of science and
progression, when the spirit of inquiry has established itself among
all classes, and nothing is taken for granted, as it used to be. A few
persons here and there, who confound a small superstitious reaction in
England with the reverse of the fact all over the rest of Europe, may
persuade themselves, if they please, that the world has not advanced in
knowledge for the last three centuries, and so get up and cry aloud to
us out of obsolete horn-books; but the community laugh at them. Every
body else is inquiring into first principles, while they are dogmatising
on a forty-ninth proposition. The Irish themselves, as they ought to do,
care more for their pastors than for the Pope; and if any body wishes to
know what is thought of his Holiness at head-quarters, let him consult
the remarkable and admirable pamphlet which has lately issued from the
pen of Mr. Mazzini.[3] I have the pleasure of knowing excellent Roman
Catholics; I have suffered in behalf of their emancipation, and would do
so again to-morrow; but I believe that if even their external form of
Christianity has any chance of survival three hundred years hence, it
will have been owing to the appearance meanwhile of some extraordinary
man in power, who, in the teeth of worldly interests, or rather in
charitable and sage inclusion of them, shall have proclaimed that the
time had arrived for living in the flower of Christian charity, instead
of the husks and thorns which may have been necessary to guard it. If it
were possible for some new and wonderful Pope to make this change, and
draw a line between these two Christian epochs, like that between the
Old and New Testaments, the world would feel inclined to prostrate
itself again and for ever at the feet of Rome. In a catholic state
of things like that, delighted should I be, for one, to be among the
humblest of its communicants. How beautiful would their organs be then!
how ascending to an unperplexing Heaven their incense! how unselfish
their salvation! how intelligible their talk about justice and love! It
would be far more easy, however, for the Church of England to do this
than the Church of Rome; since the former would not feel itself hampered
with pretensions to infallibility. A Church once reformed, may reform
itself again and again, till it remove every blemish in the way of its
perfection. And God grant this may be the lot of the Church of my native
country. Its beautiful old ivied places of worship would then want
no harmony of accordance with its gentle and tranquil scenery; no
completeness of attraction to the reflecting and the kind.

But if Charity (and by Charity I do not mean mere toleration, or any
other pretended right to permit others to have eyes like ourselves, but
whatever the delightful Greek word implies of good and lovely), if this
truly and only divine consummation of all Christian doctrine be not
thought capable of taking a form of belief "strong" enough, apart from
threats that revolt alike the heart and the understanding, Superstition
must look out for some new mode of dictation altogether; for the world
is outgrowing the old.

       *       *       *       *       *

I cannot, in gratitude for the facilities afforded to myself, as well
as for a more obvious and public reason, dismiss this Preface without
congratulating men of letters on the establishment and increasing
prosperity of the _London Library_, an institution founded for the
purpose of accommodating subscribers with such books, at their own
houses, as could only be consulted hitherto at the British Museum. The
sole objection to the Museum is thus done away, and the literary world
has a fair prospect of possessing two book-institutions instead of one,
each with its distinct claims to regard, and presenting in combination
all that the student can wish; for while it is highly desirable that
authors should be able to have standard works at their command, when
sickness or other circumstances render it impossible for them to go to
the Museum, it is undoubtedly requisite that one great collection should
exist in which they are sure to find the same works unremoved, in case
of necessity,--not to mention curious volumes of all sorts, manuscripts,
and a world of books of reference.

[Footnote 1: "It is probable that a prose translation would give a
better idea of the genius and manner of this poet than any metrical
one." Vol. i. p. 310.]

[Footnote 2: _Discorsi sopra la Prinza Deca di Tito Livio_, lib. iii.
cap. i. At p. 230 of the present volume I have too hastily called
St. Dominic the "founder of the Inquisition." It is generally conceded, I
believe, by candid Protestant inquirers, that he was not; whatever zeal
in the foundation and support of the tribunal may have been manifested
by his order. But this does not acquit him of the cruelty for which he
has been praised by Dante. He joined in the sanguinary persecution of
the Albigenses.]

[Footnote: 3 It is entitled, "_Italy, Austria, and the Pope_;" and
is full, not only of the eloquence of zeal, and of evidences
of intellectual power, but of the most curious and instructive




       *       *       *       *       *




I. The Journey through Hell  II.   Purgatory.   III. Heaven






I. Story of Paulo and Francesca. Translation.

II. Accounts given by different writers of the circumstances relating to
Paulo and Francesca; concluding with the only facts ascertained.

III. Story of Ugolino. Translation. Real Story of Ugolino, and Chaucer's
feeling respecting the Poem.

IV. Picture of Florence in the time of Dante's Ancestors. Translation.

V. The Monks and the Giants

VI. Passages in the Battle of Roncesvalles.


Critical Notice



Dante was a very great poet, a man of the strongest passions, a claimant
of unbounded powers to lead and enlighten the world; and he lived in a
semi-barbarous age, as favourable to the intensity of his imagination,
as it was otherwise to the rest of his pretensions. Party zeal, and the
fluctuations of moral and critical opinion, have at different periods
over-rated and depreciated his memory; and if, in the following attempt
to form its just estimate, I have found myself compelled, in some
important respects, to differ with preceding writers, and to protest in
particular against his being regarded as a proper teacher on any one
point, poetry excepted, and as far as all such genius and energy cannot
in some degree help being, I have not been the less sensible of the
wonderful nature of that genius, while acting within the circle to which
it belongs. Dante was indeed so great a poet, and at the same time
exhibited in his personal character such a mortifying exception to what
we conceive to be the natural wisdom and temper of great poets; in
other words, he was such a bigoted and exasperated man, and sullied
his imagination with so much that is contradictory to good feeling, in
matters divine as well as human; that I should not have thought myself
justified in assisting, however humbly, to extend the influence of his
writings, had I not believed a time to have arrived, when the community
may profit both from the marvels of his power and the melancholy
absurdity of its contradictions.

Dante Alighieri, who has always been known by his Christian rather than
surname (partly owing to the Italian predilection for Christian names,
and partly to the unsettled state of patronymics in his time), was the
son of a lawyer of good family in Florence, and was born in that city on
the 14th of May 1265 (sixty-three years before the birth of Chaucer).
The stock is said to have been of Roman origin, of the race of the
Frangipani; but the only certain trace of it is to Cacciaguida, a
Florentine cavalier of the house of the Elisei, who died in the
Crusades. Dante gives an account of him in his _Paradiso_.[2]
Cacciaguida married a lady of the Alighieri family of the Valdipado;
and, giving the name to one of his children, they subsequently retained
it as a patronymic in preference to their own. It would appear, from the
same poem, not only that the Alighieri were the more important house,
but that some blot had darkened the scutcheon of the Elisei; perhaps
their having been poor, and transplanted (as he seems to imply) from
some disreputable district. Perhaps they were known to have been of
ignoble origin; for, in the course of one of his most philosophical
treatises, he bursts into an extraordinary ebullition of ferocity
against such as adduce a knowledge of that kind as an argument against a
family's acquired nobility; affirming that such brutal stuff should be
answered not with words, but with the dagger.[3]

The Elisei, however, must have been of some standing; for Macchiavelli,
in his History of Florence, mentions them in his list of the early
Guelph and Ghibelline parties, where the side which they take is
different from that of the poet's immediate progenitors.[4] The arms of
the Alighieri (probably occasioned by the change in that name, for it
was previously written Aldighieri) are interesting on account of their
poetical and aspiring character. They are a golden wing on a field

It is generally supposed that the name Dante is an abbreviation of
Durante; but this is not certain, though the poet had a nephew so
called. Dante is the name he goes by in the gravest records, in
law-proceedings, in his epitaph, in the mention of him put by himself
into the mouth of a blessed spirit. Boccaccio intimates that he was
christened Dante, and derives the name from the ablative case of _dans_
(giving)--a probable etymology, especially for a Christian appellation.
As an abbreviation of Durante, it would correspond in familiarity with
the Ben of Ben Jonson--a diminutive that would assuredly not have been
used by grave people on occasions like those mentioned, though a wit of
the day gave the masons a shilling to carve "O rare Ben Jonson!" on his
grave stone. On the other hand, if given at the font, the name of Ben
would have acquired all the legal gravity of Benjamin. In the English
Navy List, not long ago, one of our gallant admirals used to figure as
"Billy Douglas."

Of the mother of Dante nothing is known except that she was his father's
second wife, and that her Christian name was Bella, or perhaps surname
Bello. It might, however, be conjectured, from the remarkable and only
opportunity which our author has taken of alluding to her, that he
derived his disdainful character rather from his mother than father.[6]
The father appears to have died during the boyhood of his illustrious

The future poet, before he had completed his ninth year, conceived a
romantic attachment to a little lady who had just entered hers, and who
has attained a celebrity of which she was destined to know nothing. This
was the famous Beatrice Portinari, daughter of a rich Florentine who
founded more than one charitable institution. She married another man,
and died in her youth; but retained the Platonical homage of her young
admirer, living and dead, and became the heroine of his great poem.

It is unpleasant to reduce any portion of a romance to the events of
ordinary life; but with the exception of those who merely copy from
one another, there has been such a conspiracy on the part of Dante's
biographers to overlook at least one disenchanting conclusion to be
drawn to that effect from the poet's own writings, that the probable
truth of the matter must here for the first time be stated. The case,
indeed, is clear enough from his account of it. The natural tendencies
of a poetical temperament (oftener evinced in a like manner than the
world in general suppose) not only made the boy-poet fall in love, but,
in the truly Elysian state of the heart at that innocent and adoring
time of life, made him fancy he had discovered a goddess in the object
of his love; and strength of purpose as well as imagination made him
grow up in the fancy. He disclosed himself, as time advanced, only by
his manner--received complacent recognitions in company from the young
lady--offended her by seeming to devote himself to another (see the poem
in the _Vita Nuova_, beginning "Ballata io vo")--rendered himself the
sport of her and her young friends by his adoring timidity (see the 5th
and 6th sonnets in the same work)--in short, constituted her a paragon
of perfection, and enabled her, by so doing, to shew that she was none.
He says, that finding himself unexpectedly near her one day in company,
he trembled so, and underwent such change of countenance, that many of
the ladies present began to laugh with her about him--"_si gabbavano di
me_." And he adds, in verse,

  "Con l'altre donne mia vista gabbate,
  E non pensate, donna, onde si mova
  Ch'io vi rassembri sì figura nova,
  Quando riguardo la vostra beltate," &c.          Son. 5.

"You laugh with the other ladies to see how I look (literally, you mock
my appearance); and do not think, lady, what it is that renders me so
strange a figure at sight of your beauty."

And in the sonnet that follows, he accuses her of preventing pity of him
in others, by such "killing mockery" as makes him wish for death ("_la
pietà, che 'l vostro gabbo recinde_," &c.)[7]

Now, it is to be admitted, that a young lady, if she is not very wise,
may laugh at her lover with her companions, and yet return his love,
after her fashion; but the fair Portinari laughs and marries another.
Some less melancholy face, some more intelligible courtship, triumphed
over the questionable flattery of the poet's gratuitous worship; and the
idol of Dante Alighieri became the wife of Messer Simone de' Bardi. Not
a word does he say on that mortifying point. It transpired from a clause
in her father's will. And yet so bent are the poet's biographers on
leaving a romantic doubt in one's mind, whether Beatrice may not have
returned his passion, that not only do all of them (as far as I have
observed) agree in taking no notice of these sonnets, but the author
of the treatise entitled _Dante and the Catholic Philosophy of the
Thirteenth Century_, "in spite" (as a critic says) "of the _Beatrice,
his daughter, wife of Messer Simone de' Bardi_, of the paternal will,"
describes her as dying in "all the lustre of virginity." [8] The
assumption appears to be thus gloriously stated, as a counterpart to the
notoriety of its untruth. It must be acknowledged, that Dante himself
gave the cue to it by more than silence; for he not only vaunts her
acquaintance in the next world, but assumes that she returns his love in
that region, as if no such person as her husband could have existed, or
as if he himself had not been married also. This life-long pertinacity
of will is illustrative of his whole career.

Meantime, though the young poet's father had died, nothing was wanting
on the part of his guardians, or perhaps his mother, to furnish him with
an excellent education. It was so complete, as to enable him to become
master of all the knowledge of his time; and he added to this learning
more than a taste for drawing and music. He speaks of himself as drawing
an angel in his tablets on the first anniversary of Beatrice's death.[9]
One of his instructors was Brunetto Latini, the most famous scholar then
living; and he studied both at the universities of Padua and Bologna. At
eighteen, perhaps sooner, he had shown such a genius for poetry as
to attract the friendship of Guido Cavalcante, a young noble of a
philosophical as well as poetical turn of mind, who has retained a
reputation with posterity: and it was probably at the same time he
became acquainted with Giotto, who drew his likeness, and with Casella,
the musician, whom he greets with so much tenderness in the other world.

Nor were his duties as a citizen forgotten. The year before Beatrice's
death, he was at the battle of Campaldino, which his countrymen gained
against the people of Arezzo; and the year after it he was present at
the taking of Caprona from the Pisans. It has been supposed that he once
studied medicine with a view to it as a profession; but the conjecture
probably originated in nothing more than his having entered himself of
one of the city-companies (which happened to be the medical) for the
purpose of qualifying himself to accept office; a condition exacted of
the gentry by the then democratic tendencies of the republic. It is
asserted also, by an early commentator, that he entered the Franciscan
order of friars, but quitted it before he was professed; and, indeed,
the circumstance is not unlikely, considering his agitated and impatient
turn of mind. Perhaps he fancied that he had done with the world when it
lost the wife of Simone de' Bardi.

Weddings that might have taken place but do not, are like the reigns
of deceased heirs-apparent; every thing is assumable in their favour,
checked only by the histories of husbands and kings. Would the great
but splenetic poet have made an angel and a saint of Beatrice, had he
married her? He never utters the name of the woman whom he did marry.

Gemma Donati was a kinswoman of the powerful family of that name. It
seems not improbable, from some passages in his works, that she was the
young lady whom he speaks of as taking pity on him on account of his
passion for Beatrice;[10] and in common justice to his feelings as a man
and a gentleman, it is surely to be concluded, that he felt some sort
of passion for his bride, if not of a very spiritual sort; though he
afterwards did not scruple to intimate that he was ashamed of it, and
Beatrice is made to rebuke him in the other world for thinking of
any body after herself.[11] At any rate, he probably roused what was
excitable in his wife's temper, with provocations from his own; for the
nature of the latter is not to be doubted, whereas there is nothing but
tradition to shew for the bitterness of hers. Foscolo is of opinion
that the tradition itself arose simply from a rhetorical flourish of
Boccaccio's, in his Life of Dante, against the marriages of men of
letters; though Boccaccio himself expressly adds, that he knows nothing
to the disadvantage of the poet's wife, except that her husband, after
quitting Florence, would never either come where she was, or suffer
her to come to him, mother as she was by him of so many children;--a
statement, it must be confessed, not a little encouraging to the
tradition.[12] Be this as it may, Dante married in his twenty-sixth
year; wrote an adoring account of his first love (the _Vita Nuova_) in
his twenty-eighth; and among the six children which Gemma brought him,
had a daughter whom he named Beatrice, in honour, it is understood, of
the fair Portinari; which surely was either a very great compliment, or
no mean trial to the temper of the mother.

We shall see presently how their domestic intercourse was interrupted,
and what absolute uncertainty there is respecting it, except as far as
conclusions may be drawn from his own temper and history.

Italy, in those days, was divided into the parties of Guelphs and
Ghibellines; the former, the advocates of general church-ascendancy
and local government; the latter, of the pretensions of the Emperor of
Germany, who claimed to be the Roman Cæsar, and paramount over the
Pope. In Florence, the Guelphs had for a long time been so triumphant as
to keep the Ghibellines in a state of banishment. Dante was born and
bred a Guelph: he had twice borne arms for his country against Ghibelline
neighbours; and now, at the age of thirty-five, in the ninth of his
marriage, and last of his residence with his wife, he was appointed chief
of the temporary administrators of affairs, called Priors;--functionaries
who held office only for two months.

Unfortunately, at that moment, his party had become subdivided into the
factions of the Whites and Blacks, or adherents of two different sides
in a dispute that took place in Pistoia. The consequences becoming
serious, the Blacks proposed to bring in, as mediator, the French
Prince, Charles of Valois, then in arms for the Pope against the
Emperor; but the Whites, of whom Dante was one, were hostile to the
measure; and in order to prevent it, he and his brother magistrates
expelled for a time the heads of both factions, to the satisfaction of
neither. The Whites accused them of secretly leaning to the Ghibellines,
and the Blacks of openly favouring the Whites; who being, indeed,
allowed to come back before their time, on the alleged ground of the
unwholesomeness of their place of exile, which was fatal to Dante's
friend Cavalcante, gave a colour to the charge. Dante answered it by
saying, that he had then quitted office; but he could not shew that he
had lost his influence. Meantime, Charles was still urged to interfere,
and Dante was sent ambassador to the Pope to obtain his disapprobation
of the interference; but the Pope (Boniface the Eighth), who had
probably discovered that the Whites had ceased to care for any thing but
their own disputes, and who, at all events, did not like their objection
to his representative, beguiled the ambassador and encouraged the French
prince; the Blacks, in consequence, regained their ascendancy; and
the luckless poet, during his absence, was denounced as a corrupt
administrator of affairs, guilty of peculation; was severely
mulcted; banished from Tuscany for two years; and subsequently, for
contumaciousness, was sentenced to be _burnt alive_, in case he returned
ever. He never did return.

From that day forth, Dante never beheld again his home or his wife. Her
relations obtained possession of power, but no use was made of it except
to keep him in exile. He had not accorded with them; and perhaps half
the secret of his conjugal discomfort was owing to politics. It is the
opinion of some, that the married couple were not sorry to part; others
think that the wife remained behind, solely to scrape together what
property she could, and bring up the children. All that is known is,
that she never lived with him more.

Dante now certainly did what his enemies had accused him of wishing to
do: he joined the old exiles whom he had helped to make such, the party
of the Ghibellines. He alleges, that he never was really of any party
but his own; a naïve confession, probably true in one sense, considering
his scorn of other people, his great intellectual superiority, and the
large views he had for the whole Italian people. And, indeed, he soon
quarrelled in private with the individuals composing his new party,
however stanch he apparently remained to their cause. His former
associates he had learnt to hate for their differences with him and for
their self-seeking; he hated the Pope for deceiving him; he hated
the Pope's French allies for being his allies, and interfering with
Florence; and he had come to love the Emperor for being hated by them
all, and for holding out (as he fancied) the only chance of reuniting
Italy to their confusion, and making her the restorer of himself, and
the mistress of the world.

With these feelings in his heart, no money in his purse, and no place in
which to lay his head, except such as chance-patrons afforded him,
he now began to wander over Italy, like some lonely lion of a man,
"grudging in his great disdain." At one moment he was conspiring and
hoping; at another, despairing and endeavouring to conciliate his
beautiful Florence: now again catching hope from some new movement of
the Emperor's; and then, not very handsomely threatening and re-abusing
her; but always pondering and grieving, or trying to appease his
thoughts with some composition, chiefly of his great work. It is
conjectured, that whenever anything particularly affected him, whether
with joy or sorrow, he put it, hot with the impression, into his
"sacred poem." Every body who jarred against his sense of right or his
prejudices he sent to the infernal regions, friend or foe: the strangest
people who sided with them (but certainly no personal foe) he exalted
to heaven. He encouraged, if not personally assisted, two ineffectual
attempts of the Ghibellines against Florence; wrote, besides his great
work, a book of mixed prose and poetry on "Love and Virtue" (the
_Convito_, or Banquet); a Latin treatise on Monarchy (_de Monarchia_),
recommending the "divine right" of the Emperor; another in two parts,
and in the same language, on the Vernacular Tongue (_de Vulgari
Eloquio_); and learnt to know meanwhile, as he affectingly tells us,
"how hard it was to climb other people's stairs, and how salt the taste
of bread is that is not our own." It is even thought not improbable,
from one awful passage of his poem, that he may have "placed himself in
some public way," and, "stripping his visage of all shame, and trembling
in his very vitals," have stretched out his hand "for charity" [13]--an
image of suffering, which, proud as he was, yet considering how great a
man, is almost enough to make one's common nature stoop down for pardon
at his feet; and yet he should first prostrate himself at the feet of
that nature for his outrages on God and man. Several of the princes and
feudal chieftains of Italy entertained the poet for a while in their
houses; but genius and worldly power, unless for worldly purposes, find
it difficult to accord, especially in tempers like his. There must be
great wisdom and amiableness on both sides to save them from jealousy
of one another's pretensions. Dante was not the man to give and take in
such matters on equal terms; and hence he is at one time in a palace,
and at another in a solitude. Now he is in Sienna, now in Arezzo, now in
Bologna; then probably in Verona with Can Grande's elder brother; then
(if we are to believe those who have tracked his steps) in Casentino;
then with the Marchese Moroello Malaspina in Lunigiana; then with the
great Ghibelline chieftain Faggiuola in the mountains near Urbino; then
in Romagna, in Padua, in _Paris_ (arguing with the churchmen), some say
in Germany, and at _Oxford_; then again in Italy; in Lucca (where he is
supposed to have relapsed from his fidelity to Beatrice in favour of
a certain "Gentucca"); then again in Verona with the new prince, the
famous Can Grande (where his sarcasms appear to have lost him a doubtful
hospitality); then in a monastery in the mountains of Umbria; in Udine;
in Ravenna; and there at length he put up for the rest of his life with
his last and best friend, Guido Novello da Polenta, not the father, but
the nephew of the hapless Francesca.

It was probably in the middle period of his exile, that in one of the
moments of his greatest longing for his native country, he wrote that
affecting passage in the _Convito_, which was evidently a direct effort
at conciliation. Excusing himself for some harshness and obscurity in
the style of that work, he exclaims, "Ah! would it had pleased the
Dispenser of all things that this excuse had never been needed;
that neither others had done me wrong, nor myself undergone penalty
undeservedly--the penalty, I say, of exile and of poverty. For it
pleased the citizens of the fairest and most renowned daughter of
Rome--Florence--to cast me out of her most sweet bosom, where I was
born, and bred, and passed half of the life of man, and in which, with
her good leave, I still desire with all my heart to repose my weary
spirit, and finish the days allotted me; and so I have wandered in
almost every place to which our language extends, a stranger, almost a
beggar, exposing against my will the wounds given me by fortune, too
often unjustly imputed to the sufferer's fault. Truly I have been a
vessel without sail and without rudder, driven about upon different
ports and shores by the dry wind that springs out of dolorous poverty;
and hence have I appeared vile in the eyes of many, who, perhaps, by
some better report had conceived of me a different impression, and in
whose sight not only has my person become thus debased, but an unworthy
opinion created of every thing which I did, or which I had to do." [14]

How simply and strongly written! How full of the touching yet
undegrading commiseration which adversity has a right to take upon
itself, when accompanied with the consciousness of manly endeavour and a
good motive! How could such a man condescend at other times to rage with
abuse, and to delight himself in images of infernal torment!

The dates of these fluctuations of feeling towards his native city are
not known; but it is supposed to have been not very long before his
abode with Can Grande that he received permission to return to Florence,
on conditions which he justly refused and resented in the following
noble letter to a kinsman. The old spelling of the original (in the
note) is retained as given by Foscolo in the article on "Dante" in the
_Edinburgh Review_ (vol. XXX. no. 60); and I have retained also, with
little difference, the translation which accompanies it:

"From your letter, which I received with due respect and affection, I
observe how much you have at heart my restoration to my country. I am
bound to you the more gratefully, inasmuch as an exile rarely finds a
friend. But after mature consideration, I must, by my answer, disappoint
the wishes of some little minds; and I confide in the judgment to which
your impartiality and prudence will lead you. Your nephew and mine has
written to me, what indeed had been mentioned by many other friends,
that, by a decree concerning the exiles, I am allowed to return to
Florence, provided I pay a certain sum of money, and submit to the
humiliation of asking and receiving absolution: wherein, my father, I
see two propositions that are ridiculous and impertinent. I speak of the
impertinence of those who mention such conditions to me; for in your
letter, dictated by judgment and discretion, there is no such thing. Is
such an invitation, then, to return to his country glorious to d. all.
(Dante Allighieri), after suffering in exile almost fifteen years? Is it
thus they would recompense innocence which all the world knows, and
the labour and fatigue of unremitting study? Far from the man who is
familiar with philosophy be the senseless baseness of a heart of earth,
that could act like a little sciolist, and imitate the infamy of some
others, by offering himself up as it were in chains: far from the man
who cries aloud for justice, this compromise by his money with his
persecutors. No, my father, this is not the way that shall lead me back
to my country. I will return with hasty steps, if you or any other can
open to me a way that shall not derogate from the fame and honour of d.
(Dante); but if by no such way Florence can be entered, then Florence I
shall never enter. What! shall I not everywhere enjoy the light of the
sun and stars? and may I not seek and contemplate, in every corner of
the earth, under the canopy of heaven, consoling and delightful truth,
without first rendering myself inglorious, nay infamous, to the people
and republic of Florence? Bread, I hope, will not fail me." [15]

Had Dante's pride and indignation always vented themselves in this truly
exalted manner, never could the admirers of his genius have refused him
their sympathy; and never, I conceive, need he either have brought his
exile upon him, or closed it as he did. To that close we have now come,
and it is truly melancholy and mortifying. Failure in a negotiation with
the Venetians for his patron, Guido Novello, is supposed to have been
the last bitter drop which made the cup of his endurance run over. He
returned from Venice to Ravenna, worn out, and there died, after fifteen
years' absence from his country, in the year 1231, aged fifty-seven. His
life had been so agitated, that it probably would not have lasted so
long, but for the solace of his poetry, and the glory which he knew it
must produce him. Guido gave him a sumptuous funeral, and intended to
give him a monument; but such was the state of Italy in those times,
that he himself died in exile the year after. The monument, however, and
one of a noble sort, was subsequently bestowed by the father of Cardinal
Bembo, in 1483; and another, still nobler, as late as 1780, by Cardinal
Gonzaga. His countrymen, in after years, made two solemn applications
for the removal of his dust to Florence; but the just pride of the
Ravennese refused them.

Of the exile's family, three sons died young; the daughter went into a
nunnery; and the two remaining brothers, who ultimately joined their
father in his banishment, became respectable men of letters, and left
families in Ravenna; where the race, though extinct in the male line,
still survives through a daughter, in the noble house of Serego
Alighieri. No direct descent of the other kind from poets of former
times is, I believe, known to exist.

The manners and general appearance of Dante have been minutely recorded,
and are in striking agreement with his character. Boccaccio and other
novelists are the chief relaters; and their accounts will be received
accordingly with the greater or less trust, as the reader considers them
probable; but the author of the Decameron personally knew some of his
friends and relations, and he intermingles his least favourable reports
with expressions of undoubted reverence. The poet was of middle height,
of slow and serious deportment, had a long dark visage, large piercing
eyes, large jaws, an aquiline nose, a projecting under-lip, and thick
curling hair--an aspect announcing determination and melancholy. There
is a sketch of his countenance, in his younger days, from the immature
but sweet pencil of Giotto; and it is a refreshment to look at it,
though pride and discontent, I think, are discernible in its lineaments.
It is idle, and no true compliment to his nature, to pretend, as his
mere worshippers do, that his face owes all its subsequent gloom and
exacerbation to external causes, and that he was in every respect the
poor victim of events--the infant changed at nurse by the wicked. What
came out of him, he must have had in him, at least in the germ; and so
inconsistent was his nature altogether, or, at any rate, such an epitome
of all the graver passions that are capable of co-existing, both sweet
and bitter, thoughtful and outrageous, that one is sometimes tempted to
think he must have had an angel for one parent, and--I shall leave his
own toleration to say what--for the other.

To continue the account of his manners and inclinations: He dressed with
a becoming gravity; was temperate in his diet; a great student; seldom
spoke, unless spoken to, but always to the purpose; and almost all the
anecdotes recorded of him, except by himself, are full of pride and
sarcasm. He was so swarthy, that a woman, as he was going by a door in
Verona, is said to have pointed him out to another, with a remark
which made the saturnine poet smile--"That is the man who goes to hell
whenever he pleases, and brings back news of the people there." On which
her companion observed--"Very likely; don't you see what a curly beard he
has, and what a dark face? owing, I dare say, to the heat and smoke." He
was evidently a passionate lover of painting and music--is thought to
have been less strict in his conduct with regard to the sex than might
be supposed from his platonical aspirations--(Boccaccio says, that even
a goitre did not repel him from the pretty face of a mountaineer)--could
be very social when he was young, as may be gathered from the sonnet
addressed to his friend Cavalcante about a party for a boat--and though
his poetry was so intense and weighty, the laudable minuteness of a
biographer has informed us, that his hand-writing, besides being neat
and precise, was of a long and particularly thin character: "meagre" is
his word.

There is a letter, said to be nearly coeval with his time, and to be
written by the prior of a monastery to a celebrated Ghibelline leader, a
friend of Dante's, which, though hitherto accounted apocryphal by most,
has such an air of truth, and contains an image of the poet in his exile
so exceedingly like what we conceive of the man, that it is difficult
not to believe it genuine, especially as the handwriting has lately been
discovered to be that of Boccaccio.[16] At all events, I am sure the
reader will not be sorry to have the substance of it. The writer says,
that he perceived one day a man coming into the monastery, whom none of
its inmates knew. He asked him what he wanted; but the stranger saying
nothing, and continuing to gaze on the building as though contemplating
its architecture, the question was put a second time; upon which,
looking round on his interrogators, he answered, "_Peace_!" The prior,
whose curiosity was strongly excited, took the stranger apart, and
discovering who he was, shewed him all the attention becoming his fame;
and then Dante took a little book out of his bosom, aid observing that
perhaps the prior had not seen it, expressed a wish to leave it with his
new friend as a memorial. It was "a portion," he said, "of his work."
The prior received the volume with respect; and politely opening it at
once, and fixing his eyes on the contents, in order, it would seem,
to shew the interest he took in it, appeared suddenly to check some
observation which they suggested. Dante found that his reader was
surprised at seeing the work written in the vulgar tongue instead of
Latin. He explained, that he wished to address himself to readers of all
classes; and concluded with requesting the prior to add some notes, with
the spirit of which he furnished him, and then forward it (transcribed,
I presume, by the monks) to their common friend, the Ghibelline
chieftain--a commission, which, knowing the prior's intimacy with that
personage, appears to have been the main object of his coming to the

This letter has been adduced as an evidence of Dante's poem having
transpired during his lifetime: a thing which, in the teeth of
Boccaccio's statement to that effect, and indeed the poet's own
testimony[18], Foscolo holds to be so impossible, that he turns the
evidence against the letter. He thinks, that if such bitter invectives
had been circulated, a hundred daggers would have been sheathed in the
bosom of the exasperating poet[19]. But I cannot help being of opinion,
with some writer whom I am unable at present to call to mind (Schlegel,
I think), that the strong critical reaction of modern times in favour
of Dante's genius has tended to exaggerate the idea conceived of him in
relation to his own. That he was of importance, and bitterly hated in
his native city, was a distinction he shared with other partisans who
have obtained no celebrity, though his poetry, no doubt, must have
increased the bitterness; that his genius also became more and more felt
out of the city, by the few individuals capable of estimating a man of
letters in those semi-barbarous times, may be regarded as certain; but
that busy politicians in general, war-making statesmen, and princes
constantly occupied in fighting for their existence with one another,
were at all alive either to his merits or his invectives, or would have
regarded him as anything but a poor wandering scholar, solacing his
foolish interference in the politics of this world with the old clerical
threats against his enemies in another, will hardly, I think, be doubted
by any one who reflects on the difference between a fame accumulated by
ages, and the living poverty that is obliged to seek its bread. A writer
on a monkish subject may have acquired fame with monks, and even with
a few distinguished persons, and yet have been little known, and less
cared for, out of the pale of that very private literary public, which
was almost exclusively their own. When we read, now-a-days, of the great
poet's being so politely received by Can Grande, lord of Verona, and
sitting at his princely table, we are apt to fancy that nothing but
his great poetry procured him the reception, and that nobody present
competed with him in the eyes of his host. But, to say nothing of the
different kinds of retainers that could sit at a prince's table in those
days, Can, who was more ostentatious than delicate in his munificence,
kept a sort of caravansera for clever exiles, whom he distributed into
lodgings classified according to their pursuits;[20] and Dante only
shared his bounty with the rest, till the more delicate poet could no
longer endure either the buffoonery of his companions, or the amusement
derived from it by the master. On one occasion, his platter is slily
heaped with their bones, which provokes him to call them dogs, as having
none to shew for their own. Another time, Can Grande asks him how it is
that his companions give more pleasure at court than himself; to which
he answers, "Because like loves like." He then leaves the court, and his
disgusted superiority is no doubt regarded as a pedantic assumption.

He stopped long nowhere, except with Guido Novello; and when that
prince, whose downfal was at hand, sent him on the journey above
mentioned to Venice, the senate (whom the poet had never offended) were
so little aware of his being of consequence, that they declined giving
him an audience. He went back, and broke his heart. Boccaccio says, that
he would get into such passions with the very boys and girls in the
street, who plagued him with party-words, as to throw stones at them--a
thing that would be incredible, if persons acquainted with his great but
ultra-sensitive nation did not know what Italians could do in all ages,
from Dante's own age down to the times of Alfieri and Foscolo. It
would be as difficult, from the evidence of his own works and of the
exasperation he created, to doubt the extremest reports of his irascible
temper, as it would be not to give implicit faith to his honesty. The
charge of peculation which his enemies brought against this great poet,
the world has universally scouted with an indignation that does it
honour. He himself seems never to have condescended to allude to it;
and a biographer would feel bound to copy his silence, had not the
accusation been so atrociously recorded. But, on the other hand, who
can believe that a man so capable of doing his fellow-citizens good and
honour, would have experienced such excessive enmity, had he not carried
to excess the provocations of his pride and scorn? His whole history
goes to prove it, not omitting the confession he makes of pride as his
chief sin, and the eulogies he bestows on the favourite vice of the
age--revenge. His Christianity (at least as shewn in his poem) was not
that of Christ, but of a furious polemic. His motives for changing his
party, though probably of a mixed nature, like those of most human
beings, may reasonably be supposed to have originated in something
better than interest or indignation. He had most likely not agreed
thoroughly with any party, and had become hopeless of seeing dispute
brought to an end, except by the representative of the Cæsars. The
inconsistency of the personal characters of the popes with the sacred
claims of the chair of St. Peter, was also calculated greatly to disgust
him; but still his own infirmities of pride and vindictiveness
spoiled all; and when he loaded every body else with reproach for the
misfortunes of his country, he should have recollected that, had his own
faults been kept in subjection to his understanding, he might possibly
have been its saviour. Dante's modesty has been asserted on the ground
of his humbling himself to the fame of Virgil, and at the feet of
blessed spirits; but this kind of exalted humility does not repay a
man's fellow-citizens for lording it over them with scorn and derision.
We learn from Boccaccio, that when he was asked to go ambassador
from his party to the pope, he put to them the following useless and
mortifying queries--"If I go, who is to stay?--and if I stay, who is to
go?" [21] Neither did his pride make him tolerant of pride in others.
A neighbour applying for his intercession with a magistrate, who had
summoned him for some offence, Dante, who disliked the man for riding in
an overbearing manner along the streets (stretching out his legs as wide
as he could, and hindering people from going by), did intercede with the
magistrate, but it was in behalf of doubling the fine in consideration
of the horsemanship. The neighbour, who was a man of family, was so
exasperated, that Sacchetti the novelist says it was the principal cause
of Dante's expatriation. This will be considered the less improbable,
if, as some suppose, the delinquent obtained possession of his derider's
confiscated property; but, at all events, nothing is more likely to
have injured him. The bitterest animosities are generally of a personal
nature; and bitter indeed must have been those which condemned a man of
official dignity and of genius to such a penalty as the stake.[22]

That the Florentines of old, like other half-Christianised people, were
capable of any extremity against an opponent, burning included, was
proved by the fates of Savonarola and others; and that Dante himself
could admire the burners is evident from his eulogies and beatification
of such men as Folco and St. Dominic. The tragical as well as "fantastic
tricks" which

  "Man, proud man,
  Drest in a little brief authority,"

plays with his energy and bad passions under the guise of duty, is among
the most perplexing of those spectacles, which, according to a greater
understanding than Dante's, "make the angels weep." (Dante, by the way,
has introduced in his heaven no such angels as those; though he has
plenty that scorn and denounce.) Lope de Vega, though a poet, was an
officer of the Inquisition, and joined the famous Armada that was coming
to thumb-screw and roast us into his views of Christian meekness.
Whether the author of the story of _Paulo and Francesca_ could have
carried the Dominican theories into practice, had he been the banisher
instead of the banished, is a point that may happily be doubted; but at
all events he revenged himself on his enemies after their own fashion;
for he answered their decree of the stake by putting them into hell.

Dante entitled the saddest poem in the world a Comedy, because it was
written in a middle style; though some, by a strange confusion of ideas,
think the reason must have been because it "ended happily!" that is,
because, beginning with hell (to some), it terminated with "heaven" (to
others). As well might they have said, that a morning's work in the
Inquisition ended happily, because, while people were being racked in
the dungeons, the officers were making merry in the drawing-room. For
the much-injured epithet of "Divine," Dante's memory is not responsible.
He entitled his poem, arrogantly enough, yet still not with that impiety
of arrogance, "The Comedy of Dante Alighieri, a Florentine by nation but
not by habits." The word "divine" was added by some transcriber; and it
heaped absurdity on absurdity, too much of it, alas! being literally
infernal tragedy. I am not speaking in mockery, any further than the
fact itself cannot help so speaking. I respect what is to be respected
in Dante; I admire in him what is admirable; would love (if his
infernalities would let me) what is loveable; but this must not hinder
one of the human race from protesting against what is erroneous in his
fame, when it jars against every best feeling, human and divine. Mr.
Cary thinks that Dante had as much right to avail himself of "the
popular creed in all its extravagance" as Homer had of his gods, or
Shakspeare of his fairies. But the distinction is obvious. Homer did not
personally identify himself with a creed, or do his utmost to perpetuate
the worst parts of it in behalf of a ferocious inquisitorial church, and
to the risk of endangering the peace of millions of gentle minds.

The great poem thus misnomered is partly a system of theology, partly an
abstract of the knowledge of the day, but chiefly a series of passionate
and imaginative pictures, altogether forming an account of the author's
times, his friends, his enemies, and himself, written to vent the spleen
of his exile, and the rest of his feelings, good and bad, and to reform
church and state by a spirit of resentment and obloquy, which highly
needed reform itself. It has also a design strictly self-referential.
The author feigns, that the beatified spirit of his mistress has
obtained leave to warn and purify his soul by shewing him the state of
things in the next world. She deputes the soul of his master Virgil
to conduct him through hell and purgatory, and then takes him herself
through the spheres of heaven, where Saint Peter catechises and confirms
him, and where he is finally honoured with sights of the Virgin Mary, of
Christ, and even a glimpse of the Supreme Being!

His hell, considered as a place, is, to speak geologically, a most
fantastical formation. It descends from beneath Jerusalem to the centre
of the earth, and is a funnel graduated in circles, each circle being a
separate place of torment for a different vice or its co-ordinates, and
the point of the funnel terminating with Satan stuck into ice. Purgatory
is a corresponding mountain on the other side of the globe, commencing
with the antipodes of Jerusalem, and divided into exterior circles of
expiation, which end in a table-land forming the terrestrial paradise.
From this the hero and his mistress ascend by a flight, exquisitely
conceived, to the stars; where the sun and the planets of the Ptolemaic
system (for the true one was unknown in Dante's time) form a series of
heavens for different virtues, the whole terminating in the empyrean, or
region of pure light, and the presence of the Beatific Vision.

The boundaries of old and new, strange as it may now seem to us, were so
confused in those days, and books were so rare, and the Latin poets held
in such invincible reverence, that Dante, in one and the same poem,
speaks of the false gods of Paganism, and yet retains much of its lower
mythology; nay, invokes Apollo himself at the door of paradise. There
was, perhaps, some mystical and even philosophical inclusion of the
past in this medley, as recognising the constant superintendence of
Providence; but that Dante partook of what may be called the literary
superstition of the time, even for want of better knowledge, is clear
from the grave historical use he makes of poetic fables in his treatise
on Monarchy, and in the very arguments which he puts into the mouths of
saints and apostles. There are lingering feelings to this effect even
now among the peasantry of Italy; where, the reader need not be told,
Pagan customs of all sorts, including religious and most reverend ones,
are existing under the sanction of other names;--heathenisms christened.
A Tuscan postilion, once enumerating to me some of the native poets,
concluded his list with Apollo; and a plaster-cast man over here, in
London, appeared much puzzled, when conversing on the subject with a
friend of mine, how to discrepate Samson from Hercules.

Dante accordingly, while, with the frightful bigotry of the schools, he
puts the whole Pagan world into hell-borders (with the exception of two
or three, whose salvation adds to the absurdity), mingles the hell of
Virgil with that of Tertullian and St. Dominic; sets Minos at the door
as judge; retains Charon in his old office of boatman over the Stygian
lake; puts fabulous people with real among the damned, Dido, and Cacus,
and Ephialtes, with Ezzelino and Pope Nicholas the Fifth; and associates
the Centaurs and the Furies with the agents of diabolical torture. It
has pleased him also to elevate Cato of Utica to the office of warder of
purgatory, though the censor's poor good wife, Marcia, is detained in
the regions below. By these and other far greater inconsistencies,
the whole place of punishment becomes a _reductio ad absurdum_, as
ridiculous as it is melancholy; so that one is astonished how so great a
man, and especially a man who thought himself so far advanced beyond his
age, and who possessed such powers of discerning the good and beautiful,
could endure to let his mind live in so foul and foolish a region for
any length of time, and there wreak and harden the unworthiest of his
passions. Genius, nevertheless, is so commensurate with absurdity
throughout the book, and there are even such sweet and balmy as well as
sublime pictures in it occasionally, nay often, that not only will
the poem ever be worthy of admiration, but when those increasing
purifications of Christianity which our blessed reformers began, shall
finally precipitate the whole dregs of the author into the mythology to
which they belong, the world will derive a pleasure from it to an amount
not to be conceived till the arrival of that day. Dante, meantime, with
an impartiality which has been admired by those who can approve the
assumption of a theological tyranny at the expense of common feeling
and decency, has put friends as well as foes into hell: tutors of his
childhood, kinsmen of those who treated him hospitably, even the father
of his beloved friend, Guido Cavalcante--the last for not believing in a
God: therein doing the worst thing possible in behalf of the belief, and
totally differing both with the pious heathen Plutarch, and the great
Christian philosopher Bacon, who were of opinion that a contumelious
belief is worse than none, and that it is far better and more pious to
believe in "no God at all," than in a God who would "eat his children
as soon as they were born." And Dante makes him do worse; for the whole
unbaptised infant world, Christian as well as Pagan, is in his Tartarus.

Milton has spoken of the "milder shades of Purgatory;" and truly they
possess great beauties. Even in a theological point of view they are
something like a bit of Christian refreshment after the horrors of the
_Inferno_. The first emerging from the hideous gulf to the sight of the
blue serenity of heaven, is painted in a manner inexpressibly charming.
So is the sea-shore with the coming of the angel; the valley, with the
angels in green; the repose at night on the rocks; and twenty other
pictures of gentleness and love. And yet, special and great has been the
escape of the Protestant world from this part of Roman Catholic belief;
for Purgatory is the heaviest stone that hangs about the neck of the
old and feeble in that communion. Hell is avoidable by repentance; but
Purgatory, what modest conscience shall escape? Mr. Cary, in a note on a
passage in which Dante recommends his readers to think on what follows
this expiatory state, rather than what is suffered there,[23] looks upon
the poet's injunction as an "unanswerable objection to the doctrine of
purgatory," it being difficult to conceive "how the best can meet death
without horror, if they believe it must be followed by immediate and
intense suffering." Luckily, assent is not belief; and mankind's
feelings are for the most part superior to their opinions; otherwise
the world would have been in a bad way indeed, and nature not been
vindicated of her children. But let us watch and be on our guard against
all resuscitations of superstition.

As to our Florentine's Heaven, it is full of beauties also, though
sometimes of a more questionable and pantomimical sort than is to be
found in either of the other books. I shall speak of some of them
presently; but the general impression of the place is, that it is no
heaven at all. He says it is, and talks much of its smiles and its
beatitude; but always excepting the poetry--especially the similes
brought from the more heavenly earth--we realise little but a
fantastical assemblage of doctors and doubtful characters, far more
angry and theological than celestial; giddy raptures of monks and
inquisitors dancing in circles, and saints denouncing popes and
Florentines; in short, a heaven libelling itself with invectives against
earth, and terminating in a great presumption. Many of the people put
there, a Calvinistic Dante would have consigned to the "other place;"
and some, if now living, would not be admitted into decent society. At
the beginning of one of the cantos, the poet congratulates himself,
with a complacent superiority, on his being in heaven and occupied with
celestial matters, while his poor fellow-creatures are wandering and
blundering on earth. But he had never got there! A divine--worthy of
that name--of the Church of England (Dr. Whichcote), has beautifully
said, that "heaven is first a temper, and then a place." According to
this truly celestial topography, the implacable Florentine had not
reached its outermost court. Again, his heavenly mistress, Beatrice,
besides being far too didactic to sustain the womanly part of her
character properly, alternates her smiles and her sarcasms in a way that
jars horribly against the occasional enchantment of her aspect. She does
not scruple to burst into taunts of the Florentines in the presence of
Jesus himself; and the spirit of his ancestor, Cacciaguida, in the very
bosom of Christian bliss, promises him revenge on his enemies! Is this
the kind of zeal that is to be exempt from objection in a man who
objected to all the world? or will it be thought a profaneness against
such profanity, to remind the reader of the philosopher in Swift, who
"while gazing on the stars, was betrayed by his lower parts into a

The reader's time need not be wasted with the allegorical and other
mystical significations given to the poem; still less on the question
whether Beatrice is theology, or a young lady, or both; and least of all
on the discovery of the ingenious Signor Rossetti, that Dante and all
the other great old Italian writers meant nothing, either by their
mistresses or their mythology, but attacks on the court of Rome. Suffice
it, that besides all other possible meanings, Dante himself has told us
that his poem has its obvious and literal meaning; that he means a spade
by a spade, purgatory by purgatory, and truly and unaffectedly to devote
his friends to the infernal regions whenever he does so. I confess I
think it is a great pity that Guido Cavalcante did not live to read the
poem, especially the passage about his father. The understanding of
Guido, who had not the admiration for Virgil that Dante had (very likely
for reasons that have been thought sound in modern times), was in all
probability as good as that of his friend in many respects, and perhaps
more so in one or two; and modern criticism might have been saved some
of its pains of objection by the poet's contemporary.

The author did not live to publish, in any formal manner, his
extraordinary poem, probably did not intend to do so, except under those
circumstances of political triumph which he was always looking for; but
as he shewed portions of it to his friends, it was no doubt talked of
to a certain extent, and must have exasperated such of his enemies as
considered him worth their hostility. No wonder they did all they could
to keep him out of Florence. What would they have said of him, could
they have written a counter poem? What would even his friends have said
of him? for we see in what manner he has treated even those; and yet how
could he possibly know, with respect either to friends or enemies, what
passed between them and their consciences? or who was it that gave
him his right to generate the boasted distinction between an author's
feelings as a man and his assumed office as a theologian, and parade
the latter at the former's expense? His own spleen, hatred, and avowed
sentiments of vengeance, are manifest throughout the poem; and there is
this, indeed, to be said for the moral and religious inconsistencies
both of the man and his verse, that in those violent times the spirit
of Christian charity, and even the sentiment of personal shame, were so
little understood, that the author in one part of it is made to blush by
a friend for not having avenged him; and it is said to have been thought
a compliment to put a lady herself into hell, that she might be talked
of, provided it was for something not odious. An admirer of this
infernal kind of celebrity, even in later times, declared that he would
have given a sum of money (I forget to what amount) if Dante had but
done as much for one of his ancestors. It has been argued, that in all
the parties concerned in these curious ethics there is a generous love
of distinction, and a strong craving after life, action, and sympathy
of some kind or other. Granted; there are all sorts of half-good,
half-barbarous feelings in Dante's poem. Let justice be done to the
good half; but do not let us take the ferocity for wisdom and piety; or
pretend, in the complacency of our own freedom from superstition, to see
no danger of harm to the less fortunate among our fellow-creatures in
the support it receives from a man of genius. Bedlams have been filled
with such horrors; thousands, nay millions of feeble minds are suffering
by them or from them, at this minute, all over the world. Dante's best
critic, Foscolo, has said much of the heroical nature of the age in
which the poet lived; but he adds, that its mixture of knowledge and
absurdity is almost inexplicable. The truth is, that like everything
else which appears harsh and unaccountable in nature, it was an excess
of the materials for good, working in an over-active and inexperienced
manner; but knowing this, we are bound, for the sake of the good, not
to retard its improvement by ignoring existing impieties, or blind
ourselves to the perpetuating tendencies of the bigotries of great men.
Oh! had the first indoctrinators of Christian feeling, while enlisting
the "divine Plato" into the service of diviner charity, only kept the
latter just enough in mind to discern the beautiful difference between
the philosopher's unmalignant and improvable evil, and their own
malignant and eternal one, what a world of folly and misery they might
have saved us! But as the evil has happened, let us hope that even this
form of it has had its uses. If Dante thought it salutary to the world
to maintain a system of religious terror, the same charity which can
hope that it may once have been so, has taught us how to commence a
better. But did he, after all, or did he not, think it salutary? Did
he think so, believing the creed himself? or did he think it from an
unwilling sense of its necessity? Or, lastly, did he write only as a
mythologist, and care for nothing but the exercise of his spleen and
genius? If he had no other object than that, his conscientiousness would
be reduced to a low pitch indeed. Foscolo is of opinion he was not only
in earnest, but that he was very near taking himself for an apostle, and
would have done so had his prophecies succeeded, perhaps with success to
the pretension.[24] Thank heaven, his "Hell" has not embittered the mild
reading-desks of the Church of England.

If King George the Third himself, with all his arbitrary notions, and
willing religious acquiescence, could not endure the creed of St.
Athanasius with its damnatory enjoinments of the impossible, what would
have been said to the inscription over Dante's hell-gate, or the
account of Ugolino eating an archbishop, in the gentle chapels of Queen
Victoria? May those chapels have every beauty in them, and every air of
heaven, that painting and music can bestow--divine gifts, not unworthy
to be set before their Divine Bestower; but far from them be kept the
foul fiends of inhumanity and superstition!

It is certainly impossible to get at a thorough knowledge of the
opinions of Dante even in theology; and his morals, if judged according
to the received standard, are not seldom puzzling. He rarely thinks as
the popes do; sometimes not as the Church does: he is lax, for instance,
on the subject of absolution by the priest at death.[25] All you can be
sure of is, the predominance of his will, the most wonderful poetry, and
the notions he entertained of the degrees of vice and virtue. Towards
the errors of love he is inclined to be so lenient (some think because
he had indulged in them himself), that it is pretty clear he would not
have put Paulo and Francesca into hell, if their story had not been
too recent, and their death too sudden, to allow him to assume their
repentance in the teeth of the evidence required. He avails himself of
orthodox license to put "the harlot Rahab" into heaven ("cette bonne
fille de Jericho," as Ginguéné calls her); nay, he puts her into the
planet Venus, as if to compliment her on her profession; and one of her
companions there is a fair Ghibelline, sister of the tyrant Ezzelino, a
lady famous for her gallantries, of whom the poet good-naturedly says,
that she "was overcome by her star"--to wit, the said planet Venus; and
yet he makes her the organ of the most unfeminine triumphs over the
Guelphs. But both these ladies, it is to be understood, repented--for
they had time for repentance; their good fortune saved them. Poor
murdered Francesca had no time to repent; therefore her mischance was
her damnation! Such are the compliments theology pays to the Creator.
In fact, nothing is really punished in Dante's Catholic hell but
impenitence, deliberate or accidental. No delay of repentance, however
dangerous, hinders the most hard-hearted villain from reaching his
heaven. The best man goes to hell for ever, if he does not think he has
sinned as Dante thinks; the worst is beatified, if he agrees with him:
the only thing which every body is sure of, is some dreadful duration
of agony in purgatory--the great horror of Catholic death beds.
Protestantism may well hug itself on having escaped it. O Luther!
vast was the good you did us. O gentle Church of England! let nothing
persuade you that it is better to preach frightful and foolish ideas of
God from your pulpits, than loving-kindness to all men, and peace above
all things.

If Dante had erred only on the side of indulgence, humanity could easily
have forgiven him--for the excesses of charity are the extensions of
hope; but, unfortunately, where he is sweet-natured once, he is bitter a
hundred times. This is the impression he makes on universalists of all
creeds and parties; that is to say, on men who having run the whole
round of sympathy with their fellow-creatures, become the only final
judges of sovereign pretension. It is very well for individuals to
make a god of Dante for some encouragement of their own position or
pretension; but a god for the world at large he never was, or can be;
and I doubt if an impression to this effect was not always, from the
very dawn of our literature, the one entertained of him by the genius
of our native country, which could never long endure any kind of
unwarrantable dictation. Chaucer evidently thought him a man who would
spare no unnecessary probe to the feelings (see the close of his version
of _Ugolino_). Spenser says not a word of him, though he copied Tasso,
and eulogised Ariosto. Shakspeare would assuredly have put him into
the list of those presumptuous lookers into eternity who "_take upon
themselves to know" (Cymbeline_, act v. sc. 4). Milton, in his sonnet
to Henry Lawes, calls him "that sad Florentine"--a lamenting epithet,
by which we do not designate a man whom we desire to resemble. The
historian of English poetry, admirably applying to him a passage out of
Milton, says that "Hell grows darker at his frown." [26]

Walter Scott could not read him, at least not with pleasure. He tells
Miss Seward that the "plan" of the poem appeared to him "unhappy;
the personal malignity and strange mode of revenge presumptuous and
uninteresting." [27] Uninteresting, I think, it is impossible to consider
it. The known world is there, and the unknown pretends to be there; and
both are surely interesting to most people.

Landor, in his delightful book the _Pentameron_--a book full of the
profoundest as well as sweetest humanity--makes Petrarch follow up
Boccaccio's eulogies of the episode of Paulo and Francesca with
ebullitions of surprise and horror:

"_Petrarca_. Perfection of poetry! The greater is my wonder at
discovering nothing else of the same order or cast in this whole section
of the poem. He who fainted at the recital of Francesca,

  'And he who fell as a dead body falls'

would exterminate all the inhabitants of every town in Italy! What
execrations against Florence, Pistoia, Pisa, Siena, Genoa! what hatred
against the whole human race! what exultation and merriment at eternal
and immitigable sufferings! Seeing this, I cannot but consider the
_Inferno_ as the most immoral and impious book that ever was written.
Yet, hopeless that our country shall ever see again such poetry, and
certain that without it our future poets would be more feebly urged
forward to excellence, I would have dissuaded Dante from cancelling it,
if this had been his intention." [28]

Most happily is the distinction here intimated between the
undesirableness of Dante's book in a moral and religious point of view,
and the greater desirableness of it, nevertheless, as a pattern of
poetry; for absurdity, however potent, wears itself out in the end, and
leaves what is good and beautiful to vindicate even so foul an origin.

Again, Petrarch says, "What an object of sadness and of consternation,
he who rises up from hell like a giant refreshed!

"_Boccaccio_. Strange perversion! A pillar of smoke by day and of fire
by night, to guide no one. Paradise had fewer wants for him to satisfy
than hell had, all which he fed to repletion; but let us rather look to
his poetry than his temper."

See also what is said in that admirable book further on (p. 50),
respecting the most impious and absurd passage in all Dante's poem, the
assumption about Divine Love in the inscription over hell-gate--one of
those monstrosities of conception which none ever had the effrontery to
pretend to vindicate, except theologians who profess to be superior to
the priests of Moloch, and who yet defy every feeling of decency and
humanity for the purpose of explaining their own worldly, frightened,
or hard-hearted submission to the mistakes of the most wretched
understandings. Ugo Foscolo, an excellent critic where his own temper
and violence did not interfere, sees nothing but jealousy in Petrarch's
dislike of Dante, and nothing but Jesuitism in similar feelings
entertained by such men as Tiraboschi. But all gentle and considerate
hearts must dislike the rage and bigotry in Dante, even were it true (as
the Dantesque Foscolo thinks) that Italy will never be regenerated till
one-half of it is baptised in the blood of the other![29] Such men, with
all their acuteness, are incapable of seeing what can be effected by
nobler and serener times, and the progress of civilisation. They fancy,
no doubt, that they are vindicating the energies of Nature herself, and
the inevitable necessity of "doing evil that good may come." But Dante
in so doing violated the Scripture he professed to revere; and men must
not assume to themselves that final knowledge of results, which is the
only warrant of the privilege, and the possession of which is to be
arrogated by no earthly wisdom. One calm discovery of science may do
away with all the boasted eternal necessities of the angry and the
self-idolatrous. The passions that may be necessary to savages are not
bound to remain so to civilised men, any more than the eating of man's
flesh or the worship of Jugghernaut. When we think of the wonderful
things lately done by science for the intercourse of the world, and
the beautiful and tranquil books of philosophy written by men of equal
energy and benevolence, and opening the peacefulest hopes for mankind,
and views of creation to which Dante's universe was a nutshell,--such
a vision as that of his poem (in a theological point of view) seems no
better than the dream of an hypochondriacal savage, and his nutshell a
rottenness to be spit out of the mouth.

Heaven send that the great poet's want of charity has not made myself
presumptuous and uncharitable! But it is in the name of society I
speak; and words, at all events, now-a-days are not the terrible,
stake-preceding things they were in his. Readers in general,
however--even those of the literary world--have little conception of
the extent to which Dante carries either his cruelty or his abuse. The
former (of which I shall give some examples presently) shews appalling
habits of personal resentment; the latter is outrageous to a pitch of
the ludicrous--positively screaming. I will give some specimens of it
out of Foscolo himself, who collects them for a different purpose;
though, with all his idolatry of Dante, he was far from being insensible
to his mistakes.

"The people of Sienna," according to this national and Christian poet,
were "a parcel of cox-combs; those of Arezzo, dogs; and of Casentino,
hogs. Lucca made a trade of perjury. Pistoia was a den of beasts, and
ought to be reduced to ashes; and the river Arno should overflow and
drown every soul in Pisa. Almost all the women in Florence walked
half-naked in public, and were abandoned in private. Every brother,
husband, son, and father, in Bologna, set their women to sale. In all
Lombardy were not to be found three men who were not rascals; and in
Genoa and Romagna people went about pretending to be men, but in reality
were bodies inhabited by devils, their souls having gone to the 'lowest
pit of hell' to join the betrayers of their friends and kinsmen." [30]

So much for his beloved countrymen. As for foreigners, particularly
kings, "Edward the First of England, and Robert of Scotland, were a
couple of grasping fools; the Emperor Albert was an usurper; Alphonso
the Second, of Spain, a debauchee; the King of Bohemia a coward;
Frederick of Arragon a coward and miser; the Kings of Portugal and
Norway forgers; the King of Naples a man whose virtues were expressed
by a unit, and his vices by a million; and the King of France, the
descendant of a Paris butcher, and of progenitors who poisoned St.
Thomas Aquinas, their descendants conquering with the arms of Judas
rather than of soldiers, and selling the flesh of their daughters to old
men, in order to extricate themselves from a danger." [31]

When we add to these invectives, damnations of friends as well as foes,
of companions, lawyers, men of letters, princes, philosophers, popes,
pagans, innocent people as well as guilty, fools and wise, capable and
incapable, men, women, and children,--it is really no better than a kind
of diabolical sublimation of Lord Thurlow's anathemas in the _Rolliad_,
which begins with

  "Damnation seize ye all;"

and ends with

  "Damn them beyond what mortal tongue can tell,
  Confound, sink, plunge them all to deepest blackest hell." [32]

In the gross, indeed, this is ridiculous enough.

No burlesque can beat it. But in the particular, one is astonished and
saddened at the cruelties in which the poet allows his imagination to
riot horrors generally described with too intense a verisimilitude not
to excite our admiration, with too astounding a perseverance not to
amaze our humanity, and sometimes with an amount of positive joy
and delight that makes us ready to shut the book with disgust and
indignation. Thus, in a circle in hell, where traitors are stuck up
to their chins in ice (canto xxxii.), the visitor, in walking about,
happens to give one of their faces a kick; the sufferer weeps, and
then curses him--with such infernal truth does the writer combine the
malignant with the pathetic! Dante replies to the curse by asking the
man his name. He is refused it. He then seizes the miserable wretch
by the hair, in order to force him to the disclosure; and Virgil is
represented as commending the barbarity![33] But he does worse. To
barbarity he adds treachery of his own. He tells another poor wretch,
whose face is iced up with his tears, as if he had worn a crystal vizor,
that if he will disclose his name and offence, he will relieve his eyes
awhile, _that he may weep_. The man does so; and the ferocious poet
then refuses to perform his promise, adding mockery to falsehood, and
observing that ill manners are the only courtesy proper to wards such
a fellow![34] It has been conjectured, that Macchiavelli apparently
encouraged the enormities of the princes of his time, with a design to
expose them to indignation. It might have been thought of Dante, if he
had not taken a part in the cruelty, that he detailed the horrors of his
hell out of a wish to disgust the world with its frightful notions of
God. This is certainly the effect of the worst part of his descriptions
in an age like the present. Black burning gulfs, full of outcries
and blasphemy, feet red-hot with fire, men eternally eating their
fellow-creatures, frozen wretches malignantly dashing their iced heads
against one another, other adversaries mutually exchanging shapes by
force of an attraction at once irresistible and loathing, and spitting
with hate and disgust when it is done--Enough, enough, for God's sake!
Take the disgust out of one's senses, O flower of true Christian wisdom
and charity, now beginning to fill the air with fragrance!

But it will be said that Dante did all this out of his hate of cruelty
itself, and of treachery itself. Partly no doubt he did; and entirely he
thought he did. But see how the notions of such retribution react upon
the judge, and produce in him the bad passions he punishes. It is true
the punishments are imaginary. Were a human being actually to see such
things, he must be dehumanised or he would cry out against them with
horror and detestation. But the poem draws them as truths; the writer's
creed threatened them; he himself contributed to maintain the belief;
and however we may suppose such a belief to have had its use in giving
alarm to ruffian passions and barbarously ignorant times, an age arrives
when a beneficent Providence permits itself to be better understood, and
dissipates the superfluous horror.

Many, indeed, of the absurdities of Dante's poem are too obvious
now-a-days to need remark. Even the composition of the poem,
egotistically said to be faultless by such critics as Alfieri, who
thought they resembled him, partakes, as every body's style does, of the
faults as well as good qualities of the man. It is nervous, concise,
full almost as it can hold, picturesque, mighty, primeval; but it is
often obscure, often harsh, and forced in its constructions, defective
in melody, and wilful and superfluous in the rhyme. Sometimes, also,
the writer is inconsistent in circumstance (probably from not having
corrected the poem); and he is not above being filthy. Even in the
episode of Paulo and Francesca, which has so often been pronounced
faultless, and which is unquestionably one of the most beautiful
pieces of writing in the world, some of these faults are observable,
particularly in the obscurity of the passage about _tolta forma_, the
cessation of the incessant tempest, and the non-adjuration of the two
lovers in the manner that Virgil prescribes.

But truly it is said, that when Dante is great, nobody surpasses him. I
doubt if anybody equals him, as to the constant intensity and incessant
variety of his pictures; and whatever he paints, he throws, as it were,
upon its own powers; as though an artist should draw figures that
started into life, and proceeded to action for themselves, frightening
their creator. Every motion, word, and look of these creatures becomes
full of sensibility and suggestions. The invisible is at the back of the
visible; darkness becomes palpable; silence describes a character, nay,
forms the most striking part of a story; a word acts as a flash of
lightning, which displays some gloomy neighbourhood, where a tower is
standing, with dreadful faces at the window; or where, at your feet,
full of eternal voices, one abyss is beheld dropping out of another in
the lurid light of torment. In the present volume a story will be found
which tells a long tragedy in half-a-dozen lines. Dante has the
minute probabilities of a Defoe in the midst of the loftiest and most
generalising poetry; and this feeling of matter-of-fact is impressed by
fictions the most improbable, nay, the most ridiculous and revolting.
You laugh at the absurdity; you are shocked at the detestable cruelty;
yet, for the moment, the thing almost seems as if it must be true. You
feel as you do in a dream, and after it;--you wake and laugh, but the
absurdity seemed true at the time; and while you laugh you shudder.

Enough of this crueller part of his genius has been exhibited; but it is
seldom you can have the genius without sadness. In the circle of hell,
soothsayers walk along weeping, with their faces turned the wrong way,
so that their tears fall between their shoulders. The picture is still
more dreadful. Warton thinks it ridiculous. But I cannot help feeling
with the poet, that it is dreadfully pathetic. It is the last mortifying
insult to human pretension. Warton, who has a grudge against Dante
natural to a man of happier piety, thinks him ridiculous also in
describing the monster Geryon lying upon the edge of one of the gulfs
of hell "like a beaver" (canto xvii.). He is of opinion that the writer
only does it to shew his knowledge of natural history. But surely the
idea of so strange and awful a creature (a huge mild-faced man ending in
a dragon's body) lying familiarly on the edge of the gulf, as a beaver
does by the water, combines the supernatural with the familiar in a very
impressive manner. It is this combination of extremes which is the life
and soul of the whole poem; you have this world in the next; the same
persons, passions, remembrances, intensified by superhuman despairs
or beatitudes; the speechless entrancements of bliss, the purgatorial
trials of hope and patience; the supports of hate and anger (such as
they are) in hell itself; nay, of loving despairs, and a self-pity made
unboundedly pathetic by endless suffering. Hence there it no love-story
so affecting as that of Paulo and Francesca thus told and perpetuated in
another world; no father's misery so enforced upon us as Ugolino's, who,
for hundreds of years, has not grown tired of the revenge to which it
wrought him. Dante even puts this weight and continuity of feeling into
passages of mere transient emotion or illustration, unconnected with the
next world; as in the famous instance of the verses about evening, and
many others which the reader will meet with in this volume. Indeed, if
pathos and the most impressive simplicity, and graceful beauty of all
kinds, and abundant grandeur, can pay (as the reader, I believe, will
think it does even in a prose abstract), for the pangs of moral discord
and absurdity inflicted by the perusal of Dante's poem, it may challenge
competition with any in point of interest. His Heaven, it is true,
though containing both sublime and lovely passages, is not so good as
his Earth. The more unearthly he tried to make it, the less heavenly
it became. When he is content with earth in heaven itself,-when he
literalises a metaphor, and with exquisite felicity finds himself
_arrived there_ in consequence of fixing his eyes on the eyes of
Beatrice, then he is most celestial. But his endeavours to express
degrees of beatitude and holiness by varieties of flame and light,--of
dancing lights, revolving lights, lights of smiles, of stars, of starry
crosses, of didactic letters and sentences, of animal figures made up of
stars full of blessed souls, with saints _forming an eagle's beak_ and
David in its _eye!_--such superhuman attempts become for the most part
tricks of theatrical machinery, on which we gaze with little curiosity
and no respect.

His angels, however, are another matter. Belief was prepared for those
winged human forms, and they furnished him with some of his most
beautiful combinations of the natural with the supernatural. Ginguéné
has remarked the singular variety as well as beauty of Dante's angels.
Milton's, indeed, are commonplace in the comparison. In the eighth canto
of the _Inferno_, the devils insolently refuse the poet and his guide an
entrance into the city of Dis:--an angel comes sweeping over the Stygian
lake to enforce it; the noise of his wings makes the shores tremble, and
is like a crashing whirlwind such as beats down the trees and sends the
peasants and their herds flying before it. The heavenly messenger, after
rebuking the devils, touches the portals of the city with his wand; they
fly open; and he returns the way he came without uttering a word to the
two companions. His face was that of one occupied with other thoughts.
This angel is announced by a tempest. Another, who brings the souls of
the departed to Purgatory, is first discovered at a distance, gradually
disclosing white splendours, which are his wings and garments. He comes
in a boat, of which his wings are the sails; and as he approaches, it is
impossible to look him in the face for its brightness. Two other angels
have green wings and green garments, and the drapery is kept in motion
like a flag by the vehement action of the wings. A fifth has a face like
the morning star, casting forth quivering beams. A sixth is of a lustre
so oppressive, that the poet feels a weight on his eyes before he knows
what is coming. Another's presence affects the senses like the fragrance
of a May-morning; and another is in garments dark as cinders, but has
a sword in his hand too sparkling to be gazed at. Dante's occasional
pictures of the beauties of external nature are worthy of these angelic
creations, and to the last degree fresh and lovely. You long to bathe
your eyes, smarting with the fumes of hell, in his dews. You gaze
enchanted on his green fields and his celestial blue skies, the more so
from the pain and sorrow in midst of which the visions are created.

Dante's grandeur of every kind is proportionate to that of his angels,
almost to his ferocity; and that is saying every thing. It is not
always the spiritual grandeur of Milton, the subjection of the material
impression to the moral; but it is equally such when he chooses, and
far more abundant. His infernal precipices--his black whirlwinds--his
innumerable cries and claspings of hands--his very odours of huge
loathsomeness--his giants at twilight standing up to the middle in pits,
like towers, and causing earthquakes when they move--his earthquake of
the mountain in Purgatory, when a spirit is set free for heaven--his
dignified Mantuan Sordello, silently regarding him and his guide as they
go by, "like a lion on his watch"--his blasphemer, Capaneus, lying in
unconquered rage and sullenness under an eternal rain of flakes of fire
(human precursor of Milton's Satan)--his aspect of Paradise, "as if the
universe had smiled"--his inhabitants of the whole planet Saturn crying
out _so loud_, in accordance with the anti-papal indignation of Saint
Pietro Damiano, that the poet, though among them, _could not hear what
they said_--and the blushing eclipse, like red clouds at sunset, which
takes place at the apostle Peter's denunciation of the sanguinary filth
of the court of Rome--all these sublimities, and many more, make us not
know whether to be more astonished at the greatness of the poet or the
raging littleness of the man. Grievous is it to be forced to bring two
such opposites together; and I wish, for the honour and glory of poetry,
I did not feel compelled to do so. But the swarthy Florentine had not
the healthy temperament of his brethren, and he fell upon evil times.
Compared with Homer and Shakspeare, his very intensity seems only
superior to theirs from an excess of the morbid; and he is inferior to
both in other sovereign qualities of poetry--to the one, in giving you
the healthiest general impression of nature itself--to Shakspeare, in
boundless universality--to most great poets, in thorough harmony and
delightfulness. He wanted (generally speaking) the music of a happy and
a happy-making disposition. Homer, from his large vital bosom, breathes
like a broad fresh air over the world, amidst alternate storm and
sunshine, making you aware that there is rough work to be faced, but
also activity and beauty to be enjoyed. The feeling of health and
strength is predominant. Life laughs at death itself, or meets it with
a noble confidence--is not taught to dread it as a malignant goblin.
Shakspeare has all the smiles as well as tears of nature, and discerns
the "soul of goodness in things evil." He is comedy as well as
tragedy--the entire man in all his qualities, moods, and experiences;
and he beautifies all. And both those truly divine poets make nature
their subject through her own inspiriting medium--not through
the darkened glass of one man's spleen and resentment. Dante, in
constituting himself the hero of his poem, not only renders her, in the
general impression, as dreary as himself, in spite of the occasional
beautiful pictures he draws of her, but narrows her very immensity into
his pettiness. He fancied, alas, that he could build her universe over
again out of the politics of old Rome and the divinity of the schools!

Dante, besides his great poem, and a few Latin eclogues of no great
value, wrote lyrics full of Platonical sentiment, some of which
anticipated the loveliest of Petrarch's; and he was the author of
various prose works, political and philosophical, all more or less
masterly for the time in which he lived, and all coadjutors of his
poetry in fixing his native tongue. His account of his Early Life (the
_Vita Nuova_) is a most engaging history of a boyish passion, evidently
as real and true on his own side as love and truth can be, whatever
might be its mistake as to its object. The treatise on the Vernacular
Tongue (_de Vulgari Eloquio_) shews how critically he considered his
materials for impressing the world, and what a reader he was of every
production of his contemporaries. The Banquet (_Convito_) is but an
abstruse commentary on some of his minor poems; but the book on Monarchy
(_de Monarchia_) is a compound of ability and absurdity, in which his
great genius is fairly overborne by the barbarous pedantry of the age.
It is an argument to prove that the world must all be governed by one
man; that this one man must be the successor of the Roman Emperor--God
having manifestly designed the world to be subject for ever to the Roman
empire; and lastly, that this Emperor is equally designed by God to be
independent of the Pope--spiritually subject to him, indeed, but so far
only as a good son is subject to the religious advice of his father;
and thus making Church and State happy for ever in the two divided
supremacies. And all this assumption of the obsolete and impossible the
author gravely proves in all the forms of logic, by arguments drawn from
the history of Æneas, and the providential cackle of the Roman geese!

How can the patriots of modern Italy, justified as they are in extolling
the poet to the skies, see him plunge into such depths of bigotry in his
verse and childishness in his prose, and consent to perplex the friends
of advancement with making a type of their success out of so erring
though so great a man? Such slavishness, even to such greatness, is a
poor and unpromising thing, compared with an altogether unprejudiced
and forward-looking self-reliance. To have no faith in names has been
announced as one of their principles; and "God and Humanity" is their
motto. What, therefore, has Dante's name to do with their principles? or
what have the semi-barbarisms of the thirteenth century to do with the
final triumph of "God and Humanity?" Dante's lauded wish for that union
of the Italian States, which his fame has led them so fondly to identify
with their own, was but a portion of his greater and prouder wish to see
the whole world at the feet of his boasted ancestress, Rome. Not,
of course, that he had no view to what he considered good and just
government (for what sane despot purposes to rule without that?); but
his good and just government was always to be founded on the _sine qua
non_ principle of universal Italian domination.[35]

All that Dante said or did has its interest for us in spite of his
errors, because he was an earnest and suffering man and a great genius;
but his fame must ever continue to lie where his greatest blame does,
in his principal work. He was a gratuitous logician, a preposterous
politician, a cruel theologian; but his wonderful imagination, and
(considering the bitterness that was in him) still more wonderful
sweetness, have gone into the hearts of his fellow-creatures, and will
remain there in spite of the moral and religious absurdities with which
they are mingled, and of the inability which the best-natured readers
feel to associate his entire memory, as a poet, with their usual
personal delight in a poet and his name.

[Footnote 1: As notices of Dante's life have often been little but
repetitions of former ones, I think it due to the painstaking character
of this volume to state, that besides consulting various commentators
and critics, from Boccaccio to Fraticelli and others, I have diligently
perused the _Vita di Dante_, by Cesare Balbo, with Rocco's annotations;
the _Histoire Littéraire d'Italie,_ by Ginguéné; the _Discorso sul Testo
della Commedia_, by Foscolo; the _Amori e Rime di Dante_ of Arrivabene;
the _Veltro Allegorico di Dante_, by Troja; and Ozanam's _Dante et la
Philosophie Catholique an Treixième Siècle._]

[Footnote 2: Canto xv. 88.]

[Footnote 3: For the doubt apparently implied respecting the district,
see canto xvi. 43, or the summary of it in the present volume. The
following is the passage alluded to in the philosophical treatise
"Risponder si vorrebbe, non colle parole, ma col coltello, a tanta
bestialità." _Convito,--Opere Minori_, 12mo, Fir. 1834, vol. II. p. 432.
"Beautiful mode" (says Perticeri in a note) "of settling questions."]

[Footnote 4: _Istorie Fiorentine, II_. 43 (in _Tutte le Opere_, 4to,

[Footnote 5: The name has been varied into _Allagheri_, _Aligieri_,
_Alleghieri_, _Alligheri_, _Aligeri_, with the accent generally on the
third, but sometimes on the second syllable. See Foscolo, _Discorso sul
Testo, p_. 432. He says, that in Verona, where descendants of the poet
survive, they call it _Alìgeri_. But names, like other words, often
wander so far from their source, that it is impossible to ascertain it.
Who would suppose that _Pomfret_ came from _Pontefract_, or _wig_ from
_parrucca_? Coats of arms, unless in very special instances, prove
nothing but the whims of the heralds.

Those who like to hear of anything in connexion with Dante or his
name, may find something to stir their fancies in the following grim
significations of the word in the dictionaries:

"_Dante_, a kind of great wild beast in Africa, that hath a very hard
skin."--_Florio's Dictionary_, edited by Torreggiano.

"_Dante_, an animal called otherwise the Great Beast."--_Vocabolario
della Crusca, Compendiato_, Ven. 1729.]

[Footnote 6: See the passage in "Hell," where Virgil, to express his
enthusiastic approbation of the scorn and cruelty which Dante chews to
one of the condemned, embraces and kisses him for a right "disdainful
soul," and blesses the "mother that bore him."]

[Footnote 7: _Opere minori_, vol iii 12. Flor. 1839, pp. 292 &c.]

[Footnote 8: "Béatrix quitta la terre dans tout l'éclat de la jeunesse
et de la virginité." See the work as above entitled, Paris, 1840, p. 60.
The words in Latin, as quoted from the will by the critic alluded to in
the _Foreign Quarterly Review_ (No._ 65, art. _Dante Allighieri_), are,
"Bici filiæ suæ et uxori D. (Domini) Simonis de Bardis." "Bici" is
the Latin dative case of Bice, the abbreviation of Beatrice. This
employment, by the way, of an abbreviated name in a will, may seem to
go counter to the deductions respecting the name of Dante. And it
may really do so. Yet a will is not an epitaph, nor the address of a
beatified spirit; neither is equal familiarity perhaps implied, as a
matter of course, in the abbreviated names of male and female.]

[Footnote 9: _Vita Nuova_. ut sup. p. 343]

[Footnote 10: _Vita Nuova_, p. 345.]

[Footnote 11: In the article on _Dante, in_ the _Foreign Quarterly
Review_, (ut supra), the exordium of which made me hope that the
eloquent and assumption-denouncing writer was going to supply a good
final account of his author, equally satisfactory for its feeling
and its facts, but which ended in little better than the customary
gratuitousness of wholesale panegyric, I was surprised to find the
union with Gemma Donati characterised as "calm and cold,--rather the
accomplishment of a social duty than the result of an irresistible
impulse of the heart," p. 15. The accomplishment of the "social duty" is
an assumption, not very probable with regard to any body, and much less
so in a fiery Italian of twenty-six; but the addition of the epithets,
"calm and cold," gives it a sort of horror. A reader of this article,
evidently the production of a man of ability but of great wilfulness, is
tempted to express the disappointment it has given him in plainer terms
than might be wished, in consequence of the extraordinary license which
its writer does not scruple to allow to his own fancies, in expressing
his opinion of what he is pleased to think the fancies of others.]

[Footnote 12: "Le invettive contr' essa per tanti secoli originarono
dalla enumerazione rettorica del Boccaccio di tutti gli inconvenienti
del matrimonio, e dove per altro ei dichiara,--'Certo io non affermo
queste cose a Dante essere avvenute, che non lo so; comechè vero sia,
che o a simili cose a queste, o ad altro che ne fusse cagione, egli una
volta da lei partitosi, che per consolazione de' suoi affanni gli era
stata data, mai nè dove ella fusse volle venire, nè sofferse che dove
egli fusse ella venisse giammai, con tutto che di più figliuoli egli
insieme con lei fusse parente." _Discorso sul Testo_, ut sup. Londra,
Pickering, 1825, p. 184.]

[Footnote 13: Foscolo, in the _Edinburgh review_, vol. xxx. p. 351. ]

[Footnote 14: "Ahi piaciuto fosse al Dispensatore dell'universo, che la
cagione della mia scusa mai non fosse stata; che nè altri contro a me
avria fallato, nè io sofferto avrei pena ingiustamente; pena, dico,
d'esilio e di povertà. Poichè fu piacere de' cittadini della bellissima
e famosissima figlia di Roma, Florenza, di gettarmi fuori del suo
dolcissimo seno (nel quale nato e nudrito fui sino al colmo della mia
vita, e nel quale, con buona pace di quella, desidero con tutto il core
di riposare l'animo stanco, e terminare il tempo che m'è dato); per le
parti quasi tutte, alle quali questa lingua si stende, peregrino, quasi
mendicando, sono andato, mostrando contro a mia voglia la piaga della
fortuna, che suole ingiustamente al piagato molte volte essere imputata.
Veramente io sono stato legno sanza vela e sanza governo, portato a
diversi porti e foci e liti dal vento secco che vapora la dolorosa
povertà; e sono vile apparito agli occhi a molti, che forse per alcuna
fama in altra forma mi aveano immaginato; nel cospetto de' quali non
solamente mia persona inviliò, ma di minor pregio si fece ogni opera, si
già fatta, come quella che fosse a fare."-_Opere Minori_, ut sup. vol.
ii. p. 20.]

[Footnote 15: "In licteris vestris et reverentia debita et affectione
receptis, quam repatriatio mea cure sit vobis ex animo grata mente ac
diligenti animaversione concepi, etenim tanto me districtius obligastis,
quanto rarius exules invenire amicos contingit. ad illam vero
significata respondeo: et si non eatenus qualiter forsam pusillanimitas
appeteret aliquorum, ut sub examine vestri consilii ante judicium,
affectuose deposco. ecce igitur quod per licteras vestri mei: que
nepotis, necnon aliorum quamplurium amicorum significatum est mihi. per
ordinamentum nuper factum Florentie super absolutione bannitorum. quod
si solvere vellem certam pecunie quantitatem, vellemque pati notam
oblationis et absolvi possem et redire ut presens. in quo quidem duo
ridenda et male perconciliata sunt. Pater, dico male perconciliata per
illos qui tali expresserunt: nam vestre litere discretius et consultius
clausulate nicil de talibus continebant. estne ista revocatio gloriosa
qua d. all. (i. e. _Dantes Alligherius_) revocatur ad patriam per
trilustrium fere perpessus exilium? becne meruit conscientia manifesta
quibuslibet? hec sudor et labor continuatus in studiis? absit a viro
philosophie domestica temeraria terreni cordis humilitas, ut more
cujusdam cioli et aliorum infamiam quasi vinctus ipse se patiatur
offerri. absit a viro predicante justitiam, ut perpessus injuriam
inferentibus. velud benemerentibus, pecuniam suam solvat. non est hec
via redeundi ad patriam, Pater mi, sed si alia per vos, aut deinde per
alios invenietur que fame d. _(Dantis)_ que onori non deroget, illam non
lentis passibus acceptabo. quod si per nullam talem Florentia introitur,
nunquam Florentiam introibo. quidni? nonne solis astrorumque specula
ubique conspiciam? nonne dulcissimas veritates potero speculari ubique
sub celo, ni prius inglorium, imo ignominiosum populo, Florentineque
civitati am reddam? quippe panis non deficiet."]

[Footnote 16: _Opere minori_, ut sup. vol iii. p. 186.]

[Footnote 17: _Veltro Allegorico di Dante_, ut sup. p. 208, where the
Appendix contains the Latin original.]

[Footnote 18: See Fraticelli's Dissertation on the Convito, in _Opere
Minori_, ut sup. vol. ii. p. 560.]

[Footnote 19: _Discorso sul Testo_, p. 54.]

[Footnote 20: _Balbo_. Naples edition, p. 132.]

[Footnote 21: "Di se stesso presunse maravigliosamente tanto, che
essendo egli glorioso nel colmo del reggimento della republica, e
ragionandosi trà maggiori cittadini di mandare, per alcuna gran bisogna,
ambasciata a Bonifazio Papa VIII., e che principe della ambasciata fosse
Dante, ed egli in ciò in presenzia di tutti quegli che ciò consigliavano
richiesto, avvenne, che soprastando egli alla risposta, alcun disse, che
pensi? alle quali parole egli rispose: penso, se io vo, chi rimane; e
s'io rimango, chi va: quasi esso solo fosse colui che tra tutti valesse
e per cui tutti gli altri valessero." And he goes on to say respecting
the stone-throwing--"Appresso, come che il nostro poeta nelle sua
avversità paziente o no si fosse, in una fu impazientissimo: ed egli
infino al cominciamento del suo esilio stato guelfissimo, non essendogli
aperta la via del ritornare in casa sua, si fuor di modo diventò
ghibellino, che ogni femminella, ogni picciol fanciullo, e quante
volte avesse voluto, ragionando di parte, e la guelfa proponendo alla
ghibellino, l'avrebbe non solamente fatto turbare, ma a tanta insania
commosso, che se taciuto non fosse, a gittar le pietre l'avrebbe
condotto." (_Vita di Dante_, prefixed to the Paris edition of the
Commedia, 1844, p. XXV.) And then the "buon Boccaccio," with his
accustomed sweetness of nature, begs pardon of so great a man, for being
obliged to relate such things of him, and doubts whether his spirit may
not be looking down on him that moment _disdainfully_ from _heaven_!
Such an association of ideas had Dante produced between the celestial
and the scornful!]

[Footnote 22: _Novelle di Franco Sacchetti_, Milan edition, 1804, vol.
ii. p. 148. It forms the setting, or frame-work, of an inferior story,
and is not mentioned in the heading.]

[Footnote 23: _The Vision; or, Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, of Dante
Alighieri, &c._ Smith's edition, 1844, p. 90.]

[Footnote 24: _Discorso sul Testo_, pp. 64, 77-90, 335-338.]

[Footnote 25: _Purgatorio_, canto III. 118, 138; referred to by Foscolo,
in the _Discorso sul Testo_, p. 383.]

[Footnote 26: Warton's _History of English Poetry_, edition of 1840,
vol. iii. p. 214.]

[Footnote 27: _Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott_, Bart. vol. ii.
p. 122.]

[Footnote 28: _Pentameron and Pentalogia_, pp. 44-50.]

[Footnote 29: _Discorso sul Testo_, p. 226. The whole passage (sect.
cx.) is very eloquent, horrible, and _self-betraying_.]

[Footnote 30: _Discorso_, as above, p. 101.]

[Footnote 31: _Discorso_, p. 103.]

[Footnote 32: _Criticisms on the Rolliad, and Probationary Odes for the_
_Laureateship_. Third edit. 17S5, p. 317.]

[Footnote 33: The writer of the article on Dante in the _Foreign
Quarterly Review_ (as above) concedes that his hero in this passage
becomes "_almost_ cruel." Almost! Tormenting a man further, who is up to
his chin in everlasting ice, and whose face he has kicked!]

[Footnote 34: "Cortesia fu lui esser villano." _Inferno_, canto xxxiii.

[Footnote 35: Every body sees this who is not wilfully blind.
"Passionate," says the editor of the _Opere Minori_, "for the ancient
Italian glories, and the greatness of the Roman name, he was of
opinion that it was only by means of combined strength, and one common
government, that Italy could be finally secured from discord in its own
bosom and enemies from without, _and recover its ancient empire over
the whole world_." "Amantissimo delle antiche glorie Italiane, e della
grandezza del nome romano, ei considerava, che soltanto pel mezzo d'una
general forza ed autorita poteva l'Italia dalle interne contese e dalle
straniere invasioni restarsi sicura, _e recuperare l'antico imperio
sopra tutte le genti_."--Ut sup. vol. iii. p. 8.]





The infernal regions, according to Dante, are situate in the globe we
inhabit, directly beneath Jerusalem, and consist of a succession of
gulfs or circles, narrowing as they descend, and terminating in the
centre; so that the general shape is that of a funnel. Commentators have
differed as to their magnitude; but the latest calculation gives 315
miles for the diameter of the mouth or crater, and a quarter of a mile
for that of its terminating point. In the middle is the abyss, pervading
the whole depth, and 245 miles in diameter at the opening; which reduces
the different platforms, or territories that surround it, to a size
comparatively small. These territories are more or less varied with land
and water, lakes, precipices, &c. A precipice, fourteen miles high,
divides the first of them from the second. The passages from the upper
world to the entrance are various; and the descents from one circle
to another are effected by the poet and his guide in different
manners-sometimes on foot through by-ways, sometimes by the conveyance
of supernatural beings. The crater he finds to be the abode of those who
have done neither good nor evil, caring for nothing but themselves.
In the first circle are the whole unbaptised world--heathens and
infants--melancholy, though not tormented. Here also is found the
Elysium of Virgil, whose Charon and other infernal beings are among the
agents of torment. In the second circle the torments commence with the
sin of incontinence; and the punishment goes deepening with the crime
from circle to circle, through gluttony, avarice, prodigality, wrath,
sullenness, or unwillingness to be pleased with the creation, disbelief
in God and the soul (with which the punishment by fire commences),
usury, murder, suicide, blasphemy, seduction and other carnal
enormities, adulation, simony, soothsaying, astrology, witchcraft,
trafficking with the public interest, hypocrisy, highway robbery (on
the great Italian scale), sacrilege, evil counsel, disturbance of the
Church, heresy, false apostleship, alchemy, forgery, coining (all these,
from seduction downwards, in one circle); then, in the frozen or lowest
circle of all, treachery; and at the bottom of this is Satan, stuck into
the centre of the earth.

With the centre of the globe commences the antipodean attraction of its
opposite side, together with a rocky ascent out of it, through a
huge ravine. The poet and his guide, on their arrival at this spot,
accordingly find their position reversed; and so conclude their
_downward_ journey _upwards_, till they issue forth to light on the
borders of the sea which contains the island of Purgatory.


Dante says, that when he was half-way on his pilgrimage through this
life, he one day found himself, towards nightfall, in a wood where he
could no longer discern the right path. It was a place so gloomy and
terrible, every thing in it growing in such a strange and savage manner,
that the horror he felt returned on him whenever he thought of it. The
pass of death could hardly be more bitter. Travelling through it all
night with a beating heart, he at length came to the foot of a hill, and
looking up, as he began to ascend it, he perceived the shoulders of the
hill clad in the beams of morning; a sight which gave him some little
comfort. He felt like a man who has buffeted his way to land out of a
shipwreck, and who, though still anxious to get farther from his peril,
cannot help turning round to gaze on the wide waters. So did he stand
looking back on the pass that contained that dreadful wood. After
resting a while, he again betook him up the hill; but had not gone far
when he beheld a leopard bounding in front of him, and hindering his
progress. After the leopard came a lion, with his head aloft, mad with
hunger, and seeming to frighten the very air;[1] and after the lion,
more eager still, a she-wolf, so lean that she appeared to be sharpened
with every wolfish want. The pilgrim fled back in terror to the wood,
where he again found himself in a darkness to which the light never
penetrated. In that place, he said, the sun never spoke word.[2] But the
wolf was still close upon him.[3]

While thus flying, he beheld coming towards him a man, who spoke
something, but he knew not what. The voice sounded strange and feeble,
as if from disuse. Dante loudly called out to him to save him, whether
he was a man or only a spirit. The apparition, at whose sight the wild
beasts disappeared, said that he was no longer man, though man he
had been in the time of the false gods, and sung the history of the
offspring of Anchises.

"And art thou, then, that Virgil," said Dante, "who has filled the world
with such floods of eloquence? O glory and light of all poets, thou art
my master, and thou mine _author_; thou alone the book from which I have
gathered beauties that have gained me praise. Behold the peril I am in,
and help me, for I tremble in every vein and pulse."

Virgil comforted Dante. He told him that he must quit the wood by
another road, and that he himself would be his guide, leading him first
to behold the regions of woe underground, and then the spirits that
lived content in fire because it purified them for heaven; and then that
he would consign him to other hands worthier than his own, which should
raise him to behold heaven itself; for as the Pagans, of whom he was
one, had been rebels to the law of him that reigns there, nobody could
arrive at Paradise by their means.[4]

So saying, Virgil moved on his way, and Dante closely followed. He
expressed a fear, however, as they went, lest being "neither Æneas nor
St. Paul," his journey could not be worthily undertaken, nor end in
wisdom. But Virgil, after sharply rebuking him for his faintheartedness,
told him, that the spirit of her whom he loved, Beatrice, had come down
from heaven on purpose to commend her lover to his care; upon which the
drooping courage of the pilgrim was raised to an undaunted confidence;
as flowers that have been closed and bowed down by frosty nights, rise
all up on their stems in the morning sun.[5]

 "Non vuol che 'n sua città per me sì vegna."

The Pagans could not be rebels to a law they never heard of, any
more than Dante could be a rebel to Luther. But this is one of the
absurdities with which the impious effrontery or scarcely less
impious admissions of Dante's teachers avowedly set reason at
defiance,--retaining, meanwhile, their right of contempt for the
impieties of Mahometans and Brahmins; "which is odd," as the poet says;
for being not less absurd, or, as the others argued, much more so, they
had at least an equal claim on the submission of the reason; since the
greater the irrationality, the higher the theological triumph.

  "Through me is the road to the dolorous city;
  Through me is the road to the everlasting sorrows;
  Through me is the road to the lost people.
  Justice was the motive of my exalted maker;
  I was made by divine power, by consummate wisdom, and by primal love;
  Before me was no created thing, if not eternal; and eternal am I also.
  Abandon hope, all ye who enter."

Such were the words which Dante beheld written in dark characters over a
portal. "Master," said he to Virgil, "I find their meaning hard."

"A man," answered Virgil, "must conduct himself at this door like one
prepared. Hither must he bring no mistrust. Hither can come and live no
cowardice. We have arrived at the place I told thee of. Here thou art to
behold the dolorous people who have lost all intellectual good." [6]

So saying, Virgil placed his hand on Dante's, looking on him with a
cheerful countenance; and the Florentine passed with him through the
dreadful gate.

They entered upon a sightless gulf, in which was a black air without
stars; and immediately heard a hubbub of groans; and wailings, and
terrible things said in many languages, words of wretchedness, outcries
of rage, voices loud and hoarse, and sounds of the smitings of hands one
against another. Dante began to weep. The sound was as if the sand in
a whirlwind were turned into noises, and filled the blind air with
incessant conflict.

Yet these were not the souls of the wicked. They were those only who had
lived without praise or blame, thinking of nothing but themselves. These
miserable creatures were mixed with the angels who stood neutral in the
war with Satan. Heaven would not dull its brightness with those angels,
nor would lower hell receive them, lest the bad ones should triumph in
their company.

"And what is it," said Dante, "which makes them so grievously suffer?"

"Hopelessness of death," said Virgil. "Their blind existence here, and
immemorable former life, make them so wretched, that they envy every
other lot. Mercy and justice alike disdain them. Let us speak of them no
more. Look, and pass."

The companions went on till they came to a great river with a multitude
waiting on the banks. A hoary old man appeared crossing the river
towards them in a boat; and as he came, he said, "Woe to the wicked.
Never expect to see heaven. I come to bear you across to the dark
regions of everlasting fire and ice." Then looking at Dante, he said,
"Get thee away from the dead, thou who standest there, live spirit."

"Torment thyself not, Charon," said Virgil. "He has a passport beyond
thy power to question."

The shaggy cheeks of the boatman of the livid lake, who had wheels of
fire about his eyes, fell at these words; and he was silent. But the
naked multitude of souls whom he had spoken to changed colour, and
gnashed their teeth, blaspheming God, and their parents, and the human
species, and the place, and the hour, and the seed of the sowing of
their birth; and all the while they felt themselves driven onwards, by a
fear which became a desire, towards the cruel river-side, which awaits
every one destitute of the fear of God. The demon Charon, beckoning to
them with eyes like brasiers, collected them as they came, giving blows
to those that lingered, with his oar. One by one they dropped into the
boat like leaves from a bough in autumn, till the bough is left bare; or
as birds drop into the decoy at the sound of the bird-call.

There was then an earthquake, so terrible that the recollection of it
made the poet burst into a sweat at every pore. A whirlwind issued from
the lamenting ground, attended by vermilion flashes; and he lost his
senses, and fell like a man stupefied.

A crash of thunder through his brain woke up the pilgrim so hastily,
that he shook himself like a person roused by force. He found that he
was on the brink of a gulf, from which ascended a thunderous sound of
innumerable groanings. He could see nothing down it. It was too dark
with sooty clouds. Virgil himself turned pale, but said, "We are to go
down here. I will lead the way."

"O master," said Dante, "if even thou fearest, what is to become of
myself?" "It is pity, not fear," replied Virgil, "that makes me change

With these words his guide led him into the first circle of hell,
surrounding the abyss. The great noise gradually ceased to be heard, as
they journeyed inwards, till at last they became aware of a world of
sighs, which produced a trembling in the air. They were breathed by the
souls of such as had died without baptism, men, women, and infants; no
matter how good; no matter if they worshipped God before the coming of
Christ, for they worshipped him not "properly." Virgil himself was
one of them. They were all lost for no other reason; and their "only
suffering" consisted in "hopeless desire!"

Dante was struck with great sorrow when he heard this, knowing how many
good men must be in that place. He inquired if no one had ever been
taken out of it into heaven. Virgil told him there had, and he named
them; to wit, Adam, Abel, Noah, Moses, King David, obedient Abraham the
patriarch, and Isaac, and Jacob, with their children, and Rachel, for
whom Jacob did so much,--and "many more;" adding, however, that there
was no instance of salvation before theirs.

Journeying on through spirits as thick as leaves, Dante perceived a
lustre at a little distance, and observing shapes in it evidently of
great dignity, inquired who they were that thus lived apart from the
rest. Virgil said that heaven thus favoured them by reason of their
renown on earth. A voice was then heard exclaiming, "Honour and glory to
the lofty poet! Lo, his shade returns." Dante then saw four other noble
figures coming towards them, of aspect neither sad nor cheerful.

"Observe him with the sword in his hand," said Virgil, as they were
advancing. "That is Homer, the poets' sovereign. Next to him comes
Horace the satirist; then Ovid; and the last is Lucan."

"And thus I beheld," says Dante, "the bright school of the loftiest of
poets, who flies above the rest like an eagle."

For a while the illustrious spirits talked together, and then turned to
the Florentine with a benign salutation, at which his master smiled and
"further honour they did me," adds the father of Italian poetry, "for
they admitted me of their tribe; so that to a band of that high account
I added a sixth." [7]

The spirits returned towards the bright light in which they lived,
talking with Dante by the way, and brought him to a magnificent castle,
girt with seven lofty walls, and further defended with a river, which
they all passed as if it had been dry ground. Seven gates conducted them
into a meadow of fresh green, the resort of a race whose eyes moved with
a deliberate soberness, and whose whole aspects were of great authority,
their voices sweet, and their speech seldom.[8] Dante was taken apart to
an elevation in the ground, so that he could behold them all distinctly;
and there, on the "enamelled green," [9] were pointed out to him the
great spirits, by the sight of whom he felt exalted in his own esteem.
He saw Electra with many companions, among whom were Hector and Æneas,
and Cæsar in armour with his hawk's eyes; and on another side he beheld
old King Latinus with his daughter Lavinia, and the Brutus that expelled
Tarquin, and Lucretia, and Julia, and Cato's wife Marcia, and the mother
of the Gracchi, and, apart by himself, the Sultan Saladin. He then
raised his eyes a little, and beheld the "master of those who know" [10]
(Aristotle), sitting amidst the family of philosophers, and honoured
by them all. Socrates and Plato were at his side. Among the rest was
Democritus, who made the world a chance, and Diogenes, and Heraclitus,
&c. and Dioscorides, the good gatherer of simples. Orpheus also he saw,
and Cicero, and the moral Seneca, and Euclid, and Hippocrates, and
Avicen, and Averroes, who wrote the great commentary, and others too
numerous to mention. The company of six became diminished to two, and
Virgil took him forth on a far different road, leaving that serene air
for a stormy one; and so they descended again into darkness.

It was the second circle into which they now came--a sphere narrower
than the first, and by so much more the wretcheder. Minos sat at the
entrance, gnarling--he that gives sentence on every one that comes, and
intimates the circle into which each is to be plunged by the number of
folds into which he casts his tail round about him. Minos admonished
Dante to beware how he entered unbidden, and warned him against his
conductor; but Virgil sharply rebuked the judge, and bade him not set
his will against the will that was power.

The pilgrims then descended through hell-mouth, till they came to a
place dark as pitch, that bellowed with furious cross-winds, like a sea
in a tempest. It was the first place of torment, and the habitation of
carnal sinners. The winds, full of stifled voices, buffeted the souls
for ever, whirling them away to and fro, and dashing them against one
another. Whenever it seized them for that purpose, the wailing and the
shrieking was loudest, crying out against the Divine Power. Sometimes a
whole multitude came driven in a body like starlings before the wind,
now hither and thither, now up, now down; sometimes they went in a line
like cranes, when a company of those birds is beheld sailing along in
the air, uttering its dolorous clangs.

Dante, seeing a group of them advancing, inquired of Virgil who they
were. "Who are these," said he, "coming hither, scourged in the blackest
part of the hurricane?"

"She at the head of them," said Virgil, "was empress over many nations.
So foul grew her heart with lust, that she ordained license to be law,
to the end that herself might be held blameless. She is Semiramis, of
whom it is said that she gave suck to Ninus, and espoused him. Leading
the multitude next to her is Dido, she that slew herself for love, and
broke faith to the ashes of Sichaeus; and she that follows with the next
is the luxurious woman, Cleopatra."

Dante then saw Helen, who produced such a world of misery; and the great
Achilles, who fought for love till it slew him; and Paris; and Tristan;
and a thousand more whom his guide pointed at, naming their names, every
one of whom was lost through love.

The poet stood for a while speechless for pity, and like one bereft of
his wits. He then besought leave to speak to a particular couple who
went side by side, and who appeared to be borne before the wind with
speed lighter than the rest. His conductor bade him wait till they came
nigher, and then to entreat them gently by the love which bore them in
that manner, and they would stop and speak with him. Dante waited his
time, and then lifted up his voice between the gusts of wind, and
adjured the two "weary souls" to halt and have speech with him, if none
forbade their doing so; upon which they came to him, like doves to the

There was a lull in the tempest, as if on purpose to let them speak;
and the female addressed Dante, saying, that as he showed such pity for
their state, they would have prayed heaven to give peace and repose to
his life, had they possessed the friendship of heaven.[12]

"Love," she said, "which is soon kindled in a gentle heart, seized this
my companion for the fair body I once inhabited--how deprived of it, my
spirit is bowed to recollect. Love, which compels the beloved person
upon thoughts of love, seized me in turn with a delight in his passion
so strong, that, as thou seest, even here it forsakes me not. Love
brought us both to one end. The punishment of Cain awaits him that slew

The poet was struck dumb by this story. He hung down his head, and stood
looking on the ground so long, that his guide asked him what was in his
mind. "Alas!" answered he, "such then was this love, so full of sweet
thoughts; and such the pass to which it brought them! Oh, Francesca!" he
cried, turning again to the sad couple, "thy sufferings make me weep.
But tell me, I pray thee, what was it that first made thee know, for a
certainty, that his love was returned?--that thou couldst refuse him
thine no longer?"

"There is not a greater sorrow," answered she, "than calling to mind
happy moments in the midst of wretchedness.[13] But since thy desire is
so great to know our story to the root, hear me tell it as well as I
may for tears. It chanced, one day, that we sat reading the tale of
Sir Launcelot, how love took him in thrall. We were alone, and had no
suspicion. Often, as we read, our eyes became suspended,[14] and we
changed colour; but one passage alone it was that overcame us. When we
read how Genevra smiled, and how the lover, out of the depth of his
love, could not help kissing that smile, he that is never more to be
parted from me kissed me himself on the mouth, all in a tremble. Never
had we go-between but that book. The writer was the betrayer. That day
we read no more."

While these words were being uttered by one of the spirits, the other
wailed so bitterly, that the poet thought he should have died for pity.
His senses forsook him, and he fell flat on the ground, as a dead body

On regaining his senses, the poet found himself in the third circle of
hell, a place of everlasting wet, darkness, and cold, one heavy slush of
hail and mud, emitting a squalid smell. The triple-headed dog Cerberus,
with red eyes and greasy black beard, large belly, and hands with claws,
barked above the heads of the wretches who floundered in the mud,
tearing, skinning, and dismembering them, as they turned their sore and
soddened bodies from side to side. When he saw the two living men, he
showed his fangs, and shook in every limb for desire of their flesh.
Virgil threw lumps of dirt into his mouth, and so they passed him.

It was the place of Gluttons. The travellers passed over them, as if
they had been ground to walk upon. But one of them sat up, and addressed
the Florentine as his acquaintance. Dante did not know him, for the
agony in his countenance. He was a man nicknamed Hog (Ciacco), and by no
other name does the poet, or any one else, mention him. His countryman
addressed him by it, though declaring at the same time that he wept to
see him. Hog prophesied evil to his discordant native city, adding
that there were but two just men in it--all the rest being given up to
avarice, envy, and pride. Dante inquired by name respecting the fate of
five other Florentines, _who had done good_, and was informed that they
were all, for various offences, _in lower gulfs of hell_. Hog then
begged that he would mention having seen him when he returned to the
sweet world; and so, looking at him a little, bent his head, and
disappeared among his blinded companions.

"Satan! hoa, Satan!" roared the demon Plutus, as the poets were
descending into the fourth circle.

"Peace!" cried Virgil, "with thy swollen lip, thou accursed wolf. No one
can hinder his coming down. God wills it." [16]

Flat fell Plutus, collapsed, like the sails of a vessel when the mast is

This circle was the most populous one they had yet come to. The
sufferers, gifted with supernatural might, kept eternally rolling round
it, one against another, with terrific violence, and so dashing apart,
and returning. "Why grasp?" cried the one--"Why throw away?" cried the
other; and thus exclaiming, they dashed furiously together.

They were the Avaricious and the Prodigal. Multitudes of them were
churchmen, including cardinals and popes. Not all the gold beneath the
moon could have purchased them a moment's rest. Dante asked if none of
them were to be recognised by their countenances. Virgil said, "No;" for
the stupid and sullied lives which they led on earth swept their faces
away from all distinction for ever.

In discoursing of fortune, they descend by the side of a torrent, black
as ink, into the fifth circle, or place of torment for the Angry, the
Sullen, and the Proud. Here they first beheld a filthy marsh, full of
dirty naked bodies, that in everlasting rage tore one another to pieces.
In a quieter division of the pool were seen nothing but bubbles, carried
by the ascent, from its slimy bottom, of the stifled words of the
sullen. They were always saying, "We were sad and dark within us in the
midst of the sweet sunshine, and now we live sadly in the dark bogs."
The poets walked on till they came to the foot of a tower, which hung
out two blazing signals to another just discernible in the distance. A
boat came rapidly towards them, ferried by the wrathful Phlegyas;[17]
who cried out, "Aha, felon! and so thou hast come at last!"

"Thou errest," said Virgil. "We come for no longer time than it will
take thee to ferry us across thy pool."

Phlegyas looked like one defrauded of his right; but proceeded to convey
them. During their course a spirit rose out of the mire, looking Dante
in the face, and said, "Who art thou, that comest before thy time?"

"Who art thou?" said Dante.

"Thou seest who I am," answered the other; "one among the mourners."

"Then mourn still, and howl, accursed spirit," returned the Florentine.
"I know thee, all over filth as thou art."

The wretch in fury laid hold of the boat, but Virgil thrust him back,
exclaiming, "Down with thee! down among the other dogs!"

Then turning to Dante, he embraced and kissed him, saying, "O soul, that
knows how to disdain, blessed be she that bore thee! Arrogant, truly,
upon earth was this sinner, nor is his memory graced by a single virtue.
Hence the furiousness of his spirit now. How many kings are there at
this moment lording it as gods, who shall wallow here, as he does, like
swine in the mud, and be thought no better of by the world!" "I should
like to see him smothering in it," said Dante, "before we go."

"A right wish," said Virgil, "and thou shalt, to thy heart's content."

On a sudden the wretch's muddy companions seized and drenched him so
horribly that (exclaims Dante) "I laud and thank God for it now at this

"Have at him!" cried they; "have at Filippo Argenti;" and the wild fool
of a Florentine dashed his teeth for rage into his own flesh.[18]

The poet's attention was now drawn off by a noise of lamentation, and
he perceived that he was approaching the city of Dis.[19] The turrets
glowed vermilion with the fire within it, the walls appeared to be of
iron, and moats were round about them. The boat circuited the walls till
the travellers came to a gate, which Phlegyas, with a loud voice, told
them to quit the boat and enter. But a thousand fallen angels crowded
over the top of the gate, refusing to open it, and making furious
gestures. At length they agreed to let Virgil speak with them inside;
and he left Dante for a while, standing in terror without. The parley
was in vain. They would not let them pass. Virgil, however, bade his
companion be of good cheer, and then stood listening and talking to
himself; disclosing by his words his expectation of some extraordinary
assistance, and at the same time his anxiety for its arrival. On a
sudden, three raging figures arose over the gate, coloured with gore.
Green hydras twisted about them; and their fierce temples had snakes
instead of hair.

"Look," said Virgil. "The Furies! The one on the left is Megæra; Alecto
is she that is wailing on the right; and in the middle is Tisiphone."
Virgil then hushed. The Furies stood clawing their breasts, smiting
their hands together, and raising such hideous cries, that Dante clung
to his friend.

"Bring the Gorgon's head!" cried the Furies, looking down; "turn him to

"Turn round," said Virgil, "and hide thy face; for if thou beholdest
the Gorgon, never again wilt thou see the light of day." And with these
words he seized Dante and turned him round himself, clapping his hands
over his companion's eyes.

And now was heard coming over the water a terrible crashing noise, that
made the banks on either side of it tremble. It was like a hurricane
which comes roaring through the vain shelter of the woods, splitting and
hurling away the boughs, sweeping along proudly in a huge cloud of dust,
and making herds and herdsmen fly before it. "Now stretch your eyesight
across the water," said Virgil, letting loose his hands;--"there, where
the smoke of the foam is thickest." Dante looked; and saw a thousand of
the rebel angels, like frogs before a serpent, swept away into a heap
before the coming of a single spirit, who flew over the tops of the
billows with unwet feet. The spirit frequently pushed the gross air
from before his face, as if tired of the base obstacle; and as he came
nearer, Dante, who saw it was a messenger from heaven, looked anxiously
at Virgil. Virgil motioned him to be silent and bow down.

The angel, with a face full of scorn, as soon as he arrived at the gate,
touched it with a wand that he had in his hand, and it flew open.

"Outcasts of heaven," said he; "despicable race! whence this fantastical
arrogance? Do ye forget that your torments are laid oil thicker every
time ye kick against the Fates? Do ye forget how your Cerberus was bound
and chained till he lost the hair off his neck like a common dog?"

So saying he turned swiftly and departed the way he came, not addressing
a word to the travellers. His countenance had suddenly a look of some
other business, totally different from the one he had terminated.

The companions passed in, and beheld a place full of tombs red-hot. It
was the region of Arch heretics and their followers. Dante and his guide
passed round betwixt the walls and the sepulchres as in a churchyard,
and came to the quarter which held Epicurus and his sect, who denied the
existence of spirit apart from matter. The lids of the tombs remaining
unclosed till the day of judgment, the soul of a noble Florentine,
Farinata degli Uberti, hearing Dante speak, addressed him as a
countryman, asking him to stop.[20] Dante, alarmed, beheld him rise half
out of his sepulchre, looking as lofty as if he scorned hell itself.
Finding who Dante was, he boasted of having three times expelled the
Guelphs. "Perhaps so," said the poet; "but they came back again each
time; an art which their enemies have not yet acquired."

A visage then appeared from out another tomb, looking eagerly, as if it
expected to see some one else. Being disappointed, the tears came into
its eyes, and the sufferer said, "If it is thy genius that conducts thee
hither, where is my son, and why is he not with thee?"

"It is not my genius that conducts me," said Dante, "but that of one,
whom perhaps thy son held in contempt."

"How sayest thou?" cried the shade;--"_held_ in contempt? He is dead
then? He beholds no longer the sweet light?" And with these words
he dropped into his tomb, and was seen no more. It was Cavalcante
Cavalcanti, the father of the poet's friend, Guido.[21]

The shade of Farinata, who had meantime been looking on, now replied to
the taunt of Dante, prophesying that he should soon have good reason to
know that the art he spoke of _had_ been acquired; upon which Dante,
speaking with more considerateness to the lofty sufferer, requested to
know how the gift of prophecy could belong to spirits who were ignorant
of the time present. Farinata answered that so it was; just as there was
a kind of eyesight which could discern things at a distance though
not at hand. Dante then expressed his remorse at not having informed
Cavalcante that his son was alive. He said it was owing to his being
overwhelmed with thought on the subject he had just mentioned, and
entreated Farinata to tell him so.

Quitting this part of the cemetery, Virgil led him through the midst
of it towards a descent into a valley, from which there ascended a
loathsome odour. They stood behind one of the tombs for a while, to
accustom themselves to the breath of it; and then began to descend a
wild fissure in a rock, near the mouth of which lay the infamy of Crete,
the Minotaur. The monster beholding them gnawed himself for rage; and
on their persisting to advance, began plunging like a bull when he
is stricken by the knife of the butcher. They succeeded, however, in
entering the fissure before he recovered sufficiently from his madness
to run at them; and at the foot of the descent, came to a river of
boiling blood, on the strand of which ran thousands of Centaurs armed
with bows and arrows. In the blood, more or less deep according to the
amount of the crime, and shrieking as they boiled, were the souls of the
Inflicters of Violence; and if any of them emerged from it higher than
he had a right to do, the Centaurs drove him down with their arrows.
Nessus, the one that bequeathed Hercules the poisoned garment, came
galloping towards the pilgrims, bending his bow, and calling out from
a distance to know who they were; but Virgil, disdaining his hasty
character, would explain himself only to Chiron, the Centaur who
instructed Achilles. Chiron, in consequence, bade Nessus accompany
them along the river; and there they saw tyrants immersed up to the
eyebrows;--Alexander the Great among them, Dionysius of Syracuse, and
Ezzelino the Paduan. There was one of the Pazzi of Florence, and Rinieri
of Corneto (infestors of the public ways), now shedding bloody tears,
and Attila the Scourge, and Pyrrhus king of Epirus. Further on, among
those immersed up to the throat, was Guy de Montfort the Englishman, who
slew his father's slayer, Prince Henry, during divine service, in
the bosom of God; and then by degrees the river became shallower and
shallower till it covered only the feet; and here the Centaur quitted
the pilgrims, and they crossed over into a forest.

The forest was a trackless and dreadful forest--the leaves not green,
but black--the boughs not freely growing, but knotted and twisted--the
fruit no fruit, but thorny poison. The Harpies wailed among the trees,
occasionally showing their human faces; and on every side of him Dante
heard lamenting human voices, but could see no one from whom they came.
"Pluck one of the boughs," said Virgil. Dante did so; and blood and a
cry followed it.

"Why pluckest thou me?" said the trunk. "Men have we been, like thyself;
but thou couldst not use us worse, had we been serpents." The blood and
words came out together, as a green bough hisses and spits in the fire.

The voice was that of Piero delle Vigne, the good chancellor of the
Emperor Frederick the Second. Just though he had been to others, he
was thus tormented for having been unjust to himself; for, envy having
wronged him to his sovereign, who sentenced him to lose his eyes, he
dashed his brains out against a wall. Piero entreated Dante to vindicate
his memory. The poet could not speak for pity; so Virgil made the
promise for him, inquiring at the same time in what manner it was that
Suicides became thus identified with trees, and how their souls were to
rejoin their bodies at the day of judgment. Piero said, that the moment
the fierce self-murderer's spirit tore itself from the body, and passed
before Charon, it fell, like a grain of corn, into that wood, and so
grew into a tree. The Harpies then fed on its leaves, causing both pain
and a vent for lamentation. The body it would never again enter, having
thus cast away itself, but it would finally drag the body down to it by
a violent attraction; and every suicide's carcass will be hung upon the
thorn of its wretched shade.

The naked souls of two men, whose profusion had brought them to a
violent end, here came running through the wood from the fangs of black
female mastiff's--leaving that of a suicide to mourn the havoc which
their passage had made of his tree. He begged his countryman to gather
his leaves up, and lay them at the foot of his trunk, and Dante did so;
and then he and Virgil proceeded on their journey.

They issued from the wood on a barren sand, flaming hot, on which
multitudes of naked souls lay down, or sat huddled up, or restlessly
walked about, trying to throw from them incessant flakes of fire, which
came down like a fall of snow. They were the souls of the Impious. Among
them was a great spirit, who lay scornfully submitting himself to the
fiery shower, as though it had not yet ripened him.[22] Overhearing
Dante ask his guide who he was, he answered for himself, and said, "The
same dead as living. Jove will tire his flames out before they conquer

"Capaneus," exclaimed Virgil, "thy pride is thy punishment. No martyrdom
were sufficient for thee, equal to thine own rage." The besieger of
Thebes made no reply.

In another quarter of the fiery shower the pilgrims met a crowd of
Florentines, mostly churchmen, whose offence is not to be named; after
which they beheld Usurers; and then arrived at a huge waterfall, which
fell into the eighth circle, or that of the Fraudulent. Here Virgil, by
way of bait to the monster Geryon, or Fraud, let down over the side
of the waterfall the cord of St. Francis, which Dante wore about his
waist,[23] and presently the dreadful creature came up, and sate on the
margin of the fall, with his serpent's tail hanging behind him in
the air, after the manner of a beaver; but the point of the tail was
occasionally seen glancing upwards. He was a gigantic reptile, with the
face of a just man, very mild. He had shaggy claws for arms, and a body
variegated all over with colours that ran in knots and circles, each
within the other, richer than any Eastern drapery. Virgil spoke apart
to him, and then mounted on his back, bidding his companion, who was
speechless for terror, do the salve. Geryon pushed back with them from
the edge of the precipice, like a ship leaving harbour; and then,
turning about, wheeled, like a sullen successless falcon, slowly down
through the air in many a circuit. Dante would not have known that he
was going downward, but for the air that struck up wards on his face.
Presently they heard the crash of the waterfall on the circle below,
and then distinguished flaming fires and the noises of suffering.
The monster Geryon, ever sullen as the falcon who seats himself at a
distance from his dissatisfied master, shook his riders from off his
back to the water's side, and then shot away like an arrow.

This eighth circle of hell is called Evil-Budget,[24] and consists of
ten compartments, or gulfs of torment, crossed and connected with
one another by bridges of flint. In the first were beheld Pimps and
Seducers, scourged like children by horned devils; in the second,
Flatterers, begrimed with ordure; in the third, Simonists, who were
stuck like plugs into circular apertures, with their heads downwards,
and their legs only discernible, the soles of their feet glowing with a
fire which made them incessantly quiver. Dante, going down the side of
the gulf with Virgil, was allowed to address one of them who seemed in
greater agony than the rest; and, doing so, the sufferer cried out in a
malignant rapture, "Aha, is it thou that standest there, Boniface?[25]
Thou hast come sooner than it was prophesied." It was the soul of Pope
Nicholas the Third that spoke. Dante undeceived and then sternly
rebuked him for his avarice and depravity, telling him that nothing but
reverence for the keys of St. Peter hindered him from using harsher
words, and that it was such as he that the Evangelist beheld in the
vision, when he saw the woman with seven heads and ten horns, who
committed whoredom with the kings of the earth.

"O Constantine!" exclaimed the poet, "of what a world of evil was that
dowry the mother, which first converted the pastor of the church into a
rich man!" [26] The feet of the guilty pope spun with fiercer agony at
these words; and Virgil, looking pleased on Dante, returned with him
the way he came, till they found themselves on the margin of the fourth
gulf, the habitation of the souls of False Prophets.

It was a valley, in which the souls came walking along, silent and
weeping, at the pace of choristers who chant litanies. Their faces were
turned the wrong way, so that the backs of their heads came foremost,
and their tears fell on their loins. Dante was so overcome at the sight,
that he leant against a rock and wept; but Virgil rebuked him, telling
him that no pity at all was the only pity fit for that place.[27] There
was Amphiaraus, whom the earth opened and swallowed up at Thebes; and
Tiresias, who was transformed from sex to sex; and Aruns, who lived in
a cavern on the side of the marble mountains of Carrara, looking out on
the stars and ocean; and Manto, daughter of Tiresias (her hind tresses
over her bosom), who wandered through the world till she came and lived
in the solitary fen, whence afterwards arose the city of Mantua; and
Michael Scot, the magician, with his slender loins;[28] and Eurypylus,
the Grecian augur, who gave the signal with Calchas at Troy when to cut
away the cables for home. He came stooping along, projecting his face
over his swarthy shoulders. Guido Bonatti, too, was there, astrologer of
Forli; and Ardente, shoemaker of Parma, who now wishes he had stuck to
his last; and the wretched women who quit the needle and the distaff to
wreak their malice with herbs and images. Such was the punishment of
those who, desiring to see too far before them, now looked only behind
them, and walked the reverse way of their looking.

The fifth gulf was a lake of boiling pitch, constantly heaving and
subsiding throughout, and bubbling with the breath of those within it.
They were Public Peculators. Winged black devils were busy about the
lake, pronging the sinners when they occasionally darted up their backs
for relief like dolphins, or thrust out their jaws like frogs. Dante
at first looked eagerly down into the gulf, like one who feels that he
shall turn away instantly out of the very horror that attracts him.
"See--look behind thee!" said Virgil, dragging him at the same time from
the place where he stood, to a covert behind a crag. Dante looked round,
and beheld a devil coming up with a newly-arrived sinner across his
shoulders, whom he hurled into the lake, and then dashed down after him,
like a mastiff let loose on a thief. It was a man from Lucca, where
every soul was a false dealer except Bonturo.[29] The devil called out
to other devils, and a heap of them fell upon the wretch with hooks as
he rose to the surface; telling him, that he must practise there in
secret, if he practised at all; and thrusting him back into the boiling
pitch, as cooks thrust back flesh into the pot. The devils were of the
lowest and most revolting habits, of which they made disgusting jest and

Some of them, on a sudden, perceived Dante and his guide, and were going
to seize them, when Virgil resorted to his usual holy rebuke. For a
while they let him alone; and Dante saw one of them haul a sinner out of
the pitch by the clotted locks, and hold him up sprawling like an otter.
The rest then fell upon him and flayed him.

It was Ciampolo, a peculator in the service of the good Thiebault, king
of Navarre. One of his companions under the pitch was Friar Gomita,
governor of Gallura; and another, Michael Zanche, also a Sardinian.
Ciampolo ultimately escaped by a trick out of the hands of the devils,
who were so enraged that they turned upon the two pilgrims; but Virgil,
catching up Dante with supernatural force, as a mother does a child in
a burning house, plunged with him out of their jurisdiction into the
borders of gulf the sixth, the region of Hypocrites.

The hypocrites, in perpetual tears, walked about in a wearisome and
exhausted manner, as if ready to faint. They wore huge cowls, which hung
over their eyes, and the outsides of which were gilded, but the insides
of lead. Two of them had been rulers of Florence; and Dante was
listening to their story, when his attention was called off by the sight
of a cross, on which Caiaphas the High Priest was writhing, breathing
hard all the while through his beard with sighs. It was his office to
see that every soul which passed him, on its arrival in the place, was
oppressed with the due weight. His father-in-law, Annas, and all his
council, were stuck in like manner on crosses round the borders of the
gulf. The pilgrims beheld little else in this region of weariness, and
soon passed into the borders of one of the most terrible portions of
Evil-budget, the land of the transformation of Robbers.

The place was thronged with serpents of the most appalling and unwonted
description, among which ran tormented the naked spirits of the
robbers, agonised with fear. Their hands were bound behind them with
serpents--their bodies pierced and enfolded with serpents. Dante saw one
of the monsters leap up and transfix a man through the nape of the neck;
when, lo! sooner than a pen could write _o_, or _i_, the sufferer burst
into flames, burnt up, fell to the earth a heap of ashes--was again
brought together, and again became a man, aghast with his agony, and
staring about him, sighing.[30] Virgil asked him who he was.

"I was but lately rained down into this dire gullet," said the man,
"amidst a shower of Tuscans. The beast Vanni Fucci am I, who led a
brutal life, like the mule that I was, in that den Pistoia."

"Compel him to stop," said Dante, "and relate what brought him hither. I
knew the bloody and choleric wretch when he was alive."

The sinner, who did not pretend to be deaf to these words, turned round
to the speaker with the most painful shame in his face, and said, "I
feel more bitterly at being caught here by thee in this condition, than
when I first arrived. A power which I cannot resist compels me to let
thee know, that I am here because I committed sacrilege and charged
another with the crime; but now, mark me, that thou mayest hear
something not to render this encounter so pleasant: Pistoia hates thy
party of the Whites, and longs for the Blacks back again. It will have
them, and so will Florence; and there will be a bloody cloud shall burst
over the battlefield of Piceno, which will dash many Whites to the
earth. I tell thee this to make thee miserable."

So saying, the wretch gave a gesture of contempt with his thumb and
finger towards heaven, and said, "Take it, God--a fig for thee!" [31]

"From that instant," said Dante, "the serpents and I were friends; for
one of them throttled him into silence, and another dashed his hands
into a knot behind his back. O Pistoia! Pistoia! why art not thou
thyself turned into ashes, and swept from the face of the earth, since
thy race has surpassed in evil thine ancestors? Never, through the
whole darkness of hell, beheld I a blasphemer so dire as this--not even
Capaneus himself."

The Pistoian fled away with the serpents upon him, followed by a
Centaur, who came madly galloping up, crying, "Where is the caitiff?" It
was the monster-thief Cacus, whose den upon earth often had a pond of
blood before it, and to whom Hercules, in his rage, when he slew him,
gave a whole hundred blows with his club, though the wretch perceived
nothing after the ninth. He was all over adders up to the mouth; and
upon his shoulders lay a dragon with its wings open, breathing fire on
whomsoever it met.

The Centaur tore away; and Dante and Virgil were gazing after him, when
they heard voices beneath the bank on which they stood, crying, "Who are
ye?" The pilgrims turned their eyes downwards, and beheld three spirits,
one of whom, looking about him, said, "Where's Cianfa?" Dante made a
sign to Virgil to say nothing.

Cianfa came forth, a man lately, but now a serpent with six feet.[32]

"If thou art slow to believe, reader, what I am about to tell thee,"
says the poet, "be so; it is no marvel; for I myself, even now, scarcely
credit what I beheld."

The six-footed serpent sprang at one of the three men front to front,
clasping him tightly with all its legs, and plunging his fangs into
either cheek. Ivy never stuck so close to a tree as the horrible monster
grappled with every limb of that pinioned man. The two forms then
gradually mingled into one another like melting wax, the colours of
their skin giving way at the same time to a third colour, as the white
in a piece of burning paper recedes before the brown, till it all
becomes black. The other two human shapes looked on, exclaiming,
"Oh, how thou changest, Agnello! See, thou art neither two nor yet one."
And truly, though the two heads first became one, there still remained
two countenances in the face. The four arms then became but two, and
such also became the legs and thighs; and the two trunks became such a
body as was never beheld; and the hideous twofold monster walked slowly

A small black serpent on fire now flashed like lightning on to the body
of one of the other two, piercing him in the navel, and then falling on
the ground, and lying stretched before him. The wounded man, fascinated
and mute, stood looking at the adder's eyes, and endeavouring to stand
steady on his legs, yawning the while as if smitten with lethargy or
fever; the adder, on his part, looked up at the eyes of the man, and
both of them breathed hard, and sent forth a smoke that mingled into one

And now, let Lucan never speak more of the wretched Sabellus or
Nisidius, but listen and be silent; and now, let Ovid be silent, nor
speak again of his serpent that was Cadmus, or his fountain that was
Arethusa; for, says the Tuscan poet, I envy him not. Never did he change
the natures of two creatures face to face, so that each received the
form of the other.

With corresponding impulse, the serpent split his train into a fork,
while the man drew his legs together into a train; the skin of the
serpent grew soft, while the man's hardened; the serpent acquired
tresses of hair, the man grew hairless; the claws of the one projected
into legs, while the arms of the other withdrew into his shoulders; the
face of the serpent, as it rose from the ground, retreated towards the
temples, pushing out human ears; that of the man, as he fell to the
ground, thrust itself forth into a muzzle, withdrawing at the same time
its ears into its head, as the slug does its horns; and each creature
kept its impious eyes fixed on the other's, while the features beneath
the eyes were changing. The soul which had become the serpent then
turned to crawl away, hissing in scorn as he departed; and the serpent,
which had become the man, spat after him, and spoke words at him. The
new human-looking soul then turned his back on his late adversary, and
said to the third spirit, who remained unchanged, "Let Buoso now take to
his crawl, as I have done."

The two then hastened away together, leaving Dante in a state of
bewildered amazement, yet not so confused but that he recognised the
unchanged one for another of his countrymen, Puccio the Lame. "Joy to
thee, Florence!" cried the poet; "not content with having thy name
bruited over land and sea, it flourishes throughout hell."

The pilgrims now quitted the seventh, and looked down from its barrier
into the eighth gulf, where they saw innumerable flames, distinct from
one another, flickering all over the place like fire-flies.

"In those flames," said Virgil, "are souls, each tormented with the fire
that swathes it."

"I observe one," said Dante, "divided at the summit. Are the Theban
brothers in it?"

"No," replied Virgil; "in that flame are Diomed and Ulysses." The
sinners punished in this gulf were Evil Counsellors; and those two were
the advisers of the stratagem of the Trojan horse.

Virgil addressed Ulysses, who told him the conclusion of his adventures,
not to be found in books: how he tired of an idle life, and sailed forth
again into the wide ocean; and how he sailed so far that he came into a
region of new stars, and in sight of a mountain, the loftiest he ever
saw; when, unfortunately, a hurricane fell upon them from the shore,
thrice whirled their vessel round, then dashed the stern up in air and
the prow under water, and sent the billows over their heads.

"Enough," said Virgil; "I trouble thee no more." The soul of Guido di
Montefeltro, overhearing the great Mantuan speak in a Lombard dialect,
asked him news of the state of things in Romagna; and then told him how
he had lost his chance of paradise, by thinking Pope Boniface could at
once absolve him from his sins, and use them for his purposes.[34] He
was going to heaven, he said, by the help of St. Francis, who came on
purpose to fetch him, when a black angel met them, and demanded his
absolved, indeed, but unrepented victim. "To repent evil, and to will
to do it, at one and the same time, are," said the dreadful angel,
"impossible: therefore wrong me not."

"Oh, how I shook," said the unhappy Guido, "when he laid his hands upon
me!" And with these words the flame writhed and beat itself about for
agony, and so took its way.

The pilgrims crossed over to the banks of the ninth gulf, where the
Sowers of Scandal, the Schismatics, Heretics, and Founders of False
Religions, underwent the penalties of such as load themselves with the
sins of those whom they seduce.

The first sight they beheld was Mahomet, tearing open his own bowels,
and calling out to them to mark him. Before him walked his son-in-law,
Ali, weeping, and cloven to the chin; and the divisions in the church
were punished in like manner upon all the schismatics in the place. They
all walked round the circle, their gashes closing as they went; and on
their reaching a certain point, a fiend hewed them open again with a
sword. The Arabian prophet, ere he passed on, bade the pilgrims
warn Friar Dolcino how he suffered himself to be surprised in his
mountain-hold by the starvations of winter-time, if he did not wish
speedily to follow him.[35]

Among other mangled wretches, they beheld Piero of Medicina, a sower of
dissension, exhibiting to them his face and throat all over wounds; and
Curio, compelled to shew his tongue cut out for advising Cæsar to cross
the Rubicon; and Mosca de' Lamberti, an adviser of assassination, and
one of the authors of the Guelf and Ghibelline miseries, holding up
the bleeding stumps of his arms, which dripped on his face. "Remember
Mosca," cried he; "remember him, alas! who said, 'A deed done is a thing
ended.' A bad saying of mine was that for the Tuscan nation."

"And death to thy family," cried Dante.

The assassin hurried away like a man driven mad with grief upon grief;
and Dante now beheld a sight, which, if it were not, he says, for the
testimony of a good conscience--that best of friends, which gives a
man assurance of himself under the breastplate of a spotless
innocence[36]--he should be afraid to relate without further proof. He
saw--and while he was writing the account of it he still appeared to
see--a headless trunk about to come past him with the others. It held
its severed head by the hair, like a lantern; and the head looked up
at the two pilgrims, and said, "Woe is me!" The head was, in fact, a
lantern to the paths of the trunk; and thus there were two separated
things in one, and one in two; and how that could be, he only can tell
who ordained it. As the figure came nearer, it lifted the head aloft,
that the pilgrims might hear better what it said. "Behold," it said,
"behold, thou that walkest living among the dead, and say if there be
any punishment like this. I am Bertrand de Born, he that incited John
of England to rebel against his father. Father and son I set at
variance--closest affections I set at variance--and hence do I bear my
brain severed from the body on which it grew. In me behold the work of
retribution." [37]

The eyes of Dante were so inebriate with all that diversity of bleeding
wounds, that they longed to stay and weep ere his guide proceeded
further. Something also struck them on the sudden which added to his
desire to stop. But Virgil asked what ailed him, and why he stood gazing
still on the wretched multitude. "Thou hast not done so," continued he,
"in any other portion of this circle; and the valley is twenty-two miles
further about, and the moon already below us. Thou hast more yet to see
than thou wottest of, and the time is short."

Dante, excusing himself for the delay, and proceeding to follow his
leader, said he thought he had seen, in the cavern at which he was
gazing so hard, a spirit that was one of his own family--and it was so.
It was the soul of Geri del Bello, a cousin of the poet's. Virgil said
that he had observed him, while Dante was occupied with Bertrand de
Born, pointing at his kinsman in a threatening manner. "Waste not a
thought on him," concluded the Roman, "but leave him as he is." "O
honoured guide!" said Dante, "he died a violent death, which his kinsmen
have not yet avenged; and hence it is that he disdained to speak to me;
and I must needs feel for him the more on that account." [38]

They came now to the last partition of the circle of Evil-budget, and
their ears were assailed with such a burst of sharp wailings, that Dante
was fain to close his with his hands. The misery there, accompanied by
a horrible odour, was as if all the hospitals in the sultry marshes of
Valdichiana had brought their maladies together into one infernal ditch.
It was the place of punishment for pretended Alchemists, Coiners,
Personators of other people, False Accusers, and Impostors of all such
descriptions. They lay on one another in heaps, or attempted to crawl
about--some itching madly with leprosies--some swollen and gasping with
dropsies--some wetly reeking, like hands washed in winter-time. One
was an alchemist of Sienna, a nation vainer than the French; another a
Florentine, who tricked a man into making a wrong will; another, Sinon
of Troy; another, Myrrha; another, the wife of Potiphar. Their miseries
did not hinder them from giving one another malignant blows; and Dante
was listening eagerly to an abusive conversation between Sinon and
a Brescian coiner, when Virgil rebuked him for the disgraceful
condescension, and said it was a pleasure fit only for vulgar minds.[39]

The blushing poet felt the reproof so deeply, that he could not speak
for shame, though he manifested by his demeanour that he longed to do
so, and thus obtained the pardon he despaired of. He says he felt like a
man that, during an unhappy dream, wishes himself dreaming while he
is so, and does not know it. Virgil understood his emotion, and, as
Achilles did with his spear, healed the wound with the tongue that
inflicted it.

A silence now ensued between the companions; for they had quitted
Evil-budget, and arrived at the ninth great circle of hell, on the mound
of which they passed along, looking quietly and steadily before them.
Daylight had given place to twilight; and Dante was advancing his head
a little, and endeavouring to discern objects in the distance, when his
whole attention was called to one particular spot, by a blast of a
horn so loud, that a thunder clap was a whisper in comparison. Orlando
himself blew no such terrific blast, after the dolorous rout, when
Charlemagne was defeated in his holy enterprise.[40] The poet raised his
head, thinking he perceived a multitude of lofty towers. He asked Virgil
to what region they belonged; but Virgil said, "Those are no towers:
they are giants, standing each up to his middle in the pit that goes
round this circle." Dante looked harder; and as objects clear up by
little and little in the departing mist, he saw, with alarm, the
tremendous giants that warred against Jove, standing half in and
half out of the pit, like the towers that crowned the citadel of
Monteseggione. The one whom he saw plainest, and who stood with his arms
hanging down on each side, appeared to him to have a face as huge as
the pinnacle of St. Peter's, and limbs throughout in proportion. The
monster, as the pilgrims were going by, opened his dreadful mouth, fit
for no sweeter psalmody, and called after them, in the words of some
unknown tongue, _Rafel, maee amech zabee almee_.[41] "Dull wretch!"
exclaimed Virgil, "keep to thine horn, and so vent better whatsoever
frenzy or other passion stuff thee. Feel the chain round thy throat,
thou confusion! See, what a clenching hoop is about thy gorge!" Then he
said to Dante, "His howl is its own mockery. This is Nimrod, he through
whose evil ambition it was that mankind ceased to speak one language.
Pass him, and say nothing; for every other tongue is to him, as his is
to thee."

The companions went on for about the length of a sling's throw, when
they passed the second giant, who was much fiercer and linger than
Nimrod. He was fettered round and round with chains, that fixed one arm
before him and the other behind him--Ephialtes his name, the same that
would needs make trial of his strength against Jove himself. The hands
which he then wielded were now motionless, but he shook with passion;
and Dante thought he should have died for terror, the effect on the
ground about him was so fearful. It surpassed that of a tower shaken by
an earthquake. The poet expressed a wish to look at Briareus, but he was
too far off. He saw, however, Antæus, who, not having fought against
heaven, was neither tongue-confounded nor shackled; and Virgil requested
the "taker of a thousand lions," by the fame which the living poet had
it in his power to give him, to bear the travellers in his arms down the
steep descent into this deeper portion of hell, which was the region of
tormenting cold. Antmus, stooping, like the leaning tower of Bologna,
to take them up, gathered them in his arms, and, depositing them in the
gulf below, raised himself to depart like the mast of a ship.[42]

Had I hoarse and rugged words equal to my subject, says the poet, I
would now make them fuller of expression, to suit the rocky horror of
this hole of anguish; but I have not, and therefore approach it with
fear, since it is no jesting enterprise to describe the depths of the
universe, nor fit for a tongue that babbles of father and mother.[43]
Let such of the Muses assist me as turned the words of Amphion into
Theban walls; so shall the speech be not too far different from the

Oh, ill-starred creatures! wretched beyond all others, to inhabit a
place so hard to speak of--better had ye been sheep or goats.

The poet was beginning to walk with his guide along the place in which
the giant had set them down, and was still looking up at the height from
which he had descended, when a voice close to him said, "Have a care
where thou treadest. Hurt not with thy feet the heads of thy unhappy

Dante looked down and before him, and saw that he was walking on a lake
of ice, in which were Murderous Traitors up to their chins, their teeth
chattering, their faces held down, their eyes locked up frozen with
tears. Dante saw two at his feet so closely stuck together, that the
very hairs of their heads were mingled. He asked them who they were, and
as they lifted up their heads for astonishment, and felt the cold doubly
congeal them, they dashed their heads against one another for hate and
fury. They were two brothers who had murdered each other.[44] Near them
were other Tuscans, one of whom the cold had deprived of his ears; and
thousands more were seen grinning like dogs, for the pain.

Dante, as he went along, _kicked_ the face of one of them, whether by
chance, or fate, or _will_,[45] he could not say. The sufferer burst
into tears, and cried out, "Wherefore dost thou torment me? Art thou
come to revenge the defeat at Montaperto?" The pilgrim at this question
felt eager to know who he was; but the unhappy wretch would not tell.
His countryman seized him by the hair to force him; but still he said
he would not tell, were he to be scalped a thousand times. Dante, upon
this, began plucking up his hairs by the roots, the man _barking_,[46]
with his eyes squeezed up, at every pull; when another soul exclaimed,
"Why, Bocca, what the devil ails thee? Must thou needs bark for cold as
well as chatter?" [47]

"Now, accursed traitor, betrayer of thy country's standard," said Dante,
"be dumb if thou wilt; for I shall tell thy name to the world."

"Tell and begone!" said Bocca; "but carry the name of this babbler with
thee; 'tis Buoso, who left the pass open to the enemy between Piedmont
and Parma; and near him is the traitor for the pope, Beccaria; and
Ganellone, who betrayed Charlemagne; and Tribaldello, who opened Faenza
to the enemy at night-time."

The pilgrims went on, and beheld two other spirits so closely locked up
together in one hole of the ice, that the head of one was right over the
other's, like a cowl; and Dante, to his horror, saw that the upper head
was devouring the lower with all the eagerness of a man who is famished.
The poet asked what could possibly make him skew a hate so brutal;
adding, that if there were any ground for it, he would tell the story to
the world.[48]

The sinner raised his head from the dire repast, and after wiping his
jaws with the hair of it, said, "You ask a thing which it shakes me to
the heart to think of. It is a story to renew all my misery. But since
it will produce this wretch his due infamy, hear it, and you shall see
me speak and weep at the same time. How thou tamest hither I know not;
but I perceive by thy speech that thou art Florentine.

"Learn, then, that I was the Count Ugolino, and this man was Ruggieri
the Archbishop. How I trusted him, and was betrayed into prison, there
is no need to relate; but of his treatment of me there, and how cruel a
death I underwent, bear; and then judge if he has offended me.

"I had been imprisoned with my children a long time in the tower which
has since been called from me the Tower of Famine; and many a new moon
had I seen through the hole that served us for a window, when I dreamt a
dream that foreshadowed to me what was coming. Methought that this man
headed a great chase against the wolf, in the mountains between Pisa
and Lucca. Among the foremost in his party were Gualandi, Sismondi, and
Lanfranchi, and the hounds were thin and eager, and high-bred; and in a
little while I saw the hounds fasten on the flanks of the wolf and the
wolf's children, and tear them. At that moment I awoke with the voices
of my own children in my ears, asking for bread. Truly cruel must thou
be, if thy heart does not ache to think of what I thought then. If thou
feel not for a pang like that, what is it for which thou art accustomed
to feel? We were now all awake; and the time was at hand when they
brought us bread, and we had all dreamt dreams which made us anxious. At
that moment I heard the key of the horrible tower turn in the lock of
the door below, and fasten it. I looked at my children, and said not a
word. I did not weep. I made a strong effort upon the soul within me.
But my little Anselm said, 'Father, why do you look so? Is any thing the
matter?' Nevertheless I did not weep, nor say a word all the day, nor
the night that followed. In the morning a ray of light fell upon us
through the window of our sad prison, and I beheld in those four little
faces the likeness of my own face, and then I began to gnaw my hands for
misery. My children, thinking I did it for hunger, raised themselves on
the floor, and said, 'Father, we should be less miserable if you would
eat our own flesh. It was you that gave it us. Take it again.' Then I
sat still, in order not to make them unhappier: and that day and
the next we all remained without speaking. On the fourth day, Gaddo
stretched himself at my feet, and said, 'Father, why won't you help me?'
and there he died. And as surely as thou lookest on me, so surely I
beheld the whole three die in the same manner. So I began in my misery
to grope about in the dark for them, for I had become blind; and three
days I kept calling on them by name, though they were dead; till famine
did for me what grief had been unable to do."

With these words, the miserable man, his eyes starting from his head,
seized that other wretch again with his teeth, and ground them against
the skull as a dog does with a bone.

O Pisa! scandal of the nations! since thy neighbours are so slow to
punish thee, may the very islands tear themselves up from their roots in
the sea, and come and block up the mouth of thy river, and drown every
soul within thee. What if this Count Ugolino did, as report says he did,
betray thy castles to the enemy? his children had not betrayed them; nor
ought they to have been put to an agony like this. Their age was their
innocence; and their deaths have given thee the infamy of a second

The pilgrims passed on, and beheld other traitors frozen up in swathes
of ice, with their heads upside down. Their very tears had hindered them
from shedding more; for their eyes were encrusted with the first they
shed, so as to be enclosed with them as in a crystal visor, which forced
back the others into an accumulation of anguish. One of the sufferers
begged Dante to relieve him of this ice, in order that he might vent a
little of the burden which it repressed. The poet said he would do so,
provided he would disclose who he was. The man said he was the friar
Alberigo, who invited some of his brotherhood to a banquet in order to
slay them.

"What!" exclaimed Dante, "art thou no longer, then, among the living?"

"Perhaps I appear to be," answered the friar; "for the moment any one
commits a treachery like mine, his soul gives up his body to a demon,
who thenceforward inhabits it in the man's likeness. Thou knowest Branca
Doria, who murdered his father-in-law, Zanche? He seems to be walking
the earth still, and yet he has been in this place many years." [50]

"Impossible!" cried Dante; "Branca Doria is still alive; he eats,
drinks, and sleeps, like any other man."

"I tell thee," returned the friar, "that the soul of the man he slew had
not reached that lake of boiling pitch in which thou sawest him, ere the
soul of his slayer was in this place, and his body occupied by a demon
in its stead. But now stretch forth thy hand, and relieve mine eyes."

Dante relieved them not. Ill manners, he said, were the only courtesy
fit for such a wretch.[51]

O ye Genoese! he exclaims,--men that are perversity all over, and full
of every corruption to the core, why are ye not swept from the face of
the earth? There is one of you whom you fancy to be walking about like
other men, and he is all the while in the lowest pit of hell!

"Look before thee," said Virgil, as they advanced: "behold the banners
of the King of Hell."

Dante looked, and beheld something which appeared like a windmill in
motion, as seen from a distance on a dark night. A wind of inconceivable
sharpness came from it.

The souls of those who had been traitors to their benefactors were here
frozen up in depths of pellucid ice, where they were seen in a variety
of attitudes, motionless; some upright, some downward, some bent double,
head to foot.

At length they came to where the being stood who was once eminent for
all fair seeming.[52] This was the figure that seemed tossing its arms
at a distance like a windmill.

"Satan," whispered Virgil; and put himself in front of Dante to
re-assure him, halting him at the same time, and bidding him summon all
his fortitude. Dante stood benumbed, though conscious; as if he himself
had been turned to ice. He felt neither alive nor dead.

The lord of the dolorous empire, each of his arms as big as a giant,
stood in the ice half-way up his breast. He had one head, but three
faces; the middle, vermilion; the one over the right shoulder a pale
yellow; the other black. His sails of wings, huger than ever were beheld
at sea, were in shape and texture those of a bat; and with these be
constantly flapped, so as to send forth the wind that froze the depths
of Tartarus. From his six eyes the tears ran down, mingling at his three
chins with bloody foam; for at every mouth he crushed a sinner with his
teeth, as substances are broken up by an engine. The middle sinner was
the worst punished, for he was at once broken and flayed, and his head
and trunk were inside the mouth. It was Judas Iscariot.

Of the other two, whose heads were hanging out, one was Brutus, and the
other Cassius. Cassius was very large-limbed. Brutus writhed with agony,
but uttered not a word.[53]

"Night has returned," said Virgil, "and all has been seen. It is time to
depart onward."

Dante then, at his bidding, clasped, as Virgil did, the huge inattentive
being round the neck; and watching their opportunity, as the wings
opened and shut, they slipped round it, and so down his shaggy and
frozen sides, from pile to pile, clutching it as they went; till
suddenly, with the greatest labour and pain, they were compelled to turn
themselves upside down, as it seemed, but in reality to regain their
proper footing; for they had passed the centre of gravity, and become

Then looking down at what lately was upward, they saw Lucifer with his
feet towards them; and so taking their departure, ascended a gloomy
vault, till at a distance, through an opening above their heads, they
beheld the loveliness of the stars.[54]

[Footnote 1: "Parea che l'aer ne temesse."]

[Footnote 2: "Là dove 'l sol tace." "The sun to me is dark, And _silent_
is the moon, Hid in her vacant interlunar cave."--Milton.]

[Footnote 3: There is great difference among the commentators respecting
the meaning of the three beasts; some supposing them passions, others
political troubles, others personal enemies, &c. The point is not of
much importance, especially as a mystery was intended; but nobody, as
Mr. Cary says, can doubt that the passage was suggested by one in the
prophet Jeremiah, v. 6: "Wherefore a lion out of the forest shall slay
them, and a wolf of the evenings shall spoil them; a leopard shall watch
over their cities."]

[Footnote 4:

  "Che quello 'mperador che là su regna
  Perch' i' fu'ribellante à la sua legge,
  Non vuol che 'n sua città per me sì vegna." ]

[Footnote 5:

  "Quale i fioretti dal notturno gelo
  Chinati e chiusi, poi che 'l sol gl'imbianca,
  Si drizzan tutti aperti in loro stelo."

  Like as the flowers that with the frosty night
  Are bowed and closed, soon as the sun returns,
  Rise on their stems, all open and upright.]

[Footnote 6: This loss of intellectual good, and the confession of the
poet that he finds the inscription over hell-portal hard to understand
(_il senso lor m'è duro_), are among the passages in Dante which lead
some critics to suppose that his hell is nothing but an allegory,
intended at once to imply his own disbelief in it as understood by the
vulgar part of mankind, and his employment of it, nevertheless, as a
salutary check both to the foolish and the reflecting;--to the foolish,
as an alarm; and to the reflecting, as a parable. It is possible, in the
teeth of many appearances to the contrary, that such may have been the
case; but in the doubt that it affects either the foolish or the wise to
any good purpose, and in the certainty that such doctrines do a world
of mischief to tender consciences and the cause of sound piety, such
monstrous contradictions, in terms, of every sense of justice and
charity which God has implanted in the heart of man, are not to be
passed over without indignant comment.]

[Footnote 7: It is seldom that a boast of this kind--not, it must be
owned, bashful--has been allowed by posterity to be just; nay, in four
out of the five instances, below its claims.]

[Footnote 8:

  "Genti v'eran, con occhi tardi e gravi,
  Di grande autorita ne' lor sembianti
  Parlavan rado, con voci soavi." ]

[Footnote 9: "Sopra 'l verde smalto." Mr. Cary has noticed the
appearance, for the first time, of this beautiful but now commonplace

[Footnote 10: "Il maestro di color che sanno."]

[Footnote 11: This is the famous episode of Paulo and Francesca. She
was daughter to Count Guido da Polenta, lord of Ravenna, and wife to
Giovanni Malatesta, one of the sons, of the lord of Rimini. Paulo was
her brother-in-law. They were surprised together by the husband, and
slain on the spot. Particulars of their history will be found in the
Appendix, together with the whole original passage.

  "Quali colombe, dal disio chiamate,
  Con l'ali aperte e ferme, al dolce nido
  Volan per l'aer dal voler portate

  Cotali uscir de la schiera ov'è Dido,
  A noi venendo per l'aer maligno,
  Sì forte fu l'affettuoso grido."

  As doves, drawn home from where they circled still,
  Set firm their open wings, and through the air
  Come sweeping, wafted by their pure good-will

  So broke from Dido's flock that gentle pair,
  Cleaving, to where we stood, the air malign,
  Such strength to bring them had a loving prayer. ]

[Footnote 12: Francesca is to be conceived telling her story in anxious
intermitting sentences--now all tenderness for her lover, now angry at
their slayer; watching the poet's face, to see what he thinks, and
at times averting her own. I take this excellent direction from Ugo

[Footnote 13:

  "Nessun maggior dolore,
  Che ricordarsi del tempo felice
  Ne la miseria." ]

[Footnote 14:

  "Per più fiate gli occhi ci sospinse
  Quella lettura."
"To look at one another," says Boccaccio; and his interpretation
has been followed by Cary and Foscolo; but, with deference to such
authorities, I beg leave to think that the poet meant no more than he
says, namely, that their eyes were simply "suspended"--hung, as it were,
over the book, without being able to read on; which is what I intended
to express (if I may allude to a production of which both those critics
were pleased to speak well), when, in my youthful attempt to enlarge
this story, I wrote "And o'er the book they hung, and nothing said,
And every lingering page grew longer as they read."

_Story of Rimini._]

[Footnote 15:

  "Mentre che l'uno spirto questo disse,
  L'altro piangeva sì, che di pietade
  I' venni men così com'io morisse,
  E caddi come corpo morto cade."

This last line has been greatly admired for the corresponding deadness
of its expression.

  While thus one spoke, the other spirit mourn'd
  With wail so woful, that at his remorse
  I felt as though I should have died. I turn'd
  Stone-stiff; and to the ground, fell like a corse.

The poet fell thus on the ground (some of the commentators think)
because he had sinned in the same way; and if Foscolo's opinion could
be established--that the incident of the book is invention--their
conclusion would receive curious collateral evidence, the circumstance
of the perusal of the romance in company with a lady being likely enough
to have occurred to Dante. But the same probability applies in the case
of the lovers. The reading of such books was equally the taste of their
own times; and nothing is more likely than the volume's having been
found in the room where they perished. The Pagans could not be rebels
to a law they never heard of, any more than Dante could be a rebel
to Luther. But this is one of the absurdities with which the impious
effrontery or scarcely less impious admissions of Dante's teachers
avowedly set reason at defiance,--retaining, meanwhile, their right of
contempt for the impieties of Mahometans and Brahmins; "which is odd,"
as the poet says; for being not less absurd, or, as the others argued,
much more so, they had at least an equal claim on the submission of the
reason; since the greater the irrationality, the higher the theological

[Footnote 16: Plutus's exclamation about Satan is a great choke-pear to
the commentators. The line in the original is

  "Pape Satan, pape Satan aleppe."

The words, as thus written, are not Italian. It is not the business of
this abstract to discuss such points; and therefore I content myself
with believing that the context implies a call of alarm on the Prince of
Hell at the sight of the living creature and his guide.]

[Footnote 17: Phlegyas, a son of Mars, was cast into hell by Apollo for
setting the god's temple on fire in resentment for the violation of his
daughter Coronis. The actions of gods were not to be questioned, in
Dante's opinion, even though the gods turned out to be false Jugghanaut
is as good as any, while he lasts. It is an ethico-theological puzzle,
involving very nice questions; but at any rate, had our poet been a
Brahmin of Benares, we know how he would have written about it in

[Footnote 18: Filippo Argenti (Philip _Silver_,--so called from his
shoeing his horse with the precious metal) was a Florentine remarkable
for bodily strength and extreme irascibility. What a barbarous strength
and confusion of ideas 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! Filippo himself might have written it.
Dante says,

  "Con piangere e con lutto
  Spirito maladetto, ti rimani.
  Via costà con gli altri cani," &c.

Then Virgil, kissing and embracing him,

  "Alma sdegnosa
  Benedetta colei che 'n te s'incinse," &c.

And Dante again,

  "Maestro, molto sarei vago
  Di vederlo attuffare in questa broda," &c. ]

[Footnote 19: Dis, one of the Pagan names of Pluto, here used for Satan.
Within the walls of the city of Dis commence the punishments by fire.]

[Footnote 20: Farinata was a Ghibelline leader before the time of Dante,
and had vanquished the poet's connexions at the battle of Montaperto.]

[Footnote 21: What would Guido have said to this? More, I suspect, than
Dante would have liked to hear, or known how to answer. But he died
before the verses transpired; probably before they were written; for
Dante, in the chronology of his poem, assumes what times and seasons he
finds most convenient.]

[Footnote 22:

  "Sì che la pioggia non par che 'l maturi."

This is one of the grandest passages in Dante. It was probably (as
English commentators have observed) in Milton's recollection when he
conceived the character of Satan.]

[Footnote 23: The satire of friarly hypocrisy is at least as fine as
Ariosto's discovery of Discord in a monastery.

The monster Geryon, son of Chrysaor (_Golden-sword_), and the
Ocean-nymph Callirhoe (_Fair-flowing_), was rich in the possession
of sheep. His wealth, and perhaps his derivatives, rendered him this
instrument of satire. The monstrosity, the mild face, the glancing point
of venom, and the beautiful skin, make it as fine as can be.]

[Footnote 24: "_Malebolge_," literally Evil-Budget. _Bolgia_ is an old
form of the modern _baule_, the common term for a valise or portmanteau.
"Bolgia" (says the _Vocabolario della Crusca, compendiato_, Ven. 1792),
"a valise; Latin, bulga, hippopera; Greek, ippopetha [Greek]. In
reference to valises which open lengthways like a chest, Dante uses the
word to signify those compartments which he feigns in his Hell." (Per
similitudine di quelle valigie, che s'aprono per lo lungo, a guisa di
cassa, significa quegli spartimenti, che Dante finge nell' Inferno.)
The reader will think of the homely figurative names in Bunyan, and the
contempt which great and awful states of mind have for conventional
notions of rank in phraseology. It is a part, if well considered, of
their grandeur.]

[Footnote 25: Boniface the Eighth was the pope then living, and one of
the causes of Dante's exile. It is thus the poet contrives to put his
enemies in hell before their time.]

[Footnote 26: An allusion to the pretended gift of the Lateran by
Constantine to Pope Sylvester, ridiculed so strongly by Ariosto and

[Footnote 27: A truly infernal sentiment. The original is,

  "Quì vive la pietà quand' è ben morta."
  Here pity lives when it is quite dead.

  "Chi è più scellerato," continues the poet, "di colui,
  Ch'al giudicio divin passion porta."

That is: "Who is wickeder than he that sets his impassioned feelings
against the judgments of God?" The answer is: He that attributes
judgments to God which are to render humanity pitiless.]

[Footnote 28: _Ne' fianchi così poco_. Michael Scot had been in
Florence; to which circumstance we are most probably indebted for this
curious particular respecting his shape. The consignment of such men to
hell is a mortifying instance of the great poet's participation in the
vulgarest errors of his time. It is hardly, however, worth notice,
considering what we see him swallowing every moment, or pretending to

[Footnote 29: "Bonturo must have sold him something cheap," exclaimed a
hearer of this passage. No:--the exception is an irony! There was not
one honest man in all Lucca!]

[Footnote 30:

  "Intorno si mira
  Tutto smarrito da la grande angoscia
  Ch'egli ha sofferta, e guardando sospira."

This is one of the most terribly natural pictures of agonised
astonishment ever painted.]

[Footnote 31: I retain this passage, horrible as it is to Protestant
ears, because it is not only an instance of Dante's own audacity, but
a salutary warning specimen of the extremes of impiety generated by
extreme superstition; for their first cause is the degradation of the
Divine character. Another, no doubt, is the impulsive vehemence of the
South. I have heard more blasphemies, in the course of half an hour,
from the lips of an Italian postilion, than are probably uttered in
England, by people not out of their senses, for a whole year. Yet the
words, after all, were mere words; for the man was a good-natured
fellow, and I believe presented no image to his mind of anything he was
saying. Dante, however, would certainly not have taught him better by
attempting to frighten him. A violent word would have only produced more
violence. Yet this was the idle round which the great poet thought it
best to run!]

[Footnote 32: Cianfa, probably a condottiere of Mrs. Radcliffe's sort,
and robber on a large scale, is said to have been one of the Donati
family, connexions of the poet by marriage.]

[Footnote 33: This, and the transformation that follows, may well excite
the pride of such a poet as Dante; though it is curious to see how he
selects inventions of this kind as special grounds of self-complacency.
They are the most appalling ever yet produced.]

[Footnote 34: Guido, Conte di Montefeltro, a celebrated soldier of that
day, became a Franciscan in his old age, in order to repent of his sins;
but, being consulted in his cloister by Pope Boniface on the best mode
of getting possession of an estate belonging to the Colonna family,
and being promised absolution for his sins in the lump, including the
opinion requested, he recommended the holy father to "promise much, and
perform nothing" (_molto promettere, e nulla attendere_).]

[Footnote 35: Dolcino was a Lombard friar at the beginning of the
fourteenth century, who is said to have preached a community of goods,
including women, and to have pretended to a divine mission for reforming
the church. He appears to have made a considerable impression, having
thousands of followers, but was ultimately seized in the mountains where
they lived, and burnt with his female companion Margarita, and many
others. Landino says he was very eloquent, and that "both he and
Margarita endured their fate with a firmness worthy of a better cause."
Probably his real history is not known, for want of somebody in such
times bold enough to write it.]

[Footnote 36: Literally, "under the breastplate of knowing himself to be

  "Sotto l'osbergo del sentirsi pura."

The expression is deservedly admired; but it is not allowable in
English, and it is the only one admitting no equivalent which I have
met with in the whole poem. It might be argued, perhaps, against the
perfection of the passage, that a good "conscience," and a man's
"knowing himself to be pure," are a tautology; for Dante himself has
already used that word;

  "Conscienzia m'assicura;
  La buona compagnia che l'uom francheggia
  Sotto l'osbergo," &c.

But still we feel the impulsive beauty of the phrase; and I wish I could
have kept it.]

[Foonote 37: This ghastly fiction is a rare instance of the meeting of
physical horror with the truest pathos.]

[Footnote 38: The reader will not fail to notice this characteristic
instance of the ferocity of the time.]

[Footnote 39: This is admirable sentiment; and it must have been no
ordinary consciousness of dignity in general which could have made Dante
allow himself to be the person rebuked for having forgotten it. Perhaps
it was a sort of penance for his having, on some occasion, fallen into
the unworthiness.]

[Footnote 40: By the Saracens in Roncesvalles; afterwards so favourite
a topic with the poets. The circumstance of the horn is taken from the
Chronicle of the pretended Archbishop Turpin, chapter xxiv.]

[Footnote 41: The gaping monotony of this jargon, full of the vowel _a_,
is admirably suited to the mouth of the vast, half-stupid speaker. It is
like a babble of the gigantic infancy of the world.]

[Footnote 42:

  "Nè sì chinato li fece dimora,
  E come albero in nave si levò."

A magnificent image! I have retained the idiomatic expression of the
original, _raised himself_, instead of saying rose, because it seemed to
me to give the more grand and deliberate image.]

[Footnote 43: Of "_màmma_" and "_bàbbo_," says the primitive poet. We
have corresponding words in English, but the feeling they produce is not
identical. The lesser fervour of the northern nations renders them, in
some respects, more sophisticate than they suspect, compared with the
"artful" Italians.]

[Footnote 44: Alessandro and Napoleon degli Alberti, sons of Alberto,
lord of the valley of Falterona in Tuscany. After their father's death
they tyrannised over the neighbouring districts, and finally had a
mortal quarrel. The name of Napoleon used to be so rare till of late
years, even in Italian books, that it gives one a kind of interesting
surprise to meet with it.]

[Footnote 45:

  "Se _voler_ fu, o destino o fortuna,
  Non so."

What does the Christian reader think of that?]

[Footnote 46: Latrando.]

[Footnote 47: Bocca degli Abbati, whose soul barks like a dog,
occasioned the defeat of the Guelfs at Montaperto, in the year 1260, by
treacherously cutting off the hand of the standard-bearer.]

[Footnote 48: This is the famous story of Ugolino, who betrayed the
castles of Pisa to the Florentines, and was starved with his children in
the Tower of Famine.]

[Footnote 49: I should be loath to disturb the inimitable pathos of this
story, if there did not seem grounds for believing that the poet was too
hasty in giving credit to parts of it, particularly the ages of some of
his fellow-prisoners, and the guilt of the archbishop. See the Appendix
to this volume.]

[Footnote 50: This is the most tremendous lampoon, as far as I am aware,
in the whole circle of literature.]

[Footnote 51: "Cortesia fu lui esser villano." This is the foulest blot
which Dante has cast on his own character in all his poem (short of the
cruelties he thinks fit to attribute to God). It is argued that he is
cruel and false, out of hatred to cruelty and falsehood. But why then
add to the sum of both? and towards a man, too, supposed to be suffering
eternally? It is idle to discern in such barbarous inconsistencies any
thing but the writer's own contributions to the stock of them. The
utmost credit for right feeling is not to be given on every occasion to
a man who refuses it to every one else.]

[Footnote 52: "La creatura ch'ebbe il bel sembiante."

This is touching; but the reader may as well be prepared for a total
failure in Dante's conception of Satan, especially the English reader,
accustomed to the sublimity of Milton's. Granting that the Roman
Catholic poet intended to honour the fallen angel with no sublimity,
but to render him an object of mere hate and dread, he has overdone and
degraded the picture into caricature. A great stupid being, stuck up in
ice, with three faces, one of which is yellow, and three mouths, each
eating a sinner, one of those sinners being Brutus, is an object
for derision; and the way in which he eats these, his everlasting
_bonnes-bouches,_ divides derision with disgust. The passage must be
given, otherwise the abstract of the poem would be incomplete; but I
cannot help thinking it the worst anti-climax ever fallen into by a
great poet.]

[Footnote 53: This silence is, at all events, a compliment to Brutus,
especially from a man like Dante, and the more because it is extorted.
Dante, no doubt, hated all treachery, particularly treachery to the
leader of his beloved Roman emperors; forgetting three things; first,
that Cæsar was guilty of treachery himself to the Roman people; second,
that he, Dante, has put Curio in hell for advising Cæsar to cross the
Rubicon, though he has put the crosser among the good Pagans; and third,
that Brutus was educated in the belief that the punishment of such
treachery as Cæsar's by assassination was one of the first of duties.
How differently has Shakspeare, himself an aristocratic rather than
democratic poet, and full of just doubt of the motives of assassins in
general, treated the error of the thoughtful, conscientious, Platonic

[Footnote 54: At the close of this medley of genius, pathos, absurdity,
sublimity, horror, and revoltingness, it is impossible for any
reflecting heart to avoid asking, _Cui bono?_ What is the good of it
to the poor wretches, if we are to suppose it true? and what to the
world--except, indeed, as a poetic study and a warning against degrading
notions of God--if we are to take it simply as a fiction? Theology,
disdaining both questions, has an answer confessedly incomprehensible.
Humanity replies: Assume not premises for which you have worse than no




Purgatory, in the system of Dante, is a mountain at the Antipodes, on
the top of which is the Terrestrial Paradise, once the seat of Adam and
Eve. It forms the principal part of an island in a sea, and possesses
a pure air. Its lowest region, with one or two exceptions of redeemed
Pagans, is occupied by Excommunicated Penitents and by Delayers of
Penitence, all of whom are compelled to lose time before their atonement
commences. The other and greater portion of the ascent is divided into
circles or plains, in which are expiated the Seven Deadly Sins. The Poet
ascends from circle to circle with Virgil and Statius, and is met in
a forest on the top by the spirit of Beatrice, who transports him to


When the pilgrims emerged from the opening through which they beheld the
stars, they found themselves in a scene which enchanted them with hope
and joy. It was dawn: a sweet pure air came on their faces; and they
beheld a sky of the loveliest oriental sapphire, whose colour seemed
to pervade the whole serene hollow from earth to heaven. The beautiful
planet which encourages loving thoughts made all the orient laugh,
obscuring by its very radiance the stars in its train; and among those
which were still lingering and sparkling in the southern horizon,
Dante saw four in the shape of a cross, never beheld by man since they
gladdened the eyes of our first parents. Heaven seemed to rejoice in
their possession. O widowed northern pole! bereaved art thou, indeed,
since thou canst not gaze upon them![1]

The poet turned to look at the north where he had been accustomed to see
stars that no longer appeared, and beheld, at his side, an old man, who
struck his beholder with a veneration like that of a son for his father.
He had grey hairs, and a long beard which parted in two down his
bosom; and the four southern stars beamed on his face with such lustre,
that his aspect was as radiant as if he had stood in the sun.

"Who are ye?" said the old man, "that have escaped from the dreadful
prison-house? Can the laws of the abyss be violated? Or has Heaven
changed its mind, that thus ye are allowed to come from the regions of
condemnation into mine?"

It was the spirit of Cato of Utica, the warder of the ascent of

The Roman poet explained to his countryman who they were, and how Dante
was under heavenly protection; and then he prayed leave of passage of
him by the love he bore to the chaste eyes of his Marcia, who sent him a
message from the Pagan circle, hoping that he would still own her.

Cato replied, that although he was so fond of Marcia while on earth that
he could deny her nothing, he had ceased, in obedience to new laws, to
have any affection for her, now that she dwelt beyond the evil river;
but as the pilgrim, his companion, was under heavenly protection, he
would of course do what he desired.[2] He then desired him to gird his
companion with one of the simplest and completest rushes he would see by
the water's side, and to wash the stain of the lower world out of his
face, and so take their journey up the mountain before them, by a
path which the rising sun would disclose. And with these words he

The pilgrims passed on, with the eagerness of one who thinks every step
in vain till he finds the path he has lost. The full dawn by this time
had arisen, and they saw the trembling of the sea in the distance.[4]
Virgil then dipped his hands into a spot of dewy grass, where the sun
had least affected it, and with the moisture bathed the face of Dante,
who held it out to him, suffused with tears;[5] and then they went on
till they came to a solitary shore, whence no voyager had ever returned,
and there the loins of the Florentine were girt with the rush.

On this shore they were standing in doubt how to proceed,--moving
onward, as it were, in mind, while yet their feet were staying,--when
they be held a light over the water at a distance, rayless at first as
the planet Mars when he looks redly out of the horizon through a fog,
but speedily growing brighter and brighter with amazing swiftness. Dante
had but turned for an instant to ask his guide what it was, when, on
looking again, it had grown far brighter. Two splendid phenomena, he
knew not what, then developed themselves from it on either side; and, by
degrees, another below it. The two splendours quickly turned out to be
wings; and Virgil, who had hitherto watched its coming in silence, cried
out, "Down, down,--on thy knees! It is God's angel. Clasp thine hands.
Now thou shalt behold operancy indeed. Lo, how he needs neither sail nor
oar, coming all this way with nothing but his wings! Lo, how he holds
them aloft, using the air with them at his will, and knowing they can
never be weary."

The "divine bird" grew brighter and brighter as he came, so that the
eye at last could not sustain the lustre; and Dante turned his to the
ground. A boat then rushed to shore which the angel had brought with
him, so light that it drew not a drop of water. The celestial pilot
stood at the helm, with bliss written in his face; and a hundred spirits
were seen within the boat, who, lifting up their voices, sang the psalm
beginning "When Israel came out of Egypt." At the close of the psalm,
the angel blessed them with the sign of the cross, and they all leaped
to shore; upon which he turned round, and departed as swiftly as he

The new-comers, after gazing about them for a while, in the manner of
those who are astonished to see new sights, inquired of Virgil and his
companion the best way to the mountain. Virgil explained who they were;
and the spirits, pale with astonishment at beholding in Dante a living
and breathing man, crowded about him, in spite of their anxiety to
shorten the period of their trials. One of them came darting out of the
press to embrace him, in a manner so affectionate as to move the poet to
return his warmth; but his arms again and again found themselves crossed
on his own bosom, having encircled nothing. The shadow, smiling at the
astonishment in the other's face, drew back; and Dante hastened as much
forward to shew his zeal in the greeting, when the spirit in a sweet
voice recommended him to desist. The Florentine then knew who it
was,--Casella, a musician, to whom he had been much attached. After
mutual explanations as to their meeting, Dante requested his friend, if
no ordinance opposed it, to refresh his spirit awhile with one of the
tender airs that used to charm away all his troubles on earth. Casella
immediately began one of his friend's own productions, commencing with
the words,

"Love, that delights to talk unto my soul Of all the wonders of my
lady's nature."

And he sang it so beautifully, that the sweetness rang within the poet's
heart while recording the circumstance. The other spirits listened with
such attention, that they seemed to have forgotten the very purpose
of their coming; when suddenly the voice of Cato was heard, sternly
rebuking their delay; and the whole party speeded in trepidation towards
the mountain.[6]

The two pilgrims, who had at first hastened with the others, in a little
while slackened their steps; and Dante found that his body projected a
shadow, while the form of Virgil had none. When arrived at the foot of
the mountain, they were joined by a second party of spirits, of whom
Virgil inquired the way up it. One of the spirits, of a noble aspect,
but with a gaping wound in his forehead, stepped forth, and asked Dante
if he remembered him. The poet humbly answering in the negative, the
stranger disclosed a second wound, that was in his bosom; and then, with
a smile, announced himself as Manfredi, king of Naples, who was slain in
battle against Charles of Anjou, and died excommunicated. Manfredi gave
Dante a message to his daughter Costanza, queen of Arragon, begging her
to shorten the consequences of the excommunication by her prayers;
since he, like the rest of the party with him, though repenting of his
contumacy against the church, would have to wander on the outskirts of
Purgatory three times as long as the presumption had lasted, unless
relieved by such petitions from the living.[7]

Dante went on, with his thoughts so full of this request, that he did
not perceive he had arrived at the path which Virgil asked for, till the
wandering spirits called out to them to say so. The pilgrims then, with
great difficulty, began to ascend through an extremely narrow passage;
and Virgil, after explaining to Dante how it was that in this antipodal
region his eastward face beheld the sun in the north instead of the
south, was encouraging him to proceed manfully in the hope of finding
the path easier by degrees, and of reposing at the end of it, when they
heard a voice observing, that they would most likely find it expedient
to repose a little sooner. The pilgrims looked about them, and observed
close at hand a crag of a rock, in the shade of which some spirits were
standing, as men stand idly at noon. Another was sitting down, as if
tired out, with his arms about his knees, and his face bent down between

"Dearest master!" exclaimed Dante to his guide, "what thinkest thou of a
croucher like this, for manful journeying? Verily he seems to have been
twin-born with Idleness herself."

The croucher, lifting up his eyes at these words, looked hard at Dante,
and said, "Since thou art so stout, push on."

Dante then saw it was Belacqua, a pleasant acquaintance of his, famous
for his indolence.

"That was a good lesson," said Belacqua, "that was given thee just now
in astronomy."

The poet could not help smiling at the manner in which his acquaintance
uttered these words, it was so like his ways of old. Belacqua pretended,
even in another world, that it was of no use to make haste, since the
angel had prohibited his going higher up the mountain. He and his
companions had to walk round the foot of it as many years as they had
delayed repenting; unless, as in the case of Manfredi, their time was
shortened by the prayers of good people.

A little further on, the pilgrims encountered the spirits of such
Delayers of Penitence as, having died violent deaths, repented at the
last moment. One of them, Buonconte da Montefeltro, who died in battle,
and whose body could not be found, described how the devil, having been
hindered from seizing him by the shedding of a single tear, had raised
in his fury a tremendous tempest, which sent the body down the river
Arno, and buried it in the mud.[9]

Another spirit, a female, said to Dante, "Ah! when thou returnest to
earth, and shalt have rested from thy long journey, remember me,--Pia.
Sienna gave me life; the Marshes took it from me. This he knows, who put
on my finger the wedding-ring."[10]

The majority of this party were so importunate with the Florentine
to procure them the prayers of their friends, that he had as much
difficulty to get away, as a winner at dice has to free himself from the
mercenary congratulations of the by-standers. On resuming their way,
Dante quoted to Virgil a passage in the Æneid, decrying the utility of
prayer, and begged him to explain how it was to be reconciled with what
they had just heard. Virgil advised him to wait for the explanation till
he saw Beatrice, whom, he now said, he should meet at the top of the
mountain. Dante, at this information, expressed a desire to hasten their
progress; and Virgil, seeing a spirit looking towards them as they
advanced, requested him to acquaint them with the shortest road.

The spirit, maintaining a lofty and reserved aspect, was as silent as if
he had not heard the request; intimating by his manner that they might
as well proceed without repeating it, and eyeing them like a lion on the
watch. Virgil, however, went up to him, and gently urged it; but the
only reply was a question as to who they were and of what country. The
Latin poet beginning to answer him, had scarcely mentioned the word
"Mantua," when the stranger went as eagerly up to his interrogator as
the latter had done to him, and said, "Mantua! My own country! My name
is Sordello." And the compatriots embraced.

O degenerate Italy! exclaims Dante; land without affections, without
principle, without faith in any one good thing! here was a man who could
not hear the sweet sound of a fellow-citizen's voice without feeling his
heart gush towards him, and there are no people now in any one of thy
towns that do not hate and torment one another.

Sordello, in another tone, now exclaimed, "But who are ye?"

Virgil disclosed himself, and Sordello fell at his feet.[11]

Sordello now undertook to accompany the great Roman poet and his friend
to a certain distance on their ascent towards the penal quarters of the
mountain; but as evening was drawing nigh, and the ascent could not
be made properly in the dark, he proposed that they should await the
dawning of the next day in a recess that overlooked a flowery hollow.
The hollow was a lovely spot of ground, enamelled with flowers that
surpassed the exquisitest dyes, and green with a grass brighter than
emeralds newly broken.[12] There rose from it also a fragrance of a
thousand different kinds of sweetness, all mingled into one that was new
and indescribable; and with the fragrance there ascended the chant of
the prayer beginning "Hail, Queen of Heaven,"[13] which was sung by a
multitude of souls that appeared sitting on the flowery sward.

Virgil pointed them out. They were penitent delayers of penitence, of
sovereign rank. Among them, however, were spirits who sat mute; one
of whom was the Emperor Rodolph, who ought to have attended better to
Italy, the garden of the empire; and another, Ottocar, king of Bohemia,
his enemy, who now comforted him; and another, with a small nose,[14]
Philip the Third of France, who died a fugitive, shedding the leaves of
the lily; he sat beating his breast; and with him was Henry the Third of
Navarre, sighing with his cheek on his hand. One was the father, and one
the father-in-law of Philip the Handsome, the bane of France; and it was
on account of his unworthiness they grieved.

But among the singers Virgil pointed out the strong-limbed King of
Arragon, Pedro; and Charles, king of Naples, with his masculine nose
(these two were singing together); and Henry the Third of England, the
king of the simple life, sitting by himself;[15] and below these, but
with his eyes in heaven, Guglielmo marquis of Montferrat.

It was now the hour when men at sea think longingly of home, and feel
their hearts melt within them to remember the day on which they bade
adieu to beloved friends; and now, too, was the hour when the pilgrim,
new to his journey, is thrilled with the like tenderness, when he hears
the vesper-bell in the distance, which seems to mourn for the expiring
day.[16] At this hour of the coming darkness, Dante beheld one of the
spirits in the flowery hollow arise, and after giving a signal to the
others to do as he did, stretch forth both hands, palm to palm, towards
the East, and with softest emotion commence the hymn beginning,

"Thee before the closing light."[17]

Upon which all the rest devoutly and softly followed him, keeping their
eyes fixed on the heavens. At the end of it they remained, with pale
countenances, in an attitude of humble expectation; and Dante saw the
angels issue from the quarter to which they looked, and descend towards
them with flaming swords in their hands, broken short of the point.
Their wings were as green as the leaves in spring; and they wore
garments equally green, which the fanning of the wings kept in a state
of streaming fluctuation behind them as they came. One of them took his
stand on a part of the hill just over where the pilgrims stood, and the
other on a hill opposite, so that the party in the valley were between
them. Dante could discern their heads of hair, notwithstanding its
brightness; but their faces were so dazzling as to be undistinguishable.

"They come from Mary's bosom," whispered Sordello, "to protect the
valley from the designs of our enemy yonder,--the Serpent."

Dante looked in trepidation towards the only undefended side of the
valley, and beheld the Serpent of Eve coming softly among the grass and
flowers, occasionally turning its head, and licking its polished back.
Before he could take off his eyes from the evil thing, the two angels
had come down like falcons, and at the whirring of their pinions the
serpent fled. The angels returned as swiftly to their stations.

Aurora was now looking palely over the eastern cliff on the other side
of the globe, and the stars of midnight shining over the heads of Dante
and his friends, when they seated themselves for rest on the mountain's
side. The Florentine, being still in the flesh, lay down for weariness,
and was overcome with sleep. In his sleep he dreamt that a golden eagle
flashed down like lightning upon him, and bore him up to the region
of fire, where the heat was so intense that it woke him, staring and
looking round about with a pale face. His dream was a shadowing of
the truth. He had actually come to another place,--to the entrance of
Purgatory itself. Sordello had been left behind, Virgil alone remained,
looking him cheerfully in the face. Saint Lucy had come from heaven,
and shortened the fatigue of his journey by carrying him upwards as he
slept, the heathen poet following them. On arriving where they stood,
the fair saint intimated the entrance of Purgatory to Virgil by a glance
thither of her beautiful eyes, and then vanished as Dante woke.[18]

The portal by which Purgatory was entered was embedded in a cliff. It
had three steps, each of a different colour; and on the highest of these
there sat, mute and watching, an angel in ash-coloured garments, holding
a naked sword, which glanced with such intolerable brightness on Dante,
whenever he attempted to look, that he gave up the endeavour. The angel
demanded who they were, and receiving the right answer, gently bade them

Dante now saw, that the lowest step was of marble, so white and clear
that he beheld his face in it. The colour of the next was a deadly
black, and it was all rough, scorched, and full of cracks. The third was
of flaming porphyry, red as a man's blood when it leaps forth under
the lancet.[19] The angel, whose feet were on the porphyry, sat on a
threshold which appeared to be rock-diamond. Dante, ascending the steps,
with the encouragement of Virgil, fell at the angel's feet, and, after
thrice beating himself on the breast, humbly asked admittance. The
angel, with the point of his sword, inscribed the first letter of the
word _peccatum_ (sin) seven times on the petitioner's forehead; then,
bidding him pray with tears for their erasement, and be cautious how he
looked back, opened the portal with a silver and a golden key.[20]
The hinges roared, as they turned, like thunder; and the pilgrims, on
entering, thought they heard, mingling with the sound, a chorus of
voices singing, "We praise thee, O God!"[21] It was like the chant that
mingles with a cathedral organ, when the words that the choristers utter
are at one moment to be distinguished, and at another fade away.

The companions continued ascending till they reached a plain. It
stretched as far as the eye could see, and was as lonely as roads across

This was the first flat, or table-land, of the ascending gradations of
Purgatory, and the place of trial for the souls of the Proud. It was
bordered with a mound, or natural wall, of white marble, sculptured all
over with stories of humility. Dante beheld among them the Annunciation,
represented with so much life, that the sweet action of the angel seemed
to be uttering the very word, "Hail!" and the submissive spirit of the
Virgin to be no less impressed, like very wax, in her demeanour. The
next story was that of David dancing and harping before the ark,--an
action in which he seemed both less and greater than a king. Michal
was looking out upon him from a window, like a lady full of scorn and
sorrow. Next to the story of David was that of the Emperor Trajan, when
he did a thing so glorious, as moved St. Gregory to gain the greatest of
all his conquests--the delivering of the emperor's soul from hell.

A widow, in tears and mourning, was laying hold of his bridle as he rode
amidst his court with a noise of horses and horsemen, while the Roman
eagles floated in gold over his head. The miserable creature spoke out
loudly among them all, crying for vengeance on the murderers of her
sons. The emperor seemed to say, "Wait till I return."

But she, in the hastiness of her misery, said, "Suppose thou returnest

"Then my successor will attend to thee," replied the emperor.

"And what hast thou to do with the duties of another man," cried she,
"if thou attendest not to thine own?"

"Now, be of good comfort," concluded Trajan, "for verily my duty shall
be done before I go; justice wills it, and pity arrests me."

Dante was proceeding to delight himself further with these sculptures,
when Virgil whispered hint to look round and see what was coming. He did
so, and beheld strange figures advancing, the nature of which he could
not make out at first, for they seemed neither human, nor aught else
which he could call to mind. They were souls of the proud, bent double
under enormous burdens.

"O proud, miserable, woe-begone Christians!" exclaims the poet; "ye who,
in the shortness of your sight, see no reason for advancing in the
right path! Know ye not that we are worms, born to compose the angelic
butterfly, provided we throw off the husks that impede our flight?"[22]

The souls came slowly on, each bending down in proportion to his burden.
They looked like the crouching figures in architecture that are used
to support roofs or balconies, and that excite piteous fancies in the
beholders. The one that appeared to have the most patience, yet seemed
as if he said, "I can endure no further."

The sufferers, notwithstanding their anguish, raised their voices in
a paraphrase on the Lord's Prayer, which they concluded with humbly
stating, that they repeated the clause against temptation, not for
themselves, but for those who were yet living.

Virgil, wishing them a speedy deliverance, requested them to spew the
best way of going up to the next circle. Who it was that answered him
could not be discerned, on account of their all being so bent down; but
a voice gave them the required direction; the speaker adding, that he
wished he could raise his eyes, so as to see the living creature that
stood near him. He said that his name was Omberto--that he came of
the great Tuscan race of Aldobrandesco--and that his countrymen, the
Siennese, murdered him on account of his arrogance.

Dante had bent down his own head to listen, and in so doing he was
recognised by one of the sufferers, who, eyeing him as well as he could,
addressed him by name. The poet replied by exclaiming, "Art thou not
Oderisi, the glory of Agubbio, the master of the art of illumination?"

"Ah!" said Oderisi, "Franco of Bologna has all the glory now. His
colours make the pages of books laugh with beauty, compared with what
mine do.[23] I could not have owned it while on earth, for the sin which
has brought me hither; but so it is; and so will it ever be, let a man's
fame be never so green and flourishing, unless he can secure a dull age
to come after him. Cimabue, in painting, lately kept the field against
all comers, and now the cry is 'Giotto.' Thus, in song, a new Guido has
deprived the first of his glory, and he perhaps is born who shall drive
both out of the nest.[24] Fame is but a wind that changes about from all
quarters. What does glory amount to at best, that a man should prefer
living and growing old for it, to dying in the days of his nurse and
his pap-boat, even if it should last him a thousand years? A thousand
years!--the twinkling of an eye. Behold this man, who weeps before me;
his name resounded once over all our Tuscany, and now it is scarcely
whispered in his native place. He was lord there at the time that your
once proud but now loathsome Florence had such a lesson given to its
frenzy at the battle of Arbia."

"And what is his name?" inquired Dante.

"Salvani," returned the limner. "He is here, because he had the
presumption to think that he could hold Sienna in the hollow of his
hand. Fifty years has he paced in this manner. Such is the punishment
for audacity."

"But why is he here at all," said Dante, "and not in the outer region,
among the delayers of repentance?"

"Because," exclaimed the other, "in the height of his ascendancy he did
not disdain to stand in the public place in Sienna, and, trembling in
every vein, beg money from the people to ransom a friend from captivity.
Do I appear to thee to speak with mysterious significance? Thy
countrymen shall too soon help thee to understand me."[25]

Virgil now called Dante away from Oderisi, and bade him notice the
ground on which they were treading. It was pavement, wrought all over
with figures, like sculptured tombstones. There was Lucifer among them,
struck flaming down from heaven; and Briareus, pinned to the earth with
the thunderbolt, and, with the other giants, amazing the gods with his
hugeness; and Nimrod, standing confounded at the foot of Babel; and
Niobe, with her despairing eyes, turned into stone amidst her children;
and Saul, dead on his own sword in Gilboa; and Arachne, now half spider,
at fault on her own broken web; and Rehoboam, for all his insolence,
flying in terror in his chariot; and Alcmæon, who made his mother pay
with her life for the ornament she received to betray his father; and
Sennacherib, left dead by his son in the temple; and the head of Cyrus,
thrown by the motherless woman into the goblet of blood, that it might
swill what it had thirsted for; and Holofernes, beheaded; and his
Assyrians flying at his death; and Troy, all become cinders and hollow
places. Oh! what a fall from pride was there! Now, maintain the
loftiness of your looks, ye sons of Eve, and walk with proud steps,
bending not your eyes on the dust ye were, lest ye perceive the evil of
your ways.[26]

"Behold," said Virgil, "there is an angel coming."

The angel came on, clad in white, with a face that sent trembling beams
before it, like the morning star. He skewed the pilgrims the way up to
the second circle; and then, beating his wings against the forehead of
Dante, on which the seven initials of sin were written, told him he
should go safely, and disappeared.

On reaching the new circle, Dante, instead of the fierce wailings that
used to meet him at every turn in hell, heard voices singing, "Blessed
are the poor in spirit."[27] As he went, he perceived that he walked
lighter, and was told by Virgil that the angel had freed him from one of
the letters on his forehead. He put his hand up to make sure, as a man
does in the street when people take notice of something on his head of
which he is not aware; and Virgil smiled.

In this new circle the sin of Envy was expiated. After the pilgrims had
proceeded a mile, they heard the voices of invisible spirits passing
them, uttering sentiments of love and charity; for it was charity itself
that had to punish envy.

The souls of the envious, clad in sackcloth, sat leaning for support and
humiliation, partly against the rocky wall of the circle, and partly on
one another's shoulders, after the manner of beggars that ask alms near
places of worship. Their eyes were sewn up, like those of hawks in
training, but not so as to hinder them from shedding tears, which they
did in abundance; and they cried, "Mary, pray for us!--Michael, Peter,
and all the saints, pray for us!"

Dante spoke to them; and one, a female, lifted up her chin as a blind
person does when expressing consciousness of notice, and said she was
Sapia of Sienna, who used to be pleased at people's misfortunes, and had
rejoiced when her countrymen lost the battle of Colle. "_Sapia_ was
my name," she said, "but _sapient_ I was not[28], for I prayed God to
defeat my countrymen; and when he had done so (as he had willed to do),
I raised my bold face to heaven, and cried out to him, 'Now do thy
worst, for I fear thee not!' I was like the bird in the fable, who
thought the fine day was to last for ever. What I should have done in my
latter days to make up for the imperfect amends of my repentance, I know
not, if the holy Piero Pettignano had not assisted me with his prayers.
But who art thou that goest with open eyes, and breathest in thy talk?"

"Mine eyes," answered Dante, "may yet have to endure the blindness in
this place, though for no long period. Far more do I fear the sufferings
in the one that I have just left. I seem to feel the weight already upon

The Florentine then informed Sapia how he came thither, which, she said,
was a great sign that God loved him; and she begged his prayers. The
conversation excited the curiosity of two spirits who overheard it; and
one of them, Guido del Duca, a noble Romagnese, asked the poet of
what country he was. Dante, without mentioning the name of the river,
intimated that he came from the banks of the Arno; upon which the other
spirit, Rinier da Calboli, asked his friend why the stranger suppressed
the name, as though it was something horrible. Guido said he well might;
for the river, throughout its course, beheld none but bad men and
persecutors of virtue. First, he said, it made its petty way by the
sties of those brutal hogs, the people of Casentino, and then arrived at
the dignity of watering the kennels of the curs of Arezzo, who excelled
more in barking than in biting; then, growing unluckier as it grew
larger, like the cursed and miserable ditch that it was, it found in
Florence the dogs become wolves; and finally, ere it went into the sea,
it passed the den of those foxes, the Pisans, who were full of such
cunning that they held traps in contempt.

"It will be well," continued Guido, "for this man to remember what he
hears;" and then, after prophesying evil to Florence, and confessing to
Dante his sin of envy, which used to make him pale when any one looked
happy, he added, "This is Rinieri, the glory of that house of Calboli
which now inherits not a spark of it. Not a spark of it, did I say, in
the house of Calboli? Where is there a spark in all Romagna? Where is
the good Lizio?--where Manardi, Traversaro, Carpigna? The Romagnese have
all become bastards. A mechanic founds a house in Bologna! a Bernardin
di Fosco finds his dog-grass become a tree in Faenza! Wonder not,
Tuscan, to see me weep, when I think of the noble spirits that we have
lived with--of the Guidos of Prata, and the Ugolins of Azzo--of Federigo
Tignoso and his band--of the Traversaros and Anastagios, families now
ruined--and all the ladies and the cavaliers, the alternate employments
and delights which wrapped us in a round of love and courtesy, where now
there is nothing but ill-will! O castle of Brettinoro! why dost thou
not fall? Well has the lord of Bagnacavallo done, who will have no more
children. Who would propagate a race of Counties from such blood as the
Castrocaros and the Conios? Is not the son of Pagani called the Demon?
and would it not be better that such a son were swept out of the family?
Nay, let him live to chew to what a pitch of villany it has arrived.
Ubaldini alone is blest, for his name is good, and he is too old to
leave a child after him. Go, Tuscan--go; for I would be left to my

Dante and Virgil turned to move onward, and had scarcely done so, when a
tremendous voice met them, splitting the air like peals of thunder, and
crying out, "Whoever finds me will slay me!" then dashed apart, like the
thunder-bolt when it falls. It was Cain. The air had scarcely recovered
its silence, when a second crash ensued from a different quarter near
them, like thunder when the claps break swiftly into one another. "I am
Aglauros," it said, "that was turned into stone." Dante drew closer to
his guide, and there ensued a dead silence.[30]

The sun was now in the west, and the pilgrims were journeying towards
it, when Dante suddenly felt such a weight of splendour on his eyes, as
forced him to screen them with both his hands. It was an angel coming to
show them the ascent to the next circle, a way that was less steep than
the last. While mounting, they heard the angel's voice singing behind
them, "Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy!" and on
his leaving them to proceed by themselves, the second letter on Dante's
forehead was found to have been effaced by the splendour.

The poet looked round in wonder on the new circle, where the sin
of Anger was expiated, and beheld, as in a dream, three successive
spectacles illustrative of the virtue of patience. The first was that of
a crowded temple, on the threshold of which a female said to her son, in
the sweet manner of a mother, "Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us?
Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing:"[31]--and here she
became silent, and the vision ended. The next was the lord of Athens,
Pisistratus, calmly reproving his wife for wishing him to put to death
her daughter's lover, who, in a transport, had embraced her in public.
"If we are to be thus severe," said Pisistratus, "with those that love
us, what is to be done with such as hate?" The last spectacle was that
of a furious multitude shouting and stoning to death a youth, who, as he
fell to the ground, still kept his face towards heaven, making his eyes
the gates through which his soul reached it, and imploring forgiveness
for his murderers.[32]

The visions passed away, leaving the poet staggering as if but half
awake. They were succeeded by a thick and noisome fog, through which he
followed his leader with the caution of a blind man, Virgil repeatedly
telling him not to quit him a moment. Here they heard voices praying in
unison for pardon to the "Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the
world." They were the spirits of the angry. Dante conversed with one of
them on free-will and necessity; and after quitting him, and issuing by
degrees from the cloud, beheld illustrative visions of anger; such as
the impious mother, who was changed into the bird that most delights in
singing; Haman, retaining his look of spite and rage on the cross; and
Lavinia, mourning for her mother, who slew herself for rage at the death
of Turnus.[33]

These visions were broken off by a great light, as sleep is broken; and
Dante heard a voice out of it saying, "The ascent is here." He then, as
Virgil and he ascended into the fourth circle, felt an air on his face,
as if caused by the fanning of wings, accompanied by the utterance
of the words, "Blessed are the peace-makers;" and his forehead was
lightened of the third letter.[34]

In this fourth circle was expiated Lukewarmness, or defect of zeal for
good. The sufferers came speeding and weeping round the mountain, making
amends for the old indifference by the haste and fire of the new love
that was in them. "Blessed Mary made haste," cried one, "to salute
Elizabeth." "And Cæsar," cried another, "to smite Pompey at Lerida."[35]
"And the disobedient among the Israelites," cried others, "died before
they reached the promised land." "And the tired among the Trojans
preferred ease in Sicily to glory in Latium."--It was now midnight, and
Dante slept and had a dream.

His dream was of a woman who came to him, having a tongue that tried
ineffectually to speak, squinting eyes, feet whose distortion drew her
towards the earth, stumps of hands, and a pallid face. Dante looked
earnestly at her, and his look acted upon her like sunshine upon cold.
Her tongue was loosened; her feet made straight; she stood upright; her
paleness became a lovely rose-colour; and she warbled so beautifully,
that the poet could not have refused to listen had he wished it.

"I am the sweet Syren," she said, "who made the mariners turn pale for
pleasure in the sea. I drew Ulysses out of his course with my song; and
he that harbours with me once, rarely departs ever, so well I pay him
for what he abandons."

Her lips were not yet closed, when a lady of holy and earliest
countenance came up to shame her. "O Virgil!" she cried angrily, "who is
this?" Virgil approached, with his eyes fixed on the lady; and the lady
tore away the garments of the woman, and spewed her to be a creature so
loathly, that the sleeper awoke with the horror.[36]

Virgil said, "I have called thee three times to no purpose. Let us move,
and find the place at which we are to go higher."

It was broad day, with a sun that came warm on the shoulders; and Dante
was proceeding with his companion, when the softest voice they ever
heard directed them where to ascend, and they found an angel with them,
who pointed his swan-like wings upward, and then flapped them against
the pilgrims, taking away the fourth letter from the forehead of Dante.
"Blessed are they that mourn," said the angel, "for they shall be

The pilgrims ascended into the fifth circle, and beheld the expiators of
Avarice grovelling on the ground, and exclaiming, as loud as they could
for the tears that choked them, "My soul hath cleaved to the dust."
Dante spoke to one, who turned out to be Pope Adrian the Fifth. The
poet fell on his knees; but Adrian bade him arise and err not. "I am no
longer," said he, "spouse of the Church, here; but fellow-servant with
thee and with all others. Go thy ways, and delay not the time of my

The pilgrims moving onward, Dante heard a spirit exclaim, in the
struggling tones of a woman in child-bed, "O blessed Virgin! That was a
poor roof thou hadst when thou wast delivered of thy sacred burden. O
good Fabricius! Virtue with poverty was thy choice, and not vice with
riches." And then it told the story of Nicholas, who, hearing that a
father was about to sacrifice the honour of his three daughters for want
of money, threw bags of it in at his window, containing portions for
them all.

Dante earnestly addressed this spirit to know who he was; and the spirit
said it would tell him, not for the sake of help, for which it looked
elsewhere, but because of the shining grace that was in his questioner,
though yet alive.

"I was root," said the spirit, "of that evil plant which overshadows all
Christendom to such little profit. Hugh Capet was I, ancestor of the
Philips and Louises of France, offspring of a butcher of Paris, when the
old race of kings was worn out.[37] We began by seizing the government
in Paris; then plundered in Provence; then, to make amends, laid hold of
Poitou, Normandy, and Gascony; then, still to make amends, put Conradin
to death and seized Naples; then, always to make amends, gave Saint
Aquinas his dismissal to Heaven by poison. I see the time at hand when a
descendant of mine will be called into Italy, and the spear that Judas
_jousted with_[38] shall transfix the bowels of Florence. Another of my
posterity sells his daughter for a sum of money to a Marquis of Ferrara.
Another seizes the pope in Alagna, and mocks Christ over again in the
person of his Vicar. A fourth rends the veil of the temple, solely to
seize its money. O Lord, how shall I rejoice to see the vengeance which
even now thou huggest in delight to thy bosom![39]

"Of loving and liberal things," continued Capet, "we speak while it is
light; such as thou heardest me record, when I addressed myself to the
blessed Virgin. But when night comes, we take another tone. Then we
denounce Pygmalion,[39] the traitor, the robber, and the parricide, each
the result of his gluttonous love of gold; and Midas, who obtained his
wish, to the laughter of all time; and the thief Achan, who still seems
frightened at the wrath of Joshua; and Sapphira and her husband, whom we
accuse over again before the Apostles; and Heliodorus, whom we bless the
hoofs of the angel's horse for trampling;[40] and Crassus, on whom we
call with shouts of derision to tell us the flavour of his molten gold.
Thus we record our thoughts in the night-time, now high, now low, now at
greater or less length, as each man is prompted by his impulses. And it
was thus thou didst hear me recording also by day-time, though I had no
respondent near me."

The pilgrims quitted Hugh Capet, and were eagerly pursuing their
journey, when, to the terror of Dante, they felt the whole mountain of
Purgatory tremble, as though it were about to fall in. The island of
Delos shook not so awfully when Latona, hiding there, brought forth the
twin eyes of Heaven. A shout then arose on every side, so enormous, that
Virgil stood nigher to his companion, and bade him be of good heart.
"Glory be to God in the highest," cried the shout; but Dante could
gather the words only from those who were near him.

It was Purgatory rejoicing for the deliverance of a soul out of its

The soul overtook the pilgrims as they were journeying in amazement
onwards; and it turned out to be that of Statius, who had been converted
to Christianity in the reign of Domitian.[42] Mutual astonishment led to
inquiries that explained who the other Latin poet was; and Statius fell
at his master's feet.

Statius had expiated his sins in the circle of Avarice, not for that
vice, but for the opposite one of Prodigality.

An angel now, as before, took the fifth letter from Dante's forehead;
and the three poets having ascended into the sixth round of the
mountain, were journeying on lovingly together, Dante listening with
reverence to the talk of the two ancients, when they came up to a
sweet-smelling fruit-tree, upon which a clear stream came tumbling from
a rock beside it, and diffusing itself through the branches. The Latin
poets went up to the tree, and were met by a voice which said, "Be
chary of the fruit. Mary thought not of herself at Galilee, but of the
visitors, when she said, 'They have no wine.' The women of oldest Rome
drank water. The beautiful age of gold feasted on acorns. Its thirst
made nectar out of the rivulet. The Baptist fed on locusts and wild
honey, and became great as you see him in the gospel."

The poets went on their way; and Dante was still listening to the
others, when they heard behind them a mingled sound of chanting and
weeping, which produced an effect at once sad and delightful. It was the
psalm, "O Lord, open thou our lips!" and the chanters were expiators
of the sin of Intemperance in Meats and Drinks. They were condemned to
circuit the mountain, famished, and to long for the fruit and waters of
the tree in vain. They soon came up with the poets--a pallid multitude,
with hollow eyes, and bones staring through the skin. The sockets of
their eyes looked like rings from which the gems had dropped.[43] One of
them knew and accosted Dante, who could not recognise him till he
heard him speak. It was Forese Donati, one of the poet's most intimate
connexions. Dante, who had wept over his face when dead, could as little
forbear weeping to see him thus hungering and thirsting, though he had
expected to find him in the outskirts of the place, among the delayers
of repentance. He asked his friend how he had so quickly got higher.
Forese said it was owing to the prayers and tears of his good wife
Nella; and then he burst into a strain of indignation against the
contrast exhibited to her virtue by the general depravity of the
Florentine women, whom he described as less modest than the half-naked
savages in the mountains of Sardinia.

"What is to be said of such creatures?" continued he. "O my dear cousin!
I see a day at hand, when these impudent women shall be for bidden from
the pulpit to go exposing their naked bosoms. What savages or what
infidels ever needed that? Oh! if they could see what Heaven has in
store for them, their mouths would be this instant opened wide for

Forese then asked Dante to explain to himself and his astonished
fellow-sufferers how it was that he stood there, a living body of flesh
and blood, casting a shadow with his substance.

"If thou callest to mind," said Dante, "what sort of life thou and I led
together, the recollection may still grieve thee sorely. He that walks
here before us took me out of that life; and through his guidance it
is that I have visited in the body the world of the dead, and am now
traversing the mountain which leads us to the right path."[45]

After some further explanation, Forese pointed out to his friend, among
the expiators of intemperance, Buonaggiunta of Lucca, the poet; and Pope
Martin the Fourth, with a face made sharper than the rest for the eels
which he used to smother in wine; and Ubaldino of Pila, grinding his
teeth on air; and Archbishop Boniface of Ravenna, who fed jovially on
his flock; and Rigogliosi of Forli, who had had time enough to drink in
the other world, and yet never was satisfied. Buonaggiunta and Dante
eyed one another with curiosity; and the former murmured something about
a lady of the name of Gentucca.

"Thou seemest to wish to speak with me," said Dante.

"Thou art no admirer, I believe, of my native place," said Buonaggiunta;
"and yet, if thou art he whom I take thee to be, there is a damsel there
shall make it please thee. Art thou not author of the poem beginning

"Ladies, that understand the lore of love?"[46]

"I am one," replied Dante, "who writes as Love would have him, heeding
no manner but his dictator's, and uttering simply what he suggests."[47]

"Ay, that is the sweet new style," returned Buonaggiunta; "and I now see
what it was that hindered the notary, and Guittone, and myself, from
hitting the right natural point." And here he ceased speaking, looking
like one contented to have ascertained a truth.[48]

The whole multitude then, except Forese, skimmed away like cranes, swift
alike through eagerness and through leanness. Forese lingered a moment
to have a parting word with his friend, and to prophesy the violent end
of the chief of his family, Corso, run away with and dragged at the
heels of his horse faster and faster, till the frenzied animal smites
him dead. Having given the poet this information, the prophet speeded
after the others.

The companions now came to a second fruit-tree, to which a multitude
were in vain lifting up their hands, just as children lift them to a man
who tantalises them with shewing something which he withholds; but a
voice out of a thicket by the road-side warned the travellers not to
stop, telling them that the tree was an offset from that of which Eve
tasted. "Call to mind," said the voice, "those creatures of the clouds,
the Centaurs, whose feasting cost them their lives. Remember the
Hebrews, how they dropped away from the ranks of Gideon to quench their
effeminate thirst."[49]

The poets proceeded, wrapt in thought, till they heard another voice of
a nature that made Dante start and shake as if he had been some paltry

"Of what value is thought," said the voice, "if it lose its way? The
path lies hither."

Dante turned toward the voice, and beheld a shape glowing red as in
a furnace, with a visage too dazzling to be looked upon. It met him,
nevertheless, as he drew nigh, with an air from the fanning of its wings
fresh as the first breathing of the wind on a May morning, and fragrant
as all its flowers; and Dante lost the sixth letter on his forehead, and
ascended with the two other poets into the seventh and last circle of
the mountain.

This circle was all in flames, except a narrow path on the edge of its
precipice, along which the pilgrims walked. A great wind from outside of
the precipice kept the flames from raging beyond the path; and in the
midst of the fire went spirits expiating the sin of Incontinence. They
sang the hymn beginning "God of consummate mercy!"[50] Dante was
compelled to divide his attention between his own footsteps and theirs,
in order to move without destruction. At the close of the hymn they
cried aloud, "I know not a man!"[51] and then recommenced it; after
which they again cried aloud, saying, "Diana ran to the wood, and drove
Calisto out of it, because she knew the poison of Venus!" And then
again they sang the hymn, and then extolled the memories of chaste
women and husbands; and so they went on without ceasing, as long as
their time of trial lasted.

Occasionally the multitude that went in one direction met another
which mingled with and passed through it, individuals of both greeting
tenderly by the way, as emmets appear to do, when in passing they touch
the antennæ of one another. These two multitudes parted with loud and
sorrowful cries, proclaiming the offences of which they had been guilty;
and then each renewed their spiritual songs and prayers.

The souls here, as in former circles, knew Dante to be a living creature
by the shadow which he cast; and after the wonted explanations, he
learned who some of them were. One was his predecessor in poetry, Guido
Guinicelli, from whom he could not take his eyes for love and reverence,
till the sufferer, who told him there was a greater than himself in
the crowd, vanished away through the fire as a fish does in water. The
greater one was Arnauld Daniel, the Provençal poet, who, after begging
the prayers of the traveller, disappeared in like manner.

The sun by this time was setting on the fires of Purgatory, when an
angel came crossing the road through them, and then, standing on the
edge of the precipice, with joy in his looks, and singing, "Blessed are
the pure in heart!" invited the three poets to plunge into the flames
themselves, and so cross the road to the ascent by which the summit of
the mountain was gained. Dante, clasping his hands, and raising them
aloft, recoiled in horror. The thought of all that he had just witnessed
made him feel as if his own hour of death was come. His companion
encouraged him to obey the angel; but he could not stir. Virgil said,
"Now mark me, son; this is the only remaining obstacle between thee
and Beatrice;" and then himself and Statius entering the fire, Dante
followed them.

"I could have cast myself," said he, "into molten glass to cool myself,
so raging was the furnace." Virgil talked of Beatrice to animate him. He
said, "Methinks I see her eyes beholding us." There was, indeed, a great
light upon the quarter to which they were crossing; and out of the light
issued a voice, which drew them onwards, singing, "Come, blessed of my
Father! Behold, the sun is going down, and the night cometh, and the
ascent is to be gained."

The travellers gained the ascent, issuing out of the fire; and the voice
and the light ceased, and night was come. Unable to ascend farther in
the darkness, they made themselves a bed, each of a stair in the rock;
and Dante, in his happy humility, felt as if he had been a goat lying
down for the night near two shepherds.

Towards dawn, at the hour of the rising of the star of love, he had a
dream, in which he saw a young and beautiful lady coming over a lea,
and bending every now and then to gather flowers; and as she bound the
flowers into a garland, she sang, "I am Leah, gathering flowers to adorn
myself, that my looks may seem pleasant to me in the mirror. But my
sister Rachel abides before the mirror, flowerless; contented with
her beautiful eyes. To behold is my sister's pleasure, and to work is

When Dante awoke, the beams of the dawn were visible; and they now
produced a happiness like that of the traveller, who every time he
awakes knows himself to be nearer home. Virgil and Statius were already
up; and all three, resuming their way to the mountain's top, stood upon
it at last, and gazed round about them on the skirts of the terrestrial
Paradise. The sun was sparkling bright over a green land, full of trees
and flowers. Virgil then announced to Dante, that here his guidance
terminated, and that the creature of flesh and blood was at length to
be master of his own movements, to rest or to wander as he pleased, the
tried and purified lord over himself.

The Florentine, eager to taste his new liberty, left his companions
awhile, and strolled away through the celestial forest, whose thick and
lively verdure gave coolness to the senses in the midst of the
brightest sun. A fragrance came from every part of the soil; a sweet
unintermitting air streamed against the walker's face; and as the
full-hearted birds, warbling on all sides, welcomed the morning's
radiance into the trees, the trees themselves joined in the concert with
a swelling breath, like that which rises among the pines of Chiassi,
when Eolus lets loose the south-wind, and the gathering melody comes
rolling through the forest from bough to bough.[53]

Dante had proceeded far enough to lose sight of the point at which he
entered, when he found himself on the bank of a rivulet, compared with
whose crystal purity the limpidest waters on earth were clouded. And yet
it flowed under a perpetual depth of shade, which no beam either of sun
or moon penetrated. Nevertheless the darkness was coloured with endless
diversities of May-blossoms; and the poet was standing in admiration,
looking up at it along its course, when he beheld something that took
away every other thought; to wit, a lady, all alone, on the other side
of the water, singing and culling flowers.

"Ah, lady!" said the poet, "who, to judge by the cordial beauty in thy
looks, hast a heart overflowing with love, be pleased to draw thee
nearer to the stream, that I may understand the words thou singest. Thou
remindest me of Proserpine, of the place she was straying in, and of
what sort of creature she looked, when her mother lost her, and she
herself lost the spring-time on earth."

As a lady turns in the dance when it goes smoothest, moving round with
lovely self-possession, and scarcely seeming to put one foot before
the other, so turned the lady towards the water over the yellow and
vermilion flowers, dropping her eyes gently as she came, and singing
so that Dante could hear her. Then when she arrived at the water, she
stopped, and raised her eyes towards him, and smiled, shewing him the
flowers in her hands, and shifting them with her fingers into a display
of all their beauties. Never were such eyes beheld, not even when Venus
herself was in love. The stream was a little stream; yet Dante felt
it as great an intervention between them, as if it had been Leander's

The lady explained to him the nature of the place, and how the rivulet
was the Lethe of Paradise;--Lethe, where he stood, but called Eunoe
higher up; the drink of the one doing away all remembrance of evil
deeds, and that of the other restoring all remembrance of good.[54] It
was the region, she said, in which Adam and Eve had lived; and the poets
had beheld it perhaps in their dreams on Mount Parnassus, and hence
imagined their golden age;--and at these words she looked at Virgil and
Statius, who by this time had come up, and who stood smiling at her
kindly words.

Resuming her song, the lady turned and passed up along the rivulet the
contrary way of the stream, Dante proceeding at the same rate of time on
his side of it; till on a sudden she cried, "Behold, and listen!" and a
light of exceeding lustre came streaming through the woods, followed
by a dulcet melody. The poets resumed their way in a rapture of
expectation, and saw the air before them glowing under the green boughs
like fire. A divine spectacle ensued of holy mystery, with evangelical
and apocalyptic images, which gradually gave way and disclosed a car
brighter than the chariot of the sun, accompanied by celestial nymphs,
and showered upon by angels with a cloud of flowers, in the midst of
which stood a maiden in a white veil, crowned with olive.

The love that had never left Dante's heart from childhood told him who
it was; and trembling in every vein, he turned round to Virgil for
encouragement. Virgil was gone. At that moment, Paradise and Beatrice
herself could not requite the pilgrim for the loss of his friend; and
the tears ran down his cheeks.

"Dante," said the veiled maiden across the stream, "weep not that Virgil
leaves thee. Weep thou not yet. The stroke of a sharper sword is coming,
at which it will behove thee to weep." Then assuming a sterner attitude,
and speaking in the tone of one who reserves the bitterest speech
for the last, she added, "Observe me well. I am, as thou suspectest,
Beatrice indeed;--Beatrice, who has to congratulate thee on deigning to
seek the mountain at last. And hadst thou so long indeed to learn, that
here only can man be happy?"

Dante, casting down his eyes at these words, beheld his face in the
water, and hastily turned aside, he saw it so full of shame.

Beatrice had the dignified manner of an offended parent; such a flavour
of bitterness was mingled with her pity.

She held her peace; and the angels abruptly began singing, "In thee, O
Lord, have I put my trust;" but went no farther in the psalm than the
words, "Thou hast set my feet in a large room." The tears of Dante had
hitherto been suppressed; but when the singing began, they again rolled
down his cheeks.

Beatrice, in a milder tone, said to the angels, "This man, when he
proposed to himself in his youth to lead a new life, was of a truth so
gifted, that every good habit ought to have thrived with him; but the
richer the soil, the greater peril of weeds. For a while, the innocent
light of my countenance drew him the right way; but when I quitted
mortal life, he took away his thoughts from remembrance of me, and gave
himself to others. When I had risen from flesh to spirit, and increased
in worth and beauty, then did I sink in his estimation, and he turned
into other paths, and pursued false images of good that never keep their
promise. In vain I obtained from Heaven the power of interfering in his
behalf, and endeavoured to affect him with it night and day. So little
was he concerned, and into such depths he fell, that nothing remained
but to shew him the state of the condemned; and therefore I went to
their outer regions, and commended him with tears to the guide that
brought him hither. The decrees of Heaven would be nought, if Lethe
could be passed, and the fruit beyond it tasted, without any payment of

"O thou," she continued, addressing herself to Dante, "who standest on
the other side of the holy stream, say, have I not spoken truth?"

Dante was so confused and penitent, that the words failed as they passed
his lips.

"What could induce thee," resumed his monitress, "when I had given thee
aims indeed, to abandon them for objects that could end in nothing?"

Dante said, "Thy face was taken from me, and the presence of false
pleasure led me astray."

"Never didst thou behold," cried the maiden, "loveliness like mine; and
if bliss failed thee because of my death, how couldst thou be allured by
mortal inferiority? That first blow should have taught thee to disdain
all perishable things, and aspire after the soul that had gone before
thee. How could thy spirit endure to stoop to further chances, or to a
childish girl, or any other fleeting vanity? The bird that is newly out
of the nest may be twice or thrice tempted by the snare; but in vain,
surely, is the net spread in sight of one that is older."[56]

Dante stood as silent and abashed as a sorry child.

"If but to hear me," said Beatrice, "thus afflicts thee, lift up thy
beard, and see what sight can do."

Dante, though feeling the sting intended by the word "beard," did as he
was desired. The angels had ceased to scatter their clouds of flowers
about the maiden; and be beheld her, though still beneath her veil, as
far surpassing her former self in loveliness, as that self had surpassed
others. The sight pierced him with such pangs, that the more he had
loved any thing else, the more he now loathed it; and he fell senseless
to the ground.

When he recovered his senses, he found himself in the hands of the lady
he had first seen in the place, who bidding him keep firm hold of her,
drew him into the river Lethe, and so through and across it to the other
side, speeding as she went like a weaver's shuttle, and immersing him
when she arrived, the angels all the while singing, "Wash me, and I
shall be whiter than snow."[57] She then delivered him into the hands of
the nymphs that had danced about the car,--nymphs on earth, but stars
and cardinal virtues in heaven; a song burst from the lips of the
angels; and Faith, Hope, and Charity, calling upon Beatrice to unveil
her face, she did so; and Dante quenched the ten-years thirst of his
eyes in her ineffable beauty.[58]

After a while he and Statius were made thoroughly regenerate with the
waters of Eunoe; and he felt pure with a new being, and fit to soar into
the stars.

[Footnote 1:

  "Dolce color d'oriental zaffiro
  Che s'accoglieva nel serenoaspetto
  De l'aer puro infino al primo giro,
  A gli occhi miei ricomincio diletto,
  Tosto ch'io usci' fuor de l'aura morta
  Che m'avea contristati gli occhi e 'l petto.

  Lo bel pianeta, ch'ad amar conforta,
  Faceva tutto rider l'oriente,
  Velando i Pesci, ch'erano in sua scorta.

  Io mi volsi a man destra, e posi mente
  All'altro polo, e vidi quattro stelle
  Non viste mai, fuor ch'a la prima gente;

  Goder pareva 'l ciel di lor fiammelle.
  O settentrional vedovo sito,
  Poi che privato sei di mirar quelle!"

  The sweetest oriental sapphire blue,
  Which the whole air in its pure bosom had,
  Greeted mine eyes, far as the heavens withdrew;

  So that again they felt assured and glad,
  Soon as they issued forth from the dead air,
  Where every sight and thought had made them sad.

  The beauteous star, which lets no love despair,
  Made all the orient laugh with loveliness,
  Veiling the Fish that glimmered in its hair.

  I turned me to the right to gaze and bless,
  And saw four more, never of living wight
  Beheld, since Adam brought us our distress;

  Heaven seemed rejoicing in their happy light.
  O widowed northern pole, bereaved indeed,
  Since thou hast had no power to see that sight!

Readers who may have gone thus far with the "Italian Pilgrim's
Progress," will allow me to congratulate them on arriving at this lovely
scene, one of the most admired in the poem.

This is one of the passages which make the religious admirers of Dante
inclined to pronounce him divinely inspired; for how could he otherwise
have seen stars, they ask us, which were not discovered till after
his time, and which compose the constellation of the Cross? But other
commentators are of opinion, that the Cross, though not so named till
subsequently (and Dante, we see, gives no prophetic hint about the
name), _had_ been seen, probably by stray navigators. An Arabian globe
is even mentioned by M. Artaud (see Cary), in which the Southern Cross
is set down. Mr. Cary, in his note on the passage, refers to Seneca's
prediction of the discovery of America; most likely suggested by similar
information. "But whatever," he adds, "may be thought of this, it is
certain that the four stars are here symbolical of the four cardinal
virtues;" and he refers to canto xxxi, where those virtues are
retrospectively associated with these stars. The symbol, however, is
not, necessary. Dante was a very curious inquirer on all subjects, and
evidently acquainted with ships and seamen as well as geography; and his
imagination would eagerly have seized a magnificent novelty like this,
and used it the first opportunity. Columbus's discovery, as the reader
will see, was anticipated by Pulci.]

[Footnote 2: Generous and disinterested!--Cato, the republican enemy of
Cæsar, and committer of suicide, is not luckily chosen for his present
office by the poet who has put Brutus into the devil's mouth in spite of
his agreeing with Cato, and the suicide Piero delle Vigne into hell in
spite of his virtues. But Dante thought Cato's austere manners like his

[Footnote 3: The girding with the rush (_giunco schietto_) is_ supposed
by the commentators to be an injunction of simplicity and patience.
Perhaps it is to enjoin sincerity; especially as the region of expiation
has now been entered, and sincerity is the first step to repentance.
It will be recollected that Dante's former girdle, the cord of the
Franciscan friars, has been left in the hands of Fraud.]

[Footnote 4:

  "L'alba vinceva l'ora mattutina
  Che fuggia 'nnanzi, sì che di lontano
  Conobbi il tremolar de la marina."

  The lingering shadows now began to flee
  Before the whitening dawn, so that mine eyes
  Discerned far off the trembling of the sea.

  "Conobbi il tremolar de la marina"
is a beautiful verse, both for the picture and the sound.]

[Footnote 5: This evidence of humility and gratitude on the part of
Dante would be very affecting, if we could forget all the pride and
passion he has been shewing elsewhere, and the torments in which he has
left his fellow-creatures. With these recollections upon us, it looks
like an overweening piece of self-congratulation at other people's

[Footnote 6:

  "Amor che ne la mente mi ragiona
  De la mia donna disiosamente,"

is the beginning of the ode sung by Dante's friend. The incident is
beautifully introduced; and Casella's being made to select a production
from the pen of the man who asks him to sing, very delicately implies a
graceful cordiality in the musician's character.

Milton alludes to the passage in his sonnet to Henry Lawes:

  "Thou honour'st verse, and verse must lend her wing
  To honour thee, the priest of Phoebus' quire,
  That tun'st their happiest lines in hymn or story.
  Dante shall give Fame leave to set thee higher
  Than his Casella, whom he wooed to sing,
  Met in the milder shades of Purgatory."  ]

[Footnote 7: Manfredi was the natural son of the Emperor Frederick the
Second. "He was lively and agreeable in his manners," observes Mr. Cary,
"and delighted in poetry, music, and dancing. But he was luxurious
and ambitious, void of religion, and in his philosophy an epicurean."
_Translation of Dante_, Smith's edition, p. 77. Thus King Manfredi ought
to have been in a red-hot tomb, roasting for ever with Epicurus himself,
and with the father of the poet's beloved friend, Guido Cavalcante: but
he was the son of an emperor, and a foe to the house of Anjou; so Dante
gives him a passport to heaven. There is no ground whatever for the
repentance assumed in the text.]

[Footnote 8: The unexpected bit of comedy here ensuing is very
remarkable and pleasant. Belacqua, according to an old commentator, was
a musician.]

[Footnote 9: Buonconte was the son of that Guido da Montefeltro, whose
soul we have seen carried off from St. Francis by a devil, for having
violated the conditions of penitence. It is curious that both father and
son should have been contested for in this manner.]

[Footnote 10: This is the most affecting and comprehensive of all brief

  "Deh quando to sarai tornato al mondo,
  E riposato de la lunga via,
  Seguitò 'l terzo spirito al secondo,

  Ricorditi di me che son la Pia:
  Siena mi fè; disfecemi Maremma;
  Salsi colui che 'nnanellata pria

  Disposando m' avea con la sua gemma."

  Ah, when thou findest thee again on earth
  (Said then a female soul), remember me,--
  Pia. Sienna was my place of birth,

  The Marshes of my death. This knoweth he,
  Who placed upon my hand the spousal ring.

"Nello della Pietra," says M. Beyle, in his work entitled _De l'Amour,_
"obtained in marriage the hand of Madonna Pia, sole heiress of the
Ptolomei, the richest and most noble family of Sienna. Her beauty, which
was the admiration of all Tuscany, gave rise to a jealousy in the
breast of her husband, that, envenomed by wrong reports and suspicions
continually reviving, led to a frightful catastrophe. It is not easy to
determine at this day if his wife was altogether innocent; but Dante
has represented her as such. Her husband carried her with him into
the marshes of Volterra, celebrated then, as now, for the pestiferous
effects of the air. Never would he tell his wife the reason of her
banishment into so dangerous a place. His pride did not deign to
pronounce either complaint or accusation. He lived with her alone, in a
deserted tower, of which I have been to see the ruins on the seashore;
he never broke his disdainful silence, never replied to the questions of
his youthful bride, never listened to her entreaties. He waited, unmoved
by her, for the air to produce its fatal effects. The vapours of
this unwholesome swamp were not long in tarnishing features the most
beautiful, they say, that in that age had appeared upon earth. In a few
months she died. Some chroniclers of these remote times report that
Nello employed the dagger to hasten her end: she died in the marshes in
some horrible manner; but the mode of her death remained a mystery, even
to her contemporaries. Nello della Pietra survived, to pass the rest
of his days in a silence which was never broken." Hazlitt's _Journey
through France and Italy_, p. 315.]

[Footnote 11: Sordello was a famous Provençal poet; with whose writings
the world has but lately been made acquainted through the researches of
M. Raynouard, in his _Choix des Poésies des Troubadours_, &c.]

[Footnote 12: "Fresco smeraldo in l'ora che si fiacca." An exquisite
image of newness and brilliancy.]

[Footnote 13: "Salve, Regina:" the beginning of a Roman-Catholic chant
to the Virgin.]

[Footnote 14: "With nose deprest," says Mr. Cary. But Dante says,
literally, "small nose,"--_nasetto_. So, further on, he says, "masculine
nose,"--_maschio naso_. He meant to imply the greater or less
determination of character, which the size of that feature is supposed
to indicate.]

[Footnote 15: An English reader is surprised to find here a sovereign
for whom he has been taught to entertain little respect. But Henry was a
devout servant of the Church.]

[Footnote 16:

  "Era già l'ora che volge 'l desio
  A' naviganti, e intenerisce 'l cuore
  Lo dì ch' an detto a' dolci amici a Dio;

  E che lo nuovo peregrin d'amore
  Punge, se ode squilla di lontano
  Che paia 'l giorno pianger che si muore."

A famous passage, untiring in the repetition. It is, indeed, worthy to
be the voice of Evening herself.

  'Twas now the hour, when love of home melts through
  Men's hearts at sea, and longing thoughts portray
  The moment when they bade sweet friends adieu;
  And the new pilgrim now, on his lone way,
  Thrills, if he hears the distant vesper-bell,
  That seems to mourn for the expiring day.

Every body knows the line in Gray's Elegy, not unworthily echoed from

  "The curfew tolls the knell of parting day."

Nothing can equal, however, the _tone_ in the Italian original,--the

  "Pàia 'l giorno pianger the si muòre."

Alas! why could not the great Tuscan have been superior enough to his
personal griefs to write a whole book full of such beauties, and so have
left us a work truly to be called Divine?]

[Footnote 17:

"Te lucis ante terminum;"--a hymn sung at evening service.]

[Footnote 18: Lucy, _Lucia_ (supposed to be derived from _lux, lucis_),
is the goddess (I was almost going to say) who in Roman Catholic
countries may be said to preside over _light_, and who is really invoked
in maladies of the eyes. She was Dante's favourite saint, possibly for
that reason among others, for he had once hurt his eyes with study, and
they had been cured. In her spiritual character she represents the light
of grace.]

[Footnote 19: The first step typifies consciousness of sin; the second,
horror of it; the third, zeal to amend.]

[Footnote 20: The keys of St. Peter. The gold is said by the
commentators to mean power to absolve; the silver, the learning and
judgment requisite to use it.]

[Footnote 21: "Te Deum laudamus," the well-known hymn of St. Ambrose and
St. Augustine.]

[Footnote 22:

  "Non v'accorgete voi, che noi siam vermi,
  Nati a formar l'angelica farfalla,
  Che vola a giustizia senza schermi?"

  "Know you not, we are worms
  Born to compose the angelic butterfly,
  That flies to heaven when freed from what deforms?"

[Footnote 23:

  "Più ridon le carte
  Che penelleggia Franco Bolognese:
  L'onore è tutto or suo, e mio in parte."

[Footnote 24: The "new Guido" is his friend Guido Cavalcante (now dead);
the "first" is Guido Guinicelli, for whose writings Dante had an esteem;
and the poet, who is to "chase them from the nest," _caccerà di nido_
(as the not very friendly metaphor states it), is with good reason
supposed to be himself! He was right; but was the statement becoming? It
was certainly not necessary. Dante, notwithstanding his friendship
with Guido, appears to have had a grudge against both the Cavalcanti,
probably for some scorn they had shewn to his superstition; far they
could be proud themselves; and the son has the reputation of scepticism,
as well as the father. See the _Decameron, Giorn_. vi. _Nov. 9_.]

[Footnote 25: This is the passage from which it is conjectured that
Dante knew what it was to "tremble in every vein," from the awful
necessity of begging. Mr. Cary, with some other commentators, thinks
that the "trembling" implies fear of being refused. But does it not
rather mean the agony of the humiliation? In Salvani's case it certainly
does; for it was in consideration of the pang to his pride, that the
good deed rescued him from worse punishment.]

[Footnote 26: The reader will have noticed the extraordinary mixture of
Paganism and the Bible in this passage, especially the introduction of
such fables as Niobe and Arachne. It would be difficult not to suppose
it intended to work out some half sceptical purpose, if we did not call
to mind the grave authority given to fables in the poet's treatise on
Monarchy, and the whole strange spirit, at once logical and gratuitous,
of the learning of his age, when the acuter the mind, the subtler became
the reconcilement with absurdity.]

[Footnote 27: _Beati pauperes spiritu_. "Blessed are the poor in spirit;
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven"--one of the beautiful passages of
the beautiful sermon on the Mount. How could the great poet read and
admire such passages, and yet fill his books so full of all which they
renounced? "Oh," say his idolators, "he did it out of his very love for
them, and his impatience to see them triumph." So said the Inquisition.
The evil was continued for the sake of the good which it prevented! The
result in the long-run may be so, but not for the reasons they supposed,
or from blindness to the indulgence of their bad passions.]

[Footnote 28:

  "_Sàvia_ non fui, avvegna che _Sapìa_
  Fosse chiamata."
The pun is poorer even than it sounds in English: for though the Italian
name may possibly remind its readers of _sapienza_ (sapience), there is
the difference of a _v_ in the adjective _savia_, which is also accented
on the first syllable. It is almost as bad as if she had said in
English, "Sophist I found myself, though Sophia is my name." It
is pleasant, however, to see the great saturnine poet among the
punsters.--It appears, from the commentators, that Sapia was in exile at
the time of the battle, but they do not say for what; probably from some
zeal of faction]

[Footnote 29: We are here let into Dante's confessions. He owns to a
little envy, but far more pride:

  "Gli occhi, diss' io, mi fieno ancor qui tolti,
  Ma picciol tempo; che poch' è l'offesa
  Fatta per esser con invidia volti.
  Troppa è più la paura ond' è sospesa
  L'anima mia del tormento di sotto
  Che già lo 'ncarco di là giù mi pesa."

The first confession is singularly ingenuous and modest; the second,
affecting. It is curious to guess what sort of persons Dante could have
allowed himself to envy--probably those who were more acceptable to

[Footnote 29: Aglauros, daughter of Cecrops, king of Athens, was turned
to stone by Mercury, for disturbing with her envy his passion for her
sister Herse.

The passage about Cain is one of the sublimest in Dante. Truly wonderful
and characteristic is the way in which he has made physical noise and
violence express the anguish of the wanderer's mind. We are not to
suppose, I conceive, that we see Cain. We know he has passed us, by his
thunderous and headlong words. Dante may well make him invisible, for
his words are things--veritable thunderbolts.

Cain comes in rapid successions of thunder-claps. The voice of Aglauros
is thunder-claps crashing into one another--broken thunder. This is
exceedingly fine also, and wonderful as a variation upon that awful
music; but Cain is the astonishment and the overwhelmingness. If it were
not, however, for the second thunder, we should not have had the two
silences; for I doubt whether they are not better even than one. At all
events, the final silence is tremendous.]

[Footnote 30: St. Luke ii. 48.]

[Footnote 31: The stoning of Stephen.]

[Footnote 32: These illustrative spectacles are not among the best
inventions of Dante. Their introduction is forced, and the instances not
always pointed. A murderess, too, of her son, changed into such a bird
as the nightingale, was not a happy association of ideas in Homer, where
Dante found it; and I am surprised he made use of it, intimate as
he must have been with the less inconsistent story of her namesake,
Philomela, in the _Metamorphoses_.]

[Footnote 33: So, at least, I conceive, by what appears afterwards; and
I may here add, once for all, that I have supplied the similar requisite
intimations at each successive step in Purgatory, the poet seemingly
having forgotten to do so. It is necessary to what he implied in the
outset. The whole poem, it is to be remembered, is thought to have
wanted his final revision.]

[Footnote 34: What an instance to put among those of haste to do good!
But the fame and accomplishments of Cæsar, and his being at the head of
our Ghibelline's beloved emperors, fairly overwhelmed Dante's boasted

[Footnote 35: A masterly allegory of Worldly Pleasure. But the close of
it in the original has an intensity of the revolting, which outrages the
last recesses of feeling, and disgusts us with the denouncer.]

[Footnote 36: The fierce Hugh Capet, soliloquising about the Virgin in
the tones of a lady in child-bed, is rather too ludicrous an association
of ideas. It was for calling this prince the son of a butcher, that
Francis the First prohibited the admission of Dante's poem into his
dominions. Mr. Cary thinks the king might have been mistaken in his
interpretation of the passage, and that "butcher" may be simply a
metaphorical term for the blood-thirstiness of Capet's father. But when
we find the man called, not _the_ butcher, or _that_ butcher, or butcher
in reference to his species, but in plain local parlance "a butcher of
Paris" (_un beccaio di Parigi_), and when this designation is followed
up by the allusion to the extinction of the previous dynasty, the
ordinary construction of the words appears indisputable. Dante seems
to have had no ground for what his aristocratical pride doubtless
considered a hard blow, and what King Francis, indeed, condescended to
feel as such. He met with the notion somewhere, and chose to believe it,
in order to vex the French and their princes. The spirit of the taunt
contradicts his own theories elsewhere; for he has repeatedly said, that
the only true nobility is in the mind. But his writings (poetical truth
excepted) are a heap of contradictions.]

[Footnote 37: Mr. Cary thought he had seen an old romance in which there
is a combat of this kind between Jesus and his betrayer. I have an
impression to the same effect.]

[Footnote 38:

  "O Signor mio, quando sarò io lieto
  A veder la vendetta the nascosa
  Fa dolce l'ira tua nel tuo segreto!"

The spirit of the blasphemous witticism attributed to another Italian,
viz. that the reason why God prohibited revenge to mankind was its being
"too delicate a morsel for any but himself," is here gravely anticipated
as a positive compliment to God by the fierce poet of the thirteenth
century, who has been held up as a great Christian divine! God hugs
revenge to his bosom with delight! The Supreme Being confounded with a
poor grinning Florentine!]

[Footnote 39: A ludicrous anti-climax this to modern ears! The allusion
is to the Pygmalion who was Dido's brother, and who murdered her
husband, the priest Sichæus, for his riches. The term "parricide" is
here applied in its secondary sense of--the murderer of any one to whom
we owe reverence.]

[Footnote 40: Heliodorus was a plunderer of the Temple, thus
supernaturally punished. The subject has been nobly treated by Raphael.]

[Footnote 41: A grand and beautiful fiction.]

[Footnote 42: Readers need hardly be told that there is no foundation
for this fancy, except in the invention of the churchmen. Dante, in
another passage, not necessary to give, confounds the poet Statius who
was from Naples, with a rhetorician of the same name from Thoulouse.]

[Footnote 43:

  "Parèn l'occhiaje anella senza gemme."

This beautiful and affecting image is followed in the original by one
of the most fantastical conceits of the time. The poet says, that the
physiognomist who "reads the word OMO (_homo_, man), written in the face
of the human being, might easily have seen the letter _m_ in theirs."

  "Chi nel viso de gli uomini legge _o m o_,
  Bene avria quivi conosciuto l'_emme_."

The meaning is, that the perpendicular lines of the nose and temples
form the letter M, and the eyes the two O's. The enthusiast for Roman
domination must have been delighted to find that Nature wrote in Latin!]

[Footnote 44:

  "Se le svergognate fosser certe
  Di quel che l' ciel veloce loro ammanna,
  Gia per urlare avrian le bocche aperte."

This will remind the reader of the style of that gentle Christian, John
Knox, who, instead of offering his own "cheek to the smiters," delighted
to smite the cheeks of women. Fury was his mode of preaching meekness,
and threats of everlasting howling his reproof of a tune on Sundays.
But, it will be said, he looked to consequences. Yes; and produced the
worst himself, both spiritual and temporal. Let the whisky-shops answer
him. However, he helped to save Scotland from Purgatory: so we must take
good and bad together, and hope the best in the end.

Forese, like many of Dante's preachers, seems to have been one of those
self-ignorant or self-exasperated denouncers, who "Compound for sins
they are inclined to, By damning those they have no mind to." He was
a glutton, who could not bear to see ladies too little clothed. The
defacing of "God's image" in his own person he considered nothing.]

[Footnote 45: The passage respecting his past life is unequivocal
testimony to the fact, confidently disputed by some, of Dante's having
availed himself of the license of the time; though, in justice to such
candour, we are bound not to think worse of it than can be helped. The
words in the original are

  "Se ti riduci a mente
  Qual fosti meco, e quale io teco fui,
  Ancor fia grave il memorar presente."

Literally: "If thou recallest to mind what (sort of person) thou wast
with me, and what I was with thee, the recollection may oppress thee

His having been taken out of that kind of life by Virgil (construed in
the literal sense, in which, among other senses, he has directed us to
construe him), may imply, either that the delight of reading Virgil
first made him think of living in a manner more becoming a man of
intellect, or (possibly) that the Latin poet's description of Æneas's
descent into hell turned his thoughts to religious penitence. Be this
as it may, his life, though surely it could at no time have been of any
very licentious kind, never, if we are to believe Boccaccio, became

[Footnote 46: The mention of Gentucca might be thought a compliment to
the lady, if Dante had not made Beatrice afterwards treat his regard for
any one else but herself with so much contempt. (See page 216 of the
present volume.) Under that circumstance, it is hardly acting like a
gentleman to speak of her at all; unless, indeed, he thought her a
person who would be pleased with the notoriety arising even from the
record of a fugitive regard; and in that case the good taste of the
record would still remain doubtful. The probability seems to be, that
Dante was resolved, at all events, to take this opportunity of bearding
some rumour.]

[Footnote 47: A celebrated and charming passage:

  "Io mi son un, che quando
  Amore spira, noto; e a quel modo
  Che detta dentro, vo significando."

  I am one that notes
  When Love inspires; and what he speaks I tell
  In his own way, embodying but his thoughts.

[Footnote 48: Exquisite truth of painting! and a very elegant compliment
to the handsome nature of Buonaggiunta. Jacopo da Lentino, called the
Notary, and Fra Guittone of Arezzo, were celebrated verse-writers of
the day. The latter, in a sonnet given by Mr. Cary in the notes to his
translation, says he shall be delighted to hear the trumpet, at the last
day, dividing mankind into the happy and the tormented (sufferers under
_crudel martire_), _because_ an inscription will then be seen on his
forehead, shewing that he had been a slave to love! An odd way for a
poet to shew his feelings, and a friar his religion!]

[Footnote 49: Judges vii. 6.]

[Footnote 50: _Summæ Deus clementiæ_. The ancient beginning of a hymn in
the Roman Catholic church; now altered, say the commentators, to "Summæ
parens clementiæ."]

[Footnote 51: _Virum non cognosco_. "Then said Mary unto the angel, How
shall this be, seeing I know not a man?"--_Luke_ i. 34.

The placing of Mary's interview with the angel, and Ovid's story of
Calisto, upon apparently the same identical footing of authority, by
spirits in all the sincerity of agonised penitence, is very remarkable.
A dissertation, by some competent antiquary, on the curious question
suggested by these anomalies, would be a welcome novelty in the world of

[Footnote 52: An allegory of the Active and Contemplative Life;--not, I
think, a happy one, though beautifully painted. It presents, apart
from its terminating comment no necessary intellectual suggestion; is
rendered, by the, comment itself, hardly consistent with Leah's express
love of ornament; and, if it were not for the last sentence, might be
taken for a picture of two different forms of Vanity.]

[Footnote 53:

  "Tal, qual di ramo in ramo si raccoglie
  Per la pineta in sul lito di Chiassi,
  Quand' Eolo scirocco fuor discioglie."

  Even as from branch to branch
  Along the piny forests on the shore
  Of Chiassi, rolls the gathering melody,
  When Eolus hath from his cavern loosed
  The dripping south."--_Cary_.

"This is the wood," says Mr. Cary, "where the scene of Boccaccio's
sublimest story (taken entirely from Elinaud, as I learn in the notes to
the Decameron, ediz. Giunti, 1573, p. 62) is laid. See Dec., G. 5, N.
8, and Dryden's Theodore and Honoria. Our poet perhaps wandered in
it during his abode with Guido Novello da Polenta."--_Translation of
Dante_, ut sup. p. 121.]

[Footnote 54: Lethe, _Forgetfulness_; Eunoe, _Well-mindedness_.]

[Footnote 55:

  "Senza alcuno scotto
  Di pentimento."

Literally, _scot-free_.--"Scotto," scot;--"payment for dinner or supper
in a tavern" (says Rubbi, the Petrarchal rather than Dantesque editor
of the _Parnaso Italiano_, and a very summary gentleman); "here used
figuratively, though it is not a word fit to be employed on serious and
grand occasions" (in cose gravi ed illustri). See his "Dante" in that
collection, vol. ii. p. 297.]

[Footnote 56: The allusion to the childish girl (_pargoletta_) or any
other fleeting vanity,

  "O altra vanità con sì breve use,"

is not handsome. It was not the fault of the childish girls that he
liked them; and he should not have taunted them, whatever else they
might have been. What answer could they make to the great poet?

Nor does Beatrice make a good figure throughout this scene, whether as
a woman or an allegory. If she is Theology, or Heavenly Grace, &c. the
sternness of the allegory should not have been put into female shape;
and when she is to be taken in her literal sense (as the poet also tells
us she is), her treatment of the poor submissive lover, with leave of
Signor Rubbi, is no better than _snubbing_;--to say nothing of the
vanity with which she pays compliments to her own beauty.

I must, furthermore, beg leave to differ with the poet's thinking it an
exalted symptom on his part to hate every thing he had loved before, out
of supposed compliment the transcendental object of his affections and
his own awakened merits. All the heights of love and wisdom terminate in
charity; and charity, by very reason of its knowing the poorness of so
many things, hates nothing. Besides, it is any thing but handsome or
high-minded to turn round upon objects whom we have helped to lower with
our own gratified passions, and pretend a right to scorn them.]

[Footnote 57:

"Tu asperges me, et mundabor," &c. "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be
clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."--Psalm li. 7.]

[Footnote 58: Beatrice had been dead ten years.]



The Paradise or Heaven of Dante, in whose time the received system of
astronomy was the Ptolemaic, consists of the Seven successive Planets
according to that system, or the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars,
Jupiter, and Saturn; of the Eighth Sphere beyond these, or that of the
Fixed Stars; of the Primum Mobile, or First Mover of them all round the
moveless Earth; and of the Empyrean, or Region of Pure Light, in which
is the Beatific Vision. Each of these ascending spheres is occupied by
its proportionate degree of Faith and Virtue; and Dante visits each
under the guidance of Beatrice, receiving many lessons, as he goes,
on theological and other subjects (here left out), and being finally
admitted, after the sight of Christ and the Virgin, to a glimpse of the
Great First Cause.


It was evening now on earth, and morning on the top of the hill in
Purgatory, when Beatrice having fixed her eyes upon the sun, Dante fixed
his eyes upon hers, and suddenly found himself in Heaven.

He had been transported by the attraction of love, and Beatrice was by
his side.

The poet beheld from where he stood the blaze of the empyrean, and heard
the music of the spheres; yet he was only in the first or lowest Heaven,
the circle of the orb of the moon.

This orb, with his new guide, he proceeded to enter. It had seemed,
outside, as solid, though as lucid, as diamond; yet they entered it, as
sunbeams are admitted into water without dividing the substance. It now
appeared, as it enclosed them, like a pearl, through the essence of
which they saw but dimly; and they beheld many faces eagerly looking at
them, as if about to speak, but not more distinct from the surrounding
whiteness than pearls themselves are from the forehead they adorn.[1]
Dante thought them only reflected faces, and turned round to see to whom
they belonged, when his smiling companion set him right; and he entered
into discourse with the spirit that seemed the most anxious to accost
him. It was Piccarda, the sister of his friend Forese Donati, whom he
had met in the sixth region of Purgatory. He did not know her, by reason
of her wonderful increase in beauty. She and her associates were such
as had been Vowed to a Life of Chastity and Religion, but had been
Compelled by Others to Break their Vows. This had been done, in
Piccarda's instance, by her brother Corso.[2] On

Dante's asking if they did not long for a higher state of bliss, she and
her sister-spirits gently smiled; and then answered, with faces as happy
as first love,[3] that they willed only what it pleased God to give
them, and therefore were truly blest. The poet found by this answer,
that every place in Heaven was Paradise, though the bliss might be of
different degrees. Piccarda then shewed him the spirit at her side,
lustrous with all the glory of the region, Costanza, daughter of the
king of Sicily, who had been forced out of the cloister to become the
wife of the Emperor Henry. Having given him this information, she began
singing _Ave Maria_; and, while singing, disappeared with the rest, as
substances disappear in water.[4]

A loving will transported the two companions, as before, to the next
circle of Heaven, where they found themselves in the planet Mercury, the
residence of those who had acted rather out of Desire of Fame than Love
of God. The spirits here, as in the former Heaven, crowded towards them,
as fish in a clear pond crowd to the hand that offers them food. Their
eyes sparkled with celestial joy; and the more they thought of their
joy, the brighter they grew; till one of them who addressed the poet
became indistinguishable for excess of splendour. It was the soul of
the Emperor Justinian. Justinian told him the whole story of the Roman
empire up to his time; and then gave an account of one of his associates
in bliss, Romèo, who had been minister to Raymond Beranger, Count of
Provence. Four daughters had been born to Raymond Beranger, and every
one became a queen; and all this had been brought about by Romèo, a poor
stranger from another country. The courtiers, envying Romèo, incited
Raymond to demand of him an account of his stewardship, though he had
brought his master's treasury twelve-fold for every ten it disbursed.
Romeo quitted the court, poor and old; "and if the world," said
Justinian, "could know the heart such a man must have had, begging his
bread as he went, crust by crust--praise him as it does, it would praise
him a great deal more."[5]

  "Hosanna, Holy God of Sabaoth,
  Superillumining with light of light
  The happy fires of these thy Malahoth!"[6]

Thus began singing the soul of the Emperor Justinian; and then, turning
as he sang, vanished with those about him, like sparks of fire.

Dante now found himself, before he was aware, in the third Heaven,
or planet Venus, the abode of the Amorous.[7] He only knew it by the
increased loveliness in the face of his companion.

The spirits in this orb, who came and went in the light of it like
sparks in fire, or like voices chanting in harmony with voice, were spun
round in circles of delight, each with more or less swiftness, according
to its share of the beatific vision. Several of them came sweeping out
of their dance towards the poet who had sung of Love, among whom was his
patron, Charles Martel, king of Hungary, who shewed him the reason why
diversities of natures must occur in families; and Cunizza, sister of
the tyrant Ezzelino, who was overcome by this her star when on earth;
and Folco the Troubadour, whose place was next Cunizza in Heaven; and
Rahab the harlot, who favoured the entrance of the Jews into the Holy
Land, and whose place was next Folco.[8] Cunizza said that she did not
at all regret a lot which carried her no higher, whatever the vulgar
might think of such an opinion. She spoke of the glories of the jewel
who was close to her, Folco--contrasted his zeal with the inertness of
her contemptible countrymen--and foretold the bloodshed that awaited the
latter from wars and treacheries. The Troubadour, meanwhile, glowed
in his aspect like a ruby stricken with the sun; for in heaven joy is
expressed by effulgence, as on earth by laughter. He confessed the
lawless fires of his youth, as great (he said) as those of Dido or
Hercules; but added, that he had no recollection of them, except a
joyous one, not for the fault (which does not come to mind in heaven),
but for the good which heaven brings out of it. Folco concluded with
explaining how Rahab had come into the third Heaven, and with denouncing
the indifference of popes and cardinals (those adulterers of the Church)
to every thing but accursed money-getting.[9]

In an instant, before he could think about it, Dante was in the fourth
Heaven, the sun, the abode of Blessed Doctors of the Church. A band of
them came encircling him and his guide, as a halo encircles the moon,
singing a song, the beauty of which, like jewels too rich to be
exported, was not conveyable by expression to mortal fancy. The spirits
composing the band were those of St. Thomas Aquinas, Albertus Magnus,
Gratian the Benedictine, Pietro Lombardo, Solomon, Saint Dionysius
the Areopagite, Paulus Orosius, Boetius, Isidore, the Venerable Bede,
Richard of St. Victor, and Sigebert of Gemblours. St. Thomas was the
namer of them to Dante. Their song had paused that he might speak; but
when he had done speaking, they began resuming it, one by one, and
circling as they moved, like the wheels of church-clocks that sound one
after another with a sweet tinkling, when they summon the hearts of the
devout to morning prayer.[10]

Again they stopped, and again St. Thomas addressed the poet. He was of
the order of St. Dominic; but with generous grace he held up the founder
of the Franciscans, with his vow of poverty, as the example of what a
pope should be, and reproved the errors of no order but his own. On
the other hand, a new circle of doctors of the Church making their
appearance, and enclosing the first as rainbow encloses rainbow, rolling
round with it in the unison of a two-fold joy, a voice from the new
circle attracted the poet's ear, as the pole attracts the needle,
and Saint Buonaventura, a Franciscan, opened upon the praises of St.
Dominic, the loving minion of Christianity, the holy wrestler,--benign
to his friends and cruel to his enemies;[11]--and so confined his
reproofs to his own Franciscan order. He then, as St. Thomas had done
with the doctors in the inner circle, named those who constituted the
outer: to wit, Illuminato, and Agostino, and Hugues of St. Victor, and
Petrus Comestor, and Pope John the Twenty-first, Nathan the Prophet,
Chrysostom, Anselmo of Canterbury, Donatus who deigned to teach grammar,
Raban of Mentz, and Joachim of Calabria. The two circles then varied
their movement by wheeling round one another in counter directions; and
after they had chanted, not of Bacchus or Apollo, but of Three Persons
in One, St. Thomas, who knew Dante's thoughts by intuition, again
addressed him, discoursing of mysteries human and divine, exhorting
him to be slow in giving assent or denial to propositions without
examination, and bidding him warn people in general how they presumed
to anticipate the divine judgment as to who should be saved and who
not.[12] The spirit of Solomon then related how souls could resume their
bodies glorified; and the two circles uttering a rapturous amen, glowed
with such intolerable brightness, that the eyes of Beatrice only were
able to sustain it. Dante gazed on her with a delight ineffable, and
suddenly found himself in the fifth Heaven.

It was the planet Mars, the receptacle of those who had Died Fighting
for the Cross. In the middle of its ruddy light stood a cross itself, of
enormous dimensions, made of light still greater, and exhibiting, first,
in the body of it, the Crucified Presence, glittering all over with
indescribable flashes like lightning; and secondly, in addition to and
across the Presence, innumerable sparkles of the intensest mixture
of white and red, darting to and fro through the whole extent of the
crucifix. The movement was like that of motes in a sunbeam. And as a
sweet dinning arises from the multitudinous touching of harps and viols,
before the ear distinguishes the notes, there issued in like manner from
the whole glittering ferment a harmony indistinct but exquisite, which
entranced the poet beyond all he had ever felt. He heard even the words,
"Arise and conquer," as one who hears and yet hears not.

On a sudden, with a glide like a falling star, there ran down from the
right horn of the Cross to the foot of it, one of the lights of this
cluster of splendours, distinguishing itself, as it went, like flame in

"O flesh of my flesh!" it exclaimed to Dante; "O superabounding Divine
Grace! when was the door of Paradise ever twice opened, as it Shall have
been to thee?"[13] Dante, in astonishment, turned to Beatrice, and saw
such a rapture of delight in her eyes, that he seemed, at that instant,
as if his own had touched the depth of his acceptance and of his

The light resumed its speech, but in words too profound in their meaning
for Dante to comprehend. They seemed to be returning thanks to God. This
rapturous absorption being ended, the speaker expressed in more human
terms his gratitude to Beatrice; and then, after inciting Dante to ask
his name, declared himself thus:

"O branch of mine, whom I have long desired to behold, I am the root of
thy stock; of him thy great-grandsire, who first brought from his mother
the family-name into thy house, and whom thou sawest expiating his sin
of pride on the first circle of the mountain. Well it befitteth thee to
shorten his long suffering with thy good works. Florence,[15] while yet
she was confined within the ancient boundary which still contains the
bell that summons her to prayer, abided in peace, for she was chaste
and sober. She had no trinkets of chains then, no head-tires, no gaudy
sandals, no girdles more worth looking at than the wearers. Fathers were
not then afraid of having daughters, for fear they should want dowries
too great, and husbands before their time. Families were in no haste to
separate; nor had chamberers arisen to shew what enormities they dared
to practise. The heights of Rome had not been surpassed by your tower of
Uccellatoio, whose fall shall be in proportion to its aspiring. I saw
Bellincion Berti walking the streets in a leathern girdle fastened with
bone; and his wife come from her looking-glass without a painted face.
I saw the Nerlis and the Vecchios contented with the simplest doublets,
and their good dames hard at work at their spindles. O happy they! They
were sure of burial in their native earth, and none were left desolate
by husbands that loved France better than Italy. One kept awake to tend
her child in its cradle, lulling it with the household words that had
fondled her own infancy. Another, as she sat in the midst of her family,
drawing the flax from the distaff, told them stories of Troy, and
Fiesole, and Rome. It would have been as great a wonder, then, to see
such a woman as Cianghella, or such a man as Lapo Salterello, as it
would now be to meet with a Cincinnatus or a Cornelia.[16]

"It was at that peaceful, at that beautiful time," continued the poet's
ancestor, "when we all lived in such good faith and fellowship, and in
so sweet a place, that the blessed Virgin vouchsafed the first sight
of me to the cries of my mother; and there, in your old Baptistery, I
became, at once, Christian and Cacciaguida. My brothers were called
Moronto and Eliseo. It was my wife that brought thee, from Valdipado,
thy family name of Alighieri. I then followed the Emperor Conrad, and
he made me a knight for my good service, and I went with him to fight
against the wicked Saracen law, whose people usurp the fold that remains
lost through the fault of the shepherd. There, by that foul crew, was I
delivered from the snares and pollutions of the world; and so, from the
martyrdom, came to this peace."

Cacciaguida was silent. But his descendant praying to be told more of
his family and of the old state of Florence, the beatified soldier
resumed. He would not, however, speak of his own predecessors. He said
it would be more becoming to say nothing as to who they were, or the
place they came from. All he disclosed was, that his father and
mother lived near the gate San Piero.[17] With regard to Florence, he
continued, the number of the inhabitants fit to carry arms was at that
time not a fifth of its present amount; but then the blood of the
whole city was pure. It had not been mixed up with that of Campi, and
Certaldo, and Figghine. It ran clear in the veins of the humblest

"Oh, how much better would it have been," cried the soul of the old
Florentine, "had my countrymen still kept it as it was, and not brought
upon themselves the stench of the peasant knave out of Aguglione, and
that other from Signa, with his eye to a bribe! Had Rome done its duty
to the emperor, and so prevented the factions that have ruined us,
Simifonte would have kept its beggarly upstart to itself; the Conti
would have stuck to their parish of Acone, and perhaps the Buondelmonti
to Valdigrieve. Crude mixtures do as much harm to the body politic as to
the natural body; and size is not strength. The blind bull falls with a
speedier plunge than the blind lamb. One sword often slashes round about
it better than five. Cities themselves perish. See what has become of
Luni and of Urbisaglia; and what will soon become of Sinigaglia too, and
of Chiusi! And if cities perish, what is to be expected of families? In
my time the Ughi, the Catellini, the Filippi, were great names. So were
the Alberichi, the Ormanni, and twenty others. The golden sword of
knighthood was then to be seen in the house of Galigaio. The Column,
Verrey, was then a great thing in the herald's eye. The Galli, the
Sacchetti, were great; so was the old trunk of the Calfucci; so was that
of the peculators who now blush to hear of a measure of wheat; and the
Sizii and the Arrigucci were drawn in pomp to their civic chairs. Oh,
how mighty I saw them then, and how low has their pride brought them!
_Florence_ in those days deserved her name. She _flourished_ indeed; and
the balls of gold were ever at the top of the flower.[18] And now the
descendants of these men sit in priestly stalls and grow fat. The
over-weening Adimari, who are such dragons when their foes run, and such
lambs when they turn, were then of note so little, that Albertino Donato
was angry with Bellincion, his father-in-law, for making him brother
to one of their females. On the other hand, thy foes, the Amidei, the
origin of all thy tears through the just anger which has slain the
happiness of thy life, were honoured in those days; and the honour was
par taken by their friends. O Buondelmonte! why didst thou break thy
troth to thy first love, and become wedded to another? Many who are now
miserable would have been happy, had God given thee to the river Ema,
when it rose against thy first coming to Florence. But the Arno had
swept our Palladium from its bridge, and Florence was to be the victim
on its altar."[19]

Cacciaguida was again silent; but his descendant begged him to speak
yet a little more. He had heard, as he came through the nether regions,
alarming intimations of the ill fortune that awaited him, and he was
anxious to know, from so high and certain an authority, what it would
really be.

Cacciaguida said, "As Hippolytus was forced to depart from Athens by the
wiles of his cruel step-dame, so must even thou depart out of Florence.
Such is the wish, such this very moment the plot, and soon will it be
the deed, of those, the business of whose lives is to make a traffic of
Christ with Rome. Thou shalt quit every thing that is dearest to thee
in the world. That is the first arrow shot from the bow of exile. Thou
shalt experience how salt is the taste of bread eaten at the expense of
others; how hard is the going up and down others' stairs. But what shall
most bow thee down, is the worthless and disgusting company with whom
thy lot must be partaken; for they shall all turn against thee, the
whole mad, heartless, and ungrateful set. Nevertheless, it shall not be
long first, before themselves, and not thou, shall have cause to hang
down their heads for shame. The brutishness of all they do, will shew
how well it became thee to be of no party, but the party of thyself.[20]

"Thy first refuge thou shalt owe to the courtesy of the great Lombard,
who bears the Ladder charged with the Holy Bird.[21] So benignly
shall he regard thee, that in the matter of asking and receiving, the
customary order of things shall be reversed between you two, and the
gift anticipate the request. With him thou shalt behold the mortal, born
under so strong an influence of this our star, that the nations shall
take note of him. They are not aware of him yet, by reason
of his tender age; but ere the Gascon practise on the great
Henry, sparkles of his worth shall break forth in his contempt
of money and of ease; and when his munificence appears in all
its lustre, his very enemies shall not be able to hold their
tongues for admiration.[22] Look thou to this second benefactor
also; for many a change of the lots of people shall he make, both rich
and poor; and do thou bear in mind, but repeat not, what further I shall
now tell thee of thy life." Here the spirit, says the poet,
foretold things which afterwards appeared incredible to their very
beholders;--and then added: "Such, my son, is the heart and mystery of
the things thou hast desired to learn. The snares will shortly gather
about thee; but wish not to change places with the contrivers; for thy
days will outlast those of their retribution."

Again was the spirit silent; and yet again once more did his descendant
question him, anxious to have the advice of one that saw so far, and
that spoke the truth so purely, and loved him so well.

"Too plainly, my father," said Dante, "do I see the time coming, when a
blow is to be struck me, heaviest ever to the man that is not true to
himself. For which reason it is fit that I so far arm myself beforehand,
that in losing the spot dearest to me on earth, I do not let my verses
deprive me of every other refuge. Now I have been down below through the
region whose grief is without end; and I have scaled the mountain from
the top of which I was lifted by my lady's eyes; and I have come thus
far through heaven, from luminary to luminary; and in the course of this
my pilgrimage I have heard things which, if I tell again, may bitterly
disrelish with many. Yet, on the other hand, if I prove but a timid
friend to truth, I fear I shall not survive with the generations by whom
the present times will be called times of old."

The light that enclosed the treasure which its descendant had found in
heaven, first flashed at this speech like a golden mirror against the
sun, and then it replied thus:

"Let the consciences blush at thy words that have reason to blush. Do
thou, far from shadow of misrepresentation, make manifest all which thou
hast seen, and let the sore places be galled that deserve it. Thy bitter
truths shall carry with them vital nourishment--thy voice, as the wind
does, shall smite loudest the loftiest summits; and no little shall that
redound to thy praise. It is for this reason that, in all thy journey,
thou hast been shewn none but spirits of note, since little heed would
have been taken of such as excite doubt by their obscurity."

The spirit of Cacciaguida now relapsed into the silent joy of its
reflections, and the poet was standing absorbed in the mingled feelings
of his own, when Beatrice said to him, "Change the current of thy
thoughts. Consider how near I am in heaven to one that repayeth every

Dante turned at the sound of this comfort, and felt no longer any other
wish than to look upon her eyes; but she said, with a smile, "Turn thee
round again, and attend. I am not thy only Paradise." And Dante again
turned, and saw his ancestor prepared to say more.

Cacciaguida bade him look again on the Cross, and he should see various
spirits, as he named them, flash over it like lightning; and they did
so. That of Joshua, which was first mentioned, darted along the Cross
in a stream. The light of Judas Maccabeus went spinning, as if joy had
scourged it.[23] Charlemagne and Orlando swept away together, pursued
by the poet's eyes. Guglielmo[24] followed, and Rinaldo, and Godfrey of
Bouillon, and Robert Guiscard of Naples; and the light of Cacciaguida
himself darted back to its place, and, uttering another sort of voice,
began shewing how sweet a singer he too was amidst the glittering choir.

Dante turned to share the joy with Beatrice, and, by the lovely paling
of her cheek, like a maiden's when it delivers itself of the burden of
a blush,[25] knew that he was in another and whiter star. It was the
planet Jupiter, the abode of blessed Administrators of Justice.

Here he beheld troops of dazzling essences, warbling as they flew, and
shaping their flights hither and thither, like birds when they rise from
the banks of rivers, and rejoice with one another in new-found pasture.
But the figures into which the flights were shaped were of a more
special sort, being mystical compositions of letters of the alphabet,
now a D, now an I, now an L, and so on, till the poet observed that they
completed the whole text of Scripture, which says, _Diligite justitiam,
qui judicatis terram_--(Love righteousness, ye that be judges of the
earth). The last letter, M, they did not decompose like the rest, but
kept it entire for a while, and glowed so deeply within it, that the
silvery orb thereabout seemed burning with gold. Other lights, with a
song of rapture, then descended like a crown of lilies, on the top, of
the letter; and then, from the body of it, rose thousands of sparks, as
from a shaken firebrand, and, gradually expanding into the form of an
eagle, the lights which had descended like lilies distributed themselves
over the whole bird, encrusting it with rubies flashing in the sun.

But what, says the poet, was never yet heard of, written, or
imagined,--the beak of the eagle spoke! It uttered many minds in one
voice, just as one heat is given out by many embers; and proclaimed
itself to have been thus exalted, because it united justice and mercy
while on earth.

Dante addressed this splendid phenomenon, and prayed it to ease his mind
of the perplexities of its worldly reason respecting the Divine nature
and government, and the exclusion from heaven of goodness itself, unless
within the Christian pale.

The celestial bird, rousing itself into motion with delight, like a
falcon in the conscious energy of its will and beauty, when, upon being
set free from its hood, it glances above it into the air, and claps its
self-congratulating wings, answered nevertheless somewhat disdainfully,
that it was impossible for man, in his mortal state, to comprehend such
things; and that the astonishment he feels at them, though doubtless it
would be excusable under other circumstances, must rest satisfied with
the affirmations of Scripture.

The bird then bent over its questioner, as a stork does over the
nestling newly fed when it looks up at her, and then wheeling round, and
renewing its warble, concluded it with saying, "As my notes are to thee
that understandest them not, so are the judgments of the Eternal to
thine earthly brethren. None ever yet ascended into these heavenly
regions that did not believe in Christ, either after he was crucified or
before it. Yet many, who call Christ! Christ! shall at the last day be
found less near to him than such as knew him not. What shall the kings
of Islam say to your Christian kings, when they see the book of judgment
opened, and hear all that is set down in it to their dishonour? In
that book shall be read the desolation which Albert will inflict
on Bohemia:[26]--in that book, the woes inflicted on Paris by that
adulterator of his kingdom's money, who shall die by the hog's
teeth:--in that book, the ambition which makes such mad fools of the
Scotch and English kings, that they cannot keep within their bounds:--in
that book, the luxury of the Spaniard, and the effeminate life of the
Bohemian, who neither knows nor cares for any thing worthy:--in that
book, the lame wretch of Jerusalem, whose value will be expressed by a
unit, and his worthlessness by a million:--in that book, the avarice and
cowardice of the warder of the Isle of Fire, in which old Anchises died;
and that the record may answer the better to his abundant littleness,
the writing shall be in short-hand; and his uncle's and his brother's
filthy doings shall be read in that book--they who have made such
rottenness of a good old house and two diadems; and there also shall the
Portuguese and the Norwegian be known for what they are, and the coiner
of Dalmatia, who beheld with such covetous eyes the Venetian ducat. O
blessed Hungary, if thou wouldst resolve to endure no longer!--O blessed
Navarre, if thou wouldst but keep out the Frenchman with thy mountain
walls! May the cries and groans of Nicosia and Famagosta be an earnest
of those happier days, proclaiming as they do the vile habits of the
beast, who keeps so close in the path of the herd his brethren."

The blessed bird for a moment was silent; but as, at the going down of
the sun, the heavens are darkened, and then break forth into innumerable
stars which the sun lights up,[27] so the splendours within the figure
of the bird suddenly became more splendid, and broke forth into songs
too beautiful for mortal to remember.

O dulcet love, that dost shew thee forth in smiles, how ardent was thy
manifestation in the lustrous sparkles which arose out of the mere
thoughts of those pious hearts!

After the gems in that glittering figure had ceased chiming their
angelic songs, the poet seemed to hear the murmur of a river which comes
falling from rock to rock, and chews, by the fulness of its tone, the
abundance of its mountain spring; and as the sound of the guitar is
modulated on the neck of it, and the breath of the pipe is accordant to
the spiracle from which it issues, so the murmuring within the eagle
suddenly took voice, and, rising through the neck, again issued forth in
words. The bird now bade the poet fix his attention on its eye; because,
of all the fires that composed its figure, those that sparkled in the
eye were the noblest. The spirit (it said) which Dante beheld in the
pupil was that of the royal singer who danced before the ark, now
enjoying the reward of his superiority to vulgar discernment. Of the
five spirits that composed the eyebrow, the one nearest the beak was
Trajan, now experienced above all others in the knowledge of what it
costs not to follow Christ, by reason of his having been in hell
before he was translated to heaven. Next to Trajan was Hezekiah,
whose penitence delayed for him the hour of his death: next Hezekiah,
Constantine, though, in letting the pope become a prince instead of
a pastor, he had unwittingly brought destruction on the world: next
Constantine, William the Good of Sicily, whose death is not more
lamented than the lives of those who contest his crown and lastly, next
William, Riphaeus the Trojan. "What erring mortal," cried the bird,
"would believe it possible to find Riphæus the Trojan among the
blest?--but so it is; and he now knows more respecting the divine grace
than mortals do, though even he discerns it not to the depth."[28]

The bird again relapsing into silence, appeared to repose on the
happiness of its thoughts, like the lark which, after quivering and
expatiating through all its airy warble, becomes mute and content,
having satisfied its soul to the last drop of its sweetness.[29]

But again Dante could not help speaking, being astonished to find Pagans
in Heaven; and once more the celestial figure indulged his curiosity.
It told him that Trajan had been delivered from hell, for his love of
justice, by the prayers of St. Gregory; and that Riphaeus, for the same
reason, had been gifted with a prophetic knowledge of the Redemption;
and then it ended with a rapture on the hidden mysteries of
Predestination, and on the joy of ignorance itself when submitting to
the divine will. The two blessed spirits, meanwhile, whom the bird
mentioned, like the fingers of sweet lutenist to sweet singer, when they
quiver to his warble as it goes, manifested the delight they experienced
by movements of accord simultaneous as the twinkling of two eyes.[30]

Dante turned to receive his own final delight from the eyes of Beatrice,
and he found it, though the customary smile on her face was no longer
there. She told him that her beauty increased with such intensity at
every fresh ascent among the stars, that he would no longer have been
able to bear the smile; and they were now in the seventh Heaven, or the
planet Saturn, the retreat of those who had passed their lives in Holy

In this crystal sphere, called after the name of the monarch who reigned
over the Age of Innocence, Dante looked up, and beheld a ladder, the hue
of which was like gold when the sun glisters it, and the height so great
that its top was out of sight; and down the steps of this ladder he saw
coming such multitudes of shining spirits, that it seemed as if all the
lights of heaven must have been there poured forth; but not a sound was
in the whole splendour. It was spared to the poet for the same reason
that he missed the smile of Beatrice. When they came to a certain step
in the ladder, some of the spirits flew off it in circles or other
careers, like rooks when they issue from their trees in the morning
to dry their feathers in the sun, part of them going away without
returning, others returning to the point they left, and others
contenting themselves with flying round about it. One of them came so
near Dante and Beatrice, and brightened with such ardour, that the poet
saw it was done in affection towards them, and begged the loving spirit
to tell them who it was.

"Between the two coasts of Italy," said the spirit, "and not far from
thine own country, the stony mountains ascend into a ridge so lofty
that the thunder rolls beneath it. Catria is its name. Beneath it is a
consecrated cell; and in that cell I was called Pietro Damiano.[31] I so
devoted myself to the service of God, that with no other sustenance than
the juice of the olive, I forgot both heat and cold, happy in heavenly
meditation. That cloister made abundant returns in its season to these
granaries of the Lord; but so idle has it become now, that it is fit
the world should know its barrenness. The days of my mortal life were
drawing to a close, when I was besought and drawn into wearing the hat
which descends every day from bad head to worse.[32] St. Peter and St.
Paul came lean and barefoot, getting their bread where they could; but
pastors now-a-days must be lifted from the ground, and have ushers going
before them, and train-bearers behind them, and ride upon palfreys
covered with their spreading mantles, so that two beasts go under one
skin.[33] O Lord, how long!"

At these words Dante saw more splendours come pouring down the ladder,
and wheel round and round, and become at every wheel more beautiful.
The whole dazzling body then gathered round the indignant speaker, and
shouted something in a voice so tremendous, that the poet could liken it
to nothing on earth. The thunder was so overwhelming, that he did not
even hear what they said.[34]

Pallid and stunned, he turned in affright to Beatrice, who comforted him
as a mother comforts a child that wants breath to speak. The shout was
prophetic of the vengeance about to overtake the Church. Beatrice then
directed hisattention to a multitude of small orbs, which increased one
another's beauty by interchanging their splendours. They enclosed the
spirits of those who most combined meditation with love. One of them was
Saint Benedict; and others Macarius and Romoaldo.[35] The light of St.
Benedict issued forth from among its companions to address the poet;
and after explaining how its occupant was unable farther to disclose
himself, inveighed against the degeneracy of the religious orders. It
then rejoined its fellows, and the whole company clustering into one
meteor, swept aloft like a whirlwind. Beatrice beckoned the poet to
ascend after them. He did so, gifted with the usual virtue by her eyes;
and found himself in the twin light of the Gemini, the constellation
that presided over his birth. He was now in the region of the fixed

"Thou art now," said his guide, "so near the summit of thy prayers, that
it behoves thee to take a last look at things below thee, and see
how little they should account in thine eyes." Dante turned his
eyes downwards through all the seven spheres, and saw the earth so
diminutive, that he smiled at its miserable appearance. Wisest, thought
he, is the man that esteems it least; and truly worthy he that sets his
thoughts on the world to come. He now saw the moon without those spots
in it which made him formerly attribute the variation to dense and rare.
He sustained the brightness of the face of the sun, and discerned all
the signs and motions and relative distances of the planets. Finally, he
saw, as he rolled round with the sphere in which he stood, and by virtue
of his gifted sight, the petty arena, from hill to harbour, which filled
his countrymen with such ferocious ambition; and then he turned his eyes
to the sweet eyes beside him.[36]

Beatrice stood wrapt in attention, looking earnestly towards the south,
as if she expected some appearance. She resembled the bird that sits
among the dewy leaves in the darkness of night, yearning for the coming
of the morning, that she may again behold her young, and have light by
which to seek the food, that renders her fatigue for them a joy. So
stood Beatrice, looking; which caused Dante to watch in the same
direction, with the feelings of one that is already possessed of some
new delight by the assuredness of his expectation.[37]

The quarter on which they were gazing soon became brighter and brighter,
and Beatrice exclaimed, "Behold the armies of the triumph of Christ!"
Her face appeared all fire, and her eyes so full of love, that the poet
could find no words to express them.

As the moon, when the depths of heaven are serene with her fulness,
looks abroad smiling among her eternal handmaids the stars, that paint
every gulf of the great hollow with beauty;[38] so brightest, above
myriads of splendours around it, appeared a sun which gave radiance to
them all, even as our earthly sun gives light to the constellations.

"O Beatrice!" exclaimed Dante, overpowered, "sweet and beloved guide!"

"Overwhelming," said Beatrice, "is the virtue with which nothing can
compare. What thou hast seen is the Wisdom and the Power, by whom the
path between heaven and earth has been laid open."[39]

Dante's soul--like the fire which falls to earth out of the swollen
thunder-cloud, instead of rising according to the wont of fire--had
grown too great for his still mortal nature; and he could afterwards
find within him no memory of what it did.

"Open thine eyes," said Beatrice, "and see me now indeed. Thou hast
beheld things that empower thee to sustain my smiling."

Dante, while doing as he was desired, felt like one who has suddenly
waked up from a dream, and endeavours in vain to recollect it.

"Never," said he, "can that moment be erased from the book of the past.
If all the tongues were granted me that were fed with the richest milk
of Polyhymnia and her sisters, they could not express one thousandth
part of the beauty of that divine smile, or of the thorough perfection
which it made of the whole of her divine countenance."

But Beatrice said, "Why dost thou so enamour thee of this face, and
lose the sight of the beautiful guide, blossoming beneath the beams of
Christ? Behold the rose, in which the Word was made flesh.[40] Behold
the lilies, by whose odour the way of life is tracked."

Dante looked, and gave battle to the sight with his weak eyes.[41]

As flowers on a cloudy day in a meadow are suddenly lit up by a gleam of
sunshine, he beheld multitudes of splendours effulgent with beaming rays
that smote on them from above, though he could not discern the source of
the effulgence. He had invoked the name of the Virgin when he looked;
and the gracious fountain of the light had drawn itself higher up within
the heaven, to accommodate the radiance to his faculties. He then beheld
the Virgin herself bodily present,--her who is fairest now in heaven,
as she was on earth; and while his eyes were being painted with her
beauty,[42] there fell on a sudden a seraphic light from heaven, which,
spinning into a circle as it came, formed a diadem round her head, still
spinning, and warbling as it spun. The sweetest melody that ever drew
the soul to it on earth would have seemed like the splitting of a
thunder-cloud, compared with the music that sung around the head of that
jewel of Paradise.[43]

"I am Angelic Love," said the light, "and I spin for joy of the womb in
which our Hope abided; and ever, O Lady of Heaven, must I thus attend
thee, as long as thou art pleased to attend thy Son, journeying in his
loving-kindness from sphere to sphere."

All the other splendours now resounded the name of Mary. The Virgin
began ascending to pursue the path of her Son; and Dante, unable to
endure her beauty as it rose, turned his eyes to the angelical callers
on the name of Mary, who remained yearning after her with their hands
outstretched, as a babe yearns after the bosom withdrawn from his lips.
Then rising after her themselves, they halted ere they went out of
sight, and sung "O Queen of Heaven" so sweetly, that the delight never
quitted the air.

A flame now approached and thrice encircled Beatrice, singing all the
while so divinely, that the poet could retain no idea expressive of its
sweetness. Mortal imagination cannot unfold such wonder. It was Saint
Peter, whom she had besought to come down from his higher sphere, in
order to catechise and discourse with her companion on the subject of

The catechising and the discourse ensued, and were concluded by the
Apostle's giving the poet the benediction, and encircling his forehead
thrice with his holy light. "So well," says Dante, "was he pleased with
my answers."[44]

"If ever," continued the Florentine, "the sacred poem to which heaven
and earth have set their hands, and which for years past has wasted my
flesh in the writing, shall prevail against the cruelty that shut me out
of the sweet fold in which I slept like a lamb, wishing harm to none but
the wolves that beset it,--with another voice, and in another guise than
now, will I return, a poet, and standing by the fount of my baptism,
assume the crown that belongs to me; for I there first entered on the
faith which gives souls to God; and for that faith did Peter thus
encircle my forehead."[45]

A flame enclosing Saint James now succeeded to that of Saint Peter, and
after greeting his predecessor as doves greet one another, murmuring and
moving round, proceeded to examine the mortal visitant on the subject
of Hope. The examination was closed amidst resounding anthems of,"
Let their hope be in thee;"[46] and a third apostolic flame ensued,
enclosing Saint John, who completed the catechism with the topic of
Charity. Dante acquitted himself with skill throughout; the spheres
resounded with songs of "Holy, holy," Beatrice joining in the warble;
and the poet suddenly found Adam beside him. The parent of the human
race knew by intuition what his descendant wished to learn of him; and
manifesting his assent before he spoke, as an animal sometimes does by
movements and quiverings of the flesh within its coat, corresponding
with its good-will,[47] told him, that his fall was not owing to the
fruit which he tasted, but to the violation of the injunction not to
taste it; that he remained in the Limbo on hell-borders upwards of five
thousand years; and that the language he spoke had become obsolete
before the days of Nimrod.

The gentle fire of Saint Peter now began to assume an awful brightness,
such as the planet Jupiter might assume, if Mars and it were birds,
and exchanged the colour of their plumage.[48] Silence fell upon the
celestial choristers; and the Apostle spoke thus:

"Wonder not if thou seest me change colour. Thou wilt see, while I
speak, all which is round about us colour in like manner. He who usurps
my place on earth,--_my_ place, I say,--ay, _mine_,--which before God is
now vacant,--has converted the city in which my dust lies buried into a
common-sewer of filth and blood; so that the fiend who fell from hence
rejoices himself down there."

At these words of the Apostle the whole face of Heaven was covered with
a blush, red as dawn or sunset; and Beatrice changed colour, like a
maiden that shrinks in alarm from the report of blame in another. The
eclipse was like that which took place when the Supreme died upon the

Saint Peter resumed with a voice not less awfully changed than his

"Not for the purpose of being sold for money was the spouse of Christ
fed and nourished with my blood, and with the blood of Linus,--the blood
of Cletus. Sextus did not bleed for it, nor Pius, nor Callixtus, nor
Urban; men, for whose deaths all Christendom wept. They died that souls
might be innocent and go to Heaven. Never was it intention of ours, that
the sitters in the holy chair should divide one half of Christendom
against the other; should turn my keys into ensigns of war against the
faithful; and stamp my very image upon mercenary and lying documents,
which make me, here in Heaven, blush and turn cold to think of. Arm
of God, why sleepest thou? Men out of Gascony and Cahors are even
now making ready to drink our blood. O lofty beginning, to what vile
conclusion must thou come! But the high Providence, which made Scipio
the sustainer of the Roman sovereignty of the world, will fail not its
timely succour. And thou, my son, that for weight of thy mortal clothing
must again descend to earth, see thou that thou openest thy mouth, and
hidest not from others what has not been hidden from thyself."

As white and thick as the snows go streaming athwart the air when the
sun is in Capricorn, so the angelical spirits that had been gathered in
the air of Saturn streamed away after the Apostle, as he turned with the
other saints to depart; and the eyes of Dante followed them till they
became viewless.[49]

The divine eyes of Beatrice recalled him to herself; and at the same
instant the two companions found themselves in the ninth Heaven or
_Primum Mobile_, the last of the material Heavens, and the mover of
those beneath it.

[Footnote 49: In spite of the unheavenly nature of invective, of
something of a lurking conceit in the making an eclipse out of a blush,
and in the positive bathos, and I fear almost indecent irrelevancy of
the introduction of Beatrice at all on such an occasion, much more under
the feeble aspect of one young lady blushing for another,--this scene
altogether is a very grand one; and the violence itself of the holy
invective awful.

Here he had a glimpse of the divine essence, in likeness of a point of
inconceivably sharp brightness enringed with the angelic hierarchies.
All earth, and heaven, and nature, hung from it. Beatrice explained
many mysteries to him connected with that sight; and then vehemently
denounced the false and foolish teachers that quit the authority of the
Bible for speculations of their own, and degrade the preaching of the
gospel with ribald jests, and legends of Saint Anthony and his pig.[50]

Returning, however, to more celestial thoughts, her face became so full
of beauty, that Dante declares he must cease to endeavour to speak of
it, and that he doubts whether the sight can ever be thoroughly enjoyed
by any save its Maker.[51] Her look carried him upward as before, and
he was now in the Empyrean, or region of Pure Light;--of light made of
intellect full of love; love of truth, full of joy; joy, transcendant
above all sweetness.

Streams of living radiance came rushing and flashing round about him,
swathing him with light, as the lightning sometimes enwraps and dashes
against the blinded eyes; but the light was love here, and instead of
injuring, gave new power to the object it embraced.

With this new infusion of strength into his organs of vision, Dante
looked, and saw a vast flood of it, effulgent with flashing splendours,
and pouring down like a river between banks painted with the loveliest
flowers. Fiery living sparkles arose from it on all sides, and pitched
themselves into the cups of the flowers, where they remained awhile,
like rubies set in gold; till inebriated with the odours, they recast
themselves into the bosom of the flood; and ever as one returned,
another leaped forth. Beatrice bade him dip his eyes into the light,
that he might obtain power to see deeper into its nature; for the river,
and the jewels that sprang out of it to and fro, and the laughing
flowers on the banks, were themselves but shadows of the truth which
they included; not, indeed, in their essential selves, but inasmuch as
without further assistance the beholder's eyes could not see them as
they were. Dante rushed to the stream as eagerly as the lips of an
infant to the breast, when it has slept beyond its time; and his
eyelashes had no sooner touched it, than the length of the river became
a breadth and a circle, and its real nature lay unveiled before him,
like a face when a mask is taken off. It was the whole two combined
courts of Heaven, the angelical and the human, in circumference larger
than would hold the sun, and all blazing beneath a light, which was
reflected downwards in its turn upon the sphere of the Primum Mobile
below it, the mover of the universe. And as a green cliff by the water's
side seems to delight in seeing itself reflected from head to foot with
all its verdure and its flowers; so, round about on all sides, upon
thousands of thrones, the blessed spirits that once lived on earth sat
beholding themselves in the light. And yet even all these together
formed but the lowest part of the spectacle, which ascended above them,
tier upon tier, in the manner of an immeasurable rose,--all dilating
itself, doubling still and doubling, and all odorous with the praises
of an ever-vernal sun. Into the base of it, as into the yellow of the
flower, with a dumb glance that yet promised to speak, Beatrice drew
forward her companion, and said, "Behold the innumerable assemblage of
the white garments! Behold our city, how large its circuit! Behold our
seats, which are, nevertheless, so full, that few comers are wanted to
fill them! On that lofty one at which thou art looking, surmounted with
the crown, and which shall be occupied before thou joinest this bridal
feast, shall be seated the soul of the great Henry, who would fain set
Italy right before she is prepared for it.[52] The blind waywardness of
which ye are sick renders ye like the bantling who, while he is dying of
hunger, kicks away his nurse. And Rome is governed by one that cannot
walk in the same path with such a man, whatever be the road.[53] But God
will not long endure him. He will be thrust down into the pit with Simon
Magus; and his feet, when he arrives there, will thrust down the man of
Alagna still lower.[54]"

In the form, then, of a white rose the blessed multitude of human souls
lay manifest before the eyes of the poet; and now he observed, that the
winged portion of the blest, the angels, who fly up with their wings
nearer to Him that fills them with love, came to and fro upon the rose
like bees; now descending into its bosom, now streaming back to the
source of their affection. Their faces were all fire, their wings
golden, their garments whiter than snow. Whenever they descended on
the flower, they went from fold to fold, fanning their loins, and
communicating the peace and ardour which they gathered as they gave.
Dante beheld all,--every flight and action of the whole winged
multitude,--without let or shadow; for he stood in the region of light
itself, and light has no obstacle where it is deservedly vouchsafed.

"Oh," cries the poet, "if the barbarians that came from the north stood
dumb with amazement to behold the magnificence of Rome, thinking they
saw unearthly greatness in the Lateran, what must I have thought, who
had thus come from human to divine, from time to eternity, from the
people of Florence to beings just and sane?"

Dante stood, without a wish either to speak or to hear. He felt like a
pilgrim who has arrived within the place of his devotion, and who looks
round about him, hoping some day to relate what he sees. He gazed
upwards and downwards, and on every side round about, and saw movements
graceful with every truth of innocence, and faces full of loving
persuasion, rich in their own smiles and in the light of the smiles of

He turned to Beatrice, but she was gone;--gone, as a messenger from
herself told him, to resume her seat in the blessed rose, which the
messenger accordingly pointed out. She sat in the third circle from the
top, as far from Dante as the bottom of the sea is from the region of
thunder; and yet he saw her as plainly as if she had been close at hand.
He addressed words to her of thanks for all she had done for him, and
a hope for her assistance after death; and she looked down at him and

The messenger was St. Bernard. He bade the poet lift his eyes higher;
and Dante beheld the Virgin Mary sitting above the rose, in the centre
of an intense redness of light, like another dawn. Thousands of angels
were hanging buoyant around her, each having its own distinct splendour
and adornment, and all were singing, and expressing heavenly mirth; and
she smiled on them with such loveliness, that joy was in the eyes of all
the blessed.

At Mary's feet was sitting Eve, beautiful--she that opened the wound
which Mary closed; and at the feet of Eve was Rachel, with Beatrice; and
at the feet of Rachel was Sarah, and then Judith, then Rebecca, then
Ruth, ancestress of him out of whose penitence came the song of the
Miserere;[55] and so other Hebrew women, down all the gradations of the
flower, dividing, by the line which they made, the Christians who lived
before Christ from those who lived after; a line which, on the opposite
side of the rose, was answered by a similar one of Founders of the
Church, at the top of whom was John the Baptist. The rose also was
divided horizontally by a step which projected beyond the others, and
underneath which, known by the childishness of their looks and voices,
were the souls of such as were too young to have attained Heaven by
assistance of good works.

St. Bernard then directed his companion to look again at the Virgin, and
gather from her countenance the power of beholding the face of Christ as
God. Her aspect was flooded with gladness from the spirits around her;
while the angel who had descended to her on earth now hailed her above
with "Ave, Maria!" singing till the whole host of Heaven joined in
the song. St. Bernard then prayed to her for help to his companion's
eyesight. Beatrice, with others of the blest, was seen joining in the
prayer, their hands stretched upwards; and the Virgin, after benignly
looking on the petitioners, gazed upwards herself, shewing the way with
her own eyes to the still greater vision. Dante then looked also, and
beheld what he had no words to speak, or memory to endure.

He awoke as from a dream, retaining only a sense of sweetness that ever
trickled to his heart.

Earnestly praying afterwards, however, that grace might be so far
vouchsafed to a portion of his recollection, as to enable him to convey
to his fellow-creatures one smallest glimpse of the glory of what he
saw, his ardour was so emboldened by help of the very mystery at whose
sight he must have perished had he faltered, that his eyes, unblasted,
attained to a perception of the Sum of Infinitude. He beheld,
concentrated in one spot--written in one volume of Love--all which is
diffused, and can become the subject of thought and study throughout the
universe--all substance and accident and mode--all so compounded that
they become one light. He thought he beheld at one and the same time
the oneness of this knot, and the universality of all which it implies;
because, when it came to his recollection, his heart dilated, and in the
course of one moment he felt ages of impatience to speak of it.

But thoughts as well as words failed him; and though ever afterwards he
could no more cease to yearn towards it, than he could take defect for
completion, or separate the idea of happiness from the wish to attain
it, still the utmost he could say of what he remembered would fall as
short of right speech as the sounds of an infant's tongue while it is
murmuring over the nipple; for the more he had looked at that light,
the more he found in it to amaze him, so that his brain toiled with
the succession of the astonishments. He saw, in the deep but clear
self-subsistence, three circles of three different colours of the same
breadth, one of them reflecting one of the others as rainbow does
rainbow, and the third consisting of a fire equally breathing from

O eternal Light! thou that dwellest in thyself alone, thou alone
understandest thyself, and art by thyself understood, and, so
understanding, thou laughest at thyself, and lovest.

The second, or reflected circle, as it went round, seemed to be painted
by its own colours with the likeness of a human face.[57]

But how this was done, or how the beholder was to express it, threw
his mind into the same state of bewilderment as the mathematician
experiences when he vainly pores over the circle to discover the
principle by which he is to square it.

He did, however, in a manner discern it. A flash of light was vouchsafed
him for the purpose; but the light left him no power to impart the
discernment; nor did he feel any longer impatient for the gift. Desire
became absorbed in submission, moving in as smooth unison as the
particles of a wheel, with the Love that is the mover of the sun and the

[Footnote 1: A curious and happy image.

  "Tornan de' nostri visi le postille
  Debili sì, che perla in bianca fronte
  Non vien men tosto a le nostre pupille:
  Tali vid' io più facce a parlar pronte." ]

[Footnote 2: "Rodolfo da Tossignano, _Hist. Seraph. Relig._ P. i. p.
138, as cited by Lombardi, relates the following legend of Piccarda:
'Her brother Corso, inflamed with rage against his virgin sister,
having joined with him Farinata, an infamous assassin, and twelve other
abandoned ruffians, entered the monastery by a ladder, and carried
away his sister forcibly to his own house; and then, tearing off her
religious habit, compelled her to go in a secular garment to her
nuptials. Before the spouse of Christ came together with her new
husband, she knelt down before a crucifix, and recommended her virginity
to Christ. Soon after, her whole body was smitten with leprosy, so as
to strike grief and horror into the beholders; and thus, in a few days,
through the divine disposal, she passed with a palm of virginity to the
Lord. Perhaps (adds the worthy Franciscan), our poet not being able to
certify himself entirely of this occurrence, has chosen to pass it over
discreetly, by making Piccarda say, 'God knows how, after that, my life
was framed.'"--_Cary_, ut sup. p. 137.]

[Footnote 3: A lovely simile indeed.

  "Tanto lieta
  Ch' arder parea d'amor nel primo foco."

[Footnote 4: Costanza, daughter of Ruggieri, king of Sicily, thus taken
out of the monastery, was mother to the Emperor Frederick the Second.
"She was fifty years old or more at the time" (says Mr. Cary, quoting
from Muratori and others); "and because it was not credited that she
could have a child at that age, she was delivered in a pavilion; and it
was given out, that any lady who pleased was at liberty to see her. Many
came and saw her, and the suspicion ceased."--_Translation of Dante_, ut
sup. p. 137.]

[Footnote 5: Probably an allusion to Dante's own wanderings.]

[Footnote 6:

  "Hosanna Sanctus Deus Sabaoth
  Superillustrans claritate tuâ
  Felices ignes horum Malahoth."
  _Malahoth_; Hebrew, _kingdoms_.]

[Footnote 7: The epithet is not too strong, as will be seen by the
nature of the inhabitants.]

[Footnote 8: Charles Martel, son of the king of Naples and Sicily, and
crowned king of Hungary, seems to have become acquainted with Dante
during the poet's youth, when the prince met his royal father in the
city of Florence. He was brother of Robert, who succeeded the father,
and who was the friend of Petrarch.

"The adventures of Cunizza, overcome by the influence of her star," says
Cary, "are related by the chronicler Rolandino of Padua, lib. i. cap. 3,
in Muratori, Rer. Ital. Script. tom. viii. p. 173. She eloped from her
first husband, Richard of St. Boniface, in the company of Sordello (see
Purg. canto vi. and vii.); with whom she is supposed to have cohabited
before her marriage: then lived with a soldier of Trevigi, whose wife
was living at the same time in the same city; and, on his being murdered
by her brother the tyrant, was by her brother married to a nobleman of
Braganzo: lastly, when he also had fallen by the same hand, she, after
her brother's death, was again wedded in Verona."--_Translation of
Dante_, ut sup. p. 147. See what Foscolo says of her in the _Discorso
sul Testo_, p. 329.

Folco, the gallant Troubadour, here placed between Cunizza and Rahab,
is no other than Folques, bishop of Thoulouse, the persecutor of the
Albigenses. It is of him the brutal anecdote is related, that, being
asked, during an indiscriminate attack on that people, how the orthodox
and heterodox were to be distinguished, he said, "Kill all: God will
know his own."

For Rahab, see _Joshua_, chap. ii. and vi.; and _Hebrews_. xi. 31]

[Footnote 9: The reader need not be required to attend to the
extraordinary theological disclosures in the whole of the preceding
passage, nor yet to consider how much more they disclose, than theology
or the poet might have desired.]

[Footnote 10: These fifteen personages are chiefly theologians and
schoolmen, whose names and obsolete writings are, for the most part, no
longer worth mention. The same may be said of the band that comes after

Dante should not have set them dancing. It is impossible (every
respectfulness of endeavour notwithstanding) to maintain the gravity
of one's imagination at the thought of a set of doctors of the Church,
Venerable Bede included, wheeling about in giddy rapture like so many
dancing dervises, and keeping time to their ecstatic anilities with
voices tinkling like church-clocks. You may invest them with as much
light or other blessed indistinctness as you please; the beards and the
old ages will break through. In vain theologians may tell us that our
imaginations are not exalted enough. The answer (if such a charge must
be gravely met) is, that Dante's whole Heaven itself is not exalted
enough, how ever wonderful and beautiful in parts. The schools, and the
forms of Catholic worship, held even his imagination down. There is
more heaven in one placid idea of love than in all these dances and

[Footnote 11:

  "Benigno a' suoi, ed a' nimici crudo."

Cruel indeed;--the founder of the Inquisition! The "loving minion"
is Mr. Cary's excellent translation of "_amoroso drudo_." But what a
minion, and how loving! With fire and sword and devilry, and no wish (of
course) to thrust his own will and pleasure, and bad arguments, down
other people's throats! St. Dominic was a Spaniard. So was Borgia.
So was Philip the Second. There seems to have been an inherent
semi-barbarism in the character of Spain, which it has never got rid of
to this day. If it were not for Cervantes, and some modern patriots, it
would hardly appear to belong to the right European community. Even
Lope de Vega was an inquisitor; and Mendoza, the entertaining author of
Lazarillo de Tormes, a cruel statesman. Cervantes, however, is enough to
sweeten a whole peninsula.]

[Footnote 12: What a pity the reporter of this advice had not humility
enough to apply it to himself!]

[Footnote 13:

  "O sanguis meus, o superinfusa
  Gratia Dei, sicut tibi, cui
  Bis unquam coeli janua reclusa?"

The spirit says this in Latin, as if to veil the compliment to the poet
in "the obscurity of a learned language." And in truth it is a little

[Footnote 14:

  "Che dentro a gli occhi suoi ardeva un riso
  Tal, ch' io pensai co' miei toccar lo fondo
  De la mia grazia e del mio Paradiso."

That is, says Lombardi, "I thought my eyes could not possibly be more
favoured and imparadised" (Pensai che non potessero gli occhi miei
essere graziati ed imparadisati maggiormente)--_Variorum edition of
Dante_, Padua, 1822, vol. iii. p. 373.]

[Footnote 15: Here ensues the famous description of those earlier times
in Florence, which Dante eulogises at the expense of his own. See the
original passage, with another version, in the Appendix.]

[Footnote 16: Bellincion Berti was a noble Florentine, of the house of
the Ravignani. Cianghella is said to have been an abandoned woman,
of manners as shameless as her morals. Lapo Salterelli, one of the
co-exiles of Dante, and specially hated by him, was a personage who
appears to have exhibited the rare combination of judge and fop. An old
commentator, in recording his attention to his hair, seems to intimate
that Dante alludes to it in contrasting him with Cincinnatus. If so,
Lapo might have reminded the poet of what Cicero says of his beloved
Cæsar;--that he once saw him scratching the top of his head with the tip
of his finger, that he might not discompose the locks.]

[Footnote 17:

  "Chi ei si furo, e onde venner quivi,
  Più è tacer che ragionare onesto."

Some think Dante was ashamed to speak of these ancestors, from the
lowness of their origin; others that he did not choose to make them a
boast, for the height of it. I suspect, with Lombardi, from his general
character, and from the willingness he has avowed to make such boasts
(see the opening of canto xvi., Paradise, in the original), that while
he claimed for them a descent from the Romans (see Inferno, canto
xv. 73, &c.), he knew them to be] poor in fortune, perhaps of humble
condition. What follows, in the text of our abstract, about the purity
of the old Florentine blood, even in the veins of the humblest mechanic,
may seem to intimate some corroboration of this; and is a curious
specimen of republican pride and scorn. This horror of one's neighbours
is neither good Christianity, nor surely any very good omen of that
Italian union, of which "Young Italy" wishes to think Dante such a

All this too, observe, is said in the presence of a vision of Christ on
the Cross!]

[Footnote 18: The _Column, Verrey_ (vair, variegated, checkered with
argent and azure), and the _Balls_ or (Palle d'oro), were arms of old
families. I do not trouble the reader with notes upon mere family-names,
of which nothing else is recorded.]

[Footnote 19: An allusion, apparently acquiescent, to the superstitious
popular opinion that the peace of Florence was bound up with the statue
of Mars on the old bridge, at the base of which Buondelmonte was slain.

With this Buondelmonte the dissensions in Florence were supposed to have
first begun. Macchiavelli's account of him is, that he was about to
marry a young lady of the Amidei family, when a widow of one of the
Donati, who had designed her own daughter for him, contrived that
he should see her; the consequence of which was, that he broke his
engagement, and was assassinated. _Historie Fiorentine_, lib. ii.]

[Footnote 20:

  "Tu lascerai ogni cosa diletta
  Più caramente; e questo e quello strale
  Che l'arco de l'esilio pria saetta.

  Tu proverai sì come sa di sale
  Lo pane altrui, e com'è duro calle
  Lo scendere e 'l salir per l'altrui scale.

  E quel che più ti graverà le spalle,
  Sarà la compagnia malvagia e scempia
  Con la qual tu cadrai in questa valle:

  Che tutta ingrata, tutta matta ed empia
  Si farà contra te: ma poco appresso
  Ella, non tu, n'avrà rossa la tempia.

  Di sua bestialitate il suo processo
  Farà la pruova, sì ch' a te fia bello
  Averti fatta parte per te stesso."

[Footnote 21: The Roman eagle. These are the arms of the Scaligers of

[Footnote 22: A prophecy of the renown of Can Grande della Scala, who
had received Dante at his court.]

[Footnote 23: "Letizia era ferza del paléo"]

[Footnote 24: Supposed to be one of the early Williams, Princes of
Orange; but it is doubted whether the First, in the time of Charlemagne,
or the Second, who followed Godfrey of Bouillon. Mr. Cary thinks the
former; and the mention of his kinsman Rinaldo (Ariosto's Paladin?)
seems to confirm his opinion; yet the situation of the name in the text
brings it nearer to Godfrey; and Rinoardo (the name of Rinaldo in Dante)
might possibly mean "Raimbaud," the kinsman and associate of the second
William. Robert Guiscard is the Norman who conquered Naples.]

[Footnote 25: Exquisitely beautiful feeling!

[Footnote 29: Most beautiful is this simile of the lark:

  "Prima cantando, e poi tace contenta
  De l'ultima dolcezza che la sazia."

In the _Pentameron and Pentalogia_, Petrarch is made to say, "All the
verses that ever were written on the nightingale are scarcely worth the
beautiful triad of this divine poet on the lark [and then he repeats
them]. In the first of them, do you not see the trembling of her wings
against the sky? As often as I repeat them, my ear is satisfied, my
heart (like hers) contented.

"_Boccaccio._--I agree with you in the perfect and unrivalled beauty of
the first; but in the third there is a redundance. Is not _contenta_
quite enough without _che la sazia?_The picture is before us, the
sentiment within us; and, behold, we kick when we are full of manna.

"_Petrarch._--I acknowledge the correctness and propriety of your
remark; and yet beauties in poetry must be examined as carefully as
blemishes, and even more."--p. 92.

Perhaps Dante would have argued that _sazia_ expresses the satiety
itself, so that the very superfluousness becomes a propriety.]

[Footnote 30:

  "E come a buon cantor buon citarista
  Fa seguitar to guizzo de la corda
  In che più di piacer lo canto acquista;

  Sì, mentre che parlò, mi si ricorda,
  Ch'io vidi le due luci benedette,
  Pur come batter d'occhi si concorda,

  Con le parole muover le fiammette." ]

[Footnote 31: A corrector of clerical abuses, who, though a cardinal,
and much employed in public affairs, preferred the simplicity of a
private life. He has left writings, the eloquence of which, according to
Tiraboschi, is "worthy of a better age." Petrarch also makes honourable
mention of him. See _Cary_, ut sup. p. 169. Dante lived a good while
in the monastery of Catria, and is said to have finished his poem
there.--_Lombardi in loc._ vol. III. p. 547.]

[Footnote 32: The cardinal's hat.]

[Footnote 33: "Sì che duo bestie van sott' una pelle."]

[Footnote 34:

  "Dintorno a questa (voce) vennero e fermarsi,
  E fero un grido di sì alto suono,
  Che non potrebbe qui assomigliarsi;

  Nè io lo 'ntesi, sì mi vinse il tuono."

  Around this voice they flocked, a mighty crowd,
  And raised a shout so huge, that earthly wonder
  Knoweth no likeness for a peal so loud;

  Nor could I hear the words, it spoke such thunder.

If a Longinus had written after Dante, he would have put this passage
into his treatise on the Sublime.]

[Footnote 35: Benedict, the founder of the order called after his name.
Macarius, an Egyptian monk and moralist. Romoaldo, founder of the

[Footnote 36: The reader of English poetry will be reminded of a passage
in Cowley

  "Lo, I mount; and lo,
  How small the biggest parts of earth's proud title shew!
  Where shall I find the noble British land?
  Lo, I at last a northern speck espy,
  Which in the sea does lie,
  And seems a grain o' the sand.
  For this will any sin, or bleed?
  Of civil wars is this the meed?
  And is it this, alas, which we,
  Oh, irony of words! do call Great Brittanie?"

And he afterwards, on reaching higher depths of silence, says very
finely, and with a beautiful intimation of the all-inclusiveness of the
Deity by the use of a singular instead of a plural verb,--

  "Where am I now? angels and God is here."

All which follows in Dante, up to the appearance of Saint Peter, is full
of grandeur and loveliness.]

[Footnote 37:

  "Come l' augello intra l'amate fronde,
  Posato al nido de' suoi dolci nati
  La notte che le cose ci nasconde,

  Che per veder gli aspetti desiati,
  E per trovar lo cibo onde gli pasca,
  In che i gravi labor gli sono aggrati,

  Previene 'l tempo in su l'aperta frasca,
  E con ardente affetto il sole aspetta,
  Fiso guardando pur che l'alba nasca;

  Così la donna mia si stava eretta
  E attenta, involta in ver la plaga
  Sotto la quale il sol mostra men fretta:

  Sì the veggendola io sospesa e vaga,
  Fecimi quale è quei che disiando
  Altro vorria, e sperando s'appaga." ]

[Footnote 38:

  "Quale ne' plenilunii sereni
  Trivia ride tra le Ninfe eterne,
  Che dipingono 'l ciel per tutti i seni."

[Footnote 39: He has seen Christ in his own unreflected person.]

[Footnote 40: The Virgin Mary.]

[Footnote 41:

  "Mi rendei
  A la battaglia de' debili cigli."]

[Footnote 42:

  "Ambo le luci mi dipinse."

[Footnote 43:

  "Qualunque melodia più dolce suona
  Qua giù, e più a se l'anima tira,
  Parebbe nube che squarciata tuona,

  Comparata al sonar di quella lira
  Onde si coronava il bel zaffiro
  Del quale il ciel più chiaro s' inzaffira." ]

  [Footnote 44:

  "Benedicendomi cantando
  Tre volte cinse me, sì com' io tacqui,
  L' Apostolico lume, al cui comando

  Io avea detto; sì nel dir gli piacqui."

It was this passage, and the one that follows it, which led Foscolo to
suspect that Dante wished to lay claim to a divine mission; an opinion
which has excited great indignation among the orthodox. See his
_Discorso sul Testo_, ut sup. pp. 61, 77-90 and 335-338; and the preface
of the Milanese Editors to the "Convito" of Dante,--_Opere Minori_,
12mo, vol ii. p. xvii. Foscolo's conjecture seems hardly borne out by
the context; but I think Dante had boldness and self-estimation enough
to have advanced any claim whatsoever, had events turned out as he
expected. What man but himself (supposing him the believer he professed
to be) would have thought of thus making himself free of the courts of
Heaven, and constituting St. Peter his applauding catechist!]

[Footnote 45: The verses quoted in the preceding note conclude the
twenty-fourth canto of Paradise; and those, of which the passage just
given is a translation, commence the twenty-fifth:

  "Se mai continga, che 'l poema sacro
  Al quale ha posto mano e cielo e terra
  Sì che m' ha fatto per più anni macro,

  Vinca la crudeltà che fuor mi serra
  Del bello ovile ov' io dormi' agnello
  Nimico a' lupi che gli danno guerra;

  Con altra voce omai, con altro vello
  Ritornerò poeta, ed in sul fonte
  Del mio battesmo prenderò 'l capello:

  Perocchè ne la fede che fa conte
  L' anime a Dio, quiv' entra' io, e poi
  Pietro per lei sì mi girò la fronte." ]

[Footnote 46: "Sperent in te." _Psalm_ ix. 10. The English version says,
"And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee."]

[Footnote 47:

  "Tal volta un animal coverto broglia
  Sì che l' affetto convien che si paia
  Per lo seguir che face a lui la 'nvoglia."

A natural, but strange, and surely not sufficiently dignified image for
the occasion. It is difficult to be quite content with a former one, in
which the greetings of St. Peter and St. James are compared to those of
doves murmuring and sidling round about one another; though Christian
sentiment may warrant it, if we do not too strongly present the Apostles
to one's imagination.]

[Footnote 48:

  "Tal ne la sembianza sua divenne,
  Qual diverebbe Giove, s' egli e Marte
  Fossero augelli e cambiassersi penne."

Nobody who opened the Commedia for the first time at this fantastical
image would suppose the author was a great poet, or expect the
tremendous passage that ensues!]

[Footnote 49: In spite of the unheavenly nature of invective, of
something of a lurking conceit in the making an eclipse out of a blush,
and in the positive bathos, and I fear almost indecent irrelevancy of
the introduction of Beatrice at all on such an occasion, much more under
the feeble aspect of one young lady blushing for another,--this scene
altogether is a very grand one; and the violence itself of the holy
invective awful.

A curious subject for reflection is here presented. What sort of pope
would Dante himself have made? Would he have taken to the loving or the
hating side of his genius? To the St. John or the St. Peter of his own
poem? St. Francis or St. Dominic?--I am afraid, all things considered,
we should have had in him rather a Gregory the Seventh or Julius
the Second, than a Benedict the Eleventh or a Ganganelli. What fine
Church-hymns he would have written!]

[Footnote 50: She does not see (so blind is even holy vehemence!) that
for the same reason the denouncement itself is out of its place. The
preachers brought St. Anthony and his pig into their pulpits; she brings
them into Heaven!]

[Footnote 51:

  "Certo io credo
  Che solo il suo fattor tutta la goda." ]

[Footnote 52: The Emperor Henry of Luxembourg, Dante's idol; at the
close of whose brief and inefficient appearance in Italy, his hopes of
restoration to his country were at an end.]

[Footnote 53: Pope Clement the Fifth. Dante's enemy, Boniface, was now
dead, and of course in Tartarus, in the red-hot tomb which the poet had
prepared for him.]

[Footnote 54: Boniface himself. Pope Clement's red hot feet are to
thrust down Pope Boniface into a gulf still hotter. So says the gentle
Beatrice in Heaven, and in the face of all that is angelical!]

[Footnote 55: David.]

[Footnote 56: The Trinity.]

[Footnote 57: The Incarnation.]

[Footnote 58: In the Variorum edition of Dante, ut sup. vol. iii. p.
845, we are informed that a gentleman of Naples, the Cavaliere Giuseppe
de Cesare, was the first to notice (not long since, I presume) the
curious circumstance of Dante's having terminated the three portions of
his poem with the word "stars." He thinks that it was done as a happy
augury of life and renown to the subject. The literal intention,
however, seems to have been to shew us, how all his aspirations


Critical Notice



Pulci, who is the first genuine romantic poet, in point of time, after
Dante, seems, at first sight, in the juxtaposition, like farce after
tragedy; and indeed, in many parts of his poem, he is not only what he
seems, but follows his saturnine countryman with a peculiar propriety
of contrast, much of his liveliest banter being directed against the
absurdities of Dante's theology. But hasty and most erroneous would be
the conclusion that he was nothing but a banterar. He was a true poet
of the mixed order, grave as well as gay; had a reflecting mind, a
susceptible and most affectionate heart; and perhaps was never more in
earnest than when he gave vent to his dislike of bigotry in his most
laughable sallies.

Luigi Pulci, son of Jacopo Pulci and Brigida de' Bardi, was of a noble
family, so ancient as to be supposed to have come from France into
Tuscany with his hero Charlemagne. He was born in Florence on the 3d of
December, 1431, and was the youngest of three brothers, all possessed of
a poetical vein, though it did not flow with equal felicity. Bernardo,
the eldest, was the earliest translator of the Eclogues of Virgil; and
Lucca wrote a romance called the _Ciriffo Calvaneo_, and is commended
for his _Heroic Epistles_. Little else is known of these brothers; and
not much more of Luigi himself, except that he married a lady of the
name of Lucrezia degli Albizzi; journeyed in Lombardy and elsewhere; was
one of the most intimate friends of Lorenzo de Medici and his literary
circle; and apparently led a life the most delightful to a poet, always
meditating some composition, and buried in his woods and gardens.
Nothing is known of his latter days. An unpublished work of little
credit (Zilioli _On the Italian Poets_), and an earlier printed book,
which, according to Tiraboschi, is of not much greater (Scardeone _De
Antiquitatibus Orbis Patavinæ_), say that he died miserably in Padua,
and was refused Christian burial on account of his impieties. It is
not improbable that, during the eclipse of the fortunes of the Medici
family, after the death of Lorenzo, Pulci may have partaken of its
troubles; and there is certainly no knowing how badly his or their
enemies may have treated him; but miserable ends are a favourite
allegation with theological opponents. The Calvinists affirm of their
master, the burner of Servetus, that he died like a saint; but I
have seen a biography in Italian, which attributed the most horrible
death-bed, not only to the atrocious Genevese, but to the genial Luther,
calling them both the greatest villains (_sceleratissimi_); and adding,
that one of them (I forget which) was found dashed on the floor of his
bedroom, and torn limb from limb.

Pulci appears to have been slender in person, with small eyes and a
ruddy face. I gather this from the caricature of him in the poetical
paper-war carried on between him and his friend Matteo Franco, a
Florentine canon, which is understood to have been all in good
humour--sport to amuse their friends--a perilous speculation. Besides
his share in these verses, he is supposed to have had a hand in his
brother's romance, and was certainly the author of some devout poems,
and of a burlesque panegyric on a country damsel, _La Beca_, in
emulation of the charming poem _La Nencia_, the first of its kind,
written by that extraordinary person, his illustrious friend Lorenzo,
who, in the midst of his cares and glories as the balancer of the power
of Italy, was one of the liveliest of the native wits, and wrote songs
for the people to dance to in Carnival time.

The intercourse between Lorenzo and Pulci was of the most familiar kind.
Pulci was sixteen years older, but of a nature which makes no such
differences felt between associates. He had known Lorenzo from the
latter's youth, probably from his birth--is spoken of in a tone of
domestic intimacy by his wife--and is enumerated by him among his
companions in a very special and characteristic manner in his poem on
Hawking _(La Caccia col Falcone_), when, calling his fellow-sportsmen
about him, and missing Luigi, one of them says that he has strolled into
a neighbouring wood, to put something which has struck his fancy into a

"'Luigi Pulci ov' è, che non si sente?' 'Egli se n' andò dianzi in quel
boschetto, Che qualche fantasia ha per la mente; Vorr à fantasticar
forse un sonetto.'"

"And where's Luigi Pulci? I saw _him_." "Oh, in the wood there. Gone,
depend upon it, To vent some fancy in his brain--some whim, That will
not let him rest till it's a sonnet."

In a letter written to Lorenzo, when the future statesman, then in his
seventeenth year, was making himself personally acquainted with the
courts of Italy, Pulci speaks of himself as struggling hard to keep down
the poetic propensity in his friend's absence. "If you were with me," he
says, "I should produce heaps of sonnets as big as the clubs they make
of the cherry-blossoms for May-day. I am always muttering some verse or
other betwixt my teeth; but I say to myself, 'My Lorenzo is not here--he
who is my only hope and refuge;' and so I suppress it." Such is the
first, and of a like nature are the latest accounts we possess of the
sequestered though companionable poet. He preferred one congenial
listener who understood him, to twenty critics that were puzzled with
the vivacity of his impulses. Most of the learned men patronised by
Lorenzo probably quarrelled with him on account of it, plaguing him in
somewhat the same spirit, though in more friendly guise, as the Della
Cruscans and others afterwards plagued Tasso; so he banters them in
turn, and takes refuge from their critical rules and common-places in
the larger indulgence of his friend Politian and the laughing wisdom of

"So che andar diritto mi bisogna, Ch' io non ci mescolassi una bugia,
Che questa non è storia da menzogna; Che come in esco un passo de la

Chi gracchia, chi riprende, e chi rampogna: Ognun poi mi riesce la

Tanto ch' eletto ho solitaria vita, Che la turba di questi è infinita.

La mia Accademia un tempo, o mia Ginnasia, E stata volentier ne' miei
boschetti; E puossi ben veder l' Affrica e l' Asia: Vengon le Ninfe con
lor canestretti, E portanmi o narciso o colocasia; E così fuggo mille
urban dispetti: Sì ch' io non torno a' vostri Areopaghi, Gente pur
sempre di mal dicer vaghi.

I know I ought to make no dereliction From the straight path to this
side or to that; I know the story I relate's no fiction, And that
the moment that I quit some flat, Folks are all puff, and blame, and
contradiction, And swear I never know what I'd be at; In short, such
crowds, I find, can mend one's poem, I live retired, on purpose not to
know 'em.

Yes, gentlemen, my only 'Academe,' My sole 'Gymnasium,' are my woods
and bowers; Of Afric and of Asia there I dream; And the Nymphs bring me
baskets full of flowers, Arums, and sweet narcissus from the stream; And
thus my Muse escapeth your town-hours And town-disdains; and I eschew
your bites, Judges of books, grim Areopagites."

He is here jesting, as Foscolo has observed, on the academy instituted
by Lorenzo for encouraging the Greek language, doubtless with the
laughing approbation of the founder, who was sometimes not a little
troubled himself with the squabbles of his literati.

Our author probably had good reason to call his illustrious friend his
"refuge." The _Morgante Maggiore_, the work which has rendered the name
of Pulci renowned, was an attempt to elevate the popular and homely
narrative poetry chanted in the streets into the dignity of a production
that should last. The age was in a state of transition on all points.
The dogmatic authority of the schoolmen in matters of religion, which
prevailed in the time of Dante, had come to nought before the advance
of knowledge in general, and the indifference of the court of Rome.
The Council of Trent, as Crescimbeni advised the critics, had not then
settled what Christendom was to believe; and men, provided they complied
with forms, and admitted certain main articles, were allowed to think,
and even in great measure talk, as they pleased. The lovers of the
Platonic philosophy took the opportunity of exalting some of its dreams
to an influence, which at one time was supposed to threaten Christianity
itself, and which in fact had already succeeded in affecting Christian
theology to an extent which the scorners of Paganism little suspect.
Most of these Hellenists pushed their admiration of Greek literature to
an excess. They were opposed by the Virgilian predilections of Pulci's
friend, Politian, who had nevertheless universality enough to sympathise
with the delight the other took in their native Tuscan, and its
liveliest and most idiomatic effusions. From all these circumstances in
combination arose, first, Pulci's determination to write a poem of a
mixed order, which should retain for him the ear of the many, and at the
same time give rise to a poetry of romance worthy of higher auditors;
second, his banter of what he considered unessential and injurious
dogmas of belief, in favour of those principles of the religion of
charity which inflict no contradiction on the heart and understanding;
third, the trouble which seems to have been given him by critics,
"sacred and profane," in consequence of these originalities; and lastly,
a doubt which has strangely existed with some, as to whether he intended
to write a serious or a comic poem, or on any one point was in earnest
at all. One writer thinks he cannot have been in earnest, because he
opens every canto with some pious invocation; another asserts that the
piety itself is a banter; a similar critic is of opinion, that to mix
levities with gravities proves the gravities to have been nought, and
the levities all in all; a fourth allows him to have been serious in his
description of the battle of Roncesvalles, but says he was laughing in
all the rest of his poem; while a fifth candidly gives up the question,
as one of those puzzles occasioned by the caprices of the human mind,
which it is impossible for reasonable people to solve. Even Sismondi,
who was well acquainted with the age in which Pulci wrote, and who, if
not a profound, is generally an acute and liberal critic, confesses
himself to be thus confounded. "Pulci," he says, "commences all his
cantos by a sacred invocation; and the interests of religion are
constantly intermingled with the adventures of his story, in a manner
capricious and little instructive. We know not how to reconcile this
monkish spirit with the semi-pagan character of society under Lorenzo
di Medici, nor whether we ought to accuse Pulci of gross bigotry or of
profane derision." [1] Sismondi did not consider that the lively
and impassioned people of the south take what may be called
household-liberties with the objects of their worship greater than
northerns can easily conceive; that levity of manner, therefore, does
not always imply the absence of the gravest belief; that, be this as
it may, the belief may be as grave on some points as light on others,
perhaps the more so for that reason; and that, although some poems, like
some people, are altogether grave, or the reverse, there really is
such a thing as tragi-comedy both in the world itself and in the
representations of it. A jesting writer may be quite as much in earnest
when he professes to be so, as a pleasant companion who feels for his
own or for other people's misfortunes, and who is perhaps obliged to
affect or resort to his very pleasantry sometimes, because he feels more
acutely than the gravest. The sources of tears and smiles lie close to,
ay and help to refine one another. If Dante had been capable of more
levity, he would have been guilty of less melancholy absurdities. If
Rabelais had been able to weep as well as to laugh, and to love as well
as to be licentious, he would have had faith and therefore support in
something earnest, and not have been obliged to place the consummation
of all things in a wine-bottle. People's every-day experiences might
explain to them the greatest apparent inconsistencies of Pulci's muse,
if habit itself did not blind them to the illustration. Was nobody ever
present in a well-ordered family, when a lively conversation having been
interrupted by the announcement of dinner, the company, after listening
with the greatest seriousness to a grace delivered with equal
seriousness, perhaps by a clergyman, resumed it the instant afterwards
in all its gaiety, with the first spoonful of soup? Well, the sacred
invocations at the beginning of Pulci's cantos were compliances of the
like sort with a custom. They were recited and listened to just as
gravely at Lorenzo di Medici's table; and yet neither compromised the
reciters, nor were at all associated with the enjoyment of the fare that
ensued. So with regard to the intermixture of grave and gay throughout
the poem. How many campaigning adventures have been written by gallant
officers, whose animal spirits saw food for gaiety in half the
circumstances that occurred, and who could crack a jest and a helmet
perhaps with almost equal vivacity, and yet be as serious as the gravest
at a moment's notice, mourn heartily over the deaths of their friends,
and shudder with indignation and horror at the outrages committed in a
captured city? It is thus that Pulci writes, full no less of feeling
than of whim and mirth. And the whole honest round of humanity not only
warrants his plan, but in the twofold sense of the word embraces it.

If any thing more were necessary to shew the gravity with which our
author addressed himself to his subject, it is the fact, related by
himself, of its having been recommended to him by Lorenzo's mother,
Lucrezia Tornabuoni, a good and earnest woman, herself a poetess, who
wrote a number of sacred narratives, and whose virtues he more than
once records with the greatest respect and tenderness. The _Morgante_
concludes with an address respecting this lady to the Virgin, and with
a hope that her "devout and sincere" spirit may obtain peace for him
in Paradise. These are the last words in the book. Is it credible that
expressions of this kind, and employed on such an occasion, could have
had no serious meaning? or that Lorenzo listened to such praises of his
mother as to a jest?

I have no doubt that, making allowance for the age in which he lived,
Pulci was an excellent Christian. His orthodoxy, it is true, was not the
orthodoxy of the times of Dante or St. Dominic, nor yet of that of the
Council of Trent. His opinions respecting the mystery of the Trinity
appear to have been more like those of Sir Isaac Newton than of
Archdeacon Travis. And assuredly he agreed with Origen respecting
eternal punishment, rather than with Calvin and Mr. Toplady. But a man
may accord with Newton, and yet be thought not unworthy of the "starry
spheres." He may think, with Origen, that God intends all his creatures
to be ultimately happy,[2] and yet be considered as loving a follower
of Christ as a "dealer of damnation round the land," or the burner of a

Pulci was in advance of his time on more subjects than one. He
pronounced the existence of a new and inhabited world, before the
appearance of Columbus.[3] He made the conclusion, doubtless, as
Columbus did, from the speculations of more scientific men, and the
rumours of seamen; but how rare are the minds that are foremost to throw
aside even the most innocent prejudices, and anticipate the enlargements
of the public mind! How many also are calumniated and persecuted for so
doing, whose memories, for the same identical reason, are loved, perhaps
adored, by the descendants of the calumniators! In a public library, in
Pulci's native place, is preserved a little withered relic, to which
the attention of the visitor is drawn with reverential complacency. It
stands, pointing upwards, under a glass-case, looking like a mysterious
bit of parchment; and is the finger of Galileo;--of that Galileo, whose
hand, possessing that finger, is supposed to have been tortured by the
Inquisition for writing what every one now believes. He was certainly
persecuted and imprisoned by the Inquisition. Milton saw and visited
him under the restraint of that scientific body in his own house. Yet
Galileo did more by his disclosures of the stars towards elevating our
ideas of the Creator, than all the so-called saints and polemics that
screamed at one another in the pulpits of East and West.

Like the _Commedia_ of Dante, Pulci's "Commedia" (for such also in
regard to its general cheerfulness,[4] and probably to its mediocrity of
style, he calls it) is a representative in great measure of the feeling
and knowledge of his time; and though not entirely such in a learned and
eclectic sense, and not to be compared to that sublime monstrosity in
point of genius and power, is as superior to it in liberal opinion
and in a certain pervading lovingness, as the author's affectionate
disposition, and his country's advance in civilisation, combined to
render it. The editor of the _Parnaso Italiano_ had reason to notice
this engaging personal character in our author's work. He says, speaking
of the principal romantic poets of Italy, that the reader will "admire
Tasso, will adore Ariosto, but will love Pulci."[5] And all minds, in
which lovingness produces love, will agree with him.

The _Morgante Maggiore_ is a history of the fabulous exploits and death
of Orlando, the great hero of Italian romance, and of the wars
and calamities brought on his fellow Paladins and their sovereign
Charlemagne by the envy, ambition, and treachery of the misguided
monarch's favourite, Gail of Magauza (Mayence), Count of Poictiers. It
is founded on the pseudo-history of Archbishop Turpin, which, though it
received the formal sanction of the Church, is a manifest forgery, and
became such a jest with the wits, that they took a delight in palming
upon it their most incredible fictions. The title (_Morgante the Great_)
seems to have been either a whim to draw attention to an old subject, or
the result of an intention to do more with the giant so called than took
place; for though he is a conspicuous actor in the earlier part of the
poem, he dies when it is not much more than half completed. Orlando, the
champion of the faith, is the real hero of it, and Gan the anti-hero or
vice. Charlemagne, the reader hardly need be told, is represented,
for the most part, as a very different person from what he appears in
history. In truth, as Ellis and Panizzi have shewn, he is either an
exaggeration (still misrepresented) of Charles Martel, the Armorican
chieftain, who conquered the Saracens at Poictiers, or a concretion of
all the Charleses of the Carlovingian race, wise and simple, potent and

The story may be thus briefly told. Orlando quits the court of
Charlemagne in disgust, but is always ready to return to it when the
emperor needs his help. The best Paladins follow, to seek him. He meets
with and converts the giant Morgante, whose aid he receives in many
adventures, among which is the taking of Babylon. The other Paladins,
his cousin Rinaldo especially, have their separate adventures, all more
or less mixed up with the treacheries and thanklessness of Gan (for they
assist even him), and the provoking trust reposed in him by Charlemagne;
and at length the villain crowns his infamy by luring Orlando with most
of the Paladins into the pass of Roncesvalles, where the hero himself
and almost all his companions are slain by the armies of Gan's
fellow-traitor, Marsilius, king of Spain. They die, however, victorious;
and the two royal and noble scoundrels, by a piece of prosaical justice
better than poetical, are despatched like common malefactors, with a

There is, perhaps, no pure invention in the whole of this enlargement of
old ballads and chronicles, except the characters of another giant, and
of a rebel angel; for even Morgante's history, though told in a very
different manner, has its prototype in the fictions of the pretended
archbishop.[7] The Paladins are well distinguished from one another;
Orlando as foremost alike in prowess and magnanimity, Rinaldo by his
vehemence, Ricciardetto by his amours, Astolfo by an ostentatious
rashness and self-committal; but in all these respects they appear to
have been made to the author's hand. Neither does the poem exhibit
any prevailing force of imagery, or of expression, apart from popular
idiomatic phraseology; still less, though it has plenty of infernal
magic, does it present us with any magical enchantments of the alluring
order, as in Ariosto; or with love-stories as good as Boiardo's, or even
with any of the luxuries of landscape and description that are to be
found in both of those poets; albeit, in the fourteenth canto, there is
a long _catalogue raisonné_ of the whole animal creation, which a lady
has worked for Rinaldo on a pavilion of silk and gold.

To these negative faults must be added the positive ones of too many
trifling, unconnected, and uninteresting incidents (at least to readers
who cannot taste the flavour of the racy Tuscan idiom); great occasional
prolixity, even in the best as well as worst passages, not excepting
Orlando's dying speeches; harshness in spite of his fluency (according
to Foscolo), and even bad grammar; too many low or over-familiar forms
of speech (so the graver critics allege, though, perhaps, from want of
animal spirits or a more comprehensive discernment); and lastly (to say
nothing of the question as to the gravity or levity of the theology),
the strange exhibition of whole successive stanzas, containing as many
questions or affirmations as lines, and commencing each line with the
same words. They meet the eye like palisadoes, or a file of soldiers,
and turn truth and pathos itself into a jest. They were most likely
imitated from the popular ballads. The following is the order of words
in which a young lady thinks fit to complain of a desert, into which she
has been carried away by a giant. After seven initiatory O's addressed
to her friends and to life in general, she changes the key into E:

"E' questa, la mia patria dov' io nacqui? E' questo il mio palagio e 'l
mio castello? E' questo il nido ov' alcun tempo giacqui? E' questo il
padre e 'l mio dolce fratello? E' questo il popol dov' io tanto piacqui?
E' questo il regno giusto antico e bello? E' questo il porto de la mia
salute? E' questo il premio d' ogni mia virtute?

Ove son or le mie purpuree veste? Ove son or le gemme e le ricchezze?
Ove son or già le notturne feste? Ove son or le mie delicatezze? Ove son
or le mie compagne oneste? Ove son or le fuggite dolcezze? Ove son or le
damigelle mie? Ove son, dice? omè, non son già quie."[8]

Is this the country, then, where I was born? Is this my palace, and my
castle this? Is this the nest I woke in, every morn? Is this my father's
and my brother's kiss? Is this the land they bred me to adorn? Is this
the good old bower of all my bliss? Is this the haven of my youth and
beauty? Is this the sure reward of all my duty?

Where now are all my wardrobes and their treasures? Where now are all
my riches and my rights? Where now are all the midnight feasts and
measures? Where now are all the delicate delights? Where now are all the
partners of my pleasures? Where now are all the sweets of sounds and
sights? Where now are all my maidens ever near? Where, do I say? Alas,
alas, not here!

There are seven more "where nows," including lovers, and "proffered
husbands," and "romances," and ending with the startling question and
answer,--the counterpoint of the former close,--

"Ove son l' aspre selve e i lupi adesso, E gli orsi, e i draghi, e i
tigri? Son qui presso."

Where now are all the woods and forests drear, Wolves, tigers, bears,
and dragons? Alas, here!

These are all very natural thoughts, and such, no doubt, as would
actually pass through the mind of the young lady, in the candour of
desolation; but the mechanical iteration of her mode of putting them
renders them irresistibly ludicrous. It reminds us of the wager laid by
the poor queen in the play of _Richard the Second_, when she overhears
the discourse of the gardener:

"My wretchedness _unto a roar of pins_, They'll talk of state."

Did Pulci expect his friend Lorenzo to keep a grave face during
the recital of these passages? Or did he flatter himself, that the
comprehensive mind of his hearer could at one and the same time be
amused with the banter of some old song and the pathos of the new

The want both of good love-episodes and of descriptions of external
nature, in the _Morgante_, is remarkable; for Pulci's tenderness of
heart is constantly manifest, and he describes himself as being almost
absorbed in his woods. That he understood love well in all its force and
delicacy is apparent from a passage connected with this pavilion. The
fair embroiderer, in presenting it to her idol Rinaldo, undervalues
it as a gift which his great heart, nevertheless, will not disdain to
accept; adding, with the true lavishment of the passion, that "she
wishes she could give him the sun;" and that if she were to say, after
all, that it was her own hands which had worked the pavilion, she should
be wrong, for Love himself did it. Rinaldo wishes to thank her, but is
so struck with her magnificence and affection, that the words die on his
lips. The way also in which another of these loving admirers of Paladins
conceives her affection for one of them, and persuades a vehemently
hostile suitor quietly to withdraw his claims by presenting him with
a ring and a graceful speech, is in a taste as high as any thing in
Boiardo, and superior to the more animal passion of the love in their
great successor.[10] Yet the tenderness of Pulci rather shews itself in
the friendship of the Paladins for one another, and in perpetual little
escapes of generous and affectionate impulse. This is one of the great
charms of the _Morgante_. The first adventure in the book is Orlando's
encounter with three giants in behalf of a good abbot, in whom he
discovers a kinsman; and this goodness and relationship combined move
the Achilles of Christendom to tears. Morgante, one of these giants, who
is converted, becomes a sort of squire to his conqueror, and takes such
a liking to him, that, seeing him one day deliver himself not without
peril out of the clutches of a devil, he longs to go and set free the
whole of the other world from devils. Indeed there is no end to his
affection for him. Rinaldo and other Paladins, meantime, cannot rest
till they have set out in search of Orlando. They never meet or part
with him without manifesting a tenderness proportionate to their
valour,--the old Homeric candour of emotion. The devil Ashtaroth
himself, who is a great and proud devil, assures Rinaldo, for whom he
has conceived a regard, that there is good feeling (_gentilezza_) even
in hell; and Rinaldo, not to hurt the feeling, answers that he has no
doubt of it, or of the capability of "friendship" in that quarter; and
he says he is as "sorry to part with him as with a brother." The passage
will be found in our abstract. There are no such devils as these in
Dante; though Milton has something like them:

  "Devil with devil damn'd
  Firm concord holds: men only disagree."

It is supposed that the character of Ashtaroth, which is a very new
and extraordinary one, and does great honour to the daring goodness
of Pulci's imagination, was not lost upon Milton, who was not only
acquainted with the poem, but expressly intimates the pleasure he took
in it.[11] Rinaldo advises this devil, as Burns did Lucifer, to "take a
thought and mend." Ashtaroth, who had been a seraph, takes no notice of
the advice, except with a waving of the recollection of happier times.
He bids the hero farewell, and says he has only to summon him in order
to receive his aid. This retention of a sense of his former angelical
dignity has been noticed by Foscolo and Panizzi, the two best writers on
these Italian poems.[12] A Calvinist would call the expression of the
sympathy "hardened." A humanist knows it to be the result of a spirit
exquisitely softened. An unbounded tenderness is the secret of all that
is beautiful in the serious portion of our author's genius. Orlando's
good-natured giant weeps even for the death of the scoundrel Margutte;
and the awful hero himself, at whose death nature is convulsed and the
heavens open, begs his dying horse to forgive him if ever he has wronged

A charm of another sort in Pulci, and yet in most instances, perhaps,
owing the best part of its charmingness to its being connected with the
same feeling, is his wit. Foscolo, it is true, says it is, in general,
more severe than refined; and it is perilous to differ with such a
critic on such a point; for much of it, unfortunately, is lost to a
foreign reader, in consequence of its dependance on the piquant old
Tuscan idiom, and on popular sayings and allusions. Yet I should think
it impossible for Pulci in general to be severe at the expense of some
more agreeable quality; and I am sure that the portion of his wit most
obvious to a foreigner may claim, if not to have originated, at least
to have been very like the style of one who was among its declared
admirers,--and who was a very polished writer,--Voltaire. It consists in
treating an absurdity with an air as if it were none; or as if it had
been a pure matter of course, erroneously mistaken for an absurdity.
Thus the good abbot, whose monastery is blockaded by the giants (for the
virtue and simplicity of his character must be borne in mind), after
observing that the ancient fathers in the desert had not only locusts to
eat, but manna, which he has no doubt was rained down on purpose from
heaven, laments that the "relishes" provided for himself and his
brethren should have consisted of "showers of stones." The stones, while
the abbot is speaking, come thundering down, and he exclaims, "For God's
sake, knight, come in, for the manna is falling!" This is exactly in the
style of the _Dictionnaire Philosophique_. So when Margutte is asked
what he believes in, and says he believes in "neither black nor blue,"
but in a good capon, "whether roast or boiled," the reader is forcibly
reminded of Voltaire's Traveller, _Scarmentado_, who, when he is desired
by the Tartars to declare which of their two parties he is for, the
party of the black-mutton or the white-mutton, answers, that the dish is
"equally indifferent to him, provided it is tender." Voltaire, however,
does injustice to Pulci, when he pretends that in matters of belief he
is like himself,--a mere scoffer. The friend of Lucrezia Tornabuoni has
evidently the tenderest veneration for all that is good and lovely in
the Catholic faith; and whatever liberties he might have allowed himself
in professed _extravaganzas_, when an age without Church-authority
encouraged them, and a reverend canon could take part in those (it must
be acknowledged) unseemly "high jinks," he never, in the _Morgante_,
when speaking in his own person, and not in that of the worst
characters, intimates disrespect towards any opinion which he did not
hold to be irrelevant to a right faith. It is observable that his freest
expressions are put in the mouth of the giant Margutte, the lowest
of these characters, who is an invention of the author's, and a most
extraordinary personage. He is the first unmitigated blackguard in
fiction, and is the greatest as well as first. Pulci is conjectured,
with great probability, to have designed him as a caricature of some
real person; for Margutte is a Greek who, in point of morals, has been
horribly brought up, and some of the Greek refugees in Italy were
greatly disliked for the cynicism of their manners and the grossness of
their lives. Margutte is a glutton, a drunkard, a liar, a thief, and
a blasphemer. He boasts of having every vice, and no virtue except
fidelity; which is meant to reconcile Morgante to his company; but
though the latter endures and even likes it for his amusement, he gives
him to understand that he looks on his fidelity as only securable by
the bastinado, and makes him the subject of his practical jokes. The
respectable giant Morgante dies of the bite of a crab, as if to spew on
what trivial chances depends the life of the strongest. Margutte laughs
himself to death at sight of a monkey putting his boots on and off; as
though the good-natured poet meant at once to express his contempt of
a merely and grossly anti-serious mode of existence, and his
consideration, nevertheless, towards the poor selfish wretch who had had
no better training.

To this wit and this pathos let the reader add a style of singular ease
and fluency,--rhymes often the most unexpected, but never at a loss,--a
purity of Tuscan acknowledged by every body, and ranking him among the
authorities of the language,--and a modesty in speaking of his own
pretensions equalled only by his enthusiastic extolments of genius in
others; and the reader has before him the lively and affecting, hopeful,
charitable, large-hearted Luigi Pulci, the precursor, and in some
respects exemplar, of Ariosto, and, in Milton's opinion, a poet worth
reading for the "good use" that may be made of him. It has been
strangely supposed that his friend Politian, and Ficino the Platonist,
not merely helped him with their books (as he takes a pride in telling
us), but wrote a good deal of the latter part of the Morgante,
particularly the speculations in matters of opinion. As if (to say
nothing of the difference of style) a man of genius, however lively, did
not go through the gravest reflections in the course of his life, or
could not enter into any theological or metaphysical question, to which
he chose to direct his attention. Animal spirits themselves are too
often but a counterbalance to the most thoughtful melancholy; and one
fit of jaundice or hypochondria might have enabled the poet to see more
visions of the unknown and the inscrutable in a single day, than perhaps
ever entered the imagination of the elegant Latin scholar, or even the
disciple of Plato.

[Footnote 1: _Literature of the South of Europe_, Thomas Roscoe's
Translation, vol. ii. p.54. For the opinions of other writers, here and
elsewhere alluded to, see Tiraboschi (who is quite frightened at him),
_Storia della Poesia Italiana_, cap. v. sect. 25; Gravina, who is more
so, _Della Ragion Poetica_ (quoted in Ginguéné, as below); Crescimbeni,
_Commentari Intorno all' Istoria della Poesia_, &c. lib. vi. cap. 3
(Mathias's edition), and the biographical additions to the same work,
4to, Rome, 1710, vol. ii. part ii. p. 151, where he says that Pulci was
perhaps the "modestest sad most temperate writer" of his age ("il pin
modesto e moderato"); Ginguéné, _Histoire Littéraire d'Italie_, tom. iv.
p. 214; Foscolo, in the _Quarterly Review_, as further on; Panizzi on
the _Romantic Poetry of the Italians_, ditto; Stebbing, _Lives of the
Italian Poets_, second edition, vol, i.; and the first volume of _Lives
of Literary and Scientific Men_, in _Lardner's Cyclopædia_.]

[Footnote 2: Canto xxv. The passage will be found in the present

[Footnote 3: Id. And this also.]

[Footnote 4: Canto xxvii. stanza 2.

  "S' altro ajuto qui non si dimostra,
  Sarà pur tragedía la istoria nostra.

  Ed io pur commedía pensato avea
  Iscriver del mio Carlo finalmente,
  Ed _Alcuin_ così mi promettea," &c. ]

[Footnote 5:

"In fine to adorerai l'Ariosto, tu ammirerei il Tasso, ma tu amerai il
Pulci."--_Parn. Ital_. vol. ix. p. 344.]

[Footnote 6: Ellis's _Specimens of Early English Poetical Romances_,
vol. ii. p. 287; and Panizzi's _Essay on the Romantic Narrative Poetry
of the Italians_; in his edition of Boiardo and Ariosto, vol. i. p.

[Footnote 7: _De Vita Caroli Magni et Rolandi Historia_, &c. cap. xviii.
p. 39 (Ciampi's edition). The giant in Turpin is named Ferracutus, or
Fergus. He was of the race of Goliath, had the strength of forty men,
and was twenty cubits high. During the suspension of a mortal combat
with Orlando, they discuss the mysteries of the Christian faith, which
its champion explains by a variety of similes and the most beautiful
beggings of the question; after which the giant stakes the credit of
their respective beliefs on the event of their encounter.]

[Footnote 8: Canto xix. st. 21.]

[Footnote 9: When a proper name happens to be a part of the tautology,
the look is still more extraordinary. Orlando is remonstrating with
Rinaldo on his being unseasonably in love:

  "Ov' è, Rinaldo, la tua gagliardia?
  Ov' è, Rinaldo, il tuo sommo potere?
  Ov' è, Rinaldo, il tuo senno di pria?
  Ov' è, Rinaldo, il tuo antivedere?
  Ov' è, Rinaldo, la tua fantasia?
  Ov' è, Rinaldo, l' arme e 'l tuo destriere?
  Ov' è, Rinaldo, la tua gloria e fama?
  Ov' è, Rinaldo, il tuo core? a la dama."

Canto xvi. st. 50.

  Oh where, Rinaldo, is thy gagliardize?
  Oh where, Rinaldo, is thy might indeed?
  Oh where, Rinaldo, thy repute for wise?
  Oh where, Rinaldo, thy sagacious heed?
  Oh where, Rinaldo, thy free-thoughted eyes?
  Oh where, Rinaldo, thy good arms and steed?
  Oh where, Rinaldo, thy renown and glory?
  Oh where, Rinaldo, _thou?_--In a love-story.

The incessant repetition of the names in the burdens of modern songs
is hardly so bad as this. The single line questions and answers in the
Greek drama were nothing to it. Yet there is a still more extraordinary
play upon words in canto xxiii. st. 49, consisting of the description
of a hermitage. It is the only one of the kind which I remember in the
poem, and would have driven some of our old hunters after alliteration
mad with envy:--

  "La _casa cosa_ parea _bretta_ e _brutta_,
  _Vinta_ dal _vento_; e la _notta_ e la _notte_
  _Stilla_ le _stelle_, ch' a _tetto_ era _tutto_:
  Del _pane appena_ ne _dette_ ta' _dotte_.
  _Pere_ avea _pure_, e qualche _fratta frutta_;
  E _svina_ e _svena_ di _botto_ una _botte_
  _Poscia_ per _pesci lasche_ prese a _l'esca_;
  Ma il _letto allotta_ a la _frasca_ fu _fresca_."

  This _holy hole_ was a vile _thin_-built _thing_,
  _Blown_ by the _blast_; the _night nought_ else o'erhead
  But _staring stars_ the _rude roof_ entering;
  Their _sup_ of _supper_ was no _splendid spread_;
  _Poor pears_ their fare, and such-_like libelling_
  Of quantum suff;--their _butt_ all _but_;--_bad bread_;--
  A _flash_ of _fish_ instead of _flush_ of _flesh_;
  Their bed a _frisk al-fresco_, _freezing fresh_.

Really, if Sir Philip Sidney and other serious and exquisite gentlemen
had not sometimes taken a positively grave interest in the like pastimes
of paronomasia, one should hardly conceive it possible to meet with
them even in tragi-comedy. Did Pulci find these also in his
ballad-authorities? If his Greek-loving critics made objections here,
they had the advantage of him: unless indeed they too, in their
Alexandrian predilections, had a sneaking regard for certain shapings
of verse into altars and hatchets, such as have been charged upon
Theocritus himself, and which might be supposed to warrant any other
conceit on occasion.]

[Footnote 10: See, in the original, the story of Meridiana, canto vii.
King Manfredonio has come in loving hostility against her to endeavour
to win her affection by his prowess. He finds her assisted by the
Paladins, and engaged by her own heart to Uliviero; and in he despair of
his discomfiture, expresses a wish to die by her hand. Meridiana, with
graceful pity, begs his acceptance of a jewel, and recommends him to
go home with his army; to which he grievingly consents. This indeed is
beautiful; and perhaps I ought to have given an abstract of it, as a
specimen of what Pulci could have done in this way, had he chosen.]

[Footnote 11: "Perhaps it was from that same politic drift that the
devil whipt St. Jerome in a lenten dream for reading Cicero; or else it
was a fantasm bred by the fever which had then seized him. For had an
angel been his discipliner, unless it were for dwelling too much upon
Ciceronianisms, and had chastised the reading and not the vanity, it had
been plainly partial; first to correct him for grave Cicero, and not
for scurrile Plautus, whom he confesses to have been reading not long
before; next, to correct him only, and let so many more ancient fathers
wax old in those pleasant and florid studies without the lash of such a
tutoring apparition; insomuch that Basil teaches how some good use may
be made of Margites, a sportful poem, not now extant, writ by Homer;
and why not then of Morgante, an Italian romance much to the same
purpose?"--_Areopagitica, a Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed
Printing_, Prose Works, folio, 1697, p. 378. I quote the passage
as extracted by Mr. Merivale in the preface to his "Orlando in
Roncesvalles,"--_Poems_, vol. ii. p. 41.]

[Footnote 12: Ut sup. p. 222. Foscolo's remark is to be found in his
admirable article on the _Narrative and Romantic Poems of the Italians_,
in the _Quarterly Review_, vol. xxi. p. 525.]

       *       *       *       *       *


Twelve Paladins had the Emperor Charlemagne in his court; and the most
wise and famous of them was Orlando. It is of him I am about to speak,
and of his friend Morgante, and of Gan the traitor, who beguiled him to
his death in Roncesvalles, where he sounded his horn so mightily after
the dolorous rout.

It was Easter, and Charles had all his court with him in Paris, making
high feast and triumph. There was Orlando, the first among them, and
Ogier the Dane, and Astolfo the Englishman, and Ansuigi; and there came
Angiolin of Bayonne, and Uliviero, and the gentle Berlinghieri; and
there was also Avolio and Avino, and Otho of Normandy, and Richard, and
the wise Namo, and the aged Salamon, and Walter of Monlione, and Baldwin
who was the son of the wretched Gan. The good emperor was too happy, and
oftentimes fairly groaned for joy at seeing all his Paladins together.
Now Morgante, the only surviving brother, had a palace made, after
giant's fashion, of earth, and boughs, and shingles, in which he shut
himself up at night. Orlando knocked, and disturbed him from his sleep,
so that he came staring to the door like a madman, for he had had a
bewildering dream.

"Who knocks there?" quoth he.

"You will know too soon," answered Orlando; "I am come to make you do
penance for your sins, like your brothers. Divine Providence has sent me
to avenge the wrongs of the monks upon the whole set of you. Doubt it
not; for Passamonte and Alabastro are already as cold as a couple of

"Noble knight," said Morgante, "do me no ill; but if you are a
Christian, tell me in courtesy who you are."

"I will satisfy you of my faith," replied Orlando; "I adore Christ; and
if you please, you may adore him also."

"I have had a strange vision," replied Morgante, with a low voice was
assailed by a dreadful serpent, and called upon Mahomet in vain; then I
called upon your God who was crucified, and he succoured me, and I was
delivered from the serpent; so I am disposed to become a Christian."

"If you keep in this mind," returned Orlando, "you shall worship the
true God, and come with me and be my companion, and I will love you with
perfect love. Your idols are false and vain; the true God is the God of
the Christians. Deny the unjust and villanous worship of your Mahomet,
and be baptised in the name of my God, who alone is worthy."

"I am content," said Morgante.

Then Orlando embraced him, and said, "I will lead you to the abbey."

"Let us go quickly," replied Morgante, for he was impatient to make his
peace with the monks.

Orlando rejoiced, saying, "My good brother, and devout withal, you must
ask pardon of the abbot; for God has enlightened you, and accepted you,
and he would have you practise humility."

"Yes," said Morgante, "thanks to you, your God shall henceforth be my
God. Tell me your name, and afterwards dispose of me as you will." And
he told him that he was Orlando.

But Fortune stands watching in secret to baffle our designs. While
Charles was thus hugging himself with delight, Orlando governed every
thing at court, and this made Gan burst with envy; so that he began one
day talking with Charles after the following manner--"Are we always to
have Orlando for our master? I have thought of speaking to you about it
a thousand times. Orlando has a great deal too much presumption. Here
are we, counts, dukes, and kings, at your service, but not at his; and
we have resolved not to be governed any longer by one so much younger
than ourselves. You began in Aspramont to give him to understand how
valiant he was, and that he did great things at that fountain; whereas,
if it had not been for the good Gerard, I know very well where the
victory would have been. The truth is, he has an eye upon the crown.
This, Charles, is the worthy who has deserved so much! All your generals
are afflicted at it. As for me, I shall repass those mountains over
which I came to you with seventy-two counts. Do you take him for a

Orlando happened to hear these words as he sat apart, and it displeased
him with the lord of Pontiers that he should speak so, but much more
that Charles should believe him. He would have killed Gan, if Uliviero
had not prevented him and taken his sword out of his hand; nay, he would
have killed Charlemagne; but at last he went from Paris by himself,
raging with scorn and grief. He borrowed, as he went, of Ermillina
the wife of Ogier, the Dane's sword Cortana and his horse Rondel, and
proceeded on his way to Brava. His wife, Alda the Fair, hastened to
embrace him; but while she was saying, "Welcome, my Orlando," he was
going to strike her with his sword, for his head was bewildered, and he
took her for the traitor. The fair Alda marvelled greatly, but Orlando
recollected himself, and she took hold of the bridle, and he leaped from
his horse, and told her all that had passed, and rested himself with her
for some days.

He then took his leave, being still carried away by his disdain, and
resolved to pass over into Heathendom; and as he rode, he thought, every
step of the way, of the traitor Gan; and so, riding on wherever the road
took him, he reached the confines between the Christian countries and
the Pagan, and came upon an abbey, situate in a dark place in a desert.

Now above the abbey was a great mountain, inhabited by three fierce
giants, one of whom was named Passamonte, another Alabastro, and the
third Morgante; and these giants used to disturb the abbey by throwing
things down upon it from the mountain with slings, so that the poor
little monks could not go out to fetch wood or water. Orlando knocked,
but nobody would open till the abbot was spoken to. At last the abbot
came himself, and opening the door bade him welcome. The good man told
him the reason of the delay, and said that since the arrival of the
giants they had been so perplexed that they did not know what to do.
"Our ancient fathers in the desert," quoth he, "were rewarded according
to their holiness. It is not to be supposed that they lived only upon
locusts; doubtless, it also rained manna upon them from heaven; but
here one is regaled with stones, which the giants pour on us from the
mountain. These are our nice bits and relishes. The fiercest of the
three, Morgante, plucks up pines and other great trees by the roots, and
casts them on us." While they were talking thus in the cemetery, there
came a stone which seemed as if it would break Rondel's back.

"For God's sake, cavalier," said the abbot, "come in, for the manna is

"My dear abbot," answered Orlando, "this fellow, methinks, does not wish
to let my horse feed; he wants to cure him of being restive; the stone
seems as if it came from a good arm." "Yes," replied the holy father,
"I did not deceive you. I think, some day or other, they will cast the
mountain itself on us."

Orlando quieted his horse, and then sat down to a meal; after which he
said, "Abbot, I must go and return the present that has been made to my
horse." The abbot with great tenderness endeavoured to dissuade him, but
in vain; upon which he crossed him on the forehead, and said, "Go, then;
and the blessing of God be with you."

Orlando scaled the mountain, and came where Passamonte was, who, seeing
him alone, measured him with his eyes, and asked him if he would
stay with him for a page, promising to make him comfortable. "Stupid
Saracen," said Orlando, "I come to you, according to the will of God, to
be your death, and not your foot-boy. You have displeased his servants
here, and are no longer to be endured, dog that you are!"

The giant, finding himself thus insulted, ran in a fury to his weapons;
and returning to Orlando, slung at him a large stone, which struck him
on the head with such force, as not only made his helmet ring again, but
felled him to the earth. Passamonte thought he was dead. "What could
have brought that paltry fellow here?" said he, as he turned away. But
Christ never forsakes his followers. While Passamonte was going away,
Orlando recovered, and cried aloud, "How now, giant? do you fancy you
have killed me? Turn back, for unless you have wings, your escape is
out of the question, dog of a renegade!" The giant, greatly marvelling,
turned back; and stooping to pick up a stone, Orlando, who had Cortana
naked in his hand, cleft his skull; upon which, cursing Mahomet, the
monster tumbled, dying and blaspheming, to the ground. Blaspheming fell
the sour-hearted and cruel wretch; but Orlando, in the mean while,
thanked the Father and the Word.

The Paladin went on, seeking for Alabastro, the second giant; who, when
he saw him, endeavoured to pluck up a great piece of stony earth by the
roots. "Ho, ho!" cried Orlando, "you too are for throwing stones,
are you?" Then Alabastro took his sling, and flung at him so large a
fragment as forced Orlando to defend himself, for if it had struck him,
he would no more have needed a surgeon;[1] but collecting his strength,
he thrust his sword into the giant's breast, and the loggerhead fell

"Blessed Jesus be thanked," said the giant, "for I have always heard you
called a perfect knight; and as I said, I will follow you all my life

And so conversing, they went together towards the abbey; and by the way
Orlando talked with Morgante of the dead giants, and sought to comfort
him, saying they had done the monks a thousand injuries, and "our
Scripture says the good shall be rewarded and the evil punished, and we
must submit to the will of God. The doctors of our Church," continued
he, "are all agreed, that if those who are glorified in heaven were to
feel pity for their miserable kindred who lie in such horrible confusion
in hell, their beatitude would come to nothing; and this, you see, would
plainly be unjust on the part of God. But such is the firmness of their
faith, that what appears good to him appears good to them. Do what he
may, they hold it to be done well, and that it is impossible for him to
err; so that if their very fathers and mothers are suffering everlasting
punishment, it does not disturb them an atom. This is the custom, I
assure you, in the choirs above."[2]

"A word to the wise," said Morgante; "you shall see if I grieve for my
brethren, and whether or no I submit to the will of God, and behave
myself like an angel. So dust to dust; and now let us enjoy ourselves. I
will cut off their hands, all four of them, and take them to these holy
monks, that they may be sure they are dead, and not fear to go out
alone into the desert. They will then be certain also that the Lord has
purified me, and taken me out of darkness, and assured to me the kingdom
of heaven." So saying, the giant cut off the hands of his brethren, and
left their bodies to the beasts and birds.

They went to the abbey, where the abbot was expecting Orlando in great
anxiety; but the monks not knowing what had happened, ran to the abbot
in great haste and alarm, saying, "Will you suffer this giant to come
in?" And when the abbot saw the giant, he changed countenance. Orlando,
perceiving him thus disturbed, made haste and said, "Abbot, peace be
with you! The giant is a Christian; he believes in Christ, and has
renounced his false prophet, Mahomet." And Morgante shewing the hands in
proof of his faith, the abbot thanked Heaven with great contentment of

The abbot did much honour to Morgante, comparing him with St. Paul; and
they rested there many days. One day, wandering over the house, they
entered a room where the abbot kept a quantity of armour; and Morgante
saw a bow which pleased him, and he fastened it on. Now there was in
the place a great scarcity of water; and Orlando said, like his good
brother, "Morgante, I wish you would fetch us some water." "Command me
as you please," said he; and placing a great tub on his shoulders, he
went towards a spring at which he had been accustomed to drink, at the
foot of the mountain. Having reached the spring, he suddenly heard a
great noise in the forest. He took an arrow from the quiver, placed it
in the bow, and raising his head, saw a great herd of swine rushing
towards the spring where he stood. Morgante shot one of them clean
through the head, and laid him sprawling. Another, as if in revenge, ran
towards the giant, without giving him time to use a second arrow; so he
lent him a cuff on the head which broke the bone, and killed him also;
which stroke the rest seeing fled in haste through the valley. Morgante
then placed the tub full of water upon one of his shoulders, and the
two porkers on the other, and returned to the abbey which was at some
distance, without spilling a drop.

The monks were delighted to see the fresh water, but still more the
pork; for there is no animal to whom food comes amiss. They let their
breviaries therefore go to sleep a while, and fell heartily to work, so
that the cats and dogs had reason to lament the polish of the bones.

"But why do we stay here doing nothing?" said Orlando one day to
Morgante; and he shook hands with the abbot, and told him he must take
his leave. "I must go," said he, "and make up for lost time. I ought to
have gone long ago, my good father; but I cannot tell you what I feel
within me, at the content I have enjoyed here in your company. I shall
bear in mind and in heart with me for ever the abbot, the abbey, and
this desert, so great is the love they have raised in me in so short a
time. The great God, who reigns above, must thank you for me, in his
own abode. Bestow on us your benediction, and do not forget us in your

When the abbot heard the County Orlando talk thus, his heart melted
within him for tenderness, and he said, "Knight, if we have failed in
any courtesy due to your prowess and great gentleness (and indeed what
we have done has been but little), pray put it to the account of our
ignorance, and of the place which we inhabit. We are but poor men of
the cloister, better able to regale you with masses and orisons and
paternosters, than with dinners and suppers. You have so taken this
heart of mine by the many noble qualities I have seen in you, that I
shall be with you still wherever you go; and, on the other hand, you
will always be present here with me. This seems a contradiction; but you
are wise, and will take my meaning discreetly. You have saved the very
life and spirit within us; for so much perplexity had those giants cast
about our place, that the way to the Lord among us was blocked up. May
He who sent you into these woods reward the justice and piety by which
we are delivered from our trouble. Thanks be to him and to you. We shall
all be disconsolate at your departure. We shall grieve that we cannot
detain you among us for months and years; but you do not wear these
weeds; you bear arms and armour; and you may possibly merit as well in
carrying those, as in wearing this cap. You read your Bible, and your
virtue has been the means of shewing the giant the way to heaven. Go in
peace then, and prosper, whoever you may be. I do not seek your name;
but if ever I am asked who it was that came among us, I shall say that
it was an angel from God. If there is any armour or other thing that you
would have, go into the room where it is, and take it."

"If you have any armour that would suit my companion," replied Orlando,
"that I will accept with pleasure."

"Come and see," said the abbot; and they went to a room that was full of
armour. Morgante looked all about, but could find nothing large enough,
except a rusty breast-plate, which fitted him marvellously. It had
belonged to an enormous giant, who was killed there of old by Orlando's
father, Milo of Angrante. There was a painting on the wall which told
the whole story: how the giant had laid cruel and long siege to the
abbey; and how he had been overthrown at last by the great Milo. Orlando
seeing this, said within himself: "O God, unto whom all things are
known, how came Milo here, who destroyed this giant?" And reading
certain inscriptions which were there, he could no longer keep a firm
countenance, but the tears ran down his cheeks.

When the abbot saw Orlando weep, and his brow redden, and the light of
his eyes become child-like for sweetness, he asked him the reason; but,
finding him still dumb with emotion, he said, "I do not know whether you
are overpowered by admiration of what is painted in this chamber. You
must know that I am of high descent, though not through lawful wedlock.
I believe I may say I am nephew or sister's son to no less a man than
that Rinaldo, who was so great a Paladin in the world, though my own
father was not of a lawful mother. Ansuigi was his name; my own, out in
the world, was Chiaramonte; and this Milo was my father's brother. Ah,
gentle baron, for blessed Jesus' sake, tell me what name is yours!"

Orlando, all glowing with affection, and bathed in tears, replied, "My
dear abbot and cousin, he before you is your Orlando." Upon this, they
ran for tenderness into each other's arms, weeping on both sides with
a sovereign affection, too high to be expressed. The abbot was so
over-joyed, that he seemed as if he would never have done embracing
Orlando. "By what fortune," said the knight, "do I find you in this
obscure place? Tell me, my dear abbot, how was it you became a monk, and
did not follow arms, like myself and the rest of us?"

"It is the will of God," replied the abbot, hastening to give his
feelings utterance. "Many and divers are the paths he points out for us
by which to arrive at his city; some walk it with the sword--some with
pastoral staff. Nature makes the inclination different, and therefore
there are different ways for us to take: enough if we all arrive safely
at one and the same place, the last as well as the first. We are all
pilgrims through many kingdoms. We all wish to go to Rome, Orlando;
but we go picking out our journey through different roads. Such is the
trouble in body and soul brought upon us by that sin of the old apple.
Day and night am I here with my book in hand--day and night do you ride
about, holding your sword, and sweating oft both in sun and shadow; and
all to get round at last to the home from which we departed--I say, all
out of anxiety and hope to get back to our home of old." And the giant
hearing them talk of these things, shed tears also.

The Paladin and the giant quitted the abbey, the one on horseback and
the other on foot, and journeyed through the desert till they came to
a magnificent castle, the door of which stood open. They entered, and
found rooms furnished in the most splendid manner--beds covered with
cloth of gold, and floors rejoicing in variegated marbles. There was
even a feast prepared in the saloon, but nobody to eat it, or to speak
to them.

Orlando suspected some trap, and did not quite like it; but Morgante
thought nothing worth considering but the feast. "Who cares for the
host," said he, "when there's such a dinner? Let us eat as much as we
can, and bear off the rest. I always do that when I have the picking of

They accordingly sat down, and being very hungry with their day's
journey, devoured heaps of the good things before them, eating with all
the vigour of health, and drinking to a pitch of weakness.[3] They sat
late in this manner enjoying themselves, and then retired for the night
into rich beds.

But what was their astonishment in the morning at finding that they
could not get out of the place! There was no door. All the entrances had
vanished, even to any feasible window.

"We must be dreaming," said Orlando.

"My dinner was no dream, I'll swear," said the giant. "As for the rest,
let it be a dream if it pleases."

Continuing to search up and down, they at length found a vault with
a tomb in it; and out of the tomb came a voice, saying, "You must
encounter with me, or stay here for ever. Lift, therefore, the stone
that covers me."

"Do you hear that?" said Morgante; "I'll have him out, if it's the devil
himself. Perhaps it's two devils, Filthy-dog and Foul-mouth, or Itching
and Evil-tail."[4]

"Have him out," said Orlando, "whoever he is, even were it as many
devils as were rained out of heaven into the centre."

Morgante lifted up the stone, and out leaped, surely enough, a devil in
the likeness of a dried-up dead body, black as a coal. Orlando seized
him, and the devil grappled with Orlando. Morgante was for joining him,
but the Paladin bade him keep back. It was a hard struggle, and
the devil grinned and laughed, till the giant, who was a master of
wrestling, could bear it no longer: so he doubled him up, and, in spite
of all his efforts, thrust him back into the tomb.

"You'll never get out," said the devil, "if you leave me shut up."

"Why not?" inquired the Paladin.

"Because your giant's baptism and my deliverance must go together,"
answered the devil. "If he is not baptised, you can have no deliverance;
and if I am not delivered, I can prevent it still, take my word for it."

Orlando baptised the giant. The two companions then issued forth,
and hearing a mighty noise in the house, looked back, and saw it all

"I could find it in my heart," said Morgante, "to go down to those same
regions below, and make all the devils disappear in like manner. Why
shouldn't we do it? We'd set free all the poor souls there. Egad, I'd
cut off Minos's tail--I'd pull out Charon's beard by the roots--make a
sop of Phlegyas, and a sup of Phlegethon--unseat Pluto,--kill Cerberus
and the Furies with a punch of the face a-piece--and set Beelzebub
scampering like a dromedary."

"You might find more trouble than you wot of," quoth Orlando, "and get
worsted besides. Better keep the straight path, than thrust your head
into out-of-the-way places."

Morgante took his lord's advice, and went straightforward with him
through many great adventures, helping him with loving good-will as
often as he was permitted, sometimes as his pioneer, and sometimes as
his finisher of troublesome work, such as a slaughter of some thousands
of infidels. Now he chucked a spy into a river--now felled a rude
ambassador to the earth (for he didn't stand upon ceremony)--now cleared
a space round him in battle with the clapper of an old bell which he had
found at the monastery--now doubled up a king in his tent, and bore him
away, tent and all, and a Paladin with him, because he would not let the
Paladin go.

In the course of these services, the giant was left to take care of a
lady, and lost his master for a time; but the office being at an end, he
set out to rejoin him, and, arriving at a cross-road, met with a very
extraordinary personage.

This was a giant huger than himself, swarthy-faced, horrible, brutish.
He came out of a wood, and appeared to be journeying somewhere.
Morgante, who had the great bell-clapper in his hand above-mentioned,
struck it on the ground with astonishment, as much as to say, "Who the
devil is this?" and then set himself on a stone by the way-side to
observe the creature.

"What's your name, traveller?" said Morgante, as it came up.

"My name's Margutte," said the phenomenon. "I intended to be a giant
myself, but altered my mind, you see, and stopped half-way; so that I am
only twenty feet or so."

"I'm glad to see you," quoth his brother-giant. "But tell me, are you
Christian or Saracen? Do you believe in Christ or in _Apollo_?"

"To tell you the truth," said the other, "I believe neither in black
nor blue, but in a good capon, whether it be roast or boiled. I
believe sometimes also in butter, and, when I can get it, in new wine,
particularly the rough sort; but, above all, I believe in wine that's
good and old. Mahomet's prohibition of it is all moonshine. I am the
son, you must know, of a Greek nun and a Turkish bishop; and the first
thing I learned was to play the fiddle. I used to sing Homer to it.
I was then concerned in a brawl in a mosque, in which the old bishop
somehow happened to be killed; so I tied a sword to my side, and went to
seek my fortune, accompanied by all the possible sins of Turk and Greek.
People talk of the seven deadly sins; but I have seventy-seven that
never quit me, summer or winter; by which you may judge of the amount
of my venial ones. I am a gambler, a cheat, a ruffian, a highwayman, a
pick-pocket, a glutton (at beef or blows); have no shame whatever; love
to let every body know what I can do; lie, besides, about what I can't
do; have a particular attachment to sacrilege; swallow perjuries like
figs; never give a farthing to any body, but beg of every body, and
abuse them into the bargain; look upon not spilling a drop of liquor as
the chief of all the cardinal virtues; but must own I am not much given
to assassination, murder being inconvenient; and one thing I am bound to
acknowledge, which is, that I never betrayed a messmate."

"That's as well," observed Morgante; "because you see, as you don't
believe in any thing else, I'd have you believe in this bell-clapper of
mine. So now, as you have been candid with me, and I am well instructed
in your ways, we'll pursue our journey together."

The best of giants, in those days, were not scrupulous in their modes of
living; so that one of the best and one of the worst got on pretty well
together, emptying the larders on the road, and paying nothing but
douses on the chops. When they could find no inn, they hunted elephants
and crocodiles. Morgante, who was the braver of the two, delighted to
banter, and sometimes to cheat, Margutte; and he ate up all the fare;
which made the other, notwithstanding the credit he gave himself for
readiness of wit and tongue, cut a very sorry figure, and seriously
remonstrate: "I reverence you," said Margutte, "in other matters; but in
eating, you really don't behave well. He who deprives me of my share at
meals is no friend; at every mouthful of which he robs me, I seem to
lose an eye. I'm for sharing every thing to a nicety, even if it be no
better than a fig."

"You are a fine fellow," said Morgante; "you gain upon me very much. You
are 'the master of those who know.'"[6]

So saying, he made him put some wood on the fire, and perform a hundred
other offices to render every thing snug; and then he slept: and next
day he cheated his great scoundrelly companion at drink, as he had
done the day before at meat; and the poor shabby devil complained; and
Morgante laughed till he was ready to burst, and again and again always
cheated him.

There was a levity, nevertheless, in Margutte, which restored his
spirits on the slightest glimpse of good fortune; and if he realised a
hearty meal, he became the happiest, beastliest, and most confident of
giants. The companions, in the course of their journey, delivered a
damsel from the clutches of three other giants. She was the daughter of
a great lord; and when she got home, she did honour to Morgante as to
an equal, and put Margutte into the kitchen, where he was in a state of
bliss. He did nothing but swill, stuff, surfeit, be sick, play at dice,
cheat, filch, go to sleep, guzzle again, laugh, chatter, and tell a
thousand lies.

Morgante took leave of the young lady, who made him rich presents.
Margutte, seeing this, and being always drunk and impudent, daubed his
face like a Christmas clown, and making up to her with a frying-pan in
his hand, demanded "something for the cook." The fair hostess gave him
a jewel; and the vagabond skewed such a brutal eagerness in seizing it
with his filthy hands, and making not the least acknowledgment, that
when they got out of the house, Morgante was ready to fell him to the
earth. He called him scoundrel and poltroon, and said he had disgraced
him for ever.

"Softly!" said the brute-beast. "Didn't you take me with you, knowing
what sort of fellow I was? Didn't I tell you I had every sin and shame
under heaven; and have I deceived you by the exhibition of a single

Morgante could not help laughing at a candour of this excessive nature.
So they went on their way till they came to a wood, where they rested
themselves by a fountain, and Margutte fell fast asleep. He had a pair
of boots on, which Morgante felt tempted to draw off, that he might see
what he would do on waking. He accordingly did so, and threw them to a
little distance among the bushes. The sleeper awoke in good time,
and, looking and searching round about, suddenly burst into roars of
laughter. A monkey had got the boots, and sat pulling them on and off,
making the most ridiculous gestures. The monkey busied himself, and the
light-minded drunkard laughed; and at every fresh gesticulation of the
new boot-wearer, the laugh grew louder and more tremendous, till at
length it was found impossible to be restrained. The glutton had a
laughing-fit. In vain he tried to stop himself; in vain his fingers
would have loosened the buttons of his doublet, to give his lungs room
to play. They couldn't do it; so he laughed and roared till he burst.
The snap was like the splitting of a cannon. Morgante ran up to him, but
it was of no use. He was dead.

Alas! it was not the only death; it was not even the most trivial cause
of a death. Giants are big fellows, but Death's a bigger, though he may
come in a little shape. Morgante had succeeded in joining his master.
He helped him to take Babylon; he killed a whale for him at sea that
obstructed his passage; he played the part of a main-sail during a
storm, holding out his arms and a great hide; but on coming to shore,
a crab bit him in the heel; and behold the lot of the great giant--he
died! He laughed, and thought it a very little thing, but it proved a
mighty one.

"He made the East tremble," said Orlando; "and the bite of a crab has
slain him!"

O life of ours, weak, and a fallacy![7]

Orlando embalmed his huge friend, and had him taken to Babylon, and
honourably interred; and, after many an adventure, in which he regretted
him, his own days were closed by a far baser, though not so petty a

How shall I speak of it? exclaims the poet. How think of the horrible
slaughter about to fall on the Christians and their greatest men, so
that not a dry eye shall be left in France? How express my disgust at
the traitor Gan, whose heart a thousand pardons from his sovereign, and
the most undeserved rescues of him by the warrior he betrayed, could not
shame or soften? How mourn the weakness of Charles, always deceived by
him, and always trusting? How dare to present to my mind the good,
the great, the ever-generous Orlando, brought by the traitor into the
doleful pass of Roncesvalles and the hands of myriads of his enemies, so
that even his superhuman strength availed not to deliver him out of the
slaughterhouse, and he blew the blast with his dying breath, which was
the mightiest, the farthest heard, and the most melancholy sound that
ever came to the ears of the undeceived?

Gan was known well to every body but his confiding sovereign. The
Paladins knew him well; and in their moments of indignant disgust often
told him so, though they spared him the consequences of his misdeeds,
and even incurred the most frightful perils to deliver him out of the
hands of his enemies. But he was brave; he was in favour with the
sovereign, who was also their kinsman; and they were loyal and loving
men, and knew that the wretch envied them for the greatness of their
achievements, and might do the state a mischief; so they allowed
themselves to take a kind of scornful pleasure in putting up with him.
Their cousin Malagigi, the enchanter, had himself assisted Gan, though
he knew him best of all, and had prophesied that the innumerable
endeavours of his envy to destroy his king and country would bring some
terrible evil at last to all Chistendom. The evil, alas! is at hand. The
doleful time has come. It will be followed, it is true, by a worse fate
of the wretch himself; but not till the valleys of the Pyrenees have run
rivers of blood, and all France is in mourning.

[Footnote 1: A common pleasantry in the old romances--"Galaor went in,
and then the halberders attacked him on one side, and the knight on the
other. He snatched an axe from one, and turned to the knight and smote
him, so that he had no need of a surgeon."--Southey's _Amadis of Gaul_,
vol. i. p. 146.]

[Footnote 2:

  "Sonsi i nostri dottori accordati,
  Pigliando tutti una conclusione,
  Che que' che son nel ciel glorificati,
  S' avessin nel pensier compassione
  De' miseri parenti che dannati
  Son ne lo inferno in gran confusione,
  La lor felicità nulla sarebbe
  E vedi the qui ingiusto Iddio parebbe.

  Ma egli anno posto in Gesù ferma spene;
  E tanto pare a lor, quanto a lui pare:
  Afferman cio ch' e' fu, che facci bene,
  E che non possi in nessun modo errare:
  Se padre o madre è ne l'eterne pene,
  Di questo non si posson conturbare:
  Che quel che piace a Dio, sol piace a loro
  Questo s'osserva ne l'eterno core.

  Al savio suol bastar poche parole,
  Disse Morgante: tu il potrai vedere,
  De' miei fratelli, Orlando, se mi duole,
  E s'io m'accordero di Dio al volere,
  Come tu di che in ciel servar si suole:
  Morti co' morti; or pensiam di godere:
  Io vo' tagliar le mani a tutti quanti,
  E porterolle a que' monaci santi."

This doctrine, which is horrible blasphemy in the eyes of natural
feeling, is good reasoning in Catholic and Calvinistic theology.
They first make the Deity's actions a necessity from some barbarous
assumption, then square them according to a dictum of the Councils, then
compliment him by laying all that he has made good and kindly within us
mangled and mad at his feet. Meantime they think themselves qualified to
denounce Moloch and Jugghanaut!]

[Footnote 3:

  "E furno al here infermi, al mangiar sani."

I am not sure that I am right in my construction of this passage.
Perhaps Pulci means to say, that they had the appetites of men in
health, and the thirst of a fever.]

[Footnote 5: Cagnazzo, Farfarello. Libicocco, and Malacoda; names of
devils in Dante.]

[Footnote 6: "Il maestro di color che sanno." A jocose application of
Dante's praise of Aristotle.]

[Footnote 7: "O vita nostra, debole e fallace!"]




This is the

  "sad and fearful story
  Of the Roncesvalles fight;"

an event which national and religious exaggeration impressed deeply on
the popular mind of Europe. Hence Italian romances and Spanish ballads:
hence the famous passage in Milton,

  "When Charlemain with all his peerage fell
  By Fontarabbia:"

hence Dante's record of the _dolorosa rotta_ (dolorous rout) in the
_Inferno_, where he compares the voice of Nimrod with the horn sounded
by the dying Orlando: hence the peasant in Cervantes, who is met by Don
Quixote singing the battle as he comes along the road in the morning:
and hence the song of Roland actually thundered forth by the army of
William the Conqueror as they advanced against the English.

But Charlemagne did not "fall," as Milton has stated. Nor does Pulci
make him do so. In this respect, if in little else, the Italian poet
adhered to the fact. The whole story is a remarkable instance of what
can be done by poetry and popularity towards misrepresenting and
aggrandising a petty though striking adventure. The simple fact was the
cutting off the rear of Charlemagne's army by the revolted Gascons, as
he returned from a successful expedition into Spain. Two or three only
of his nobles perished, among whom was his nephew Roland, the obscure
warden of his marches of Brittany. But Charlemagne was the temporal head
of Christendom; the poets constituted his nephew its champion; and hence
all the glories and superhuman exploits of the Orlando of Pulci and
Ariosto. The whole assumption of the wickedness of the Saracens,
particularly of the then Saracen king of Spain, whom Pulci's authority,
the pseudo-Archbishop Turpin, strangely called Marsilius, was nothing
but a pious fraud; the pretended Marsilius having been no less a person
than the great and good Abdoùlrahmaùn the First, who wrested the
dominion of that country out of the hands of the usurpers of his
family-rights. Yet so potent and long-lived are the most extravagant
fictions, when genius has put its heart into them, that to this day we
read of the devoted Orlando and his friends not only with gravity, but
with the liveliest emotion.



A miserable man am I, cries the poet; for Orlando, beyond a doubt, died
in Roncesvalles; and die therefore he must in my verses. Altogether
impossible is it to save him. I thought to make a pleasant ending of
this my poem, so that it should be happier somehow, throughout, than
melancholy; but though Gan will die at last, Orlando must die
before him, and that makes a tragedy of all. I had a doubt whether,
consistently with the truth, I could give the reader even that sorry
satisfaction; for at the beginning of the dreadful battle, Orlando's
cousin, Rinaldo, who is said to have joined it before it was over, and
there, as well as afterwards, to have avenged his death, was far away
from the seat of slaughter, in Egypt; and how was I to suppose that he
could arrive soon enough in the valleys of the Pyrenees? But an angel
upon earth shewed me the secret, even Angelo Poliziano, the glory of his
age and country. He informed me how Arnauld, the Provençal poet, had
written of this very matter, and brought the Paladin from Egypt to
France by means of the wonderful skill in occult science possessed by
his cousin Malagigi--a wonder to the ignorant, but not so marvellous to
those who know that all the creation is full of wonders, and who have
different modes of relating the same events. By and by, a great many
things will be done in the world, of which we have no conception now,
and people will be inclined to believe them works of the devil, when, in
fact, they will be very good works, and contribute to angelical effects,
whether the devil be forced to have a hand in them or not; for evil
itself can work only in subordination to good. So listen when the
astonishment comes, and reflect and think the best. Meantime, we must
speak of another and more truly devilish astonishment, and of the pangs
of mortal flesh and blood.

The traitor Gan, for the fiftieth time, had secretly brought the
infidels from all quarters against his friend and master, the Emperor
Charles; and Charles, by the help of Orlando, had conquered them all.
The worst of them, Marsilius, king of Spain, had agreed to pay the court
of France tribute; and Gan, in spite of all the suspicions he excited
in this particular instance, and his known villany at all times, had
succeeded in persuading his credulous sovereign to let him go ambassador
into Spain, where he put a final seal to his enormities, by plotting
the destruction of his employer, and the special overthrow of Orlando.
Charles was now old and white-haired, and Gan was so too; but the one
was only confirmed in his credulity, and the other in his crimes. The
traitor embraced Orlando over and over again at taking leave, praying
him to write if he had any thing to say before the arrangements with
Marsilius, and taking such pains to seem loving and sincere, that his
villany was manifest to every one but the old monarch. He fastened with
equal tenderness on Uliviero, who smiled contemptuously in his face, and
thought to himself, "You may make as many fair speeches as you choose,
but you lie." All the other Paladins who were present thought the same
and they said as much to the emperor; adding, that on no account should
Gan be sent ambassador to Marsilius. But Charles was infatuated. His
beard and his credulity had grown old together.

Gan was received with great honour in Spain by Marsilius. The king,
attended by his lords, came fifteen miles out of Saragossa to meet him,
and then conducted him into the city amid tumults of delight. There
was nothing for several days but balls, and games, and exhibitions
of chivalry, the ladies throwing flowers on the heads of the French
knights, and the people shouting "France! France! Mountjoy and St.

Gan made a speech, "like a Demosthenes," to King Marsilius in public;
but he made him another in private, like nobody but himself. The king
and he were sitting in a garden; they were traitors both, and began
to understand, from one another's looks, that the real object of the
ambassador was yet to be discussed. Marsilius accordingly assumed a more
than usually cheerful and confidential aspect; and, taking his visitor
by the hand, said, "You know the proverb, Mr. Ambassador--'At dawn, the
mountain; afternoon, the fountain.' Different things at different hours.
So here is a fountain to accommodate us."

It was a very beautiful fountain, so clear that you saw your face in
it as in a mirror; and the spot was encircled with fruit-trees that
quivered with the fresh air. Gan praised it very much, contriving to
insinuate, on one subject, his satisfaction with the glimpses he
got into another. Marsilius understood him; and as he resumed the
conversation, and gradually encouraged a mutual disclosure of their
thoughts, Gan, without appearing to look him in the face, was enabled to
do so by contemplating the royal visage in the water, where he saw its
expression become more and more what he desired. Marsilius, meantime,
saw the like symptoms in the face of Gan. By degrees, he began to touch
on that dissatisfaction with Charlemagne and his court, which he knew
was in both their minds: he lamented, not as to the ambassador, but as
to the friend, the injuries which he said he had received from Charles
in the repeated attacks on his dominions, and the emperor's wish to
crown Orlando king of them; till at length he plainly uttered his
belief, that if that tremendous Paladin were but dead, good men would
get their rights, and his visitor and himself have all things at their

Gan heaved a sigh, as if he was unwillingly compelled to allow the force
of what the king said; but, unable to contain himself long, he lifted up
his face, radiant with triumphant wickedness, and exclaimed, "Every word
you utter is truth. Die he must; and die also must Uliviero, who struck
me that foul blow at court. Is it treachery to punish affronts like
those? I have planned every thing--I have settled every thing already
with their besotted master. Orlando could not be expected to be brought
hither, where he has been accustomed to look for a crown; but he will
come to the Spanish borders--to Roncesvalles--for the purpose of
receiving the tribute. Charles will await him, at no great distance, in
St. John Pied de Port. Orlando will bring but a small band with him;
you, when you meet him, will have secretly your whole army at your back.
You surround him; and who receives tribute then?"

The new Judas had scarcely uttered these words, when the delight of him
and his associate was interrupted by a change in the face of nature.
The sky was suddenly overcast; it thundered and lightened; a laurel was
split in two from head to foot; the fountain ran into burning blood;
there was an earthquake, and the carob-tree under which Gan was sitting,
and which was of the species on which Judas Iscariot hung himself,
dropped some of its fruit on his head. The hair of the head rose in

Marsilius, as well as Gan, was appalled at this omen; but on assembling
his soothsayers, they came to the conclusion that the laurel-tree turned
the omen against the emperor, the successor of the Cæsars; though one
of them renewed the consternation of Gan, by saying that he did not
understand the meaning of the tree of Judas, and intimating that perhaps
the ambassador could explain it. Gan relieved his consternation with
anger; the habit of wickedness prevailed over all considerations; and
the king prepared to march for Roncesvalles at the head of all his

Gan wrote to Charlemagne, to say how humbly and properly Marsilius was
coming to pay the tribute into the hands of Orlando, and how handsome it
would be of the emperor to meet him halfway, as agreed upon, at St. John
Pied de Port, and so be ready to receive him, after the payment, at
his footstool. He added a brilliant account of the tribute and its
accompanying presents. They included a crown in the shape of a garland
which had a carbuncle in it that gave light in darkness; two lions of
an "immeasurable length, and aspects that frightened every body;" some
"lively buffalos," leopards, crocodiles, and giraffes; arms and armour
of all sorts; and apes and monkeys seated among the rich merchandise
that loaded the backs of the camels. This imaginary treasure contained,
furthermore, two enchanted spirits, called "Floro and Faresse," who were
confined in a mirror, and were to tell the emperor wonderful things,
particularly Floro (for there is nothing so nice in its details as
lying): and Orlando was to have heaps of caravans full of Eastern
wealth, and a hundred white horses, all with saddles and bridles of
gold. There was a beautiful vest, too, for Uliviero, all over jewels,
worth ten thousand "seraffi," or more.

The good emperor wrote in turn to say how pleased he was with the
ambassador's diligence, and that matters were arranged precisely as
he wished. His court, however, had its suspicions still. Nobody could
believe that Gan had not some new mischief in contemplation. Little,
nevertheless, did they imagine, after the base endeavours he had but
lately made against them, that he had immediately plotted a new
and greater one, and that his object in bringing Charles into the
neighbourhood of Roncesvalles was to deliver him more speedily into the
hands of Marsilius, in the event of the latter's destruction of Orlando.

Orlando, however, did as his lord and sovereign desired. He went to
Roncesvalles, accompanied by a moderate train of warriors, not dreaming
of the atrocity that awaited him. Gan himself, meantime, had hastened on
to France before Marsilius, in order to shew himself free and easy in
the presence of Charles, and secure the success of his plot; while
Marsilius, to make assurance doubly sure, brought into the passes of
Roncesvalles no less than three armies, who were successively to fall on
the Paladin, in case of the worst, and so extinguish him with numbers.
He had also, by Gan's advice, brought heaps of wine and good cheer to
be set before his victims in the first instance; "for that," said the
traitor, "will render the onset the more effective, the feasters being
unarmed; and, supposing prodigies of valour to await even the attack of
your second army, you will have no trouble with your third. One thing,
however, I must not forget," added he; "my son Baldwin is sure to be
with Orlando; you must take care of his life for my sake." "I give him
this vest off my own body," said the king; "let him wear it in the
battle, and have no fear. My soldiers shall be directed not to touch

Gan went away rejoicing to France. He embraced the court and his
sovereign all round, with the air of a man who had brought them nothing
but blessings; and the old king wept for very tenderness and delight.

"Something is going on wrong, and looks very black," thought Malagigi,
the good wizard; "and Rinaldo is not here, and it is indispensably
necessary that he should be. I must find out where he is, and
Ricciardetto too, and send for them with all speed, and at any price."
Malagigi called up, by his art, a wise, terrible, and cruel spirit,
named Ashtaroth;--no light personage to deal with--no little spirit,
such as plays tricks with you like a fairy. A much blacker visitant was

"Tell me, and tell me truly of Rinaldo," said Malagigi to the spirit.

Hard looked the demon at the Paladin, and said nothing. His aspect was
clouded and violent. He wished to see whether his summoner retained all
the force of his art.

The enchanter, with an aspect still cloudier, bade Ashtaroth lay down
that look. While giving this order, he also made signs indicative of a
disposition to resort to angrier compulsion; and the devil, apprehending
that he would confine him in some hateful place, loosened his tongue,
and said, "You have not told me what you desire to know of Rinaldo."

"I desire to know what he has been doing, and where he is," returned the

"He has been conquering and baptising the world, east and west," said
the demon, "and is now in Egypt with Ricciardetto."

"And what has Gan been plotting with Marsilius," inquired Malagigi, "and
what is to come of it?"

"On neither of those points can I enlighten you," said the devil. "I was
not attending to Gan at the time, and we fallen spirits know not the
future. Had we done so, we had not been so willing to incur the danger
of falling. All I discern is, that, by the signs and comets in the
heavens, something dreadful is about to happen--something very strange,
treacherous, and bloody; and that Gan has a seat ready prepared for him
in hell."

"Within three days," cried the enchanter, loudly, "fetch Rinaldo
and Ricciardetto into the pass of Roncesvalles. Do it, and I hereby
undertake never to summon thee more."

"Suppose they will not trust themselves with me," said the spirit.

"Enter Rinaldo's horse, and bring him, whether he trust thee or not."

"It shall be done," returned the demon; "and my serving-devil
Foul-Mouth, or Fire-Red, shall enter the horse of Ricciardetto. Doubt it
not. Am I not wise, and thyself powerful?"

There was an earthquake, and Ashtaroth disappeared.

Marsilius has now made his first movement towards the destruction of
Orlando, by sending before him his vassal-king Blanchardin with his
presents of wines and other luxuries. The temperate but courteous hero
took them in good part, and distributed them as the traitor wished; and
then Blanchardin, on pretence of going forward to salute Charlemagne
at St. John Pied de Port, returned and put himself at the head of the
second army, which was the post assigned him by his liege lord. The
device on his flag was an "Apollo" on a field azure. King Falseron,
whose son Orlando had slain in battle, headed the first army, the device
of which was a black figure of the devil Belphegor on a dapple-grey
field. The third army was under King Balugante, and had for ensign a
Mahomet with golden wings in a field of red. Marsilius made a speech to
them at night, in which he confessed his ill faith, but defended it on
the ground of Charles's hatred of their religion, and of the example
of "Judith and Holofernes." He said, that he had not come there to pay
tribute, and sell his countrymen for slaves, but to make all Christendom
pay tribute to them as conquerors; and he concluded by recommending to
their good-will the son of his friend Gan, whom they would know by the
vest he had sent him, and who was the only soul among the Christians
they were to spare.

This son of Gan, meantime, and several of the Paladins who were
disgusted with Charles's credulity, and anxious at all events to be with
Orlando, had joined the hero in the fated valley; so that the little
Christian host, considering the tremendous valour of their lord and his
friends, and the comparative inefficiency of that of the infidels,
were at any rate not to be sold for nothing. Rinaldo, alas! the second
thunderbolt of Christendom, was destined not to be there in time to save
their lives. He could only avenge the dreadful tragedy, and prevent
still worse consequences to the whole Christian court and empire.
The Paladins had in vain begged Orlando to be on his guard against
treachery, and send for a more numerous body of men. The great heart of
the Champion of the Faith was unwilling to think the worst as long as
he could help it. He refused to summon aid that might be superfluous;
neither would he do any thing but what his liege lord had desired. And
yet he could not wholly repress a misgiving. A shadow had fallen on his
heart, great and cheerful as it was. The anticipations of his friends
disturbed him, in spite of the face with which he met them. I am not
sure that he did not, by a certain instinctive foresight, expect death
itself; but he felt bound not to encourage the impression. Besides, time
pressed; the moment of the looked-for tribute was at hand; and little
combinations of circumstances determine often the greatest events.

King Blanchardin had brought Orlando's people a luxurious supper; King
Marsilius was to arrive early next day with the tribute; and Uliviero
accordingly, with the morning sun, rode forth to reconnoitre, and see
if he could discover the peaceful pomp of the Spanish court in the
distance. Guottibuoffi was with him, a warrior who had expected the very
worst, and repeatedly implored Orlando to believe it possible. Uliviero
and he rode up the mountain nearest them, and from the top of it beheld
the first army of Marsilius already forming in the passes.

"O Guottibuoffi!" exclaimed he, "behold thy prophecies come true! behold
the last day of the glory of Charles! Every where I see the arms of the
traitors around us. I feel Paris tremble all the way through France, to
the ground beneath my feet. O Malagigi, too much in the right wert thou!
O devil Gan, this then is the consummation of thy good offices!"

Uliviero put spurs to his horse, and galloped back down the mountain to

"Well," cried the hero, "what news?"

"Bad news," said his cousin; "such as you would not hear of yesterday.
Marsilius is here in arms, and all the world has come with him."

The Paladins pressed round Orlando, and entreated him to sound his horn,
in token that he needed help. His only answer was, to mount his horse,
and ride up the mountain with Sansonetto.

As soon, however, as he cast forth his eyes and beheld what was round
about him, he turned in sorrow, and looked down into Roncesvalles, and
said, "O valley, miserable indeed! the blood that is shed in thee this
day will colour thy name for ever."

Many of the Paladins had ridden after him, and they again pressed him to
sound his horn, if only in pity to his own people. He said, "If Cæsar
and Alexander were here, Scipio and Hannibal, and Nebuchadnezzar with
all his flags, and Death stared me in the face with his knife in his
hand, never would I sound my horn for the baseness of fear."

Orlando's little camp were furious against the Saracens. They armed
themselves with the greatest impatience. There was nothing but lacing
of helmets and mounting of horses; and good Archbishop Turpin went
from rank to rank, exhorting and encouraging the warriors of Christ.
Accoutrements and habiliments were put on the wrong way; words and
deeds mixed in confusion; men running against one another out of very
absorption in themselves; all the place full of cries of "Arm! arm! the
enemy!" and the trumpets clanged over all against the mountain-echoes.

Orlando and his captains withdrew for a moment to consultation. He
fairly groaned for sorrow, and at first had not a word to say; so
wretched he felt at having brought his people to die in Roncesvalles.

Uliviero spoke first. He could not resist the opportunity of comforting
himself a little in his despair, with referring to his unheeded advice.

"You see, cousin," said he, "what has come at last. Would to God you had
attended to what I said; to what Malagigi said; to what we all said! I
told you Marsilius was nothing but an anointed scoundrel. Yet forsooth,
he was to bring us tribute! and Charles is this moment expecting his
mummeries at St. John Pied de Port! Did ever any body believe a word
that Gan said, but Charles? And now you see this rotten fruit has come
to a head;--this medlar has got its crown."

Orlando said nothing in answer to Uliviero; for in truth he had nothing
to say. He broke away to give orders to the camp; bade them take
refreshment; and then addressing both officers and men, he said, "I
confess, that if it had entered my heart to conceive the king of Spain
to be such a villain, never would you have seen this day. He has
exchanged with me a thousand courtesies and good words; and I thought
that the worse enemies we had been before, the better friends we had
become now. I fancied every human being capable of this kind of virtue
on a good opportunity, saving, indeed, such base-hearted wretches as can
never forgive their very forgivers; and of these I certainly did not
suppose him to be one. Let us die, if we must die, like honest and
gallant men; so that it shall be said of us, it was only our bodies that
died. It becomes our souls to be invincible, and our glory immortal.
Our motto must be, 'A good heart and no hope.' The reason why I did not
sound the horn was, partly because I thought it did not become us, and
partly because our liege lord could be of little use, even if he heard
it. Let Gan have his glut of us like a carrion crow; but let him find
us under heaps of his Saracens, an example for all time. Heaven, my
friends, is with us, if earth is against us. Methinks I see it open
this moment, ready to receive our souls amidst crowns of glory; and
therefore, as the champion of God's church, I give you my benediction;
and the good archbishop here will absolve you; and so, please God, we
shall all go to Heaven and be happy."

And with these words Orlando sprang to his horse, crying, "Away against
the Saracens!" but he had no sooner turned his face than he wept
bitterly, and said, "O holy Virgin, think not of me, the sinner Orlando,
but have pity on these thy servants."

Archbishop Turpin did as Orlando said, giving the whole band his
benediction at once, and absolving them from their sins, so that every
body took comfort in the thought of dying for Christ, and thus they
embraced one another, weeping; and then lance was put to thigh, and the
banner was raised that was won in the jousting at Aspramont.

And now with a mighty dust, and an infinite sound of horns, and
tambours, and trumpets, which came filling the valley, the first army
of the infidels made its appearance, horses neighing, and a thousand
pennons flying in the air. King Falseron led them on, saying to his
officers, "Now, gentlemen, recollect what I said. The first battle is
for the leaders only;--and, above all, let nobody dare to lay a finger
on Orlando. He belongs to myself. The revenge of my son's death is mine.
I will cut the man down that comes between us."

"Now, friends," said Orlando, "every man for himself, and St. Michael
for us all. There is no one here that is not a perfect knight."

And he might well say it; for the flower of all France was there, except
Rinaldo and Ricciardetto; every man a picked man; all friends and
constant companions of Orlando. There was Richard of Normandy, and
Guottibuoffi, and Uliviero, and Count Anselm, and Avolio, and Avino, and
the gentle Berlinghieri, and his brother, and Sansonetto, and the good
Duke Egibard, and Astolfo the Englishman, and Angiolin of Bayona, and
all the other Paladins of France, excepting those two whom I have
mentioned. And so the captains of the little troop and of the great
array sat looking at one another, and singling one another out, as the
latter came on; and then either side began raising their war-cries, and
the mob of the infidels halted, and the knights put spear in rest, and
ran for a while, two and two in succession, each one against the other.

Astolfo was the first to move. He ran against Arlotto of Soria; and
Angiolin then ran against Malducco; and Mazzarigi the Renegade came
against Avino; and Uliviero was borne forth by his horse Rondel, who
couldn't stand still, against Malprimo, the first of the captains of

And now lances began to be painted red, without any brush but
themselves; and the new colour extended itself to the bucklers, and the
cuishes, and the cuirasses, and the trappings of the steeds.

Astolfo thrust his antagonist's body out of the saddle, and his soul
into the other world; and Angiolin gave and took a terrible blow with
Malducco; but his horse bore him onward; and Avino had something of the
like encounter with Mazzarigi; but Uliviero, though he received a thrust
which hurt him, sent his lance right through the heart of Malprimo.

Falseron was daunted at this blow. "Verily," thought he, "this is a
miracle." Uliviero did not press on among the Saracens, his wound was
too painful; but Orlando now put himself and his whole band into motion,
and you may guess what an uproar ensued. The sound of the rattling of
the blows and helmets was as if the forge of Vulcan had been thrown
open. Falseron beheld Orlando coming so furiously, that he thought him a
Lucifer who had burst his chain, and was quite of another mind than when
he proposed to have him all to himself. On the contrary, he recommended
himself to his gods; and turning away, begged for a more auspicious
season of revenge. But Orlando hailed and arrested him with a terrible
voice, saying, "O thou traitor! Was this the end to which old quarrels
were made up? Dost thou not blush, thou and thy fellow-traitor
Marsilius, to have kissed me on the cheek like a Judas, when last thou
wert in France?"

Orlando had never shewn such anger in his countenance as he did that
day. He dashed at Falseron with a fury so swift, and at the same time
a mastery of his lance so marvellous, that though he plunged it in the
man's body so as instantly to kill him, the body did not move in the
saddle. The hero himself, as he rushed onwards, was fain to see the end
of a stroke so perfect, and, turning his horse back, he touched the
carcass with his sword, and it fell on the instant. They say, that it
had no sooner fallen than it disappeared. People got off their horses
to lift up the body, for it seemed to be there still, the armour being
left; but when they came to handle the armour, it was found as empty as
the shell that is cast by a lobster. O new, and strange, and portentous
event!--proof manifest of the anger with which God regards treachery.

When the first infidel army beheld their leader dead, such fear fell
upon them, that they were for leaving the field to the Paladins; but
they were unable. Marsilius had drawn the rest of his forces round the
valley like a net, so that their shoulders were turned in vain. Orlando
rode into the thick of them, with Count Anselm by his side. He rushed
like a tempest; and wherever he went, thunderbolts fell upon helmets.
The Paladins drove here and there after them, each making a whirlwind
round about him, and a bloody circle. Uliviero was again in the _mêlée_;
and Walter of Amulion threw himself into it; and Baldwin roared like
a lion; and Avino and Avolio reaped the wretches' heads like a
turnip-field; and blows blinded men's eyes; and Archbishop Turpin
himself had changed his crozier for a lance, and chased a new flock
before him to the mountains.

Yet what could be done against foes without number? Multitudes fill
up the spaces left by the dead without stopping. Marsilius, from his
anxious and raging post, constantly pours them in. The Paladins are as
units to thousands. Why tarry the horses of Rinaldo and Ricciardetto?

The horses did not tarry; but fate had been quicker than enchantment.
Ashtaroth, nevertheless, had presented himself to Rinaldo in Egypt, as
though he had issued out of a flash of lightning. After telling his
mission, and giving orders to hundreds of invisible spirits round about
him (for the air was full of them), he and Foul-Mouth, his servant,
entered the horses of Rinaldo and Ricciardetto, which began to neigh and
snort and leap with the fiends within them, till off they flew through
the air over the pyramids, crowds of spirits going like a tempest before
them. Ricciardetto shut his eyes at first, on perceiving himself so high
in the air; but he speedily became used to it, though he looked down
on the sun at last. In this manner they passed the desert, and the
sea-coast, and the ocean, and swept the tops of the Pyrenees, Ashtaroth
talking to them of wonders by the way; for he was one of the wisest of
the devils, and knew a great many things which were then unknown to man.
He laughed, for instance, as they went over sea, at the notion, among
other vain fancies, that nothing was to be found beyond the pillars of
Hercules; "for," said he, "the earth is round, and the sea has an even
surface all over it; and there are nations on the other side of the
globe, who walk with their feet opposed to yours, and worship other gods
than the Christians."

"Hah!" said Rinaldo; "and may I ask whether they can be saved?"

"It is a bold thing to ask," said the devil; "but do you take the
Redeemer for a partisan, and fancy he died for you only? Be assured he
died for the whole world, Antipodes and all. Perhaps not one soul will
be left out the pale of salvation at last, but the whole human race
adore the truth, and find mercy. The Christian is the only true
religion; but Heaven loves all goodness that believes honestly,
whatsoever the belief may be."

Rinaldo was mightily taken with the humanity of the devil's opinions:
but they were now approaching the end of their journey, and began to
hear the noise of the battle; and he could no longer think of any thing
but the delight of being near Orlando, and plunging into the middle of

"You shall be in the very heart of it instantly," said his bearer.
"I love you, and would fain do all you desire. Do not fancy that all
nobleness of spirit is lost among us people below. You know what the
proverb says, 'There's never a fruit, however degenerate, but will taste
of its stock.' I was of a different order of beings once, and--But it is
as well not to talk of happy times. Yonder is Marsilius; and there goes
Orlando. Farewell, and give me a place in your memory."

Rinaldo could not find words to express his sense of the devil's
good-will, nor of that of Foul Mouth himself. He said: "Ashtaroth, I am
as sorry to part with you as if you were a brother; and I certainly do
believe that nobleness of spirit exists, as you say, among your people
below. I shall be glad to see you both sometimes, if you can come; and I
pray God (if my poor prayer be worth any thing) that you may all repent,
and obtain his pardon; for without repentance, you know, nothing can be
done for you."

"If I might suggest a favour," returned Ashtaroth, "since you are so
good as to wish to do me one, persuade Malagigi to free me from his
service, and I am yours for ever. To serve you will be a pleasure to me.
You will only have to say, 'Ashtaroth,' and my good friend here will be
with you in an instant."

"I am obliged to you," cried Rinaldo, "and so is my brother. I will
write Malagigi, not merely a letter, but a whole packet-full of your
praises; and so I will to Orlando; and you shall be set free, depend on
it, your company has been so perfectly agreeable."

"Your humble servant," said Ashtaroth, and vanished with his companion
like lightning.

But they did not go far.

There was a little chapel by the road-side in Roncesvalles, which had
a couple of bells; and on the top of that chapel did the devils place
themselves, in order that they might catch the souls of the infidels as
they died, and so carry them off to the infernal regions. Guess if their
wings had plenty to do that day! Guess if Minos and Rhadamanthus were
busy, and Charon sung in his boat, and Lucifer hugged himself for joy.
Guess, also, if the tables in heaven groaned with nectar and ambrosia,
and good old St. Peter had a dry hair in his beard.

The two Paladins, on their horses, dropped right into the middle of the
Saracens, and began making such havoc about them, that Marsilius, who
overlooked the fight from a mountain, thought his soldiers had turned
one against the other. He therefore descended in fury with his third
army; and Rinaldo, seeing him coming, said to Ricciardetto, "We had
better be off here, and join Orlando;" and with these words, he gave his
horse one turn round before he retreated, so as to enable his sword to
make a bloody circle about him; and stories say, that he sheared off
twenty heads in the whirl of it. He then dashed through the astonished
beholders towards the battle of Orlando, who guessed it could be no
other than his cousin, and almost dropped from his horse, out of desire
to meet him. Ricciardetto followed Rinaldo; and Uliviero coming up at
the same moment, the rapture of the whole party is not to be expressed.
They almost died for joy. After a thousand embraces, and questions, and
explanations, and expressions of astonishment (for the infidels held
aloof awhile, to take breath from the horror and mischief they had
undergone), Orlando refreshed his little band of heroes, and then drew
Rinaldo apart, and said, "O my brother, I feel such delight at seeing
you, I can hardly persuade myself I am not dreaming. Heaven be praised
for it. I have no other wish on earth, now that I see you before I die.
Why didn't you write? But never mind. Here you are, and I shall not die
for nothing."

"I did write," said Rinaldo, "and so did Ricciardetto; but villany
intercepted our letters. Tell me what to do, my dear cousin; for time
presses, and all the world is upon us."

"Gan has brought us here," said Orlando, "under pretence of receiving
tribute from Marsilius--you see of what sort; and Charles, poor old man,
is waiting to receive his homage at the town of St. John! I have never
seen a lucky day since you left us. I believe I have done for Charles
more than in duty bound, and that my sins pursue me, and I and mine must
all perish in Roncesvalles."

"Look to Marsilius," exclaimed Rinaldo; "he is right upon us."

Marsilius was upon them, surely enough, at once furious and frightened
at the coming of the new Paladins; for his camp, numerous as it was, had
not only held aloof, but turned about to fly like herds before the lion;
so he was forced to drive them back, and bring up his other troops,
reasonably thinking that such numbers must overwhelm at last, if they
could but be kept together.

Not the less, however, for this, did the Paladins continue to fight as
if with joy. They killed and trampled wheresoever they went; Rinaldo
fatiguing himself with sending infinite numbers of souls to Ashtaroth,
and Orlando making a bloody passage towards Marsilius, whom he hoped to
settle as he had done Falseron.

In the course of this his tremendous progress, the hero struck a youth
on the head, whose helmet was so good as to resist the blow, but at the
same time flew off; and Orlando seized him by the hair to kill him.
"Hold!" cried the youth, as loud as want of breath could let him; "you
loved my father--I'm Bujaforte."

The Paladin had never seen Bujaforte; but he saw the likeness to the
good old Man of the Mountain, his father; and he let go the youth's
hair, and embraced and kissed him. "O Bujaforte!" said he; "I loved him
indeed my good old man; but what does his son do here, fighting against
his friend?"

Bujaforte was a long time before he could speak for weeping. At length
he said, "Orlando, let not your noble heart be pained with ill thoughts
of my father's son. I am forced to be here by my lord and master
Marsilius. I had no friend left me in the world, and he took me into his
court, and has brought me here before I knew what it was for; and I have
made a shew of fighting, but have not hurt a single Christian. Treachery
is on every side of you. Baldwin himself has a vest given him by
Marsilius, that every body may know the son of his friend Gan, and do
him no injury. See there--look how the lances avoid him."

"Put your helmet on again," said Orlando, "and behave just as you have
done. Never will your father's friend be an enemy to the son. Only take
care not to come across Rinaldo."

The hero then turned in fury to look for Baldwin, who was hastening
towards him at that moment with friendliness in his looks.

"'Tis strange," said Baldwin; "I have done my duty as well as I could,
yet no body will come against me. I have slain right and left, and
cannot comprehend what it is that makes the stoutest infidels avoid me."

"Take off your vest," cried Orlando, contemptuously, "and you will soon
discover the secret, if you wish to know it. Your father has sold us to
Marsilius, all but his honourable son."

"If my father," cried Baldwin, impetuously tearing off the vest, "has
been such a villain, and I escape dying any longer, by God! I will
plunge this sword through his heart. But I am no traitor, Orlando;
and you do me wrong to say it. You do me foul dishonour, and I'll not
survive it. Never more shall you behold me alive."

Baldwin spurred off into the fight, not waiting to hear another word
from Orlando, but constantly crying out, "You have done me dishonour;"
and Orlando was very sorry for what he had said, for he perceived that
the youth was in despair.

And now the fight raged beyond all it had done before; and the Paladins
themselves began to fall, the enemy were driven forward in such
multitudes by Marsilius. There was unhorsing of foes, and re-seating of
friends, and great cries, and anguish, and unceasing labour; and twenty
Pagans went down for one Christian; but still the Christians fell. One
Paladin disappeared after another, having too much to do for mortal men.
Some could not make way through the press for very fatigue of killing,
and others were hampered with the falling horses and men. Sansonetto was
thus beaten to earth by the club of Grandonio; and Walter d'Amulion had
his shoulders broken; and Angiolin of Bayona, having lost his lance,
was thrust down by Marsilius, and Angiolin of Bellonda by Sirionne; and
Berlinghieri and Ottone are gone; and then Astolfo went, in revenge of
whose death Orlando turned the spot on which he died into a gulf of
Saracen blood. Rinaldo met the luckless Bujaforte, who had just begun to
explain how he seemed to be fighting on the side which his father hated,
when the impatient hero exclaimed, "He who is not with me is against
me;" and gave him a volley of such horrible cuffs about the head and
ears, that Bujaforte died without being able to speak another word.
Orlando, cutting his way to a spot in which there was a great struggle
and uproar, found the poor youth Baldwin, the son of Gan, with two
spears in his breast. "I am no traitor now," said Baldwin; and so
saying, fell dead to the earth; and Orlando lifted up his voice and
wept, for he was bitterly sorry to have been the cause of his death. He
then joined Rinaldo in the hottest of the tumult; and all the surviving
Paladins gathered about them, including Turpin the archbishop, who
fought as hardily as the rest; and the slaughter was lavish and
horrible, so that the eddies of the wind chucked the blood into the air,
and earth appeared a very seething-cauldron of hell. At length down went
Uliviero himself. He had become blind with his own blood, and smitten
Orlando without knowing him, who had never received such a blow in his

"How now, cousin!" cried Orlando; "have you too gone over to the enemy?"

"O, my lord and master, Orlando," cried the other, "I ask your pardon,
if I have struck you. I can see nothing--I am dying. The traitor
Arcaliffe has stabbed me in the back; but I killed him for it. If you
love me, lead my horse into the thick of them, so that I may not die

"I shall die myself before long," said Orlando, "out of very toil and
grief; so we will go together. I have lost all hope, all pride, all wish
to live any longer; but not my love for Uliviero. Come--let us give them
a few blows yet; let them see what you can do with your dying hands. One
faith, one death, one only wish be ours."

Orlando led his cousin's horse where the press was thickest, and
dreadful was the strength of the dying man and of his half-dying
companion. They made a street, through which they passed out of the
battle; and Orlando led his cousin away to his tent, and said, "Wait
a little till I return, for I will go and sound the horn on the hill

"'Tis of no use," said Uliviero; "and my spirit is fast going, and
desires to be with its Lord and Saviour." He would have said more, but
his words came from him imperfectly, like those of a man in a dream;
only his cousin gathered that he meant to commend to him his sister,
Orlando's wife, Alda the Fair, of whom indeed the great Paladin had not
thought so much in this world as he might have done. And with these
imperfect words he expired.

But Orlando no sooner saw him dead, than he felt as if he was left alone
on the earth; and he was quite willing to leave it; only he wished that
Charles at St. John Pied de Port should hear how the case stood before
he went; and so he took up the horn, and blew it three times with such
force that the blood burst out of his nose and mouth. Turpin says, that
at the third blast the horn broke in two.

In spite of all the noise of the battle, the sound of the horn broke
over it like a voice out of the other world. They say that birds fell
dead at it, and that the whole Saracen army drew back in terror. But
fearfuller still was its effect at St. John Pied de Port. Charlemagne
was sitting in the midst of his court when the sound reached him; and
Gan was there. The emperor was the first to hear it.

"Do you hear that?" said he to his nobles. "Did you hear the horn, as I
heard it?"

Upon this they all listened; and Gan felt his heart misgive him.

The horn sounded the second time.

"What is the meaning of this?" said Charles.

"Orlando is hunting," observed Gan, "and the stag is killed. He is at
the old pastime that he was so fond of in Aspramonte."

But when the horn sounded yet a third time, and the blast was one of so
dreadful a vehemence, every body looked at the other, and then they all
looked at Gan in fury. Charles rose from his seat. "This is no hunting
of the stag," said he. "The sound goes to my very heart, and, I confess,
makes me tremble. I am awakened out of a great dream. O Gan! O Gan! Not
for thee do I blush, but for myself, and for nobody else. O my God, what
is to be done! But whatever is to be done, must be done quickly. Take
this villain, gentlemen, and keep him in hard prison. O foul and
monstrous villain! Would to God I had not lived to see this day! O
obstinate and enormous folly! O Malagigi, had I but believed thy
foresight! 'Tis thou went the wise man, and I the grey-headed fool."

Ogier the Dane, and Namo and others, in the bitterness of their grief
and anger, could not help reminding the emperor of all which they had
foretold. But it was no time for words. They put the traitor into
prison; and then Charles, with all his court, took his way to
Roncesvalles, grieving and praying.

It was afternoon when the horn sounded, and half an hour after it when
the emperor set out; and meantime Orlando had returned to the fight that
he might do his duty, however hopeless, as long as he could sit his
horse, and the Paladins were now reduced to four; and though the
Saracens suffered themselves to be mowed down like grass by them and
their little band, he found his end approaching for toil and fever,
and so at length he withdrew out of the fight, and rode all alone to a
fountain which he knew of, where he had before quenched his thirst.

His horse was wearier still than he, and no sooner had its master
alighted, than the beast, kneeling down as if to take leave, and to
say, "I have brought you to your place of rest," fell dead at his feet.
Orlando cast water on him from the fountain, not wishing to believe him
dead; but when he found it to no purpose, he grieved for him as if he
had been a human being, and addressed him by name in tears, and asked
forgiveness if ever he had done him wrong. They say, that the horse at
these words once more opened his eyes a little, and looked kindly at his
master, and so stirred never more.

They say also that Orlando then, summoning all his strength, smote a
rock near him with his beautiful sword Durlindana, thinking to shiver
the steel in pieces, and so prevent its falling into the hands of the
enemy; but though the rock split like a slate, and a deep fissure
remained ever after to astonish the eyes of pilgrims, the sword remained

"O strong Durlindana," cried he, "O noble and worthy sword, had I known
thee from the first, as I know thee now, never would I have been brought
to this pass."

And now Rinaldo and Ricciardetto and Turpin came up, having given chase
to the Saracens till they were weary, and Orlando gave joyful welcome to
his cousin, and they told him how the battle was won, and then Orlando
knelt before Turpin, his face all in tears, and begged remission of his
sins and confessed them, and Turpin gave him absolution; and suddenly a
light came down upon him from heaven like a rainbow, accompanied with
a sound of music, and an angel stood in the air blessing him, and then
disappeared; upon which Orlando fixed his eyes on the hilt of his sword
as on a crucifix, and embraced it, and said, "Lord, vouchsafe that I may
look on this poor instrument as on the symbol of the tree upon which
Thou sufferedst thy unspeakable martyrdom!" and so adjusting the sword
to his bosom, and embracing it closer, he raised his eyes, and appeared
like a creature seraphical and transfigured; and in bowing his head he
breathed out his pure soul. A thunder was then heard in the heavens,
and the heavens opened and seemed to stoop to the earth, and a flock of
angels was seen like a white cloud ascending with his spirit, who were
known to be what they were by the trembling of their wings. The white
cloud shot out golden fires, so that the whole air was full of them; and
the voices of the angels mingled in song with the instruments of their
brethren above, which made an inexpressible harmony, at once deep and
dulcet. The priestly warrior Turpin, and the two Paladins, and the
hero's squire Terigi, who were all on their knees, forgot their own
beings, in following the miracle with their eyes.

It was now the office of that squire to take horse and ride off to
the emperor at Saint John Pied de Port, and tell him of all that had
occurred; but in spite of what he had just seen, he lay for a time
overwhelmed with grief. He then rose, and mounted his steed, and left
the Paladins and the archbishop with the dead body, who knelt about it,
guarding it with weeping love.

The good squire Terigi met the emperor and his cavalcade coming towards
Roncesvalles, and alighted and fell on his knees, telling him the
miserable news, and how all his people were slain but two of his
Paladins, and himself, and the good archbishop. Charles for anguish
began tearing his white locks; but Terigi comforted him against so
doing, by giving an account of the manner of Orlando's death, and how
he had surely gone to heaven. Nevertheless, the squire himself was
broken-hearted with grief and toil; and he had scarcely added a
denouncement of the traitor Gan, and a hope that the emperor would
appease Heaven finally by giving his body to the winds, than he said,
"The cold of death is upon me;" and so he fell dead at the emperor's

Charles was ready to drop from his saddle for wretchedness. He cried
out, "Let nobody comfort me more. I will have no comfort. Cursed be Gan,
and cursed this horrible day, and this place, and every thing. Let us go
on, like blind miserable men that we are, into Roncesvalles; and have
patience if we can, out of pure misery, like Job, till we do all that
can be done."

So Charles rode on with his nobles; and they say, that for the sake of
the champion of Christendom and the martyrs that died with him, the sun
stood still in the sky till the emperor had seen Orlando, and till the
dead were buried.

Horrible to his eyes was the sight of the field of Roncesvalles. The
Saracens, indeed, had forsaken it, conquered; but all his Paladins but
two were left on it dead, and the slaughtered heaps among which they lay
made the whole valley like a great dumb slaughter-house, trampled up
into blood and dirt, and reeking to the heat. The very trees were
dropping with blood; and every thing, so to speak, seemed tired out, and
gone to a horrible sleep.

Charles trembled to his heart's core for wonder and agony. After dumbly
gazing on the place, he again cursed it with a solemn curse, and wished
that never grass might grow within it again, nor seed of any kind,
neither within it, nor on any of its mountains around with their proud
shoulders; but the anger of Heaven abide over it for ever, as on a pit
made by hell upon earth.

Then he rode on, and came up to where the body of Orlando awaited him
with the Paladins, and the old man, weeping, threw himself as if he had
been a reckless youth from his horse, and embraced and kissed the dead
body, and said, "I bless thee, Orlando. I bless thy whole life, and all
that thou wast, and all that thou ever didst, and thy mighty and holy
valour, and the father that begot thee; and I ask pardon of thee for
believing those who brought thee to thine end. They shall have their
reward, O thou beloved one! But, indeed, it is thou that livest, and I
that am worse than dead."

And now, behold a wonder. For the emperor, in the fervour of his heart
and of the memory of what had passed between them, called to mind that
Orlando had promised to give him his sword, should he die before him;
and he lifted up his voice more bravely, and adjured him even now to
return it to him gladly; and it pleased God that the dead body of
Orlando should rise on its feet, and kneel as he was wont to do at the
feet of his liege lord, and gladly, and with a smile on its face, return
the sword to the Emperor Charles. As Orlando rose, the Paladins and
Turpin knelt down out of fear and horror, especially seeing him look
with a stern countenance; but when they saw that he knelt also, and
smiled, and returned the sword, their hearts became re-assured, and
Charles took the sword like his liege lord, though trembling with wonder
and affection: and in truth he could hardly clench his fingers around

Orlando was buried in a great sepulchre in Aquisgrana, and the dead
Paladins were all embalmed and sent with majestic cavalcades to their
respective counties and principalities, and every Christian was
honourably and reverently put in the earth, and recorded among the
martyrs of the Church.

But meantime the flying Saracens, thinking to bury their own dead, and
ignorant of what still awaited them, came back into the valley, and
Rinaldo beheld them with a dreadful joy, and shewed them to Charles. Now
the emperor's cavalcade had increased every moment; and they fell upon
the Saracens with a new and unexpected battle, and the old emperor,
addressing the sword of Orlando, exclaimed, "My strength is little, but
do thou do thy duty to thy master, thou famous sword, seeing that he
returned it to me smiling, and that his revenge is in my hands." And so
saying, he met Balugante, the leader of the infidels, as he came borne
along by his frightened horse; and the old man, raising the sword with
both hands, cleaved him, with a delighted mind, to the chin.

O sacred Emperor Charles! O well-lived old man! Defender of the Faith!
light and glory of the old time! thou hast cut off the other ear of
Malchus, and shown how rightly thou wert born into the world, to save it
a second time from the abyss.

Again fled the Saracens, never to come to Christendom more: but Charles
went after them into Spain, he and Rinaldo and Ricciardetto and the good
Turpin; and they took and fired Saragossa; and Marsilius was hung to the
carob-tree under which he had planned his villany with Gan; and Gan was
hung, and drawn and quartered, in Roncesvalles, amidst the execrations
of the country.

And if you ask, how it happened that Charles ever put faith in such a
wretch, I shall tell you that it was because the good old emperor, with
all his faults, was a divine man, and believed in others out of the
excellence of his own heart and truth. And such was the case with
Orlando himself.


No. I.


  Poscia ch' i' ebbi il mio dottore udito
  Nomar le donne antiche e i cavalieri,
  Pietà mi vinse, e fui quasi smarrito.

  I' cominciai: Poeta, volentieri
  Parlerei a que' duo the 'nsieme vanno,
  E pajon sì al vento esser leggieri.

  Ed egli a me: Vedrai, quando saranno
  Più presso a noi: e tu allor gli piega,
  Per quell' amor ch' ei mena; e quei verranno.

  Si tosto come 'l vento a noi gli piega,
  Mossi la voce: O anime affannate,
  Venite a not parlar, s' altri nol niega.

  Quali colombe dal disio chiamate,
  Con l' ali aperte e ferme, al dolce nido
  Volan per l' aer dal voter portate:

  Cotali uscir de la schiera ov' è Dido,
  A noi venendo per l' aer maligno,
  Si forte fu l' affettuoso grido.

  O animal grazioso e benigno,
  Che visitando vai per l' aer perso
  Noi che tignemmo it mondo di sanguigno;
  Se fosse amico il Re de l'Universo,
  Noi pregheremmo lui per la tua pace,
  Poich' hai pietà del nostro mal perverso.

  Di quel ch'udire e che parlar ti piace,
  Noi udiremo, e parleremo a vui,
  Mentre che 'l vento, come fa, si tace.

  Siede la terra, dove nata fui,
  Su la marina, dove 'l Pò discende,
  Per aver pace co' seguaci sui.

  Amor ch'al cor gentil ratto s'apprende,
  Prese costui de la bella persona
  Che mi fu tolta, e 'l modo ancor m'offende

  Amer ch'a null'amato amar perdona,
  Mi prese del costui piacer si forte,
  Che come vedi ancor non m'abbandona

  Amor condusse noi ad una morte
  Caina attende chi 'n vita ci spense.
  Queste parole da lor ci fur porte.

  Da ch'io 'ntesi quell'anime offense,
  Chinai 'l viso, e tanto 'l tenni basso,
  Finchè 'l poeta mi disse: Che pense?

  Quando risposi, cominciai: O lasso,
  Quanti dolci pensier, quanto disio
  Menò costoro al doloroso passo!

  Po' mi rivolsi a loro, e parla' io,
  E cominciai: Francesca, i tuoi martiri
  A lagrimar mi fanno tristo e pie.

  Ma dimmi: al tempo de' dolci sospiri,
  A che, e come concedette amore
  Che conosceste i dubbiosi desiri?

  Ed ella a me: Nessun maggior dolore,
  Che ricordarsi del tempo felice
  Ne la miseria; e ciò sa 'l tuo dottore.
  Ma s'a conoscer la prima radice
  Del nostro amor to hai cotanto affetto,
  Farò come colui the piange e dice.

  Noi leggiavamo tin giorno per diletto
  Di Lancilotto, come amor to strinse
  Soli eravamo, e senza alcun sospetto.

  Per più fiate gli occhi ci sospinse
  Quella lettura, e scolorocci 'l viso
  Ma solo un punto fu quel che ci vinse.

  Quando leggemmo il disiato riso
  Esser baciato da cotanto amante,
  Questi che mai da me non sia diviso,

  La bocca mi baciò tutto tremante:
  Galeotto fu il libro, e chi to scrisse:
  Quel giorno più non vi leggemmo avante.

  Mentre the l'uno spirto questo disse,
  L'altro piangeva si, che di pietade
  I' venni men cosi com' io morisse,

  E caddi come corpo morto cade.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Translation in the terza rima of the original._

  Scarce had I learnt the names of all that press
  Of knights and dames, than I beheld a sight
  Nigh reft my wits for very tenderness.

  "O guide!" I said, "fain would I, if I might,
  Have speech with yonder pair, that hand in hand
  Seem borne before the dreadful wind so light."

  "Wait," said my guide, "until then seest their band
  Sweep round. Then beg them, by that lose, to stay;
  And they will come, and hover where we stand."

  Anon the whirlwind flung them round that way;
  And then I cried, "Oh, if I ask nought ill,
  Poor weary souls, have speech with me, I pray."

  As doves, that leave some bevy circling still,
  Set firm their open wings, and through the air
  Sweep homewards, wafted by their pure good will;

  So broke from Dido's flock that gentle pair,
  Cleaving, to where we stood, the air malign;
  Such strength to bring them had a loving prayer.

  The female spoke. "O living soul benign!"
  She said, "thus, in this lost air, visiting
  Us who with blood stain'd the sweet earth divine;

  Had we a friend in heaven's eternal King,
  We would beseech him keep thy conscience clear,
  Since to our anguish thou dost pity bring.

  Of what it pleaseth thee to speak and hear,
  To that we also, till this lull be o'er
  That falleth now, will speak and will give ear.

  The place where I was born is on the shore,
  Where Po brings all his rivers to depart
  In peace, and fuse them with the ocean floor.

  Love, that soon kindleth in a gentle heart,
  Seized him thou look'st on for the form and face,
  Whose end still haunts me like a rankling dart.

  Love, which by love will be denied no grace,
  Gave me a transport in my turn so true,
  That to! 'tis with me, even in this place.

  Love brought us to one grave. The hand that slew
  Is doom'd to mourn us in the pit of Cain."
  Such were the words that told me of those two.

  Downcast I stood, looking so full of pain
  To think how hard and sad a case it was,
  That my guide ask'd what held me in that vein.

  His voiced aroused me; and I said, "Alas
  All their sweet thoughts then, all the steps that led
  To love, but brought them to this dolorous pass."

  Then turning my sad eyes to theirs, I said,
  "Francesca, see--these human cheeks are wet--
  Truer and sadder tears were never shed.

  But tell me. At the time when sighs were sweet,
  What made thee strive no longer?--hurried thee
  To the last step where bliss and sorrow meet?"

  "There is no greater sorrow," answered she,
  "And this thy teacher here knoweth full well,
  Than calling to mind joy in misery.

  But since thy wish be great to hear us tell
  How we lost all but love, tell it I will,
  As well as tears will let me. It befel,

  One day, we read how Lancelot gazed his fill
  At her he loved, and what his lady said.
  We were alone, thinking of nothing ill.

  Oft were our eyes suspended as we read,
  And in our cheeks the colour went and came;
  Yet one sole passage struck resistance dead.

  'Twas where the lover, moth-like in his flame,
  Drawn by her sweet smile, kiss'd it. O then, he
  Whose lot and mine are now for aye the same,

  All in a tremble, on the mouth kiss'd _me_.
  The book did all. Our hearts within us burn'd
  Through that alone. That day no more read we."

  While thus one spoke, the other spirit mourn'd
  With wail so woful, that at his remorse
  I felt as though I should have died. I turned

  Stone-stiff; and to the ground fell like a corse.]

No. II.



Translated from his Commentary on the Passage.

"You must know, that this lady, Madonna Francesca, was daughter of
Messer Guido the Elder, lord of Ravenna and of Cervia, and that a long
and grievous war having been waged between him and the lords Malatesta
of Rimini, a treaty of peace by certain mediators was at length
concluded between them; the which, to the end that it might be the more
firmly established, it pleased both parties to desire to fortify by
relationship; and the matter of this relationship was so discoursed,
that the said Messer Guido agreed to give his young and fair daughter
in marriage to Gianciotto, the son of Messer Malatesta. Now, this being
made known to certain of the friends of Messer Guido, one of them
said to him, 'Take care what you do; for if you contrive not matters
discreetly, such relationship will beget scandal. You know what manner
of person your daughter is, and of how lofty a spirit; and if she see
Gianciotto before the bond is tied, neither you nor any one else will
have power to persuade her to marry him; therefore, if it so please you,
it seems to me that it would be good to conduct the matter thus: namely,
that Gianciotto should not come hither himself to marry her, but that a
brother of his should come and espouse her in his name.'

"Gianciotto was a man of great spirit, and hoped, after his father's
death, to become lord of Rimini; in the contemplation of which event,
albeit he was rude in appearance and a cripple, Messer Guido desired him
for a son-in-law above any one of his brothers. Discerning, therefore,
the reasonableness of what his friend counselled, he secretly disposed
matters according to his device; and a day being appointed, Polo, a
brother of Gianciotto, came to Ravenna with full authority to espouse
Madonna Francesca. Polo was a handsome man, very pleasant, and of a
courteous breeding; and passing with other gentlemen over the court-yard
of the palace of Messer Guido, a damsel who knew him pointed him out to
Madonna Francesca through an opening in the casement, saying, 'That is
he that is to be your husband;' and so indeed the poor lady believed,
and incontinently placed in him her whole affection; and the ceremony of
the marriage having been thus brought about, and the lady conveyed to
Rimini, she became not aware of the deceit till the morning ensuing
the marriage, when she beheld Gianciotto rise from her side; the which
discovery moved her to such disdain, that she became not a whit the less
rooted in her love for Polo. Nevertheless, that it grew to be unlawful
I never heard, except in what is written by this author (Dante), and
possibly it might so have become; albeit I take what he says to have
been an invention framed on the possibility, rather than any thing
which he knew of his own knowledge. Be this as it may, Polo and Madonna
Francesca living in the same house, and Gianciotto being gone into
a certain neighbouring district as governor, they fell into great
companionship with one another, suspecting nothing; but a servant of
Gianciotto's noting it, went to his master and told him how matters
looked; with the which Gianciotto being fiercely moved, secretly
returned to Rimini; and seeing Polo enter the room of Madonna Francesca
the while he himself was arriving, went straight to the door, and
finding it locked inside, called to his lady to come out; for, Madonna
Francesca and Polo having descried him, Polo thought to escape suddenly
through an opening in the wall, by means of which there was a descent
into another room; and therefore, thinking to conceal his fault either
wholly or in part, he threw himself into the opening, telling the lady
to go and open the door. But his hope did not turn out as he expected;
for the hem of a mantle which he had on caught upon a nail, and the
lady opening the door meantime, in the belief that all would be well by
reason of Polo's not being there, Gianciotto caught sight of Polo as
he was detained by the hem of the mantle, and straightway ran with his
dagger in his hand to kill him; whereupon the lady, to prevent it, ran
between them; but Gianciotto having lifted the dagger, and put the whole
force of his arm into the blow, there came to pass what he had not
desired--namely, that he struck the dagger into the bosom of the lady
before it could reach Polo; by which accident, being as one who had
loved the lady better than himself, he withdrew the dagger, and again
struck at Polo, and slew him; and so leaving them both dead, he hastily
went his way and betook him to his wonted affairs; and the next morning
the two lovers, with many tears, were buried together in the same

The reader of this account will have observed, that while Dante assumes
the guilt of all parties, and puts them into the infernal regions, the
good-natured Boccaccio is for doubting it, and consequently for sending
them all to heaven. He will ignore as much of the business as a
gentleman can; boldly doubts any guilt in the case; says nothing of the
circumstance of the book; and affirms that the husband loved his wife,
and was miserable at having slain her. There is, however, one negative
point in common between the two narrators; they both say nothing of
certain particulars connected with the date of Francesca's marriage, and
not a little qualifying the first romantic look of the story.

Now, it is the absence of these particulars, combined with the tradition
of the father's artifice (omitted perhaps by Dante out of personal
favour), and with that of the husband's ferocity of character (the
belief in which Boccaccio did not succeed in displacing), that has
left the prevailing impression on the minds of posterity, which is
this:--that Francesca was beguiled by her father into the marriage with
the deformed and unamiable Giovanni, and that the unconscious medium of
the artifice was the amiable and handsome Paulo; that one or both of
the victims of the artifice fell in love with the other; that their
intercourse, whatever it was, took place not long after the marriage;
and that when Paulo and Francesca were slain in consequence, they were
young lovers, with no other ties to the world.

It is not pleasant in general to dispel the illusions of romance, though
Dante's will bear the operation with less hurt to a reader's feelings
than most; and I suspect, that if nine out of ten of all the implied
conclusions of other narratives in his poem could be compared with the
facts, he would be found to be one of the greatest of romancers in a new
and not very desirable sense, however excusable he may have been in his
party-prejudice. But a romance may be displaced, only to substitute
perhaps matters of fact more really touching, by reason of their greater
probability. The following is the whole of what modern inquirers have
ascertained respecting Paulo and Francesca. Future enlargers on the
story may suppress what they please, as Dante did; but if any one of
them, like the writer of the present remarks, is anxious to speak
nothing but the truth, I advise him (especially if he is for troubling
himself with making changes in his story) not to think that he has seen
all the authorities on the subject, or even remembered all he has seen,
until he has searched every corner of his library and his memory. All
the poems hitherto written upon this popular subject are indeed only to
be regarded as so many probable pieces of fancy, that of Dante himself

       *       *       *       *       *


Francesca was daughter of Guido Novello da Polenta, lord of Ravenna.

She was married to Giovanni, surnamed the Lame, one of the sons of
Malatesta da Verrucchio, lord of Rimini.

Giovanni the Lame had a brother named Paulo the Handsome, who was a
widower, and left a son.

Twelve years after Francesca's marriage, by which time she had become
mother of a son who died, and of a daughter who survived her, she and
her brother-in-law Paulo were slain together by the husband, and buried
in one grave.

Two hundred years afterwards, the grave was opened, and the bodies found
lying together in silken garments, the silk itself being entire.

Now, a far more touching history may have lurked under these facts than
in the half-concealed and misleading circumstances of the received
story--long patience, long duty, struggling conscience, exhausted hope.

On the other hand, it may have been a mere heartless case of intrigue
and folly.

But tradition is to be allowed its reasonable weight; and the
probability is, that the marriage was an affair of state, the lady
unhappy, and the brothers too different from one another.

The event took place in Dante's twenty-fourth year; so that he, who
looks so much older to our imaginations than his heroine, was younger;
and this renders more than probable what the latest biographers have
asserted--namely, that the lord of Ravenna, at whose house he finished
his days, was not her father, Guido da Polenta, the third of that name,
but her nephew, Guido the Fifth.

       *       *       *       *       *



  Non eravam partiti già da ello,
  Ch' i' vidi duo ghiacciati in una buca
  Si, che l'un capo a l'altro era capello:

  E come 'l pan per fame si manduca,
  Così 'l sovran li denti a l'altro pose
  Là've 'l cervel s'aggiunge con la nuca.

  Non altrimenti Tideo sì rose
  Le tempie a Menalippo per disdegno,
  Che quei faceva 'l teschio e l'altre cose.

  O tu che mostri per sì bestial segno
  Odio sovra colui che tu ti mangi
  Dimmi 'l perchè, diss' io, per tal convegno,

  Che se tu a ragion di lui ti piangi,
  Sappiendo chi voi siete, e la sua pecca,
  Nel mondo suso ancor io te ne cangi,

  Se quella con ch' i' parlo non si secca.

  La bocca sollevò dal fiero pasto
  Quel peccator, forbendola a' capelli
  Del capo ch' egli avea diretro guasto:

  Poi cominciò: tu vuoi ch' i' rinnovelli
  Disperato dolor the 'l cuor mi preme
  Già pur pensando, pria ch' i' ne favelli.

  Ma se le mie parole esser den seme,
  Che frutti infamia al traditor ch' i' rodo,
  Parlare e lagrimar vedrai insieme.

  I' non so chi tu sei, nè per che modo
  Venuto se' qua giù: ma Fiorentino
  Mi sembri veramente, quand' i' t' odo.

  Tu de' saper ch' i' fu 'l Conte Ugolino,
  E questi l' Arcivescovo Ruggieri:
  Or ti dirò perch' i' son tal vicino.

  Che per l' effetto de' suo' ma' pensieri,
  Fidandomi di lui, io fossi preso,
  E poscia morto, dir non è mestieri.

  Però quel che non puoi avere inteso,
  Cioè, come la morte mia fu cruda,
  Udirai e saprai se m' ha offeso.

  Breve pertugio dentro da la muda,
  La qual per me ha 'l titol da la fame,
  E 'n che conviene ancor ch' altrui si chiuda,

  M' avea mostrato per lo suo forame
  Più lone già, quand' i' feci 'l mal sonno,
  Che del futuro mi squarciò 'l velame.

  Questi pareva a me maestro e donno,
  Cacciando 'l lupo e i lupicirui al monte,
  Perchè i Pisan veder Lucca non ponno.

  Con cagne magre studiose e conte
  Gualandi con Sismondi e con Lanfranchi
  S' avea messi dinanzi da la fronte.

  In picciol corso mi pareano stanchi
  Lo padre e i figli, e con l' agute scane
  Mi parea lor veder fender li fianchi.

  Quando fui desto innanzi la dimane,
  Pianger senti' fra 'l sonno miei figliuoli
  Ch' eran con meco, e dimandar del pane.

  Ben se' crudel, se uo già non ti duoli
  Pensando ciò ch' al mio cuor s' annunziava
  E se non piangi, di che pianger suoli?

  Già eram desti, e l'ora s'appressava
  Che 'l cibo ne soleva essere addotto,
  E per suo sogno ciascun dubitava,

  Ed io senti' chiavar l'uscio di sotto
  A l'orribile torre: ond' io guardai
  Nel viso a miei figliuoi senza far motto:

  I' non piangeva, sì dentro impietrai:
  Piangevan' elli; ed Anselmuccio mio
  Disse, Tu guardi sì, padre: che hai?

  Però non lagrimai nè rispos' io
  Tutto quel giorno nè la notte appresso,
  Infin che l'altro sol nel mondo uscío.

  Com' un poco di raggio si fu messo
  Nel doloroso carcere, ed io scorsi
  Per quattro visi il mio aspetto stesso,

  Ambo le mani per dolor mi morsi:
  E quei pensando ch' i 'l fessi per voglia
  Di manicar, di subito levorsi

  E disser: Padre, assai ci sia men doglia,
  Se tu mangi di noi: tu ne vestisti
  Queste misere carni, e tu le spoglia.

  Quetàmi allor per non fargli più tristi:
  Quel dì e l'altro stemmo tutti muti:
  Ahi dura terra, perchè non t'apristi?

  Posciachè fummo al quarto di venuti,
  Gaddo mi si gittò disteso a' piedi,
  Dicendo: Padre mio, che non m' ajuti?

  Quivi morì: e come tu mi vedi,
  Vid' io cascar li tre ad uno ad uno
  Tra 'l quinto di, e 'l sesto: ond' i' mi diedi

  Già cieco a brancolar sovra ciascuno,
  E tre di gli chiamai poich' e 'fur morti:
  Poscia, più che 'l dolor, pote 'l digiuno.

  Quand' ebbe detto ciò, con gli occhj torti
  Riprese 'l teschio misero co' denti,
  Che furo a l'osso come d' un can forti.

  Ahi Pisa, vituperio de le genti,
  Del bel paese là dove 'l sì suona;
  Poiche i vicini a te punir son lenti,

  Muovasi la Capraja e la Gorgona,
  E faccian siepe ad Arno in su la foce,
  Si ch' egli annieghi in te ogni persona:

  Che se 'l Conte Ugolino aveva voce
  D'aver tradita te de le castella,
  Non dovei tu i figliuoi porre a tal croce.

  Innocenti facea 'l eta novella;
  Novella Tebe, Uguccione, e 'l Brigata,
  E gli altri duo che 'l canto suso appella.

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Translation in the heroic couplet._

  Quitting the traitor Bocca's barking soul,
  We saw two more, so iced up in one hole,
  That the one's visage capp'd the other's head;
  And as a famish'd man devoureth bread,
  So rent the top one's teeth the skull below
  'Twixt nape and brain. Tydeus, as stories show,
  Thus to the brain of Menalippus ate:--
  "O thou!" I cried, "showing such bestial hate
  To him thou tearest, read us whence it rose;
  That, if thy cause be juster than thy foe's,
  The world, when I return, knowing the truth,
  May of thy story have the greater ruth."

  His mouth he lifted from his dreadful fare,
  That sinner, wiping it with the grey hair
  Whose roots he had laid waste; and thus he said:--
  "A desperate thing thou askest; what I dread
  Even to think of. Yet, to sow a seed
  Of infamy to him on whom I feed,
  Tell it I will:--ay, and thine eyes shall see
  Mine own weep all the while for misery.
  Who thou may'st be, I know not; nor can dream
  How thou cam'st hither; but thy tongue doth seem
  To skew thee, of a surety, Florentine.
  Know then, that I was once Count Ugoline,
  And this man was Ruggieri, the archpriest.
  Still thou may'st wonder at my raging feast;
  For though his snares be known, and how his key
  He turn'd upon my trust, and murder'd me,
  Yet what the murder was, of what strange sort
  And cruel, few have had the true report.
  Hear then, and judge.--In the tower, called since then
  The Tower of Famine, I had lain and seen
  Full many a moon fade through the narrow bars.
  When, in a dream one night, mine evil stars
  Shew'd me the future with its dreadful face.
  Methought this man led a great lordly chase
  Against a wolf and cubs, across the height
  Which barreth Lucca from the Pisan's sight.
  Lean were the hounds, high-bred, and sharp for blood;
  And foremost in the press Gualandi rode,
  Lanfranchi, and Sismondi. Soon were seen
  The father and his sons, those wolves I mean,
  Limping, and by the hounds all crush'd and torn
  And as the cry awoke me in the morn,
  I heard my boys, the while they dozed in bed
  (For they were with me), wail, and ask for bread.
  Full cruel, if it move thee not, thou art,
  To think what thoughts then rush'd into my heart.
  What wouldst thou weep at, weeping not at this?
  All had now waked, and something seem'd amiss,
  For 'twas the time they used to bring us bread,
  And from our dreams had grown a horrid dread.
  I listen'd; and a key, down stairs, I heard
  Lock up the dreadful turret. Not a word
  I spoke, but look'd my children in the face
  No tear I shed, so firmly did I brace
  My soul; but _they_ did; and my Anselm said,
  'Father, you look so!--Won't they bring us bread?'
  E'en then I wept not, nor did answer word
  All day, nor the next night. And now was stirr'd,
  Upon the world without, another day;
  And of its light there came a little ray,
  Which mingled with the gloom of our sad jail;
  And looking to my children's bed, full pale,
  In four small faces mine own face I saw.
  Oh, then both hands for misery did I gnaw;
  And they, thinking I did it, being mad
  For food, said, 'Father, we should be less sad
  If you would feed on us. Children, they say,
  Are their own father's flesh. Starve not to-day.'
  Thenceforth they saw me shake not, hand nor foot.
  That day, and next, we all continued mute.
  O thou hard Earth!--why opened'st thou not?
  Next day (it was the fourth in our sad lot)
  My Gaddo stretched him at my feet, and cried,
  'Dear father, won't you help me?' and he died.
  And surely as thou seest me here undone,
  I saw my whole three children, one by one,
  Between the fifth day and the sixth, all die.
  I became blind; and in my misery
  Went groping for them, as I knelt and crawl'd
  About the room; and for three days I call'd
  Upon their names, as though they could speak too,
  Till famine did what grief had fail'd to do."

  Having spoke thus, he seiz'd with fiery eyes
  That wretch again, his feast and sacrifice,
  And fasten'd on the skull, over a groan,
  With teeth as strong as mastiff's on a bone.
  Ah, Pisa! thou that shame and scandal be
  To the sweet land that speaks the tongue of Sì.[1]

  Since Florence spareth thy vile neck the yoke,
  Would that the very isles would rise, and choke
  Thy river, and drown every soul within
  Thy loathsome walls. What if this Ugolin
  Did play the traitor, and give up (for so
  The rumour runs) thy castles to the foe,
  Thou hadst no right to put to rack like this
  His children. Childhood innocency is.
  But that same innocence, and that man's name,
  Have damn'd thee, Pisa, to a Theban fame?[2]

       *       *       *       *       *



Chaucer has told the greater part of this story beautifully in his
"Canterbury Tales;" but he had not the heart to finish it. He refers
for the conclusion to his original, hight "Dant," the "grete poete
of Itaille;" adding, that Dante will not fail his readers a single
word--that is to say, not an atom of the cruelty.

Our great gentle-hearted countryman, who tells Fortune that it was

  "great cruelty
  Such birdes for to put in such a cage,"

adds a touch of pathos in the behaviour of one of the children, which
Dante does not seem to have thought of:

  "There day by day this child began to cry,
  Till in his father's barme (lap) adown he lay;
  And said, 'Farewell, father, I muste die,'
  And _kiss'd his father_, and died the same day."

It will be a relief, perhaps, instead of a disappointment, to the
readers of this appalling story, to hear that Dante's particulars of it
are as little to be relied on as those of the Paulo and Francesca. The
only facts known of Ugolino are, that he was an ambitious traitor, who
did actually deliver up the fortified places, as Dante acknowledges; and
that his rivals, infamous as he, or more infamous, prevailed against
him, and did shut him up and starve him and some of his family. But
the "little" children are an invention of the poet's, or probably his
belief, when he was a young man, and first heard the story; for some of
Ugolino's fellow-prisoners may have been youths, but others were grown
up--none so childish as he intimates; and they were not all his own
sons; some were his nephews.

And as to Archbishop Ruggieri, there is no proof whatever of his having
had any share in the business--hardly a ground of suspicion; so that
historians look upon him as an "ill-used gentleman." Dante, in all
probability, must have learnt the real circumstances of the case, as he
advanced in years; but if charity is bound to hope that he would have
altered the passage accordingly, had he revised his poem, it is forced
to admit that he left it unaltered, and that his "will and pleasure"
might have found means of reconciling the retention to his conscience.
Pride, unfortunately, includes the power to do things which it pretends
to be very foreign to its nature; and in proportion as detraction is
easy to it, retraction becomes insupportable.[3]

Rabelais, to shew his contempt for the knights of chivalry, has made
them galley-slaves in the next world, their business being to help
Charon row his boat over the river Styx, and their payment a piece of
mouldy bread and a fillip on the nose. Somebody should write a burlesque
of the enormities in Dante's poem, and invent some Rabelaesque
punishment for a great poet's pride and presumption. What should it be?

       *       *       *       *       *

No. IV.


  Fiorenza dentro da la cerchia antica,
  Ond' ella toglie ancora e Terza e Nona,
  Si stava in pace sobria e pudica.

  Non avea catenella, non corona,
  Non donne contigiate, non cintura
  Che fosse a veder più che la persona.

  Non faceva nascendo ancor paura
  La figlia al padre, che 'l tempo e la dotte
  Non fuggian quindi e quindi la misura.

  Non avea case di famiglia vote
  Non v'era giunto ancor Sardanapalo
  A mostrar ciò che 'n camera si puote.

  Non era vinto ancora Montemalo
  Dal vostro Uccellatojo, che com' è vinto
  Nel montar su, così sarà nel calo.

  Bellincion Berti vid' io andar cinto
  Di cuojo e d'osso, e venir da lo specchio
  La donna sua sanza 'l viso dipinto:

  E vidi quel de' Nerli e quel del Vecchio
  Esser contenti a la pelle scoverta,
  E le sue donne al fuso ed al pennecchio.

  O fortunate! e ciascuna era certa
  De la sua sepoltura, ed ancor nulla
  Era per Francia nel lotto deserta.

  L'una vegghiava a studio de la culla,
  E consolando usava l'idioma
  Che pria li padri e le madri trastulla:

  L'altra traendo a la rocca la chioma
  Favoleggiava con la sua famiglia
  Di Trojani e di Fiesole e di Roma.

  Saria tenuta allor tal maraviglia
  Una Cianghella, un Lapo Salterello,
  Qual or saria Cincinnato e Corniglia.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Translation in blank verse._

  Florence, before she broke the good old bounds,
  Whence yet are heard the chimes of eve and morn.
  Abided well in modesty and peace.
  No coronets had she--no chains of gold--
  No gaudy sandals--no rich girdles rare
  That caught the eye more than the person did.
  Fathers then feared no daughter's birth, for dread
  Of wantons courting wealth; nor were their homes
  Emptied with exile. Chamberers had not shown
  What they could dare, to prove their scorn of shame.
  Your neighbouring uplands then beheld no towers
  Prouder than Rome's, only to know worse fall.
  I saw Bellincion Berti walk abroad
  Girt with a thong of leather; and his wife
  Come from the glass without a painted face.
  Nerlis I saw, and Vecchios, and the like,
  In doublets without cloaks; and their good dames
  Contented while they spun. Blest women those
  They know the place where they should lie when dead;
  Nor were their beds deserted while they liv'd.
  They nurs'd their babies; lull'd them with the songs
  And household words of their own infancy;
  And while they drew the distaff's hair away,
  In the sweet bosoms of their families,
  Told tales of Troy, and Fiesole, and Rome.
  It had been then as marvellous to see
  A man of Lapo Salterello's sort,
  Or woman like Cianghella, as to find
  A Cincinnatus or Cornelia now.

       *       *       *       *       *

No. V.



  L'abate si chiamava Chiaramonte,
  Era del sangue disceso d'Angrante:
  Di sopra a la badia v'era un gran monte,
  Dove abitava alcun fiero gigante,
  De' quali uno avea nome Passamonte,
  L'altro Alabastro, e 'l terzo era Morgante:
  Con certe frombe gittavan da alto,
  Ed ogni di facevan qualche assalto.

  I monachetti non potieno uscire
  Del monistero, o per legne, o per acque.
  Orlando picchia, e non volieno aprire,
  Fin che a l'abate a la fine pur piacque:
  Entrato drento cominciava a dire,
  Come colui che di Maria già nacque,
  Adora, ed era cristian battezzato,
  E com' egli era a la badia arrivato.

  Disse l' abate: Il ben venuto sia:
  Di quel ch' io ho, volentier ti daremo,
  Poi the tu credi al figliuol di Maria;
  E la cagion, cavalier, ti diremo,
  Acciò che non l'imputi a villania,
  Perchè a l'entrar resistenza facemo,
  E non ti volle aprir quel monachetto;
  Così intervien chi vive con sospetto.

  Quando ci venni al principio abitare
  Queste montagne, benchè sieno oscure
  Come tu vedi, pur si potea stare
  Sanza sospetto, ch' ell' eran sicure:
  Sol da le fiere t'avevi a guardare:
  Fernoci spesso di brutte paure;
  Or ci bisogna, se vogliamo starci,
  Da le bestie dimestiche guardarci.

  Queste ci fan piutosto stare a segno:
  Sonci appariti tre fiere giganti,
  Non so di qual paese o di qual regno,
  Ma molto son feroci tutti quanti:
  La forza e 'l malvoler giunt' a lo 'ngegno
  Sai che può 'l tutto; e noi non siam bastanti:
  Questi perturban si l'orazion nostra,
  Che non so più che far, s'altri nol mostra.

  Gli antichi padri nostri nel deserto,
  Se le lor opre sante erano e giuste,
  Del ben servir da Dio n'avean buon merto:
  Nè creder sol vivessin di locuste:
  Piovea dal ciel la manna, guesto è certo;
  Ma qui convien che spesso assaggi e gust
  Sassi, che piovon di sopra quel monte,
  Che gettano Alabastro e Passamonte.

  E 'l terzo ch' è Morgante, assai più fiero,
  Isveglie e pini e faggi e cerri e gli oppi,
  E gettagli infin quì; questo è pur vero:
  Non posso far che d'ira non iscoppi.
  Mentre che parlan così in cimitero,
  Un sasso par che Rondel quasi sgroppi;
  Che da' giganti giù venne da altro
  Tanto, ch' e' prese sotto il tetto un salto.

  Tirati drento, cavalier, per Dio,
  Disse l'abate, che la manna casca.
  Rispose Orlando: Caro abate mio,
  Costui non vuol che 'l mio caval più pasca:
  Veggo che lo guarebbe del restio:
  Quel sasso par che di buon braccio nasca.
  Rispose il santo padre: Io non t' inganno;
  Credo che 'l monte un giorno gitteranno.

       *       *       *       *       *

No. VI.



_Orlando and Bujaforte._

  La battaglia veniva rinforzando,
  E in ogni parte apparisce la morte:
  E mentre in quà e in là, combatte Orlando,
  Un tratto a caso trovò Bujaforte,
  E in su la testa gli dette col brando:
  E perchè l'elmo è temperato e forte,
  O forse incantato era, al colpo ha retto:
  Ma de la testa gli balzò di netto.

  Orlando prese costui per le chiome,
  E disse: Dimmi, se non ch' io t'uccido.
  Di questo tradimento appunto e come:
  E se tu il di', de la morte ti fido,
  E vo' che tu mi dica presto il nome.
  Onde il pagan rispose con gran grido,
  Aspetta: Bujaforte io te lo dico,
  De la montagna del Veglio tuo amico.

  Orlando, quando intese il giovinetto,
  Subito al padre suo raffigurollo:
  Lasciò la chioma, e poi l'abbracciò stretto
  Per tenerezza, e con l'elmo baciollo;
  E disse: O Bujaforte, il vero hai detto
  Il Veglio mio: e da canto tirollo:
  Di questo tradimento dimmi appunto,
  Poi the così la fortuna m' ha giunto.

  Ma ben ti dico per la fede mia,
  Che di combatter con mie genti hai torto;
  E so che 'l padre tuo, dovunque e' sia,
  Non ti perdona questo, così morto.
  Bujaforte piangeva tuttavia;
  Poi disse: Orlando mio, datti conforto;
  Il mio signore a forza quà mi manda;
  E obbedir convien quel che comanda.

  Io son de la mia patria sbandeggiato:
  Marsilio in corte sua m' ha ritenuto,
  E promesso rimettermi in istato:
  Io vo cercando consiglio ed ajuto,
  Poi ch' io son da ognuno abbandonato:
  E per questa cagion quà son venuto:
  E bench' i mostri far grande schermaglia.
  Non ho morto nessun ne la battaglia.

  Io t' ho tanto per fama ricordare
  Sentito a tutto il mondo, che nel core
  Sempre poi t' ebbi: e mi puoi comandare:
  E so del padre mio l'antico amore:
  Del tradimento tu tel puoi pensare:
  Sai che Gano e Marsilio è traditore:
  E so per discrezion tu intendi bene,
  Che tanta gente per tua morte viene.

  E Baldovin di Marsilio ha la vesta;
  Che così il vostro Gano ba ordinato:
  Vedi che ignun non gli pon lancia in resta:
  Che 'l signor nostro ce l'ha comandato.
  Disse Orlando: Rimetti l'elmo in testa,
  E torna a la battaglia al modo usato:
  Vedrem che segnirà: tanto ti dico,
  Ch' io t'arò sempre come il Veglio amico.

  Poi disse: Aspetta un poco, intendi saldo,
  Che non ti punga qualche strana ortica:
  Sappi ch' egli è ne la zuffa Rinaldo:
  Guarda che il nome per nulla non dica:
  Che non dicesse in quella furia caldo,
  Dunque tu se' da la parte nimica:
  Si che tu giuochi netto, destro e largo:
  Che ti bisogua aver quì gli occhi d'Argo.

  Rispose Bujaforte: Bene hai detto:
  Se la battaglia passerà a tuo modo,
  Ti mostrerò che amico son perfetto,
  Come fu il padre mio, ch' ancor ne godo.

The poor youth takes his way through the fight, and unfortunately meets
with Rinaldo.

  Rinaldo ritrovò quel Bujaforte,
  Al mio parer, che sarebbe scoppiato,
  Se non avesse trovato la morte:
  E come egli ebbe a parlar cominciato
  Del re Marsilio, e di stare in suo corte.
  Rinaldo gli rispose infuriato:
  Chi non è ineco, avverso me sia detto;
  E cominciogli a trassinar l'elmetto.
  E trasse un mandiretto e due e tre
  Con tanta furia, e quattro e cinque e sei,
  Che non ebbe agio a domandar merzè,
  E morto cadde sanza dire omei.

  _Orlando and Baldwin._

  Orlando, poi che lasciò Bujaforte,
  Pargli mill'anni trovar Baldovino,
  Che cerca pure e non truova la morte:
  E ricognobbe il caval Vegliantino
  Per la battaglia, e va correndo forte
  Dov' era Orlando, e diceva il meschino:
  Sappi ch' io ho fatto oggi il mio dovuto;
  E contra me nessun mai e venuto.

  Molti pagani ho pur fatti morire;
  Però quel che ciò sia pensar non posso,
  Se non ch' io veggo la gente fuggire.
  Rispose Orlando: Tu ti fai ben grosso;
  Di questo fatto stu ti vuoi chiarire,
  La soppravvesta ti cava di dosso:
  Vedrai che Gan, come tu te la cavi,
  Ci ha venduti a Marsilio per ischiavi.

  Rispose Baldwin: Se il padre mio
  Ci ha qui condotti come traditore,
  S' i' posso oggi campar, pel nostro Iddio
  Con questa spada passerogli il core:
  Ma traditore, Orlando, non so io,
  Ch' io t' ho seguito con perfetto amore:
  Non mi potresti dir maggiore ingiuria.--
  Poi si stracciò la vesta con gran furia,

  E disse: Io tornerò ne la battaglia,
  Poi che tu m' hai per traditore scorto:
  Io non son traditor, se Dio mi vaglia:
  Non mi vedrai più oggi se non morto.
  E in verso l'oste de' pagan si scaglia
  Dicendo sempre: Tu m' hai fatto torto.
  Orlando si pentea d'aver cio detto,
  Che disperato vide il giovinetto.

  Per la battaglia cornea Baldovino,
  E riscontrò quel crudel Mazzarigi,
  E disse: Tu se' qui, can Saracino,
  Per distrugger la gente di Parigi?
  O marran rinnegato paterino,
  Tu sarai presto giù ne' bassi Stigi:
  E trasse con la spada in modo a questo,
  Che lo mandò dov' egli disse presto.

Orlando meets again with Baldwin, who has kept his word.

  Orlando corse a le grida e 'l romore,
  E trovò Baldovino il poveretto
  Ch' era gia presso a l'ultime sue ore,
  E da due lance avea passato il petto;
  E disse. Or non son io più traditore--
  E cadde in terra morto così detto:
  De la qual cosa duolsi Orlando forte,
  E pianse esser cagion de la sua morte.

[Footnote 1: Sì, the Italian _yes_. A similar territorial designation is
familiar to the reader in the word "Languedoc," meaning _langue d'oc_,
or tongue of Oc, which was the pronunciation of the _oui_ or _yes_ of
the French in that quarter.]

[Footnote 2: Alluding to the cruel stories in the mythology of Boeotia.]

[Footnote 3: The controversial character of Dante's genius, and the
discordant estimate formed of it in so many respects by different
writers, have already carried the author of this book so far beyond his
intended limits, that he is obliged to refer for evidence in the cases
of Ugolino and Francesca to Balbo, _Vita di Dante_ (Napoli, 1840), p.
33; and to Troya, _Del Vettro Allegorico di Dante_ (Firenze, _1826), pp.
28, 32, and 176.]


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