The Northern Way

Song and Legend From the Middle Ages

Italian Literature

Page 4

A lesson erewhile taught me by thyself."

"O Tuscan! thou, who through the city of fire

Alive art passing, so discreet of speech:

Here, please thee, stay awhile. Thy utterance

Declares the place of thy nativity

To be that noble land, with which perchance

I too severly dealt." Sudden that sound

Forth issued from a vault, whereat, in fear,

I somewhat closer to my leader's side

Approaching, he thus spake: "What dost thou? Turn:

Lo! Farinata there, who hath himself

Uplifted: from his girdle upwards, all

Exposed, behold him." On his face was mine

Already fix'd: his breast and forehead there

Erecting, seem'd as in high scorn he held

E'en hell. Between the sepulchres, to him

My guide thrust me, with fearless hands and prompt;

This warning added: "See thy words be clear."

He, soon as there I stood at the tomb's foot,

Eyed me a space; then in disdainful mood

Address'd me: "Say what ancestors were thine."

I, willing to obey him, straight reveal'd

The whole, nor kept back aught: whence he, his brow

Somewhat uplifting, cried: "Fiercely were they

Adverse to me, my party, and the blood

From whence I sprang: twice, therefore, I abroad

Scatter'd them." "Though driven out, yet they each time

From all parts," answer'd I, "return'd; an art

Which yours have shown they are not skill'd to learn."

Then, peering forth from the unclosed jaw,

Rose from his side a shade, (15) high as the chin,

Leaning, methought, upon its knees upraised.

It look'd around, as eager to explore

If there were other with me; but perceiving

That fond imagination quench'd, with tears

Thus spake: "If thou through this blind prison go'st,

Led by thy lofty genius and profound,

Where is my son? and wherefore not with thee?"

I straight replied: "Not of myself I come;

By him, who there expects me, through this clime

Conducted, whom perchance Guido thy son

Had in contempt." (16) Already had his words

And mode of punishment read me his name,

Whence I so fully answer'd. He at once

Exclaim'd, up starting, "How! said'st thou, he had?

No longer lives he? Strikes not on his eye

The blessed daylight?" Then, of some delay

I made ere my reply, aware, down fell

Supine, nor after forth appear'd he more.

V. The Hypocrites. From the Inferno.

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

There in the depth we saw a painted tribe,

Who paced with tardy steps around, and wept,

Faint in appearance and o'ercome with toil.

Caps had they on, with hoods, that fell low down

Before their eyes, in fashion like to those

Worn by the monks in Cologne. (17) Their outside

was overlaid with gold, dazzling to view,

But leaden all within, and of such weight,

That Frederick's (18) compared to these were straw.

Oh, everlasting wearisome attire!

We yet once more with them together turn'd

To leftward, on their dismal moan intent.

But by the weight opprest, so slowly came

The fainting people, that our company

Was changed, at every movement of the step.

I staid, and saw two spirits in whose look

Impatient eagerness of mind was mark'd

To overtake me; but the load they bare

And narrow path retarded their approach.

Soon as arrived, they with an eye askance

Perused me, but spake not: then turning, each

To other thus conferring said: "This one

Seems, by the action of his throat, alive;

And, be they dead, what privilege allows

They walk unmantled by the cumbrous stole?"

Then thus to me: "Tuscan, who visitest

The college of the mourning hypocrites,

Disdain not to instruct us who thou art."

"By Arno's pleasant stream," I thus replied,

"In the great city I was bred and grew,

And wear the body I have ever worn.

But who are ye, from whom such mighty grief,

As now I witness, courseth down your cheeks?

What torment breaks forth in this bitter woe?"

"Our bonnets gleaming bright with orange hue,"

One of them answer'd, "are so leaden gross,

That with their weight they make the balances

To crack beneath them. Joyous friars (19) we were,

Bologna's natives; Catalano I,

He Loderingo named; and by thy land

Together taken, as men use to take

A single and indifferent arbiter,

To reconcile their strifes. How there we sped,

Gardingo's vicinage (20) can best declare."


15. A shade---Cavalcante.  (back)

16. Guido, thy son had in contempt---Guido the son of Cavalcante Cavalcanti, a Tuscan poet, the friend of Dante. But being fonder of philosophy than of poetry was perhaps not an admirer of Virgil.  (back)

17. The monks in Cologne. These monks wore their cowls unusually large.  (back)

18. Frederick's. Frederick II. punished those guilty of high treason by wrapping them up in lead, and casting them into a furnace.  (back)

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

20. Gardingo's vicinage. That part of the city inhabited by the Ghibelline family of the Uberti, and destroyed, under the iniquitous administration of Catalano and Loderingo.  (back)

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