Page images





I moved my feet from where I had been standing,

To examine near at hand another story,

Which after Michal glimmered white upon me. There the high glory of the Roman Prince

Was chronicled, whose great beneficence

Moved Gregory to his great victory; 'Tis of the Emperor Trajan I am speaking ;

And a poor widow at his bridle stood,

In attitude of weeping and of grief. Around about him seemed it thronged and full

Of cavaliers, and the eagles in the gold

Above them visibly in the wind were moving.
The wretched woman in the midst of these

Seemed to be saying: “Give me vengeance, Loril,
for whom


heart is breaking." And he to answer her: “Now wait until

I shall return." And she : “My Lord,” like one

In whom grief is impatient, “shouldst thou not Return ?” And he: “ Who shall be where I am

Will give it thee.” And she: “Good deed of others

What boots it thee, if thou neglect thine own?” Whence he: “Now comfort thee, for it behoves me

That I discharge my duty ere I move;

Justice so wills, and pity doth retain me.” He who on no new thing has ever looked

Was the creator of this visible language,

Novel to us, for here it is not found. While I delighted me in contemplating

The images of such humility,

And dear to look on for their Maker's sake, “Behold, upon this side, but rare they make

Their steps," the Poet murmured, “many people;

These will direct us to the lofty stairs.”

eyes, that in beholding were intent
To see new things, of which they curious are,

In turning round towards him were not slow.
But still I wish not, Reader, thou shouldst swerve

From thy good purposes, because thou hearest

How God ordaineth that the debt be paid; Attend not to the fashion of the torment,

Think of what follows; think that at the worst

It cannot reach beyond the mighty sentence. “ Master," began I, “ that which I behold

Moving towards us seems to me not persons,
And what I know not, so in sigh: ! waver."

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]




And he to me: “The grievous quality

Of this their torment bows them so to earth,

That my own eyes at first contended with it; But look there fixedly, and disentangle

By sight what cometh underneath those stones;

Already canst thou see how each is stricken.” Oye proud Christians ! wretched, weary ones !

Who, in the vision of the mind infirm,

Confidence have in your backsliding steps, Do ye not comprehend that we are worms,

Born to bring forth the angelic butterfly

That flieth unto judgment without screen ? Why floats aloft your spirit high in air?

Like are ye unto insects undeveloped,

Even as the worm in whom formation fails ! As to sustain a ceiling or a roof,

In place of corbel, oftentimes a figure

Is seen to join its knees unto its breast, Which makes of the unreal real anguish

Arise in him who sees it; fashioned thus

Beheld I those, when I had ta’en good heed. True is it, they were more or less bent down,

According as they more or less were laden ;

And he who had most patience in his looks Weeping did seem to say, "I can no more !"





“Our Father, thou who dwellest in the heavens,

Not circumscribed, but from the greater love

Thou bearest to the first effects on high, Praised be thy name and thine omnipotence

By every creature, as befitting is

To render thanks to thy sweet effluence. Come unto us the peace of thy dominion,

For unto it we cannot of ourselves,

If it come not, with all our intellect. Even as thine own Angels of their will

Make sacrifice to thee, Hosanna singing,

So may all men make sacrifice of theirs.
Give unto us this day our daily manna,

Withouten which in this rough wilderness
Backward goes he who toils most to advance.


[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

And even as we the trespass we have suffered

Pardon in one another, pardon thou

Benignly, and regard not our desert. Our virtue, which is easily o'ercome,

Put not to proof with the old Adversary,

But thou from him who spurs it so, deliver. This last petition verily, dear Lord,

Not for ourselves is made, who need it not,

But for their sake who have remained behind us." Thus for themselves and us good furtherance

Those shades imploring, went beneath a weight

Like unto that of which we sometimes dream, Unequally in anguish round and round

And weary all, upon that foremost cornice,

Purging away the smoke-stains of the world.
If there good words are always said for us,

may not here be said and done for them, By those who have a good root to their will ? Well may we help them wash away the marks

That hence they carried, so that clean and light

They may ascend unto the starry wheels ! “ Ah! so may pity and justice you disburden

Soon, that ye may have power to move the wing,

That shall uplift you after your desire,
Show us on which hand tow'rd the stairs the way

Is shortest, and if more than one the passes,

Point us out that which least abruptly falls ; For he who cometh with me, through the burden

Of Adam's flesh wherewith he is invested,

Against his will is chary of his climbing.” The words of theirs which they returned to those

That he whom I was following had spoken,

It was not manifest from whom they came, But it was said : “To the right hand come with us

Along the bank, and ye shall find a pass

Possible for living person to ascend. And were I not impeded by the stone,

Which this proud neck of mine doth subjugate,

Whence I am forced to hold my visage wn, Him, who still lives and does not name himself, Would I regard, to see if I may

know him
And make him piteous unto this burden.
A Latian was I, and born of a great Tuscan;

Guglielmo Aldobrandeschi was my father ;
I know not if his name were ever with you.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]





The ancient blood and deeds of gallantry

Of my progenitors so arrogant made me

That, thinking not upon the common mother, All men I held in scorn to such extent

I died therefor, as know the Sienese,

And every child in Campagnatico. I am Omberto; and not to me alone

Has pride done harm, but all my kith and kin

Has with it dragged into adversity. And here must I this burden bear for it

Till God be satisfied, since I did not

Among the living, here among the dead.” Listening I downward bent my countenance ;

And one of them, not this one who was speaking,

Twisted himself beneath the weight that cramps him, And looked at me, and knew me, and called out,

Keeping his eyes laboriously fixed

On me, who all bowed down was going with them. 0," asked I him, “art thou not Oderisi,

Agobbio's honour, and honour of that art

Which is in Paris called illuminating?" Brother,"

,” said he, “more laughing are the leaves Touched by the brush of Franco Bolognese;

All his the honour now, and mine in part. In sooth I had not been so courteous

While I was living, for the great desire

Of excellence, on which my heart was bent. Here of such pride is paid the forfeiture ;

And yet I should not be here, were it not

That, having power to sin, I turned to God.
O thou vain glory of the human powers,

How little green upon thy summit lingers,
If’t be not followed by an age of

grossness ! In painting Cimabue thought that he

Should hold the field, now Giotto has the cry,

So that the other's fame is growing dim. So has one Guido from the other taken

The glory of our tongue, and he perchance

Is born, who from the nest shall chase them both. Naught is this mundane rumour but a breath

Of wind, that comes now this way and now that,

And changes name, because it changes side.
What fame shalt thou have more, if old peel off

From thee thy flesh, than if thou hadst been dead
Before thou left the pappo and the dindi,

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Ere pass a thousand years ? which is a shorter

Space to the eterne, than twinkling of an eye

Unto the circle that in heaven wheels slowest. With him, who takes so little of the road

In front of me, all Tuscany resounded ;

And now he scarce is lisped of in Siena, Where he was lord, what time was overthrown

The Florentine delirium, that superb

Was at that day as now ’tis prostitute. Your reputation is the colour of grass

Which comes and goes, and that discolours it

By which it issues green from out the earth.” And I: “Thy true speech fills my heart with good

Humility, and great tumour thou assuagest ;

But who is he, of whom just now thou spakest ? " “ That,” he replied, "is Provenzan Salvani,

And he is here because he had presumed

To bring Siena all into his hands.
He has gone thus, and goeth without rest

E’er since he died; such money renders back

In payment he who is on earth too daring." And I: “If every spirit who awaits

The verge of life before that he repent,

Remains below there and ascends not hither, Unless good orison shall him bestead,)

Until as much time as he lived be passed,

How was the coming granted him in largess ? " " When he in greatest splendour lived,” said he,

“Freely upon the Campo of Siena,

All shame being laid aside, he placed himself; And there to draw his friend from the duress

Which in the prison-house of Charles he suffered,

He brought himself to tremble in each vein. say no more, and know that I speak darkly;

Yet little time shall pass before thy neighbours

Will so demean themselves that thou canst gloss it This action has released him from those confines.”

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]


ADREAST, like oxen going in a yoke,

I with that heavy-laden soul went on,
As long as the sweet pedagogue permitted;

« PreviousContinue »