« PreviousContinue »
ARGUMENT.-Two Angels, with flaming swords broken at the points, descend to keep watch over the valley, into which Virgil and Dante entering by desire of Sordello, our Poet meets with joy the spirit of Nino, the judge of Gallura, one who was well known to him. Meantime three exceedingly bright stars appear near the pole, and a serpent creeps subtly into the valley, but flees at hearing the approach of those angelic guards. Lastly, Conrad Malaspina predicts to our Poet his future banishment.
N OW was the hour that wakens fond desire
+ “ Te lucis ante terminum,” the part of the sacred office, termed first verse of the hymn in the last ‘complin.”
Their vesture was, the which, by wings as green
Well I descried the whiteness on their heads;
Sordello paused not: “To the valley now (For it is time) let us descend; and hold Converse with those great shadows: haply much Their sight may please ye.” Only three steps
down Methinks I measured, ere I was beneath, And noted one who look'd as with desire To know me. Time was now that air grew dim; Yet not so dim, that, 'twixt his eyes and mine, It clear'd not up what was conceal'd before. Mutually toward each other we advanced. Nino, thou courteous judge !what joy I felt, When I perceived thou wert not with the bad.
No salutation kind on either part Was left unsaid. He then inquired: “How long, Since thou arrived'st at the mountain's foot, Over the distant waves ? "_" Oh!” answer'd I, “ Through the sad seats of woe this morn I came; And still in my first life, thus journeying on, The other strive to gain.” Soon as they heard My words, he and Sordello backward drew, As suddenly amazed. To Virgil one, The other to a spirit turn'd, who near Was seated, crying: “Conrad !' up with speed :
Nino di Gallura de' Visconti, nephew to Count Ugolino de' Ghe. rardeschi, and betrayed by him.
* Father to Marcello Malaspina.
Come, see what of His grace high God hath will’d.”
He spoke, and in his visage took the stamp
I answer'd: “The three torches, with which here
While yet he spoke, Sordello to himself
Along the side, where barrier none arose
The daughter of Nino, and wife of Riccardo da Camino, of Trevigi.
6" Her mother.” Beatrice, Mar. chioness of Este, wife of Nino, and after his death married to Galeazzo de' Visconti of Milan.
6 The weeds of widowhood.
? The arms of Galeazzo and the ensign of the Milanese.
8 The cock was the ensign of Gallura, Nino's province in Sardinia. A
certain shame appears to have been attached to a second marriage.
9 The three evangelical virtues, Faith, Hope, and Charity, are supposed to rise in the evening, to de. note their belonging to the contem. plative; as the four others are made to rise in the morning to signify their belonging to the active life: or perhaps it may mark the succes. sion, in order of time, of the Gospel to the heathen system of morality.
Such haply as gave Eve the bitter food.
The spirit, (who to Nino, when he callid,
“So may the lamp, which leads thee up on high, Find, in thy free resolve, of wax so much, As may suffice thee to the enamel'd height," It thus began: “If any certain news Of Valdimagra and the neighbour part Thou know'st, tell me, who once was mighty there. They call’d me Conrad Malaspina; not That old one, but from him I sprang. The love I bore my people is now here refined.”
"In your domains," I answer'd, “ne'er was I. But, through all Europe, where do those men dwell, To whom their glory is not manifest? The fame, that honours your illustrious house, Proclaims the nobles, and proclaims the land; So that he knows it, who was never there. I swear to you, so may my upward route Prosper, your honoured nation not impairs The value of her coffer and her sword. Nature and use give her such privilege, That while the world is twisted from his course By a bad head, she only walks aright, And has the evil way in scorn.” He then: “Now pass thee on: seven times the tired sun 10
10 “ The sun shall not enter into the constellation of Aries seven times more, before thou shalt have still better cause for the good opinion thou expressest of Valdimagra,
in the kind reception thou shalt there meet with.” Dante was hospitably received by the Marchese Marcello, or Morello Malaspina, during his banishment, A. D. 1307.
Revisits not the couch, which with four feet
ARGUMENT.-Dante is carried up the mountain, asleep and dreaming, by Lucia; and, on awakening, finds himself, two hours after sunrise, with Virgil, near the gate of Purgatory, through which they are admitted by the Angel deputed by St. Peter to keep it.
TOW the fair consort of Tithonus old,
Arisen from her mate's beloved arms,
Look'd palely o'er the eastern cliff; her brow, Lucent with jewels, glitter'd, set in sign Of that chill animal, who with his train Smites fearful nations: and where then we were, Two steps of her ascent the night had past; And now the third was closing up its wing, When I, who had so much of Adam with me, Sank down upon the grass, o'ercome with sleep, There where all five were seated. In that hour, When near the dawn the swallow her sad lay, Remembering haply ancient grief, renews; And when our minds, more wanderers from the flesh, And less by thought restrain'd, are, as 't were, full Of holy divination in their dreams; Then, in a vision, did I seem to view A golden-feather'd eagle in the sky, With open wings, and hovering for descent; And I was in that place, methought, from whence
1“ Of that chill animal.” The scorpion
the third watch was drawing to ward its close, which would stil leave an insurmountable difficulty i. the first verse.
3* The third was closing up its wing.” The night being divided into four watches, I think he may mean that the third was past, and the fourth and last was begun, so that there might be some faint glimmer. ing of morning twilight; and not merely, as Lombardi supposes, that
3“ All five.” Virgil, Dante, Sor. dello, Nino, and Corrado Malaspina.
4" Remembering haply ancient grief." Progne having been changed into a swallow after the outrage done her by Tereus.