« PreviousContinue »
She is so pleasant in the eyes of men
A sweetness which needs proof to know it by:
Saying for ever to the spirit, “Sigh!”
XXVII. This sonnet is so easy to understand, from what is afore narrated, that it needs no division; and therefore, leaving it, I say also that this excellent lady came unto such favor with all men, that not only she herself was honored and commended, but through her companionship, honor and commendation came unto others. Wherefore I, perceiving this, and wishing that it should also be made manifest to those that beheld it not, wrote the sonnet here following; wherein is signified the power which her virtue had upon other ladies : —
For certain he hath seen all perfectness
They that go with her humbly should combine
That it begets in no wise any sign
Than all; but hérs, through her, are raised above.
Without a passion of exceeding love.
This sonnet has three parts. In the first, I say in what company this lady appeared most wondrous. In the second, I say how gracious was her society. In the third, I tell of the things which she, with power, worked upon others. The second begins here, “They that go with her"; the third here, “So perfect.” This last part divides into three. In the first, I tell what she operated upon women, that is, by their own faculties. In the second, I tell what she operated in them through others. In the third, I say how she not only operated in women, but in all people; and not only while herself present, but, by memory of her, operated wondrously. The second begins here, “Merely the sight”; the third here, “From all her acts
XXVIII. Thereafter on a day, I began to consider that which I had said of my lady: to wit, in these two sonnets aforegone: and becoming aware that I had not spoken of her immediate effect on me at that especial time, it seemed to me that I had spoken defectively. Whereupon I resolved to write somewhat of the manner wherein I was then subject to her influence, and of what her influence then was. And conceiving that I should not be able to say these things in the small compass of a sonnet, I began therefore a poem with this beginning :
LOVE hath so long possessed me for his own
And made his lordship so familiar
Unto my heart as its best secrets are.
And thus, when he in such sore wise doth mar
Of anguish, and all evil keeps afar.
That my sighs speak, each one a grievous thing,
XXIX. Quomodo sedet sola civitas plena populo! facta est quasi vidua domina gentium! 1
I was still occupied with this poem, (having composed thereof only the above written stanza,) when the Lord God of justice called my most gracious lady unto Himself, that she might be glorious under the banner of that blessed Queen Mary, whose name had always a deep reverence in the words of holy Beatrice. And because haply it might be found good that I should say somewhat concerning her departure, I will herein declare what are the reasons which make that I shall not do so.
And the reasons are three. The first is, that such matter belongeth not of right to the present argument; if one consider the opening of this little book. The second is, that even though the present argument required it, my pen doth not suffice to write in a fit manner of this thing. And the third is, that were it both possible and of absolute necessity, it would still be unseemly for me to speak thereof, seeing that thereby it must behove me to speak also mine own praises : a thing that in whosoever doeth it is worthy of blame.3 For the which reasons, I will leave this matter to be treated of by some other than myself.
Nevertheless, as the number nine, which number hath often had mention in what hath gone before, (and not, as it might appear, without reason,) seems also to have borne a part in the manner of her death: it is therefore right that I should say somewhat thereof. And for this cause, having first said what was the part it bore herein, I will afterwards point out a reason which made that this number was so closely allied unto my lady.
XXX. I say, then, that according to the division of time in Italy her
1“ How doth the city sit solitary, that was 3 This passage explains the words in Hell, rull of people! how is she become as a widow, iv. 100, “Now fitter left untold,” evidently she that was great among the nations!”- meaning that the matters spoken of were the Lamentations of Yeremiah, i. 1.
praises of Dante. - K. ? See paragraph I.
most noble spirit departed from among us in the first hour of the ninth day of the month; and according to the division of time in Syria, in the ninth month of the year: seeing that Tismim, which with us is October, is there the first month. Also she was taken from among us in that year of our reckoning (to wit, of the years of our Lord) in which the perfect number was nine times multiplied within that century wherein she was born into the world : which is to say, the thirteenth century of Christians.1
And touching the reason why this number was so closely allied unto her, it may peradventure be this. According to Ptolemy, (and also to the Christian verity,) the revolving heavens are nine; and according to the common opinion among astrologers, these nine heavens together have influence over the earth. Wherefore it would appear that this number was thus allied unto her for the purpose of signifying that, at her birth, all these nine heavens were at perfect unity with each other as to their influence. This is one reason that may be brought: but more narrowly considering, and according to the infallible truth, this number was her own self: that is to say, by similitude. As thus. The number three is the root of the number nine; seeing that without the interposition of any other number, being multiplied merely by itself, it produceth nine, as we manifestly perceive that three times three are nine. Thus, three being of itself the efficient of nine, and the Great Efficient of Miracles being of Himself Three Persons, (to wit: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,) which, being Three, are also One: this lady was accompanied by the number nine to the end that men might clearly perceive her to be a nine, that is, a miracle, whose only root is the Holy Trinity. It may be that a more subtile person would find for this thing a reason of greater subtilty: but such is the reason that I find, and that liketh me best.
XXXI. After this most gracious creature had gone out from among us, the whole city came to be as it were widowed and despoiled of all dignity. Then I, left mourning in this desolate city, wrote unto the principal persons thereof, in an epistle, concerning its condition; taking for my commencement those words of Jeremias : Quomodo sedet sola civitas ! etc. And I make mention of this, that none may marvel wherefore I set down these words before, in beginning to treat of her death. Also if any should blame me, in that I do not transcribe that epistle whereof I have spoken, I will make it mine excuse that I began this little book with the intent that it should be written altogether in the vulgar tongue; wherefore, seeing that the epistle I speak of is in Latin, it belongeth not to mine undertaking: more especially as I know that my chief friend, 2 for whom I write this book, wished also that the whole of it should be in the vulgar tongue.
XXXII. When mine eyes had wept for some while, until they were so weary with weeping that I could no longer through them give ease to my sorrow, I bethought me that a few mournful words might stand me instead of tears. And therefore I proposed to make a poem, that weeping I might speak therein of her for whom so much sorrow had destroyed my spirit; and I then began “The eyes that weep.”
1 Beatrice Portinari will thus be found to of her death, was twenty-four years and three have died during the first hour of the gth of months. The“ perfect number" mentioned in June, 1290. And from what Dante says at the the present passage is the number ten. commencement of this work (viz. that she was Guido Cavalcanti. In Hell, x. 61-63 he is younger than himself by eight or nine months), said to have neglected Virgil. – K. it may also be gathered that her age, at the time
That this poem may seem to remain the more widowed at its close, I will divide it before writing it; and this method I will observe henceforward. I say that this poor little poem has three parts. The first is a prelude. In the second, I speak of her. In the third, I speak pitifully to the poem. The second begins here, “Beatrice is gone up"; the third here, “Weep, pitiful Song of mine." The first divides into three. In the first, I say what moves me to speak. In the second, I say to whom I mean to speak. In the third, I say of whom I mean to speak. The second begins here, “And because often, thinking"; the third here, “And I will say." Then, when I say, “Beatrice is gone up,” I speak of her; and concerning this I have two parts. First, I tell the cause why she was taken away from us : afterwards, I say how one weeps her parting; and this part commences here, “Wonderfully.” This part divides into three. In the first, I say who it is that weeps her not. In the second, I say who it is that doth weep her. In the third, I speak oj my condition. The second begins here, “But sighing comes, and grief”; the third, “With sighs.” Then, when I say, “Weep, pitiful Song of mine." I speak to this my song, telling it what ladies to go to, and stay with.
THE eyes that weep for pity of the heart
And they have no more tears to weep withal :
It must be done by speech, or not at all.
And because often, thinking, I recall
To talk of her with you, kind damozels,
I talk with no one else,
And I will say, — still sobbing as speech fails, –
Beatrice is gone up into high Heaven,
And lives with them: and to her friends is dead.
But through a perfect gentleness, instead.
For from the lamp of her meek lowlihead
That it woke wonder in the Eternal Sire,
So that He bade her to Himself aspire;
Wonderfully out of the beautiful form
And is in its first home, there where it is.
As to be dead to all sweet sympathies.
Out upon him! an abject wretch like this May not imagine anything of her,
He needs no bitter tears for his relief.
But sighing comes, and grief,
(Save only Death, who makes all sorrow brief,)
With sighs my bosom always laboreth
Of her for whom my heart now breaks apace;
That it will change the color of my face;
And, if the idea settles in its place,
Till, starting up in wild bewilderment,
I do become so shent
Afterward, calling with a sore lament
Grief with its tears, and anguish with its sighs,
So that I think the sight of me gives pain.
I have not any language to explain.
And so, dear ladies, though my heart were fain
All joy is with my bitter life at war;
Yea, I am fallen so far
Eying my cold white lips, how dead they are.
To the dames going and the damozels
1 The original has secol novo; the meaning is the same as on page 3. – K.