Page images
PDF

Stood manifest to view. Incontinent
There on the green enamel of the plain
Were shown me the great spirits, by whose sight
I am exalted in my own esteem.

Electra there I saw accompanied
By many, among whom Hector I knew,
Anchises' pious son, and with hawk's eye
Cæsar all armed, and by Camilla there
Penthesilea. On the other side,
Old King Latinus, seated by his child
Lavinia, and that Brutus I beheld,
Who Tarquin chased, Lucretia, Cato's wife
Marcia, with Julia and Cornelia there;
And sole apart retired, the Soldan fierce.

Then when a little more I raised my brow,
I spied the master of the sapient throng,
Seated amid the philosophic train.
Him all admire, all pay him reverence due.
There Socrates and Plato both I marked,
Nearest to him in rank, Democritus,
Who sets the world at chance, Diogenes,
With Heraclitus, and Empedocles,
And Anaxagoras, and Thales sage,
Zeno, and Dioscorides well read
In nature's secret lore. Orpheus I marked
And Linus, Tully and moral Seneca,

114. For an interesting discussion of the use generosity. It is interesting to note that Dante's of enamel here, see Ruskin, Modern Painters, friend Giotto introduces Saladin in his frescoes iii. ch. 14.

on the life of S. Francis, in the Church of S. 117. The daughter of Atlas, and mother of Croce in Florence. Dardanus, the founder of Troy. See Virg. Æn. 128. Aristotle, Petrarch assigns the first place viii. 134, as referred to by Dante in his treatise to Plato. See Triumph of Fame. iii. In De Monarchia, ii, 3. “Electra, scilicet, nata the Convito (iv. 2) Dante calls Aristotle “the magni nominis regis Atlantis, ut de ambobus master of human reason.” testimonium reddit poeta noster in octavo ubi 132. Democritus, who taught that the world Æneas ad Avandrum sic ait

was made by the fortuitous concourse of atoms. “Dardanus Iliacæ," etc.

133. Diogenes the Cynic. 120. Camilla is also mentioned, Hell, i. 104. 134. Heraclitus of Ephesus,called the "Weep

121. Queen of the Amazons, who fell in Asia ing Philosopher.” Empedocles, follower of fighting for the Trojans.

Pythagoras; said to have thrown himself into 122. Father-in-law of Æneas.

the crater of Ætna. 123. Junius Brutus, the first consul. The 135. Anaxagoras, master of Pericles. Thales other Brutus, together with Cassius and Judas, of Miletus was founder of the Ionic School. is placed by the Poet in the lowest circle of Hell, 136. Zeno, chief of the Stoics. — that of the traitors..

Dioscorides wrote a treatise on the properties 124. Lucretia, wife of Collatinus.

of plants and stones. 125. Julia was the daughter of Julius Cæsar 138. Linus, fabulous singer, son of Apollo. and wife of Pompey. Cornelia was the Others, and with more probability, read Livius. daughter of Scipio Africanus, and mother of Tully=Marcus Tullius Cicero. L. Annæus the Gracchi.

Seneca == the celebrated Roman Stoic philoso126. Saladin, Sultan of Egypt and Syria, born pher, teacher of Nero. 1137, died 1193, celebrated for his virtue and

Euclid and Ptolemy, Hippocrates,
Galenus, Avicen, and him who made
That commentary vast, Averroès.

Of all to speak at full were vain attempt;
For my wide theme so urges, that ofttimes
My words fall short of what bechanced. In two
The six associates part. Another way
My sage guide leads me, from that air serene,
Into a climate ever vexed with storms:
And to a part I come, where no light shines.

CANTO V.

ARGUMENT.

Coming into the second circle of Hell, Dante at the entrance beholds Minos the Infer

nal Judge, by whom he is admonished to beware how he enters those regions. Here he witnesses the punishment of carnal sinners, who are tossed about ceaselessly in the dark air by the most furious winds. Amongst these, he meets with Francesca of Rimini, through pity at whose sad tale he falls fainting to the ground.

FROM the first circle I descended thus
Down to the second, which, a lesser space
Embracing, so much more of grief contains, ou
Provoking bitter moans. There Minos stands
Grinning with ghastly feature: he, of all
Who enter, strict examining the crimes,
Gives sentence, and dismisses them beneath,
According as he foldeth him around:
For when before him comes the ill-fated soul,
It all confesses ; and that judge severe
Of sins, considering what place in hell
Suits the transgression, with his tail so oft
Himself encircles, as degrees beneath
He dooms it to descend. Before him stand
Alway a numerous throng; and in his turn
Each one to judgment passing, speaks, and hears
His fate, thence downward to his dwelling hurled.

139. Ptolemy, the astronomer and geographer, follows that each one of the nine concentric whose system Dante follows in the Divine circles is narrower than its predecessor. Comedy. Hippocrates, Galenus, and Avi- 4. Minos was king of Crete. Virgil also cenna were three famous physicians, the first makes him one of the judges in Hell (Æn. a Greek, the second from Pergamos in Asia, vi. 432). the third an Arab.

5. Cf. Milton, 141. Arab philosopher, author of a celebrated

“ Death commentary on Aristotle.

Grinned horrible a ghastly smile.” 2. Hell being shaped like an inverted cone, it

P. L. ii. 845.

“O thou! who to this residence of woe
Approachest?” when he saw me coming, cried
Minos, relinquishing his dread employ,
“ Look how thou enter here; beware in whom
Thou place thy trust; let not the entrance broad
Deceive thee to thy harm." To him my guide:
“ Wherefore exclaimest? Hinder not his way
By destiny appointed; so 't is willed
Where will and power are one. Ask thou no more.”

Now 'gin the rueful wailings to be heard.
Now am I come where many a plaining voice
Smites on mine ear. Into a place I came
Where light was silent all. Bellowing there groaned
A noise, as of a sea in tempest torn
By warring wings. The stormy blast of hell
With restless fury drives the spirits on,
Whirled round and dashed amain with sore annoy.
When they arrive before the ruinous sweep,
There shrieks are heard, there lamentations, moans,
And blasphemies 'gainst the good Power in heaven.

I understood that to this torment sad
The carnal sinners are condemned, in whom
Reason by lust is swayed. As in large troops
And multitudinous, when winter reigns,
The starlings on their wings are borne abroad;
So bears the tyrannous gust those evil souls.
On this side and on that, above, below,
It drives them: hope of rest to solace them
Is none, nor e'en of milder pang. As cranes,
Chanting their dolorous notes, traverse the sky,
Stretched out in long array; so I beheld
Spirits, who came loud wailing, hurried on
By their dire doom. Then I : “ Instructor! who
Are these, by the black air so scourged ? ” — “ The first
'Mong those, of whom thou question'st,” he replied,
“ O'er many tongues was empress. She in vice
Of luxury was so shameless, that she made
Liking be lawful by promulged decree,
To clear the blame she had herself incurred.
This is Semiramis, of whom 't is writ,

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

25. Cf. Hell, iii. 89-90, wherc the same words Wheel their due flight in varied ranks de. are spoken to Charon.

scried; 35. The precipice which surrounds the vast And each with outstretched neck his rank maincentral abyss of Hell.

tains, 46. This simile is imitated by Lorenzo de' In marshalled order through the ethereal void." Medici, in his Ambra, a poem, first published Cf. Homer, N. iii. 3. Virgil, Æn. X. 264, by Mr. Roscoe, in the Appendix to his Life of and Dante's Purgatory, Canto xxiv. 63. Lorenzo:

57. Queen of Assyria, famous for her licen“Marking the tracts of air, the clamorous tiousness. The expression “ of whom 't is writ” cranes

refers to a passage in Orosius (Hist. i. c. 4),

That she succeeded Ninus her espoused;
And held the land, which now the Soldan rules.
The next in amorous fury slew herself,
And to Sicheus' ashes broke her faith :
Then follows Cleopatra, lustful queen."

There marked I Helen, for whose sake so long
The time was fraught with evil; there the great
Achilles, who with love fought to the end.
Paris I saw, and Tristan; and beside,
A thousand more he showed me, and by name
Pointed them out, whom love bereaved of life.

When I had heard my sage instructor name
Those dames and knights of antique days, o'erpowered
By pity, well-nigh in amaze my mind
Was lost; and I began : “ Bard! willingly
I would address those two together coming,
Which seem so light before the wind." He thus :
“ Note thou, when nearer they to us approach.
Then by that love which carries them along,
Entreat; and they will come.” Soon as the wind
Swayed them toward us, I thus framed my speech :
“O wearied spirits ! come, and hold discourse
With us, if by none else restrained.” As doves
By fond desire invited, on wide wings
And firm, to their sweet nest returning home,
Cleave the air, wafted by their will along;
Thus issued, from that troop, where Dido ranks,
They, through the ill air speeding; with such force :
My cry prevailed by strong affection urged.

“O gracious creature and benign! who goest
Visiting, through this element obscure,
Us, who the world with bloody stain imbrued ;
If, for a friend the King of all, we owned,
Our prayer to him should for thy peace arise,

which Dante has here almost literally trans-' 66. Some take Paris to be the son of Priam lated, “Huic mortuo Semiramis uxor successit." and the lover of Helen; others believe a knight

so. In Dante's time the Sultan of Egypt was of mediæval romance to be meant. also called Sultan of Babylon. The word “ now” Tristan was a knight of King Arthur's means in the year 1300.

Round Table. He fell in love with Iseult, wife 60. Dido, referred to by name in line 84. The of his uncle Mark, King of Cornwall, and was story of her love is told in the Æneid i. and iv. wounded by the latter by a poisoned arrow.

62. Queen of Egypt, mistress of Julius Cæsar Iseult came to him on his death-bed, and as the and of Mark Antony. Made prisoner by lovers embraced, both died of love and despair. Octavius, she killed herself.

This beautiful legend forms the subject of a long 63. Wife of Menelaus. Her flight with Paris poem by Gottfried von Strassburg, and one by was the cause of the Trojan War.

Chrétien de Troye (lost), and has been treated in 65. Achilles' love for Polyxena was the cause modern times by Tennyson, Matthew Arnold, of his death, he having been killed treacherously Swinburne, and Wagner. by her brother Paris, while the marriage was taking place.

Since thou hast pity on our evil plight.
Of whatsoe'er to hear or to discourse
It pleases thee, that will we hear, of that
Freely with thee discourse, while e'er the wind,
As now, is mute. The land, that gave me birth,
Is situate on the coast, where Po descends
To rest in ocean with his sequent streams.

“Love, that in gentle heart is quickly learnt,
Entangled him by that fair form, from me
Ta'en in such cruel sort, as grieves me still :
Love, that denial takes from none beloved,
Caught me with pleasing him so passing well,
That, as thou seest, he yet deserts me not.
Love brought us to one death : Caïna waits
The soul, who spilt our life.” Such were their words ;
At hearing which downward I bent my looks,
And held them there so long, that the bard cried :
6 What art thou pond'ring?" I in answer thus :
“ Alas! by what sweet thoughts, what fond desire
Must they at length to that ill pass have reached!"
1 Then turning, I to them my speech addressed,
And thus began : “Francesca! your sad fate
Even to tears my grief and pity moves.
But tell me; in the time of your sweet sighs,
By what, and how love granted, that ye knew
Your yet uncertain wishes?” She replied:
“No greater grief than to remember days

lan

96. Ravenna. M. Ampère speaks of the of Rimini, a man of extraordinary courage, but topographical accuracy of this passage, in his deformied in his person. His brother Paolo, Voyage Dantesque.

who unhappily possessed those graces which the 99. Cf, the first line of the sonnet in the New husband of Francesca wanted, engaged her Life, $ xx:

affections; and being taken in adultery, they “ Love and gentle heart are one same thing." were both put to death by the enraged

101. Because she died in sin, without a Gianciotto. chance to repent; or perhaps because she was The whole of this passage is alluded to by caught in flagrante delicto.

Petrarch, in his Triumph of Love, iii. 102. “ Amor, ch'a null'amato amar perdona.” Leigh Hunt has expanded the episode into a So Boccaccio, in his Filocopo :

long poem, - called Story of Rimini.
Amore mai non perdonò l' amore a nullo . 118. Imitated by Chaucer:-
amato.

“For of Fortunis sharp adversite And Pulci, in the Morgante Maggiore, iv.:

The worst kind of infortune is this, “E perchè amor mal volontier perdona,

A man to have been in prosperite, Che non sia al fin sempre amato chi ama.”

And it remembir when it passid is." Indeed many of the Italian poets have

Troilus and Creseide, iii, 233. repeated this verse.

Tennyson also refers to these lines in 105. Caïna is the place where fratricides, or Locksley Hall, traitors against their kindred, are punished. “Comfort, comfort, scorned of devils, this is Cary's note here is inaccurate. See Hell, truth the Poet sings, xxxii.

That a sorrow's crown of sorrows is remem113. Francesca, daughter of Guido da Polenta, bering happier things." lord of Ravenna, was given by her father in Alfred de Musset protests against the truth marriage to Gianciotto, son of Malatesta, lord of the sentiment in his poem, - La Solitude.

« PreviousContinue »